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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 128: Brown 44
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Derek fell into the job easily enough. He had a lot yet to learn about the protocols of this world, but they weren't terribly difficult. He also found that having come to this from an entirely different system, it was easier for him to understand the occasional differences between older and newer codes, or codes from different parts of the galaxy. Seeing it from the outside, he tended to see all of it as more similar than different, and so understood some things that his fellow workers, raised on the proper use of the approved coding systems, found difficult.
Being a computer analyst and technician, he also had the run of the station. Everyone knew that computer systems needed maintenance, and that a technician tracing a bug might at any time knock on any door asking to check lines or connections. Derek had credentials by his third day on the job, and was going out with some of the others on repair work by that afternoon.
They seemed to enjoy having him around. Whether it was because he struck them as a child prodigy or some sort of ageless elf he wasn't certain, but they started taking him out with them after work. He didn't particularly like any of the beverages they drank to relax, and that was just as well as the waiters were never too keen on letting him order these. So he started trying fruit juices and other drinks, and found a few he particularly liked. He soon knew what to order at these events, and while his older friends kept asking him to try this or that he was content.
It was after one of these soirees that his companions seemed particularly unstable from too much of whatever it was that helped them relax. Derek was headed back to his rooms, rather absent-mindedly thinking about work, friends, and what he would have been doing had he never left home. Abruptly he looked up and realized that he'd missed a turn, or made a turn, or somehow wound up in an unfamiliar section of the station. For a moment he worried that he was lostóbut it was just a moment. He remembered that he could sense his equipment, and it was all, he thought, back in his room. Relaxing his mind, he felt that sense, the familiar directional draw that always took him to his belongings.
But he felt another sense as well; in fact, it was quite specifically that other sense, the sense that had told him Lauren was approaching. Without hesitation, he spun on his heels and headed in the direction of that feeling. From the angle, it was down, and as he moved, the angle changed little, so it was down and some distance.
He took the elevator down a level at a time until he felt like he was on the same floor. Then he wound through unfamiliar hallways, turning one way and another, trying to make his way to the source of the feeling. At one point, he came to what he realized was a service bulkhead, a wall that was key to the structure and separated sections for some distance, but he made his way around this and was soon homing in again on what he was tempted to call the signal. Another turn, and it seemed to be nearly straight ahead; another couple hundred yards, and it was slightly off to his right. Coming to a door, he examined it. Maintenance area, it said. Derek had his credentials and his access keys; this was someplace he would be expected to go. He opened the door, found the lights, and called out, "Lauren? Are you in here?"
But the person sitting on the floor was not Lauren. He was a black man, a soldier from the look of him. Lauren was not here.
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 #128: Character Gatherings. 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: