Diplomacy, part 3

"I'm glad they're gone for now," JP told the others. "I was thinking that maybe if they do bring in large teams that we ought to send someone along to keep an eye on them."

Carey glanced over at her from her seat. "Like a supervisor? Do you think they might do something we'd disapprove of?"

"I don't know but we still should consider it. "Tell me, what do you think someone might pay to get hold of one of those cavemen?"

"Oh God, millions probably," Maggie gasped.

"Exactly. If we send one of our people along they'd be less tempted."

Robbie commented that she'd hate to be asked to go.

Cierra sighed. "Yes, but we aren't limited to just our community. Maybe one of other clans might be willing to send someone. We'll ask around at the trading event."

JP was about to bring up another subject when scratching could be heard at Molly's door. She got up and investigated. She opened the door and a furry blur pushed past her legs.

"Elu! What are you doing here?" Cierra asked. The dog had been left with Pam and Eva while they made the trip to the coast. The dog wagged his tail and greeted his mistress.

Robbie laughed. "He missed his mommy and came looking for her."

"Oooh, someone is just so spoiled. I bet Pam is worried sick about losing you and wondering how she's going to tell me," Cierra told Elu.

JP shook her head. "I'm amazed he didn't take advantage of us being gone and slept on the bed the entire time."

Robbie petted Elu. "It's not as much fun to break the rules if no one is there to catch you."

"Ain't that the truth," Maggie snickered.

"It was a hell of a long walk for him and now he has to follow us right back," Carey added. They were planning on leaving after lunch. They already had the wagon loaded and just needed to saddle the horses.

JP playfully scratched the dog's ears. "Not enough time to woo the ladies, huh bud?"

Elu barked once to show his disappointment.

Cierra slung the washed diapers over the bushes and wiped her wet hands on her jeans. "I will be so happy when she's potty trained," she commented to Elu. Cierra glanced at the farm dog then froze. Elu was staring upstream, his hackles up.

The shaman looked around quickly for possible escape routes. She began backing away in the opposite direction when something large pushed through the brush about a dozen yards away. Two dark eyes stared back at her before the grizzly woofed a warning towards the creature much too close to her den.

'Why does this always happen to me?' she thought in panic as she spun and ran, screaming Elu's name and hoping the dog ran for safety too. Cierra felt and heard the bear much too close. She had no where to escape from the protective mother bear and the others were too far away to help her. She couldn't even stop and draw her pistol.

With no other options, and in spite of the fear of getting into worse circumstances, she leaped.

She ran a few mere paces and stopped. "How..." she whispered in confusion.

Cierra looked around at the familiar corridor. She had never been there when awake. She normally was never even aware of it when she stepped from one world to the other, yet here she was.

"Ahh, I see you learned to pause time," Dream Walker commented.

"What?"

The Native American chuckled. "You stepped out of time. Look behind you."

Cierra turned around but only saw a blurry red swirl of light. "What is it?"

"What you ran away from. Focus and the smoke will clear," he advised.

Cierra squinted and mentally waved the smoke away. Then slowly, she saw a shape take form. "It's the bear! But, she's not moving."

"That's because while you are here time stands still. You didn't want to be where you were but didn't want to go forward, so you stopped here, where it was safe."

"Okay, so I'm here. Now what?"

"Now you can look around you. Do you want to look at Mother Earth or the Old World? Focus and you will see what is on the other side."

"What good is seeing if I can't change where I end up?"

"True, you can only see this very spot on each world but you can change your position just a little. I've never been able to move more than about ten feet away from my original place. Even though it's not much you can move bit by bit. You just jump to the limit you have then move in the living world as much as you are able. After that you return here. It can be tedious but you can eventually get where you want to go."

"So if I..." Cierra growled in frustration. The Dream Walker had vanished. She hated it when he did that.

"Okay, fine. Let's do this the hard way."

The shaman focused until she could see old Earth. Looking around, she saw that if she went there that she would end up in the middle of a busy street. "Why me?" Cierra stepped forward into the vision and found that moving through it was hard. She felt as though she was walking through a deep puddle of mud. She managed to walk about six paces and could go no further. Her efforts had gotten her within a few strides of the city sidewalk.

"Okay, here goes nothing." Cierra concentrated and jumped.

The moment her foot touched the asphalt she ran to the sidewalk, ignoring the pedestrians in her way. She bowled over several people as she ran out of the way of a fast approaching car. She heard several curses and shocked reactions around her.

"What do you think you were doing?" one man asked, helping her to her feet.

"Oh my God!" a woman exclaimed. "It's the woman from the alternative world! I'd recognize her anywhere!"

People began to gather around her.

"Please, I need to get somewhere," she asked, trying to get past the crowd. Cierra heard people beg her for autographs and some of them were tugging at her arms. She pulled away from the hands that held her. She needed to concentrate and jump back. She knew that the grizzly was behind her and she had been heading towards the camp. It was about a hundred and fifty feet further ahead. The only problem was that a building stood in front of her. She looked around for a door while ignoring the people around her.

Spotting a doorway she slowly made her way through the crowd, pushing people aside. She didn't have time to be nice since time had resumed and the grizzly could easily run into the camp and kill someone before they could react.

A hand grabbed her forearm and halted her progress. "Hey, can't you stay a few minutes? It's won't hurt you to sign a few autographs," the man told her.

"Let go of me!" Cierra shouted, now panicking from the gathering crowd. Several people shouted but now fear for her friends and family took over. She could feel hands on her and she was now afraid and pissed. She did the only thing she could. She jumped with the people touching her and returned to the corridor.

The woman screamed and the three men began shouting in confusion.

"Shut up!" Cierra ordered them. Once they settle down she glared at them. "You are in the corridor between worlds. Now, I want you to listen and listen hard." Cierra grabbed the man who had demanded she remain to sign pieces of paper. She pointed to the grizzly bear about twenty feet away.

"See that? That pissed off bear was chasing me and heading for the camp we set up. My wife and my baby," she stressed, "are that way about a hundred and fifty feet away. And you people were stopping me from saving them from that bear." Cierra took several deep breaths while the four people let the words sink in.

"Now, I'm going to take us back. I need to get into the building and move in the direction of my camp before that grizzly reaches my family and friends."

"We'll help you," one of the men said shakily.

Cierra bit back the urge to say they damned well would. Instead she thanked the man. The other three nodded and promised to help too.

"Alright, place your hands on my arms. If we can all move about ten feet that way," she pointed, "then the four of you can hold back the crowd long enough for me to run into the building."

It was slow going and the people seemed to prevent her from going as far as she would have liked. Once they went as far as they could she told them to get ready and jumped.

The din of the city once more hit her but thankfully the four did as they promised. She heard them hold back the excited mill of people as she ran for the door. She yanked the heavy glass doors open and rushed inside. It was a large jewelry store and instantly she knew that she would need to head for the back exit to get close to their campsite.

The employees were too shocked to do more than shout at her as she raced through the shop and headed for the back rooms, frantically looking for a fire exit. She spotted the door and pushed it open, setting off the alarm. She ran to the far alley wall and jumped.

Once more in the corridor she focused on Mother Earth and spotted the grizzly. It was frozen in time, her large canines exposed as she lifted a huge forepaw. Below her on the ground was Maggie, whose terrified eyes told Cierra that her friend knew that she was good as dead. The shaman could see Carey and JP as they were raising their rifles and Robbie as she was lifting Kiona into her arms.

Cierra strained forward until she was next to the huge grizzly and removed her pistol from its holster. She knew what she had to do to protect those she loved. Tears spilled from her eyes as she pointed the barrel directly at the beast's skull. "I'm sorry," she told the bear before she jumped to Mother Earth, pulling the trigger a split second later.

The roar of the .45 thundered and echoed. Cierra felt the splatter of blood hit her and she blinked in reaction, not seeing the huge bear as it fell dead to one side of Maggie's prone body. Everyone stood still in shock at what had just happened. Cierra looked at all of them.

"Is everyone okay?" she asked weakly. The others nodded and mumbled, still reeling from the close call. A whine could be heard.

"Elu?" Cierra spotted her dog limping towards the camp. She ran to him and saw that he had a claw mark along one hind leg. Carey knelt down and examined the shepherd. "I'll keep care of him, go see to your family," she said softly. Cierra nodded her thanks and went to Robbie, who was holding the baby against her. JP threw her arms around both women and shook as the shock hit her now the danger was over.

"How?" JP began but Cierra begged her to wait until later for the story.

"I need to go back to the stream," she told them.

"Why?"

"The cubs. I killed a mother bear. The babies can't survive on its own."

"You don't plan on raising them, do you?" Robbie asked.

"No, not grizzlies. We either have to shoot them so the cubs don't suffer or take them to a zoo. I had enough of killing today."

JP agreed and found a sack to capture the cubs with. It took a while to get them into the bag but once inside they settled down.

They carried them back to the camp where Carey and Robbie had a branch cage halfway built.

"Once this is finished we need to move the camp. The dead bear is going to attract other carnivores or scavengers," Carey advised them.

JP sighed. "Okay, the rest of us will pack up camp while you finish the cage. Cierra, why don't you clean up and change your clothes?"

The shaman looked down and realized how bad she must look. She nodded wearily and grabbed some fresh clothing and tossed her blood-splattered clothes into the bushes. She never would wear them again.

It was getting dark when they got onto their horses and began moving further away from the old camp. When it began to get harder to see they stopped and quickly built a fire for light before setting up the two tents. They women were hungry and tired and decided to just eat some dried meat before getting some sleep.

She fed Kiona in their tent then gratefully curled up into JP's arms, finding comfort in her strong arms.

To Be Continued

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