Inside the fort, Patrick descended the ladder quickly like a scurrying squirrel, followed rapidly by Gaz. He jumped the last two rungs and spun round after landing on the floor with a thump. Kai and Bedwyr faced him. Having emerged from the hut, they'd heard eveything of what had been said. Kai was less than impressed.
'Arthur, what the fuck are you doing?' he rounded, with more than a strong hint of anger to his voice.
Patrick removed his combat vest from his chest and threw it in a heap on the floor in front as he spoke.
'Relax, Kai. I've got this all in hand!'
'Relax? What, when yer going to go out there and hand yourself and these treasures over to the Ironsides? After everything we've been through, you're gonna piss it away! Man, that's bullshit!'
'Kai's right!' added Bedwyr. 'I know you want to rescue Llew, but this seems like just surrender. I thought you said you didn't run from things!'
'Yeah, and I'm not intending to! Trust me!'
Beaming intently, Patrick turned to regard the metal gates with interest.
'How do you fancy being the gate-keeper, Kai?'
Kai raised his eyebrows at Bedwyr, who looked similarly non-plussed. Patrick became more resolute.
'What I mean is, I want you to open the gate when I need you too. When I give the signal.'
'Uh-huh...!' replied Kai posItively, the penny suddenly dropping.
'And Bedwyr, I could do with you on the battlement providing some suppressive fire onto the two vehicles out there when I need it.'
'You got it!' concurred Bedwyr, slinging his M16 and heading for the ladder Patrick and Gaz had just descended. Both men now understood what he meant.
In a short time, the right-hand gate of the fort creaked open and Patrick emerged onto the track, the gate slamming shut behind him. Stood between the door and the barrier, he raised his hands to show he was unarmed. The soldiers with Moore immediately took up firing postions at right angles to cover him, either side of the barrier.
'Move forward to in front of the barrier, Mr Kynaston - slowly!' barked Moore, keeping a wary eye on Llew still kneeling in front of him of him at the same time.
Patrick said nothing as he stepped foward and walked carefully along the track. He stopped briefly with his hands still raised, whilst one of the Ironsides picked up the barrier to move it to the side to allow him to pass by, the other still covering. Patrick proffered a quick glance in Llew's direction before proceeding. Both soldiers covered off at right angles behind him as he slowly walked into within a few feet of Llew and Moore.
'Halt there!' ordered the Captain, waving the pistol in Llew's direction.
Patrick complied, his hands still in the air, deep blues eyes fixed on the Hunter officer to his front.
'Hands behind your head!' came the further command.
Patrick complied again immediately, freezing on the spot and placing both his hands, fingers intertwined, at the back of his head.
'Search him!' ordered Moore, detaching his left hand from its supporting position under the right-hand grip of the pistol and pointing to the soldier to the left flank of Patrick. He directed his hand back towards the newly arrived captive.
The burly soldier stepped off to his right, trotted behind his oppo and placed his musket down on the ground by the side of the other Ironside. Moving behind his partner and then around in front of Patrick, he approached the Salopian from the right-hand side, to begin a thorough body search. Checking and probing from the right arm, down towards the collar, then the left arm, upper and lower torso, waist, legs and finally the boots, he searched all clothing, pockets and body crevices carefully to ensure there were no hidden weapons. All the time, he kept out of the line of fire of his oppo, should the prisoner be stupid enough to make any sudden moves.
It reminded Patrick of the last time he'd been searched by an Ironside. Then, he'd been in a position of weakness and submission, a defeated and battered prisoner-of-war being prepared to be carted off to one of their 're-education camps' - or worse. Now, it was different. That all seemed like an eternity away, as though it'd been a completely different life. In fact, the previous life he'd led all those centuries ago seemed closer in reality than that did. He was still the same - but someone else as well.
The soldier stepped back when he'd finished, having found nothing hazardous.
'He's clear, Sir!' he stated before returning to collect his musket and take up the firing position to the left of his oppo once more.
'Haven't you forgot something, Mr Kynaston?' enquired Moore, his eyes narrowing.
'Like what?' replied Patrick glibly, his eyes widening and rolling to emphasize the response.
'Don't play games with me! You know what I'm talking about! The artifacts you've discovered. Where are they?'
'Right here!' replied Patrick with a smile, raising his hands once more above his head. Behind him, the soldiers flinched, bringing the butts of their muskets even closer into their shoulders to prepare to fire, causing Patrick to halt his rising hands halfway.
'Careful, Mr Kynaston!' hissed Moore angrily, bringing his pistol closer to Llew. 'Like I said, if you want your friend to walk out of here unharmed, then you need to start complying! I won't ask you again! Where are the artifacts?'
Slowly raising his arms to full height, Patrick turned his hands round to show the backs. As he did, the rings materialised into full view on his fingers, the stone ring on the middle finger of his right-hand eminating its glow brightly, like a mesmerising talisman. Moore lowered his weapon slightly, his mouth opening into a gape as he perceived the implausible sight before him. As did the soldiers behind Patrick.
'What...' he enquired warily 'is this?'
'The treasures...' replied Patrick with a glint in his eye. Llew looked directly at him, before glancing back quickly at the officer behind. Patrick threw him a wink.
'You want to see one, I'll be happy to oblige!'
Quickly, Patrick thrust his right hand downwards in a chopping motion in Moore's direction, instantly bringing it back up again. As he did, like a streak of light the spear ring morphed into its full form whilst slipping out of his hand, speeding across the few feet to hang motionless in mid-air in front of the surprised Captain. Moore lowered his pistol completely and gawped at the levitating object in front of him. A golden-metalled spear, the ornate decoration shining in the morning sun and the tip of its head pointed directly at him. He hardly had time to think and take it in.
In a split second, a stubbed ray of light shot out of the end and went straight through him, blowing a clean hole in his chest with blood and sinew pouring out of the back. Reacting instantly, Llew fell forward, sticking his chest and stomach out to absorb the impact whilst stretching his bound hands above his head as he hit the ground.
Moore hardly had time to scream. His eyes rolling upwards as his carcass dropped, the pistol fell out of his now limp hand and thumped onto the ground. The energy bolt having passed through him travelled on to hit the engine block of the four-by-four behind him, causing it instantly to explode in a whoosh of flames. The gunner on the roof jumped out of the top hatch, immersed in flames, as did the signaller in the back, screaming in agony. The driver inside was not even half as lucky, the drivers door being jammed shut. Flames tore through the remainder of his vehicle as he perished within, flesh burning on his bones.
The other covering vehicle tried to react, the gunner bringing his 5.56mm Minimi to bear on Patrick. As he did, automatic fire broke out from the battlement as Bedwyr aimed his M16 at the roof of the vehicle, taking out the gunner with three clear shots drilling through through his neck and helmet, blood and brain spurting out of the exit wounds on the otherside.
The vehicle began to move. As it did, the spear, guided sentinently by Patrick swiveled to its left in mid-air and fired several bolts in the vehicle's direction, blowing it apart in firey vengence. Initially stunned, the two soldiers watching Patrick reacted quickly, both firing off their muskets in his direction as they fumbled at their triggers. The lead shots travelling at a velocity greater than the speed of sound hit a wall of nothingness that surrounded him, and became nothing, as the shield materialised into full form in his left hand.
It was like it was all in slow motion. The first of the two soldiers lowered his weapon and, with a yell, thrust the bayonet in Patrick's direction, covering the few feet distance as quickly as he could. The sword enveloped in Patrick's hand, as he swung the shield to his left and then brought it to bear with the side of the Ironside's gun, guiding the thrusting attack forwards and moving with it. Now, the memory-enhancing qualities of the stone combined the combat experience of his previous life with that of what he'd learned in the present one. Twisting his body in line with the soldier's attack to the right, he redirected the energy away before swinging his right side back in the opposite direction. Raising the sword, he cut across in the direction of the soldier's neck, whip-like, the blade cutting clean through below the chin-strap and severing the soldier's head from his body.
As the decapitated body dropped to the ground, the other Ironside moved in screaming, swinging the butt of his musket in the direction of Patrick's head whilst holding the barrel and forestock. Patrick instinctively squatted whilst keeping his back straight, allowing the stock of the weapon to travel above his head. Returning to full height, moving in close and smashing the shield with his left hand against the side of the soldier's head, he thrust the sword upwards and through the opponent's kerboli-armour bernie and into his chest, piercing the heart. Pulling the sword out, a line of thick red blood spewing out as the blade was withdrawn quickly, Patrick let the soldier's body drop onto the other with a gritted snarl on his face. Coldly and darkly, he briefly scowled down at the lifeless carcasses before turning his attention to Llew.
Around them both, bullets and other ordinance had begun spitting and richocheting as the other Ironside FSG vehicles nearby opened up in his direction. What would otherside have wasted a normal man didn't even touch him, rounds melting away in the protective field provided by the shield. Although it could stop projectiles and anything else, the two Ironside had still been able to attack him as they'd been inside the protective field. It made no odds to him. He'd positively allowed it, reminding him of old times fighting hand-to-hand. After all, that was what he was - a warrior through and through.
Llew had instinctively rolled himself into the best position of cover he could find from himself in the circumstances - a part of the track where there was a deep enough groove to tuck his body in. Patrick looked over at him, then at the spear still levitating. He commanded it to return fire at the nearby FSGs, and it complied. Firing off bolts, it found its home in a Mitsubishi pick-up concealed behind a nearby hedge mounted with a flamethrower - the operator desparately firing plumes at Patrick across open ground but with to no effect. Instead, it was his vehicle suddenly going up in smoke. The other vehicles concealed nearby panicked and moved to avoid the lightening as men screamed from the burning FSG vehicle. Patrick took advantage of the confusion to run over and grab Llew by the shoulder, pulling him over onto his back. Sword in hand, he cut the bonds holding Llew's hands together and helped him up.
'What d'ya think yer doing, mate?' shouted Llew over the noise as he squinted around furiously.
Patrick held the shield up in front of them and collapsed the sword into its ring form.
'Is that all the thanks I get for saving your arse?' he replied whimsically, as he held his right-hand out for the spear to return to his control. Llew looked him directly in the eyes.
'Pat, yer've just unleashed the forces of hell!'
'You might have to call me Arthur, now!'
'I'll call ya what the fuck I like, mate! Move!'
There was no further argument. With Patrick holding the shield up behind him, both men ran back under the shelter of the protective field through the barrier and to the gates, bullets flying around them and mortars now landing in a rush of explosions. Patrick shouted as they approached the gates.
'Kai! Open up!'
Kai looked through a spyhole in the iron gate and could see Patrick and Llew running towards him. With the help of one of Gaz's men, he removed the wooden cross bar and pulled open the right hand gate. Both men came rushing in. Once safely inside, Kai slammed the gate shut and the cross bar was replaced.
Patrick and Llew slumped back against the inside of the gate as Patrick collapsed the spear and shield into their ring forms. Kai looked Llew in the eye and took his right hand with his own, interlocking thumbs.
'Man, its good to see ya again, Llew!' he commented.
Llew nodded politely before turning his attention to Patrick.
'Right then, Einstein!' he quipped. 'How yer gonna get us outta this one?'