"All right you two slow down whatís the hurry?" the muddy brown chakat asked the pair that had just barged into the room, annoyed they had interrupted hir class.
"Sorry, Shir Digs, we wanted to catch you before you left on sabbatical," they replied almost simultaneously.
"Just a fancy word for an enforced vacation," shi replied, eyeing them as an older human also entered the room and dismissed hir class. "What are you doing Dean Markov?"
"I guess they havenít told you yet, shame on them and they thought they were going to beat me. Your sabbatical will have to be delayed for a new dig, Dr Digs." He said grinning
"What in the world are you three talking about? There is nothing on the schedule or even being talked about that need my attention for at least a year on the schedule. I thought we had an agreement, Dean Markov - youíd call me Digs and Iíd call you Tony."
"Well this is special dig. We only have six months to complete it in and youíve been after us for years to dig there," Tony replied "I believe youíre the one that was being overly formal there; understandable in front of your freshmen history class."
The dean smiled to himself remembering the first time he had met Chakat Digs-in-Dirt. He still couldnít understand why shi insisted on teaching even freshmen. Digs had three doctorates in history. He had insisted on traveling to the dig shi was working on off world shortly after being named dean.
***** Six YEARS ago on the planet Voxxa *****
"Can I help you sir?" a female voxxan asked looking up from the terminal where she was entering data.
"Iím looking for Professor Diggs-in-Dirt. You are? I donít recognize you from the team listing."
"Iím actually with the Voxxan government, the department of History. We are honored Shir Digs was able to come and personally run this dig."
"Iím Dean Markov hir new boss. So where is shi?"
"Look for a chakat colored like the dirt, undoubtedly shi is covered with it by now."
"Are we talking about the same person, Shir Digs is a triple doctorate; shi has a ton of assistants to do most of the dirty work. I seriously expected to find hir in the main building here."
"As you said shi has a ton of assistants to do the boring parts. Shi would rather be doing the finding instead of letting the finds come to hir apparently. As for myself, the government assigns an observer to all archeological digs. In the past others have been less honorable and removed valuable items instead of reporting them. Shir Digs has a reputation for being extremely honorable in honoring the cultural traditions of the planet where shi is working."
"I knew shi is highly respected and the University is lucky to have hir."
"Shir Digs also tends to take a dimmer view of artifact stealing than we do."
"Right then. I still want to meet hir. After all, Iíll be in office for almost two years before shi returns."
"Actually, from the reports Iím getting, might be a little longer."
"Figures. Point me in the right direction if youíd be so kind."
"I can page hir, your attire doesnít seem the best for the field," the vixen said, politely addressing the formally attired human. As it was, she liked these field assignments. Since getting dirty was a part of the job, casual dress was the order of the day.
"Just point me in the right direction. Iíll take my chances. You probably have confirmed my identity by now."
"Of course, several times, Doctor Markov. I believe they are working in the south quadrant of the dig. That has turned up the most finds."
"Excuse me Iím looking for Professor Digs."
"Digs is down in the pit, shi hates being disturbed this early in the day though."
"Young man, you should show your teachers more respect, hir title is Professor and donít forget it," Tony said, recognizing the dirt-covered student as a member of the team from the university.
"I know, Iím working with hir to earn my masters. As I said, Digs is in the pit. Excuse me I need to get some plaster."
"Excuse me, Iím looking for professor Digs!" he shouted out, climbing down into the pit where most of the activity seemed to be. The older human fell over into a mud puddle as what he assumed was a pile of dirt turned to face him.
"Security! Dang it! Someone get this idiot out of here now!" the apparent pile of dirt snarled loudly.
"Great another joker. Iím looking for Shir Digs-in-Dirt, young lady," Tony snarled, getting to his feet covered in mud. Only her eyes and grin told him that he wasnít looking at a simple pile of dirt from their diggings. "Iíve already been cleared by security."
"Well you found hir, and Iím not a lady," Digs snarled finally moving towards the human. "Take five everyone. Someone let Mark know. All right, who are you and what are you doing contaminating my dig?"
"Iím looking for Professor Digs-in-Dirt, older chakat, three doctorates in History."
"I started early and I can easily recommend regular dirt bathes to stay looking young. You still havenít said who you are. I left the doctorates and professorship back on Earth. They are good for getting respect but not much else here."
"Antoni Markov. I was recently named Dean of the University of California - your boss. According to my records, you arenít scheduled to return for several years, so I though Iíd come and meet you. You can call me Tony."
"Pleasure to meet you. Long way to come for little old me," Digs retorted, pulling off hir gloves and goggles.
"Iím not sure; youíre younger than I expected, I will say that. I thought someone had used an old picture with your last paper."
"Well I cut a few corners, greased a few paws and palms, now here I am. I started at a really young age," shi commented with a perfectly serious face.
"Iíll buy the last, not the others. Now is Digs your cub name or a coming of age name? Your fur seems to be perfectly matched for the soil around here. I thought the observer was kidding about her description."
"Iím not answering that. Sheesh! Actually it took a few greased paws and favors to get started on my first degree leading to my first doctorate. They were a little too traditional on that matter considering I was ten at the time."
"That is a quick start."
"I was always digging in the dirt and researching the past, so it became my lifeís work."
"Iíll certainly give you that maybe one of these days Iíll figure out why you stayed at such a small regional collage when you couldíve had your choice of positions."
"That is my secret, but there is a reason I assure you of that."
"Well, I will figure it out one of these days, you can rest assured of that, I promise you."
"Both Mark and Dave are after their Doctorates and are ready to head their own digs. Why me, is the next question, and where."
"Basically in our backyard down the coast a ways."
"I know better, funding for off world digs, that is easy to get. Funding for digs planet-side, forget it. Iíd have better luck building a warp drive by myself."
"Well developers are interested in the area. You tagged it with a few finds years ago."
"No one is interested in letting anyone dig in that area; not the government, not the developers. We find the right things and that kills their development."
"Court ruling you tagged it, it has to be investigated before development begins," Tony replied.
