I’m having a few trouble keeping the consistency of the characters, which is something that happens to me a lot at the beginning of novels. I have to get to know them before they become really solid, so if you see anything really out of whack, just let me know.
“So, when you said you couldn’t open my cell door…?”
Curtis shrugged and lifted the grav gun in an easy manner. “I couldn’t.” he said. “You were holding the remote.”
I gave him a dumb look and swung for the bleachers. It wasn’t my best punch, but it connected. Curtis took it like a pro, backing several steps. He didn’t even look angry.
“Okay…” he said easily. “Maybe I deserved that. C’mon, let’s get ya some food and maybe something to drink. Might make things easier.”
We wound a short distance down the corridor into a small side room. It was empty save for a few tables, chairs, and a shelf along one wall that held a variety of what looked like Chinese food. My stomach growled audibly.
From somewhere Curtis produced a tray and dishes and I hit the food running. I loaded my plate repeatedly, savouring every mouth watering bite. It seemed like years since I’d tasted anything so delicious.
When I finished Curtis produced a small bottle and poured a share into a pair of cups. I pointed with my chopsticks. “Is that a real glass bottle? I haven’t seen one of those in years.”
“Uh huh. I collect ’em. Whiskey just doesn’t taste right unless it comes from glass.”
I drank deep and savored the rich smoky flavor. God, I needed that.
Curtis drank deep and shook his head. “Look, Wade, I’m sorry. You got dragged into this in part because of me. I sent you to the recruit party because if I didn’t send people I wouldn’t get a bonus. I had a thought in mind what they might do which is why I warned you to get out early, but it’s not like they told us we’d be kidnapping people.”
“Or lobotomizing them?”
Curtis squirmed visibly. “Well…it ain’t like a real lobotomy. It’s drugs for the mos’ part.”
“Still pretty damned harsh just because someone doesn’t want to ship for you.”
His face darkened and he refused to look at me. “It ain’t cuz they don’t wanna ship.” He drained his cup. “It’s just, some people, two out of every hundred or so…” He swallowed and finally raised his eyes to mine. “About two percent of all people experience temporary psychosis after their first long stasis.”
The word ‘stasis’ struck me as funny. Why in God’s name would he bring that up? Stasis psychosis was well known and usually temporary, but what did that have to do with- “Chinese food.”
“You gave me Chinese food. No knives or forks.” I held up my chopsticks. “Can’t gut anyone with a couple slivers of cheap plastic, can I?”
Curtis shrugged a little guiltily. “Mos people just get cheeseburgers.”
“We’re almost there.” He said ” We hit breakdown in a couple weeks.”
“How long?” I insisted.
“Just a hair over 5 and a half years.” He said, his voice soft.
I staggered away from the table, still clutching my chopsticks. “How fast? Curtis, how fast are we going?”
“98,” he said. “The main drive has been holding at 98.”
98? My head swam. 98 percent of the speed of light. The Lorentz Einstein equations tumbled through my mind. “25 years.” I breathed. “Earth has aged 25 years.”