He was already annoyed that Chief Anderson hadn't given Galaxy Security more time to clear this little impromptu meeting on their visit to Paun-Kei to inspect the new Galaxy Security base. However, when Chief Anderson decided something, it happened. One of these days it would bite them badly.
On top of that, a foul odor lingered in his nose, irritating him further. Hearing ridiculous claims merely further grated on his nerves.
Chief Anderson sent him a quelling look before turning back to Dr. Touren, "The idea sounds interesting, riding the general FTL background radiation. However, those frequencies were abandoned for good reason."
"Yes, yes, fragmented signal, corrupted messages, limited range." Dr. Touren said with a wave of his hand in dismissal, "This device creates an initial minute propagation wave to solve that. The beauty is that without another exact device on the other side to receive, to separate and decode the signal, no one will find the signal, much less read it. And the propagation wave can be tuned to how long you want it to last. After that distance it disintegrates, protecting the information. Spectra won't even know it's there in the first place."
"Unless someone tells them about it." Mark muttered under his breath.
Dr. Touren moved to the other side of the table as a little blue light on the top of the machine began flashing. He hovered over it for a moment, checking the displays and lights, then moved over to where two others stood.
He almost wished he was with Princess and Keyop, rooting around in the dirt of the nearby archeological discovery of strange ruins in the jungle of Paun-Kei.
Chief Anderson circled the table the machine sat on, studying every angle while the scientists continue to talk quietly among themselves. Many had made the claim of this group of scientists. A perfect and safe way to convey messages and information. One after another Mark had seen them fail, sometimes with deadly consequences for the team and agents of Galaxy Security.
Dr. Touren motioned them over. As they came to stand behind the table, he motioned to one of the computer monitors in particular. "We'll be sending two messages, one a short data burst, another a long signal containing data, sound and video. First the computer encrypts it. Now we'll activate the device. The original device is currently in our laboratory on Sirius. Once it's received, the message will be decrypted and a multiple-choice question answered. Depending on the answer, if they get it right, the message back will include a new data packet. I have also placed a trusted colleague on Asteroid Delta 9 with instructions to look for any signal during this time-frame. Here we go!"
Landing in a vat of refuse about to be incinerated had not been one of her better moments. The fact that the entire team landed in it with her made the episode only slightly more bearable. Even now, as she sat on the ground gently scraping away the dirt from around a domed shard of pottery, she could smell the stink. Shower after shower, soaps, perfumes, and still she could smell it. Even the heady scents coming from the jungle flowers did nothing.
Keyop had long-since disappeared into the semi-tropical undergrowth, chasing after an animal. She wasn't worried. The jungles of Paun-Kei might be dense, but most of the animals in them weren't dangerous, a fact the planet had used to increase its eco-tourism industry. Who knew, maybe Keyop would find more ruins.
"David, make sure you document that placement." Dr. Morgan yelled out, making Princess look up.
"I'm already doing it!" the intern yelled back from the other side of the trenches.
Princess smiled to herself as she continued her work. Dr. Morgan hovered over every part of the dig like a protective mother hen. With good reason. This dig was exceeding everyone's expectations.
A shadow obscured her work.
Dr. Bertham smiled down at her as she looked up again, kneeling next to the small square she was excavating. "Looks like a nice sized shard."
"I'm hoping there will be more under it. I don't recall Paun-Kei Revival pottery with this particular pattern on it." Princess said.
"You're right, it is unique. But, unique patterns for specific settlements have been found before, if they had a local crafter. Perhaps another to add to the catalog?" He looked out over the dig site, "Maybe we'll find the workshop."
"I heard Tony found something mechanical." Princess said, scraping aside a little more soil.
"He did, but I think it's another of their farming robotics. We have plenty of examples of those already. I really hoped it would be something different. Why are you smiling like that?"
"Oh, just the differences in dig sites. With others you look for simple tools, simple pottery, food remnants. Here we're looking for all that, plus technology that would be familiar to us in our day and time. And they lived several thousand years ago!"
"It does seem ironic. And to think the knowledge was lost only to be re-found now. Who said humans were the first to advance in technology? It looks like you're about ready for a placement documentation."
Princess slid the trowel along the edge, one corner of the chard lifting up. "Yes, I think I am."
Dr. Bertham stood up and yelled out over the dig, "David, we're ready for you over here!"
Dr. Bertham left as Princess carefully stood up and stepped away from the excavated square. She looked down at her work. Two shards of pottery including the large one with the odd pattern, and then the metal-composite utensils near them. Metal composites that today's scientists were still trying to reproduce. The metals had been identified, but not the process used to make them play nicely with each other for producing items.
As David made his way across to them with his recording instrument on its tripod, she stretched. The clouds looked as if they could rain again soon, as it usually did every afternoon in the area. Fortunately, it didn't affect the dig much, with the soil quickly absorbing the rain and the pits emptying. However, it might drive Keyop back to base.
David set up the tripod so that the three legs sat on different sides of the hole. He looked at the screen on the back of the contraption on the top of the tripod. "Hold on, locking onto the satellite signal."
He stopped and looked up into the sky.
"Problem?" Princess asked.
"Having trouble with the signal. It worked a moment ago." He said, wiping the sweat from his brow with an impatient hand.
Dr. Bertham arrived holding a tray with the material needed to properly identify the items once they were moved to the processing tent for cataloging.
"Wait, we have a lock!" David suddenly said. He pushed his black hair out of his face as he bent over the screen. A moment later he stood up and gave them a grin, "And we're done. Let me know when you get to the next layer."
He picked up the tripod, folded the legs together and headed across the dig as someone else yelled out for him. Princess and Dr. Bertham kneeled next to the hole and carefully pried out the objects, setting them in the tray, each into a numbered compartment to keep them from moving while being carried. She closed the lid of the pail she had been scooping the dirt into, marking the top with the proper code for the square it belonged to.
"Why don't you take a break before starting a new cube." Dr. Bertham said. "We'll be getting rain soon, unless I miss my guess."
"Considering it rains here every afternoon; I don't see how you can be wrong." Princess said with a chuckle.
He grinned, his weathered face breaking out into smile lines as he picked up the tray and the bucket, "Consider me your project psychic!"
He began the long walk around the dig towards the processing tent. Princess looked around the dig, several heavy white tents set up on the other side of the excavation area, well clear of the work. Lunch should soon be served, and she was more than ready for it. She sat back down with a new bucket and began applying her trowel to the small square marked out next to the first.
A scream rose from the center of the dig. "What do you think you're doing? Do you really think I'd allow you to sell those? I knew you had connections to the black market, I just knew it!"
Princess looked up to see Dr. Morgan advancing on Dr. Bertham with a shovel. He still held the tray grasped tightly in front of him, trying to back away, the pail not in sight.
"Fiona, what are you doing? Put that shovel down." Dr. Bertham said as his back came up against a tree.
A cloud of small birds rose up from the branches, squawking and screeching as they arrowed further into the forest. A series of grunting sounds from behind her signaled a small ground creature's presence as it scurried away into the underbrush.
"I won't let you get away with it, I won't! This is my dig!" Dr. Morgan screamed at him, her voice edged with hysteria.
Princess dropped the trowel and broke out in a run as several others around the dig also began running towards them. Dr. Morgan swung the shovel at Dr. Bertham. He ducked, shoving the tray in front of him. The metal tray deflected the blow, the edge of the shovel hitting the tree trunk instead.
Dr. Bertham fell hard on the ground, the contents of the tray flying out over the ground. Dr. Morgan kicked him viciously in the stomach. She lifted the shovel again. As she swung it towards his head, Princess grabbed the handle just above her grip, jerking back violently.
"Dr. Morgan, what are you doing?" Princess demanded.
With a strength that belied her years, Dr. Morgan held on, causing them both to stumble backwards. Somehow they kept their feet as another noisy flock of birds vacated the area.
With her red hair heavily streaked with gray frizzed around her head the Doctor snarled, "Another thief. I know how to deal with the lot of you!"
Dr. Morgan pushed hard against her. Princess stumbled into one of the bigger pits, dropping a couple feet onto the hard packed dirt on the bottom. Still Dr. Morgan refused to let go of the shovel, coming to land on top of Princess. In the process, Princess's grip faltered, allowing Dr. Morgan to wrench it from her grasp.
Dr. Morgan swung. Princess rolled out of the way, clods of dirt hitting her. Princess cringed at the thought of the damage being done to the excavation. She rolled into a slightly deeper level of the pit, finding her footing as she did.
"Dr. Morgan, please put down the shovel. I don't want to hurt you." Princess said as she dodged to the side, the shovel whistling through the air. She shook her head at an annoying buzzing noise coming from nearby.
Dr. Morgan continued to advance on her, pushing Princess further into the dig site, "Hurt me? First steal my discovery, then threaten to hurt me?"
With a cry Dr. Morgan rushed at her. Princess sidestepped in a movement so fast most would have had trouble following it, whipping her arm out and grabbing at the handle of the shovel. With a twist, she'd reversed positions with Dr. Morgan, turning the shovel sharply out of her grasp.
Dr. Morgan stumbled back, tripping and falling into a shallow excavated pit. She held her arm in pain, looking up at Princess.
Her vision momentarily blurred. When it cleared, Princess looked at Dr. Morgan with narrowed eyes. Her disguise hadn't been much, but she'd dealt with too many Spectrans to be so easily fooled. "Did you really think the likes of you could sneak up on me?"
"Get out of my dig!" Dr. Morgan yelled at her. She picked up a trowel from beside her with her remaining good arm and began climbing out of the trench.
"So, you want to fight me? You'll soon be joining your fellow soldier." Her eyes flickered to the man over which Dr. Morgan had fallen, his form still, but she could still see the trace of lung activity. Best to take this one out before the other recovered. Then she would see about the other Spectrans in the area.
And Princess was mad. She could feel the rage boiling up in her. She wanted a fight, wanted it bad. Dr. Morgan rose up out of the trench, stabbing at her with the trowel with sharp lunging movements. Princess brought the handle of the shovel down in a strong downward stroke.
Dr. Morgan screamed in pain as she fell back, both arms tucked in close to her stomach. She stumbled back into yet another trench, disappearing in a cloud of dirt.
No, no challenge in it. At all.
She heard someone yelling out her name from behind her. Princess whirled, the sharp tip of the spade-shaped shovel whistling through the air.
A blurred figure of yellow, blue and white somersaulted out of the way. She ran after the figure, not giving him the time to settle. The figure dodged to the side as she brought the shovel down on him.
Finally, a worthy opponent. Even if it were a child.
"Princess!" the figure shouted out as she struck again.
How could she have missed that time? Angry with herself, she studied the figure as they circled each other.
"***Princess! It's me***Keyop!***" the figure said. His eyes looked at her in concern and confusion.
She blinked. This soldier looked familiar. Had they met on a previous battlefield? She looked at him again as a buzzing filled her ears.
"***What's wrong?***" he asked, stopping his circling, standing tall and straight.
Always so brave, even when he didn't understand what was going on.
The thought enraged her. She didn't know this person! How could she?
Princess charged, and as expected, the figure somersaulted away. But, this time she was prepared. The shovel flew from her hand to his landing place. His feet tangled in it as he landed. Princess was on him the next second, her hands wrapping themselves around his neck.
Rain fell to the ground around them in big fat plops, quickly soaking into the dark soil. The soldier under her jerked and bucked. With a kick from underneath, she was thrown off him, over his heat. Her body barely touched the dirt before she bounded up, snapping upwards to her feet.
The buzzing filled her ears, growing so loud that pain shot through her head. She stepped back, closing her eyes against it. She had to stay focused. She had to fight.
Princess shook her head, taking a deep breath, relieved to be being freed from the torment. Opening her eyes, noting the people standing around, looking at her in horror. The rain continued to fall, drenching her face, the only sound that dared break the silence.
Wait, not complete silence. She could still hear a buzzing noise, but it wasn't louder than an insect. She couldn't pinpoint the source, seeming to come from all sides. The put a hand up to the back of her head, realizing the sound was coming from inside, not outside.
Her head felt funny. Something had just happened. Eyes wide, she looked up, seeing Keyop still standing there, his face consumed with worry. She asked hesitantly, "Keyop?"
Keyops face lit up in a grin so big that it enveloped his whole face, "*** You're Back?***"
She ran a hand through her hair, looking out over the dig, the landscape familiar again. She tried to remember all that had just happened, but the details were murky, as if trying to remember a dream. "I think so. What happened?"
"***You tell***me!***" Keyop stuttered out, running up to her to give her a big hug around the middle.
Dr. Bertham ran up to her, taking her arm and pulling her to the outer edges of the dig, "Careful, she's coming at us again."
Princess looked back to see what he was talking about. Dr. Morgan advanced on them, rage filling her face, screaming at them about the dig. She continued holding her arms tight against her stomach. The memory of the first attack came rushing back to her. As did remorse. She'd most likely broken both of the woman's wrists in the fight. A woman of that age didn't always heal quickly.
"Wait, in the center. That's where it happened." Princess said. Keyop looked at her questioningly, "Forget the details, we need to restrain the Dr. Morgan before she hurts someone else, or herself."
David stepped forward. "I'll get behind her."
"No, don't go into the dig!" Princess said immediately, realizing that's where she'd been affected. But affected by what? "Dr. Bertham, get everyone to retreat to the processing tent and call an ambulance. We have at least two people hurt. Keyop, let's see to Dr. Morgan."
The worry on Keyop's face returned, but so did curiosity. "***Okay!***"
Which turned out to be rather easy. Dr. Morgan couldn't use her hands, and although she still came at them and tried to struggle against their restraining arms, she wasn't any match for the two trained warriors. Restraining her further proved to be more difficult. With the injuries to her arms, they couldn't tie them behind her while they waited for the ambulance.
David came up with the solution. Dr. Morgan continued yelling and screaming at all of them as she lay on the ground wrapped up tight in a white sheet, with strapping tape wound around the sheet.
Princess walked back to the edge of the dig, the rain having let up. Now she felt it. The closer she moved to the excavation site, the louder the buzzing became in her ears. Keyop followed her, looking up at her, and then looking into the dig, trying to see what she was staring at.
She lifted the communicator close to her mouth, "Mark, come in."
It took a moment before he answered her. "Loud and clear. What's up? Getting too dirty for you?"
"We have a situation at the dig. There's something here interfering with my implants." At those words, Princess had Keyop's full undivided attention, "And we had two people suddenly go paranoid. Myself included."
"What?" Mark yelled into the communicator, and Princess glanced behind her to see if they were still alone.
"It started approximately ten minutes ago. I heard a buzzing in my ears at first. But, when I entered the center of the excavation my implants went into battle mode. As soon as I moved away, I snapped out of it, with Keyops help. But Dr. Morgan hasn't. She's still affected. I'm guessing my implants helped me out on that part, perhaps reset. But, we have a further problem."
"Go ahead. Chief Anderson is listening."
"One of the interns, Roberto Miez is still at the center of the dig within this... this field, for lack of a better word. He's unconscious, and I don't dare go in to retrieve him. No one dares go in." Princess said.
"Stay out of the effects." Chief Anderson said over the line, "We're on our way with Galaxy Security. Isolate the area."
"Already done, sir." Then she realized that the buzzing had just ended. "Wait! It stopped!"
"What stopped?" Mark and Keyop asked at the same time.
"The buzzing in my implants. And the implants themselves have calmed down."
"Stay out of the area until we get there. We don't want anything happening to you." Chief Anderson said.
"Be careful, Princess." Mark said before he cut the line.
Dr. Bertham joined them a moment later. "We're missing an intern."
"I know. Roberto. He's in there, unconscious, but we can't get to him yet." Princess said.
"Oh. I thought you were the second person we were calling the ambulance for." He said.
Princess smiled at him, "I'm fine."
"Rather strange that Dr. Morgan is still being affected by whatever happened, but not you."
Princess smiled at Keyop, "A friend knocked some sense into my head."
Keyop grinned back.
"Henry, when I switch it back on, tell me the calibration measurements." Dr. Touren yelled across the room.
Mark looked up from his communicator to Dr. Touren. The man hovered lovingly over the machine in the middle of the room, sitting innocently on top of a square table, wires draping over one edge to spider-web out over the floor.
"No, keep the machine off!" Mark yelled back.
Dr. Touren looked up at him, "No need to yell."
Mark turned to Chief Anderson. "A little too coincidental that the problem Princess experienced ended the moment the machine was shut down after receiving the return message."
Chief Anderson looked from the machine back to Mark. He handed him a piece of paper, "I hope it isn't. The return answer was perfect."
Chief Anderson turned to one of the Galaxy Patrol officers and began giving orders. Mark looked down at the message printed out on the paper. Listed on it were a set of testing parameters, and at the very bottom was the answer to the question that had originally been broadcast. Out of fifty possible answers, the team on a world hundreds of light years away had answered back with the only correct answer.
Damn, it had worked.
Dr. Touren walked over to them, "The correct answer was returned. Would you like to test it again to be sure of the results?"
Chief Anderson looked over at him, glancing quickly at the machine, "I'm sorry, Doctor, but for the present you will keep all machinery and systems for this project shut down. A Galaxy Security officer will remain to help you with anything you need."
Dr. Touren swallowed hard as he glanced quickly at his equally worried colleague, "Is something wrong, sir?"
"I hope not."
For Mark the journey to the archeological dig took forever, not helped by the poor condition of the road for the last several miles through pristine jungle. They arrived directly after two ambulances, the site still, with no people moving around the trenches themselves. The members of the dig huddled in little groups in the shade of the tent, standing as far away from a screaming bundle on the ground as they could get. Over the bundle stood Princess and Keyop, both doing their best to keep the woman from moving too much. The medical teams immediately descended on the white bundle.
Chief Anderson immediately joined the paramedics, looking over the woman himself. Princess retreated to the edge of the tent. Mark studied her face as he walked up to her. Her hair fell straight and flat against her head, looking as if it were still partially wet.
She rolled her eyes at him, "Don't worry, I'm fine. And whatever happened hasn't come back."
"How are the others?"
"Obviously Dr. Morgan is still affected. There's been no sign of movement from Roberto. That concerns me the most." Princess said, turning to look into the dig. Her eyes then looked at the variety of vehicles that filled the parking area, watching as crates were unloaded out of the back of truck. "I see the Chief commandeered plenty of equipment."
"Need to make sure it's safe. Although if it affected your implants, that gives a clue of what to look for." He turned to look at the paramedics, Dr. Morgan's shrieks and yells having diminished. Most likely from sedation.
With the lights flashing, one of the ambulances carefully departed with Dr. Morgan inside, escorted both in front and back by a Galaxy Security escort. The rest of the archeological team submitted to checkups and questioning before being loaded up into the back of one of the trucks, to be taken to the hospital for another series of tests.
With Chief Anderson watching every move, two Galaxy Patrol officers slowly entered the dig. With a thumb up when they reached the trench, the dropped down into it. A short time later they emerged with the prone figure of Roberto Miez on a stretcher. They rushed back out of the dig, taking him to the waiting ambulance.
Chief Anderson came to stand next to them, looking at the dig, "Nothing is being picked up. No signals, no radiation, no emissions. Nothing."
"Have them turn on the machine and see if something happens." Mark said.
"Machine?" Princess asked.
"Already working on it." Chief Anderson waved at an Officer, who immediately spoke into mobile phone. The next moment he waved his hand back at the Chief. "Here we go."
The next moment Mark felt an odd sensation coming from the back of his head. He put a hand up to the back of his helmet, expecting to feel it vibrating. The scientists around the perimeter began yelling at each other.
"I'm feeling it again." Princess said.
Chief Anderson gave the cut off signal, and the Officer spoke into the mobile again. A moment later Mark felt the buzzing at the back of his skull cease.
"I think we have our answer." Chief Anderson said in a disappointed tone, "The signal is interacting with something here."
"Would someone explain this to me?" Princess insisted.
Mark quickly caught her up on the experiment they had been observing as Chief Anderson went over to look at the instrument and sensor readings.
When he finished, Princess blinked at him and then looked out over the deserted dig. "And Dr. Bertham was hoping to find new technology in one of the digs. I guess we found some. Something still working after all this time! He's going to be ecstatic."
"I think this just went to top secret status." Mark said.
"Indeed it has." Chief Anderson said as he returned. "Something that can cause such a sudden mental shift could be turned into a weapon far too easily. Spectra has already played with mind control. I've called in a specialist to oversee this situation. We need to find out what is in this area and fast."
"So long as the archeological information isn't lost." Princess said. Chief Anderson glared at her, but she looked at him steadily, "This is one of the largest sites of Paun-Kei Revival artifacts yet found. We've just found out it's extraordinary for another reason. All the more to learn as much as we can, and that means a proper archeological excavation."
"It will be taken care of, Princess." He said, looking at her carefully. "But now we need to leave. I want both you and Keyop thoroughly checked out. We don't know what the after-affects of this field may be."
Princess put her hands in her pockets and shrugged, "I was wondering when that was coming."
As he later paced up and down the wing of the local hospital that had been taken over by Galaxy Security, Mark couldn't help but be annoyed that he was doing nothing but standing around. Again. Keyop bounced out of a room and ran down to him.
"***All Clear!***" Keyop announced as he slid to a stop beside him.
"Good to hear it." Mark said with a smile. "Who would have thought digging in the dirt could be so dangerous, eh?"
"No kidding." Princess said as she joined him. "Looks like I did break her wrists."
"***Protecting yourself!***" Keyop insisted.
"Not that last part. I was convinced she was a Spectran soldier." Princess said gloomily. "I could have killed her."
Mark gave her arm a quick squeeze, "The good news is that her brain waves are slowly calming down. Although, I hear that they're getting brain readings off of her that they've never seen before. They'll be watching that part. Roberto Miez might not be so lucky. He still hasn't responded to outside stimuli."
"So, what now? I don't have a dig to go back to while Chief Anderson continues his rounds." Princess said. Chief Anderson came out of a room, parting ways with a Galaxy Security doctor, heading for them.
"***Boring!***" Keyop agreed.
"You don't have to worry about it." Chief Anderson said, as he reached them. "I've arranged for the situation to be suppressed. The President isn't comfortable with us being in the area until questions are answered. We're heading back to Earth."
"Back to work." Princess said with a groan as they headed to a waiting car outside one of the hospital side exits.
The vehicle immediately began moving, making its way to the spaceport.
Princess suddenly sat straight up. "Whoa!"
"What is it?" Mark asked as Chief Anderson spoke on a mobile. Chief Anderson stopped his conversation to look at her sharply.
Princess grinned, "I don't smell the sewers anymore! Something must have happened when that strange field reset my implants!"
Chief Anderson returned to his conversation while Keyop continued looking out the window as the scenery rushed by.
Mark sat back in the seat, scowling, "Thanks for reminding me of that. It hasn't faded for me."
So much so that he almost wished he could go to the archeological dig for a reset of his own implants.
Yet another story inspired by the BotP Story Idea Generator. This was written for the "Story Generator Challenge" but only now finished.
A portion of the story is set in the morning.
The story is set with a misunderstanding about a temptation.
The Story involves a hospital.
Someone sees an invention.
The story may incorporate a/n demented xenoarchaeologist.