In Version; Chapter 79, Brown 265

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Stories from the Verse
In Version
Chapter 79:  Brown 265
Table of Contents
Previous chapter:  Kondor 239

Derek opened the next book brought by the Dvandar guide, A Basic Tutorial to the Lesser Races.  There he found something he had been curious about, the designation of a warrior race.

“A warrior race will have a significant subset of its population willing to engage in physical violence in defense of racial, personal, or Imperial goals.”

Pursing his lips, he noticed it said nothing about moral justifications.  In the description put forth, it would have been acceptable for him to have sent the Seeker with its uncounted millions into the Parakeets’ sun as he had the goal of keeping the aliens, who in this universe were called Chlorophytes, from conquering and enslaving and nuggetizing the Parakeets.  In his heart, though, he could feel the happiness the King had with him for not having done that.

“Non-warrior races are sometimes capable of violence, and may have been warrior races in the past, but have moved beyond that.  Warrior races are in the distinct minority in the Throne World Empire with only eleven of them so identified.  Chief among them is the Dracorex, then the Anders, followed by the Dvandar, the Xoark, and the Parakeets, followed by the Tso, and several others.”

He already knew that to be counted among the Great required two things.  One, they had contributed a Great Treasure to the building of Throne World.  Two, they had large numbers.  About one third of the inhabitants were one of the Seven Great Races with the rest being divided among the 49 Lesser Races.

“There is now another warrior race, but a Lesser Race:  the fiftieth.  Human,” he said to himself, or thought he did.

“This unworthy one agrees with Commander Derek Brown, Twice Honored Hero of the Caliphate,” he heard in front of him, and looked up as a large clear ball made of crystal landed on the table in front of him.  “I am 1942.  We conversed recently.”

“Yes, I remember,” Derek said.

“Apologies again.  Several of the Lesser Races have not the capacity to remember such a short interaction.  We are not sure of your capabilities other than that you are a warrior race.”

Derek’s mind spun into speculation.  Just how did you manage to accomplish anything with such a poor memory?  But he reined in his curiosity.  He wondered exactly what 1942 wanted.  To his right, at the table past Slade, he heard Shella whispering urgently to Slade.  Slade listened for a bit, then Slade leaned over, and held out a shiny advert announcing the First Combat Tournament on Throne World.

“Our seaweed buds want to know how good we are in a fight, am I right?” Slade said.

Derek looked past 1942, and five other Kelp balls floated about the room.

He focused in on 1942.

“Is this so?”

“Yes.  We want to know how much we should bet.”  All pretension of formality had disappeared for the moment, and 1942 had a heated intensity in his voice.  All the fronds in the aquarium ball were utterly still instead of the continuous snapping at food particles as before.

“Well, it's hard to say.  We’ve not fought anyone here,” Derek said with a grin touching his lips.  He figured he had no need to hide any tells because the Kelp could not read Humans yet.

“Compared to the Dvandar you had a quarrel with earlier?”

“I could take him,” Derek said after a moment of thought.

“Commander Vashti Brown, Honored Hero of the Caliphate?”

“A female, my mate.  She doesn’t usually fight, but probably she could.”

“This one.”  1942’s aquarium rose and floated in front of Slade who answered.

“He would not even have a chance to draw his weapons.  Two strikes to finish him.”

1942 floated in front of Shella.

“Yes. Not as easily as my lord, but yes, I could.”

“We unworthy ones could arrange a test for our honored friends,” 1942 said.  His fronds began to move again.

“But first, compensation,” Shella said.

And then the negotiating got serious.  Soon it became clear that while the Kelp did not disdain money, it was more of a signifier of importance.  What they valued was curiosity, and the status gained from being able to satisfy other’s curiosity with gossip.  Bets were a way of putting frond in the game to show how serious you were about your story or model of reality being true.

Derek and the others quickly realized that nothing they had was terribly valuable as objects.  They needed housing, transport, food, fees, and special monies (bribes).  They were busily negotiating, and in the midst of it, Slade mentioned a story about how he had fought a Parakeet after a Parakeet walked in and out of the reading room.  On the far side of the room, a quartet of Blue aliens were lounging in their chairs set to maximum support and their height, pretending to be reading a book about biochemistry while overhearing.  Suddenly, the offer of ‘one taxi, at need’ became ‘one flying car at all times with a chauffeur guide’.  Derek’s eyes widened as he realized what the Kelp really valued.

He began to put things together in his head.  The Kelp were insatiably curious, in part because they were to a great degree lacking in courage.  The ones he had talked to so far, who seemed extremely timid, were the ten percent, the ‘wild, adventurous’ kind, with the rest being even more timid.  The only excitement in their lives was the vicarious kind.

The Kelp had also somehow gotten their hands on a generalized artificial intelligence which they gave to the Emperor, Throne the First.  As a gamer, though, he knew that programmers usually left a back door into their systems--and he knew that the temptation to use it to spy on exciting events had to be there.

“One of your concerns is that you’re not sure how good of a fighter either of us is.  Surely you can have your AI simulate that?”

“It's not our AI,” 1942 quickly replied.

“I’m just thinking, any decent programmer would have left a back door into an AI he created.”

For a long minute, all of the fronds of all of the Kelp in the room were utterly still.

“I think we could request the AI to model one of you, if you were to engage in a sparring match with a combatant of our choice.  With the Emperor’s permission, of course.”

“Long live the Emperor,” Derek said, biting his lip to keep from laughing out loud.

Everyone in the room, including eventually the other Humans, replied with “Long live the Emperor.”

Then 1942 spoke again.  “I think we--”

Derek leaned forward.

“Now, my opinion is that the Emperor knows of this backdoor, and has agreed to it.  It’s an obvious thing to check for.”  He did not want to leave them with the impression of blackmail for that truly was not his aim.  He wanted them to understand Human intelligence.

1942 paused, and then spoke.

“I do not know from personal experience, as I am a minor spawn from a fairly minor node, but I suspect you are right.  If I were one of the great and powerful of my race, I might know with certainty.  I am from a wealthy node, but we are of no particular fame, and thus have not been able to rise further, although now that I have been the first to meet a new race, that will change for the better.  However, what I put together with conversations with friends, and gossip over years, you put together in a very short time.  I think we have to accord the Humans a very great insight as well.”

The other Kelp all murmured various forms of agreement.

“As such, we had sadly and incorrectly undervalued the ability of the honored ones.  We are impressed greatly, and will gladly give our champions what you asked for initially.”

Thus they settled on a deal in which the versers would receive a duplex apartment on the fourth floor in a pleasant area a thousand miles away, two flying cars with chauffeur guides, food, energy, and thirty thousand factory seconds (the digital currency in use in the Imperium, representing the productive output of a standard factory per second), in exchange for a combat test for Derek and Slade, and ten stories from each of the four versers.

Next chapter:  Chapter 80:  Slade 234
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 #489:  Battle Worlds.  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

Read the Stories

The Online Games

Books by the Author

Go to Other Links

M. J. Young Net

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