Ned had finished brewing three jars of insect repellent liniment and was contemplating returning to the safe house when his phone buzzed.
“Agent, before you get ahead of yourself, travel back to the marketplace. Ask the vendor for the secret list of supplies needed for travel in the jungle then purchase them and head back to the trailhead.”
Supplies in his camouflage backpack (a new fabric that made it completely invisible!), Ned returned to the trail head and checked his next instructions.
The prior evening’s events returned, a bit fuzzy but enough to recall that after everyone else had gone to sleep, Ned had confronted Raul. Ned wondered if that’s why the group had left before Ned awakened; had they returned to town –or had they gone deeper into the jungle? Since Ned had used the hush money to buy supplies, he was hopeful he could convince Raul to let him join the black-market artifact venture.
Ned quickly found the group; they didn’t seem to be making much of an effort to be quiet. “Bought some supplies for us at the market. The vendors think I’m just some tourist. Anyway, I spent all the, um, funds, you loaned me–thought we could divvy up the supplies. I could use some extra income; a soldier’s pay isn’t that great.”
After a consultation, where Ned could hear some disagreement on Raul’s part, Alicia said, “We could use your help, George. But we will deny any knowledge–and the local authorities won’t be too pleased with an outsider digging up and selling ancient Omiscan artifacts.” Ned assured them he understood the risk.
“Thanks for the loan, Raul. GRE?” he offered a grilled cheese ready to eat to Raul who accepted the peace offering.
The days’ digging yielded several artifacts along with loose change, empty Liquid Rush cans, and a few modern pieces of jewelry. That evening, Ned decided to sleep out in the open. The view was spectacular, so he lay down and watched the stars dance across the indigo sky until he drifted off to sleep.
Ned was awakened with a start. He felt a burning sensation, instantly recognizing it as the sting of jungle fire flies. “Where’s … my … Drake’s Fire Quencher?” Ned yelled trying to get to his pack.
Finally extinguishing himself, Ned looked around to see if his screams had awakened any of the others. The only sounds he heard were those of nocturnal wildlife calling to one another. He dumped “waterfall in a bottle” over himself to rinse off some of the soot and changed out of his singed, soggy fatigues.
It was only then that Ned noticed an unusual tree. “The Tree of Emotions!” he whispered, quickly harvesting as many as he could before the group awoke.
A few hours later, after Julissa and Raul, especially, had a hearty laugh over Ned’s encounter with the fire flies–and Luz had protested, “They could have killed him! You know he doesn’t know our culture well enough!”–the group agreed Ned should return to his lodging to do some laundry and properly wash up. “I’ll see you at the Angry Tiki tonight?” Luz asked hopefully. Ned gave her a hug and a kiss. “See you tonight,” she smiled. Ned sighed. He had better be careful to guard his emotions.