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Stories from the Verse
Versers Versus Versers
Chapter 76: Kondor 167
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 75: Brown 194
Zeke took a long pull from his canteen and found a rock suitable for a seat. Kondor pulled his suitcase over and sat on that, waiting for the explanation.
“Well, a lot of it hinges on something probably pretty stupid--but not all of it. I figured that of all the versers I know, they either come from a world like one a little in the future of mine, or they are traveling with another verser. The alien and the girl didn’t come from any world anything like mine, that I could tell. The redhead and the strong guy, well, they were human, but they--their clothes were wrong. Now, that’s not saying much. Bob and Lauren and Derek all come from your world, and wear clothes that don’t look the part much of the time. But that guy--Beam, did he say was his name?--he was wearing clothes not much different from what I would wear at home. Plus, Slade knew him, so he apparently came from your world, or maybe a world like yours. I figured, he has to be a verser himself, and probably someone else in this group is following him.”
Kondor nodded. “Something else?”
“Yeah, something else. He seemed, I don’ know, kind of useless. The girl, she was quite a fighter. The alien was using mental powers of some sort, and the redhead was clearly a sorceress. The strong guy looked like he could hold his own in a fight. I might have taken the white-haired guy for a wizard, but he didn’t dress like a wizard, and mostly he watched, occasionally taking shots with that pistol. They didn’t need him for anything, so why was he there? The best answer seemed to be that at least some of them were there with him. So I guessed he was the guy who brought at least some of the others with him, and if one of the others didn’t protect him he was an easy target. The girl was busy with Bob, the redhead didn’t seem to be a serious combat threat, so I figured if I could make the alien think I was coming for it, it would defend itself and leave the white-haired guy unprotected.”
“And it worked,” Kondor said.
“Yeah, and better than I expected. I thought one, maybe two, of the others would go with him. I didn’t really expect that I could take out the entire crew with one kill.”
Again Kondor nodded. “Well, it was good thinking, and good work.”
“So, what do we do now?”
“Not sure.” Kondor shrugged. “Something’s bothering me, though.”
“Oh? What’s that?”
“Something he said before they attacked. Something about completing his assigned part of the mission.”
“And the problem?”
“What’s the mission? And what are the other parts?”
The two sat silently for a few minutes, pondering. Zeke broke the silence. “What if,” he said, “they were using this meeting as a decoy?”
“A decoy?” Kondor considered the notion. “They would like to have eliminated us, but it would be sufficient if they could distract us long enough for someone else to do something else. But what would that be?”
“Well, we’ve assumed that this eastern mountains guy wants to expand his territory. That probably means that having gotten us away from the castles, he’s planning to attack one of them. The question is, which one?”
“Well, it doesn’t do us much good. We’re quite a walk from any of the castles, and didn’t bring horses.”
“One problem at a time. First, we figure out where they’re attacking, then we figure out what to do about it.”
“O.K., well, there’s Scheherazade’s place in the north, the Caliphate itself in the middle, and Vashti’s father’s place in the south. Anywhere else, he’d either have to cross through one of those territories or go the long way around, and he’d have trouble holding non-contiguous territory.”
“Right, and he’s probably not attacking Schehera-what’s it, unless he thinks he can force her to marry him.”
“Not to be excluded as a possibility, and also consider that the river is less of an impediment upstream than it is downstream.”
Zeke nodded. “O.K., so it might be the north. Attacking the center has advantages, but it’s probably the strongest castle, and can probably call on aid from all the others fairly quickly. That leaves the south, and other than that the river is widest there it’s probably the easiest target--and they know it, because they had a guy checking it when we were there.”
Kondor considered it for a moment, and agreed that Zeke’s logic was good. “So,” he said, “we’re pretty sure we know the plan. I don’t see what we can do about it.”
“No?” Zeke shook his head. “For a guy as smart as you, you don’t think about things all the time, do you?”
“What did I miss?”
“Missus Hastings taught us a whole bunch of tricks. I’d say the first thing we do is confirm our suspicions. We use our clairvoyance to find the castles, and work out from them. One of us should start with the southern one, because we’re pretty sure that’s the one being attacked, but probably we should check the Caliph’s place, too, in case we’re wrong, or in case the eastern guy is ahead of us and planning two attacks so neither can help the other.”
“I doubt the eastern Amir can field enough of an army to attack two sites at once.”
“You’re probably right, but we should check.”
“Right. All right, your idea, you pick a castle.”
“Well, Cap’n, I think it’ll be easier for me to find the southern one, so I’ll do that and let you do the Caliph’s.”
They agreed, and silently fell to their remote sight, trying to survey the land around the distant fortresses in search of invading armies.
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: