Halfway to noon Colton regained confidence the path led to Asur Corfiu, a small town on the lower slopes of the high Andes rarely marked on any maps. Pack mules were still the fastest way in and out, and the fastest of them couldn't make the trip from the river deep in the valley to the town in less than a day. The town existed only for money. While the regular coffee trade brought in a fair amount of cash, nobody was there for the purposer of moving coffee. Coffee merely happened to be part of the package deal.
The richest growing fields of Lyzcanthia solanium in the Western hemisphere happened to lay within a forty mile radius of Raus Corfiu. The thick sap from that plant contained the active ingredient found in cuvalo. That drug was by far the most expensive and sought after drug known to mankind although traditional civilian medicine knew very little about it. The military considered it too valuable and dangerous to allow normal doctors to work with it.
Cuvalo did not so much relieve pain during the period of peak effect as make it impossible. It also acted as a natural brain chemistry enhancer. In a subject laboring under too much stress the drug automatically went to work augmenting the human body's existing biochemical framework. It's use as a stimulant had been largely rejected, however. Subjects almost always felt capable of performing tasks at a level so far beyond their normal physical capacities that they critically overtaxed their muscles and cardiopulmonary system. A subject might feel like Superman or Superwoman but if they tried to lift a car they would tear their muscles apart, and the drug would allow them to do that without pain.
The last Irwin heard about it, which happened to be from Riley, the drug displayed a tissue regenerative property. In a highly purified and concentrated topical application form it closely bonded with human cells and served as a catalyst for spontaneous cell division. It had been tested on burn patients who had little hope for recovery. Absent epidermal tissue actually began to reform and spread across severely burned areas. Somewhat disquietingly, stopping the skin from growing turned out to be more of an obstacle than starting it.
Irwin learned how to make cuvalo at the same time he learned how to produce opium and heroin. Cuvalo production required fewer chemicals, but the many extra stages of distillation and precipitate filtering made the process much more time consuming. Additionaly, whereas the poppy sap to product yield ranged around 22:1, the solanium sap to cuvalo yield checked in at a distant 38:1.
The scholar and survivalist threaded his way downhill lugging 60 more pounds than he'd like to. He really only needed the solanium sap, but since the locals had insisted on producing the stuff of sticky nightmares he had four kilos. Irby justified carrying the extra weight with thoughts of non-lethal booby traps and the advantage of being able to kill severe pain.
Irwin repeatedly made the transition between dense thickets growing in the full sun, with canopy heights of fifteen to twenty feet, and slightly less tangled second growth jungle under old growth canopies one hundred to two hundred feet high. The low growth stretches, with the sun beating down not very far overhead, cooked his brain. The old wood sections tickled the hairs on the back of his neck, because there was always something alive very nearby at all times in those areas. Irwin Colton recited a litany of promises to keep to himself and his family if he managed to survive the ordeal. The very top of the list was to stay at least two thousand miles away from the Amazon for a long, long time.
As he walked Irby thought about the two year period following his father's death when he became heavily informed about leftist causes and ideals. During those years he toyed with the idea of starting his own brand of revolution in Sonora and Chihuahua States south of the border. From there he could have ruled a vast network of underground safe houses for leftist inteligentsia and victims of enforced conformity. He had not yet met Jaina in those years, and he had yet to get over his father's death, so little anchored his idealist monolog to material and physical realities
Irwin considered his school of philosophy from that not too distant era. For him to have patience meant for his consciousness to bend rather than collapse upon reaching the breaking point. Long months witnessed moments stretched out paper thin between himself and all of his goals, and between himself and all of the people who might be able to help him achieve his goals. Often he feared the thin thread upon which he and his sanity did a tightrope act would snap and send his rational mind plummeting down infinite corridors from which it could never escape.
Somehow a fresh burst of peace and inspiration would always find Colton's mind in those dark moments. An expansive view from a mountaintop, as if seen through his dead father's eyes, would lodge itself in his awareness. The tableau would hush all his restless anxiety and bring peace to his furrowed brow. His troubled thoughts would cease racing from one pessimistc hypothesis to the next. His consciousness would bend beneath the weight of all his worldly concerns, take the impulse to give in to futile emotional outbursts and forge a stronger, more lucid outlook on his problems.
Colton never managed to set up any significant connections in Mexico at all. He was granted an audience with two marijuana growers. Their ranches didn't look very large, but he could feel their pride. Those two men were alarmed by the mention of arming normal workaday Mexicans. They strongly advised him to chill out and smoke some weed. They reduced their asking price 25% after Irwin's eyes crossed involuntarily and his head kept falling forward onto his chest. They were likely worried he might get too high to go through with the deal, and they needed the money. Irby walked away with some dynamite weed and the strongest feeling he never fully wanted a revolution in the first place.
Money from marijuana sales covered all of Irwin's basic expenses, which were all of the expenses. His pipe dream of founding a nation from lands once belonging to Mexico and the United States vanished in a wisp of saffron odor one day while he was cooking. He suffered from an immense lack of desire. He wanted a girlfriend. That was where his "To Get" list began and ended.
He considered buying a new car as a lure for a better girlfriend. He looked at one, but the paint job had metallic glitter in it. The car couldn't say "I Sell Weed" any louder if it actually had that written on the side. He felt sorry for any person who came along and bought the car without realizing it advertised herb sales. He momentarily considered whether or not that was paranoid. He decided it was not when he opened the glovebox and a piece of paper fell out that said, "I Sell Weed." Coincidentally, around that time he expanded his business so that he had an underling in sales.
Despite having a phenomenal education and an impeccable work ethic, Irwin dragged his heels taking care of even the simplest problem. He didn't have a large circle of friends. He had very few friends at all. That would have been direly problematic in the formation of a United Peope's Army, but equated only to slow business in real life. That was when Ilsa came along.
Ilsa always bought at least one ounce per month, and every now and then a quarter pound. Irwin knew her from the university, where he was supposed to be teaching and where she taught geology. After six months of wasting time making peanuts the idea struck Irwin that he should consider bringing Ilsa in. He knew it would be a big step, but he really needed to expand the business. He had developed an addiction to homecooked fine cuisine, even though he could never know if it tasted the way it was supposed to. The ingredients were eating all of his safety money.
During his first and failed attempt to bring Ilsa over to the supply side, Irwin employed the use of code in order to explain why he wanted to see her at his home. She became frustrated and more than a little concerned for his mental well being during that attempt. He kept telling her they needed to discuss mustard greens. Ilsa wound up getting out of his car and slamming the door, shouting, "I don't like mustard greens! How hard is that for you to understand?"
Irwin tried again, that time making it sound like they were going on a date. He referred to the commodity as "our browinies," and Ilsa did make that connection. Unfortunately Irwin referred to "our brownies" seven times in just a couple of minutes. Their conversation started to go bad again.
"Irwin, have you been getting enough sleep? I already told you special brownies sounded fine. We'll probably go unconscious rather than spend much time talking to each other, but we'd probably have fun until then. So why do you keep going back to it?"
"Ilsa, I'm talking about selling bud. Would you like to come over so we can talk about making some money?"
"So this isn't because you want to go out with me?"
"I think you're beautiful, but no. That's not what led me to speak to you. I want to make more money, and to do that I need somebody's help. You seemed like the perfect choice because --" Irwin looked into her soft blue eyes and became crucially aware of her closeness, how her hair caught the light. "--you are the sort of woman I can imagine spending my life with."
Ilsa's expression went from highly irritated to pleased within a second of hearing that sentence. Irwin didn't lie either. He simply had not beforehand told himself the truth about why he wanted to make her a partner. Blondes made him skittish, even one who spent a lifetime learning and teaching science. He no longer had to worry about taking the initiative concerning Ilsa, because she climbed over the stick shift and mauled him.
Only a couple of hours of light remained. Even though hugging the side of a ridge was hellacious on his leg muscles, after hours struggling through the vegetation earlier Irwin decided a descent into the low valleys was more time consuming and dangerous. When he finally tired of thickets he climbed halfway up the nearby ridge and proceeded to front-side crab walk over the steep terrain for the rest of the day.
During the ambush at the original base camp Irwin narrowly escaped. He would be worm food like everyone else if nature hadn't called. Not long after he and Ilsa parted ways Irwin swore he would never again indulge in that substance that causes the body's normal expulsion method to grind to a dead halt. If he hadn't traipsed into the jungle to dig a small latrine Jacob would be without a father. Irwin crossed himself.
As the last remnants of the sun faded Colton cursed the inaccurate map. He should have sighted some indication of Asur Corfiu after a day's hike. He scouted the trees in the immediate vicinity for one that could hold an improvised bivouac. The eight foot climb to tie the spider hammock and mosquito netting reminded him old age could not be stopped. He tied a chord to the packed gear and pulled it up next tot he hammock. Then he snaked his way up into the sleeping spot himself, gun tucked in with him safely.
Sleep chugged down the track toward Irwin, and he reflected on how different he became after he finally got over his father's death. During that period of Spartan asceticism he believed desire wrong. Because money led to easy fulfillment of desires he rejected wealth. He set off down that path for great reasons, to achieve spiritual clarity and fulfillment. Instead of feeling freed from the dismal confines of bleak reality through that method, howver, he only felt more empty and alone at times. He took that as a sign that he was till chained by worldliness, that the world of desire still prevented him from reaching a spiritual pinnacle. Then Irwin decided to give up all sexual gratification.
Within two weeks Irwin had learned a valuable lesson about desire and spiritual fulfillment. The two things are not at odds in any sort of normal environment. He had approached his meditation from an entirely incorrect angle. If desire doesn't have to be wrong, then money becomes absolutely neutral in illumined awareness. He figured out he was wrong in the simplest of fashions. He completely failed to give up sexuality. After he had an orgasm, fantasizing about a damsel at the photocopy shop, it occurred to him how wrong he had been. Only through failure was his path to success reopened.
Irwin sighed and smiled as he fell asleep. He was glad that at least he encountered no locals during the day. He had been braced for such an occurrence, but it did not happen. He really was a thousand miles from anywhere. The last thing he thought about was a nerf football he gave Jacob. He couldn't wait to see his little boy again.
[Unedited. I noticed I mixed up names in Chapter 11, so I fixed that. This will definitely be added to, but it won't be anything major.]