When Catelin awoke, nightfall had already come. Her head pounded, her chest and arms ached. Or was it the other way around? It didn’t help that the moment she tried to get up she was jerked back by the two handkerchiefs tying her to one of the tentpoles. At least someone had put a couple of blankets underneath her. The ground beneath was icy cold. She shifted her eyes to those of a cat, immediately being rewarded with a clearer, brighter vision. The tent was empty, the front flap tied shut from within to maintain privacy. A general hexagonal shape with an opening for air at the top showed the clear night sky. The stars were off though, not those visible from Central Europe at any case.
“Almost like we’re in a different dimension,” she mused out loud, feeling her bruises. That had been thoroughly humiliating. She had fought sorceresses, warlords, demons, but never gotten her ass kicked by a random kid. Though at least she now knew that Ahmed was anything but normal. Her hunch had been right. Right but painful. She shimmied out of her restraints by distributing mass from her arms to the feet. She tried once to turn into a mouse or snake, but the had to maintain her natural mass. Her sister, the sorceress and altogether royal smart person of the group, had once babbled about ‘conservation of mass’ and ‘thermodynamics’. Nonsense words that were probably yiddish or something, Catelin had always figured, but the point stood nonetheless: once you turn yourself so small, the rest of you had to go somewhere. Alberic had carried her pieces around in a bucket for more than three weeks until Guinevere had gathered the energy for a reconstitution spell. Good times.
Once on her feet, she rubbed her worn hands, then took stock. There wasn’t much here. Ahmed wasn’t here either. There was a cut in the fabric of the tent though. Had he snuck out? In one corner she found something altogether strange: a bundle of fabric with straps and metal. She opened the flap and heard the two halves come apart with a rip. She moved it in the other direction, closing it back up. Curious. She opened it once more, finding Ahmed’s robes and beard.
Before she could dig any deeper, the cut in the tent opened and a figure stepped in, dressed in black. Catelin twirled around and, trying a different approach, crossed her arms and cleared her dry throat. “Hello, ‘Ahmed’.”
The figure that was Ahmed turned, bringing up a pistol of thoughts and – brightness! Broad daylight, concentrated into a beam, shone in Catelin’s face. She quickly turned her eyes back normal, raising her hands for good measure to block the agonizing beam. That hurt. “Slow and steady now,” said not-Ahmed. Not in the effeminate, cracking voice of a youth but the actual feminine voice of a woman. The beam of flight was averted and Catelin could now see the real person. Standing there, only a few feet away, was an athletic woman, looking 20 but saying 30 with her posture and eyes. She wore black and green, yes, but it was as strange has her rucksack. Shouldering a robe, she had the same metal strips and noise reattachable sticky fabric on it as the rucksack, while also wearing a vest with a good amount of pickets and strange devices poking out. She rolled her eyes. Not again.
“Time traveler?” Catelin sighed before she even knew the answer, lowering her arms. She sat on the ground, crossing her legs.
Not-Ahmed raised an eyebrow and for the first time Catelin could see him, her, for real: black hair, the same dark skin obviously, grey eyes. Attractive, but too muscular and thin for her customers. “You know about time travel?” She lowered her weapon, but did not holster the strange contraption. That made her smarter than most men who had Catelin on the defensive.
“You’d be surprised,” Catelin said, shrugging her shoulders, “ what we’ve seen before. What century?”
“About five-hundred years into the future. Plus or minus a decade. I think,” she answered. “The late 21st century.”
“The earliest yet,” Catelin mused, remembering the golem – what was the world again? Robot? – from a few years ago that had come to this dimension to become a real human. Why one wanted that when one could crush steel with one hand was anyone’s guess. Maybe the sex. “Let’s try this again: ‘Hello, I’m Catelin and not a backstabbing, manipulative bitch. And you are…’.”
She hesitated for a moment, then holstered her weapon. It retracted and shifted into itself till it was tiny and clicked to her belt without any straps. Magnetic? Marvelous, but Catelin tried to look aloof and not terrified as fuck. It always impressed this lot when the primitives didn’t care. “My name is Soraya. Soraya McTavish.”
Catelin wordlessly asked for her to join her on the ground, holding pallaver. “When did you get here, Soraya?”
The young woman shrugged. “A few months ago. I think. I was in Australia for a UN peacekeeping mission…” She trailed off.
“You’re a soldier?” Catelin had to pull herself together not to ask what ‘Australia’ was.
“Archeologist,” Soraya said, looking down at her gear, then remembering that Catelin didn’t know that word, “You know what a historian is? Basically that but I work for a living.”
“Are they also mercenaries?” Catelin chuckled at Soraya’s gear.
The girl smiled, returning the chuckle. She started to let her guard down. “Austria went down the drain during the Resource Wars. After FIrst Contact, well, point is I went down there with a group from my university to salvage some priceless artifacts before the Australian Evangelical Front blew them up. Long story short: I was caught in one of those dimension portals and ended up here in your dimension. Time. Took me the better part of a year to use my survival gear to get to Africa, from there I went to the Persians, then the Byzantines, then here.”
“Huh,” Catelin said, nodding, “and those Arabs chasing you? That costume?” Continue reading “Infiltration at Camelot – A Pariah Company Sequel (Part 3)”