After 2277 BC, Mekong Delta. Kairos 49: Ruan Zee, Queen of the Shemsu
“Smells like Vietnam,” Lincoln griped. “Maybe Cambodia.”
“It does have that Mekong Delta aroma,” Lockhart agreed.
“Were you there?” Katie asked. “Sometimes it is hard to remember you were around that long ago.”
“Nineteen seventy,” Lincoln said. “I went with the CIA into Cambodia, for all the good it did. It was about a year after that, well, early seventy-two, I met Jax and went to work for the Men in Black.”
“I met the Kairos in seventy-one when he was failing to go to college for the first time.”
“Failing?” Katie asked.
“Oh, yeah. He went to four or five different schools over about ten years before he finally got a degree. Went on to do graduate work at Princeton, no less. So, go figure.”
“I met him in seventy-two,” Lincoln said. “School number two. He was taking a writing class, a music class, and something else.”
“Western Civ., I think,” Lockhart said.
“Yeah. A class they don’t even teach anymore, since they all decided to hate America,” Lincoln said.
“Who decided that?” Katie asked. “Not everyone hates America.”
“Yeah,” Lockhart agreed. “But western civilization nowadays is the bad guy on the world stage, you know, taking advantage of all those poor third world countries.”
“Kairos,” Alexis said, and then added a word for Katie. “That’s where Benjamin and I met.”
“What were you doing with the FBI?” Katie wondered.
Lockhart answered. “Trying to keep an atomic bomb from turning Grand Central Station into a mushroom cloud.”
“We stopped it on the Jersey Central,” Lincoln admitted.
“As I recall, you fainted when he cut the wire,” Lockhart teased.
“No, but he wanted to,” Alexis said. “Didn’t you sweetheart?”
“I had my eyes on you the whole time,” Lincoln responded to Alexis.
“You were there?” Katie asked Alexis.
“Yes,” Alexis answered. “I was working a computer program for the Avalon science department. We were trying to trace the old Russian experimental bomb model to see if they had the design on file. It would have helped to know which wire to cut.”
“The Kairos cut the wire. Then Amphitrite sent the bomb into orbit and detonated it.”
“The goddess?” Katie asked.
“Yes,” Lincoln said. “She does get around in time like the rest of them.” Lincoln and Lockhart fell silent for a time. Alexis had to get them back out of their introspection.
“Oh, yeah,” Lockhart said. “I was Military Police, mostly in Saigon. It was boring. So what did I do? I came home and joined the police force. After that, I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Me neither,” Lincoln said.
“Benjamin usually tells people it was all hush-hush, secret work that he is not supposed to talk about,” Alexis confided.
“Saves me hours of boring conversations,” Lincoln admitted.
“So anyway, as Avi would say,” Lockhart grinned. “It smells like Vietnam.”
“Or maybe Cambodia,” Lincoln countered. “I recognize the hats.” he pointed. They came down the last little bit of hill and came out from the trees to find a broad river and people fishing on the shore wearing simple straw hats that looked like little pyramids covering their whole head and shoulders. Beyond the river was the unending blue of the sea. Nearer at hand was a small village, a fishing village with nets drying on shore. It looked like there were a few boats out in the water, but not much beyond that except empty fields. Above the village, along the riverbank, there were rice fields. The whole thing looked quaint, at least to Katie.
Elder Stow stayed out on the wing, and Katie commented. “He is sulking for some reason.” But Decker came in close, and Mingus and Boston rode up from the rear, Mingus being careful to keep Boston and Lincoln between himself and Alexis.
“Bucolic,” Decker said of the village.
“Vietnam,” Lockhart told him.
“Cambodia,” Lincoln suggested as he got out the database.
Decker grunted as Boston spoke up. “The Kairos should not be far away. Probably in the village.” She was looking at her amulet, but she could not keep the sound of excitement out of her voice. Boston liked and seriously admired the Kairos she knew in the future, almost like a person might feel in the presence of her favorite celebrity. But ever since she became an elf, she found her like turn to love for the one that was now her god, or goddess as the case may be. She could not help it. Fortunately, Mingus, an elder elf was able to keep her feet on the ground.
“Ruan Zee,” Lincoln named the Kairos in this time zone. “A woman married to the sea.” He looked up from the reading at the curious faces. “That is what it says,” he defended himself.
“Ruan,” Mingus said. He spent the last three hundred or more years studying the lives of the Kairos in the Avalon history department before ending up on this daft journey. “In this land, the sky gods and the sea gods, which they call the sea demons, are at war over the land. As I recall, they just about wipe out all human life before Ruan helps to find a solution, but I suppose I should not talk about future events. No telling at what point in her life we have arrived.”
“Better we not know so we have no way of saying the wrong thing,” Lockhart nodded as he led the group along the last bit of rocks and trees toward the village.
“Hello,” A woman startled Katie, and she reigned to a stop. Lockhart took a moment, but the others soon stopped as well. “Have you come to visit my village?” the woman asked. She was seated on a rock under the shade of a few trees. She was dressed in what appeared to be silk, and not at all dressed like a fisherman’s wife. But she smiled and held her hand up to shade her eyes as she took in the strangers.
“Your village appears to be a calm and peaceful place,” Katie responded. “We could use some rest before we move on in the morning.”
“Calm and peaceful?” the woman laughed. “But it has been peaceful for almost a month since I
sent the Shemsu and others into the hills and wilderness inland. We few who remain have tried to keep a low profile and the gods and sea demons have left us alone to fish and grow our rice. Pray that this peace continues. I do not know what they will say or how they will react on seeing strangers come. They may fear you will settle here and try to stop that.”
“We have no intention of settling here,” Lockhart assured the woman.
“Ruan?” Lincoln ventured a guess.
The woman nodded. “Boston,” she said and opened her arms.
“I knew it,” Boston shouted, and she got down to run into the hug. The rest dismounted and came in close while Ruan stood and kept her loving arm around Boston. She started them waking toward the village. The huts were straw, almost mobile, easily built and easily taken down. It seemed like the people had no interest in more permanent structures on the bank of a river which might overflow at any time.
“We eat fish and rice, and more fish and rice,” Ruan said. “On Wednesday, we have a treat. We eat rice and fish, just to be different.”
“It will make a good change from deer, deer, elk and deer,” Alexis said.
A man passed them with fishing gear on his shoulders. He showed no surprise at the strangers or their horses, and merely offered a slight bow. “Ruan Zee,” he said.
“But your village seems tranquil and happy.” Katie pointed to where some children were playing something like tag, running around and giggling.
“Do not be fooled by appearances. We have learned to take advantage of the peaceful moments, but we do not forget that we remain on the edge of destruction. The war between the gods and the sea demons is without end. In fact, though the sun is out and the sky is bright, and all seems well with the world, sudden destruction could come in a heartbeat, and sadly, I fear your presence may trigger the end times, the end of days, the apocalypse.”