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The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, Janice and Mel are owned by
MCA/Universal and no copyright infringement is intended by this work.
This piece is essentially an "alt" adventure with some hurt/comfort. The
depiction of the physical intimacy between the heroines is left mostly
to the reader's imagination. As in most X:WP fanfiction there is some
violence and peril to the main characters, but I'm not one to go in for
reading too much gore much less writing it so it's kept to a minimum.
I have to give special thanks to my editor, Benet, an absolute gem I
Lunacy's beta reader registry, whose extraordinary patience and editing
resulted in dramatic improvement to this piece. (Thanks, Benet, for all
Where You Go, I Go
Part 1 of 5
Mel lay studying her lover's face in the
soft moonlight that glowed through the window
of their bedroom. Her body still thrummed from the intense passion she
with her lover and she debated a little about rousing Janice from her
to indulge in another wave of carnal extravagance. She reached her hand
to Janice's face
and ran the tip of her index finger across her forehead, pushing the red
back off her face.
The two years they had been together had been an idyllic dream to Mel.
The first year
they had traveled the world as Janice's work had taken them to exotic
Mel excitement and adventure the mild mannered southern belle would
never have otherwise experienced. Though Janice would have preferred to
stay in Greece, the war had
made the area too dangerous. They tried to stay ahead of the spreading
until finally, Janice decided to return to the States until the war
They had ended up at Mel's home in South Carolina. Though Mel was sure
of her knowledge
of the ancient languages she had learned under her father's stern
wanted Mel to have the academic credentials to prove it. So Janice had
into pursuing her Ph.D.
Mel threw herself into her graduate studies, research and writing with
to complete the degree in as short a time as was possible. If she
continued to apply
herself to her thesis as she had in the last year she estimated it would
than a year before she'd have her doctorate.
At first Mel had resisted Janice's arguments about pursuing the degree,
the necessity of staying in one place for an extended period would be
for her adventurous partner. But Janice had found employment as the
director of a
museum and that had kept her reasonably content though somewhat restive
through the last year.
Mel tenderly caressed across Janice's shoulder and down her arm,
enjoying the sensuous
feel of the soft skin under her fingertips. Janice's eyes fluttered open
touch. "Again?" she asked with an inviting grin and a
smoldering glint in her green
eyes. It was all the invitation Mel needed as she leaned in to take the
lips prisoner with her own.
Irritably, Janice read the letter for the
third time. It was from the director of
a private museum with whom she was negotiating a trade of artifacts. She
frustration. Though the specific artifacts of the trade were agreed on,
details of mode of transportation, security and insurance of the
shipment seemed to be gumming
up the works. This latest missive insisted on the employment of The
to guard the shipments while in cross country transit; a suggestion that
would cost more money than Janice's publicly funded budget could afford.
She tapped her pen
on the desk in annoyance, thinking how to more economically solve the
to keep the deal from falling apart.
In the year since Janice had become director of the museum, she had
tried to create
a balance in the Museum's collection. Through a series of trades she had
pruned the overblown Egyptian and African exhibits of inferior pieces
and had acquired
many fine pieces of Asian, Incan, Roman and Greek antiquities to round
out those collections.
She had plans to focus on the remaining collections in the near future.
She had reorganized
many of the exhibits, rewritten the lecture materials recited by the
tour guides, and instituted a weekly lecture series that had museum
climbing at a steady rate in testament to her efforts. This latest deal
to her and she would not let it fail even if she had to guard the
The intercom buzzed and Janice testily punched the talk button.
"Dr. Covington, Mr. Killian is here to see you," a crackly
voice responded from the
box on her desk.
Janice glanced at her watch. 'Two o'clock sharp, very punctual,'
she noted with approval.
She hit the talk button again. "Send him in."
As Mildred, Janice's ever efficient secretary, escorted the visitor in
and made introductions,
Janice surveyed the man -- about 50 years old, medium height, medium
brown hair of medium length, everything about the man seemed...medium.
He had a bland look that would make him invisible in any crowd and
Janice sensed that it
was a trait that had been cultivated. He carried a leather satchel which
luxurious when contrasted with the rest of his appearance. Janice stood
hands and led her visitor towards a grouping of wing backed chairs set
about a low square
table near the window. The man took a seat, placing the satchel
"Can I offer you something to drink, Mr. Killian? Iced tea?
Coffee?..." Janice offered.
When he declined Janice dismissed the hovering secretary with a
Mildred, that will be all."
She settled herself in the chair to the right of her visitor. "So,
Mr. Killian, your
phone call this morning piqued my curiosity... I'm anxious to hear about
opportunity' you spoke of."
"Please, Dr. Covington, call me Bill," the man offered with an
"Ok, Bill, but you've got to call me Janice then."
"Well, Janice, my employer has come into possession of a rare Mayan
codex which would
seem to reveal what could be the location of a hidden city...perhaps the
city in which a good portion of the wealth of the Mayan nation was
hidden when the
Spaniards conquered Central America in the 16th century. My employer
would like to hire
you to lead an expedition."
"Just who is this employer of yours," Janice inquired.
"I'm afraid I can't reveal that...let's just say he's a private
collector with more
than enough money to fund this venture who, for security reasons,
prefers to remain
Janice sat back, rubbing her chin with her index finger. 'Hmmm...
and eccentric... Hearst? Hughes?... Maybe it didn't matter, best to hear
story before reacting.'
"All right, so Big Daddy stays unknown. Tell me something... why
me? My expertise
lies in Greek and Roman cultures. I'd think you'd want someone
specializing in Mayan
archaeology... perhaps Henry Jones or Giles Healey?"
"Dr. Jones was number one on our list, but we haven't been able to
locate him. My
employer directed me to contact the only other name on the list... you.
that specific academic credentials in Mayan archaeology are less
desirable than an
ability to work in -- how can I put this -- an environment that might
require quick thinking
"In other words you have reason to believe it's a dangerous
undertaking," Janice surmised.
"Quite dangerous," Killian admitted bluntly. "Over the
last six months we sent in
three teams. None were heard from again."
Janice sat forward, her elbows on her knees, her fingers steepled under
A gleam of hungry anticipation shone in her pale green eyes. In the last
had constantly struggled with her basic desire for adventure, living a
life with Mel while her partner worked on her degree. Now, it seemed an
being offered to her on a silver platter and her nerves were tingling
"I'm interested," she encouraged him to go on.
"I must first have your word that what I am about to show you you
will not reveal
to anyone else."
"I will have to tell my partner. I can't possibly accept your offer
it with her first."
"That would be acceptable. I had assumed you would need to confer
with Miss Pappas,"
Killian replied easily. "If you can vouch for her confidentiality
on the matter you
are welcome to discuss it with her."
'This guy does his homework,' Janice thought, surprised at his
foreknowledge of her
partner. "I give you my word, we will keep this in strictest
Killian pulled the leather straps of the satchel through the buckles and
leather cover back, extracting a file folder then closing the leather
over the satchel but not bothering to secure it. "When the
Spaniards invaded the
Mayan territories in the mid 16th century they systematically set about
destroying the written
legacy of that culture. The Mayan priests, realizing that they would
soon be conquered,
were rumored to have hidden their most sacred books and a tremendous
cache of wealth in a hidden city deep in the jungle. The Spaniards used
their expertise in torture
to try to extract the location of the hidden city from the priests but
died without revealing the location.
"Over the course of the next four hundred years many have gone
looking for the fabled
lost city. Most of them never came back. In 1938 the religious center of
was discovered and in that city was found a Mayan codex written by a
four hundred years ago. The codex ended up in the hands of my
employer." Killian handed
the file folder to Janice. "These are translations of the relevant
passages of the
codex which give rather vague directions to what it describes as the
'Temple of Knowledge'."
Janice leafed through the thin sheaf of papers in the folder, reading
text and quickly scanning a couple of drawings of crude maps. Killian
for a response.
"I'm guessing from these maps that this hidden city is somewhere in
what is now Honduras,"
"Yes. We figure about 50 miles in from the east coast, deep in the
jungle, just south
of the border with Guatemala."
"That's pretty rough territory. No wonder you've lost three teams.
kind of risk doesn't come cheap. What sort of terms is your employer
"Naturally all of your expenses will be covered plus a $10,000
retainer and a $40,000
bonus should you succeed in your mission. Anything you find on the
the property of our employer and you must keep everything you find
Janice wavered for a moment at the confidentiality condition, but the
the adventure already had her palms sweating and he was offering what
a king's ransom for the job. "I'm very interested in this, Bill.
But as I said, I
have to discuss it with my partner. I'll talk to her tonight and have an
answer for you tomorrow."
Killian pointed towards the papers in Janice's hands. "I'll need
those back now. If
you accept the job you'll get them back."
Janice handed the papers back to Killian. "Meet me here in the
morning, say 9:00.
I'll have an answer for you."
The museum closed at 6:00 and Janice
quickly changed into her sweat suit and sneakers.
By 6:01 she was heading for home with her gray slacks and white blouse
a ball in the knapsack on her back. Ordinarily she jogged a brisk pace
for the five
miles between the museum and the modest home she shared with Mel, but
today she ran
at top speed nearly all the way home. To her relief she saw Mel's
Packard in the
Janice entered the foyer, dropping her knapsack just inside the door and
"Hey, Mel! Where are ya?" She stopped short and frowned,
hearing no response. Then
she saw one of Mel's skirts laying on the floor. She picked up the
errant garment and headed further into the house. "Mel?" she
called again. Still no answer. She
reached the staircase to find Mel's silk blouse hanging on the
balustrade. She looked
up the stairs to see another piece of clothing laying near the top. A
through her and she bounded up the steps, smirking happily as she
followed a trail of
garments that led to the bathroom.
Janice eased the door open and stepped into the warm steamy room where
she found her
partner luxuriating in a bubble bath. She closed the door quickly before
"I've been thinking about you all day." Mel purred without
moving or opening her eyes.
Janice knelt beside the tub. "Mel, I got something I've got to talk
to you about."
Mel twisted to lean against the side of the tub and pulled Janice in for
kiss, finally surfacing for air. "Can it wait, Janice? Cause I just
can't." she assaulted
the archaeologist's lips again with her own.
Janice felt a rush of desire slam through her body as Mel plied her with
down her neck. Her wet hands slid brazenly under Janice's shirt and in
30 seconds Janice's focus of attention had shifted 180 degrees. She
moaned as Mel's
hand explored higher and she knew whatever it was that had seemed so
important only a
moment ago could wait till later.
"It'll wait." Janice husked as her hands worked frantically on
shedding her clothes.
In a matter of seconds she was joining her lover in the tub.
They lay totally spent and contented in
each others arms. Mel was on her back with
Janice sprawled nearly on top of her. Janice's stomach spoiled the
languid mood with
a loud rumble.
Mel chuckled. "I guess we should get up and get some dinner,"
she suggested, planting
a soft kiss on the top of Janice's head. "And I do believe you said
you have something
to talk to me about?"
Janice rolled off her lover to the edge of the bed. Pulling herself
her feet. She slid into a tee shirt and shorts then picked up the damp
thrown on the floor after their bath and headed to the bathroom to hang
them on a
rack to dry. She headed down to the kitchen where she found Mel studying
the contents of
the refrigerator with a scowl.
"We've got leftover chicken, leftover spaghetti and leftover tuna
"The operative word here being 'leftover', eh?" Janice
grinned. "I'll take the spaghetti."
When they finally sat down to dinner Janice began to describe the visit
Killian, leaving out the part about the three teams that were now
missing and presumed
dead. By the end of the story Mel had an undecipherable expression on
her face that
made Janice a little nervous.
Mel finished the last of her meal and sat back, watching Janice closely.
the archaeologist all too well and one thing she was certain of - Janice
out on her about something. She took a sip of wine and prepared for a
to get her off balance first,' she thought.
"It sounds like you really want to accept this job, Janice. I know
how hard it's been
for you this last year, must be kind of boring for someone as used to
danger as you are to be trapped in a humdrum life like this."
Janice stopped her fork in mid air and blinked in surprise. She lowered
the fork and
gaped at her partner. "Is that what you think, that I'm 'trapped'
here?" she began
incredulously. "Mel, I'm not trapped anywhere. I'm here because we
both agreed that
this is the best place for us, until you get your degree and until the
war is over. I
admit it's not the devil may care life I led before I met you, but my
have changed and I'm doing what's best for us. In a year or two, when
the world has
returned to sanity and if you're willing, we'll be traipsing around
Greece having all sorts
of adventures. But for now, this is where I want to be... with you...
"As for Killian's offer, well, it does sound like my idea of fun,
should only take
about two weeks, a month at the most. And the payoff... well, I won't be
in the finds, nor getting any credit for it if we find the lost city...
but on a
practical side, the money I could get would be enough to set us up when
we get back to Greece.
We both know that even with your trust annuity and my salary we're not
Mel considered Janice's words, finding a reassurance there that she
wasn't even aware
she had needed. Looking at it practically, it seemed to make a lot of
right," she came to a decision. "When do we leave?"
Janice blinked in surprise. "Um... Mel, honey, I was thinking...
you wouldn't be along
for this one," she stammered uncomfortably.
Mel's insecurities blazed back with a vengeance. "Why not,"
she asked sharply.
"Well, first there's your thesis. You've been working real hard on
that and I wouldn't
want to ruin you're momentum. I know how hard it is to get started again
take a break on something like that."
"I don't think that'll be a problem. Besides, I'm way ahead of
schedule and to tell
you the truth I'm about ready for a vacation from keeping my nose to the
A two to four week break sounds just about right."
Janice was beginning to panic. Somehow she had thought Mel would have
her argument. She hadn't been prepared with a plan B. Her mind scrambled
"You know, Central America is hot and humid and miserable this time
of year. It'll
be days of jungle hiking, carrying heavy packs, tormented by insects,
sleeping in the rough.
Nothing like working from a camp site like you've been used to,"
she offered dissuasively.
"Janice, I'm not fragile and I'm not adverse to hard work and if
there is one thing
I thought we had settled between us it is that where you go, I go. So,
you tell me what's the real reason you're trying so hard to keep me from
this trip," she asked, her blue eyes boring intently into her
Janice bit her lip, realizing Mel had had her figured out from the
beginning. "I think
it's too dangerous. Killian said they'd sent in three teams over the
last six months,
they haven't heard from them," she blurted.
Mel's eyes narrowed in a glare. "Is that all of it?"
Janice squirmed guiltily. "Yeah." She met Mel's eyes
Mel continued her glare, probing for other such crimes of omission. She
fingers lightly on the table, holding Janice's gaze for a tense moment.
convinced that her lover was not holding out on her, she leaned forward,
steady and firm. "Here's the deal, Janice, for now and for the
future. If it's too dangerous
for me to go along then it's too dangerous for you and I forbid you to
go. I leave
it up to your judgment to decide if a situation is too dangerous or not.
*ever* try duping me like that again. Is that clear?" her eyes
flashed an intense blue.
Janice swallowed hard. "Yes, ma'am," she responded meekly,
releasing her tension in
one long breath and readying herself for a tirade she knew she deserved.
totally thrown when Mel flashed her a bright smile instead.
"Good, I'm glad that's settled. As I asked before, when do we
Janice grinned in nervous relief. "Well, I'm to meet with Bill
Killian tomorrow at
9:00, maybe you should be there to help work out the details."
Janice sat in her desk chair with a lap
full of Mel who was engaging her in an intense
game of lip wrestling when the intercom buzzed. Wresting her lips from
beauty, Janice struggled to catch her breath before hitting the talk
Mildred?" she rasped.
"Mr. Killian to see you, Dr. Covington," crackled the
"Send him in," Janice responded as Mel reluctantly scrambled
from her lap.
Bill Killian was shown in, looking every bit as medium as he had the day
exchanged greetings with Janice and shook hands with Mel as he was
threesome then settled down for some discussion.
"Bill, Mel and I had a discussion about the job you propose and I'm
leaning very strongly
towards accepting it. Mel came up with some questions and since she'll
me I thought she should be here as part of this meeting."
Killian gave Mel an assessing look. "Ms. Pappas, you might want to
The jungle is a rather hard and dangerous place..." he began
Mel gave him a piercing look. "I've already seen that song and
dance. Where Janice
goes, I go. It's settled." she growled.
A quick look to the smirking archaeologist and Killian knew to drop the
but just so it's understood, the fee is fixed, whether one of you go or
two of you."
"Understood," Janice said. "Mel would like to see the
copies of the Codex translations
you showed me yesterday."
Killian produced the requested items from his satchel and handed them to
Mel who began
a quick scan of the documents while listening peripherally to Janice and
as they spoke.
"When do you propose that we leave on this expedition," Janice
"My employer is quite anxious, I dare say as soon as you can be
ready we'll arrange
for your transport. We'd rather you avoid public transportation into the
foreigners are a... curiosity that attract an unsavory following. We'll
plane to Mexico, from there you'll switch to a smaller craft which will
fly you to the coast
of Honduras. We'll hire a banana boat to take you inland by river which
you off with about thirty miles of jungle to hike through."
"I suppose it'll take me a couple of days to put a team together
once I get there,"
"A team has been assembled and is awaiting your arrival,"
Killian responded efficiently.
Janice looked sharply at Killian. "I prefer to pick my own team. I
like to know who
I've got standing behind me when things get rough," she tensed.
Killian shook his head. "I'm afraid our employer won't allow that.
The team was selected
from people who are... trusted associates of our employer. As I
is of utmost concern and these men are guaranteed to keep their mouths
shut about anything they might see. This is not negotiable."
Janice cast an unhappy glance to Mel who looked up from her papers and
your call, Janice."
Janice felt an uneasy twist to her stomach but wrote it off against her
to distrust. "All right," she agreed reluctantly.
"Mr. Killian, I've been scanning these translations of the Mayan
codex," Mel indicated
the sheaf of papers she held in her hands. "I'd like to see it in
the original text.
Can you get me copies?"
Killian looked uncomfortably at Mel, not at all prepared for the
request. "I suppose
I could get you copies of the relevant passages."
"No, not just the relevant passages. I want the entire section of
the codex, reproduced
to the finest detail. Also, a photographic plate of the original
Killian squirmed. "Ms. Pappas, I assure you, everything you need to
know is in the
translations I provided you," he pointed to the file folder she
Mel caught Janice's eye and raised an eyebrow. Janice got the message.
is an expert in translating ancient writings and if we're going to put
in danger we at least want *all* the information we can get. *This* is
Janice stated unequivocally.
"I don't have the authority to agree to that condition,"
Killian answered sourly.
"Then you can check with your employer and get back to us,"
Mel responded sweetly.
Killian looked to Janice who only nodded in agreement with her partner.
a phone I can use?"
Janice pointed to the phone on her desk then she and Mel stepped out of
to give the man privacy. A minute later he beckoned them back.
"Apparently your conditions
are agreeable. A courier will drop the materials off this afternoon,
just tell me
where you want them."
By two o'clock that afternoon Mel was at
home with the requested copies, absorbed
in a selective rough translation of the 20 pages of text now spread
around her on
the floor of her study. It had been several years since Mel had worked
in Mayan glyphs
and with nearly 700 characters in the written Mayan language the
translation was a slow
and painstaking process. Mel had isolated the passages in the codex
the long lost temple and focused on translating that section.
Janice found her partner bent over her work when she got home at her
usual 6:30. She
slid to the floor beside Mel and gave her a warm kiss, getting a
on her investment. Mel was frowning and Janice didn't like that at all.
tell me what's got you worried or you going to make me wait?"
Mel looked up from her notes, her blue eyes clouded with the lore she
had been immersed
in for the last several hours. "There's a lot here that our friend
Mr. Killian was
obviously hoping we wouldn't see. Perhaps the information that might
have kept those
earlier teams alive had they heeded the warnings. This appears to give
to the hidden city all right, but it warns that the temple is guarded by
the sun god, and it promises death to those who would enter the Temple
without the proper sacrifice."
Janice relaxed a little and smiled at her partner. "Well, that's
not much of a problem
for us. We'll find the city and confirm it's location to our employer.
the deal says we have to enter the Temple, does it?"
Mel thought for a moment, looking for a flaw in Janice's statement.
"I guess you're
right." she admitted, but there was still a niggling feeling in the
back of her head
that was trying to break through with a warning. The feeling was quickly
as Janice's lips started a tour of her neck and Mel felt a sharp nip
that sent her pulse
to racing. In another minute she found herself on her back amidst papers
pads and reference books with an experienced archaeologist boldly
square inch of her body.
They had spent the day shopping and
Janice, who usually hated shopping, was in her
glory while Mel, who usually viewed shopping as a religious experience,
was in misery.
"If I see any more khaki today I'm gonna puke," Mel drawled in
a wretched tone as
she deposited her packages on the bed.
Janice smirked. "Now I'm tellin ya, you're going to thank me for
this. That's the
only material you can wear in a jungle. Because of the humidity, other
don't dry and they mold up in a couple of days."
"But why doesn't it come in any other color than beige?" Mel
"What's wrong with beige?" Janice grinned merrily as she
pulled stuff out of the packages
and began arranging piles to fill their backpacks.
Mel rolled her eyes. "And those boots... couldn't ya find any
"Mel, you need them to be waterproof for sloshing through streams,
and thick enough
and high enough to protect you from snake bites. This is the jungle
for. Proper equipment is a matter of survival," she explained
Janice finished stuffing the backpacks with their new purchases then
went to her closet
where she pulled out a small canvas bag which she toted to the bed. She
bag open and extracted her bullwhip which she regularly oiled and flexed
it from drying and stiffening. She ran her hand lightly along the
braided leather then
tucked the coil into her backpack. She pulled a small wooden box from
bag and opened it, extracting her revolver, a belt and holster, all of
that they too had been regularly cleaned and oiled. She slid the weapon
into the holster then
carefully packed it into the backpack along with a box of 200
Mel watched as Janice packed what she had come to think of as her
survival kit. The
almost reverent way she handled her weapons. Janice looked up and caught
smirk on Mel's face. "What are you grinning about?"
"I thought I was the only one you loved." Her eyes flicked to
Janice grinned, somewhat embarrassed that her sentimentality had been so
She crawled across the bed on her knees to where Mel was standing.
"Oh, I love you
all, but I lust only for you," she husked, grabbing Mel's hand and
pulling her onto
the bed on her knees. Inevitably, their lips met in a slow sultry kiss
and Janice felt Mel's
hands working expertly at her belt as her lips wandered down the
neck. "You know, this is the last night we're going to sleep in a
real bed for a
Mel raised her lips from Janice's throat. "Then we should make the
most of it, wouldn't
ya say?" she nibbled lightly at Janice's ear, drawing a sharp gasp
from the woman.
Janice felt a tremor of desire quake through her body and she pushed Mel
down to the
bed, kicking their backpacks to the floor and out of their way. Mel's
hands had worked
their way into Janice's pants and Janice felt herself willingly
surrendering to the
irresistible power that Mel possessed over her.
Mel was still grousing about her clothing
when the plane touched down in Mexico. Janice
had insisted that she dress in her khakis for the trip since it meant
less for them
Janice looked back at the plane they'd just disembarked from. On the
outside it looked
like a nondescript DC-9, but inside it had a comfortable passenger
a living room more than a passenger airliner. No commercial markings
were evident. A private plane for their very private employer.
They were met by a dark skinned man named Chico who spoke a broken
English with a
thick Spanish accent. He bowed when he introduced himself and apologized
at the condition of his battered old pick-up truck as he loaded their
packs in the
Janice had to grin, the truck wistfully reminded her of the pick-up
she'd had back
in Greece, when she'd first met Mel. She sure missed that old truck. She
as she remembered making heated love to Mel in the cramped cab in a
that had forced them off the road. She caught Mel grinning at her and
knew her partner
knew what she'd been thinking. Her face flushed even hotter at being
caught in her
sentimentality yet again. Mel chuckled then crawled into the cab of the
An hour's drive down the bumpiest road... if you could call it that...
had ever been on and Janice and Mel found themselves on a dock where a
seater plane fitted with pontoons gently bobbed on the warm Gulf waters.
the plane suspiciously while Chico handed their gear to the pilot who
stowed it behind the
Mel paced the dock somewhat anxiously. She was not looking forward to
flight. Though it would only last an hour, the little plane looked in
not much better
condition then Chico's battered truck which had belched sporadically the
Her anxiety increased when the pilot hit the ignition and the propellers
then stopped with a loud bang and puff of black smoke. Three more tries
same results and Mel was ready to say a prayer of thanks that the
start when, to her chagrin, they finally caught and the propellers spun
in a rough rhythm
before smoothing out to a loud roar.
Janice climbed into the plane and motioned for Mel to follow. The
her fear, bravely following her lover to what she assumed would be their
She took her seat beside Janice and grabbed her hand, holding it tight.
The plane landed hard on the choppy waters
but Mel was just glad to have landed safely
at all. The plane taxied slowly towards the shore then the engines were
cut and the
resulting silence seemed deafening. A small punt put out from shore,
motor coughing harshly as it bested the small swells of the water. The
alongside the plane and Janice pushed the door open and climbed out,
Mel to pass their gear out to her. Finally Mel crawled into the boat and
the boatman pushed off from the plane. With a wave to the pilot the
boatman started his peripatetic
engine and they headed towards shore.
They landed on a barren beach with no sign of human habitation. Without
a word the boatman carried their backpacks up the beach where he set
them in the
sand. Mel and Janice followed. He walked back to the boat and pushed it
out to the
water, jumped in and motored away, never having uttered even a single
Janice unbuckled her knapsack. Retrieving her gun and holster, she
belted it around
her waist with the gun hanging comfortably low over her right hip. She
coiled whip to her belt with a snap on a leather thong then pulled her
out of the pack, setting it on her head with the brim pulled low. She
stood and surveyed
the thick line of trees that lay before them. Absently, she pulled a
thin cigar from
her jacket pocket and with a flick of her zippo, took a long drag and
the vibrant exhilaration thrumming through her body.
Mel's anxieties were at full tilt. Still unsettled by the flight in the
spooked by the empty beach, she felt her nerves jingling from head to
toe. Her eyes
darted wildly, trying to discern movement in the brush that might reveal
their expected welcoming committee. She turned to Janice for reassurance
and her jaw dropped.
Her partner stood scanning their surroundings, a feral look blazing in
an intense smile of pure enjoyment that Mel recognized then realized she
in over a year. In a flash of insight she saw Janice in her element... a
tigress... a thing of savage beauty who reached out with both hands to
fulls of life. A sharp wave of guilt tore through her as she realized
the depth of
the sacrifices Janice made in allowing herself to be turned into the
equivalent of a domesticated
Janice turned towards Mel, her cigar dangling lightly from the side of
and Mel's heart nearly stopped. The clothes, hat, gun, whip, the cigar,
even the quirky smile on her lips where exactly like they had been that
two years ago when she'd first set eyes on the archaeologist. Her heart
started racing and
she felt her throat go dry, just like they had when she'd fallen in love
at the first
sight of her lover. Mel felt a heated flush surge through her body and
screamed through her mind. She wanted Janice to take her right there on
the open beach.
Janice saw the lust flare in Mel's eyes and felt her own body responding
to the look.
She stood, savoring the sensual tension, aching to drive her lover to
and ravish her senseless, when the sound of movement in the brush
snapped her attention
back to the forest.
Mel released the breath she hadn't even realized she'd been holding as
her eyes followed
Janice's gaze. She moved to stand beside her partner. "You hear
something?" she whispered.
Janice held up her left hand for silence, her right hand rested firmly
on the gun
on her hip. The bushes parted and a lone figure emerged, stopping when
the open beach. His arms hung loosely at his side, a machete dangled
from a thong
around his wrist, a rifle slung across his back, pistol holstered at his
Janice moved to stand warily between Mel and the new arrival.
"Dr. Covington," he queried in a deep gravelly voice.
"I'm Janice Covington."
"I'm Santos Zelaya. Welcome to Honduras," he said in a tone
that did not sound as
welcoming as his words.
Janice relaxed as she took a moment to study their guide. Bill Killian
her with a short biography of the man and he seemed to have more than
in jungle survival. He was a native of Honduras who made his living from
and trapping big game. He was a big man, easily six inches taller than
Mel, and weighed
a good 200 pounds, all of which appeared to be hard muscle. As could be
of the people indigenous to the area, his skin was a rich copper color
and he had
dark wavy hair and eyes as dark as charcoal. He was handsome in a rugged
way, but the hard
expression he wore made him seem a little frightening. He gazed
at Janice, taking stock in her as openly as she was taking it in him.
His eyes drifted to Mel and they widened almost imperceptibly. A slow
at the corners of his mouth and Janice felt a chill run down her spine
temperature was hovering close to ninety. "And you would be Miss
Pappas." his pearl
white teeth shone as he favored her with a smile that gentled his
features and made Janice
think he could easily be a leading man in the movies.
Mel had watched the exchange of looks between Janice and Santos and felt
at the obvious tension. His warm greeting eased her anxiety a little but
glance to Janice kept her on edge. She stepped around Janice towards the
extended her hand to return his greeting. "Hello, I'm Melinda
Pappas, but everyone calls
me Mel," she offered graciously.
He shook her hand obligingly and held it for a moment as he studied her
"Pleased to meet you, Mel," he fairly oozed with charm.
Janice picked up her backpack and settled into the straps. "It's
getting late, we
should be going. Santos, where are the others?"
Santos strolled over and picked up Mel's pack, slinging it easily over
"We set up camp for the night near the river, about two miles north
of Telas. We'll
start up river first thing in the morning." He headed into the
forest with Mel following and Janice bringing up the rear.
They moved single file through the thick foliage with Santos
through the vegetation with his machete. Janice trudged along, dolefully
she may have made a major mistake accepting this job...bringing Mel
they should turn around before it was too late, they could hike to Telas
and arrange transportation
home.' she thought. She was seriously rattled and she couldn't
figure out why.
'Come on, get it together, Covington,' she chastised herself.
'A year of living the
soft life and you've lost your nerve? Fear? Is that what you're feeling?
be that... So why are my nerves jingling like this? Perhaps the
difference is I now
have so much more to live for... so much more to lose.' Her eyes
were fixed on the tall
dark haired woman walking several paces ahead of her.
The shadows were beginning to lengthen as the sun prepared to set when
of voices could be heard and they soon emerged on a small camp site.
Five men stood
turned in their direction in tense anticipation of the unknown. When
they saw Santos
they relaxed and waited expectantly.
Santos dropped Mel's pack before one of the tents and Janice dropped her
to it. "Let's meet the troops."
After meeting the small band of men they
had shared a quiet meal that had been waiting
for them. Then Janice got to work. She wanted to check to see that all
she had requested had been provided and together she and Santos planned
the distribution of supplies so that each man and woman carried their
"You ordered too much," Santos criticized. "Duplicating
some of these items is just
giving us more to carry. We need to travel as light as
"I happen to think that having duplicates of supplies that are
vital to survival is
a necessity, not an option. What if we need to split up? What if a pack
with something we need? We take two medical kits, two snake bite kits,
and two water
purification kits, and that's final," she insisted. Santos glared
with a look of disdain
but clenched his jaw and stayed silent, relenting to Janice's authority.
Santos pulled a small unmarked wooden crate out of a larger one.
"What's this," he
"That's a radio beacon. When we find the city we set that up so the
follow up teams
can home in on it. It'll broadcast a signal for a couple of
Having uncrated all the supplies and sorted them in piles, the rest of
were called over and they began to load their backpacks with packaged
food and various
supplies like cooking utensils, ropes, med kits, and other provisions
all share. Each team member was issued a full canteen, flashlight,
machete, bedroll and
Santos handed Mel a rifle. "You need someone to show you how to use
this," he asked
"I don't like guns, but I know how to use them. Janice made sure of
that," she assured,
checking the safety then levering the bolt back to check that the gun
was not loaded.
"Glad to hear that," Santos said. "Ok, we're going to
pair up. Each man and his partner
will share a tent. In the morning when we strike camp one man carries
the tent, the
other carries his own and his partner's sleeping bag. The weight and
work out about the same. I suggest you all turn in soon, the boat will
be here at dawn
to take us upriver. We'll post a guard, drawing lots to determine the
one hour shifts. You wake the next guy when your shift is
Mel thumbed through a small reference
book, the Rosetta stone of the Mayan language,
a book based on Friar de Landa's alphabet of the Mayan language. It was
though the Spanish conquerors had nearly eradicated the Mayan texts it
was one of
their priests that had compiled a translating dictionary of the symbols
used in the Mayan
By the dim glow of the kerosene lantern Mel was continuing her work on
a section of the codex while waiting for Janice to come in from her turn
duty. Janice had drawn the first shift, Mel had lucked out because only
were needed and she had drawn one of the blank chits. Though exhausted
from their long day
of travel, she wanted to continue her study of the Mayan codex to see if
reveal more about what they were walking into, so she forced herself to
until Janice could join her.
Mel focused her efforts on the part concerning entry to the temple and
was again struck
by how a culture that had been so advanced in astronomy, architecture,
mathematics, and medicine could be so brutal in its spiritual practices.
The Mayans, whose culture flourished for nearly 3,000 years, who
worshipped over 190 gods and
goddesses and built entire cities solely for religious observations, had
human sacrifice on a regular basis. Indeed, they had three different
rituals, the Arrow sacrifice, which called for an arrow straight through
the heart; the
Well sacrifice which called for the victim to be thrown into a deep dry
if the fall didn't kill them, they died from exposure and dehydration;
and the Heart
sacrifice where the victim was laid on the altar atop a pyramid and
their heart was savagely
cut from their chest and offered, still beating, to the gods.
Mel's stomach twisted nervously at her translation notes. Her studies of
revealed that when the Mayan's sealed the Temple of Knowledge they
called upon Kinich
Ahau, the sun god, to guard the temple until the conquerors had been
the danger had passed. To safely enter the temple the sun god had to be
it was the Heart sacrifice that was required.
Janice bent and entered the low tent, pulling the flaps down and zipping
shut behind her then settling on her side of the sleeping bags with a
"Wouldn't it be cooler if we let the flaps open," Mel
"Oh, it'd be cooler all right, but in the morning we'd have
hundreds of flying and
crawling insects and probably a few snakes, lizards and other not so
bunking with us. Besides, the temperature will drop quickly now that the
set. In another hour you'll need to get inside the sleeping
Janice pulled off her hat and weapons, tossing the former to the corner
of the small
tent where her backpack sat and setting the later at the side of her
"Anything interesting in the codex," she asked while working
the long laces out of
her knee high boots.
Mel frowned. "It would appear that the temple is guarded by Kinich
Ahau and that he'll
settle for nothing less than the Heart sacrifice before he will let
anyone set foot
in the temple. Also, the city itself is protected by Yum Cimil, the god
and he would be offended if he, too, does not receive sacrifice. There
is a reference
to a prophecy that the temple would be sealed for 100 years at which
time the sacrifices
must be offered. Until then, all those who enter the temple will
Janice finished with her boots then set them off to the side. She lay
down on her
side on her sleeping bag with her head propped on her right hand while
her left hand
landed comfortably on Mel's thigh. "So if the prophecy is true then
the temple would
have been opened nearly 300 years ago and all the artifacts would more
than likely have
Mel gathered her notes and copies of the codex into a neat pile and slid
a waterproof plastic sleeve which she carefully sealed then stashed in
"Actually, the Mayan numerical system is very unique, it is a base
20 system so..."
"When they say 100 years in base 20 it actually means 400 years in
our system." Janice
finished, her eyes widening, her heart beating faster. "You're
saying the prophecy
predicted that the temple will be found and opened *now*?!!"
Mel nodded in affirmation then slid down to lay on her side on her
sleeping bag facing
Janice. "There's no definitive date in the codex about when the
temple was sealed,
but we know the Spanish began their invasion of the Mayans in the 1530's
certainly possible that the time for fulfillment of the prophecy is
Janice rolled over onto her back, her forearm across her eyes as her
mind tried to
grapple with the new information.
Mel worked her right hand under Janice's shirt where her fingertips
started to trace
a light pattern of circles across Janice's firm abs. She could easily
sense a thick
tension emanating from her partner. She nuzzled Janice's ear and got no
not a good sign. Whispering, she asked, "What are you so worried
about? Do you really
think there's a god guarding that temple?"
Janice caught Mel's wandering hand with her own, entwining their
fingers. "I didn't
used to believe that there was a god, much less a variety of gods as
so many different cultures. But since we met Ares I've started thinking
is possible. We have to accept that the Mayan gods could be every bit as
real as the Greek
gods or those of any other religious system. We have to be
Mel pulled her hand away from Janice's and let it return to its gentle
the archaeologist's body. "I thought we already agreed we'd locate
the lost city,
but we wouldn't enter the temple." She leaned in and began a
languid grazing against
the hollow of Janice's throat, smiling at the sudden jump in the pulse
point as her lips
wandered across the soft skin.
Janice's body responded to Mel's touch, sending tingling warmth
throughout her body.
She smiled a little at the feeling. "No, we won't enter the
temple." She shuddered
as Mel's hand began a more aggressive stimulation, venturing smoothly
over her breasts. "Mel..." she gasped weakly. "We
can't... the tents are really close... they'll hear."
Mel breathed warmly in her ear. "Then we'll be really, really
quiet." She whispered,
nipping Janice's neck behind the ear, getting a soft moan from her
"I'm not the one that makes all the noise," Janice husked, her
hands already working
on the buttons of Mel's shirt. She bit her lip to stifle a cry when
Mel's hand slid
slowly into her pants.
"We'll see about that." Mel challenged with a light chuckle as
the soft invasion of
her hand began to strip Janice of her senses.
A sharp bark from Santos just after
sunrise roused everyone from their sleep. The
tents were quickly struck, rolled up and lashed to backpacks as a
of a motor became louder. They moved their gear to the river's edge,
their transportation to arrive.
The boat was a flat bottomed skiff with high sides that rode high on the
it was empty. It was about as wide and long as a bus and had an outboard
easily pushed it up the near stagnant river current. Ordinarily it plied
up river with minimal cargo but its return trip was typically laden to
bananas or sugar cane from the large plantations that lined the
When the boat pulled to shore the small band quickly boarded, each
packs. A couple of the men returned to shore to retrieve a square crate,
feet on each side. When all were settled aboard the craft Santos picked
up a long
gaff and pushed the boat away from the shore. The pilot started the
engine and they headed
A couple of hours on the water found most everyone at the bow of the
the scenery that alternated between expansive sugar cane and banana
bits of untamed jungle. Santos sat on the crate in midship, frequently
a handful of maps and charting their progress up the waterway.
Occasionally they'd see the aftermath of a swathe of timbering
scars of deadfall on the ravaged landscape. Janice shook her head
so foolish. For a quick buck they decimate the land, destroying in a
month what took
nature hundreds of years to create. You'd think they'd at least be smart
enough to clean
up after themselves and replant. But they'll just leave it like this and
will erode away the topsoil. In a hundred years, if they keep this up,
driven half the plants and animals to extinction."
After a while they no longer saw plantations. They were far enough
inland that civilization
had not encroached. The canopy of trees seemed to thicken and rise
out over the river to form an umbrella over the water. The nature of the
sounds changed to one of screeches, hoots and snarls as they penetrated
further into the remote
waterway. More and more frequently they caught sight of bands of monkeys
high in the trees, screeching aggressively at the small craft that
Mel saw some large dark forms moving through the water and she directed
"Alligators..." Janice smiled. "You don't bother them,
they won't bother you," she
assured, pointing to the river bank where several of the large scaly
be seen lounging lazily.
As mid-day approached the temperature leveled off at about ninety with
making it feel rather oppressive. They were fortunate that the canopy of
most of the sun or they'd have baked to well-done in the open boat.
Janice left the small group at the bow and approached Santos, who had
from his companions throughout the six hours aboard the boat. She pulled
of her cigars, offering one to the guide who took it with a gruff
thanks. She sat
next to him on the crate. "Any idea how much longer we have till we
Santos pointed at one of the maps. Janice recognized it as a
reproduction of one from
the Mayan codex. His finger traced some of the blue lines. "I've
seen a lot of these
tributaries, though I think some new ones have formed and some old ones
been rerouted. A lot can happen over four hundred years. According to
will be a split in the river, we'll take the fork to the right and then
to another smaller river that feeds into this one. It'll be too small a
for a flat skiff like this so that's when we get out and walk. Shouldn't
be much longer
Janice glanced up to the front of the boat, seeing Mel and some of the
in conversation. For a moment she just sat taking in her lover's bright
she refocused on the map. "Looks like our objective is near this
mountain," her finger
indicated on the map. "About 45, maybe 50 kilometers. Perhaps a
three day hike if conditions
aren't too bad."
Santos pulled a deep puff before flicking the stub of his cigar into the
three days if your friend doesn't slow us up."
Janice looked at him sharply. "She'll keep up. Don't worry about
that. Mel's a lot
tougher than she looks," she growled then headed to the bow of the
boat before she
slugged the man.
A short time later the river forked and Janice felt a surge of
excitement. She grabbed
Mel's hand and squeezed it gently, getting a warm smile in return
showing Mel's anticipation
of the adventure. Finally, the narrow waterway they sought came into
view ahead of them and the small crew scampered to their packs as the
boat moved towards
The first two men off the boat sloshed through the muddy water to shore,
craft closer to save the others a wetting. After the wooden crate was
the rest of the contingent followed. The boatman cast off without
sparing a glance
and headed down the river.
A couple of the men picked the crate up and carried it away from the
discovering, to their dismay, an identical crate some fifty meters into
They dropped their burden beside its twin and turned to Santos with a
"I'd say we just found the first signs of the earlier
expeditions," he surmised.
Mel looked to Janice for explanation. "What's in the
"That's an inflatable raft. Since we don't know how long we'll be,
we don't know when
to have the boat pick us up. When we're ready to return we'll just
inflate the raft
and float down river," she explained, eyeing the second crate
"Let's get moving, we can still cover a lot of ground yet
today." Santos pulled the
group to order. "Just remember -- watch where you walk, follow the
one in front of
you and stay alert."
Progress was slow. The thick foliage tore
at their bulky backpacks and the heat and
humidity bore down on them relentlessly. The soft murky soil pulled
their boots. Santos was in the lead, his machete deftly slicing through
grass to expose the underlying earth, ever wary of what might be
concealed in the ground
Janice followed close behind Santos, her rifle at ready should their
paths cross with
one of the deadly denizens of the jungle. Loosely behind them trailed
the rest of
their troop. She could hear Mel's soft voice chuckling in conversation
with one of
the men, Phillippe, a tall handsome Jamaican with an easy broad smile
that shown brilliantly
against his near-black skin. He and Mel seemed to have taken a liking to
and Janice could hear a mixture of their laughter. She grinned a little
voices, his lyrical sing-song accent and her thick southern lilt almost
made them sound
like they weren't speaking the same language.
The next to last man in the line would periodically hack an X into a
tree with a machete,
marking the route for their return trip. The last man in the line
carried his rifle
at ready, acting as rear guard.
Janice called a halt after an hour of walking. Everyone gratefully
dropped their packs
where they stood, settled to the ground and reached for canteens. It was
a five minute rest and then rotation of duties which they did every
would take the lead and Santos would move to the second position. The
two men at the rear
would also switch.
Mel came forward to join Janice for a few minutes of their respite.
her lover on the ground.
"We'll need to find water soon," Santos said, his eyes
scanning the dense jungle.
"Yeah, I've been watching. Haven't seen anything promising,"
Janice replied. Pulling
out her bandana, she wiped her face then knotted the clothe around her
neck to absorb
the perspiration dripping down her neck.
"Can't we just use the water from the river we've been
following," Mel asked.
Santos snorted. "Only if you want to die. That water is too
stagnant, the microbes
in it will kill you in days."
Mel's hand drifted to the near empty canteen at her waist. "Don't
worry, Mel, we'll
find a fresh water stream at its source. That's what we've been looking
for. We run
the water through a filter, treat it with a little chlorine and we're
good to go.
Not a problem. You just have to stay on top of finding a spring along
the way," Janice assured.
Janice could hear movement through the
brush before them as their movement sent the
jungle creatures in flight. After five hours of hiking they had been
lucky to have
only distantly contacted anything remotely dangerous. Their path had
close to a surprised jaguar nervously protecting her cubs in the rocky
crag behind her. The
big cat snarled and the group froze, every member bringing their rifles
to bear on
the growling beast. They slowly retreated and circled widely around the
A chittering swarm of monkeys screeched at them, swinging deftly through
trees, warning their clan and other forest creatures of the trespassers
midst. Brightly colored toucans, macaw and quetzals squawked at the
flew off in a dazzling rainbow of feathers. The jungle was alive and
hundreds of eyes covertly
watched their procession from deep within the sheltering flora.
Janice felt her boot sink into thick ooze and stopped to examine the
the trickle of water that pooled in her boot print she pointed it out to
nodded and pulled his machete to follow the meager flow. In a few
minutes they found
a small spring, flowing slowly from a crevice in a rock formation.
Santos scooped up
a handful of the clear water and sniffed then dabbed his fingers and put
a few drops
to his lips to taste. He nodded faintly. "Looks good to
A couple of men were assigned to collect water while the others rested.
One man patiently
collected the trickling water in a flask then handed the flask to the
other man who
had retrieved a filter canister from his pack. He poured the water
through the filter then collected it in a canteen. When the canteen was
full he added a couple of
drops of chlorine and moved on to the next canteen. They all took the
to drink their fill since the water source was there and the water was
cool at its source from deep underground.
As Janice sat leaning against a tree, Mel sat next to her with her head
and her eyes closed. Her shirt clung sweatily to her chest and Janice
had to stifle
an intense desire to run her hand over her partner's lightly heaving
tore her eyes from Mel, trying to distract herself from her lustful
urges. She saw Santos
sitting off alone a distance away with his eyes fixed steadily on Mel, a
odd contemplation on his face.
Janice was used to men staring at Mel. She was, after all, an
woman. It didn't bother her to see another lusting after the dark-haired
she knew without a doubt that Mel only had eyes for her. But there was
about the hard look in Santos' dark eyes that made Janice feel a nervous
twinge in her
gut and her hand unconsciously moved to grip Mel's hand in a protective
Mel's eyes fluttered open at Janice's touch and she smiled then noticed
a tense look
on Janice's face. "What's wrong," She queried in a low voice.
Mel followed Janice's
gaze to Santos who seemed to have quickly averted his eyes away when Mel
Janice rubbed the back of Mel's hand with her thumb. "Nothing...
I'm just imagining
Mel looked back to Janice whose gaze followed Santos to where he was
the water collection team.
"Like what?" Mel persisted. "Something about
Santos?" She kept her voice low so only
Janice could hear.
"Yeah, he makes me nervous... the way he stands off like that from
"Oh, that's because he's Mayan."
"He's what?!!" Janice asked in surprise.
"He's full-blooded Mayan. Phillippe told me. They're kind of
distant, keep to themselves...
rarely marry outside their own people."
Janice's eyes drilled steadily into their guide at this information. It
anxiety up a notch.
"What else did Phillippe tell you?"
"Well, he's really got a rather sad story. He left Jamaica about a
year ago after
his wife and child were killed in a hurricane. He had no family left and
too painful to stay in Jamaica so he hired on to a cargo steamer and
ended up here,
working in the cane fields. Santos approached him two days ago and
offered him a lot of money
to join the expedition."
A discordant alarm clanged in Janice's mind. 'I thought Bill Killian
said all our
team members were long time trusted employees...'