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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 155: Kondor 94
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All around them, Kondor's sensors picked up the sounds of scurrying through the ducts. It's working, he thought. They're converging on the galley, and the smell of meat. He led them confidently through the halls, periodically checking his position against his map, until they came to a sealed bulkhead. "The bridge," he said.
But the bridge was locked. The handles didn't move. He stared at it a moment, then said, "I'm open to suggestions." For a moment, no one had any.
Lauren spoke next. "Could we just go around it, maybe get in through the air ducts?"
He thought a moment before responding. "N-no. The bridge will have an independent ventilation system, a safety precaution in case something goes wrong with the air." And again everyone was silent.
"I got through a door once," Derek said. "Well, it wasn't exactly a door; it was a cabinet–but it was high security, and wasn't about to let anyone in. I managed to put the system on maintenance and then uninstall the locking mechanism."
Kondor was staring at the secured door.
"Could you do that here, now?"
"Hey, I didn't know I could do it there, then. I tried it, and it worked. I've opened a few doors since then, but I'm no expert on locks."
"I wish Bob were here," Lauren said.
"But he's not. O.K., kid, that's the best shot we've got, I think. Do you need help?"
"I'll let you know if I do. Meanwhile, keep an eye out for those dragons. I'm not wearing armor or a vest."
As Derek got to work examining the locking systems, Kondor turned to watch the halls. It was passing strange, he thought, that the three of them were here, now. Derek spent ten years learning about computers and computer security systems, and just a very few weeks here figuring out how to adapt what he knew to this world. He himself had only just learned what he needed to know about artificial gravity, refined by a bit of study here. Lauren had had no time to prepare in this world, but she came ready, with combat skills and those incredible mind powers. In fact, had Lauren not just taught Derek how to read minds, they would not even have known of the approaching disaster. Lauren was right; it had all the marks of having been planned, of some intelligence working behind the scenes to ensure that each of them had learned what they would need to know, and was here in time to use that knowledge. Despite Raeph's injured pride, it was fairly clear that there was no one in this world who could do this but the three of them. If there was a god, he certainly had set this up perfectly.
If there were a god, Kondor reminded himself. Such superstition did not fit his understanding of life. There were countless possible explanations; he just had not thought of them all yet. Perhaps disasters cause a weakening in the walls of a universe in the tempero-spatial area around them, such that the three of them fell through at the same time. Perhaps disasters were actually rather common in the multiverse, and it was just coincidence that brought them to this one. Perhaps scriff was released by disasters, and once released in a universe attracted versers to itself.
There were two problems with this that Kondor could immediately see, but he told himself neither was insurmountable. The first was that the last time he found himself in the same universe as two other versers, he was there quite a while before the disaster happened, and what happened could hardly have been termed a disaster. One girl, a primitive member of a primitive tribe of bird people, was kidnapped and taken by another primitive tribe of bird people to be sacrificed to their god. It was certainly a tragedy, and he did not mind spending his life, his life in that world, to have saved her (it was encouraging to hear that they had, in fact, saved her). That was a rather commonplace event, he suspected, which had happened every year in that part of that world, possibly elsewhere in that world, and in similar ways in uncounted worlds. That was easy to reconcile; they happened to be there together then, and responded to the need. There was no call to assume they had been pulled there for that. Any year that they had arrived, the same thing would have happened.
The other problem was perhaps more difficult to address. If it was the occurrence of a disaster of the magnitude of this ship crashing into the space habitats that drew them here, that surely meant they were creating some sort of anomaly. If they prevented the disaster, there would be no disaster to have called them, and they wouldn't be here. If they weren't here, though, the disaster would happen. It was the sort of metaphysical problem that gave him headaches. It suggested that somehow the disaster that they were about to prevent was anticipated and avoided, and that didn't fit the theory well at all.
Then, he reminded himself, they had not yet prevented the disaster.
Derek's voice recalled him from his thoughts.
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 #148: Characters Succeed. 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: