Authors: S. D. Stuart
Fugue: The Cure
A Science-Fiction Thriller
by S.D. Stuart
Elizabeth had everything. She was the head researcher at the largest hospital in the largest city on the colony world, Voltaire, and was constantly rebuffing marriage proposals from the wealthiest men in town.
In one instant, everything changed.
Caught between her bright future as a research scientist for the Empire, and the stigma of her past as the daughter of an outspoken protestor against the Empire, Elizabeth is forced to help a known terrorist escape from Voltaire, putting her life and her future in jeopardy.
Fugue: The Cure is a short science-fiction novel from the inventive mind of Steve DeWinter (writing as S.D. Stuart), bringing his action-packed storytelling format to the short-story science-fiction genre.
This book is a work of fiction. References to real people, events, establishments, organization, or locales are intended only to provide a sense of authenticity, and are used fictitiously. All other characters, and all incidents and dialogue, are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real.
Ramblin’ Prose Publishing
Copyright © 2013 Steve DeWinter
All rights reserved. Used under authorization.
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But when the writing assignment called for a short story as part of a larger anthology, I forced myself to keep the story small, with as few characters as possible, in the hope that it wouldn’t explode into a larger story.
This “short story” begs for more and someday I would love to return to this world, either by expanding this story out to a full-length novel, or writing other stories. Either way, this book barely scratched the surface of the potential for the Fugue universe.
But then again, it is for the readers to decide if they want more. We shall see, after I release this short book to the wild, if there is a demand for more stories set in the Fugue universe.
Even short books like this one require the same level of attention and care as full-length novels. So, for this book, I have the usual suspects to thank:
Bob Young, the first one to read this story and help me iron out some of the nagging issues.
Amy Roberts who, as always, makes me a better writer, whether I like it or not. I have learned more about being a good writer while discussing the editing comments she leaves all throughout my books.
And I can’t thank my family enough for supporting me, in more ways than I can count, while I make a go at this writing thing. Dee and Josh, I love you both.
As soon as the doors slid open, Simon stepped out of the monorail car and into the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd of daily commuters on the platform. He ducked his head and pushed his way forward to keep the crowd from sweeping him back into the monorail car.
He glanced over the milling throngs toward the main exit and spotted two constables searching the crowd.
A whistle shrilled to his right. He looked over to see another constable at the side exit pointing at him and yelling.
He ducked and surged through the crowd toward the constable who just blew the whistle. He stood a better chance of getting past one constable instead of two.
He fought his way through the crowd in a half crouch as he angled to the left and overshot the exit by a few feet. He peeked through the moving bodies to see if the constable had tracked his movements.
He smiled to himself as he stared at the back of the constable’s head. If this was the best security the capital city of Voltaire could offer, his mission would be easier than he had expected.
He stepped out of the crowd and quickly approached the constable from behind. He was about to slip past him and out the exit when the constable spun around and jabbed an electric prod into his chest.
Arcs of electrical current sparked all around his body. If it were not for the steel mesh installed in the lining of his clothing, he would have fallen unconscious at the feet of the constable.
He yanked the prod out of the surprised constable’s hands and brought it down on his head with a loud crack.
A woman screamed and the crowd surged away from the exit in a panic; leaving him standing over the body of an unconscious constable with an enforcement prod in his hand.
The two other constables on the monorail platform locked eyes with him and yelled for him to stop.
He did exactly the opposite. He dropped the electric prod and bolted through the exit, only to collide with another constable coming into the monorail station.
Simon tackled him to the ground and twisted his arm until he heard the shoulder pop out of alignment and the constable roar in pain. He was back on his feet and running down the street in a matter of seconds.
He already had a very small window of opportunity to pass his package to the people waiting for it, but that window shrank the longer the local constabulary actively pursued him. He had to find a way to get them off his tail.
And he had to do it quickly.
The searing hot ball of lead pierced his skin at the exact moment he heard the echo of the pistol. The impact of the bullet spun him off-balance and he tried his best to keep his feet under him as he ran. But his body was already going into shock and his legs failed him. He hit the slick cobblestone pavement and slid several feet to a stop.
Lying face down in the mud that seeped up between the cobblestones, he rolled his head to the side and looked up the street. Several constables approached slowly, pointing their pistols at him as he lay still on the ground.
No. Not helpless.
His original mission was but a distant memory, but he could still make a difference.
The bullet in his shoulder burned fiercely as he fumbled the package out of his pocket and extracted the syringe from the small copper box. He ignored the commands from the constables to drop whatever he had in his hands as he plunged the needle deep into a vein. He smiled up at them as he squeezed down on the plunger with his thumb.
The constables rushed him and swatted the needle out of his arm, but not before he injected the contents into his bloodstream.
He fought back as they wrestled him on to his stomach and handcuffed his hands behind his back.
As they roughly lifted him off the ground by his arms, he felt his nose start to run.
One of the constables flinched and turned away. “Someone get me a towel. I don’t want this miscreant’s bloody nose to spoil my uniform.”
Elizabeth checked both ways before dashing out into the street. She dodged two steam-powered carriages, and the same horse-drawn cart they both darted around, before she made it to the other side. Being a pedestrian in a large city was not one of the safest things to be, she thought. At least it kept people like her in steady demand.
She closed her umbrella and shook the rain off it as she stepped through the threshold of the Crested Wren, a fancy restaurant that took its name from some small bird that lived on the original world humans departed long before colonizing the planet where she was born.
Just inside the door, the maître d’ looked up from his podium. His face lit up in a well-practiced smile. “Good evening Dr. Cureaux.”
She shed her wet overcoat and placed it in the outstretched hand of the maître d’. “Is my companion here yet?”
“He has only just arrived Madame.”
She smiled at the maître d’. “One day Reginald, someone’s going to catch you in a lie.”
The maître d’ bowed slightly. “Maybe someday, Madame, but not today.”
She looked across the full restaurant at her usual table and saw her companion handing an empty bread bowl to the waiter.
He glanced toward the entrance and immediately smiled when their eyes met.
As she approached the table, he stood up and pulled her chair out for her. “I was beginning to think you were never going to make it.”
She settled into her chair. “Honestly, I did not think I was going to make it either. And I have you to blame.”
He cocked an eyebrow. “Me?”
“As the Chief Constable over the Arouet Provinces, anything your men do is ultimately your responsibility. So, when your constables drag a wounded criminal into my hospital, it is all hands on deck.”
“I thought you moved to the research department and no longer work on patients?”
“I did, and I don’t. But as a senior staff member, and with scores of constables running around the halls, I was called on to make some executive decisions. You should be pleased to hear I gave your patient his own floor.”
“I hope you did not do that on my account?”
She gave him a wink. “I did not do it because I am the Chief Constable’s girlfriend. I did it because I could not have that many armed constables standing around spooking my other patients.”
“Tell you what. After dinner, instead of going home and getting my daily recommended hours of sleep, I will go to the office and see about getting that number reduced to a reasonable level.”
“Thank you. Whoever said dating the Chief Constable was a bad idea?”
“Yeah. Who would go and say an idiotic thing like that?”
She smiled at him. “You did.”
“That’s right. Now I remember. Oh, I took the liberty of eating all the bread before you arrived. I know how you don’t like to be tempted by all those carbs.”
She laughed, all the drama at the office melting away in the presence of a good friend. “How very thoughtful of you.”
They spent the next hour alternating between silence and light conversation as they ate. One of the benefits of dating someone exclusively was the unspoken agreement that allowed you to stay quiet when the conversation naturally waned.
But leave it up to Chief Constable Severn Blaine to abhor silence as if it were an admission of wrongdoing.
“With the exception of tonight’s interruption, how goes your research?”
“I think I’m close enough to identifying the markers that can help us end Scalars Disease.”
“I don’t want to sound like I’m minimizing your life’s work, but what’s the point? Nobody has died from Scalars in over a hundred and twenty years.”
“The threat is still there.”
“Not really. We have the annual immunization that keeps everyone in the Empire healthy.”
“That is just a band-aid on a gaping wound. I want to do more than just sweep the problem under the rug. When you do that, it is still there. It is still under the rug. I want to cut it from the house.”
“The Empire has had the best minds working on a cure for over a hundred years.”
“Not all the best minds.”
He winked at her. “Touché.” He tilted his head to the side. “Is that why you have not accepted my marriage proposal?”
She lowered her head and fixed her eyes on the boiled potato stuck to the end of her fork. “I have to leave myself available for acceptance at the Royal Medical Society on Viktorion. It’s nothing personal.”
“They do accept married people in the Royal Societies.”
“I cannot ask you to leave the position you worked so hard to obtain.”
“That would be my choice.”
“It is not a choice I want to force you to make.”
The silence between them stretched on for a full minute until he crumpled his cloth napkin and placed it on the table. “I am sorry I brought it up, but I am not getting any younger and I want to start a family.”
She folded her hands in her lap. “I’m sorry Severn. I’m not ready to settle down. I have too much…”
A constable appeared at the side of the table and interrupted her. “I am sorry to disturb you sir.”
Severn looked up at the man and let out an audible sigh. “What is it Alex?”
“You have an open call from the Head Magistrate on the wireless, sir.”
Frown lines appeared on Severn’s forehead. “The Head Magistrate?”
“From Viktorion? That Head Magistrate?”
“The very same sir.”
He looked at Elizabeth. “Why would he be calling me?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “I think you better take that call.”
He scooted back his chair and stood up. “I think I better. We will finish our discussion later, Liz.”
She looked up at him expectantly. “I can’t wait.”
He took her hand and kissed it. “I’m going to convince you to marry me.”
She smiled. “I know.”
She watched him leave and turned away the offer for dessert from the waiter. He did not present her with a bill for dinner. Her senior position at the hospital, and the fact that she dined with the Chief Constable, made their meal gratis courtesy of the management at the Crested Wren.