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NaNoWriMo: Chapter 1.

November 2, 2008

‘Kay, rather than uploading this in a bunch of different posts, I’ll just keep adding onto a single one until I complete a chapter.  It’ll be easier for me to keep track that way, and I won’t clutter up my blog with these posts.

* * ** ** * * ** * ** * * ** ** * *

Drake Thatcher frowned at the bones in front of him.  It was another pair of wings – or rather, wing bones; the cartilegenous structures that made up the supports had long since rotted away.  They were larger than the other specimens he had seen, but like the others, separated from the body that would have enabled him to identify the species.

A breeze drifted through the quarry, knocking dust and bits of rock onto the exposed bones.  Thatcher scowled and batted them away, then returned to his contemplation of the fossil.  So many pairs of wings, and no bodies.  Where had they all come from?

“Hey, Thatcher, come look at this!”

Drake Thatcher groaned slightly, but set down his excavation tools and glanced over at his compatriot.  James Iverson was an exciteable young fellow, having just come to the field of paleontology, but he usually didn’t call for someone unless there was just cause; whatever he had was likely to be of some use.  “What is it, Iverson?”

“It’s this head I’ve found,” the novice answered, his face beaming.  “There’s a full set of teeth here, and I’m finding the beginnings of a spinal column.  This could be the most complete specimen we’ve found.”

Intrigued, Thatcher collected his tools and moved to Iverson’s location, taking care not to knock any dirt onto the exposed fossil as he knelt to the ground.  Squinting against the morning sun, he examined the skull closely, brushing away a bit of loose soil with one cautious finger.  Iverson’s report was correct; the skull’s teeth were not only present, but remarkably well-preserved.  “Good job,” he said, rising to a kneel.  “Judging by the shape of these teeth, I’d say we can confirm the hypothesis that the beasts were predators.”

“That’s what I figured, too,” said Iverson, biting his lower lip in an unsuccessful attempt to restrain his enthusiasm.  “Man, I can’t believe this.  I mean, I figured we’d find something like this eventually, but when you actually do it… wow!”

Thatcher grinned, Iverson’s excitement catching up to him.  “Yep.  You keep up the good work, and maybe they’ll name this beastie after you.”

Iverson’s eyes lit up.  “What, really?  You think?”

“Well, anything’s possible.”  Thatcher shrugged.  “It wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened in this camp.”

“Wait,” said Iverson.  “You don’t mean this camp personally…?”  He frowned.

“Ah!” exclaimed Thatcher.  “No.  Of course not.”  Iverson’s confusion was understandable.  Their current excavation camp had only been in place for a few weeks, and during that time they’d discovered only two species they believed to be unique — Iverson’s predator, and those blasted wings.  Neither of them had been removed from the site yet, much less named.  “Actually, it happened some years ago, about five miles from Ottawa.  There was a species of starfish named for my supervisor.”

“Huh.”

“As much as I hate to interrupt you boys-”

Thatcher started, wheeling around and coming face-to-face with the camp’s cook, Maria Brennan.  Apparently she was also startled, as she stepped backwards, raising her arms in a gesture of peace.  When Thatcher made no further movement, she lowered her arms and grinned at him.  “Anyway,” she said, “as I was saying, it’s time for lunch.”

“What, already?” Iverson whined.  “It was just getting interesting out here!”

“Yes, already.”  Maria put one hand on her hip and gestured toward the mess tent with the other.  “You need to keep food in your system.  If you get too hungry, you’ll start to make mistakes.  If you make mistakes, you’re liable to damage something.  I don’t think you want to be explaining a damaged fossil to headquarters, eh?”  She winked, elbowing gently at Iverson’s ribs.

“No,” said Iverson, stepping cautiously away from both Maria and the dig area.  “I guess a short break would be all right.  Thatcher, would you mind taking care of this…” He inclined his head toward the fossil.

“Sure,” Thatcher answered.  He waited for Maria and Iverson to head for the tent, then glanced at a large tarpaulin lying nearby.  He snapped his fingers, and the tarp flew out to cover the bones, Iverson’s tools arranging themselves in a small pile nearby.  Once he was sure everything had settled, he brushed the dust from his clothes and headed for the mess tent.

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