The red shack turned out to be a small barn. There was a woman out front in overalls and grease up to her elbows, or so it appeared. When she greeted Glen by tipping her head down and saying “Lord,” Alice took a second look. The woman was beautiful and Alice began to think this was a standard thing for the Traveler. It made her feel a twinge of envy because while she knew she was pretty in her own right, she felt like nothing compared to the women she had seen so far, including the women of the Traveler. She concentrated.
“Mirowen.” Glen gave the woman a name.
The woman, Mirowen moved when a man came out of the barn to join her and Alice caught a glimpse of pointed ears under the woman’s long and straight raven black hair.
“An elf.” Pumpkin whispered in Alice’s ear and Alice nodded to say she had just guessed. The man, however, looked thoroughly human.
“Emile.” Lockhart named the man.
“Director,” the man responded to Lockhart.
“What are you two doing here?” Glen asked the obvious question.
“Nothing,” Mirowen said, but Glen frowned because he knew it was a lie. Mirowen turned away from her Lord to look at the man. “I don’t know what Emile may be doing since we are not speaking to each other.”
The man looked at the elf and nodded before he turned again to the group. “But it should be fun later when we make up,” he said.
Glen was not buying it. He pushed forward and the couple only made a passing stab at trying to stop him from entering the barn.
“What the—what did you do? Doctor Roberts!” Glen shouted even though the Doctor followed him in and stood at his shoulder.
“Emile.” Mirowen nudged the man. He looked at her with an expression that said she was equally culpable.
The barn contained a ship–a sphere some thirty feet in diameter, but it was presently hard to see since so much of it had been taken apart. There were plates off the outer hull stacked in the corner, and much of the insides were scattered around on several tables and the floor. It still had the basic shape, but it would never fly again, at least not without a great deal of work.
“What is it?” The woman marine asked in a quiet voice that suggested wonder.
“The Vordan fighter?” Alice also wondered out loud and spoke over the marine.
“A museum piece.” Glen responded haphazardly. His eyes were busy making an inventory of all the pieces he could see, but his mouth went on to explain. “This is, or was, an escape pod from an Humanoid battle cruiser, and a high ranking family at that. I saw one in a museum once hundreds of years in the future. We found this one in New Jersey some years ago.” Glen ducked his head into a hole in the ship, but he kept speaking and no one interrupted.
“I recall at the time I figured this ship had to be two-thousand years old. It turned out there was a Wolv still on board in suspension, and that was trouble, let me tell you.” Glen pulled his head back out and frowned at Emile and Mirowen. “This thing could approach light speed and had a better weapons array than all the Vordan ships combined—as long as it was working.”
“And this was just an escape pod?” The marine sergeant stepped up. “I would like to see the battle cruiser it came from.”
“Two thousand years old?” The woman marine was still in a state of wonder, but again her words were buried under Emile’s outburst.
“But it is dead, completely. No power.”
Glen reached back inside the ship and touched several places on the inner wall—a portion of the wall that was still there. Immediately there was a hum and after a moment some lights came on. “Ten thousand year half-life batteries,” Glen said and he went back to his inventory.
“That tears it.” Alice huffed. “Pumpkin, would you go visit Boston?” Pumpkin flittered off Alice’s shoulder while Alice put down her laptop and began to write furiously on her steno pad. Pumpkin hesitated.
“I’m supposed to ask,” the fairy said.
Boston grinned like the Cheshire cat at the idea. “Yes, please.” She spoke through that great array of teeth. Pumpkin waited for no further invitation. She took a seat on Boston’s shoulder and only tugged briefly on Boston’s short red hair—hair that would offer little cover.
Lockhart watched the whole thing with a grin of his own. He also saw Mirowen elbow Doctor Roberts in the ribs to get his eyes back on her and his mind back on topic. They had been whispering. He watched Alice the lawyer scribble on her pad before he sighed and wheeled his own wheelchair forward, hard as that was to do in the dirt and at his age.
“So what now?” he asked.
Glen pulled his head back out of the ship again, and the marines, who had been looking over his shoulder came with him. “Now you get two more recruits.”
“We don’t normally take grunts, as the Princess calls them.”
Glen ignored the comment and considered the marines. “Embassy?” He asked the sergeant.
“Yes, sir. Don Thomas, and whatever you think of the President’s actions it seems to me you could use some grunts about now. Miriam’s from the Pentegon.”
Glen shook the sergeant’s hand and did not let go when he took a hand from the woman. “Miriam? Lebanese Christian?”
“Yes, sir.” The woman nodded. “Very good, sir. And I am sorry. I just do secretarial.”
“There, see? Another file clerk.” Glen spoke to Lockhart before turned to the marines and looked each in the eyes. “Well, right now I need to change,” he said. “Your first job for this crazy outfit is to hold on and promise not to let go.” The marines looked at each other but said nothing.
“Promise,” Lockhart said, sharply.
“It’s tradition,” Glen added with a smile and a squeeze of each hand. The marines nodded and Glen went away. Martok the Bospori came to stand in his place. Miriam just smiled, utterly fascinated by all of this, but Sergeant Thomas jumped back with a brief exclamation of surprise.
“Someone always lets go,” Martok sighed in his deep Bospori voice. The depth and tone sounded odd coming from one who was only five feet tall. He looked human enough, though, if he did not smile and show off his canines, and if one did not get close enough to realize his hair was really black fur, and if he wore shades. The yellow cat-like eyes were a bit of a giveaway. Alice saw the eyes and guessed right away.
“And pleased to meet you, too, Alice the lawyer who should be reviewing treaty clauses.” He smiled to show her his full set of very sharp teeth. “I’ll be a while so you have time to work.” Alice dared not argue. She swallowed and got her laptop.
“Boston and I, and I guess Mrs. Pumpkin will go see about breakfast.” Lockhart volunteered. “I’ll try and get the limos and flatbed here as soon as I can, oh, and can we leave the three stooges out of it this time.”
“What? Moi?” Martok spoke with the smile still in place. “But watching humans hit each other over the head and pull hair and poke in the eyes is so funny.” Lockhart was not buying it. “Don’t worry. This time I only see two stooges.” Martok lost the smile and stared at Mirowen and Emile before he climbed fully into the ship. “Roberts!” He roared as soon as he got inside and everyone jumped.