Avalon 5.7 Little Lost Lamb, part 1 of 6

After 1294 BC Kadesh.  Kairos 66: Utumari, the Hittite


The travelers tried never to go through a time gate in the dark, but the events in the last time zone necessitated some quick action.  Artie went through first and found herself in a whirlwind that took her up into the sky.  She tried to yell for help but the wind blew too strong and blinded her with dust.  She had to keep her head down, and how she held on to her horse, Freedom, she never knew.

Artie came down in a glade on a hill overlooking a wide river valley.  Freedom, stiff legged, staggered for a minute while she stroked his neck and said soothing words.  Eventually, he seemed to come out of his trance and snorted, twice.  She got down, but held tight to the reins for fear of losing him.

“Freedom,” she spoke out loud.  “Do you know where we are?  I don’t see the others anywhere.  Hello.” she called out as loud as she could.  “Hello.”  the trees seemed to block her sound.  “Hello.  Katie.  Alexis.  Boston.  Lockhart, daddy.  I’m scared.”

Freedom nudged her shoulder and she patted his nose.  “I think we’re lost,” she said.  “I better check the supplies.”  Her things were packed by her sister, Sekhmet, and the goddess may have mixed some things up in the rush, she imagined.  Her one saddle bag had her collapsed fairy weave tent and blanket, with Freedom’s brush, her brush and some other necessities.  The other saddle bag had her small pot, pan, cup, plate, and silverware, with some bread crackers Mother Katie gave her for emergency, as well as some medical things and supplies such as everyone had.

“It looks all right to me,” Artie said.  “We may get tired of eating bread crackers.”  She thought she remembered some plants Alexis showed her that were good to eat, but she did not know if she was in any place where those plants might grow.  She had her handgun, of course, and Elder Stow just charged it, so it was fully charged for the time being.  She did not imagine she could use it to hunt, though.  She had a good knife in with her brushes, but she did not know if she could skin and cut up an animal.  She felt sure she could cook it if someone else cut it up.  Alexis and Katie taught her a bunch about that, and she wanted to learn because since she became human, she found she got hungry a lot more often than she used to.

“I don’t know,” Artie told Freedom.  “I know we should be sleeping, but I’m trying not to think about sleeping, all alone in the wilderness.  We could go down to the river, I suppose.  Then at least we could have some fresh water.”  She mounted and started down the gentle slope, and after a moment, she called out again.  “Lincoln.  Decker.  Elder Stow.  Mom and Dad.  Hello?”  No one answered, so she stopped yelling.  She did not want to attract the wrong sort of creatures or people.

The moon came up, a half moon, but she saw it out over the river when she started, so she knew if she headed toward the moon, eventually she would come to the water.  That seemed easy enough.

Artie scolded herself.  She did not listen when Lincoln read about the place they were going.  She should not have been daydreaming.  Oh, but that wedding and the love.  All that love in one place.  She never imagined life could be like that.  She wondered why her life couldn’t be like that.

“Because I have responsibilities,” she answered herself.  “I have duties, as Decker would say.  I am pledged to set my people free, and that is what I am going to do.” She paused and sighed.  “Oh, but it would be so very nice.”  She turned her mind from such fantasies as Freedom stepped over a bubbling brook.

She thought about when she had been an android.  She was a soldier, and a dominant at that.  She had military training, not the kind that could skin and cut up animals, but the kind that might help her think through troubles and situations if she ever faced troubles and situations.  She hoped she did not have to face such things.

“At least this world does not have banthafars,” she said to herself, and felt a chill that made her look all the way around her as she rode. “No,” she said.  “This world has lions, or tigers, and bears, oh my.”  She remembered Lockhart adding the ‘oh my’, even if she did not know why.

“Lockhart,” she called, not too loud.  “Robert Lockhart, I’m calling you.  I’m scared.  I’m trying to be brave, but I’m scared and all alone… Daddy.”  She was not going to cry.  She refused to cry.  She was going to be brave and not cry.

A half-hour later, she stopped crying suddenly when she saw a campfire in the distance.  She hustled Freedom, but slowed down when she got close.  There was no reason to believe it was her family.  It might be an enemy, or thieves, or something worse.  She stopped in the dark and peered in toward the fire.

“They are camped on the riverbank,” she said to Freedom, and patted his neck to keep him quiet.  “Good eating for you, and maybe I could share some bread for some other food.”  She had to think about that.  She inched closer.  She saw a young man, feeding the fire and staring here and there into the wilderness, though how he expected to see anything in the dark when his eyes were fire blinded, she did not know.

Suddenly, a figure loomed up in front of her and Freedom bucked.  Artie held on and yelled.  “Hey!  That’s not nice.”  Freedom ran, but she got him under control in a moment and after an agonizing moment to think, she turned around and went back to the fire.

“Hello,” she called out of the dark.  “I’m not going to hurt you.”  A young man stood up and an older man had appeared to join him.  “How many are you?” she asked.  She decided if they were a big group, she would ride on.

“Hello,” the young man shouted back.  The older man hushed him.

“Young lady,” the older man said in a voice that didn’t sound sincere.  “We are just two, and we won’t harm you.  We have some meat on the fire if you are hungry, and we promise not to disturb you if you are tired and wish to sleep.  Um…how many are you?”

“Just me,” Artie said as Freedom poked his nose into the firelight followed by her.  She got down and immediately began to take off Freedom’s saddle.  She took out her pot and handed it to the young man with instructions to fill it with water.  Then she finished dressing down her horse and let him trot to the river for a drink.  She honestly should have checked first for crocodiles or snakes, but she felt so tired, she did not think straight.  She put her bundle of a tent on the ground and said, “Tent.”  The tent expanded, and she would get in it in a little bit.

The old man said, “Oh my,” and sat down, astounded by her magic.  After a minute, he added a thought.  “That is some horse you have.  I have seen horses, of course.  The Hittite lords use them to drive their chariots.  But I have never seen one ridden quite like the way you ride your horse.”

Artie watched the old man and nodded at what he said while she got out her big knife and strapped it to her belt on which she also had her handgun.  It was the only thing she wore which was not fairy weave.  She took it off when she slept, of course, but even in the tent with Katie, she kept her weapon close to her hand, just to be safe.

“I’m looking for seven friends who also ride such horses,” Artie said.  “I came into this place from another world, and I seem to have lost them.”

“Another world?”

Artie nodded.  “I was in Egypt an hour ago.  About three days’ ride from Bubastis.  I came through… a magical gate, but I am not sure where I have arrived.  You mentioned the Hittites.  Is this Hittite land?”

“The edge of it, yes,” he said.  “But we are not on the trade route or a city, so they mostly ignore us.”

Artie nodded.  These men did not live in any place of military importance.  The young man returned with her pot, and she said, “Thank you.” And put it on the fire to warm the water.  The young man smiled.

“You are very welcome.”  He sat down by the old man and Artie caught herself glancing at him and his smile again.  “Sorry if Father startled you.  He thought you were a bear.”

Artie stopped what she was doing.  “Bear?”  She did not sound too thrilled by the idea.  “Are there bears around here?”

“Not many,” the old man said.  “Some up in the hills where not many people live.  Many have been hunted out, but it is something to be careful about, when you camp near the water and have meat cooking.”

Artie’s stomach grumbled at the thought of cooking meat.  “I’ll remember that,” she said.

“My son should remember that,” the old man said.

“So, you have heard some of my story.  Tell me, why are you wandering in the wilderness, just the two of you?”

The young man looked at his father before he spoke.  “We went to visit a cousin, a two-day walk.  His wife’s family has a girl…”

“And what was wrong with Minlah?” the father asked.  He did not look happy.  Instead of talking, the young man tried to show by making faces and in mime, but Artie did not get much out of the show other than the impression that the girl was rather large.  For some reason she wanted to laugh.  She did a little, but covered her mouth and sat.  She stared at the fire.  She felt so tired.  Finally, the young man did say something.

“I’m Naman.  My father is Abinidab.  Do you have a name?”

“Artie,” she said.  “That’s short for Arthur.”  She had a bread cracker out, and though the water hardly felt warm in such a short time, she felt famished.  She made a loaf of bread, and she broke it and shared it.

Naman and Abinidab stared at the magic, open jawed, before the old man got up.  “Where are my manners,” he said.  He cut her a generous slice of whatever meat they had cooking and handed it to her, before he cut a slice for himself.  He let his son, Naman cut his own.  It was chewy and full of gristle, but it warmed her, and she chewed as much as she could.

“Thank you,” she said the word again before she went back to staring at the fire.  Finally, she felt too tired to do anything other than sleep.  She stood.  Both sets of eyes lifted to her and stared at her, but she had no more conversation in her.  She called.  “Freedom,” and the horse came close to the fire.  “Don’t wander off tonight,’ she said, and added, “Goodnight.”  She went in her tent and fell into her bed.

Avalon 5.1 Sirens Are for Emergencies, part 4 of 6

“Thalia,” Alesandros called from the entrance to the temple.

“Here,” a woman called back from the front of the great room, though no one could see her.

“We have company,” Alesandros said, and led the travelers toward the front.

Though it may have been as big, the temple hardly looked like some cathedral on the inside, since the inside was filed with regularly spaced roof support posts, that Katie called “Aeolian Columns.”  She said, “It is the only way to build such a big open space, though it makes the space appear not so big and open.”

When they got to the front, they found a woman of about thirty-five years or so, who was just beginning to become plump as some women did when they got older. Age was hard for the twenty-first century people to judge, because before the twentieth century, people aged more rapidly, and showed it.  The woman welcomed them, as Alesandros stepped up and gave her a quick kiss.

“I found these people in the village.  They are not like any I have ever seen or heard of, but they seem to know the lady, and I get the impression they may even be friends with her.”

The travelers were busy taking in the view.  The cathedral had a sacristy, set apart by a railing.  Most of the space was taken by a long table filled with bread, fish and flowers.  They could smell the fish.  Off to the left was a stone statue which Katie claimed was remarkable for the time-period.  The statue was of a most beautiful and noble woman who appeared to be walking on the sea.  Her right hand was lowered to pet the head of a rising dolphin.  In her left arm, she held a baby, wrapped in a blanket and close to her breast.  Over her left shoulder, a fairy fluttered, with a look on her face that said, ‘this is fun’.

Lincoln was especially taken by what he saw behind the altar.  It appeared a narrow opening that covered the whole back wall, like the biggest picture window, except without glass.  Obviously, a roof overhang protected the temple floor from the rain, but the window without glass showed the rain in all its fury.  Great strokes of lightning flashed over the sea and across the sky to light up the night.

“Nice view,” he mumbled.

“Yes,” Thalia responded, as Alesandros went to pull the curtains.  He helped the travelers set out places to sleep while Thalia continued.  “It is a small way down to the cliffs that overlook the bay and the sea.  On a clear day, I can see for miles.  I sometimes come and sit here, and look out on the sea for hours and hours.  I never knew the beauty and wonder of it all until I became friends with Amphitrite.”

“Thalia and Amphitrite are best friends, since they were young.” Alesandros said.

“On Akalantas,” Lincoln said, and Thalia stared at him.

“Yes, how did you know?”

Alexis answered.  “My husband keeps the database and reads it when we are not looking.”

“Lovely table,” Boston interrupted.  She felt something warm to look at it, knowing that all these gifts were offered to the Kairos, in a sense, and now that she had become an elf, that was her goddess, too.

“Altar,” Katie corrected her.

“Of course,” Thalia acted like she was forgetting her manners.  “If you are hungry, please take what you wish.  Some of the bread is very good.  Our lady would not wish any to go hungry.”

“We ate in the meeting house,” Alesandros said, giving Thalia another quick kiss.

“Don’t people object to taking the food offered to the goddess?” Katie asked.

“Not here,” Thalia said, with a big smile.  “We do not waste the offerings.  In the morning, the mothers will come and give thanks, and the food will go to feed the children.  Besides, after too long, the fish starts to stink, so it all works out well.  A few people collect and bring offerings every day.  We gather the village here about every fifteen days, and some come from other villages to join us.  We get people here from the cities up the coast every season, and we have seasonal celebrations…”

“And we get to share the love of our great lady,” Alesandros added, and this time, she kissed him.

“Too bad the children can’t eat the flowers,” Artie said, wistfully.

“Yes, well, some are not suited for hunting or fishing, or for baking bread,” Thalia knitted her brows for one minute before she called.  “Lilac, come here and meet our friends.”

“Yes, Lady,” the travelers heard a sweet voice before they saw a beautiful young woman of about eighteen years at most, step out from a dark corner where apparently, no one looked.  At least Alexis felt that was what they were supposed to think.  Alexis felt suspicious, and it got confirmed when Boston stepped up and spoke.

“Hello fairy.”

“Hello elf,” the young girl responded.

“My name is Boston.”

“My name is Lilac.”

“You can get little if you want.  My friends won’t hurt you,” Boston said, and removed her glamour to show herself, pointed ears and all.  “See?”

Lilac glanced at Thalia who closed her mouth and gave a slight nod.  Lilac immediately returned to fairy size, and fluttering her wings, came right up to Boston to commiserate on nothing in particular.

“I see you have your own little one to worry about,” Thalia said with a look on her face that said she was not unhappy about it.  “Mine keeps me young and is my heart.”

Elder Stow interrupted before anyone else could respond.  “My mother. My father.  I have worn my glamour faithfully for a long time.  It is as you said, I mostly forget it is even there.  But it would be a great kindness to me if I could take it off, just for this night.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Katie said, and with a brief look at Thalia, and Alesandros, who came up to slip his arm over his wife’s shoulders, she looked at Lockhart.

Lockhart looked unsure.

Elder Stow said, “I am sure I would sleep better, and maybe not snore so much.”

Katie shrugged and Lockhart nodded.  “Only if Thalia and Alesandros don’t object.  If they are uncomfortable, you must put it right back on.”

Elder Stow nodded, and to their credit, only Thalia made any noise, and it was a little gasp.

“He is not an elf or dark one or any spiritual creature I have seen.”

“He is an old one.” Katie said.  “One of the ancient races that lived in this land before the flood

“I really am a very nice fellow,” Elder Stow said.  “That is what young Boston says.”

“I’m only about a hundred and ten, elf years old,” Boston admitted.

“Miss Lilac is just over a hundred herself,” Thalia said.

“I just barely qualify to be called Miss Lilac,” Lilac said, sounding more like a ten-year-old than one who looked eighteen in her big size.  Lilac settled down to sit on Thalia’s shoulder, a place she was obviously accustomed to.

“One elf and one old one makes me wonder what other wonders you have to share,” Alesandros said.  He smiled, like he was enjoying the show.

Alexis shook her head, but Boston spoke.  “Just one.  Elder Stow, we have to give Artie a check in all this rain.”  Artie looked up, but she had been quiet all through supper, on the road to the orphanage, and now in the temple, where normally she would have been in the midst of it all, asking questions.  She did not appear to have the gumption to protest as Elder Stow nodded and rummaged through his pack.

“I don’t feel well,” Artie said.  “Is that the right way to say it?  I don’t feel well.”

“Yes, that’s right,” Alexis said, as Katie sat down beside the android.  Alexis looked like she wished there was something she could do.  Her healing magic worked fine for wounds and broken bones.  She could pull poison and infection right out of the body, but she was not as effective on illnesses, and in Artie’s case, Alexis felt powerless.  She could not heal wiring.

Elder Stow sat and placed a disc against Artie’s head.  Artie voluntarily closed her eyes, but when Elder Stow tuned the disc, Artie stiffened like a corpse.  Thalia let out a little gasp again, but Alesandros held on to her, so she stayed quiet.  Boston slipped into Katie’s place.  When she reached down to open Artie’s middle, Thalia muted her gasp in Alesandros’ chest so she would not have to watch.  Alesandros watched, fascinated, and eventually Thalia also turned to see.

“She is a machine,” Elder Stow said.  “But most of her insides imitate human insides.”  He spoke to Boston.  “Find something to sponge that water.”  Boston got her fairy weave blanket.

“A machine?” Alesandros got close.  “I thought… she seemed a fine young woman.”

“I suspect the moisture seeped in all day around her middle joints,” Elder Stow said to Alexis and Katie.  “She is rust proof, and her flesh, like human flesh, is designed to repel water, but when she bends, even like sitting, the flesh bunches up and makes a miniscule gap.  Human flesh is stretchier and tugs against the muscles so we can only bend so far and can’t make gaps.  After an all-day rain, sitting on her horse and all, enough moisture got in to her insides to begin to cause problems.”

“Can you fix her?” Katie asked, obviously concerned.

“Not without covering her in an entirely different kind of flesh, for which I do not have the equipment.  Very sophisticated equipment.  Magic might do it, I don’t know, but science can only offer a sealer, like a glue stop.  I can give Alexis a list of ingredients to look for.  Artie may find the glue uncomfortable, and in any case, it will only work as a stop-gap until a more permanent solution can be found.”

Boston finished wiping out Artie’s insides, and Elder Stow closed her up.  He paused on waking her when Katie said, “Wait.  Let’s not tell her just yet.  Let’s wait until we see the Kairos.  She has resources and knows thing that we cannot imagine.  Maybe she will have a solution.”

“You don’t want her to worry in the meantime,” Lockhart said, and everyone agreed, though some might have thought keeping secrets from her was not a good idea.

“Not keeping secrets,” Alexis told Lincoln.  “Just not confirming the diagnosis until we get a second opinion.”  Alexis was a nurse.

“Okay?” Elder Stow asked.  No one objected, so he removed his disc and Artie came around quickly.

“Am I going to be okay?” Artie asked first thing.

“How do you feel?” Alexis asked.

Artie thought first.  “Better.”

Katie helped Artie to stand.  “You are going to be fine.  We just need some rest.”  She escorted her to where they had laid out their blankets.

“No watch tonight,” Lockhart decided.  “Everybody get some good sleep.”

“Good,” Decker said from where he was already lying down.

Well,” Alesandros said.  “I knew you people were special, but I had no idea how special.”

“Don’t worry,” Alexis said.  “The rest of us are plain ordinary humans.”

Lincoln shook his head.  “Actually, Alexis used to be an elf, but became a human when we married.”

“No,” Thalia voiced disbelief.

“True,” Alexis said.  “I am Boston’s sister.  She was human and became an elf to marry my brother…who has moved on ahead of us toward our destination.”

“How can humans become elves and elves become human?” Alesandros asked.

“The Kairos,” Alexis answered.  “Amphitrite.  What can the gods not do?”

“Of course.”  Thalia and Alesandros understood when she put it that way.

Alexis looked at Boston, who chose to sleep by the altar.  Lilac, apparently, slept on the altar.  “And I am feeling terribly guilty about it, oh, not guilty about becoming human.  But I feel guilty not being with Boston, at least for a while.  She has so much still to learn about being an elf and about magic and everything.  She is such a young elf.  Right now, there is no one else, and though I cannot show her things like I could if I was an elf, I should at least be sharing with her those things I can describe and things I remember from growing up elf.”

Alesandros went around, putting out candles, and Lincoln took Alexis by the arm.  “Come along.  I want to be asleep before Elder Stow starts snoring.”

From out of the dark, they heard what sounded like a Neanderthal giggle.

It stopped raining by two in the morning, and the world slept well until after four, when things got strange.

Avalon 5.1 Sirens Are for Emergencies, part 1 of 6

After 1643 BC, Greece.  Kairos 60: Amphitrite, Queen Goddess of the Sea


Katie and Artie moved first through the time gate and into the next time zone where a cloudy sky and a misty drizzle of rain greeted them.  Katie helped Artie rework her fairy weave clothing into long slacks and a hooded yellow slicker against the rain.  She changed her own weave to the same while the others came through the gate to join them.  By the time Lockhart and Boston, who came straggling at the back, joined them, Lincoln had out the database to see what he could about this place.

“I would guess Greece,” Lincoln said, with a brief look around.  “But we could be anywhere in the Mediterranean.  The Kairos is Amphitrite, or Salacia if we are in Italy, or maybe Calypso if we are across the Atlantic.”

“Helpful,” Lockhart quipped, and looked around at the trees, dripping with water, and the puddles on the grass.

“Mediterranean climate and flora,” Alexis suggested that much was true, and the other side of the Atlantic seemed unlikely.

“Temperate zone,” Elder stow agreed, with a glance at his scanner.

“At least it’s spring,” Boston blurted out.  The others all trusted that as an elf, Boston was well tuned to the seasons.

“Go on,” Katie said, as she checked the amulet she wore and looked for a road, or at least a path of some kind that they could follow.  The land looked rough, rocky and hilly.  Though not far from the sea, Katie imagined them coming to some great sea cliff and having to backtrack a long way, unless they could find a road that avoided such obstacles.

Lincoln continued the commentary on what he read.  “This isn’t Atlantis, I think.  That is spelled like Akalantis.  That is where Amphitrite grew up.  But she is a goddess, the queen goddess of the sea, actually.  She could be almost anywhere in the world, but most likely in the jurisdiction of Mount Olympus.  She married Poseidon, or Neptune, if we are in Italy.”

“Helpful,” Lockhart quipped again.  “Which way?” He asked Boston and glanced at Katie.  Boston pointed.  Katie nodded, and they started right off, headed downhill in what would have been a pleasant ride but for the drizzle.

After a short way, the travelers came to a meadow full of sheep.  They barely came out from the trees before they found three shepherds gathering their flock.  Katie, and thus Artie rode up to the three while the others paused and Decker and Elder Stow casually wandered in from the wings, sensing no danger and not wanting to startle the sheep.

“Excuse me,” Katie said.  “What city lies in this direction?”  She looked closely and decided the shepherds consisted of a father and his two sons.

The old man eyed the travelers with a wry look, not the least because of the monster horses they rode.  “Argos,” he said.  “Our village and the road to Argos.”

“Road?” Artie asked Katie.  The younger son stared at the sky.  The elder son stared at Artie.  The younger one spoke in a friendly manner.

“You probably won’t get to Argos before the storm hits.”

“Unless you have wings to fly, like the gods,” The father said, clearly unsure how to take these strange people.

“Argos is a long way,” the elder son spoke without removing his eyes from Artie.  “Our village is not far.  We can shelter you, and your beasts.”

“Thank you,” Artie felt obliged to respond, but otherwise a bit uncomfortable under the stare.

Katie grinned at her.  “Sorry to interrupt,” Katie said to the old man.  “I am sure you want to get your sheep gathered before the storm.”  Katie moved the group to where she found a path through the wilderness, and figured that was the road to Argos.  The others followed, and Lincoln, Lockhart and Elder Stow all tipped their hats.  Decker tried not to frighten them with his smile.

Katie and Artie rode side by side, though the path was not especially wide.  Alexis and Lincoln crowded them from behind so they could converse.  Lockhart heard the initial words before he focused on the path, the countryside, and the weather.  Boston, beside him, likely heard the whole conversation with her good elf ears, and it no doubt kept her entertained.  She and Elder Stow who followed her, wore glamours to appear human.  Boston looked like a twenty-two-year-old with auburn hair where she toned down some of her red head, and Elder Sow like an older man with a gray beard.

Decker, beside the elder, did not bother with glamours.  In fact, when the others made the effort to change their fairy weave clothes to look more like the local dress, Decker sometimes did not bother with the clothes, either.  The Kairos told him that in most places, as a dark skinned African, he could get away with more leeway in terms of dress.  He often shaped his fairy weave into camouflage fatigues, even when the other men prudently walked around in floor-length dresses.

“Greece,” Lincoln said, definitively.  “In fact, the Peloponnese.   After Argos comes Mycenae, and then Corinth, if the Corinthians have migrated in at this point.”

Katie asked a history question.  “Are the Minoans in charge here, or have the Mycenaeans overthrown them?”

“Wait…” Lincoln said, and looked at the database. “The Akoshians…wait,,,” he flipped to the dictionary and back.  “The Akoshians are the Minoans, and they are sort of in charge.  The Mycenaeans are like the overlords in Greece.  They are the reason the country began to settle down.  Until then, it was filled with wandering tribes that constantly fought.  Argos was one of the first real permanent settlements.  Mycenae was built by the Akoshians, and they are still tied in a way, but the relationship appears complicated.”

“Most are,” Alexis said, with a look at Katie and a glance at Lockhart.

“As far as I can tell, the Akoshians are mostly merchants, and they have exclusive trading rights with the Mycenaean coast, including Athens… I assume in most places, that means the Akoshians just take what they want…  Apparently, Athens rebelled at one point, and the Akoshians brought in an army, which they could easily afford, and forced Athens to pay tribute in the form of slave labor, seven young men and women every nine years or so.”

“I know that story,” Boston shouted up from behind.  “Theseus and the Minotaur.”

“I don’t think that has happened yet,” Katie shouted back.

“Greece?”  Alexis wanted back on track, and gave Boston a sour look.  Elves could certainly hear, but they needed to learn not to interrupted.  That could be rude.

“Yes,” Lincoln said, and put away the database.  “But there is no telling how long after her childhood we may have arrived.  That narrows things down to about a forty to forty-five-year time span.”

Artie had a question that whole time, and it finally burst out of her lips.  “Road?”

That was followed by Alexis’ question.  “City?”

Katie smiled.  “Yes.”  She spoke to Artie.  “When we started this trip, people were still wandering, working in stone, and living in tents of animal skins.  They slowly learned to use soft metals and began to settle in hamlets of mud and straw huts.  Eventually, they built villages and began to till the soil, though plenty still wandered.  Then they began to domesticate some of the animals they followed, and they began to discover things like pottery.  That was when the villages became towns and, in some few places, cities.  One big discovery was Bronze, the blending of metals in a furnace they could get hot enough.  It took time, but cities began to trade, and sadly, they began to make war on each other.”

“It was a great adventure,” Lincoln said.  “I mean the progress of the human race, not just our wandering through the middle of it all.”  Artie looked fascinated, and Katie nodded and continued.

“About twelve time zones ago,” she glanced at Lincoln who got the database back out.  “We arrived on the silk road.  That is a way that cuts through and around the mountains and links the far east with the west for real trade, long distance, and other things.  Cities began to join together, or be conquered, and empires were born.  Some would call that the real beginning of civilization, and that was when roads began.”

“Which time are you thinking?” Lincoln asked.

“Lin, the first Hsian empress.”

“Fourteen time zones.”

Katie nodded.  “Since then, we have seen cities, roads and empires building.  We were there when Babylon was first being built, and came back when Hammurabi was ready to build the first Babylonian empire.  That was with Ishtara’s help, and the time zone where we found you.”

“That is where you saved me and gave me life,” Artie said. “And I am ever so grateful.”  Artie turned away for a moment.  Her emotions being so new, she had not yet learned to hide them or put up a mask.

“What?” Katie reached out.

“I am sad for two reasons,” Artie said.  “I am sad because my people have no such noble history.  You humans have struggled and grown.  You have overcome such great hardships, and made yourselves better.  You have created life.  I know, some good and some bad.  I know some succeeded and some failed.  But you never give up.  You keep striving.  And overall, you have done great and wonderful things.”  She let her voice trail off.  Katie had to prompt her.

“You should not be sad.  What is the second reason you are sad?”

“I am not part of it,” she said.  “I wish I was human, so I could really be with you and part of all that surrounds me.  I feel…”  She could not describe what she felt.

“You can be part of it from now on,” Alexis said, kindly.

“Yes, but not really,” Artie insisted, and let a few tears fall.

Alexis looked back.  “Meanwhile, Boston is moving away from the human experience, but she is still so young and vulnerable.  She is so very young.  She has learned much, but she still needs help to come to grips with her elf life—with being an elf that is an elf, not just a human that got changed into an elf.”

“She will hear you,” Lincoln whispered.

“I am sure that she did.”

“So now,” Katie concluded, and changed the subject as they came around a bend in the path and saw that they were headed down toward a seaside village on a small bay.  “We look for roads and we ask what city les ahead. I imagine the Kairos will often be associated with cities at this point, because that is where most of the action will take place, not to mention most of the chances for history to go awry.”

“Keeping history on track has to be getting complicated and difficult at this point,” Lincoln added.  “Being an actual goddess has got to help.”

Alexis countered. “But she won’t always be so.”

Avalon 5.0 Invading Armies, part 4 of 6

The travelers and their Hyksos companions stopped for lunch, and Hebron finally had a chance to do some explaining.  “We first encountered the gas in Egypt.  We assumed the Egyptians made it, but discovered the Hatti, people from back home, were selling it and stabbing us in the back.  Lord Balor volunteered to return and end the gas making.  He wished to take only his twenty rangers—that is what he calls them—rangers, but the king insisted he take a whole company.”

“How many?” Katie asked.

“Ten fingers,” Hebron said.

“One hundred,” Katie translated.

“Or two fists,” Hebron agreed.

“But what about the Anazi?” Artie asked, anxious to hear about her own people.

“Well, young lady,” Hebron said, with a fatherly kind of smile for Artie who he imagined was a young woman.  “We found them first, lucky for the whole world, Lord Balor says.”

Artie grinned and turned to Katie and Alexis.  “He called me a young lady.”   She said it like she got a medal, or won a trophy.

“And you are,” Katie said.  Alexis just hugged Artie.

“I do not understand,” Ed took the tender moment to interject.  He looked at Lincoln and Lockhart.

“Don’t look at me,” Lockhart responded.  “Apparently, I don’t understand anything.”

Katie gave him a sour look, and he returned the same, but Decker interrupted before they could share words.

“So, what is the situation now?  Where do things stand with the Anazi?”

Hebron shifted in his seat and glanced at Decker.  “Basically, they watch us but leave us alone because they know we can take down their air ships.  They don’t know about our smidgen friends, but most of their smaller ships have been crashed, and one of their three great ships as well.”

“Wedge says with the right sort of magic you can kill any machine,” Cherry spoke up from where she was commiserating with Boston and Alexis.

“Lord Balor ordered the gas used on the invaders.  He had his girl, Anath, clean the area as quickly as possible, but after, he says there may be only three Anazi still able to give orders.  There are still a couple of hundred machine men…” Hebron paused to point at Edward.  “Like your friend.  They have set a circle around the great ships and keep a good watch.  We are in something like a standstill.”

Decker said nothing, but nodded that he understood.  Lincoln and Lockhart stared at Edward, and looked uncertain before Edward opened-up.

“There are more than three remaining, but the others are sick, and some have died.  They are waiting for the invasion force.  Please.  I saw my people suffer because of the gas.”

Artie looked upset until Alexis spoke.  “And did you see humans suffer as well?”

Ed looked at Artie and both dropped their heads when Artie spoke.  “All life is precious.”

“So, what can we do?” Decker asked.

“Nothing,” Lockhart answered.  “I imagine the Kairos has something in mind, or will think of something.  And he will probably tell us to move on while we can.”

Artie turned to Katie, her face showing clear distress.  “What should I do?”

“Nothing,” Katie answered, echoing Lockhart.  “Wait and see first.”  Artie slowly nodded, and Ed nodded with her.

“Pack it up,” Lincoln shouted to the crew.

“Wait, wait,” Elder Stow objected.  “I’ve almost got the program right.”  He pressed a button on his scanner, and Artie looked startled, but Ed stiffened for a few seconds.

“What was that?” Artie asked,

“Nothing yet,” Elder stow answered without looking up.  “I think I’ll ride in the back on the catapult wagon so I can keep working.”  He whistled, and his horse came.  He tied the horse’s reins to the back of the wagon and found a space where he could sit and work, undisturbed.

An hour later, in the afternoon, an Anazi transport came into view.  People imagined it would fly over their head and pick up the remains of Ed’s fighter.  People stopped moving and bunched up to watch.  When it looked large, overhead, the ship opened fire.  People screamed.  People ran.  One shot exploded in the front group, tossing a dozen men in the air.  A second shot exploded by the wagons and killed two of the mules.  The third shot ran into an invisible wall and reflected back toward the clouds, just missing the ship.

Elder Stow had the scanner in his hand, and threw the switch to put up the screens.

The ship moved higher in the sky and aimed, but the fourth and fifth shots did not penetrate.  They made only a yellow spot with a hint of orange, briefly, where they struck.

“Smidgens, wait,” Lockhart yelled.

“Wedge, Cherry, come back here,” Boston yelled at the same time.

Katie added, “Let the ship go.”  She noticed the ship had already passed over them and moved on.

Alexis yelled from the edge of the group.  “Elder Stow.”  The wounded men were outside the screens and she could not get to them.  Lincoln and Artie followed Alexis, and Ed trailed Artie.  Elder Stow turned off the screens, but only when the Anazi ship disappeared over the horizon.

Lockhart, Katie, Hebron, and Wedge all agreed.  They buried the three remaining gas canisters, and thanked God none of them had cracked open when the Anazi blast killed the mules.  They put the half-dozen dead in that wagon.  The half-dozen wounded rode in the catapult wagon with Elder Stow, after they trashed the catapult.  Alexis insisted on riding with the wounded as well, which freed Misty Gray along with Elder Stow’s horse to trail behind.

“The thing is, these horses are not trained to pull a wagon,” Lockhart apologized to Hebron.  He understood, and said he had twenty men who volunteered to pull the wagon by hand.  He said, the dead men deserved a proper burial, and they dared not take the time there, in the desert.  If the Anazi had broken the unspoken truce, they needed to get back to Lord Balor as quickly as possible.

Lincoln agreed to ride alongside the wagon that carried the wounded, Alexis and Elder Stow.  Decker also stayed with the wagons, as he said, to ride shotgun.  Wedge, Cherry, and most of the smidgens stayed with the wagons, but the rest of the travelers and smidgens followed Hebron and his two chariots.  They moved quicker than the lumbering wagons and arrived an hour before sunset, or as Hebron guessed, an hour or two before the others.

Avalon 5.0 Invading Armies, part 3 of 6

“I have monitored the prevailing wind for the last six hours,” Elder Stow reported.  “The mustard gas will stick to the ground for a day, perhaps many days where it fell and where it spread, but we should be safe enough in this one direction.  We should keep an eye on our horses’ legs and hooves for the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours, but then we will be in the clear.  Under no circumstances get down and walk.  Try not to touch the trees, grass, or bushes.  Are we ready?”

Several eyes went to Artie up on her horse, Freedom, where Ed sat behind her and held on, looking uncertain about the whole idea.  Artie nodded, and Elder Stow turned off the screens.  They waited for a minute while they heard several trees crash into other trees or fall or slide to the ground.  One medium-sized tree blocked their intended path, but it would not be difficult for the horses to step over.  Everyone got warned again not to step on the ground.  The androids, with their plastic-semi-organic flesh were no exception.

“And stay in line,” Lockhart added.  “The further you move to the left or right, the less safe you will be.

“The sulfurous gas residue will eat through your flesh in no time,” Elder Stow explained to the androids.  “The humans will just develop blisters.”

“What about me?” Boston asked.  Elder Stow merely shrugged.  He had no idea how the gas or the residue might affect elf-kind, though he pointed out that it was no friend to the environment.

Lockhart and Elder Stow took the front.  Katie and Artie, with Ed holding on, followed.  Lincoln and Alexis came next, while Decker and Boston brought up the rear.  Decker insisted on the rear-guard position where he could have some firepower to protect the group from whatever might follow them after they reached the open field.  Boston tended to straggle at the back when she did not urge her horse, Honey, to ride wild through the meadows.

The horses walked, and made no objection.  The path appeared to be residue free.  Alexis and Decker covered their mouths with fairy weave, though the gas itself had long since dissipated on the wind.  Katie said she could still smell the mustard.  Lockhart said it smelled more like garlic.

Elder Stow stopped at the edge of the trees where the way became blocked by three thick, old trees and plenty of underbrush.  Lockhart pointed.  Elder Stow nodded.  They went left around the roadblock and broke out into the grassy field.

“All clear,” Elder Stow said.  “But we would be wise to quickly move out of the area.”

They trotted toward Edward’s wrecked fighter craft, not a direction they would have chosen if they had a choice.  Fortunately, Decker had checked the sky with his eagle eye, and Elder Stow had double-checked with his personal scanner, and neither saw anything overhead.  Lockhart wondered if perhaps the Anazi wrote off the fighter as a loss when the homing signal quit.  Boston wondered if the glamour fooled the machines after all.  Ed shook his head, as he had learned to do for ‘no’.  Like some humans, though, he had not yet realized that a head shake was ineffective when people could not see his head shake.

“It is not the Anazi way to leave salvageable material unaccounted for,” he said.

“I can confirm that,” Artie added, and leaned back to smile for Ed.  “I like having your arms around me,” she whispered, and clearly, Ed did not know how to interpret that.

“We should be completely in the clear by now,” Elder Stow answered a question Lincoln asked.  Several people got down to take another look at the crash.

“Anything you can find to recharge your equipment?” Lockhart asked Elder Stow.

“Good thinking,” Elder Stow said, and he immediately joined them on the ground and began to rummage around.

Ed spoke when his feet once again touched the ground.  “There are not many Anazi left,” he said.  “We came here, an advanced group to prepare for an invasion, but the humans used the gas on us.  Many androids melted, as Elder Stow suggested.  Most of the Anazi became sick and died.  I do not know what message has been sent to home-world, but I saw that the conquest of this world would not be as easy as some said.”

“But mustard gas should be beyond the ability of the locals to produce,” Katie still insisted.

“Like gunpowder,” Boston countered.  “It is not a complicated compound; it just has to be discovered.”

“I suspect the Kairos,” Lincoln said.

“Or the Masters,” Lockhart said and frowned.  “The Kairos would not likely make something that could disturb the flow of time and history, but the Masters would.  Remember, their intention is to change history to make it come out more to their liking.”

“I would think establishing the kind of scientific lab and secure procedures to produce the gas safely would be the hardest part,” Boston said.

“And the most potentially damaging to history,” Alexis, the nurse agreed.

“I don’t know,” Katie hedged, and they all turned to listen to the doctor in ancient and medieval history and technologies, to hear what she had to say.  Katie cleared her throat.  “The Egyptian physicians in this age had labs and safe and secure procedures good enough to mummify the kings.  They knew and practiced certain form of surgery, successfully.  Their procedures had to be good.”

“So, the Egyptians are suspect,” Lincoln thought out loud.  “Maybe the Masters wanted to repel the Hyksos invasion.”

“Maybe,” Alexis and Katie agreed, when Decker interrupted.


Eyes naturally went to the sky before they returned to the ground where they saw men, and several wagons and chariots approaching.

“Stow,” Lockhart got the Gott-Druk’s attention before he got up on his horse and pulled his shotgun.

“Coming,” Elder Stow responded.  “I found something that may work for a few time zones.  It is primitive, but the Anazi do quality work, so it may last a couple of hundred years.”  He stuffed some pieces in his saddlebag and mounted with the others.  They walked the horses to meet the oncoming group.

“Friend,” Lockhart shouted when they got within range.  “Where are you headed?  Are you searching for someone?  Perhaps we can help.”

Boston reacted.  “Hey!  Stop that.  Leave our equipment alone.”  Several flashes of light, like little explosions appeared around the horses.  They looked like they were insects driven back by some force.  Alexis’ Misty Gray and Katie’s Beauty startled and bucked.  “Get big so everyone can see you,” Boston ordered.

A male fairy in armor appeared, floating in Boston’s face.  He asked a question that came out like a statement.  “You are not the Masters?”

“No way, Jose,” Boston answered.  “We belong to the Kairos, and we are looking for him…”  She checked her amulet and pointed.  “That way.”

A fairy woman appeared next to the man.  “You are the red-headed elf who travels with the yellow hair woman and former elf, and the men who ride on the big horses from the future.”  It was a mouthful.

“I’m Boston.  Who are you?”

The male fairy answered.  “My name is Wedge.  We are the smidgens made by our lord to interfere with the workings of the alien machines.  We took down the fighter plane, but we have been strictly charged not to harm the androids that pilot such machines.”

“This is your big size?” Lincoln asked.

“It is,” Wedge answered.  “But it is our normal size.  When the Lord made us, he made us so we don’t get big, we get little.”

“Little?” Katie asked.

“Smaller than the human eye can see,” Alexis and the female fairy spoke at the same time.

“Hi, I’m Alexis, the former elf.” Alexis smiled.

“Hi, I’m Cherry,” the female fairy said, as she fluttered up to face Alexis.

The men, like soldiers, arrived at that point, and the chariots stopped, and the men watched while the rest of the smidgens got fairy big and introduced themselves.  Lockhart looked at the man in the chariot who appeared to be the head man.

“Lockhart,” he said.

“Hebron,” the man responded.

“Should you lead, or should we?” Lockhart asked.

The man shrugged, split his group in two so some could lead and some could follow, and started out with a word.  “We should arrive at the great ships by sundown.”

“I do not understand,” Ed admitted as he turned his head back and watched Cherry get comfortable sitting on Alexis’ shoulder.  He saw Wedge sit in the mane of Lincoln’s horse.

“The universe is more alive and full of life than the Anazi can imagine,” Artie said.

“There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” Katie added.

“I do not understand imagine, or philosophy, but I do not doubt what you say is true.”  Ed responded, and he paused to think.  “I believe you, but there is no explaining it.”

“It is called faith,” Artie said with a big smile.

“I think it is called trust,” Katie offered another word.  “By his own free will, he is willing to trust what we say.”  Artie nodded in agreement.  Ed shrugged, like he saw the human shrug.

“The visual evidence helps,” Alexis spoke up from behind.

“It does,” Cherry agreed.  “I heard of you all my life, but I never thought to see you.  You seem very nice… for a human.”

Avalon 5.0 Invading Armies, part 2 of 6

Alexis, Lincoln, Boston, and Lockhart stayed up with Ed and Artie while the others slept and the sun went down.  After sunset, Boston wandered the perimeter of the camp now and then, to let her refined elf senses reach out into the dark, just in case.  They half expected an Anazi rescue ship in the dark.  Elder Stow set the screen device in his scanner to deploy impenetrable screens as soon as something came in overhead.  Organic material, like birds, would be ignored, but anything else in the air would trigger the screens.  Boston and the others felt safe enough, but Boston walked all the same.

Artie, with a little help from Alexis, explained everything she could think of to Ed; too much, really.  She talked, sometimes rapid fire, and everyone saw plainly both how human, and in a way, how female Artie had become in the months since being liberated from Anazi control.

Apart from many questions, and not grasping certain concepts, Ed seemed most taken by the idea that he should be male.  Lincoln and Lockhart tried to fill in things from a male point of view, including when they confessed they did not understand how women saw some things the way they did, either.

“I think I best be male,” Ed admitted at one point.  “It seems much less complicated.”  Then he offered a free thought, something he just started to learn how to do.  “I accessed the program in my system that includes your faces and specifications on several occasions, since we came here to your earth.  Most of it made no sense, even when I had contact with humans like you.  But now, having met the living images, and having scanned you, and most of all, having spoken to you…” he paused before he continued.  “…and listened to you, freely, it begins to make sense.”  He paused again, and everyone waited, having seen that same expression on Artie’s face.  He was thinking, or reviewing data as Elder Stow insisted.  Even Artie waited patiently for him to speak again.  “I say, I felt more attracted to Lincoln’s face and form than any others.  There is no explaining it.”

“Thank goodness for that,” Decker interrupted as he came out of his tent.  “It was bad enough when the Shemsu among the Olmec people carved my helmeted head in giant blocks of stone down in the Yucatan.  Now, to have a bunch of androids running around the universe bearing my image.  No.  That would be too much.”

“Did we wake you?” Alexis asked by way of apology.

“Shift change,” Decker said.  “Midnight.”  Decker cradled his rifle and pulled up a seat by the fire.

“Well, I’m tired,” Boston said with a yawn.  She had become a light elf, not given to night hours like a human.  But then, she slept alone in her own tent, since her husband Roland went missing, and her father Mingus disappeared in that great flash of light, and Katie opted to room with Artie.  Sometimes, the prospect of being alone kept Boston awake.  Lockhart, Decker, and Elder Stow also slept alone.  Elder Stow, in particular; at first because no one trusted the Gott-Druk, but later because he snored so badly.

Boston imagined she would be rooming with Artie.  She had thought Katie and Lockhart would be together by then.  She watched when Katie got up to take Alexis’ place beside Artie, even though Katie and Artie did not have to be up until the three to six in the morning shift.

“I suppose I better get to bed as well,” Lockhart said, and looked at his tent.

“So, where are we in the discussion of life, liberty and all?” Katie asked, looking at the fire.

“Goodnight,” Lockhart said, turning toward Katie, but making a general statement.

“Goodnight,” Katie said, more-or-less in Lockhart’s direction, but just to add her voice to the chorus.

Katie and Lockhart appeared to pause, but then Lockhart went into his tent, Katie sat by the fire, and Boston, an empathetic elf, went to bed, sad.


Around three, Katie walked.  She had taken up Boston’s routine of walking the perimeter now and then, just to be sure.   As an Elect, a one in a million-warrior woman, designed by the goddesses in ancient days to protect the home and families when the men went off to war, her senses and intuition were highly refined.  She could sense danger and an enemy at a great distance, and what she senses at three triggered a red flag in her mind.  She yelled.


In only minutes, something buzzed overhead.  Alexis and Boston got up, groggy, but managed to combine their magic and form a magical disguise around Artie and Ed.  They had no idea if the glamour would fool the Anazi scanners.  Alexis suspected it would not.  She suggested it would fool an Anazi’s visual perception, but probably would not even fool other androids.

They waited.

The ship, a transport looking thing, stopped overhead.  It got a good look at them and their camp, though Elder Stow had activated the particle and energy screens around the camp in case the Anazi ship took a shot at them.  Everyone felt surprised when the ship rose in the sky, turned around, and left the area.

Something crashed through the treetops.  It landed some distance from the camp.  Artie shrieked.  Elder Stow tuned his scanner quickly to examine and study the crashed object.  He swore, something he never did, and adjusted the screens accordingly.

I made the screens extra-large and solid,” he explained.  “I sliced through some trees on the outer edge, but made it tall enough to take in the camp, horses and the trees in the immediate area.”

“Won’t those cut trees on the edge fall on us when we turn it off to begin moving in the morning?” Katie asked, as she moved several steps in one direction, but heard what Elder Stow said.

A second something overshot the camp.

“We won’t be going anywhere for a while,” Elder Stow said, and frowned

“Gas.”  Ed said the word a moment before Artie could identify it.

“What you call mustard gas,” Elder Stow agreed.  “It will fall to the ground and creep along for several hours before it dissipates, but the screens should easily keep it out.”

A third something fell behind them all.

“Not very good shots,” Artie concluded.

“They don’t have to be with mustard gas,” Katie said.

“Let me look,” Decker suggested.  Katie pointed in the direction she sensed was the source of the gas.  Decker nodded and stepped aside to a place where he could sit and meditate.  He let his spirit rise-up, carried by his eagle totem.  He saw no sign of the Anazi ship.  It had vacated the area.  From overhead, he spied a small catapult, moon lit, and a dozen men using it.  He saw the wagons, but as he circled around, he saw other men, more like thirty with chariots, about to charge the catapult.  Decker figured the catapult men were shooting in the dark, assuming the campfire belonged to their enemies.  They were in for a rude awakening when the chariot men charged.  Decker came back to earth in time to hear Katie squawk.

“Who the hell is making mustard gas in seventeen hundred, BC?”

“Not the Anazi.  We may never know,” Decker said, to verbalize Elder Stow’s shrug.

“Should we wake the others?” Artie asked.

“Why?”  Decker responded with the question, while Katie retook her seat beside Artie and spoke.

“The others need a chance to rest, and as Elder Stow said, we won’t be going anywhere for a while.”

“You ask these humans and do what they say?” Ed sounded surprised, even if he had not yet figured out what surprise was other than in a military context.

“Oh, yes,” Artie said.  “I have learned.  We act as a team.  Everyone has things to contribute, and these humans have knowledge and abilities that we do not have.  The best judgment is not always a simple weighing of the facts.  There is wisdom in listening, and these people have much experience that again, we do not have.”

“But to do what someone else says?  Is that not slavery?”

“Not when it is a free choice,” Artie responded.

“Only an immature child always wants his or her way,” Katie added.  “Elders can be wrong at times, but wisdom says the young should listen to their elders, and not resist them, especially those that care about you.  That is how children learn.”

“I have over fifty years of experience to draw on,” Elder Stow said.  “I understand Lockhart has seventy years of experience.  We have determined that Artie has about five years of experience, though she does not count the four years she lived under Anazi domination.  I suspect you are also about four or five years old.”

“Young soldiers listen to their seasoned sergeant and their commanding officer,” Decker added.  “Not only because they have pledged to listen, but because listening to their experienced words, and obeying orders, is the way young soldiers stay alive.”

“And you have not listened much to Lockhart, my mother,” Elder Stow spoke to Katie who he called the mother of the group, after his Neanderthal fashion, as he called Lockhart the father of the group.  “It seems he is an elder worth listening to.”

Katie said nothing, so Decker mumbled, “Only a child always wants her way.”

Katie stood.  “Excuse me.  I have a perimeter to walk.”  She left the fire and Artie spoke.

“Love is something I am still working on.”  She turned to Ed.  “It is very, very complicated.”

Avalon 5.0 Invading Armies, part 1 of 6

After 1700 BC near the Saini.  Kairos 59: Balor, Captain of the Hyksos


The ship hurtled toward the ground as it spun out of control.

“Pull up,” Decker yelled.

“Pull up,” Lincoln echoed Decker’s words softly, as he reached for the reigns of Alexis’ horse.  Alexis buried her face in her hands.  She did not want to watch.

“There.”  Elder Stow took his eyes off his scanner long enough to point.  Someone ejected from the craft.  The man had had something like a parachute, though it looked more like wings.

The single person craft hit the ground and made a big ball of flame.  The person with the parachute-wings caught the updraft, and hopefully not too much of the explosion.  He managed to use the wings to steer away from the wreckage and fire, but he did not look too steady.  He came down too fast.  Maybe the wing-parachute got some holes in it.  Lockhart put down his binoculars when the person fell behind some trees.

“Hey!” Lockhart yelled.  Artie rode all out toward the downed pilot.  Katie and Elder Stow followed hot on her trail.  “Boston,” Lockhart called to the girl.  She had wandered out on the wing to get a better angle on the crash, but she had already started riding like a maniac to catch up to Artie, Katie, and Elder Stow.

Lockhart said no more.  He started after the maniacs at less than breakneck speed.  Major Decker, Lincoln and Alexis followed him.

Artie rushed through the woods and dismounted at the edge of the tree line.  She had not gone mad.  She understood the risk and calculated it was worth it.  The pilot landed not far away, and looked to be trying to sit up.  He looked broken, but her own sensors suggested he still functioned.

“Over here,” Artie yelled back to the ones behind her.  She did not wait for Katie to arrive.  The pilot looked at her through mist filled eyes.  He blinked before he moaned and collapsed to his back.

“Not human,” he said, before his eyes closed.  Artie could not be sure if he saw that she was an android, like him, or if he thought she was human and he was warning her about himself.

“Elder Stow, hurry,” Artie yelled back, but the elder hurried as much as his short Neanderthal legs could hurry.  Artie knelt beside the pilot and extended her sensors to examine his insides.  He did not appear to be badly damaged, but he looked different on the inside.  He had some systems she did not recognize.  “Hurry,” she repeated softly.  Ever since her obedience crystal burned out, Artie had come to understand things like pain, fear, and helplessness.

Katie arrived and took Artie gently by the shoulders.  “Let Elder Stow work.”  She lifted Artie to her feet and held her back while the Gott-Druk took her place, kneeling beside the pilot.  He had a disc in his hand which he quickly applied to the android’s temple.  One twist of a button, and the android stopped making noise.

“Is he dead?” Artie asked Katie, tears forming slowly in her android eyes.  Boston rode up, not stopping at the edge of the trees.  She dismounted like the rodeo rider she had been before she became an elf.  She spoke like the technological genius she remained.

“No,” Boston answered Artie, having heard the question with her good elf ears.  “That’s the same disc Elder Stow used to help you rest and heal after your own crash.”

“This one isn’t so badly broken,” Elder Stow reported, as he opened the android’s chest.  “I believe he just caught the shock wave of the explosion and hit the ground rather hard.”  The elder worked and thought a moment before he explained in terns the humans could understand.  “Like being thrown into a brick wall by a concussion grenade.  Some systems are in shock, but they will come around shortly and consciousness will return… A-ha.”  Elder Stow used his sonic device to disconnect something.  “The long-range detonator, in case the android obedience crystal ceased to function.”  He flipped it to Boston.  “Dispose, please.”

Boston caught the detonator, but gave the elder a mean look.  She raced off a hundred yards at elf speed, about sixty-miles-an hour, and heaved the detonator as far as she could.  It took a second to race back to the others.

Artie turned into Katie’s motherly arms and tried to keep her composure while Elder Stow worked.

“An improved model,” Elder stow said.  “The Anazi are learning.”

Katie spoke around Artie.  “According to Lincoln, it has been around a hundred and twenty years since we found Artie.”

“Yes.  I imagined something like that,” Elder Stow said.  “Many systems have been miniaturized and enhanced, and some new abilities have been added.  This time, though, I think I best wait until the android can tell me what is not working properly.  On Artie, I did a lot of guesswork.”

“What?” Artie looked up and stood on her own two feet again.

“I mean, even this one is still a very primitive construction compared to what I am used to.  I fear that in the course of fixing your systems, I may have improved and enhanced a number of them, unknowingly.”

“But I am functioning just fine,” Artie insisted.

“Good, good.”  Elder Stow closed-up the android on the ground and got his scanner to scan the android’s head.

“You didn’t like, awaken her, did you?” Katie asked about Artie being sentient and self-aware—a true artificial intelligence.

“Eh?”  Elder Stow paused to consider what he got asked.  “No, no.  Her brain casing remained intact, as it is with this one.  She had the capacity all along.  Her abilities for many things were just depressed by the obedience crystal.  I burned the crystal on this one as well, by the way.  We will see when he wakes up.”

“Can we be as lucky a second time?” Boston asked, and smiled for Artie, who returned the smile.

“It isn’t luck,” Elder Stow insisted.  “It is science.  I had a long talk about it with Yu-Huang in the last time zone.  He suggested that the Anazi are very human-like in their perceptions of reality.  They are just far more obedience oriented, in general, than humans.  They have the capacity for freedom, but they have not been inclined to pursue it.  Once Artie became free of compulsory obedience, she chose freedom.  There is no reason to expect any other android will not choose the same.  But even if this one should choose slavery to the Anazi, there is no reason to suppose we are in danger, setting this one free.”

“He,” Artie said.  “I feel as though he is a male.  I don’t know why.”

“We can’t take him with us,” Lockhart said as he walked up with the others, their horses trailing behind them.  “It took Lady Alice nearly six months to phase Artie out of her natural time zone so she could travel with us without prematurely ageing every time we moved through a time gate.  We can hardly ask her to do that with every Anazi android we come across.”

“No, I understand,” Artie said.  “This male needs to help set the other Anazi androids free.  We are not ready to become our own people as long as so many of us remain slaves to the Anazi.”  Artie looked at Lincoln and Alexis.

“All life is precious,” Alexis said with a nod.

“But slavery is not a life to be wished for,” Lincoln nodded with his wife.

“Freedom!” Artie thought to call to her horse, the one she named freedom.

“Beauty,” Katie called hers Black Beauty.  Elder Stow whistled.  The horses came trotting up to join the herd.

“So, this one needs to go back, like Andy, and help set the others free,” Boston paid attention.

“Oh, but what can you do if the Anazi realize the obedience crystals are burned out and hit the factory reset button?” Katie asked.

“Or just detonate them,” Decker added.

“Reset button?” Lincoln asked.

“Elder Stow said in the homing device there was a program to reset the android to factory specifications.”

“Not exactly,” Elder Stow explained.  “It will wipe the memory and reset the mind to original specs, effectively wiping out whatever personality may have developed and opening the mind to new programming.”

“You mean, complete memory loss?” Lincoln asked.

“Person deleted,” Elder Stow nodded.

“But that would be worse,” Boston said.

“Worse than death,” Alexis agreed with the young elf.

“But I believe I have found a way to hack the reset program and set up a firewall against it without removing the homing device or interfering with its other functions,” Elder Stow explained.  “I am still working on the hack for the detonation device.  I am afraid removing it will be noticed, but for now it is too dangerous to leave it in place if you want the android to live.”

“But he must live,” Artie insisted.  “My people are enslaved, even to the point of willing suicide, if necessary, to achieve their mission.  I need this male to set others free, but I don’t know how he can if the Anazi notice he is missing his detonation device.”

“Is that what I am to do?  Set my people free?” the android spoke in a metallic sounding monotone, surprising everyone.  They had all turned to focus on each other and the conversation.  “Why did you call me a male?”

“Are you not?” Artie asked, and she smiled at her thoughts.

The android looked at Artie and commented in his flat voice.  “You are a primitive.  Most of your kind have been rebuilt or put on minimal service.”

“I am Artie,” Artie said.  “Do you not like the way I look?”

The android sat up and looked thoughtful.  “I have heard of you.  You have made yourself look like these human females.  I do not understand the word, like in that context.”  He spoke, while Boston snuck around behind the android and read the serial number printed on the android’s shoulder.


“Ed—Edmund?” Katie asked.

“Edward,” Lincoln responded.  “There was a ‘W’ in there somewhere.”

“Edward,” Artie said, and broadened her smile.

“I do not understand the word freedom,” Edward said, then he asked a curious question.  “Why do I recognize all of your faces and forms?”

“Maybe Andy got a sub-program into the system a hundred and twenty years ago.” Boston suggested.

“Likely,” Elder Stow agreed.

“We need to make camp,” Lockhart decided.  “But not here.  Back in that clearing in the woods—the one full of boulders.”

“They will come for him,” Decker surmised what Lockhart obviously thought.

“They will come for me,” Edward agreed, in not quite his normal metallic tone.

“I can delay that,” Elder Stow suggested.  He played with his scanner and explained as he worked.  “I have disabled the distress and homing signals on the crashed ship.  Now, I have covered the android—Ed’s signal as well.  They may think he has stopped functioning, but in any case, they may not rush to recover the remains.”

“What magic is this?” the android asked, at least cognizant of the concept of magic.  Who knew what human interaction he had prior to his crash?  “How do you disable such things without connecting to them?  How can you do that with a little box?  What kind of magic box is that?”

“We have much to talk about,” Artie said, and patted Ed on the shoulder.

“Not magic,” Elder Stow yelled, as Boston and Artie helped the android to his feet.  “Not luck and not magic.  It’s science.  Just science.”

The people all walked back into the woods to get under the cover of the trees, and the horses dutifully followed the ones to whom they had been magically tied.

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 5 of 8, Artie’s Forbidden Fruit

Artie’s legs worked again by noon and Elder Stow let her get up to join everyone around the lunch fire.  Alexis and Boston got some fairy weave and made her some clothes.  Her gray uniform had actually been a coloring of her flesh, but now that she had changed the color to a nice copper tone and developed some nice ‘lumps of fat’, as they were calling them, the women knew she needed to cover up.  Artie did not mind, and she was amazed to discover she could shape and color the fairy weave clothing with a mere word.  Meanwhile, they had to teach her how to sit so she didn’t send the wrong message.mingus-1

Mingus examined her with his mind magic, and explained.  “Her mind is well organized and not subject to stray, frivolous, human-like thoughts.  She has compartmentalized memory and thinking, though I cannot say what parts may have been damaged in the accident.  Because of that, I feel it is safer to have her change her clothing with verbal commands rather than with her mere thoughts.”

Artie ate some of everything, and said everything tasted wonderful.  “I ate only paste before, and it had little flavor.  This food has mostly extra, unnecessary elements that will pass from my system, but since I have arranged the sensors in my mouth, tongue and nose, and reworked them to imitate your human sensations, the taste and smell makes it worthwhile.  I smelled it before it was ready and it made me feel hungry?”  She wanted to be sure she used the word correctly.  The women nodded.

“To be honest,” Mingus spoke in a very flat tone of voice.  “Alexis is the most passable cook.  My cooking is poor, this beast is tough, and the greens are wilted.  Someday, you might taste some real cooking—some real food and then you will be amazed.”

“Father, it is fine,” Alexis said.

“We do the best we can with what we have, but none of us is perfect,” Lincoln added.

“That is certain,” Mingus said with a hard look at Lincoln.  Then he changed his mind.  “Sorry.  Old habit.”

“Me too,” Lincoln said with a look at Mingus, but without explanation.

“Well, I am a long way from perfect,” Boston said, a bit loud, like she wanted to ease the tension.

Katie turned to Artie.  “You wanted to say something?”

artie-8“My judgment is flawed,” Artie said, like a confession.  She looked down at the fire as she spoke.  “I found myself behind the enemy line and should have returned to my line, but I thought to kill the Pendascotti on the ground before they reached my…my people, but three Pendascotti ships tracked me and I was shot down before I could do much.”

“Blobs,” Lockhart said.

“We call them blobs,” Katie explained, and smiled her support.

“Blobs,” Artie repeated before she continued.  “I am sorry I am not perfect either.  Perhaps you should not trust my judgment.”

“No.  Not at all.  It doesn’t mean that.” Everyone said

“No one is perfect,” Lincoln said.

“We have all sinned and fallen short,” Boston added, but looked pensive about that thought.

“That just shows you are human,” Katie began.

“A person,” Mingus interrupted.  “Even if you are not a human person.”

“Your own person,” Alexis continued.  “Flawed like every other person in the universe.”

“That is what you get for being alive,” Decker added.

“You are self-aware, intelligent, and just as capable of making mistakes as anyone else,” Elder Stow concluded.

“And we should get going,” Lockhart really concluded.  “I want to get close enough to the city to get to the city gate in the morning.”stow-h1

“Perhaps you could ride with me,” Katie suggested.  She smiled again, but looked at Elder Stow.

“I suppose that would be all right,” he said.  “But there are some further adjustments I would like to make before dark, so please keep that in mind.”  He turned to Artie.  “And if you feel something is not right or systems may be shutting down, say something right away, and we will stop and have a look.”

Artie nodded.

“Hold on to the horse with your knees, but not too tight,” Katie explained.  “And hold on to me around the middle, but again, not too tight.  I can be damaged with too much pressure.”

“I would never hurt you,” Artie said.  “I would never hurt any of you.  You saved my life.”

Katie nodded.  There was so much to talk about and explain about human life.  She hardly knew where to start, but they had no trouble talking all afternoon.


By the time the sun went down, Elder Stow said he fixed and adjusted everything he could.  He said he would not mind if the Kairos, maybe Martok took a look at her.  She was a different form than any he ever worked on.  He saw where many of her systems were poorly designed—almost jury-rigged.  She was missing a number of standard systems in more advanced androids.

“Sort of like trying to build a jet out of a steam engine,” he said, putting it in a way the others might grasp.  “Still, I suppose it is state of the art for the Anazi.”

“God willing, we can relax this evening,” Decker said, but it was not to be.

euphrates-2That evening, Artie asked lots of questions.  They mainly focused on things Alexis told her the night before.  She was particularly having a hard time grasping the difference between good and evil.  She tended to think in very black and white terms.

“Evil is the opposite of good,” Lockhart tried, though he knew that did not really answer the question.

“Evil is the absence of good,” Lincoln tried.  “Like life is a good thing and evil would be taking away that life.”

“Like killing?” Artie asked, and everyone heard the distress in her voice even if she did not recognize the feeling in herself.

“It isn’t that simple.” Mingus spoke up.  “People die for all sorts of reasons.  No one lives forever.  When people die of natural causes, no one honestly calls that evil.  People die from accidents and disease, and people say it is unfortunate, a shame, and wrong, but no one really says evil.  Sometimes when people who are in great pain die, people call it a mercy or a blessing.  Evil requires thought and choice, but even when life is taken by thought and choice, it is not necessarily evil.  Sometimes, people have to defend themselves and sometimes that means killing, as has happened to us many times in this journey.”

“So, what then is evil?” Artie was concerned to learn.

“Evil is the rebellion against the good,” Mingus explained.  “Where there is life, evil wants death.  Where there is light, evil wants darkness.  Where there is something, evil wants nothing.  Where there is order, evil wants chaos.”alexis-8

“Like the Blobs,” Artie suggested.  “They rebel against right order.  They are evil.”

“Not necessarily,” Alexis said.  “The Blobs might not want Anazi order, but they may have a different order of their own.  They may want freedom and they may see the Anazi order as an attempt to impose slavery on them.”

“Freedom is a good thing,” Boston said.  “And Alexis, you almost sounded like a conservative.”  Alexis made a disgusted face at that thought.  She worked hard to gain her liberal card.

“Freedom is deciding for yourself what you will do, where you will go, and who you will do it with,” Katie suggested, and looked at Lockhart.

“Where there is freedom, evil imposes slavery,” Lockhart said, as a kind of non-answer to whatever secret passed between them.

“I am confused,” Artie admitted, and she did not question the word.

“It is both simple and complex,” Mingus spoke again.  “We all make choices, sometimes every minute of every day.”

“I choose freedom,” Artie said, quickly.

“We all choose freedom,” Mingus agreed.  “But mostly the choices are not that obvious.  Sometimes we must choose between two goods, or the lesser of two evils.  Sometimes, there are many options, and it isn’t always obvious which is the good, right and true way to go.  Sometimes, people choose evil without meaning to, or innocently.  Of course, then the mind finds a way to justify our choice so we don’t think of it as evil.  But it is what it is…” Mingus let his voice trail off as he looked at Alexis.  He kidnapped her twice, and both times justified his choice in his mind, though there was no justifying it.  He felt terrible.

fire-campfire-2“I need to sleep.  Sleep is a good thing,” Decker said, and things broke up around the fire.  People went their own ways and Artie sat for a long time, wondering what kind of choices she might make, and what choices may have been forced on her back when she had no will of her own.

In the morning, she was still sitting there, stirring the fire and wondering.

Katie came over to set the leftovers to cook and to stir up whatever substitute they had for morning coffee.  “Have you been sitting here all night?”  Artie nodded, and Katie felt all motherly.  She sat and hugged the android, and spoke soothing words.  “Life is complicated, difficult, and sometimes hard, but you don’t have to figure it all out at once.  All you have to do is decide on your part, today.  Just make today a good day, if you can.  Sure.  We all do things sometimes that we don’t want to do, and we are not proud of that, but that is what forgiveness is for.  Some days, I hardly know what I would do if I did not feel that God, or whoever got this universe up and running—the universe if you will, is forgiving, gracious, merciful and full of love.”

“But I don’t know what love is,” Artie said.

“But you can learn.  You are a quick learner.  It will come to you.”  Katie leaned over and kissed Artie’s cheek and went back to work on the fire.

Boston hurried into the camp.  “We have visitors,” she said, even as the others heard a ship landing nearby.  They began to wake everyone.

Avalon 4.11 part 4 of 8, Artie’s Eden

“I am a dominant in form and thought,” Artie said.  “I had many submissives that answered to me.”

“Definitely a female,” Lincoln decided, and Alexis gently slapped his shoulder to quiet him.

“But do you eat?” Boston asked.

Artie paused for a second to consider the word ‘eat’.  She concluded, “Consume. Yes.  I can go many cycles without, but I consume when I can.  My flesh perspires to keep my systems cool, so I need water for replenishment.  Also, my flesh, what you call hair, grows to accommodate to the environment.  My sensory apparatus requires sustenance to operate at optimal levels, and I have an efficient system to eject extra, unnecessary, and foreign substances that may enter my system.”

“No shit…” Decker whispered as he stepped over to the others, but everyone heard.

“Are you taking me back to the Anazi base?” Artie asked a question of her own.artie a3

“We are taking you to the Kairos,” Katie said.  “She will know what is best to do.”

“But my base is…” Artie stopped.  She could not raise an arm or even a finger to point, but the confusion that crossed her face said she was not sure where her base might be.  At least the humans read the look on her face as a look of confusion.  Boston felt the need to speak.

“We removed the homing signal for fear the Blobs would pick it up and track us.”  She told the half-truth with a perfectly straight elf face, while inside she grinned and patted herself on the back for not telling an outright lie.

“The Kairos will know where your people are, and if it is safe to take you there,” Katie added.

“Kairos.”  Artie repeated the name.  Her eyes widened suddenly when she accessed the relevant data.  “We were told to stay away from the Kairos at all costs.”

“If you are with us, you will be safe,” Alexis assured her.

“Enough for now,” Elder Stow came over to the group.  “The young woman has enough pseudo-organic systems to need rest and healing time like a human.”

The gathering started to back up, but noticed when Artie got a good look at the Gott-Druk.  She looked terribly afraid for a moment before a thought entered her mouth.  “You are an ancient one?”

Elder Stow nodded, and Artie found that acceptable.  She nodded as well as she could and closed her eyes.  Elder Stow touched the disc he had placed on her temple and she became as still as death.


Euphrates 4Boston and Elder Stow worked on Artie all during the breakfast, lunch and supper breaks.  They gave her water, then let her sleep while they moved.  They headed south, the Euphrates their constant companion, after making a wide birth around the fighting.  By the time the sun set on the second day, Artie could sit up.  Only her legs remained to be fixed.

Alexis came from the fire to visit Artie, as the sun set golden against the distant clouds.  Alexis felt much better, as long as she did not strain her shoulder.  Artie would be all better, once her legs got repaired.  Elder Stow was still there, working in the fading light.  They had lamps, but dared not expose themselves to the Anazi and Blobs by using artificial light.  Lincoln made a torch, but soon enough, that would not cast enough light to really work.

“Artie,” Alexis said and smiled for the android.  Katie, Boston, and after a moment, Artie returned her smile.  “I was wondering if you might be hungry.  Would you like some food, to consume?”

Artie shook her head.  She had already picked up a number of human actions.  “I am not hungry.  I can go a while without the need for sustenance.”

“Let me know if you feel hungry,” Alexis said.

“Do you have feelings?” Boston asked.

“Of course,” Artie responded.  “My flesh has many, many sensors that indicate to me if something is hot or cold, rough of smooth.”

“No, I didn’t mean that kind of feeling.  I meant feeling, like what you sense on the inside.”

“I have all eight senses functioning well enough.  I can touch, taste, smell, see, hear, communicate, think, and sense myself.”

“She is self-aware,” Elder Stow explained that last one.

“Yes, but what about feeling?” Boston did not know how to explain it.  Alexis took over.

“Do you know what love is?”artie 3a

Artie paused to think.  They were getting used to that expression on Artie’s face, and normally gave her time to work through her thoughts, but this time, Katie interrupted.

“Yesterday, before we told you we removed your homing device, you thought to point us to your base camp, but when you could not find the right direction, you looked confused.  Did you feel confused?”

“And after.”  Alexis got the idea.  “When you saw Elder Stow, and you asked if he was an ancient, you looked afraid.  Did you feel afraid?”

“I thought bad things,” Artie admitted.  “But I knew there was nothing I could do about it.”

“So you felt resigned to your fate,” Katie suggested.

Artie stared for a second before she nodded.  “If that is what it is called.”  She looked at Boston, and then Alexis.  “I did not understand why I could not pinpoint the location of my base.  I thought of and rejected many possible explanations before you explained what happened.  And as for love.  I have heard the word, but I do not know what the word means.  I understand it has something to do with kindness, obedience, loyalty, and other such concepts that can be expressed in physical action, but I do not know that I feel it.  I do not know if I have the sense of feeling.  I did not even know that there was a ninth sense.”

“I have examined her cranial capacity—her brain,” Elder Stow spoke.  “There is no reason she should not experience feelings, but it may be her obedience crystal—obedience chip prevented her until now.”

artie 4aArtie smiled to hear that.  It was her first spontaneous smile.

“Do you feel happy hearing that?” Boston asked.

“If that is what it is called,” Artie said, and smiled a bit harder where
Alexis noticed something.

“Hey, you have teeth.”

“I saw that you have teeth,” Artie said, as Lincoln stepped over to check on his wife.  “I am not sure what they are good for, but I have also grown a tongue and arranged my sensors to be more like yours.”

“Her flesh is plasma based, more like a plastic than real flesh,” Elder Stow explained.  “She mostly healed herself from all of her cuts and abrasions from the crash.  I am just working on the internals where she does not feel anything except if the system is working or not working properly.  Anyway, apparently she can reform and reshape her flesh to some extent.”

“I have scanned you.  I mean, the…” she paused to think a moment.  “Females.  Alexis and Katie, especially.  Real flesh is a wonder, the way it heals, naturally, without you having to even think about it.”  Artie sounded impressed.

“Not as fast as you healed yourself,” Alexis said, and put one hand to her shoulder.

“But it is miraculous that it heals all on its own,” Artie insisted.

“But how did you get teeth?” Katie was curious now.

“I reshaped my flesh, and I can reshape to look more like you, if you don’t mind.”

Everyone said they didn’t mind, and it made Artie smile again.

“Of course, I can only make my arms and chest so small, but I should be able to make some nice fat blobs on my chest.”Boston 5

“Fat blobs?” Boston objected.

“They are called breasts,” Alexis told Artie.  “But they are basically fat blobs,” she told Boston.

“The fat blobs on my bottom will be a bit more difficult, but I should be able to thin my legs and waist to fatten my hips and bottom.”

“That’s okay,” Katie said.  “You don’t want a fat butt.”

“But wait,” Boston was thinking.  “Why didn’t you scan me?”

“I did,” Artie said.  “But you are different.  You have all the attributes on the outside, but your insides don’t seem to be there.  It seems you are there and not there at the same time.  I do not understand it, and I cannot reconcile it.”

“That’s because I’m an elf,” Boston said with a true elf grin.

“She isn’t human,” Alexis said as Boston removed her glamour.  Artie’s eyes went wide as Alexis tried to explain.  “She is more spirit than flesh.  She is a spirit of nature, an earth spirit.”

“But no,” Artie objected.  “There is no such thing as spirit, much less spirit people.”

Elder Stow put his things away and spoke.  “Her senses, and her brain will interpret things based on what she knows.  At the same time, she can see internal as well as external reality, kind of like x-ray vision.  That was how she knew I was of the elder races, though I never removed my glamour.”

Artie nodded.  “It was confusing,” she said, then looked to see if she used the word in the right way.

“But here I am, a spirit person,” Boston said.  She raised her arms and turned like a model.

Alexis 2“I can see that you are not human,” Artie admitted that much.  Again, Alexis had another thought.

“What do you think happens to you when you die?” she asked.

“Nothing,” Artie answered.

“No telling,” Elder Stow said with a shrug.  “Something good, I hope, but I will say one thing.  Any human in her wreck would have died.  Artie would have ceased to function altogether if we had not gotten to her when we did.”

“Why should something happen when you die?  Isn’t that just the end of everything?”  Artie was curious.

“I’ll leave that discussion to our Methodist,” Katie said and wandered back to the fire.

“My evangelical heart wants to get in the middle of that,” Boston said.  “But my elf spirit feels very ambivalent about that.”  She joined Mingus and the others.

“I’ll let her stay awake for a while, but not for long.  She still needs to rest.”  Elder Stow left.  Lincoln pulled out the database for reference.  Alexis smiled.  Artie gave voice to her curiosity.