Jandrax 34

What would they do to Valikili?

Horrified, Henri shrank back into the shadows. Something had to be done, but his wits had deserted him and he could think of no plan.

He could only think of one thing – that the madness might pass. He should have tried to help Valikili, and would have but for Marie; his first duty was to his wife. He took her trembling arm and led her away from the crowd toward the south gate. They would flee to the wilderness. They could remain away from the colony and the stored food supply only so long, but in the next few days the madness might pass.

He hoped that it would, but he did not fully believe it.

Valikili was frightened for Henry Staal and cursed him for running after the colonists. Together they might have a chance to survive; divided they were in dire straits. At least Marcel Damle had remained, and Helene was close by where he could protect her.

Valikili had accepted Monism but he had not been so foolish as to assume that the Monists accepted him. He and Nur Mohammet were racially different as well as crew members. Unlike Jan he had not been schooled in small-group dynamics, but he could smell the danger in his position.

He led Marcel and Helene to his house, but paused only long enough to pick up the bundle he had prepared against such an eventuality and his bow, quiver, and blade. The rifles and ammunition were stored in “the armory,” a locked closet in the town hall. If they could get them, they could hold them for a ransom of food, for without the ten offworld rifles and Jan’s express pistol the colonists would be unable to hunt effectively during the coming melt. Levi-Stuer was working on a muzzle-loader Andrax had designed, but so far had completed only one unreliable prototype.

Marcel had shrugged off his shock and stolen a bow and quiver from the house next to Valikili’s, while Valikili had stolen a third bow and quiver for Helene. They made their way to the armory and Valikili went to work on the door with the axe he had brought for that purpose.

The colonists had also thought of the armory and a knot of them came charging around the town hall. Valikili spun around and faced them with his axe as Marcel and Helene released their arrows. Two arrows and the crowd was upon them. Valikili laid about him with the axe, his massive arms swinging in short, vicious arcs. For a moment the colonists fell back, then an arrow from the crowd struck Valikili in the thigh and he went down. Marcel stood over him with the axe he had dropped as they closed in again.

Suddenly he heard cries of fear from the colonists and they were falling back. Marcel spun to meet the new challenge behind him and found Andrax there, firing methodically. Nur, Adrian Dumezil, Henri, and Marie were behind the scout, unarmed.

Valikili felt himself lifted and carried. Through the haze of his pain he saw Nur, Henri, and Marcel. Beyond them Jan Andrax stood, pistol upraised but not firing, and Marie and Adrian Dumezil were gathering blades and bows from the blood soaked ground. Helene was nowhere in sight.

Andrax had circled around the palisade with Nur and Adrian Dumezil at his heels, intending to enter the south gate to search for the rest of the crew. There they had met Henri and Marie and the quintet had gone in search of their missing companions. Slipping from house to house toward Valikili’s quarters, they had heard the fight at the armory and arrived just in time to see Helene being dragged back into the crowd while Marcel tried to stem what would have been a final rush. Only the superior firepower afforded by the express pistol had saved them.

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