In Version; Chapter 143, Slade 250

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Stories from the Verse
In Version
Chapter 143:  Slade 250
Table of Contents
Previous chapter:  Kondor 255

Slade finished brushing his leathers, and slipped them on.  He tightened and pulled to best effect in front of a mirror while Shella’s eyes danced in amusement as she watched him.  He had been called away at the last minute for a rehearsal for the awards ceremony, and was now dressing for the real thing.  His mirror-bright polished sword and dagger joined his leathers.


“M’lord is a vision to make a girl weak in her knees.”

“You’re not so bad yourself.”  He smiled at her.  She was dressed in her green wedding gown.  He took her hand, and then her arm.  The two walked out into the hallway where just three days ago Slade had slain some alien mafiosi.  No sign of the battle was left; everything had been fully repaired.

Taking the lift, the two ascended to the roof where the Kelp waited.  He had gold and silver sparkles that flashed with small pulses of light floating in his foot wide aquarium ball that hovered by the lift.  It accented his purple seaweed body nicely.

“You look beautiful, 1942,” Shella said.

“You, too, but we must hurry.  They’ve moved the ceremony forward ten minutes,” 1942 said, and he flew next to them as the pair walked to the flying limousine.  Ystrang stood next to it, and opened the doors.  He wore a full black cloak over a uniform in white with a black, a gold, and a green belt with an energy weapon on his hip as well.

“Problems, Ystrang?” Slade asked, openly eyeing the pistol.

“Yes, and no.  No because this is part of my uniform as a retired patrolman, but yes, because rarely are these sorts of things moved up.  It might be a threat to some of the importances, or the Emperor.  Long live the Emperor.”

The other three chimed in with the requisite refrain, and got into the back seat of the limo.  Ystrang powered it up with a button push, and smoothly launched them.

“I did not realize you’d been a patrolman, Ystrang.” Shella probed.

“Yes, I mentioned it to--to Derek.  He prayed and made my nightmares go away.  I was in the Undercity Patrol; it can be rough.  And we had a riot, and I was able to save several of my patrol.  But after that, I could not patrol anymore.  So I retired.  That is what the sashes mean:  black for UCP, gold for, well, a valor award, and green for retired.”

Slade nodded to himself.  He had thought that Ystrang had seen battle.

“Most honored warriors, I, your humble friend, have fought as well,” 1942 announced.  “Just yesterday, I had several sharp words with another Kelp.  I told him ‘My ignorant and unlearned self does not see how such a method, although intriguing, can work in modifying chemical flows in the water factories.”

Slade and Shella looked at each other, not sure if this was a joke or not.  Ystrang solved the riddle by bursting out in laughter.

“Thank you, 1942,” Ystrang said.  Shrugging, the two humans let it slide like the aircar through the atmosphere.  They arrived again at the Third Glorious and Masterful Summer Palace, and the trio disembarked as Ystrang parked the vehicle.  Passing the tree, Slade heard it call out to him.

“Human servant of war gods, is the other human male with you anymore?”

Slade turned, and walked toward the slender tree-like alien in its pot at the edge between the human and center areas.

“No, he’s not; have we met?”

“I am one of the Tniap.  I looked at the lines of fate, as one might say, if one were being simplistic, and did not think he would be back.  It is sad; I liked him.”

“He’s--” Slade wondered if he should explain that Derek was in another universe now.

“Oh, I know, man from another universe.  He is elsewhere in another universe, but he is not here, and I find that sad.”

“Me, too,” Slade said, and turned and walked away to rejoin Shella.  They walked across the clear floor, and a Parakeet came up to guide the couple up near the front of the seated crowd.  Several thousand attendees on this level, and more on the level below, watched as the various fighters and their close associates were escorted up near the front.  Slade and Shella were placed on the first row, and told to stand on their names.  Looking down, he saw “Lord Robert Elvis Slade” glowing in silvery light in the floor.

Standing in his place, for none were sitting, he looked about.  The Kelp were floating above everyone else.  The various sections were in blocks, and were not divided by race but by height.  The blocks farther back had clear stands to elevate them above the blocks in front of them.

In front of them were, as he expected, several dozen seats facing the crowd.  They were already filled with high ranking members of each race in attendance but his own.  Behind them was a great block of silver, in which stairs of various sizes had been cut.  Slade already knew which one he was supposed to go up.  The Human stairs had been cut to his leg stride.

Complete blackness reigned, and Slade reached for his weapons.  But then a glowing light spun out in clouds of multicolored incandescent gasses from the center top of the silver stage.  The Emperor of the Throne World appeared.  He sat in a chair of solid jade, carved with the faces and bodies of the Seven Greater Races and Forty Nine Lesser Races.  The light spread from him, and Slade had to admit it was a powerful bit of showing off.  With the light fully back, and the Emperor only slightly glowing in his full body mask of gold and giant gems, a thump was heard throughout the palace.

“Long Live the Emperor!” the crowd, the abundant guards, the guard pillarbots, and the fighters yelled.  Slade and Shella caught up with everyone at the end.

“Long Live the Emperor!” was repeated.  This caught Slade off guard, but he did it again.“Long Live the Emperor!”

About the sixth time, Slade really hoped that he was not going to have to yell ‘Long Live the Emperor!” fifty-six times for the number of races on the Throne World--or worse, sixty four since this was a Chlorophyte created palace.  But the chant stopped at seven.

“We had been bored, so we sought diversion.”  Slade could hear it in the dry-as-dust voice of the Dracorex Emperor.  “We sought to bring a vision of courage to our people.”  And why would you do that?  Slade smiled to himself in thought at seeing his theories partially confirmed.  “We found much bravery among the fighters, however we were disappointed with the bloodlust we saw among the tens of billions watching.”  That was not what Slade had expected to hear.  “We wish you to see these fighters as heroes to emulate, not as bloody amusements.”  And hadn’t you just said you wanted these fights as a diversion, O Emperor? Slade thought, biting his lip.  “For truly they are heroes.”

The Emperor raised both hands; it was a signal.  Everyone in the room except for the fighters began madly cheering.  It went on for several minutes.  Shella leaned over and, widely grinning, hugged him hard.  But the Emperor’s right hand rose, and the cheering, the trilling, and the honking died away.

“We saw feats of incredible physical skill.  Binoit, the Chlorophyte, caught a knife between his toes, and flung it back at his skilled foe, and won his fight.  Of endurance, for Riuli of the Dar, despite being nearly knocked unconscious thrice, was able to muster one last bit of effort to spring on his tail and wrap his four arms around the neck of his opponent, achieving victory by submission due to incipient blackout.  Targin of the Anders, despite being pierced eleven times, summoned the rage to pick up a Fenex over his head, and toss him out of the ring.”

The listing of notable incidents and individuals went on for another ten minutes.  Slade noticed that the Emperor was, as he should be, a good public speaker.  He held them in the palm of his clawed hands even behind his slightly glowing golden face mask that obscured emotion.  Then Slade perked up as he heard words about himself.

“Lastly, before the giving of the awards, I would speak of our newest race.  We have very few of them.  We had four, now we have only two.  The Empire is glad you achieved justice.  The Humans are the Twelfth Warrior Race, and the Fiftieth Lesser Race.”

“I give you The Humans.”  Both of the Emperor’s hands went up, and cheering and applause filled the palace again.  This was calmer than the previous applause, but it was welcoming.  You too are welcome in the Empire, it said.  Granted, he was warmer than he liked because the space was set to Imperial Standard, but Slade and Shella waved and smiled back.  This got the crowd even more enthused.  Finally, the Emperor raised his right hand.

“Be welcome, Humans.  Find protection under my strong right arm.  Find wealth in my good lands.  May your lives bless the Empire.”  This formula said, Slade bowed in reply to the Emperor’s words, and then spoke as he had been instructed to do so at the rehearsal.

“As the leader of the Humans, I find your offer generous and kind.  We promise to obey your just laws.  We hope to bless the Empire in some small way.  As a Warrior Race, we seek to guard the Empire.  Long Live the Emperor.”

A general chant, thankfully only once, of ‘Long Live the Emperor’ filled the palace again.  A Parakeet in glorious robes walked up to the two, and gave Slade a ring of gold.  He then gave both of them rings of platinum.  The gold symbolized Slade’s authority as Number One of the Humans, and the more valuable platinum as a newly- christened citizen of the Empire.

More applause ensued.

Music began to play, at first hissing, then howling and hooting, and then deep mournful chants.  After a bit, Slade asked 1942 what this was.  It was the Imperial Medley:  twenty seconds for each race’s music.  When finally at the end Slade heard the Human National Anthem part, the theme song from James Bond, he fought to not burst out laughing.  It would not make the right impression at all.

The Emperor began to call out names, and Slade snorted very silently to himself.  The first being was a Dracorex.  In all his fights, he had never faced one--other than the one he had killed in the hall with the other thugs.  He supposed this was an example of special monies, or bribes, or just plain nepotism.  The Dracorex received a dagger, a box, and whispered a request to the Emperor.  The Emperor paused, considered, and then nodded in affirmation.

“I grant Miarslyn’s Boon.  He is the first of the fighters, and receives a platinum hand gauntlet, the ownership rights of an automated factory, and his Boon.  Per his request, I will not now reveal the Boon.”

A general sigh of disappointment flowed through the area.  The Emperor raised his right hand.

“Later, not too much later, I will, again as per his request.”

Applause began, and this time, the Dracorex in the crowd really kicked it up with stomps, and hand claps, and hissing, gargling roars.  After that, it was more Dracorex, and Anders, and a few other races mixed in.  The ones of other races, Slade admitted to himself, looked challenging.  But of the Dracorex especially, he noted a number he thought he could have beaten--but he had not been given a chance to fight them.  So for those, he refused to clap or show approval.  This got him some dirty looks, but no one came up to him.

“The Anders Etagiz is sadly not with us.”  Despite the words earlier of justice, Slade noted cynically that the Anders still received honor now.  “He is ranked number nineteen in the Primitive Weapons Division.  His friend Runak will receive his trophy in his place.”  Runak did, and when he came back down as all the other fighters had, he gave Slade a look that promised further meetings.  Slade rotated his head to the right, popped his neck, and then, deciding to go full out, gave Runak a golf clap.  Runak took a step toward Slade who was twenty feet away, and suddenly five pillarbots were between the two, and two other Anders were dragging Runak away.

The next ones flew by, and then Slade heard his name.

“Lord Robert Elvis Slade, Human, ranked number twenty-five in the Primitive Weapons Division.  Please come forward to receive the honor of your Emperor.”  Self conscious, Slade forced himself to walk slowly, with head erect.  He first went to the low chair, where Kelp 1901 accepted his bow.  For the moment, Kelp 1901 stood in for the leader of the Humans.  Receiving words of thanks from the Kelp who was the first spawn of the 19th nodule of the Lannissary Sea Great Mother Kelp, he passed between the chairs, and climbed the Human stairs.  They were a trifle slick, being made of silver, but he came out on top easily enough.  There he walked the twenty feet toward the Emperor.  A Dracorex attendant, dripping gold and  jewels himself,  gave Bob a silver dagger that it retrieved from a nearby table.  The first ten had received platinum hand weapons suited to their race, the next ten had gotten gold hand weapons, and the last ten would like Slade receive silver weapons.

Next Bob was given a solid wooden box which he understood held the right to a substantial amount of factory seconds, the money of this empire.  With that he could order an automated factory to work for him to his specifications for the number of seconds listed.  In the last almost eight weeks, he and Shella had not spent the thirty thousand factory seconds the Kelp had given them as spending money.  He expected that whatever was in the box was a lot more than thirty thousand.

He turned to go, but the attendant spoke to him.

“The Emperor would speak to you.  Approach closer, and bend down.”  Raising one eyebrow, Slade took four steps closer, and bent his head down to near the Emperor’s face mask.  The Emperor spoke quietly and intently.

“Human warrior, when others ask what I talked of, you may mention that I desired to smell the threat smell of a new warrior race, and it will be true.  Upon going back to your seat, show no fear, nor worry, but be proud and happy despite what I am about to say to you.  Do you understand, human warrior?”

“Yes, Emperor,” Slade said, feeling his nerves thrill to combat.  It might not be sword or blaster, but he was in combat right now, all the same.

“Good.  What your Kelp friends are looking into is very dangerous.  The Empire has many deadly secrets, and they stray beyond the question you seemed to have given them.  To answer what looks to be your query, yes, I plan for war.  This tourney did not work as well as I had hoped, for my people are full of fear, and have not learned courage.”

“War with who, and how?”

“I will not answer those questions now, Human warrior.  But I do not mean a playacting at war.  It has been since before my lifetime, and I am old, that my people knew true war.  I fear that the War of the Aunts will be but a tame preview of what is to come.  The skies will burn, the roads will be rivers of blood, and antimatter will explode on the face of Throne World.  This is what I fear.”

Slade sucked in a breath.  What to say?  But the Emperor spoke before he did.

“Now go, and remember, be light and happy as if we spoke of amusing things.”

Slade summoned every tiny fraction of acting skill he had, and turned, and waved his silver dagger in its fine sheath above his head, and gave out a whoop.  He promenaded like a goof back down the stairs, and to Shella.  Once he took his place next to her, she leaned over and spoke quietly.

“What’s wrong?”

“Talk later, dearest,” he said lightly.  “Remember that little girl who showed me those dance moves?  Right now, I’d like to learn from her all over again.”  This was an oblique reference to Dawn, and considering Dawn had killed him that meant that either he’d like another chance at her, which made little sense in the moment, or that he wanted to learn more from her, which again made little sense in the moment, or that this situation was as dire or worse than the time Dawn had killed him.  That made sense in the moment, and Shella quickly replied.

“She was a darling sweetie.”  Slade knew his wife had understood his message.  We’re standing on a bomb, act cool.  The ceremony continued, and after a break he came back and heard Derek’s honors in both Primitive Weapons and Unarmed Division.  The boy had done well with rank ninety-eight in the first and twenty-nine in the second.  As the Human representative, he received Derek’s awards in both.  That done, and knowing that he was not expected to attend all the multiple ceremonies for the numerous winners who would receive awards from lesser dignitaries than the Emperor, he asked Ystrang to take them and 1942 home to the swamp.

On the way, he explained what the Emperor had said after impressing them with the need for secrecy.  They were suitably impressed and worried.  So was Shella, but Slade had had more time to come to grips with things, and he was already planning.

Next chapter:  Chapter 144:  Brown 281
Table of Contents

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

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The Online Games

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