64: Jack

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“Gireid?” Jack asked. He might know too little about various worlds and people for other things to matter, but the ‘just like us’ comment would have to be important.

“Our kind. Nam and I are Gireid,” Rogan stated. “The people of Chald were Gireid.”

“It’s your nationality, then.”

Rogan shook his head. “It’s not our nationality. It’s our species. We’re not the same species as you, Jack. You and most of the people of Earth and Trin are Osri, which I suppose means what your scientists mean by ‘H*** Sapiens’. We Gireid will probably be named H*** something-else someday, once your science has the opportunity to study us. Our species are close relations, but we are not the same kind.”

Jack absorbed that with some thought, wondering in what way these two actually differed from humans. But the other part was more important at the moment. “But the bottom line is, our attackers were people of Chald, and you said they should all be gone.”

“These may be remnants returning from elsewhere, just like Nam and I. But you’re right. They could instead be evidence that a population remains,” he admitted. “Although that woman in charge was no Chaldan. She was no Gireidin of any make.”

“She was American,” Jack agreed. That he was certain of.

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Rogan pursed his lips. “By her clothing and her manner, I would agree. Except… well she looked Ilidi. Except the brown hair would be unusual for them. Illidi is yet another category of H*** something-else, Jack. But more to the point, the Ilidi were the people that attacked our world. So, Ilidi and Gireid working together would be very odd. Not impossible, of course.” He shot a grin at Nam, who scowled at him.

“Hush,” she ordered. Jack guessed Rogan had just annoyed her with some private joke that he stood no chance of understanding. She then declared, “We must be moving. Mord just confirmed that those bigger creatures are war beasts. We had better go.”

Rogan stood and contemplating Jack with folded arms and pursed lips. “And how likely is that to work, Nam? You cannot lug that pack all the way to Aum.”

After a long hesitation, she nodded. “It is the best plan I can offer. It will not do to just stand here.”

“Aye. That we cannot. We’d best consider alternatives, though. I could ditch the pack and carry him, but I won’t be able to run or fight that way, not for the distance we have left to Aum. Time to call the reserves, I think.”

Nam blinked. “Reserves?”

The big man grinned over at Jack. “That’s never a word she expects to hear from me. We rarely work with backup. Let’s get to the crest of the hill and stop a bit.”

“What are you on about?” she pressed, but he simply grinned and gave no answer.

Once they were at the top, Rogan shucked the backpack and dug into one of the openings. He extracted an odd device resembling a medieval king’s crown and began explaining as he fiddled with various features on it.

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“I had a fair bit of time to plan while you set things up on Earth. Once I figured out where we had to go and considered how dangerous this world could be, I arranged a backup plan through a connection I’m hoping our villains do not know about.”

He placed the ‘crown’ on top of the backpack, then extracted a small bag from the same opening. Speaking as he worked, he scattered a fine dust on the ground, making a ring around the pack. “You see Jack, we have reason to suspect the slavers have contacts within our government. I couldn’t pull from regular resources without risk our plan might be discovered. Nam, this gadget may arouse the interest of the locals, so keep watch.”

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