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Discourse on the World

Sarah Tintagyl

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Katerina Mordin had, for most of her life, a terrible case of nerves. Small things such as expired parking meters or a single misprint in an essay would send her mind reeling for days. She did not make it unknown that she preferred a life of routine, walking briskly to the university library once a day to pass the morning and afternoon with reading, writing, and both sitting in on lecture or teaching smaller classes herself. The secluded life of the ivory tower favored the delicate Austrian Red-head, which was why when she received a grant from the Department of Anthropology, which she could use to finally finish her doctorate, the aspiring professor nearly turned it down.

One of the university's professors, Alexander Voleyanko was undertaking a great task; an anthropological mapping of the world. In the modern world where nations changed at an almost constant rate and civil war and strife seemed to be a constant away from the civilized halls of East Asia, a tangible record of the cultures that inhabited Earth at the present would be invaluable. Katerina had taken many, if not all of Voleyanko's seminars, and quickly found herself doing a great deal of his office work and assisting his lectures. It came of no surprise that he asked her to accompany him, but given that it was an adventure not only around Tianxia, but around the world that she was hesitant to accept.

It took a great deal of convincing from Katerina's friends to spur her to accept the invitation. "A lifetime opportunity? You can't let it slip away like this." Hearing that from nearly everyone she knew, both friends and family and that they would disown her if she didn't respond to the Professor, Katerina found herself walking down the wooden floors of the Anthropology Department. Over her shoulders she had her most prized personal belongings, with her other necessities packed in the vehicles the research team would be taking. Taking a deep breath, the doctoral student walked up to the door of Professor Voleyanko and knocked before stepping inside, finding the door unlocked.

"Professor?" she said, peaking her head inside. "I think I have everything packed. The driver asked me if you're ready to go."

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Alex Voleyanko sipped his coffee and brushed his hand through his sandy blond hair as sat at his desk exhausted looking around in his narrow office in the History and Anthropology Department of the University of Ehestadt. As a 30 year old assistant professor he was low on the totem pole getting one of the smallest offices and therefore making his already disorganized and cluttered office space even more so. He had only been a professor for a few years but already he had taken to the life style, he was dressed in a slightly wrinkled oxford shirt, a pair of worn cordoruys, and a elbow patched herringbone jacket. Along with his large glasses, for all intensive purposes he appeared your everyday absent minded professor; confined to the office, classroom, and back rooms of libraries.

It came as a shock to many to hear that he was planning an ambitious research expedition across the world. Voleyanko himself had been a bit of an explorer in his early youth, being a journalist for two years between undergrad and grad school, he had been embedded during the then UFEs wars in Africa, and had gone on to explore several regions of the world both as a journalist and then as a graduate student, writing his thesis on the nomadic peoples of Central Asia and their adaptation to the 'Modern Horde'. Having grown up in the Siberian Woods, he was eternally grateful he was able to earn a scholarship to University, but he deep down loved the open countryside as well.

Staring at the map spread out before him, each part of it was filled with sticky notes, places where he thought different cultures would look interesting to visit. His concentration was interrupted when Katerina poked her head in telling him it was time to go. Looking up from the map, he looked hardly ready to go. "What is it morning already?" he asked genuinely surprised.

Looking down at his watch, he chuckled, "Oh dear." he said as he hastily rolled the map into his travel bag before picking it up and grabbing a larger suitcase with him at the door. "Well then we better get going." he said as he grabbed his hat.

Edited by Triyun
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"Yes, sir, it is." Katerina sighed and gently kicked a small empty map container to the side of the room. While Professor Voleyanko was her colleague and she enjoyed working with him, the actual practice of research and writing was a nightmare. Every professor at the university had their quirks, but Voleyanko was one of a kind. He rarely came to lecture or seminar on time, papers requiring his signature would often take months to be returned, and it wasn't a university forum unless he picked a fight with some of the more conservative historians with either a Chinese or Japanese background. It was only his sheer genius in anthropology and derivatives of history and sociology. Just seeing his office and the bags under his eyes, however, Katerina was already beginning to regret going on the trip.

"We're never going to make it anywhere; not alive at least." She said to herself and straightened her jacket and opened the door a bit wider as it ran into a coffee can filled with wooden idols. "But yes sir, I'll lead the way. The driver has been a bit cranky all morning. I don't know if either he, or the university are too thrilled with the zigzag route that we're going to be taking."

There was no pattern to Voleyanko's proposed route, the research team wouldn't move by continents or by cultures. They wouldn't research according to wars or areas of economic prosperity or depression. The route seemed more that Voleyanko threw darts against a board, which was rather possible, and plotted the course from those random throws.

Loading themselves into a large truck, the lead vehicle of the research caravan, Katerina took out her phone and dotted the itinerary. "It's a long way to Moscow, Professor, though they should be expecting us in a few days." She said and the truck roared to life. "A few very long days on the road that is." Pulling out from the university, the young student looked at the Austrian style buildings disappearing behind her and watched ahead as a countryside horizon continued to grow. It would be the first true time she was heading across unknown territory to really see the entire world and their work would begin immediately.

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Releasing and then pulling out his bow tie followed by unbuttoning his first two shirt collar buttons, Alex breathed a sigh of relief as they got past the city limits of Ehestadt. The city was home to a very affluent population, and was beautiful especially compared to the industrial powerhouses which lined many of the giant urban areas to the south like Beijing and Shanghai but it was still nothing like the dense ever green forest land of Siberia. He could hear the sounds of birds chirping even over the engine of the truck. The rich virgin wilderness was yet untouched by the fires of industry that most of North East Asia had become.

In his hands he had several papers still yet to grade which he would send back to students on their stop by a town. His red pen marked furiously through one student in particular who had a peculiar fascination to right semi-adoringly about the military history of Germany, it was fine for one essay, but to go on and on about it grew tiresome. Definitely C- work. Turning back to her he sighed, "Tell me, whats your opinion on these papers with a fascination about Germany as a military juggernaut. The wars they are famous for being in they lost." he said. "We should make it a requirement for all freshman to write a paper on a country that wasn't a member of the G-8 or China during the 20th century." Alex suggested.

He looked out at the wilderness before them, "You know in the early 20th century before the Russian Revolution, there was a time when people thought of Siberia as the next American Wild West, and untamed frontier full of possibilities. I grew up here, its a fascinating place, tales from North of the Great Wall in Dynastic China tell of caucasians possibly some of your ancestors living there. Mongol horseman road across. Its a long journey to Moscow, but Katrina, as an anthropologist, how can you want to be anywhere else but on the northern edge of the World's Crossroads."

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