Guardian Angel-2 Elsewhere, part 3 of 3

As soon as they were up in the loft and heard the bedroom doors close down below, Ethan whispered.  “Okay, I would say you have some serious explaining to do.”

Jill looked hesitant.  There were two single beds in the loft and she sat on one and pointed at the other.  “First things first.  You sleep there or come the morning I’ll be a widow.”  She looked like she meant it, and Ethan was in no position to argue.  He felt disappointed, but he knew that was not the time for romance, so he sat on his bed and faced her.  He gave her a moment to collect her thoughts, but the look that must have appeared on his face prompted a second comment.

“Being married is safer,” Jill said.  “Some worlds still have slavery and worse, but marriage is considered sacred in most places.  Otherwise, the risk of being separated is too great.”

“Some worlds?”

“Earths.  Other Earths,” Jill said, and Ethan reacted.

aa-ethan-1a“But this is fantastic.”  He jumped up and spoke too loud.  He could not help it.  His mind filled up with the possibilities.  “I had no idea that Doctor Grimly was on to something so incredible.  No wonder he wanted to keep it quiet until he was sure.”

Jill shook her head so Ethan shut his mouth and sat back down despite his excitement.  “Doctor Grimly is a brilliant man, but there is a big difference between what he helped me do and what he actually knows.”  Ethan raised his eyebrows.  “I can’t believe that sweet old man wanted me to disappear right in front of your eyes.”  She frowned.

Ethan hardly had to think before he responded.  “I imagine he wanted a witness so he would not be accused of doing away with you and stuffing your body down the drain.”

Jill opened her mouth.  “I had not thought of that,” she admitted.

“Very lovely, by the way,” Ethan said.  “I would hate to see your body wasted down the drain.”  He grinned.

Jill’s hand stopped inches from Ethan’s cheek.  Ethan expected the slap, but Jill poked her finger on his nose instead.  “You can keep those thoughts to yourself,” she said.  Ethan was glad to see that she grinned more than frowned.  Then Ethan had a sudden insight as things came together in his mind.

“I take it you are not from around here, er, my Earth I mean.”

“No.  I am glad you are not stupid.”  Jill seemed to feel that was important.  “My Earth is a veritable Garden of Eden compared to yours.  If I had paper and pencil I could show you the math.”

Ethan cracked open his briefcase and showed her the paper and pens, but immediately closed up the case again.  “It wouldn’t do you any good.  I’m plain English, remember?”

“Anglish,” Jill corrected him, and genuinely smiled.  Then she nodded as if to say that she had come to a decision.  “I’ll give you the two-minute version, but then sleep.”

“Fair enough,” Ethan agreed.  He reached out to take her hand, to offer his encouragement, and she let him hold her hand for a minute before she pulled back.

aa-jill-3“On my Earth, the Greeks invented the steam engine in the ancient time.  I understand they did the same in your world, but the difference was in my world, there were some people who understood the implications of the discovery, and it was much earlier by about four hundred years.  Within a hundred years of the discovery, there were steam ships in the Aegean.  Alexander, the one you call the Great, he not only conquered the Persians; he ran rail lines from Ephesus to Susa, and all the way up the Silk Road to the land of the Ch’in.  By the time Christ was born, we had already set foot on the moon, and by the time Mohammed was born, we had faster than light ships and had explored half the galaxy.”

“No.”  Ethan breathed his sense of wonder, and it was hardly a breath compared to the storm of awe he was feeling.

“All right.  I am exaggerating a little, but you get the idea.  Anyway, we lived at your level of technology about two thousand years ago.  It was about a thousand years ago that our technology was able to break into parallel earths, what we call the worlds.  Doctor Grimly is at least a thousand years ahead of the curve on that technology, and we have had worlds technology for a thousand years beyond that, except I did not tell him enough for him to duplicate the work.”

“But how did you get here, I mean, there?  To my Earth, I mean?”  Ethan stumbled for the words and Jill looked sympathetic.

“I was stranded.  It was an accident.”  She shrugged.  “It happens sometimes.  I was the unfortunate one, but then I was lucky enough to be in a world where I could synthesize the means of escape in one way or another.  It was like trying to build a dimensional transfer unit out of paper and string, but it worked.”

“Except I don’t believe these people invented the steam engine in ancient days,” Ethan pointed out.  “I take it this is not your home.”

“No.”  Jill let out a deep sigh.  “Clearly we have not come to my Earth.  I calculated a ninety percent chance of that happening, and now we do not have the means that I intended to bring, so we may be stuck here forever.  God!  Grimly should have known better.  We were not ready to make the jump.  I did not have my other equipment finished, but I guess he was rattled by you being there.  That is a surprise.  Nothing usually rattles him.”

“What!”  Ethan shouted and stood again.  He just caught up with the idea of being stuck there forever.  He felt like shouting again, but he stopped his tongue, sat and returned to his quiet voice.  “What?  I saw you slip that watch thing into your pocket.  Isn’t that the control thingy?”

ab-briefcase-1Jill pulled it out and examined it.  “No, it is the power unit and field generator.  We need a computer of some sort for a controller.”

“Wait. Wait.  Wait!”  Ethan repeated himself over and over, as he fumbled with his briefcase.  Desperation made his fingers malfunction, but when he opened the case, he pulled out his laptop.  “Will this do?”  He asked.

Jill’s smile looked ecstatic.  She knocked Ethan to the bed, flung her arms around him and gave him a big kiss, right on the lips.

“Perfect,” she said and pulled her head back, but she did not vacate her position immediately.  She seemed to be thinking, which was a good thing because Ethan’s mind temporarily stopped functioning.  She apparently made up her mind and kissed Ethan again, and not without some feeling.  All too quickly, though, she was up.

“We need some copper wire.”  She spoke, but appeared to be thinking out loud.  “I need something I can turn into a USB plug.”

“Allow me,” Ethan said.  His enthusiasm and sudden surge of adrenaline pushed aside his common sense and he rushed to the staircase and went downstairs before Jill could stop him.  He tried not to creak the wooden steps or floorboards more than necessary, but he straightened up when he found that Lars was awake and poking around the kitchen, looking for a little more supper.

“Hungry?”  Lars asked quietly and handed out the sausages.

Ethan shook his head, but he saw no reason to hide things.  “I need some copper wire.”

Lars looked very curious, but found some copper tubing in a cupboard.  He did not have to spell out what the copper tubing was for since the alcohol was mixed thinly with water both before and after dinner.

“I think something more like telegraph wire.  I don’t suppose you have anything like that around here.”

aa-lars-7Lars looked thoughtful.  “Not like that.  But what are you needing the wire for?”

Ethan smiled at his own cleverness.  “I’ve got to use something to tie the witch to the bedposts.”

Lars stood still for a minute, and then guffawed.  “I got rope,” he suggested.

Ethan shook his head.  “Copper wire works best.  Ropes burn.”

Lars guffawed again and then looked serious.  “I thought iron was for witches.”

Ethan grinned again.  “Got any iron wire as thin as the copper?”  He asked.  Lars shook his head.  Iron wire was not made like that.  “So copper it is.”  Ethan sighed and shrugged.  “But I guess I’ll just have to do my best without it.”  He returned Lars’ slap on the back from earlier that afternoon and hurried back up the stairs to the sound of one more guffaw.

Jill met him at the top of the stairs, and hit him in the arm as hard as she could.  “Stupid moron.  You are going to get us both in trouble.”  She growled at him and went straight for her bed, curled up under the big goose feather quilt and turned her back on him.  In a few minutes, Ethan heard her breathing change to the soft, slow breath of sleep.  He stayed up for a while, stared at her lovely head and hair, imagined thoughts he should not have been thinking, and tried to rub the pain out of his arm.

************************

Next week: Guardian Angel 3-New Sweden, M, T, & W, published 8AM for a quick morning read to start your day…  Don’t miss it.

Guardian Angel-2 Elsewhere, part 2 of 3

“Auch!  But the Dutch Long Island is full of country.”  Angelica was still not convinced.

Jill pulled away.  “But it is so Dutch,” she said, to make a joke.

Angelica paused before she nodded.  “Aye.  That it is.  I do understand wanting to get away from New Amsterdam.  Too many people in too little space, and dirty.  Too very dirty.”

“New Sweden seemed inviting to us,” Jill said.

“And we had no idea we were on anyone’s farmland,” Ethan added and wondered again why he should be the one to keep quiet.  “We apologize for intruding.  I’m afraid we were not paying attention to where we were going.”  He reached out to Jill and pulled her to him in a lover’s embrace, and he smiled down at her.  To his delight, she did not resist him and appeared to return his smile and she did not seem to want to pinch him or kick him or anything!

“But why New Sweden?”  Lars came out from the back room.  “This whole country is nothing but one big swamp.”

aa-angelica-1“Auch!  My husband thinks only that the grass is greener in the next valley,” Angelica said.

“But New Sweden is extremely fertile, swamp or not.”  Jill spoke before Ethan could taste her lips again.  “You have a lovely garden.”  She smiled at Angelica and separated herself again from Ethan’s arms.

Angelica looked ready to respond to the compliment when a young woman came in the front door and interrupted them.

“Mama.  Papa,” the young woman said.  She was a big girl, with long blond hair like her father and dark brown eyes like her mother, probably not yet twenty, and she carried some flowers that she had picked and no doubt planned for the supper table.  She smiled, but paused on seeing the couple.

“Kirsten.”  Lars spoke up.  “May I present Mister and Missus Lucas.  They are Anglish and newly wedded.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Kirsten said with a little curtsey.  Her Anglish did not sound too good.  Lars obviously spoke the language.  Angelica was born to it, but clearly Anglish was not spoken much around the house.

“Jill,” Jill introduced herself as she stepped up to the young woman and let out a friendly smile.  “And we should get those flowers in some water.  They are lovely.”

The young woman returned the smile and led the way to the kitchen where they found a vase.  Ethan edged in their direction so he could eavesdrop even while he pretended to enjoy the fire.

aa-katie-2“You just married?”  Kirsten spoke volumes with her words and her grin.  “He is most handsome.”  She looked over at Ethan who turned his head to the fire so his spying would not be so obvious.  At the same time, he noticed Angelica leaning toward the kitchen herself.

Jill asked.  “So what’s his name?”

“Yon Veek,” Kirsten said before she began to whisper and Ethan could not hear anymore.

“So what is your work, Mister Lucas?”  Lars asked as he sat in a comfortable chair in front of the fire and pulled out a pipe to fill.  Poor papa, Ethan thought.  Oblivious to it all.

“Ethan, please.”  Ethan sat slowly on the couch, which also faced the fire.  He surmised the big fireplace was their version of a television.  “I’m a writer,” he suggested, having noticed a few books on a shelf by the kitchen.

“Auch!  An educated man.  Always a good catch for a young woman.”  Lars nodded.

“Our daughter has been through the grades, she has.”  Angelica spoke with a touch of defensiveness in her voice.  She came over to join them by the fire, though she kept one eye on Kirsten and Jill in the kitchen.  She sounded very proud of her daughter.

“Good for you,” Ethan said, not knowing what else to say.  It was finally dawning on him that things were very different here, wherever here was, and it would be too easy to say the wrong thing and get him and Jill in real trouble.  He briefly wondered again what Jill knew that he did not know.

“Aye.”  Angelica responded.  “New Sweden is not like New Angland.  There is not as much emphasis on education here.”

aa-lars-9“School education.”  Lars pointed out sharply, and he pointed his pipe at his wife in a kind of correction to his wife’s words.  Angelica nodded while Lars continued to speak.  “But here, as long as a man and a woman can keep the farm, turn a little profit if the Dutchman in the market doesn’t steal it all, and raise the next generation to be good souls and to fight.  Do you fight Mister Lucas?”

“Ethan.”  He spoke more firmly.  “And no.  Not if I can help it.”

Lars looked a little disappointed, but Angelica smiled.  “An educated and sensible man,” she said.  “A double fine catch for a woman if you ask me.”

“I think so.”  Jill agreed and joined them even as Angelica got up to head for the kitchen.  Jill took a seat on the couch beside her pretend husband and snuggled close, though not as close as Ethan might have liked.

“Our Kirsten will marry soon.”  Lars pointed his pipe toward his daughter who was now helping her mother with supper.  “As soon as I decide on which young man it will be.”

Jill tightened her grip on Ethan’s arm, and Ethan agreed with her.

###

During supper, there was hardly a chance for a misstep, until Ethan let slip that he was from Rhode Island.  He had family there, but it was a place the Hjorth’s never heard of.  Jill stomped on Ethan’s toe, but despite that, Ethan dug the hole a little deeper.

ab-dinner-2“I could show you if you had a map.”

Lars and Angelica eyed each other.  Something unspoken passed between them.  Jill pressed hard on Ethan’s toe, but Kirsten took him at his word and fetched a book.  It was one of her reader history books and it had some printed maps, including a map of the current state of the world.  Ethan was fascinated by the map, but mostly relieved when Jill lifter her foot and snatched the book from his hands.  Ethan had no idea Jill could read Swedish, and everyone stared as she started at the beginning and flipped through the pages at an alarming rate.  She seemed to grasp the information with only a glance at each page.

“It’s a gift.”  Ethan explained, nervously, believing that what he said must be true.  “That is why she married a writer, I suppose.  Who else could keep up with her?”  He felt a light tap on his toe, but Lars and Angelica laughed, if a bit nervously.  Kirsten had another thought.

“Auch!  If I could read like that I would be the smartest girl in the world.”

When Jill finished, she said, “I see,” several times.  Ethan got the book back, found a map of New Angland and pointed to one of the islands about where Rhode Island ought to have been.  The Hjorths accepted his word that Rhode Island was the local name for the place.

Then Ethan took a long look at the current map of the world.

Europe was divided into hundreds of little countries and city-states including any number of strange place names like Amorica, Burgundy, Westphalia and Muscovy.  The Turks, Arabs and Moors held the Middle East and North Africa, but they looked pretty well divided, too.  Turning to the new world did not help Ethan’s confusion, though he did have a thought in the back of his mind that said, “no empire builders.”

Eastern Canada was Danish, called Vineland.  New Angland covered approximately New England with some of Canada, and there were English, or rather Anglish in a small state in Virginia as well, but south of there, there were small chunks of land carved out by the Normans, the Belgians, the Venetians and others.  Apart from those places, and New York State, which was marked Iroquois with Tuscarora in parenthesis, and approximately South Carolina, which was marked Cherokee, the rest of the Eastern United States beginning with the Middle Atlantic region and stretching all of the way to Wisconsin was Swedish.

ab-dinner-1“Here.”  Ethan handed the book back to Kirsten when he realized that everyone was staring at him.  “Sorry,” he said.  “I’ve loved maps ever since I was in school, and I see your Swedish cartographers do excellent work.”  Everyone appeared to accept that explanation, and with the book put back up on the shelf, the conversation drifted back to talk about the farm before bed. Ethan was more careful in his conversation after that.

Between gaslights and farm life, the Hjorths did not stay up much past sundown, even with company.  Jill and Ethan got the loft

“I am a sound sleeper.”  Lars whispered with a nudge and a wink to Ethan before Ethan and Jill went up.

Guardian Angel-2 Elsewhere, part 1 of 3

Ethan shot his hands up into the air before he nodded toward the woman at his feet.  The man on horseback relaxed and waved his gun casually in the woman’s direction.  Ethan bent down slowly, and lifted Jill’s head from the grass.  “Miss Lucas.  Jill.”  He spoke softly, and while he held her head up with one hand, he set down his briefcase to put his other hand on her cheek in a soft caress.  Jill fluttered her eyelids before she opened them.  She saw him and smiled before she screamed.

The horse bucked. The man on horseback had to turn the animal to keep from trampling the couple even as he grabbed tight with his knees to keep his seat.

“What are you doing here?”  Jill clenched her teeth in an attempt to whisper.

“I don’t even know where here is!”  Ethan shouted before he also whispered.  “We have company.”  He shook his head in the big man’s direction as he helped Jill to her feet.  He noticed she slipped the watch-thing into her lab coat pocket.

aa-lars1The man quickly settled his horse like an expert rider and kept his gun at the ready the whole time.  He said something in a bouncy language and then added, “You are Anglish?”

“Yes,” Ethan said.  He raised his hands again the moment he was upright.  He felt the nervous perspiration that covered his hands, and the cool air chilled the sweat on his forehead.  It made him feel like he had a fever.  Oddly enough, his tongue felt completely dry.

“How did you come to cross my farm?”  The man shut one eye to scrutinize them more closely.

“Accidental,” Jill said as she stepped to the front.  “My name is Jill Lucas, and this is my husband, Ethan.”

“Husband?”  Ethan blurted the word.

“Husband?”  The man on horseback’s question came a second later, even as Jill stepped back and slipped her arms around Ethan.  Ethan had to lower his hands, but otherwise he thought this was a wonderful idea.  She felt as warm, comfortable and exciting as he had imagined.

“So you are married?”  It seemed the man wanted to be sure he understood the language properly.

“Just married.”  Jill emphasized the “just” and gave Ethan a kiss on the cheek.

“Only a week,” Ethan added.  He was unable to contain his smile until Jill pinched him in the back to tell him to be quiet.

“You came out from New Amsterdam on the train?”  The man on horseback looked thoughtful.

Jill nodded, so Ethan nodded.  “But we don’t know your name,” Jill said, sweetly.

The man thought for a minute before he holstered his gun.  “Lars Hjorth.  It is too late to walk back to Hill Town tonight.  Come.”  He turned his horse around, and they were obliged to follow, having nowhere else to go.  Besides, Ethan was not about to argue with a man who carried a six-shooter.

Jill let go of Ethan the minute Lars’ back was turned, but Ethan picked up his briefcase and took her hand, and since they were pretending to be newlyweds, she could hardly deny him.   He smiled as he looked around and thought that this was his first real chance to examine this God-only-knew-where place.

aa-ethan-2He was surprised at what he saw.  The oaks and maples with the occasional birch and pine looked remarkably like the trees back home.  He saw a robin in flight, a squirrel that might have lived in the tree outside his own house, and the bushes were just bushes and the grass was just not suburban mowed.   When they walked downhill, he saw a field of stubble in the distance that he guessed was freshly harvested corn—plain, ordinary corn, and he felt the urge to risk a whisper.

“Hill Town?”

“Hush.”  Jill responded rather firmly, squeezed his hand, and Ethan hushed and thought that for all the familiarity in the setting, he would never walk back home at the rear end of a horse.  He turned up his nose and felt very confused about what was going on.

“Besides,” Lars spoke up loudly over the tromp of his horse and the swish of their walk through the tall grass.  “You haven’t paid the toll.”

“Toll?”  Ethan spoke before he could stop himself and Jill squeezed his hand extra hard.

Lars turned his head to eye the couple and closed that one eye again to look close.  “Half price for newlyweds.  Two gold crowns would do, though I should charge double for Anglish.”  He snickered and said no more.

In a short while, Ethan saw a simple log cabin with a brick chimney where smoke promised a snug fire against the chill in the air.  They had to wait at the door while Lars tied off his horse by the big barn that stood off to the side of the house.  It stood, separated from the house by a tremendous vegetable garden protected by a wire mesh, designed to keep out the free range chickens that clucked and ran around the rest of what passed for a front yard.  A few pigs wallowed in a nearby pen, and a bull in a fenced in area promised cattle somewhere.

aa-lars-3aEthan thought about the cows and decided that Lars looked like a cowboy.  The big man came complete with cowboy hat, boots, chaps, a lasso tied to the saddle and a six-shooter at his side.  Maybe Ethan felt confused about where he was, but he could not deny the reality of either the place or the big man who stepped up to the door and slapped him on the back hard enough to make him wince and rub his shoulder.

“I see you have luggage.”  Lars pointed to the briefcase clutched in Ethan’s hand.

“My work,” Ethan responded and he noticed that Jill barely kept her foot from kicking him in the shins.  Obviously, she wanted him to shut-up.  He looked at her closely and wondered what she knew that he did not know.  Sure, she was Grimly’s assistant, but as far as he knew, this was her first trip to God-only-knew-where too.

“Angelica!”  Lars hollered from the doorway and then turned to the couple when they came into a living room with a cathedral ceiling that was lit up by a great fire and several oil lamps.  A kitchen, and a long table for eight sat at the far end of the room, and a hallway in the middle of the back wall led to some back bedrooms.  A staircase on the back wall led up to a loft that overlooked the high-ceilinged room and was open, but for a railing.  The loft looked full of junk, as far as Ethan could see around the great bearskin rug that hung over the railing.  “My wife was Anglish once,” Lars explained, regaining Ethan’s attention.  “Angelica!”

Ethan heard a door click shut in the back of the house and the shuffling of slippers on a plain wood floor in the hallway before a round, older woman came into the room.  She tried to push back a long strand of hair that had escaped the bun on her head.  She said something in that singsong language, and Lars responded in kind while he hung his hat and chaps on hooks by the door.  He looked once at the couple and squinted with that eye before he took himself and his gun down the hall.

“You are Anglish?”  The woman looked directly at Ethan.  “And what business has brought you into New Sweden?  My husband said you came out from New Amsterdam.”  She had a welcoming smile, but she was clearly not satisfied with what she had heard thus far concerning their sudden appearance.

aa-jill-9Jill stared at Ethan for a second.  “My wife had better explain,” he said.  He set down his briefcase and stepped over to the big fireplace to warm his hands while Jill smiled.

“We are newlyweds, but we found the city too stifling.”  She sounded so reasonable as she spoke, Ethan wondered how anyone could question her.  “My husband and I wanted to spend some time in the country, just the two of us, and the train ride to Hill Town was fun.”  She stepped over to Ethan and curled up in his arms.  Ethan was so pleased with this charade; he could not help acting like a lovesick puppy.  He kissed her, smack on the lips, and she was obliged to kiss him back.

Guardian Angel-1 The Company, part 3 of 3

“You’re the accountant?”  The security guard got up from his desk, opened the big research and development steel doors, and frowned.  Ethan had to fight to keep a frown from forming on his own face.

“Ethan Hill.”  He stuck out his right hand to shake and shifted his briefcase to his other hand.  The briefcase held his all-important supplies: a couple of blank notebooks and pens, and his laptop.  “Marketing.  Not accounting.”  The guard who blocked the doorway to the hall shrugged as if it made little difference in his book, but after he examined Ethan’s identification, he opened the door wide enough for Ethan to squeeze through.

“The powers that be want to be prepared with information for the select committees.  Reelection time, you know.  But it is with the understanding that nothing will go public without say-so.  All kept hush-hush.”  Ethan tried to keep his smile while he babbled, but his guide seemed too dour ab-grimley-lab-1for hope.  The guard opened a door down the hall and Ethan got ushered rudely into a room that had the look of a high school science classroom, with a big lab table in the middle surrounded by stools, and some charts on the walls.  Whiteboard covered large portions of the walls.  The door closed loudly behind him, but Ethan looked up to see an older man and the woman he had been dreaming about for the last two days.  The old man returned Ethan’s smile, which still covered his face in the vain attempt to penetrate the grumpy face of the security guard.

“Come in.  Come in.”  The old man came close and took Ethan by the hand.

Ethan felt the warmth of the old man’s reception even as he noticed the frigid stare from the young beauty.

“Doctor Grimly?”  Ethan knew who it was.

“Yes, yes.”  The doctor brought Ethan to the side of the lab table that looked covered with a mess of electronic parts.  Ethan could not even guess what most of those parts were good for.

“Ethan Hill.”  He gave his full name and Doctor Grimly looked up and raised an eyebrow, but Ethan hardly noticed.  He kept looking at the young woman in the hope that she might add her name to the mix.  She declined.

“Lovely to have you here.”  The doctor said, as he went back to concentrate on his work.  He scribbled in the margins of a notebook and fiddled with a wristband of some kind that looked something like an old wristwatch with an enormous dial.

aa-grimley-1Ethan stood quietly and watched, his eyes fastened on the beauty, his mind as blank as a new sheet of paper.  Suddenly, he did not know how to get things started.

Jill got up from her stool at the table and brought something to the doctor.  She set the piece down beside Doctor Grimly’s watch-thing rather firmly, frowned at Ethan and returned to her stool where she appeared to be working on a similar device.  The doctor stopped, looked at the piece and then looked up as if two and two finally made four in his mind.

“So, who are you exactly, and why are you here?”

“Ethan Hill.”  Ethan tried again.  “Didn’t you get the memo?”

“Memo?  No.  I never bother with that sort of thing.  Miss Lucas intercepts them anyway to keep me at my work.”  He waved generally in the direction of his assistant.  “She is a slave driver, that one.  Brilliant.  But a slave driver.”

“Mister Hill.”  Jill started to speak.  Ethan thought her voice sounded as beautiful and enchanting as her gray-blue eyes, and he hated to interrupt, but he did.

“Ethan.  Please.  I am not here to interfere with your work.  I just want to know what you are doing to see if any of it, with your permission, might be worth squeezing a few extra dollars out of the budget committee.  All of the departments are cooperating, only I am sorry to say, you’ve got me.”  He shrugged, sheepishly.  It was his cover.  “I will try not to take up more of your time than necessary, though I’m afraid you will have to explain things slowly and in plain English, if you don’t mind.”

“Mister Hill.”  Jill tried again, and once again, Ethan interrupted.

aa-jill-c1“Ethan, please.”

Jill took a deep breath.  “Ethan.  What I am trying to say is at present there is nothing I can tell you.  It is just research for now, not good for anything in this world.”

“Perhaps, Miss Lucas, but I know you are not just driving down roads at random.  I am sure you have some final destination in mind.”

“No end yet in sight.”  Jill shrugged and smiled in a friendly manner.  She assumed that should end the conversation, but Doctor Grimly, having carefully added that last piece to his watch, took the jeweler’s lens from his eye, stood, and grinned broadly.

“Not exactly true.  It worked well enough on the rabbits.  Bilbo Baggins.  There and back again.  Eh?  I believe we are ready.”  He held out the watch, and Miss Lucas gave Doctor Grimly a look intended to wither the man’s mouth.

“Rabbits?’  Ethan asked.  “Ready?”  He jumped on the word.

“Yes,” The Doctor said, as he forced the watch on Jill.  “It should confine to body plus six inches or so to account for clothes.  Maybe further, I am not exactly sure, but not less for sure.  Can’t send you out naked, my dear.”

“Mister Hill.  I’m sorry.  Ethan, if you don’t mind you can see we are at a critical point.”  Jill took the watch but at the same time, she took Ethan’s arm to escort him to the door.  Ethan gripped tight to his briefcase.  “Now is not a good time for interviews.  If you would not mind waiting outside, or better yet, perhaps tomorrow.  You come back tomorrow and I will be glad to sit down with you and explain everything.”

aa-lars1“Wizard of Oz?  Go away and come back tomorrow?”  Ethan got more curious than ever.  He sensed something important was about to happen, and he craned his neck around his escort, while she held fast to his elbow and pushed him toward the door.  Doctor Grimly slipped around the table to a computer console.

“Now, you will see something, Mister Ethan.”

Ethan got out the word, “Hill,” and Jill shouted over him, “No!”  The brilliant flash of light came which Ethan knew would leave him seeing spots.  He felt Jill let go of his arm, even as he raised a hand to rub his eyes.  When he could see again, he shouted.  He found himself standing in that open field with grass beneath his feet.  Jill had fainted, and a very large blond man on horseback rode up and pointed a gun at him.

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Guardian Angel chapter 2-Elsewhere, M, T & W of next week, 8AM post.  Don’t miss it.

Guardian Angel-1 The Company, part 2 of 3

Jill swiped her card, and the big steel doors at the entrance to the research and development wing clicked open.  It did not have far to go from there to her lab, but she hurried because she had been gone for a while.  When she opened the door, she saw Doctor Grimly dutifully working away.  She caught her breath and hoped he would not say anything.

“I got you a coke.”  She set the can down on the corner of the lab table.  Doctor Grimly looked up, but she ignored the look on his face.

“I think someone was checking up on her young man.”  Doctor Grimly grinned.  Jill hated it when he grinned like that.  He looked like a school kid teasing the girl with the pigtails in the front row.

“I just wanted to make sure everyone was all right.”  That was as much as she was going to admit.  “That dimensional jump was a bad one.”

“Not as bad as the first,” Doctor Grimly responded.  “Sadly, I have no idea how to correct the area of refraction.”

Jill found a clean sheet of paper and wrote a few quick equations.  “Here.  I think I have worked it out.  This needs to go into the field generator program.”

Doctor Grimly picked up the paper and studied it for a minute while Jill went back to ignoring him.

steven weinberg“I don’t see…”

“Just—.” Jill caught her tongue before she said something she didn’t mean.  “You wouldn’t understand the math.”

Doctor Grimly tilted his head toward the woman, like he might look over his glasses, and he put on his most serious stare.  It would have been a very effective stare if he wore glasses. “You are the only one I have ever known who could think Einstein under the table.  I am sure this Ethan fellow would like that.”

Jill imagined the same thing and turned away as she felt her cheeks turn red.  “Not a good idea.”

“No fraternization?”

“No.”  Jill pointed to the paper in Grimly’s hand.  “You just work those equations into the program while I work on the controller.  We have rattled the cage twice now.  I need to be gone.”

“Yes, your highness.”  Doctor Grimly returned to work.  Unfortunately, the grin also returned to the man’s face, and after a while, he added the word, “Chicken.”

Guardian Angel-1 The Company, part 1 of 3

The flash of light made Ethan see spots.  His stomach flew up into his chest.  He felt dizzy, disoriented and weightless, like he did when an airplane got caught in sudden turbulence.  That feeling vanished when the imaginary plane hit the runway, hard, and Ethan’s vision cleared.  He found himself sitting in a field of tall grass under a perfectly blue sky, and he did not appear to be alone.  Something went pop in the distance.  It sounded like a gunshot, but then his desk and cubicle returned with another bump and brilliant flash of light.  He heard Randy, the office jerk, run for the men’s room, no doubt to throw-up.  That made Ethan smile.

“Ethan!”  Tasha called from the next cubicle and scampered around the corner.  “That’s twice.”  She tried to keep her voice down, but did not entirely succeed.  She stared at him, wide-eyed, as if he should produce an explanation.  All Ethan could do was shake his head.  “Well?”  Tasha sounded impatient.  “My clothes are getting grass stains.”

“What do you want me to say?  I don’t know any more than you do,” he responded quietly, while his mind searched for answers that did not exist.

Tasha grinned.  “You can’t fool me.  I know you did investigations before you started to work here.  I know you started poking around after the first time.”

aa-ethan-8“Shh!  Not so loud.  I only studied investigative journalism at the university.  One class.”  Ethan hushed her and then raised his voice in case anyone might be listening in.  “Now I do marketing and public relations, same as you.”

“Bull.”  Tasha spoke softly, but with determination.

Ethan sat up straight and frowned at his co-worker.  “What do you want me to say?”  He repeated himself quietly before he raised his voice again.  “You know we aren’t even supposed to talk about it.  Upper management said they were looking into it.” Ethan shrugged.

“Bull.”  Tasha also repeated herself, but now the word came out as a whisper.

This time Ethan grinned.  It occurred to him, if he pushed the right button, Tasha might help.  She worked for the Company for years and had plenty of contacts that he did not have.  “Don’t you remember the Company’s oath of secrecy, that thing we all signed when we were hired because of the government research and all?”

Tasha frowned and stomped off to her own cubicle while Ethan noticed that his computer had crashed.  He cursed.  How was he going to find out what was going on if he could not access the company database?

When Tasha returned, she wheeled her chair into Ethan’s doorway to block his only avenue of escape.  “Look,” she spoke as she sat.  “I’m not talking to the big wide world out there.  I’m talking to you.  So far, I have heard everything from alien technology to Bigfoot; but I know you are looking into this, for real.”

Ethan shrugged again before he let his grin return.  He made a show of looking around as if he was about to divulge some great universal secret.  He figured Tasha wanted the secret, spy routine, and he even whispered to enhance the effect.  “It’s only a hunch, but I hacked into certain company records.  I also talked to Big Mary in accounting and found out that Doctor Grimly down in research and development has spent twice his budget in just the last three months, and his power use is off the scales.”

aa-tasha-1“I figured R&D had to be involved.”  Tasha whispered her agreement in return before she backed up and a playful look spread across her face.  “Are you sure this doesn’t have anything to do with Jill Lucas?  You talk about her in your sleep.”

Ethan’s private thoughts turned his grin into a smile before he defended himself.  “I don’t sleep at my desk.”  He picked up a pencil and tapped it a couple of times against his keyboard while he considered his words.  “Doctor Grimly’s research assistant is only a bonus.  Seriously, Doctor Grimly is the only anomaly I have been able to find.  The trouble is, the people in research and development are totally secretive about their work.  I think it is a holdover from the cold war.”

“I hear that.”  Tasha nodded in full agreement.  Public relations tended to be a nightmare in a company where no one knew what was going on.

“If I could figure out a way to get in there I might come back with some real good information.”  Ethan planted the seed, and Tasha responded.

She looked pensive at first.  “That might not be so easy.”  Then her face brightened.  “I’m gonna call Big Mary myself.  Maybe we can do some brainstorming.”  She picked up her chair for the return trip.  She became a woman on a mission.

Ethan stood, stretched and called after her.  “I’ll be in the break room in case your brainstorm produces some lightning strikes.”  He let his feet move slowly across the carpet, and he rubbed his eyes as he remembered the flash of light just before he went God only knew where.

Someone pulled one chair in the break room up to the lone, dirty window.  Ethan sat there so he could stare out on the parking lot.  No field of grass in all that pavement, he thought, before his mind asked the question:  So what do I know?

Doctor Grimly left the university the same year Ethan graduated, but Ethan never had a class with the man; not that the man did not have teaching assistants for that sort of thing.  He never met the man as far as he could remember, and in fact, he could not even think of any fellow students who studied physics.  That was not his crowd.

He paused and looked up when he heard a sound.

aa-jill-9Jill Lucas stepped into the room and turned to the coke machine even as Ethan felt an involuntary smile spring to his lips.  She had on her long white lab coat, but it hid none of her beauty.

Jill got her coke and turned briefly to smile at him.  “Hello,” she said.

“Hi,” Ethan responded, and their eyes met.  They had been dancing with their eyes for several months, but neither had taken the next step.

Jill left before things got awkward, but Ethan could only think, God!  Just to look at her made his every sense tingle.  Then he reacted, but it was too late.

“Damn!  Why didn’t I say something?  That was the perfect opportunity to weasel in on Grimly.”  He felt like banging his head on the table, but refrained when he had a second thought.  In another world, she would be mine.

************************

Welcome to the first post of Guardian Angel, the story of two people who cling to each other as they travel the worlds–other earths, alternate universes–and face terrors too big for one universe to contain.

Guardian Angel will be posted, each chapter in three parts: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday over the next 23 weeks at 8AM, a quick shot to start your day.   Enjoy, and Happy Reading

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*******

Elect II—22 Temptation, part 3 of 3

Emily was seriously trying to study when Jessica slammed her book on the coffee table and plopped down in the chair next to her.  Maria looked up from the couch and Melissa looked over from the kitchenette where she was pouring a cup of orange soda.

ac-jessica-a2“It isn’t fair,” Jessica complained.  “Lady Alice says we can’t go to Avalon this summer.  I had plans, but she says since the door is closed and we are orc and ghoul free, even the elf maidens have been recalled.  I was going to take Fiona shopping.”

“It’s for the best,” Maria said.

“I never understood,” Melissa said as she came over to sit on the couch beside Maria.  “Why do they call them elf maidens.  That seems an archaic term.”

“Linnea explained it,” Maria said.  “Being a virgin is one of the requirements.”

Jessica put her feet up on her book, on the table.  “That lets me out.”

“No.”  Amina and Mindy came out of their room.  Amina had her eyes closed, her back turned and was waving a hand back at Mindy.  “I don’t want to see any Kahili death goddesses.”

“But look at all those arms,” Mindy argued.

ac-jessica-a3“Give it a rest.” Jessica shouted and got up to get some orange soda for herself.  Emily looked up from her book when Jessica shouted and moved.  She was thinking about her studies but staring at Jessica, so Jessica spoke to her.  “I’m going to sign up for a time of service.  ROTC.  I’m going to do time in the army.”

Emily continued to be focused elsewhere, but everyone else said congratulations and best of luck.  Emily said, “Huh?”

“ROTC.  I’m signing up for the army, and they better not think about keeping me from combat.”

“Good,” Emily seemed to hear that time but her eyes went back to her book.  “I signed up a week ago.  I had special forces interested, but I’m going to be a nurse if I can pass these exams.”

“I heard Major Driver said if you chose the navy he would throw himself off the bridge into the Delaware River.”  Emily was back to not listening.

“Major Driver?”  Mindy had scooted everyone down to take the end seat on the couch.  Amina was in the seat Jessica had abandoned, so Jessica sat on the rug at the end of the coffee table, by the door.

“He got promoted,” Jessica said.

ac-riverbend-8Emily’s phone rang.  She touched it, paused to read another sentence while it rang again, then pulled it out to see who it was.  She hoped it wasn’t Lisa or Latasha and trouble.  The number was unfamiliar, so curiosity caused her to say, “Hello?”

“Emily?”

“Yes.”

“Detective Lisa gave me your number.  I hope I’m not interrupting something.  I just called to see how you were doing.”

“Fine.  Who is this?”

“Sebastian Scott.”

Emily opened her eyes.  “I should ask how you are doing.”

“Fine.”

“How’s Maggie?”

“Fine.  Changed with all that happened and all.”  Sebastian’s voice trailed off into a moment of silence before he started again.

“Emily.”

ab-nj-state-police“Yes?”

“I was wondering if you would like to go out, like on a date, like without monsters.”

Emily was not sure how she felt about that, but her mouth said, “Yes.  I’d like that.”

“Great.  I was thinking there is a restaurant right by the campus there.  It’s called the Hive.  Do you know it?”

“Yes, I’ve been there.”

“Great.  I know you have finals.  How about you pick a day and time.”

“Thursday at six?”  That came out without thought.

“Great.”

“You should know, I had to kill my last boyfriend.”  That also came out without a thought, but she knew she should not have said it the moment it was aired.  “The one before that, he turned vampire so I had to kill him too.”  Emily shut up.  The girls were waving at her and she realized she wasn’t making anything better.  There was a long moment of drawn out silence before Sebastian spoke again.

“Great.  It will give us something to talk about.”

“Great,” Emily mirrored his word.

ac-emily-a5“Meet you at the Hive, Thursday at six.”

“Great.”

“Great.”

They hung up.  Emily looked up.  “I have a date.  Sebastian Scott, State Trooper.”

“Great.”  Everyone said the word except Jessica.  Jessica waited for the prime moment.

“Try not to kill this one.”

“Hey!” Amina interrupted and looked at the faces around her.  “I want to go out on another date.”

Jessica sipped her orange soda before she quipped.  “Got anyone in mind?”

END

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Starting on Monday, March 13, 2017

The story of two lost souls who find each other in the midst of trillions of other earths.

Guardian Angel  is science fiction, alternate history, and the struggle to build a civilization where life is worth living… In fact, there are some dangerous and horrifying ideas presented here, so maybe you should consider this your “trigger warning.”

Guardian Angel will follow the same pattern of posts this blog has been following:

Each chapter is divided into three part and will be posted on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of each week at 8 AM.  That is one whole chapter per week, for those who might be slow at math.  You are welcome to read them as daily posts, or wait until Thursday or the weekend to read all three posts in one sitting by clicking on the listings under “Recent Posts” on the right side of the blog (one at a time, of course).

Beginning on Monday, Guardian Angel will post 23 chapters, so you can follow through August and enjoy a nice summer read.  It will eventually be put up for sale at your favorite e-retailer, so I say enjoy it now while it is free… unless it upsets you or terrifies you.  The author will not be held responsible for bad thoughts and dreams.  I suggest several deep breaths and wait to see how it turns out…

That’s beginning Monday, March 13, 2017

Don’t miss it, and Happy Reading.

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Elect II—22 Temptation, part 2 of 3

Emily watched as Ferdinand Franco stepped up to President Batiste’s door.    “Batiste, we got your package,” he said.  He waved one of his people to open the big double doors while he hid.  That suggested to Emily that Franco was certainly not stupid.

The man opened both of the doors wide thinking his group had the upper hand, and he took a bullet in his chest and collapsed.  Heinrich immediately knocked over a table with his feet, to act as a shield.  He made them scoot behind a well cushioned chair for added protection, even as the ac-emily-b1bullets started flying.   But Emily first saw Batiste’s head was on his desk and there was plenty of blood flowing from the hole in his head.  The man was already dead and Emily guessed it was Captain Gouldos.

While men were killing each other, Emily sat on her hands.  She hurt her wrists terribly, but inch by inch her hands came forward.  She figured when she got them all the way down around her feet she could at least have her hands in front and might be able to grab something to fight.

Heinrich was fascinated by the battle.  His eyes poked up, dangerous as it was, and he counted the dead.  Secretary Nancy hid behind her desk.  The man with the limp and the hot pads hid around the back of the desk and trembled with his hands over his ears and his eyes shut tight.

The battle ended when Franco killed Captain Gouldos.   It was touch and go at the end as to which one would kill the other, but they were the last two combatants, so Franco ended up with the prize.  He ran into the President’s office and frisked Batiste’s body before he dumped it on the floor.  He began to tear the desk apart.

“Where is it?” Franco said before he had a second thought.  He frisked the Captain’s body and then frisked the two security lieutenants who were there and also corpses.  “Where is it?”  He roared and came to the door to accuse Nancy.

Nancy stood calmly behind the desk, one hand behind her back and the other hand held up a key.  She jingled it.  “Looking for this?” she said.

ac-nancy-1“Give it here.  Quick.”  Franco lifted his gun and put out his free hand to grab the key, but Nancy raised her hidden hand which also held a gun and she killed Franco with a perfect shot to the heart.

The man with the limp and hot pads tried to run to the stairs, but Nancy killed him also with one shot.  She was clearly an expert marksman.

Nancy turned her gun on the two behind the table.  Heinrich was obviously still cuffed, and Emily appeared to be also, from what Nancy could see.  In fact, Emily had just taken off her shoes to get her cuffed hand around her feet, but that was hidden from Nancy’s sight.

Nancy smiled.  “I can be gracious, I think.”  She set down her gun and unlocked the metal box.  “Yes.  It is important to start things on a positive foot.”  She took the lid off the box and the room filled with the aroma of apples and cinnamon.  “Goddess Nancy,” she said.  “It has a nice ring to it.” And she stuffed the apples into her mouth.

Emily moved out of desperation.  She got her hands in front and broke off a leg from the table to use as a club, but then she did not know what do to.  Forty-year-old Nancy now looked closer to thirty, going on twenty, and she was still smiling when she began to gag.

ac-nancy-3“What?”  Nancy got that word out as her body began to convulse in uncontrollable motions.  She fell to her knees and threw up, a mixture of apples and blood.  Her fifteen-year-old mouth tried to yell, “No,” but it was too late.  She convulsed even when her eyes closed and she became unconscious.  By the time she was five, she was dead, and while she stopped getting younger, she began to both decay and her skin began to harden and mummify at a rapid pace.

Heinrich stood up next to Emily.  “I would guess they did not get the recipe right.”

“It smelled good,” Emily said as she touched Nancy’s child hand with her club and watched it crumble to dust.  They stopped when there was commotion behind them on the stairs.  Emily raised her club.  Heinrich went for Nancy’s gun, but it was Riverbend and one of her elves who burst in, decked out in armor and arrows ready.  Sebastian Scott followed.  Maggie Holmes came last with a little huffing and puffing.  They all had to stop for a moment to take in the bloody battle scene.

Emily had a strange thought, but followed her inkling while Heinrich went to the man who had the key to the cuffs.  “Zoe.”  Emily had not said that word in some time and she never called to the goddess.  “Zoe.”  She called.

“I hear you.”  Zoe appeared out of nowhere.  She lifted her hand to examine things with her mind or her spirit.  “They got the recipe almost right, but only used part of one golden apple.  The rest was ordinary apple and not exactly baked to the temperature of the surface of the sun.  I’m glad they included the cinnamon sugar.  I told Hera it had to be in there.  It makes it edible, but…”  Zoe stepped up to the box which still had crumbs in it.  She licked her finger, touched an apple crumb and touched that to her tongue to taste it, to identify some substance.  When she got it, her face lit up.

“Arsenic.  A couple of other virulent and quick acting poisons, but the whole thing must have been saturated in arsenic.”

“That shipment to the science department,” Emily said.  Zoe turned to stare at her while Emily continued to think out loud.  “But that means the apples are still out there.”

zoe-1Zoe smiled that Emily understood.  “Yes, but it should be a while to figure out how to cook it properly, if ever.”

Heinrich stood with the keys in his teeth.  “She got younger because the apple was not cooked properly?”  It was hard to understand his words, but not impossible.

Zoe repeated the thought and nodded. “She got younger because the apple was not properly cooked.  She might have gotten younger than her birth, but the poison took over.  No goddess, I’m afraid.  Just a shriveled child, and too bad about the rug.”  She stepped around the vomit, took the keys from Heinrichs mouth and unlocked the handcuffs.  “It is good to do things in a natural way, sometimes.”  Heinrich rubbed his raw wrists and Zoe spoke again when she unlocked Emily.  “My queen.  When you return in September you still have apples to find and work to do, but that can wait.  Right now, don’t you have finals?”  Zoe grinned and vanished.

“Thanks for reminding me,” Emily groused.

Everyone heard the answer, “You’re welcome.”

Emily had one final thought.  She tore the sleeve on Nancy’s dress and before that arm turned to dust she saw the tattoo.  It was a circle with three squiggly lines up top.

Elect II—22 Temptation, part 1 of 3

Riverbend made her warriors dress for battle and hid them around the entrance.  Maggie Holmes quipped to Trooper Scott.  “I don’t know why she said I was in charge.”  They were just inside the main door of the administration building which Riverbend cracked open to speak to them.

“Now a little elf magic,” she said, and gave the signal.  The security people were coming to the door down one side of the building.  The other men were coming from the other direction.  There were trees and bushes that lined the walk on both sides and Riverbend could not help a giggle thinking about it.

ab-war-elf-aThe State Troopers heard one of the elves shout with what Riverbend called directed sounds.  It sounded male and only went where it was intended.  “Quick, there are men trying to block off the entrance.”  This was followed by the sound of gunfire.

The words in the other direction were, “Quick.  Security people are trying to block off the entrance.”  More gunfire sounds, and the elves made sure they stayed hidden, but with their bows ready.

Exactly on schedule, both groups of men reached the walkway at the same time.  Guns blared and men fell while most backed up to the trees and bushes. There was a veritable rain of bullets across the brick walk at first

Maggie looked at her phone and shook it.  “Come on, Carmine,” she said.

“Better to call Ms Nicholas,” Sebastian said.  He had his gun ready but was content to watch the fight and not inclined to get into it.

“I called Nicholas, but Troopers are harder to get in off the highways.  Carmine is the local.”

“But you called before the fight started,” Riverbend pointed out.

“Just as soon as I knew what was up,” Maggie admitted.

The fire rate slackened after a short while.  One of the drug dealers tried to sneak up along the side of the steps.  He took an arrow and fell, but that was just before a ton of local police came roaring up the back street, lights and sirens blasting.

a-trenton-police-a1“Idiots,” Maggie called them as the fight abruptly ended and men scattered to escape.  Sebastian called on his radio.  There were a couple of State Troopers on the street.  “Make for the library parking lot.  The drug dealers have a car and a van parked there.  And hide if you plan to catch them, you light and siren freaks.”  He saw Maggie smiling at him.

“I believe my rookie is learning.”

“Given the company I figure I better learn fast.”  He pointed at Riverbend.

All they could see were the eyes beneath the helmet, but they were expressive.  “What?” Riverbend asked, suggesting she had no idea what they were talking about.

###

Maria and Linnea were very busy with the wounded and Melissa and her and Amina’s elf friends helped as much as they could.  Amina herself was kept back in case they needed her particular skills later on.  She tried not to see what was going on, but she couldn’t help anticipate the casualties as they came in.

ac-amina-3“A broken leg on the elevator.  Missing fingers coming down the stairwell from the top floor,” she said, and every time she said something, she closed her eyes and shook her head.

Mindy and Arwen were guarding the front hall, but it seemed more like they were arguing about Alexander the Great.  There were others, including Sara’s friend who was berating herself for not being up there with Aurora.  “I should have stayed with the priestess,” she kept saying.

Officer Dickenson pulled in front of City Hall and turned off his lights and siren.  He was surprised that Ms Riley, who drove her own car, somehow got there first.  In fact, Roland was already in a conversation with the two police officers outside the main door.  They kept repeating that City Hall was temporarily closed.  They said it was electrical problems until the lights came on.  Then they said it was a gas leak.

Jessica, Fiona and Harmony got to the argument first as Latasha waited for Officer Dickenson to get a shotgun out of his trunk.  Jessica interrupted the argument with a finger pointed at the police officers.  “If you two shoot the ogre you are going to be in big trouble.”

Harmony paused to call her troop in battle ready armor, and now that the front lights were on, the police officers saw everything.  Harmony changed her fairy weave clothes to armor, picked up her helmet, grabbed the spear and shield the others brought for her and marched her troop inside.

“Now?” Fiona asked.  She had opted to remain in hunter’s garb.

“Now,” Jessica agreed, and they each grabbed one of Roland’s hands and dragged him through the opening to Avalon before it closed.

Boston put her hands to her hips.  “Hey!  That’s my husband.”  Officer Dickenson headed for the front door, dragged by an impatient Latasha.  Latasha was not about to miss a chance to get a ghoul, but Boston used the opening to follow.  “My student,” she said, pointed and hustled.

ab-war-eelfOut front, the two police officers stood quietly until one asked, “What did she mean, ogre?”.

Once on Avalon, Jessica felt the queasiness in her stomach so it was up to Fiona to act when Roland protested being dragged off against his will.  They were in a big room with enough tables and chairs to double for a high school lunch room.  Roland slammed his hand down on a table.

“But Commander Falcon will listen to you,” Fiona said, and Jessica moaned either because her stomach was churning or Fiona said the wrong thing.

“Commander Falcon?”

“Over here, Roland.”  The Commander was sitting at one of the back tables.  “I was beginning to wonder if the women were ever going to ask for my help.”  He whistled and the wall of the building vanished to reveal some three hundred spirits of all shapes and sizes fitted out for war.  They were spaced out across a great lawn, and they were looking impatient.

###

Back in City Hall, Latasha was not content to wait for the elevator.  She was moving up the stairwell with abandon when Officer Dickenson stopped suddenly and raised his pistol.  He looked ready to kill Latasha, but the ghoul that reached for his mind made a big mistake going after the big man rather than the women.

Boston’s orange magic snaked out rapidly into the stairwell.  It froze Officer Dickenson in place so he couldn’t shoot anyone or anything, and it showed two ghoul feet and the nappy hair on top of the ghoul head.  That was all Latasha needed.  One great leap and one swing of her ax and they heard the clunk, clunk, clunk of a ghoul head rolling down the stairs.

“I got one,” Latasha said when she landed on her feet and watched the ghoul shrink down to a purple spot.  She had been afraid she was going to miss all the fun, but then some twenty dwarfs, elves and other assorted people pushed up past them, some tipping their hats as they went, and Roland caught up to them.

“They filled the basement first so the ghouls couldn’t go to ground.  Now they are clearing out floor by floor to the roof.”

boston-a2“What do you mean go to ground?” Latasha asked as she nudged Officer Dickenson to help him clear his head.

Boston explained.  “Most creatures that have low or no tolerance for the sun can dematerialize at dawn and sink into the earth.  Many can then move through the earth until they get to a cavern or cave or place they can wait safely until sunset.”

“Like a basement?” Officer Dickenson asked.

“Yes, I suppose,” Roland answered.

“So every little kid who is afraid to go down into the basement may have a good reason.  Maybe there is a ghoul or ogre hiding in the corner.”

“Troll,” Boston corrected him.  “Ogres don’t entirely mind the sun.  It would be a troll in the corner, or a goblin.”

Elect II—21 City Hall, part 3 of 3

Lisa sent Aurora and two of her elves to Sara.  It was a gamble, but Aurora assured her it was not such a risk at elf speed.  As soon as they entered the building, Aurora took off up the emergency stairs while Lisa assigned floors and sections of the building to her groups of three.  The downstairs reception area was empty, until most of the groups moved out.

A spear came from nowhere and struck one of the elf maidens in the middle.  It did not penetrate the armor deeply, but the elf fell, and moaned from the pain, and the others stared at her.  Lisa ac-lisa-a1looked in another direction.  She quickly calculated the angle and estimated the distance while she clicked the rifle she was carrying from semi-automatic to automatic.  She sprayed that distance with half a clip.  They all heard the sound of pain and the surprise.

The ghoul materialized, unable to remain invisible.  It was already leaking purple from several places when it became a pin cushion for elf arrows.  As it collapsed, it deflated like a bogy beast until there was only a slight green and purple smudge on the floor.

“According to Mindy, one down, nine to go,” Ashish said.  “I do hope they are not here in the hundred.”

###

Back in the accounting office, Rob Parker looked up at the sound of gunfire, but then he assumed the guns were with the good guys.  He hoped they got one.  He spoke to Ellain, the elf assigned to his group.  “How do we find them if they are invisible?”

ab-elf-p-1“They must become visible to interact with this world.  They can be shot when invisible, but cannot fight back unless they can be seen,” Ellain explained.

“So invisibility is a mixed bag,” State Trooper Canelli commented.

“That is why they like the dark.  They can see perfectly in the dark and it often gives them an advantage when they become visible to fight.”

“I was wondering why we are looking for invisible creatures,” Rob Parker said.

“They are clumsy and without grace.  We look for the trail of things knocked over and listen for things bumped, if we are quiet.”  Ellain put a finger to her helmet where her lips were hidden and she expressed her seriousness in her eyes, what could be seen in the light of the exit sign.

Rob Parker merely nodded, but Canelli said, “Makes sense,” just before he threw a hand to his head.  “What is happening?  Ghouls!”  He shouted and began to fire at Ellain and Rob Parker.  He looked frightened beyond reason.  He looked possessed.  Ellain’s shield and armor deflected two bullets as she moved toward the dark, but the third hit her in the hip and she went down.  Rob Parker took a bullet in his shoulder before he got behind a desk.

The State Trooper continued to fire in new directions like he was suddenly seeing ghouls everywhere.  But there was one corner he avoided and it was in Rob Parker’s line of sight.  When he saw the filing cabinet wiggle in the dim emergency lighting, he opened fire.  He hit something that moaned.  An arrow from Ellain followed from where she had pulled herself into a dark corner while Canelli was firing in every mad direction.

ab-elf-fireRob Parker saw a visible claw clutch at an arrow which appeared to be hovering in thin air.  It was a direction, and he emptied his gun while Canelli put both hands to his head and screamed.  The man spun around twice before he collapsed.  The outline of the ghoul against the emergency lights did the same thing.

“Ellain,” Rob Parker called.

“Make sure it is dead,” Ellain responded, but the words sounded weak.

Rob Parker reloaded and became very aware of the bullet in his shoulder.  He hated to abandon the State Trooper and a possibly still living ghoul, but in his mind the elf maiden came first.  He holstered his weapon, roared at the pain in his shoulder and scooped up the maiden.  He crashed out the doors and headed straight for the front reception area.

###

Upstairs, Sara and Paul heard a knock on the door.  “Don’t answer it,” Paul whispered sharply.  Sara responded in her normal voice.

ac-riverbend-9“Ghouls don’t knock.”  She opened the door and saw three helmeted heads dip in her direction.

“Priestess,” one of the women spoke.  “Lady Lisa asked us to come and defend you.  I am Lieutenant Aurora and my companions are Moria and Sunshine.”

Paul got up and looked over Sara’s shoulder.  Sara smiled up at him.  “We got elves,” she said.

Paul did not return her look.  His eyes looked glazed and suddenly he pushed her aside and pushed toward the door, but the elves blocked his way.  He shouted.  “I’ve got to get out of here.  I have to get out of here.”

Sara grabbed him and turned him enough to kiss him.  It only took a moment for him to return her embrace and kiss her back.  The elf maidens grinned in only the way elves can grin, until Aurora shouted, “Guard duty,” and shut the door.  Sunshine and Moria grumpily turned to face the big room.

###

Lisa was in the basement.  She took it upon herself to try and get the lights back on, but the basement was very dark and the emergency lights were few.  Somehow, in the dark, she got separated from Ashish and Mirowen.  Now she felt fingers crawling around her mind and she did not know how to fight back.

ac-lisa-2“Lisa.”  Ashish came running up.  “I thought I lost you.”

“Oh!  I’m glad to see you, you have no idea.”  The fingers seemed to leave her mind.

“You know it is dangerous to be alone here.”

Lisa nodded and asked, “Where’s Mirowen?”

Ashish looked back.  “Coming,” he said before he changed his mind.  “I lost her too.”

That did not sound right.  Lisa had a question.  “How did you see me in the dark?”  She certainly did not see him until he was right on top of her.

Ashish put a hand on her shoulder, and he had a strong grip.  “That does not matter now.”

Lisa knew that Ashish was not a touchy-feely type and not nearly that strong.  She pealed the hand off her shoulder and watched Ashish’s eyes go wide with surprise.  She hit Ashish in the face as hard as she could, thinking if it really was Ashish he would feel it in the morning.  Suddenly Ashish ab-elf-3arched his back.  He had an arrow sticking out of his spine.  Lisa needed no further evidence.  She turned Ashish, grabbed his chin and broke his neck even as she feared she was killing her partner.

“Lady,” Mirowen shouted to her.

“Lisa,” Lisa heard Ashish’s voice and began to cry.  By the time they arrived, the ghoul on the floor was gone to a purple spot.  “I think I found the circuit breakers,” Ashish said, but Lisa could not stop crying.  It was a little walk and a little work to get the lights back on in the building.  That was when Latasha and Jessica arrived, and Jessica had been thinking that whole time.