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Action Director

Above, Between, Below - A Call for Action Adventure

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Prologue

 

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.

 

Spoiler

Ok that is the prologue for our first story. What I want from each of you is to give me a post, not a big one, detailing where you are and what you are doing at a given moment. for your information neither of you have worked together in the past although you may have heard of one another in passing. You are not together and have no expectation to be working together in the future.  for your setup posts it is 8:00PM GMT on a Thursday in  Late May . Consider this your introduction posts. If you have any questions ask me in a PM of Discord

 

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Posted (edited)

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Norway, a thursday in May
 

The snow had not quite lost its battle with the sun of spring in the forested mountain valleys of Kopperå. Where once a copper mine and railroad dictated daily life, nestled close to the Grønbergdamm, a sprawling hunting lodge of timber roofed in moss was the visible section of Alfred De Vries’ home. He called it “Dassenleger” affectionately, for it hid much more than it revealed to a casual observer.

 

Alfred’s mood was sour, and it was not much improved by the carpet of white outside, the deep night sky or the crackling hearth fire. Working in his study on his manuscript, he battled the demons of using a word processor while being observed, haughtily, by the many books around him that the greats of the earth had already completed.

 

A knock on the door broke him out of his thoughts, and the husky form of Per – stony faced as ever – came trundling in with a ceramic coffee pot topped with a cup. It dangled ferociously, perched to fall, yet Per never dropped anything. Alfred chose competent and devoted staff. “Ah, thank you very much Per, good thinking. It’s going to be a verdomd long night and some coffee will do me good!”

 

Per grunted, something between acknowledgement and a curt snicker, then resumed his ponderous trundle back to the hallway.

Edited by Laughing Crow

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Alan was just settling in to relax in his San Francisco home.   It had been the last day at the lab, and a good one.   The team he'd been part of had finished a new Sensor mount for undersea exploration, One that was highly pressure resistant, and able to penetrate deep into the earth.   It was meant to be a tool to aid in undersea mining, as well as some use as part of an earthquake-prediction system.  He'd been in charge of ensuring the mount would withstand the pressure, and that the casing wouldn't interfere with the sensors' abilities.  He'd also developed a small short range AUV with the sensor, which he'd named the Remora.   it wasn't pretty, but it did the job well, and at least under all simulated test conditions, it worked like a charm.   Things would go to production now, and soon enough, they'd be something real, and he hoped he'd get to test them in action.

It was too late to go out and walk the beach, and he had the next three days off.  He was planning to invite his family down for the weekend, to enjoy the benefits of living close to the  Beach.  They'd not all gathered together for a good while, and he'd made plans to barbecue if nothing else.   Some of the research team had thought to do the same, and if his family couldn't make it, he'd just open it up to his team instead.

He flipped through the channels, his freshly cooked pizza set out on a plate, a cold beer to the left, and relaxed.   He was tired, and practically dared his phone to ring the rest of the night.   He was going to sit and veg for awhile, maybe  do a little online gaming, and then crash, so he could get the rest he'd need to enjoy his three day weekend.

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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 Collins.jpg.8fed3f4b9718ebd6e060d21b5a29d943.jpgin 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.”

 

Spoiler

She pauses with that revelation as if to gauge your reactions and give you a moment to comment. 

 

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Putting on a set of reading glasses, Alfred peered intently at the offered images, the yellow and green reflecting eerily off the processed glass and illuminating his grey-blue irises like neon signs. He imagined how that structure must've been perched on solid rock, given the weight involved with a reverse pyramid inside the mulchy soil and viny mass of a rain forest. How it would've been built, for what purpose, or why it wouldn't sink or topple was beyond him. There was a little flutter in his stomach as he considered the implications, and the novelty of it all.

 

As the topic came to the satpad, he scrunched his eyebrows. He figured it must be some form of navigational device with satellite uplink. The cryptologist inside his mind pondered a two day break and a fifteen thousand kilometer span of distance - over 300 kilometers an hour! Faster that a peregrine falcon, and straight from one continent to another. It was possible of course with any form of aircraft, but that left the device still having been shielded from satellite communication for all this time, and suddenly revealing itself.

 

Brazil was politically unstable, and people in the rain forests were liable to be mistaken for environmental activists and shot. The option that Hodges had run afoul of violence and his equipment gotten rid of made more sense. Occam's razor practically demanded it. But they might've thrown it into a crevasse or a basin, not likely to be connected to the sea by a convenient high-speed underground river straight to Australia.

 

Taking off his glass again, he pinched his nose. Pouring himself a coffee he squeezed his lips tightly together, an action that caused his mustache to ripple. "That's a lot to unpack, as they say," he started, "was Hodges' device, or himself, recovered in Australia? Makes sense to start there if not. And how big is a satpad? Easily stashed or picked up by water flows or wildlife?"

 

When he was in the military, satellite navigation was as big as a hefty lunch kit, and mapping devices the size of dinner plates, so it seemed pertinent to ask.

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All his plans, out the window.   Alan wasn't too happy, but if the lives of colleagues were in danger, he'd just have to reschedule.  Ms. Collins wasn't someone to get on the bad side of, so he'd give the mission at hand his attention.
 

"Those pads are next to impossible to trick."  He muttered softly.   It was certainly enough time to fly between the locations, but it didn't reallly make sense for it to be half a world away.
 

More than that, barring being in some rediculously deep hole, or deep in the sea he'd never heard of a delayed ping response.   If it was flown there, it would have pinged each hour, not missing the other forty.   He looked abit concerned, but nodded.  
 

"That particular Satpad is no larger than a mid-sized notebook.   To transport it without pinging, you'd have to carry it in a shielded case the whole way and keep it there.   Unless his pad has more than the findings about this discovery, I can't imagine anyone going through the trouble of shielding it for two days, then suddenly opening it exposing it to the ping.  They have to know it can be pinged regularly, so something had to have either changed, or we're missing something important."

"Has the pad been recovered?"
 

He was intrigued by the discovery of course, but it was somewhat outside his purview.   Instead he focused more on the technological aspects of what was going on.  That particular pad was made so that even powered down, there was a tiny chip that would register on the ping, so he knew that wasn't the answer.  


"With the link frequency I can probably access the pad's cameras, and see it's surroundings, or has that already been tried, and not worked?"   Any further information would make things easier for them, but there were ways to counter that manner of thing.

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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.Darrow.jpg.df61ecf59d98650cf21cb10344ee04a5.jpg

 

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.”

 

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"I knew they were tough, but damn, still able to respond to the Ping in that shape."   He spoke softly.  "I'd need to examine the pad, to be sure of anything, regarding what did that to it.   Considering a grown man can smash those things with a hammer and it'll bounce off, whatever did that's got some amazing strength."   Still, there's no explanation for how it ended up in the middle of the Outback."

He frowned.  "I'd need to see the pad itself before I can really tell you more.   I know that some pads like that have a geotracker function.  It'll tell you the path it took to get where it is, but in that shape I've got no idea if that function works, of if that pad even had it."  Pads like that were at least twice as expensive, though if he had to hazard a guess, that pad did have it.   

"Still saltwater inside?  that's really odd in and of itself.  Sure there's a large ocean between the two locales, but given where it was supposed to be, I'd have expected Fresh not salt water if any.  Its casing was shattered before it went in the water, that's the only way it'd have water inside though."

He was avoiding the potential that seemed the most outlandish.   The Hollow Earth theory, about a series of subterranean tunnels connecting the surface of the world, high speed with amazing currents, but it couldn't be something like that.   No one had ever proven their existence, nor found conclusive proof of their possibility.  More than that, it still wouldn't outright explain how it got from on land in Brazil in the nearly waterless outback of Australia.  

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With deliberate movements Alfred took the glasses from his nose and placed them down on the desk, beside the laptop. Every single individual fact on that scene could be logically explained, but adding them all up, and observing the time frame, none could be.

 

The only explanation that warranted salt water, a long-range travel to another continent and a loss of signal would be an unknown actor deliberately picking up the seawaterlogged device, removing its power source or blocking its signal, flying over Australia and reactivating it before dropping it down. A highly unlikely occurrence.

 

But it occurred to Alfred that there were more angles tot his story. "The others, in the expedition? Hodges may have reported, but surely the others had broadcasting devices on them, or made use of...eh," he strained to gather his thoughts, "Twitter or Facebook?" he looked mildly incredulous, a mischievous smile creeping on his face. "Certainly there might've been opportunities to slip a listening device on Doctor Parker, the man of the hour, for some measure of insurance?"
 

To Alfred the mystery had two sides; would they go to Australia, and seek to backtrack Hodges' path? Or travel to Brazil and liaison up with Parker and retrace his steps from the beginning?

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“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.

 2016456592_images(2).jpg.af0c001cf9225bd7ee895dad5b795652.jpg

“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.”

 

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Posted (edited)

Alan thought for a minute.  ""Well I think Alfred should have a say in this as well, we're all going to be a team together as it were.   How about he gets to choose one of our teammates, and I choose the other?  For my pick, I'd call up Anna Rochefert from the Medical corps.  She's got some familiarity with south america, as she's been down there at least twice.  She's both a trained medic and Doctor, and I know she speaks Portuguese, and several other pertinent languages."

He'd had to work with her back on a river survey, and they'd hit it off fairly well.   "We could find the missing people alive, and they may need medical attention, far more than what first aid I know.   Having her along would be beneficial in many ways. "   He knew she could handle a gun, and wouldn't hesitate if push came to shove.   

  Alan will email a requisition form for a week's rations and water for 4 people, caving, camping, and dive gear, two small rebreathers, a fully stocked field medical kit, and a Satpad like the one that was lost and recovered.  Like Alfred, he assumes that they'll use the existing base camp, but as it has been several days there's no telling if it is still there.  He'll requisition 10k in discretionary funds, should guides be needed, or local authorities bribed.  As he wouldn't have a permit for firearms in Brazil, he'll requisition a mossberg 500 tactical pump action shotgun, along with a Glock-19 9mm handgun, with a good supply of ammunition.  Alan's a great shot with both, and they'll be good to have in a pinch. 

Edited by Shameless

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Posted (edited)

"Diego Sabatini," Alfred mused as he tapped the side of his nose, "he still owes me a favor and although he's had a checkered past, I would trust him with my life when it comes to climbing, caving and confined spaces. I think we may find special appreciation for his excellent sense of direction and memory for routing, as well as his ability to handle a rope, if we do manage to find a giant crocodile of sorts."

 

He paused for a second. "In a pinch he can handle a chopper or maybe a seaplane, he's had a stint with those, but he's unlicensed so don't allow him anywhere near one unless it's an emergency."

 

"I used to run comms, so I know my way around basic communication gear, but if we've got an issue with signal loss as we had with the satpad, we might want to consider bringing along signal repeaters, or something that can transmit even when underground..."

 

"As for gear, I have my pack ready at any time, but additional caving and diving gear is a must given we've got underground caves and a potential sea connection. My firearms license isn't valid for Brazil, I'm afraid, so I wouldn't bring anything along what would hurt me to be confiscated at some point. In fact, let me send you that email - I think given a SanFran connection it might be best to stay clean until the drop. I assume we can make use of the base camp present?"

 

Spoiler

The email will contain a request for a marksman issue hunting rifle chambered for .308 ammo, x4-x12 scope with lowlight magnification. Additionally, a basic sidearm that favors function and reliability. Both with appropriate ammunition. The entire team probably needs at least basic climbing/caving and diving equipment. And then there's the improved communication option.

 

Edited by Laughing Crow

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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.

 

Anna Rochefort f644391968ac732671310632905e9b9d.thumb.jpg.70dad2e64e90b612eb79f3319ae41f2a.jpg   Diego Sabatini    Callan_Mulvey_2013_(cropped).jpg.a1191cbffa907e3dde40cf91cef01847.jpg

 

Spoiler

Justin will be out of contact until after this week so he probably won't be posting. If you wish to post a Flashback scene for Alfred while he is on the plane to San Francisco feel free to do so and I will join in if appropriate. You can include diego if you wish 🙂

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Even in the well insulated cabin, Alfred could still hear the eggbeater noise of the chopper’s rotor blades. It was a strange turn that made him decide to nominate Diego for this mission, something about that crocodile…

 

They never tell you how clever crocodiles are. Especially the old ones, the ones that have made a neck of the river their home for a long time. This neck of the river happened to be right next to a large sawmill, and trees were moving downstream at a steady pace. A worker had gone missing, and when they found what was left of him, there was no doubt they were dealing with a  man-eater.

 

But the vets and rangers they brought in had found nothing. Then the fisherman, trying to lure and bait the old beast, but came back with nothing but catfish and other, more common, river monsters. When Diego told it to him like that, it seemed like a mystery, a hunt for an old, craggly beast too smart to be caught off-guard so easily. It had been living with people for decades, maybe even a century, and it had remained alive and undetected for all of it. 

 

He recounted unfondly hanging from the landing gear of the rented helicopter, trying to take a bead on the thing hiding between the logs, using it for cover. Of course he could fly a chopper, Diego’d said, but from Alfred’s point of view he was less nascar driver and more grocery trolley.

 

Shuddering at the thought of a near-aquatic death experience with those monstrous jaws he sent a little prayer up, that they’d stay on terra firma or below it, this time. He fingered the thin white scar on the back of his thumb, where the beast's teeth had nicked him, right as Diego managed to straighten the craft.

Edited by Laughing Crow
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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.

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The older gentleman Alan walked towards was currently leaning against one of the supports at the window overlooking the landing planes just outside the disembarking area. He seemed at ease in these temperatures, beige linen shirt with the top button down, and rolled up sleeves revealing a number of stylized grey and brown shaded animal tattoos on his lower arms, contrasted by the slim anthracite vest across it and the matching slacks. The crocodile-leather banded brass Victorinox watch on his left wrist and the brown brogues on his feet marked him as more upper-class than his casual wear would indicate.

 

His thumb was sliding over the screen of his phone, checking the local weather and news, imprinting the language and the spurious contents of the Lonely Planet guide. He'd never been here, but he was a quick learner, and his contact list - as per usual - already had a name in it he could call on from "the good old days".

 

Despite his focus, Alfred looked comfortable, with his long coat slung across his left elbow, the hand in his pocket. Noticing the movement to his left-hand side of Alan moving up, he quirked one eyebrow and swiftly slid his phone in his right pocket. Slinging the coat over his left shoulder, he bounded into action and spryly closed the gap with Alan, extended his hand in greeting.

 

"Howzit, howzit? Alan, so good to meet you in the flesh," turning to face Anna he made a slight incline with his head while offering his hand to her as well, "and you must be Anna. Agh ja, it's a proper triple-A meeting today, isn't it?"

 

His face had that chiseled, craggy rock look to it that older men get when they weather the elements on a daily basis, and his hand was iron and bone in its grip. Despite this, his eyes had that youthful, slightly cheeky twinkle of humor, and his smile was broad, causing the tips of his carefully groomed mustache to curl skywards.

Spoiler

In case it wasn't obvious, the triple-A refers to the fact that all their names start with A. Alfred will have developed his dad jokes to granddad jokes at this point.

 

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Alan chuckled softly at the Dad Joke, and he'd not realized it right away.  "That it is."  Still he was glad Alfred was this sort of person.   He'd heard some stories from some in the GCI, and he knew some would call him a legend in some circles.

""It's a pleasure to meet you.  I've heard about some of your exploits from friends.   Your expertise is going to be incredibly valuable here."    Alan shook his hand firmly, his own grip just as strong. He honestly felt he was the one most out of place.   Everyone else had something they could truly contribute.   Alan was the main one with any sort of underwater training, far as he knew, but they'd be in the Jungle, not a marine situation.  Still, he'd requested a few goodies, that would come in handy.    Alot of the gear on the plane was for Anna going by what she'd told him, she had enough medical gear for a small hospital, and he was abit surprised.   Still it'd benefit them greatly to have it if they needed it.

 

"I'd just been about to set up a weekend barbecue, then I got this call.   When we get back, we'll have to do it then.  This was my first full weekend off in months."   Alan chuckled, and Ana gave a long sigh.   "Always thinking about food..."   Clearly there was a history between the two of them.   Still she smiled and nodded.  "Though with the view from your beach house, That does sound like a great way to celebrate when we get back."

The two looked at Alfred, and even with the higher class accoutrements, Alan nodded. "The whole team will be welcome to come."
 

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Alfred's eyebrows gathered together in an expression both pained and amused, a thin smile creeping over his face as he momentarily admired the tilework on the floor.

The exchange reminded him of how long he'd been away from home, and the nostalgia always hits when you least expect it. For a second he'd been back in the streets of Bloemfontein, the heatwaves dancing off the pavement, stalls with food sizzling and rattling around him. Ah, to be young again...

 

Recovering quickly, and nodded in agreement. "Ja, I will defer to your skills at the grills, but I think I can contribute a spice rub that you might like." Conspiratorially, he leaned in towards the two as if confiding a secret. "Moedertjie learnt it from the locals, it's what makes the bushmeat edible."


His hand tucked inside his vest pocket, and as he pulled up the container he slid open its lid, picking out a peppermint. Sticking one in his mouth, he offered the open container to the others. "Mint?"

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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 images.jpg.f0981eec54da463132c9326d3f92724c.jpgblack 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."

 

Aether-luxury-cruise-airship-concept-by-Mac-Byers-1.thumb.jpg.d5a2219a132b02f538a7ed15fd6da68d.jpg

 

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Alfred wiped the last of the sleep from his eyes when the land rover sped its way towards the hangar. His brain translated the words of Captain Powell into a murmur of airline safety speech and paramilitary update code. When Diego was mentioned he nodded, and wondered how long it would take the hotblooded Italian to get into one sort of trouble or the other. He secretly hoped that the liquor cabinet was locked.

 

The ride was comfortable, and almost lulled him back to sleep when the sharp turn to the hangar's open front broke him from his thoughts. His eyes were keen, especially for his age, but even then it took him some seconds to take in the shape that was parked inside it.

 

Seeing the gigantic vehicle perched inside of it, like a monstrous brooding whale, woke him up in an instant. "Spaiker, but that is one big skyfish you've got there," he exclaimed wide-eyed with child-like enthusiasm, "does she do tricks?"

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Alan beheld the Argo, and he smiled.   "All kinds,  I'm sure, All kinds."  he said answering Alfred's question, without really knowing.    He knew two of the engineers responsible for the design, and while he'd not been involved, he knew enough to respect the craftsmanship.   

"This going to be a fun trip.    The groundside excursion, probably the other kind of "fun."  he said with a small chuckle.

Anna broke from her reverie, marveling at the craft she knew nothing of,  and let out an exasperated sigh at Alan's comment.   "Trips with you have ALWAYS involved the other kind of "fun."  That's probably why they called you, Alan.   I almost said no, too, knowing that."   She smiled  "You requested my help, so this is important, and that's why I said yes."

Alfred could tell these two had a certain history, that probably wasn't all positive, but even with the banter, both exuded the calm confidence of professsionals.

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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...

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Rifle or camera, the presence of someone targeting them was unwelcome. Any of them might be a person of interest, whether for immortalization on the front page - or the obituaries. "Everyone," he growled at a low voice that hearkened back to a near-forgotten past in a chain of command, "use the bagage trollies for cover. We've got unknown eyes on our six, hangar at half a click. Newshound or gunman, I'd say."

 

He fingered the narrow high-powered rifle scope in the case in his pocket while trying to semi-casually make for the nearest baggage cart, hackles in his neck raised. Rifles might be hard to import, but the scopes themselves are not. And a personal scope is like a finger print to a seasoned hunter. A safe moment would be all he need, and he'd be able to use it as a looking glass, and put eyes back on their tail, and find out some intentions.

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Alan nodded along with the Captain as she spoke.  The ship was amazing, and while not the fastest, he knew she was incredibly stable.   Alfred's warning  caught him, but he resisted the urge to turn and look where he'd indicated.   "Just move along quietly, like we haven't noticed."

He guided Anna, who seemed abit put out by it, but in the past Alan had saved her life, so she trusted him, and clearly he trusted Alfred's word.  Inwardly Alan was abit annoyed that he'd missed it himself, but he'd truly not been expecting such a thing as they left.   "God, this is going to be one of Those trips."  he muttered softly, even as he and Anna made their way into cover, falling in behind the Captain.
 

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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."

 

 

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