The orders came to the woman's desk at approximately 7:29 am. At 7:43 am she was armed, armored, and in her car, prepping it for the journey ahead.

"Where was he last sighted?" she called into her car radio.

"Two blocks north of the Quartermain coffee house at King and Hamilton. It looked like he was chatting up some lady there, so with any luck we can get him before he knows he's been spotted." It was the usual sexless, faceless voice on the dispatch, but this time there was a note of urgency in its voice. There was a note of urgency in all their voices, really; this man had eluded capture for years, for good reason.

"He's a telepath, remember? Even if whoever you had who found him is shielded, he'll probably pick up on the shield and bolt before we ever get a chance to grab him."

"That's why they're sending you, Waters," the voice said dryly.
"Now go get him before someone else tries to and gets skull-messed for their heroism."

Kei Waters sighed, starting the engine. It was going to be one of those days, and she hadn't even had breakfast yet. And MacReady. Feh. She knew him from a long time ago, and she wasn't looking forward to dealing with him again. Really, it was a shame he'd turned into what he had, he could have made a good bounty hunter. "On my way."


He'd seen her coming. Actually, he'd probably sensed her coming. Rogue telepaths were some of the hardest to catch, and the government never had the money to train their own telepaths properly. Which was why they always hired bounty hunters to do it for them. Luck was with her, though; he hadn't sensed her until the very last minute. Her shields were holding, surprise surprise.

She grabbed him by the sides of his head. "Not this time," she muttered, and plunged into his mind. Flooding him with images upon images upon images. Sensation after sensation. Thought after thought, emotion after emotion. He wasn't an empath, and wasn't even a particularly skilled or well-trained telepath, merely powerful. With any luck, she would be able to overload and override his control.

They came up out of his mind, both gasping, out of breath. He tried to get up and run out of sheer reflex, but his muscles wouldn't respond, his mind overwhelmed by the sensations and images she'd projected. He gave her a wry grin. "Hasn't disabled me yet."

Kei had five seconds to realize what that meant before he stood up suddenly and bolted for the exit, heading out of the train station and into the airport. She swore, ran after him, followed by the cringing, whimpering woman he'd picked up along the way somewhere. The woman ran after her, shouting feeble protests that he couldn't be arrested, couldn't be caught.

The airport was crowded, as usual. It doubled as a spaceport, so the people who mingled and obstructed here chase were here not only to travel to various continents, but also to the Mars and Venus colonies. This made it extra hard, as she flashed her bounty-hunter's badge at the various checkpoints that dotted the building.
She looked around... goddammit, where was he.

She found an open stretch of corridor and pelted down the hall, opening her mind as she did so. The man had a distinctive mental flavor, and even with the sheer number of people in the area, she had to at least get a general direction, somehow. It was like looking for a flash of bright red hair in a mass of some thousand or so people. It could be done, if one was trained to spot such things.

She had been. She could do it.

There! In the bakery... she skidded a corner, nearly touching the floor, then straightening up and slowing down abruptly as she strolled in like nothing was wrong. Kei must have lost the other woman somewhere back there, because she was nowhere to be found. Carefully masking her thoughts, she walked up behind the fugitive.

"There you are! I've been looking everywhere for you," she smiled, looping her arm through his and giving him a mock-scolding look. "So, what's for lunch?"

He wanted to glare at her, she could tell he did. But there was no way to disengage her from his arm without causing a scene, and the airport/spaceport police detested scenes. It usually meant someone was trying to sneak a bomb on board a shuttle. This might have been a good tactic to get her away from him, but the moment he raised any sort of alarm, caused any sort of fuss, she would pull out her bounty hunter's license and his career would be over in two heartbeats. So, caught, he had to play along.

"I was thinking, a sandwich. We can take it with us, snack if we get hungry." She watched as the workers, pimply school-boys most of them, prepared a huge club sandwich in the background.

"Sounds reasonable to me," she smiled sweetly at the man. Part of her was definitely enjoying this. The rest was looking around, because she knew he was looking around for the next opportunity to escape.

He chatted amiably with the boy at the cash register, all the while half-glaring at her out of the corner of his eye. Kei smiled, kept hold of his arm, and said nothing. She did, however, very nearly let go when the other woman walked up behind them, seemingly out of breath.

"There you are! I've been looking for you all over the place!" she said, laughing as though it were all a misunderstanding. They both looked at her with barely concealed confusion, which quickly turned into false relief and humor.

"Well... here, we'd better get to our gate before they leave without us," MacReady said with false cheer, handing the boy at the register some money. "Kei, do you have any change?"

She had a few seconds warning as he thought about bolting in preparation to actually doing so, and wasn't caught completely flat-footed when she started rooting around in her belt-pack for change. Still, he had a good head start, and she swore again as she ran after him. This, she thought, is really getting to be too much. Rearranging the energies around her, she sprang up into the air and flew after the fleeing suspect.

Below her (just barely below her) people pointed and stared and gasped and awed at her, zooming just practically perpendicular to them. One fist extended, she rounded a corner and slammed open the door of the men's room. He had gone in this direction, she could tell... and then she realized her mistake too late as he charged out of the ladies' room, leaving a crowd of screaming women in his wake.

#You know you can't win,# she sent telepathically. It was the complete and utter truth. He kept running anyway.

#I can try and beat you,# he retorted, but his tone was not disgusted, hating as the tones of most of her quarry usually were. Instead he sounded almost playful, affectionate. As though this were all just a game between young children, young men and women. She shook her head, still zooming above the crowd.

He was almost onto the shuttle when she caught him, swooping down on top of him like a falcon stooping to catch her prey. He had been flying too, though less obviously than her, and therefore able to cover less ground. Kei suspected that had been the only reason she hadn't caught him; even if he had used the higher profile technique, she wouldn't have been able to catch up with him in time. Not for the first time she wondered if he wanted to be caught. To be caught by her. To be caught by her and sent to a fate she didn't think he anticipated. No, probably not.

"Ivan MacReady, you are under arrest," she pulled the damper-manacles out of her pocket, twisted his hands behind his back and blocked all telepathy while she cuffed him. "You have the right to remain silent. If you choose to give up that right, anything you say can and will be used against you. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be assigned to you." She tugged, expecting to pull him to his feet, but he stood willingly.

"Guess you caught me," he smiled charmingly, and it almost worked.

"You have the right to maintain your physical state and super-natural abilites," she continued. "If you choose not to use the facilities for convicted criminals with your abilities, you give up that right for the safety of the general public."

"Well, you know I'm not likely to do that. Besides, I wasn't really a danger even when I was, as you say, on the run." He gave her another winning smile, that almost worked again except for the fact that the other woman came jogging up to meet them. Kei put MacReady between the two of them.

"Nice work, Waters," she said, sounding completely different. Her posture, too, had changed, to an almost military stance. MacReady gaped at her.

"You too," Kei shook her head. "I'm just glad we didn't have to use you."

"Yeah," the other woman stared at MacReady, hostile and annoyed. "That could have gotten messy."

Kei cleared her throat. "He's in custody now, anyway. Let's book him and get this over with."


The presence of two bounty hunters cleared a sufficient path through the crowd for them to walk. It was always cinematic when bounty hunters captured such elite prey as MacReady had been, for which Kei was profoundly grateful. Cinematic meant that they wouldn't bother her; for whatever reason people tended to stay far back when the actual moment of capture was dramatic and fiction-like. The authorities were already starting to gather, and she stayed with them as they loaded the man into a wagon. They weren't really equipped to deal with his kind, anyway. She was.


"Ivan MacReady." The judge's voice sounded like a great, sonorous bell. Kei had already sat through this trial before, but MacReady hadn't. She wondered if he'd guessed the outcome. "You have been convicted of multiple counts of fraud, arson, theft, and embezzlement. You have been accused of several counts of murder in the second degree, which as you are aware is no light matter for a man of your... talents."

MacReady yawned, looking bored. That, Kei knew, was a mistake, especially with this judge. He didn't like to be mocked or taken lightly. He had a point; judging these days was a serious responsibility, since it sometimes put a man's very sanity in the hands of one person. The judge frowned at MacReady.

"Each count of fraud carries with it a sentence of two years. Each count of arson carries with it a sentence of five. Each count of theft carries with it a sentence of five, and each count of embezzlement carries with it a sentence of three."

Kei watched MacReady's face slowly turn from bored to aware and wary as he realized exactly what that all added up to. She was seriously starting to feel sorry for the man; she knew what awaited him. One of the reasons she'd become a bounty hunter in the first place was so she'd never have to face something like this. At least bounty hunters were offered a quicker and more merciful sentence than this, if they were ever convicted of serious crimes.

"Because of the nature of your crimes, because you have willingly used your abilities in the furtherance of your criminal acts, you are sentenced to a minimum of 80 years in sensory deprivation, with a maximum of six weeks per year in rehabilitation, scaling upwards beginning in the 20th year. Bailiff, restrain the man."

MacReady had started to struggle, realizing at last what he'd gotten himself into. "No... no, you can't do that! You can't do that, it's not..."

"Technically, it's not cruel and unusual," Kei found herself reciting, almost without realizing it, almost against her will. "Stephenson vs. the state of Montana. The Supreme Court eventually ruled that according to scientific reports, the state of sensory deprivation is not stressful, and that it was a drastic measure necessary for a drastic criminal. That was thirty years ago."

"You can't... Waters, tell them, they can't do this..." The manacles were still on, she noted with a certain amount of detatchment. He couldn't even use his powers to defend himself. Not that it would really be seen as defense. The bailiffs dragged him, almost literally kicking and screaming, into the next room where the tank was already prepped and waiting. "Kei!" he shouted, and she started, eyes going wide. "You can't let them do this, you're a psi, you know what it's like..."

She did know. Psis had a more open mind, access to a greater sensorium than natural humans. Life, for psis, had been described as more rich, more imaginative than it was for most of the population. Sensory deprivation, while restful and advocated as a treatment for those who couldn't handle the extra information, was also one of the most supreme tortures. "I'm sorry, Mac," she said.
"You knew what was going to happen."

He stared at her with a look of utter shock, horror, and betrayal. It was just long enough that it gave the medics a few minutes in which to bundle him into the man-shaped (coffin-shaped) box, sedate him, strip him of clothing and bundle him into the specially-prepared suit. He was still mumbling denials as they laid him in the tank, intubating and applying the IVs and catheters, strapping on the last parts of the suit, closing the lid with a sound like a tomb door slamming shut and filling the tank with a viscous solution.
Kei turned away after it was all over. She'd forced herself to watch long enough. Behind her, the other bounty hunter walked up and put a hand on her shoulder, "Hey, are you okay? You look kind of pale."

She turned. "I'm fine, okay..." she said, knowing damn well that she wasn't. "I just..." she felt dizzy, blinked slowly as the world spun out of focus, then mumbled something rude about the justice system in general as the world fell away...


"Ms. Waters." A voice was calling her, insistantly. She scowled. Stupid voice, why couldn't it let her sleep. "Ms. Waters. You need to wake up now. You need to move about."

Where was she again, anyway. Oh, that's right. On the floor of the court room. No, wait, that wasn't right... she was on the scanning table, next to a deprivation tube. With an IV still in her and electrodes still adhered to her forehead. She sat up slowly, well aware that any sudden movement might make her extremely nausous.

"I'm fine, Andy," she said, waving off the lab technician. "I'm fine."

Actually, she was far from fine, but that was more an emotional problem than a physical one. For all the ailments that he was concerned about, she was fine.

Still, this technician seemed to be possessed of more intelligence or perception or caring than the last set had been. He looked at her with something resembling sympathy, then glanced at the dusty deprivation tube. "Doesn't he ever realize that once you wake up, it's all over?"

She stared at the tube, the words on it barely legible after forty years. "No... I guess not."