Monday, June 1, 2015

Scout's Law - Chapter 28

< Chapter 27                                                                                                 Chapter 29 >
David charges off to rescue Chris and the two airmen chained to him!

It only took a quick look at everyone crowding around the fight to verify Chris and the two men chained to him were the only ones without weapons. That meant everyone except the three Mordanian airmen were excellent targets for Jade. I raised my sword and pointed it at the big knot of men and trogs ahead of me.

A blaster bolt flashed over my head, hitting a trog in the butt. He grabbed at his backside and fell, howling in pain. A few of the men standing next to him gave him curious glances. Just as they turned their attention back to the fight, another bolt struck. The man to the trog’s left gaped as the bolt blew his arm off. More members of the crowd turned at the man’s inarticulate cry. One of them spotted me—ten feet from the mob and just raising my sword—and shouted in alarm.

Boost!

I swung my sword in a wide arc, slashing deep cuts in five men across shoulders, chests, and arms. Blood—human red and trog blue—splattered the ground and others in the crowd. Two blaster rifles and three swords dropped to the ground as the wounded men fell away from me and out of my path. But that wasn’t possible for the man directly between Chris and me.

The man tried backpedaling but the rest of the crowd blocked his way. A third blaster bolt hit the crowd to my left as the man before me raised his hands as if to ward off my next blow. I rammed my blade through his chest and up to the hilt. His eyes bulged as he folded around the sword through his gut. I caught one of his raised arms, holding the man up and using him as a battering ram against the crowd.

A fourth blaster bolt hit the crowd. Between the screams of the men and the rain of rifle shots, the crowd finally figured out something was wrong. Heads swiveled and necks craned as they tried to see what was going on. The bloody blade protruding from the man I held nicked another man as he dove from my path and then plunged deeply into the chest of a trog.

Finding myself in a widening clear spot, I stopped long enough to put a foot onto the chest of the man impaled on my blade. I pushed with my foot, pulled with my arm, and my sword slid free from the man and the trog. They fell in a heap before me.

I bounded over the dying beings toward the last few men between me and the airmen. While I was in midair, someone from the anti-grav airship opened up with the blaster rifle. In the light spilling from the cave, my sword glistened red and blue. Splotches of human and trog blood covered my face and chest. With the flash of blaster bolts streaking past me, I like thinking I truly appeared as the Hand of Death come reaping. The men and trogs before me must have agreed as they broke and scattered before I touched ground again.

For a second, Forbose stared at me in horrified fascination. Then Chris’s fist struck the larger boy under the chin. Forbose’s head snapped back, his eyes rolled up, and he slowly toppled backward.

From the cave came many voices and what sounded like the clatter of weapons. I shouted, “Men, get to the airship! It’s time to go!”

Chris and the other two airmen caught sight of me for the first time. As their eyes widened, I realized they’d been so intent on the fight with Forbose the outcry behind them hadn’t fully registered. Surprise rooting them in place, the trio stared in wonder at the confusion and carnage between them and the airship.

Men and trogs lay all around, bleeding and moaning, as blaster bolts blazed from the airship and Jade’s position on the cliff. Meanwhile, I had a clear view of men and trogs massing in the cave.

Waving to catch the attention of my two gunners, I pointed into the cave mouth. Jade immediately shifted her aim and peppered the entrance to the cave with shots. The gunner on the airship followed suit and had the advantage of a better angle. His shots flashed into the massing crowd, sewing panic and confusion.

By this time, Chris and his friends were moving, running as fast as their chains allowed. That wasn’t very fast, though, especially when the gathering force in the cave started returning fire. I took a second to look at the chain and was relieved to see it was of Aashlan origin instead of a much sturdier one from the Federation.

With Boost-backed strength and precision, I hacked at the smallest link in the chain. Tempered steel struck iron and the link shattered. That left Chris and an older airman still chained together. I struck again and all three men ran free.

The first airman reached the airship and the men onboard pulled him over the railing. At the same time, fatigue overwhelmed the older airman. He stumbled and would have fallen on his face had Chris not caught him. The ensign staggered as he took the old man’s weight and I feared both would fall.

I took the older crewman’s other arm. “I’ve got him, Chris! Just concentrate on running.” The young man released the other man, allowing me to lift him over one shoulder. Boosted muscles let me keep pace with the now-sprinting ensign.

More blaster bolts shot all around us and I heard Captain Wright order his men to take cover behind the railing. All but the men assigned to help us climb onboard ducked out of sight. Blaster bolts scorched the side of the airship as Chris jumped to the waiting arms of the crewmen. As the young man’s feet disappeared into the airship, I crouched and jumped. Even with the extra weight, I almost cleared the railing. My knees cracked painfully into the top of the railing and I toppled over into the airship. Safe for the moment, I dropped Boost.

I longed to sheath my sword, but only a fool puts a bloody blade into a sheath. Carefully pointing the blade down at the deck, I called, “Where are the airship’s controls?”

A dozen arms pointed me aft. Heading that way, I called to the only crewman whose name I knew offhand. “Chris, we’ve got to get the gunner from the cliff on our way out. Get forward to lend a hand!”

“Aye aye, sir!”

I reached the airship controls and found myself staring at an odd combination of galactic high tech and Aashlan low tech. Fortunately, I was one of only a handful of men on the planet who understood both technologies. I checked the system’s power level and was gratified to find a ten percent charge. I flicked switches for each of the five repulser plates and fed power to the engines at the same time.

“Captain Wright, send men below to feed the boiler. We’ve got just enough pressure to maneuver but not much more.”

“Aye, Captain Rice,” Wright said before issuing orders to his men.

More blaster bolts sizzled in the air as those in the cave fired at us. Worse, a few rifles were turned on Jade. She stopped shooting altogether as shots peppered her place on the cliff. The density of fire remained far lower than I’d feared but it only took one well-placed shot to ruin everything.

I twisted the power dial and the airship rose gracefully into the air. I cautiously engaged the engines and swung the ship toward Jade. “Are you ready, Chris?”

“I am, sir! Please hurry—the shots are landing all around your man on the cliff!”

The bow wasn’t more than twenty feet from the ledge when disaster struck. A hail of well-aimed blaster shots landed all around Jade. By instinct, she rolled away from them—right over the edge of the cliff!


Will the courageous young woman plunge to her death? Find out in Chapter 29, coming Wednesday!