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Stories from the Verse
Versers Versus Versers
Chapter 58: Beam 52
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 57: Brown 190
The spy was finishing his report. He had given them an account of his several days at the southern amirate, and a few details about the versers. It had ended with him having an attack of some sort, and being healed, apparently, by the woman they called Lauren. Beam couldn’t help feeling as if the man was distracted by his presence and his companions--certainly Bob would distract anyone, and Dawn probably too, but it was more than that, more like the man thought Beam himself was someone special.
Well, he was, he recalled.
Laban thanked the man and excused him, then turned back to the advisors at the table. “Well,” he said, “what do we think?”
One of the others spoke. “It sounds, Excellency, as if the southern amirate could be taken easily enough. These visitors have some strange abilities, but nothing we could not defeat, particularly with the aid of the efriit.”
Beam couldn’t believe they were so stupid.
“Laban,” he said, “I think we’ve been sold a bill of goods.”
“I wouldn’t trust anything we were just told.”
“Do you think our spy is lying? That they turned him?”
“Oh, no, nothing so simple as that. I think that they attacked him, erased his memories, and replaced them with what they wanted us to believe.”
“You can do that?”
Beam looked at Bob; Bob thought to him, I cannot; it can be done.
“I have it on good authority that it can be done. Think about it. We send a spy; they expect us to send a spy, so they read him immediately. How do they handle it? They give him free run of the place, answer all his questions, make him feel as if they are letting him learn everything he wants to know. Then, on the morning he intends to come back and tell us everything, they use some mental or magical force to wipe his recent memories, then implant a new set. He awakens, is told he had a stroke, and then sent back to us with the fabricated report, fully believing it was his own experience. The question is, what is it they didn’t want us to know, and how do we find out? I think the answers are that we can’t find out. They’ve outmaneuvered us this time. The only advantage we have right now is that we know we can’t trust what he told us.”
The scribe who had been taking notes looked at the pages of information he had written during the briefing, dismay on his face.
“So what do you suggest we do?”
Beam looked at the ceiling, then at Bob, Dawn, Sophia, and Bron in turn, then turned back to the table.
“We think about it for a while. The fact that they’re hiding this information from us makes me a bit more nervous about what they might be able to do, but the fact that they can wipe a man’s mind and replace his memories with false ones should make us very careful. I don’t think we can send any more spies, at least, not where that woman is. She is very dangerous.”
Laban looked at Beam for a moment, then glanced around the rest of the group. “All right,” he said, “everyone think about what we can do next, and we’ll have another meeting in three days to discuss it. Any questions?”
“Yes,” one of the advisors said. “Should we go over the report from the emissary, and see if we can compile something that is opposite of what we were told?”
Beam shook his head more in frustration than in answer, but said, “No, they’re smarter than that. Some of that will be true--probably the stuff about the two men wearing the strange splotchy clothes with leggings and arm covers and carrying magic weapons, because we already learned that from our other source--but the trick will be that we aren’t being told everything and we don’t know what parts of what we are being told aren’t true.”
The advisor nodded.
“Excellent, then,” Laban said. “Three days from now.” His demeanor suggested the meeting had ended, and in frustration Beam rose and swiftly exited the room, his team seeming to hurry trying to catch up with him.
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 #339: Verser Tensions. 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: