Summary: Injured while out scouting on the Plateau, Roxton slips into a living nightmare where he can no longer tell friend from foe.

Disclaimer: I don't own the characters from the Lost World - I'm just borrowing them for a little while.

Timeline: This is set early in the 3rd Season, pre- True Spirit - Malone is still missing following the events of Fire in the Sky/ Into the Blue. The group consists of Challenger, Roxton, Marguerite and Veronica.

Acknowledgements: Thanks as always to my wonderful betas - Julia and Mary - for their support, ideas and the trouble they go to, checking that what I've written actually makes sense.

Author's note: This story is written from the 1st person POVs of Roxton, Marguerite, Challenger and Veronica. ... indicates a flashback. This story assumes the pre series background that is referred to in "Ulysses", but should make sense if you have not read that fic.

Rating: PG


Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future,

And time future contained in time past.

If all time is eternally present

All time is unredeemable.

What might have been is an abstraction

Remaining a perpetual possibility

Only in a world of speculation.

What might have been and what has been

Points to one end, which is always present.

Footfalls echo in the memory

Down the passage which we did not take

Towards the door we never opened.


Four Quartets, 'Burnt Norton', pt 1.


Chapter 1


One of these days I knew I'd be able to spend time in the jungle without being attacked by raptors, trapped by giant carnivorous plants, pursued by a T-rex or encountering some lost human (or in the lizards' case - not so human) culture intent on being unpleasant to me.

But not today.

We'd left the tree house a few days earlier, still searching for Malone. The rest of us had managed to get off the airship, so it made sense that perhaps, somehow, he had as well. To be frank, I'd begun to lose hope, but Veronica was adamant that Malone was still out there, somewhere. I had too much respect for a girl who had become like a younger sister to me to ask her to stop searching before she was willing to admit to herself that we may never find him.

While the others had set up camp for the evening, I'd set out to find something for the pot. Our search for Malone had brought us to a part of the plateau that I didn't know as well as the area around the tree house. Even Veronica admitted that she hadn't been to the area in many years.

I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised then that the local tribe, which Veronica had described as shy of outsiders, should have since her visit metamorphosed from shyness to xenophobia.

Had I mentioned that they also seemed to have taken to cannibalism?

I'd gone out to find something to have for dinner. That irony was not lost on me as I fled through the jungle pursued by at least twenty of their hunters. The couple of shots I'd fired didn't discourage them as I'd hoped, and there were too many to even think of turning to take a stand. Even the four of us together wouldn't have lasted long: the denseness of the jungle reduced the advantage of our guns as we would only have been able to get a shot at them during the few seconds after they broke cover.

My only recourse then was to lead them away from Marguerite and the others, and hope that I could lose them. Being honest with myself, I wasn't optimistic of my chances.

I carried on running, taking a route away from where the others were camping. It was still close enough that they might have heard the gunshots, but as I'd gone out hunting, it wouldn't seem unusual. I didn't want them coming into this thick jungle after me. I'd got myself into this mess and I was going to have to get myself out of it. Or not.

The jungle was hot, stiflingly close. It seemed like I'd been running forever. My legs ached along with my chest as I struggled for breath after precious breath. I couldn't tell how close behind my pursuers were: they moved like silent wraiths through the same undergrowth that tore and dragged at me. An arrow thudded into a tree, scant inches from my head. My own automatic reaction jerked me backwards, the ground underneath my feet gave way and I fell. I reached out to try to halt my fall, but found only a handful of foliage, which came away in my hand. Something struck my thigh, my head, my chest, and then I saw nothing but blackness.


Nagging pain urged me back to consciousness. The memory of being prey in a hunt surfaced soon after and hard-learned survival instincts took over as I lay still and silent, trying to mute the breathing that rasped deafeningly in my ears. I could hear a commotion above me, voices chattering in a language I couldn't understand.

Had they seen me? There was no way to tell. Scarcely daring to open my eyes, I tried to take stock of my situation. My own weight was forcing a steady pressure on my chest as if I was sprawled face down across a beam. I could feel the sweat running down my neck and back, sticking clothes to skin. I'd fallen - that much I could remember. I'd been running to escape from... Indians? My head pounded mercilessly. I had memories of a nightmarish flight through the jungle, voices calling after me in anger, but it was all confused, blurred, disjointed. I decided to concentrate on more immediate matters.

The voices faded after some minutes. I waited a while longer and decided to risk moving. A flare of pain came from my left leg as I did. So, it wasn't only my head that was injured. I looked around to get a clearer picture of where I was.

It became clear that I'd fallen about thirty or forty feet down a steep sided ravine that turned into a sheer drop about twenty feet below where I had ended up, and I owed my life to the tree that had stopped my fall. It had grown clinging onto the steep slope along with some other hardy bushes which largely blocked the view from the lip of the ravine. I'd ended up jammed in the 'V' that had been formed between the trunk and the slope.

Five minutes of careful manoeuvring and I was sitting more comfortably straddling the tree trunk. My head was bleeding, though not too badly, but I could feel a lump the size of a grapefruit coming up behind my right ear. The sweat which I thought I'd felt running down my leg turned out to be blood coming from a long, ragged edged but shallow gash in my thigh, crusted with dirt and grit. It was only seeping blood now but I wanted to get it cleaned out. The problem I had was how to get out of the ravine, and quickly. I could see the sun dipping towards the horizon and my getting caught in so precarious a position all night was not something I wanted to consider.

Under normal circumstances I would have had no qualms about attempting the rough scramble to the top, but I wasn't at all sure how much weight my leg would bear. If it decided to give out at the wrong time, the result was self-evident, and while I hoped there might be water to break my fall at the bottom of the ravine, it was not an assumption I planned to put to the test.

I leaned there for some time in the fading light, trying to ignore the persistent throb of pain from my leg and head. Like a mountaineer mapping out the strategy for a climb, I studied the slope: thirty or forty feet, and I couldn't afford even one mishap. The urgency brought on by the rapidly failing daylight warred with my own sense of caution as I mentally tagged the locations of trees, branches and protruding rocks that might bear my weight. The mere process of hauling myself to my feet sent a wave of dizziness through my head. I made the mistake of looking down and was assailed by a sudden, alien rush of vertigo.

A chiding inner voice that I'd never been able to silence berated me for my weakness and lent me the required burst of determination. Every ounce of strength I had left became concentrated on the task of climbing out of the ravine. My focus narrowed to the location of the next foothold or hand hold. I could feel sweat - or was it blood - running down the side of my face, but I couldn't spare a hand to wipe it away.

Reaching the lip of the ravine came almost as a surprise. My pain and exhaustion fogged mind took a few moments to acknowledge that I'd made it and was still alive. Then the jungle seemed to recede down a long dark tunnel and I collapsed in the undergrowth, utterly spent.


I'm not sure how long I lay there, drifting in the half aware state between waking and sleeping. I had the vaguest recollection that night had fallen, so I guessed it must have been some time. Around me the noises of the jungle had settled back into their usual rhythm, as if forgetting the human presence so close by. I clambered to my feet as quietly as I could and stood there, listening. Even that slight movement had disturbed the birds who shrieked their warning cries through the jungle. I knew there would be a good chance that the people who had been hunting me would return at daybreak to check if I had survived, so I had to move.

At the back of my mind there was a sudden conviction that my pursuers would not have given up until they knew I was dead. I didn't know where the idea came from or why I should have been so certain of their intentions - all I knew was that it was something I was utterly convinced about, without knowing exactly why.

I started to walk, wanting to get back to.where? For an instant I had the oddest impression that there was somewhere I needed to be, someone who would be worried about where I was, then the feeling was gone. My head was pounding in time with my heartbeat. Around me I saw the jungle shimmer like a mirage, then steady again. Through the canopy I could make out the full moon overhead that was already riding high in the sky, shedding enough light to paint the jungle floor in eerie tones of grey and black.

For a few minutes I looked around for my rifle, but it was gone. I regretted the loss of the rifle - the .470 had served me well over the years. All I had left was the Colt in its flap-top holster and my knife. As I was looking over the handgun to check it was undamaged, my eyes strayed to the rifle cartridges tucked into the loops on my belt. They looked...wrong...somehow. I pulled one out. It was roughly the right size, but it was not flanged as were the cartridges for my double ejector .470. The cartridges in my belt were for a bolt-action rifle of the sort I hadn't carried since I gave the .318 to my friend Domingo a couple of months earlier. I tried to think why I was carrying them, but could find no answer.

In the first light of day I bathed the gash on my leg in a small stream I'd found. Ideally, the wound needed stitching, but all I could do was rinse out my already blood soaked handkerchief and use it as a crude bandage. It was, I knew, a far from ideal solution. Breakfast was a makeshift affair put together from a couple of familiar looking fruits. That done, I headed off, favouring my leg as little as I could.

I'd been walking for a couple of hours when I heard voices, far off but approaching. There was plenty of cover to choose from so I hid in the hollow left by an uprooted tree. I couldn't make out the quieter snatches of conversation, but the repeated call was very clear. A woman's voice, cutting through the intervening jungle, "Roxton! Where are you?"


"Roxton, where are you? You can't hide forever, you know." The voice was arrogant, mocking, but it still bore the seductive purr that had set my nerves on edge from our first meeting in the hacienda that she and her brother had killed an old friend of mine to acquire. Since then I'd taken it upon myself to cause her some considerable difficulties in her less than legitimate business enterprises. Dona Maria Lopez's subsequent pursuit of her grudge against me had cost the lives of some good friends of mine.

She was right in her assessment, though, I knew that much. My flight was going to end sooner or later, and end in only one way. Damn the bitch! I knew just as surely that the last thing I ever wanted to do was to show myself. She'd clearly paid Indians from one of the local tribes to track me, and they were far too good for comfort. Fit and rested I'd have been hard pressed to elude them. Tired and hurt after the tender ministrations of her thugs, I stood no chance.

Damn the woman! I decided that if I was going out, I was sure as hell not going alone. From my hiding place I watched as she and her hunters neared. I only had three bullets left, normally more than sufficient, but the beating I'd taken had left me dizzy and nauseous. I accepted that I might need all three bullets just to be sure of one of them hitting the target.

She stalked through the jungle ahead of her guards, undeniably elegant in her tailored white blouse and khaki skirt. A rifle was held lightly in her hands with a casualness that warned of proficiency. Her long black hair cascaded free and lustrous down her back. She might have been responsible for the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands of people from the Indian tribes of the region, but on some level she was still...desirable.

I pulled the gun and carefully aimed.

She stepped closer.

I fired.


I pulled the Colt and carefully aimed.

She stepped closer. "Roxton, where are you?" she called.

I fired.

She spun and fell.

The older, sandy haired man with her looked at her in horrified dismay. "Marguerite!" he cried.

To be continued...