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Changing Course
[[In response to Off Course]]

Snow fell silently. Moscow was a city that never truly slept, which - for a man who found such release difficult to come by himself - should have made for a welcome habitat. Instead, tonight at least, it only made for a gaudy prison. Sören stood not far from the street he had stalked the girl, blowing smoke into the neon lights of raucous night life. He didn't smoke, at least not usually, but it was a decent excuse for what might otherwise be seen as loitering. If the cigarettes rotted his lungs from the inside out, he was certain it would not be the thing to kill him, thus it was only one more way he diced with the destiny the runes had dealt him, and dared it to prove him wrong.

He had plenty of money to procure decent accommodation, and he visited Moscow frequently enough to know where to find it, but the idea of sleep was distant. His episode with the police officer rankled; or, more succinctly, his loss of the ring that should be his by right. It took every fibre of self-control not to slip to the hospital the girl lay in, but with Sarkozy knowing what he was the risk was too great, and he had no-one to send in his place. Instead Sören swallowed the poison of defeat -- or scowled over it anyway -- and waited for rational thought to calm the indignation. To conjecture a way to rectify this mess.

His Wallet buzzed in his pocket, something he was initially tempted to ignore, but business was business. He could do with something new to sharpen his mind upon, before past failures began to gnaw away at his patience. Declan Gregory, a man he knew through his connections with the British Museum, flashed up on the screen. A finger swiped to answer, the cigarette dropped and crushed to sizzle briefly in a bed of ice. Banal pleasantries proceeded the meat of the conversation. They'd been friends a long time; turned out this was the perfect of example of how such things could be useful. It might be a good idea to get out of Moscow anyhow.

Edited by Soren, Jan 11 2015, 08:02 AM.
Declan's life became complicated in the days following Noah's death. The terrible burden of having witnessed his friend's, and colleague's, deaths was that there was no way to confirm their demise. The satellite connection Noah used to contact Declan in the first place died minutes after the accident. Their devices had a two-year battery life, an important distinction for anthropologists working the fringes of the earth. This left Declan to conclude that they were desrtoyed by the same weather disturbance that killed the team.

Thus, when he called Soren, there was a weight in Declan's voice that his friend immediately identified. "I know there was nothing I could do,"
Declan told him. "I listened to my colleagues die. Their bodies are a ten hour trek from the nearest camp. Noah has family here. I can hardly face them."
Declan wasn't personally responsible, he didn't need Soren to reassure him of that. "The reason I called is this. Before the transmission ended, Noah said he'd discovered something in the lake. Let me send you a file, one moment."

Declan forwarded Soren the report on the region. There were details about the history, culture, and past discoveries, but a summary page would tell his insightful friend all he needed to know. "There shouldn't be anything left at the site except the skeletons and we already have samples of those. I guess nobody thought to look in the lake?"

The next thing that Declan sent him several tickets. "Meet me in New Dehli. From there we'll head to Pantnagar airport. Then a short, overnight train to Kathgodam. Finally, we can go by bus to base camp. After that, its an easy 8 kilometer hike to Roopkund lake."

There was silence on the other end of the line.

"Soren? What do you say? The least I can do is retrieve the bodies. I'll need your expertise. I've been around the world, but no where this remote."

Edited by Dane Gregory, Jan 10 2015, 06:08 PM.
He paced until the light and commotion faded away enough for a modicum of privacy, took sentinel against a wall, and flashed open the information Declan sent. There was a procedure that could insert implants into the eye, relegating such screens obsolete, but the perfected technology was extortionately priced even by Sören's standards. A delve into wisdom best saved for another day, though it would have been a useful addition right now. The holo-screens cast sickly light over his skin, opaque from the back. He read while he listened.

"They say a group of pilgrims incited the wrath of a local goddess with their disregard. She rained down hailstones the size of a man's fist, and threw the bodies in the lake."
There was a hint of humour in his voice; an insight unshared, but which may have sounded like ridicule. There was, after all, every chance that the folk story was more literal than figurative. After a moment's consideration, he forward the file on. His line was secure, as secure as he could make it at least, but the path the file took now was as if it simply disintegrated into the ether. If there was anything further of note in the area, he would soon know.

Otherwise, so far as he knew, the whole site was decaying; too remote to make a decent tourist trap, else ignored for other reasons. Financial. Administrative. They had dates for the skeletons, had recovered other historically interesting but otherwise unremarkable artefacts, and the rest had been left to rot. What had Declan's team even been there for? A question unvoiced, lest he find the answer uninteresting. Instead Sören considered the proposal. He was not an archaeologist, and the deaths of Declan's team did not give him enough reason to offer his help, even to bring the bodies back to grieving families. Something in so shallow a lake was also an uncertain lure, but perhaps only because he was still so fixated on the ring that had fallen through his grasp.

He needed to let that go. Or replace the obsession. After a moment's unapologetic silence, he gave his answer.

"You know I can't resist a mystery. I'll see you in New Dehli."
Continued at In Due Course


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