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Stories from the Verse
Re Verse All
Chapter 94: Beam 89
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Takano 42
The ascent to level twenty-five was uneventful, and again there was a restaurant at the top. This time it was a mixed oriental buffet, Chinese with a Korean grill and a Japanese sushi bar. Beam was leery of it on so many levels, and even considered looking for another place to feed everyone, but ultimately decided that the best way to handle it was to line everyone up in the hall and release them in small groups after having explained to them what they should do. Having informed the computer that there would be one hundred twenty for the buffet so it would start putting out fresh food, he let Bron and Sophia start without him, apologized to Bob that there probably weren’t any brains here, and told them to hold his seat. He then told each group that they would find plates, bowls, cups, and tableware at the ends of the serving tables, and they should each take as much as they could reasonably carry back to their seats, but please not to go back for seconds until everyone had had firsts. He tried to send them in with instructions that they should sit together so that there would be empty tables for families which would be following.
By the time he had put everyone else through he wasn’t certain whether he was hungry. He sat at the table with the others, but then realized that hungry or not, he was thirsty, and this was self-service, so he wearily stood and walked to the drinks dispensers. Tastelessly downing a glass of something labeled cola, he refilled it, and looked over at the food. It appeared that the system was still doing a good job of keeping the buffet stocked. He walked over to the hibachi, put together some sliced steak with onion, mushroom, and peppers, and fed it into the robotic griller with a selection of medium well. It came back in about two minutes on a plate, and he grabbed a fork with which to eat it. A hoagie roll and some cheese would be good about now, he thought, but those weren’t items he was going to find here. He returned to his seat.
Just as he was about to take his first bite, he heard a noise over the clamor of voices that caused him to look up. A huge robotic insectoid transport was just passing the entrance, and he realized that it must be headed for the ramp. “Excuse me a moment,” he said, as he knocked his chair over getting up and rushed to the entrance. He undoubtedly had created a bit of a stir, but he needed to know this. The metallic beetle rounded the corner onto the ramp, and he rushed over to follow it. It turned to go up.
As Beam caught up with his quarry, he was disappointed. The machine was going right up the middle of the ramp. Of course it would, he thought. The computer controls them all remotely, and knows where they are, so it doesn’t need the difficult navigation problem of avoiding the wall unless it has two going opposite directions on the same ramp. Nothing learned there.
As he walked back toward the restaurant, he lit a cigarette. The rush had left him breathless, and as counterintuitive as it was, he found the nicotine rush beat the smoke inhalation and kicked up his body a bit in these situations. He relaxed into it, and stopped at the restaurant door to finish it so as not to waste it. Several people were staring at him, but when he stared back they turned back to their food. He noticed that some were getting seconds, but that was good, and maybe once he’d eaten what he had he would go back, too.
Speaking of eating what he had, it would be getting cold. He crushed the cigarette under his shoe and returned to pick up his chair and rejoin the others.
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 #388: Versers Climb. 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: