“Come.” The man in the doorway was insistent. The four men with spears handy pressed the issue.
“Why?” Lincoln asked. Boston had her wand out. Alexis was sitting down, checking Lothar’s wound. The man lifted his eyebrows. No one ever asked him that question before, and Lincoln took advantage of that. “Because if it is to talk to whoever is in charge, I will go willingly, without trouble.”
“To talk, maybe,” the man said. “Maybe the eagles eat you.”
“Stay here until I get back,” Lincoln said, and walked out without having to be dragged out, which made the man raise his eyebrows again.
As soon as the door was closed and latched, Alexis stood up. “I’m not staying here,” she said.
“Me neither,” Boston agreed.
“Nothing wrong with my legs,” he nodded.
“Listen up,” Boston turned to the crowd. “We go slow and quiet. Do you know how to be sneaky?” she asked, and several heads nodded. “Good, because if one of you screams and panics and runs, you will get us all killed, and the gods will not smile kindly on you.”
“Ready?” Alexis said. Boston nodded, so Alexis raised her hand and they heard the latch on the other side of the door slide open. Boston stood with her wand ready. It was not her trusted Beretta, but then she had been practicing her flamethrower, so it might be better given the circumstances.
Lincoln got escorted beyond the serpent statue and altar to a stairway cut from the stone along the back wall. It was narrow, one person wide, and it had no railing. It also hovered over the crack in the ground where maybe a mile down, something appeared to be moving. Lincoln tried not to look down, but he thought he better watch his steps. The men that escorted him hardly seemed more comfortable as they climbed up and up.
At the top, Lincoln found a ledge with an archway that lead out onto a cave that appeared to be at the top of a cliff. This cave had a wide opening and a view for miles into the wilderness. Lincoln imagined he could see the river from there, but he honestly did not want to get too close to the edge. No matter. His eyes were drawn to the three small ships and one four to six man shuttle parked in the cave.
“Wait here,” the head man said, and Lincoln waited and groused at not having the database. “Come,” the man said, and lead him to a non-human bird-like person of some kind who was sitting at a table, looking over something like a tablet and scrolling through pages, reading.
“Interesting reading?” Lincoln spoke. The man looked like he was about to punch Lincoln and tell him to wait until spoken to, but the bird-man looked up.
The man waited.
“What do you know of reading?” The bird-man’s eyes got big. He stood, about four feet tall, and stepped free of the table. He appeared human enough, or a human shaped reptile but he had feathers instead of hair.
“You don’t look Marzalotipan to me,” Lincoln said, and saw recognition in the bird-man’s eyes. “Your species?”
“Sevarese. I am Glory Priuta, what you would call Commander Priuta. And you are human?” Lincoln nodded, and Commander Priuta understood the body language which said he had been there for some time. “And you are not from Kish, or from these primitive people that surround us. Your clothing and artifacts betray you. May I ask, where are you from?”
Lincoln paused, but decided it did not matter. “I did not get a good look at the database before your men kidnapped us, but at a guess I would say five thousand years in the future.”
The Bird-man’s eye got big and he made a sound for which there was no translation. He looked at the tablet which was still in his hand and announced. “You speak the truth.”
“I’ve been known to be honest now and then,” Lincoln said, and he considered the whole circumstances of his capture. The questions were building up inside him, but he was trying to be polite.
“But not always honest with your species, as we have observed.” Priuta said. He touched several places on the tablet and Lincoln could not hold back.
“You know you have Balok in the cavern,” Lincoln said. “I thought you people wiped out the Balok.”
“The Captain and others who heard of the Balok thought the same,” Commander Priuta said, with his eyes big again, which Lincoln decided was an expression of surprise and curiosity, or near enough. “We did not expect to find a ship still running through this system. We do not normally come here. Our navigation array marks this system as off limits.”
“And it is,” Lincoln said. “I am surprised the Kairos is not here.”
“I have heard of this Kairos,” The commander said. “The power that is the sun said he would be telling the Kairos, and he insisted in the meanwhile we share our food with the Balok. It irks, but as long as the Pendratti are denied this world, we will suffer to share. In truth, there are only a few old specimens of Balok alive, and they will die soon enough for us.”
“So why haven’t you left?” Lincoln asked the primary question.
Commander Priuta appeared to smile, and while he showed no teeth, he showed two or three tongues in his open mouth. “Our ship was heavily damaged in the battle. The Balok ship crashed here and sank into the earth in this spot. We managed a softer landing, but do not have the means to repair our craft. We are searching this world for artifacts we can adapt for our purposes.”
Lincoln said something he had not originally intended. “Maybe Boston and Alexis can help you repair your ship. Katie Harper, too, if we can find her. Boston is the one with the red hair.”
Commander Priuta opened his mouth again and showed a couple of tongues. “Another reason you people were suspect,” he said.
Lincoln smiled until something else occurred to him. “What exactly is this food you are sharing with the Balok?”
“Just some of the primitive humans. I understand the Balok prefer to cook them, but personally I find the raw flesh very tasty. Some of my crew have been spoiled with our time here. They can hardly look at a human without feeling the hunger in their middle.”
“This is where the signal ended,” Elder Stow reported. “I am sorry this little portable unit has such limited range and battery strength is not the best.”
“Don’t apologize,” Lockhart said. “Obviously the Sevarese have set up a field around this cavern, and it might not be that good, but just enough to keep out your portable scan.” They all took a look at the opening to the cave. It faced the east and it looked dark and foreboding in the afternoon when the sun could not reach it.
“Typical rock formation,” Katie said. “Probably hollowed out by water at one point.” Lockhart nodded and lead them all back to where they hid the horses by some boulders. There was little room and little grass, but a few trees at least gave the illusion of being hidden.
“Roland—“ Lockhart started to speak, but Katie interrupted.
“I’m not staying back to watch the horses by myself. I could, but—“ Lockhart interrupted.
“Because you are the boss and self-designated responsible. Decker is a navy seal. For all my gifts, he is trained to sneak around an enemy base without being caught. I am not. I am surprised Roland has not already raced into the cavern, and with the non-human Sevarese around, you will probably need Elder Stow and his gadgets. I’m not staying alone here and missing out.”
Lockhart smiled as he dismounted. “I’m staying with you.”
“What?” everyone asked.