Monday, August 31, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 16

< Chapter 15                                                                                                       Chapter 17 >
Matt and Michelle find a surprise waiting as they exit the airlock into Piscain Station.

Looking toward the voice, I saw a teenage boy about fifteen years old. He was slender and already as tall as I am. Bright brown eyes looked at us from under a head of brown hair and his clothes were typical for someone his age. The boy slouched in the corner of the room, attempting a casual air belied by the tension evident in his face.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“I’m the guy who unlocked the airlock and made sure Michelle noticed the hatch when you got close enough to see it,” he replied. The boy shoved off the wall and pointed to a row of lockers against the other wall. “You can put your spacesuits in lockers fourteen and fifteen. No one will disturb them before we can come back for them.”

“How do you know my name?” Michelle asked as the two of us began pulling off our suits.

“You and Matt are all Cassandra has been able to talk about for the last month! She insisted I case this airlock six times to make sure everything was in place for you.”

The boy opened locker fourteen and started stowing Michelle’s gear inside. With a half-shrug, Michelle accepted his help. The kid stacked the last of Michelle’s gear and immediately began helping me with mine.

Handing my helmet to him, I said, “Even in light of everything that’s happened to us lately, that makes no sense at all.”

“Yeah, welcome to my world,” the boy muttered.

“Okay…” I said, unsure what he meant by that.

The kid checked his chrono every fifteen seconds, telegraphing a need for haste. Or maybe he just wanted to give us that impression. Either way, it worked. Shutting locker fifteen, I said, “Let’s go.”

The kid led us out of the prep room without bothering to make sure the coast was clear. Exchanging puzzled looks, Michelle and I followed him. The guy set a fast pace like he really did want to get away from the airlock before a maintenance team showed up.

“What are you reading off of him?” Michelle whispered. At normal volume, she asked, “You know our names. Shouldn’t you tell us yours?”

“Oh yeah, sorry—Zav told me to do that. I’m Gene.”

“I’d return the favor, but it seems like you already know all about us,” I said. “Thanks for unlocking the airlock, though.”

We turned a corner and lost sight of the door to the airlock’s prep room. Seconds later, voices sounded from down that corridor. A group of men and women entered the hallway we’d just left. Their discussion was technical and left little doubt they were a maintenance team.

“The rest of the way should be clear until we reach the public part of the station.” Gene slowed to a normal walking pace. He looked over his shoulder at me. “You can stop trying to read me, Matt. Empaths and telepaths don’t mix well.”

My mind whirled, trying to figure out what question I wanted to ask first. Michelle beat me to it, asking, “You know Matt is an empath? And you’re admitting to us you’re a telepath?”

Gene nodded. “Zav said I should mention that at the same time I mentioned Matt’s ability. He said it would make you less anxious if you knew I was a rogue psychic, too.”

“Thank you. That’s pretty brave of you, telling that kind of thing to strangers,” Michelle said. “If you can’t read empaths, how did you know Matt was trying to read you?”

“It was an easy guess. I mean, I’ve been trying to read him,” Gene replied.

Michelle gave Gene an appraising look. “That’s reasonable, Gene, but it’s not the full truth, is it?”

The kid blushed. “Um, no.”

Michelle took my hand. “Did you read anything besides my surface thoughts?”

“No—I’d never do anything that rude!” A shocked expression came over Gene. “At least not to friends. I don’t blame you for holding hands with Matt, though.”

Michelle’s eyebrows rose. “So you know that lets Matt’s ability shield most of my thoughts from you? And why are you calling us friends? I mean, you seem like a nice enough guy, but we just met you.”

You just met me. I feel like I’ve known you for a year and a half—ever since Cassandra first told us about the two of you.” The corners of Gene’s mouth curled up into a smile. “She was really upset Zav wouldn’t take her to either of your weddings.”

“Okay, I’m completely confused, Gene,” I said. “Michelle and I weren’t even together as a couple a year and a half ago. How could this Cassandra—”

Stopping at a door, Gene interrupted me. “Through this door is one of the shopping districts. I know you’ve got a lot of questions, but the answers are going to have to wait until Zav can explain everything.”

Then Gene punched the door control. With a hiss, the door slid aside and a wall of sound rolled into the hallway. With a jerk of his head, Gene strolled out into the crowded shopping district. Seeing no other good options, we followed him.

The sights, sounds, and crowd in the shopping district shouldn’t have been jarring to me—I grew up on the second most populous planet in the Federation, after all—but Michelle and I spent most of the last three weeks together on the spaceship. Ex-spaceship, I realized, as the navy’s missiles had surely blasted the ship to atoms by now. But, other than an all-too-brief stop on sparsely settled Wolf, neither of us had been around other people in a while. I found myself jumping at unexpected sounds and unable to concentrate on much besides following Gene.

Michelle leaned in close and spoke in a low voice. “How are you doing, babe? Is my little ball of terror causing problems? If you need to release it, I’m pretty sure I can handle it now.”

I’d had the clump of emotion off in the corner of my mind long enough I no longer even thought about it. Prompted by Michelle’s words, I checked on it. “Um, it’s gone, hon.”

“Gone? Where did it go?” she asked.

“Damned if I know, Michelle,” I answered. “Maybe it just slowly leaked away while I wasn’t concentrating on it? Or maybe it vanished when we entered the airlock and your reason to be terrified disappeared. I don’t know a lot about this stuff.”

Gene drifted back to walk next to us during that exchange. At my last statement, he grinned. “Don’t worry, Zav knows all about it.” Pointing to a corridor on the right, he added, “We go that way.”

“You know, I’m getting tired of all of these veiled hints about people we’ve never met who seem to know a lot about us,” I said, my temper rising. “Why should we trust you?”

“Because I really do want to help!” Gene insisted.

Most public access space station corridors have regular alcoves so pedestrians can stop and chat without blocking foot traffic. I stepped into one, pulling Michelle along with me. Gene followed, refusing to wilt under my glare.

Before I could speak, Gene asked in a low voice, “Will it help if I let you read me?”

In surprise, I responded with a question of my own. “You can do that?”

“It’s not easy and I’m not real good at it,” Gene answered, “but I think I can let you in for a few seconds. Zav’s been working with me on it.”

“Let me guess,” Michelle said. “It’s because Cassandra told him we might not trust you?”

“It didn’t take a precog to figure out you might get suspicious,” Gene said. The boy closed his eyes and slowly his entire body relaxed. “Okay, try it now.”

I took Gene’s hand, pretending to examine it for some kind of injury. I struggled to calm my own mind. Michelle, obviously sensing my difficulties, gently rubbed my back. The simple normalcy of that helped. I established a tentative contact with Gene, but immediately ran into interference from his telepathy.

“I can’t get through, Gene,” I said

“I’m trying,” he hissed.

Without hesitation, Michelle used her free hand to start kneading one of Gene’s shoulders. The contact surprised him and his eyes flew open.

“I trust you will be a gentleman, Gene,” Michelle whispered, smiling her brightest smile, “and respect my privacy.”

Gene melted under her smile and the gentle massaging of his shoulder. As he smiled in response, his interference dropped away. It only lasted a few seconds, but it was enough. Michelle raised an eyebrow in question as I released Gene’s hand. I smiled and nodded.

“Thank you, Gene,” Michelle said. “Lead on.”

It took us another twenty minutes and half a dozen different turns before Gene stopped at a door. With a big grin, he keyed the door open.

“Matt, Michelle—welcome home!”

Who and what will Matt and Michelle find on the other side of the door? Find out in Chapter 17, coming Wednesday!

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 15

< Chapter 14                                                                                                       Chapter 16 >
The Federation knows a psychic is on board Matt and Michelle’s ship.

Rogue psychic.

The Feds knew. Or at least they guessed. It shouldn’t have surprised me after they chased us off Draconis, but actually hearing the accusation shook me in a way I hadn’t expected. With effort, I listened to Michelle’s response.

“Are you honestly talking about blowing our ship up because we might have a psychic…” Michelle paused for a second. When she continued, her voice was thick with sarcasm. “Excuse me, a rogue psychic—oooh, that’s so much more sinister sounding—on board? That doesn’t strike anyone as overkill?”

“Untrained, uncontrolled psychics are a danger to society, young woman,” Jones replied, his voice harsh. “I cannot believe you are unaware of the Cairo Catastrophe. It’s required teaching in all schools in the Federation.”

“Yes, I’m aware of it. But just because one psychic went insane and panicked an entire city, doesn’t mean anything,” Michelle insisted. “That was four centuries ago, for God’s sake!”

“Which shows that Psy Corps works,” Jones said.

Or it shows that most psychics, like most regular people, aren’t dangerous!” Michelle countered.

As Michelle argued, I busied myself entering commands for the autopilot.

“I’m not going to discuss this with you any further,” Jones declared. “You have one minute to comply with these orders or we will launch missiles.”

“Go to hell!” Michelle snarled, slapping the off switch for the comm. She took a couple of seconds to regain control then turned to face me. “Is there any chance we can make it to a wormhole before the missiles get us?”

“If they launch missiles,” Michelle gave me an exasperated look, so I quickly added, “which they probably will, but we can hope they don’t! Anyway, no, we can’t reach a wormhole before the missiles reach us. It’s not even close.”

Michelle bit her lip, something she only does when working through a problem, and nodded. “If Odenton included voice recordings in her messages, she almost certainly included logs of our escape, too. It’s a safe bet the navy knows we can deal with a small number of missiles. If they attack, they’ll use way more than three missiles… What will we need that we haven’t already got stowed in the various suit compartments?”

“I’ve got tools and electronics to help me open any airlock we reach,” I said, “and I stuffed all of our credit sticks into one of the pockets. What about the messages you wanted to send?”

“Already sent, though none of them include our plan to abandon ship,” Michelle replied. “When we get into the space station, our first priority has got to be sending a followup message. If our parents hear a ship was destroyed in the Piscain Hub after the messages I’ve already sent…”

I hadn’t even gotten that far in my thinking but tried for a knowing expression when I nodded. “Explaining all of this will be complicated. Can you create a coded message to cover it all?”

“Oh, yeah,” Michelle waved my concern off without even thinking about it. “Daddy prepared a lot of different codes, including one that lets us encrypt any message.”

Michelle and I turned to the sensor display as the last seconds of our one-minute warning ticked away. The time came and passed with nothing appearing on the display. Five seconds later, eight missile tracks blazed to life.

“Damn,” I said. I activated the autopilot, then took Michelle’s hand and led her to the airlock.

We helped each other attach the jetpacks to our suits then donned and sealed our helmets. I carefully inspected Michelle’s suit, looking for poor seals and loose fastenings. Once I gave her the thumbs up, she did the same for me.

I led the way into the airlock and we waited as it cycled. When the outer hatch slid open, I leaned over and touched my helmet to Michelle’s. “Are you ready?”

Keeping her eyes firmly fixed on mine, Michelle said, “Let’s go.”

Wrapping an arm around my wife, I used several clasps to hook our two suits together, then jumped out into the void. We drifted away from the spaceship which, from our perspective, seemed as if it wasn’t moving. Michelle closed her eyes and wrapped her arms tightly around me.

Making sure our helmets were touching again, I said, “I’m going to fire the jetpack for a bit, so we can get clear of our ship before the autopilot changes course. Keep holding on to me.”

Michelle gave a curt nod, so I fired the jetpack. It looked as if we pulled away from the spaceship, but I was decelerating while the ship maintained its velocity. In just a few seconds, it vanished from sight. I took a positional reading, adjusted our course a few degrees, and kept up my slow deceleration burn.

“Everything is looking good so far, hon,” I said.

“Uh huh,” Michelle said, her reply muffled.

Something, part empathic ability and part husband-senses, told me Michelle was having trouble with something. Fear spiked as I imagined all the myriad things which could go wrong.

“Michelle, what’s wrong?” I asked. “Have you got a suit malfunction or something?”

“The suit is fine, babe,” she said, her voice ragged.

Rather than ask anything more, I opened myself up and read Michelle. I expected to find a twinge of fear, but I found something else entirely. Michelle was absolutely terrified and her terror was building toward a full-on panic!

“Hon, what’s wrong? I’ve never seen you anything more than mildly frightened before.” I tried looking into her eyes, but they were squeezed tightly shut. “What’s terrifying you?”

“Nothing,” she whimpered. Michelle never whimpered. “Lots and lots of nothing. It just goes on and on and…” Michelle’s voice broke and she began sobbing. “I thought I’d be okay, Matt! B-b-but all I can think of is floating away from you outside of Pegasus Station. Floating forever and ever and—”

Without conscious thought, my mind reached out to Michelle. It grabbed her terror and gently eased it out of her mind entirely. I steeled myself for my own bout of fear as I pulled her emotion into my own mind—and the terror hit hard for a second after I pulled it in. Then it changed. Michelle’s blob of emotion—for want of a better phrase—just felt uncomfortable. It sort of sat in the corner of my mind and pulsed.

Oh!” Michelle breathed a soon as the fear left her. “Matt, that was you, wasn’t it?”

“Of course. Do you see any other rogue psychics nearby?”

“That was…” Michelle’s arms squeezed me even more tightly. “Thank you, babe! I don’t…”

“I couldn’t let you suffer like that, Michelle. Not when I could stop it.”

Michelle looked at me, her eyes shining. “But how did you—?”

I shook my head. “I don’t really know. I just wanted to ease your fear and next thing I knew it was inside my head.”

“But why aren’t you terrified?” Michelle asked. “When you absorbed all that anger, it had a real effect on you.”

“My best guess is that I’m not scared of space. Not even your abject terror of it can overcome it.” Another idea occurred to me. “Or maybe my power has a way to wall off stolen emotions, provided I don’t absorb a whole bar-full of the emotion. Either way, I think I can keep you fear-free until we reach the base.”

“Have I told you just how much I love you, Matt?”

“Every single time you look at me, hon.” I grinned at my wife. “It’s too bad we’re stuck in these spacesuits. This would be a really great time to get naked together.”

“Yeah, sex in zero gravity sounds interesting,” Michelle said, laughing. “Sex in zero atmosphere, not so much.”

The rest of the trip to Piscain Station was anticlimactic. Michelle’s ball of terror stayed out of my way and my course to the station was accurate. We took our time maneuvering around the huge station, hunting for an underused, out-of-the-way airlock. Finally, Michelle spotted one.

“I don’t know how you managed to see that door, hon,” I marveled at her eyesight, “but it looks perfect!”

“I don’t know, either,” she said. “It just jumped into focus.”

To my surprise, the outer hatch wasn’t locked. “Let’s get inside and get out of these suits.”

We cycled through the airlock and into a suit prep room. We removed our helmets and gave each other a big kiss.

“That’s real sweet,” a young, male voice said, “but you’re running late and a maintenance crew is due here in six minutes. We’ve got to be gone before they get here!”

Who is this person and how could he be waiting for our heroes? Find out in Chapter 16, coming Monday!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 14

< Chapter 13                                                                                                       Chapter 15 >
Hoping to bluff the Federation Navy, Michelle answers the comm and assumes the role of Mandy, the teenager she played so well when Matt and Michelle were searching for Matt’s parents.

“Um, hello?” Michelle’s normally confident voice was suddenly timorous. “Can you help me?”

“Identify yourself!” The voice was male, brusk, and authoritative.

Michelle gave a startled squeak. “I’m, uh, Mandy. Are you—”

“You are ordered to reduce velocity and prepare to be boarded.”

Now we knew the message drone—or drones, more likely—sent by Captain Odenton was picked up. Worse, whoever was in charge in the Piscain Hub was taking the Captain’s message very seriously.

“I can’t do that!” Michelle said, her voice climbing higher with each syllable.

“Young woman, you not only can do it,” the voice replied, “you will do it! If you do not comply, you will be fired upon.”

What? Y-you’re going to sh-sh-shoot me?” From Michelle’s voice, I could easily imagine tears streaming down Mandy’s face. “B-b-but why?”

“Stop that blubbering at once, young woman. Do you hear me?” The voice all but barked the order. “No one will fire on your vessel if you simply do what you’ve been ordered to do!”

“But I can’t!” The tears gave way to a heart-wrenching wail. “I want to, but I can’t!”

“What kind of nonsense is this?” the voice demanded. “Just pilot the ship.”

“I don’t know how!” We were back to tears and little hiccuping breaths. “I’m not the pilot.”

“Damnation, girl—just tell the pilot to do it.” The voice exploded, what little patience the man had was obviously exhausted. “If he questions you, tell him those are orders from the Terran Federation Navy!”

“I can’t do that, either!” Michelle went back to wailing, distress warring with confusion in her voice.

“For God’s sake, girl, why not?” the man shouted.

“B-b-because he’s unconscious! And tied up. And locked in a storage compartment.” Michelle’s voice gained strength with each word. By the end, she was shouting as well.

“Why the hell did you do that?” True confusion sounded in the man’s voice and he was no longer yelling.

“Because he wanted to… And I said no and he got mad… Then he ripped my shirt and tore off my…” Michelle gulped and sniffed at each pause. Defiantly, she added, “So I hit him on the head with a big wrench. He didn’t fall down so I hit him two more times. Then I dragged him to the storage room and taped his legs together and his hands behind his back.”

“Christ almighty,” the man murmured. “All right, young lady, please calm down. I’m sorry I yelled at you, but we thought your ship had criminals on board.”

“This is a ship with a criminal on board!” Michelle insisted in an offended tone. “Attempted rape is a crime, you know.”

“Yes, I know miss… I’m sorry, what did you say your name was?”

“Mandy.” Michelle let fear creep into her voice again. “Are you really going to shoot at the ship?”

“It’s not my decision, but if you do your best to cooperate I’m sure everything will work out just fine.” The man was less than convincing, to my ears. “Look, Mandy, we’ve got someone else who’s going to talk to you, okay? A woman, because we think you’ll be more comfortable talking about this to her.”

And, right on cue, a woman said, “Okay, Jones, you’re relieved. I’ve got the comm.”

“Yes, ma’am,” the man replied, sounding immensely relieved.

“Hi, Mandy,” the woman said in a chipper tone. “Do you mind if I call you Mandy?”

“No… Um, what should I call you?” Wary uncertainty sounded in Michelle’s response.

“My name is Jessica, but my friends call me Jess—and I hope we’re going to be friends.” When Jess continued, her voice was filled with concern. “Are you hurt?”

“Not really, no,” Michelle replied in a small voice.

“Did the pilot—”

Disdain evident, Michelle said, “George.”

“George. Did he do more than attempt to force himself on you, Mandy?”

“No. I whacked him before he could do anything.” Michelle’s voice went small again. “Am I going to get in trouble for that?”

“Self-defense is not a crime,” Jess replied, her voice maternal. “Honey, how old are you?”


My head jerked up at that. Mandy was sixteen, I remembered that much! Then I went ahead and kicked myself. Ten months had passed since Mandy’s last performance. Obviously, she’d had a birthday. Thank God Michelle remembered!

“Don’t you think you’re a little young to be out in a spaceship all alone with a boy?” Jess asked. “It is just the two of you, isn’t it?”

“Uh huh. But George isn’t a boy. He’s twenty-five.”

“I see.” Jess’s voice dropped about twenty degrees, leaving no doubt about her opinion of George. A commanding voice said something to Jess which I couldn’t understand. “Mandy, I’ve got to ask you a quick question from my commanding officer. Did your sensors pick up any other spaceships when you were on the other side of the wormhole?”

“Yeah. There was something really fast and some missiles that hit a ship a long way away from us. We got really scared that it might be pirates, so George flew for the wormhole as fast as he could.” Michelle’s voice trembled again. “I was real happy to get into the wormhole until George… You know.”

“Yes, Mandy, I know,” Jess returned to her maternal tone of voice. “Tell you what, why don’t we get your ship slowed down and then we can discuss what to do with George.”

“But I already told that loud, rude guy that I don’t know how to pilot the ship!” Michelle let the tremor of building tears back into her voice.

“I know, honey.” Jess continued in a cheerful tone, “But I’ve got a real pilot right here with me. The two of us are going to tell you exactly what to do. Okay?”

“O-okay. Um, he’s not mean like that other guy, is he?”

A calm man’s voice responded. “No, Mandy, I’m not mean. In fact, I’ve got two daughters of my own. The oldest is only a couple of years younger than you.”

“Oh.” Michelle paused for a moment as if Mandy were thinking. “If, uh, your oldest daughter was where I am, would you be really mad at her?”

“No, Mandy, I’d be worried sick about her and I’d pray she was brave enough to do what you’ve done so far.” The man paused for a second when his voice cracked. “And I’d hope she found people who could help her come home safely.”

“People like Jess and you?”

“Exactly like Jess and me, Mandy.”

My God, Michelle was good at this. Even knowing it was an act, I was drawn into the whole drama and found myself blinking away tears. I quickly got control of myself and put my full concentration into disabling the transponders in the suits and jetpacks.

“After you help me, you need to tell your daughters that you’re a hero,” Michelle said shyly. “Girls like having a hero daddy.”

“Maybe I’ll let you tell them, Mandy. Heroes aren’t supposed to brag, you know,” the pilot replied. His voice turned more business-like. “Now, let’s get your spaceship slowed down. Okay?”

“Okay! Just tell me what to do.”

“Are you sitting at the pilot’s console, Mandy?” he asked.

“Yes, sir, I am,” Michelle sounded all the world like a girl trying her best to be helpful.

“Good girl.” The man’s smile carried easily over the comm. “Do you see a panel labeled ‘autopilot’?”

“Uh huh! It says the autopilot is engaged.” Excitement crept into Michelle’s voice as she relayed this information. “Does that mean it’s turned on?”

“That’s right, honey,” the pilot said. “We’re going to try the easiest fix first. It might not work, but that’s okay. I want you to simply say ‘Autopilot, fire braking thrusters.’”

Michelle repeated the words exactly. Our autopilot wasn’t actually engaged, so nothing happened. Michelle relayed the news with disappointment.

“Don’t worry, Mandy. A lot of autopilots are voice-keyed to keep people from accidentally giving orders to it.” The man paused for a second as if thinking. “Is there a red button in the autopilot panel?”

“Yes, sir. Should I push it?”

“That will disengage—turn off—the autopilot,” the man said. “Go ahead and push the button.”

“Um, what does ‘controls locked, enter passcode’ mean?” Michelle asked, her voice rising again.

Three of the transponders were disabled, leaving just the one in the second jetpack. As I went to work on it, I marveled anew at Michelle’s act. If the passcode idea held up, it might get us another ten minutes. I needed to get a look at our location to know for sure, but I thought we could safely abandon ship by now. If Michelle’s latest deception did buy us ten minutes, our chances of making it to another wormhole were very good.

Jess responded to the question. “It means you have to get the passcode from George, Mandy.”

No!” Michelle shrieked. “If I open the door he might— I can’t do that, Jess!”

“Mandy, calm down, honey,” Jess responded, her voice soothing. “You taped George up really tight, didn’t you?”

Michelle sniffed. “Uh huh.”

“Then George can’t hurt you, Mandy.” Jess kept her voice calm and controlled. “You can take the wrench, just in case you need to whack him again, but we really need that passcode.”

“What if he won’t wake up?” Michelle asked, returning to her small voice. “I hit him real hard.”

“Take the portable med unit with you,” Jess suggested. “Do you know how to use it?”

“Yeah, my Daddy showed me.” Michelle sniffed again, as if ready to begin crying anew. “I miss my Daddy.”

“I know you do, Mandy,” Jess said. “But we need that passcode so we can get you back to him.”

“O-okay, I’ll try, Jess.”

“You can do this, Mandy!”

Michelle walked loudly away from the pilot console and came to see me. She punched open a closet door, keeping up her part, and called, “George? I’ve still got the wrench, so don’t try anything! Hey, are you awake, George?”

Finished with her lines, Michelle whispered, “Are you done, babe?”

I nodded, closing up the final jetpack. I rose, handed Michelle’s spacesuit to her, and whispered, “Go ahead and put this on. I want to be ready to go if we need to bail out.”

Nodding, Michelle began pulling on the suit and called, “George?”

Pulling on my own suit, I almost missed the look she gave me. Interpreting it quickly, I moaned loudly. Michelle’s answering smile told me I’d guessed right.

“Come on, George, wake up! I need the passcode.”

Once again I rose to the occasion, moaning louder than before. On a whim, I added some nonsense syllables.

Michelle grinned and gave me a thumbs up. Then she motioned for me to do it all again. I gave an encore performance and then Michelle turned and headed back to the pilot chair.

In a quavering voice, Michelle said, “It’s n-n-no good, Jess. I hit George too hard and he doesn’t remember the passcode.”

Jones was back on the comm, his voice business-like with undertones of anger. “You can cut the act, Mandy—if that’s even your real name. We ran your voice print against the one Captain Odenton included in her message drone.”

“Well, aren’t you all sorts of clever,” Michelle returned to her own voice. “Fine, you’ve figured out I was fooling you—but that’s the only thing I’ve done wrong today. All my husband and I want to do is live our lives in peace. That’s all we’d been doing until we made the mistake of fighting back when someone attacked us in a bar on Wolf. We are not criminals.”

“Then you won’t mind slowing down so we can get to the bottom of this,” the man replied. “If you’re innocent, we’ll have the two of you on your way as quickly as possible.”

“And if we refuse?” Michelle asked.

“Then we will be forced to fire on you.”

“You’d kill us for running from a bar fight?” Michelle put all of the incredulity she could muster into the question.

“No,” the man replied evenly, “we’d kill you for knowingly concealing a rogue psychic.”

Do Matt and Michelle have any hope of escaping the Piscain Hub in their spaceship? Find out in Chapter 15, coming Friday!

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 13

< Chapter 12                                                                                                       Chapter 14 >
Our heroes’ spaceship exits the wormhole into the Piscain Hub.

Hands poised over the ship’s controls, I watched the sensor data roll in. Michelle and I both heaved sighs of relief when the sensors didn’t show any ships lurking near the wormhole exit. We cut those sighs short as more sensor data arrived.

“Where did all those warships come from, Matt?” Michelle asked, her eyes glued to the sensor screen. “According to the system data, the base only has twenty-one naval ships stationed here. I’ve got close to a hundred on my screen.”

“Damn, we really can’t catch a break!” I pounded the console before me for emphasis. “You can check the local news feeds to be sure, but it looks like the navy is running war games in the system.”

“They’ve got squadrons spread all over the system, too,” Michelle said, highlighting those on her screen. “I don’t see how we can hope to get through to another wormhole.”

“We’ve got to think of something.” I studied the sensor display, hoping it would spark a useful idea. “It won’t be very long before someone notices us and realizes we’re going way too fast for safety.”

Michelle bit her lower lip, a sure sign she was puzzling through the problem. “We need two plans—not one. The first is obvious—we try for one of the other wormholes out of Piscain. Then we need a fallback plan if that doesn’t work.”

“I can’t think of anything that doesn’t involve me surrendering to Psy Corps to save your life, hon.” 

“Don’t think I’m going to let you turn foolishly gallant on me, Matt.” Michelle’s voice held a hard edge. “I warned you about that kind of crap just before we left to rescue your parents.”

“That’s an odd sentiment coming from the girl who spent half her life ready to take a blaster bolt for me,” I countered. “Look, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life as a slave to Psy Corps, but I’ll choose that over watching you die without a second thought.”

Michelle glared at me for a few seconds and I glared right back at her. With an irritated shake of her head, Michelle broke eye contact.

“Fine. If you’re determined to do that as a last resort, I guess I’d better figure out a next-to-last resort.” She looked at the sensor screen again. “Will our current course take us close to Piscain Station?”

“Way too close,” I replied. “Without a course change, we’ll pass within a couple of kilometers of it.”

“What if we abandon ship as we close on the station?” Michelle asked. “Can we use spacesuit thrusters or something to cross to the station and sneak onto it?”

I shook my head. “We would still carry all of the ship’s velocity after exiting the ship. We’d fly right past the station and out into space where we’d either die or have to call for help—and I’ve already told you what I’ll do if that happens.”

“Is there any way we can make my idea work?” Michelle shrugged in frustration. “First braking thrusters before we jump or something?”

“Using reverse thrust would help, but…” I bent over my console and started calling up data. “If we reverse thrust while we’re still a few hundred kilometers from the station, we can each take a jetpack and use those to slow down and maneuver to the station. It would be a long trip into the station, but we could do it.”

“Okay, now we’re talking!” Michelle exclaimed.

“Except that suits and jetpacks have their own transponders—for safety reasons,” I added. “We’d need to disable those before powering up everything.”

“Then hadn’t you better get started on that, babe? Meanwhile, I’ll figure out how to keep the navy off our backs for as long as possible.” With a sudden smile, Michelle pulled out her data pad and tapped on the screen. After a few seconds, she grinned in triumph. “Ha! She’s still here!”

“Uh, who is still here, Michelle?” I asked, gathering the tools I needed.


I drew a complete blank. “Who?”

“You don’t remember Mandy?” Michelle’s voice rose in pitch, taking on an over-excited, breathless tone. “I’m so hurt, George! How could you forget everything I did to get us out of the Pegasus system last year? I think Nancy Martin was right about you after all!”

With those hints, it all came flooding back to me. Michelle playing the naive teenage girl to my lecherous man in his mid-twenties. The ingenue act earned ‘Mandy’ a fighter escort to a wormhole out of Pegasus system and ‘George’ a threatening lecture from then-Flight Commander Nancy Martin.

“Aren’t those IDs blown now?” I asked. “Our rescue of my parents was really big news.”

“You didn’t follow any of those stories, did you, babe?” Michelle asked in return.

“No. I had a lot of other things on my mind—like spending time with my parents, settling into married life with you, and trying to figure out how to control my empathic abilities. Did I miss something?”

“Yep. Daddy made sure Nancy and her crew kept Mandy and George out of the story. Everyone else involved was a pirate, so those identities were preserved.” Michelle actually giggled. “I kind of miss Mandy. She’s such a sweet girl.”

“Well, I don’t miss George,” I growled. “He was a jerk and a coward.”

“Then you’ll be happy to hear you don’t have to play George again, babe.”

“I don’t? Who do I get to play?”

“Oh, you’re still George,” Michelle grinned, “but you don’t have a speaking role.”

“Okay…” I still couldn’t figure out where Michelle was going with this. “Why don’t I go work on those transponders and leave the acting to you?”

“That’s probably a good idea, babe,” she replied. “I’ll put the comm unit on the ship’s speaker system so you can hear what’s going on.”

I hefted my tools and headed aft.

“Oh, and George is unconscious, so try not to make any noise, babe!” Michelle called after me.

“Why is George unconscious?” I asked.

“Because Mandy knocked him out, silly!” Michelle replied. “The comm light just started blinking, Matt. Wish me luck!”

Silently, I wished her luck. Then I offered up a prayer for us, wishing I could afford to broadcast the prayer into space just in case God couldn’t hear prayers through a vacuum. The next few hours would decide if I remained free or faced a life of forced servitude.

As I started working on the transponder for my suit, Michelle switched on the ship’s broadcast system and said, “Okay, Matt, I’m answering the comm. It’s showtime!”

Can ‘Mandy’ keep the navy contained long enough for our heroes to escape into another wormhole or will they be forced to abandon ship? Find out in Chapter 14, coming Wednesday!

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 12

< Chapter 11                                                                                                       Chapter 13 >
Exiting into the Pride system, our heroes run their ship dark so the pursuing missiles cannot lock on the ship after they exit the wormhole.

Watching the sensor screen as the message drone sped away, knowing we couldn’t shoot at it or pursue it without attracting the attention of the three missiles, Michelle summed up my feelings in a single word. “Dammit!”

Leaning back in my seat, I sighed, “Yeah. It’s like we can’t catch a break anymore.”

“So, what do you think we ought to do, babe?” Michelle asked. “take our chances with the patrol ship back in Wolf or a naval squadron in Piscain?”

“If I read Captain Odenton right, she’s going to have a pretty heavy presence around wormhole delta for quite a while. She wasn’t exactly happy with us and doesn’t strike me as the forgiving sort.”

“Yeah, me too,” Michelle said. “We could surprise everyone by going to the unnamed system and looking for wormholes.”

“No, we don’t have the sensor suite necessary to actually detect a wormhole and the chances of us just stumbling into one are astronomically small,” I replied. “And that’s even assuming the system has more than one wormhole. Most don’t.”

“So, we go to the Piscain Hub and hope the navy isn’t ready for us or isn’t taking Odenton seriously?” Michelle shook her head. “That doesn’t seem likely.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “They probably don’t watch the wormhole from this system very closely. It’s not like there’s going to be much traffic through it. If you check the various routes from the Piscain Hub, one of their other wormholes goes straight to Wolf. If we can get going soon, we might pop through before the navy mobilizes or, even better before they pick up the drone.”

Michelle brightened suddenly. “Hey, one of those missiles locked onto something and is accelerating away from us!”

“It’s about time. How much fuel do you think the other two have, hon?”

“At their current thrust, maybe five minutes.” Michelle glanced at me for a second. “How far behind the drone will we be if we have to wait the full time?”

I ran some calculations. “Forty-five minutes, give or take a couple of minutes.”

“That long? But the drone just passed by a few minutes ago!”

“Yeah, but its maximum thrust is a lot higher than ours and it has nowhere near our mass,” I said. “On top of that, it made course corrections as soon as it exited the wormhole. We kept our initial heading when we went dark and it’s almost at right angles with the correct course. By the time we get on course and reach the wormhole, we’ll be way behind the drone.”

“Do you think we still have a chance in Piscain?” Michelle asked.

“Yeah, I do,” I answered. “We’re going to come in with a different transponder, which might buy us a few minutes, and we only have to get to the closest wormhole before the navy catches us.”

“How far is it to the closest wormhole and where does it go?”

I checked the charts. “It’s a bit of a haul—seventeen light minutes—but that just means there won’t be many ships around when we enter the system. And it goes to…” I checked the wormhole endpoint. “Um, it goes to Draconis.”

“Where we know the Feds are looking for us.” Michelle threw her head back and stared at the ship’s ceiling. “Well, it will certainly be a lot easier sending those messages to our parents if we’re in the same system.”

“We could pick another wormhole. Maybe one clear across the system from where we come in?” I suggested.

“Won’t that take us right through the heart of the hub and way too close to the naval base?”

“Yeah, but it has its advantages, too,” I said.

“Really? Name one,” Michelle countered.

“I’ll give you two,” I replied. “First, we’ve got plenty of fuel, so we can run at full thrust all the way in. By the time we pass the naval base, we’ll be moving so fast no one will have a prayer of catching us unless they begin their own burn within our first thirty minutes in the system.”

“And second?”

“No one will expect it, so any response will be concentrating on the closer wormholes.” I cocked my head, considering a new twist to my idea. “We can start building velocity in this system and exit the wormhole going a lot faster than safety protocols demand.”

Michelle stared off into space for a few seconds. “And what happens if a ship is in our way when we exit the wormhole? Or when we pass through the heavy traffic near the space station and the naval base?”

I shrugged. “Boom.”

Something drew Michelle’s attention back to the passive sensor display. “Hey, those two missiles just took off after the first one. We’re safe to bring all ship’s systems online and head for the wormhole to Piscain.”

“How fast do you want me to go, hon?” I asked.

Michelle flashed her infectious grin. “Light her up and let’s ride the fire, babe! We can always fire braking thrusters if we change our minds.”

Over the next several hours, Michelle and I talked more about the recent manifestation of my empathic ability. She even had me take a few cracks at calling it forth under a calm, controlled situation. When I grew tired, we just talked about the life ahead of us, planned for the future by choosing names for the children we wanted, and debated how we’d respond to the situations we thought we were most likely to find in the Piscain Hub. During that discussion, we even decided to slow down a bit prior to entering the wormhole. We’d still have plenty of speed entering Piscain, but I might be able to dodge a ship if one waited for us.

Finally, the wormhole opened before us. Everything around us went gray as the ship plunged into the wormhole.

“It’s three and a half hours to Piscain. Are there any other plans to concoct?” I asked.

Michelle stood, shaking her head, and pulled me up. Without another word, she led me back to our bedroom.

“Good God, woman, you are insatiable!” I said as she pulled my shirt off. Pulling her shirt off, I added, “Not that I’m complaining, mind you.”

“If these are our last few hours together, I want to spend them filled with your love and filling you with my own love.”

All too soon, we were back at the ship’s controls. The ship’s nav system gave the countdown and then we burst into the Piscain Hub.

What will Matt and Michelle find waiting for them in the Piscain Hub? Find out in Chapter 13, coming Monday.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 11

< Chapter 10                                                                                                       Chapter 12 >
Matt and Michelle escape the Wolf system just ahead of another trio of missiles.

Our trip through the wormhole was going to take four hours. I had all sorts of ideas for how to pass the time. Michelle had other ideas, insisting on hooking me up to the full-sized med unit in the ship’s tiny sickbay for a full checkup. My protests that the portable med unit fixed me up just fine fell on deaf ears.

“God above, Matt, what is it with men and medicine?” Michelle demanded as she connected me to the unit. “Women take their health seriously and, fortunately for the entire medical profession’s bottom line, take the health of their men seriously, too.”

“Sorry, hon,” I muttered, “I guess it’s just the way we men are built.”

“Then it’s really lucky for you men that we women love you,” she replied as she connected the last lead and sat back to wait for the exam results.

“While the unit runs its checks, why don’t you find out as much about the star system we’re heading for as possible?” I asked, changing the subject as far from sex-based medical attitudes as possible.

Michelle nodded, pulled her data pad out, and tapped on the screen for a few seconds. She read the information on the screen, frowning as she did so. Finally, Michelle said, “It’s called the Pride system. Someone with a sense of humor probably named it to contrast with Wolf. But there’s nothing in the system worth feeling pride over. It’s a weak red star with a couple of planets much too far from the star to support life.”

“What about an asteroid belt?”

“Yeah, there’s a small one,” Michelle replied. “I wouldn’t call it a great place to hide, but if that Wolf patrol ship follows us through, it’ll be better than nothing.”

“What about the wormhole out of the system?”

“There are actually two, but one looks pretty useless. It goes to a star system so popular no one even named it. It’s only got a numeric designation.” Michelle tapped some keys on her controls. “The information we’ve got on it makes Pride look downright homey in comparison. The system is about as close as you can get to the ass-end of the universe. It’s so useless that no one has bothered charting it for wormholes.”

“Let’s hope we don’t have to run that way.” I craned my neck trying to get a look at her screen. Michelle glared at me until I sat back. “What about the other wormhole?”

“Give me a sec…” Michelle punched a few keys, then she sighed. “It takes us back into Federation space—the Piscain Hub.”

“Hm… As long as no one’s looking for us, Piscain is a pretty good spot for us.” The med unit beeped. Michelle handed her pad to me while she checked the medical report. I knew Piscain pretty well but skimmed the information just to be sure. “Piscain rivals Pegasus as a tourist destination, but it’s got even more wormholes connecting to it—thirteen, overall.”

“Do any of them head out of Federation space?” Michelle asked, most of her attention on the medical readout.

“No, but we’ll only be a jump or two from the border,” I responded. “Another bonus is the heavy traffic the hub gets. It actually makes Pegasus look like a little backwater way station. And the space station in the system is gigantic—something like eighty or ninety kilometers in diameter.”

“All right, babe, the med report says you’re fine. It still recommends some rest, but that’s about it.” She held out her hand for the data pad. She scanned the report herself as I finished removing medical leads. “You didn’t mention the naval base in the system, Matt.”

“Because you took the pad from me before I could. Since I know you can read as well as I can, it was kind of a moot point,” I said.

“As long as it wasn’t some misguided attempt to keep me from worrying my pretty little head over something we can’t control.”

In my most serious tone of voice, I said, “Do I look like a man who never wants to have sex again?”

Michelle burst out laughing. “I’m glad you understand how important it is for us to share everything—good and bad.”

“You made that abundantly clear before we even got married.” I grinned, “But mentioning sex…”

“Uh uh, Matt. You aren’t getting into my pants until you’ve at least changed the ship’s transponder to one of our other registration names. After that, we’ve got to figure out which wormhole to take away from Piscain.”

“I’ll have the transponder switched in no time. As for the Piscain decision, we’re going to spend at least six hours in normal space traveling to the wormhole from Pride to Piscain. Then there’s the three and a half hour wormhole transit time. That gives us nearly half a day to do research and make decisions—and that’s after we exit this wormhole. We’ve still got nearly four hours left before that. I’m sure we can afford a few minutes for a little fun.”

“It had better be a lot more than a few minutes, babe!” Michelle said, looking up at me through lidded eyes. “Now get busy switching the transponder. I’ve got to prepare some messages for Daddy while you’re doing that. We can send them as we pass through Piscain.”

Michelle finished her work a lot sooner than I did and stopped by to check on my progress. “How much longer until you’re finished with the transponder?”

“Maybe fifteen minutes?”

Smiling seductively, Michelle slowly unbuttoned her shirt and shrugged out of it. “Why don’t you aim for ten?”

Spinning around, she walked away from me with an exaggerated swing to her hips. I finished with the transponder in eight minutes.

Considerably more than a few minutes later, Michelle propped herself on one elbow and absently brushed hair away from her face. Her eyes turned serious as she said, “Are you ready to talk about what happened in that bar back on Wolf?”

“Not really, but I know I’ve got to,” I answered. “I don’t really know how to describe what I did—it just came on me suddenly when that idiot and his girlfriend tried pushing us around. I was already upset about our trip out to the Psy Corps office—I never expected we’d find some kind of paramilitary facility!”

“Me neither, Matt,” Michelle said, laying her head on my chest. “On Draconis, Psy Corps just has a normal office downtown. Maybe it’s different on the inside or maybe there’s a maximum security Psy Corps facility hidden away somewhere on the planet…” Michelle absently stroked my cheek. “You know I’d never have suggested we go out there if—”

“Yes, Michelle, I know. That place surprised me as much as it did you.” I kissed her lightly. “Did I ever compliment you on how well you handled those guards?”

“Don’t change the subject, Matt,” Michelle said. “You were describing what happened in the bar?”

I sighed theatrically. “That’s the problem with smart women—you can’t distract them with compliments… So, I wasn’t in the best of moods when the moron couple decided to pick on us.”

Haltingly, I described how the odd feeling grew, how I just sucked all the anger out of the room, and how it overwhelmed me. Describing how the anger made me do those terrible things to Michelle, I wrapped my arms tightly around her. “Ever since we ran from that bar, I might have sounded like I was okay but I wasn’t. I’ve been terrified that you wouldn’t think of me the same way, any more.”

“You’re an empath, Matt! Why didn’t you just read me?”

“I tried, but my emotions were roiling too much. And then I got the concussion and then we were busy getting away from the patrol ship…” I ground to a halt, blinking away tears.

“And I was too busy concentrating on our getaway to realize what you were going through.” A warm tear splashed on my chest. “I’m so sorry, babe. Is that why you were so desperate to get laid?”

“Not entirely, Michelle,” I replied. “I mean, I’m always up for a roll in the hay with you.”

Keeping her eyes on mine, Michelle’s hand wandered down between my legs. Giggling, she said, “That much is obvious.”

“All of my emotional knots just fell away when I felt the full force of your love flood into me,” I said. “It was like I could breathe again.”

Michelle straddled me and gently raked her fingernails down my chest. “There’s only one way to make sure all of those emotional knots are gone—and I already know you’re up for it!”

Much later, Michelle asked, “How are you feeling now, babe?”

“Absolutely amazed that I’m married to a woman like you. And I’m a lot better.”

“That’s good, because we’ve got to prep for running dark after we exit the wormhole.” Michelle rolled off of me and gathered her scattered clothes. “Just do me a favor and never, ever doubt my love again.”

Pulling on my own clothes, I said, “I won’t.”

Half an hour later, we exited the wormhole and went dark. Two minutes after that, our passive sensors picked up the three missiles coming through. We kept an eye on the sensors, hoping they’d take off after some other target. We were still waiting when something else popped out of the wormhole and zipped past us on its way toward the wormhole to Piscain.

“What was that?” Michelle asked.

“A message drone,” I replied, my tone flat. “It’s a safe bet Piscain will know about us before we get there.”

How can Matt and Michelle hope to escape when both routes out of the Pride system are watching for them? Find out in Chapter 12, coming Friday!

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 10

< Chapter 9                                                                                                       Chapter 11 >
Wolf system patrol ship Alpha has fired three missiles at Matt and Michelle’s spaceship!

I heard the nervous tension in Michelle’s voice as she announced the missile launches. “So much for just trying to hit the engines,” she added.

“Yeah, well, they probably got carried away in the excitement of the chase,” I said, giving them more credit than the captain deserved. “They still aren’t in range for lasers, so maybe she’s hoping we’ll give up. Then she can just disarm the missiles.”

“Right, babe, but you’ve got your brilliant plan that’s going to take care of those missiles, right?”

“Of course, hon. We haven’t even celebrated our first anniversary yet, so I’m not going to let us get blown to bits.” I turned a bright smile on Michelle, hoping for a disarming effect.

It worked. She returned my smile with a devilish one of her own. “Admit it, you just want to see what I’m going to give you for an anniversary present.”

“You’re getting me something? Aw, that’s so sweet!” I bantered back. “Can you give me a hint? Is it a new sports flier?”

“I’ll never tell—but it’s really more of an activity than an actual thing,” Michelle replied, turning back to her controls.

“Oh, an activity sounds like fun,” I said. “Please tell me it involves getting naked!”

“How about I tell you the missiles have closed half the distance between us and the patrol ship, instead?” Michelle asked. “Is it time to implement your plan?”

“Almost. I want them to get closer so the missiles have a better chance of locking on the decoys when we launch them. Mentioning the decoys, we’re launching the first two on my mark. Hold the third until after my course correction.”

“We’re changing courses? How nice of you to tell me,” Michelle growled.

“Sorry, you distracted me with all that talk about naked activities.”

I said activities, you added the naked part,” Michelle said with a short laugh.

“Yes, we’re changing course. There’s no way we can reach wormhole epsilon before the patrol ship gets well within laser range. They’ll definitely be able to take out our engines then.” I brought up a chart with my new course. “So we’re going to change course for wormhole delta and hope the missiles bite on the decoys.”

“Do we have any idea where wormhole delta goes?” Michelle asked. “Epsilon goes to a fairly big colony out beyond the Federation border.”

“All I had time to check was that delta went to a system with a second wormhole,” I replied. “It wouldn’t do to just head off into an interstellar cul-de-sac.”

“And what about the patrol ship?”

“We’re a lot more maneuverable than it,” I said. “We can make a pretty tight course correction. The patrol ship will have to swing much wider than us. They’ll never get close enough for lasers before we enter wormhole delta.”

“If you say so, pilot dear.” Michelle checked her missile track again. “Is it time to launch the decoys yet? Those things are getting way too close for comfort.”

“Almost,” I said, watching the missiles close on us. “Prepare for decoy launch on my mark… Now!”

Michelle punched two buttons simultaneously and a metallic thump sounded through the ship. “Decoys one and two are away…They’re broadcasting our signal and are breaking off on their own course…One missile bit!”

“What about the second decoy? Did anything follow it?”

“No,” Michelle shook her head. “We’ve still got two missiles on our tail. Can we outrun them?”

“I wish,” I said. “That’s what the third decoy is for.”

I ran my hands over the pilot’s controls and the ship rotated away from our direct course to wormhole epsilon. “Get ready to launch the third drone.”

I watched the ship’s heading swinging around toward the course I’d laid in for the other wormhole. Halfway through the course change, I said, “Launch the decoy.”

A final thump resounded in the ship as the miniature rocket sped away from us. Michelle and I watched the track of the two remaining missiles, waiting for them to show their course—and, of course, only one of the missiles locked on the drone. Without any more decoys prepped for launch, I prepared for evasive maneuvers. At the same time, Michelle leaned over her weapons console and deployed several lasers.

About then, the comm burst to life as the annoying patrol ship captain contacted us. “Nice try, kids, but you’re not going to get away that easily. Come about to an intercept course with us and I’ll send a self-destruct order to the missile.”

“You know, she’s starting to get on my nerves. I should have turned the comm off instead of just muting it on our end,” Michelle said. Her fingers punched buttons and the display showed laser shots lancing out at the approaching missile. The first few shots missed by a wide margin, but Michelle quickly narrowed her aim, firing port and starboard laser batteries in sequence and retargeting after each shot.

“Do you think you can hit the missile?” I asked.

“The missiles are designed so automated targeting systems have trouble getting a lock on them. Even so, if I had another minute, I would definitely get it,” she said. “But we’ve got about half that time before it catches us, so I really don’t know. It all depends on what the captain does at this point.”


“If she gets worried that my shots are coming too close, she’ll tell the missile to go into an evasion pattern,” Michelle said.

“Won’t that make it harder to hit the missile?”

“You’d think so,” Michelle said, “but it’s not very useful against someone trained in missile defense. If I setup a criss-crossing pattern of rapid shots from the lasers, there’s a good chance the missile will wander into the firing line.”

“That’s…counter-intuitive,” I said.

“You get a lot of that with automated weapons systems. The missile can’t carry an AI because an AI can develop a sense of self-preservation. If it does, the AI will save itself by veering off course entirely.” While talking to me, Michelle kept firing, her eyes glued on the missile track. “The best a missile can carry is a programmed random course generator. The thing is, it still has to stay so close to its original course that even a random course change can’t be very random. If there are multiple missiles or if the gunner is untrained, random evasion procedures can work well. Thanks to your decoys, we’ve only got one missile. And, well, you know how Daddy is—he made sure I was trained.”

Something changed on her display and Michelle suddenly barked a triumphant, “Yes!”

She hit a key and then sat back. “There’s nothing else we can do now, Matt. Just keep your fingers crossed…”

The missile track suddenly flashed and winked out. Michelle pumped a fist in the air. “She shoots, she scores!”

Michelle propped an elbow on her console and leaned her head against her hand. Blue eyes shining, she said, “You’re all clear, babe. Let’s get out of this system.”

“I think you’re celebration is a little premature, hon,” I replied. “They’ve launched another three missiles.”

“You’ll reach the wormhole before the missiles can catch us,” Michelle said, not even bothering to check the tracking system. “The missiles will lose their lock during the wormhole transit. All we have to do is run dark when we come out the other side. When the missiles exit, we just wait until the missiles run out of fuel or lock onto something else.”

A few minutes later, with our ship still well ahead of the cluster of missiles, we entered the wormhole and left Federation space behind us.

What will Matt and Michelle find at the end of wormhole delta? Find out in Chapter 11, coming Wednesday!