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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 63: Slade 110
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Things continued on this order for most of a month. Every several days Slade would talk to the commander about his eagerness to get his scientist back to weapons design, and then the commander would tell him what benefits they had gotten from having such a doctor available to teach them these advanced medical techniques, and Slade would, reluctantly, relent and say he would give it a bit longer. He did not want to appear too happy with the situation, but he did not want to push enough to wind up having to leave. He talked with Joe periodically about when to bring up leaving, so that it would correspond with the introduction of new valuable ideas that the surgeons would certainly want to learn, so that there was less chance of the ghosts deciding it was as good a time as any for them to go.
Thus he was ready when he saw General Vargas coming toward him one afternoon.
“Coming to ask me to extend our visit?” Slade teased.
“Actually, Sir Robert, it’s a bit more difficult this time.”
That didn’t sound good. “Oh?”
“One of my officers has made some,” he hesitated, then continued with emphasis, “some ridiculous allegations concerning your prisoner, and you. I find them ludicrous; however, he is an officer of rank and good family, and so I must open an investigation. Of course, I cannot compel you to cooperate--“
“Of course I’ll cooperate. What has the man suggested? Has my prisoner been stealing medical supplies, or romancing the nurses or something?”
The general smiled, apparently seeing humor in that, but his eyes betrayed a different feeling. “I wish it were so simple as that. I will need you and your prisoner to appear before an official panel of inquiry tomorrow morning. We will hold it at nine, in the mess.”
“All right. When do I learn the charges?”
“No charges have been formally declared, sir. This is investigative, under section five of the war code.”
“I see. Will my wife be involved?”
The general seemed genuinely surprised. “She may of course attend if she wishes, but no one is suggesting that she might be guilty of anything.”
Which, Slade realized, meant that someone was suggesting that he and Joe were. He also realized that he knew very little about military panels of inquiry, or any kind of trial, in this world, and he’d better not ask more questions before he betrayed that ignorance. “Thank you, General, for letting me know. We will be at the mess tomorrow after breakfast.”
It was not until he had eaten his dinner that he saw Joe, coming from the surgical tent to the mess tent to get some of his own food. The ghosts no longer had the same fear or uncertainty around him, but they still gave him space, and apart from greetings from those who had friends saved by his skill none spoke to him other than the medical staff. It was easy to get near him without being crowded.
“We need to talk, sooner rather than later,” Slade said.
“Oh? What’s up?”
“Not here. It’s a bit too public, I think, because I don’t know enough to know who we can trust with this.”
“O.K. I’m taking a break from surgery to get some dinner; can I meet you in your tent when I finish?”
“Yeah, that works. I should tell Shella, too, so you can both hear at once.”
“You’ve got me curious,” Joe said. “Should I skip dinner?”
“No. Nothing is going to happen until morning, but we’ll want to be ready in the morning.”
“Ready for what?”
“That’s the point. I’m not entirely sure, but I’ll tell you what I know when you get there.”
Joe nodded, and filled his cup with whatever the hot liquid was that was being served as beverage. Slade had not tasted it. It looked like hot cider, but the smell was closer to sweaty socks. Apparently the men were surviving it, though.
“I don’t drink alcohol as a rule,” Joe said. “I don’t care for the taste, and I don’t like that feeling that I can’t think entirely clearly. Here, though, I’d feel safer if I knew the beverages contained a disinfectant. All right, I’ll catch up with you right after dinner.”
“Right. See you then.” Suddenly he felt less comfortable around the soldiers, as he wondered who suspected him of what. Besides, Shella would want to know that Joe was coming to talk. It seemed silly to him, given that they lived in a tent, but he knew she would want to straighten up a bit for company. He left the mess area.
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: