Boston and Katie Harper had the last watch in the night. They sat side by side as the sun readied to come up and talked about their lives and loves.
“I’m a good Catholic girl,” Boston insisted. “I finished High School when I was sixteen and went to Saint Elizabeth’s, an all girls college. I finished there in three years and went straight on to graduate school where I studied. I mean, I went to parties and all, but electrical engineering takes real work. I didn’t have time for much dating, and then I got drafted by the Men in Black and just sort of ended up pushing Lockhart around in that wheelchair for the next two years. That’s all, really.”
Katie Harper looked back toward the camp. “Yes, it is hard to remember him as an old man.”
Boston nodded. “Him and Lincoln and Alexis who I never met before now. They were all old.”
“I understand,” Katie said as she looked again around the perimeter. “Given the environment, it was a good thing the Kairos was able to make them young again. A bunch of old people and a cripple would never have been able to keep up.”
“Glen,” Boston responded. “He likes to be called by name. Kairos is too formal, more like a title.”
“God of event time.”
“That’s right.” Boston smiled. “The Watcher over History, he calls it.” She looked at the lieutenant and Katie got the impression that it was her turn.
“I did my graduate work in human cultural studies, specifically the technologies of early cultures. I have a strong background in modern technology as well, though not exactly an engineering degree. Still, I am sure that is why Colonel Weber chose me for this assignment.”
“No doubt,” Boston said before she jumped. Something roared in the distance. It was out of sight, down the hill and hidden by the trees, but it was loud enough to wake the camp. Lieutenant Harper stood with her weapon ready. Boston had her Beretta, but stayed seated where she was.
“Bears?” Katie asked. She knew it was no lion or tiger sound.
Boston shook her head. “I hunted bears in Canada. That was no bear.”
The roar came again along with another sound. It was a squeal that dropped to a low roar of its own. The trees swayed. They heard at least one crash to the ground. Then they heard a whine and something like thunder. And then there was silence. There was smoke among the trees, just visible in the dim light before dawn and the women thought the trees might be on fire, but they saw no light from flames.
“Are you alright?” That was Lockhart’s first concern when he arrived, Captain Decker beside him. The women nodded. “We wait until the light is better before we investigate,” he decided, and Mingus, Roland and Captain Decker saw the wisdom in that.
Back in camp, they made what breakfast they could out of the leftover deer and greens and then Lincoln distracted them all by suggesting they pack the camp and be prepared to move out quickly, just in case. The way he phrased it, the others could hardly argue.
The sun was well up by the time Lockhart, Mingus, Roland, Captain Decker and Boston made for the faint wisps of smoke that still trailed into the sky. Lieutenant Harper wanted to go with them, but Captain Decker ordered her to stay and defend the camp.
“Yes, sir,” Katie responded, but she did not sound too happy about it.
Boston started out front. She thought for a second that only she could pinpoint the location, but then she saw the smoke and remembered the roar and slipped back to a safer place between Lockhart and Roland. They had to separate a little when they got to the trees at the bottom of the hill. Boston immediately came across a great, old tree that was torn up by the roots. Lockhart pointed out several smaller, young trees that were broken and crushed to the ground like they had been stepped on.
“This is not good,” Mingus said. He examined the trees and bushes that were burnt and singed. Some of the trees were still smoking, though none were outright burning.
“Over here,” Roland called.
They found the ghoul sitting with his back to a tree, dying. He was bleeding, Boston guessed, though it looked more like slimy green sauce than blood. The ghoul looked up at them and made a sound that could only have been laughter. Boston felt the hair rise on the back of her neck at that sound.
“This is definitely not good,” Mingus said.
“Your unicorn?” Captain Decker asked, but Boston shook her head. That was no unicorn sound she heard in the night.
The ghoul looked up at the Captain and laughed at the word unicorn. The Captain responded by shooting the ghoul. It deflated and compressed and left a green smudge on the dirt while the Captain spoke.
“We might have gotten some information.” Lockhart scolded the man. Mingus mitigated.
“No, we wouldn’t.”
They started back up the hill to the camp when there was another roar in the distance. Fortunately it was some distance away.
“I hope that’s a dragon,” Roland spoke softly and Boston looked at the man like he must be crazy.
“A dragon spirit would be better,” Mingus heard his son with his good elf ears and responded.
“And if it is not?” Lockhart asked.
“Definitely not good.” Mingus said it again.