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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 128: Kondor 131
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“You said,” Zeke began, “that you’ve never met a verser who wasn’t friendly. Just how many versers have you met?”
“Three,” Kondor replied, then thought again. “Well, I suppose it depends on how you count it. There’s Lauren Hastings, Derek Brown, and Bob Slade. I met Lauren and Bob in what I call the parakeet world--the locals, what Lauren calls the ‘indigs’, were all very like birds, or more like children in colorful feathery bird suits. Then I met Lauren again in a place called TerraNova, a space colony, and I also met Derek there. Then I met Bob again, but he had gotten married and brought his new wife with him. So I’m thinking she must also be a verser, and that makes four.”
“So you’ve met four versers, but you’ve met two of them twice.”
Zeke seemed to ponder this for a moment.
“Isn’t it rather long odds, cap’n, that you would meet the same dimensional travelers twice, having only met four all together?”
“Absolutely. But Lauren says it has something to do with our scriff being attuned to each other. We all seem to have originated from the same version of earth within a very few years of each other, and while it seems likely that there would be other versers from other universes and other times, if we’re somehow connected to each other that would explain why we keep running into each other out here.”
“But you don’t know that there are more than the five of you--six, now, if I’m included.”
“It depends on what you mean by ‘know’. I’ve only met those four, plus you, but Lauren reported having met a few others who spoke about many others. So I have sufficient evidence to believe that there are at least dozens of versers, and logically given the immensity of the multiverse there must be at least thousands, possibly billions--but again, given the immensity of the multiverse it is not surprising that we don’t run into each other more often. It’s a bit like the problem of extraterrestrial life: if you’ve established that there’s no intelligent life on any other planet in the solar system, you’re faced with an immense universe in which the accident that created life on earth is bound to have happened somewhere else, but the distances are so extreme we’ll never know it.”
“So we just take it on faith that there must be life out there, because that’s what our logic tells us?”
“Something like that, although I wouldn’t call it ‘faith’.”
“That’s fair. What would you call it?”
“I would call it ‘probable to the point of certainty’.”
“Well, I don’t see quite how that differs from faith, but apparently it does, so there’s no point arguing it. When do you think he’ll arrive?”
“He? Oh, the other verser?” Kondor did not wait for Zeke to nod. “Probably tomorrow, or more likely before sunrise if they’ve realized it’s better to travel at night. Judging from the degree of variance in their path, they’re not more than a few hours away on foot, I’d guess--although I’ve never tried to estimate something like this before, and without a computer the geometry is a bit tricky to determine.”
“Right. You don’t have those. A Babbage Engine? It seems likely our worlds were parallel long enough for that to be common history. It’s a machine that does calculations. Babbage’s was something on the order of a complex abacus, I’d guess (I’ve never seen one), but by the time I was alive you could carry one in a briefcase that used microscopic electronic switches. I actually have one--in fact, two--but they’re dedicated text readers, not programmable for mathematics.”
“I know you said you never lie if you don’t have to, but I still find it difficult to believe you sometimes.”
“That’s fine. I’m probably not right about everything I think I know, and there’s a lot I don’t know, so you don’t have to believe me just because I say something I think is true. I have been wrong before, and anyone who has been wrong before should be smart enough to realize that he might be wrong now, and just hasn’t discovered it and corrected himself.”
“I’ll remember that,” Zeke said, and stared out over the night sands in the direction of that feeling that someone was out there.
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 #269: Versers Arrive. 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: