Monday, October 19, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 37

< Chapter 36                                                                                                       Chapter 38 >
Warned by telepaths that security officers wait for them on level eight, Matt orders everyone to put their hands on their head and get on their knees.

Before the doors opened wide enough for us to see the officers grouped outside of the elevator, one of them yelled, “You are under arrest for assaulting a station security officer and violating decompression regulations!”

The doors slid farther apart. The first two officers revealed by the widening doors knelt on the floor three meters away from the elevator entrance. Both of them had their blaster pistols trained on us and wore determined expressions. I couldn’t see the power selector for their weapons, but I’d have bet the entire Connaught fortune the selectors were set to ‘kill’. The officer issuing orders stood a meter behind them and was just coming into view.

“Put your hands on your head and…” The officer came into view as the doors kept moving apart. His face slowly transformed from the same determined expression worn by his subordinates to one of slack-jawed surprise when he caught sight of all of us on our knees and with our hands already atop our heads. His voice lost its authoritative tone as he lamely finished issuing his commands. “Um… Don’t move.”

“What the hell-?” a young officer blurted once he could see inside the car.

“Don’t question it, boy,” an older officer growled. “Remember, we don’t want to shoot anyone.”

“Hello, officers!” Mark said, his tone bright and friendly.

The men and women arrayed outside the elevator all turned their eyes on the boy. Mark wore a wide smile and, if he hadn’t been kneeling right next to me, I’d never have seen the strain hidden by the smile. I suddenly realized I had no idea if Mark could affect so many people at one time—especially so many people who were already extremely suspicious of us. Telepaths mostly concentrate their ability on a single person, though I’d assumed Mark’s charismatic ability was different. But what if a narrow focus didn’t mean broader powers?

Zav must have seen the concern on my face from his place to Michelle’s left. In a barely audible whisper, he said, “Mark can handle this as long as we don’t dawdle or do anything stupid.”

I gave a fractional nod in response as Mark continued his greeting. “We heard there were armed officers up here and didn’t want any misunderstandings. But now you can see we’re just a tour group. We were a long way from our ship when the alarm went off and are just trying to get back to it.”

The officers exchanged glances among themselves and several turned questioning looks on the one issuing commands. Seeing this, Mark pressed his point. “I know we were supposed to go to the closest shelter, but we’ve all got friends and family on the ship. Besides, we weren’t really sure where the closest shelter was. But we’re almost back to level three, where we’ll be out of your hair entirely.”

Even as some of the officers gave ‘that makes sense to me’ shrugs, one of the Psi Corps psychics muttered, “You told them where we’re going! Just how moronic are you, kid?”

“Shut up, dumbass,” Gene hiss back. “There’s just one docking bay above this level. It’s our only possible destination.”

“What was that?” the leader asked, his expression softening but still suspicious. “What did those two say?”

“Oh, those two are always bitching at each other,” Mark responded smoothly. “They’re from rival families—sort of like the Montagues and Capulets.”

The leader’s attention returned to Mark, puzzlement replacing suspicion. “Who?”

“Um, the families in Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare’s most famous play.” Seeing deepening confusion, he added, “He’s an ancient Terran writer. We studied him in school.”

“Now I know they’re rich kids from a ship docked on level three,” one of the guards murmured. “No one else studies that crap.”

“Quiet, Barns,” the leader barked. Coming to a decision, the man lowered his gun. “Lower your weapons, everyone.”

Relieved smiles broke out among the officers as they brought their arms down though none of them holstered their guns. Then I spotted one officer frowning and looking at the leader. With a sinking feeling, I tried reading her emotions and got nothing. Pitching my voice very low, I said, “Mark, we’ve got a psychic null out there.”

“Sir,” the null said, “you aren’t buying this load of bull are you?”

“What are you talking about, Lindsey?” the leader asked. “These aren’t the people we’re looking for.”

“The hell you say, sir!” Lindsey said, bringing her gun up to bear on us again. “The pair next to the kid doing all the talking look a lot like the two fugitives we’ve been looking for. And why do they have a kid doing all the talking?”

“There’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for all of this.” Mark looked at the leader and his concentration deepened.

The uncertainty which had crept into the leader’s expression cleared and a friendly smile replaced it. “That should satisfy even you, Lindsey. Now lower your weapon!”

A look of disbelief flashed across Lindsey’s face as similar expressions appeared on the faces of the other officers. “You can’t be serious, sir!”

The five officers Mark used to have nodding in friendly agreement now looked confused. Mark’s increased attention on the leader obviously freed their minds enough for Lindsey’s objections to take root. A couple of them tentatively brought their weapons halfway up, not quite willing to point them at us yet but ready to do so.

Behind me, the psychic who questioned Mark’s approach to calming the officers said, “Screw this!”

Heat flared behind me. Without turning around, I knew yet another pyrokinetic was off the rails. Was there something about that ability which turned those with the power into short-fused hotheads? Pun very much not intended at this point.

Turning, I saw a woman close to my own age with her arms wreathed in flames. She was raising her arms, no doubt preparing to engulf the guards in fire.

“Put those flames out, you idiot!” I yelled. “Don’t you-”

Startled, the wavering security officers all brought their guns to bear on the elevator and looked to their leader for instructions. The leader did exactly what someone who lives on a space station does when they spot open and uncontrolled flames.

Pointing into the elevator, the officer in charge yelled, “Fire!”

Are our heroes about to die in a hail of blaster fire? Find out in Chapter 38, coming Wednesday!