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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 119: Brown 41
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 118: Hastings 81
The next person Derek saw was the inquisitor. The man came in and sat down, but before he said anything Derek took the initiative.
"Look, I've gotten off to a bad start here. I'm sorry I tried to hack into your computer system to give myself an identity. The last world I visited, I had to do that all the time–there was no one there who could help me. All I wanted was a way to make a place for myself in this world. I suspect that starving to death is a particularly painful way to move to the next universe, and I'd rather not try it. I also would rather not try death by vacuum. And it would be a waste to toss me in whatever you use for prison around here–even if it's called a hospital. I've got some skills, and you could use me. I need food, a place to stay, and a way to become part of society around here. That's all I wanted when I broke into the apartment. Now, can you help me with this, or is there someone else I've got to talk to?"
The inquisitor stared at him, as if he was completely off balance.
"Well?" Derek continued, "How do I get a green card?"
"How do I get permission to work, permission to own money, permission to eat and sleep without breaking any laws around here?"
"I–I don't know." He stood up. "Let me see what I can find out." And again Derek was alone.
He was not alone long. Someone in the uniform of the men who brought him here opened the door in a moment, and said, "Come with me, please." Derek rose and followed him out of the room and down the hall to another room, which he took to be a holding cell. He was alone here.
He was alone, but he was not cut off. This room contained an information access terminal; presumably it served as library, telephone, and whatever else prisoners were normally permitted to access. Derek was on it in a flash, working his way through the now familiar information systems into the police database, finding his own current case file. He needed to end run a password file to get the information, but he'd already found the sysop's services; it was relatively simple to create a fictitious police officer and write his access codes into the system. Now he knew what was happening to him.
The psychologist did not think him sane. It was his assessment that Derek's entire story was a delusion, a fantasy created by his mind to deal with some terrible stress, probably involving the death of his parents. There was a recommendation that he be hospitalized until this could be resolved.
There was a technical crew working on his gear. They had found the anomalies, the fact that the laser rifle and loose circuits and tools were all from a much more advanced level of technology than the laptop and video games, the inability to trace even one manufacturer of anything he owned, not even the labels in his underwear, the incongruity of files on his drives which showed what appeared to be ten years of improvement (and had the dates to suggest as much, although in a completely alien calendar system) written by what appeared to be a twelve year old boy, the use of a binary code which seemed to be standard in his equipment but was completely different from any standard they used. If he was not from another galaxy, at least, then someone had done a lot of very good work to try to make his crazy story seem credible.
Social services, or the equivalent department here, was frantically searching for any hint of his origin. He fit no reports of lost or runaway children. His DNA profile matched no known person, and they were working backwards looking for any two people who might have produced such a pattern. There were several genes which were beyond rare, hitherto unknown. If he was from this universe, it was beginning to appear that someone had designed him.
On top of that, the charges against him were not serious. Although he had forcibly entered an apartment, it was an abandoned apartment. It had already been determined that there was no evidence he intended to commit either a violent crime or a crime against property–he was merely accessing a computer in an unauthorized manner. Investigator's notes included the possibility that he was involved in espionage or data theft or electronic fraud, but there was as yet no evidence to support any of these charges. They were going to let him go.
Then why, he wondered, was he still here?
The answer came when he got back to the top of the file. There was no information listed for his address. He was in essence being held for vagrancy. Because he was homeless, the police couldn't release him until they could arrange some place for him to be–if only so that they would know where to look for him if he became a suspect in some other crime.
It was time to erase his presence, Derek thought. Backtracking out of the police files, he returned to the sysop systems, and converted his imaginary police officer into a sample program. Then he deleted it from the system. There would be ghosts, perhaps, but they would have to know to look for these. With a few clicks he convinced the computer to go through its routine maintenance, eliminating unused space and dumping the trash files. He could do better if he had full access, but this would do as long as no one was looking for it.
When the inquisitor came back to his cell, Derek was ready for him.
"So, when do I get out of here, and where do I go?"
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 #122: Character Partings. 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: