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Matt Richards frowned as he held his map out in front of him. He looked at it for a couple of moments, then flipped it the other way up, then he did it again. Then he crumpled it up in disgust. Richards almost threw it to the ground, but then reconsidered and shoved the ball of paper into his pocket. This forest was goddamned impenetrable and the crude map he'd been provided with was doing nothing to help matters. He'd seen nothing but trees for what felt like hours...

"Any joy with that map?"

Richards half-turned and glowered at his partner, a man whom he didn't get along with very well at the best of times and was suffering poorly right now. After a couple of days roughing it around a deserted island, neither were in the best of temperaments; so Richards was pretty sure that the feeling was mutual.

"Does it look like I had any joy with it? The damn thing looks as if it was drawn by a half-blind retard."

"Didn't know you were into cartography..."

"Kiss my ass, Baines."

The two of them glowered at one another for a few seconds before Baines sighed and shook his head. "Look, can we just keep moving? Danya'll have our fucking heads if we don't find that place on schedule."

Richards threw up his arms in irritation but nevertheless turned and continued walking. Danya was not the kindest of bosses and nothing if not unpredictable. Incurring his wrath was something most certainly not on Richards' agenda.

The pair picked their way through the forest for a little while longer and then miraculously, the trees dropped away. The mountain which dominated the centre of the island rose magestically before them and Richards felt a slight smile crossing his face for the first time in quite some considerable while. This only broadened when lowering his gaze, he spotted a small, single-story cottage tucked into the mountain's lee.

"Fucking finally," he murmured. "Right, let's check it out while we've still got daylight to burn."

"Oh I'm glad you suggested that; I wouldn't have had the first idea what to do next, otherwise," Baines remarked sardonically. Richards flipped him the bird and set off towards the cottage.

Growing closer, Richards could tell that the building was in fairly good repair. It wasn't exactly pristine in fairness, but it was far from some kind of run down hovel. Good, hopefully the interior would be the same way. Richards hated derelict buildings, they were just so... dead. It creeped him out.

Before long, the two of them were at the front door. Richards tried it and it opened easily. He looked to Baines, who gave him a slight shrug. The pair of them stepped inside and straight into a large room, which looked to be a combination of lounge and kitchen. A carpetted area was home to a sofa, a plush chair and a couple of small coffee tables. A tiled section hosted an oven and a number of small counter units. Walking further into the room, Richards could see two doors on opposite walls. The cottage wasn't sizeable, so hopefully this would be a straightforward job.

Turning to Baines, Richards gestured vaguely at the room. "You look this place over, I'll see what's through those doors."

"Got it."

Approaching the first door, Richards opened it and walked into the room. It looked like an office, complete with filing cabinets, a computer situated on a desk and paperwork all freaking over the place. He spent a short while looking around the room, opening drawers to check them for anything that they wouldn't want contestants getting their hands on. For all Richards' searching though, he turned up empty handed. It seemed as if the rangers had taken anything of use (at least as a weapon) along with them. As for the computer... well, that was just a matter of making sure the electricity was cut off. No biggy.

Richards left that room and headed for the doorway opposite. Upon entering, Richards discovered it to be a bedroom. Little was remarkable about it, just a double bed, a dresser and a TV atop a chest of drawers. He gave it a cursory look over, but it was pretty obvious that the place was empty. Still, he went through the motions, pulling out each draw and checking them. After all, Baines would delight in reporting him for not doing his job properly.

Not that Richards wouldn't, given the excuse, return the favour.

Before long, Richards returned to the main room. Baines was waiting for him there, holding a couple of kitchen knives casually in one hand. He gave his partner a curt nod.

"We ready to roll?" Baines asked. Richards gave a look around the room, hesitated, then nodded.

"Yeah. Let's keep going, we have a lot of ground to cover."

Behind them, the two men left the ranger station, looking for all the world as if the residents had just one day packed up and left...


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