- Weapon: Automatic Acid-Pellet Gun
Peruvian Valley - Lake Shore Roads
Anikara pulled another exhausting drag upon the expiring cigarette. He held his breath and allowed the nicotine and tobacco to rush through the lower confines of his lungs before again expelling them in a slow yet controlled release. The flickering ruby ember at the end of the ashen rod of expended plant fibers grew brightly one final time before they themselves died and tumbled into a slightly rusted tray embedded in the back of the Humvee.
"We are almost at the final ford Minister. It should not be much longer now."
Ani snuffed the dead filter into the tray before he tugged at the restraint that held him in place. A flick of his finger pulled the exhausted butt along the bottom of the tray, leaving a blackened trail of ash and burnt tobacco in a swirled line. Perhaps a nervous habit, Ani was never truly sure why he did that same shape every time he put out one of his cigarettes. "Good," he spoke as his eyes were drawn to the dark cliff face that was currently dominating his side of the vehicle. A few broken statues, barely visible by the lamps of the following archaic troop carriers.
A muted yawn broke the near silence of the trip as the cliff gave way to a more expansive wooded road. Mai patted her near emerald lips with her left hand before carefully returning patiently to her lap. She peered forward with a quiet smile as if her own fatigue had not become apparent. "I would concur. I do not mind these long romantic excursions, but I do prefer the more private and less business variety."
Anikara smiled briefly as he reached down to pick up a small briefcase. "I am sure that once our business here is concluded and our investments are secured, we will be able to indulge your preferences my dear." He flicked the locks on the case and pushed the lid open slowly. A small battery light activated from the lid's interior illuminating the various signed contracts, maps and geological reports. One piece of worn paper, a document that had been in the archives for nearly a generation, was pulled from the bottom of the case. Historical Survey of Valley 172, North Western Andes Mountain Range, was its title.
"It is said that this valley is among the final cursed realms from the ancient days of empire." Mai spoke calmly as she adjusted her skirt to cover her knees that had been exposed briefly during a recent bout of turbulence.
The paper wilted briefly before Anikara laid it down on the top of his collection of documents. "I am sure they say that about all of the lakes and valleys within the old empire. Anything to protect the ores from the Spaniards or rival clans." He paused, "Do not tell me you believe in those old wives tales Mai? I had thought a woman of your background would beyond such fairytales."
For her part Mai conveyed little annoyance. She simply closed her eyes and shook her head briefly from side to side. A moment past as she slowly turned to face her employer. "The lake that lies within the heart of this valley, it is known as Aldo Pissarro's Tomb. All those who drink from its waters, disturb its placid mirrored surface or sail upon its cold expanse are said to summon the spirits of the ancestors. And upon their witness those who have violated the creed of the valley are dragged to the land of the hinterland, never to walk amongst the living again." She offered a smile, one that a story teller may offer to soften the blow of a terrifying story. "Of course it is just a story, one found upon hieroglyphics and recorded by Pissarro's expeditions. But even still Ani, it does no good to forget that even this placid land was stained by blood."
Anikara drew his finger along the middle passage of the survey. "Of course," He paused briefly as he considered his next words. It would not due to anger a woman who was capable of...
He could not complete his next thought as he found himself plunging forward as the Humvee driver slammed on the brakes. A sharp pain and lingering throb soon erupted from his forehead driving into the worn edge of the briefcase. "What the hell?"
The driver narrowly managed to slam on the breaks as the headlamps caught the first movement of a large shadow above the road. The abrupt stop caught the entire convoy off guard. A squeal of tires echoed through the valley, and the brief thump of bending metal as two trucks collided in the dark. The stop, however, prevented a greater deal of damage. For the snapping of wood and limbs swiftly drowned out the sounds of the confusion. A roadblock now impeded their route forward.
"All those who enter this valley will be opposed, for this valley will resist." Mai whispered to herself as she pulled a strand of hair that had been dislodge from her bangs. She tucked it behind her ear as she reached forward and tapped the driver. "What happened?"
"A tree fell ma'am." The driver called back a reached for the door leaver.
Anikara rubbed his temple, hoping a lump would not form. He set a newly closed briefcase down on the floor and leaned back. "That's all well and good Lieutenant. Can we go around it?"
"No sir, we'll have to clear the road. Should take about thirty minutes, depending on how big the obstruction is..."
Mai decided to tune out the discussion between her employer and the military driver and turned to look out into the ink. The ground was rent from where the roots had once held the mighty piece of timber anchored to the ground. Bushes were collapsed and dislodged, but the grounds were still. Her mind began to ponder the possibilities of how such an event could happen. She blinked once as a coil of dust was kicked up by the final truck pulling to a halt behind the others. The lamps turning the particles into a fine cloud and ether. And in the distance, a...
"Mai," Anikara's voice pierced her thoughts causing her to lose track of what she had seen. "Are you alright?"
"I am." She lied effortlessly. Physically she was healthy and unscathed. But she was confused. Maybe she hit her head harder than she thought against the back head rest of the driver. But could she have seen a defender of the cursed valley?