keeps this site and its author alive.
Stories from the Verse
Versers Versus Versers
Chapter 24: Beam 47
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 23: Kondor 158
Beam could see nothing, but knew that if Dawn said she hit the target, she did. He could not think of a time when she missed a target, but he would certainly excuse her if she had failed to hit a target he couldn’t even see. That apparently was not a problem.
Feel for it, he told himself. If you relax, you can feel it. He was never really relaxed. Right now he could blame his agitation on the discovery that someone was spying on them while they were trying to spy on the Amirate, but honestly he was always agitated. Even when he smoked the cigarettes to calm himself, it was really swapping one agitation for another. He tried to relax.
He could sense an object falling--not falling quite as fast as he expected, but falling to the west. He could also sense another to the north, the one that had originally been to the west. If he’d brought the maps he could confirm it, but he was fairly certain that put the object in the capital city of the Caliphate. The fact that one was here and one there suggested there were originally two, but when they’re close enough together they feel like one.
The object to the west reached ground level, and then he could no longer sense it. Logically, then, it was gone. “At least,” he said aloud, “that one won’t be reporting what he saw.”
Sky mind tell.
“What?” As usual, Bob’s communication was less than crystal clear.
Sky mind tell.
“I’m sorry, who tells what to whom?”
Mind in the sky send thoughts to someone.
“But you don’t know who. Do you know what it told them?
Shot. Plunging. Half dozen versers, one not human, approaching Vashti home from east.
“What in the--what are versers?”
“I’d guess that’s what we are,” Bron suggested.
“How do you figure?”
“We know it was spying on us, and we know that whatever it was it was like us. There are five of us, plus the two mechanoids, one of us clearly not human, and we’re heading west toward a feudal city where someone is likely to be the landowner of all this. I don’t know whether Vashti is his name, but there’s a good chance Vashti is a member of the household.”
Beam nodded. It made sense.
“So, then, we’re versers. I don’t know what that means, but apparently others like us use that label, so we might as well use it, too.”
“Versers,” Sophia said, and shrugged.
“Versers,” Bron repeated, as if confirming the word to himself. “Sounds like something you’d call a bard.”
Beam nodded and shrugged. “Well, we know that information about us has been sent to someone somewhere, but we don’t know everything we wanted to learn. Let’s watch for a bit, get a bite to eat, and then decide how to proceed. Sophia? What have we got?”
The witch began looking through boxes and produced some packets of juice and some prepared snack foods, and she, Beam, and Bron began to eat.
“Sorry that it’s been mostly sheep and goat brains lately,” he said to Bob. “Hopefully we’ll get in a good fight that will produce a few decent human brains for you, but not just this minute.” They continued to eat in silence, Beam periodically sweeping the sky with his eyes despite his confidence that Dawn was on watch and Bob was listening to all nearby thoughts.
“Sir,” Dawn said.
“There’s another verser.”
He relaxed, and sure enough there was now a presence to the west. “Are you sure it’s not the same one?”
“No, sir, but it is at a slightly higher angle, probably from across the river nearer the city, perhaps in the city.”
He could still feel the presence to the north. “Bob, what happened to the one Dawn shot?”
Brain stopped. O.K., it must have died, or left the world, whatever it was versers did. Maybe versers versed. That could be. Anyway, this one was not that one.
That meant that either another happened to have arrived at this moment, or more likely whoever that one had contacted had traveled from the capital city of the Caliphate to the small city of the Amirate--and in considerably less than an hour.
“How could someone travel from the capital city in the north to this town, in under an hour, and without any of us sensing his movement along the road?”
“Teleportation,” Sophia answered immediately.
“You mean, vanishing from one place and appearing in another?”
“Well, there are several ways to do it. I’m afraid I’ve never learned any of them; they’re particularly difficult, and I never had the need to take the risk of attempting it.”
“So probably whoever it is, he can teleport quite a distance. Also, we’re having a number problem here. Originally there was one, toward the west. Then there were two, and we killed one, and now there are again two. I’m thinking that we only sense two because when they’re close together we can’t tell them apart. That means there could be more than two--there might be a lot more than two, and we don’t know what we’re up against.
“I’m thinking it’s time to retreat to Laban’s place, and look for some better intel. We need information from inside the Caliph’s palace, like how many of these versers he’s got, and what they can do. Any objections?”
There never were, but asking made him feel like he was being democratic about it. They quickly set their course for the place they were for the present calling home.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with ten other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #327: Verser Crises. 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: