“Valencia?” Lockhart asked. Valencia nodded, and Lockhart felt the need to defend himself. “Well, Lincoln wasn’t here to ask.”
Katie didn’t smile. “We got trouble,” she said as she got down from her horse.
“Right here in River City,” Lockhart said, as he and the others got down to join her.
“Good one,” Decker told him, quietly.
“I know,” Valencia agreed, but she had other duties. She turned to the boys and shooed them off. The boys groused, but picked up staffs that leaned against the rocks and ran off like in a race. “They are supposed to be helping their father with the sheep.” Valencia invited the travelers to join her on the ledge, and maybe in the cave. “The dwarfs dug it out for me. It is quite comfortable,” she said, about the cave.
“Seriously,” Katie said, with a hard look at both Lockhart and Decker, to be sure they kept their mouths shut. “We were not sure what to do in this situation. It never came up before. But now, apparently, Lincoln and Alexis have managed to get Professor Emerson, though we have no idea where they are.”
Lockhart cleared his throat. “Elder Stow and Sukki have gone invisible to check on the Gott-Druk merchant ship on the island.”
Valencia nodded, but it looked hard to tell if she thought that had been a good idea or not. “Cecil lost his chestnut. I told him he had to wait until you came so you could take him back into the future. I said he had to try to fit himself in while he waited, and warned him against saying things about the future. I know he said some things, but none of it history shattering.”
“But, how did you know we were coming?” Boston asked.
Valencia smiled. “I always know you are coming, I just never know when. I said Cecil might have to wait six months or six years. I had no way of knowing.”
“How long has it been?” Katie asked.
“They have been stuck in the past for almost seven years, as far as I know. Six months or six years was only a suggestion. Lucky for him, it turned out he has only been stuck in this time zone for about three months. But then the Gott-Druk ship landed, and they are a pickle.”
“What do you mean?” Lockhart asked.
“Three humanoid warships caught them outside of a planetary system when they were making some minor repairs. They could not run, but being only a merchant ship, with a minimum of second-hand weapons, they destroyed all three warships, but not before a humanoid shuttle crashed into the cargo bay. To be fair, the Gott-Druk were merchants, not warriors, and were outnumbered three to one.”
“Not made to fight against trained soldiers,” Decker understood.
Valencia said, “Yes, well, the humanoids captured the ship, and the Gott-Druk faked engine trouble and came here. I am sure they are stalling, figuring that I will show up eventually, but I honestly don’t know what I can do to help them. Neither Salacia, nor any of the other gods will help. They all say it is a flesh and blood problem and needs a flesh and blood answer. I am afraid my intervention might make less flesh and more blood.”
Katie got ready to call Elder Stow and get an update, but Colon, who nobody realized was still there, interrupted as everyone heard a Bang! Bang!
“I hear sounds of distress. It sounds like humans.” Colon waved, and a half-dozen centaurs came out of the woods to stand beside him. They carried clubs, and two had bags of stones and slings.
The travelers went back to their horses and mounted up. They pulled their weapons to be ready.
“I hear it too,” Boston shouted. “I think it is Lincoln and Alexis. I think the shouting is Evan, or Cecil…Whatever.”
After stunning, or maybe killing the humanoid, Elder Stow spoke to Alexis over his communication device so the two Gott-Druk engineers could hear. He did that on purpose so they would not go into shock when he made himself visible. He kept Sukki invisible for the time being. “What seems to be the trouble?” he asked. The engineers stared at him, so he thought to explain a little. “Never mind how I got here, or where I came from. Let’s just start at the beginning. How many humanoids are on board?”
“Eighteen,” one said.
“There are usually two here at all times,” the other said, almost as quickly. Elder Stow touched a spot on his belt just before the other humanoid came into the engine room, gun drawn.
“What are you doing here?” he yelled, giving his fallen comrade a long look. He did not wait for the translation device to work before he spoke again. “You do not belong here.” He pulled the trigger on his gun, but the power did not penetrate Elder Stow’s personal screen. Elder Stow responded by pointing what hardly looked like a small stick at the humanoid. The humanoid either became stunned, or died and fell next to his companion.
The engineers spoke fast. “We had a crew of twenty, but lost five in the battle and the crash in the cargo bay.”
“Two got killed defending the ship before the surrender.”
“Three got eaten.”
Elder Stow held up his hands for quiet. “Get weapons and watch these two in case they are only stunned.”
“But, there are eighteen,” one said. He looked rather young, about Sukki’s age.
“Not now, son,” Elder Stow said, kindly. “Only sixteen.” He pulled out his scanner. “You two stay here and repair what may or may not need repairing. I will be back.” He became invisible again, and said, “Come along, Sukki.”
“Yes, Father,” the engineers heard Sukki respond and looked at each other before they scrambled to arm themselves.
Elder Stow and Sukki followed the signs on Elder Stow’s scanner. They found nine sleeping in two rooms in the crew quarters. Elder Stow carefully shot all nine of them, to stun them, so if they did not die, they would stay asleep for a while. He checked each room to make sure they had no other way of escape while Sukki took all of their weapons to the hall. He noted that even the vents were too small to crawl through. Once he helped Sukki remove anything in the room that might be used as a weapon, he shut and locked the doors. Then he turned up the power of his weapon and melted the metal doors to the metal frames. Any humanoid who woke would not escape those rooms without cutting equipment.
Elder Stow and Sukki found two guarding the communications room. The humanoids did not want any of the Gott-Druk calling for help. Clearly, they had no idea how long a range the Gott-Druk device might reach. Also, clearly, the Gott-Druk had reached a level of technology beyond anything the humanoids knew. Elder Stow recalled the histories. His people far surpassed Anazi technology, and that happened a thousand years ago. Now, they absolutely surpassed any humanoid technology, since the humanoids, at first, merely built off the scraps of what the Anazi left them.
“The gap between the elder and younger races is widening,” Elder Stow told Sukki as he shot the two guards. He and Sukki dragged them to a closet where they locked them in.
“Father,” Sukki said. “These creatures have invaded and killed our own people. They do not deserve to live.”
Elder Stow stopped to look at her, kindly. “Yes,” he said. “I must remember you are from the before time. Your distrust of the Elenar, and your disrespect for humans is strong. There seems to be something in nature which is innately xenophobic. All creatures naturally hate and fear anything that is intelligent and different. Call it the fear of the unknown. But I have learned some things in this journey. All life is precious. Mercy is not a bad thing. And sometimes half measures are enough. Most of all, good and bad are not determined by outward appearance, and people come in many shapes and sizes. Some will be good and some will be evil, but we cannot judge by appearance alone. It is not our place to determine who should live and who should die. We are not God. And even the worst offenders deserve a chance to repent.”
Sukki nodded and kept quiet. She might not have understood exactly what he said, but she willingly trusted her adopted father.
They came to the flight deck. Sukki shrieked, and alerted the three humanoids there, even if they could see nothing to account for the noise. Sukki could not help it. The Gott-Druk pilot sat in the command chair, half-eaten. Elder Stow did not mind killing those three so much. He turned up the power on his weapon and left three small piles of ash where there had been humanoids. Apparently, knowing the lesson about mercy in his head did not prevent him from reacting out of anger and upset.
Elder Stow turned his weapon back down and sighed. “As Alexis sometimes says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”.”
When they returned to the engine room, they found the humanoids had only been stunned after all. The Gott-Druk engineers had them well tied, and in fact, Elder Stow had to cut the ties around their legs so he could get them to walk. The humanoids were astounded that he could understand them and speak to them in their own tongue without the need for the translation device. They were appalled that he had the technology of invisibility.
Elder Stow went invisible in front of them all and spoke. “Come along.” Anyone watching would have seen two tied humanoids followed and guarded by two Gott-Druk coming down the runway, and that is it.
Alexis and Lincoln, with Evan behind him, started across the open fields by the river with some trepidation on the part of the travelers. They walked their horses well within sight of the village walls. Lincoln feared the villagers would come out and get after them in no time, but Evan-Cecil assured them.
“By the time Lord Tarquin hitches up his chariots and gathers his men, we should be well out of range and hidden again in the forest on the other side.”
Lincoln thought to distract himself from his worry. “So, is it Evan or Cecil?”
“Evan,” the man said. “But apparently, it is too Gaelic for the locals. Cecil fits better on the Latin tongue and memory.”
“Where are we going?” Alexis asked. She and Lincoln had agreed to meet the others back at the campsite on the other side of the river.
Evan understood. “We need to go around the hill to the cave of the she-wolf.” He paused to think before he quickly added. “It isn’t what you think. She is not a werewolf, exactly. I mean, she is a werewolf after a fashion. But she is a very nice lady. And brilliant, in a way. Yes, I think she is brilliant. And she can fly. I don’t know how she does that, but it is true.” He looked at Alexis to see if he put her mind at ease. He felt some surprise that she did not appear to be surprised or distressed at all.
“Valencia,” Lincoln said.
“Might as well,” Alexis responded. “It is where the others are, except Elder Stow and Sukki. I wonder how they are making out.” She reached to turn on her wrist communicator, but stopped when they heard and saw movement at the village gate. Three chariots came out and headed straight for them. Twenty men, all armed, jogged after the chariots.
“Damn,” Lincoln shouted, and they began to gallop. Evan just had to hold on.