The Artifact (Book 2, Time Trilogy)

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Chapter Ten: The Lab

July 2023
University of Richmond
Richmond City, Virginia

}}}-----> MORGAN <-----{{{

Leading James and Wahya back upstairs to the Archaeology Lab, Morgan explains, “Emory should be gone by now - he doesn’t usually stay after lunch.”

“You didn’t tell him about the wall and all that? Didn’t he see Wahya?” James asks as they near the top of the stairs.

“Well, no... and yes. I haven’t told him anything, but he did see Wahya. But I didn’t want him to know anything until I knew what I was dealing with.” In a lowered voice she adds, “He’s kind of a talker, if you know what I mean. He’s not the one you tell secrets to, unless you want everyone else to know.”

“Ah,” James simply replies. “And if he’s still up there?”

“Um, I don’t know,” Morgan hesitates. “I’m sure he already thinks something weird’s going on.”

“Alright, we’ll avoid him if possible, then play it by ear after that.”

To Morgan’s disappointment, the door to the Archaeology suite is unlocked, meaning that Emory is probably still there. Then, she realizes she absentmindedly left her purse and keys at her desk, so would have been locked out otherwise. Kicking herself mentally, she calls out as she opens the door, “Hello?”

The trio walk in, seeing no one in the immediate lab. Morgan heads towards her desk to see if her cell phone and purse are still there when a voice comes from the artifact storage room. “Hey, you’re back!”

Morgan clears her throat, trying to suppress her disappointment at Emory’s appearance. “Uh, yep! What are you still doing here? Isn’t it kinda late for you?”

“Well, I couldn’t leave the lab unsecured, and you left your keys and stuff here. I tried to call you, but you left your phone behind, too. I figured you couldn’t get too far without your car keys anyways, so decided to hang out.”

“Oh! I’m so sorry!” Morgan cringes inside at her stupidity for leaving in such a panic. “I didn’t mean to leave you hanging!”

“No biggie! You seemed a bit... preoccupied, earlier.” He cocks an eyebrow towards Wahya, now in regular clothes, then takes in James, both of which enter the lab fully now. “Dr. Warner! What brings you to the Archaeology Lab today?”

James isn’t amused by the recent grad’s candor, having heard about his brown-nosing personality from his wife, and clears his throat, unsure of what he should say.

Morgan jumps in instead, “I had some things I needed to show him, so he can tell Samantha about ’em for me. But you don’t have to stay now - I’m sure you’re starved, since you didn’t get to leave for lunch. I’m really sorry about that! And I really appreciate you not locking me out! I’ll see you on Thursday, then?” Looking at James, she continues without taking a breath, “It’s just down here...” Prodding both James and Wahya in front of her towards the storage rooms, Morgan waves to Emory, hoping he’ll take the hint and leave for the day already.

“Right,” Emory says to her back. “I guess I’ll just close up my stuff and quit for today. Good thing I didn’t need to ask you about anything.”

Morgan’s mind is racing as quickly as her mouth just had and she doesn’t process his words or sense his irritation as she simply presses forward.

Making their way to the furthest-most artifact storage room, they stop at the location Wahya knows only too well. Morgan and James can see concern written across his features, and she wonders if he’s afraid of getting sucked into another vortex.

“Well, this is the place,” she begins before proceeding to reenact what she was doing when the wall spit Wahya out. James takes notes and pulls out the tape measure he’d brought, taking measurements from the floor to the ceiling and the distance between the wall and where Morgan was when Wahya had landed on her.

“I’m not sure if this will be helpful, but it won’t hurt to collect all the data we can,” James explains, obviously just as confused as Morgan about the whole thing.

Suddenly, Emory’s voice calls from the neighboring room interrupting their concentrated thoughts. “Hey, Morgan?”

His voice is distant, but not distant enough for Morgan’s comfort. “Shit! I hope he didn’t hear anything! Why’s he still here?!” She whispers, motioning for Wahya and James to stay. “I’ll be right back.”

Meeting him in the next room, Morgan forces a smile, having thought the intern would have been gone for a while now. “What’s up? I thought you were heading to lunch?!”

“Yeah, I am now. I just had to finish what I was working on. But I’m done now.”

She nods, waiting for him to continue.

“Well, uh... I just wanted to check on you to make sure everything was okay. I mean... I don’t mean to pry, but... you just seem a bit uptight, and I thought there might be something I could do to help.”

Morgan isn’t expecting this and simply looks at him a little wide-eyed, praying he doesn’t ask questions about Wahya or what they’re doing now, before he continues. “I know we don’t know each other really outside of the lab, but if you ever need to talk or... or anything.” He clears his throat nervously. “Well, you have my number. You can call anytime.”

Morgan is utterly confused by this strange and very untimely exchange, finally replying, “Well, that’s really sweet of you, Emory! But I’m just fine. Thank you, though! I’ll see you Thursday, okay?”

Emory nods his head in an ‘I get it’ sort of way and turns to leave the lab. “See ya Thursday,” he calls over his shoulder.

Morgan lets out a breath as she waits to hear the door to the lab close behind him this time before heading back to the others. Wahya is emulating the cloud with his hands for James and she notes that the archaeology poster has been taken down. They both look up when she enters the room, Wahya with a look of relief, and James with a knowing half-smirk.

“Samantha never told me that Emory there has it bad for you,” her mentor’s husband teases.

“What?!” A little taken aback, she adds, ”Nooo... He’s just like that.”

She goes over to look at the backside of the poster, suddenly aware that Emory had been trying to come on to her and she had completely missed his hints, what with her preoccupation with the situation at hand. “Had he thrown hints out like that in the past and I never noticed either?!”

Feigning continued ignorance, she continues, “Anyways, he’s gone now, so we can get to work! Have you guys found anything?”

James shakes his head. “No, there’s nothing that doesn’t look normal. Tell me what happened after the wall closed.”

Just as Morgan begins to tell about her first encounter with Wahya, the brave’s eyes go wide as he pats down his front, a frantic look etched on his face as he checks the pockets of the shorts he’s now wearing.

“What is it, Wahya?” Morgan asks worriedly.

He brings his attention to her, trying unsuccessfully to explain himself while he clutches at the front of his shirt, trying to make them see. Finally, he points to the floor, then at Morgan’s glasses she’s still wearing on top of her head. He pretends to put an invisible pair on top of his own head like she had before, acting out her actions earlier, his eyes begging for them to understand his message.

“My glasses?” Morgan takes the pair off her head, holding them out for him. Wahya purses his lips in frustration, shaking his head, then points again to the floor. As if playing a game of charades, he stoops to pretend to pick something up, rising again to face the other two and forming an oblong circle with his hands in front of his chest for them to see.

“Oh! The gorget!” Morgan cries out.

“The what?” James asks perplexed, Wahya’s display making no sense to him.

“The gorget! Oh no! Where is it?!”

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