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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 73: Brown 131
Table of Contents
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There was a brief stop in a place called Prague in a country called Czechoslovakia; he didn’t think the country existed in his world, but might have at some point in the past, possibly as recently as when he was born. He was asked to deplane and wait in the international section of the airport, where he was pleasantly surprised to learn that the very short list of available drinks he could purchase there included Coke®. They said it was a refueling stop but that the pilot had requested that a British maintenance team check something on one of the engines. It occurred to Derek that this might be a ruse to pass information back to London, but that apparently also occurred to the Czechoslovakians, as there were probably more security guards around the airplane than there were technicians. He later learned that indeed information had been passed, picked up by the co-pilot along with weather updates and fuel receipts, and that the engine issue had been a distraction to move some of the security people onto the tarmac while the pass was made. No one had mentioned it because he did not need to know, and in retrospect he was glad he did not know at the time, partly because it might have made him nervous and partly because his interest in watching as it happened might have alerted security to their oversight.
As soon as he landed in Bucharest he attempted to buy another Coke® but was told they only had Pepsi®. He did not think much of this at the time, but over the next few days he found that Pepsi® was available everywhere, but you could not obtain Coke®. He asked someone, and was told that this was because it was a communist country, and there was no competition between brands at the retail level. It was ironic, his informant suggested, that companies like Coca-cola® and Pepsi-cola® competed for the national contract to provide their product in the country, that what the government does not permit internally they are forced to accept internationally.
As they were processing his paperwork at the embassy, his guide attempted to chat about his schools. Derek recognized this as a thinly-veiled effort to confirm his identity, and he avoided it mostly by feigning a combination of jet lag with a disinterest in being in diplomatic service. He did not say it outright, but gave the impression that this was his father’s idea and he would rather be back in England doing something entirely different which he was not interested in discussing at that moment. In his own mind, to be released when needed, Kyler Bryant wanted to be a video game designer, the path to wealth and fame in the world he foresaw, and being stuck in Eastern Europe had as its sole advantage that it might give him ideas for a game. This aspect of his cover would also explain some of his odd equipment, particularly the computer components he had in his tool kit.
He hooked into the building’s computer network—there was no wireless connection because it would be difficult to secure, but there was an internal line. He avoided doing anything significant, supposing that security would be watching him for at least a few days until they were satisfied that he was not a threat. Eventually he would want to tap into whatever security there was here, to learn what they already knew, but first he wanted to drop below the radar.
Besides, he was not at all certain how to begin.
He remembered reading somewhere someone’s theory that everyone gets promoted until he is stuck in a job he can’t do. The logic of it was that if you do a job well, you get promoted, and then when you reach a place where you can’t do the job well you no longer get promoted, so that’s where you stay. He wondered whether he’d just reached the job he couldn’t do.
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: