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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 70: Hastings 116
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 69: Brown 75
Lauren had been walking for about an hour without any sign of anything she sought. She had begun to recognize details, in the sense that she had seen several hotels, restaurants, apartment buildings, offices, and other sorts of buildings. She had not found a church, or indeed any sign of any religion at all. She had also not found a newspaper, although she supposed that it was a medium that had faded into history and she needed to identify whatever medium had replaced it. There were still no people on this level. Whether it was because the sort of vehicles for which it was designed had fallen into disuse or because these roads were closed she could only guess; there were no other pedestrians here, but some of the overpasses appeared to be walkways.
Suddenly a voice came from a door along the street. It belonged to a young man, older than Derek but not as old as Joe, perhaps seventeen.
"Excuse me," he said, very hesitantly. "Are you--this is going to sound crazy, but, you're not an angel, are you?"
It was certainly an odd question, and Lauren almost didn't know how to answer it. "No," she said after a moment in which she could feel her eyes blinking, "I'm not."
The boy laughed. "Thanks. I'm sorry to have bothered you. You see, it's my crazy Gran. She was just telling me that if I came outside there would be a warrior sent from heaven coming up the street, and seeing you in those clothes--well, you gave me quite a start."
"I can certainly understand that," Lauren said, "especially since your crazy Gran is right. I'm not an angel, but I did come from heaven, not originally you understand but just a few minutes ago. And I am most certainly a warrior. What did your Gran want you to do when you found me?"
The boy's mouth dropped open. He closed it, but it fell open again several times before he was able to put voice behind it. Even then it took a moment to form words.
"Would you like to come in? I think she wants to meet you."
It was the first hope she had of learning anything; of course she was going to take it. "I would be happy to meet your Gran." She walked to the door, and drew her wagon inside behind her. "My name is Lauren; Lauren Hastings. What's yours?"
"I--I'm Dimitri Padowski. Can I--can I take anything, get you anything, Miz Hastings?"
"Thank you, Dimitri. I've just arrived, and am not sure what you have; but if you have a cold drink that doesn't contain alcohol, like fruit juice or soda or even ice water, that would be very nice."
"I'll see what we have. Please, come this way. Gran?" he called as he walked down the hall into what seemed a sitting room. "I don't know how you do it, but you were right. This is Lauren Hastings, and she's a warrior who came here from heaven, or so she says. Lauren, this is my grandmother, Anastasia Padowski."
"Call me Ana," the woman said, an elderly woman whose white hair was starting to thin. She sat in what appeared to be a comfortable desk chair by a side table; and it was evident from the way she stared into space that she could not see.
"And you must call me Lauren."
"I am so glad you've come, Lorne." Apparently she couldn't hear entirely too well, either. "I've long waited for God to send his angels against the antichrist."
"I'm not an angel," Lauren said. "As I was telling your grandson--"
"Oh, I know there's lots of different sorts of heavenly ones, cherubs and seraphs and all that; but you're all angels to me."
Lauren smiled. There was no point in pressing the matter; she probably couldn't explain what she was anyway. Indeed, she was no longer certain she wasn't an angel. It was more important to learn what she could. "Well, apparently I'm the answer to your prayers. I've been sent to fight some sort of evil in this world, and you seem to be the person to whom I have been sent. The trouble is--and you're probably going to think this silly, but it is the way it is sometimes--they rushed me here in such a hurry that no one told me anything about what it is I'm fighting. So why don't you tell me all about it."
"That's right, I forget that you angels don't have the Bible or the prophecies. I'm hardly an expert, but I can see the wickedness revealed and know there's trouble." Lauren hoped that this wasn't going to come out to be some foolish old woman's apocalyptic theology. It wasn't sounding very promising at this point. She recalled hundreds of interpretations of Revelation and Daniel and the prophets. People had seen the coming antichrist in Hitler, but also in such varied people as Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Gates. She didn't know what year this was, but apparently prophecy mongering was still a popular pastime. Still, it didn't hurt her to listen, and she might learn something useful.
"It started with those Ageless ones. No one seems to know where they come from, because they seem to remember things from hundreds of years ago and yet don't look like they're all that old. Somehow they got people believing that because they had lived so long, they were better people, like the rest of us weren't so good. They took over all the governments, pretty much everywhere, as their Chairman said. Said they were the Superiority Party. No one went against them, really. Sometimes someone would try to stand up to them, to say that they weren't any better than anyone else; but then, the next thing you know they would be part of the Superiority Party too, and saying that they were wrong before. Now it's got to the point that it's a terrible crime to kill a member of the Superiority Party, but if there's any suspicion that one of them might have killed an ordinary person it's never investigated--or if it is, they say they didn't do it. And then they have their servants, marked by them so that they don't age themselves, who will do whatever they're told."
Dimitri had returned with a glass of something clear and fizzy. "Oh, Gran, you know that people in power always seem worse than they are. Nobody likes someone who has power, so they say all kinds of bad things about them."
"That's just the strange thing here, Dimitri. Nobody ever says nothing bad about these Ageless ones, or if they do they don't keep saying it for long. They either disappear, or they join up with them. That's why we need angels to fight them. They keep turning men into whatever they are."
They sounded like a persuasive group. Lauren didn't expect politics, and she wondered how all this fit. "So," she asked, "where do you suggest I start?"
"I'd say start at the top. The chairman is probably the key to the whole thing. People think he can't be brought down; if he was, a lot more people would fight back. So you start with him."
"And where do I find this chairman?"
"Why, he's usually here in the eastern city, although whether he's uptown at the United Nations or downtown at the White House is hard to say. Still, you just got to follow the news, and you can't help but know where Chairman Tubrok is."
Lauren nearly dropped her glass; she did spill some of the fizzy drink. "I'm sorry, did you say the chairman's name was Tubrok?"
"Yep. He's the antichrist, I'd wager. That's who you need to destroy."
Suddenly it all started to fit.
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 #186: Worlds Change. 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: