Tension

Tension. When you stand at the precipice of safety and danger, debating, begging for the ropes that pull you either way to slack in one direction. Only I felt and heard this conflict, only I knew how easy it would be to choose one or the other, the ease of betrayal or the comfort of obedience; each making their arguments like lawyers before a judge.

In the universe the only constant is fear, the feeling of being unsafe. Power is paranoia; my clenched fist knows that’s truth.

****

Tabatha stood motionless before the holo-screen, which served as doorways to the vastness of space. Her destination was still some hours away but some tick in her brain, her training, told her she should make her decision now. And she did; her face was drained of emotion, the green of her eyes lost their luster, and her features grew taut and starved as if from exposure and starvation. She was still beautiful, but the beauty repelled more than drew. To anyone observing her now, she looked like a silent statue that read “to be left alone” in bold print, and knowing this Tabatha spirit drew dimer.

Withdrawn from her person was a data sheet of the mission ahead. Tabatha often reviewed these things over and over once they have been assigned, her current check and the last one before deployment was a running list of her current situation; recon delivered by the tireless efforts of the Mimics deployed months and sometimes years in advance. She scrolled down for the black list and found a disturbing amount of names: government mostly, ranging from low to mid-level players of interest that the Mimic’s have taken care of themselves. It was unsettling, she decided with a shiver. The nature of so many assassinations were clear, the thought of her arrival preceding the warping in of Earth Prime warships and the Primers that came with them, made the old fears she buried moments before rise up like bile. Acrid taste went hand in hand with the panic rising inside of her. She forced the feelings down, both in body and mind and let her mind hope for other conclusions despite the bad taste that lingered.

And then another thought came to her…was she the only FIST being deployed? The thought made her anxious despite her resolve to push away the fear, the last thing she wanted was some tense standoff between another FIST agent. In those encounters only a split second is allowed to identify yourself before the paranoia of the job moves the trigger faster than either could take back.

Swiftly she closed the data sheet and her concerns shut with the end of holo-light. Mechanically, more possessed than with genuine purpose, she walked down the merchant ship corridors noting the holo-screens that substituted for genuine glass windows found in less practical ships designed for mere tourism than the rigors of interstellar travel and commerce. Though the boundary between luxury and purpose ended there for the PAN-PAC EXPRESS, built for a business oriented clientele, it was a luxury ship of massive bulk facilitating spacious rooms and exotic cargo. It was the meeting place of industry captains both of the legal and illegal type with genuine goods to delivery or luxury to export. And with the amount of wealth inside this merchant ship, hopefully enough clot to bypass border security. It was also under the express jurisdiction of the Earth Prime Unifying Government, and at any given time its civilian passengers could find themselves bumping elbows with various off duty military personal, some of whom were more dangerous than others.

Tabatha was off duty, for as long as she was outside of Ellen Minor solar system.  Now that she wasn’t…well she couldn’t think about that too much. In fact not thinking was her best strategy, as she felt her mental powers flare up as the subconscious triggers in her mind started to click in pace. This sensation was always a moment of terror for Tabatha, knowing the nature of her powers and what the constant buzzing must mean. She could in fact, for a moment of unguarded silence, hear herself think and in those precious moments before her mind drowned out the noise for more pressing concerns, she wondered post-humorously what it would be like to reach into her own head and silence the constant chimes of neurons receiving and firing…if she could, on purpose, commit suicide with her own power. She shuddered at the thought, the possibility, at the mere fact that her own mind produced such a morbid idea. Self-preservation kicked in and her enhanced hearing faded, taking the morbid curiosity with it and set her on a path of continual motion. Toward her room, she understood as she moved with mechanical purpose toward her destination. Toward the last island of safety before—

“Hey babes!”

It was Henry. Though the old Tabatha of five minutes ago would have long detected and responded to his presence, a “Henry!”  Exclaimed with all the mirth of a burgeoning couple who spent months together… the new Tabatha merely acknowledged his presence with a glass eyed stare that looked not at him but through him, a vision that didn’t stop until she saw the locked container inside her private suit. With practice and affection Henry wrapped his arms around her slender waist, bringing her body close to his in one practiced swoop that was effortless and nibble. With excitement in his eyes he spoke rapidly and with a certain jolly expected of a less serious man. However true to training his noise and warmth but of footnotes of irrelevant white noise, even without the full application of her power she barely knew he was there, only seeing his mouth moving and feeling his hands pressing and swirling about her back going higher or lower as he spoke in rapid succession. Even her own facial features were beyond her consideration as Henry occasional concerns looks, periods that punctuated his excitement, were assuaged by her by her reflective control of her facial muscles, allowing her to appear listening when not really there. By her estimation Henry would have chatted her up for days, discussing plans and past pleasures and present intention with undiluted gusto. Only with a sudden snap back to the reality, by Tabatha herself, would this conversation close and that’s what she did as her eyes snapped back from her imagined x-ray vision to the reality of Henry’s brown eyes.

“I have to go.” She spoke with flatness Henry never knew in the 3 months of space travel together.

“I know you do, that’s why I’m saying-“

“The package will be delivered in the next 16 hours.”

And with that she walked out of his grasp like sand through an open palm, his eyes and expression fixated on where she just stood, his mind uncomprehending, conflicting and ultimately restricting to the inner silence that will glue him to that same spot for the next 30 minutes. Reflecting she could have simple let her old self, the safety induced dream of a woman who wanted Henry for warmth and simple pleasures like a meaningless conversations and drinks not consumed alone, break it off with Henry. To explain to him that their time together was nice but unfairly short and the real reason she is here was due. Henry would have understood, Tabatha reasoned, he would have protested and declared his love, but understanding and the heart-break that followed would have donned on him naturally.

“If only he saw me five minutes earlier…” Tabatha reasoned but she knew there was no case in that. She wasn’t safe and thus she wasn’t the woman Henry fell in love with. Even her features have changed, all so subtly, to reflect the loss of careless youth and imagination. She could have never given him the closure he’d wanted, or needed, but worsen her own temptation?

Nights with Henry were blissful. He was both a gentle soul and a ravaging wolf, capable of losing himself and her into passions only long periods of enclosed spaces could produce. To Tabatha he was the complete pie of normalcy that she devoured eagerly and without pause. Only the data sheet reminded her of her looming mission in the days since Henry gamed for her attention, and even that ominous report of some distant hell on the other side of the Milky Way wouldn’t sour her enjoyment of this man. But to Henry… it is not right to blame him for his feelings. To love a telepathy of latent ability is to court vibrations so subtly your mind barely knows it’s been moved. A gentle push in the right direction, pleasure increased to a level only replicated by practice and knowledge of your partner’s body. But in Tabatha, those vibrations are large currents of visible emotions, pushing and pulling in a constant ebb and flow of pleasure and senses never understood but felt all the same. For Tabatha it was merely an assumption that to climax was to experience an ecstasy found in few legal drugs. But to Henry such bliss was the start of a connection that couldn’t be replicated by any other woman in the galaxy. His love for Tabatha and the feelings, the new dimension, conjured by her touch and intimacy, will undoubtfully ruin any chance of him being satisfied by anyone else.

“He knew what I was. It’s not my fault I have to go.” And with those thought, Tabatha’s last regard for Henry was felt.

***

Why she felt her room was safer than the entirety of the PAN PAC EXPRESS, she had no rational idea. Her luxury airliner was usually fitted with a Class 2 Steel Frame, and a civilian crew of gunners that manned the smallest pair of pee-shooters a space ferrying vessel can have before being classified as a potential warship and being restricted from getting inside Ellen Minors solar system. Out here the only thing that could bother the EXPRESS was the pirates that often circled the solar system of systems like these. Whether they’ll see that type of action didn’t get Tabatha sweating, for one the PAN was had a class 2 hull, sturdy enough for any pirate raid short of using real military hardware, which was unlikely but if it did happen the Express would have a fighting chance. Second the government of Earth Prime tends to cover its basis. Pirates are often warned beforehand that some ships have cargo they don’t want or threaten outright, which works just as well for the less organized broods.

Though how Earth Prime negotiated today’s smooth traveling she’ll never know or care; to her safety was inside that special container, four feet wide, seven feet tall, and all bad intentions. Henry knowing who she was never bothered to ask what was inside the locked container made of metals that could survive this ship exploding in the dead of space or survive re-entry. The same type of metalwork used for Prime drop pods. Not entirely indestructible but close enough. For a moment she touched the cool metal that seemed to absorb and reflect heat at the same time. Sliding one finger down the crevice between sliding doors, and noting her quickening heartbeat as she came closer and closer to the numerical lock. In a second, something mechanical inside of her took over and with blank expression she keyed in her combination in rapid succession. Which a click and a slink, the doors slid open and clicked outward, allowing cool refrigerated air to sleep into the room lazily, coiling around Tabatha’s feet and chilling her breath. She smiled. A weary wiry smile but a smile nevertheless. Inside the container were the tools of her trade; four black disks, a utility belt, and a rifle that was taller than she was. With a nod of approval she made three steps away from the container and to her bed. There she stripped, her clothes neatly piled on her bed as she ignored the rooms chill on her bare skin. Totally naked she went before the container again, picking at the four disks and placing them on her body; one for each shoulder, one on her chest just below collarbone, and finally one for the small of her back. With a thought the black disks unraveled in a typhoon of black thread, in mere moments Tabatha’s body was covered in the nano-fibers of her cat suit. She steadied her breath and prepared herself for the body horror that’ll come next. And on the third shallow repetition she forced her eyes not to blink as her contact lenses bubbled into place over her iris. The process burned and confused her eyes; a white blindness overtook her senses as the nerves in her eyes relayed the wrongness of liquid boiling at the surface. For Tabatha it was two seconds of mild discomfort, practice had driven away any real sense of fear, where the temporary loss of a single sense would have given rise to hysteria is less seasoned minds.

Luckily that was only the least of her changes. The psy-engines inside of a frontal lobe churned widely as the incisions made behind her ear widened without drawing blood. Machinery pressed outward against exposed gap, unfolding and stretching along the back of her ear, settling and piercing her skin to establish a foothold that no amount of jostling could disgorge. Short of removing her skull, the dual-core pys-processors will remain steadfast against her skin jutting out slightly into the back of her head like flatten antenna associate with vintage 20th century radios. To Tabatha this too was merely a disquieting sensation whose effects were long numbed with practice. That changed with a click.

Somewhere along the ships many corridors, efficiency-lights will burst spilling their milky contents into the stainless steel below. Somewhere along the ships many back up engines, a third and force generator will come to life and whine a death rattle as the sudden surge of electricity meets the pull back of the grid. Somewhere along the ship, someone who is psy-sensitive will scream as an aneurysm comes suddenly against their unguarded and defenseless mind. Hallucinations will haunt those directly touching any electronics; some will claim to see visions of angels others will see less nice things… The ship itself will shudder like as if given a cold shower, and many will race to the gunner decks in anticipation of an attack that will never come.

And at the epicenter will stand Tabatha, cloaked in power! Surging from her being like a volcano. Only the special shielding encasing her reserved room prevented the totality of her strength from bearing down on the PAN PAC EXPRESS, the very fact of her existence threatening to do what only dreadnought class warships can do with passing easy.  It was the months of pent of power and the enormity of her talent that caused the storm.

“I’m ready,” Tabatha grimaced, her mind slowly drawing in control over her higher processes. With strength, talent, and focus will she survive the coming storm. This she knew. Tabatha walked toward her chair, pulling it to the center of the room. She turned to give her special cabinet, holding her gun and other supplies in hidden recesses lamp shaded by shadows, another look. She reached for her knife, a long blunt instrument of clear purpose, full of weight and size lacking in delicate features or ominous jags along the edge. Only the handle and grip was given a finesse, as a side arm only one hand or her mouth if necessarily needed extra accommodations. Tabatha placed it on the chair, grabbing a utility belt to strap to her hips before snapping the knife into place along her side. Satisfied with the familiar weight to her right side, she reached for her signature weapon, the P105-2nd Generation HellDROP Rifle. Two generations behind and still unwilling to trade up, this weapon has been her friend, lover, and protective mother for the better part of 11 years.

“I need sleep.” And Tabatha did, the FIST way; sitting slightly crouched over the bulk of her weapon, cradling her HD rifle against her lap with the trigger being fingered idly, her mind splitting into two halves, one alert to stimuli and danger constantly searching probing for hostility, while the other force the physical sleep the body needed. She was wide-eyed and rocking slightly in a rhythm really slow drawn out breathing. Anything to enter her room would have been shot unceremoniously and the crew sensed the sudden shift in the atmosphere like fog only the mind can perceive. No one will bother her, or wish to bother her; the required security clearance just to sweep the floor ensured that. Being this close to Ellen Prime, the importance of delivering the cargo pressed heavy on their minds. Tabatha will sleep undisturbed, even peacefully… as far as a FIST could, for about 16 hours.

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