The morning sun was touching the peaks and casting shadows into the fog filled steep jungle canyons in the southern Andes. A helicopter was slowly moving up into the higher elevations.  It stayed low following the valley floors until the valley ended below a towering peak. It then rose over the flanking side of the valley and dropped into the next valley.  Rodrigues Valtrone, the pilot, followed the terrain to nearly 18,000 feet before breaking out over a flat rock strewn barren plateau that stretched for miles to the north. The western boundary of the plateau was lined with snow covered peaks rising over 21,000 feet.

The helicopter landed briefly.  There was no hint that the plateau was sliced by hundreds of narrow, deep canyons with jungle covered walls.  Fifty feet above the plateau surface the terrain looked like it had sharp wrinkles. 

From a higher elevation the view of the plateau was that of a green labyrinthine maze two thousand feet deep.

Rodrigues took the helicopter to altitude fifteen feet above the plateau and skimmed along the surface going north. At this altitude they avoided any radar that might exist. 

As the helicopter flew along the flat surface of the plateau it would pass over a fog filled void and drop twenty to thirty feet because of the loss of the air under the blades pushing against the ground. Rodrigues had to increase the engine speed to compensate for the loss of ground effect and force the helicopter up before he reached the wall on the opposite side of the void seconds later.   “If we go down in here,” he said to himself out loud, “there is no way of finding our way out. There are no maps of the area and no communications in the deep canyon.”

He flew two miles and passed over three canyons. “We are at the coordinates,” he said.

“We see you on the screen, Roddy. Looks good.  Start down.”

"Roger that Iceberg", Rodrigues answered and started a slow descent.  At this altitude maneuverability was difficult.   Two guns were mounted on the left side.  The gun operators methodically scanned the near vertical cliffs.

The voice crackled in the pilot’s earphones. We’ve lost two groups in there in the last three weeks.  The second was a rescue effort.  That is two helicopters and ten men.

The pilot is talking to a geologist at their home base on the Antarctic.

Mark Stark, Chief Geologist for Global Oil Exploration, sat in front of two computer screens. “Roddy,” he said into the headset he was wearing. “The static is building. If you lose me pop back up for a few seconds so we can coordinate.”  Mark raises his eyes from the computer screens and looks up at the gray corrugated steel liner of the Quonset hut buried under the ice.

Bob Grant, the operations manager for the Antarctic base camp for GOE, sat across the room looking through a microscope at thin slices of rock. “Tell them to stay below Chilean radar.  We don’t have permission to be there.”

“Relax Bob, they know that.”

“Roddy, where did you go?  We lost your GPS coordinates.“

Rodrigues took the helicopter up to the ridgeline just below the level of the plateau. “The walls here are so steep and the orientation is such that once we drop two hundred feet below the ridge line we lose the Global Positioning Satellite connection.  Those satellites don’t look straight down.   We might as well be under water.  Just remember our last position after you lose our position. I’ll pop up when we jump into the next canyon.” 

A mist rose from the trees carpeting the slopes.  The morning sun cast a chopper shadow onto the mist like a projector.  Something flashed in the next valley. Craig Ehrin the machine gun operator shouted. “Did you see that, something reflecting, shiny, over there.”

The pilot rises over the ridge and drops down.”Where?”

“A little lower.”

“I don’t see anything except some patches of wet rock,” Rodrigues says. “Looks like slabs of mica.  Only sun reflecting off a wet cliff.” 

“Whoa,” Craig shouts.  “There is another flash down there on the shadow side.  See it?” 

Bart Woldonski scans the area.

“What do you find?”  Craig says, “There has to be something there.”

The chopper descended further below the ridgeline and moved sideways lower to the other side of the chasm.  Bart patiently scanned the futuristic looking device mounted on a gun turret back and forth.  “We don’t scan a thing.”

>“Do you have the right patterns?”  Mark asked from the ice bound Quonset hut.

“We calibrated before we left this morning.” Bart answered. “Ten patterns.”

“Switch over to IR.” 

Bart turned a knob and set the lock switch above the decal that read DNAS/INFRARED to ON and continued the scan.

“Some small signatures moving around pretty fast, down there, one hundred fifty feet.  They have to be monkeys.  It’s vertical and covered with trees and vines. What else could move that fast”

Mark Stark has been listening to the conversation in the helicopter and turned the headset switch to play through speakers in the room so Bob could hear.  “Get in as close as you can,” Mark said to Rodriques.

“If I get any closer the blades will turn green.” 

>Radio starts to breakup. The canyon walls are interfering with transmission.

The chopper descended deeper in the green void.

Bart shouts, “There is nothing down here.  Even the monkeys have disappeared from the IR screen.”

“What caused the flash?” Rodriquez asked.

Craig shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe it was reflection off the window projecting onto a shiny leaf or something.  Maybe I imagined it.”

“If we go any deeper we won’t have much room to maneuver except vertical,” Rodrigues says. 

The static in Rodrigues's headset started to dominate.

“Go up the valley a ways,” Mark says.  “Then try the next valley. I think that is where Wayne’s chopper went down.” 

Rodriquez said, “Mark, I can barely hear what you are saying through the static. Say again, you are breaking….” Before he can finish the sentence with “up” he looks to his left and was startled by what he saw.  “What the hell,” he murmured. Then he shouted, “NETS”

Huge nets shot out from the jungle cliffs.  Like those thrown by fisherman.  They flew out from both sides of the narrow chasm and descend on the helicopters blades.  The blades break rocks fastened to the edges of the nets.  The rotor tangled in the ropes and rocks.  The tail rotor jammed and the helicopter started to spin wildly.  It rotated three times before hitting trees on the sunny side of the canyon walls.  Helicopter number three started a steep crash into the narrow valley floor two thousand feet below.

At the listening station the crackling static stopped.

Mark looked at Bob, “With his accent and static did he say nuts or nets?”


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