"No, you called it years ago. They totally rearranged the coast line of southern California during the gene wars."
"Probably because of all the military installations the old maps say were there," Mark said interrupting them.
"Wouldnít have mattered - the harbors would be enough to get them started," Dave retorted. "How you can find anything to reference with the old maps is beyond me."
"They had to completely dredge the sea lanes after the gene wars. Of course that was years later once shipping picked up. I told you that furball."
"Thatís right, you live in that part of the area you hairless ape," the voxxan replied.
"Thatís enough of that! I will NOT tolerate such racial slurs on this campus!" Tony roared.
"Chill, Dean, they are the best of friends, if they didnít insult each other once in a while, Iíd know something is wrong. They would be answering to me at that point, and they know it. All right, that still doesnít answer why me in particular?"
"Reputation, I guess. There is also the fact youíre the closest archeologist with your level of reputation. It might also be the fact youíd come cheaply since it is basically our backyard."
"All right. I donít like the smell of this."
"Well Fleet is insisting upon a closed site. Iíve been assured itís to keep any possible riots under control."
"Well this is a waste of time. You know if we find anything, it will never get published. They might as well let the developer have at it."
"Really, personally Iíd rather have a professional inspect the area rather than the developers finding things willy-nilly," a new figure said from the doorway. "I have a bad feeling about this dig. Even if you found one of the old military bases, that is fine. There are very few things Star Fleet would stop from being announced as finds, military or otherwise. The closed site is to hopefully keep any issues with protestors from interfering with your work. Iím not betting on it though."
"All right, all right, weíll give it a try then. It will take me a day or two to get everything organized. I also need to cancel my tickets and a few other things."
"Of course. After all, you are still due for a sabbatical, and I donít mean working more digs."
**** A week LATER ****
"All right Mark, whatís bothering you?" Digs asked as everyone settled into their quarters.
"This place is haunted," he replied nervously.
"Come on, that isnít possible," Dave retorted grinning. "Have you ever seen anything?"
"Now donít knock the natives beliefs. I thought that was one of the first things I taught every class and re-empathized yearly. Why do you believe this place is haunted?" Digs commented softly. Mark was one of the last people shiíd ever believe was superstitious. He regularly accepted other peopleís beliefs in the supernatural while never letting it affect him on any of the digs they had been on together, starting his freshman year of college.
"Yearly? Try daily. Stories that come from my grand-parents and great grandparents. Weird things happened around here. Odd noises; people that vanished and turned up weeks or months later in plain sight mauled to death. Several very reliable people reported seeing strange animals they had never seen before and since. Granted nothing like that has been reported in years, but most people that grew up in this area stay far away from here." Mark replied, noticing the fence completely surrounding the compound "Hadnít we better get started before we waste the entire day?"
"Our window doesnít start till tomorrow. Today we try to figure out where to dig," shi said grinning.
"Well none of the normal models fit. They blasted this area so much, itís flatter than Daveís girlfriend," Mark said relaxing a little.
"Donít say that too loudly. Sheís assisting on this dig, thank you very much."
"Great, we got help that actually knows something about working on a dig."
"I hope everything is suitable, sorry this had to be a closed dig. So what do you think weíll find?" a new voice asked, approaching the group.
"You are?" Digs asked, staring at the young human dressed in a yeomanís outfit.
"Sorry, Yeoman Briggs at your service, Professor Digs-in-Dirt, or would you prefer another title. Iím your liaison officer, I report directly to the admiral. My orders are to make sure you have anything you need within reason, stay out of your way or at least try, and with the assistance of guards, keep any potential protests from interfering."
"I see. Well first of all, Yeoman Briggs, I prefer, unless someone is being insulting, to be informal on the dig site, so you can call me Digs. Iím not happy about this still."
"Understood, Digs. Unless you hit the old city, odds are youíre going to hit a military base. Fine, no big deal. Alright I canít always be informal, but my name is Linda and itís a pleasure to assist you.""
"Agreed, and a lot of digs long ago have found parts of the old city. What has been found of the old military bases isnít anything to write home about."
"They pounded them into submission and then didnít stop till there was nothing left, from what we found," Mark sighed
"Iíll agree with that. I reviewed all the published finds and the old maps before taking this position. I thought that might be useful," Linda commented grinning, "All the previous digs hit old military bases or the city. There are sites weíll never know what was there since they were reclaimed shortly after the war."
"There is always a grain of truth in most legends. It probably isnít the most accurate information but itís better than losing it entirely." Digs stated firmly
"Digs, I found a bone!" Meshella exclaimed excitedly
"I think this was some type of enclosure, fenced in with a concrete foundation. I doubt itís what Iíd love to find, but lets take a look. Hopefully we can find some more; that is if the scavengers didnít scatter them," shi replied, curious
"Iíve never seen a bone like it before," Dave commented, entering it into a database. "Maybe the computer can identify it."
"Letís hope so. Iíve found another one," the vixen replied, grinning at Dave, her boyfriend. "Told you Iíd make the first find."
"Actually Digs made the first find with the fence, or rather what remains over that way," Mark retorted, "Weíve got several other groups and they think they might have found something as well. So you might have been the last one to find something."
"Thatís okay, Meshe, what he isnít telling is that most of the other finds are of fences," Dave retorted
"Heís right; this is the first significant find. Now we can be a little more certain this isnít a complete waste of time with an abandoned site," Digs commented, sitting on hir haunches as shi examined the bone more closely.
"Donít remind me, we spent three weeks digging up that so called ancient launch site just to find out the Caitian government knew about it all along. They just misplaced the records in their archives!" Dave retorted. "Iím still getting sand out of my equipment."
"Hey, it wasnít as bad as the last dig on Raksha. I had sand in places I didnít know it could get into. It took me a month to recover from the sunburn I got," Meshella replied
"We need to get a biologist in here, I think. Someone let Linda know I need to see her," Digs said, not even bothering to appoint anyone in particular the task as she studied the bones they had found. "Lets get this hole enlarged. Iíd like to find out what we are digging up here."
"Whatís up, Professor Digs? Or is this a test to see how well this is going to work as a closed site?" Linda asked softly as she came at a run. It wasnít the first time someone had tried that, nor would it be the last time, of that she was sure.
"Shi doesnít like being called by hir titles in the field, to the point shiís going to ignore you now," Mark commented as Digs kept working, ignoring the human except to move around her.
"Now youíre in the way," the chakat finally said as they finished widening the hole all the way around Linda.
"Sorry about that. So how can I help, or what did you need Digs?" Linda asked, jumping over the pit they had dug. "You were serious when you said you left your titles at home, werenít you?"
"We need a biologist to assist in identifying some bones. They arenít a morph species Iím familiar with, nor do they appear human. Of course. Everyone here that needs to know who I am does and it keeps all of us on equal footing. You might offer your opinion on something and you might be right, where others, since Iím the professor, wonít even think of contradicting my opinion. Iíve seen it before. I want to hear everyoneís opinion well, unless youíre being extra silly. Just silly, I can accept," Digs said smiling. "If I had all the answers, this wouldnít be any fun would it?"
"Not a problem. How about a geneticist they can read the DNA and make a reconstruction from that," Linda offered.
"There might not be enough information for them to work with, it appears these bones were left to naturally decay. Iím assuming they buried them as they arenít sun bleached, nor have been scattered by predators at those weíve found so far," Digs replied carefully. "Iíll settle for the biologist, whoever you can get on short notice."
"Itís not a matter of who I can get. Itís a matter of what you need. Iíve worked archeological sites before. I wasnít chosen just to fill the position but rather because I know something about it as well. I wanted this posting big time, Shir Digs. I think biologist with a background in historical animals is what we need. It might take a day or two. Iíll also get a junior geneticist down here to assist."
"That really isnít necessary. Really it isnít!" Digs exclaimed
"You have five months and some odd days for this dig. I want to make sure all the Iís are dotted and the Tís crossed before some developer tears up this site. We both know how much history has been lost because the significance of a piece was discovered after the fact. If there is something important here, the admiral wants us to know now instead of when this site is covered in condos thirty stories high."
"All right, but we have to watch the budget. The developer isnít about to let us have free rein. I sure they are having fits about it being a closed site already. The cost must be ouch."
"Not your problem. They want to develop, that is part of the costs," Linda said flatly "Any ideas on a biologist or multiples thereof."
"You could try the university and see if Professor Bison is free, and maybe one or two of his assistants."
"All right, Bison. That is an odd name, but who am I to judge."
"Well, heís a Caitain, and since no one other than another Caitian stands a chance of pronouncing his real name, that is his English name. I think he admires them. They were almost hunted to extinction twice and recovered."
"Twice Ė I didnít know that. Learn something new everyday," Linda replied smiling. "I think they turned up a few more bones. There were a few calls from the other test holes when I started out here. Actually, the developer is really not going to be happy depending on what turns up because heíll have to give you more time."
"When the former United States was expanding westward around 1800 or so, they almost hunted the buffalo to extinction, believing them an inexhaustible supply of meat. It didnít help bison also tore up the railroad tracks. Later, during and after the Genewars, they were once more hunted to the brink of extinction as a food source," Digs said sighing, "So many bits and pieces of history lost, I doubt weíll ever recover them all."
"I donít know. All we can do is recover what we can and try to make sure nothing more is lost. Well, I have work to do. The chief said supper will be delayed tonight Ė someone forgot to order enough foodstuffs."
"I see, and that would be you I take it?" Meshella asked grinning
"Guilty as charged. Actually I ordered it and there was a problem with delivery since their paperwork said we werenít starting for another week, and stopping a week earlier. That was corrected, you can rest assured of that."
"Hello, can I speak to Professor Bison, please?" Linda asked the female Caitian that appeared on the screen when the university operator connected her to the professorís home.
"This is his first wife, Spring Shower, how can I assist you?" she replied
"I am working on a dig with Shir Digs-in-Dirt. We need some assistance and Shir Digs suggested contacting your husband. Iím calling because Iím the liaison officer for this site, Yeoman Briggs," Linda said firmly.
"I see. I know Digs is working on a closed site. How my mate can be of assistance is beyond me though."
"They have found some bones that should be at most around 300 years old. As I said, Digs recommended him. If he isnít available, I will of course look elsewhere."
"No, please hold on. He is momentarily indisposed," she replied, smiling. "Iím certain since shi asked for him, he would at least want to know. Is there a comm number he can call you back at?"
"If heís interested. He can even show up at the dig site tomorrow, for that matter. The dean has all the information he needs. Iím forwarding my contact information as we speak."
"Thank you. I will give this to him immediately. Youíll probably see him in the morning. Please give the doctor our regards."
"If I find Doctor Digs, I would. Shi refuses to acknowledge anyone calling hir that in the field, as I learned the hard way. I will pass those sentiments to Digs anyways."
"My husband says heíll be there in the morning. I hope his assistance is fruitful," Spring Shower replied cutting the connection.
"What have I told you about calling me during working hours, young lady? I hope nothing is seriously wrong. Isnít it during your working hours as well?" the tall male human with graying temples replied on his private line. "If this is a favor, you really should go through proper channels."
"Youíd give the chance to meet you favorite history author in the fur to a junior doctor, all right sir."
"What are you talking about Linda? I know you were after a certain assignment that you refused to talk about," he sighed deeply. "More classified junk, without a doubt."
"Actually Iím working on a closed dig as their liaison officer. Fleet wanted it closed with all the Humans First protests going on lately. They need a geneticist, and I feel it is important that they get someone with some experience."
"Really playing another hunch thatís backfired on you a time or two."
"I know but they only have six months here, unless we find something. I think they might have found something already. I follow normal channels and Iíll get a fresh out of college graduate in a month or two, even with the admiralís backing. Then weíll be waiting for this and that to do the job properly."
"Theyíve found things, but not enough to really get someone working on it full time. So the rumors are true Ė they are planning more development in southern California."
