The Artifact (Book 2, Time Series)

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Chapter Forty-One: Morgan on the Defense

July 2023
Enroute to the Billings Farm
Richmond City, Virginia

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

The pair arrive at the Warner’s house in record time with Morgan beyond thankful that traffic had been light and there had been no cops the entire way. Wahya, on the other hand, seemed to savor the thrill of speeding along the highway a good twenty-five miles per hour above the speed limit.

Samantha had been waiting for them on the front porch, and quickly picks up her field bag and lunch cooler as they pull into the driveway, hollering her goodbyes to James, who’s on diaper duty inside with Melia. As she heads down to meet the car, Wahya hops out to give her the front passenger seat, so Morgan and she can talk on the way.

“Hi Wahya! Good to see you!” Samantha greets him with a friendly smile as he exits the car.

“Osiyo!” Wahya smiles back and takes Samantha’s gear to put with Morgan’s bag on the backseat next to him.

As though on pins and needles, Morgan pipes up as soon as Samantha closes her door, not giving Samantha a chance to say anything. “Sorry we’re late! I forgot to set the alarm and, well, it took us a little longer to get out of the house than usual!”

“I was starting to worry you forgot and went to the lab instead,” Samantha replies. Then she smiles, “You would’ve had one mad archaeologist on your hands if you left me hanging!”

Morgan laughs, feeling better about being late and much more relaxed now that they’re on their way to the site only a few minutes behind schedule. “So, it was a good thing I took yesterday off. I totally forgot I’d already planned to take the day off for Jessica and the boys, and they showed up on my doorstep first thing in the morning!”

“Oh!? How is Jess? I haven’t seen her on Facebook much lately,” Samantha asks with sincere interest.

“Oh, you know her, she’s got a lot going on, but she’s good.” Morgan fills her in on Curtis’ surgery, and eventually makes her way back to talking about Andy’s stay.

To this Samantha suddenly queries her younger friend, “How’d all that go with Wahya there? You could’ve called and we would have helped you, maybe brought Wahya over to our house or something!”

Morgan laughs, “No, it all worked out perfectly!” Smiling excitedly, she asks Wahya to hand her the notepad. “So, Wahya and I - or I should say Andy and Wahya - made a huge breakthrough in communication yesterday! And you won’t believe what all I found out!”

Samantha opens the notepad while Morgan begins explaining how Wahya and Andy had used drawings to talk to one another while she was busy. Samantha flips through the pages of stick-figure art, thoroughly examining each page as she listens to Morgan’s translation of the sketches, starting with the ones Andy and Wahya had done together and ending with the last one from last night, featuring the time warp on top of the cliff.

“Wow!” Samantha remarks at the end of Morgan’s explanation. “This is great! Well, I mean it isn’t all exactly great - some of it’s very terrible, actually,” Samantha corrects herself, giving Wahya a small, apologetic frown. “But James will be thrilled about this! I don’t know why neither of us thought about drawing pictures. I guess it was all a little overwhelming that night.”

She slowly flips the pages back, studying the drawings more carefully for a second time. “God, my mind is so blown right now. Let me get this right, you’re saying that Wahya was given this exact gorget when he was a kid, but when he jumped off the cliff at the Billings Farm a couple thousand years ago, he lost it right before he somehow popped into the lab on Monday morning?”

Morgan nods, “Uh-huh. And it fell to the ground in his time period...”

“Putting it in the ground exactly where Ned found it last week!” Samantha finishes.

“Exactly!” Morgan agrees.

They both pause, slightly speechless, then Samantha shakes her head, “You know, what I can’t get over is the fact that he actually jumped off that cliff! Damn, Wahya!” She turns to him with a laugh, “You’re either extremely crazy or extremely brave!”

Wahya obviously doesn’t understand what she’s saying, so Morgan chimes in giving him a broad smile in the rear view mirror, “I think he’s incredibly brave. I mean you jump off a cliff because you have these guys who want to kill you chasing you, then you somehow end up in the 21st century! I’m just glad you didn’t go ballistic on me when you arrived!”

Samantha laughs, “No doubt!” She better flattens the crumpled page with the drawn time warp and asks more solemnly, “So, he actually saw this storm thing while we were up there on Tuesday?”

Morgan nods, “Yeah, I’m pretty sure he did. It’s kinda scary, huh?”

Samantha agrees, “It is, considering what else might be going on right in front of us and we don’t even know it! It’s like another dimension or something.” She takes a breath, then seriously asks, “And you’re convinced the gorget is actually doing something to stop the advancement of the time warp - if that’s what it is? Like, say grounds him to this time period, so he doesn’t get sucked in again?”

“Yep,” Morgan nods.

Reexamining the page, Samantha pauses, then turns in her seat again to look back at Wahya, who’s quietly listening to the women and watching over Samantha’s shoulder for her reactions to his drawing from the middle of the back seat.

“Wahya, do you have it with you? The gorget?!”

Wahya catches the familiar word, simultaneously reading Samantha’s fingers forming the oval shape of the gorget, and pulls the stone up from under his shirt, holding it out on the cord for her to see.

“Oh yeah,” Morgan interjects. “I found some parachute cord so he could wear it instead of keeping it in his pocket. Figured that would be easier. He hasn’t taken it off since.”

“Never?” Samantha asks surprised. “I mean, it’s kinda cumbersome-looking. I wouldn’t want to sleep with it or necessarily wear it in the shower.”

“I don’t know about the shower, but he definitely sleeps with it,” Morgan volunteers automatically, definitively remembering him having it on during and after their passion all night. She quickly catches herself, “Well, er, he was wearing it when I got him out of bed this morning anyways. When I woke him up.”

She hopes Samantha doesn’t remember that she only has one bed, and decides to shut up while she’s ahead, though her face is a very bright red.

“Have you asked him if he experienced anything like this before he ended up in our time?” Samantha moves the conversation along, not seeming to notice Morgan’s embarrassed discomfort, much to her relief.

“No,” Morgan shakes her head. “I hadn’t thought about that. I just assumed this was the first time.”

Samantha tries her hand at drawing her question on the notepad and Wahya responds with an easy, “Tla. No.”

“I hate to play the Devil’s advocate, but if this has only happened twice since he’s been here and never before, how do you really know the gorget isn’t just a coincidental factor. The scientist in me says we can’t just go off of two experiences and call it fact.”

Morgan gives her a worried look, “You want him to try going without it again and see what happens?!”

Seeing Morgan’s apprehension, Samantha nods her head, a pained expression on her face, “I know we’re talking about a human being and it sounds heartless since the ‘warps’ cause him pain, but yeah, that’s sort of what I’m saying. It doesn’t have to be right now, or even today, but if you really want to know, you’re going to have to do more testing. That is unless it happens again while he’s wearing the gorget.”

Morgan sighs irritably, but nods with understanding, “Well, it should be done in a controlled setting anyways, if it’s to be done scientifically. So, definitely not today.”

Samantha clears her throat, and Morgan senses that her friend is going to push the issue. Instead, Samantha notes, “You seem pretty intent on ensuring the time warp doesn’t get to him. What if it’s trying to take him back to his own time? I mean, isn’t that what we’re hoping for? If you don’t...”

“But it might not be doing that!” Morgan interrupts, a hint of frantic nerves coming through. “What if it just thrusts him into another time period?! One where people don’t understand and end up hurting him?! What if it’s a horrible place?!”

Samantha’s eyes go wide, and she treads carefully, for this is apparently a touchy subject, “Hey, it’s okay, Morgan. I don’t think we need to seek out these time warps or anything, but you have to think about all the angles, regardless.” Morgan nods, feeling a little embarrassed for getting so irate, especially as Wahya stares at her questioningly from the back, obviously wondering what’s going on. “Um,” Samantha continues, “we also have to consider that if say nothing happens and he’s here for the rest of his life, that we need to get him some real help.”

“Help?” Morgan questions, trying to hide her defensiveness at the proposition that she couldn’t handle helping Wahya adjust to the 21st century.

“Yeah, help. Psychologically, he’s got a lot to figure out. He’d need to learn English and eventually get a job or something. And what about the legalities of living in the US?”

Morgan sets her jaw, watching the road, nodding her head. She was going to figure that all out eventually, she just hadn’t had time to yet. Samantha continues, “And really, what if these stomach pains don’t have anything to do with a time warp and he’s got appendicitis or something. He needs to see a doctor one way or another.”

“Right, I know,” Morgan acknowledges. “I’ll start looking into all this kind of stuff this weekend.”

She can feel Samantha watching her, and she tries to calm down inside, checking the rear view mirror to see what Wahya’s doing. He isn’t paying attention anymore, probably tired of their prattling on in a language he doesn’t know, and she feels bad.

“If we don’t get some resolution soon, Morgan, we should probably contact the Cherokee. There will be someone who speaks his language, and they can help him acclimate culturally better than we can.”

“I know,” Morgan replies simply. “I’ll look up some people to call, okay?”

Changing the subject, Samantha turns her attention to the other drawings, asking several questions of Wahya, ending with the people who chased him over the cliff. She’s able to determine that they were from a different tribe, a people Wahya refers to as the Haudenosaunee. Having never heard of such a tribe, the women figure that it’s either a tribe that no long exists today, or that Wahya is using a name that had since been changed by the Europeans when they began colonizing the continent - much like how Tsalagi was changed to Cherokee.

By the time they arrive at the Billings Farm, Morgan and Samantha have pieced together quite a chunk of Wahya’s story from the details Morgan had gotten yesterday and Wahya’s additions just now. From the illness that overtook his village, taking his mother’s life and more, forcing the remaining villagers to try to find another Tsalagi village, to their eventual trespassing on the Haudenosaunee’s land in pursuit of food, ultimately leading to his jumping from the cliff. Both women are struck by Wahya’s tale as it emerges more clearly from the pages, only confirming how resilient the living, breathing man sitting behind them is.

}}}-----> * <-----{{{

IROQUOIS WORDS TO KNOW:
People of the Longhouse = Haudenosaunee
*This is the original, native name for the tribe who is now referred to as the Iroquois. The name ”Iroquois" is a French variant on a term for “snake” given these people by the Hurons. As Wahya lived prior to a European presence in the Americas, he would have referred to the Iroquois by their original name.

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