Monday, October 5, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 31

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The decompression alarm sounds, setting the rescue plan in motion!

All along the corridor, vid displays flashed the bright red words “Decompression Alert”. The wail of the alarm rose and fell in time with the flashing message on the vids. Red arrows appeared on the walls and flowed toward the nearest decompression shelter. There were few people in the corridor, but none of them were panicking. Following procedures drilled into space station citizens, they all walked purposefully in the direction the arrows pointed.

The volume of the alarm dropped a few seconds later. A calm, synthetic voice announced, “This is not a drill. Decompression incidents have occurred in three sectors. For your safety, please remain calm and report to the nearest decompression shelter. Station safety crews are en route to all affected sectors. Repeating, this is not a drill.”

Michelle and I remained in the little lobby, out of sight of the people hurrying to safety. As the voice repeated its announcement, Michelle gave me a concerned look. “What is your uncle up to? I thought there was only going to be one incident!”

“So did I, Michelle, but there’s nothing we can do about that now. I suppose it will keep station security busy and make ordinary people more likely to go to the shelters.” I stuck my head into the corridor and looked both ways. “The coast is clear—let’s go!”

Taking Michelle’s hand, we walked purposefully toward the Psi Corps office door. I had hoped everyone inside would come pouring out when the alarm sounded, but also hadn’t expected it. All big offices on space stations have their own shelters. Why should Psi Corps be any different?

Halfway to the office, a man and two women came around a corner and headed toward us. They were barely holding their fear in check; new citizens or visitors, probably. One of the women gave us a strange look.

“You’re going the wrong way!” she said. Pointing in the direction she and her friends were going, she continued, “The arrows are pointing that way!”

“We work in an office nearby,” Michelle said. “We’re going to its shelter.”

All three of the others stopped walking. “Thank God! Can we come with you? We’re new here and—”

“I’m sorry,” Michelle interrupted. “That’s not possible.”

“Why not?” the man demanded. “Our safety briefing when we came onto the station said we should get to the nearest shelter and that shelters have to let us in!”

“That law applies to normal shelters,” Michelle said with impatience, “not Psi Corps’ shelter, which will be full of psychics.”

“So what?” one of the women cried.

“You don’t have the training necessary to withstand their abilities,” Michelle said in an officious tone.

The man decided he’d had enough and took a menacing step toward Michelle. Knowing we had a very limited window to free our friends, I dropped my psychic shields and searched the area for fear. It was all around us, broadcast by people huddling in private shelters worrying about their loved ones, their lives, and their livelihoods. Hating myself for doing it, I drew as much of the fear into myself as possible in a couple of seconds, then pushed it into the minds of the three people before us. Their faces lost what little color they had and they stumbled back, raising hands as if trying to ward off a blow.

“Run!” I hissed urgently. “Follow the arrows or you’re going to get sucked out into space where you’ll die alone and terrified. Run for the shelter!”

Panic overwhelmed them and the trio broke into a run. Watching them scramble around a corner, I released the rest of the fear I’d drawn in and said, “Let’s go.”

Michelle eyed me for a second then said. “Can your power detect Cassie and Kristin and maybe find some happiness to broadcast to them? They’re smart girls and might figure out what you’re doing. If they know we’re coming, they’ll be ready to help or run.”

“Good idea, hon,” I said and mentally switched gears to search for happiness. People assume disasters drive all sense of joy from people’s minds, but they’re wrong. Joy comes from all sorts of things—knowing your loved ones are safe, knowing you’re safe, or even something as petty as getting out of a dreaded meeting.

I siphoned off some of those happy feelings then cast about for the young precog and the telekinetic. I had no trouble finding Cassie’s mind among the crowd in the office. Despite her young age, she radiated calm. Not worrying about finding Kristin, I broadcast happiness into Cassie’s mind. Some of the warmth and love I felt for the little girl went with the happiness. Realizing that was a far better way of alerting Cassie, I released the emotions I’d stolen and simply poured my own into her mind.

A few seconds later, Michelle gave a sudden start. Turning to me, she said, “Gene is sending messages to me. He says the office door is locked, but Kristin is working on breaking the lock. The whole office acts as a decompression shelter. We’ll have to open an airtight hatch just inside the main office door, but that’s all. As long as there’s air pressure outside the hatch, we can  open it.”

Reaching for the office door’s controls, I gave Michelle a questioning glance. She shook her head, indicating Kristin was still working on the lock. Seconds passed and still we waited.

“Gene says Kristin has never tried sabotaging a door lock before,” Michelle reported. “It’s taking her a while to feel out how everything works.”

“Can’t we just shoot the lock with a blaster?” I asked.

Michelle rapped her knuckles on the door lightly. “It’s armored to stop exactly that sort of thing, babe. I know our schedule is tight, but just give Kristin a little more time.”

Another minute passed as we just stood there. I kept looking in all directions, watching for any other stragglers or station security officers who might ask why we were just standing at the door. I kept a tap on all of the fear bubbling up around me, ready to draw some in and broadcast it at anyone who questioned us. When I caught sight of someone wearing a uniform rounding a corner twenty meters away, I drew in some of that fear. That’s when Michelle reached out and opened the office door.

The airtight hatch was a couple of meters beyond the entrance. It had an old-style manual locking mechanism so emergency personnel could open it if the station’s power was out. As I reached for the big wheel, Michelle caught my arm.

“Draw in as much fear as you can hold, Matt. We need to go on the offensive as soon as we open that hatch.”

“How useful will my power be, Michelle? We already know there are a lot of telepaths assigned to this office and they’ll all be immune to my power. They’ve probably got some psychic nulls like Zav, too.”

“Just pull in as much fear as you can and then blast everyone in the office with everything you’ve got,” Michelle replied. “We’ll deal with the ones you can’t affect when the time comes.”

“What about Cassie and Kristin?” I asked. “They’ll be affected, too.”

“Cassie is the one who suggested it,” Michelle said. “Gene and Mark are holding hands with them so they can shield them from you as much as possible.”

I concentrated on drawing fear from all around me. In my short time doing this, I’d discovered some emotions can be tough to draw out of people—usually good ones they want to hold onto—but fear is easy to take. Even when fear is both justified and useful, no one wants to hang onto that emotion. Within a few seconds, I had a big, uncomfortable, squirming ball of fear occupying most of my mind.

Nodding to Michelle, I motioned to the hatch. She spun the locking wheel and then shoved the hatch open. I had just enough time to take note of the crowded office and the people turning toward the hatch. I grabbed Michelle’s hand hoping I could spare her from the effects of my power.

Feeding all of my willpower and all of my own fear our rescue attempt would fail into my ability, I broadcast my stored fear at everyone before me!

Can Matt and Michelle overcome the psychics and Psi Corps officials and free their friends? Find out in Chapter 32, coming Wednesday!