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Life Arts

Short Story: "In the Company of Vipers"

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"I know," Alphon replied. "The Golden State Barrage wouldn't have failed either. The whole world would have been different. Cretins."

Phoebe watched the windowscreen intently as the workers lit the laser. "What's that for," she asked, pointing at it.

"Believe it or not," he said, "it's for cooling. As I understand it, the beam is modulated to counter the vibrations in the cutting disk."

As they touched the disk to the woven carbon fiber of the HyperLoop tube, an earsplitting shriek filled the pod. It went on and on as the tube shuddered from the action of the cutting wheel. And then, three things happened at once: the tube shifted again, moving the pod still further out over the lake, the horrendous noise stopped, and the screens went dark.

Alphon laughed humorlessly. "There goes our geocoded sweet spot."

"About that gooseneck theory of yours," Phoebe said into the momentary stillness, "did it include the weight of those broken supports hanging from the tube?"

He shook his head.

"I didn't think so."

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Just then, the ground fell out from under them. The pod angled down, front end first. It thudded first against the floor of the tube, then against the roof as they bumped further along the severed sleeve. The pod's downward slide turned into a sort of a padded bounce as it plunged into the lake and then bounced back up in the tube. It bounced several more times, each smaller than the last, until it finally stopped, with the pod angled down at about a forty-five degree angle. It was eerily quiet: the circulation fans had stopped, and everyone was holding their breath.

Mayzee, who was hanging limply from her restraint, broke the moment with a squeaked, "We're all gonna die."

"What we're gonna do," Phoebe told her firmly, "is get out of here alive. All of us. How's your leg?"

She rubbed it briefly. "It hurts. Feels swollen."

Phoebe looked over at the seat to Mayzee's right. "Alphon? You okay?"

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He stared right past her, dazed. "I've never--."


"Never been in one." His voice was distant, his affect, flat.

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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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