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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 59: Hastings 63
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Well, her head was clearing, but the bear and the raccoon didn't vanish or become something else. The raccoon continued to hold his pencil and pad, and the bear was prodding at her and asking if she was all right. But it wasn't talking to her; rather, it seemed to be projecting its thoughts into her mind. She responded in kind, making telepathic contact with its mind. I'm all right, she thought; I'm just a bit lost.
The bear responded that it couldn't help her with that. It could help her find the lake, and show her where there was some food, but it didn't know much about the places of the ancients and tended just to wander in the woods itself. It introduced itself with the name Grarg. She gave the name Lauren.
She noticed that whenever Grarg sent thoughts to her, the raccoon looked at him as if he could hear those thoughts; but it did not seem aware of her answers. She turned and spoke to it.
"And what's you're name?" she asked aloud.
"I'm afraid he doesn't talk," a new voice said; "and he doesn't send his thoughts, either." A man probably younger than her own thirty-five years but showing the wear of a hard life had come through the trees. "We call him Chicker, because it's the only noise he seems able to make. But he understands our words, and can read and write better than most of us, he just doesn't have what's required to talk. Help the lady up, Grarg," he finished.
"Thanks, I'm all right. I'm Lauren, Lauren Hastings."
"I'm Starson Coombrick. You've met Grarg and Chicker. That's quite a trick you do, Lauren Hastings, appearing from nowhere. I've heard of such things, but never saw it before."
That suggested that the psionics in this world went beyond mere telepathy; she wondered what was possible. Of course, there could also be magic, or it could be that a lot of this was done with some kind of technology.
"It is quite a trick," she answered, "but it's not all that helpful. It happens to me when I'm about to die, and suddenly I find myself somewhere else with no idea how I got there."
That sounds helpful to me, the bear's thoughts put in her head.
"I'd have to agree with you there, Grarg," Starson said. "Anything that keeps you alive is a good thing."
"You'd think so, wouldn't you? I guess it is. But it's annoying. And besides, I have to find my stuff. It's probably about a mile from here," she said, tuning herself to that subtle feeling of direction she had and pointing to her left, "that way." There was another feeling there, in something of the same direction, but she would deal with that after she got her things together.
"Well," Starson said, "we're headed that way, and although I'm not quite certain how far is a mile, it's safer to travel with people than alone."
"I'll take that as in invitation," she replied, "and accept it. Give me a moment to get myself together." Digging through the leaves she gathered the things she had dropped during that last fight–the capture rod, bow and arrows, psionic blaster, and revolvers. She placed each item in its preferred holster, the rod in her hands. She also pulled ten bullets from her pocket, and reloaded the guns. "I'm ready," she declared.
"Then join us out here on the road," Starson's voice called. Walking that direction, she soon found herself on the remains of what must once have been an asphalt highway, now in total disrepair. Starson started walking along it, and the others followed.
It wasn't long before Lauren's direction sense suggested that her possessions weren't very close to the road. That meant she was going to have to cut a path through the woods, probably. She could take advantage of the easier travel on the broken asphalt for a quarter of an hour, most of a mile, and then go from there. As it happened, they came to another road just about the time she wanted to turn. It had once crossed above this one; debris from the overpass lay scattered on their roadway. Taking the off-ramp, the group was soon headed just about the right way, and before long she had her cart, and packed up the few loose things which had been in use around the cave.
"So," she asked, "where are you all going?"
Starson Coombrick stared at her for a moment, as if assessing how much to trust, how much to tell. Her question had been casual, but it seemed that the answer was not.
"There's a structure," he began, "not too much farther from here. Anyway, that's the rumor. A couple of our friends have gone ahead to find out if it's true, if it's one of the dwellings of the ancients still intact. They should be meeting us on the road. If it's there, we'll try to get inside. There may be food and supplies in addition to some of the tools and weapons of the ancients."
It reminded Lauren a bit of the Atlantis myth, tales of an ancient people whose knowledge exceeded our own. "Do you think it's true?"
He shrugged. "Hard to know. There are such places, but most have been plundered by now. Sometimes you find one that no one has managed to get inside, and then if you can do what they couldn't you can get a lot of stuff. But I'm actually more concerned that someone has already turned the place into a fortress and will defend it against us. You can't always tell those things. Some of the old places were designed to defend themselves. I don't want to fight someone for a building, but I won't give it up just because it's hard to get inside."
"That makes sense."
There was a moment of silence before Starson continued.
"Look, I don't know what all that stuff is you've got, but some of it is weapons, and good ones from the look of it. If you wanted to come with us, we'd share whatever we found there. We could always use a little extra help."
"Sure; sounds like a good idea." Lauren wasn't entirely certain it sounded like a good idea, but then again what else was she going to do? She'd just arrived here, and it generally helped to have friends. This Starson Coombrick and his companions seemed all right, and if she was going to find out anything about this world, it would probably be from getting to know its people. There was something God wanted her to do here. As yet she hadn't a clue what it might be, so the best choice was usually to follow the path in front of your feet until you had reason to think better of it. Anyway, it gave her a direction to travel and company for the road.
She took hold of the cart and gave a tug. There was no point playing with her tricks just yet; time would come for that.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eight other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #94: Novel Meetings. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: