Monday, July 7, 2014

Scout's Duty - Chapter 118

< Chapter 117                                                                                                   Chapter 119 >
The Aashla’s Hope has arrived at the the nearest space station.

We docked at Velron Station, orbiting the border world of Darthan.  Planets on the edge of Federation territory could rarely afford multiple space stations.  Darthan was no exception.  The single space station served both military and civilian ships and personnel.  As seems to be typical in these situations, space for military ships was limited.  The Aashla's Hope docked in the civilian section.

The first hint of trouble came when some of our crew -- all men and women formerly held by the pirates -- ran out to help the station crew attach magnetic grapples and seal the airlocks.  Thirty seconds later, they all ran back into the ship, sweat-faced and short of breath.

Martin and I exchanged a glance before I spoke to one of the crew.

"Is there a problem, Nora?"

Her wide eyes focused on me and her breathing slowed.  "It's crazy out there, sir!"

"What do you mean by crazy?"

"It's wall-to-wall newsies out there, sir!  Half a dozen of them surrounded me when I tried to help the station crew, all of them pushing and shoving to get my attention, shouting questions the whole time.  I- I'm not used to crowds like that after all the time I spent with the pirates and then you Aashlanders.  I panicked."  Nora looked around at the others who went out with her.  "We all did."

I patted her on the shoulder.  "Why don't you and the others go to the med bay.  Ask Tristan to give you something to calm you down."

Thumbing my comm unit, I said, "Heidi, please have the senior staff meet Martin and me in the Captain's office.  Also, can you tap into the station's vid feeds and find a view of our docking bay?"

"I'm on it, David.  Do you want me to scan the news channels, too?"

"Good idea. Be ready to route what you find to the screens in the office."

A moment later, we stared at the images Heidi sent to the office.  Nora hadn't exaggerated describing the docking bay.  Hundreds of men and women pushed and shoved to get close to our ship’s exits.  Vid cameras swooped over the crowd, somehow managing to avoid colliding with each other.  As bad as that was, the news vids were worse.

One newsie exclaimed, "Word on the station is those aboard this very ship stormed the base of the infamous pirate captains Caudill and Quint, slaughtering every last one of the pirates!"

Another reported, "We have been told that these people from a long-lost human colony lost all technological knowledge but may have gained powerful mental or mystic abilities.  Frankly, viewers, it's the only logical explanation how a band of barbarians could have defeated these pirates."

Callan, Rupor, and Tristan bristled at the speculation.

"Darling, did that man just call us barbarians?"

"Now, Callan-"

Laura pointed to a screen. "Look, it's David!"

An image of me in my cadet uniform filled one screen.

Martin burst out laughing.  "Isn't he adorable?"

His laughter stilled when my image was replaced by one of Martin in his cadet uniform.

Megan wrapped an arm around Martin.  "Don't worry, Martin, you look much cuter than David in that uniform."

Everyone had a laugh at our expense, but I'd seen all I wanted to see.

"Heidi, cut the broadcasts to the office and then get me the commander of the military base."

Several minutes passed before Heidi reported, "I've got an aide to the commander, David.  It's the best I could do."

A harried face replaced Heidi's.  "I have a task force docking as we speak and do not have time for civilian inquiries.  You have thirty seconds."

"I am the reason the task force is here, so you will make time for my inquiries."

"Look, I don't know who you are and I don't care.  I-"

"I am David Rice, Scout First Class and captain of the Aashla's Hope, formerly the ship of the late pirate captain Caudill.  I led the forces which took the base of the late pirate captain Quint.  On board my ship are two future heads of state and diplomats representing a dozen other countries on the lost colony of Aashla.  While you dither about your task force, my people are under siege by a mob of newsies!"

I'd taken exactly the wrong approach with the aide.

"Then I suggest you stay on board your ship, Captain Rice.  We'll contact you when we have time for you."

With a ridiculous flourish, the aide ended the call.

"Back home," Rupor mused, "I could just send some troops to clear out that rabble."

I grinned.  "Well then, let's pretend we're back home!"

The diplomats, former prisoners, and one hundred marines gathered in the cargo hold.  The marines formed up around the civilians and diplomatic personnel and I ordered the cargo hold's airlock opened.

With the marine commander, I led the march through the airlock.  Newsies surged forward when they caught sight of us.

"Commander, if you please?"

The commander's voice carried over the clamor of the newsies.

"Present.  Arms!"

In unison, one hundred swords slid free.  The newsies ground to a halt.

"Marines.  Yell!"

A wordless roar rose from the marines behind us.  The newsies closest to us began inching backward.  The commander motioned with his arm and the marines marched forward.

We stopped for no one and no one dared stand before the bared swords and roaring marines.  Five minutes later, the base commander met us at the entrance to the military section.  With no expression beyond a cocked eyebrow, she welcomed us into her domain.

The civilian reaction to our heroes’ arrival was…boisterous.  How will the military react?  Find out more in Chapter 119, coming Wednesday!