MoboReader> Sci-fi > Bypass Gemini

   Chapter 1 No.1

Bypass Gemini By Joseph R. Lallo Characters: 11209

Updated: 2018-01-19 12:02


Prologue

Bolts of energy slapped into the engine bank, sizzling against the hull and causing the instruments to scream angry messages. There was a pop and the whole ship lurched downward. Lex pulled madly at the controls and hammered at the computer's interface. Neither felt like cooperating anymore.

"I repeat, you are entering my debris field, idiot. Alter course or become a part of it, " a voice squawked over the com system.

"For God's sake, I am in distress! Out of control! Request immediate assistance!" Lex screamed.

A cloud of fist-sized debris splashed against the belly of the ship, the sound like a shotgun blast hitting a tin shack.

"Oh, man. If you think anyone can save you now, you have got your head so-o-o-o far up your ass. You are seriously fu--"

The rest of the eloquent thought was cut short as a chunk of floating metal passed through the antenna array. It didn't slow down much. A pleasant, calm female voice filled the cockpit.

"Warning. Ship atmospheric containment compromised. Decompression detected. Affix supplemental oxygen supply and stand by for emergency field deployment."

He scrambled to pull the oxygen mask into place, his ears already popping. Mechanical arms emerged from around the control chair, glowing field emitters releasing their electronic whine as they began to charge up. Lex cinched the straps of the mask tight and waited for the field to snap into place. As he waited, listening to the voice make its customary warnings about keeping his hands and arms within the confines of the field, something managed to force its way from the back of his mind, through the assorted panic and confusion, and right to the front.

"The package!" he blurted.

With a desperate grab, he managed to snag a silver case and pull it back to his chest. An instant later, the field clicked into place with a faint ruby shimmer, and a hiss of gas restored the proper atmospheric pressure. He took a deep breath, pulled up the backup controls from the side of the harness, and tried to get control over the ship. The pilot-assist apparatus was out, but he never used it anyway. Just figure out the parts of the engine array that were damaged, compensate, and get the ship the hell out of this orbiting junkyard before--

He looked up just in time to see a flurry of metal shards, probably the former support structure of some defunct satellite, crash into what was left of his ship's view window. The first one sent cracks feathering through the transparent ceramic. The voice of the computer serenely declared a full hull breach, just in time for a second chunk to shatter through completely. Time seemed to slow as it continued through unimpeded. It spun in air before him for several seconds before it occurred to him that time didn't just seem to slow. . . it did slow. He leaned aside to see a little red indicator on his slowly-sparking control panel light up. Next to it were the words "TymFlex? Safety System Engaged." Below was a timer, broken out to thousandths of seconds, ticking down from sixty. The numbers were creeping by.

The effect was surreal. He could see the ripple of tiny shock waves as clumps of metal clashed with his hull. All around him, bits of debris of various sizes sparkled in the starlight, slowly spinning and sailing along in their orbits. Bits of his ship's window drifted through the cabin, glancing harmlessly off of the emergency field around his chair. As a blunt, irregularly-shaped piece of wreckage, now moving slowly enough for him to recognize it as a door handle, rebounded off of the shield and spiraled lazily back into space, he tried to remember what the salesman had said when he was pitching this safety system.

It worked by creating a localized distortion in space-time, or something like that. Lex had never been good with details. Time within the distortion moved one hundred or so times faster than outside.

The salesman had explained that this reduced the kinetic energy of potentially lethal projectiles by making the universe think they had slowed down. Two thousand meters per second became twenty--not because the meters decreased, but because the seconds outside of the field were comparatively increased. The result was that the hunk of high-density tungsten that had formerly been moving several thousand miles an hour toward his forehead now clunked off the shield with the force of a lobbed softball. This was achieved with quantum this and temporal that, and various other high tech buzzwords that had been used to pad out the brochure. The wonders of science.

Of course, it wasn't without its flaws. The main one was that, if his math was right, the 59.378 seconds remaining would take over an hour. It gave him a lot of time to dwell on a few rather pressing questions. For instance, why had the ship that was now passing overhead decided to shoot at him? Why did this planet, supposedly uninhabited, have a lunatic shouting profanities at him over the com system? Did it have a breathable atmosphere? How exactly would a bubble of compressed time protect him from becoming a thin red paste when his ship hit the ground? He watched what appeared to be a novelty floor mat drift through the space beside the ship like it was flowing in molasses and decided that, since he didn't have any control over any of that, he might as well work on the most important question:

What the hell had gone wrong in his life that he had ended up in this mess?

Chapter 1

"What'll it be today, T?" asked the cook.

He was more or less the stereotypical short order cook:

greasy whitish apron, greasy grayish hair, greasy blackish cookie-duster mustache, and a potbelly from too much of his own greasy merchandise. The name on the apron said Mel, though it was anyone's guess why, since his name was Marv. He'd run "Starvin' Marvin's Curb Counter" for about as long as anyone could remember. It was almost literally a hole in the wall, just a couple of stools and a counter carved into the side of a shopping center. It was also the only place anywhere close that took something besides credits as payment. The food wasn't bad either.

"The usual, Marv. And call me Lex, would you?" said Lex.

Trevor Alexander was one of those people who could never get a decent nickname to stick. T, TL, Trev, Alexander--he'd tried them all, but either he didn't like them or other people didn't. Unfortunately, a brief and notable flirtation with celebrity a few years back had stuck him with "T-Lex, " a name so awful it could only have been conceived by the sports press. After trying and failing to shake it, he'd decided to split the difference and shorten it. Results had been mixed.

"Bowl of chili, no spoon, and a bag of chips, coming up, " Marv said.

"And hack me off a slice of that coffee while you're at it. It's been a long night."

Lex looked in the mirror set into the side of the counter. His short brown hair was a mess, and his eyes, also brown, were bloodshot from too little sleep and too much of Marv's coffee. He was also still wearing his courier gear: a red T-shirt covered with his corporate logo, a messenger bag plastered with the same, and cargo pants that, while functional, weren't terribly fashionable. A few hours of sleep and a minute or two with a comb would probably earn him the description "handsome, " or at least "rugged, " but at the moment he was trending more toward "train wreck." Working three jobs will do that to you. It was also probably why, even though he'd been subsisting on a steady diet of foods that congealed if he didn't eat them quickly enough, he still qualified as gangly.

His main job was as a hand courier. He made his way from business to business for same-day deliveries and such. It involved a lot of running around, and the violation of most traffic laws. His second job was as a chauffeur, though there hadn't been much business on that end lately. Planet Golana was basically nothing but a big shipping hub. There were loads of big businesses, and thus loads and loads of white collars floating around, but most of them had their own private drivers, so that left Lex carting around out-of-towners and the slice of the economic spectrum that was too rich to be seen in a cab, but not rich enough to have their own limo. It wasn't a big market.

As for the third job? Well. . . the less said about that, the better.

A bowl of chili, a bag of corn chips, and a plastic cup of coffee that might or might not have been in the pot for the past week were set before him. He opened the chips and used them to systematically shovel the contents of the bowl into his mouth. It wasn't so much eating as refueling, a procedure so practiced and mechanical that he tended to use it as a time to organize his plans for the rest of the day. With his free hand, he fumbled around in his pocket, one by one dropping onto the table the various items he'd accumulated over the course of the day. Energy bar wrappers, a pack of gum, a lighter, his tool chain. Finally, he found what he was looking for.

A thin, plastic rectangle, roughly the size of a credit card, clattered down onto the countertop. It was transparent, save for a short metallic tab along one of the short edges. It was a slidepad, a device that had become so prevalent, people were practically assigned one at birth. The little pad served the purpose of a cell phone, PDA, day planner, key chain, voice recorder, wallet, game system, media player, and virtually anything else one might need in the day. He slid his finger across the screen, causing it to flicker to life. The display area extended beyond the confines of the plastic--thanks to "patented HoloEdge technology" according to the ubiquitous commercials. It baffled him that they still advertised the damn thing. It was like advertising oxygen.

After navigating some menus and tapping off a dozen or so bill reminders, he got to his depressingly empty schedule. Nothing. No dates, no parties, no jobs. A whole weekend with no work or play. The lack of work was the real problem. There were at least a dozen people and companies he owed money to, though fortunately none of them were the sort who would break his knees if he fell behind. Such had not always been the case. Again, the less said, the better. He refilled his pockets and moved to stow the slidepad as well, but Marv interrupted him by loudly clearing his throat.

"As long as you got it out, hows about you pay your tab?" he suggested, his own oil-glazed pad already in hand.

Lex sighed.

"All right. Brace yourself, though, I have to turn the wireless on, " he said.

He navigated through the menus and switched on the data connection. A half-second later and the pad was vibrating, flashing, and chiming its way through all of the missed calls, messages, and urgent notifications he'd managed to avoid that day.

"Why don't you just leave it on, T?"

"Listen, I carry packages at unsafe speeds, I ferry celebrities around. . . and the other thing. Unwanted distractions are a no-no, " he muttered. "How much do I owe you?"

"12, 800 credits."

"What!?"

"Maybe you should pay more than once a month."

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares