The dust settled on Kevari’s boots as soon as he stepped out of his spacecraft. The Hatharian swept his longish brown hair back from his brow. The toxicity levels on the planet once known as Earth had gone down enough to allow exploration and as he was one of his people’s foremost experts on ancient civilizations, he had been the one elected to fly his ship here, land, and study what he could.
This would be his fourth trip here, not counting the first in which he considered which area to study first. He knew from some of the first radio waves his people had received that Earth was comprised of many different countries and cultures. Some of the information was outdated and Kevari had thrown out his notes several times, having to start over and rework everything until he had a picture of what Earth was.
There had been many wars, the stories coming through the old radio waves growing more and more alarming. The people of Hathar had been horrified to learn that the Earthlings were the ones who were responsible for their own destruction. The Hatharians were very respectful of all forms of life but perhaps these people had been too primitive to put aside their differences and delight in the things that made them all unique. Kevari was hopeful that his research would help to shed some light on this.
So far, he had visited a place called Australia, another place called Russia, the continent of Antarctica and lastly, a city called London. He had been fascinated to find bits of pieces of a civilization even more ancient than the one he had currently been studying. He was pleased to find that he was able to find examples of the language of the Earth people and some of the Hatharian linguists were able to recreate it with ease. Some of the pronunciations were strange to his ears, but he was glad that his people were able to preserve something of this long deceased race.
Caught up in his thoughts, he almost tripped over something on the ground and he smiled, a touch reuefully as he knelt down carefully and took out some of his tools. His colleagues always teased him for having his head up in the stars and never down on the ground where it belonged.
But he didn’t mind any of their teasing. He was proud of the knowledge that he had gained, for he firmly believed that it was only by looking at the past that one could catch a glimpse of the future. Also, he just enjoyed the chance to see things that were so far removed from what he saw around him every day.
The Hatharians were a wealthy people, regarded throughout the galaxy as the race that everyone wished to be like. Everyone helped to take care of everyone else and the elderly were treated with dignity. Young children respected their parents and elders and if someone was in need, the community came together to aid them.
So a race wiping themselves out was just beyond Kevari’s comprehension, as well as being beyond the comprehension of the others he knew. He wished to know why things had happened the way they did, perhaps glean something from these Earth people.
His tools were simple, and small because he never knew what sort of artifacts he was going to find. Some of the things he had found in Australia were in a museum back on Hathar. He was proudest of the instrument, called a digeridoo. It had taken him a long time to figure out how exactly it was played, but the Hatharians were quite taken with it and had quickly incorporated it into some of the popular songs of the day. It made him smile to see his people take such an interest in the old instrument he had stumbled upon by accident.
Taking the brush in one hand, he carefully began to push the dirt away. In Australia, the dust had been so thick, he was close to losing hope of finding /anything/ at all before he’d found the tip of what had turned out to be the famed Sydney Opera House. /That/ had been quite a find, something that had brought him great fame. A hotel had purchased the old house of the arts and turned it into a retreat for musicians. Kevari was glad to see that it was being used again and hoped that the people who had frequented it so long ago would agree.
Some of his fellow archaeologists teased him for being so wrapped up in the people that he studied. But Kevari didn’t care. He was interested for purely academic reasons and hated to leave any lost ends untied. Studying ancient civilizations was always a bit on the strange side because one had to extrapolate, look at the data before making some kind of an educated guess in some instances. There were things he just didn’t /know/ for certain and at times, it frustrated him.
But perhaps in studying this place called America, he would be able to learn more. As his brush idly moved back and forth, he hit something. It was pointed and he was willing to bet that it was another building. Pushing the dirt back in a circle around it, he nodded to himself as the familiar peaked point emerged. It was indeed a roof. He had found some sort of structure.
He set the brush down and began to push back dirt with his gloved hands, wanted to move as much as he could as quickly as possible, the old excitement coming back to him. Kevari never felt truly /alive/ unless he was out in the field, actively digging and researching and finding things. It was in discovering new things that he had joy.
He knew this was incomprehensible to many, and most especially to his old mate, Nevon, who had never fully understood why Kevari would want to dig around in the dirt and look at old things. What good were these old things to anyone? He had simply shaken his head and not bothered trying to explain any more. Nevon would never get it and it was most likely due to this that they had fallen apart.
Dwelling on this was of no use, so Kevari turned his mind back to his task and continued to push the dirt back. The house was coming more and more into view and he eyed it critically. It didn’t seem to be a large house from what he could make out of the roof. He would need to get his ship, collect some of this dirt, and move it to another location so he would have room to completely expose the house.
Using his arms to push himself up and out of the hole he had started creating, Kevari walked back to his ship as he whistled an Earth song he had learned from Australia. He had stumbled upon a device there called an “Eye-pod” which held music. There were over 1,000 different song files on the device and he had been astounded by the variety contained on it. He had quickly discovered something called “jazz”, which had come in vogue on his home world and many of his people eagerly awaited discoveries of more of these jazz songs so they would have new ones to listen to and sing as they worked.
The cargo bay was open and Kevari walked in, settling himself in the pilot’s chair. Everything was pre-laid in for most people, but he preferred the freedom of being able to set his course himself and was one of the last people to qualify for a pilot’s license before the programs had stopped being offered. It was possible to obtain one, but it simply didn’t occur to most people. Kevari had argued that it would be essential for him in his work if an ion storm came up and he was somehow blown off course or he needed to make an emergency landing. His superiors had reluctantly agreed and he was able to receive that training.
And he had been right; it had already come in handy four different times for him. He’d been studying the Ha’nai, over in the Lesser Rings system when his ship had been hit by an ion storm. He’d been able to make the necessary landing as well as effect temporary repairs to his vessel that would last long enough for him to reach somewhere more civilized. Then there was the incident when he’d landed on a world, thinking that it was uninhabited only to find that the D’valans were still alive. And very angry. That had necessitated a hasty departure on his end and one that wouldn’t have been possible, had he not been able to get in and get out.
Flicking a switch, the “Penguin” roared to life. His ship had an official name, given to it by his government but it was a string of letters and numbers. He had christened it “The Penguin” when he had come across a picture of one in an old children’s book in Australia. His ship was colored white and black and had a vaguely penguin-like shape to it. His people had found it amusing and loved to gather when he took off or landed to see him in flight.
Kevari’s blue-green eyes scanned the ground until he was able to find the area where he had been digging. Lowering the gathering impliment, he was able to take a large parcel of dirt and shift it over, freeing more space for him to uncover the house he was working on at the moment.
Landing the ship again, Kevari quickly made his way down the gangway and back over to where his tools sat waiting for him. He used a small scooper to place dirt into a receptacle and toss it up and over his shoulder. He had reached the eaves and found some old fossilized leaves. The botanists would be interested in these and he gathered as many whole ones as he could find, reverently setting them aside to be wrapped and catalogued. Some of the other archaeologists mocked him for how carefully he took notes on what he had removed from each planet and where, but Kevari felt as though he was being respectful of the things and people where he had taken them from. Also, it helped when museums were trying to pull a fast one on him and say that they had not recieved things. He could produce his papers and prove that he had sent what was requested.
He had a reputation for being a hard man, a reputation that was only enhanced when Nevon went weeping to some of his friends about how “cold and distant” he was. Kevari had been honest with his former mate from the beginning and didn’t have very much sympathy for a man who was only trying to win others to his side of the affair. People quickly learned not to mention Nevon around Kevari and the archaeologist was grateful for this. He had far more important things to concern himself with than a slighted lover.
Snorting to himself, Kevari hauled himself up again and went into his ship to retrieve some anti-grav boxes that could be used to hold the leaf fossils in. Anti-grav boxes were wonderful for transporting fragile things because the boxes were able to keep the contents from being jostled around at all.
One of the fossils crumbled apart in his hands and Kevari felt an odd sense of grief at this. He knew that these old things were fragile and it was bound to happen, but he somehow felt responsible for this once beautiful thing not existing any more. Sighing, he was even more careful with the others and was able to get seven different leaves into the anti-grav boxes.
He sealed them, making careful noted before storing them in the cargo hold of his ship and returning with more of the anti-grav boxes for anything else that he might happen to find as he dug down deeper. His people had the old inhabitants of Earth to thank for introducing them to the concept of colors.
Before he had started studying this old race, everything on Hathar was shades of whites, blues and greys. But the younger generation had gone crazy over some of the old paint samples he had brought back and now, color was the norm on Hathar. Some of the elders were not as keen on them as the people Kevari’s age and younger, but they had allowed them when they saw just how happy these strange shades made the people. The young ones were always seeking news ways to express themselves and the colors were a relatively harmless way to do so. He’d regretted showing them the colors known as “Electric” and “Day-Glo” however, for they’d hurt even /his/ eyes and he liked most Earth things!
A window started to emerge under his brush and he tried to peer into the home, but most of the contents had been covered up by the dust that had crept in through the cracks over time and he clucked his tongue in disappointment. He would have to wait until he could open a door and begin to clear the dust before he could see what was inside. He was impatient, but he had to remind himself to go slowly, to update his notes as well as take measurements of how tall this structure was. He wasn’t sure how wide it would prove to be yet. Some of these Earth houses appeared to be small from the size of the door, but they extended out to the side as well as back and some of the inner rooms were remarkably well preserved. He wasn’t sure yet what this house would prove to be like.
Wiping his brow with his dusty forearm, Kevari tossed more dirt over his shoulder before a second set of windows appeared. So this was a two-story dwelling then. He adjusted his notes to add this detail before attacking more dirt. He hoped there would be a third story so he could at least expose the door before stopping for a break.
He licked his slightly dry lips and shifted more dirt out of the way before allowing himself a small smile; he could see the door.
Satisfied with this progress, he got himself out of the hole again and headed into The Penguin to get himself a nutrition bar and something to drink. Electrolyte water didn’t taste very good, but it was good for ensuring that one didn’t succumb to either heat or exhaustion out in the field. He took a bite of the bar and decided that it would be wise to have some electrolyte water before going back out to the house again.
Grimacing at the familiar taste of the water, Kevari made sure to drink all of it and finish the nutrition bar before tugging on a head covering known as a “hat” on Earth. It was a rather silly looking hat, but it fit his head and had come from his first dig, so it was a bit of a badge of honor for him. He always wore it when he came to Earth.
Picking up his brush again, Kevari carefully brushed all of the dust away from the doors. They didn’t have handles on Hathar, since all of their openings were automated so he had been also fascinated by the simplistic locking mechanisms that the Earthers had developed to allow their doors to be shut and protected from others. He had also studied hinges for quite some time. They were simple in theory, yet allowed large things to be moved with relative ease. They had ingenious solutions for things on this planet.
As he tossed up more dirt out of what was quickly becoming a miniature model of an open pit mine, Kevari took a metal implement and began to pick the hinges off the door. The wood was hard from hundreds of years of dust and wind and rain, but it was rather brittle. He hated to break doors down but the locks were usually too badly deterierated to even bother with. Again, the botanists would be interested in what type of wood had been used to construct this particular door. The Hatharian scientists were rather shocked at just how species of flora and fauna there had been on Earth once upon a time, which made the extinction of the race all the more sad and wasteful. But those were thoughts he could indulge while he updated his logs before sending them off to the Hatharian High Command. He was contracted to them through the Science Institute and had to keep both of them up to date on his findings and research. He suspected that the High Command wasn’t all that interested, but it was the polite thing to do, to keep them in the loop and apprised of things.
The door had been stained once, the intricate woodwork still visible and Kevari was pleased to find that he was able to pull it back in two large pieces. Perhaps he could get some anti-grav lifters and bring the door back with him. Some carpenter or worker might be able to restore it, or at least make a reasonable facsimile thereof.
Satisfied with this, he carefully and almost reverently laid the two halves of the door aside before getting his scooper and beginning to remove the chest high level of dust that lay so thickly over everything. He saw that there was a sitting area with a rectangular thing known as a “couch” while another smaller one emerged from the dirt. These were called “love seats” and Kevari could only guess that perhaps these were special places of honor for those who were mated to sit. He had seen these “love seats” come into vogue on Hathar and found them a rather charming custom.
Going back out of the house, Kevari tossed the dirt up and out of his scooper. He would have to move more dirt before he was completely finished excavating this house but he didn’t mind. He was making excellent progress for the first day and knew that the Science Institute would be pleased with what he he would be able to bring back for the botanists to study and analyze.
He strode back into the house, having to duck his 6 foot 8 inch head under the doorway. The Earth people were quite a bit shorter overall than the Hatharians and he often thought back to an Earth story he had found in London, the tales of a man called Gulliver. The people of this planet would not have been quite as small as the Lilliputians had been to Gulliver, but he was certain that they would have considered him to be some sort of a giant. The idea of that made him smile, but he quickly started coughing and had to leave the dwelling for a moment to clear his lungs and give his streaming eyes a chance to recover. He had forgotten how long it could take for the dust to settle inside once it had been stirred up. There was also a small breeze and this would definitely be having some sort of an effect on the conditions within.
Taking a deep breath, he reentered the house. He kept his steps small, to avoid kicking up too much of the dust as he slowly worked his way back toward a corner. He brightened when he found a television that appeared to be quite well preserved. He had brought some back already, but they had all been damaged and none of them worked. Still, the engineers might be able to salvage parts out of this one and then perhaps they could use some of the other machines Kevari had found, like the X-Box (which had been counted as a great marvel among the Earth people back in their time) as well as the DVD machine that played small discs containing entertainments that were called “movies”. Kevari was most interested in these because it would give him a chance to see what the Earth people considered fun, or exciting, or even important. Among his own people, there were works of music and literature that were standards for all to read. The language Kevari had learned to speak and read, English, had many works like this and he had done to best to track down as many of these as he possibly could. London had been excellent for that, because he had stumbled across a place called a library and within it were hundreds and thousands of these books. He had carried many away with him and some ships had come back to his site, taking away more. Not all of them could be saved, but if there was more than one copy of a book, it meant that the pages could be compared and culled to make one complete book. He had a list of the ones that they still lacked and he hoped that in North America, he would be able to complete the list.
The sofa had a small table beside it with a single drawer. Kevari opened it to find some magazines, but he wrinkled his nose at these. They were usually printed on cheap paper, intended to be a quick read before the next one was available. He had tried to understand the importance of these magazines but if one had viewed or listened to their news programs, the magazines were obsolete by the time they were places on the shelves for people to buy. Still, they must have had their reasons for such things.
Kevari saved the magazines anyway, thinking that someone might be interested in looking them over and seeing if there was anything of cultural significance contained in them. He doubted it highly, but in archaeology, one could never take any artifact for granted.
Also inside the table was a picture frame. He dismantled it with swift fingers and found that although the colors had faded somewhat and dirt stuck to some sections of it, he could make out a young man with a kind face. Some of the pictures Kevari had found made him wonder about the people of Earth, but this person looked...nice, somehow. Like he had a gentle spirit.
But he was long since dead and Kevari carefully stowed the picture away. He always kept these pictures, having an entire compartment of his home dedicated to them. He documented where they came from and when possible, their names if he was able to find out such information.
The sun was going down and he sighed in disappointment, but he reminded himself that today had been an excellent day. He was already inside the dwelling and tomorrow would be easier, once it had chance to air out.
Cradling the picture in one hand, he put his tools into his scooper and trudged his way up and out of the hole. First thing tomorrow he would shift dirt and lower the edges of his hole so he was able to get in and out more easily. He had learned the hard way on his first dig that dirt would crumble underneath someone’s feet and send them tumbling. He had injured his arm and hose, and had no desire to repeat the experience again.
Looking up above him, he took a moment to admire the sunset. He wasn’t sure what it would have looked like during the wars that heralded the ending of the civilizations of Earth but today, it was a lovely and peaceful sight. He would have to take some holos of this to send to his parents so they could see what he was seeing. They loved him, but he was a mystery to them. Still, they had stood behind him and his desires to see the far flung places of the galaxy and never told him that it was not wise, or that he should chose something else to do with his life and time.
He closed the gangway of the “The Penguin” behind himself and set the scooper down next to a small area where he could sit down and remove his work boots, which he did rapidly. He wanted to get clean ones on so he didn’t have to walk around with grit rubbing his feet.
Check in with High Command would be soon and he sat down in the pilot’s chair to organize everything and prepare it in the tidy military format that they preferred, while also preparing his log to go back to the Science Institute. They were less concerned about formality and wanted to know exactly what he had seen and discovered during the day. The whistle came, and Kevari sent both items off, hearing the confirming clicks on the other end before disconnect.
He supposed that to some people, he led and extremely lonely way of life. And sometimes, it was hard to be the only one on an entire planet. But he had also worked in crews and discovered that he was more of a solitary person. He worked best when he was by himself. He wasn’t sure what that exactly said about him and he tried not to dwell on it too often. He would rather be working and making sense out of the many deceased worlds that existed in the galaxy.
There was a small room that was his sleeping and resting place. Whenever he was working in the field, he observed strict rest and sleep times so that he would be at optimal strength and be able to carry out the physical work necessary for him to successful excavate and remember where he had been the day before. Earth cities were mapped out in confusing ways, especially London and he had needed to resort to colored markers in order to recall which street he had been down and which he still needed to go to.
But the system had worked and he had brought his markers with him again, in case this proved to be another confusing place to navigate. He sat down on the cot, thoughtful and also excited. The house might yield some interesting things to him and he took the picture of the man out, examining it more closely.
He had a slightly rounded face, and eyes that were green. His hair was close cropped to his head, and an ordinary brown. What had Kevari looking more closely was the smile on his lips. He was handsome and as he studied his face, Kevari wondered if he had died here with someone that he loved, or if he had been alone for the end of the world as he knew it.
Setting the picture down, Kevari dimmed the lights and prepared himself for slumber, Tomorrow would be another day of hard work but it would be worth it.