Flame and Shadow

By Joshua Carr All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Other

Chapter 55

As the sun rose the following day, we were already preparing for our trek. I had never hiked through a jungle before. It seemed dangerous, but we would do what we had to in order to follow the prophecy.

“Alright. We should be back before sundown tonight.” Milo addressed Phil. “If we’re not, give us one more day. If we don’t make it by then, you can go ahead and leave.”

“Alright, but I’m not worried.” The pilot said confidently. “You’ve got this!”

We said goodbye to Phil, and thanked him for flying us down. Then, with no further ado, we headed out.

While passing through the dingy office where the airport manager was sitting, Sera asked:

“Hey, is breakfast included?”

The man grabbed another bag of Goldfish and threw them at her. She caught it in one hand and glared at him.

“I’ll hold on to these, thanks.”

There were no roads or paths on our journey through the stretch of the Amazon. Sera wanted to burn the foliage out of our way, but I could not allow that. We had to preserve the natural wonder of the rainforest, as well as avoid detection. Teklos could be anywhere.

Our hike was not a lot of fun. Although it was still the morning, it did not take long for the heat to become uncomfortable, then, unbearable. As I was wishing that I didn’t feel the need to wear clothing that covered my entire body, I saw how bad Sera was suffering. Perhaps related to her power, her internal body temperature was extremely high, and hot, humid weather like this really took a toll on her.

After traveling for over an hour in silence, Sera finally spoke.

“You know, I was thinking about how overrated pants are. I mean, there are lots of cultures that never wear pants. And I was thinking that, since we’re all friends here-“

“Sera. Please keep your pants on.” Milo commanded without turning around.

“You suck.”

I wished there was something I could do to help, but alas, we would just have to clench our teeth and press on. Surprisingly, we encountered no resistance on our path. Aside from the bugs (which I permitted Sera to burn any mosquitoes that she could), there were no adversaries, human or animal. For that, I was grateful.

Eventually, we came across a source of water. It was too small to be the Amazon, but if our course remained true to the original path we had plotted, it should feed into the mighty river very soon. I was seriously tempted to jump into the water, and began walking toward the bank when behind me, Sera mused:

“Ya know, I really like Piranhas. It’s so cool how they can devour a much larger animal like a human or a cow down to its skeleton in a matter of minutes. And the best part is how they wait just beneath the surface of the water where you can’t see them, so you never know they’re coming until it’s too late. Pretty awesome, huh?”

I turned around and glared at the girl.

“Thanks Sera.”

She shrugged.

“Just looking out for ya.”

Well, I wasn’t going swimming any time soon, so we decided to follow the stream from the shore toward the Amazon River. It was less than a mile before we reached the main water channel. The mighty Amazon was really incredible. At the point where we intercepted it, it was around half a mile wide, and there was a sharp bend just ahead. There were thick trees on both sides of the brownish water, making above the river the only place in the entire rainforest that wasn’t covered in flora.

“Alright.” Milo reminded us. “Make sure you keep your eyes open for anything that might have something to do with the prophecy. It could be anything. A marking on a tree, or an oddly shaped rock, or some kind of artifact-“

“Or perhaps a giant riverboat?” Sera proposed.

“What?!”

Just on the other side of the river bend was an enormous watercraft, pulled over to the bank on the far side.

Immediately, all three of us dropped down to hide in the tall foliage.

“What is that thing?” Sera whispered.

“I’m not sure.” I replied. “But it doesn’t look like Teklos.”

“Whatever it is, it’s really suspicious.” Milo opined. “There’s a good chance this is what the map was leading us to.”

“Let’s get a little closer.” The girl said.

“OK, but don’t let them see us.”

“Duh.”

We snuck forward, retaining cover behind trees as well as large leafy ground plants. It took much longer that way, but I’m pretty sure that we were undetected. When we got within a couple hundred feet, I was able to make out something going on. There were dark-skinned jungle natives being led from the forest toward the riverboat, which had opened some sort of panel and extended a walkway for entry. The men and women were being forced onto the ship by armed soldiers, but without any sort of identifiable uniform. Were they mercenaries?

Just then, one of the natives, who appeared to be a young man, attempted to resist capture. He was immediately shot in the head. His body slumped to the ground. I watched in horror as two of the soldiers dragged him to the river and tossed him in, where he was ripped to shreds by piranhas.

The injustice burned in my heart like a hot coal set on a stack of newspapers. How could such a thing still exist in today’s world? Who could possibly have the sadistic, selfish nature to abuse fellow human beings, for slavery or otherwise?!

Sera and Milo were discussing a plan.

“Now, if we wait for them to get everyone inside, we may have an opening for infiltration.” Milo theorized.

“No, we should attack now! We need to hit them while they’re spread out like that!” Sera disagreed.

“Actually, if they were all together, we’d have a better chance of taking them all out.”

I couldn’t wait any longer. These people needed our help, and the longer we waited, the more might die. I burst from the jungle, and attempted to stay out of the line of vision of the enemies. By my count, there were ten of them. That was ten too many.

Right before I reached the man closest to the riverboat, he spotted me and started firing his pistol. I formed a bubble with my right hand, and held it in front of me as I closed in. With a forward strike, I knocked the weapon from his grip. Then I followed it with a back fist using my shielded hand. The man was knocked backward several feet, and I turned to the next target. He readied his automatic weapon, and trained it on me. With an acrobatic maneuver, I dodged backward, and ran in a wide arc. I avoided the shots long enough until I could position one of the man’s allies between me and the shooter.

The gunshots stopped to avoid hitting his partner. I took advantage of this to strike this man with a low kick. When he reacted from the kick, I ducked low, formed a force field near the ground, and rapidly expanded it. As it grew in size, it smacked him in the face, and tossed him some distance into the air.

I made my way toward the guy with the machine gun, deflecting the renewed shots with a small mobile shield. Then, I was fired upon from behind. I had to make a full sphere around myself to protect from multiple directions, but I could no longer move. Soon, four of the remaining eight men had surrounded me, and I was trapped within my protective bubble. The other four were keeping the native prisoners under control.

It became difficult to see any way out of this on my own. However, I was not alone. Suddenly, a raging fireball exploded against one of the soldiers, sending him and the man nearest him sprawling to the ground like smoldering logs. The others immediately turned to face the direction of the new attack, when one of them was caught by the back of his shirt collar with a hook, and yanked violently backward. He crashed into the last remaining of the four. A blurred form suddenly leapt above them, and knocked them both out with a powerful half-moon kick.

I dropped my force field, in time to hear Sera say:

“I like your plan, Hal!” She gave me the thumbs-up.

Milo came in close to us, and looked out at the remaining four enemies.

“Let’s finish this, free the natives, and get on that boat.”

“Rodger!”

Sera formed a fireball between her hands, and whipped it in the direction of the soldiers further from the water. They scattered, which gave the natives opportunity to run, no longer held at gunpoint. We took advantage of the chaos to run in close. I went first, and set up a large force field to block incoming fire. After a second, Milo jumped up, kicked off of my shield, and landed in the middle of the fray. He engaged two in hand-to-hand combat.

Sera released a tongue of flame to block the retreat of the other two. I dashed in and pounded one of them with a double palm strike, powered with a small bubble. Sera overcame the second with flame-imbued strikes, and knocked him to the ground. I turned my head to see if Milo needed any help, just in time to see him block a high machete chop, shock the attacker with the stun gun on his wrist, and toss the man into the other one.

I guess he’s fine.

The three of us looked out into the rainforest at the fleeing natives.

“Isn’t that just the way.” Sera said. “Not even a thank you.”

I didn’t care. I knew we did the right thing. We may have risked a bit setting them free before entering the boat, but I didn’t want one more person to die needlessly. Suddenly, I felt a prick in my back.

“Ow!” I cried, more surprised than hurt.

It felt like a large bug bite. It hurt, but it wasn’t too bad. Just then, I wasn’t feeling too good; a bit woozy and light-headed. I tried to reach my hand behind me to feel the area where I had felt the pain.

“Uh, guys…” I mumbled as the world spun around me.

I pulled out a tiny dart from my back, but it didn’t register what it was or what it meant. Everything spiraled and grew blurry, and then I was lost.

I wonder if this was in the prophecy…

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