Katie crouched behind a tree, and Lockhart leaned against his tree, a hand on his own shoulder. “Not broken,” he said. They surprised three gunmen in the trees. Katie shot two of them before they could move, but the third one spun and used his primitive rifle like a club. He gave Lockhart a glancing blow on his shoulder even as Lockhart pulled the trigger on his shotgun and blasted the man back about five feet. That man would not be moving again, but meanwhile, Lockhart rubbed his shoulder.
“Later,” Katie said. “I sense two more up ahead.”
Lockhart nodded, only squinted a little as he carefully shouldered his shotgun and pulled his police special 38. He nodded to say he was ready, and the couple inched forward through the trees. After a dozen yards, Katie shouted.
“Down,” and she shoved Lockhart behind a tree. Two of those primitive rifles fired at more or less the same time. Katie scraped her leg, either by a bullet or fallen branch from the tree. The men had swords and charged, screaming murder. Katie, from her seat, and Lockhart from behind the tree quickly put the men down.
“A one-shot, muzzle-load rifle isn’t much good after you take your shot and miss,” Katie said.
“Good thing they didn’t invent the bayonet,” Lockhart agreed and held out his good arm. She took his hand, and he helped her to her feet.
Boston and Sukki imagined they had the easy job. They were invisible, and all they had to do was make sure none of the gunmen tried to escape on horseback. They went to where the enemy horses had been tied off, and sat, and talked. Of course, four of the gunmen quickly realized the men in the rocks were protected from their bullets, and some unknown enemy had gotten behind them. They ran to the horses.
Two of the gunmen got up on horses before Boston and Sukki could react. Boston reached in her slip, went right over her wand, and pulled her Beretta. She shot one of the men, and he peeled off the back of the horse and fell to the ground. Sukki did not know what to do. She had a big knife, the best she ever saw, but she did not have a gun. She raised her hand. She tried to lessen the power of her heat-ray, as Lockhart called it, but all she did was spread it out. A great white light came from her whole hand. The man and his horse fried, and two other horses, one on either side of the man, got burnt.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean it,” Sukki shouted to the horses, and she clenched her hand into a fist, once again afraid of the power within her.
One of the other gunmen pulled up his rifle and fired at the source point of the white light. He figured it out, and Sukki, though invisible, shrieked and fell. Boston whipped around but had to shoot the one man that got too close to her and the horses. Someone else fired a handgun. Three bullets took out the gunman that shot Sukki.
Boston looked. “Lincoln, hurry. Sukki’s been shot.”
Lincoln ran to Boston’s voice, but he could not see anyone. “Where is she?” he asked, even as Boston became visible.
“Here,” Boston yelled before she spoke in her normal voice. “Over here,”
Sukki sat up and grimaced. She held her side where a few drops of blood pushed from the hole to redden her fingers and drip on the ground. Sukki appeared out of nowhere and commented. “Elder stow must be watching on his scanner,” she said. “There must not be any more gunmen around.”
“Good thing Alexis sent me to check on you two,” Lincoln said, as he and Boston got Sukki to her feet. “We need to get her to Alexis. Sorry we don’t have Elder Stow’s device handy to pull the bullet out cleanly.”
“Here. It fell out.” Sukki handed the bullet to Boston. “It did not penetrate very far, but, oh, it hurts.”
Boston grinned. “Pressurized fish skin,” she said. “Thank you, Mama Doris.”
“She can’t hear you,” Sukki said, as they began the walk to where Alexis could practice her healing arts. “The gods have all gone over to the other side.”
“Still,” Boston grinned some more. “They made you like Supergirl before they left.”
“Hush,” Lincoln said. “You are still bleeding. We have to get you to Alexis.” He helped her walk for a minute before he added, “Besides, bullets bounce off Supergirl.”
A few minutes later, Alexis got Sukki up in the back of the wagon and laid her hands on Sukki’s wound. They heard from the others. Katie called.
“Boston. Report. Alexis, what is your condition?”
Boston shouted into her wristwatch communicator. “Sukki got shot.”
“What?” They heard Elder Stow.
“It is minor,” Lincoln interrupted. “The bullet hardly penetrated her skin and fell out. There was a little bleeding, but Alexis has stopped that. What?” After a slight pause, he continued. “She would rather not move Sukki and the wagon across country. She says you should come up here, and we can camp by the road tonight.”
“Boston. What about the enemy horses?” Katie spoke, but they heard others speaking in the background.
“We left them there,” Boston admitted. “My sister got shot, and Nanette and I have been crying.”
“Stay where you are,” Katie said. “We will pick the horses up on the way. Out.”
Nanette looked miffed. “You didn’t have to tell them I was crying.”
“Yes, she did,” Alexis said. “She is an elf, and a blabbermouth.”
Boston ignored them both and stared at Sukki. “But Sukki. What are you crying for? Does it hurt?”
“No,” Sukki said. “I just never had sisters before. I love having sisters.”
“Nanette’s the eldest,” Boston said, happily. “We have to listen to her, sometimes.”
“I’m the youngest,” Sukki said. “There is still so much I have to learn about being human.”
Nanette smiled and placed a hand on Boston’s shoulder. “So, sister blabbermouth and I need to get a fire started and see what there is to cook for supper.”
Boston nodded and stepped off to gather some wood. She said, “Blabber, blabber, blabber,” and added a couple of “Hoop, hoops,” just for old time’s sake.
“My companions, yes,” Xalazar took a stick and stirred the fire as the sun began to set. All of the travelers looked at him, and his companions stayed silent, wondering what he might say. “Sarkis, here, is Armenian. A trader in fine cloth, and a fine negotiator. He is also a Christian, and not a thief, despite what you may have heard about Armenians, in general. He is definitely not a thief.”
Sarkis lowered his eyes and sighed. Most of the others laughed, softly.
“Marona,” Xalazar put a hand on the old man’s shoulder. “He is Assyrian, an old soldier who doesn’t like the Parthians.”
“Not too fond of the Romans either,” Marona said.
Xalazar nodded in agreement. “I believe he is looking for one last hurrah—one last adventure before his age catches up with him. I am just sorry hanging out with me might get boring.”
Marona laughed. In fact, most of the people laughed and snickered, as if the life of the Kairos could ever be boring.
“Arman,” Xalazar pointed to the young man. “He is Persian, or Sasanian as they are being called these days, and a Magi, a priest in training you might say. He follows me around, waiting for words of wisdom to drop from my lips. He may have to wait a long time for that to happen.”
This time, people simply smiled as Arman spoke. “Your words are wiser and more real than anything I ever heard from my teachers.”
Xalazar raised an eyebrow. “Arman is also a magician. I am technically a Magi, but there is little magic in my bones. Just so you know, Arman; Nanette, Alexis, and Boston also have magic in their blood. Maybe they could teach you something useful.”
Arman reached his hands out, and the fire log lifted from the fire to float a good foot above the rest. He smiled, like he was showing off.
“Put it down,” Marona said, gruffly. “You are going to mess up our supper.”
“I can do that,” Nanette interrupted, and returned Arman’s smile before she concentrated. A second log slowly rose from the fire, but it didn’t look too steady. Boston shot a short stream of flame from her hand to the fire. It startled the two magicians, and the logs fell back into the campfire. Alexis and Katie quickly kept the logs contained, so they did not roll out from the circle of rocks.
“Cut it,” Boston said. “Alexis and Lincoln are working hard on supper, and I’m hungry.”
“Of course, Boston is not exactly human,” Xalazar said.
Sarkis and Arman paused to stare once more at Boston and her red hair. Marona did not sound surprised. “One of yours?” he said, casually to Xalazar, and both men nodded at the same time.
Something in the darkening wilderness howled.
“Not to worry,” Elder Stow spoke right up. “I have the screens set around us, with enough room for the horses to graze, but not get lost. It blocks the road, though. We will have to watch in case some travelers come along in the night.”
“Standard watch,” Lockhart said.
“But that reminds me,” Lincoln said. “Ever since the goddess took away the wraith’s ability to make giant predators, we haven’t heard from her.”
“The bridge at Nineveh,” Alexis countered.
“Yeah,” Boston blurted out in an excited voice. “She tried to make the water babies flood the bridge while we were on it.”
“And I missed it?” Xalazar responded, in the same tone.
“I know,” Boston said, and turned to Xalazar’s companions. “The water babies are so cute.” People felt warm on the word, cute, but Xalazar had to answer.
“Basically,” he began, and paused to think a moment. “Basically, the gods are gone. The wraith was right about that. But she has no real power to harm you, directly, at least that I can think of. And since she cannot get into your heads anymore, all she can do is set the circumstances to try and frighten you to death. I imagine that would be very hard to do. You can defeat her with courage, plenty of magic, or maybe Elder Stow’s weapon. Mostly, I would say, stick together. Where is Tony?”
“Right here,” Tony said from the other side of the fire. “Last time I checked on Ghost by myself, she caught me and turned me into a giant, with no will of my own.”
“I’ll check on the mule and horses with you,” Decker volunteered. “I’m getting hungry and would rather do something to distract my attention.”
“I’ll come,” Marona said, as the old soldier stood with them.
Don’t forget Avalon 7.7 is a four-part episode. Part 4 of 4 will post tomorrow, on Thursday. Enjoy