'Twas Brillig


cardinal2_icon.gif magnes2_icon.gif peter_icon.gif ross_icon.gif veronica2_icon.gif

Scene Title 'Twas Brillig
Synopsis …and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe. Team Alpha makes a discovery equal parts grisly, cryptic and incomplete during the first leg of their trek through the forest.
Date November 27, 2009

Argentina: Sub-tropical 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.

It had been a vague and hazy dawn when they were driven out from the village, rattling around in the back of the militant green truck until they got to their drop-off point. Upon the ride over, away from the urban sprawl of El Palenque, the air was thick with the scent of exhaust fumes, battling with the denser smells of jungle, of rain and plant decay and animal life all creating a pungent aroma so very unlike the brittle traffic scents of New York City, edged as it is still with ash and ozone. And cologne, too, if you were sitting next to Ross who kept his chin tilted up to regard the backwards direction of their Jeep-ride from beneath the brim of a floppy olive hat, drawstrings loose beneath his chin.

That had been almost an hour ago, and when Ross displays the map they're following, with plotted squiggly lines of their course that seems as though they've made very little progress indeed. But some.

Boots splash through the shallow dregs of a creek they're forced to cross through, Ross levering himself over a brittle, moss-ridden log which cracks and crackles under booted heel, a hand out towards a tree to make sure he doesn't fall face first into the soft jungle ground and mud. He's more or less taking point, compass dangling from his belt on the opposite side of where his gun is settled in his holster. They walk roughly in single file, sometimes swapping around, Raith and Cardinal keeping up the rear, and everyone marching to the beat of Ross' drum, which could be quicker for the longer legged hikers behind him, to be honest.

But he's the guy with the map. They've been encouraged to be quiet, although small voiced conversation continues all the same. Ross is currently chatting over his shoulder for anyone up for listening. "…and she wanted to go to the Himalayas for our vacation. Which. You know, okay, but we'd spent about three months in Mongolia a couple of years ago. Sometimes a man just wants to swim with sharks." Crunch. Ross pauses to check what it is he stepped on, the small bones of some tree-dwelling mammal splintering white underfoot, but he continues on his way. "We ended up going skiing anyway. Need to keep the wife happy, God knows."

Magnes isn't about to wear shorts, like, ever, so he's wearing his dark green cargo pants again, tucked tightly into his black boots. He's got that white t-shirt on as well, backpack secured. He's not necessarily talking to anyone, seemingly occupied as the ground in front of them gently tugs down every few feet. It's clearly something he's doing, since he's staring directly at the tugging, and he appears to be staying alert for something. "If anyone wants me to hold their bag, I don't mind." he randomly offers, as he doesn't seem to be getting very tired at all.

It's the first time Peter Petrelli seemed to be taking the threat of the Argentinean heat seriously, during that ride out. No longer dressed like a lawyer come to deliver legal advice to the Vanguard, he's adopted the appearance of someone who belongs in an outfit like this. Bare shoulders look more toned that the slim frame beneath his suit would indicate, his arms showing a few small scars that seem faint in comparison to the one on his face. The black tank top he wears clings to his body from sweat, and it would seem despite suggestion to the contrary, he is very much still a living, breathing human being.

Camouflage pants and boots laced up to mid calf make him look more the part of a soldier than before. Gone too is the briefcase he had handcuffed to his wrist upon arrival, secreted away now in the olive-drab backpack he shoulders on the journey. Dark hair is swept back and away from his face, kept away from his brow by a black bandanna wrapped over his head and tied in the back.

Pausing in front of the log Ross had just climbed over, Peter stares off into the jungle, wiping sweat off his cheek with the back of his hand. Somewhere in the dense foliage, something's caught his eye, but whether it's Raith or the local wildlife he doesn't indicate. Mindful when Magnes comes by, Peter takes a step away from the young man, giving him a wide berth as if nervous of close proximity.

After learning that the Vanguard might live on this mountain, Sawyer is alert and watchful, moving almost silently behind Ross, her boots making less noise than his, though the heavy hiking boots make some noise on the detritus of the forest. Her dark eyes flicker from the path ahead to the sides and up into the trees, watching carefully and listening — or trying to — for any sign of Charlie — er, Vanguard — as they hike.

Ross swivels around enough to regard Magnes and his offer with some amount of serious consideration, as he adjusts the weight of his backpack strapped at his shoulders, and around his midsection, one hand up to flip the brim of his hat enough before casting a dismissing wave. "Everyone should try to keep their equipment on themselves, in case we get separated somehow." Checking his watching, then looking up the steadily uphill trail they follow, he announces; "We'll be hitting some open dirt road later on, which will make the going easier. It's the only one we know we won't encounter any— problems.

"If anyone needs a break, feel free to shout out," Ross adds, as he resumes his crunching through the terrain. A little hopefully. Though he seems as determined as a pack mule, a slice of shin bare between books and shorts taht come past his knees, his shirt shortsleeved and forest green.

"I don't think I'll need a break for a while." Magnes notes, looking over at the others. "But now that I think of it…" He looks to the others, then looks around. "If we can stop for a few minutes every hour, I can make all of the bags lighter so you can all carry them easier."

"I'm fine for now." Peter says quietly, looking up to the tree Ross had used to brace himself. Once Veronica and Magnes are past him, Peter leans a bare hand against the trunk of the tree. For a moment, everything seems fine, he's resting and looks fatigued. But a moment later when the wind picks up, dried and dead brown leaves fall from the tree, and Peter is drawing in a breath, seeming more invigorated than he was a moment ago. He stays quiet, just headed up the trail to catch up the distance he's put between himself and the middle of the group.

"This should be nothing compared to the Himalayas," Veronica says lightly. She doesn't look too tired, but she jogs five miles a day on average. Her eyes flicker to Magnes, and shrugs. "Up to the boss," she says, glancing to Ross, then glancing back at Peter as he resumes his hike. If she notices the dead leaves fluttering from the tree, she doesn't show it, turning to continue the ascent.

Doggedly determined to lead the way, Ross also isn't treated to the sight of the fast-dying tree, wiping his forehead off with the back of his hand only to smear dirt along his brow. "Hell, why not," he says, only just loud enough to hear when he doesn't bother shooting the comment over his shoulder as his gaze ticks over the terrain lying out ahead of him. The sound of calmly flowing water begins to filter into the general jungle cacophony, the scent of both moving streams and stagnant ponds now reaching their nostrils through the scent of plants, dead and alive.

"The Himalayas, or the parts she was interested in, also had cabins and ski lifts."

There's a severe lack of both as the heroes continue their trek onwards for the next long and humid while, the heat only intensifying as the day crawls on. But on the positive side, the ground levels out for a time as they come up on— well, to call it a clearing would be a very optimistic exaggeration, but there's some space beside the swampy creek that winds water through tree roots, dips in the ground, murky. Coming to a halt, Ross turns his back to it as he consults with what has to be Raith through his radio, clicking it off in the next moment after he unburdens himself of his backpack.

Magnes walks to Ross' backpack, holding a hand to it for roughly an entire minute as it manipulates its gravity. It doesn't take the weight away completely, since they don't want floating backpacks, but it's lowered to something akin to a first grader's pack. "Anyone else? Remember, this lasts for roughly an hour, then it goes back to normal unless I upkeep it."

Blue eyes scan the perimeter of the clearing as Peter follows Ross' lead, but doesn't quite follow-through the edge of the treeline. Keeping Veronica and Magnes at his fore and picking up the rear, he turns towards the shadow of the tree he stands near, head tilted down and voice low as he seems to share something in confidence with — the tree…

Glancing back to the group, Peter starts pacing around the edge of the thinning in the forest, getting a look around the area. "Thanks but… I'm fine." Maybe it's something like flagellation; a self-inflicted punishment of bearing the burden of the pack, or maybe he's just anxious about getting too close to anyone without heavy clothing on. But judging from the sweat on his shoulders and brow, there's no way he could manage to wear that suit anymore.

"It looks different than I remember…" Peter muses aloud without much thought, looking up to the snow-capped mountain peaks far on the western horizon, eyes narrowed against the glare of the sun.

Veronica shrugs at Magnes' offer. "May as well," she says, heading over to the youngest of the group to allow him to lay hands on her pack. She glances over at Peter. "Different in any significant way, or just … you know. Memories fade and all," she says, squinting in the same direction he does, as if to see through his eyes.

The thing about amphibians is that they're pretty much everywhere it's warm enough for them to wriggle through muddy forest detritus. Plenty of crawling things to eat, plenty of other slimy siblings to hump. A dozen froggy voices chirrup and creak and belch in time with the underlying trickle of water, but only one of them seems to register from somewhere around eye level.

The ghostly grey rush and flare of a hook-beaked midgit bird of prey may draw eyes to the source if they're paying close enough attention: glossy black talons pin the culprit to its lofty perch mid-croak. Ignorant of human company, or more likely without reason to fear it, the little kite or falcon or as of yet undiscovered beak-ed peeper with a taste for frog legs nips its beak in after the soft jelly of one displaced eye while the other dribbles sluggishly across scaled claws. The other frogs keep right on going after a short, uneasy intermission. Ribbit.

Of greater interest to human eyes is the perch itself: a single arched rib dripping amidst a line of some eleven or twelve others snaggled halfway up out of slow-moving water and black mud. The tallest of them arcs to a peak well above Ross's floppy hat, with the rest of the empty cage flowing down along a somewhat shorter gradient. All of them are black as pitch and patched with a bloody cast of rust that stains the water at its base a virulent shade of orange.

"Let Varlane do his thing, Petrelli," Ross states, impatiently, not even bothering to look at the younger man as the order is snapped on over. "You get to be a hero when we save the world, not on the trail on the way there. No one's impressed." Taking out his map, Ross goes down onto bent knee, unfolding laminated paper to double-check the course as he takes his radio out call ahead, as it were, and confirm that the road they're headed towards is still secure. With his back to the creek, he doesn't notice much amiss as he studies the maps, comms device in his palm.

Magnes takes Veronica's pack next, smiling up at her, then goes to work. Without Gillian's help, there's no real visual cues that he's doing anything but keeping his hands on the bag, but when they're touched and moved around again, it's almost disorienting for a moment to lift something so big so easily… for a moment. "Lately I feel like I'm in an issue of Hellblazer. Peter's Constantine, even if he does remind me of Keanu who played a crappy Constantine in the movie. And I don't know what the deal with Shia Labeouf's character was, his character was supposed to be like forty." He holds a hand out for Peter's backpack when he's done with Veronica's, nodding.

"Memories." Peter states flatly, and belatedly to the earlier question as he shoots Ross a side-long look at the same time. "I… visited here, a long time ago. It's funny the difference a few years can make." Understated in the span of time, blurring a few years into a few decades. "It's like coming home after a long time, and not recognizing your neighborhood." A wistful smile crosses Peter's face as he shifts the weight of his pack around, looking out to the treeline again, eyes following something perhaps only he can see in the shadowy floor of the forest.

Unaware of the gory display at his back, Peter scoffs and rubs one hand over his forehead distressedly. He isn't about to argue with Ross over something so small, but as he anxiously approaches Magnes, his voice is kept low. "Don't touch me…" It's not murmured so much as angry, but out of warning. "Just the backpack."

Veronica takes the pack, noticeably lighter, and slips it back on her pack, turning to look at Peter with furrowed brows. Her guess, based on what she believes his power is, is that he doesn't want to have Magnes' power instead of whatever one he has at the moment. Of course, the truth is much more ominous.

In looking, she notices the perch of the bird that looks like something from a Disneyland ride. "Well, that's picturesque," she says, moving closer, but giving Peter a wide enough berth since she has picked up on his need for space.

The bird takes flight when Veronica steps closer, a sloppy little tangle of shiny guts snared in its talons.

It blurs out of focus quickly in the humidity, leaving only the impressive lurch of the iron-cast rib cage in its wake. Some six feet tall and at least that long again if there's more buried beneath the mud, it looms and rusts in a vague, silency kind of silence. Water burbles around the base of each exposed rib, thick as a man's fist and cold to the touch.

Magnes spends his minute with Peter's pack, being quite familiar with the comics, so is clearly confused about the touching. He doesn't question it, instead he simply offers the pack back to the man. "Claire's with Gabriel. Gabriel promised me he'd never hurt her and isn't interested in her ability anymore, but when I think of how he explained his ability and the urges to me, I don't know, I'm skeptical that his disinterest can last forever…"

"He knows better…" Is all Peter can offer, but at the same time those words are telling to Magnes, harkening back to their earlier conversation at the chapel. Looking away from Magnes when something snares Veronica's attention, Peter makes eye contact with something in the treeline beyond her, and then starts moving to follow the agent, affording only a knowing nod to Magnes. Not one of thanks for lightening Peter's burden, but as if to say you stay here like some over-protective parent. Following a few paces behind Sawyer, Peter stares over her shoulder, trying to find just what it is that she's made sight of. Only after a moment of searching the water line does he notice the jutting metallic ribs.

"What… is that?" Peter's bootfalls crunch up behind Veronica, and then move past her as he trods down into the stream with a splash. For a moment, there's a shadow moving against the current of the water beneath him, but it darts out of sight quickly enough. "Wait these aren't— "

"Water shouldn't be deep enough here to support piranha, I don't think," she says, following to get a better look at the iron "ribcage." She tilts her head one way, and then the other, as if taking a moment to appreciate a work of art in a museum. "Any ideas?" she says to Peter, glancing back to see what their fearless leader thinks of the strange item as well.

"What?" Ross looks up from his incredibly important work, towards where Peter and Veronica are moving towards the edge of the stream, stepping into it— and then past them, at the gigantic jagged ribcage, as if a prehistoric animal had died on that spot and left to rot. He stares for long enough to note the glint of high sun making shiny the metal its made of, before he folds the map and stands up, moving on over. "It must be— "

Something. He holds out a hand towards Peter, as if to reel him back, but he doesn't make it an order. "No idea. Abandoned f-farming equipment," he suggests, with a stammer that indicates he knows very little about farming equipment. "I only have one tetanus shot," is his only warning.

The cage doesn't look much different up close than it did from afar, but details do resolve themselves upon closer inspection. Lead scuffs silver across the outer wall in irregular (but tell-tale) blurs of metal on metal as if someone unloaded on whatever this was or currently is.

Rusty water turns sluggish around the heels of those brave enough to venture close, and beneath Peter's heel there's a muffled but clearly audible pop of delicate bone snapping lightly underfoot.

Magnes looks over at what they're all interested in, but doesn't move from his hunched spot. "Maybe I could raise whatever that thing is out of the ground?" he asks, voice low, but just loud enough to be audible.

Hesitating on the pop, Peter winces for only a moment before moving up closer to the ribs. Crouching heedlessly down, he brings out one hand to brush along the metal. Bare fingertips glide over the pitted iron flaked with rust, then follow it down to the soil as he digs a little through the dirt. Shaking his head slowly, he looks back over his shoulder to Veronica with a baffled expression. "It— it's too big to be a person or…"

Peter doesn't know what to make of them. "They're… I don't know. There wasn't anything like this, I— " blue eyes divert back to the cold iron at his fingertips. "This is new. This…" He looks back over his shoulder to Veronica again, "is bad." Somehow, out of everything he's heard and seen of Argentina so far, this distresses him the most, because it's nothing he expected.

At Magnes' question, Peter bites down on his lower lip, eyeing the metal again, then looks back to Ross with one brow raised and a shrug of his shoulders. A few steps is taken away with his back to the metal, "What do you think, Sir?" He understands the chain of command, when it's enforced.

Veronica reaches out to lightly touch the thing as well. "It's cold… and metal," she says, back to Ross, who isn't close enough perhaps to be able to discern the material. "I … I don't know. It's not farming equipment, I don't think." She frowns, brows knitting together. "That kid, he warned us about their jaguars, but he called them monsters — I don't think most people consider big cats to be monsters, even when they live in close proximity to them. Not in my experience. It seemed weird to me, but I don't know that it connects at all to this."

Ross' lips purse a little at Magnes' offer and Peter's query to him, sending a look on over to Veronica for a moment as she speaks. He looks about to order them all to continue walking and leave the discovery behind, before he takes off his hat. The stiff fabric is used to mop over his generous forehead, before he waves the hat vaguely at Magnes.

"Okay. Okay, fine, Varlane. But try… try… to put it back like it was, or roughly so. We don't want to give away our position, but we should get a look at it so can send a message up ahead of us to find out what we're dealing with so we can find out— " He tilts his head a little. "What we're dealing with. You two," he points towards Veronica and Peter, "get back."

"Alright, everyone stand back." Magnes repeats, just to make sure, then removes his backpack and smacks his hands against the ground, about five feet in front of the structure once he's made it a bit closer. "Let's see…" He starts to try and feel the weight of things underground, trying to get a feel for just how large the structure is, and the dirt surrounding it. "I need a moment to get everything together, I don't wanna break it, so I have to make sure it's all completely stable…"

Backpedaling away from the remains, Peter shoots a wary look at Veronica, then over to the dark spot that had danced through the stream a moment ago. Moving back up onto dry land, Peter's booted feet crunch deadfall and dried grass as he moves further and further from what Magnes is going to lift up out of the murk. Tension is evident in his expression, bare hands out to his sides, eyes watching around the treeline now like a nervous animal. Everything about those metal bones isn't setting right with him, and too many terrible possibilities are rattling around inside his head.

"Well," murmurs a shadow cast across a nearby tree behind Peter, "That's the second biggest metal ribcage I've ever seen."

Apparently, Richard Cardinal is back from wherever he was out scouting around… or prowling listening in on everything. Really, it's kind of hard to tell where he's been. He could've just been napping in someone's backpack and nobody'd ever know.

Jumping just slightly at the sudden new voice in the mix, Veronica shakes her head and smirks in chagrin at being startled.

"Second?" she echoes in her husky voice. "Is that what you say to all the metal ribcages you see, or have you seen one of these somewhere else?" She glances over at Peter; his tension is contagious. She backs up a few more feet.

Veronica pretty much voices exactly Ross' thoughts as he sends a glance towards where that voice came from, eyes narrowing, before he returns his silent attention towards Magnes and the ribcage. After a moment's hesitation, he takes a cellphone out from his pocket— not an iPhone— and points the camera thataway, deciding that perhaps whatever is being unearthed might just be relevant to photograph once it comes up.

The saurian rib cage that rises from the muck is complete, or nearly so. Thick vertebrae are fused into a rigid, ridged spine, with the rust of what lifts out of the water better established than that roosted safely over it. Brackish water and sticky mud falls away from and through open spaces in uneven clumps. It plops and splatters wetly back into the stream with no particular rhyme or rhythm, saving worst for last:

Just as light begins to slat through the bottom, buried series ribs heavy with mud and rust, somewhere around three-fourths of a rust-stained human skeleton rolls and flops higgildy jiggildy out of the cage's gawping middle, ragged jeans and a thick metal cuff around one worm-eaten wrist still intact when it plunges back into the water.

Magnes stares up at the structure, keeping some of it buried, but bringing the majority of it to the surface. He's keeping a firm hold on it, never releasing the ground as he starts to shift more of the mud and dirt from the cage and on to the ground, trying to give them a clearer picture of whatever it is.

The expression on Peter's face is one of confusion as he tries to rearrange the mangled exoskeleton into some form of recognizable shape in his mind. Mouth agape and eyes wide, all he can do is stage at the wreckage in disbelief, noting the bullets peppering the 'bones' as his head shakes from side to side. Swallowing awkwardly, his blue eyes track to Ross, head shaking slowly from side to side to indicate I have no idea as clearly as humanly possible.

For the first time on this journey, and likely not the last, Peter doesn't know what to make of the horrible scene in front of him, only that it turns his stomach. His eyes flick to Cardinal a moment later, hoping that somehow the man who makes knowledge his purview has some insights.

"None you have any culture at all. Really, I just meant the presi…" The nearly disembodied voice pauses then as the cage of steel saurian ribs is lifted out into the open, and the rust-mottled bones clatter down from the cage. "…well. That's… not… something you see every day."

Sorry, Peter. No help here.

After a moment, Cardinal adds, "What was that on his arm…? Shackles? Maybe this was some sort've— gibbet originally?"

"Ugh," Veronica says, nose wrinkling at the sight of the skeleton, but moving forward, tentatively. "Varlane, can you … lift the skeleton again — maybe there's some ID or something on it. I expect it's a local, but.. you never know," the agent says, pulling on a pair of gloves as she prepares for the corpse to rise again. Apparently she's volunteering to be the one to retrieve the wallet. "You think this is some … form of … robot or something?" She frowns even as she says it, knowing how ridiculous it sounds. "Maybe someone with metal kinesis or something controlling them, I don't know."

The smell that comes up with it isn't any better than the sight. Old fishy water, muck, and stale rot along with rusted metal has Ross taking a step back even as he clicks an image of the hovering sight sending slimy water dripping down beneath it, and really only seeing the human remains when he stops peering at it through his phone, and at Veronica approaching it. "Vile."

Reluctantly, the stout Jew moves on closer, careful not to slide down the bank and into brackish water. "Guys, we're moving out in five minutes," he tells them, voice firm enough to make up for several inches of height as he prepares to photograph anything of particular interest at this closer range. "Or less than that. We can't stay here."

"I'm not very good at controlling water, so if I'm gonna bring the skeleton back up, I need someone to stand there and be prepared to grab it." Magnes notes, but starts concentrating nontheless, raising the skeleton just slow enough to give someone time to take it.

"Robot?" Peter affixes a firm stare towards Veronica, his tone incredulous. "The world's weird, not preposterous. Your latter idea's a lot more likely, or maybe it wasn't metal to begin with. Someone who can turn living material to metal, might have been some sort of… animal?" Dark brows furrow together and Peter makes an approach towards the skeletal structure, bending over to look at what's attached to the decayed wrist inside.

"Christ…" Peter murmurs to himself, covering his mouth and nose with his hand as he backs away. At Ross' command, Peter gives a nod of his head and makes eye contact with Cardinal, though nothing goes said. Perhaps somehow, already, that's enough to confer subtle meaning. Backing further away from the twisted artifice, Peter turns his shoulder towards it and looks ready to leave it behind as a terrifying mystery. "We don't have time to keep screwing with that thing. Ross is right, the longer we stay still the more daylight we burn. We've already wasted enough time."

"It's possible," Cardinal considers, pushing out of the shadows at last; shoulders rolling a bit as he re-settles his pack there upon his back, regarding the metallic construct with a frown, "I knew someone who could turn flesh into bone, so I imagine metal's possible. Although I still think it's more likely that it was some sort've gibbet cage."

A shrug, Peter's gaze noted with a slight nod, and then he steps along to the trail, "C'mon. If we don't catch up with Jensen, he'll have set up a speakeasy and be bilking the natives by the end of the day."

"Just one second," Veronica says, since, well, the slimy skeleton is already being lifted. She moves toward it, carefully, checking pockets for ID and finding none. "Uh… this is some … lojack system or something on his wrist. There's a pin and a light that's out," she says quietly, knowing not to touch anything on the device, even if it's most likely water logged. "Possibly from the military?" She pulls out her cell phone with her clean-gloved hand, and snaps an up-close picture of the metal cuff, before nodding to Magnes to lower it back down. She follows to where the other men stand, and show them the image on her phone's display.

"I really need to practice with water more…" Magnse has been trying his best not to look at anything for too long, and not complain about the smell. He's had a face full of bloody Deckard, so he'll have to add this to the list of Things Man Was Not Meant to Smell as he begins to lower both the skeleton and the metallic structure back into the ground. "I try to keep it a secret, but since we're all here and working together, I should say I don't really work well with water, especially when I'm in water. Rain isn't really a huge problem, but, like, being in a lake or a pool, y'know? It's more because I never got to that part of my training. I prefer to just walk on top instead of going in."

Ross' phone holding hand lowers when Veronica, instead, does it herself. With a shrug, he pockets it and moves off, steadily working his way back up to solid ground, and tugging his hat back onto the gleaming dome that is his head. "Weird, but ultimately, my assignment is to get you people to the base, unharmed, and hanging out with this thing is pushing our like." He snaps a look at the sound of the water and mud sucking the metal back down as Magnes lowers it, calculating in his study before he nods once in satisfaction.

A couple of brisk steps have him moving off towards his backpack, slinging it back up now that it doesn't weigh quite as much. "Let's move it. We need to catch up to Raith, too."

A wary look goes back to the skeleton again, then down to Veronica's phone when it's brought over. Peter squints against the grainy image, but slowly shakes his head. "I've never… seen anything like that before. I don't— " he looks up in the direction of the metallic carcass. "I'm really uncomfortable now, maybe that was a precursor to the branding? Did you hear anything about collars or cuffs when you talked to the locals?"

Still keeping a slow, forward-moving pace, Peter looks down into the water, then back up to Veronica. "If this is an isolated problem, then it's not much to worry about. But if we see anything else like this, it's going to be serious cause for alarm. I'm hoping the men up at the base will be able to fill us in a little better on," a jerk of his head back to the wreck, "that."

"A tracking bracelet?" A purse of Cardinal's lips as he looks back to the creek as the metallic structure sinks slowly back down into the water, his head shaking slowly, "Strange things are afoot at the Circle K." A shake of his head, and he turns to walk on, adjusting the pack he's carrying.

He won't get far before hitting shadowform again. It's just easier.

"We're moving. But it could be important," Veronica says to Ross. It's not like she can't out hike him. She slips her phone back in her pocket and gives a shrug to Peter. "No, nothing like that from the locals, but it definitely could be related," she says quietly. A bit spooked from all of the strange happenings, she continues to move, following at a faster pace. There's a quick touch to the gun in her holster, as if to reassure herself it's there.

"Maybe the brand is some sort of Evolved related virus, like the Curse Seal. And there's this documented unknown condition where artifical metallic wires grow through a person's body, usually starting from one spot, heard it on a forum and looked it up a while ago." Magnes explains, standing up straight once he's reburied everything, and stretches. "Has anyone given the brandings any sort of examination?"

"The Brandings are done with iron made hot enough to glow. The target is restrained or knocked unconscious before the V-shaped brand is seared into their faces," Ross says, before turning back to regards the group in their varying states of getting back on task. "They're done in homes, or publicly, and it's not pretty. We've examined the wounds when allowed, and at least one instance has been witnessed. They're terrorists with stolen military weapons and a lot of fear at their disposal. Maybe they have monsters too, I don't know but— "

He sends a glance the way of the shallow creek, then back towards Veronica. "We can start moving to cover more ground, if we move parallel, if you'd like to try and locate anything like this as we go, but we have to move, children."

Peter stares at Magnes the way someone might a dog that's wearing one of those plastic cones around its neck. It's a long, silent stare, followed by a twitch of one brow and then a silent shake of his head as he slows pace to fall in to the rear of the group and watch the path behind them for anyone that might be — other than the one expected — shadowing them.

With what he's seen dredged up from that riverbed, Peter has been forced to reconcile the difficult fact that the most haunting things in Argentina don't just exist in his spotty memory. They might well be out there, in the jungle.


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