The Artifact (Book 2, Time Trilogy)

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Chapter Forty-Five: Fight! Fight! Fight!

July 2023
Richmond City University
Richmond City, Virginia

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

By the time Morgan and Wahya reach the University staff parking lot the following morning, it’s already nine o’clock. Getting up this morning proved to be difficult for multiple reasons, all of which involved a little bit of fun and a whole lot of pleasure. And though they were late for work, Morgan had not a care in the world.

Samantha hadn’t brought the key to the supply shed with her to the site yesterday, so had promised to send it in with James today. But, as his first class should have already begun, Morgan decides to leave the field gear in the car until they can get with him at lunch. So, Wahya helps her carry the artifacts they’d collected yesterday, along with the extra lab supplies, upstairs to the lab. To their surprise, giggling coos can be heard through the door of the archaeology suite.

“What the...,” Morgan murmurs, not expecting anyone to be there, and kind of hoping to have the lab all to themselves today. Entering the unlocked lab, she’s surprised to find Samantha in her office, playing with Melia, whose elated giggles permeate the air. Morgan clears her throat, then teases in a stern voice, “Dr. Warner... Training her for a career in archaeology a little early, don’t you think?!”

Samantha looks up and grins. “Girl, I’ve been training her from the womb! James and I are placing bets on which one of our fields she’ll go into.”

“Poor James doesn’t have a chance,” Morgan shakes her head with a smile. “She’ll be an archaeologist since you’ve already got a head start. Just don’t remind him that archaeology is a subfield of anthropology.” Then, leaning over the baby, she coos, “Hi sweetie! Any chance to see pretty Melia is good with me!” She gives the baby a little wave and Melia gurgles and smiles toothlessly at Morgan, then at Wahya who’s standing in the doorway with his arms full of supplies.

“So, what are you doing here?” Morgan asks Samantha with interest. “I didn’t expect you to come in today.”

Samantha sits in her desk chair - the sleep-rings under her eyes apparent, though she carries an exuberant glow about her regardless. Morgan determines that going to the field and taking care of the new baby have been both stressful and fulfilling at the same time for her mentor.

“Yeah, well I couldn’t help myself - I had to take a peek at the finds from yesterday and figured I should do up the report now anyways, while it’s all fresh in my mind. And since I don’t have the report templates on my computer at home, I talked James into bringing us in with him.”

Morgan nods. “That’s good.” Holding up the bag with all the artifacts they’d collected yesterday, she continues, “Well, we should get started on washing these up then, so you have something to look at. Oh, did you bring the key to the shed? I still have all that gear in my car.”

Samantha fishes the key from her purse, handing it over, at which Morgan ushers Wahya out of the office, following just behind the tall brave.

“Holler if you guys need help and I’ll send Melia out,” Samantha teases, before glancing at the baby smiling in the carrier on her desk. “Isn’t that right, baby?! You’re gonna be Mommy’s pretty archaeologist when you grow up, huh?!”

Wahya may not understand what she’s telling the baby, but Morgan sees him smile at the tender interaction, and she laughs, pulling him back out of the office as she shakes her head. “Come on, Wahya. We’d better get to work before Samantha sends Melia out to help us for real!”

After dropping off the artifacts in the wash area, the two head back down to the car to offload the gear, returning to the lab. Morgan fills a small tub with water from the lab sink, setting a beat-up plastic colander inside the tub. Grabbing a couple toothbrushes from a large cup next to the sink, she carries it all over to the long table, then motions for Wahya to watch, as she talks through the process.

“This is where you’ll wash. I’ll make out tags for each bag, so we have all the information recorded with the artifacts. You’ll wash one bag at a time, making sure you don’t mix artifacts from different bags. Just brush the artifacts lightly in the water, then put them in these boxes to dry.”

Wahya holds up the old, dirt-stained toothbrush, and looks at her dubiously, “Toothbrush? Tla [No] okay.”

Morgan giggles, as Wahya is far from the first person to be surprised to find out that most archaeology labs use regular, old toothbrushes to wash artifacts. But recalling their recent experience with modern toothbrushes makes his reaction even funnier.

“No, we’re brushing the artifacts, not our teeth, goofball!” She knows Wahya understands her meaning, but he teases anyways, holding the dirt-encrusted brush closer to his own face, pretending that he’s going to brush his teeth.

Morgan’s eyes go wide with shocked amusement and she pulls his arm away from his face as he tugs against her in play. “Don’t you dare! You won’t be getting any kisses from me if you put that thing in your mouth!”

Suddenly, a distinctive throat-clearing comes from the door and the two stop mid-motion to see who’s walked in, not wanting to be caught flirting.

“Emory!” Morgan exclaims, a bit embarrassed and surprised.

The blonde intern smiles insincerely. “Don’t mind me - I’m just the intern. I figured you might be here today - if you were really doing fieldwork yesterday, so thought I’d drop by to see. And sure enough, I saw your car downstairs. But I didn’t really expect Dr. Warner to be in - with her baby, nonetheless! Must be some project you all are working on.”

Morgan knows him well enough to realize that he’s putting on a show of sarcastic dejection, so she interrupts. She has no intention of filling him in on much, just enough to get him off her back.

“Okay, I guess it could come off like I’ve been evasive, but I just have a lot going on right now and I don’t know whether I’m coming or going. And I’m not used to you being in so much, so haven’t thought about including you like I should.”

She tries to remain calm, though her heart pounds with anxiety at feeling like she’s been caught in a lie. She hadn’t outright lied to him, she thinks to herself, but if she tells Emory the complete truth now, she fears the worse. He would tell others and Wahya would be thrust into the world and out of her protection, and that’s the last thing she wants.

Wahya’s body tenses next to her, and Morgan realizes that his reaction is feeding off of her own emotions, actions, and tone. She tells herself to relax, so Wahya won’t feel like she’s being threatened by Emory. After all, she doesn’t really know how far he would go to defend her - his way of life being so much more life-and-death than hers. Not to mention, the fact that he and Emory already have bad vibes between one another, and that could be a recipe for disaster.

Breaking the moment, Samantha’s voice comes from down the hall, and she soon appears, holding the sleepy-looking baby. “I thought I heard someone else down here. How’s it going, Emory?”

Emory’s fake smile is still plastered on his face as he says coolly, “Dr. Warner, good to see you! And you brought the baby! I would’ve said ‘hi’ when I came in, but you were in the middle of changing a diaper, and I didn’t want to interrupt that pleasant duty.”

“No, that’s not fun at all!” Samantha laughs in return, not sure what’s going on, but sensing something’s off. “We’re going to potty train as soon as possible!” Trying to lighten the mood without stating the obvious, she asks, more than states, “I didn’t realize you started working Fridays, Emory?”

“Well, what with Morgan being out of the lab a lot this week, I figured someone should be here.” Turning to Morgan, he adds, “Speaking of, Morgan was just about to tell me what exciting find has taken her out of the office and you off of maternity leave so soon.”

Morgan’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise, not expecting to be put on the spot, “Oh!?” Regaining her composure quickly, she repeats the spiel Samantha had prompted after Emory’s phone call yesterday. “It’s just that gorget Professor Clark left for me. We went out to see where the property owner found it, then did some preliminary testing to see if it was a random find or if something had been going on there.”

Samantha interjects, “When Morgan asked me about it, I jumped on the opportunity to get back to some kind of work. But I’m definitely feeling the effects today!”

Emory nods, but isn’t satisfied. “So where is this gorget now? When Dr. Clark called, I looked everywhere for it, but couldn’t find it.”

Standard lab procedure dictated that once artifacts were checked into the lab, they must not leave unless they’re signed out or being transferred to the owner, and Morgan knows how weird it’s going to sound if she admits that Wahya is wearing it. So, she pauses. “Uh, I took it to Professor Johnston in the Science Department to see what kind of stone it is. Since I wasn’t familiar with it, you know.”

She feels like she’s dug herself deeper into a mess as Emory sighs, “You know, I’m just going to be upfront, seeing that neither of you are going to be honest with me. I’m willing to bet that your boyfriend here has it in his pocket or something.”

Morgan feels her chest tighten and wonders how he could know - even if the gorget was around Wahya’s neck, not in his pocket as Emory suggested.

“Here’s the deal,” Emory continues. “I heard most everything you guys were talking about when you brought the other Dr. Warner up here to poke around the artifact storage room Monday.”

Now Morgan’s breath stops, and she senses Wahya tensing again in response to her body language.

Emory points his chin towards the larger man. “He’s not some friend visiting from another country. Something happened in the artifact room, and the gorget and him are involved. Something supernatural or extraterrestrial, I don’t know.”

Speechless, Morgan looks panicked at Samantha, who takes up for her, “Alright, hold on. There’s no need to start flinging wild claims around...”

Emory rounds on her from where he stands. “Wild claims! You’ve got some gall! You all can keep pretending that nothing’s going on, but I know what I heard!” His voice is elevated and face heated as he clenches his fists at his sides, and Wahya steps forward, ready to protect both Samantha and Melia if need be.

Not believing that Emory would actually hurt them, Morgan puts her hand on Wahya’s arm, hoping he won’t do anything rash. But he doesn’t step back. Samantha’s own stance tells him otherwise, as her maternal instincts kick in and she holds Melia a little closer - her eyes narrowing at the tone and stance of the intern.

Emory notices Wahya’s advancement and spits vehemently, “You can back off, buddy! Like I would hurt either of them. Now, you on the other hand, I’d like to...”

Wahya takes Emory’s menacing tone and expression as a threat, and the brave automatically crouches slightly, ready to fight.

“Stop! Emory, back off! Morgan yells. “You don’t know what he’s capable of, and he doesn’t know what you’re saying!”

But Emory doesn’t back down, keeping his eyes fiercely trained on the warrior, who holds his gaze in equal fury. Samantha backs away, clutching to Melia, urging Emory to back off as well. “Come on, we can be civilized about this. Let it go, Emory!”

But it’s too late, as Emory throws up his fists and beckons to Wahya for a fight. Wahya breaks free from Morgan’s hold on his arm and crashes his massive body into the smaller man, pushing him up against the wall, while Emory swings and kicks at his assailant to no avail. Samantha dashes to the other side of the room, and yells to Morgan, “Get away from them, or you’ll get hurt!”

As if in answer to both women’s silent prayers, a figure enters the room at just that moment, quickly intervening in an attempt to pull the two men apart. Wahya pulls his arm back, ready to slam his fist into Emory’s stomach, after Emory had effectively kicked him in the knee, but stops when he realizes who has entered their fighting bubble.

“James!” Samantha ushers in panicked relief.

Morgan watches on in shock as James finally manages to pull the two away from one another, standing his ground in the middle. The young professor, who equals Wahya in height, is slightly winded, though not nearly as much as Emory and Wahya, who glare at each other with hate - neither one having had time to get in a really good blow to the other.

“Dammit anyway! What the hell is going on here?!” James exclaims with a scowl and a loud, low rumble. “Are you girls okay?”

Both Samantha and Morgan nod, and James looks at Emory, sure the cocky blonde started this. “I’m letting go of you both now, but I’m warning you!”

Taking his hands off the men’s chests, James straightens, frowning at the prospect of not only a fight, but one with his wife, baby, and Morgan nearby. Wahya stands back, obviously respecting James’ role in breaking up the fight, but still ready to resume his position should Emory start something again. Emory, on the other hand, looks as though he’s ready to go at it again.

Ignoring everyone else, James addresses his wife directly, “Sammie, what happened?”

“Uh, Emory is a bit upset because... Because he thinks something is going on without his knowledge, and Wahya didn’t like his attitude. And they just started fighting.”

“Oh, come on!” Emory pleads sarcastically. “I don’t think something’s going on, I know there is. Something big and not of this natural world. I overheard you guys talking on Monday. And if I don’t get answers soon, I’ll just keep digging.”

James looks at Morgan, knowing how she feels about telling Emory about the time warp, sure that that’s the topic at hand. “Morgan...?”

She stutters a bit before James interrupts, “I think it’s best to go ahead and tell him, Morgan. He already knows part of the truth anyways. And it’s better coming from us.”

“And it’s not like he isn’t part of this office,” Samantha intercedes.

Morgan sighs in resignation as Emory relaxes his glare and stance slightly, looking a little smug. “Fine,” she answers with indignation. Then looking at Emory, she hisses, “The reason I didn’t want you involved is because you don’t know when to keep your mouth shut. If you so much as hint to anyone outside of the people in this room, so help me God...”

“Jeez, Morgan! Tell me how you really feel!” He glares back at her, then agrees with a tone of sarcasm, “Alright, I swear I won’t tell a soul. But I want to know the whole truth.”

The next few minutes are spent filling Emory in on everything the three know about the time warp, gorget, and Wahya. Soon, Emory’s angry exterior is replaced by a bewildered and amazed expression. When they’re finished, he lets out a long whistle, “Well, that’s amazing! So, what’s next?” Addressing Morgan, he continues, “I mean if he’s here for good, he can’t just live off of you. He’ll eventually need to learn English and get a job, and even then, he doesn’t have a birth certificate, social security number, or any form of identification.”

“There’s ways to go about getting that stuff, and there’s no rush,” Morgan replies quickly and matter-of-factly, having already considered all this.

“And if he has the opportunity to go back to his own time, does he want to go?” Emory asks, ignoring her tone.

Everyone looks at Morgan, for she would be the one who should have gotten that information from him by now. She simply shrugs her shoulders. “I don’t know - I mean he was about to be murdered right before popping through time, so maybe he’s just happy to be alive without the threat of people trying to kill him.”

James sighs, interrupting, “Not to be a bummer on this conversation, but I have to get back to class.” He points a finger at the intern authoritatively. “Emory, no more picking fights.” He goes over to Samantha, and hands her the keys to his car as he kisses her on the forehead. “I want you and Melia to go home. Morgan and Wahya can bring me home after school.”

“Yeah, I think that’s a good idea,” Samantha agrees softly. “I’ll just forward the report templates to the home computer and gather some of my references, then get out of here.” Turning to Morgan, she asks, “You’ll be alright taking James home, Morgan? You don’t mind being here?”

Morgan nods. “Yeah, I’m good and I’ll get James home for you.”

Samantha stifles an irritable yawn and looks down in her arms at her almost-sleeping baby, obviously surprised that all the commotion hadn’t put her in a fit. She walks out of the room with Melia as James gives the remaining trio his best stern-professor look. “You guys are adults, and I expect you to behave like adults. We’re all on the same team, okay?!”

Morgan and Emory nod as James turns towards the door, leaving an awkward silence in his wake. Nervously, Morgan begins by asking Emory, “Are you staying, then?”

“Yeah,” he nods more lightheartedly than before, seeming to have forgotten his anger from a moment ago. “You have artifacts for me to wash, and it’s not every day a time traveler appears!” He turns to Wahya, who’s been silent the entire time, watching the interactions of the others intently. Giving him his most friendly smile, Emory holdings out his hand for a handshake, looking Wahya in the eye. “Why don’t we start over? I’m sorry for everything before. Truce?!”

Wahya looks to Morgan, unsure of Emory’s intentions, and she reluctantly gives him a nod using words she knows he understands, “It’s okay. Emory is sorry. Emory is okay.”

Wahya softens his stance and expression, then shakes Emory’s hand, though Morgan knows that he doesn’t completely trust Emory yet. But neither does she. And though she can’t pinpoint her feelings, she feels as if the intern’s knowing is just the first step in having Wahya torn away from her. And she can’t bear to think about that. Not now.

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