"Iíd have to justify bringing in anyone from outside the University of California."
"Well good thing for you I attended there for a few years a lifetime or two ago, isnít it? Do I need to bring anything other than myself?"
"What ever youíd use to extract DNA from bones and figure out what it came from, if that is possible. Best guess is they are around 300 years old. By the way, dad, shi refuses to acknowledge anyone calling hir professor or doctor on the dig site."
"All right kiddo Iíll get my stuff packed and see you late tonight. That is one thing I still miss."
"Explaining it to mom?"
"For all the headaches and heartaches it caused, yes," he stated stone faced "Good thing I donít have to really clear this with anyone at the office."
"The perks of having rank. I did have to clear calling you in though myself. The admiral said if I could get through without visiting you, that was all right."
"All right. He forgot whose daughter you are, or he preferred to look the other way for the moment."
"No idea, dad, just know I got the OK in writing."
"Good girl. At least if anyone throws a fit, it looks like you followed somewhat of procedure."
"Dean, glad you could come. So Spring cut you loose for the moment," Digs said, hugging the Caitian tightly as he entered the dining room "Youíre just in time for breakfast. Of course weíll be moving this later, so watch out. Your workspace will be moving."
"Iím not surprised, she cut me loose from my third wife. We just finished our honeymoon as you put it. I will have to go home and perform my duties occasionally or theyíll disown me!" he replied, grinning. "So when can I see these bones."
"Weíve got several sets for you in the lab area. Not sure if any are complete as of yet."
"Of course. You donít know what species youíre looking at so that makes sense. Doctor Briggs, what are you doing here?" he gulped as the tall man entered the room with Yeoman Briggs. "You sure you need me?"
"At least till we get a geneticist and, Iíd like some idea of what killed these animals as well. I doubt a geneticist can answer that question, unless it was a genetic flaw."
"Doctor Briggs is a well known geneticist, Digs," he stammered, "Iíve consulted with him a few times. He helped develop the Stellar Foxtaurs."
"Not hardly. I was one of a large team that reviewed the genetic code for the various breeds and most of that was done by computer," he stated firmly. "I might be able to assist in simulating the various animals. Identification will still require a biologist. Professor Bison, we both know that; nor will I be able to determine what killed them. Pleasure to see you once again and not on the other side of video screen either. I think they will need both of us."
"How did you get anyone so fast, Linda? I expected it would take at least a month to get approval and find someone," Digs said, blinking hir eyes as shi greeted the new arrival. "Iím honored to have you on this dig. Iím Shir Digs-in-Dirt. You can call me Digs. Iíd prefer that. I tend to ignore people otherwise on site."
"Iím honored to be here, Shir Digs. You can call me Jason. My daughter called me last night, instead of getting a junior geneticist later."
"Thank you. I donít know that our finds are anywhere near that important, honestly."
"Well then, letís find out. Either itís a waste of my time or you have something. Either way, I needed a break from the office. Professor, maybe the best place for us to start is separating the bones into individuals, or at least those belonging to the same species, while the rest of this merry troop goes digging in the dirt. Who knows what sort of creature my computers might come up with otherwise."
"Sounds like a plan to me."
**** Two Months LATER ****
"You seem excited, Dean," Dave said, looking up from where he was working, extracting more bones.
"We have identified some of the first bones as a species of fox. Probably just an ordinary red fox based on the size, but it is something. Jason is working on extrapolating enough genetics to simulate what it looked like, but there are large holes in the code."
"Took you two long enough," Digs teased. "I take it we are burying you in bones? Something has you very excited still."
"We think one of the skeletons might be a giant panda. We think, mind you. I got some more assistants out here and they are sorting the bones and reassembling the skeletons. Starvation isnít what killed any of them, at least it hadnít progressed far enough to show in their bones. This is the largest collection of bones Iíve seen on Earth and from so many species. Jason is seeing if he can get any usable DNA. We get the species identified, theyíll add it to the database with all the others. He hopes someday we might be able to recreate at least some of the species lost in the Gene Wars."
"Well we only have four more months, and this insistent rain is slowing everything down to a crawl." Digs said looking at the muddy hole shi was working in.
"Iím looking at the positive side, Digs. I can finally attest to the rumors being true Ė you do wear a coat of dirt while on a dig site!"
"More like a coat of mud right now. How are the molds of the bones coming by the way?"
"Now that is something I can say is going right. Once we complete a skeleton, my assistants are right on top of getting the pattern stored in the databank. We are certain some of the animals were shot, Digs," Dean said, putting up his umbrella as the rain started to pour down once more. "I donít think anyone was hunting them though. Is your theory holding up on what you found?"
"I think so, but Iím not sure we have the whole thing. We may never get to excavate the areas around here."
"Well at least we donít have any protestors."
"Yet I will announce this find as per schedule next monthÖ" Digs started to comment, then trailing off.
"I know. What are you doing running around in the rain, Linda?"
"The admiral wants a complete progress report. Actually the developer does too, but he was told he has to wait for the half-way report."
"What? You havenít been reporting our finds to the admiral?" Dean asked surprised.
"Of course, but unless there is an incident with protestors, he doesnít want to know. Iím not an expert after all, as he put it bluntly. Iím just to advise you. He made the time to get a face to face report instead of working over the comm."
"You sure he hasnít read your reports!" Digs exclaimed. "When is he arriving then?"
"Maybe a little, but he wants a face to face confirmation this afternoon. The weather forecasts are for more heavy rain."
"All right. Those not being flooded out, keep working. I better get cleaned up before the admiral gets here. I still donít know why he is involved though."
"The court turned this over to Star Fleet for security, and he got the job from there. At least that is my understanding of the situation," Linda commented, adjusting her umbrella to keep the rain out of Digsí face.
"Are you sure that is what youíve found?" the wolftaur asked, staring at the projection screen Digs was pointing to.
"As sure as we can be right now. We arenít even sure we have the whole thing or just sitting on a corner of it."
"We are working on identifying the bones as quickly as possible," Professor Bison added, changing the screen to show several completed skeletons. "Itís slow going, but we are making progress."
"As of the moment, I can honestly say this site is of great interest just for the potential recovery of several species genetically."
"We both know, Dr Briggs, the INGG will not let you create new species without cause," the wolftaur commented, staring at the screen showing a skeleton and computer simulation showing what the giant panda looked like based on their findings.
"These arenít new species but a reintroduction of lost ones, potentially. Some of them we may never recover. Itís not just recovering enough to bring back one, itís finding enough to ensure genetic diversity. In the case of the giant panda we could never bring them back without some alternations."
"The giant panda was almost extinct before the Gene Wars. Loss of habitat, low numbers of births, loss of food all counted against them. We are talking a species that ate one type of food only Ė bamboo," Dean commented adding to the discussion .
"So they were like the koala."
"All right then. I was slightly afraid youíd stumble onto a hornetsí nest. You didnít let me down either. Yeoman Briggs, I want the perimeter extended to 2 kilometers around the current one."
"Sir we donít have time to cover that much area!"
"I wouldnít bet on that. I really wouldnít. Dr Briggs is right. While we might not use the data today or tomorrow, we canít toss away the chance to save it for the future."
"The developer is going to fight you tooth and nail on this, sir."
"Let him. I know a few rules to tie his tail in a knot. Iíll deal with that. Itíll be my pleasure, rest assured of that. All of you just worry about doing your job as thoroughly as possible."
**** A year later. ****
"What in the world was that?" Digs exclaimed, hearing an explosion that showered the area shi was working with clouds of dust.
"Protestors again. Thatís all. They are playing a little rougher today," a guard said, stopping for a moment as another explosion sounded. He tapped his com badge. "What is going on? I thought we got permission to check for explosives?"
"They got a judge to rule that as long as they arenít on dig property and they have a permit, we canít touch them sir," a voice responded.
"Well, make sure they are only blasting on their property. We are getting debris all the way here. Itís interfering with the work. That is definitely not permitted," the guard responded
"I believe that is their intention. Well, except for the group that was trying to tunnel under the fence last night. Iíll also check for the size of blasts their permit allows for."
"Who in the heck is doing it and why?" Digs queried
"Take your pick. Weíve got protestors on all sides. You got Humans Firsters saying this is where beasts belong Ė in a zoo. Stupid idiots! Personally, Digs, I know a lot of furs Iíd rather spend time with than any of them; much better and more intelligent conversation to say the least. You got mixed groups protesting just the idea. There are furs protesting desecrating the graves of these ancestors. They are protesting bringing back any species for any reason. Finally the developer is protesting we are delaying progress to dig up useless bones." The human guard said grinning, as he tapped his badge once more. "Put up the shield. Letís keep the site clean."
"On it right away. Yeoman Briggs is checking over all the permits, blasting and otherwise. Maybe we can get them to quiet it down a little."
"That is something to hope for greatly." Digs said, remembering hir last foray outside the fence, still unsure if shi wouldnít rather face explosives instead
"So, the stinking beast escaped itís cage, I see." A human shouted as several more joined in. That wasnít so bad. Then they pelted hir with paint balls that had been turned into stink bombs. More humans joined quickly making it impossible to return to the nearest gate.
"What do you expect when you let animals run the zoo?"
"Well, if they canít keep it in its cage, maybe we should put it down." A tall female said brandishing an old-fashioned shotgun.
Digs bolted for freedom and hir life, leaving the milling crowd behind hir, only to get caught up in another group of protesters.
"HOW DARE YOU DESECRATE this graveyard!" a vixentaur exclaimed, pushing the shocked chakat.
"They donít have any manners. Look how they steal our males!" another shouted, pelting hir with rotten tomatoes "They have no respect for the dead or the living."
"It was a zoo! They tried to prevent species from going extinct!" Digs replied, gasping at the amount of anger everyone was tossing about. It was oppressive even to hir almost non-existent empathy.
"You have no idea what you are talking about!" a female human shouted as several others agreed, quickly drowning out any reply Digs tried to make.
"We shouldíve never allowed the courts to let this dig even get started."
"They have to follow the law, otherwise the developers wouldíve already destroyed this whole area!" Digs screamed finally getting a word in.
"Whatís the difference? Youíre doing it slowly they do it quickly," a cat said, sneering as she pelted Digs who was rapidly attempting to get away with rotten eggs.
"Help me!" Digs pleaded over the comm, finding shi had backed out of one group right into another. This one was undoubtedly protesting the construction delays the dig was causing. It was mixed group loudly complaining they couldnít make a living because of the dig. Others shouted that they could pull bones out of the ground without all this additional cost, and progress would be served.
"Weíll be right there, Digs. What possessed you to go outside of the fence?" Yeoman Briggs responded.
"I thought maybe I could get them to see reason."
"With a ball bat, maybe, but Iím not betting on it," she replied.
"You all right, Digs?" Dean asked cautiously, as shi was looking a little confused entering the lab area.
"Sure. I didnít sleep well last night, thatís all. I think Iíll call it a day early."
"Understandable. This is exciting. Iím getting some idea of how these animals might have lived as well," he replied, sighing. "I also heard about your little excursion the other morning too. Earth is not the only planet to wipe out a species, but here we have a chance to make it that much easier to bring them back. I wonder if they realize one of the primary drives of any species is the continuation of the species. How can we upset the dead when their DNA will ensure their species is not gone forever?"
"Because we arenít moving fast enough!" Digs retorted with a grin
"Iíll accept that answer, since this slacker isnít doing his part and documenting the pollen and seeds found in the enclosures." Jason grinned. "Are you alright Digs? You look ready to drop."
"I didnít sleep well last night. A cat nap or two will set me to rights," shi replied. "Thanks for your concern. Someone want to let Linda know Iím off duty for the day? She wasnít at the front desk."
"Iíll tell her. Sheís off reporting to Star Fleet on current progress and dealing with a few other issues."
"I better get back out there then."
