Excerpt from Project Gibeon: The Stillness Between:
Jesse ran even though he knew it was useless; there was no way he was going to avoid a beating.
It was a simple matter of examining the variables at play. Cabe was faster than Jesse; this had been proven time and time again during their fit-train exams. Cabe out ran everyone, every time. Cabe was the fastest kid in Jesse’s class and he made sure everyone knew it. An ironic fact because, more than almost anything else in the world, Cabe hated to run.
Which meant that every desperate, pointless step Jesse took was going to make Cabe angrier and translate into an even worse pummeling.
“You better stop you fripping dirt orphan,” Cabe bellowed from a much closer distance than Jesse was comfortable with. “I owe you for this morning.”
“Yeah you stragging clodder.” This second insult was hurled by Martis, Cabe’s best friend, who was most likely going to have the high honor of holding Jesse down while Cabe paid him back for what he’d done earlier.
The irony was that Jesse hadn’t done anything at all, which was why Cabe was so angry. Earlier that morning, during second session, Jesse’s science instructor had streamed the grades for their recent paper back to their homework slates. Instead of the usual mediocre mark, which Jesse had come to expect, there was a note requesting that Jesse see the instructor after class.
According to Jesse’s teacher, a miracle had occurred.
“However, being likeminded men of a scientific nature, we both know that miracles do not exist,” his teacher explained. “What we perceive as miracles are merely coincidences of such unlikely odds that they seem to defy all explanation. You and I both know that all things are possible though not always probable.”
Jesse stayed silent, he knew the question was rhetorical.
“However, despite the possibility of events occurring, no matter how unlikely, we must always remember that even in unlikely circumstances, the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. While I’d love to believe that evidence of all eventualities being possible had been proven in this very classroom, I think it’s highly unlikely that yourself and Cabe Sustervin accidentally, through happenstance, managed to write word for word, identical papers. Rather, I’m left with no choice but to assume that one or both of you have cheated.”
Jesse knew exactly who it was that had cheated since he’d written the paper himself with no help. He also knew that arguing for his innocence was unlikely to do much good.
“Perhaps you have an explanation for this minor miracle?”
Jesse didn’t know for sure what had happened but he did have a good guess. Martis, who was generally a moron, was actually fairly adept at stream skimming. Typically this skill was used for such monumental tasks as overriding the teacher’s slate feed and replacing the images on the classroom board with lewd cartoons of Cabe’s design but Jesse doubted it would be much of a stretch to skim his homework slates connection to the school.
Most likely Martis had dropped a sleeper bug in the feed that had been activated by the assignment’s syllabus ID number. It wouldn’t take much coding skill to have the bug divert the assignment to Cabe’s slate, re-encode it with his student ID, and forward it down his feed to the school which had registered it as Cabe’s own work.
What hadn’t occurred to Martis was that Jesse’s own slate would be expecting a receipt confirmation code from the school. When the tablet hadn’t received it within the required sixty seconds, it had resent the assignment down the now bug free feed so that two identical copies of the same paper had been turned in under different names.
The truly pathetic fact was that Jesse had almost always been an average student. Even if the scam had worked, Cabe would end up with a barely passing grade.
“Well, don’t you have anything to say?” his teacher had demanded.
Jesse knew that he had three options. One, lie and say that he’d copied the paper which would get him in trouble and let Cabe get off scot-free. Two, he could deny cheating which Cabe would also end up doing. The teacher would most likely side with Cabe since he was an Earth-Gov citizen and son of the sector’s mili-sec commander; Jesse was an ignorant clodder and everyone knew Valhallans couldn’t be trusted. Jesse would end up getting in trouble and Cabe would get away with it.
Which left option three, say nothing. He couldn’t be accused of trying to get Cabe in trouble and he wasn’t admitting to cheating. It’d seemed an all pro, no con situation and the only decent option. He ended up with an afternoon’s detention for refusing to answer the teacher’s questions and he got a zero on his assignment but, as his father use to say, there were worse things on the ground that could trip you up.
Of course, he hadn’t counted on the teacher giving Cabe a zero mark as well. The bully had been so angry about it that he’d waited all afternoon till Jesse was out of detention to pay him back.
“I’m only going to hurt you more if you don’t stop clod!”
Cabe was so close that Jesse could hear his panting breaths. Jesse knew there was no way he could make it to the perimeter of the school grounds where his hov-board would actually do some good.
He sacrificed a few previous feet between himself and Cabe in order to angle off into the sparse woods that bordered the road.
“You’ll never get back before I catch you,” Cabe bellowed, assuming that Jesse was trying to hook back towards the main campus. Jesse just ignored him.
A moment later he was free of the tree line and out in the open. The construction site for the new athletics complex sat directly ahead; unfortunately, his detention meant that the last of the workers had gone home hours ago.
That was when he felt fingers brushing at the nape of his neck.
Cabe’s grasping hand tightening around the back of Jesse’s shirt collar and his upper body was tugged back violently while his feet continued forward. He crashed down hard on his shoulders, his legs sticking up in the air comically for a moment. He rolled onto his side and tried to suck air back into his shocked lungs.
“Told you I’d catch up you stupid rinz,” Cabe said with a smirk as he peered down at Jesse. Martis emerged from the tree line behind Cabe, a matching grin alighting on his face as he saw Jesse on the ground.
Jesse pushed himself up till he was on his knees, ignoring the spasm of pain that shot through his back, then reached out and used his left thumb to tap the metal ring he wore on that hand’s middle finger. He heard a familiar click from the leather and metallic cuff he wore on his left forearm but instead of unfurling as usual, nothing happened.
“You really are stupid,” Cabe’s booted foot came up suddenly and he slammed the sole of it into Jesse’s solar plexus, once more sending him sprawling into the dirt. “Don’t you know that the null field keeps hov-boards from activating?”
“You think we would have chased you if we could have been on our boards?” Martis called out.
“Exactly. We wouldn’t have wasted the energy on a stragging dirt farmer like you.”
Jesse craned his neck to look at the nearby construction site. A short distance away the ground dropped off and sank about nine meters into a pit where the foundation for the new athletic complex had been grown. The nano-lattice ferrocrete had long since matured and solidified to its programmed specifications, providing an incredibly stable platform on which to assemble the new facility. Large dark red metallic beams had been sunk into the ferrocrete to provide the upright dimensions for the building’s structure. Most of the horizontal framing had been completed as well, the additional red beams adhered to the uprights with nano-weld. A chaotic mass of scaffolding, ladders and trash chute wove through the entire ten story skeleton.
Jesse focused on the edge of the pit, staring at it intently. It took him a moment but eventually he was able to find the slight shimmer of dust at the location where the ground dropped off.
Finally, something goes right, he thought.
“I’m sorry, am I interrupting something?” the bully taunted. “Is there somewhere else you need to be?”
“Pretty much anywhere else,” answered as he slowly stood.
“Life’s full of disappointments.”
“Yea,” Jesse answered, “that’s a good thing for you to keep in mind.”
Jesse’s arm arced forward, hurling a handful of dirt at Cabe. The brown earth hit the bully square in the face and he cried out as he staggered, momentarily blind. Martis darted forward as Jesse spun and leapt into the pit.
Martis reached the edge of the pit just in time to see Jesse land at the bottom. Rather than witnessing the spectacular bone breaking splat he’d expected, Martis watched as Jesse gently landed on his feet, steadied himself and took off running.
Jesse ran for the nearest section of scaffolding, muttering a silent thanks to the construction team that had left the grav-null generator on. The generator was meant to help construction crews lift bulky loads without needing heavy equipment; it also allowed Jesse to run and climb faster than usual.
Jesse leapt for a section of scaffolding that hung about three meters off the pit’s floor. He grabbed onto it, pulled himself upwards and awkwardly scrambled onto a narrow platform.
“Tricky clodder,” Martis muttered. Cabe stumbled forward, blinking the dust out of his red eyes, tears tracing muddy tracks down his cheeks.
“The generator’s on,” Martis explained.
“No frip,” Cabe shot back angrily then leapt into the pit…
Title: Project Gibeon: The Stillness Between
Summary: After losing most of his family, fifteen year-old Jesse Solomon is given a second chance when he’s invited to join Project Gibeon, a starship based school that travels the universe preparing the best and brightest leaders of tomorrow. But everything’s not what it seems and someone Jesse has come to trust may be working for a violent terrorist group that’s determined to cripple the galaxy. Murder, sabotage and betrayal lead Jesse and his new friends to a final confrontation on a planet far from home where they’ll have to risk their lives in a desperate gamble to save billions.
Style: A galaxy crossing, coming of age, adventure story set in the distant future.
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Series?: A standalone story that serves as the first novel in a proposed series.
Status: Completed / Unpublished (Available)
Length: 100,000 words