After 72 A.D. Syria
Kairos 90: Ali of Arabia
“Baba,” Ahmed called and came running. “Lord Baba. Prince Ali has his tube working again.” He stopped outside the tent. “Ali Baba, are you there?”
Three women poked their heads through the tent flap. Almeria, Ali Baba’s young wife smiled for Ahmed. Princess Nuronnihar, Prince Ali’s wife, wondered what was happening. Peribono, Ahmed’s own wife spoke.
“Husband. The Lord is meditating in the woods.” Peri stepped out to give her husband a kiss. “He will be back shortly.” Peribono used to be a fairy princess but became human to marry Ahmed. She still referred to Ali Baba as her lord, though he claimed he no longer had that responsibility. Ahmed did not mind, though. He often called the rich, older man Lord Baba. They all did.
Almeria spoke, a sharp tone in her words. “He is praying that his first wife, Shayrin, not learn terrible ways from the cobbler’s wife while he is away.”
“Speaking of the cobbler…” Peri said, looking over Ahmed’s shoulder.
“Prince Ahmed,” Maruf the cobbler called. “Your brother wants to know what is taking so long.” He also ran to the tent. “Antares, the Parthian and Scipio the Roman are looking at all the area around. They have seen a strange group of people headed our way.”
Ahmed reluctantly let go of his wife to concentrate. “Have they located the Wolv?”
“They are afraid to look in that direction,” Maruf admitted. “Scipio says the strangers on their big horses are enough to worry about.”
“Strangers on big horses?” A gray-bearded man of some forty-six years stepped from the nearby trees, followed by two dwarfs that had a Mutt and Jeff look about them. The one with the extra-long beard, Schaibo, stood less than two feet tall. The other, Boffo, looked more ogre sized, but bearded, and with a bulbous dwarf nose. He walked hunched over, not because he had to, but because he felt embarrassed by the way he towered over his fellow dwarfs.
“Yes, Lord Baba,” Maruf said. “Antares the Parthian says if they stop for the night, they will be only half a day away, and they are headed right toward us.”
Ali Baba sighed and walked to the meadow where the tube had been set up. They all followed. Prince Ali stared through the eyepiece. Aemir the elf chief, Antares the Parthian, and Scipio the Roman all stepped back when Baba tapped Ali on the shoulder. Ali looked, and stepped back while Baba raised the stand that held the tube to accommodate his five-foot, ten-inch height. He turned the tube the opposite direction before he looked.
“The main Wolv fleet is parked for the moment on the Oescus river. I think that is what it is called. They are on the triple corner of Thrace, Moesia inferior and Moesia superior. They are no doubt waiting to see what their scouts report.” Baba stood and looked around. “Your lucky day, Antares. The Romans, not Parthians will be bloodied.” He paused and added, “Probably to the point of being a bloody mess.” He sighed briefly imagining all that blood but spoke differently to the group. “No telling how many scout ships or scout-transports they sent out.” He looked again through the tube. “The local transport has about fifty Wolv, and unlike in the past, these appear to have some weak sort of personal shields. The shields are certainly strong enough to deflect arrows and swords. How they will fare against the guns will be seen.”
“I saw the shredded Parthian soldiers, and the few remains of that village,” Antares said, and shivered at the memory.
“We are only forty,” Scipio said. “Twenty Romans, ten Parthians and ten of you Arabs. Even with forty guns. You say they are fifty?”
“Estimate. Based on typical transport ship size,” Baba said.
“You got us to help,” Schaibo the dwarf said, gruffly.
“How can we hope to defeat fifty of these Wolv creatures?” Antares asked. “We should call out the army… armies.”
Scipio agreed. “This is one where Romans and Parthians might work together.”
“Not going to happen,” Baba said, and swung the tube the other way. “But my friends may help. Let’s see. Look. Boston and Sukki are riding back, yelling something. Oh, shit. A three Wolv fighter-craft just landed in their path.” He stood and yelled. “Hussain.” He turned to Ali and Ahmed. “Where’s your brother. Hussain.” He spoke to the rest. “Schaibo, stick with me. We need to get Hussain to drive his carpet. It is an emergency. Hussain!”
“Alexis did the math,” Katie said, as she and Lockhart rode in front of the line. Alexis and Lincoln were presently driving the wagon. Nanette and Tony stayed with them, talking about magical things. Since entering the time zone, Nanette learned she could levitate some small things. She got excited and scared at the same time.
Lockhart had his eyes on the flank where Colonel Decker rode. He could not see Decker, but he thought he saw something in the sky. He scanned the line of trees they headed toward and briefly glanced at the other flank where Elder Stow watched, before he turned to his wife. “Sorry,” he said. “I got distracted by… I don’t know what. A flock of vultures, maybe.”
Katie repeated herself. “Alexis did the math. Christ ministered for three years before he was crucified, and we missed the whole thing. That was eleven years before we came into the last time zone.” Katie stopped her horse, so Lockhart stopped, and the others halted, but Lockhart did not stop the conversation.
“Probably on purpose,” Lockhart said. “I know there are things the Kairos has kept hidden even from us, and no doubt for good reasons. But this is one of those things where I imagine a higher power got involved. One of my mother’s favorite expressions was we live by faith, not by sight… what?” He finally noticed and asked.
“I’m not sure,” Katie responded. “I sense danger ahead.”
Boston and Sukki raced back from the point. Elder Stow came riding in from the flank at the same time. Lockhart looked, but saw no sign of Decker. “Decker?” Lockhart spoke into his wristwatch communicator. He got no answer before Boston arrived.
“A ship,” Boston reported. “It landed right in our path.”
Sukki rode up. “We did not stick around to see what kind,” Sukki confessed.
Elder Stow came from the side, his scanner barely clipped to his belt to keep it from bouncing while he rode. “A ship,” he shouted, and when he arrived, he unclipped the scanner and turned his eyes to the screen. “I would guess a three-man scout ship with fighter capabilities.”
Eyes turned as Decker appeared on the other flank, riding hard, though he did appear to slow a bit when he saw the group had stopped. People waited to hear his report.
“Humanoid ship,” Decker said. “I caught sight of two Wolv. I didn’t see any Humanoids, but I didn’t stick around.”
Lockhart had to think. “One thing about roads,” he said. “While they don’t run in a straight line, they do make it possible to have a wagon, and are easier on the horses, in general.”
Katie nodded. “But they also make it hard to detour without risking damage going across country.”
“Sukki and I could find a way through the woods,” Boston offered.
“What is the point?” Lockhart countered. “I imagine they landed in front of us because they found us on their long-range scanner.”
“Well said,” Elder Stow offered the compliment before he confirmed the thought. “I am sure they are studying us at a closer range. Probably a scout ship.”
“Maybe we could talk to them, and see what they want,” Katie suggested.
“Lunch,” Decker responded.
“They want to eat us,” Sukki agreed. “They are just being careful first.”