Avalon 8.10 Refugees, part 4 of 4

Half the people exited the screens, including Decker and Katie who went out on the flanks a little to make sure no samurai or super soldiers were following around to see if the screens made a complete circle.  The wagon took four discs, one for Ghost, one for Tony, and one front and back on the wagon itself.  There was overlap, but that was better than getting stuck on a corner.  Once they were all gathered, they hurried off toward the road, to catch up with the refugees and Hideko’s students, and to get out of visual range as soon as possible.

Elder Stow sat and between the screen device and his scanner, he watched the activity outside the screens.  He saw the super soldiers try handguns and one rifle.  He watched them try to concentrate fire.  It did them no good.

He saw the Japanese warriors.  Katie said they were not technically samurai yet, not that he knew what that was, but the others all called them that.  He watched them bang on the screens with swords, spears, clubs, stones, and a couple of arrows.  One noticed a bird fly right though the screens.  Elder Stow made the screens so they would not interfere with the living flora and fauna—at least birds would not be hindered.  Three men helped a fourth reach a tree branch.  He climbed to the same height and jumped where he thought the bird came through what he thought was a screen wall, much like a stone wall, but invisible.  He went further than he expected and landed, not nearly at the top of the dome, but up on the side.  Of course, he had nothing to hang on to, so he slid back to the ground down the gentle curve.  He seemed to enjoy the ride and maybe wanted to do that again.

“Ah…” Elder Stow said to himself out loud as the samurai and super soldiers met around the edges.  Three samurai met three super soldiers, and the three samurai fell to their knees and grabbed at their heads.  The super soldiers conferred while they held the three men in the grip of their telepathic power.  Then one soldier further back, fired an arrow. It struck a super soldier in the middle of his torso. Elder Stow noted, the Ouran heart was somewhere in the middle, where the human stomach might be.  They had more ribs as well, so it took a well-placed shot to damage the heart.  The shot was well-placed, or rather, lucky.  Of course, the two standing super soldiers fired on the samurai and made small explosions in the rocks and trees behind which the samurai hid.  One of the super soldiers immediately shot the three samurai at his feet, and then the two sides backed away.

Finally, the shuttle the super soldiers arrived in came close and fired on the screens with almost no affect.  Meanwhile, Elder Stow scanned the shuttle and found four more super soldiers aboard.  “So, there are eleven, well, now ten to contend with locally,” he said to himself, and then worried, because wherever the main ship was, it was out of his scanner range.  “And who knows how many soldiers the main ship may be carrying.”

Out in the field, Katie had a question.  “These blue-skinned Ouran.  Are they Bluebloods?”

Hideko, who borrowed Elder Stow’s horse to ride beside her shook her head.  “They can’t just plant their seed in a woman like the Bluebloods could.  They reproduce normally between the two sexes, otherwise I would not let them near my women.  But they are the result of a Blueblood incursion several thousand years ago.  They all carry Blueblood genes.  They are what I told you ages ago, what the human race would have become if the Bluebloods ever got a foothold on earth.”

Katie nodded and looked back.  Nanette and Hangaku seemed very animated in their discussion.  Lockhart tried not to listen.  It made Katie smile for the man.  Behind them, Lincoln and Alexis talked some, but Tomoe looked like she got saddled with her least favorite aunt.  She only talked when asked a direct question, and then it was short and to the point.  Tony had the wagon.  Decker had the rear, which was the only direction they expected to face any trouble.  Sukki and Boston still rode out front, but being on the road, Sukki stayed close, just behind the Ouran and women who walked at a good pace.  Boston still rode out ahead, but it was mostly to look for places where the wagon might have some trouble.

“So, what are you going to do about your brother?” Katie asked.  “You are technically living in his province.”

Hideko shook her head.  “The school is over the mountain, so technically in Iga province, which is not technically his.  But who pays attention to technicalities?  Kiyomori has set his path, I think, and it does not look like a good one.  He lusts for power and control, and he will eliminate anyone who gets in his way.  I am not surprised he wants to see me dead.  He makes alliances and promises only to break them when they become inconvenient.  He forces others to do what he wants and does not even leave his own children out of that mix.  I see only ruin for my family.”

“I’m sorry,” Katie said.  “I know something of the struggle and political turmoil of these days here in Japan, but I don’t know details.  Most of my graduate work was in the west—the advent of gunpowder and that sort of thing.”

“Ancient and medieval technologies,” Hideko said, gathering the information from somewhere in time.  She gave the horse his reigns and used both hands to pull her long, gray hair into a ponytail.  She curled it and used a piece of leather she wore on her wrist, and a stick she pulled from her armor to tie it up.  “I am forty-nine,” she said.  “The war that is coming, that looks inevitable, will hopefully be my last in this life.  My brother is forty-two, and I have younger brothers.  My brother also has sons, and one daughter, Tokuko.  She is five.  I worry about that girl, being the only girl, outside of her submissive mother, around so many men.  I fear she will become what men do with girls, a political pawn, and she may come to no good end.”

“You sound like you have a handle on events.  How do you come by your information?” Katie wondered.

“I have spies,” Hideko said with a straight face.  “I train spies, young and old, common people and nobility.  I know about my father’s illness and pray that he rests in peace.  I cannot go there to see him, though.  To do so would be to invite my own death.”

Katie understood.

It was almost an hour later when the super soldier shuttle approached.  People got off the road and into the woods with only a few screaming.  They had supposedly prepared for this.  Katie took Sukki’s horse and Sukki rose up into the sky to meet the ship if she could.  She went invisible, which suggested Elder Stow was close and kept her disc tuned to the invisible spectrum.

The shuttle got off one shot.  It made a big explosion and hole in the road near the front of the women and refugees.  A few were injured.  Alexis feared Boston, who undoubtedly rode back, might be injured.  But after that, the main gun of the ship melted under Elder Stow’s weapon blast, and the back end of the shuttle exploded where Sukki trained her power.

“Sukki,” Nanette called as the shuttle shot straight to the ground like a rocket where it exploded again in a much bigger explosion that shook the earth where they stood.  Sukki became visible when she arrived, and Nanette and the others all sighed their relief at seeing her, unharmed.  Elder Stow’s voice came over the communication device.

“Just making sure none survived, though I don’t see how any could have survived,” he said.  “I’ll catch up.”

Katie lifted her arm to respond but glanced back and saw that Lockhart already had his arm up, so she lowered her hand.

“Roger that,” Lockhart said.  “Don’t be long.”

“Out.” Elder Stow said.

The travelers, refugees, and women finished the journey without another incident.  When they arrived, Hideko went straight into action.  The school had a six-foot wall all the way around a very large area that included a half-dozen buildings.  Two of those building were quite large.  One looked like a simple farmer’s hut.  “My home,” Hideko called the hut.  “The hut of the old woman on the mountain, and now I am becoming the old woman.”  She smiled.

“Where do you want us when your brother’s samurai show up?” Lockhart asked her.

“Available,” she said, and went inside her hut.  She came out only a moment later with her face painted white as a ghost, her lips blood red, and dressed in the armor of the Kairos with as much hardware as she could carry.  “You know,” she said.  “I used to paint Leonora’s face in the same way when she got into her harlequin costume.  It was what we came up with to be sure neither her father, nor her uncle the Doge of Venice would find her or recognize her if they did find her.”

They waited until about two hours after dark.  When the samurai arrived, they began with a charge at the front gate.  The travelers killed most of them, though after their initial shock at the guns, the men and women on the wall got to practice their archery skills and killed some.  There could not have been more than a dozen that escaped back to the woods.

Hideko thanked the travelers and told them to get off the wall.  She sent teams of three into the woods to rout out the remains of the warriors and end their threat.  She checked on her Ouran refugees, saw them fed and bedded, and reassured the chief that she could repair their ship and send them on their way.

“What will you do about the main ship of the super soldiers?” Elder Stow asked what was on his mind.

“Burn that bridge when I come to it,” Hideko said.  “Not your concern.”

Then the women gathered with Hideko, the two Gozens, and a few others to throw Nanette an informal bachelorette party while the men got pampered.  Hideko had a few girls from lesser houses in the capital of Kyoto who needed to practice their tea, song, and dance.  They ate well and toasted Decker time and again.  Elder Stow found the sake made him giggle, and the sound of a Neanderthal giggling made everyone laugh.  Of course, for the next ten days, all the way to the next time gate, they had to watch Elder Stow hold his head and hear him complain about the evil drink.

“I thought it was a kind of fruit juice,” he said, over and over.

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MONDAY

Back to the regular schedule.  Episode over two weeks.  3 posts per week.

Episode 8.11, Tax Collectors and Other Thieves in Nottinghamshire, England.  Until Monday, Happy Reading.

*

Avalon 8.10 Refugees, part 3 of 4

Aiko sat on the log Decker pulled up to sit by the fire, though the fire had been put out.  He stared at the ring of stones that surrounded where the fire had been and imagined other stone circles he had seen, some with big stones that no man could lift.   He also stared at Elder Stow, the Neanderthal, and wondered if the man lived in Hokkaido among the primitive people there.  But he shook his head.  The flying woman of power had the same look, and they had no such people living on Hokkaido, unless the scholars were all mistaken.

“Ready,” Elder Stow said, and Boston turned to the man.

“Why have you and your men come to the mountain?” she asked plainly.

Elder Stow touched his device, one he had not shown before.  Aiko jumped from the slight electrical shock that struck him.

“Let’s try this again.  Why are you here?” Boston asked.

Aiko shook his head more vigorously, and the electrical shock was a tad stronger.  He jumped again and opened his mouth.  “The lady does not know about her father being sick and dying.  I told you the truth.  Her brother sent us to inform her and bring her to see him, if she is willing.”

“That is not entirely true,” Boston said, her truth detector being on high alert.

“Mostly true, but some part is a lie,” Elder Stow agreed, and Aiko got a larger electrical shock.  He shrieked, and Alexis came over from helping Lincoln hitch-up Ghost to the wagon.

“What are you doing?” she asked, demanding an answer

“Trying to get the truth,” Boston said, never taking her eyes off Aiko.

Alexis raised her voice.  “We do not torture people.  I can’t believe you.  What are you doing?  Leave the man alone.”

Decker and Tony arrived, and Decker immediately spoke up.  “Do you want me to kill him?  That would solve the problem.”

“Decker!”  Nanette followed Alexis to the group, and she did not hesitate to yell, but Decker just grinned, albeit, looking a bit like a shark.  Aiko withdrew from the grin and the fact that Decker was black.  He never saw a black man before, and it made him think frightening thoughts.

Boston came out with it.  “You and your men were sent to kill Hideko.  Why?”

Aiko broke down and covered his eyes.  He felt frightened and ashamed and would not look at anyone.  “My lord, Kiyomori is afraid of her.  She is the eldest and he fears she may claim this whole province as an inheritance.  She has proved herself a worthy and formidable leader of warriors, and this place is separated from the other provinces he controls.  He fears she may succeed in taking the land and men, and he wishes to keep all of the land and the warriors under his control.  He has plans.  But please.  I am only a soldier.  I do not know what his plans are.”  He appeared to weep a little.

Lockhart interrupted the scene.  “I need three of those discs.  We have three visitors.”

Boston took the disc she got back from Aiko.  She stuck her hand out and Tony and Decker gave her theirs.  She handed all three to Lockhart who turned around, having decided he did not want to know what was going on.  He would hear all about it in a moment.

“We don’t torture people,” Nanette yelled again to get back on topic.

“We would not have hurt him,” Elder Stow said, quietly.  He got interrupted by Lincoln who came over with Sukki.  “Everything packed and saddled.  We are ready to go.”

“I’m ashamed of you people,” Alexis concluded.

“Go ahead,” Boston said to Elder Stow.  He had his weapon out and seriously worked on the controls while he watched his lie detector.  He turned the power of the weapon down to almost nothing.  He hesitated, but only for a second before he shot Aiko.  The man collapsed.

“Elder Stow!  Boston!”  Alexis scolded them again and checked the warrior.  “He will live, but I imagine he won’t be moving for quite a while.”  She gave the two a hard look but could not imagine what else she might say.  Nanette appeared to be silenced as well.  Fortunately, Katie and Lockhart soon showed up with their three guests, and Lincoln broke the tense silence.

“All packed up and ready to go,” he reported.  He even tried to smile.

“Good,” Lockhart began to respond, but Hideko interrupted him.

“Boston.” she opened her arms, and Boston ran for her hug, but it felt half-hearted.

“I may have gone too far again,” she said softly and backed up.  “But not,” she insisted.  “He has a hundred warriors down the hill, and they were sent by Kiyomori to kill you.”

Hideko merely nodded and introduced her companions, Tomoe the elder Gozen and Hangaku the younger.  Then she looked at Aiko and spoke to everyone.  “You may have just delayed things.  If killing me is what he has been commanded to do, he is honor bound to succeed or die trying.  If he fails and survives, Kiyomori will kill him.  There are times in the history of this nation when suicide seems the only honorable way out after such a failure.  Stupid.  I much prefer your American solution to failure.”

“What is that?” Tony asked.

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

People did not know what to say, so Lockhart changed the subject.  “What else did you find out?”

Elder Stow spoke up.  He appreciated the change in subject.  “I have been watching my screens.  We have seven Ouran who I believe are the genetically modified super soldiers we were warned about.  They are blocked by the screens, but I imagine they know what screens are.  It appears they may bring their shuttle craft close to try and blast through.  Meanwhile, we have a hundred warriors, as Boston reported.  They have come up to the side of the screens and I imagine they have no idea what it is, but they are trying to see if there is a way around.  I suspect they will run into the super soldiers any minute now.”

“Recommendation?” Decker asked, though it was not really his place to ask.

Elder Stow nodded.  “I was thinking, you can take the discs, probably in two shifts.  There is a road that direction,” he pointed.

“Where we are going,” Hideko said quietly to Katie.

Elder Stow continued.  “I can stay here and keep the screens up.  When you send the word that you are away, or if these Ouran try to follow you, I can turn off the screens, go invisible and fly to catch you up.”

“I can stay with him,” Sukki said, but Elder Stow shook his head.

“Not this time, daughter.  You are the only one with the power to take down the shuttle if it should suddenly fly off to pursue the group.  You remember how to take out the engines and can cause them to crash, whatever else you might do.  I will stay until I hear from you.  I will be all right, and I have my personal shield if something should go wrong.”

“Be careful,” Tony said.  “These super soldiers appear to be telepathic.  They tried to get into our minds but were kept out by the hedge of the gods.  I assume you are equally protected, but I do have a bit of a headache.”

“I was just going to say that,” Decker said.

“Yes sir, Colonel,” Tony responded.  “But I pay attention to magic and all that stuff.  Elder Stow thinks more like you, in terms of logical, scientific explanations, but the universe can’t always be explained in that way. Sorry.”

“Fair enough,” Lockhart said.  “Let’s get going.”

“I will ride with Katie,” Hideko said.  “Tomoe, you ride with Alexis.  I want you to hear good things about making peace.  Hangaku, you can ride with Nanette and hear all about her wedding plans.”  Hideko smiled for the couple who quickly looked at each other.

“I didn’t say anything,” Decker said, and held his hands up.

Nanette looked down, like she did not want to look at anyone.  “He asked me to marry him, and I said yes.”

The women cheered and took turns hugging Nanette.  Elder Stow and Tony said congratulations and shook Decker’s hand.  Lockhart, Lincoln, and Decker passed glances.  Lockhart backed away and Lincoln looked like he wanted to say something, but kept his mouth closed for once.

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Don’t forget Thursday’s post to finish the episode…

*

Avalon 8.10 Refugees, part 2 of 4

Decker turned off his wristwatch.  Tony turned the volume on his watch to minimum and followed.  The colonel was teaching him combat skills which he feared he would need once he got back to his own time.  He tried not to think about World War One, but from what little he gathered, it would be a bloody and ultimately indecisive war.  World War Two would follow.  Well. he thought.  The Italians would switch from the winning side to the losing side.  That did not surprise him.

“Hush,” Decker said and squatted down behind a bush.  Tony inched up to where he could see.  Several men—they looked mostly like men—stood in a nearby clearing, conferring.  They had two arms with what looked like five fingered hands, a torso and two legs, and one head, a bit large, but with relatively human-like facial features.  Their noses pushed up, the ears were extra small, the lips extra thick, and they were completely bald, but they might have passed in human company if it was not for the blue tint in their skin.

One alien appeared to be talking through a communicator with the shuttle, or maybe a more distant main ship.  The other two talked quietly with each other until the one on the communicator suddenly stopped talking and turned his head to look right at the bush where Decker and Tony were hiding.  Tony saw the yellow eyes, what he considered the final proof of their alien nature.  The two who were talking quietly also stopped talking and turned to stare at the bush.

Tony felt some pressure on his mind.  It made him squint, and he thought it might give him a headache.  Decker stood up.  He started getting used to things trying to get into his head, like ghouls and Vr projectors.  He spoke to the aliens.  “This planet is off limits to alien species.  You do not belong here.”

The pressure on his brain receded and the one that talked on the communicator, the evident leader of the group, spoke.

“We are greater Ouran.  Some lesser Ouran came to this world not far from here.  We must find them and remove them.”

Tony stood.  He holstered his handgun but left the strap unsnapped.  “What do you mean, remove them?” he asked.

The Ouran commander did not pause.  “They are escaped slaves.  Their removal will depend on their degree of cooperation.”  He did not say it in so many words, but both Tony and Decker understood if the escaped slaves did not cooperate, they would be killed.  That especially rankled Decker.

“Maybe we will make this a sanctuary planet,” he said.

“You have no authority nor the ability to stop us” the commander said.  “And you would not like it if we have to force you to cooperate.”

Decker turned on his wristwatch and spoke.  “These people are called Ouran.  Our group is soldiers hunting escaped slaves.  We will be returning to base for orders.  Keep an eye on our progress.  Out.”

“Roger,” Elder Stow responded, and then there was silence.  Decker and Tony slowly turned around and walked back toward the camp.  They both knew that one of the Ouran soldiers followed them, but they came to the screens and passed through with the discs Elder Stow gave them.  The soldier banged his foot and could not get beyond the screens.  He no doubt reported his finding.

###

Boston had to do some convincing, but she got Sukki to agree to her plan.

The human samurai-like soldiers were bunched up at the bottom of the hill.  Boston ran to them, and showing some remarkable elf speed, she ran circles around them, slapped a number of them on the chest, and ran back up the hill to stop and stare at them.  She had to stare before she could talk.  She winded herself and had to catch her breath.

The samurai did not know what to do other than shout.  Boston had removed her glamour of humanity, so she stood there in her red-headed, skinny elf glory.  Her eyes shifted from face to face, and then she spoke.  “What are you doing on my mountain?”  No man said a word.  “Speak, or I will taunt you again.”  She tried not to giggle at her memory of Monty Python.

One man stepped forward.  He bowed, not knowing what else to do.  “I am Aiko of the Taira, and our master owns all this land, and the mountain, though I suppose he may not argue about the mountain if you ask him.”  He bowed again.

“But what are you doing here?” she asked and thought of what Lockhart said.  “Who are you looking for?”

The men shuffled their feet.  Aiko looked around before he shook his head.  They would not say.

“Sukki,” Boston called.  She figured if their purpose was not nice, they would probably refuse to tell her.  Sukki flew in, but overhead she saw one of the samurai in the back of the group had an arrow on his bow and pointed it straight at Boston.  Suki threw one hand out.  She tried to cause the man to go unconscious, but she fried him and felt terrible about it when the man screamed and collapsed.

“Boston?” Sukki asked.  Boston gave Sukki a hug, which she needed.

“These men won’t tell me why they are here,” Boston moped.  Sukki simply had to look at the men and Aiko spouted.

“Taira no Tadamori is deathly ill, and Taira no Hideko needs to be told.  Her brother Kiyomori sent us to fetch her, if she will come,” the man lied, and Boston knew it was a lie.  She had to think of what to do, but only took a second.

“Aiko.  You must come with us.  The rest of you need to wait here no matter how long it takes.  Come.  Don’t make me tell you again.”

Aiko reluctantly followed as they quickly moved out of sight from the men, among the trees.  When they got to where the screens projected, Boston kept back and let Aiko walk into the screens.  Sukki walked right in, having a disc, but Aiko could not proceed.  Boston smiled and handed the man the disc she had been given to come and go through the projection.

“This is a magic token that will let you enter the place of mystery.  Guard it with your life.”  She gave him the disc and he walked right through the place where he had previously been stopped.  Wonder filled the man’s eyes, as Boston phased through the screens and Sukki ran ahead to tell everyone to remove their glamours.  Sukki had put hers on, so she looked like a Neanderthal.

“Ameratsu protect me,” the man whispered as he came face to face with Alexis.

“Ameratsu was a very nice girl,” Alexis said, and smiled for the man.

“I remember Ameratsu,” Boston piped up.  “That was ages ago.”

The man trembled.

###

Lockhart and Katie came into a meadow where they found some blue tinted people.  The people looked scared and stopped to face these new people.  Lockhart and Katie hardly knew what to think before a woman in her mid-to-late forties stood up from the grass where she had been completely hidden.  She held something like a pole with a curved sword attached to one end.  She spun the pole and stepped up to hug Lockhart and Katie and she shouted.

“It’s all right.  You can all get up.  These are friends.”  She turned to the blue skinned people.  “You need to keep walking.  We need to get to the school by sundown.”

“Hideko?”  Lockhart asked, Lincoln not being there.

Hideko nodded and yelled.  “Gozen.”  Two young girls answered.  The older one said, “What?” rather sharply.  “The young one said, “Here I am,” sweetly.  They attended Hideko, and Kate widened her eyes.

“Two elect.  You have two elect in your school?”  Katie was surprised.

“And you are one of us,” the elder Gozen said.  The younger one just stared.

Katie pointed to the younger one.  “I could still see you when you were hiding.”

“She is young.  Just learning,” Hideko said and reached out to hug the girl.  “This is Hangaku.  The grumpy older one is Tomoe.  Where is Boston?”

“Back in the camp,” Lockhart said.  “You have warriors sneaking around.  Boston and Sukki went to check on the humans.  Decker and Tony checked on the aliens.”

“Ouran soldiers hunting down escaped slaves,” Katie remembered.

Hideko understood.  She turned to the girls waiting in the field, and the bluish people that had paused in the field.  “Ladies.  Take these refugees to the school and let them rest in the open room until I get there.”  She said more quietly.  “Gozens, stay with me.” and to Lockhart, “Lead the way.”