Anna and Alan moved out slowly letting the other two get into their positions before beginning their move. The stayed closer together than Alfred would have liked but he said nothing at this time. Alan walked steadily if slow in an sort of crouch ready to drop to the ground or roll away from Anna, for her part, Anna tried to mimic Alan.
Alfred crept forward his eyes roving keeping a wary eye and open ears, but as he looked around, he always came back to the body. It didn’t look right and the closer he got to the camp the surer he became that it wasn’t human, but was an animal of some sort. Part of what convinced him of this was a set of tracks he found which were as odd as anything he had ever seen. The prints, he determined, were of a quadraped, probably a reptile of some sort since he found a few marks that could have been caused by a tail, but if it were, the beast didn’t drag its tail as the marks were few and inconsistent. The prints themselves were five toed with the rear foot being broader and the toes shorter while the fore prints were remarkable hand like with long splayed toes.
There was no sudden surprise and in short order the team arrived at the camp. Diego indicated that he would remain concealed and provide and overwatch from the vantage point of a tree which he climbed and took up a snipers position in. The rest entered the camp.
The body was to be their first stop and they made their way to it even though it exposed them. Indeed, as Alfred had theorized on his approach, it was not a human body but that of a bloated reptile of some unknown type. The outstretched burned hand was the beats foreleg stretched from rigor mortis, sun dried and stiffened, the long toes curved in death, did resemble fingers, and gave them shivers. The beast was not burned from fire but rather it was dried out by exposure. None of them had ever seen anything like it was the size of a human torso had a long wide snout like that of a crocodile with numerous small razor-sharp teeth. Its tail was stubby and fined like a tadpole, made for swimming rather than balancing. Its legs were long and showed that the animal was capable of great speed on land at least for a short time. Its hide was leathery and of a dark greyish black. All in all it looked menacing even in death.
Anna examined the creature taking numerous pictures and describing her observation vocally using a blue tooth connection to her phone for recording. “From observation I can see no immediate cause of death. Aside from the dried nature of the hide which have produced cracks in the skin, there are no obvious wounds. And while i think its been dead several days I don't see any obvious signs of decomposition rather it looks like its undergoing some sort of natural mummification. There are no signs of insects or any other carrion activity which is startlingly odd’ She took her phone from her belt and swiped her thumb until the picture of the tooth was center screen another swipe enlarged it to fill the screen. She then bent down close to the corpses mouth and compared the teeth there to the one on the screen. “The tooth taken in Australia from the laptop is almost the same as these but larger by about sixty to seventy percent I would guess.” She stood up, “When we get our supplies dropped, we need to preserve this body and ready it for transport. I feel fairly certain that the tooth from the laptop came from the same type of creature, but one that was larger, probably older.”
While Anna had examined the dead thing, Alfred had taken a better look at the campsite. Now that they were within the bounds of the camp, he could see that the interior of the tents had been ransacked and things had likely been taken. He found more boot prints and a several empty shell casing of 7.62.
The team moved through the camp. They found the radio destroyed and the laptops and other electronic devices missing. The portable generator was still there and intact and filled with gasoline. Alan made another chilling discovery. On the far side of the camp he found three recent unmarked graves.
Alfred after loading the rifle raised the still detached scope to his eye once again. The view was obscured by the shadows cast from the trees and he could really make out little detail, but one thing was certain, he saw nothing moving which meant the camp was likely abandoned. As he passed his scope once more over the camp he suddenly paused and swung it back. He reached up and adjusted the focus, lowered the scope, and looked with his naked eye. Even at his age he still had perfect vision, but he did see it, whatever it was.
“I think that is a body,” he points, and the others strain to see, “It’s in the shadows and I can’t make much out but that looks like a hand stretched up.”
Diego holds his hand out for the scope and Alfred passes it to him. “I see it, god damn, that hand it looks like corpses I saw in the congo during the Sorbin affair, you remember when they burned the village.”
“I remember, but I see no evidence of any fire elsewhere in the camp.”
“We need to get closer,” Anna said as she swung her pack back up onto her back, “we are wasting time, there may be people in there who need our help.”
Diago casually slung the rifle on his back off his shoulder and checked the action, "We had best be cautious, with the motorcyclist at the airport and now missing boats and mysterious foot prints. It seems as if there is a third part interested in all of this and maybe they are not so innocent."
The four adventurers checked their gear and cautiously headed up the trail, Alfred in the lead. The practiced hunter studied the trail as he went but it told him very little, although the presence of a stone road or path in these savage jungles was difficult to comprehend. The distance to the mound and the base camp from the river was not far and with the aid of the road they arrived at the ancient site in less than half an hour. During the walk they had been silent and wary but nothing but the sound of insects and birds disturbed them.
They came upon the site suddenly. They had been walking along the path, the jungle heavy alongside and above them the canopy of trees which allowed in barley enough light to see by, then suddenly the forest fell away and before them was a sunlight filled clearing as large as a couple of football fields. There were small copes of trees and singles scattered throughout growing tall enough to make the coverage from the air difficult to penetrate visually but still allowing in much more light than before. The area was dominated by a large oblong mound rising with steep slopes to about thirty feet above the surface around it. It was grass covered and there were stunted trees growing sparsely along its length but it was clear that this was no natural formation
The road split off and made to circle the clearing and the mound. On the right hand side the road curved around and about half way down the still visible path the party could see a group of modern tents. They could also make out wooden construction upon the side of the mound close to the camp. Probably the place where expedition had entered the construction.
Again the only sounds they could hear were jungle sounds of Insects and birds. There was no one to be seen, not in the clearing on the mound or in the camp.
Michael had pissed himself and he knew that that was his undoing.
The fear pounding in his heart, had doomed him, just as it probably had his associates and friends. He stumbled through the pitch-black darkness afraid to use his light, his boot caught on a lip of rock and he tripped and fell. His impact with the surface told him he had not tripped over a rock but rather a step he had fallen on a stone stair leading up. Hope surged in his chest, maybe this was a way out?
As he scrambled to his feet, he smelled the strong odor coming from his urine stained khakis, he stopped and listened, if he could smell it, then those… things, would be able to as well.
With a shake of his head and a whimper he pulled the small flashlight from its holster on his belt and flicked it on. The narrow beam flashed across the yellowed limestone walls and the roughly hewn steps leading up the narrow stair. If he could find an opening to the surface even a chimney or window, if not an exit, he might be able to get a call through with the satellite phone which he still carried in his pack. With that thought he shrugged the heavy pack off his shoulders and pulled the small GCI Sat phone from its protective case. It was state of the art and looked more like a computer tablet than a satellite phone. He pressed and held the power on button and the screen, after a few seconds, lit up showing the GCI logo. He swiped his hand across the screen and the desktop was revealed as he searched for the phone function, he heard a scrabbling sound, like dozens of tiny claws clicking on stone.
“Shit,” he whimpered again as he shoved the phone/tablet back into his pack and throwing it on his shoulder started to rapidly climb the stairs. He had taken a half dozen steps, the scrambling growing closer, when the next step he placed his foot on crumbled underneath his weight and he toppled forward again. His body hit the steps with a bone jarring thud and the stairs seemed to disintegrate underneath him and Michael found himself falling.
He did not know how far he fell but in a short time he came to a breath stealing landing in the frigid water of an unknown sized pool. He plunged deep and did not hit a solid bottom, once he stopped sinking, he tried to orient himself and started to kick toward what he hoped was the surface. A moment later he broke the top of the water and drew a welcome breath into aching lungs.
It was dark and he had lost his light in the fall. As he treads water, he slowly spun but could make no difference in what he could see, he might as well have been blind then he heard the echoes of the clicking claws somewhere above him. Thank god, he thought as he shivered from the cold water, at least they cannot smell the piss now.
Suddenly he could no longer hear the claws, then a loud splash near him close enough that some of the water thrown up came down on him. It had lept after him!
Panic set in and he turned away from the splash and started swimming as fast as he could there had to be a way out there had to be!
Then he spied something underwater a glow as if a light sparkled below him. Not knowing the thing could swim underwater he dove and kicked toward the light at the below.