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Follow two fellows through the streets of downtown Osa city in Bohan on just another afternoon stroll.

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Chapter 1

It was one of those warm humid afternoons that seemed relaxingly cool in comparison to the previous sweltering months, likely just a hiccup in the weather. We’d be suffering again by the ’morrow. I was sure of it.

My nose and face were suddenly assaulted by some sickly fish being shoved into my face by one of the leather-skinned locals, harraunging me in the jittery vowels of the Sawali tongue to buy it from him no doubt. I faced several more such assailants on my way and passed them by without much notice. As soon as they saw I wasn’t sarhasa, their word for sweet-toothed, I seemed to disappear from their worlds as they jumped on the next foreigner behind me. I kept walking but sighed inwardly as I heard the clinking of ration coins and the crinkling of wax paper. Some pitter-pattering of voices latter and I heard boot steps rushing up to my side.

“Want some?”

I raised an eyebrow.

“What, you mean food poisoning or a gum infection?”

“I don’t think you appreciate the local cuisine”

“Its a raw fish, loaded with more chemicals then your oils, in wax paper from the trash”

“Yeah, local. Like I said”

“Well, atleast if you dig around in its guts you’ll probably find a spork to eat it with”



His purchase had attracted more attenive sellers but he just smiled and tipped an empty coin book while shaking his head. They distanced themselves from him as if he had the plague. Given a choice I’d be spending my day at a parlor or, hell, even just sleeping it all away back in the barracks. Unfortunately for me our holy man had insisted on a journey downtown and the rule of two demanded someone go with him-and I pulled short.

We had made our way through the nose-wrinkling markets and painted streets to the east section under a sun diffused behind a shaggy rug of clouds. Several times we’d caught the eyes of some shifty groups lurking in the trash-lined alleyways causing me to unconsciously hold my left arm a little closer to my chest to feel the reassuring weight of the composite metal weappn concealed underneath my thin jacket. The sidearm in my chest rig was the bare minimum for stepping foot off base. The Sawali weren’t exactly fans of us uniforms, double so for holy men in uniforms which is why I never could see how the chaplain left his service weapons and kit in his locker when he went on these trips. I caught some kind of smug-no it was an amused look that he shot at me sideways, felt like he was patting my apprehension on its little head.

“A gun is only one means of reaching an end.”

“Sounds preachy.”

He shrugged.

“You can shoot a man dead sure as anything specialist, but I can fill his stomach. A man inherently values one more than the other.”

“I’ll be sure to offer the insurgents a ham sandwich next time we meet.”

“Sometimes death is unavoidable but I try not to keep his company under my coat.”

I shrugged.

It was a few more quiet minutes before we came upon the old repurposed stone building with the big cross chiseled out of its face. Folks in black vestments lingered outside the structure and made note of our approach. They each had a silver cross embroidered into the chest and sleeves of their clothing, just like the man next to me. Taking note of our approach three of them turned to greet us. Well, not me really. They were focused on-

“Chaplain Hasaani, of the 9th. It does well for you to stop by.”

“Yes yes, of course. I’ve brought a fish.” He shoved the paper wrapped slab of meat into the man’s face much like was done to him. The man showed great power of will when he did not even flinch nor even wrinkle his nose. He just pushed it aside as he cast a look my way.

“And you are-”

“Mack, Specialist. 9th CyBat.”

“Ah, naturally. I’m Ordinator Qustitch of the Order of God.”

I tried the name once or twice.

“It’s a given name. Old Edonian.”

I just stared at him, not really sure what to make of that. He turned back to Kristoff.

“Come Chaplain, I’m sure you’ll want to have a seat after the walk.”

Kristoff nodded and we followed the rather tall hollow-cheeked fellow into the squat building. There were pews like the prayer houses in those museum towns i had seen as a kid except these had been pushed against the walls and all faced the center where two more of the robed men danced to some upbeat music so soft I could only now hear it. Where the... what had the old guide called it back then... A pulpit, the pulpit had been there were now some neatly organized tables with familiar silver-lined black garments being worked on with hand needles by some young novices. To the far right there was a desk with a middle-aged official in a round cap sitting behind an older net terminal clacking away at its battered plastic keys. The music was coming from our immediate left as we enetered, a young man with his robes down to his waist was strumming away at some large wooden string instrument I hadn’t seen before. We all sat on a bench that creaked gently under our weight. The ordinator leaned back and looked sideways at Kristoff.

“Now not that I am not happy at your company but I do assume you had a purpose in coming here? Your visits are quite irregular.”

The chaplain shrugged and hefted his fish as if it were the answer.

“Ah, patch-walking then.”

I’ll admit, up to this point I had already written off my evening as a bust and consigned any spare attention to thoughts of a dry bed but that phrase caught my ear. I leaned forward and spoke past the chaplain to the ordinator.


“Yes. It’s, how do you say it... ‘Going with the flow’. In order to be in tune with the will of God we’ve got to let go of our own.”

I gave him a puzzled look. Religion was a footnote in my textbooks as a kid, something for monks and old stories.

“Sometimes people will feel a little urge or desire to do something. Walk home a different way, hold their coffee mug with the opposite hand, talk to a stranger, anything like that. Most people ignore that little voice, but those who follow it and don’t over think it will find that little urge followed by another and another until you find yourself bringing someone back from the edge, or helping ease a lost soul into death.”

A strange noise racketed across the room causing the string-plucker to stop and the dancer to look at the basement door. A muffled flapping arose out of the poorly lit stairway and a white-grey fluff of feather burst into the room. It half flew, half ran towards us. The dancers broke and stumbled apart at the big avian darting between them. I jumped and grabbed the back of the pew as the ordinator’s eyes went wide. Kristoff just sat there, unwrapping the fish. The bird hand a wingspan twice that of the height of any man and slowed to a waddle in front of Kristoff. It tentatively nibbled at the fish’s eyes before snagging the whole thing out of the paper and taking it into into beak as it munched and eviscerated its dinner.

“Your chaplain here has quite the knack for it, patch-walking that is. One of our novices picked it up off the street with a broken wing, we’d been having trouble getting it too eat.” Said the ordinator.

“Bloody hell.” I said, before slowly relaxing back into my seat. Kristoff, calm as ever, leaned forward to pet the bird-of-prey only to have his hand visciously bitten. His hand shot back as he felt for where his middle finger should have been.

“Huh, I suppose you’re right” said Kristoff, seemingly to the falcon.

“Shit, it got your finger Kristoff!”

“That’s about the sum of it. I expected as much, was just curious is all.”

I blanched. Ordinator Qustitch chuckled. The string-plucking resumed and the dancers met and swayed again. I pulled the little first aid kit from my inner pocket and grabbed the chaplain’s hand from him as I wrapped antiseptic gauze and a spring clip around the little stump.

“There’s always stomachs to fill, just like there’s always death to keep company.”

“What the hell are you on about.”

“Nothing, now that I think about it.”

The falcon continued its feast just feet fro us, twitching and eyeing me with those hungry eyes every time I shifted.

“How does this equate to God? In any fucking sense?”

“You know, specialist.”

“What so you just go around doing whatever random shit pops into your mind hoping it’ll correspond to some other random thing?”

“Eh, an oversimplification but basically. I do always hope some good comes out of the ‘random thing’ though.”

“Good? You lost a finger.”

“And fed a falcon.”


“Maybe, just perhaps, one day it’ll survive long enough to be hunted and killed for food to keep a stranded person alive, or unwittingly foul an engine forcing a plane to land before an unforeseen storm.” He smiled. “Or maybe none of that and it dies days from now and just becomes more refuse for the waste heaps. Whatever the case its not my lot to know all that, I just do my part so God can do his.”

I just stared at him for the longest time, even forgetting the loud crunching in front of me as I racked my brain. Everyone called Kristoff a loon, Craziest Cavilier of the Cross, but sometimes I just couldn’t be sure. So I pulled a half-eaten ration bar from my jacket and eviscerated my own dinner.

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