Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Scout's Law - Chapter 47

< Chapter 46                                                                                                 Chapter 48 >
On board the Tercel, Callan faces off against Thor, commander of the men attacking David and the crew of the Vanguard.


Much as I wanted to watch the battle and reassure myself David was safe, I knew Thor could be the key to ending the conflict as soon as possible. Turning back to him, I studied the devices the marine took from Thor. I couldn’t figure out what most of the things did, but two were obvious. Keeping the blaster pistol and the comm, I handed all but those two items back to the marine who captured him, then ordered the marines holding Thor to bring him to the bow rail.

“Your men are going to lose, Thor,” I said, pointing at the distant battle. “This is your chance to save a few lives. When I hold the comm to your mouth, order the men to surrender.”

Thor laughed, drawing a rough shake and glares from the marines. “Show some respect!”

“Or what? You’ll kill me?” Thor looked me in the eyes, calm despite the situation. “I could not care less about the lives of any of those men fighting over there. If their deaths can also buy the death of your planet despoiling husband, I’ll die knowing my sacrifice was worthwhile.”

I cursed myself silently for not turning the comm on before speaking to this strange man. That one admission could have spurred exactly the surrender I wanted. I thumbed the unit on, hoping Thor might see fit to say something equally damning.

“I don’t understand you one bit,” I said. “How can you hate humanity so much that you’re willing to throw away the lives of those who serve you?”

Shifting his eyes to the comm, Thor smiled and said, “The Mordanians have taken me. Press the attack and avenge me!”

I nodded at one of the marines and a fist slammed into Thor’s stomach. His breath whooshed out of him, leaving him incapable of speaking. Raising the comm, I said, “This is Her Royal Highness Princess Callan of Mordan. Throw down your arms and surrender. You have my word you’ll receive fair treatment and fair trials.”

“Well, well, if it isn’t the media darling herself,” said an unknown, feminine voice. “I’ve turned off the links to the comms worn by our men. They haven’t heard a word since you first turned the comm on.”

“And you must be the lady of the base. Freya, isn’t it?” I replied.

“That’s the name I’ve used on this operation.”

“I don’t suppose you’d be willing to tell me your real name?” I asked. “I so dislike using false names.”

“Says the woman who uses one name and three titles when introducing herself,” Freya sneered. “Besides, I haven’t used my birth name in decades. You’ll just have to make do with what you know.”

“Have it your way. I’m sure the Terran Federation will discover your real name when we turn you over to them.”

Soft and sultry laughter came from the comm. “You’re not going to capture me, little princess, and you’re not going to hold Thor for much longer.”

Despite his wheezing, Thor managed to gasp out, “Farewell, my love. Savor this revenge!”

I looked at the man in alarm, recognizing someone accepting the idea of his own death. “Throw him overboard!”

The marines didn’t hesitate, tossing Thor over the railing immediately. The marine who had captured him tackled me to the deck a second before the explosion. With sickening splats, pieces of Thor landed on the deck. A thin red mist rose next to the Tercel before drifting away on the wind.

“Are you hurt, Your Highness?” demanded the marine who tackled me.

All around us, officers and airmen rushed to our aid. Men shouted as I tried to reassure everyone. Then Dr. Mach pushed through the crowd and knelt next to me.

The doctor’s eyes roamed over my body with a detached professionalism I rarely received from men. “I don’t see any injuries, Your Highness. How do you feel?”

“I feel quite grateful to the sergeant and his men for their quick reactions, Doctor. Now, if you would all stop hovering, I’d like to get up.” I smiled to take any possible sting from my words. Once back on my feet, I turned to Captain Jorson and asked, “How goes the battle?”

Now reassured I was unhurt, the crew quickly turned their attention back to the battle. Seconds later, Jorson said, “The Tercel has been seen, Your Highness, and it looks like our arrival has taken the fight out of our enemies. They’re surrendering!”

A cheer rose from the crew and I felt my knot of tension loosen. Lieutenant Tucker, his spyglass still raised to his eye, spoke over the cheers, “A good hundred of the cowards have taken to their heels, Captain, and are running off into the desert.”

Grinning broadly, Captain Jorson said, “A fat lot of good that will do for them, eh? They’ll come crawling back to surrender when they get thirsty!”

“I am less certain of that, sir,” Tucker replied as he unconsciously leaned forward. “It looks like Captain Rice has Boosted and is pursuing them!”

My knot of tension tightened once again. “Can you see why he’s chasing them, Lieutenant?”

“I’m looking, Your Highness, but—” Tucker froze for an interminable second, his glass locked on something far beyond my unaided sight. “Good God, it’s the Vanguard’s ensigns, the ship’s boys, and a young woman! An officer must have ordered them away before the battle began, but they’re too tired to run fast. If Thor’s men catch them, they’ll negotiate the lives of the youngsters against their own freedom!”

“Does the crew of the Vanguard have their situation well in hand?” I asked.

Jorson swung his spyglass back to the wrecked airship. “They do, Your Highness. Shall we go to Captain Rice’s aid?”

“Yes, Captain, and at all possible speed,” I replied, silently praying we could reach David in time.

“Mister Montgomery!” Jorson called across the deck. “We need all the speed you can coax from the engines!”

“Aye aye, sir!” Montgomery said, unabashed glee evident in his voice. “And thank you, sir!”

The roar of the engines increased immediately. The airship’s big propellers thrummed louder as they spun faster and faster. To my surprise, I had to catch hold of the railing to keep from losing my balance as the big airship surged forward. The Vanguard's crew waved as we passed overhead, cheering us onward.

I raised a hand to shield my eyes as I squinted into the bright morning sunlight. I made out a single figure—David, of coursestanding between the mob of men and the children. Then, to my horror, the men sprang toward my husband!

Can David hold Thor’s men off until the Tercel arrives? Find out in Chapter 48, coming Friday!