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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 66: Slade 230
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Previous chapter: Beam 177
“Wait!” Derek said as Slade was reaching for the door. He hesitated.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“Oh--it’s not what’s wrong. I have an idea. How reliably can you pass down that hall with your insignificancy thing without being noticed?”
Slade shrugged, and looked at Shella.
“It varies,” she said. “It might last over an hour, but it might last only a few minutes. One of the weaknesses of the spell is that there’s no way to know whether it’s still working other than that you’ve been spotted, and you can’t cast it while you’re being watched.”
“What are you thinking?” Bob asked.
“The ship has wildlife areas and carries a lot of animals. It also has robots programmed to capture those animals if they get out of their confinements, and our robot was one of those when we got it. I would bet that most of the aliens on this ship have never seen a human, and that they haven’t seen more than a few of their own native animals. If Vashti and I were to pretend to be drugged and let the robot carry us, we would probably be taken as insignificant as well, and no one would think twice of a robot removing a couple of large unidentified animals from a hangar level.”
Slade nodded. “Only problem,” he said, “is that if you’re pretending to be unconscious you can’t see to give directions, or say anything to us. Of course, you can use the telepathy to tell us, but will you know which direction to go?”
“That’s not really a new problem. I don’t know the layout of this floor--but the ship is so big there are probably a lot of indigs who don’t know the layout of floors they have to visit. There are banks of elevators in the center. We’re pretty much hoping that we’ll hit them if we keep working our way in, but I don’t know that we’re headed the right way even now, or which way we should turn when we step through that door.”
Slade nodded. “That’s all right. We’ll find it. May the Norns guide my steps.”
This last wasn’t spoken to them, but then he added to them, “Do it, quickly.”
“Shella,” Derek said, “take the bike. I think the rest will be fine.” So saying, he gave some directions to the robot including that it was to follow Slade, and helped Vashti join him loosely held in its arms. Leaning back and closing his eyes, he said, “Go.”
He had prayed this prayer before, and it had gotten him where he needed to be, but he didn’t really know how it worked, that is, how he knew which way to go. He opened the door and stepped out into a crossing path, and without thinking made a left. As he walked briskly it occurred to him that had he thought about it he would have gone right, but the thing about divine guidance was it often took you in ways you did not expect, would not have chosen, to get you where you did not realize you needed to be. Shella was keeping up with him pushing Derek’s bike, and the robot was right behind them. They walked for about twenty minutes, periodically renewing their insignificancy concealments and passing not crowds but a fair number of the short aliens when suddenly he realized they had reached the elevator. He stopped abruptly.
“This may sound stupid,” he said, “but how do I work the elevator?”
Not stupid at all, Derek sent. The button on the right will call for an elevator going up. Then when we’re inside I’ll show you the layout of the control buttons.
“The one on the right, huh? Weird.”
As they boarded the elevator and the door closed behind them, Derek hopped down from the robot and pressed the top left button on a panel laid out in about a dozen rows of four, with two extra at the bottom. “We’re not moving,” Slade said.
“Gravity generation compensation. Something like inertial dampers, the gravity in the floor is adjusted so you don’t feel a change. Quickly, here, these buttons are numbered, top to bottom but right to left. So this one,” he pointed to the top right, “is the observation deck at the top, and the second one to the left of it is deck two, officer’s quarters and the bridge. Coming out the door you should be able to see signs for the bridge. You’ll know them. They look like they’re saying something about only authorized personnel are allowed this way.”
“We got on on level forty-seven; if you need to get out, there are fifty levels, so forty-seven is that one.”
“Yeah, as much as I hate to lose a good spaceship, I don’t expect to be taking it back with us. We’ll either gate out or verse out.”
Suddenly the door started to open. “Are we there already?” Slade asked.
“I wouldn’t think so. Someone must be getting on,” Derek said, and readied his rifle.
“I got this,” Slade said, and drew his sword and dagger.
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 #487: A World in Space. 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: