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Short Story: "In the Company of Vipers"

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Philip Zack       (Page 6 of 11 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page.     Permalink

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Phoebe spoke with enforced calm. "What? Won't it work?"

"Well, for one thing, they've never tried that before, and even if they did, it wouldn't work. Those carbon-fiber joints were knit. They weren't designed to be uncoupled."

Mayzee paled. "Then why are they going to do it?"

"Why do you think?" Ferd said as he swung the Indymedia drone around and started to sweep the area. "The HyperLoop run to New Orleans has been a white elephant for years. That's why they don't spend anything on maintenance. This "accident' is all the excuse they need to declare it a lost cause, shut it down, and write off the investment." He interrupted himself. "Hold on, here they are." He zoomed in on the approaching air traffic: an industrial demolition airship equipped with torches, grappling hooks, and self-guided explosives.

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While it drew near, Phoebe turned to face Alphon. "Tell me something. Is the tube made with resin, too?"

He nodded. "So's the pod."

She thought for a moment, and then her eyes grew wide. "Can this thing float?"

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"For a while. Well, until it fills with water."

Mayzee gasped. "You mean we're all going to drown?"

"Gallows humor," Alphon said darkly. "We might. You've got your choice of that or a fatal blood clot."

Ferd moved the borrowed drone a safe distance away, and trained the camera on the airship, which had parked above the section of tube that was teetering over the water. Two men climbed out onto the equipment boom and started setting up what looked like a combination of a cutting disk and a high-powered laser. "What will happen," he said, "when they split the tube?"

Alphon grimaced. "That all depends on how much the bacteria have weakened the resin holding it together." He held his hands up as if he were grasping the tube from above. "In theory, and if it hasn't been weakened, the tube should be stiff enough to remain horizontal. Severing it should make it act like two sections of flexible gooseneck." He moved one hand away from him, and drew the other closer. "Then, if they moved them apart, it ought to be possible to hook some sort of harness to the pod, so they can slide it out of the tube. I'm guessing that's what the airship's for, to hang this pod from so it can be carried to somewhere that it can be set down and opened."

"And," Phoebe prompted when he didn't drop the other shoe, "if it has been weakened? What then?"

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"At least we're not too high. The fall won't kill us."

Mayzee breathed heavily.

"Damn," Ferd said. "None of this would have happened if they hadn't suppressed that IP forty years ago. The stuff Meg and I got a sample of is supposed to disrupt the bacteria's ability to build cell walls with the molecules it strips from the resin. Only we never got a chance to try it out."

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Ever since I learned to speak binary on a DIGIAC 3080 training computer, I've been involved with tech in one way or another, but there was always another part of me off exploring ideas and writing about them. Halfway to a BS in Space Technology at (more...)

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