There is no logical way to the discovery of these elemental laws.
There is only the way of intuition, which is helped by a feeling for the order lying behind the appearance.
- Albert Einstein
Base Camp was a crude outpost at best, not even half as nice as her Dad's Cinnamon Falls campground. But Isabel had grown up sleeping half her youth in a tent or tree house since she loved the outdoors so much.
Of course, it was quite a bit hotter here than back home.
|"This is like a giant camping adventure - and I'm getting paid to do it!"|
Well, the 'paid' part was still somewhat uncertain as she hadn't been given any compensation figures yet. The airfare was paid for by the Science Facility, as was her food and lodging while there.
Dr. Midden had given her a packet of paperwork sealed and not to be opened until she met with and handed it over to the on site manager. She was told to check the Explorer's "Adventure Board" for the contact information.
But who, exactly, was she looking for?
|"I have a job, but I have no idea what to do ... "|
There were dozens of postings on the board, and many were yellowed and looked like they had been there a long time. Some had been shredded from their push pins and blown away by the hot Simhara wind. How was she supposed to find anything useful here?
There were jobs asking for photographers to take pictures and submit them to tourist brochures, and others to recover lost items - but nothing that looked like an Archaeology project.
Finally, her eye caught a slightly newer business card with just a name and address in the nearby market for "Special Interest Merchandising" at a local relic shop. This seemed like the most likely candidate. At least she could ask them if they knew of who she was supposed to contact.
The Merchant, a rather bored looking young local woman, shook her head in confusion when Isabel referred to the card. After a little more questioning and more blank looks in reference to the Wolfson's Science Facility, the exasperated merchant pointed to a cafe in the center of the marketplace and said she should ask for "Miss Layla" as she often dealt with professional clientele who were looking for more than just a pretty vase to take back home as a souvenir.
|"You don't know anything about the local Archaeology project?"|
At first Isabel felt sure this was the wrong direction as she obviously wasn't looking to buy anything. But not knowing where else to go, she goes to the indicated cafe and asked for Miss Layla. The food merchant told her she would be around shortly and offers her a complimentary bowl of soup. Isabel was already fairly hot in a leather jacket and it seemed the wrong weather entirely for hot soup, but she took the offered dish graciously - not wanting to offend any local customs.
She had no idea just how hot things could get.
|Little girl: "You know that's Ghost Chili, right?"|
|"Arrgh what his this feeling going from my mouth to my head!?"|
|(This shot was too good to resist)|
"Wooooah, what was THAT?! My head's on FIRE!!"
*puff puff puff*
Isabel sucks in air rapidly. The little girl finally offers her one of the cool fruit drinks she's having to help ease the pain.
|"Oh WOW - ok, I need to taste test before I eat a whole bowl of that stuff!"|
Isabel's not sure if she likes the local food.
Finally a richly dressed exotic looking woman enters the cafe and surveys the place with a slow casual eye. This must be Layla. Isabel hopes her breath isn't too bad from that chili, and goes to introduce herself.
|"Err... hello, my name is Isabel Twist and I'm looking for my local contact on a job I'm here to do ... are you Miss Layla?"|
The woman studies her quietly for a moment, and smiles slightly while shaking her hand. Isabel feels like she's being scrutinized and sized up.
"I had not anticipated such a young girl being sent as our, hmm, associate in this project. Yes, I am Layla Lufti and I supervise the Al-Simhara operations here."
Isabel is relieved to finally have someone to tell her what to do and tries to hide her enthusiasm behind a professional smile and hand-shake. Layla goes on to explain her 'job' orders:
"You are to report to a small building just outside the Base Camp first thing in the morning. You will be entering the facility alone and working unsupervised. When you have finished with the instructions given here, you are to report back to me tomorrow evening, here, same place and time."
Layla handed Isabel a small dog eared manila folder and excused herself. As she brushed past Isabel, she whispered quietly ...
|"Remember, you go into the tomb alone, and you communicate with NO one aside from myself, understood?"|
Isabel's a little uncertain about all this sudden vague communication and mystery - considering she thought she was coming here to dig up old bones and tomb artifacts. There must be a good reason for such secrecy and she intended to do as instructed as this new career meant everything to her, just starting out in life.
She was so excited, she couldn't sleep well that night. Though used to sleeping in a tent, the strange sounds and smells around her also kept her awake. She managed to get a few hours before waking up just as the sun was rising over the desert sands.
Being the coolest part of the day, Isabel decides to take advantage of it and go for a jog along the river before reporting to the Archaeology facility next to base camp as Layla had instructed.
The ghost chili had also given her a really bad case of heartburn, which was aggravated by jogging.
|"Why do they call it ghost chili anyways, should be HELL chili...ugh"|
Maybe it was all those years following Cupid around as he dug up stuff along the hills of Appaloosa Plains, but the dunes of Al Simhara made bits of rubble stick out in easy to spot contrast with the light colored sand. Isabel found her first relic digsite easily and stopped to take a look.
|"This could be something interesting ..."|
She's glad for all the training she'd had on this as these ancient bits were nothing simple to be dug up by a furiously excited dog. Delicate brushing and patience revealed some nice relics. Isabel carefully tucked them away in her backpack for analyzing later.
|"I'll just hold onto these fragments until I can get them to a proper lab."|
Arriving back at base camp, Isabel changes back into her adventuring gear and heads for the designated site entrance right on time.
She enters the makeshift entrance attached to what looks like a very well excavated dig site. This is apparently called "Discovery Tomb" though its not a true tomb, but more of an archaeological training grounds of sorts.
|"Curious, there's not much security here."|
The brief file Layla had given her explained that Disovery was used as practice grounds for new interns and to test her ability to follow directions and work solo underground.
Isabel was brave, of course, and had no issues with claustrophobia or dark places. This would be easy.
The entry room was littered with various small scale relic assembly projects. Most of these were exceptionally crude and far too easy for Isabel's level of knowledge. She hoped there would be more to do below.
|"Reconstruction projects for newbies. How quaint"|
Her SimSci security card, included with the file, gained her access to the stairway down. She found the main entrance chained shut, but a heavy chest revealed what she hoped would be a key, along with a pile of ancient coins.
|"Those chains on that door are not ancient, but this definitely is..."|
This is the first time Isabel's ever seen any sort of ancient magic in action, though she's read about it. The connection to ancient Sim tombs has been referenced in many exploration journals. But still, the first time a scientifically disciplined Sim encounters this sort of inexplicable power is always disconcerting. If she had not seen it with her own eyes ... well. Lets just say she's much less skeptical now of those nutty reports of deeper magic existence.
|"Woah ... cool!"|
Beyond, a simple stone puzzle blocks yet another door, and then nothing. An empty room.
A little careful investigation - running her hands slowly along the wall reveals a hidden door. Isabel's no athlete despite her recent cardio training. The door proves more of a challenge than the puzzles.
|"Ok, note to self: More strength training immediately upon return home ..."|
Adventurous wonderment overcomes skepticism when Isabel finally reaches the inner reaches of the simple chamber beyond. Clearly modern built, this storage facility is full of the most amazing relics she's ever seen - most never recorded in any of her textbooks. Why was all of this here and why was she sent to investigate it if they already knew what they'd put here?
|"This is - unbelievable. Why has none of this been recorded in archives?"|
The file gives no further explanation - just a blank page for notes. She writes down a brief description of the statues and goods stacked in the hidden storeroom and finds another door with exit stairs back to the entrance of the facility above.
Isabel can't believe time passed so quickly. It's already going on evening and she hasn't got much time to hurry back to town to meet with Layla.
Rushing up to meet Layla at the cafe, she apologizes quickly for being late and how she'd lost track of time in the storage facility.
Layla whirls around and hisses sharply; "Don't EVER talk about Discovery Tomb's hidden areas, do you understand anything about discretion??"
|"I'm sorry, I didn't know it was confidential, please. It's hardly fair when you've given me so few instructions!"|
Pulling her roughly by the hand to a private room in the back of the cafe, Layla stares hard at the plate of food brought to them before beginning her explanations to Isabel.
|There seems to be so much being left unsaid. Layla's cryptic moodiness seems confusing.|
"Look, this isn't easy. You're really young, and for whatever reason - SimSci doesn't want you privy to any details yet. Your 'discovery' assignment was just a simple test - an observation of sorts ... you know, to see how quickly you picked up instructions... "
Layla seems frustrated by whatever restrictions prevent her from disclosing more information. She goes on to explain Isabel's job assignment from here on out:
"The crescent keystone is now imprinted with your own personal code. You can access the room at any time and you will leave relics there which will be analyzed later at the labs after transportation out of Al-Simhara"
"You're only to retrieve relics from the tombs assigned to you, and utilize the base camp infrequently if possible. Stay out of the public eye and never keep relics in your tent as thievery here is very common ... "
Layla pauses to look out the window as if expecting a thief to be standing there, her discomfort and nervousness seems oddly out of place with her confident personality.
"And lastly, whatever you do, never ever discuss the project here with anyone outside of myself and those who may come and go from Discovery facility with proper security badges like your own, got it?"
Isabel tried to nod, but a million questions were flashing through her mind. As they leave the cafe, she has one question she has to ask.
|"What about pay? How do I make my bills and stuff back home when I'm not on assignment?"|
Layla explains that a special expense account has been set up online for her research trips but that unless SimSci or Morcucorp hire her full-time, there's no off-duty pay. Tomb relics are the property of the agency she works for when contracted onsite, and the ancient coins she finds can be kept for 'benefits' purchases during travel. She would be paid on commission for the relics she produced each trip depending on their value - but that would come months later after quarterly lab reports were released.
That sure doesn't leave a lot left over for living expenses ...
Isabel reluctantly accepts and signs the contract. What choice does she have - go back to Appaloosa Plains a failure and work at a local shop? She hadn't expected to become a 'treasure hunter' ... but freelance Archaeology might not exactly pay the bills either.
Fortunately for Isabel, her 'special' talent, honed with years of hunting for fossils in Appaloosa Plains meant she just might be able to put some fragments together in her spare time.
She went out early again the next day.
|"If I'm lucky, maybe I can assemble some of these fragments into something of value later on."|
The contract had only mentioned tomb relics - nothing about off duty digsite finds. Isabel intended to make the most of this side work when she could get free time.
That evening, Layla was not at the cafe as planned. Instead, Isabel received an unexpected phone call from her Dad.
"Isabel? It's Dad... yeah, uh, I can hardly hear you - you doin' ok out there?"
Isabel smiled and reassured Simon she was great. "Yeah Dad, phone reception out here is pretty bad, its very remote and wild, but beautiful ... oh, and hot!"
A slight delay in the transmission, and then Simon continues.
"That's great honey. I got a call today from Kenji. He's being involuntarily retired early on medical discharge - something about his health and needing to move to Sunlit Tides for sun and relaxation - heart problems maybe. They offered the position of Facility Director to me ...but Uh ... I rejected the offer. Can't really talk about it right now, but looks like you're going to need to come back and get new travel documents drawn up. We'll.... well, we'll talk when you get here, ok? I'm sorry about this sweetie, but the facility is reorganizing and I'm not sure you ...."
|"Dad? Dad are you still there?"|
The call had cut off. Isabel tried several times to call back but could not get a good international line to work.
She tries to reassure herself everything's fine, but something's niggling at the back of her mind like an itch you can't reach. It's frustrating she has so few details and so many confusing things happening on her very first trip including uncertainty about her work. Now she wasn't sure why Dad would refuse an offer of Directorship or what that meant to her position. What was her Dad not sure about before the call cut off?
The cab drops her off in the driveway. The lights at home are all out, her parents and Nate are probably out at Cinnamon Falls as usual.
|"The Fearless Adventurer has returned!!"|
Her back is killing her from so many hours hunched up in those uncomfortable airline seats.
Doing some side stretches, she's about to head inside and get some well earned rest in a real bed when a police cruiser pulls up and the officer starts to rush up to her looking somewhat panicked.
|"Oh. This can't be good."|
To read Ch. 2.2 - "Be Brave" - go HERE.
Yes, a real cliff-hanger. Don't get mad at me, I think its my first attempt at it ... *evil grin* (channeling my best ReyaD and calisims here)
I really had planned to make everything one chapter - I swear! Isabel's first trip to Al-Simhara just had so many good photos and I need some more work for the next chapter's ...events!
I'm sorry! No not really. >:)