East (Chapter One, page 2 of 11)

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I really wished I hadn't asked.

"That's insane." First the empathic memory chip that allowed me to read dead people and had to be turned off with a blow to the head, and now poor man cryogenics. Just when I thought he couldn't say something else to surprise me …

"Moonbeam?" the commander asked. "Are you comfortable?"

"Cold," I responded. "It was a very long … uh … fall from the moon."

He belted out orders to those around him, and two of the guards dashed off into the midst of the camp. "You have traveled far to be here. You will not wait much longer," he told me.

I didn't know what to say to him or Carter and so I tucked my phone away. Moments later, a woman dressed nearly identical to the male warriors approached. The main differences I could see: she had no belt, and her hair was piled on top of her head under an elaborate headdress. She wore the same mix of robes and pants split for riding. There was a bow and quiver of arrows at her back and a white feather tucked into her dark hair.

She gave a low bow to the commander, and then snapped in a tone quiet enough for only the two of us to hear, "Why do you keep her waiting, husband?"

I blinked, not expecting the saucy remark to the man in charge of an army.

"I will not send Father Sky's gift into any ger but ours, wife," came the surly response.

"So you will let her freeze."

"The affairs of the army do not concern you."

"The affairs of the ger and guests do." She strode to me and bowed her head then leaned forward and sniffed me. "You will forgive my husband for your suffering. Please, come with me."

Distracted by her sniffing, I automatically sniffed my shirt, too, before glancing from her to the commander, not wanting to piss off anyone who ran an army.

"Go on, Moonbeam," he called gruffly. "Ghoajin will make you comfortable."

I followed the woman through the organized chaos of the encampment springing out of the steppe. Two of the massive warriors accompanied us, and she led us towards the middle of the camp and to a small tent with a rounded top.

"We will rest here while my ger is erected," she said and entered.

A fire burned at the center of the round tent, its smoke curling up through a hole in the roof. Carpets were scattered over the short grass of the steppe, while a table for preparing food and drink was at the north side of the tent. Three beds were pushed against the walls, covered in thick wool blankets of dark colors.

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