Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 38

< Chapter 37                                                                                                       Chapter 39 >
With seven blasters trained on an elevator full of psychics, the leader of the security guards shouts “Fire!”

Only a great fool or a pyrokinetic—from my recent experience, there’s no discernible difference between the two—couldn’t predict the security officers’ response when a woman in the elevator caught fire. The instant I felt heat flaring behind me, I shoved Mark hard to the right and flung myself to the left, catching Michelle and bearing her to the floor.

The crack of blasters discharging was almost drowned out by the screams of the psychics packed behind us, but something in the massed fire sounded wrong. Something thumped to the floor behind me—probably the pyro’s body—and the screams intensified.

Even pressed to the floor under my weight, Michelle drew her blaster and fired back at the officers. Shouting so I could hear her over the panic behind us, she said, “Only three officers fired. One is down. The other two are the ones kneeling right in front of us.”

I was already reaching for my blaster before Michelle spoke. My draw was neither as smooth nor as quick as hers, but I brought my gun to bear as the two kneeling officers turned their attention on Michelle and me. My wife was quicker than any of us, snapping off a second shot before anyone else fired. One of the men pitched back, firing at the ceiling as his finger spasmed on the trigger. I was still aiming my blaster when the second officer lined his sights on me and squeezed the trigger.

And a blaster bolt did not punch a hole in my head. The officer’s gun jerked up a few centimeters and his shot blazed over my head and into the back wall of the elevator. A comical look of incredulity flashed across the officer’s face just before I shot him.

Though only a second or two had passed since the firing began, the remaining security officers realized something was wrong with their blasters. Two of them kept squeezing the triggers, apparently hoping the guns would suddenly start working. The other two, obviously more quick-witted than their fellow officers, dropped their blasters and dove for the guns dropped by the officers Michelle and I stunned.

The response Jonas trained into us when faced with multiple threats dictated what we did next. Without hesitation, I fired at the officer to our right while Michelle shot at the one on the left. The unconscious officers hit the floor and lay still.

The quick reversal of fortune stunned the two remaining officers into inaction. Still drawing on our training, Michelle and I smoothly changed aim and shot the remaining two guards.

“All of you, shut up!” Michelle shouted as she and I climbed to our feet.

As silence fell, we surveyed the scene in the elevator. The smoldering body of the pyrokinetic sprawled on the floor, three gaping holes burned into her chest. The elevator floor was visible through one of the holes and a quick look around showed one of the older psychics holding a burned shoulder. The third shot must have burned through the pyro entirely and wounded the man behind her.

I didn’t need my ability to gauge the emotions of everyone in the elevator, but I used it anyway. The emotions of those I could read matched the expressions of shock and fear on their faces. We were close to losing control of the group and that was something we simply did not have time for.

“Let’s go! Everyone get out of the elevator right now!” I ordered. To emphasize my instructions, I started pushing people toward the elevator doors. “Keep your eyes up, people, and don’t look back when you get out of the elevator.”

That’s when I heard crying coming from just beyond Michelle. Turning, I saw Zav hugging Kristin. “It’s okay, Kristin. Let it out.”

The teenage girl had her eyes shut tightly, but tears still flowed from them. “I tried to move faster, Zav, but I couldn’t! And then she lit up and it was t-t-too late!”

Michelle and I gave Zav a questioning look. Still patting Kristin’s head, he said, “She started sabotaging the blasters as soon as the doors opened enough for her to see the guns. Alas, I never trained her on blasters, so she had to break several internal components before she was sure the gun wouldn’t work.”

“And she blames herself for what happened to the pyrokinetic,” Michelle said in a soothing voice. My wife slipped an arm around Kristin’s shoulder. “Come on, Kristin, let’s get off this elevator.”

Zav released the girl and the two of us followed Michelle and Kristin off the elevator. I said, “She’s also the reason that officer missed me, isn’t she?”

“Yes,” Zav responded. “She used her power to push the gun barrel up a few centimeters just before the officer fired.”

“Does Kristin understand how many lives she saved just now?” I asked.

“Not yet,” Zav said. “When she calms down, though, she’ll figure it out.”

I picked up my almost-forgotten data pad, commanded the elevator to descend to the lowest level of the space station and then disable itself, disconnected the pad, and slipped out between the closing elevator doors. In the lobby, I saw Michelle quietly talking with Kristin. Cassie, Gene, and Mark were gathered around the girl in a show of support. Then one of the Psi Corps psychics stepped in front of me, fear and anger written on his face.

“Two of us are dead and one of us abandoned—and it’s all your fault!” he snarled.

“I did kill Sadie—something I’d do again to protect my wife—but you asked to come with us after I did that,” I countered. “And you didn’t protest even a bit when we left that other pyro in the Psi Corps office.”

“What about Bridget?” At my obvious confusion, he added, “The woman in the elevator. You got her killed and you don’t even know her name!”

“Bridget’s own actions got her killed. Or do you honestly think armed security officers are going to give a pyro the chance to burn them to death?” I brushed past the man, heading toward Michelle. “I don’t have time for this. If you don’t like it, stay here and surrender to those officers when they wake up.” I raised my voice so everyone could hear. “That goes for the rest of you. You chose to come with us. If you don’t like what’s happening, you’re free to stay here. If you still want your freedom, come with me.”

Heading toward the restricted access elevators which could take us to level three, I glanced over my shoulder to see if anyone chose to stay behind. I wasn’t surprised to see everyone—including the complainer—following me.

Before I got close to the new elevator’s control panel, one of the telekinetics asked, “Do you need access to the controls?”

At my nod, all of the telekinetics—including Kristin—hurried past me. By the time I reached the elevator, the control panel was neatly peeled away from the wall. Leaning on my experience with the first elevator, I had sole command authority over the elevator in less than a minute. The doors slid open shortly after that, revealing a much smaller elevator car.

“How many of us can fit in the car, babe?” Michelle asked.

“The specs say it has a maximum occupancy of twenty, but designers usually err on the side of caution.” I glanced at the car and then at the crowd of psychics. “Let’s see if we can pack everyone in. I’d really rather not split up if we can avoid it.”

Michelle took over, directing the psychics into the car. No one was comfortable by the time she finished packing them in, especially the lightest people. She had them sitting on the shoulders of some of the stronger psychics, but she managed to crowd everyone in with just enough room left for the two of us to fit into the car.

With the elevator’s controls no longer restricted, I disconnected from the control panel and hit the icon for level three. The doors slid shut mere centimeters from my nose, then the car ascended swiftly toward our last stop on Piscain Station.

What will our heroes find when they reach level three? Find out in Chapter 39, coming Friday!