Back Track


cardinal2_icon.gif peter_icon.gif ross_icon.gif

Scene Title Back Track
Synopsis Peter and Cardinal go searching for their missing guide.
Date December 4, 2009

Argentina: Subtropical Jungle

The dark, vine-laden greenery that defines the swath of jungle growth in Cerro de Hierro Negro's shadow is not really lush so much as it is resilient. Ancient trunks wind crooked under thick mats of cool moss and the same damp litter of decay that makes the ground soft underfoot, with brambled undergrowth and brackish stream beds just sparse enough to be navigable if one is careful about where they step. Rumbling passages of thunder stir often through the rustle and sway of branches thatched far overhead, but the rain that should accompany it has been scattered in recent days. Crawling insects are common despite the chill wind off the mountain ahead, and every so often the shrill keen of a persistent predator splits the night or the springy passage of ungulate hooves whispers invisible along an unseen game trail. To the northeast, the flutter and burble of running water is occasional audible with gentle turns in the wind.

The buzzing began about half an hour ago.

It's that same electrical vibration that had been labeled an omen by Dahlia, and if she speaks for her band of Branded, then by all of them. For Peter and Cardinal, it means they're near the road, moving parallel along one of the few dirt tracks that they'd avoided upon hiking their way to the base, doubling back around to the makeshift shelter. Here, it's hard to get a sense of any kind of direction, the hour not late enough even for pre-dawn light.

It's as humid as it is cool, rain more of a scent in the air than a reality, though the cloud that's gathered above is not enough to complete mask the dotting stars seen through jungle canopy.

No sense of quiet, even outside of Peter's own crunching footsteps, a flashlight weaving ahead of him, scouring for tracks, evidence, pieces. So far, there's been the foot prints of their own team, Dahlia's people, and those delicate hoof-like prints that make heavy, deep marks in the ground. Somewhere else, a branch cracks under the weight of itself, falls with a rush of leaves. Insects chatter noisily, and there's the screech of some kind of tree-dwelling mammal now and then as if to remind them of where they are. Which is far, far from home.

"I just want you to know…" Peter says to his shadow, eyes partway closed as he leans up against a tree, closing his eyes and taking in a slow breath of the jungle air, "if we find Ross dead, I'm not going to tell the others." There's a look of blue eyes over to the shadow, but it can't be Peter's, because his is pressed snugly to the tree and this one looks awkwardly cast. "They have enough weighing down on them, keeping the hope — however false it is — that Ross is still out there will help."

Blue eyes peer back out into the treeline, and after that moment of rest Peter leans away from the tree, and the bark where his back was pressed looks grayed and dead. "He couldn't have ran much further, you saw the shape he was in…" Stalking through the vegetation at the edge of the road, pausing as he squints against the darkness and looks back to the barely visible shadow in the glow of a half-moon's light. "What can you see?" Because a shadow's sight is far superior out here.

"How like a Petrelli," responds the other man's shadow, Richard Cardinal's voice stirring from that deviant-laying shadow where it rests in the moonlit dim, "Lying for their own good… your brother would be proud."

After a moment, the shadow peels away from where it laid, "…although as it happens, in this case I agree with you. Let me go ahead a bit and see if I can find any signs of him."

There's no response about Nathan being invoked, just a quiet blue stare out to the darkness of the trees and the road beyond. "Most people tend to agree with me in time…" comes the flatly delivered response as Peter takes a few crunching steps thorugh the deadfall underfoot, then slowly lowers himself down into a crouch and offers a silent nod of acknowledgement to Cardinal. Only the shadow and the monsters of the jungle could see such a subtle motion in this unrelenting dark.

Like punctuation, there's the sound of a soft click from somewhere nearby. Soft only by distance, but definite, metallic — not unlike the crab-claw snaps that had descended around the wrists and ankles of Magnes, Gillian and Veronica. There's no howl of a siren to procede it, however, or a startled cry or curse from whatever victim just got snapped into whatever fate the cuffs will mean for them.

"Which you do you mean?" A hollow chuckle, and then the shadow pauses at the sound of the metallic click. Wait a moment. That sounded promising. The darkness that lives moves, sliding through the darkness of evening to investigate that sound and whoever - or whatever - has suffered for it.

Cardinal will find himself sliding into that clearing from where they had all split apart early the previous day. Barely anything has been touched, the scattered debris allowed to remain scattered, the strips of torn tent untouched and hanging lank in the stagnant air. However, there among it all, is Agent Stewart Ross, very much alive if mildly worse for wear. In the dark, there seems to be sticky blackness running down the side of his face, dried blood smeared from the gash opened beside his brow. But alive and crouching by low brushes, back turned towards the shadow he doesn't think to notice, and a stick in hand which disappears into the shadowy leaves and branches.

As if something passed 'tween moon and land, another shadow spills through the leaves and through the branches, passing over the bloodied agent - and pausing across his shoulders like a darksome cloak. "Well, well," murmurs the shadow, "You aren't looking too good, Agent Ross. Should've run in the same direction as us."

Hearing Cardinal's distant voice addressing something, Peter begins creeping up from the edge of the woods. It takes a moment for him to understand his surroundings in the moonlight, to recognize the debris of the camp and the litter that attracted such curiosity and death before. His wordless approach comes with unsubtle footfalls up along the clearing behind Ross, and Peter is slow to rise to his full height once he's out from the shelter of the undergrowth where he had been.

Approaching on Ross' left side, Peter does keep his distance for now. Ross did have a gun, and the only one Peter has is now out of ammo. Eyeing the blood ont he side of the man's face, Peter's blue eyes narrow, and his focus drifts out to the direction of the traps, then down to Ross' stick. Clever.

Ross starts, a little, but it's fatigue that means he doesn't jump to his feet immediately at the sound of the voice. Instead, he peers over his shoulder. "Apparently so," he agrees, bringing up his other hand to wipe at his brow, mingled sweat and blood. His flashlight, currently switched off, dangles like a puppet from the strap at his wrist. "I thought I was following Valesquez. Shows how much I know."

As a result, Peter's arrival is less of a surprise, and Ross offers out a weary, "Evening, gentlemen." He levers himself out of his crouch, sturdy stick with him. Dangling from it, stripped of its leaves, hangs one of those chunky bracelets they'd come to know so well, blinking a disappointed yellow light in the gloom, where it had instead lit up like Christmas colours on the limbs of Team Alpha. And at the very end of the stick, would be those lacy red panties Cardinal himself had noticed on their trek through the clearing, pulled free from the bushes by stick instead of hand.

"Careful," he tells Peter, turning towards him. "There might be more of these things around, so watch your step. I mean the traps, not more thongs."

"You dog, you…." A dry, hollow chuckle from Cardinal, "…find anything interesting out here while you were away from the rest of us, Ross? Seems like your bosses failed to take this mission seriously…" A flicker of darkness coils down Ross's body, spilling over the tall grass, "…bad luck, that."

One dark brow rises on Peter's brow as he looks at Ross, managing to barely suppress a smirk at the agent's commentary, it's hard hiding appreciation of humor, but a dour demeanor does a bit more for this situation. "You'd have better luck tracking a snowflake in Antarctica than you would either of the Valesquez siblings. They're as much a part of these jungles as the trees are." Blue eyes drift to peer into the woods, then settle back down on Ross. "I figured you were dead," Peter offers earnestly, "the others will be relieved."

On Cardinal's ribbing of the team leader, Peter falls quiet and turns his back on the pair, instead favoring the forest with his blue-eyed stare, arms folding across his chest as he watches the way the breeze plays at the boughs of tall trees overhead, blows thorugh hanging moss and disturbs the perch of some small animal far higher up.

"That's right, Cardinal, the American government put us out here for a lark. Even funnier was when twenty odd soldiers were slaughtered especially to screw the mission." Unwilling to touch, Ross lets a snag of bramble claw at the panties in favour of picking them off the stick himself, then brings the trap close to inspect. The yellow light casts an unhealthy glow up his face, distorting shadows, and letting the rust red of blood show up.

Lets it lower again as he regards Peter, shrugging his rounded shoulders. "I fell. Hit my head on something. Woke up when it was dark out. Is everyone in one piece? Sawyer?"

"Convenient," purrs the shadow of Cardinal, "Just after you ordered Sawyer to set off one of these traps. I do hope all of that was coincidental, because if we die, Ross, so do you."

It's good cop, bad cop. The good cop has some Kazimir in him. There's some irony about this.

"They're as well as can be expected…" Peter offers in a gruff tone of voice, still looking away from the pairing and out towards the moonlight peeking out from behind one of the dark clouds. "Sawyer, Varlane and Childs have traps on them and are with Dahlia's people. Last I heard, they're discussing what to do next with Raith." Dipping his head down and focusing on the ground at his feet, Peter's voice lowers some, brows furrowed and eyes partway closed.

"I have something that I want to discuss with them once we return, so unless there's something more pressing going on out here…" Peter turns, finally, to regard Ross over his shoulder, not really able to make out Cardinal's ephemeral form int he forest dark. It's then he notices the inspection of the trap, head quirking to the side. Suddenly, this has Peter's interest more than getting moving again. "What do you make of it?"

The metal rattles on the leaf-stripped stick, Ross letting his brows raise as he shrugs. "It's not exactly shy about what it is, you know? But I've noticed a distinct lack of killer robots bearing down on us, so presumably it only cares about— " Suddenly, there's a slick sound click, similar to the one previous. Only this time, the cuff breaks open on its own accord, yellow light dimming, and Ross takes an abrupt step back when it goes falling to the ground upon released. "…only cares about what it can stick with a needle," he finishes, after a moment of staring.

"I ordered Sawyer to pick up a gun," Ross corrects the shadow, rising to bait in token facts as opposed to particular fervor or emotion. "And I'm looking to keep us alive until we're back on American soil. Then your lives are your own, shadow boy. What did you want to discuss with the team?" is directed to Peter.

"If that's disarmed itself… we might want to take it back to the camp with us," suggests Cardinal, the shadow whispering through the grass leaving the question of Ross's loyalties alone for the moment, "They might be able to figure out how to open the others using that one to work off of."

"I have a plan to deal with Rameirez, but it's going to require an explanation, and I don't like repeating myself, so you're just going to have to wait until we get back to camp." Crouching down, Peter takes a knee in the soft earth and turns his attention towards the dropped cuff. Picking it up in one hand, he carefully turns it around, looking at the now dead lights on one side, then the needle. "I can think of something else to use it for…" He notes with a narrowing of his blue eyes, looking rather intent on keeping the disarmed bracelet for himself.

"If we're done here, we should get back to camp. You might want to try and assuage some of Sawyer's concerns as well, agent Ross…" Blue eyes track up to the balding agent, still narrowed. "I don't think she trusts you, which seems disquieting."

The stick isn't tossed aside. Rather, it's long enough to poke at the ground a little half-heartedly as Peter talks. Ross turns a look towards the younger man at those words, and raises a hand to scratch thoughtfully at the bared dome of his skull. "Well, Sawyer and I work for the same organisation. When all this is said and done, she can take her complaints to Ms. Dalton so that next time, she doesn't have to answer to shifty bald men," he suggests, placidly. "She and Mr. Cardinal here might want to put their focus on surviving and saving the world, instead of throwing theories at the wall to see what sticks."

Picking up the backpack he'd set down, Ross slings it over his shoulder, that hand settling there, wedding ring glinting in minimal light. "I'll talk to her," is potentially more reassuring a response, the promise sighed out. "After I get some sleep. Let's move. Then you can share what's on your mind with the class."

"I intend to, Agent Ross," replies Cardinal in rather mild tones from the ground about them, "Just keep in mind that your authority died with those soldiers. I'm here of my own will to carry out this mission, and every order you've given has been nothing but disastrous. So you'll forgive me if I remain uninterested in answering to shifty bald men myself…"

A faint chuckle stirs in the night, and the shadow slithers on, "…I'll go ahead."

The delivery of the name brings a look from Peter, blue eyes more sharply investigating Ross' features now. "Sabra?" Blue eyes peer at the smaller man more intently, and a cat he was unaware of was conveniently let out of the bag. "I think I may have underestimated you Agent Ross, or at least which branch of the government you may have worked for…" Somehow that doesn't seem to be a negative reaction from Peter, but there's an interested smile on his face. Once the shadow begins slithering away, Peter quietly adds, "…don't mind mister Cardinal, I don't think he's quite as quick to make friends as I am."

Then, with a lopsided smile, Peter turns to look in the direction the shadow disappeared into. "I think I like you better now that I know you're not just a suit." That, potentially could be worse than being overlooked by Peter.

Ross watches the preternatural movement of the shadow somewhat dully, before getting the other strap of his backpack over his shoulder, and moving to fall into step with Peter. "I'm certainly not here to make friends. That sounds like work. Even tougher is making enemies, especially when we got plenty of them. You can tell the rest that." He moves slowly, as if wary of bruises, and more than a little light headed - but ably, all endurance and determination in that he lacks in athleticism and speed.

"Appearances can be deceiving, I guess," he responds, in answer to who he happens to work for. "Thanks for coming back for me. Everyone's decided to go forward with the mission, I take it?"

Blue eyes look side-long to Ross, brows furrowed as Peter starts to walk at the man's side. "They did…" he states in a flat tone, hands tucked into the pockets of his camouflage pants, "and no one was all that concerned about coming to look for you either. To be honest, I didn't expect to find out alive out here. But I guess, in a way, bringing you back will be better for morale than hiding your corpse and telling them we didn't find you."

It's a pragmatic tone with which Peter delivers those words, and that tone doesn't change from its monotone delivery as he adds one last notion with a srug.

"Good to have you back."

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License