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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 126: Beam 38
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 125: Hastings 171
The meeting could have gone better. The problem was that Beam couldn’t focus on anything. He kept picturing Sophia spread on the table, and then realizing that Bob could read his thoughts, and worrying that he didn’t know whether Bob would understand not to share them with the others. In trying to think of something else, his mind went to breakfast, the barely-edible egg-like substance laced with something that he might have thought was sausage if he had persuaded himself it was meat, and that unsettled his stomach.
From his perspective, the point of the meeting was to find a direction, a reason to leave the relative safety of the bunker into the obviously more dangerous outside world. He thought it obviously more dangerous, since in the couple of hours they were outside they faced two deadly attackers, while in the nearly a day that they were inside they had only faced one, although he thought at least one of his friends would have argued that the sample size was too small to draw any conclusions. The feeling was that he didn’t want to be cooped up in this unfamiliar building with these people, and although he couldn’t do without the people he could escape the building if they came with him. The fact was that there was no reason to leave, no known place to go, and every reason to stay here. As long as they were here, they could tap the bunker’s food and weapons supplies; once they left they would be limited to what they could carry. He wanted to say, the heck with reason, we’re going; instead he said, O.K., we’ll stay here.
However, he did say that if they were staying they were going to have to explore the entire bunker, get a clear idea of everything that was here. Thus they spent most of the day opening doors, exploring nooks and crannies.
In this, Sophia was ecstatic to discover that her light spell still worked. It had been something of a habitual, almost instinctual, action, that she looked into a dark place, raised her hand, said the words, and created a beam of light. It apparently so surprised her that it had worked that she wound up flashing it around and shining it in Beam’s eyes—not damaging, but certainly preventing him from seeing much else.
“Remember that you can do that,” he said, “and try shining it in the eyes or video sensors of the next monster we face.”
She nodded, but was bouncing with a sort of schoolgirl giddiness. Over the next few hours she wandered off, and Beam saw her trying several other spells when he happened to spot her, but whether she found any others that worked she did not say.
They found kitchens with better food stocks than the field rations they had packed for themselves, and Sophia said she would take over the cooking for herself, Beam, and Bron. Beam had to show her how the electric stoves and ovens worked, and decided that the microwave was just too complicated for someone whose previous technological ability reached about the level of the water wheel. He also introduced her to the use of the dishwasher and the garbage disposal. He decided, though, that he would have to walk her through the first few meals. The food in the kitchen pantries was not exactly fresh, but there was a lot of deep-frozen meat, cartons of frozen egg and frozen milk, frozen vegetables and fruits, frozen juice concentrates, plus sealed containers of such staples as flour, sugar, coffee, tea, rice, beans, and instant potato. In all Beam expected that they may have been right to choose to stay, at least as far as their diets were concerned. This food wouldn’t travel well, but it would certainly make for better meals while they were here.
The medical unit was little more than a first aid station, and none of the drugs had familiar names. Beam was not one to experiment with drugs without some advance notion of what they might do, and none of his companions were even as knowledgeable in the field as he. The bandages might be useful, he thought; that, at least, was something he could use.
They had already taken the best rooms in the house. A rough survey of the other space suggested to him that fully manned the bunker must have housed about four to five hundred people.
They found secured hatches to the topside area, which had to be opened manually something like airlocks on a ship or submarine. One of these had been blasted open, which apparently was how the infiltrator had gotten into the building. Beam thought there was probably a way to order some machine in the building to repair the damage, but was not at all certain how to do that and had at least some concern that if he did the machine would also fix the door they used to get outside. His brief look at the commander’s computer had been unrevealing, other than to let him know that finding passwords in an unknown language was not a simple task, and probably not worth the effort if the computer was then going to give him information in that same unknown language.
That upper area had armored shutters over windows that permitted those inside to open them for firing on approaching enemies. There were also a few pieces of floor-mounted artillery positioned for firing through these. He worried exactly what sort of enemy might have necessitated those guns, and hoped he wouldn’t find out any time soon.
There was a workshop, and Beam was tempted to take a few tools; however, his pack and duffel were both quite full, and he wasn’t about to sacrifice cigarettes for them. He considered whether tools might be worth more than the gems he had packed, but even though those gems weren’t of any value here, at least as far as he was aware, they probably would have value in the future, and he decided to keep the gems.
Overall, by the end of the day they had a much clearer idea of the place in which they were staying. They also had something much closer to a decent meal, although Beam did most of the cooking (he never really worked well with another cook in the kitchen, but made an effort to show her how everything worked). Eventually they retired to their own sleeping locations and called it a night.
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 #316: A Gather World. 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: