TALE TEN
Why Is There Snow In Peru

    Even though I was in the Professor's office, I was comfortable.  I had a freshly made margarita in my hands and I was relaxing in the La-Z-Boy Atomolounger.  You know the chair I am talking about.  The chair that the Soviets, desiring to posess its astounding anesthetic-like effects, tried to duplicate in 79' resulting in both a failure and a catastrophe that leveled 735 acres of forest.  Oh yeah.  Unfortunately, even the Atomolounger could not ease my irritation with Hozehead.
    "Vince, give me the remote."
    Click.  "Attorney General Dick Thornburgh stated today that the tide has turned in the war on drugs."
    "Come on Hozehead, pick a channel and stay there."
    Click.  "More news from the war on drugs.  Officials at the DEA say that they have seized over two billion dollars in cocaine this year."
    "I mean it Vince, you're starting to get on my nerves."
    Click.  "Seven people were found slain in a suburban Los Angeles home today.  Police state that it is drug related."
    "If you don't give me the damn remote, I'm going to hurt you."
    Click.  "Danger prone Daphnie does it again.  Shaggie, you and Scoob go that way."
    "Alright."
    "Vince, how did you become a teacher?"
    Before Vince could respond, Aarron stepped into the conversation.  "He wrote his thesis paper for his teaching degree on the relationship between Scooby Doo and the drug culture of the late sixties.  It was titled "Don't come knocking if the Mystery Machine is rocking."
    Vince added, as the static discharge from his hair caused the TV to turn off.  "Got a B+ on it."
    "Just turn the TV back on Vince, you might find what's on channel 49 of great importance.  I saw the ad in TV Guide yesterday."
    Hozler did as he was told and zapped to the Discovery Channel. A commercial was currently on and that gave my mind time to formulate hypothetical scenarios.  It was probably another one of those "life cycles of the fire ant" documentaries.  Of course it was then that I realized that this was Aarron Graves I was talking about.  I could see it, "The Discovery Channel presents and in depth study of cannibals in South America."  I could also picture Graves stating, "hey everybody, sounds like a great vacation spot, lets go."  I was headed for the door as the show started.
    "Archaeologists studying the ruins of the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu, have uncovered what they believe is evidence indicating that the ancient empire may have extended even further north and east than now thought.  Archeological digs, nearly 100 miles North of Machu Picchu, along the banks of the Urabamba river have uncovered knotted strings, commonly referred to as quipu, as well as pottery, weapons and skeletal remains.  Members of the study have stated that they believe that these settlements may have extended further North along the Urabamba river and possibly east along the Purus to . . . "
    The Professor turned the TV off and walked over to his desk. "So Vince, what do you think?"
    "Well, I think that it was very rude of you to turn off the TV before they had finished.  I think that it is an amazing discovery if it is completely true.  Of course, you wouldn't have brought up the topic if there wasn't some good reason."
    I knew it, I had just reached the doorknob when Vince said what he had said.  "Let me guess Aarron, you turned off the TV because you didn't want us to hear the fact that an exploratory team sent further up the river has disappeared and it is feared that they fell prey to cannibals."
    "Well, that is what the news is saying, but any rational thinking man knows that there are no true cannibalistic tribes in the region.  Of course there is a race of people that exhibit some of the traits of cannibals; disregard for humanity, brutal killing, and generally a poor disposition.  These people are the ones responsible for the disappearance of the archaeologists.  They do not want people interrupting their work."
    Vince's hair crackled in a most bothersome way.  "Tomb robbers!  People who traffic in the theft of archeological sites. Central and South America is filled with hidden treasures that those bastard Spaniards didn't get their hands on.  Rich pickings for anyone able to find one of them."
    Aarron nodded his head and went over to the hyper-mega trans-universal radio.  Taking the mike in his hand and flipping a few switches he said, "bring your summer clothes because we are going to find out if there is snow in Peru."

SEÑOR BATISTA CHAQUITA

    I'm lost!  I am a card carrying cartographer, a person who specializes in maps and I am lost!  That is what I get for using that crappy map I bought at the Pic and Save.  Now I am stuck on some infinite expressway/loop/turnpike/overpass from hell just outside of Detroit.
    And the mariachi band was beginning to aggravate me.
    "Be quiet you guys, I think I hear my beeper going off."  At first I was only bluffing in a vain effort to make them stop playing The Girl from Ipanima for the tenth time.  Unfortunately when they did stop playing, I realized that my beeper was going off.
    I can't find my way out of Detroit and Graves wants me to go to Peru.  "Okay boys, you can start playing again, I've got to find exit 237."

KEN SLEDGEHAMMER

    People think that they are being funny when they make jokes about my apparent lack of motor-nervous activity.  I don't mind for a while, but even a guy like me, who has infinite patience, has a limit.
    The unfortunate side of this is that when I do reach my limit, I tend to act out violently.  This further enforces peoples belief that I am a lethargic scumbag.
    "You people have made me quite angry, now I am going to have to level this building and maim at least seven of you."
    "Hey!  Your beeper is going off."
    "I'm not falling for that old . . . oh, you're right, it is."
    The Professor wants me to come to Peru with him.  You know, when I was in college I got ahold of this really great Peruvian Gold, man that was good stuff.  Of course a couple of hours later I had to eat 170 dollars worth of Taco Bell so it wasn't really worth it.
    "I'm going to let you all off the hook this time, but if you ever call me an idiot again, I won't be as nice.  Oh, and by the way, what did you all mean by slow of mind?"

TEXAS BOB

    "Now I know what ya'll are saying . . . who the hell is this Texas Bob guy, I've never heard of you before.  Well that's because I've only recently come to your town.  What ya'll don't know is that I am the manager of the thirteenth largest chain of used car lots in these here United States.  I've sold cars to every type of person; Southerners, Californians, Yankees, people from Kansas, old people, young people, black people, white people . . . hell, I've even sold cars to Amish . . . and let me tell you, that is no easy task."
    "Here at Texas Bobs Used Cars and Army Surplus, ya'll will find any make or model you can possibly imagine, or my name ain't Texas Bob."
    BEEP!  BEEP!
    "Ya' see, that's probably another satisfied customer calling to tell me he wants to buy another fine used car for his son.  No problemo folks, I have acres of cars, ya' hear me, acres.  And if you need tires, our lot is conveniently located next to that tire dump, some of which is still burning . . . now that's a lot of tires."
    "Remember, for fine used cars and low prices on semi-automatic weapons call Texas Bob at area code 512-378-2278, that stands for CARS.  If you're out of the Corpus Christi area call our toll free Cadillac and Howitzer hotline at 1-800-GUN-AUTO.  See ya'll later."
    Shit, gotta go to Peru.

    We had been flying in Graves personal jet and it was a traumatic one.  Vince was at the wheel, and every so often I would wonder if Hozehead actually had a pilots license.  After a dozen or so shocking altitude changes we finally landed.  Upon taxiing for a few minutes, the plane shut down and we disembarked.
    I looked out the window and didn't see the large type of international airport I had expected.  "Aarron, where the hell are we, I know this isn't Lima."
    The Professor looked at me in that irritated sort of way he does whenever I ask a question.  "That's because we are not in Lima.  If you weren't aware of it, there are other cities in Peru besides Lima.  We are in Cuzco, once the capital of the Incan empire.  If your a good boy, after we've finished our little excursion, we'll go see Machu Picchu and I'll buy you some ice cream."  The cheesy grin followed.
    Vince picked off where Graves' sarcasm had ended.  "You see Benson, Machu Picchu is like the central archeological site of the whole Incan scene.  Cuzco was the capitol of a vast empire that stretched from the Ecuador/Colombian border to the Maule river in Chile.  It housed the greatest amount of historical records of any of the Incan digs."
    "The Incan ruler Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui was a pretty smart guy and went to great lengths to both bring his expanding empire together, and to improve their living conditions.  In many ways his building of roads, levies, water channeling systems and structures for farming parallel the ancient Romans.  Around 1471 he abdicated power to his son who was more of a war-like guy and brought most of the Central Andes region under Inca control.  Anyway, if you want to know more, you're going to have to take my class."
    "The point Vince has yet to reach is that being on the foothills of what we call the Cordillera Oriental mountain range, the Incas felt that it seemed like a nice place to stop.  They concentrated on expanding coastally north and south.  By the time they thought about expanding eastward the Spanish had landed and started wiping out the natives with both military arms and disease. Here's a handy tip to remember Benson, always have your shot card updated.  You just might be responsible for killing nine point six million people."
    "Now if it is true that they went further north, especially along the Urabamba, which eventually joins the Ucayali, and eventually hits the Amazon . . . dude, they'll . . ."
    "They'll have to chop down half of the remaining rainforest to make enough paper for the thesis papers that will be written.
    "Exactly."
    Now I had to admit, I was wrong about many of the bad things I've said about Vince.  His explanation of some of the Incan history scene was impressive.  I guess you can't judge a book by its cover.
    The guy in the cowboy hat spit out a wad of brown crap. "What the hell are we standing around here for, let's get moving."
    "Bob is right, average run-of-the-mill archaeologists and wilderness dudes may not have stood a chance against cannibals or cannibal-like people.  On the other hand, we have a much better chance.  Bob, did you bring the equipment?"
    "Yep.  Ken, git that big crate from out of the plane."
    Sledgehammer went inside the plane for a moment then came back out with a large crate in his arms.  "This thing is heavy, what do you have in it?"
    "Backpacks, camping supplies, food, and a couple of handguns for self defense purposes . . . oh yeah a couple of assault rifles and two M-60 machineguns.  Your standard loadout for investigating mysterious disappearances of scientific people."
    "What about the flamethrower?"
    "Sorry Aarron, I sold the only one I had in stock a few days before you called.  You have to understand that my sales in South Central L.A. are up 210%.  I love inner-city violence."
    We picked up the Land Rover that was waiting for us at the airport and headed up the road to the ruins of Machu Picchu.  While I'm on the subject, let me give you a little piece of information on third world road systems.  Contrary to popular belief, these roads aren't always muddy, pothole-filled thoroughfares.  There are many paved roads in all parts of the world.  What I have observed is that these roads are thin, as in not wide.  I'm sure that this is due to the fact that there are far fewer cars and such in third world nations, which means less traffic, and more opportunity to drive down the center of the road.
    Vince was driving . . . down the middle of the road . . . not noticing the bus coming at us . . . doing the same thing.
    "Hey Benson, when you play chicken, which side of the road are you supposed to swerve to avoid a head on collision?"
    "Left!  No Right!"
    AAAHHH!

    Since you are all loyal readers I will not lie to you . . . I fainted.  I may be a man and am not supposed to do that kind of thing, but when Vince is driving, the human body changes its patterning to survive.
    "Welcome to Machu Picchu Mister Benson, cool huh?"
    "Sure Aarron, all I see are a bunch of stones and trees.  Where are the pyramids, where are the cool sacrifice thingys."
    "Stolen mostly.  The Spanish got a lot, the Brits, the United States, Mexico. Everybody wanted a piece of the Incan nation and since it is natural to exploit those who are weaker than you, Peru got raped pretty bad."
    Vince jumped in.  "Archeology rarely turns up that big find Mister Benson, most of the time we spend months digging in the dirt only to find a stone tool or a knotted piece of rope.  It's pretty boring stuff when you take a look at it.  I would give my left testicle to stumble across something like Indiana Jones, fighting Nazi's and meeting the babes."
    "Yeah, Vince's biggest find was a case of beer on Refugio beach with a metal detector."
    "Hey man, it was Tecate, quality Mexican beer and the sand had kept it cold."
    "And you got a stomach disorder because you didn't follow the number one rule when drinking beer from that nation."
    "Never eat the chunks."
    "Hello Professor Graves, I'm so glad that you could make it, I'm Professor Manuel Cardoza head of the Pre-Colombian department of the National Museum.  When I received your call, my hopes were most definitely raised.  I am sure you would like to start up river immediately so I will summarize our discoveries.  A recent earthquake had disrupted a section of topsoil about fifty feet inside from the southernmost wall, revealing a buried chamber.  An investigation turned up the usual pottery and related artifacts, but what interested us was the some of the records stored here mentioned a city named Chitzi Machi, reportedly north along the Urabamba river.  Doctor Vincent Romero and his assistant Miss Diane Hayes took a few guides up river to begin the search.  I stayed here to protect the site while I waited for experts from Lima to arrive."
    The man paused while he fanned himself with his Key West bar guy hat.  "Unfortunately, five days later one of the native guides staggered back onto the site.  He said that wild men had captured the expedition and killed everybody except him as a message to not cross tribal lands.  The government feels that it may be an obscure band of natives, but I think that artifact hunters are the ones responsible.  So Professor, what do you think?"
    "I think that it is time for us to get on up river."
    "Aarron, do you really think that this is a good idea?"
    "I don't know Mister Benson, let me ask the others, Vince?"
    "Headhunters or not, if there is a city, we have to go."
    "Ken?"
    "Target practice."
    "Batista?"
    "Vince took my answer."
    "Bob?"
    "Ken took my answer."
    "So Mister Benson, as you can see, everyone but yourself is in agreement that we head up the river the get the scoop.  You're the reporter for a large metropolitan newspaper, you shouldn't have to question opportunities like this.  Where is your sense of adventure?"
    "Adventure!  Adventure was the trip here, with Vince buzzing hilltops with the plane, and scaring the crap out of a busload of passengers.  Going up the river, where the possibility of cannibals, huge snakes, and nothing but jungle for hundreds of miles is insane.  What if I get lost?  What if all of you get killed and they pick me as the one to go back to civilization to tell the story?  What happens if I get stung by a big scorpion in my boot?"
    "Well, to be honest, you'll probably die."
    "Let's go."
    Now you may be saying, "hey, what the hell is your problem Benson.  You just made a convincing case against adventuring into the jungle and then you say let's go.  Have you finally gone insane?"  No.  Don't you get it?  Graves said that I would probably die.  Think, or at least re-read the previous chapters . . . I'll wait.
    There you go, now do you get it.  Graves was honest with me. There were no attempts to show a silver lining.  He didn't say "Besides, you might get to meet those Amazon babes you always dream about" and he didn't say "Keep in mind these waters are infested with piranha."  That is why I got into the boat and headed upriver.
    For the first hour Graves looked ponderous, then he spoke. "Besides, you might get to meet those Amazon babes you always dream about."
    I was on my way out of the boat.
    "I wouldn't advise doing that Mister Benson, there is a good chance that these waters are infested with piranha."
    CRAP!

    Even with outboard motors, it took nearly three days to reach the point that the Urabamba forked east and west.  It was a tough trip to say the least.  Tough in that I had to listen to Vince ramble on about space aliens influencing both the Egyptian and Incan cultures.  I hate UFO stories in a most serious way.  I hate hearing about overweight women saying that they were kidnapped, and I hated hearing about kooky seperate continent architect theories.
    I had become at ease with the actual journey because I remembered a fragment of a geography lesson.  In between telling me to wake up, and laughing at my vain excuses for not having my homework, Mr. Poteete used to say "find a river, follow it downstream, you'll find a city."  I used to doubt it but you find a map, any map and find a river.  Now I'm not talking about something like Doug's Creek, I'm talking about a waterway that is at least 100 miles long.  Follow that river downstream and you'll find a city.  I was at ease because I knew if I was separated from the group I could just let the current take me, my boat and my ulcer back to civilization.
    "What if the river is dried up?"
    "Shut up Vince."
    "What if there is a waterfall somewhere in between."
    "Shut up Vince."
    "What if a errant asteroid slams into the moon, splitting it in half, whereby causing a freak shift in the earths tidal system."
    "Vince, I said shut up!"
    "What if . . ."
    "I suggest that both of you shut up for all of our sakes."
    "Why?"  This was Vince asking the stupid question.
    "What if I was to say that there are spear and blowgun carrying natives on the shoreline up ahead directing us to put ashore or die."
    "Good one, but what if the spears and blowguns had like curari poison on them?"
    "I don't think he is playing your game Vince, I think he is talking about the curari tipped, spear and blowgun carrying natives on the shoreline up ahead directing us to put ashore or die."
    Vince finally looked ahead.  "You know Benson, now that I reflect upon it, those were pretty good reasons not to go wandering into the jungle."

    These natives were not cannibals.  You may ask yourself how I knew that, and I can't really blame you.  As soon as we were tied up with vines and taken to their village I noticed the distinct absence of a large cooking pot.  Oh sure, there are a variety of ways to cook meat that don't require a huge cooking pot but a thousand Jungle Bob-esque flicks couldn't be wrong.
    Now I'm not saying that the absence of this kitchen implement soothed out nerves, because it didn't.  The humidity had caused Vince's mousse to fail and his hair was currently obscuring his vision.  Batista had that "hey man, I can understand some of what these guys are saying and I don't like it" look.  Texas Bob and Ken were bothered over the fact that the natives had taken their weapons and looked as if they knew how to use them.  It would take a few pages to describe why I was worried.
    Of course, as you have probably come to expect, Graves was quite calm.  In fact he had a slight smile on his face that could mean either he had a plan or he was dreaming about Amazon women. What he did next caused the acid production in my stomach to double.  In Spanish he said . . . "
    "Excuse me, yes, you with the big ears.  Why don't you get your leader out here right now so we can help you all deal with the problem in this region.  Otherwise I will have to destroy this village and all of you as well."
    "Ay Aarron, tu Pendecho."
    "Yeah, what Chaquita said."
    For some unknown reason the native dude didn't attempt to kill any of us.  Instead he momentarily went into a thatch hut then came back out.  The native guard sent a cheesy smile in Graves direction.
    "You know Aarron, it is the times like this that my doctor has recommended that I cease my association with you.  I have only one question and then I'll shut up."
    "Yes."
    "I may have gotten a C minus in Miss Sanders Spanish class but you said something about helping the natives with their problem. What is going on?"
    "What are the major cash exports of Peru Mister Benson?"
    "I don't know, cotton, coffee, sugar. Why?"
    "But what is the major cash export, anyone?"
    "Tobacco."
    "Those maraca things."
    "Fake passports for wanted Nazi criminals."
    "Cocaine."
    "Right!"
    "Really, I thought those maraca things were made in Mexico."
    "No Benson, Ken had the right answer.  Cocaine is the number one cash crop not only in Peru, but Colombia, and Ecuador.  Now knowing these facts, what assumption can you make Mister Benson?"
    "That it wasn't cannibals but drug dealers that did in the expedition.  It also means that because the inbred paranoia of narco-dudes, they have been causing hate and discontent among the natives of this village.  Of course, because of this, the natives are going to help us find their base of operations and we are going to destroy it."
    "Sometimes Mister Benson, I think that your high school and college transcripts don't accurately represent your level of knowledge."
    "Thank you Aarron, I think."
    "But then again, considering the current state of the American educational system, and the fact that they gave you a math credit for Accounting, who can understand the current grading system."
    "How do you know what is on my transcripts?"
    Vince interrupted. "You don't want to know Craig."
    The leader of the natives came into view and raised his right hand.  "Let's go."

    I felt that bothering you with the gratuitous cutting-the-jungle-path-with-the-machete scene would be senseless, you've seen it a thousand times before.  I also felt that writing about the big snake that dropped on me and resulting world record reptile toss would be blatant pandering to slapstick comedy.  Let's just stay these things happened and after an hour we were on the outskirts of the narco-dudes base of operations.
    "Well, these are definitely Incan ruins."
    "All except that airplane, and antenna."
    "So what do we do Aarron, we can't just rush in, shoot the crap out of the place, then leave."
    "You are correct Mister Benson.  We are going to rush in, shoot the crap out of the place, then stay around the study this site.  I'm not going to let a bunch of parasitic humans stall the advancement of historical knowledge."
    "You have to be kidding me Aarron?  This place has been here for hundreds of years, and it will be here long after we are dead. What happened to justice, fair trial, innocent until proven guilty? These people, no matter how self-deprecating, have the right to be judged for their crimes."
    "Listen Benson, people aren't saying no to drugs.  We had a generation experiment with them in the sixties.  Then we had another generation in the seventies use them frequently to the point of addiction.  Now in the eighties, we have a third generation who sees their role models, parents and friends using drugs.  No matter how much that damn crime dog says it, no matter how many rock musicians sing about it, and no matter how many people the judicial system throws in the slammer, it isn't going to end."
    "Sure, throw your hands up in the air and declare the whole thing a non-problem."
    "Which is what we did, all of us.  The government could have dealt with it in the early seventies when the biggest drug was locally grown marijuana, the occasional hit of LSD and a small amount of heroin.  The parents could have done something but they were too busy lamenting over Vietnam, Watergate and the loss of the Beatles.  Teachers could have done something about it but had to spend their time trying to teach a disinterested student population with outdated teaching tools, and poor pay.  The police, big business, even you and I could have done something, but we wanted to ignore the subject.  But it went from being a subject that could have been dealt with, to a problem that was underestimated, to where it is now.  A plague so huge that it can't be simply stopped."
    "Excuse me gentlemen, but maybe you should lower your voices."
    "The only honest attempt to end this problem, is this so-called war on drugs.  It is mostly smoke and mirrors, manipulation of statistics, but the efforts to stop the drugs at their source is working.  Burn the fields and kill the manufacturers, it's a plan I endorse."
    "Frontier justice, that's what you're saying.  Screw the Constitution and everything United States of America stands for. Just grab a gun and throw the fourth through eighth amendments out the damn window."
    "You know, I really think you might want to lower your voices, I mean after all, we are dealing with killers."
    "You know Mister Benson, I don't know if you are aware of but first of all, we are in Peru, which is not in the United States. Secondly, we happen to be in the frontier, which means that the laws that affect criminals there don't mean anything here in Peru. Finally, my decisions are not based on morals, opinion, or emotion. The simple facts are that drugs are killing thousands of Americans every year, putting hundreds of thousands in the hospital and talk, laws or commercials with trenchcoat-wearing dogs aren't going to stop it."
    "AARRON!"
    "What is it Batista, can't you see that Benson and I are having an argument?"
    "Yes, and it was so interesting, and loud, that the drug dudes that we are here to attack have taken interest in us and are on their way over here."
    "FIRE!"

    There was a lot of carnage to say the least.  You've seen it documented on these pages time and again and I figured that there was no sense in cutting down another tree for a rerun.  We spent a week at the site doing archeological stuff that was beyond my means.  Ken, Bob and I burned the crops and destroyed the manufacturing equipment while Chaquita combed through map stones. We left when officials of the government arrived to take credit for the find.
    After landing on the GDI building we retired to the Professors office to sort through the adventure.  The usual question and answer session was absent from the scene because there weren't any. Even though there are a lot of moral issues revolving around the drug problem, the Professors solution, however annoying it may have been to me, was simple.
    I was settling down with a cup of coffee when I noticed that Graves was flipping through a pile of brochures.  I got some java down the wrong pipe and coughed when he said that we were taking a . . . .

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