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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 65: Kondor 112
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Kondor listened as Slade explained. Shella looked paler than usual, and very worried. Apparently the concept of a hearing sounded worse to her than it might be.
“What’s section five of the war code?” Kondor asked when Slade mentioned it.
“I really have no idea. I thought I probably shouldn’t ask, because the general said it as if it was something everyone would know. But then, he also said that there were no charges, and that it was investigative, which means I have no idea at all what it’s about.”
Kondor nodded. “Well, it might be something every white would know, but I have some advantage--they won’t expect me to know their rules and protocols. I’ll be treating patients tonight; I can ask the medical staff. If it’s something everyone knows, they’ll know, and if not we’re no worse off for having asked.”
Slade nodded. “Yeah, it might be good to know in advance. But I think I’m going to turn in early--I don’t want to be groggy at this, whatever it is.”
“Don’t worry. I intend to be there as well, so I’ll call it an early night tonight. But that means I have to get moving.”
He slipped out of the tent, but paused at the door.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “The worst they can do is kill us all, and frankly we’re not doing much in this world as it is.”
“Somehow,” Slade replied, “I think they can do worse than kill us. We’ve been killed before, you know. It hasn’t been all that bad.”
Kondor smiled, and let the flap drop behind him as he headed for the medical section. Hopefully there wouldn’t be any really serious new cases, and he could check on the recuperating patients and get out early.
The new antibiotic wasn’t as good as Kondor would have liked, but it was working and it was something that the doctors could produce in the field. They also had a mild analgesic to give for pain, a natural salicylate. If he died tonight, he would have made a significant difference to their medical practice. They were still far behind their black counterparts in this world, but they would save lives.
As he and the chief surgeon happened to meet over the same patient, Kondor figured this was a good time to ask. After commenting mutually on the patient’s condition, he said, “I’m told that Lord Slade is supposed to be present tomorrow morning for some kind of investigation under section five of the war code. I’m not familiar with your legal system--any idea what that is?”
It obviously was not good. The surgeon got quiet quite abruptly, and shook his head.
“The War Code,” he said, and Kondor could hear the capitalization in his voice, “is a set of regulations that become law in all combat areas. They are supposed to keep the military safe. Section Five,” and again the capitalization could be heard, “deals with espionage.”
Kondor raised an eyebrow. “Do you even have espionage? I mean, it doesn’t seem as if either side could have infiltrators--you wouldn’t trust a black man to be your spy even if a black man would be willing to do that, which I think is terribly unlikely, but a white man couldn’t possibly blend into the black population in any disguise; and the same would be true in reverse.”
“That’s true. Section Five is usually about captured blacks found alone in our territory, and it supports interrogations designed to determine what information they may have passed to their military. I’m not sure how it could apply to Lord Slade, unless it’s about whether he is responsible for--for your spying efforts.”
This obviously made the surgeon uncomfortable. Kondor thought to defuse that.
“My spying efforts?” He laughed just enough to bring a smile to the man’s face, and the man laughed with him.
“Yes, it is rather absurd, when you think of it. I’m sure you’re eager to rush back to the south and report on all our recent advances in medicine.”
“Yes, along with the names of all the white soldiers whose lives I’ve saved. So I guess it’s a mystery, and I’ll find out in the morning. Speaking of which, if I’m going to get breakfast and be at a nine o’clock panel, I’d better get some sleep. I’ve,” he counted on his fingers, recalling them in his mind, “three more patients to see before I can do that. Thanks for the info.”
He visited three more beds, all occupants recuperating nicely. Then he ambled out of the pavilion back toward his own tent, not wanting to appear hurried.
Slade was awake, and Kondor told him what he knew. It made no more sense between them than it did to the surgeon--“But at least we know what it’s about,” Slade said. “That’s something.”
Kondor was still wondering what it was about when he finally fell asleep. In his dream, General Vargas and Colonel Mlambo were sitting in the conference room at the bunker, questioning him about why he was there, and he had no answers.
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 #243: Verser Redirects. 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: