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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 161: Kondor 96
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Lauren floated with her eyes closed for some time; she was gripping Kondor's sleeve with one hand and Derek's with the other. Kondor decided it was as good a time as any to check weapons, and so dug out bullets to refill his clip. It was certainly pleasant to have them again; he hoped he would be close enough to his suitcase, now back on the habitat, to recover the rest of his gear wherever they next went. Lauren had mentioned that Raeph knew they were out here, but she clearly didn't mean he knew they were afloat in a magic bubble in space. He will have thought they died in the explosion.
His guns now fully loaded, there was not much more to do. There was something morbid about trying to make small talk while waiting to die, even if you were certain death was not the end—and he realized that he was not absolutely certain of that. Although he didn't agree with the mythical imagery, Lauren was correct that one of these times might be the last. It could all end tonight; it could go on for millennia. He could not be completely sure that there would be a tomorrow, whatever his experience up to now.
At one point, Lauren opened her eyes and asked Derek to point in the direction of his dropped darts. "I can't feel them out there, so they'll be more difficult to find," she said. "But if I can follow the line you give me, I might be able to see them in my mind, and get hold of them from there." They were at this for quite some time, and Kondor realized what a foolish effort it was–but it was their effort, and he couldn't think of anything better for them to do with the time.
Eventually she announced that she had found it, or at any rate found something like it about where she thought it should be. Perhaps it wasn't such a foolish effort after all–although he doubted now whether she could draw it across all that distance through space.
"When the bubble bursts," Kondor said, as the thought occurred to him, "don't try to hold your breath. I don't know what it's going to feel like, but it will be far worse if your lungs are pressurized. Blow the air out as quickly as you can."
Lauren still had her eyes closed; he had another thought.
"Do you want something for that leg? It must be terrible. I can give you something to numb the pain a bit."
"That's very thoughtful Joe. It doesn't," she winced visibly, "it doesn't hurt as much floating out here."
"Let me know if you change your mind." It wasn't the answer he wanted, but he knew her well enough not to press it. She would suspect something. He turned to Derek.
"Are you all right, kid?"
"Um...yeah, yeah, I think so. Mostly tired, I think. Lauren took all the blows. Believe me, if one of those things had bit me, I think everyone would know it."
"Just making sure." He supposed that was so.
They sat in silence for quite some time.
Lauren winced again. "Sure I can't give you something?" Kondor asked.
"Well–well, yes, maybe something. Derek, your darts are headed this direction; I'm not sure how far they are, but they're," and she fell silent. Kondor had uncovered her wrist and given her a shot.
"She'll sleep now, hopefully until it's over. Death by vacuum may be one of the worst ways to go; she won't feel it. What about you?"
Derek looked at him for a moment. "No, I'm O.K., really. As I told Lauren, it hurt a lot, and then I was fine. I can go through it."
Kondor smiled. The kid was tough. "O.K., then, that's how we'll do it. It shouldn't be too much longer."
Perhaps those words were prophetic; even as he said them, he felt his ears pop. They were losing pressure. He blew the air out of his lungs, felt as if his body were freezing and boiling at the same instant, and blacked out. It was over.
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 #148: Characters Succeed. 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: