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   Chapter 3 No.3

Bypass Gemini By Joseph R. Lallo Characters: 5613

Updated: 2018-01-19 12:02


"Hi, everybody on my contact list. I just want to remind you that I'll be broadcasting a livestream for the GolanaNet Financial NewsFeed tomorrow at three PM before I hop on the transport and cover my first ever off-planet news tour, culminating with the VectorCorp state of the company address in a few weeks! So make sure you check it out, I need every hit I can get! Thanks!"

He paused the video just as Michella blew a kiss. Another face from the good old days. Michella had been a friend since grade school, and a girlfriend off and on for most of that time. Since she was sixteen, she had wanted to be an investigative reporter; at twenty-two, she had managed to land a job as a financial reporter for a local news agency. It was no surprise when they decided to put her in front of the camera. She had gorgeous auburn hair that gathered on her shoulders like imported chocolate. Her striking blue eyes and radiant smile gleamed with confidence and integrity. A scattering of freckles made her seem almost approachable, while her curves made Lex glad he'd splurged on the full-definition flatscreen. They'd had a rather final falling out after the. . . incident, but apparently he was still on her contact list. It might only put him on par with her plumber and half of their graduating class, but that still put him head and shoulders above the rest of the galaxy--so, as far as he was concerned, there was still hope. He saved the message and moved on.

A handful of debt collectors, ranging from first notice to third notice, but, pleasantly, no final notices, came next. His dispatcher at the livery firm finished off the inbox with an appointment for 2:45 PM tomorrow.

Lex flicked through to the list of videos he had queued up and started sorting through. He was a few weeks behind on most of them, so he picked one at random. A half-second of load bar later and he was watching the intro to a halfway decent sitcom. It had the not-quite-right look of a show recorded in 3D but viewed in 2D. Technically, his viewer could handle holograms, but with a screen as big as his in a room as small as his, half of the action would be going on behind his head, so he left it 2D. On the plus side, it did give everything a charmingly retro feel. He didn't make it halfway through the episode before it became apparent that Marv's coffee was no longer sufficient for his caffeine needs. He kicked a stack of pizza boxes off of the edge of the futon, laid down, and collapsed.

Chapter 2

Lex checked himself over before dropping the limo down in front of the hotel to wait for his passenger. He'd woken up a bit late and had only had time to shower, shove everything from the cargo pants into the tuxedo pants, and pick up the car. Time hadn't changed the limousine much, other than switching

it from a wheeled vehicle to a hovercar. Hell, this one even had little vestigial swoops where the fenders would have been, if it had still been equipped with wheels. It was mostly just a very big, very black version of what everyone else was driving, with cushier seats and a bar. It wasn't one of the stretched monsters, partially because Lex felt like they were needlessly showy, but mostly because Lex couldn't afford one. The limo was one of the last big purchases he'd made before the bottom had fallen out of his previous career. He'd expected to be driven around town in it. Now he was doing the driving. As an owner-operator, though, he got to keep a much bigger slice of the fee. It just meant he had to wear his own tux, too. He took the good with the bad.

He pulled down the console to look up his fare. The kind of mid-level big spenders that tended to hire him liked it when he knew something about them. It made them feel a little more famous, and that meant a much nicer tip.

"Nicholas Patel, " Lex said to the computer.

There were thirty-five pages of results. Super. He poked around the first few. One was an investment banker. One was some sort of entrepreneur. One ran a small contracting firm on a planet in a star system in the middle of nowhere. That one had a disturbingly large stack of news stories linked to him. They all said roughly the same thing--various media euphemisms for crime lord, and the catchy nickname "Diamond Nick."

"Diamond Nick. How come it's the criminals who get all of the good nicknames?" he muttered to himself, as a moving wall outside caught his attention.

When he turned to get a closer look, he realized that what had appeared to be a wall was, in reality, two very, very large men. They had the sort of build he would expect a paleontologist to be pulling out of the ground--about three hundred pounds of muscle with another fifty or so of flab for good measure. The word thug fit so well, he wouldn't have been surprised if it was one of their names. Lex scrambled to get out of the car and get the door, but a ham-sized fist grabbed the door handle and pulled it open to allow a slick, swarthy man to enter.

"Diamond Nick, I presume, " Lex remarked.

"Heh, word gets around, " Patel said with a grin. "Starport, please. Quickly."

Nick was a difficult man to place at first blush. He straddled a few categories. As a crime boss, he looked the part, with a suit that probably cost more than the limo, and hair styled to the point of being a fire hazard. His face was typically Indian, but his voice was completely unflavored by accent. That wasn't to say that he had an American or English or some other regional accent. He had no accent at all--the sort of diction Lex associated with newscasters and documentary narrators.

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