Dr. Robard Prendergast, famed archeologist, brushed away dirt from a golden cup with the letters of the earth alphabet, ‘ND,’ and handed it to the intern named Drita to tag and record. Not bad for the first hour of a new project. It was the moment he was waiting for.
“It’s a fine piece.” He took off his wide-brimmed hat and spoke in his magnanimous voice—the one that commanded attention from all his interns and employees. “After digging at a place called ‘The Hamptons,’ I hypothesized that earth culture was very refined and highly intellectual, and that is why I returned. It is a culture that demands respect and recognition.” He put his hat back on. “High culture. These are the noble species we came from.”
Robard enjoyed the way his minions looked at him with reverence. All but the troublesome one, Edwin Joyster. The kid was harmless—even deferential, but his questions often annoyed Robard. He chuckled when he saw the telltale hitch of Edwin’s lip that told him something was coming.
“If it was so refined, why did humanity abandon earth?”
“Resources, of course,” said Robard. “It’s the age-old story.”
Edwin seemed to make a show of looking around. The land was teeming with life, and initial scans from the survey showed lots of valuable mineral deposits.
“The earth has had many thousands of years to rejuvenate, Edwin.”
“I found something,” said Molson.
Robard put his brush and trowel down and went over for a look. Molson troweled around a flat, rectangular green plate with silver trails and dots.
“Oh, this is good,” said Robard. “Come look everyone.” He gently pulled it from the ground and turned it over. He pulled out his multi-method, gradated phase imager and held it over the top of a chip embedded in the board. “Fantastic. Look at the nanoscale circuitry here. The complexity of it!” He handed it to Molson to process. “You see how intelligent they were? Be proud of where you came from, people.”
“Doesn’t legend indicate their circuitry was largely used for decadent ends?” asked Eddie.
“That’s pure myth, my boy.”
Everyone went back to their assigned quadrant and continued digging. Robard uncovered some layered cellulose and had Drita put a special tag on it for ink analysis.
“Dr. Prendergast,” called Hammerlin. “I’ve got something good.”
They crowded in to see an intricate sculpture of a man holding a large bird of prey on his arm.
“Beautiful,” said Robard. “Their appreciation for art was exceptional, and see how they emphasized their friendship with nature.” He patted Hammerlin on the back. “Be sure to send images to the Art Institute of the Outer Nebula.”
“I wonder if it’s a hunting bird,” said Eddie.
“Don’t be foolish,” said Robard. “Don’t leap to conclusions without good evidence.”
The finds at this site gratified Robard immensely. His scalp tingled in anticipation the more they dug.
“Here’s something,” said Eddie. He held up a cylinder with one flat end and another tapered up to a plastic spike. “It’s got script on it, too.” He was brushing it off with his palm, but at least he had his gloves on. “Is this something from high culture?” He handed it to Robard.
Robard turned the object so he could read the lettering.
It said ‘Cheez Whiz.’