Mid-afternoon, Jill finally came back. It seemed improbable that there would be fighting on that day, though the colonel gave orders in case the enemy tried to come in the night. As they came close, Ethan broke ranks and ran to Jill. No one made a move to stop him. The Cherokee warrior was with her, and they seemed to be conversing freely in a language Ethan could not quite grasp. He recognized that he was getting better at catching languages, even if he did not know how, but he was not there yet. When he grabbed Jill, he felt surprised by the strength of his feelings. She looked happy to see it, though, and responded freely, while the native kept still and waited.
General Gordon arrived and surprised everyone with his announcement. “The Cherokee have agreed to withdraw, over the objections of their Byzantine Masters. But they say there has been too much bad blood in this world and they plan to make restitution to the Delaware. Whether or not the Algonquin nation will accept compensation for the dead remains to be seen, but for the present there will be peace, because the Byzantine cannot raise a large enough force by themselves.”
“Praise God.” That was heard all around the area where the general spoke, and there were prayers of thanksgiving sent up to Mary and any number of saints.
“This remarkable young woman and Chief Peter Alexander were the primary movers in the negotiations.” General Gordon told the colonel. “Apparently, they met before.”
“Ethan.” Jill spoke in that same strange language that Ethan had never heard before, but by then he understood it. “Let me introduce Peter Alexander.” She indicated the man in war paint.
“Alexander is sufficient,” the man said. as he shook Ethan’s hand. Ethan looked close, and despite the fact that Alexander was young and handsome, he could not have been one of Jill’s people. He looked too Cherokee.
“A native to this world?” he asked his question out loud.
“Yes.” Alexander answered forthrightly.
“Lela is dead as I feared,” Jill said and took Ethan’s hand for support. He gave it to her, even if he did not know who Lela was. “I sent her out, but her communications ended in this world. I became concerned about her when I got stranded, and I see that I was right to be worried. The Byzantines beheaded her as a witch, but not before she passed the Guardian nano-chits to Alexander. He has been waiting here since then for someone to come. Since his Guardian chits are adjusted to alert him when someone world hops into this place, though he did not know this, he felt us arrive and came to see with his own eyes. He guessed rightly that I was of Lela’s people.”
“And so now we have another passenger to take with us.” Ethan finished the thought. Jill nodded and looked at Alexander with a wide smile.
“I told you he was bright.” She took Ethan’s hand and kissed his shoulder, and then she introduced Alexander to the others, and in so doing, she said something that Ethan did not expect. “Alexander has already received his chits and has agreed to guard his world, though he has not yet been trained to the task, so he will be going with us.” Ali Pasha, Lars and Manomar all nodded as if they understood what she was saying, and Ethan looked at Jill. He felt suddenly very cold toward her.
Jill touched his arm, gently. “We need to talk,” she said.
“About what?” he asked. He did not respond to her touch and did not look at all happy. “About being another one of your flunkies?”
“No!” She said the word in a tone which protested that he would even think such a thing, but before she could say anything more, Alexander let out a screech.
“Incoming!” Colonel deMartin shouted without hesitation, and the word echoed down the line as Jill and her men made a rifle shot for the nearest trench. They no sooner got down, when Ethan heard the last noise he expected. He looked above his head and saw the flash of baby blue laser light and then he covered his head as a nearby automobile exploded.
“How did they find us?” Ethan asked. Jill was already going for the laptop and the transfer unit.
“I don’t know!” She shouted. “Maybe they have a dimensional tracer of some kind.”
“Who are they?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” she answered as she began to type and Ethan wired the watch. Curiously, he knew exactly what to do, but he did not think that odd at the time. Indeed, he could hardly think at all.
After the first salvo, Ethan heard rifle fire as the men of that world tried to return fire, though they hardly knew what they were firing at. Then there was another sound, and Ethan braved a peek above the trench rim just to confirm the Neanderthal behind him.
“The other side has arrived,” he told Jill. She hushed him while she typed frantically.
“Almost out of power,” she said as if thinking aloud. “I think I know where we can go to scramble any dimensional trace.”
Colonel deMartin jumped into their trench after the return fire slackened off, and just before it became a flame on flame all-out battle.
No one answered him because Jill interrupted. “Everybody hold hands. Be sure to touch flesh.” She added that last comment because Alexander wanted to hold her hair. He touched her neck while everyone else grabbed on. Jill only waited a moment and looked briefly to be sure before she hit the enter button. This time, Ethan closed his eyes, but he was holding the transfer unit, and he felt the shock everywhere and temporarily passed out.