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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 86: Slade 28
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 85: Hastings 30
At first Slade was terrified that he would touch the wrong button, and open the doors to his life pod while still adrift in space. Then he was worried that he would fail to press the right button, and run out of air or heat or cooling or whatever it was that kept you alive in one of these. But gradually, as he floated inside the capsule, he realized that this was a life boat, and it had to be designed to be idiot proof. That is, not everyone who was on board the ships and space stations on which these were used would have been trained in how to use this particular kind of life pod; some would probably even be children, too young to have learned. Thus most of the systems would be automatic, and getting out of the automatic mode would not be something you could easily do accidentally.
That settled, he made himself comfortable and stared out one of the windows which were on either side. He saw more stars than he had ever imagined seeing, and wondered whether he was in a part of the galaxy where there were more stars or whether it was just because he was in space, past the lights and the clouds and whatever else made it hard to see stars at night. His pod seemed to be tumbling and rolling at the same time, so he was getting quite a panoramic view of the universe.
The Destiny came into view for a moment. It was battling small fighters like a horse swats at flies; but no, the size difference wasn't so great. It looked more like a great battleship or aircraft carrier under attack by fighter jets. And just as he decided this, the window rolled away from it, and it disappeared from view.
The listening post came into view next, and Slade was impressed with how very big it was, more like an island in space. There were many small objects floating away from it, which Slade realized must be life pods like his own. Suddenly the metal island shuddered; but it, too, vanished from view.
As Destiny came back into view, it was no longer engaged in battle, but was moving generally toward the life pods. They were no doubt searching for the transmission harnesses, so they could recover his team. But there were a lot of life pods, so it might take them a while. Meanwhile, his pod continued rolling, and he again saw the station. It had split open in the middle, wrenched and bent and contorted from the force of its own explosion, and but for a few flickering lights just below the break appeared dark and lifeless. That part of the mission, at least, had succeeded. He wondered if the other team survived at all, and whether they got what they wanted.
But for the moment, he was still adrift, alone in his floating box.
His mind went back to the mission, and he realized that he had killed not one but three people in less than an hour. After living over fifty years without engaging in mortal combat even once (getting hit by an artillery barrage didn't count, in his opinion), he had proved his mettle as a fighter, his courage, his skill, his resolve. Oh, he didn't expect that Odin would be impressed by three combat kills (and he didn't give too much thought to the details of that combat), but he was proud of himself. This was the beginning of a new chapter in his life, he told himself. He was finally going to get the chance to earn his place among the chosen.
Finally he felt the tingle, the feeling that his fingers and toes were dissolving. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and let the matter transmitter do its work.
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 #55: Stories Winding Down. 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: