Monday, June 30, 2014
Scout's Duty - Chapter 115
Quint, the last pirate captain on the base, has been spaced.
Quint's still and lifeless body tumbled away from the pirate base, shrinking until it was too small to see. I gave myself a mental shake and pulled my gaze away from the airless abyss beyond the atmosphere shield.
Chapman, a smug smile pasted on his face, stepped in front of me.
"Well, Rice, I guess you're pretty happy I was around to save everyone!"
My fist flattened Chapman's nose.
"Don't you dare proclaim yourself a hero!"
"But I stopped Quint!" Chapman's voice rose with each word.
I punched him in the stomach and heard his breath whoosh out of him. Good. That would shut him up for a few minutes.
"This whole situation is your fault, Chapman."
I hit him with a left cross and he stumbled back a step.
"If you had simply kept your mouth shut and stayed on our ship, none of this would have happened.”
My right fist cracked into his eye and Chapman reeled back against the wall of the docking bay.
"If you had kept your mouth shut, you wouldn't have been challenged to a duel."
I grabbed Chapman's shirt in both fists and pounded him against the wall.
"I wouldn't have had to join the fight just to keep you quiet."
I smashed Chapman against the wall, again.
"My wife and friends wouldn't have had to put themselves in danger just to keep our story intact. The story you were determined to reveal!"
Chapman sagged as I thumped him into the wall a third time.
"Dozens, maybe hundreds, of men -- marines and pirates, alike -- would still be alive."
"Milo would still be alive!"
I heard a voice from far away. "You're on a private channel, Your Highness."
"David? Talk to me!"
I released Chapman and he slid down the wall to the floor.
"Callan? Are you safe?"
"Yes, darling, we're all on board the ship. We're all safe."
"Milo's not safe. He'll never be safe again."
"No, David, he'll never be in danger again. He'll be at peace."
"Do you truly believe that, Callan?"
"After all that's happened to us, how could I not?"
I paused to consider her words. Callan couldn’t see it, but I nodded slowly and pushed my emotions down. Having mastered myself, I turned to survey the scene in the docking bay.
"All right, time to get back to work."
Rupor stepped forward and placed a hand on my shoulder. "We can handle this, David. Take the time to properly mourn the dead."
The marines did appear to have everything under control. Squads of marines herded the pirates into small, manageable groups and disarmed them. Others directed the collection of the dead and wounded. Medics moved among the wounded performing triage. Beyond the atmosphere shield, our ship's remaining pinnace detached and maneuvered into the docking bay. Tristan bounded out as soon as the hatch was open and rushed to tend the wounded.
And then Callan emerged and ran across the docking bay to me. She flew into my arms and kissed me. It was long and tender and I felt my emotions rising again. This time I did not try to hold them back and the tears flowed.
Tears of rage and relief.
Tears of loss and love.
Tears for Milo.
Tears for the marines.
Tears for Martin and Megan.
Tears for the woman who held me.
Some time later, I became aware a marine stood silently ten feet away. Callan and I rose from the deck and looked around the docking bay. The Aashla's Hope was inside again, floating on repulsers but tethered in position. Tristan still moved among the wounded, barking orders and tending patients. The pirates were sitting, hands upon heads, in small groups scattered around the bay.
"Yes, private?" I said to the marine.
He snapped off a salute. "I'm sorry to interrupt, sir, but you're wanted aboard the ship."
"Do you have any idea why?"
"Yes, sir. They said to tell you the wormhole has opened.”
Who has come through the wormhole? Find out in Chapter 116, coming Wednesday!