The portal opened beside the lake and Dyla, Cat and Eclair stepped through. As usual, Dyla came through first and immediately scanned the area for danger, but the countryside was too dark to see anything useful. Dyla used her powers and swept the surrounding area to ‘feel’ for any telltale signs of human activity. She held up her hand, motioning for the others to stay still while she concentrated on her search. When she finished her sweep, she motioned for them to move forward.
“Anything?” Eclair whispered.
Dyla pointed discreetly along the lakefront.
“We have company, someone by the side of the lake in the trees. We’re being watched, so be careful.”
Colin had been instructed not to light a fire because his presence was to remain secret, but Colin was fed up with this night watch duty. Enough was enough he decided, thinking he would not spend the entire night out in the middle of nowhere freezing his ass off.
He left his post and wandered further into the woods to gather twigs, reasoning that a small fire would not attract any attention out here. Hell, he could scream at the top of his lungs and no one would hear him. With his arms full, he returned to the edge of the tree line and set the twigs in a pile. After three tries with his lighter, the twigs finally caught fire. He hunched over the flame and warmed his hands. He was so busy with his fire that he did not see the pin prink of light forming on the lake’s far shoreline. The pin-prink quickly widened to a doorway-sized opening and three figures stepped through.
The light from the full opening was bright enough to finally catch Colin’s attention. He looked up and swore as he stomped out the fire. He stood motionless watching the scene unfold before him, not believing what he saw. Two women and a man stepped from a door of light and stood in front of it at the lake’s edge. As suddenly as it had materialized, the doorway winked out, but the three remained in place, silhouetted against the lake. A hand signal from one of the women sent the trio moving away from the lake’s edge.
“What the hell?”
It took several seconds before Colin collected himself. This was unbelievable. He just saw three people step out of thin air. It was no wonder Munroe didn’t tell him what to look for; he wouldn’t have believed him. He kicked more dirt on the remains of the fire, ensuring it was snuffed out completely and fumbled to get his cell phone out of his jacket pocket. He flipped it open and dialed Munroe’s number.
“What happened?” Munroe asked before Colin could say anything.
“I don’t know how to tell you this.”
“You saw a bright flash of light?” Munroe asked.
“Yeah, I guess you could call it that and then three people stepped out of it. There was a man and two women. It was stranger than all hell, it was.”
“That’s what you’ve been waiting for. Follow them, but don’t let yourself be seen. Understood?”
“Well, that’s going to be tough cause they just took off running like bats outta hell.”
“Then get your ass moving, you bloody idiot. Whatever you do, don’t lose them,” Munroe commanded.
“We have contact. It’s the three of them again.”
The team leader by the lake listened for a moment.
“No, they didn’t spot us, but they did see Munroe’s lookout we reported about earlier. Anyone could have seen him for miles, the idiot actually lit a fire.”
“Where are the three headed?” the voice on the phone asked.
“They moved off quickly into the hills.”
“Is Munroe’s man following them?”
“He looks to be trying, but I’m not sure if he’ll be able to keep up with them.”
“Follow at a distance and watch. I want to know where they’re going and what they’re doing out there.”
Dyla held up her hand to stop her companions.
“He’s following us.”
“I’ll take care of this,” Eclair said and promptly disappeared.
Though he disappeared, the two women could follow his movement by the noise and disturbances he made walking on the loose rock, vegetation, and dirt. He met up with Colin within minutes, but though Colin couldn’t see him, he did hear something moving towards him in the dark. Colin slowed down to a crawl as he peered around looking for the source of the noise.
Colin heard the noise directly behind him. Acting on pure reflex, he swung his arm in a wide arc and connected with something behind him. Turning around, but not seeing anything, Colin began to back away. A disembodied voice followed his retreat.
“That won’t help you.”
Colin’s eyes widened and he looked around fearfully for the source of the voice. A rock rose in front of him and hovered in line with his nose.
Colin stared at the rock, momentarily dumbfounded. Between the strange lights, people magically appearing, and floating rocks, he decided he had enough and took off running, leaving the weirdness behind. No amount of money was worth this. Unfortunately, it was too late. The rock shot out and hit him solidly in the back of his head, knocking him out cold.
Eclair materialized rubbing his ribs where Colin has connected with his fist.
“That hurt,” Eclair said, looking accusingly at the unconscious man lying prone at his feet.
“Any idea who he is?” Dyla asked as the two women came up beside Eclair.
Cat bent down and looked at the prostrate man.
“I never saw him before.”
She searched through his pockets and found his cell phone. Opening it up, she looked through its contacts and recent calls.
“Oh no, this isn’t good. He made a call a few minutes ago to Munroe.”
“Damn, he’s the last person I wanted to know that we’re back,” Dyla said.
“Darius was right. He said that neither Munroe nor Blackheart would give up looking for us,” Eclair added.
“Well, so much for secrecy. Now that Munroe knows we’re here, it will be a matter of time before he comes after us again,” Dyla said. “We need to check out these hills quickly and leave before he has a chance to catch up with us.”
“So what about the underwater chamber?” Cat asked.
“It’s a waste of time and Eclair’s strength. Besides Blackheart probably cleaned the place out by now. Besides, there’s no telling how long it will take to find Merlin’s cave if it even exists.”
Disappointed, Cat reached into the backpack and pulled out a couple of flashlights.
“Here’s a flashlight for each of you. It will be hard trek to where I found that data cube, especially in the dark.”
Dyla grabbed one and pointed it at the others.
“We need to keep these off until we get well away from the lake. I didn’t feel anyone else besides Munroe’s man, but these lights can be seen from miles around. If anyone is lurking around, they’d know immediately where we were.”
“OK,” Cat replied.
Eclair motioned to Cat with a flourish.