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Suicide Squad
Author: Marv Wolfman







June believed with absolute certainty that unless she successfully completed her mission by midnight the next day, her dreams were going to kill her.

Staring past the thick jungle, to the distant mountains shrouded in perpetual mist, shimmering in the blinding glow of dusk, she shivered at the thought that to reach its base they’d have to drive through the thick, often impassable vegetation, for another eight hours at least. Possibly much longer, and over a meandering, unmarked, and treacherous path.

Then once they made it through and found the base, they’d still have to locate the cave entrance. Unless, as she feared, it had been long buried and lost beneath the tangled undergrowth. Which, of course, meant she would die.

What could possibly go wrong?

June had already accepted the sad fact that the nightly dreams that forced her to this desert, and to this one particular mountain, wouldn’t end until she found whatever was waiting for her inside.

Yeah. Whatever is waiting.

The woman who haunted her nights gave no clue as to why June was being compelled to leave her home and travel halfway around the world, all to search for some potentially nonexistent will-o’-the-wisp. Yet if she wanted to live—and she did—June had no choice but to do as she was told.

Told by a voice in a dream.

June thought she just might be going off the deep end.

* * *

By the time she pulled her Rover to a stop, the mountain was hidden in total darkness. Night had an annoying way of falling all too fast here in the furthest corner of nowhere, and without convenient GPS towers to help guide them, they would definitely lose their way. Best to start again at dawn.

“Let’s call it a day,” she said. “Cover the equipment and pitch the tents.”

Manuel and Luis, the two mountain guides she had worked with for the past several years, jumped from the open cargo bed. It was filled with all the necessities June needed for any manner of archeological digs, and they stretched a protective canvas over them. Rainstorms were all too common in this area, as June had sadly learned on more than one previous expedition.

“Tomorrow’s gonna to be a helluva busy day,” she added in Spanish. “We have to find the cave before nightfall.”

“We will reach the mountain by afternoon,” Luis said as he began to set up his tent, “but your maps do not show where the cave is hidden. It could take many days more.”

“I don’t have several more days. Hell, Luis, I may not even have one full day. Tomorrow is do-or-literally-die day.”

“But, senorita…” Manuel began. Before he could finish, June paused in setting up her own tent and turned toward the bulky man.

“Manuel, please. You know I prefer just ‘June.’ Or ‘Doctor Moone,’ if you keep insisting on being so damned formal.”

“I know. We both know. It is habit to comfort the less informed, who only know of this region from your movies. We apologize, but I was about to say, Luis and I will take you to the mountain as we promised. And to the cave. But as we told you, we cannot go beyond the opening rooms with you.”

“I was hoping once we got there your curiosity would change your mind. I really need you. Both of you,” she added for emphasis.

Luis hammered the final tent peg into the jungle floor, cleared his throat, and turned to his old friend.

“She does not understand,” he said. “I do not believe she can.” He looked back to June, and drew a long breath.

“Doctor Moone,” he continued, “you know Manuel and I are not just guides. Our people have lived in and cultivated these mountains for thousands of years, for they have always offered great spirituality. Since time began they were believed, and still are believed, to be portals to the Gods and especially to Inti, the Sun God, our Supreme God.

“It is here, during times of war and famine, that our sacrificial Capacochas were offered to appease the Gods. There is simply no other more sacred place to honor our dead. To this day our people continue to make offerings here, lest evil spirits rise yet again.”

June suppressed a momentary smile as she shook her head, but she said nothing.

“Senorita… Doctor Moone, I know your countrymen believe differently than we, and we respect your beliefs—but whether you understand ours or not, please accept their importance. These mountains you seek may not be Everest, the ‘Mother of the World,’ but they are sacred to us.”

“It is not that we do not want to go inside with you,” Manuel said as he pulled the tent rope over to the peg and tied it in place. “We cannot.”

He turned back to the tent and pulled at the cord. It was taut. He gave an accepting grunt. “But we will take you there tomorrow, wait for your return, and pray the spirits keep you safe.”

Over the past few years Manuel and Luis had come to deeply respect the young archeologist and would do anything she asked of them.

Not this, however.

“Okay,” June relented. “You’re right, and you know I do accept your beliefs, but is it all right for me to say I hope you’re wrong?”

“We hope so, too, Doctor. For your wellbeing, more than ours.”

June unfurled her sleeping bag and crawled inside. It was a moonless night. She stared into the dark for what seemed to be forever, but in fact was only a few moments, then she closed her eyes and prayed to no god in particular that she would sleep in peace. Maybe proximity to the mountain would be enough to banish those relentless dreams.

* * *

It always started the same way. Ancient temples sprouted from jungle vines. Elaborately carved marble columns inlaid with jade, silver, and gold rose more than a hundred yards tall and glistened in Inti’s harsh sunlight. As always, she was surrounded by thousands of servants, bowing subserviently—which, embarrassingly, even in her dream, she greatly enjoyed. They were chanting words she could never understand.

After staring at the temples, she suddenly noticed that she was standing in the middle of an immense koi pond. The ancient fish, large and meaty, swam about her feet as if guarding her from some underwater enemy. She saw herself reflected in the eerily calm waters, but she wasn’t seeing the face of Dr. June Moone, archeologist, painter, explorer. Instead, a lean, muscular woman with stark white skin and dark black eyes stared back at her.

Outside of her dreams, June had never seen this woman who looked so similar to herself, but was obviously so different. Somehow, though, she always knew her name.

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