Friday, August 7, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 6

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Armed guards take aim as Matt and Michelle drive up to the entrance of Wolf’s Psy Corps facility.

A guard stepped out in front of the car, his hand raised. I came to a stop as another guard approached the window. I lowered it, trying to put a clueless smile in place.
“This is a restricted facility,” he said. “What’s your business here?”

“Um, nothing?” I replied. “We were looking for…”

The guard’s eyes narrowed as I trailed off without any actual explanation. Then Michelle leaned across and smiled up at the man.

“We’re sorry, sir. We were just driving around looking for an out of the way spot under the stars.” Michelle waved a hand as if trying to find the right words to say. “A place to…you know.”

The guard’s eyebrows drew down and I heard one of the others mutter, “Lucky bastard.”

Michelle looked down as if too embarrassed to meet the guard’s gaze. “We’ve been in a tiny spaceship cabin for ages and…um…I guess we just took the wrong road?”

“I’m going to need to see your IDs,” the guard said, his tone all business. As we fumbled for them, he turned hard eyes on me. “Young man, Wolf isn’t like the rest of the Federation. If you impregnate this young woman, you will be required to marry her.”

Handing our identification cards to him, I cracked a smile. “What, again?”

This time the guard’s eyebrows rose high and he studied the cards I’d handed to him. Then he passed them to one of the other guards. “Check ‘em and log ‘em.”

While the second guard did as he was instructed. our formerly-gruff guard leaned down and actually smiled at Michelle. To my surprise, his face didn’t break. “Assuming everything checks out and you two still want to do it under the stars, get your car to map the way to Cub Lake. There’s plenty of nice, private spots out there.”

The other guard returned and handed our identification cards to the man at our window. “Everything is in order, sir. They got married eight months ago on Draconis.”

Handing the cards back to us, the man tipped his hat and said, “You two have a good night.”

“Thank you, sir,” I said, putting the car in reverse and backing into a turn in the wide entrance area. Seconds later, we were speeding down the highway back toward Pacrun. “Damn, damn, damn!”

“Yeah, now they’ve got a record of us at the facility,” Michelle added glumly. “Besides, that place looks like some sort of fortress. There’s no way we can go through with our original plan.”

“What now?” I couldn’t keep the bitterness out of my voice.

“We’ll think of something, babe.” Michelle leaned her head against my shoulder. “We’ll think of something.”

We drove the rest of the way back in silence. Once back in the city’s urban area, I spotted what looked like a bit of a dive bar. I parked in the first free spot I found.

“Why are you stopping?” Michelle asked.

“I want a beer. Or maybe two or three,” I said, still unable to keep my emotions under check. “We can celebrate having spent two weeks in that damned spaceship for nothing.”

Michelle linked arms with me, but I kept my hands shoved in my pockets. I just didn’t feel like being comforted at the moment.

“It wasn’t all for nothing,” she said. “We did get away from Psy Corps on Draconis and it’s a safe bet they have no idea where we are right now.”

“Yeah, whatever,” I muttered, throwing open the door to the bar.

If possible, the bar looked worse inside than it did on the outside. The place was about half full of rough and insular-looking people, the kind who generally don’t take well to strangers. Most of the crowd looked like older versions of the gang who chased me off the train and into Michelle’s arms all those months ago.

Michelle tugged at my arm. “I don’t like the looks of this place, babe. Let’s just grab some beer at a store and take it back to our hotel.”

Over the last few months, one thing I have learned to do with my empathic ability is keep it in what I call ‘scanner’ mode. It lets me gauge the emotional mood of people around us. What I was getting from this crowd wasn’t reassuring. There were a bunch of predators in there and showing fear before them was the wrong thing to do. If we backed away now, they’d come after us. We were well equipped to defend ourselves, but street security cams would catch everything and send police to investigate. And if Psy Corps had gotten out an alert for us…

Pulling Michelle inside, I quietly said, “If we leave now, we’re going to have to fight out in the streets.”

Michelle sighed, “And we can’t risk police involvement. I don’t like it, but I get it.”

We went to the bar and ordered a couple of beers. A lot of eyes tracked us as we made our way to a table against one of the walls. Sitting down, I took a sip of the beer and, hard though I tried, couldn’t keep from making a face.

“That bad?” Michelle turned her head and faced me though her eyes continued sweeping the bar for signs of trouble.

“Worse,” I replied.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a couple get up and saunter our way. They were only a few years older than us and the man had his arm resting on the woman’s shoulder in a possessive manner. I didn’t need my ability to read their menace, but I used it anyway.

Leaning toward Michelle, I whispered, “Best guess is they’re checking to see if we’re going to be easy marks.”

The couple stopped next to our table and just stood there staring at us. I leaned back and looped an arm over the back of my chair and stared back. Michelle ignored them and took a sip of her beer. Shuddering, she put her mug down and pushed it away.

“You don’t like our beer?” the man demanded.

The woman smirked. “She be one of them delicate types, hon. I bet she ain’t never tasted beer afore.”

“If so, she still hasn’t tasted beer,” I drawled. The pair scrunched their faces up, not following my line of reasoning. I helpfully added, “Because this is more like horse piss than beer.”

“That’s my favorite beer yer slammin’, boy,” he growled.

The woman was far from the sharpest knife in the drawer, but she was sharper than her companion. “Hey, was you mocking us?”

Talk in the bar died down as everyone watched the little drama playing out at our table. I broadened my scan to include everyone in the bar. To my complete lack of surprise, Michelle and I didn’t have anyone on our side in here. I read increasing hostility and, in the back of my mind, knew I should search for some way to calm down the situation. Instead, the crowd’s reaction just fed my bitterness over the trip out to Psy Corps and my long simmering anger over everything that had happened to us since that dinner with Jonas and Magda.

I suddenly found myself on my feet, glaring at the couple. “Yes, I am mocking you.”

“You gonna let him get away with that, hon?” the woman asked.

“Naw, I sure ain’t.”

Michelle stood up. “There’s no need for a fight. Why don’t I buy you guys a beer and then we’ll just leave you to drink in peace.”

“Aw, ain’t that cute, hon,” the woman sneered. “She don’t want you to hurt her little man.”

“Too bad, blondie. I’m gonna hurt him real bad,” the man sneered as the woman reached over to shove Michelle out of the way.

Michelle grabbed the woman’s arm, twisted it until she yelped in pain, then shoved her into her man. The two tangled and fell to the floor. I felt the anger build in them as they got back up. The man yelled something to the others in the bar. I couldn’t understand a word he said because I had something building inside of me, too.

It was strange, something I’d never felt before, and it focused my empathic abilities like nothing I’d ever experienced. I easily felt the anger spiking in the patrons, picked up the building fear in a few of the hangers-on, and the resignation from the bar owner that his place was going to get trashed again.

The woman drew a switchblade and slashed at Michelle. My wife blocked the clumsy attack, knocked the knife out of the woman’s hand, and elbowed her in the gut. The woman dropped to the floor, gasping for the wind Michelle knocked out of her. That’s when the man drew a gun and everything changed.

Whatever had been building inside of me burst free. Somehow, I pulled all of the anger out of everyone in that bar. One second, they were all ready to kill us. The next second they were completely devoid of anger. The shift was so sudden, some of them collapsed. The man who challenged us lowered his gun in confusion, falling back a few steps. Only Michelle, who wasn’t angry, was unaffected.

The thing is, all of that anger had to go somewhere. As it drained from everyone in the bar, it flowed into me. Anger became rage became wrath became cold, implacable fury.

I stalked toward the man and whatever expression I wore terrified him. The blood drained from his face and he stumbled back from my advance. He caught his foot on a chair and fell, the gun clattering from his hand. I squatted down next to him and the man curled up into a quivering ball. I picked up the gun and examined it idly.

“So you’re going to hurt me ‘real bad,’ are you?” My voice was so cold I half expected frost to form in the man’s hair.

The man shook his head violently and a wet stain spread over his groin.

“How nice that you don’t want to hurt me any more,” I said. “Too bad I don’t feel the same way about you.”

All around me, stunned people watched in silence as I carefully placed the gun against the man’s head. I held it there, basking in the fury inside me and the growing fear around me.

I reveled in the furious bliss for a few seconds then leaned over the man and gently whispered, “It’s time to die, little man.”

Is absorbed anger driving Matt to kill in cold blood? Find out in Chapter 7 of The Fugitive Pair, coming Monday!