Friday, June 6, 2014

Scout's Duty - Chapter 105

< Chapter 104                                                                                                   Chapter 106 >
Martin and the marines appear to have been hit by a pirate laser shot!

Blasted rock spun off into space as I struggled to see through the afterimage of the bright laser blast.  I saw two bodies tumbling across the surface of the asteroid and out of sight.  A third body pinwheeled into space.  I had no idea what had happened to the remaining two men.

"Martin?" I called.  "Sergeant?"

Over the comm I heard a gasp and the sound of someone trying to stifle crying.  I received no reply to my call.

"David?"  Callan's voice was quiet, calm, controlled.  "What has happened?"

"The pirate gunner took a shot at Martin's group before the pinnace was carried over the horizon.  It appears to have been a hit or a very close miss."

"What of Martin and the marines?" she asked.

"I...don't know.  They aren't answering their comms, but they could be unconscious or the comm could be damaged."

"Or they could be dead," a small, shaking voice added.

"We don't know that yet, Megan," Callan said, her voice stronger and more commanding than before.  In that voice, I recognized her switch to princess mode.  The situation demanded decisiveness, not emotions.  If Martin was dead, she'd cry later.

"David, swim over there and find out what has happened to the men.  Go fast but be careful.  That pinnace will be back soon."

"What will the rest of you do?" I asked.

"Stay here where we have some cover.  Now go!"

I swam off as fast as I could go.  I was terrified of what I might find but was even more terrified of the uncertainty I was feeling.

"Heidi," Callan called, "how many casualties do we have under Tristan's care right now?"

"My latest report shows fourteen dead, six in critical condition, and dozens of wounds ranging from serious to minor," Heidi replied.  "None of the injuries in the last group are life-threatening according to Tristan."

I was zipping over the ground, swimming faster than I'd done since academy relay races.  The laser had scorched a three-foot line in the asteroid.  Even if the shot had been a direct hit, no more than two of the men would have been struck by the beam.

"The casualties are lighter than I'd feared," Callan was saying.

"According to reports, as long as our men were withdrawing, the pirates only fought hard enough to keep them moving backward," Heidi replied.

"Odd," Callan said.  "Why wouldn't the pirates fight harder?  If they wanted us to escape, they could have just let us go!"

"Callan, the pinnace is returning," Rupor interrupted.

"They could have transmission scanners," Heidi said.  "Maintain comm silence for your own safety."

At the scorch mark, I'd turned toward the docking bay.  Martin had been towing the marines in that direction.  If the blast had struck behind him, it was likely he’d have been thrown in the direction he'd already been traveling.

I risked a quick look over my shoulder, hoping to spot the pinnace.  It was easy to find.  The pilot was flying back to us slowly, the canopy of the little ship facing down toward the asteroid.

"Maintain comm silence," I said.  "The crew is trying to spot us visually."

I heard an exhalation of breath.  Callan did that when she was exasperated with me.

"Yes, dear, I know I'm not maintaining comm silence," I said.  "If the crew of the pinnace is going to find anyone, I'm going to make sure it's me!"

I got my wish.  The pinnace rolled over to bring its belly gun to bear on my position.  I zigged to the right then zagged to the left.  A hurried laser blast struck a good ten yards from my position.  All I needed was another couple of seconds and I could reach some form of cover.

I put my hand into a dark depression, planning to push off the side of it.  Instead of rock, my hand touched clothing.  Instinctively, I grabbed a fistful of fabric.  My momentum pulled the man out of the shadows.  He was covered in burns and blood but a scar stood out on his cheek.

I'd found Martin!

Is Martin still alive?  Can our hero find cover before the pirate pinnace blasts him?  Find out in Chapter 106, coming Monday!