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Stories from the Verse
Re Verse All
Chapter 154: Beam 117
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The prediction that it would be more crowded the higher they went was proving itself in spades. On the climb to level three several crawlers passed them in both directions, and Beam worried that there might be trouble particularly as he wasn’t certain whether they had picked up anyone from the group they had stayed with the previous night. There were no screams, though, so apparently things worked as well as he could hope.
He ordered lunch on level three, but had it delivered to the hall. He had everyone sit against one wall, and watched the traffic pass them. It was going to matter later. He almost ordered cold sandwiches, but then it occurred to him that by tomorrow night he hoped to be out of what he was now thinking of as the dungeon entirely, and probably out of range of delivery service. He went for cheesesteak sandwiches, French fries, and soda.
He let everyone sit for a while after eating, and then made the trek to level two. Again he sat everyone against the wall in the hall. He tried to find a spot in the middle of the line, and spoke as loudly as he could. “I hope you can all hear me,” he began, “but if not, hopefully your neighbors will let you know. We don’t expect to find housing on this floor. It seems the closer we get to outside the more people are crowded into the provided space. We will be ordering dinner tonight, eating it here in the hall, and sleeping against the wall with the hope that no one gets run over in the night. We will have to set watches to protect us against locals wanting to pilfer our stuff.
“For better or worse, we expect the journey to end tomorrow, and we should discover what the outside is like.”
He felt like he should say something like ‘thank you for your patience’, but nothing came to mind that didn’t sound silly. Instead he continued down the line until he came to Lauren and Tommy.
“What should we have for dinner?” he asked them.
“It will probably be the last restaurant dinner they ever have,” Lauren answered. “I’d make it something good, filling, nutritious, high in calories--pot roast with vegetables and gravy sounds good, and a high sugar dessert, like maybe baklava.”
Beam grimaced. “Not baklava. I don’t do nuts. We’ve done ice cream before, and could try pie a la mode, but under these conditions we probably can’t deliver it frozen. Cheesecake has a lot to commend it, but I always want to get fruit on it, and I never know what kind of fruit people will like.”
“Strawberry,” Lauren said. “That seems to be the most acceptable. Or cherry--even people who don’t like cherries will eat cherry cheesecake.”
“Sounds good. I’ll order it. Any idea how many we have? Did we pick up any new ones last night?”
“I think they all came,” Tommy said. “The one you shot was their leader, what they call the Manner. They had only one Tennan, apparently something like the Manner’s deputy or assistant, and he and their Ner, who I think is their computer guy although he doesn’t know what a computer is and thinks he’s a priest, anyway, the Tennan and the Ner agreed that since you beat the Manner that makes you the new Manner.”
“Great,” Beam said. “King-of-the-Hill politics.” This would have been so much easier if back at the beginning he’d just taken Bob, Dawn, Bron, and Sophie and slipped out while everyone was asleep. These people weren’t his responsibility. They were the computer’s responsibility.
The computer that was starting to go crazy, to show cracks around the edges.
Well, the computer apparently gave him the job. Or maybe he simply told the computer that it wasn’t doing things terribly well and took over the job. It was his job now, and tomorrow it would be over.
Who was he kidding? Tomorrow they would be looking at the outside world, trying to figure out where to live. He would have to teach them how to build houses, water supplies and latrines, how to hunt for and gather food, how to live as primitive tribesmen in whatever world they find out there.
Lost in thought, he walked back to the front of the line. What was he going to do for dinner again? Oh, yeah, pot roast. Good idea. Maybe Lauren could help them figure out how to do this. She seemed to know a lot of stuff. It looked like she had hunting arrows; maybe she knew how to hunt. That would help.
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: