Friday, June 5, 2015

Scout's Law - Chapter 30

< Chapter 29                                                                                                 Chapter 31 >
Fresh from their escape from the galactic’s base, David leads his men down the mountain.

As the line of airmen got underway, I fell in beside Chris and Jade. The girl had Chris’s right arm draped over her shoulder, providing support while staying away from his injured ribs. Life on an airship gave Jade strength beyond that of an average sixteen-year-old girl, but Chris was both taller and heavier than she was. Jade wore a determined expression and I thought she’d rather collapse with exhaustion than let down the boy who rescued her from the cliff. Chris’s face was equally set and I was sure he’d rather die than show weakness before the pretty blonde.

“Listen up you two.” Chris and Jade looked at me. “Speed is of the utmost importance right now. The longer it takes us to get off this mountain, the greater the chance we’ll have to fight our way off of it. In other words, this is not the time to try to be an ironman, Chris. You took a hell of a beating fighting Forbose.”

Chris interrupted, “How do you know that guy’s name? Is he from one of the other navy ships?”

“No,” Jade answered. “I…know him. Or at least thought I knew him.”

“Anyway,” I took back control of the conversation, “if you’re having trouble keeping up with the rest of us, you must tell Captain Wright or me. Your injuries were honorably earned in the service of your country. The men will want to help you. Is that clear?”

“Yes, sir.”

Jade added, “Don’t worry. If he gets stubborn I’ll call you.”

“That’s nothing less than I’d expect from our medic.” I smiled briefly at the girl before hardening my gaze. “But what I said to Chris applies equally to you, Jade.”

“Huh?”

“Don’t let your desire to help Chris keep you from asking for help supporting Chris. You’re going to have to switch out with some of the men eventually. Do that as soon as you feel tired. Chris doesn’t want you wearing yourself out any more than you want him doing it.”

Jade nodded. “Okay.”

Chris grinned. “And if she gets stubborn, I’ll call you.”

I rejoined Captain Wright at the front of the column. I told him about my instructions to Chris and Jade, then asked, “How are the men set for weapons?”

Wright grimaced. “Rather poorly, sir. The young lady’s blaster rifle fell when she rolled over the cliff’s edge. There were no swords on board that airship, of course. We’ve mostly got makeshift clubs.”

“Did the trogs plunder the wreck of the Vanguard after they captured you?”

“Not that I saw. After all, why take swords when you’ve already got blaster rifles?”

“Okay, we’ll go back to the wreck and arm ourselves as best we can,” I said, “Our enemies have better weapons, but they can only fire so many times before running out of power.”

“I don’t suppose you can be more specific than that, sir?” Wright asked.

“A Federation manufactured blaster has approximately fifty shots per power pack.” Wright winced at the answer and I added, “But these blasters are hand-made from spare parts. The work is very clever, I’ll grant you, but I doubt his batteries are up to galactic standards. His rifles are probably less efficient with their energy usage, too.”

“I wish your reassurances used fewer words like ‘doubt’ and ‘probably,’ sir.”

“Me, too, Captain.” I was quiet for a few seconds as I considered the trail ahead of us. “Do you have a couple of particularly stealthy men in the crew? I’d like to send some scouts ahead of us.”

Wright selected Jon, a reformed thief, and Horst, a hunter, sending them on their way after I told them where to find the cave which led into the base. All the while, we kept the men moving as quickly as possible. In passing, I noted Jade summoning an airman to take her place supporting Chris. Free to roam, Jade took the chance to check up on other wounded men. She instructed two to come to her at the next rest stop for a change of bandages, receiving a respectful “Yes, ma’am” in reply both times.

During that next rest stop, one of our scouts returned bearing a wide grin and another blaster rifle. The two scouts found Cletus and Van napping by the trail, tied and gagged the pair of idiots with their own clothing, and split up. Jon returned with one of the rifles while the hunter covered the cave exit.

“The trail is clear right now, sir. With that rifle, Horst can probably hold that cave exit long enough for us to get past it,” the former thief reported. “I’d like permission to run ahead with one of the rifles and help him hold the trail.”

At my nod, Jon turned and ran down back the way he’d come. Once Jade finished changing bandages, we got everyone up and moving double time after Jon.

For once, fortune smiled on us. We passed the cave without incident, picking up Jon and Horst along the way. The scouts had exchanged a little fire with trogs and men exiting the cave. I don’t know what ran through Thor’s mind, but he didn’t waste lives trying to break past our men. No doubt there was another exit somewhere within a mile of the cave. I expected we still had a fight coming, I just hoped it would happen on terrain of our choosing.

Half an hour later, we reached the wreck of the Vanguard and the men immediately hunted up swords for everyone. By a stroke of luck, a dozen crossbows escaped the fires. Our good mood lasted all of ten minutes.

“Men and trogs are coming!” one of our lookouts called.

Finding myself relieved the waiting was over, I called, “How many of them did Thor send against us?”

“At a guess, sir, I’d say all of them!”

I bounded to the top of a piece of wrecked hull and looked at the mountain. At least five hundred men and trogs advanced on us!


Can the surviving airmen hope to stand against Thor’s men? Find out in Chapter 31, coming Monday!