MoboReader> Sci-fi > Bypass Gemini

   Chapter 4 No.4

Bypass Gemini By Joseph R. Lallo Characters: 5144

Updated: 2018-01-19 12:02


His men squeezed through the door and took seats on either side of him, filling the spacious vehicle almost to capacity.

"Sure thing, " Lex said, easing the limo up.

Above them, a lane of traffic moved briskly along in a cordoned-off strip of the sky. Lex rounded the top of the strip and merged in from the top.

"So, what brings you to Preston City?" he asked.

"I stopped off on this little transit hub of a planet to talk to some folks about a deal I'm looking to close. Turns out you've got more than just a starport. You've got some damn good stellar analysts. Helped me make sure I wasn't being taken to the cleaners."

Now that he'd spoken a few more sentences, there was a hint of slurring and informality to his speech that implied he'd been doing some imbibing that morning.

"Sounds like you might have been doing some celebrating. I guess this deal of yours was pretty big?"

"The goddamned biggest deal of the goddamned century."

"Nice. What kind of deal are we talking about?"

"Business."

"Any specific business, or the 'mind your own' variety?"

"Smart man. Say, don't I know you?" Patel asked, stretching to look at his chauffeur in the rearview mirror.

"I seriously doubt that."

"No, no. I never forget a voice. Dean, where do I know this man?"

One of the neanderthals shrugged. On a man that size, it was a veritable geological event. Patel snapped his fingers.

"I know it! Do me a favor. Say, 'I regret my actions at the Tremor Intersystem Grand Prix' or something to that effect."

Lex shot the man a sharp look. Patel grinned.

"I was right. You're that disgraced racer, T-Lex."

"Congratulations, " Lex said bitterly. "It's just Lex now, by the way."

"My boy, I should buy you a drink. I made a killing off of that race."

"You did?"

"Naturally. The fellow who paid you to fix it was an associate of mine. He told me to put money down on number fifty-five. I tell you, it was a work of art the way you worked that race. Anyone can simply not win, but to coax another racer, a specific one, into first? Genius!"

For some, it was the birth of their first child. For others, it was the loss of a loved one. One day, everyone would have a burning hot memory that splits life into before and after. For Lex, it was two years ago.

He'd been on a meteoric rise in the racing circuit. Hovercars--or hoversleds, as they tended to be called in competition--were easily as fast as a fighter jet and, when their hoverpods were close to the ground, nearly as nimble as a dune buggy. It made for an excit

ing and therefore profitable sport, and Lex had been on the fast track to being one of its superstars. A life of fame and glory seemed like a foregone conclusion, so he decided to get a head start on the high life.

Unfortunately, his tastes outpaced his career; before long, he was neck-deep in debt with the wrong sort of people. The Tremor Intersystem Grand Prix looked like it could be his way out. If he won it, the prize money would kill easily half of his debts, and the endorsements would take care of the rest.

The lowlifes he'd borrowed from must have realized that he was about to get out from under their thumb and moved up the payment schedule. When Lex couldn't keep up, they offered a deal. The race's long shot was some nobody driver in the number fifty-five sled. Very long odds. If that man were to win, they would consider things square. He'd pulled it off, but the racing commission had smelled something foul. Eventually, they'd proved what he'd done and booted him from sled racing.

After that, no legitimate racing promotion would have him--too much like letting a jewel thief work at a jewelry store. And going underground? He wasn't stupid enough to try that. Careers tended to end swiftly and suddenly in those places.

"That's a part of my life I don't like to reflect on, " muttered Lex.

"How much did they pay you, anyway?"

"They let me keep my thumbs."

"Good price. So you were in debt?"

"Up to my eyeballs."

"I trust they wiped it all out."

"Yeah, but that didn't get the legitimate bill collectors off my back."

"Oh, yes. Well. That's the way it goes, isn't it? The only difference between organized crime and organized business is that with crime, there aren't any pretenses. You should have. . . What the hell is that?"

"That? That's rush hour."

There had been the belief that once science had fulfilled the long-held promise of flying cars, traffic jams would be a thing of the past. Those who held this belief clearly had never spoken to an air traffic controller. Airplanes could fly, after all, and while they didn't have to deal with stop-and-go traffic, they did have to cope with holding patterns and painfully bureaucratic procedures and routes. The current state of things split the difference. Highways had been replaced with skyways, carefully delineated corridors in the sky, traced out by hovering pylons and laser fences. They were a few cars wide and a few cars tall. And when they got clogged? It wasn't just a traffic jam. It was six traffic jams, stacked one on top of the other.

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