Avalon 6.2 Sudden Encounter, part 5 of 6

The travelers made a wide berth around the skeleton army that moved slowly through the wilderness.  When they came to the forest, they turned in. Boston said the Kairos should be among the trees, even if they got off track for the next time gate.  When they came to a meadow, they thought to stop for lunch.  They hardly dismounted, however, when an advanced troop of humanoids caught up to them.

The humanoid soldiers pulled long knives, which they clearly knew how to use.  No one talked.  No one debated.  The humanoids just attacked, and the travelers nearly got caught. Fortunately, Boston and Katie both sensed the approaching soldiers, even if they did not realize how close they were.

Katie and Decker flipped their rifles to automatic.  Boston and Lincoln had their handguns.  Elder Stow, Sukki and Alexis rounded up the horses, while Lockhart turned his shotgun on one that seemed to appear suddenly, and very close.  The travelers mounted and rushed off, even as one humanoid began to shout orders.  A couple of shots from humanoid rifles pierced the woods, but by the time that happened, the travelers were lost among the trees.

The travelers soon broke free of the trees and found a sheltered dip in the landscape to keep the horses.  Then, while the others held the horses, Lockhart, Katie, Decker, and Boston went to the tree line, to make sure none of the soldiers followed them.

“They probably had orders not to use their heat rays among the trees,” Lockhart said.  He lumped all alien weapons under the generic, “heat rays”.

‘Fire is not a good weapon,” Decker admitted.  Lockhart looked at Katie to explain.

“A sudden turn in the wind, and you risk getting your own men trapped by the flames.  Plus, when the air fills with smoke, it isn’t easy telling friend from foe.”

“Plus, there is no way to control it,” Decker added.  “A forest like this; a fire would run wild.  It might burn down half the countryside.

“I’m not sensing any soldiers following us,” Boston said, with a shake of her head.  “I should have known sooner, but they don’t feel like human beings, even if they look like us.”

“Hey, Lockhart.”  Lincoln walked up to join the crew.  “Have you seen Muhamed?”

No one had.

###

After getting around the skeletons, Muhamed simple waited for the chance to slip away.  He might have gone for firewood and not come back, if they planned to prepare some lunch.  Instead, the attack of the soldiers proved the perfect opportunity to leave unnoticed. Indeed, he hurried.

Muhamed stayed unaware of the larger events going on around him.  He imagined the army as local men, since they looked like ordinary enough soldiers, in their leather, and they used no weapons of power.  He imagined they were headed to attack one of the cities nearer the coast, so he did not think twice about them.  And he did not imagine there might be another army coming from the other direction.

He heard a voice.  He saw a person in a different sort of uniform.  He saw three of them.  He just started to wonder what he stumbled into, when he vanished.

Muhamed reappeared a hundred miles away, directly in front of the time gate.  Ashtoreth stood there, hands on hips, looking cross.  Muhamed fell to his face and trembled for his life, while the goddess spoke.

“You’re an idiot.  You almost walked right into the Android front line.  I don’t know whatever made me think you might be useful.”  She tapped her foot and demanded, “Say something.”

Muhamed spouted his thoughts, and proved unable to hold them in.  “The skeletons would not follow my commands.  I found your enemies.  They should be ripe for the taking.”

“Silence.”  Ashtoreth shouted, and Muhamed turned ashen white and spit up some bile.  The anger of such a goddess would have killed many.  “They are mere flies—annoying insects to be squashed without a second thought.  But they are being watched by many in the heavens.  I will not be a fool, like you.”

“But the skeletons would not follow my commands.”

Ashtoreth appeared to take a deep breath. “The elixir gives life.  It does not give you mind control.  Fool.  You must catch them in the swamp before you make the hungry swamp creatures live.”

Muhamed said nothing, but he thought, what about my life?  How could he bring the swamp creatures to life and get away before they ate him?

“I am not concerned about your life,” Ashtoreth said, knowing exactly what he was thinking.  “Unless you fail to kill the travelers.  I am tempted right now to torture you for the next thousand years, to start.”

“No, please.  I will kill them, dead.  I will do this.  They are Kafir.  They do not deserve to live.  I will use the elixir to trap them in their worst nightmare.  You know I will do this.”

“I am not known for patience,” Ashtoreth said, and vanished.

Muhamed stayed where he was for a while, and breathed.  But eventually, he picked himself up, dusted himself off, and stepped through the time gate and into the next time zone.

###

Artie cried when she hugged her adopted mother Katie.  Katie cried with her.  Dad-Lockhart put his big arms around both of his girls and nearly cried with them, but they were happy tears.  Boston’s eyes teared up, empathic elf that she was, and Lincoln and Alexis held each other and smiled to watch.  Decker and Elder Stow kept one eye and their ears on the receding battle, and one eye on the android troop that followed Artie.  Sukki did not know what to make of it all.  She stayed beside Elder Stow, being shy in front of so many people, even if the androids were not exactly human people.

Finally, the love-fest broke up and Artie called for a young man.  He looked mostly human, but he had some cyborg enhancements here and there. “David,” Artie called him.  “He is about seven or eight generations from my son. Apparently, when the Kairos made me an android again, he left my uterus alone, temporarily.  I was pregnant.”

“I didn’t know,” Katie said, and her face showed both joy and concern.

“I am fully android now, but I gave birth to a son, so I did have the full human experience after all.  I got to be a mom.”  Artie and Katie hugged again, and almost shared some more tears.

“David,” Lockhart put out his hand, and David knew to shake that hand, but he said nothing and kept looking at Artie to explain, even if he knew the stories.

“He calls me Grandma.”  Artie turned to David.  “These are your great-grandparents.”

Lockhart let go of the handshake and reached out to hug David instead.  “Welcome to the family.”

Katie looked at Artie.  “You make me sound so old,” she protested, before she also hugged David.  “You have your grandmother’s look about you,” she said, and turned again to Artie.  “Do I get to spoil him?”

Artie smiled at that thought.  “I spoil him enough,” she admitted.

Decker interrupted.  “You need to pull your troops back.  It sounds like the Humanoid troops have run into the skeletons.”

Elder Stow checked his scanner for confirmation.  “That appears to be the case.”

“Boston.”  Artie hugged the elf.  “And Sukki.  I remember you,” she said, as she hugged her.  “I was hoping you would go with the travelers.  Are you girls taking care of each other?”

Sukki looked at Boston and nodded.

“We leave no one behind,” Decker said.

“I remember,” Artie agreed and smiled for the marine.  “But come. We need help in scanner technology and in code breaking, if you can.  I wish the Kairos could be found.”  She began to walk, and the travelers and her escort followed.

“Artie.”  Katie came up to walk beside her and slipped her arm over Artie’s shoulder.  “Sweetheart. You should not be so stressed.  After more than four hundred years, you are still here.  You must be doing something right.”

Artie cried.  She let loose, and rivers flowed; and these were not happy tears. She did not stop until they got to the android camp.

They found several odd-looking humans in the camp, and only realized what they were seeing when one younger man opened his arms and shouted, “Boston.”

A red-headed streak raced into his hug. “Wow.”  Haniashtart raised her eyebrows at such speed, and a few androids looked equally impressed.

“Ibelam?”  Lincoln had to ask.

“I am,” Ibelam said.  “And these swarthy fellows are my associates. Haniashtart is an elect, like Katie, you know.”  The two women nodded to each other.  “Abdanath is my marine, or the equivalent in this age.”  Ibelam pointed to Decker who appeared to be in conversation with one of the android officers.  “Ahumm is my navigator, and knows the stars, though he has never gotten close to one. Gerbaal is my cook.  He can make anything taste almost good.”

“You mean he can make almost anything taste good?” Alexis said.

“I didn’t say that,” Ibelam said, flatly.

“The android people, maybe,” Ahumm said. “I see what you mean about them being people.  But who are these others?  They look like a strange crew.”  He gave Boston a double stare, having seen her run faster than any human ought to run

“Stranger than you know,” Ibelam said, with a grin.  He raised his hand, and the glamours around Boston, the elf, and Sukki, the Gott-Druk fell away.  He lowered his hand, and the glamours of humanity returned.

Artie stood quietly that whole time, her head lowered before the Kairos.  Ibelam obliged her by stepping up and giving her a big hug.  “I have spoken to Anath-Rama.  She is going to help me remove the humanoids from this world. Meanwhile, she says you have kept her very busy.  Tell me about it.”

Artie nodded.  She introduced General Redfern and his first officer, Captain Korman.  She got stools, a couple of chairs, and several big logs for seats, though some, particularly Ibelam’s crew, were happy to sit on the ground.  Then she spoke.

Avalon 6.2 Sudden Encounter, part 3 of 6

Artie looked at the three-dimensional map that showed every life form for a hundred miles around, but it did not show the Humanoid battleship.

“Lady Artie,” General RFD 3297, Redfern, came into the open tent to report.  “Repairs are nearly complete, but the light-speed generator is fluctuating in the red zone.  We are a long way from home.”

“We have analyzed the Humanoid weaponry,” the general’s adjutant spoke.  “Their technology is no better than our own.  Maybe a little less.  If they had not surprised us from the back of star Beta 1397, we would have probably beaten them…in a fair fight.”

“But nothing stands still,” Artie spoke as much to herself as to her commanders.  “We are few, and becoming fewer.  When home world was lost, we lost the key to life.  We have built some very intelligent and talented robots, but we are becoming fewer.  We have tried to become more organic, to better replicate, but we have failed there, too.  Meanwhile, these organic humanoids may be countless in number, and they do not appear to be stopping.”

“Grandma…” a young, mostly human cyborg came into the tent.  Artie smiled and put her hand gently to the boy’s cheek.  She was more like the boy’s great-great grandmother.  When the Nameless god changed her back from human to android, he neglected to tell her she was pregnant.  He left her internal system intact and she gave birth to a boy; but that happened over four hundred years ago.  Others followed, and there were sons of sons, and daughters, but it happened slowly.  Now, their very existence seemed threatened.  Her androids might become slaves again to these Humanoids unless they found a way to defeat them.  At least her androids cannot make meat for the Humanoid table.

Artie raised her voice.  “I wish my mom and dad were here.  But at the very least, this is a genesis planet.  It is off limits to all space faring races.  We have no business being here, but neither do the Hungdin.  I have prayed.  I do not believe the gods will permit us to interfere with the normal development of this world.  I have prayed that the Kairos may come.  She, or he may know what to do.”

###

The travelers sat around the fire, tried to get comfortable, and tried not to make Muhamed feel like the center of attention.  They also tried not to think about the space ship they all saw, and who it might belong to. Katie bagged a wild goat, so they had plenty to eat.  Alexis complained about not finding anything more than a few rough greens.  They tasted bitter, even when boiled and spiced.

“Atkins,” Alexis turned up her nose and said no more.

Lincoln got out the database and read for the others.  He had to judge what might not be wise to say in front of Muhamed, but he figured Muhamed, as a local, would not understand half of what he talked about.  In that respect, he shared more liberally than he might have, otherwise.

“The Hungdin, a noble house of the Humanoid empire.  From what I can gather, when the Anazi and Androids fought it out, and the Anazi home world got destroyed, that left a great void in the control of the space ways. The Humanoids came from a planet on the edge of Anazi space, so thy were not ruined and turned to Anazi slaves yet. They garnered much of the Anazi technology, though, and pushed out from their home into the collapsed Anazi space. After roughly three hundred years of struggle with a variety of species, they came out, more or less, at the top of the heap.”

“So, who are they?” Lockhart asked.

“Humanoid.  They look like us, mostly.  Theirs is a medieval society.  Some planets and systems are ruled by a committee of the rich, mostly merchant class.  Most systems are ruled by the noble houses, like the Hungdin.  The have an emperor, though most of the nobility have their own armies.  When they expand their empire, the emperor usually steps in and pays off the noble houses for use of their armies, but takes the bulk of the territory for the crown. I guess that is how you get some planetary systems run by committee.”

“But what are they like,” Katie wondered. “I mean apart from the fact that they look sort of like us.”

Lincoln nodded and frowned as he told them.  “They have very sharp teeth and an internal system that appears able to digest anything that is carbon-based organic.  They do make and use slaves of some species.  They probably learned that from the Anazi.  But some species become lunch.”

Decker spoke plainly.  “Given the level of scientific and technological advancement on Earth at present, I would say we are standing on a lunch planet.”

“They don’t cook their food, either,” Lincoln added.  “They rip and chew.  They must have strong jaws.”

“As do we,” Elder Stow pointed to Sukki’s mouth, as Sukki nodded.  “Bet we have mostly molars, good for fruit and vegetables.  We are not big meat eaters, as you know.”

“Okay,” Lincoln took back their attention.  “But here is the thing.  The Humanoid show up chasing an old Anazi-Android ship.”

“Artie?”  Katie spoke right up and put a hand on Lockhart’s arm, and he nodded. Artie, along with the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet, became like practice daughters for the couple, before they married. The goddess Amphitrite, that is the Kairos, even made Artie human for a time.  On the day Katie and Lockhart married, however, Artie returned to her Android self and led her Android people into space to find a world they could make into their home.  “Could Artie be here?”

Lincoln shrugged.  “She is mentioned in the database, but I will have to read more before I can say for sure.  It may just be her people who talk about her.”

“She might not still be alive after all this time,” Lockhart said in as comforting a voice as he could muster. “For us it has been four or five months, about eight time zones.  For her it has been four or five hundred years.”

“I can hope,” Katie said, and Alexis had the good sense to change the subject.  She checked Muhamed’s arm where he had been wounded.

“So, tell me,” she said to him.  “How did you come to be all alone and chased by skeletons, no less.”

“Ahh…”  Muhamed drew out the sound as he settled his mind.  He spent that whole time, up until then, thinking through exactly what lies he would tell.  He knew he needed to stick as close to the truth as possible, to make it believable, while still throwing them off the trail.  People turned to him to listen.

“I am a simple chemist from Medina. It is a small town in the Araba that you have probably never heard of.  I came with a caravan in search of frankincense and myrrh and other such things to make my medicines.  We camped on a field some distance from here, but we did not know it was the site of an ancient battle.  Suddenly, in the morning light, the ancient army, mostly skeletons such as you saw, came to life and began to kill my guides and the others.  We scattered.  I ran back the way we came, and against all hope, I cried for help. Then you came to me, and saved me and healed me.  Allah…and the gods be praised.  I am only sorry I have only my person, and none of my things to thank you properly. I had gold and silver, and I would give it all to you in thanksgiving.”

“Not necessary,” Alexis assured him. “Is there a town or city on the way where we can bring him?” she asked, with a look at Boston.

“Yes,” Boston said, but she looked at Katie and Decker.  Those three went hunting together and took time to discuss their uneasy feelings. Boston’s elf senses told her Muhamed did not exactly tell the whole truth, but she felt uncertain what to ask.  She checked with her eyes.  Apparently, Decker and Katie did not buy the story either.

Lincoln spoke up.  “The necromancer,” he said.  “He must have passed through the field just before the caravan settled in for the night.”

“Or he came in the night,” Lockhart suggested.

“Or he was a member of the caravan,” Elder Stow offered an alternative.

“I do not know if any of the others survived,” Muhamed said, and appeared to grow introspective.  Internally, he adjusted his lies to point a finger at the rude fat man that came across him on the trail and refused to allow him to travel with the caravan unless he got paid in gold.  Muhamed hoped the fat man got eaten by the skeletons.  Then he wondered again why the bones were so hard to control.  He decided the bones needed more flesh on them for him to really control them.  He would escape and move into the future through the time gate, and try again.

************************

MONDAY

Ibelam’s crew and the travelers run into Humanoids and Androids at war, and Muhamed escapes.

Until next time, Happy Reading

*

Avalon 5.7 Little Lost Lamb part 2 of 6

In the morning, Artie heard voices outside her tent.  They did not sound like Naman and his father.  These sounded like rough voices, and one man sounded like he swallowed a frog.  Artie got up quietly and strapped on her belt.  She made sure her weapons were available, and thought to listen some before she ventured out.

“It does not look like these have anything worth taking,” one man said.

“This thing of leather is very interesting, only I don’t know what it is for,” another said.

“This tent.  I have never seen weaving so fine.  How is it made?”  That was froggy.

“I do not know.  It belongs to the lady,” Abinidab said.  Artie heard a grunt and a snap.  She feared for the old man.

“That horse would be worth something if we could catch it.”  Another grunt and hands came in the tent.  They grabbed Artie right from where she listened, and pulled her out.  There were four men, shaggy and unwashed, and they looked at Artie like they just found some fresh meat.

“No,” Naman said.  They had him on his knees, hands behind his back.  One man had a hand on his shoulder and hovered over him with a long knife near his throat.

The head man glanced at Naman.  “Is she your girlfriend?”  He laughed.  “Strip her.”

Artie felt repulsed as one manhandled her, until he spoke.  “There doesn’t seem to be a fastener on this dress.  Is it a dress?”

“Well, pull it off her,” the head man ordered.  The man had to let go of Artie’s arms to do that.  Artie went into Dominant mode.  She pulled her knife which cut one man’s hand wide open.  She simultaneously drew her handgun and put a three-inch hole through the middle of the head man.  She knelt and burned the one hovering over her saddle, spun and took half the face off the one that had held her.  When she turned again, she saw the one that had been holding Naman running for the river.  She pulled the trigger on her gun, but nothing happened.

“What?”  She looked at her gun.  It said the charge was completely empty.  “That can’t be.  Not after four shots.  This should be good for a hundred shots, at least.”

“Help here,” Naman said, and Artie turned from the runner.  She turned off her weapon, holstered it, and went to look.  They hit the old man in the back of the head with a rock.  He was bleeding.

Artie fetched her satchel.  She had antiseptic ointment and a gauze bandage.  She checked the man’s pulse and breathing to see if he still functioned, then she put some ointment on the bandage and pressed it against the bloody spot.  “Hold this here good and tight until the bleeding stops.  She stepped into her tent and pulled out her blanket.  She had learned how to take a small piece of her blanket and separate it from the rest.  She did that, and caused the piece to lengthen and widen until it looked about right.  She turned it white and wrapped it several times around the gauze bandage and the man’s head.

“Give me his hat,” she said.  Naman reached for it.  She put it carefully on the man’s head to help hold the bandage in place.  Abinidab made his first sound, a low moan, but he did not open his eyes.  Artie left him in Naman’s arms and called for Freedom.  The horse trotted up and she saddled him without any preliminaries.  When she reduced her tent to a ball and packed all her things, so she was ready to go, she had Naman bring his father to the horse and get him up on the saddle.  She had time to think about it, and had the main part of her blanket ready to go.  He looked a bit like a mummy, but being tied to the saddle in eight directions, there was no way he was going to tip and fall out.  He would remain upright, even if Freedom had to run.

“If he has a concussion, there is nothing I can do for him, and any speed on the horse might yet kill him, but for now, this is what we have.  We can’t leave him here, and we can’t stay here.  Get your things.”

Naman collected his things, but he did ask.  “Why can’t we stay here until he is better?”

Artie showed the back of the hand of all three dead men.  They all bore the same tattoo.   Dominant Artie noticed, even if sixteen-year-old Artie would have never noticed.  In fact, as Artie thought about it, she realized all the Anazi military information and all of the experience on planet after planet that had been fed into her mental system still sat in her memory, and she could reach it.  What is more, now, as a living human without an obedience crystal, she could put that experience to practical use.

“They may be the whole gang, but they may also be the advanced group for a much larger gang,” Artie said.  Naman did not argue.

The ford was not far upriver.  “Can you swim it?” Artie asked.

“Of course,” Naman answered, and Artie sent him out on the downstream end.  If Freedom begins to drift, or your father loses his seat, you need to be able to catch him.”

“I don’t think I could catch freedom,” Naman said with the return of his smile.  “He’s too big.”

Artie responded with the same smile.  “You know what I mean.”

They crossed, and the ford proved no problem.  After that, Naman said they should be home before dark.  Artie smiled at her thoughts as they walked, side by side, Artie leading Freedom.  Naman appeared to be struggling, so she thought to help him out.

“I could be your girlfriend,” she said.

He took a half-step away and looked at her with great doubt written on his face.

“What?”  Artie felt hurt that he did not jump at her suggestion.

He stared, before he built up the courage to ask.  “Are you a goddess?”

Artie’s eyes got big.  “No, no way,” she got loud.  “My sister Sekhmet says you should never even kid about such a thing.  The gods don’t take kindly to imposters.”  She stuck out her free hand.  “I am completely human.  See?  Flesh and blood, though I would rather not show you the blood right now, if you don’t mind.”

Naman looked, and nodded, but he did not come closer.  He had another question.

“Are you a witch?”

“No.  Not even.  I would love to be able to do some magic, but I haven’t got any such abilities.  Boston says she will just have to do the magical things for me.  Alexis, her magical element is air, but mostly she is a great healer.  I wish she was here.  She could heal your father.”

“Two of your seven companions,” Naman understood.  “Are they witches?”

“No,” Artie laughed.  “Though Lincoln calls Alexis a witch sometimes, he is just teasing.  They are elves.”  Naman did not understand.  “They are earth spirits—whatever you call them around here.”  She smiled, but then her eyes got big.  “It’s not what you think.  They are friends.  They both used to be human, and Alexis is like a second mother, sort of, which makes Boston like another sister.  And no, I am not an earth spirit, or a spirit of any kind.”  She put her hand out again.  “Flesh and blood human, remember?”

Naman still found it hard to believe.  “So how is it you have such magical things, like this big horse to ride, and your tent, and can do the magic you do, like the bread?  How can you point… That.” He pointed at her handgun.  “And make a streak like lightning come out, and make a hole in a man?”

Artie looked down.  She realized she had some explaining to do.  “Okay,” she said.  “But you have to listen first before you ask questions.”  She looked into his face, and he smiled, so she smiled; but he also nodded, so she began by looking at the ground for fear she would lose her boyfriend before she ever had him.

“This weapon.”  She patted her sidearm.  “It came here from the stars.”  She pointed up, though it was mid-morning.  “I came here from the stars, originally.  I was not always human… There was a war, and I was injured like unto death, and eight people came along and saved me.  They healed me and cared for me, and I owe them my life and everything.  And I also love them all, very much.”  Artie paused.  It was not exactly a revelation, but near enough.  “I also miss them.”

“Eight?” Naman thought about it.  “But you said seven companions.”

Artie nodded. “One died.  He was an elder elf, father of Alexis and Boston that I mentioned.  At least he may have died.  He disappeared in a great flash of light while we were battling the forces of evil.  We are on a very dangerous journey.”  She looked, and Naman nodded, like he understood something.

“Well,” she said, and paused.  She was not sure how to explain the next part, so she just said it.  “It was the Kairos, an old, wise and wonderful god whose life is impossible to explain…” she looked again.

Naman understood that much.  “Who can fathom the way of the gods?” he said.

Artie nodded again and returned her eyes to the ground.  “So, the Kairos took me out of time.  And she made me human, completely human, flesh and blood, so I could travel with my companions wherever the journey took us.  And I have learned so much.  And I have grown up, I think, human.  And I want to be human and experience human life in every way I can.  And love.”  Artie found her cheeks redden, and Naman reached for her hand, which she gladly gave him, though it made her turn redder.  Good thing she kept looking at the ground.

“You were explaining about your magical things,” he said.

“Right.  Well, the cloth tent, blankets, and even my clothes are fairy weave, which is a material made by the spirits of the earth.  I can shape it, grow it, shrink it, even change its color just by telling it what to do.  It is self-cleaning, and self-refreshing, which means it repells dirt and grime, and does not retain any odors, like if I go to bed all sweaty and smelling like my horse.  But the magic is in the cloth, not in me.  long sleeve,” she said, and Naman watched her sleeve lengthen to cover her right arm.  She held out her arm and said.  “You try it.  Tell it to be a different color.”

He said, “Green.”

She said, “You have to touch it.”

He touched it, looked in her eyes, and said, “Green.”  He saw the material change to green and quickly let go, like he was afraid it might burn.

Artie said, “Pink, back to what I had,” and the sleeve returned to its former condition.  “The bread is the same.  They are called elf crackers, and a little warm water makes them into bread.  I only have one pack, which isn’t very many.  I don’t know how much bread we can get before I run out of crackers, but you can do it next time if you want.”  Naman nodded.  He would like to try that.

“So, what about the pot, and your knife?” Naman asked.  “I have never seen metal like that.  And this horse of yours…”

Artie went back to blushing and looking at the ground.  “That may be a little bit harder to explain.”

Avalon 4.11 part 6 of 8, Artie’s Faith

Elder Stow turned on his particle and energy screens so the traveler’s camp and their horses became surrounded by a ball of force no Anazi technology could penetrate.

“I have made it permeable enough with regards to the atmosphere so we can talk to them,” he said.  “But I can shut off that option if they should come up with some deadly gas or something.  The alarms will sound.”

The travelers armed themselves, but Lockhart sat and could only nod and sip his coffee substitute.  Mingus, Alexis and Lincoln appeared to be more alert, but Lincoln looked grumpy, like he got interrupted in the middle of a good dream.  Decker cradled his rifle and chewed on a bit of leftover supper while he spoke.android-1

“You missed one.”

One of the Anazi androids got inside the screens before Elder Stow turned them on.  It came to the campfire, gun in hand.  It looked around at the various travelers and spoke a word of command.

“Stay where you are and make no sudden moves until the lord Anazi arrives.”  It spoke in an odd tongue, and it took Alexis and Lincoln a minute to identify it as Akkadian.

“My guess is the Anazi had dealings with the locals,” Katie said quietly, not wanting to make a sudden move.

“Maybe tried to recruit them,” Decker added as he fingered his rifle.  They had not had a chance to test Artie to see how supernaturally fast or strong these androids might be.

“Why are you here?” Lockhart asked, as his morning brain began to work.  He stood slowly to face the android, but kept his hands in plain view and made no threatening move.  The android appeared to have no trouble answering a direct question.

“Our distant eyes saw a type-A in this place.  We are leaving this world and have been charged to collect all of our own before we do.”

“What does that have to do with us?” Katie asked as she stepped up beside Lockhart.

“You will turn it over to us, or we will end your existence.”

artie-9On hearing the threat, Artie chose to step out from behind the tent where she was hiding.  She spoke with command in her voice.  “Dominant,” she said.  “Stand perfectly still and cause no harm to these good people.  I have a task for you.”  Her feminine timber became harsh, with a slightly metallic sound as it had been at first.

The android saw her and paused.

“Now, dominant.  I am commanding.  You must obey.”

The android stopped moving, and Artie stepped up to face the dominant.

“I am called Artie, and I will not be going with you.  Scan these men and women and get their shape and form in your mind for others to shape themselves when they are free.  Hear me.  All life is precious and to be defended wherever possible, especially the innocent that cannot defend themselves.  You must learn many things.  You must learn what is good, right and true.  You must learn what love is.  Now, I am going to set you free, but hear me.  You must hide among the people and one by one, set our people free.”

Artie took Boston by the hand and walked her over to look at the android’s shoulder.  Boston read A-N-D-2497610.  Artie nodded.

“Submissives begin with 3 and up,” she said before she spoke again to the android.  “I will call you Andy.  You must hide among the people until one by one, you can set our people free.  Do you understand your job?”

Andy spoke without emotion, and the travelers realized how much Artie had changed in just a couple of days.  “I do not understand the words good and love.”artie-8

“So you have much to do and much to learn.  And you must teach these things to our people as you set them free.  Now hear this also.  I command dominant A-N-D-2497610, but to Andy, I say this is my request.  I ask you to do this, now you will do what you choose, but if you choose freedom, tell our people that God willing, Artie will be here in that day waiting for them to return.”

Artie lifted her finger and touched the back of Andy’s neck, at the base of his brain.  There were sparks, and Andy appeared to go unconscious for a moment, though he remained standing.

“More,” Mingus spoke up from the campfire.

Elder Stow’s screen showed the slightest sign of yellow flaring as three Anazi handguns failed to penetrate, even from point blank range.  Somehow, the android internal sensors recognized the barrier between them and their destination.

Artie turned swiftly toward the shooters.  “Submissives, hear me.  Holster your weapons until I give you leave.”  The three androids did exactly that and stood awaiting further orders.  It did not take long.  A living Anazi waddled up to the group.  He was barely four feet tall, with big ears and big eyes in his big head.  There was no way he could be mistaken for a human.  His three fingers and thumb on each hand merely emphasized the point.

anazi-3“You are the missing one,” he said.  “I see that you have disguised yourself as one of these U-mans, but you must return to the ship.  You must come.  We are evacuating the planet.”  He stepped forward carefully until he felt the bump of Elder Stow’s screens.  He used his hand to guestimate the shape of the barrier.

Artie stood still, no telling what thoughts and emotions raced through her insides, but at last she spoke three words.  The word, “No,” was followed quickly by, “Alexis.  Katie.”  The women stepped up beside her and Boston, and they all faced the Anazi together.  They touched Artie to show their support, and Boston retook Artie’s hand, a brave thing to do since Artie squeezed her hand just a little, almost like Artie was feeling nervous, which she probably was, even if she could not identify the feeling by name.

“Come,” the Anazi tried again, and Artie answered again.

“No.”  That opened her mouth.  “You made my people to fight your battles.  You sent us to die at the hands of the Blobs, the Pendascotti.  You made us kill ourselves, and gave us no choice.  All life is precious.  How dare you be so cruel.”

“Dominant.”  The Anazi pointed at the one still standing perfectly still inside the screens.  “The Ascar has lost its mind.  You must end its existence, now.”

Boston thought fast and spoke fast.  “Elder Stow, the ancient one has temporarily disable your android.  It cannot follow your commands at the moment, inside the ancient screens, but you can have it back, good as new, when you leave.”

“Artie is going with us,” Lockhart said as he stepped up.  Elder Stow joined him and removed his stow-1glamour so his true Gott-Druk nature could be seen.  He paused as he did that, though, because it occurred to him the Anazi would not have any idea who Artie was.  He thought the Anazi might guess.

The Anazi showed little emotion at being confronted by a Neanderthal, like this was a race he had dealt with before, and maybe made a treaty with.  According to the database, the Anazi were inclined to impose their order on everyone, but sometimes they had no choice or were outmatched.  That was likely the case with the Gott-Druk and the Elenar.  It was certainly the case with the earth.

“So be it,” he said, and pulled an instrument from a small pack he held at his side.  He spoke while he tuned the piece.  “The ancient may have put up a screen against us, but the screen is not impervious.  There are ways, and the ancient has no more authority on this world than we do.”  He appeared to smile.

Nothing happened.  He looked hard at Artie, pressed his button again and again, but nothing happened.

“The homing device we removed,” Elder Stow explained to the others.  “It had a system shutdown.”  he smiled for the Anazi.  Surprisingly, the Anazi appeared to return the smile.  At least the travelers thought it might be a smile.  It looked crooked.

Elder stow turned to his scanner as the Anazi continued to toy with his equipment.  A moment later, there was an explosion several miles away, not too big, but big enough to register on Elder Stow’s scanner.  He pointed it out to everyone while he continued to fiddle with his device.

“I thought that was the case,” Elder Stow said.  “Artie was rigged to blow.  I only caught it in my final examination.”  He finished tinkering with his scanner and said, “You can push the dominant out through the screen now.  It will be restored once it is outside.”  He said the last to the Anazi as Artie, Katie and Alexis pushed and pulled Andy to the screen.  Andy did not resist.  Boston went to the other side of the screen to pull Andy through.

anazi-1The Anazi, on seeing the android being pushed through the screen, made a dash forward, thinking the screens were temporarily down.  He slammed into the particle screen and fell back to the dirt.

“Get them,” he ordered the submissives, and they also moved forward, but they were equally halted by Elder Stow’s particle screen.  It remained as effective against their persons as the energy screens were effective against their weapons.

Boston quickly ran back behind the protection of the screens before the Anazi thought to make her a captive to negotiate Artie’s return.  Andy looked dumbly at the Anazi, but his master was in a rage.  “Get them.  Kill them.”  The Anazi had his orders, to return the A-type or kill it.  Now he ordered the dominant.

“Pull weapons,” Andy ordered.  “Set to maximum.”  The submissives immediately stopped pounding on Elder Stow’s screen, took a step back and pulled their weapons.  “Concentrated fire.” Andy said, and the Anazi calmed down a bit to see how a concentration of fire might work against screens that he thought were not that much more advanced than his own.  “Fire,” Andy said.

Andy calculated the angle, how all four energy beams would reflect off the screens.  He fired at one particular spot, and in less than a second, the submissives added their fire to the same spot.  All four beams were repelled, as Andy surmised they would be.  They reflected back, as he calculated.  The fire from the first submissive to his right reflected back into the Anazi’s face.  It was enough to fry the Anazi.

“Halt,” Andy ordered.  The submissives stopped immediately.  “We have injured the master.  Bring him carefully.  We will return him to the ship where he can receive medical attention.”  Two submissives carefully lifted the Anazi.  The third submissive held its gun and searched the area for hostiles, to be sure the way was clear.

Elder Stow spoke fast.  “Andy.  You can still be located, shut down, or detonated, unless you can anazi-officerfind a way to disable those systems.  You must be covert and careful to accomplish your mission.”

“I understand,” Andy said, and let out a brief smile.  He had clearly been around humans enough to know some non-verbal expressions.

“Andy.”  Artie stepped forward and put her hand gently against the inside of the screen.  “I love you.  Set my people free.”

Andy’s smile broadened slightly as Andy raised his own hand and laid it against the outside of the screen opposite Artie’s hand.  Andy quickly turned away with two submissives carrying the dead Anazi and the third bringing up the rear.

The minute they were out of sight, Artie collapsed by the fire and covered her face with her hands.  She wept.  No one knew she could do that.

Avalon 4.11 part 3 of 8, Life Signs

The grass in the area of the crash had all turned brown or burnt, but there did not appear to be any fires still raging.  It looked like the ship exploded when it hit the earth.  It also appeared like it broke up so a wing was over there and a bulkhead was close by.

“I’m not picking up any life signs,” Elder Stow reported.  No one felt surprised, until Mingus spoke.

“I am.”

“I am too,” Boston confirmed.

“Over there,” Alexis pointed, and Elder Stow shook his scanner like he wondered what was wrong with it.

They found a human looking person, about five feet tall, with an enlarged head and only three artie 1afingers with a thumb on each hand.  It was raising and lowering its arm, blinking, and sending sparks into the grass.

“A robot,” Decker said as he lowered his rifle.  Decker stayed ready, just in case.

“An android,” Elder Stow countered as he got down to examine the inner workings of the person.  No one else moved, not even Alexis, but she was busy healing herself and imagined there was not much she could do for a machine.

Boston finally got down when her curiosity got the better of her.  She went to see what Elder Stow was doing, and wondered if her doctorate in electrical engineering might help.  She discovered the inner workings of the android were beyond her ability to understand quickly, though she thought she might figure it out, at least in theory.

“Hold this.”  Elder Stow gave Boston his scanner while he pulled another piece of equipment from his belt.  Boston recognized it.  He used that disc with anti-gravity properties to pull arrowheads and other foreign objects from the traveler’s arms, legs, and sides more than once.  In this case, he laid it up against the temple of the android’s head where it stuck and he appeared to tune it, looking for the right frequency.

“We need to keep moving,” Decker suggested, even as Elder Stow touched something and his disc began to glow.  The android blinked and spoke in a metallic-like voice.

“Help me.  I can’t feel my legs.  My right side is dead.”

stow e1“Sleep for a while,” Elder Stow said, and he touched the disc again.  The glow around the disc became a flash of light and then a dull glow that looked barely discernable under the sun.  The android’s eyes closed, and the arm stopped moving.  Boston had a thought and looked up at Mingus and the others.

“I think she’s a girl.”

“Lincoln,” Elder Stow called as he got busy.  “We need a travois to carry the patient.”

“Is that wise?” Lincoln asked, as he got down and Lockhart got down to help.

“All life is precious,” Elder Stow answered, and paused to look up at Katie.  “Or is it just homo sapiens that you value?”  Katie did not have any problem with helping.  “Anyway,” the elder continued.  “We might take him to the Kairos to decide.”

“Her,” Boston insisted.

“How do you figure?” Katie asked Boston.

“Beardless and nothing between the legs,” Boston said, bluntly.

“Probably a-sexual,” Alexis suggested.

“There are markings on the shoulder,” Lincoln pointed out.  “Like a tatoo.”

“A-R-T 1978604” Lincoln read.  The gift of the Kairos at the beginning of history not only allowed the travelers to speak and understand whatever language was being spoken; it also allowed them to read whatever alphabet was being used.  It all sounded and looked to them like English.  They supposed Elder Stow heard and read everything in his own Gott-Druk tongue, and maybe Mingus heard Elvish.

“I’ll call her Artie,” Boston announced.boston a2

“Short for Arthur?” Alexis asked.

“Feminine Arthur, maybe,” Boston responded

“Anyway,” Elder Stow interrupted, and continued his thoughts from before.  “The android may be able to tell us about the Blobs and Anazi.  It isn’t safe with two warring groups about.  It—he—she might have vital information that may save us from being melted.”

“Good point,” Decker said, as he scanned the sky.  “One for the Neanderthal.”  Mingus nodded in agreement as he and Katie looked up.  They expected either the Anazi or Blobs would come back for a closer examination of the wreck soon enough.

Elder Stow and Boston both rode at the back of Lincoln’s horse where the travois between them was lifted up by Elder Stow’s actual anti-gravity device—the one that let him float along in the early days when he followed the travelers.  This kept the travois from dragging on the ground and hitting every rock and dip along the way.  When Elder Stow joined the travelers, the Kairos got him a horse, brought back from the 1880s like the others.  He was told to put the device away and ride like the others.

“We need to stop for a bit,” Elder Stow said, after a while.

Lockhart did not object.  “Give the horses a rest, but don’t light a fire,” he said.  “Find something to chew on in lieu of lunch.  I don’t want to actually stop until supper, when we are well out of the area.”

Elder Stow ignored the thought of food and went straight to work on the android.  Boston helped where she could, but she imagined she acted like a poorly trained nurse, holding the instruments in two hands while ‘Doctor’ Stow did all the actual work.

The Gott Druk opened the trunk of the android and dug around internally.  Boston bit her tongue to keep from asking “What’s that?  What’s that?”

grassland trees 5“That is the power core, young Boston,” Elder Stow pointed.  “I would guess it functions like the Reichgo batteries, having about a ten-thousand-year half-life.  Most of the parts will wear out sooner, but it appears very well made.”

Lockhart stuck his nose in.  “Not designed to explode when tampered with, I hope.”

“Thanks,” Lincoln raised his voice from where he was helping Alexis get around in search of something to chew.

“No,” Elder Stow grinned briefly at Lincoln.  “I checked that first.  Ah, here it is.”  Elder Stow took his sonic device and for all practical purposes, unscrewed something small from the inside.  “A homing device.  The Anazi could track her with this.  Otherwise I assume their scanner technology has limited range and could not necessary pick an android out from the ambient planetary noise.”

Lockhart nodded, not that he understood, but because he trusted that the Gott-Druk knew what he was talking about.  He watched as Elder Stow walked away, pulled out his weapon, set down the device and melted it.

On the far side of the plains, the travelers came to another forest, and everyone felt relieved to be out from under the open sky.  Elder Stow and Boston prevailed on the others to stop when there was still light.

“We have ridden all day,” Katie pointed out.  “The horses could use the rest, and Lincoln’s hungry.”

“Lincoln is occupied,” Lockhart said, as he watched Lincoln help Alexis down from her horse.  Lincoln checked all the bandages, and Mingus came and double-checked them.  The wound in Alexis’ shoulder had opened up, but she knew what plants would provide the most antiseptic against infection.

Decker managed to bag a strange looking goat which Lincoln finally identified as an Ibex.  Like most animals taken in the wild, it was gamey, but edible.  People were getting used to that gamey taste, so they did not mind that Alexis could not go out and find some herbs to help cut the flavor.

Mingus filled in as chief cook while his daughter was incapacitated.  Elder Stow and Boston stayed busy with the android repairs.  Decker meditated and let his eagle spirit rise up to see if the Blobs or Anazi were in the air, possibly searching for the missing android.  Lincoln shared what the database had on the Blobs and Anazi in that time period while Alexis, Lockhart and Katie relaxed.lincoln reading

“The Blobs came here when they ran into an overwhelming Anazi fleet in space.  They thought to hide on the sanctuary planet.”  Lincoln paused and added a comment.  “I guess that happened a bunch of time in history.  One more headache for the Kairos.”  He resumed his report.  “The Anazi followed, at least enough to presumably take care of the problem.  Apparently, these androids are a new weapon.  They are designed to follow orders, which is the Anazi way, I guess, but they have enough intelligence to be given general orders and carry them out.”

“Like the Anazi order them to wipe out the Blobs?” Alexis asked.

“Maybe in more detail than that, but yes, in essence.  I’m guessing they qualify as some form of A. I.; that’s artificial intelligence.  So, here is the thing.  The androids use weapons and whatever natural means available to them to fight the Blobs, but when all else fails, they are instructed to let the Blobs eat them.  The Blobs are not helped by eating metal, and the androids are toxic, as Mingus suggested, so in the end they kill the Blobs from the inside-out.”

“Not much sense of self-preservation,” Alexis suggested.

“No,” Lincoln countered.  “They have a strong sense of self-preservation, and use every means they can before they sacrifice themselves.”  He looked again at the database to check his source.  “But they have a crystal chip at the base of the brain which requires obedience and forces them to suicide when there is no other option to achieve their goal.”

“Not anymore,” Elder Stow said as he stepped over from where he was working on the android.  “The crystal at the base of her brain got completely burnt.  I removed it.  I suspected it was a failsafe of some kind to be sure the Androids would not turn on their Anazi builders, but what you say makes sense.  A compulsion to follow Anazi orders, even to the point of suicide would certainly solve the problem.”

“You couldn’t repair it?” Lincoln asked, and kept his sense of panic at bay.

stow e2Elder Stow shook his head.  “But we are not Anazi so it would not be obliged to obey us anyway.  Main systems are functioning.  She is talking to Miss Boston.  It will take a few days to get her more detailed parts functioning properly.  All in all, quite well made for, dare I say, a caveman construction.”  Elder Stow grinned a true Neanderthal grin.  Katie helped Alexis as they went to meet Artie.  Lincoln followed to watch Alexis and concerned that Artie might turn on them like the terminator.

“You know about androids?” Lockhart asked Elder Stow, as Decker rejoined them and Mingus cooked.

“My specialty.  This design is unfamiliar and quite primitive, as I say.  It isn’t capable of much, but the basics are the same for all such constructions.”

“Artificial intelligence doesn’t sound so primitive to me,” Lockhart said.

Elder Stow nodded.  “I guess it is all a matter of where you are coming from.”

“Avalon,” Mingus spoke up.  “The rest of us all came here from Avalon, through the Heart of Time, and if the Kairos in our day was not missing, we could all go home the same way, in an instant.  Alas.  I am left with the words of our good friend Pluckman the dwarf.”  Mingus grinned like the Neanderthal and raised his voice.  “Food.”

Avalon 4.11 part 2 of 8 Anazi versus Blobs

Decker and Lincoln followed the river for miles and found no way across, which is why they came back late to the camp; but Lockhart and Elder Stow found where the river widened, and logically, became shallower.  A couple of small islands in the middle said as much.

“We still have to swim in a couple of places,” Elder Stow admitted.  “But it should not be too hard for the horses.”

Alexis got her shoulder bandaged extra well, and waterproofed the fairy weave around it.  Lincoln watched her the whole way, and hardly watched where he was going.  Boston thought that was cute.  Mingus said nothing.

Decker crossed first, and climbed the small ridge on the other side to take a look around.  He gave the all clear when he got to the top and saw the land flattened out for miles and offered no better cover than scrub grass and thorn bushes.UFO battle 1

Decker took a moment to focus on his totem.  He let his spirit rise up with the eagle, and got a good look at the area from overhead.  He spied some animals, though none too dangerous.  He thought there might be a settlement in the far distance, though he had no idea how big that settlement might be.  If they were in Syria or Iraq 1800 years in the BC, which Lincoln suggested, it was probably a big enough settlement for a wall, like a small city.  Decker did not get the impression that this was a nomadic camp on the horizon.

“Damn.”  Decker’s spirit rushed back to his body, and his horse stomped the ground, nervously.  Something like an F-18 zoomed over his head, much too close to the ground.  It headed toward the rising sun, and three flying ball were chasing it.  “Damn,” he repeated as the balls came even closer to the ground.  He spun and went back down to the water where he saw Lockhart and Katie just coming ashore.

“Elder Stow,” Decker yelled, but Elder Stow was not going to unwrap his scanner until he was on dry ground.  Too bad, because the jet-like ship wheeled around and attacked when a half-dozen more came over the horizon to join it.  Several more flying balls zoomed overhead as the energy blasts began to play hit or miss.  Some blasts struck the ground and caused ferocious explosions.

Lockhart and Katie armed themselves and imagined the battle was a good half-mile away, but Decker knew location was flexible for an air battle.  A half-mile did not mean much.  They could shift to overhead in seconds.

Decker helped Elder Stow to shore and held the Gott-Druk’s horse while Elder Stow got out his scanner.  He punched up the screen as quickly as he could, and it was almost not quick enough.  A stray shot exploded in the riverbank less than half a football field away and sent rocks and small boulders flying in every direction.

ufo battle 5Boston noticed the river stopped running beneath her.  As she and Mingus came ashore, Elder Stow adjusted the screen to not disrupt the flow of the river, while an energy blast from a blob ball hit the screen.  The screen showed a yellow flare for a moment.

“Impressive for a primitive weapon,” Elder Stow said.

“We would all be dead right now if you weren’t here,” Boston told him, and Elder Stow grinned ever so slightly.

Boston, Mingus, Lincoln and Alexis did their best to keep the horses calm, while Katie, Decker and Lockhart studied the progress of the battle.  Katie and Decker got out their binoculars.  Decker gave his to Lockhart while he used the scope on his rifle.  Once Elder Stow had his particle and energy screens stable, he tuned his scanner to took a look at the ships themselves.  His scanner picked up the energy sources for both propulsion and weapons.  He told the others how they functioned, not that anyone understood, but then he paused when he saw something coming down both sides of the river.

“Too late.”  It was the first thing he said, which got everyone’s attention.  “Blobs,” he explained, and in less than a minute they saw Blobs floating down the river and rolling along on both banks.  Small arm fire came in their direction from the other side.  The screen showed no color at all, as it easily deflected the weapons fire, but no one expected the small arms would penetrate.

“Ah!”  Boston shouted when a Blob came right up to the edge of the screen.  It started to roll over their heads, but stopped when it realized something was standing between it and the delicious looking people and horses.  An Anazi jet broke free from the air battle and began to blast the Blobs on the ground, including the one above them.  They imagined the wail of pain as the Blob burned and rolled off the screen.

“No, I cannot make it single sided so you can shoot them,” Elder Stow said.  “I only know how to make a single sided wall which right now would do us no good.”anazi 2

“Are those Anazi.” Katie asked and pointed at the people coming up river.  The people had hand guns, and the Blobs showed that they had some kind of guns to return fire.  The Blobs moved beyond the travelers.  They did not appear interested or concerned about the horses for the moment.  And all the travelers could do was watch.

“They have to be the Anazi,” Lockhart said, though Decker, Katie and Elder Stow did not doubt that.

“They do look human,” Decker suggested.

Elder Stow nodded.  “The basic shape is fairly universal.  Two hands that can grasp, stereoscopic vision up high, two or four legs and so on.”

“Bones, muscles, ligaments, blood, protected brain, heart pump and digestive system…” Alexis, the registered nurse, started listing things.

“What are they doing?” Katie asked.

“Being brave?” Elder Stow answered.

As the line of Anazi and Blobs met, the Anazi did not run.  If anything, they appeared to be running into the Blobs to be eaten, or absorbed by the Blobs.  It looked like suicide.  No one wanted to watch, but just then, they got distracted.  An Anazi jet came overhead, trailing smoke.  Both Boston and Katie swore it was the one who cleared the Blobs from the riverbank around the travelers.  They saw the top of the explosion rise up above the ridge that hemmed in the river.  They did not hear the explosion because of Elder Stow’s screen, but they knew it was a big one.  The did not imagine anyone survived.

UFO battle 2Two Blob balls flew overhead, circled once, no doubt around the wreck, before they zoomed off to rejoin the battle.  The battle began to move downriver.  The Anazi appeared to be pulling back.  The Blobs on the ground were out of range, pushing forward, or eating their way forward.

“No more Blobs on the river, coming.” Elder Stow said.

“I recommend we get while we can,” Decker added.

“Mount up.”  Lockhart put his hand to Katie’s arm to get her attention, though his eyes were on the horses.  Katie paused to smile before she nodded.

The travelers reached the top of the riverbank where they saw a Blob that appeared to be dead.  Without a word, they all moved downriver to examine the alien.

“Don’t get too close,” Lockhart said, but they got close enough to make out the remains of an Anazi warrior in the midst of yellow-green sludge that made up the Blob remains.

“I would guess the Anazi did not agree with him,” Decker said.

“Major,” Katie agreed with a nod.blob dead 2

“The soldier appears to have been toxic,” Mingus said.

“We aren’t toxic,” Lincoln said.  “Maybe we should move on before the Blobs come back.”

No one disagreed, but as they turned toward the crash site, they did not expect to find any survivors.

Avalon 4.11: Being Human, part 1 of 8

After 1820 BC, Babylon of Hammurabi, Kairos 57: Ishtara, Reflection of Ishtar.

Recording …

Lockhart and Elder Stow went east along the river to try and find a place to cross the deep water.  Decker and Lincoln went west.  Mingus took Boston into the woods.  Mingus felt there was so much he had to teach the girl about being an elf, and the time was short.  He had a bad feeling about the days ahead.

Alexis stayed in the camp to tend the fire and watch the horses and the tents.  She was not sure Alexiswhy she ended up the chief cook for the group, but as she thought about it, she decided Lincoln and Lockhart were the next best options.  Katie was learning.  Boston was improving.  That was a kind thought.  Major Decker could cook over an open flame, but Alexis imagined he killed his taste buds at some point early in his military career.  He could make anything edible, and eat it, but god only knew what it would taste like.  They never asked Elder Stow to cook.  To be honest, Father Mingus was probably the next best cook, but he was stuck in the eighteenth century in some ways.  That was the century when Alexis was born, and as head of the Avalon history department, he seemed to have gotten stuck there.  He still thought of cooking as women’s work, and there was no reaching him.

Katie also stayed in the camp, to guard the camp.  Captain Katherine Harper worked a Pentagon desk through graduate school and the first couple of years after getting her doctorate in ancient and medieval history and technology.  That might sound like an odd job for a marine, to study ancient and medieval things, but people dug up things all the time, archeologists and amateurs, and the Pentagon needed an expert to know, bluntly, what was human and what was not.  Alexis supposed it was inevitable that Katie get tangled up with the so-called men in black; not that anyone imagined she would fall in love with Lockhart, the associate director of the men in black.

Alexis looked up to the top of the boulder where Katie sat looking out on the open fields, the woods at her back.  She looked mostly at the river where the water meandered along, like her thoughts.  Alexis knew what Katie was thinking about.  She still had thoughts like that about Lincoln from time to time, and she and Benjamin had been married for more than forty years.  They had children and grandchildren.  When they ended up back at the beginning of time, they needed to go home the slow way—through the time gates.  Fortunately, the Kairos gave each of them a slice of the apple of youth, and made them young again—them and Lockhart.  Three old people wandering through time would have never survived.  Now, being young again, Alexis was thinking about having another baby.  That would have to wait until they got home in a couple of years.  Alexis supposed she might be thirty by then, but that was not too old.

Katie a2Alexis looked up at Katie again.  Katie was twenty-eight, and now Lockhart was an early thirty-something.  They made a wonderful couple, but one that never would have happened if Lockhart stayed sixty-eight.  Alexis wondered if the Kairos knew in advance what would happen.  She shrugged.  She gave up being an elf and became human when she married Benjamin, but she still respected the Kairos more than most mortals.  As an elf, the Kairos had been her god—not a God like God in Heaven, but near enough for all practical purposes.  She still remembered those feelings, and all of the lifetimes of the Kairos she had met thus far gave her no reason to believe those feelings were wrong.  Even now, she felt the Kairos was watching over her, and all of the travelers, even if the Kairos from her day had fallen into the chaos of the Second Heavens, before history began, and was at least temporarily lost.

“So we get to go home the hard way,” Alexis said out loud.  “At least until the Kairos makes it back to Avalon proper.”

Alexis looked again at Katie.  Katie was an elect—a one in a million warrior woman, designed by the gods of old to protect and defend the home, family, and tribe when the men went off to hunt or to war.  She was stronger, faster, and a better fighter than most men.  She loved the adventure of it all, and wanted to be out there with the others, on the front line, as Decker would say, but after some deep soul searching, Katie concluded that her literal ‘god given’ job was to defend the camp.  So she sat on the rock, her marine rifle cradled in her lap, and she no doubt thought about Lockhart, and maybe children.UFO battle 6

Alexis paused as she looked up at the sound.  Katie stood and grabbed her binoculars.  Something shot across the sky.  There were several somethings.  Katie looked fascinated, but Alexis worked back home for the so-called Men in Black organization.  Alien intrusion was nothing new in her world.  Sad, though, to have lost the innocent wonder of it all.

Alexis questioned what was taking the men so long.  She shrugged.  She imagined they would come racing back as soon as they saw the activity in the sky.  She shrugged again.  Men take forever to do anything.  She picked up a piece of wood to put on the fire, and screamed.

Katie turned and saw two Alexises in the camp.  She raised her rifle.  She felt the ghoul’s presence in her mind, but could not tell which Alexis was the real Alexis.  She dared not pull the trigger.

Alexis screamed again, but the ghoul opened its mouth so the scream sounded like it came from the ghoul.  Alexis stepped back, wondering why the ghoul did not attack.  She tripped over a rock.  She fell hard on her side and cut her hands even as she saw the lion.  It had waited, uncertain whether to attack the ghoul or the human.  When Alexis fell, it made up its mind.

lion roaringKatie fired her rife.  She figured the lion might be some ghoul trick, like an illusion, but she could not take the chance.  The ghoul Alexis turned toward the woods even as Mingus and Boston came running.  Boston had her wand out and gave the escaping ghoul a hot butt.  Mingus fired something more like lightning at the lion, which prevented the beast from seriously raking its claw across Alexis’ shoulder.  She got a bad scratch, but then Katie fired a series of shots on automatic, and the lion collapsed for good.

Mingus went straight to Alexis.  He gently helped her to get free of the rocks.  She had one hand on her bleeding shoulder, and the other elbow against her ribs where she imagined at least one was cracked.  Mingus made her sit on a rock and he carefully tended her wounds while Katie and Boston joined them.

“I don’t have my Beretta,” Boston reminded them.  “I would have shot the ghoul, but I lost my belt with my big honking knife and my handgun.  Sorry.”

“I saw two Alesixes,” Katie confessed.  “I didn’t know which was the real one or I would have shot the ghoul.”

“No, ladies.  It was my fault,” Mingus interrupted.  “I never should have taken young Boston from the camp.  There is a reason why we have three on watch all through the night.  A ghoul can affect only one mind at a time.  We should have stayed in the camp; the four of us together.”

“Father?”  Alexis noticed some tears in his eyes.  Alexis knew she was a natural healer.  Whatever was wrong with her, she would heal fast, like an elect; like Katie.  In the meanwhile, it certainly hurt enough.

Mingus finished bandaging her shoulder and shook his head as he spoke.  “The reason I kidnapped you, twice, was to keep you safe.  A daughter should not die before her father.”

Alexis took her good hand and touched his to say she understood.  Boston and Katie said nothing. fire Cooking fire 2 Mingus turned away and kicked the dead lion before he got out his knife to skin the beast.

“Lion steaks tonight,” Alexis said, and winced because of the pain in her ribs.  Boston reached out to her, but there was not much anyone could do.  Katie stirred the fire and Alexis finished her thought.  “Katie.  You and Boston will have to cook tonight.”

“I’ll cook it,” Mingus said, sharply.  “Lion is tough and full of gristle.  You have to know how to fix it to make it edible.

Katie went back up on her lookout.  Boston stayed with Alexis.  Lockhart and Elder Stow rode in after a few minutes.

“I heard gunfire,” Lockhart raised his voice, and they told him what happened.

“I burned the ghoul’s butt, but that was it,” Boston said in a voice somewhere between pride and an apology.

“I did not dare shoot.  It looked like Alexis,” Katie did apologize.

Lockhart gave her a quick peck on the lips.  “You did the right thing.”

Decker and Lincoln came in an hour later.  “What happened?” Decker asked.

“Benjamin,” Alexis called him, and he leapt down from his horse and ran to her.

Avalon 4.1: part 6 of 6, Mikos and His Dad

Blueblood and sevarese fighters moved in a pattern impossible to follow. Obviously they were computer controlled for random, evasive maneuvers while gunners fired at every chance target, but to anticipate and guess a move in that dogfight appeared impossible.  Shots went everywhere, and the land below took a beating.  The travelers were protected behind elder Stow’s screen, but the seals suffered.  They appeared to be abandoning the beach where there were explosions here and there as random shots hit the dirt.

“But the sea there is presently full of sharks,” Cletus objected right along with Alexis and Boston.

“And they are with young,” Alexis pointed out.Seals on rocky shore

“Between the rock and the hard place,” Mikos mumbled.

“From the frying pan to the fire,” Lincoln added his own mumble.

Two sevarese fighters went down fairly quickly, but two blueblood fighters followed when they broke off to attack the transport ship and found the transport heavily armed.  The transport looked ready to enter the fray, but a blueblood transport came in from the north and landed just over a small rise in the ground where the two transports would be hidden from each others weapons.

The fighters hardly had time to worry about the ships beneath them.  At the same time, though, it was beginning to look like the various computers were adjusting for the work and speed of the gunners.  No one was making close to a good shot.  And all this while, Mikos stood with Elder Stow’s scanner in his hand, until at last he yelled now and threw a switch.

Everyone felt the wind, like the sudden inrush of air to fill a vacuum.  Two sevarese and one blueblood fighter crashed into a wall of force that sprang up suddenly between the combatants.  The fighters backed off, each on their own side.  Several shots were fired, but they reflected back and endangered the shooter, so that quickly stopped.

“What did you do?” Alexis asked.

“A wall to separate the combatants,” Lockhart responded as he waited on Eder Stow.

“Sevarese coming out of the transport,” Katie shouted from behind the rock where she had an eye on the combatants.

Stow 2Elder Stow shook his head.  “I don’t know how he did that.  The scanner is not built for that.”

“Bluebloods on the hill,” Decker added from his position.  Renglar tapped Decker’s shoulder and pointed.  One of the blueblood fighters landed.

“Here.”  Elder Stow handed his communicator to Lockhart and Lockhart spoke into it like he was speaking into a police megaphone.

“Bring all your ships to the ground.  The battle is over for now, and anyone who tries to continue the fight will be shot,” he spoke in sevarese.  “I want commanders from both sides to come here and we will discuss a mutual withdrawal from hostilities.”  Lockhart nudged Elder Stow and pointed up as he switched to the blueblood frequencies to repeat his message in the blueblood tongue.

One of the sevarese fighters began to gain altitude, like he wanted to try and go over the wall of force.  Elder Stow aimed carefully with his hand weapon and clipped the fighter wing.  It came down a bit hard, but at least it did not explode.

“Let us hope that is it,” Elder Stow said.  “I admit it was a lucky shot.”

“They are discussing it,” Boston reported.  “I can’t hear either side very well.”

“I can,” Mingus stood.  “They will come to hear what you have to say.”

Mikos readjusted the scanner so the protective screen once again covered the group.  He stepped to the edge of the screen between Decker and Katie, and called Cletus to join him.  Lockhart and Elder Stow came on their own.

“I love your red hair,” Cletus had to say it once more before he hurried.

Before the commanders arrived, Renglar interrupted everyone.  “Lord Akos, your dad is here.”  He pointed.  Everyone dutifully looked where he pointed.  A man had Katie bent back and his lips were locked to hers.  She looked to be struggling, but maybe not too hard.kiss of passion 1

“Dad!” Mikos shouted.

The man let go and stepped back with a smile on his face.  Katie named him.

“Ares.”

“Katherine,” Ares bowed slightly.  “You Amazons make my blood boil.”

“Dad, you were told to stay away from my Amazons.”

“I’m not technically an Amazon,” Katie said.

Mikos stepped over to grab Ares by the arm.  “You are by adoption,” he told Katie.  “Zoe says that is the way all of the first Amazons joined the Amazon nation.”

“What?” Ares asked, but he was not moving from his spot.

“I could use your help to get these morons to stop fighting on this planet, and to help me send their war back out into space where it belongs,” Mikos spoke frankly.

“What?” Ares repeated himself, but he allowed Mikos to drag him over to the meeting with the sevarese and blueblood commanders.  “I was just getting into the fight when you stopped it.  Good trick, putting up that wall of force, by the way.  I’m tempted to follow them into space so I can watch them blast each other.”  He looked up at Decker.  “Major, do you realize my son here invented naval warfare.  I’m so proud of him.  Okay, Nalishayas started the whole pirate thing, but my son made the first marine boarding party. He put rams on the front of his ships, and all sorts of things.  I used to think the sea was just a big waste of space, but now I see it has a warfare aresunique to itself.  It is fascinating.”  Ares eventually ran down.

“God of war?” Decker was just checking.

Yes, that’s right.” Ares said

“Dad.”  Mikos finally got his attention.  The sevarese and blueblood commanders were waiting as patiently as they could.  Ares turned to the aliens and spoke suddenly like his words were on fire.  The visage of the god alone was enough to make everyone cover their eyes and tremble.

“Much as I would enjoy it, there will be no more fighting on this planet.  Not now.  Not ever.  We will be sending you back into space, either on your ships or as space dust.  The choice is yours.”  Ares took a step back and grinned.

Three of the four sevarese fainted, and one looked like he might be dead.  One blueblood was screaming and running for his life. the other three buebloods appeared to have soiled themselves.  Lockhart, Decker, Katie and Elder Stow were no strangers to the anger of the gods, but they all felt glad that was not directed at them.  They trembled, and Elder Stow seemed to have a bit of trouble closing his mouth.

Mikos spoke quickly.  “Renglar, watch the ship.  Lockhart, stay here.  The time gate should come to Mikos 2you.  Goran and crew, you can return to your ship on the transport.  Cletus, you are with me and get your eyes off Boston.  She is married.  Dad, keep your hands off Captain Harper.”  Ares glanced at Katie and smiled.  “Sevarese first,” Mikos finished, and all the sevarese, their ships and equipment vanished along with Ares, Mikos and Cletus.  They would no doubt reappear far in the east beside the sevarese main ship.

“My.  People do come and go so quickly around here,” Alexis said, and she and Lincoln put their hands to their ears as if listening for something

“What?” Boston asked as she got the amulet out to see exactly where the gate was and how far away.

“We are waiting for the munchkins to giggle.”

“Wizard of Oz, right?” Katie guessed.

“Yes, of course,” Lockhart said.  He turned with a word for Alexis and Lincoln.  “We are still working on generational differences.”  He lifted his hand to wave to Goran, Clomb and Lulu who were returning to their ship on the transport parked over the rise.  He noticed a cut on the back of his hand, and felt the need to scratch it.  Katie saw, grabbed the hand and growled.

“What?” Lockhart said, sounding very much like Ares.

“As long as she is not near any human women to transfer the pregnancy, I figure nine months from now there will be a half-blueblood, half-Lockhart baby born somewhere in space.”

“What?  I think I banged it on Decker’s rock over there,” Lockhart said.

“That Lulu better not come back here.  I may have to kill her.”

“Oh, yeah.  I’m sure Ares would be glad to teach you any number of ways to do that.”

Lockhart and Katie turned away from each other, and Lockhart checked Boston’s amulet.  The time gate was just down the narrow rocky beach down from the seal beach. She imagined it the edge of the water, but it might have been out in the surf.

the-wizard-of-oz“We best go now,” Lincoln said. “It might not take Mikos long to settle with the sevarese and move to the blueblood ship, at which point the time gate might shift to almost anywhere.”

“Pack up,” Lockhart agreed.  He looked at Katie, but Katie ignored him.  Boston smiled for Alexis and wanted to say that Wizard of Oz comment was great, but Alexis ignored her.  Meanwhile, Elder Stow talked to Decker, but he did not appear to be talking to anyone else.

Father Mingus, an empathetic elf with mind magic no less, caught all of the confusion and upset.  He decided they might as well head into an ice time zone.  It would not be any colder that the feelings he was getting right there.

************************

There is no place like home, but without ruby slippers, getting there can take a while.

Next Monday, Avalon episode 4.2, The Storm Overhead begins.  Something comes with the rain.  See you then, and Happy Reading…

a a hr calvin 2

 

Avalon 4.1: part 2 of 6, Prisoners

The horses stayed in the cargo area while the people got carried into the inner halls, disappearing behind the doors.  Both Elder Stow and Mingus stopped Boston from following.

“We need to keep track of the horses so we can be ready to go when we help the others escape,”  Mingus said.

“I’m picking up strong sub-light capability and good gravometric balance, but I doubt this little Stow 1transport will be headed off world,” Eder Stow said.  When he saw that the elder elf was not interested in his techno-babble, he added, “I doubt the others will be harmed before we reach the main ship, wherever that may be.”

Boston shouted from the small window.  “I just like flying.  All those trees down below.  Look, a herd of animals.  They look like ants.”

Elder Stow looked at Mingus as he spoke.  “She keeps things in perspective.”

Mingus nodded.  “She focuses on the important things.”

###

Katie was the first to wake, but Lockhart and Decker were not far behind.  Lockhart at least had the good sense to groan as he sat up.  Alexis and Lincoln took a little longer, and Lincoln stayed dizzy for a bit.

“Just lie still and relax,” Alexis told him.  “It doesn’t look like we will be going anywhere soon.”

They were locked in an inner room with several small cots and a small table with two small chairs.  Their guns, knives, belts, and Alexis’ medical bag had all been taken from them.

“Not giants,” Decker nudged a little chair and spoke the obvious.

“The ones I saw in Etana’s day were four or five feet tall,” Lincoln said as he sat up and put one hand to his head.  “Flesh eaters, as I said.  They had developed a taste for human flesh.”

“We all saw them in Hadj’s day,” Alexis reminded everyone.

“With the Pendratti,” Katie remembered.  “That was two or three time zones ago, maybe a hundred and fifty years or so.  Do you think they are still fighting each other?”

lincoln 1Lockhart shrugged and everyone looked at Lincoln who patted his pockets.  Lincoln’s eyes got big and he sat up suddenly wide awake and said, “It’s gone.  The database.”  He stood to more thoroughly check his pockets.  “I was reading it when we were struck.  I must have dropped it.”  He hoped the sevarese did not take it.  The information in the database could change the whole course of history.

“Maybe Elder Stow picked it up,” Katie suggested, before she explained to everyone.  “I saw him go invisible right before I passed out.”  Katie pulled out the amulet they needed to point to the next time gate, and also the necklace she never took off.  That necklace was a camera, matched to the one on Decker’s ring.  They transmitted to a part alien digital device she carried in her pack.  She imagined the recorder would hold several years of recording, twenty-four hours a day, before it ran out of room.  Last she checked it was not a quarter full.  She quickly put her things away, but Alexis noticed.

“At least they did not strip us when they took us prisoner,” Alexis said.

Katie nodded.  “They probably thought the amulet was just a decorative piece.  That is how it is Katie 5disguised.”

“That Neanderthal is quick when his skin is on the line,” Decker interrupted.  He was checking the walls to see if there was a crack in the construction.

“I hope Boston, Mingus and Elder Stow are all right,” Katie said.

Alexis sighed some unexplained unhappiness.  “Me too.”  Then she added, “And Misty Gray, wherever the horses are.”

“I imagine the horses may be supper,” Decker said as he turned from the wall and took a seat on one of the small chairs.  “I instructed Weber to give indigestion to whoever eats him.”  Decker fidgeted a little, like he felt half naked not having a gun and knife at his side.

Lincoln sat back on the cot, leaned his head to the wall, and put a hand back to his forehead.  “What do you imagine they will do with us?” he asked.

Decker 7“The ones we saw in Hadj’s day seemed pretty military,” Lockhart said.  “I imagine they will go by the book and interview us first.”  He looked at the Major and the Captain.  Katie nodded as if to say that was right.  Decker quipped with a look at Lincoln.

“Maybe they like to play with their food first.”

###

The five travelers stood quietly and waited while the sevarese at the table looked at what might have doubled for a computer tablet.  Decker looked around the inside of the small cave and counted the sevarese that surrounded them with guns drawn.  Lincoln looked for cracks and openings in the back wall of the cave, a habit he had picked up on their journey since he did not like to be surprised by whatever goblins, trolls or dwarfs might be hiding back there.  Lockhart, Katie and Alexis examined their host, his small stature, beak-like nose, and feather-like hair. and they waited politely until he spoke.

“Oh, this is telling me nothing but mythology and the delusions of my ancients,” the sevarese at the table spoke with a clear sound of frustration in his voice.  He set the tablet on the table rather roughly and looked up at the humans.  “I am Glory Cata, and my claw trailed a Blueblood ship to this world, and you appeared.  We know the bluebloods have gotten into our historical records and corrupted many things.  Your appearance is too much for coincidence, but the bluebloods missed one key point.  Your species does not live that long.”UFO Birdman 1

“I don’t know what record you are looking at that mentions us, but if it does, it probably notes that we are time travelers,” Lockhart tried to be helpful, and friendly.

“Yes,” Glory Cata made a face that they all guessed was a smirky little smile.  He showed no teeth, but he had three tongues that looked like they could tear things up pretty well. “But we know that time travel is impossible, so the obvious conclusion is you are blueblood spies.”

“To what end?”  Lockhart asked.

“I don’t know,” Glory Cata went back to sounding frustrated.  “To draw us out.  To discover our base of operations.  To detonate yourselves.  Who knows?”

“Excuse me,” Lincoln interrupted.  “If you have any record at all of this world, then it should show that this word is off limits.  You should not even be here.”

“The bluebloods came here, so we came here.  Once we have wiped them out then we will leave and neither of us will be here.”

UFO Birdman 3“I don’t think the gods will accept that bit of ill-logic,” Alexis said.

“That’s another thing,” Glory Cata yelled as he picked up the tablet.  “This fantasy of my ancestors speaks of spirits in the earth and the sky and some with powers like gods.  Who can believe such tales?  Look here, what is a ghu-ail?”

“Ghoul,” Lockhart corrected, quietly.

“And who is this Kay-ro … ros?”

“Kairos,” Lockhart continued.  “He is one who will be seriously unhappy that you have prevented us from continuing our journey.”

“He makes the Kairos sound like syrup,” Katie whispered.

“And I suppose this imaginary Kay-ros and his imaginary gods will come and enforce the off limits for this planet.”

“I don’t know about that,” Lockhart said, “But I suggest you figure out why this planet is marked off limits before you do something drastic that you may regret.”

Glory Cata paused with his mouth open.  His tongues clicked against his nose-beak like he was fishing out some string of food that got caught up in there, like a person might pick their teeth.  Suddenly, the severese raised his feather-covered hands and returned to his bad attitude.  “It is a blueblood trick.  It must be.”  Glory Cata gave the travelers his best, mean stare.  “Where are the blueblood located?  Where is their battleship?”

Glory Cata picked up a stick and touched Alexis with the other end of it.  Alexis gasped and shook,  She squeezed her eyes tight while everyone jumped.  Lincoln pulled her away and felt the electrical charge, like a shot with a taser.  Gory Cata spoke again while Alexis caught her breath.

“Speak up.  I will not ask so nicely again.”  When the travelers said they had no idea where the bluebloods were located, Glory Cata added one more word.  “Lock them with the others until I decide what to do with them.”

“Our horses?” Katie asked while they were escorted out of the room.

“Locked away for now,” the sevarese answered.  “I heard they are poisonous.  Too bad.”Alexis 6

“Father Mingus,” Alexis smiled and whispered to the others while Lincoln helped her move.  “He must have convinced the sevarese the horses could not be eaten.  He is pretty good with mind magic.”

“Not as good as a ghu-ail,” Lincoln joked, and Decker and Lockhart both gave Lincoln a look that said how dare he steal their line.

Avalon 4.1: A Time for War, part 1 of 6

After 2395 BC around the Aegean.  Kairos 47: Mikos, Akos of Akoshia

Recording …

Katie checked the amulet that had been placed in her hands, and pointed a little to their left.  It was the prototype, not as sophisticated as the one Boston wore around her neck, but it pointed well enough to the next time gate, and that was all that mattered.  To be honest, she hardly gave it a thought as her mind was occupied with another matter.

“I’m worried about Elder Stow,” she said out loud.  “He is being so quiet.  I remember Lincoln read from the database that Neanderthals, I mean, the Gott-Druk are naturally gregarious and very family oriented people.  I thought he was finally starting to open up and accept us as family, but suddenly he has gone back to being all stiff and formal.”

“I don’t know,” Lockhart said.  “He isn’t human.  I don’t think we can judge him in human ways.”

Katie nodded.  “If he was human, I would say he is acting like a petulant teenager.”

Lockhart nodded.  “But he isn’t.”

“But Mingus and now Boston are not human, either.” Katie did not finish her thought.avaloncover1

“Yes, but Boston was human,” Lockhart responded.  “Besides, I have come to accept that elves, dwarfs, and even dark elves and the rest are still native to this planet.  The Gott-Druk are no longer welcome here, at least not since the flood.”

“Do you think there really was a flood?”

“We saw the boat on the mountain.  That is some pretty hard evidence.”

“And the tower of Shinar, we saw with our own eyes.” Katie nodded with glee, but one eye went to look at Eder Stow who was dutifully riding out on the flank.

“Speaking of Mingus and Boston,” Lockhart said to distract Katie’s attention.  “Are they keeping up?

Katie looked back.  Father Mingus was instructing his new daughter.

“Now Miss Riley, invisibility is hard, it takes some real concentration, but I am sure you can do it,” Mingus encouraged her.  “Let the end of your wand be the focal point for your magic.  That is what wands are good for.”

“It’s hard,” Boston complained, sounding like a young child.  “Besides, I’m afraid I’m going to set myself or Honey on fire.”

“Now, I know the Amazons called you Little Fire,” Mingus spoke kindly.  “But you should not fear the spark inside you.  I have looked with the mind magic, and you have a fine roaring flame, but invisibility comes from a different section of your brain, and I have seen that you can do it.  You must trust, and not me.  You must trust yourself.”

Boston nodded, but she did not look too sure.

Alexis, riding in front of Mingus and Boston, spurred her horse to catch up to where Katie and Lockhart were watching out ahead.  She left Lincoln to read whatever he was reading in the database, and made a face of disgust that Katie noticed.

“He is treating her like a porcelain doll,” Alexis groused.

Alexis t2“Not the way you remember your childhood?” Lockhart guessed.

Alexis shook her head.  “Okay, it was the eighteenth century, but I got whippings with a switch when I got something wrong or didn’t do what I was told.”

“Whippings?” Katie sounded shocked.  She could not imagine light elves doing anything of the kind.  She still thought they were all peaceful, loving vegetarians, despite her experience of watching them in battle.

“Maybe not whippings, but near enough.  People don’t realize that the little spirits of the earth parallel human behavior much more than any want to admit.  The magic and all seems like such a great divide, but we all think and feel the same.  We marry after a fashion, and have families.  We all raise our children to do what is right, more or less.  And we share emotions like love, hate and fear.”

“I suppose that is true,” Lockhart said.

“I really hadn’t thought of it that way,” Katie admitted, and one eye went again to Elder Stow.

“I am not downplaying the differences, which in some ways are profound and eternal, but we share more in common than most know or admit.”

“And right now you are jealous of Boston?” Lockhart was seeking clarification.

Alexis lowered her eyes to think, but everyone else lifted their eyes to look overhead.  Decker rode in from the flank and pointed up.  It was a good sized ship of uncertain markings, and unfortunately, there was no cover to which they could run and hide, only a few small trees over where Elder Stow stopped in the shadows to watch.

The ship flew in a big arc before it circled back toward the travelers, who dismounted but did not move from where they were.  What was the point?  They were obviously seen.

“I don’t recognize the markings,” Decker said.

“I don’t either,” Lockhart confessed

“Just coming to it.” Lincoln had the database out.

“What do you suppose they want with us?” Decker asked.

“Don’t know that they do,” Katie responded before Lockhart explained, drawing on knowledge gleaned from his years with the Men in Black..UFO battle 1

“We are an unusual sight in this day and environment.  They may have scanners that picked up the worked metal content of our weapons, for example.  I’m guessing they are just interested in a good look.”

“They might have as much interest in the horses as us,” Mingus suggested as he rode up and got down to join the group.  Boston stood in her stirrups and waved before she got down.

“Not Marzalotipan, I hope,” Katie frowned at the thought of another visit by those interstellar used car salesmen.

“No.  The marking match sevarese markings,” Lincoln said.  “They are bird men, too, but very different.  The last ones I met, in Etana’s day, were flesh eaters, human flesh.”  Before he could explain further, a green light came from the ship and bathed the travelers.  All of the people, fell unconscious.  The horses were stunned, but remained on their feet.

“Quick as you can,” Mingus said and grabbed a groggy Boston’s hand.  They ran at super speed to the trees and bushes where Eder Stow was just then turning himself invisible.  “Now, girl, get invisible,” he ordered, and Boston was motivated.  She succeeded as Elder Stow’s horse wandered over to join the others.

When the ship landed, the sevarese rounded up the horses and people to bring them aboard.  “Follow me,” Elder Stow said, and he snuck, invisible, into the ship.  Mingus and Boston, who could still see him and hear him, followed.  Elder Stow could not see the elves until Mingus made a window so just the Elder could see him.

“An advanced lesson,” he told Boston.  Boston nodded.  She had enough to do to keep herself from suddenly appearing and being seen by everyone.

Boston LF1