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Stories from the Verse
Re Verse All
Chapter 3: Beam 56
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As he ate the packaged food and beverages his wife, the red-headed witch Sophia, pulled from their ant-like robotic food cart, the white-haired James Donald Beam was assessing their situation. The fact that they were all alive and unharmed after being killed in a major fight with some powerful opponents was not a surprise at this point, as he had come to expect this of what he had recently learned to call the verser life. So, too, the fact that they were now in an entirely different world, the deserts and wildernesses of the fantasy Arabia in which they were fighting left behind. The questions were more about what this world was, and why it was as it appeared.
They were in a large cave, but one that had been outfitted with technology of at least what Beam would have called a modern level. The lights which he had noticed dimly illuminating the cave had brightened significantly as his companions had awakened, as if responding to their presence and activity. He was noticing other points. There were ramps around the outer walls, and doors--not open caves, but actual physical doors--slightly recessed into the cave walls at what to his eye at this point were random points along the ramps but which he admitted to himself might have a pattern he had not yet recognized. This room was built for a purpose. There were also larger doors here on the floor level that were presently closed, which he took to be the exits.
Turbirb’durpa, or Bob for short, was having difficulty. He was an alien mentalist of some sort, but it seemed that they were again in a world in which he could not levitate himself or mentally lift the Pyronics 2000 weapon he was carrying, or even communicate his thoughts to them. That meant he was struggling with speech, unless Bron could make his mind reading magic trick work here. Beam had some reason to hope that would work, because Sophia had already used her light spell to go through their crates of food before the internal lights had brightened. Bron was admittedly not much of a wizard, but that wasn’t really what he was--he was a blacksmith, a burly fighter from the same medieval world in which Beam had met and married Sophia, who learned a bit of magic from an uncle and wasn’t afraid to try to invent new spells. Of course, if Bob heard hostile thoughts in the area, he was able to shout, “Duck”--sort of.
Finishing his meager meal, Beam rose and walked toward one of the larger doors he assumed were exits. They appeared to be made of metal, or possibly of plastic made to look like metal, and had no visible handles. However, on the wall as he approached he spotted a plate that looked very like the sort of buttons that opened doors for handicapped people. He wondered whether the people who lived here, or who had lived here, were all handicapped (or was he supposed to call them “differently abled” or some other stupid politically correct supposedly less offensive label?) or whether they were just all lazy. Examining the door more intently, he spotted what he took to be motion sensors above it, and concluded that somewhere there was a switch to set the door, probably for normal open, normal closed, sensor open, and maybe locked.
He made no effort to open the door; he was not yet interested enough in what was outside, because he was still working on what was inside. His eye had fallen on a spot on the wall that was not stone, and which had some kind of platform in front of it--not a platform, exactly, because it wasn’t raised, but more like a mat or a different floor surface of some kind. He stepped over and stood on the mat, and was not entirely surprised that the section of the wall which was not stone suddenly lit as a display screen.
What did surprise him was that the display was in English.
It was a touch screen. He hated touch screens. However, he was pleased to see that one of the options was “Keyboard”, so he touched that and a panel below the screen opened, a standard QWERTY keyboard emerging.
“Now all we need is a comfortable stool,” he commented to no one, but decided that this particular terminal was not intended for long-term use but for quick tasks.
This was an important find, and he would return to it; for the moment, though, he was more concerned about what might be behind all the smaller doors around the central room. They had some exploring to do.
“Bob,” he said, knowing that he didn’t actually have to say anything because the alien mentalist always heard everything he was thinking anyway, “stay with the gear, and shout if anyone or anything comes. Everyone else, leave the heavy stuff here and come with me.”
Setting down his backpack and duffel next to the food cart, he headed for the base of the nearest ramp.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with five other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #354: Versers Reorienting. 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: