The Skadivers' Tale

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The Coffee Run

The Coffee Run

When Sam awakened the next morning, Genie was looking out the window over the Hold, and Terry was sitting on the sill enjoying her touch.

“Good morning, Lady Genevieve,” Sam said softly.

“Good morning back.”

“What’s on your mind? Couldn’t sleep?” he asked.

“Yeah, I was thinking,” she began, and Sam’s eyes widened at those words that cause fear in more experienced men. “I should go get checked out, you know, if Vyrna is right, and I’m pregnant. I am still late.”

“Yeah, that’s a great idea,” Sam agreed. “You mean on Earth, with real doctors.”

“Yes, of course. But also, if I am pregnant, would I be pregnant here for like four years? And what about the baby? Would it be of Hordann or of Earth? What’s its timeline?”

“I see your point. That would be a total drag to be pregnant for that long. What are you suggesting?”

“Well, if we can do it, kind of like we are doing it now, using Rent to go back and forth. I would stay in Colorado during the week, or whatever, and visit here on weekends. You could go back and forth as needed.”

“Wow, that’s a lot to take in before coffee,” Sam said.

“Ha, we didn’t bring any.”

“Dang it!” Sam said with faux exasperation.

“It’s just down the hall, you know.”

“What, Rent?” Sam asked, “You want me to use an interdimensional rift to go through time and space to get coffee?”

“With cream,” she said glibly.

Sam swung off of the furs and pulled on his new clothes and boots. “Okay, see you in a bit.”

“Don’t be long, remember a half hour back there is like three hours here. I may not see you until lunch if you get side-tracked.” She smirked.

“I’ll try to hurry,” he said, slipping his boot knife in as had become his habit. He trotted off down the hall and hopped into the exit.

Genie had followed him into the passageway to watch him go, and, once there, Terry had left her arm and flown after Sam, thinking that something fun was going on. Before Genie could react, the little dragon flew around the corner out of sight. Genie got to the chamber’s entrance to find it empty, with Rent calmly hovering above the slab.

Sam stepped out of the mist into the darkness of the underground shelter and flicked on his flashlight. He went straight to the shelf where he has set the little espresso maker and camp stove, along with the coffee and gathered them into his arm. When he turned around, he got a shock, and dropped down to his knees as a winged shape came flying right at the light and hit him on the shoulder. The mist was also beginning to return to the lamp, to add to the disorientation.

“Terry!” Sam said beyond startled, “what the heck?”

The little flying lizard was also startled and looked at Sam. Sam had caught him in his flashlight hand and switched him over to the other arm, which held the goods. He set the little guy down on the shelf and looked at him with the light. Something wasn’t right. He seemed sluggish. Stepping back a few feet, he said, “Come here, Terry, let’s go back and find Genie.”

At that, he watched as the mini-dragon hopped and flapped, but moved like he was weighed down. He hit Sam a little low and had to use his neck to catch himself on Sam’s arm, to then climb up to his shoulder. He seemed confused by the sudden changes between the two worlds. So, Sam gave the lamp a quick rub and stepped into the forming mist.

Genie had been standing, watching the mist. She watched it for a few minutes, hoping that one of them would return through it, but neither did. She had a decision to make, and figured she had better go through and make sure something weird did not happen. She was just about to hop in when Sam stepped out onto the slab with his flashlight on.

“Hey,” he said, “Look who I found.”

Terry flew to her immediately and cowered in her hold.

“What happened to you?” she asked him.

“He scared the crap out of me, is what happened,” Sam said as he stepped down and began to move up the passageway. “And he didn’t seem well down there.”

“In what way? He seems fine now, just freaked out.”

“He looked like he felt heavy, you know, to himself. He tried to fly and had a hard time,” Sam answered. “Come to think of it, when we first went back through, my legs felt a little heavy.”

“Yes, and remember Eric coming through? We had to help him to a chair,” Genie added. “I thought it was just the shock of coming through Rent, but maybe it was more than that.”

“Gravity? Same as we can jump around like Flieghenns here?

“Sounds about as reasonable as anything else, I guess.”

The two had their coffee at last, and made their way down to the Great Hall. There seemed to be some sort of meeting going on. When they joined the group, Derrick turned to them.

“Good morrow, Lord and Lady,” he began, “there seems to be some curiosity among the Holdfolk about the wedding.”

“Oh, the wedding!” Genie said. “How long has it been since we were in Gilden Hold? We invited them down here ‘two weeks hence’.”

“That is three days from now,” Derrick said. “Should we begin preparations?”

“Yes,” Genie answered, “but what about Eric and Terri?”

“They are on the road to Colorado,” Sam thought out loud, “They might be getting there any time now. I can go back and wait for them, but they would have to get there pretty soon, like late today—Earth time—to make it here in time for the ceremony in three days.”

“So, I wouldn’t see you for three days?” Genie asked.

“That’s about right, but that will let me check in on Mack and see how things are going with the homestead. Besides, you have all of these wonderful Holdfolk handling everything here. You don’t need me hanging around.”

“Well, all right,” she agreed, “but you’d better be ready for some honeymooning when you get back. Speaking of the wedding, where is our Priest? Our Wizard? What should I even call Gensonn now?”

Everybody just smiled.

“He’s standing behind me, isn’t he?”

“I am, Lady Genevieve,” Gensonn said. He had ‘blinked’ in while she had been speaking. “And I would prefer you to call me by my name as I am not a Priest, and the Wizard title seems like a stolen one.”

“Aye, and he is no Wizard yet, as he is unbound,” Dextmann added. “Styric had been unbound, as well, and look where that got him.”

“Your Captain makes a good point, my Lord,” Gensonn said. “Perhaps when Kemann is here, he can also perform the binding ceremony.”

“Maybe he can, but how long does that take?” Sam asked, “As Lady Genevieve will be anxious to have a moon of the honey.”

Nobody had any idea of what he was saying. Dextmann laughed. “The bedding!” Then everyone laughed. It was decided that both ceremonies were possible to do, but the binding should be done after the wedding. Then the bedding, as it was reiterated by all. Genie blushed a little.

“So, how’s the training going today, Captain?” Sam parried.

“As smooth as the Armored Isle, but we might have some fighting men here after you have returned from your mooning of honey.”

“On that note, Lady Genevieve, let us away,” Sam said, taking her hand. They strolled away as dignified as you like, but then raced up stairs like a couple of kids.

Sought

A couple of hours later, Sam took his leave of his bride-to-be and slipped into the exit Rent to see to other, less-fun business.

After putting on Earth clothes, he climbed out of the shelter and went out into the daylight. He could see the new generator had been set in place, but didn’t know if it was hooked up yet. Since he didn’t really know that much about it, he decided to run into town as far as Mack’s and see what was up. So, he jumped into the van and rumbled over the dirt roads.

As he approached the little hardware store, he saw Mack nodding in a rocking chair on the front porch. The rocking chair had a price tag of $125, which Sam could read as soon as the startled shopkeeper got up.

“You going to try to sell that chair as ‘new’?” Sam laughed.

“You gotta break ’em in, or they ain’t no good,” Mack quipped. “See your generator?”

“I did. You want to show me how it works?”

“Not till I see that Propane truck go by here on its way up there to give you some fuel for it.”

“Fair enough,” Sam said. “Hey, look, I’m expecting a couple of friends to come through. If they stop here, could you send them up?”

“Be happy to.”

“In the meantime, let me take a look at some goods.”

“That’s why I’m here, young fella. Whatcha need?”

“Well, I think I might need some light bulbs, for starters,” Sam said.

The two men opened the screen door and went on in. He showed Sam the light bulbs, and carried a couple of six-packs of bulbs up to the counter.

“You might want some firewood soon,” Mack said, “supposed to be getting cold in a couple of days.”

“Okay,” Sam said vacantly as he was seeing the display behind the counter. There were several pump shotguns and crossbows there.

Mack could see the gears moving in Sam’s head. “Yup, good for the critters. We got our share, that’s for sure.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet,” Sam said, “Give me the best shotgun you have, and a couple of boxes of shells.” His eye moved to the crossbow. He thought of how Genie had always out-shot him at archery. “And that crossbow looks pretty cool. And, say, a dozen arrows. You got a target?”

“Normally, you provide the target,” Mack says with a smirk, “but I have something you can shoot at. And they call ’em quills or bolts, not arrows, so’s you know.”

Sam scooped up a few lighters, some jerky, a few bottles of water, and he saw the little butane cannisters for his backpack stove (currently on Hordann). He got six.

“I may close early today,” Mack said. “You’re gonna need this gun-cleanin’ kit too. And while I’m at it…” He unscrewed the front of the pump on the shotgun and pulled down the tube. Reaching in, he pulled out the spring and a wooden dowel, removing it before reassembling the gun. “There. You ain’t duck huntin’. Don’t need that plug. Now it’ll hold five shells, not three. Ain’t strictly legal, but heck, I like you.”

Just before Mack rang everything up, Sam saw the reloading supplies. There were cans of black powder there. Sam thought the Hordannfolk would get a kick out of some shenanigans with that, so he got three of them too.

He drove off happily munching on jerky and listening to the tinny sound of the van radio. He unloaded everything into the bunker, but he kept out the shotgun and crossbow to play with. The large propane tank was on the north side of the cabin, so, Sam decided to put the target off to the east, parallel to the barn.

The crossbow was a cool piece of weaponry. Apparently, Mack sold a lot of these for mule deer hunting. It was the newest model of a compound design with a scope and a stock like a rifle. It came with three aluminum bolts, and Sam had bought a dozen more. Drawing the string back to its holding position was a little hard at first, but got easier, once Sam got the feel for it. It fired smooth, quiet, and as accurate as could be.

Sam had been playing around for about an hour. After he collected his bolts from the target, he sat down to drink a bottle of water. He thought he heard a car or truck coming, and it got louder and louder before coming into view. It was the propane service. They pulled up to the tank and got out. Sam greeted them and they hooked up and began to fill.

They said that Old Mack told them that he was coming up later to get with Sam, but that they would handle hooking up the generator line, if it was ready. That was terrific. Sam watched for a bit, but it wasn’t very interesting after the first ten minutes, so he went and examined his new gun, reading the manual.

It was big, but it had a nice feel to it. He liked the sound as it chambered with the pump. He figured he would wait for the propane guys to leave before he started blasting stuff shots with it. He could see that they were wrapping it up.

They were explaining that they had to add a flexible hose from the hard line to the generator, and that they would have to charge him extra. There was the sound of another vehicle approaching, and Sam figured it was Old Mack, but he was wrong. It was a rented black town car. It pulled up on the edge of the ‘parking’ area and two guys got out slowly. They were dressed alike in dark sweaters and sunglasses. Sam thought they had a para-military look about them. He had put the shotgun down to talk to the gas guys, and he meandered over to see who these guys were.

He recognized the fax they were looking at as the same one that had been in the coin collector’s shop. These two guys were hunting for him. Sam got a really bad feeling about it, and stopped. The two men slowly approached, putting the fax away. Sam made his way back over to his shotgun and picked it up.

“That’s far enough,” he told them. “What do you want?”

“You are Samuel Baxter,” the one on the left said in some middle-eastern accent.

“What do you want?”

“My client believes you have something that belongs to his family.”

“Yeah? Who is your client?”

“You have been passing coins that don’t belong to you, Mr. Baxter.”

Sam’s grip on the shotgun got a little tighter. “Who are you people?”

There was the sound of another vehicle coming, and Sam was really starting to get worried. The two guys looked around. They heard the car, but it wasn’t as though they were expecting it. There were the two guys working on the gas line, and there was Sam, the person of interest.

“We represent Alexander Nassar,” the man said at last.

The name rang a bell with Sam. Nassar. That was the guy who had first used Rent to open Hordann and also the man who tortured Jaeder, the jinn. It became clear to Sam at that moment that these guys were not particularly here for the coins, but for the lamp.

A thousand years seemed like a long time for a family to be looking for something that had once been in the possession of one of their ancestors. They had probably turned some of Croese’s gold into the family fortune. They had, at the time, been aware of how Nassar had stashed away a good bit of it as well as how he stashed it. But more importantly, they knew that Nassar had a jinn. They could not possibly know how Nassar met his end or that the jinn had also been killed, because that knowledge had been lost in Hordann for centuries. Sam’s guess is that this family had been steeped in the lore of Jinnkind, and had handed it down for many generations. They never got over losing the lamp, and, therefore the jinn, their family’s source of wealth and power. They wanted it back, and they would kill Sam to get it.

“Give us the lamp,” this dark man demanded, “and we will go.”

Sam did not answer, but stood there, thinking. The truck he had heard came around the bend; it was Old Mack. He pulled in behind the town car and got out. He quickly eyed the situation and reached behind his seat and pulled out an M-16.

The two men glanced at him and recognized him from having asked directions at his store. They did not see the weapon behind the truck door, just an old man.

They made the same demand, “Give us the lamp; nobody has to get hurt here.”

“That sounds like a threat,” Sam said defiantly. The two guys working on the gas line had finished, and were gingerly trying to get into their truck to leave. It started up with a signature diesel rattle, and the truck lurched away from the tank, making the turn and driving between Sam and the two men.

Sam took the opportunity to make a run for the barn. The shotgun had made a formidable prop in the stand-off, but Sam had not actually fired it, and didn’t want to trust his life to it just yet. He peeked out to see the two men flanking the barn. Mack was nowhere to be seen.

He pulled up the crossbow he had been practicing with and loaded it. Looking up, he thought the loft would be a better position for a sniper, so he slung the crossbow onto his back and climbed the old ladder up to the next level.

Sam heard one of the men say that “Baxter left his gun.” At that point, he knew the men were looking into the barn. Scanning the windows, he saw the outline of a 9mm automatic of some sort shadowed through the dirty window. As Sam had thought--these guys mean business.

Sam could hear a creaking down at the ground level, and perceived one of the siding boards slowly being moved to create an opening. He changed his vantage point slightly, and he could see it move. Bringing the point of the breach into the cross hairs, he waited. He saw a hand, then an arm, then a head poke through and give a quick survey of the room. He crept in, and when Sam saw the gun enter the barn, he loosed his bolt. Like piercing into a melon, the bolt found its mark in the man’s skull, and there were some death throes involved.

The other man had been craftier, and he had figured out where Sam was perched. As his gun lined up for the shot, there was a sound familiar to Sam from war movies—the sound of an M-16. A single shot, followed by a thump.

Old Mack came in like he was still in Vietnam, his gun still smoking, ready for more.

“Up here, Mack,” Sam said, as he watched the wiley old man react, swinging the gun up, but easing at once.

“You said you had friends coming, so I sent them up here,” Mack explained, “but they didn’t look like no friends to me. Figured I’d best come check on the propane boys anyhow.”

“Really glad you did. I owe you.”

“I guess you like that crossbow,” he said with a smile, looking at the gruesome sight and then back to Sam.

“It’ll do.” Sam climbed down and shook Mack’s hand.

“I ain’t killed anybody in a really long time. Still don’t care for it. So, what did you do to piss these boys off?”

“It’s a very long story. The short version is that I found something that their boss’ family lost a thousand years ago.”

“They want it back.”

“Looks that way,” Sam said, and he pulled the fax out of the one guy’s pocket. “And they tracked me here in a matter of days from Montreal to New Orleans to here.”

“That’s impressive. So, what did you steal?” Mack asked with a grin.

“Truly, I didn’t steal anything.”

There was the sound of another vehicle approaching. Sam readied a bolt, and Mack spread out to the door’s edge. The vehicle pulled up and stopped its engine. Sam peeked out the window to see the dingy old, red Chevy pulling a U-haul. Terri!

“It’s okay, Mack. These are my friends,” Sam said as the two of them breathed sighs of relief.

Terri and Eric got out of the car slowly, seeing the two armed men in front of them. They recognized Sam easily enough, so they were cool. Sam smiled at Terri, but when he looked at Eric, he didn’t know what to think. Eric’s hair was longer, and his beard had come full in from stubble from the last time Sam saw him only several days ago. It was a question for later, however.

Mack helped them unload their trailer, and he checked Sam out on the new generator and started it up. Sam had put light bulbs into sockets, and there was electric light! That was all fine, but there was the elephant in the room to be discussed.

Terri had never seen a dead body before, so there was that. Sam had to explain a few details, but tried not to say too much in front of Mack about the whole Wizard/jinn/interdimensional tear in the fabric of the universe thing.

They had to figure out what to do with these dead guys and their rental car. Always, though, in the back of his mind, Sam was wondering how long it would be before the next wave showed up. For the moment, however, things had become calmer. Mack and Sam each claimed a Glock 9mm and spare clips, and matching, fancy out-the-front automatic knives from the corpses, along with their (fake) identifications and money.

It was decided that the car could just get dropped off in Denver, where the paperwork said it had been rented. Mack volunteered to take the U-Haul to Boulder with his truck. So, that left the three of them to be able to talk all the way back on the long van ride.

First, they would bury the two bad guys. Mack suggested that they be buried at the bottom of the small bluff off to the east of the barn. That seemed fine, and so, they carried the bodies to the edge and let them fall and settle where they would.

There were shovels and a pick in the barn, and they made their way down the bluff to the bodies. Holes were not easily dug, but eventually, the bodies were covered with a foot and a half of earth and covered with the rocks that had been excavated in the process. About fifteen feet downhill of the graves, Mack pointed out the evidence of water having flowed there. Upon investigation, they found the drain that he had mentioned. It had been made to look like it had been a small spring, which had naturally seeped out of the rock at the base of the bluff. Clever. Sam looked closely at the creative masonry of the illusion. It was well-done, but it looked larger than it really needed to be to cover such a small drain hole. He just filed that tid-bit away with other things on his mind.

On the way back up the bluff, Sam found one of the vents for the underground shelter. It was covered by a grate, and he shined his flashlight in, but there was nothing to see. He scanned around to see if he could find the other vent; Mack had mentioned that there had been two. Sam had assumed one for air to the shelter, the other to push air out. Or maybe old Gus had figured if the commies found one and blocked it up, they might not consider looking for a second one.

The car had been emptied by the time the burial detail made it back up the hill. There was fast-food trash and a file. Upon going through the file, they found a contact number for the next level bad guy (presumably) who had sent these two gumbas.

The group went their separate ways to accomplish the tasks at hand. Sam was worried about the time. He had been gone from New Sky Hold for seven hours so far. Quick math had told him that he was going to be married in about six hours. An hour to Denver, an hour back, and then through the Rabbit Hole back to Wonderland in time for a nap. Possible.

The plan worked fine. There was a remote lot for dropping off rental cars that didn’t involve any contact with agents, so, that was easy. On the drive down, they had discussed a grocery shopping trip to buy some things they would like to take off-planet. It was decided to use a little more time and procure pizza and beer in Denver before heading off to Hordann. Not the bachelor party Sam had hoped for, but it would do.

The drive back to Boulder in the van took about forty-five minutes, and Sam brought up the question of Eric’s beard. The theory was that he had begun to acclimate to Hordann time in the years he had been there. There was no way to tell when that had occurred during the fifty-some-odd years that he had been marooned there. It only seemed natural that a body would adapt, since the original exiles had adapted to it.

The moon was coming out over the Flatirons as they pulled up to the new homestead. Eric looked at it for a long time. “I have missed that,” he said at Terri’s query, “Hordann has no moon.”

“But I think you need to go back, Eric,” Sam said, “Something tells me you are going to age really fast for a while if you stay here.”

“I think you might be right.”

“We can come back and visit,” Terri said, and Sam was beginning to realize that she was intending to go to Hordann and stay, perhaps, with Eric.

“I am getting married in about two hours, guys,” Sam said. “Let’s get moving. Terri, do you want to park your car in the barn with the van? We can start getting the groceries down the ladder.”

“I guess,” she answered.

Soon everything was in its place, ready for the mist. The doors had been locked and the three travelers were anxious. Sam rubbed the lamp, and the three of them, carrying all sorts of fun stuff, stepped into Rent.

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