This story begins in Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas. A couple of travellers are stranded there in the middle of the night. What happens to them is totally unexpected.
Deep in the jungles of Peru lay a secret city, hidden in mystery on a ridge among the Andes mountains. Occasional animal sounds from the jungle below broke the eerie silence surrounding the ruin of Machu Picchu. The late night darkness was lessened somewhat by a three quarters full moon, which cast its silver light on the city. The stone structures of a bygone civilization were singled out in shadowy relief, when a sudden CRAAAAAAAACK of lightening illuminated the Temple of the Sun.
The strike sent a deep boom of thunder echoing through the tropical valleys that surrounded the mountain, along with a thick smell of ozone. That smell was unusual so close to the ground, since lightening typically only produces ozone several miles up in the troposphere.
An intricately built travel platform came to rest on the huge rock in the centre of the temple. Inca high priests had once sacrificed animals on the rock during sacred rituals. A female traveller coughed and sneezed from the ozone, as her male companion checked his wristband. His expression showed that he was more than a little annoyed to see that all the bright little dials had gone dark. He shook his wrist violently, but couldn't even get a little spark of life.
"That won't help, Manfred. I already tried it. The force field enclosure is gone, and I don't know how to get it back," she remarked.
He ignored her and fiddled with the dials, tapping them lightly. She shrugged, then stepped out onto the rock. A bit of moonlight penetrated the darkness of the roofless structure, but there were still deep shadows from the surrounding walls.
"Uhhhh!" A sudden gasp of air was forced from her lungs as she slid haphazardly down the rock's sloped side.
Manfred trained his small travel beacon toward the sound of her voice. She sat in a disgruntled heap at the bottom of the rock.
"What are you doing down there, Hazel?"
"Plotting world domination, you dunce, what do you think I'm doing? I fell."
"Oh. Well ... are you hurt?"
"No, just my dignity. It's a good thing I'm thick skinned." Hazel grumbled.
Manfred joined her at the bottom, and trained his beacon upwards.
"What an odd place to put a landing pad. Did the booking agent say anything about it, when you made arrangements for this overnight rest stop on the way home?"
"No, she just said that we would be comfortable. So far I'm not comfortable." Her voice had a cranky tone to it. She was usually better tempered. She hadn't been all that well for the past few weeks.
He walked toward the door opening, with the beacon trained on the floor. The last thing he needed was to fall into a drop off. Hazel followed Manfred outside, and stood beside him as he increased the beam of his travel beacon to illuminate the surrounding area. They followed a well marked path until they reached the main plaza. A low whistle escaped him as he saw the terraces and stone structures which were all that remained of the once great city of the Incas.
"Something is wrong, Hazel. There's nothing here. The structures don't have roofs. There are no signs of habitation, no communication tower for incoming and outgoing traffic. This does not look like a place that's open for business. I don't like the look of this at all. Let's go back to the platform and see if we can get it functioning again."
"We can't do much in the dark, Manfred. Besides, our accommodations have already been arranged. Someone will be expecting us. Maybe our landing coordinates were put off course when you jostled me. I was entering our destination on the location grid, so who knows what indicators were hit when I fell forward onto the system. The platform took off before I could readjust anything. If we're lost, it's because you're so clumsy." Irritation crept into her voice.
"If we're lost, it's because you left our gear right where I could fall over it!"
Her sudden silence, when she would normally give him a quick comeback indicated her change in mood. He lessened the beam on the beacon and trained it on her face, where he could see a few tears trickling down. He went over and put his arm around her.
"I'm sorry, my dear. I didn't mean to upset you. You're right, we could just be off course a bit. You have your own beacon, so you can keep it on low beam to pin point your position. I'm going to seek higher ground to get a better look at our situation."
"Alright, I'll sit down on this nice patch of grass and rest. Don't take too long, or I might stretch out right here and go to sleep."
When he returned twenty minutes later he found her curled up on the grass fast asleep, with her beacon propped between two stones. The beam shot straight up, for Manfred to find her. Smiling, he sat down beside her and watched for predators as she slept.