The thing I learned when I left Earth behind is that we can rarely leave our troubles behind. They tend to follow us like limpets, never letting us get too far away. We have to deal with them, but we also have to keep our minds open for the new troubles we are certain to discover whenever we go someplace new to us. Especially when it is very old for someone else. We can find ghosts anywhere, and if we are very unlucky they will haunt us until the very end. The trick is learning which ones to fight, which ones to ignore, and which ones to embrace.
The word hung on the air for several seconds. The Alamo. The patron saint of desperate last stands for ultimately victorious causes. Which didn’t reverse the costs for those who held their lines at the Alamo.
“You know everyone died at the Alamo, right?” Malcolm asked.
Clark chuckled and aimed an amused look at Malcolm. “You shouldn’t believe everything you hear.”
“Excuse me?” Malcolm asked with genuine interest.
“You think a man who ‘killed him a bar when he was only three’ would meet his end at the hand of Random Mexican Soldier Number Five?” Clark asked.
Malcolm frowned as he tried to discern the older man’s state of mind. But Clark was a complete cipher. As usual. “I’m not certain if I should believe you or not.”
“Good man,” Clark said and clapped him on the shoulder again. Then the older man turned to wave a hand at the clearing, the forests beyond, and the tree-covered hills and ridges surrounding them. “Any questions about this fine location that I absolutely do not want to name Alamo?”
Malcolm followed the man’s gaze towards the perfect line of forested natural defenses and decided it was probably a good idea to let him change the subject. “Asteroid impact?”
“We think so,” Clark said with a chuckle. “Or maybe an orbital strike. It’s old enough we can’t really tell. Either way, it’s mostly a flat circle of land twenty kilometers across surrounded by a ridgeline that is easy to fortify.”
“What’s it like underground?”
“Solid bedrock.” Clark stomped his foot hard. “No other major geological events in thousands of years. No stresses that we can detect to cause any in the future. This is a rather quiet world as these things go.”
“How deep is the bedrock?”
“A few meters in the center. Less as you get towards the outer rim. Makes for good footings for serious buildings, and enough topsoil to grow good food. Or anything else,” Clark finished with a wave at the trees around them.
“Is flooding an issue?” This reminded Malcolm of a giant bathtub now that he thought about it.
“Not really. There are enough cracks in the bedrock to make water flow reasonable. Though improving the drainage wouldn’t hurt, especially during the wet seasons.”
“So what are the seasons like?”
“AI models project this location to be nice and moderate. Better than home.”
Clark aimed a hand to the east. “Fresh water seashore ten klicks beyond that ridge. The sea’s big enough to do a fair job of keeping the cold away in winter, and the heat away in summer. The Californians will be jealous of us.”
“Water ski in the morning, snow ski at night?”
“Exactly. The boys have been trying that circuit out already.”
“How’s it work?”
“A few broken bones and jellyfish stings. Some shark bites and a few bears got too hungry for comfort. Same old story when coming to a new world.” Clark gave Malcolm a hard stare.
That answered another of Malcolm’s questions before he could even ask it. Mostly. Though clarification was a good idea. “DNA?”
Clark snorted. “We ran all the tests. Had to make certain there weren’t any nasty bugs looking to eat us, right?”
“Earth-derived. No question. We’ve got a human-habitable garden planet with Earth-derived animals living all over it.”
Malcolm shook his head. “But we’re…what? Three thousand lightyears from Earth as light goes? Five thousand by hyperspace?”
Clark shrugged. “We stopped off at a lot of places on the way out. It’s the same on all of them. The DNA confirms it. Oh, the geologies are always different, and there’s some genetic drift, but not much. We’d need to have a real biologist look at the data to confirm, but it looks like all the other colonial surveys I’ve seen.”
Malcolm sighed. “I guess I just expected we’d find something different this far from Earth. Something…alien.”
“No such luck,” Clark said with grunt. “We’ve been living off the local wildlife since we arrived. They’ve got all the right proteins for us to metabolize. Easiest hunting I’ve ever seen. They’ve got no fear of us.”
Clark stopped to give Malcolm a more serious look. “Your Aesiran friend is right. Humans haven’t lived here in a long time.”
Malcolm blinked at the statement and nodded as the subtext made it through. “You say that like you already knew they were here before.”
“I did,” Charles said with a snort. “We found something interesting up north. Buried under a sheet of ice a hundred meters thick.”
Malcolm gave the man a surprised look. “Why did you go digging up there?”
Clark sighed. “We tried all the standard frequencies when we arrived. Bunch more nonstandard. Got some answers from stuff that was still here and operating from the last time humans were here.”
Malcolm’s jaw hung open for a moment. Then he cleared his throat and gave Clark a baleful stare. “You could have led with that, you know.”
“What?” Clark asked with a hearty chuckle. “And miss that shocked look on your face? I’ve been looking forward to this moment for months. Not going to waste it on a conference call.”
“Fine.” Malcolm snorted in defeat. “What did you find?”
“Stuff older than Rome. Maybe older than Egypt.” Clark shrugged. “It appears to be a network of underground monitoring stations with a central habitation hub designed to house a few dozen humans.”
Malcolm’s brow furrowed in thought. “Are you certain we’re talking about humans?”
Clark laughed. “Absolutely. I know every employee of the month to grace that place for the last…oh…ten years of its operation.”
Malcolm aimed a raised eyebrow at the other man.
“That’s what we’re calling them, at least,” Clark said with another shrug. “We got hallways full of smiling faces and name plaques underneath. Writing that I really want to have a Peloran cyber take a look at. Then there’s the company picnic photos. All fifty or sixty of them crowded together and smiling to the camera like they really like each other.”
Malcolm scratched his chin and pondered that for a moment. Then he turned a furrowed look at John Clark. “Could they pass for Earthborn?”
“Oh no.” Clark pursed his lips. “Well, not outside Japanese anime at least.”
Malcolm quirked an eyebrow at the man.
“Big heads and eyes. Little bodies, big hands.” Clark smiled and held his hands out chest level. “The girls have tatas that could double for flotation devices any day of the week. The boys are the finest of girly men. Wild hair colors and spiky styles abound.”
“Just like a Japanese anime,” Malcolm muttered.
Clark nodded with amusement.
“I wonder what that means?”
Clark snorted again. “I just wonder how those girls survived the back aches.”
Malcolm raised an eyebrow at Clark.
Clark shrugged. “Some of my boys have been suffering from unrealistic expectations of the fairer sex since arriving on world.”
“Yeah.” Malcolm laughed at the older man. “I’m sure they’re suffering.”
Clark gave Malcolm the evil eye. “I’m serious. I don’t have the resources to keep up with the requests to reformat our personal assistants.”
He waved a hand towards the side.
A motion caught Malcolm’s attention and he turned to see a…woman, or maybe a girl, step into the sunlight with spiky blonde hair standing straight up above her head. A short shirt and jacket revealed a waistline no flesh and blood human could survive having, and, as advertised, tatas the size of basketballs. Low cut jeans and bejeweled shoes finished the wild fashion sense, merely emphasizing the body that made a Barbie doll look realistic.
Malcolm’s eyes picked up the dust flowing around the body as the wind broke against the real, physical body of a personal assistant’s avatar, and he let out a long breath.
“Wow,” was all he said.
“Yeah,” Clark growled at him.
Malcolm pondered for just a moment at how quickly a discussion about possible alien life could be led so far astray.
Then Clark brought them back on track with a cleared throat and a serious look.
“Look, I’ve been studying this place a long time. If there is one location on this planet that gives us the open spaces colonists want, the solid ground an engineer is going to demand, and the defensive positioning an old soldier like me wants, this is it. Give me a good deflection dome over this crater, and it will stop a fleet bombardment cold. I’ve got the manpower to stop thousands of dedicated ground troops in their tracks. Nothing but forests beyond the crater walls, and we can clear those to create wide open sightlines. Maximum kill zone. This is where I want to dig in if Danaka comes calling.”
Malcolm took another look around the crater and nodded in agreement.
“I think you’ve convinced me. I assume you have a detailed colony plan mapped out?”
Clark held his hand out and a hologram appeared above it, showing a rotating three dimensional map of the colony.
Malcolm peered at it for a few seconds. City Hall, office buildings and habitation condos ringed a large central park. Another ring of open space surrounded that complex, wide enough to drop football fields into. The rest of the colony was divided into four quadrants, each one filled with industrial parks, retail centers, and homes. Schools, churches, and bars filled in the dots between them. It was everything a growing colony needed to survive and thrive.
“Dawn?” Malcolm asked.
The cybernetic intelligence’s holoform stepped forward into his field of vision with an impressed look on her face. “Yes?”
“I assume you’ve checked to make certain we have all the necessary colonization pods to fill out that colony plan?”
Dawn smiled. “It wasn’t an exact match when we arrived, but we massaged it while you boys were talking. We can do this.”
Malcolm, Park, and Clark shared knowing looks before Malcolm turned back to Dawn. “Do you have any reservations towards this plan?”
“Plenty,” Dawn said with a snort. “But every cyber in the fleet has gone over the data Clark gave us.”
She paused for a moment to aim a raised eyebrow at the old man. “As well as all the data he didn’t give us.”
Clark met her gaze levelly.
Dawn nodded as if impressed and turned back to Malcolm. “Clark’s people have been on world for months with some of the best survey equipment available both in orbit and on the surface. They’ve overflown every square kilometer of ground and ocean there is. It would take us weeks to catch up with what he’s done if we wanted to start a new survey from scratch. I think we are in agreement that we do not have that much time?”
Malcolm nodded in agreement.
“With that in mind, we concur.” Dawn smiled. “This location is our choice as well.”
Malcolm turned to Clark and Park, who nodded their agreement as well.
“Okay,” Malcolm said. “You’ve got me. Captain Wyatt?”
Olivia’s holoform flickered into existence next to them.
“We have a colonization plan in place.” He turned to look at Dawn. “Transmitting now. Or was that already done, too?”
Dawn smiled, crossed her arms, and nodded. Just like she often did when doing what he asked. Or when she’d already done what she knew he was going to ask.
Olivia broke into his thoughts in a professional tone. “We have the plans. Do you wish us to transmit them to the colonization pods?”
Malcolm tore his gaze away from Dawn to look at Olivia. “Yes, please.”
“Transmitting now,” Olivia said and her eyes went out of focus as she waited for her crew to report. Then she turned back to Malcolm. “Transmitted and received. Shall we initiate the colonization plan now?”
“Yes, please,” Malcolm repeated.
“Transmitting initiation command now.” Olivia smiled and her eyes went out of focus again as she watched her crew. Then she nodded and her eyes snapped back to Malcolm. “Orders transmitted. I suggest you sit back and enjoy the show.”
“You always put on the best shows,” Malcolm said with chuckle.
“Thank you, Director,” Olivia said with a smile and her holoform flickered back out.
Malcolm sighed and turned to see Clark and Park exchanging meaningful looks.
“Opinions?” Malcolm asked.
Clark returned Malcolm’s gaze with impressive aplomb. “She’s right. It will be an amazing show.”
Clark paused to wave his hand towards several chairs arrayed outside his old infantry transport. “You should keep your eyes peeled so you don’t miss anything.”
Malcolm followed his directions and moved towards the chairs. “How many colonization drops have you seen?”
Clark gave him a coy look and shrugged. “Enough to know that it will never get old.”
Malcolm sat down in answer to the older man’s wave and felt the chair react to his presence. First it molded to his shape for maximum comfort, and then it leaned back to give him an unobscured look at the sky.
The show started with a single touch of flame as the first pod entered atmosphere. It was soon joined by a second, a third, and more. Soon dozens of pods lit the sky in flames. Then hundreds filled it
It was an amazing sight.
A dull roar came into existence as the pods approached. It soon rose to a thundering rumble echoing off the crater walls. Then an earth-reverberating boom washed over them as one pod after another dropped below the sound barrier.
It was a mind-numbing sound.
The flames faded away to reveal new stars in the sky as they descended towards earth. The bright bluish-white light signified gravplates at maximum effort, slowing the pods down before they impacted the old fashioned way.
One of the falling stars flickered for a moment before failing entirely. The colonization pod fell out of the sky like a dagger thrown by a god. It impacted outside the crater and the very ground shook in protest. A dust cloud rose up into the sky, and a shockwave pushed up and over the crater rim, bending and snapping the trees atop it. Another pod hammered into the ground near the first, followed by a third, and then a fourth, and the trees whipped back and forth with each shockwave.
Malcolm winced as he thought about how much money each of those unintentional kinetic strikes cost.
“Don’t worry, kid,” Clark said with a chuckle. “You haven’t even reached a one percent failure rate yet. I’ve seen colony drops go ten percent ‘Rod From God.’ Those were exciting to watch.”
The last of the flaming streaks slowed to a stop outside the rim and the rumbling thunder faded. Then dozens of faintly-glowing colony pods floated out of the dust cloud to pass over the crater rim and the remaining trees atop it. Hundreds more followed and Malcolm felt the faint thrumming of their gravplates as they hovered over to their designated positions in the clearing. The pods lowered themselves down one after another, and the thrumming of so many gravplates began to fade away.
The last of the pods finally landed and opened up like flowers seeking the sun. Houses and factories came into shape one after another. Short bars squatted on future street corners and tall steepled churches rose above the landscape on other blocks.
Malcolm watched the colony take shape and marveled at the sight. He looked down to see Clark’s men talking and laughing in the distance as they leaned back in comfortable lawn chairs with their feet propped up on ammunition cases. Their hands held cold beers covered in perspiration taken straight from coolers at their sides.
Malcolm turned towards Clark with an upraised eyebrow.
The older man smiled back at him and raised a hand.
Malcolm, Clark, and Park shared approving looks as two of Clark’s men brought a cooler over to them. Clark opened it up and handed a bottle to Malcolm.
Malcolm raised both eyebrows as he recognized the label. Callahan Brewery.
“For special occasions,” Clark said and pulled out another bottle for Park.
“The very best,” Park said as he twisted the top off and took a long draw. He finished by smacking his lips and nodding. “Nothing like it.”
“Agreed,” Malcolm said and returned his eyes to the swiftly erecting colony. It was a sight worth watching. It never would have happened when he was young. It would have been impossible back then. Malcolm considered again how gravtech truly had changed everything for humanity.
Then he relaxed back into his chair and watched the rest of the pods unfold. It was a thoroughly enjoyable sight, made better by old friends and good beer.
Olivia’s holoform flickered into existence next to them and she smiled at Malcolm. “Director?”
“Captain?” Malcolm returned with raised brows.
“I would like to report stage one colony drop successful,” Olivia said with a crisp nod. “Ninety percent of the pods deployed as planned. Five percent report minor errors in final deployment, and another four percent report major errors that will have to be rectified before they are deemed habitable.”
Malcolm aimed his partially-empty beer at the dust clouds to the west. “And the other one percent?”
Olivia cleared her throat and gave him a wry chuckle. “I think you had a better view of them coming down than I did. We’ll send out recovery teams to see what is salvageable, but even if we lose all of them, we have sufficient redundancy in the other pods. The colony will not be negatively impacted.”
“Good,” Malcolm said with a nod.
“Request permission to initiate stage two colony drop.”
Malcolm smiled. “Go for it.”
Olivia nodded and her holoform flickered back out.
Malcolm looked over and raised his beer so Clark and Park could clink theirs against his and they enjoyed another long draw of the liquid nectar. Malcolm relaxed and leaned back into his chair again, enjoying the fresh breeze coming across the clearing.
Then a dull rumble came down from on high and Malcolm looked up to see more trails of flaming lines burning into the sky above them. He counted hundreds and then thousands of them as they streaked down towards the earth. Then he saw tens of thousands and smiled.
They were taking the chance to perform a full HALO drop. He tried to remember what that meant. High Altitude something something.
“High Altitude Low Orbit drop,” Clark said.
Malcolm turned to look at the older man. “Was I that obvious?”
“Yes.” Clark snorted. “I remember that frown of concentration as you tried to remember some odd piece of data you needed for a test.”
“Touché,” Malcolm said and raised his beer towards Clark.
“I’m impressed you managed to acquire this many,” Clark said with a nod of approval.
“Most of them are decoys.” Malcolm gave the other man a deprecating shrug. “But I know where to shop. Older models are always easier to get.”
Clark chuckled. “I’m assuming you upgraded them?”
“Of course,” Malcolm said with a wry smile. “Our Peloran friends were happy to give us a few cycles in their fabricators to bring them all up to Peloran tech.”
“What model are they?”
“Wait for it.” Malcolm chuckled and held his empty hand in the air. “I don’t want to ruin the surprise for you.”
Clark raised an eyebrow at Malcolm, but shook his head and turned to look up as the first of the HALO forces dropped below the sound barrier with thunderous booms that echoed across the landscape.
The drop cocoons streaked towards the earth and then unfolded a few hundred meters above the ground to become wings with armored humanoid figures hanging from them. The wings caught the air and feathers began fluttering off into the wind. The wings glowed with a powerful gravitic field, the figures slowed, and the feathers fell around each of them like rain.
Malcolm remembered from his briefing that each feather carried electronic counter measures that jammed or obscured them from any sensor during the final phase of their orbital drops. Even the Mark One Eyeball.
The first of the figures impacted on the ground like titans come to earth, throwing up plumes of dust around them. Then they stood up as the wind whisked the dust away to reveal feminine forms, armor a stereotypical Norse god might have worn, and long blonde hair.
Clark turned to Malcolm again. “Valkyries? Are those real Valkyries?”
“Direct from Asgard.” Malcolm waggled his eyebrows towards the older man.
Clark shook his head in amazement.
There were dozens of cheap imitations, but honest-to-God Valkyrie Combat Systems were one of the best ground-based integrated humaniform AI defense systems out there. In Earthborn humanity’s space at least. And almost every single one of them defended a colony or world inhabited by descendents of the Scandinavian nations.
“I didn’t think those crazy Scandinavians would sell those girls for any amount of money.”
“I never said I used money,” Malcolm retorted. Then he waggled his eyebrows at Clark. “I found something they wanted more than money.”
Clark frowned as the Valkyries folded their wings into their backs and began moving towards the nearest colony pods with purposeful strides.
“I’d be real interested in seeing your Aesiran’s reaction the first time he sees these girls,” Clark said and gave Malcolm a serious look.
“He’s not my Aesiran,” Malcolm began equally seriously. “But I’ve had that same thought myself.”
“I don’t suppose you forgot to tell him about these girls?” Clark asked.
“Now that you mention it,” Malcolm said in an innocent tone. “I do believe it slipped my mind.”
“You don’t say,” Clark muttered.
“Not a word.”
Park shook his head sadly as more Valkyries came in for a landing. “We’re going to have to work on your information sharing priorities, I see.”
“I think I share just fine,” Malcolm said and watched the Valkyries move towards other colonization pods.
“Erik may not agree,” Park said.
“Then Erik may wish to be more forthcoming about when exactly his people first found their way to Earth,” Malcolm said with a pointed look towards the preacher.
Park raised his beer to acknowledge the point. Then he shrugged. “Do you really expect him to tell you they came to Earth and we worshiped them as gods?”
“Not really.” Malcolm shook his head. “But isn’t that the important question? Did they play god with us? Did they create our religions in their image?”
“Maybe they did,” Park said with a shrug. “Most of our religions are based on the idea that God or gods came from another world to visit us. They’re alien by their own admission.”
“You can’t tell me you’re okay with the idea that your Jesus was just some random alien.”
“Alien? Yes.” Park smiled at him and then shook his head. “But not random by any measure. I do not follow God because he has power. Many people have power, and I do not follow them. But He sent his son to Earth where He allowed Himself to be nailed to a Roman cross and hung there until dead. Nasty way to die. What alien have you met out here that would be willing to do that for us?”
Malcolm let out a long breath at Park’s words. They were hard to argue with.
“Malcolm, my faith is not weakened by the fact that we have met aliens. It is strengthened by it. These aliens are proof that there are things out here that we do not understand. Things we took as faith in the past have been proven true by all we’ve seen out here. And other things we’ve taken as faith were proved false. Or a simple misunderstanding on our part.”
Park sighed and looked at the Valkyries moving to perform their first jobs on this planet. “Perhaps Erik’s people did come to us from on high, just as these girls did. And perhaps some of us worshipped them as gods. Perhaps they even encouraged it. But do not be angry with Erik for something his ancestors did. He is no more at fault for that than you are for your parents’ actions.”
Malcolm gave the preacher a long look. “You have a gift for making me question things I thought I had a handle on.”
Park smiled and tapped the cross necklace hanging from his neck. “It comes with the calling.”
Malcolm and Clark shared a smile before leaning back to watch the Valkyries make their methodical way across the new colony, checking individual modules as they went. Sometimes they had to kick one to open it the way it should. Sometimes two or more congregated around a single pod to give it more direct attention. Percussive maintenance was a beautiful thing to see in action. They had most of the pods straightened away in minutes, and then moved to take guard positions where they could keep an eye out for any dangerous animals the obviously unworried scout soldiers might have missed.
One of them then turned to walk towards their extremely attentive audience.
Malcolm, Park, and Clark. The soldiers had been extremely attentive in their own right, but she did not approach them to their supreme disappointment. They voiced their disappointment that the very pretty robot lady just walked on by with little more than an amused look at them.
Then Malcolm realized he recognized that very pretty robot lady. He turned to aim a pointed look at Park. “You didn’t tell me she was one of them.”
Park just smiled and shrugged. “You didn’t ask.”
“Touché,” Malcolm said and turned back to smile towards the cybernetic intelligence that had become the preacher’s close friend during the long voyage.
Kara smiled at him and came to a stop as Captain Wyatt’s holoform appeared next to Malcolm.
“Director. Captain,” Kara began with a formal nod towards each. “I would like to report that the colony site is secure, and nearly all pods are fully deployed.”
“And the unhappy pods?” Malcolm asked with a pointed look at one of those still acting up.
“They were beaten until morale improved,” Kara said with an innocent smile.
“I like this one,” he said to Park.
Park just raised his hands behind his neck and leaned back into his chair with a satisfied smirk.
Kara turned back to Olivia with another nod and finished her report. “We’re ready to receive colonists.”
“Director?” Olivia asked with an upraised eyebrow.
“Proceed,” Malcolm answered.
Olivia nodded and her holoform faded back out of existence.
Malcolm turned to Kara again with a wry look. “So how do you like the Valkyries?”
Kara smiled at him. “They’re unique. I like that. Though I’ve met smarter AIs.”
“You’re not playing with their programming, are you?”
“Of course not.” Kara chuckled. “Playing would suggest I don’t know what I’m doing.”
“Right.” Malcolm shook his head. “So what are you doing?”
Malcolm raised one eyebrow at her.
“We’ve been upgrading their processing capabilities so they think better. They’re smarter. They’re more adaptable. Some of them might even wake up and realize they’re alive. I’ve got my eye on one or two that are bouncing off full awareness right now.”
Malcolm turned a questioning look at Dawn and she nodded in full agreement.
“I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a cyber wake up,” he whispered in idle curiosity.
“It’s usually a long enough process that nobody notices it,” Dawn returned with a smile. “Even most awakened cybers don’t know when exactly they woke up.”
“Yeah,” Malcolm said with a sad shake of his head. “That’s a good point.”
Dawn and Kara shared a quick look.
“We’ll see what we can do,” Kara said with a nod.
“Hmm?” Malcolm asked, momentarily confused by the change in subject.
Then a warning alarm came to life and Malcolm turned to Dawn once again.
“Multiple hyperspace incursions have been detected,” she reported.
“Damn,” Malcolm whispered and turned to Park and Clark.
“We’re not calling this place Alamo, right?” Park asked in a wry tone.
“Absolutely not,” Clark answered with a shake of his head.
“I was really hoping she’d give us more time before she caught us,” Malcolm added in what was probably one of the most unnecessary statements of his entire life.
“It’s not Caroline,” Dawn said in a far more serious tone.
“What?” Malcolm asked in confusion.
“We’re picking up Shang targeting systems,” Dawn reported.
“Well,” Malcolm whispered and a cold chill ran down his spine. “How did they find us?”
“I don’t know,” Dawn answered. “But the squadron is scrambling to intercept now.”
The decision flowed through Malcolm as quickly as the chill that preceded it. It was hot and powerful and shivered him down to his bones. He’d done his job. He’d gotten the colony expedition to her final destination. Now it was time to make it stick.
He rose to his feet and nodded towards Dawn.
Dawn smiled, crossed her arms, and nodded right back at him in a message of full understanding and acceptance.
“You two stay here!” Malcolm ordered and turned to run towards his fighter.
“Son? I’d really like to know what you’re doing,” Clark growled.
Malcolm stopped at the foot of the ladder and turned back to the older man. “Defending my colony.”
“You’ve got professionals to do that for you,” Clark said in a calming tone.
“I know.” Malcolm gave him a proud smile. “I hired them. I’d be a poor excuse for a boss if I abandoned them now.”
Clark nodded in understanding. “Good luck, kid.”
“Go with God, son” Park added with one hand wrapped around his cross necklace.
Malcolm nodded his thanks to the older men and scrambled up the fighter’s flank.