Monday, July 13, 2015

Scout's Law - Chapter 46

< Chapter 45                                                                                                 Chapter 47 >
David

Outnumbered but fighting gamely, the crew of the Vanguard struggle on against Thor’s men as the Tercel comes to their aid.

My heart swelled with pride and renewed purpose at the sight of the mighty Tercel steaming our way. Even at this distance, we could make out marines and airmen gathering along the railings and preparing to join the battle. If I could just be heard over the din of battle, maybe I could convince Thor’s men to surrender and save lives on both sides. Captain Wright beat me to it.

“Vanguards!” Wright bellowed in a voice capable of carrying to all corners of an airship in combat. It easily rose over the clash of swords. “Our sister ship, the Tercel, comes from the west! Hold out for another minute and we’ll have these blackguards outmanned and trapped between two forces!”

Silence descended as everyone turned and looked west. At the sight of the low-flying Tercel, our men roared in triumph. All around us, the will to fight leaked from our enemies. Their shoulders sagged, the blades dipped, and their eyes darted about as if frantically searching for some place to hide from the approaching airship.

The officer who fought with Wright and me took this quiet moment to note, “The trogs are charging along behind the Tercel!”

Hope flared in the faces of our enemies for a second, then Wright dashed it.

“The trogs must have switched to our side, Lieutenant Arnot. Otherwise, Captain Jorson would have his crossbowmen firing at them.”

As Thor’s men once again lost hope, I called, “Lay down your arms and surrender! On my honor, you’ll be treated fairly.”

A few men dropped their swords and it looked like we had the situation well in hand. Then four of Thor’s men bolted, leaping from the Vanguard’s hull and running off to the east. Then it was as if a dam broke and a hundred or more men ran off after them. Our men were too tired and too outnumbered to give pursuit.

“Let them go, men,” Wright ordered. “We can round them up later.”

“But sir,” Arnot said, “Ensign Marlow led the girl, the other ensigns, and the ship’s boys in that direction!”

Wright and I shielded our eyes as we looked directly into the rising sun. Not more than two hundred yards ahead of the mass of retreating men ran a band of small figures. They stumbled and staggered, obviously exhausted from the overwork in Thor’s base and a sleepless night filled with running and fighting. Excited shouts rose from some of Thor’s men as they caught sight of the group ahead of them.

“They’ll take the lass and those lads hostage and bargain the children’s lives against their own freedom,” Wright said. He looked back over his shoulder at the Tercel. “Captain Jorson won’t know to pursue until he gets here and I doubt he could reach the youngsters in time, anyway.”

My mind went back six years to our return to Aashla after defeating the space pirates and establishing contact with the Terran Federation. I felt again the horrible anguish as Callan and I told Kim that Milo, her younger brother and the last of her family, died so I could live. I saw again the wracking grief which overcame Kim as we delivered the news.

I knew Chris and Jade well enough to feel certain they would put up a fight against Thor’s men. I knew Mordanian ensigns well enough to know they’d follow Chris’s lead. And I knew Thor’s followers well enough to know they would probably kill several of the children while trying to subdue them.

These thoughts must have shown on my face because Captain Wright said, “I don’t think there’s anything we can do to help them, sir.”

“Like hell,” I said and jumped to the ground.

Boost!

As soon as my implant received the command, it flooded my body with adrenaline and my fatigue vanished. I was running as soon as I hit the ground, tearing across the desert in long, strong, inhumanly fast strides. I was dimly aware of the cheering voices of the Vanguard’s crew before I tuned out everything except the backs of the men running ahead of me. The ground blurred beneath my feet as I rapidly closed in on the trailing edge of the retreating men. I considered simply hacking my way through them in the hopes of drawing all attention to me and away from the fleeing children. Certain that would make the leaders all the more desperate to reach Chris and the others, I tried another tack.

“Clear the way or die!” I shouted when I was no more than ten yards from the closest men.

Several looked over their shoulders to see who shouted. Their eyes widened when they saw me bearing down on them. With my churning legs and raised sword, I hoped I was the embodiment of my trog nickname.

Never one to pass up a chance to spout lines like you’d hear in an adventure vid, I added, “Give way before the Hand of Death or feel his wrath!”

To my relief, the men dove aside and I charged into the middle of the mass of men. I gave voice to a wordless battle cry and more men turned to see what was approaching. Some cleared the way, some froze in shock, and others ran all the harder to get away from me. I dodged around one man before swinging my sword in a wide arc before me. The blade sliced across the backs of three men. They all screamed in pain and stumbled.

I leapt at the man directly ahead of me, pushing him farther down before planting a foot on his shoulder and springing forward. I passed over a couple of men who watched me with goggle-eyed astonishment. I saw no open ground to land on so, using the quickness Boost gave me, landed on another shoulder. I felt bone crack beneath my boot as I ran on. I used another man’s head for my next step, driving the man to his knees as I sprang away.

This time, I came down on open ground with only two men between me and the kids. Those men spun to face me, swords swinging in unison. I beat aside the attack from my right and simply caught the other man’s sword arm with my free hand. In riposte, I drove my sword through the man on the right. At the same time, I twisted the other man’s arm and yanked down. His wrist broke and his shoulder popped out of its socket. Yanking my sword free, I ran past the dying man and into the open.

Fifteen yards ahead of me, Chris, Jade, and the rest of the youngsters stood with weapons ready. Jade and two of the ship’s boys held blaster rifles and the others held blades. Their chests heaved from the run and their arms shook with fatigue, but they all wore looks of grim determination which gave way to wonder as I burst from the mob of men.

The charging men ground to a halt, still trying to figure out what had happened. I stopped in the open ground between the two groups and spun to face the men.

“You’ll have to go through me to get to these children,” I said, struggling against Boost to speak slowly and clearly. “The first man who makes a move toward them will die on the end of my blade. As will the second. And the third. And however many others I have to kill before you give up.”

A voice called from inside the mob, “He can’t kill us all! Get him!”

The men before me surged forward!


Can David turn back Thor’s men before they overwhelm him? Find out in Chapter 47, coming Wednesday!