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Stories from the Verse
Re Verse All
Chapter 143: Hastings 228
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Lauren estimated that they had hiked perhaps a mile when the train stopped moving. It didn’t stop in an orderly fashion--it crunched up, collapsing on itself as those in the rear crowded into those in front of them. It remained so for more than a few minutes, the crowd noise suggesting that no one knew what was happening any better than she did. She wished she could see, clairvoyantly, ahead, or that she could fly over the crowd and reach the front, but these skills were not working in this world.
“What’s happening?” Tommy asked.
“Don’t know,” Lauren answered honestly. “It seems that we’ve hit some kind of delay up front holding up the line.”
The line started moving again, unfolding like an accordion, and then began once more to collapse. As it began again the rear of the line passed a door, the type that typically opened to an apartment section.
“I have a theory,” Lauren said. Tommy made some sort of inquisitive noise in response. “Well, we’ve come up a bit from where we were--not a lot, but some--and we’re also apparently close to a major supply line which brings food from the surface. We’ve been wondering where all the people have been. I’d wager that we’ve started to find them, that these apartment complexes are occupied by groups of people not unlike those Mister Beam is leading. These people are accustomed to finding the residential accommodations unoccupied and moving in for the night. Tonight they’ve run into other tribes not willing to provide space to our pilgrims.”
“What makes you think this?” Tommy asked.
“Why else would we have passed an apartment block, and by now another? The people in front are opening the door and finding people on the other side, attempting to withdraw without conflict, and moving on to look for another space. We’ve been in those apartment compounds. They offer beds for maybe fifty people; a group like ours would take two of them, unless we slept on the floors. No, we’re looking for a place to spend the night, and finding a lot of people we didn’t expect.”
Lauren walked on in silence for a while, then spoke again.
“We might have to double back and sleep on the floor of the restaurant or in one of the stores.”
“You didn’t see a mattress store back there, did you?” Tommy teased, and Lauren laughed.
“That would be useful, wouldn’t it?” she said.
They continued in silence as the line crunched and uncrunched forward, reminding Lauren of a Slinky® spring toy. Then she had a thought.
“The retail areas, in fact in some sense the entire complex, is like a huge shopping mall. It reminds me a bit of TerraNova, the space colony I was on briefly.”
“I can see that. So?”
“So there must be a directory file somewhere, a way to find what you’re looking for. It wouldn’t tell us how to find an open apartment, because the people who live here don’t know how to use the computer to register their ownership of the apartments so they’re all showing open. But it could tell us how to find a mattress store.”
Tommy stopped walking and pulled out her computer. “You’re right,” she said, “that should be something we could find. I just hope it’s big enough to hold everyone.”
“And,” Lauren suggested, “that no one else has decided to occupy it.”
As the two of them stood there, the line continued moving away. However, it didn’t take Tommy long to locate what they wanted.
“Now what?” she said.
“Now,” Lauren answered, “we get past this crowd and bring our idea to the leader. Coming through!” she called, and started pressing down the left side of the hall. “Make way! Coming through!”
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: