keeps this site and its author alive.
Stories from the Verse
Versers Versus Versers
Chapter 68: Slade 165
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 67: Kondor 165
Shella teleported them to the wadi. It was agreed that she would be the more reliable for this task, Lauren never having either visited or viewed the site. She used the rock at the top of the path which Slade had once commented was a good landmark for travelers afoot looking for the camp, and it proved to be as good a landmark for travelers through the twilight, or hyperspace, or whatever it was they traveled.
They arrived two days early--less than forty-eight hours, in the late afternoon, but sufficiently early to reduce the possibility of a waiting ambush, and sufficiently far from the actual rendezvous site to do the same. There was some water in the wadi, but it was receding, and so there was ample dry ground. Once they had walked down to what remained of the camp, by now stripped clean by scavengers human and otherwise, they took their time setting up their own. They would be using the comfort bubbles--even Zeke now knew how to create one, and was eager to practice even though his didn’t last as long--so it wasn’t a matter of pitching tents but of choosing locations. Slade wanted them to be overlooking the lower part of the camp but still close to it, separated from each other but within easy view, and somewhat concealed but having clear vantage. The toughest one to place was Joe, because he couldn’t learn the magic necessary for the comfort bubble but needed to be in his own spot. He wound up pitching his tent, with Lauren casting a comfort bubble over it.
Slade set watches, day and night. He believed that the other versers would arrive early, and was actually pleased that they were not already here. The biggest challenge was devising an alert system that wouldn’t alert the enemy--he didn’t want to think of them as enemies, but often found himself struggling for a better word. If indeed one of them was listening to thoughts, they would have to raise their mental defenses early in contact, and even though by now they all had telepathic abilities they would be unable to use these privately. He wondered whether there were telepathic private lines or scrambled messages or something, but decided that if there were Lauren didn’t know about them.
It was late the next afternoon that Slade heard the call of the wolf, Joe’s suggestion for a signal. He froze in place and listened to be sure, but it was repeated. In a flash he was scrambling for his position.
He sat at the bottom of the hill and cast his insignificancy spell; Shella was next to him. Although he had wondered whether the insignificancy made the mind blank redundant, Lauren had suggested that redundancy was good, because if either worked against the mind reader he was protected, and would only be revealed if both failed.
He realized that Lauren was trying to do several skills at once, and hoped that they were working.
A group entered the clearing, coming down the inside of the wadi alongside the water. Slade tried to assess them while maintaining the difficult mind blank skill. There was a white-haired man, human in modern clothing, who seemed to be giving directions, accompanied by a red-haired woman in medieval peasant garb who stayed close to his side in what appeared more an affectionate and possessive way than a protective way. The protective look went to the girl, who was also heavily armed--the first two had weapons of some sort, but the small one looked about as much like a walking arsenal as someone her size could manage. They were accompanied by a heavy-set man with a rifle or shotgun whose garb marked him as probably medieval in origin. Floating in the air above and a bit behind was an ugly creature who looked like he was pretty ugly before having been deformed by attacks on his face. They were also accompanied by two ant-like machines carrying cargo, one of them obviously weapons.
Slade rose, stepped forward into the clearing, and dropped his insignificancy spell.
“Greetings. I’m Sir Robert Elvis Lord Slade. I believe you’re looking for me.”
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 #343: Worlds Explode. 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: