Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 29

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Matt’s uncle suggests they create a real decompression on the station.

Uncle Gunther wanted to cause an actual decompression? Unbidden, images from school training vids came to mind—terrified people screaming wordlessly as they were sucked out into space to certain death. My head was shaking before I finally found my voice.

“Absolutely not!” The vehemence in my voice took my uncle aback. “We will not kill innocent people just to make our diversion more believable!”

“I’m entirely with Matt on this,” Michelle added, her tone equally forceful. “How could you even think we’d agree to something like that?”

“I’m not planning on killing anyone!” Gunther said once we gave him a chance to respond. “The man who suggested the idea makes quite a good living from insurance settlements for ‘accidents’ he stages. He’s pulled off decompression routines a dozen times all around the Federation and hasn’t lost anyone yet. I don’t know how he does this sort of thing, but his cons feature real holes in carefully secured areas, ensuring only his people get sucked out into space. He says he has teams waiting outside in spacesuits and the people playing the victim have vacuum harnesses worn under their clothes.”

Michelle and I exchanged glances. I shrugged and she said, “An actual hole in the station with people tumbling through it would really help convince people there was cause for alarm.”

“It might distract the navy, too,” I suggested. “Lord knows we’ll need all the help we can get escaping to a wormhole.”

“I thought you’d like it,” Uncle Gunther said. “And I’d like to add how deeply wounded I am that you thought I’d kill innocent people simply as a diversion.”

“Said the ex-pirate and kidnapper of my parents-in-law,” Michelle replied.

“Kidnapper, not murderer,” Gunther growled in response.

Michelle inclined her head slightly, “That’s a fair point. I apologize for suggesting you would cross that not-so-fine line.”

Gunther actually clicked his heels and bowed slightly. “And I accept your apology, fair lady, and beg you think nothing more of it.”

“Unless I’ve stumbled into one of those historical romances my mother enjoys reading so much, can we get on with the planning?” I asked. Without waiting for a reply, I continued, “How much does your insurance-scamming friend want in return for this service? I assume it won’t come cheap?”

“No, it won’t.” Gunther grimaced, “He wants five million credits. He claims it’s a reasonable fee for such a rush job.”

“Tell him he can have three and a half million,” Michelle responded immediately. “Be prepared to walk away if he doesn’t agree, but accept a counter offer of four million if he makes it.”

“Why bother?” I asked. “It’s not like a million and a half credits matters to us either way.”

“He won’t know that and it’s better for us if he doesn’t figure it out,” Michelle responded.  “If he realizes we aren’t budgeting our money, there’s a chance he might figure out who is behind this whole thing. Your name and background have been all over the station for the last day or two, so it’s not a big stretch.” She turned to Gunther. “Does he know you’re Matt’s uncle?”

“Not to the best of my knowledge, but I approve of your caution.” Gunther bestowed a smile on Michelle. “After all, the man could make quite a bit more than that turning us over to the authorities.”

“Can you trust him to go through with his end of the bargain?” I asked. “I’m assuming he’ll demand payment up front. Besides, we won’t have time to stop and pay him afterwards.”

“That’s why I’ll be supervising his operation,” Gunther said. “Once he actually blows out the bulkhead, I’ll run for the ship. It’s also why I came back to the ship—I need a credit stick with the right balance to give to him.”

We prepared two credit sticks, one with three and a half million on it and a second with half a million. Gunther took them and left to finalize the deal.

At Michelle’s insistence, I searched for a list of psychics assigned to the Piscain Station Psi Corps office. That proved much harder to find than the office’s emergency procedures, but I finally found it. As expected, they had a bunch of telepaths. Those are not only the most common psychics, they’re also generally the most useful. The office had several empaths, a few telekinetics, two healers, three pyrokinetics, an astral projectionist, and one whose ability was restricted only to those with Top Secret clearance.

“Why would you want a pyrokinetic in a space station?” Michelle asked. “Isn’t fire the last thing you’d want?”

Shrugging again, I said, “I don’t know much about pyros. Maybe they can put out fires as well as start them? That would be really useful in this kind of environment. But I’m more worried about the astral projectionist. If she’s on the station, they could send a message to another station without bothering with a messenger drone.”

“But they already tried a drone,” Michelle reminded me. “Why would they do that if the projectionist was in the office?”

“Maybe they’re being sneaky or maybe she was resting after an earlier sending. I read somewhere that sending interstellar messages really exhausts an astral projectionist.” I ran my hands through my hair in frustration. “There’s so much we don’t know and won’t have time to learn before we make our move—what if we missed something vital?”

“Then we’ll deal with it when we find it, babe.” Michelle went back to rubbing my shoulders.

Grinning, I went back to massaging Michelle’s chest. “Oh look, I think I found something vital! How should we deal with it?”

A soft moan escaped Michelle’s lips. “Is there anything more you can get from Psi Corps’ files?”

“Without taking some really big risks, no,” I said.

“Then I’d like to test a new theory of mine.” Michelle pulled me to my feet and toward one of the ship’s cabins. “I think we won’t get screwed during our rescue plan if we get well and truly screwed before the rescue.”

That sounded extremely reasonable to me.


Will our heroes prove Michelle’s theory? Find out more in Chapter 30 of The Fugitive Pair, coming Friday!