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Stories from the Verse
Versers Versus Versers
Chapter 47: Hastings 179
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Previous chapter: Chapter 46: Brown 187
Lauren had just sat down for breakfast when Shella called her. Although she probably could have managed to communicate with Shella while eating, it was obvious that people would be greeting her, and it would be very like trying to talk to one person on a phone while others in the room were asking you questions, but that the people in the room couldn’t possibly understand that she was on the phone. She took her plate with her and stepped out of the room into a quiet nook off the main hall.
Yes, Shella? she responded to the telepathic call.
Lord Slade is concerned about this emissary. He suspects that he might be a spy, but isn’t sure what he wants. He wants you and Joe and Zeke to keep a close eye on him, see if you can figure it out.
A spy, she thought. Well, it’s Bob’s job to be suspicious here, and she should respect that.
I’ll tell the others, she sent.
By the time she returned to the dining hall, the emissary had entered and was seated alongside the Amir. Lauren was unsure of the protocols, but thought she should not impose on them unless invited, and instead sat some distance from them. She tried to listen to what they were saying, but it wasn’t English. She considered tapping into the speech center of one of the people in the conversation so she could follow the language, but decided instead to eat her breakfast. She looked around and spotted Joe and Zeke seated together, then extended her telepathy to reach Joe.
Message from Shella, we need to meet privately after breakfast, bring Zeke, my room.
Right, Joe replied. I’ll tell him.
She noticed that Joe didn’t say anything to Zeke for a moment, but Zeke nodded, so she guessed that they were practicing their telepathy--at least for transmitting secrets of this sort. She finished eating, cleaned her hands, and returned to her room.
The duo arrived shortly after she did. “So, what’s this about?” Joe asked.
“Bob thinks it likely the emissary is a spy,” she said.
Joe nodded. “I had been contemplating that possibility myself,” he said. “After all, the Caliph had some reason to think that the eastern Amir was supporting the bandits, and when those other versers shot Derek they retreated to that castle, and suddenly there is an ambassador visiting from that castle, and tell me that’s not suspicious. The cover story is superb, though, so you’d need some fairly strong evidence even to suggest such a possibility to the Amir.”
“Right,” Lauren said. “I don’t know that we need to involve the Amir at this point--not unless we decide that our spy is an assassin or thief or something. Our job from Bob is to figure out why he’s really here, what it is he wants to know.”
Zeke shrugged. “It won’t be easy, ma’am,” he said. “I mean, it will be quite natural for him to tour the castle, and he’ll be asking about the Amir’s domain and stuff. There’s not much he wouldn’t be interested in, really, and all that quite natural.”
“Right,” Joe said, “but we can read his mind, and that might help.”
Zeke looked a bit sheepish. “Hadn’t thought of that,” he said. “I guess that covert ops stuff has helped you think like a spy.”
“Sometimes,” Joe answered. “Or maybe it’s the other way around--since I can think like a spy, the covert ops stuff comes naturally to me.”
“Well, whatever it is,” Lauren said, “try to figure out what this guy really wants and why he’s really here. He might be completely harmless, but he might be something serious.”
They all nodded and split up to figure out how they would tackle their new problem.
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 #338: Verser Missteps. 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: