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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 11: Brown 101
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Previous chapter: Chapter 10: Slade 95
Derek looked around at his captors. There were half a dozen of them, clearly trained to capture people. He wondered for a moment whether they could capture sprites; what would they do if he went straight up? Probably shoot him, he thought, and even though he was small, they were undoubtedly good shots. Of course, he could try to take them out with his arrows; shooting knock-out needles at several guys with automatic weapons didn't sound like a clever plan. Besides, why should he fight these guys? Whatever they wanted, they were his ticket to civilization.
"So," he said, "what do you know about versers?"
"I'm afraid that's need to know," one said, apparently the commander. "Obviously, you know quite a bit about versers, and we've learned quite a bit ourselves--but we only know so much. We'll take you to meet C; he's the expert, and he'll explain things."
"So," Morach answered, "what do I call you?"
"You can call me sir," the commander said, "or I suppose you can call me hey, you, if you're more comfortable with that. As far as you're concerned, I don't have a name."
"Well, sir," Derek said, not wanting to take what he thought was the rude response, "I seem to have gotten myself stuck in this form, and that makes it particularly difficult for me to pack my things. If you'd be so kind as to get your men to help me break camp, I'm all yours. Should I hand over my weapons? I've only got the bow on me; the other stuff is in the tent, and I can't make much use of the laser rifle when I'm this size."
The commander looked at him for a moment. "Iguana? Python? Pack the man's things for him."
"Yes, sir," replied two of the men. The one was huge, not just from Derek's perspective, most of a foot taller than the commander and probably twice his weight, the sort of guy who would have done well as a professional wrestler, and who could always find work as a bouncer or bodyguard. He had thick red hair and a full beard. However, a glance at the other startled him.
"Joe?" he said. "Joe Kondor?"
The black soldier hid his surprise imperfectly.
"Well, Python, it appears you've got a double out there somewhere."
"We all have doubles," the one called Python said. "The only surprise is that this guy knows mine, but doesn't know any of yours."
Derek had forgotten about divergent selves. Lauren had met hers once, or one of them, but he never had, and neither had anyone else he knew. This was apparently Joe, but Joe in a different world.
Did this mean he was on earth, back home, somewhere near the beginning of the twenty-first century? It probably wasn't his earth, of course; but it was enough like his earth that people he knew might be alive here. Would they remember him?
Well, they wouldn't remember him if he looked like this, that was certain. He was going to have to figure out how to get back to being Derek Brown if he expected people to recognize him.
"Sir?" he said, talking to the commander. "As soon as it's convenient, I'm going to need some high energy foods, and a bright sunny place. Is that something you can arrange?"
"I'll send word. Gecko? Pass that request to Sea Turtle."
"Yes, sir," the man who had identified him as a verser replied, and Derek could see that he was carrying quite a bit of electronic equipment. Something there must be a scriff detector. Derek wondered how it worked, and how it happened that this version of earth had such a thing; but then, he knew that his world was experimenting with scriff, and he didn't know what they were doing with it, so it might well be that there were such things back home, too.
In a few minutes, his gear was packed--not at all neatly, but efficiently. The big one, Iguana, tossed the pack over one arm and grabbed the bicycle with the other hand, and the Joe Kondor double picked up the few loose bits that didn't fit in the pack, like the laser rifle.
"I do get this stuff back, right?"
"It's my understanding that it's not all that easy to keep it from you," the commander said, then he picked up a mic off Gecko's bandoleer. "Chameleon to Kimodo Dragon, ready for pickup, give coordinates."
A young voice came back. "Roger, Chameleon. Looks like I can pick up one click north, beach on the riverbank. Meet you there.”
"Well, everyone, you heard the man. Cobra on point, I'll take the rear. Gecko, see what you can do to help our guest."
Without another word, the team began moving through the forest, swiftly and purposefully.
As to the old stories that have long been here: