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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 40: Brown 115
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The close encounter on the balcony had left Derek a bit rattled. Had they been seen, they would not have been able to keep their presence secret, and despite the fact that he knew eventually the terrorists were going to realize he was there, he secretly hoped that wasn’t actually going to happen. Now he continued with caution, once more in front as they moved through the mall. Again he focused on extending his senses, hearing beyond normal.
Thus he heard them before they were in sight. They were talking as they moved through the mall, their voices echoing.
“Why does he not put them with the others?”
“You think me a mind reader, or that he confides his secrets to me?”
“No, no, I just thought--”
“Try not to. He does not like to be questioned.”
“You do not wonder?”
“Perhaps he thinks that if they are separated they will be less trouble, or that it prevents the English from rescuing them. Perhaps he just does it to intimidate them.”
Derek wished he had worked on hand signals; but he stopped the team, held up two fingers, and pointed in the general direction from which the sound was coming. Jim nodded, then pointed, first at Derek, then to the left, then at himself, then to the right. That could mean any of several things, but Derek picked one, and nodded. He readied his laser rifle, and moved forward.
They stepped into the crossing aisle and turned, but the scene that presented itself was confused--there were six people in the corridor, one of them in the back visibly armed. By the time he identified the other terrorist, the man had both pulled a pistol from behind his back and grabbed one of the others to hold in front of himself. A woman screamed, and the terrorist with the larger gun grabbed her. The remaining two were a confusion of arms and legs, obscuring Derek’s view of the situation.
“Drop your guns, or we kill them,” one said.
That would be much more persuasive, Derek thought, if there was any chance of getting out alive. He steadied his rifle, trying to pick up the man’s head.
“Have you got a shot?” he said.
“Think so,” Jim answered.
“Well, take it,” Derek said, and pulled the trigger on his laser, at the same time hearing the report of the rifle. His shot hit, and as his target flinched from the burn he fired again, and the man went down. Somewhere in that time the rifle also fired, twice more, and Jim cursed.
Derek did not have to wonder why. The woman was bleeding, the first bullet having taken her in the shoulder. It had gone through and wounded the terrorist behind her, but she was going to need medical attention--medical attention they did not have and could not get. Derek realized that he could compound a sleep drug and a primitive antibiotic, but he’d never learned any first aid at all.
Jim seemed equally uncertain. He tore a piece from the bottom of the woman’s dress, and was trying to stop the bleeding as she lay on the floor. “Is anyone here a doctor, or a nurse?” he asked.
“How about a Boy Scout?” Derek murmured. No one answered.
“All right,” Derek said, “I’m afraid that we can’t spend the time to try to save her.”
“You’re going to let her die?” one of the rescued men said.
“I’m afraid that rescuing you is not why we’re here,” Derek explained patiently. “Your captors claim to have a bomb, the kind of bomb that makes getting out of the building meaningless if you can’t also immediately get out of the country. She might die if no one can help her; but all of us, and a lot of other people, might die if they detonate that bomb. So we’re not going to let her die. We’re going to leave her in your care, and we’re going to look for the bomb.”
Then, as an afterthought, he added, “Anyone have any idea where it might be?”
The frightened faces before him answered his question sufficiently.
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: