Ibelam climbed to the top of the tree and first looked down to be sure the others could not see him through the branches and leaves. He put his hand to his forehead to help block the sun and watched as the Anazi ship hovered. They appeared to be searching for signs of the Humanoid battleship that chased them to earth.
Gerbaal stirred the vegetable soup and added some crushed spice to the deer roasting over the fire. He rubbed it in extra well. He did not care for the gamey flavor. Ahumm kept glancing up toward Ibelam, and toward the sun that would set in a couple of hours. He waited for the night sky with the hope that he could fix their position by the stars.
“Things are different on land,” Ahumm said. “At sea, I can see horizon to horizon, and the stars all come up in glorious splendor to guide the weary travelers. On land, all we get is weary.” He looked again up the tree toward Ibelam. “Maybe I should climb up there when the stars come out.”
Gerbaal nodded, but said what seemed important to him. “We should get some good jerky to carry on the trail, once I finish smoking this deer.”
“What trail,” A woman asked, as she and Abdanath returned to the camp.
“Haniashtart thinks the captain is leading us down another rabbit trail and who knows if there is a rabbit at the end of the trail,” Abdanath said, as he set down his spear and shield. He unstrapped his sword and added, “Then again, he has not failed us yet.”
“This feels different,” Haniashtart said, in all seriousness. “It feels like two great cats in the wilderness ready to come to blows, and we are, at best, a mouse caught in the middle.”
“I would not mind if Brushy and Riptide were here,” Abdanath said as he took a seat on the log beside Ahumm. Haniashtart plopped down on the ground as she spoke.
“I thought the ogre scared you.”
Abdanath shook his head. “I’ve never been seasick, but just to look at Riptide makes me want to throw up.”
“Forget it,” Ahumm said. “Captain had to leave someone he could trust to watch the ship. Gods know the rest of the crew might as well be pirates. They are not exactly sailors and merchants.”
“Don’t know why he imagined he can trust an imp and an ogre,” Haniashtart shook her head.
“We could have pulled into Tyre and paid to have the ship taken into dry-dock for repairs, and to give it the once over,” Abdanath suggested. “We made enough on the last trip to cover that.”
“Still would need someone trustworthy to watch it,” Ahumm disagreed.
“Spoken like a true ship’s pilot,” Haniashtart said with a big, teasing smile. Gerbaal interrupted before the back and forth got nasty.
“Soup’s ready, and deer is near enough. Get your bowls and cut a piece to chew on. You’ll feel better after you eat.” Gerbaal shouted up the tree. “Captain. Food’s ready.”
“Be there in a bit,” the answer came back down the tree. “I’m just waiting for this sky ship to land to get their location.” He looked down again to be sure no one could see him before he traded places with Galena of the Orlan. An observer would have seen Ibelam, a very tall, five-foot, eleven-inch Phoenician captain, with light brown hair and light brown eyes vanish, to be replaced by a much taller, six-foot, six-inch woman, with long pure white hair and lavender eyes. Gallena was Orlan, one of the two alien species included in the many lifetimes of the Kairos. She came from the very far future, besides, so she knew all the science and technology involved in star travel, and only wondered if the Anazi and Humanoid systems at this point in history might be too primitive for her to recognize.
Martok, the Bospori, the other alien lifetime, was the mathematical engineer. He could take systems apart and put them perfectly back together, and even improve them in the process. She lived, technically, as an exobiologist, an expert in human beings and Earth-like eco systems and species. She shrugged in a very Ibelam way and turned her eyes on the distant craft. Ibelam borrowed her because she had eyes better than an eagle, and had no trouble keeping an eye on the Anazi ship, even staring into the glare of the setting sun. She had been designed to live on a slightly smaller world that orbited a white dwarf at somewhere between an Earth and Venus distance. Really bright light felt like her friend. Her eyes could handle it.
“So, we are being alien today to better understand the alien minds?” A woman appeared beside Gallena and spoke, a grin plastered across her face.
“Fair Wind,” Gallena called the young woman without looking. “I am simply watching to see where the ship sets down.” The ship moved again and started down into the trees.
“You know I cannot tell you where,” Fair Wind responded, and lost her grin. “It is not my place to say what is over the horizon.”
“I know,” Gallena said, and she went away so Ibelam could come back to his own time and place. “You just be my Fair Wind, and I will be happy.” He began to climb down.
Fair Wind got her smile back. “I love being your Fair Wind.”
“And I love you. Did I tell you today how beautiful you are?”
“No, you did not,” Fair Wind frowned and got serious as she floated along beside Ibelam, watching where he carefully put his hands and feet. If he fell, she wanted to be sure to catch him.
“You are, very young and very beautiful, and you know I love you very much.”
“Wee…” Fair Wind let out a sound of joy when Ibelam put his foot back on the ground. She vanished and flew off softly singing some ancient melody. Everyone heard the rustling in the leaves.
“Fair Wind paid a visit,” Ahumm grumped. “I thought she lived at sea.”
Ibelam sounded serious when he got his bowl and spoon for some of that soup. “You would think a young goddess would have better things to do than hang out with an old sea captain like me.”
People laughed, some nervously. Ibelam tended to speak of the gods in a very light hearted manner that sometimes sounded irreligious. Sometimes, men ducked, expecting the wrath of the gods to fall any minute. This did not seem that bad. They had all met Fair Wind, or at least had seen her.
Ahumm grumped again. “You are what? Twenty-five? That is not so old.” Ahumm was nearer forty.
“So, what did you see?” Haniashtart asked, since no one else looked like they were going to ask.
“We have a full day’s walk to get there,” Ibelam answered. “Of course, if they are Anazi, we will have to approach with caution. But if they are the androids, I have an in with Artie, the queen of the androids. And if she is there, Anath-Rama might be there as well.”
“My Anath?” Abdanath asked.
“No, her sister, well, sort of…”
“Goddess for the Amazon dead,” Haniashtart said, and shivered at the thought.
“Now, don’t worry,” Ibelam said. “Anath-Rama is a very fine woman, kind and nice, and also watches over the android dead.”
“Wait,” Ahumm looked curious. “I thought you said the androids were metal constructions, like a human shaped ship. How could they have a soul?”
“They are people, even if they are not human people. They have some silicon and carbon parts…” Ibelam noticed they did not understand. “Look. You are a construction. You have parts, like a heart that pumps your blood, lungs that take in air, a stomach that digests your food and gives you energy.”
“If the food doesn’t give me gas,” Ahumm mumbled.
“Androids have the same systems, including a brain that thinks and a mouth that talks, too much in some cases. Your systems are organic. Their systems may be made of other stuff, but the systems are basically the same.”
“But Anath-Rama is a goddess of the dead.” Haniashtart could not get over that point.
“And the deer is dead,” Gerbaal interrupted. “And you need to eat some more for your stomachs to digest and keep up your strength. We can’t carry all of it tomorrow.”