I sort of mushed two of Anke’s prompts together and thus we have this!
“Call Dr. Takori. Now, please.”
Dr. Felin’s admin assistant looked up from her work, stifled a mutter about not doing anything at all, of course not, and dialed Dr. Takori with a push of her fingers before handing Dr. Felin the phone.
“Yal. Yal, I need you to see this. No, I’m calm, what are you talking about, I’m not on blues, Yal, that was a decade ago.” Dr. Felin’s voice dropped to an annoyed hiss. “Come on, Yal, don’t be like this. I need you to see this – fine. Fine, Stana, could you come out here, please? I promise I won’t throw a fit about any belated procurement, not even the Stygian Cheese Powder.”
Stana swallowed another sigh and followed Dr. Felin, suiting up with the skill of someone who had spent the last 5 years on interstellar digs, out the airlock and from there, to the dig.
At least this rock had nearly breathable atmosphere, so it could be terraformed – and likely would be, and soon, which meant that Felin was in a bit of a hurry. It also meant that if there was a suit accident, it wouldn’t be quite so immediately fatal and they had a chance of getting inside before they suffocated on sweet air.
“I promise, Stana, this will be worth it. You’ve been reading all the journals, yes?”
“Of course.” She had been Dr. Zaopim’s assistant before Dr. Felin’s, and before that, Dr. Ilirist’s, and she had learned how to entertain herself on a isolated dig with only four or five other people for company.
This meant she was more up to date on xeno-archaeology than most xeno-archaeologists and more fit than most marathon runners, as well as having mastered several hobbies and being very good at online friendships and other relationships. She could navigate cross-galactic telecommunications with more skill than some who’d set the systems up, and she – and Dr. Felin – knew it.
“So tell me – and tell Dr. Takori, who is being recalcitrant – what you see here?”
She stifled another sigh. Felin hadn’t gotten assigned to a dig like this because of good manners, good skill with academic politics, or any understanding of how to handle people.
Then again, neither had she. More friendly people got to go to digs on populated planets.
She looked. And then she moved forward and changed the polarization on her helmet. And again.
“This wasn’t here yesterday.” That was a stupid statement. She tried again. “You’ve unearthed quite a bit.”
“That corner over there was mostly sand and dust, and once we started moving it, it just all went.” Dr. Felin pointed at the pile off to one side, where a research assistant – presumably someone else who had annoyed someone in a population center – was slowly sifting through the dust. “Stana?”
“Stana, is it? Oh, Stana Belltellem, you were Dr. Ilirist’s assistant.” Dr. Takori’s voice came through the helmet comm clearly. “A pity what happened – I was sorry to hear it. Lee Ilirist did good work – and so did you back then. What do you see, Stana?”
Stana swallowed. “You’re familiar with the structures they found with the Matryushenko-Spencer dig?”
“Of course I am! That is, yes. Yes, I am.”
“I believe this is a near exact replica, Dr. Takori. I believe this – this is the same style of community ring.”
There was silence on the line. Stana took the moment to take several images with the helmet cam and send them to Dr. Takori. And then several more as she moved closer and closer.
“Careful!” The voice came from both Takori and Felin. “Not inside the ring!”
She stopped, her booted feet at the edge of the line – the dust had clearly been moved away from the blue stone line in all the unearthed parts.
“We’re… we’re going to need another grad student,” Dr. Felin added ruefully. “But Yal–“
“I concede, Jael. Your assistant is, indeed, brilliant; I’ll make sure she gets credit on all of Lee Ilirist’s work. Lee doesn’t need it now anyway. And I’ll see what I can do about Raffa Zaopim.”
“…And that’s probably a Matryushenko-Spencer ring, yes. Are you up to it?”
“Send me two new grad students and clone Stana, and I will be. Or just three clones of Stana.” Dr. Felin looked over at her ruefully. “…or just send us someone to make proper coffee and order supplies. This is going to take a lot of mapping and we’re going to need a lot more Stygian Cheese Powder.”