Elder Stow stood outside the door to the Ape ship when Lincoln, Alexis, Nanette, and Tony arrived. Tony went to the wagon where Ghost dutifully stood in the shadow of the ship munching on a small pile of oats Tony left at the back of the wagon. He watered the mule while Lincoln and Nanette dug out four of the solar powered lanterns the travelers sometimes used in the night. They would need them to light the halls and rooms in the ship if they did not want to go with the emergency lighting alone.
Alexis stepped up to the door but stopped when she saw Elder Stow alternately staring into the distance and staring at his scanner. “What?” she asked as she turned her own eyes to the edge of the rise where all the Berbers and their horses got killed. It was far enough away so she thankfully she did not have to see all the details.
“Six people. Maybe seven,” Elder stow said. “Seven horses. They are coming this way. And I am picking up thirty or more—what should I call them—disturbances that appear to be checking the Berbers like an opposing army might check the dead on a battlefield, to be sure the dead are actually dead.”
“Disturbances?” Alexis thought for a second. “Like little ones?” Elder Stow nodded. “Maybe it is Yasmina.”
Elder Stow appeared to relax. “That would explain it.”
“Alexis,” the cry came through the wristwatches. Boston sounded anxious.
“Coming,” Alexis responded. “The Kairos appears to be on the horizon and headed in our direction,” she added and stepped into the ship. Nanette followed and made a path of three lanterns between the door and the central chamber where Sukki and Boston had Captain Argh down, lying flat on the floor. Lincoln came with his gun drawn just in case there were more Apes around, or maybe a Flesh Eater that snuck in the open door.
When they arrived, Alexis took a deep breath and went to work on the Ape’s leg. She put her hands near the wound and her hands began to glow. Soon, the wounded area glowed as well, and the unconscious Ape appeared to sigh.
“I’m going to see Yasmina,” Boston announced and headed toward the door. Sukki added a word for Lincoln before she followed.
“Boston and Elder Stow examined the main lines and concluded they are damaged beyond repair. Even if Elder Stow could power up the ship, it would not be able to fly. They might be able to send a distress call, but that is about it.” She jogged to catch up to Boston.
“And you are?” Captain Argh opened his eyes and started to come around.
“Your doctor. Hush,” Alexis said. “Nanette is my apprentice, and Lincoln is my husband, now keep still.”
The captain seemed to nod and closed his eyes again.
Boston arrived outside in time to see a young woman introduce her companions to the travelers, who had arrived with their seven prisoners and seven extra horses. “Muhammad al Rahim is my faithful friend,” she pointed to the old man who looked armored and carried plenty of weapons in the heat. “Aisha is my elf maid, or near as one gets to one in these parts.” The maid appeared to genuflect to the travelers. It looked like something between a bow and a curtsey. “And this…” She pulled a young man forward.
“Hello,” the man said in a very unpretentious voice. “These are my men.” He pointed to the three men with him.
Yasmina continued with a big grin. “This is Ala al Din.” She waited.
It took a few seconds before Katie blurted out, “Aladdin?” Yasmina nodded.
“We already did the genie bit. At least, the first half of it. Aladdin lost the lamp.”
“What is it with you” Lockhart said. “Every time it gets stranger and harder to believe.”
“We met Ali Baba and the three sons of Sassan and their magical artifacts, including the magic carpet,” Katie said.
“And Sinbad,” Lockhart remembered. “We fought skeleton-zombies.”
“And now Aladdin? Hard to believe,” Katie finished.
“Stranger and stranger.” Lockhart shook his head again.
“Can’t argue with that,” Decker added under his breath.
“I’ve done all I can,” Alexis’ voice came from the wristwatches present. “Captain Argh needs to stay off his leg as much as possible for the next week or so, but I believe it will heal from here without infection. He might be able to travel if he had a place to go.”
Yasmina reached out and grabbed Katie’s wrist to answer. “Tell the captain to be patient. Elder Stow and I will be there shortly to see what we can work out. I have just a couple of things to do first.”
“Roger,” Lincoln answered as Yasmina backed up and opened her arms.
“Boston.” Boston ran into the hug, and it was hard to tell which young woman grinned the hardest. Yasmina whispered. “Do I sound confident, like I know what I am doing?”
“You are doing a great job,” Boston whispered back.
“Thanks,” Yasmina squeezed the elf. “You know I am just making it up as I go along.”
“That works,” Boston said and took a step back. “It is all we ever do.” Yasmina looked down, humbly, but nodded.
One of the seven Berber prisoners took that moment to make a run for it. Al Rahim pulled his sword. Aladdin’s three men pulled their swords, like men who had learned to follow the lead of the old man. Decker raised his rifle, but they all stopped when they saw two ogre-like monsters rise right up out of the sand. While the man screamed, the monsters grabbed the man from each side and ripped him in half. They sank back into the earth and took their prizes with them.
Al Rahim yelled at the remaining six Berbers. “That was foolish. Any of the rest of you want to try that?”
“No. No, please. Please, no.” The Berbers looked frightened to the point of tears.
“You need to stay here, touch nothing, and keep quiet until the princess gives you permission to leave. Is that understood?”
“Yes. Yes, Lord. Understood. Yes. Thank you.”
Al Rahim turned from the Berbers to see Yasmina had already gone inside the ship with Elder Stow, Boston, Sukki, and Aladdin in her trail. Tony stepped up to the crew with a pointed question.
“Should I start to set up the camp for the night?”
Lockhart shrugged, but Katie and Al Rahim spoke at the same time. “Might as well.”
Yasmina let the six Berbers go that evening. Aladdin picked the best of the seven horses for his stables, he said. The six men rode off on the six other horses. Lockhart was surprised she just let them ride off.
“I thought that was better than killing them,” she explained. “They won’t remember the guns, the aliens, or you, or anything. They will head back to the capitol and by the time they get there, they will remember searching for me, but think they had to battle troops loyal to the Emir of Egypt and they won, but they alone survived the encounter.”
“Nice tall tale” Katie said.
Yasmina smiled and nodded. “I am sure Creeper the imp will spice up the tale by the time they arrive.”
“This isn’t Fatimid territory?” Katie asked, and Tony said he was just wondering the same thing.
“Sallum is as far as certain Fatimid territory goes,” al Rahim answered for the princess who seemed more comfortable talking quietly with Aisha, Boston, Nanette, and Sukki. “Between Sallum and El Alamein is territory no one fully owns. After El Alamein, the land remains in Abbasid hands through the Emir of Egypt, but I will not count the Princess safe until we reach Alexandria.”
Yasmina interrupted. “Except now I will spend the next ten days or more here cleaning up this mess.” Clearly, while she spoke with the girls, she kept one ear open for the other conversation. “Lockhart. You will have ten days to get to the time gate. Then we head for El Alamein, and that may help move the gate toward you, but be careful it doesn’t pass you by.”
Lockhart said he understood, but Decker changed the subject as he turned to Aladdin. “So, what is your story?”
“Me?” Aladdin looked surprised that anyone would be interested in him. “I lost the lamp and the Sharif sent me on a diplomatic mission to the Fatimids, maybe hoping I would get killed. The Djin did not have to work hard for that. The Sharif’’s daughter and I were close. The Imam who stole the lamp wanted her and wanted me out of the way. You see, the Caliph told the Emir of Egypt to make peace. The Emir told the Sharif and the Sharif told me. That was that. Anyway, I had a minor post in the diplomatic mission, but the Isma’ili fanatics were not interested in peace. Most of the mission got killed for heresy, but Princess Yasmina saved me and my men. We owe her our lives.”
“And now you are going home?” Alexis asked.
Aladdin nodded. “And I will marry the girl, if she will have me, even if her father is the Sharif.”
“Good luck,” Decker said, and glanced at Nanette.
In the morning, Yasmina said there was another one to send home. They got the Ape shuttle out of the main ship. Captain Argh complained that it was not capable of interstellar travel, and he certainly expected his few ships to be long gone, but Yasmina assured him it would do. Elder Stow charged the ship, fully. All Captain Argh had to do was pilot it toward deep space and he would be found.
“Sometimes you must trust others,” Eder Stow said. “Even if they are not your species.”
“A good lesson,” Yasmina said. They all said good-bye to Captain Argh and wished him well. Yasmina also said good-bye to the travelers. Then she complained. “Al Rahim! It is going to take forever to clean up this mess. Aladdin. Don’t touch anything.”
Don Giovanni runs the Greatest Show on Earth (a bit of temporal tampering), but mostly they run through the Black Forest because the Big Bad Wolv have landed. Until Monday, Happy Reading.