Well, holiday celebrations at our house went very well. The kids got presents they like, as did my husband and I. We all ate too much, except my nine-year-old who's grown an inch in the past three months and needed a midnight lunch to be able to sleep. And Hans Gruber fell off Nakatomi Tower, which means it was officially Christmas at our house.
Yes, at our house it is a Christmas movie. It takes place during an office Christmas party, and has Christmas carols as the majority of the sound track. (Granted, the carols are slowed and the keys changed so they're suspenseful, but I'm an action flick nerd who kinda loves Die Hard has that as their sound track.)
I can't even imagine how many New Year celebrations I'd be shocked to have happen after two months of squishy time. One week throws my schedule into havoc! Lol. This year my husband is working for a few days between holiday events, however, so I'll have his schedule to anchor my days to. I hope you're staying safe and well this weekend!
17. Friends and Enemies
Justin snapped to a stop, his left shoulder jerking painfully as it took the brunt of ending his momentum when his hand gripped the bar. The center of his chest slammed into the angle where the top of the cage dropped to the side, his right leg hanging over nothing, and right hand closing on nothing. Justin closed his eyes against witnessing the crushing failure he’d just committed and waited for the screaming to start.
Cheering rose up from below him a moment later and he felt vibrations throughout the cage under him; a roaring of sound that was nearly like applause as hundreds of hands slammed and slapped the bars. He forced his eyes open and looked over the edge to see Tam dangling from... a shadow? She looked around, gasping, and then reached up to lock her hands around the elbow of the black-skinned man holding the shoulder of her coat in his fist. Justin sagged in relief as more hands reached out to hold Tam, but his plan to remain reaching over the side so they could raise her high enough for him to pull her up to the top of the cage was interrupted by multiple impacts of guards landing nearby him.
Justin rose to his knees slowly as the four guards who’d jumped down levelled their swords at him. They stomped on the hands that tried to trip them without even looking down, as if they were practiced at it. A steady pressure dug into the side of his calf. He reached back slowly, keeping view of each guard as they advanced on him, and wrapped his hand around what was being offered. The weight was too heavy to be a blade, and the hexagonal shape was bare metal.
“That’s my son holding the girl,” a deep voice said from right under Justin, the tone cutting through the cheering and jeering. “I’m giving you this so you’ll take him with you.”
“What?” a younger version of the voice barked the question. “Pop, no!”
Justin glanced down. The man talking to him was head and shoulders taller than everyone else in the cage, except his son who was nearly as tall, his skin weathered and just as dark as his son’s. The fist holding the other end of the crow bar was too thick to pass between the grid of the bars. In a glimpse, Justin saw his own father in much too similar a situation.
“Agreed,” Justin answered, and the big man released his hold on the bar.
Justin surged to his feet, bringing the crowbar up through the grid as he did. The heavy steel hummed as he spun with it, gaining the needed speed with the long bar so that it wouldn’t matter if the hits were blocked or not. He started to step sideways as he was facing the rock wall, turning it into a forward lunge as he faced two of the guards and extended his reach. Too far! He ignored the scream of muscles in his left shoulder and focused on holding tighter to the crowbar with his right hand. The weight of the steel took most of the impact and both guards were knocked sideways to tumble away into the pit.
Justin pulled the crowbar closer to his body, stopping the spin by slamming his good shoulder into the rock wall. It left him facing the next two guards. He didn’t bother trying to fight fancy, the bulk of the tool wasn’t suited for fencing, so instead he fought to win as quickly as possible. Three movements later, aided by hands grabbing and slowing the guards’ feet, both guards were screaming their descent into the mine.
Justin looked up to see if there were going to be more guards dropping down, but the ones watching him were backing away from the edge. He could also still hear the exchange Tor was having with however many other scouts were up there. Justin set the crowbar on top of the cage and dropped to one knee. The big man who’d given him the tool clasped his offered right hand firmly when Justin reached through the grid.
“I’ll get you out,” Justin promised. The big man smiled sadly and took a limping step forward so he wasn’t reaching uncomfortably far.
“I’m too slow since I broke my leg some months ago,” he stated. “Take my son. Let out everyone, but be certain you take my son.”
“No,” Justin growled out the reply between gritted teeth. “I’m not leaving you here to –”
“Yes,” the big man interrupted. “You are,”
Justin shook his head to the negative and his arm was pulled effortlessly and suddenly up to his elbow into the cage. The steel bars dug painfully into his elbow and knees. The angry continuation died in the father’s throat and his sad smile came back as he studied Justin’s face.
“This is what dads do,” the big man said quietly. He reached up and clasped Justin’s forearm. “Looks like you already know that, son.”
Justin fought the memories and emotions threatening to overwhelm him and choked on the frustrated yell, swallowing it before he could utter a sound. The big man nodded once, approval glowing on his features, and then released Justin’s arm. As with his own father, Justin didn’t look back once he turned away.
He studied the cage as he stood, seeking the weak points and loose joints, the places that from inside were only hopes, but from out here – with a heavy crow bar – were opportunities. Once he found the places he was looking for, it was a matter of brute force applied in the right ways. Rivets and welds sprang apart to either bludgeoning or prying, as was required, and soon a section of the cage wall and top was being pried and shoved back, the adjoining grids bent over and away by the people inside who were determined to kick their way out.
Guards started dropping down as imprisoned slaves started climbing out. People in the lower cages screamed for their own freedom as escapees mauled and overpowered guards, hidden tools and weapons appearing in their hands now that they had cause to use them. Many slaves climbed down to the lower level and started freeing their friends and loved ones. Justin stood out of the way, catching his breath, and let the evacuation proceed without his input. A few criminals surrounded him.
“He looks tired,” someone with an Islander accent stated.
“That bar’s likely too heavy,” another Islander answered, his tone mocking pity.
“I think we should have it so he can rest,” a familiar voice that Justin knew originated in Tenet Mik added.
“Try it, Cobb,” Justin invited him. “I’d very much like to see you, Archie, try it.”
Archie Cobb had sailed with Montrade, the company that Justin’s family owned, up until a year ago when he’d staged a mutiny. Half the crew had been killed when Cobb stole the ship and cargo. He hadn’t been smart enough to take a fast ship, though, or one that was well armed. Justin and his uncle had chased him down with the Gem. Cobb had not expected Justin’s alter ego to be such a distant relation to the fashionable fop he thought he’d stolen the ship from.
“How’s he know your name, Archie?” a fourth voice asked, completing the small gang standing around him.
Justin lifted his head and stared hard at the man he’d personally thrown overboard just off the Opat shoreline. Cobb ramped up from cocky to blind rage in the span of a heartbeat, recognition jolting through his entire body, but stood rooted to the spot as the instinctive part of his mind wrestled the anger down using arguments of self-preservation.
A weekly blog updating on Saturdays with quick personal blurbs about me, as in what's going on during my life as an Author and mom, and that doles out my short stories and novellas in bite-sized parts for everyone to read for free!