Saturday, April 22, 2017

Star Trader Update - Academy Brats - 020.16

I sat alone on the roof scanning the plain below with my field glasses. I tapped the temple piece to zoom in tighter. Travis had been gone for six days, two over what he estimated.

He refused to take anything will him when he left. No supplies or any weapons that might have made hunting easier. He said he didn’t want to give his fellow prisoners anything they could turn on us if they chose to take it away from him.

Thomas didn’t want him to go and begged him to stay. There seemed to be some story beyond what I had been told – some reason to worry about a more dangerous threat.


I questioned Travis, but he evaded me and even ducked out during the early morning hours before any of us were awake in order to avoid deeper inquiry and prolonged good-byes.

I intended to track him visually from my current perch on the roof, but since I didn’t know exactly what route he took down, I wasn’t able to pick up his trail.

My eyes caught movement and I shifted my gaze toward it. It was a herd of Greza. Hopefully, I scanned the surrounding area looking for Travis. After over thirty minutes of intense eyestrain I raised my glasses and lay back on the warm metal of Ma-rye-a’s hull. I rubbed my eyes.

I hadn’t been worried the first four days, but yesterday when the drone flew over I started to be anxious. Today, Thomas expressed his concern and so here I was, trying to spot a six-foot man in a valley that could have hidden a troop of Galactic Officials with no problem.

“Any sign of him?” Thomas asked as he peeked up over the roof from the steps.

I sat up and shaded my eyes to see him. “Nope, but I’m sure he’ll turn up soon.” I didn’t want to worry the boy.

“How long do you think it will take the Galactic Officials to send a ship?” He sat down beside me and scanned the valley below.

“Ma-rye-a says the closest base is about three days away. So tomorrow or the next day if they don’t have anyone closer they can dispatch.”

“I wish we could go down and look for him. Maybe just a flyover with the pod,” Thomas said as he pulled his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around his legs. “I’m worried. They might have captured him.”

“Who’s ‘they,’” I asked with interest. Travis had sworn me not to follow him if he didn’t return. He hadn’t given me any other reason except we both knew we didn’t want the inmates to commandeer the pod for themselves. He never indicated there was a danger to him. I thought he was the leader of the criminal element on this planet.

“The rest of the colony,” Thomas confessed. “There was a big argument when we found your ship before the digging started.” He laid his head down on his chest and gazed out across the plain. “Barton, he’s a new guy, just arrived about a year ago… He wanted to be the first in the tunnel. He said he wanted a piece of you and your ship.”

That statement made me shiver.

“Travis overruled him, and we went first. He’s not much of a digger, but I do pretty good. Don’t even need a shovel.” Thomas held his hand out and flexed it. He has a wide palm and his nails looked tough as metal spikes. I imagined he was adept at tunneling. “We made good time. When we reached the turret, it was like Travis thought, that it was broken from the impact. Barton was right behind us when Ma-rye-a’s engines started. Travis kicked him in the face to keep him back when the ship started to rock.” Thomas shook his head. “If he wasn’t crushed in the cave in, he would have one awful mad on for Travis. You didn’t fly far and you were directly in the line of site of the colony home.” Thomas pointed toward the cave dwelling I first saw on the other side of the valley. “I’m afraid they might have seen Travis go down there to hunt. I didn’t want him to go. I tried to stop him.” Tear welled up in his eyes.

“I know… I did too.” I reached out and squeezed his shoulder.

*****

It was the next morning, after I got the kids settled into some busy work inside to help pass the time, when I finally found the opportunity to scan the cliff face and then climb up on Ma-rye-a to take a look with my field glasses for any signs of Travis. I was shocked at what I saw.

The inmates of the planet had Travis, there was no doubt about that today. They had cleared an area of the plain directly below us. They wanted to make what they were doing to Travis very visible to us. The men had stripped the tree that was in the middle of the area down to nothing but the trunk and then tied Travis to it. They must have started this late in the afternoon yesterday in order to have gotten this far, but I just hadn’t been looking after about mid-day.

Travis was really worst for the wear. He had been beaten and hung unconscious in his bindings. I inhaled a shaky breath as I scanned him from head to toe. His poncho had been removed and his chest was a series of crisscrossed bloody wounds – probably knife cuts. One of his legs hung at an unnatural angle. There was no doubt in my mind that it was broken and most likely that was how they caught him, but maiming him so he couldn’t outrun them. I couldn’t see his face – it hung forward on his shoulders.

I had to keep the kids inside. They couldn’t see this. Even without field glasses they would be able to make out it was Travis and he was blood soaked. I racked my brain, but I knew I couldn’t take any action to save him.

“Any sign?” Thomas asked as his head and then Tiff’s bobbed up above the roofline.

“No,” I said almost too loud and way too fast. They had surprised me.

Thomas was already anxious. He heard the tone of my voice and immediately turned when he got his feet solidly on the roof.

“NO!” He wailed in emotional pain when he saw Travis.

I came up behind him and laid my hands on his shoulders. “He’s alive.” The readout on my glasses told me I was not lying.

Tiff sucked in breath just as I had when I first set eyes on Travis. “We have to go down and get him.”

“We can’t.” Thomas had a flat, defeated tone to his voice. He must have been given the same lecture I was by Travis prior to his leaving.

“You’re just going to leave him?” Tiff was appalled.

I tried to explain in order to save Thomas putting it into words. “The only way for us to get down there is to take the pod. They know that and will have a trap set for us. That is the reason we don’t see anyone around him. They’re waiting.” I reached out a hand and touched her arm gently. “I can’t take you kids down with me and I can’t allow them to get up here to you and the ship.”

“Then we just stay here and let him die?”

“Not what I had in mind,” I confessed. I did have a plan… of sorts.


(Art by Nicholas Christoph Matthes 1729-1796 - Public Domain)

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