Here's part 4:
Using the satellite phone in Andrea’s store, Jägare had made several calls, the first one to Marshal Kove Jackson. After Jägare outlined what had happened, the Marshal said, “Do whatever you have to stop these pirates. The Governor is already declaring this a military action and he’s called out the militia. It’s going to take them six hours or so to get organized, so if you can slow them down enough, it’ll give us a chance to catch them.”
The rest of the calls went to other Hunters. After that, Jägare went through the trading post, pulling items from shelves and placing them on the counter. When Takezaki entered the store after another tour of the town, he found a large pile of items on the counter. “What’s going on?” the Marshal asked.
“I’m going after them,” Jägare replied
“No. I've contacted some of the other Hunters, and they’ll meet me outside LaCroix.”
“Are you crazy? They have ‘Mechs!”
“So? We don’t intend on fighting them fairly.”
“But what –“
Jägare tossed some food packs onto the counter. ”Marshal Jackson told me the Governor is declaring this a military action.”
“Oh.” Takezaki replied. “All right, I’m going with you.”
“What do you mean ‘no’?”
Jägare looked at him. “You’re not a Hunter, you’re still wet behind the ears, and you have no experience out in the forest. We’re not going to arrest these people, Marshal, we’re going to kill as many of them as we can.”
“What about our people?” the Marshal demanded. “How are we going to rescue them?”
“Our first tasks is to stop the Brotherhood getting off-planet with our people and eliminating as many of the Pirates as possible.” Jägare picked up some rope. “Hopefully, we can disrupt their escape plans long enough for the militia to reach them.”
“Hopefully?” Takezaki looked at him in disbelief. He grabbed Jägare by the shoulder. “You’re cra–“
Jägare spun, yanked Takezaki forward, and tripped him. The Marshal crashed to the ground, his breath exploding from his lungs. Jägare placed a knee against the side of Takezaki’s head and twisted the Marshal’s right arm up into a painful arm bar. “This isn't a classroom,” Jägare said in a frosty tone. “There are no easy answers out here. The sooner, you learn that, the better off you’ll be.”
“I’m going to arrest you!” Takezaki snarled.
“And risk the pirates escaping? I don’t think you’re that stupid.” Jägare released the Marshal. “The Hunters know every bit of forest within a hundred kilometers of LaCroix and a few of us know the territory beyond that. We can move faster and hit them just as hard as the Militia can. This isn't a mass kidnapping case. This is an act of war.”
Takezaki got up slowly. “And what makes you think I’m going to ignore what you just did?”
“Because he and the other Hunters are the only chance our people have,” said Dunn. He closed the front door behind him and limped to the counter. “How many Hunters did you get a hold of?”
“At least half a dozen, maybe more,” Jägare replied.
Dunn nodded. “Marshal Jackson give you the go ahead?”
“Yeah.” Jägare motioned to Takezaki. “But he wants to come along.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Marshal,” said Dunn. “LaCroix needs you here to oversee the rescue and recovery operations.”
“You can handle that,” Takezaki replied. “There needs to be a member of the local authority along.”
“To do what? Arrest them?” Jägare replied, adding a couple of tarps to the pile on the counter.
“If they surrender, yes.”
Jägare snorted. “They’re not going to surrender if there’s any chance of escape, and most of them will die before they even think of surrendering.”
Dunn frowned. “On second thought, maybe he should go with you, Ian.”
“What?” Jägare asked flatly.
“The Marshals are going to want answers to a lot of questions, and dead slavers aren't very talkative. We need to capture some of them alive, and having him along will make sure that none of the prisoners has an unfortunate ‘accident,’ like falling off a cliff.”
Jägare shot Dunn a hard look “I refuse to have him in charge of the group.”
“He won’t be,” Dunn said, giving Takezaki a long glare. “His sole job is be responsible for any prisoners that surrender.”
“Fine,” Jägare snapped, walking toward the front door of the store. “He’s got twenty minutes to get ready, or I’m leaving without him.”
Half an hour later, Jägare and Takezaki, rode out of La Croix, heading north, following the trail the slavers had made before and after the attack. The mule Jägare led was weighed down with items the Hunter though the rescue party might need. Takezaaki, rode a large silver gelding he borrowed from the stables and had changed to a white and grey camouflage suit. The rifle he had strapped to the side of his saddle was a modified sniper rifle, one of the few weapons in the Marshal’s station that had survived the attack intact.
They were on the trail for nearly two hours before the first of the Hunters arrived. A band of four rode up from the south, and a few minutes later, two more appeared out of the woods to Takezaki’s left and joined the group.
In the next hour, another half a dozen Hunters, by themselves or with a friend, joined the group. After another half hour passed without any sign of more Hunters, Jägare held up a fist and signaled the group to turn right, among the snow trimmed trees. He then signaled the group to dismount and waved them together. When the had gathered around him, Jägare said, “Right, it worse then we thought. They have about fifty of the citizens of LaCroix, including Andrea Starver.”
That brought a low rumble of anger from the Hunters. Jägare held up a hand. “These pirates are the ones Kove’s been worried about the last couple of months. They have DropShips somewhere in these mountains. Our task is to stop them. They have the advantage of numbers, firepower and ‘Mechs. We know this land and everything in it. We know how to move, shoot and evade. We use that to our advantage.”
“How?” one of the Hunters asked.
“We’re splitting into three groups,” Jägare replied. He looked at the tallest Hunter in the group. “Sven, take six men and start harassing them. Hit and run tactics, don’t get into long firefight. Forget about the vehicles and ‘Mechs, just concentrate on taking out as many of the foot soldiers as you can.” The big man nodded.
Jägare looked at another Hunter, a thin Asian with deeply sunken eyes. “Tetsuro, you told me once you have explosives training?”
“Yeah,” Tetsuro replied. “But it’s been ten years since I even looked at the stuff.”
“Think you can remember in a hurry?”
“If I had to.”
“You have to. I've got thirty kilos of RX-72 on the mule, with twenty-five detonators. I want you to take two men and get in front of the pirates. Rig the explosives to knock down trees, start landslides, and create booby traps. Slow them up, but don’t get involved in any exchange of gunfire.”
“Right,” Tetsuro replied, tapping two men on their shoulders and they started for the mule.
“What about us?” Takezaki asked.
“We’re got the most dangerous job of course,” Jägare said grimly. “It’s up to us to disable the DropShips.”
All three short stories are still on track. Each is @ 3,000 words and they're getting interesting.
Back to writing!