Long Train Ride Home

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Post apocalyptic archaeologists search for metal to keep up their supply

Submitted: January 08, 2015

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Submitted: January 08, 2015

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Year 3618

The archaeologists dug through the clay and hard packed rubble, hard work in the the middle of the day in what was once known as Sydney, Australia, but was now nothing more than a desert. 

In 2055 war had broken out and the world had burned; society had crumbled and gone back to the stone age, those with money had been forced to live in bio-domes while war/famine and sickness raged outside in the devastation.  It had taken nearly 900 years for most of the world’s surface to regenerate and become mildly habitable.  When the privileged had re-emerged they had purged the remaining savages and reclaimed the land.

Thargon’s trowel hit something solid.He looked around to make sure no animals were lurking nearby, although they were guarded by an army squadron with particle ray guns.  Forced into swift technological advancement due to their confinement to the domes the greatest minds had conceived the means to produce large crops in tiny containments, make clothes from a form of design shifting liquid and achieved the means to leave the planet if their spheres were overrun.  The destruction also meant that those small pockets of creatures that had survived the aftermath had evolved and adapted.  Sydney was now home to roaming packs of carnivorous armour plated marsupials and poison spitting bugs.  Any domestic animal population that had managed to stay alive had promptly been eaten.

Not that Thargon worried about being bitten by a giant mosquito or kicked by a wallaby but there were still pockets of Neanderthals roaming around.  Thargon himself was a bull of a man with skin the colour of peat from years in the sun and deep brown eyes that looked bovine but hid an IQ of 162. 

He tapped the handle of his trowel down on the dirt and heard the hollow thud.  ‘I’ve found something.’

His team stopped working their various sections, mainly they were looking for precious metals to use for circuity and making spare parts for their domes electron generators.  They all stretched for a while to ease their backs.

‘What you got?’ Lucy, his second-in-command on this particular dig ambled across and peered in his hole.

Thargon used a small chisel and mallet to loosen the last layer of dirt from an area six inches wide then brushed it away.  Silver gleamed dully underneath.  Lucy squatted down for a closer look.

‘Train carriage by the looks of it,’ she muttered.

Thargon rapped a knuckle on the metal.  ‘Yep.  Could be some salvage.’

‘There’d only be small amounts of unadulterated metal,’ she grimaced.  ‘Watches and jewellery.’

‘Small amounts are better than nothing Luce.’

‘I guess.’  She circled a finger in the air at the rest of the crew.  ‘Spread out, dig down and find us a window or door.’

They broke out the heavy duty diggers, the material of the carriage was no use them due the poor quality of the base materials employed.  A hot and sweaty three and a half hours later one of the junior archaeological assistants got far enough down to find a window which was still surprisingly intact.  Glass not being a rare commodity due to an overabundance of sand it was swiftly smashed. 

Dry, dust filled air tainted with decay percolated from the hole and after attaching a fresh air fan to aid circulation they fell back to their shade cloth to rehydrate and retool. 

***

April 10, 2055

The newspaper headlines screamed “Priceless Incan Gold Robbery” on Page 1.It went on to read … “The Peruvian Government today condemned the Art Gallery of Sydney after the theft of several priceless artefacts from their collection.  It is believed two men of Caucasian appearance had a loud altercation while a woman brazenly cut the glass and made off with a stunning array of jewellery and golden headdress.  The woman left the premises while the guards were escorting the offenders from the scene.”  There was headshots of the two men and a slightly fuzzy photo of a dark haired woman.  “If anyone has any information contact CrimeStoppers on …….”.

Katrina boarded the 4.15 train to Newcastle.  Settling into a seat she noticed the man across the aisle was reading a paper and there were large coloured pictures of the beautiful Incan gold from the new exhibition.  She thought it looked pretty.  Tucking a rather large pair of reading glasses on her nose she fidgeted around until she was comfortable and waited for the train to get underway.

As the train began to leave the station a woman two seats in front began to scream.  ‘They’ve set off the bombs.  We’re going to die.’

‘What?’ someone further up yelled.

Other people with wi-fi connections panicked. 

‘We’re going to be nuked.’  A middle aged man with a briefcase left his seat and started forward, eager to find a way off the now moving train.  Women and children started screaming and people started running down the aisles in mass confusion.  Someone pressed the vestibule manual “stop” button. 

Brakes squealed as the train came to an abrupt unscheduled halt at Redfern station.  The guards opened the door and people poured from the train to look up at the sky.  A white contrail screamed by overhead. 

Katrina saw the missile through her window.  She marked her page and reached down for her carryall.  After retrieving the contents she went back to her book, where was she going to go in the next two minutes and it was a thoroughly enjoyable book. 

****

Thargon and Lucy led the way into the carriage, compact flashlights in their hands.  The train smelt musty but everything was surprisingly intact. 

Something crumpled under Thargon’s booted foot and he realised it was paper.  Glancing down he saw the faded headlines “Priceless Incan Gold Robbery”, dozens more papers littered the hallway and most of the seats.  He shook his head in disgust at the waste of natural resources, they’d been using visual implant chips for more than 800 years.

‘We’ll split into two teams.  We may be able to get through to the other carriages if the connectors are still intact.  Collect anything remotely usable and meet back here,’ he paused and looked around and spotted a number.  ‘Carriage 8614.  Meet back here on the hour.’

The train was sparsely populated and they had to push through mounds of debris in every vestibule costing them dearly in precious search time.  They had to be back in the flyer before full dark because creatures even more dangerous than Neanderthals came hunting with the night.

He and Lucy were searching the very last carriage at the back of the train when they came across her.  There was not much left beside a skeleton with wisps of long dark hair dressed in ragged clothes that had slipped off her frame.  They played their flashlights over the grisly find.  She was still sitting almost primly in her chair, a rat eaten bag under her feet and a book clutched open in bony fingers, flaked parchments of skin hung around her lips as if she was smiling. 

Her arms were adorned with bracelets of gold, others of antique hand rolled beads and thread had fallen apart and littered the carpet.  On her head was a tarnished headdress.


© Copyright 2020 Megan Fox. All rights reserved.

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