Seattle, 13 December 2050
Seaside's was a bust. The medbay needs an overhaul we don't have time for right now. Instead I set up a meet with Dances with Wolves, our new injun medic. Maybe he can mojo some information out of it. I also talk to Martha about a replacement for the padre. She says she might have someone suitable, so I set up a meet for that too.
Martha also warns me that the yaks have been sniffing around looking for me. They don't have my name but do have my description down pretty pat. Guess I need to stick with the goth girl disguise for a bit. I call Sharif and give him a heads-up and also drop a message to Aurora, the decker who dug up the dirt on them for me.
We spend the rest of the day reviewing the briefing files and drawing up lists of gear we might need, everything from camouflage outfits and weapons to camping gear and bug spray. Amazonia has gone back to nature in big way, with whole cities lost to jungle and more paracritters than you ever want to meet.
Seattle, 14 December 2050
The next morning, before heading to my meets with Dances and the potential new recruit, I drop by the coffee shop across from the office where Danny works. I join him in the queue and mutter a cryptic message about 'indians on the warpath' and 'circling the wagons'. He manages to keep a straight face, returning just the briefest of nods to indicate he got the message. I get a large black soykaf and add a little Jack to keep out the cold.
Then I head down into the Barrens to Cleo's. Cleo's used to be a decent place for a beer but it lost the 'decent' a long time ago. Now the rooms in back can be rented by the hour, mostly for shady meetings like mine or other nefarious / sleazy activities that I don't really want to think about. Their gun policy is also pretty lax, as in they don't really have one, which isn't always a good thing.
I buy a beer and a burger and pay for a room for a couple of hours. When Dances shows up, I explain about the container and what it contains. He tells me he would need a lab to analyze the specimen but he can have a look at it astrally to see if he can see anything obvious.
He stares at the container and his eyes begin to glow. I only seen magic like this close up a couple of times. The last time was in some backwoods bar up in Salish. I clocked the old injun who was staring at me like that. Turned out he was the local witch doctor and the resulting bar fight got me locked up overnight in the local jail.
My mind is pulled back to the present by a light knock at the door. Seems the new recruit has arrived early. He's tall for a breeder. A big black fella, with a broad nose. He's bald as a baby with a long goatee that looks like it's got a mind of it's own. He's wearing one of those dress robes you sometimes see African dignitaries wearing on the trid. Sort of thing that would get you robbed in this part of town if he wasn't wearing a well-worn military combat jacket over it and carrying an beaten up AK over his shoulder.
Dances looks up at that moment, his eyes still glowing and the two lock gazes for a second. Then I break the moment by introducing myself. The goth outfit seems to catch him momentarily off-guard but he hides his emotions well. From hanging with Finlay, he fairly reeks of military, which matches with what Martha told me of him.
He introduces himself as Henry, then says that most folks just call him Leon. Not used to running our Henry-Leon, but guess we all gotta start somewhere. I introduce Dances as our medic and magical fixer upper. Henry claims to be more the put them down type than patch them up, so sounds like a good match. I lay out the deal as general as I can and try to get some more details on him. He hints at some ops down in Africa and other places. Most don't mean much to me but Dances gives an appreciative nod here and there.
Having covered the basics I ask if he's interested. He says he is and keeps cool when I mention the amount on offer. I had agreed with Finlay and Zero that we would offer 30k, a little less than our shares but then we need to take Martha's ten percent into account. Doesn't faze him so he's either good at covering or used to this sort of pay. I give him a chip with the rest of the details and a number to contact me on, and tell him to be ready by the end of the week.
Seattle, 16 December 2050
Been busy rounding up supples for the last couple of days, mostly camping stuff from various hunting and outdoor stores. Now I'm on my way to pick up the guns with Finlay. We arrive at the warehouse in Tacoma docks late at night. There's a couple of asians waiting outside and Finlay notices me stiffen as I spot them. He tells me to be cool, that the dudes are Koreans not Yaks, but I mentally ease off the safety on the SMG just in case.
Fortunately, the Korean dudes are on the level and the gear is all there. We check it out as their boss checks the certified sticks Finlay used for payment. Some nice stuff too. A couple of combat rifles, a SPAS shotgun for Dances, a nice M42 for me, heavy pistols all round, some grenades and plenty of ammo. The bossman makes a joke about us starting a war. We laugh obligingly as his men load the gear into the van. Still, I only relax when we make it safely back to the garage.
Seattle, 20 December 2050
Jamal picks us up in a rental van and we load the gear and ourselves in the back. We pick up Dances and Leon on the way to the airport and clear security without any problems. The Johnson, Helms, isn't at the hangar. In his place, we are met by some severe nordic skirt with platinum hair. She introduces herself as Erika and shows us where to stow our gear while she runs her preflight checks. Within thirty minutes, we are on the runway and ready to roll. Amazonia here we come.
The first leg of the flight takes about four hours. People nap, check gear and I share a Jack with Leon, mixing mine with a soyacola. We land, refuel and take off again. This time I sleep for a bit, and then we are landing again. Some little scrap of land barely big enough for the Learjet to land on, although Erika brings it down smooth enough. While she refuels for the return journey, a beat up old flatbed comes to pick us up. The driver, Freemont, will be our pilot for the next leg. His bird is an equally beat up twin prop seaplane, a Catalina according to Finlay.
We form a line to load our gear from the dock into the hold and then we are off again. I drift off for a bit, losing track of time. When I wake we are touching down in the dark. At first it seems there is nothing around us but open sea, then the dark shadow of a ship appears before us. We move our gear again, this time into the hold or more likely the bomb bay of what looks to be a decommisioned Russian VTOL nuclear bomber. The steel haired pilot's accent only confirms that suspicion.
Then we are off again, lifting out of the ships hold in a roar of jet turbines. Ilyusin, the pilot, explains we will be coming in hot and need to clear the LZ, landing zone explains Finlay, quick. Seems the Amazonians don't like foreigners sneaking into their lands and have a habit of sending out feathered serpents to deal with trespassers.
We suit up and as soon as the plane touches down on the beach we move out. The heat and humidity hit like a wall as we leave the plane. Ilyusin is in the air with a roar of engines even before we reach the trees and as we do we hear another roar, this one not from a jet but a feathered serpent that screeches overhead and after the rapidly disappearing bomber.
We wait in cover until we are sure it ain't coming back then hightail it towards our next contact. A GPS beacon leads us through the forest to a small village on the banks of the river. A couple of local girls are being chatted up by a two unsavoury looking types on a low boat. Another man comes on deck and chases the girls away. I don't grok the lingo, which Leon says is Portuguese. The guy in charge is wearing a red bandana round his left arm and the GPS is pointing in his direction so he must be our guy.
He welcomes us on board in bad English, which is still way better than my non-existant Portuguese and directs us to the boat's only cabin. We crash as they cast off, having been on the road now for over twenty hours.
Manaus, 23 December 2050
It takes us three days to get to Manaus. Three days of heat and bugs. The captain complains that we look more like commandos than 'touristas'. The others change in their other gear, but I only packed one outfit for the return trip and it would stand out even more so I stick to the armor's camo pants and olive undershirt. The captain makes some comment about getting me into a bikini. Him and his crew have been leering at me for the last two days so I kinda lose it and show him the blade, snicking it out and back into my hand. One of the crew crosses himself but the captain looks angry and tells me to keep it out of sight. He suggests I get some new clothes in Manaus so that I blend in and even offers to show me around. Creep!
Still with this heat and humidity, I guess I can put up with him if it gets me a couple of changes of clothing. As it turns out, he doesn't try anything on and does know his way around. And he speaks the local lingo so that helps a lot. I pick us a couple of pairs of knee-length khaki shorts, a few white microfiber t-shirts and a couple of long-sleeved linen shirts to conceal my arm. With all the sun, I am starting to pick up a tan. I already have a light dusting of freckles on my face and real arm, but the realskin on the cyberarm doesn't tan and the difference is beginning to show.
Manaus is bustling and more modern that I thought, but seems to be fighting a losing battle against the jungle. There are few cars with most people on foot or bicycles and everyone seems poor. I also see a couple of shifters openly walking the streets. They'd be shot and skinned if they tried that in Seattle. And even though the captain told us to leave our weapons on the boat, many of the locals carry a handgun or knife.
Fonte Boa, 25 December 2050
We arrive at our final drop off point on Christmas day. At least I think it's Christmas this time even though we have been on the road long enough that the days are starting to blur together and I can't get a signal on my phone. From here on, we go by canoe and we'll be on our own.