A vast abyss stood before Dirk, a bright blue light emanating from the depths. It cast a sickly glow onto the enormous jellyfish wafting around the precipice. Bleached skeletons hung from their tendrils, staring at him as a slow dripping sound bore into his skull.
From below emerged a skeletal figure, covered in a few sheets of tattered cloth, approaching him. Unable to scream, Dirk fell backwards and pathetically crawled away as the monster drew near. A loud thud brought him crashing back to reality.
Dirk sat bold upright and stared out into the moonlit night. It was several moments before he realized that he was seeing the moonlit night through an open door. He blinked his first instinct to rush out and head for the hills, partly to get away from the ghostly monster his mind still thought was real.
Before he could enact this brilliant escape plan, Dirk caught himself, realizing that the open door might be some sort of test. This somewhat rational thought also pushed the nightmare to the back of his mind.
Having woken up sufficiently to make reasonably rational decisions, he carefully stood up and crept to the door, peering around for any sign of who had opened it. Around the next corner he caught a glimpse of a figure, leaning out from behind the building.
In the blink of an eye the person had vanished, though he knew the person was wearing some sort of black jumpsuit and a motorcycle helmet. An instant later he made the connection with the person who had been chasing them and dashed outside. He had to know the truth.
After rounding the corner he saw the motorcycle person already near the end of the pathway, inches from the jungle undergrowth. Dirk summoned all his strength and sprinted headlong down the cobblestones. Just before the end his foot caught on an uneven stone sending him headlong into the bushes.
Stunned, he slowly twisted around until he was on his back. He looked upwards, staring into the face of his pursuer. She sighed, lazily pointing a pistol at him.
â€œThat is none of your concern,â€ she said, squatting down over him. â€œYou, Detective Dirk Cunningham, have gotten into a whole heap of trouble, and now Iâ€™m going to give you a way out.â€
â€œI think it is my concern, considering youâ€™re pointing a gun at me.â€
â€œStandard procedure, now sit up.â€
â€œOk, ok, just, put that away,â€ Dirk said, forcing himself upright. â€œWhat is this way out?â€
â€œTake this,â€ she said, stuffing an automatic pistol into his hands, â€œTomorrow, when theyâ€™re leading you through the foliage, use it at the appropriate time. Youâ€™ll know, trust me.â€
â€œWhat reason have you given me to trust you?â€
â€œI let you out,â€ she replied, stepping away into the darkness. â€œNow, make your escape, then weâ€™ll talk.â€
Confused, irritated, Dirk concealed the weapon in his belt and considered his next move. He looked back over the village, spotting a three man patrol making its way up the road away from him. It dawned on him that he was lucky to have not been spotted, though he wasnâ€™t sure he wouldnâ€™t have preferred that.
Out ahead of him was a vast, dark jungle, crawling with unseen terrors. The thought of braving it alone, without supplies, was too much for him. With a sigh, he turned and slinked back to the shed, carefully pulling the door back into place.
He sank to the floor, rationalizing his decision. It was too far, he would be leaving the others alone, he had no reason to trust the motorcycle woman, there was no guarantee he could make it. He circled these thoughts through his head, though no matter how many times he repeated them, nor how much logical sense they made, Dirk was unable to shake the feeling that he was a coward.
â€œI wonâ€™t be a coward, when the time comes,â€ he whispered to himself, drawing out the pistol and checking the clip. â€œIâ€™ll do the brave thing, I will, I will.â€
A loud rattling noise echoed through the shed as the door swung ajar. Dirk groggily sat up, not yet fully aware of what was happening.
â€œRise and shine,â€ Gregori said cheerfully, plopping another cauldron of stew down before them. â€œTime for breakfast.â€
â€œUgh, thanks,â€ Dirk murmured, reaching over for a boul.
The pistol pressed against his stomach, instantly putting him on edge. As surreptitiously as he could, he reached his other hand down and made certain it was concealed by his shirt.
â€œNow, please, eat quickly,â€ another voice said, â€œIâ€™ve got to get you to the central building before midday.â€
â€œWho are you?â€ Tarcia asked, a pudgy faced man appearing in the doorway, wearing a faded brown uniform with a matching hat.
â€œIâ€™m security secretary Ivan Ivanavich,â€ he replied, clasping his hands together.
â€œGreat, another one,â€ Dirk muttered, pouring himself a bowl of stew.
After eating the watery porridge, Dirk and an orderly lifted up Kantokâ€™â€™s stretcher and began moving out. They were flanked by five men in fatigues that were much better made than those of the militiamen. Ivan took up the rear, eyeing Tarcia.
They walked down a fairly well maintained pathway, Dirk carefully taking stock of their opposition. Four of the men wear armed with Kalashnikovs, the fifth and Ivan wielding shotguns, thought the secretaryâ€™s was over his shoulder.
Dirk remembered his promise from the previous night, but quickly decided that discretion was the better part of bravery. Or so he thought. Behind him, Ivan was trying his luck with his client.
â€œCome now, Miss Jones, I am a man of stature, of great intellect, if you would put away your book, we could have a nice chat.â€
â€œIâ€™ll pass, thank you very much.â€
â€œWhat sort of book is that then? A thriller? I love spy novels; wrote a few myself actually, since the antagonist of western novels is more often than not, a most displeasing caricature, I felt it was my duty to correct the record.â€
â€œA mystery, if you must know.â€
â€œI enjoy those as well, what mystery is it?â€
â€œOh, thereâ€™s this creepy old man, not getting signals from a completely uninterested young woman, and he doesnâ€™t seem to get them. Thatâ€™s mystery, isnâ€™t it?â€
â€œYouâ€™ll warm up to me in time; power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.â€
â€œAh, but you miss heard me, the future is where you shall come to love me, come to realize your mistake ofâ€¦â€
From out of nowhere came the sound of machinegun fire. Two of the guards fell to the ground, the other three springing into action. Panicked, Dirk fell to the ground, dropping poor Kantokâ€™ to the hard ground below.
A bush across the path moved, one of the guards ventilating it with a burst of gunfire. A scream erupted from it and a soldier collapsed forward into view. Ivan pulled out his shotgun, and with the flip of a switch it began humming. A strange bluish glow emanated from around the mechanisms.
Now, do it now, a voice in Dirkâ€™s head commanded. He fingered the pistol, unable to think. Everything was happening too quickly. for a brief moment he took hold of the grip and prepared to draw. Then he looked back as Ivan pulled the trigger, letting loose a blast of searing plasma. A V shape was scorched into the foliage.
The gunfire stopped, and all was still. Unable to follow through with the command, Dirk relaxed his hand and the voice vanished. A strange calm fell over the area. Ivan produced a radio, and began making a call, while the three soldiers approached their fallen comrades and checked them.
â€œHeâ€™s still breathing,â€ one soldier said, clasping his hand on another.
â€œThen weâ€™ll have to borrow that stretcher,â€ Ivan said, pointing at Kantokâ€™.
â€œOh, oh come on,â€ Kantokâ€™ protested, despite knowing it was futile.
â€œArgh,â€ he moaned, carefully standing to his feet. â€œDirk, youâ€™re helping me walk you bastard.â€
â€œWhat the hell was that?â€ Dirk asked, pointing at Ivanâ€™s gun.
â€œHah, a new innovation, made possible with Byi crystal cells.â€
â€œHuh, uh, ah, thatâ€™s interestâ€¦â€
â€œDirk get over here!â€ Kantokâ€™ called, â€œI am about to fall.â€
â€œS-sorry man,â€ Dirk said, grabbing Kantokâ€™ under his shoulder.
â€œYou will never be sorry enough for my taste,â€ Kantokâ€™ spat. â€œStupid, stupid me, should never have taken this job.â€
â€œCome on, weâ€™re moving out now,â€ Ivan said breathlessly, â€œweâ€™ve got to get Sergei here medical attention.â€
As they began the trek again, Dirk looked over at the fallen soldier, now partially fried by the plasma. On his shoulder was a familiar insignia, the stars and stripes. An American soldier had been killed. He blinked, spotting a dark figure moving in the corner of his eye. A sense of failure crept into him again, as he remembered the conversation with the motorcycle woman.
â€œWas I supposed to shoot him?â€
Yes, you were, the voice in his head confirmed. Dirk hung his head, and headed up the trail, eyes fixed on the gun over Ivanâ€™s shoulder. Something told him that at least the womanâ€™s words about a heap of trouble could be trusted.
Despite everything that had come before, Dirk was unprepared for the sight awaiting him around the final turn. A city emerged from the jungle, as vibrant as any in the states. The mud houses were whitewashed and clean, rows of them radiating out from a Mayan pyramid complex in the centre.
Dirk blinked realizing that the structures bore gigantic Hammer and Sickles on their faces. This was the heart of a new soviet empire, he thought. The guards peeled off, leaving them to walk the main boulevard with just Ivan. The man looked quite pleased, strutting around them as they took in the sights.
Aqueducts and power lines cascaded over the city, radiating from the centre. By the time dirk and company reached the government pyramids, he wondered why the soviets were still hidden since they seemed powerful enough to topple the government easily.
Ivan lead them into the largest of the three pyramids, down a long flight of stairs until they reached a large meeting room, shrouded by red banners, where several men waited at a long table. At the head of it was an ancient man, his white hair clinging to the top of his sagging face, a pair of gnarled hands jotting something down on a piece of paper.
â€œSecretary Reinheim, the intruders you requested.â€
â€œYa, thank you,â€ he murmured, holding up the bit of paper. â€œTake this to the proto-type laboratory.â€
â€œAt once, comrade.â€
â€œHmm, at once, indeed. Ah, American, sit down, I want to talk to you.â€
â€œYes, ofâ€¦â€ Dirk began.
â€œNo, Miss Jones, please.â€
â€œOf course,â€ she replied, settling down beside him.
â€œYou are the granddaughter of Dr. Victor Eckhart, is that correct?â€
â€œYes, you have his eyes. Sharp and always looking for the answers.â€
â€œPlease, I must know, about the tomb, everything, please, tell me,â€ she said breathlessly.
â€œIn good time, child, in good time,â€ Reinheim replied, leaning back in his chair. â€œThe short version is that I found it, the mad Nahua kingâ€™s tomb, and have most probably discovered the cause of his madness.â€
â€œYa, a power source from beyond this plane of existence, with which vast amounts of energy can be extracted.â€
â€œAll, very interesting, but still confusing,â€ Dirk said, settling down beside Tarcia.
â€œThe source is below his tomb, which was also where he build his capitol. Another substance, Smoke-Tar, which is found in conjunction with Element Byi seems to be the cause of his madness.â€
â€œIt is difficult to explain, I will show you, is better explanation.â€
â€œGreat, do you know what happened to the guy I was sent to find?â€
â€œUnfortunately, in my twenty years here, weâ€™ve not excavated far enough to locate his remains.â€
â€œWait, youâ€™ve been here twenty years?â€
â€œYa,â€ Reinheim replied, straightening up. â€œWhen word reached us that the old socialist union collapsed, we were sent into despair. Some thought of selling out to the Americans, others of returning to Russia, or retiring in Cuba. But in my heart I knew that I needed a place to call home.
â€œThat is when I looked upon the indigenous laborers, and realized that my only option was to remain true to Marx and Engels. Through force of will, I rallied my team, and we built a community, run as Karl would have wanted.
â€œDemocracy, division of product among those who had made it, I saw socialism emerging before my eyes. Within months our starting republic had twice the population. With our research and crystals of Element Byi, we made an oasis.â€
â€œYou must be the ones who killed the drug lords,â€ Kantokâ€™ ventured, collapsing into a chair.
â€œIndeed. We have crushed them, and soon, we will use our power to better lives of the people of the whole nation.â€
â€œâ€¦After that, we will win elections in a landslide,â€ Ivan called from the doorway. â€œOur glorious return to the world stage, and the second wave of socialism.â€
â€œThis is all, fascinating,â€ Dirk said, â€œCan I go home now?â€
â€œMister Cunningham,â€ Ivan said, walking up to him. â€œThe fact is that you might be a spy, and as such, we cannot allow you to leave. After the incident on the trail, Iâ€™m certain you understand.â€
â€œBut, I uh,â€ Dirk stammered.
â€œI will also take this opportunity to take this away,â€ Ivan said, pulling the revolver out of Dirkâ€™s belt. â€œHonestly, those militiamen need better basic training.â€
â€œTrue indeed,â€ Reinheim muttered, â€œYou shall remain here for about a year or so, at which point our plans will come to fruition and you may take our message back to the United States.â€
â€œHah, tell them itâ€™s time for round two!â€ Ivan exclaimed.
â€œIf it is that case we are to be your prisoners here, than may I at least see the place where my grandfather lead eighteen men to their deaths?â€ Tarcia asked desperately. â€œI want the truth.â€
â€œI will allow it,â€ Reinheim said calmly, â€œsome of your questions are better answered with concrete examples. Solid evidence.â€
â€œErm, speaking of truth and all that,â€ Kantokâ€™ said amused, â€œdoes the Government know about this, this, development?â€
â€œOf course,â€ Reinheim replied, â€œwho do you think is providing them with the cheap electricity?â€
â€œAha!â€ He exclaimed, pointing a finger at Dirk. â€œI called it; I knew the disappearance of the cartels was connected to the cheap power. I told you, but you didnâ€™t listen.â€
â€œTrue, but I donâ€™t remember you mentioning a resurgent Mayan jungle soviet union.â€
â€œAh, uh, err.â€
â€œPerhaps a little rest is in order?â€ Ivan suggested. â€œBefore your journey to the tomb.â€
â€œNot mine, Iâ€™m done,â€ Kantokâ€™ said quickly.
â€œDonâ€™t you want to know the truth?â€ Dirk asked.
â€œTruth, the truth is that Iâ€™m not going to see my daughter for a year thanks to you, and sheâ€™ll have no idea where I am, what happened, so screw you Dirk. Screw. You.â€