Decker turned off his wristwatch. Tony turned the volume on his watch to minimum and followed. The colonel was teaching him combat skills which he feared he would need once he got back to his own time. He tried not to think about World War One, but from what little he gathered, it would be a bloody and ultimately indecisive war. World War Two would follow. Well. he thought. The Italians would switch from the winning side to the losing side. That did not surprise him.
“Hush,” Decker said and squatted down behind a bush. Tony inched up to where he could see. Several men—they looked mostly like men—stood in a nearby clearing, conferring. They had two arms with what looked like five fingered hands, a torso and two legs, and one head, a bit large, but with relatively human-like facial features. Their noses pushed up, the ears were extra small, the lips extra thick, and they were completely bald, but they might have passed in human company if it was not for the blue tint in their skin.
One alien appeared to be talking through a communicator with the shuttle, or maybe a more distant main ship. The other two talked quietly with each other until the one on the communicator suddenly stopped talking and turned his head to look right at the bush where Decker and Tony were hiding. Tony saw the yellow eyes, what he considered the final proof of their alien nature. The two who were talking quietly also stopped talking and turned to stare at the bush.
Tony felt some pressure on his mind. It made him squint, and he thought it might give him a headache. Decker stood up. He started getting used to things trying to get into his head, like ghouls and Vr projectors. He spoke to the aliens. “This planet is off limits to alien species. You do not belong here.”
The pressure on his brain receded and the one that talked on the communicator, the evident leader of the group, spoke.
“We are greater Ouran. Some lesser Ouran came to this world not far from here. We must find them and remove them.”
Tony stood. He holstered his handgun but left the strap unsnapped. “What do you mean, remove them?” he asked.
The Ouran commander did not pause. “They are escaped slaves. Their removal will depend on their degree of cooperation.” He did not say it in so many words, but both Tony and Decker understood if the escaped slaves did not cooperate, they would be killed. That especially rankled Decker.
“Maybe we will make this a sanctuary planet,” he said.
Decker turned on his wristwatch and spoke. “These people are called Ouran. Our group is soldiers hunting escaped slaves. We will be returning to base for orders. Keep an eye on our progress. Out.”
“Roger,” Elder Stow responded, and then there was silence. Decker and Tony slowly turned around and walked back toward the camp. They both knew that one of the Ouran soldiers followed them, but they came to the screens and passed through with the discs Elder Stow gave them. The soldier banged his foot and could not get beyond the screens. He no doubt reported his finding.
Boston had to do some convincing, but she got Sukki to agree to her plan.
The human samurai-like soldiers were bunched up at the bottom of the hill. Boston ran to them, and showing some remarkable elf speed, she ran circles around them, slapped a number of them on the chest, and ran back up the hill to stop and stare at them. She had to stare before she could talk. She winded herself and had to catch her breath.
The samurai did not know what to do other than shout. Boston had removed her glamour of humanity, so she stood there in her red-headed, skinny elf glory. Her eyes shifted from face to face, and then she spoke. “What are you doing on my mountain?” No man said a word. “Speak, or I will taunt you again.” She tried not to giggle at her memory of Monty Python.
One man stepped forward. He bowed, not knowing what else to do. “I am Aiko of the Taira, and our master owns all this land, and the mountain, though I suppose he may not argue about the mountain if you ask him.” He bowed again.
“But what are you doing here?” she asked and thought of what Lockhart said. “Who are you looking for?”
The men shuffled their feet. Aiko looked around before he shook his head. They would not say.
“Sukki,” Boston called. She figured if their purpose was not nice, they would probably refuse to tell her. Sukki flew in, but overhead she saw one of the samurai in the back of the group had an arrow on his bow and pointed it straight at Boston. Suki threw one hand out. She tried to cause the man to go unconscious, but she fried him and felt terrible about it when the man screamed and collapsed.
“Boston?” Sukki asked. Boston gave Sukki a hug, which she needed.
“These men won’t tell me why they are here,” Boston moped. Sukki simply had to look at the men and Aiko spouted.
“Taira no Tadamori is deathly ill, and Taira no Hideko needs to be told. Her brother Kiyomori sent us to fetch her, if she will come,” the man lied, and Boston knew it was a lie. She had to think of what to do, but only took a second.
“Aiko. You must come with us. The rest of you need to wait here no matter how long it takes. Come. Don’t make me tell you again.”
Aiko reluctantly followed as they quickly moved out of sight from the men, among the trees. When they got to where the screens projected, Boston kept back and let Aiko walk into the screens. Sukki walked right in, having a disc, but Aiko could not proceed. Boston smiled and handed the man the disc she had been given to come and go through the projection.
“This is a magic token that will let you enter the place of mystery. Guard it with your life.” She gave him the disc and he walked right through the place where he had previously been stopped. Wonder filled the man’s eyes, as Boston phased through the screens and Sukki ran ahead to tell everyone to remove their glamours. Sukki had put hers on, so she looked like a Neanderthal.
“Ameratsu protect me,” the man whispered as he came face to face with Alexis.
“Ameratsu was a very nice girl,” Alexis said, and smiled for the man.
“I remember Ameratsu,” Boston piped up. “That was ages ago.”
The man trembled.
Lockhart and Katie came into a meadow where they found some blue tinted people. The people looked scared and stopped to face these new people. Lockhart and Katie hardly knew what to think before a woman in her mid-to-late forties stood up from the grass where she had been completely hidden. She held something like a pole with a curved sword attached to one end. She spun the pole and stepped up to hug Lockhart and Katie and she shouted.
“It’s all right. You can all get up. These are friends.” She turned to the blue skinned people. “You need to keep walking. We need to get to the school by sundown.”
“Hideko?” Lockhart asked, Lincoln not being there.
Hideko nodded and yelled. “Gozen.” Two young girls answered. The older one said, “What?” rather sharply. “The young one said, “Here I am,” sweetly. They attended Hideko, and Kate widened her eyes.
“And you are one of us,” the elder Gozen said. The younger one just stared.
Katie pointed to the younger one. “I could still see you when you were hiding.”
“She is young. Just learning,” Hideko said and reached out to hug the girl. “This is Hangaku. The grumpy older one is Tomoe. Where is Boston?”
“Back in the camp,” Lockhart said. “You have warriors sneaking around. Boston and Sukki went to check on the humans. Decker and Tony checked on the aliens.”
“Ouran soldiers hunting down escaped slaves,” Katie remembered.
Hideko understood. She turned to the girls waiting in the field, and the bluish people that had paused in the field. “Ladies. Take these refugees to the school and let them rest in the open room until I get there.” She said more quietly. “Gozens, stay with me.” and to Lockhart, “Lead the way.”