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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 102: Beam 28
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Beam opened his eyes in darkness. It wasn’t total darkness; someone had turned off the lights in the room, but there was a slit of marbled glass in the door admitting light from the hall.
He never slept very long nor very soundly without a lot of alcohol in his blood, so he guessed it had been three or at most four hours. In the dim light he surveyed the scene. Sophia had found a compromise, pushing one of the other beds adjacent to his and sleeping on it; her arm rested next to him, and he had to admit she was rather pretty when she was sleeping. Bron was across the room snoring. Bob was standing in a corner, seemingly dormant and leaning against the two walls.
He guessed Dawn must be outside the door, and thought he should check on her. Shifting himself, he climbed over the foot of the bed, stepping between his gear, and walked quietly to the door.
By the time he had it open, Dawn was already giving him her blank stare and lowering one of the pistols. Her reactions were incredible, he again noted.
“Everything quiet?” he asked.
“There is movement in the building, sir,” she replied. “It is mechanical. It sounds like a crawler of some sort.”
He forgot that Dawn did not extrapolate, but gave literal answers to his questions.
“What is a crawler?”
“A mechanoid using at least three and frequently six or more appendages for mobility, sir.”
“What do they do?”
“Some carry cargo, some carry passengers, some perform repairs or maintenance, some are weaponized. They serve different functions according to programming and equipment, sir.”
It occurred to him that a mechanical crawler that carried cargo might be something they could use.
“You don’t know what this one does?”
“No, sir. Insufficient information at this time, sir.”
He took out his cigarettes, and started to remove one from the pack, then hesitated.
“Do they smell smoke?”
“Not usually, sir. Fire suppression crawlers would do so, but it is an unusual function, sir.”
He nodded, and lit the cigarette. Taking a long draw, he held it for a moment, letting it pull the oxygen out of his blood, then released it and drew in a cleansing breath. He remembered that there was little point in trying to have a conversation with Dawn. Whatever she was, she was not built for social interaction. That’s probably one reason why he had taken to having Bron around. Sometimes you just wanted to talk with someone, and Bron was good at that.
Finishing the cigarette, he crushed it under his shoe. He was startled by the sound of Dawn’s pistols firing, and looked first at her, then in the direction she was shooting.
There had been probably eight or nine shots, and a good thirty yards up the hall was some kind of machine, about the size of a microwave oven but with four jointed erector-set legs and several other protrusions. Beam guessed that it must be dangerous; Dawn’s tactical decisions were generally good. Even now she was scanning, as if she expected there to be another. He let her do her job. Then when she did what passed for relaxing, he said, “So, what was it?”
“What is an infiltrator?” He remembered to phrase it as a question.
“A mechanoid designed to seek and destroy biologicals inside a facility by finding access through small entries such as ventilation and sewage lines.”
“So, this one has weapons?”
“It did, sir.”
Well, better to have destroyed the weapons than to have been destroyed by them, he mused.
“Good job, Dawn. Do you need a break?”
I didn’t think so, Beam thought, but only smiled. He should have thought to look for coffee in that food locker; well, fruit juice would suffice for the moment. It also appeared that this building was not so entirely safe as he had thought. He was going to have to anticipate potential trouble.
For the moment, let the others rest. Once everyone awakens, it will be time to move, to look for weapons and ammunition, and figure out where to go next.
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 #310: Versers Mobilize. 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: