fossil of the weekend! #39

an anomalocaris claw on display at the royal tyrrell museum. in anticipation of the ART Evolved gallery coming out this week! be sure to check it out...


my first (and maybe last) debriefing...

this was turning out to be the biggest day of my life... at least as far as weird things happening to me all at once was concerned! which is saying something, as they seem to happen to me all the time!!!

i'd solved a major fossil poaching case, been captured by the poachers, witnessed not one but two major battles for stolen fossil eggs, in the end been rescued by my former roommate, and learned that not only he but also my legal guardian are both members of a top secret scientific organization!

as if that list weren't big enough, now i had the head honcho of said secret organization, palaeo-central, wanting to speak with me. this was, of course, the very intense professor paradigm. a man who last time i'd seen had promised for something terrible to happen to me if he caught me meddling in this poaching affair... so i wasn't exactly excited about the talk we were about to have.

i nearly jumped out of my skin when he asked me his first question. i was expecting him to scream at me. instead he calmly asked "you weren't harmed were you?" he seemed to ask it out of concern and almost sympathy (not something i'd expect from paradigm).

"no," i answered in a half lie. though my wrists were rope burned and i had a big bump on the back of my skull from the kick, but overall i'd been worse.

"good," paradigm actually sounded genuinely happy to hear. which was odd, i'd always gotten the impression he didn't like me. "now tell me traumador," he prompted. oh great i thought, here it comes! "how did you figure out this was where the poachers were digging?"

i was confused as he didn't sound mad or anything... that and as it was an opening to show off how clever i'd been (i so rarely pull off clever things due to the small brain and all) i proudly explained how i'd collected micro fossils from around all the poached quarrys, had gotten help studying them, and of my big geology break through in the museum's collections...

after i concluded my tale there was an awkward silence. i was ready for paradigm to explode at hearing the depth of my meddling. instead he finally just answered. "impressive," if i didn't know any better i'd guess he was, well, impressed.

the silence returned, and this time it wasn't going to end unless one of us started a new tangent. i figured i was safe from him getting mad now, as paradigm had had plenty of opportunity to yell at me by this point.

"what is palaeo-central exactly?" i asked... which was probably a little bold on my part, but hey what did i have to lose at this point?

paradigm shifted slightly, as though to assess whether i was worth of the answer or not. apparently i made the cut as he instructed. "walk with me."

paradigm started hiking away from the poaching site and back towards the highway, and as he'd asked me too follow i walked along side him. "before i tell you any of this, you must swear to complete secrecy everything i tell you."

"sure," i promised, though its not like palaeo-central is the best kept secret out there...

"we are everything, and yet nothing, that the rumours claim us to be," paradigm explained... or at least i think he was explaining? everything and nothing, he was losing me with the first sentence. oh well, at least it wasn't the first time this had ever happened to me.

paradigm seemed to pick up my confusion, yet he hadn't looked at me, he just seemed to know what he'd said went over my head. it was weirdly familiar somehow.

he started over talking at my level. "palaeo-central in a nutshell is the protective agency watching over all aspects of the science of palaeontology. this mostly centres around fossils," he paused to ensure i was keeping up. "this includes who can and should be collecting fossils, what are they being used for, and most important ensuring they are being used to increase and better humanities collective knowledge of the past." okay this i'd already heard. "our mandate extends beyond fossils though. we deal with the human side of fossils too, including scientists and researchers, traders, collectors, companies, religious groups, and even governments on occasion."

"so you guys are like the james bonds of science?" i asked, as i pictured paradigm pulling out rocket packs for us to ride back to the museum.

paradigm made a strange noise through his re-breather. had it not be so short i would have thought it was a chuckle, but if it was it lasted less then a second. "well, that is what our enemies are meant to think. despite our reputation, palaeo-central is not all seeing, or comprised of an army."

this was a bit of a surprise. after all the hoopla everyone had been making about palaeo-central i had envisioned it as being a huge operation like in the movies. "no, we are rather a loosely organized network of specialists and operatives scattered throughout the world's palaeontologic institutions, who while working a normal job in the field, carry out the secret mandate of safe guarding fossils from the 'dangers' of the greater world."

"huh?" i dumbly said out loud. it wasn't that i complete didn't understand the professor. what did he mean by specialists and operatives?

paradigm once again seemed to know what had confused me, which was getting eerie, and he clarified. "palaeo-central agents aren't really secret agents like james bond, traumador. i recruit people who are already in key positions in the palaeontologic community. scientists, students, technicians, administrators, collections managers, even tour guides!"

tour guides... that explained dan and craig. dan was a physicist, but had been tour guiding at the tyrrell on the side for years. craig, well he'd always been a tour guide until he'd suddenly taken off to new zealand (though he'd been acting weird just before i was fired from the tyrrell 3 years ago).

"why go to all that trouble?" i asked. "i mean, if fossils are in that much trouble, why not just organize the whole science against the 'threats' it faces."

"i always wondered the same thing when i started as a scientist," paradigm reflected. "sadly academics and scientists aren't the easiest to unify on anything. that alone on enemies that might or might effect them individually. getting the whole science to coordinate a united defense across the different personalities, ideals, politics, and countries we all are divided by is all but impossible. believe me i tried."

"so palaeo-central was the solution," i guessed.

"preciously!" paradigm seemed to approve of my keeping up. "for well over a year i campaigned the worldwide central authority of palaeontology, the international palaeontological committee, to recognize the potential threats facing the science. i fell on deaf ears until 1970, when several high scale incidents struck just as i'd predicted. as of that year my proposal finally had received approval, and i was put in charge of a special task force under the supervision and control of the committee to spearhead a defensive effort. you know it today as palaeo-central."

"wow," i said out loud to a key realization i'd had listening to that. it wasn't about palaeo-central or how it was a branch of palaeontology's focal organization (everyone in the science world knows the international palaeontological committee), but rather paradigm's age! if i followed him correctly, 1970 was an early point in his career... i'm no expert at maths, but paradigm sure looks good for a man his age!

then something suddenly occurred to me in my tiny brain... "hold up, what did megan sauer and jo harvager have to do with the pack of the primordial feather?" i thought out loud.

paradigm stopped dead in his tracks and looked at my intensely. "what are you babbling about?"

i quickly explained how i'd gotten involved in the poaching case as i thought it was what the pack had been up to around the tyrrell. paradigm was baffled by this connection, but not by the pack being up to something fishy. before he could elaborate on his knowledge, my big day got a whole lot bigger!

the thing is had i checked my email earlier that day i'd have known better then to go outside!...

for i'd gotten a dire warning from my mysterious contact in the pack, ruffled feather, who had tried to alert me to the about to unfold situation.


You are in serious danger! Get out of Drumheller now!

We underestimated how important the crate is to the Pack. They've responded to your escaping the Crimson Talons by bringing in an even more dangerous player. Jaden Spectre

Pull out of Drumheller to where ever. We'll regroup and reconsider our actions against the pack later, but you have to get out now! Your life depends on it!!!

Ruffled Feather

i really wish i'd gotten this email...

for just as paradigm was about to reveal what he knew about the pack's drumheller activities, i could have sworn i smelt another human nearby (stupid wind direction!)... if only my hearing was as ubber keen as my sense of smell. i'd have heard the man who was literally stalking me and the professor.

just as i was about to state my concern over the smell, i suddenly was seized from behind by my chest. at the same moment the professor suddenly found himself being punched in the head. despite the complete surprise, paradigm instinctively dodged part of the blow...

this however threw him slightly off balance and our attacker seized the opportunity and slammed his elbow into paradigm's exposed back. before i could struggle i was suddenly overwhelmed by a painful hold applied to a pressure point on my abdomen i didn't even know i had... it really hurt! i couldn't move from my tummy up...

"it's been a while alvar," our assailant addressed paradigm by his first name.

"spectre!?!" the professor loudly proclaimed in surprised response. "what in extinction's name..."

"i've just come to study this specimen," this spectre guy replied, holding me up painfully by my throat. "i hope you don't mind too much that i borrow him from you."

to be continued...


my cousin of the week #17

a spur-winged plover in dunedin. they are also known as masked lapwings.


fossil of the weekend! #38

a cast skeleton of antarctica's most famous dinosaur (but definately not its only!) cryolophosaurus. mounted at the auckland war memorial museum in auckland NZ.


my cousin of the week #16

two of my favourite birds, in the best photo i've ever taken of them! two new zealand kingfishers, aka todiramphus sanctus or in maori kōtare.


a even better H-day present?

suddenly like that, things were all good again. i'd be rescued from the poachers, by none other than my former roommate dan, of all people!?!

not only was this a shock to me, as i'd thought i'd said goodbye to him for the final time, but now it was turning out that he was not who i thought he was. dan it was out was a member of palaeo-central...

don't get me wrong. i was pleased about all of this initially. dan after all had been the one who'd saved me. more to the point was the one to untie me as well.

"there we go," dan said as he undid the last knot.

"thanks!" i enthusiastically thanked him, as i stretched my arms... do you know how much it hurts to have those tied up for a few hours?!?

"no worries," dan replied. "could we consider it your hatching day present?"

"my what?" i asked in disbelief. it couldn't be my hatching day again already could it? though as i thought about i was shocked to realize he was right! today was my 6th hatching day! man it feels like i hardly got anything done this year (:P)...
"i guess wishing you a happy hatching day, after all this, would be kind of pointless wouldn't it?" dan sympathized with me.

it certainly had been a weird hatching day... i didn't even want to know what present might be coming my way this year... considering everything that had happened as a result of my last one!!!

there was a silence at that thought, as both of us had nothing to say. dan trying to segue the conversation asked. "so how's the rest of your trip been since i last saw you?"

how has my trip been?... how has my trip been!?! after everything i've been through today, and more to the point all the things dan has been keeping from me... that was the best dan could come up with!!!

"you lied to me! " i accused dan madly... which i guess was a little ungrateful as he'd just saved me, but i was really angry at him now. "i thought you moved away!"

"i did," dan stated matter of fact, unable to believe i'd accused him of that. "you saw all my stuff in the truck, and me drive off... oh and not to mention crushing richardo!" oh yeah, i did do that didn't i...

okay i wasn't really mad at him for that... though his being here did raise the question if he'd moved away why was he back... however i was pretty sure it was part of my next question. "why didn't you ever tell me you were in palaeo-central?"

my question didn't phase dan one bit. "it wouldn't have been a secret then," he replied matter of factly. "not much point to being an undercover operative, if everyone knows your an operative. especially those closest to you."

i got it... no i seriously got it, it made total sense. still it really hurt to hear. if i was capable of crying i'd have been pouring like a river right at that moment. sure me and dan had never exactly gotten along, but that can be said for me and most other humans/dinosaurs (when you have a brain as small as mine it can be hard to not mess up with everyone). yet he and my legal guardian craig were the closest thing i had to a family... isn't family supposed to be honest with you?

then a more to the point occurred to me, which might explain. "how long have you been an 'operative'? i inquired thinking i'd figured out why he hadn't told me. dan must have started with paradigm just recently, and thus it was a new thing. there was no big secret, just a short one...

his answer shattered my hope. "5 years," dan answered finally with a bit of guilt. despite how we often were confrontational, dan still had always looked out for me (or so i thought anyways). he could see i was really upset learning all this. "i joined a couple months after craig..." dan suddenly trailed off realizing what he'd just told me.

WHAT?!? i nearly fell over from the shock of this revelation... my legal guardian was part of palaeo-central, and he'd never even so much as hinted at it once in the time he'd taken care of me. hmmm, okay apart from the last time i saw him 2 years ago! he had threatened larry in reference to central, but i hadn't realized what it was at the time...

the two people i trusted the most in the whole wide world, and they'd been lying to me nearly my whole life!

dan knew just how hurt i was. "traum, i'm sorry we never told you," he began. "it was just..."

"it was just what. that you actually did hate me?!?" i screamed, which with my tyrannosaurian voice box came out more like a scary roar. i'd always knew i annoyed dan, but up till now i'd always thought we were still close.

dan came in close and put his hand on my back. "no, traum," he calmly assured me. "quite the opposite. craig insisted we never tell you, to try and shelter you from all the evils centrals fights against everyday. it is a scary world for you fossils. we didn't want your life to be dominated or limited by them."

it may not have been much of an explanation, but it certainly was helping me to feel better. he could have been lying, but i knew dan, and despite my small brain i trusted my memories of my childhood. him and craig had always tried to do what was best for me. whether i knew it at the time or not (i could make it very difficult on them if i didn't see it their way).

"in fact," dan concluded. "it was because of you that craig joined. he wanted so much to keep you safe from all the dangers out there."

"really?" i asked very moved.

"yes really, you pea brain!" dan retorted. "even i have to admit you were quite cute as a hatchling, won't want anything to happen to you then," he fondly recalled, but quickly added. "not that you stayed that way for long, mind you."

i was suddenly feeling a sort of sad happiness. sad because it was about times long gone, my childhood was gone and it was never coming back, but yet happy because suddenly my two human roommate's sacrifice on my behalf had been revealed to me. i DID have a family who cared about me!!!

i started to thank dan. "thank you so much for trying to protect me. i can't believe you guys signed on for all that, just for me."

"woah! woah!" dan cut me off, and then corrected me. "i said craig joined because of you. i signed on just because craig asked me too."

i slumped a bit again, so dan didn't really like me, but in response to this he cracked a big smile. "alright," he admitted. "i did do it a bit because of you. only a bit, though."

"you've always annoyed me traum," dan said scornfully, but then suddenly he grabbed me up into a big hug. "but it's only because you're family... really, really, really annoying family, but family none the same."

i had never been so happy to be hugged before (which are actually kind of painful for us theropods with our not straight up and down backbones...).

suddenly from behind us came the booming voice of professor paradigm, who'd clearly recovered from being knocked out. he was looking away from our embrace as he stated. "i hate to interrupt this touching moment, but this is hardly the time or the place gentlemen."

"yes professor," dan said over my shoulder.

"you mean palaeo-prime don't you?" paradigm sharply corrected.

"sorry sir," dan apologized.

"i would prefer not to leave both suspects alone with agent montgomery, so if you could please assist her, dan," paradigm insisted.

"i guess that's my cue," dan said with some conclusion. "i guess i'll see you around sometime, traum," as he let go and started to walk off in the direction of amanda and the two poachers.

"you're not coming back?" i asked in disbelief.

"i moved remember?" dan replied in irritation.

"i just meant after dropping them off in jail," i responded feeling dumb.

"ah right," dan said in his usual way, remembering my brain deficit. "we aren't going to be processing them 'locally'. i'm going to have to escort the two of them a little ways away," i was about to ask where that was, when dan reminded me. "top secret, remember. i can't tell, so don't ask."

i dumbly replied with the only thing that came to mind "bye!"

"now that you're in the 'know', i'm sure we'll be seeing you again traum. don't you worry," dan assured me as he walked off. he suddenly stopped. "oh and when you see him, tell craig i said hi," dan resumed walking, but stopped suddenly as a thought occurred to him. he turned with a intense seriousness. "and if you tell anyone i hugged you, we're not cool anymore. you understand me?"

i nodded, and with that dan gave me a salute off his head as farewell and walked off through the badlands back to the car.

holy smokes what a H-day! everything i thought i knew about those who raised me turns out to be wrong!

wait, did dan just say when i saw craig? i haven't seen him in a couple years... when was that suddenly going to change?

then it occurred to me where i was standing. in the middle of the badlands, poaching remnants all around me. what was i supposed to do now, i thought. i hadn't been at all that many foiled fossil poachings before. what was i supposed to do now?

as though to answer my question a big strong hand settled on my neck. "i hope you're not planning on running off," professor paradigm boomed. "we need to talk!"

right. the professor. oops. i found myself gulping in panic. he'd warned me he'd give me quite the thrashing if he found me still investigating the poachings... and here i was, not only at the crime scene, but captured by the very criminals he'd been worried about getting me.

yeah this was turning out to be one "great" 6th hatching day!

next an old "friend" of paradigm's!

fossil of the weekend! #37

the amazing cast skeleton of the giant sauropod barosaurus at the american museum of natural history in new york. (photo courtesy of my talent agent peter bond and lillian the albertosaur)


agents of palaeo-central...

things were looking grim... REALLY grim people of the innerweb!

i'd solved the case, and figured out who was poaching fossils... the tag-team of a rogue technician named megan sauer and a PHD student gone bad called "jo" jocelyn harvager, who were after vivusly preserved dinosaur eggs.

they'd captured me when i snooped around their dig site for too long (oops...). things seemed like they were going to turn out alright when professor paradigm showed up on the scene. he was able to take out one poacher (megan), but jo proved a very capable fighter and out fought the professor. meaning it was now the eggs, me, professor paradigm who were in big trouble.

the only good news was jo being at a momentary lose right after defeating the professor. she was the only one of us at the site who could do anything (i was tied up and the other two were unconscious) and without megan to help her, it was clear jo didn't know how to proceed. who can blame her really lugging out all the fossils AND an out cold colleague was a bit much for anyone person...

however when jo picked up megan's gun off the ground, i suddenly felt a massive chill down my spine. as jo walked up towards the professor i couldn't help but get the distinct impression she intended to finish him off... sadly it made sense to me. one less thing for her to worry about, as she waited for megan to come back too.

jo pointed the gun at the professors limp body when suddenly a song could be heard from around the hill... i couldn't believe my ears, not that jo would probably have known the voice, but i sure did!

jo marched over to investigate, and came face to face with my former roommate dan!?!

a million and one questions raced through my head... most importantly what was dan doing here??? the last time i saw him, he was moving out of town!

i had a lot of other questions. even if dan had come back to town, how did he end up here? why this spot?

as jo approached she pointed the gun at dan, who just obliviously kept singing "i'm walking on sunshine".

"who the hell are you?" jo demanded. clearly all the random people showing up at her illegal dig was trying her patience... well maybe if you weren't do illegal stuff this wouldn't happen to you jo! have you thought about that?!? sorry got a little carried away for a second!

dan in a most uncharacteristic for him way, happily answered. "i'm dan," as he dumbly waved at her. what was going on i thought. in all my years living with dan i'd never seen him this silly or happy (most of the time i'd know him he was always grumpy... though i guess the might have been due to the trouble i caused him all the time!)

dan's weird behaviour was wigging jo out. "what is the matter with you?" she flailed the gun in her hand to ensure he'd noticed it.

"oh nothing," dan happily replied, as he ambled towards jo. she raised her firearm, and made it clear she'd shot dan if he got closer. he stopped but kept his goofy grin and a bizarre body posture. "i'm just out enjoying a good old fashion sing in the badlands, jo."

jo dropped her jaw at her name being mentioned, but she stiffened ready to fire.

"before you do anything rash," dan said almost unconcerned by jo's actions. "you might want to consider that no matter what you do to me, palaeo-central has you IDed now. which means there really isn't anywhere you're going to be able to run to that we can't find you."

did i just hear him right?!? as i was on the other side of the hill there was a chance i miss heard dan. if i did though, he just said he was with palaeo-central if i'm right!!! my own former roommate, one of the closest people i have to an actual family, and he has kept that secret from me?!?

before i could stew on this any further tons of things happened at once. jo now aimed the gun at a fairly lethal spot of dan. at the same moment as i turned to look away (which was silly of me as all i could see was the hill between us, but i felt i shouldn't be facing away when dan was made no more) i found i was suddenly face to face with a girl who was crouched beside me. i nearly screamed out loud, but she grabbed my snout and kept it from opening.

"be absolutely quiet," this stranger instructed me. "i'd untie you, but i have a bit of rescuing to do. excuse me." with that she shot up the hillside.

to emerge right behind jo. who was telling dan. "too bad that palaeo-central isn't here right now then isn't it!"

dan just snickered. "if you say so."

as the new girl on the scene leapt from the hill...

right onto jo!

before you knew it the new girl had jo down in an armlock. "get off me!" jo screamed in both pain and frustration.

jo still had the gun in her hand, but before she could think to use it, dan pounced on it. "i don't think so ms. harvager," he stated pulling the weapon from jo. dan then looked at the girl immobilizing the poacher. "could you have left it any closer to the last second there amanda?"

amanda responded. "sorry, i was distracted," she motioned over her shoulder with her head in my direction. "there's a miniature tyrannosaur all tied up on the other side of the hill."

she paused and then said in a slight amused voice. "oh and also the professor is lying the next hill over. i took a few seconds there to, come to think of it," dan glared at amanda. "what? like you won't have taken a moment to capture that on film?!? i'm going to legendary back at HQ when everyone sees these. though if you want in on the action and sneak a peak, i'd tread lightly. he won't be all that happy when he wakes up. especially if he found out we'd seen him laid out like that."

jo started to groan and struggle, but amanda just applied pressure to her wrist. "calm down tough girl," jo winced audibly in pain, as amanda warned her. "you might be a 3rd degree blackbelt, or so i assume based on the fact you beat up the professor back there, but i train against people at your level for my warm ups. just be a good girl and stay down... for your sake."

"i have her as my martial arts coach," dan quipped to jo. "trust me, you don't want to take her on, and i only have sparring as a reference."

amanda applied some handcuffs to jo's wrists, and hoisted the now relatively secure poacher to her feet. jo hanging her head in defeat grumbled. "we would have pulled it all off if not for that stupid tyrannosaur!"

dan overhearing that. "speaking of which, amanda think you can handle her on your own?"

"a mere 3rd degree," amanda replied sarcastically. "i think i'll just barely manage."

"good," dan replied as he started walking in my direction. "i've got a former housemate to untie."

next a secret that is as old as i am!!!


darren tanke finally has a blog!

there is some huge addition to the palaeo blogosphere...

my buddy darren tanke has finally got a blog!

it is themed around his upcoming recreation of the river trips of the great canadian dinosaur rush, but hopefully it'll expand into other aspects of his searching for lost quarrys.

so go check it out!

taste of nature #6

a new zealand striped skink or oligosoma striatum.


my cousin of the week #15

a group of new zealand pūkeko or purple swamphens i saw just outside dunedin.


Battle of the Horseshoe Nest

(From the active case files of the Palaeo Central Initiative. Personal log of Palaeo-Prime: Professor Alvar Paradigm.)

I have been accused (and possibly rightfully so) of lacking emotional connections with the world around me. My agents and colleagues seem to think this observation is some sort of helpful critical feedback on my personality, and to be a more efficient leader I need empathy. They then wonder why I hold their assessment abilities in such contempt?

If they had even a slight concept of the burdens I endure as the chief guardian of palaeotology. They think it is my arrogance or ego that prevent me from lowering my defences to the world, but it is a necessity of surviving my position as Palaeo-Prime.

There was a time when this wasn't the case, but that was a whole different life, one I left behind decades ago. The constant threats of my modern existence make emotions a weakness I can no longer afford. Which is why Drumheller is such an odd place for me.

Despite all I left behind when I formed Palaeo-Central, my past, friends, and loved ones, I have never completely shed this place. It is one of the few things that can still invoke sentimentality in me. Which is why it is such a great pain to me, that nearly every time I have returned here in the last decade it has been due to a case! This summer is no exception.

Case #132-2009. It began in late 2008 when I received intelligence of unknown parties probing the geologic records pertaining to
my Alberta fieldwork in the early 1980's. I had the foresight to have these records red listed, and thus have their access closely monitored. My chief concern was of course the vivus-bearing layers I discovered in the Horseshoe Canyon Formation in 1984.

I have always feared these egg bearing layers being discovered by outside parties. This summer I have seen those fears realized, with a team of poachers systematically digging and removing a number potential vivus specimens. Right from under my nose, at least after a fashion. I had need for them to think they were accomplishing their task undetected.

In the course of the inevitable case review by the International Palaeontologic Committee of this operation, attempts will be made to pin the blame for this poaching on me. I can already see Dr. [Catherine] Everett trying to remove me as Palaeo-Prime, with trumped up charges of scientific conspiracy. She will fail in this effort as always, but I do have to admit this a case of my conjuring a true conspiracy. One of sadly too many. Though the list of these is not as long as Dr. Everett would claim it to be thankfully.

I have always been torn by my decision to suppress knowledge of this layer's existence. Despite its scientific importance, this layer is just too dangerous to itself to be made known. For every well meaning researcher who would explore it, a dozen unscrupulous entities would seek to exploit it.

All the proof I needed of this fact I have found today. The first party to independently discover these layers (with assistance from my own previous efforts, granted) have illegally collected from it. If not for my intervention today, who knows what the culprits may have gotten away with.

This is turning into a unique poaching case however. I have combated countless poaching rings, but this one is among the most impressive such operations I have ever encountered. It scares me to note that it was matched only by Spectre's digs in its beauty.

Unlike the typical smash and grab poachers, these ones are conducting themselves like capable scientists. Based on the quarries they have been digging over the past few months, and now their field notes I have just acquired today, it is true shame this team is not part of the legitimate palaeontologic community.

What has me more worried however is their potential buyer. If this were a simple commercial outfit, the eggs would have been dug up without so much as a single sentence recorded about them. The average collector has no interest in details quarry maps and specimen records like have been recorded here. No, a desire for such information requires legitimate scientific knowledge and interest. Of which there are only a limited number of possibilities, and all are very dangerous if they learn of this layer's existence.

It did not take me long to discover who one of my culprits was, when she discovered me investigating the site. I was forced to take notice as she cocked a gun (a Grande Puissance 35 if I'm not mistaken) and proceeded to point it in my direction. Based on her body language I had no doubts she would use it. I complied as she ordered me to "Freeze!"

To keep her calm and build her sense of security I naively put my hands in the air, and flubbed out a number of pleas for her not to shot me.

I can now confirm my suspensions that one of my poachers was
Megan Sauer. She had been at the top of my list of key suspects. How many renegade first class technicians in the world can there be? (Six for the record, as of this point in 2009). Central has been trying to track down Sauer since her ingenious heist of German fossils while pretending to oversee the transfer on behalf of her former employer the Carnegie in 2006. Ever since Saurer has been closely linked to half a dozen high caliber poachings around the world, but up until now we'd never successfully pinned any of them directly to her.

Megan began ordering me to do various things at gunpoint, especially to carefully put down her meticulously gathered field notes. I can understand and sympathize with her on this mark. There is nothing worse then having ones field notes damaged or stolen in the middle of a dig, something I've had happen many times in my career! It provides me a perfect opportunity to turn the situation to my advantage.

I'd hoped to lure the poachers out one at a time, as it makes it easier to subdue, but this strategy always carries the risk of them getting the drop on me. Which requires me to regain the initiative. Which this non-cleaned up dig site provides me ample resources to do so with.

Clumsily dropping the field notes I took a subtle step towards Saurer. As her eyes instinctively followed the notes I seized my moment. Kicking the grater lying by the quarry, I flung it up in the air similar to a lawn rake.

The shaft of the grater struck Saurer square on the hand as I'd aimed, sending her firearm flying through the air, and leaving her completely vulnerable.

Not wanting to risk anymore surprises from her (something I've had to learn the hard way over the years capturing suspects) I finish her off. Many would attack me as being ungentlemanly in such conduct. Anyone who buys into this PC nonsense clearly has never had a woman try to kill them before! They are no worse at it then men, let me assure you!

I now had one culprit removed from the situation. Time to neutralize her associates. The evidence I was seeing led me to believe there would only be one or two more. I was very curious to see who Saurer had gone into business with. Up until now she had been a minor nuisance, as opposed to major threat.

As I had now done a proper survey of the site, I could afford more stealth and try and take out the rest of Saurer's crew without them being aware of my presence.

Interrupting my plans, I was shocked to spot on the ground a set of Tyrannosaurid footprints. Not fossilized ones, but freshly laid vivus ones! Based on their small proportions there was no doubt who had left them. TMP 2003. 12. 7 [Traumador's official catalogue number]!

That idiot! After I'd warned him multiple times to ignore this situation. This was a whole new development, and one not easily assimilated into the current tactical situation. TMP 2003. 12. 7's presence in the crime scene added numerous complications since he was now in potential danger. As of my contact with Saurer I could no longer withdraw to reassess the situation, and I certainly could not charge head long anymore. Why can things not ever go as planned?

I contacted the contingent team to alert them of the new development, and to adapt it into the operation's conduct.

That damn coelurosaur! The distraction his presence caused, allowed Saurer's accomplice to sneak right up on me.

Great minds think alike it would seem, as she also saw the grater as a ready made weapon. It is such a shame I should come up against such a great mind at a moment like this!

I am no rank amateur though. As she approached, little did she realize she betrayed herself through the effort. A force of habit I have picked up as Palaeo-Prime is to always stand with my back to the sun. I caught sight of the poacher's shadow the instant she posed to attack.

I attempted a preemptive attack, but my assailant was a very capable martial artist and handily countered my strike. A fossil digger with advanced hand to hand combat training, it could only be Jocelyn Harvager.

How fitting that I would run into her here. I had been counting the days till she officially graduated to one of my adversaries. Not that she hadn't already done damage to the palaeontologic community.

I had once thought of recruiting Joceyln into Palaeo-Central back when she was merely just a graduate students. She was perfectly tailored for Central. Scientifically accomplished, a team player, and a championship level martial artist. Yet she turned down an incredibly promising academic career for simple monetary gain.

This despite all the trouble we on the executive of the International Palaeontologic Committee had gone to to fast track her PHD and assign her the description North America's first feathered Dinosaur. How did she repay these honours? By stealing the Dinosaur and selling it to the highest bidder.

Harvager made a small fortune off this sale, and the Committee had hoped she would simply fade away with it. I knew better. Despite how Jocelyn had corrupted, I knew she was addicted to to it all. Palaeontology ran through her veins. More to the point a small fortune can not replace a larger one, and it was only a matter of time before she reemerged to try and do so. I had been off by a mere month in my predictions as to when that would happen.

Unfortunately for me, Jocelyn had not only met me, but knew my capabilities. She took full advantage of her gained initiative, and I was unable to counter her. Jocelyn in just 10 seconds of her official career as a poacher risen to among Palaeo-Centrals most dangerous adversaries. Just below Spectre in my estimation!

Jocelyn has me incapacitated within thirty seconds. A modern record. Others would have made the quip "I must be getting old" had they been in my position. I do not have such pride. Harvager was better than me, and given my lack of preparation I deserved the beating I received.

Though Jocelyn was skilled, what she possessed in combat prowess she lacked in honour. After reducing me to half consciousness, Jocelyn literally kicked me when I was down to ensure I was no longer a threat.

Despite how painful this was, I took a momentary comfort in one thing. She was proving I had been correct in thinking her to be a perfect potential agent, as I would have done the same t her given the chance.

This of course concludes the personal observations I can make about Case #132-2009. I was unconscious for the rest of the incident, and thus can offer no first hand observations on how further events played out.

To be Concluded...


fossil of the weekend! #36

among the largest marine reptiles to have ever lived, the remains shonisaurus sikkanniensis, on display at the royal tyrrell museum.


taste of nature #5

the trilobite scree slope of mount stephen. definitely the most fossil packed place i've EVER been. every piece of shale you see in this photo has at least one trilobite in it... but most have way more. you can also find anomalocaris claws on the odd slab!!!


paradigm's egg layer...

things had hit rock bottom, people of the innerweb!

i'd solved the case of the fossil poachings going on around drumheller. however i'd gotten a little to keen in my investigation, and ended up being caught by the fossil poachers themselves!

worse still they weren't who i thought they'd be. as their two new "players" in this whole dark side of palaeontology i was very concerned. i had no idea what they were going to do to me, apart from probably sell me!

here were the two suspects... okay criminals, i didn't suspect them anymore, i knew they'd done it!...

from listening to them for the last few hours and paying attention to how they do stuff here is what i have figured out...

on the left was megan. she'd taken a job at the tyrrell's education department this year in an effort to infiltrate the museum to help with the poaching scheme. when i first met her, megan had been looking at a geological map of the drumheller area. she said it was a "project" she was doing over the summer. she was also no doubt the one who broke into the geology department.

one the right was jo. the member of the pair i knew the least about, but i was learning a few things. her job had been to do most of the digging once they started working on a poaching site. that way megan could keep up her presence in the museum, and make sure they hadn't caught on to the current dig. jo was also the the more ambitious of the two, and not as cautious as megan.

from eavesdropping and watching them... what else am i supposed to do tied up, waiting for my doom?!?... i'd figured out they were both professionally trained fossil diggers who knew their stuff.

megan had definitely been a technician at some point in her life based on how her conduct and methods. i'd over heard her say she'd worked at the american museum of natural history and the carnegie, two of america's prominent museums to be sure! she also had a tendency to remind jo of all the different places she'd dug in before... which so far sounded like every continent except europe and australia! why would such a well experienced and qualified technician abandon it all to take up fossil theft though?

jo was coming across as more of a scientist, and based on some goading by megan about some unfinished skool, i'm guessing jo had tried to become a palaeontologist once. whether she'd completed her training or not was besides the point, she was knowledgeable. very knowledgeable. i found it hard to believe she wasn't a curator already (though that would be hard when you're leading a life of crime!!!). i was getting the impression she'd done a lot of work in ontario, but she didn't name drop museums like megan did...

watching them work was both impressive and terrifying! for a two person crew they could get a lot done in a short span of time.

they also could interchange roles seamlessly and efficiently. I watched them swap tasks twice, and it was effortless. one of those cases where less was more powerful. a bigger dig team often needs to slow down and meet to make sure everything is done proper. in their defence big specimens are easier to damage (as you typically need to make them smaller for safe transport).

what surprised me most, as i watched, was how meticulously they were recording the site and information about the fossils positioning. that's what a proper scientific dig would do. recording how a fossil sits in the ground and mapping the whole site is where 75% of information about a fossil comes from.

why two commercial poachers needed to record this i wasn't sure. how many fossil collectors would want the full scientific dossier on the specimen? a little bit of info maybe for a keener, but anyone that interested in the information these two were gathering would probably want the specimens in a proper museum anyways! which a proper museum shouldn't be dealing in!

the two had an argument about it for a moment, but sadly as they both knew what they were talking about it didn't last long enough or outline enough details for me to really understand.

jo while digging asked megan to read back some of the mapping details for this last specimen. megan read back the numbers, but the eggs angle wasn't right. jo snapped at megan. "you're kidding me right? you've been approximating map coordinates?!?"

"only on this last batch. like it matters! i wanna get out of here. its only a matter of time before someone notices the tyrannosaur missing," megan defended herself. " it's not like anyone's going to care if the spatial orientation is off by a few degrees."

jo had one of her typical scientist sounding moments. "it defeats the purpose of the dig if we don't bother to record it right!" she scowled. "besides if orwell is as keen to purchase these as he sounds, then we better damn well make sure the information is spot on! you know how much his bosses care about the details."

"orwell, as in annex co. orwell?" megan asked to clarify, but the name had meant something to her and she crazily scribbled in the necessary corrections.

"yeah the one and the same," jo answered annoyed. "i emailed him some photos this morning, while you were blending in at the tyrrell. he replied within a few minutes. word out there is the company is very keen on acquiring any and all vivus-specimens they can these days."

that was it, beyond that they just started to double check their facts and field notes... not much to go on, yet i was not totally in the dark.

this annex co. i'd heard of it before. lillian the albertosaur had signed on with it after being fired by the tyrrell. however i had no idea what it did beyond run travelling exhibits in museums... why would they want illegal specimen for those? won't the museums ask where they'd gotten the amazing specimens from?
sadly i didn't have long to think about it. my time had run out... they were busy removing the last jacket. once it was out, jo and megan were likely to gather up the egg field jackets and myself, and ditch everything else and get out of town in a hurry. meaning i wasn't going to be anywhere to be easily found in under an hour!

despite the dread and terror that was starting to overwhelm me, the incident that happened with the removal of this jacket is of particular note...

as jo popped the jacket off its pedestal (the last rock holding the fossil in or on the ground) the underside of the jacket (aka the rock that had seconds ago been attached to the ground) fell off of the main block...

"oh *BEEP*," jo cursed as the loose chunk tumbled down the hill.

"there is an egg in it!" screamed megan. "we don't have long before it dies, pick it up quick!!!"

that didn't make sense... sure the egg was vivusly preserved. that is to say, somehow, it had fossilized so that the egg was still alive after millions of years... yet there was no way after being dropped and tumbled like that the embryo inside would have survived!

yet jo rushed forward very concerned as though she still had a chance of saving it. as she picked up the egg she asked in panic. "that wasn't 10 seconds was it?"

megan shook her head. "no you got it in time. nicely done!"

10 seconds, what did that have to do with anything? dinosaur eggs much like reptile and bird eggs can only handle SO much jostling before they die. especially for most non-avian dinosaur eggs, they would die even if you turn them over. just like most reptile eggs. only birds and a few closely related coelurosaurs ever evolved turnable eggs.

confusing me more, jo said in a dreading manner. "why did it have to hit the air? stupid vivus fossils," she hesitated as something started to happen to the egg in her hands "i hate this part!"
what could the difference between a vivus fossil and a regular fossil be when they hit the air, other then one was dead and the other was alive (okay a big difference i grant you, but 10 seconds and air shouldn't be a difference right?... well that's what i thought until)...

jo cringed in visible discomfort, not quite pain, but it certainly didn't look pleasant. before i could wonder why, i was hit with an all too familiar wave of dizziness and discomfort... oh no! not again...

i was having another of my magic episodes! professor paradigm had predicted that i'd become a "living detector" and so far he was sadly being proven right!
the egg in jo's hands lit up like a x-mas tree with "mystical gradient radiation" as the smart people around me had been calling it... i think the term magic gets the point across a lot better myself!!!
i don't think either megan or jo saw it the way i did based on their reaction...
jo definitely felt the magic release that's for sure. she nearly dropped the egg as though someone had given her a super powerful electric shock!

i felt it too, and i wasn't even close bu! thankfully it was a short burst. the shortest i'd ever encountered in fact. it was very intense though... on the level of whiro or the kete o te wananga.

jo, and megan too, were mystified by the phenomenon (which if you just got a huge shock from a fossil without the light show i saw, it would be very confusing), and both stated their ongoing puzzlement as to why vivus-fossils always did that when they were dug up. yet they didn't ponder on it for long. without the visual i had, it wouldn't have made sense...

i on the other hand, despite this being my first vivus-egg excavation, now had a pretty solid theory!
the magic had erupted off the surface of the egg, almost like a second shell... i think the magic was protecting it. protecting it from the wear and tear of millions of years! it made perfect sense, how else were things, otherwise long extinct, surviving the void of deep time into the present if not magic...
of course my theory had some holes big enough you could fly a dragon through them! first off i had no clue what magic actually was. from what i knew of it from the movies it could do anything, but as i'd learned from dinosaur movies what makes it too screen and what happens in real life can be drastically different!
more to the point how magic had gotten onto an egg millions of years ago made no sense to me... though based on the light show i'd just seen there clearly was an explanation...

jo wasn't as concerned with the incident as me. to her it was just a strange one off effect of finding vivus fossils.

however with its magical protection now gone the egg was as vulnerable as an ordinary egg. thus jo now handled it very carefully. "let's go put you somewhere nice, warm, and safe," she almost caringly assured the inanimate egg... i wasn't sure if she was eying it with extreme scientific curiosity or outright greed. perhaps a mix of the two i thought.

as jo went to store the egg i realized something. there were no more eggs for the two poachers to dig up... the excavation was over.

i gulped in slight dread as megan walked over to me. "well say goodbye to your old home," she instructed me. "i suspect it'll be the last time you ever see it."

"why are you doing this?" i genuinely asked... though i just meant what she was about to me.

megan seemed to think i meant my question about her chosen evil career path, which i can't help but feel was some sort of guilt complex on her part. after all why would a victim be even remotely interested in the bully's problems? "good question," she answered, which i thought meant she was reconsidering letting me go... however she was just thinking of how to word her life story all sympathetically.

"i did work for years in the name of science. i helped make many important discoveries," megan seemed to look off into the distance. perhaps in her mind down memory lane to times less illegal. i though it just looked silly... come on, a dinonapping technician yearning for the good old days... even i, who forgets TV isn't real sometimes, thinks that was cheesy!

to her credit megan snapped out of it too, and the moment ended with her rather sensibly admitting. "then i realized i wasn't being rewarded for my work on any level. the pay sucked, and worse the PHDs were getting all the credit and attention. i began wondering, would they be on the news or covers of people magazine if not for the finds i made for them? they wish! i went into business for myself when i realized how much more i could make on these 'freelance' gigs."

"that's fantastic," i sarcastically responded. so she was an accomplished fossil hunter who "snapped" under the hard pressure of not being rich or famous. i didn't have either of those thing, yet i hadn't broken down to the life of crime... so i'm not sure why she expected me to sympathize. "i meant why are you holding me against my will?"

megan just raised an eyebrow at me. "duh!" was her only reply. i guess i can appreciate that. after some of the things it sounds like she'd done along the path to selling out, pleading from me her latest victim wasn't going to turn her around to redemption.

"again i'd say goodbye to a lot of things. pretty soon you're not going to be able to enjoy them the same way again, unless you get lucky with a really nice new owner," megan warned me as she went to go collect the field notes.

i probably should have felt fear or dread or something hearing that. after all both megan and jo were making finally preparations to abandon the site with the goods and me. there wasn't anything i could do to stop them, and no one was coming to my rescue...

or so that was the situation until a minute ago. just as megan was finishing her lifestory, the wind had shifted ever so slightly. a human would never have noticed what i did off the downwind...

help had just arrived. professor paradigm was on the scene, and i was pretty sure (if his reputation as the head of palaeo-central were true) he wasn't too keen on the poaching from these badlands...

to be continued...