keeps this site and its author alive.
Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 116, Hastings 40
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 115: Kondor 38
Lauren was not ready, not for this. Her idyllic paradise had a dark side, darker than she had imagined. What she had taken for squabbles between neighbors had turned into something much more sinister.
Joe was very good at calming her down, and getting her to focus on the facts and think through what they could do.
Sometime probably close after sunset several sparrows had come into the parakeet nesting ground. They grabbed Speckles, and made their way back across the water. They then began a trek up into the mountains to a place from which no parakeet has ever returned, a place of sacrifice.
The truly horrible thing was that this happened every year; and Lauren had had no idea.
"There's no point in rushing off after them," Joe said. "They have too much of a head start for us to catch up with them. We should take a few minutes to gather our gear, make sure we have weapons, and generally prepare our pursuit, and then go. We'll have to track them, and we'll have to assume that they will fight, whether we get there in time or not, so we have to be ready for that."
Lauren relaxed a bit. She wasn't in this alone. "You're right, of course. Let me get ready."
"And," Joe added, "we should take Bob."
"Of course. I'll go fill him in."
It took a few minutes to awaken Bob and explain the situation. But he was soon sorting through his things, organizing his pack, his belt, donning his armor. Lauren put on her plastic plates and chain. She decided not to wear the robe. But she took the pistols, the psionic weapons, and the disintegrator rod. She also picked up the damaged rifle that had been in her hand when she left Philadelphia.
"Joe," she said, "can anything be done with this?"
Joe looked very surprised. "Well," he said, "it depends on what you want to do. It's in bad shape--needs a new barrel, housing. No, I couldn't make it work without a lot of new parts. But...."
Joe seemed reluctant to continue. "But what?" Lauren said.
"Well," Joe said, "this is an M-16-A1, standard issue for American troops. As far as I can see, it's the same as mine. I could use it for spare parts, if I needed them. More to the point, it has a full clip, fifty bullets. Mine's empty."
Lauren smiled. "By all means, Joe, take the clip. Take the gun."
"Are you sure?"
"Look, we disagree about a lot of things. But I trust you. I don't believe you would tell me that it was beyond repair just to get it from me, and I have never used it, never once. It's yours."
"That's kind of you, ma'am." Joe pulled the clip from the gun, threw the controls quickly and professionally, and switched to his own identical rifle. "This will make a big difference, if there's any trouble."
Bob came over; he was ready. "So," he said, "looks like I was right. There was something more for us to do."
Joe said, "It's the religion thing. We didn't realize there were religions here. If we knew that, we would have expected it."
But Lauren was not interested in an argument right now. Everyone was ready; it was time to go.
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 #66: Character Quest. 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: