Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Scout's Duty - Chapter 116

< Chapter 115                                                                                                   Chapter 117 >
Slumped unconscious after David’s beating, Chapman is at the mercy of our heroes.

"Your Highness?" a marine asked as we turned toward the ship.  "Should we space Chapman, too?"

Callan glared at the man slumped against the wall.  "No, corporal.  I'm not kind enough to give him the easy way out."

Without another word, she led the way to the ship.

"Please excuse my ignorance, dear, but this must be some new definition of 'kind' I'm not familiar with."

"That's because you haven't spent enough time among the sycophants in court, David."  With a smile Callan took my arm.  "There are people for whom status is everything.  They must belong to the 'right' groups and be seen with the 'right' people.  Those people would rather die than lose status."

"You're saying Chapman is one of those people?"

"Absolutely.  If we dig into his past, I'm sure we'll find a high status education and a high status job.  All you have to do is look at Heidi to realize she's his high status wife."

"Okay, but that doesn't explain why he sucked up to the pirates like he did."

"Of course it does, darling.  Different societies have different definitions of high status.  Whatever gave Chapman his status before his capture did nothing for him in a society of pirates.  He had to change who and what he was or face being a low status outsider.  That was the one thing he couldn't accept."

That explained a lot about Chapman's behavior.  "And spacing him would spare him being dragged back into galactic society as a traitor against his fellow prisoners and a spy for the pirates.  God above, even other prisoners will despise him!"

A grim smile played across Callan's lips.  "I have no sympathy for the wretched man.  He brought it on himself."

We climbed the ramp into the Aashla's Hope and headed for the bridge.  Crewmen were hunched over each of the ship's sensor displays.  Laura stood next to Heidi as the comm officer scanned subspace bands for any activity.

"Have you found anything, Heidi?" I asked.

She shook her head.  "All of the bands are clear, David."

"Try broadcasting an SOS on all bands.  And put the comm on speaker."

Heidi's fingers flew across the keyboard.  The sound of the automated SOS signal filled the bridge.  We received a reply within seconds.

"Unidentified ship, what is the nature of your emergency?"

The response was fast and professional.  It had to be a naval ship.

"This is David Rice commanding the Aashla's Hope.  We are currently moored in a pirate base docking bay-"

A new voice broke in.  It held the no-nonsense, take-charge tone you find in experienced officers.

"How dire is your situation?  We're on a hard burn toward the coordinates you provided in your drone.  Can you hold out for another twenty minutes?"

"There's no need to rush, sir.  We've taken the base.  The pirate captains are all dead and the surviving pirates are our prisoners."

There was a pause.  "Then why did you broadcast an SOS?"

"We've taken the base, but there are many wounded, and we have insufficient medical supplies and personnel to attend to them all."

"Understood.  We have a fully equipped medical ship and will make all haste to the base."

"Thank you, sir.  Rice out."

Callan and I went out to the makeshift hospital.  Callan's eyes welled as she looked at the rows of neatly laid out dead, each draped in the flag of his native country.

The marine commander approached.  "Your Highness?  Perhaps you could say a few words?  It would mean a lot to the men."

"Of course, Commander."  Callan touched her comm.  "Heidi, please broadcast my comm through out the docking bay.”

"You're on, Princess Callan."

Callan walked in among the wounded, looking each in the eye and flashing her dazzling smile.  She raised her head and her gaze took in the unwounded marines around the docking bay.

"My brave warriors, Tartegian and Mordanian alike, your world owes you a debt of thanks.  You have fought well."  She looked back to the rows of dead.  "Too many of you have died well."

Callan turned back to the living.  "Today, we have lost friends, brothers-in-arms.  Back home, though they do not yet know it, families have lost fathers and sons and brothers.  Yet these sacrifices have saved lives untold.  Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, brothers and sisters.

"We shall never know how many of them have been saved by your actions here today.  More, those saved will never know they've been saved.  They will sail through space and arrive safely, all because men of honor and courage dared to venture beyond their home world.  They may never know, but I know.

"And I swell with pride to know our countries — our world — produces men such as you.  Well done, gentlemen.  Well done, indeed."

The docking bay rocked with cheers as Callan knelt to speak with one of the wounded.  She was still comforting the wounded when the navy arrived.

Our heroes have survived confrontations with pirates on their home world and in the pirates’ own base.  But how will they handle galactic civilization?  Find out in Chapter 117, coming Friday!