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Avalon, Season Five, Djin

Avalon, Season Five, Djin

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Avalon, Season Five, Djin

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474 pagine
7 ore
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Pubblicato:
Aug 11, 2020
ISBN:
9781005351205
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Libro

Descrizione

Brought from Avalon, through the Heart of Time, , the Travelers arrive at the beginning of history on a rescue mission, but life gets complicated. In order to get home, the Travelers have to follow the amulet of Avalon that points to the next time gate. They move through time zones that center around the many lives of the Kairos, the Traveler in time, the Watcher over history, a person who never lives a quiet life.

With unlimited vitamins and elf crackers, and unlimited bullets, needed far too often, they ride mustangs brought back from the old west, and wear fairy weave clothing that can be shaped and changed to blend into the local culture. By a special gift, they can understand and be understood no matter the local language. This helps, especially when they deal with thieves, brigands, armies and empires, gods and monsters, spirits and creatures, space aliens, and the great unknown. They try hard not to disturb history. All they want is to get home in one piece, but they are not the only ones lost in time.

Some years earlier, a demon-goddess captured the Heart of Time and used it to fill the time zones with all manner of evil, in the effort to make time turn out more to her liking. Thus, the travelers decided at the beginning to help the Kairos clean out the time zones, but as Doctor Procter explains in the pilot episode, “I would not worry about hunting unsavories. I don’t imagine it will take long before they start hunting us.”

In Season Five, the Marid, a mighty Genii, is angered by the Travelers who keep evading his traps. He is doubly angered by the attack on his little ghoulish cousins in Season Four. He vows revenge. The Travelers must die, but knowing the Travelers are hedged by the gods, it will not be easy. Of course, the Travelers stay preoccupied, which may be to the Djin’s advantage, as each time zone has enough trouble of its own.

Look for the entire Avalon series, including The Prequel: Invasion of Memories. Following The Pilot Episode are nine seasons of adventures through the days of myth and legend, ancient empires, the birth of great civilization, and into the modern era, where the dangers grow exponentially. Enjoy Season Five, Djin, and Happy Reading. –MGK *

Editore:
Pubblicato:
Aug 11, 2020
ISBN:
9781005351205
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

I live, work, and dream in the southeast United States, where I occasionally wipe the dust from my shoes.My stories stretch back to the beginning of history and forward to the horizon of the future. They stretch out to other dimensions, other universes, other earths. They stretch up to the heights of human potential, and down to the depths of human depravity. And I always tell stories.Give me a cave, a bonfire in the night, the distant howl of a wolf under a full moon, and a listening, attentive ear, and I will tell you a story.Other than storytelling, I continue to walk with my family and friends, day by day, and only now and then wonder how long this road may be. I can't wait to see what happens next.--MichaelM. G. Kizzia

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Avalon, Season Five, Djin - M. G. Kizzia

Avalon

Season Five

Djin

M. G. Kizzia

Copyright 2017, 2020

MGK Books

(Version 1.1)

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Table of Contents

Introduction

5.0 Invading Armies

After 1700 B.C. near the Saini

Kairos Lifetime 59: Balor, Captain of the Hyksos

5.1 Sirens Are for Emergencies

After 1643 B.C. Greece

Kairos 60: Amphitrite, Queen Goddess of the Sea

5.2 Matters of Life and Death

After 1583 B.C. Syria, by the Euphrates

Kairos 61: Notere of the Hittites

5.3 Perseverance

After 1526 B.C. India, by the Ganges

Kairos 62: Padrama the Aryan

5.4 The Mystery of the Madness

After 1468 B.C. Memphis, land of Goshen

Kairos 63: Rachel, Household Servant

5.5 Artemis Home

After 1410 B.C. Megara, Greece

Kairos 64: Sinon, The General

5.6 Notes from the Underworld

After 1353 B.C. Egypt

Kairos 65: Kiya, Queen Forgotten

5.7 Little Lost Lamb

After 1294 B.C. Kadesh

Kairos 66: Utumari, the Hittite

5.8 Making a New Nest

After 1236 B.C. Philistia

Kairos 67: The Nameless God

5.9 Mythos Interruptus

After 1176 B.C. Anatolia before the Black Sea

Kairos 68: Althea, the Argonaut

5.10 Family Feud

After 1116 B.C. Troy

Kairos 69: Diomedes, the King

5.11 The River Circus

After 1057 B.C. The Wei River

Kairos 70: Shang Feyan

5.12 Bad Wine

After 999 B.C. Jerusalem

Kairos 71: Korah, Musician and Prophet

END

Postscript

Avalon Season 5 Introduction

Brought from Avalon, through the Heart of Time, to the beginning of history, the Travelers come on a rescue mission, but life gets complicated. In order to get home, the Travelers have to follow the amulet of Avalon that points the way to the next time gate. They move through time zones that center around the many lives of the Kairos, the Traveler in time, the Watcher over history, a person who never lives a quiet life.

They have unlimited vitamins and elf crackers for their health; and unlimited bullets, needed far too often. They ride mustangs brought back from the old west, and wear fairy weave clothing that can be shaped and changed so they can blend into the local culture. By a special gift of the Kairos, they can understand and be understood no matter the local language, which helps, especially when they deal with thieves, brigands, armies and empires, gods and monsters, spirits and creatures, space aliens, and the great unknown. They try hard not to disturb history. All they want is to get home in one piece, but they quickly learn that they are not the only ones lost in time.

Some years earlier, a demon-goddess captured the Heart of Time and used it to fill the time zones with all manner of evil, in the effort to make time turn out more to her liking. Thus, the travelers decided at the beginning to help the Kairos clean out the time zones, but as Doctor Procter explains in the pilot episode, I would not worry about hunting unsavories. I don’t imagine it will take long before they start hunting us.

In Season Five, the Marid, a mighty Genii, is angered by the Travelers who keep evading his traps. He is doubly angered by the destruction of his little ghoulish cousins at the end of Season Four. He vows revenge. The Travelers must die, but knowing the Travelers are hedged by the gods, it will not be easy. Of course, the Travelers stay preoccupied, which may be to the Djin’s advantage, as each time zone has enough trouble of its own.

CAST

Robert Lockhart, a former policeman, now assistant director of the Men in Black. He is charged with leading this expedition through time, though he has no idea how he is going to get everyone home, alive.

Boston (Mary Riley), a Massachusetts redneck, rodeo rider, and technological genius who finished her PhD in electrical engineering at age 23. She carries the amulet of Avalon, a sophisticated combination electronic GPS and magical device that shows the way from one time gate to the next. She became an elf to marry Roland; but now Roland has disappeared, and may be dead, though she refuses to think that way.

Benjamin Lincoln, a former C. I. A. office geek who keeps the database and a record of their journey. He tends to worry and is not the bravest soul, but sometimes that is an asset. His wife, Alexis, was kidnapped by her own father Mingus and dragged back to the beginning of history. This prompted the rescue mission which got everyone stuck in the past with the time gates in the time zones as the only option to get home—the long way around, as they say.

Alexis Lincoln, an elf, Roland’s sister, who became human to marry Benjamin. She survived when the Kairos jumped into the void before history began. But now, with the Kairos from the twenty-first century lost in time— somewhere in the Second Heavens, the travelers are stuck and can only get home across the time zones, by way of the time gates. Alexis retained her healing magic when she became human, but magic has its limits. For example, it can’t make her father happy with her choices.

Artie (Arthur), An Android, a product of the space-faring Anazi empire. Set free from mindless obedience to the Anazi, she willingly travels with the group, accepting Katie Harper as a mother figure, and Lockhart as a father figure. She is open to see what the future may hold, but deep down, her one overriding desire is to find a way to set her people free.

Elder Stow, a space traveling, technologically advanced Gott-Druk (Neanderthal) from the future who got thrown back into the past and is forced to make a truce with these ‘humans’ to join them in their journey. He believes it is his only chance to get back to the future.

Captain Katie Harper, a marine and an elect—a one-in-a-million warrior woman, whose doctorate is in ancient and medieval cultures and technologies. She is torn between her duty to the marines and her desire to be part of this larger universe she is discovering. She now carries the prototype amulet that Mingus once used to kidnap Alexis.

Major Decker, a navy seal trained marine special operations officer who will do all he can to keep everyone alive, even if it means shooting his way back to the twenty-first century. He is a skeptic who does not believe half of what they experience—even if he does not know what else to believe.

And introducing:

Sukki, a Gott-Druk from the before time, taken off planet to a new world at the time of the flood. She joined a small group determined to return to Earth. She is the sole survivor after thousands of years in cryogenic sleep. The travelers take her with them, knowing she cannot survive in the past, and she is learning that these travelers are now her new family.

Plus, as always,

The Kairos. But that is a different person in each time zone.

5.0 Invading Armies

After 1700 B.C. near the Saini

Kairos Lifetime 59: Balor, Captain of the Hyksos

Recording...

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 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 we 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.

ED8573W2426.

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—Edward’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.

###

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.

Incoming.

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.

###

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 forms 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.

Company.

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

Elder 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

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