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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 146: Kondor 91
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Kondor found that having this new ability to read minds was actually fun; although he wasn't very good at it yet, he enjoyed finding out what the people around him were thinking. It reminded him of his surveillance gear, kicked up a level. He enjoyed being able to spy on people.
Somewhere underneath, it unnerved him. He was beginning to understand what Lauren meant when she said that the ability to do something wasn't the license to do it. Just knowing what people were thinking gave you great power, and it was very difficult not to use it.
His day was interrupted in the early afternoon. Lauren's thoughts came into his head.
Joe, get back to the apartment, she said. Something has come up; we need you.
He couldn't imagine what could be so urgent, but Lauren did not usually overreact to things. He wrapped up what he was doing as easily as he could, and excused himself.
Derek was already there.
"What's this about?" Kondor asked.
"It seems there's an emergency," Lauren said, "but I think Derek should explain it."
Derek took a deep breath, and had that look of someone who doesn't know quite where to begin a complicated story. Then he started.
"I was playing with the mind reading. It's silly, really–I noticed that Raeph looked distracted, and I thought he must be thinking about his solga break with Lauren, so I tuned into his thoughts. But he wasn't thinking about her at all. He was thinking about this problem, some spaceship that is headed straight for the station that isn't slowing down and isn't answering calls. They think it may be about to crash into us, but no one seems able to do anything about it.
"They tried to call it; they tried to board it. It has automatic defenses in full operation, and they can't get past them. Attacks on the ship have been deflected or avoided. On top of that, it seems to be set on automatic guidance–it keeps compensating for every effort to veer it off course. They haven't told anyone, because they can't efficiently evacuate the entire complex of stations and they don't want to start a general panic. But they're running out of options."
"You got this from reading his mind?" Kondor asked. "I am impressed."
"No, I got the first bit from reading his mind. The rest I got by hacking into the command logs in the computer."
"Obviously," Lauren said, "this is why we're here. Get ready to go."
Kondor didn't like the part about why he was here, but that wasn't the point he attacked. "What do you expect we can do?" he said.
"Joe," she answered, "you are the best person in at least a dozen worlds to lead an operation of this sort. I can think of no one I would be more confident to follow. There is probably no one who can get into those computer control systems over there better than Derek. And me?" She paused. "I am probably the only person in this universe who might be able to get us onto that ship.
"Besides," she added, as she turned and started walking toward her gear, "whatever happens, we are the only people guaranteed to come out alive somewhere. If we spend our lives saving a few million others, it has cost us some inconvenience, some comfort, maybe some expectations or dreams, but in the end a lot less than any one of the people on this station pays if we fail."
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 #142: Characters Unite. 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: