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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 80: Brown 27
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 79: Hastings 69
Derek was tinkering in the control room, experimenting with new ideas for hacking into systems, when the commotion caught his eye. At first it was just a blur of movement on one of the screens, but as he turned toward it he realized that Lauren's classroom had erupted into a riot, and she was the target.
That plastic armor she always wore had probably borne the brunt of the first blow, and her martial arts training had taught her to handle a lot more—but she needed help. He grabbed his laser rifle, and ran up the steps to the classroom level. Shouting out that there was trouble as he passed Grarg's history class, he burst into Lauren's room.
He heard Grarg mentally repeating his shout. When he put the full force of his mind behind it, everyone in the building heard what Grarg was thinking. Derek was still first to arrive, and first to assess the scene.
There was a large catlike humanoid standing in the middle of the room; the other students seemed to have scattered, and were mostly cowering against the walls. Although the cat wasn't moving, objects were flying back and forth as if hurled by the wind. Derek had seen Lauren absentmindedly lift things to herself with her telekinesis; but these things were moving fast enough to be very dangerous.
Had he been the target, he thought he'd have been dead by now. But she had that armor, she was very good at blocking and dodging, and it seemed to Derek that the cat didn't have complete control of everything, as if Lauren was using her own telekinetic powers in a battle against his. Still, nothing was flying at him, and not everything moving her direction missed.
He raised his laser rifle and fired it. At this range, he couldn't miss. The beast howled—but it remained focused on its task, and didn't even turn toward Derek. He fired again; on the third hit, the cat turned to face him. Now you've done it, Derek Jacob Brown, he thought. You won't last a minute.
Whether because it had tired or because it wanted to change tactics, it did not throw anything at him. Rather, it leapt, clearing several rows of chairs, and landing near him. Making a bad decision, he fired the rifle again before dropping it, and then tried to draw his knife. The creature was upon him before he could grasp the handle.
Just as quickly it was off him. The great black furred arm of a huge bear had struck it, knocking it away from Derek. Grarg was in the room. He attacked with a fury which put the other beast on the defensive, as powerful claws ripped through its cheap clothing and thick skin. It leapt once, twice, trying to put distance between them; then abruptly chairs flew in all directions. Derek dived out the door to get clear.
He almost collided with Qualick. The four-armed man rushed into the room carrying a shield on one arm with a sword, an axe, and some kind of vibrating knife in his other three hands. Charging forward, batting a flying waste basket aside with the shield, he swung his three weapons in a practiced pattern that had each of them cross the creature's midpoint in sequence. Only the sword connected, as the cat again sprang aside, and a telekinetic blow knocked Qualick forward onto his face. Grarg took the next blow, but the bear was huge and powerful, and it barely slowed his forward momentum. His forepaws had reached the enemy almost before his hind legs left the ground. It fell beneath him, and they rolled into the folding chairs, scattering them again. The cat managed to slip loose from the bear's somewhat limited grip, not without taking a few more deep gashes, and leapt clear.
By this time Qualick was back on his feet, and waded into battle again. This time he hit three for three, and the cat went down–but it sprang back up again, using the force of its leap to crash into the man's shield and push him back.
Derek could see much of this, but not well. Many of the other students had pushed past him into the hall. At this moment everything came together, and picking up his rifle he fired his last shot. The beast fell to the ground.
Qualick was closest to it, and stepped next to the body, prodding it with his sword. "It's all right," he called. "He's dead. How is everyone else? Grarg?"
The bear's thoughts came back; he had taken quite a beating, but expected to survive.
"It never touched me," he said. "Well, no, it did, but Grarg stopped it before it did any damage."
There was no answer. Derek looked around the room. Chairs were scattered everywhere, along with bits of just about everything else. The makeshift teacher's desk and podium Lauren had pieced together were overturned. But there was no sign of the teacher. He felt for that scriff sense that had told him of her coming, but there was nothing there.
Lauren was gone.
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 #104: Novel Learning. 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: