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  • Jonathan and I were staked out at the jump spot where they delivered food and dry goods. If anyone showed up there we would follow them. If it was a small army coming in, we would warn the others and they would immediately disappear by jumping to a prearranged spot near here. Gar, Matty and Ricky were fully cloaked and, each one carrying a bow, were watching over our group at the meeting spot.

    When Ben first put forth the plan, I worried about Lydia and the others being used as bait in a trap, and spoke up about it. Big mistake on my part. I guess I still have some of my century’s chauvinistic attitudes about “protecting the women folk and kids”. Lydia, my love and soul mate, took me to task. With her green eyes fiery she coldly thought “I make my own decisions. I was fighting and leading warriors long before you appeared.” And with that she spun on her heels and walked away from me. That was yesterday and she has made herself scarce to me since.

    The plan was for our group to make an excuse to leave after about an hour. It will be abrupt and probably rudely done as they jump as one to a prearranged safe site. If our thinking is correct, one or more of the soldiers will have to report back to their headquarters for instructions on how to proceed. If he tries to jump there, I will follow him fully cloaked. It will be just a search and locate mission for me. As soon as I locate Tom and get the lay of the land, I am to jump back to join the others.

    It was a good plan and was working just fine until Tom appeared at the jump site. Jonathan and I waited for a minute, and when no one else appeared, we called to him. His eyes got wide and he tried to warn us when three large armored soldiers appeared. They had been using him as bait. We hadn’t been able to see the shackles on his ankles before all hell broke loose. I re-cloaked and moved to the side as the first soldier took a swipe at where my head had been with his sword. I watched his eyes widen in astonishment just before I thrust my knife between his ribs while pulling him close to me from behind. The other two soldiers were standing back to back, warily searching for some clue as to where I was.

    Suddenly Jonathan arose from the brush with an arrow notched in his bow and the second soldier died. The third one charged Jonathan and before I could intervene was dropped with another arrow through his chest. Beside me, Matty uncloaked and thought “We already took care of our two and Gar thought you might need some help.” “Is everything ok?” I thought at him. He gave me the thumbs up and thought “Let’s get Tom unshackled and get the hell out of Dodge before more of them show up.”

    We got to Tom and Jonathan was already trying the guard’s keys in the lock one by one. Tom had been badly beaten and his bruises were just starting to turn from purple to yellow. He kept trying to apologize to us for the trap. I told him the bait doesn’t have to apologize for being the bait. Finally one of the keys opened the shackle and he was free. We joined hands and jumped to the safe site. Sarah broke down when she saw him. She ran to him and held him tight. Tom held her and kept saying “I’m sorry” over and over in her ear. For his part, Tom was ashamed of what he had put everyone through. We finally got him to settle down and slowly tell us his story.

    “I didn’t know they could be so treacherous. I swear that I wasn’t aware of any of the plotting that was going on between Uncle Jacob and the soldiers. Aunt Becky and Aunt Wanda always needed me to go with them for protection whenever Uncle Jacob had business elsewhere. It wasn’t until last week that I found out I was being used to catch you all. I call them my aunts and uncle because I have no memory of who I was. They found me beside a stream with a head wound and nursed me back to health about three years ago.”

    “But last week, I overheard Uncle Jacob talking about springing the trap and earning our keep to my Aunts. Unfortunately they saw me and after some arguing were able to overpower me and take me prisoner. They jumped with me to a location in the middle of a military camp and I was thrown into a cell and shackled to the wall. When it was decided that I couldn’t be trusted to return with them, the daily beatings started. After the second day, they suddenly stopped beating me and started tending to my wounds. Someone had figured out a way to use me as bait if the first trap didn’t work. And you know the rest.”

    At this point, I looked at the group and thought “What was the first trap? Does anybody know?” Ben nodded to Gar and thought “The two soldiers tried to take us before we had been there ten minutes. I guess they thought they could intimidate us. After Gar and Ricky took care of the soldiers, we could see by the expressions on Jacob’s face that he was in on the whole deal. He tried to grab a sword to join the fight against us and lost. The two old women ran off screaming into the woods and when we searched for them we found them floating face down in the river. Their throats had been cut by each other. Near as we can figure it had to be a suicide pact I think that whatever fate awaited them back at the soldier’s camp after a failure like this pushed them over the edge.”

    Just then Rachel thought “But what about the other children that we met last week? Surely they are too young to have been a part of this. Where are they?” Ben stayed silent and finally Gar thought “We wanted to spare you this, but when we searched the area behind their shack, we found three fresh shallow graves. I’m sorry but we think they were getting rid of any loose ends before this final trap. They must have been promised a new assignment after this. If it’s any consolation, Ben and I talked about it and we agree that even if we had been caught in their trap, the soldiers would have probably gotten rid of them anyway. Including Jacob, and his women.”

    Lydia came over to me and seeing the blood on my knife got white in the face. “Are you hurt?” she thought with tears in her eyes. “It’s not mine.” I thought back at her as I opened my arms. She stepped forward and as she put her head on my shoulder, I apologized to her “I’m sorry if it seemed like I doubted your abilities. I just couldn’t bear to have you hurt.” She laughed through her tears “Silly man. Don’t you think I feel the same way about you?”

    Cole walked over to where Sarah and Tom were standing. He put his hand on Tom’s shoulder. “Let’s all go home, my brutha”

    We all laughed and jumped home, together.

    Artwork by Gary Nadeau
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