Chapter 36 - Clarity

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Dawnhammer hung suspended in space, surrounded by the opening in the rock shell. Behind them, Archangel glowed, her hull dim, but still radiant white. Hundreds of small white drones dotted the pitch between the shell and the debris field that Archangel had generated. They were bringing back materials to repair her, Terris thought.

In the distance, a wall of flickering lights told the story of the Pride Armada going through the business of being boarded. There weren't many slaves, out there. Ghost was rather knowledgeable of the situation. Slaves were valuable and wouldn't be risked on combat vessels if they weren't needed. Perhaps twenty of the smaller prides had capital ships deeper in the asteroid belt and there were five bases to deal with. The combined manpower that had infiltrated the Prides were systematically dividing the fleet into thirds.

He didn't look over when John and Silas walked quietly into the room. Seeing no one on the command deck, they turned to leave and found him sitting in the shadows, his back against the wall, feet crossed on the floor in front of him. Terris continued to stare at the armada.

"You alright, lad?" John's voice grumbled. Terris was touched at the sincerity. The pirate wasn't asking out of politeness, but out of genuine concern. To solidify the fact, the two friends walked over, uninvited, and slid down the wall on either side of him. He was tired. Both mentally and physically exhausted. Haden had arranged for a summit with the remaining Pride authority and heads of the clandestine factions in the morning. Terms of surrender, declarations of intent, and a plan to incorporate the freed slaves into society would head the agenda. Terris was no politician. He wasn't a fighter jock, either. He was just a salvage operator in very unusual circumstances. Adapt and overcome. That's what his father used to say.

The three stared out into space.

"Hard to believe you ended the Prides." John stated gruffly, giving Terris' elbow a companionable nudge.

"We ended them." Terris responded quietly. They sat silently for another moment, considering the Snow Wolf, Ezra, and the fact that there were representatives from many other clans and space-faring factions involved. The prides were going to end soon enough. Dawnhammer's crew had simply accelerated the schedule.

"Why so down, then? We did a good thing, today." Silas didn't have John's machismo. He turned half around and cocked his head, staring directly into Terris' eyes. "You should be happy."

"I am." Terris said. "But it presents and interesting problem. We also have a kidnapped individual aboard."

The silence stretched out as the pirates zeroed in on his comment.

"The alien isn't a slave, Terris. It's a military asset."

"But we aren't military, John. We're only fighting because someone has to. No one know what's coming." His voice was resigned. Tomorrow, though, they would.

"You're going to set it free?" Silas asked. He wasn't probing for reasoning, merely inquiring as to Terris' intent.

The pilot gestured at the armada. "After what I did out there, what kind of person would I be if I kept it locked up?"

"A smart one." John grunted.

"But not the Terris I've seen, up to this point." Silas added. They didn't know much about each other, but he had already seen Terris to be a man committed to right. And that commitment was terrifyingly absolute.

The young man gave him a small smile. He stood and the others followed. John's face showed his doubts, but they followed him to the cells. Marcus and Captain Valeri were lying on the floor, foam mattresses dragged out of two of the sleeping chambers, with pillows that tended to bleat if their occupants moved too much.

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