Friday, June 27, 2014
Scout's Duty - Chapter 114
Quint is about to open the docking bay to space!
Time slowed to a crawl as I watched Quint's finger stab toward the button. Once pressed, the button would drop the atmosphere shield protecting the docking bay from the vacuum of space. The old pirate was too far away for me to reach him in the second it would take to press the button. Unbidden, my mind conjured images of hundreds of men swept into the void, still living but beyond any power in the universe to save. And I would be swept into space with them, safe in my vacuum harness, mute witness to the last seconds of their lives.
Chapman barreled into the pirate captain. Quint's finger missed the button and the two tumbled to the ground!
There come times in every man's life when inaction is more dangerous than action. In that moment, even the coward will act. Quint had pushed his useful idiot too far and Chapman had snapped!
Every man in the docking bay stood frozen, transfixed by the drama playing out beneath the keypad. The keypad with the still-active button which would drop the atmosphere shield!
"Now's your chance, lads!"
My cry still echoing around the docking bay, I charged to Chapman's aid. With a roar, pirates and marines alike charged with me.
Quint's pirate guards saw the tidal wave of humanity sweeping their way. Abandoning their leader, they scrambled to escape into the airlock. A band of pirates piled in behind them. From the cries of rage and the screams of pain and fear, I was happy I was on the outside.
Quint and Chapman flailed at each other, rolling about on the floor of the docking bay. Quint was a wily fighter and the stronger of the two men, but Chapman was berserk. The fight could go either way.
"Martin, can you disable the button on the keypad?"
"Already on it, O fearless leader."
Pirates and marines joined me around the struggling pair, cutting them off from everything else. None of us interrupted the fight. None of us liked Chapman and we all agreed he was a useful idiot. But in this moment, he was our idiot. Even if he had acted in his own self interest, Chapman had saved hundreds of lives. He had earned this chance to pound on Quint.
A moment later, it was over. Bloodied and battered, Chapman rose from the moaning pirate captain, Quint's vacuum harness gripped in one hand. With an animal roar of triumph, Chapman thrust the vacuum harness into the air. Hundreds of voices roared with him.
Chapman looked around him, his eyes bright with fervor.
"Let's give Quint a taste of his own medicine! Space him!"
I was elbowed aside as men pushed to reach Quint. A dozen hands hoisted the pirate captain over our heads. Marines and pirates alike passed Quint from hand to hand toward the entrance to the docking bay.
"Space him! Space him!"
The chant rose in volume and drowned out my calls to stop. Hemmed in by the crowd, I could do nothing but watch the mob -- for they were no longer pirates and marines -- pass Quint, struggling and flailing, toward his doom.
Martin's hand fell on my shoulder. "There's nothing you can do, David."
"I wanted Quint to face justice for all he's done, Martin."
"He is facing justice, lad. It's rough justice, but so was beheading the pirate who attempted to space Callan and Megan. Quint has earned this a thousand times over."
Martin was right. I wouldn't have chosen this, but I couldn't claim the earlier execution was right yet claim this was wrong.
I made myself watch as Quint, finally facing the terror he had inflicted on countless others in his long career, was heaved through the atmosphere barrier.
I made myself watch Quint's futile struggle against the void.
I made myself watch Quint die.
Quint is dead. The pirates are defeated. What comes next? Find out in Chapter 115, coming Monday!