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Stories from the Verse
Re Verse All
Chapter 152: Hastings 231
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Beam 116
Lauren heard the shot, but there were over a hundred people trying to crowd through the door ahead of her, so by the time she got there all she could see was that the room was crowded and there was a man on the floor bleeding. No one was attending to his injuries.
She rushed over and prayed for him, and immediately one of the insect-like robots entered the room and went directly to him. This one was apparently equipped for medical care, and after attending to a wound on the man’s belly which to Lauren looked suspiciously like a gunshot unfolded a stretcher and removed the man rapidly from the room.
Beam’s people were organizing but apparently awaiting supper, and Beam pointed at Lauren and Tommy. “You two, with us,” he said, and turned to head up the ramp to the first apartment.
Once they were in the living room, the white-haired man indicated that everyone should sit. He himself leaned on the back of an empty chair.
“We’re going to be crowding everyone tonight. Lauren and Tommy, I hope you don’t mind taking the bunk beds; Bron and Bob, we’ll shift you two down a room. Dawn doesn’t use the bed anyway. We’re going to have a lot of our people sleeping on the floors throughout the apartment except in the bathrooms, and we’re going to similarly fill all the apartments and the common area, because we’ve got only the one apartment compound and we’ve got about thirty extra people. So everyone settle your gear into your bedrooms. Food will be here soon, and I expect it’s going to be a mess out there, but we’ll eat in the kitchen here and then get Varlax and the other group leaders to sort out the housing. Any questions?”
Lauren had questions, but they weren’t exactly on point, so she held them for later.
“Good. Get settled quickly; I’m hoping food will arrive soon, and we can get people to bed.”
The food did arrive almost before Lauren and Tommy managed to get their bedding in place. Everyone left the apartment to get their servings except Dawn, who apparently didn’t eat, and the alien Bob, whose serving of brains was delivered to the apartment. Soon they were seated around the kitchen table, and since no one else had anything to say Lauren broke the silence with her question.
“So, that man. He appeared to have been shot. What happened?”
There was an awkward silence; Bron put down his fork and wiped his mouth with a napkin. But it was Sophia who answered.
“That was apparently the leader of their group--they call themselves ‘Manners’. Jim politely asked if we might stay the night, and he rather aggressively said no and then charged with a sort of spear as if to attack. Jim shot him, and then asked again if we might stay, and then called the--what did you call it?”
“The medbot,” Beam said.
“Right. And it arrived right after you did.”
Interesting, Lauren thought. Did her prayer cause it to arrive abruptly, or do nothing at all, or perhaps keep the man alive long enough for the medbot to save him? She nodded.
“You were certainly within your rights to protect yourself. Hopefully the medical machines will save him.” Still, she wondered whether she was getting the whole story, what the courtroom dramas put in the oath, the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Not the time to pursue it, she thought, so she said, “This is an excellent dinner. Is everyone eating this?”
“Everyone but Bob,” Beam said. “He doesn’t eat much other than brains, so it’s hard to keep him fed.”
At least the man was egalitarian on some level. She still didn’t know what to make of him.
“What was that you were saying when you got to the man?” Sophia asked. “Was it some kind of spell?”
“I suppose,” Lauren answered. “I’d have said it was a prayer, but either way it was an effort to call magic to heal him.”
“I’ve never seen any healing magic,” Sophia replied.
“Well, one of my teachers suggested that the gods reserve healing for themselves. I don’t know if that’s completely true, but all the healing I do is prayer-based, calling on Jesus to save someone. And now that you’ve mentioned it, I’ve known a couple of sorceresses and a wizard or two, and the only healing any of them know is the prayers I taught them. I would be glad to teach you, but I think you have to be a Christian for them to work.”
“What’s a Christian?” Sophia asked.
“Don’t get into that,” Mister Beam answered. “It’s a religion that people who believe it fight about all the time.”
Lauren smiled. “I’d be glad to explain it to you,” she said, “but it seems your husband is a bit of a skeptic and would rather not be subjected to it. Maybe tomorrow you can walk in the back with me?”
“Oh, no,” Beam said. “I was married to a Christian once, and it was nightmarish enough that I was glad to be out of it and told myself I’d never make that mistake again.”
“What mistake?” Lauren prompted. “Marry a Christian?”
“Marry anyone,” he retorted, “but especially a Christian.” Sophia glared at him.
“Well, it seems you married someone,” Lauren said.
“Yes, and there’s a long story behind that,” Beam said, “which one day someone will tell me.” Bron stifled a laugh, and Sophia turned her glare on him.
“I have obviously hit a sensitive subject,” Lauren said. “Anyway, the invitation is open. I believe my God answers prayer, and if you want to learn more about Him, I’m available.”
“Just don’t make any decisions,” Beam said, “without getting the whole picture. How do you like the cheesecake?” he asked, obviously trying to change the subject, and Bron obliged by answering, the conversation drifted into the food.
Still, as she crawled into bed in a room filled with sleepers, she wondered whether Sophia might be interested in learning more about Jesus. Tomorrow might tell.
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 #411: Quest Concludes. 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: