Sub-tropical Africa was a very wet place to be during Monsoon season, wetter then most places on the planet. Jeremy Dawes reckoned that he hadn't seen the sun in almost three weeks, a most depressing thought. Dawes was an ex pilot, a man who had once made his living ferrying people across the vast African jungles, deserts, and plains from one remote city to another. Three times he had been shot by rebels or tribal warriors or smugglers, etc. etc. All three were because of the bastard of a man who sat directly in front of him. Tall, a good six feet or so, with broad shoulders, piercing green eyes and wavy brown hair, Jack Houston was your typical expatriated American. A water logged fedora was perched on top of his unkempt hair, shading his tanned and lined face. He had a permanent stubble; Dawes had never seen him shave or even go near a razor.

"How much did you make?" asked Dawes nonchalantly. Houston was a notorious treasure seeker. To everyone he met, Houston professed to be just an average man trying to live his life in a rough and tumble world. To his inner circle of friends and enemies Houston was a man with a mission, to make money and find trouble.

Jack looked up blankly. "Its not worth mentioning," he said waving it off with his hands. Dawes snorted, it was never not worth mentioning.

"Seriously, how much was it?"

Jack sighed and knocked back his second shot of whisky. Live hard, drink hard, was his motto. "Oooh that's good stuff," he moaned closing his eyes and throwing back his head. Dawes simply waited in silence, Houston would get around to a figure at some point. Finally Jack looked back at his old friend. "All right, all right. Lets say it was somewhere in the ball park of twenty thousand."

"Holy shit, that's a wad of dough!" coughed out Dawes after a moment. "What are you going to spend it on?"

"Probably send some back to sis, then spend the rest on a nice little farm in the Midwest. Whaddya say?"

Dawes laughed out loud again. It was a hearty laughed filled with honest mirth and happiness for his friend. Wiping a tear out of his eye Dawes turned to toss Houston another shot. "Jesus Kid, I know you better then anybody, if you bought a farm in the Midwest you'd end up killing yourself out of sheer boredom." Jack shared in with the laugh letting it fill the empty bar.

Dawes hadn't seen America for almost fifteen years, his bar, situated alongside a fast moving river in the Belgian Congo, was always devoid of life. A few other foreigners, mostly French and Belgium, graced the dive with their presence during the late evening, but during the day it was empty. A record player sat off to one side playing the few records Dawes owned, mostly orchestral British anthems and the like. Classical music was surprisingly easy to find in the British colonies that still existed in Africa. On the flimsy wood walls old American posters were hung with rusted nails. Jack always got a kick out of the fact that Uncle Sam needed him.

In the midst of their little chuckle the door to the bar, if you could call it that, it was really just a curtain, flew open. Two young black man, in excellent shape, clad in full military garb, complete with the French berets stepped in. Each was clutching an ancient bolt action rifle like they knew how to use them. As the room was thoroughly inspected for contraband, or rebels or whatever, a short, mousy European looking man strode in. Unlike Dawes and Houston, the former wearing a Bermuda shirt and a pair of khaki's, the latter in his old army shirt, worn out jeans and military boots, this man was clad in a full dress uniform of the Belgian army.

"Mr. Jack Houston, I presume?" he asked in a heavily accented English. Jack slowly turned around in his chair and peered thoughtfully at the man. "Do I know you?"

"I am General Frances Garnier of the Belgian Colonial Army. I am the military governor of the Congo."

"I didn't know y'all had an army," drawled Dawes. When he was intruded upon he often switched back to his old southern roots. Most people were quickly irritated with the redneck act and Garnier was no exception. General Garnier glared at him impatiently before turning back to Houston. "As you know rebels have taken control of several important plantations while our soldiers were deployed elsewhere. Even now we are fighting a bitter war for control of this country and cannot spare any men to help the plight of the Europeans captured by those tribesman."

"I understand you're having trouble with the local tribes, that's to bad. But what does this have to do with me?" asked Houston, although he had an inkling of it. More then anything he was pissed, Jack hated it when somebody knew more about him then Jack knew about them. It gives the opponent the advantage during any conversations and right know Jack knew he had no advantages.

"I have been charged with hiring a band of mercenaries to assist with the rescue of our poor fellow westerners. After asking around I found that you are a very predominant adventurer, and that you just happen to be in town," said Garnier breaking for the first time into a smile. Jack was comforted very little by the look. It was that of a hunter viewing his prey.

"Sorry, I don't get involved with the local troubles," Dawes had to surpress a snort as Jack continued, "Besides from what I hear your King Leopold did a lot of harm to these people, you deserve what you get, in my opinion."

"Is money of any value, Mr. Houston?" asked the General displaying a leather suitcase, presumable packed with hard American cash. Jack shook his head, the last thing he wanted right now was another adventure. The last few had been far to painful.

"Then perhaps your life is," said the General after a brief pause and pointed a French made pistol directly at Houston's head. Jack was astounded, the older man had moved quickly, giving Houston's reflexes very little time in which to work. The young Africans both leveled their rifles at Houston's midsection. A minute passed before Jack spoke again. "Perhaps it does. When do we leave?"

Garnier smiled, again Houston was put off by the chilling look. "Tomorrow, five am sharp we head into the jungle. I'll meet you at the Bukama train station. Until then, Jack Houston, until then." He bowed slightly in Jeremy Dawes direction, "Good day sir," he said smartly and walked off. Both of his soldiers slipped out of the bar into the pouring rain with nary a word. Shrugging Jack turned back to Dawes. "Well, I'll be seeing you around." When Dawes nodded Jack slapped down some crisp Belgian francs and walked out the door with a groan. This was supposed to be his day off.

Africa is probably the most diverse off all the continents and probably the most majestic. Gigantic stretches of plains, filled with animals of all sorts. There were even larger swathes of sand in the north, the great Sahara desert, devoid of all but the hardiest life. In the central and south Africa there lay a great jungle, even more impressive then the Amazons in South America. Penetrated by only the hardiest of Europeans, and inhabited by the wildest savages, the African Rain forests were some of the most dangerous locations on the planet. And Jack Houston was walking into this lush overgrown garden against his will.

A quick head count at about six that morning, when the sun was first rising in the east, its rays doing little to penetrate the tree cover, showed that there were forty three of them. Forty three adventurers, gunmen, mercenaries, and ex soldiers. Jack found himself in the rear of a long line of men, many of western descent, but a few native Africans involved, moving down a narrow path alongside an open ravine. Below a river, Jack decided it must be the Lualaba, cut through the sheer rockwalls and tumbling down the ravine. Large moss covered boulders blocked the path of the water, creating eddies and whirlpools.

Jack was carrying little, he had his two .45's, one in a hip holster, the other in his shoulder holster. On his back was his small leather knapsack, one that had seen him from his early years in New England until today. Each man had been given a bolt action French rifle, with a belt full of ammunition and a cloth strap. Jack had never liked French military equipment, perhaps it was the French military record that tainted his views. Still, it had been issued to him with several cans of food and a canteen. Jack also had an old pair of binoculars, his gold pocket watch and an assortment of maps, some home made, that he always carried with him.

Above him birds sang and monkeys frolicked in the steamy jungle. It was a truly beautiful place, one full of mystery and intrigue. In better circumstances Jack enjoyed traveling in the jungles, despite the dangers it was an amazing place. For the moment the rains had stopped, but the air was still heavy with moisture. Jack was sweating from all his pores, soaking his old Army uniform.

The few actual soldiers that had been selected to escort them to the nearest rebel held town were unrelenting. By Jacks watch they marched for almost twelve hours the first day, the initial six before any rest. As night fell in the jungle Jack found himself sore and exhausted, too exhausted to even eat. Still Houston stuffed down a can of Beef Stew, which was at least three years old. It wasn't until the morning of the second day, there trek started at five sharp, that Jack began recognizing several of the men shouldering rifles around him. Herman Macintosh, a short man down the line, was a known mercenary. Jack had heard the man had influenced the collapse of a government somewhere in Asia. Kimtamba Mboto was a legendary guide and tracker. The tall black man had made a name for himself hunting down refugees all across the continent. By the end of the second day Jack realized he was in the company of gigantic men.

Unlike the first night Jack had reached his stride by the second and was able to eat a descent meal before trying to go to sleep, that is if you want to define cold soup as a descent meal. Fortunately Jack had eaten worse at Flanders Fields, anything was good compared to the moldy bread and bad water that was considered a day's rations back there.

"You are Jack Houston." It was more of a statement then a question but Jack looked up from his bedroll. "Yeah, that's me," he replied. Standing high above him was a muscularly built man with olive skin. The man looking down at him had long braided black hair, a few bird feathers tied in the braids. His face was chiseled with high cheek bones and a straight nose. Dark eyes studied him beneath thin eyebrows.

"I have been waiting a long time to meet you Mr. Houston. You do not know me, my name in Anaszi, in English it would mean Floating Feather. You saved my brothers life once a long time ago, in the New Mexico territories. I believe he was attempting to capture a band of thieves, unfortunately he was almost killed, you arrived and saved him, for that I am eternally grateful," said Anaszi grimly, as if the entire affair was deadly serious.

"Hey, no problem, I was just doing my job, catchin' outlaws. Seriously, it was no trouble at all," said Jack, trying to wave the whole thing off. He remembered the adventure vividly, it had almost cost him his life as well. Never again would he ever believe that an Indian could do something the easy way.

"None the less, I am in your service for the remainder of our trip," said the Indian morosely. Jack shook his head and tried to protest but he was far to tired to bother. "Okay, sure, fine," he said half heartily and lay back down on the hard rock that was his pillow. In a minute he was asleep and failed to notice Anaszi pull his bedroll up next to Jack and set up shop alongside his debt holder.

Morning in the jungle is a true rebirth of the land. Birds come to life first, feeding and chirping on those night creatures to slow to get back under cover. Soon the animals, those that roar and stumble deep in the heart of the jungle, come to life and awaken anything that's still sleeping. Jack found himself jostled into the world by Anaszi, who was yanking on his arm.

"Mr. Houston, it is time for us to go. The General is most insistent," he spoke harshly and pulled roughly on Jacks arm. Upon being awoken so rudely the first thing Jack did was take a swing at Anaszi, one that the Indian caught easily with the palm of his hand.

"You son of a bitch. Don't ever wake me up like that," spat Jack, groping for his fedora. The sun was far to bright for his liking, especially after the flask he had drained the previous night. Grumpily Jack slammed the hat on his head at an angle, as to shield the harsh rays of light. "Is the sun always this bright?" he asked rhetorically to no one in particular.

"Yes, yes it is," replied the Indian, grimly as always.

"I didn't want an answer."


There was complete silence between the two of them and the sounds of an army rising in the morning filled the emptiness. Curses and shouts came from the back of the line as the friendlier men jostled each other. Metal canteens clinked together with mess kits and rifles, their metallic sound ringing like bells. There came a shout of surprise as one man put his foot in a boot he had taken off the night before and found a plethora of critters. Most experienced men had found that living in ones shoes while in the jungle, although it might cause trench foot, was the safest way to go. Dangerous animals found the average man made boot far to attractive of a resting spot during the evening. Jack had found out the hard way years ago in the form of a Black Asp snake.

Jack slowly got to his feet and began packing his bedroll. Word came down the line that they were within six hours march of the main rebel occupied town. For the first time Jack began to prepare himself for the coming fighting. He was never a man of violence, well excessive violence anyway, a good saloon brawl was not above him, and didn't savor warfare. World War I had given him a lifefull of war. Never again did he wish to slosh forward in great and glorious advances or fight to make the world safe for democracy. Now suddenly he found himself in the midst of a very different fight, one that seemed like it might be worth the bloodshed. Quietly Houston collected himself and reached a sort of inner peace with himself. If he would die, it wouldn't be a sudden, terrible thing...It would just be.

Five and a half hours later Jack lay in a puddle of mud peering down an embankment at a small village below. Large pyres of fire seemed to lick the evening sky. Smoke rose high into the night like wraiths rising to the hunt. Below there was nothing but the crackle of the fires and buzzing of the flies. Rarely had Jack ever seen such horrors. A full village, a modern one at that, had been razed. Bodies lay in heaps, some beheaded, most mutilated, while flies buzzed around them. At the command of Houston's appointed squad leader, a tough old fox from England, another veteran of the trenches, his group of men, about fifteen in total, got up and crept down the grassy hill. Jack almost slipped on the ankle deep mud once or twice trying to get down silently. The rebels were masters of deception and were often hidden in plain sight, thus the westerners were as careful as possible when moving into the destroyed village.

Finding no enemies in the vicinity General Garnier established a perimeter around the remains of the village while their hired trackers prepared to find where the rebels had gone to. Jack had assumed the job was finished now that they had discovered that the town was no more, unfortunately Garnier had other ideas and pledged to kill every man that had been involved with this slaughter. Jack wasn't the only one to notice the fire in his eyes or the rage in his trembling words. If there ever was a more literate example of Captain Ahab this was it. It wasn't until much later that Houston learned Garnier had a brother and sister living in the town, both were listed as MIA, no trace of them was ever found. They disappeared into the jungle like so many before.

It took little time for the trackers to determine that the rebels had fled deeper into the jungle taking a few survivors with them after destroying the town. Since no one wanted to spend the evening inside what the men were calling "The Graveyard" they immediately took off in hot pursuit, Garnier leading the troop with more determination then ever. Jack found an inner strength within himself he had used in a few rare situations before. He forgot about everything else except to walk and breathe. All of the wonder of the jungle at night disappeared, there was nothing but Houston and the task ahead.

It was midmorning when the ran into the first attack. It seems the trackers weren't as good as Garnier had thought, his team walked directly into an ambush. Some of the rebels, those indoctrinated in the western train of thought, used conventional arms, rifles and grenades, while others, the more primitive men, still used spears, knives, and darts. Gunfire cracked through the eery silence of the jungle. Instinctively Jack ducked down under the cover of brush. Silhouettes were all that Jack could see of the rest of the group, not wanting to kill one of his own, he held his fire, but around him those less trained fired into the darkness, their reports booming in the still jungle.

Twice Jack could have sworn bullets cracked past his head, not that it wouldn't have been believable, with all the fighting going on. Shadows moved swiftly in the dark and still Houston refused to fire, he couldn't tell which were rebels and which were merely figments of his imagination. The battle lasted a good hour; one full hour of death and destruction in the heart of a rainforest. Jack spent the time huddled next to a mossy log hoping he wouldn't catch a stray bullet or random dart. None of the rebels came close enough for Jack to engage in any type of combat with them, so Jack saved his ammunition for a better fight.

As the final sounds of battle faded and the steady hum of nature returned Jack finally allowed himself to relax. Like himself, Anaszi hadn't fired once during the encounter, he had sat there in complete silence with his eyes closed. Jack hadn't seen one glimmer of fear in his eyes, nor any look of exhaustion or any other worldly problems. Anaszi had looked almost serene, if one could imagine anyone looking serene during a battle. Around them those who were wounded cried out for help, any type of help. Jack spent the rest of the night trying to assist those in need. To many men died from lack of good medical attention as Garnier had failed to provide the two medics with any medical equipment.

Six had died, another ten were injured in one way or the other. The six bodies were quickly buried in the loose topsoil of the jungle, a small cross was placed on each grave but there was no time spared for last rites or mourning. A demonic rage had replaced the formerly cool personality of Garnier, he was off again, and after a day of no rest what so ever he was still going full throttle.

"He's gonna kill somebody, its just a matter of whether its us or him who goes first," said Houston wearily trying to keep up with the rapid moving column of men. Anaszi grunted in agreement as he shifted his rifle from one shoulder to another. Hour twenty five of their march and the grim Indian still refused to show any signs of exhaustion, still pressing on despite there lack of sleep or food. Houston would have killed for a cup of coffee at that moment; it didn't matter if it was two day old cold coffee, as long as it was black it would have made his life a hell of a lot easier. Much of the next two hours were spent fantasizing about the cup of Java. Instead Jack sipped morosely from his half empty flask of whisky. At least it was good whisky.

Around hour twenty six the group was finally allowed to stop and hunker down. This wasn't out of kindness on the part of Garnier and his small troop of loyal soldiers keeping an eye on the mercenaries but because Garnier suspected there were rebels in the area. Luckily Houston wasn't picked to lead any of the patrols into the bush, searching for signs of the elusive insurrectionists. He sat with his head between his legs resting on a large moss covered boulder. It was as close to heaven as he had ever been. Jack's feet were on fire and the suspected that it was the beginning of a case of trench foot.

Around him the rest of the troops were just as tired as he was, but the grumbling was getting louder around him. Most were arguing that Garnier had gone mad, this was true of course and no one could deny it, but Garnier had a squad of tough soldiers guarding the mercs. Mutiny became the word of the day and Houston listened and watched quietly as the conspiracy grew. Surprisingly Heinrich Jager was the man that the mutineers were creating as their leader. The German was a known agent of his government, a Nazi at that, and not to be trusted. Jack could see that some of the men, Herman Macintosh was one, knew this and yet they went along with the soft spoken Germans plan. This, Jack decided, was born more out of desperation for their situation then logic. Most of the men had run out of food by this time and many more were running out of clean, drinkable water. Although the river Kalemie raged alongside their path all were wise enough not to drink the waters, they were full of disease.

As the grumbling reached a full din, gunshots ripped through the jungle. Jacks reflexes kicked in and he grabbed his guns and dove for the ground. Bullets began to snap all around, humming overhead like a swarm of angry bee's. As the soldiers dove for cover, Garnier stayed out in the open hurling insults at the hidden opponents like bullets. Crouching on one knee Jack pulled up his rifle and stared into the bush, hoping somebody would appear, any target would have been good. And then they came, rushing out of the jungle like animals, and hurtling towards the thin line of westerners.

Jack picked his shots carefully, aware that if he ran out of ammo in the jungle he would be in a bad spot indeed. Each crack of his rifle was barely audible over the sound of thirty odd men also firing at once. With screams and howls the enemy dropped to their feet, clutching gaping wounds and broken limbs. Still, they kept coming not noticing the grievous wounds the Europeans were inflicting on there forces. Some fired back and Jack was saddened to hear a man collapse close to him and then another went down screaming. It didn't matter where you were from or what your upbringing was, bullets still caused a man to scream in pain. Like a wave crashing into a sandcastle the rebels finally managed to push through the line of fire and engage in hand to hand combat with Garniers men. Close to the rear Jack was in a good spot, Jager, Macintosh and Geoffry D'Antionio, an excellent marksmen and noted mercenary, kept themselves from becoming entangled with the rebels. If there was one thing Jack hated above all else concerning warfare it was close combat. Thankfully the men who were attacking there line were some what self conscious and understood what it meant when the enemy had you pinned. They ducked down alongside rocks and trees, occasionally firing back.

Further up the line a brilliant flash and rumbling noise signified that some one had used the dynamite that had been issued by Garniers quartermaster. Then another, and another ripped through the jungle throwing dirt and bits of men into the air. Jack looked up in amazement as the peaceful jungle had turned into World War II. He felt a blast of heat on his face as several grenades went off at once ten yards in front of him. Shrapnel fell down from up high, like a rain of death. Jack was momentarily stunned but recovered as he noticed that the enemy was pulling out around him. They retreated back into the jungle shrieking as loudly as they had coming out. Jack fired a few shots at their backs as they fled, he thought he winged one.

The losses had been extreme for the Europeans. Jack counted at least fifteen dead, and another ten wounded, several badly. Garnier had somehow survived the attack, amazingly, and Jack knew for sure know that the man was going to get them all killed. General Garnier was shouting at the men to get ready to move out, that they would be pursuing the enemy while he was weakened. Looking around Jack saw that only one of Garniers guards had survived, the others lay in the pile of corpses. He watched as Garnier became more and more enraged as the men refused to listen to him, finally he pulled out a pistol and pointed at an older outspoken mercenaries forehead, and stared the man down. Suddenly the group was silent; what would happen? As Garnier swore, loudly, his eyes and veins bulged. Jack noticed that his face had become beat red and looked swollen. From behind Jack Heinrich stood up and walked briskly over to the General, one hand on his holster. Noticing that someone was approaching Garnier turned and began screaming at Hienrich, his gun never leaving the old mercenaries forehead. With a slightly upturned mouth Hienrich pulled his pistol out his holster, aimed it at Garniers outraged head and pulled the trigger...Twice. Jack flinched as two shots rang out. What remained of Garnier tottered for a moment and then collapsed onto the muddy ground.

"Lets go home," said Hienrich quietly, reholstering his gun. He turned and sauntered off down the path, back towards the village. Just as quiet the remains of the group, some fourteen strong or so, picked up their things and wandered down behind him. Jack took one last look at the bloody, crater filled spot where Garnier had been killed and then turned and followed the rest. Unlike Garnier, Hienrich didn't bother to send out any scouts ahead of the group. What little cohesion the late General had established quickly fell apart as the men went their separate ways. Each man was in charge of watching himself at that was it. It was at this time that the rebels began to take advantage of the ragged survivors. Brief attacks began to plague the group. Snipers with rifles fired from the tree lines, causing the whole group to stop and fire back. The roving attacks slowed them greatly on their quest for civilization. One by one the men began to drop and when night finally fell there was but a handful left.

"What are you doing?" asked Anaszi, watching Jack gather dry logs and then proceed to tie them up with loose pieces of twine.

"I'm building a damn raft. If you think I'm gonna spend one more moment out in this jungle with a bunch of nuts being chased by a bigger bunch of nuts then your crazy," replied Jack tersely. The adventure had gone from bad to worse and their chances of making out of the jungle alive were steadily declining.

"I do not think that you are crazy. I will help you," said Anaszi carefully, not wishing to anger the volatile Jack Houston. Together the two began to work furiously and Jack put the last of his strength and energy into the project. By ten that evening the raft was completed, and just in time as the fighting began soon after. The rebels were trying to make up for the dozens lost earlier that day, they were coming back to finish of the Europeans. Shots rang out in the dark and Jack began to prepare for the journey down the river at that moment, knowing that if they didn't leave he and Anaszi would be killed. Around them the remaining men were being slaughtered outright as the natives poured over the flimsy defenses constructed by the exhausted westerners. Struggling Jack managed to shove the raft into the rough waters of the Kalemie. Anaszi hopped onto the raft just after Jack got it settled. With bullets flying over their heads the two gripped the hard wood trying to hang on for dear life as the rapids carried down the river. Several massive explosions erupted behind them, throwing clods of dirt and mud into the air. Splinters of wood landed around Jack striking the water and his back. He covered his head carefully with his arms, hoping he wouldn't be hit by one especially lucky piece of hot metal.

Anaszi returned fire with a pistol Jack hadn't seen him wield before. It was small, ornately engraved, and made of silver. Jack assumed it was a hold out gun, meant to be concealed and used when your opponent thought he had you cornered. Anaszi used the gun with a level of mastery Jack had rarely seen in Indians, generally they shot from the hip, and preferred to come in close for the kill. Anaszi, on the other hand, took careful aim when returning fire. Jack counted four kills as they rapidly picked up speed on the flowing river.

Quickly the massacre faded into the distance and Jack assumed that they were the only two to make it out, of the entire forty three member expedition. Jack shook his head when the magnitude of the deaths finally sunk in. Some of the best and brightest men on the African continent died in the expedition, it was truly an exquisite roster Garnier had assembled and now they were all gone. The only upside was that Jack had less competition then before.

Jack and Anaszi clung on the raft for dear life as the water got rougher and rougher; foam flew into the air blocking the moon and stars from the waterlogged adventurers. Like drowned rats desperately trying to stay on flotsam Jack and Anaszi were trying to stay on the raft as the water turned into rapids. Jack wouldn't have done this run with a large raft and a team of experienced white water rafters. Africa had the last of the untamed rivers and the raging Kalemie was a testament to that fact. Official Jack and Anaszi were the first men to attempt such a method of travel, an accolade they didn't much care about at the time.

Finally the rapids slowed and the water grew still and calm. Jack drew his legs up onto the flimsy rafted and advised that Anaszi do the same. Piranhas were only found in the still and placid sections of Africa's rivers. They had not been a threat until that moment and Jack could see them circle the raft from atop it. That the raft was supporting his weight for now did little to make him feel better about their situation. Quickly the day grew hot and both men were famished and dehydrated. Drinking African river water was akin to drinking several gallons of Vodka, only it'll kill you faster.

It was noon when Jack first spotted them. Dark men darted between the large trees growing on the bank of the now calm river. At first he thought they were hallucinations brought on by the lack of food, water, and sleep. When the bullets started to fly he realized they were real, or he was crazier then he had originally thought. Anaszi sat up and pulled out his small pistol and returned fire; he moved much faster then Jack who was still wrestling with the fact that he was being shot at. Anaszi did his best to protect Jack from the surprisingly accurate rebels.

"Jesus, they don't give up, do they?" asked Jack dreamily waving around one of his .45's. Again Anaszi had to force Jack down and keep him from making a target of himself. Anaszi realized with a start that if Jack didn't get water soon he might die. As the river grew steadily stronger Jack managed to recollect himself and fire back at the rebels, with very poor aim. Again, neither man realized that the raft was hurtling at high speeds.

"I wonder why they stopped shooting" asked Jack blinking rapidly. He felt as if each ray of the sun was beating him into submission. Anaszi grunted and looked around for some answer, and then he noticed the river drop away. A grin slowly spread on his face as he realized the game was over. There was no way they could win, in fact they had lost outright. Jack Houston's famous luck had run out. Looking at his partner, Anaszi saw that Jack hadn't notice the falls and probably wouldn't. It was probably for the best, at least he wouldn't have to worry about it.

A dull roar filled the air and Jack finally turned around and looked at the drop into oblivion. The grin fell off his face and his eyes widened. "Shit," he said in awe, and then they dropped. Neither Anaszi or Jack screamed or cried as they went over the forty foot drop, it was silence until the end both men staring death in the eye and daring him to blink. And then they hit the water...

A Month Later

"When did you leave the Congo?" asked Jack over a tall glass of South African beer. The local brewed stuff was often a treat Jack had found long ago. Either it was great or it was horrible, there was no middle ground with South African micro-brewery's. Fortunately Dawes had picked a good brand and Jack was enjoying the dark lager immensely.

"I packed up a day after the expedition was reported as lost. Three days later the Belgian army was defeated outside Kikwit, that's when I decided it was best to get the hell out of Dodge. Turns out I flew the coop at the exact moment, rebels were bearing down on the bar anyway. Whether they wanted me for dinner or just a beer remains a much savored mystery."

Jack laughed heartily, although it still hurt his ribs where they had been broken. Still, he was a fast healer and had been on his feet since the moment he had emerged from the Lualaba in Angola. "At least we made it out all right, I can't say the same for most of the other local vagabonds."

Dawes nodded thoughtfully, "Whatever happened to that Indian friend of yours. You know, the one who's brother you saved back in the US."

"I don't know. I haven't seen him since the moment we went over the falls together. There are a thousand different ways to die in Africa, we probably picked one of the more exciting ways. Doesn't matter, I survived from sheer luck, somehow I floated downstream missing a thousand different dangers. I doubt Anaszi had the same luck."

"A toast then, to a fallen comrade," proposed Dawes mournfully.

"A toast to fallen comrades," agreed Jack and they both raised their mugs above their heads. The glasses clinked together creating a sound similar to church bells.