Monday, May 25, 2015

Scout's Law - Chapter 25

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As David peers over the cliff edge at Mordanian airmen forced to work on the anti-grav airship, Jade hears someone coming up the trail toward our heroes!

Two voices conversing in low tones came from around the long curve in the trail. We had mere seconds to get out of sight before the owners of those voices came into view. Only, there was no place to hide at the end of the trail—no handy jumble of boulders, no crevices to slip into, nothing.

If the men had blaster rifles, they’d have us dead to rights. If they only had swords, I could almost certainly win past them though not before they raised the alarm. That meant I had to find a way to take them out quickly and quietly. That left us with only one place to go—down.

“Climb down the ladder, Jade. Do you think you can fit between the ladder and the cliff?”

The girl’s eyes widened in surprise, but she took a quick look over the edge of the precipice and nodded.

“Good. Go down about ten feet then do that. Loop your arms through the rungs and hold tight once you’re in place.”

Having grown up on and around airships, Jade ignored the two hundred foot drop to the desert floor and climbed nimbly down the ladder. Once there was room, I followed her. Jade easily maneuvered to the back side of the ladder and threaded her arms and legs around the rungs. I breathed a sigh of relief knowing she wouldn’t get knocked off the ladder if I were forced to throw anyone over the cliff.

The voices drew closer, talking in low tones and joking like men on a boring duty have done for thousands of years. “It’s a good thing the boss sent us up the side of the mountain. Those two idiots going the other way couldn’t find their own asses with both hands and a mirror.”

“Yeah, but as my old sergeant use to say, there’s a place for morons in every army.” The man paused briefly for dramatic effect. “And that place is between you and the enemy crossbows.”

The other man laughed. “I’ll have to remember that one.” The laughter stopped and the man raised his voice. “We saw the pile of dirt and stones you must have used to conceal yourself under that rock. Whoever you are, we know you came this way because we’d have seen you if you went down.”

The man paused for a few seconds, probably giving me a chance to surrender peacefully. I looked down at Jade and held my finger to my lips. She nodded.

“There’s no place for you to hide up here, so we know where you are. Why not save everyone lots of trouble and come on up? We’re under orders to take prisoners if possible. Otherwise, we shoot to kill.”

Another few seconds passed before I heard the pair resume walking toward the end of the trail. They stopped a few feet from the edge and I heard one of them get down on his hands and knees.

“Cover me.”

The man crept to the edge. I made my move when the top of his head came into view.


My implant poured adrenaline into my veins and time slowed. Above me, the man’s eyes widened at the sight of me. Before he could even open his mouth, I punched him fast and hard in the throat. My blow crushed his windpipe, leaving the man’s mouth opening and closing to no effect. He was already dead, his brain just hadn’t gotten the message yet.

By instinct, the man’s hands went to his throat. His chest dropped to the ground and the man’s body started sliding over the edge. His partner gave a cry, grabbed the dying man’s feet, and pulled him back from the cliff’s edge. With the other guard distracted, I made my next move.

Grabbing the top rung of the ladder, I shoved off hard with my feet and swung feet first onto the edge of the cliff. The healthy guard had just enough time to realize something was wrong before I kicked him hard under the chin. His head snapped back with an audible crack and the man collapsed, his body spasming in the throes of death.

I pulled the asphyxiating guard away from the edge and snapped his neck, giving him a few seconds respite from a particularly horrible way to die. Then I dropped Boost.

Both guards carried blaster rifles, which I took. From the look of the guns, my lesson on weapon cleanliness impressed Thor. The rifles’ delicate electronics were wrapped in airship envelope cloth—not as effective as the molded shells a Federation blaster had, but much better than leaving the rifles open to the elements.

“Jade?” I called in a low voice. “It’s safe to come back up.”

The girl didn’t answer. My heart leapt into my throat for fear she’d lost her grip on the ladder. I rushed to the edge, praying I wouldn’t spot her crumpled on the ledge at the end of the first ladder. I spotted her on the ledge, all right, but she wasn’t injured in the least.

I got there just in time to see her swing onto the second ladder and climb down!

What does Jade think she’s doing? Find out in Chapter 26, coming Wednesday!