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Stories from the Verse
In Verse Proportion
Chapter 139: Slade 211
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The incomprehensible racket of clattering, banging, chirping, whistling, and whatever else pulled Slade from his comfortable chair to his front door, where a flock had gathered and continued the cacophony. There were many words, or whistles, completely unknown to him, but he gathered that something had happened in the grassy space between the student housing buildings, and they wanted him to come tell them what it was.
“Shella?” he called. “I’m going to go get Joe, but I think you should come, too. Catch up.”
With that, he strode to Joe and Zeke’s place. The noise had lessened, and when he knocked Zeke appeared fairly quickly.
“Lying down. He was stressed over Leah.”
“Right. Must be tough. Anyway, I think we need him. Something has happened, and I can’t make out what. So roust him, and find us.”
“Where’ll you be?”
“Over by student housing. Use the scriff sense to track us.”
At that moment Shella caught up; turning, Slade let the birds lead them.
It took no time at all to spot what had the birds upset. What appeared to be a classic if a bit small flying saucer had crashed, well, maybe not crashed, but made a very rough landing digging into the turf, on the open space not far from where he held his morning swordsmanship classes. Adjacent to it was what he had to call a robot, not really at all humanoid but definitely a mobile machine that was self-operating--unless of course the owners of the ship were really tiny.
The birds were all sheltering near the buildings, but obviously trying to see without being seen. Slade wondered whether he should have taken similar precautions, but figured by this point he probably had been seen. He approached the robot slowly.
“This seems extremely unlikely, but here goes. Do you speak English?”
The robot seemed to turn its attention toward him, and said, “Yes.”
“Well, send me to Jotunheim,” Slade muttered. “Of all the unlikely--”
At that moment, Joe walked up. “What have we got?” he asked.
“It’s obviously a robot. I never dealt with any that I recall, but this doesn’t look familiar to me. But it does speak English.”
“Does it?” Joe replied. “That’s peculiar, but then, we have often landed in universes where there are humans who speak English. It might have something to do with how scriff works, taking us to worlds that are close to home.”
“Maybe. But then, we’ve been in this world before, and both times it brought us to a place where they decidedly did not speak English.”
Joe nodded. “So what have you asked it?”
“Nothing yet,” Slade said. “I only just discovered that we could talk to it, and since I hadn’t expected that I hadn’t really thought about what we would say.”
At that moment the door of the ship opened, and a familiar boy rushed out.
“Derek?” the two chorused.
“How did you get here?” Slade asked.
“Long story. Short version, we were trying to move an asteroid so it wouldn’t have a catastrophic collision with a planet we were helping colonize, and we cracked our hull. I managed to aim for the planet before blacking out from lack of oxygen, but we apparently got enough back when we entered the atmosphere--but by then it was a different planet.”
“In a different universe, obviously,” Joe added.
“Yeah. Well, Vashti is with me. Vash? She’s still a bit disoriented from versing in. So, where are we?”
“Remember that parakeet valley Lauren, Joe, and I sometimes talk about? Well this is that.”
“Only,” Joe added, “it’s been millennia since then, we’re legendary gods, and they’ve entered their industrial revolution.”
“Wow,” Derek said. “That’s wild. So, what have you been doing?”
“We’re on the campus of a university, and we’ve been working with the engineering department to help invent things they haven’t thought of yet,” Slade offered.
“In exchange, they provide housing and food and pretty much whatever we say we want,” Joe added. “I think we’ve made the university richer than anyone else on the planet. We’ve given them gas heat, hot water, electric light, phonographs, motion pictures, and we’re working on the internal combustion engine and the airplane.”
“I guess no computers.”
“No, but Zeke has gotten them into radio, and I’m working on transistors, so we’re moving that direction.”
At that moment Shella and Zeke walked over, and Vashti came to the doorway at almost the same moment. “Derek?” Shella said. “Vashti?”
“Wow, nice ride,” Zeke said. “Where’d you get it?”
“Long story,” Derek said. “Got any food? Where should we stow our gear? I don’t expect the auxiliary ship will be at all comfortable since all the systems have shut down. We’re going to have to do some repair work on it, if we’re going to get it working, and I have no idea how the repulsion engines work. In fact, just finding the leak in the hull will be a challenge for me.”
“Well,” Slade said, “you’ve probably come to the right place. If there’s anywhere on this planet that work like that might be possible, it would be here. Come on, bring your gear, let’s get you settled and send word to the university that they’ve got another one--or two.”
“You think the dean is going to believe us?” Kondor said.
“Well, I think we have proof. Hopefully they don’t think we’re the spearhead of an alien invasion.”
“Yes, particularly since we’ve given them automatic weapons, and would have a hard time defending ourselves.”
“Yeah, there is that.”
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 #456: Versers Prepare. 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: