Lamont’s nose exploded a red fount, covering the front of his shirt and splattering the bar.
Being punched in the nose was bad enough, but being caught off guard was worse.
Before the Thai bar-keep could throw a kick or grab a ball-bat from under the bar, he sprang into action, splitting himself into past and present, creating an optical illusion of being in two places at once.
The woman hesitated for a split second, enough for Lamont to place a well aimed foot upside her head, knocking her unconscious.
Or so it seemed.
Lamont suddenly found himself locked firmly to the deck, unable to move at all.
And the scene had changed also. He was no longer in the Thai bar.
He was laying on his back in a green-gold meadow, the Sun shining down on him in shimmering waves.
A light breeze was blowing across his face, carrying the fragrant odors of apple blossoms and honey.
Melodious sound waves were wafting along the air currents too, adding to the impression of being in a vast ocean of wheat in the middle of Kansas.
Lamont sat straight up, hearing perked up to catch the music that was on the wind. Looking around, he couldn’t tell where the odors or music was coming from, so he just sat and studied the surrounding area.
“Well, this is definitely different from the bar”, he noted as he scanned the environment.
It appeared to him he was sitting in the middle of a plain of wheat, with copses of low slung apple trees, somewhat resembling large bonsai, spaced here and there, separated by perhaps 500 to 2500 meters.
Suddenly, the lilting music caught his ears, soft as the lowing of sheep on a hill-side meadow.
This time, Lamont locked onto the sounds like a heat-seeking missile. He stood up and started walking, tracking the music as he crunched the stalks of wheat with his feet.
Simultaneously scanning the horizon with his eyes, he soon found the source of the music, a small group of crab-apple trees 900 meters away.
And a figure sitting under the largest tree, blowing into a long, bamboo-like tube.
Lamont quickened his pace, occasionally kicking up grasshopper-like creatures, some resembling preying mantis. He wanted to get to the bottom of this mystery and return to the ship. Ski and Ismir must be going spastic right about now. Especially Ismir.
The figure under the branches of the tree didn’t stop playing the bamboo flute-like instrument as he approached however. The being ( it appeared to be a human male ) had long, shoulder length brown hair tied off in the back. He wore a loose fitting white, light woolen shirt with matching trousers. A brown belt that was tied in the front completed the simple attire.
The man just sat there under the tree, playing his instrument even after Lamont arrived to demand where he was. The music was so soothing, it was like listening to a far away waterfall.
It was wonderful!
Abruptly, the being stopped playing, as if suddenly realizing he had company. He looked over at Lamont and put down the flute to stand up, wiping his palms on his trousers at the same time as he stood.
“Oh I’m so sorry Lamont”, the creature apologized, “Forgive me my manners, it’s been a long time since I had some civilized company!”
The being stepped forward with its hand out, introducing itself, “My name is Bryq and I’m the shepherd here.”
Lamont was completely taken by surprise. Again.
This was the second time in a row this happened and it wasn’t a welcome habit. One can get killed getting surprised too many times.
Even a nano-engineered super-Marine.
But Lamont wasn’t about to be tentative or weak in this encounter, he had a mission to complete and to report on.
As he grasped the being’s hand in the hand-shake, he looked into the face of the other and experienced something akin to an epiphany, Nirvana, epileptic after-glow and another feeling overcoming all else.
“Yes Jenks/Lamont, we know each other.”
“We know each other very well indeed!”
As Lamont and the entity named Bryq looked into each others’ eyes, information flowed freely between them, transcending all space and time.
During this time however, a little used corner of Lamont’s mind could not stop thinking about two things…
“How does he know me?”
“How come he has my face?”