"Hatchet Man" and "Day Before" met her at a backwoods street junction. They wouldn't tell her their real names.
"I can't believe I'm even talking to a stranger about anything." Hatchet growled.
"I really appreciate it. I, umm. Never mind. You wouldn't believe why I'm doing this. I don't even believe I'm doing this." She looked around. "So . . . where do we go from here?"
Hatchet eyed her car. "I think you'd better leave that here and we'll drive you the rest of the way."
She looked from the economy rental to their four-by-four and nodded. "Right. Let me get my geiger counter."
They swapped alarmed looks. "You think ball lightning has something to do with radiation?"
"No. Only the right kind. I'm probably going to have to check hundreds of sightings to find the one I want." She grabbed the little box and climbed into the backseat of the truck.
They drove another mile down the 'main' road then turned off and headed up the mountain on a pair of worn ruts. With pot holes. Prissy concentrated on not hitting the roof or sides too hard, for much too long. Then they drove out from under the trees on a little knoll. The granite rock prevented anything but a few scubby trees from growing.
"The lightning hit that tree," Hatchet pointed at a gnarled pine. "Then the glowing ball came toward me, and I lit out through the trees."
Prissy copied the actions of the scientists, sweeping the geiger counter slowly over the ground. Nothing. "Oh well. One down, two hundred to go."
Going downhill on the tracks added the sensation of falling to the tumbling about. Back at her econocar she dug out the hundred dollars she'd promised to see the site.
"Thank you gentlemen."
Hatchet took the money and looked at her worriedly. "You don't have a gun, do you?"
"No!" Prissy blinked at him. "I've never fired one."
"You shouldn't go around alone like this unarmed."
"Any Bad Guys I run into would probably take the gun away and shoot me with it. Thanks for worrying, though."
Day Before cleared his throat, the first noise he'd made so far. He fetched a box from the truck and held it out to Hatchet. Hatchet's brow cleared. "Good idea."
He did something in the truck, then turned and showed her the small gun in his hand. "Since you don't know how to shoot, you don't use this unless the guy is, well, unless he's got his hands on you. Since you don't know how to aim. The gun is loaded. Now look here. See this button? Push firmly in, like this, and then you point the gun and pull the trigger. Don't pull the trigger now. The gun is loaded."
"Well, I suppose." She looked dubiously at the deadly little thing. "How much?"
The recreationists looked to be having a fun time in the woods. Their horses didn't look anything like Zeus, but she supposed they didn't breed warhorses anymore. And a quarter horse that could spin and accelerate and turn quickly might actually be pretty useful in a battle. She wasn't the only visitor, there were plenty of tourists and spectators out in an open field, where they were jousting and sword fighting both on horseback and afoot. Prissy admired a shiny shield for sale; did Eldon have one like this? She had the geiger counter in a canvas bag, so she wouldn't need to hike back to the car when she found the fellow.
"I'm looking for Darious the Great. Do you know . . . "
The armor shop lady rolled her eyes and pointed. "Out there. The redhead on the black mare."
Prissy walked out to the rope barrier separating spectator from action. Pretty hokey faked action, actually. Well, call it practice. She seen Eldon's sword work, and these guys just didn't cut it. She edged along the rope until she was opposite Darious the Great. And tactfully waited until he'd unhorsed his opponent. before she called out.
"Lady Prissy! At last you have come! Now no one can stand between us." He offered his hand.
She grinned and let him help her up behind him.
They cantered and trotted about five miles, this time into a slightly muddy area, and what had been a towering pine until recently.
"It was definitely spectacular. It hit the tree and this big ball of lightning, spitting and crackling came out the other side." He offered and arm and she slid down to circle with her geiger counter. Again, nothing.
"Drat." She petted the black mare, then remounted for a ride down to the Tourney.
Darious the Great, richer by a hundred dollars, rode off, if not into the sunset, only a few degrees off.
Prissy eyed the shiny shield again, then bought it. She could give it to Eldon as a present.
"So like, there we were, all relaxed and mellow, and enjoying nature, if you know what I mean, when this crackling and hissing started up." The woman actually had pink streaks in her brown hair.
The other woman was wear a clip with peacock feathers glued to it so they layered with her straight black hair. "It was a Gateway to the Fairy Realm . . . or that was what we thought. Then the soldiers appeared." Her voice dropped in volume and tone. "Cyborgs. Half machine. They chased us down and ravished us."
Pink hair nodded eagerly. "It was awful."
Prissy eyed her. "You look like you mean awfully exciting."
They both frowned. "Not many men around here that will look twice at us. We take what The Mother sends."
Peacock hunched her shoulders. "It was plenty scary at the time. But we decided to reject the emotional trauma. We aren't going to be weak and dependant."
Pink nodded. "We're hoping for girls. We'll raise them like twins."
"Too soon to tell. But The Mother will tell us soon enough."
"Right. Well, I . . . send you good vibes, and hope you have the daughters you wish for. Now where exactly was the . . . Gateway." Prissy was getting cold chills up her back, and not just from the two proprietors of the New Age Crystal Cavern. Cyborgs. This was the real one. She wished they'd mentioned the cyborgs online. She could have saved two days of interesting adventures.
"If you drive two miles north, you'll see the little park. It was about halfway between the ladies restrooms and the playground."
From the car she called Agent Hawkins.