Jandrax 33

“Who will take a hand to purify God’s community?”

Jan looked left and right while rising to his feet with the congregation. There were two persons between him and the aisle and somewhere outside Nur Mohammet sat in ignorance, not knowing that he was marked for death.

“Who will stand with God? Who will cast out the wicked?”

Jan moved, shouting, “I will!” He shoved past the two on his left and reached the aisle. Dumezil was dumbfounded by Jan’s action; he stopped in midsentence.

Then Jan bolted for the door.

Two burly colonists had been posted to stop him.

Jan had refused the patriarch’s order to surrender his express pistol to the colony’s armory and was never without it. He wore it now, but strapped to his thigh inside his trousers. He had not dared to wear it openly to the services.

Still he was a Scout, and therefore a master of weaponless combat. He caught one colonist’s outstretched arm and hurled him down the aisle, then downed the second with a blow to the throat. A hand fell on his shoulder and spun him around. The whole congregation was on its feet and coming for him. Someone dodged past him, trying to get behind him. Jan recognized him as Adrian Dumezil, but could not reach him for fighting off those before him.

But Adrian did not attack him from behind; instead he threw open the door of the meeting house and Jan spun in instant retreat. Adrian pounded at his side.

Damle, Staal, and Valikili were in desperate danger but there was nothing Jan could do for them now. Nur would be in his own house, reading the Koran as was his custom.

As he ran, Jan ripped open his trousers and fished out his express pistol. The colonists were on his heels as he rounded the comer of Nur’s street. He fired a maximum charge at the wall of Nur’s dwelling, aiming high. It struck a log and exploded in a burst of bark and splinters. Jan and Adrian ran side by side, the colonists behind them, as Nur burst out of his house to see what was wrong.

More than anyone, Nur was prepared for what had happened. He took it all in at a glance and ran.

The main gate was closed and barred. Jan fired over Nur’s head repeatedly, each shot a maximum charge, until the gate gave way, falling outward in a cloud of debris. The trio ran through the gap and down toward the river where Jan threw himself behind a slight rise along the bank and dialed the power down. The colonists were streaming out the gate and he shot repeatedly into their packed mass. They broke ranks and retreated behind the palisade.

***

Valikili drew Helene to one side as the crowd ran after Jan and Adrian. Marcel Damle stood just outside the town hall shaking his head in shock, muttering over and over, “They did it; they really did it.” Henri Staal had run with the crowd; Valikili could not believe that he intended to join in the persecution of his shipmates and hoped that the man would not be lynched if he tried to calm the crowd.

Henri was near the back of the crowd when they poured through the palisade gate and was thrown back when they reversed themselves in the face of Jan’s fire. He pulled Marie into the shadows of a nearby hut, trying to decide a course of action. The colonists were milling about while the patriarch attempted to restore order. Some had armed themselves with clubs; others had retreated to get bows and rifles. A few of the colonists were running about trying to calm their neighbors, vainly attempting to stem the madness the patriarch had started. Levi-Stuer was running from man to man, shouting for reason, tears streaming down his face, but none would hear him.

Henri started forward, then hesitated. If they would not listen to Levi-Stuer, a colonist whom they respected, what would they do to a crewman, even if he were a Monist?

What would they do to Valikili?

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