Friday, August 21, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 12

< Chapter 11                                                                                                       Chapter 13 >
Exiting into the Pride system, our heroes run their ship dark so the pursuing missiles cannot lock on the ship after they exit the wormhole.

Watching the sensor screen as the message drone sped away, knowing we couldn’t shoot at it or pursue it without attracting the attention of the three missiles, Michelle summed up my feelings in a single word. “Dammit!”

Leaning back in my seat, I sighed, “Yeah. It’s like we can’t catch a break anymore.”

“So, what do you think we ought to do, babe?” Michelle asked. “take our chances with the patrol ship back in Wolf or a naval squadron in Piscain?”

“If I read Captain Odenton right, she’s going to have a pretty heavy presence around wormhole delta for quite a while. She wasn’t exactly happy with us and doesn’t strike me as the forgiving sort.”

“Yeah, me too,” Michelle said. “We could surprise everyone by going to the unnamed system and looking for wormholes.”

“No, we don’t have the sensor suite necessary to actually detect a wormhole and the chances of us just stumbling into one are astronomically small,” I replied. “And that’s even assuming the system has more than one wormhole. Most don’t.”

“So, we go to the Piscain Hub and hope the navy isn’t ready for us or isn’t taking Odenton seriously?” Michelle shook her head. “That doesn’t seem likely.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “They probably don’t watch the wormhole from this system very closely. It’s not like there’s going to be much traffic through it. If you check the various routes from the Piscain Hub, one of their other wormholes goes straight to Wolf. If we can get going soon, we might pop through before the navy mobilizes or, even better before they pick up the drone.”

Michelle brightened suddenly. “Hey, one of those missiles locked onto something and is accelerating away from us!”

“It’s about time. How much fuel do you think the other two have, hon?”

“At their current thrust, maybe five minutes.” Michelle glanced at me for a second. “How far behind the drone will we be if we have to wait the full time?”

I ran some calculations. “Forty-five minutes, give or take a couple of minutes.”

“That long? But the drone just passed by a few minutes ago!”

“Yeah, but its maximum thrust is a lot higher than ours and it has nowhere near our mass,” I said. “On top of that, it made course corrections as soon as it exited the wormhole. We kept our initial heading when we went dark and it’s almost at right angles with the correct course. By the time we get on course and reach the wormhole, we’ll be way behind the drone.”

“Do you think we still have a chance in Piscain?” Michelle asked.

“Yeah, I do,” I answered. “We’re going to come in with a different transponder, which might buy us a few minutes, and we only have to get to the closest wormhole before the navy catches us.”

“How far is it to the closest wormhole and where does it go?”

I checked the charts. “It’s a bit of a haul—seventeen light minutes—but that just means there won’t be many ships around when we enter the system. And it goes to…” I checked the wormhole endpoint. “Um, it goes to Draconis.”

“Where we know the Feds are looking for us.” Michelle threw her head back and stared at the ship’s ceiling. “Well, it will certainly be a lot easier sending those messages to our parents if we’re in the same system.”

“We could pick another wormhole. Maybe one clear across the system from where we come in?” I suggested.

“Won’t that take us right through the heart of the hub and way too close to the naval base?”

“Yeah, but it has its advantages, too,” I said.

“Really? Name one,” Michelle countered.

“I’ll give you two,” I replied. “First, we’ve got plenty of fuel, so we can run at full thrust all the way in. By the time we pass the naval base, we’ll be moving so fast no one will have a prayer of catching us unless they begin their own burn within our first thirty minutes in the system.”

“And second?”

“No one will expect it, so any response will be concentrating on the closer wormholes.” I cocked my head, considering a new twist to my idea. “We can start building velocity in this system and exit the wormhole going a lot faster than safety protocols demand.”

Michelle stared off into space for a few seconds. “And what happens if a ship is in our way when we exit the wormhole? Or when we pass through the heavy traffic near the space station and the naval base?”

I shrugged. “Boom.”

Something drew Michelle’s attention back to the passive sensor display. “Hey, those two missiles just took off after the first one. We’re safe to bring all ship’s systems online and head for the wormhole to Piscain.”

“How fast do you want me to go, hon?” I asked.

Michelle flashed her infectious grin. “Light her up and let’s ride the fire, babe! We can always fire braking thrusters if we change our minds.”

Over the next several hours, Michelle and I talked more about the recent manifestation of my empathic ability. She even had me take a few cracks at calling it forth under a calm, controlled situation. When I grew tired, we just talked about the life ahead of us, planned for the future by choosing names for the children we wanted, and debated how we’d respond to the situations we thought we were most likely to find in the Piscain Hub. During that discussion, we even decided to slow down a bit prior to entering the wormhole. We’d still have plenty of speed entering Piscain, but I might be able to dodge a ship if one waited for us.

Finally, the wormhole opened before us. Everything around us went gray as the ship plunged into the wormhole.

“It’s three and a half hours to Piscain. Are there any other plans to concoct?” I asked.

Michelle stood, shaking her head, and pulled me up. Without another word, she led me back to our bedroom.

“Good God, woman, you are insatiable!” I said as she pulled my shirt off. Pulling her shirt off, I added, “Not that I’m complaining, mind you.”

“If these are our last few hours together, I want to spend them filled with your love and filling you with my own love.”

All too soon, we were back at the ship’s controls. The ship’s nav system gave the countdown and then we burst into the Piscain Hub.

What will Matt and Michelle find waiting for them in the Piscain Hub? Find out in Chapter 13, coming Monday.