Episode 17: Imprisoning Pull

“Shouldn’t we cycle this thing’s airlock?” asked Zack.

“You planning on taking a civillian car into space?” asked Carmen as she powered up the engine.

“No, but isn’t it better to be prepared?”

“It’s better to get us out of here,” she said. “You wanted out of this town fast, and I’m going to get you there fast.”

“Right,” said Zack, activating his seat’s safety harness. “Sorry, I’m just paranoid today.”

Carmen muttered what was probably an agreement. The hover-pods activated, providing enough lift to let her rotate the car until it was facing the exit. The forward thrust rocketed them out of the hangar and into Helix’s air space before it quickly slowed down. Carmen, confused, flipped a few switches experimentally. Zack didn’t notice and, in fact, seemed to be enjoying the change.

“Okay, that’s a relief,” he said. “Just getting out of that town, I feel better.”

An alarm sounded, and Carmen flipped the switches faster, pushing her foot all the way down onto the thruster control pedal.

“What’s wrong?” asked Zack.

“Tractor beam,” said Carmen, checking her dashboard. “We’re being targeted by a tractor beam. From Helix.”

The car finished slowing down, coming to a momentary complete stop in the air.

“Why does a city have a tractor beam?” asked Zack, nervously looking back. Through the rear window he could see the green energy lancing through the air from a horizontal spire that jutted out from the super city. The green field of energy was slowly spreading over the car. Looking up he could see it beginning to cross the top window.

“I guess it’s a leftover from when they were planning to make Helix go into space before that whole plan got scrapped,” said Carmen. “It’s one of the perks to the racing federation housing a lot of its work here. It’s not come up yet, but if an out of control racer can get close enough to Helix, the tractor beam could pull their asteroid in.”

The car began to float backwards, pulled toward the tractor beam’s emitter like a fish being pulled toward a fishing rod by a patient fisherman.

“No, no, no,” said Zack, watching the creeping green glow. “We can’t let this happen. This is on purpose. Whoever’s doing this knows that we’re here.”

“Right,” said Carmen. “Fix it.”

“Fix it?” said Zack. “How should I fix it?”

“i don’t know, use your crazy superspy knowledge. Don’t you have some emergency gadget or know some secret about the frequency of standard tractor beams so that you can disrupt them?”

“What?” said Zack. “No. Why would I know that?”

“I don’t know, you’ve just got that… paranoid vibe about you. You know things.”

“Well why don’t you fix it?” he said. “Use that crazy mind power you’ve got to shake us out of here. Give the car an extra boost.”

“I’m petrakinetic, not ferrakinetic,” she said. “I can’t move metal. Does this look like an asteroid to you?”

“No,” said Zack. “But you can keep an atmosphere on an asteroid, so I thought maybe you could do other things.”

“Well I can’t do THIS thing,” she said, angrily. “There’s not enough rock in this ship for me to propel it.”

The green glow finished enveloping Carmen’s car, and the gradual backward pull became smoother. Carmen gave a final, frustrated rev of the engines before powering it down entirely.

“So, I’m guessing there aren’t any rocks down in Veskid you could use, then? Or loose chunks of Helix’s structure?”

“Not that’d be big enough to do any good,” said Carmen. “I’d have to try ripping something off of one of its walls. I’d need to get a good grip on it, and that’d be hard. Cement and concrete are trickier than good old fashioned stone. It’s too hard to get a grip on it. Mentally speaking.”

Zack stared back at the spire that was generating the tractor beam. He disengaged his safety harness and stood, pacing to the back of the car.

“So, that’s it, then,” he said. “I guess it’s no real surprise. No one’s ever gotten away from the DMA before, not when it’s one of their own. I should’ve turned myself in as soon as I heard of it. …I wonder if they’d have let me donate my own bounty to charity. A little late to do that now, though. I never should’ve thought there was any hope at all.”

“Oh!” said Carmen. “I just thought of something, actually.”

“What is it?” said Zack, leaping to Carmen’s chair. “I’ll take anything. Anything at all.”

“Well, I don’t think I could dislodge a chunk of wall large enough to knock us out of the tractor beam,” she said. “But I might be able to dislodge something else.”

“Really?” said Zack. “Like what?”

“Shh,” said Carmen. She closed her eyes and furrowed her brow. Zack watched her for a moment then looked back at the tractor beam’s emitter.

“So what are-“

“Shhhh!” said Carmen.

A hairline fracture developed on Helix. With some thought, Carmen was able to work that fracture, extending the crack and widening it. Too thin to see, it was all that she had to work with.

The tractor beam pulled them ever closer to Helix. Zack watched nervously as the car was maneuvered toward a section of the outer wall. A gate opened, an old-fashioned blast door with interlocking connectors that reminded Zack of a terrible maw. He couldn’t see through the shadows inside this hangar, and he doubted that it was one of the standard hangars available to the public. Zack grew more and more nervous the closer to Helix he came.

Carmen grew more and more confident the closer to Helix she came. While her petrakinetic powers could work over great distances, proximity helped. The inverse square law applied, in a fashion, both to the raw power of her abilities and to the finesse with which she was able to apply them. The fracture widened and began to carve a circle in Helix’s outer wall. The circle went deeper, and the edges started to carve inwards. A semicircle of stone was very slowly dug out.

Zack heard an alarm. A quick check of the sensor readout indicated an environmental hazard.

“Carmen, I don’t know what you’re doing, but…”

Suddenly, the chunk of wall holding the tractor beam was ripped from the side of Helix, causing the entire ship to shudder.

“Ha!” shouted Carmen, looking up through the window. The glow of the tractor beam began to fade and flicker, though the aura maintained itself.

“What happened?” asked Zack.

“Since I couldn’t save us, I thought I’d take out the beam,” said Carmen. “Only… shouldn’t the tractor beam shut off? I would’ve snapped the cables connecting the beam to the city’s power supply.”

“You might’ve shut off the power supply,” said Zack. “That might not shut off the power if it had capacitors installed.”

“Shouldn’t capacitors shut off in the event of a system failure like that?” asked Carmen.

“Helix was built before those safety standards were fully in place,” said Zack. “It would be a good idea, but… it looks like it didn’t.”

Carmen and Zack looked up at the now-teetering spire that created the beam. It tipped forward and the ship suddenly dropped, held steady in relation to the spire through the aura’s inertial manipulation.

“Hang on,” said Carmen. “This might be the ride of a lifetime.”

The spire finally fell out of its place on the wall, causing the car to enter a downward arc, whipping itself toward the outer wall of Helix at a deadly speed.


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