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Stories from the Verse
Re Verse All
Chapter 100: Beam 92
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Hastings 217
It was around the one quarter of the climb mark that Beam found the disaster. People had panicked, as he had anticipated. Some had run in front of the truck, some had been pushed or knocked down. He quickly decided that he shouldn’t waste time on triage, but said, “Bron, see whether you can do anything to help any of these people. I’m going to go see if I can get some of those medical robots here.” Without waiting for a reply, he hurried down the ramp to the bottom and found the nearest doorway computer screen.
“There has to be a way to call nine-one-one on this thing. That’s probably not it. Wait, didn’t I do this once before? Yes, I remember.” He went through the process of summoning medical aid. The most difficult part was giving the system the location of the accident. It struck him that the computer should have known, and this was one more indication that the system was failing--the truck had properly moved to the right when faced by a column of pedestrians, but when it collided with some of those same pedestrians it simply continued and did not report the incident. That struck him as an obvious function it ought to have, and the only explanation he could find for why it didn’t do that is that the system error was compounding.
He trudged back up the ramp as far as the scene, passed by several more medical robots which moved more swiftly than he. He arrived to find them working diligently on treating the injured. Three bodies had been set aside apparently for removal, and several people were crying over them. He did a head count as well as he could, three dead and thirteen injured. One of the dead was a young child, and Beam wondered whether the child had panicked and the mother pursued it into the street bumping people out of the way; but it was speculation, and again he neither knew nor wished to know what had happened.
As he stood there catching his breath, one of the machines approached and began assessing him. Before he knew it there was a breathing mask over his face apparently pumping some mix of oxygen and medicine into him. His initial reaction was to pull it away, but then no matter what happened next he was going to have some walking to do and some help breathing would be a good thing. His breathing was easing.
He remained standing, watching, while the team of medical robots finished their work. Beam thought it would be good if he could find a way to program one of them to travel with them, the way an ambulance follows a parade or attends a football game. That, though, was probably beyond his hacking abilities, and certainly beyond what he could do here in the hall. As they departed, he turned his attention to climbing the remainder of the way up the hill.
He should have gotten names. Three anonymous people dead. They were loved by people still alive. He should have gotten names.
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 #390: World Facilities. 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: