Avalon Pilot part III-5: Nimrod

“To the high ground and prepare to defend yourselves,” Lockhart shouted, and the marines moved before they noticed what the others saw right away.  The people did not follow them.  None of the people so much as stepped on the mound.  They looked like they did not dare touch it, and after only a moment, they began to wander back to whatever they had been doing, as if the travelers were never there.

“Very primitive construction.”  Doctor Procter had already moved on to examine the crude tent.  It appeared to be no more than a number of overlapping animal skins held up by some precious lumber.  It seemed larger than Lincoln thought when he saw it from a distance, and might easily hold a dozen or more people.  He sketched furiously, but at the same time, he imagined a good gust of wind could blow it apart.

“Wow.”  Boston stared at Alexis and Roland.

Alexis smiled.  “On my bad days, Benjamin calls me a witch.”  She looked at her father.  “But he says it with love,” she added.

Boston got herself spun around to face a pair of angry eyes.  Lockhart did not look happy.  “You nearly got us all killed.  I said leave the food alone.”

Boston dropped her eyes.  “I know.  I’m sorry.”

“You’re lucky they didn’t mob you and tear you to pieces looking for the food.”

“Don’t be too hard on her,” Roland came to her defense.  “She was thinking and just trying to help.”  Boston heard, but she was busy.  She looked up into Lockhart’s eyes.  She saw that he loved her and the scolding was out of love, and that made her happy.

“I won’t do it again,” she said.

“Yes you will.”  Lockhart softened a little as the relief he felt washed over him.  He hugged her.  “You just need to remember I’m the director here in Bobbi’s absence.  Maybe I can’t tell these elves what to do, but I’m still your boss.”  He looked up.  “And that goes for you, too.”

“Yes boss.”  Lincoln spoke absentmindedly since he was busy.  Alexis grimaced and gave a sloppy little salute.

“Oh!”  Doctor Procter got ready to open the front flap of the tent when he got surprised instead.  A woman came out and held the flap open.  She opened her hand to invite them in.

“It appears we are wanted,” Mingus said.

“Careful,” Lincoln whispered, as they walked into the dark tent one by one.

“Come in, come in.”  They heard the man’s words before their eyes adjusted to the dim light.  It turned out to be not much of a tent.  It had no furniture, just some straw in the corner to sleep on and a big stump to sit on.  The man looked very old, but when he stood up from the stump, he also proved to be a very big man.  “We do not often have strangers here.”  He examined them as closely as they examined him.

“Where are we, exactly?”  Lincoln asked.

“In my world.  And my people, as you have seen, are hungry.”  He took a step and paused in front of Mingus.  “I do not traffic much with elves.”  He stepped over to examine Doctor Procter.  “And there is something different about you.  Something wrong.”

“He is a half-elf,” Boston offered.

The man shivered a little, reacting the way Lockhart reacted when he first thought about it.  “But you others.”  He paused to point at Alexis.  “Six, I think.  You six are my people.  You should be helping with the tower.  You should be building the monument to my eternity.”  A compulsion filled his words.  For a moment, Lockhart felt very much like that was what he wanted to do; but then Alexis touched him.  He watched Roland touch the two marines while Alexis touched Boston and took her husband’s arm.  The feeling of compulsion faded.

“So that is how it is.”  The old man stared at them for another moment before he noticed the doctor’s amulet.  Of all the sophisticated things they had, the big old man went for something he might call familiar.  “And what is this?”

“It is just a bit of sentimental wood.”  Doctor Procter practiced that lie.

“No, wait.  Don’t tell me.  It is, how should I call it, a locator.”  The big old man smiled at himself.  He obviously had special powers of discernment as well as compulsion.  “I should have this, but then you know how to use it.”  Doctor Procter could do little more than nod.  “I need you to locate something for me.”  He turned his back on them to walk again to the stump and bed where he lifted a spear as tall as the tent top.  “Please.”  He said that last word without facing any of them, and it sounded like it came out, forced through gritted teeth.

“Well, I don’t know.  It isn’t…”  The doctor started to speak, but stopped when Mingus bumped him.  Mingus, a full-blood elf, knew the sound of a bargain when he heard one.

“What would you have us find?” he asked.

The big man stood with his spear.  “There is a creature,” he said, before then he thought to explain.  “My people are hungry because the powers in my world have rebelled against me.  They have made this unnatural abomination and kept the food to feed it and help it grow.  This travesty must stop.  You must help me find it so I can end it.”

“And what is in it for us?”  Mingus responded.

The big old man turned and eyed the elf with big, sad eyes.  “My people are hungry,” he repeated.

“A true manipulator,” Mingus spoke, with a bit of admiration in his voice.  He would have said something else, but Lockhart interrupted.

“We will do it.”  Several eyes shot to him in wonder.  “Doctor, we can follow the direction on your amulet and I am sure this fine man will help us with the crowd.”

“But—”

“Yes, of course.”  Alexis stepped up and took the doctor’s hand.  “We will follow the direction pointed out on the amulet and this man will help us through the masses of people.”  She turned to the big man.  “We will help you because the people need food.  People should not starve.  That isn’t right.”

The big man smiled weakly but called with some strength.  “Moragga!”  The woman poked her head into the tent.  “Gather the men.  We are going on a hunt.”

Avalon Pilot part III-4: The Plains of Shinar

In the morning, the armed and ready group walked slowly toward the mass of people.  They paused only briefly when they were seen.  They started to walk again when it appeared they were seen and ignored.

“I was going to mention this gathering of humans,” Mingus said quietly to Lockhart.  “I guess it slipped my mind.”

Oddly enough, Lockhart did not get angry.  He fully expected the elder elf to lie or withhold information, if for no other reason than because he was an elf.  But he had been taught by the Kairos in years past that once a little one gave friendship, it was solid and steadfast.  He could only hope.

As they drew near to the crowd, they began to see the gaunt faces of the people.  Ragged, well-worn animal skins barely clung to some of the people.  Others were simply naked, and on many of them, the ribs showed to indicate their hunger.  The eyes of many were empty, like they had lost all sense of what it meant to be human—what it meant to have hope.  Still, they labored.  Lockhart noticed the men dragged trees from further and further afield, and he noticed the great pit that had to be a quarter mile wide from which they dug clay with tools of stone and bone.

“Oh, the children.”  Alexis spoke with concern.  A pack of them gathered to see these strange new people.  “Boston, give me some of the bread-crackers you have in your pack.”  She reached one hand back but her focus stayed on a grubby little girl in the front of the pack.  Boston would have given the crackers to her if Lockhart did not speak up.

“Don’t do that,” he commanded.  “You will start a food riot.”

“Best to keep things hidden for now,” Mingus agreed.

“Absolutely,” Captain Decker seconded that agreement.

Alexis looked disappointed.  She turned to Lincoln, her hand still out in search of bread.  “Dear?”

Lincoln shook his head and gave a very practical answer.  “We may need that food down the road.  It isn’t for these people.”  He held his breath as they walked straight into that mass of humanity.  “I still say we should have gone around,” he mumbled, but one way was the clay pit, and the other offered no place to hide.  Truth be told, they were all curious about what they might find.

They walked around most people who hardly gave them a glance.  Some people stepped aside for them to pass and mumbled unintelligible words in their direction.  Sometimes they had to walk a good bit to the side because there were fire pits everywhere, where men and women baked the clay into bricks, adding only a bit of grass, leaves, or crumbled bark dragged in on the trees, in order to hold the clay together.

“Straw would work better,” Lieutenant Harper spoke quietly, but they looked around and saw only mud beneath their feet.  It looked that way for miles.  The earth had been stripped clean of every living thing and trampled under two million feet

They walked slowly, all bunched up, eyes everywhere, until they came near a mound in the center of it all.  It had a tent on top, and sat about half-way to the hill with the growing tower.  Lincoln looked ready to ask about the mound, the one spot that remained untouched in all that mass of humanity, but several men stepped in front of them and finally and deliberately blocked their way.  They stopped.  One man with skin the color of red clay, and with big eyes, big hands and a big nose took a long whiff of air.  He smiled, showed all three of his teeth, and said, “Mangot.”  The man beside him said, “Golendiko.”  The third man, one almost as big as Lockhart, shouted, “Clidirunna.”

Mingus tried to clean out his ears.  Elves were gifted with the ability to hear and respond no matter what language was spoken, but he was getting none of it.

“I think they are trying to say food,” Roland said, and he put his hand to his sword hilt but made no hostile move.  The shouting soon became enough to attract a crowd, but the crowd still looked reluctant to touch the strangers

“Make for the mound,” Lockhart suggested.

“Keep moving.”  Captain Decker urged them forward.  At first the crowd parted, but before they could reach the actual mound, the crowd closed in again.  Lockhart could see over the heads of nearly everyone, and he saw the commotion had not drawn in more than fifty or so people.

“Make for the mound,” Lockhart repeated, softly, for fear the people would understand.  They moved, but the crowd moved with them to block the way.

“Food!”  Everyone spun around.  Boston was at the back, as usual, and she threw a half-dozen bread-crackers over her shoulder, away from the mound.  People shrieked and raced to fight over the morsels.  Everyone got jostled.  Lincoln got knocked to the ground, and Lockhart yelled.

“Everyone circle around Boston,”

“Lieutenant, opposite sides,” Captain Decker shouted.  They circled up even as more people arrived to block their way.  Eyes looked at Boston and wondered if there might be more food where that came from.

“Serious damage going on here.”  Lincoln pointed at the fight over Boston’s generosity.

“You mean you?  You big baby.”  Alexis got on the opposite side of the circle from her husband.  She stood next to her brother and faced the mound.

“Let us move together, as one body,” Mingus suggested.  They did, and the crowd backed up, slowly.  They got within ten yards of the mound before the crowd froze and would not budge.

Roland reached for his sword.  “No, no.”  Doctor Procter stayed the elf’s hand.  “One act of violence on our part and we will be dog feed.”

“So, we are in the red zone,” Lockhart said.  “Any ideas as to how we score?”

“A quick shot over their heads?”   Captain Decker suggested.

“Sudden moves and frightening sounds would not be a good idea,” Lieutenant Harper said.  “Besides, they would not understand it.”

Alexis grabbed her brother’s hand.  He looked at her with a curious expression as she spoke.  “Split the herd.”  He nodded.  They swung their hands, once, twice, three times, and a brilliant flash of light poured from their fists.  It shot straight to the mound and shoved everyone in that line back ten feet on either side to make a clear path.  They ran.  No one had to say it, and they reached the mound before the crowd could stop them.

Avalon Pilot part III-3: Ararat

It took all day to climb and scramble down the mountain, and cross the hills that quickly petered out as they approached the plains.  In the first valley, Alexis found a section overgrown with vines.  She picked grapes, and everyone had some and enjoyed them, even though they had seeds.  The humans were no longer accustomed to eating grapes with seeds.

“The Kairos said the food here would nourish only we might not find everything we need.”  Lincoln made a note in his book.

Boston spoke up.  “I have the daily vitamins.  We need to start taking them in the morning.”  She looked.  She had three bottles in her medical pack.  One was marked human, one marked elf, and one marked especially for Doctor Procter.  She wondered what made them all different.  “Hey, wait a minute.”  Boston took the medical kit out of the top of her pack.  It came in its own carry pack, like a purse that could be worn over a shoulder.  She handed it to Alexis.  “You have to be better at this than I am.”

Alexis took it, and by what she called a simple bit of magic, she made the strap longer so she could slip her head and one arm through and carry it on her hip.  “I was thinking of asking for this, but I thought maybe you wanted it.”

“No, ma’am,” Boston said.  She felt used to thinking of Alexis as a much older woman and decided it might take some time to make friends.  “I cry too much and I don’t like to see people bleed.”

“I thought so.  Emotional, like a little one.”

“Really?”

“Flighty as a fairy, they say.”

Boston frowned.  She did not imagine that was a compliment, but she did not say anything for the sake of a possible future friendship.

“I hope you keep a good eye on your father,” Lockhart told Roland as they walked.  He looked at the elf and tried hard not to show anything on his face before he turned his eyes again to the trail.  “To be honest, I was not made for elves and fairies and such, though I have known a few in my time.  Still, and I mean no offense, but I find being so close to elves…” he paused, and thought, a bit creepy?  “Let’s just say it is going to take me some time to get used to it.”

Roland did not get offended.  In fact, he answered in innocent honesty.  “I know exactly what you mean.  I have spent time on earth, but working and observing.  I am not used to being around mortals, er, humans like this.  I think what makes it hard for me is the fact that we are more similar than most people think.”

“Similar?”  Lockhart could see very little in the way of similarities.  Creepy was not a bad word.

“We both fall in love, and elves and humans can even have babies together.”

Lockhart could not keep his lip from curling up ever so slightly at the idea of making love to an elf.  He looked back at Alexis and Boston, and gave Roland the point.  Not every human had his problem.

“Do not worry, Lockhart.  I will keep father ever in sight.”  Lockhart merely nodded.

“Aha!”  Doctor Procter shouted from the front of the line.  Lincoln walked beside the doctor and Mingus came right behind.  In fact, Mingus nearly bumped into the two when the doctor came to a sudden halt.  “It’s working.”  The doctor held up the amulet.

“Let me see.”  Lincoln wanted a look, and Boston ran right between Lockhart and Roland.

“That girl has too much energy,” Lockhart said, softly.

“Yes, she does,” Roland agreed, but it was impossible to tell what he thought about that matter.

“You see?”  The Doctor explained.  “It is linked to the castle all the way in the future.  It picks up the vibrations of the time gates and points the way we need to go, like a compass.  That will take us to the next gate.  It gives an approximate distance to travel, here, about twenty miles; and it should give off a dim green light when we get near the gate.  I don’t know if that part works yet.”

“But that is wonderful,” Lincoln shouted.  “However does it work?”

Doctor Procter looked up at the man, while Mingus said the expected, “Magic.”

“You lie like and elf.”

Mingus and Roland spun around to see who insulted them, but Alexis said it, and grinned.  Mingus stared at her for a second before he conceded the point.  “I never could lie to your mother, either.”  Roland wisely said nothing.

“Let’s have it.”  Alexis reached out and the Doctor handed over the amulet as Lieutenant Harper came up to have a look.  Alexis twirled it twice in her hands before she handed it to Lockhart.  Lockhart immediately handed it to Boston, and Boston spoke up.

“The latch.”  She opened it and stared at the sophisticated electronics inside for a few seconds before she made her pronouncement.  “It is a homing device.  On earth, I would call it a geo-positioning device, but here, I suspect it works in some strange way because of the space and time distortions we are traveling through.”  She closed the amulet and looked up.  “So how close was I?”

“Judging from the looks, I would say you nailed it,” Lieutenant Harper said.  “And that was very good.”

“She is a natural born geek,” Lockhart added, before Roland burst out with his thought.

“Why, that was brilliant.”  Boston turned a little red, as was her way, and pointed up the hill.  She handed the amulet back to Doctor Procter and walked out front until her feelings of embarrassment subsided.

From there, it did not take long to get to the top of the last hill before the plains.  When they arrived, about an hour before sunset, they were astounded at what they saw.  There had to be a hundred thousand campfires and a million people packed into a treeless, grassless valley that butted up to a hill at least two or three miles away.  On top of that distant hill, there sat an Empire State Building high tower.  Captain Decker got out his binoculars.

“It can’t be.”  This time, Lincoln said it first.

“Shinar,” Doctor Procter announced.

“We went under a glamour here,” Mingus said.

“I remember,” Alexis spoke up, and this time she took a moment to explain what a glamour was.  “That means we made an illusion so we would look like the normal people and not stand out in the crowd.”  Alexis shook her head.  “But it is not easy to do, and it works best when applied to oneself.”

“That is something Roland and Mingus may have to consider in the future.”  Lockhart looked at the sky.  “For now it is nearly dark and I think we should camp on this side of the hill, out of sight.”

“It is hot enough,” Captain Decker agreed.  “I suggest we skip the fire to not draw attention to ourselves.”

Lieutenant Harper had her own binoculars out and she responded only to Doctor Procter’s statement.  “Shinar.  The Tower of Babel,” she said.  Then she paused.   She caught the glint of sunlight off something shiny on that distant hill.  When she squinted, it looked to her like a man on horseback.  It looked like a knight in armor.  She blinked and it vanished.  She shook her head.  She felt sure horses were not domesticated yet, and surely these were not a metal working people to produce such armor.  She decided it must have been an illusion, or her imagination, and put it out of her mind.

Avalon Pilot part III-2: Myths and Legends

Lockhart peered out, like from a cave on to a ridge, but he could not see much or very far outside of a blue hazy line in the great distance.  He thought that might be the sea.  He put his hand gently forward until he touched the gate.

“I see the shimmer of the gate in this light,” Boston said, and everyone nodded.  She had come up to the front and looked around at her fellow-travelers.  They could all see it, but not well.

“This would be easy to overlook, especially if we were in a hurry,” Lieutenant Harper said.

“Weapons ready?” Decker suggested, and Lockhart nodded.  Mingus rolled his eyes, but Roland got out his bow, Boston fetched her Beretta, Lincoln checked his pistol, and Lockhart cradled the shotgun in his arms like a baby.  The marines, of course, were always ready.  Doctor Procter pulled a rickety stick from some secret place up his sleeve.  It was his wand, and with that, Alexis felt prompted to look around for something she might use to focus her magic as well.

When they were set, Mingus rolled his eyes again, but Lieutenant Harper saw and threw the elf’s words back at him.  “Better to be safe,” she said, and they all stepped into the next time zone.

The ridge top proved not very wide, and though it did not end in a cliff or sharp drop off, the slope looked steep enough to make them keep to the ridge top in the hope of finding an easier way down.  Lockhart headed them east, toward the rising sun, and Boston remarked how lucky they were to arrive at sunrise instead of the dark of night.

“Of course it is dawn.”  Doctor Procter squinted in the early light.  “The time zones all share the same twenty-four-hour cycle.  They may be different days or different times of year, or on different phases of the moon, but they all have twenty-four hours.”

Mingus added a thought, getting used to making up for what the Doctor left unsaid.  “He means when it is noon here, it will be noon in every time zone.  The only way we will enter a zone at night is if we leave a zone at night.”

“Nine in the morning or so, not dawn,” Lincoln interrupted.  “It is hard to tell with the sun rising behind the mountains.”

“Chain of mountains,” Alexis spoke to her husband.  “And we seem to be fairly-high up, though it is warm.  I would guess near the tropics.”  Lincoln nodded and for the first time he got out his proverbial notepad and pen.  The pistol got put away since there did not appear to be anyone or anything around apart from a few birds.

After a short distance, they found a place where the ridge crumbled and rolled to the bottom ages ago.  It seemed a gentle slope, but instead of being full of rocks and loose pebbles, it had become covered in grass.

“Our way down,” Lockhart said.

“Mmm.”  Boston looked around and half-listened, as usual.  She had her hand up to shade her eyes, and looked up now that they could see several peaks at once above them.  “I like the way the rising sun sets off the peaks like so many islands in the sea.”

“Islands in the sea, indeed.”  Captain Decker pointed across the slope to where the ridge top picked up again.  A large wooden structure looked abandoned there—a man-made structure.  It remained partly hidden behind some boulders, but for want of a better word, it looked like a boat, and a big boat at that.

“It can’t be.”  Doctor Procter said it first.  No one else said anything until they arrived at the site, and then they all said, “It can’t be,” except Mingus, who suggested it stunk.

“Father!”  Alexis protested and Roland stood right beside her.  “You stuff all those animals in a boat for forty days and forty nights and see how much stink there is.”

“The stink is hardly the point,” Roland added.

“Look at this.”  Doctor Procter got everyone’s attention.  The boat had graffiti on one panel near the quadruple-wide door and ramp.  Over all was a picture of the sun and the moon squeezed together so it was a half-moon and a half-sun.  A mermaid had been crudely drawn on one side.

“Half-woman and half-fish,” Alexis said while Lincoln desperately tried to make a rendering of the drawings in his notebook.  He cursed not having a camera.  “And a centaur, half-man and half-horse on the other side,” Alexis finished her thought.  She ignored her husband’s curse and pointed with her finger.

“And the middle picture?”  The captain, lieutenant and Lockhart did not see it, but to their defense, the pictures were very primitive.

“The Kairos,” both Doctor Procter and Boston spoke together, and Boston let the doctor describe it.

“The two persons of the Kairos are attached on her right and his left, so there are only three legs and two hands on a double-wide body.  You can see the two heads clear enough.”

“And she has little boobs,” Boston added, and watched Roland redden just a bit.

“So, you like my work?”  Everyone jumped and looked up.  A man stood inside the Ark, at the top of the ramp.  “You are future travelers.  I thought that sort of thing was not possible—a self-contradicting proposition.”

“We are accidental travelers.”  Lockhart spoke up quickly and just as quickly got Captain Decker to lower his weapon.  Lockhart stood back from the others and still cradled the shotgun.  Mingus stood beside him on the other side and frowned for some reason.  “We plan to move on as soon as we can,” Lockhart finished.

The man nodded and asked for no further explanation.  “I am just glad there is a future.  I have worked hard so what I once saw might not come true.  My wife says I am making freaks.  I said they are her children too.”  He paused to smile, but since no one but Decker joined in the smile, he finished his thought.  “The truth is these offer hope, and there are others working elsewhere.”

“Why centaurs and mermaids?” Lieutenant Harper asked.

“Because the world is empty and needs to be filled.  If the ones who would-be gods have nothing to occupy their time and attention, they will be occupied with each other, and that would be very dangerous.”

“Do I know you?” Doctor Procter asked, and squinted at the man, but the man shook his head.

“But I know you.  I can’t help it.  Boston.  You will live much longer than a human should live.  Alexis, your days will be shorter than they might have been.  Doctor.”  The man paused and scrutinized the doctor.  “There is something different about you—something wrong.”

“He is half-elf and half-human,” Boston suggested.

“Half and half.  No.  But what an interesting concept.  I wonder why I did not think of that.  It would certainly cut down on their wild rampaging through the earth.”

“But wait,” Lieutenant Harper spoke quickly.  She felt afraid that the man might run off, or maybe just disappear.  “I still don’t understand the centaurs and mermaids.  What about human beings.”

The man looked up at the lieutenant and smiled.  “A sharp mind.  They are the future—your future.  But right now, they are all bunched up on the plains of Shinar.  Oh, there are some small groups scattered here and there around the world, but mostly Shinar.”  He pointed.  “I see your way lies in that direction.”  People looked, though there was nothing to see but mountainside.  He waited until they all looked at him again before he spoke.  “I must think on these things you have said, only I fear my children will find me before I can act on my thoughts.”  He vanished.  One moment he stood there, contemplating eternity, and the next moment he disappeared.  Mingus answered everyone’s question when he spat the man’s name.

“Cronos.”

Avalon Pilot Part III: The Beginning of History

Around 4500 BC on the Plains of Shinar.  Kairos 1-6:  The Twins 1, 2 and 3.

Recording…

“I must say it is kind of interesting being thirty again.”  Lockhart spoke after they entered the tunnel.  Lincoln looked back to see if the angel might be following them.  It did not, but the angel light illuminated the tunnel, and good thing, because it looked like a long way to the dim light at the other end.

“Twenty-nine.”  Lincoln spoke up.  “You may be thirty, but I decided I am only twenty-nine.  And my wife is now Boston’s age, just twenty-five.”

“That’s right.”  Alexis took Lincoln’s arm.  “Benjamin and I get to start all over again.”  They kissed and began to make loving noises.  The others did their best to ignore them until Mingus could not stand it.

“Shut-up.”  He turned and yelled at them, but his son, Roland was right there.

“Father, Alexis chose her mate and her human life, now you leave my sister alone.”

Mingus paused and looked at his son.  “A scolding from my own infant.”  He stopped walking so everyone stopped.  “Well, at least she got her youth back so she is not going to die any time soon.”

“I don’t know,” Doctor Procter spoke up absentmindedly and shook his amulet once more.  “If I can’t get this thing working there is no telling where we may end up.  I suppose we could all die on the road.”

“Cheery thought,” Lockhart quipped.

“But, say.  Mingus and Alexis just ran through time in this direction.  Right?  Surely you can help guide us back.”  Lincoln smiled to encourage them.

“Don’t look at me,” Alexis said.  “I spent most of the time with my mouth and eyes shut.”

“Some.  I might help some with the history, but really, we only arrived and skirted the edge of last time zone.  We moved as fast as we could.  For the most part, we traveled through the Heart of Time.  We did not come all this way through the time zones.  You can’t normally go back in the time zones unless you want to get younger…”  Mingus let his voice peter out before he stepped over to the doctor to examine the amulet.

“Sounds like a plan to me,” Lincoln said.  “We skirt the edges of the time zones as fast as we can, and hide.”

“No.”  Everyone but Mingus objected.  Doctor Procter explained first.

“I spent the last three hundred years studying the lives of the Kairos.  Now that we have the opportunity to walk through those lifetimes, one by one, and in order, I might add, I am not going to miss that opportunity.  Isn’t that right, Mingus?”

Mingus shook his head and sighed, and in that moment, everyone got a good look at the difference between Mingus, a full blood elf, and the Doctor who was half-human.  The contrast did not appear startling, but seemed obvious.  No plain human could have eyes as big, features as sharp or fingers as thin and long.

“If you say,” Mingus muttered as he took the amulet and shook it once for himself.

“What says the Navy?”  Lockhart turned to look at the two who were armed and bringing up the rear.

“I’m to follow orders,” Captain Decker frowned.

Lieutenant Harper smiled.  “I would not mind exploring a little while we have the chance.”

“Besides,” Roland spoke up, while Lockhart faced front again and encouraged everyone to resume walking.  “I have a feeling the Kairos would not mind if we rooted out some of the unsavory characters that wandered into the time zones without permission.”

“Oh, that would be very dangerous.”  Alexis said it before Lincoln could, and she grinned for her husband.

“All the same…”  Roland did not finish his sentence.  He fell back to walk beside Lockhart to underline his sentiments to the man.

“Hey.”  Boston came up.  She had been straggling near the back.

“Boston, dear.”  Lockhart backed away from the elf and slipped his arm around the young woman.  “What do you think?  Do we run as fast as we can or explore a bit and maybe confront some unsavories along the way?”

“Explore and help the Kairos clean out the time zones.  I thought that was obvious.”

“Well for the record,” Mingus said, as he turned and walked backwards.  “Though it may kill me to say it, I agree with that Lincoln fellow.”

“I haven’t offered an opinion,” Lincoln said.

“No, but I can read the mind of a frightened rabbit well enough.”

“Father!”  Alexis jumped and had some scolding in her voice.  “I vote we explore and help.”  She looked at Lockhart, and so did everyone else except Doctor Procter who was still playing with his amulet.

Lockhart nodded.  “Okay,” he said.  “But the number one priority is to get everyone home alive and in one piece, so when it is time to move on, we all move, no arguments.”

“You got that right,” Captain Decker mumbled.

Everyone seemed fine with that except Mingus who screwed up his face and asked, “And who decides when it is time to move on?”

“I do.”  Lockhart spoke without flinching.  The two stared at each other until Doctor Procter interrupted.

“Anyway,” he said, as if in the middle of a sentence.  “I would not worry about hunting unsavories.  I don’t imagine it will take long before they start hunting us.”

“Cheery thought.”  Lockhart repeated himself as Boston slipped out from beneath his arm.

“Lovely arm,” she said and squeezed the muscle as she let go.  Lockhart just gave her a hard stare in return until she amended her words.  “Dad.”  She thought about it and changed it.  “Grandpa.”  Then she said, “Gramps,” and had to cover the grin that came to her lips.  She felt rather glad Alexis interrupted.

“Look!  A baby.  Two babies.”  Alexis pointed toward the ceiling of the tunnel and everyone looked.  The ceiling and walls of the tunnel were opaque, not rock.  The angel light did not penetrate far into whatever they were walking through, but it lit things up enough to see the forms.  Sure enough, there were two babies.  They saw one kick, and the other kick back.

“What is this stuff?”  Boston asked the question.

“Amniotic fluid.”  Doctor Procter answered her like it was the most obvious answer in the world.  Fortunately, Mingus took up the explanation.

“The Kairos was designed to inhabit two bodies at once.  One male and one female.  It did not work out too well at first.  In fact, the first two times old Cronos tried to bring the Kairos to birth, he failed.”

“The god failed?”  Roland sounded shocked to hear that.  Mingus merely nodded.

“You might as well say the Kairos failed to be properly born,” Doctor Procter corrected his colleague from the history department.  “We debate this, regularly, but it is not well publicized.”

“But wait.”  Boston spoke from behind so everyone stopped and turned.  “What are these dark patches?  It looks like there are spots that no light can penetrate.”

“What?”  Doctor Procter and Mingus both slid up to the wall to examined the evidence.  This was something new.

“Two babies.”  Lockhart still looked up.  “One male and one female. But both the same person.”  It was a hard concept to grasp.

Alexis took that moment to whisper something in Lincoln’s ear to which Lincoln blurted the words, “Again?  We already have two children, and a grandchild.”

“But the dark patches?”  Boston did not get an answer.  “They appear to be moving around.”

“Demons, definitely.”  Doctor Procter concluded.  “That explains some of the early difficulties in the birthing.”

“Demons, perhaps,” Mingus did not sound convinced.  Lieutenant Harper reached out and Mingus reacted.  “Don’t touch!”  He shouted, and the Lieutenant caught her hand.  “Better to be safe.”

“Demons.”  Doctor Procter sounded certain, but to confirm the statement, he got closer than he should have been.  The dark patches quickly raced to his position to form a single mass of darkness and something reached out into the tunnel and touched the Doctor’s hand, or so Boston thought.  She was the only one at an angle and the nearness to see in the dim light.  But she could not be sure because at that same time there came a great flash of angel light.  Even those with their backs turned had to pause and blink, and then the light went out altogether.

“The tunnel closed up behind us,” Roland said, and with his elf eyes, he seemed to be the only one who could see clearly—him and his father, and perhaps Doctor Procter.  For the humans, it just looked dark behind them while the light from the other end of the tunnel looked far away and very dim.

“Keep moving.”  Lockhart said, and in only a few steps, he felt a tingling sensation.  They all felt it, like a small electrical charge.

“The time gate.”  Alexis explained.  “We have moved on to the Kairos’ next life.”

“The other failed life,” Mingus called it.

“The other practice life,” Doctor Procter countered, and as they walked, the light at the end of the tunnel grew stronger.

Boston had her eyes wide open in search of demons.  Roland had thought to take up a position near the rear with her as they walked two by two.  They both saw the motion when it came, and Boston grabbed Roland’s arm in an automatic response for fear of the demons.   Something moved inside the walls.  It moved first on their left, and then on their right, and it took a moment for Boston to figure it out.

“Hey.  This time the two babies are separated and to the sides.  Why is that?”

“Different mothers.”  Doctor Procter spoke first again, but like before, it came out cryptic and did not explain much.  Mingus had to explain, again.

“The first attempt failed in the birthing process, so in Cronos’ second attempt, he tried to separate the two babies.  They were born, but being separated turned out to be too much for the infants.  They didn’t live long.”

“At least they are not kicking each other,” Boston said, and she looked up at Roland.  He looked down at her and she added, “Oh,” softly, and let go of the elf’s arm, not that he was complaining.

“Why would being separated be too much for the babies?”  Lincoln took up the questions.

“I imagine one consciousness split between two brains is hard enough.”  Lockhart thought to answer.  “Add to that two different mothers and two different fathers, different smells, two different sights through two sets of eyes.  It is a wonder the Kairos did not go mad.”

“Split personality, certainly,” Alexis added her thought.

“Worst in history, daughter,” Mingus said.

“At least that is what the Kairos says,” Doctor Procter added as they came at last to the end of the tunnel.

“Wait.”  Lockhart made everyone pause while he stepped to the front to look out on the world.

Avalon Pilot part II-6: Before the Beginning

Too far, Glen thought.  Alice, how did you make things work at the beginning?  How did you survive? he asked himself, and felt surprised that Alice was not there in his subconscious to answer.  He had to think, and quick.  He expended his air at last with the words “Air bubble.”  A bubble of air instantly formed around him.  He quickly said, “Big air bubble to encompass everyone, and normal light.” The air bubble grew until everyone was inside of it.  They were still floating weightless, but a quick scan around him told Glen that everyone would survive despite the hacking, gagging, and gasping for breath.

Think, Glen told himself.  Way back at the beginning of time he remembered Alice appeared in a place on a rock.  The old god, Cronos appeared, along with Angel—that is what he called him anyway, if Angel could be called a him.  With that thought, he said, rock and stared down beneath his feet, though everyone’s feet were certainly not pointed in that direction.  Still, the rock began to grow and it continued until the air bubble became a dome.  Then he said, “Solid and heavy with gravity like a mountaintop on Earth.”  Everyone fell.

Glen felt lucky.  He was the one who fell the farthest, then Roland, but the elf proved to be nimble enough to avoid being hurt, and Boston, though she was young enough to also go without injury.  Some of the military equipment in the backpacks bumped rather hard, but Glen did not worry about that.   He felt he twisted his ankle.  He tried the word, “Heal,” but it had a minimal effect.  Meanwhile, Lockhart held up the bleeding hand he used to catch himself.  Everyone watched in amazement as the bleeding stopped.  In only a few seconds, the wound healed itself.

“Because we are at the beginning of things?” Boston wondered out loud.

“The grace of our god.”  Roland had another suggestion, and looked at Glen.

“Some magical cure?” Lieutenant Harper asked.

Glen shook his head.  “He is still filled with those Gaian healing chits that healed his back and legs.  They may help you, Lockhart, but you best not depend on them.  I’ll say it again, leaning on them is a good way to get killed.”

“Understood.”  Lockhart responded shortly, since he already stood and reached out from the edge of the rock to touch the stuff of Primordial Chaos.

“Big dome of air.  Plenty of air.”  Glen said and waved his hands.  The swirling mass complied and soon they had no fear of running out of air.

“Doctor Procter?”  Roland knelt beside the old man.  Doctor Procter wore the amulet, but held it in his hands and shook it, like he could not see what he needed to see.

“Lincoln?”  Meanwhile, Boston knelt beside Lincoln because the man looked ready to cry.

“I’ll get our bearings in a minute,” Doctor Procter responded, as Roland looked over at Boston and Lincoln.

“No way she survived this, even with her magic.  I don’t see how.”  Lincoln let his tears flow.

“Confession.”  Glen spoke loud enough to get everyone’s attention.  “I was afraid something like this might happen.  We went back further than I planned.  It all happened so fast.  I could not control it.  Alice is out of touch.  It may take a long time to get home, as I feared.”

“What?”  Lockhart pulled away from the edge, and even Lincoln looked up.

Boston thought it through and lifted her voice in protest.  “But I can’t live 6500 years to get back to where I belong,”

Glen waved off her complaint.  “The time gates should still be there where I am at the center.  Doctor Procter’s amulet should work as well.  How I get home may be a bit more problematic.”  He mumbled most of that.

“Man!” Boston started again but stopped when she got interrupted by a great light at her back and a voice in her mind that said, simply, “Do not be afraid.”

Boston turned to see Lockhart, Glen and both soldiers on their knees, and she felt the need to join them, especially after Glen named their visitor.  “Angel.”

“Come. Kairos.  Stand.  You are required to resolve this.”

Glen got slowly to his feet while Angel did something to lessen his own light so the others felt less afraid and could look up.  Even so, none dared to look into Angel’s face.

“How can I resolve this?” Glen asked.

The answer came without hesitation.  “You must offer yourself in place of the woman.”

Glen stepped over to touch the sticky ooze.  “Will I die?”

“I cannot say.”

“Will Mingus return with the woman?”

“I cannot say.”

“Will I still be able to help my friends get home?”

“I cannot say.”

“What?”  Lincoln found the courage to speak.  Perhaps it was the prospect of getting his wife back after all that inspired him.  “You do not know, or you are not allowed to say?”

“I cannot say.”  Apparently, that was the only answer they were going to get.

Glen looked at the suffocating mass that surrounded them before he turned from the chaos at the edge of the rock to face them all.  He took the glowing golden ball out of his pouch and Boston saw that it was indeed an apple.  With a sharp knife that Glen also carried in his pouch, he cut three slices.  He handed the first to Lincoln.  “Take and eat,” he said.  Lincoln ate the slice and at least half or more of his age fell away from him.  He still seemed older than Boston, but not much older.  He ended up around thirty at the most.

“Take and eat.”  He handed a slice to Lockhart and with the same effect.  “The golden apple of youth,” he explained.  “You will age normally from this point, but I could not let a couple of old men face the time zones.  You would not live long enough to get home.”  He turned toward Boston.  “Sometimes you may have to run,” he confessed with a grin.  “And to you I give this slice for Alexis.  I know you won’t eat it because you won’t want to become a baby.  Tell her to take and eat as soon as she arrives.  And now the one-minute review.”

“It would be best to stay out of whatever trouble you can and not kill if you can help it.  Remember, no matter how impossible it may seem, these are real people in real time and they are capable of fear and pain and they will respond to hate as well as love and kindness.  I understand there may be times when you will have to defend yourselves.  Do not hesitate.  Remember, if you die you will stay dead.”   Glen looked at Angel, but there was nothing there for him to hold on to.  He needed to do this himself.

“Two things.

One:  The only difference between you and the people is they are confined to their place in time whereas you can move from zone to zone through the gates and can jump forward anywhere from a few years to fifty or more years at a time.  Not counting the things you have with you, whatever other stuff you take from time zone to time zone, will age a corresponding number of years based on the number of years in your time jump.

Two:  Don’t forget that Ashtoreth wanted to control and change time.  Some of her creatures are still out there.”  He paused before he added, “Most dangers you can escape by simply going through the next time gate.  I suppose if they can follow you from time zone to time zone, you will know they are a real danger.”  He turned on the marines.

“Decker and Harper.  You need to consider Lockhart your General, and in his absence, Lincoln is your Colonel.  If I recall, he got designated a light Colonel at one point with the CIA.  Anyway, they know more about what is involved than you do, so don’t get cocky or I’ll see you stranded in some place unpleasant.  Is that clear?”

“Sir, yes sir.”  Lieutenant Harper responded.  Decker said nothing, but he nodded his agreement.

“Boston, you have the medical kit?”  Boston nodded.  “Let us hope you don’t have to use it.  Meanwhile, I have filled your packs with elf bread-crackers since you don’t have to carry extra clothes.  The fairy weave you wear can be shaped to your needs, and just so you know, Boston has vitamins in the med kit since you won’t always get a square meal.  Oh yeah.”  He clapped his hands twice.  “So now you will understand and be understood whatever the language.  It will all just sound like English to you.  Now I have to go.”  Trouble does come in threes, he thought, and with the word, “Three,” he ran and leapt into the ooze before he changed his mind and chickened out.

Alexis immediately came back, Mingus clinging to her sleeve.  And after Boston gave Alexis the apple slice, she became more nearly Boston’s age and flew into Lincoln’s arms.  They kissed for a long time.

Boston licked her fingers and became something closer to twenty-three.  Mingus fumed to see his daughter in the arms of that human, but with his son holding him back there was little he could do—not to mention the fact that the presence of the angel scared him beyond reason.  Lockhart, alone kept his head.

“But where do we go from here?” he asked.

“I can’t get a good reading this deep before history,” Doctor Procter admitted with a whack of his amulet.  “Your thoughts Mingus?”

Mingus said nothing, but the angel said one more thing.  It pointed opposite the direction Glen had jumped and a bit of the primordial goo cleared off to reveal a tunnel that led a long way to a distant light.  Angel spoke.

“This is your way home.”

Avalon Pilot part II-5: The Middle of the Night

“My lady.”  The elf maid tried to wake Boston, but Boston felt determined to sleep in.  She never had so comfortable a sleep in her whole life.  “My lady.”  It did no good.

“Stand aside.”  The fairy fluttered down to the end of the bed and pulled out her wand.

“Oh, no.”  The elf shut her eyes.  The fairy waved her wand and a spark struck Boston on her toe.  Boston sat up like she got charged with lightening.

“What?  What?  I’m awake, mom!”  Boston’s eyes came into focus.  “Fairy,” she said.  The fairy had her hands on her hips and tapped her foot in mid-air.

“Up, lazy bones.”

“My lady.”  Boston heard, turned to look at the elf beside her, and got right up, though she was naked.

“What is it?  Why is it still dark out?”

“You must dress.  You are needed.”

Boston looked around.  “But my clothes?  I laid them out here for the morning.  Where did they go?”

“Lady Alice said fairy weave only.”  The elf maid lifted a skimpy bit of cloth from the bed.

With the word fairy, Boston dared another look at the one in the room.  “I am sorry miss fairy,” she said.  “I was having such a wonderful dream.”

The fairy softened her look.  “Quite all right.  Good dreams are worth holding on to.  And it is Mistletoe.”

“I’m Mary Riley, but everyone calls me Boston.”  She looked at the elf who was still holding the little bit of cloth.

“Lady, you must put this on.”

“But that isn’t even enough for a bikini,” Boston protested.

“It is fairy weave.”  The fairy fluttered in close.  “Her name is Rosemary, and this little cloth is magical.  It can be grown or shaped with a thought.  It can be separated into several pieces and even hardened to make shoes or boots.  You can make everything from an arctic outfit to a bikini and even color your bikini with lavender flowers, if you like.  Here.”

Mistletoe helped Boston dress in sensible jeans, running shoes and a shirt while Rosemary took up the explanation.  “You can make a nightgown for the night and freshen the clothes in the morning with a thought and without ever having to put them in the wash.”

“Remarkable,” Boston responded at last.  “But how do I know it won’t change every-which-way every time I have a stray thought?”

“Because you are human, it won’t change with your thoughts like normal.  You will have to tell it to change.”

“Good to know,” Boston said, and while they fixed her shoes she had another thought.  “How is it you know about running shoes and such?”

“I’ve been to Earth,” Mistletoe said, flatly, like Boston should have guessed.

“And Miss Mistletoe is friends with the Kairos’ daughter.”

“I was once.  I am sure she does not remember.”

“Of course, in your big size.”  Boston had a revelation.  “You can pass for a human.  I remember Missus Pumpkin getting big.  So, you have been to Earth and pretended to be human.”

“Not too well,” Rosemary whispered and nodded at the fairy, as if Mistletoe could not hear.  “She is too pretty to be human.”  The fairy shrugged and Boston turned to the elf, but Rosemary anticipated the question.  “Oh no, Lady.  You are the first mortal human I have ever seen.”

“And I think you are rather pretty yourself,” Boston complimented the elf and saw her turn her eyes away, just a little.

“Enough now.  Come.  We must be going.  They are waiting on you.”  Mistletoe led the way.  Rosemary stayed behind to straighten the bed.

“Why so early?”  Boston asked, but Mistletoe did not know.

Boston found the others in the banquet hall where she made herself a plate of hot eggs and biscuits from the breakfast bar someone had set up.  She imagined it had to be the fat little dwarf lady from the night before that seemed determined to make her gain twenty pounds in one night.  She enjoyed the breakfast, and only got startled briefly when Lockhart set a backpack beside her.

“What is this?” she asked.

“Medical kit.  Hope we don’t need it.”  Lockhart gave a short answer as he checked his shotgun.  Boston saw he was also armed with a police pistol.  Lincoln had a pistol and a wicked looking knife attached to his belt.  Roland sat at a nearby table, sharpening his sword with a whetstone.  Boston looked quickly in her pack and found a Berretta, like the one she used on the range, and her own wicked looking knife.  Beside the medical kit, there was something else.  She pulled it out.

She saw it was a handheld computer, which she immediately recognized as a database, and maybe a few other things.  “What is this?” she asked out loud.  No one answered at first, and then Boston had a real shock.  She saw Captain Decker and Lieutenant Harper.  They looked more than well-armed, with weapons that looked pretty sophisticated for regular issue.  Decker also had some equipment, which from her distance looked like scanning equipment.  Harper had a similar handheld, and she walked toward Boston.

Boston held up the handheld so Harper saw the back of the unit.  “That is a Reichgo battery,” Harper said.  “We haven’t learned how to duplicate it yet, but it will put out a continual electrical charge up to ten years or more depending on usage.”

Boston paused and thought about what she was going to say.  “I don’t get it,” she said at last, to whoever might be listening.  “I thought we were just going to retrieve them and come right back.”

“Here.”  Lieutenant Harper put something like a watch on the table.  “This is an old-style walkie-talkie with a ten to twenty-mile range that should work without satellites.”  She walked back to her equipment.

Boston picked up the watch, examined it closely, and put it on in time to see Lady Alice come in, followed by Doctor Procter.  The Doctor carried an amulet, which he shook, listened to, and shook again. The amulet appeared to be made of wood and strung with leather so it looked like nothing special, but Boston knew appearances could be deceiving.  She wondered what it was for.

“Are we ready?”  Alice clapped her hands when she spoke to be sure she had everyone’s attention.  Boston raised her hand like a schoolgirl and Alice answered her unspoken question.  “Mingus has taken his daughter to the beginning of history and insanely leapt into the chaotic void beyond where even I cannot reach him.  I do not know if they can be saved, but we need to be prepared for any eventuality.  The guns will never run out of bullets.  The fairy weave you are all wearing can be shaped and colored as needed to blend in with the locals.  Oh, and…”  Alice reached out like she was picking an apple from a tree.  A golden orb appeared in her hand, which she quickly put into the pouch that hung at her side.  Then she vanished and Glen came back to stand in her place.  He looked once around the room.

“You have no idea how much I miss this place when I am not here,” he said.

“I can imagine,” Boston spoke softly as she put on her backpack and noticed Katie Harper looking at her with wonder in her eyes.

“Perhaps you can.”  Glen smiled for Boston before he clapped his hands like Alice and they all found themselves floating in a multi-colored stickiness and unable to breathe.

Avalon Pilot part II-4: The Heart of Time

“Gentlemen, and Boston.”   Alice spoke in hushed tones.  She did not have to speak very loud to be heard through the utter silence of that tremendous room.  “This is the Heart of Time.”  She pointed at the crystal that throbbed with light like it was a beating heart, but she did not touch it.  “This has recorded all of human history since before the days the human race became scattered across the face of the earth.  In here, you will find Shakespeare’s London, Caesar’s Rome, Alexander’s Babylon and everything all the way back to the Tower of Shinar.

Boston stepped up for a closer look, but Alice had not finished explaining.  “There are time zones represented here.  They are centered around my person, but allow access between one of my lifetimes and the next.  They have always been off limits until a few years ago when Avalon got overrun by a demon, a goddess.  She discovered the time zones.  She got stopped and prevented from carrying out her wicked designs.  She can’t have done more than a few experiments, but still…”

“My wife?”  Lincoln could not contain himself, but closed his mouth immediately after he spoke.  He looked around to be sure he had not disturbed anything or anyone, though they were alone in that room.

Alice nodded grimly.  “Alexis was taken by her father Mingus.  We could follow their progress through the heart.  She got carried back to the end of the eighteenth century, to the days of her birth with the hope that the memory of her happy childhood might convince her to give up her life as a human and become an elf again.  Mingus fears to see her age.  He fears he will lose her too soon and he cannot bear that thought.”

“Uh?”  Lincoln did not want to interrupt again.

“Do not worry.  She steadfastly refused, and tried to escape on several occasions.  But once it became known that the Storyteller—that Glen was awake from his memory loss and long slumber, Mingus panicked.  Through the heart, he has taken Alexis into the deep past.  But do not be afraid.  There is only so far he can go.”

“Why don’t you just zap them back here?”  Lockhart sounded respectful, but not afraid to speak.

“I could fetch Mingus easily enough through the heart, but Alexis is human.  I have no such power over her and I would not dare leave her alone in history.”  Alice paused to collect her thoughts before she spoke again.  “As I said, each time zone centers around a life I once lived.  But I stand at the center of each time zone and the center moves with me.  If they came to the center I could do something, but as long as Mingus skirts around the edge, I can do nothing.”

“What do you mean the Heart of Time has recorded history?”  Boston asked.  She thought hard and tried to picture it.  “Do you mean it is like a computer program, but one you can walk into so it seems real?”

Alice smiled.  “It is utterly real.  The Heart of Time gives access to reality, not just a recording.  The thing is, the reason the time zones are strictly off limits to my little ones—to everyone, is because I have not been able to determine for certain how a change in the events in the zones of time affect actual history on Earth.  I believe they are the same—that history itself is in play.”

“But you can’t reach them as long as they stay out of the center of the time zone.”  Lockhart went back to the original proposition.

“I cannot.”  Alice shook her head.  “But you can reach them.  I can both send you from here and retrieve you as well when you come to where I am in the center of whatever zone you are in.  And don’t worry, Lincoln.  There is only so far Doctor Mingus can go.”

“That sounds risky,” Boston said.  “What if we change things by accident?  What if we change real history?”

“It is a risk, but it is not that simple.  Most changes and minor changes do not seem to matter.  Yet even with interlopers there seems to be some correlation with actual events.  That is why the time zones have remained off limits for all these millennia.  But to ask about the correlation between the events in the zones and actual history as it occurred is really a chicken or egg question.”

“Like do the interlopers have a bearing on history that we don’t quite see or are even their actions somehow directed by the program?”  Boston said, thoughtfully, and Alice nodded.

“Your pardon.”  Lockhart spoke up again.  “But why are you afraid to leave her alone in history?”  His old police instincts acted up again.

Alice looked at the man, but she could say nothing less than the truth.  “Because most of my lives are surrounded by danger.  And if you die in the past, you will remain dead forever.  And then there is this.”  Alice swallowed.  “Several years ago, though Ashtoreth was defeated as I said, she sent ghouls and bogeys, terrible giants, dragons, and things too terrible to name into the zones.  There are still some unsavories there that have evaded my reach.  Presently, the time zones are not a safe place to be.”

“But you can send us to Alexis and bring us right back, right?”  Lincoln needed confirmation.

“I will,” Alice affirmed.  “And I have gotten this help for you since there is no telling how Mingus will respond when he is caught.”  Alice snapped her fingers and two more people appeared in that tremendous room.  She pointed to the first who looked human enough.  “Doctor Procter is half human and has been Doctor Mingus’ partner in the history department for three hundred years.  If anyone can speak sense to the elder elf, I have every hope that Doctor Procter can.”  Doctor Procter looked older than either of the men present, and he had the great white beard to prove it, but he tipped his hat and his smile looked genuine enough.

“Gentlemen, and young Boston, it will be a pleasure and honor traveling with you.  I must say—”

“A-hem,” Alice interrupted and pointed at the other person.  This other man stood nearly as tall as Lockhart, but skinny, and utterly elf in the way Boston always imagined an elf should look.  He did not look at all like Mirowen—a virtual human with pointed ears.  This one still belonged on the reservation, but he was cute, Boston thought, and young.

“This is Roland, Mingus’ son.  He has volunteered to represent the family in this matter.  He is a bit young, but I trust you will keep him in line.”

“Lady, I am fully grown.  I turned one hundred and twenty-six last Yuletide.”

Alice made no comment on the elf’s age but simply added, “He has no trouble with his sister’s choice to live a human life, and disagrees strongly with what his father has done.”

“The important thing is she be happy, don’t you think?”  The young elf looked at Lincoln.

“Oh, I think it,” Lincoln said.  “I just did not know anyone in her family thought it.”

“And I think it, too,” Alice said, with a great and warm smile.  “And I think there is time for a good feast and a good night’s rest before your journey.  Come.”  She led them away from the Heart of Time and to a proper medieval banquet complete with acrobats, minstrels, storytellers, and all sorts of real magical entertainments.  Everyone enjoyed themselves, until the middle of the night.

Avalon Pilot part II-3: Avalon

Lockhart spoke as the door closed.  “I feel like I died.  I thought when I died I would get to be young again.”  Lincoln struggled to not throw up.  Boston looked around and grinned with all her might.

“If we died, we went to Heaven.”  Boston pointed at the castle, rubbed her shoe in the green grass and reveled in the fresh air and glorious colors everywhere she looked.  Somehow, the colors all seemed richer and brighter to her than they ever did back on drab old earth.  A field of ripe brown grain grew, not far away on her right, and a small sparkling blue river on her left flowed into the deep green sea not twenty yards to her rear.  It all felt too wonderful, and the castle, the most wonderful of all.  It looked like a veritable tapestry of colors with more spires, towers and keeps than she could count, all with flags fluttering in the cool breeze, and some of those towers shot right up into the clouds.  “I feel like I’m in Oz, you know, from black and white to color.”

“If it’s any consolation, I feel like I died too,” Glen said.  “But the feeling will pass, shortly.  And no, Boston, this isn’t Oz and it isn’t God’s heaven.  This is in the second heavens.”

“I don’t understand,” Lockhart admitted.

“Very simple.”  Glen motioned for Mister Bean to proceed.  The little one strutted up the path and the others fell in behind.  “The second heavens is my name for the place between Heaven and Earth.  It is where Aesgard, Olympus, the Golden City of the gods and all the other places of the gods used to be, including the places where the spirits of the dead were kept until the coming of the Christ, like Hades, you know.”

“This is the place between earth and heaven?”  Lincoln started to feel better.  “It must be small.  Thin like a line?”

Glen shook his head.  “Infinite and eternal as far as I know, and multi-layered, like a fine French pastry.  The isles of Avalon are called innumerable, but actually, they add up to very little compared to the vastness of it all.  Alice keeps the atmosphere and everything functioning well enough for this little part so we have a sanctuary for my little ones, and others across the various islands of the archipelago.”

“What do you mean she keeps the atmosphere?”  Lincoln took a deep breath and wondered.

“I mean the natural state of the second heavens is chaos.  It folds in and back on itself and even time is uncertain and in flux.  In order to have anything here that approximates earth and the natural laws of physics, it has to be carved out of the chaos and sustained.  Otherwise we would all be floating through an airless, ever changing and swirling mass of stuff the color of rainbow sherbet and with the consistency of something like cotton candy.”

“Hurry up.  Come on,” Boston interrupted.  She got excited.  “The Castle gate is opening.”

The others saw the gate opening but were presently huffing and puffing to get up the hill.  They paused to stare at the girl and Glen spoke.  “I’m fifty-seven, Lincoln is sixty-five, and Lockhart is sixty-eight, ready to retire.  We will get there.”

Boston frowned and ran ahead.

“I think it would be best if I let Lady Alice take it from here.”  Glen finished his thought and vanished from that spot.  Lady Alice met Boston as she ran inside the door to the castle courtyard.

“Thank you Mister Kalderoshineamotadecobean.  You did your job perfectly and brought them here safe and sound.”  Alice’s first thought was for her little one.  The little Bean grinned more broadly than a human face could possibly grin and marched off across the castle courtyard with a real swagger.  “Hello Boston dear.  It is good to see you again.”  Alice stepped up and gave Boston a kiss on each cheek, and Boston had a thought.  She spun around and saw Lockhart and Lincoln but no Glen.

“Glen?”  For all her reading and experience with the subject of the Kairos, she still felt uncertain about exactly how all these different lives of the Kairos actually worked, especially when an old man vanished and became a much younger woman, or traded places with her though time, or however he explained it.

“Yes, Glen is here.”  Alice touched her heart and responded with a very human smile.  “But not at the moment.  For now, he thought I would be best to explain.”

“Trouble?”  Lockhart picked up on something in Alice’s voice.  Once upon a time, he had been a police officer, and he still showed the instincts now and then.

“Eh?”  Lincoln originally worked with the CIA.  He had other virtues, though presently his thoughts were for his missing wife.

“If you will follow.”  Alice waved them forward and they crossed the courtyard.  They tried hard not to stare.

The yard overflowed with bustling little ones, all about on some errand or other.  Dwarfs, elves of light and dark, and others hard to categorize could be seen working and walking across the cobblestones.  Fairies and pixies of many different types and sizes fluttered through the air.  Two hobgoblins struggled with a barrel of something and tried to load it onto a wagon.  One big creature stood off in one corner, like an ogre or troll in the shadows.  The men did not want to look too close.  Boston, of course, delighted in all of it, and even clapped several times at the sights that came to her eyes.

At the back of the courtyard, they stepped through a gate and into a garden-like area.  It looked big and well groomed, but it seemed more nearly the size of a small forest than a garden.  The trees appeared to be placed randomly, like in an old growth forest, but the paths were clean of debris.

“One could get lost in this castle and wander for days without finding a door,” Lincoln remarked, quietly to himself.

“It has been known to happen.”  Alice heard, and threw the response over her shoulder.

They traveled through several buildings, several courtyards, and several gardens—all different—and came at last to the spring from which the small river flowed.  Boston guessed when she saw the naiad sunning herself.  She would have been more taken by the sight, however, if the naiad had not been lounging in a plastic lawn chair.

“Is nothing sacred?” Boston asked with a click of her tongue.

“Very little these days,” Alice sighed, and opened a door to a building which might have been called a cathedral back on Earth.  The building, a tower, contained only one room, all wood.  It looked like a construction as old as time itself.  The wood looked full of delicate carvings, the walls and floor full of intricate mosaics and the ceiling full of magnificent paintings all picturing the one hundred and twenty-one lifetimes of the Kairos, so far.  In the center of the room, there sat only one piece of furniture.  A three-pronged table held in its grasp a crystal that throbbed with a discernibly bright light.  The visitors found it otherwise impossible to tell where the rest of the light in the room came from, since there were no windows and no other visible doors but the one.  It seemed to Boston as if the building had been built around the light to trap the light inside for all eternity. Boston held her breath in that sacred space.

Avalon Pilot part II-2: Mission Team

The woman marine arrived in the lunchroom first.  She saluted Colonel Weber and the captain who stood up to greet her.  The colonel went straight to the introductions.  “Lieutenant Harper.  Captain Decker.”

The captain stuck out his hand.  “Welcome to the monkey house.”

She shook the hand and responded with her name.  “Katie.”

“Sit,” the colonel said, and it sounded like an order so both complied, while one of the three men across the table spoke.

“Decker and Harper.  Sounds like a couple of cops from a cheap television show.”

Colonel Weber pointed at the speaker and continued with the introductions.  “Robert Lockhart is the assistant director of the so-called men in black organization.  Ben Lincoln is the one with the missing wife.  Of course, you know Doctor Emile “I am stealing your property” Roberts.”

“Sir.”  The lieutenant acknowledged each man and kept it business-like.  “Mind if I ask a few questions?”  The colonel waved as if to say be my guest, but good luck getting any straight answers.

“I read the briefing but I don’t exactly understand it.  I have heard of people who claimed to be reincarnated, but this sounds a bit more extensive than that.”

“And I hardly expected to find it in a briefing paper,” Captain Decker agreed.

“Not reincarnated,” Lockhart rubbed his unshaven chin as he spoke.  “He sometimes refers to himself as an experiment in time and genetics going back to the beginning of history.  And if the paper was accurate, you will find it says he also remembers the future.”

Lincoln touched Lockhart on the arm to quiet him and spoke to the marines.  “May I ask your security clearance?”

The colonel answered.  “Both Captain Decker and Lieutenant Harper are cleared all the way to the top.”

Lincoln rubbed his own chin.  “That might not be high enough.”

“That’s right.”  Lockhart grinned.  “There are some things it would be best if even we did not know about.  Isn’t that right, Emile?”

Doctor Roberts looked up.  He tried to keep a low profile in front of the colonel who kept threatening to arrest him, but he could not resist a response.  “Like Santa, spry little elf that he is,” he joked.

“Yes.”  Lieutenant Harper thought they were all kidding and tried to get back on topic.  “What does it mean when it refers to elves and dwarfs?  I assume that is code for something.”

Doctor Roberts went back to hiding and Lincoln said nothing, but Lockhart grinned more broadly and shook his head slowly.  The lieutenant reacted.

“You must be joking.  I stopped playing fairy princess when I was five and found out there are no such things.”

Before a more reasonable response could be made, the entrance of the women, who were laughing and having a wonderful time, interrupted them.  Colonel Weber and Captain Decker stood.  Lieutenant Harper also stood, though after what she just heard, she felt like it might have been safer to stay seated.  The colonel at least got to introduce the director, Roberta Brooks.

“Bobbi,” Bobbi said, as she shook their hands and took her seat.

Boston butted in front and took each hand in turn.  “Mary Riley, but everyone calls me Boston.”  She said it twice and went to sit next to Lockhart.

Mirowen nodded shyly at the marines but avoided shaking their hands.  “Mirowen.”  She went to sit beside Doctor Roberts.

“Mirowen?”  The captain asked, like he might be searching for a last name.

“Soon to be Roberts, I think.”  Lincoln sounded morose.  Mirowen’s presence underlined for him like nothing else that Alexis was missing.

“For now, just Mirowen.”  Lockhart kept grinning and raised his hand to point his thumb at the couple.  “She is an elf.”

Mirowen blushed, but she brushed back her hair to reveal her pointed ears.  She turned quickly to Doctor Roberts and he gave her a peck on the lips to reassure her.

At the sight of those ears, Lieutenant Harper sat.  When she sat, the captain sat with her, and barely in time to deal with what happened next.

“Hi, I’m the Princess, but people call me…”  The Princess paused and pretended to think about it before she concluded, “Princess.”  She smiled her dazzling smile.  “Right now I have to go home.  My husband owes me a foot massage, or something.”  She reached to take both the captain’s and the lieutenant’s hands.

“And where is home?” the Captain asked, while he unsuccessfully tried to keep his eyes from wandering up and down her curves.

“204 BC,” the Princess answered with a straight face.  “Now don’t let go,” she added, and vanished from that time and place so Glen could return to his own time and face his own dilemma.  The captain let go, but only for a second.

“Now.”  Glen smiled at the military people.  “Lovely to have you here.  Lovely to meet you both.  You can’t come.”

“Now, wait a minute,” Colonel Weber wanted to protest, but Glen cut him off.

“Despite your soldiers, you have no authority and no real power here.”  Glen walked around the table to the far wall, the only big, blank wall in the room.  “Be gone,” he mumbled.  “Before somebody drops a house on you.”

Once at the wall, Glen turned and looked around the room.  He had instructions.  “Bobbi, I guess you need to play hostess to Mister Smith when he gets back here on the Kargill ship, at least until I get back.  Emile and Mirowen, make a decision already.”  He took a deep breath and then paused to consider what he was about to do before he spoke.   “Letting ordinary mortals other than me and my immediate family into Avalon is not a common occurrence.  But Lincoln, you can come and fetch your wife.  Lockhart, you need to come to be the boss, and keep a tight rein on Lincoln.  Boston, you need to come to keep Lockhart from freaking out, and you need to behave yourself.”  Glen shook his finger at Boston while Lincoln, Lockhart and an excited Boston got up to stand beside him.  “That’s it.  Colonel Weber, Mirowen and Doctor Roberts better be here and untouched when I get back.”  And with that said, he turned again to the wall and spoke softly.

Emile took Mirowen’s hand and she looked at him, smiled broadly, and repeated an ancient rhyme.  “How many miles to Avalon?  Three score miles and ten.  Can I get there by candlelight?  Yes, and back again.”  Part of the wall turned momentarily dark.  A seven-foot-tall and seven-foot-wide space took on a shadowy look before it suddenly became as bright as a window facing into a sunny day.  An archaic archway formed around the space and it became an opening to another place, altogether.  The grass there looked green with life, and the castle in the background, high on a hill, looked positively medieval.  The aroma of life filled the stuffy conference room, and people sighed, softly.

In the foreground, a little creature stood and bowed most regally in Glen’s direction.  Several eyes shot toward Mirowen.  Mirowen kept up a glamour that made her look nearly human with only the pointed ears to give her away.  This creature in the archway was clearly not human, and Glen did not help when he named the thing.

“Kalderoshineamotadecobean.  Lovely to see you.”

“My Lord is always gracious.”

“Speaks sort of human,” Decker whispered to Harper, who did not hear him because, for some reason, she was crying.  “Bit of a shock though.  I can’t imagine an ogre.”

Glen invited his fellow travelers to cross the threshold, and he watched them closely as they went, before he turned once more to the room and spoke.  “Oh, and Mirowen, don’t worry.  I hope to be back long before the baby is born.”

Mirowen flushed as red as Boston’s red hair before Glen stepped through the wall and the entrance to Avalon snapped shut with a bright flash of light.