The whole group smoothly followed De Vries instructions as well a Knight's example, although it was tempting to look.
Captain Powell slipped a hand into the pocket of her shorts and drew out a small oval device with several buttons, she easily kept it concealed in her palm and only those nearby who noticed the movement could see it. Keeping her hands by her side in regular walking motion she thumbed the buttons. "Baxter, this is the Captain, " she said in a conversational voice, "Mr De Vries spotted someone at the hanger across the way out front, making observations. Pick two men have them go out the back way and scoot around to take stock. Whoever it is may have a high powered camera or may be armed, act accordingly."
She glanced back at her charges who now noticed that she wore a small flesh colored earphone fit into her ear. "We've been here a few days and with our unusual look have drawn a few sightseers and gawkers, but i don't like that this fellow is taking pains to stay concealed and mounted as if for a quick getaway. And since none of us have been shot yet my money is on the camera. Regardless Baxter will have it sorted and we will be in the air as soon as we get you loaded up."
Captain Powell looked on at her ship with unmasked love. "She's a bit updated from the design you worked on Mr Knight. The skin is no longer fabric but rather a light, very light weight composite which is stronger than aircraft aluminium," she pronounced the word in the British fashion, " but as light as modern sail cloth. She is all electric and equipped with self replenishing solar panels which feed directly to the motors as well as storage cells. I will admit that she isn't the fastest, capable of only one hundred twenty knots, which should get us where we are going in about four hours. Once there..."
As she spoke she had started to march toward the waiting airship and the adventurers followed along. Back at he rover several men, also dressed in the traditional uniforms collected the parties belongs for transfer to the Argo.
Powell continued her recitations of the ships capabilities and it was obvious that she was immensely proud of the machine. Alfred found it amusing coming from someone who looked like a teenager. She was now going on about cargo capacity and something maybe an itch maybe that sixth sense which served him so well caused him to glance back at the opening of the hanger. At first he saw nothing but then a glint of light flashed across his vision. he narrowed his eyes, there across the access road near that other hanger a good five hundred meters away, at he corner he could just make out the front half of a motorbike and a person pointing something in their direction. Possibly a camera, or a gun...
Both Alan and Anna accepted the offered mints and with some more small talk they were soon on their way to board the waiting private Gulf Stream which would carry them to Brazil.
The three professional adventurers after settling on the plane and it getting underway fell to discussing what they knew and speculating about what they didn't. It was an eleven hour flight and Alfred who had already flown along distance was the first o decide that sleep was a must especially since they couldn't count on much in the days ahead and the other two soon followed the older gentleman.
After the plane landed and taxied they were met on the tarmac by a land rover and a young woman in what looked like a traditional British tropical naval uniform, White Shorts, polished black loafers, a well tailored and starched white short sleeved shirt with Epaulets. Despite the professional attire and the finely toned limbs which were visible, the young woman looked more like a teen aged girl playing dress-up, than an officer in some service. This may have also been somewhat due to her height which was probably around five foot nothing.
"Good afternoon gentlemen, ma'am, I am Captain Powell, commander of the Argo II. I hope you enjoyed your flight in from the States and I promise a swift and comfortable flight to the expedition site." Captain Powell opens the rover's back door and while the driver wearing a similar uniform as the captain, loads the adventurers baggage in the back she gestures them to board the car. In moments they are pulling away from the plane and heading toward a huge hanger across the field.
Powell looks back at the three from her seat up front. "Your equipment and supplies are all loaded and secure and once we get you settled we can depart. Mr. DeVries, your associate arrive a couple of hours ago and is already aboard."
She turns back forward as the rover comes to a stop outside the open hanger and they see what it contains. "And that, gentlemen, Ma'am, is the Argo."
Anna wheeled her canary yellow mini-cooper into the driveway of Alan’s home and came to a stop. She let the engine idle as she looked up at the house remembering the last time she had been there and the adventure the two of them had shared in Brazil. Neither had ended particularly well or satisfying, but despite it all they had parted ways as friends. She killed the engine and exited her car and went to the door to get this party started.
Two hours later Alan Knight and Anna Rochefort waited on the public concourse at San Francisco International for the arrival of their new associate. Their own luggage had already been stowed aboard the chartered Gulf Stream which was to carry them to South America, and just moment’s ago the loud speakers had announced that De Vris’ flight was at the gate and disembarking.
“So you really don’t know anything about this guy? Aside from he is a hunter. Isn’t that a little non PC these days?” Alan was not sure if Anna was really asking a question or not. She was, he had found out the hard way, the master of the rhetorical question.
The two spied the tall figure that matched the man he had seen on the video conference at the same time. “There he is.” “Oh my god, he looks like he stepped out of a nineteenth century safari.”
“Be nice,” Alan said as he stepped up and waved to attract Alfred’s attention.
The conversation continued for about ten more minutes until Alfred heard the thump thump of the helicopters rotors approaching. Requests made and assurances that the GCI would have everything waiting in Brazil, Collins wished the two good luck and god speed.
Alan, as soon as the connections was closed picked up his phone and found Anna's number he hesitated for only a moment then hit speed dial. She answered before the first ring died. She had already been contacted and was getting things ready. She assure him that she would be in San Francisco in three hours. After a brief conversation they hung up and Alan went about getting his things in order as well.
Alfred called his friend, Diego, from the helicopter. Like Anna, Sabatini had also been contacted by the GCI, unlike Anna, or Alfred, and Alan, he was not a member of the GCI, but rather a freelancer, and as such he had told Collin's that he would make his decision after speaking with Alfred. The two conversed for some twenty minutes during Alfreds flight and in the end Diego agreed to join them. He told Alfred that he would take a flight to New York and then to Brazil and would meet them in Manaus.
Alfred said his good byes as the helicopter was touching down and soon was on his way to San Francisco.
“Thank you, Luke, I’ll have instructions sent for picking up the team as soon as they arrive.”
“Can’ wait,” Darrow’s laconic reply sounded a bit sarcastic, “well, good luck mates, ciao.” His arm fills the screen then his image is replaced by the GCI logo.
Collin’s looks at her camera and it is as if she is looking directly at each of the remaining attendees on the call.
“Alan, the signal ping we are still receiving is from a self-contained module we put in all of our devices for tracking. As far as we can tell from here the pad is dead. We are hoping to recover data from the hard drive if it was not physically damaged.
As for the other members of the expedition, Alfred, there were a total of eight plus native guides and bearers which we do not have an exact number on. Due to the remoteness of the area reliable communications were done by satellite phone. Parker always had one with him that he carried and there were several others. We had contact with the team on the day they made their second descent into the structure and at least three of the team members remained above. But that was also the last time we received a report. But as you suggested the members above ground used the sat coms to do their usually chatter and social media and such. That is why no alarms were initially raised. But on the second day all communication stopped. No updates to social media or log ins to the university. And subsequent attempts to raise the team by sat com has proven ineffective. Their comms has been disabled or turned off.
Then we received the ping in Australia.” Collins glanced to the side and her image was replaced by the image of a skull. The Skull rotated showing that it was a 3-d model and as it rotated flesh and muscle slowly filled in until there is a reconstructed head.
“This is Luzia Woman an Upper Paleolithic period skeleton of a Paleo-Indian woman who was found in a cave in Brazil in 1974. She is about 11,500-years-old and is the earliest human remains found in the Americas. The Skeleton was destroyed in a fire at the National Museum of Brazil in 2018, but the skull was later recovered mostly intact. Using the recovered skull anthropologist made this facial reconstruction and started a controversy.
Obviously Luzia does not conform to the normal recognized genotype as her features distinctly resemble those of Negroids, Indigenous Australians, Melanesians and the Negritos of Southeast Asia. No other remains found anywhere in the Americas have shown these physical characteristics. The controversy arises due to DNA which shows that she was Amerindian. Scientists are still arguing over it.
I am showing you this for one reason, while her skeleton was not found any where near our ruins. The simple fact that Hodges satpad showed up in the middle of a desert in the outback of Australia makes one wonder if there is a link of some sort.
I’m Sending you two to Brazil to mount a search and rescue. Alan I chose you because you have extensive experience with search and rescue and survival and Alfred I want you along because you have experience with big game hunting and in particular that monster killer croc you managed to hunt down and bag back in ’14.
Parker's expedition was not equipped to explore underground ruins so when they were discovered we put together a resupply mission. We sent the Argo II airship to resupply them, it was still assembling when all of this occurred and is now waiting at Manaus International Airport for your arrival. Once there the Argo II will take you directly to the site and lower you into the jungle along with any equipment and will remain on site lingering until you are ready to be extracted hopefully with everyone alive and safe.
If there is anything you need send a requisition e-mail to the map room and we will see if we can get it to Manaus for you. Alan if you think you need additional personnel, I can authorize up to two additional team members. You have twenty hours until your flight leaves for Brazil.
Alfred we have a helicopter in route to take you to the airport where a private flight is waiting to deliver you to San Francisco in time to link you up with Alan.
Sorry this is such short notice gentlemen but we have to move as fast as we can.”
Ms. Collins nodded at both Alfred and Alan’s observation, “I think I’ll let Luke take it from here.”
The Cowboy dressed fellow grinned out of the image frame, “Right,” the word was drawn out and the accent placed the man unquestionably as Australian, “names Luke Darrow, I’m a pilot done some flying for Ms. Collins. When I got the call and the GPS and pad codes I took off and flew straight there. Not really know what to expect I mad a couple of flybys at the location at altitude and fast. I been shot at sometimes in the past. Some blokes aren’t to keen on being observed you know.
Anyway, I didn’t spot anything But I was picking up the GPS signal so found a safe spot to set down and landed. Now let me tell you this is about as back of the beyond as you can get.” His arms move forward and the camera, obviously a laptop, is picked up and turned away from Darrow. The underside of a wind can be seen and beyond that desert wasteland. The camera pans showing the desolate landscape, “Ain’t much out here but dingos and a few roos,” his voice carries back muffled since the mic is pointed away.
He sets the lap top back into the seat of the airplane and adjust it so that he is centered back in the picture frame. “I landed about two hundred meters away from the ping. As you can see its mostly flat no structures no nothing. It didn’t take me long to find it there’s a field of stones and small boulders out there and right dab in the middle I found your pad. I took some pictures of it lying there in the dirt and the surrounding before I picked it up.” He fiddles with the computer and his image disappears and is replaced by the picture he obviously took.
The Satpad is badly damaged the screen shattered and the upper right corner mangled. There is a large hole clean through the tablet and right next to the hole another something appears to be impaled through the tablet. “As you can see,” Darrows voice comes over clearly,”something had a go at it and left a souvenir. At first I thought it was a croc tooth and it is similar but after I got it back here and had a better closer look I don’t think it’s a croc. Oh and when I picked it up there was water inside like it had been submerged. Salt water.”
Alfred had just finished the paragraph and was rereading it for the second time. It still was not right. With a sigh he pushed back his chair and stood, stretching. He needed something to drink. Coffee or something to put him to sleep. Alfred glanced at the antique clock on the fireplace mantel. He had to squint to read the numbers, which brought another sigh. Almost four thirty in the morning, he should have been in bed hours ago. Instead the rest of the house would be waking soon. He turned toward the bar on the other side of the room, but a singular notification alarm stopped him. It had sounded from the computer lap sitting on small table between the accent chairs by the fireplace.
Curious Alfred strode to the laptop and glanced at the notification message. There was no text only the symbol GCI used as their logo. Bending over he used the mouse pad to open the notification.
There was another accept clicky which would lead to a secure video conference. Alfred hesitated for a moment then clicked the acceptance. A personal log in screen came up. He went back to the desk and set the computer down and logged in.
The screen changed to a four portioned image two were active, one showing a man in the shade sunlight behind him he was mid thirties a couple of days growth of beard and a hat and scarf around his neck. His dress said Australia in very loud manner. Alfred didn’t recognize him.
The other frame held the image of a woman also in her mid to late thirties more handsome than pretty. Her, Alfred knew. Jennifer Collins, an English woman who had a background in business and politics, she was now one of the top administrators at the GCI, while not a director she was perhaps more powerful being one of those responsible for shuffling the numbers and making sure the right resources went to the right place where they could do the most good.
“Good morning Alfred, hope I didn’t wake you, but we have a bit of a thing and, if your available would like to have your help on it.” She held up a hand before he could say anything in reply. “Hold on to that thought if you would. We are waiting for a fourth and I only want to go through this once.”
Alan had just lifted the pizza when his computer on the desk sounded an alarm. With a grimace he dropped the pizza back onto the plate and got up to answer the computer call.
The third Frame blinked on and a large muscular man with a short beard appeared. He looked annoyed. Alan Knight did not know the two men but the woman he did, and he knew this had to be serious. Unless she was in the states it had to be early in the morning where she was, well before business hours.
“Ms. Collins, How can I help you.”
“Good to see you Alan. We have a bit of a situation and it’s been elevated to Code EX.’
Code EX stood for Expedite and was GCI for drop everything and get on this immediately.
“GCI is one of the principle backers for an expedition in the Amazon. Dr. Nicolas Parker a paleo anthropologist from Stanford made what he thought was discovery on unusual structure in the basin. As your probably aware Central and South America are covered with ruins, Inca, Aztec, Maya, etctra. Cities pyramids mysterious structures and roads. Virtually everything of one type or another has been found over there.
But not Brazil. As you probably aware to date the only significant ruins found in Brazil have been the mounds. All that changed last summer.
An aerial mapping plan took a lidar map’s of an area of the basin heretofore un-surveyed they were making the maps to determine the effects of environmental changes and how it effects the tree growth. It’s the same method used elsewhere to uncover ruined structure beneath the canopy. Usually these surveys only uncover mounds left by the ancestors of the modern Indians who live there now. But this survey found something else.”
The fourth frame which had been blank changes to a lidar image. It shows a bright yellow square with the edges in green and around it eight oval shapes of a darker yellow with heavier green on the edges, each approximately the same size and some distance away. All the empty spaces between the yellow shapes is in various shades of dark green.
“The square is of some sort of dense substance likely stone, as indicated by the bright color, the ovals are mounds made of packed dirt thus the darker yellow as it absorbs the lasers. The green is foliage and trees. The square is approximately 430 meters a side. Which is significant as most pyramids have similar dimensions. What is odd about this though is the uniformity of the reading, generally you would have differing shades as a pyramid has different heights not so this.
Anyway, it is a significant find, but Dr Parker could not get a grant due to the remoteness and dangerousness of this part of the amazon. So, he came to us and well it is as I said significant.
We helped him put together an expedition and it left earlier this year. They made the trek and found something astonishing.” Ms. Collins pauses, and all eyes focus on the image frame.
The image frame begins flashing through a series of images showing a stone slab in the jungle its about three meters high and is stepped with each step being about six inches high and about two feet deep. The top is flat stone. The last few images show a small stone slat two meters by two meters in the center of the structure and its removal and what appear to be steps descending into the structure.
“There are more images and information. I will be sending them on to you, Alfred, and you Alan. Down to the brass tacks. One of our members accompanied the expedition to look out for our investment so to speak. His name is Michael Hodges, he is a Paleo-Archeologist out of Cambridge and has been a member of the GCI for several years and been incremental on two previous expeditions in the region. He made regular reports detailing the discovery. They entered the structure and found what they described as an underground upside-down pyramid. There are details in the reports you can read for yourselves. Michael was sending reports daily. He missed his first report two days ago. He was equipped with an Inmarsat Telesat Mk IV Satpad, I know you have used one Alan. A GPS ping was sent out after he missed his report and hourly thereafter for two days until we received a reply seven hours ago.
The ping the Satpad GPS sent back indicated that it was in now in Australia not Brazil.”
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.
Ok you two will be the only players for now so since you hare both posted I will start putting together my NPCs and the first adventure. it will probably be the weekend or early next week but i'll try to get it sooner.