They passed a wide, horizontal stone ring engraved with badly worn Bruxilan script and animal figures, a bench that had probably once surrounded a flower bed or a statue. She didn’t know why, but it seemed to her the arrangement should also have some religious significance. Something about it nibbled at her memory.
“They bring the girls they have been taking from your world to ours. For the last couple years, we have found victims one after another and they just keep coming. The Lord Minister has raised the case to top priority.”
“Years?” Jack scowled “Our case hasn’t been going for years.”
Turning a corner, they emerged into a grand courtyard. Her eyes widened at the length and breadth of it. This was nothing like a mere castle. A thousand soldiers could have easily marshaled in this yard, with room to parade.
“But our case has. They moved into your country only recently,” she explained. “Saint Louis is their seventh base of operation that we know of, and it’s the first within the US. We still don’t know how or why they are picking their hunting grounds.”
Rogan’s camp site, in the middle of the courtyard, turned out to simply be just a spot in the middle of the pavement, far from structures. It had no cover or windbreak. He’d been more concerned by the local fauna than the weather when he chose it. She stopped as she reached it and looked toward Jack. “The Minister has asked Rogan and I to close the pipeline.”
Nam took a seat on the stone pavement. Her muscle conditioning was excellent, but using flux-forms to overdrive her muscles had its penalties, and she needed rest. Rogan grabbed pieces of firewood from a small stack. After a moment, Jack sat as well.
“Others back home are working hard to locate and rescue the victims,” Rogan added, setting to work building a campfire.
“Well… thanks for the backup, I guess.” The Earther seemed a bit less uncomfortable with the situation, but he was still on his guard.
Rogan sat down and nodded. “Likewise, Sergeant.”
That is good, Nam thought. She couldn’t imagine growing up ignorant of the Multiworld, believing Earth unique and alone, but surely this experience, so contrary to that belief, verged on a nightmare for him. Perhaps it was for the best if he accepted it slowly. It indicated a reasonably strong mind. She would hate to be stuck shepherding some idiot home through this wilderness. Rogan had told her this end of Benjamin’s path was a primitive world full of hazards.
“So I guess we’ve been wasting our time back home. If the subject’s a spook, we can’t stop him.”
“We hope you won’t have to. I’ve not given up our hunt just yet,” Rogan answered.
Nam lay on her back and studied the sky, wishing she could figure out why the place felt so oddly familiar.
Jack ventured, “So, if your path to Earth is gone… does that mean I’m stuck here?”
Rogan shook his head. “Not permanently. We’ve other ways to Earth. But, it’s a longer road home for you.”
The guardsman pondered it. “Wherever ‘here’ is. This is your… world?”
Nam blinked herself back awake, discovering she had been drifting away. She was exhausted. “No. This is not Trin.”
Rogan’s gently amused voice contradicted her. “Truth… But in a way he’s right, Nam. I hadn’t told you yet which world the scoundrel’s path led through.” Rogan smiled with a bit of sadness. “This is Chald.”
She looked over at him with shock. Of all the unlikely places… “Chald?”
Rogan nodded with sadness, as she confronted the reason that the place had such a familiar feel.
This is the world of my birth.
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