Monday, August 24, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 13

< Chapter 12                                                                                                       Chapter 14 >
Our heroes’ spaceship exits the wormhole into the Piscain Hub.

Hands poised over the ship’s controls, I watched the sensor data roll in. Michelle and I both heaved sighs of relief when the sensors didn’t show any ships lurking near the wormhole exit. We cut those sighs short as more sensor data arrived.

“Where did all those warships come from, Matt?” Michelle asked, her eyes glued to the sensor screen. “According to the system data, the base only has twenty-one naval ships stationed here. I’ve got close to a hundred on my screen.”

“Damn, we really can’t catch a break!” I pounded the console before me for emphasis. “You can check the local news feeds to be sure, but it looks like the navy is running war games in the system.”

“They’ve got squadrons spread all over the system, too,” Michelle said, highlighting those on her screen. “I don’t see how we can hope to get through to another wormhole.”

“We’ve got to think of something.” I studied the sensor display, hoping it would spark a useful idea. “It won’t be very long before someone notices us and realizes we’re going way too fast for safety.”

Michelle bit her lower lip, a sure sign she was puzzling through the problem. “We need two plans—not one. The first is obvious—we try for one of the other wormholes out of Piscain. Then we need a fallback plan if that doesn’t work.”

“I can’t think of anything that doesn’t involve me surrendering to Psy Corps to save your life, hon.” 

“Don’t think I’m going to let you turn foolishly gallant on me, Matt.” Michelle’s voice held a hard edge. “I warned you about that kind of crap just before we left to rescue your parents.”

“That’s an odd sentiment coming from the girl who spent half her life ready to take a blaster bolt for me,” I countered. “Look, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life as a slave to Psy Corps, but I’ll choose that over watching you die without a second thought.”

Michelle glared at me for a few seconds and I glared right back at her. With an irritated shake of her head, Michelle broke eye contact.

“Fine. If you’re determined to do that as a last resort, I guess I’d better figure out a next-to-last resort.” She looked at the sensor screen again. “Will our current course take us close to Piscain Station?”

“Way too close,” I replied. “Without a course change, we’ll pass within a couple of kilometers of it.”

“What if we abandon ship as we close on the station?” Michelle asked. “Can we use spacesuit thrusters or something to cross to the station and sneak onto it?”

I shook my head. “We would still carry all of the ship’s velocity after exiting the ship. We’d fly right past the station and out into space where we’d either die or have to call for help—and I’ve already told you what I’ll do if that happens.”

“Is there any way we can make my idea work?” Michelle shrugged in frustration. “First braking thrusters before we jump or something?”

“Using reverse thrust would help, but…” I bent over my console and started calling up data. “If we reverse thrust while we’re still a few hundred kilometers from the station, we can each take a jetpack and use those to slow down and maneuver to the station. It would be a long trip into the station, but we could do it.”

“Okay, now we’re talking!” Michelle exclaimed.

“Except that suits and jetpacks have their own transponders—for safety reasons,” I added. “We’d need to disable those before powering up everything.”

“Then hadn’t you better get started on that, babe? Meanwhile, I’ll figure out how to keep the navy off our backs for as long as possible.” With a sudden smile, Michelle pulled out her data pad and tapped on the screen. After a few seconds, she grinned in triumph. “Ha! She’s still here!”

“Uh, who is still here, Michelle?” I asked, gathering the tools I needed.


I drew a complete blank. “Who?”

“You don’t remember Mandy?” Michelle’s voice rose in pitch, taking on an over-excited, breathless tone. “I’m so hurt, George! How could you forget everything I did to get us out of the Pegasus system last year? I think Nancy Martin was right about you after all!”

With those hints, it all came flooding back to me. Michelle playing the naive teenage girl to my lecherous man in his mid-twenties. The ingenue act earned ‘Mandy’ a fighter escort to a wormhole out of Pegasus system and ‘George’ a threatening lecture from then-Flight Commander Nancy Martin.

“Aren’t those IDs blown now?” I asked. “Our rescue of my parents was really big news.”

“You didn’t follow any of those stories, did you, babe?” Michelle asked in return.

“No. I had a lot of other things on my mind—like spending time with my parents, settling into married life with you, and trying to figure out how to control my empathic abilities. Did I miss something?”

“Yep. Daddy made sure Nancy and her crew kept Mandy and George out of the story. Everyone else involved was a pirate, so those identities were preserved.” Michelle actually giggled. “I kind of miss Mandy. She’s such a sweet girl.”

“Well, I don’t miss George,” I growled. “He was a jerk and a coward.”

“Then you’ll be happy to hear you don’t have to play George again, babe.”

“I don’t? Who do I get to play?”

“Oh, you’re still George,” Michelle grinned, “but you don’t have a speaking role.”

“Okay…” I still couldn’t figure out where Michelle was going with this. “Why don’t I go work on those transponders and leave the acting to you?”

“That’s probably a good idea, babe,” she replied. “I’ll put the comm unit on the ship’s speaker system so you can hear what’s going on.”

I hefted my tools and headed aft.

“Oh, and George is unconscious, so try not to make any noise, babe!” Michelle called after me.

“Why is George unconscious?” I asked.

“Because Mandy knocked him out, silly!” Michelle replied. “The comm light just started blinking, Matt. Wish me luck!”

Silently, I wished her luck. Then I offered up a prayer for us, wishing I could afford to broadcast the prayer into space just in case God couldn’t hear prayers through a vacuum. The next few hours would decide if I remained free or faced a life of forced servitude.

As I started working on the transponder for my suit, Michelle switched on the ship’s broadcast system and said, “Okay, Matt, I’m answering the comm. It’s showtime!”

Can ‘Mandy’ keep the navy contained long enough for our heroes to escape into another wormhole or will they be forced to abandon ship? Find out in Chapter 14, coming Wednesday!