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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 3: Hastings 96
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 2, Brown 56
Lauren awoke with the warm sun beating down through clean salt sea air. Even before she opened her eyes, she knew she was lying on the beach; the hot sand fitted itself around her body. There was the sound of the surf, and the cry of gulls. It was like being on vacation down the beach.
She sat up abruptly. Where was she? Why was she asleep? There was a moment of vertigo, a wooziness which rushed through her stomach in an instant, and then it was clear. She ran back over what she could remember. She and Derek and Joe had fought those creatures on that spaceship. One had crushed her leg. Derek had blown up the ship to prevent it from colliding with the orbiting space colony, and the three of them had been afloat in her comfort bubble. Then Joe had given her something for the pain in her crushed leg.
That was it. He knew that they were going to have to go through death by vacuum, at any moment, and used the pain in her leg as an excuse to give her something that would knock her out. She sighed. He meant well, but she wished he'd asked. Then again, he was right--she would have refused such a thing had it been offered, and it was nice for a change not to remember how she had died.
Her leg was fully recovered. Traveling through the scriff between universes when you died had a lot of strange effects, but having recent injuries healed was one of the better. She reached out her feelings for her gear, and found two distinct directions. One would be her wagon and the things she had left with it on the habitat, the other the kinetic capture rod she had dropped, but had telekinetically pulled toward her in those last moments. She could not be certain how far either was, or which was which, but they were both behind her, so hopefully they were not lost in the ocean.
Dressed as she was in her torn wizard's robe over her plastic armor, she was very hot here. She would have to dress down, once she knew she was safe. First she should reconnoiter. Ahead of her was the ocean, something of a cove, almost of a bay or lagoon, with the beach curving around it to either side. The ground rose steeply from the beach. The trees looked tropical, palms and such, but without more information that told her little. Still, it seemed a lush coast. There was probably food here, if she could identify it.
Forests and jungles were often the homes of fierce predators. Even large herbivores might be dangerous, she thought. She should not let down her guard until she had a better idea of what was here. Still, if it was hot out here in the sea breeze, it was likely to be very hot under the canopy. Too, there was no reason for her to travel fully kitted up when searching for her other gear. There was sense to having a base of operations, a shelter of some sort, and leaving some things behind--if only to serve as a point of reference to guide her return.
Gradually she began to formulate a plan. First she would survey the edge of the forest, to be certain nothing was lurking just beyond the trees. Then she would establish a place to leave her pack and some of her heavier gear. After that, a more thorough survey of the immediate area was in order, looking for signs of life, signs of civilization, hazards, but also for available food and water supplies. Once that was accomplished, her base could be expanded into a shelter, or perhaps moved to a more suitable location. She would spend the night here, and tomorrow would begin the quest to recover her gear.
That of course assumed there was a normal day/night cycle here. This was something worth considering. She picked up a stick and drove it into the sand upright. Finding a stone, she placed it at the point where the shadow of the top of the stick ended. If she checked back regularly, she could track the movement of the shadow, and that should tell her something about the motion of the sun.
She set her pack and her laser rifle under the tree, draped her red robes over them, and set out to see what she could find nearby.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with ten other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #157: Versers Restart. 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: