Boston had a good sunburn, but Alexis found some aloe in the medical kit and managed to keep her from blistering. Boston explained. “I got too close to the plasma engines, but I think we cooked up some good surprises if the Balok come around here.”
Saphira looked up from where she was resting on the ground. “You mean when they come.”
“I think that Martok is brilliant,” Katie said.
Saphira smiled. “Martok says thanks and you’re not so bad yourself.” Lieutenant Harper found her own cheeks redden a bit. She forgot the Kairos remained in close contact with other lifetimes, especially ones recently accessed. She looked to Lockhart for support, but he just smiled like Saphira. Alexis saw something in the way Katie Harper and Robert Lockhart looked at each other and she looked at Lincoln, but he simply looked away.
“Stay out of the sun,” Alexis sniffed and stood to walk off by herself for a time.
That evening the stick people built a great bonfire, not much different than the one built by Ranear’s Neolithic tribe. Mingus lit this one to their delight. They did not cook their food and only ate what looked like water with some dirt in it. They also hardly needed the warmth in that climate, but they seemed to like the light.
One of the Thets came up to be friendly. At least Alexis thought it was a Thet. It was hard to tell. She also had no idea how to distinguish males from females and was working on that problem when Saphira suggested they might be uni-sexual. Of course, Saphira went on to explain, in more detail than necessary, how glad she was that humanity had two sexes, and Alexis had to remind herself that in this lifetime the Kairos was a whore.
“You have a beautiful planet,” Thet began. Alexis looked over and saw the one she thought was leader sitting between Lockhart and Captain Decker while Lincoln scribbled notes on his pad. “You have many children and much variety.”
“I’m sorry?” Alexis tried to focus in.
“When we first came to the ground there were many of your children who moved away to make room for us.” Thet sat on the ground. The trunk kept the stick person straight up and down while the legs bent and the feet set some distance from the body. It gave the person the appearance of a three legged stool, very hard to knock over. Alexis later learned that the stick people slept in this position as well.
“Animals.” Alexis grasped what the stick person was saying.
“Yes, and such a rich variety. You must be very proud of them.”
“Yes.” Alexis said. She could not bring herself to say, we eat our children. Somehow she knew that would not be taken well. Fortunately, they shortly heard the sound of drums. It was a steady beat. Then something of a cross between an oboe and bagpipes began to play. It was dominant and tonic followed by tonic and dominant. As it played on, Alexis wondered if the stick people ever discovered any other notes.
“What the heck is that?” Captain Decker held his ears.
“I think it is music, sir,” Lieutenant Harper responded.
“Catchy tune,” Lockhart quipped.
“I like it,” Boston interrupted.
“Yeah, good luck getting that melody out of your head,” Lincoln added.
The stick people shrieked in delight and sounded much like the children. Soon there was a line of stick people around the bonfire. They moved in a circle, bent near ninety degrees forward and then bent near ninety degrees backward as they moved. It looked like their legs were attached to their trunks by ball joints. All the while the people waved their bent hands and shouted in delight.
“Now what are they doing?” Decker asked.
“I think it’s dancing, sir.”
Alexis imagined Boston might have liked to join them in the dance, but she was so burnt, she dared not get too close to the fire. She saw the children off to the side. Some of the bigger ones were imitating the adults, like they were practicing. All was well, she thought. These good people were well worth saving. She held on to that thought when she lied down that night and slept in her own space without touching Lincoln at all.
Alexis woke in the wee hours just before dawn. She found Saphira and her brother awake. She watched without a word as Captain Decker came to join them. “Not one shot!” she heard the stern command in Saphira’s whisper and she sat up, worried. They looked at her so she spoke what came to her mind in the night.
“Do you think the stick people might have repaired the damage you did to their systems in the night?”
“We didn’t damage any of their systems,” Saphira responded.
“But you rewired things and changed things. Did they really understand what you were doing and why or did they just watch so they could put it all back after you were gone? I doubt they understand weapons and probably imagine the Balok were mistaken and certainly would not follow them here.” Saphira finished her thought.
“They fled their home world to escape the Balok, but –“ Saphira nudged Boston and Katie and instructed them quietly to return to the stick ship and check on their work to make sure it was not tampered with. Then she hushed Alexis and took Roland and Captain Decker into the dark. Alexis only heard Saphira’s strong whisper once more. “No shooting.”
Boston and Katie stayed visible longer beside the embers of the bonfire, but soon they also disappeared into the dark. Alexis looked to the sky. She knew the sun would be up soon, but it was hard to tell how soon. She felt a touch on her shoulder.
“What is it?” Lincoln asked as he touched and then held her arm. He propped himself up on one elbow.
“I don’t know,” Alexis answered. “Boston and Katie wandered off that way to check on their work and Saphira, Roland and Captain Decker went off that way like they were leaving the camp.”
Lincoln tried to smile. “Don’t worry. I am sure we will find out what is going on soon enough.”
“Why are you awake?” Alexis wondered.
Lincoln’s smile fell away and he let go of her, but stayed propped up next to her when he answered. “I guess I don’t need as much sleep as I did when I was old.”
“Is being young again that hard for you?” This was a serious question and Lincoln knew it. He made his serious face before he shook his head. Then he would not look at her.
“I’ll adjust. It is just seeing you young. You are so –“ he softened his voice to barely a whisper. “—beautiful.” He paused to cough and clear his throat. “We don’t have to still be married if you don’t want. This is like a new life.”
“Why would I not want to be married?”
“It’s just.” Lincoln was having a hard time framing the words. “You could have anyone. Why would you want me?”
“I mean, I know you were not exactly happy those last years.”
“I was happy.”
Lincoln frowned at her. “I got old, complacent, grumpy.”
“You’re not old now.”
Lincoln smiled, but just a little. “Neither are you.” She hugged him. “To be honest, I woke up because you weren’t beside me. I don’t think I could sleep if you were not beside me.”
Alexis tackled him, landed on top of him and grinned mightily. “Even if I don’t have the blood or form anymore, I am still an elf at heart.”
“I remember.” Lincoln got out that much before they kissed.
The sun was starting to break the darkness, but they did not care. They also did not hear Mingus mumble, “I think I am going to be sick.”