Chapter Nine

Buildings fell around him, the world collapsing, trees and forts of vines. Dirk ran through the maelstrom, fleeing for his life from the forces of darkness beyond the veil of creation. The road twisted before him, the asphalt coming alive, slithering like a snake.

Dirk’s eyes shot open, a green tube of scales winding across the blanket. Pure instinct overtook him. He flung the blanket off them, trapping the snake within. The others stirred  as he began pounding the fabric with his fists.

“What in Sam Hill are you doing?” Kantok’ asked groggily.

“Snake.”

“Geese, let me see it,” he said, stepping over to him.

He drew the blanket back, letting out an exasperate sigh.

“Oh, it’s just a python, leave the poor critter alone.”

“But, but it might have been deadly,” Dirk murmured, looking down at the harmless constrictor. “What do you think, am I crazy?”

“No.”

Dirk spun around, eyes wide, searching for the source of the voice. The darkness was pressing in around them, and for a moment he wondered if he was still dreaming.

“D-did any of you guys just hear a voice?”

“Shut up, Dirk.”

“K, I’m gonna put mister snake over in the bushes.”

No one responded. He sighed, starting his search for the source of the voice. After walking in a circle he began swaying, fatigue starting to set in again. Still unconvinced he wasn’t asleep; he collapsed next to the others and drifted back into dreamland.

Chapter Ten

The next morning he awoke without any memory of the snake, though Kantok’ reminded him rather quickly. After a short breakfast they pushed northward again, though Kantok’s patience was fast running out. By midday he was close to the breaking point. The exhausted expedition came to a stop.

“Miss Jones, I’m afraid I don’t see what is left to be gained by continuing.”

“I thought you said we would continue until I couldn’t hand it anymore? I’m paying you, so we’re going, north.”

“One more day, just one. If by noon tomorrow…”

“Save your speech,” Tarcia said, taking the lead.

“Hey, I’m the guide here.”

“Start guiding then.”

Grumbling, Kantok’ got back on the trail. Within a half hour he stopped again, this time because of trouble. He looked around the jungle, shouldering the Enfield. After reconsidering it, he put it back on his shoulder and jumped for the nearest tree, urging the others to follow suit.

They cambered up into the canopy, all on full alert. Out of the trees emerged a patrol, a dozen rebels sweeping the area. They were in a search pattern, and clearly knew that intruders were close.

A terrible thought struck Dirk as he realized that someone had to have tipped them off. In his mind it became clear, a traitor amongst the villagers, or perhaps the entire village was rebel friendly. A conspiracy formed before him, an obvious web of people who wanted them gone, lest the terrible secret of the jungle be discovered.

When the patrol had gone, Kantok’ jumped down, shaking his head. Dirk raced up to him, ready to let loose with his new understanding.

“Those villagers told the rebels on us, who in turn came to search for us, there’s a terrible secret at the bottom of all this, and Miss Jones is the key.”

“Dirk, I think you’ve been having a long few days. Now, Miss Jones, I’m afraid that it is time to get out of here.”

“I don’t think so,” Tarcia replied.

“Those rebels are looking for someone, and I’m not planning to be found. We’re turning back, your brother is long gone.”

“No, I paid you; we’re going northward, just name your price.”

“No, not happening, not for any price.”

“How about your jeep’s fuel line?” Tarcia asked, pulling a rubber hose out of her purse.

“Seriously lady? You’d screw over your guide? What’s stopping me from leading you to a viper nest or slitting your throat in the night?”

“This,” she replied, producing an automatic pistol.

“You are insane, just letting you know.” He said, shouldering the Enfield. “Now drop the gun.”

“Dirk, please, this is my only chance. I have to know that truth.”

“Kantok’ I, I.”

“Don’t tell me you’re actually thinking of…”

“ALEKANTE!” Came a shout from the south.

Tarcia sprinted forward, grabbing Dirk by the arm, as the patrol reemerged from the woodwork. Kantok’ shouted in rage, turning to pursue them. A shot rang out and he crumpled to the jungle floor, screaming in agony.

