Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Scout's Duty - Chapter 107

< Chapter 106                                                                                                   Chapter 108 >
To save our heroes, Milo sacrificed himself by flying his ship into the pirate pinnace!

In the vacuum of space, the fiery explosion lasted less than a second but it seemed as if it lasted years to me.  The image seared into my brain as I passed over the ridge I'd hoped to hide behind.  The image consumed my attention as I landed by instinct, cradling Martin to protect him from further injury.  The image remained clear and horrible even as my vision was blurred by tears.

"No, Milo!" Callan wailed, far too late for Milo to hear her or heed her.

Megan's quiet crying for Martin gave way to sobs as the loss of Milo and her dread for Martin overwhelmed her.

In a quiet, controlled voice, Rupor recited a prayer for the dead.

And the mild jolt of our landing caused Martin to moan in pain.  He was alive!

"What's going on?" Heidi called.  "What happened to Milo?"

"Martin is alive, Megan.  Concentrate on that.  He's alive!"  I forced as much hope and joy as I could muster into my voice.  I didn't feel any of it -- I didn't feel anything, at the moment -- but Megan and Callan needed something hopeful to cling to.

Megan's sobs eased a bit.  "A-alive?  Are you sure?"

"Yes, Megan, I'm sure.  I told you Martin was hard to kill."

Rupor flowed straight from the prayer for the dead to a prayer for Martin to remain among the living.

"Is someone going to tell us what's going on?"  It was Laura this time.  I'd forgotten Heidi was broadcasting to the whole ship.

"Milo is dead."  Callan was back in princess mode, using it as armor to protect herself from the pain.  "He rammed the pirate pinnace, sacrificing himself so the rest of us could live."

Gasps sounded over the comm as Callan's words hit home.

"There will be time for our grief later, after we're away from this God-forsaken rock."  Callan's voice grew stronger as she spoke.  "But I will not allow Milo to have died in vain!  We will leave this place.  We will bring these pirates to justice.  And we will make Quint and Chapman pay for what they have done!"

"This is all my fault!"  Heidi's cry was full of anger and sorrow.  "If I hadn't-"

"There's no time for that, Heidi," Callan cut in.  "I understand why you blame yourself.  I blame myself for Milo's death, as well.  But none of us can afford the luxury of guilt or self-pity.  Can you put those aside and handle communications for me?"

"Yes."  There was a sniffle after the word, but Heidi's voice was firm again.

"Good.  David, do you think it's safe to move Martin?"

I gave Martin a very fast check over.  His worst injuries appeared to be burns.  If we got him to a modern hospital, they wouldn't be life threatening.  "Yes, he can be moved."

"Good.  You're closer to the docking bay, so we'll come to you.  We won't be as fast as you, but we'll get there."

"As you wish, Callan.  Permission to search for the rest of Martin's team?"

"Of course, David.  We'll call when we reach Martin."

Ten minutes later, we were all together behind the ridge.  There had been no sign of the pirates who'd been on the surface chasing us.  Maybe they were scared off after the loss of their pinnace.  They left us alone, which was all I cared about.  I'd found the bodies of the sergeant and one of the other marines.  A third was still alive and more badly burned than Martin.  I remembered the fourth man flying off into space and resigned myself to never finding his body.

With Harris carrying the wounded marine, we swam to the docking bay entrance.  I slid carefully to the opening and peered inside.  Hundreds of pirates milled about under the watchful eye of Quint.  Chapman stood just behind Quint.  But I spotted something else that made my blood run cold.

Without the crew of the Aashla's Hope realizing it, the pirates had fastened docking clamps to the landing gear.  The ship and all aboard her were trapped!

How can our heroes hope to free the ship when it’s surrounded by hundreds of pirates?  Find out in Chapter 108, coming Friday!