Date: June 3, 2010
Mark's team comes face to face with Dr. Norman Wallace, but then the unexpected happens.
"Courage Under Fire"
After a long rather sleepless night, Mark group was moving forward again. After the revelations of last nights reading of the Journal, it was clear they were headed toward something that could be a trap. If what Wallace had in written in the journal was true, the lumber company was a front for whatever operation Mark's father was running, looking for these mysterious blessed people.
Mark wasn't going to let that stop him, stubbornly he plowed through the jungle brush, moving forward to whatever fate awaited him.
And if what happened on the bridge was any indication… he probably wouldn't leave the Amazon alive. Pausing, Mark glances over his shoulder at what was left of his group, expression giving no indication of the morbid thoughts. Eyes fall on the bald and injured form of Cody, worried especially about her with that shoulder.
Maybe, just maybe, if he lets his father's men take him, the rest would get out at least.
"How we doing?" He calls back, Mark hitches the pack further up his shoulders, giving his slowly healing shoulder a slow roll to stretch out stiff muscles. "Need a break?"
Cody's been at the back of the group since they started out this morning, covering the rear. At least, that's what she calls it. She's completely spent, almost unable to stay standing up. She'd refused anyone's help to stand watch all night, had she not already been bald, she'd be bald from stress and exhaustion.
"Just fine," she murmurs, just over the din of the jungle, "Keep going…" To prove the point, she brushes past anyone that should pause at the question.
Jamie has been following close to Mark. Apparently with people chasing them intent on shooting them, she feels safer near him right now. She answers Mark's question immediately, "Yes please! My legs are really getting sore." She stops when she catches up to Mark, blinking as Cody continues on.
Keeping near the middle of the pack, Alexandra is trudging on silently. It's good to just have a goal, have some place to work toward in their trek through the steamy jungles. Not quite as worse for wear compared to some of the others, Alex has offered to take whatever weight they want to shed and put it in her pack, which is looking pretty swollen and heavy. It's nothing she hasn't dealt with before when carrying books back and forth to classes though.
"I'm alright to keep going," Alex replies to Mark's question. She does take a minute to stop and brush a few stray strands of heavy, dirty hair out of her eyes though. "Anyone need me to carry anything else? Cody?"
Mark doesn't look wholly convinced with Cody, but at least he can be thankful for the youngest member of the group. A large hand, rests on Jamie's shoulder giving it a squeeze as he pulls out a canteen and hands it to her. "You even need this?" He asks with amusement.
As the hairless woman brushes past, he comments lightly, "You heard the kid, Cody… time for a break. Few minutes won't hurt anyone." Mark takes a moment to steer the girl to a fallen log, before he goes about easing the burden of the pack off his shoulder. He drops to sit on the log as well, letting out a heavy sigh, stretching his long legs out in front of him, to wincing as they throb.
Giving Mark a sharp look at his order, it softens somewhat before she nods. "I'll just go a few feet ahead, scout, something…" Her voice drifts off as she pushes through some of the growth and disappears behind some green fronds.
There's the heavy thud of her pack hitting the ground, then she does as well. Leaning against a tree, she winces as she peels back the dirty bandage that she'd been using to keep the flow of blood staved. From one of her cargo pockets, she pulls a tube of antibacterial ointment and squeezes a liberal dollop over the wound.
"Ok..well, if you're all stopping, I might as well rearrange some things in here…" Alex says. She too thumps down in the dirt, pack between her legs. The top is unzipped and a few things are pulled out. "What is it they say? Heavy stuff close to the back, and in the middle of the pack? Something like that?" It could be rhetorical. It could be that she has no idea how to pack a backpack for a hiking trip.
Jamie smiles back up to Mark again and nods quickly, "Uh-huh. Unless there's a river I can take a bath in. Thanks." She plops down on the log and takes a drink of the canteen. She looks up to Cody and asks, "Why don't you take a break too?" But by then she's already gone. She shrugs a little and takes one more drink before handing the canteen back.
"Thanks kiddo." Mark says softly, taking the canteen back. The lid is screwed on slowly, his gaze going to where Cody disappeared. "She'll be fine." He lies for the youngest of them. "She's a strong woman. A soldier, probably dealt with worse."
Leaning over to tuck the canteen away, he turns his head slightly to look at Alex on the ground. "Just do what makes it more comfortable, but it sounds about right." Mark straightens, but then freezes when the brush across from him rustles.
"Well, well… lookie what I have found." A lightly spoken voice, thick with an English accent, proceeds the appearance of a white haired man, his chin covered with a short beard. Glasses are perched low on his nose, forcing him to tilt his back slightly, until he pushes them further up. His clothing looks worn and patched too many times, his shoes look hand made, replacing the boots he use to wear.
Stepping out of the dense foliage, Norman Wallace surveys the small group, hands moving to fold behind his back. "Of all the people that could have stepped foot in the jungle… a Lane is not what I expected. As far as I know, Lane's simply sit behind their desks, letting little men do the dirty work for them."
A smile playing on Wallace's lips and he quips out a, " 'Allo Mark, your father is well, I suspect?"
"Dr. Wallace." Mark offers cautiously, studying the old man, who seems nothing like the clean cut man that he saw at parties.
Still well within earshot, Cody freezes at the sound of the unfamiliar voice. She turns her head toward the conversation, straining to hear the words. Without wrapping her arm back up, she crawls toward the voices, keeping well under the leaves as she peeks toward the group she left.
Reaching into her pocket, she feels around for something to eat. There's nothing but the tube of ointment. Unwilling to eat the only thing that might be keeping infection away from her seeping wound, she looks to her surroundings. There crawling on the forest floor is a large bug. Sharp blue eyes scout out another, and then a spider.
Beggars can't be choosers, if she's going to protect Mark in her state, she's going to need a belly full of something. And so, she begins to eat… and eat…
Jamie just about jumps out of her skin (probably literally, in her case) as the new voice sounds. She looks up to the new arrival with wide eyes, until Mark says the man's name. "Oh, from the journal!" She instantly relaxes, as if immediately counting this man as a good guy. "His father's trying to kill him, so I don't think they're talking enough to know how he is," she comments.
"He's well enough to be coming after us with live ammunition, at the very least," Alex adds. The pack is forgotten, and she groans a bit when she stands. Sitting probably wasn't such a good idea, since now her legs and backside are starting to get a bit stiff and sore. With Cody out-of-commissionish, Alex steps forward a little to put another body between Wallace and Jamie.
As Cody lays there trying to find things to eat, a pair of dark skinned feet come to rest silently near her head, before she feels something sharp against the back of her neck, then another near her side. No words need to be spoken, it is clear she's in a bad spot. Hands move to try and grab her arms and drag her to her feet,
The jungle around the group, comes alive with rustling before more figures slip out of the foliage, spears lowered at them. Fierce little hunters decked out in paints, feathers and facial adornments. Their voices are almost musical when they query each other.
Marks head slowly turns to survey all the people, brow furrowing slightly. Slowly Mark unfolds his tall frame from the log, moving in front of Jamie as well. "I'm not here for my father." The eldest Lane boy says as he turns his attention to Wallace. "I'm here looking for you… to understand what is so important."
Wallace is barely listening to Mark. His attention is on Alexandra and Jamie, age thinned brows furrowing slightly. His hand comes from behind his back, so that he can point at the taller man, "Is that what he told you?" The old man huffs a soft chuckle, his gaze shifting back to the Lane. "Oh Mark… you have been lying. It's what you Lanes are good at… that and greed."
"Has he told you about his father? Sent people to wipe out a village, for one individual?" Wallace takes a step towards Mark, eyes narrowing, as a hand comes to rest on the side of a tree. Something brushes Mark's ankle making his flinch and take a step back, only to find it is caught in a length of vine. He gives a jerk of his foot, but the rope like length doesn't give, it tightens.
A glance down and Mark can see the vine slowly curling around his leg, much like a snake. "You'll have to excuse me, if I don't believe you."
The sharp prodding of spears to her neck and side has Cody raising slowly to her feet. Her eyes narrowed at her captors as she comes into view of the party from her low point under the massive ferns. "What he's saying is true," she utters in a low tone. The last crunch of spider disappearing down her throat as she swallows.
Nearly immediately afterward, long whips of hair sprout from her head, the last reserves of her body garbage coming to and snaking around the bodies of the hunters near her. "His father almost wiped us all out, Mark saved us." It's a true estimation from her point of view. The snakes of hair don't tighten around the little hunters but they do grab the spears and lift them away from her. If they see him as a blessed one, perhaps they would see the rest of them too. "Jamie… Alex… show him."
Jamie blinks as they're suddenly surrounded, looking around with slightly widened eyes again. Just slightly, though. People pointing spears at her don't seem to inspire much in the way of terror, unlike guns. She looks up to Wallace and says, "Yeah, he did. Told us everything. Read your journal to us. Know he wants to use people like us as weapons, just like the Alpha Protocol did at home. And those people his dad sent, they've been shooting at us too." She looks over to Cody and grins at the sprouting hair, then nods quickly. And she's gone, her body entirely liquid and splashing to the ground, with her clothes falling as well. But the puddle reforms and rises just enough to show that there's still some intelligence and power in there.
"That's right. We found your journal. Mark told what was inside," Alex nods, twisting her boots into the soil a bit. "And I'd appreciate it if you didn't point those spears at us," she says, gritting her teeth, lifting her hands up at her sides. Around Mark, Jamie, and herself, the ground trembles for a moment as a four-foot high ring of earth appears, about ten feet in diameter, the wall itself just about 4 inches thick. If it hits a few spear tips on the the way up, good.
The ropes of hair gets an explosion of startled shouts from the closest hunters. The spears wrapped in hair are quickly dropped so they can scramble away quickly. More shouts go up as Jamie turns to water and the ground rises at the command of a woman, breaking a spear or two, and knocking others out of hands.
Wallace stares at the display of ability, the vine around Mark's leg loosening, falling limp around his foot. Raising his hands, the flurry of voices quiet as the hunters look at the white haired man. "Well, Mark… either you did a bloody good job brain washing the lot… or they speak the truth."
Turning slightly, Wallace looks over at Cody, brows lifting high on his head. "I have only known one other blessed, to have three before me… It is humbling I must say." He beckons Cody to join him a small smile on his lips."Come my dear, I don't plan to hurt you. The blessed are always welcomed."
Mark stumbles back as the wall goes up, glancing over at Alex with amusement. Taking a moment to shake the lengths of vine from his foot, the oldest Lane simply. "You've been in this jungle too long, Dr. Wallace." Straightening he looks at the old man over the barrier put in place. "I've been working to stop my father. There are scores of 'blessed' people out there and your right… my father wants them, but so does the government."
Eyes narrow, making the crows feet deepen at the corners, Wallace considers this. Suddenly he looks to each side of him, calling out in a different language. One of the hunters, who doesn't look much older then Jamie herself trots forward. Words are exchanged and the boy races off.
Turning back to Mark again, Wallace puts his hands behind his back again. "Well… then you are welcome here as well, but you and I must have a talk… but not here." A glance goes to the others as he adds. "We can take you to your friends if you wish?"
The blonde woman's stomach growls loudly, sounding much like a polar bear in Jo's wildest dreams. With that thunderous eruption, she hangs her head and sags her shoulders as the last display of her waning power drops from her head.
She doesn't explain it, nor does she stop to pick up the long ropes of hair. She just steps forward, rolling the shoulder of her injured arm. With a quick jump, Cody leaps over the wall, nicking the bottom with her foot and coming to a land near Mark.
"Hey… sorry I was late," she utters to the man, "I got hungry." There's a weary lopsided grin on her face and she holds out the hand of her uninjured arm to offer him a hand up.
Jamie probably makes a much more visually stunning display for the hunters changing back than changing to water. First she rises up and takes a humanoid waterish form, like some kind of water elemental out of D&D. Then water pressure lifts her clothes back up from the ground, so they'll be in place, and finally she's human again. She lets the adults make the decision about going, though.
"Blessed? That's what you call what we can do?" Alex looks a little wary at that terminology. "Sometimes, it's not such a blessing you know." Flashback to a few months spent as a guest of the government's finest hotel for human weapons. Fists that had been clenched open, and the wall of eart crumbles, leaving only a small, low mound in the same circular shape to indicate where it was. Even that eventually sinks back down into a smooth surface, only the disturbed vegetation indicating where it was.
Wallace watches the wall crumble with fascination. "I did not term it as such." He offers to Alex, glancing at her out of the corner of his eyes. He nods to the natives around him. "These people… the Yanomami… they see what we do as favors of the spirits that inhabit this world. We are 'Blessed' by the spirits." A small fond smile goes to the nearest hunter.
One of the younger hunters inches forward to reach out and try to touch Jamie to see if she is solid. The young boy glances at Wallace with wide eyes, "This one…" He motions to Jamie, "However is a spirit walking among them." He flashes a toothy smile to the child.
Mark, meanwhile, gives Cody a small smile. "Hey… it counts that your here now." His hand moves to grip her good shoulder.
On either side of Mark, front and back, his travel worn shirt starts to develop a patch of darkness, spreading slowly outward from a center point, it quickly becomes clear what just happened.
Mark on the other hand looks slightly confused, brows furrowing as he looks at Wallace, before his legs give out from under him and he falls to the jungle floor.
To Norman Wallace's credit he looks just as confused and slightly alarmed, head snapping up and around looking for the source of the shot.
Bark explodes near Wallace's head, forcing the man to drop to the ground. "Bloody hell! You were not kidding." Another bullet hits near Wallace, but the old man continues to be unscathed. The small hunters are in chaos, most falling to the ground much like the older man. "We have to get out of here. Into the under growth, it'll fowl their shots."
Cody's smile falls from her face and almost as if the world slowed down she dives under Mark to prevent him from hitting the ground. "Hang on, hang on to me… Come on Mark…" she breathes, tucking her body under his and rising painfully underneath him.
With a grunt, she walks forward until she gets back to where she was laying before. "Alex, cover, grab Jamie's clothes! Jamie, do what you do and… follow them!" She struggles to get into the undergrowth with Mark on her back. The heat of his blood warms up her skin and her own wound seeps in short bursts with every one of her frantic heartbeats.
Jamie grins at the hunter and says, "It's ok." She holds out an arm for him to touch, and grins more at Wallace's words about her. Until the gunshot. Cody's instructions come a little late as she's already water, down on the ground again. The latter part of the instruction, though, she follows and quickly starts to flow after Wallace, a little stream leaving her clothes behind.
"Already on it!" Alex calls out over the din of gunshots, splintering wood, and the zip of bullets tearing through leafy plants. In the seconds after the gunshots first start ringing out, she ducks, and throws up another wall, spinning around in the direction of the shots. What happened to Mark doesn't immediately register. No, not until she gets the barrier up to keep anymore bullets from hitting them.
Crouch-walking backwards at first she travels with the barrier following them, using the protection to look back over her shoulder at the rest. "What happened? Did Mark…he got…?" There's a little hiccup in her voice and then she's not backing up anymore. "I'm…sick and tired…of your guns!" she howls out, throwing her arms outward. The wall mimics the move, exploding outward. Instead of bullets, she's throwing hundreds or thousands of small hunks of earth in the direction of the shots. She's 'firing' blind, of course, and they're only pebbles, stones, and clumps of earth, but there's lots of them and they're flying fast. If anyone gets hit, they'll probably be stung like a paintball hit.
As Cody tries to carry Mark on her own, his body limp and so frighteningly still, not to mention pretty damn heavy… small figures appear out of the foliage to grab his legs and other parts to ease the burden on the woman. Worried looks are past between the eldest of them, one says something the other snaps back angrily.
Wallace scrambles into the brush, it grows thicker behind them as he brushes past bushes, as if the old man is giving them brief bursts of growth. Finally where it is thickest, Wallace stands and moves to intercept the group trying to carry the tall explorer. He doesn't even think to speak in the native language, just snaps. "Move" to one of them as he pushes closer to Mark.
A hand whips out to pull, Mark's shirt up, his skin smearing with blood. The sight of the stomach wound, makes Wallace inhale sharply, the air hissing between his teeth. "Wounds like this are deadly." An apologetic look goes to Cody and he lets the shirt drop. "Should leave him… Even if we bound it, he's good as dead anyhow."
Two of the hunters are still arguing, by the wrinkles the crease their features under the adornments and paint, they seem to be the oldest of the group. Whatever they are saying, it grabs Wallace's attention, he turns sharply and says a few words to them, both stop and look at him. Waving a hand at Mark's body, still supported by Cody and many other hands as they move through the forest going deeper still, the former Lane employee, says a few sharp words.
The two elders glance at each other considering, then the one that seemed to be arguing the hardest, gives a short nod.
"Good." Wallace says firmly nodding in return. He glances back at the Terrakinetic. "Come along, we have to keep going. That was a sniper, you might as well save your strength."
Glaring at Wallace, Cody grits her teeth and growls in a feral manner at him. "I'm not leaving him behind," though the burden is eased by the little hunters, she still carries most of his weight on her back. "Come on Mark, just… hang on, don't go to sleep… This is a cakewalk, remember Kuwait? It's just a little greener, that's all."
She keeps uttering words of encouragement to the man, barely looking at where she's going. The action has her stumbling and nearly hitting the large growth around them. A brief glance of appreciation is given to the little hunters though, as they steer her using Mark as a type of rudder.
It is hopeless, Alex quickly realizes. She doesn't have to be told twice to hurry after them. Two things are snagged on the way into the dense (suddenly denser?) plant growth: her pack, and Jamie's clothes. Where they're going, she has no idea. Even so, boots churn earth, pants brush past leaves, and she hurries after them.
Cody's glare and a small drenching by a little water nymph, has Wallace raising his hands in self defense. "I would not dream of it, last thing I would wish is to piss off any of you." A worried glance goes to Mark, the younger man groaning as he's jostled, before slipping into blessed darkness again.
"Bind his wounds." He says after a moment, slowing to a stop, giving the hunters instructions to come to a halt. Also as if he could hear Alexandra's thought, he explains softly, "The elders have decided to take him to a sacred place, a place few have gone." The old man glances at the other in the group, "Should he survive the trip…." Wallace takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly, brows lifting slightly on his forehead.
"Then pray that the spirits look upon him favorably. It may save his life."