After 1879 BC, New England area, Kairos 56: Taregan, The Chief.
Everyone slipped and slid and yelled. “Get down. Slippery ice. Spread the weight. Listen for cracks. Go easy.”
Boston got carefully down from Honey’s back and gently coaxed her horse out of the snow drift. Most of the lake looked snow covered on top of the ice, so it was not impossibly slippery, for the humans. The horses were trickier, to get them safely to shore.
The travelers spread out. Both Lincoln and Decker heard the ice crack beneath them, but no one fell through to the frigid water.
It started to snow as soon as they reached the trees that grew down to the lake’s edge.
“Boston and Mingus, get a fire started,” Lockhart said.
“Everyone, get the tents out and use them for horse blankets,” Katie added.
“Where are we?” Alexis wondered.
“Let me try to get the lay of the land,” Elder Stow offered as he pulled out his scanner. “Maybe a weather report,” he added, softly.
“That’s a big lake,” Boston shouted.
“Where are we?” Katie echoed Alexis
“A minute,” Lincoln said.
“The north pole,” Decker offered. “Can’t you tell?”
“Lake Champlain,” Lincoln offered. “Maybe Lake George, but probably somewhere in Vermont.”
“Where are we,” Mingus asked Boston, and after a moment of thought she pulled out her amulet.
“Boston isn’t there yet,” Lockhart said.
“It is a big storm,” Elder Stow reported.
“I don’t know if the dried grain we got in Yadinel’s time is still good,” Alexis interrupted. She checked their supplies. “Not much else for the horses to eat around here.”
“Let me see,” Elder Stow said. He had his scanner in his hand and quickly pronounced the grain acceptable.
“The grain may technically be a hundred and fifty-years-old,” Lincoln suggested. “But it moved those years in about three weeks. It didn’t sit all those years exposed to the elements to get moldy or anything.”
“At least the horses won’t go hungry for now,” Alexis agreed.
Lockhart turned to the fire where Mingus was laying on a big log and Decker found a place to rest. “What can you two tell us about the area?”
“Not much,” Decker admitted. “The whole area is well forested, and as you know, it is hard to see beneath the trees.”
“By the way.” Elder Stow joined them. “The snow storm is bigger than my little scanner can read. I imagine it will snow all day.” He touched something on the scanner and the snow over their head stopped—blocked by the screen he put up. “I should be able to get another time zone or two out of that charging equipment I got in Yadinel’s time zone. The equipment is well made, but it doesn’t age as well as living grain. I figure in three hundred years it will be useless, but we might as well use it while we have it.” He pulled out his sonic device and what looked like a knob to a small door, and began to fiddle with the scanner.
“Explain something,” Lockhart asked. “The Database and the amulets are powered by Reichgo 10,000-year half-life batteries. The Kairos suggested originally that they would have enough charge for the journey. But you Gott-Druk are an elder race. I can’t imagine the Reichgo have better batteries.”
Elder Stow stopped tinkering and everyone looked at Lockhart, and then the elder. “Battery life depends on usage,” he said. “The Reichgo batteries are so primitive, they would hardly power my devices for a day. I might get one blast from my weapon, if the Reichgo battery did not explode. Decker has a couple of spares for his recording device, which I might use in an emergency. But, you know, data doesn’t use much, and neither does the Amulet. My scanner doesn’t take much, but the screen is a heavy drain I could avoid if you don’t mind being snowed on.”
“What are you doing?” Katie came over and asked why Elder Stow was tinkering with his equipment.
“Ah,” Elder Stow said. “It has occurred to me that the screen is good to keep out the snow and rain as well as wild animals, and sometimes especially humans. The screen itself is invisible, of course, but I thought it might be a good thing if we were all invisible. I am trying to attach my invisibility device to the screen generator if I can, so whenever I activate the screen, whatever is inside becomes invisible.”
“Good thinking,” Katie praised him.
“No good in the forest,” Decker countered. “Someone on that hill there would just see a big empty spot by the lake.”
“But in the desert or on the grasslands it would be most effective,” Elder Stow said.
“What recording equipment?” Lincoln asked.
Everyone stopped again to look at Lincoln and then turned their eyes on Major Decker, except Lockhart who looked at Captain Katie Harper. Elder Stow spoke.
“I’m sorry. I thought you knew.”
Decker touched his hand where he had a ring. Katie pulled her necklace up to show as Decker explained.
“A Reichgo digital recording device. It is about forty percent full. Captain Harper and I have been making a rather skewed recording of our journey since the beginning.”
“Colonel Weber?” Lockhart asked, accusation in his voice.
“I suppose I could delete the whole thing,” Decker said, with a sigh. It sounded like he would be giving up his last connection to the twenty-first century, or “the real world,” as he sometimes called it.
“Oh, but the history,” Katie pleaded with Lockhart. Lockhart, Lincoln and Alexis shared a glance, but none seemed too concerned. Lockhart made a decision.
“Record what you want,” he said. “I am sure the Kairos knows and hasn’t objected so far. I think we can safely let the Kairos decide what to do with it when we get back home.”
Boston came running up at about fifty-miles-per hour. She phased through Elder Stow’s screen automatically, though she felt it and it caused her to pause. Fortunately, her fairy weave clothing came with her, but her wand and the leather case she made to carry it against her thigh did not.
“Putz,” she said, and had to reach back to consciously bring the wand and case inside the screen. She started to yell as soon as she got near the fire. “Something big is moving through the trees. It isn’t human or an animal. It feels creepy.”
People reached for their guns. Decker, who already had his rifle in hand, Mingus, and Elder Stow stepped to the lake side of the camp, which was where Boston pointed. They saw it come out from the woods as the others joined them. It stepped carefully on the snow covered, frozen lake, and appeared to be headed for the time gate they just came through.
“Scout,” Mingus called it.
Boston had a different thought. “Can they swim?”
Mingus nodded. “It will swim the thirty miles to the island in the last time zone without trouble, and probably scare off or eat any sharks it passes along the way.”
“They seem to have some way of knowing where the time gates are,” Katie whispered, though they had all figure that out some time ago.
“Well,” Decker put his rifle on automatic and fired even as Elder Stow let loose with the sonic device, which was still in his hand. The ghoul let out a death wail as the ice beneath it cracked, gave way, and the ghoul vanished in the frigid water.
Decker groused. “It would have been better to kill it.”
“I think you did,” Katie said.
“Anyway,” Mingus spoke up as he turned back to the fire. “Ghouls are like all of the Djin. They are primarily creatures of heat. They normally avoid the cold, and I suspect the icy lake water would finish it if you didn’t kill it.”
“I would rather see the green and purple smudge to be sure it doesn’t live to eat another day,” Decker finished.
“Pack up,” Lockhart said once they got back to the camp. “The other nine are probably on their way. Boston, we need to move, but off the direct line to the next time gate. Hopefully, we will pass them by.”