Friday, May 22, 2015

Scout's Law - Chapter 24

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David and Jade huddle in a small crevice as the windstorm blows outside.

I awoke with a start as I felt a hand covering my mouth. My eyes refused to spring open as gummy eyelids resisted my first attempts to pry them apart. Just as I wondered if Boost was required to force the lids apart, both of them slowly pulled apart.

“Shhhh!” Jade hissed.

As my brain came up to speed, I realized the girl’s hand covered my mouth. I nodded slightly so she’d know I understood. I blinked to clear my eyes and my eyelids stuck briefly. The sticking eased with each blink, though my clearing vision revealed very little. Weak light from Aashla’s ring filtered into our crevice, barely illuminating Jade’s green eyes and blond hair a couple of inches in front of me.

The girl pulled her hand from my mouth and whispered in a tight voice, “I heard voices just now.”

Keeping my voice as low as hers, I asked, “You’re facing out—can you see anything?”

She lifted her head and worried eyes peered past me. “Not really. I think the windstorm piled a lot of dirt and small rocks against your back.”

Only when she mentioned the windstorm did I notice the wind no longer shrieked behind me. Then I heard the sound of feet walking through loose stone.

“What’s with this foot search, Van? Ain’t this what that fancy airship is fer?” The voice held the whiny tone of a born follower.

“The bat reez what run it be pleated so’s they sent us.” The second voice was both confident and exasperated. It reminded me of every know-it-all I’d ever met.

“Oh. Can it be repleated, Van?”

“Course it can, Cletus. Didn’t you listen up when we joined?”

The footsteps stopped not ten feet from us. I imagined Van looking at Cletus in irritation.

“I tried, Van, but it didn’t make no sense.”

“They’s got to…” Van paused as if trying to recall exact wording. “Uh, deploy the solar collectors. But they don’t work if’n the sun ain’t up.”

“A’right, Van, but that don’t splain what we’s doing lookin’ around up here. It ain’t like we can pull the sun up.”

“Damn, Cletus, we ain’t looking fer the sun. We’s lookin’ fer survivors from that little airship what the boss said was flyin’ round this here mountain. Someone musta made it since them trogs what was guardin’ up here done disappeared. Now come on.”

The footsteps started again, heading down the mountain and away from us.

“I don’t rightly mind much if’n them survivors kilt a few trogs, Van. Never liked workin’ with them no how.”

The voices faded as the men walked away so we barely heard Van’s response.

“Shut up, Cletus.”

As the footsteps drew farther away, I whispered, “Well, there go a couple of born minions.”

Jade snorted quietly and slapped a hand over her mouth. After composing herself, she whispered, “Don’t do that! What if I’d laughed out loud and brought those two back here?”

Doing my best to imitate Cletus’s accent, I said, “Welp, I figger I could make ‘em think they done found a talkin’ rock. Or if’n they’s got blaster rifles, I ‘spect they’d probably shoot each other.”

The girl clapped a hand over my mouth again. “Shut up before I really do start laughing!”

The exchange eased much of the girl’s tension, so I did as she asked and changed the subject. “I want to get out of this crevice, but we’ll only go if you’re up to it. Did you get any sleep?”

“Yeah, I got enough sleep. It’s not like I did anything really tiring today. Or yesterday.”

“Good. You’ve got better ears than me. Can you hear anything out there?”

Jade listened intently for half a minute. “I can’t hear anything. We’re as clear as we’re ever going to be, David.”

I slowly swept an arm behind me, pushing debris away from my back. Then I rolled out over the remaining hump of junk and rose stiffly to my feet. I cleared more space for Jade and she wiggled out of the crevice. We both took a minute to stretch the kinks out of our muscles.

“Are you feeling okay, Jade?” At her nod, I continued, “Okay. You need to work your way down the mountain and get back to your father. You’ve just got those two idiots to—”

Jade folded her arms and glared at me. “Oh no you don’t, David Rice! You need someone to watch your back up here. And if you run into any more trogs, who’s going to tell them you’re the Hand of Death?”

“I appreciate the offer, Jade, but there’s no way I can take a teenage girl with me any closer to this place!”

“You’ve taken teenage boys on adventures before! Or did the stories get that wrong?” The girl’s glare intensified when I shook my head. “Besides, I’m just going to double back and follow you as soon as you’re out of sight. So either we both go back to my father or we both go on.”

I blew out my breath in exasperation. “You sound just like Callan.”

Jade grinned. “Thank you!”

“Fine, you can come—but only if you do exactly as I say. This is just a scouting mission. We’re going close enough to get a look at what’s going on and then we’re leaving. Is that clear?”

“Yes sir!”

I walked in the direction the trogs and the two minions came from. “Stay close and stay quiet.”

We slipped silently along the path, ears and eyes searching the area for any indication of guards. I was closer to my destination than I’d imagined. A couple of hundred yards later, we came to the edge of a precipice. Looking over the edge, I saw a ladder attached to the rock. It descended to a ledge about thirty feet below us. The top of a second ladder was visible descending from the ledge. Most of that ladder lay in darkness, but I assumed more ladders allowed men and trogs to ascend from the desert floor a good two hundred feet below us.

Bright light spilled from the mouth of a large cave far below, illuminating the desert floor where sat the docking space for the anti-grav airship. Men in chains moved around the airship, cleaning it and making repairs. Even in the dim light, I recognized Mordanian naval uniforms on the men.

Just then Jade caught my arm. “Someone’s coming up the path!”

Are the two moron minions returning or is this someone David must worry about? Find out in Chapter 25, coming Monday!