Friday, May 8, 2015

Scout's Law - Chapter 18

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Like David and Martin Bane, Raoul can Boost!

My eyes widened in surprise and I felt my concentration waver from the duel as the implications of Raoul’s pronouncement hit me. If the exiled prince had shown the barest hint of patience and waited two seconds, I’d have dropped my guard entirely and been an easy target for the point of his blade. Instead, Raoul launched a furious attack and my mind snapped back to the task at hand.

One after another, I parried Raoul’s attacks. I also fell back from his onslaught, unable to mount any kind of counterattack. Trained in the art of swordsmanship almost from birth, Raoul’s skill easily surpasses mine with a blade. It’s been almost a decade since the one time the two of us crossed blades on the deck of the Pauline. Raoul had driven me back that time, too. But that time I’d carefully drawn Raoul into a trap.

I deflected another attack, but Raoul’s blade still scored a cut to my upper arm. Raoul grinned and stamped and wove his blade all around before me, leaving me wondering how such a dangerous swordsman could be so utterly unimaginative in everything else he did. A glimmer of hope followed on the heels of that thought. Raoul was quick, strong, and relentless with the sword, but he was also fixated entirely on me. Perhaps I could use that to turn the tables.

I recalled a small pile of debris from the wreck and carefully allowed Raoul to drive me backward to it. A grin split Raoul’s face and grew wider with each retreating step I took toward the debris. No doubt visions of me tripping over the broken timbers played through Raoul’s mind, surely followed by his sword driving through my heart. I fed those fantasies with widened eyes and rapid breathing. Raoul feinted at my shoulder then swept his blade around for a cut to my throat, all designed to force me to step back and trip over the debris. Against any normal man, the plan would have worked even if the opponent knew what was coming.

Because of Boost, I am not a normal man. As Raoul feinted, I launched myself into a backward flip which carried me over the pile of debris and safely to the other side. Expecting some kind of resistance to his attack, Raoul found his lunge unblocked and his forward momentum unchecked. With the choice of taking another step forward or falling on his face, Raoul took a hasty, off-balance step forward—right onto the pile of debris. The broken planks shifted under his weight and Raoul crashed to the ground at my feet.

I planted a foot in the small of Raoul’s back and pressed my sword against his throat. “Yield or die, Raoul.”

A calm, controlled voice speaking in galactic basic, said, “Release him, Mr. Rice, or I shall be forced to order my men to open fire on the crew of your ship.”

Keeping my foot and sword in place, I turned toward the anti-grav airship. A man close to my own height, though probably twice my age, stood on the deck. He wore the everyday clothing of galactic society and an imperturbable expression on his face. It was the look of a man confident in himself and his place in the universe.

“Before making threats, whoever you are, I suggest you take a look at the inner workings of those rifles.” Raoul stirred under my foot so I put more weight on it. “Dissipating your blaster shots was a benefit of our dust cloud, but that wasn’t its primary objective.”

A frown creased the man’s face as he took a blaster rifle from a member of his crew. The frown deepened as he studied the weapon. “Very clever, Mr. Rice. It appears I’ve underestimated you. It won’t happen again.”

The man turned to the four crewmen on the ground and spoke in a language I didn’t know though it sounded like one of the southern city-state dialects. The four men abandoned their positions, grabbing ropes dropped to them from the deck of the airship. As the crew hauled them up to the deck, the thrum of the anti-grav increased. Swinging about, the airship rose into the sky and flew back the way we’d come.

“What the hell?”

The words came from my feet. I’d been so distracted by the galactic on the airship, I’d forgotten all about the former prince. I regarded the man at my feet and shook my head.

“You know Raoul, you can’t pick allies worth a damn.”

What will David do with Raoul and what can he do about the galactic flying away from him? Find out in Chapter 19, coming Monday!