Roughly 5715 years in the past and 97 time zones from home, the travelers try to avoid interaction with the locals, and especially violence that might leave a mark on the future, but when two young girls invade their camp and ask for help against the “bad men,” what can they do?
Roland moved out into the dark. He had the speed, eyes and ears, but was willing to admit in this situation he would not have minded Captain Decker’s help. Fortunately, they were far enough from the Black Sea to not have the air filled with salt and sea breezes. He had no dwarf’s nose. He had to get clear of the cooking fire to pick up anything at all, even anything as smelly as unwashed human males.
It turned out the men, a dozen, were not hard to find, and not far away. They had seen the fire in the distance and stopped only to argue about whose fire it might be. They feared it belonged to what they called the women, and Roland understood they were not talking about the girls in the camp.
“That blind one gives me the creeps,” one man said.
“We should kill it,” another suggested.
“No,” a third protested. “It may be useful, if properly broken, like a good horse.”
Roland left them to argue, but he knew they would be along soon enough. He went back and told the others and they set something of a trap. The horses were moved to the other side of the clearing in which they camped. The men backed away from the fire so they would be hidden by the dark. Boston, Katie and the girls stayed by the fire and talked. They were the bait.
Boston fingered her Beretta. Katie had her pistol and her army knife just in case. An escape route had also been planned in case they had to run. It was where they could get to safety without running across anyone’s line of fire. And so they waited.
Lockhart whispered to Lincoln. “It’s damn cold out here. After the last time zone I thought I might never say that again.” Lincoln said nothing, and Lockhart guessed he was still thinking about Alexis
“It is chilly,” Roland answered for them all as he moved closer to the Gott-Druk to give his arrows the widest possible angle. Lockhart looked at Elder Stow, but then Lincoln did say something.
“He has on a space suit. Even the vacuum of space would not feel cold to him.”
“Oh,” Lockhart responded before he fell silent.
It seemed an eternity, but it was less than fifteen minutes before the men came to the clearing. Only four walked into the light at first, but Lockhart could make out the outline of the others fairly well. They were clearly not soldiers.
“You might as well all step into the light.” Katie, who was a Marine, faced the men and spoke before the men could speak. The men were too busy trying to look intimidating. “We were beginning to think you would not get here.”
“Amazon,” the front man, a big, ugly bald headed man spoke up. “Give us the girls and we will leave in peace.”
“Why?” Boston stood beside Katie which hid Amira and Chloe behind her. She fingered her Beretta while Katie had her pistol still holstered.
The man looked like he felt he should not have to explain himself. “Because, they belong to us and to our village.”
“All people belong to themselves,” Katie countered. “Maybe they quit your village.”
The man looked flummoxed. “You can’t quit your village.”
“Maybe they just don’t like you,” Boston suggested.
“Maybe we will just take them,” the man countered. “You are two. We are ten.”
“Do you think we are the only two here? Count our tents. You can count?” Katie asked.
“Roland.” Boston called and an arrow sped through the dark and landed perfectly between the man’s feet. He jumped back, and several others at the edge of the firelight stepped back as well.
“We are more than two,” Katie took a step forward. “Chloe and Amira will stay with us. You would be wise to leave now while you can.”
The men thought about it, looked at each other and jumped for the girls. One grabbed Chloe’s hand while she was getting up to escort Amira to safety. Boston took Amira. Katie kicked that man in the gut hard enough to bowl over the two behind him, and Chloe was free. A second man swung a club at Katie’s face, but she ducked, pulled her knife and cut that man across his cheek. Her bullet discouraged another as she grabbed for Chloe and the guns started to go off around her.
Chloe just stood there and watched, mesmerized. As a man tried to grab her, she kicked as Katie had. That man also flew back to knock over several others. Then Katie caught Chloe and they were swallowed up by the dark. A few men fell to the gunfire, but most of them turned and ran when they saw the blood pouring from their comrades and neighbors.
“I thought you said they were afraid of the women?” Boston was not exactly yelling at Roland, but she was certainly expressing her fear.
“It was a calculated risk,” Lockhart said as he stepped into the light to check on the fallen men. “Double watch tonight. Roland and Boston first. I’ll wait while Roland sweeps the area. I want to be sure they are gone. Katie and I will take the dark of the night. Lincoln, do you mind watching with Elder Stow?”
Lincoln glanced at the Gott-Druk. “That would be fine,” he said. He was not getting adjusted to working with the Neanderthal, he confessed privately. He would just rather see it coming when the Gott-Druk turned on them.
“And I should watch?” Elder Stow sounded surprised.
“Of course,” Lockhart said. “It is your life too, if they come back.”
“Thank you,” Elder Stow said, and no one wanted to ask why he should be grateful.
Meanwhile, there were three dead men around the fire and two wounded. One man caught a bullet in the shoulder, but it went clean through. They patched him. They also bandaged the one who had a bullet crease his thigh. They could walk, well one limped with help. Lockhart only told them one thing.
“Don’t come back.”
When Roland returned and reported that the rest of the men were still running, He, Lockhart and Lincoln dragged the dead a good distance from the camp where they might be found by the fleeing men. If those men came back, the sight of their dead might deter them. Then again, it was only right they should be able to bury their own dead.
All this time, Chloe hung on Katie’s elbow. “Would you teach me to fight? That is a magic knife. What kind of weapons were those you were using.” Katie expected the words awesome and wicked to escape the girl’s mouth any minute. Finally, she sat the girl down beside Boston who cried because of the dead. Then she spoke.
“Every human life is precious. Where would you be if your parents decided to kill Amira when she was born simply because she was born blind? We protected you because your lives are precious. So far, that has cost three lives and wounded two others. Are you worth that? Are your two lives worth the lives of three others? Think about that.” She went to finish setting up Decker’s tent which they decided would do for the girls in the night. Chloe did think about it, and listened when Elder Stow spoke to Boston.
“Did you cry like that when you killed my children?”
“Actually, yes, a little.” Boston answered. It was impossible to tell what the Gott-Druk thought about that answer, but then Roland, Lockhart and Lincoln came back, and Amira, who had been exceptionally quiet all that time spoke up.
“I shall sleep very well tonight,” she said. “And thank you very much for saving us.”
“Yes, thanks.” Chloe echoed. She was still thinking about her price. The village men might have sold her for a cow. Now three of them were dead instead.
Avalon 2.4: The Other Side of the Coin … Next Time