"Nonsense, Digs! Go to bed! They just want to know what is currently happening in areas remaining to be dug up. Itís perfectly normal. They are the military after all, and nothing to worry about. Go to bed, or I can call a doctor to make sure you do."
"Got it. See you in the morning," shi said firmly backing out of the area.
"Seen Digs, dad?" Linda asked entering the lab several hours later. "Star Fleet is happy with progress. They asked for more time; we got ten months."
"Thatís not bad considering the developer is hounding the courts daily to get us out of here."
"His argument that it is a waste of money because they will find all the bones anyways didnít go over very well."
"But not in the proper context or as in one piece as much as possible. That information is just as important as finding the bones themselves," Dean commented. "Digs didnít sleep well last night and called it a day early. You werenít in so shi told us."
"Shi has been looking run down for the last few days. There shouldíve been someone there still. Okay, Iíll field any calls that come in for hir then and find out what happened to the person at the desk," Linda stated stalking out of the room.
"I think she isnít as mad at Digs quitting early as she is at whoever was to be at the desk."
"Iíd agree with that statement."
**** Nine Months later ****
"DIGS, I thought we had an agreement!" Tony snarled cornering hir.
"And you are breaking it. I know itís not illegal or a violation of the faculty code of ethics, but youíre breaking the spirit of it."
"NO, I said as long as it didnít affect my work, Iíd abide by that decision, DEAN MARKOV," shi snarled, attracting the attention of several people around them.
"And this isnít affecting your work either!" he snorted angrily. "This discussion isnít finished, Shir Digs-in-Dirt."
"Itís not. We have a month left. Linda!" Digs shouted, dashing out of the hole shi had been working in.
"Whatís up Digs? Dean Markov, the admiral would like a few words with you right now."
"We need to get the engineers in now. The command post Ė we havenít moved it."
"They are coming in to do that this evening. Iíve got everyone that can be spared securing the building for moving it. The new foundation has already been prepared."
"Great, thanks. We keep finding more and moreÖ" Digs commented trailing off. "Why did the admiral want the dean? Iíve been on edge and he didnít deserve that."
"Weíve all been under pressure. Take a deep breath. At least the protestors arenít setting off explosives today. He didnít tell me, so either it was last minute or he is keeping it to himself." Linda stated, walking off to deal with other issues.
"Too wet for that, Iíd think. How much are we going to miss anything is too much."
"Weíve had the area scanned several times and you know that, Digs. Well except for our home, as it were. There is only so much we can do without going and looking."
"All right what was that about, Dean Markov?"
"Private matter that I promised not to discuss," he replied
"Not any longer, I can have you removed permanently from this dig site."
"Digs works for me, so go for it. This will make the protestors happy, shutting down the dig like this."
"Actually this is a closed site, Digs works for the court right now. The court turned the site over to Star Fleet for security so shi works for me now. Youíre sniffing around in my territory and you want to cause issues. I donít like it. You arenít the only one with a Russian background." The wolftaur commented softly sitting on his haunches. "I walked uphill both ways through ten kilometers of snow 5 meters deep just to get to school. Once I got to school we waited regularly four hours just out get through security and another two hours at lunch. Our class books were written during the overthrow of the czars."
"That is nothing. In Siberia we walked through eight meter deep snow clearing the roads at the same time. We had a three hour wait in most of our lines, our books were so old they had been copied by monks. I will leave as long as leaving hir wonít affect the dig."
"Tony, please, I know there is something off here. I canít dispute the work they are doing otherwise. Please my first name is Peter."
"I gave my word, Admiral, and even I donít know the whole story."
"I could hold you. It wouldnít be hard to create a reason as it were another honorable Russian tradition. It canít be that Iím more prone to addictions than shi is."
"Shi isnít addicted. I canít believe Iím considering this. How many taurs are there working this site, how many chakats?"
"I believe there are a couple other taurs. Wait a second, this isnít possible. There isnít another chakat here. Shiís only left the compound a few times."
"Hir career comes first, end of statement, no matter what it takes. Shi is still a social person, as Iím sure youíve learned if youíve been here after work."
"Indeed I have, and the lack of taurs wouldnít present an issue. Well theyíve never been an issue to any chakat Iíve met before. Iíve never met one addicted to anything before either."
"Itís more of dependency on drugs that suppress hir heat and rut almost completely, so they wonít interfere with her work. I tried finding out how shi got started without success. At a guess, shi started while working on hir doctorates."
"Well I can do something about that," Peter snarled
"I wouldnít. I forced the issue the last time. It has two other effects. Digs is almost an empathic blank spot naturally. Well the drugs repress hir already weak mental talents even further. That is easy to deal with. The other issue isnít because the longer shitakes them, the worse it will be."
"What? I canít accept anyone abusing themselves like that."
"The longer shiís been taking them, the worse hir first heat and rut will be once they are flushed out. It could take weeks for hir to recover."
"I see all right. Shi is due for a sabbatical once this is over correct?"
"Sure, but I donít see what that has to do with anything."
"Leave it to me. I have a few places I can send hir and make sure shi wonít get a hold of those drugs for anything. I have a specific ship in mind in fact." Peter stated firmly
****A month Later ****
"Where is everyone?"
"They are cleaning up, well, except for Digs and a couple of others. They found a staircase buried under where base camp was."
"Shiís going to have to stop right now. We have to be off site today the developer is starting work in the morning."
"Under whose authority?" a new voice snapped
"The courtís. This was delivered to the university this morning. Court order to vacate the premises as ordered by tomorrow morning."
"Really the last date of the dig is today." Linda said looking over the court order. "We have to clear out everything by midnight. All digging to stop immediately."
"I see. Well, shall we deliver the bad news? Yeoman, advise the engineers to execute general order twenty five."
"Sir that will take them three days to complete."
"According to this court order we have to completely return the site to pre-dig conditions weíll start with general order twenty five. Personally I think they found enough to halt all development on this site till its fully documented."
"Yes sir, but the work crews will be here in the morning."
"Iíll take care of it." the wolftaur said softly jumping hearing a small explosion. "What was that donít tell me the protestors again."
"Probably their latest find. Weíve removed two doors already. It looks like they were jury rigged into place. This last set was something else altogether. We couldnít scan them Ė completely solid metal at least three inches thick, possibly lead lined."
"I think thatís got it, Digs," Meshella said grinning.
"Well, letís see what they were hiding down here," shi replied, grinning.
"Dave, remind me not to get your girlfriend mad at me," Mark said nervously as they looked through the opening, waiting for the air to clear. The door they had blasted to get inside was at least six inches of solid metal.
"Wait a minute or two. The air is stale in there," Digs said, restraining Dave with hir tail as shi put on a breathing mask. "Masks on."
The room was smaller than expected, almost like a reception or receiving area. It was little wider than the doors accessing the room and about three times as long. There were several barriers erected in the room further restricting access to the far end of the room. Digs carefully shone hir flashlight around the room finally hitting a sign Ė The San Diego Branch AZA Project: Noahís Ark.
"Noahís ark?" Digs said causing everyone to look up at the sign.
"A religious reference, Digs," Mark stated blinking his eyes.
"You mustíve skipped a few points of history," Meshella said grinning.
"I stuck to proven history mostly. Someone care to fill me in?"
"Of course. Someone tell Linda. Put the guards on notice Ė we might have something very important here," Tony said cautiously. "Itís a story to explain how earthís wildlife survived the great flood."
"The flood is fact, the story isnít. Iím the last person to knock anyoneís beliefs though." Digs sighed as someone handed the pair breathing masks and helped them put them on. "All right what are you doing here, both of you."
"Originally we came down here to tell you to cease at once," the wolftaur said. "I think this takes priority. Noahís ark Ė basically he was ordered by God to build a large boat and put two of each animal onto the ship, one male and one female. I wonder if the name has any meaning."
"Well, lets find out then, shall we," Digs said as they squeezed past the erected barriers to enter the room beyond.
"Weíve got bodies here!" Dave exclaimed, "Mixed fur and human. They arenít carrying any weapons I can see."
"Noted. Letís get to work, folks. Someone scan for viruses and other traps. I donít think they wanted the uninvited in here. Keep your masks on, folks." Digs started tapping hir comm badge as shi looked around the cavernous room with hir light. "We need lights down here now."
"Iíd say that was an understatement," Peter commented, looking at a bunch of automatic rifles laying on the floor, as several people entered the room carrying light stands "These match the caliber used on some of the animals up top from your reports. I wish some of my people jumped this fast."
"More bodies. It doesnít look like they were fighting." Mark said from the far end of the room.
"Agreed scans indicate they didnít starve to death either. No traces of gases or airborne viruses. Iíd leave your masks on everyone. It probably smells in here. Weíve got a dozen bodies in here pretty much equally mixed between human and fur. There appears to be a couple more doors here."
"Why, shoot the animals they were charged with protecting?" Digs asked softly after several minutes.
"This area was getting pounded, not to mention loss of power with the destruction of Hoover dam. Most of those animals had extremely specialized diets, according to Professor Bisonís reports. Maybe weíll find some information, but you had a war that was rapidly degenerating into a free for all. I doubt they had food for some of the animals less than a week after it started. It was either let them starve or put them to sleep," Peter said sadly looking around the room. "Humans and furs working together, making a tough choice and carrying through with it."
"Admiral, the developer is here with Star Fleet security!" Linda exclaimed dashing into the room suddenly.
"Good. I have a few words for my brother anyways," the admiral snarled. "Heís the black sheep of the family. Dad disowned him because heís always made his money by abusing the land. He wouldnít turn anything found over to you, that is his record. Why do you think the judge insisted Digsí finds be checked by professionals? Heíd never chance something putting a kink in his tail and stopping his development. His first development project destroyed a four hundred year old forest, something he kept hidden till it was too late to stop him. A lot of his later ones had similar results."
"All right Nicky we both can read. The original court order says today is the last day, which was turned over to Star Fleet for security."
"I got a new ruling. All operations are to cease immediately. You have to midnight to return the site to pre-dig condition."
"We both know that is impossible. Secondly Iíd suggest you have those extra men you have hidden lay down their arms."
"They are licensed private guards on property I own, so they stay right where they are. You are breaking the law this time all. Operations are to cease and desist immediately. Lieutenant carry out the courtís orders." The wolftaur barked, grinning at the admiral "This time you lose."
"Really well there is a first time for everything."
"Get used to it. Father might have disowned me, but Iíve proven myself over and over again. I didnít need his support or assistance for anything, unlike you," Nicholas snarled.
"What did you expect him to do after that?"
"It was my property anyways."
"I canít argue that point in the least, Nicky. Clear cutting a forest planted by our great grandfather just to develop the land."
"It was worthless. The land was worth much more without the trees. The developers had been after it for years and no one was even talking to them." The wolftaur snarled deeply. "None of you have the right to judge me on that."
"We all knew Grandfather never intended for that forest to be cleared for development," Peter snarled. "You even promised him; I heard you."
"I waited as long as the law required. Now get out of the way or I will have you stunned."
"Really? Lieutenant, please inform my brother of the rules of engagement. You made a few other mistakes anyways," the wolftaur retorted, yelling to the guard on the inside of the gate, "Keep those gates locked."
"Unless he is threatening us, I canít stun a superior officer," The Rakshani commented, blank-faced.
"He is violating a court order. I want him and the rest of them out of here."
"The court order only says to cease and desist. They have to the end of the day to leave this location."
"There are a couple of catches to that. Who is named on the court order?"
"Lieutenant Admiral GREYSON told you to carry out the court order to the letter of law. They are not ceasing and desisting. Look at them carrying equipment into that hole!" Nicholas snarled his fur standing on end.
"That is correct sir. I canít confirm that either way sir I will have to insist that you have all operations cease immediately. You are hereby requested to start packing up all your equipment."
"Request? I demand you force them to start packing up right now."
"Sir, that would not be a wise decision. We are only armed with light arms. The guards are armed with full body armor and stun cannons along with other weapons."
