Monday, July 30, 2012

Scout's Honor - Chapter 28

< Chapter 27                                                                                               Chapter 29 >
Just as rescue appeared to be at hand, Rogue Terran Scout Martin Bane turns the table on the rescuers!

            Prince Raoul's men looked uncertain as Martin Bane pressed his dagger against their prince's throat.
            "Do as I say," Bane growled, nicking the prince's throat.
            "No!" Raoul gasped.  "Don't risk our future queen's life.  Not for the Spare Prince!"
            I looked quizzically at Rob, who whispered, "Raoul is not as popular as his half-brother.  Even the king calls Raoul the Spare Prince."
            Bane laughed, "Nice try, Spare Prince, but your men know what Mommy will do to them if they let you die!"
            "Men," Prince Raoul said, "I order-"
            "Belay that!" said a commanding voice from above.  "Another queen can be found but not another prince.  Mister Bane, name your terms."
            "No, Admiral Hamlan!" said Raoul.  "No terms!  No surrender!  The men-"
            "Will follow my orders, Your Highness," said the admiral.  "Mister Bane, you, your men, and your captives may leave unhindered provided my men are unharmed and you release the prince safely."
            "Agreed," said Bane, "with one addition.  I also get your airship."
            "You leave me little choice," the admiral replied.  "We have an accord."
            Shortly, the Tartegians ascended the ladder.  Bane's men followed, establishing a perimeter.
            "After you, princess," Bane said.  "Your guards will remain here, of course."
            "I will not-" Rob began.
            "I gave my word, Rob," Princess Callan said.  "You will not gainsay it!"
            "Don't you want to sell me at auction, as well?" I asked Bane.
            "That was when I needed to replace my ship," Bane replied.  "Princess?"
            Princess Callan ascended the ladder, followed closely by Raoul and Bane.
            The trap door slammed shut and debris was piled atop it.  Soon, the airship engines roared then faded as Bane flew away with the princess!

Is Princess Callan gone for good?  Do Rob and David have any hope of saving her?  Find out in Chapter 29, coming Wednesday!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Scout's Honor - Chapter 27

< Chapter 26                                                                                               Chapter 28 >
Will the airship stop?  If it does, will it be manned by friend or foe?

            All heads turned up, as if we could see the airship droning above us.  Ears strained to catch any change in the engine's roar.  Then the engine shut off!
            Minutes dragged by, then we heard a thump from above!  Then another and another.  Soon, we heard debris being cleared.
            "Hey!" I shouted.  "We're in the cellar!"
            Immediately, the rest took up the shouting.  The sounds from above stopped, then renewed.  More and more thumping came from above.  More men were joining in the work.
            Eventually, the sounds from above ceased.  Footsteps stalked to the trap door.  Too-bright light burst into the cellar as the door was opened.  Uniformed men began dropping into the cellar, swords drawn and ready for action.
            Princess Callan gasped, "Tartegian airmen!"
            "Your intended?" I asked.
            Nodding, she rose to her full height.  One of the airmen spotted her instantly.
            "Prince Raoul!" the airman called.  "She's here!"
            "Raoul?" I asked.
            "Rupor's younger brother," Rob answered.
            More men dropped into the cellar, forming a wall of swords between Bane's men and the trap door.  They were followed by a compact man.
            "Callan?" he called.
            "I'm here, Raoul," she said.  "But beware, most of these men are raiders and slavers!"
            "I only want the princess, her companions, and your leader" Raoul said, "If the rest of you surrender, you have my word I'll leave you here when we leave!"
            Bane must have Boosted, because he leapt over the line of Tartegian airmen and had a dagger at Raoul's throat before anyone could react!
            "Coincidentally, I also only want the princess, her companions, and your leader," Bane said.  "Surrender or your prince dies!"

Is there any way our heroes can rescue Prince Raoul from rogue scout Martin Bane?  Find out in Chapter 28, coming Monday.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Scout's Honor - Chapter 26

< Chapter 25                                                                                               Chapter 27 >
Unconscious and trapped beneath a burning building, David's only hope lies with raiders, slavers, and a rogue Scout Second Class.

            I woke up.  My aching body aching hadn't killed me after all.  Warm liquid hit my face.  I opened and looked into the princess's tear-filled eyes.  Realizing my head lay in her lap, I smiled.
            "Hi," I croaked.
            Her green eyes focused and she gasped, "David's awake!"
            Rob and Bane stepped into view.
            "Welcome back, lad," Rob said, smiling.  "Good form, not dying!"
            Bane's eyes flicked to the princess, "Your heart stopped when you stopped Boosting.  A little CPR then a makeshift defibrillator using the Onesie brought you back."
            Bane held up the remains of the Onesie, "Don't know how she managed to hide it in her clothes," his eyes roamed appreciatively over the princess's formfitting clothing, "but she did."
            "He says you shouldn't Boost again anytime soon," the princess said.  "I agree."
            "As you wish," I replied.  Then another thought entered my head.  "Why did everyone look so scared when the trog leader spoke?"
            "Trogs have never spoken human languages," Rob said.  "They're too stupid to learn it."
            "Trogs have never organized an army, either.  A hunting party is about their limit," Bane added.  "That leader must be a trog genius!"
            "We've got to warn the northern countries!" Rob exclaimed.
            "No," Bane said, "we've got a deal.  You go to the Southern slave markets and you behave along the way.  Just like your princess promised!"
            "What?" I cried.
            "He was going to let you die, David!" the princess whispered.  "I couldn't let that happen!"
            "You don't think I destroyed that Onesie out of the goodness-" Bane began, stopping as a deep thrumming sound reached us.
            The airship was back! 

Is the airship crewed by friends or foes?  If they stop at the ruined trading outpost, will they help or hinder our heroes?  Find out in Chapter 27, coming Friday.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Scout's Honor - Chapter 25

< Chapter 24                                                                                               Chapter 26 >

Horribly outnumbered, our hero fights to save the princess, Rob, and even the raiders and slavers from the trogs!

            I killed ruthlessly and quickly, knowing I would fall eventually.  There were several hundred trogs and only thirty-two of us.  The trogs would get us all, even the princess, if they were willing to spend enough lives.  Our only hope was to convince them the cost was too high.
            I'd killed seventeen and dragged four more head-first into the cellar to be killed before they could stand.  One of those had still managed to kill a man while lying on the floor.  My implant said I'd been Boosting for seven minutes, far longer than anyone on record.  If the trogs didn't kill me, my abused body probably would.
            Gutteral shouting came from above, answered by a powerful voice.  Silence fell and the attacks ceased.  I overrode my implant before it could turn off Boost.  The attack could be renewed at any time and I had to be ready.
            Then we heard the sound of an airship engine!  Airmen could attack from above with impunity!  We waited to hear the cries of dying trogs.  And waited in vain.  The airship passed overhead without stopping.
            "Huuuuuumans," the powerful voice said.  The faces below me went white, terrified by something I couldn't understand.
            "No warrior death you!" the voice continued.  "Die, like beasts!"
            A trog slammed the trap door shut.  We heard them piling heavy objects on top of it.  Then the smell of smoke wafted down to us.  The trogs had set fire to the building!
            I dropped my override on the implant and Boost shut down.  I had just enough time to think how tired I was of being unconscious before I blacked out.

Fire rages above and, for our hero, darkness reigns below!  Will David's body shut down as he fears?  Find out in Chapter 26, coming Wednesday!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Scout's Honor - Chapter 24

< Chapter 23                                                                                               Chapter 25 >

Surrounded by trogs, our heroes are forced into an alliance with the raiders and slavers!

            I took one look at the trog hoard and asked Bane, "How well do you know this outpost?"
            "What diff-" Bane almost shouted.
            "Does it have a storm cellar or root cellar?" I demanded.
            Comprehension dawned on Bane, "Yes!"
            Turning to his men, he ordered, "Recall everyone!  We're going into the cellar!"
            We entered the building as his men scattered, calling for a retreat.  The trap door was in a corner.  I gestured to Rob and the princess to climb down.
            "What of you, David?" asked the princess, concern in her eyes and voice.
            "I'll come down once everyone else is safely below," I replied, smiling reassuringly.
            After they had moved out of sight below, Bane gave me a sly grin.  "You're a fast worker, lad.  Less than two days on the planet and you've already got the beautiful princess panting after you!"
            "Shut up!" I growled.
            I was saved further conversation as Bane's men began piling into the building.  Wasting no time, the men began jumping into the cellar.  The howling of the trogs was deafening by the time Bane leapt into the cellar.  Climbing down the ladder, I shut the trap door.  I stayed on the ladder, ready to defend the the door.
            The doors to the building crashed open and heavy feet trod across the floor.  A minute passed agonizingly slowly, then footsteps stopped above the trap door.  It was flung open and a trog thrust his spear at me.  Boosting, I grabbed the spear and pulled.  The trog tumbled to the floor below and Bane's men fell upon him.  But two more trogs to his place.
            Our battle for survival had begun!

Even though the trogs can only attack two at a time, how long can our hero hold out against hundreds of them?  Find out in Chapter 25, coming Monday!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Scout's Honor - Chapter 23

< Chapter 22                                                                                               Chapter 24 > 
After allowing himself to be captured by slavers so the princess could escape, our hero is shocked to see the princess and Rob delivered to the villainous Martin Bane!

            Bane beamed at his men.
            "Who made the capture?" he asked.
            "No one," Rob growled.  "We came here on our own."
            "You did what?" I said
            Bane nodded toward me, "I'm with Wonder Boy."
            "Trogs," answered Rob.  "Hundreds of them."
            Bane's expression grew serious and he said, "Rouse the men!  Get spotters on the rooftops!"  Turning to Rob, "How much time have we got?"
            "Thirty minutes, if you're lucky," he replied.  "Highness, please release David."
            "No, princess!" Bane barked.  "Wonder Boy is-"
            "The best warrior here," Rob interrupted.  "Let him help us."
            Bane thought for a few seconds, nodded, then said, "Wonder-"
            "My name is David Rice," I said.
            "Very well, Rice," Bane said, "give me your word of honor -- as a Scout -- that you will relinquish your sword after the battle."
            I looked to Rob.  He nodded.
            "Yes, you have my word," I said.  "But what are trogs?"
            As she untied my bonds the princess answered, "Trogs are the blue creatures we were fighting when you first appeared."
            "There are swords in the next room," Bane said as he drew his sword.  Then he asked, "Which one of you has the Onesie?  It could be useful-"
            "It's gone," I said.  "Besides, firing the Onesie just makes trogs mad."
            "You'll forgive me if I don't believe you," Bane said.  "I'll have to search-"
            A shout interrupted him, "To arms!  The trogs are here!"
            Bane shot a look at Rob, "You said thirty minutes!"
            "I guess you weren't lucky," Rob shot back, as we grabbed swords ran from the building.
            I was't surprised to find ourselves back at the trading post.  From all around us, spears waving, blue figures charged the trading post!

Battling two dozen trogs took all our hero had to offer and then some.  How can he survive against hundreds of them?  Find out in Chapter 24, coming Friday!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Scout's Honor - Chapter 22

< Chapter 21                                                                                               Chapter 23 >

Leading a chase to draw attention away from the area in which Rob and the princess are hiding, David ends up captured by slavers!

            I awoke lying down, my hands and feet tied to a bed frame.  Bane was there, watching me.
            "How old are you, kid?  Twenty-four?" he asked.
            "Not quite."
            "You must be the youngest Scout First Class ever," he said.
            "Nope," I replied.
            "Second then," Bane said.  "And not by much, I'd bet."
            "What makes you think I'm a Scout First Class?" I asked.
            "There's no Master Scout with you," he said.  "And you're not mourning one's death.  You were exploring alone.  Therefore, Scout First Class."
            "Does that mean the Master Scout who was completing your training is dead?"
            "Killed when the asteroid hit us right out of the wormhole."
            "How did you end up-?"
            "Like this?  Raider, kidnapper, slaver?" he asked.  "It's a long story and we don't have time for it."
            "How about the short version?" I asked.
            He shrugged and said, "I landed near the Mordanian capital but ended up in the worst part of the city.  My implant picked up the gutter language spoken there, so I even sounded like them.  I went to the wrong bar, Boosted during a fight, and killed a couple of thugs.  That's usually ignored in the poorest quarters, but there was extra security because of a certain princess's fourth birthday.  Murder is a hanging offense, so I escaped, fell in with raiders, and have been raiding ever since."
            He stood, "Some of us aren't lucky enough to crash on top of royalty, Wonder Boy.  Some of us get stuck with reality."
            The door flew open and Rob and the princess were pushed into the room by grinning slavers.  My sacrifice had been for nothing!

Have the slavers won?  Is David's next destination the slave markets of the southern desert?  Find out in Chapter 23, coming Wednesday!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Scout's Honor - Chapter 21

< Chapter 20                                                                                               Chapter 22 >

David has discovered that the leader of the raiders is another scout from the Terran Exploration Corps!

            "What-?" I began, but my thoughts stalled there.  I tried again, "Why-?"
            "Fascinating as your conversational gambits are," Bane said, "let's get back to the important issue.  Where is the princess?"
            That got through to me.  "They gone, jumped off your airship once the boiler pressure got dangerously high."
            Bane didn't believe me and called to his men, "Keep searching the wreck.  I'm sure they're here somewhere."
            This men would find the princess and Rob unless I distracted them.  Boosting once again, I leapt onto Bane's horse, slapping its flanks with the flat of my sword.  Bane's men ran for their own horses and the chase was on!
            I had to get a dune between myself and the airship wreck, giving Rob and the princess a chance to get away from the wreck.  The slavers almost cut me off before I topped the nearest dune.  Two riders raced to cut me off as I stood in the saddle, dove over them, and rolled down the far side of the dune.  Whooping, the slavers chased after me.
            At the bottom of the dune, I prepared to die fighting the slavers.  Instead, they began twirling weighted ropes.   Three riders threw their ropes at the same time.  I jumped over one and ducked another, but the third wrapped tightly around my legs.  Three more ropes followed, pinning my arms.  Toppling over, I watched as Bane came to stand over me.
            "We're going to find the princess," he said.  "and you'll watch her be sold at auction.  Then I'll sell you at auction, too."
            Grinning, Bane bashed me on the head with his sword pommel and all went black.

Captured by a villain with the same knowledge David possesses, will David ever even have a chance to escape?  Find out in Chapter 22, coming Monday!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Scout's Honor - Chapter 20

 < Chapter 19                                                                                               Chapter 21 > 
 Trapped beneath the wreckage of an airship, how can our hero protect the princess from approaching slavers?

            "How far away?  Do you think they've seen you?" I asked.
            "Half a mile, maybe," Rob answered, "and I doubt they've seen us yet."
            "Hide!" I said, as my implant told me half a mile was almost a kilometer.  "I'll call out for help.  They won't look for others if I can keep them distracted!"
            Rob stood, "It's the best chance we've got, Highness.  Let's go!"
            I heard the two of them scrambling away followed by silence.  Finally, I heard the riders approaching.
            "Help!" I called.  "I'm trapped under the wreckage!'
            The light was blocked and then voices began jabbering in a language new to me.  It wasn't surprising, but it would make things more difficult until my implant caught up.
            More jabbering, then the sounds of wreckage being moved.  Shortly, hands were pulling me out.  I put on my best grateful smile.
            "I am so happy to see you!" I exclaimed.  "How can I ever thank you?"
            The shadow of a rider fell across me.
            "You can tell us where the princess is," said scarred face, leader of the raiders.  "And explain what happened to my airship!"
            Time for plan B.
            Boost!  I snatched a sword from the slaver closest to me and leapt for scarred face.  It ought to be easy enough to take him hostage and-
            Moving impossibly quickly, scarred face grabbed my wrist, somersaulted off his horse, and drew his sword before landing lightly on his feet.
            I rolled to my feet and stared at him, "Who-"
            "Ah, forgive my poor manners.  We have not been properly introduced!" scarred face said urbanely.  "I am Martin Bane, Scout Second Class of the Terran Exploration Corps!"

Our hero's only advantages were his training and his technology.  How can he prevail against a villain who has the same training and technology as well his own band of minions?  Find out in Chapter 21, coming Friday!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Scou'ts Honor - Chapter 19

< Chapter 18                                                                                               Chapter 20 >

With a roar, the boiler on the airship David is piloting explodes!

            I drifted on the cusp of consciousness, struggling to stay away from it.  For pain lurked behind consciousness and I knew I could not have one without the other.  Better to float in mental limbo for a while longer, hoping the pain would recede just a little.
            "David!"
            The voice reached me below the surface and pulled me upward.  That voice meant something to me.  It meant beautiful green eyes.  Long raven hair.  Tall, lithe body.  Callan!  I came fully aware at the thought of her.  With awareness came the pain, but also remembrance.  Raiders.  Escapes.  A betrothal.  My oath.
            "David!"
            I tried to respond but managed only a soft cough.  I tried to stand and found I could not.  Prying my eyes open, I found why I couldn't stand.  I was buried under debris; wood, rope, cloth.  I could move my arm.  I knocked on the wood as hard as I could.
            "David?  Is that you?"
            I knocked again.
            "Rob!  He's here!  Buried under the wreckage!"
            Shortly, eyes peered at me through an opening in the debris.
            "Glad you made it, lad," said Rob.  "Can't see much of you in there except your eyes."
            His arm reached as far into the opening as possible, "Here's a water skin.  Drink and conserve your strength while we free you."
            The water tasted heavenly and the sound of debris being cleared was music to my ears.  And it lasted all of two minutes.
            "Rob!" the princess sounded worried.  "Horses!"
            Silence for a few seconds then Rob cursed.
            "What is it?" I managed to croak.
            Rob's reply was flat and chilling, "Slavers."

Trapped beneath the wreckage, what can David do to protect the princess?  Find out in Chapter 20, coming Wednesday!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Scout's Honor - Chapter 18

< Chapter 17                                                                                                    Chapter 19 >
Far above the ground in a stolen raider airship, our heroes are caught in a sandstorm!

            The storm swept up the airship and visibility was cut to nothing.  Barely able to see the bow through the swirling sand I fought to keep us from smashing into the ground.  The ship danced on the wind, almost beyond my control.  I sensed more than saw a dune rise up before the ship and barely kept us from driving into it.  The airship still scraped the top of the dune, jarring the ship.
            I don't know if I fought the storm for mere minutes or much longer.  Flayed by sand, my body taught with tension, I was on the ragged edge of exhaustion.  So I did not know the Rob was beside me until he grabbed my arm.
            He shouted, "Boiler pressure is rising too fast!  Probably a clogged pipe but-"
            "No way to fix it before it blows.  Not in this storm," I shouted back.  "You and the princess will have to abandon ship!  I'll get us down so you two can jump safely."
            Rob nodded.  It was the only way.
            "I'll blow the whistle when it's time for you to jump," I said.
            "What of you, lad?"
            Instead of answering, I shouted, "Don't worry, I'll find you!"
            "I don't doubt it for a moment, David!" though he obviously did doubt it.  He clapped my shoulder then went below.
            I took the ship down until I saw ground beneath me then blew the steam whistle.  It was even louder than the storm and I hoped they had jumped safely.  As the wind drove the ship up again, I heard steam whistling again.  The boiler!
            Too late, I dashed for the ship's railing.  With a roar, the boiler exploded!

This looks like the end for David!  Will there even be a Chapter 19?  Find out Monday!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Scout's Honor - Chapter 17

< Chapter 16                                                                                            Chapter 18 >

The airship their and the pirates behind them, David thought the worst was behind them -- until he spotted the sandstorm!

            The sandstorm grew closer in the few seconds I watched through the binoculars.  We needed a new course and more speed or the storm would have us!
            "Rob!"
            Turning from the princess, he grimaced at the interruption, "Not now-"
            "Sandstorm!  Closing fast!"
            Rob was standing next to me seconds later.  I handed him the binoculars as I turned the ship away from the sandstorm.
            "Look through-" I began.
            "We have similar devices," Rob said, lifting the binoculars to his eyes.  "Though none so sharp or powerful."
            Studying the storm, he said, "It appears you can fly this ship."
            "Yes."
            "Can we outrun the storm?" he asked.
            "Probably not, but..." I turned to the princess, "Highness, take the wheel and hold it steady."
            She took the wheel without a question.  I led Rob below.
            "Have you ever worked a steam engine?" I asked.
            "Yes, years ago," he replied.
            "I need as much steam as you can get me," I told him.  "Even if the storm catches us, having our own power may help."
            As Rob began feeding wood to the fire, I added, "I'll send the princess below.  It will be safer for her down here, out of the storm."
            The wind had risen considerably in the short time I'd been below.  Taking the wheel, I sent the princess below.  Even as the steam built and the two propellers spun ever faster, I doubted we could outrun the storm.
            I fought the buffeting wind, scanning the desert for any place where we could land and take cover.  Then the storm blotted out the sun and sand scoured the deck.
            The storm was upon us!

Far above the ground and deep within the sandstorm, David fights for survival!  Can he save the princess yet again?  Find out in Chapter 18, coming Friday!