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The Techo Mountain Excavation: Part Five


by resurrectedwarrior

--------

RW stooped down and grabbed the hand firmly. The creature attached to the hand squealed loudly and jerked back, desperately trying to get away from the girl. It struggled and fought, hitting RW's arm and trying to bite her before RW finally had the Neopet pinned to the dirt floor. In the moonlight, RW could just barely make out the features of the thief, "Angel?"

     The Nimmo grumbled something under his breath.

     RW shook her head and lifted the Nimmo from the ground, holding his hands firmly behind his back. At least some of Gelrelt's fears had been confirmed - Angel was up to something. She wondered what she would say to the Darigan Moehog when she saw him next. She had been inclined to simply dismiss his suspicions about Angel, but now it seemed Gelrelt's instincts were right.

     Leading Angel out of the Dig House, RW first called Gelrelt out of their tent. A look of astonishment spread across his face at the sight of Angel. "I knew something was going on . . ." he murmured.

     "Indeed you did," RW said. "Now let's go wake Hamperdank and Holmes.

     Angel glared at Gelrelt and groaned in response. "I wasn't doing anything! Just checking on the stela!"

     Gelrelt looked at him, "'Stela'?"

     Angel rolled his eyes, "The inscribed artifact," he explained, "not that you would care about proper terms."

     "Oh, put a Negg in it," Gelrelt snorted. He flapped his wings in long, awkward strokes and followed RW to Hamperdank's tent. As soon as she was up, Hamperdank rushed over to Holmes' tent and woke him and Zaera. Within moments they were back inside the Dig House, interrogating Angel by light of oil lanterns.

     Angel sat at the end of one of the tables with Holmes and Hamperdank seated on either side. Zaera and Gelrelt sat across from each other while RW stood, carefully answering their questions and listening to Angel's version of events.

     "I was nervous and wanted to check on the artifacts," Angel offered, "I didn't know what to do when Miss Warrior entered, so I hid." He looked at Doctor Hamperdank pleadingly, "I was only trying to protect the artifacts when I reached up to grab it."

     Gelrelt couldn't believe how good Angel was at lying. If he hadn't known better, he would have been inclined to believe him.

     Even though Holmes was dressed in a baggy, bright green shirt with fuzzy, purple slippers, he still held an authoritative and discerning air about him. He perceivingly asked, "And why would you feel the need to hide from Miss Warrior - aside from the fact both of you were supposed to be in bed at the time?"

     At first, Angel's face held a blank expression. After a few seconds, however, a sparkle came to his eyes as they settled on Gelrelt. "It was something Gelrelt said to me around the campfire."

     "What?" Gelrelt jumped, "What are you talking about?"

     Doctor Hamperdank politely asked Gelrelt to be quiet; his side of the story would soon be heard. Turning back to Angel, Hamperdank said, "Go on . . ."

     Gelrelt forced himself to hold his tongue while Angel recounted bits and pieces of their conversation. His account was surprisingly fairly accurate, except he portrayed Gelrelt as if we was a paranoid, superstitious person and downplayed Gelrelt's belief Angel knew about the artifact. He recounted Gelrelt's vow to find out why Angel had hidden the artifact, making Gelrelt sound conniving and manipulative, as if Gelrelt wanted to steal the artifact as compensation for his broken leg.

     Gelrelt could no longer restrain his objections, "That's not true! Why in Neopia would I want a stupid hunk of rock?" He proceeded to tell the whole story of how Angel had tried to divert him from his venture in the woods and recount their whole conversation by the fire. "Just ask Shelbie!" Gelrelt growled, visibly angry, "She'll vouch Angel was acting strange when I was about to leave!"

     Hamperdank and Holmes exchanged glances. Turning to Zaera, they spoke one another's thoughts in unison, "Go get Shelbie."

***

     It was Shelbie's testimony that turned the tables on Angel. She had more than just noticed Angel's strange behavior, she had entertained some of the same suspicions Gelrelt had. Combined with RW's description of how Angel had fought her when she grabbed him, Hamperdank and Holmes were now heavily questioning the Nimmo.

     "Why didn't you tell us when you first found the artifact?" Hamperdank asked.

     Angel sighed, sticking with his original story, "I didn't know it was there!"

     "Judging by your behavior we can deduce that you did," Holmes said. "We just don't know why."

     Angel slammed his fist down and raised his voice, "I haven't done anything!"

     "Then why did I have to pry the stela from your hands?" RW was too tired to allow Angel to keep denying what she was convinced to be true. At first she had been ready to dismiss Gelrelt's claims, especially with how he had been acting as of late. Her experience in the Dig House had changed all that. Wrestling Angel in the moonlight, she had been able to see something in his eyes. Looking back on it now, she thought that look may have been some sort of righteous desperation, as if he was on some sort of urgent mission. Though RW wasn't quite sure how such emotion came into stealing an artifact, she was more sure than ever something other than just thieving had occurred this night.

     Angel began to answer her question, "I was . . . afraid . . . you wanted to steal it."

     RW caught sight of Hamperdank rolling her eyes. It was obvious Angel was lying. "Okay," Hamperdank said, drumming her fingers on the table, "Let's just say for a moment we believe you, Angel. Even then, we would still have to send for the Defenders of Neopia. You know as well as I do they would do their own investigation." Hamperdank folded her hands, "Judging by what's been said here tonight, who do you think the Defenders would accuse of trying to steal the stela?"

     Angel looked down. He knew where Hamperdank was going with this.

     "Why don't we just make this simple," Hamperdank started again. "I think we all agree Gelrelt hates archaeology too much to have any interest in stealing an artifact. RW is after a story. By stealing the stela, she would be hurting her chances of having an interesting article - not helping them." Gelrelt shifted uncomfortably at Hamperdank's analysis of him, but remained silent.

     Hamperdank continued, "You're the only one left, Angel. You're the only one who could have any reason for taking the artifact. And, judging from what Gelrelt and Shelbie have said, I'm certainly beginning to suspect you knew that fragment was there." Hamperdank leaned forward. "I'd like to know exactly why you didn't tell us when you first found the artifact and why you tried to steal it back; and I'd like to know now." The steady gaze of her coal-colored eyes settled on Angel, harshly scrutinizing him.

     Angel was cornered and he knew it. Thoughts of what his Techo mentor would think of this flashed through his mind. The disappointment he was sure to face did not appeal to the young Nimmo. However, the thought of being carted off by the Defenders of Neopia appealed to him even less. He looked at Hamperdank, "Will you send for the Defenders?"

     Hamperdank leaned back in her chair, "That depends on what you tell us in the next few minutes."

     Angel folded his hands, trying to think of how to word his reply. "My . . . mentor . . . sent me to this dig," he began, "A long time ago, he found something around Techo Mountain - probably where we're excavating now. He says what he found could spark another war if its significance was found out."

     The other six exchanged curious glances, "What?" Gelrelt questioned, "How could something that old have any bearing on what goes on today?"

     "Clearly you have no idea how significant history is," Angel retorted, "Do you really think we would have become archaeologists if we didn't think we were making a difference? Clearly you -"

     "Please, get back to your mentor," Hamperdank interrupted.

     Angel paused to collect his thoughts. "My mentor never really told me all that much about what he found, but I think it may have been another stela. He told me to tell him about or send him any inscribed fragments I may find."

     Holmes shook his head, "Does your 'mentor' have any idea how unlikely it would be to find a matching artifact?"

     Angel nodded, "He knows. It's just . . ." he searched for the right words, "He cares so much about this. He didn't want to risk another artifact like the one he found being discovered." Angel looked down, "He really, truly does care for the good of Mystery Island.

     "He gave me a description of where he found his artifact," Angel continued, "He instructed me to take the unit nearest that point." He looked up at Holmes, "I suppose that since I found a piece of what he instructed me to find, his fears were not unfounded."

     As Angel spoke, a plan was formulating in Hamperdank's mind. Perhaps if they could speak to Angel's mentor, they may be able to straighten this whole situation out and maybe even get a clearer explanation of what he had 'discovered'. Clamping her hands together, Hamperdank asked, "Angel, who is this mentor of yours?"

     Angel bit his lip for a moment before answering. "Kent Brier."

     Holmes looked astonished, "The anthropology professor at Mystery Island college?"

     Angel nodded, glancing from Hamperdank to Holmes, "Yeah . . . why do you ask?"

***

     Angel wrung his hands nervously. In a few moments, Doctor Hamperdank, Holmes, and RW would be leaving camp to go visit Professor Kent Brier. The young Nimmo could only imagine how unhappy his mentor would be when he discovered Angel had failed him.

     All night Angel had been kept in a separate tent under the watchful eye of Ryshu. Ryshu wasn't particularly thrilled when he was awakened from his dreams to guard Angel all night, and his frustration clearly showed. He sat in the corner of the tent with his arms folded across his chest, glaring at Angel with hard, cold eyes. If Angel didn't know any better, he would have said Ryshu's red skin was almost glowing with anger and frustration from sleep depravation.

     Angel leaned back and laid down on his cot, staring up at the ceiling. He could hear Hamperdank and RW's voices outside, discussing what they would be doing at the college and how they would ask to speak with the professor. Angel swallowed hard. There had to be something he could do.

     Underneath Angel's cot lay an odd sort of creature. It was reptilian, yellow with peach spots . . . its strong, armored head was tucked under a leg as it slept. Scout the Sauropod swung her tail and moved her legs awkwardly, dreaming of chasing a Cocoa Juppie with wings. She snorted a few times, then sneezed. It was this sneeze that woke her.

     As RW had followed Gelrelt out of the Dig House the morning before, Scout had noticed a rather scrumptious looking piece of fruit on the breakfast table. She immediately decided such a plump, juicy Funnydew Melon shouldn't have any chance of being eaten by a creature other than herself. Hopping off RW's shoulder, Scout snatched up the fruit and scampered off the table. She found refuge underneath Zaera's pots and proceeded to eat the fruit with relish.

     Emerging from the pans little more than an hour later, Scout had found the camp deserted. She spent the day lounging around, eating what fruit she could find and climbing trees. That night, she hid away underneath what happened to be the very cot Angel was now lying on.

     Hardly noticing the two Nimmos in the tent, Scout took a deep breath of the morning air. She noted a rather sweet, sugary scent coming from a tan backpack sitting beside the cot she had slept under. The enticing scent was too much for the hungry Sauropod. She bolted into the sack and buried herself inside, munching on her newly found treat.

     Angel jumped as an idea popped into his mind. He could possibly send a Neomessage to the professor. Of course, that would mean he would have to leave the camp somehow. Perhaps he could just grab his backpack and run for town. If he could reach Brier in time, he may be able to straighten out a lot of the mess he had gotten himself into.

     He didn't have much time to think about his idea. At the very moment he began to consider escaping, Hamperdank and RW entered the tent, momentarily distracting Ryshu. At that instant, Angel grabbed his backpack and darted out of the tent and down the trail, heading for town.

***

     RW, Holmes, and Hamperdank stared up at the intimidating, pillared brick building. This tall, classical structure housed Mystery Island college's anthropology department. Hamperdank bit her lip, pushing her way through the establishment's heavy wooden doors.

     Hamperdank hadn't been surprised when Angel had run. No doubt he would have been prosecuted for trying to steal. The simple fact he had tried to take an artifact from a dig would scar his archaeological career for the rest of his life. Still, she didn't see the point of running. Even if he got off the Island, there were ways of tracking down the Nimmo. Why postpone the inevitable?

     The lobby of the department building was quite modest. Two simply constructed wooden chairs sat on either side of a stained wooden table laden with archaeology journals. On the walls were tall glass displays giving a brief outline of Mystery Island's background, accentuated by replicated artifacts to reflect different stages of history. At the end of the lobby was a rather grand-looking green desk, behind which sat a bored looking blue Acara.

     Hamperdank approached the desk, RW and Holmes following closely behind, "Is Doctor Brier in?"

     The Acara sighed and rolled her eyes, "Do you have an appointment?"

     "Umm . . . no." Hamperdank said.

     "Well, the professor can only see appointments at the moment."

     Hamperdank blinked and glanced back at Holmes. She turned back and folded her claws on the counter, "You see, we really need to speak with him. It has to do with one of his students . . ."

     The Acara shrugged and began drumming her fingers, "I only do as I'm told, ma'am."

     "I don't think you understand, we really -"

     Holmes interrupted Hamperdank, "It's fine, Jo." He addressed the receptionist, "We'll come back later." He pulled Hamperdank away from the desk. "I have an idea," he whispered.

     Outside, Holmes quickly explained his plan, "Check your watches."

     RW shrugged. She never wore a watch.

     Hamperdank glanced down at her wind-up clock, "It's quarter 'til twelve."

     Holmes nodded, "Yep. Just about time for lunch. And I'll bet my trowel that receptionist will leave her post as soon as she can."

     "Oh," Hamperdank smiled, "And after she leaves, we'll be able to talk with Brier!"

     Holmes nodded. "Exactly."

     Twenty minutes later, the trio checked back inside the lobby. No receptionist. Holmes smiled, stood up, and walked by the reception desk with a feigned air of authority. Hamperdank shook her head and suppressed a laugh. If the Skeith hadn't decided to become an archaeologist, he could have become an actor.

     Just past the reception desk was a long hallway lined with doors on each side. Each had a fog-glass window with square lettering. As they past, Holmes read off the names, "Flinders Rohl . . . David Pteri . . . Gaston Weeks . . . Kent Brier." He stopped and glanced up at RW and Hamperdank, setting his blue claw on the doorknob, "Ready?"

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


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



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