Jandrax 26

What my father thought of the changes in me, I did not know. As always he was aloof, brooding now about the loss of his lands, his position, and his daughter.

In those days Papa was often tied up with matters of administration. We made our headquarters in a cluster of log houses we took in a high valley. Every day more Dannelites straggled in, each influx fanning our angers with new tales of terror. That we also spread terror was my pride; only later could I see the whole affair in perspective.

Even when Papa could not go, Sabine and I went raiding. We stole stock and food, clothing, arms and ammunition, and sometimes we found ourselves in firefights. I watched men go down before my gun and heard them scream from cover. Many of the former were probably just wounded and some of the latter probably died. It was impossible to assess our successes and failures.

We survived.

Somehow the Pertoskans manage to maintain secrecy about our war. Then as now, there is no fast long-range communication except by ship. Synapse technology can send solid bodies but not messages. For a year we had the field to ourselves and mercilessly slaughtered each other for the glory of God, but eventually a ship landed and carried away rumors of rebels in the hills. The Patrol ship that investigated found more than rebels and returned for reinforcements.

When the Patrol peacekeeping force arrived I was a seasoned veteran of thirteen. The Pertoskans were subdued at once since they were tied to the towns. We simply changed enemies and kept on fighting.

More time passed and we were severely pressed, forced out of the foothills and into the high mountains. Food was scarce and ammunition could no longer be had at all when our scouts brought word of a detachment moving into our area. We laid an ambush.

They came up through a long valley and tumed toward our camp, cutting through the narrow ravine where we were poised. They had two civilian scouts, Pertoskans, ordered to duty but relishing a chance to take their revenge on us. We let them come until they were directly below us and opened fire. The Pertoskans went down together and the Patrol went to earth like the trained soldiers they were, leaving three of their number behind.

We waited then, having a commanding position, and kept them pinned down. The light duty half-track growled forward and to the left until it jammed between two trees, its driver slumped over the controls. Sabine and I slipped down to recover the supplies it carried.

We were fools. We should never have stayed there after our first burst of fire, but we were unused to fighting a modern force. Sabine and I worked our way down, taking our time, and were sorting through the half-track’s contents when we heard a strange humming. Sabine knew immediately what we were facing. He hit the bushes, shouting for me to follow, but I turned to see what was coming.

It was a silver bullet, whizzing across the treetops at a hundred kilometers an hour, ducted fans thrusting down the air which supported it, flattening the vegetation as it went. For an almost fatal moment I paused, then leaped for cover. A high-explosive shell hit the spot where I had been standing. Everything went black.


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