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Stories from the Verse
Versers Versus Versers
Chapter 44: Beam 51
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It had been a week.
O.K., maybe it hadn’t been a week. The impatience of the white-haired man made it feel like a month to him, but there had been several days during which the Amir said they should all think about options. He had thought. He kept coming back to the same problem, and now that finally they were meeting to discuss the situation he advanced it.
“We need information about this woman.”
“Woman?” Laban responded.
“This Lauren person, the one we know so little about.”
“Surely if she’s just a woman--”
“Oh, no, we don’t get to say ‘just a woman’. These people are all incredible. Any one of them could probably have persuaded people they were gods. Yet they all have this attitude about that woman that suggests she is Zeus to their Hades, Odin to their Loki, the best of them on every level. It would be like chatting with a bunch of DC superheroes and hearing them all talk about how great Superman is, and then trying to attack them without ever knowing anything more about Superman. She’s Superman. We’ve got to know more about her, and if possible we’ve got to find her kryptonite.”
Everyone at the table stared at him uncomprehendingly. What, no comic books? No, of course not.
“It doesn’t matter,” he continued. “The point is, they’ve got this wildcard in their deck, and we don’t know what it can do or how to stop it.”
“Wild,” Laban said, “card?”
“Yeah, a piece in the game whose powers are unknown until you hit them. Look, the point is we need to know about the woman.”
Everyone looked at each other. Laban shrugged. “So, how do we find out.”
Beam thought for a moment. He’d been staring at the problem for several days, but hadn’t really devised an answer. Well, it was time to devise one.
“We have to send a spy to the southern amirate where she’s staying. Easy enough to send condolences on the reported deaths of their daughter and son-in-law--that’s what we heard, right?” He didn’t wait for the affirming nods. “It has to be someone who knows nothing about our plans, because we have to assume at least one of them can hear thoughts. He has to know that we want information about the Amirate, and particularly about their guests--that shouldn’t be too suspicious, after all by now these people are becoming legends and it would be quite natural for others to want to know about them. The difficult part is making sure he learns about the woman without telling him to find out particularly about the woman, because we don’t want her to know we’re scoping her out. I can just see the spy thinking she doesn’t matter because she’s a woman, but I can also see them realizing he’s a spy because he’s thinking too much about finding out about her. So he has to be told to learn all he can about all of them, without making that the focus of his visit. Oh, he should probably take a gift, whatever’s appropriate for such a bereavement.”
The others were still staring somewhat blankly at each other. Beam could feel his temper rising. Why were they all such idiots?
“And this gets us?” Laban rather stupidly asked.
“It gets us,” Beam began rather loudly, then realized he was leaning forward in an aggressive posture. He stopped, bit back the ire, settled back in his seat, and tried again more calmly. “It gets us information about their superhero, so we know what we’re facing and how to fight it.”
“Ah,” Laban said, then after a pause, “Yes, I see. Do it,” he said, now indicating one of his military advisors. “Find someone good who doesn’t know what is happening, and brief him as suggested.
“Very good, your excellency,” the man responded, and as he rose, the Amir rose, and the meeting dissolved.
“That was very good thinking,” Laban said to Beam as everyone was headed for the same door. “It is no wonder the efriit think so highly of you.”
Inside Beam laughed. He had no idea why the efriit would think highly of him, having really only met them once, unless it had to do with the time he was that other person, the one the ring created. Either that, or Dicalus knew more about him than he supposed. Either way, it had been to his advantage, and he was grateful for it. He’d have to thank the spirit next time they met, assuming such an improbable meeting ever occurred.
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 #333: Uncertain Worlds. 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: