In Version; Chapter 24, Beam 166

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Stories from the Verse
In Version
Chapter 24:  Beam 166
Table of Contents
Previous chapter:  Brown 250

Standing nervously in the dark at the top of the stairs, Beam quietly drew his revolver.  Was he nervous because it was dark, or because there was some real threat here, or because all of Ashleigh’s caution had made him feel it?  Somehow he thought if there really were anything dangerous down here, they’d have found out about it last night.  But he’d been wrong before, and caution was reasonable.

It also occurred to him that Ashleigh had no experience to prepare her for what might be there.  Not that Sophie was that much better--she’d faced a dragon, and wolves, and, well, other things, but her world didn’t include all the things that had been imagined in his.  I guess no one’s did, he thought.  But Ashleigh’s care was making him feel like they might be about to encounter such a thing.

The door silently eased open, and she peered inside, tilting her head to look to the right and left.  No, she was listening; there would be almost no light.  Then he thought he heard her sniff, but barely, followed by a stifled gasp.  She closed the door again, and waved for Beam to wait.  Her ascent up the stairs was far quicker than her descent had been, but only once the top stair’s door to the basement was closed did she begin to speak.

“The creatures we fought. Many of them.”

Sophie looked scornful, and Beam felt doubtful although he hid his reaction behind a stone face.  After looking at Sophie, Ashleigh turned to Beam.

“It’s true.”

“We’ve made plenty of noise.  They haven’t tried to break down the door or attack.”

“Bob did not sense their minds.” Sophie added.

Ashleigh shrugged.  “This might be true,” she said, “but it’s also true that they are down there.  The other day, when we fought them, I took the chance to smell them.”

Sophie blinked.  “Whaaat?  Why would you do such a thing?”

“To be able to sense them without them sensing me.”  Ashleigh spoke as if it were the most reasonable notion in the world.  “I know what Bob and Bron and Dawn, and you lady witch, all smell like.”

Beam held up a hand, his forehead wrinkling.  The white-haired man thought.

“So you smell these, these zombies?”

“Many of them.”  She nodded.  Sophie and Beam stared at each other with the dawning realization that despite its complete lack of sense, Ashleigh was telling the truth.  Which meant what?

Bob, he began to think, to tell the alien they had a problem, and could he look into the situation, but Bob already knew what he was going to say.

Many tiny hungry minds.  They sleep.  Hibernate.  They think like insects.

So, it’s like a hive of ants or bees in the basement.

Quieter.  Bees noisy.  Ants louder.  Like spider eggs.

Beam snapped his fingers.

“Now, say I was a zombie.  And I got myself into a position where I couldn’t do what I wanted, what would I do?  Shut down; conserve energy.”

“The people here were making those weird creatures we saw in the art book,” Sophie added, recalling her flipping through the cookbook.  “Perhaps they made their own ‘tiny brains’, as Bob calls them.”  Beam nodded, but put the thought aside for the moment, although he did realize that it fit the notion of non-magical zombies, which he was relying on for his theory.  A necromancer’s creation might stand centuries at wait, but a biologically powered zombie ultimately was limited by energy expenditure.

“But why not wake up when they hear us?” Ashleigh asked.

“Not sure. They might be doing so now.  Or they might not be able to because they hibernated too long.”  Beam drew a deep breath.  “Ashleigh, go get Bron.  Sophia, I’m going to need light to see just how bad it is, and maybe fire.  But don’t burn the house down.”

“Right. No burning the house down.”

Ashleigh came back with Bron who had weaponed up, and Bob joined them.

“There is a basement full of hibernating zombies.  We need to make them all very dead.”

“Without burning the house down,” Sophie added with a small smile as fire played along her gesturing fingers.

“OK, how do we play this?” Bron asked.

“Narrow area of attack. Sophie and I go down, and light them up.  You and Bob stand guard at the top of the stairs, and Bob, you be ready to yank us out if I yell for it.  Ashleigh, you’re rear guard.  Make sure no one sneaks up on Bob or Bron.”

“Sir, what about me, sir?”

“We need to gather our things in case we do burn down the house, and Dawn, the rocket launcher down the stairwell is for if things go really bad.”

“Sir, yes, sir.”  The whole group broke apart to pack their gear, and then reconvened at the basement door.

Beam nodded.  “All right, what I have is a fall back if needed plan.  With layers of fall back.  I go in with Sophie, and try to solve the problem.  If that’s not good enough, then Bob yanks us out.  And he has his own TK, and Bron’s hammer to fill the stairwell with the dead.  If that doesn’t work, then Dawn, a rocket down the stairwell should do the trick.  But, Sophie, if things get that bad we are probably burning the house down.”

All of them hoped it did not get that bad; a burning house would offer no shelter against a possibly oncoming horde.  In fact, it might attract such a horde.

Beam took out his .45 pistol and held it pointing up as he stepped down the stairs listening to Ashleigh’s advice on how to be quiet.  He did not achieve her utter silence, but he did well, he thought.  And Sophie did well too.

“OK.” He looked at Sophie who was just behind him at the base of the stairs.  She held up her right hand and spoke some mumbo-jumbo.  He yanked the door open.  The light beam shown in.

It struck a boom box and a pack of a dozen smaller batteries wired together in a deliberate way that were hanging by ropes from just under ceiling joists.  Sophie’s magic light beam played around the room, and it was empty with the floor being absent.  Looking down, he saw a deep pit with dozens and dozens of zombies lying motionless in the bottom.  Looking down at his feet, he saw an obvious do-it-yourself bit of work, a porch of pine 3 by 6’s that ran across the floor in front of the door, and out to both sides.

Now why would someone build a porch over a pit in their basement, he wondered with a slight smile.  Bending down, he pressed on it, still safely in the stairwell.  It moved slightly.  He put more muscle into it, and it suddenly gave, tilting him forward so that he threw himself back at Sophie, upsetting her a bit.

Yep.  A trap.

“What is it?” Sophie asked.

“That box hanging from the joists.  Its--a noisemaker.  Probably someone singing loudly.  And so the zombies come in, stand on the porch, and it tilts under their weight, and they fall in.”  He stood up, and called Bron down.  A little explanation, and Bron chortled as well after looking down into the pit.  It was nice to see a clever trap do in an enemy of Mankind.

Everyone retired to the upstairs area, and considered the situation.  Then Sophia snapped her fingers, and flung her hair about with a smile.

She ran up stairs, and Beam, bewildered, followed her.  The rest then did as well.  They arrived in one of the upstairs bedrooms with a closed window to see Sophia holding up a broken plate.  Looking triumphant, she glanced about to see if anyone else got it.  They all just looked at her.

“Okay, the house is besieged by zombies, so the man of the house digs his pit, makes his porch trap.  He opens the front door, and the basement door, and the one at the bottom of the stairs.  He has somehow set the ‘boombox’ to start playing.”

“Long stick,” Beam says, and she nodded brightly, excited at her deductions, before plunging on.

“The rest of the family is up here.  He joins them.  After the boombox stops playing, he and his wife toss plates out this window as far as they can go.  They break on the lawn, and make noise.  The remaining zombies are drawn to that noise.  And we know this because this plate got tossed, but the plate hit the window frame and bounced back and broke in here.”

“Probably the wife tossed that one,” Bron muttered.  Both Ashleigh and Sophia gave him a frosty stare, and he just looked out the window.  Beam laughed, and spoke.

“Dawn, analysis.”

“Sir, Sophia’s tactical analysis of the situation fits, sir.”

“After which everyone runs down stairs, and jumps in the car.  And uses an automatic door opener to open the garage,” Beam says.  “But why is the front door locked?”

Bron replies.  “If you were leaving your house for the last time, wouldn’t you want to keep it from the zombies?”  Beam grunted.  Personally, he could care less.  But this left the problem of fifty or so zombies in the basement pit that were hibernating.  Should he just leave them there, or what?

It all fit.  Nodding, Beam said, “O.K., it’s been a stressful morning.  Let’s see about some lunch, and then we can figure out our next step.”

Next chapter:  Chapter 25:  Kondor 227
Table of Contents

There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eleven other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #478:  Character Conflicts.  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:

Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel

Old Verses New

For Better or Verse

Spy Verses

Garden of Versers

Versers Versus Versers

Re Verse All

In Verse Proportion

Con Verse Lea
Stories from the Verse Main Page

The Original Introduction to Stories from the Verse

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