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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 24: Kondor 8
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 23, Slade 8
The first order of business was to assure himself that he was safe; but in the surrounding forest, Kondor couldn't see more than a few dozen feet. Next, he had to collect his gear. This was more challenging, as some of his stuff had been in his room when he versed out, so it wasn't going to be close at hand. But he did have that sense, that feeling he got, that told him where his things were--not where any particular thing was, and not really very well, and not a strong sense, but something to use. He thought it was most like the feeling one gets when walking in a room and forgetting what you wanted to get, or knowing which direction to go to find your car in a huge parking lot when you can't see it. If he stayed calm, he could follow that feeling to his duffel.
He realized that he still had the medical kit slung over his shoulder, and the kinetic blaster lying next to him. He checked the power on the blaster. It was set on medium, and was 60% spent; that meant four more shots at that level, or two at high. The medical kit was intact, and he secured the seals so it wouldn't spill.
His M-16 was not far away in the undergrowth, just as he had dropped it beside his patient in another world. There were still twenty-seven bullets in the clip; he had a full clip still in his duffel, wherever that was. He cleared the jam, although not as easily as he would have anticipated, and slung the gun over his shoulder. Focusing on the rest of his gear, he began forcing his way through the thick brambles. He found his pack and duffel hanging from tree branches (his room had been on the next deck above the medical bay), with some of the contents of the open duffel spilled onto lower limbs. His travel alarm clock which he had kept by the bunk just out of habit had made it to the ground, but was undamaged from its impact with the soft leaf-mulched earth. A bit of climbing, a bit of shaking, a bit of reaching, and soon he gathered and packed it all. He changed into the green forest-camo fatigues; they seemed the reasonable choice here.
He struck out through the tangled undergrowth with some difficulty. Not knowing where he was or where he might be going, direction didn't seem too important, as long as it was consistent. But since he had covered at least some ground reaching his bag, it made more sense to continue in the same direction rather than backtrack.
He had not gone far before he found an easier path. It was barely visible, and not much better, but he guessed it was what his Uncle Ty would have called a "game trail", a path small woodland animals would follow through the woods, especially to reach water. What mattered at the moment was that travel was less difficult, and he was bound somewhere.
The game trail crossed a clearer path, and for the first time Kondor thought that there must be humans, or something very like them, in this world. The new path was firm underfoot, and cleared overhead, and definitely visible. Something like a man had used it for some purpose. He followed this for several miles.
The path finally hit something yet larger. Kondor looked at it carefully. There were two parallel worn trails moving in a rather straight line. No low branches hung over it, although there was still a high canopy blocking the sky. It wasn't much, but it appeared that he had found a road. Roads always went somewhere; in fact, they always went from somewhere to somewhere, even if it was only from the house to the barn. One way or another, he had found a connection to whatever this world held. He followed it.
The day wore on; somewhere above the canopy he was sure the sun had moved west. He was just considering making a place to camp when someone called to him--at least, it seemed that it was to him. It was in English, but the accent was completely unfamiliar and barely intelligible. It was loud, and came from the branches just ahead. The best he could determine, it was threatening. With some effort, he made a guess at the words.
"Halt where you stand, if you value your life."
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with the first six chapters of the novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #25: Novel Changes. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter.
As to the old stories that have long been here: