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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 103: Slade 123
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Slade did not know whether you could actually hear that whistling sound in the real world--that is, in his original world, which he still tended to think of as the real one at unguarded moments--but he had heard it in enough movies to know what it was. “Incoming!” he shouted. “Run. For those trees,” he added, and pointed to a stand of large trees that had somehow managed to avoid being blown out of existence so far. He ran, but kept an eye on Shella and kept her in front of him.
The cannonball, or whatever it was, hit the ground not too far from them before they reached their cover, but it was enough seconds before a second slug landed that they were a dozen or so yards inside with their backs to one of the largest trunks in the copse.
“You all right?” he asked.
“Yes, m’lord,” she replied, catching her breath. “Why do they make their missiles sing like that?”
“I don’t think it’s intentional. They’re moving so fast the air whistles around them as they pass.”
It was obvious that this didn’t have any meaning for Shella.
“We’ll have to get you some lessons in science somewhere,” he said. “There’s a lot of tech stuff in the multiverse, and it helps to understand something about how it all works.”
“Yes, m’lord, if you think so.”
There were a few more bursts as the area not far from them continued to be pelted from somewhere. Slade wasn’t particularly worried about who was shooting, but it occurred to him that the slope of the ground here apparently obscured their little dell sufficiently that it wasn’t targeted.
“We might as well grab some lunch while we’ve stopped. This space seems to be safe, or as safe as any.”
“But there are catapult loads striking right over there.”
“Yes, and they don’t ever seem to make it over here, so either that’s really odd luck, or there’s some reason why they can’t or won’t shoot here. What have we got?”
It was their third day traveling the border between the two warring sides, trying to find an easy way to get into the mountains ahead. Going was slow because of the combat. Slade wondered whether he could get behind the white lines and travel there, but then he might have to explain them to a lot more people. He was working on that explanation, but didn’t have it all yet. Meanwhile, clean water was in short supply and rations were getting a bit thin. Still, he thought it couldn’t be much farther--it was only a few inches on the map, although he remembered that he was never a Boy Scout and didn’t really know that much about maps.
“The hard rolls are still fresh inside,” Shella answered, “and we have some of the dried fruit.”
“I did not plan the meals part of our trek very well, and it’s not really surprising that there isn’t a lot of game out here in the battle zone. We may have to make our way to the white lines and hope we can manage to explain ourselves adequately.”
“It shouldn’t be too difficult, m’lord. After all, they aren’t going to think we’re with the enemy.”
“No, I guess that’s true. Little do they know, huh?”
“Well, we aren’t.”
“No, but we aren’t exactly on their side, either, are we.” He smiled at the irony. “But they won’t even guess that. All right, let’s make a meal of this, and then veer south and hope we can reach the white lines without getting shot.”
By the time they had finished their meager repast, the area had calmed. Still, Slade led them up over the rise and out of the wood at a different point, surveying what he could from the top of the rise and deciding on a direction which would, he hoped, bring them to people who would at least not kill them outright.
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 #257: Verser Relationships. 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: