Chapter 25 - The Lake

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He lowered his head and tried to focus his mind. Since he was young, the amount of information that flowed into him was extreme enough to incapacitate him. Numbers and words and thoughts mingled together until there were no coherent connections between them. Moments of lucidity passed here and there, but there was little sustained clarity.

"Father," he began, his thoughts focused on a bright, distant light. "Thank you for this day." The previous few days flashed through his mind, from the wild attack on Captain Valeri's drones, to his incarceration, to piloting the amazing starship through a war zone. "Thank you for my new friends." Haden's smile flashed behind his eyelids. Terris' resolute silhouette stood strong against the explosions in space. Dawn and the Captain always alert with their searching eyes. "And thank you for my old friends." He felt the warmth of his sheep lying around him, bodies relaxed in sleep. Captain Valeri lay with her back against the wall in their cell with Gloves snuggled up to her feet, her boots kicked into the corner. He smiled briefly before closing his eyes once again. Gloves don't go on feet.

"Guide me on my journey to restore your Word. Let me be of use to those around me. Give me wisdom and kindness that I might share it with them." He felt his mind beginning to lose focus, connections that seemed perfectly clear began to disappear. The number 316 floated through his mind, again. It sought a link to his reality, but couldn't find one. It drifted away.

Captain Valeri had talked to him for hours. She didn't like the confinement in the sleeping pods, she'd said. She preferred the open air of the holding cell to the cramped quarters Haden offered her. She didn't seem to mind his rambling from one topic to the next, nor having to stop every now and again for her to remind him who she was and that she had no intention to make off with a sheep. Eventually, one sheep made its way to her and she fell asleep clutching it like a child.

The reddish light shield was down, allowing anyone to pass freely into and out the cell. Across from his, the alien kept constant vigil, always watching the doorway, even during the times it interacted with the hologram Haden provided for it.

The alien was lovely, in its way. The ash colored skin made it's violet eyes stand out. It moved with grace and efficiency.

316, he thought. Why was the number important? Seven were the number of his flock, including him. He looked down, forgetting that he was in prayer. There was Socks and Sweatervest, cuddling together. Gloves kept the Captain's toes warm. Bloodmaw Doombringer lay close to her head, while Mittens snoozed peacefully in the corner by Captain Valeri's shiny boots.

Marcus looked around. Where was Sandwich?

He rose quietly so as not to wake the cell's sleeping occupants. Socks and Sweatervest were fast asleep on his priestly robe, but he didn't feel the need to acquire it. Despite the ragged nature of the robe, his trousers were clean and whole, his long-sleeved black shirt tucked in neatly behind a black leather belt with silver buckle. He wore a silver Clodaugh pendant on his collarbone, hung with a matching fine-linked chain that stood out sharply against his black garb. Without the tattered robe, he looked like a fairly fashionable youth. He crept, barefoot out of the room and passed a quick glance at the alien. He waved at it and smiled brightly. It stopped in mid-action, it's arm hovering over the floor, one finger pointing to touch something inside the hologram screen. It slowly turned it's head and stared at him from the corner of it's eyes.

Around the corner he went. A few long strides brought him to the ramp leading into the hangar bay. There was metal strewn all over the floor, but no occupants. As he tiptoed across to where the dining area and medical ward were, a grating explosion of sound assaulted his eardrums.

He was so startled his feet lifted from the deck. He stood there after his feet regained purchase, clutching his neck, for some reason. When the noise returned, the young priest looked over the ramp railing to see the two pirates asleep in a jumble, the smaller one with his arm across the larger one's muscular chest, his head cradled in the crook between shoulder and bicep.

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