Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Scout's Duty - Chapter 83

< Chapter 82                                                                                                   Chapter 84 >
Our hero, an unconscious Chapman over his shoulder, heads forth to the arena!

As the pirate led us away, Heidi dashed up.  Her eyes were red and swollen, though any tear tracks had been scrubbed from her face.

"I'm coming with you," she declared in accented Mordanian.  "Erwin is my husband and I should be there."

Laura ran out of the airlock, her face creased with concern, as we turned to face Heidi.  I expected Callan would be the first to speak, but Rupor surprised me.

Stepping in front of Heidi, he gently took her hands in his and looked her in the eye.  "No good can come of this, m'lady.  Regardless of Chapman's current deeds, he is a man you have held in your heart for many years.  The anguish you feel now will be as nothing to that which you would feel watching him fight in the arena.  I implore you to stay on the ship and draw strength from the love of your friends.  Leave this harsh business to those of us who have less gentle souls than you."

"But the princess will be watching her husband fight!"

"She accompanies us as the royal benefactor to Captain Bane.  Were she not required to play that role, she would remain with the ship, as well."

Laura placed an arm around Heidi and steered her back toward the ship.  "Prince Rupor is right, Heidi.  Come back to the ship with me."

The lovely redhead allowed herself to be guided back to the ship.  Everyone turned to follow the pirate so only I noticed Rupor's gaze linger on Heidi for a second.  He realized I was watching and gave a parade ground about-face.

Quietly, so only I could hear, he said, "If you can find some way to save her husband's worthless life, you will have my support.  She must have the opportunity to break her marriage voluntarily or I fear she will carry guilt for the rest of her life."

I regarded Rupor for a few seconds, realizing for the first time just how deeply his feelings ran for Heidi.  Considering his behavior over the previous six months from this light, I wondered that I hadn't figured it out much earlier.  I'm sure Callan and Megan would shake their heads and mutter about clueless men.  On the other hand, I expect comprehension was just dawning on Martin, too.

"I'll do my best, Rupor."

"That's all I can ask, Ri- David."  A friendly grin crossed Rupor's face.  "And in all honesty, your best is exceedingly good.  If any man can find a way to bring Chapman out of this alive and keep him from alerting the pirates to our intentions, it's you."

A busy couple of hours loomed ahead of me.  I had to find a way to draw out the duel so the control systems could be sabotaged, kill two pirates without giving away my identity as a scout, join the fighting withdrawal to our ship, and somehow keep Chapman alive in the bargain.  No pressure.  Just another typical day at the office.

I spent the next ten minutes making and rejecting plans and then the time for planning was at an end.  I was shown into a room and told to come out the other side when the bell sounded.  As soon as we were alone, I waved the smelling salts under Chapman's nose.  He awoke, looking about wildly.  He moaned as he recognized the room.


I was interrupted before I could say more.

Can our hero save Chapman and keep him from alerting the pirates?  Find out in Chapter 84, coming Friday!