Friday, June 29, 2012

Scout's Honor - Chapter 15

< Chapter 14                                                                                                        Chapter 16 >
Leaping away from a raider blade, the princess falls over the side of the airship and plummets toward the ground, over a hundred meters below!

            The princess's eyes, wide with terror, locked on mine as I lunged out to intercept her fall.
            Her flailing hands would have been impossible for me to catch without the added speed and strength of the Boost.  I caught her wrist at the last possible second but her momentum began dragging us both down the line.  A scream tore from the princess's lips, but I wrapped my legs around the line, stopping our descent..
            Pulling her up, I said, "Wrap your arms around my neck."
            Mastering her terror, she did as I instructed.  "Hold tight, Highness, we're going up very fast."
            With Boosted strength and agility, I swarmed up the line faster than any monkey.  Shortly, we were over rail and safely on the deck.  I sat the princess well away from the rail, drew my sword, and raced to Rob's aid.
            I crashed into the raiders like a human battering ram, knocking two over the rail and sending the rest flying across the deck.  Rob, whose back had been to our ascent, stared at me in astonished relief.
            "Her Highness-" he began.
            "Safe," I said, pointing behind me.  Then I attacked the remaining six raiders.  They were better fighters than the blue men I'd fought earlier -- could it just be yesterday? -- but there were only six and I had Rob at my side.  Less than a minute later, the last raider fell to the deck.
            Pain slammed into me as the Boost cut off, but this time I remained conscious.  So, I was entirely aware when the princess -- the betrothed princess -- flew into my arms and kissed me passionately on the lips!

A beautiful woman has thrown herself into David's arms.  What's a man to do?  Find out in Chapter 16, coming Monday.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Scout's Honor - Chapter 14

< Chapter 13                                                                                                Chapter 15 >

Yet again surrounded by raiders, David now faces most of the crew instead of a mere handful.

               Until the princess was safe, I had to save my Boost.  With raiders all around me, I went the only direction I could.  Up.  Jumping, I caught the edge of the low roof and quickly pulled myself onto the roof.  It was a mistake.
               I had a great view of the raider airship behind the building, just lifting off.  Now that they were looking up, the raiders outside the building saw the same thing.
               "The airship!" rose the cry.  "She's loose and floating away!"
               Raiders ran for the lines dangling from the airship even before scarred face began shouting orders at them.  I pounded across the roof, hoping to get there first.  Some raiders must have been near the ship as they were already scrambling up the lines.
               Glancing at the airship deck, I saw Rob holding off three raiders while the princess sawed away at dangling lines with her dagger.  There was no way she could cut the lines before the first raiders reached the deck.  I had to get aboard the airship or all was lost.  Casting aside caution, I sprinted across to the edge of the roof and leapt off, aiming for the line from the airship's aft line.
               I just managed to grab catch the end of the line.  Even as I began the long climb, I saw several raiders reach the deck of the airship.  The princess shouted a warning to Rob and then she was next to him, her dagger added to his sword.  She whirled, dodged, and then tripped.  I was halfway as she fell against the railing, overbalanced, and toppled over the airship's rail!

Has David's oath to protect the princess with his life all been for naught?  Find out in Chapter 15, coming Friday!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Scout's Honor - Chapter 13

< Chapter 12                                                                                                Chapter 14 >

 Hoping to sneak up on the trading post, our heroes are instead spotted by raiders!
               As the shout taken up by others, I turned to Rob, "Use the chameleon cloth to-"
               "It's gone, David," Rob said.  "Lost when we threw it off so the princess could shoot the tammar."
               "All right," I said, "new plan.  I'll lead the raiders on a merry chase while you lead the princess roundabout to the raiders' airship.  They know where we are so it should be lightly guarded."
               "Right," Rob nodded.  "After we take the ship, we'll wait one-"
               "Cast off immediately," I interrupted.  "Do not wait for me!"
               Rob nodded but the princess disagreed.  "No!  We all escape together or-"
               "Highness, there are a very few times when your royal guard may disregard your orders," Rob said.  "This is one of them.  Your safety is paramount!"
               The princess was not happy, but she did not argue.  That settled, I dashed off, immediately drawing another shout.  The chase was on!
               Perhaps a minute later, I came face to face one of the raiders.  I vaulted over a boulder, he was lurking behind.  I ducked his wild sword swing and ran him through with my own sword.  He fell, screaming and twitching as life drained out of him.  Any raiders who hadn't been chasing me before certainly would be now.
               Seconds later, I crested a small dune and the trading post lay before me.  Gambling that all of the raiders were out chasing me, I ran to it and threw open the door.  Half a dozen raiders, led by scarred face, stood within,  swords drawn.  Behind me, the rest of the raiders charged up to the outpost.
               I was surrounded by raiders.  Again.
With so much unknown to him, does David dare to Boost or must he face the raiders with no more than wits and courage?  Find out in Chapter 13, coming on Wednesday!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Scout's Honor - Chapter 12

< Chapter 11                                                                                                         Chapter 13 >

While our heroes rested, the raider airship has gotten between them and the trading post.

               We broke camp, hoping the outpost was close and we might reach it before the raiders could prepare for us.
               "Highness, you know my story," I said, trying to distract her, "but I know little of yours."
               Rob gave a nod and she said  "Very well, David, it's not a complicated story.
“I was being escorted to my betrothal to Prince Rupor, heir to the throne of Tarteg.  Ten airships of the Morandoran Navy escorted my own airship.  Over unsettled lands, a large force of raiders surprised us.  Three raider ships attacked my ship.  When it was obvious all was lost, I ordered my men to surrender.
"On the raider ship, ten of my guards broke out and attacked the raiders.  In the confusion, Rob grounded the airship and we ran.  Several hours later, you arrived.”
"A harrowing tale, Highness," I said.  "Why come south when any ransom would be paid in the north."
               "With her lineage and beauty," Rob said, "Princess Callan would fetch a very high price in the southern markets."  He added, "I will die before allowing that to happen!"
               I said, "As will I."
               Rob stopped walking, "Will you swear to that, David?"
               "Rob-" began the princess.
               I interrupted, "On my honor as a Scout First Class, I swear to protect and defend Princess Callan to the best of my ability, even at the cost me my life."
               Rob smiled for the first time since I met him.  "Nontraditional but quite satisfactory."  He extended his hand, "Welcome to the Royal Guard."
               "That was unnecessary, David," the prince said.
               "Perhaps for you, Highness," I replied, "but it was essential for Rob."
               Suddenly, a shout rang out.  "The princess!  She's over here!"
               The raiders had found us!
How can our heroes evade the raiders and get supplies at the same time?  Find out in Chapter 13, coming Monday!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Scout's Honor - Chapter 11

< Chapter 10                                                                                                         Chapter 12 >

An agitated cobra is ready to strike the princess as David and Rob desperately search for a way to
save her.

               The snake was probably searching for warmth, finding it on the princess's chest.  Now aroused, it was nervous and likely to strike.  Whatever we were going to do, it had to be done fast!
               "Red or green?" I asked quietly.
               "Red," Rob answered quietly, instantly knowing I referred to the gun.  "This Boost of yours; does it make you faster?"
               "Yes, but maybe not fast enough."
               "But you must-" Rob began, breaking off as the snake hissed and moved in agitation.
               I waited, letting the snake settle a bit before answering, "I will.  Now, give me your hat."
               Without another word, Rob carefully handed me the hat to his guard's uniform.  Slowly, I began moving the open end of the hat in front of the snake.  The snake swayed in agitation then struck at the princess -- a fraction of a second after I Boosted.  The snake's head plunged into the hat, its strike blocked.  I dragged the snake outside, where Rob smoothly cut off its head.
               Quiet sobs drew Rob back inside the tent to comfort the princess.  I took up the watch in his place.
               After a while, the sobs faded and, finally, were replaced by the deep, rhythmic breathing of sleep.  When Rob looked outside, I motioned him back into the tent.  The princess would feel safer if she awoke to a familiar face.
               Dawn was breaking when I heard the airship's motor in the distance.  Worse, I realized the airship was ahead of us.  The raiders knew of the outpost and that it was our only hope for survival.  They would be waiting for us when we arrived!

Certain death in the desert or certain capture at the outpost?  Find out which our heroes choose in Chapter 12, coming Friday!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Scout's Honor - Chapter 10

< Chapter 9                                                                                                         Chapter 11 >

Author's note: There was a lot to cover in this chapter, so you're getting a special, double-sized chapter today.  Enjoy!

Having escaped from the raiders, our heroes wander into the desert in search of a trading post. 

We spoke little throughout the afternoon, moving too quickly to waste breath talking.  At dusk, Rob slowed the pace.
"While we're hardly safe, Highness," he said, "following our trail will not be easy.  Especially from an airship."
"Thank you, Rob," the princess replied.  Turning to me, she said, "You promised us some unbelievable explanations, Scout First Class David Rice."
"First, please just call me David, Highness."
"Very well, David.  This is Captain Robbill Vonsteader, commander of my personal guard.  I am Her Royal Highness, Princess Callan Debah Lois Antrulta Ziliah Villas, daughter of His Royal Majesty, King Edwar of Morandor.  You may continue to call me Highness, though Princess Callan is also correct."
“Thank you, Highness," my lips twitched up in a smile.  “I told you I was a member of the Terran Exploratory Corps.  Terra is the original home of the human race.  Thousands of years ago, humans began leaving Terra, settling on other worlds.  We have no records of many of the early colony ships.  Part of my job is to look for lost colonies."  I paused briefly, "Colonies such as your planet.
“Do you have such myths of a great journey, Highness?  Ships crossing the Sea of Night or something similar?”
“We do,” replied the princess.  “Scholars hotly debate whether the stories are true or merely attempts to explain our presence here.  You say those tales are true?"
“What proof do you offer, David?  How do we know you are not simply insane?”
I held out the survival pack, "Highness, you've used my weapon, heard me learn your language in less than a day, hidden beneath the chameleon cloth, and watched me fight while Boosted.  I can offer no more proof than that."
“Highness, all of this is fascinating,” said Rob in a tone that belied his words, “but we must find a defensible place to spend the night.  The tammar you killed was drawn by the scent of blood from our fight, but they usually hunt at night."
"Of course, Rob," Princess Callan said.  "But if danger strikes, at least we have David and his astounding Boost."
"Highness," I said, "do not depend on that.  Boosting again so soon could kill me."
The princess was shocked at my words.  Rob, on the other hand, looked surprisingly satisfied.  Perhaps he was happy to learn just how mortal I was.
A site was soon selected and camp established.  We ate a meal of tasteless survival bars from the pack then settled in for the night, Rob taking first watch.  It seemed as if I had only just closed my eyes when Rob's hand clamped over my mouth.
"Wake up but make no sound or sudden moves," he hissed.
I opened my eyes and instantly knew what was wrong.  A long, black snake was coiled on the princess's chest, its head raised and ready to strike.  The princess lay still, fear filling her eyes.  All I could think was, what idiot thought it would be a good idea to include cobras on a colony ship?

Can Rob and David save the princess from the lightning fast cobra?  Find out in Chapter 11, coming 


Friday, June 15, 2012

Scout's Honor - Chapter 9

< Chapter 8                                                                                                         Chapter 10 >

Running from the raiders, our hero comes face-to-face with a fanged denizen of the planet.

            The raiders backed away, muttering "tammar."  The predator stood two meters tall at the shoulders and was five meters long.  My choices weren't good ones; die on the tammar's fangs or Boost and probably die overtaxing my body.  Probably dead was better than definitely dead.  I prepared to Boost.
            The sound of a fully charged Onesie cracked through the air.  The tammar's head disappeared in a spray of blood.  Turning, the raiders and I saw the princess holding the gun.  The princess was already turning the gun on the raiders.
            "Run.  Now," she commanded.  "Unless you want to end up like the tammar."
            All but scarred face broke and ran.  He stared at the princess, a smile crossing his lips, then turned and walked after his rapidly receding crew.
            "Nice timing, Highness," I said, joining Rob and her.  "I'm in your debt."
            The two stared at me in shock.  Quickly, it dawned on me what was wrong.
            "You're wondering how I learned your language so quickly," I said.  "It will take some explaining, most of which you'll probably find unbelievable."
            "What little we know about you -- especially this weapon -- is already unbelievable!" the princess said, handing me the Onesie.
            Taking the gun, I said, "You realize your threat was empty, Highness?"
            "The raiders did not know-" she paused.  "I do not even know your name."
            "I am David Rice, Scout First Class of the Terran Exploration Corps," I said, bowing.  "Let's start walking and I will happily tell my story."
            The princess looked to Rob.  "Northeast, Highness.  I spotted a trading outpost during out escape from the raiders."
            Carrying only the provisions in the survival pack, we headed into the desert. 

With certain capture behind them and possible death before them, how will the trio survive?  Find out in Chapter 10, coming on Monday!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Scout's Honor - Chapter 8

< Chapter 7                                                                                                                                 Chapter 9 >

Our hero is surrounded by raiders who are in pursuit of the princess!

            "Where is the princess?" a voice asked as swords pressed in all around me.
            "Princess?" I asked in return, trying hard to feign confusion.
            A tall, broad-shouldered man stepped into view from the left.  A very recent wound slashed down his right cheek.
            "Do not try my patience," demanded scarred face.  "My men saw you with her mere moments ago!"
            "She princess?" I asked.
            "Yes, idiot, she is a princess.  And if you don't tell me where she went, I'm going to have my lads poke several big, nasty holes in you."  He smiled warmly, "Now, talk or die."
            I pointed almost directly at Rob and the princess, "Go that way!"
            "South?  Farther into the desert?"  Scarred face laughed jovially, "The idiot thinks I'm a fellow fool!  We go north.  Prod the idiot along, boys."
            The raiders took scarred face at his word.  Every couple of steps, one of them poked me in the back with his sword.  Soon, I was hopping forward with every other step, trying to stay just out of reach of the prodding.  This drew laughs aplenty as my captors turned it into a game.
            The game kept them so distracted that they didn't notice the two meter drop off until I hopped over it and vanished from sight.  Shouts arose behind me as I sprinted toward a nearby tumble of rocks.  Nearly there, I looked back and was surprised to see the raider had stopped chasing me.
            Even as I spun to look forward, I heard a deep-throated growl.  Looking up, all I could see was twin rows of long, sharp teeth!

What foul death awaits our hero and how can he escape?  Find out Friday in Chapter 9!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Scout's Honor - Chapter 7

< Chapter 6                                                                                                           Chapter 8 >

 After rescuing a princess and her guard, our hero discovers the airship he nearly hit is manned by raiders intent on capturing the princess.
               "Raiders chase you?" I asked, wishing my implant could imprint their language more quickly.
               "Yes.  We escaped yesterday," Rob replied.  "Now, those who sacrificed themselves so we could do so have died in vain."
               "No," I said, grabbing the survival pack.  Above us, the airship was clearly venting gas to lose altitude.
               "Ha!" I said, pulling a large, thin cloth from the pack.  "Safe now!"
               "Are you mad?"  asked the princess, holding out the Onesie, "Drop the blanket and use this weapon to destroy them!"
               I checked the Onesie's solar recharging unit.  I'd been out longer than I thought because the gun would soon have enough charge to fire.  But not soon enough.  Wrapping myself in the cloth, I dropped to the ground.  "What see?"
               The princess gasped, " Rob, did he just turn into a rock?"
               "Well, Highness" Rob considered, "he looks like a rock."
               "Chameleon cloth," I said, using the Terran term.  I handed the cloth to Rob,  "You two, under.  Hide."
               "What of you?" the princess asked as Rob wrapped the cloth around them.
               "No room, Highness," I said.  "I distract."
               I handed the Onesie to Rob and pointed at the controls, "Green good.  Red bad.  Point.  Press button."
               Taking the gun, Rob gave a brief nod before the two blended into the terrain.              
               Ropes from the airship dropped to the ground.  I began running toward them, waving my arms, as men began sliding down the ropes.  Seconds later, I was surrounded, half a dozen sword points pricking my skin!

Can our hero escape?  Find out in Chapter 8, coming Wednesday!  

Friday, June 8, 2012

Scout's Honor - Chapter 6

< Chapter 5                                                                                                            Chapter 7 >
 Collapsing, unconscious, after battling the blue men, our hero struggles back to consciousness.
               “Highness, let me bind this man,” a gruff voice said.  “He could be one of the raiders!”
               “He's not, Rob,” said a lilting, female voice.  “We'd never have escaped if he was.  He's the best fighter I've ever seen!”
               “More reason to bind him,” said the gruff voice.  “We can always choose to release him after he wakes up.  We certainly cannot bind him after he is awake!”
               The two must have been talking the whole time I was out.  The translator in my implant had analyzed their language and was translating for me.  It would begin teaching me the language now, but I already had some words.
               “He right,” I said, sitting up and finally getting a good look at the man and young woman. 
               The man was probably in his mid-forties and looked like an experienced soldier.  He had drawn his sword the second I spoke, moving with lethal grace.
               The young woman was perhaps twenty, somewhat younger than me, with a tall, slender beauty which was breathtaking to behold.  She was pointing my discharged Onesie at me.
               “Who are you?” asked Rob.  “Where do you come from?”
               “Not easy to tell,” I said.  “Learn talk take time.”
               “That’s another thing, Highness-” Rob began, cutting off as a shadow passed over us.
               Looking up, I saw the airship I had nearly rammed.   It was sailing a few hundred meters above us.  I was drawing breath to shout to them when the princess gasped in dismay.
               "Well, Highness, now we learn whose side this young man is on," Rob growled.  "The raiders have found us!"

Who are these raiders and what do they want?  Find out on Monday in Chapter 7!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Scout's Honor - Chapter 5

< Chapter 4                                                                                Chapter 6 >
Two dozen blue-skinned, spear-wielding humanoids who dislike wizards charge to attack our hero!
               Dropping the survival pack and the discharged Onesie, I leapt to meet the charging blue men.  Boost, I thought to my implant.  Instantly, my body was flooded with adrenaline.  I'd pay a serious price for the Boost after the fight, but it's not like I had a choice.
               With adrenaline raging through my veins, I moved among the wild blue men too fast for any of them to land a solid hit.  I felt no pain and had such strength I lifted one of my attackers above my head, using him as a club to beat his fellows from around me.  Tossing aside the broken body, I snatched a fallen spear and continued my dance of death among them.  As the bodies of the blue men piled up behind me, those still fighting with the remaining humans realized the greater danger lay at their backs.  Undecided which foe to face, they faced neither and sealed their doom.
               Even as my spear plunged into the last of the blue men, I was turning to see if both defending warriors had survived.  I smiled as my eyes met the flashing, green eyes of the young woman.  She spoke in a language my implant’s translator did not yet understand.  I replied, “No problem.  Glad I was able to help.”
               Having already exceeded Boost safety limits, my implant cut it off.  The adrenaline stopped flowing and pain from my tortured muscles slammed into me.  I fell into darkness even before I fell to the ground.

See what happens next in Chapter 5, available Friday.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Scout's Honor - Chapter 4

< Chapter 3                                                                                             Chapter 5 >

As our hero's escape pod sinks, a woman's scream pierces the stillness.

Dripping from my swim to shore and clutching the emergency pack, I looked about for the source of the scream.  I saw a jumble of boulders a couple of hundred meters away.  Now that I was alert to it, I could also hear the sounds of battle from beyond it; weapons clashing, voices shouting.
               I ran toward the boulders, quickly scrambling to the top.  Below me, battle whirled between two warriors, desperately defending their position with swords, and two dozen spear-thrusting  No, humanoid but not human, with squat, powerful bodies, blue skin, and sharply sloping foreheads.  Blood darkened the ground around bodies from both sides.
               The warriors were backed against the boulders, forming a wall between the humanoids and a third person; a young, raven-haired woman.  She moved restlessly behind her two guards, sword poised to slash out should a humanoid come too close.  Even as I watched, one of her guards fell, a spear thrust completely through him.  Even dying, the guard found the strength to slay his own slayer.  Grimly, the young woman stepped forward to take his place.
               Reflexively, I reached into the survival pack and grabbed the Onesie -- Single-Shot Rechargeable Survival Blaster to the techs -- and gave a wordless bellow.  The fighting stopped as all attention turned toward me.  Brandishing the gun, knowing none could understand me, I yelled at the humanoids, "Leave or face the wrath of the Sky Wizard!"  Then I fired the Onesie at the ground before the humanoids.
               I guess the humanoids didn't like wizards.  With guttural shouts, they all charged at me!

 Find out what happens next in Chapter 5, coming on Wednesday!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Scout's Honor - Chapter 3

< Chapter 2                                                                                             Chapter 4 >

 When his escape pod loses all lift, our hero plunges toward certain death. 

           My eyes slid over the controls, desperately searching for a solution.  Almost on their own, my eyes slid back to the fuel gauge.  There was hardly any fuel left, but it might be enough to fire the maneuvering thrusters for a few seconds.  If I could nudge the escape pod toward level flight and add some forward momentum, maybe...  I fired the thrusters.
            One second.
            Two seconds.
            The thrusters cut out, all fuel depleted.  But the escape pod was moving forward again, slowly generating lift.  I wrestled with the controls, trying by force of will to make the pod glide.  The pod was slowly leveling out but it was quickly losing altitude.  I yanked back on the controls, trying to bring the nose up.  It was going to be close!
            With a bone-jarring impact, the pod hit the ground.  Skipped into the air.  Hit the ground again.  Skipped again.  And suddenly, there was a lake below me.  The pod splashed into the lake and bobbed to a stop.  With all the holes and rips in the pod's skin, I didn't think the pod would stay afloat for long.  Slapping the harness release, I grabbed the standard issue survival pack.  The pod was sinking faster than I'd hoped, so I popped the canopy and dove into the water.
            The cold water.  Teeth already starting to chatter, I struck out toward the shore, about a hundred meters away.  A couple of freezing minutes later, I staggered out of the water.  At that moment, a man's voice cried out in pain and then cut off abruptly.
            The cry was followed by a woman's scream.

Find out what happens next in Chapter 4, coming on Monday, June 4.