"There's an Inuit village about nine miles east of here. It's popular with bush pilots.
Ben Gates checked the co-ordinates and pointed west. Behind him, Riley Poole sighed and looked the way he pointed.
"Right. Then what are we gonna do?"
"Start making our way back home."
Riley stumbled after his companion as Ben started to move purposefully in the direction he thought was east.
"No, I meant about Ian. He's gonna steal the Declaration of Independence, Ben!"
Ben looked around, pinned Riley with a piercing glare.
"We stop him."
Ian Howe stopped the snow truck, gestured for the other to do the same. Heaving a frustrated sigh, he swung down and cursed himself for being so stupid. The kid had the satellite access, without it they were truly lost. And Ben and Riley had the only handhelds.
Shouldn't have left Riley down there. He's too valuable. Too bad, too late.
"We have to wait. Anyone got any idea where we are?"
His crew exchanged annoyed glances. Typical Ian, he screws up and we all get the blame.
"We're lost?" one of them questioned. He received a death glare from their mutinous leader.
"Figure it out. There's a computer back there," Ian barked, jerked a thumb to the backseat of his truck where Riley had left one of his many laptops. He turned away, looked into the distance. The entire landscape was white, the horizon a thin grey line. Can't even backtrack thanks to that bloody blizzard.
"So am I."
"I left a ton of stuff in that truck. All my jammers, my rigs. They'll be able to use it all."
Ben didn't reply. Don't encourage him.
"Are you sure we're going the right way?"
Riley frowned. He didn't think so. As Ben strode on, he tried to pull out a satellite tracking device from his duffel. After a short struggle, his hand emerged victorious. He hated doing anything with the pillows commonly known as gloves, it was like playing piano with mittens. He peeled off his gloves and proceeded to boot up. He stopped walking, turned his body at a ninety degree angle. His brow furrowed in concentration. Then his head jerked up.
"Ben!" He waved the device at Ben, who was several yards away. Ben had stopped and half-turned to give his friend/colleague/fellow treasure-hunter one of his significant looks.
Riley started towards Ben, his steps fast and heavy as he tried to get to him without wasting time.
"We were going the wrong-"
Suddenly the earth tilted beneath him. His feet slipped out from underneath him as a gash appeared at his feet, the device in his hand clattering to the ice and sliding towards the opening.
"No, no, no, no-" Riley reached out for it, the sling of his bag sliding down his arm.
"Riley, no! Just let it go. Give me your hand."
Riley watched as a personally customized and tweaked $700 fell to an icy death, gritting his teeth at the far-off, crashing sound several seconds later. He turned to Ben, who was squatting within arm's reach on safe, solid ground, proffering his hand. Carefully rolling onto his stomach, he stretched out an arm.
With a crack and a groan, the earth tipped towards the mouth of the glacier as Ben grasped hold of Riley's hand. At that moment, their eyes caught and both saw the same emotion cross. Fear.
Riley's shoulder bag grew heavy as gravity started to take hold of it. It slid even further down his other arm, dragging it down. Ben saw the war going on in Riley's mind as it flitted into his eyes.
"Riley. Other hand. Now."
Riley kept the bag hooked onto his forearm and he carefully reached up to Ben. Gravity gave a final, mean tug and the fragile support the earth provided Riley gave away. Riley's basic self-preserving instinct faltered and he caught the bag by the strap, nearly missing. In the process, he caught sight of his death waiting beneath him in the form of sharp, blood-thirsty stalagmites.
"Oh. Shit. SHIT. BEN."
"Calm down. Look at me."
Riley tore his gaze away from the white knives and stared right into Ben's eyes.
"I'm gonna die. This isn't how I pictured my death. I was hoping for an audience at least. Doing something heroic."
"Shush. Let go of the bag."
"No!" Riley's voice was a queer mixture of defiance and incredulity. His life was in that bag. If I lost it…
"Let. It. Go."
"Riley, if you don't let go, I can't pull you up, and I can't hold on much longer."
Ben paused, carefully let one hand leave Riley's as his other hand gripped even tighter. He ripped the glove off with his teeth, gingerly repeated the process with the other hand, adjusting his grip until Riley winced, and tried to pull him over the edge. He groaned, huffed, heaved, puffed, then shook his head.
"Riley, you know how heavy that thing is. Let go, I promise I'll reimburse you."
"I haven't made back-ups of my new programs yet."
"You can do it again. Riley. You're at least thirty pounds heavier with it. Let. Go."
Riley squeezed his eyes shut. He did have back-ups, but he loved his equipment. You couldn't replace a motherboard that's lasted you through high school and college. He cherished that thing like a mother loves a baby. There was a reason he carried it around with him constantly.
"Riley," Ben breathed. His grip was slipping. And this time he wouldn't be able to shift it as easily.
With something between a sob and a cry, Riley let go. He wished he could block out the clatter and the smash that followed. It was like a dagger to his heart. He surrendered his hand. With the extra weight gone, Ben lifted Riley over the edge without much effort.
As they sat next to each other, heaving, each with his own thoughts, it started to snow. Ben thought about how close his friend had just been to death. Riley relived good times with his faithful motherboard.
"You do realize our hope of escape just crashed down a two-hundred foot glacier," Riley finally said, turning to face Ben. The wind picked up.
"There's not supposed to be a two-hundred foot glacier anywhere around here," Ben commented, looked down at his own sat-nav. "What did your navigator say?"
Riley quickly rewound his mind to the instant before he nearly went crashing to his doom. Strangely, he couldn't remember even looking at the hand-held screen. Scary. Very scary.
Ben saw the confusion on Riley's face.
"Don't worry about it," he said, clapping him on the back.
"I can't remember," Riley said, raising his voice to hear himself above the wind. "Do I have, like, concussion or something?"
"You didn't hit your head. It's probably just shock."
Riley shook his head, stretched out a hand for Ben's device. After a few seconds of tapping and tut-tutting, Riley threw the thing down on the snow beside him, lowering his head into his hands.
"I can do nothing without my tools. Everything's gone."
Ben got to his feet, pulling Riley up next to him. The wind whipped around them, snow flurrying about in clouds. Riley stuffed his hands in his pockets, his gloves had shared the same fate as his beloved motherboard. Visibility was rapidly decreasing, Ben could barely see the glacier right in front of them.
"We have to get out of this!" Ben shouted. Riley shook his head, cupped a hand to his ear. Ben leaned in, grasping Riley by the arm, and shouted in his ear to stay close.
Still grasping his friend, he backed away from where he knew the glacier was, and started to search for shelter.
A/N: First of four. I did some research and the only place where the Inuit people still live in small villages is in Inuktitut, somewhere in Alaska, just above the Arctic Circle. So I guess that's where the Charlotte could have ended up, because the word 'Inuktitut' literally translates into 'place where ice gathers'. Smart, hey?
But since the place is basically unmapped and largely used for its oil reserves, all the names in the story are made up.
Also, I know diddly squat about computers, I just like to pretend I'm a total geek.
One more thing, I have no beta, so if you see something weird or out of place, please let me know. I do scour my stuff like an obsessive before I post it, though, so you shouldn't be utterly confused. And, of course, anyone who would like to volunteer to beta for me, PLEASE DO!!
Disclaimer: take note 'cause I'm only doing this once. I do not own any characters, ideas or obvious contradictions in the plot of National Treasure. I just fool around with them and point out all their silly mistakes. Heheh.