Aiko sat on the log Decker pulled up to sit by the fire, though the fire had been put out. He stared at the ring of stones that surrounded where the fire had been and imagined other stone circles he had seen, some with big stones that no man could lift. He also stared at Elder Stow, the Neanderthal, and wondered if the man lived in Hokkaido among the primitive people there. But he shook his head. The flying woman of power had the same look, and they had no such people living on Hokkaido, unless the scholars were all mistaken.
“Ready,” Elder Stow said, and Boston turned to the man.
“Why have you and your men come to the mountain?” she asked plainly.
Elder Stow touched his device, one he had not shown before. Aiko jumped from the slight electrical shock that struck him.
“Let’s try this again. Why are you here?” Boston asked.
Aiko shook his head more vigorously, and the electrical shock was a tad stronger. He jumped again and opened his mouth. “The lady does not know about her father being sick and dying. I told you the truth. Her brother sent us to inform her and bring her to see him, if she is willing.”
“That is not entirely true,” Boston said, her truth detector being on high alert.
“Mostly true, but some part is a lie,” Elder Stow agreed, and Aiko got a larger electrical shock. He shrieked, and Alexis came over from helping Lincoln hitch-up Ghost to the wagon.
“What are you doing?” she asked, demanding an answer
“Trying to get the truth,” Boston said, never taking her eyes off Aiko.
Alexis raised her voice. “We do not torture people. I can’t believe you. What are you doing? Leave the man alone.”
Decker and Tony arrived, and Decker immediately spoke up. “Do you want me to kill him? That would solve the problem.”
“Decker!” Nanette followed Alexis to the group, and she did not hesitate to yell, but Decker just grinned, albeit, looking a bit like a shark. Aiko withdrew from the grin and the fact that Decker was black. He never saw a black man before, and it made him think frightening thoughts.
Aiko broke down and covered his eyes. He felt frightened and ashamed and would not look at anyone. “My lord, Kiyomori is afraid of her. She is the eldest and he fears she may claim this whole province as an inheritance. She has proved herself a worthy and formidable leader of warriors, and this place is separated from the other provinces he controls. He fears she may succeed in taking the land and men, and he wishes to keep all of the land and the warriors under his control. He has plans. But please. I am only a soldier. I do not know what his plans are.” He appeared to weep a little.
Lockhart interrupted the scene. “I need three of those discs. We have three visitors.”
Boston took the disc she got back from Aiko. She stuck her hand out and Tony and Decker gave her theirs. She handed all three to Lockhart who turned around, having decided he did not want to know what was going on. He would hear all about it in a moment.
“We don’t torture people,” Nanette yelled again to get back on topic.
“We would not have hurt him,” Elder Stow said, quietly. He got interrupted by Lincoln who came over with Sukki. “Everything packed and saddled. We are ready to go.”
“I’m ashamed of you people,” Alexis concluded.
“Go ahead,” Boston said to Elder Stow. He had his weapon out and seriously worked on the controls while he watched his lie detector. He turned the power of the weapon down to almost nothing. He hesitated, but only for a second before he shot Aiko. The man collapsed.
“Elder Stow! Boston!” Alexis scolded them again and checked the warrior. “He will live, but I imagine he won’t be moving for quite a while.” She gave the two a hard look but could not imagine what else she might say. Nanette appeared to be silenced as well. Fortunately, Katie and Lockhart soon showed up with their three guests, and Lincoln broke the tense silence.
“All packed up and ready to go,” he reported. He even tried to smile.
“Good,” Lockhart began to respond, but Hideko interrupted him.
“Boston.” she opened her arms, and Boston ran for her hug, but it felt half-hearted.
“I may have gone too far again,” she said softly and backed up. “But not,” she insisted. “He has a hundred warriors down the hill, and they were sent by Kiyomori to kill you.”
Hideko merely nodded and introduced her companions, Tomoe the elder Gozen and Hangaku the younger. Then she looked at Aiko and spoke to everyone. “You may have just delayed things. If killing me is what he has been commanded to do, he is honor bound to succeed or die trying. If he fails and survives, Kiyomori will kill him. There are times in the history of this nation when suicide seems the only honorable way out after such a failure. Stupid. I much prefer your American solution to failure.”
“What is that?” Tony asked.
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
People did not know what to say, so Lockhart changed the subject. “What else did you find out?”
Elder Stow spoke up. He appreciated the change in subject. “I have been watching my screens. We have seven Ouran who I believe are the genetically modified super soldiers we were warned about. They are blocked by the screens, but I imagine they know what screens are. It appears they may bring their shuttle craft close to try and blast through. Meanwhile, we have a hundred warriors, as Boston reported. They have come up to the side of the screens and I imagine they have no idea what it is, but they are trying to see if there is a way around. I suspect they will run into the super soldiers any minute now.”
“Recommendation?” Decker asked, though it was not really his place to ask.
Elder Stow nodded. “I was thinking, you can take the discs, probably in two shifts. There is a road that direction,” he pointed.
“Where we are going,” Hideko said quietly to Katie.
Elder Stow continued. “I can stay here and keep the screens up. When you send the word that you are away, or if these Ouran try to follow you, I can turn off the screens, go invisible and fly to catch you up.”
“I can stay with him,” Sukki said, but Elder Stow shook his head.
“Not this time, daughter. You are the only one with the power to take down the shuttle if it should suddenly fly off to pursue the group. You remember how to take out the engines and can cause them to crash, whatever else you might do. I will stay until I hear from you. I will be all right, and I have my personal shield if something should go wrong.”
“Be careful,” Tony said. “These super soldiers appear to be telepathic. They tried to get into our minds but were kept out by the hedge of the gods. I assume you are equally protected, but I do have a bit of a headache.”
“I was just going to say that,” Decker said.
“Yes sir, Colonel,” Tony responded. “But I pay attention to magic and all that stuff. Elder Stow thinks more like you, in terms of logical, scientific explanations, but the universe can’t always be explained in that way. Sorry.”
“Fair enough,” Lockhart said. “Let’s get going.”
“I will ride with Katie,” Hideko said. “Tomoe, you ride with Alexis. I want you to hear good things about making peace. Hangaku, you can ride with Nanette and hear all about her wedding plans.” Hideko smiled for the couple who quickly looked at each other.
“I didn’t say anything,” Decker said, and held his hands up.
Nanette looked down, like she did not want to look at anyone. “He asked me to marry him, and I said yes.”
The women cheered and took turns hugging Nanette. Elder Stow and Tony said congratulations and shook Decker’s hand. Lockhart, Lincoln, and Decker passed glances. Lockhart backed away and Lincoln looked like he wanted to say something, but kept his mouth closed for once.
Don’t forget Thursday’s post to finish the episode…