Re Verse All; Chapter 80, Beam 82

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Stories from the Verse
Re Verse All
Chapter 80:  Beam 82
Table of Contents
Previous chapter:  Hastings 212

The next month was a nightmare, the white haired man teaching every other day with students for whom pushing buttons and turning dials were entirely new advanced concepts.  Bron and Sophia sat in on the classes, partly to make sure they learned anything they hadn’t yet gotten, and partly to assist in explaining things to idiots at an idiot level.  They went over many things several times, but by the end of the month the more adept of the people could operate the basic machines--cooking, dishwashing, laundry, showers.

Over the month after that, he began the tedious process of teaching them to use the computers, beginning with ordering prepared food and drink.  He had to teach them how to know what to refrigerate, what to freeze, and when, which meant they had to learn to read a few critical words, but he had to get them reading significantly more because, unlike the Ner, these people were going to have to be able to know what the computer screen said.  This meant he was teaching Bron to read as well; Sophia of course had learned to read at least small amounts of several languages in her studies of magic, but there were a lot of words she did not know, and surprisingly quite a few that were not spelled the way she thought they were.  These lessons went on into the third month, and then Beam found a way to get the computer to teach basic reading and math courses, designed for children but then that’s about what he had, and he taught his leaders how to use these and how to get their charges to use them.  It would, of course, take years to get these people up to a decent standard, but it was no longer his problem.

Things settled.  Rarely did anyone have to bring a problem to him; his leaders served as judges and juries of all disputes among the people.  He made token appearances to encourage them, but things stayed pretty safe.  Occasionally they would get rats in one of the apartments through the ventilation, but the system was designed to fight these, and the only odd thing was that it hadn’t activated itself to do so so he had to log in and turn on the vermin control systems.  Still, it bothered him--they should have been on.

As usual, he wasn’t keeping track of time, but he was pretty sure months had exceeded a year.  One of his clues was that Sophia had reminded him of her birthday and their anniversary (he had no idea how she knew) and had surprised him with a cake (and not a total disaster, although he suspected she used a bit of magic to get the machines to help her) on what she said was his birthday.  He wasn’t sure why birthdays mattered; he didn’t look any older, and although he was feeling the wear of overseeing a hundred people (roughly--there had been some births and some deaths, but the people knew how to take care of these, and his leaders registered the new people with the computer) he wasn’t really feeling any older.

He was sitting at the computer in the living room ordering more whiskey when there was a pounding at the door accompanied by some muffled yelling.  He gave Bron a nod, who put down his drink, walked to the door, and opened it.  The yelling became louder and clearer, as whoever it was shouted one significant word.


With some urgency, Bron shouted, “J.D.!  Dawn!  Trouble!”

Beam had about forgotten how to run, but he moved quickly from his chair to the door to peer out.  Dawn had been in another room, presumably with the lights at maximum, and took another moment to arrive.

There was a large machine, bigger than a large pickup truck, mostly ovoid, with huge heavy spinning blades, in the common area below.  It obviously had cut its way through the back wall into the open space, and devoured some of the furniture in a crushing system that was reminiscent of a wood chipper but designed for stone.  The size and shape of the tunnel suggested that this machine was at least part of the system that built the caves--but it shouldn’t be here.

Panicked people were fleeing up the ramps to their apartments.  If the digger turned on them, though, nothing would be safe.

“Dawn, can we disable that thing?”

The girl turned and ran back to the bedrooms.  Beam wasn’t worried; he knew she kept her weapons cart back there.  In less than a minute she returned with a single-use rocket launcher, took aim, and inserted the rocket into the maw of the beast.  Its explosion was apparently sufficient to stop the mechanism, although externally the thing was intact.

Beam stood watching it for a moment; people still not in apartments turned and also stared at it.

“Get what you need to finish it if necessary,” he said to Dawn, “and let’s go take a look at what this is.  Soph,” he called more loudly, “you might want to join us.”  Then as an afterthought, he added, “You too, Varlax.”  He headed down the ramp, which was the wrong direction, but the only way to reach the floor.  Turning, he and Bron approached the monstrosity.  “Just what are you?” he asked the now inanimate machine, but it lay there looking dangerous and doing nothing.

The girls soon arrived.

He was going to ask Dawn if she knew what it was, but realized that that was a yes or no question, and he would get a yes or no answer.  He rephrased in his head.

“Dawn, what is this?”

“Mining mole,” she replied.  “Designed to create underground tunnels through dirt and rock, identify ores and gemstones, and frame larger spaces.”

“Am I right that it shouldn’t be here?”

She paused, but then offered a response.  “There is no reason for such a machine to be operating in a populated area.”

He nodded.  This could be serious.  A mining mole was very far from home, malfunctioning.  Maybe it was just a glitch in its programming--but it wasn’t the first glitch.  They’d been having those vermin infestations.  The glitch was not confined to one device.  The core computer had developed a problem.

That was the computer that controlled the air and the water, that delivered the food, that maintained the temperature and the lights and the power and operated the doors.

The system was failing.

They were all going to die.

Next chapter:  Chapter 81:  Takano 39
Table of Contents

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 #383:  Character Departures.  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:

Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel

Old Verses New

For Better or Verse

Spy Verses

Garden of Versers

Versers Versus Versers

Stories from the Verse Main Page

The Original Introduction to Stories from the Verse

Read the Stories

The Online Games

Books by the Author

Go to Other Links

M. J. Young Net

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