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Pen Your Pride

Meeting the Locals

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It didn't take long to cover the distance. The flitter was fast and the men hadn't gone far. They were spotted fairly quickly standing on a small plateau with a semi-circle of indigenous people. The Professor ordered the pilot to come down a short distance away so they wouldn't appear too aggressive to the locals.

Professor Androbos, Elveren and Doctor Moorfier all walked over to the gathering. While they wanted to recover their two wayward colleagues they had no desire to upset the people whose ancestors had arrived on the planet so long ago. They felt a certain respect for the original inhabitants. It was the respect accorded by scientists who didn't want to disturb a valuable sample.

Marcus was on one bended knee in the centre of the semi-circle and he had his head bowed. In front of him, an elderly woman was standing with her feet slightly apart. Her long and frizzy dark hair hung around her like a cloak reaching down to her hips. Her clothing was basic but highly decorated; a simple leather shift punctuated by complex patterns made by cutting and embossing. Several long necklaces hung from her neck and she held one in her hand as she chanted. She was running a series of bone shapes through fingers, almost as if she was reading them.

Elveren was immediately struck by the formality of the gathering. She felt that this was a solemn event in which some ritual or ceremony was being performed. The rest of the indigenous people seemed to be in a trance-like state as they watched and listened.

They were a strange group in the eyes of the archaeologists, since they had identical hair and skin colour, and similar facial features. It made them look like members of a single family rather than representatives of a global community. This homogeneity should not have been a great surprise however, given the relatively small number of ancestors that the group shared.

Elveren and the other archaeologists stood quietly and respectfully a few feet behind Babin. None of them wanted to break the obvious power of the moment. There was something sacred taking place, although they couldn't possibly know what it was.

The old woman was chanting softly in a language that Elveren could not understand. She would occasionally pause and Marcus would speak briefly in the same language. He was either asking questions or making a formal response. Elveren wasn't sure.

The chanting and responses went on for a long time until the old woman suddenly stopped and clapped her hands sharply. Marcus stood and bowed. The old woman nodded, turned, and walked away with great dignity. The rest of the group followed her and they made their way down from the plateau and ambled off into the scrubland in single file.

A single tear ran down his cheek as Marcus watched them go. He smiled a sad smile to himself and turned to face his colleagues.

Professor Androbos looked as if he had something to say, but this was clearly not the time.

"We'll discuss this later," he said after a long pause. "But it's time to go now."

Marcus nodded and followed the others back to the flitter.

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