Our prisoners remained silent during the ride back to the king’s building complex. When we landed, three guards waited outside and dragged them out of the aircar. Before Stanton disembarked, they were out of sight. He turned back to the king and watched him for a moment. As Stanton opened his mouth to speak, the king indicated with one hand he should not.
He followed the king inside the same way he left earlier and to his office.
“Shut the door behind you,” the king told him.
He did as he was told, and stood before the vast ancient hand carved dark wood desk. The legs were huge, and carved with fruits like grapes. The edge of the desktop was carved with what Stanton decided was cherubs with wings and harps. He could not imagine where the desk originated, but he struggled with the grin the idea of a king using such a desk for himself caused.
The king didn’t seem to notice or if he did really didn’t care how Stanton felt. When he pointed to the plain wooden chair next to where Stanton stood, he sat.
“Your performance today, I’ve been told was truly above and beyond. I was unaware that you had such skills. I knew of your history as a government assassin, but well let’s say I am quite pleased. Therefore I am assigning a squad of my best warriors to you. You are promoted to lieutenant, and will be in command. Go home now and come morning you will find your squad waiting outside here.”
“Thank you, sir,” He said as he stood, hiding his bafflement, he hoped. What he did during the day was as much about self-preservation, self-defense and anything else.
He saluted as he’d seen other officers do, and smiled when the king returned it.
The walk back to their apartment seemed shorter, and he felt calmer. When he opened the door, Stanton smelled food cooking and for a brief, fleeting second, thought, I could live like this for a long time.
Margaret was wearing a long red and blue striped dress that hung to just below her knees. Her feet were in blue slipper that looked very comfortable. He went over and kissed her cheek. She turned to him and wrapped her arms around his shoulders.
“This place is amazing,” she said sounding joyous. “When the women who live nearby learned we’d just moved in and that I was pregnant, they started bringing me gifts of food and clothing. A couple stayed for lunch, eating food one brought with her and Stanton, they know nothing about my twenty-first century history or that I’m…”
He kissed her silent and the whispered, “We don’t know if they have any devices planted to listen and see what we do. Let’s not discuss our earth pasts while we are indoors anywhere. Everything here so far seems to good to be true and that makes me wary.” He kissed her hard and long stopping when she pressed her hands against his chest.
“I don’t want dinner to burn. Wait till you see what we are having.” She took his hand and led him back into the kitchen. Two pots were on stove burners. She used a potholder to lift one and then the other. Mixed vegetables in one and mashed potatoes in the other. She then opened the oven door just enough so the light illuminated the contents, which was a small but delicious smelling roast beef.
Dinner was the best he’d had in months if not longer. After they cleaned up, exhaustion hit him hard and he showered then climbed into bed alongside Margaret.
And he believed he might just stay and live that way, but fate declares destination and Stanton’s was far from conclusion.
The following day, he received his orders. His men and women assembled as promised. Once he was able to speak with each, get to know their names and a bit about their personal histories, they set off. Stanton’s second in command was Thala Zabrowski. She stood about two inches shorter than him, weighed, he guessed, about 145 pounds of solid muscle. Her training was as complete as any member of the black ops teams he’d been assigned to on earth. In other words, she was nearly invincible. Have her don a suit of body armor and she and he together might defeat an army.
Nothing unusual occurred that morning. They had lunch at a small eatery named The Failed Eagle, amazing burgers and fries with glasses of cold coffee strong enough to straighten hair. They had long wood slab tables that sat a dozen each, with matching benches. Both were clearly quite old dark in places where people frequented, and smoothed by decades of use. The floor was flagstone and had its share of dips and cracks. The outside of the building was timber framed and leaned to the right.
Feeling comfortable with his new companions, as they seemed to with him, Stanton stopped when they reached the stone double arched portal he saw the previous day. He ordered everyone to take a break and then turned to Thala. He nodded in the direction of the portal and asked, “What can you tell me about that?”
“The gateway?” She frowned as if to express her uneasiness, but didn’t speak about her feelings.
He nodded and waited.
“We were taught that it was intentionally closed by order of the king. Apparently an armored soldier came through and demanded to know where he might find the assassin that arrived the day before. Well no assassin anyone knew of arrived ever. In fact the gateway, unlike many others was a transfer portal from elsewhere on this world. Most others, I’ve been told bring humans who need to escape from other worlds.
“So after he was told what we knew, he began killing people. At first he used a weapon he brought with him, an old looking projectile rifle, and when that was empty, he grabbed a laser rifle from a fallen guard and began killing again. The entire time he screamed that he’d only stop if we told him the truth. By the time several guards subdued him using a concentration of laser set to kill, the intruder had murdered 238 men women and children.
“They tied him with steel cable since that was all they had on hand. Turns out it was a good decision. When the intruder woke, he struggled to escape not caring how badly the cable tore into his flesh and muscles.
“Finally they electrocuted him. Smoke rose from his head along with sizzling and popping sounds. The intruder was mostly robotic um android the science team termed it.
“Mind you this is all second hand knowledge but I’ve not met anyone willing to dispute it. Of course, we aren’t supposed to discuss the entire thing by order of the king, but you just got here, so you should know.” She frowned slightly and then shrugged as if in response to some internal debate.
“I appreciate you telling me. I won’t say anything about any of it to anyone.” He turned to stare at the portal, wondering if the hand he’d seen the day before was still there. A guard on the other end?He wondered. And why today a totally different version than the one I was told yesterday? Were there two separate events? The first some kind of gruesome war ending with the portal being blocked and nearly destroyed? And if so how did the armored and armed intruder enter through the gateway looking for an assassin? Was that assassin me? Did the intruder use a different means of transportation so it only looked like he entered through the portal? If he was an android could he have access to tech we can only imagine? Transportation tech? And from when and where did he come?
He could think of nothing from his time under discussion or in the testing phases, but of course, he had limited access to such intel.
The reminder of the day was as uneventful as the early morning. He felt relieved and ready for a night of relaxation. But then there’s fate.