Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 8

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Fleeing back to their spaceship, Matt and Michelle find a road block at the spaceport gate.

I looked at the size of the vehicles blocking the gate—they were a lot bigger than our rental car! Too bad this was an all ground-car planet because a repulser hop would come in real handy right about now.

“Are you sure you can punch through that gap?” I asked, my voice rising as I braced myself for impact.

“Not a chance,” Michelle said, her voice as calm as could be. “But those security guys don’t know that I know that.”

“Uh, what does that—”

Michelle interrupted my question with a sharp turn to the left. The rear end of the car swung around and scraped the fender of one of the security trucks. People dove every which a way, trying to get clear of the impact they thought was coming. Instead, Michelle swung us onto an access road running around the outside of the fence.

“Can we just crash through the fence somewhere away from the gate?” I asked once I got my breath back.

“Nope. The fence is just the visual barrier,” Michelle responded. “If you look closely, you’ll see the whole thing is glowing slightly.”

I looked closely. Then looked again before finally seeing it. A ten-foot high forcefield ran around the spaceport, providing far better security than any metal fence ever could.

“How on earth did you see that while driving?” I asked. “I can barely see the glow right now and I’m looking for it!”

“I noticed it on the way out of the spaceport earlier today,” Michelle said. “You were giving the guard our IDs and I had plenty of time to look around.”

“And you just thought it would be a good time to study the security layout?” It was a rhetorical question. Of course, Michelle studied the layout. Her father spent most of her life drilling that into her. She could probably stop breathing more easily than she could stop looking for possible threats.

“Okay, what’s the plan now?” I asked. “Is there some place we can ram the fence without wrecking the car? Or maybe a ramp or something you’re going to use to jump the fence?”

“This isn’t one of your adventure vids, Matt,” Michelle replied, laughter bubbling up in her tone. Was that humorous laughter or just-short-of-hysterical laughter? “When we get close to our ship, I’m going to stop the car next to the fence. We’ll climb up on the roof and jump over from there. We both have enough gymnastics training to do that.”

“That’s reasonable. Will we have time with all the pursuit that’s coming after us?”

“I hope so. Mentioning pursuit, can you look back and tell me what the security guys are doing, babe?”

I turned around and looked toward the gate. The police cars weren’t here, yet, but the security forces were mobilizing quickly. “It looks like they’ve split up. Half are following us on this road and half are chasing us from inside the fence.”

Michelle sighed. “That’s the best I could have hoped for, I suppose. This would be a lot easier to pull off if they were all out here on the access road. Okay, time to look the other way. Can you see our ship?”

I gazed off into the distance, looking through the rows of parked spacecraft. Fortunately, Wolf isn’t a high traffic planet, especially for small, personal ships like ours. “Yeah, it’s about a kilometer away from us—at least the closest part of the fence to the ship is that far away.”

“Got it. When we stop, get on top of the car, boost me over, then jump over yourself.”

“Good idea,” I replied. I had always been better than Michelle at vertical leaps and was also a lot stronger than her. I could boost her over the fence easily enough and then clear it on my own. “Don’t wait for me when you hit the ground. Take off for the ship. I’ll catch up.”

“You’d better,” Michelle muttered. “Grab onto something, I’m stopping now.”

“What? But you’re still going full—”

Michelle suddenly cut the steering wheel to the right and jammed the brakes all the way to the floor. The car went into a tight spin before slamming into the force field and coming to a sudden stop.

I really just wanted to sit there and take a minute to get my bearings, but we didn’t have anything close to a minute. Throwing my door open, I hopped out of the car and clambered onto the roof. I leaned back against the forcefield, feeling the tingle of energy along my back, and cupped my hands. Michelle swung onto the roof and immediately stepped into my cupped hands. As soon as her hands braced against my shoulders, I lifted her up over my head.

Then Michelle called, “Clear!”

I backed as far from the fence as I could—all of two steps—as she took off sprinting for the ship. I took one step, bounded into the air, planted my other foot against the force field, and pushed up again. I didn’t clear the fence. Fortunately, I had no time to think about what came next. I wrapped my hands over the barbed top of the fence, which stuck out from the forcefield, and swung myself over.

Sharp metal ripped into the palms of my hands and blood flowed freely. Ignoring the pain, I concentrated on my landing. A twisted ankle, like the one I got months ago when the gang of thugs chased me off the train, would be a real disaster now! I tucked and rolled as I hit the ground, then came up running.

Michelle was already twenty meters away and running at top speed. I sprinted after her, taking a look to my right to check on the approaching security forces. They were still half a kilometer away and were slowed by the parked spaceships they had to drive around.

I was feeling pretty good about our chances until the first blaster bolt ricocheted off the tarmac ahead of me. Then the air seemed as if it was filled with blaster fire. It was probably only half a dozen men firing at me—from moving, swerving vehicles, no less—but it damn sure seemed like a lot of people were taking pot shots at me!

I found myself dodging, cutting left and right, and generally acting like some kind of stunt man in an action vid. Michelle looked over her shoulder, her eyes widening at the sight behind her. I was afraid she’d turn and come to help. Instead, she put on an extra burst of speed and dove through the spaceship’s airlock. I kept dodging and twisting and generally doing my best to make myself a hard target to hit. Several of the shots came far too close, including one that splashed pieces of tarmac up against my legs.

Didn’t these guys know that Psy Corps wanted me alive?

Then the unthinkable happened. I planted a foot to cut to the left and it came down in a divot dug out of the tarmac by one of the earlier blaster shots. My foot slipped out from under me and I went down hard on my left side. My ribs screamed in protest and some of my breath was driven out in a whoosh. Then my head bounced off the tarmac and bright lights burst open before my eyes.

I struggled to stand up. I struggled to breathe. I struggled to stop my head from spinning. And I struggled to see beyond the private light show going on in my head. When it all cleared enough for me to stand, I found my balance was iffy at best. I spun in a slow circle, trying to find our spaceship. When I spotted it, I tried running toward it. The best I could manage was a stumbling shamble and even that tended to veer to the left. I was always having to stop and reorient myself on the spaceship.

And then something came between me and the spaceship. I stopped, trying to figure out if I’d gone off course again, but I still saw the familiar nose of the ship poking up from the thing blocking my way.

I concentrated on the thing and it refused to come into focus. I shook my head in an attempt to clear my vision. Bad idea. Very bad idea. Stars blew up in my head again and pain shot through it. From far away, I got the idea someone was shouting something, but I couldn’t understand what they were saying. Hell, I didn’t even know if they were shouting at me. Little shapes moved all around the bigger shape that was in my way. Somewhere in the back of my brain, I figured those were the security people. They probably weren’t real happy with me and Michelle right now.

Michelle. Where was she? Oh, yeah, she got to the spaceship. She was safe. At least she could get away from here. Besides, what would Psy Corps want with her? She’s not the psychic. I waited for the ship to lift off and take my wife to safety. It didn’t happen.

Instead, something moved on the skin of the spaceship. I figured it was my head playing tricks on me since it looked like the ship’s skin was moving around. And then long things poked out of the ship and there was more flashing. All those little things—the security people—scattered as the big thing just sort of melted.

A booming, beautiful voice filled the area and shook my entire body. I even sort of understood what it said.

“Back away from the man and you will not be harmed. As long as he walks unmolested into this spaceship, everyone gets out of this alive.” The voice paused for a moment, before continuing. “Okay, babe, they’re backing off. You need to come to the ship!”

I stood there for a few seconds before remembering I was the one she was calling ‘babe.’ Smiling at that thought, I slowly walked around the big, melty thing. A few of the small things—security guys, I really need to remember they’re security guys not ‘things’—stood well off to the side watching me. I gave them a smile and a little wave and then stumbled into the spaceship.

The airlock door closed behind me and then Michelle was at my side, guiding me to a seat at the controls. “Do you think you can fly the ship, Matt?”

Through force of will, I tried to make the controls stop spinning and failed miserably. “Ummmm, nope.”

“That’s just fan-damn-tastic,” she muttered, punching a few buttons on the controls.

While lights blinked and other stuff whirred, Michelle grabbed a first aid kit from the wall brackets. She rolled up my sleeve and slapped a med unit onto my arm. As my arm prickled from the unit’s probes, Michelle plopped down in the pilot’s seat.

She took a few seconds to check the exterior cams, grimaced, then fired off a few laser blasts. Leaning toward a microphone, she said, “Stand back or else. We’re lifting off now.”

Michelle turned off the mic and looked at me. “Please be a minor injury that’s easy to fix! I’ve got a bad feeling that we’re going to need a real pilot soon.” Turning back to the controls, she said, “Autopilot, liftoff.”

“Systems startup incomplete,” a soothing voice replied.

“Emergency override zeta three seven,” Michelle said.

“Emergency override activated,” the voice said. “Liftoff in five, four, three, two, one.”

The engines roared and our spaceship rose into the night sky.

Will the autopilot be sufficient for Matt and Michelle to escape the Wolf system? Find out in Chapter 9, coming Friday!