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The Techo Mountain Excavation: Part Six


by resurrectedwarrior

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Hamperdank, RW, and Holmes stared at the inside of Professor Kent Brier’s office blankly. It was empty.

     “Perhaps he went to lunch like the receptionist,” RW suggested.

     “Perhaps . . .” Holmes murmured, moving about the cluttered office. Brier’s small office wasn’t exactly well-organized. Papers were strewn across his maple desk in no particular order. His bookshelves were full to the brim with manuals, textbooks, indexes, and catalogues, as well as artifact trays and note papers.

     Holmes sat down at the sizeable desk and began rummaging through the drawers, which were in the same state of disarray as the shelves, “I wonder how he keeps track of anything?”

     RW frowned, “Why are you getting into the professor’s things?”

     Holmes shrugged and answered without looking up, “Well, Angel seemed to indicate Brier was the reason he came to our dig. Perhaps we can find some clue as to the reason he would make Angel steal something.” Finally, he looked up. “Besides,” he smiled, “it’s fun to do some detective work without the trowel.”

     Hamperdank smiled and nodded, joining Holmes in his search. She flipped through the manila folders of a nearby file cabinet, looking for anything that might give them a clue about Brier’s purposes with Angel and the excavation. As she paged through, finally coming to the letter ‘S’, she noted something rather odd. She had been going through Brier’s plans for the school year, yet she had just found a paper detailing prices and rental agreements with a storage facility

     RW noticed the doctor staring at the paper, “What is it?”

     “Oh, probably nothing,” Hamperdank said.

     That comment seemed to spark Holmes’ interest, “What?”

     Hamperdank rolled her eyes and sighed, “Like I said, probably nothing.” She handed Holmes the paper.

     Holmes scanned the sheet, “That’s interesting . . .” he paused for a moment, “He rented a tiny storage locker at the little storage facility down the street.”

     Hamperdank shrugged and went back to looking through the files, “Don’t waste your time, Holmes.”

     Holmes didn’t listen. He looked up at RW, “There’s a confidentiality agreement – hand written at the bottom.”

     RW frowned, “Seems like it’d be worth checking out.”

     Holmes nodded, “My thoughts exactly.”

***

“Sorry, I can’t let you check the box. Besides, you wouldn’t want to anyway.” A wise cracking employee said. RW, Hamperdank and Holmes had arrived at the storage facility only a few moments ago and asked about Brier’s box.

     “Why wouldn’t we want to see his box?” Hamperdank asked.

     The employee shrugged, “Well, I don’t know too terribly many people who’d care for a rock. Plus the old guy cleared his locker out this morning.”

     “He cleared it out this morning,” Hamperdank repeated.

     “Yep.”

     Holmes frowned and shook his head, turning around and walking towards the door. He supposed the old Neopet had taken the artifact to study at the college. Now they needed to head back there before they missed him again.

     As Holmes passed by a trashcan, he noted a crumpled piece of paper lying on the floor beside it. Holmes turned aside to pick up the paper and place it in the trash bin; he hated seeing things out-of-place, and carried with certain pride the reputation for straightening crooked paintings in museums and alphabetizing friend’s bookshelves.

     However, rather than throwing the paper into the trashcan, he stared down at it, speechless. He easily recognized Angel’s handwriting. Holmes quickly unfolded the note and read the following:

Disaster. They know. Meet me at Cooking Pot. Will explain there. Bring your piece so we can compare picture. Hurry! -Angel

     Holmes looked up at RW and Hamperdank, who were now heading for the door. “I know where they are.”

***

Angel wrung his hands nervously, looking up into his mentor’s eyes. He had just told him the entire story of how he had tried to extract the artifact secretly but had been interrupted by Gelrelt, of how he had stealthily hidden the artifact in a hole the next morning, but that same Gelrelt had discovered it, and of how he had been caught when he tried to take the artifact from the Dig House. Kent Brier didn’t look pleased.

     “So, you’ve failed in your mission and gotten both you and me into a load of trouble,” The old, red Techo said harshly, “Do you have any idea how important this is? The information these two stelae hold could start a war! Many people could lose their lives because of your stupidity!”

     Angel frowned and looked down, “So . . . is there anything we can do?”

     Brier folded his red Techo arms and thought for a moment. “Perhaps,” he began, “if we go now we may be able to retrieve the other artifact.” He stared down at Angel’s sketches, comparing the sides with the piece he had found so many years ago. They almost certainly were from the same piece, but there was no way he could know for sure unless he actually put the pieces together with his own hands. Therefore, it was of the utmost importance to him to recover the other artifact.

     Angel leaned against the table they were sitting at and placed his head in his hands, “But when they see me, they’ll come after me.”

     “Exactly.”

     Angel looked confused.

     Brier straightened in his chair, smiling smugly at the plan he had just concocted. “You’ll distract them while I sneak into the Dig House. We’ll meet here.” He pulled out a small map of the area and made a mark at a certain location in the mountains. “You know how to get there, right?”

     Angel glanced down at the paper, “It’s been awhile – that’s Pango’s Gorge, right?”

     Brier nodded, “Well, then stick this map in your backpack so you don’t get lost.” He scribbled a few notes on the paper. “I want you there when I decipher those inscriptions.”

***

Zaera looked up at Shelbie in shock. “I . . . I don’t believe it.” Zaera had opened a unit where Gelrelt had tripped the day before. Only two levels – 20 centimeters – below the surface was another white marble, inscribed stela.

     Shelbie fluttered up and grabbed a measuring stick, “You know the drill. Let’s get this mapped in our end-of level papers and do the sketches so we can get it out.” She picked up a clipboard and began jotting down notes, “We should have Holmes make squeezes of these so we won’t loose everything if one is really stolen.”

     Zaera swallowed. The news of Angel’s attempt to steal the first stela had spread through the camp quickly. Now, almost everyone was experiencing apprehension with every find. Was Angel the only one on the team who would steal from them? Did they need to set up a rotating guard for the Dig House? Zaera preferred to hope Angel’s theft was merely an isolated incident, but even she thought security should be stepped up a notch.

     Roughly an hour later, Shelbie and Zaera were sent to check in on the camp’s infirmed member, Gelrelt. In Zaera’s hand she carried a paper bag holding their newly found stela. The pair had decided perhaps Gelrelt would like to see how his accident had actually helped the excavation. Rounding the corner of the jungle path and entering the campsite, they saw Gelrelt sitting on a crate talking with the last two dig team members who had been sent to check on him.

     “Hey, Gelrelt,” Zaera said. She politely excused the other two team members and sent them back to their work. They each cast grateful glances over their shoulders as they walked off. Apparently Gelrelt was in one of his less-than-charming moods.

     “Oh, so now you’ve come to chat with the lowly wounded one, have you?” Gelrelt smirked. “I was wondering when it would be your turn.”

     Zaera shook her head, sitting down on a crate opposite Gelrelt. She decided to ignore his comments to avoid an argument.

     “So, how’s the dig going?” Gelrelt asked smugly. He had had a great time harassing the last two archaeologists and was hoping to have as much fun annoying Zaera and Shelbie.

     Zaera shrugged and pulled the inscribed piece of rock out of her bag. “We found another piece,” she said.

     At the sight of the new artifact, Gelrelt suddenly became very serious, forgetting his previous plans. His mind wandered back to Angel’s interrogation the night before, “Didn’t Holmes say it was extremely unlikely to find any pieces matching Brier’s?”

     The Zafara nodded, “Yep, he did. But of course, we don’t know for sure that this matches, though it is made from the same material.”

     Shelbie shrugged, “Even if they did match, stranger things have happened in archaeology. I’m actually not all that surprised . . .” She looked up at the sound of rustling coming from the other side of the clearing. Emerging from the path was a lanky green Nimmo, Angel. Shelbie poked Zaera in the ribs and nodded towards the Nimmo.

     Zaera hopped to her feet, her Zafara fur standing on-end. She walked with authority over to Angel, who stood still wringing his hands. “What do you want here,” Zaera asked pointedly, “I never thought it was wise for criminals to return to the scene.”

     Angel swallowed nervously, adjusting his backpack on his shoulder, “I’m not a criminal.” He glanced at Gelrelt and Shelbie sitting behind Zaera.

     “That’s rather hard to believe, Angel,” Zaera folded her arms. “I suggest you leave.”

     “You don’t understand what’s at stake here.” Angel’s face paled as his eyes settled on the newest stela.

     “Of course I know; you told us last night.”

     Angel bit his lip, glancing at the Dig House. He could see Dr. Brier just entering the Dig House. He quickly turned his eyes back to Zaera and the artifact. He knew he had to get the new stela away from them. If his mentor found out he had let a stela slip through his fingers . . . Angel shuddered.

     The thought of his mentor’s disappointment sent chills throughout Angel’s being. If a war broke out because he had allowed this one, small piece of stelae to escape him, he would be banished from the Island forever. Or at least, from Mystery Island College. Angel couldn’t stand the thought of excommunication of any sort. And so, without warning, he lunged forward and knocked Zaera to the ground. As he scrambled off her, something small and yellow with brown splotches could be seen falling from his backpack. As soon as it hit the ground, the thing darted away in a blur and hid under a crate. The Nimmo kicked away Zaera’s claws and ran straight for the artifact, which was now in Shelbie’s protective hands.

     Gelrelt didn’t have to think to know what Angel was doing. He quickly hovered off his crate and maneuvered directly into Angel’s path, bracing himself for impact.

     Angel was running at such speed he couldn’t slow when the injured Moehog got in his way. He slammed into Gelrelt and knocked him straight into Shelbie, who fell to the ground with the other two on top.

     What proceeded to ensue was utter madness. Zaera clambered up and tackled Angel. As soon as Gelrelt saw Zaera grab Angel, he hopped up and fluttered out of the way. Already his injured leg was causing him quite a bit of pain; he didn’t want to risk getting hit again.

     Zaera, Angel, and Shelbie tumbled and rolled about the ground, becoming a mass of arms and legs. Eventually Angel wrenched himself from Shelbie and Zaera’s grasp and snatched up the stela, running for the jungle. Zaera jumped up and gave chase, but it was too late. Angel disappeared into the green vegetation of the jungle.

     Gelrelt groaned, plopping himself back on his crate. Angel had gotten away! He had thought Zaera and Shelbie could handle this! He closed his eyes, wishing for the umpteenth time he was home. He longed to throw himself on his favorite couch and lounge around all day, to harass his sisters and go out with his friends . . . anything other than having a broken leg in the jungle would be preferable.

     Something heavy landed on his lap. Gelrelt opened his eyes to behold a chocolate covered, happy looking Sauropod grinning up at him. He let out a joyful shriek and scooped the gooey creature up in his arms, “Scout! Where have you been?” He hugged her tightly, realizing there was something stuck to the chocolate on her back. He pulled it off and scraped the chocolate off on the edge of the crate. It looked like a map of some sort. Licking off the last bit of chocolate, Gelrelt discovered it was a small map of the Mystery Island Mountains. Pango’s Gorge had been circled and notes mentioning the name ‘Angel’ were scrawled in the margins. He grinned and hugged Scout again. “You little rascal! Must have stowed away in Angel’s backpack.” He looked up at Shelbie and held up the map, “I know where he’s going!”

     Shelbie took the letter from Gelrelt and glanced at it, “Wow . . . good job, Gelrelt.” She glanced around, looking for Zaera. “Hey . . .” her voice trailed off. “Where’d Zaera go?”

     After Angel ran off into the forest, Zaera had run into the Dig House to find a bandage for her arm, which was cut in their fight with Angel. She trotted over to a table full of spare excavation tools and opened an emergency kit sitting at the edge of the table. She pulled out a roll of gauze and a tube of antibacterial ointment and applied it to the cut in her arm. As she wrapped the wound, she began walking about the Dig House, surveying the artifacts awaiting Holmes’ attention.

     Out of sheer curiosity, she moseyed over to the table that held the stela Gelrelt had found. Perhaps if she sat and stared at the artifact for long enough she could gain some insight into what would possess a person to do what Angel had done; to steal from history. Maybe she could figure . . .

     The sight of an empty artifact tray sent chills down her tail. She glanced around, making sure she was at the right table. She was. She looked underneath the table and under some old papers. Nothing. A firm knot was forming in her stomach. It couldn’t have happened again! No! Angel hadn’t been alone when he came to camp . . . Zaera clenched her fists and took a deep breath, trying to calm herself. “That little conniving, backstabbing . . .” She stomped out of the Dig House and walked over to Gelrelt and Shelbie. “They got the other one!”

     Shelbie looked at Zaera, “What?! The other one – what to you mean ‘they’?”

     “Angel had an accomplice,” Zaera growled, “He got the other piece while Angel got ours!”

     Shelbie clenched her jaw and showed Zaera the map Gelrelt found. Zaera stared down at the paper, immediately realizing its significance. She looked up at Shelbie and Gelrelt, determination, anger, and cunning in her blue eyes, “Let’s go.”

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» The Techo Mountain Excavation: Part One
» The Techo Mountain Excavation: Part Two
» The Techo Mountain Excavation: Part Three
» The Techo Mountain Excavation: Part Four
» The Techo Mountain Excavation: Part Five
» The Techo Mountain Excavation: Part Seven
» The Techo Mountain Excavation: Part Eight



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