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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 37: Slade 104
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Slade and Shella fell into their room and burst out laughing as they tumbled onto the bed. "I can't believe we pulled that off," he said. "You were brilliant."
"Thank you, m'lord. You did well yourself."
"Yes, but breaking the spell so you could suddenly appear when they weren't aware you were there--that was clever. Now they think we can kill them any time, anywhere.
"Dinner is out in the hall there; let's grab the trays and eat."
Even as he said it, he popped up and headed for the door; he could hear her behind him. Opening the door, he stepped into the hall. "Well, now we know it works," he said, but then he froze, his hands resting on his tray, Shella by his side.
Colonel Mlambo was standing at the other end of the hall, watching them, a stern look on his face.
Slade stood erect, matching the colonel's solemnity if not his severity. "Good evening, Colonel," he said. "I trust you are well."
The colonel didn't say anything; he stared a moment longer, then turned and walked down the corridor toward the rest of the compound.
Shella broke the silence.
"He did not look happy," she said.
"No," Slade said; "and I don't suppose we cheered him up any. But then, I don't know that we're supposed to."
"No," she said. "That's a shame, really, because I think he probably is a good man and a nice man; he just is very wrong about a few things."
"Yeah. I wish I knew how to fix that, but it doesn't look like it's going to happen soon."
Retreating to their room, they ate supper in silence. Slade wished for a moment that he could read Shella's mind; it was a silly wish, he realized, since if he wished to know what she was thinking he needed only to ask, and that couldn't be any harder than trying to touch her thoughts with his own. That he didn't know what she was thinking could only mean that he did not so much wish to know, and that she did not choose to tell him.
As he took the trays back to the hall, he noticed that Joe's was there. Perhaps tomorrow they would leave the barracks; where, though, would they go? Of course, the first part of that had the odd characteristics of being both determined and random--they would go to wherever Joe's suitcase was, several miles distant, in a part of the world at which they could only guess at this point. Were they heading deeper into the war, or further from it? In whose territory would they find themselves? There was little point wondering; Joe could give direction but not more than the vaguest notion of distance, and battle lines sometimes shifted greatly during war, so anything was possible.
The enormity of the problem suddenly fell upon him as it had not done before. They were three people; they were in a war in a world in which they made no sense. These people would expect them to be enemies of each other, and they found themselves friends of each other and enemies of the world. Thus far they had been fortunate; they had landed in a place and at a time which enabled them to fool people into accepting them. They had made little effort to change the attitudes of those here, beyond challenging their perceptions of whites--that is, particularly of him--as not so inferior as they had been given to believe. This was the tip of the iceberg. Getting a few soldiers to respect the whites as clever and dangerous enemies was not going to bring about the unity of humanity; it wasn't even likely to bring the end of hostilities. Yet thus far it was the only idea they had. It had had some impact on them already, but he was not certain whether this was for better or for worse.
Time and place--it was interesting that they had landed here and now. Had they landed in the past, they might have been taken as gods; in the future, this might all have been settled, one way or another. They could have landed outside the war zone, in enemy territory (and somehow he didn't imagine not being with Joe, so every place in this world was enemy territory, and no place was truly friendly to them). There were so many places they could have been. Why here, why now, why did Odin place them in this bunker at this moment?
He headed to bed thinking about it. Absently he wished his wife good night; she, too, seemed lost in thought.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #226: Versers Adapt. 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: