Monday, September 7, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 19

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Zav prepares to train Matt in the use of his empathic ability.

Zav questioned me in detail about my empathic abilities, how I discovered them, and my early experiences with them. I was describing how we’d used Michelle’s idea of pointing toward my parents when Kristin and another girl came into the living room. The double-take I performed when I realized the other girl was Michelle must have been comical since both girls laughed. Looking through the changes in makeup and the done-up hair, I readily recognized my wife. If I’d just glanced at her as she walked past me, I’d never have known it was her.

“You did a good job with the makeup, Kristin,” Michelle said. “Even Matt was fooled.”

“The makeup and the hair are certainly part of it, hon, but I’m still trying to figure out what else is different,” I said. “I mean, you’re you, but you’re also not you—if that makes any sense.”

Michelle ticked off on her fingers, “Putting my hair up changes my neckline. The makeup changes my face. The clothes aren’t my typical fashion. I’m wearing high heels, which changes my height, and they’re too small for my feet, which changes the way I walk.”

Zav nodded his approval. “Those shoes also give you an awkward gait which will put people in mind of a younger girl who is just getting used to walking in heels. If station security has video footage of you, these changes ought to be enough to throw off their recognition programs. But Kristin, where did you get such a short skirt for her to wear? I’ve told you—”

“The skirt was several centimeters longer than this, Zav. I made a few modifications,” Michelle said.

“Why would you do such a thing?” Zav asked.

Instead of answering, Michelle bent over and gave me a quick kiss on the lips. As she did that, I heard a couple of strangled sounds coming from the kitchen. Glancing around Michelle, I saw Gene and a boy a couple of years younger than him—Mark, no doubt—staring goggle-eyed at Michelle’s backside.

“Michelle, it might not be a good idea for you to bend so far over while wearing that skirt,” I said, trying to sound as casual as possible.

Michelle straightened, pulled down the hem of the skirt, and smiled at the boys. The two were blushing furiously and looking everywhere except at Michelle. She said brightly, “Oh good, it works!”

“Um, what works, hon?”

“Sometimes a distraction is just the thing a girl needs.” Michelle patted my cheek. “Fortunately, guys are visually oriented and so predictable. Give them a look up a girl’s skirt and their eyes can’t help but go there. That kind of thing might only gain me a couple of seconds, but that’s forever in certain situations.”

“Just so we’re clear,” I asked, “you’re planning to flash half of Piscain Station as a distraction?”

“Only if it’s necessary to keep you and these kids safe,” Michelle said, spinning about and tottering to the door. Just before she opened the door, she gave me a dead serious look. “Babe, I would happily stroll naked down the busiest street on Draconis if it would help keep you safe.”

The door slid open and the two girls left the apartment. Watching the door slide shut, I whispered, “That’s fair, hon. I’d happily die to keep you safe.”

From the kitchen, Cassie sighed, “See? I told you they were really romantic!”
Zav stared at the door for a few seconds then gave himself a shake. He gave me a sheepish grin and a shrug. Like the boys in the kitchen, Michelle’s stunt with the skirt also drew Zav’s eyes. I shrugged in return, accepting his unspoken apology for ogling my wife.

“Now, Matt, you were telling me about how you used your ability to find your parents. I must say that was an inspired suggestion on Michelle’s part. I’ve never heard of an empath doing such a thing before.”

“Maybe that’s because all of the other empaths you’ve met were in Psy Corps’ hands and no longer had anyone they wanted to find?” I suggested.

Without waiting for an answer, I continued with my story. Zav asked probing and insightful questions, particularly when I described how I broke through my unconsciously self-imposed wall. I had to do that so my ability could lead me to Michelle as she drifted in space outside of Pegasus Station. But when I told him about the bar on Wolf, his attention sharpened. I finally wrapped up by telling him how I absorbed Michelle’s panic outside of Piscain Station.

“You’ve left something out, Matt,” Zav said. “I’m not sure what it is, but you stumbled a bit between your parental pointing, as you call it, in the Pegasus system and the ones on the station. I need to know everything about your ability if I’m going to train you.”

I nodded, feeling color rising in my cheeks. “What I left out is the first time Michelle and I…um, you know.”

Zav smiled. “Alone on a spaceship with the girl of your dreams, I’m surprised it took you that long!”

“Yeah, anyway… I was able to read Michelle while we were doing it, of course. But Michelle also read me at the same time. Or I projected my feelings into her.” It was my turn to grin sheepishly and shrug. “I wasn’t really paying attention to my empathic ability at the time.”

His eyes far away, Zav said, “No doubt, Matt. No doubt.”

“Anyway, that’s all I can think of to tell you. Does it help?”

Zav’s eyes focused on me. “Absolutely! You’re a rare find, Matt. A rare find, indeed!”

“How so?” I asked.

“The last projecting empath on record is the unfortunate man behind the Cairo Catastrophe, several centuries ago.” Seeing my eyes widen in reaction to this news, Zav quickly added, “You’re not like that man at all, Matt. He was completely insane, for one thing, and far more powerful than you, for another. Not that you aren’t powerful, mind you, but he projected his insanity into millions of people.”

“That’s good because I don’t ever want that kind of power.”

“But you are the only empath I’ve heard of who could draw the emotions of others into himself.” Zav stroked his chin, deep in thought. “It’s obvious I can skip a lot of basic training with you, but I’ve also got to figure out how to exercise your projection and absorption abilities—assuming the Feds give us time to train you.”

Cassie, who had been spending more time listening to my story than helping in the kitchen, said, “I told you they were fascinating people, Zav!”

He smiled at the girl. “That you did, my dear.”

“If you’ve got what you need right now,” I said to Zav, “I’m going to help Cassie in the kitchen.”

Zav waved me toward the others, his eyes already drifting out of focus.

I wasn’t particularly useful in the kitchen—Cassie had to show me how to do just about everything—but she chattered happily with me about anything and everything. She also made me tell her how I proposed to Michelle, proclaiming it the most romantic story she’d ever heard. Then I told her about using my ability to find Michelle after she was thrown off into space and that became the most romantic story in the universe. Talking to Cassie and the boys made the time pass quickly. And before I knew it, Kristin and Michelle were back.

“Did you have to flash anyone while sending the message, hon?” I asked, turning to greet her.

“No, I didn’t have any trouble sending the message, Matt, but we’ve got real problems.” Her face troubled, Michelle kicked off the too-small shoes and laid her head on my shoulder. “Video images of us are up all over the station. Worse, the Feds are already mobilizing to search the station for us!”

Can our heroes hide from a station-wide search? Find out in Chapter 20, coming Wednesday!