Pangaea – The Archeologist

First part of a writing prompt: all the continents are merged again, describe the consequences for the world and everyday life. You can read the whole thing here.

Kurt watched the white landscape passing through the window. Not a tree, not a hill, nothing. Only ice as far as his eyes could see. The rhythm of the train’s engine was surprisingly relaxing, and despite his thermos of bad coffee he caught himself starting to doze off.

The trans-Siberian had been the toughest part of his job during his first year as a polar archeologist. The cold, the loneliness, the bears — he could deal with. But seven days sitting on a wooden bench with nothing to see but ice and nothing to eat but dried fish? He used to hate it. Now, he had started to find it relaxing.

Kurt grabbed his bag and started rifling through it to keep himself awake. It was mostly full of electronics and computer parts. The Western world never realized how much it had depended on Asia until the continent was completely covered in polar ice. Now, and until the new Namibia factories were up and running, it was actually cheaper to go to Polar Asia and directly dig out the parts. Kurt was… not one of the best, but still good enough to make a substantial profit.

He kept searching through the bag, looking for something specific. Something he was not supposed to have. Most of his colleagues went CPU-digging in China’s ice. That was where most of the ancient factories were buried, and it was closer to the trans-Siberian final stop. Kurt was one of the few CPU-diggers to go all the way to the Japan pole. One reason was professional: there was less competition there, and more processed goods which could be sold for a higher price. The other… He finally found what he was searching for at the bottom of his backpack: books. Comics, figurines. His daughter loved them. And if he was honest, some of them were for himself too. He liked the stories. At first, he would just grab a handful of those things and sell them to Munich’s Japanese refugees at a ridiculous price. But then he grew curious. Before he knew it, one of those refugees was teaching Kurt his language, in exchange for toys or goods from the country of his ancestors.

A gunshot outside the train thrust Kurt violently back into the real world. He moved the decades-old curtain to look through the window. Half a dozen snow mobiles were closing in, driven by fur-covered Russian and Asian men. Raiders were more and more common now that they had figured what the train was transporting. Their machineguns were probably older than Kurt’s dad. From the top of the train, guards started shooting back.

Before leaving Munich, Kurt’s wife had begged him once more to stay. “It’s too dangerous,” she would say every time. He would never admit it in front of her, but she was right. It was becoming more dangerous each time. Raiders were more and more daring, he had to dig deeper and deeper, and Tokyo’s buildings were less and less stable. He kept telling Karin it was the last time. And he believed it. He had even tried a couple of times: settle in, teach archeology, take care of his family. But after a while, the humdrum of ordinary life was just too much for him, and he went back to digging.

A raider’s bullet shattered the window near Kurt’s face, letting the ice cold air in. Shivering, he fired back with his old six-shooter. A guard was screaming in pain above him. Kurt held his bag close against him. Ok, this would be the last time. Definitely.

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