Aloha – This Sci-Fi project continues and I continue to share free-writing version of Arlo (I’m thinking of using a different title). The good news is that I’ve completed chapter 50 and only have a few chapters to go. Then I get the grunge work of coming back and editing for context, grammar and flow. Having just finished that process for the Demeter series (with book 5 coming out this fall) I”m not looking forward to editing lol. Anyway for your entertainment, Chapter 17. As always, for newbies, the earlier chapters are available in the blog archives. Doc
Note: Through this weekend I have all four of the published Demeter sci fi books available on Amazon for a get out of the heat reading marathon for 99 cents each.
Chapter 17 Near Miss
The ground rumbled and the flash of ignition exploded around the staging area. A few seconds passed, and the payload began lifting off the ground. The ship slowly lifted off the ground, then began to accelerate skyward.
Naomi Katsuki wept. This is no way for a body guard to act. She thought.
She had been two seconds too late. The information had been good. The shooter was where he was supposed to be. She just couldn’t get there fast enough. Three rapid shots in a tight formation took the shooter out. But he had already fired, and Marshall was down. Rather than turn immediately to the bleachers she made sure that the shooter was done, with two taps to the head. Then she turned and ran toward the stands.
A small crowd was standing in a tight circle, where Marshall should be. A heel on Naomi’s shoe gave way, and she half tumbled to the edge of the stand. Kicking off her shoes she ran up the stairs. “Damn, damn, damn” she muttered.
A woman with red hair was kneeling beside the still form of Marshall Salt administering CPR. Three members of the crowd had pulled out their smart phones and were filming the efforts of the woman.
Naomi snapped. She kicked the nearest would-be photographer in the knee, and winded the next person, a woman, in the abdomen. The woman toppled over. The third gawker wisely moved back and put his phone back in his pocket.
“Get back!” she yelled. She didn’t even notice that she was still brandishing her pistol.
The crowd backed off.
“How is he?” Naomi gasped, out of breath.
“I think he’ll be all right,” the woman’s shirt was drenched in sweat and blood. “I thought I’d lost him for a minute there when he went into shock. He’s lost a lot of blood. Head wounds are like that,” the woman’s voice became clinical. Then she turned back toward the crowd, “Have any of you idiots call 911?”
“I did,” a mousey looking woman with big glasses and a huge back volunteered.
“Thank you,” Naomi whispered.
Turning back to the woman administering to Marshall, Naomi queried, “Is he going to be all right?”
“I think so,” the woman kept her hand on Marshall’s neck. “At least if the ambulance arrives soon. The cut on his neck… I assume a bullet wound, grazed an artery. He has lost a lot of blood, and went into shock. I can staunch the bleeding as long as I apply pressure. I didn’t think I’d need a medical bag to watch a space ship launch. I’m afraid I missed it,” she glanced reluctantly at the now empty field, with dust settling back to earth.
An ambulance arrived moments later. It had been at the opposite end of the field with firefighting equipment for the launch. Doctor Meredith Black accompanied the EMT team to the hospital.
Naomi followed a few minutes behind.
Marshall regained consciousness while in the ambulance, but was lightly sedated to keep him still.
Naomi cried all the way to the hospital, as she pursued the ambulance in Marshall’s gray Suburban. Arlo would never have let this happen. She repeated over and over as she drove. She managed to get control of herself, even though she had the shakes as she entered the hospital, and then paced back and forth for the next hour while they sewed Marshall up and gave him two pints of blood.
When she finally made it into Marshall’s room, his first words were, “Did the launch get off okay? I thought you were warning me it was going to explode.”
“You ran in the wrong direction if that’s what you thought,” she whispered.
“What happened?” Marshall tried to move, but instead settled back down.
“You were shot,” Naomi volunteered.
“Not a very good marksman apparently,” Marshall commented. “How about the launch?”
“Lifted off without a problem,” Naomi comforted.
“Where were you?” Marshall asked glancing at her face with smeared makeup. “You okay?”
“I was late,” she said.
“The shooter?” Marshall looked steadily at Naomi.
“He won’t be shooting anyone else,” Naomi stood a little straighter.
“Who was it? Kajima’s cronies?” Marshall quizzed.
“It was a professional. Actually, it was someone we knew… Joshua Milner. Turns out he wasn’t a doctor at all. And yes, I believe he was hired by the Kajima syndicate.”
Marshall sat quietly for a moment, then a slow smile formed. “Guess we’re going to need another doctor.”
“A little late for that don’t you think?” Naomi relaxed a little as it was clear that Marshall would be all right.
“I think I’ll sleep now,” Marshall’s eyes started to flutter. “Are you going to be all right?” he mumbled.
“I’m fine,” Naomi whispered. “I’ll be right here.”
At six a.m. the next morning, Naomi came to suddenly. There was a commotion in the hallway. Reaching instinctively for her gun she rose quietly to her feet.
Arthur Salt was at the Nurse’s station demanding to see his son.
Naomi slipped out the door and intercepted Marshall’s father. “He’s going to be okay,” she whispered. “He’s asleep.”
Arthur walked down the hallway side-by-side with Naomi. “What happened? I got a bulletin that he had been shot. Janice forwarded me a video that has gone viral. It looked like he was dead.”
“He might have been, but there was someone in the crowd thinking about something other than taking a picture,” Naomi briefed Mr. Salt. “I have her name right here,” she pulled out a small notepad she always carried with her. “Doctor Meredith Black… she probably saved his life.”
“What were you doing?” Arthur Salt’s voice rose in suspicion.
“Taking out the shooter,” Naomi felt like she was on the defensive now.
“Taking out?” Arthur’s brow rose. “How did you avoid spending the night with the police?”
“Plenty of witnesses,” Naomi stated flatly. “A detective was here earlier. I’ll still have to make a statement, but considering that I’m his bodyguard, they deferred until later today.”
Arthur Salt exhaled slowly, and his posture drooped. “Thank you,” he said simply.
“You’re welcome,” Naomi replied. “I’d feel better about a thank you if I had been a few seconds faster.”
“I’ll confess, I’d feel better about offering a thank you if you had been,” Arthur’s lips curled into a tight smile. “What are your intentions toward my son?” he asked suddenly.
Naomi’s mouth fell open. “What do you mean?”
“It’s pretty obvious that he likes you,” Arthur nodded down the hallway. “And you seem much more attentive than just a body guard.”
Naomi stuttered for the first time since second grade, “I’m. I’m… not sure. I hadn’t thought to much about it… and…”
“And he hasn’t made a move,” Arthur finished her sentence.
“Well, he did once, but….”
“I’d suggest not letting him get away. He’s a good man, and I know from working with lots of men and women, that there certainly aren’t enough of his kind. When…. and if he grows up, and if he doesn’t lose those precious principles of his I think he’ll be a great man. Although I suspect this will put a damper on things. That space ship of his will have to leave within a couple of weeks and I double he’ll be fit to fly by then.”
Naomi frowned. “It would seem unlikely unless we delay the departure by another month, and I know that isn’t going to work financially. I guess he’ll have to be satisfied with mission control.”
They could see nurses moving in and out of rooms, including Marshall’s. “Well, probably a good time to pay him a visit. He’ll probably bite at me when I walk in,” the CEO of Salt Industries looked nervous. “Onward,” he exhaled slowly and turned down the hall.
As Arthur Salt disappeared into Marshall’s hospital room, another voice called out to her softly, “Miss Katsuki.”
“John Smith,” Naomi hissed. “What are you doing here?”
“Is that all the thanks I get,” Mr. Smith grinned. “We got you the information on the infiltrators, I passed the information along about Milner, or your target would be dead now.”
“You could have let me know sooner,” Naomi growled.
“And, we ran all the interference with the local constabulary,” Mr. Smith ignored her comments.
“He could have been killed,” Naomi felt her temper rising. “Why didn’t you let me know earlier?”
“We didn’t know earlier,” Mr. Smith confided. “We’re not omniscient. We leave that for God.”
“So what do you want?” Naomi pushed Mr. Smith against the wall.
“Temper, temper Naomi,” Mr. Smith grinned. “Your mission.”
Naomi glared as she took the thumb drive. “What kind of assignment can I run for you a hundred million miles from Earth?” she paused. “That is of course, if Marshall even makes the trip.”
“You don’t give Marshall Salt enough credit,” Mr. Smith advised. “He has an awful lot of his father in him. I’m confident he’ll make the departure.” Brushing Naomi aside, he started to walk away. “Just make sure you remember your mission.” With that he turned the walked out of the empty waiting area where they had conversed.
Naomi watched as he left the building and got into a black SUV. “Damn!” she exclaimed, turning back down the hallway toward Marshall’s room.