The return trip to Paralios Bay was choppier and less exciting for the interns than the morning ferry ride. Ackers handed out more motion sickness pills, but the stress of the day had taken its toll and more than a few interns looked a little green stepping onto the pier at the Koinonian harbor. Though the Oppression grew easier for the prophet to handle as the day wore on, the trip had been long and exhausting. He had missed most of the tour of the facilities while wandering Kaluma alone, contemplating what Lavi had said and dwelling on Costa’s condition. Of all the things he could have worried about before leaving Koinonia, pride was the last thing he thought he would have to contend with. It took some time for him to get over it before he rejoined his class.
Davi was waiting in the marina when Andre returned. He had been playing soccer with friends after school and walked down to meet his brother to beg a ride home. “You look awful,” he observed. “What’d they do to you?”
Andre ignored the question. “How was school?”
Davi shrugged and slid into the passenger seat of Andre’s car. “Tengo hambre. Demi está haciendo ropa vieja.”
On the ferry Andre would have detested even the mention of food, but back in the clear Koinonian air on solid ground with the promise of his favorite meal waiting at home, his appetite returned with great intensity. “Tenemos que llegar a casa después.” He agreed it was time to go and started the engine before pulling out of the lot and easing onto the highway.
Once they reached the less populated side roads on the moors, he pulled over and let Davi get behind the wheel. His brother hadn’t been permitted by their uncle to take his driver’s test yet, but Andre hoped that Davi would be prepared to take over ownership of his car at the end of the year when the prophet left for his Therapon. He had no doubt Davi would pass. He had been operating the farm machinery since they moved in with their aunt and uncle when he was only ten. He handled the compact electric car around tight turns with ease, unfazed by oncoming traffic and watchful for meandering herds of sheep common to back roads on the moors. Andre prepared to instruct him on his mistakes but was pleased to find no fault in his brother’s driving. “You’re good at this,” he praised Davi while relaxing in the passenger seat.
Davi checked his mirrors and tried to appear nonchalant. “Can I have the car on Friday to drive to Mama’s then?”
“You mean to the soccer pitch?”
“Have you passed a test yet?”
“Then what do you think?” Andre cracked his window and allowed the cool, fall air to fill the cab and clear his head. He had left the trials of Kaluma back on the ferry, not wishing to taint the purity of Koinonia with his doubts. It wasn’t easy, but he felt it was the way the prophet must do it to coexist in both planes. It was how his grandfather must have done it, and his father. It was how the fishermen and women must have built up their immunity to the change each time they left and returned. It was like dropping memories in a box, sealing them up and leaving them behind on the boat. It was a choice not to dwell on the negative and to concentrate only on the here and now.
A brilliant pink sunset painted the broken clouds behind the barn when they pulled into the yard and parked alongside the house. Davi removed the keys and tossed them lazily into the air, catching them repeatedly on his way to the door. Andre swooped in and snatched them away, placed his brother in a headlock, and pulled him across the threshold into the kitchen. Their senses were hit with the aroma of meat simmering in tantalizing juices, onions, peppers, and garlic. Demi was at the stove while Viva and Ferona lay out the cutlery on the table. They greeted the boys with smiles, and Demi pulled Andre in for a hug.
“You made it.” She touched a warm hand to his cheek and studied his face for the truth to how it had gone.
He smiled to try and fool her, looking away so his eyes wouldn’t give him away. “It was fine,” he left it at that. “We’ll hurry with the chores.”
She released him and returned to the stove. “Laken has it taken care of. He’ll be in any minute. Davi go change your clothes before supper. Honestamente, yo no sé lo que estás pensando,” she grumbled in feigned frustration. “Lay those out so I can work on the stains.” She pointed to the grass-stained knees of his school uniform.
“Lo siento,” Davi mumbled before disappearing down the hall to do as he was told.
Andre’s cousins babbled excitedly about school and asked a million questions about his ferry ride to Kaluma. They didn’t care about the island itself, only what it was like to ride on a boat.
“Unnerving,” he told them honestly.
The bark of the sheep dog, Rizzy, announced Laken’s return from the barn. The door opened as he stepped in, removing his dirty boots and leaving them outside. “Welcome home, hijo,” he greeted Andre.
“You didn’t need to do all our chores,” Andre told him. “Gracias.”
Laken shrugged off the thanks and kissed his wife. “It smells wonderful. I hope it’s ready.”
“Almost. You have time to wash up.”
The family met at the table spread with hot food, and Laken gave thanks. Andre offered his own praise just for the privilege of sitting there in the presence of warm company and peaceful quiet. There was no vile laughter distracting his thoughts or shadows clouding his vision. There was only the comfort of Laken’s low chuckle and the infectious giggles of Feronia and Viva.
The next few weeks in Produce had the interns preoccupied all over the island in different stages of harvest. Wheat and barley were gathered, vegetables and ripe fruit crated and shipped by truck to the canning facilities in Ergon Park, the factory district near the mines. They visited dairy farms and participated in the business of milking and caring for large herds of goats and cattle. They spent early mornings in Paralios fishing off the pier with retired fishermen learning terms and the secrets of the trade. They exercised their sea legs on sail and small engine boats to both increase their abilities on a vessel and strengthen their immunity to negative spiritual influences.
They took advantage of having the prophet readily on demand to move in and out of Hupsoma more often than was usually permitted for the Sunesis class. In the three years Andre had possessed the Sight, the interns always worked around his availability to reenter from the outside. The inconvenience was necessary, but it was far easier to simply monitor his friends while participating with them in a water exercise outside the Hupsoma line.
All of their hard work served to prepare them for their most trying internship yet. Declan’s dreaded fishing trip arrived faster than any of them anticipated. Andre once again found himself up before the sun and driving to the harbor to board a boat bound for open waters. Jora’s father was one of two captains who had offered their vessels to escort the interns on their two-day trip. It was his privilege, being a father of two of the interns, to share his extensive knowledge of commercial fishing.
The docks were lined with boats prepped and waiting to leave the bay. Most crews would be absent for longer stints than Kirkeby’s Leverandør and Captain Jarvis Swain’s Aurora. The decks swarmed with men and women checking gear, loading last minute supplies, and passing sendoffs to family and friends standing on the dock.
Demi and the girls tagged along that morning so she might drive Andre’s car back to the farm while he was away. She fussed over his clothes, worried he would be too cool out on the water, and asked him a million times if he had remembered everything he needed.
Andre answered each question in the affirmative, shouldering his light duffle bag, and pecking his aunt on the cheek. “Give this to Mama, would you please?” He reached back in his car and pulled a sealed envelope from the glove compartment before handing it to Demi. “And tell Davi to stay out of my car.”
“Be careful.” She hugged him tightly one last time.
Andre nodded and pulled Feronia’s braided pigtail. “I’ll catch you a two-hundred pound cod,” he promised both the girls. “We’ll eat fish and chips for a month.”
Not wanting to prolong the goodbyes, he waved and jogged down the boardwalk to the pier to meet up with his group boarding the Leverandør. Captain Kirkeby shouted orders to crew and interns alike, immediately putting them to work without ceremony.
“There are no lounge chairs on this deck!” he bellowed amid the bustle of intent workers and confused interns. “There will be no time for you to sit. There will be no reason for you to rest! I find you catching your breath, I toss you overboard!” It was hard to take the seasoned fisherman seriously when each word was accompanied with a grin which rang of lighthearted humor. Declan wasn’t taking any chances, however, and he made sure he always appeared busy under the captain’s roving eye.
“Prepare to move out!” Kirkeby gave the order before climbing the ladder to the bridge and ducking inside to man the wheel. “Get out!” he directed Svana away from the controls. There no favoritism toward his daughters when it came to protocol.
The Leverandør waited its turn to move out of line beside the dock and eased away from the harbor before picking up speed outside of the bay. The captain set their course to the southeast under a cruising speed of eight knots. The interns recognized the familiar change in the atmosphere associated with their training outside the Hupsoma. Andre closed his eyes briefly, inhaled the cool air and focused on maintaining clarity. Concentration did not dispel the ever present shadows, but it helped to keep their influence at bay.
“Hang in there, Dec.” He grinned at his friend who clutched the side of the trawler with a look of distress. “It’s only two days, maybe three.”
Declan just shook his head and closed his eyes, not daring to open his mouth to speak.
“Relax, Declan.” Svana jumped around the deck as if it were a playground. She was very much at home on her father’s boat. “It’s not even choppy. Just wait ‘til it storms.”
With that, Declan leaned over and promptly vomited over the side.
“That’s it!” Captain Kirkeby congratulated him. “Get it out of the way right off!”
The start of their trip was uneventful as the pair of trawlers moved further out to sea and prepared to put down their sets over familiar fishing grounds. The interns dressed in rain gear and did their best to stay out of the way, only getting involved when ordered to perform some menial task. Amid mopping the deck, organizing equipment, and giving the crew’s quarters a proper cleaning, Kirkeby’s promise of no rest was soon realized. There was no time to let their minds wander. The Captain threw a barrage of information at the interns and quizzed them randomly to ensure it was sinking in.
“Should you decide to take on the sea in service of your country,” he lectured over the noise of the rolling waves, “you need to be prepared to work as a machine. With one purpose. You must do your part to be safe and effective. This way you have a good time, ya?”
Declan passed Andre an incredulous look indicating there was no chance of that happening in his lifetime.
The wind remained steady at ten miles per hour producing two to three foot waves. As the morning progressed into the afternoon with very little catch to be had, Andre decided commercial fishing was rather monotonous and agreed with his friend that it was not for him. So far his experiences with Sunesis had been much as he expected: exhausting and seemingly pointless.
Captain Kirkeby called the interns into his wheelhouse and gave them an overview on the controls, their functions, and regaled them with sea stories which sounded very much like myths and exaggerations. “The old boy lost his arm to a shark, but got along fine with only the one. He had a tooth to show for it too. It was imbedded in the leftover sinews of his mangled shoulder. Don’t look so alarmed Mallory, we gutted the beast and sold it to a Swede. He wore that tooth ‘round his neck ‘til he died.”
Every so often the captain snapped orders through his radio at his crew while explaining to the interns in detail what they were doing right and what some were doing wrong. They watched the nets hauled in dripping with sludge and meager amounts of cod. A call over the radio announced that the Aurora planned to move further east in the hope they would have better luck elsewhere. “Aye,” Kirkeby responded. “I’ll move a little south, unless you want to pair up.”
“Try it south,” came the static response. “Lemme know how you do and we’ll go from there.”
The two trawlers parted ways, and Kirkeby directed his ship south. “Get on now, and get back to work,” he instructed the interns. “Do not be afraid to ask questions, but when the boys reel in, get out of the way.”
They shuffled out of the wheelhouse and were immediately hit by a blast of cold air. The wind picked up as the Leverandør increased its speed and plunged through the rolling waves. The experienced crew walked as if on stationary ground while the interns clutched to the rails and skid on the drenched deck floor.
“Mop up down there before you slip and break your necks!” Kirkeby ordered through the radio speaker.
Someone handed Andre a thick bristled broom, and he used it to direct water off the side of the boat only to have it return with the rise of a fresh wave which were increasing in height and intensity as the afternoon wore on.
Kirkeby slowed his speed to less than two knots and his crew set the nets and released the lines. “Get away from the reel, young lady,” he growled through the loudspeaker and scolded Svana for getting too close. The interns moved against the side of the cabin to huddle in a tight circle and hold onto the ladder for stability.
“How’re you doing, mate?” Andre asked over the dull roar of the sea. Declan shook his head with a frown and watched the crew with a desire to be anywhere but there. AJ Eckard and Svana appeared to be having the time of their lives as they willingly jumped in to help wherever they were allowed.
“How about you?” Andre leaned in to Jora so that she could hear him.
She shrugged as if she really had no opinion. She was not as enthusiastic as her sister but also not as bothered by the rocking motion of the waves as Declan. “It’s beautiful,” she admitted of the sea, “but the fish stink.”
Andre laughed, tossing his drenched curls out of his eyes. “But they’re fresh.”
“They still stink.” Jora didn’t care. A surge of water hit the starboard side causing her to stumble and nearly fall on the deck. Andre grabbed her hand and pulled her back safely against the secure cabin wall. She clung to his palm with clammy fingers. “I’ll be glad when this is over.”
“You’re not the only one.” Andre nodded at their friend humorously. Declan had tucked himself behind the ladder, between the rungs and the cabin with two white-knuckled fists gripping tight to the sides. “Want my other hand?” Andre asked him with a grin while offering it palm up for Declan to take. He glared at Andre through the bars looking very much like a drowning rat in a cage.
“A man could get killed out here,” he grumbled.
“Yeah, good idea, Dec.” Svana appeared with flushed cheeks of excitement. “Stay hidden so they don’t mistake you for bait.”
A cheer went up among the crew as the net was reeled in heavy with struggling cod. Kirkeby yelled gleefully through the radio, and Declan took the diversion as an opportunity to slip out behind the ladder, duck through the cabin door, and hide inside the crew’s quarters.