Terror spread through Dirk’s entire being. He turned and ran as fast as he could, shouts ricocheting through the jungle around him. Without a clue where they were running, Dirk began reflecting on the futility of their flight. Directionless, in a strange land, and outnumbered by natives, their chances of escape were nonexistent.

Despite knowing that it was for nothing, primal fear drove them onward. A single ray of hope entered his mind when he realized that the voices were getting fainter and more distant. The canopy broke above them, allowing the sun to pour onto a field of corn, beans and potatoes.

The straight rows were testament to nearby civilization. Seizing upon their only hope, he followed the irrigation canal, gapping Tarcia by the arm this time. They barreled up a shallow creek, emerging into a large clearing.

There before them was a village like they had never seen before. Dirk stepped onto the stone pathways, looking around at the whitewashed huts and power lines above. A group of young schoolchildren brushed past, giving Dirk and Tarcia odd looks.

Suppressing the dread that they might be aligned with the rebels, he instead walked up the path, searching for a telephone. Several elderly men appeared ahead of them, motioning for them to follow. He raced for them, emerging into the village square.

There, flying high above them was a red flag, fluttering in the breeze; a golden hammer and sickle emblazoned in the left corner. A stone sank in Dirk’s stomach. He turned and saw a small militia, armed with crossbows had assembled behind them.

A pale man in a cap and tinted goggles stepped out from their midst, a Kalashnikov slung over his shoulder. He appraised the newcomers while picking his teeth. Out of the nearby jungle emerged a runner, who Dirk knew had been with the patrol.

The lad approached the pale man, and exchanged a few words with him. The Kalashnikov wielding man smiled, flicking the toothpick aside.

“Comrades, welcome to the USSR.”

Chapter Eleven

A stretcher emerged from the tree line, bearing a very unhappy Kantok’. The men placed him at Dirk and Tarcia’s feet, who were standing around a fountain at the village’s centre. A man in a smock emerged from one of the larger huts and knelt beside him, looking over his patient. The sunglasses man walked over as well, eyeing his captives.

“Gah, careful there.” Kantok’ protested.

“Please, remain still.”

“Why, you shot me.”

“If two men point rifles at one another, someone in this equation is getting shot,” the sunglasses man said quietly.

“Screw you son of a bitch.”

“U-S-S-R?” Dirk said quietly, getting the sunglasses man’s attention.

“Indeed, after the old socialist union collapsed, we made a new one.”

“Who is we?”

“Begging your pardon, I am Colonel Gregori Yaichkov, commander of south group.”

“Sorry, that doesn’t really help.”

“Da, well, perhaps the General Secretary will enlighten you tomorrow.”

“This is all quite fascinating,” Tarcia said, “but we really must get going.”

“Afraid that will not be on the table,” Gregori said, shaking his head. “We will take you to General Secretary tomorrow, and he will determine what it is we shall do with you.”

“Just keeps getting better all the time,” Kantok’ moaned, “Dirk, if we live, I’m gonna charge you so, so much, and you too Miss Jones, for dragging me into this.”

“Hah, I doubt that,” Tarcia muttered.

“I don’t suppose any of you gentlemen know anything about the Tomb of one Mamintlallapalla?” Dirk asked halfheartedly.

Silence fell over the square, the demeanor of their captors shifting abruptly. Gregori stopped smiling, while his men began fidgeting uneasily. Several people watching the event promptly walked away.

Dirk paled. “Was it something I said?”

“Who are you really, foreigner,” Gergori asked, advancing on Dirk. “Tell me.”

He drew back the bolt on his Kalashnikov with a menacing clack. “Who are you working for?”

“Me,” Tarcia said, stepping in front of him. “I’m his client.”

“And why would a young woman…”

“My grandfather’s expedition was lost, searching for the tomb,” she said, pulling the tattered journal from her purse. “Doctor Victor…”

“…Eckhart,” Gregori finished, snatching the tome away. “How did you…”

“I told you, I’m his granddaughter.”

“But, his team was lost over sixty years ago. Just before the fall of the fascist Reich.”

“What?” Dirk spat, “Tarcia, what is going on?”

“I, suppose I haven’t been completely honest with you.”

“That’s an understatement,” Kantok’ barked. “You bitch. I can’t believe this.”

“Uh, could you start explaining?”

“Please, start immediately,” Gregori said, handing the book back, “I believe Secretary Reinheim will want to know as well.”

“Wait, Dr. Reinheim is still alive?” Tarcia asked, stunned.

“As I have the gun in this equation, I will be the one asking the questions. Now, talk Miss Jones.”

Chapter Twelve

“I grew up listening to stories of my grandfather, a pioneer in energy research and physics. When I learned more about his last expedition I became obsessed. I had to know, know the truth. I’ve spent years gathering the funds and plotting out where he might have gone to. Then, three months ago, his journal came into my possession. And here I am.”

“Interesting, but I don’t know what you expect to find,” Gregori said, shaking his head. “Or how you got that, for that matter.”

“You’ve been here for years, fifteen, at least. Tell me you know of the Tomb of Mamintlallapalla?”

“What does some Mayan king’s tomb have to do with energy research?” Dirk asked, confused.

“Nahua, he was Nahua, not Mayan,” Kantok’ protested.

“Sadly we found few traces of Dr. Reinhiem and his team, though we never did penetrate too deeply into the tomb.”

“Then you found it?” Tarcia asked excitedly, “Found the resting place of thousand infants?”

“What does this have to do with energy research? Seriously, what’s going on here?”

“Element Byi.” Gregori replied.

“Ok, great,” Dirk sighed, “that’s, something.”

“A crystalline substance not of this world,” Tarcia said quietly, “Dr Eckhart believed that a source lay in the jungles of Central America.”

“See, that makes sense,” Kantok’ said brightly. “Crystal power, in the jungle, that’s where the electricity comes from, aye?”

“You might be on the right track, but I’ll let it be Secretary Reinheim who determines what you need to know.”

With that, the militia marched over and took the three uninjured captives to a small shed and barred the door. Dirk began pacing around the enclosure, poking at the shelves. Behind him, Tarcia seated herself on a sturdy crate and pulled out her book.

After a few circuits of the dismal interior, Dirk stopped and faced Tarcia. He crossed his arms, glaring down at her.

“Ehem, is there anything else you’re not telling me, Miss Jones?”

“Hmm, like what?”

“You lied to me, lied to all of us, and now we’re in some collective of lunatics who still think it’s the cold war and Kantok has been shot.”

“Not like it matters now.”

“Tell me, Tarcia, do you even have a brother?”

“You want the truth, Mister Cunningham?” Tarcia said exasperated, dropping her book, “The truth is that my grandfather led eighteen men to their deaths out here, and I want to know why.”

“Unreal, why lie?” Dirk asked, rubbing his face, “You could have just said so form the beginning.”

“Would you have gone after a sixty year old cold case, really Dirk?”

“I, I can’t say for sure now; but, now, how am I supposed to trust you?”

“I don’t care; I have to know the truth. Don’t you seek the truth, Dirk? To know what’s really going on? Extra dimensional crystals in the tomb of a mad Nahua King.”

“It’s, odd, I’ll give you that,” Dirk replied, “But I wish you had just come out and said what this was about.”

“Would you have truly believed me if I had told you that? Answer me Dirk? You’d have thought I was a lunatic.”

“Not convinced you aren’t,” he muttered, “Not like it really matters, your truth may very well end with us in a shallow grave. Ugh, no use complaining now, I suppose.”

“Indeed,” Tarcia said, settling back down.

Hours past, the tiny shed becoming a waking nightmare of pure boredom. When the door finally burst open, it was late into the afternoon, the sun sinking below the wall of trees.

“Good news, Kantok’ will make a full recovery,” Gregori said cheerfully, “Bad news, he’s joining you in here.”

A pair of sentries carried his stretcher into the shed, depositing him beneath the bookshelves. A large bowl of stew and their blanket were placed beside the door.

“See you in the morning.”

“Heh, thanks a bunch comrade.”

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