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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 3: Beam 1
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 2: Kondor 137
His consciousness slowly slipping back into his aching skull, the light-skinned, white-haired man finally sat up on the cushioned surface with a groan, thinking for a moment he may have passed out in the booth of a bar somewhere and subsequently suffered a very bad dream. The darkness of the room was bathed in a bright red light from somewhere overhead, exposing the darkened blurry outlines of objects; one, two, three, and the crimson luminescence gave way to darkness again for a short time, then returned again. He fumbled for his glasses, intuitively reaching toward the feeling that was in the direction they were without much thought on the matter. He slipped them over the bridge of his nose, and then surveyed his surroundings again in the slowly flashing light. He was in a great enclosed amphitheatre by his best estimation; the large, cushioned steel benches like the one he was seated on surrounded a large open area in the center. The space was easily large enough to be used for any sporting event he could think of. Silent speakers lined the walls, and darkened fluorescent lights hung almost flush with the domed ceiling. The red lights continued to flash ominously. There was no life in sight.
He pulled himself to his feet, then quickly returned to his seat as the unsteady feeling of disequilibrium set in.
“Settle down,” the quinquagenarian mumbled to himself as he pulled his half pack of cigarettes from his pocket. After deliberating for a moment, he returned them to his pocket with a heavy sigh. No coffee, and less than two packs of cigarettes, he thought to himself bitterly. He tried again to stand, and, this time steadying himself against the cool metal of the bench in front of him, managed to throw his red duffel bag over his shoulder, his backpack over the other, and start walking. Something didn’t feel entirely right about his surroundings, but then, nothing had seemed entirely right for the last twelve hours. “Those aliens must have dropped me back home. I hope.” A churning feeling gripped his stomach, but he convinced himself it was from not drinking enough this morning. He was still in shock after the events of the last few hours; he had seen the octagonal moon, and flicked a cigarette onto one of the singing foam balls. He ran out of time to think now because he had reached the doorway at one end of the amphitheater. It appeared to be electronically operated, but was hanging ajar. He slipped through the opening into a sparse hallway, the red lights still flashing. He saw a control panel that appeared to be used to operate the door had been pried off of the wall, then watched as the light faded again. Cursing to himself, he pulled a flashlight from his bag, flicked it on easily, and shone it into the wall cavity.
"Hardwired, looks like," he muttered to himself as he examined the internal components. As certain as he was, he felt a growing sense of unease; the distant sound of bullets being fired brought him back to reality, and he immediately switched off his light and began walking quickly away from the sounds of gunfire. He rounded a corner heading away from the amphitheater, and proceeded down the new hallway at an even faster pace. The metal walls that surrounded him were dotted with opened and closed doors and more sparsely with computer terminals with shattered monitors and stripped components. The floor beneath his feet had some give to it, as if it were lined with padding. A sudden grating noise from deep in a ventilation shaft above him caused him to shiver and duck through one of the open doors into another adjoining hallway.
He whirled around, shocked because he had been sure he had heard someone say something directly behind him.
Please, help me. The voice came from behind again, so the man spun again, nearly falling down. He felt sure there was something off about his movements, and wondered if he was still feeling the effects of the stun gun that giant preying mantis shot him with.
“Where are you?” He hardly dared to speak louder than a whisper, but something about the voice calling out to him, whether it was the desperation or the innocence he could hear in it, coupled along with everything he had seen over the course of the last several minutes led him to feel more security about his situation. He looked around as he waited for a response. Concerned that he was hearing things, he slowly proceeded down the hallway. He stepped out into a T-junction, where he could continue to the right or the left.
Watch out! The desperate voice called a warning, and the man crouched down and scrambled backward as a gunshot rang out; the bullet ricocheted off the wall beside him. He quickly drew the very heavy and somewhat functional but ultimately decorative claymore from its protective scabbard, then waited around the corner, his breath coming in shallow bursts as he waited for his attacker to come closer. His adrenaline made the seconds feel like minutes, and at the last moment he swung hard. The gun went off again as the blunt blade arced into the wrist of the armed man, dressed in a tight-fitting leotard with what appeared to be insignia; bones cracked audibly, and the gun dropped to the floor.
The white-haired man switched the claymore to his left hand and picked up the handgun with his right, turning the barrel toward the security guard. “Why did you shoot at me?” The guard, clearly a human of eastern descent, made an unintelligible response; it certainly wasn’t English, but it may or may not have been a language from Earth. Regardless, the gray eyed man decided, “Wrong answer,” and shot the guard point blank in the head, killing him before returning his claymore to its sheath, then frisking the body to find a freshly-opened box of bullets for the revolver, which he pocketed.
He turned to walk away down the left hallway.
No, no, come this way, the voice called to him from behind. Come closer, come closer.
“I don’t have much other choice, do I?” He spoke aloud again, feeling a bit more comfortable now that he had a firearm in his hand. He turned fully around and proceeded down the hallway, following the cues from the voice that didn’t seem to get any nearer.
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 #275: Versers Reorient. 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: