Friday, June 26, 2015

Scout's Law - Chapter 39

< Chapter 38                                                                                                 Chapter 40 >
Five hundred heavily armed men and trogs charge David’s much smaller force of Mordanian airmen!

As more and more of Thor’s men and trogs joined the charge, the sound of feet pounding on the desert quickly grew from a series of staccato thumps into a constant roll of thunder. Voices rose in defiance, calling for revenge and destruction. Random blaster shots flashed through the air. Some of them blasted chunks from the remains of the Vanguard, others missed entirely, blazing into the dawn.

“When you’re ready, Captain Wright,” I said, gauging the distance between the charging horde and our crossbowmen.

“Bucket brigades,” the captain barked, “begin!”

Three men threw buckets full of sand and dust into the air before the hidden crossbowmen. On the backswing, they tossed the buckets to the ground and then caught the next bucket from the man behind them. All along the line, men, pushed buckets forward then reached back to take another bucket. Much of the sand and dirt settled quickly to the ground, but the air before us also filled with whirling particles of dust.

“Crossbowman, take position!” At Captain Wright’s command, the dozen men bearing crossbows scrambled to the top of the Vanguard’s hull. Six took a knee while the other six stood right behind them. “Pick your targets and fire when ready!”

The first crossbow snapped, then another and another after that. Two hundred yards away, a man stumbled and fell. A second and third man fell as well. Within seconds, the crossbows clicked and thrummed almost without pause as each man fired, reloaded, aimed, and fired again. With such a massive target before them, every shot hit someone—perhaps it was just an arm or leg hit though many times the bolts buried themselves into chests or heads.

Watching as closely as the gray light allowed, I marveled how many of those hit carried blaster rifles. I saw men trampled as they went down ahead of their charging fellows and took grim satisfaction when I saw blaster rifles mangled and broken underfoot.

Meanwhile, a few of the riflemen took time to stop and aim more carefully. Most of those shots were also off-target. The few which were on-target dissipated and lost power in the swirling cloud of dust. A very few shots still managed to get through and hit two men. One took a nasty burn to the shoulder and the other a scorch on the forearm. Both men insisted they were fine and continued firing.

After what seemed like hours of charging, the men and trogs drew too close to maintain our position atop the hull. Everyone retreated to the ground and then moved into our positions within the hull itself. The holes in the sides served as perfect choke points, so we concentrated our men defending those positions. Seconds after everyone was in place, the mass of men and trogs swarmed around the remains of the Vanguard and the real battle began in earnest.

Captain Wright and I ran back and forth through the wrecked airship’s passageways, directing reinforcements to areas most hard-pressed, helping pull wounded men away from the front line, and throwing ourselves into weakening lines and plugging breaches until help could arrive. Yells and cries and the clash of weapons drowned all but the loudest shout, forcing us to rely on hand signals to convey orders. In the close quarters, the stench of sweat and blood and fear permeated everything.

Jade surprised me by popping up all around the ship, taking a couple of shots with the blaster rifle to drive the attackers back for a few seconds, then dashing off to some other part of the ship to do the same. Then someone grabbed a second blaster rifle from a downed attacker and passed it into Chris’s hands. He followed Jade’s lead, with both teenagers concentrating on opposing riflemen. Within a few minutes, we had gathered a dozen more blaster rifles and put them in the hands of those too wounded for hand-to-hand fighting but fully capable of pulling a trigger.

Our men poured shot after shot past our front lines and into the packed men and trogs pushing and shoving to break through. Those at the front recoiled, only to be pushed back into the fight by those behind them. Then some of the shots scored hits deeper into the mass of bodies and those at the back realized their danger. The men and trogs on the outside of the horde backed away and then turned and ran. As each layer of attackers realized that retreat lay open to them, they broke off pushing and took to their heels.

Thirty-six minutes after we retreated inside the Vanguard, the last of our attackers fled!

A ragged cheer rose from our men when the last of the enemy vanished from our sight.

“Well done, Mr. Rice,” Thor’s amplified voice called from well away from the Vanguard. “Once again, you found a clever use for the dirt and dust of this backward planet and somehow managed to find a way to rout my much larger and much better-equipped army. But I am tired of dealing with you and your little band. You have one minute in which to throw down your arms and surrender to my army.”

“And if I refuse?” I yelled, confident Thor could hear me.

“Then I’ll set fire to that hulk you’re hiding in and burn you all alive.”

Is this the end of David’s resistance against Thor and his so-called army? Find out in Chapter 40, coming Monday!