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Stories from the Verse
Re Verse All
Chapter 103: Hastings 218
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Beam 93
They moved uneventfully through the halls, Lauren choosing turns when she felt that her objective was too far off her line, but then returning to the original bearing usually within two intersections. Tommy stopped them at a pizza and salad buffet a bit earlier in the day than Lauren thought was right for lunch, but then it occurred to her that her young companion had not done so much hiking as she had, and Lauren had not suggested calling for a rest break, so this might be a way to get that. Since they were going to end the trip early to fit in some physical training, an early lunch was fine. Neither of them ate much, but they did avail themselves of the beverage service and the bathroom before continuing.
At some point Lauren heard something scurrying away in the distance ahead. Rats was her first thought, but then she thought maybe too big for rats. In any case, whatever it was seemed to have decided not to encounter them, so this would not be trouble.
That didn’t mean, she reminded herself, that there wouldn’t be trouble ahead. After all, whatever those were might have been fleeing from something else. She continued warily. They were moving at a slower pace than that to which she had become accustomed with Tiras and the other adventurers in her last world, to accommodate the less fit Tommy.
It felt like early afternoon, but Lauren could see that Tommy was tiring, so she figured it was as good a time as any to find a place to camp. “Any idea how we find one of those apartment complexes?” she asked.
Tommy stopped, took a few breaths, and looked around.
“Well,” she said, “this doesn’t look like retailing. I suppose it could be offices or warehousing, but I somehow don’t expect either of those things here. I say we try the next door and see what it is.”
The next door was not far up the corridor. Lauren stared at it for a moment, as if the door itself might tell her something. Her clairvoyance wasn’t working in this world. She scolded herself internally. She was always saying that redundancy had value. She should have gotten Shella to teach her that mirror scrying trick; that might work here. She couldn’t open this door slowly; moving her hand slowly toward the pad wasn’t going to make a difference. Once she touched the pad, the door would open, and she would see and be seen by whatever was on the other side.
She touched the pad. The door opened.
Lights came on revealing a front hall, stairs up the right-hand wall, hallway straight ahead to a door with one door on the right wall at the base of the stairs and several on the left wall. It was not really living space; it was connective space. Lauren stepped in cautiously, Tommy behind her.
“What’s wrong?” Tommy asked.
Lauren hesitated a moment before answering, “Nothing yet. This just surprises me, and doesn’t provide much information. Something could be here behind any of these doors, or up those stairs, and we could easily be walking into a trap.”
Tommy was silent for a moment, then said, “Well, I’d say you worry too much, but then, you’ve been doing this longer than I have, so I have no idea how much to worry.”
Lauren only nodded. She had been in safe situations in which she had expected danger that wasn’t there; she had been in dangerous situations in which she missed the danger. Which was this?
She loosened her pistols in their holsters.
The right hand door opened the old fashioned way, revealing a comfortable sitting room something like a den, a large screen on one wall, chairs and a couch or sofa arranged for interaction. There were doors leading from here, but Lauren closed this one and turned to the left behind her.
The first door slid open to reveal something like a coat closet, empty. Why, Lauren wondered, would anyone need coats in an entirely contained climate-controlled world? Of course, one might wear clothes around the home that you wouldn’t really want to wear out, and in that case you might keep a wrap or jacket or poncho to cover up if you wanted to run out quickly for something.
But run out where?
Maybe coffee at the neighbor’s.
The next door on the left was a double folding door which opened into another sitting room, this one perhaps more--not quite elegant, but certainly more formal. There was an arch which Lauren guessed from the little she could see at this angle led to a dining room of sorts. Again she closed the door and moved forward cautiously.
The final door on the left opened to a utility closet. Lauren had already deduced it would be a closet because anything larger would have gone through to the room she had just seen. She was surprised to see cleaning products here--a broom, a vacuum, a few other objects and some chemicals. It suggested an older technology, a time before you could have robots clean your home.
The door at the end of the hall opened into a kitchen, large, eat-in with table and chairs on her side, cooking area to the left, and an open door into the room she had already deduced was the dining room. There was a door on the right-hand wall which she decided must connect to the less-formal sitting room she had subconsciously labeled the den, and another door which led under the stairs. It would have to be either a closet or stairs down.
Tommy followed her into the kitchen and closed the door.
“So,” she said, “what do you think?”
Lauren looked around at the kitchen.
“I think we should leave,” she said.
“Someone lives here.” Lauren opened the door back to the hallway, but at that moment the front door opened. A man of perhaps fifty stepped in carrying something that looked like a bag of groceries, followed by one of those ant-like robotic crawlers.
The groceries hit the floor and were replaced by a well-aimed double-barreled shotgun.
“What are y’ doin’ in my house?” the man said.
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 #392: Characters Resting. 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: