"That's it," Jaime said briskly. "You have everything you need." She smiled reassuringly at the three rather nervous-looking men who were in her charge. "My best advice is to set up here, then split in three directions – make sure you mark your trails – and scout out whatever supplies you think you'll need. Water would be a great start."
"But how -?"
"I've told you everything you need to know for your first night." Her smile turned to a mischievous grin. "I'll see you in the morning, bright and early."
While they were still stunned into silence (she wasn't really leaving them there...was she?), Jaime turned on her heels and jogged off into the depths of the rainforest she had come to know so well. Once she'd passed completely out of their line of vision, she broke into an easy run, savoring the 'green' scent of the earth and its foliage and heading back toward her house.
Jaime truly had the best of both worlds. She was flourishing in her new role as a survival trainer and flew back to the States between sessions – to visit, catch up on 'real life' and (of course) attend her 10,000 mile check-ups – so loneliness and boredom were never a problem. She had flat-out refused Oscar and Rudy's request to put a phone in at her house (unwilling to run the lines through and 'corrupt the jungle'), but she'd ultimately agreed to having the very latest in OSI radio communication installed...just in case of emergencies.
This was her third group of survival trainees, and – aside from their initial nervousness, which was only natural – she felt they'd be her best group yet. There was Ted Chaswick (OSI), in his early thirties and bearing an uncanny resemblance to the Marlboro Man. He'd been a street-level operative for several years and was being groomed now for overseas responsibilities. Frank Rutherford (CIA) was a few years older than Ted, and had already worked several overseas assignments as well as countless missions within the States. He had the hefty build of a mountain-climber and a little too much skepticism for Jaime's tastes, but she was confident that his attitude would be gone soon enough. He was in Jaime's program because he was being considered for an inter-agency transfer. James Orland was the newbie of the group. He was tall, blond and (at age 25) still bean-pole thin. He was one of Oscar's more recent hires but had graduated in the top ten percent of his class at Harvard and was expected to rise very quickly through the ranks at the OSI.
Jaime paused for a moment just before the river, when her ear picked up quiet but steady foot-falls somewhere within a nearby patch of trees. The sound was too sure-footed to be one of her new students (and too light, as well, unless they were navigating on tiptoes). Could it be...a jaguar? She knew the big cats were more likely to be found on the other side of the river, where the foliage was much thicker, but anything was possible. If a human could cross the river, then a jaguar certainly could, as well. Jaime made a mental note to keep her ear tuned for signs of trouble at the survival camp (which she pretty much made a habit of anyhow), and she slowly made her way across the water. She had just reached the other side and was about to head up the bank and across the tall grass toward her house when she heard the gunshot...and her leg collapsed beneath her.
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