Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 17

< Chapter 16                                                                                                       Chapter 18 >
Gene leads Matt and Michelle to what he calls ‘their new home.’

As the door slid aside, Gene motioned for us to enter. Unable to ignore her bodyguard training, Michelle stepped in front of me and entered first. She immediately came backpedaling out, forcing me to brace myself and catch her.

“You’re here! You’re here! You’re here!” The voice held the excited high pitch of a prepubescent girl and came from somewhere around Michelle’s chest. Two small arms wrapped tightly around my wife’s waist. “I’ve been waiting so long to meet you in person and now you’re here!”

Michelle glanced over her shoulder at me, grinned, and wrapped her arms around the source of the voice. “I’m happy to meet you, too, Cassandra.”

The excited face of a girl about twelve years old peeked around Michelle’s side. Deep brown eyes shined at me from under brunette bangs. “Hi, Matt. I’m glad you’re here, too.”

“Pleased to meet you, Cassandra,” I said. “I only wish everyone was as happy to see us as you are.”

“Here’s an idea, Cassie,” Gene said. “Why don’t you stop blocking the door and let us in?”

“Oops. Sorry, I’m just so excited!” Giggling, the girl unwrapped her arms from Michelle, took Michelle’s hand, and pulled her inside. “Come on—I want to show you my room!”

Michelle laughed, allowing the energetic girl to tow her through the living room and down the hall. “I’ll, uh, be in Cassie’s room if you need me, Matt.”

Closing the corridor door behind us, Gene said, “Wow, Cassie is even more excited than I thought. Sorry about that.”

I waved it off. “No worries. Is this Zav you talked about around?”

“I don’t know. Hang on.” Raising his voice, Gene called, “Cassie—where’s Zav?”

The girl’s voice came back, “He went shopping and took Kristin and Mark with him.”

“I thought he wanted to meet Matt and Michelle as soon as possible,” Gene replied.

“Yeah, but he claimed I was so excited I was driving him crazy and he had to get out before I succeeded,” Cassie said. “Kris and Mark begged him to take them, too.”

Gene glanced at me, pulling out his comm. “I’ll call Zav and tell him you’re here.”

“Matt?” Michelle called from Cassie’s room. Her voice sounded strained, so I was on my way down the hall before she even said, “Can you come here?”

Cassie’s room looked like an average preteen girl’s room, except almost every inch of wall space was filled with sketches. I gave the art a quick glance, impressed at the talent displayed by the artist. Looking at the girl, I asked, “Did you draw all of these? They’re very good.”

Nodding, Cassie beamed with pleasure at my compliment.

“Babe, have you actually looked at the drawings?” Michelle asked, her voice still thin and brittle.

I went to Michelle, looked where she was looking, and felt my blood run cold. Two drawings, slightly set apart from the others, showed a young man lying in a pool of blood and a young woman weeping over a grave. The young man was me. The young woman was Michelle. The grave was mine.

Her voice still bright, Cassie said, “Don’t worry about that, Michelle. It only happened if Matt never told you he was an empath. I didn’t really know you, then, so I didn’t put much work into it.”

My eyes drifted over the rest of the art. All of it was about Michelle and me and an unsettling number of them ended with one or both of us dead. The next series was on Rockport Station and showed both of us dead in the hanger where Paco and his gang ambushed us.

“That’s what happened if you only shot Paco one time,” Cassie told me. “I was getting to know you by then, so I’m really glad you shot him three times.”

She pointed to the next set of drawings, which showed the M&M making a run around Hector’s mining ships in an attempt to reach the wormhole. It ended with our ship exploding under the combined fire of all of the mining sleds.

“I was so happy when Michelle thought of running for that asteroid clump!” Cassie continued, oblivious to the effect her artwork had on Michelle and me.

Cassie had a dozen more similar sets of drawings. The worst of the lot was a haunting sketch of Michelle, obviously dead and with ice crystalizing on her skin, drifting in space. Some of the drawings were happy—me and my parents hugging, Michelle and me walking down the aisle after our fancy wedding on Draconis—but most of them were unsettling in the extreme. One of the last sets showed two Federation agents taking me away while two more agents restrained a distraught Michelle.

I turned an appalled gaze on Michelle, but she was looking past me to a section of wall I hadn’t gotten to yet. Her eyes twitched rapidly back and forth. Turning, I realized what held her attention. One drawing was set in the room we’d walked through to reach Cassie’s room. The crumpled, bloody bodies of Cassie, Gene, an older man, a teenage boy, a teenage girl, Michelle, and me lay scattered around the room. The other drawing showed a room I’d never seen. An older Cassie, maybe in her late teens, played with two very young girls as Michelle and I walked out a door.

“Don’t worry, I’m free that night,” Cassie said.

“What?” Michelle forced her eyes away from the drawings and looked at Cassie.

“To babysit Nancy and Nora,” Cassie continued. “I’ll always be free to babysit your children.”

Michelle’s wide eyes met mine over the girl’s head. In a whisper, she said, “But we just chose those names a day or two ago.”

“I know you did, or I wouldn’t have told you,” Cassie added. “I wouldn’t want you to think I named your babies!”

“We’re going to have babies? Two girls?” I asked.

“Unless we all end up dead in the living room, yeah,” Cassie replied. She tilted her head and scratched her chin. “If we don’t die, you might have more babies. I haven’t seen anything besides those two possibilities. Not yet, anyway.” Then Cassie pulled both of us into a hug. “Whatever happens, at least I got to meet you two first!”

The voice of a middle-aged man came from the doorway. “I meant to be here when you arrived. Meeting Cassie without a little advance preparation can be…unsettling.”

Cassie blew a raspberry at the man. “I just showed them all the stuff that could have happened. It didn’t happen, so why should it bother them?”

“Spoken like a true precognitive, Cassie.” Looking at the speaker, I wasn’t surprised to see the older man from Cassie’s drawing of the corpse-filled living room. Entering the room, he held out his hand. “I’m Zavier Gordon, but everyone just calls me Zav.”

Taking his hand, I said, “I get the feeling it would be a waste of breath giving you our names.”

Michelle interrupted. “I don’t want to sound rude, but let’s skip the formalities and get busy packing.” Jerking her thumb at the macabre drawing of the living room, she added, “That particular future can’t happen if we leave, right?”

“Precognition is more complicated than that, I’m afraid. Leaving may simply cause the event to change scenes, as well,” Zav said. “But I’m afraid that’s a moot point. We can’t leave.”

“Why not?” Michelle demanded.

Zav’s face turned grim. “The Federation Navy has shut down all departures from the system while they investigate the destruction of your ship.”

“Okay. That gives us more time to prepare for our departure,” Michelle said.

“I wouldn’t count on that. The navy has access to some very sophisticated sensors,” Zav responded. “The chances are very good that they’ll discover no one was on board when the ship blew up.”

“And that means the Feds will search Piscain Station for Matt and me.” Michelle dropped onto Cassie’s bed, her head held in her hands. “The five of you are in danger and it’s all our fault!”

Are our heroes trapped on Piscain Station? And who is Zav and what is he doing with a bunch of psychics in his home? Find out more in Chapter 18, coming Friday!