Saturday, 28 May 2016

Intergalactic Law Web Serial Episode 2: Ivan

Ivan Gunderson was quite something to behold. Never before had Bing seen power go to a man’s head in such a disproportionate way. As they headed for the hospital main exit, Ivan loudly shouted ‘excuse me, official police business’ at every doctor, nurse, and orderly who crossed his path. Patients in wheelchairs and rolling beds alike were pushed out of his way when it became clear he had no intention of walking around them. As the hospital staff tried their hardest to clear the way for the ship’s chief of security, Gunderson huffed and checked his watch with the drama of a Shakespearian actor.
Bing didn’t apologise on behalf of Gunderson, even although he felt that he should, for fear of being linked in the minds of the hospital staff as a close associate of the chief’s. Things like that get remembered, and who knows when my life might depend on these people…
The lawyer followed the security chief at a cautious distance until they were outside. As one who knew anything about Ivan would expect: his hovercar was parked blocking the hospital’s ambulance bay. Several ambulances had to park in the street about a minute away from the emergency room entrance. An ambulance crew rushed past them carrying a stretcher with some unfortunate soul moaning in pain on top of it.
“In you get Mulholland.”
Bing entered the car, reluctantly, very aware of the numerous little crowds of people having hushed conversations and shaking their heads. As he dreaded, he heard from somewhere in one of the crowds:
“Isn’t that professor Mulholland’s husband?”
“Ex-husband you mean.”
Bing’s left eye twitched and he slammed the car door shut.
The sirens began to blare, and chief Gunderson shot out of the ambulance bay at the vehicle’s top speed. He was following signs towards the circumferential highway. It was the main road that ran to the opposite side of the cylinder, but it occurred to Bing that it would probably take them two hours to get there on the highway, even accounting for Gunderson’s borderline psychotic driving habits.
“Oh, you’re taking the highway? That’s alright. It gives you such a great view of the whole ship, and we’ll have such a long time to take it all in. The elevator is much quicker of course, but it just isn’t the same.”
He watched Gunderson’s lips curl and tighten as he silently cursed himself for not thinking of taking the elevator. He swerved across several lanes of high-speed traffic, lights and sirens still blaring, and pointed the car directly towards the elevator.
“Sorry Mulholland, but you’ll have to sightsee some other time, we don’t have time for that today.”
The chief veered through stop signs, intersections, and crosswalks without slowing. At the enormous pedestrian mall around the elevator, Gunderson began hollering through the vehicle’s loudspeaker system for people to get out of the way.
The elevator was a giant crystal tube with walls a foot thick linking the city of Galileo on one side of the cylinder to the Einstein Recreational Area on the opposite side across the diameter of the ship. From afar however, the elevator appeared to be an impossibly thin glass capillary tube which should be collapsing under its own weight. Along the whole length of the tube were millions of circular silver electromagnet discs. The chief bullied his way to the front of the elevator queue, ignoring the derisive honks of other motorists. 
The car shuddered as it entered the elevator and the electromagnets took hold. The car slowly began to rise into the air. The higher they rose the faster their speed became until they were traveling so fast that Bing could no longer make out the electromagnets as they sped by. His internal organs seemed desperate to cling to the surface of the cylinder they had just left for a few moments, then, as they entered the gravitational no-man’s land in the centre of the cylinder, his insides didn’t know whether they should be feeling immense joy, or sheer terror. In the end, each organ made its own mind up and acted accordingly. The car did a slow somersault as they passed the midway point and began to descend. Bing’s brain decided that it had quite liked that motion and decided to replay it for Bing over and over again. Gravity resumed its hold and the lawyer’s insides barged past each other to return to their starting positions. The car landed with an unsatisfying, slow descent towards the surface of the cylinder. There was no judder or bump to signify that their journey had ended, they simply stopped descending about a foot from the surface. While Bing was obviously thrilled that they hadn’t smashed into the ship’s hull at hundreds of miles per hour, he always felt that the end of the elevator journey was a total anticlimax.
As the elevator barrier lifted, Ivan Gunderson showed the signs marked ‘exit slowly’ how little authority they actually had. Several miles above them, the buildings of Galileo reached towards them like millions of tines on an overly-elaborate crown which twinkled in the artificial sunlight. In the centre was the giant glass spire of the Galileo Academy of Sciences, home of the Council of Scientists. Through the sunroof Bing could make out some of the larger parks and plazas of the city, of which there were many. His ex wife, who was a much better authority than he on such things, used to go on about how they were beautiful enough to rival those of any capital city on Earth. He stopped looking at them.
On either side of the road that Ivan was currently tearing along, green hills, forests, lakes and great plains of grass seemed to stretch out for miles and then rose up at a gentle gradient. The mysterious point where the internal surface of the ship became more vertical than horizontal always made Bing’s brain a little confused. The vast green was criss-crossed with roads and marked here and there with little collections of buildings conducting experiments which were better done outwith the hustle and bustle of the city. Eventually the green met with the suburbs of Galileo above them.
Gunderson was travelling in the direction of the opposite end of the ship, but their destination was much closer than that. Bing could see it about a mile ahead of them on their left, about an eighth of a turn around the circumference. The building complex was like a great flower. The road was the stem, leading up to the main building, which was surrounded by five giant petal-like strictures. The roofs were made of some form of plastic fabric sheeting that was slightly opaque as to let in sunlight, but obscuring whatever was within. As they neared the building, the car matched its orientation.
“Gunderson, have you had any thoughts about how this is going to go?”
“I’m going to go in and ask them if all of their animals are accounted for.”
Bing nodded. “Hmmm, alright. It’s a direct approach. But don’t you think that might put them on the defensive? Maybe make them more inclined to hide something?”
Gunderson gave him a few confused glances and sideways looks. His fingers danced nervously on the steering wheel.          
    “You’re right. Maybe you should go in first with some pretense. Feel them out a bit. Their guards are more likely to be down if it’s not a cop that’s questioning them. What do you think?”
“The good cop, bad cop routine. Brilliant idea Ivan.”
Ivan Gunderson smiled to himself, quite proud of the plan he’d come up with.

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