A Treasure Found - July, 2009

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A Treasure Found - July, 2009

Post by Fate Flyer on Fri Sep 18, 2009 12:23 pm

Written by Ryona Noel

Melissa leaned over the screen, vigorously shaking it back and forth, squinting her hazel eyes to evade the loose dirt that was flying into the air. She looked up at the bright blue sky, pulling down the red bandana that protected her nose and mouth, taking a breath of semi-fresh air before she delved back into her work. She wanted to wipe the sweat from her face, but her hands were covered with dirt and she knew she would regret it later. She glanced over to the actual site – a historical burial of no one in particular – her eyes falling jealously on the three people working there. There was the professor himself, Dr. Albert Baum, busy scraping away at a cairn stone in the dirt. He had worked different areas of the Mojave for thirty years, and was a walking encyclopedia, but he didn’t ever make her feel stupid. Next to him, lifting out a bucket of back soil was the grad student, Mary, a calm and intelligent individual who was studying to become a lithic specialist. Lastly, there was Callie, the new girl who was really not doing anything at the moment.

It wasn’t that she particularly cared that she was screening rather than digging. Her only lament was that she couldn’t be under the giant canopy that they had erected over the burial site, so they could be out of the sun. On a scorching summer day in the high Mojave Desert, one could not help but be jealous of shade. This being her second summer working for the Research Academy of Archaeology, she had more training than the girl, Callie, who was working with Dr. Baum and Mary under the canopy. Melissa squeezed her hands in anger. Here she was, qualified and properly dressed, stuck doing the rookie job because the airhead wore shorts and forgot to bring a hat. Melissa looked down at her attire: jeans tucked into calf high boots, a tank with a white button down shirt over to reflect the sun, topped off with her long brown hair tied back under a green military cap and aviator shades to protect her face, not to mention the red bandana she tied around it so she wouldn’t inhale the entire desert. She glanced back at Callie, who was wearing tan shorts and matching top, bandana tied loosely around her neck and short hair let loose. She looked like she was supposed to be in an Indiana Jones film, not out in the field. The professor had only stuck Callie under the canopy so he wouldn’t get sued if the girl passed out from heat stroke. Melissa shook her head. Callie gets to look great, and be in the shade, while she is stuck out in the sun screening looking like a professional bum.

The plus side of screening was that she was in close proximity of David, another grad student who she wouldn’t admit to having a crush on. He had curly brown hair and blue eyes, and was a lot of fun to work with. The constantly joked around with each other, making even dull work fun. He was a good four years older than she, and nearly finished with his Master’s Degree, but he was a kid at heart. His lightheartedness made working with him so much more fun than the other three on site, not that she had a problem with Dr. Baum or Mary.

Melissa pushed a bit of hair away from her face and behind her ear, instantaneously regretting it as she felt the dirt settle into her hair. She bent down over the screen again, shaking it a few more times so the loose dirt would fall through it, leaving only rock and, if she was lucky, an artifact or two. She had to let her eyes adjust for a moment before she began to pick through the rubble that was left, tossing out bits that she was completely certain had no cultural value. Her eyes had just settled on what she was sure was a steatite bead when there was a yelp to her left.

“Woohoo!” David shouted, holding up an obsidian arrow point, one of the many they had already found. Melissa shook her head and immediately looked back to her screen, frantically searching for the bead she had just laid eyes on. It was too late, she couldn’t spot it. She’d have to start over again.

“Damn it David! You made me lose track of a bead!” She kicked some back dirt at him, leaving him in a cloud of dust. Their clothes were already filthy, and apart from the particles in the air, it looked as though nothing had happened.

“Ooh, a bead! Doesn’t beat my ARROW POINT!” he held it out, proud as can be. She braced the large two legged screen with her knee and reached down to a box nearby, pulling out a brown bag and holding it out for David to place the arrow point in. She wrapped up the bag and wrote down meticulous details as to where it was found, so it could be catalogued later. Melissa handed it back to him and he put it in the box near him which was full of bagged artifacts.

“Let’s break for lunch, guys.” The professor called out to them with the blessing of a mid day meal. She carefully set down her screen so she wouldn’t lose the bead that she was sure was in there, and headed over to the canopy. They dug out their lunches from the ice boxes, and then used the tops of the boxes as seats so they wouldn’t have to sit on the hot desert floor. It was at least 105 degrees, even in the shade. They ate quietly, letting the silence of the desert envelop them. There is not a more desolate place than a desert in the middle of the summer. What made this desert even more desolate was that it was owned by the U.S. NAVY as a weapons testing site. It was China Lake Naval Weapons Station, and they were lucky that there was no testing going on in this area today. She looked down at the washes below. The site was perched half way up a hill, and partially ruined by the erosion of the hill into the rock below. Historic artifacts were mixed with prehistoric; the stratigraphy was completely shot. The site itself was a circular pile of large rocks, with two larger flat rocks jutting out of the northern and southern points of the circle. It was a cairn, and eventually they were hoping to find the skeleton of whoever was buried there. It was unusual to find a cairn in this area, as most of the Natives burned their dead. That made it likely a historical grave, though there were no settlements nearby and it was unlikely for someone to do such an intricate burial if they had just been passing through.

She was brought back to present by an impossibly loud noise; she dropped her food to cover her ears, and everyone else did likewise. A grey jet of some sort was flying over head, something belonging to the U.S. NAVY. Just as soon as it had come it left, flying dangerously between two mountain peaks and disappearing into the distance. “There is no testing today, right?” Callie asked. Melissa wanted to laugh at her for being a fool, but the same question had popped into her head. What a way to die. She imagined the headlines: “Weapons Station Scheduling Error Leads to Death of 5 Archaeologists.”

“Let’s get back to work, shall we?” Dr. Baum stood up, brushing the crumbs from his beard and stepping down into the excavation pit, which was already about a meter deep. The rest stood up and followed suit, heading back to their posts. Melissa shook out her handkerchief and poured some water on it so her face would be cool for at least a few minutes out in the hot sun. She went to walk around Callie, but a sudden gust of hot wind pushed her into the girl. It wasn’t a very strong collision, there was just barely enough force to make Callie step back. Unfortunately, her foot landed on the edge of the excavation unit, which caused the entire side to cave in. Callie flew backward, and Melissa grabbed onto her arm to keep the girl from crashing on top of Dr. Baum. They were going to be in enough trouble for ruining the site, the last thing either of them needed was a squashed professor.

“I’m so sorry! I…” Melissa stopped short. Dr. Baum wasn’t even paying attention to the two of them. His eyes were fixed on a large, yellow tinted round stone that had been revealed by the fallen wall. Callie stepped back, and both she and Melissa dropped to their knees to examine the stone. It was in the bottom corner of the pit, and the fallen wall was threatening to cover it up again completely. David and Mary rushed over, and the four of them worked to carefully pull back the wall without disturbing the strange stone or the stratigraphy around it, botched as it was. Melissa tried to place in her mind what it was about that stone that had made them so curious. Was it the strange color that it possessed? Was it the fact that there was no other stone like it within proximity of the site? Was it because it resembled the side of a skull?

“Oh my God! Look!” Mary pointed to the stone as the professor moved it out a few inches to reveal one large eye socket. He continued to pry the stone-turned-skull, to reveal another eye socket and the maxilla. The mandible was missing, but otherwise, the skull was completely preserved.

“Dude, that is not an anatomically modern human.” David chipped in. Not that he had to say so. It was obvious that this skull, though similar to a human skull in that it had a large braincase, two eye sockets, and a nasal bone on a rather flat, elongated front, was in fact not human. The braincase was flatter and wider, and the face lacked any protrusion. The eye sockets seemed larger than normal, closer to that of a lemur in terms of eye socket to skull proportions. “Is it an ancestor? Homo…eyeballensis?”

Dr. Baum scoffed at the joke. “Human ancestor? There are no pre modern humans in the Americas. Nothing older than 14,000 years before present, and even that is stretching it. No, this isn’t of the Genus Homo at all.”

“It’s fake. Right?” The usually silent Mary chipped in. Melissa nodded in agreement. That must be the answer. “Look. That isn’t even bone! They used some sort of rock to carve it. Probably sulfur, can’t you smell it? It’s just some fool trying to get famous on pseudoscience.”

“Hmmm. That is a likely explanation. But look here. See the muscle attachment notches? And look at the sutures. It’s so complex. Even within it, you can see the groves from the brain. If this is fake, it is the most complex fake object I’ve ever laid eyes on. It’s quite a treasure we have found, either way.” Dr. Baum’s words silenced the group. None of them wanted to be taken for if this was a fake object. But none of them wanted to pass up what could possibly be the most amazing discovery of all time, either.

“Let us treat this as if it were a human skull and call the coroner. He is the specialist, after all. When he writes it off as a scam we can continue with our work. I guess we are packing in early, I know he won’t come out until the morning. He’s going to need to be cleared through the Naval station first.”

Together, the team lightly covered the possible skull up with the dirt around it, and placed a tarp over the excavation site. Most of the larger items could be left on site since they were returning tomorrow, but they still had to carry down the ice chests and the artifacts that had already been found. They all climbed into the Jeep Cherokee, making sure the windows were rolled down before they even climbed in. Though the Jeep was white, it was sweltering inside. Dr. Baum drove with Mary in the front seat, who on these trips always took up the role of navigator. Melissa was the smallest of the group, so she sat in the middle between David and Callie. They drove along the hour long trail that would eventually take them to the gate of the weapons station, talking all the while about what the strange skull-like object could possibly be.

“It’s a rock.” Mary stayed true to her theory.

“It’s a biologically separate bipedal species that we’ve never heard of!” Melissa offered.

“It’s an alien!” David shouted out.

They all laughed at his joke, but he continued. “It’s one of the alien’s that helped build the Mayan Temples; if we keep digging we will find a UFO!” Dr. Baum smiled and shook his head, clicking on the stereo which was in the middle of a Led Zeppelin CD. Four songs later the Jeep arrived at the gate, but it was still another hour or so to Ridgecrest, the town they were staying in while working on base. The heat had exhausted Melissa, so she leaned back to the best of her ability and fell asleep for the ride to the motel.

She awoke when the car stopped, and was mortified to find that she had fallen against David sometime during the ride. “I’m so sorry!” She said, her voice heavy with sleep.

“No worries, I think I passed out too. Sucks being the screeners, eh?” He smiled.

“Tell me about it.” She smiled back as he climbed out of the car. She followed, and they headed up to their two rooms, the two men in one, the three women in the other. Callie and Mary were already in there, setting down their packs and taking off their shoes. Melissa rolled her eyes as Callie headed straight for the shower. Usually, Mary and she would take turns showing when on a dig, but Callie was a bit germ phobic and so always showered first. Melissa took off her glasses, hat, over shirt and boots, and cleaned off her boots with her bandana. She busied herself with arranging her pack and cleaning off her tools, trying not to let the smell of her sweat and the gritty feel of dirt all over her bother her too much. It was Mary’s turn to go second, and she third.

Mary had just gotten in the shower when there was a knock on the door. She opened the door, the outside light blinding her for a moment. When her eyes adjusted, she saw that it was just David, in a pair of bright blue swimming trunks. “Hey, Professor is writing up some stuff, but I thought I’d go for a swim before we go out to dinner. You guys want to join?”

“Ooh, me!” Carrie said from behind her, hair still in a towel.

“Yea, we’ll all go. It’s really hot, I’d love to swim. I’ll meet you guys there when I get out of the shower…If I ever get in.” As if by divine intervention, the shower shut off with a loud groan.

“OK, well, see you guys down there.” David waved goodbye.

When Mary left the bathroom, they invited her to go swimming and she heartily accepted, immediately heading over to her suitcase to dig for a bathing suit. Melissa did the same, pulling out her tankini and then jumping into the shower. She wanted to be quick, but the dirt was caked on her skin, and the water felt good against it, though it had gone cold. She washed her hair, glad to have it down if only for a little while. By the time she got out, the other two girls were long gone. She took her time getting dressed, using the mirror to put up her long hair. As she looked into the mirror, she couldn’t help but notice imperfections. Slightly freckled skin, large shoulders, knobby knees…She grabbed a towel and wrapped herself up before heading out. As a last minute thought, she pulled down her hair, letting it go free for a while, and ran out the door. When she got to the pool, Mary was wading in the deep end, David was swimming laps, and Callie had yet to get in. Melissa walked by and asked her why she wasn’t in yet.

“It’s cold!” She replied, and Melissa laughed. She put her feet in and yelped a bit as her ankles made contact with the ice cold water. She decided there were better ways to adjust to the water, and promptly stepped back out again so she could cannonball into the deep end. The splash that drenched Callie turned into an all out water war between the four of them, and time passed them by without notice.

The professor came by a couple hours later, just when it began to get dark. “Hey you guys, are you ever going to get out? I’m hungry!” He was smiling, but Melissa could tell that he was seriously ready to go eat.

“Yea, I’m hungry too.” David jumped out, drying off. Melissa followed after him, the warm desert night caressing her skin. Night time was the best time, in her opinion. She wished they could camp out at the site, like they did at other sites, but it was forbidden to stay on base over night. She followed Callie and Mary back to their room to get dressed. Callie pulled out a shiny green shirt and jean miniskirt, dressed for a nightclub. On the other end of the spectrum, Mary pulled out dark jean pants and a black three quarter sleeved shirt. Melissa decided to balance between the two: a purple sequined top with dark blue capris.

They decided to walk down to a local restaurant called Tara’s. Melissa smiled and thanked her chucks for being cute and comfortable, and watched Callie’s wobbly walk as she attempted the old and broken curb in stiletto heels. They made it to Tara’s, Callie walking arm and arm with Mary for support. Inside was quiet, but homely. Dinner hour hadn’t quite started. Tara’s had a wide range of food to choose from, a juke box, a pool table, and most importantly: a bar. An archaeological dig just wasn’t a dig without some alcohol mixed in. They ordered their meals, and their drinks, and spent the next few hours having a blast. They put crappy music on the jukebox and played pool, making jokes at each other and perhaps, if Melissa dared to believe it, a little bit of flirting between her and David.

It was only ten o’clock before the group was thoroughly exhausted. They had started early that day, and had an early day tomorrow. The professor paid the bill and they proceeded to walk home, Callie with her heels off, not going to attempt fate intoxicated. Amidst the giggles and jokes on the way home, Melissa suddenly remembered wanting to ask Professor a question.

“What did the coroner say?” She asked him.

“Huh? Oh! Charlie is coming by in the morning. He did some research, made some calls, and he seemed pretty excited about the whole deal. I’m no expert in the subject, but it might be that someone had found something like it before. Not that he said so or anything…it was just a vibe he had. I meant to tell you guys, but you never got out of that damn pool!” He laughed, and she laughed too. She’d had quite a bit to drink, and it was too late in the night for any serious work talk.

Back in the room, she had pulled out the couch and made it into a third bed for herself. She had just changed into her pajamas, a black tank with purple striped pajama bottoms. Callie and Mary also changed, and Callie wandered over to the little refrigerator in the room.
“How about one more?” Her question was more of a statement as she excitedly pulled out a bottle of vodka and some cranberry juice. Melissa and Mary agreed to one more, and so Callie began pouring the drinks. “Damn, it’s kind of warm. We need ice, and I’m NOT going out there in my pajamas!” Mary glanced at Melissa, and Melissa sighed. She supposed she could go get the ice; she was closest to the door.

“Be right back.” Melissa whined, and walked out the door in search of the ice machine. She wondered about for a while, having trouble finding the machine. She finally found it, hidden under the stairs toward the back of the motel. She had just finished filling up the bin when she turned around and jumped.

“I’m sorry!” It was just David. “I didn’t mean to scare you!” He gave her a smile, suggesting he’d actually done it on purpose.

“Oh, whatever. I’ll get you back.” She lightly punched him on the arm, and went to walk away. He caught her arm, and she turned back toward him, suddenly serious.
“Melissa?” He stopped, as if unsure what to say.

She froze, like a deer in headlights. “Yea?”

He released her arm suddenly, as if on fire. “I know we’re at work…we’re work buddies. But I had a lot of fun tonight and…Well, want to do something off work sometime?”

Melissa felt like jumping up and down and screaming to the heavens. This was the first time a crush had ever had any interest in her whatsoever. She tried to respond coolly, with a quick “Sure” and a smile, and walked back to her room. She hoped that she was only skipping on the inside.

The next morning, they piled into the jeep and headed out, a bit quieter than normal. Callie had a hangover, the professor was tired, Mary had her nose in a book, and Melissa and David were avoiding each other so they wouldn’t flirt. Melissa stared out the window at the morning sun, having convinced Callie that the middle seat was the smoothest ride in the jeep. Her interests in the strange artifact were renewed, and she couldn’t wait to meet the coroner and hear his report on the stone skull. After interrogating the professor on the nature of his phone call with the coroner, she was unhappy to deduce that she had learned nothing new about the thing. It was just as he had said the night before: the coroner had done some research, made some phone calls and found that some people were interested in learning more about the thing. He hadn’t said whether he would be bringing anyone else with him, just that he would be there in the morning.

It was a long drive to the site, and the sun was already high over head when they got there. It was only seven in the morning but it was almost 100 degrees outside. Melissa sighed, her excitement dying a little with the heat. They unpacked their things, and headed up the wash toward the site, anxious for the coroner to arrive. Fifteen minutes went by, then thirty. There was no sign of him, and no way to contact him. Phones weren’t allowed on the station, and they wouldn’t get any service anyway. Dr. Baum decided to use the walkie to get in touch with someone that might know where the coroner was.

“Wile E. Base this is Wile E. 42, requesting the whereabouts of the coroner, Dr. Charles Lupert?”

There was static for a while. “Wile E. 42 this is Wile E. Base, there is no information suggesting that a Dr. Charles Lupert was scheduled to be on base today. Hold a moment.” Judging by the length of the hold, they must have been looking for a superior for answers.

Melissa was lying on the ground, staring at the skull that they had re-revealed. She didn’t dare touch it, but she wanted to. It was so lifelike, and in a way, beautiful. The professor stood up with a sigh. “Well, let’s go get the ice boxes.” They had left the ice boxes down at the car, assuming that they would retrieve them when the coroner arrived. The professor, Mary and Callie set off to the car, but Melissa lingered, still staring at the skull. She wasn’t aware that David was there until the walkie went off again, making her jump up in surprise. It wouldn’t have scared her if the voice behind it didn’t sound so urgent, so demanding.

“Wile E. 42 you were NOT scheduled to be on base today. Leave the base Now. Do you copy? Wile E. 42 you should NOT be on base! Do you ” The voice was drowned out by loud engine noise. Melissa put her hands over her ears, her heart racing. It wasn’t anything, they just fly by. Just like yesterday…She looked up to see an aircraft that was different from the one she had seen yesterday. It flew over head and was already in the distance before she felt the ground shake beneath her feet, and saw a great burst of fire straight ahead. It took her a moment to realize that the car that three of her companions had just walked to had been completely eradicated by some sort of bomb.

When her hearing came back, she realized she was screaming. David was shaking her.
“T-Testing! They’re testing! Run!” It took her a moment to understand him. At first, it all seemed like a dream or a sick joke. Then the smoke drifted toward them, and she came to. They had to get out of the area. Everything below the site was burning, she didn’t think she could breathe the air much longer. They turned around and headed upward, the only direction that didn’t reek of death. In her mind, it made sense. They bomb washes, not mountains; they may see us from the hilltop; we can drop down to the other side, it will be safe there; the air is fresh up above. All were comforting thoughts, all hopes of survival. She heard the sound of the engine again. Now it was coming from the east, rather than the west, and the mountains echoed the sound of it so she could hear the craft before she saw it. The sound made her freeze in fear. The side of the hill was crumbling beneath her feet as her body shook in terror. She looked to David, who was right beside her. “It’s coming back!” She shouted to him, though he surely knew. They looked behind them, watching it approach quicker than her gut could tighten. It flew overhead, and the top of the mountainside gave way in a fiery explosion. Melissa screamed as she fell, her body tumbling with the rock around her. She could feel parts of her breaking, her skin being ripped open by sharp rock, the oxygen around her being engulfed by the heat of the explosion. When she stopped moving, she kept her eyes shut, willing it all to be a dream. The moment was almost tranquil, she felt as if she were floating. She was going to just stay that way, but she thought she heard someone calling her name. For a while she ignored it. Don’t they realize I’m tired? I want to go to sleep! But the voice continued calling her. She opened her eyes to find that it was not a dream, but a nightmare. The pain suddenly consumed her, and she realized to her horror that she was pinned beneath a large rock, and there was fire and smoke around her. Her hands were scraped and bloodied, blackened with dirt and soot.

“Melissa!” David was standing in the distance, looking for her. He was bloody too, holding an arm to his body and limping on his leg. “Melissa!”

“David!” She called out to him, not more than a whisper on her dried throat. He came to her then, holding one of her hands to his hurt one, and caressing her hair with his good one. He was rocking a little, and tears were falling down his face. She started crying too, sudden sharp convulsions that she could not stop, though they hurt her so much.

“David, you have to get away. Get away from here…” She didn’t need to explain that she wouldn’t be able to go with him.

“Melissa…I don’t think they are testing…” He pointed to the original burial site, which was just within her vision in the background. It was completely unscathed. For a moment she wondered why he would think such a thing, why he would think that they were being purposely bombed. Then, she remembered the skull. Could it be…real? She heard the damned engine again, and David hunched over her, holding her close and rocking her while she screamed “No! No!” over and over again.

First, there was fire. A white hot fire, and then she felt like she was drowning…and then, there was nothing.

On August 1st, 2009, Artifact 492 (AA-492) was discovered at China Lake Naval Weapons Station. AA-492 is an alia cranium, perfectly preserved. There have been issues with previous AA which have raised question as to what level of awareness of the AA should be allowed. Because none of the previous AA have been so preserved as AA-492, desperate measures were taken to insure the secrecy of the artifact. AA-492 was collected August 2nd, 2009. Evidence has been sent to diagnostics, and when more information is divulged, the alia inventory can be released to the executive branch for further decision.


"The enlightened shall rule the world. With vast knowledge, immense power, and manipulative control, we spread our influence and empire from unseen in the shadows, and yet in plain sight. We are the Illuminati." -Rynn Reaver, AKA 'Tryne'
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Join date : 2009-05-12

Posts : 4525
Age : 31
Location : Milky Way Galaxy, Sol System, Earth, USA, Illinois


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