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Stories from the Verse
Re Verse All
Chapter 6: Beam 57
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Reaching the first door up the ramp, the white-haired man examined what was evidently a touch screen beside it. There was a code of letters and numbers which he tentatively guessed was an identification, and below the word Vacant in boldly lit letters. Below that were the words Inspect, Refurbish, and Occupy. He touched the first of these, and the door opened to darkness.
“Lights,” he said, and heard a beep or chirp of some kind which encouraged him, so he continued “full.” The illumination rose smoothly but swiftly from none to quite bright, revealing what appeared to be a modern living room. He entered and quickly surveyed the room. There were several comfortable-looking chairs and a padded couch or sofa (he was never clear whether those were the same or different), something like a desk against one wall with a screen built into the wall above and a functional chair tucked beneath it, and a considerably larger screen on another wall opposite the seating. There were a number of other objects, small tables and what he took to be ottomans, shelves which might support books but more likely, he thought, decorative objects, and a few moveable lamps which were apparently independent of the lighting in the ceiling, probably intended for area lighting. There were also several doorways leading out. More significantly, the room did not look like a cave but like sheetrock or plaster or some similar modern surfacing, painted some pastel color which he couldn’t be certain whether it was a very pale yellow or a very pale tan or a slightly discolored white.
The largest doorway was more a squared arch and connected to what was obviously a dining room, similarly appointed with table and chairs, cabinets and a buffet along the walls, but no sign of tableware. Adjacent to this and connected by doorways to both rooms was a kitchen, modern with no appliances Beam couldn’t identify fairly readily. The refrigerator was off and empty, and the cabinets and closet were likewise bare.
“I’d say nobody’s home,” he quipped unnecessarily, just to break the silence. The word vacant on the touch screen had already told him this.
The remaining doorway opened to a hall off which were several rooms, each with a door. One was a full bathroom with a tub with shower and sliding doors, sink in a vanity, mirrored medicine cabinet, commode, towel racks, and a utility closet of some sort. There were several bedrooms of various sizes, three with one smaller bed each, one with bunk beds, and one which had a larger bed and a separate smaller but still full bathroom, shower without tub and smaller vanity and medicine cabinet. All had closets and computer terminals with chairs plus other furnishings. There was also a set of folding doors in the hall which at first Beam took for another closet, but which hid laundry facilities.
“Well, it seems we have found a residential apartment or condo,” he said. Sophia and Bron were staring at him as if he was speaking gibberish, but then, they probably didn’t have apartment buildings in their world. He explained, “It’s like a private home built into a larger building. I expect if we go up the ramp we’ll find similar apartments, although they might vary in size. We could live comfortably here, but I suppose we should have a look at the others before we make any decisions.”
There were a dozen in all, six on each side of the central cave, as predicted all different sizes with distinct layouts, none more or less furnished than the first, and none larger than the first, although there was another the same size. Beam returned everyone not to the main room but to the living room of the first apartment, where he sat on the sofa and leaned back, indicating to the others that they should make themselves comfortable.
“We seem to have landed,” he began, “in a convenient base for our group. I count about thirty bedrooms in twelve apartments each of which has its own kitchen. I can probably set them up to recognize us as occupants. The question really is how we want to do this. We obviously are going to claim the entire complex as ours, but we could do this in a lot of different ways. At one end, this apartment is large enough to house all of us, each with his own bedroom, although I would take the master bedroom with the bath for myself and Soph. Among the advantages of that, once we figure out how to get food and supplies we can cook and eat together--well, that’s an advantage for Bron, but not really for Bob or Dawn, who also don’t really need beds or even rooms, but--I’m digressing. The other extreme is that there are enough apartments here that we could each have one, and not use even half of them. That would mean we would have to figure out how to furnish several of them, but Bron could cook his own food to his liking, and we would be a lot less in each others’ way.
“So, what does anyone think?”
There was silence for a moment, and then Dawn broke it.
“Sir,” she began, “it would be tactically preferable to have all of us in a single apartment, as there would be a single door to guard, sir.”
Beam nodded. “Of course, there is the ventilation system, but the vents to the rooms are small enough that even you would have trouble getting through them--but we don’t yet know what kinds of dangers there might be here.”
“Sir, that is true, sir. Still, being together would permit us to respond more readily to unexpected incursions, sir.”
Again he nodded. “Anyone else?”
Bron said, “I have no objection to taking a room in the same apartment--is that what you call it?”--Beam nodded--“as the rest of you. If you want more privacy than that, I can take a different apartment, but I think Dawn is right about the advantages of staying a bit closer to each other.”
He looked at Sophia, who abruptly seemed to realize he was waiting for her to say something. Why did wives never have anything to say when you wanted to hear from them, and always wanted to talk about something when you didn’t? With a start she responded.
“I don’t much care. I’ll stay with you, whether everyone else is in the apartment or not.”
He nodded again. “Well, then,” he said, “it looks like this is our apartment. Sophie and I have the master bedroom, and since Bron is the only other person who will want a bed he gets the next choice.”
“I’ll take the room with the bunk beds,” he said. “It’s nearest to you, farthest from trouble, and the beds are interesting.”
“Sir,” Dawn said, “I will take the first room in the hall, as it is the best guard post, sir. However, I think I will usually be in this room,” indicating the living room which was the entrance to the apartment.
“Sounds good. Bob, you can have either of the other rooms, at least as a place for us to store that weapon.” He wondered whether being unable to levitate when he slept Bob would want to lie down, but it wasn’t something worth spending one of Bron’s pennies on to get the answer.
“The next step,” he said, “Is to figure out how to tell the system we live here. Thus far everything has looked pretty easy, so I’ll just have a seat over by that terminal and see what I can learn.”
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: