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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 89: Slade 29
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 88: Hastings 31
The raid had been a success; perhaps not an unqualified success, as Burly was injured and there were a few bits of equipment on their wish list that they didn't get, but overall they all came back in one piece and brought several pieces with them. And Tom Titus was already talking about Slade's bladework by the time he walked from the matter transmitter platform to the bridge.
"I've never seen anything like it," he was saying. "And he never flinched, just did what he had to do so fast they couldn't even pull their guns."
"Well, Mr. Slade," John Alexander said, "it's good to have you back. I hear you've done remarkable things."
"I'm satisfied," he answered, taking the toothpick out of his mouth and somewhat self-consciously examining it. "Anyway, I needed the practice."
"Practice?" Tom exclaimed. "If that was a rehearsal, I want tickets for the performance!"
Slade smiled, and again put the toothpick between his lips. The praise was unexpected but welcome; but he had this feeling that a large part of it was luck, and he didn't want to press it. "I had to earn my keep somehow. Were we successful?"
And at this point he got a report of what they had accomplished. George was caring for Burly's injuries, but they weren't serious. Once the new long-range sensing gear was in place, they should be able to get a lot more information about what was happening. It would enable them to tap into Federation satellites, and to focus on individuals on the ground from high orbit. They also had a number of probes they could use to acquire sight and sound from targeted locations, received by QNL just about anywhere in the galaxy, instantaneous secure transmission. It seemed that enemy casualties were almost entirely security officers. Already rescue efforts were recovering the rest of the crew in lifepods. It was better for the public relations war, Marilyn said, to avoid casualties among non-combat personnel--but of course, Slade had acted correctly to prevent the alarm. Even Ishara commended his action.
He excused himself to go clean up. There was blood on his blades and on his armor, and it would rust the blades and bring vermin to the leather, so it had to be removed promptly. While he was cleaning it, he began to wonder about the men he had killed. Who were they? Did they have families, futures, dreams in this strange world? What were their crimes? Were they just caught in the wheels of life, unaware of their contributions to the oppressive Federation, or if aware unable to change things?
He shook himself. He was Odin's warrior, not some philosopher priest. "Torelle was right," he said aloud in his solitude. "You do ask the strangest questions." And as he went back to cleaning, he tried to think about what he could learn from the battle just fought, and how he could improve his technique for next time.
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: