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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 43: Kondor 106
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Kondor wondered only for a moment whether he had any chance to fight them all; there were probably a dozen. The muskets would only fire once, and then they would be limited to bayonet use until they could reload; if he caught them off guard, his M-16 could at least wound all of them before they could react. The odds of catching all twelve men off guard seemed very slim.
Before these thoughts were complete in his mind, they were moot. Slade had come through the fog and pushed one of the rifled barrels aside to enter the circle.
"I'm sorry gentlemen," he said; "this man is my prisoner. I'd be happy to bring him along to discuss it with your commander, but I must insist that you allow me to handle him."
Kondor recognized the skepticism on the face of the man who answered. "Who are you?"
"If you must know," Slade said, "I am Sir Robert Elvis Slade, Lord of Slade Manor, and friend and ally of the Caliph of the West Wind."
It was difficult to tell what the soldiers thought of this explanation he had given, but they weren't shooting yet.
"Is it your custom, Sir Robert, to permit prisoners to carry weapons?"
"Is it your custom--I'm sorry, who are you?"
There was something authoritative in the way Slade asked this question; he spoke as if he were in charge. Surprisingly, the men responded as if they were wrong to doubt this.
"Sergeant Calvin Calloway, sir."
"Is it your custom, Sergeant Calvin Calloway, to challenge the decisions of your superiors?"
"No, sir. I beg your pardon, sir. It's just--" the man was flustered at this point. "Sir, I don't understand why this shade is carrying weapons if he is your prisoner."
"Sergeant, are you aware that the shades have better weapons than we have?"
"Yes, sir; we're all aware of that sir."
"Did it occur to you that they must have people who design those weapons?"
This seemed to puzzle the soldier. "No, sir--I mean, yes sir, they must; I'd just never thought about it before."
"Of course not. It's not your job to think of such things. However, if we could capture some of their weapons designers, have them bring some of their prototypes, and learn how to make weapons comparable to those used by the shades, we could win this war, do you think?"
"Well, sir, I was of the understanding that we could win this war anyway; but yes, sir, I can see that having better weapons would help."
"This man, sergeant, is one of their best and brightest scientists. I've persuaded him that it would be in his best interest to come look at our weapons, bring some of his own technology, and help us even the sides a bit. He knows that if anything happens to us, the same will happen to everyone he holds dear in this world. Thus I am having him carry the equipment."
Kondor had to suppress a laugh at this point. Since Slade and Shella were in fact everyone he held dear in this world, it was certainly true that what happened to them would happen to them.
"I also permitted him to carry weapons with which he was more comfortable, in case he had to defend us from his own people at some point, or he was accosted by someone while we were otherwise occupied."
The sergeant had the look of someone who is not quite satisfied that he understands, but doesn't dare ask any further questions.
"Now," Slade continued, "if you'd care to escort us to camp, we're a bit uncertain of our directions in the fog, and everyone has moved since we left on this dangerous mission. From there, we can get ourselves oriented and get our man somewhere where he can do us some good."
"Yes, sir," the sergeant said. "Sir, you keep speaking of your team. How many are with you?"
"Just my wife," he said. "She's a remarkably resourceful woman. I'm not at all surprised that you didn't notice her, as she's quite good at being unnoticed when she chooses. Shella?"
"Yes, m'lord?" She emerged from the fog on the other side.
"I believe these people are going to provide us with accommodations this evening; if you're ready, we'll follow them."
"Of course, m'lord. Doctor Kondor, I trust you can manage your equipment the rest of the way without another rest break?"
Kondor was suddenly impressed with how quick on the uptake Shella was.
"I'm sure I can find the strength," he said. "I know what's at stake."
"Then we'll follow you, sergeant," Slade said. "Lead on."
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 #235: Versers Infiltrate. 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: