Following his last adventure, Trevor "Lex" Alexander's life has managed to return to normal. He's back to splitting his time between delivering packages and transporting passengers, along with the occasional foray into testing highly experimental equipment. He's even gotten back together with his girlfriend Michella Modane, who has been launched to stardom by her coverage of the Bypass Gemini incident. Yes, things are going quite well for Lex. But in his life, luck like this never lasts long.
Sure enough, while he is preparing for a rare visit from Michella, he receives word that the reclusive inventor Karter Dee has been kidnapped. The eccentric and slightly deranged inventor's checkered past has made getting the authorities involved out of the question. That has left "Ma", the AI in charge of cooking his meals and reining in his insanity, with few options. She has reached out to Lex as one of the few people she can trust, and needs him to help assemble a team of Karter's former allies to take him back before his latest contraptions can be put to work terrorizing the populace at the hands of his captors.
As always, another great book from Lallo! Sequel to Bypass Gemini, Unstable Prototypes adds more dimension to the series by creating a few new and exciting characters, as well as continuing to explore the many facets of the original cast of the first book. Hopefully, this will lead into a series of books with unlimited directions for the reader and author to follow!Nicole, Goodreads Reader Review
We start off with Lex…who has returned to his “normal” life, his girlfriend, (who I’m still not a fan of. I think I would have liked it much better if he ended up with the AI as weird as that sounds…) and for the first time in many years no need to worry about rent. All is hunky dory. Then a bizarre kidnapping takes place and we’re off!
This is where your five point seat harness is in need, a few sticks of chewing gum and NO distractions!
Action! There is SO much action, it’s fantastic. Spaceships blowing up, hand to hand combat in zero gravity, it’s all there. I really liked the fact that yes, people did die in gruesome ways, BUT it is left up to your own imagination on how you see it. Then there’s the interaction between the characters. Many times I was laughing out loud, and slapping my knee. I’m not sure if Mr. Lallo intended this to be a Sci-fi/comedy book, but it is. The sci-fi techy talk is there (naturally) but again it wasn’t so in depth that I did any skimming. Much of it is actually fascinating and I’d catch myself thinking about it long after I put the book down. Lex really isn’t our main man in this story- he’s there all right but the story isn’t centered around him. Enter Karter. A complete MAD scientist/engineer doesn’t care if you get parts of your body blown off testing his inventions as long as you can give him good feed back. He is a complete whack job and I love him. Would trust him with my life. He’s more interested in self preservation and at one point Garotte said it perfectly : ” you make doing all the right things for the wrong reasons an art form”…or something along those lines. He is by far my fav character. Then there’s Ma. The AI who is learning to become more human like every day- she was great. And now I really want a Squee Really all the characters are wonderful. Even the big bad was great. Details were not left out, you could actually kinda sorta understand the bad guy’s reasoning, and then common sense set in.
This is not a short read, but you don’t get lost in the length or become bored at all. At least I didn’t. If you’ve never read sci-fi because you’re too worried about all the sci-finess I’d give this a read. Now I’m looking for other sci-fi books to get my nose in!Pure Textuality
Even better than Bypass Gemini. The characters are well developed and interesting.Madnesscats, Goodreads Reader Review
Garotte was seated in a room somewhat reminiscent of the standard interrogation room made famous by so many police dramas. There was cheap LED lighting arranged into faux-florescent ceiling fixtures, because at some point it had been decided that the long, dangling bars of light were ideal for government buildings. The room was divided into two matching halves by a wall. The upper half of the wall was thick, high-durability glass. The bottom was the same sturdy metallic sheeting that made up the rest of the prison's structure. A counter top ran the length of the wall just below the glass, and in the center of the window was a small speaker grill, giving the overall effect that he was visiting some sort of deluxe teller window at a very luxurious bank. A pair of men were in the room with him, dressed like police officers in riot gear, complete with high impact vest and face shield. He pulled the single metal chair up to the counter, took a seat, and turned to one of the guards.
"Do you need to take this?" he asked, holding out the cane.
"Shouldn't be necessary. The glass will be sufficient to prevent the inmate from attempting to utilize it," he replied.
"Good to hear it," Garotte said with a nod.
The door on the other side of the glass was opened, and in was led the prisoner, hefty looking restraints holding her wrists behind her back. Jessica Winters was far from the first person one would picture when envisioning an inmate of a super-max facility. She was a short-ish woman drifting into her mid-thirties. Her face was round and dimpled, with a button nose and thin arching eyebrows over her green eyes. The rest of her body was a match, with round, soft curves despite a lengthy stay on the high gravity world. There were a few more pounds on her than the media indicated was appropriate for models and actresses, but she wore them well and enjoyed a natural fullness to her form that was no less attractive. She was dressed in a dark blue prison-issue jumpsuit that wasn't quite designed with someone as generously proportioned as her in mind, leaving the fabric around the chest and hips straining just a bit to contain her figure. Her blonde hair was cut short, but there was still enough of it to see that it was naturally curly. All things considered, it was difficult to picture her breaking military law. Baking cookies after soccer games and inspiring the wrong sorts of thoughts in the neighborhood boys, maybe, but not the sort of things that gets one placed in super-max.
She took her seat and faced Garotte from the other side of the glass. He tapped record on his slidepad and cleared his throat.
"Good evening. I'm Dr. Cisco. I'll be asking you a few questions today. Let's start by stating your full name for the record."
"Sgt. Jessica Margo Winters," she said in a gentle, almost shy voice, with just a hint of Midwestern.
"Sgt. Winters. I have a few aliases that you've operated under. Please let me know if they are accurate. Julia Springer."
She blinked. "There are people who called me that."
"Thank you. Now, you introduce yourself as Sergeant. I have it here that you were discharged from the Earth Coalition Marine Corps some seven years ago. Is this correct?"
"Yes," she said, her voice slightly harder.
"Why do you continue to introduce yourself with the rank."
"Once a soldier, always a soldier, Doctor."
"You were dishonorably discharged after you caused 'collateral damage in extreme excess of mission requirement.' Does that mean that you killed civilians?"
"No," she said, sternly.
"I demolished an office building that was undergoing renovation in the field of operation."
"Why did you demolish the building?"
"A foreign liaison who was operating with our squad suggested that I would be unable to do so with my current equipment," she said, her voice carefully held steady, as though she'd wanted to say it a good deal more forcefully.
"And what was your current equipment at the time?"
"I was armed with a shoulder fire, 60mm multiple grenade launcher."
"Was this weapon equipped with demolition in mind?"
Winters shook her head. "Standard concussion grenades. Six count."
"And you succeeded in demolishing the building with six rounds?"
"It only took five," she said flatly.
"How did you achieve this?"
"Three internal supports, one natural gas line, one tanker truck parked near the north wall."
"And you did this merely due to a suggestion on the behalf of this liaison?"
She narrowed her eyes and replied with a tone of irritation. "It was more of a dare, Doctor."
"Sgt. Winters, I believe I have a program I would like to recommend you for. Care for a change of scenery?"
"With all due respect, Doctor? No, I wouldn't."
Garotte raised an eyebrow. "Really? You'd have a chance to collaborate with your peers."
"Do you like it here, Sgt. Winters?"
"No, I don't like it here, Doctor. But that's not why we get put places like this, is it? We get put places like this because we belong here, and I do," Winters said, eyes locked on his.
"I think that being a part of this program will be of great help to you."
"I've got plenty of help here. I've got a therapist, a counselor."
"This new setting would provide you with group therapy, and I don't feel that the group would be complete without you."
"I don't think that any group that would be completed by me is one that needs to be complete at all."
"I'm sorry to hear that you feel that way, Miss Winters."
"Sgt. Winters," she corrected.
Garotte leaned forward, staring at her intently. "It seems to me that you aren't a soldier anymore, Miss Winters."
A scowl briefly twisted her features, but she managed to wrestle her way back to composure. The intensity stayed in her eyes, however. Garotte nodded and tapped at his slidepad, then leaned on the mute button of the intercom on the window.
"I'm going to ask a few more questions. Would you be able to get the Warden in here? I think it might be time to discus travel arrangements," he said to one of the guards.
The man nodded and touched a finger to his headset, activating it. "Yeah, communications? Can we get Warden Menlo into Interview A? … Affirmative. It will be a few minutes. He is on a call."
"Not a problem," Garotte nodded.
"Any word on the Warden?" asked Garotte, checking the time on his slidepad.
Confident though he was in his disguise and credentials, every false identity had a time limit. He hadn't had much time to prepare this one, so he'd been forced to construct it with speed in mind, rather than longevity. Periodic automated security sweeps would eventually find the entries he'd made, and depending on the database, investigations would begin regarding the validity. He'd estimated fraud alerts and security holds wouldn't start for at least two days, but considering the fact that his estimate was based primarily on wild guesses and intuition, he would rather be long gone well before then.
The guard touched his headset again. "Communications, can we... Communications?"
Suddenly the PA system began to blare an alert. "Attention, all personnel. Situation Blue. Switch to point to point communications and await further orders."
The message repeated itself once before the power suddenly dropped away, plunging the room into darkness. An instant later flashlights clicked on.
"What's this about?" Garotte asked, convincingly pretending to be a man who was pretending not to be afraid.
"Stay calm, sir. We have procedures for this," the guard said unsteadily as dim red emergency lights clicked on.
"Oh, well, that's alright then," Garotte said, crunching on one of the mints from his pocket, then clicking open his cane's compartment and dropping them in. "As long as you've got procedures. I presume all of your doors lock in the event of a power failure?"
Garotte clicked on the flashlight built into his cane and shined it around, then appeared to nervously play with the pair of buttons. A moment later the already nervous guard furrowed his brow.
"What's that noise?" he asked, hand instinctively moving to his stun rod.
"What is it? Sort of an edge-of-your-hearing whine? Heading up in frequency and down in volume?" Garotte asked.
"Probably just a large capacitor charging."
"Where is it coming from?"
Garotte leaned to the side, as if listening closely, then slowly raised the tip of his cane toward the glass.
"I think... it may be coming... from the basement," he said slowly.
At the sound of the final word, Winters slid quickly from her seat and rolled beneath the counter. Before the men on her side of the glass could react, there was an earsplitting clap, Garotte nearly toppled over backwards, and the entire surface of the glass marbled with intricate cracks and disintegrated into small, jagged pebbles. The avalanche of glass was, to say the least, highly distracting. Both Winters and Garotte took full advantage. He flipped the cane around, grasping the end and swinging the handle with pinpoint precision at the base of the neck of the first guard, crumbling him to the ground. The second guard swung at his head with the stun rod, but he stooped below, snatching up the matching weapon from the downed partner and delivering a swift, incapacitating jolt. Winters managed to get to her feet, despite the high gravity and wrist restraints, and was standing on the counter of her side of the broken glass wall before the guards on her side had gathered themselves enough to take action. The first one to approach got a swift kick to the bottom edge of the face mask, popping his helmet neatly off and uncovering his face for a thrust kick to the nose. The other tried to apply his stunner to her legs, but she leaped toward him, driving her knees into his collar bones and riding him down to the ground, where the gravitationally enhanced maneuver kept him there.
The glass had barely finished settling to the ground by the time the only person standing was Garotte. He climbed gingerly over the divider and helped Winters to her feet.
"What would you have done if I'd forgotten what 'basement' was code for?"
"Apologized vigorously and helped you to pick bits of glass out of your hair," he replied, returning to the proper British accent, which seemed oddly out of place coming from his altered face. His breathing was heavy, the exertion taking an extra toll in the high gravity.
"How did you manage to shut down power and security?" she asked breathlessly.
"Power and security?"
"Situation blue. Complete secondary system failure."
"That was not part of the plan. Not part of my plan anyway. Still, don't look a gift horse in the mouth and all that."
"How did you break the glass?" she asked.
"The same way I'll be breaking your cuffs. Careful. Wouldn't want to dislocate a shoulder," he said, guiding her to the counter and doing his best to put the locking mechanism against the surface.
He climbed to the counter, placed the tip of his cane against the lock between her wrists, and depressed one of the buttons. The same subtle electronic whine sounded, and another clap. Even with the whole of his body weight bracing it, the recoil from his cane nearly lifted him from the ground. A neat hole about the size of a pea was blasted through the restraints, and a somewhat larger one through the counter and floor below it.
"Who would have thought a breath mint moving at a few multiples of the speed of sound could be so effective a lock pick, eh?" he quipped as Winters pulled her hands from the broken restraints.
With an impassive look on her face, Winters reached up and grabbed Garotte by the collar, yanking him down from the counter and pulling him off his feet, such that the only thing keeping him from laying flat on his back on a bed of broken glass was her steely grip. She pulled him face to face.
"Why did you come here and do this? I didn't want to be broken out. Do you understand?"
"You certainly seemed quick to take out these two gentlemen when you had to."
"As soon as you raised that cane, the best I could hope for was six months in solitary, minimum. If it is that or an escape, I choose escape, but you had better have a gosh darn good excuse for making me choose it," she said, delivering the replacement expletives with all of the force and conviction of the originals.
"A group of political or religious extremists with military ties have kidnapped Karter."
Winters considered the words for a moment.
"Good call busting me out then," she admitted, straightening him up and fixing his collar, "But give me that cane-gun before you hurt somebody."
"Gladly," he said, handing it over.
"When this is all over, I owe you three slaps."
"We'll get into that later. What's the plan?" she asked, snapping instantly into business mode.
"Well, the plan had been to walk out of here with you under my custody. It had been going rather well until this mysterious blackout, I should add."
"Yes, well, I'd say that plan is officially beyond redemption. What is Plan B?"
"I hadn't actually formulated one. I hate Plan B. Its very existence undermines confidence in Plan A."
Winters pinched the bridge of her nose. "This is exactly why you weren't the one who made the plans."
"Alright, well, we need-"
She was interrupted by a chirp of Garotte's slidepad. He glanced at it.
"There has been a security and communication failure in the orbital section of the facility. Potential infiltration. Expect difficulties," he read aloud.
"Who sent that?"
"We'll get into that later. I suppose we'll need to get to the shuttle bay?"
"Yeah. And every darn door along the way is going to be locked. Not even these boys would be able to get them open without power."
"The cane ought to get them open."
"Sure, but how many rounds do you have left?"
"It fires anything that fits down the barrel," he said, stooping and scooping up a double helping of the cubed glass remnants of the divider, "And I'm willing to wager these will be a bit more effective than breath freshener. The cane is armed, so this button opens the compartment to reload, and this one is the trigger. Hold down to charge, release to fire. Longer charge, harder hit. And brace yourself, she's got a hell of a kick."
She dumped out the breath mints and dumped in some glass, then clicked the compartment shut and took a few test shots at the wall. When she was comfortable with the firing characteristics, she raised the weapon and popped a shot at the red emergency light, scoring a direct hit. As she opened the compartment to top off the load of glass, she began to rattle off orders. "We'll take the first two doors to the left. Should lead to a service corridor. Narrow, fewer doors. From there we'll head out into the administration building, then straight through to the hangar. I'll lay down cover fire, you get a ship running. I hope you've got something with a faster-than-light drive up there."
"That I do."
"Alright, then we get in the shuttle, we pray that the security failure holds until we manage to dock, then we get to your ship, get out of here, and you get your slaps. Try not to kill anyone. These men are just doing their jobs. And for goodness sake, let's not start a riot, and let's not let anyone but us escape. These people are here for a reason."
"What's the codename today?"
"I've been using Garotte."
"Again? I guess I'll go with Silo again, then."
"Just like old times," he said with a grin, snatching a pair of the stun rods and giving them a quick twirl.
She took a deep breath, clicked the cane compartment shut, and nodded. "Move out."