Friday, April 18, 2014

Scout's Duty - Chapter 84

< Chapter 83                                                                                                   Chapter 85 >
The duel begins!

Cheering swelled from the arena, making Chapman even more frantic than had the ringing of the bell.  As Tristan had warned, he was also groggy after returning to consciousness.  I was able to grab him by the shoulders and hold him still.

"There's no time to explain my plan."  Because I didn't have a plan, not that he needed to know that.  "Do as I tell you to do and you can get out of this alive.  Do you understand?"

Chapman nodded and I reached for the handle to open the door.  Catching Chapman's eye, I let my true opinion of him shine through.  He quailed at my expression.

"But if you even think about warning the pirates of our plans, I'll kill you myself."

I felt the brief disorientation that comes from stepping through a gravity field then pulled Chapman along behind me.  We hung, weightless, in a big cube of a room measuring about a hundred feet on a side.  Half a dozen spheres moved lazily within the arena, serving as cover and a way to change direction.

All but two walls opposite each other -- I chose to call them the floor and ceiling -- held seats.  Wide-spaced bars gave the combatants something to push off from, but the pirates filling the seats were also free to reach into the arena and interfere with anyone who got too close to them.  With the exception of the pirates who might have bet on Chapman and me, I knew we had no friends in the stands.

To my left, in the center of the wall, was the captains' chamber.  Rank had its privilege, as walls separated the officers from the common pirates.  Quint and the other five captains sat with Martin, Megan, Rupor, and Callan.  The six captains leaned forward in their seats, faces lit with the same anticipation shown by their men.

The door swung shut behind us -- no retreat for those in the arena, obviously -- revealing a small weapons locker which was bolted to the back of it.  Within were two big, wicked knives.  Taking one for myself, I handed the other to Chapman.

A cheer rose from the pirates as our two opponents pushed off from their side of the room, each heading for a different sphere within the arena.  Grabbing Chapman's collar, I pushed off toward a different sphere, one closer to the pirate on my right.

"What are you doing?" wailed Chapman.

"They're planning to come at us from two sides, probably so one can keep me busy while the other deals with you.  If we're in position and closer to one than the other, it will be easier to disrupt their plan.  All you have to do is stay with me and cover my back if one of the pirates gets close.  I'll handle the rest!"

I brought us to a stop against my chosen sphere.  Seconds later, the pirates worked their way around their spheres to face us.  The pirate farther away pushed off his sphere toward us.  I turned back to the other pirate and crouched, ready to take the attack to him.  He suddenly grinned and shoved off hard toward the door Chapman and I had come through.  Looking back, I realized why the man was so happy.

Chapman had panicked and fled back the way we had come.  He was floating slowly toward the door, a sitting duck for the grinning pirate!

Can our hero save Chapman and protect Heidi from a lifetime of guilt?  Find out in Chapter 85, coming Monday!