The travelers crossed Mesopotamia to near the mid-point, spent one dull night in Hatra, and left Hatra on the morning of the fourth day since entering that time zone. Apart from that one incident at the bridge in Nineveh, the journey had been quiet and peaceful, and maybe overall dull. They had no trouble getting in and out of the city, strange looking caravan though they were. Boston, Alexis, and with help, Nanette, all wore glamours that made them look like young, beardless men. Decker and Nanette rode side by side and claimed to be Egyptian, which no one doubted.
Lockhart and Tony took turns driving the wagon through the towns, while the undisguised women, Katie and Sukki, rode in the wagon, like any women would in that day and place. They agreed and disguised their movement through populated areas to reduce the number of questions they got from strangers and soldier on the way. Of course, having an elect and a super powered cave woman guarding their things was not a bad idea in a place like Hatra, a city big enough to have thieves. Besides their supplies, the wagon carried their spare horseshoes and nails, and mostly the western saddles they were not allowed to use for another thousand years. These were things covered with a tarp and best not shown, much less closely examined by a thief, or for that matter, a soldier with a brain.
Lockhart drove the wagon into the city of Hatra. They found a place to stay for the night, and for the first time, Lockhart got Elder Stow to put a disc alarm on their things. If anyone disturbed them or even touched them in the night, the travelers would know. Katie put her rifle in the wagon but kept her sidearm. Lockhart added his shotgun to the pile, now that they did not have to worry about giant rats.
Supper was quiet. Most watched the three men that sat in the corner. Two looked middle-aged, like in their late thirties. One looked considerably younger, like in his mid-twenties, but he seemed to be the one in charge. Men came in and out of the inn several times during the meal. They all appeared to report to the men at the table, and the young one gave them instructions and sent them back out.
“Wonder what that is all about,” Lockhart said, quietly.
“Nosey?” Boston asked.
Lockhart shook his head. The young man gave him uncomfortable feelings, like maybe his police instincts were acting up.
“I feel it too,” Katie admitted. “Something is not right there.” Katie’s elect instincts were highly refined but made to recognize dangers to home and family. Home was presently mobile, but all of the travelers were like her family. She shook her head, not quite understanding the message she was getting. They looked at Boston.
Boston squinted. “I feel something wrong with them, but I’m not sure you can trust my feelings right now. I’m starting to find most human beings creepy. I wish Roland was here.”
The men got up and left the inn.
Tony leaned over from the other table. Apparently, they noticed, too, though it would have been hard not to notice as the men kept staring back at the travelers. “The young one is Ramin Lajani, if that name means anything to you. Alexis asked the innkeeper.”
People shook their heads. The name Ramin Lajani did not ring any bells, so thy let it go.
The beds were full of bugs, and Katie pointed out that they would probably be full of bugs right up until the twentieth century. Lockhart only nodded and tried not to snore.
In the morning, Tony had another turn with Ghost, and everything went well, until they got about three hours out of town. They heard gunfire.
Decker, Boston and Sukki all raced to the others. Elder Stow came more slowly, glancing at his scanner as he rode. Everyone waited until he arrived and spoke.
“There are four people trapped against a rock.” Elder Stow pulled up a holographic image of the area. “There are four red dots here, people trapped against this rock, with rocks and trees for cover. About a dozen men with primitive rifles have them surrounded. You see the yellow dots. Yellow is for danger.”
Lockhart understood, and his immediate concern became the people trapped beside the rock. “Elder Stow, can you fly invisible to the red dot people and throw a screen around them to protect them from the bullets?”
“They may freak out when I appear out of nowhere,” Elder Stow said, and added, “Did I use the right expression? Freak out?”
People nodded. Boston grinned deeply and patted the Gott-Druk on the shoulder while Lockhart spoke. “Stay invisible if you feel that is necessary. We have our wristwatch communicators. Let us know what you find.”
“It may be the Kairos,” Boston said, flipping instantly in her attitude, the way fairies and young elves do. She changed from pride in Elder Stow to deep concern in her voice.
“I could go with you,” Sukki caught Boston’s concern and volunteered for Elder Stow.
“Can you go invisible?” Katie asked.
“I don’t think so,” Sukki answered. “But I still have the disc father gave me.”
Lockhart nodded and pointed at the holographic projection. “Go invisible with Boston. Their horses are here on the right, at the edge of the trees. You two need to prevent the gunmen from escaping, and Boston, if they resist you, you do have permission this time to end their resistance. The Kairos was clear about that. Any artifacts or people out of time need to be dealt with. End of story, only, try not to set the woods on fire, you two.”
“The Kairos said anyone with a gun before guns are invented should be considered an enemy combatant,” Katie added her assurance.
“He said they should be eliminated,” Decker spoke more to the point. “I’ll come in from the left.” He looked at Nanette. “Do you want to come?”
“Yes…no,” she decided.
“I’ll take Tony,” Decker said.
“Lincoln and Alexis?” Lockhart raised his voice.
“We have the wagon,” Lincoln responded.
Katie turned to Nanette. “Better you stay and help Lincoln and Alexis guard the wagon and our horses.” Nanette nodded her agreement.
“Why take me?” Tony asked, and pulled his revolver to stare at it with uncertainty on his face. Decker put a hand on Tony’s shoulder and turned him to start walking.
“I looked at the timeline Lincoln calculated. You better start learning now. You are going to need it when you get home.” Decker did not say, because Tony would land somewhere at the start of a world war. He definitely did not say World War I.
“Best go,” Elder Stow said. He put his scanner away and went invisible, which made Sukki invisible as well. Boston, who could still see the invisible Sukki walked with her before she also went invisible, as elves do.
Lockhart and Katie took a minute to help Nanette and Alexis secure the horses to the wagon, while Decker turned his fairy-weave clothing to camouflage fatigues and got Tony to do the same. As those two walked off, Decker looked like he wished he had something to chew on. Tony still looked uncertain.
“You know, a couple of months ago I was happily sculpting things in clay and playing with my potter’s wheel,” Tony said, a bit loud, and sounding nervous.
“Shut-up,” Decker responded, even as Katie and Lockhart started down the middle, rifle and shotgun at the ready.
Elder Stow arrived first at the four men in the rocks. “Xalazar,” he shouted to the men who were busy keeping their heads down. They all had bows and arrows, and a variety of knives, spears, and swords ready when needed, but then, they all looked the same. The Kairos was not wearing his easy to identify armor.
“Over here,” one of the older men said, and Elder Stow set down next to the man while he fiddled with his screen device.
“Should I become visible?” Elder Stow asked.
“Please,” the man said. “Good, or bad timing as usual, depending on how you look at it.”
Elder Stow turned on the screen device with an apology. “It was done in haste.” They heard several trees snap in half, and a few rocks got sliced with a razor clean cut. They watched one tree hit the screen bubble and slide slowly to the ground. “I did not trap any of the gunmen inside the screens,” he added, as he adjusted his invisibility device. He became visible, but he wanted Sukki to stay invisible until she finished her task.
“Decker screens?” Xalazar asked.
Elder Stow shook his head. “That will take a bit more work in this case. Personal screens are not made to cover a whole area, much less to deploy one-sided, so we can shoot out and they cannot shoot in. Arrows won’t make it out through the screen in any case. It has to do with force, speed and mass…” he paused in the explanation. “Well, Boston and Sukki would understand the math.”
As the four men and Elder Stow stood, a half-dozen guns fired from the trees. Of course, the bullets bounced off the screen, even as Elder Stow and Xalazar heard a different gun fire in the distance.
Decker found a boulder outside the line of trees. He climbed up and saw three gunmen sneaking around behind the trees, clearly trying to get to where they could come up on the flank, or maybe get behind the men in the rocks.
“Keep your head down,” Decker said, as he snapped his scope on to the rifle. He shot the man in the middle in the shoulder, which caused all three men to turn and face the sound. Decker fired three shots in rapid succession, hitting all three men in the chest. They went down. Whether they were dead or would soon be dead did not matter. They would not be sneaking up on anyone.
Tony fired his pistol, twice. A fourth gunman tried to sneak up on them. He had shouldered his primitive rifle and held a long knife in his hand. Tony fired twice, thinking he may have missed with his first shot. He got startled by the man, but the man did not get close enough to use that knife.
“Don’t dwell,” Decker said, as Tony stared at the man and at his pistol. He got Tony moving as they heard more rifle fire in the distance, and Lockhart’s big blast of a shotgun.