Stidmen cackled maniacally.
"For heaven's sake, man," Rutherford pleaded. "Keep it together."
Stidmen waved his hand back and forth, neither admonishment nor apology. Dapping at his eyes, his reddened face began to lose some of its color and soon he was back in order, following Rutherford through the winding catacombs of the ancient temple.
"Did you ever think," he began. Rutherford groaned to himself. Here he goes again. "That after all those years of study, thousand upon thousands of dollars spent honing your deft skills, that you would be here outlining the dick-shaped sewer system of an ancient race.
Giggles like little champagne bubbles began percolating back into Stidmen's voice. Rutherford knew that if he overreacted--or reacted at all--it would send his companion into another fit of hysterics. So he trudged on, ignoring the man, and instead focusing his attention on the chart forming on the tablet before him.
The pods had successfully charted the layout of the underground cavern. To Stidmen's obnoxious point, it did resemble a male phalls. Two long parallel lines served as the main waterways to what appeared to be dumping grounds for waste. The round pools posed interesting questions. Where did they lead? How deep did the waters run? Was it an effective method of removal or, perhaps, did the ineffectiveness of their design doom the inhabitants of the temple?
The presence of sewer systems, even refined ones such as this, did not preclude the possibility of pestilence and disease. Once they had finished investigating the...shaft, Rutherford would insist they spend the rest of their time at the pools. Cartographers played an important role in the study of ancient civilizations. They didn't always get their names on the covers of big, handsome books. Nor did they often get aspects of those society's named after them, but the possibility of discovering the single architectural facet that ripped the lid off the entire mystery, that was what drove Rutherford. A valve, a ventilation shaft, grooves where doors once stood. The tiniest of clues opened door after door of speculation and possibility.
The more Rutherford found, the closer they came to the truth.
"I think we should head back down toward the pools."
"Toward the what?"
Another groan fought to free itself from Rutherford's throat, but he managed a suppressing sigh to keep it in place.
Stidmen had been a surprise. Often on these expeditions Rutherford found himself teamed with a young intern. A fresh graduate eager to cut their teeth on grunt work so they could impress and possibly score a recommendation to a more permanent position. Occasionally they were more bumptious than that. The graduate student from Celuon 4 had him double checking his hardware every night for fear she might swipe a few pods and go exploring on her own. But for the most part his colleagues understood what was expected of them. Work. Tedious, yes. Boring at times. But anyone who spent the time pouring over dusty tomes to get the position in the first place was no stranger to tedium. And most took it in stride.
Stidmen on the other hand. He hadn't quite figured him out. His clothes spoke of a sophisticated upbringing. No recent graduate he'd ever heard of could afford the type of threads Stidmen packed. And the university certainly didn't provide him with the camping equipment he'd brandished last night. Rutherford half-expected a butler to pop out of Stidmen's tent and serve the man tea and a night cap before heading in to, "turn down the bedding."
He'd heard about aimless offspring of the upper crust. You don't spend as much time in academia as Rutherford had without catching a story or two. But to shoulder to shoulder with a walking manifestation of a drunk cartoon had left him speechless. If he could get through the next four days without hurling himself into one of the two large wells he'd consider treating himself to something nice. A fancy dinner perhaps. Certainly a stiff drink.
"Ruthy." They had made it to the northern most chamber. Again, Rutherford marveled at the depth of the well. The sounding charges he had set up when they first entered the chamber were still fine-tuning their measurements. If they were accurate the holes went of for several miles. Astounding.
Stidmen was over by the outer wall of well, his hands groping the side. "Cough for me, will you."
His laughs skittered through the tunnels like caffeinated mice. The sound sent a chill up Rutherford's spine.
"Right. If you could start setting up lights.