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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 132: Brown 45
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Previous chapter: Chapter 131: Kondor 86
Raeph took the arrival of Kondor in stride, as Derek expected. Whatever skepticism he may have held, he hid it well, and was as warm in his welcome as he had been with Derek–and, in some ways perhaps, as clever.
"I'm Raeph Williams. Please join me for lunch."
"Glad to do so. I'm Joseph Wade Kondor, and I gather Derek has told you something of my situation."
"Well, yes, but I'd rather hear it from you, Mr. Kondor."
Kondor smiled. "Please, call me Joe. I arrived last night. I'm afraid I don't have a lot of control of where I find myself when I travel like this, but fortunately Derek sensed my presence and found me on your maintenance deck."
"Derek sensed you? I didn't sense anything, and there's nothing in the logs."
"Unless your systems are sensitive enough to pick up an increase in mass of a couple hundred kilograms or a change in pressure from an increase in volume amounting to perhaps two cubic meters, there wouldn't be anything to detect. We just materialize in the new universe. There might be some way of detecting our passage between universes, but it's beyond any technology I have yet seen. There is something in us, though, that we can sense in each other."
"So, where have you been before this?"
"Apart from home, I've been to," Kondor counted in his mind for a moment, "seven separate worlds–no, I've only been to six, but I was in one of them twice about eight hundred years apart. Only one of them was as advanced as this seems to be, and it may have fallen a bit short. How do you maintain consistent gravity? I was working on gravity systems in my last world, and the closest we could come was an array of projectors which fired in sequence creating a wave sensation across the deck."
"Micro-miniature projection systems. There are about a hundred individual projectors under you, each firing in a pattern that compensates for the decay of its neighbors."
"Very clever. You use some sort of etching system analogous to writing integrated circuits?"
"Yes, in a way. But of course these are etched a lot finer."
"Yes, I imagine so. I hope I can get a chance to see the process sometime. I earned a doctorate in the field, but that was in a world in which they were just developing the basic concepts."
"So, you're a physicist?"
"I am first a medical doctor and a soldier, but have made an effort to learn whatever I could whenever the opportunity presented itself. Kinetic and gravitic energy generators were the focus of my most recent studies, although I learned quite a bit about relativity and particle physics in the process."
"Derek has mentioned being in worlds where there were ghosts and other magical creatures."
"I don't believe in magic. I've seen a few things I could not explain, but have never resorted to the notion that they were magical. I have discovered that there are creatures in the multiverse who can use the power of their own minds to do things which we might think magic, but have only known two such people in all my travels, and both seemed unclear about how they actually did these things."
"Why are you here now?"
"I don't find that sort of question to have any real meaning. I have to be somewhere, and this is where I happen to be. Some people have the notion that they are sent wherever they are, that they are some sort of divine agents doing special work. They are deluding themselves. I was the victim of an accident that has made me a dimensional traveler, what is called a verser by those who share my fate, and it is mere accident that has brought me here."
"Ah, but it was mere accident that brought Derek here, too. Don't you think it beyond coincidence that we've never heard of anyone traveling from another universe, and within a few days and a few hundred yards of each other two such travelers arrive and announce themselves, both claiming not to have come here by intent?"
"There is something in my blood and my body, something that in my world was called scriff. It is that which carries me from universe to universe. No one understands it well. But there is some suggestion that scriff is attracted to scriff. It is entirely likely that I landed here because Derek was here already, a sort of magnetic or gravitic force drawing me to this universe and to this place and time in the universe. His scriff and mine were in the same universe at one time before, and we have each been in the same universe as someone else from our own world, although not as far as we know in the same universe with each other before now."
"That's an interesting theory. Why do you think this?"
"I know that it frequently happens that versers land in the same worlds together, and it also seems that the same versers land in the same worlds, even though we sometimes meet others who know of many others. But it's just a theory. It is just as possible that it has something to do with the universes themselves. It may be that right here right now there is a weakening in the integrity of your universe and people like us are falling into it. That, too, would explain a lot. But it is a more complicated explanation, as it requires two unrelated events to coincide."
"So, how long will you be here?"
"Until I die."
"That could be a long time. What prevents you from leaving sooner?"
"I've heard of people staying in the same world for decades. I think a dozen years or so is my record. But the way this travel works is that we move to another universe when we are killed. Also, we don't appear to age at all. You didn't think Derek was actually a twelve year old boy, did you?"
"No, I knew he was older than he looked. But you're quite a bit older than he is."
"I was first killed at twenty, and have been this old ever since. Usually I find something dangerous enough to do that I get killed before too many years pass, even if it's only tending the sick in a country in which civil strife makes it treasonous to do so."
As they talked, Derek ordered lunch for everyone, and began eating his own. It looked like it was going to be a long meal. Joe Kondor continued explaining things about the multiverse and the scriff–things Derek had heard before, from Lauren, but all with his peculiar slant to it. Any idea that God had brought them here for a reason was missing. Lauren's notion that he was supposed to learn something, do something, or get something seemed a bit silly when you saw it this way. Lauren had made a lot of sense, but Joe made a lot of sense, too.
The others ate while they talked, and as Derek was starting on his dessert, Raeph took a new direction. "So," he said, "what will you do while you're here?"
"That depends in many ways on you," Joe answered. "I would like to get a look at your gravity systems and compare them with what I've learned. Knowledge is one of the few things that has value in every universe. But I suspect in a world like this I could learn a lot about medicine that would move me forward in that field, and there are a lot of areas in which I have an interest but no background, so perhaps if there's a school here I'll try to improve my education a bit. Or is all of that done through the computers?
"We still have teachers and classrooms, if that's what you mean. Such live contact has value in many fields. But many people learn what they wish to from the computers."
"So, what will you do with me?"
"I," Raeph said, "will explain your presence to the appropriate authorities and see what they think."
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: