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   Chapter 13 No.13

Bypass Gemini By Joseph R. Lallo Characters: 6043

Updated: 2018-01-19 12:02

The access door hissed open. Lex drifted inside, looking back.

"You don't bet on the best-looking horse, you bet on the fastest one, " he said.

"Who bets on horses?"

He climbed into the cramped cockpit, stowed the client's package and his own, and pulled the backup flight suit from the storage compartment.

"You're clear for departure, Lex. Take the long way around, " squawked Blake's voice over the com. "And if you're going to get changed, please don't do it until you're out of the damn hanger this time."

Lex looked out of the view window to see Blake in the control tower halfway across the dock, microphone in hand and looking irritated.

"The tint isn't on?"

His jacket and shirt were already off.

"The tint is broken, remember?"

"Clearly I don't."

"Just get out of here."

"Fine. I'll be back in two, two and a half weeks. That cool?"

"Yeah, sure. We'll be cleared out by then."

"Righto, buddy. See you then."

The engines purred to life at a touch of the control panel, and he maneuvered the ship out of the dock and into an exit pattern while he worked out the path he'd be taking. It wasn't an easy task. Space was extremely big and mostly empty. Those two little adverbs--extremely and mostly--were the key words. The "extremely" came in because even light--which, for most of history, was the fastest thing in existence--took years to get from star to star. Since then, science had one-upped Mother Nature, as it tended to do, but finding the shortest and quickest path was still a big concern in space travel.

No problem, though, right? Someone could just draw a straight line between where they were and where they wanted to be, scoot around any stars or planets that got in their way, and they'd be set, right?

Well, unfortunately, that was where "mo

ce, then, officially, they were out of luck.

Unofficially, there were alternatives for those not too choosy about speed or legality.

That's where Lex and other freelancers came in. They were willing to carry packages to and from just about anywhere someone might want them to for the right price. Depending on the individual, and the start and end points, they might even get it there faster than the official methods. This was because they, as a rule, couldn't use the main routes. The main routes belonged to the big corporations, and no one could fly them without their blessing--and paying their licensing fees. Freight was one of their biggest sources of income, so they weren't letting anyone else deliver using their routes without coughing up. This forced freelancers to use more direct courses. It also forced them to risk getting blasted to pieces by nearly invisible debris and the speeding ships of other freelancers, since the space was barely mapped and completely unmonitored. Well, not completely unmonitored. Regular patrols of corporate ships swept the more useful chunks of space to try to weed out the riffraff, but the sheer size of the area involved made it rather hit or miss.

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