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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 37: Slade 223
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Kondor 230
“So,” Slade said as they walked back to their houses, “how did you know it would be rockets?”
Kondor shrugged. “It had to be something that wasn’t already commonly available, something they thought would give them an edge. It couldn’t be lasers or atomic bombs, because no one has yet made the leap to relativity and we haven’t given it to them. I suppose it might have been jet engines, but I don’t think anyone would see the benefits of those until they have stable aircraft. So maybe it was something like bigger guns or faster automatics or improved engines, but the bet was that it was a leap in kind, just not quality.”
“So it was a guess,” Slade teased.
Kondor grinned. “Yeah, but an educated one.”
“Do you think he--that is, his people--will share what they have?”
Kondor shrugged again. “I kind of doubt it. Even if we shook him up enough to persuade his people to evacuate the site--and I don’t know that they’ll listen to him--he won’t persuade them of the rest. We hadn’t really learned about the politics on this world, and the fact that there are separate nation-states is going to complicate the needed cooperation. We’ve already dealt with a technology spy and an upset ambassador. If the birds can’t cooperate, the visitors are going to decimate them.”
“Or octimate them,” Slade joked, and Kondor grinned.
“Right. Well, I promised to take a shift on the radio, and I’m awake now, so let me go see who’s on it now and whether I can relieve them.” With those words, Joe headed toward the hangar, and Slade continued home.
Shella was awake, and brewing something like tea when he walked in. She turned, her face clearly asking him what that had been about. So he began to explain, and after a bit she brought the drink and a bit of bread over to the table, and bade him sit. At first, she looked to sit down herself, but then she changed her mind, and massaged his massive shoulders.
“You’re beyond tense, m’lord,” she said.
“I know. I just hate waiting, not knowing what’s going on. Will it be war? Derek is talking to the aliens, but it's hard to see how he can get this giant colony ship to go onward. I am almost certain it will be a war, but maybe not. And if it is war, then what will the aliens do in their war? Will they land troops in formation, set up forcefields, and begin marching? Or will they drop computer controlled missiles on us? What of gas attacks? Do they even know what gas would hurt us? Presumably.”
“Maybe they’ll send down the toughest and bravest of them as a Champion to fight you in a duel, my lord,” Shella said with a small smile in her voice, trying to cheer up her husband.
“I could definitely get behind that plan,” Slade admitted wistfully. “But with them going to sixty-four different locations that seems unlikely.” He sipped some of his tea, and nibbled on the bread. Once that was finished, and still troubled at heart, he went back to bed with Shella to sleep, and hoped for less worrisome tomorrows.
The pale blue-skinned troll bellowed out a war cry even as Slade moved closer with the flaming sword layered in jellied gasoline, or napalm. The rough rocks under his feet were shattered bits of part of the wall of Asgard. He knew that this was the Final Battle of Gods and Men against the Giants, those unteachable and mad beings who wanted to pull the pillars of the Multiverse down in ruins. In their rage at being told they were wrong, they savaged Order. They would rather destroy everything than admit their clear fault.
The troll caught up a hand filled with a stone the size of a medicine ball, and Slade feinted as if in shock so that the troll unleashed it. Then diving into a smooth roll, he went under the flying rock, ignoring the bruising surface of uneven rocks under him, and came back up that much closer to the troll. It looked surprised to see him, and he charged, using the swiftness of Ullr to dance across the rocks in his hunt, and before the troll could bring down its massive club made out of a desecrated branch of Yggdrasil, Slade lunged at his own shoulder height, and did a perfect stabbing cut on the inside right thigh of the much taller troll.
Blue blood gushed out of the arterial wound, and Slade rolled to the right, not quickly enough. The club came down on his left knee, shattering it. But the troll was dying before his eyes, and then as it fell, he heard cruel, unrepentant, mocking, jeering laughter. And from over the pile of stones came walking up three more larger trolls. And Slade, pushing himself up with arm and one leg knew this is where his tale of glory ended.
“Come and get some,” he muttered, determined to at least take one more with him. But the trolls and the broken stones and his wound, and even his flaming sword, washed away in a fog.
“You dream, Slade the Warrior. Whether it is a true dream of prophecy, or an idle thing of the mind, or a test of your vows to Asgard, I will not say.” And beside him stood a trio of hooded and cloaked women. He was not sure which one had spoken, but then he suddenly realized who they were.
The Norns. The Fates.
His knees hit the ground as he bowed.
One of them, the oldest, patted him on the shoulder.
“You're a good boy, Slade.”
“A mighty warrior,” another said.
“A veritable god of war,” the third said, and then they were gone. But the mist around him seemed to hold a question. He reached out his hand for it, and he heard a desperate, crying voice.
“Lord of War, mighty god, Slade, help us. The aliens from afar will soon come, and we are afraid our nests will burn.”
And there were other voices with the first, all saying the same thing, all joined in unity as they beseeched their god to save them from the monsters.
Slade bolted upright in bed, with his eyes wide open in shock, and the voices were now gone. Had it been a dream? What was happening to him?
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 #482: Versers Engage. 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: