Lincoln walked up from the wagon. He had the database out and spoke as people got down from their horses. “Apparently, the Wolv did to the Humanoids what the Androids once did to the Anazi. They learned to be organized, developed a command structure, and learned enough to run the technology before they rebelled against their Humanoid masters. Most… eventually all of the Humanoid houses will be torn down, and the Wolv will rampage, eating planet after planet for a thousand years before the equipment breaks beyond their ability to repair it. They are not dumb beasts. They are clever and capable soldiers. But the physics of space flight, weapons and the rest, not to mention higher mathematics, is beyond them.”
“An F-15 might develop a fault and land in the desert,” Decker said. “But it is not likely the pilot has the expertise to repair the plane and take off again. Much less create a spare part for whatever broke.”
“A bit more complicated than that, I imagine,” Katie said. “But probably the right idea.”
People looked at Lincoln. He read a second longer before he answered. “It is more like me and the microwave oven. I use it, but if it broke, my only option is to throw it out and get a new one. I have no idea what microwaves even are.”
“That’s easy,” Sukki said. “They are on the short end of the radio spectrum. These wrist communicators are microwave transmitters.” She smiled at the one she got when Candace gave out presents. It made her feel included, and that made her happy. When she looked up, she saw the others staring at her.
“Way to go Sukki,” Boston praised her.
“Must come from you,” Sukki said, shyly. “Doctor in electrical engineering and all.” She looked away.
“There,” Elder Stow interrupted. “The screens are up while we discuss what to do.” He got down from his horse.
“Decker screens?” Decker asked.
“Yes,” Elder stow answered with a sigh. “Now that I have stretched this little screen device beyond all capacity, it is a small thing to make their activation one-sided, so to speak; though that is ship to ship technology on much better equipment than this toy. Be that is it may, they should deploy that way automatically from now on. Sadly, I have admitted that we often need to be protected when we end a threat to ourselves and to the innocent.”
“It is a sad world we live in,” Alexis said, as she and Nanette walked to the group. “Tony has Ghost and the wagon,” she added for Lincoln.
“My dad is the best,” Sukki said, to encourage Elder Stow. He smiled for his adopted daughter, as a stream of white light came from the edge of the woods and reflected off the screens.
People reacted by hurrying their horses to the wagon, which they used as a hitching post. Sukki brought Elder Stow’s horse, while he stayed up front and analyzed the readouts on his scanner. Decker went to one side, and Katie went to the other, right up to where they could feel the screens. That tingling feeling prevented them from walking through the screens and then not being able to get back inside the protected area.
“They are in the grasses, left and right. One is staying behind the trees up ahead.”
“I see mine,” Decker said. He fired. He did not miss, but the Wolv did not appear to be hit. It stood and returned fire, though its handheld weapon had no chance of penetrating Elder Stow’s screens. Decker fired again and nothing happened. The Wolv got ready to charge. Decker flipped to automatic and fired a three-round burst. The Wolv stalled before the charge and staggered, but the bullets did not appear to penetrate.
“Try concentrated fire on the same spot,” Katie suggested.
“Just coming to that, Major,” Decker said, shortly.
“Sir,” Katie acknowledged him and turned to her own Wolv that had gotten up to charge the group. Decker let his rifle rip, and roughly nine bullets in, something shorted out on the Wolv. The Wolv seemed stung by the electrical discharge, but not for long as three more bullets put it down.
At the same time, the Wolv from the trees charged the group. Elder Stow continued to fiddle with something on his scanner. “They seem to have developed some personal screen technology,” Elder Stow said. He pulled his weapon which Lockhart was glad to see. Lockhart had his shotgun but figured the Wolv would have to be right up to the screen for it to be effective. Boston also had her wand, but she could not shoot her flamethrower very far, either.
Elder Stow let the beast-person come really close before he pointed his weapon and nothing happened. He said something like “Oops,” and fiddled with the weapon while Lockhart let off a shotgun blast and Boston sprayed it with fire. Katie and Decker turned and added some automatic rifle fire. Sukki put her hand up as if to ward off the claws and teeth of the beast, even if her head told her the beast could not get inside the screens. Something came from Sukki’s hand. A bright-white light, much stronger than the Wolv weapon. It looked more like Elder Stow’s weapon. The Wolv head turned instantly to dust and ash.
“What was that?” Sukki said, staring at her own hand.
“Wow,” Boston said, and added, “Let me see.”
Sukki held both hands out, a combination of curiosity and horror across her face. People looked, not knowing what to say. Fortunately, they got interrupted by a voice from overhead.
“Lockhart. Not a good time to visit, as usual. Elder Stow, please turn off your screens so we can land.”
The words sounded muffled, coming through the screens. “Apologies,” Elder Stow said. “I let the air circulate through the screen, the simple gaseous elements, but I minimized the circulation to muffle the growls and roars in our face.” He worked a second longer before he added, “There. Screen is down.”
“Ali Baba?” Lincoln called up, as the magic carpet came down to the ground. No one answered right away as the three people who rode on the rug had to hang on until touchdown. The driver looked like a sage, but one just thirty. He would have to double that age before he had the expected long gray beard. The dwarf looked like the smallest dwarf they had ever seen, but he appeared to make up for it by growing the long beard that he had to wrap around his shoulders. He also looked like so many short people, that he did not take guff from anyone.
“Yes, Lincoln,” Ali Baba confirmed, as he stepped from the carpet, holding a primitive looking rifle. He handed it to Decker to examine, who quickly passed it on to Katie. “I have forty of these rifles for twenty Romans, ten Parthians and ten Arabs, some of whom are from Persia.
“Schaibo. please make sure the Wolv are dead. Thanks.” He opened his arms. “Boston.” And she rushed into the hug. He kissed Boston’s head, like a father might hug a daughter, and turned to Sukki, but she backed away.
“No,” she said. “It isn’t safe.” She held up her hands covered in fairy weave gloves, to hold him off.
“Lord Baba,” Schaibo called. “This one is missing his head.” The dwarf held an iron club much too big for him, but he held it like one who knew how to use it. The travelers watched the dwarf shrug and move on to the other Wolv in the grass.
“Lord,” Boston got his attention. “Sukki has something in her hand, like a Lockhart heat-ray. She disintegrated the Wolv head. You have to help her. She scared herself.”
“It is nothing to be afraid of. You can learn to control it,” Baba said. “But first thing’s first. Elder Stow, would you help me gather the Humanoid personal screens from the Wolv?”
“Yes, of course,” Elder Stow said. “I am curious about them, myself.”
“Then we need to move on to where the scout craft came down in the woods. I need to strip some of the equipment out of it, and we need to move on again before the Wolv send a recovery crew. Hussain, you can pack your carpet in the wagon for the time being.” He turned on the first Wolv in the grass and briefly gagged. Apparently, Schaibo’s version of making sure they were dead was to smash the head to a pulp.
“A real magic carpet?” Nanette asked, some awe in her voice, and Hussain nodded.
“Hussain?” Alexis asked. Lincoln and Nanette looked at her as they walked to the wagon, so she explained, sort of. “I read a thousand and one nights as a child.”
It did not take long to reach the scout ship. Ali Baba went away so Martok the Bospori could come and take his place. Being a life from the far future, Martok knew and understood the equipment even better than Elder Stow. Between the two of them, they stripped certain systems from the inside of the ship. They loaded up the wagon that poor Ghost would have to haul. When Ali Baba returned to his own time and place, he got Elder Stow to turn his weapon on the ship, inside and out.
“Hopefully, the Wolv won’t realize anything was taken, or what was taken, or what might be done with what was taken.” Lord Baba shrugged.