The Fortune Teller

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Chapter Thirty

The Monastery Island, Present Day

Joshua hated waiting. After the militia had jumped him he'd been dragged into the village's church. Both Clooney and Bates had been dragged with him.

The church was a mighty building. Joshua had never seen anything like it. It was made of solid stone and possessed thick wooden doors. Wooden pews were lined up nicely on either side. Light shone down through stained glass windows. At the far end there was a altar, which Clooney, a vegetable as always, had been placed on. The whole place must have been terribly difficult to build, and it radiated with a sense of silence and serenity. If it weren't for the five gun wielding farmers keeping guard, Joshua might have actually thought it quite peaceful.

He paced back and forth, his boots clacking against the stone floor. Bates was leaning over Clooney and praying. Joshua had no intention of waiting for the almighty to help. He could hear the sounds of battle outside, of his crew struggling to rescue him. Some of them were probably dying.

“Why did you take us here?” he asked the nearest guard. The guard turned towards him, but did not answer. “Where's Zoey? Am I gonna get to talk with that Father Frank guy? He's seems to be calling the shots. I don't give a damn what you do with Bates or Clooney or Zoey as long as you pay me and let me and my crew go.”

“You will be lucky to just get away with your life heretic!” a voice boomed as the doors swung open. Father Connel stood there. Seeing him the second time Joshua could really appreciate how aristocratic he looked. He stood about six feet tall, and was large, not with muscle but with fat. The ropes of his priesthood bulged in unattractive areas. His eyes were forever slanted downward towards whatever creatures dared stand before him. He wore a pair of miniscule half-moon spectacles, that Joshua could swear he wore just to look more intimidating. He was old, very old, and walked with the aid of a finely made cane.

“Oh come on,” Joshua responded, exasperated by the dramatic entrance. “Look I'm no heretic, and I have no intention of spreading heretical beliefs to any of the citizens of this fine island. I know my crew it trying to rescue me, and they must be inuring a few of your people. If you let me go, I'll make sure they stop, and we'll sail away and never trouble you again. Is that ok?”

Father Connel raised an eyebrow. “And what about Fathers Clooney and Bates? I suppose you want to take them with you?”

“Well in all honesty I don't give a damn about them Father,” Joshua said, “You let me go you can burn them at the stake or barbecue them or do whatever it is you want to do. The same goes for Zoey too. I don't care about them. They don't matter to me. I just want to get out alive, alright?” He was speaking the honest truth.

Connel laughed a hearty belly laugh. “Heretics have no compassion for one another do they? The matter is irrelevant anyway. Your crew is being rounded up as we speak. Only pockets of resistance remain.”

Joshua groaned, knowing he'd just lost his only advantage. “Look what do you want from me eh? I'm just a trader, a sailor, or a smuggler if you like but I'm no heretic. I don't even believe in God!”

The last sentience made several militiamen gasp. Even Connel looked a bit taken aback. “Your heresy is confirmed. You will all be shot. I came merely to tell you the sentence.”

“Frank!” Bates said, getting up and running to Connel as he started to leave. “Why are you doing this? We've known each other for years! You know I'm not a heretic! You know Clooney's not either! Have you gone made.”

“No,” Connel responded, flipping around and grabbing Bates roughly by the collar. “But I found something out while the big fool was away. When you left it was my time to shine.” He leaned in close and whispered something into Bates's ear. When he was done he pushed him onto the ground and left with another one of his belly laughs.

“He's sick...” Bates said to himself. “He's sick...” He twisted into a ball and started crying on the floor.

“You might have informed me that your monastery was was led by a crazed fanatic,” Joshua said, hatefully. “You've managed to lead me into a situation where I'm going to be shot, all my crew is going to be shot, and on top of all that I haven't even gotten paid. You've done exceptionally. Now all that's needed is a nuke to fry me in and my perfect day would be complete.”

“You have no right to be angry,” Bates said through his sobs and wheezes. “I had no knowledge of what had happened here. What is happening here.”

“Oh,” Joshua said in mock surprise. He stood over Bates's pathetic, quivering, form. “Well that makes it all better doesn't it? You didn't know.” He kicked him viciously in the ribs.

“I didn't know!” Bates pleaded.

“I didn't know!” Joshua mocked. He hauled Bates off the ground and punched him in the face before letting him fall back. He threw punches and kicks as he talked, stomping on Bates's rips and applying pressure to his groin. “You didn't know! Well I didn't know either! I didn't know that I was sighing up to be chased by both the White Fleet and the Sphere when I took Clooney and those two brats aboard! I didn't know that my first mate would get blown to shit by some goddamn Sphere ship just because it's their policy! I didn't know that I'd have to drag my ship to the Well Well just to save your buddies comatose ass! I didn't know that my crew would almost get blown up by a bunch of White Fleet bastards! And I didn't know that I'd die at the hands of a couple of farmers with half-assed weapons led by some fundamentalist bastard who calls every other person he sees a heretic!” He grappled Bates and punched him in the face over and over again.

“Stop!” some one yelled. But Joshua was too far gone now.

“I've worked my entire life for that ship! I've tried everything I can to make her the envy of any other sailor. And then the Fleet or the Sphere or some other asshole starts talking about how worthless and immoral I am! And as they shoot natives or burn people for looking at them funny or whatever the hell it is they do, they keep talking about how evil and immoral I am!”

“Stop!” Whoever was yelling that was closer now.

“And you know what the great part is?” Joshua screamed, oblivious to the world around him as he beat Bates to a bloody pulp. “Everybody believes them! Because it's a hell of a lot easier to believe them then me! People love liars and hate the truth! It's not sugar coated enough for them! And so they believe a bunch of lies because that's what they want to believe!”

“Stop this now!” A strong hand grabbed Joshua's arm and stopped him from bringing down another punch. Joshua tried to punch him too in a blind rage. But his other arm was grabbed and he was wrestled to the ground, screaming all the time. For several minutes he simply twisted in the strong man's grip, screaming obscenities and twitching with rage. Those minutes seemed like hours for him.

He suddenly stopped. His breathing slowed and his heartbeat became regular. Through a haze of Bates's blood he saw the man who had stopped him.

Clooney was awake.

Joshua sat in the shadowy corner of the church, bent over and growing whenever someone got near. Bates, who had quickly passed into unconsciousness, had been put the makeshift sickbed of the altar.

“Come on Michel, you know it's me,” Clooney tried to convince one of the guards. “Bates needs medical attention. You have to bring him up the monastery. Father Charles can operate on him there.” The farmer Michel had reluctantly told Clooney what was happening, but refused to be engaged in conversation.

The guard was a bit nervous, facing a man he knew and respected. “Father Connel gave strict orders for me not to listen to you.”

“Since when is Father Connel giving orders?” Clooney asked, exasperated. “This is ridiculous. I demand that Connel come in here and explain himself. All this talk of heretics and burning people is ludicrous. I'm really surprised you bought any of it Michel.”

Michel swallowed. “How else are we supposed to cure the disease?”

Clooney sighed. “Look, Michel, are you going to do the right thing and let Bates get help, or are you going to do the wrong thing and let him die?”

“He's a heretic,” Michel whispered in his defense. “He should die.”

“God save you Michel you know better then that,” Clooney said before turning back to tend to Bates's wounds. He wasn't a medical doctor. That was usually Father Charles's area of expertise. However, Clooney had used what little he did know to bandage Bates face and stop the bleeding. It was a good thing he had passed out. The pain must have been incredible. Joshua had quite a punch.

“I'm sorry you had to come looking for me Bates,” he apologized to the sleeping man. “I should have never worked for the White Fleet. And I certainly should not have brought Kurt with me. My mistake caused all of this.”

The doors burst open. Father Connel had arrived, along with a dozen or so militiamen. “Take them to the execution square. Two men carry Clooney...” he trailed off as he saw Clooney standing upright.

“I can walk, no need to carry me,” Clooney said smugly. He marched up to Connel and stared at him eye to eye. “I want to make this clear Connel. All of this stops now. The militia will be disbanded, all the outsiders will be free to go, Charles will find a cure to the disease, and you will face severe punishment.” His voice had such strong authority to it that it made you almost jump to obey. It was a statement of what was going to happen, not what Clooney wanted to happen.

Connel was taken aback. “Ignore his ramblings,” he said to the hesitant militia. “Take them to the execution square.”

“Impossible, we don't have a execution square, do we?” Clooney asked a militiaman that came to close. “So you can't take me there.”

“We have one now,” Connel said. “I was given a vision by the almighty that the only way to cure the disease was to kill all heretics and dissenters. Dozens of dissenters have already been purged.”

“Purged here having the meaning 'ruthlessly and pointlessly murdered'?” Clooney shot back. “Get your hands off of me!” he added as the militia grabbed him.

“Take him, take the scarred one, and Bates,” Connel ordered as his militia obeyed. “Their deaths, and the deaths of all those who came with them, will mean an end to the disease.”

“How are you so sure?” Clooney yelled, shaking loose from the guards. “I'll go quietly. I don't murder people like Connel here,” he said to them just before they tried to grab him again. He and Joshua walked out of the church into the sunlight, Bates's broken form being carried after them.

“I am sure because God has spoken to me,” Connel shouted after them, lying through his teeth as his only foe left went to be executed.

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