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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 122: Brown 42
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The inquisitor looked suitably surprised. "What makes you think you're not staying here?"
"How long can you hold me on such minor charges?" Derek asked. "Breaking into an abandoned apartment to use the phone? How bad can that be? You're holding me because you don't know what to do with me."
He wasn't certain whether the inquisitor knew what a phone was, but the man seemed to get the gist of it. "Well, you're right; we are going to let you go. We're just working on where. There's a lot of debate about whether you should be treated as a child or an adult. Based on your appearance, you seem to be a child; based on your story, though, you would be an adult."
"So, do I get any say in the matter?"
The inquisitor seemed to see a joke in that. "I suppose if we were to decide that you were an adult you would be in a position to object, but if you're classed a child you wouldn't have any say in the matter."
"So, given how very important this decision is to my life, who gets to make it? Do I have to see a judge or something?"
"We've got someone coming over right now to consider your case. In fact, I think this may be her now."
A very efficient seeming woman entered the room and introduced herself to the inquisitor. "I'm Mary Parker; I'll be taking over the boy's case now. Here is the paperwork; you are to release him to me."
"No problem," the inquisitor said. "Good luck with him."
"I don't need luck, only your cooperation, thank you." She turned toward Derek, and her manner changed completely. A smile contorted her face into that of a kind and friendly person. "You must be Derek. I'm Mary, and I'll be trying to get you settled somewhere where you'll be all right, at least until we've figured out where your parents are."
Derek addressed the inquisitor. "It appears someone has decided." He stood up. "Ms. Parker, I had some things with me when I was arrested, and I'd like to get them back before we go. I don't want them to be lost or something. I believe they're downstairs, and that direction." He waved his head to the right, in the direction from which he felt that scriff sense.
"I'll see to them," the inquisitor said. "Come with me."
They went out of the room and down an elevator to the level below. Moving through the hall, they soon came to the window of what was apparently a property and evidence room. The inquisitor gave Derek's name and case number, and in a moment his bicycle, backpack, and other gear was brought out, most of it through a side door.
"There's something missing," Derek said.
"You haven't even looked through it," Mary Parker objected.
"It doesn't matter. Something of mine is," and he closed his eyes to focus on the feeling, and then pointed into the room at an angle, "that direction. Since everything was this direction when I was upstairs, something is still in there."
"What kind of nonsense is this," Mary Parker said.
"Look, I know no one believes my story, but part of this weirdness is that I know where my things are. I'd be happy to go inside and look, but since that's not likely to be allowed I'll just have to insist that someone do so. Anyway, I'm not leaving until I'm satisfied that nothing of mine is still in there."
"It's all right, ma'am," the properties manager said, "I'll look." He walked away, and in a moment came back with Derek's laptop. "Kid was right," he said. "Must have been put away wrong, but I recognized it as soon as I saw it. Never saw the like of this myself, but I've read about old computers, and this caught my eye as being very like them. Here you go, kid. Is that everything?"
Derek closed his eyes and reached out for that feeling. "Yes," he said, "that's everything. Lead on, Ms. Parker, and I'll follow you."
"You can call me Mary, Derek," she said.
"I know that I am in some ways a kid, and I seem to be stuck with that, but I'm not entirely comfortable being treated like a kid. Until I'm comfortable, I'm going to stick to Ms. Parker, thank you. Let's go."
He followed her to another elevator, and was soon going up several levels. Elevators, or what he called elevators, also seemed to go sideways, but they had to change cars to do this. In about five minutes, Derek was wheeling his bicycle into a small office.
"I'm working on finding a family to take care of you while we continue to search for your parents," she said.
Derek shook his head. "Look, you can give me to some foster family who will waste their money trying to take care of me while you waste your time looking for my family. I know you don't believe my story, but you don't have another story that makes any sense at all. I've seen the files. My DNA doesn't exist in your universe. My equipment doesn't exist here. Nothing about me makes sense if we start from your assumptions. But if we start from my story, it all fits into place. I was blown out of my universe a decade ago, and have moved through several universes since then, spending the last ten years of my life studying everything I could. I am very good at math, and extraordinary at computers. It makes a lot more sense to find a job where I can earn my own way, live in an apartment, and be a productive member of society while I'm here. If you wait for me to grow up, you'll be an old lady before I've aged a day. If you treat me as an adult now, you'll save everyone a lot of trouble in the long run. Meanwhile, if I'm wrong, I'll just fall flat on my face when I get out there."
It seemed she was speechless.
"So, who do I see to get a job working with your computer system? That would seem to be the best plan. I've noticed that computer security isn't so great, and I might be able to tighten up a few of the loopholes in it."
She stared at him a moment, and then turned to her desktop terminal. "Give me one moment," she said, and typed a line of text into the machine.
"Raeph?" she said, "I've got a problem, and I think you might be able to help." Derek thought there was an answer, but the system seemed to focus the sound directly at the user in a way that prevented anyone else from hearing it. "I've got a kid here who might be older than he looks, and might be very good with computers. Yes, he's that one. Anyway, I thought if I brought him to you, you might be able to tell me whether he's just a kid with high ideas about himself or actually someone who should be in the work force. Right, I'll bring him to you in a few minutes."
She turned away from the screen. "All right, Derek, you say you're good. I'm going to take you to meet someone. He may be the best. Anyway, this is your chance to prove yourself." She rose and walked out of the office. "Come with me," she said.
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 #122: Character Partings. 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: