They are Many, We are Few (Beta Stage)

Blurb for this Novel

When melting of the permafrost reveals and ancient city scientists rush to be the first to discover its secrets.
As these scientists start to get sick it becomes clear that this buried city was hiding more than just the secrets of the past.

Chapter 1 – The Discovery 

Chris Preston- Wednesday 21th August 2024

Today is the day that I will be arriving at the site. I have been looking forward to this day ever since I first found out about this site a few weeks ago. India Jones has given people a distorted idea of what it is to be a professor of archaeology. They think it is all adventure and action but in reality it is mostly books with the odd muddy field looking for broken bones or pottery thrown in for variation. Most of us go through our whole career in this way so when I got the chance to study this newly discovered site I jumped at the chance. 

The site itself is a bit of a mystery. The only thing that we currently know is that there are signs of an established settlement and nearby there are signs of some kind of mass grave. My job will be to understand what happened here as well as discovering what kind of settlement and culture this was. The site is in a remote location in Greenland, an area which has a layer of permafrost under the surface all year round. This permafrost combined with the remote location hid the signs of the settlement. When the permafrost started to melt as a result of climate change, the scientists came to study these changes and revealed the settlement underneath. 

There will be at least five different groups of scientists on the site while I am here. I am part of the archaeology team (which is made up of three archaeologists from my university and twelve others from other universities). There are also anthropologists, biologists and two different groups of scientists studying climate change (who are interested in what effect the permafrost melting will have on climate change). We will be staying in a small village nearby which usually only has about a thousand residents. 

Nothing quite prepares you for the cold that you feel in a place like this. We had taken a plane to the airport, from there we had traveled by car to the village where we would be staying. The cold hit me the second I got out of the car, making my eyes sting and my skin burn. Having lived in California all my life I really wasn’t used to this kind of cold weather. I grabbed my bags and walked into the hotel in front of me, my colleagues followed closely behind looking equally uncomfortable. 

The hotel wasn’t exactly luxurious but it was warm and had a nice cosy feel. It was a small place, not much bigger than a large house, the front door opened up to a small reception area. To one side of the door there was a large dining area and to the other side was a bar with a large open fireplace. Everything was decorated in a deep cosy burgundy colour. 

I had a few hours before I needed to be anywhere so I checked in and went to the room which would be my home for the next few weeks. The upstairs rooms were much smaller and simpler than the downstairs decor implied, it was clear that most of the revenue this place received was from that side of this business rather than the hotel side. The only furniture in the room was a small single pine bed against one wall and a pine table and chair in one corner. I spent a few minutes unpacking and making the room feel more homely before heading back down to reception to wait for my colleagues. 

When I got into the bar area downstairs Steven and Graham were already sitting in one of the booths with three coffees in front of them. Graham pushed one of the coffees towards me. I took a sip, the coffee was cheap and strong but it was made bearable by the copious amounts of sugar and milk that had been added. It wasn’t great but it was exactly what I needed to warm me up after the cold outside.

“Is your room as depressing as mine?” I asked. Chris nodded.

“It is basically a box with a bed but at least they have wifi.” Graham said. 

I had always admired his ability to put a positive spin on everything. Chris and I were both quite cynical in nature and I was sure that after a few years this would have rubbed off on Graham. That his enthusiasm was a side effect of youth but we had been worthing together for four years now and he was still showing no signs of changing his ways. We sat together in silence while we finished our coffees. 

“We should probably start heading over to this debriefing then.” Chris said. His voice told me that he was about as excited about going back into the cold as I was. 

We left the hotel and set off down the street towards the hall where we were all being debriefed. Steven and Graham were as excited about this discovery as I was, we had been talking about nothing else all the way here but now everyone was silent. There was a bit of a pre-Christmas feel around the town. Everyone was excited about getting on site and starting their research but right now nobody really knew what to do with themselves. 

It was pretty surreal to see so many scientists in one place outside of a convention. They were wandering up and down in small groups, most of us were dressed in a way that was wholly inadequate to keep out the cold. With the exception of the environmental scientists, they were the ones dressed in many thick layers and the only ones of us who weren’t in the early stages of hypothermia. 

As the time approached 3pm the streets started emptying as everyone made their way towards the hall. We followed the flow of people into the hall and made our way to the corner of the room where the other archaeologists were already seated. I have worked with some of them in the past but not to the same extent we would be on this project. I whispered to them in greeting as I sat down before turning my attention to the front of the room. There was a scientist that I recognised standing there. Her name was Anna Spruce and she was one of the most influential scientists in the field of climate change. She had a natural air of authority and it looked as though she was going to be in charge of the site.

“I know you are all eager to get going and the last thing you want to do is listen to me blabber on for hours, so lets make this brief. There are only so many trips that we can make each day and so many people that the transport can carry so the support team has prepared a schedule for who will be on site when. This will be in your inbox by the time you get back to your hotels. 

It is up to you and your teams to make sure that you make the most of your time on site but I would strongly suggest that you collaborate as much as possible within your research areas and there will be plenty of downtime to enable this.” Anna said. 

She paused for a brief moment looking around the room. I guess that she was waiting to see if we had any questions but she certainly didn’t seem to be encouraging us to ask them. Her face was stern, there wasn’t any sign of smile lines. At that moment I felt sorry for her students, even the thought of speaking to her made me nervous. 

“Ok, now I will take you through a few things you need to be aware of while you are working on the site.” She said.

She started going over some of the basic instructions and site information that we had already had to read and sign over and over again before we were allowed to be part of this project. It was all the standard boring health and safety stuff information that was 90% common sense, 10% ridiculous.  

I tried to listen but I quickly found my attention wandering. I started to look around the room, it was strange how much like school it was with all the different specialisms keeping exclusively to their own specific groups. I was focusing so hard on the other scientists that it wasn’t until Graham tapped me on the shoulder that I realised Anna had finished talking. 

“Come on, let’s get a beer.” He said. 

His long hair and beard usually made him look like a hipster but out here and wrapped in a huge coat he just looked well adapted to the cold weather. I was jealous of that, I was anything but adapted to this climate. Being small and wiry meant that I always felt cold, even in the summer. Maybe when I get back home I can get Graham to take me with him to the gym like he is always suggesting. 

“Sure, I didn’t miss anything important did I?” I asked. 

“Not really but don’t tell anyone I said that.” He said laughing as I followed him back out into the cold. 

We spent the rest of the evening in one of the local bars with the rest of the archaeologists. We spent some time planning our time and how we could work together but before long we started talking about more trivial matters and drinking far more than we probably should. I will probably wake up with a hangover in the morning but right now I am having a great time and I don’t even feel the cold anymore.

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