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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 67: Slade 111
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“Would you please tell us your full name and titles?” There had been a number of formalities leading up to this moment when he was being questioned by an officer he barely recognized, a young man who carried himself as if he believed he were important. Slade was not certain how to answer, but figured the truth was probably the right choice.
“Sir Robert Elvis Slade, Lord of Slade Manor,” he said firmly, and then rattled off more quickly, partly hoping they wouldn’t catch it all, “Friend and Ally of the Djinn and of the Caliph of the West Wind.”
“I didn’t catch that?”
“Does it really matter?”
“I’m afraid it does, Sir Robert. I have been unable,” the officer continued, “to locate any mention of Slade Manor in any of the references I have of the noble houses of our people. Nor, I think, will I find your supposed allies listed anywhere--the Gin, did you call them? It sounds a bit rum to me.” The lieutenant smiled at his own joke, then continued, “And just where is the West End?”
Rather obviously, to the west, Slade thought, but decided that his situation was a bit too delicate to make such a statement. Still, he would have to say something. “The Djinn are rarely seen, but they do make their influence felt. I suppose they’re a bit like Gypsies--they’re all over, but manage to maintain their own national identity.”
The three men on the panel--one of whom was General Vargas--looked uncertain at this. He might have trouble keeping his cover story together.
“So, why does it matter?”
“I believe, Sir Robert, that you have given a false identity to a military commander in a war zone. As you know, that alone is a serious offense.”
Slade did not know that, but he had to admit that there was some sense to it.
“The question is, why did you do it it? I suspect that it was your hope to assist your shade in infiltrating our camp and collecting critical information for the enemy.”
“That’s silly. How could he possibly do that?”
“Yes indeed, how? He never leaves the camp. But we know that the shades have machines of some kind that enable them to send messages over long distances, unheard by those who do not have those machines; and your shade carries a lot of equipment whose purposes are anyone’s guess. He could be sending information to them even as we hold this hearing.”
He hadn’t thought of that, and of course they were right--the shades, that is, the black people, did have that kind of technology. The panel of inquiry turned a suspicious look toward Joe, who was seated a short distance away at one of the tables, watching.
“I suppose it could be--but it isn’t. And I did not give you a false identity. The fact that you can’t find out who I am doesn’t mean I’m not who I claim to be.”
“Can you prove who you are?”
He hesitated. He had left home without his wallet, and didn’t have so much as a driver’s license on him--even if that would help.
“Probably not to your satisfaction,” he responded. Then he thought at least he should pursue the possibility. “What sort of proof would want?”
“I’d be happy to have your lineage; or perhaps the names of a few prominent men who could vouch for you. I suppose it’s too much to ask that you produce your seal.”
“Well, there’s my wife’s father, Baron Torelle of Corlander, and there’s Lord Filp, but I’m afraid he died in battle not long ago, and Lord Omigger, but I don’t know where he is right now.”
“I’m sorry; I don’t know any of those names, either.”
“No, I can see that that would be a problem.”
He puzzled over it for a moment.
“Well, I don’t have my seal,” he said, “but I do have a few baubles that I carry with me, mostly for sentimental value. I can have my wife fetch them from the tent, if you like.”
Eyes turned toward Shella.
“Bring the small chest, dear,” he said.
“Yes, m’lord,” she responded, and headed toward the tent at a quick pace.
“As I say, I’m not sure what would really satisfy you, but I’ll show you what I have.”
There was then an awkward silence; no one seemed quite certain what to say, or whether to say anything. Slade knew it would be about five minutes before Shella returned, and he tried to use the time to think of anything else he might be able to present that would establish his claim; but then, he was indeed all he claimed to be, but in another universe, and these people wouldn’t even understand the concept of another universe--how can there be more than one “everything”?
This could go bad quickly. He was glad he was wearing his weapons, and that no one had challenged his right to do so. Still, he wasn’t sure he wanted to fight his way out of this, even if he were persuaded that he could.
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 #243: Verser Redirects. 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: