“Gunfire?” Jill was the one who recognized the sound and snapped Ethan out of escape mode. They turned and saw Lars run up. Ali Pasha was right behind him while Manomar protectively brought up the rear, and he had the briefcase held tightly in his hands.
“Behind crates.” Ali Pasha shouted, and they got behind as several arrows came close. Lars shot his last shot in the direction from which the arrows came, but whether he hit anyone or not was hard to tell. Obviously, the man was a good shot, which reinforced Ethan’s image of the cowboy. There were three men down in the yard, though they all still appeared to be moving, if in pain, and Ethan had no doubt the two guards at the gate were also either dead or near enough. Ethan turned away from the yard to look at Jill
“You must be taking me.” Ali Pasha insisted and he would not let Manomar hand over the briefcase until Jill agreed. Jill looked put out, but not too much. Ethan imagined that for some reason she was willing enough to take the scholar along.
“All right, but hurry.” She groused as Manomar relinquished the equipment. Jill slipped the dimensional watch on her wrist and turned on the laptop. She wired the watch to the machine while the machine booted up, and she cursed several times while she waited on the software when something entirely unexpected happened.
A beam of baby blue, laser-like light came from the back of the house, scorched the grass and set some of the nearby wood on fire. It came from a bad angle to reach them, but whoever fired that shot would surely have them in sight soon enough.
Another streak of light, this one thick and almost pure white came from the direction of the wall and gate, and Ethan all but surrendered. He thought that they were caught in a crossfire and doubted that a few old wooden crates would protect them from whatever power was being unleashed by those weapons. Lars corrected Ethan’s thinking.
“Looks like we have some friends.” He pointed, and it did appear to Ethan like several men were hunkered down behind the gated wall, and they were firing their own laser-like weapons at the ones behind the house. When he looked a second time and more closely to be sure, he drew his breath in sharply because the men by the front wall were not men at all. They had every appearance of being Neanderthals and with that revelation, Ethan just decided that all of this was getting much too weird when Jill yelled. “Hold hands.”
Ethan grabbed Jill’s hand. Lars put his big hand around Ethan’s other hand, the one that now held the briefcase. Ali Pasha took the free hand of the big Swede and made a face like he wondered if this was going to hurt, while Jill’s finger hovered over the enter button. She dared not wait any longer. The baby blue fire started coming too close.
“Ready, set, go!” She shouted in one breath, just before the next stream of fire struck. There was a terrific flash of light and Ethan’s voice said, “Damn!” He forgot to close his eyes again.
Ethan’s eyes adjusted more quickly this time, and without the need for rubbing. He chalked it up to the nano-chits, and looked around. They appeared to have landed in a forest. Apart from Ali Pasha having taken over his eye rubbing routine, Ethan noticed Manomar was also blinking wildly and holding tight to his master’s collar. Obviously, the big black slave was not going to let his master go off without him.
Lars got on the ground to help Jill sit up while Ethan closed-down the laptop. He noticed the battery life was down to fifty percent, but he was not worried yet, even if this place was clearly another new world. He felt certain about that, though the bit of forest they were in provided no evidence. He bent down.
“Are you all right Missus Lucas?” He asked and she gave him a look. He shrugged. “If you like Lucas, I’ll accept that. I figured whatever makes you happy. What else are husbands good for?” Her look turned into a wry smile.
“Just fine Mister Lucas,” Jill said and she let him and Lars get her back on her feet. Jill explained while they put the laptop and the transitional unit back in the briefcase. “You called it a dimensional watch, but it is not really made to touch the skin. The forces associated with travel through the worlds needs insulation.”
“So it’s like a massive electric shock.” Ethan suggested.
Jill nodded. “I temporarily short circuited.” She took his arm, Ethan smiled, and Lars patted them both on the shoulder for reassurance.
“You make a fine couple,” he said.
“But where are we?” Ali Pasha interrupted and reverted to his native Arabic. “I do not recognize this place.”
“Same place, different world,” Jill responded. She tried to answer Ali Pasha more thoroughly while Lars and Manomar began to scout around.
“A couple of good horses would not hurt,” Lars said when he caught up with the Moor. Manomar agreed, but since they were on foot, they separated to cover more territory. A few minutes later and they came back. They found a rough dirt road out beyond the clump of trees, and that seemed their best option. When they arrived on the road, Jill wet her finger, held it up in the air, and pointed in one direction, north.
“Magic?” Manomar asked, and Lars scoffed.
“An affectation,” Jill answered, and they were ready to go except Ali Pasha said, “Wait.”
Ali Pasha took his robe and laid it around Jill’s shoulders. She was practically naked. “Forgive me,” Ali Pasha said. “This may be a different world, as you say, but humans are humans and naked female flesh is to be avoided in public.”
Jill nodded and accepted the cloak gracefully, while Ethan chose to drop the remains of his shredded shirt. Jill gave him a look, which suggested that she would not mind if he took everything off. Ethan was not at all embarrassed by the idea until Lars guffawed.
Next week, since the two have become a team, they need to become inconspicuous, if possible.
Free read beginning Monday: Guardian Angel-8, Undercover. Until then, Happy Reading