Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 23

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Matt is unable to extend his power and keep people from noticing Michelle.

Before Michelle or Cassie could offer hollow words in reply, we heard the apartment door open.

“Cassie?” Zav avoided calling my name or Michelle’s, no doubt to ensure some sensor out in the corridor didn’t record the words and trigger an alert with security.

“I’m in my room,” Cassie replied.

Seconds later, Zav took in the look on my face. “You weren’t able to reproduce that first success, Matt?”

“Just the opposite, actually,” I said with a heavy sigh. “The problem is I can’t expand it to include Michelle.”

“Yeah, I couldn’t see Daddy unless he let me,” Cassie added. “But I saw Mom every time.”

Michelle started, surprised but pleased at how naturally Cassie used her soon-to-be title. Zav nodded his understanding, scratched his chin absently, and stared off into nowhere.

“I thought this could be an issue,” Zav said after half a minute. “I puzzled over it while finding a place to store Cassie’s box and might have an answer—or the start of one.”

“I’m all ears,” I said, feeling a small spark of hope.

“Cassie, go down the hall and stay there until I call you,” Zav instructed the girl.

Once Cassie was gone, Zav pointed toward one corner of the room. In low tones, he said, “Michelle, wedge yourself into that corner as tightly as you can. Matt, you stand directly in front of her once she’s in place. Block as much of her from view as possible.”

Understanding dawned on both of us and we quickly positioned ourselves. Zav had me reposition myself slightly before declaring himself satisfied.

“Once you’re ready, Matt, I’ll call Cassie.”

I closed my eyes for a few seconds, clearing my mind, then nodded at Zav. As he called for the young precognitive, I projected disinterest. Zav kept his back to us, not turning around until Cassie entered the room. With bated breath, I waited for Cassie to come straight to Michelle. Instead, her gaze swept right past our corner of the room. My celebratory grin was just forming when Cassie’s eyes swung back to our position. With some obvious force of will, she stared right at us.

“Are they in the corner, Zav?” she asked.

Deflated, I stopped broadcasting and Cassie’s eyes focused fully on me. Stepping aside so Michelle could get out of the corner, I asked, “What did I do wrong?”

“Nothing,” Cassie replied. “But I saw a little bit of Michelle’s shirt. That blue she’s wearing caught my attention.”

“Good work, Cassie,” Michelle said. “Now I’ll know to wear a color that matches the wall.”

“That should help,” I said, “but I don’t like the idea of just hanging out in the corner of the room. Can we both fit into one of the closets so a searcher won’t simply trip over us?”

“Of course, Matt. This was just an experiment to see if this approach had any hope of working. Obviously, it does!” Zav assured me.

We worked for a while longer with similar success. Then Zav had me try walking about the apartment while broadcasting disinterest. That was a complete failure on my part. I was a long way from walking and broadcasting at the same time and never managed to take even a single step without losing focus.

“It would have been handy to walk around the station invisible,” I said, “but I’ll settle for staying hidden from the search team when they arrive.”

“You know you’re not truly invisible even if people can’t see you, right babe?” Michelle asked.

“What do you mean? That sounds just like being invisible to me!” Cassie said.

“Matt’s ability only works on a person’s mind,” Michelle replied.

“Yeah, I know that,” Cassie rolled her eyes, giving us a mild taste of pubescent insolence.

Arching an eyebrow, Michelle crossed her arms. “And?”

“And what?” Cassie deflected.

“If you know how Matt’s power works, tell me why he’s not really invisible,” Michelle sent the question right back to the girl.

A look of annoyance flashed briefly on Cassie’s face, but that vanished as she considered the question properly. After a few seconds, her face cleared and she nodded. “Oh, I get it! People around Daddy might not see him, but sensors will. And so will anyone watching him on a camera.”

“Exactly! I guess you are just that smart!” Michelle said, bestowing a smile on Cassie.

The girl beamed and, just as the door opened to admit Gene and Mark, said, “Thanks, Mom!”

The two boys just stared at Cassie, leaving the door open behind them. Several people walked past the door, casually glancing inside in the incurious way people tend to do. Zav quickly stepped in between Michelle and the door. Taking a cue from him, I turned my back to the door.

“Boys, how many times must I tell you to close the door!” Zav said in a loud and stern voice.

A knowing laugh sounded from outside as Gene jumped to obey. We didn’t relax until it slid completely shut.

Anger lacing his voice, Zav said, “You both know an alert is out for Matt and Michelle, yet you just left the door wide open so any passerby could see them! Explain yourselves.”

“We were surprised when Cassie called Michelle ‘Mom’,”Gene said with a shrug. “Why did she do that?”

Unable to contain herself, Cassie blurted, “Because they’re going to adopt all of us when we get away from here!”

The two boys stared at Cassie for a second, then transferred their gazes to us. Finally, Gene turned to Zav and asked, “What do you think about this, Zav?”

“Matt has made it very clear that I’m welcome, too. And I must say it will be much easier keeping you four safe with the resources available to one of the richest families on Draconis.”

Mark’s eyes widened. “Do you mean Matt really is as rich as Cassie says?”

Zav’s eyebrows drew down. “Obviously you never read those news stories I told you to read, Mark.” He shifted his glare to Gene. “Did you read them?”

“I skimmed them,” Gene replied. “So, if Matt and Michelle adopt us, does that mean I can get a hot car?”

“Tell you what,” Michelle said. “let’s get out of this first.”

Gene shrugged acceptance. “Man, this is going to blow Kristin’s mind!”
“What about my mind?” Kristin asked, stepping through the apartment door just as Gene finished speaking. Unlike the boys, she quickly closed the door behind her.

Almost in unison, Cassie, Mark, and Gene told Kristin the adoption news. Zav added his blessing for the idea, answering Kristin’s first question before she asked it.

Kristin processed the idea for a few seconds before asking, “I can still be me after the adoption, right? We don’t have to become stuffy rich kids or anything? I don’t have to go to a debutante ball, do I?”

Michelle passed that question to me, saying, “Heck if I know. I married into money but didn’t grow up with it. Care to take her question, Matt?”

“Have I acted like a stuffy rich kid?” I asked.

Kristin grinned, “Nah, you’re pretty tolerable.”

“Now that we’ve settled that pressing question,” Zav interjected, “perhaps Gene and Mark will deign to tell us what they discovered?”

Gene grimaced. “The station already has guards around our sector. They’re letting people in, but no one can go out.”

Zav nodded, checking his watch. “I assume that means they’ll begin the search first thing tomorrow morning?”

“At seven,” Mark confirmed. He looked carefully at Zav, Michelle, and me. “You don’t look real scared—does that mean we’re not all going to die?”

Cassie jumped in with an account of my progress. By the time she finished her story, the others wore hopeful smiles. Kristin offered her closet for our hiding place, but Gene had a more compelling idea.

“Use Mark’s closet. He hardly ever hangs anything up, so there’s plenty of stuff Michelle can hide under. That should make it easier for Matt.” Gene flashed an evil grin. “If we toss Mark’s unwashed socks in there, it’ll be even easier to convince the searcher to go away!”

Kristin joined in the fun. “But the stench might kill Matt and Michelle!”

Michelle and I laughed, breaking off when we realized the others were seriously considering the socks might kill us. Looking to Zav, Michelle asked, “They aren’t really that bad, are they?”

“Of course not,” Zav said. Then he added, “You’ll probably want to burn your clothes afterward, though.”

Everyone but Mark, Michelle, and me laughed at that. Then it was time to fix dinner and formulate plans for the next morning. Tired from the stress of waiting and from my mental exertions during the day, I was ready for sleep earlier than normal. Michelle came to bed with me but had ideas other than sleep. Properly motivated, I had no trouble staying awake a while longer.

All of us except Cassie were up early the next morning. We set up Michelle’s burrow under Mark’s clothes and discovered Zav and Gene weren’t kidding about Mark’s socks. As Cassie slept on, Zav got a pensive look and glanced at her door often.

“What’s on your mind, Zav? Why do you keep looking toward Cassie’s room?” I asked.

“When Cassie sleeps this deeply, it usually means she’s seeing a potential future.”

That was definitely unsettling news, especially when seven came and went. The search was on and our precog was out. What was she seeing? Would her vision bear on our situation? Could it guide our actions? Would we receive any warnings in time to act on them?

A few minutes later, we got the answer to my last question. A fist pounded on the apartment door. A loud voice called, “In the name of the Federation, you are ordered to open the door and submit to a search!”

Can Matt conceal Michelle? Is Cassie seeing visions of our heroes’ future? Find out in Chapter 24, coming Friday!