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31 May 2016 @ 06:44 am
_Aleins and Shifters_ part 5  

Chapter Four

There were no major battles, and thus few new patients for the surgery ward. Thank God. She had an almost relaxing day of changing bandages (laying the back of one hand or another on every wound). It was late when she got the feeling of being watched, and looked around.

Mark and Sir Trent were side-by-side, holding up a piece of wall, watching her. They didn't move, so she turned back to her patient. They stood and watched through the remainder of her shift, and fell in on either side of her when she left.

"I'm so glad to see that those horrible gloating leaflets the aeroplane dropped were wrong! I can't believe they'd stoop to claiming that a gentleman like you was a spy, Sir Trent." She smiled innocently at him.

He gave her a wide innocent smile of his own. She turned her head and caught a glimpse of the same expression on Mark's face.

"Now that we've established what sweet innocent people we are," Sir Trent said, "well, except me, everyone knows that diplomats are not _innocent_, but everyone knows mere drivers and nurses could never do anything like rifle the desks of High German Officers or try to rescue fools caught riffling desks, so let's go have a nice little talk."

"I'm hungry, why don't you come and have dinner with me." She countered.

"I was surprised to meet your father." Mark smiled nicely. "I would 'ave sworn you'd said you were an orphan."

"Not nearly as surprised as I was," Uma smiled back, just as insincerely nice. "Although my delight was badly tempered by those horrible leaflets about the two British spies slated for execution."

"And your Dear Papa was delighted to rescue us?" Mark continued.

"Well, yes," Uma knew she wasn't going to like the rest of this conversation. "He felt a need to make amends for fifteen years of absence."

"Uma," Sir Trent stated. "German isn't it?"

"Actually it's a shortened version of Ultima." She repressed a real grin at Sir Trent's expression.

"I 'ope your middle name isn't Thule." Mark sounded amused.

Uma kept a dignified silence.

"It is?" he sounded incredulous.

"I am not responsible for my parents' flights of fancy." Uma turned abruptly and marched for the dining hall. "Nor for the products of your over-stimulated imaginations."

Mark lopped along at her heels, Sir Trent right behind him.

"You think we imagined last night?"

Uma stepped into the mess hall, unfortunately nearly empty. "You may have been given drugs, or tortured. Heaven only knows what odd fancies your minds may have conjured." They followed her, and then steered her toward an empty table away from the other nurses.

"Well, young lady, you certainly are right about that." Sir Trent was still smiling. "Like imagining you and your Father rescuing us. How droll. Not to mention the odd manner of us loosing our clothing and waking up in a ditch on the Allied side of the front."

"I'm certain I have no business talking to gentlemen about such circumstances." Uma tried for dignity.

"Nor threatening us with sewing demonstrations." Sir Trent countered.

"My, those must have been strong drugs." She pressed her lips together primly.

"Where's your father? I didn't quite catch 'is name last night."

Uma shoved a large bite of something into her mouth and chewed slowly. She'd already said too much. And her father was going to come back tomorrow. "Well, those drugs that had you hallucinating probably didn't get the name right. Eric Robert Allen. E. Rob to his friends."

"E. Rob." Sir Trent digested that carefully. Uma shoved a few more bites in while he pondered.

"What does 'e do for a livin'?" Mark asked.

"Do you know, not having known him since I was about six years old, I'm not sure."

"You didn't ask 'im what 'e was doin' 'ere?" Mark continued.

"Of course I did." Uma took another bite and made him wait. "He said he'd come to find me."

"Bit odd timin', that, wasn't it?"

"Was it?" she asked. "Good luck or deliberate. It's clear which way you think it is."

"No." Sir Trent broke his silence. "We don't _think_ that, we have to _consider_ that possibility. We always have to be suspicious. I would like to talk to your father."

"I'll ask him. But I don't think he wants to get involved."

Mark leaned in close, suddenly, reaching out and cupping her face in one large hand. "This isn't a game, Ultima Thule. It's deadly serious, and we absolutely 'ave to follow up on something bizarre we discovered before we were captured."

Sir Trent leaned in from her other side. "How did your father get us out of that building, that camp, across the Front? We need to go back over, examine a site that we have an approximate location for, and get out again, possibly leaving a time bomb behind us. I think your father can help us do it successfully. We won't say anything about how he comes and goes."

Uma blinked at them. _They think he's a smuggler or a spy runner_ "I'll talk to him."

"Soon?" Sir Trent pushed. "We need to go soon. We can make it worth his while."

"I will probably see him tomorrow." Uma shook her head as they both opened their mouths to speak. "I don't know where he is or how to contact him. He'll either find me, or he won't."

They tried several other tactics to persuade her, in vain, as she couldn't have helped them if she wanted to. If she wanted to. That wasn't actually something she needed to think about. She knew which side of this war _she_ was on. What about her Father?

She also needed to re-evaluate her perception of these two men's relationship to each other. The obsequious driver was gone. Espionage appeared to be an egalitarian pursuit. They traded off questioning her and oh-so-gently pressuring her with practiced ease.

She interrupted one of Mark's attempts. "Gentlemen, I'm off to bed. I expect I'll see you tomorrow, and perhaps my father will be here. I don't know. I don't know where his loyalties lie, but I know where mine are, and I will help you. Goodnight." This time when she walked away they let her go.

***

All the next day she found herself eyeing every truck. By afternoon she was looking at every empty space, watching for a shimmer. As she left the ward for dinner again, Sir Trent and Mark were waiting for her. She shrugged, "I haven't seen or heard from him," and glanced across the dusty///muddy??/// grounds . . . that truck . . . She'd only seen her father's truck in the dark for a few moments, but the truck coming through the front gate caught her eye, and she stopped and squinted at it.

"Is that 'im?"

The truck stopped in front of them all and her father bounded out. She reexamined him, as if he were a stranger. As Sir Trent and Mark were seeing him. Very tall, very thin, black hair and large deep brown eyes with large irises that showed less white than normal. His eyes were the only thing she might have called inhuman. And she'd be lying to call them that. He looked perfectly normal.

"Dad, this is Sir Trent Armbruster-Smyth an attaché with the British Embassy and Corporal Mark Brown of the British Army." What else could she say?

"Glad to meet you! Ultima needs good friends since she's inflicted with a parent like myself." Her father smiled cheerfully shook hands, full of energy and mischief. "Where do you think I should park? Would they mind if I just left it here?"

"I've clocked a bit of traffic through 'ere, sir," Mark sounded stupid and helpful. "Maybe over there by the dinin' 'all? We were just going to join Uma fer a bite."

"Oh, dinner." Her dad shot his cuff and stared blankly at his watch, held it to an ear, and shook his head. "I keep forgetting to wind it. Such a marvelously intricate machine."

"I could shift it fer you . . . " Mark began.

"Gads, no! My truck has so many oddities I wouldn't dare let anyone else drive." He waved genially, "Thanks, lad, but I'll move it myself."

"Lad?" Mark growled, watching her father leap back into the truck. "He's not old enough to be your father."

Uma blinked. Oh, that was what had struck her as wrong about her father's looks. No wrinkles, no gray hairs. "I should hope to age so well." She sighed. Maybe she would. Who knew? May be the little machines would help.

She walked toward the dining hall, the men bracketing her again. "I'd like to say I feel like a femme fatale, but somehow I just can't shake this bait-in-a-trap feeling."

"And we're the jaws of the trap?" Mark grinned. "I'm wounded!"

"That you are so transparent?"

Her father's truck passed them, and pulled up beside the rough planks of the mess hall. She noted that it seemed to have local plates. Erob hopped down again, closing the door on Mark's attempt to take a look inside.

Uma hesitated inside. "I've never had guests before, I don't know . . . "

"I spoke to the commandant earlier." Sir Trent picked up a tray///WWI mess hall organization?///

"So tell me, Mr. Allen, what are you doing in France, so close to the border?" Sir Trent leaned back genially, no doubt so he could study the man.

"Visiting my daughter." Erob eyed a fork full of food uncertainly. "Should I not ask what this is?"

"You definitely do not want ask what soldiers call it." Mark said, shoving a bite of the same into his mouth.

"You came all the way from _someplace_ just to see your daughter? Not," Sir Trent added, "to imply that Uma isn't glad to see you, but why now?"

Erob chewed a bite thoughtfully. "This isn't bad. Not identifiable, but it tastes good, so who cares."

Uma sighed. "Father. Sir Trent thinks you're a smuggler, with ways to get across the Front, and he wants your help. They're on _my_ side of this war. And America's."

Erob frowned at her, and then the two men. And ate a couple more bites. Thinking. Leaned back and looked at her. "I can take them anywhere, but it's going to necessitate my leaving a bit sooner than I'd planned."

She nodded her understanding. "You said you couldn't stay, anyway."

"No, I can't. Really." He studied the two men. "So where do you want to go?"

***

"…and these are your papers, German plates fer the truck, and this map shows where we'd like to be dropped off." Mark was all business, standing with her father.

"Hmm, is it a good place for a truck to be parked, or should I come back for you?"

"My dear fellow!" Sir Trent was bright eyed and eager, turning away from his perusal of the truck. "We would prefer you not call attention to that area, just drop us and go."

Erob frowned. "It's no problem, and I'd hate to have to rescue you again."

"And I'd make him do it, too." Uma frowned at the Brits.

"Well you can't wait fer us there, it's a narrow road with no space to pull over and you'd just attract attention anyway." Mark frowned back down at the map, and tapped a spot further east of ///find a good place, forested with at least hills, preferably mountains///. "No tellin' 'ow long we'll be but if you could hang around ??? for a couple of days, if we can't get out any other way we could look for you there."

"Not that we anticipate any problems." Sir Trent added. "But if you'd feel better serving as a second line of retreat, we'd be grateful."

Uma nodded in relief, and standing on her tip toes to look at the papers, frowned. "I wish I could go. It would be great to have a couple of days to talk things over with you, Dad."

The Brits looked horrified, and ganged up to tell her what a horrible idea that was. Her father looked thoughtful.

"Well, if you two are ready to go, let me show you my smuggling compartment." Erob smiled guilelessly at them and swung up into the truck. The wall locker was gone, and two foot locker sized chests were against the front wall. Mark boosted Sir Trent in and followed. They both walked up and frowned at the footlockers.

"I hope you don't mean to . . . " Mark's mouth snapped shut as Erob pulled up a large section of flooring.

"I hope neither of you are bothered by small spaces." He eyed Mark, "You especially are going to find it a close space. You could take a nap?"

"Sure." Mark looked in. "Padded? I trust it's ventilated?"

"Oh yes." His eyes twinkled. "Haven't lost a passenger yet. So, if you two are ready?"

They stepped down and stretched out, and Mark gave Uma a wink as her father closed the lid on their space. He hopped back out of the truck and closed the back door.

Uma grinned at him, "Can I come too, Daddy?"

"Of course."

Uma stayed wrapped in a light pass cloak while the two Brits were unloaded on a narrow, winding mountain lane. She sighed as the men climbed up the forested slope and disappeared from sight.



 
 
 
 
(Anonymous) on May 31st, 2016 03:52 pm (UTC)
Aliens and Shifters
///WWI mess hall organization?///
Mess tins if a temporary field kitchen. A more established mess (something not in tents) might have proper plates and cutlery
Ian_B