Saturday, March 28, 2015
Edifice Abandoned by Scott Michael Decker
Release date: March 1, 2015
Subgenre: Science fiction, space opera
Inbound on an interstellar flight, Archeologist Nosuma Okande sees far more ancient sites to excavate on Achernar Tertius than the Institute has on record. Setting out to unearth these sites proves more of a challenge than she realizes, bringing her into conflict with local villages and ancient traditions—and with a shadowy force called the Madziva Mutupo, the Hippopotamus Totem.
Archeologist Nosuma Okande surveyed the site. A cluster of tents across the entry square looked to be the mess tent and sleeping quarters. Beyond them, atop a short stone pyramid was an awning, under it a pair of khaki-clad Caucasians gesturing toward the north rim. They were the only Caucasians, everyone else at the site of African descent, native to the planet. The site directors, Nosuma could tell, because they were the only ones not actually working.
She headed that way, anxious about walking into Danamombe as if she owned the site. But I do own it! she told herself vehemently. It belongs to me and my people, and the ancestral spirits have given me the task of discovering why these great houses of stone had been abandoned.
"I'll wait here," her assistant said, stopping at the pyramid foot.
Nosuma nodded and strode up the stairs like a priestess toward a sacred ritual, looking neither left nor right, her gaze fixed to the canopy atop the structure.
"Doctor Okande, I presume," said the man, his digs so immaculate they'd never seen the insides of a trench. "I'm Peter Tuinstra, site director, and this is my assistant, Katelyn Mulder."
"Good morning," she said, nodding and shaking hands with each. "I see you're expecting me, Mr. Tuinstra, Ms. Mulder. I won't be here long, and I'll try to keep as low a profile as I can."
"Quite the stir elsewhere, eh?" Tuinstra said. "But you won't find any similar artifacts here, Doctor, I assure you. I'm afraid we've already unearthed anything of major significance from Danamombe. But you're welcome to take a look. Shall I show you around?"
"Oh, I can do that, Peter," Mulder said. "In fact, I'd be honored." Her khakis also looked as if they'd never known the gritty work of excavation. She had the breathless manner of an absolute twit.
"Not necessary," Nosuma said, "but very kind of you both to offer. If it's all right, my assistant and I will browse the site at our leisure. I'm sure if there's anything I need, someone will know where to find you, eh?"
"Well, if you prefer, Doctor Okande. What happened at Regina, by the way? The Hallorans arrested? For God's sake, on what charges?"
"They tried to steal the statuettes by sedating me, my assistant, and Doctor Xironga. Fortunately, Mr. Tuinstra, I was sickened and purged most the sedative, and Doctor Xironga didn't eat much."
"Ghastly behavior, I tell you. Never trust those English," Peter said. "Rumor is you found another totem statuette there? Given the stir the first two caused, understandable why the Institute would keep quiet about it."
"I'm afraid I'm not able to comment on rumor, Mr. Tuinstra."
"Prudent, that. By the way, your dissertation was wonderful, eloquently argued. No mystery why Doctor Kaonde was so eager to bring you aboard. Quite shook up the suits at headquarters too, you know, your finding that statuette on your first day. I'd love to have seen their faces."
Nosuma gave him a quick smile. "Thank you, Mr. Tuinstra. By the way, at Regina they found an artifact, a pole sculpture, carved from bone or tusk, an ithyphallic figurine, three inches tall and a half-inch through, with a prominent phallus. Any record here at Danamombe of anything similar? Or of a female counterpart?"
Katelyn giggled and blushed, her gaze raking Peter from head to toe.
Nosuma wished she hadn't seen that.
"No, not to my knowledge, Doctor Okande. If we do, I'd be happy to contact you immediately."
"Thank you, that would be helpful," she said. "The people working here, are they all from the local clan?"
Peter nodded. "Yes, the Fish Eagle Totem. Silly lot of rubbish, these totems. Serves a purpose if it keeps them from inbreeding, I suppose."
"Peter!" Mulder stared at him, giving Nosuma a brief glance, as if trying to tell the site director he should watch what he was saying in front of her.
"Well, it's a lot of bother whenever we go to break ground, all their rituals," he told his assistant. "They can do their spirit possession frolic on their own time."Keeping her thoughts off her face, she decided they were a perfect match for each other. "I'll stop by briefly as I'm leaving. Thank you both." And she descended from the pyramid as quickly as she could without seeming to hurry, feeling sullied.
Scott Michael Decker, MSW, is an author by avocation and a social worker by trade. He is the author of twenty-plus novels in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres, dabbling among the sub-genres of space opera, biopunk, spy-fi, and sword and sorcery. His biggest fantasy is wishing he were published. Asked about the MSW after his name, the author is adamant it stands for Masters in Social Work, and not "Municipal Solid Waste," which he spreads pretty thick as well. His favorite quote goes, "Scott is a social work novelist, who never had time for a life" (apologies to Billy Joel). He lives and dreams happily with his wife near Sacramento, California.