Roland and Boston took a break from staring at each other and talking in whispers. Boston kept an eye on her amulet to make sure they stayed on track and Roland paid more attention to the route to keep them out of trouble. At one point the rocks that sat back from the beach came very close to the water and left only a thin line of travel. Roland checked ahead and found where it opened out again. He paused at the sight, but quickly got the others to catch up.
There was construction going on down the beach. It was not what they expected in the Neolithic world of ancient South America. It was a ship. It looked like a two master, and had a below deck and a cabins fore and aft. It looked like it had a wheel, and no doubt a real rudder.
“Somebody’s tampering with time,” Katie remarked.
“Somebody’s coming in for a landing,” Lockhart responded and pointed up.
The Marzalotipan ship came down slowly. The travelers kept back to watch from safety as the ship corrected its angle several times. It made a lot of noise, but all things considered, it landed gently. There were no flame-thrower retro-rockets and there was no great wind pushed out from beneath the behemoth. Besides that, the Marzalotipan landed some distance from the construction. Alexis suggested that the birdman was well practiced at not disturbing the lives of potential customers. Lincoln added that the birdman needed the room to set up shop.
This time, the travelers got a good look at the set-up. Robots, or drones as Elder Stow called them, did all of the heavy lifting. The Marzalotipan merely pointed here and there, like a traffic cop, Lockhart decided. Everything was in place and ready to sell by the time the travelers arrived. A group of people from the construction site arrived at about the same time. And they were a strange looking group, as strange as the travelers.
There was an elf, a dwarf, two people who looked like something in between elves and dwarfs, and four men, darker in skin color than expected among Native Americans. The travelers guessed they were Shemsu people by the way the four carried a chair, or rather levitated it without actually touching it. The chair held a spindly old man with legs that appeared to be shriveled down to the bone, and useless. There was also an old, gray haired woman who walked with one hand on the arm of the chair and who kept looking up at the man in the chair as if she was afraid for him with every step. It was the old man who spoke.
“Boston! What’s wrong? You don’t seem to be injured in any way.”
“Wir’a?” Lincoln always had to check, though they knew the old man was the Kairos.
“We already did that,” Roland said.
“I got a poisoned thorn,” Boston explained.
“Alexis pulled out the poison,” Roland finished, and the couple looked at each other with loving expressions.
Wir’a gently patted the hand of the woman beside him as he spoke. “So when are you two going to get married.”
Boston was the one who responded. “We haven’t set a date.”
“Nice ship,” Katie had to interrupt. The comment forced its way out of her lips.
“Yes,” Wir’a rubbed his chin a little harder and drawled the word. “I have a trip to make. Some of these Shemsu are going back to Egypt and I would rather not wreck between here and Africa.”
“A bit ahead of your time, isn’t it?”
Wir’a nodded, but smiled. “A Three Stooges ship. Guaranteed to fall apart as soon as we reach the Egyptian port.”
“What are you facing?” Major Decker asked the question that both Lockhart and Lincoln were thinking really hard.
“The Masters are exporting cocaine to the Egyptian court. Poppies would be bad enough, but cocoa plants are New World and don’t belong there. They have about a two week head start, but it just goes to show, it is always something. Meanwhile,” Wir’a turned to face the Marzalotipan. “You have a name?”
“Ooogleloogalloo …” The name went on for a while and included some whistles and chirps that no human could imitate.
“Well, Oogle,” Wir’a stuck with the first part. “This planet is a trade free zone.” Wir’a paused and turned toward Elder Stow. “Elder Stow. What are you doing?”
The Gott-Druk looked up at Wir’a. “Lord.” He turned his eyes to Lockhart. “My father. I believe I can adapt this instrument to charge up my equipment.” He turned again, this time toward Katie. “My mother. Do you still have those spare Reichgo 10,000-year half-life batteries?” Katie nodded and all eyes returned to Wir’a.
Wir’a frowned. “All right. You can trade this one time with these people only, but then you have to vacate this planet and not come back.” Oogle appeared to put a smile on that bird face. “No horses,” Wir’a added, and Oogle lost the smile. “Fetch Digger,” Wir’a said to one of his little ones who ran off to fetch whoever Digger was.
Digger had a bucket of gold and precious stones with which he was reluctant to part. “This was to be our currency in Egypt,” Wir’a said. “We will just have to fetch some more.”
Elder Stow got his instrument. Alexis got some Dilodian silk. Major Decker looked again at the Blueblood cannon, and had just, in fact, got the Marzalotipan to connect the wide angle lens when they were interrupted by screaming in the distance. Fifty cannibal warriors poured out of the narrow place in the beach and began to spread out as they charged.
“We must have really ticked them off,” Lincoln said as he pulled his pistol.
“Probably killed a wife or a child by accident,” Katie suggested.
“Do you offer a test ride?” Lockhart asked.
“A test shot?” Katie corrected.
The Marzalotipan was not sure what they were asking, but he seemed to nod. Decker needed no more invitation. He sprayed the oncoming horde and with the wide angle and it only took a moment to knock all fifty enemy warriors to the sand.
“Unconscious, I think,” Decker said. “I’m not sure I read the stun setting correctly.” He fiddled with something on the canon and then handed it back to the Marzalotipan. “No thank you. Pulls to the left.”
“Lord Iwaca’l,” Wir’a spoke to the fairy that rested on the top corner of his chair. “Please fetch your troop and bind the unconscious natives so they don’t give trouble when they awake.”
“Lord,” Iwaca’l bowed and sped off.
“Oogle, time is up. I am sorry, but you must leave this planet and not return. Please pass the word on to your fellow Marzalotipan. This world is off limits. I am trying to keep the Pendratti war off this world so I don’t want anyone thinking this world is being armed. Do you understand?”
Oogle looked at his take of gold and stones and nodded. “Maybe after there is peace.”
“Don’t hold your breath,” Decker said.
“Indeed,” Wir’a agreed, but he said it in a way that was not clear if he would allow trade even then or if he felt the chances for peace were rather slim. He turned the subject “Roland and Boston, set a date and decide what you are going to do about the elf, human problem. I’m listening. Meanwhile,” He turned to the old woman and reached over for a kiss. “What’s for supper?” The old woman merely smiled.