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Stories from the Verse
Con Verse Lea
Chapter 1: Hastings 233
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“Missus Hastings! We’ve got a problem!”
Lauren heard Tommy’s voice from across the huge hanger-like garage. She wasn’t sure whether it sounded emergent or just urgent, or something less, but it must require immediate attention--for ordinary problems, Tommy would have found her.
Of course, that meant Lauren had to find Tommy.
Almost instinctively she relaxed to feel for the scriff sense that pointed her to her possessions and other versers, people infected with scriff as she was who because of this bounced from universe to universe whenever they died. She realized immediately that this wasn’t going to help, because Mister Beam and his four cohorts should also be in the room somewhere--but they weren’t. There was only the one other verser present.
Already Lauren had an inkling of what the problem was.
She did not run, but she walked briskly in the direction she knew to be Tommy, and soon found her standing near the huge garage door that had opened last night.
“So,” Lauren said, “I gather something has taken out our Mister Beam and his companions?”
“I was watching them,” Tommy replied. “I think he was trying to hot-wire the door, or something. Anyway, he opened that box and was prodding at the wires with a screwdriver. There was a very bright spark, and he and Bron both vanished.”
“And took Sophie, Dawn, and Bob with them. It seems that the five of them are linked such that if Mister Beam is killed the others also leave. Well, that means we don’t have their assistance, and we don’t have his leadership. We do have some problems to address. Let’s start by getting organized. Leaders!” she called. “I need to see you, here, now, please.”
She waited a few minutes, and one at a time six people came to her.
“We haven’t been properly introduced. I’m Lauren--Lauren Elizabeth Meyers Hastings, in full, and I’ve got some other names and titles that have adhered to me over the years, but Lauren will do. This is Tommy--Tomiko Takano, which is already pretty short, but we shorten it to Tommy.”
She saw Tommy laugh at that quietly.
“So, you are?”
“I’m Varlax, leader of the main group; I’ve been that leader since Emperor Beam took over and appointed me. Are you the new emperor?”
“Emperor?” Lauren laughed. “Goodness, no. I don’t think we need an emperor. Consider me more an advisor here to help you people put together your own society. And your friends?”
“Well, this is Gram, who was one of our original leaders, and Torin, who replaced Tennan Tamis when he stayed beyond. And this is Peep, our Ner. And you’ll remember that a couple days ago we picked up some people who had been another tribe but joined us. This is their Tennan, Boronir, and their Ner, Sylwi.”
Lauren nodded. “O.K., so I got it, that you three have been running the three groups for a while. But what’s a tennan, and what’s a ner?”
As Lauren’s eyes moved from one member of the group to another, they were looking at each other, as if they had no idea how to answer the question. Gram finally did.
“Every tribe,” he began, “usually has a manner, who is the leader of the tribe. Usually tribes are big enough that he can’t do this alone, so he has at least one tennan to help him.”
She wondered whether these titles were corruptions of military terms, commander and lieutenant, but realized these people would not know if it were so. The other word, though, didn’t seem to fit. “And a ner?”
It was Peep who explained this one. “We learn from our parents how to contact the gods, standing at the scree altars and performing the rituals.”
She raised an eyebrow. “So, you’re kind of like priests who inherited your positions from your families?”
Peep and Sylwi looked at each other. She said, “I don’t think I know what a priest is.”
Makes sense. “Generally a priest is someone who represents the people to God, sometimes also God to the people. But that’s all right. These altars: where are they?”
Tommy spoke. “The ners access the computer terminals,” she said. “They don’t understand the computers at all, but they’ve learned which icons to touch for particular results. Different ners know different routines, but I think that medical assistance is pretty common, and sometimes food delivery, or directions to a place of food of some sort. Their god is the computer.”
It occurred to Lauren that given the way magic worked in this world, it was possible that their god was in the computer, or used the computer as a means of communicating with his people. But obviously the computer and the god were separate. Otherwise Tommy and the ners could not both get results from using the computer.
It also occurred to her that they had absolutely no need for the ners, and as soon as they stepped outside it was likely they would never be needed again. But then, it would be better not to turn away potential help. As to the tennan, he probably had a better rapport with his people than the other leaders, but splintering the group into four units was probably not a good choice.
Of course, it might depend on their living situation.
Needing to make a decision, she punted.
“O.K., for the moment, Varlax, Gram, and Torin, you’ll continue to manage your groups. Varlax will be what we might call first of equals, or the chairwoman of the group--she’s not in charge in the sense of dictating decisions, but she gets to keep you organized. Peep, Boronir, and Sylwi, once we get outside and settled, we'll work on how you fit.”
Looking across the room at the hundred or so people, she said, “And now I have to figure out what to do about feeding all of these people.”
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 #460: Versers Reorganize. 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: