Decker and Lincoln followed the river for miles and found no way across, which is why they came back late to the camp; but Lockhart and Elder Stow found where the river widened, and logically, became shallower. A couple of small islands in the middle said as much.
“We still have to swim in a couple of places,” Elder Stow admitted. “But it should not be too hard for the horses.”
Alexis got her shoulder bandaged extra well, and waterproofed the fairy weave around it. Lincoln watched her the whole way, and hardly watched where he was going. Boston thought that was cute. Mingus said nothing.
Decker crossed first, and climbed the small ridge on the other side to take a look around. He gave the all clear when he got to the top and saw the land flattened out for miles and offered no better cover than scrub grass and thorn bushes.
Decker took a moment to focus on his totem. He let his spirit rise up with the eagle, and got a good look at the area from overhead. He spied some animals, though none too dangerous. He thought there might be a settlement in the far distance, though he had no idea how big that settlement might be. If they were in Syria or Iraq 1800 years in the BC, which Lincoln suggested, it was probably a big enough settlement for a wall, like a small city. Decker did not get the impression that this was a nomadic camp on the horizon.
“Damn.” Decker’s spirit rushed back to his body, and his horse stomped the ground, nervously. Something like an F-18 zoomed over his head, much too close to the ground. It headed toward the rising sun, and three flying ball were chasing it. “Damn,” he repeated as the balls came even closer to the ground. He spun and went back down to the water where he saw Lockhart and Katie just coming ashore.
“Elder Stow,” Decker yelled, but Elder Stow was not going to unwrap his scanner until he was on dry ground. Too bad, because the jet-like ship wheeled around and attacked when a half-dozen more came over the horizon to join it. Several more flying balls zoomed overhead as the energy blasts began to play hit or miss. Some blasts struck the ground and caused ferocious explosions.
Lockhart and Katie armed themselves and imagined the battle was a good half-mile away, but Decker knew location was flexible for an air battle. A half-mile did not mean much. They could shift to overhead in seconds.
Decker helped Elder Stow to shore and held the Gott-Druk’s horse while Elder Stow got out his scanner. He punched up the screen as quickly as he could, and it was almost not quick enough. A stray shot exploded in the riverbank less than half a football field away and sent rocks and small boulders flying in every direction.
Boston noticed the river stopped running beneath her. As she and Mingus came ashore, Elder Stow adjusted the screen to not disrupt the flow of the river, while an energy blast from a blob ball hit the screen. The screen showed a yellow flare for a moment.
“Impressive for a primitive weapon,” Elder Stow said.
“We would all be dead right now if you weren’t here,” Boston told him, and Elder Stow grinned ever so slightly.
Boston, Mingus, Lincoln and Alexis did their best to keep the horses calm, while Katie, Decker and Lockhart studied the progress of the battle. Katie and Decker got out their binoculars. Decker gave his to Lockhart while he used the scope on his rifle. Once Elder Stow had his particle and energy screens stable, he tuned his scanner to took a look at the ships themselves. His scanner picked up the energy sources for both propulsion and weapons. He told the others how they functioned, not that anyone understood, but then he paused when he saw something coming down both sides of the river.
“Too late.” It was the first thing he said, which got everyone’s attention. “Blobs,” he explained, and in less than a minute they saw Blobs floating down the river and rolling along on both banks. Small arm fire came in their direction from the other side. The screen showed no color at all, as it easily deflected the weapons fire, but no one expected the small arms would penetrate.
“Ah!” Boston shouted when a Blob came right up to the edge of the screen. It started to roll over their heads, but stopped when it realized something was standing between it and the delicious looking people and horses. An Anazi jet broke free from the air battle and began to blast the Blobs on the ground, including the one above them. They imagined the wail of pain as the Blob burned and rolled off the screen.
“Are those Anazi.” Katie asked and pointed at the people coming up river. The people had hand guns, and the Blobs showed that they had some kind of guns to return fire. The Blobs moved beyond the travelers. They did not appear interested or concerned about the horses for the moment. And all the travelers could do was watch.
“They have to be the Anazi,” Lockhart said, though Decker, Katie and Elder Stow did not doubt that.
“They do look human,” Decker suggested.
Elder Stow nodded. “The basic shape is fairly universal. Two hands that can grasp, stereoscopic vision up high, two or four legs and so on.”
“Bones, muscles, ligaments, blood, protected brain, heart pump and digestive system…” Alexis, the registered nurse, started listing things.
“What are they doing?” Katie asked.
“Being brave?” Elder Stow answered.
As the line of Anazi and Blobs met, the Anazi did not run. If anything, they appeared to be running into the Blobs to be eaten, or absorbed by the Blobs. It looked like suicide. No one wanted to watch, but just then, they got distracted. An Anazi jet came overhead, trailing smoke. Both Boston and Katie swore it was the one who cleared the Blobs from the riverbank around the travelers. They saw the top of the explosion rise up above the ridge that hemmed in the river. They did not hear the explosion because of Elder Stow’s screen, but they knew it was a big one. The did not imagine anyone survived.
Two Blob balls flew overhead, circled once, no doubt around the wreck, before they zoomed off to rejoin the battle. The battle began to move downriver. The Anazi appeared to be pulling back. The Blobs on the ground were out of range, pushing forward, or eating their way forward.
“No more Blobs on the river, coming.” Elder Stow said.
“I recommend we get while we can,” Decker added.
“Mount up.” Lockhart put his hand to Katie’s arm to get her attention, though his eyes were on the horses. Katie paused to smile before she nodded.
The travelers reached the top of the riverbank where they saw a Blob that appeared to be dead. Without a word, they all moved downriver to examine the alien.
“Don’t get too close,” Lockhart said, but they got close enough to make out the remains of an Anazi warrior in the midst of yellow-green sludge that made up the Blob remains.
“I would guess the Anazi did not agree with him,” Decker said.
“The soldier appears to have been toxic,” Mingus said.
“We aren’t toxic,” Lincoln said. “Maybe we should move on before the Blobs come back.”
No one disagreed, but as they turned toward the crash site, they did not expect to find any survivors.