“It’s a Giant,” Rake moaned, still staring into the ice as if his gaze could free the beast from its frozen tomb.
“OK, we’ve seen it. Let’s get the hell out of here,” snarled Jethro.
“No, Commander,” Rake spun, speaking directly to Cobe. “That was not our bargain. You agreed to lead my team here for research. It will take time.”
“It’s frozen in a block of ice,” replied Kate. “What kind of research do you plan on doing?”
Rake thought for a moment. The idea that he would have to get at the creature to do any real study had not crossed his mind yet. He gazed out into the rapidly dimming theatre. “We will thaw him.” The other scientists gathered about them in a loose circle some nodding agreement while others gasped in disbelief. “Yes, we will thaw him.”
“I don’t suspect you have a flame thrower in one of those packs” Cobe motioned to the heavy packs that the other scientists had discarded in a pile several feet away. “How do you propose to do that?” The temperature in the auditorium was warmer than the outside air but even with several layers of brick between them and the elements he judged the temperature to be still near freezing.
Rake wandered away from the frozen behemoth and back toward the stage, looking out over the auditorium.
In the rapidly fading light the seats once again reminded Cobe of tombstones.
“We will burn them.” He motioned toward the row after row of wooden theatre seats that Cobe had just been pondering. “We will melt him free.”
“That will take weeks,” cried Kate.
“I do not think so, young lady. I think it can be accomplished in a single week,” replied the scientist turning back toward the massive block of ice.
“We don’t have a week,” countered Jethro. “We don’t even have a week's worth of rations.”
Cobe finally spoke as if still deep in thought. “He’s right Jet. We agreed to get him here to do his research and get him back again.”
“In a few days we’ll be eating those chairs as well as burning the damn things.”
“Rake, you have five days. Even rationing the supplies we have we will be nearly out of food by then. Im sure there is something around here we can find to supplement our rations. Even if it’s the rats.” He had set the timeline. “In five days,” he was talking to Rake now. “Whether your giant is thawed or not we will be bugging out. With or without you.”
“Agreed, Commander. We will need to begin immediately.”
“We will begin immediately setting up camp,” he snapped.
Scientists worked to clear the stage of the discarded metal piping and the decayed remains of the stage curtain, dumping everything into the pit at the front of the stage. Metal chairs, stands and the remains of the orchestra’s last recital soon lay buried under the debris from the stage. Reynolds stopped one of the techs from discarding a section of piping about four feet in length and two inches thick. The big scout wandered down into the auditorium and with a few swings of his makeshift bat reduced a pair of the wooden seats to scraps.
“Reynolds. What the hell?” asked Jethro.
“They are going to need lots of kindling,” he smirked, reducing another pair of seats to broken wreckage with a few swings before dropping the pipe in the aisle.
As the scientists worked to clear the stage, the scouts took inventory of the entrances and exits from the auditorium and the backstage area. Despite several storage rooms and a broken down bathroom there were no exits from the shop area. Behind a pile of wreckage in the corner opposite the shop was a single door barely discernable in the blackened, filth covered wall. Several minutes of shoving and pulling at the immovable portal led to frustration and a few bloody knuckles. “It must be barred from the other side,” growled Reynolds.
“Let’s get it secured from this side. If we can’t use it as an escape, I don’t want anyone using it to surprise us.”
Soon the scientists had cleared the stage area of debris and set the tent disk to start its transformation. Before long the dome of their shelter stretched over the better part of the stage area leaving a walkway several feet between its exterior and the pit on the auditorium side. Several glow sticks were placed about the stage and backstage areas bathing the area in warm puddles of golden light. Two sticks were placed flanking the giant’s icy tomb, casting twin orbs of light on its frozen surface like dim spotlights. From the workshop a group of the scientists wrestled a sturdy table into the glow of the lights flanking the ice tomb. “Good. This will be perfect for the equipment,” Rake yelped, all the while ranting back and forth ordering his team to move this or set up that. “I will want the camera here,” he stood off to the side of the table. “And the monitors here.” He indicated the side of the table nearest the camera. “Set up the medicals here.” The other end of the table. Soon the table was covered with monitors and instruments, keypads and sensors that most of the scouts had never even imagined before.
They watched with muted fascination as the scientists worked like a swarm of ants to set up their research equipment. It seemed like Rake’s mania had infected the rest of his team.
Once completed, the scientists and scouts settled down to a meager meal of gravy and meat. In a small pot of water they added a heat tab which quickly brought the liquid to a boil as it dissolved. They then added a brown powder to the water which thickened to the consistency of mashed potatoes with a few stirs. A couple of spoonfuls over some shreds of dried beef seemed like a gourmet meal to the group as they enjoyed their first hot meal in days.
Kate emptied the last of her canteen. “We will have to get more water tomorrow,” she said, knowing they were all running low. They had planned all along to survive on melted snow once their water ran out. A week’s worth of water would have been impossible to carry with all of their other gear.
“We will need something bigger than this,” Jethro indicated as he scooped the last of the brown gravy from the cook pot.
“Tomorrow.” They could see fatigue in their leader. “We will see what the rest of this place has to offer. I suspect there is a kitchen around here somewhere where we can find something to melt snow in and possibly to eat.”
The hot meal combined with the excitement of their find had them all a bit drowsy as they settled into the warmth of the tent. Scientists began stretching into the confines of their shelter and some had already drifted off to sleep after the long day.
“Reynolds, let me take the watch tonight,” whispered Kate as she moved behind the big man. “You need to sleep sometimes”
“That sounds good,” he replied. “Thanks.”
Kate scanned the rest of the party from her spot by one of the tent viewports. They all seemed to be resting peacefully until her gaze drifted over the lead scientist. In the dim light of the glowsticks she could not make out if Rake was awake or not. The dark skull like hollows of his sockets hid his eyes. In the shadows, they seemed to bore into her malevolently, searching for something deep inside her. Despite the warmth, she shivered.
It might have been a trick of the light, or maybe he had shifted his head, but when she looked back she could clearly see that he was asleep.
The morning of their second day in the auditorium broke with the cold pale light from the frosted skylights filtering down into the auditorium. Its cool gray diffusion barely reached onto the stage and was quickly swallowed by the muddy darkness of the backstage area. After a quick meal of boiled oatmeal and packaged protein they set to work. The air outside the tent was still frigid and even the most drowsy member of the team was invigorated after a few minutes outside their shelter.
Rake quickly organized the scientists into two teams. The first group would begin breaking the chairs into pieces of kindling. The second team would be responsible for carrying the wood up to the stage and piling it near the block of ice. Cobe was soon tired of hearing the crack of the metal clubs against the wooden chairs. “Ok, I guess we should contribute something to this day’s efforts. Jet, do you remember seeing the stacks of firewood in those outside courtyards as we came through that last hallway.”
“Sure do,” he responded.
“Why don’t you see if Rake will let you have one of his lumberjacks and see about bringing some of it down here.”
“Will do.” Jethro wandered off to find Rake who had disappeared into the workshop. Jethro could see him moving against the dull light of the glowstick. As he approached he could see that Rake had managed to find a sheet of aluminum or possibly tin and was wrestling it from behind a pile of rubble.
“Kate,” asked Cobe. “How do you feel after last nights watch.”
“Good sir.” She chose not to mention that she felt Rake had been watching her at one point.
“Why don’t you and Reynolds see what you can scrounge up as far as something to melt snow in and maybe something to supplement our rations.” He tossed away the wrapping to his prepackaged breakfast. “Im gonna get tired of this crap before long.”
“Roger that,” Kate replied. She looked over to the big scout who just nodded agreement.
By the time the two scouts collected the gear they would need for their forage and checked their weapons, Rake’s wrecking crew had a good start on the acre of potential kindling in the auditorium. They had already cleared a sizable section of seats leaving only the metal frames sticking out of the concrete floor like skeletal fingers as Reynolds and Kate came down from the stage. “Hey kid,” Reynolds called to one of the scientists busy demolishing a chair with a piece of metal post.
The youth turned toward the scout, sweat dripping from his forehead despite the chill. He was breathing hard and slightly flushed. “Why don’t you start up there at the top?” Reynolds motioned to the far end of the slightly graded auditorium. “It will be a lot less work when you just have these few seats left.”
The scientist hesitated, not sure what to make of the the scout's suggestion. Kate caught his glance over at Rake who was on the stage supervising their work. The lead scientist shook his head. Just barely. The team of scientists continued smashing their way toward the back of the auditorium.
“Whatever,” Reynolds growled almost to himself and headed toward the exit.
Once outside the auditorium and one wall away from the elements the air became cold enough that the two scouts were glad they decided to bring all of their protective clothing and not just the first layer. They had left most of their supplies back at the stage with the idea that they would be returning with a pile of scavenged loot. Outside the light was pale and faint through the dirt caked windows of the foyer. Reynolds checked the exterior door. It was stuck but with a little effort he was sure that they could break it free. That was good to know should they ever have to make a quick retreat from the building.
As they prowled deeper into the building, flashlights playing over the darkened hallways, they could make out many more signs of previous inhabitants. More stacked wood and the scattered remnants of living quarters filled a number of rooms as they moved down what must have been one of the building’s main hallways. At one point, fire damage had destroyed all but the stone walls of the passage for nearly a hundred feet. Scattered among the charred debris Kate could make out the blackened pieces of a human skeleton. Reynolds paused at each junction to mark their direction on the wall with a piece of charred stick, should anyone have to come looking for them.
“What do you think happened?” Kate asked.
“Fire.” he returned. He could feel Kate’s hot glare on his back in response to his sarcasm. “Hard to say,” he added.
They walked in silence for a short distance. “Reynolds, you know we are on the same team, right?” She could not help herself. If she was going to learn any more about him, now would be the perfect time.
He paused. “Sure I do.” He kicked aside a piece of wreckage. “Why?”
“Because I have been a part of the team for the past several months and don’t know anything about you.” She glanced over at the scout. He gazed silently down the hall ahead of them, his flashlight probing into the darkness. “Why are you here? Where do you come from?” She knew these questions were off limits but even the hardest case began to talk a little about his past after awhile. Not Reynolds.
“It’s a long story,” he replied moving forward again. “Ask me again some other time.”
“I’m asking you now.” she nearly shouted
Reynold stopped and faced her. His eyes seemed to turn inward in the dim light as if searching within himself for the right words. With a sigh, he started talking. “I spent most of my time in the service. From the time I can first remember rooting through the garbage in Caisson City, I had been surrounded by soldiers. If not the garrison troops then the police. They were as thick as lice in the slums. I can’t remember much of my mom. Other than the stink of whiskey and the sweat of more soldiers. Nothing of dear old pop.”
He turned back toward the dark hallway, instinct and training taking over but he kept talking. “By the time I was old enough to start thinking about how crappy my life was, I was busy trying to drown those memories with booze, juice, drugs….you name it.”
Kate was not sure she wanted to know the rest but there was no stopping him now.
“After a few close calls with the local law, I decided it might be best to get the hell out of the city. I signed on as a shooter with one of the trade caravans heading north into the woodland settlements.”
“Is that where you learned to scout?” she asked when he stopped, lost in thought.
“Mostly. It was either learn how to survive out there or don’t come back. I've seen a lot of men die in that wilderness…killed my share, too.”
“After too many years of that crapshoot, I decided to head back to the plains and see if I had learned anything. I hadn’t. Wasn’t long before I was boozing it up and raising all kinds of hell.” He paused again. Kate could sense him tighten up.
“One night a few years back some smart assed punk cop tried to drag me out of a juicer bar and I killed the poor son of a bitch. He didn’t have a chance. Blew a hole in him big enough to put your fist through.”
Kate thought she might have gasped.
“I was on the run back into the wastes when I met the Commander. He took me on without any second thoughts as to what I’d done. He always said, “what you did before coming to this end of the earth should stay where you leave it.”
Kate had heard him say that same thing a number of times. “Does he know?” she asked.
“Pretty much all of it. Jet knows bits and pieces…and now you do, too.”
She wondered if he was going to ask about her. He didn’t.
The carnage of the fire blackened hallway terminated in a three way intersection. The wall opposite them, little more thanjagged shards of glittering glass, was once a floor to ceiling wall separating the remains of a cafeteria from the hall traffic. “This way,” hissed Reynolds as he stepped through the gaping maw into the wreckage beyond. Their lights splashed over the remains of a dining hall. Overturned tables and centuries of accumulated debris made the massive room a maze of tangled refuse. Dirty light crept through the overhead skylights, casting pools of pale grey at irregular intervals through the room.
At the back of the cafeteria behind a barricade of twisted tables and serving islands was the entrance to the kitchen. The dim overhead lights barely penetrated the inky blackness beyond. “Lights high,” whispered Reynolds switching the light mounted under his rifle to wide dispersion. They entered the cavernous kitchen, their lights playing over the hard angular surfaces of the kitchen cabinets and work stations. The once shiny steel was pitted and corroded from centuries of exposure and many of the surfaces were marred by deep scratches and jagged punctures. Metal doors hung from broken hinges revealing interiors rampant with years of mildew and filth. A century of traffic had left a winding path through the patchwork of mold clinging to the tiled floor.
Despite the destruction, Kate could not help but think the area looked desolate, tidy even, after a century or more of being picked over by scavengers and squatters. Little of use seemed apparent. She kicked at what might have been a sack of grain that crumbled to dust under her feet. “This is a bust,” she called to Reynolds who had disappeared into another room. “I don’t know why we would have expected to find something to eat in a kitchen.” She chuckled to herself.
“Reynolds,” she called again.
“Back here.” She saw the glow of his torch before he appeared from the storage room. “Take a look at this.” He held up a metal stewpot. Years of use had blackened its exterior and it was missing a handle but otherwise looked like it would hold a day’s worth of snowmelt. They would need something smaller to hold the water in once it was melted. She turned back into the kitchen.
Kate heard the projectile hit the pot like the clanging of a bell. “What the ---” Reynolds growled from behind her. Kate spun in time to see the big scout disappear back into the storage room letting the stewpot drop to the floor in a cacophony of jarring echoes through the silent kitchen. She raced after him.
Reynolds had exited the storage area through another door into a short hallway. She could just make out her companion’s silhouette a short distance ahead dancing in and out of her bouncing light as she struggled to keep up. She could make out other noises that sounded like animals scurrying out in front of them. They turned another corner. Kate followed the glow of Reynolds' light into a cramped office across the hall. She could not help but notice it was snowing through the big window opposite the doorway.
Caught in the glare of Reynolds' light like field mice trapped in an attic corner were three children. They were dressed in filthy rags and grunted like dogs as they made feeble lunges toward the big scout. Kate could not even tell what gender they were through the grime and dirt they wore like a mask. They might have been kids, but child savages would be a more telling description.
Kate stepped beside Reynolds, keeping her rifle trained on the trio in the corner. “They are just kids,” she said out the side of her mouth as if they might understand what she was saying.
“They’re animals. One of these filth tried to take my head off with a rock,” he growled. His gaze never wavering from his target.
To Kate they looked more like frightened strays than killers. She set her rifle on a table in the center of the room and moved around beside Reynolds. “Kate,” he growled. “These are not stray kittens you can bring back to the farm,” he warned, as if reading her mind.
“Maybe they have a little civilization left in them,” she countered. She crouched a few feet away from the trembling kids. Reaching into her coat for a package of dried meat she held it out in front of her like an offering. “Hungry?” she asked.
They moved like vipers. One snatched the meat from her open hand leaving behind a jagged gash down the inside of her arm from a shard of glass concealed in its rags. A second hurled a piece of broken tile catching Kate just above the right eye. She cried out and tumbled backward already feeling the warm rush of blood from the cut in her head.
Reynolds pulled the trigger.
The roar of the assault rifle was deafening in the small office but, as if in a dream, Kate could clearly hear the clatter of empty casings as they fell around her. The three urchins caught in Reynolds' deadly fire jerked like maniacal dancers as the slugs punched through them at point blank range. Fountains of bright blood erupted from every deadly shot. Behind them the office window shattered, flooding the room with freezing air.
The gunfire lasted only seconds. The three children lay in a tangled pile in the same corner in which they had been cowering. Kate could smell the coppery tang of death on the frigid wind that swept the room. She looked at Reynolds, his rifle steamed in the cold air. She could barely see out of her right eye. “They were just children,” she screamed. “Just children…”
“They needed to die,” was all he said. Suddenly she realized that what she had hoped was the heart of a noble savage beating in Reynolds was nothing more than that of a cold blooded killer.
Kate struggled with a pressure bandage she always carried in her pack, blood dripping from the gash in her arm to the already congealing pools on the floor. Reynolds reached to help her. “Don’t touch me,” she hissed jerking away from the big scout and racing from the room.
Reynolds retrieved the battered stew pot as they passed back through the kitchen and headed towards the auditorium careful not to let Kate get too far ahead of him.
They returned to the auditorium denuded of nearly half its chairs. The acrid sting of wood smoke assaulted them as they approached the stage. “Turns out these chairs burn like dried leaves.” Cobe motioned to the already dwindling pile of firewood stacked several paces from the makeshift brazier manned by sweating and smoke stained scientists. The backstage area glowed a dull orange as the pile of embers pulsed and flickered. The front of the ice block shined wetly as the first layers of the decades old ice melted away into a puddle that steamed in the heat of the fire.
The rest of the scouts could sense the rift between their two comrades and, after cleaning and dressing Kate’s wounds and a mercifully short but tense debriefing, didn’t press for too many details, letting them work out the conflict within themselves first before addressing it as a team.
Between the exhausted scientists and the wounded scouts dinner was short and silent followed by deep slumber. Cobe sat up on watch staring into the pulsing mound of glowing embers wondering if they would be able to patch the breach in his team’s morale. He knew too well that some differences could never be mended.
The next day dawned bright and sunny if the crisp light challenging the filthy skylight to illuminate the auditorium was any sign. The fire had burned itself down to a thin layer of glowing embers. Thin wisps of white ash caught in the drafty air swirled from the fire pit and drifting up into the haze, to fall back to the stage like a thin grey snow.
Rake was the first to wake.
“You will need more wood.” They had burned nearly half of the chairs in the auditorium the previous day. At that rate they would go through the rest by the end of the day.
“I agree, Commander,” he turned towards the dying fire. “After seeing what was stacked in the courtyards and rooms up the hall I think there should be plenty.”
“If not, you will need to start cutting the trees down out front,” he quipped.
Soon Rake had the rest of the scientists awake, not to mention the scouts, and was organizing them into teams for the day’s work. Two of the scientists disappeared up the hall with a dolly to load more wood while others began smashing the remaining auditorium chairs into kindling.
Reynolds and Jethro left right after breakfast to scout their surroundings. They were followed by one of the scientists dragging the stew pot by a tattered length of rope. They had cleaned it the night before with a few handfuls of grit and the last of their water to scour away any remaining grime. The scientist soon returned with it packed full of snow from the courtyard. Rake had already loaded the left over wood onto the bed of coals and was stoking it back to life as Cobe helped their water bearer move the stew pot to the fireside. Before long the snowmelt began to steam and they had to drag it away from the intense heat. When it cooled they would begin filling their water bottles.
The block of ice glittered in the flickering flames and it was obvious that the fire was beginning to have an effect. Already, Cobe could see a difference in the thickness of the ice at the base of the block and the top. He judged the giant's knees to be just a few more inches below the ice’s surface.
“We are making progress, Commander.”
“I can see that, Rake. Shouldn’t be long before your team can start poking and prodding that thing instead of chopping and stacking wood.”
Rake chuckled. “Quite so. Once he is exposed we will need to run a full battery of tests before proceeding.”
“Well his blood and tissue for starters. We will need to take samples back with us if we are to really determine anything substantial about this creature.” With so many things they needed on a day to day basis destroyed or lost over the past two centuries Cobe wondered what could be the benefits of studying a century old giant frozen in a block of ice. More importantly, he wondered who could be funding such an undertaking. Some of the larger cities and settlements in the territories still had schools and some even had hospitals but even those would pale in comparison to organizations that must have been housed in these buildings at one time. Even in the best of the settlements, resources were stretched thin.
Kate was the last to leave the tent. Her eye had swollen to an ugly blue black bruise where the tile had struck her. A red brown stain had bled through the bandage over her eye. “We had better redress that. How do you feel ?” asked Cobe as she approached.
“My head hurts like hell and I can barely see out of my eye.”
“We have pain meds in the kit but you had better get some breakfast first. There is some oatmeal left in one of the pots on the table.” He motioned to the equipment laden table that doubled as their eating area.
“Is it better than yesterday’s? That stuff was like paste.”
Cobe finished redressing Kate’s wounds as she chewed the last of her oatmeal. The wounds were crusted over and jagged, inflamed bright red but not deep enough to be deadly. “Reynolds told me about the kids,” he said, trying to get the conversation started. “Said you lost your focus for a little while in that kitchen.”
“If by focus, he means not killing everything that isn’t already dead, I suppose he’s right,” she glared up at her commander.
“Those weren’t harmless street urchins like back in the settlements. It sounds like these were more like rabid animals. I’ve seen the same thing too many times.”
“Now I know where Reynolds gets it,” she spat. Kate tried to rise from her seat but Cobe laid a gentle yet forceful hand on her shoulder, convincing her to remain seated. “They were just kids,” she said.
“It wasn’t kids that cut that gash in your arm or nearly put out your eye was it?”
She fingered the dressing over her eye. The swelling had gone down a little since the night before but the bruise throbbed and she winced as her fingers brushed over it. “Why couldn’t we have just walked away from them?”
“Maybe you could have before you naively showed them we had food.” She looked up at him, her eyes shining wetly. He felt bad for her but knew this was a lesson she would have to learn. They all had. “Maybe they would have followed you back here and stole our supplies in the night. Maybe they would have gone back to whatever group of savages birthed them and we would have all woken up this morning with our throats slit.”
“I couldn’t help it. They looked so pitiful and scared.”
“Like strays?” he asked.
“But they were kids,” she pleaded again.
“It’s a tough call. Reynolds did the right thing. Especially after the attack. Things out here are not like in the settlements, or even in the wilds.” The countryside surrounding the larger settled areas where the barely civilized and the almost savage mingled had come to be called the wilds, or wilderness to some. “Out here it’s a safer bet that whatever we encounter is best considered a threat until it proves otherwise. Sometimes those threats need to be eliminated for all of our safety.”
“Commander, I understand but I don’t know if I could do it. If the situation was reversed and they were attacking Reynolds I don’t know if I could have shot them down like he did.” She trembled in the chill air. Cobe could see that this realization is what scared her most of all.
“I hope you never have to, but when the time comes I think you will do what needs to be done.”
“I hope so.” she sounded defeated.
“Get some rest today,” he said leaving her with her thoughts.
Jethro and Reynolds returned after noon with a pair of scrawny rabbits and a snow cat, a much smaller relative of the snow tiger they encountered in the ruins. “Some signs of people out there but the only living things we saw are tonight’s dinner,” joked Jethro holding up one of the rabbits. “Guess we have to clean them ourselves.” he motioned to the scientists busy working around the smoky stage. They had succeeded in removing the last of the auditorium chairs to feed to the ever present pile of embers glowing at the back of the room. After several trips to the cached wood they encountered on the way in they had managed to pile a cord and a half of cut timber to feed into the hot coals.
Throughout the day Rake continually checked the progress of his experiment. The constant heat had noticeably eroded a crescent of ice from the immense block. Already the giant trapped within the ice had become clearer and closer as the inch after inch of ice dripped hissing into the flames. Rake braved the scorching heat to run his gloved hands against the smooth ice hoping for contact with the creature.
“Soon, soon,” he crowed late in the day as the rest of the team was relaxing after finishing their final meal. The game was the first fresh food they had eaten since entering the ruins and the hot greasy meat left them listless and lazy after the days work. “We will begin our research tomorrow.” He almost hopped with excitement.
Cobe rose to see what had the lead scientist so worked up, followed by Kate and a few of the scientists. The heat had melted away enough of the surrounding ice that the rough fabric of the giant’s pants was beginning to emerge. It was heavy and coarse like thick canvas the color of dirt. Cobe thought he detected a smell, other than the acid sting of wood smoke. Older, more primeval, like the scent of the forest during a thunderstorm or the smell of a raging mud choked river. Cobe turned away as the heat from the fire became unbearable.
“You should be careful not to cook your new friend, Rake,” he grumbled returning to the scouts.
“Kate, do you feel up for watch tonight?” he asked.
“Can do.” The throbbing in her head and arm had been blunted to a dull ache with the help of the meds. She had dozed several times during the day and felt rested and ready for the night’s watch.
Kate stared into the darkness about her, the faint heat of the dying fire on one side of her face a stark contrast to the chill on the other. She had spent the day thinking about her encounter with the feral children. She had forgotten to change the dressing on her arm before the team had settled for the night. It ached and she could just make out the dark stain that had seeped through the dressings. She scanned the sleeping scientists and her teammates, still doubting she could do the same but she understood deep down that Reynolds had probably saved her life.
Her gaze drifted over towards the slab of ice that held them all as much a prisoner as it did the entombed giant. She looked again. And rubbed her one good eye. The cold blue light that filtered in from the stars above seemed to coalesce into something solid at the edge of the stage. She rose and stepped to the tent opening for a better view. Someone, or something, man sized and shaped, stood twenty paces from the frozen monolith, not moving, as if transfixed by the sight.
Jethro dozed beside the tent entrance. “Jet, you had better take a look at this,” she said, shaking him awake. He came awake instantly, scanning the interior of the enclosure.
“What is it?” he hissed.
“I don’t know. I think it’s a person,” she pointed in the direction of the faintly glowing blue figure. Jethro climbed to his feet to see where she pointed. Cobe, roused by the voices of the other scouts, joined them at one of the tent’s transparent windows. “It’s a wizard,” he said as calm as if it was something he said everyday.
“A what?” Kate replied in hushed disbelief. “I thought that was all make believe.”
“No. I have heard of others,” replied Jethro. “But until today I never thought I would ever see one.”
“What does he want?” Kate asked.
“We will have to ask him,” responded Cobe, shrugging on his parka. He checked to be sure there was a round in his pistol before tucking it in his belt.
“Do you think he is dangerous?” asked Jethro, slinging his rifle.
“We are about to find out,” responded Cobe as he headed for the tent opening, careful not to step on any of the sleeping scientists.