The Trek (Part 1 - A pussy full of eel)

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Date Event
13.11.05  
103.100  (cont)  After leaving Jamal in a tree the group cram themselves in the minisub. Rave will pilot the craft, Frank will act as copilot (sonar & navigator). The other three are tightly packed together in the airlock. Examining the subís vital statistics Frank realizes that although the sub has plenty fuel, it was made to transport only two persons, not five. So the fuel wonít last to bring them anywhere near civilization.
Mudu suggests that they try to reach the north-coast of Westcape. He knows of a native village called ĎHot Sandsí some 100 km land inward, and heís willing to bring the group there.
Rave starts up the subs engines. They are remarkably silent, thereís only the slightest hum when the engines kick in. This truly is one state-of-the-art stealth sub.
The sub is currently in a maze of mangrove roots, and they do not want to switch on the lights for fear of being detected. Frank switches on the sonar at the lowest possible settings and the subís navcomp show the best route out of the mangrove forest.
Rave slowly moves forward the sub. After softly gliding through the waters for 5 seconds it rams its rear end into tree resulting in a bend rudder and a lot of cursing from the people in the airlock.
On the second try the sub emerges safely from the mangroves. After having cleared the reef around the prison island Frank switches from active sonar to passive sonar. Almost immediately a blip shows. The analytical computer identifies it as an orca.
The pilots quickly switch off all equipment : engine, all but the most basic life support, cabin lights, etc. Only the passive sonar stays active. Tense moment pass as the orca draws ever nearer, then crosses their path 200 meters in front of them and continues its course.
The cramped space of the minisub is getting hotter by the minute, and the air inside is getting stale. Just as the orca patrol is about the disappear from the sonar screen Rave mutters ĎDamn, itís hot in here.í. Immediately the blip on the sonar screen halts.
More tense moments pass, but after listening for a full minute the orca patrol is apparently satisfied that nothing is there and moves on. A slightly annoyed Alex explains to Rave in a mock-patient voice the workings of sonar and stealth.
104.100 Hours pass as the sub travels to the north coast of Westcape and arrives there early the next morning. With sonar on full power Race attempts to navigate the reefs and almost succeeds until an unexpected side-current catches him unaware and rams the sub against the shoals. The already bend rudder is damaged even further, and they are glad passengers are glad the journey is almost over.
The sub breaks the surface so the group can inspect the coast in search for a place to disembark. In the early morning light all they see are steep cliffs making it impossible to make landfall. Luckily, after traveling along the coast for half an hour the discover a pebble beach.
Everybody takes a deep breath and leaves the sub after having programmed the autopilot to hold position and beach itself after 15 minutes. Assisted by Mudu where needed everyone makes it safely to the beach.
When 15 minutes later the subs autopilot has executed its orders the group realizes that it would have been wise to clear the navcomp before leaving. The subís entrance hatch is at the bottom and the craft is beached, effectively blocking entrance to its interior. They make an attempt to turn the sub on its side, but the craft is far too heavy. Oh well, so be it.
Even though everyone is tired they decide to leave immediately straight for Hot Sands. The shoreline is rocky and dry with very little vegetation, but after 10 minutes into the walk they arrive at a peculiar patch of plants. Runners extend 10 meters from the main body which is a bright red pod the size of a fist.
Distrustful of indigenous life as ever Rave and Frank throw rocks at one of the pods which promptly explodes. Alex Ė who watched closely from behind the two Ė sees that both Frank and Rave are showered with small needles, even though they were a full 10 meters away from the pod.
Everyone is checked careful. Luckily all needles were stopped by clothing and fur. After Frank has collected a few of the needles for future study the group continues its journey.
During the lunch breakAlex notices he has developed a rash, as have Rave and Mudu. Could this be due to the exploding plant? But Alex and Mudu were far enough away not to have been hit by them. Frank examines the rash more closely and diagnoses it as a parasite called Ďangel wingsí.
According to what he can remember about it it is not lethal, provided the parasites are allowed to hatch which requires that the rash is treated frequently with a paste made from fresh fish.
Frank and Rave want to travel on to Hot Sands, but Alex greatly complains about the itching. "Iím not going to survive another 80 kilometers with this itching!". When Mudu informs them that Hot Sands has no river or lake nearby, so no fish available there the group decides to travel back to the coast and camp out until the parasites have hatched.
By traveling straight north from their current position they end up 20 kilometers from where they left their sub. Each day the group moves to a different location to avoid detection.
106.100 Early morning of the 106th Alex - who has watch duty - spots a dot at the horizon, rapidly increasing in size. Itís a jumpcraft closing in fast and everyone scrambles for a hiding place. The jumpcraft passes without noticing them.
Frank has found a hiding place from where he could observe the jumpcraft and noticed that it had no visible markings whatsoever. Thereís a tense moment when Mudu (who had dived underwater for cover) surfaces, just as a second jumpcraft follows. But that one too fails to notice them. The group decides that now is a good moment to find a new spot.
108.100 Around noon on the 4th day of camping Rave feels a short stab of pain. Small tendrils emerge from his flesh and a moment later a young angel wing emerges. A thoroughly disgusted Race laments "Oh god, I gave birth to a fish", which prompt a flood of remarks like "Hmm, this gives a new meaning to the term Ďa pussy full of eelí ". After all parasites have been born, the group prepares to continue their journey to Hot Sands.
109.00 Early in the evening (around 20.00) Mudu informs the group that Hot Sands is real close now.
Frank and Rave go scouting ahead, and shortly after see a body lying in the bushes in front of them. Frank zooms in and switches to infrared vision. The body has the same temperature as its surroundings, so whoever it is heís most likely dead.
Closer inspection reveals itís a native, dead. The man has been shot in the back, but Frank is unable to tell how long ago this happened.
Even more cautious the village Ė its outlines now visible in the setting sun - is approached. Alex, Rave and Frank are sneaking closer as Alex trips over a branch and comes crashing to the ground. Everybody ducks and waits for a reaction to demonstration of gravityís pull. But nothing happens.
When Frank and Rave think itís save to move again they draw closer. Quickly the see that very little is left from the village. All houses are burned to the ground. The wattle-and-daub walls are cracked from the heat and of the formerly thatched roofs only blacked timbers remain. The pens behind the houses still hold the livestock, though.
The 10 houses - arranged around a square with a well in the middle - are searched for survivors. Nearly all houses contain scorched bodies. The largest house of village holds 10 corpses. Frank examines them. They are men, women and children, most of them show bullet holes.
A thorough search yields 2 hunting rifles (without ammo) and a couple of knives. On the square outside they find a few ammo cases but little else. It looks like someone has actively been erasing tracks.
The group is getting thirsty. True to tradition Frank first lobs a rock in the well. "Ouch!". Hmm.. thatís not a normal sound when you throw a rock in water. Looking the well they see a man in the water, clinging to wall. After some persuasion from Mudu the man allows the group to hoist him out of the well.
The well-man is wounded, shot in his leg. After Frank has tended his wounds the man tells them what happened
His name is Willie Lowry. 3 days ago 2 jumpcraft came, and accused the village of harboring escaped prisoners. They demanded to search the houses for these escapes. When the chief stood up against them they killed the chief and his family. In the ensuing firefight half population got killed, other half fled. He got shot in his leg and tumbled into the well. He could not understand the language the men from the jumpcraft spoke, but they he thinks they torched houses to removed all evidence.
The party lets the man sleep and is thankful that fatigue has prevented him from realizing that they were the ones the jumpcraft had been looking for.
110.100 The next morning Frank starts building a crude distillery to distill the water from the well. After all, Willie has been bleeding into it for the past few days.
They discuss what to do. Mudu suggests they travel to the south side of Westcape where he can rejoin with his group of freedom fighters. Problem is that this will require a trek though Hellís Basin, according to some the hottest place on the planet.
Willie expresses the wish to stay. He thinks some survivors may have fled to the caves in the mountains. He wants to join them but does not want the party to bring him there. If they can just arrange some crutches and water for him heíll be fine.
So it happens. Frank creates some crutches and the party prepares for a very difficult journey filled with hardship, thirst and hunger.
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