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Stories from the Verse
In Verse Proportion
Chapter 4: Kondor 173
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Previous chapter: Brown 196
For quite a while sitting on the wall overlooking the river, Kondor was trying to both relax and maintain vigilance awaiting the next action of the enemy. He ate another orange, but warned himself to take it slowly on the food, both because he didn’t know for how long they would be out here and because he didn’t want to have to find a latrine in the middle of a battle.
Finally the action happened. His “Whoa!” was enough to alert Zeke, who turned toward the far shore. A group of soldiers was running, carrying a boat. The way they were positioned, it would be very hard to shoot the boat, and Kondor was still just a bit reluctant to shoot the soldiers if he could avoid it. Thus he hesitated. As he did, the second boat appeared, similarly carried by soldiers.
Zeke appeared to have the same hesitation; getting a clean shot on the boat was not an option. “Should I shoot the men?” he asked. Kondor stared for a moment.
“Wait,” he said. “I have another idea.”
The first boat hit the water, and about half the soldiers who were carrying it leapt into it.
“Remember that mental chopping force Lauren taught us?”
“Sure. Haven’t really done much with it. Thought of trying to cut my food, but there isn’t much to cut and it would be easy to make a mess and destroy a plate or something.”
“Well, this might be just the time to practice. I’m going to see if I can chop a hole in the boat below the waterline.”
“That’s why you’re the captain. I’ll try the same on the second boat?”
“Works for me,” he said, and then focused his mind on creating the force blade he had never really used.
He saw the boat shake when he managed to hit it, and the men grabbed for the gunnels so he must have hit it fairly hard. He realized that the flaw was that he was unlikely to punch a hole with a single blow, and it would be difficult to hit the same place twice--but he’d aimed for a spot near the prow which he could still easily see, and he tried again.
On the fourth blow he heard a shout. The boat was apparently taking water.
He chose another spot, and began chopping at it. By the time the boat was three quarters of the way across, it was clearly filling and was going to be swamped before it reached the shore.
He had promised that he would shoot soldiers who made it across, but now he thought if he shot a few in the boat, it might persuade the others to turn the boat around, or to swim to the other shore. Swamped as it was, the boat moved more with the current around it than in response to the rowers, so it was a relatively easy target. He picked the man in the prow and carefully put a bullet in him. The man screamed, and placed a hand over the wound.
One bullet at this distance wasn’t usually fatal. You had to be very accurate and a bit lucky to do that. He spared a glance at his partner’s work, and saw that the other boat was also swamped and drifting with the current, but its occupants had apparently decided they were closer to the far shore and were trying to bring it about and find land over there. The soldiers who had stayed on the far shore were running downstream, apparently hoping to meet and help their comrades.
Thinking about the situation, Kondor decided he did not yet have to kill any of those in the first boat. If he wounded several, he could probably discourage them enough that they, too, would attempt to return to the other side. Hitting the man in the prow was good, because some of those riding in the boat could see him; but the rowers were all facing aft, so he needed to put a bullet in the rudder man. Taking aim, he accomplished this, and now there was panic on the boat, rowers all trying to turn in different directions as the boat, caught in the current, was carried down river.
Kondor surveyed the scene. “I don’t know that they’ll try again,” he said, “but we should probably wait at least a couple hours.”
“Yeah, they don’t have boats at this point. Maybe they’ll build a raft, but they prob’ly won’t be able to get it across.”
“And maybe, given that we think they’re just the diversion, they’ll give up and hope they’ve persuaded us we’ve repelled them. But at this point, I think we’re just watching as a precaution, and should expect the next assault from the north.”
“Which,” Zeke said, “the Amir’s people have already gone to stop.”
“Yes. Kind of unfortunate, that.”
“Well, in that fight a lot of soldiers on both sides are going to meet the ends of their careers, and there’s not much we can do about that. But then, if we had gone with the troops to the north, the Amir’s archers probably would have killed a lot of the enemy here, and we probably couldn’t find and reach their northern crossing soon enough to stop them there--and they undoubtedly have more boats there--so we would have had to kill a lot more men ourselves. In fact, we might still have to kill more men, depending on how the battle goes and whether our forces have to fall back to the city.”
“We can hope,” Zeke said.
“We can hope,” Kondor agreed.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #432: Whole New Worlds. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: