I left Dersuss in a haze of anger and confusion. First of all, the anger. It was all-consuming. The confusion came in because I couldn’t figure out why. But the why didn’t bother me until after some time had passed. When I left him at the trader’s station- which was really nothing more than an old man living in a shack between the Upper Buffalo valley and Huntsville – I think I actually threw gravel in his face with the spinning tires of the Jeep.
The anger burned so hot, I even made it down the crumbling access to White River and onto the barge without the fear that gripped me on the way over the first time. I don’t even remember getting off of it and back onto the pot-hole riddled ex-highway.
My debriefing at Headquarters amounted mostly to a long, expletive-filled rant about being abandoned by the man they’d assigned me to for mentoring. At the end of the day, they gave me an apartment to stay in and get some rest. I’d have an appointment with the company doctor the next day to be examined. But for the first night in what felt like years, I had a real bed to sleep in and a shower to enjoy. It had only been a few weeks since I’d first walked into the architectural oddity that was A.R.S.A. But I walked out of it that day a changed person. An angry one. And one with a vengeance, and a new mission in life that would underly everything I’d ever do from that day forward.
First, though, I needed curare. My weapon of choice was a blow gun I’d gotten as a coming of age gift in the rain forest of xxx. My parents were medical missionaries and were there doing research on plants. In the years there, I sort of assimilated with the tribe. Even the girls got to learn how to hunt, but it was the men who gathered and prepared the sacred curare that we used.
Even though I hated to give Dersuss any kind of credit at all, there were two things he’d given me before I left that made me grudgingly thankful. A tip on where to go to find more curare, and a body suit made of some strange fabric that rendered me invisible.
I’d taken to wearing the suit underneath my clothes at all times. It felt like a second skin and never made me too hot in spite of being an extra layer. I’d never needed to use it, but I wore it nonetheless. In the little pockets I also had a pair of gloves and a tight-fitting baclava that even covered my eyes. The fabric was so thin I could see right through it with no trouble at all. Ha. I spent quite a bit of time in front of the mirror just marveling at the thing.
But I still hated the man and couldn’t wait to track him down and kill him. First, though, I had one more hunt on Avery to finish. And before that I needed to get the curare while I was in the vicinity of the one spot I knew I could find it. There was no telling where I’d have to go to find Avery next.
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