Monday, May 11, 2015

Scout's Law - Chapter 19

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Even Boosted, Raoul cannot defeat David.

Raoul lay at my feet, disconsolately staring after the retreating airship. There was a time—long, long ago—when I had felt sympathy for Raoul and his cruel nickname of the Spare Prince. That was before I got to know him and learned what a back-stabbing, small-minded, revenge-driven jerk he was. When faced with a choice between right or wrong, truth or falsehood, courage or cowardice, I’ve never seen Raoul make the noble choice even one time. Inevitably, his poor choices prove disastrous for others. From Rob, Callan’s lifelong guard, to the three dead crewmen from the Wind Dancer, someone else always paid the ultimate price for Raoul’s stupidity.

I leaned all of my weight onto the foot on Raoul’s back and stuck my sword half an inch into his shoulder. “I said yield or die.”

My foot forced the breath out of Raoul. It mixed with a sharp cry of pain from my shoulder stab, resulting in a ridiculous squeak. Dropping his head onto the ground, Raoul tossed his sword away. “I yield.”

I removed my foot from Raoul’s back and waved my blade before his face. “Get up.”

Raoul struggled to his feet, wincing at the pain from muscles overtaxed by Boost. “What are you going to do with me, Rice? You defeated me even when I could Boost, completely humiliating me in the process. What’s left other than death?”

I pointed to the bodies of the Dancer’s three dead crewmen, around which the surviving crew gathered. “Go over there.”

Raoul stared at me for a few seconds, shrugged and trudged in the direction I pointed. Two crewmen supported Captain Cochran, whose broken leg dangled untreated beneath him. His face screwed up in anguish, Cochran stared down at the bodies. Tears flowed down the captain’s cheeks and he shook his head from side to side as if refusing to recognize the bodies at his feet could bring them back to life.

Cochran looked down on a man about my own age. “How am I going to face Risha and her little boy and tell them Vass is dead? Vass’s boy worshiped him.” Cochran’s gaze shifted to a young man of perhaps twenty years. “Poor Min is at home right now, happy as you please planning her wedding to Thom. And now there won’t be a wedding or a life together.” Finally, Cochran’s eyes slid to the smallest body—a boy no more than fourteen. “And Charlie. God in heaven, I told his mother I’d look after him! How can I even look her in the face after this?”

“Do you see what you have done, Raoul?” I asked. “Not only have you killed three good men, you’ve devastated the lives of countless others who knew and loved those men!”

Every member of the crew turned our way when I spoke. Their distraught faces turned angry at the sight of Raoul. Fists bunched at their sides and a low growl ran through them.

His eyes locked on me, Raoul made an elaborate shrug and said, “Men die, Rice.”

The crew’s low growl rose to a roar and they surged at the exiled prince. True to form, Raoul realized his danger too late. He turned to face the onslaught and immediately Boosted.

With proper training and experience, one Boosted man can defeat a mob in hand-to-hand fighting. Raoul had neither training nor experience. He flailed about, landing lots of punches, but he didn’t analyze the mob’s movements. His dodges kept a few blows from landing, but he didn’t lead his opponents into hitting each other rather than him. Without any tactics on Raoul’s part, the crew soon swarmed over him and pinned his arms and legs. A big, strong crewman knelt on top of Raoul and mercilessly beat the prince’s face to a pulp.

Angry as the crew was at Raoul, they weren’t murderers. A minute or so after they swarmed over Raoul, the beating stopped and the crew just walked away. To my surprise, Raoul’s eyes blinked open and he stared at me through bloody, swollen eyes. The idiot must have kept Boosting through the beating.

Shaking my head in disgust, I said, “Drop Boost and let yourself pass out, Raoul.”

Spitting blood from his mouth, Raoul said, “I can’t.”

“What do you mean?”

“It won’t turn off, Rice.”

“The beating must have damaged it. See if you can find a way to shut down the whole implant!”

Raoul shook his head. “I didn’t even turn Boost on. It just started when the crew attacked.”

“You’ll die from Boost Burnout if you can’t turn it off!”

“I think that’s what he wants.”

“The galactic in the airship?”

Raoul nodded. “He doesn’t want me telling you his secrets. So listen carefully, Rice. You won’t have a second chance.”

I ordered my implant to record Raoul’s words. “Go. Speak as fast as you can.”

For the next six minutes, Raoul told me everything he could about the two rogue galactics and their plans. With each passing minute, the prince’s body grew tauter and his face more drawn. By the final minute, his words came in gasps as he struggled against his body to tell me everything I needed to combat the menace and, I suppose, take revenge for Raoul.

In mid-word, Raoul’s body arched and blood gushed from his mouth as his heart finally burst under the stress of Boost. I closed Raoul’s eyes and searched for some sense of sorrow, some depth of feeling for the man’s death. I felt nothing beyond a sense of relief that Raoul would never endanger me or mine again.

What did David learn from Raoul? Find out in Chapter 20, coming Wednesday!