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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 129: Kondor 85
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Kondor had just managed to pull himself out of that strange dream. It had something to do with huge machines humming and whirring and threatening to blast cities. His body ached from the explosion, but he was, as he expected, unharmed. His gear this time would be some distance from him, back where his room was. He didn't even have a blaster; he didn't even have a flashlight to use in this darkness. He hoped that he wasn't going to have to fight his way to his gear, because he was not at all prepared for that.
Then the lights abruptly came on, and a boy started calling out for Lauren. As Kondor looked toward him, he also felt him–a verser boy, a child infected by scriff traveling the multiverse. Life was hard sometimes. It was difficult for him to accept that he had lost his family forever; how much worse would it be for a child?
"I'm sorry," the boy said, "I thought you were someone else."
"I heard. You were looking for Lauren."
"Yes, but obviously you're not her."
"No. But I know a Lauren, and it might be the same person. Her name was Lauren Hastings, she was about thirty-five, mother of three, fancied herself a wizard, had some fabulous mental powers, and was as faithful to her friends as you could want. I saw her leap from a cliff to attack a dinosaur once, so that another friend and I could rescue someone else that mattered to her. Would it be that Lauren?"
The boy appeared stunned. "Um–yeah, that sounds like her. I think she may have told me that story once."
Kondor stood up. "I'm Joe Kondor. Since you apparently already know your way around, maybe you can fill me in–starting with who you are, as I don't think she ever mentioned you."
"No, probably not. I just came from the world where I met her, although she'd been gone for some time before that. I'm Derek Brown. I got here about a week ago, and after some trouble with the police I managed to convince them that I really was an inter-dimensional traveler of some sort, and they gave me a job in their central computer division."
"You work in computers?"
"I've spent the last decade learning quite a bit about them. Hacked into probably hundreds of systems left over in a post-nuclear earth, and got familiar with stuff that no one ever imagined might be possible in my time. Oh, I'm from two thousand, if that helps."
"Yeah, I'm from about then myself." Even for Kondor, who had himself seen ageless decades, it was strange to realize that the child in front of him could by now be hundreds of years old, as one counts experience. "Well, having someone on the inside will make a difference. You don't know how many stories I've been through trying to explain myself to people. So, where are we?"
"It's a sort of space station," Derek explained, "but not one of these little way stations they use to talk about on earth. This thing is like an orbiting city, and it's surrounded by orbiting suburbs, scores of smaller stations that are as big as towns. Obviously we're several hundred years in the future, but I don't think we're talking millennia–they don't seem to have teleporters or time travel or anything like that, although they do seem to get around the galaxy quickly enough. Also, there's no evidence that Earth ever existed here. The people are human enough, probably genetically the same in the essentials, but when they did a DNA on me they discovered several genes which didn't match anything in their records at all. Come on, get your things, and I'll get you back to my place for tonight. Tomorrow we'll see about introducing you and getting you a job."
"My things–I hope this won't be a problem. I was in a lab, watching someone's insane idea for an artillery-sized kinetic blaster blow up, and my gear was some distance away in my quarters."
"Well, it's a big station. Which way is it?"
Kondor pointed. "It's funny," he said, "that we can feel each other, and we can feel our equipment, but we can't feel each other's equipment."
"I never thought of that," Derek said, "but you're right. Anyway, there's a lot of station in that direction, so maybe we'll be lucky. If it's outside, I'm not sure what we do. I've got computer maintenance credentials, so we should be able to get most places it might be—and this seems to be mostly a maintenance level, so probably it's not going to be in someone's quarters or something. I'll follow you."
They wandered the halls for about half an hour, again trying to make the best straight line of the irregular grid, but eventually they found all of Kondor's gear in a boiler room which seemed to cycle the engine coolant into a heating plant to service adjacent levels with hot water. Likely, Kondor suggested, it also helped heat the station, as the fluid system would be better able to carry heat the long distances necessary to service distant areas.
Derek's rooms were comfortable, adequate for the sort of single life to which Kondor was accustomed. Derek gave him the bed, and tossed a sleeping bag on the floor, a memento of his journeys, he said, but there was a grim look on his face so Kondor didn't ask for the story.
Obviously it was the end of the day for Derek; it was still the middle of the day for Kondor, and he remembered that he hadn't eaten. He checked for a kitchen, but there wasn't anything like that he could see. He thought of leaving the room and looking for something out there (they had passed quite a few places that might have been restaurants), but at this point he did not even know what people used for money, or whether gold and emeralds had any value here (he was wearing considerably less gold around the lab than he had been when he first arrived; most of it was in his suitcase). Also, he wasn't certain whether it was better to wander the corridors armed or unarmed. Some places were dangerous if you didn't know the safe ways, and others had rules about guns. Even where there weren't any such rules, he remembered, carrying weapons could get you into trouble sometimes. In the end, he pulled out some of his rations, carefully gathered and packed months ago when he was searching for the Vorgo, and made a snack of these. They had been proof against wilderness and desolation, but here in the midst of what seemed civilization and plentitude they were all he had.
Once he had eaten, he convinced himself to get some sleep. He would have to be on Derek's schedule in the morning, he suspected, and now was the time to get turned around.
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: