05 August, 2012
5 August 2012
That second pass proved to be the last one at least for a time, plane circling the basin once and continuing on down the valley to fade into the distance, silence returning. It was a strained, uncomfortable silence, Einar barely daring to breathe as he waited, eyes locked on the ceiling and ears searching, searching for any hint of the plane’s return. Not that a continuing silence would be a guarantee of safety. The thing could have disgorged a jumper or two over ridge or basin to drift silently to the ground beneath snow-white canopies and work their way efficiently down to the cabin, watching its occupants and striking when either he or Liz were outside, the two of them separated and unable to face the threat together, and it would all be over before either of them had any indication of trouble. Certainly a thought which had occurred to him before, nearly every time the unwelcome buzz of a plane had sounded above the basin, in fact, and numerous times he’d gone over the possibilities in his mind, tried to come up with the scenario that gave them the best chance of coming through such an encounter, and not one of the potentially successful ones had them staying in the cabin after the introduction of the threat. They’d have a difficult enough time simply putting a bit of distance between themselves and their would-be captors, traveling through the snowy backcountry without leaving sign so clear it could be followed from the air, and if they waited until the threat presented itself at their doorstep…well, that left them with no chance at all.
Not that it was relevant, any of it. In his haste to explore all scenarios and put their escape plan into effect, he had failed to note a very basic and, to the even-slightly trained ear, obvious detail. Liz had not failed to note it, and seeing him deep in thought--thoughts about whose nature and direction she hardly had to ask--she spoke as the plane returned for another, lower pass.
“Sounds like an awfully small plane, doesn’t it?”
Einar jumped as if she’d stuck him with a pin, taken rather off guard by her having spoken during the plane’s approach, and it took him a moment to decide if he had any intention of answering. Yes. She had a point. It was, of course, an awfully small plane, probably even an ultralight by the sound of it, the way it seemed to struggle up over the ridge and keep mostly to the basins and valleys, and suddenly he wanted very badly to get a look at the thing, confirm its size and nature and provide himself, at least, with some assurance that it wouldn’t have provided a suitable platform for inserting a team intent on taking them. Out through the tunnel then, Liz diving at his foot as he went and missing by inches, not sure why the sudden urgency to be out of the cabin but certain that it wouldn’t be the least bit wise to have him running around out there leaving tracks and showing up against the new snow with a plane so low over the place. He was gone though, and she had no intent of following, crouching instead by the bed, and Will, concentrating on the sound of the plane for any telltale change which might indicate that
it’s occupants had spotted Einar and were doubling back for a closer look.
Einar, meanwhile, had not left the tunnel at all but knelt breathlessly in its mouth, craning his neck and squinting up through the timber in the hopes of catching even a small glimpse of the aircraft, an effort which was rewarded less than a minute later by the glancing light of the afternoon sun on an angled wing as the craft turned, a tiny thing, single-seater, for sure, and he breathed a sigh of relief at the intruders who were now no longer nearly as likely to be down there in the basin stashing their chutes and preparing for the quick snowshoe up to the cabin, rifles at the ready but dart guns more handy still…
The plane looped about once more, dropping, heading down the valley. From inside he would have called it circling and would have believed the basin itself to be the focus, but with the occasional glimpse allowed him by the heavy timber and nearby cliffs, he was able to see that the craft was simply turning in time to avoid having to climb up and over the ragged, jagged wall of thirteen thousand-plus foot rock which jutted skyward in a cirque-like dead end at the head of the valley, a feat of which he suspected it was likely incapable even had the pilot desired. So. Strange indeed that the plane should have chosen their little valley and basin as the focus of its explorations, but at least the cabin area itself did not seem to be the main focus. Listening to the faint buzz and whir of the tiny craft as it disappeared once more down the valley--final time, I sure hope--he turned and crept a bit shakily back to the cabin, met Liz’s inquiring glance with a slight nod.
“Gone again. And yes, it’s a small one. Little ultralight, no room inside for…”
“You were thinking there would be passengers?”
“Never know. Figured it could be skiers or…well, not real relevant now, but one of my first thoughts was that they’d found us, were dropping a team in to surround the place. But you were right. Could have told from the sound that the plane was too small to hold more than one or two people, certainly not a team, by any means. Don’t like that I couldn’t tell that. I’m sorry.”
“No need. You went and checked, and now we know.”
He nodded, silently returned to slicing jerky, struggling to see by the faint glow of the single candle they’d allowed themselves in the absence of the fire, a bit of warmth and light by which to work. The jerky would dry far more slowly in the absence of fire, but it would still dry, provided they could keep Muninn from tangling with a string and bringing the entire operation crashing down as he’d done once before. The bird had been given quite a talk after that incident, and, though mischievous as ever, did not appear to Einar particularly likely to make a go at the fresh strings of jerky. Had been uncharacteristically quiet, actually, since the first appearance of that plane, noting, no doubt, the air of intense listening with which the two humans had greeted its presence. Now that things were relaxing just a bit in the cabin he was moving again, hopping to the floor and staring with bright, curious eyes at the strings of drying jerky so that Liz, knowing how tightly wound Einar must be at the moment and wanting to avoid having raven soup for their supper if at all possible, distracted him with the offer of a scrap of venison from the chunk she’d been slicing up. Chortling happily, Muninn accepted the gift, edged closer to the area where Liz was working, seeing perhaps even more clearly than she had the wisdom of avoiding Einar for the time being, and greatly hoping for more snacks.