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01 June 2016 @ 05:17 am
_Aliens and Shifters_ part 5  

Chapter Five

///Uma back to the hospital for another shift, then they go east for the rest of the day and night. Daddy just happens to have put trackers on Mark and Sir Trent. They map out their location, Daddy showing Uma all the neat gadgets and what they can do, language refresher and so forth. They scan a huge underground facility to the east of M&ST's position. ///

"I think they're missing what they're searching for." Uma finally said it out loud. "Should we help them?"

"You need to catch a quick nap, and report for work. If your head nurse will allow you a day off we could go and at least mention something about that underground maze."

Uma snorted. "If I was a real spy, I wouldn't have to worry about shifts and superior officers."

Dad cocked a worried eyebrow at her. "Do you really want to be a spy?"

"Umm, no. I like nursing. Mostly. It's just…"


"Mark," she agreed. "And Sir Trent. In a different way."

"Think long and hard about it." Erob told her. "and anyway, I think this war is just about over. For now, to aid your sleep, link wrists like I showed you and think. 'I am going to sleep for two hours and awaken refreshed and ready to go to work.' "

She placed her wrists back to back. "I am going to sleep for two hours and awaken refreshed and ready to go to work."

"Uma, wake up."

"What?" Uma sat up suddenly, "Where are we?"

"Just about where I dropped you the other day. I'll pick you up right after your shift, all right?"

"OK. Thanks, Dad." She hopped out as the truck dropped down, this time managing to miss Captain Walters.


"I think a dark green sweater and brown pants, and some sturdy boots for hiking would be a better idea." Not that the pictures of the big bipedal lizards with their exotic drapes weren't attractive . . . once you got over the scales, the muzzles, the tails . . . "If we're going to check on Mark and Sir Trent, we may wind up in the woods. Maybe a jacket it can get cold at high altitudes."

Her father tapped away at the glowing typewriter and the invisible knitters went to work.

"While they're doing that, would you like to learn how to drive the truck?"

Uma grinned, "That would be swell. Can I fly?"

"Of course."

With a three day pass to spend time with her father, Uma had suggested that they get close to the Brit's last known location. Her father had assured her that he could find them, quite easily.


"How are we going to find them?" Uma worried. "For all we know they'll shoot us if we just walk up to them, and say, 'Hey you guys seem to be having trouble locating that big underground facility to the east.' At least _I'd_ think it was a bit suspicious."

"Funny thing." Sir Trent's voice spoke from the darkness, "I was just wondering how you two came to be looking for us."

Erob looked over his shoulder, and grinned. "Goodness. Next you'll be wondering just what I really do for a living." he shrugged. "It seemed unkind to leave you stumbling around in the forest///research ground conditions///when we had such a hot lead. So we came to get you before we tried to find a back entrance."

Mark loomed out of the night 90 degrees from Sir Trent's voice. "Oh, by all means, lead your own daughter into danger, or are they expecting you to lead us in like lambs to the slaughter?"

Uma glared. Briefly. He had a point, he just didn't know about Father's . . . stuff.

"Right-o." Apparently sarcasm was not something aliens comprehended. "It looks like it's about five miles this way." Erob headed south, leaving Sir Trent and Mark exchanging frowns. Uma smirked and followed.

"Now wait just a bit, 'ere. We need to know how you know about this 'big underground facility' before we go any further."

Erob called back, "Show them the map.

Uma pulled the roll of paper from her jacket pocket unfolded and unrolled it "These are geologic studies, doing something with a torsion balance to measure the gravity."

"Very similar to what they do to find oil fields and so forth." Erob strolled back and produced a light to supplement the fading daylight. "I think they must have improved on a natural cavern system, the layout is very irregular. I don't know why they felt obliged to square off some of the 'rooms' but it made it very obvious that it was not _just_ a cave system."

"Is this what you are looking for?" Uma looked from Mark to Sir Trent. Mark looked irritated, Sir Trent fascinated.

Mark scowled at her father.

"Oil fields? I've heard about them firing dynamite to locate oil. Never did make any sense."

"My equipment is much improved. Quieter." Erob leaned over the map and pointed. "These three spots look like the most likely spots for entrances. This one looks like it's unimproved, a natural cave opening. It ought to be less used, than the other two."

Sir Trent eyed him narrowly. "Perhaps we should go take a look at it then."

"Right oh." Erob set off, Sir Trent hard on his heels.

Mark rolled up the map, frowning. "What sort of paper is this?"

Uma shrugged, "Odd isn't it?" Apparently Sir Trent was tackling her father while Mark was delegated to questioning her.

"'Ow did your Dad get this? When?"

Uma raised her eyebrows at him. "He made it himself." She hesitated, big lie or little lie? "I think he's a researcher, and is using this opportunity to field test some of his equipment. Not that I've asked him," she hastily added, "It's all very well to speculate, but I wouldn't ask about something like that." she felt herself blushing, and was suddenly grateful for the twilight. "I shouldn't even speculate, really. War secrets and all that."

"Probably not, but it's giving me the cauld grues, thank you very much."

Uma snickered. "All my life I've speculated so much about my father, I thought I'd covered all the possibilities. But a scientist with the attitude of a kid on vacation is something I missed, somehow."

"Where's 'e from? Kansas, like your mum?"

Uma blinked at him. "Checking on me?"

"Took a quick look at your records," Mark shrugged "Bad 'abit of mine."

"So I understand. Do you think this is what you are looking for?"

"Must be. The . . . from what I read there is a large factory in this area." He shrugged. "We've 'iked all over these 'ills and found nothing. 'adn't thought about underground." He scrambled down one side of a ravine and up the other before continuing. "We've been working our way south, trying to track any military vehicles we saw, Sir Trent figured they'd be either coming or going to this place we're after."

"What is it you are looking for?"

"A weapons factory. We were tracing some new guns, long range, 'igh accuracy, 'igh rate of fire and 'ad gotten our 'ands on a possible location. We were on our way to check with your lot, to see if they had anything more concrete than our loose location when that sniper got Sir Trent."

"And they weren't able to help, and so you went on your own and got captured."

"Trying to find more detailed information." Mark confirmed. "Looks like we should 'ave just asked your dad to find them for us."

"I really don't think he can survey all of Germany for you." Uma said, with strict honesty.

"Guess I won't ask 'im for more miracles until 'e's explained the ones 'e's pulled already, like finding us so easily nearly a 'undred miles from where 'e'd dropped us off."

"That far?" Uma asked, acting surprised. "Goodness."

"'ows 'e tracking us?"

"I don't know. I didn't think to ask about that." She tossed a grin over her shoulder, "Or he could be a wizard. All done by magic."

"I don't believe in magic, so I'll just figure it's science."

"I like the idea of magic." _And I can dodge awkward questions this way._

"I suppose I ought to expect that from an Ultima Thule. Only question is, is 'e a Good Wizard or a Bad Wizard?"

Now there was a thought. "He did abandon me as a child, but he doesn't seem evil. Is there such a thing as an Irresponsible Wizard?"

"Don't think so. Good or Evil. No waffling or 'alf-way wizards."

"Oh dear. Well, I guess behind that helpful puppy dog expression lurks an Evil Wizard."

"So, what would an Evil Wizard do, in these circumstances?" Mark slowed, looking around. "Lead us into an ambush?" his hand drifted halfway to his holstered pistol and stalled.

Uma's head whipped around, and suddenly registered the German soldiers all around them, rising up from concealment.

Chapter Six

Uma held her hands still, turning just her head to see Sir Trent and her Father ahead of them, equally still.

"Sir Trent!" The deep warm voice came from ahead, out of her sight, "How kind of you to visit again." The accent as more American than British, no trace of Germanic accent marred the welcoming tones.

"And you've brought some new friends! Excellent." The officer rounding the curve in the deer track lived up to the promise of his voice. Tall, handsome, and blonde. "Would this lovely young lady be your daughter, perchance?"

"Colonel von Gruenewald. I was so hoping to not see you again." Sir Trent was not even watching as the Colonel stepped past him and circled Uma.

From the corner of her eye she could see the soldiers closing in on them, two setting their rifles aside to search Mark. Behind the colonel, more soldiers were checking her father and Sir Trent.

"Now, Miss…?"

"Allen. Uma Allen."

"Miss Allen. I suppose I should be a gentleman and assume you are unarmed?"

"Actually I have a pistol in my right pocket and a very sharp knife in the left."

"Dear me. I'm afraid I am going to have to doff my manners."

_I am a Nurse, this will be nowhere as appalling as a physical examination_ "Quite all right. I understand, entirely." Her voice sounded faint and horrified in her own ears as a weasely, nasty looking soldier stroked his hands down her arms, over her body front and back, getting very personal here and there.

He even took off her shoes and examined them.

"///type of gun, type of knife///, Herr Colonel." The weasel flicked a glance toward Mark, "The man had this." He held out the map.

Von Gruenewald unrolled the sheet, and studied it, rubbed his fingers on the paper. "Interesting. Bring them along."

They were led around a shoulder of the mountain to, from what Uma had inferred from the scan, the main entrance of the improved caverns. A small military post on a secondary road, with some fueling equipment out front explained the military presence to any curious locals, and no doubt travel to and from was limited. ///rewrite as Mark muttering in the background///

The large door of the garage opened briefly to admit their group, and closed before the back wall slid to reveal a ramp leading downward.

The stone ramp was grease spotted and rough, wide enough for the largest of trucks, so Uma wasn't surprised when the ramp ended at a line of trucks in a squared off cavern, longer than it was wide. They continued through, past the vehicles, and then down an iron staircase spiraling down a rough, obviously natural, crack in the limestone. They descended what Uma estimated was sixty feet, then entered a long corridor, smooth floored, with walls bricked in to form ordinary offices.

"Sir Trent, do come and talk with me for awhile," von Gruenewald gestured toward an office on the right, then looked at his other prisoners. "Don't worry, you shall all have the privilege of a private conversation with me."

Mark muttered something under his breath that ended with "…prick." as Erob was split off and directed into another office. Uma stalled uncertainly, fear finally catching up with her. Erob shook his head and smiled, trying to reassure her. Could he do anything? Or should she wonder _what_ he would do? The guards discussed something in German too rapid for her comprehension, then sequestered Uma and Mark together in a room bare of furniture. After a few minutes a soldier appeared with two light weight wooden chairs. The soldiers retreated from the room, but left the door open and watched them through it.

"So," Uma sat down cautiously. "I take it you've met Colonel von Gruenewald before?" she kept her voice low, hoping it wouldn't carry.

"'E's the sod that condemned us last week. Commander of the /// German Army Divisions? How did they organize logistics?/// "E was workin' personally with the front line company that was training on those new weapons Sir Trent and I were tracing. We were caught riffling 'is desk."

"And now he's got you back, and Father and I as well."

"I don't know what 'e'll make of your father, but you shouldn't be harmed. Very gentlemanly, von Gruenewald."

"I see." Uma fell silent for a moment. Listening carefully, she could hear her father's voice, very faint but clear.

"…a Wizard, specializing in location."

"I beg your pardon?" was that von Gruenewald?

"Location. Finding things and people. That's how I found this place, and then found Sir Trent to tell him all about it."

"And you claim to do it magically?" the Colonel sounded amused. Uma wondered if her father had over heard her conversation earlier.///add to former conversation///

"And what is this"

"Dirt from my grave."

"Odd, you don't look dead."

"Oh, don't be dreary. It's from where I will be buried when I die. It gives me a solid base from which to scan for the location of anything else."

Mark shifted restlessly, "They're going to open 'im up like a can of sardines. What's 'e going to tell them? 'ow much damage is 'e going to do?

Uma thought about the flying truck and blanched. Of course once her father had access to his equipment on the truck . . . "If they find his truck, or make him take them to it, it . . . well, I don't know what he has in there." She ran her fingers through her hair in frustration. "I don't know him. He's a stranger to me." Tears were running down her face, and when Mark gathered her in his arms she threw her arms around his neck and sobbed into his shoulder.

"'Ere now, keep a brave face. You'll be alright."

"But you won't be," she wailed. "They'll shoot you and Sir Trent, and keep my father forever, because of everything he knows!" She sniffed and released him. "They'll probably keep me, too, thinking they can use me to control Father."

"Ah, now, the war's nearly over." He released her slowly, and stood up. "Much though I 'ate to praise an ally, you Yanks don't fool around and waste time when you get into a fight."

Uma nodded. "Anything they get from Father would take time to make a difference. So maybe the war will be won in the next, next," she felt like bursting into tears again, as reality intruded. "Next few months. Which are going to be really unpleasant"

Mark nodded thoughtfully, his eyes sliding to the guards beyond the door.

"But just always believe that you will survive. Don't ever give up," he said softly.

She blinked and smiled up at him, refraining from mentioning, again, that _he_ had absolutely no hope in that direction.

She raised her voice a bit, just enough that any listeners would be able to hear, "My father risked quite a bit to rescue the pair of you. How long have you known him? Worked with him? That was quiet a risk for simple friendship's sake."

Mark's eyes crinkled with amusement. "'E's a complete stranger. We don't know 'im, and 'e doesn't know us. 'E wouldn't care about what 'appens to us."

"Oh, sure." Uma paced back and forth, pausing at noise from the hallway. Her Father walked in and the soldier escorting him turned to Mark.

"Colonel von Gruenewald will see you now."

Mark patted her shoulder, but didn't speak as he left.

"Dad, Father," _I'm_not_ going to cry on _his_ shoulder._ Uma told herself, sternly. "Is there…" she stopped as he pulled the collar of his jacket over his mouth.

"Talk very softly into your collar, and only I will hear you."

(Anonymous) on June 2nd, 2016 06:17 am (UTC)
Are you sure you want to do this?
I'm seeing lots of notes requiring further research on one detail or another. You could probably crowd-source a bunch of it, but elsewhere you've said you don't really like historicals for research reasons. And I think this would need more work than average to bring this up to your current standards.

If you're looking for other suggestions, do you have anything more from Fancy Free? or maybe focus on getting another of the Barton Street series ready? And the Lawyers of Mars need to be poked again too.

There are always details from Wine that could be turned into distractions, but you seem to have a main story line that needs to be handled without succumbing to distraction.

I'll ready whatever you write, but it works better if you enjoy what you're writing too.

matapampamuphoff on June 2nd, 2016 02:26 pm (UTC)
Re: Are you sure you want to do this?
This was written ten years ago. I'm trawling through old stories, avoiding, I mean, looking for old ideas for inspiration while between books. So when I say "I hate breaking off writing for research" I mean something more like "Oh yes. I remember now how much I hated every interruption for research and started just making a note about needing to."

So it's not actually taking away time from Xen. It's just filling space here, while I inch up on a necessary but painful scene in what is now being called _Prince Primus_ but will eventually, probably, be _The God of the Sun_.

And while I appreciate all the research results that keep popping up here (they're getting saved) they aren't actually needed, because I'm not going to polish up this insanity (thrust me, just got started) anytime soon.