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Stories from the Verse
In Verse Proportion
Chapter 119: Slade 206
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Kondor 214
Slade knew that several birds had to be told of Kondor’s arrival. There were probably already rumors all over campus, and it would explode if he took his friend to the cafeteria or pretty much anywhere. The question was, who should be told first.
He decided on the antiquities professor. His contact with him had been sparser as he had been more involved with the engineering department, but this really was their best friend in the faculty. He went to the office.
The office had moved. It seemed that the engineering department had been expanded, so a lot of the softer subjects had been relocated. He managed to get directions, using his limited but improving language skill, and found the right building.
“Professor!” he called from the doorway. “I have news!”
“Greetings, Bob,” came the answer--the names of the humans were always done in a kind of parrot mimic voice. “Your ability to speak in our language is improving, I see.”
“I have been practicing. But I have a surprise for you. Joe Kondor just arrived.”
“Choe?” it replied. “The Choe, of ancient legend?”
“Yes, and I suppose I can take you to meet him, and you can see for yourself why he always looks different on the ancient pottery.”
The bird seemed stunned for a moment, but then scrambled to collect himself, and was out from behind his desk moving swiftly.
“He is at your nest?”
“Yes, settled on my sofa. He brought a friend. No hurry, they’re not going anywhere.”
The bird twittered in a way Slade understood to be laughter, then said, “Perhaps, but this is monumental. Who knows?”
“I expect he was seen when he arrived on the lawn between the student housing, and walking to our house. He was pretty upset when he arrived. It took a while to calm him down. I don’t know how much of the ancient language he ever spoke, or still speaks, so we might have to translate for you.”
They reached Slade’s living room. Joe was on the couch; Slade wondered whether he had moved at all since dinner. Zeke had taken Slade’s chair, but that figured, and Slade didn’t mind. The professor looked at Zeke, then Joe, and then back and forth again, and obviously figured it out, walking directly toward Joe. “Choe?” he mimicked.
Slade stepped in. “This is the professor of antiquities. He speaks the language we knew in the past pretty well, so he can understand you if you remember any of it, or I can translate, as I’ve been here long enough to learn quite a bit of the modern variant. It’s really very similar in the fundamentals; it’s just got a lot more vocabulary and few more, what do you call them?”
“Idiomatic expressions,” Shella volunteered.
“Right, what she said. Anyway, I don’t know what you remember.”
Joe scrunched his face a bit, and then in his sonorous baritone sang, “I’m pleased to meet you.” The professor smiled.
“And I you,” he tweeted back. “What brings you here?”
It was obvious that Joe was already running out of language, so again Slade stepped in. “Joe believes that he travels to different worlds by accident, sort of. He would almost certainly say that he wound up here because I was here, and my presence pulled him here. I can’t say he’s wrong, even though I think we’re here because there’s going to be trouble and we’re here to stop it.”
“Well, I can’t be specific, because I don’t know; and Shella says I could be wrong, this could just be that I’m here to teach a few people how to fight better. But the fact that Joe is also here now makes me think it’s more than that. But we’ll see. In the short term, though, he knows how to invent things that are way beyond me, so we’ll be introducing him to the engineering professor tomorrow. We’ll also have to introduce him to the dean and the law professor. Maybe you should come with us? You can probably explain who he is better than I can.”
“I’m sure this is all very interesting,” Zeke suddenly said, “but can anyone tell me what’s going on?”
“Um--probably not?” Slade cocked his head thoughtfully, and continued. “Joe and me actually are mythical legends from their ancient history. We seem to have returned here during their industrial revolution. We can make a big difference in that, but because we’re not birds we don’t have legal standing, can’t enter contracts, have no rights, that kind of thing. So we’re going through the steps to make our presence here as legal as possible. We’re essentially alien zoological specimens housed at the university, but at the same time they are contractually obligated to provide us with substantial support in exchange for our contributions to their technology. The university holds patents on a slew of inventions I gave them, from which I imagine they’re making money hand over fist. They built this house, although I invented the hot water and heating systems. They arranged for the customized furniture--we’re all taller than they are, and I am particularly so. They pay for our food and pretty much anything we order, although we haven’t tried to buy clothes yet. I suppose I’ll have to go to a tailor for just about anything.”
“So,” Joe said in parakeet, “what do I do now?”
The professor answered that he would have to meet the people, as Slade said, and particularly talk with the engineering professor about what kinds of things he might help them invent.
“Are you all right living in this nest with them?”
Slade answered that. “That’s a short-term solution. They’ll need a nest of their own, like ours, but different.”
“Well, they’re not a mated pair. They’re two males who are traveling companions. They would need separate rooms. But we'll have to start with getting them--with arranging for them to have anything at all, and then we’ll talk about building a nest for them and get the architect involved.”
“Wonderful,” the professor said. “I will see you in the morning. Should we meet at breakfast?”
“Works for me,” Slade said, and accompanied the professor to the door.
“Well, you heard the man. Let’s get some sleep, early start tomorrow, places to see, things to go, people to do, or something like that. You can have the couch and the spare room. A bed is going to take a while.”
And so saying, he headed for his own room.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #452: Versers Ready. 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: