Clever Clover crouched in a one meter square hole in the ground. It was almost ninety centimeters deep and was becoming difficult to excavate in such cramped quarters. He carefully scraped the floor of the excavation with a sharpened trowel, seeking any signs of prehistoric activity hidden in the soil. He paused as his trowel grated against something solid. The point of the trowel probed into the soil to determine the size of the unseen object. Just as the purple pony was about to remove the covering soil to reveal what lay beneath, something fell on top of him. The trowel plunged into the soil gouging out a jagged hole in the once perfectly smooth floor of the unit.
"Eh, watch where you're throwin'- Ah, who are you?" Clever Clover realized that it was not some inanimate object that had fallen on him, but another pony.
The other pony, who Clever Clover didn't recognize, sat on his back rubbing a lump on her forehead. "I'm sorry; I guess I didn't notice the hole there. Are you okay?"
"I think so; maybe if you get off my back I'd be sure."
"Oh, right." The strange pony lightly hopped out of the hole but managed to knock over a bucket which landed on Clever Clover's head.
Clever Clover climbed from the hole, now rubbing the lump on his own forehead. "You're new here, aren't you?" The purple pony finally got a good look at the stranger who had fallen on him. Her coat was tan with golden mane and tail and pale blue eyes. The symbol on her rump was a five-pointed star surrounded by a halo of silver rays.
"Yeah, I just started this morning. I'm having some trouble getting the hang of things. The boss told me to find someone called Cleaver Clover to show me the ropes. By the way, my name is Belle Star."
"Uh, I'm Clever Clover. It's nice to meet you, Belle Star."
Belle Star bowed. "Oh, I am honored to meet you Mr. Clever Clover."
"Well, lets get to work. I had just found something when you fell on me. Let's see what we've got." Clever Clover carefully climbed back into the hole and meticulously picked through the loose soil with his trowel. He gently recovered two fragments of prehistoric ceramic. After examining the fragments, he looked up at Belle Star who looked back with wide, innocent eyes. Clever Clover sighed. "These fragments have a fresh break, and they're rim-sherds too."
Belle Star giggled. "'Sherds' sounds silly."
"Uh-huh, it would have been nice if we could have found one sherd instead of two."
"Oh well, maybe next time."
Clever Clover sighed again. "Hand me a bag for the sherds and then grab the clipboard and take down some measurements."
The state of the excavation recorded, the duo of ponies prepared to continue digging.
"Do you want to dig or screen the next level?" Clever Clover asked the rookie archaeologist.
"Ah, um, I don't know."
"I'll dig. The screening has been pretty easy. It will be a good way to get a feel for the site. Are you familiar with the type of artifacts you'll be looking for?"
"Uh, old ones?"
"Yes, specifically lithic tools and debitage, ceramics like those sherds we found earlier, and bones. The bones and ceramics are fragile, so try to be careful."
"Right-bone? That's kind of creepy."
"Yeah, well the prehistoric people who lived here were carnivores, at least for a while. Maybe we'll find some clue as to why they gave it up."
"Maybe their food got mad and went away."
"Sure; now can we get back to work?"
"Yes, sir." Belle Star threw Clever Clover a salute and picked up the screen, a wooden box with a wire mesh bottom. The box was mounted on a pair of legs that moved freely so that the box could be shaken, causing small particles of soil to fall through but not larger artifacts. Clever Clover used a short-handled shovel to skim soil from the floor of the excavation into Belle Star's waiting screen. It wasn't long before she found her first artifact. "Ooh, a pretty arrow head!"
Clever Clover looked up at the delicate, translucent, amber-colored stone point. "Eh, that is a good one."
"Too bad I can't keep it; it would make a great necklace."
"I could make you one if you'd like. I don't have that particular material, but I do have others that are just as pretty."
"Oh, that is very thoughtful of you."
"It's no problem. I like knapping."
Belle Star yawned. "I could go for a nap myself."
"Not 'nap', 'knap' with a 'k'. It means-" Clever Clover yawned wide. "Great, now you've got me doing it."
"Sorry, I'll try to-" Again Belle Star yawned.
"Let's just-YAWN-get back to work before we both fall asleep."
* * *
The day concluded with no major mishaps, much to Clever Clover's relief. Belle Star ended up breaking a number of artifacts; but in recording, she excelled.
"Well, you didn't do too bad for your first day, Belle Star."
"Thank you, Clever Clover."
Spade, the supervisor of the site, approached the two ponies as they finished packing away their tools for the night. "Well you two, your point was the first diagnostic artifact from the site; and you know what that means."
Belle Star looked confused. "Uh, no, I'm afraid not."
"It means the boss has to buy us drinks tonight," Clever Clover explained.
"That's right. You're staying at the Friendship Inn, right Belle Star?"
"That's right, Mr. boss sir."
"Well, they've got a good soda bar; let's meet there in say... two hours?"
Clever Clover nodded. "Works for me."
"'Kay," Belle Star chimed in.
* * *
When Clever Clover walked into the bar, he found that Spade and Jack, the greasy cart mechanic and part-time archaeologist, were already there. Jack raised his glass. "Hey, Clev', how's our star digger? No pun intended."
"I'm fine. Has Belle Star shown up yet?"
Jack shook his head. "Not yet."
Spade gestured for the bartender. "What'll you have Clev'?"
The bartender poured a frosty mug of Clever Clover's chosen drink.
Just then Belle Star entered. "Hi everybody! Sorry I'm late; I fell asleep in the bathtub."
"What are you drinking?" asked the bartender.
"Oh, I'll have a ginger ale." Belle Star took her drink, held it up to her face, and giggled. "I like the way the bubbles tickle my nose."
By the time the rest of the archaeologists arrived, Belle Star had already fallen asleep leaning on the bar. Jack waved his hoof in front of her face to see if she was really asleep. "She looks so peaceful. Does anyone know where I can get some face-paint?"
"Jack, don't torment her. It's her first day on the job; we don't want to upset her."
"Don't worry, Clev'; I'd keep it tasteful. Remember that custom paint-job I did on my cart?"
"Yeah, I also remember that every citizen in Friendship Garden-- and some from Dream Valley-- signed a petition banning your cart from the streets."
"Humph, a great artist is never appreciated in his own time."
"Maybe we should take her to her room."
"Clev', you're such a party pooper."
Clever Clover shook Belle Star gently. "Eh, Belle, wake up." She didn't even stir. Clever Clover tried again, louder this time. "Wake up, Belle."
"Boy, is she a sound sleeper. Eh, Clev', remember that time you fell asleep at morning break and we buried you up to the neck in backdirt?"
"Shut up, Jack. Help me carry her. Spade, could you find someone to unlock her room?"
The bartender spoke up. "I've got the keys. Follow me."
After depositing Belle Star safely in her room, Clever Clover and Jack returned to the bar to find that the conversation had turned to stories of embarrassing childhood memories. Clever Clover yawned. "I should be getting home. Morning is going to come awfully quick."
"Yeah, see you tomorrow."
Spade gestured to Clever Clover from his table across the room. The purple pony took a seat across from his boss. "What's up."
"What do you think of Belle Star?" Spade asked.
"She's a competent archaeologist and a good worker once you get used to her- peculiarities."
"And you've managed to get used to her 'peculiarities' already?"
"Close enough; I'm makin' her your partner for the remainder of the project."