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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 67: Slade 22
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Previous chapter: Chapter 66: Kondor 22
Slade suddenly wanted a cigarette. He hadn't even seen a cigarette in over thirty years, but the craving abruptly came back to haunt him. As he caught his breath, he spoke to himself. "It's probably just nerves. Of course it's nerves--don't be an idiot."
He felt for his matchbox; but he wasn't wearing his jacket. His toothpicks he had kept next to his bed, as one usually lasted him several days so he didn't need to carry replacements. Calming himself for a moment, he could sense his equipment. Some of it was level with his position; that would be the books he left on the bridge. But there was another batch below him; and as it didn't seem to be moving, it must be on a lower deck of the ship. And there was a third bit below that--or maybe it was on the same level, only closer. He couldn't really tell distances, only directions. But whatever was where, it was all on the ship.
He could find his way back to the bridge using this sense. That seemed the only reasonable course of action. So he began moving back toward that feeling. The intruder alarm continued, but he ignored it.
Stepping back onto the bridge, he announced his presence. "All right, I'm here. You can shut off the alarm." The noise and flashing stopped. "First, I'm sorry I disrupted your day. It was an accident." Of the four people on the bridge, two drew weapons and moved toward him slowly. "Second, I'm sorry that I attacked your men and ran. I was badly disoriented, and had no idea where I was or who you all were. I still don't know most of that, but apparently I'm on some kind of flying saucer or something. Somehow I expected little green men to be--well, little, and green."
The two armed men were still approaching; it made him uncomfortable. "Torkon chiana sinvillin, tau settick goron vien," he said, and as he waved his hands in front of him, the bridge filled with darkness.
"There," he said. "Now perhaps we can talk."
"What have you done to the lights?" The voice was the familiar sound of the captain who had already yelled at him for being on the ship.
"Actually, nothing at all. And I haven't done anything to your ship or your eyes or your air or anything. I just called a bit of darkness into existence to push the light out of the way for a while."
"That's not possible," said another voice. "There's no such thing as darkness; there's only the lack of sufficient illumination for vision."
"I don't know anything about illumination or vision; but I assure you, darkness is quite real. But there's no point arguing about how I did it. I studied magic, and I believe that's how I did it. If you don't like that answer, you can try to come up with another, but as far as I'm concerned, if it isn't magic I don't know what it is. And besides, that's not the point."
He sat on the floor. In the darkness, he couldn't see any better than they could. But if they took shots at where he was, he didn't want to be there.
"As I was saying, I didn't mean or expect to land on your bridge or on your ship. Heck, I didn't intend to leave where I was. I was playing with a bit of magic in my library, and something went very wrong, and I landed here. Now for reasons I can't possibly make you understand--or believe either--I can't go back to my library. But if you don't want me on your ship, let me gather my stuff and you can throw me off wherever you like. There are some books in here, most of my clothes and stuff probably on the deck below, and something else, I'm not sure what it is, but I can find it if you give me the chance. After I've got everything together, you can throw me out an airlock if you like, and I'll be on my way. Or else we can talk about who I am, who you are, and whether there might be another arrangement we could make."
He realized that his darkness was starting to dissipate; they would not have noticed yet, but soon they would. Better that they think he controlled it than that it just ended. "So, shall we turn the lights back on and talk about things?"
There was silence for a moment, then the captain's voice. "All right, we won't hurt you."
"I have your word on that?"
"As long as you don't do anything against us."
"Good." Rather than risk making a fool of himself, he sat for a moment and allowed the light to return. "Now, you're not going to believe a word of this, but I'm something of a dimension traveler. I move from universe to universe. I don't have a lot of control over when I go or where I go. I was in my last place for thirty years--long enough to own a castle and a fortune, and designate an heir to replace me when I left. I was in the place before that maybe about thirty days--they were long days, almost twice as long as those on my home world, earth...."
"You're from earth?" The captain interrupted.
"Oh, you've heard of it? Yes, I'm from earth."
"Are you part of a federation experiment?"
"Federation? Oh, is this that planet federation thingy from that TV show?"
"What is a TV show? Never mind. You aren't a Federation agent?"
"Look, when I was on earth it was, what, about 1999, maybe 2000--no, it was 1999, because I was installing the CD player in my stereo that I got for Christmas. There was a lot of excitement about the millennium, but I never got to see it. Instead, I got knocked out of there into this strange world where there were these machines fighting with each other. I tried to steal a few parts, but got hit by a bomb or something, and landed in some medieval underground tunnels. I found my way out--well there is a lot to tell there, because I met a knight, a wizard, and a thief, and learned a lot from them, and went on an adventure and came back rich; and then I stayed there for a long time. But I already told you that part. So now I'm here, but I'm clueless as to where this is, or when, except that this is a ship, we appear to be in space, and you've heard of earth, but it's part of some kind of federation."
"What can you tell me about earth in 1999?" As the captain asked this, one of his men turned to a control panel and started pushing a few buttons.
"Well, let's see. Clinton was an inspiration to men everywhere, and Hilary had to be--well, I think she was more interested in power even than he was. Let's see--what else. Final Fantasy VIII came out for Playstation, and Dreamcast had just come on the market, but I didn't get a chance to try it. This is thirty years ago now, I'm not sure what I remember."
"Clinton," the man pushing buttons said, "Would be United States of America President William Jefferson Clinton, and Hilary was his wife, what they then called the First Lady. I get nothing about the other references."
"Oh, those were video games." This was met with blank stares. "You know, games you play on your television using a small computer gadget that does graphics and sound pretty well. Don't tell me you don't have video games?"
"Here it is, Captain. Television was a medium of communication which used a significant portion of the radio frequency spectrum in a broadcast mode primarily for entertainment, beginning in the early twentieth century, and slowly changing until it vanished into what was then known as the Internet late in the twenty-first. Video games were small single-function computers which used the cathode ray tube and audio amplification of primitive televisions for display purposes and had small hand-held input devices to control cursor movements on the screen. Cursors used icons, and screen backgrounds changed such that different forms of interactive entertainment could be created within the limits of the input devices and the computing power and memory of the device, known as a console. These, too, vanished in the twenty-first century, as such entertainment became readily available on the Internet and more sophisticated input interface devices were developed for what was then called the wearable individual computer."
"So a video game was some kind of interactive entertainment?"
"That's correct, Captain."
"And this guy is legitimate?"
"He does seem to understand the period from which he claims to originate. However, his clothing and the objects which he brought on board with him are not consistent with that period, and instead would seem to come from a more primitive and superstitious world. This fits with his claim that he owned a castle and learned magic for thirty years in this other place."
"So," Slade broke in, "I don't know that I expect you to believe me. Sometimes I don't believe myself. But at least you'll give me the benefit of the doubt and allow that I might be telling the truth?"
The Captain paused. "All right," he said. "What did you say your name was?"
"Silly me," Slade answered, "I don't think I said. I'm Robert Elvis Slade. Most people for most of my life and then some have called me Slade, but my mom called me Bobby, my teachers called me Bob, and my girlfriend--never mind what she called me."
"All right, Slade. Welcome aboard. Let me introduce you to everyone; but I still might throw you off the ship."
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with five other sequential chapters of the novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #47: Character Routines. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter.
As to the old stories that have long been here: