Bad Ties (m1blue x Capt. Blu)

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  1. The can opened with a pop and fizzle, burning cold in the unforgiving desert heat. Tinny sat in a plastic lounge chair and cradled the soda between her fingers. An umbrella tilted over most of her body, just leaving her bare feet to be warmed by the sunlight. Despite being in the shade, she wore sunglasses to cut the glare from bleached sands, scrub, and blistering sky that bled into the horizon. Everything smelled of dry heat and cooking metal, and the air was deathly still. Beyond the burble of her drink and turning of pages, the world was silent. This was the sort of day where nothing happened, just the way she liked it. The book she swapped her can for, some pulp sci-fi shlock, was one in a large pile she'd been meaning to get through for quite a while. The rest were functioning as her side-table, and a water ring had already soaked into the topmost battered paperback.

    Tinny was settled in for almost a whole hour before the sound of an engine snapped her attention from her book. The source was easy to find, a plume of sand and dust grumbling toward her.

    Tinny's first response was to accidentally spill her soda with a curse. She sopped up the cola that ran down her leg with the hem of her camisole as the truck came to a stop and footsteps crunched toward her. The person stopped a foot or so away, waiting for her attention. Giving it up for lost, she wiped her hands on her sides and glanced up. Black suit, black glasses with the sun glinting on their rims, dark brown hair. They had to be hot as hell out here. Tinny held out her hand and a handkerchief was draped over it before the agent gave her the package. A manila envelope, unlabeled, but surprisingly heavy.

    Without a word, the agent turned on his polished heel and returned to the truck, where Tinny could see the shape of another person. They backed up, kicking up more grit, and peeled out along the unmarked road. Tinny muttered some unkind words in their direction before swigging the remains of her drink and turning her attention to the envelope. She used the handkerchief to open and pull out a thick pack of papers. After a quick flip through, Tinny resigned herself to the indoors again to wash her soda-sticky hands and properly look over the contents.

    It wasn't in her best interest to question her superiors, at least not out loud. But if Tinny could even find who they were, she'd have had a few questions after reading her new orders. This was so far out of bounds from her usual objectives -- Tinny rubbed her eyes. Night had come on, and she'd only broken from her new assignment to throw some noodles on to cook, before returning to work and forgetting about them until the trailer filled with smoke. There were only so many times one could read about magical artifacts (though the packet was careful to never call it that, if it looked like a duck...) and expect it to make sense. There wasn't anything else she could do but take on the mission, though. There never was another option.

    Which was how Tinny found herself halfway around the world in a different desert. The same unforgiving sun beat down, and familiar grit stabbed like needles in the wind -- same shit, different day. It made her want a soda, but all she had in her pack was water and food. Tinny cast a glance over the workers already here, a mix of locals and foreigners alike, and wondered how many received similar unmarked envelopes. They were bustling around a cave entrance carved into barren stone, looking for some unrelated artifact that, in one of those contrivances that were so unbelievable, they had to be true, was conveniently located in the exact same place her organization suspected their "item of interest" was buried.

    She found a tent with a man hunched over a table and made her way to him. "Hey -- I just got here," Tinny said as soon as she had his attention.

    The man muttered something to himself, barely looking up from the table. When Tinny just stood there, he focused a little more attention her way. "Any experience?"

    "I've worked with speleologists in cave systems in the USA before, sir, but am just another warm body to put to work," she said, having already rehearsed. Archaeology wasn't the sort of thing one could learn in a month's time, but the basics of caving was, and working with speleologists just lent that certain something extra to her story.

    He was silent, as though trying to figure out what to do with her. "Go talk to Jade. She's inside. See what she needs done." Then he was back to his charts. Tinny took a moment to look over them herself. It was a cave survey, littered with colored pins and notes. She tried to match it up with the map she'd received. Hers was far more complete. The dig had passed several possible locations already, but most still lay in unmarked, unexplored territory. She knew where she needed to be now.

    "She's probably around here," he said pointedly, breaking Tinny from her study. His finger circled right at the boundary of known and unknown. "Don't go anywhere there're no lamps or people, and if you get lost ask someone for help."

    "Roger that." Tinny quickly scampered off.

    The mill of people lessened the further she went into the cool interior. It wasn't just cool, it was cold, especially compared to the sun-scorched outside. She unknotted her jacket and slipped it on, an unremarkable, faded canvas affair like her pants and bag, and put her sunglasses and hat away. Everything had an overlay of shadow as her eyes tried to adjust, and she carefully danced around the occasional person knelt on the floor or leaning against the rough walls.

    It was straight, then left. Through a claustrophobic little crevice and -- there! A room, tall and long, with lamps strewn up and markings on the walls. The size, while impressive, wasn't the largest area. Further along another cramped passage the dig hadn't gotten to on their map, Tinny knew, the cave system really opened up, and also plunged about sixty feet straight down. It was mostly safe-going until there. That was one of the possible locations marked on her map.

    Tinny glanced around the few people left. He hadn't told her what Jade looked like, but there was only one other woman here. "Jade?" she asked, her voice ringing a little hollow in the chamber. "I'm Sarah. Some guy out there, didn't get his name, said I needed to come to you to figure out what I should be doing. I've worked in caves before, but not on any digs." Right to the chase.

    #1 m1blue, Dec 30, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2014
  2. "Jade, weren't you here like...a day ago? I could've sworn you were given your credentials and paperwork already." A round, graying male simply scratched his head, wondering why the young woman was getting more paperwork to get the equipment needed for an archaeologist's exploration. The young woman smiled and took the papers off the desk.

    "You're getting senile old timer. But I was here two weeks ago, if that's what you're recalling. Anyway, I'm off. I have more researching to do."

    "Good luck with those caves and all."

    Jade spent all night studying on the artifact she wanted to find. It was something called a Tiger's Claw and required a plane ticket out of the US in order to find it. Earlier on in the day, she had asked a few of the elderly locals that lived not too far from the hot Namib Desert in South Africa- and unfortunately for her, there weren't many locals. However, most of the tribal locals claimed that the land she was exploring was dangerous and tainted with evils. This was noted, though she didn't stay away like they suggested.

    There was nothing too special about the Claw but the history of it was what was important and if she found that, Jade would be finding something important for the world. It wasn't her first time discovering something big. In fact, it was her fourth. One of her greatest being the discovery of a few more dinosaurs in rather surprising places- but those were all stories for another day.

    "Alright boys, let's get to it." Jade called out to the group of people. Her long white hair was tied into a ponytail and despite the ever growing heat, she donned tan cargo pants and a black jacket. On her waist looked like a tan utility belt. A trowel, a hand broom, rope, a flashlight, and a closed pouch rested on her belt. The other tools were carried by the others and given to her when it was needed. "It's in here somewhere. According to the map." Being the leader of the dig, she assigned each person their task.

    Of course not everyone could fit in such cramped spaces and everyone had their own skillset, so Jade strategically fanned everyone out to scavenge and search every inch of the cave. Hidden from the scorching sun, the inside of the cave dropped dramatically in temperature the deeper she went. "Flashlights on. Check the walls and the ceiling." She finally spoke when they came to a stop. Markings were still along the walls, but it was to be expected. "The map says there is another way beyond this wall..." Her ear was pressed against it, and she began tapping to hear for hollow points.

    In the process, two men were behind her and searching around. One of them, a man named Nick had his flashlight pointed towards the ceiling. He was taller than the other two, but nothing of interest was up their. "Nothing around here. No traps either."

    "No trip wires either." An older, more gruff man said while he inspected the floor and a few corners.

    "I'm telling you. It's here. Somewhere right-" She blinked and looked back when the unfamiliar voice called her name. "A newcomer? Hm, I already assigned everyone to a station..." Jade merely shrugged and turned her head back to the wall. "Just stick with us here. I may need an extra set of hands. At the moment, I'm looking for a- aha!" Jade kicked a low corner with her foot and pointed it out. "Alright, Thomas, Nick, over here."

    "I don't know how she does this..."

    "You don't question the talent, you just go with it."

    Jade laughed and then looked at Sarah. Her white hair was now dirty from dust and dirt, but her green eyes pierced through the dim lighting. The archaeologist put a gloved hand out for Sarah to shake. "Nice to meet you Sarah. I'm Jade Soto, head of this whole project. So, you know what we're looking for right? Hopefully you've already been debriefed. If not, Nick there can help you with that." At the mention of his name, the male smiled politely before continuing to help Thomas break a hole into the wall for them to continue on.

    When it was large enough to pass through, Jade lead the way, quickly scanning to make sure nothing would pop out or fall on them. "Looks pretty clear here." Jade looked back and noted. "And we're also pretty far from the group. Still good though. There's nothing to it here Sarah. Just remember: pay close attention to detail, be prepared for anything, and every little detail is important."

    "Yeesh, do be prepared for anything. I went on a dig with Jade out in the jungle and we were nearly eaten by wild cats. Always follow the maps too." Nick added and merely shook his head with a sigh.

    "In my defense, we did find the ruins." Jade said matter of factly, although couldn't help but laugh. "Yeah, never thought I'd be chased by a leopard. More importantly, never thought I could distract it with an over-sized cat toy." She glanced over at Sarah and laughed. "Don't worry, I'm not full of bad luck or anything. It was just a little mishap. We'll be fine."
  3. Tinny gave Jade a quick handshake before stepping back and observing the trio work. They had a rhythm born of familiarity that she'd have to work her way into to get any farther in her search, but she had her foot in. Tinny had been on her own deciding how she went about this operation, and it had been a while since she'd ever done any undercover work offline. Caver was the right call -- anything else would have no place further in, and she could actually use what knowledge she'd scrounged. "I got the gist of the assignment before signing on," she said, nodding in greeting at Nick and Thomas. "And have heard of you and your adventures, of course. My last job took more time than expected to complete, but if nothing major has changed, I should be good."

    She stepped a little further back as they began knocking in the wall. The last thing Tinny wanted was for something to crush her or drop her into a lower level. That would be a very inauspicious end to her career. Cool breezes brought powdered rock and pebbles tumbling through the hole as it was widened, revealing a dark maw untouched in centuries. The light only fell a short way inside and did little to illuminate the path from here, only revealing uneven but not unnavigable floor space.

    While they worked, Tinny rummaged through her bag for the survey map, folded up into a notebook. Everything else she'd received was sitting in a pile of ash in the fire-pit in front of her trailer, committed to memory which left far less of a paper trail. She listened with half an ear to their joking reminiscing, trying to figure out where they'd just knocked into without being too obvious. The light was dim, but enough for her to remap her route. Not the optimal path for her to search. She would have to work with the hand dealt, however, and see if it reconnected anywhere.

    "Hopefully there aren't any leopards here," Tinny said with a wry grin, slipping her notebook back into her bag and swapping it out for her helmet, flicking the main light on. She ducked in after the others, and her gaze immediately drifted to their surroundings. Sharp-edged rocks and a gentle decline -- but enough room to move if one was careful. To her untrained eye, there looked to be intentional patterns to the cut of the stones, but nature did strange things when left to her own devices.

    "Back home I worked on several survey teams. Want me to go first and suss out the territory?" she offered, keeping the lie brief enough to be believable. In her defense, Tinny had been told by her caving instructor that given her small size and level head, she'd be well suited to exploration. Everything else was just a matter of being confident enough in the deception that nobody questioned her.

  4. "Or, you know, anything equally dangerous around here..." Nick murmured quietly as he hooked his pick axe to a strap on his back and adjusted his helmet. He flicked the flashlight switch and eyed the jagged rocks ahead of them. For awhile, he stared as if trying to understand what he was reading. He brought his hands up, making his fingers go into a box shape and scanning again. "Hmm...Nope. I don't see any of the patterns like in the pictures. It's supposed to have a paw like shape when you look from afar." Nick recited what he had learned about the artifact they were after, mainly for Sasha's sake. "So, watch for hidden symbols as well. Sometimes, it's not just simple pictures. It's the whole of your surroundings." He gave a sheepish smile before continuing to scan the area.

    Jade rested her hands on her hips, letting a heavy sigh escape her lips. When Sasha volunteered to go forward, Jade shook her head. "No, no, no. I wouldn't let my coworkers do something like that. It's okay Sasha, I'll make sure it's safe. Besides, it's just a downward slope. Thomas, have the map out please." Jade smiled and then looked ahead. She made out a narrow path that they could cross that put them in between a wall and the spiky rocks. Of course, she had to check to make sure it was safe before she told her small group to follow.

    Making sure her hair was in a secure tie, Jade moved forward and onto the narrow path. Her back was against the wall as she slid sideways through the path. Despite how dangerous it seemed, not only did Jade make it seem effortless, but she did so calmly as well. Nick, pointed his flashlight towards the bottom of the rocky pit and gulped. There didn't seem to be much of an ending to the pit... It was pitch black. "Jade, this pit is pretty deep. I wouldn't be surprised if it went for a few hundred feet. Be careful-!" As if on cue, as Jade continued her trek, the ground under her outstretched leg caved and collapsed. "We'll find a way around! Come back!"

    "Relax Nicholas sheesh. You've got to be the most worrisome archaeologist I know." A laugh ended that statement before she continued. "No worries. The gap is small so we can just walk over it. Everything will be a-okay, relax." Hearing him sigh, Jade nodded and continued. "Alright, Sasha first, then Nick. Thomas after." The taller male gently urged Sasha forward before following after her. "And if I'm not mistaken...the path should open! Great, still on track." Jade paused and waited for the rest of her group to get off the narrow and somewhat dangerous pathway.
  5. "I'll keep my eye out," Tinny assured Nick, and technically, she would. She would just be looking for something different than symbols and paws. She tried to get in the back -- middle meant she'd have to actually do her supposed job -- but when Nick nudged Tinny forward, she couldn't very well start ordering him around and send him first. She sighed as she stepped into the hole, a good few yards behind Jade.

    When the rocks proceeded to crumble away beneath Jade's feet, Tinny was almost glad she'd not been able to go first, despite what would be best for the mission. If anyone was going to fall into a pit or kill themselves, she'd rather it not be her. Tinny nonetheless relaxed when Jade didn't die horribly and ruin her assignment, and, after another prod, inched cautiously forward.

    She tried to recall the brief bio she'd been given about the dig group as she stepped wide across the gap, careful not to step near the edges. It hadn't been nearly so complete a file as the artifact's, and the information jumbled with what she'd looked up online. Names, photos, dates. Personalities. Jade had been described as reckless and rash by whoever wrote the file, though kinder sources had used the term adventurous, daring. She hadn't yet decided which was more accurate.

    Once safely to the other side, Tinny turned to spot Nick as he crossed, then pressed herself against the wall and waved him past to more stable ground. Thomas was next, and made it one foot across before the edge crumbled and he flung forward, hands scrabbling for a hold.

    Tinny instinctively caught him by the wrist and stumbled backwards. Though she wasn't strong enough to physically lift a bag of potatoes, much less a full-grown man, it was enough to get him partway across. They both toppled over and Thomas pulled himself entirely onto the ledge. Rocks clattered down into darkness, and more soon followed. The gap now could hardly be called small -- a narrow lip still clung doggedly to the wall, but it'd take more than a step or even a leap to get back across.

    The entire ordeal had taken seconds from start to finish, but it felt much longer. Tinny sat back and released a gust of air. Thomas sprawled across her legs, and she patted his shoulder. "Are you okay?"

    "Years off my life," he gasped, pushing himself upright and helping Tinny up. The map was, to his credit, still clutched tightly in his fist. "Jesus. Thanks, Sarah."

    "There goes the path," Tinny said brusquely. It had just been a reaction, and one that could have turned out very poorly for her. If she had had time to think about it, she might've let Thomas fall rather than risk being dragged down with him. Tinny had not brushed that close with fickle fate in, well, ever, and it was a little nerve wracking.

    She wiped bits of grit that had embedded in her palms off on her pant legs and turned toward the others. They'd probably heard the ruckus, though there'd been surprisingly little screaming on Tinny's part.

    "Hey, Jade!" Thomas called up ahead. He seemed to have recovered quickly, and was already walking after the other two. "Your little gap almost killed me!"

    Tinny sighed as she cast a glance across the hole, back toward the entrance they'd knocked in, before trailing after Thomas. The only way to go now was forward, into the unknown and unreliable. Maybe she wasn't cut out for field work, but at least she wasn't in the middle now.

  6. Waiting, Jade didn't see the incident at hand, but the crumble of rocks was a clear indication of something going wrong. While Nick mentally prepared to panic or not and call for help, Jade waited patiently and quietly. If she was correct...

    Jade smirked and watched the two walk to the open area Nick and she were standing in. "Ah, but almost is not death. You're lucky Sarah was there to help...Hmm, I must've miscalculated the weight and pressure going across..." She shook her head and sighed. "No matter, we'll keep going. And thank you Sarah, for being quick on your toes." Thomas gave an annoyed sigh, but followed after them.

    "Now, the map, if I remember says after the trail here-"

    "There's nothing here Jade. Well, nothing here besides another wall." Thomas responded, then got his flashlight to exam the arround them. "We've gotten pretty deep too. There should be something here. At least markings or an indication that something is around here." Jade nodded and began to search the wall blocking them. Something was wrong. Most searches had something to indicate if there had at least been people in the cave even if it was thousands of years ago, but this one appeared to be untouched.

    "Guys, this is as far as we go. There's a dead end here, and no sign of the treasure we're looking for...Unless it's behind the wall. But it's too thick to just use the axe." Nick realized that the space seemed to shrink a little, because he was the tallest of them and had to duck his head a bit. "We're not accomplishing anything by standing and watching you dust a wall Jade." For an archaeologist, Nick was a rather worried one, but it was a perfectly rational fear to have the cave collapse over them."Relax Nick! I know what I'm doing and I always finds somethi-" Just as Jade started prattling, the floor beneath the group slid open.

    "GYAH!!" The simultaneous yell from both men echoed as they fell into the dark hole. Jade on the other hand teetered on the very edge.

    "That wasn't on the map... Are you two alright down there?!" She heard them fall, and a few groans after, but she had to make sure before she jumped down- although she didn't have much choice since she didn't have room to go anywhere else.
  7. "Just doing my job," Tinny muttered at the praise as she slowed her step and trailed further and further behind, stopping more frequently to check any gaps or glints that might've been the box. This path wasn't marked for it, but she might luck out, despite how her luck had currently been running. Tinny hadn't been told a lot about how it had gotten here, only that it was here-ish. It could have been anything that put it in this cave system -- aliens, nature, humans, other. Tinny would rather not think on what other might be; she could deal with the rest, though.

    Tinny was so busy reaching into dark holes and praying nothing lived in them that she wasn't even in the same room when the trap sprung. The noises were enough to startle her into action. Tinny hissed as she jerked her hand back and scraped the back across rough stone -- now both sides were all scratched up. If she could get a breather, she'd have to hunt in her bag for her neglected gloves.

    "What hap--" Tinny barely caught herself before she joined the others in the abyss, but at least the answer was obvious without explanation. Jade was still up top, just barely and not for much longer, but the others had vanished. Tinny shown her light down into the darkness.

    It was quite the hole. Fifteen, twenty feet -- maybe not as bad as the drop before, but any fall was a bad fall in a cave. Though they were groaning and prone, the guys seemed to be alive. One travesty after another. Tinny let out a huff of air.

    She glanced across the gap toward Jade. If Tinny just let her fall, she could go exploring on her own, find the artifact and clear out. It'd probably be a while before they were found, but Tinny wasn't quite so dedicated as to sentence people to what could very well be death just to get out early.

    "Can you climb down, Jade?" she asked finally, the seconds it took to make a decision stretching tautly onward. Though the ground now had several limbs splayed all over, it looked even. A fall might not break her ankle if Jade slipped. The walls leading into the hole, much like the ones up here, were dangerously smooth. Tinny, personally, wasn't climbing down anywhere free-hand, and would be backtracking to somewhere she could anchor a rope before trying that descent. But only once everyone else was safely trapped down there. If they were't hurt, only stunned and stuck, well... maybe she wouldn't have to come back at all.

  8. Hearing the steps of Sarah coming closer, she tried to slow her down by calling her to a stop. Thankfully, she did. Jade was still pressed against the wall, however her footing was giving out thanks to the less than few inches of space she had to stand on. When Sarah called over to her, Jade gave a quick glance down at the dark hole beneath her and quickly responded. "I can't even move. There's no room. I doubt-" One misstep. One step and a simple few inches crumbled under her. There was no stopping the fall and she had to brace herself for impact. Even if she wouldn't have died, Jade was a bit smaller and shorter than the other three. So, if Jade had calculated correctly, she'd have at least one broken bone and a sprained ankle.

    Nick and Thomas had managed to get up and dust off around the time Sarah had gotten close. In the dark, only the sound of Thomas gasping for air was heard before he stood and dusted himself off. "Can't catch a break today..." He grumbled and slowly stood behind Nick as they looked up at Jade. "Oi, I'm sure Nick can catch-" But it was a bit too late and she was already falling. "Geez, Nick catch her before she breaks something on her!" Nick hurried into action with outstretched arms, trying to catch Jade.

    The fall was only a few seconds, but it felt like more. Her eyes closed for a moment until she felt her fall dramatically slow down and her feet press the ground. Nick didn't catch her completely, but it was enough to keep her from crashing into the hard ground. "Gotcha!" He beamed at his own success, and then immediately turned his flashlight to the walls. "Hm...I don't see any way to climb this... Sarah? Can you see anything? This place gives off an echo though, so it would be easy to find- Jade where do you think you're going? This is off map! This is dangerous!"

    Jade looked wide eyed as she pointed the flashlight ahead of her. "I think we've found something here." On their left, was an obvious man made cave. Something was there. It had to be. "Those clever people...they hid it underground." She took a step forward being extremely slow and careful this time. With it being off map, who knew what could happen...

    "You three keep close and look alive. I can't say what's in here, so we can't just touch everything." Her flashlight shined on the unfamiliar markings on the wall. Nick took pictures to study later, and they all kept moving deeper and deeper into the dark cave. "Geez, this Claw must be really special if it's hidden so deep down here. Though these markings don't look familiar at all..." Minutes later, after walking, Jade heard a crunch that made everyone freeze. She pointed her flashlight by her feet, only to spot a skeletal arm now broken in two. "What on earth..."

    Trailing forward, more and more skeletons were found, some in the verge of turning to dust any second. "This is... whoa..." Jade looked around, hoping to spot the artifact they were looking for.
    #8 Capt. Blu, Jan 16, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2015
  9. As soon as she decided to toss a rope down, Tinny turned away and only heard Jade fall and the accompanying shouts. Since there wasn't anything she could do to help, she continued backtracking until she found a good spot to tie the rope. Unslinging her bag, she pulled out the thin coil and tools to secure it in place. Tinny muttered the mnemonic to remember how to tie it in as she worked, pausing occasionally to tuck a strand of platinum hair behind her ear.

    When she returned, Tinny let the rope uncoil itself as she tossed it down into the hole, then tightened her newly-donned gloves to shimmy her way down. Everyone seemed in one piece and active, already exploring their discovery.

    Quickly Tinny caught up to the bobbing glow of their lights and heard the tail-end of Jade's orders. Her own light paused on the markings, and Tinny bit her tongue on a curse. Of all the shitty luck, Jade had managed to drop her entire crew where Tinny had to be. Alone.

    She settled on a heavy, irritated sigh instead and pulled out her notebook to check the map. This, after some reorienting, looked to be one of the possible -- now most assuredly only -- paths leading to the artifact. Tinny was so intently glaring at her map like this was all it's fault that the gunshot of breaking bones made her yelp and drop the notebook.

    Nick was quick to pick it up for her, faster than Tinny had been, and cast a curious glance at the open pages before passing it back. She snapped it closed and refused to make eye-contact as they continued on, leaving a wide berth around the skeleton. He didn't question whatever he had seen, so she had to hope he'd not noticed her map, which was drastically different from their own.

    Tinny grimaced at the skeletons as more and more appeared, and kept her elbows in and steps shuffling, just in case. She had an idea of what happened to them that had nothing to do with traps or accidents. Tinny really needed to get that artifact and get out of there.

    "This doesn't sound right for your artifact, does it?" she called up to Jade. "All these.... bodies? I mean, it seems really, really dangerous. Maybe it's something viral, or, um. Soem kind of trap. And Thomas is probably going to set it off -- no offense Thomas," Tinny added at the offended sound that came from up front. "But you know, these things come in threes, and you've already run afoul of two. Why risk it? Maybe we should go back and get help?" If she tried enough angles, one would convince the others to stop advancing. She hoped. At least Tinny had the excuse that there were bodies here to justify her rambling. No sane person regardless of their goal would want to keep going, either, she felt. "I left a rope we can climb up, and I'm sure we can figure out a way across the other gap."

  10. Jade was attentively searching the new cave they found. No stone could be left unturned. She listened to Sarah prattle on about the dangers of the cave, but never stopped inspecting the area. Nick and Thomas were doing the same thing, albeit the more Sarah spoke the less work the former did. "It doesn't sound right for a simple artifact, yes indeed." Jade agreed one hundred percent, although as she spoke, she continued searching. "This is the life of an archaeologist Sarah. Even with information, you must expect the unexpected. So...there has to be something around here." Still, Jade searched, finding a pair of gloves in her pack to pick up some of the skeleton parts. Though, many fell to dust or cracked when she touched them, causing her to sigh. Hearing her mention more of the risk, Jade finally turned her attention to Sarah with a calm expression.

    Now, Nick was concerned. "I think we should go back. Show what we have so far and maybe come back later." He tried to levy with Jade. "Sarah has a point. We've gotten lucky twice. Who knows what could happen next." With a sigh, Jade finally stood up and dusted off her pants.

    "Alright, alright. We can go. It looks like a lot of bones anyway." Nick gave a sigh of relief, deciding to take the lead back. Thomas was relatively quiet, although mildly shocked that Jade caved in. Normally she would have stubbornly denied leaving until she had searched every square inch. "We still need to figure out a way over that too...Maybe a sturdy bridge...Hm, I'll have the team look into it." Jade spoke thoughts aloud as they walked on. Not paying too much attention where she was going, she accidentally kicked over a skeleton arm. Though, when it fell, it created a domino effect and knocked over more skeletons near Thomas.

    There was a short pause, and Thomas looked at the small mess. "...At least that wasn't a trap. Could be worse-" However, something caught his eye. "Huh.. See? She always finds something." Thomas walked over, pushing skeleton parts out of his way. Only moments later did he discover a small black box with grey and purple markings hidden deep beneath the pile. Thomas picked it up, blowing off dust. Besides the unreadable markings, the only odd thing was that the box had no lock. Where a lock normally was held, there was a seal, ones that Jade read about that dealt with magic. "Oh good, we can just open it.""Are you mad? You don't just open artifacts without knowing what they are! Look at all the skeletons around here, you dope! Besides, you're not even wearing gloves. You're going to get your fingerprints all over it." Jade snatched the box from him and turned to Nick who stopped and watched the two, before glancing at Sarah with his normal worrisome glance."Ah, don't be a baby. If it's open that means thieves must have came and taken whatever was inside. Looks like the Tiger's Claw is gone." Thomas took the box again and stepped away from Jade. Being somewhat shorter than Thomas, she couldn't reach it when he lifted it into the air away from her.

    "Don't be so difficult Thomas! I'm the leader of this mission anyway."

    Nick watched before simply putting a hand to his forehead and shaking his head. "Can't we just agree to disagree? Let's get out of here first." Both of them stopped and looked at each other. "I'm sorry Sarah, I have no idea why that act like children sometimes.""Alright fine, you or Sarah can hold it and we'll worry about leaving first-" Yet nothing in life was ever easy. Thomas stumbled over a skull, causing the box to land right in front of Jade, who had agreed and then bent down to tighten the laces on her boot. The moment her eyes made contact with the inside of the box, a bright purple flash shined causing a rather painful burning sensation in her eyes. She reared backwards, covering her eyes and howled in pain. "Hey! Jade?! What happened?!" Thomas tried to get the box to reopen after it suddenly shut, but it wouldn't budge for some reason. By Jade's cries of pain, he knew it was something bad. "C'mon, we need to get her out of here!"

    He reached to grab her and Jade moved her hands as the pain slowly faded. She looked him in the eyes and blinked once...when her eyes fell back on him, he was gone. "T-Thomas!?" In front of her was a new skeleton and the travel clothes he had been wearing. "What-!? What just happened!? Where did he go!?" Jade scooped up the box and stumbled to her feet.

    "We- We have to get out of here! I don't know know what's happening, but leave that-" Nick looked into Jade's eyes and gasped. Pure white. They were as white as her hair was. This was a problem because her eyes had been green. But he couldn't say this though...

    In Jade's panic, she looked back at the skeleton that was no doubt Thomas', only to hear a clatter against the floor. "Oh...gods." Jade was petrified. She had no idea what was going on. Two of her colleagues had vanished within seconds and she was still alive...but how!?
  11. Finally! Something had gone her way!

    Tinny was not a whirlwind of personality like the others, people used to blazing their own trails, so couldn't argue any better than she already had. She knew about paperwork, regulations, and lying through her teeth to pretend all the rest. She didn't know about throwing herself into danger for the thrill of the hunt, and didn't particularly want to know. If not for Nick's support, she would have had to conceed defeat, as was becoming increasingly common in small ways ever since Tinny arrived in the Namid. She refrained from any outward display of jubilation, though, just letting out a quiet, relieved sigh as she fell to the back of the group. And a little further back. And further.

    She was almost absolutely positive this was where the artifact was, so if ever there was a time for something to go her way, this was it. The sheer amount of corpses left to crumble to dust really helped to seal the deal. Though some other trap could be blamed, she supposed, there were just too many over too large an area. Tinny hadn't been given the details on the artifact's function, everything on a need-to-know basis, but the handling instructions were more than enough to infer its abilities. Wanton mass destruction. She had to keep that on lockdown and get it to a containment facility.

    Which meant she had to find it fast, before anyone else -- her head snapped up from her search at the sound of cascading bones, and Thomas's voice. "She always finds something."

    Tinny inched closer to the group. She shrugged when Nick caught her gaze, playing the fool. And maybe she really was a fool. She'd walked right by the damn thing, apparently. Jade and Thomas were arguing over it, treating the box like a toy instead of the millenia old piece of history that it was. Even if it wasn't her artifact (which she knew it was) or held their Tiger's Claw, it made her cringe at the treatment. She nodded at Nick's assessment that they were acting like children. It was painfully accurate. When they stopped, and reached some sort of agreement, she relaxed.

    "Oh, I'll hold it," she chirped belatedly, forgetting for a moment who Sarah was. "Sure thi--" Tinny's hands stretched out futilely, clutching at the air where the artifact should have been. She could only stare in dull horror as it hit the ground and popped open. Just once -- once -- couldn't something go her way?

    As everyone else ran toward Jade, Tinny ran away. It was too late for her, and, as the sounds of the frakas echoed, Tinny figured it was too late for the others, as well.

    It grew silent, but for the sound of her own rushing blood and Jade's frozen horror farther down the hall. Tinny tried to recall her instructions, the memory scattered and disjointed. It was sight-based. Predicted death, or caused it -- caused it, definitely. Two people were dead. Her thoughts kept getting caught on that one thing. While Tinny hadn't been close to either man, two people were dead.

    That just left her and Jade, and, Tinny realized with growing dread, if she didn't approach Jade first, she could easily be a third casualty. She took a steadying breath and called out, "Jade? It's Sarah. I need you to listen carefully." Tinny spoke calmly, though she was the farthest thing from calm. Just pretend Jade was one of her site members, from when her assignments were Internet-based and so, so much easier. Jade's just one of the ones who'd gone off the edge, and had to be talked down. Think like that, and not about how this could get Tinny killed. "Close your eyes, okay? And don't open them for any reason. I'm going to be coming up behind you."

    She narrated her actions as she approached, ready to drop everything and run if Jade didn't listen. She looked around for the box first, though wasn't sure how useful it was anymore. Once she located it and found it to be, well, normal looking, Tinny set down the first-aid kit she'd taken from her bag. She pulled out the roll of gauze. "I have some gauze I am going to wrap around your eyes. Again, do not open your eyes. Okay?"

    Jade was a threat, but Tinny wasn't a killer. Didn't have the stomach for it, and this hadn't been that sort of mission. She steadfastly ignored the fresh bones in modern clothes, though they gleamed wetly in her flashlight's beam. White and red, like candycanes.

    Tinny wasn't sure if she wanted to throw up or pass out or both. But she had a job to do, which was to retrieve the artifact. Who just happened to be a person, now. She focused on that singular goal to steady herself as she crept closer to bind Jade's eyes.

  12. Two of them were gone. Nick and Thomas were. . . No they couldn't have been dead! She stared at the clothing that once covered the two, now of course only covering bones. "What is going on!?" Jade was in a panic. Somehow, she managed to realize Tinny was nowhere in sight as well. 'Gods, did she die too!?' The only sound she could make out was the sound of her own heartbeat. And it felt as if it would explode at any second. Jade was as still as a deer in headlights. What- what could she do? She didn't even know how the two vanished like that! Sarah's voice pierced through the silence causing her to snap to attention. Listen carefully. Why was she so calm?! What could Sarah possibly tell her at a time like- It occurred that maybe Sarah might have seen what exactly caused this. Of course, being told to close her eyes didn't help the with the situation. “What does me closing my eyes have to do with anything!?” Her voice was a at a deadly whisper, as if she were afraid that if she got any louder more bad things would happen.

    Despite the unanswered questioning, Jade shut her eyes. After a moment, she shut them tighter, hoping it was all some elaborate joke or dream. Jade wanted to open her eyes to find that none of it had been real at all. Afraid that she might even peek before reality returned to normal, Jade put her hands over her eyes. Hearing Sarah once more made her tense up. She didn't know why exactly, but knowing that Sarah seemed much calmer put her more on edge. "Why are you doing this? What do you know?" It made no sense for Sarah to all of a sudden decide that wrapping Jade's eyes was the better thing to do. In her panic, of course she wasn't going to connect the deaths of her colleagues to whatever had just happened to her. "What are you planning on doing?" Now, she was suspicious. Jade couldn't be blamed for the roller coaster of emotions she was experiencing. Despite her suspicion, Sarah was all that was left. She had no choice but to trust the woman who had randomly joined them.

    Still, Jade needed answers. She needed something to grasp on to. As Sarah began to bind her eyes closed, that would become literal and metaphorical. There was a sinking feeling in her stomach at the thought of possibly being betrayed by the woman she barely knew and being killed by her. Once her eyes were bandaged, she'd have to rely on her other senses heavily and she didn't know how well she'd be able to do that in the dark of an unfamiliar. "What...What is going on?" Once more, she asked the question. Her voice was soft, but in the eerie quiet of the cave it seemed loud as ever.
  13. Tinny's hands trembled as she tried to wrap the gauze tight enough without being painful. Partitioning wasn't taught to agents, simply a skill acquired on-the-job, but she wasn't sure how well she could separate the deaths of the two men from her objective. It gave her an anchor, though she had trouble silencing her thoughts.

    Arguably, she told herself silently, things would have been much worse without Tinny here. The artifact would have opened, they would have died anyway -- and who knew how many more could have joined them. Or it could have been found, stayed closed, and stolen later. Better or worse, hypotheticals had no place here, so Tinny banished them from her mind as best she could. Right now, she had to get Jade out and she didn't know if there was any help to be found above the tomb they found themselves in. Tinny would have to assume no, that she alone had been sent.

    Instead of answering Jade in any meaningful way, she fumbled for a safety pin and clipped the gauze in place. After a quick check to make sure it wouldn't slide off, Tinny awkwardly patted her shoulder. "I don't know what's happening, but it'll be okay. We just have to stay calm," she said, voice low. She didn't even entertain the notion of telling Jade what had happened, though claiming complete ignorance was a weak lie. That was classified information, and Tinny might not know anything about adventures, but she knew how to keep secrets. She'd come up with a better lie, later, when she's had time to think. "We're going to get you out of here. I -- I'm sure someone can help you."

    Her gaze slid around the tunnel for any other dangers, unwillingly lingering on the skeletons. Rule of three, indeed. Poor Thomas. It had happened so quickly. Tinny hoped it had at least been painless. Finally her grey eyes fell on the box. Much like she had to assume she was alone in this, she'd have to assume it still held value. Assumptions were things she didn't like to make, but with two dead and the lead archeologist crippled, and both of them alone down here, it fell to Tinny to take control. "Can you stand up?" she asked, before gingerly reaching for the box to put it away in her bag and standing herself.

  14. Jade watched as the world around her grew dark. Gauze was being wrapped around her eyes as if she had injured them. She had felt the pain after opening them, but that didn’t mean she knew what was going on. In fact, she still had no clue what was going on. Did something happen when she opened the box? Was there something that she missed? When Sarah let go of the gauze, Jade reached up and touched the gauze, making sure it was secure before whirling around and facing Sarah. Even though she was blinded, she still seemed to stare directly at the woman that was behind her. “You don’t know what’s happening? Then how come you blindfolded me?!” Why on earth would she be calm at a time like this? Why would Sarah say something like that when two of Jade’s comrades vanished into thin air?

    She scooted back, just enough out of reach, although it wasn’t much use for her to try and run away. By her calculations, if she had tried to run away- while taking off the gauze, she would have been caught, or she would have tripped over something. “What. Do. You. Know?” Jade held her suspicion, and she felt she had every right to. Her hands brushed against her belt where her rope was, along with a few other tools she had needed when she she walked into the cave. They could have still been of use, but nothing was helpful when she was blindfolded. Then, Jade reminded herself, ’I can still take it off...I can still take this off.’ Yet even though she knew she could...There was something in the back of her mind preventing her from doing so.

    Being asked if she could walk, Jade stood up without hesitation. Something caught her attention when she pushed up from the ground. As her hand brushed the cold surface. it was as if she could feel soft vibrations around her. Unsure of what it was, Jade ignored it for the time being. She’d need to examine herself more thoroughly later. Now, she had to worry about getting out of the cave. “We need to get out of here…” Jade’s voice was in a hushed tone. Her head turning left and right as if she was looking for something. Instead of seeing however, she was listening. Listening for something, anything.
  15. "We do," Tinny agreed, instinctively reaching forward to support Jade as she moved before thinking better of it. The idea of startling her made her immediately think of all the ways this could end poorly for her. She had to be in control, now, or else die here or later, by accident or assassination. Tinny shook her head a moment to focus; the last thing she wanted to be thinking about was how her employers would react.

    It was unnerving, standing in front of Jade knowing what Tinny knew, but she refrained from any sudden movements. At best, she should want to be as far behind her as possible, instead of looking directly at her gauze-swathed eyes. This position screamed for Tinny to just move -- away, behind, anywhere that wasn't in front of Jade. But like Tinny wasn't a killer, she doubted Jade was, either. At least not intentionally, so she just had to make sure Jade knew the reprecussions of undoing her bindings.

    She had to play it delicately now, or else Jade could kill her with just a slip. Tinny needed Jade on her side. "But I think you are owed an explanation, before anyone else gets hurt."

    Tinny moved carefully around Jade, stepping over the remains of her friends as she spoke. Lies always went better when mixed with half-truths and vagueness. "I don't know everything that's happened, or why or how, so I can't answer all your questions, but I suppose I can start with why I'm here: I am actually a caver, so we're not completely out of luck, but I also have another job. I study the... the occult, I suppose. The magical. The dangerous." She stopped again back in front of the other woman and held her hand out an inch or so away from Jade's shoulder, close enough to be felt but not actually touching Jade. A show of comfort without pushing too many boundaries.

    "And in my studies, I came across something called the Reaper's Eyes, an ancient, arcane weapon. That's what you found, I believe. It, uh, well." Tinny looked again at the piles of bones all around them, old and new. "Its name is actually very straight forward. The person who weilds this artifact can kill just by looking -- I'm sorry," she added belatedly. "About Nick and Thomas, I mean. But do you understand why you have to keep your eyes bound? If you opened them again..." Tinny trailed off, leaving the consequences hanging silent in the air.

  16. Jade’s arms crossed slowly, unsure of where else to put her arms. Being blinded, she felt so vulnerable. Anything could have happened and she wouldn’t have seen it coming. Her rational mind had disappeared around the time Nick and Thomas did. They were gone in the matter of seconds and she didn’t know what had happened to them. How was she supposed to tell the others about this? How was she supposed to tell families about this? Her brain had been going a mile a minute, unsure of what to focus on. The deaths, the box that had caused it, the fact that she was blind- there was so much, no too much to go through. She couldn’t think straight at all. With a deep sigh, she forced herself to calm down. If they were to survive, there needed to be some sort of peace in order to figure things out. Jade turned all her focus, or as much of it as possible, onto Sarah’s voice. It wasn’t the most comforting thought, considering the woman had just arrived and Jade knew little about her...but nonetheless, she listened. ...Did she really have a choice.

    As Sarah continued, Jade’s suspicious gaze couldn’t be seen, but it sure could be felt. She knew. Sarah didn’t know everything but she knew. There were other intentions when Sarah asked to join them. She was well aware of dangers that happened to be in the cave, and yet she said nothing of it. Jade didn’t know whether to feel pissed off or- well, she was quite upset. Things could have been avoided. Death could have been avoided! “Would’ve been real nice telling this information in the beginning.” Jade’s voice was low with a growing impatience. She felt or at least sensed the attempt of comfort and heaved a sigh before turning her head away from Sarah. ’Reaper’s Eyes...’ The name sent a cold chill down her spine. It continued to echo in her brain. Sure she had heard of artifacts holding curses or value, but magic was just...It was just a myth- no magic had just been made up to keep children wondering.

    Jade’s hands covered her face and she let out an exasperated sigh. She rubbed her bounded eyes and turned her head to Sarah once again. “I understand. The others won’t though. How are we,” There was a heavy emphasis on the word ‘we’, as if she was making it clear that Sarah wasn’t going to get out of this so easily. “suppose to explain something like this. Those guys up there spend their lives digging for dinosaurs and Egyptian messages. Two deaths and these Reaper’s Eyes- they won’t believe anything so obscene.” Even though she was blinded, Jade still remembered the path she took from where she had fallen into the hole. Slowly, she started forward, each step cautiously placed in front of the other. “Do you have that box with you? I need that. If anything, I need to look up this dreadful thing. I need to figure out what those symbols mean…”

    Jade was set on that idea. If she figured out what happened maybe she could rid herself of the curse. Maybe she could figure out what else this curse contained- Or even how to control it. Researching was easy enough, however being blind and researching was going to be a challenge. “You do realize we’ll have to find another way out of here right?” Jade paused, growing cold once more. She turned her head back to the scene of the where Thomas and Nick’s bones lied…”Take their tools. If we’re going to be going in a different direction, we’ll need the extra stuff…” Her fingers ran through her white hair and she sighed. “Man this is...this is terrible.” It was almost as if the realization hadn’t sunken in quite yet...But it would. Even Jade knew that. In the mean time, Jade pushed the thoughts to the side and focused solely on getting out. If they stayed in the cave for too long- or worse, got lost, the others would come in search for them. And if they weren’t found in that time, the worst case scenario would have labeled the entire group as dead...
  17. Tinny offered a shrug that Jade couldn't see in response. "Would you have believed me? Do you even really believe me now? I mean, this is magic we're talking about here. Fucking magic! Never mind -- there are more important things to worry about. You're just going to have to trust me for now." She waved her hand distractedly, cutting off her own rambling. This was terrible, but for different reasons for her. She'd have to figure out a new plan to keep Jade from the others without getting hurt herself. It wouldn't do to cause unnecessary strife, though, so Tinny set about gathering the tools as ordered. She looked away as she shook their bags free, cringing at the clatter of bone on rock. Like Jade was doing, she avoided thinking too much about it.

    "There's a rope back that way," Tinny said as she reorganized her bag to hold the new things. Not everything would fit, and she just left those sitting on the ground. Tinny shone her light down further, then back toward the hole they'd fallen through. "Seems like the only place we can go is up. Look for a new route in one of the holes or if there's an offshoot," she trailed off, muttering to herself as she shook out her map. Tinny somewhat angrily scribbled out the mark drawn on where they'd found the artifact. While the map had been accurate to a certain extent, it did absolutely nothing to help her avoid this train wreck. She wasn't sure quite how her employers had located the likely areas, but there had been a good handful scattered all throughout the cave system. Tinny wondered what sort of things had pinged those other places, but just to be safe planned to avoid them. One magical artifact was enough, which was the last thing to be replaced in the bag.

    "I have the box." She stood up, brushing off her hands. "But I wouldn't worry about figuring it out right now." Tinny didn't mention that any information on the Reaper's Eyes had probably been rounded up and secreted away in some unknown location long before she'd even gotten the assignment. "We," and here she annunciated the 'we' as well, "just need to focus on getting out of here."

    Tinny had to get Jade to the collection point, but that seemed impossibly far away now. Sneaking a person across borders would be a lot harder than sneaking a box. She sighed, then took her own advise to deal with the current issue. Escape.

    "I'll go up first and make sure it's secure, then help you up. Okay?" She spoke carefully and slowly, like addressing a feral animal. While Jade seemed to be taking this as well as could be expected, people were unpredictable, and ones known to be reckless (who was now a magical killing machine, too) even more so.

  18. If anything, Sarah was right when she asked if she would believe her. Jade wouldn’t have believed her. Sure she spent her time chasing artifacts and myths, but at least most of the things she searched for had a high percent chance of being true. Magic? Well, magic was ridiculous… But she had witnessed it, moments ago… Trust. It was a loose term with Sarah, but at the moment she had no choice. Jade remained silent for awhile, just listening to things Sarah had to say. She remembered the way back to where she had fell, so the mention of the rope seemed pretty obvious to her. But that was also because she was a tad moody about the whole situation...but who could blame her. She listened around, trying to shuffle her way around. She felt ridiculous, and probably looked ridiculous too. Jade continued to inch her way towards where photographic memory allowed her to go.

    Sarah said something about going first and at the same time Jade ended up finding the rope by ungracefully getting hit with it. She grumbled something about it, but grabbed hold of it. She heaved a sigh, calming her growing annoyance. It wasn’t directed towards any one thing in particular, but she was definitely growing frustrated by the situation. Of all people, why did it have to happen to her and her crew? She was just another archaeologist trying to get her pay and her fill of history. It was all she wanted. But she got stuck with some magic curse and some chick she didn’t know anything about! And her crew...her friends...they were dead. She was suppose to be mourning, not hurrying to find her own survival. Everything seemed so irrational and out of sorts. Everything was spiraling out of control. And yet…

    Somehow Jade managed to spiral into some sort of calm state. It was as if she made a full loop of spiraling into insanity in those few moments, to being completely calm. Jade was fully aware of it too which made it all the more scary. She knew that at some point, she’d end up breaking down, but not knowing when was pretty scary. “So is it safe? Can I climb up?” Jade pushed her thoughts aside and concentrated on one thing. Survival.

    If the two didn’t make out, then they’d both be dead- and the whole team would be searching for them. That was still another thing to worry about, but once again, that was on the ‘later list’. Jade gently tugged the rope, unsure if Sarah had even made it all the way up yet. Being reliant on everything but her sight started to get her paranoid...which really didn’t help the situation.
  19. Tinny thought about just pulling the rope up after her, leaving Jade in the pit. That choice had its appeal -- she'd be unable to go anywhere, unlikely to be found, and give Tinny plenty of time to get someone who knew the procedures here to handle her. But she'd have to leave her unattended, too, which meant Jade might escape somehow. And it would be on Tinny's head. Tinny gave a commiserating sigh at the situation as well. It had its appeal, yes, but was too risky to try.

    What fragile trust she'd manage to garner would have to be coddled, but Tinny would have to play it by ear. Though Jade's tone was telling her to tread very cautiously. Tinny had reason to be calm -- she hadn't known them that well, had had time to process the facts of the matter even before arriving. Jade hadn't, so her calm put Tinny on edge. It was the thin ice belying a freezing river.

    After a cursory glance around to check that the cave was just as before, dark with an echoing silence all the more pronounced with just the two of them, she gave the okay to Jade. "Yeah, it's safe," she called down, then knelt at the edge of the hole to help Jade when she got high enough to reach. Climbing a rope, even rope meant for it, was difficult enough, blind would be all the trickier she imagined. If she could show her trustworthiness in tiny ways, it would make things go a lot smoother. A hand here, some guidance there. Nothing so big she'd have to make any real moral choices.

    Tinny pulled out her map while waiting and laid it on the ground beside her. In the white beam of her headlamp, she traced and retraced the route that seemed safest. She couldn't be pulling out said map at every corner to check. While no hard and fast time limit had been set, Tinny wanted this done in the most efficient way possible: quick, but avoiding the other marked locations, and taking no unnecessary risks near holes or tight spots given Jade's condition. With those parameters, quick had become a relative term. Quick for the routes available to her, but agonizingly slow for wary, awkward camaraderie and how many supplies they likely had between them. Tinny certainly hadn't come in with more the necessary rations and some extra snacks if they did have to be rescued.

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