After 542 A.D. The Khyber Pass
Kairos lifetime 98: Sanyas, the Queen’s half-sister
The campfire sent sparks into the cloudless sky while the sun slid behind the mountains. The travelers would have another hour of daylight in the hills between the peaks, but the valley would be bathed in twilight before nightfall. They had enough light for Alexis to finish cooking the sheep, or goat, or whatever animal it was that Decker shot. Katie called it a Marco Polo sheep, but Lincoln looked it up and called it a mouflon.
“Afghanistan,” Lieutenant Colonel Decker said, and spat into the fire. The seal-trained marine stared at the mountains. “I recognize that ridge. We are northeast of Kabul.” No one doubted he did a tour in Afghanistan, and probably a couple of tours back when he was Captain Decker, special forces.
Nanette, who knew nothing about fighting in Afghanistan having fallen back in time from 1905, gently slapped Decker’s knee. She loved the man. She could not help it. Aphrodite herself brought the two of them together as a last act before the dissolution of the gods some five hundred and seventy years ago, as Lincoln estimated things. But she was trying to break his habit of spitting when he got his hands on some jerky to chew. Spitting was not on her approved list of activities for a future husband.
“No spitting in the fire,” Alexis scolded the man. She kissed her husband, Lincoln, who looked lost, reading in the database he carried. It had all the relevant information on the time zones they traveled through as they slowly made their way back to the twenty-first century. She basted the sheep-goat with some concoction of her own making and considered their predicament. She was an elf who became human to marry Lincoln. Her father could not handle that. He feared she would grow old and die right before his eyes, so he kidnapped her and dragged her back to the time of her supposed happy childhood. He tried to convince her to seek the Kairos and ask to be made an elf again so she could live her more reasonable thousand years and die well after he was gone.
Alexis looked at Lincoln. The marriage would not have worked the other way around. Benjamin would have made a lousy elf.
She basted and thought about when her father knew he got caught and would be in trouble. He dragged her to the very beginning of history and pushed her into the chaotic void before human history began, hoping to get beyond the reach of those following. All he did was screw things up. The Kairos, the Storyteller, had to offer himself to the void in exchange for her. Now, he is lost, and everything on Avalon is confused, and the time-connection between the many lives of the Kairos are out of sync…
“And we are stuck going from time zone to time zone, from one lifetime of the Kairos to the next, and it is a long way back to the twenty-first century,” she whispered to herself. Of course, Boston heard with her elf ears.
“I don’t mind,” she said, as she pulled back her red hair into a ponytail. “This way I get to see every life of the Kairos and love and hug every one that lived before my time.” Boston pulled out the amulet that showed the way between time gates. No doubt she wanted to check her direction for the morning. After a moment, she moved to sit beside Lincoln so she could check her direction against the map in the database for that time zone.
Alexis sighed. Her father disappeared, and likely died on their journey. If so, at least he died before her. Sadly, her baby brother Roland also vanished and is presumed dead, though don’t tell Boston that. Boston went the opposite way Alexis went. Boston was born human, though a wild child. Lockhart called her a Massachusetts redneck. She rode in rodeos, and hunted, including bear once in Canada, and grew up with brothers. She was also a bit of a genius, getting her doctorate in electrical engineering by the time she turned twenty-three. She already thought and acted pretty much like an elf before the Kairos agreed to make her an elf so she could marry Roland. It felt doubly wrong when Roland vanished.
Alexis sighed and sat on the other side of Lincoln. “What?” Boston asked and stuck her red head right between Lincoln’s face and the database.
“Nothing,” Alexis said. It was better not to bring up Roland. She changed her thoughts. “I wonder how Elder Stow is coming along in fixing his screen device. It has come in handy in the past.”
“Yeah,” Boston agreed and turned to nudge Sukki. “How’s it going?”
Alexis considered Elder Stow, the Gott-Druk—the Neanderthal that traveled with them. She remembered at the time of the flood, the Gott-Druk were given space flight, a great leap forward for a people who were just beginning to work in copper and bronze. It seemed the only way at the time that the gods could save them from the global catastrophe. That was maybe fourteen or fifteen thousand years before Christ. Over those thousands of years, the Gott-Druk made the expected technological progress. Elder Stow came from the same future as the rest of the travelers, other than Tony and Nanette, but he had all sorts of technological wonders on his person. He called them toys—mere trinkets such as a ship’s officer might carry.
Boston nudged Sukki again. “Hey, Amazing Woman. Earth to Sukki.”
Sukki turned her head. “I think he has almost got it,” she said. “Hush.”
Alexis thought how Sukki used to be a Gott-Druk, a very family-oriented people. She came from those fourteen thousand years in the past, but spent all those millennia in suspended animation, or cryogenic sleep, or whatever it was called. They found her about thirty time-zones ago, which was about two years ago, travel time. Though Elder Stow agreed to adopt her as a daughter, she swore she never felt comfortable, being a Gott-Druk as part of a Homo Sapiens family. She finally prevailed on the Kairos to make her human, as she said. He—at that time the Kairos was a man—got a number of goddesses to do that, but the goddesses got a bit carried away. They empowered Sukki like some sort of comic book superhero, and Boston wanted to give her a comic book name.
“Not Amazing Woman,” Alexis said, and Nanette agreed. Alexis remembered that Athena at least gave Sukki a fundamental understanding of physics and astrophysics, so she could understand when Elder Stow and Boston got lost in all their technical jargon.
Katie and Lockhart stood.
“Where are you going?” Alexis asked. “Food is almost ready.”
“Just checking on Tony,” Katie said.
“Her elect senses are acting up,” Lockhart added, as they walked to where the horses were grazing. Tony was there, brushing Ghost, the mule that pulled their pioneer wagon, sent with the horses back from the 1870s. Tony had his eyes on the horizon, and Ghost kept nudging him for more attention. Ghost turned out to be a big baby.
Lockhart said nothing. As the Assistant Director of the Men in Black, he was the one charged with leading this unexpected expedition back to the future. As a former police officer, though, he learned to wait until others revealed what was on their minds. He doubly learned that lesson on this trip. Charged with making the hard decisions, he learned to listen closely to the input of others. He especially listened to his wife, and not necessarily just because she was his wife.
Major Katherine Harper-Lockhart, besides being a marine, and a doctor in ancient and medieval technologies and cultures, she was also an elect, a one-in-a-million warrior woman, who was faster, stronger, more agile, more capable in combat and tactics than most men. She had a very refined intuition that could sense an enemy or danger to her home and family when the enemy was miles away.
“I’ve got that Rome feeling,” Katie said, and explained for Tony who had not been with them at the time. “When we came into Italy shortly before Rome got founded, we found all the Latin and other tribes hating and fighting each other. They all assumed we belonged to a different group, since we were strangers, so they wanted to fight us, too.”
Lockhart pointed up. Something moved through the sky. An alien ship of some sort. It came overhead but did not stop. Suddenly, it shot off to the east and quickly disappeared from sight. “Our direction,” Lockhart said. “Something to look forward to.”
Katie frowned but turned their attention back to the immediate problem. Tony just pointed. They saw the dust being kicked up in the distance.
“How many?” Lockhart asked. Tony shrugged, but Katie paused to concentrate.
“About a hundred,” she said.
“Let’s get the horses in for the night.” Lockhart called for his horse. “Seahorse!” The horse looked up, but shook its head and stomped its foot like a child not ready to come in. Katie’s horse, Bay, came right up.
“Like a faithful puppy,” she said, and doted on the horse.
The travelers camped in a rock hollow on the side of a hill, not far from the stream in the valley. They stretched out Decker’s rope and had enough room to tie the horses and Ghost for the night, plus room for their tents and a fire. They had to leave their wagon outside the entrance from the stream-fed meadow, but otherwise, they felt secure in what Katie called a good defensive position. Katie, with her rifle, and Lockhart, with his shotgun cradled in his arms waited out by the wagon. The others looked over the top of the rocks.
“I sense nomads, a scouting party, well prepared to fight, if necessary,” Katie said. “I don’t sense it is a war party.”
“Tony said they are probably Huna people, though they might be Turks,” Lockhart responded. Tony was a graduate student in antiquities in 1905 and might have been expected to know things like that. Of course, Katie had her doctorate, so Lockhart asked, “Huna?”
“Huns,” she said.
“Great,” Lockhart said, sounding like Lincoln when he got sarcastic. All he could picture was Attila and a hundred warriors coming to do a clean sweep of the area. “You know, for people who are trying to not disturb history, we use these guns far too often.”
Katie could only nod as the Huns or possibly Turks stopped on the other side of the stream.