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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 98: Brown 33
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"Don't try to move," the voice said, and as the fog cleared from Derek's mind, he realized it was Dorelle's voice. The world beyond his eyelids was dark.
"What happened?" he tried to say, but even in his own ears he was not certain whether those sounds were intelligible.
Holger Theiss answered. "The venom of the porcuperson is not designed to kill, but to render the victim unconscious. They prefer to eat fresh meat, and so take their prey alive and wait for the poison to pass before making a meal of it."
"You were lucky," Dorelle said.
"He wasn't lucky," Holger argued. "He was hit before he knew what was happening. We were watching, and took action immediately." Derek opened his eyes, and realized he was still lying on the road, surrounded by the bodies of those he had approached. Holger was turning toward him. "Progressivists," he said. "We hadn't considered them. At least, that's what they call themselves. They believe that the changes to humans and animals are the path to the future, and that pure strained humans are no better than ordinary animals. I had heard that they had fractured, as the mutant humans and mutant animals were bickering over which group was more advanced. Once you have infighting of that sort within a group, it's usually all over. Of course, it's possible that the Purists thought it was an opportunity to attack, and so preserved them. There's nothing to end internal disputes like a common enemy."
"So," Derek said, his voice a bit less slurred, "these mutants thought I'd make a good meal, and one of them drugged me"–he tried to sit, but nearly fell over from dizziness, so lay down again. "You guys attacked when they hit me, and killed them all. Is that right?"
"Yeah, that's about it," Holger said. "We've stripped the bodies. Found these darts on them–it appears that they so liked the porcuperson venom they used the quills to fashion hand darts. There's a dozen here, safely tucked in a leather apron of sorts, and we agreed that you should have them if you want them."
"Thanks. Did they have anything else."
"Yes," Dorelle said. "One of them was carrying this tool kit, some very nice tools–magnetic nail gun, kinetic torque driver, sonic cutter, laser welder, a few other things, with a nice rechargeable power supply. I thought you should have that, too."
"I shouldn't get everything," Derek objected.
"No, and you didn't get everything," Holger replied. "I've picked up a nice slug thrower and a couple of grenades. Qualick took two buzzer blades; it's easier to change weapons than to change batteries in a fight, he says, and I must agree. Dorelle particularly wanted the key cards and some computer parts; she hopes you don't mind, as most of them look like things you already have, and you're way ahead of her in that department."
"Oh, well, Meesha isn't much for things. She took first dibs on their food rations, and enjoyed herself immensely. She did accept a large knife, which she says is already more than she wants to carry."
Derek was still a bit woozy. "I don't know that I can walk, but I figure we're going to camp somewhere pretty close to where we are, right?"
"Yes. Actually," Dorelle said, "we've already set up a place in a bit of a clearing on the other side of those trees. But since we don't know whether these Progressivists are from around here or just someone we happened to meet, we haven't lit a fire."
"Well, if someone can help me get there, I'm sure I'm ready to sleep. Wake me for breakfast."
It was not at all long before Holger managed to get Derek to his sleeping bag in the tent, both of which had once been Bill's. He knew nothing else until he awoke the next morning.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eight other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #113: Character Movements. 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: