R1,G37: Circinus Descending

Single minded focus on a lofty goal can leave you blinded to dangers right in front of you. 

 

Angela’s lungs burned as she dove headlong through the overgrown brush trail, ducking her head to plow through the heavy palm fronds, guided only by the gibbous moon.  Sticky air, and condensation from her reckless flight through the fronds, further dampened her hair and made the bronze tube she clutched slip precious millimeters in her grip.

Bursting through to the open, the blond-haired woman flight propelled her onto the aging suspension bridge that spanned the ravine.  The bridge creaked, groaning in objection under her weight, and as if to voice its complaint, caught her foot between two of planks pitching her forward.  Angela landed hard on her elbows and knees, her face coming to rest on one of the dew slick slats of the bridge.  The river, swollen from the rainy season, frothed as it roared past.  She struggled to her feet, her burden still held tightly against her chest.

“Angela stop!”

The young professor spun at the command.  Michael.  Of course it was Michael, although gone was the well-groomed mogul of the pharmaceutical industry, replaced by a sweat stained t-shirt, boxers, and untied boots. He hovered in the space between the jungle and the yawning ravine, his dark hair ruffled by the disgruntled air that rose from the turbulence below.

“We need that!” he pleaded gesturing to her burden.  “Please!  This is everything we’ve strived for!  Think of all your work!  The weeks we’ve spent in this green hell!  We can’t quit now!”

“No!” The tenor of her voice surprised her: so much anger, resentment, and disappointment spilling out in one simple word.  “I won’t let you do this Michael!  This won’t be another wonder product to reap more glorious profits!”

“Please Angela!” Michael pleaded.  “Without that—I mean without you we won’t be able to triangulate the entrance!  Just two more days!  That’s all we need!”  Michael took a step forward, extending his hand over the threshold of the bridge, but she shook her head and clutched the brass tube closer to her chest.  “We’re going to be rich Angela,” he soothed.  “And you can spend all your time researching whatever your heart desires.”  He took a shuffling step forward but Angela took a larger step backwards, nearly losing her balance on the slick slats.  Michael froze as both the woman and ancient assembly of ropes and planks wobbled and swayed unsteadily.

“Please Angela!  Come back to camp.  We’ll talk about it. How about a percentage of the proceeds go to charity?  I’ll name a foundation after you.”

“Ha!” it was a cold and mirthless laugh.  “You remember what you told me after that night in Dhaka?”  Fire burned in her gaze.  “It was a lie, wasn’t it.  Every last word of it!”  Michael’s silence was damning.  “YOU BASTARD!”

He looked away out over the moonlit jungle, and when he looked back he wore his boardroom face.

“It’s too damn hot for this,” he muttered.  “But fine, let’s play hardball.”  Angela took another tentative step backwards and the bridge creaked in subtle menace.  “Not exactly flush with options are you m’dear? You think you can run faster than me carrying that?  Or maybe you think you can hide better than Derrick and his team can track?”  Angela shot a look over her shoulder to the dark jungle awaiting her.  “Two days march back to the last village we saw.  Think you can stay ahead of them that long?”  He chuckled dryly.  “I’ll make you a deal.  Give me the telescope, and I won’t tell Derrick you ran away until morning.  Nice little head start eh?”  Angela glowered at him, hesitating before setting her it gently at her feet.  “Good girl!” Michael smirked while Angela backed slowly across the bridge, one hand on the rope rail and the other fingering the handle of knife she’d nicked from Derrick’s tent.  Get to the other side.  Cut the rope.  Slow them down.

“Shit Angela, you were always too altruistic,” Michael taunted as she went.  “Made you easy to dupe, easy to manipulate and even easier to seduce.”  She felt her face flush and she spun on the bridge drawing the knife to face him.

“You think so?” she shouted.  “Well your chart’s incomplete!  I wasn’t going to commit everything to paper for you and that thug!” Releasing the rail she jabbed a finger at her head.  “It’s safely up here and you’ll never get it!” Defiance raged across her face as stark realization flooded his.  Cold prickles crawled down her neck at her mistake.  She brought the knife down to the opposite rope rail continuing to back up.  “What did pet Derrick say? ‘Four days walk to ford the river?’  Wonder how he’ll handle the news.  Still going to wait ‘till morning to tell him?” she spat.

“He won’t have to,” Derricks deep basso carried over the river’s churning as he emerged from the jungle, pistol in hand.  “I think we’re done here.”

“What?” demanded Michael.  “Put that away. I’ve got this.”

“You overplayed your hand jackass, and now you’re useless to us.”  The rapport of the .45 careened off the ravine walls as Michael staggered backwards propelled by the impact of the shot.  The aged support post let out an objectionable crack under Michael’s weight and was quickly joined by a chorus of smaller, sharper notes as vines and ropes surrendered quick succession at the loss of their ancient anchor as both vanished over the edge.

“Damn it!”  Derrick lunged forward as the bridge spasmed, the brass telescope hopping before tumbling end over end, the moonlight flashing off its polished surface.  Angela felt the bridge tense before attempting to buck her.  Then everything slewed sideways.  Without hesitation, she threw herself over the failing rail towards the center of the river below.

“Son of a bitch!” Derrick cursed as he watched Angela disappear into the darkened ravine.  “Armando,” he called back into the jungle.

“Yeah chief?”

“Wake the boys!  Find the bodies then we do this the old fashioned way.”

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