When doc’s posse finally came in, Will called Ty, Harold, and him out a ways for a confab.
Doc pulled a face. “Tarnation, boy. Can’t a man have some dinner before it all?”
“You won’t be thinking about dinner for long,” said Will.
“Wanna bet?” said Ty.
“We found him,” said Will.
Ty grinned. “Let’s gather some men and get him.”
“Ain’t no need,” said Will. “He’s twenty steps away.”
Ty and doc surveyed their surroundings.
“You gone daft, Will?” asked doc.
“Where?” asked Ty.
“Bear with us. We’ve got to expound a few things,” said Harold.
“What’s he doing here?” asked Ty.
“Settle your oats,” said Will. “He knows everything I’m gonna tell you.”
“Get to it,” said Ty.
“The poor feller’s hidden,” said Will. “He was knocked out of the air by some bad off-worlders looking for trouble.”
“Where’s he hiding?” asked Ty.
“If you shut up, I might tell you before the first snow. Our friend is from a line of stars over that-a-way, and the malfeasants come from a line of stars over there. I reckon we’re about smack-dab between them.” Will didn’t really know where he was pointing, but it made the point.
Doc whistled. “We’re camped on Thessaly between Titans and Olympians. They’re using us for strategic ground?”
“I ain’t sure of their intentions—I keep asking him, but that ain’t it. They didn’t know about the others until long after getting here.”
“Even good gods can bring chaos,” said doc. “Even so, it’s a right grand opportunity. Think of the scientific knowledge he could give us. If we prove ourselves worthy.” He set his stink-eye on Ty.
“Scientific knowledge!” said Ty.
Harold and Will shushed him.
“Scientific knowledge?” said Ty. “You’re ruminating on small things, doc. These off-worlders must be greatly advanced philosophers and poets. Wisdom is what we should seek from him, and it’s our duty to procure that wisdom for the United States of America and deliver the off-worlder to our president.”
Doc spat. “You’ve a captivating way of ennobling and debasing in a single locution.”
“Reckon so, doc,” said Ty. “And you’ve got a—”
“We ain’t interrogating an off-worlder, Ty,” said Will. “Not against his say-so.”
“I don’t mean we make him a prisoner, but what else can we do?” asked Ty.
“He needs our help getting home,” said Harold.
“How’re we gonna do that?” asked Ty.
“What do you think I brought you out here to tell you, knucklehead?”
“Get to it, then.”
Will was one nerve short of socking Ty in the mouth. “Inside the ship is a beckoner of some kind. We’re going to pull it a ways into the dessert to spread it out. I guess that swells up the beckoner somehow. We’ll bring the off-worlder out to trigger its mechanics, and then we’ll wait for… whatever comes.”
“Why didn’t you just say that. Can we at least engage in some discourse before arranging his retrieval?” asked Ty. “We should no ways miss the opportunity.”
“I’d be for that,” said doc.
Will smirked. “You can converse all night if you don’t mind getting wet.”
“Where is he?” asked Ty.
“Inside the water tower,” said Harold.
“See?” said Ty. “Plain question. Plain answer.”
Will took great pride in the fact that he merely slugged Ty in the shoulder. He was no less gratified by his cry of pain.