Friday, October 30, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 42

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. Also, Kindle Unlimited subscribers can now read all three books as part of their subscription.
< Chapter 41                                                                                                       Chapter 43 >
The Southern Star enters wormhole delta and leaves Piscain Station and the naval task force behind.

Once the gray mist of the wormhole engulfed the Southern Star, I finally took the time to check the star charts for our course to Ark’s Landing. We had a six-hour wormhole transit ahead of us and an eight-hour journey across a system mostly dedicated to mining before making a final two and a half hour wormhole jump to Ark’s Landing.

Contemplating the free time we had ahead of us, I suddenly found it all but impossible to keep my eyes open. When the pilot’s console blurred before me, I realized just how thoroughly I’d overtaxed myself, both physically and psychically. “Rob, can you get the regular ship’s crew to take over running the ship?”

“Sure,” Rob responded. “I’ll have to soothe our pilot’s ruffled feathers a bit, but it won’t be the first time.”

I fished one of the credit sticks with a smaller balance out of my pocket. It held a balance of a little over one million credits. “Here. Split this up among the crew, both for their help getting us this far and for their cooperation getting us to Ark’s Landing. That should settle a few of the pilot’s feathers.”

Rob whistled at the balance. “Yeah, I’d say so. What else do you need?”

“A room,” I said.

“With a double bed,” Michelle added.

Rob’s eyes flicked back and forth between Michelle and me. A wicked grin spread across his face. “Of course. No doubt the two of you are exhausted from this ordeal and desperately need a little shuteye.”

Michelle leaned against me. “Wipe that grin off your face Robert Calley! Matt and I really do just want to get some sleep!”

Under Michelle’s watchful eye, Rob’s smile dimmed but didn’t go out. “I have no idea what you’re talking about, Michelle. I’ll give orders that you’re not to be disturbed. Come on, I’ll take you to a cabin myself.”

We took a moment to check on Zav and the kids. Zav was deep in conversation with Mr. Calley and Uncle Gunther while the four kids explored the Southern Star’s state-of-the-art entertainment array. We begged off joining them, pleading a desperate need for sleep. My uncle and Rob’s father gave Michelle and me knowing looks and I barely refrained from telling them that the two of us actually did use beds for something other than sex.

Zav, on the other hand, understood. “Honestly, Matt, I’m surprised you’re still on your feet. You’ve pushed your ability beyond anything I thought possible—for you or anyone else. Michelle, make sure he gets all the sleep he needs.”

“How will I know when he’s rested enough?” Michelle asked.

Zav’s expression shifted to match the ones Mr. Calley and Uncle Gunther wore. “When Matt responds…appropriately…to the lovely young woman in bed with him, I’d say he’s fully recovered.”

Gene and Mark snickered. Kristin, a dreamily romantic expression on her face, smacked them both. Cassie cocked her head as if trying to figure out exactly what everyone was talking about. Rob’s father and my uncle guffawed and raised their wine glasses to Zav. To my surprise, Michelle blushed. I was too tired to even react.

“Come on, lovebirds,” Rob said, leading us to a nearby cabin.

I had just enough energy to get undressed, leaving my clothes where they fell. Dropping into bed, Michelle and I snuggled together. I managed to give her one quick kiss before falling asleep in her arms. My dreams were troubled, filled with isolation and despair and loss. Finally, my exhaustion drove me into a deep and dreamless sleep.

When I opened my eyes, I found bright blue eyes looking back at me. Blonde hair framed Michelle’s face and her tender smile. “How are you feeling, sleepyhead?”

I felt my lips form an answering smile. “Good. Really good. How long have I slept?”

“Twelve hours.”

“What about you?” I asked. “How do you feel? Did you get enough sleep?”

“I’m fine, babe. I slept for about eight hours.”

“Have you been laying around for four hours just watching me sleep?” I propped myself up on my elbow. “That sounds pretty boring.”

“That wasn’t all I did, babe.” Michelle ticked items off on her fingers. “I took a shower. Then I composed a message for Nancy Martin on Ark’s Landing and had it sent ahead in a messenger drone. I had some food delivered from the ship’s galley. I ordered enough for two, so you could get something to eat when you woke up. Then I laid around watching you sleep.”

I looked past Michelle to a heavily laden tray of food, then looked back at my wife. “That looks really good.”

“It is,” Michelle replied. “I nibbled a bit.”

“I wasn’t talking about the food,” I said, “but I do feel like nibbling.”

I lowered my head and Michelle gasped. “I like that kind of nibbling a lot, babe!”

After that, we communicated in an entirely nonverbal manner. Finally, our bodies and emotions merged and drove the last vestiges of isolation and despair from my mind.

How will Ark’s Landing receive our heroes? Find out in Chapter 43, coming Monday.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 41

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 40                                                                                                       Chapter 42 >
Matt hopes to bluff his way through the navy task force by faking an engine malfunction.

With a lurch, the Southern Star tore free from the magnetic grapnels holding it to Piscain Station. Alarms blared all around the pilot’s compartment as the ship’s systems noted how close we were to the space station.

Warning! Main engines thrusting in proximity to man-made structure!” The computerized voice was calm but insistent.

Alert! Manual control required!” proclaimed a similar digital voice.

“Alert! Engine malfunction! Ship’s system cannot override engine thrust! Pilot required!” a third electronic voice declared.

I kept a close eye on the sensors and our projected course as the ship pulled away from the space station. Our path looked clear for the next few minutes or so, giving us time to let our drama play out as if we hadn’t set it in motion ourselves.

“Aren’t you supposed to be piloting the ship?” Rob yelled over all of the alarms.

“Not yet,” I yelled back. “Pilots don’t spend a lot of time at the controls when a ship is docked and the engines are quiet. As long as it doesn’t veer toward anything, I’ll let the ship run uncontrolled for a while longer. That’s what would happen if this was a real emergency.”

“If you say so,” Rob responded. “Hey, Piscain Station is hailing us. What should I tell them?”

“Don’t respond yet. Communications officers don’t spend a lot of time at their station when the ship is docked, either.” I looked over at Michelle, who was watching her sensor screens intently. “Can you tell how much damage we did to the station before we pulled away?”

“I only have minimal information without running a sensor scan of the docking bay.” Before I could say anything, she added, “And I won’t do that because the weapons officer wouldn’t be at her station, either. According to passive scans, our docking bay is now open to space.”

“Don’t worry, hon, the airlock into the rest of level three was closed and sealed. That’s required during a decompression alarm, but I double-checked the airlock reading before engaging the engines.”

“More people are hailing us,” Rob called. “The two ships docked on either side of us want to know what the hell we thought we were doing and we’ve got a naval ship demanding an explanation, too. Do you want to talk to them, Matt?”

“No. The navy has my voice print. Michelle’s, too, so neither of us can talk to them. Can you act the part of a panicked crewman who was closest to the comm when everything went wrong?”

“What happens if I can’t convince them?” Rob asked.

“The best case is you, Matt, and all the other psychics get hauled back to Psi Corps and spend the rest of your lives slaving for them. Your father, Matt’s uncle, Zav, and I end up in prison for our parts in this whole fiasco.” Michelle turned a level gaze on Rob. “I’ll lose Matt forever. Cassie and the other kids will never have the family they desperately want. That sort of thing.”

“No pressure, then,” Rob said.

Turning back to the comm console, he opened all channels. “Um, this is the Southern Star. We’ve, uh, got a problem. Or something. I think.”

Four voices spoke at once, two of them sounding professionally calm and insistent while the other two alternated between fury and hysteria. After a few seconds, the naval officer bellowed, “Silence! This is an official naval matter now. The next civilian who speaks without my permission will have criminal charges filed against them!”

The other voices immediately fell silent and the officer continued, “This is Lieutenant Cooper, communications officer aboard the destroyer TFS Lancaster. Explain your ship’s actions, Southern Star.”

Rob took a few seconds to compose himself, then blurted, “I don’t know! We just took off I mean, you know, whoosh but things don’t whoosh in space but you know what I mean and a lot of people got thrown around and I think the comm officer got knocked out and I was the closest one to the comm and someone said answer the damn comm so I did and we’re still waiting for the pilot and I hope he’s okay because I don’t want to die. Are we all going to die?”

When Rob paused and drew a breath, Cooper interrupted the torrent of words pouring from Rob. “Calm down, son. There’s a whole navy task force out here who are going to make sure you and everyone on board that ship come out of this just fine.”

His lungs once again full, Rob grinned and let loose another unending sentence. “Are you sure because no one is driving the ship or steering or piloting or whatever you do and what if it just decides to turn around and go back to the station and we end up crashing into the station and we all die and a lot of people on the station die because if the engine just lights up on its own why wouldn’t the steering engines do the same thing or would that mean we’d spin around and around until the ship comes apart and we all die and pieces of the ship fly into the space station and wrecks some of the other ships or something like that?”

Cooper tried to stem Rob’s brilliant stream of consciousness run-on sentence but ended up waiting until Rob paused for another breath. “That’s not very likely, son, so just sit tight while the navy works out what to do. And you really need to get someone into the pilot’s seat before something else unfortunate happens!”

In a normal comm exchange where the lieutenant wasn’t trying to cram as many instructions as possible into Rob’s pauses for breath, Cooper would have had time to consider what he was saying. He almost certainly wouldn’t have even hinted that something ‘unfortunate’ might happen—especially not on an open channel.

A new voice came over the channel. “Piscain Station, this is the Mary Sue. We are making an emergency departure as a precautionary measure.”

Another voice chimed in, “This is Griffin. We are also performing an emergency departure.”

“For the safety of our passengers, Serene Firefly is disconnecting from Piscain Station.”

“This is freighter GCS-06. We are departing with our cargo which is vital to a newly established colony.”

Every time Lieutenant Cooper started speaking, another ship interrupted and announced their departure. By then, a dozen space traffic controllers on Piscain Station were arguing with all of the departing ships, struggling to establish some kind of order. They shouldn’t have wasted their breath. The navy had held too many ships at the station when they were searching for Michelle and me. Those same ships were taking the panicked response from ships docked close to the Southern Star and using it as an excuse to finally get on with their run. Staying docked was too expensive and trusting the navy to consider a ship captain’s bottom line and release them soon was simply too risky. Minutes after our hasty departure, Michelle reported over two hundred ships under way from the station.

Amidst all of the confusion, no one even noticed when Rob calmly announced the Southern Star’s pilot was flying the ship. He carefully added that the engines were still malfunctioning and the pilot was taking the ship away from Piscain Station for safety purposes. Twenty-two minutes later, our engines still burning at full thrust, the Southern Star entered wormhole delta and we were on our way to Ark’s Landing.

Will our heroes successfully reach Ark’s Landing? If so, will Ark’s Landing even want thirty or more psychics joining their colony? Find out in Chapter 42, coming Friday!

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!

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 39

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 38                                                                                                       Chapter 40 >
A crowded elevator carries our heroes and the rest of the psychics toward the docking bay on level three.

“Telepaths,” Michelle called, “are you scanning our destination so we’ll know what’s waiting for us?”

The split second of silence following my wife’s question told me these psychics hadn’t grasped the idea of freedom yet. That’s understandable, considering their upbringing, but very frustrating for Michelle and me. In our short time working with Psi Corps trained psychics, we only got the two extremes—they milled around like sheep when initiative was needed or went completely off the rails when milling around was the right choice. So far, the rail-jumpers were all pyrokinetics, but that could change at any moment. Besides, we still had one more pyro with us.

Several long seconds of studied silence passed while the telepaths looked ahead. Unlike the mass-transit elevator, our current car rose more sedately. Even so, we were passing level four before anyone spoke.

“Level three has its own private security force,” one of the psychics said. “They’re on high alert because of the decompression alarms and reports of blaster fire on lower levels.”

“That’s not unexpected,” I said. “Okay, this is my area of expertise so let me do all the talking. Michelle and Mark, you’re both with me.”

“If you’re doing the talking, what should I do?” Mark asked.

“See if you can make the guards receptive to my words,” I responded. “Have you ever tried using your ability without talking?”

Mark blushed furiously. “Um, a few times.”

Michelle arched one eyebrow. “How far did you get with those girls?”

“Why do you think I only tried it on girls?” Mark asked defensively. Michelle’s snort spoke volumes and Mark continued in a subdued voice, “Some of them kissed me, but I swear I didn’t try anything else!”

“When this is over, you and I are going to have a little talk about girls and boundaries,” Michelle said.

“Yes, ma’am,” Mark muttered.

“Good.” Michelle turned to me. “What about me, babe? Should I be ready to shoot if it comes to that?”

“Yes, but only if you can strike an alluring pose at the same time,” I said. This time, Michelle arched both eyebrows, so I added, “With Mark projecting peace and brotherly love on one side and you looking…available…on the other side, maybe the guards won’t look at me very closely.”

The elevator slowed as it approached level three and I suddenly had one last thought. “Did anyone get the name of the guard in charge?”

As the doors slid open, a woman called, “Hoskins.”

Beyond the elevator, half-a-dozen beefy men in impeccably tailored suits regarded the elevator with interest. One of them stepped forward and said, “I’m Hoskins. How may I be of assistance?”

Linking arms with Michelle and placing a friendly hand on Mark’s shoulder, I led the three of us out of the elevator. “My assistant was just reminding me of your name, Mr. Hoskins. I’m rather terrible with names, even though I’m the one who asked the man who was in charge when we left for your name. I’m embarrassed to say I can’t even remember his name now.”

“You must mean Mr. Roman,” Hoskins said.

The man’s face and posture gave away nothing of what he was thinking, but I wasn’t limited to visual clues. I read Hoskins’ emotions and those of his companion guards.  I picked up deception from Hoskins and wariness from the other guards. They were good men, well-trained and well aware that unexpected alarms caused confusion and created opportunities criminals exploited.

I looked past the guards at the door into the level three docking bay. “No, it wasn’t Roman. Let me think…”

The same woman said, “The man’s name was Wilson.”

“Ah, so it was!” I cried, smiling broadly at Hoskins. “Thank you, Elise.”

“It’s Linda,” the woman replied.

I waved a hand over my shoulder, dismissing the complaint. “I asked Wilson for your name, Hoskins, in the hopes we could avoid all this tedious checking in when we returned. What with all of this walking around and then this decompression alarm, I am absolutely exhausted.”

“No doubt, sir,” Hoskins said, his tone polite but his posture and emotions were far from matching that tone. “You do realize station rules require all civilians to report to the nearest air-tight shelter?”

“Surely rules like that don’t apply to me,” I insisted.

“I’m afraid they do, sir. It’s for your own safety.”

Doing my best to channel a male version of Jayna, I asked, “But why must I tolerate a cramped—not to mention public—shelter when I have a lovely, comfortable spaceship right here?”

Hoskins offered a brief smile, raised a data pad, and asked, “What ship would that be, sir? And might I trouble you for your name? You do remember your own name, don’t you sir?”

At that moment, the door behind the guards flew open and a uniformed man barreled through. The man wore the uniform of a private spaceship and captain’s bars on his collar. Brushing past the surprised guards, the man stopped before me and snapped off a salute. “There you are, Mr. Malik! We’ve been quite worried about you, sir! Mr. Calley and your uncle sent me to escort you back to the Southern Star.”

I beamed at Hoskins. “There you are, my good man. The ship is the Southern Star.”
Hoskins frowned, certain something was amiss but unable to identify the problem. He checked his data pad, tapped an icon, then looked at me. “Your name is listed as a guest of the Southern Star. Please excuse me for delaying you.”

“There’s nothing to excuse, Mr. Hoskins! Would that all people pursued their duties with such diligence as you.” Waving to the ship’s officer, I said, “Lead on.”

The captain turned on one heel and led us past the guards and into the docking bay. The richly appointed docking bay was empty, with the exception of more guards and emergency personnel. No doubt all of the other wealthy folk were already comfortably safe in their own ships.

I smiled and walked beside the captain until no one outside of our group could overhear me. Even then, I kept my voice low when I asked, “This Mr. Calley—he wouldn’t happen to have a son named Robert, would he?”

“Indeed he would, sir,” the captain replied. “Young Mr. Calley is quite anxious to talk with you once we’re all safely on board.”

“What on earth is Rob Calley doing here?” Michelle asked. “It should be mid-semester at school and Rob always took his studies seriously.”

Cassie caught up with us and asked, “This Robert—does he have red hair?”

I turned a surprised look on the girl. “Yes, he does. Have you seen him?”

She nodded. “Zav made me take a nap when we were waiting in the security office. I saw a red-haired guy standing in this docking bay—only I didn’t know it was a docking bay or even that it was on this station. That’s why I didn’t tell anyone about it. Anyway, the guy with red hair was standing in here and looking real worried about something.”

Michelle and I exchanged glances and both shrugged. She said, “We’ll know more in a minute.”

A minute later, the captain showed Michelle and me into a sitting room on board the Southern Star. Zav and the kids stayed with us while everyone else went with the captain. Inside the room, Rob was pacing back and forth like a caged animal. Uncle Gunther and Mr. Calley were seated and sipping brandy.

When we entered, Rob rushed across the room to us. I thought he was going to hug us or something, which struck me as a little weird. Rob and I were good friends, but we weren’t demonstrative about it. Instead, he stopped short and looked a little embarrassed.

“I’m glad you’re all safe!” Then he turned to Cassie and smiled. “And I’m especially glad to finally meet you, Cassandra!”

What is going on with Rob? Find out in Chapter 40, coming Monday!

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!

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!

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 36

Help me convince to publish The Fugitive Heir (published here under the title "The Adventures of M&M"). Simply click on this link and select the "Nominate Me" button. If Amazon publishes the book, everyone who voted for it will receive a free copy of the ebook. Thanks in advance for your vote!

< Chapter 35                                                                                                       Chapter 37 >
With station security controlling their elevator, Kristin tries using her telekinetic power to pry out the elevator’s control panel.

My hands hovered next to the edge of the control panel, ready to grab it and yank it out as soon as Kristin’s ability pulled it far enough away from the wall. The teenage psychic poured everything she had into the effort, the strain obvious on her face.

“How long is this going to take, babe?” Michelle asked.

“Too long,” I responded as I searched my pockets for anything I could jam into the narrow opening and use as a pry bar.

“You heard what Matt said. Why aren’t the rest of the telekinetics helping Kristin?” Michelle demanded.

A stir ran through the crowd of psychics at my back and four people stepped closer. No one said anything, but the gap between the wall and the control panel widened quickly. A second later, I jammed my fingers into the expanding gap and yanked with all my strength. With a metallic creak, the panel popped off entirely. At the same instant, the elevator started descending—no doubt toward a lobby full of heavily armed station security officers.

Pulling out my data pad, I reached into the control panel’s wiring and grabbed the diagnostic connector. I plugged it into my pad and the elevator interface popped up on my screen. Flicking to the manual maintenance screen, I quickly locked the elevator in place. That control overrides everything else in the system, otherwise a tech working in the shaft could be hit by a moving elevator. The car stopped with a jerk and I returned to the main screen in search of the security controls. We had no more than a minute before someone in security figured out what I did and canceled it.

Michelle, her voice pitched low, asked the four late-arriving telekinetics, “Why did you wait so long to help Kristin?”

Her voice tremulous, a woman replied, “Because no one told us to help.”

“No one told you?” Michelle said, her tone incredulous. “God in heaven, do you want station security to capture you and send you back to Psi Corps?”

“N-no,” the woman stammered. “But we’re not allowed to use our powers unless we’re told to use them.”

“That is a Psi Corps rule! They’re the people you’re running away from, remember?” Michelle all but yelled. Her tone changed and it was obvious she was speaking to everyone in the elevator. “In an emergency, you cannot simply sit around waiting for someone to give you orders. You’ve got to act decisively or we’ll never get off this station. Is that clear?”

A chorus of assents followed. Their tentative nature drew an exasperated sigh from Michelle. I could easily imagine her casting her eyes toward heaven in a silent prayer for patience.

Into the quiet which followed, Zav said, “Michelle, you must understand that Psi Corps conditions psychics from a very young age. Unauthorized use of their ability leads to swift and severe punishment. I’m afraid it’s going to take more than your impassioned speech to break that conditioning.”

As the conversation took place behind me, I continued flicking through menu screens on my data pad. As expected, the security menu was password protected. I tried the default password—you’d be amazed how many otherwise secure systems never bother disabling that password—but whoever set this system up wasn’t that careless. A little note even popped up stating the password would expire in eight days. That didn’t help me, but it did give me a thought.

“Does anyone know how long the current chief of station security has been in that position?” I called into the silence.

When no one answered, Michelle said, “Let me check the station net. Maybe it will tell me. While I’m looking, do you mind telling me why this is so important?”

“The security menu is password protected and has to be changed on a regular basis. Based on what I learned from my hacker contacts, that second bit is very rare in menus like this one.” While explaining, I worked back through the screens, looking for the admin menu. “The elevator control software is a couple of years old. If the station chief started after that, he may have instituted the password rules for security systems but probably didn’t think of doing that for another department’s controls.”

“That’s about as clear as mud, babe,” Michelle muttered, still tapping on her pad.

“Short and sweet, your average elevator maintenance tech doesn’t worry much about software security. After all, you’ve got to get inside the control panel to even access it,” I explained. “If those password rules weren’t in place when the software was installed, maybe they left the default admin password active. The thing is, you only get a couple of tries with that password before the system locks you out. If the security chief has been around for more than two years, I’ll look for another way to hack into the security controls.”

“Found the info on the station chief,” Michelle crowed. “Let’s see, she took the job eight months ago.”

“Good enough.” I looked over my shoulder at the mass of people staring intently at me. “Cross your fingers and hope for the best!”

I entered the typical default administrative username and password—‘admin’ and ‘password’—and tapped Enter. The screen blinked once and then the administrator screen displayed. “I’m in!”

Everyone gave a relieved cheer as I tapped my way through menus to the command most feared by system security personnel. I selected ‘Reset to Default Configuration’ then entered the administrator password again to confirm I had the authorization to do this. Why the system asked for a password I had to enter just to get to this screen, I don’t know, but it’s standard in just about every kind of control software I’ve ever hacked. Data scrolled rapidly across the screen for a few seconds, then the display returned to normal. I quickly changed the admin password, then accessed the standard elevator controls and directed the car to level eight. With a slight jerk, the car ascended.

“Can they track where the car is going, Matt?” Michelle asked.

“Not immediately. When everything reset, station security lost their connection with the car.” I quickly access the security menu again, this time gaining access without the required password. “If someone is really clever, they might figure out what I’ve done. That’s why I’m entering my own security password.”

Seconds later, I exited the security menu. My passwords wouldn’t stand for long against a good security person, but I only needed them to last another minute or two.

With the first crisis averted, Michelle once again turned to the psychics. “How many of you are telepaths?” A lot of hands went up. “Good. Can you scan ahead of us and tell us if anyone is waiting for us on level eight?”

Those with their hands raised looked uncertainly amongst themselves. Into the silence, Zav said, “They can learn how to do that, but I’m afraid they’ve only been trained to use their abilities on people stand right in front of them. For the rest of our escape, it will be easier if you simply assume their abilities are limited to what they can see.” Zav nodded to the teenage boy who met Michelle and me when we entered Piscain Station. “I trained Gene differently.”

“I’m way ahead of you, Zav,” Gene said, his eyes unfocused. “There are seven security officers waiting for us on level eight and varying numbers of officers waiting at the elevator doors on other levels. They’ve got their blasters trained on the doors and are authorized to shoot if we even look threatening.”

While the elevator car wasn’t badly crowded, even with thirty of us in it, there was no way we could get more than a handful of us out of the line of fire. The elevator rose quickly toward level eight, leaving little time for planning.

“Everyone get down on your knees and put your hands on top of your head,” I barked. “Michelle, you and I will be right up front so the officers won’t have to hunt for us.” I caught Mark by the arm before he sank to his knees. “I need you next to me, Mark.”

Mark nodded, understanding my idea immediately. The Psi Corps psychics had no idea what I was planning and that made them nervous.

“Is he going to attack the officers?” one of them asked. “Because I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

Mark and I sank to our knees as the elevator slowed. Shaking my head, I said, “Mark is going to do what he does best. He’s going to make friends.”

The elevator stopped and the doors slid open.

Will a nervous officer shoot before Mark can do anything? Find out in Chapter 37, coming Monday!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 35

Help me convince to publish The Fugitive Heir (published here under the title "The Adventures of M&M"). Simply click on this link and select the "Nominate Me" button. If Amazon publishes the book, everyone who voted for it will receive a free copy of the ebook. Thanks in advance for your vote!

< Chapter 34                                                                                                       Chapter 36 >
Our heroes lead the Psi Corps psychics toward freedom.

Kristin’s deft work breaking the hidden mechanisms of the airtight hatch of the Psi Corps office set off murmurs of appreciation among the other telekinetics in the group. The teenage girl smiled and deflected their praise by motioning to Zav and saying, “I had a really good teacher.”

Zav paid no attention to Kristin’s comment and joined Michelle. “You two have made quite an enemy in John. He’s as ruthless as they come and won’t take the loss of Sadie lightly.”

“What’s the deal with her, anyway?” Michelle asked. “And how come I could talk to Matt when she attacked me, but he was locked inside his own head?”

“I suspect it’s a question of power levels,” Zav responded. “John saw you as the key to controlling Matt, so Sadie only used a fraction of her power on you. Matt, on the other hand, got the full brunt of it in backlash when he shot Sadie.”

“My God, if what I felt was Sadie’s power on stun setting what was it like for you, babe?” Michelle unconsciously slipped an arm around me and pulled me close.

“Hey, I’m still in between you guys!” Cassie squawked, then she scooted out from between us and took Zav’s hand. “Okay, now you two can get all lovey-dovey.”

“Oh, that’s very generous of you, Cassie,” I said, pulling Michelle in for a quick kiss on the top of her head.

Though Michelle directed her question to me, Zav answered it. “The only person who truly understood Sadie’s abilities was John. She came to Psi Corps as a teenager. Her entire family died under mysterious circumstances and everyone assumed she killed them—which she obviously did. There was actual talk of putting her down-”

“That’s what you do to dangerous animals,” Michelle gasped, “not people!”

“Why do you think I had to leave Psi Corps?” Zav asked quietly. “Anyway, John volunteered to train Sadie. For safety, he took her somewhere remote, far away from other people, and worked with her for years. When they returned, the girl was devoted to John and did everything he asked. From then on, John’s ascent was rapid. Rumors circulated that he used Sadie to remove people blocking his way and the way of those loyal to him. John never denied those rumors, either. Office chief on Piscain Station is usually the last stepping stone to being named the head of the entire agency.”

“So, not only did we embarrass this John person, Matt killed the weapon he held over everyone else’s heads?” Michelle asked.

“Yes, exactly,” Zav said.

“Michelle and I never do things by half measures,” I responded as we came in sight of a bank of elevators. “But that’s a worry for later. Is there an elevator large enough to hold all of us?”

“The mass transit cars on either end of the row can easily carry us all,” Zav responded. “But they only go as high as level eight. After that, we’ll have to switch to smaller, restricted-access cars.”

Cassie skipped ahead of us, “I’ll call the elevator!”

The second the girl left our corridor and entered the huge elevator lobby, a man’s voice rang out. “You there, little girl! Stop where you are!”

Cassie came to a sudden stop and looked off to her right. “Are you talking to me?”

“Of course I’m talking to you!” A note of impatience crept into the voice. “Do you see any other little girls around here?”

Signaling everyone else to wait in the corridor, Michelle and I hurried toward the lobby. As we got close, Michelle called out, “Cassandra, come back here at once!”

Cassie turned our way as Michelle and I left the corridor. Ten meters or so to our right, a pair of uniformed station security officers marched our way.

Looking back and forth between the officers and us, Cassie pointed to the officers and said, “I can’t, Mom—that man told me to stop right here!”

“Of course he did, Cassie! A decompression alarm sounded and it’s his job to make sure silly little girls like you are safe.” Michelle turned an embarrassed smile toward the two men. “In all the confusion, she just slipped away from us. Thank you for stopping her for us.”

The officers’ pace changed from a purposeful march to a more casual walk, but they kept coming our way. One of them said, “Just doing our job, ma’am, but I’m afraid we’re going to have to report this. Ignoring a decompression alert is a serious safety breach.”

“Is that really necessary, officer?” I asked. Turning a stern look on Cassie, I said, “Rest assured my daughter will be punished.”

“Sorry, sir, but rules are rules.” The two officers stopped a couple of meters away. If they got much closer, they’d see the mass of people in the corridor. The one doing all the talking pulled out a data pad. “Names and address, please?”

The second officer’s eyes suddenly widened and he reached for his holstered blaster. “It’s the Connaughts! They’re-”

Michelle took one step forward and kicked the second officer under the chin. His head snapped back and he fell to the floor.

The first officer tapped his badge with one hand as he took a step toward Michelle. “Officers under attack! Send-”

My fist caught the officer on the ear. He stumbled to the side and tripped over his partner. His hand scrabbled for his blaster as he struggled for balance. His eyes widened in terror as Michelle drew her own gun. The crack of blaster fire echoed around the lobby as my wife shot both officers.

Gasps sounded from up the corridor, drawing an exasperated expression from Michelle. “It’s still set for stun. Good God, just how bloodthirsty do you think I am?”

From the officer’s badge, a voice called, “Backup is on the way, Ellis! What is your situation? Ellis?”

“Cassie, go summon the elevator now!” I said and she took off for the elevators at a run. I waved to the others who were still huddled in the corridor, “This place will be crawling with station security in just a few minutes. If you don’t want them dragging you back to Psi Corps, get going!”

That got everyone moving, with several of them even breaking into a run. Running ahead of them, I drew my own blaster and made sure it was set for stun. Michelle and I trained our guns on the closed elevator doors, ready to fire if the approaching elevator carried security officers responding to the call. Thirty seconds later, the doors slid aside and revealed an empty car. Shouts and running feet echoed down all of the corridors as we rushed people into the elevator.

“Move all the way to the back! We don’t have time for anything else!” Michelle said, providing helpful pushes to anyone who dawdled too much. “Matt, get inside and see if you can disconnect this car from station security’s control. As soon as reinforcements get here, they’ll call for an elevator override.”

I ducked inside and shoved my way to the controls. Of course, I had no tools and no way to open the panel. “Kristin, I could use some help here!”

The girl hurried to me. “What do you need?”

As she asked that, the last of our people entered the elevator. Michelle was right on their heels. “Take us up, Matt!”

Punching the icon for level eight, I said to Kristin, “Can you pry this control panel free? I need to get to the electronics behind it.”

Shouts sounded from the elevator lobby as the doors slid shut. Kristin concentrated on the control panel as the car began a swift ascent. Sweat popped out on the girl’s brow as she strained with something much harder to break than the delicate electronics she normally sabotaged.

Slowly, ever so slowly, one side of the control panel pulled out from the wall. Then the elevator jerked to a stop. Station security was in control of our car!

Can Kristin open the control panel in time for Matt to override security’s control? Find out in Chapter 36, coming Friday!

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Fugitive Pair - Chapter 34

Help me convince to publish The Fugitive Heir (published here under the title "The Adventures of M&M"). Simply click on this link and select the "Nominate Me" button. If Amazon publishes the book, everyone who voted for it will receive a free copy of the ebook. Thanks in advance for your vote!

< Chapter 33                                                                                                       Chapter 35 >
Matt realizes they need a bigger ship and Michelle calls his ex-pirate uncle to deliver the news.

For some reason, Uncle Gunther was less than pleased when Michelle explained the situation to him. “You need what?”

“A spaceship big enough to safely carry thirty-two people to Ark’s Landing,” Michelle replied, her tone as calm as my uncle’s was over-excited.

“Why in God’s name did you wait until now—less than an hour before we leave—to tell me this?” Uncle Gunther’s voice rose another octave, something I’d have sworn wasn’t possible.

“Because I thought bringing Matt back from the edge of death was just a little more important than calling fifteen minutes earlier than I am now,” Michelle replied, her tone sliding toward acerbic. “I also took an extra minute to get an exact count, too.”

“Are you being serious, Michelle? Is Matt hurt?” A touching level of concern washed away the hysteria in my uncle’s voice. “How bad is it?”

“He’s fine now, Gunther. It was psychic backlash, but now isn’t the time to go into details.” Michelle’s tone was all business again. “We know this is a huge change in plans, but we can’t just rescue our friends and leave two dozen other psychics in Psi Corps’ hands. You know Matt will never agree to that, and I won’t either.”

Zav returned to the office lobby with several psychics trailing behind him. “We’ve got the office staff locked in a supply closet, Matt. As Michelle instructed, we stripped them bare first. John and one of the women had implants, but Kristin was able to break them telekinetically. She also broke the closet door’s knob and lock.”

I grinned at Kristin. “Good job, kiddo! With any luck, we’ll already be in the wormhole by the time they get free.”

Behind me, Michelle continued her conversation with my uncle. “Right, we need a ship big enough to carry us all and fast enough for us to get away from the navy.”

“What, no requests for a gourmet chef, also?” my uncle replied, sarcasm fairly dripping from his voice.

“A chef is optional,” Michelle replied. “We’re ready to leave, now. We’ll see you in the loading bay in about thirty minutes.”

“Don’t be daft, girl,” Uncle Gunther said, “there aren’t any ships down here that meet our needs. Come to the docking bay on level three.”

Michelle gave Zav a look. “Do you know anything about that docking bay?”

Zav nodded. “Yeah, it’s the exclusive docking spot for the rich jerks and their fancy yachts.”

“Access restricted, right? And they have armed guards?” Matt asked.

Zav nodded. “How did you guess?”

“Because I’m a rich jerk with a fancy yacht.”

Zav winced. “I’m sorry, Matt. I didn’t mean-”

“I know you didn’t,” Matt interrupted, waving it off. “Uncle Gunther, how are we going to get past the locks and guards?”

“Don’t ask me. You’re the man with two dozen psychics and Michelle the Amazon Warrior.” In a very dry tone, my uncle added, “You got into a secret pirate base on Pegasus Station with a lot less than that.”

“Your confidence in us is inspiring, Uncle,” I replied. “How will we find you?”

“I’ll find you. Now, get moving, be careful, and start planning your excuses now.” Then Uncle Gunther broke the connection.

“Excuses?” Zav asked.

“For when we run into station officials,” Michelle said. “A small group might dodge around them, but there’s no way thirty-two of us can do that.”

Zav nodded and looked down at Cassie. “I don’t suppose you’ve had any useful dreams about this, young lady?”

The girl shook her head, sorrow written all over her face. “You know I’d tell you if I did.”

Somewhere back in the crowd of Psi Corps psychics, a low voice muttered, “Fat lot of good she is if she can’t see our future.”

Cassie’s face fell and she looked at the floor so we wouldn’t see the tears I knew were forming in her eyes. Even without my ability, it was obvious Cassie felt responsible for anything unfortunate which she didn’t predict. With my ability, I felt the girl accepting the muttered comment as the truth and blaming herself because she hadn’t predicted any of this.

A look of pure fury set on Michelle’s face and she shoved and pushed her way into the crowd of psychics. “Move! Get out of my way!”

She stopped in front of a tall man in his late twenties. Michelle only came up to the man’s shoulders, but he took a short step backward when he saw the look on her face.

“What, exactly, is your problem?” Michelle hissed. “You spent the whole time I was trying to save Matt bitching that we were wasting time better spent getting away. Now you blame an eleven-year-old girl because she couldn’t predict this exact series of events? How dare you!”

Rather than apologize, the guy doubled down on his stupidity. “And I questioned just how useful she is if she can’t predict things that actually matter. It’s simple logic. Maybe you should try that instead of this emotional outburst.”

“Oh, you want logic, do you? Then try this,” Michelle hissed. “Zav and the others are on Piscain Station because Cassie predicted Matt and I would end up here. She predicted we’d abandon our spaceship and come to the station in spacesuits. She predicted the search for us, which gave Matt time to figure out how to hide the two of us from detection. And she and the others are the only reason we came to this office. So she is directly responsible for your chance to escape from Psi Corps.”

To my complete lack of surprise, the guy had a temper. Rather than respond logically to Michelle, he got angry. “Fine, the kid was useful, but that doesn’t make her useful now! Not like I am.”

You are useful?” Michelle scoffed. “What, can you materialize spaceships out of thin air or something?”

“No, I’m a pyrokinetic.” The man lifted his hands and flames licked around them. The other psychics backed away from him. “I could burn every last one of you to ashes in a matter of seconds! And that is a useful power for getting out of here.”

Michelle dismissed the man’s claim with a nonchalant wave of her hand. “If you’re so damned powerful, why didn’t you escape on your own years ago?”

The man’s face turned red. He raised his arms and flames spread from his hands to engulf them, also. “How can a normal like you understand what-”

The crack of a blaster interrupted the man’s tirade. The flames snuffed out as he stumbled back a step before collapsing. A few of the watching psychics screamed and all of them pushed away from Michelle.

Holstering her blaster, Michelle said, “What? It was set to stun.”

A collective sigh swept through the room and people stopped trying to get away from my wife. One of the other men in the crowd said, “Better add an unconscious guy to the excuses you’re making up for station officials. Who wants to help me carry Ron?”

Before anyone responded, Michelle said, “No, he stays here. He’s the kind of idiot who will try to take revenge on me for shooting him and end up blowing up our spaceship. He wanted me to let Matt die and he dismissed as useless the one person most responsible for this rescue.”
The one who volunteered to carry Ron protested, “But what-”

Michelle spun around to face the man. “He. Stays. If you don’t like it, you can stay, too.”

The man put his hands up as if he was warding off an attack. “No, I want to go! It’s just that-”

“Let’s get one thing straight right now,” Michelle said, her gaze sweeping across all of the Psi Corps psychics. “Until we’re safely on a planet outside of the Federation, you do what you’re told to do when you’re told to do it. We won’t have time to debate our decisions in a committee. If you can’t accept that, you’re free to go your own way. Is that clear?”
Heads nodded rapidly in reply.

“Good,” Michelle said. “Now, let’s get moving.”

Michelle and I each took one of Cassie’s hands and led the psychics on their first leg of their journey to freedom.

Can our heroes lead such a large crowd to level three and get past the locks and guards? Find out in Chapter 35, coming Wednesday!