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Stories from the Verse
Re Verse All
Chapter 130: Beam 107
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The white-haired man took his time enjoying his breakfast, then finished packing his gear, made sure his core people were ready to travel, and left the apartment behind. He stopped at the top of the ramp long enough to get the attention of the room, noticed that some people were still eating and frankly didn’t much care, and said, “I’m leaving now.” Then he headed down the ramp, through the crowd and across the room, and out the main doors.
His closest companions were unusually quiet. Perhaps they were gauging his mood. He couldn’t blame them there; he wasn’t all that sure about his mood himself. Part of him was determined, part was mellow. He had come to a place of not caring whether anyone at all followed him to the surface, as long as he got himself there and Sophia, Bron, Dawn, and Turburb’dirpa came with him. They were with him now, and he was pretty sure that unless they encountered something that killed someone they were going to stay with him.
Reaching level eighteen, his mood had him fueled, and he pushed on to level seventeen. He considered continuing another level, but recognized that he was starting to flag, and another level might be more than he could manage. He settled everyone into a diner and ordered roast pork and mashed potatoes with gravy for himself. There was a salad bar, but the crowd around it grew so quickly he decided instead to order buttered spinach and hot cinnamon applesauce. He drank beer with the meal, and ordered apple pie and coffee for dessert. It was a large meal, and he didn’t finish it all, but sat digesting for perhaps half an hour.
He realized that the mood in the room was getting a bit tense. The people were unsure what to expect, and uncertainty about your leader always made people nervous and perhaps a bit unpredictable. It was time to allay their fears.
“Let’s get another level behind us,” he said. “Level sixteen, here we come.”
He saw Bron raise an eyebrow, but ignored it. Out the door, he headed back to the ramp, ignoring the scraping of chairs and scrambling of bodies behind him. He made sure out of the corner of his eye that he had Sophia, Bron, and Bob; he could hear Dawn’s weapons crawler behind him so he didn’t have to check on her.
He was regretting the decision to continue about three quarters of the way up, but figured at that point he had to push on and complete it, then find quarters for the night. Mercifully there were no obstacles, no vehicles, no encounters, and he reached the top and headed in the direction that always led to apartments. The consistency of the plan continued, and he soon had everyone in one of the common rooms. He sat on a bench and waited for everyone to settle.
“So, how many?” he asked Sophia and Bron.
They looked at each other.
“It looks like we lost about thirty,” Bron said. “Anyway, we have at least seventy, not so many as eighty.”
Sophia added, “More significantly, they stayed behind with Tennan Tamis, so we don’t have a leader for the second group. That’s awkward, because probably half the second group stayed with him, so there are only about fifteen or twenty left. That’s too many to fit into the other two groups in the apartments, but kind of small to be its own group.”
“Well, the less changed the better. Get Varlax and what’s-his-name, leader of the third group, to meet with the second group and see if they want to nominate a leader from among themselves, and if not we’ll take the recommendation of the other leaders. Also, if they want to redistribute people between the groups, tell them it’s up to them.”
Bron nodded and stood. “Are we going to have another meal? The double hike I think has everyone a bit confused.”
“Yeah, maybe an hour I’ll order a light supper of some sort for everyone, maybe soup. And ice cream. They did well today. They deserve a treat.”
Bron walked away. Sophia asked, “So, are you just going to sleep here?”
“What? Oh, no. I’m just not eager to attack that last bit of ramp to the apartment. Besides, if I get as far as the bed, I’ll forget to order the food. So I’m just going to sit for a bit.”
About an hour later he walked stiffly to the screen and ordered individual servings of soup delivered, thirty bean, thirty chicken noodle, thirty tomato, plus a hundred ice cream sandwiches. Then he said to Sophia, “I’m going up to the apartment. Bring me a bean soup and an ice cream sandwich when they arrive.” With that he climbed the ramp and disappeared into the space beyond.
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 #403: Versers Innovating. 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: