An Arctic Dig

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The sky was a fierce blue, too fierce to look at without protective goggles. It had snowed again during the night, and the ground was still covered with a sheath of pristine snow capturing then reflecting the light.
There’d been an odd development at the rigs. Perhaps odd wasn’t the right word. Unexpected was probably more fitting. Unexpected in a good way, though. The foreman, Stefan Blanchard, had stopped the drilling, sent most of his crew home early with the promise of a full day’s pay. There were questions he couldn’t answer, questions that he didn’t want to answer, and still more questions he’d just as soon avoid. The one question he did not hesitate to answer, however, came from his right-hand “man,” Willa.
“So boss man, you want me to hang around. . .just in case?”
He nodded toward one of the office chairs. “Take a load off, Willa. I’d be happy for your company.”
She smiled, her dark eyes crinkling at the edges. “Why don’t I make us another pot of coffee? See if there’s anything in the fridge?”
“Much appreciated. Thank you. I need to call Carl.” Stefan checked his cell. No bars. He reached for the old landline instead.
“Carl? Stefan here. We hit something. . .No, I didn’t bring it up. . .Yes. . .Just Willa. You can trust her. . .Not sure how big it is. . .Yes, I believe it’s what you’ve been looking for. . .See you soon, then.”
He hung up the phone, leaned up against the trailer wall, listening to the sound of the clunking petrol heater, the spurting coffee maker, his heart trying to find a regular beat.
This was it. Finally it. Carl seemed to have a sixth sense about these things, and once again, X had marked the spot.
“Here you are!” Willa handed him a cup of steaming coffee, its rich aroma reaching out to pull him forward.
“Thank you, Willa.”
She nodded, took a sip, leaned against the wall beside him. “Do you think it’s what we’ve been looking for?”
“Yes, I do, and so does Carl. He’ll fly out as soon as he can. In the meantime, he wants us to dig manually.”
Willa looked at him, brows furrowed. “Should I call the guys, tell them they have the week off?”
Stefan nodded. “Be sure to tell them full pay, too. We don’t want any disgruntled locals picking fights at the bar.”
“Done.”
* * *

Carl Deevers arrived the next morning, his Cessna landing slightly north of the dig site. He looked out the window to where Stefan was waiting along with his assistant in a dark blue four-wheel drive pick-up.
After telling his pilot to sit tight for a few, he grabbed his gear, and clambered out of the plane.
Stefan opened the driver’s side, stepped out of the vehicle. The two old friends embraced. “You made it in record time,” Stefan said.
Carl chuckled. “You know me, always at the ready.”
Stefan jutted his chin at the plane.
“I think he should stay. Just in case.”
Carl nodded, waved the pilot over.
“Now tell me, old friend. What have you found?” Carl grinned, his perfect white teeth glinting in the late afternoon sun.
“You were right, Carl. This is it!”
“Let’s not waste any more time. Show me!”
Stefan chuckled. “This puzzle of yours, how do you say, grows more complex. “
“Enough with the cryptic messages. It is so unlike you, Stefan. Where is it?”
“Undisturbed for the moment. I sent the crew home with full pay for the week. “
“You mean you didn’t bring it up?” Carl’s genial mood shattered for the moment.
“Didn’t want to damage it. Besides, didn’t you want to be here for the unveiling?”
“Willa will get your pilot settled, then we’ll head out to the site.”
* * *
Just beyond the rig, there was a tall arc of plowed snow covered with a sheath of ice. Carl, Willa, and Stefan walked up to and around it, their snows boots crunching. Shielded by the wall, they squatted down at the edge of a large opening. About twenty feet below, and encased in ice, was a man’s face, his eyes and mouth wide open, his hands pressed against a cracked window.
“Well I’ll be,” Carl began. “You found the prototype module.”
“So that’s Max?” Stefan asked, looking down into the horrified face.
“Yup. Told him not to mess with my time machine. Thought he could outsmart me. I sure showed him.” Carl laughed, slapping his thigh.
“Once we finish digging it out, we can carbon date it.”
“Oh, I’ve got those figures,” he said, tapping his head. “Programmed them in myself.”
(790 words)

About the Author: 
Terrie Leigh Relf hosts Alban Lake Publishing's drabble contest and is a lifetime member of the SFPA and an active member of HWA. Please visit her websites for more information: terrieleighrelf.com and tlrelf.wordpress.com