Chapter 22 – Linton Recovered
Chronto and his ten men, Private Fandru, Professor Edgren, and myself set out in the waning light in search of Miss Linton and Jordak. The trail was not difficult to follow, as there was no attempt to cover their tracks. Not far up the trail, Chronto stopped momentarily.
“Jordak is wounded.” He said. “This is Martian blood.” He said pointing to a blood stain glistening in the sand.
“That looks like a fair amount of blood.” I said. “We must hurry, for with Jordak disabled Miss Linton will be alone and unprotected!”
We began to double time, with Chronto and my Private in the lead. After we had covered about a mile, my two scouts stopped.
“What is the matter?” I asked.
“They have changed course.” Private Fandru said. “We are looking for their tracks.”
This was made more difficult because the sun had set and the Martian moons provided no real light. I ordered everyone but Chronto and the Private to be still so as not to disturb the ground any more than it already had been. While I was settling the men, Chronto produced to small spheres that emitted a faint light. One he gave to Fandru and the other he kept. With the dim light, They searched either side of our column.
Shortly, Chronto called, “There! They went towards those rocks over there.”
With that, we changed our course and followed Chronto and the Private to the near valley wall, where there was a large outcrop of boulders. We stopped about twenty yards from the stone outcrop.
“I can see nothing.” I whispered to Chronto.
“Nor can I.” he replied. “We could be walking into an ambush.”
I then called out “Miss Linton, it is I, Colonel Roosevelt. Are you there?”
I heard rustling from behind the rocks, but could still see nothing.
“Miss Linton, please answer so that we can come to your aid!” I called again.
“I am here Colonel!” she cried. “Jordak is seriously injured. I need your help!”
We rushed forward, following the light of Chronto’s globe. Jordak was wrapped in blankets but still shivering noticeably. Miss Linton’s hands were stained with the Martian’s blood.
“You men fashion a litter!” I ordered. “We must get Jordak back to our ship quickly if we are to save him.”
“Indeed.” She said.
With that, we got Jordak onto the litter and headed toward the ship. Fortunately, we were less than a mile from the Iska Mahayi. After giving the proper sign and counter sign, we climbed aboard. Jordak was immediately taken to the Captain’s cabin for treatment. Professor Edgren and I followed Miss Linton in to render whatever assistance we could. In the light of the cabin, I was able to get my first look at Jordak. I could only see his eyes peering out from under the blankets that were heaped upon him. Those eyes were scared, yet intelligent and youthful. More youthful by far than one would expect in a leader of desert bandits.
As Miss Linton prepared her medical kit for use, I commented to her, “He appears to be very young for a man who leads a large desert tribe. His eyes are rather, well, feminine”
“There is a good reason for that.” Miss Linton said. “It is because Jordak is a woman.”
“That is surprising, considering the culture of most desert tribes.” I said.
“She is a remarkable woman.” Miss Linton said. “You should listen to her story, once she has sufficiently recovered.”
“Indeed I will.” I replied.
Miss Linton, with the aid of Professor Edgren, then went to work extracting a bullet that struck Jordak’s right shoulder. It took quite a while for them to remove the bullet, but they finally achieved their goal and stitched then bandaged the wound.
As they finished with the patient, I examined the bullet that they removed from the woman’s shoulder.
“This is a Martian bullet.” I said.
“Is that important?” asked Professor Edgren.
“Only in that it confirms that none of our men are responsible for the endangerment of Jordak or Miss Linton.” I replied.
“That is all very nice,” said Miss Linton, “But she needs rest. So, you two need to find somewhere else to continue your conversation.”
With that, the Professor and I exited the cabin, We went up on deck and I asked the pilot to take us back to Palamnus, slowly.
“It has been a long day, Professor.” I said, “Perhaps you should get some rest. I will get things squared away at Palamnus, then you can relieve me when we get started back to Ceraunius.”
“I gladly will comply with your request.” The Professor replied. “I am exhausted.”
With that, Professor Edgren went below to his cabin. In the meanwhile, Chronto and I went to the bow of our ship to keep watch. We listened more than watched as the night was near pitch black. My admiration of the pilot’s skill increased greatly as he steered us to Palamnus without incident in the near utter darkness.
Upon our arrival, I met with Lieutenant Griffin, who was in charge of the prisoners. From them, he discovered that Deyak, who was in the pay of Reytik, ambushed Jordak several miles from Palamnus. Jordak’s warriors were killed or scattered and she was captured along with Miss Linton. Reytik was to keep Miss Linton as a bargaining chip against us, while Deyak took control of Jordak’s lands. Lieutenant Griffin was told that Jordak’s tribes were decimated and those that survived were sold into slavery.
My next duty was to mete out punishment to the brigands in our custody. We could not take them back with us, but we could not send them off unpunished. I decided to issue each of the brigands three days rations of food and water and ordered them to walk back to their homes. I kept all their weapons and their mounts, then sent them on their way. I knew it was a death sentence for most of them, but those that survived would impart a healthy respect of our brand of justice on the rest of their tribe.
After the bandits were out of sight, I gave the Moa-nui we took from the hostiles to the residents of Palamnus. This put us in good standing with the people there, which I hoped would pay dividends at some later time. So with our accounts settled, we boarded the Iska Mahayi and headed back to Ceraunius.