Non-Erotic means THERE IS NO SEX IN THIS CHAPTER!!
Chairman Jake Hedron and his Empath wife were at the city hospital.
“How soon will he be awake?” Jake asked the doctor in the emergency room.
Because of his status as head of security, Jake Hedron wasn’t confined to the waiting room, but could go anywhere he felt he needed to. Yesterday, Lisa had found a wrecked military flier in the mountains near the shuttle launch platform. A man in a uniform was pinned inside, so Lisa had melted half the vehicle so she could pull him free. Then she had teleported to the hospital emergency room, bringing the unconscious soldier with her.
“He’s conscious now,” the doctor said. “He’s somewhat sedated to control the pain, but he can probably answer questions.”
“Thanks, Doc,” Jake said, gripping his shoulder as he slid past and into the Convalescence Room.
Entering the room, he found the young lad sitting up and carefully sipping some tepid water through a straw.
He introduced himself, “Hello, I’m Chairman Hedron,” and sat down. “I have a few questions, if you don’t mind some conversation.”
“Name’s Barley,” the young man said, his voice sounding a little raspy. “Lieutenant, Confederate Army.”
The Chairman grinned. “Name, rank and number, huh?” He laughed. “Those days are gone, son. We’re trying to salvage what’s left of humanity, now. So why don’t you tell me what the Confederacy wants with us? We’re too far away and too small to be any threat to them.”
“I’ll talk if you talk,” Barley replied, his voice stronger now. “Where’s Sally?”
“Who’s Sally?” Jake asked. “You were the only one we found in the wreckage.”
“She was with me!” Barley cried, becoming more upset now. “I rescued her from her bondsman!”
Jake thought for a moment. The boy’s simple statement said a lot about current living conditions outside their mountain retreat. Women were evidently bonded, now – second-class citizens that were treated as property and probably traded as well; slaves.
“She was ejected before we hit,” he whimpered, almost crying now. “You find her – tell me that she’s alright. Then I’ll tell you anything you want to know.”
Jake stood up and turned toward the door. “Tabatha?” he called out.
A pretty, blue-eyed redhead came through the door. Barley looked at her nervously, wondering what they were planning to do to him. She sat down in the chair just vacated by her husband.
“Hello,” she said, smiling, “I’m Tabatha. I’m in charge of Internal Security.”
She looked up at her husband. “I’ll take it from here. Bye.” She blew him a kiss.
“You two bonded?” Barley asked.
“Bonded?” she asked, raising her eyebrows.
“Yeah,” Barley explained. “You belong to him. Right?”
“Yes, of course,” Tabatha said, smiling more naturally, now. “Now you know more about us than we do about you. You could have a profession in ‘Security’.”
“I do,” Barley admitted. “At least, I did, until I found out about you people.”
“Why did you leave?” she asked. “Were you running?”
“No! Well, yeah, maybe,” Barley admitted. “I was going to come here anyway. But… I killed a man – Sally’s bondsman. It was a fair fight – he had a white knife, but he was a…”
He sighed, not really knowing how to explain.
“A bondsman?” Tabatha asked. “Was he a Slaver?”
Barley looked at the blue-eyed brunette more intensely. He nodded tersely, again feeling the adrenaline rush as he remembered the short, fierce fight.
“There are no slaves here,” Tabatha said quietly, but with conviction.
“What will happen to me?” Barley asked, hoping he could trust what she said.
“You can exchange information about the Confederacy and why they seem to be interested in us, and we will allow you to stay. If you become a contributing member of our society, that is,” she told him.
“What if I don’t want to?” he asked, already knowing he would tell her anything she wanted to know.
“Then,” she sighed, “as soon as you’re healthy enough to travel, you go out the front gate. If you try to return to your government, you’ll probably be killed. We’ll let you travel in any direction except Southeast. You could go to Montreal. They’re not as aggressive at the Confederacy.”
“You can track me?” he asked.
She nodded, not explaining how.
“From your space station, I suppose,” he said, surprising her completely.
He grinned as her mouth fell open. “We put transmitters on the supplies you stole from us. Two of them are in orbit right over our heads.”
“Is that why your people are interested in us?” she asked, recovering quickly.
He nodded. “We just wanted to catch the thieves and get our supplies back. We didn’t know about you before that.”
“What are you going to do about us?” she wanted to know.
She used first tense because Barley was still including himself as part of ‘we’, the Confederacy, and not ‘them’.
He shook his head. “Not ’til Sally’s here! Go find Sally. Then I’ll talk.”
“Fair enough,” she said, rising and holding out her hand to confirm their agreement with a handshake.
Sitting up straighter, Barley shook her hand, then snarled as he felt her mind expand into his.
“Witch!” he screamed. “Get your demon mind out of my head!”
Pulling her forward, still gripping her hand, he swung at her with his free hand, clipping her jaw just below her right eye. Then there were several orderlies pushing him back and holding him down. He heard the hiss of a needle gun and went to sleep.
“You okay, Cat?” Jake asked anxiously, unable to keep from touching the rapidly healing cut on her face.
She nodded, then took a deep breath. “They have helmet technology – from that casino, Atlantis. They have a good-sized army, and have control of all the missiles silos all over the country. They know about us and about the force field around the front gate. They also know about the spaceship.
“This boy wanted to incorporate us into their Confederacy,” she continued. “But their leaders don’t think we’d cooperate and plan to force us to give them our technology and our ship.”
“Force us?” Jake asked. “How?”
“He wasn’t sure,” she said, “Probably try to nuke their way through the front gate and attack us in force. This boy’s a Security Officer in Knoxville. He knows how many soldiers the Confederacy can rally against us. Even with every man here armed to the teeth…”
Tabatha shivered. “They could take us in a day – a few hours, probably. We have no defense against their energy weapons except my time shield at the front gate. They could nuke their way right through the mountain – maybe collapse the whole thing down on top of us!”
“Does he know when they’re coming?” Jake asked.
Tabatha shook her head. “He defected to warn us, but he brought a girl with him. I’m going out to see if I can find her.”
“She’s might be dead by now,” Jake warned her. “She’ll have been exposed more than a day, and it’s freezing at night out there.”
Tabatha smiled and lightly kissed her husband. “Be serious, Darling. Remember what the Praetor calls me…”
She winked at him, then disappeared as he remembered the Praetor’s official title for her:
“Oh, fuck!” she heard someone say as her head bounced against the jeep’s canopy, waking her up.
Sally yelped in terror as a blinding bolt of lightning flashed, seeming to appear right next to her face on the other side of the rain-streaked canopy. She jumped and screamed as her entire body and the jeep, as well, shook with the deafening thunder.
The jeep suddenly veered sideways and Sally was thrown against the other side. She put her hand on her head where she’d banged it against a handle or the rounded edge of something and looked around the seat in front of her.
The instrument panel was lit up with several red lights. She didn’t know what they meant, but she knew that ‘red’ was bad.
“Are we gonna crash?” she asked, hoping that, if they were, he’d lie and say, ‘no.’
“Hope not!” Barley said, turning his head away from the front view for an instant.
Another flash of lightning, farther away this time, showed the mile-high mountains surrounding them. Some of the peaks were higher than they were.
Never having flown before, Sally wasn’t sure, but it felt to her that they were descending.
“Where are we going?” she asked, frightened now.
“We’re right above the signal,” he explained, which didn’t tell her anything at all. “There should be something here – a city or something – but I don’t see anything!”
“Is that bad?” she asked, not so dumb that she didn’t already know the answer to that one.
When her unnamed master didn’t answer, she knew it was over. They were gonna crash.
Sally always thought she’d be terrified to face death, and, to be truthful, she had been terrified when Drake tried to kill her. But then, her unnamed savior had come, and taken her away. She’d always dreamed that someone would. She never wondered what would come after. Now, she knew.
‘That’s all there is,’ she realized, strangely at peace with herself. ‘Once your dream comes true, the story ends.’
Sally watched as the mountains drew nearer. The lightning was more constant now and its violent brilliance was oddly comforting. She was pleased that she wouldn’t die slowly, from some lingering disease, as several other bond girls had.
‘At least, my dream really happened,’ she thought to herself, feeling contented.
Then, remembering her savior, she leaned forward again.
“Thank you,” she said to the back of his head as he fought the controls of the little jeep, trying to keep it level.
“For what?” he asked, curious, but annoyed at her interruption.
“For saving me from Drake,” she told him.
Again, he didn’t answer. It was all right, though. She was free. She belonged to her savior, but she was still free. She was happy. She would die free and happy.
The jeep lurched and began to dive.
“Hang on!” Barley yelled. “We’re caught in a downdraft!”
Sally looked outside again as she gripped the back of Barley’s seat. She could see individual trees now as the lightning displayed her mountain. This was her mountain – it would be her resting place. She watched, eyes wide with morbid curiosity, as the trees grew larger.
The jeep suddenly lurched sideways again and Sally looked forward around her savior’s seat. The mountain seemed to be reaching up for them. The trees were really close and coming fast.
“Get ready to eject!” Barley yelled at her.
Sally looked confused. “What?”
“Lean back and relax!” he yelled again.
Sally sat up straight and was nearly sucked out as the canopy over her head disappearing in a deafening roar. She shrieked as the wind whipped around her, then she was smashed against the seat as it rocketed her out of the little jeep and up into the violence of the storm.
‘No! I want to see!’ she screamed in her mind, protesting the fact that she would die and not know what it was that killed her. Rain and icy wind lashed fiercely at her body and hair, then everything stopped. The wind and rain were suddenly gone!
“See what?” a young girl asked.
Sally looked around. She was still sitting on the seat from the back of the jeep. Lightning illuminated the face of a dark-haired girl sitting next to her.
“Who are you?” she asked, wondering if the girl was some kind of guide to help her get used to being dead.
Tabatha laughed, easily seeing the thought in the strange girl’s mind.
“You’re not dead,” she explained. “You would have been, but I’m protecting your chair.”
“Protecting my chair?” Sally asked, wondering what she meant.
She looked around the lightning filled darkness. After a moment, she realized that she could see rain falling above her, but it was bouncing off of some clear surface that she could see right through. Smiling in awe, she reached up and touched it. The surface was soft to her touch and yielded slightly, causing the driving rain to run off and away from where her fingers were pressing.
“You rescued me?” she asked, surprised to be rescued twice in one day.
“Yes,” Tabatha said, just watching the girl.
“I’m not dead?” Sally asked. She didn’t think she was, but it would help if the unusual red-haired girl/guide confirmed it.
“No, you’re not dead,” Tabatha said, reassuring her. “Barley asked me to bring you to him.”
“Barley?” Sally asked, not recognizing the name.
Then she saw the image in her mind, projected by Tabatha.
“Oh!” Sally exclaimed, brightening up. “That’s Barley? Why is he in bed?”
Tabatha laughed out loud now, unable to help herself. “How did you ever live to grow up?” she asked before she could stop the question from coming out of her mouth.
Tabatha gazed at the girl, absorbing her thoughts, amazed at her trusting innocence.
‘No wonder he’s so crazy about her,’ Tabatha thought. This strange girl was the most innocent, adorably unthinking creature she’d ever met. ‘She’d make a wonderful pet!’
She reached out a touched the young girl’s arm. “Close your eyes and I’ll take you to him.”
Sally closed her eyes, automatically trusting her new rescuer. The two girls vanished from the seat. No longer held in stasis by Tabatha’s time shield, the seat resumed its trajectory, traveling another fifty meters before smashing into pieces against the side of the mountain. This time, however, no one was inside to be smashed into pulp.