1: Exploration

A single steam train travelled its eighty mile journey from London to Southampton, dragging it’s two passenger carts behind in the process. The steam bellowed from the train, spreading outwards into the atmosphere as a white and grey cloud, a cruel reminder of industrialisation to the nature that filled the surrounding area. The puffing of the engine and the clanging of the wheels on the tracks was all that could be heard as it continuously chugged towards its destination.

Within the front passenger carriage sat two men, facing each other from across the barrier of a table. One man, dressed in the conventional equatorial explorer outfit of a cream coat and trousers, brown leather long boots and cream hard helmet. His face was closely shaven while his bright green eyes stared into the small handbook which acted as an exploration diary, well drawn maps of the Yucatan area of Mexico with several points circled nearby the city of Merida and the nearby coastline followed by short hand notes outlining the presence of Mayan temples and settlements, an effort to figure out a pattern.

The other man, dressed in the same attire, silently read through the most recent newspaper. This individual exhibited a much more refined posture and etiquette when compared to his companion, licking his thumb before turning a page only to find a story of slight relevance.

“Ah, Garth, there’s an article here about Captain Phage.” The man stated, surprised at what he had begun to read,

The other man, Garth, slapped his handbook shut before leaning forward against the table, a highly inquisitive look plagued across his face as he attempted to read the paper upside down. “What does it say?” He questioned, impatient at the failure of upside down reading,

“It’s just outlining his point of view during his captivity  by the Zulu barbarians.” The man replied, struggling to read and talk at the same time, “Apparently it wasn’t really something that could be defined as a ‘capture’. He said they treated him well and taught him something about the body.”

“Yeah, what did they say?”

“Just some bollocks about life energy -magic basically-, they told him that he’s some special man who can influence the calamity of the world.”

“He is a captain,”

“It’s a load of bull. Who would believe this?”

Garth leaned back against his chair, his gaze directed towards the static natural scene of bright green as the train charged through it. “Perhaps it’s just their pagan religion, Damien. Some, like me, would believe it to be that.” He replied, his mind working hard while trying to put things together. It wasn’t like this information would be helpful to the two’s expedition, after all, they weren’t travelling to Africa.

“Whatever, I’ll have to question this man about it.” Damien dismissed the archaeologist’s words, returning to his newspaper as the train sounded it’s whistle, stating it’s near arrival to the final destination.

It took a lot of hesitation, a promise to return to the military in order to risk his life for the Empire. Yet, this first job he had been assigned; a job to get him back into the swing of discipline, the use of a firearm, and being prepared for action at all times. However, this hesitation originated from the request of no red uniform. What soldier would not wear his uniform? What captain would not wear his uniform? It wasn’t something to deny, it would make sense to hide the fact that a British soldier was visiting foreign lands.

At the station of Southampton stood Captain John Phage, dressed in a newly purchased explorer outfit, a small pocket watch in his hand as he sighed at the late arrival of the next train. The sounds of the train pierced through the air as it loudly screeched to a stop, the massive clouds of steam and smoke slowly dissipated as the activity of the boiler slowly decreased. From the front carriage emerged the passengers that journeyed within, each collecting their luggage from the trolleys that were carefully pushed into the station. Within these crowds came Garth and Damien, their own luggage already collected as they searched through the sea of faces for the one recognisable face they needed.

“You two must be Damien Goldsworth and Garth McLoughton,” A voice spoke out, situated beside the two graduates, the source was quickly found as the two’s eyes were drawn towards it; Captain Phage. The sight of the man himself, dressed in the attire as expected when hiring him, brought relief between the two. It was expected to meet the man at the station, and for him to kindly oblige to this request is definitely something that suited a loyal man.

“And you must be Captain Phage,” Damien greeted, holding his hand out to John to initiate a formal handshake, “It’s a pleasure to see you again,”

Garth joined in with the formalities, taking John’s hand after Damien, “I believe this is our first time, I’m Garth, the Archaeologist.”

John’s face switched to realisation as his assumptions of the explorers were corrected, “Ah, so Damien is the historian. I must have mixed your subjects up, how was Egypt?” His question was directed towards Damien,

“Very hot,” Damien replied in jest, sparking chuckles throughout the three before turning towards the exit of the platform, “Shall we save our talk for the open seas? We have a private ship waiting for us.”

Garth followed closely to Damien as they wondered toward the exit, John followed behind after a small pause of confusion. For how Damien seemed extremely formal and organised, it would be expected for him to keep a tight schedule; yet, his blunt rush was something else.

Upon reaching the port of Southampton by horse and cart, the three were quickly welcomed by the small crew of a steamboat named ‘SS Expedite’. They had been patiently waiting at the port for a few days after being hired, automatically assuming they were needed on the day they were contacted. Of course, after the captain of the boat had shared his annoyance to Damien, he was quickly put to silence as the assumption was proven to be wrong with a date given in the contract itself. No further payments would be made for the wait which had left the rest of the crew angry with their captain. To make up for the long wait, Damien had decided to alter his schedule to set off immediately; the sailor’s faces lit up with the hints of adventure resting on the horizon, destroying the negative atmosphere and bringing life back to the steamboat as the boilers were started, passengers boarded, and commands were beckoned to the crew by their captain.

That evening, with the pumping of the steam and smoke trailing from the lone funnel, the sound of the sea softly crashing against the sides of the vessel. Within the passenger’s cabin, decorated with a variety of maps, artwork and trinkets; Damien, Garth and John stood around a circular table, a map of the Gulf of Mexico strewn across it with knifes holding the corners in place on this wooden instalment.

“…After using all information Damien could give me on Mayan religion and nature, along with the recorded locations of pyramids and settlements, I have determined a small gap in this pattern.” Garth explained, pointing at circled areas on the map, each circle joined by lines which gave a strange, unfinished circle. “The locations of these temples seem to make a strange shape, while also being placed in specialised geometric locations, but there’s something missing.” He pointed to an area in the north eastern spots of Merida, “There should be something here.”

“So we’re chasing after your speculations?” John questioned, his arms crossed as he shook his head,

“Not speculations, the religious nature of the natives back up this hypothesis.” Damien added bluntly, dismissing John’s words,

“That’s right. I’ve requested a native to accompany us on this expedition, they will act as a translator while also giving us information on the Mayan lore.”

“Ma-what?” John was not following the terms given to him, he was always told that barbarian natives are to be killed, not hired.

“The natives are called ‘Mayans’, they built these temples hundreds of years ago before having them fall to ruin once the Spanish conquistadors landed.” Damien explained, his voice showing annoyance as he realised how ill-informed their escort was.

“Just listen to what I’ve theorised,” Garth begged, tired with the constant interruptions while holding the need to get his thoughts out of his head to allow the expedition to take place smoothly. For all they knew, there would be a simple temple located in the area Garth had highlighted, allowing them to explore and study what was held within before heading back to England to report their findings.

However, little did the three explorers knew that their ‘simple’ expedition would change their lives. Upon setting foot on the lands of Yucatan, Mexico, the great story of conflict had begun…

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