13: Nam


“An Ijin is the spirit of a Natural whose life has ended. A Seryahdin is someone who carries an Ijin.”

She wondered even before she finished saying it what even that would mean to him. The man waited, obviously still waiting for the explanation to come forth.

Dis-armoring complete, Rogan turned away, gesturing for the others to follow. He was back to his normal, steady self. “We shall overnight where I’ve been camping, then get going in the morning.”

“The subject is getting away again.” The guardsman growled quietly. “I take it you’re saying we can’t follow?”

She speculated quietly for a few moments, chewing her lower lip, then voiced what she understood about the situation. “The path we took here is closed.”

“Closed,” the man echoed

“Destroyed. Our criminal had readied a plan more aggressive than simply running home through his bolt-hole,” she offered. “Rather than burning his bridge behind himself, he tricked his enemies into crossing it and burnt it behind us, instead.  He is quite clever. He likely made his escape back on Earth, in the confusion.”

“He’s the Devil’s own,” Rogan agreed, his voice held flat in the way he did to suppress hard emotions. He stopped for a moment before continuing and glanced back. “No other way I can reckon how he can always have so many tricks at ready. There’s nothing for it, friends. All our plans perished in that fire. He’s out of our reach from this location. Come along.”

Nam suppressed a groan, wearily pulled herself to her feet and prepared to help the guardsman to his. He managed on his own, although using the wall for a brace. They caught up with Rogan as he turned the corner into a larger corridor.

“I’m Rogan Brath,” he told the guardsman, and gestured toward her. “This is my partner Nam. We are Hunters. We serve the Lord Minister of Civil Security in Parha.”

“Ka Nam Tatoan,” she expanded her name, and added, “On your world we would be ‘police detectives’. Or ‘FBI agents’.” Or spooks, she added with some mischief in her thoughts. The term had come into being around the time they ended their assignment in New York, and she had been amused by it when she returned after Earth had fully awakened to the existence of those from elsewhere.

They emerged from the hallway to look out upon a great courtyard. She wasn’t sure why, but it was almost exactly what she had expected to see. The halls behind her had felt disturbingly familiar. Even with her excellent night vision, she could see nothing beyond the walls save pitch-black, but ruined stonework and rampant weeds told her this place had been empty for a long time. As she scanned around, her eyes confirmed her first impression of a fortification and dwelling. A castle, but of neither Earthly nor Trinan design.

The guardsman answered, “Sgt. Jack Garner. Saint Louis MPD. I’m a patrol officer.” He shrugged and affected a bit of humor. “I have no idea what you would call that in your world.”

Rogan nodded. “It’s what I’ve been calling you. I reckon that in Parha you would be a guardsman of your local watch. Although, given your age and rank, you would have held a crown commission by now, so you’d be a centurion.”

Jack took in their surroundings as he explained his presence. “My partner and I were tailing a car that matched the description in a serial abduction case the department’s been fighting for months. It turned into a high-speed pursuit.” He glanced over at Nam. “We’d gone to foot pursuit by the time we met up with you.”

The man waited, looking from Rogan to Nam with curiosity. He was expecting to hear their story in return, she realized. No doubt, he wanted to know what connection his quarry in a kidnapping case on Earth had to ‘spooks’ from another world. With as little as he knew about things not from Earth, she wasn’t sure where to begin.

She would do her best. “The criminal you and we were both pursuing plays a major role in a slaving ring on our world.”

Jack was listening, still with some wariness, but she hoped he was starting to consider it possible that they might be on the same side.

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