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Stories from the Verse
Re Verse All
Chapter 45: Beam 70
Table of Contents
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Beam pulled up the master map he had been creating on the computer, and studied it. Where did that body come from? Rats, well, rodents were ubiquitous. They could have come through the ventilation, or the waste disposal, or the drains, or just found a passage from the outside. People, though, had to live somewhere near enough to walk.
His map now had the broad outlines, that is, all the connecting halls, for several square miles. He had not filled in all the details of the apartments and distribution outlets and such, but had been working on them a bit at a time, outward from their own residence. It was possible that the person had lived in one of those, possibly alone, possibly with others, and he just hadnít gotten to that yet.
On the other hand, there were the tubes.
In a couple places corridors would end with red and yellow hazard indicators and a different kind of tunnel, one that appeared to be perfectly circular with embedded metal strips. Although he wasnít certain, Beam theorized that these were for a maglev tube train, high speed transit which was still delivering goods to the distributors and which had been intended to transport people. Possibly this poor man had come on one of those--yes, there was a connection point not far from where they found him, and he could have come that way. So maybe he was from around here and there were others, or maybe he wasnít.
Then there was another question. Did the rats kill him? It was, Beam thought, plausible, but somehow he didnít think so--and, he realized, he shouldnít assume so. There might be something out there worse than rats, something which had killed a man. If so, why had it left the body? Animals generally killed for two reasons, the one food, the other self-protection. If something other than the rats killed this guy, why didnít it eat him? Maybe it viewed him as a threat, and so wounded him and fled, and he died of the wounds or was finished off by the rodents. Why would the man be a threat? He might have been a hunter, but then, there werenít any obvious weapons with the body and it was unlikely that an animal would abscond with the weapons. Of course, the animal that killed him might have thought he was a threat when he wasnít.
Or the animal could have been another human.
He was overreacting here. The guy might have had a heart attack, or a stroke, or something like that, and just died there in the hall.
Or he might have died somewhere else, and people dragged him into the hall to remove the dead body from their home. What did they call that--excarnation, he thought, or something like that, when you leave a dead body for animals to strip the flesh. But then that brought him back to the notion that there were people somewhere nearby. They werenít going to take the dead guy on a train and dump him somewhere else, then find their way home. Not unless they thought this neighborhood was the cemetery. No, there were a lot of possibilities, but several of them involved the idea that other people lived somewhere near where the body was found.
He noted it on his maps, stared at it another moment or so, and then shut it off and went to bed.
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 #367: Versers Encounter. 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: