The Monastery looked like a single solid building from the outside, but once they entered Zoey saw that the structure was hollow in the middle. A simple stone courtyard surrounded on three sides by plain wooden building filled the center.
The courtyard was, at that exact moment, filled with the village's women and children. They huddled together in rags like a bunch of tired refugees even though they were only a mile or less away from their homes.
“Zey must have been ezacuated when za ship arrived,” Kurt commented. “I cun't believe Connel vould keep zem up here for dayz.” He shuddered at the thought.
The different militiamen ran to greet their families. They hugged their children, and kept hugging them until their fellows told them they needed to keep on guard.
The procession split up into various branches, each going their own way. The militia watched over their families, the crewmen explored the Monastery under orders from Joshua not to screw up the cease fire, and Clooney went looking for Father Curtis, who he said would be able to figure out the disease if he hadn't already. Derek, who had been found passed out in the ally, was being carried with them.
Zoey didn't really know which group to go to. Kurt apparently didn't either, and stood by her.
“I'm zorry,” he said as they surveyed the scene.
“If I hudn't stolen that computer chip you never vould've gotten dragged into zis,” he mournfully. “I have it here,” he pulled out a small micro-chip hidden in his clothes. It was small and appeared completely harmless, oblivious to all the destruction it had caused and would continue to cause.
“Let me see it,” Zoey asked, examining it, flipping it over in her palm. Since the first night away from the White Fleet she'd been shot at, punched, almost eaten by a cannibal, gotten into a firefight with town militia, and was now infected by a deadly disease. The White Fleet and the Society Test seemed like a lifetime ago. Before she worried about how she could ever fit in with the other cleaners. Now she worried about whether a cure could be found before she came down with boils and died.
Thinking of the cleaners reminded her of why she'd escaped in the first place. “George,” she whispered silently. “We've got to find George!” she exclaimed.
“Oh yeh!” Kurt exclaimed as well. “Zey vere keeping him in de cellar if I remember. Closest thing ve have to a prizon.”
Kurt led the way through a maze of badly lit hallways until they came to a small room that seemed to be used for washing clothes with a trapdoor in the corner. Kurt heaved it open and let a small window of light in.
“GO AWAY!” a male voice screamed echoed up from the darkness. Zoey recognized it as George's voice. “PLEASE! NO MORE! JUST GO AWAY!”
“Hey, vho's dovn zere?” Kurt responded.
“George!” Zoey called down. “George it's me Zoey! Nobody is here to hurt you.”
There was a pause in the screaming. Then slowly, very slowly, “Zoey? You're here?”
“Yes George,” Zoey said, smiling to hear his voice. “I'm here to rescue you.”
There was another noticeable pause. “Is this a dream?”
“As far as I know it's real life,” Zoey answered back. “I'm going to come down there ok? I'll come down nice and slowly. Are you tied up or something?”
Kurt immediately produced a small knife and handed it to Zoey. She clutched it and climbed down into the dark well, dropping a few feet to the floor. “George? Where are you?”
“Here,” his voice sounded from the corner of the airless cellar.
Zoey's eyes adapted to the dim light and saw the most horrifying sight she'd seen since leaving the White Fleet.
George had been so innocent. George had had eyes that flashed with creativity. George had even been kind of cute. The thing lying tied to a rack of wines was not George. A cruel twist in his jaw and the lines of his face stole his innocence. His eyes had deep black rings under them, and they blinked in a rapid and incomprehensible pattern, darting around to look out for monsters that weren't there. His face that had been cute was covered in pulsating boils that warped his every feature. If Zoey had come across George away where else, she would have thought him to be a demon.
The sight was enough to make Zoey drop the knife in shock. “What did... what...” she couldn't speak.
“Get me out,” George pleaded. “Get me out of here! Sometimes I can hear whispers in the walls. There are these little things that come every time I close my eyes. Screbers. That's what their called, Screbers. When I close my eyes they come out of the walls and eat out my eyes and crawl inside my head. Nobody else can ever see them, but I can. You've gotta get me out!”
Zoey stared, hypnotized for a few moments by his madness. Slowly, she recovered. “Right,” she started as she bent to pick up the knife. “Let's get you out of here.”
Clooney, Connel, and Joshua came to the laboratory used by Father Curtis for his practice. On his back Clooney hauled Derek, who couldn't walk. Three militiamen followed them, all to afraid to get close to Derek's boil marked skin. They did carry Father Bates, who was still unconscious. Behind them was the skulking doctor of the Bright Side, who Joshua had ordered to follow. Joshua had gotten his hunting rifle, and held it against Connel's back, trigger finger twitching.
The laboratory was not so different from the Bright Sides's medical bay, only it was larger. A dozen or so beds lined either wall, with advanced heart monitors set up next to them. In the center there was a large table with what appeared to Joshua to be hundreds of bottles of pills and liquid treatments. Father Curtis was nowhere to be found.
“Curtis!” Clooney called, laying Derek down in one of the beds and motioning for the militia to do the same with Bates. “Curtis? Are you here? There are injured!”
“I wouldn't bother calling for him Clooney,” Joshua said. “Doctor? Can you use the medicine here to help the injured?”
“Yes,” the doctor replied, trying to keep out the disgust in his face. He was not accustomed to leaving the Bright Side.
“What do you mean?” Clooney asked. “Curtis is always around here somewhere.”
Joshua gave him the look usually reserved for innocent toddlers who had no idea what they're saying. “I thought you were smart Clooney. If our good friend here...” he kicked Connel in the shins just for the hell of it, “thought Mr. Curtis was a threat to his power, I know exactly what a dick like him would do. Curtis probably would've been able to find a cure, but I bet he's imprisoned somewhere or dead in a ditch.” Connel twitched noticeably when Joshua said “dead.” Joshua saw this and finished, “Don't bother searching the prisons, your hospital buddy is dead.”
Clooney took a long look at Connel. “He wouldn't.”
“Of course he did,” Joshua snorted. “I've seen it over and over again. Some little island is relatively ok then some new disease or invader comes along and screws up everybody's lives. Then some big fat bastard comes along and says 'I've got the instant cure for all that ails you' and people believe him because they don't want to believe that some problems take awhile to fix. And when he says 'just kill these few people and the problem is solved' people do exactly that. Dictators are just con men involved in politics instead of capitalism. And con men always eliminate the competition.”
“Is it true?” Clooney asked, addressing Connel.
“No, of course not,” Connel pleaded. “I may have made some mistakes but I would never order the death of a man of the cloth like myself.”
“Stop lying,” Joshua ordered, casually slamming the but of his rifle into Connel's nose.
“Ahhhh!” Connel screamed and fell onto the floor, landing heavily on his back. One hand went to his nose as blood began to flow. “You can't do that!” he yelled.
“Yew can't do dat!” Joshua yelled back, mocking. “I'm tired if people telling me what I can't do. And for that you aren't going to live a second longer.” He put Connel into the sights of his rifle. It was strange. Usually Joshua felt nothing before killing someone, or perhaps blind anger. But the feeling he got as he pulled the trigger was unlike anything he'd felt for a long time. Anticipation.
Father Clooney jerked the rifle's barrel aside; the bullet missed Connel by inches.
“What the hell did you do that for?” Joshua yelled. “He's a bastard! Who gives a damn if he dies?”
“He's got to have a trial.”
“Screw a trial! Bastards don't deserve trials! Who cares if we give him a little kangaroo court before we shoot him? He shot half my crew without trial didn't he? Or have you already forgotten?”
Clooney looked Joshua right in the eye and used his unexpected strength to pull the gun away. “You kill him without a trial you're not any better then he is.”
Joshua snorted. “Wait, you honestly think I'm a better man then him? I don't need to come to one of your crappy little confessionals to tell you that I'm a bastard. I'm scum. I'm a lying, murdering, scheming traitor. And the only thing that raises me above the level of men like Connel is that I admit it. I'm no coward. But being brave doesn't make you a good guy. I'm not a hero Clooney. So if you try to stop me, I will blow your goddamn head off!” He twisted the rifle's barrel until it rested on Clooney's chin. “You know I'll do it.”
The shine in Clooney's eyes was gone in a second. “If he shoots, kill him,” he ordered. It was that moment that Joshua perceived, out of the corner of his eye, the three militia all holding up their weapons. If he so much as twitched, they would blow him away.
Joshua was not angry enough for it to overwhelm his sense for self preservation. “You win for now,” he said, propping the rifle on his shoulder and wandering to the corner to skulk and mutter to himself.
“Thank you,” Connel said, still on the floor and covered in blood.
“Please. Don't,” Clooney responded dryly, picking the fat priest up and setting him in another bed. The doctor, who had been trying to ignore the confrontation, came over to check on him.
“You touch him I'll kill you myself doc,” Joshua threatened from the corner. The doctor decided to check up on a different patient.
An imperfect silence swept up the room. Joshua's mumbled rant could still be heard, and the doctor's medicine made clicks and clacks as he carried it. The militia felt a strong need to check their weapons over and over again.
Panting echoed down the hallway, and all eyes turned to look. Giba had to duck to fit through the doorway, but it barely slowed him down. “Mashter Captain! Mashter Captain! Yoos butter comes quicks! Weze fund her!”
“Who?” Joshua asked, his ranting mindset distracted.
“Chanse,” Giba said.
“Chan,” Joshua said to himself. “Where is she?”