In Version; Chapter 96, Brown 269

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Stories from the Verse
In Version
Chapter 96:  Brown 269
Table of Contents
Previous chapter:  Beam 184

Derek was gazing at his lovely wife as the two of them got ready for bed.  She in turn was pretending to ignore him, or intermittently rolling her eyes, when the Pandora screen in the kitchen interrupted them with a beep.  Derek went to investigate, and then went to the front door.  He came back to their bedroom with a smile on his face and a knife in his right hand.

He drew it from its brown sheath, and flashed it through several slashes followed by a low lunge.  Vashti sat down on their bed, and watched him play with his new toy.

“It does look better than your old knife.”

“Oh, much better.  I think Slade must have bought it for me, deliberately getting one that was like my kitchen knife in size and style, so I’d be used to it.  Unfortunately, it’s going to take some practice to get used to--the blade is shorter, and the balance is very different.  But I do like the guards at the hilt.”  He glanced over at her, and her long hair.  “I bet I could split one of your hairs with it.”

Putting his knife down on a counter, he came over to claim a hair from her scalp.  And holding her hairs tight, she retreated onto the bed.  This started a wrestling match supposedly for hair.  The knife was forgotten for now.

The next morning, fully dressed, he took up the knife.  The textured grip kept it from sliding about in his hand.  He saw no need as of yet for the mechanical sharpener, a small box with an open mouth along which one slid the blade, and put it in his backpack.  He hooked the new knife to his belt with a hook that came with the soft brown plastic sheath.  Although he could crumple up the sheath, it did not snag or get cut by the blade.

Feeling he had waited long enough, he asked Vashti if she wanted to go anywhere.  No, she was going to stay in.  Checking next door brought Shella to the door, and after passing thanks to her for Slade, she told him Slade was trying a new physical exercise she had talked him into:  walking upside down on his hands.  Her eyes were laughing and he saw that she had manipulated her husband into providing amusement for her.  Leaving her to her game, he took the lift decagon to the roof.

Two flying cars with drivers awaited.  One was a Parakeet, and the other was a mass of muscle and rough skin.  Curious, he walked over to that car, and opened the door on the passenger side.  The driver started, and then relaxed.

“You are one of the humans, yes?” He said in a mournfully deep tone.

“Yes, I’m Derek.”

“Yes, one of the male warriors.  I am Ystrang, a Chombito, and your chauffeur guide.”

Derek climbed in and closed the door.

“Can you take me to something of interest?”

“Yes, sightseeing.  But I do not know what Humans find of interest.”

“How about what you find interesting, Ystrang?”

“Yes, I can do that.  Should I call you Derek, or is there some title by which you wish to be known?”

“Derek is fine.”  Derek smiled at the polite creature, guessing that it was between five and six feet tall, but its arms were bulging masses, along with his chest and legs.  It had no hair, and its skin was pale white with large black spots.

The Chombito spoke a command, and the roof retracted down to all four sides.  Then he pressed a button and the car turned on smoothly, and using a yoke he leapt the vehicle into the air.  To Derek’s relief the floor stayed opaque, although there were abundant windows to look over the swamp below.

They passed a multicolored fence or road below, and the land instantly changed to rolling fields of blue waving grasses.  Beyond that was a town, also of blue, with only one building of seven stories in height.  The rest were four stories or fewer.

“Why don’t I see more cars in the sky?”

“Most people walk, or they take the zero inertial affect underground trains which are far faster.  If you want to travel to the far side of Throne World, about forty thousand miles away on a Core Transit Express, it will take you four hours.  On a flying car, limited by law to five hundred miles per hour, it would take a month to circumnavigate the globe.”

Derek put things together in his head as they passed over another fence, and flew over fields covered by what he supposed were glass greenhouses.  Inside them he saw enormous plants.  The vehicle stopped in front of a building shaped like a small mountain with caves at random intervals.  Completely white individuals in black-and-white striped tunics scampered up and down the side of the hundred-foot-tall ‘mountain’.  He had at first thought they were Chombitos, but saw that they were too tall and too thin to be the same race--unless Chombitos had a huge amount of genetic variability or morphable bodies.

“Derek, there is one thing I must tell you before we get out.”  The deep mournful voice was even more deep now.  Derek looked at his driver who unblinkingly looked back.  “These are Ickthoi.  You and I are of Warrior Races.  The Ickthoi are not even non-warrior.  They are pure pacifist.  Only three intelligent races on Throne World are pure pacifist.  If you take offense, and attack one, it is likely to go very badly for you, especially as this is one of only a dozen locations where the Ickthoi live, and they have only two thousand here.  There are less than fifty thousand on the whole planet.  They are on the Endangered List.”

“If they are pure pacifist, then they won’t attack me, right?”

“Yes, Derek, but the Emperor’s guardbots can, will, with lethal force.”

“Then if you’re a warrior race, why do you find them interesting?”

The Chombito huffed a bit, which Derek gradually realized was laughter.  He only spoke two words before opening the car door on his side.

“You’ll see.”

Shrugging, Derek got out.  The light fell on him.  About a dozen climbers on the side of the artificial mountain paused to look his way, and then went back to doing whatever they were doing.  What he took to be a child, four-foot-tall, ran by chasing a green ball.  Then he felt it:  peace.  A constant wariness that was always in the back of his mind, always ready to fight if need be, fell away--oh, not completely.  It might not be possible for a Human to be wholly unwary, but he was now aware of his weapons as foreign oddities.

It was not an empathic effect, he thought, just the way they acted.  None of them looked worried, or had a concern for defending themselves.  A graceful lady walked up to them, towering over both but not making him feel the least intimidated.

“Would the honored warriors care to dine with us?”

Derek nodded after glancing at his guide who nodded back to him.  The lady took them into a cave mouth on the back side of the structure.  There were seats of stone of all sizes, and two near each other that fit the Human and the Chombito were found.  Food was placed in front of them.  It was not much, but later more food came, and much later more again.  Hours passed, and finally he was full.  More than that, though, he felt as if he needed to jump up and scream or something.

“Derek, my new friend. If I have begun to understand Human reactions, you are feeling ill at ease, yes?”

Derek nodded.

“It is unnatural for us to have peace.  We can enjoy it as a momentary treat, but eventually our nature rejects it.”

“It's time to go.”

“Yes. We thank our hosts, and leave a donation if we like.”

Ah, tipping.  It was so awkward if you didn’t know.  In some places, tipping someone was an insult; in some, it was insulting to tip too little--or too much.

“How much is appropriate?” he asked Ystrang.

“Do as I,” was the answer.

Derek rose and turned to the nearest of the Ickthoi, who was also eating.  He could see no distinctions between them, except as to sex and age.  Those who ate also carried food for others to eat.  Ystrang spoke to the nearest of them.

“I thank you, and I wish to donate 50 factory seconds to the Ickthoi Collective.”

“I, too,” Derek added.  The tall Ickthoi looked slightly down at them from his chair, and seemed to study both.

“You give with a good heart.  Your kindness is accepted.  Go in peace as you can, honored warriors.”

They went back to the flying car out front, and after both got in, Derek breathed a sigh of relief.  It had been wonderful, and weird, and he was ready to go back home.  So he asked the Chombito to take him back, and soon they were on his roof.  Before Derek got out, the Chombito spoke.

“I visit once every two weeks.  It helps with the dreams from my time a decade ago, putting down a riot in one of the undercities.  You might face a Chombito in the tournament, but you will not face me.”

Derek paused, then put a hand on the sandpaper-rough nobbly skin of his driver.

“King, this noble warrior’s heart seeks rest from nightmares.  Help him.”  A glow passed from Derek’s hand into Ystrang’s arm, and the alien visibly relaxed.

Derek raised his head, and smiled at Ystrang, who thanked him before Derek turned and went back to find his wife had prepared lunch.  He had to tell her he was already very full, what with the dozen small plates of food he had already eaten.  Each plate, by itself, had been barely anything, but a dozen added up.  At first, she was not amused, but he told her of his strange morning, and she grew interested, and forgave him for her having made lunch unneeded.

Next chapter:  Chapter 97:  Kondor 244
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 #491:  Verser Ventures.  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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