Verity is a lovely young lady who wished to become an archaeologist. She is very interested in history, has a sharp analytical mind and was brought up in an environment which was and still is very supportive of her aspirations. She is generally modest, not the vain, greedy, thrill-seeking type who wants to tear through galaxy and dig holes everywhere just to be able to brag that she desecrated tombs and pinched artefacts professionally.
Last year, during her ninth grade, when she realized (more so than before) that classes merely “delivered loads of overly-simplistic horse manure” she naturally felt “lied to” and was discouraged that things were more complex than she thought. Consequently, she skipped school for two weeks and got herself suspended for another one week. During that time, she slept in, smoked some of her grandfather’s wunderbar-weed, read many historical books, wrote brutal critiques on them all, devoured a few turkeys, smoked more of that wunderbar stuff, executed a dozen diseased toads with a shovel and felt much better. When she returned to school, she submitted her work to her teacher and sent copies to the Bureau of Archaeology & History as well.
Verity then received another one-week suspension for “being smart” and she spitefully wrote a jeering dissertation on current archaeological methods. This latest suspension was rescinded when the Bureau of Archaeology & History sent her a favourable reply through the school board. As her name and acts of brazenness were circulated in various academic circles, several universities offered her scholarships for when she finished school. Verity responded that she would “need time to carefully weigh all her options” and that sort of thing. She also got an offer from 18Enuff! Entertainment but answered that one with veiled threats of radioactive emissions, a spade and possibly scissors.
Three months ago, she was approached by Professor Frederick Hackfleisch of the Hackfleisch Institute. And no, he was not being an old pervert. He was genuinely impressed by Verity’s work and wished to give this young woman a chance to further develop herself academically and professionally.
The following is an excerpt of the conversation which took place over the comm-system:
Hackfleisch: One of my teams found something on Omega Mortem 4.
Verity: Omega Mortem 4? Not the safest place, sir.
Hackfleisch: Quite right. But if you want to become an archaeologist, you must be prepared to face dangers in the field.
Verity: I understand sir but, in that sector, it’s not like one might merely be chased by locals with primitive lasers. But anyway, may I ask what your team found sir?
Hackfleisch: It’s a device, an energy converter and quite a curious one at that. To my knowledge, nothing like it has been discovered before. How’s your physics?
Verity: I average over eighty-five.
Hackfleisch: Good enough. But more importantly, do you like it?
Verity: Not as much as archaeology but yes, more than most other subjects.
Hackfleisch: Good. It’s important to do something you like, otherwise you’ll live with plenty of regrets. So, you interested in an excursion? I will be leaving with a team in one week. All equipment and provisions will be supplied by us.
Verity: (beat) Yeah, sure. I mean, yes sir.
The conversation ended soon after.
When Verity turned up one week later, she was impressed with all the state-of-the-art equipment being loaded into the cargo hold of the ships. However, on closer inspection, she found it curious that there were also enough weapons to decimate a planet. Or more like ten.
“Professor, why that much weaponry?” Verity inquired.
“For security, of course. We don’t know what’s there exactly.”
“Sorry sir, I don’t follow. I thought you had at least one team there?”
“We lost contact with them, approximately thirty hours after their discovery and we don’t know why,” Hackfleisch casually replied. “Oh, forgive me, I must have forgotten to tell you all that in my excitement. But don’t worry, we have plenty of firepower.”
Verity just stood there.
The old man then added “Don’t worry, we won’t use it unless we have to. I don’t like destroying things but we’re archaeologists, we were going to take the stuff anyway or it would have disintegrated on its own or someone else would have taken it.”
To be fair, Professor Hackfleisch didn’t maliciously lie when he called Verity. His neglect to inform her of the situation was due to his extreme delight regarding the latest discovery. To make up for his absentmindedness and as an attempt to reassure Verity, he did offer her weapons training. Although Verity was mildly apprehensive at that prospect, she gave it a go. Besides, there wasn’t much else to do while the ship sped towards Omega Mortem 4. It is of interest to note that according to a member of the security team who trained Verity: “She’s an animal on the GAR-90s.” Verity, to this day, is quite proficient with a six-foot-six digging bar as well but that’s another matter.
As Verity familiarized herself with the pertinent details regarding the trip and all the latest toys, she relaxed somewhat and thought to herself, “This will be fascinating but I hope there won’t be too much trouble.”
The expedition was certainly fascinating. As for the second part: not a chance.