Monday, March 30, 2015

Scout's Law - Chapter 1

< Scout's Duty - Epilogue                                                                                     Chapter 2 >

I awoke suddenly as something leapt upon me. As another weight landed on my stomach, I risked a glance at Callan. Through tousled raven hair, one green eye cracked open and surveyed the scene. With a groan, she pulled the covers up over her head.

“Daddy! Daddy! Wake up, Daddy!” Two bright green eyes peered at me through equally tousled raven hair from no more than six inches away.

“Don’t be so loud, Anne!” Five-year-old Rob’s head appeared next to my daughter’s. “Mommy’s sleeping.”

Callan’s arms snaked around Rob and pulled him into a hug. “Mommy was sleeping—until the two cutest raiders on Aashla woke her up.”

Rob gave his mother a pained expression. “Anne is cute. Uncle Martin says I’m dashing.”

Callan laughed. “Well, if Martin says it, it must be true. My apologies, dashing raider Rob.”

Anne gave me a serious look. “Can I still be cute?”

I caught Anne’s sides and lifted her above me. “You’ll always be cute to me, honey.”

“Is it time to go in the spaceship yet?” Rob asked, still snuggled against Callan.

“What time is it?” Callan asked.

“Almost six o’clock,” Rob replied. “Aunt Sandra told us to let you sleep late this morning.”

Anne held her arms out to me, so I brought her down into a hug. “Yeah, we’ve been waiting forever to come ask you! And I’m hungry.”

I sat up, throwing aside the covers on my side of the bed. “Well, why don’t the two of you get dressed. I’ll take you down for some breakfast and we’ll let mommy get some beauty rest.”

Anne crossed her arms and glared at me. “Mommy doesn’t need sleep to be beautiful!”

I tapped the end of Anne’s nose. “You’re right, Little One. Sleep just helps her stay beautiful. Now come on you two.”

Callan was up and dressed by the time the three of us came back from breakfast. She took over watching the children while I shaved and dressed for the day. We spent the next two hours making sure everything the kids would need or desperately want was packed. It was good we checked, too, since Anne’s favorite stuffed tammar was still in her bed and Rob’s treasured toy spaceship was under a pile of toy soldiers.

Eventually, Sandra and Harris—his first name is Terrance, but not even my sister uses it—showed up. The couple looked disgustingly well rested.

Sandra cocked an eyebrow at the scene. “I told them to let you sleep late.”

“Oh they did,” Callan said, flashing an evil smile at the couple. “They didn’t wake us up until nearly six.”

“Don’t worry, though,” I added. “Once they get over the excitement of being on a spaceship with their aunt and uncle, I’m sure they’ll let the two of you sleep even later than that!”

The next hour and a half passed quickly as we saw to loading the children’s things onto the shuttle, gave them time to wish farewell to their grandparents—King Edwar and Queen Elaina to the rest of the kingdom—and then got in our own farewells.

“You two behave yourselves for Aunt Sandra and Uncle Harris, okay?” Callan said, hugging them in each in turn.

“And give Grandmama and Granddaddy Rice a big hug and a kiss from me,” I added. “Your mother and I will come join you before you know it.”

Arms around each other, Callan and I waved until the shuttle flew out of sight.

For the next two days, Callan and I tried to adjust to life without the children. It was easy at night, as we could relax in each other’s embrace without worrying about a child’s cry in the night. In the mornings, we found ourselves waking up at six o’clock even without energetic bundles leaping on us.

During daylight hours, we reviewed our plans for an inspection tour of Terran Federation facilities on Aashla. Inspections are an important of the oversight provision in our aid agreement with the Federation. Callan and I alternate tours with Rupor and Heidi, from neighboring Tarteg, so at least one person born in the Federation is present during every inspection.

Finally, we double-checked right of passage documents from every kingdom on our flight path. Satisfied everything was in order, I piloted our small airship into the bright blue sky above Morda. Four Mordanian warships—the real reason the rights of passage were so important—formed up around us and we set course for the first inspection site.

The next week and a half passed without incident. We inspected four sites and found encouraging signs of progress at each site. The fifth site on our tour was new to us. It was a desert research station and was still unpacking when Rupor and Heidi toured six months ago. So you can imagine our surprise when we reached its location and found nothing but a barren, undisturbed wasteland.

We landed and a careful search turned up no indication of what had happened to the station. Even the worst of disasters would leave behind some kind of evidence and this one was no different. Three hours in our search, a shout arose from one of the naval parties.

Rushing to their location, we found the four airman gathered around a grisly sight. A desiccated hand jutted up from the ground!

What happened to the desert research station? Find out in Chapter 2 of Scout’s Law, coming Wednesday!