Monday, July 20, 2015

Scout's Law - Chapter 49

< Chapter 48                                                                                                 Chapter 50 >
The fight is over and all appears well for our heroes when Thor’s mountain base suddenly explodes!


David and I whirled to face the mountain a few miles off. Dust billowed all about Thor’s base, blocking our view. The wind slowly carried the dust away, revealing the mountaintop in time for us to see some of the surface crumble and collapse in on itself.

“It looks like someone collapsed the cave entrance we discovered…” David’s voice trailed off for a moment. “God, can it only have been yesterday morning?”

I took out the comm the marine had taken from Thor and stared at it. “Was any of this really worth dying for, Freya?”

David cocked his head, eying the comm. “Where did—”

I realized I hadn’t turned off the comm when Freya’s voice issued from it. “You’re right, little princess, none of this was worth my life. It was worth a lot of other people’s lives, though. In that light, I’m sure you can understand why I wasn’t in that ridiculous mountain base.”

I stared at the comm unit with incredulity. “No, Freya, I can’t understand any of this.”

David gently took the comm from me and spoke into it. “This whole situation is extremely convoluted and expensive—especially for an AFIP operation. You guys are usually quite straightforward—find a way to arm the primitives and then attack the nearest human city. I didn’t even know AFIP had the skill and resources to do something as delicate as implant surgery.”

Freya laughed merrily, “Yes, the fippers are a depressingly direct bunch of idiots. And no, left to themselves they couldn’t have stolen working diplomatic and military implants, much less surgically installed them. They were quite happy to have a ‘recruit’ who could do both. Thor and that exiled princeling were quite excited to get their implants. Men are so easy to manipulate—dangle power, sex, or revenge before them and they’ll fall all over themselves to do your bidding. I’m sure the little princess knows exactly what I mean. I’ve seen how you fawn over her, Rice.”

Confusion spread over David’s face. “You’re not a fipper?”

“My, you are slow on the uptake. And here I thought you Scouts were supposed to be smart. Maybe all that honor, oaths, duty, and trustworthiness dulls the mind,” Freya said, her voice thick with condescension. “Why don’t you be a good little man and hand the comm back to the princess.”

I took the comm back from David. “I don’t know who you think you are, you pathetic woman, but you do not threaten my planet, kill my people, and insult my husband! You sound just like one of those supercilious galactic diplomats I’ve dealt with ever since Aashla established contact with the Terran Federation. You expect us to fall all over ourselves to get our hands on your cast off technological baubles and then act surprised and offended when we don’t sign over all of our mineral rights for a pile of cheap crap. You and your kind make me sick.”

“A very impassioned speech, little princess. No wonder everyone either loves or loathes you,” Freya replied. “Anyway, it’s been fun chatting but now it’s time for me to get on with my real mission.”

“You do realize you’re going to stand out here on Aashla,” I said. “You don’t know our customs and you sure the hell don’t understand a woman’s position in this world.”

“You’d be amazed how much information the Federation has gathered on your world, little princess,” Freya sneered, “and it’s all stored in my implant. So don’t you worry about me—I’ll fit right in.”

I laughed at Freya and it was not a pleasant sound. “Thank you, Freya. We’d have caught you eventually, but now I know we’ll have you within a few days.”

“Nice try, princess, but I know better,” Freya said. “I might die from bad luck—barbaric worlds like yours have all sorts of ways to kill—but no one will capture me. I’m just that good at what I do.”

“I’m sure you’ll believe that right up until you find yourself standing before me in the Mordanian Court,” I said. “Then I’ll teach you the true meaning of barbaric. You will beg me for the blessed release of death before I’m finished with you.”

I thumbed the comm unit off and dropped it in a pocket. Looking up, I found David, Jade, and Chris staring at me.

“What?” I asked.

A leer spread across David’s face. “God, you’re sexy when you play the barbaric princess!”

Chris and Jade blushed bright crimson and quickly turned away.

“I wasn’t playing, David—at least not entirely. That woman has a lot to pay for and I am going to collect her debt.” I said. Running a finger lazily down David’s arm, I flashed my best sultry smile and added, “But I’ll be happy to treat you to a night of enthusiastic barbarism when we get home.”

“But how are you going to capture one woman out of millions?” David asked. “That’s hard enough on a Federation world where everyone carries identification and every transaction leaves a digital footprint. But here—”

“Even though you’ve lived here for nine years, David, sometimes you still think like a Federation citizen,” I said. “Freya admitted she has an implant and the Federation has sensors capable of finding anyone with one.”

“Sure they can, but the implants don’t broadcast the owner’s identity,” David said. “Do you have any idea how many people have implants?”

“On your home world, millions,” I said. “On Aashla, eighty-six. Eighty-seven if you count Freya.”

David’s eyes widened in surprise. “You’re right, I was still thinking like a Federation citizen.”

“And so is Freya,” I said. “I’d love to see the look on her face when she’s captured.”

From the deck of the Tercel, we heard Captain Jorson issuing orders and organizing teams to return to the mountain base and search for survivors. David looked up at the airship and said, “I should join one of those teams.”

“You most certainly should not, darling! How many times have you Boosted since you last slept?” I asked. When David looked down sheepishly without answering, I continued, “That’s what I thought. You’re going to rest and get something to eat. The Mordanian Navy will find a way to manage without your help.”

A few feet away, Jade said, “David hasn’t removed you from my care, Chris, and it’s my opinion you are too injured to join a search team.”

“But Jade—” Chris tried to protest.

“Don’t make me appeal to a higher power, Ensign!” Jade said. “I am certain Callan—um, Her Highness—will agree with me.”

“She’s right, Chris,” I called to the teenagers. “But since you desperately want to do something useful, you can take one of the Tercel’s pinnaces and escort Jade back to her family.”

Jade looked distinctly uncomfortable at my suggestion. “Dad’s going to be awfully mad at me for flying off.”

“But he’ll be even more relieved to know you’re safe,” I said. “Chris, are you up to this onerous duty?”

“Flying a pinnace?” Chris asked. “Sure.”

I shook my head. “I meant are you up to meeting Jade’s parents? For some reason young men always get nervous about that.”

“Um, I think so?” Chris replied.

“Just let Jade introduce you, Chris,” David said. “You risked your own life to save hers. Fathers tend to appreciate that sort of thing.”

“It sounds like I’ve missed all sorts of excitement,” I said, linking my arm in David’s. “Let’s board the Tercel and you can tell me all about it while the crew prepares a pinnace.”

David let Jade and Chris tell most of the story, only speaking up to downplay his own role or to highlight the courage of others. By the time Jade and Chris left in the pinnace—Jade pulled rank on Chris and took the controls—I had most of the story. David was asleep before the pinnace was out of sight.

Will Terran Federation representatives find Freya? And what will Jade’s parents think of Chris? Find out in Chapter 50, coming Wednesday.