Wednesday, 16 November 2011
Game On, Game Over - another excerpt
Scott didn't know what impulse drew him to the trench inside the ruins, but he was grateful for it when the man straightened and turned to face him. He was tall, lean, and sun-browned, his almost-black hair worn a little too long and showing a few threads of silver at the temples, though he was probably under forty. Deeply set in high-cheekboned, hawklike features, dark brown eyes gazed stonily at Scott. Somehow the man managed to give the impression of glaring down his impressive, aquiline nose despite his head being on a level with Scott's knees. While not strictly handsome, his was the most interesting face Scott had seen in years, and also the most attractive. Right now, however, that face was the personification of aloofness. A warm pulse of interest spread through Scott's blood. Never one to pass up a challenge, he waited until the woman took herself off, then gave the man a thorough checking out from behind the mask of his shades.
"So," Scott said brightly, "what do you have here?"
"A trench," he bit out, his rich voice becoming more clipped. "Wait by the offices, Mr Landon."
"Okay," he said, not moving. "But please call me Scott. Mr Landon's my father and it's way too formal for me." He widened his smile to an out and out grin, as charming and engaging as he could make it. "Hey, c'mon, you need to loosen up. I'm not like Brent, I swear. Can I come down there?"
"I do not need to do anything, Mr Landon," the man said icily, "and no, you can't. Go away."
Scott sighed, and wondered what the man's mouth would be like when it wasn't pressed into a thin line. Of course, he might not be gay, but he wouldn't be the first so-called straight guy whom Scott persuaded sexual experimentation was a good idea, though he might be the most difficult. Nor was the setting ideal for seduction. But, as Scott reminded himself, a faint heart never won tall, dark, and interesting.
The woman hurried back toward them, an even taller, harassed-looking man on her heels. Scott stood up to meet them. This had to be the boss man. He gave Scott a friendly smile.
"Mike Preston, Site Director," he introduced himself, and they shook hands.
"Good to meet you, Mr Landon. Mr Babcock's not with you?" The SD was as English as the man in the trench, but, to Scott's relief, a lot more approachable.
"The name's Scott, and thanks. He couldn't make it, but I appreciate the chance to take a look at what you've got going on here. I'll do my best not to get in anyone's way."
"Good, good. Well, until I get clearance, I can't allow you to take photos. Not yet. It's only a formality, but I'm sure you know how it is."
"Sure, no problem." Scott smiled. "I'll behave, I promise." He held up his hand. "Scout's honor." Did he hear a snort from the vicinity of the trench?
"Okay, then. Let's see… John, would you mind giving Scott an overview?"
"Yes, I would. Mike, there are important finds coming up here. Anahita and I want to get the area properly cleared so we can do the recording before we start to move them."
"It's all right, John," the woman said quickly. "I'm sure it won't take you long to give Mr Landon a quick tour." Scott beamed gratefully at her and she blinked, her own smile widening.
"Damn, it, Mike!"
"Good, good," Mike said again, briskly rubbing his hands together. "That's settled then. Scott, Doctor Jones is my Assistant Site Director. You'll be in very good, very knowledgeable hands."
"I don't doubt it," Scott replied demurely, gazing down through his lashes at the irritated face below him. This time the snort of disgust sounded loud and clear as the man turned on his heel and strode for the ladder. He climbed up quickly and with an intriguingly smooth economy of movement. "Hi, again," Scott said when they were face to face, but he didn't make the mistake of offering to shake hands again. They were the same height, though the archaeologist had a lighter build. "Can I call you John?"
"No. Come on, let's get this over with."
Scott shrugged, unabashed. Anahita offered him an embarrassed smile and he winked at her. "Hey," he whispered in passing, "after a couple of months with Babcock, your Doc's all sweetness and light." She was surprised into a giggle, and he trotted after the fast-walking archaeologist, taking the opportunity check out the man's taut ass as he did so.
Doctor Jones led him away from the site, up the dusty track to the apology of a road, then stopped and turned to gesture back down to the site. And started talking.
This was literally the overview. Scott expected minimal information, a sketchy description of the site and its history. Instead he received a full-blown lecture on medieval trade routes, politics, sponsors, and banking that left him in something of an information-overloaded daze. John Jones obviously intended to bore the bejesus out of him, but he failed. The man possessed a natural talent with words and his love of his subjects came through in every phrase. A lot of the historical minutiae sailed over Scott's head, but the deep, expressive voice held him spellbound, and enough facts lodged in his overheated brain to let him ask some reasonably intelligent questions. At the same time, he was framing shots in his head, noting the way the caravanserai fit into the landscape, how the westering sun and the lengthening shadows painted the ruined walls and the irregular checkerboard of trenches, how the colorful tent village on its plateau looked almost medieval in its own right. But one more question burned on his tongue.
"I don't get it," Scott blurted. "I mean, I know why Brent's doing the Silk Roads. We've spent the last couple of months traveling some of the shittiest roads I've seen, staying in places I wouldn't stable a goat, and eating crappy food. At the end of it he'll have a book guaranteed to hit the best sellers' list and make him a load of cash. I went to Peru with Felipe Hermanes—he's a journalist and into conservation—because he wanted to explore and record what he could of the rainforest before the loggers obliterated it, and use his book to raise enough awareness so there'd be more of an effort to stop the destruction of the rainforest. So, okay, I understand the difference between commercialism and protecting the planet. But you, these kids, you're out here in a strange land, living in tents with basic amenities, no real freedom to come and go, watched over every now and then by the army. Just to dig holes in the ground. Why? What's the point of it?"
"Why?" John rounded on him ferociously, taking Scott's breath away. "Do you think we live in a vacuum? That present and future are the be-all and end-all of two-dimensional lives? The point is, Mr Landon, you, me, those postgraduates, the lecturers, the cooks and drivers, are linked to the past as surely as we are to the present. We are no different to the people who traveled the Roads and stayed in the caravanserai. We are no different from the Roman soldier on Hadrian's Wall who wrote home to his mother asking her to send him more socks. And yes, before you ask, he's genuine. Every minute fragment of the past found in excavations enriches the present. Every translation of newly discovered writing expands our knowledge and strengthens the links to our past. Human nature has changed very little in the millennia we've walked upright, and we're faced with the same choices today as our ancestors were. The only differences now are our enhanced abilities to create and destroy."
The words seemed to sear themselves into his brain and take root. Scott gazed at John, mouth parted, eyes wide, completely ensnared by the man's passion and not a little turned on by it. "Wow," he breathed. John's color rose and he turned away, his mouth in a thin, uncompromising line. "You give one hell of a speech." The archaeologist didn't answer, just strode on down the track, leaving Scott to trot after him.
* * * * *
Ad if you'd like to know how TBC [below] fits into this story,
you'll have to buy the book by clicking here*g*