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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 15: Brown 103
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 14: Slade 96
That night Derek slept on a plane, and by the next afternoon he was standing in an office in what seemed to be London, England, although apart from the clock he didn't recognize much of it. The man behind the desk, whom he was told was called C, had not yet looked up at him, but was making some notes on paper. Derek stood uncertainly in the space by the desk.
"You can sit, if you like," C said without looking up. Derek picked the most comfortable looking of three chairs, and settled into it. C continued his work for another minute before speaking again.
"There seems to be some confusion about your name," he said. "You've been listed as Theian Toreinu Morach, but then also as Derek Jacob Brown and as Ferris Hoffman. Do you prefer one of these names?"
He was feeling a bit uncomfortable, rather on the spot here. He wasn't certain why he was here, but that he was told by the reptile group that this man wanted to talk to him. He knew that this was because he was a verser, but that told him little. "Der," he started to say, then cleared his throat and continued, "Derek is fine. The others are something of a long story."
"Oh, I'm quite aware of how versers pick up names in their travels; it gets rather confusing eventually, but I'm happy to call you whatever you prefer, Derek. You should call me C."
"Yes, sir." He looked around.
"How," C started and stopped, as if uncertain whether to ask, then resumed as if he was now committed. "How old are you, Derek?"
"In what sense?" Derek asked.
"Any sense you like."
That was a fascinating question. How old was he?
"Well, sir, I've been alive for maybe fifty years, give or take a few, but I'd say I'm seventeen. That's what most people would guess, anyway."
"Remarkable. Well, it's no difference, really. You are a verser. Listen, Derek, I know a lot about what versers are, what makes them what they are. As you have already gathered, I can locate them--you--anywhere in the world, know where you are, when you arrive, and when you leave. I'm also the head of British Intelligence, and have established an intelligence cooperative with several countries, including the United States. The people who brought you to me work for the CIA, but one of their key jobs is bringing versers to meet me before they become too involved in this world.
"Versers are in many ways unique. You cannot die, and you know it; thus you are often willing to take risks most men won't take. In any event, it is almost impossible to know whether a man will risk his life for what he believes--but most versers have done it several times, and if you're as old as you say I would bet you've done it yourself, sometimes lost, and done it again."
Derek nodded; C continued.
"You also often have unusual abilities. Many of these don't work in this world, but I've known versers who could read minds, push things around a bit telekinetically, heal their own injuries, and other little things. They say the biases are low in psionics and magic, but I've never really understood what that means. Still, the report says you were able to do something I have not seen done before, changing size and flying, and it is reported that there was an advanced weapon among your gear?"
"Yes, sir; it's a laser blaster."
"So that counts for something. In short, Derek Jacob Brown, I consider versers to be very talented and therefore very dangerous, and I want you working for me."
"Working for you, sir? As a spy?"
"Yes; an agent, if you prefer, but it comes to the same thing. Versers are perfect field operatives. In addition to the points I've just made, you don't know anyone in this world, and no one knows you; even if you have a double, the odds are slim that you can be connected to him. If anything happens to you, my equipment will tell me exactly where you are, or where you were when you died; thanks to the combination of my sensors with the wonderful Global Satellite Positioning System I can track you to the nearest meter, anywhere in the world. Fame and fortune are not usually important to those of you who move from one universe to another, and I can promise you comfort and respect as long as you're working for me. You don't slow down with age, don't question your immortality, don't hesitate to do what must be done. You are ideal, men without a past who don't need to create a future.
"My offer is generous; it is a full government package and a top pay rate, housing, expenses, training, equipment, whatever you need. I am not accustomed to being refused. What's your answer?"
It was all rather boggling for Derek. He couldn't say he'd never imagined himself a spy; he had played those silly spy adventure video games, and seen a few spy movies, and so had the usual superspy daydreams of twelve year old boys. He had never taken the idea seriously.
"When do you have to know?"
"Today would be good." C had resumed studying something on his desk, and did not look up when he said this. "I suppose we could give you until tomorrow, if you'd like to stay in our guest quarters. I don't imagine you have any money, so you probably couldn't get a hotel anyway, and the London police don't take kindly to people without identification camping in Hyde Park. At your age, they'd probably haul you in and start running missing persons reports to find your parents."
That made sense; still, Derek couldn't help feeling that the real reason had nothing to do with courtesy. C didn't want a verser out there who wasn't working for him, and that included some kid whose best other hope for a job was delivering papers or flipping burgers. Really, when it came down to it, what sort of job could he get? He couldn't prove citizenship. He didn't have working papers, drivers license--he couldn't prove his age, or even his name, to anyone's satisfaction. He was being offered a job, something he could almost certainly do, which would pay very handsomely.
"Would I have to kill people?"
"Probably." C looked up. "But not the way I expect you mean. We wouldn't hand you a folder and say, go kill this man. Rather, we would tell you we needed certain information, or that something was happening and it had to be investigated, or that we'd uncovered a plot to do something that had to be prevented, and then we'd let you deal with it however seemed best to you. It would be your decision as to whether killing someone was necessary, and unless it's someone like the American Ambassador or a member of the House of Commons, there probably won't be any questions asked about it."
Derek nodded. He wasn't at all sure whether he'd have thought this a great job forty years ago when he was twelve, but at the moment it seemed like the best offer he was likely to get around here.
"O.K.," he said, "where do I sign?"
C smiled. "We'll get the paperwork together immediately."
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #218: Versers Resume. 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: