The Ripple in Space-Time: Free City Book 1 (The Free City Series)

BOOK: The Ripple in Space-Time: Free City Book 1 (The Free City Series)
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The Ripple in Space-Time

Free City Book 1

 

S F Chapman

The Ripple In Space-Time

Free City Book 1

by

S F Chapman

is also available as

a trade paperback

in fine book stores everywhere

and

at Amazon.com

Learn more about the author at
www.SFChapman.com

 

The pawing cat logo and the phrases

“From the files of the Free City Inquisitor’s Office,”

“The Free City Series,” and “The MAC Series”

are trademarks of Striped Cat Press.

 

Copyright © 2014 S F Chapman

All rights reserved.

ISBN-10: 0985536926

ISBN-13: 978-0-98553692-3

 

Striped Cat Press

First e-book Edition, Fifth Printing:

April 2015

K1e5pc

 

Works
by S F Chapman

Literary fiction:

I’m here to help

The Missive In The Margins

(Coming soon)

Science fiction:

The Free City Series:

The Ripple in Space-Time – Free City Book 1

Torn From On High – Free City Book 2

The MAC Series:

Floyd 5.136

Xea in the Library

of All Human Knowledge

(Coming soon)

Beyond the Habitable Limit

(Coming in 2016)

Contemporary fiction:

On the Back of the Beast

To John Nelson;

a fine craftsman,

an affable father-in-law
and a longtime supporter of my
work.

Acknowledgments

As I write, and I spend hours at it nearly everyday, my huge
former feral cat
Lucky
stretches out nearby to watch over the work. He
is the lone witness to the long and slow process.

When
the task of creating the novel is complete, the big cat takes a nap and the
manuscript is handed over to a bevy of humans who help me craft it into the
book that can be shared with readers.

The
first to lend their hands, of course, are my three stalwart editors: Clint,
Tina and Mark. All are excellent writers in their own rights, avid readers of
science fiction and wonderful friends. Without their exceptional efforts my
many novels would not have been possible.

But a
book travels much farther than the comparatively short trip from author to
editors. A cover is produced and the interior is laid out. Clinton D. Anderson,
a superb Graphics Designer in the San Francisco Bay Area, did the work on
The
Ripple in Space-Time
.

My
dear wife, Patricia, and my two kids have indulged the crazy old writer in me
for many years even though I spend countless hours in the back room tapping
away at the keyboard of the ancient Mac iBook. I reluctantly set aside the work
when the big house cat reminds me that he needs to be fed.

Thank
you all.

Introduction

Of all
of the eight works that I’ve completed to date, I most enjoyed writing
The
Ripple in Space-Time.

I
played around with ideas and put together chapter summaries for the book about
a year and a half ago. I visualized a dark and gritty Film Noir-like world with
danger and scoundrels skulking around every corner. It would be an
archetypically bad world with just a few good guys trying to save the day.

I
imagined
Humphrey Bogart or perhaps Bruce Willis
as the
aging male protagonist. Rutger Hauer or Edward G. Robinson would be the
sociopathic super villain. The rest of the characters would fall into place as
is typical of the genre.

I
discovered a collection of newspaper clippings from the mid-1800’s that my
great great grandfather had pasted into an old leather covered ledger book. The
articles that he collected were filled with the florid language that was common
in the papers of the day.

As I
read through dozens of accounts of local scandals, odd natural phenomenon and
criminal misdoings I began to appreciate the heavy-handled use of adverbs and
adjectives. I scribbled a few gems on a scrap of paper: “rapacious raiders” in
a report about the lingering threat of piracy, “citizens brooded over the most
retched of all human undertakings” to describe a Civil War commemoration, and,
one of my favorites, “With speeds climbing ever higher and a confusing
hodgepodge of systems to measure that velocity still persisting from the
earlier days...” denoting an attempt to standardize the maritime “Knot.”

I
decided to intersperse these often overwritten “official accounts” of what was
happening in the book as “News Items” to counterpoint what the reader had
already discovered to be untrue.

Enjoy
the book as it was intended; I wrote
The Ripple in Space-Time
as a
tongue-in-cheek romp though serious matters.

To aid in the navigation
through
The Ripple In Space-Time:

List
of Characters

Chapter 1.
News Item: Obituary

Chapter 2.
The impartial inquiry

Chapter 3.
News Item: Free City Bicentennial preparations
Chapter 4.
Contacts and cohorts

Chapter 5.
News Item: The pirate scourge continues
Chapter 6.
A call to action

Chapter 7.
The Butin Belle

Chapter 8.
Beyond the city limits

Chapter 9.
News Item: A somber Commemoration Day
Chapter 10.
The accomplice

Chapter 11.
News Item: Bold hijacking near Saturn
Chapter 12.
Free City University

Chapter 13.
Titan Palace

Chapter 14.
News Item: Lunar Lab investigation continues
Chapter 15.
Keira Norton after hours

Chapter 16.
A lamentable lack of mirth

Chapter 17.
News Item: New speed standard announced
Chapter 18.
The ripple

Chapter 19.
Hot on the trail

Chapter 20.
News Item: The war of words continues
Chapter 21.
The plummeting sky

Chapter 22.
News Item: ARUSHA DESTROYED!

Chapter 23.
Calamity
Chapter 24.
News Item: Sabbatical for beloved professor
Chapter 25.
Extortion

Chapter 26.
News Item: Megalomaniac of the Outer Reaches
Chapter 27.
Tensions abound

Chapter 28.
The tip

Chapter 29.
The risky ruse

Chapter 30.
Atonement

Chapter 31.
News Item: Verhovnyi culprit in Lab blast
Chapter 32.
The long sought objectives

Chapter 33.
News item: Death of the despot?

Chapter 34.
Advanced Mission
Completed

Chapter 35.
The payoff

Chapter 36.
Reunion

Chapter 37.
The old African

Appendix

About the novel

1.
News Item: Obituary

Dateline: 30th of May, 2445; Free City, Earth

The Academy of Quantum Physics
announced this morning that the brilliant Nobel Prize winning researcher, Dr.
Jana Bethany Fesai has died. It was reported today that Dr. Fesai was thought
to be one of the many victims of the still unexplained destruction two days ago
of the immense Lunar Ultra Energy Research Laboratory on the plains of the Sea
of Crisis.

Dr. Fesai was 51 years old.

Jana Fesai was born in Buenos
Aires on August 23, 2393. As with most noncloned offspring of wealthy parents,
Ms Fesai enjoyed a pampered and indulgent upbringing in South America before
moving to Free City at age 17.

Ms Fesai was an honor student at
the prestigious School of Advanced Physics at Free City University where she
graduated summa cum laude in 2416.

Dr Fesai was awarded a Nobel Prize
in 2438 for her extraordinary pioneering work with Tauons and massive Quarks,
most notably the creation of dozens of stable “Tauonic” elements, including the
unimaginably dense Tau Iron atoms.

Lunar authorities suspect that
rogue moon miners may have inadvertently pierced the Antimatter Containment
structure buried deep below the lunar surface. The resulting antimatter annihilation
obliterated the huge facility. Earth-bound Astronomers report that a colossal
new crater now marks the location of the doomed laboratory. Lunar investigators
have been unable to approach the site due to extremely high radiation levels.

The Warlord Syndicate, which has
generously funded the Ultra Energy Laboratory and hoped to benefit greatly from
the promising research conducted there, has asked the impartial Free City
Inquisitor’s Office to investigate the Lunar catastrophe.

The family of Dr. Fesai has yet to
announce memorial plans.

2. The impartial inquiry
Xylitol?

What in the world is xylitol?

Ryo Trop refocused his flagging
attention back to the top most sheet on the seemingly unending stack of Bills
of Lading.

As a 54-year-old Investigator
Second Class for the Free City Inquisitor's Office, he was obligated to find
out how and why 27 kilograms of xylitol had gone missing.

He rubbed his weary eyes. The
investigation into freight pilferage at the Municipal warehouse was into its
third bleary week with little progress to show for the nearly one hundred hours
of work.

Ryo slid his fingertips over his
desktop interface screen and carefully pronounced the word,

Xylitol; definition and commodity price please.

The small shiny rectangle retrieved
the required information,

Xylitol is a crystalline
artificial sweetener with qualities similar to common sugar. Current market
price is 1.28 Standard Units per kilogram. Chemical formula: CH
2
OH(CHOH)
3
CH
2
OH.”

Ryo shook his head in annoyance.
So a quantity of imitation sugar worth about as much as a good dinner for two
had gone unaccountably astray? Over almost thirty-five years at the preeminent
and highly regarded Free City Inquisitor's Office, he had developed a
reputation for being very thorough and uncompromising when investigating
sensitive or potentially embarrassing matters.

This investigation into the minor
theft of nearly worthless commodities was a terrible waste of his talents,
especially so close to his planned retirement in two years.

He set aside the suspect document
for future scrutiny.

• • •

Lev Fesai stared at the photograph
of his mother and tried to recall when he had last seen her in person. It was
about four years ago, he realized, when she turned over the house to him just
before leaving for the Ultra Energy Lab on the Moon.

Now she was dead.

The young man gently placed the
smiling image of his mother back on to the side table.

Lev didn’t feel like a 28-year-old
orphan. He almost expected to receive a fresh video message from her at any
time, she’d sent him five or ten second greetings several times a day for many
years.

Lev dolefully played the final
dispatch that had waited unviewed for the last two days.


Lev, Something strange has happened here. Take care of my
cat. Love, Ma.

The message ended with a
blurry frozen image of his mom staring off screen in distress.

Something wasn

t quite right about this message; he watched it a second time.

The jerky video ran its course.

He stared at the final image of
his mother, she still didn

t seem to be gone for some
reason; scared but not dead.

Perhaps he was trying to avoid the
obvious, Lev realized.

Many people, including his Grad
student advisors at the University Advanced Physics Department had browbeaten
him recently about his deplorable lack of motivation and his aimless avoidance
of responsibility. He just wasn’t ready for the rigors of a science career like
his mother’s that involved a lamentable lack of uninhibited mirth and
self-indulgence.

Oddly, he noted with a start, his
current hedonism coincided with his mother’s departure for the Moon.

The overly large home that they
had shared for most of his life had suddenly became a sterile and inhospitable
place without her. For weeks he moped around the empty townhouse. His mother
had suggested from afar that he should find some roommates to fill the vacant
bedrooms on the third floor and eventually Lev advertised for some renters.

A quirky art student named Desiree
moved in a few weeks later and quickly set about repainting the unimaginative
dwelling with elaborate murals. She was an amusing whirlwind of activity and
entertainment; Lev particularly admired Desiree

s propensity for
enjoying the moment. She quickly recruited him into the developing
Enlightenment Crusade, a somewhat subversive nonconformist movement at the
University.

Before long, his house was filled
with an ever-changing group of Enlightenment Crusaders. Slowly he had let his
tiresome obligations slip away in favor of the pleasure-seeking ways of his new
lifestyle. The small amount of rent that he sporadically collected had kept him
going for years without a regular job.

Now what? With his mother gone
perhaps he should renew his efforts to eventually succeed her as the leading
authority on Tau Hadrons and Ultra Energy Physics.

He played her final message again.


Lev, Something strange has happened here. Take care of my
cat. Love, Ma.

He studied the final frozen image
of her for many minutes. Lev noticed an especially disturbing juxtaposition
between the cheerful photo and the jarring message screen. It didn

t make sense. The researchers at the lunar lab were absurdly cautious
about the handling of the unstable antimatter that they produced in the giant
well-protected reactors.

Perhaps he should contact the
investigators with his concerns.

• • •


Ryo, come into my office for a consultation.

He smiled pleasantly at small
image of his ever-grumpy 68-year-old boss,

I

ll be right there, Helga.

The screen faded.

Consultation

nearly always meant that he

d soon have a
new assignment. Ryo gleefully set aside the tedious shipping documents;
hopefully any new work would take him out into the huge metropolis of Free
City. A perplexing murder or complex case of racketeering could keep him out of
the dreary office for months.

He strolled cheerily across the
hallway.

Ryo pushed open the door. Helga
was, as usual, hunched behind her ancient desk glowering at her desktop
interface screen. Inspector Fourth Class Edwin Chin stood timidly off to the
side. A striking young man with an unruly head of curly black hair and dressed
in the outlandishly colorful fashions of the Enlightenment Crusade sat on the
austere office chair facing his perpetually sour boss.

Helga began without formalities;

Mr. Chin has been fumbling about with this Lunar Lab disaster for two
days now.

The novice detective cringed at
the woman

s displeasure.


We

ve just come across some new
evidence that will require the instincts of a more veteran staff member.

Her eyes narrowed,

Chin, I

m switching you and Mr. Trop effective immediately. Head across the hall
and finish up his work on the pilferage inquiry.

She pointed at the door and the
hapless man shuffled off.

When the door slammed shut, Helga
briefly smiled at Ryo,

This is Lev Fesai, son of the
presumed dead Dr. Jana Fesai who, as I sure you are aware, was employed as the
Chief Researcher at the recently destroyed Lunar Laboratory.

Ryo chuckled to himself, this was
already much more interesting than tracking down a few missing kilos of
artificial sweetener.

For the next hour, the young
visitor recounted his growing suspicions about what had happened several days
earlier at the complex on the plains of the Sea of Crisis.

Ryo pressed his fingertips against
his furrowed brow,

Play the message again for me, Lev.

The lanky young man complied.


Lev, Something strange has happened here. Take care of my
cat. Love, Ma.”


You see, Mr. Trop...

The older man held his hand up,

Lev, just call me Ryo.


OK, Ryo,

he bit his lip for several
seconds,

if miners had accidentally ruptured the antimatter
containment structure, as the press seems to think, there wouldn

t have been any warning.


I don

t follow.

Lev tapped idly on the message
screen.

My mom would have been killed in an almost instantaneous
fireball before she could send off the dispatch.

Helga nodded sternly in agreement.


Alright;

Ryo replied,

I

ll get to work on this case right away.


Before you leave, Mr. Trop,

Helga glanced
at the younger man,

I

d like you to include Lev in as
much of the investigation as you see fit.

Lev stared at Ryo with a
particularly pleading look.

Helga eyebrows arched up in
anticipation.

Ryo sighed and scrawled out
directions for Lev,

Meet me at this address at 9:30 tonight.

BOOK: The Ripple in Space-Time: Free City Book 1 (The Free City Series)
11.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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