Friday, July 31, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 3

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Trying to slip away from the restaurant unseen in Michelle’s car, Matt’s and Michelle’s cover is blown by their school nemeses, Jayna and Brenda. Now a Fed vehicle is on their tail!

“The Feds are catching up fast, Michelle.” I gave up on the cam and craned my neck to look out the back window. “I don’t think we can outrun them in a little car like this.”

A feral grin spread across Michelle’s face. “Babe, do you really think Daddy would send his little girl out in anything as lame as a standard Jusair? Especially when I might have to use it to get you to safety?”

“Um, no?”

“I’ve been waiting years for a chance to open this baby up. Make sure your seat belt is tight and hang on honey—things are about to get interesting.”

Never let it be said I don’t listen to my wife. I checked my belt then grabbed a strap hanging next to my seat. I had just enough time to wonder if the strap was original equipment before Michelle flipped open a compartment on the steering wheel. She pressed the recessed button within.

I sank back into the seat as the car rocketed forward. Our speed doubled within seconds. Rather than fight the acceleration to look out the back window, my eyes returned to the rearview cam. The Fed vehicle shrank on the screen and disappeared as Michelle whipped the Jusair through traffic and other cars blocked the view. We flew past the knot of traffic and into a clear stretch on the road. Seconds later, the Fed car—now running with blinking emergency lights—repulser-hopped over the front row of cars and into the same stretch of clear road.

“Crap, they’re keeping up with us,” Michelle snarled. “Matt, see if you can get Daddy on the com so we can coordinate with his response teams.”

I caught the flash of movement in the corner of my eye. “Look out!”

Two more Federation cars shot out of cross-streets and blocked the street ahead of us. Even before the big cars came to a stop, Michelle thumbed another button on the steering wheel. The whine of the Jusair’s repulsers deepened to a rumble and the little car popped ten meters into the air, clearing the road block easily. We settled back to the ground and Michelle cut the wheel to the left, taking a side street. The pursuing car sailed over the road block, too, staying on our tail as the others scrambled to join the chase.

I managed to drag my attention away from the chase and bring up the car’s com. “We’re not getting a com signal, Michelle.”

“That’s bad—the Feds don’t shut down com towers for just anyone. They must really want to keep you isolated.” Michelle slewed into an intersection, fighting the controls to take a hard left turn. With a jerk, she straightened the car and we zoomed back in the direction of the restaurant, just one street over from it. “Hit the blue button on the com. That’ll shift from com to radio.”

I did as she instructed and Jonas’s voice sprang immediately from the speaker. “—you there? Repeat, Matt or Michelle, are you there?”

“We’re here, Jonas,” I replied.

“Before you do anything else turn on GenCo encryption. You know the channel.”

Jonas assigns a new emergency encryption channel every morning. Michelle says he selects the channel by rolling dice, ensuring something completely random and unassociated with any potentially hackable electronics. I dialed in today’s code.

Once we established we were on the same channel, Jonas said, “Report.”

“We’re heading south on Benton, coming up on Thess now.” We flashed through the intersection against the traffic signal. Horns blared in our wake. “Correction, we just passed Thess.”

“Why are you coming back this way?” Jonas asked.

“They tried to cut us off with two more cars. I hopped them, but I don’t have enough charge to do that many more times. I thought doubling back might buy us a few extra seconds before those two found out which way we went,” Michelle answered.

“Okay, there’s nothing we can do about that now. I’ve got the decoy positioned north of you, on the second level of the parking deck next to the Promenade. Can you get there or should I have them move?”

“I can make it.” Michelle paused to check the rear view cam for the Fed cars. The first one was no more than a hundred meters behind us. Much farther back, we saw the other two Fed cars make repulser-hops. “Daddy, does all of this mean what I think it means?”

When Jonas replied, his tone was gentle. “I’m afraid so, pumpkin. I’ve been in communication with the house and the Feds have a team there, too. That’s one reason they took down the com towers. I think they’re hoping you’ll decide this is a simple kidnapping attempt and run for home—and right into the arms of their waiting team. We’ve got to assume the Feds know about Matt’s ability.”

Michelle slowed a bit and turned right at the next cross street. The signal was with us this time, so we found another short stretch of clear road ahead of us. Instead of accelerating, Michelle hit the brakes and spun the wheel hard to the right. The Jusair spun around, pointing back the way we came. Michelle downshifted and pushed the throttle to the floor. The car shuddered for a second, then accelerated back the way we came.

The closest Fed car slid around the corner ahead of us, bouncing off of the line of cars waiting for the signal to change. I watched the other driver fight to regain control as the rear end of the car swung back and forth. Michelle twitched her wheel to the left and zipped past the Fed car with less than a meter to spare. Ahead of us, the signal changed and a wall of traffic started across the intersection, headed directly at us!

Michelle swung to the right, nearly sideswiping the same car the Feds hit. I got a glimpse of the driver, his face a mixture of fear and outrage, as we flew past. Without a second thought, Michelle cut back to the left, across lanes filled with approaching traffic. Horns sounded, cars braked, and we heard the grinding sound of metal on metal. Just when a collision looked unavoidable, Michelle thumbed the hopper and the Jusair once again flew up over the oncoming cars, cutting the corner back toward Benton. We cleared the line of southbound cars stopped for the traffic signal and landed in the northbound lane of Benton. My wife straightened the car and sped up the clear stretch of Benton.

Michelle’s timing was perfect. We shot past the other two Fed cars in mid-hop and heading in the completely wrong direction.

“We’ve lost our tails—at least for a few minutes, Daddy,” Michelle said. “What do you want us to do when we get to the Promenade parking deck?”

“The decoy car will make an ostentatious exit from the deck which should draw the Feds after it. You should find an out-of-the-way parking spot and ditch the car. There’s a pack in the backseat with new clothes and new identities for you. Change clothes and take a leisurely walk on the Promenade.”

“You don’t want us to head to the M&M any more, Daddy? A spaceship off-planet seems like our best bet right now.”

“I agree,” Jonas said, “but it’s a safe bet the Feds are watching the M&M—it is rather famously connected with Matt after the rescue last summer. I’ve quietly ordered the ship fueled and provisioned as a further distraction for the Feds.”

Michelle spun the wheel right and took the next side street we saw, then turned left at the next intersection, putting us back on the same street where the chase began. “We’ve got a straight shot to the Promenade. Warn the decoys we’ll be there in three minutes.”

“Roger that.” The channel went silent for a few seconds as Jonas spoke to the decoy team. “Okay, pumpkin, they’ll be ready for you.”

“So, what do Matt and I do after we take this walk on the Promenade?”

“Take a taxi to the space dock south of the city. Go to docking bay AA23 and use the same key code Matt used to open the pirate bay doors on Pegasus Station. Matt’s father bought the ship through half a dozen cutouts, so there’s no way to tie it back to you two.”

Half a kilometer behind us, the three Fed cars roared around the corner and back onto our tail. Michelle immediately abandoned the comparatively sedate speed she’d adopted when we returned to this street and was soon weaving around traffic at breakneck speed.

I wanted Michelle concentrating on her driving, so took up the conversation. “Okay, we go to this other spaceship and just take off. Is it safe to assume you’ve got a flight plan filed?”

“Of course.”

“What about alternate signal transponder codes?”

“Really, sir, must you ask?” Jonas actually sounded slightly offended, enough so to stop using my name.

“Yes. You taught me to never assume anything.”

Magda’s laugh came over the radio. “He’s got you there, dear heart.”

We were less than a kilometer from the Promenade parking deck and Michelle had more traffic to dodge. The three Fed cars were closing the gap, but the nearest one was still several hundred meters behind us.

“One last question, Jonas,” I said. “Where should we go in the spaceship?”

“I…don’t know, sir.” Jonas sounded unsure of himself. That scared me more than anything else we’d faced so far. “For that matter, I don’t want to know.”

Michelle swung into the approach for the parking deck and, briefly clear of traffic, gunned the engine back to top speed.

“What does that mean, Jonas?”

“It means, sir, you’ll be safer if none of us know where you are. Your father has already got company lawyers working on this situation. I’ll use one of Michelle’s message drops when it’s clear for you to come home.”

Michelle braked hard as we entered the parking deck. As we disappeared into the gloom of the deck, the three Fed cars turned onto the approach road. Ten seconds later, a Jusair identical to ours sailed into view as it passed over the three Fed cars. I guessed the decoy hopped the railing from the second level. Well, Jonas did say it would be ostentatious.

As the three Fed cars spun about and set off in pursuit of the decoy, Michelle parked her car in a dark corner in an underground level of the deck. We changed clothes quickly. Michelle pinned her hair up and pulled a ball cap over her blond hair. I put on a matching cap and we grabbed our new identifications.

“Daddy, Mom, Matt and I are leaving the car.”

“I love you, pumpkin,” Jonas said. “Matt, take care of my little girl.”

“Always, Jonas. And she’ll take care of me. Tell my parents I love them.”

“They already know that, Matt,” Magda said, “but we’ll tell them. Go with our love, both of you.”

“We love you, too,” Michelle said, then flipped off the radio.

My wife and I climbed from the car and headed for the Promenade. Hand-in-hand, we left behind everything we knew and everyone we loved.

Where will our young fugitives go to escape the pursuit of the Terran Federation? Find out in Chapter 4, coming Monday.