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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 27: Kondor 103
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The night was quiet; Kondor guessed that this was because the ghosts--he caught himself using the derogatory term in his thoughts, and corrected it--the whites didn't have the technology to light up the enemy positions, and the blacks didn't have the manpower at this location to go after them. A skeleton crew was watching the screens, which were using infrared and radar to track the battlefield, but all was still.
As he lay in the darkness of his own room, he wondered whether he had made the situation worse. He could have taken Slade out of that control room, back to their quarters, and let the whites succeed in their attack. The bunker was now that much better defended, as the commander was a bit more aware of the abilities of the enemy and less likely to fall for that particular ruse again. They had deprived the whites, the underdogs in this contest, of a potential victory, a boost to morale and possibly a strategic success the value of which Kondor was not in a position to guess. He had assumed it would be a good thing to help defend the place they were staying; now he was not so certain.
He also wasn't certain what Slade thought about all this. After all, had Kondor told Slade what was happening in this world, Slade probably would not have stayed to help. It would be very easy for Slade to blame him for that. It was very much his fault that those soldiers were prevented from accomplishing their mission; but it was so much worse that Slade had done it. In a very real sense, he had betrayed a friendship, allowing his friend to do something which he should have prevented.
He awoke when the breakfast tray arrived; he did not remember falling asleep. As he answered the knock on the door, an unfamiliar soldier waited with his food, and the Slades' on a cart.
"I'll take those over for you," he said; "Set mine back on the cart; I'm going over there in a moment anyway."
He didn't have a robe, but he tossed on clothes quickly and then knocked on Slade's door. "Breakfast has arrived," he called. "Are you folks decent?"
Slade opened the door in a moment. "Well, I'd say we're decent folks, but thanks for asking. Come on in."
Kondor pushed the cart through the door. "I wanted to say sorry," he began, "for yesterday. It was my fault; I put you in a position where you didn't know the facts, and you wouldn't have done that if you'd known."
"You give one of us too much credit, I think," Slade answered. "I knew this was a race war; you'd already told me that. I knew they didn't like me or trust me, and if I thought my assistance was going to change that it was a foolish notion I should not have entertained. I didn't have to tell them anything. At the moment, we're inside this bunker, and I don't think that if the enemy broke in they'd have been any kinder to me than to anyone else here, whatever color I am.
"Besides, we're still thinking of going out there, and we might want to come back, so it would be nice if they let us back inside, particularly as we can't repeat the trick that got us inside the first time."
Kondor nodded. He wasn't entirely satisfied that he was blameless in all this, but at least it didn't seem Slade was blaming him.
The thunder of gunfire interrupted his thoughts.
"It sounds like we're not leaving today, either," Slade said; "at least, they haven't stopped shooting enough that we can easily walk out of here."
"No, I'd say you're right about that. We had better figure out what we can do around here."
"This may sound silly, but are you any good with that mace?"
Kondor remembered the primitive weapon he still carried slung over his shoulder, a souvenir of a fatal battle he had fought several worlds before.
"Not at all; I think I used it twice, maybe three times. Why?"
"Oh, well, I was thinking that if they had a gym around here, which they probably do, it would be good to get in a bit of practice. Of course, I trained with the mace, back before I trained with the sword; I'm probably a bit rusty, but if you'd like I could try to show you a few things. You never know when that sort of thing would come in handy."
Kondor smiled. "I'd like that. Also, I've got to charge up my blaster, but once I do I'm going to see if there's a firing range around here. Care to join me?"
"Love to. Derek rigged up some sort of universally adaptive battery charger for mine, but I doubt they're the same system so it probably wouldn't work for yours; but I can certainly use the practice, if they'll permit it. It might help in unexpected ways."
"What are you thinking?" Kondor asked.
"Oh, you know that we ghosts aren't capable of thinking," Slade teased. "Call it more a speculation, that if they see us working together, they might start to question whether everything they've been taught is exactly true."
Slade had a point. It would be interesting to see just how the blacks reacted to the possibility that he might be better than they were, even if it was at simple things like combat. Their belief in their own superiority was not unassailable; once it was questioned, it would be difficult to maintain it.
"I'll see what I can discover right after breakfast."
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 #226: Versers Adapt. 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: