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Stories from the Verse
Re Verse All
Chapter 140: Beam 112
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Hastings 227
As a precaution, Beam had his key people ready weapons as they were approaching level nine. The directional sense to the other versers suggested that he was coming up from below and would probably find them waiting, and as he had said to Sophia once before about meeting people like themselves, he really did not want to meet people like themselves, because they were dangerous. He wanted to be ready.
He was glad he was ready, because across the way, sitting in the restaurant, was that woman, the dangerous one who had been with Bob Slade, who had managed to fight both Bob, that is, their Bob, Turbirb’durpa, and Sophia’s conjured fire beast simultaneously, and had defeated the fire beast.
The woman was not attack ready, though. She was sipping coffee, or maybe it was tea or something, at a table in the diner. When they saw each other, she called for someone, and Beam became aware of a young girl, older than Dawn looked but still a teenager, rather incongruously painting abstract graffiti on the wall of the hallway. This confused him for a moment, and the girl raced back to the woman, although she painted a double line of color on the wall as she went.
The woman spoke.
“I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced,” she said.
How very British, he thought, but her accent was normal American.
“I’m Lauren Elizabeth Meyers Hastings, also known as Laurelyn of Wandborough, Mystic of the Western Woods.”
Sophia muttered at him, “Why does she get a title, and I don’t?” He ignored her, and the woman continued.
“This is my friend and traveling companion, Tomiko Takano, better known as Tommy. And you are?”
Beam wasn’t immediately certain how to answer, but cleared his throat and said, “James Donald Beam, Friend of the great Efriiti Dicalus. This is my wife Sophia, and our companions Bron Blacksmith, Dawn whose longer name is too much to remember, and Turbirb’durpa whom we call Bob for short. The rest are my people, the Empire of Beam.”
The woman nodded, and said, “We would be honored if you would join us for dinner, although we’re working on dessert, and hopefully we can get to know each other and share what we’ve learned about this world.”
That didn’t sound terribly unreasonable.
“Actually, for us it’s an early lunch break before we continue to level eight and find a camp for the night. But after that climb we were planning on a rest break anyway. If you have a table for six in there, my companions and I would be pleased to join you.”
The girl returned to their table and activated the screen, and to Beams’s surprise the table extended to a rectangle that would accommodate six chairs. Lauren returned to her coffee and waved a hand to indicate that the others should join them. Beam barked his orders to the others: “All right, everyone, settle in for lunch. This might be a longer break than usual, but make the most of it.” He then sat across from the woman who called herself Laurelyn.
“So,” she asked him, “how long have you been in the verse?”
He had gathered that that was what you called what was happening to him from their previous encounter.
“Probably a few years now,” he replied. “I lost track of time more than once.”
“So where have you been, what have you done?”
“We’ve been here for quite a while, and before that we were in that same Arabian world with you and Slade, and before that some kind of futuristic war-torn world with giant tripod war machines, and quite a while in a medieval European country where I met Bron and married Sophia, and before that on a prison space station overrun by killer aliens, and a world with orange grass where giant preying mantises used ray guns. I was home before that.”
Lauren nodded. “You have been busy. I went from home to the orange grass world we call Nagaworld, then to a vampire-infested modern Philadelphia, and a peaceful valley that was the home of some parakeet-like people, and back to the vampire world in the time of Camelot where Merlin taught me. That’s where I got the title, when I moved west from Camelot to Wandborough. He also called me Spellsbreath, but it didn’t really take other than for him. I then went to a futuristic earth, sort of post-apocalyptic with lots of mutants, back to the vampire world and Wandborough in the medieval times, and I spent a century or so alone on a tropical island, and passed through the edge of heaven to return to the vampire world a few centuries in the future. Let’s see, after that I was locked up in a mental hospital in the nineteen sixties.”
Beam couldn’t help thinking that she probably belonged there, but kept it between himself and the ever-listening Bob, hoping that the woman wasn’t hearing thoughts the way Bob did.
“After that I landed in the Twin Rivers Caliphate, that Arabian world you mentioned, and then had a very brief visit to a suburban world about which Tommy knows more than I, because I pretty much died saving a little girl within minutes of my arrival, and then I helped some dungeoneers deliver a princess to her underground kingdom, and then I wound up here.”
“That’s quite a list,” Beam said. “And Tommy’s been with you since when?”
“Oh, we only just met, really.”
“That’s not exactly true, although sort of,” the girl said. “I went from home to Nagaworld, and then wound up in a fairytale-like sylvan wood. A witch sent me to Nagasaki, where I was killed in the bombing, and I arrived in that suburban world around nineteen fifty-nine, I think, and stayed there a few months before being killed in a car crash and coming here. Missus Hastings is right about being there briefly, because I had been there for a few minutes and was sitting on a bench when she appeared in the park across the street, and a little girl wandered out into traffic, and Missus Hastings raced across the park, threw the girl to me, and was hit by a truck and vanished.”
Hmm, Beam thought. Hero attitude. Might be able to use that.
“So what have you done since you arrived?”
“Well,” the girl continued, “Missus Hastings has been teaching me self-defense and weapons training, and I’ve been teaching her a bit about using computers. I’ve been thinking about getting a portable computer for her, but can’t decide whether it should be a laptop or a tablet or whether this world has something else. I’ve also been trying to decorate the drab walls of the hallways as we’ve been passing through them, hoping to inspire others to do the same, although I’m not very good at it.”
Beam nodded. “Well, I don’t know that I’d waste my time on that,” he said. “The computer that runs all of this has developed a glitch, and I think it’s worsening. I don’t know how long it’s going to take, but I’m leading my people to the surface and hoping that when we get there we can find a way to survive that doesn’t depend on the computer delivering food and providing air and water.”
The woman responded, looking around the dining area, “How many of you are there?”
“Somewhere between eighty and a hundred, we think. We started with something over a hundred, had a few die in accidents along the way and a small group decide to stay behind, and I haven’t done a head count for a while. Anyway, when I order food delivered to the apartment complexes where we stay I order for ninety to a hundred twenty plus us and it mostly gets eaten.”
The woman nodded. “Mind if we join you?”
Inside Beam laughed at her polite question. He doubted whether he could prevent her from doing so, but he supposed it was nice to be asked.
“What, you want to come to the surface with us?”
“If you’re right--and I assume you’ve reached this conclusion based on solid evidence of some sort--” Beam nodded “--then we probably need to get out of here before things get worse, even though we haven’t noticed the problems. I suspect with your larger number of people and the time you’ve been here, you’ve been able to see things that we wouldn’t have. Besides, we can probably contribute something to your progress, and we’re more likely to survive traveling with you than alone.”
Beam somehow doubted this last. They obviously had traveled quite a distance without him. On the other hand, he knew first hand just how potent the woman was in a fight, and while he would prefer to avoid a fight and was confident of the abilities of his team and particularly Dawn, having another fighter couldn’t hurt.
“I’m fine with that. For us it’s lunchtime, and once we’ve eaten and rested a bit we’re going to continue up to level eight, where we’re going to find food and shelter, not necessarily in that order. You’ll have to adjust to our days, but I think they’re short days so it shouldn’t be too difficult.”
At that moment his food was delivered, and he turned his attention to eating. Sophia was asking Lauren something about her title, how she got it, and what kind of magic she knew, but Beam wasn’t particularly interested in that conversation. He was more interested in the girl, wondering what sort of hidden talents she possessed. That odd rope on her hip was obviously a weapon, and from his gaming days he recognized that it had to be a ninja weapon, one of those combination weapons and tools that ninjas carried that generally identified them as such to their enemies the samurai. Was she a ninja? It seemed unlikely that she would wear such an emblem of the profession openly if she were, but then, it was also unlikely that they would encounter any samurai in these caves, and it might be that she was very skilled with the weapon and wanted to have it handy. She didn’t look much like a ninja, but then he remembered an old television episode in which the hero commented about a certain young thief said to have an honest face that he wouldn’t make a very good thief with a dishonest face. They would have to be careful of her. After all, why would so powerful a person as the woman travel with the girl, if the girl didn’t bring something equally potent to the table? No, there was something here he didn’t know, and he was going to have to watch her.
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 #407: Versers Integrate. 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: