The travelers get Captain Decker back, even if they are still chasing Lincoln’s wife, Alexis, and her father Mingus. What is more they appeared to have landed in a friendly group of natives. Ordinary travelers might expect to relax and rest, but they know this is a lifetime of the Kairos where trouble and danger are the norm. Besides, there are walking and talking reptiles out there, somewhere.
After the awakening, Katie kept one eye on Decker. The others seemed unconcerned. They stepped over to Otapec’s fire and told stories and laughed, but Lieutenant Harper felt she needed one eye on her Captain. He had been out of it for a long time.
The man said little after he awoke, but then Decker was a person of few words so that was no surprise. He saw to his horse, the one that was tied to him by the Kairos – the one he named after Colonel Weber. Decker was all business with the horse, but Katie imagined if the horse had been a dog it would have licked his face. After that, Decker hardly paid any attention to Elder Stow, as if having the Gott-Druk around was no big deal. He also did not appear surprised to hear that Alexis and her father Mingus were missing again.
“The more things change,” he spoke in clichés and sat by the fire to meditate. That was the oddest thing of all. Katie had no idea the hard boiled Navy Seal even knew what meditation was.
“People.” Otapec got everyone’s attention. The elders of the natives and the Shemsu were approaching and it was time for introductions. To no one’s surprise, the elders all bowed to Maya first of all though she blushed and turned her eyes to her Opi. Otapec just smiled for her and opened his mouth when Decker finally had something to say.
“Incoming,” and he added, “The more things change.” Fortunately, he did not finish that cliché. He could not as the sound of retro rockets echoed across the field. A shuttle was coming in for a landing.
Everyone grabbed their weapons while Maya strictly charged Chac and Ixchel to keep Kuican in the circle of the elders. When they were ready, Otapec lead the troop down the hill to see the visitors, and he whispered in Maya’s ear as they went.
“No!” Maya spoke as if she was shocked to hear what Otapec suggested, but she said no more.
They had to stand and wait for a while.
“System shut down,” Lincoln suggested.
“Scanning the area for hostiles,” Lockhart offered.
“Only us,” Decker quipped and gave his rifle the quick once over to be sure it had not been damaged in his five hundred year absence.
Finally the hatch of the shuttle came down and six Pendratti came out from the inside. The four that looked military escorted the two the travelers had met in the jungle. They young one was still juggling some sort of equipment. The older gray one was smiling again.
“And see?” The gray one spoke. “Here are exactly the ones we are looking for. This matter should be resolved easily enough. Bring them inside.”
The young one smiled this time and showed all of his sharp teeth while he fiddled with some controls on his equipment. Lockhart, Lincoln, Katie and Boston all stiffened. They began to move toward the ramp and Maya reacted.
“No!” She shouted and gave a curious look to her husband who stood quietly, arms folded, watching. The connection with whatever had the travelers in its grasp broke instantly, and the people stopped moving. Boston and Lincoln backed up a step.
Elder Stow and Decker had something else in mind, but Decker was quicker. He put several bullets in that piece of equipment, and fortunately he was a good enough shot not to harm the Pendratti holding it. The startled Pendratti dropped it and it shattered against the shuttle ramp. The gray one frowned, but the guards all drew their weapons. One overreacted or panicked and pulled the trigger. A blast of some kind struck a screen a few feet in front of the travelers where it was completely stopped. Maya looked at Opi, again.
“My husband is so smart,” she said softly before all words were silenced by the roar of a second, smaller shuttle that rocketed to a landing less than a hundred feet from the Pendratti shuttle. No one was surprised when three Gott-Druk emerged holding tight to weapons of their own.
Elder Stow stepped forward before the guns started firing and he shouted as loud as he could. “I said these people are under my protection.” He looked at the elder Pendratti. “And the reason I repeat myself is because you seem to have trouble with your hearing.” That appeared to make the Pendratti elder angry, but the Gott-Druk who saw him and heard him relaxed a little.
All this while, Otapec stood still and said nothing. Maya looked at him again and started to ask a question. “Should I –“
“Yes.” Otapec interrupted. “Keep it right where it is.” Otapec heard something and he knew what kind of creature made such a sound. Even as Elder Stow threw his hands up and the Pendratti and Gott-Druk sounded ready to get into a great argument, a five foot wide head stuck out from the trees right between the two ships and two arguing parties. A roar was followed by a burst of flame.
Both Pendratti and Gott-Druk darted for the safety of their ships. The fire headed straight for the travelers but was stopped by Maya’s screen which she kept in place as instructed. Still, the travelers all stepped back except for Lockhart who curiously stepped forward.
“Do no harm! No Fire!” Lockhart yelled in the Agdaline language which he dredged up from some back corner of his mind. “No harm. No fire.”
The worm inched out from the trees and Katie remarked, “Why it is still full of feathers like a baby.”
“Baby,” Lockhart said the word in the Agdaline language and repeated himself once more. “No fire, baby. No harm.” The dragon dropped its chin to the ground and then slowly slithered forward as Otapec finally spoke.
“This kind doesn’t have much in the way of legs or arms. It truly is more worm-like.”
“But aren’t feathers dangerous for fire breathers?” Katie asked.
“Not real feathers despite the look and feel. They are more like asbestos, fire-proof and toxic if taken in large doses, by the way.”
“But I thought the Agdaline ejected the adults in space before landing.” Boston looked at Otapec who crossed his arms again as he spoke to her.
“They trap one or two in the airlock to release when they set down just in case their reception is not so friendly.” He stepped up to his wife and kissed the back of her neck. She wiggled, but was occupied with something.
The worm reached Lockhart who repeated the word, “Baby.” He reached out his hand and Maya’s shield gave way at the hand so Lockhart could stroke the dragon’s nose. The dragon purred, a deep, throbbing sound. It was not the lyrical song of the babies, but only because this one was larger and more mature.
Otapec whispered in Maya’s ear and she spoke. “Find deer. Eat deer.” Maya said, and Lincoln looked back toward the horses.
“I hope it knows what deer is.”
“Go.” Lockhart said. “Fly.” He looked at Otapec who nodded. They might not have much in the way of legs and arms, but there was nothing wrong with their wings. The dragon rose up in a bit of a whirlwind and flew off without looking back. After that, the Pendratti were the first to leave. The Gott-Druk followed.
“Well!” Captain Decker said as he shouldered his rifle. “I guess you will all have to tell me what I missed after all.” He stared for a moment at Elder Stow before he stared more deliberately at Lieutenant Harper.
Avalon 2.8 Flight … Next Time