Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Scout's Law - Chapter 26

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While David deals with the two guards, Jade disobeys orders and descends toward the desert floor, two hundred feet below!

Swearing silently, I scrambled onto the ladder and climbed after Jade as quickly as possible. The rough-hewn wood of the ladder ruled out the old navy trick of gripping the sides of the ladder and sliding down. Somehow, I doubted a dozen splinters in each hand would prove helpful if more fighting was called for. I settled for taking two rungs at a time, hoping to catch up with the girl before anyone spotted her.

Changing ladders at the ledge, I saw Jade remained well ahead of me. Growing up on airships, the height didn’t bother her and the climbing barely slowed her down. Frustrated, I picked up my own pace, taking three rungs with each step.

“Jade!” I hissed as loudly as I dared. “Stop and tell me what’s going on!”

The girl looked my way and I waved her back to me. She shook her head and pointed down. Another narrow ledge was below her, this one no more than fifty feet from the bottom of the cliff. Having set her terms, Jade turned away and resumed her descent. Cursing silently, I followed after her. Knowing Jade was stopping at the next ledge, I took more sedate two-rung steps the rest of the way down to her.

When I reached the ledge, Jade was stretched out on her stomach gazing intently at the scene below. In other words, I wasted a perfectly good glare on the back of her blonde head. I dropped onto my own stomach so we’d both be harder to spot, putting my face a foot from hers. Even then, the girl kept staring below. I gave the area a quick scan, saw nothing out of the ordinary, and brought my glare back to Jade.

Taking her chin in my hand, I turned her head so she faced me and hissed, “What do you think you’re doing? Is this your idea of doing exactly as I say?”

The girl’s eyes dropped from mine. “I know you told me to stay with you, but—”

“There are no ‘buts’ in this, Jade. This is a terribly dangerous situation made far more dangerous by you haring off like this!” Rather than continue berating her, I went right to my strongest argument. “Would you do something this reckless on the Wind Dancer?”

Jade’s eyes blazed for a moment. “Of course not—someone could get hurt or killed! It would be… irresponsible.” Jade hung her head. “I’m sorry.”

“What made you do something so…” I was going to say ‘stupid’ but thought better of it. Jade was most definitely not stupid. “So impulsive?”

Jade turned her eyes back to the scene below. “I thought I saw someone I recognized.”

I caught myself before telling her I saw dozens of people I knew and once again tempered my words. “Who did you see?”

“Forbose. He worked on another merchant airship and it went missing about a month ago. We took the course past this place so we could look for him and his ship.” Jade laid her head down on her arms. “He’s sort of my boyfriend.”

“Ah, so I have competition for your affections.”

Jade snorted a short laugh. “You’re just a handsome fantasy for me and my friends. Sort of like Callan and all the boys I know—except the boys have it a lot worse for Callan.”

“That makes sense. After all, she is the most beautiful woman on eight planets.”

“Yeah, don’t remind me. How can we girls hope to compete with Callan, even if she is nothing more than a fantasy for the boys?”

“Just be your smart, snarky, funny self. Any boy who doesn’t appreciate that isn’t worthy of you anyway.” I turned my gaze down to the anti-grav airship and all the activity around it. “And mentioning boys appreciating you, do you see Forbose down there now?”

Jade stared hard at the cave mouth and desert floor, her eyes sweeping methodically back and forth over the scene. After a minute, her head rose up and her stare intensified. She pointed toward the right side of the mouth of the cave. I sighted along her arm and spotted a young man about Jade’s age.

The boy lifted a small ladle out of a metal tub sitting at his feet, bringing the ladle to his mouth. After drinking his fill, he poured water over his head and let it run down his neck.

“That is Forbose!” Excitement drove Jade’s voice from a whisper to a low speaking tone. “Oh, David, we’ve got to find a way to rescue him!”

Dropping the ladle back into the tub, Forbose bent over and picked up something leaning against the tub. As he rose, the light from the cave illuminated the object in the boy’s hands. Forbose cradled one of Thor’s blaster rifles.

Jade gasped. This time when she spoke, her voice was barely audible. “No. No. That can’t be! Not Forbose!”

As the two of us watched, three men chained together staggered toward the tub. Forbose rose to his full height, brandished his blaster rifle, and stepped between the men and the tub. The three men argued or pleaded with Forbose, pointing several times at the tub of water. Jade’s boyfriend—almost certainly now her ex-boyfriend—stood fast, waving for the men to go back to work on the airship. When the three didn’t immediately leave, Forbose rammed the butt of his blaster rifle into the stomach of one of the men. The man doubled over and stumbled back into one of the other two men. They both tripped over the chains and fell down, leaving the third man in clear sight for the first time.

It was my turn to gasp as the light fell across the face of Ensign Chris Marlow!

The trogs didn’t kill the ensign after all, but what can David do to help him? Find out in Chapter 27, coming Friday!