Long hours the small team put in that day as they turned the approach to the creek into a minefield of cameras and sensors designed to surely entrap anyone daring to consider it a source of water or a spot to seek out game, and Einar wondered why so much focus was being placed on that particular area. Had they perhaps received a report of unusual activity centering on it, and if so, who had been advancing such activity? Hunters? Backpackers? Bud Kilgore himself, perhaps, but Einar doubted that one, as the place really was too close for comfort to the area around the basin, and Kilgore would know that, surely wouldn’t choose it as a decoy location, a place to which to draw the attention of the search…unless they had already turned their eyes in the general direction, and he simply couldn’t get them any further away without arousing their suspicion as to his intent. In any event, they seemed thoroughly absorbed in their work along the approach to the creek, and he would be just fine so long as he didn’t try and approach it. Which was becoming increasingly difficult to avoid doing, his thirst growing through the day and no seep or spring presenting itself as he trailed the men, his only source of moisture being the bits of icy snow he was able to find and salvage from the shadowy sides of rocks and spruces, rare but greatly welcome when he did locate them. Down that low, the recently fallen snow had almost entirely gone, a benefit to a man having to spend much of the day lying flat on his stomach beneath one fallen log or another watching his would-be captors lace the forest with sensors, but not so beneficial when it came to quenching thirst. The thirst did not matter. He could drink another day. Or so he told himself.
Keep your eyes on the target down there…targets…and your mind will follow. You could do this for days. Have done, at times. Sometimes it takes that long, and everything else has to come second to keeping them in view, waiting for the right moment… Which moment he knew probably would not come, must not come, for if he took out the two men as seemed at times the wisest and perhaps only course of action--they were, after all, a bit too close to his safe haven and were clearly intent on his discovery and capture--he would only be inviting a major renewal of the active search right there in the valley below his basin, and with Kilgore there, he doubted the pair would be allowed to do much real harm, anyway. Half considered at that point taking his leave of the entire area, making his way around very carefully up to the basin and going home, but could not justify in his mind taking that kind of risk, leaving the men on their own--even if Kilgore was there with them--to perhaps work their way in closer to the home place and possibly see their smoke, call in a report…no, he had to keep an eye on them, make certain they never came close enough to do any such thing and haunt the edges of their camp until finally they finished their work and departed. Liz would be worried about his extended absence, but at least she would be safe. Unless the baby had decided to insist on putting in an early appearance, in which case he definitely ought to be up there with her. No way to know that, though, and no sense in going home before he’d seen to it that the team left the area without ending up any closer to the basin than they already were. Difficult time for both of them, but he could see no real way around it, would simply have to do his best to explain his decision to Liz, when the time came.
Unable to satisfy his growing thirst and increasingly preoccupied with it, Einar didn’t think much about eating that day, nibbling half-heartedly every now and then on a spruce needle or digging a grub from the punky softness of a rotten aspen log, careful not to leave much sign of his activity, not to do anything that would be likely to draw the attention of that scouting party should they later stumble across it, and though during all those long hours he was far too focused on his mission to feel hunger as more than a fleeting sensation, he was by the middle of the day beginning to have a difficult time overlooking the growing weakness and exhaustion its presence brought him. Body needed fuel after all the miles he’d covered those past few days, and he knew he was in for a long, cold night in its absence. No matter. He’d be too busy to give it much notice. And was, until somewhere towards the end of the afternoon the men stopped moving and sat down in a sunny clearing for what appeared to be a belated lunch break and siesta. Tempted to go in search of water while they took their rest--looked as though they intended to be at it for a while, one of the men having actually reclined against a tree, appearing asleep, or very close to it--Einar restrained himself, the thought occurring to him that perhaps they were hoping for just such a slip, hoping to catch him in their snare while still on site and able to respond immediately and take him. He wouldn’t fall for it. Would wait. And did.
Weary. Dozing. Fighting it, but not entirely succeeding, sun warm on his back where it fell in slanting, late afternoon patches through the trees and his targets not moving, nothing changing down there and he knew he’d better move, find some way to keep himself awake because he could feel himself shutting down, everything slowing down as his body took full advantage of the stillness to force him closer and closer to sleep, oblivion, not now, had to pull himself out of it…head snapped upright and he knew he’d failed, at least for a second, took a hasty look down at the little clearing to find the men, much to his relief but also somewhat to his surprise, still to be resting, sprawled out now in the grass as if napping in earnest, and he saw that Kilgore had joined them in their repose, but doubted the tracker was really sleeping. Something far too alert, too poised about the way he carried himself, even in rest. Those guys better watch out, or he’s gonna tamper with the sensors while they laze around… With which he was himself dozing once more, not wanting to do it but seeming entirely unable to stay awake. It would be alright. He’d know if they moved, would hear something, sense the movement and spring back to wakefulness in plenty of time to…
Panic. Terror. Blind screaming panic-stricken terror, it tried to seize him, send him off at a dead run into the timber but he resisted, kept still for a fraction of a second more, head on his knees, eyes closed, listening, trying to determine just what had awakened him, and precisely where the threat might lie, before making his move. Probably only had one move, time for one move before they made theirs, and it had better be the right one if he wanted out of this. Which he most certainly did. Might already be too late, for he was sure he’d heard the unmistakable rustle and crunch of stealthy human footsteps in the dry grass; likely as not, they had him surrounded. Or not. Half a second passed in slow, regimented increments, his mind was clearer, and so was the situation. Breathing. He heard breathing, and the man was alone and it was enough. All the information he needed. Time to act.