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blanket the barricaded mountain valley.
Sky Captain could barely see in the dimness... or maybe his eyes or his head had been damaged. He
sat up in the cold snow, his ears ringing. Was he half blinded? The angry rumbles continued as smoke
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and fire gushed into the thin air, and the worst noise subsided.
With a gloved hand, he wiped a smear of blood and soot from his face, trying to orient himself again.
Beside him, he saw a woman's shape sprawled on the drift, not moving. He feared the worst. "Polly!" His
voice sounded strange and distant in his own ears.
Dizzy, feeling the pulse pound inside his skull, he squinted into the white haze. The daylight seemed to
be fading fast. He kept blinking.
A faint glow of flickering torches came out of the murk, bobbing flames carried in a winding
procession. As his vision grew even fuzzier, Sky Captain saw a line of strange-looking natives
approaching from the windswept horizon. They were dressed in thick black garments embroidered with
odd symbols. Sagging hoods concealed their faces. He thought it might be a hallucination brought about
by hitting his head.
As he began to pass out, Sky Captain reached weakly toward where Polly lay. He croaked out her
name, but his voice was barely audible. He struggled in the soft snow, trying to move closer, but he finally
dropped into unconsciousness...
Holding up their torches, the natives gathered around the prone forms of Sky Captain, Polly, and
Kaji. Without a word, they lifted the three figures, placed them on makeshift stretchers, then hoisted them
up. Turning about in a smooth movement, the procession marched away into the frozen wilderness.
On a perch overlooking the devastated mine, the mysterious woman stood hidden from view. Turning
her opaque goggles toward the fading smoke and flames, she observed the group of black-robed
strangers take their captives and march away into the isolated mountain fastness.
They no longer concerned her.
She looked down to her black-gloved hand, where she held the pair of stolen test tubes. She clinched
them in her fist, then turned back to the Flying Wing that rested precariously on a mountain ledge. It was
time to go.
Without a downward glance, she stepped over the sprawled bodies of the two treacherous Sherpas,
who lay facedown in a bloody patch of snow. Daggers had been driven through the men's backs with
such force that they pierced their hearts and protruded from their chests. Soon, the frigid elements would
destroy their bodies or scavengers would pick their bones clean.
The mysterious woman boarded the Flying Wing, activated the whistling engines, and glided away,
leaving the Himalayas behind.
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A Strange Procession
An Awkward Awakening
A Priest in Shangri-La
Night set in on the cold mountain passes. Hidden valleys lay surrounded by imposing rock walls and
impenetrable cornices of snow, gendarmes of stone.
Though the black-robed natives carried torches, they did not need guidance. They picked their way
down the winding slopes, carrying stretchers that bore Sky Captain, Polly, and Kaji.
The silent natives followed a secret, instinctive path. As they neared the crest of a saddle, crossing
through a keyhole notch of sharply angled stone, the hooded leader paused to stare down into the newly
revealed valley. Dense and frosty mists formed a veritable smoke screen, but the swirling shroud began
to clear, revealing an image not unlike a desert mirage.
A surprisingly lush valley lay in the hazy distance. Sheltered on all sides by forbidding peaks, the
secret valley was a feast of strange and heavenly beauty filled with flowing streams and orchards, stone
monasteries and small huts adorned with colorful pennants. Beribboned prayer wheels on poles clacked
in the breezes.
"Shangri-La," the hooded leader muttered, as he always did when he returned to his secret home. The
black-robed natives moved forward. Incredibly, as they entered the valley, the wind and snow did not
follow them.
Groaning on his stretcher, Sky Captain strained to open his eyes, trying to focus. He felt suddenly
warm, calm, rested. He propped himself on one elbow and glanced behind him to the rear of the
torch-carrying procession. Only a few feet away, a howling blizzard raged, but here the air was
completely calm.
In front of him lay a tranquil valley, mysterious and inviting. He strained, mumbling. "Shangri-La..." But
then he fell into a deeper, more restful sleep.
Golden sunlight bathed Polly's sleeping face in a warm glow. As she began to stir, languid and entirely
at peace, she looked contented and beautiful. A smile inspired by gentle dreams curled her lips. She
made a quiet, purring sound in her throat and snuggled deeper into the embroidered coverlet. With a sigh,
she slowly fluttered her eyes open.
Disoriented but not troubled, she stared at a ceiling made of interlocking tiles, colored with hypnotic
designs unlike anything she had ever seen before. After a moment, an odd expression came over her face
like the shadow of a thundercloud. She shifted her body underneath the coverings again, and she lifted
the embroidered blanket to peek beneath them. Suddenly, her eyes grew large and she yanked the
blanket tight against her body.
"My clothes..."
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Wide-awake now, Polly pulled the blanket up to her neck as she scanned the room. She had no idea
where she was, and she recognized none of her surroundings, she turned her head in the opposite
direction, to the other side of the bed, where she found herself face-to-face with Sky Captain.
From his bare shoulders - and especially from his mischievous grin - she guessed he was also naked.
"Good morning, Polly."
She yelped. "What are you doing? Get out of here! Get out!"
He didn't move from the bed. Instead, he crossed his arms behind his head and lay back on the
pillow. "Not unless you've got a pair of pants hidden under there. But I doubt it." His eyes twinkled.
"Trust me, I already checked... thoroughly."
Polly's eyes moved down Sky Captain's concealed body, mortified. She tried to figure out some way
to escape. "You're not...?"
"Naked? You can say it, Polly. For a plucky reporter, you seem to have trouble with certain words."
"This isn't funny, Joe! What happened to us? Where are we? Who took our clothes?" Those were
only the first few questions, but she could think of plenty more.
Sky Captain smiled impishly. Self-conscious, Polly pulled the blanket closer against her own bare
skin. "You're enjoying this! Stop looking at me like that."
"Like what?"
"Turn around, Joe. I'm not kidding. Turn around. Look the other way."
Rolling his eyes, Sky Captain gave in. "Fine, fine."
With a weary noise, he rolled over to the other side of the bed, where he found himself staring at Kaji.
The burly Sherpa was also naked and staring back at him. "Hi, Captain Joe."
Sky Captain barely had time to huddle under the covering again when the room's carved wooden
door swung open. Sky Captain, Polly, and Kaji spun about, each holding the edge of the blanket tight to [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]


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