Topic: The Reluctant Pirate: 4/?
Member # 79
The Reluctant Pirate: 4/?
by Linda Garrick and Nancy Smith
Alan Westover settled the aircar in the street across from the home of Jason Sweeney and glanced at Mark, who was seated next to him. Mark returned his glance.
“This is gettin' real old, ain’t it? Anythin’ different from what it was twelve hours ago, kid?”
“No.” Alan concentrated. “Well, yes, I guess there is. I sense a psychic nearby now.”
Mark sat up straight. “No kiddin’!”
“It’s not Jason, though. This one’s older—about twenty or so, I think.”
“Where is he?”
“To the north a ways, but getting closer.”
“Hmm.” Mark leaned back in his seat. Alan continued his scans. The Sweeney family had been evacuated from the house three days ago. It had been found, upon examination, that both Jason’s parents, as well as his sister, Maureen, were psychics. The Underground had sent a message to the station in New Brunswick to have the family checked out. A team had been sent at once, discovering the fact that the entire family was composed of psychics, and the circumstances of Jason's disappearance was explained. After the initial disbelief and protests, they had been glad to go. Alan had explained to Kaley that, since he knew what Jason's mind felt like, he, Alan, would be more likely to be able to locate the boy than someone who had never felt his mind. Kaley had agreed, and had sent Alan with Mark to bring the boy and his rescuer back, if it could be done.
"Pickin' up anythin', kid?"
"Just that psychic, Mark. He's a lot closer."
"You're sure it's not Jason?"
"Sure I'm sure."
The hours dragged by. Alan continued to scan, without results. The unknown psychic was stationary, now, and seemed to be no more than half a kilometer distant, although Alan wasn't sure of the exact distance. Drat! Where was the boy? It had been four days since he and Trevor had taken off! Where else could they possibly go?
Lots of places, he told himself unhappily. Still, Trevor was an intelligent man, and he must know that their only real chance of contacting the Underground was through heading for Jason's home.
"Take it easy, kid." Mark was watching him. "He's probably just been delayed. Lots of things could have happened,"
"He's got to show up, Mark! It makes no sense for him to go anywhere else, and yet there've been psychics guarding the house ever since he vanished, and there's been no sign at all."
"I know." Mark sighed. "Like I said, anythin' coulda' happened. Maybe they had engine trouble or somethin'."
Alan was silent a moment, several unpleasant possibilities forming in his mind, and not for the first time, either. "Mark?"
"Could...I mean, do you think it's possible that Trevor killed the boy... after... after he realized Jason had tricked him?"
"Not a chance, kid."
"Are you sure? I mean, Trevor was a cruel, impulsive man, completely without scruples as far as I could tell. What if he got mad when he realized what Jason had done, and..."
"Not possible. Take it from me. Oh, he probably got mad, all right, but he didn't kill him."
"But...Jason was awfully little, and Trevor's a huge man. One good belt might be all it would take. And we don't know in a link like ours what happens when the psychic is killed. Trevor might...."
"He might hit him, kid, but he wouldn't kill him. I know." Mark took Alan by the shoulders and turned the little, man to face him. "He couldn't. You ain't never been on this side of the fence. I have. Remember our little scrap back on Midgard?"
"When? Ok, you mean when you were taking me to Salthvor?"
Mark grimaced. "Yeah."
"But that was different. You liked me. Trevor doesn't like Jason."
"I didn't like you much while that was goin' on, kid. You was hittin' too close to the mark -— talkin' about me bein' a bootlicker an' jeerin' at me about usin' m'muscles instead o' my brain. Ok, yeah, I wanted to slap your face in. Salthvor wouldn't’a cared, s'long as I didn't kill you."
Alan was silent. Mark continued. "But I couldn't do it. I tried! My hand wouldn't move. The best I could manage was to shake you some an' throw you in the brambles, an' as soon as I did it, I was sorry. I couldn't'a killed you, kid -- not if my life had depended on it. The link just wouldn't let me."
"But you were a lot nicer than Trevor, Mark."
"Only to you, kid. You had me around your little finger, an hour after we met. I know that now, though at the time I wouldn't admit it to m'self. An' I think when we locate ol' Corporal Rich, we're gonna find a drastically changed man, at least where little Jason is concerned. So don't worry. Trevor won't kill him. I know that for sure."
Alan nodded. "Okay, Mark. I believe you."
"Now I ain't sayin' he's alive. He might'a been killed some other way. There's plenty of dangers in the galaxy for a little guy like him. But if he's dead, Trevor probably is too, 'cause, like it or not, the good corporal would go to his death for his psychic partner. You almost did for me, pal, when that damned dinosaur charged, an you didn't even know me then."
Alan nodded. "But Mark, what if Trevor doesn't respond like that? He has got to be one of the nastiest 'trols I've ever sensed. I didn't like him at all."
"It don't matter. Believe me."
"Gosh, I sure hope you're right...." Alan paused suddenly, all his senses straining. "Mark! I think I've got him!"
"Jason?" Linley sat up eagerly. "Where is he? Which direction?"
"Uh..." The presence of the other psychic was distracting. "North, I think. He and the other psychic are pretty close together now. He's coming fast. Look, Mark, we'd better split up. You go cover the side entrance over there, and give Mike and Baxter the signal to watch their stations carefully. I'm going to try to move in on him."
"Okay." Mark looked a little dubious, but started to comply. "Can you contact him telepathically?"
"I’ll be trying. He's still too far away, I think. Better get in position."
"Right." Linley jumped from the car and headed away at a run.
Alan concentrated, his eyes fixed on the house across the street. The Sweeney home was set back from the road, and was surrounded by large, barren trees and a scattering of evergreen type foliage. All was still, but Alan could sense presences near the house which were not Undergrounders. Those would be the Jil plants, here to make sure that if the boy did try to come home, he would be apprehended.
And here came Jason, his mind growing rapidly stronger and clearer. Alan must contact him. If they could alert the boy to their presence, confrontations with the Patrol might be avoided.
The little boy's mind aura was strong, even at this distance, but Alan could sense no awareness in him. Emotions flowed from the other's mind -- anger, hurt and fear.
No response. The boy was distracted. Alan sensed movement, and for a moment the aura of his mind weakened. Why? What was happening?
Now the aura was growing stronger again. The boy was moving closer again, but not so rapidly now. He must be on foot, and approaching the house. Mark should have just about reached his vantage point now, and would apprehend him if he tried to enter the house. But maybe Alan could prevent the attempt.
*Jason! Jason, you've got to hear me!*
A start of comprehension from the other psychic. Tentatively a young, boyish voice spoke in his mind, the contact still clumsy and unsure. *Here. Who is this? Alan?*
*Yes! We're here for you. Stay where you are. There's 'trols guarding the house!*
*There are? I'm almost to it, and I don't see anybody.*
*Get out of there, Jason! Now!*
*0kay. Alan, what about my family? Did you get them away, too?*
*Yes. They’re safe. Get out of there. Hurry!*
*0kay.* Jason's mind began to retreat. *Alan, what about Trev? Will he be able to...." The communication was cut off in a scream of terror, and the sudden jolt of panic from Jason's mind made Alan gasp. And suddenly, incredibly, the aura of a Jilectan seemed to fill the air around him.
*Trev!* It was Jason's voice, loud and clear in his mind. *Help! Help me!*
The link, of course, coming automatically into being in an emergency. Alan reacted, pressing the stud on his chronometer. "Code, red!" he snapped to warn the other Undergrounders in the area of the Jilectan's presence. "Acknowledge!"
Baxter Whiting's acknowledgement came instantly, a quick pattern of soft bleeps from the instrument, and Mike Tripp's an instant later. Alan waited a moment for Mark's signal, then pressed the instrument again. "Lawson! Acknowledge!"
No signal. Alan swallowed hard. Mark must be in trouble, and with a Jil in the area, that was a bad omen. The alien's mind had sensed him, and Alan felt the invading consciousness of the other penetrating his own mind. Automatically he snapped his shields shut. Mark ... he had to find Mark. Rapidly he pressed buttons on the car's control panel and the little craft leaped forward.
It took him only seconds to arrive at Linley's vantage point, but Mark was not there. Frantically, Alan pressed the emergency stud on his communicator, his heart knocking painfully against his ribs. "Baxter! Mike! Lawson’s disappeared!"
There were two immediate answering signals. The others would realize what that meant. If Mark were taken prisoner by the Patrol, especially with a Jil present, Underground secrets would be disclosed, for Mark’s shielding would never stand against a mind probe. And in the meantime, Jason was being taken prisoner.
From the direction of the Sweeney home sounded the deafening roar of a blaster set on emergency maximum. Alan remained where he was for a moment, torn with indecision, and then brought the car across the street and into a deserted alley between too other cars. Then, very cautiously, he opened his shields, scanning.
The aura of the Jilectan was gone. Alan continued to scan for a moment, then opened his shields wide, searching.
He could sense Mark nowhere, and Jason's aura, though still present, was no longer magnified by fear. In fact, from what he could sense, the little boy seemed to be unconscious.
Still nothing, and the aura was fading rapidly. Baxter's voice spoke suddenly from the communicator on his wrist. "Sir! The Jil's dead!”
From the Sweeney home sounded the sharp crack of a blaster. Another succeeded the first, then another. Alan opened the door and scrambled from the aircar.
Earth is the insane asylum for the universe.
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