The Name's Mackenzie, By The Way...


conanjaguar

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Finally, my PC has been repaired! Back to Great Bear I go! Only... I've probably gotten rusty over my absence and I don't want to risk losing my current run to a dumb mistake until I'm fully ready to tackle it! So, here goes on Wintermute, Hardened Survivor difficulty:

***

The Joker. Figures. That smug little wolf face ruined a perfect run of solitaire. I pour myself another shot from the half-empty bottle of whisky that sits on the desk in front of me, take a sip, and relish the slow burning feeling. Booze may not actually make you warmer, but it feels like it... which is good. It's cold in here, has been for a few weeks now since the heater conked out. Maybe I should light a fire? Yeah... a nice warm fire would feel good right about now and give me something to do besides play cards and get hammered.

I check the area around the desk and find some old newspapers, a few cedar logs, and a box of matches. Perfect. I get ]on my creaky old knees and light up the equally creaky and equally old wood stove. This baby is an antique, I picked it up at Bubba's for just a few dollars and its worth every penny of it. No gas, no electricity, just fire.

I spend a few minutes walking around the hangar, grumbling at the cheap electric hotplate, and reminiscing about the good old days. My beloved floatplane, especially, was a major part of those days... I'd sure love to give her one last great adventure.

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Presently I feel tired and decide it's time to take a nap. After a few hours of sleep in the cot in my room, I am rudely awakened by the telephone ringing in my office. I try to ignore it and go back to sleep but whoever is calling is persistent and the phone keeps ringing.

Grumpily, I get to my feet and stomp into the office, where the stove is still burning nicely. I pick up the phone and, putting on my best "you just woke me from a good nap now what the hell do you want" voice, say "Yes?". It's Maureen. She babbles about trying to stop her "but she wouldn't listen! She's on her way now!" She won't tell me who "she" is but I have a suspicion I know exactly who "she" is.

No sooner do I put the phone back on the hook than the door opens and "she" walks in. Astrid. My Astrid.

"Wha - what are you doing here?" The words stumble out. I notice her face is deathly pale. "Are you sick?"

"No," she replies curtly. "I'm not, but somebody else is. That's why I'm here. I need to fly to Great Bear so I can help them. I need someone who won't ask questions. Someone I can trust."

I shake my head. "The weather out there is bad. BAD. And it's getting worse. You walk in here after... years, and expect me to fly you to some remote island just because you asked me to?"

"Yes."

That's good enough for me. Astrid doesn't do these sorts of things unless she has a damn good reason. I do have just one question, however. "What's in the case?" It's metal and apparently very heavy, secured by a combination. There's a biohazard symbol on the side; that's never good.

"See, there's this thing about no questions".

And just like that, I have to load Astrid's stuff into the plane. She travels light... her pack and the case add up to just 10 kilos. With two passengers and about a dozen crates of books and sodas, that leaves almost no room for cargo. We can take along a distress pistol kit, emergency food, and medical supplies. It's a hard choice; should anything go wrong, any of them would easily save our lives. I scribble the advantages and disadvantages of each in my notebook to help my decide.

A few minutes later, I'm still trying to decide what to take when Astrid tells me that we don't have time to fool around and shoves me none too gently into the pilot's seat. I quickly run through the usual preflight checks and we're off. I wanted one last great adventure, and it seems I will be getting it.

Edited by conanjaguar
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After about an hour or so of steady flying and making small talk about the past, we eventually arrive over Great Bear. It's even more remote than I remember it being, there are kilometers upon kilometers of trackless wilderness and a few old towns that were probably built in the 30s. Or there should be towns, anyway, I can't see the lights... down below, anyway. The lights up here are really impressive. And then there is an explosion. Every electrical instrument and panel in the cockpit sparks and dies, and we're going down. The controls won't respond, we're too low to use parachutes... looks like this is it, I think, as the plane slams into the fork of a tree. I go through the windshield and fall for about 50 meters into a ravine. Fortunately the trees broke my fall, but I still hit the ground hard enough to black out.

An eternity later, I come back to consciousness. PAINFUL consciousness. I have a sharp chunk of metal in my hand so deep that it's sticking out the other side and my ankle hurts like hell. Hopefully it isn't broken. I rip out the chunk of metal, bandage myself with a bandage I conveniently have in my pockets (as well as an empty tin can, not sure how that got there), and call for Astrid. No response, only the crackling of flames from the burning debris surrounding me. In spite of that, I've never been so cold in my life. I just want to lay down for a bit... but no! I need to find Astrid! IF I can get out of here alive, that is...

There's a cave in the far wall of the ravine. I hobble over to it, checking luggage on the way for a pack of matches and breaking some of those crates for firewood. I light a fire in the cave, add as much fuel I can to it, and then collapse in a pile of moss. It smells like a dog shelter and there are bones laying around, but I don't care... at least it's warm(er). I drift off into a fitful sleep...

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Scratch what I said yesterday, I've never been THIS cold in my life. The fire went out at some point during the... day. It looks like the sun is beginning to set. It's going to get even colder soon.

I realize I'm not just cold, but hungry and thirsty as well. I scrounge the ravine for supplies and find some more fuel and a can of soda. Fortunately, it's not a diet soda, which means it has at least a few calories... I gulp it down greedily after thawing it out beside the fire. This is the first time I've ever turned down cold soda. I'm still thirsty after drinking it, so I scoop some snow into the tin can I'm carrying (seriously, WHY do I have it?) and boil some water over the fire. Nobody wants to drink hot water, so I crush up some rose hips from a nearby bush and steep them in the water before transferring it to a porcelain cup that I pulled out of the air. It's bitter, but it's hot and a source of more calories. I used to eat rose hips as a kid and they never killed me...

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After I drink the hot tea, I feel a bit better and can think more clearly. The pain is also subsiding... maybe because of the rose hips? Nonetheless, I'm still hungry and cold, and I need to get out of this ravine and find Astrid! The only way out appears to be across a fallen tree and then a whole lot of climbing... I pull a few burning chunks of wood for the fire to use as crude torches for a bit more warmth and decide to go for it. The log is covered in snow and very slippery, but fortunately I make it across without falling to my death. On the other side I find a dead deer... who knows how long it's been laying there? No, I'm not that desperate.

I size up the climb. The rocks have lots of handholds in the form of outcroppings, ledges, and rose bushes, so it's fairly easy, even with my injured hand. I scratch myself on some thorns on the rose bushes but don't notice because my hands are numb from the cold. After about 20 minutes of this I make it to the top, where I am greeted by the corpse of my plane, caught in the fork of a tree like a frog caught in a forked stick. Poor girl... she didn't deserve to go out this way. I scavenge the area for anything useful and find my parka, some meds from Astrid's pack, and the mysterious case. It's apparently undamaged by the fall; it's still unopened and locked. Astrid was ready to die for this case... I hope she hasn't already died for it.

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I look around the area for a few more minutes and find a shred of blue cloth hanging from a sharp point on a tree branch. Astrid must have come through here... meaning she didn't die in the crash. The piece of cloth looks like it was torn or cut intentionally, which means she's uninjured, or at least uninjured enough to leave a signal and walk away. I go the only way there is to go... through a "tunnel" or valley of sorts between rocks that looks like it was dynamited at some point, long ago. Coal mining used to be a big deal in this area, I remember.

Presently, as I crest a hill, I hear what sounds like... chewing. Loud, noisy, chewing, like a dog going at a tough steak. It's not a dog, but close enough. A single wolf has its snout buried in the guts of a deer carcass and is apparently making quite the meal of it. I immediately go prone and army-crawl around it, giving it a wide berth. Wolves are dangerous, and they typically don't live alone.

After that close call, I arrive at a pleasant little frozen-over pond. My growling stomach reminds me that I need to find food. There are some cattails growing on the edges of the pond that I harvest and gnaw on for a few extra calories. There are also some rabbits... and some handy rocks to throw at them. Rabbits are meat on the hoof, and I used to be a pretty good pitcher back in middle school. So... I throw rocks at them, and hit three for three. I don't throw hard enough to kill the rabbits, unfortunately... so I have to run up to them while they're stunned and snap their necks as they stare into my soul with their beady black eyes and wiggle their noses.

I'm not desperate enough to tear them apart by hand and eat them raw... I'll light a fire as soon as I can get out of this blasted wind!

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