"You were ordered to carry out the court order, Lieutenant."
"YES SIR, but I will remind you that even under the court order, they have to the end of the day to pack up and leave," he snarled, turning to the large wolftaur, teeth bared and claws out.
"Leave it for them before I have you kicked out of the service." Nicholas snarled
"Letís see you try that. I asked a question Ė is that court order directed to me or Professor Digs?"
"The court order demands that the university of California cease and desist all operations immediately. They are to return the site to its original condition and vacate the site by midnight."
"What if they donít?"
"Then weíll toss all of you in jail."
"If I donít see any action on clearing the site within a reasonable amount of time I am authorized to use force. I hope you will not make that necessary, sir."
"Well I have a couple of issues that might make that a little tough, Lieutenant."
"I see, sir. I am still obligated to follow my orders irregardless of your issues."
"As long as they arenít forcing you to violate the law. See this isnít a university of California site, itís a Star Fleet site."
"Sir, that is irrelevant. The order demands all university personnel cease and desist."
"Thatís fine, but hereís how this is working. The court order turned the site over to Star Fleet for security. Star Fleet then assigned that mission to me along with everyone on the site, so for the moment, except for Dean Markov everyone working here is a contractor with Star Fleet."
"Sir, that doesnít change the fact the court ordered operations to cease and desist on this site."
"Actually it does. They ordered all University personnel to cease and desist working on this site, not Fleet contractors. Secondly that is a local judge. My court order giving us the rest of the day for digging was signed by the regional judge. I want everyone to stand down."
"Sir I have my orders to carry out this court order by your superior officer, no less."
"Heís not here is he? That makes me the top ranking officer here. I want everyone disarmed now, Lieutenant. I am in charge and we both know that. We get orders like that all the time. He probably didnít even read them."
"Yes sir, I would like to go on the record as protesting you countermanding my orders."
"Granted. Things have changed slightly. The yeoman working on site is in discussions with the court right now," Peter stated firmly. "Guards, general order one Ė defend the perimeter, set to stun anyone that doesnít lay down their arms within two minutes. Stun them out to maximum range."
"I demand you carry out your orders immediately. If you wonít, I will. You shouldíve never given up the family business."
"I already had a successful career. Father respected that, so Anna took over. We are both happy and thatís all that matters, not whether or not you like it. I suggest you donít try forcing the issue Nicky."
"You self-righteous jerk. I could never make father happy. Peter was the good boy. He never made a mistake and got everything handed to him on a platter. I didnít get anything like that, but I still succeeded. Youíre only doing this because you canít stand to see me win." The large wolftaur snarled launching himself at the smaller one, only to be slammed into the ground by a marine tackling him as several more quickly stunned him.
"Nicky, Nicky you never learn. Father was only upset that you broke your word so quickly. Lock him in the brig Iíll deal with him later."
"Sir, Iíd like to point out you have a personal interest in the matter."
"Point taken, Lieutenant, just get him out of here. Make a report to Admiral Greyson. Iíll let him know what is going on later. Right now Iím going to see if theyíve learned anything more."
"What have you found? Linda what did the judge say?"
"Shiís awaiting further information, but for the moment the site is still closed and development is on hold." the Yeoman replied. "I told the guards already. The security forces the developer brought are being turned over to you."
"Call him what he is. Disowning my brother wonít change that."
"We found several more bodies in several side rooms. They had complete biological labs down here as well as sleeping quarters and a kitchen. There are a few more rooms we havenít looked in but this area very well might have started out as a bomb shelter. The doors are marked Ė power systems, medical and life support. We found a radio. There was a journal next to it. The last entry read, ĎSan Deigo is no more. We havenít gotten any radio signals in almost three weeks. Doctor Gleeson is prepared for the worst, and once we make sure the site is secured along with our work,í the entry ends." Mark commented, "I didnít try turning any of the pages."
"Good. I found another journal. It was intended for long term storage etched on thin metal plates. It gives the purpose proposed storage methods. Project Noahís Ark Ė they were attempting to set up a genetic repository of animals in case of a global disaster. The cryo-tanks are a complete write-off."
"Let me be the judge of that." Jason commented, looking at the gauges on top of the thickly insulated tanks. "We might recover something. Itís still cold somehow."
"We have recordable disks, and tapes. Not much hope there."
"I donít know. We might recover something. It will be a long term project," Meshella answered, wondering what her boyfriend was staring at through an open doorway "What are you looking at, Dave?"
"I think they forgot to list two other methods," he gulped. "The one is older than the hills and the other we might be re-writing history here, folks."
"Is that what it appears to be?" Peter asked, dumbfounded, staring at the large contraption sitting securely bolted to the floor with several clear blocks sitting on top.
"Possibly. Very possible they tried to store the necessary information etched into crystals by laser. Iím not sure how successful they were with the other method. Iím guessing it looks like they might have used EEPROMís to store the data. Did they have enough capacity to really do any good back then?" Dave replied, "We donít have the time necessary to deal with this."
"I wouldnít bet on that. We will find out wonít we." Jason said firmly "I think the IGNN will support continuing this dig just for the potential this room represents."
"I think my brother is going to have to go dig elsewhere, for some reason," Peter said grinning. "All right, Digs, time to turn this over to the youngsters and other experts. Itís your find; no one can take that away from you."
"Not till I find out what happened," shi replied.
"I think otherwise. Iíve still got you under my thumb, and itís long past time you take that sabbatical. Yeoman, needless to say you arenít going anywhere."
"Neither am I," Jason retorted. "I canít speak for anyone else."
"Iím going back to the university, at least for a while," Dean said grinning. "My mates might disown me otherwise, and for the moment Iím not needed."
"Everyone, for the moment this is classified. Donít tell a soul about this find," the wolftaur said, removing Digís comm badge. "Iíll deal with the legal issues. Come on, Digs, Iím going to make sure you get started on your vacation without any further interruptions."
Story and Characters are copyright © 2007 Daniel Davis.
Chakat universe is copyright of Bernard Doove.
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