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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 117: Brown 91
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Previous chapter: Chapter 116: Slade 87
In the midst of the battle, Derek was aware of a new force. His first thought was to wonder which of his sorceress companions had conjured this whirlwind, as the form of a man tore through the crowd of walking corpses from behind, destroying and disorienting as it passed into its midst.
Sitting behind the desk as he was, flanked on the one side by Lauren and on the other by Bethany, he had been able to continue firing his laser rifle into the attacking mob. His darts didn't figure into his combat plans, as the undead enemy might well be immune to the poison, but he had his knife and frying pan accessible against the possibility that he exhausted his ammo. This possibility was looming large at the moment, as he was emptying another clip. The sight of this new attack tearing up the monsters was a relief.
As he aimed and fired his last shot, bringing down another of the attackers, he realized that it was not the form of a man he saw. It was a man. He stood just over six feet tall, was thin, young, with blonde hair and beard, dressed in some sort of protective leather, and cutting bodies to bits with a sword in one hand and a shorter blade more like a machete in length in the other.
Ghouls were tough, and took quite a bit of hacking and slashing before they collapsed; but they were no match for this devastation on legs. Even after he had decided it was a man, he still wondered whether it was some conjured force of battle, perhaps a djinni or some other elemental spirit, or an avenging angel, or--and for some peculiar reason the appearance of the man suggested this more than anything else--a Norse god. Severed heads, dismembered bodies, and amputated limbs scattered themselves across the floor, amidst the gore of disembowelings and cleavings of every description, until only humans stood alive in the room.
"So," the Norse god said in an all too American voice, "What have you gotten yourself into this time, Missus Hastings?"
"Bob!" Lauren answered, "It is so good to see you, and your timing is impeccable. What brings you to New York?"
"Is that where I am? Well, apparently I'm here to help you. What's the war about, and how many more of those things do I get to fight?"
"There's a lot to tell. Those things are ghouls, and they serve the vampires who have pretty much taken over this world. All the cities, even the smaller towns, are now enclosed under vast domes that keep the sunlight out and allow the monsters to walk the streets by day. We've just let the sunshine into New York City, and are finishing up the part about making sure they can't close it up again, over the objections of these formerly walking corpses."
"Oh, well, let me take a look. After all, I was an auto mechanic once, before I was a thief, wizard, space pirate, nobleman, and warrior of Odin."
"Your assistance," Lauren said with a touch of formality suited to a nobleman, "would be most graciously welcomed. This, by the way, is my student Bethany of Wandborough whom I mentioned meeting in Philadelphia."
"Oh, so we're in that world, are we?"
"Yes, only a few hundred years further into the future."
"You look good for your age," he said to Bethany.
"Thank you," she said.
"And this," Lauren continued, "is Derek Brown, computer hacker extraordinaire, pretty good with a laser rifle, and sometimes sprite. He saved Joe and me some time back in another world. Derek, this is Robert Slade."
Derek had heard stories of Bob Slade from both Lauren and Joe Kondor. He'd been part of their earlier adventures. "Wow, you're Bob Slade? Cool."
"Pleased to meet you, too, I'm sure. Which reminds me--" but he was cut off as a very pretty young woman in a very fancy robe came to what was left of the door to their office.
"My Lord?" she asked.
"Shella, you're just in time. This is my wife, Lady Shella, Daughter of Baron Torelle of Corlander. Shella, I think I've mentioned Lauren Hastings, and these are Bethany, a local sorceress of some skill, and Derek, another verser."
"I am honored to make your acquaintances," she said.
"The honor is ours, I'm sure," Bethany replied.
"Yes, I'm pleased to meet you," Lauren said, as Derek wondered how exactly one addressed a noblewoman. "And congratulations to you both. How long?"
"Oh, we're newlyweds still," Bob said. "Got married something less than a month ago in my last world. All formal and everything, a priest of Odin married us."
"I really want to hear all about it," Lauren said. "But right now we've got a lot to do. It won't take them too long to think to send someone down here to find out what's happened, and we'd like to be out of here without being recognized if we can manage it. Derek, how are we doing with that security lockout?"
Derek returned to the screen. "Give me another minute, and I think I'll have it. Sorry it's taken so long--sort of interrupted, you know."
"No problem; just hurry. Bob, what do you suggest?"
"Well, it seems there's a lot of machinery out there. Let me take a look and see what I'd do." He turned and walked out of the room, Lauren following.
"Give a shout when you're ready," she said, "or if there's more trouble."
"We'll let you know," Bethany answered, then turned her attention to the other new arrival. "So, Shella, how did you meet Bob?"
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 #205: Verser Reunion. 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: