Monday, October 26, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 40

My third novel, Scout's Duty, is out in ebook form! In celebration, the first two books in the Scout series--Scout's Honor and Scout's Oath--are on sale for 99 cents each.
< Chapter 39                                                                                                       Chapter 41 >
To the surprise of our heroes, Matt’s friend Rob already knows who Cassie is.

Rob’s words bounced around inside my head for a second as I tried to come to grips with them. Before I even realized what I was doing, I fired up my ability and read my longtime friend. He was a jumble of emotions—excitement, trepidation, and relief. Then a shriek of pure excitement came from next to me.

“Oh my gosh!” Cassie cried. “You’re a precog like me, aren’t you?”

Rob said, smiling at the joy radiating from Cassie’s face. “I don’t think I’m anywhere close to your power, but yeah, I think I have precognitive abilities.”

“Is that why you’re here at Piscain Station?” I asked.

“It is indeed, Matthew,” Rob’s father said. He spun the chair around so he faced me directly. “A few weeks ago, Rob came to me with a strange story. He said you were in trouble—no, he said you were going to be in trouble. When Rob told me he’d been dreaming about it for several nights in a row, I simply thought it was a subconscious reaction to you marrying Michelle.”

“Huh?” Michelle asked.

“Rob used to have quite the crush on you, young lady,” Mr. Calley responded.

Dad!” Rob rolled his eyes. “That was years ago.”

Mr. Calley waved off Rob’s reaction. “My son was quite persistent, though, so I commed your father the next morning. When I brought up your name, he insisted we meet in person and ended the call. Thirty minutes later, Richard and Jonas showed up at our door, listened to Rob’s story, and then told us that you and Michelle fled the planet the night before. More importantly, they told us to keep quiet about Rob’s dreams or he might end up attracting Psi Corps’ attention.”

“They didn’t tell us you were psychic, Matt,” Rob said, “but after they gave that warning it was pretty easy for us to figure out.”

“More importantly, when he told me we had to come to Piscain Station because you were going to need our help, I immediately ordered the Southern Star prepped for departure. We left before the morning was out. What with the alert out for you and Michelle, plus the decompression alarm, we’ve been quite worried about the two of you.” Mr. Calley raised his glass to my uncle and grinned. “Honestly, I’ve never been so relieved to see a pirate as I was when Gunther showed up.”

I gave my friend an inquiring look. “Rob, why didn’t you just comm me about your dreams?”

“Probably for the same reason you never told me you were an empath,” Rob replied.

I nodded in understanding. “I hate to say it—because I really appreciate what you’ve done—but coming to help us is the exact opposite of what Dad and Jonas advised. It probably put you directly in Psi Corps’ sights.”

It was Rob’s turn to nod. “Yeah, that’s why I’m joining your crusade against Psi Corps and the psychic impressment laws.”

Michelle and I exchanged glances, then she said, “You do realize Matt and I have only talked about doing that, Rob?”

“You’ll do it, assuming we manage to reach Ark’s Landing safely,” Rob assured us. “Mentioning that, we’d better get you to the pilot’s seat, Matt, and get going.”

“Me?” I asked. “Don’t you already have a pilot?”

“Sure. He’s great if you want to move a ship carefully through crowded space without spilling anyone’s cocktail,” Rob replied, motioning me toward the door. “I don’t think he’s the right choice for flying through the middle of a Navy task force.”

Rob led me out of the sitting room and Michelle naturally fell in beside me. Over her shoulder, she told Zav and the kids, “Make yourselves comfortable. We’ll check back with you once we enter a wormhole.”

Davis, the Southern Star’s pilot, wasn’t happy with the decision to replace him and was even less pleased when he got a look at me. He didn’t quite call me a boy, but I think it took a supreme act of willpower on his part to refrain from it. His attitude didn’t soften even slightly as I rattled off technical questions about the maximum thrust of the main engines and the maneuvering thrusters, defensive systems, and weapons.

After listening to the answers, I asked, “Do you think the engineer can fake an engine malfunction? If so, we can go full burn right from the start and have some serious velocity building before the naval ships even pick us up on scanners.”

“You’re going to slag half of our dock doing that,” the pilot said, his tone laced with disapproval.

“I know what I’m going to do to the dock,” I growled, “but that’s not what I asked.”

“I’m a pilot, not the engineer,” sniffed the man. “Why don’t you ask him.”

“I will,” I said. “Rob, I think it would be best if your pilot went to his quarters and stayed out of my way.”

“Who do you think you are, boy?” the pilot spat, his supreme act of willpower failing. “You can’t order me out of my pilot’s compartment!”

“Actually, it’s my pilot compartment,” Rob said in a flat voice. “You’re a good pilot, Davis, but what we’re about to do is beyond your training and experience. Matt, on the other hand, has evaded determined pursuit three times in the last year. Please go to your quarters until we’re safely away from this system.”

His face a mask of fury, David rose stiffly and stomped from the compartment. Watching the pilot leave, Rob sighed, “I don’t think Davis will ever forgive me for this.” Turning back toward Michelle and me, he added, “I’ll get Aarn, the engineer, on the comm for you, Matt.”

A few seconds later, I found myself staring at a grizzled man while I explained my idea. The engineer frowned, rubbed his chin, and said, “It sounds a mite tricky to me, lad. What does Davis think o’ the idea?”

My mind spun through half-a-dozen ways to tell the engineer that I’d sent the pilot to his quarters. “Well, ah, you see…”

When the engineer’s frown deepened, Michelle leaned in front of me. Her voice breathless with admiration, she said, “Hi Mr. Aarn! Rob had to send Mr. Davis to his quarters because he got very snippy when Matt explained the plan to him. He says you can’t fool Navy sensors, but I bet you can do it!”

All I could see was a head full of blonde hair, but I readily heard the engineer’s tone change from doubtful to paternal. “Well, far be it from me to let down such a pretty lass. When do you need it done?”

“I’m so sorry, but the sooner the better!” Michelle let a little pleading enter into her voice. “You can do it, Mr. Aarn, can’t you?”

“Of course I can, miss! Is five minutes soon enough?”

Very quietly, I murmured, “That’s faster than I could have hoped for, so yes.”

Her voice bright with excitement, Michelle cried, “Oh, that would just be amazing, sir! Thank you so much!”

“I’ll get right on it, little lady!”

The comm screen was blank when Michelle sat up. She wore an insufferably smug expression when she spun to face Rob and me. “Shouldn’t you be doing some preflight checks or something, babe?”

As I busied myself with that, Rob asked, “How did you do that, Michelle? On his best days, Aarn is gruff, but you had him eating out of your hand!”

“Men like Aarn will never admit it aloud—they may not even realize it—but they all have a secret desire,” Michelle said. “They wish they had a daughter, a daddy’s girl to gaze with wide-eyed wonder at their work. If a girl knows the right expression and the right tone of voice, she can get a man like that to do just about anything for her.”

Continuing my preflight check, I asked, “God help me, is this what I can expect from our daughters?”

Her voice still smug, Michelle said, “No, babe, it’s much worse when the girl really is your daughter.”

“You’re going to have daughters?” Rob asked in confusion. “Are you pregnant, Michelle?”

“Not yet, Rob,” Michelle answered, “but Cassie assures us we’re going to have at least two little girls. Assuming we get away safely, of course.”

“Of course…” Rob muttered. “Um, congratulations?”

Four minutes later—a minute ahead of schedule—Aarn told us everything was ready in the engine room. Rob warned all aboard to strap in for acceleration and told them to keep their restraints fastened until we gave the all clear. The three of us also strapped in—me in the pilot’s seat, Michelle at the weapons controls, and Rob at the comm console—and I brought the engines online.

“Hang on,” I said, “this is going to be rough!”

Then I shoved the main engine throttle to maximum thrust!

Will Matt’s plan work? Find out in Chapter 41, coming Wednesday!