A special thank you to Henry, Amelia, and Harriet Symons for help in creating and staging the sets for this story.
Synopsis: The Peril Squad are on a mission to find a soldier who deserted and set up his own kingdom in the jungle. Read Part 1 here.
Peril Squad 2: The Lost City of Harhenam
The Peril Squad gathered at the bottom of the tree. Marina shook Oscar awake by nudging him with her toe.
“I saw something,” Orlando said. “Here, I took a picture with my super goggles.” He showed them a picture of a fortress surrounded by jungle. A bridge led to the fortress over a pond with crocodiles in it. People with spears were standing on the walls.
Tatiana grunted. “She saw the same thing,” Oscar said.
“It might be the soldier we are looking for,” Marina said. She snatched the mission orders from Orlando’s pocket. “His name is Colonel Curtains. Let’s go!”
Tatiana had the machete, so she led the way, cutting a way through the dense plants. After an hour, they came out of the jungle at the foot of a set of stone stairs. At the top stood a man in a suit and fancy hat holding a huge battleax in his hand.
“Welcome,” the man said. “This is the lost city of Harhenam. I am William, the butler.”
“It can’t be too lost,” Orlando said. “We found it”
“So did a few others,” William said. “But for most people, it’s lost.”
Oscar sat down on the bottom step and rubbed his feet. Marina and Tatiana climbed up. “We’re looking for Colonel Curtains,” Marina said.
“We have no curtains here, unfortunately,” William said, “including kernel curtains.”
Marina was starting to think they were speaking different languages when a voice across the bridge called, “Hello!”
They turned to see a tall brown-haired woman standing on the other side of the bridge holding a spear.
“How did you find us?” the woman said.
“We climbed a tree and saw you,” Marina said. “Is Colonel Curtains here?”
“I don’t know anyone by that name,” the woman said. “My name is Ahuic. We are the Order of the Sleepless Wolf.” She pointed to her shirt. “The others have them too, but it’s laundry day. I have an extra since I’m the leader.”
“So, are you guys…?” Orlando called, pointing at all the pirate flags around. “I mean, it’s fine if you are. I’m just wondering.”
“They were here when we got here,” William said. “I’ve been meaning to replace them.”
Marina stepped onto the bridge slowly, trying not to look down at the crocodiles in the water below. “How many of you are there here?”
“I think about eight?” Ahuic said. “Sleepless wolves are restless. We just kind of come and go. We come from all parts of the world. Oh look, here’s our most recent addition.”
A rugged-looking man with glasses and a spear had climbed up on the other side of the bridge. He slipped on the rocks and was about to fall in the water when Tatiana caught him by his vest and pulled him up.
“Thank you,” the man said. “So good to see you all. My name’s Gilbert. I was filming a wilderness survival show a few months ago when I lost my crew and stumbled onto the city here. I’d try to leave but one of the crocodiles ate my compass.”
“Well, let’s not just stand here sharing our backstories,” Ahuic said. “Come in and sit down.”
“Do you have any food?” Oscar asked. “I’m starving.”
“You can find the Chef around back,” Ahuic said. “He’s making dinner now.”
Oscar walked around the base of the city and found a man in a white chef’s cooking over an open fire.
“That’s smells wonderful,” Oscar said. The Chef straightened up.
“Oh, hi! Newcomers, I see,” the Chef said. “What TV show were you with?”
“I wasn’t with any TV show,” Oscar said, “although I pretend we’re the A-Team.”
“Most people here got lost from a TV show production,” the Chef said. “I was on a jungle cooking show. William the butler was on a show called Civilization Swap.”
“What are you making?”
“Pizza,” the Chef said. “I have to be creative with the ingredients, but I think it works okay.”
As the shadows started getting longer, people gathered both inside and outside the walls of the lost city for dinner. There were many different kinds of pizza but the Peril Squad only tried some of them. Orlando liked the mango and mushroom pizza pretty good but no one touched the mustard and roast crickets pizza except Ahuic. Tatiana ate a whole piranha-and-peppers pizza herself.
After dinner, when everyone was getting ready for bed, the Peril Squad met together.
“Colonel Curtains isn’t here,” Orlando said. “Let’s stay here tonight and then move on tomorrow.”
Tatiana growled something and pounded her fist on the wall. The others looked at Oscar.
“She says we should take turns keeping watch,” he said. “We don’t know these people.”
“Good point,” Marina said. “Not first.”
Orlando was the slowest to say “not first”, so he took the first watch, followed by Tatiana and then Marina (none of the adults trusted Oscar to stay awake). The others fell asleep in the corner of the main room.
Marina woke up to total darkness and Tatiana poking her. She sat up, yawned and found her custom-made Smuzi submachine gun.
Someone moved in the darkness. Marina heard the creak of hinges. Then a torch was lit and she saw Ahuic standing in front of one of the chests in the hall. It was full of gold!
Marina sat still and watched Ahuic put more gold into the chest and close the lid. Maybe they really were pirates. When Ahuic was gone, Marina stood up and crept over to the chest. It seemed rude to look at someone else’s treasure, but she was curious. She was just going to have a peek. After all, her grandmother had been a treasure hunter, so it was in her blood.
The gold was in piles of tiny nuggets that filled the chest. There has to be a million dollars’ worth here, Marina thought. There was a footstep behind her.
She turned to see Ahuic standing behind her. “Thief!” Ahuic cried. “We invited you in, gave you the good pizza flavors and the best place to sleep and you try to steal our gold?”
“No, you don’t understand!” Marina said. “You see, my grandmother—”
“Thief!” Ahuic shouted again and Mariana ran back to the others. “We gotta get out of here now!” she shouted. All around them, they heard people waking up.
They climbed up onto the city wall, but the way to the bridge was blocked.
Orlando pointed across the pond. In the pre-dawn light, they could see a boat in the middle of the water. “If only we could get to the boat, we could get away,” he said. “We can’t swim because of the crocodiles. Maybe I can make a gadget of some kind.”
Tatiana had already tied a rope to her machete. She threw it over the water and into the boat. A moment later, she was pulling the boat towards them.
“I guess that works,” Orlando said, a little sadly.
They climbed down a ladder on the side of the wall and got into the boat, first Oscar, then Marina. Tatiana stood on the shore to keep the crocodiles away.
“Wait!” They looked up to see Gilbert standing on the wall. “Take me with you,” he said. “I’m sick of living out here, eating terrible pizza every day and hearing everyone talk about their TV production schedules. I need to go home.”
“Well, come on,” Orlando said. “Always room for one more.”
There was not room for one more. Gilbert had to stand up and almost tipped over the boat. However, it was probably good they brought him since he could push the boat with his spear.
Ahuic whistled and climbed down the ladder to where the crocodiles were swimming over to her. She was joined by Sonja, a model who had gotten lost in the jungle on a photo shoot. They climbed onto the crocodiles’ backs and took off after the boat. The crocodiles were fast but Gilbert was so terrified that he would have to stay and keep eating strange pizza that he pushed the boat even faster. They were caught in the current of the stream and pulled downstream.
Back at the city, William was getting some of the men to follow the Peril Squad on horseback. Sheriff Lehua (lost from the show Hawaii 6-0) and a former travel YouTuber named Josh got the horses saddled up and they galloped along the stream, looking for the boat.
The boat had actually tipped over not far down the river and now the Peril Squad (and Gilbert) were hiding in the ruins of another fortress. They heard the horses go by, but William and the others did not see them through the thick trees.
When the horses had moved away, Orlando pulled out a satellite phone. “We need to get out of here fast,” he said. “I’ll get the helicopter to come get us.”
He tapped in the code and they waited.
“They promised us an escape vehicle for every mission,” Marina said, “although they didn’t say what kind.”
An hour later, they heard a plane overhead. Something black came out and fell towards them.
“It’s an ATV!” Orlando said, looking up with his super goggles. “There’s no parachute though.”
The ATV crashed through the trees and landed on its tires in front of them with a boom. It looked perfectly fine.
“I’m impressed,” Gilbert said, inspecting the bike. “I should make a show about jungle vehicles.”
“There’s only room for two people,” Marina said. “Two of us can go get help.”
Tatiana seemed perfectly at home in the jungle and was lounging around, looking contented. Oscar had collapsed in some giant leaves. At last Marina decided to go since she knew how to drive. She took Gilbert, who was desperate to get out.
They went the opposite way from the city of Harhenam. The ATV was so tough that it drove through even the densest plants with no problem. It was also nuclear-powered, so it never ran out of gas. Twelve hours later, Marina and Gilbert reached a city and caught a flight home.
No one was answering the phone at SAP headquarters so Marina and Gilbert walked into the Chief’s office. The secretary usually went on adventures during the week, so there was no one else there.
“Marina Pham!” the Chief said, jumping up. “I was just going to . . . go on an adventure. Sorry, can’t talk now.”
“Chief, we found a lost city but Colonel Curtains wasn’t there.”
“Who?” the Chief said. “Oh, right. That guy.” The fact was that the Chief had made up the mission after watching a movie on TV the week before. He had been desperate to find something to keep Peril Squad busy and out of the way.
Marina told him about the mission and what they had found. “This is Gilbert,” she said. “We found him.”
“He wants to join too?” the Chief asked. “Look, I know I said yes to the kid but—”
“No, I just want to go home,” Gilbert said.
“Oh, that’s okay then,” the Chief said.
He sent a helicopter to pick up the others in the jungle and started to think of another mission to send the Peril Squad on. He would have to see what was on TV that night.
Marina, Gilbert, and the Chief looked at each other awkwardly. “Do you want to get some lunch?” the Chief asked. “I was going to get some pizza.”