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Stories from the Verse
Re Verse All
Chapter 155: Hastings 232
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Beam 117
Breakfast, ordered by Mister Beam, was scrambled eggs, pancakes, sausages, bacon, yogurt with fresh mixed berries, orange juice, and coffee. There was syrup, salt, and pepper on the side, along with cream and sugar.
“I don’t know if you drink coffee,” Lauren had said to Tommy, “but if not I’ll trade you my orange juice for it.”
Tommy had agreed to the swap, and both found the breakfast quite a challenge to finish, but rose to the challenge. Everyone needed a bit of digestion time after that, but were also stretching after a night sleeping against the wall in the hallway. They were soon hiking toward level one.
Lauren was surprised that Beam served pizza and soda for lunch, which was a bit of a challenge even with only two kinds of pizza (pepperoni or extra cheese), but when she considered it she realized that whatever they found on the surface, it was unlikely to include any food like pizza. From what Tommy had told her, they were probably looking at farmland or ranches or some other agricultural or meat-producing land. They had no flour and probably couldn’t bring enough to matter, and certainly wouldn’t have a pizza oven for some time yet, possibly measured in generations. For some of these people, this would be the last slice of pepperoni they encountered in their lifetimes. So maybe Mister Beam did know what he was doing.
He also ordered banquet-sized trays of several foods, including lasagna, shepherd’s pie, Swedish meat balls, mashed potatoes, pulled pork, stuffing, green bean casserole, and several other dishes, along with disposable plates and bowls and tableware, all of which he packed in the robot carriers which followed Sophia and Dawn. He explained that this was dinner, and it was hopefully going to be a picnic outside on the lawn. Lauren thought he might be being optimistic concerning what was outside, but admired the foresight to provide food for dinner.
As they reached the top of the last ramp, with no further ramp ahead, there was something of a sigh of relief, followed by a gasp of confusion. They were in a huge garage, at least the size of an aircraft hangar, and many of the crawling robotic trucks of many sizes were parked in here. Some were being repaired or maintained by smaller insectoid robotic machines again of several sizes crawling over them, making adjustments, replacing parts and changing fluids.
“Well,” Tommy said, “I’d say we’ve reached the surface, but we’re not outside.”
Just then one of the walls opened, a very large overhead bay door, and a truck entered laden with store-ready fresh vegetables. It crossed to the ramp, apparently already programmed with its destination. Through the door, though, it was obvious that outside at that moment was dark and rainy.
“Bad timing,” Lauren commented. “We’ll have to spend the night in the garage and then figure out how to get through those doors into the world beyond.”
Mister Beam seemed to have reached the same conclusion, as he suddenly appeared atop one of the dormant trucks and called for everyone’s attention.
“In our world below,” he said, “we had the power to decide day and night. In the world above, the outside to which we are arriving, day and night are controlled by the turning of the world and whether it is facing the sun or not. Right now it is night out there, and while I am all for a good night’s stroll, it is also raining--something else you will experience, as water falls from the sky. Because of this we are going to spend the night here in the shelter of the garage, and tomorrow in the daylight we will venture outside into our new world.
“We have food. Sophie? Bron? Let’s set up the buffet for our guests.”
With that the two found some scrap adequate to create something of a large long table, placed the trays of food along it, the dishes and tableware at one end, and uncovered everything.
“One thing I’ve learned about potlucks,” Tommy said to Lauren, “is you want to be on the beginning of the line if you want the good stuff.”
Lauren laughed. “You go ahead,” she said. “I’ve gotten around to eating just about anything, so I’ll manage.”
She watched Tommy scamper over to the table as the crowds began converging on it. Some people didn’t get the concept, and simply walked over to the table and grabbed handfuls of food out of the trays to stuff directly in their mouths. Bron and Sophia acted as police, directing them to get in the line and use the plates and utensils. Since so many of the people already understood this, Lauren guessed it was the new people who hadn’t been instructed in the relevant social graces.
As the lines wore down, Lauren got on the end. Whatever remained would make an adequate meal.
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: