Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Scout's Law - Chapter 17

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Raoul’s airship drives the Wind Dancer into the ground!

Captain Cochran grabbed my arm and pulled me toward the stern railing. “Jump!”

All around the deck, crewman dove off the ship. As Cochran and I vaulted into open air I swore the ground was a lot more than twenty feet below us. We hung there for a second which lasted an hour then we plunged toward the ground. Behind us, the Wind Dancer continued its grinding disintegration against the hard-packed ground of the desert.

When I reached the ground, I did just as my trainers at the academy taught me to do. I hit with my knees bent to absorb some of the impact then let my entire body collapse into a momentum-draining roll. Pain lanced through my ankles, knees, and hips before the roll spread the hurt around to all parts of my body. When I finally rolled to a stop, I took quick stock of myself, flexing my legs and arms and twisting my neck. Everything ached but nothing was broken, so I struggled to my feet.

Cochran lay a few feet away holding his leg and cursing. I knelt next to him and pulled his hands away from his leg. It was obviously broken.

“I’m not dying,” Cochran said through gritted teeth. “Go check on my crew.”

I rose to my feet, sketching a salute. “Aye aye, Captain!”

I’d love to recount how I sprinted to the wreck to look for survivors, but the truth is the best I could manage was a fast hobble. My ankles and knees screamed with every step I took so I ordered my implant to release painkillers into my system. Within seconds, my speed increased to a slow jog. I called out to crewmen as I passed them and found none in desperate need of assistance. Two of the men were dead, but even they had grief-stricken friends taking care of their bodies.

The wreck of the Dancer spread out from the impact point for seventy or eighty yards, with timber scattered and piled all along its path. A few fires burned but, through some miracle, neither boiler exploded. Both had great holes in them from burst seams and the metal ticked and popped as it cooled. Moans and cries for help rose from half a dozen places and a few of the healthier crewmen were already helping free trapped men and move those too injured to move themselves.

As I surveyed the scene, deciding where I could be the most helpful, I heard a low thrumming from overhead. The anti-grav airship hovered ten feet above me. Half a dozen men trained blasters on me as Raoul smiled in triumph.

“Going somewhere, Rice?”

“Yes, Raoul, I’m going to help the crew of the airship you just wrecked.”

“I wouldn’t have wrecked them if they hadn’t taunted me!”

“Yes, you would.” I turned and resumed walking toward the nearest crewmen working to free a man buried under broken timber.

“Stop where you are or I’ll order my men to shoot!”

If Raoul was going to shoot me, he’d have already done it. At least, I hoped that was the case. “Is this how you repay me for rescuing you in the tunnels under Beloren?”

“I could have escaped on my own!”

“Then why didn’t you?” I reached the mound of debris and pulled a long, broken board from the pile. “Face it, Raoul, without Martin and me you’d have been tammar food. Now please shut up so I can get on with my work.”

The men and I worked for about a minute before I felt the prick of a sword in my back. I marveled that Raoul was stupid enough to abandon his superior position and superior firepower.

“Draw your sword and face me, Rice.”

I stepped away from the crewmen and drew my sword. Turning around, I found Raoul in a classic dueling stance. Four of his men—all armed with blaster rifles—stood well back from him, keeping watch on the crew. The rifles looked dusty, but I was too far away to see if the inner workings were dust fouled.

Raoul slashed the air with his blade. “Let’s go, Rice!”

Far be it from me to deny Raoul his little duel.


Adrenaline poured into my veins, time slowed, and my aches vanished. I flicked my blade at Raoul’s wrist to disarm him, then I could put my sword to Raoul’s throat and force his crew to surrender.

I was already stepping forward to grab Raoul when he parried my blade and sliced at my own wrist. Shocked, I barely pulled my arm back in time to avoid the thrust.

Raoul danced back lightly and he did not move in slow motion.

“Surprise, Rice!” Raoul said. “You and Bane are no longer the only men on Aashla who can Boost!”

Where did Raoul get an implant? Can David defeat Raoul with the advantage Boost gives him? Find out in Chapter 18, coming Friday!