Sitting at a camp fire burning in the town square, the Defender chomped down on the first of three days emergency rations. It was chicken; he thought, anyway.
“So,” said Commander Justice. “Where in blazes are we, Laban?”
Revelator swallowed. “We won’t know until tomorrow. Databank and I need to take soil samples. Personally, I lean towards this all being an elaborate simulation. A planet without a sun violates every natural law I can think of. A planet has to revolve around something, almost always a star. You don’t get planets otherwise.”
The Defender’s skin crawled. This was no simulation. He looked into the forest. A dark shadow shifted. Evil was here.
The Defender got up from the fire and walked through the woods. He’d never been to a place like this. Evil covered the land like a thick blanket. It was almost suffocating.
The eerie forest reminded him of one of those horror movies he’d watched. Not that he advertised it in church. His church would definitely have not approved. He covered his face and murmured in Russian, “You are a fool, Sagunov.”
He hadn’t prayed enough, and this was where it had got him. He stopped following Christ and had instead followed the Sword. But how could he have known the Sword was listening to a demoniac?
A hand clamped on the Defender’s shoulder. He whirled and tossed the attacker ten feet away. The Defender drew his knife.
“Hold, lad.” The man stood up, six feet, five inches tall, full beard, wearing a baggy lace-up white shirt and a red tartan kilt.
The Defender gasped and put his knife away. “Highland Guardian!”
Guardian dusted off his kilt. “Aye, I wanted to talk to ya. I’ll be more careful next time I come up on ya.”
The Defender said, “My apologies.”
“Lad, tis nothin’. Tis’ natural to feel ill-at-ease in these woods. There’s somethin’ evil afoot.”
“You feel it, too?”
“Aye. As thick as me old lady’s beef stew, it is.”
“I guess this is what happens when you don’t pray enough before making a decision. If I’d prayed and been alert, I would have seen that I shouldn’t have come.”
Guardian arched his bushy red eyebrows. “And the lot of us would be dead. Ya saved our lives, lad. Wherever we are, I don’ta think this is what that blasted Mystic planned for us.”
“I just thought-”
“That if you’re doin’ right, ya never gonna end up in a spot? We’re needed here. We perceive what’s wrong. The rest of ’em don’t even know the danger here.”
“But what about Russia?”
“The Good Lord took care of Russia for hundreds of years before ya, and he’ll take care of it without ya. We need to keep our heads about us and our spirits in prayer. Places like this bring out the worst in men.”
The Defender nodded. Leaves rustled in a nearby tree. The two men turned.
“Come on, lad. Let’s get back to camp.”
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