User:Erastus/Serving the Sentence - Part 2

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Serving the Sentence - Part 2/14

Author: Erastus Centaur

Professor made sure that Piet and Taki trained David in how to use the rope ladders safely and how to do some simple rock climbing. Taki tried to assure David that they did not survey the steepest cliffs. David tried to tell Taki that it didn't matter as David wasn't going to be the one doing the surveying then.

Two weeks later, it was David's turn, his protests having been completely ignored. They -- David, Zane, Jack, and Amos -- were at the edge of a ravine. It was steep but not deep, though it would still hurt if you fell over the edge. It wasn't very wide either. There was just enough space at the bottom to walk on either side of the stream, which was currently dry.

The side of the ravine looked a lot steeper than David liked. Amos ignored the complaints as did Zane. Jack said, "Come on, ya wimp! A real man ain't afraid of a little height. A real man would even use the rock climbing rope, not this sissy ladder!"

So much for David not being the one to survey steep cliffs.

Zane and Jack lowered the rope ladder over the edge of the canyon. David watched carefully to make sure it was anchored firmly. Jack saw David's gaze and said in mock horror, "What? You don't trust me?" David rolled his eyes but said nothing.

David put the two-way radio over his head and said, "Testing."

Amos, wearing the radio's mate, responded with, "Roger."

David nodded. He also checked that his digital camera and GPS receiver were clipped to his belt and were working. Amos tapped at his computer to record David's commentary of the rock layers. Amos would transcribe it later.

Jack said, "Come on, kid, quit your dawdling." David glared at him for a moment, then eased himself over the edge and started down.

At each change in the rock formation, David paused to report on the color and type of the stone, whether it had visible fossils, how many rungs on the ladder he was from the top, and what the GPS gave as his altitude. He also took a few pictures. It didn't take long for the GPS to indicate that there were no satellites "visible."

An hour later, David was describing the lowest visible layer of stone. "The top of this stratum is still ten feet, uh, three meters above the ravine floor. It is sandstone, pink in color, and seems to be AAAAAaaaaaa..."

Amos winced as pulled the headphones away from his ears for a moment because of volume. He quickly recovered. "Dave!" Both Zane and Jack stared at Amos. "David! Are you there?"

Jack muttered, "The kid can't even manage a ladder."

"Quiet!" said Amos. "David! Answer me!" After a pause, Amos turned to Zane, "Can you see anything?"

"No," said Zane, peering over the edge. "There's an outcrop in the way." He tugged on the ladder. "I don't feel his weight on the ladder at all."

"David! Answer me!" cried Amos. Still nothing. "Should someone else start down?"

Before anyone could answer, Amos held up his hand for silence. "I heard a groan," Amos said softly. "David!"

Amos heard another groan, then faintly, "Yeah." After another short pause, "I'm here Amos."

"David, what happened?" Zane relaxed a bit on hearing that question. It wasn't filled with alarm. David had responded, at least.

"Just a sec -- the radio got knocked off." For a moment Amos heard rustling, then David's voice was clear. "I fell," said David. "Um. Since I'm still holding onto the ladder, it looks like the ladder broke."

Amos relayed the information to Zane and Jack. Jack muttered, "Little twerp," under his breath.

Zane glared at Jack. "And who was in charge of inspecting the ladder?"

Jack glared back. "I inspected it! Who knows what the fool kid did?"

"Are you hurt?" said Amos into the radio.

"Well," David paused, doing a physical inventory, "I think I have a bruise or two and I definitely have a headache from the bump on the back of my head. I also had the wind knocked out of me. I only fell a couple meters."

"Can you reach the end of the ladder?"

"Since I'm buried under about ten meters of my end of it, no, I can't."

"What does your end of the break look like," asked Amos. "Does it look frayed or cut?"

"Just a sec. Let me find it." A pause. "It looks cut."

When Amos relayed the news, Jack said, "Stupid kid can't even use a ladder right." He caught Zane's glare. "I mean, look! Get someone who can't stand still and the ropes rub against a rock outcrop which acts like a knife."

"Let's save the pieces to verify all that," said Zane.

"How about climbing on the rocks up to the end of the ladder?" Amos said to David.

"It looks pretty sheer and I don't have a rock-climbing rope. Didn't need one with the ladder."

"And where is that rock-climbing rope, Jack?" Zane asked pointedly.

"Back in camp," Jack said with a scowl. "Didn't need it with the ladder. Besides, the kid's no good with the rope."

"It looks like you're stuck down there for now," Amos said to David. "We'll have to send someone back to camp and get another ladder. Hold on. I'll stay up here and keep the radio on."

Hold on, he says, thought David. Holding on to my end of the ladder isn't going to do a thing for me. He felt recovered enough to first sit, and then stand, letting his end of the ladder fall in a heap.

Zane hauled up the top part of the ladder and inspected the broken end as he went to the jeep. Jack grabbed it out of Zane's hand to study it himself, then waved it Zane's face. "Yep, rubbed against an outcrop. Stupid kid." The ladder was stashed in the jeep and Zane and Jack took off for camp after yelling to Amos, "We'll be back as soon as possible." Amos waived after them.

After several minutes of silence, Amos said, "You OK, kid?"

"Yeah, I'm OK. It can't be too bad if I'm able to walk around. The headache is fading."

"Perhaps you should keep talking," said Amos. "Head injuries can do strange things."

"Yeah, I suppose. What should I talk... sshhh." David's voice dropped to a whisper. "I hear something coming."

David turned to the approaching sound. He was sure his yelp had attracted whomever it was that was coming. The locals in the area didn't seem to care for the research team. Would they try to take it out on him? He didn't have anywhere he could go except farther up the ravine. There weren't even good places to hide.

By the time he decided he could do nothing, the noise came around the last bend. It was a horse. Much to David's surprise, it was a horse without a rider, a horse without a halter. In this horse culture, a horse without a halter of some sort was strange.

The horse came up to David and looked him over. It went over to the broken ladder, still where David had left it, studied it a moment, pawed the broken ropes, then looked up the ravine wall. How does a horse know about rope ladders?

The horse was far enough away and standing at an angle so that David could tell it was female. He might be a city boy, but he knew enough to tell mare from stallion. She was a beautiful animal with dark brown fur and black legs, mane, and tail. She had a white stripe from between her ears almost to her nose.

David studied her studying the ladder. If a horse got into the ravine then someone as small as himself could certainly get out.

Well, no. He should wait for Zane to return.

The horse completed her inspection of the ladder and came back to David, again looking him over carefully. He reached out a hand to pet her, which she allowed. He said, "That's a good girl."

Amos spoke over the radio, "Who ya talkin' to?"

I forgot all about the radio, thought David. "That thing that was approaching turned out to be a horse."

"Just a horse? No rider?"

"Yeah, that's the strange part. This is a beautiful mare and there is no halter or anything. I thought all Mongolian horses were tamed and owned, but this one doesn't appear to be."

"I thought so too," said Amos.

The horse stood beside David for a moment and let him pet and admire her. She then put her nose against his chest and pushed, just enough for him to take a step backward.

"Whoa girl! What's that all about?"

"What's what all about?" said Amos.

"This horse stuck her nose on my chest and pushed me!"

David stroked her nose a while longer and idly thinking about horses in general, when she gave him another firm push in the chest. "Whoa!" He managed to avoid falling by grabbing the part of her mane that hung between her ears. She didn't move until he had a chance to steady himself. Then she pushed at him again. This time he was ready and sidestepped her. "Are you trying to tell me something?"

She pushed at him again, more gently but more persistently. David took a couple steps back, then he looped his arm around her neck and stepped beside her. "I think this will work better."

That seemed to satisfy the horse. She proceeded to walk towards the direction from which she had appeared.

David followed for a bit, then stopped, pointed upward, and said, "I can't go with you. I'm supposed to wait for my friends."

Amos chuckled through the radio. "Good luck arguing with a horse, kid. What is she doing?"

"I guess she's guiding me out the way she came in."

"David, I wonder if that bump on the head didn't scramble your brains?"

"My head's fine, Amos."

"You sure?"

The horse gave David another determined push with her nose. He caught his balance, then circled around her back to the broken ladder. She ambled over and pushed with her nose again. Definitely determined, though in no hurry.

"Amos? I gotta feeling she won't take no for an answer."

"David, please stay put! Zane called on the cell phone and said they have a flat tire. He said he called Piet, who is going to grab the other ladder and walk out to them. They're only a kilometer from camp. It will take some time for Piet to get there and to get the tire changed."

"Zane and Jack can't change a tire themselves?"

Amos chuckled. "They probably can, but Piet will get there before they finish."

The horse pushed again. David stepped back and found his foot blocked by a large boulder, causing him to sit on it. The horse turned so that her flank was in front of his face. He didn't have room to stand up. He swatted at her. She didn't move. He pulled his legs up and scrambled to stand on the boulder. He stepped to the side. She moved to stay in front of him. He stepped again; she still barred the way.

"Amos? I just figured out what his horse wants. She wants me to ride her."

"She may want it David, but you're the human. Just stay put."

David sat on the boulder with his feet pulled up. The horse waited a moment, then swung her head around to face him. She blew air through her lips, making a sound that sounded exactly like an exasperated parent. She then pushed him in the chest again. He grabbed onto the boulder to hang on, then swatted her on the nose. She didn't move away. She pushed again.

"Amos, this crazy horse in being awfully persistent. She won't let me just sit here. She keeps pushing me with her nose. I'm going to have to ride her."

"Have you ever ridden a horse before?"

"No. There aren't many horses in Cincinnati."

"I haven't ridden one either," said Amos, "so I can't give any pointers. Look David, your story is getting way too weird. I'm wondering if that bump has you seeing things. A horse insists you ride it? That's crazy."

"I'm not seeing things Amos! This horse is actually pushing me."

"Perhaps I should tell the guys to bring Lily along."

"No, Amos. I'm fine."

"It sure doesn't sound like it."

David looked the situation over for a moment. He realized why the horse guided him to the boulder. He was up just high enough so all he had to do was turn around and sit on her back.

He did so. He was amazed that the horse stood patiently until he was well settled with legs on either side and a good grip on the mane. As soon as he was settled, the horse ambled in the direction she had come.

"Well, Amos, I'm off. I don't know where I'm going."

"David! Every so often I think Jack is right about you. Either that or that bump knocked all sense out of your head. I'll personally make sure Lily has a good look at that noggin of yours when we get you back to camp."

"My head's fine! There really is a horse down here and she insists that I ride her. I can't just sit down here with a horse this pushy."

Amos sighed, "At least you can keep in contact, David. Give me your GPS when you can."

The horse didn't move very fast, which was just fine with David. It gave him time to study the sides of the ravine. He reported his general direction and some interesting features to Amos as long as he was in radio range.

Even though the radio was silent, David didn't dare turn it off. "Well, old girl, I guess we're on our own."

Part 1 * Part 2 * Part 3