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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 34: Beam 169
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Kondor 229
Sophia and Beam were sharing a moment in the kitchen glumly looking at the choice between Tuscan Beef MRE and Beef Stew with Potatoes and Vegetables MRE--that is, Meals Ready to Eat, also known as Meals Rejected by Everyone. They were not the healthiest, and definitely not the tastiest. Their chief virtue was that they kept one’s ribs from sticking to one's spine, along with providing enough energy to get through the day.
“I’d like real beef.” Sophia said, and Beam knew what she was hinting at. Outside the barricaded house was a herd of cow-like creatures. Zombies had passed by yesterday, and although they had eaten part of the made-all-the-way-dead group that had earlier assaulted the house, for reasons that eluded Beam they had not gone after the cows. Which suggested that the herd of bovines was safe to eat.
“Do you have any spells suited for cooking beef?”
“Oh yes, it was part of what all fire mages learned. Cooking magic. Basic stuff. None of us learned how to make cake or pie, but I can cook beef.”
He patted her on the shoulder, and with a shudder tossed his package of Tuscan Beef down. Turning to leave the kitchen, he heard the alien’s voice in his mind.
He called for Dawn and Bron, and let Dawn go out first into the backyard. She did, and then turned halfway while still remaining watchful.
“Sir, all clear, sir.”
“Bob,” he said knowing he did not need to, and the alien floated out into the backyard. Suddenly with a startled MOOOOO, one of the cow-like beasts over a hundred yards away rose thirty feet into the air. It kicked, and thrashed, and threw itself around, even as Bob pushed it higher with his telekinesis. The rest of the herd just continued munching, green grass hanging from their mouths. And then suddenly, one mooed, and they all stampeded away.
The creature is very strong in body.
The still thrashing cow came over the backyard, and suddenly Bob let it go. The shocked cow had just enough time to give a confused MO--? And then its mass killed it as it crashed hard into the grassy backyard area. Spurts of blood and viscera flew loose, but most of it was contained inside the now ripped hide.
“Right.” Bron quickly ran out and began to cut up the carcass. His first bit was to open it butt to throat. After that, he pulled out every still intact internal organ he could, setting them aside. Beam looked about wondering if the girls would be upset at this display, but he quickly realized he was the most disquieted by it. That made sense, he realized. Ashleigh had been from a society of rice farmers who ate occasional pigs. Add to that, she had been trained as a stealthy mankiller. Sophia had lived in a world well before any sort of modern technology, and she had cooking spells for beef so she must have seen parts of a cow before. Bron was a blacksmith. Dawn simply did not care, being a biological killing machine in the shape of a little girl. And Bob, well, Bob was an alien who liked to munch on raw brains. Which made Beam the queasiest of the lot with his background on Modern Earth, despite having been a cook.
“Water,” Bron said, and buckets of it were produced, and he sloshed out the insides to get rid of any of the viscera that had broken out from the impact. There was no need to poison the meat further, he said.
“Not a problem, really, Bron. But go ahead and do it as it makes it easier.” Sophia said. Bron looked up, raised an eyebrow, and then nodded.
He quickly and roughly skinned the beast, and then chopped up the parts that were most tasty. As he did this, Bob floated over toward the head.
“Just wait, my friend,” Bron said, and cut through the neck and spine, and then tossed the head onto the top of the skin a few yards away. Bob floated after it. And then there were bone crunching noises as Bob crushed the bovine’s skull to get at the brains inside.
Bron hacked and cut out the chuck. This was the best part of the cow, the area above its shoulders. Sophia had vanished, and she came back with two large metal bowls, and a roasting pan.
“Cut it up to fit in these three,” she ordered, and once one was done, she began to speak in a mumbo-jumbo even as she looked closely at the first bowl of the beef. A flare of heat came off it, but it was otherwise unchanged to the eye.
“That cleansed it of any poisons.”
Then she put both hands on each side of the chunk of rich, red beef, and a flickering light began from one hand, and passed through the beef to the other hand even as she chanted a different set of gibberish. It was not fire, he noted, and the filaments of light and smoky light passed through, lost strength, regained strength with the other hand, and bounced back, over and over again. At times, he could see into the beef, just a half inch or so.
And as Bron finished with the chuck, the blacksmith turned to Beam.
“Should I cut out more?”
Beam considered the question, and then shook his head. They had no refrigerator. Even the thirty pounds of chuck they had selected was going to be an issue. He expected to have to throw some of it away.
“Once Bob is done, we’ll have him toss it far away to be carrion for whatever eats that out here.”
And then he saw Ashleigh gracefully dip down to crouch on her heels next to the cooking meat. And he could smell it as well.
Grinning because instead of having to wait for hours for lunch it looked like lunch was going to be soon, he paid attention to the cooking. Clearly, Sophia was working hard, still mumbling, but he saw the exterior of the meat brown and start to sizzle. Well, it would take a while to cook it all the way inside. But the scents were divine. And then Sophia stopped. She stood, stretched, cracked her back, and smiled.
“We can’t just eat the outside, despite that wacky recipe in that cookbook.” Beam remonstrated.
“Cooked to the bone.” She replied.
The others walked in, with Beam next to the last, and Bob flung the remainder up and away and out of sight. Then Beam and Bob joined the rest.
A plate with a two-inch twenty-five ounce steak along with a juice pack from the MRE awaited him. The steak was great, although it did lack seasoning. Everyone else ate their fill as well. And then Sophia rose.
“I’ll cook the other two containers as well. I can do fall-apart if you like.”
Beam had a query as to what that meant, and after a bit, he realized that Sophia was saying she could get the effect of a ten hour barbecue slow roast with her spell if she modulated it a bit, and lengthened the time for another ten minutes. Beam followed her into the kitchen, and curious tried to figure out what she was doing.
“It's not fire, Sophia.”
“We called it fire,” she said, and he frowned. O.K., it was some form of energy. And it did cook, so he could see how her medieval society thought it was fire. He considered if it was a microwave generation spell, but the steak had tasted far too good for that. He watched her cook more, trying to figure it out, but nothing came to him. He did note that it was hard work, compared to her other spells. Also, she had to speak the whole time. And when he asked her, she told him that it had no effect on anything more than a foot away. You could use it as an attack spell, but it was pretty poor for that.
And then he had an idea.
“What do you call that when you make fire dance over your hand?” he asked when she had finished the barbecue, and gratefully she took a break.
“When you get rid of the poisons.”
“And the cooking spell you just did?”
Beam ran his hand over his face. That did not help, but then he tried to listen again, for the response had just been a bit off.
“Say that again. Slower.”
“Sophia, the light that comes down out of the sky during the day. Would you call that Firelight as well?”
Sophia shrugged, getting a bit bored.
“Sunlight or Firelight, it's the same thing. It's the light of fire. Can I get back to cooking now?”
“Um, sure.” Beam said thoughtfully before waving goodbye, and walking out to another room to think.
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 #480: Versers Think. 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: