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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 61: Kondor 111
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As he worked through the day, Kondorís mind drifted back to his morning chat with Slade. In particular, he noticed that when they were with the blacks, they had taken a course that was calculated to make the blacks feel uncomfortable, to make them quite aware that this white man had the ability to kill any and all of them if he so chose. Now that they were with the whites, they were doing exactly the opposite, showing them that a black man could be kind and concerned, and could give them better lives, or at least healthier and longer ones. It was odd that the problems on each side were so very similar--the dehumanization of the enemy--and yet the solutions they were using were so completely opposite.
Part of that, of course, was a matter of their options. Sladeís skills lay entirely in the use of his weapons, his keen strategic and tactical insights, his ability to fight. The soldiers in the barracks would respect that, as they, too, were fighters. That he was better than any two of them was something that would shake their faith in their own superiority. Slade could not have bested them at anything else, and had he attempted to do so that would only have reinforced those beliefs. Here, no white would be surprised to find a black fighter who had formidable skill, and as good a fighter as Kondor was it was easy to see that his advantages here came primarily from superior weaponry. In a knife fight he was probably no match for anyone in the camp. That he could kill scores of them with an automatic rifle while they were reloading their muskets hardly demonstrated any skill, and they would know that immediately. What they did not believe the blacks had was compassion. Blacks werenít inferior to whites, by white thinking; they were inhuman.
It was an interesting coincidence that each of them had the talents necessary to humanize his race in the eyes of the other race. Sladeís incredible skill told the blacks that the whites were not inferior creatures. Kondorís willingness to save the lives of these soldiers told the whites that the blacks could be compassionate. They were perfect for this job. It was of course a coincidence, but it was still very interesting. It was obvious that Lauren would point to this as further evidence of her theory that God was responsible for where they went; of course, eventually she would probably learn even if he didnít tell her. On the other hand, he thought it better not to mention it to Derek. It would only confuse the boy further.
He also realized how untenable their position was overall. Eventually they were going to have to leave this camp, ostensibly so Slade could take him somewhere to work on advanced weapons systems. There was no such place to take him, of course. Ultimately they had to return to the barracks, and in fact already they had probably been away too long, given that he had said they would be retrieving some gear and returning. Colonel Mlambo would be expecting information on white troop strength and position, and on the one hand it had to be accurate enough to make it appear that Kondor knew what he was doing, while on the other hand there was a certain moral dilemma about informing the blacks about the positions of their inferior enemies, particularly after enjoying white hospitality and working so hard to teach them to save lives.
Still, it had to be done. They were going to have to return to the black side, and they were going to have to provide useful information that would not be too useful. What then? Would they shuttle back and forth, between the white camp and the black bunker, each time pretending that they were going somewhere else, double agents not really working for either side?
Of course, there were two ways to think about this situation. There was his way, and there was Laurenís way. At the moment he seemed to be confusing the two. He needed to straighten this out in his own mind.
Lauren would of course say that God had sent him here, along with Slade and his wife, to do something. Then again, she would not insist that she knew what it was he was to do; thatís something you had to discover by moving forward and seeing what the possibilities were. It looked like they were supposed to find a way to bring the two sides of this war together, but maybe that was beyond them. Maybe they only needed to do what they had already done--plant the seeds of doubt in both sides, so that eventually they might realize they were wrong about each other. Maybe they were here only so that he could teach the whites enough modern medicine to get them moving in the right direction. Knowing that you were supposed to do something did not necessarily tell you what it was you were supposed to do; you still had to work that part out for yourself.
By his way of thinking, though, that was all nonsense anyway. He was here by accident, and it was an accident that Slade and his wife were here at the same time and place. It was probably because scriff attracts scriff, and so when he landed here somehow Bob was drawn to the same spot right behind him. In any event, once you found yourself in a universe, the first priority was to survive, and as much as possible to do so without harming anyone. After that, any good you could do was icing on the cake, something that you did for others because it was better to make the world better than to make it worse. In that case, it really didnít matter if he went back to the bunker, because in all probability the whites would continue to welcome him and his medical instruction, and provide a safe place for him for many years to come. He would survive, and even though the blacks had the more comfortable facilities he could do worse than that which the whites had, and he could probably build up more than just their medicine, giving them the levels of technology they needed to compete with their enemy. He would make the world better in the process. It was not up to him to fix the worldís problems; it was silly to think that it was. He would just stay here, and see if in time he could move to the rear, to work with their top medical officers and give them the advantages they needed. Slade would understand. There was no reason to go back to that barracks at this point; they were done there. This was a good place to be, and no one here would complain if they stayed on this side for many years to come.
There was a reason to go back to the barracks. He had forgotten it. They had left things behind. For his part, it was nothing of importance; however, Slade and his wife had left quite a few things back there, and he would have to go with them to retrieve these. Worse, he had told them they would be returning so that they would feel comfortable leaving things behind. He was going to have to go back for those things, and they would have to do it sooner rather than later.
He would have to talk with Slade about it all again soon. Right now, though, he had patients whose lives hung in the balance, and he needed to attend to them if they were going to live.
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 #235: Versers Infiltrate. 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: