Victory is an amazing thing to celebrate. Life and love and faith and everything that goes with all of that can change the world when you add a dash of victory. You can cement alliances with it. You can make friends and influence people. You can change the worlds with it. Just make sure to take the time to enjoy it. Celebrate it. Love it and live it when the time comes. Because failure is not optional. It’s mandatory in fact. We will all fail in our time. So stand back up and enjoy your victories when you get them. They’re worth every second of it.
Malcolm looked around at Normandy’s crowded dance floor with approval.
It hadn’t always been a dance floor. The Republic of California had built Normandy with a fleet admiral’s command deck, along with rotating grav decks, extra communications channels for coordinating squadrons of starships, and all the other little amenities a fleet admiral could want. Many of those facilities were gone now, made redundant by time, technologies, and simple need.
This room had been a perfect storage facility for the base materials the Peloran fabricators needed to keep the Wolfenheim fleet repaired and operational. They’d not had to take any special care to clear the room out for today’s occasion, which said distressing things about how much damage they’d taken in Arnami Prime. But it said very good things about the fact that they’d survived.
A crowd of people now filled it from one end to the other. It was tiny compared to the similar rooms he’d grown up with on Earth, but it was a lavish use of cubic space aboard a starship. It actually took up a full two vertical decks to give the patrons more headroom, and a well-designed sound system played soft music through speakers hidden in the exposed pipes and structural girders above him.
The background murmur of a few dozen Aesiran and Earthborn humans talking together complemented that music. Celebrating together. Dancing together. Laughing and boasting together. The little things.
Starfighter pilots pantomimed their attack maneuvers and boasted over their number of kills. Starship captains discussed the tactics of the battle, or the future of their disparate fleets. The War proved one of the more enduring subjects.
The Aesiran towered over the average Earthborn humans, a testament to their size and strength, but if the groans of disappointment were any indication, the Smiths were acquitting themselves well in their contests of strength and rhetoric.
It was a real party in every way that mattered, though Malcolm wished Caroline could be here. She was certainly responsible for how many of them had made it out alive. And it would have been an excellent excuse to walk together again.
Or dance. He could see himself dancing with her. Maybe more than dancing.
Erik Torson stepped out of the knot of ship captains and walked over to Malcolm with a bemused look on his face.
“She is an amazing woman,” Erik said.
Malcolm smiled. “Yes, she is.”
Erik gave him a sidelong look. “I was talking about your Olivia.”
Malcolm cleared his throat and met the Aesiran’s gaze. Then he chuckled. “She’s not mine.”
Erik pursed his lips, and then sighed with the look of a man deciding to dive into the deep end of the pool. “Then you are truly not…?”
Malcolm turned his full attention to Erik and saw the blush coloring his cheeks.
“No,” Malcolm said with a smile. “Our relationship is strictly professional.”
“Strictly?” Erik asked in a tone that betrayed just a hint of hope.
Malcolm shrugged and decided to tweak the other man just a little bit. “Well, we’ve maybe flirted with the idea of flirting.”
Erik frowned and looked entirely too serious. “A woman like her deserves to be flirted with far more conviction than that.”
Malcolm nodded and raised his beer towards Erik. “Can’t say as I disagree with you there. But I’m not the right one for that job.”
“Flirting with her would be no job,” Erik said with a long look towards Olivia.
“True,” Malcolm said and turned to where Olivia talked with an Aesiran captain.
She pivoted to meet his gaze and Malcolm smiled at her. She nodded and returned to her conversation.
“Amazing,” Erik said with a smile.
“Very,” Malcolm returned in a melancholy tone. “But it would complicate our business. Perhaps destroy it if things went wrong between us. She is indispensable in her current role. I simply can’t risk it.”
Erik nodded in understanding, his gaze never leaving the amazing captain. “What would you say to a man who expressed interest in her?”
Malcolm chuckled and shook his head. “That if he made her cry, I would make him cry.”
Erik clapped a hand on Malcolm’s shoulder and shook him like a rag doll. “Every man should make an oath like that for women like her.”
Malcolm grabbed the man’s wrist with one hand, pivoted, and stepped out from under the Aesiran’s bulk with just enough torque to twist the arm to an uncomfortable length. Then he smiled up at the surprised Aesiran as he held the arm like that for a moment.
“Consider the oath spoken,” Malcolm said in a firm but quiet tone to keep it from drifting too far. Then he released the wrist and took one step away from the other man.
Erik rubbed his abused wrist and chuckled. “Consider the oath understood in full measure.”
Malcolm nodded and motioned Erik towards a sitting area. The Aesiran followed him over and they sat down with contented sighs as the chairs shifted to fit their frames.
Erik blinked in surprise as his chair even accepted his massive bulk without complaining. He patted the arm with a good-natured slap that would have rendered lesser examples of its kind into kindling and gave Malcolm a long look.
“I saw something interesting as we docked with your ship.”
“Yes?” Malcolm asked with curiosity.
“It looks like a rotating wheel.” Erik said and pursed his lips.
“We call them grav decks,” Malcolm said. Then he shook his head and laughed. “Used to. Now all our decks have gravity.”
Erik frowned. “How old is your ship?”
Malcolm shrugged. “A century, give or take a few years. She was the height of American engineering in her day. Best lasers, missiles, and fighters we ever put into space.”
“And your best ships generated gravity by spinning?” Erik asked in a mixture of disbelief and awe.
Malcolm chuckled. “I grew up taking day trips to Luna on ships less advanced than this old girl was. And yes, all of our best ships used spinning grav decks back then. Now that trip takes minutes and boasts far more comfortable artificial gravity. And my best partner in crime is a cybernetic intelligence.”
Malcolm looked at Dawn across the room and she turned towards him with a smile.
“You are a lucky man,” Erik said very seriously.
Dawn raised an eyebrow at the alien and Malcolm chuckled.
“Trust me. I know. It’s amazing how technological advances can change our lives.”
Then he tapped his toe on the deck beneath them. “Look at gravplating. If you have the knowledge, the industry, and the spare materials, you can mass produce these things like candy. And they’re far easier to install than those old grav decks ever were. I don’t think we’ve had a single ship class in the last fifty years that doesn’t use these plates. And putting them into older ships isn’t even considered a major refit now.”
“You have seen much change in your life,” Erik said slowly.
Malcolm nodded. “The Peloran jumpstarted our technological progress by a thousand years when they gave us gravtech. Maybe ten thousand. They changed our worlds.”
Malcolm turned a hard stare towards Erik. “They gave us the stars.”
“And now the Shang seek to take them away.”
“Yes,” Malcolm said. “We won’t let them.”
Erik nodded. “I understand. But you must understand their point of view as well if you are to understand this war you find yourself in. I can explain it if you wish.”
Malcolm frowned at the alien. “I’m willing to listen.”
Erik returned his look for a long time before beginning. “The Shang are a fundamentally cautious people. They do not like change. They are content with the galactic balance of power that has existed since the Albion and Ennead destroyed each other. The Peloran and their various offshoots are much the same, and even if they wished to change things they are fundamentally unable to start a fight, so it doesn’t matter that the Albion created them. My people are happy out here on the fringes of this galactic arm. This has kept the peace for thousands of years.”
“We changed things,” Malcolm said very slowly.
“You changed everything,” Erik said with a shake of his head. “Your fundamental nature is change. Your scout ships routinely travel hundreds of lightyears outside your territory, just because it is out there. And witness your expedition. In the middle of the greatest war your kind has ever seen, you have personally assembled a colony expedition to travel thousands of lightyears across the galaxy, to our very doorsteps. And elements of the Peloran and their offshoots have helped you.
“Aneerin,” Malcolm said.
“Aneerin,” Erik agreed. “He sees your kind as ones who can change the galactic balance of power in a way his own people cannot. Maybe not today. But certainly tomorrow.”
Malcolm leaned back in his seat and reflected on the man’s words. They were true, but they were not complete. The little voice in the back of his head told him that it was only part of Erik’s concern.
Erik nodded. “Yes, there is.”
“But you aren’t going to tell me,” Malcolm said in disgust.
Erik shook his head. “I can’t.”
“Can’t or won’t?”
Erik chuckled. “You have spent time with Aneerin, I see.”
Malcolm pursed his lips and frowned at Erik. “Did he tell you not to?”
“Aneerin has made it clear that we are not to interfere with your race in any way. You are under his protection.” Erik shook his head. “And Aneerin is not a man to take lightly.”
“I’m not asking you to interfere,” Malcolm said in a cajoling tone. “Just tell us something we don’t know. Something we should know.”
“Knowledge is the greatest interference of all.” Erik shook his head again. “All Aneerin gave you was gravtech. Not even any weapons. Just a gravitic generator and a hyperdrive that used it. You changed your worlds inside of a century with that knowledge. I would be a madman if I dared to presume to give you knowledge that could destroy you.”
“And you think you’re qualified to decide what knowledge could destroy us?”
“No.” Erik chuckled again and sighed. “Only you are.”
Malcolm frowned. “What do you mean?”
Erik smiled. “When you find the answers, you’ll be ready for them. But you must discover them yourself. I cannot give them to you or they will mean nothing. You might not even believe my answers. Worse, you may believe them for the wrong reasons.”
Erik leaned forward and whispered so softly even Malcolm’s hearing could barely pick it up. “You have the right to discover who you are on your own. The right to decide who you will be in the future. I cannot take that away from you.”
Malcolm frowned and leaned back in his chair. “Because Aneerin warned you not to?”
“Even had he not.” Erik sighed and spread his arms out wide. “My people are content to stay in our own space and not interfere with others. Trade missions like mine are full of the young and foolish. Few of us are foolish enough to leave our space a second time.”
“This is my tenth trip to Arnami Prime,” Erik said with a chuckle.
“And Earth?” Malcolm asked with a pointed look.
Erik blinked, cocked his head to the side, and smiled again. “Once.”
“So that is why you fly with us now?” Malcolm asked with a wry look. “You are too young and too foolish?”
Erik cocked his head to the side and returned the look. “Malcolm. We are all human. All the races of humanity are closely related. If I liked you just a little bit better, you and my twin sister could have children. Assuming she did not break a wee little man such as yourself before you could even make it to second…what is your word…post?”
“Base,” Malcolm corrected and cleared his throat. “Second base.”
“Ah yes. I knew it was something like that. I have known more than one young valkyrie who would have taken you to every base and made you scream for mercy before all of her jeering sisters.” Erik shook his head in pleasant memory.
Malcolm just frowned at the shift in conversation, feeling as if he’d missed something.
Then Erik chuckled. “But I digress. The point I was trying to make was that you and my sister could make many fine babies if you wished. And that is true for any pairing in this room right now. We are equally human. Do you believe that is a mere coincidence? A case of…parallel evolution as some of your scientists contend?”
Malcolm returned Erik’s gaze with a steady look, remembering all the times he and Charles had speculated on that very point. It was his turn to lean forward and whisper towards the Aesiran.
“I was there the day Aneerin first walked upon the surface of the Earth.”
Erik’s lip twitched at that statement.
Malcolm nodded. “Or so he says. Well…not that he ever says it in so many words. He just never seems to correct us when we say it, if you understand my meaning.”
Erik’s lip twitched again. “Why should he wish to correct such an obviously-accurate summation of the facts?”
Malcolm laughed before aiming a challenging stare at the Aesiran. “I don’t think that was his first time on Earth. I think it was merely the first time he came openly. I don’t think that is a coincidence. And I think you know that.”
Erik pursed his lips and flitted his eyes around as if making certain no one else was in hearing range. “So how do you think your people would react if someone told them this? Would they believe us? Or would they think we are crazy? Or worse yet, would they believe us for the wrong reasons?”
Malcolm sat back as he pondered the man’s rationale. “You know the Shang told us they were our gods when they came. That they created us in their image.”
Erik chuckled again. “I thought that was ruled a hoax.”
Malcolm leaned forward again. “I know the man who planted the evidence to prove it was.”
It was Erik’s turn to laugh. “You are full of surprises, Son of Donnell. I like you. But that does not answer my question.”
“The coincidence of our shared humanity,” Malcolm supplied. He chewed his lip and leaned back in his chair once more. Then he decided to go for it. “Albion. Ennead. Shang. Roderan. Aesiran.”
Malcolm’s eyes snapped to Erik’s, full of cunning and perception. “The names your people use fairly reek of our old religions. I think there is nothing at all coincidental about that. My only question is whether that is truth or lie.”
Erik met his gaze for several seconds before smiling. “That is a very good question, Son of Donnell.”
“And your answer?” Malcolm asked with a challenging gaze. “Son of Tor?”
Erik smiled. “He told me not to underestimate your kind, you know.”
“When was the last time he came to Earth?” Malcolm asked.
Erik laughed once more, but merely raised his hands in silence.
“An Aesiran named Tor, coming to Earth, strong beyond the measure of mortal man,” Malcolm supplied with a look that invited the Aesiran to speak up whenever he wanted to. “That would be a story, wouldn’t it?”
Erik remained silent, inviting Malcolm to continue.
“Maybe we can bring in the whole family,” Malcolm added. “A conniving brother, a crazy sister, an all knowing father! Is any of this ringing any bells for you?”
“Most stories are far stranger than real life,” Erik said. Then he sighed and shook his head. “Though the best ones often have a kernel of truth to them.”
Malcolm let out a long breath at the sideways answer and turned his head to look at one bulkhead showing the multi-colored rivers of hyperspace flowing over Normandy’s mangled port hangar pod.
“We found the rainbow bridge linking the worlds together,” Malcolm finally said.
“You have indeed,” Erik whispered and relaxed back in his chair. “Bifrost is a beautiful sight, isn’t it?”
Malcolm nodded as his eyes continued to scan the space beyond. It came to mind that Caroline was out there, right now, following in their wakes. Hopefully far enough back that she wouldn’t beat them to their destination. Hopefully close enough that she made it out ahead of the Shang.
“Though it occurs to me that you may have other beauty on your mind right now,” Erik said with a chuckle.
Malcolm blinked and returned his attention to the alien. Then he cleared his throat. “Is it that obvious?”
Erik leaned forward and placed one massive hand on his shoulder hard enough to make their chairs creak in protest. “I have seen many men in your position, my friend.”
“Really?” John Park asked as he came around behind Erik. The man who had raised Malcolm into the man he was today sat down in another chair and crossed his legs. “You’ve seen many women chasing a man thousands of lightyears across the galaxy on a mission to drag him back home?”
Erik chuckled again. “Well, that particular part is a bit new to me. But I’ve certainly seen many men with that pole axed look on their face. Which brings up a rather important question I think. What is the story between you and your Caroline?”
“Nothing that I remember,” Malcolm said truthfully.
“I never knew her, but I remember her mother,” John said in a wistful tone. “If she has even a quarter of her mother’s genes, she has to be a…memorable experience.”
Malcolm raised his beer to acknowledge the point.
“I have met many memorable women in my time,” Erik said and chuckled in rueful delight. “Calling your Caroline that is a disservice. She is unforgettable.”
Malcolm raised his beer again.
“So why…how did you forget her?” Erik asked, revealing the root of the problem.
Malcolm sighed and tipped the beer towards the alien. “I know exactly why I forgot.”
“Really?” Erik and John asked in surprised unison.
“Really.” Malcolm shrugged. “I didn’t forget her. I was made to forget her.”
John shook his head and brought a hand up to rub the cross hanging from his neck. “That’s a deep, dark rabbit hole right there.”
Malcolm smiled at the preacher. “I saved her life.”
John aimed a questioning frown at him.
“She told me herself. I saved her from dying on the edge of a road. And then something amazing happened. Something…fabulous.” Malcolm smiled at the thought before shaking his head. “Something I shouldn’t have ever forgotten. Which means someone had to make me forget.”
“That shouldn’t be possible,” John said in a voice that wasn’t quite as definitive as either of them would have wished.
“I know, I know,” Malcolm said. “But that’s what happened.”
John shook his head and looked towards Erik. “Considering our Family connections, we have the very best countermeasures to anything that could alter our memories.”
Erik nodded in understanding.
Malcolm sighed. “Which means whoever made me forget had the very best of memory altering techniques.”
Erik frowned. “Assuming you’re accurate, why would someone wish you to forget saving her life?”
“They probably wouldn’t have minded if that’s all I remembered.” Malcolm chuckled. “But from the flashes of memory I’ve been getting, and from the feelings I got when I touched her, I did a lot more than just save her life. And based on her responses to my touch, she was a very willing participant in all of it. That is something that some would not want me to remember.”
Malcolm raised his beer high into the air to bring it to their attention. “I drank like a fish when I was young, and I can’t tell you how many times I woke up in the morning with a girl I did not know in a bed I’d never seen and no memory of the night before. I was a very bad boy and everybody knew it.”
He aimed a look at John and the preacher nodded back in agreement.
Malcolm shook his head. “Then one day I woke up in my back yard, naked but for the morning dew. A splitting headache, more bruises and cuts than I could count, and more questions than answers.”
“That was the morning after my Senior Prom,” he said with a laugh. “The only memories I have now come from the recordings other people made. You could call that a bit of a clarion call for me. A realization that I couldn’t keep that up anymore. One day I’d wake up dead with only a few who missed me. I didn’t want to die. So I stopped drinking. Cold turkey. It was the hardest thing I’d ever done.”
Erik motioned towards the beer in Malcolm’s hand with a question in his eyes.
Malcolm smiled and gave the beer a steady look. “This is Callahan Brewery’s very best stock. Old Man Callahan is what you might call a procurer of trade goods that do not conform to local laws.”
“A smuggler,” Erik said with a knowing smile. “I may have met the type.”
Malcolm laughed. “Old Man Callahan brews the best beer in the Alpha Centauri Trinary System. And when a shipment arrives, everybody knows it’s beer from top to bottom. Every crate. And everybody knows it’s worth the exorbitant cost on the shipping label.”
“I see,” Erik said and shook his head. “And I’m assuming some of these people get bonuses of some kind?”
“For their swift cargo inspections of a known perishable good?” Malcolm asked with a smile. “Of course. The point is that I paid a lot for this beer.”
“And everything that came with it?” Erik asked.
Malcolm raised his beer to the alien. “Of course. So I sip this beer. I enjoy its amazing taste. I relish its thick body.”
Malcolm placed the beer on the deck and smiled at Erik. “I can enjoy this beer without finishing it now. It took me fifty years to get to that point. I don’t need another. I can walk away right now and forget it is even there.”
Dawn appeared a second later and bent over to pick the bottle up. She smiled, turned, and walked away with a self-satisfied swaying gait.
All three men followed her progress as she took the unempty beer bottle away and disappeared into the kitchen that kept all of the guests happily served.
Then John and Erik turned bemused looks towards Malcolm.
Malcolm shrugged. “She still thinks I drink too much.”
“Is she right?” John asked.
“I don’t think so.” Malcolm shook his head, but then shrugged again. “But if I were to complain about her autocratic decree on the matter, it would just add ammunition to the case that maybe I do. So I don’t.”
Malcolm chuckled at their knowing glances. “The boy I was in high school never would have let someone take my beer away. I think that is why someone wanted me to forget. They did not want that boy to drag Caroline down to my level. They didn’t want her hanging around with a drunken brawler. And I really can’t blame a father for wanting that.”
Erik gave him a long look. “You think her father did it?”
Malcolm snorted. “He was involved. If I had a daughter and a boy like me tried to get into her life, I’d sure want to do something about it. And Mister Murphy was a real high roller in Family politics.”
John frowned. “Do you think Charles’ father knows?”
“He has to,” Malcolm said before shrugging. “You know how tight a ship he runs.”
Malcolm turned to Erik again. “Charles had a century to prepare the funding for this project, while working from the inside as the heir to the Family fortune, and his father still caught us in less than five years. That’s why she’s chasing me now.”
Erik furrowed his brow in deep thought. “He seems like a capable leader.”
“He is the very best,” John said in a proud tone.
Erik aimed a questioning look at the preacher.
“We were friends in another life,” John said tapped the cross on his neck. “Before I found God.”
“I see,” Erik said and leaned back in his chair again. “This is a complicated affair.”
Malcolm chuckled. “Very complicated.”
“Family. Friendship. Business.” Erik snapped his eyes towards Malcolm and stared before saying the last word. “Pleasure.”
Malcolm chuckled as he recognized their earlier discussion. “Complicated.”
Erik frowned. “What if it doesn’t work out the way he would like?”
Malcolm shivered as that question ran down his spine, and then he turned to John with a questioning look.
John nodded. “That’s actually a good question. This could just be a test to see how loyal she is.”
Malcolm nodded. “If it’s a test, he would have sent someone else to keep an eye on her.”
“But we haven’t seen anyone else out here,” John protested.
“It could be someone in her fleet,” Malcolm said. Then he shrugged as an idea came to mind and drilled John with a hard gaze. “Or it could be another fleet.”
John nodded in agreement. “Her sister does command a cruiser squadron.”
“That’s an unhappy thought,” Malcolm muttered.
Then another form walked over and Malcolm glanced upward to see Kara’s smiling face framed by pink-highlighted blonde hair.
“It’s time, Preacher,” the cybernetic intelligence said with a wave of her hand.
“Of course, my dear,” John said and turned to Erik with a sorrowful look. “I’m deeply sorry to end this stimulating conversation, but it is time for church. You are welcome to join us if you wish.”
He pushed himself up from the chair and smiled at Malcolm “And you are always welcome as well.”
Malcolm raised one dismissive hand, but smiled at the older man. “Viva la mystery, Old Man.”
“I’ll ‘Old Man’ you, you young whipper snapper,” John growled back with an amused gleam in his eye and turned to follow Kara out of the large room.
Erik leaned back in his seat. “What was that?”
Malcolm shrugged. “I just mangled French a bit. Said ‘long live the mystery.’”
“What is the mystery?”
“Kara’s one of the cybernetic intelligences who signed up for this expedition.”
“Ah, yes.” Erik nodded very slowly and his eyes strayed to the hatch they’d left through. “‘Viva la mystery,’ indeed. I heard your priests were…um…I’m uncertain of the word…”
“Celibate,” Malcolm said with a shudder. “John’s a preacher from one of the denominations that has never followed that particularly abominable tradition.”
Erik nodded in understanding. “He is one of your Christian preachers?”
“Yes. Assemblies of God, I think. Or maybe Lutheran.” Malcolm frowned as he thought about it. “It’s hard to keep all the denominations straight.”
Erik chewed his lip in thought. “I have never seen a Christian ceremony.”
Malcolm smiled and waved a hand towards the hatch. “I can show you one right now if you’d like.”
“I think I would,” Erik returned.
Malcolm rose with a flourish. “After you.”
Erik smiled and rose. Then he frowned and looked to Malcolm. “Do you know where you are going?”
Malcolm chuckled. “I may not go to services, but I assure you I know where the chapel is.”
“I meant the system,” Erik rumbled gruffly. “Your colony target.”
Malcolm stopped at the change in subject. “Oh. Yes. We worked with the Peloran and the Arnam to find a suitable uninhabited system.”
Erik pursed his lips. “Do you know the system?”
“Not personally.” Malcolm frowned in thought before looking around the crowded hall. “Dawn?”
Dawn stepped out of the crowd as if she’d been waiting for his call. Which she probably had been. She always seemed to know what he wanted before he wanted it.
“Could you send him the information we have on the target world?” Malcolm asked.
Dawn smiled and crossed her arms. “Sending now.”
Erik looked down as a hologram appeared over his arm and read the information on it. Then he nodded in approval. “That is a worthy system.”
Malcolm’s eyebrows rose in surprise. There were thousands of star systems out here. Tens of thousands. More if he thought about it. That made Erik’s recognition highly suspicious.
“You know this system?”
“Not personally,” Erik answered in a serious tone. “But I know the stories of it. It is a rich system, with many of the resources you will need to survive.”
Malcolm frowned again as something that had bothered him for years came back to his mind in full force. Neither the Peloran nor the Arnam had ever fully answered his question. Maybe Erik would.
“If it’s such good interstellar real estate, why isn’t it inhabited now?”
“We do not like to live on worlds filled with our own ghosts,” Erik said with grim humor.
Malcolm frowned. “So you used to live there?”
“No,” Erik said with a shake of his head. “That system has always been rich. It became a target during the last war. The Ennead and their fleets came. The Albion and their fleets came. Even we came. It was a great battle.”
“Who won?” Malcolm asked.
Erik sighed. “There were no winners in that battle.”
“I see.” Malcolm frowned once more as he considered the news. “So they picked a graveyard for us to colonize? I’m not sure I’m honored.”
“They are not your ghosts. They are not your friends and brothers.” Erik gave Malcolm a sad smile. “You are the perfect people to bring it back to life.”
Malcolm cleared his throat. “I guess that’s one way of looking at it.”
“Would you do me the honor of allowing me to accompany you?” Erik asked.
Malcolm aimed a curious look at the alien. “Of course. But why?”
Erik paused for a long moment before answering. “My family left many ghosts there. I have never paid them the respect they are owed.”
“You are welcome to come with me.” Then he aimed a raised eyebrow at Erik and tried to change the subject. “Though are you sure you want to be nearby the next time Caroline catches me?”
Erik laughed and accepted the change without protest. “I would not miss that meeting for all the worlds. From a safe distance, of course.”
“Of course.” Malcolm snorted.
Then Erik cleared his throat and clapped his hands together. “And now, Son of Donnell, could you please escort me to where your preacher does his thing? I wish to hear him with my own ears.”
Malcolm turned towards Dawn and she smiled before leading them out of the dance hall and into the corridors running through the ship.
They were off to see the Preacher.