101: Jack

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A hand gently shook him awake. For a moment, it felt like Sandra was waking him for work, but afternoon light came in through the windows that had been shuttered when he crawled in after breakfast, in a cabin that was not even in the same world as the woman who was no longer his wife.

Turning his head, he saw the senior female mercenary, Hemme, with her grandmotherly smile. She touched a finger to her lips, a warning to stay quiet, then gestured for him to come outside.

After she left, he rose from the rack he’d been sleeping on, a metal frame with leather straps stretched across it for a mattress. They had thrown a bedroll on top of that and given him a blanket, and it had made for a relatively comfortable sleep. Certainly better than his previous few sleeps.

The two that she’d wanted him to stay quiet for, Meadhbh and Nam, were still asleep.

Rogan had become strict with his partner, making her stay on a decent sleeping surface and under covers. Jack had received the impression while listen to them at odds over the matter that Nam’s ability to just lay anywhere and sleep was a product of her using flux, and Rogan wanted her to give her abilities a rest.

She had muttered that she wasn’t sure she could turn it off, but he had prevailed, and she slept on a rack, under a blanket, the same as the rest. Now, getting close to a full day later, she was still sound asleep, as was Meadhbh. He hoped this was considered normal. Or that they had been roused for meals in his absence.

After a quick visit to the primitive latrine behind the cabin, he did his best to straighten himself again. He had worn this uniform since dressing for work Monday night, and it was now approaching seventy hours later. The Orosjoese had performed a small miracle while he was out the previous night and managed to get the majority of Meadhbh’s blood out of his tee. It wasn’t gone, but he was sure it was far cleaner than could be accomplished on Earth. He could wear it, anyhow, and the stain was covered by his uniform blouse.

Jack had wondered about how a fully equipped cabin had come to be, here in this abandoned place, but he had learned that Koursh’s company was responsible. The structure itself they had found almost intact, but the spare horses had been used as pack animals to carry all the gear to it.  Apparently it all folded up into light, compact bundles. It seemed their world was as clever at creating lightweight gear as the camping and hiking suppliers back on Earth.

After a short meal of the game that Agst and Koursh had brought down– a pair of large fowl and a pig-like animal, along with rehydrated fruit cooked into a sauce– Simkit again had Rillte help her with the saddle.

“We’re going out already?” he wondered.

“It’s better to have us spread out,” she answered. “I’ll take you out a distance and work with your flux skills there.”

The whole point of their patrol was to keep the locals wary of them, he understood. Spreading out eliminated the possibility of bringing in heavy weapons to wipe them out all at once. As long as they were uncertain of the individual strengths among their party, it was better not to invite a counterattack from the remainder by attacking a portion.

It would only increase that spread if he and Simkit were to ride out early to do whatever it was she intended. He just nodded agreement.

They followed the path until reaching a meadow they had visited the previous night. She walked into the grasses, then told him, “Use your passive senses only, Guardsman. Make yourself aware as far as you can, without active scan.”

With him doing so, she continued walking, reaching and entering the woods at the other side of the meadow. He was picking up only small sources and trees, although some of those sources seemed bright in his flux-sense.

“Can you see the objects flying low over the forest ahead?”

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He nodded, although she wasn’t looking over her shoulder to see him. “Yeah. What are they?”

“Flying reconnaissance subunits. They relay reconnaissance to their warbeast master, similar to the drones of your world. We are being watched.”

That had happened the previous night as well, but…

“They’re different than before.”

“These are Gireidil units. Last night we saw Ilidi designs.”

Both sides were watching them, then. “You think these guys are watching the two of us, specifically, or just monitoring the area?”

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“It is for you to tell me, Guardsman. Keep an eye on them and make your judgment.”

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