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Beneath The Surface

Part 2

A choking cloud of dust filled the air and the ground rumbled with the vibration of heavy machinery. Roger stood with Colonel Dan Dastun, watching from a reasonably safe distance. "So, what do you expect to uncover?" he shouted over the roar of the earthmovers.

"Were not sure," Dastun replied. He gestured to Roger to follow. The two men went into a nearby building, apparently the operations center of the excavation, where the noise level was much more bearable. After a quick glance around to make sure no one was within earshot or paying any attention, Dastun handed over a packet of photographs. "There was a collapse of part of this roadway a few weeks ago, and there were artifacts found."

Roger shuffled through several close-ups and then found a shot from a wider angle. His eyes widened. That looked like--yes, it looked like a shattered version of one of Big Os arms.

"Thought youd want to see it," the Colonel said with satisfaction. "We dont know if it was just random pieces of wreckage or the collapse uncovered something more interesting."

"How many people know about this?" Roger asked.

"You, me, and the couple of staff people running the project. And quite frankly, Id like to keep it that way." Dastun answered. "As far as the folks that live around here and the machinery operators know, were clearing out part of an old collapsed tunnel in order to repair the road, and the archeologists are here like they always are on this sort of project--just in case we find something interesting."

Roger nodded. "Id like to run this by Norman and maybe even Dorothy."

The other man shrugged. "If Rosewater starts sniffing around, its on your head."

"I think they can be trusted," Roger replied dryly.

"So be it," Dastun grunted. "Rather than chasing around town to find you, Ive put you on the payroll as a consultant. So long as you show up every day for a few hours, I can justify paying you for your time."

Roger raised an eyebrow. "I see. At the usual generous rate?"

"Paradigm Corporation were not," Dastun snorted. "Give it a break, Mr. Negotiator. Its only a few hours, that gives you plenty of time for other business."

"True enough." Roger held up the packet of photos. "Can I hold on to these for a few days, or do you need them back right away?"

"Id just as soon you keep them unless I ask you for them," Dastun told him. "Id rather not have them lying around and its a little too soon to lose them in a filing cabinet."

"All right." They walked back towards the dig. "Looks like theyre wrapping up for the day. Tomorrow then?"

"Tomorrow," Dastun agreed.

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

Roger didnt say much about his new employment for the next few days other than that he was keeping an eye on a repair dig just in case anything came up from the deep underground. "Its boring just standing around," hed shrugged, "but its interesting to see the way tunnel is built over tunnel in the area that collapsed."

It was beyond Dorothy how he managed to get his clothes so dirty in just a few short hours. Sure, digging anywhere in Paradigm City usually meant a lot of dust and debris, but one would think that, genius of negotiation that he was, he would have the sense to wear protective clothing rather than climb around in a filthy pit in a black suit! It seemed she was spending hours on the roof beating clouds of dust out of his trousers and jackets with the lint brush so that they could be properly cleaned. The shoes were the worst, though. The slightest bit of moisture would turn the clinging dirt into a cement that was almost impossible to separate from the leather without damaging it.

When Roger wasnt at the dig, he was on his balcony, brooding over Angel, no doubt, and there was no satisfaction to be had in baiting him. He would smile at her absently, her sarcasm seemingly passing him by. Even her morning piano playing failed to annoy him, no matter how loudly she played or how obnoxious her selections. He even ignored the fact that she was playing the blues he had long ago forbidden.

"Norman, Im going out for a walk," Dorothy announced after yet another long, silent dinner spent watching Roger toy with his food. "Do you need me to bring anything back from the store?"

"Very good, Miss Dorothy. Yes, we could use some more potatoes and a bag of rice if you would be so kind," Norman answered. "There is no hurry, though. Its a fine evening, enjoy your walk" He watched from the window as the slim figure left the house, basket over her arm. When she was out of safely out of sight, he sighed heavily. It was high time that he and Master Roger had a little chat.

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