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Stories from the Verse
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Chapter 148: Beam 115
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A few miles was a longer hike than Beam particularly wanted to make, but after about an hour they arrived at the uninviting boiler room, filled with an electrical substation, a water pumping control system, a ventilation control system, and other systems the identities of which Beam didn’t bother trying to determine. He ordered hoagies and sodas as the easiest thing he could find.
He noticed that on entering the woman and the girl fenced off an area near a wall using that wagon, their backpacks, and several other bits of equipment. Interested, he turned his attention to them. It appeared to be a training or practice session of some sort, the girl trying to hook one of the overhead beams with her kawanaga and then trying to climb it. Her earlier suggestion that she was just learning seemed confirmed by her feeble effort to ascend on the rope, but her teacher did not seem distressed by this. Clearly the girl was a beginner and the teacher knew it. On the other hand, he watched long enough to see the woman seemingly slide up the rope, unhook it from the beam, and drop the perhaps dozen feet into a clean landing so the girl could practice more with the weapon. She went through quite a few techniques that involved twirling and casting and recovering it. Again, she wasn’t very good, but she was practicing.
They stopped working when the food arrived, pulled their walls in to make a smaller personal area, and helped themselves to the sandwiches and sodas. This also intrigued Beam. He had ordered a steak sandwich for himself, and special orders for Sophia and Bron (and of course brains for Bob), and knew that Tommy’s abilities with the computer would enable them to order whatever they wanted, but they chose, apparently, to eat with the masses.
Finding a quiet corner where he and his companions could eat and talk, he said to Bron, “We’re going to have to revise our plans.”
“Oh? How so?”
“Well, it’s obvious that the living and eating spaces on these upper levels are all occupied by groups, call them tribes maybe, who aren’t willing to share. We’ve had to hike several miles from the ramp to find this less than comfortable space, and will have to hike back in the morning to continue to level four, where we’re going to find similar crowds impeding our progress. We could push on to level three--we’ve done three levels once before, but it was very tiring, and once we got there we again would have no place to eat or sleep without probably another long hike. Logically we could leave here tomorrow morning and hike and climb all the way to the surface, but forget the kids, I don’t know that I could make that trek, and I certainly would not be in any shape to deal with whatever was there or to forage food for over a hundred people. So I have no idea what we should do tomorrow.”
Bron chewed on his food thoughtfully, then spoke.
“The people in these apartments, well, some of them look like they could fight, but most of them--we could take over an apartment and drive out the people living there, just for the night.”
Beam nodded. “We could,” he said. “I’m not sure whether our new companions would agree with that.”
He finished his sandwich and soda and settled uncomfortably on the hard stone floor for what he anticipated would be a poor night’s sleep followed by another difficult day.
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 #409: Characters Cooperate. 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: