In Version; Chapter 116, Brown 274

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Stories from the Verse
In Version
Chapter 116:  Brown 274
Table of Contents
Previous chapter:  Beam 189

It was the day off, and Derek was telling Vashti about Legend of Zelda, the video game.  She had asked him what the music he had taught the ‘Iorg was from.  One thing led to another, and he was now an hour deep into explaining video role playing games to a child of a pre technological civilization (although her experience in the flight simulator of the Wanderer helped immensely).  Her face flickered between amusement, unbelief, wonder, and confusion at irregular intervals.  Then the doorbell rang.

He got up and went to the door, expecting to see Slade or Shella.  Instead, he saw four of the blue Bilitate aliens all leaning on each other.  He leapt back, and drew his knife.  Perhaps this was the Alien Mafia’s way of ‘sending a message’.  Then they all swayed, and fell to the floor of the hallway in the closest approximation to liquid form he had ever seen, even as they retained their solidity.

“Please don’t hurt us, honored warrior,” they all said, almost as one.  He noticed the fall had revealed a gold plated box ten inches wide and one inch deep.  Deciding they were not a hit squad, he assured them he had no intention to hurt them.  Leaning on each other, they pulled themselves to their feet, more like snakes than bipeds even though they were clearly bipedal.  He saw blue tears in the corners of their eyes.  Feeling bad, he spoke again.

“Would you like to come in?”

“Yes,” one said after they all glanced quickly at each other.  He let them in, and they asked if they could sit down as they’d had a significant shock.  He agreed, and they looked around but found nothing other than their large cot, and so they slid down a wall to lie on the ground.

“Please to not move so fast, honored warrior.  Or are you teleporting?”  He thought the same one that had first spoken spoke again, but it was hard to tell the difference.  Derek deliberately slowed his movement, and waited.  The Bilitate took several tens of seconds, and visibly calmed.

“If I may begin, Commander, Derek, Human?”

“That is me,” Derek said, reminding himself to treat these medics as eggshells.  Their kindred had patched him together many times over the last week with professionalism and genuine concern.

“We are Imperial Messengers.  We carry the Burden of an Imperial Invite to a Party at the Glorious and Masterful Third Summer Palace for the Commander, Derek, and the Commander, Vashti.  This is extended to all combatants who are currently in the runnings for the Grand Tournament.  It is at eight o’ clock tonight.  While dueling is forbidden on the Palace Grounds, if you choose to attend, please wear your weapons.”  It held out the box, and the box opened to reveal a very fancy piece of paper inscribed with beautiful and inscrutable symbols.  They then took the box back.  It was not an invite after all, but a verification of their identity.

“What clothes should we wear?” Vashti said, and Derek realized that yes, a party, even a very large party with tens of thousands of guests called by the Emperor, was probably not suited to old, ratty jeans.

“Formal wear of your species and culture is acceptable.”  Other details were exchanged and the quad left.  Shortly thereafter, through the door, and right across the hall where Slade's apartment lay, the two could hear loud cries of “Please DON’T Hurt us, Honored Warrior!”

“Oops.  I should have gone to Bob for them.  I’m sure they’ll get over it.”

“After a month or two,” Vashti replied.

“Well, I don’t think we have to go,” Derek began.  He looked sideways over at Vashti.  She clearly wanted to go.  “But we can, if you like.”  She jumped up and brushed him on the cheek.

Waiting a few minutes for the invitations party to depart from Bob and Shella’s place, they walked over.  Derek sounded the bell and called out, “It’s us,” just to be safe.  Bob opened the door and let them enter.

“So, are you going?” Derek asked.

“What, attend a party with ten thousand aliens most of whom are contestants in a wargame?”  His question was dripping with sarcasm.

“Of course we’re going,” Shella said.  “If nothing else, it would be rude not to attend.”

“What are you going to wear?” Vashti asked, and it struck Derek that he hadn’t considered that.  He didn’t really have any formal wear, and trying to explain to an alien tailor what a tuxedo was--what was a tuxedo, anyway?  But Shella was answering.

“I have my wedding dress.  I don’t think I can put my hair up the way it was then, but it’s formal enough.  I think Bob is planning to wear his leathers,” she said, possibly with a hint of disdain.

“Nothing wrong with that,” Slade argued.  “I got married in those leathers, and if they were formal enough for that they’re formal enough.  Besides, we were instructed that we should wear our weapons, and my armor is one of my weapons.”

Derek couldn’t argue with that; it was apparent from her sigh that Shella had already admitted defeat on that count.

“Wedding dress,” Vashti echoed.  “What a good idea.  We have our thobes--at least, I have mine.  Derek?”

He suddenly hoped he had packed it.  It wasn’t only that it would be useful right now; it would probably upset her if he hadn’t considered it important enough to bring with them.

“I’m sure I can find it,” he said hopefully.

“Good,” Shella said.  “We’ll see you this evening.”

Derek was relieved to find that yes, he had packed his crimson-trimmed royal blue thobe.  He wore his size-changing suit under it, along with his two knives, with his spritish bow and arrows in a pocket.  He wrapped the chain around the outside with the white belt with the gold threads, picked up his frying pan, and was ready to go.  He did not bring his laser blaster.  Vashti emerged from the privacy area twenty minutes later in her gold-trimmed white thobe and matching belt.  She had washed and dried her hair.  “Ready?” she asked, and Derek resisted the urge to comment on the question.

The door chime suggested that Bob and Shella had arrived, and Derek and Vashti met them at the door, Shella in her green wedding dress and Bob in his leathers and all his weapons except his recently-acquired flintlock rifle.  Together they took the lift to the roof.  Derek breathed out a sigh of relief that they were not jumped by someone waiting for them.  The couples took both flying cars, and fifteen minutes later they were descending toward the Third Glorious and Masterful Summer Palace.  Dropping toward it they could see tall pillars, and some sort of bright orange light atop each of them.  The whole was arranged in a stylized orange sun with thirty-nine sun rays extending like weather flags off the center circle.  As he got closer, though, he saw that some of the pillars on the outer edge were not lit, and they were dropping toward those.

Discreetly, he reached for his chain.  Yes, he was sure that Ystrang was a good guy, but someone might have gotten to his family.  And then the lights of a flag flickered on beneath him, and Ystrang sang out in reply.

“Yes, the Summer Palace greets you.  There were fifty six arrangements of lighted sideways pyramids, one lit for each race in attendance, but they’ve added a new design with fifty seven, because Humans are the fiftieth Lesser Race, and the twelfth warrior race.”

Even as they dropped past the bright lit orange balls of boiling gas, Derek had time for a quick count.

“There are only forty now lit.”

“That means there are only forty races of the fifty seven now in attendance.  I mean, you don’t really expect the Ickthoi to come to such a party, do you?”

“Guess not,” Derek admitted.  The flyer landed, and he saw that concerns about the palace being too brightly lit were not a problem.  From above you could barely see the ground.  Somehow, the orange gas balls above each of the pillars had significantly dimmed down here.  Opening the door he found the light just right for Human vision.  He helped Vashti out, and Ystrang stayed in the flyer.

“I’m not important enough to go in.  It will be combatants and lots of importances.  And the Emperor, for at least a few minutes.  This flag or pyramid is set for Humans, so each of the pillars will have human conveniences.  Some have water, with slight mineral tang, as your kind likes it.  Others have a restroom.  Food will be available, too.  Medical.  Naps.  Each of the other flags is set for the race that uses it, so it will be slightly different.  The center is set on Imperial Standard which is warmer and dimmer than you will find most comfortable.”

Derek looked about.  Every thirty feet there was a tall, smooth, white pillar rising up fifty feet to the orange light floating above its top.

“How many pillars in the whole thing?”

“512 in the center. Chlorophytes built it.”

“That doesn’t seem enough for tens of thousands,” Derek observed.

“Yes, well, I’ve heard that it can extend itself downward sixty four floors as well.  Depending on the size of the party,” Ystrang added.

“Let’s go see the importances,” Derek suggested, and held out his arm for Vashti.  She took it, and walked with him.  After a bit, they came to the center, and indeed it was dimmer and warmer.  He could see eight different species, and in the very center was a grand circular double staircase leading down to the levels below.  What was most concerning, though, was that the floor was almost completely clear.  Every few inches a gem flashed.

“You did not tell me that all the aliens below me could look up my thobe,” Vashti accused her husband.

“I wouldn’t have known, but I hardly think it matters.  They can look up mine, too.”

A nine-foot-tall tree on the very edge of the Human area which ended the solid marble and met the clear diamondpane floor spoke.

“If the lady is concerned, she may set the area under her dress to non-visible with a simple command.”

“Ah, do that.”

“Blacken to full opaque under the Human female’s gown.  Solid circle best approximation, plus ten percent.”  And suddenly the diamondpane became smoky black and fully opaque, just like the bubble that 1942 had used when it first announced itself.  And now it was under her, with a little rim beyond the thobe.

“Thank you, ah--”

“It is nothing.  It is my job-vocation-essence.  I am a Tniap, a pacifist species of sentient small trees.  I and others all stand around, waiting to help.”

“Doesn’t that get boring?” Derek wondered aloud.

“We don’t get bored.  Sometimes things are more interesting than other times, but we are always entertained as we watch the world move by.”

“You just stand there, and watch?” Vashti asked.

“Largely yes.  It is fascinating.  Especially you two.  I’ve never met someone from a different universe than this one.”

Derek started, and then he said. “Oh, you heard.”

“No.  I can see the shinpa, and deoloni the infar….hmmm, I recognize that we are going to have language difficulties.  If you’d like to spend several years in training, I could easily explain it to you.”

“Why do you think it would take us several years?” Vashti said challengingly, apparently a bit put out.

“Ah, well, I don’t use optical sensors to see you.  I look at the lines of destiny merging with the rivers of character, to get poetic.  These and the other forces that make up your spirit, I see.  I could explain it mathematically to you, but even Derek would not be able to grasp that for at least five years of study.”

Derek thought, and then spoke.

“A friend sees war coming soon.”

“Hmmm. It was said a very long time ago, even as we Tniap count time, even as the Volungas count time, that the stars would be ruled for ten, and the stone for seven.  I am forbidden to say more.”

“Who forbids you?”

“Enjoy the party, Derek.  I do not think you will go to another one like it on Throne World.”

Looking at the tree, and its small leaves and slender trunk all placed in a pot, Derek wanted to yell at it.  But there was a quality of implacability to the Tniap that suggested he might as well bang his head on the wall for all the good it would do him.

Next chapter:  Chapter 117:  Slade 243
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 #494:  Warring 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

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Go to Other Links

M. J. Young Net

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