Since he had gotten back that morning, Calvin had been busy. Sitting in the back of the cart, he had a paper in front of him with a drawing of a flute on it, while he carved one from a piece of wood. It still wasn't working quite right. He'd just have to go back to look at the original again.
"Heya Don. What's up?" Floating soundlessly above the ground was a great way to sneak up on someone. It wasn't nearly as effective when sneaking up on someone who could rewind time, however.
Donovan chuckled as his feet touched lightly on the ground.
"Expanding your repertoire?" he asked with a smile, gesturing at Cal's latest project. "Chicks dig musicians, from what I hear."
"You'd be surprised." Calvin returned with a grin. "It's amazing what you can learn in a short amount of time. I hope things went well for you all last night."
Donovan replied with an amused snort. "I could say the same to you, but going by the s**t-eating grin you were sporting this morning, I don't think I need to."
He continued in a more sober tone. "We've got the two warlords to join together for a campaign against the Serpent People. That's at least a start."
He fell silent for a few seconds, mulling over how to put what he wanted to say across. "I need to ask, Calvin," he said in a soft voice. "While you were in Conan's... comfort tent, did you get any sense if any of the women were... abused?"
"No. And trust me, if they were I wouldn't be smiling today." Calvin was unusually serious for once. "I'm not exactly happy about the fact that he has them enslaved. If he'd been abusing 'em... well... let's just say me and Ed would have something in common."
Calvin set his project down and jabbed his knife into the side of the cart. "I don't want to sound like some villain from a pulp novella or anything but, what're we gonna do about this douche once he's outlived his usefulness?"
Donovan sat down on the cart next to Calvin, bringing the conversation to a more private level. "I honestly don't know," he admitted, rubbing his eyes wearily, "although I have a strong suspicion Billy Jo and Ed have their own thoughts about it. To be honest, I'm not too happy to be dealing with him in the first place, but he's a necessary evil."
He sighed, his face gaining a speculative air. "It figures, doesn't it?" he groused. "We end up in this place where our fondest wish comes true, and some people can't help but fall into the same damn stereotypes. I'm betting 'Conan' was some poor dweeb who got beat up for his lunch money, then he arrives here and gets buffed up, and what does he do? Become the mirror copy of the damn jocks who made his life hell in the first place."
He shook his head in disgust. "Damn waste," he muttered.
"Y'know what they say Don. 'With great power comes great responsibility.' I know I read that somewhere," Calvin said, trying to put himself in a better mood. "Lemme ask you something. I know this is gonna sound funny but, just how long was I gone?"
Donovan glanced at Calvin curiously, then frowned slightly as he tried to recall the details.
"Well" he finally ventured, "You bugged out sometime at the start of the shindig and didn't show up again until the next morning, so I'd say... half a day, more or less."
"Half a day? That's all?" Calvin looked incredibly shocked." I could have sworn it was 2 days. We had food brought in for, like, four meals."
Seemingly impressed with himself he made one more observation. "Then that means I really DID make it from the tent all the way back here in one jump. Ha! I must be getting better at this stuff. Don, I think I have a plan."
Donovan held up a hand. "Before you say anything actionable," he countered. "Let me lay something out first."
Instead of continuing, Donovan sat for a few seconds, took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. "I'm telling you this, because of everyone in the group I think you're the closest to someone who will understand."
Seconds more passed before Donovan spoke again. "I wasn't the pilot on our flight, I have no idea what happened that made us end up here, but the fact is we're here and I'm the one who signed up to represent the airline. I know this sounds borderline insane, but the fact is if... when we get back, I'll be the one responsible for telling your loved ones, your employers, the world what happened to the passengers and plane.
"So you see... It's why I couldn't leave Jonathan in that village. As it was, he and I had a... discussion before we left Virava. And it's why, as much as the thought bothers me, I can't just simply leave those two," he gestured toward the encampment, "to go around getting people killed or worse just to satisfy their pre-adolecent fantasies, or shove a knife in their backs and dump the bodies in a ditch.
"I know it may come to that. Hell, it's pretty much a given Cone-head will try and double-cross at some point, and I'm not sure the Warrior Princess is above it either if it looks like we're going to interfere with her 'social experiment'."
He took another deep breath. "The point is, I can't take the easy out on this one. If there's a chance of fixing this without having to explain why I murdered some of the people I was hired to protect, I have to try."
He sat back, waiting expectantly for Calvin's response.
Calvin thought about this for a moment. "So you're gonna take them home whether they wanna go or not? What happens if they say no?"
Donovan shook his head with a morose expression. "No," he said glumly, "no more than I would take you or Ed or anyone else in our group without your consent."
"That's a pretty speech Don," Calvin smiled at the pilot, "but if we're not going to force him to go, and violence isn't going to solve it, how do you get them to go away quietly?"
The young artist scooted back farther into the cart and propped his feet up on one of Marcus' many 'toys'. "We both know you can't leave them to terrorize this place any more than I can leave those girls to rot in that tent."
Donovan slumped forward, resting his elbows on his knees and rubbing his hands absent-mindedly as he stared into the distance.
"I know," Donovan said tiredly. "I didn't say I had an answer for this. I don't like tacitly pandering to their inflated egos just to make sure they'll help us out against the Serpent People. It wasn't appealing as a military doctrine back home, and it sure doesn't go down any better here. But if we're going to have any chance, we need the strength of their armies."
He rubbed his face and turned to look back at Calvin. "If you have any ideas, I'd love to hear them," he said. "I'm fresh out of inspiration."
"We could always hope for an accident," the humor very apparent in Calvin's tone. "We're sure he'll betray at some point, so that gives us an advantage."
Calvin stretched his limbs, his joints popping quietly. "Sometimes it's not a matter of being stronger than the opposition, but being faster or smarter. Or trickier, as the case may be."
Donovan opened his mouth to speak, then shook his head as he waved his hands in negation. "No, it's better if I don't know."
"Just do me one favor," he said, giving Calvin a stern look. "Don't start thinking that being able to do what you do gives you an excuse to be any less than the person you should be."
"Relax!" Calvin laughed. "Foul play isn't my specialty. Neither is fair play for that matter. Now I'm not a gambling man, but I bet if I play my cards right, I can at least improve life for some of those damsels in distress."
Donovan nodded absently, his face still grim. "Fair enough. The point is," he said gravely, "there's no doubt in our minds that Conan will try to double-cross us or take us out of the picture.
"I suspect he's aware that going against any of us directly will bring the rest down on him. So he'll probably try to get at us one at a time from the side. Catch someone alone with no witnesses, or push someone too far so that he can claim self-defense or some crap like that.
"That's why I wanted to talk to you. You can help me catch a situation like that before it goes too far. It means I need you to be paying attention, though, not checking out your next conquest. Do you understand?"
"Oh absolutely, Don." Calvin did his best to look totally innocent. "I can stick close to him, if you want. That way if he tries something, I'll be right there to call his bullshit."
Donovan nodded, only slightly mollified. "Thanks," he said with a sigh. He glanced up, his eyes searching the sky, an odd look of yearning on his face.
He spoke, not turning to look at Calvin. "I'm going out on patrol, doing a fly-over, in case anyone asks, okay?"
Without waiting for a response, Donovan burst up into the air, the rustle of air the only sound of his departure. His body quickly shrank into a dot and faded from view.
Calvin jumped to his feet, and looked off in the direction Donovan had zoomed off in. He shielded his eyes with one hand. "Yeah. Sure thing Don. No problem. I hate it when he does that."
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