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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 55: Brown 169
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Previous chapter: Chapter 54: Hastings 151
As they sat around breakfast in the early dawn light, Bob said, “So, what do you think we should do?”
Derek raised his bleary eyes toward the voice, but Bob wasn’t looking at him, but at Joe. Turning toward Joe, he saw that Joe was thinking about it.
“Obviously we need good intel,” Joe said. “We need to know where they are. What surprises me is that neither Derek, airborne, nor Shella, with her viewer, saw any sign of the camp. In a world that doesn’t have airplanes or satellite imaging, you’d think that just about any camp would be visible from above.”
“We think, my lord,” Shella said, “that the Caliph has people who scry as I do. If so, the bandits may know this, and might attempt to hide their camp from observation.”
The puzzled look on Joe’s face suggested he wasn’t going to ask a question, but Bob apparently recognized it and answered. “There are mirrors in the tall observation towers. Our best guess is that they’re used for scrying objects spotted through the windows.”
“Which would be why,” Joe offered, “they knew we were coming before we arrived.”
“In that case,” Joe continued, “I would suggest we send two people ahead. One of them has to be a telepath, so he can contact us, and I’m afraid that means Derek.”
“Or me, my lord,” Shella said.
Joe nodded. “Yes, it was chauvinistic of me to exclude you. You’re not a fighter, but you’ve proved that you can move unnoticed when necessary. I apologize.”
“We can teach you,” Derek suggested. “You already know how to read minds, and telepathy isn’t that much more difficult.”
“Could you teach me?” Zeke asked.
Derek hesitated. “Probably,” he said. “I think, though, you should learn mind-reading first, and then telepathy.”
“I wouldn’t be very good at it,” Joe said.
“No, you wouldn’t,” Derek answered. “At least, you’d have to use it quite a bit to get good at it. But it makes some sense for you to learn it, and if it works that’s good, and if it doesn’t, well, you’re on your own.”
“So, how do I do it?” Joe said.
Derek recalled watching Lauren place the pattern for mind reading in Joe’s head decades before. He had never done it, but he had seen it done, and had done many other things with his mind since then. Thinking it through carefully, he extended his thoughts to contact Joe’s mind and sent the pattern. “Like this,” he said.
Joe’s eyebrows rose. “You’ve been learning.”
“Well, I needed some skills, and these worked where I was. You’ll have to try it.”
Suddenly Joe’s thoughts came into Derek’s head. Is it working?
Yes, it’s working.
“That wasn’t so hard.”
“Yeah, well, make sure you practice.”
“So we’ve got three telepaths and five of us total,” Joe said.
“You gonna teach me that mind reading thing?” Zeke asked.
“Probably,” Derek answered, “but right now let’s figure out what we’re doing.”
“Two people scout ahead,” Joe continued, “while three remain with the horses and wagons. The scouts try to follow the ridgeline and watch for any signs of a bandit camp, particularly sentries. If they find anything, or in any case if they’ve traveled some time or distance without finding anything, they call us and we move toward them to set a new camp. Periodically we trade out who the scouts are, probably doing three scouting missions a day. Anyway, that’s how I’d do it.”
Bob nodded. “Sounds good to me. Who goes first?”
“I will,” Derek said.
“N-no,” Slade said, “you’ve been doing everything. I think Shella and I will take the first run. We’ll check in from time to time. Joe, you’re in charge here. Shella will create another shelter just over there, so you’ve got two in case one drops. Any questions?”
There were none.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twelve other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #291: Versers in Action. 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: