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05 June 2016 @ 08:04 am
_Aliens and Shifters_ part 9  

The illusion raised its head, then it sank wearily again.

"What _is_ it?" she asked, trying to keep von Gruenewald attention. She couldn't see the shimmers, but then, she couldn't really look, either. Did they need her to get von Gruenewald to open the door?

The Colonel looked at the alien on the ground. "And how are you feeling today?" The illusion raised its head, then lowered it. "Badly, I see. I will send the doctor, not that there is much he can do."

He turned to Uma, and looked her over coldly. "And you have a few things to answer for as well." He nodded to the soldiers, "Bring her."

Chapter Nine

"We've always dreamed of meeting another race of star travelers." Erob said. "So far the Earthlings are the closest to us we've found. They are incredible, very, very inventive. We've classified several other species as sophonts, on other planets, and spent all the time since then arguing about whether their tool usage was instinctive or truly intelligent."

The Bat nodded, and swallowed more of the juice Erob had whipped up, with everything the Bat needed, and nothing that he didn't. "These star maps of yours should enable us to find this planetary system you speak of. I will try to get my people to send a delegation."

"And I likewise. With no really habitable planets in the system, there's nothing to fight about, and we can both maintain secrecy about our home planets. I think that will work best. I apologize for being so paranoid." Erob had switched his nanofac to return himself to his natural appearance (oh, the relief of having a tail to swish! Oh the pain of doing it so fast!) and was recording everything on two different machines. One had sticky labels all over it, with notes in the Bat's native language. They were speaking mostly English, but duplicating a lot, each in his own language. "It's very odd to think that when we meet, we'll all be speaking the language of a peoples not invited."

///radio communications with the Bat's ship.///

"I am sorry that you cannot stay," the Bat said, "but I understand about your child."

Erob brought the truck into careful alignment with the Bat's very large space ship. It was globular and white, with red markings showing various fixtures and airlocks. Erob backed the truck up to the airlock the bat indicated, and configured the back edge of his truck to match the shape. Keeping enough acceleration to maintain the seal, he dissolved the back door. "I shall look forward to meeting you again." He attempted the trilling name, but feared he was a great deal off. Better than he'd done with a human style tongue, mind you, but . . .

The airlock door swung open. A Bat in a bulky space suit, toting a large weapon faced them. The Bat twittered to him. The armed bat popped its helmet off and twittered back, shooting alarmed glances at Erob. Finally it stood back and let the Bat into the airlock. "Good luck, tell Uma . . ." the closing airlock cut off the rest. Erob recreated the truck door.

Time to rescue Uma.

Chapter Ten

Uma smiled sweetly at the Colonel. "I can't imagine what can be taking Father and Sir Trent so long." she turned her smile back to Mark. "Perhaps you know more about Sir Trent's habits, or is it modus operandi? How soon do _you_ think he'll be back?"

Mark snorted angrily. " 'E won't be back. We'll either capture or kill 'im between 'ere and the Front or your lot will know all about us." He glowered at von Gruenewald. "We should be movin' everythin' aht of 'ere, and yer big pet as well." His accent was stronger, she noted. Less controlled. He was a lot more upset than he was letting on.

Uma glanced down at the fine silverware beside her plate. It was tarnishing as she watched. She hid a smile. _And all refined metals as well, indeed, Father. Thank goodness this is a natural cavern and probably won't collapse on my head._ Uma wondered a bit whimsically if Daddy's little machines could tell the difference between the Bat's strange materials and his own. It would be so embarrassing to have her clothing turn to dust, and find herself standing around in nothing but her knickers. Mark would no doubt enjoy it. And she really ought to not like that thought, at all.

She picked up a tarnished fork and tried a bite of ham. "There's rather a lot of stuff to move. Where would you take it?"

Both men glared at her. Von Gruenewald spoke, "This is still the best place for it."

Mark grinned, "Afraid they'll take it away from yer?" He frowned and ran a thumb over his own fork. It crumpled.

The men were still staring at it in consternation when the sound of running feet heralded the fast entrance of the doctor Uma had seen the other day. "The creature is gone, everything of his is crumbling to rust and dust."

Von Gruenewald snatched up a tarnished silver knife and snapped it in two, broke the pieces. He started cursing in German. Uma caught "You stay with her," mostly with the help of a finger pointing at her and a glare at Mark, as the officer strode from the dining room.

Mark stared at her, narrowly. "You've ruined everything."

"I've certainly tried." Uma cocked her head at him. "Where are you actually from?"

"I was born in England, but me father was German." He jerked his head at the door. "von Gruenewald is my 'alf brother. Stupid wolf." He scowled, " 'Is mother had died, but my mother wasn't good enough for the old man to actually marry. 'E kept Mum on a leash, wouldn't let 'er go. I spent all my school 'olidays in the Alps, being sneered at by relatives."

"So why are you on their side?"

"I 'ave my reasons. Anyway the Brits sneered at me too."

"Even Sir Trent?"

Mark glared. "Leave 'im out of this!"

"You drove him to where the sniper was waiting, didn't you?"

"I did not . . . I didn't know there was a sniper. I thought . . . I didn't think. I just did what they told me to do." His eyes were bleak now, the anger turning inward.

"Has your position with Sir Trent been a sham all along? Or were you suborned recently?"

"I've always been a German agent. Right from the start, when I applied at the Civil Service fer a job as a driver when I was sixteen. Father taught me 'ow to drive, in one of the first autocars in Germany." Marked leaned back with a weary sigh. "It gets so complicated. I truly do like Sir Trent, but 'e's on the other side. It can't be allowed to matter."

"And I don't matter, either." Uma made it a statement. She frowned at her disappearing silverware and picked up a piece of ham with her fingers. _Eat it. Things are going to get a bit . . . odd, and feeding prisoners will probably not be a priority for awhile._

Large numbers of feet started traveling up the corridor. Mark took a look, then shut the door. It sagged on its rusting hinges and he had to shove it into place.

"It looks like the Colonel 'as decided to move aht after all." he said, sitting down next to her. Between her and the door, in grabbing distance. "They'll wash off whatever the creature sprayed on his machines." He frowned at the silver ware. "A gas perhaps? Then they'll take the new guns to the front."

Uma had no idea if washing would help, she could only hope the rust was already deep enough into the metal parts to render the weapons useless.

"I won't let them 'urt you." Mark leaned in and stroked the back of his fingers across her cheek, in a gentle caress.

Uma shivered. _I need a hug and I really, really wish I wanted it from someone else._ But she didn't, and when his arm slipped around her shoulders, she leaned into him and raised her face for his kiss.

The door fell into the room with a crash. Von Gruenewald cursed it, then glared at Mark. "Take her to Berlin. Herr ///German Head Spy-Real Person?/// will be expecting her. I have a car and driver ready for you. I am going to the Front with the guns."

"Yes, sir." Mark saluted carefully. ///Uniform details. Metals buttons, if any disintegrating, shell/bone/glass ones holding/// the Colonel was not wearing his fancy metal helmet, Uma noted.

Mark held her arm firmly as he escorted her out. He had to wait for a gap between the departing trucks before they could climb the ramp. All the doors were open, all attempts at pretense abandoned. A driver jumped out of a ??? saluted and opened the rear door for them. He apparently already had his orders, as he started immediately. Slowly, hampered by the slow speed of the trucks on the narrow mountain road. When they reached Stuttgart, the trucks turned west. Their stolid driver turned the car northwest and picked up speed. ///See if map of Germany circa 1918 is available, find possible cave location and routes///

"Who is this man you are taking me to?" Uma broke the long silence.

" 'E's what your pulps would call the spy master. My superior."

"I thought von Gruenewald was . . . " she broke off at his laugh.

"Certainly not! 'e's a supply officer with delusions of becoming a front line 'ero. That creature literally fell into 'is lap, and 'e's managed to keep control of it due to a combination of disbelief and a batch of generals' fightin' fer a source of new weaponry."

"I see."

The car's engine died, and the driver swung the car to the verge as he tried to restart it. Uma sniffed. So did Mark.

"I think your gas line is broken." Uma said. "Or Petrol. What do Germans' call it?"

Mark spoke to the driver who got out and lifted the bonnet. And said something in shocked tones. Uma leaned forward, curious, and Mark, hesitating between keeping an eye on her and seeing what was the matter, gestured her out of the car with him.

The engine was a block of rust, and as she watched, a green tube, copper, perhaps, slumped into a runny gasoline mud.

"Walk back to town and commandeer a vehicle." Mark ordered the driver.

The driver argued, something about von Gruenewald's orders, and she thought, flagging down the next car. She was about a foot from Mark, but he wasn't paying her any attention. She crossed her wrists. _Invisible_. She stepped quietly back, and then around the car while he snapped around and stopped dead. Listening. She froze. He lifted his head and sniffed. Like a dog. Surely he couldn't smell her? He turned and started walking toward her.

The quiet of the night was broken by the sounds of another auto. Distant at first, but growing as it rounded the corner. She dared to step away trying to feel the wind and move sideways, so the wind would carry her scent away. The truck rumbled up beside them and she took to her heels. Trying to be quiet, trying to keep one eye on Mark, who was running too. The driver was standing in the road, waving for the truck to stop, and Uma ran through the exhaust and kept running up the road. She could hear Mark cursing, yelling something to the driver. The wind, which way was the wind? She veered to the opposite side of the road, and Mark ran past her. Now the wind was blowing from him to her. She walked very quietly back past the truck, past the car, and on down the road. She needed first to put some distance between herself and Mark, and then cut back to the West.

It was very late afternoon, another couple of hours till dark, and . . . she certainly hoped her father could track her like he'd found Mark and Sir Trent.

Chapter Eleven

Sir Trent wasn't on the bare ridge where he'd been left.

Erob climbed into the back of his truck and brought up an area wide map and scanned for nano tech. It was everywhere. Somehow his nanos had been spread all over the region, and in fact a dense line of them marked the roadways to the north.

"That looks . . . very interesting."

Erob blinked at Sir Trent, who was shivering in the back door as he got dressed. "Ah. I didn't see you, and thought you'd decided to leave."

"Just taking a quick look around." the old man climbed up into the truck, leaned a rifle carefully against the wall and studied the map. Ran his fingers through it. "What are all the glowing bits?"

"I," Erob's brain stalled. "Look are you by any chance a creature from outer space?"

"No. Are you?" The gentleman asked politely.

"Yes, actually." Erob sighed. "The Germans had captured another, er, creature, not my kind, you understand? Uma and I freed him, and I put out millions of these little . . . oh, hell. Think of it like a magic dust that turns manufactured things into plain old ordinary dust. Or rust, or slime or whatever. I thought they'd stay in the cave, but they're all over the place. They'll stop and turn to dust themselves in another day, so they aren't _really_ dangerous. But it looks like they tried moving some of their equipments when they discovered them disintegrating. My magic dust is all over the place." He suddenly thought of something. "And they captured Uma and she's not showing up on my scan."

Sir Trent opened and closed his mouth a few times. Cleared his throat. "They probably took her away, probably wanted her in Berlin."

Erob adjusted his map scale and rescanned. "Ah, there she is." He sighed with relief.

"This is interesting," Sir Trent traced the glowing lines of magic dust through Stuttgart and off toward the front. "If your dust got on the new weapons, it looks like they are moving all of them straight to the front." A lesser trace of glitter led toward Nurnberg, ending in a clump. A bright red speck blinked directly west of there. "Uma?"


"We should go pick her up, quickly, and then intercept those weapons on the way to the Front."

"Right." Erob hopped into the front of the tuck as the back door rolled down.

Sir Trent poked his head in the front, "Should I give you directions?"

"No need, I have a map up here too."

The old man climbed through the hatch, looking down at the ground already far below, and then scanning around. "No aeroplanes in sight. There probably won't be a problem with Mark until dark."

"What does he do in the dark?"

"Turns into a dragon." Sir Trent smiled at the Space Alien. "I've been known to do it, myself."

Zan Lynxzlynx on June 5th, 2016 11:34 pm (UTC)
Wait, what???

What a line to end a section on!

Although I've been wondering when the "Shifters" part would show up. :-)
matapampamuphoff on June 6th, 2016 02:20 am (UTC)
From Chapter 2:

"Now you sound like a bird, not a pilot." She smiled, trying to picture the very large young man in feathers.

"Nah," he grinned, "I'm a dragon, big and powerful, not a little birdie." He looked at her speculatively. "'Ow about you? What are you?"

She laughed a little nervously, "An Army Nurse who'd better get back to her patients."

So . . . I need more, and more obvious foreshadowing? :)