At almost four, Dr. Barron finally called. “We got held up in the archives. Would you mind just coming up to my office?”
“Four minutes,” Olivia said, and started shutting down the machines not in use. The chromatograph took the longest, then spectrometer, the X-ray and the microscopes. She rebagged the bone fragments she’d been working on and returned them to the controlled environment safe, then locked the lab and hurried up two flights of stairs from the basement to Dr. Barron’s office.
The privilege of tenure, Olivia thought as she walked Dr. Barron’s corridor. Here, out of the graduate slave garrett and the lab dungeon, the corridors were wider, the ceilings higher, the windows larger. No prefab melamine offices, no fixed slab desks, no tissue-paper thin doors. This hallway smelled only of books and paper, not seven thousand layers of reheated curry and pizza and solvent. Dr. Barron’s door was original to the building, an extra-tall, extra-wide eight-panel marred only by the modern lock panel.
As she opened the door, Olivia suppressed the urge to tidy the room. At the beginning of term, Dr. Barron’s office resembled a museum exhibit of a Victorian natural philosopher’s study, but now, at end of term, it looked like a shedding paper tiger had been set loose. Olivia threaded through stacks of journals, essays and books to the clear cluster of four chairs around a low table. The money had his back to the door; at least, Olivia assumed it was a he, and the person she needed to see. It wore a polo necked, long sleeved shirt and probably the jacket hung on Dr. Barron’s hatstand. It had windblown hair, as dark as her father’s had been, and freckles on the back of its neck on skin that probably burned in moments.
“Here she is. Olivia, this is Avery Godwin, of HiveCor. Mr. Godwin, this is the researcher I recommend, Olivia Halivand.”
“Dr. Halivand,” he said, holding out his hand.
Olivia took it briefly, and smiled. “Not yet. Still a Miss, thanks.”
He smiled, a nice smile, not too toothy. “Me too.” Then he flushed. “Um… Mister, not doctor, I mean. I’m pretty positive I’m not a miss. Dr. Barron says you’re the expert in medieval physical anthropology?” His accent was odd, not quite American, not quite BBC British, not quite Australian. He seemed somewhere between five and nine years her senior; casually well dressed, with excellent manners and the slightly abstracted air of geek. Not what I expect from a senior HiveCor executive.
“Well…” Olivia glanced at Dr. Barron, who shrugged. “Not exactly. I use geographic data to locate lost villages and settlements, then identify who did the settling.” It’s considerably more than that, but he’s a layman.
“What time period?” he asked.
“I wouldn’t bet on my accuracy before the fall of the Roman Empire, and I know almost nothing after the Industrial Revolution.”
His eyes widened. “And not a Doctor yet?”
“Doctors need time to write,” Dr. Barron said gently. “Olivia and I have worked extensively together on every project I have undertaken since she was an undergraduate; she has credit on every paper I have presented since then, but other duties eat her writing time.”
“Like what?” he asked.
“I teach most semesters, and most summers, I either work on whatever project I can, or teach Intro to Anthropology and Geographical Information Systems at the local community college.”
“I also steal her time,” Dr. Barron said. “The four of us in the world who work exclusively on lost settlements find Olivia’s eye invaluable.”
“Ah,” he said. “And universities don’t hand out Ph.Ds for time served.” He looked thoughtful. “Would you see the difference between a frontier settlement in say, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, dating to the 1870’s and a Viking camp?”
Olivia laughed in spite of herself. “The former’s a little out of my range, but yes. Definitely.”
“And between a Native American encampment and a Viking one in Maine?”
She gave that one some thought. “That’s almost a challenge. But yes, given time, if the site’s intact.”
“Nothing but two brush fires in the last eighty-five years.”
“It can be done. It’ll require some lab time, some physical anthropology, especially if grave sites are involved. Oh, and permission from the local Native American councils if there’s any chance of Native American graves. I’m mostly European, so I don’t know much about North American indigenous.”
“No graves to our knowledge,” Mr. Godwin said. “Where did you do your undergraduate work?”
Her heart fell. Always this, the deal-breaker. People who stayed at the school where they did their undergraduate work for graduate school either didn’t have the brains to get into better, or didn’t handle change well. It had counted against her more than once when seeking a grant or a position. “Here,” she admitted. “I’ve wanted to work with Dr. Barron since I was fourteen, and the University of Colorado is an excellent research institution,” she added, a little defensively.
“I’m flattered, but we were lucky to keep Olivia. The University of Chicago, Oxford and the Sorbonne accepted her.”
His dark-blue eyes narrowed in puzzlement. “You stayed? I’d think European villages would be scarce in Colorado.”
“I use satellite data and good surface photographs. I can work anywhere,” she said. Everyone asked that. She’d done some undergraduate work on western ghost towns, but that lacked depth. Ghost towns came only from one period of history, and the differences between farming, mining, railroad and religious communities presented no challenge. She’d concentrated on European cultures and peoples for the last six years.
“Opportunities like that… ” He clearly didn’t understand.
“I stayed for personal reasons,” she said, trying not to sound curt. “If the University of Colorado was lucky enough to keep me, I was lucky enough to earn a place here.”
“Olivia is far too modest,” Dr. Barron said. “She should have gone to University of Chicago to start, but she lost her father in a car wreck shortly after she graduated high school.”
Olivia stared at her in horror. Is she trying to play for sympathy — “As I said, personal reasons.”
Dr. Barron wouldn’t take the hint and kept speaking. “Olivia cared for her younger sisters while her mother was in rehabilitation after that, yet she was third in her class. We were lucky to get her for graduate work; normally summa cum laudes go on to bigger and better places than a public land grant university.”
“Impressive,” Mr. Godwin said, a little mystified at the interplay.
“Please, that’s primarily personal and has no bearing on my academic record,” Olivia said, glaring briefly at Dr. Barron. “Which is strong, though I don’t publish enough.”
“I take Dr. Barron’s word on that; she’s the expert. Would you take a virgin site? I’ve been told it’s enormous work, and our timing probably isn’t ideal.”
Olivia’s brain fired half an orgasm at the sound of those two, gorgeous words… virgin site. Every archeologist and anthropologist she’d ever known would sell relatives — maybe even well-liked ones — for an untouched site. “I’m not a Doctor, and no expert in site management,” she said, breaking her heart and ambitions.
“That’s fine,” he said. “The experts don’t think it’s real.”
“I think it’s compelling,” Dr. Barron said, “but I’m committed to Norwich this year, and as Mr. Godwin said, he’s on something of a tight time table.”
“What’s the site, and the time table?” Olivia finally asked, not daring to hope.
“It’s up on Lake Superior. HiveCor wants to build a corporate retreat on it, but the survey found some ruins, I suppose you’d call them. Construction was scheduled to begin next month, unless you find reason it shouldn’t. Here.”
He handed her a manilla envelope. She shook out half-dozen color eight-by-ten digital prints. She examined the aerial image for several minutes, then the landscapes, taken from a hill above the depressions in the earth. The landscape was pretty, rolling hills of meadow grasses so vividly green it hurt even through the pictures, but she barely noticed as she looked at the shapes in the earth. “This looks like a Norse langhus,” she said eventually. “Timber palisade construction, not woven sapling like the Iroquois used. See, the impressions here?” she pointed at two spots at the ends of the depression. “The timbers that supported the roof’s ridgepole stood here. There should be a row of dots through the center…” She reached into her pocket for her magnifying lens, but she’d left it on her desk. “If the area has flooded, that might explain why I don’t see the center supports. This was dug into the earth, a couple of feet, at least, to maintain temperature. Where’d the fill go?” She looked at the elevation shot again, and found it in a long, low ridge to the east, between the depression and the lake. Right, a windbreak, probably. “They’re definitely not frontier dwellings; this method of construction fell out of use in the 16th century, and to my knowledge — which isn’t complete — Plains Native Americans never invented the ridgepole roof. They used arc-vaults which support weight differently.” She looked up at Mr. Godwin’s puzzled expression and Dr. Barron’s smile. “What about that didn’t you understand?”
“Most of it, but this isn’t my field.”
“Dr. Barron? Your opinion? What do the other experts say?” she asked. This is obviously not Native American. When it was constructed is another matter.
“University of Minnesota thought it was a logging camp.”
“Where are the stumps?” Olivia said. She looked again. No, no stumps nearby. There were trees further out, but this area was coastal plain.
“That’s what I said,” Dr. Barron said. “The question is, what is it? Or more importantly, whose was it?” Her eyes sparkled.
“It must be indigenous,” Olivia said, “but longhouses aren’t common in that area, are they?”
“No.” Dr. Barron smiled. “Not to the Native population. I asked Dr. Lee. The Chippewa used domed or pointed lodges.”
“This is exactly what I’m looking for,” Mr. Godwin said cheerfully. “Miss Halivand, would you care for a research position?”
Olivia put the pictures away and handed him the envelope. “May I ask the terms?”
“Oh, of course.” He looked ashamed of himself. “I should make you a proper offer. You’ll have academic rights to publish whatever you find — no non-disclosure agreement — and we’ll provide housing and expenses of course. Six thousand a month while you’re there, plus our standard per diem of two hundred per day, for full time work. And we’ll pay for your lab time after, same hourly rate, but we assume fewer hours.”
Olivia blinked and did her best to keep her face pleasantly expressionless. She made six thousand in six months as a graduate assistant. “Is it a permanent position, or temporary?” she finally said. “I’d like to finish my studies.”
“Oh, temporary, of course,” he said amiably. “Essentially, until fall, when the ground freezes, then your lab time. We planned to break ground next month, but with this, we’ll delay a year. The accountants won’t hate me; they’d like the economy to recover a bit more.”
Olivia nodded, but this was the chance. “I’ll have to consult my family,” she said. “I can tentatively agree, but … well… while one sister graduates next week, my other sister’s school isn’t out for nearly three weeks, and I have to ensure my mother agrees.”
Mr. Godwin looked at her blankly. “You’ll be bringing your mother and sisters with you?”
Olivia returned his blank gaze. “Is that a problem?” she asked frostily. “Were I married, would you object to my spouse and child, provided I transported and fed them?”
He had the good grace to flush. “Right. Of course. My apologies, Miss Halivand.” He shifted in his chair uncomfortably and sought out her gaze.
“May I answer you tomorrow?” I’ll have a yes, if I have to beat every member of my family to get it. More than year’s salary in three months — I’ll be done next year, and if I can teach around writing next school year, I can help Corrine pay for RADA, then go full time at the community college, or maybe get an adjunct position here while Susannah’s in high school. I won’t get much research done, but it’s too good to refuse.
“Certainly.” He held out his hand. “I’ll put the documentation together.”
Olivia nearly floated back to her lab, the continual contretemps with Mahon forgotten. Even if it’s Native American or recent, just documenting the differences will be significant enough for a dissertation. Differentiating sites is half the battle, and anything that makes the decision clearer makes it easier to focus labor and money. I could develop a differential rubric…
She did not return to the Cordwright samples she had been working on; in her state of nervous tension, she’d surely botch it and destroy the sample.
Instead, she idly scratched minute figures on paper rescued from the recycling bin. We’ll get one more Accidental Death dependent’s check for Corrine, but that ends upon her bachelor’s graduation. We’ll still have Susannah’s Social Security, and Mom’s disability, and her writing income. We’ll have my stipend next year, and this… a year’s extra salary. If Susannah doesn’t take another baseball in the face in PE, or the Volvo doesn’t throw a rod… I remember when just living wasn’t so difficult…
The frosted, wavy glass in the lab door rattled when someone knocked, and Olivia jumped, realizing she’d been thinking, not about her work, and not about money, but about the past. She tried never to do that, and felt her cheeks. Yes, she had been weeping. She wiped her face and checked her reflection on her way to the door. Presentable.
Mr. Godwin stood on the other side. “Dr. Barron said I’d find you here,” he said, pleased.
“Come in.” Olivia opened the door wider. He took a seat on one of the high stools at her work table. “What can I do for you?”
“Actually, the question is more, what can I do for you? And will you accept my apology? I think I was unbelievably rude back there. I’ve no right to pass judgement on your family.”
“Accepted.” she said. “I don’t understand what you mean by do for me. I’ve told you all I know for now.”
“What does a new site need? What will you need? And what will it take for me to convince you?”
“My family comes first,” she said. “I don’t have any choice in that.”
“I’m amazed, I guess,” he said. “I mean… Never mind.”
“What?” she said. “I hate that. Just say it.”
“I left home as soon as I could, avoid my family as much as I can, especially my siblings. You … seem to like yours.”
Olivia laughed. “Is that all? I guess we’re weird. We get along. It’s good for us.”
“Normally for something like this, we’d put you up in a hotel, but there aren’t any in the area, just a couple B’n’Bs and a number of vacation cottages. I just had my assistant check, and for the same price, there are houses to rent. Dr. Barron mentioned I should check what type of house you need.”
“One with a bedroom and bath on the ground floor, and few steps in and out,” Olivia said. “Assuming I take the position.”
“Come on, you’re really doubting it?”
“I can’t promise anything. There are three adults in my household.”
“Tell me about this extraordinary family.”
“You’ve heard it all,” Olivia said, suddenly cold. He’s a stranger. He doesn’t need to know this about me. “My father died, my sisters and my mother and I got through it.”
Mr. Godwin opened his mouth and then shut it. “Your mother’s in a wheelchair?”
“Yes. She’s not paralyzed, but her spinal column was damaged and her pelvis fractured. She can stand for short times, and walk a few steps, but that’s it.”
“Does she require physical therapy?”
“Does the town have a pool?” She countered. “She swims here at the university fitness center.”
Mr. Godwin pulled out a phone and keyed in some information. “Google says yes.”
“Will six thousand a month be enough?” He tapped on the screen. “We were prepared to offer more, but my assistant said no, since you’re not a Ph.D. However, you’re my last hope. If you won’t examine it, we should abandon the site, and that’ll cost us.”
She peered into his face. “Tell me something – what decision do you want to hear?”
His calm, composed face stiffened for a moment and his mouth twisted. “Me, or HiveCor?”
“I guess that tells me what I need to know,” Olivia said. “I assume they differ.”
“Look, Miss Halivand, I’m an ecologist by training. I think my mother’s crazy to build anything there — ”
“Your mother?” she said. “Why does her opinion matter?”
He blanched, then blushed. “You didn’t know. I guess it’s not obvious, since I have Dad’s name. My mother is Liz Hivier, the –”
“CEO of HiveCor,” she finished with him. “You just said you don’t see them if you can avoid it.”
“I went to work for her when I graduated,” he said. ” Since then, well… it’s complicated. I’m not in the chain of command, just the environmental practices lead. I’ll have to take over some day; I mean, that’s what she wants for me – but I’m rambling, aren’t I?” He looked abashed.
“That’s all right,” Olivia said. “Six thousand is splendid.”
“To support four people on?” He looked incredulous. “That’s gross, not net, and no benefits.”
“I know. It’s fine. Anyway, I’ve got papers to grade, if that’s okay.”
“Can I come back?” He said suddenly, his ears red under his dark hair. “I mean, to hear your answer and get your equipment lists.”
Olivia’s heart took a strange skip. “Of course. I’ll have an answer tomorrow,” she said, “but I think you can be pretty confident, if you’ll wait a couple weeks for my sister’s school year to end.”
“It will take that long to take care of the details,” Mr. Godwin said, and offered his hand. “Thanks very much.”
“Thank you.” Olivia shook, and smiled when he took longer than strictly necessary to give her hand back. “It’s an incredible opportunity.”
“Glad to hear it,” he said. “I just hope you’ll agree, too.”