An SF novella set in the same universe as her Diving into the Wreck series.

Publication year: 2010, first published in Asimov’s in 2009. It’s available at Smashwords.
Format: ebook, pdf
Page count: 90
Publisher: WMG Publishing

Meklos Verr is in the security business and one of the best. He and his team have come to the planet called Amnthra because he took a guarding job. Archeology doctor Gabrielle Reese has been leading the excavation of the city of Denon for the last 10 years and now she requires guards. Verr’s people are tired from their previous job and Verr thought that this job looked easy. After all, the Spires and the city below them are in a remote area on an isolated planet. However, once the team gets there, Verr notices that something strange is going on. Doctor Reese doesn’t want to clarify what the team is supposed to guard or against whom. In fact, she goes out of her way to avoid the guards.

Doctor Reese has an established career in Archeology but she has her secrets. She loves her field but she isn’t above earning a little to herself at the same time. Now, she has found underground caverns beneath the ancient city and a few artifacts from them. However, she’s growing more nervous because she doesn’t trust her team of PhD candidates and students to keep things to themselves. So, she hasn’t told them about the find. Instead she hired a few guards to keep things safer. However, the leader of the lowly guards started to ask a little too many questions.

Navi Salvino is also interested in the city of Denon and any archaeological items which might be found there. She even hired an expert who had predicted some finds in the area before they were made. Now, the expert had predicted that there will be a complete treasure trove of artifacts in underground caverns beneath the city. Navi wants to get those artifacts.

The Spires of Denon are group of long and delicate looking towers with intricate carvings. The spires twist around each other forming a very beautiful art form. The local government protects them so it’s not possible scan them from orbit and getting into the city requires a permit from Doctor Reese. The spires also collect and amplify the light around them making them glow brightly. They’re excellently described.

The pacing of the novella is excellent. In places it’s very fast and yet at other times, there’s time to admire the spires and the carvings in them. The characters are well established although few. We only get to know a couple of the people from the security team besides Verr, for example. There’s a feeling that a lot of people are milling about in the city, doing work, but they are in the background.

I was intrigued by the concept of the Scholars Exploration, where a group of universities and wealthy alumni are funding expeditions and excavations, and reaping the profits, of course.

It’s well written, and left me wondering just what is the true story behind one of the characters. Maybe we’ll see them again.