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04 June 2016 @ 06:16 am
_Aliens and Shifters_ part 8  
 

"I'll be back." She looked at the heavy door. "As soon as I get out, that is."

He gestured with a wing hand. "Stand there. Von Gruenewald will send a doctor with the newest attempt to feed me soon. Best I not be here, so close. Better that they walk quickly past you." She saw that his eyes were cat-like, a vertical slit in a golden brown iris that covered his entire eye. "Thank you, for your kindness. For caring when I have helped the enemy of your people."

"The war will end. And someday your people and mine will meet again. I'd rather we started with friendship."

"And I, little American, and I."

As he turned and padded back, she crossed her arms _invisible_ and watched her arms disappear. She stood in a concavity in the natural cave wall for only a few minutes before she heard the whisper of the withdrawing bolts and the door pivoted open. A man in civilian clothes entered, followed by a soldier carrying a tray. Two more soldiers trailed.

Uma slipped out. In an out-of-the way corner, she checked her ring. Mark was off to the right, her pistol still upwards. She decided to start with the pistol.

The search parties were absent, so she retraced her steps and found the motor pool. The ring led her down a corridor and into a room with a stout sergeant at a desk and a well ordered armory visible through the door behind him.

She detoured around the sergeant and tiptoed through the door. The ring quickly led her to a box containing not only her pistol, but her father's, and what looked like both Mark's and Sir Trent's belts and hostered Weberly's///get the right names!///

She bit her lip, and then took them all. They made an awkward bundle belted under her sweater, as she made them disappear, one eye on the sergeant's back. Then she crossed her wrists. _Ring point to Erob_. She checked the ring. The larger star was pointing straight at her pistol, the short arm off to the right. She moved her arm, the larger spike rotated and continued to point at her gun, the direction of the small spike didn't change.

_That way, and,_ she turned her wrist, _up._

She retraced her steps to the motor pool, but eyed the stairs she'd taken the night before disapprovingly. _Mark knows I know about that way out_. She climbed the ramp instead. The large vehicle door they'd used earlier was closed, but a small door to the side was open. Guarded, but . . . she checked the ring. hmm. She retreated and cast around. A corridor to the left had several rooms leading off of it, she followed the ring to a door on the right. Wouldn't this door lead out to the surface building they'd entered through? Or a smaller room off of it? She reached out and turned the knob gently. Unlocked. She put her ear to it. German voices, von Gruenewald perhaps. "…offen…"

"Open the damned door or Sir Trent dies." Louder, in English, this time.

She turned the knob and opened the door a crack. German soldiers standing a few feet away, their backs to her. Von Gruenewald's voice was coming from beyond them.

"This man is your friend, but a recent one. I understand that you will regret his death, but not, perhaps enough to co-operate. I will kill him to demonstrate that _I_ can kill without regret. We'll try the same with Corporal Brown—your daughter's fiancé—if we need to. Your daughter we will need to get more creative with. I think . . . I think I will take a very personal interest in your daughter.

Uma squeezed through the door as quietly and gently as possible. Sidestepped past the soldiers. The truck was standing in the middle of a garage bay. Erob, Sir Trent and von Gruenewald were in a tableau at the driver's door.

Uma walked quietly up to them. Von Gruenewald was staring into Erob's eyes a knife to Sir Trent's throat. She circled around behind her father, tapping his back.

She pulled her pistol out, behind his shielding back, pulling her sleeve down over it before she stepped out and around to aim it at von Gruenewald.

"Now, there's no need to hurt a poor British Agent in front of me." Erob replied. "I'm well aware that you are going to kill him anyway. The shock of witnessing his death, however gory, won't change that outcome. So it won't sway me."

"So, then we'll just have to start with your daughter, instead of ending with her."

Uma saw the start of his movement, the tightening of muscles, to draw the knife across Sir Trent's throat, and pulled the trigger. His arm twitched, and blood flowed. Not the pulsing flood she'd feared, but it still looked impressive. She grabbed von Gruenewald, hugging him to hold him up and grabbing for his arm, but one hand was still full of stunner and von Gruenewald a dead weight. Erob jumped forward, as if attacking, and Sir Trent writhed away in time to punch the first soldier leaping to the support of a superior officer that obviously had a problem. Uma jumped back, dropping Gruenewald. As the soldiers piled in, obviously under orders to not harm the prisoners, she stunned them with abandon. The fight lurched around to the back of the truck. Erob grabbed Sir Trent and shoved him into the truck, whose door popped open with alacrity.

"Ultima?"

"Here!" She shoved in after him, and the door slammed shut on her heels. Erob wiggled out from under her and headed for the front of the truck.

"Are we bullet proof?" she asked.

"Mostly," he called back. "Some of the more powerful rifles could get through to us, and we definitely don't want to face artillery."

Sir Trent dabbed at the cut on his neck and followed Uma to the door to the front. "Can you crash those doors? If we can get ahead of them. Ahg!" He sagged as the truck leaped upward and burst through the roof.

"I think this will work better," Erob said. "Now we need to find Mark."

"No," Uma winced. "We don't. He's working for them."

Sir Trent's head jerked away from the retreating ground and around to her.

"I'm sorry." she told him. "He helped me escape and I took him straight to the truck. And woke up back here."

Sir Trent closed his eyes for a long moment. "All us gentlemen and diplomats and scholars and tourists and servants and drivers, all playing the Great Game. Sometimes it gets hard to remember it's not a game, and which side one is on. And Mark . . . there were special reasons his loyalty could be . . . different."

He was quiet for a long minute. "Who are you people, by the way?"

"Well, I really can't say." Erob was apologetic. "How about Chinese? Would you believe we're Chinese?"

"I have heard of Chinese of Caucasian appearance from the Russian border areas, but I haven't heard anything about flying trucks. How is this truck flying?"

"Umm, Sir Trent?" Uma interrupted. "I learned something about the source of the German's advanced weapons. We are going to drop you off across the front and return to stop the problem, and probably bring you some of those weapons, or plans for them."

"We are?" Erob asked.

"Yes. I will explain after we drop off Sir Trent."

"If I'm not allowed to come along, why don't you drop me off right here, and get back there quickly, before they re-group?"

"Good idea. Daddy, land, please."

Erob gave her a disturbed look, but dropped the truck to the ground on top of a bare cold ridge.

He climbed into the back and quickly produced a warm blanket and a light pass cloak. "Stay here for three days." He quickly added some squares and a bottle of water.

"Be careful," Sir Trent told them. "Be especially careful of Mark Brown, he is very special in ways I cannot tell you." He was still standing and watching as they rose and reversed course.

"Ultima?"

"The Germans have an alien in the cavern. He's furry, with wings. Very tall, twelve feet when he stands on his hind legs. He has an aeroplane, except I think it can travel in space. The Germans captured him. We need to free him."

"Wait, he's not scaly, long muzzle, sort of long tendril type things on his head, long tail?"

"No, nothing like that."

"Uma, we don't know any space traveling races. None at all."

"Well, you will pretty soon. He's got a dietary problem, he's poisoning himself trying not to starve. And we need to do something about all of his equipments the Germans captured."

"Equipments?"

"The Germans captured the plane, they have all the instruments and everything from it, spread out all over the cavern."

"They captured a spaceplane, and removed everything?"

"Yes. Apparently they just ripped it all out. The bat was quite distressed."

"The bat?"

"He looks more like a bat than anything else on Earth. Except maybe a manx cat with wings and a long neck. I don't know what they call themselves. For that matter, I don't know what your people call themselves."

"Slofero. Which means people or something of that nature."

"Um, what do you call humans?"

"Juferthalat, which is roughly 'naked primitives'. Naked referring to a lack of scales or proper fur."

"Dear me. Well, from what you've said, I suppose we'll call you lizards or maybe dragons."

"Dragons would be nice." Erob smiled, "Now how are we going to find this bat of yours."

"He said he crashed through thin rock into the cavern, with a lot of rock coming down on top of his plane."

Erob removed his hands from the normal looking controls and started typing on the air. The three dimensional map formed in the air and he pointed at the back section. "This is very thin, it could have collapsed and then been roofed over. If the plane crashed down to the lowest point . . . let's fly over it, I should be able to get some indication of density changes, metal roofs and floors." He poked his fingers into the diagram. "These floors are very thin. Metal. I think this is probably the entry hole. What we can do about it, I'm not sure."

Chapter Eight

With a bit of climbing through brush and trees, they managed to locate what looked like a unused entrance to the cavern complex.

With all the equipment Erob had insisted she wear around her waist, it was a bit of a tight fit. And then a few other tight squeezes.

"We're not going to be able to get the Bat out this way." Uma said.

"If we can get him into that light pass suit, we will use one of the other entrances." Erob maneuvered the sled around another tight bend, this one downward, and let go of the wall himself to drift down the dark hole.

Uma swallowed, and reluctantly let go herself. She hung from the belt as it snugged up under her ribcage and tried to breath as it lowered her downward after him.

Eventually, their route intersected the assembly plant cavern high on one wall. Uma pointed out the door to the Bat's prison junkyard.

"Getting the Bat through that door may be difficult.' Erob said, "It sounds like he's too big to slip through easily."

"It opens and closes slowly though." Uma said.

"I wish it were taller." Erob pulled the sled around so it lay in front of the crack they were looking through, and crawled out onto it.

Uma gulped again, and followed him. The sled was perfectly steady, and lacked anything that could be gripped. With her legs dangling on either side, she told herself it was just like riding a horse. With a very thin, stiff saddle. And nothing under it. By the time she finished thinking of all the ways the sled was not like riding a horse, Erob had moved it across the cavern and they were no more than head high. They hovered . . . and waited.

Uma kept looking across the cavern, watching for von Gruenewald. The ring of a bell beside the door snapped her attention back as the guards heaved to pivot the massive weight. Von Gruenewald stalked out, and Uma tucked her feet up as the sled zipped over his head and through the doorway. The door reversed direction and closed silently behind them.

Uma slipped off the sled and trotted anxiously ahead. The Bat was sagged down on the floor and for a horrible moment she thought he was dead. But he raised his head and searched for the source of her footsteps.

_Visible_

"Bat? This is my father, we have some light pass clothes that should mostly cover you."

He gestured weakly toward the gutted plane. "And then what? I should have killed myself, destroyed the spaceship. I'm dying anyway."

Erob faded into visibility and knelt beside him with one of his deceptively small machines.

"You seem to have a major buildup of several amino acids in your system. Let's start by removing most of them." He put the instrument against the Bat's wrist, where Uma could see blood vessels beneath the skin with its velvet covering of fur.

The Bat watched it for a long moment. "I didn't realize Americans were so advanced."

"They aren't." Erob grinned happily, "Like you, I am an alien, sent here to observe and study. You and I need to talk. _While_ I'm taking you home, I think. Is there anything you need, of all of this? Did that ship have its own gate opener or do you require outside assistance to get all the way home?"

"Gate opener? We, our orbital ship has a fold drive." The Bat climbed to four feet, and shook himself. "I only need this." He plucked a box off a shelf. "It is the ship's diary. My superiors will not be pleased with me."

"Perhaps," Erob surveyed the cavern. "I am going to destroy everything of yours down here." He brought out a small flat case and placed it against the spaceplane, and then wandered around the shelves, pressing it here and there. Finally he climbed up on a high shelf and left it there. "After we leave, it will release little machines that will eat all the substances of your equipments and, unfortunately, all the refined metal it comes in contact with for two days.

"Now, let's see if we guessed right, on the size we needed to make this. You will need to keep your wing hands closed."

The Bat muttered something in a rather high trilling tone. Erob cocked his head in interest, but didn't comment as he brought out a double handful of cement floor, cavern wall and wooden shelving.

It was a cross between a horse blanket and a turtle neck sweater with a hood and four long socks. It snugged down and covered the alien completely. Erob tucked the ship's log, or diary, whatever, under another cloak on the sled.

"Now, to delay the alarm being raised, maybe, let's try something. Uma, I need something from your belt." She pulled it apart and handed the whole thing to him. He pulled a small cube, like a slightly oversized dice from the pouch, and put it on the floor where the Bat had been laying. He tapped at a controller and a picture of the bat snapped into being, raising its head, and turning to look, then sinking back down. Uma knelt and reached out tentatively, but it was nothing but light, no feel at all.

"That should work until they touch him." she said.

Erob nodded and then crossed his wrists and disappeared.

Uma stood and stepped back from the illusion, crossing her own wrists.

"Why, Miss Allen! And to think that I'd given up on you!"

Damn that silent vault door! Uma turned and faced von Gruenewald, not letting her eyes linger on the shimmers to one side.

"I see you've met my little friend. He's not feeling very well, I fear."

"I thought it was dead, for a minute, there." Uma said. The colonel had a dozen soldiers with him. They all had their rifles aimed at her. If Dad tried to stun them, she'd be shot for sure. "I though I could help it escape."

Her father took the hint. "I'll come back," his voice whispered in his ear.