Gate 67 of the Sylavor Spaceport was as busy as it had ever been; but that did not bother Damiel. This was a happy occasion, even if it was tainted with just a hint of sorrow.
"So, when will you pay us another visit?" said Father Tamoni, his usual good cheer sobered slightly by the impending separation.
"It could be another five years," said Damiel, "it could be another ten or fifteen or - I'm sorry." He noticed that Father Tamoni's hair was whiter than it had been on the day Marishison arrived. Where would either of them be in fifteen years? How strange it was to sleep in nanostasis, to down diluted longevity drugs with every drink and meal, while his friends on his birth planet felt the weight of mortality with every passing year. "I'll try to make it soon," he added.
"And I'll make sure I'll still be around to greet you," said Tamoni. "That's so generous of them, letting you out on vacations every so often."
"They're very flexible," said Damiel. "There's always someone there to fill your shoes."
Over the past four weeks, he had told Tamoni everything he remembered. He had told him that Marishison's colony was devoted to helping the troubled, the disturbed, the bereaved. He had told him that the highly advanced Jobitarian colony gave gifts of technology freely to less developed worlds, to let them deal with famine and disease with their newfound wisdom. He had told him that they gave comfort to those who needed it most. He had told him of Skalisina, the kind-hearted Siberoo who gave children rides through the snow. He had told him of their united goal to make the galaxy a better place for ordinary sophonts. He has told him that he had at last found his true home, his true purpose, and would cherish it for the rest of his long life.
"If anyone of any clade can fill your shoes," said Tamoni, "we should invite him over for roast lamb."
"Save some for me," said Damiel.
The two priests firmly shook hands, then Damiel turned and strode down the docking bay to the shuttle - reluctantly at first, but with each step lighter than the last. It was so great to be heading for his true home!
After the starliner had passed through the first wormhole, Damiel sat pensively in his cabin for hours, pondering the many tasks ahead. Part of his job was to interview people from other colonies, to find out what they needed most in life. However, strangely enough, his memory was losing its grasp on what exactly they used to talk about. Even his biochip could only give vague answers. It was like trying to recall a dream. Perhaps it was the wormhole transition that was affecting some of his cognitive functions. Perhaps, when he finally got home, he would ask advice from Marishison and Skalisina - or was it Skalisaka? Skarosak? Heavens above, he thought, I must be having a bad reaction if I can't even recall my friend's name!
After the second wormhole, the starliner docked at a strange, sparsely inhabited space station like a giant cactus. As scheduled, he exited the liner shortly before it departed, and boarded a smaller cruiser like a bejewelled cathedral. He met no passengers on board, only the functionally friendly voice of the controlling AI that guided him into the ship's hibernation womb. His final thoughts before oblivion had him wondering what Skalosak was going to teach him next about criminal psychology, and whether that strange transapient that lived inside the nearby moon was going to tell one more of her baffling riddles.
After the third wormhole, Damiel woke up screaming. He remembered everything. Please remain calm
, the ship's AI reassured him. It will all make sense to you again. Please relax your mind as I upload and analyze the memories of your vacation
As the smooth black planet grew on the hibernation unit's monitor, Damiel found that the AI's advice was working. He did
remain calm, and it all was
making sense again. Yes, this was his true home. This was his true calling. To save the penitent and condemn the wicked. He was taking part in the balance of the universe. He was order. He was goodness. He was the Lamb of Justice.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, a tiny voice screamed and cursed. He brushed it aside like a gnat.
There was so much to do here. So much to catch up on. So much he had forgotten. He loved his apartment. He loved his view of the cave chamber. He loved his neighbours. He loved his crew. He loved Marishison. He loved Skalosak.
And most of all, Damiel loved the Queen of Pain.
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