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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 31: Hastings 11
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 30, Slade 10
She did not go back to the pit Saturday night. Instead, she had Raal drive her over to see Father James early in the evening. She wanted to discuss the death of Jackson.
Jackson was an old and powerful vampire who had killed over a hundred thousand people over the past eight or nine centuries. He was clearly a pillar in what Gavin was building. To lose Jackson would be a severe blow to Gavin; it would hopefully mean that he had to rely more on others, and that might include Lauren. Jackson almost never left Gavin's side, except when he tried to follow Lauren home each night. And that was when he was most vulnerable.
But Lauren was no fool. She had never faced a vampire in battle, and she was talking about fighting an extremely tough one for her first attempt. She knew that even weaker vampires had killed many men. She had her psionics, her faith in scripture, and the psionic weaponry, but it would be foolish to assume she was anywhere near a match for Jackson. But Father James had fought vampires before, and so had Jake Williams; and they had friends who knew, friends who would fight with them. They could rely on Jackson to follow Lauren into an alley, and they could ambush him there. Lauren made several suggestions on strategy, including some extra equipment they should acquire for the attack. Since she would be sleeping Friday, they would do it Friday night when she was well rested.
Returning home, she spent the rest of the night studying. She had her first big test ahead of her, and it was pass/fail.
It was raining Sunday morning. She got Raal to drive her to the park, and Raiden was waiting. She had fashioned a simple poncho from a plastic trash bag, and wrapped a smaller one over her head for a rain scarf, and probably looked quite silly. But she wasn't worried about that, and the less so as no one else was around.
Raiden smiled when he saw her coming. "You get an A for today," he said. "But I think now we will go inside."
"To the gym?" she asked. "I can get a cab."
"No, my apartment is close. We will work there."
He walked briskly, but did not appear to hurry, and led the way to a large apartment over a restaurant. The smell of won ton reminded Lauren that she hadn't eaten since the night before, but this was not the time. She removed her plastic coverings; her gi was reasonably dry. Raiden, however, was soaked through, and excused himself to change.
While he was gone, Lauren stepped into the living room. The far end caught her attention. It appeared to be set up as some sort of shrine. In the midst of it was a Chinese puzzle box. She approached it, trying to understand it without doing anything which might offend her host. But she was not familiar with oriental religion, and nothing here reminded her of anything from the little she did know.
She did not hear Raiden return to the room, or know how long he stood there before he spoke.
"It is what you would call a temple to one of the gods of my ancestors."
"I don't know much about those things, but I thought that was likely. What is the purpose of the puzzle box?"
"It holds pages from a book, a very old and dangerous book, which I keep secretly. There are some who would kill me for those pages, but I believe them to be safe where they are."
The dots connected in her mind. Raiden had changed his name, taking the name of an ancient Japanese god. Something had convinced him to erase his identity and become someone else. And he was hiding the pages of a book, within a shrine to that same god--holy ground which could not be freely entered by the undead. Whatever those pages were, the vampires must have wanted them very badly. Lauren knew of only one ancient text which fit that. She almost whispered, half suggesting, half asking, "The Book of Journeys".
Raiden suddenly got very serious, very stern. "What do you know of such things?" he demanded.
"Oh, not a lot," she said. "I know that the vampires want it, that they believe that Cain was the first of their kind and wrote the book to tell them the secrets of world domination. I know you've placed it within your shrine so that they will not be able to reach it. What I don't know is how you got it."
"You know much; more than I imagined. Come have tea, and I will tell you more." He turned and walked to the kitchen, where he already had water heating. Finishing the tea, he poured two bowls and sat.
"I was a librarian. I assisted with foreign language books in the libraries of a large university in a western state. One day I was cataloguing some materials donated by the estate of a wealthy Chinese American businessman when I found, tucked in a very old Chinese book, three pages in a language I could not readily identify. I spent several hours working in the school database and on the Internet, seeking some information about the document or even the language. I was late leaving, and tucked the mysterious papers in my briefcase, thinking to examine them further at home.
"Although I was late, my wife was not waiting. I was concerned, because there was a storm brewing; such storms were uncommon. I did not know it, but there was something else which should have worried me. I can only guess that they became aware of my inquiries and discovered who I was. They killed my wife, and sent a demon in her form to kill me and take the pages. But I saw it and knew it for what it was; it did not look human, despite having stolen the visage of my beautiful young wife. I cried out in the storm to the god of my ancestors, Raiden, the God of Thunder, and the storm rose to great fury, the lightning flashed and struck the trees, and the creature fled in terror before his wrath.
"I erased my life, and vanished. In honor of him who saved me, I took his name. I had found some information about the book in my search, but had not believed it credible, and would not have done so were it not for the efforts of the demons to take it. I brought the pages here, and keep them in the shrine--so that, as you say, they will not be able to take them.
"Now, what do you know of these demons and the book?"
Lauren poured herself another bowl of tea, and then tried to decide how to explain, even what to explain, about herself.
"I wasn't born here," she began.
"Not in this country?" he asked.
"Not in this country? Well, I suppose that's correct. Not on this planet. Not in this universe. Somehow I was brought here. Some would say that it was a terrible accident; I prefer to think it was the hand of God taking me where I am needed. I'm able to do a lot of things that most people can't--a bit like Superman, do you have Superman in this world? Strange visitor from another planet who is different from everyone else? Well, I'm from another universe, and I have powers and abilities and--this is ridiculous. It sounds ridiculous even to me, and it's my story."
"Continue," Raiden said.
"It's difficult to explain; I don't fully understand it myself. There was an accident in my kitchen, an explosion, I think. It should have killed me. Some say it did. But I awoke in a very different world. And the people there told me it would happen again, and again, and keep happening. And now I'm here.
"I learned a lot of my special abilities in that other world. I'm learning more. But I'm using them to fight the vampires. In fact, I'm planning to kill a particularly nasty vampire late Friday night."
"That is fascinating. And how many vampires have you killed?"
"Actually, Friday will be my first. But I'm working with some men who have killed quite a few over the years, and have every confidence. Care to join us? I'm sure we could use the help."
"I consider it. Now you work on balance."
The rest of the lesson was rather calm, probably because it was indoors with a restaurant below. But before she left, Lauren used the telepathy to reach Raiden's mind. "I know it sounds crazy," she thought to him, "but there is more to me than meets the eye."
Raiden, still fully relaxed, spoke his answer. "I suspected as much from the beginning."
Raal picked her up and took her home. She ate, and spent the rest of the day thinking and studying, and then changed and walked to work, as the rain had stopped.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with five other sequential chapters of the novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #30: Novel Directions. 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: