She was supposed to be packing, but
Walker found Pet sitting on her bed and
watching the television with a sour expression.
She sighed heavily and asked, “Why do they insist on doing that?”
The program she was watching was another documentary about Amos’ cave, about the amazing discovery and the amazing discoverers. Every single time that Pet was featured, there was always a caption that read Gwendolyn “Pet”
Brazil and that really irked
her. They all just called Nastassja
Tass, and that was wholly unfair in Pet’s view.
But the discovery was big news, the biggest news of the new millennium many said. It was the find of a lifetime, of several lifetimes, and its impact would be felt forever. Because of that cave and the unlikely runes, a genuine conversation had started about the veracity of recorded history, the academics were now finally willing to admit that perhaps Christopher Columbus had not been the first.
But rocks don’t lie, they do not know how to lie and the rocks in
California were saying that the Americas had
never been undiscovered. Evidence was
piling up from all over the western hemisphere that ancient peoples not only
knew the Americas
existed, but traveled here frequently over the eons.
A new talking head filled up the screen, causing Pet to roll her eyes in disgust and get back to packing. As much as she liked the crackpots,
Petra drew the line at the idiot with the crazy
hair and leather pants who kept insisting that aliens from other planets had
fashioned the carvings. She did not have
any use for someone who ignored the overwhelming evidence of human ingenuity
and determination, someone who thought his own species incompetent and slavered
over imaginary friends.
But everybody wanted in on the action, legal wars were already raging over the contents and Pet was happy to stay out of the fray. To her mind, all that placer gold lining the streambed in the cave belonged to Rita Brandecker and her children, since they were just rocks and not pieces of the actual carvings. But it was a lot of gold, an almost incomprehensible amount and the State was claiming ownership, trying to stick its hand into pockets it did not own. There was a National Guard unit stationed at the site now to keep people out and even the U.N. was making a claim that the cave was a world heritage site.
Pet could only agree, the cave did not belong to her, the Brandeckers or the State, it was the legacy of all Californians, of all the people in the world. Only a handful of people had actually been inside, and the fact that all that gold was still there was a very telling sign that no other humans had entered that cave since the creators had left. Pet and Tass knew they would only have one shot at the cave, to collect their data and celebrate their victory, because there was more in there than just gold and carvings.
Caves were isolated eco systems, there was biological gold in there too that needed protecting as much as the history. They had been excruciatingly careful to not contaminate the site, from changing into sterile clothing and covering their shoes with plastic bags, the expeditioners had done their level best not to destroy in their zeal to discover.
There was a new framed photo on Pet’s desk, next to the photo of her and her parents in the cave near Oroville. This family portrait had been taken by the cameraman from the Exploration Channel and getting Pet,
Walker and all three Romeros into the well
chamber at the same time was a very tight squeeze. But they had managed, the five of them in
front of the looming bear of gold, all smiling like crazed maniacs and holding
tightly to each other.
With her suitcase almost full,
Walker handed her the final bundle and Pet
gently buried the rubbing of Amos’ name, and two pictures. Raymond Brazil, John Muir and Amos, the not
forgotten gold miner, were going with Petra,
they came all this way together and they would see it through to the end
Pet checked the time and asked, “Any word?”
Tass had been spending most of her currently limited free time with Fulstone, in between giving interviews and reviewing job offers. There was a television show in the works that Tass would be hosting on the Exploration Channel, but there were other interesting choices to ponder too. Pet did not want in on that action, she would always be there for support, research and occasional appearances, but had no desire to be in the spotlight more than she already was.
There were books to write and lectures to give, but those would have to wait until after the wedding. Pet was very excited to join her life to
Walker’s, but that event wouldn’t happen for
several months. There was one last
expedition to mount on behalf of Pet’s quest, an invitation no one had ever
expected and the opportunity of a lifetime.
The CaveWomen were honored guests and had even been allowed the courtesy
of bringing a third.
There were so many people who helped the CaveWomen, so many people to be thanked, that the choice could have been a difficult one. But it was the easiest decision, the most obvious decision for both Pet and Tass, because there was but one person who was owed the largest debt. Araceli Romero had taken over for the parents who left Gwendolyn behind, she had raised three children by herself and still ran the business of CaveWomen, Inc.
If Pet could have stuffed Chuy into her bag, he would be coming to
with them. Pet closed her bag and zipped
it up tight, her foster brother would just have to wait for the pictures. His mother and sisters were going to the Promised
Land, flying first class in Hollywood style to the dusty desert in the Middle East where another group of ingenious humans
carved a culture out of the rocks.