Friday, September 11, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 21

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Zav begins Matt’s training.

Zav worked with me for several hours after dinner, taking me through exercises designed to clear my mind and give me easy access to my empathic abilities. I thought I’d learned how to do this from my mother, but the methods she taught me were only the beginning. From my point of view, Zav’s training was revolutionary. In just the few hours we worked together, I advanced farther than I’d managed working on my own after rescuing my parents.

By the time the four children went off to bed, I was exhausted yet kept pushing Zav to teach me more and myself to master his teaching as quickly as possible. The fourth time I refused Zav's suggestion to get some sleep, Michelle intervened.

“All right, babe, that’s enough for tonight.” Michelle took my hands and pulled me out of my chair. “You’re barely able to keep your head up as it is.”

“But I’ve got to be ready when the searchers come!” I mumbled even as I rose to my feet.

“You won’t do us any good if you’re too worn out to think straight, much less use your powers,” Michelle replied. “Besides, Zav needs sleep, too.”

“Bless you, child.” Zav’s knees popped as he stood, providing an audible reminder that he was considerably older than me. “Michelle, did I overhear you making arrangements for a room and a bed?”

“Yes, Zav, though the kids cooperated fully. The girls are doubling up in Cassie’s room and we’re sleeping in Kristin’s room.” Michelle kissed Zav on the cheek. “Thank you for making us feel welcome and thank you for helping us.”

Zav smiled gently at my wife. “Thank you for accepting my little family, oddities and all. Now scoot. I’m sure a young married couple can think of better things to do than listen to an old man blather on.”

Michelle steered me into Kristin’s room and helped me get ready for bed. I managed to find the strength to kiss Michelle goodnight before falling into a deep sleep.

I awoke to strange sounds—laughter and the clatter of pots and pans. Deciding to put my training to the test, I cleared my mind—easy to do so soon after waking up—and reached out with my ability. I picked up three people happily involved in something, one of them obviously Michelle. There were two others whose feelings were muddled as if something was interfering with my power. From my training, I realized I could determine the sex of the person generating the emotions. The other two happy ones were female so must be Cassie and Kristin. The muddled ones had to be Gene and Mark, with their telepathic abilities interfering with my incompatible empathic abilities. I didn’t pick up anyone who might be Zav, so you can imagine my surprise when I found him sitting at his data pad when I came out.

Michelle met me with a quick kiss. “Good morning, sleepyhead.”

Grinning mischievously, Cassie came up as Michelle returned to serving breakfast. She pulled my head down and kissed my cheek. “Good morning, sleepyhead.”

My suspicions were aroused when a giggling Kristin followed Cassie and confirmed when Gene and Mark, both smirking, approached after Kristin.

“If Zav tries to kiss me, I’m leaving!” I announced with a laugh.

“Perish the thought, my boy!” Zav commented. “Mind you, if we were all kissing Michelle, I believe I’d find a way to overcome my reticence.”

Eying the plates of eggs, bacon, and waffles the kids were carrying to the table, I asked, “How long have you all been awake?”

“An hour or so,” Michelle replied. “But you were so tired we decided to let you sleep late. Besides, you’ve got a busy day of training ahead of you and will need the extra sleep.”

“She’s right, Matt,” Zav said. “Mentioning training, have you tried exercising your powers yet?”

I described what I picked up from the crowd and how easy it all had been for me. “But that brings up a really big question, Zav.”

“You want to know why you couldn’t read me.” It wasn’t a question, but Zav waited until I nodded before continuing, “I’m a psychic null—I have no powers nor can I be affected by any mental or emotional powers. Psy Corps actively searches for people like me to work as trainers because we won’t fall prey to our charges’ powers. Kristin’s telekinesis can affect me because she could hurl something at me, but the rest of you have no more effect on me than Michelle does.” Zav gave a wry grin, “Less, really, since Michelle is a lovely young woman.”

Kristin and Cassie crossed their arms, canted their hips, and glared at Zav. Kristin demanded, “Aren’t we lovely young women, too?”

“You are lovely too-young women,” Zav replied.

The two girls exchanged glances, nodded at each other, and relaxed their stances. Cassie spoke for both of them. “Just as long as you recognize that we’re lovely.”

Settling down to breakfast, Michelle told me how Kristin uses her ability to sabotage scanners around the space station. In preparation for our arrival, she’d psychically pulled chips from sockets, loosened connections, and otherwise made sure no scanners were working anywhere near the route we took from the airlock to the apartment.

“If they hadn’t done that, station security could have simply fed our images into recognition software and run it against the recordings from yesterday,” Michelle said.

“Won’t that spark suspicions and narrow down their search to this general area?” I asked. “I mean, how often do the scanners go out?”

“All the time,” Kristin said, a grin lighting up her face. “Every day, I go out and sabotage scanners all over the station. Station authorities have run system checks, replaced equipment, and even brought in expensive experts to examine the system. For some reason, they never find anything to explain the failures.”

Michelle bestowed a smile on our host. “Zav runs a tight ship. Daddy would approve.”

“Wait,” I said, “why can’t Kristin sabotage a few sensors in the service tunnels during the search? Michelle and I can just hide there until the search moves on.”

Michelle shook her head. “I already considered that, babe. Security sends out repair teams within an hour or two—much more quickly than the search of this area will take. Even if we evaded the search and got to the tunnels, a repair crew would come along and find us.”

“Can’t we just take Kristin with us and keep moving?” I asked.

Zav shook his head. “Residents are ordered to stay in their homes during a search. If Kristin isn’t here when they reach us, it will trigger an alarm and a more intensive search until she’s found.”

From there, conversation tapered off as we busied ourselves eating. After breakfast, Zav and I returned to training. He worked me hard until we broke for lunch. After that, he suggested we run a few experiments.

I sat in Cassie’s room and waited for Zav to send one of the three girls to the room to fetch something. My task was to absorb the curiosity for the search from whoever came down the hall. He sent them one at a time and each time I failed to do anything to dissuade them from finding whatever Zav asked them to find. He mixed up the rotation, sent two girls at once, and tried everything he could think of to spark my ability.

After an hour and a half of abject failure, I was irritable and tiring and very much afraid my failure would doom us all. From down the hall, I heard Zav quietly tell the others it was time to try something else.

“Michelle, go comfort Matt,” Zav said. “I’m sure he’s taking this harder than anyone else.”

I sank deeper into misery and found myself thinking everyone else would be far better off if I simply wasn’t here. In my dejection, I embraced that thought and let it envelope me. Michelle came into the room, concern written on her face. Then her concern changed to puzzlement. She looked around the room, shook her head, and left.

“Where’s Matt?” Zav asked.

“Huh?” Michelle responded.

“I sent you to comfort Matt,” Zav said. “Did he send you away?”

“I…didn’t notice him,” she replied, uncertainty creeping into her voice.

“You didn’t notice your husband?”

Feet pounded down the hallway. As the three girls crowded into the room behind him, Zav asked, “Matt, what did you do?”

All three of the girls looked around and I realized their eyes just sort of slid past me. It was as if they tried to focus on me and then lost interest. Comprehension dawned on me and I gave a whoop. The girls all jumped, their eyes bugging out at me.

“How did you do that, babe?” Michelle asked, her startled expression transforming into an excited one.

“I just felt so depressed at my failure that I just sort of wished I wasn’t here,” I replied. “I guess I was broadcasting ‘leave me alone’ hard enough that you couldn’t focus on me.”

Michelle and Cassie hugged me at the same time and Cassie said, “I knew you wouldn’t let us all die in the living room! Bring on those searchers because you’re ready for them!”

Has Matt stumbled on the secret to their survival? Find out in Chapter 22, coming Monday!