Change of Plans
By Liz Sawyer
Ian stood in the shadows of
the alley and watched two people die.
The first death came with a spin and kick that caught
the chest, thrust the body against the building. As
the figure slid down, a foot came up and the head
snapped back. The killer whirled, and the person
moving in from behind retreated.
Ian considered assisting, but which one? He glanced
around, saw a second body on the pavement. Two down,
but on whose side? He looked at the two still
The killer stepped sideways, into and out of a shaft
of light from the brightest of Tarnís two moons. A
female. Her opponent followed. The knife in his hand
She moved warily, slightly crouched, empty hands open.
They circled, feinted, drew back. She moved in, forced
a retreat, took another step and slipped. Her right
arm flailed and the knife slashed. But he lunged too
far, and her left fist slammed against his temple. She
followed him to the ground, grabbed his knife and
buried it in his heart.
Ian watched her rise, right arm cradled to her chest.
He was an empath and, despite tight shields, felt her
pain. He instinctively stepped forward, and she
pivoted to face him. He stopped, hands open at his
"That needs tending." The words were spoken before he
knew he would say them.
"Iíll find...." Her shoulders sagged. "Oh, hellÖ." Her
Ian strode forward, hands grabbing her shoulders to
keep her upright.
Both froze as a torrent of strength poured through his
hands into her.
Ian barely had time to wonder what was happening
before it stopped. He looked down, surprised to see
the top of her head no higher than his chest. She had
seemed much taller, but now he realized she couldnít
be more than 5í4" to his 6í2".
She stepped away, head rising, eyes meeting his.
"Thanks. I can manage now."
Her voice was stronger, but Ian saw the darkness on
"Still bleeding." He told himself not to get involved
even as he pulled out the bandanna heíd stuffed into
his jacket pocket earlier that evening for no reason
other than it felt right. He frowned when he saw a
faint tremor in his hand. Saw that her hand also shook
slightly as she took the cloth and wrapped it around
her arm. Blood loss, he told himself. Which didnít
apply to him. So what the hell had happened? Damnit,
he didnít need this! He had come to Tarn for
information, not get involved in a private fight. Then
he recalled the emotions his empathy had sensed
earlier. Desperation, anger and fear had pulled him
from the table inside Bluebeardís Bar down the back
hall past the johnóhis excuse if anyone askedóto a
door that opened onto the alley. Now those emotions
were edged with pain.
"Címon," he ordered, silently calling himself an
It was a typical spaceport hotel room, small, and
sparsely furnished. Still, it was clean, and even had
its own bath. Ian checked the hot water temperature
gauge in the bathroom, lowered it to 90◦F, and passed
his hand in front of the faucetís infra-red sensor. As
the stopper in the basin closed and water flowed, he
removed a first-aid kit from the cabinet underneath.
When the basin was half full, another hand pass
stopped the water, and he stepped aside.
She increased the pain control as she unwrapped the
bandanna, but couldnít stop the curses as her forearm
entered the water. The words died to a mutter as she
grabbed soap, used it, and the bandanna to clean the
He walked into the bedroom, sat at the table, and
began looking through the med-kit. Wondered if the two
years since his face had been splashed in vids
throughout the Orion Spur had been long enough to
allow his return to anonymity. Heíd grown a mustache
and closely shaven full beard, and had more gray at
the temples of his black hair. Was it enough to erase
the memory of the Terran Fleet Captain responsible for
the rescue of nearly 200 women, and children about to
massacred during the Daveriddean Revolt, then forced
to retire in lieu of court-martial? He knew once she
recognized him, sheíd realize why he was here, andóHis
empathy sensed the change in her thoughts, the
wondering if she had made a mistake. He wondered that
She crossed to the table, slipped onto the chair
opposite him, laid her forearm on the table, flipped
open the towel wrapped around it.
The shallow slash ran from her elbow almost to her
Ian donned protective gloves, picked up a small tube,
and squeezed antibiotic cream onto the oozing wound,
then gently smoothed it in.
"Thought youíd already earned your merit badge in
rescue." She kept her eyes on her arm, but a smile
touched her mouth.
So much for being forgotten ran through his mind.
She flushed, and looked away, almost as if sheíd
Suddenly uneasy, Ian applied binding tape, slid the
covering bandage over it all, and peeled off the
"Should hold til you get to a Regen Center." The words
were brusque as he repacked the kit and tossed the
gloves into the wastebasket.
She touched the bandage, looked at him. "Thank you.
Iíd better be going."
Ian leaned back in his chair, eyes locked with hers.
The color reminded him of emeralds, but the contrast
with her black hair didnít fit. His eyes narrowed.
Were those freckles on her cheekbones?
She abruptly pushed her chair back and stood, then
leaned against the table, face going white.
Ian cursed as he moved to grab her just as she
fainted. He picked her up, carried her to the bed, and
laid her on it. Then he removed her shoes, and drew a
blanket up to her waist.
Tensed as his wristband vibrated with an incoming
Making sure the privacy mode was on, he stepped away
from the bed. "Makanda."
"Gonna haffta put the meeting on hold." It was Tadsen,
through whom heíd requested the meeting with Marov,
the drug lord who ran Tarn. "Somethingís come up."
Ian knew. He recalled the efficient way sheíd killed
two men, at least one of them armed. Add in Marovís
being a notorious drug dealer who considered Tarn his
personal fiefdom, and she had to be undercover Terran
Security. Ian told himself the information Marov could
give him was worth more than any goddamned Security
agent. He pushed away the memory of her pain and
"Ö call you whenó"
"That something wouldnít happen to be female, about
5í4", black hair, green eyes, black tee shirt, jeans?"
When Tadsen didnít answer, Ian added, "Three bodies in
the alley behind Bluebeardís Bar."
Twenty minutes later Tadsen and another man arrived at
Ianís room. He watched as Tadsen swaggered over to the
bed, placed his laser pistol against the womanís neck.
Watched her stir, then freeze as she woke up and
"Roll onto your stomach," Tadsen ordered. "Do anything
else, and moreín your armíll be hurtiní. Tie her up,"
he ordered the other man.
Ian heard a faint moan as her injured right arm was
pulled behind her, tied tightly to her left, another
as the man grabbed the same arm to pull her out of bed
and onto her feet. He knew her closed eyes and
clenched jaw were an attempt to control the pain he
had felt before he increased his shields.
She turned her head, opened her eyes, and looked at
Ian for a long moment before shifting her gaze to
Tadsen. "My shoes?"
"Wonít need Ďem. Move!"
Tadsen shoved her forward, into Ian. Instinctively his
hands raised, caught her shoulders. Strength again
surged from him to her. She gave him a tiny smile,
then shrugged off his hands, squared her shoulders and
raised her chin just a bit.
"Iíd hoped those stories about your obsession were
exaggerated." Her eyes locked with Ianís. "Did you get
a good price?"
"I shouldíve killed you, too."
Ian let one side of his mouth twitch. "Couldíve
She eyed him a moment longer, turned, walked to the
door, stopped, and looked over her shoulder. "Would
one of you pretend to be a gentleman, and open the
Ian admired the way she led them downstairs, through
the lobby, and out to the street, where she stopped,
standing by a skimmer as if waiting for a doorman.
Once inside, he sat opposite her, watched as she tried
to get comfortable, finally leaning back and closing
her eyes. The driver took them up to the airlanes,
and, with the windows blacked out, Ian decided he
might as well follow her example.
Instead, he found himself remembering her words.
Obsession? What did she know? She hadnít been part of
the Fifth Terran Fleet sent to put down an
insurrection led by a man named Thompson against the
Daveriddean government. She hadnít seen what Thompson
and his fanatics had done, the women and children they
had massacred! She hadnít devised a plan to capture
Thompson, a plan that wouldíve workedóif Thompson
hadnít found out about it and set up his own ambush.
Thirty-three Fleet pilots died in that ambush. He had
been Wing Commander, had led those pilots into that
Terran Security had done nothing when he accused Fleet
Admiral Marquez of assisting Thompson in his
insurrection, informing him of the plan to capture him
and helping him escape from the planet. Security had
said he had no proof, focusing only on the feelings he
had gotten through his empathy. They had cited the
Telepathic Law, which prohibited accusations against
anyone made solely on the basis of any extra-sensory
ability. Security ignored the fact that only he and
Marquez knew the details of the plan.
So heíd acted on his own, sabotaging the computer
aboard Marquezís personal skimmer. The next trip the
Admiral made had been his last: the skimmer entered
hyperspace and didnít come out.
Ian had been very careful to leave no proof of his
actions, but, again, Security didnít care. He was,
however, given a choice. Because of his past record
and his actions at Daveriddea, he was allowed to
retire instead of being court-martialed for murder.
He then set out on what some called his obsession: to
find Thompson, bring him to justice, and prove to
Terran Security he had been right about Marquez. He
had spent two years searching, following even the
slightest hint of a trace, like the one that had
brought him to Tarn. He had the money and the time,
and to hell with her! She could get out of her own
Ian tightened his mental shields against the faint
touch of pain which tried to penetrate. He wasnít
quite so successful with the guilt.
His ears popped as the skimmer dropped in altitude.
Ian opened his eyes and looked straight into hers.
A faint smile played over her mouth as she inclined
her head the merest fraction.
Just like a Security agent, he told himself.
Arrogant as hell.
Once they landed, Ian had time to see only a landing
field behind a large house before they were inside the
house, down a hall, and approaching a closed door.
"Wait here," Tadsen ordered his subordinate as he
opened the door.
The man seated behind the desk raised his head as
Tadsen pushed the woman in. Ian stayed back as Tadsen
shoved her closer to the man who had to be Marov. The
look he gave the woman as he rose from the chair was
one Ian was very familiar withócontrolled murderous
"One of the men you killed was my son."
"Your son was no man," she sneered.
Marovís jaw tightened as he walked around the desk,
stopped just to her left.
"I want to know who helped you. I suggest you tell me
now, and save yourself from the unpleasant side
effects of some of my... merchandise."
She cocked her head to one side, smiled slightly.
"Pretty sure of yourself."
"I can afford to be."
"Thatís what your son thought. Shouldíve taught him to
use a knife better. Enjoyed taking him out. Sort of
like... squishing a cockroach."
The rage nearly slipped. Ian watched as Marovís jaw
clenched, then, after a long moment, loosened. He
spoke in an almost normal tone.
"Iíve never questioned a Security agent before. Iíve
heard you receive intense conditioning against drugs.
I hope thatís true. My med tech is quite curious as to
the effects of various combinations of drugs. Heís
assured me none are immediately fatal, although heís
not sure about the cumulative effects."
She just looked at him.
After a long moment, Marov turned, and walked back to
his chair. "Take her to Barnes. He's expecting her."
Tadsen grabbed her armóthe right oneójerked her
around, and began walking toward the doorway.
Ian turned slightly, watched them turn right and
disappear. Saw that the bandage was dirty, and knew it
"Now, what do I do about you?" came in a much more
Ian faced Marov, but said nothing. It might not have
been wise to keep quiet, but heíd built a reputation
on doing exactly that.
Marov sat, waving a hand towards
the couch. "I ran a check when I initially received
your request for a personal meeting, and you came up
clean. But, because of the rather, ah, Ďconvenientí
way you found her, Iíve ordered another. Iím sure you
understand." Marov studied Ian a few moments. "I
assume something connected to Thompson brought you
Settling onto the couch, Ian realized he had two years
worth of variations on that statement. He also
realized it was becoming irritating.
"An anonymous message said he was seen here a few
Ian shook his head. "Hoped youíd have some."
"If Iíd known, heíd have been arrested. I may sell
drugs, but I do not murder women and children in cold
blood. That man would not find Tarn a safe haven. If
anybody here gave him one, they will answer to me."
Ian had insisted on a face-to-face meeting because he
could sometimes sense the truth in a personís words if
he was close enough, and it was important enough. He
sensed it now. Marov didnít know anything about the
message. But he would, Ian knew, before too much
"It will be investigated," Marov added firmly. "In the
meantime, Iíll have to request that you remain here."
Ian nodded, understanding it was not a request.
"Iíll show you to a room and have your belongings
brought over. Weíll talk more tomorrow."
It was a mini-suite, with a bar dividing the room into
sitting and bed areas. Ian eyed the bottle and glass
placed on the bar, then went into the bathroom. There
he found silk pajamas and bath accessories just as
luxurious. The Jacuzzi-tub offered a way to get rid of
the tension, make him too tired to care. He let the
heat envelop him, relax his body. His mind,
Stop feeling so guilty. It was my choice to go with
you. Donít ask me why; it just... felt right.
The half-exasperated, all-female thought in his mind
caused Ian, for just a nanosecond, to lose his
so-very-tightly-kept mental control.
Iím sorry. I thought you knew.
Knew what? Whatíre you talking about? Ian found
himself thinking the words, instinctively knowing not
to speak aloud. Then wondered how he was Ďspeakingí at
I thought you knew you were telepathic.
Teleó All Iíve gotís some empathy.
More than some. And telepathic with it, she
assured him. Untrained, but your shields are
impressive. And that transfer of strength. Not many
can do that. It requires a high degree of empathy,
which is why you came into the alley in the first
place. You were picking up on the emotions I was too
busy to control.
Empathy, hell, I wanted some fresh air.
So whyíd you use the back door?
It was closer to the john!
For the first time in his life, Ian felt a giggle. It
Look, could we continue this in a few minutes?
Whyóoh. I promise to close my eyes,
She was gone, or so Ian assumed, as something was
suddenly missing from his mind. He dried off, donned
pajamas, and made it as far as the bed before he had
to sit down. The emotions under her words demanded his
Regret, not so much over the killings, but over the
necessity for them. Done in an attempt to avoid the
exact situation she was in. That he had put her in.
The image of the dirty bandage flashed into his mind.
Pain being controlled, bleeding Ö.
Will you stop that? This thought was all
exasperation. I knew the risks; itís my job. Just
one question. Why?
She meant his handing her over to Marov. Instead of
answering, Ian pushed himself off the bed, walked over
to the bar, picked up the bottle and poured two
fingers of the amber liquid into the glass. He crossed
to the recliner and tried to make himself comfortable.
I donít know. It was the reason that was
uncomfortable. It just.... He recalled her
words. Felt right.
Really? She recalled them as well, and a few
seconds of silence followed. Not prescience, more
intuition. I canít say Iím crazy about where it landed
me, but Iím willing to trust it. For now.
Ian wasnít sure how to take her calm acceptance of the
situation. Maybe I can get word to your partner.
Donít have one. Even if I did, wouldnít make any
difference. Iím not leaving here without Marov.
Heís been running drugs for years. Whyís Security
going after him now?
Tammus. Her thoughts hardened.
We got an
anonymous message that heís found a faster way to
process the dust without blowing things up. Doubled
his output last year. And Iím Oseeah, not Security,
although this is a joint operation.
Ian understood. Just a sniff of pure tammus dust could
kill, and the refined product was extremely addictive.
The dust was also rare, as it was highly explosive
prior to processing, and had to be handled very
carefully during. If Marov had found a faster process,
he had to be stopped. For that, Ian would help even
Terran Security. Except, he wouldnít have to.
Oseeah was what Outworlders called OSIA, the Outworld
Security and Intelligence Agency. The Treaty put it
under the jurisdiction of Terran Security, but most
Outworlders considered it an independent agency. Ian
was most definitely an Outworlder.
What makes you think youíre leaving here at all?
I made several contingency plans.
The thought was
smug. A couple might still work, with some, you
should pardon the expression, refining.
Ian sipped, savored the scotch, then asked,
His son had a rep. I used it. I didnít count on a very
possessive ex-girlfriend. She surprised me, set off an
alarm before I could stop her. I was on my way to a
contact when they caught me. And no, I donít like
killing. But if itís my life, or someone elseísÖ.
I wouldíve thought being telepathic wouldíve warned
Doesnít work that way. Telepaths canít just
someoneís mind by looking at a person. First you have
to drop your shields, which also leaves you open to
other, maybe not so friendly, telepaths. Not that
there are any others here. Aside from the fact that
Iím not sure any would work for him, Marovís not
comfortable with any form of ESP. I knew you were
telepathic when we got to your room and I lowered my
shields. Add in the strength sharing and thereís no
So why didnít it work when you fainted?
Maybe because I was unconscious. You should know, itís
Itís never happened before.
Never? Her surprise surprised Ian.
That is odd. For such a strong empath, but, no
training and that control, still, couldíve been
instinctÖ. Her thoughts were more musing than
directed at Ian. There were a few moments of silence,
then, Well, however it works, Iím just glad it did.
Maybe weíd better call this a night. You need your
Right. Her thoughts changed, a touch of
mischievousness appearing. Nameís Ti. Youíre right,
I do have freckles. Iím a natural redhead. And I am
not arrogant. Just very confident. íNight.
There was no feeling of missing something this time.
Instead, he felt a sense of... peacefulness.
Ian swallowed the rest of the Scotch, along with
the knowledge that he was going to help her, and, just
maybe, help himself, as well.
When Ian woke the next morning, he discovered Marov
had some very silent servants, as he found his
belongings had been transferred from the hotel and
neatly put away in his room. After breakfast, he used
Marovís superbly appointed gym for an extended workout
followed by a long swim in the rooftop pool. Then,
exploring the rest of the house, Ian found the
library. The wall-to-wall bookcases, filled with real
books, surprised him, as he hadnít thought Marov one
to indulge in such rarities. Finding an old favorite,
Ian settled into a leather chair, and began reading.
It was much later when a sense of uneasiness made him
look up just as Marov entered the room.
"Hate to disturb you, but I figured youíd want to know
right away." Marov walked over, sat in the chair next
to Ian. "My people canít find anyone who knows
anything about that message you received, or
Thompsonís being here."
"Disappointing, butÖ." Ian shrugged, having felt the
truth in Marovís words. But he still felt the
uneasiness. "Not the first false tip, wonít be the
last." He closed the book. "Iíll get my things, head
back to my ship."
"Whatís your hurry? That message came from somewhere.
Let me dig some more."
"I appreciate the offer, but why waste your time?"
"I donít like people using me, and thatís what whoever
sent that message did." Marov flashed him a cold
smile. "Give me a few days, I might find something."
Ian realized it wasnít uneasiness he sensed, but
nervousness, and for a man like Marov to be
nervous.... "In return for what?"
Marov held Ianís gaze for several seconds. "How long
do you think sheíll hold out?"
"Depends." Ian felt his casual answer irritate Marov.
"I donít know anything more than rumors about Security
training. Itís tough, and itís thorough. Figures that
conditioning against drugs, or at least training on
how to counter their effects, would be part of it. She
looked tough, and determined. Could be a few days,
could be forever."
"Barnes says a couple days without food will make the
drugs work that much faster."
Now he had it. Marov needed to know Tiís contact.
Which made no sense, because Marov could take all the
time he wanted to find out. Unless he couldnít. He
needed the information now and Ian wondered why.
"Sheís stubborn. Iíd say three, four days at least."
"What about two?"
"Maybe. If she were drugged to the max. Thing is, the
max is different for everyone. Barnes saying itíll
work doesnít mean squat. Whoís he used for practice?
Wasnít someone like her. Heíll have to start small,
work up, otherwise sheíll OD. Iím a history buff.
Twentieth century." He paused, watched impatience
dance over Marovís face at the non sequitur.
"Wonder if anyone todayís heard of sodium pentothal?
Used to be called truth serum. It isnít, no drug is,
but itís closer than most. If you ask the right
Marov smiled. "I have some associates arriving
tomorrow night. I would like answers by then."
There was the reason for Marovís nervousness. Those
associates were probably not very happy about
Securityís penetration so deep inside the operation.
Marov had better have some very good answers.
"Depends on how fast your lab can produce the stuff,
and how resistant she is."
"She might respond to you. You did rescue her."
"And turned her over to you. I donít think sheíd find
my voice one to confide in."
"But she might." Marov leaned forward. "Weakened,
Ian shrugged. "Maybe. Best shot would be after her
resistance is already lowered."
"So, say sheís on bread and water and then we addÖ."
Ian returned to his room after lunch, having been
wined, dined, and bought. He hoped a nap would get rid
of the throbbing in his head, but lying down just made
So make it stop. Exasperation colored Tiís mental
Easy for you to say.
I mean it, Ti told him.
Use your mental
What mental energies? He winced. The thought
Sorry. I keep forgetting you arenít trained. Your
mindís so easy to reach thatóI mean, it usually takes
a lot of working together to reach such a level of
Ian wondered about the uneasiness he sensed in her
thoughts. So show me.
Itís not that simple. I can show you how, but it would
take practice before you could do it. Or I can do it
I donít thinkÖ.
I understand. So, whatíve you been up to? Besides
First, howíre you doing?
Okay. A little hungry, but I expected to be. A day or
two without food oughtta really lower my resistance.
Soft sarcasm tinged the last sentence.
Two. Some of Marovís associates arrive tomorrow night.
He wants answers by then. If he doesnít get them, Iíve
agreed to act as a
friendly voice to
persuade you to talk. Ian stressed his words to
be sure Ti understood.
Can you hold out?
His associates. Her thoughts chilled.
he just happened to mention that over cigars and
Not exactly. He told her about the message,
Marovís lack of success, and the ensuing discussion.
After I confide in you, heíll kill both of us.
But not immediately. Which gives us a chance. How
did you plan to take him? Ian felt her hesitation,
knew he had to give her something. Hereís what I
convinced him to do. He explained about the sodium
Your faith in my resistance is touching.
Not faith. Confidence, he shot back.
The laughter pealed in his mind. Oh, I needed that.
Teach me to watch my words. All right. Have to
get him off-planet, since we canít arrest anyone
without agreement from the local authorities and we
wonít get that here. SoÖ. Ti explained.
Not bad. Simple, unexpected, forces him to react and
he can only do so one way. Just one question. How are
you going to get free to set it off? He had caught
a glimpse in her mind of the dayís questioning. She
had been strapped to a metal table.
One of my talents is a form of telekinesis. I can
manipulate things if part of my body is touching them.
Youíll have to be alone.
Barnesíll take a break sometime.
When? Canít wait forever.
I can input the code, set it for a specific time. And
send an alert to the ship youíve got standing by.
Your room could be bugged.
Unlikely. Not visually, anyway. With all the
excitement last night, Marov wouldnítíve thought of
it. Why do it today? He believes youíre the last
person Iíd help.
Probably. I can get around it.
The immediate acceptance astounded him.
Why? So Security screwed you. Iím not Security. And
I trust you. Tell you why after we get out of here.
Besides, any codes I give you are for this op only.
Howíd you know about the ship? The last was a
You just told me.
The silenced stretched, then,
Laughter again rang in his mind. This time, Ian
They worked on the plan for several more minutes,
until the throbbing in his head became too intense.
Okay, Ian sighed.
Get rid of the headache.
The feel of Tiís thoughts changed, deepened, focused.
Get comfortable. Relax.
Ian realized he already was.
Thatís it. Smooth out your thoughts.
His thoughts stilled. He drifted, felt a sensation of
green, and all the peacefulness that color brought. He
felt himself becoming lost in a calmness he had never
experienced. So relaxed, so quiet, so Ö.
Rest well, whispered in his mind.
He did, waking three hours later, refreshed and
without a headache. Ian lay still a few more minutes,
mentally reviewing what he planned, then thought about
locking his door. No, he hadnít locked it last night,
and doing so now would definitely raise suspicions.
Ian rose and went to the computer. It was one of the
retro systems that had come into vogue the last few
years, a 3-D touchscreen with the processing unit
built in, holo-keyboard and, of course, no AI. Ian
hadnít been surprised that a demand for a complete ban
on AI technology had been opposed by very few. There
was just something about a machine anticipating a
request or answering a question before it was asked
that made more than a few people nervous.
Besides, he had always preferred using his own hands
After confirming he could access only the local
system, he flipped through various programs, pausing
occasionally to read articles, then went to the game
center. Just killing time. Or so it should appear to
anyone monitoring the computer.
Two hours later, after losing yet another round of
poker, Ian told himself if anyone was still monitoring
him, he deserved to get caught. He hit several keys,
apparently at random, actually a program he had
devised several years earlier. If anyone was
monitoring, it would appear as if the computer had
been shut down. It took only thirty minutes to access
Marovís house system, and input Tiís plan, with an
addition of his own. Then he really turned off the
Marov told Ian at supper that the sodium pentothal had
been made, and the questioning begun. She was proving
Ti hadnít contacted him by the time he was ready for
Ian poured himself a drink, carried it to the
recliner, then let it sit on the table next to the
chair while he tried to get comfortable. Tried not to
think about Tiís not being comfortable, what with
little to eat, her arm untreated. What could he, an
untrained telepath, do? Emotions he knew, had spent
years blocking them until she slid around them. He
closed his eyes, concentrated on her. Just relax,
think of her face, those eyes, so Ö relax, remember
that feeling of peacefulness, the Ö eyes Ö.
Focus on the face, the whole face, see it, see the way
she looked when Ö the whole face, the feeling of her,
the sense of her. There was a bond between them, use
it to find her.
Something. Maybe. More of a twitch thanóIdiot! That
was probably all she was capable of, and he didnít
know how to make it strongeróStrong. She needed
strength, and that he could give her. Throw strength
out, sheíll grab it! Ian firmly suppressed the thought
that she might not be able to.
He took a few seconds to relax, to get it just right,
then, Ti! accompanied the mental picture of
throwing out a lifeline. A very long, very strong,
The pain nearly ruptured the link. He concentrated,
sent more strength, felt it being sucked up as if by a
vacuum. But it was not empty space on the other end,
and he needed to hear her, needed to know she was all
right. Which she wasnít, or she wouldnít need so much.
The pull finally slowed.
Sorry, came through weakly.
Didnít mean Ö to be
Take all you need. The flow somehow increased.
Slow down, donít flood me! Really, thatís enough.
Youíll exhaust yourself if youíre not careful, then
whatíll you tell Marov?
Her thoughts did feel firmer, the pain a dim glow.
Besides, she added,
I have to have something to
start tomorrowís session with. Wouldnít do to look too
healthy. Donít worry, I only gave enough to make him
think the drugs are slowly overcoming my resistance. I
Ian felt the control Ti was using on herself. He sent
more strength, and she refused it.
No. Iím not a battery, I canít store energy. What
youíve given means Iíll last an eight-hour session,
give or take. Of course, you may have to carry me out
Ian hastily raised his shields, but he wasnít fast
enough, and his anger that Security hadnít arranged
on-planet back-up, that Oseeah had let her walk into
this alone, slipped through.
My idea. You know how Marov has this place sewn up.
Three others tried. I was the only one to get as far
as I did. He felt her yawn.
Sorry, butósee you
The shuttle landed early the next evening.
Marov made introductions, then led the way to the
medical section. The last in, Ianís height allowed him
to see Ti lying on a table, wrists, and ankles
immobilized by metal cuffs. As Marov and his
associates walked to the head of the table and the
technician standing there, Ian moved to the foot.
He saw that not only was the bandage dirtier, so were
her tee shirt and jeans. The right sleeve had been
ripped off the shirt. Drops of blood dotted her upper
arm. They looked like the marks of syringes.
He doubted if any of Marovís associates were
telepathic, given the manís dislike, but why chance
it? He would keep the transfer of strength to a slow
trickle and be as close to her as he could get. A
touch would be pushing it, so he casually rested one
hand on the table near her bare left foot, and
recalled the prior sensations of the transfers, hoped
that that would work because he still wasnít sure how
he had done it before.
Tiís toes twitched.
So did Ianís mouth, as he wondered if she was
ticklish. Then he concentrated on what the technician
was telling Marov.
"Ö effective combination. Diluted tammus combined with
pentothal. I used it earlier, got past most of her
conditioning, but thatís all. She wonít talk, and Iíve
increased the amount to where more could kill her."
Marov frowned, but before he could speak, Ian cleared
his throat. When everyone looked at him, he jerked his
head toward the far corner of the room, walked over to
it. The others followed.
"How long since the last dose?" Ian, his voice low,
asked the tech.
"íBout an hour."
"Sheís coming out of it?"
"A little. I can give her moreó" He broke off when Ian
shook his head.
"Guess itís time to try your idea," Ian told Marov.
"Go ahead," Marov agreed.
Ian turned to the gurney, then back. "Whatís her
name?" He looked at Marov. "We never were introduced."
"Maria," Marov told him.
Ian nodded. He grabbed a stool, and rolled it over to
the gurney as the others joined him. Sitting down, he
reached out, and touched Tiís shoulder.
She jerked, and tried to pull away.
"Maria." Ian leaned forward, his mouth near her ear.
"Listen to me. Iíve only got a minute. Can you hear
She moaned slightly.
Ian put urgency into his voice. "I can get you out of
here, but where do I take you? Whoís your contact?"
"No," she groaned, shaking her head. "No, you Ö
"I didnít know who you were. Do you understand? I
"Stupid," she whispered. "Shouldda Ö" She licked her
lips. "Ö known better Ö hurt."
Ian could feel the truth of that last word. He wanted
to give her more strength, but didnít know how to do
that and talk at the same time. "Let me get you out of
here, and you wonít."
Ti shook her head, again licked her lips. Ian looked
at the tech, mouthed the word Ďwaterí, and had a cup
in his hand almost instantly. He dipped a finger in
the water, and gently rubbed the wetness across her
lips. This time he dared a trickle of strength with
it. He did both again, then asked, "Who, Maria? I
canít do it alone."
Ian ran a wet finger across her lips, strength flowing
stronger this time.
"Always did Ö like blue eyes Ö beards too Ö"
For a moment Ian thought she was talking about him,
then he understood. "Bluebeardís Bar? Your contactís
"Who, Maria? The bartender, one of the waitresses?
Hurry, the techís coming back any minute." More water,
and more strength, accompanied the words.
"Assistant Ö Tell him Ö okay Ö."
"Thatís all, just okay? Maria?"
But Ti did not respond.
Ian looked up at Marov. "I think thatís all youíll
"Itís all I need." Marov looked at the tech. "No more
drugs. I want her fully aware when I kill her. Good
work, Ian." He looked at his associates. "Come,
gentlemen, dinnerís waiting."
Ian stood, and took a last look at Ti. He told himself
that her face looked a little less pale, her breathing
seemed a little more regular. Then he followed Marov
out of the room.
While Marovís associates were being shown to their
rooms, Ian went to his own, turned on the computer,
and clicked on the time. Waited five seconds, clicked
again, and closed out.
Then he joined Marov, and the others in the den for
drinks, followed by dinner. Soup, salad, plates
cleared, the main course served. Ian had no idea what
he ate. He didnít dare touch his wristband to check
the time, there were no clocks in the room, but surely
enough time had passed. Ti couldnít hold out much
longer, and it had toíve been at least an hour Ö.
The fire alarm went off.
The lights went out.
The emergency generator came on.
"The alarm systemís tied into the city?" Ian cut into
"Of course, butó"
"Theyíll respond. Have to. Canít risk even a spark
getting to the tammus. That happens, a chain reaction
starts, and half the cityís gone." Ian pushed back his
chair, speaking as he rose. "Even if everyone keeps
their mouths shut, the fewer strangers around, the
better. Get to the shuttle, Iíll get Maria."
"What díyouó" Marov began.
"Getting airborneís your safest bet. You have to tell
the shuttle pilot to prep for departure. He wonít take
orders from me." Ian hoped that his taking charge,
combined with the urgency of the fire alarm, would
override any suspicions.
Marov nodded. "Do it."
He followed them to the back door, watched as they
hurried to the shuttle parking area several hundred
yards away, then went back inside the house. He used
the manual override to take the elevator down two
There werenít many personnel around at this time of
night, and those who were, were rapidly departing. The
alarm was still shrieking, and no one wanted to be
anywhere near tammus dust and fire.
He found the room, stopped just inside the doorway. Ti
had freed herself, was standing next to the table,
gripping it like a lifeline. Ian sent strength as he
crossed the room, felt her breathing steady. But she
still leaned against the table.
Thanks seems so inadequate came faintly to his
mind. "Told you," followed in a hoarse whisper a few
seconds later, "you might have to carry me outta here.
Even with this extra strength, I donít think I could
fight a marshmallow."
Ian reached out, touched her shoulder, and the
"How do you feel about rats?"
She nodded, straightened slightly. "Never did like
vermin." Her voice was stronger, not quite as hoarse.
He couldnít help wondering if she would last through
the rest of it. He knew the strength was helping, but
there was no telling what might happen in the next few
minutes. If they ran into something he couldnít handle
"My feet are freezing."
Her non sequitur caught Ian totally off-guard.
He looked down, saw her still-bare feet, toes curling
against the tile.
"Donít worry, theyíre tougher than they look."
Ian saw the smile on her face. He understood and let
one side of his mouth twitch up.
"Oseeah." He turned and walked back to the door,
muttering just loud enough to be heard. "Had to be
Oseeah." He turned, glared at her.
They went upstairs together.
As they approached the back door, Tiís hand on Ianís
arm stopped him.
"Someoneís coming up the walk. Guard, I think," she
whispered. "Give me a minute, I can Ö distract him,
let you Ö."
"Un-un." Ian heard the strain in her words. He didnít
know what she intended, but knew it would be too much.
"Just tell me when." He stepped to one side of the
door, and waited.
Ian yanked the door open, stepped forward, his left
fist shooting out, slamming into the surprised guardís
face. He grabbed the manís rifle from suddenly relaxed
fingers, flipped it, brought the butt end up against
the manís head.
Ti had already dashed past, was crouched in the
shrubbery at the end of the path, all senses alert for
whoever might be waiting.
"Canít sense anyone between here, and the ship," she
told Ian when he joined her.
Ian handed her a pistol. "Guard had two. Ready?"
"Have I got a choice?" She tucked the pistol into the
waistband of her pants, drew her shirt over it.
"Always have a choice."
As they rose, Ian hesitated, but Ti had already put
her arms behind her back. Ian grasped them, appeared
to manhandle Ti up the shuttleís ramp, forcing Tadsen,
standing guard at the top, to move inside. Ianís hand
slammed down on the hatchís quick-release as he
entered the shuttle, then he shoved Ti into a seat in
the back before moving to the front.
"Iím flying," he stated.
The pilot looked at Marov, received a nod, and moved
to the right-hand seat.
Ian scanned the control panel, and increased power to
the engines. He moved so quickly, so decisively, that
they were several miles up before anyone thought of
"Letís circleó" Marov began.
"Canít." Ianís hands were flying over the controls, a
distraction as his left used the holo-board to
activate his addition to Tiís plan. "Somethingís wrong
with the altitude control. We canít go anywhere but
"What do you mean we canító"
Marov stopped as Ian swiveled the seat around, a laser
pistol in his hand.
"I mean thereís been a change of plans."
He saw the pilot move his hand, caught Tadsenís
movement from the corner of his eye. Too far apart to
take them both. In that split second, he knew.
His shot took out the pilot.
Tiís took care of Tadsen.
Told you, she sent to Ian as he secured the
prisoners. Just very confident.
Oseeah! he grumbled, knowing his own plans had
also just changed.
Shouldíve left you in that
Ti caught the approval under the feigned exasperation.
And missed all the fun?