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# Jump Calculations

“Ready, Kal?” I asked, glancing around. No guards. Kal was already at the computer terminal, inserting the flash drive with the virus on it. I was supposed to be his lookout, but I’d never seen the CX2596T44 computer virus (we call it the Crasher) in action.

Options: __X__ Fail_Safe

________Fail_Open

Time: XX:XX:XX

EXECUTE

I knew that fail safe meant that everything would automatically lock, while fail open meant that everything would automatically open. I watched as Kal selected the Fail_Open command, set the time for 00:00:10 (ten seconds), then hit the “execute” button. For a moment everything was normal. I mentally reviewed the theory that our plan was based on. When the virus crashed the system, the power would go off, and everything would fail open. Electric locks would open, making everything from the prison pantry to the cell doors unlock.

“Five, four…” I heard Kal counting. He reached into his pocket and brought out a pair of the tiny night-vision glasses the guards wear. They essentially look like sunglasses for a three-eyed person, but they provide very good sight, especially in next-to-no-light situations, as I found out three seconds later when the power cut off. I heard yelling and shove Kal flat against the wall, away from the light of the computer terminal. In a couple of seconds, the guards were going to start shooting, and I didn’t want either of us to present a target.

Where was Ty? I knew that it took me about ten seconds to sprint from cell D35 (Ty’s cell), to the computer terminal, by cell block B. Ty, I knew, could probably do the distance in that time, in the dark, with no problem. Where was he? At what point did I decide to leave him behind and get going with Kal?

Over the sound of guards yelling and shooting their guns, I heard two sets of running footsteps, and I froze as the first shape, a man carrying a pair of shotguns and wearing a guard’s bulky bulletproof vest, rounded the corner, closely followed by another guard, who gunned the first one down. The first man grunted in pain as the force of the bullet knocked him to the ground, where he skidded to a stop within two inches of my feet. I glanced at his face as the second guard retreated.

“Ty!” The team leaded gave me what I think was intended to be a smile, but came out as a grimace.

“These vests are pretty effective,” he admitted as he scrambled to his feet. “But I’ll still have a bad bruise tomorrow.”

“What took you so long?”

“The armory door was unlocked,” Ty said. Kal rolled his eyes and muttered something about “gundogs and their toys,” before demanding “Do you have the jump coordinates?”

“Right here.” Ty reached into his vest’s shoulder pocket and pulled out a piece of paper—riddled with holes.

“We’ll have to calculate them again,” he said crisply. “But first, let’s get out of here.”

We took off running at full speed and within moments we were at the door leading to the vehicle bay. There was no sign of the two guards that were supposed to be there.

“Check it out,” Ty whispered as he handed me a shotgun. I checked that it was loaded and opened the door.

There was nobody in the bay except a pair of gate guards at the opposite end. I gestured to Ty and Kal, who followed me. The bay was empty except for an ugly six-wheeled vehicle that resembled a dumpster on wheels.

“What the heck is that thing?” hissed Kal.

“APC—armored personnel carrier,” Ty replied as we headed for it.

“We’re taking that?!”

“Faster than walking,” Ty shot back. “Hotwire it. I’ll take care of the guards.”

“Has it occurred to nobody to ask why there is an Army vehicle in a jail parking lot?” I hissed. They ignored me. I didn’t like this situation.
In an incredible stoke of bad luck, the police had arrested us as we were trying to break into the Convention’s High Command building. They thought we were just a bunch of crazy criminals, but if the army had figured out that we were actually a special-ops Jumper team…

While Kal fumbled around with wires, I vaulted into it through the hatch at the top. Soon enough, the engine roared to life and the viewscreen in front of me flickered on.

Ty appeared from the gatehouse and waved to us. The gate was wide open. All I had to do was get the APC through the narrow gate. I gunned the engine and started to turn the awkward vehicle. Oops, too much. I overcorrected and finally got it lined up with the gate.

Let’s not go into details about my driving through the gate. Let’s just say that it was good that the gatehouse was made of wood and that the APC was armored. I never knew that Ty could move so fast.

“Get out of the driver’s seat,” he growled as he came through the hatch. Before I could move, I found myself in the seat beside the driver, while Ty took the wheel. “Kal, get on the guns,” Ty continued. He handed me a pencil, notebook, calculator, and a small black book. “Here’s the target list and some paper for you. Calculate a five-point jump that lands us somewhere safe.” My jaw dropped.

I had paid plenty of attention in Jumper training classes. Theoretically, I could calculate a jump. In reality—let’s just say I’m no Einstein at math. I had never calculated a one-point jump, and now I was calculating a very complicated five-point jump, using the dim glow of my tiny penlight. With a sigh, I started writing down the very long, complicated formula.

At Jumper Headquarters, they call Ty “the teacher” because always, even in the middle of a firefight, he manages to instruct the young and inexperienced Jumpers on his squad (right now that would be me) about the essential facts of everything related to being a Jumper. Keep in mind, this man probably has a photographic memory. He knows the Jumper Code, the rules and regulations, and the physics of jumping better than anyone. Now, he’s trying to teach me how to calculate a jump in the middle of a prison break.

I heard the rattle of gunfire, and Kal shut the hatch.

“Is it the guards or the army?” Ty asked.

“Can’t tell,” Kal replied. “I think it’s army, though.”

“Figures,” I muttered and started to get up. I was a much better gunner than Kal.
“Calculate the jump,” Ty ordered me sternly. I tried to ignore the sound of bullets bouncing off the APC and focus on my math.
At long last, I had filled in all of the variables. I used the target list to calculate the beacons’ distances and strengths before plugging all of the numbers into the calculator and scribbling down the coordinates. By the time I was done, Ty had parked the APC under an overhanging rock. The three of us listened to the sound of the hunt start to recede.
“Here you go.” I handed him the list and he promptly began double-checking my math.
“From our position, the Regulus beacon is lined up with the big Alpha Centauri beacon, so their combined strength will be able to pull us in,” I said defensively, in case he objected to my choice of a first jump to a beacon so far away.
“Good thinking,” Ty said, nodding approvingly. “And from there, we jump to Alpha Centauri, then to Sirius, then we ricochet off a pair of little border beacons. Good thinking. They’ll never track us. Unfortunately--”

I grimaced.

“What did you put in for the coordinate distance for Alpha Centauri? Do you remember?” It was his classic trap. I saw it coming, but I couldn’t do anything about it.

“Uh, 4.37112 light-years away from the Sahara beacon on Earth, which has coordinates 0,0,0, but is not strong enough to take us in,” I replied. What had I forgotten?

“What units are the coordinates measured in?”

“Uh, light-years?” I knew I was wrong even as the words left my mouth.

“How many parsecs is Alpha Centauri from the point of origin?”

#*%# parsecs.

“Alpha Centauri is 1.3400987 parsecs from the point of origin,” I recited.

“Very good. Run the numbers through the calculator again.”

Muttering curses under my breath, I recalculated the jump and presented the results to Ty. He gave me a nod and started running through the math again.

“Uh, Ty? We’ve got a tank heading for us.” Kal sounded nervous.

“What?” Ty’s eyes never left the coordinates.

“Tank. Coming. Toward. Us. Hundred meters away. Recommend we jump now,” Kal repeated.

“You sure?” A fountain of dirt erupted less than a twenty feet from the APC and the vehicle shuddered.

“Punch in the coordinates,” Ty ordered Kal, who had come down from the turret. Kal obeyed with alacrity. Suddenly, everything went black.

I was gratified to see that, aside from the parsecs mistake, my math seemed to be accurate. We were in a classic border fort Jumper room. An atomic clock flashed the local date-time. But something was wrong. Everything was covered in dust. The ceiling looked like it was about to fall on us, and parts of it had already caved in. The control board was flashing and warning that there was about twenty minutes before “structural failure.” Ty was the first to realize what had happened.

“Kid,” he asked me sternly. “Did you factor in the time dilation?”

“Yeah,” I replied defensively.

“Did you use the Hawking coefficient?”

“Uh…no.”

#!*@ Hawking coefficient.