Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Scout's Law - Chapter 20

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Raoul is dead, but he told David much of what the rogue galactics have planned before dying.

I went to Captain Cochran. Assured by the Dancer’s medic that he had tended all of the serious crew injuries, Cochran sat still while the man splinted the captain’s broken leg. I got to Cochran just in time to help set his leg, helping a second crewman hold the captain down during the procedure. Cochran sucked breath through gritted teeth when the medic aligned the bones then turned his pale face my way.

“The Spare Prince is dead?”

“Yes.”

“Good.” Cochran laid his head back on the ground. “He went quickly. Did he suffer?”

“More than you can possibly imagine. I’ve come close to Boost Burnout once and Raoul’s last few minutes were…unpleasant.”

“God have mercy on my soul, but I am not sorry to hear that.”

“Many others will feel as you do when they hear of Raoul’s death. His brother Rupor, who still remembers Raoul before court intrigue changed him, may be the only man who will truly mourn Raoul’s death.”

“Family is like that—using the good memories to paper over the bad,” Cochran said. “But what did Raoul tell you during his last minutes? Did you learn anything useful we can use against these two galactics?”

“Quite a bit, actually, though there’s no ‘we’ in this.” Cochran tried to rise and I gently pushed him back down. “You have a broken leg and half of your crew is injured. You’ll need the uninjured half to take care of you until rescue arrives. Besides, I can move more quickly by myself.”

“We’re miles from the…base? Lair? Whatever you want to call where these galactics are hiding. It’ll take at least two days to get there on foot.”

“Oh, I’ve got an idea about that. One I’ve even used in the past.”

Cochran’s face screwed up in thought for a couple of seconds. “Ah ha! You’re talking about that sand schooner thing you built to chase after your kidnapped princess when you first crashed on Aashla.”

“I am indeed. Captain Cochran, may I borrow the healthy members of your crew to help build it?”

“Mister Yarrow!” Cochran’s first mate materialized beside his captain. “Gather a work crew and do as Mr. Rice instructs.”

The Wind Dancer’s crew worked quickly and efficiently, following my instructions without question. Building the sand schooner within sight of the bodies of three of their fellow crewmen and using supplies salvaged from the wreck of their airship was all the motivation the men needed. Every man working with me volunteered to come with me and watch my back and every man accepted my rejection with a nod of acknowledgement.

We finished the sand schooner late in the afternoon. Several of the less injured crewmen presented me with a sail made from envelope patching cloth and two more gave me a bundle of supplies, including some precious water.

With the whole crew watching, I seated myself on the schooner and ran up the sail. The wind, freshening as the light faded, filled the sail and the sand schooner rolled forward. Cochran offered a salute with the men following suit. I gave a two-fingered salute in return. Then the sail caught the wind and I accelerated away from the crew and wreckage of the Wind Dancer.

The sand schooner rolled along at a steady speed, slowly but surely eating up the miles between me and the rogue galactic base. Piloting the craft took minimal concentration, giving me plenty of time to consider what Raoul told me. The dying man didn’t understand a lot of what he told me, but I understood all of it.

Our two rogue galactics—Thor and Freya, self-selected names for sure—claimed membership in the Association For Indigenous Peoples. Members of AFIP—‘fippers’ in common slang—believe the Federation has a poor record for protecting primitive sentient races who have the misfortune of having their planet colonized by humanity. I’m honest enough to admit that the fippers make some good points and they have helped push through legislation protective of primitive sentients.

Many of the members can be sanctimonious, but that’s about it. The problems come from the fringe fanatics who believe humanity cannot be allowed to live on the same planet with primitive sentients without causing irreparable harm to the nascent culture. This fringe uses violence to sabotage human colonies and, they hope, drive the colonists off the planet. The simple fact that the fipper fringe have never succeeded at this doesn’t bother the fanatics in the least. But there’s a fringe of the fringe, fippers so far out there that the parent organization has officially disowned them.

This farthest out fringe breaks every stricture the fippers hold dear. They find ways to smuggle advanced weapons to the native race and foment armed attacks against human settlements. Thor and Freya, of course, come from this far-flung fringe.

Raoul didn’t know their full plan, but they promised him the throne of Tarteg. In return, Raoul would use the Tartegian Navy to transport armed trogs around the world. The exiled prince thought the pair were crazy and was certain their plan couldn’t succeed, but he managed to convince himself he could win the Tartegian throne before everything went to hell.

I agreed with Raoul that Thor’s and Freya’s plans were doomed to failure. I disagreed that he ever had a chance of winning the throne. But a lot of trogs and humans would die before Thor and Freya were stopped.

Someone had to stop the madness before it ever started. Someone had to fight for trog and human alike. Someone had to make Thor and Freya answer for the laws they’d broken and the people they’d killed.

That someone was me, David Rice, Prince Consort to Her Royal Highness Princess Callan of Mordan. And, by the way, Scout First Class of the Terran Exploration Corps.


Can David put a stop to these fippers? Find out more in Chapter 21, coming Friday!