Friday, August 14, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 9

< Chapter 8                                                                                                       Chapter 10 >
Matt and Michelle make an emergency lift off from the planet Wolf.

Our ship rose into the night sky, accelerating away from Wolf in a graceful upward arc.  I, on the other hand, was a lot less graceful, bending over the side of the co-pilot’s chair and puking my guts out. How lucky that Michelle and I never got around to dinner, huh?

A beep sounded from my arm and a mechanical voice said, “Diagnostic complete. The patient has a concussion.”

“That explains a lot,” Michelle said. “Med unit, can you correct the concussion?”

“Yes, though it is not recommended. The patient will recover naturally with rest,” the unit responded. “Nanite intervention is only advisable if the patient hasn’t the time to heal naturally.”

“Oh, lovely. Rest. Relaxation. Yes, we’re going to have lots of time for that!” Michelle sounded upset, but I couldn’t quite get my brain to remember why.

“Don’t worry, hon,” I said, tapping my head. That hurt, but I grinned anyway. “I’ve got a really hard head. It’ll be okay.”

“Your head might be okay, but what about the patrol ships in orbit around Wolf?” Michelle asked. “How are we going to get away from them without a pilot?”

“Oooooh. Now that is a good question,” I replied. “Can I get back to you on it?”

Then we cleared the atmosphere and the comm light began blinking. Without giving it a second thought—or maybe even a first thought—I answered the comm.

“Yello. Or maybe green. I can never choose.” I considered the options for a second, then said, “Maybe you can choose for me?”

“Who is this?” a harsh voice demanded.

“Don’t you know?” I asked. “You called me.”

“Look, I don’t know what you think you’re—“

“It would be polite for you to introduce yourself, first,” I interrupted, then continued in a sing-song voice, “I will if you will.”

“Fine, we’ll play your stupid game. This is Captain Carol Odenton, commanding the Wolf Planetary Defense Force Gunship Alpha. Who—“

I burst out laughing. “Oh, oh! I get it—you’re on the alpha of the Wolf navy! That’s pretty funny.”

“Is there someone who is not an idiot I can talk to? We are in pursuit and are authorized to use force to keep you from leaving the system.”

I considered that for a minute. “Do you mean that Wolf is such a crappy place to live that you have to force people to stay here? That’s just wrong, Captain Lady.”

At this point, Michelle interrupted and took over the conversation. I was glad to let her do it. This captain wasn’t making any sense at all!

“Captain Odenton, my partner has a concussion. There is no disrespect intended.”

“Uh huh. We’ll have our doctor check him out—right after you reverse thrust and hold position for boarding!”

Wow, the captain really was bossy. I opened my mouth to tell her that, but Michelle covered it with her hand. Never let it be said I can’t take a hint. I licked her palm.

“What are the grounds for your demand, Captain Odenton?” Michelle said, remaining much too polite for my tastes. “We’ve done nothing wrong.”

“According to my sources, you fled a crime scene, broke into the shipyard, slagged a security vehicle, shot at security personnel, and lifted off without clearance.” The captain’s voice sounded smug. “I have plenty of grounds for my demand. Accede to it or I will be forced to fire on your engines and disable you. We will do our best to minimize damage to the rest of the ship, but I cannot guarantee the safety of anyone on board.”

Michelle grimaced. “Autopilot, can we outrun the patrol ship?”

“Don’t be foolish, girl,” the bossy captain said. “You’re not going to get away from us.”

At the same time, the calm voice of the autopilot responded, “This ship has superior acceleration, but the patrol ship has superior maximum thrust. Given sufficient time, the patrol ship will surpass this ship’s velocity and catch this ship.”

Michelle’s shoulder’s slumped and I really wished there was something I could do to make her feel better. But she needed a good pilot and here I sat, all messed up in the head. If only there was a way to fix my head. Then I remembered there was a way!

“Med unit,” I said, “please fix me up as good as new.”

Michelle spun to face me. “Babe, no! The med unit said it was better if you just rested.”

“Your instructions are unclear,” the med unit chirped. “Do you wish nanite intervention for your concussion?”

“Yes!” I said.

“No!” Michelle said a second later.

“Commencing nanite intervention,” the med unit said.

I grinned at Michelle. “Beat you to it!”

Michelle closed her eyes and whispered, “God, please don’t let my husband die.”

“I most definitely do not want anyone to die,” the gunship captain said, not having figured out Michelle wasn’t talking to her. “All you have to do is reverse your thrusters and I promise you won’t be harmed.”

“Autopilot, set a course for wormhole epsilon. Execute at full acceleration,” Michelle said.

“Acknowledged. Proceeding at full acceleration,” the autopilot responded.

The subtle hum of the engines increased quickly as the autopilot brought us up to full thrust. I wasn’t surprised when the irritating captain voiced her disapproval.

“That was not a smart decision, girl,” the captain growled. “I hope you live to regret it.”

“Oh, shut up, woman,” Michelle snapped. “The only laws my husband and I have broken are ones governments—both local and Federal—have forced us to break. All my husband and I want to do is live our lives in peace—only people like you won’t let us.”

With a click, Michelle muted the comm channel and sat back. “Autopilot, how long will it take us to reach wormhole epsilon and how long before the patrol ship is in firing range?”

“Nine minutes, sixteen seconds to the wormhole,” the autopilot said, “and seven minutes, two seconds until the patrol ship is within firing range.”

Michelle leaned back in her chair, rubbing her temples. “Med unit, how long does the concussion repair take?”

“The patient will be fully functional in six minutes, three seconds.”

I pumped my fist in the air. “Woo hoo! The med unit wins!”

Michelle stood up. “Matt, why don’t you move to the pilot’s seat? We won’t have much time to spare once the nanites finish working on you.”

“Righto, Commander Comely!” I said. I’d hoped for a laugh from Michelle, but I guess she wasn’t in a laughing mood. Standing carefully—my head still felt strange, after all—I kissed Michelle lovingly. “Don’t worry, hon. I’m sure I’ll think of something once I can think again!”

Michelle guided me into the other chair. “I’m sure you will, babe, but right now you’d better sit down before you fall down.”

After I was seated, Michelle leaned over the back of the chair and wrapped her arms around me. Resting her chin on my shoulder, she said, “Med unit, alert us when there are fifteen seconds left before the concussion repairs are completed.”

“Acknowledged,” the unit said.

Michelle stayed right there with me as nanites worked on my brain and the patrol ship drew inexorably closer. When the med unit gave the fifteen second warning, she kissed my cheek and whispered, “I love you, Matt.”

“I love you, too, Michelle,” I said as she released me and took her seat at the communications and weapons control board.

Then my mind cleared and I leaned over the pilot’s controls. “Autopilot, disengage but continue tracking the patrol ship. Alert me when it’s in firing range.” The controls unlocked and I ran my fingers over them, entering commands. “Michelle, on my mark, deploy three decoys. I’m sending courses to your board now.”

Not wasting any time asking about my plan, Michelle quickly did as I asked. “Decoys ready.”

Time slowed to a crawl as the last few seconds ticked by. Finally, the autopilot announced, “The patrol ship is in range.”

A second later, Michelle said, “Missiles launched!”

Can recently repaired Matt pilot the ship to safety? Find out in Chapter 10, coming Monday!