Speed Of Light

Entry by: JC

28th January 2015
Speed of Light

Morris turned to the man beside him in the back seat of the car and scowled at the black box cradled in his hands.

'Hurl that piece of crap, Fred. It'll barely jam my Aunt Flo's alarm system, let alone NASA's. Only thing that'll keep NASA's new alarms silenced is the Acebuster 500 and as it happens...'

Morris pulled an egg-shaped, silver object from his pocket and stroked it. 'We got lucky - Fat Charlie had one. Bastard charged me an arm and a leg for it but now you can turf that old jammer you're holding. This baby is light years ahead.'

At the wheel, Anisto sighed and spoke to the rear view mirror. 'A light year is a measure of distance, not time. If that device was really light years ahead, it would be a long way in front of us.'

'Shut up, Bug-eyes,' snapped Morris. 'Your job is to drive, that's it. Easy work for such a prize.'

Anisto pressed his lips together - he'd long since stopped trying to get them to use his real name - and turned onto the hidden track leading to the back of the space yards. The man sitting beside Morris tossed the black box onto the front passenger seat.

'Why is this prize so great, Boss? What are we going to do with a speed-of-light drive anyway?'

'You leave that to me, Fred.' Morris patted his henchman's knee. 'No one else in the world has such a drive. There'll be plenty willing to pay a fortune for it. We pull this off and our bank job days are over.'

Fred shook his head. 'Breaking into a government agency. If they catch us...'

'We won't cop more than a few years. Not like we're turning over a bank. But we won't get an opportunity like this again, so don't screw up.'

Anisto did a U-turn and backed under a weeping willow not far from the chainmesh fence.

'Don't go to sleep after we leave,' said Morris. 'Or let me catch you on the slate surfing those dumb science websites. Keep your bug-eyes open and start the engine as soon as you see us coming.'

He turned to the man beside him. 'Got your tools?'

Fred lifted the bag from the floor of the car. 'I think I got everything, but I ain't never tinkered with a spaceship before.'

'Don't put yourself down. True you're a dumbass most of the time but when it comes to anything mechanical you got that spark of genius. If anyone can lift a speed-of-light drive from a spaceship it's you.'

'You know where they were planning to send that ship?' said Anisto. 'New Earth.'

Morris frowned. ‘_New_ Earth?'

'Planet they discovered years ago in the Alpha Centauri system.' He looked at Morris' blank face and added, 'Our nearest neighbour. Scientists always thought the planet would be habitable but without a speed-of-light drive they couldn't go there to check.'

The boss blinked. 'Bla bla. Who told you to start the hell talking, Bug-eyes?'

He climbed out of the car and, with Fred at his heels, headed for their tunnel.

Anisto killed the engine and checked the rear view mirror. Dusk had quickly become darkness and running lights now lit up the hanger containing the spaceship. Though Anisto neither liked nor entirely trusted Morris he had no trouble guessing what a prototype speed-of-light drive was worth. Even if the man cheated him and only handed over a few million out of the billion or two a buyer would pay, he'd be satisfied. That money would get him into a decent university and he could wave goodbye to both his debts and the slums.

From the bushes on the other side of the fence where they'd come up out of the tunnel the two men watched the patrolling guards. Having previously timed their rounds they had no problem sneaking across and into the hanger. Fred fixed an insta-lockbar against the door and then strolled underneath the spaceship, which sat suspended on a huge stand.

Morris squinted at the scaffolding stretching to the cockpit. With nothing to do while Fred worked on the drive, he succumbed to a lifetime habit of seizing every opportunity. Who knew what items of value might be inside? He climbed up to the door, found it open and crawled in. Turned out there was nothing small enough to steal but all around him banks of readouts flashed and twinkled.

A pulsating green light circled the word 'start' as though the ship was raring to go and yet there weren't any seats. Morris thought about that and then smiled, almost wishing Bug-eyes was here. He'd show him he could figure out science stuff without having to spend hours on those nerdy websites. Of course this baby didn't have seats. It didn't need 'em. Travelling at the speed of light it would arrive before anyone had time to sit down.

Underneath the ship Fred had managed open the hatch to the speed-of-light drive and was busy inspecting the interior. As he feared, this was going to be far more complicated than stripping a stolen car. Sweat beaded his brow as he reached for the bag of tools but a wailing of sirens stopped him.

Quickly he screwed the hatch shut and rushed out in time to see the hanger doors shudder at a heavy thump. Fred sucked in his breath. The insta-lockbar wouldn't hold against that kind of battering for long. Over the racket of sirens and thumping he heard his boss yelling from above. 'Come up!'

Fred obeyed instantly. The boss was always right.

'I'll kill Fat Charlie,' Morris was screaming as Fred climbed into the cockpit. 'His f__ing expensive jamming device died on us!'

'The guards will break in any second,' said Fred. 'We're gonna have to give up.'

'Like hell!' Morris screamed. 'This ship's programmed for New Earth. That's where we're going. We'll have ourselves a nice holiday and return when you've worked out the controls. None of these suckers can follow us. According to Bug-eyes you need a speed-of-light ship to reach that planet and this is the only one.' He pressed 'start'.

Outside the fence the aforementioned Bug-eyes was looking even more exophthalmic than usual. The sirens had brought him out of his car and now he watched in shock as the spaceship broke through the roof of the hangar and rose slowly into the night sky. The lightspeed drive wouldn't kick in until they'd cleared Earth's gravity but he didn't wait. The others had opted for a different mode of getaway and he still had to make his.

On the drive back to his tenement Anisto wondered why Morris hadn't given himself up. Instead of a short stint in the nick he'd opted for a trip to Alpha Centauri, which at the speed of light would take 4.3 years.

Anisto shrugged. It wasn't a choice he'd have made himself. They feed you in the nick.