Guang Lin was off duty. There was little to do at the moment. The ship was on its return voyage to Xinju, and she would need all her wits about her in the coming day. Now was the time to snatch a little sleep. It made practical sense, and Lin was a very practical woman. Despite this, she knew that she couldn’t sleep. Her head was buzzing with thoughts and anxieties so loudly that she couldn’t silence them.
She knocked on the door to the chaplain’s office with a little trepidation. He might not even be on duty yet. Just as she was about to turn around, dismissing her visit as a badly timed nuisance, the door opened.
“Come on in, please come in.” Lieutenant Cameron Boyd, the Christian chaplain on Endeavour beckoned her inward with a broad gesture.
Lin hesitated a moment and then entered.
“You’ll have to excuse the clutter in here. They only just thawed me out a little while ago, and now I find that I’m supposed to be sharing an office with Lieutenant al-Ogedi. He’s the Islamic chaplain on board. Nice enough lad, but a bit of a hoarder I’m afraid. There’s not enough room here for half of his things, let alone mine.
“Well, space is at a premium I’m afraid. More office space meant less room to transport civilian survivors.”
“Quite right too. It’s people that matter.” Boyd cleared several books off a chair and motioned for Lin to sit. “So, Commaner Lin. How are you handling everything? It certainly has been an eventful first day for you.”
“That’s an understatement, but I can see you’re busy here. I think I should leave you to work.”
“Nonsense Lass. Some company would be a welcome reprieve from unpacking. Besides, I haven’t had a decent conversation in centuries.”
Lin chuckled. It was her first laugh in a long time. She didn’t know Boyd very well but she had liked him very much upon their first meeting. While his mannerisms were decidedly Scottish, his accent was a mish-mash of Scottish elements along with a little American, and perhaps something else that Lin couldn’t place.
“Very well. I’d appreciate your listening ear.”
“Let’s go into the counselling room. It’s much cosier.”
Lin followed Boyd into the adjoining room and took a seat on a comfortable chair.
“So, everything has been far from routine since our arrival I hear.”
“Yes. First we had the news of sabotage and our long trip. Then Commander Murphy’s murder. And now the Captain is behind bars and suddenly I’m in charge.”
Boyd nodded. “Quite a day. Do you think the Captain is guilty?”
“No, not really. At least he doesn’t seem the type. I don’t think there is sufficient evidence either way at the moment.”
“And what about you? How are you handling the pressure of your rapidly growing responsibilities?”
Lin thought for a moment. “Not as well as I’m letting on. I was supposed to the third in charge on this ship. Third. Now suddenly I’m the acting captain. I wasn’t prepared for this.”
“Do you think you lack the training?”
Lin considered her answer a moment before responding. “No, I’ve been through command school. I know what is required of me.”
“Is leadership something that you had never sought?”
“It’s not that either. I think every officer has ambitions to have their own command some day.”
“It sounds to me Commander, like you’re mostly feeling overwhelmed by the suddenness of it all. That’s completely understandable, but I think you’re going to do just fine.”
“I don’t feel fine.”
“Well, as important as feelings can be to us, life isn’t really about feelings is it? I only really have one question for you Commander – whose strength are you facing all of this under?”
Again Lin thought before speaking. “I suppose I’ve been trying to do it all under my own strength.”
“You know you don’t need to do that Lass. You know God, you have a strong faith in Him. Take advantage of that fact. Trust Him.”
“I suppose it has been a long time since I’ve really had to trust God, to rely on Him. You know Padre, I often think of my ancestors. A few centuries back Chinese Christians were persecuted badly for their faith. They had to rely on God, there was no other choice.”
“Aye. It was under that persecution that the Chinese church flourished and grew.”
“Things are so much different now, and I think we’ve lost something. It almost seems that today, to be Chinese is to be Christian. I envy Western believers like you. You have it harder, but you have it better.”
Boyd chuckled. “It strikes me that labels such as Chinese and Western are completely meaningless out here. This isn’t Earth. We’re a new community of humanity and we have a difficult road ahead of us. I think we’re all going to have plenty of opportunity to exercise faith in the coming years.”
“That makes a lot of sense.”
“Let me pray for you Lass. I know that God wants you to rely on Him. He’s there for you, He really is.”
The chaplain prayed with Lin for about ten minutes. It was a very meaningful time for Lin and she felt a much greater sense of peace at the end.
“Well, I really should get some rest now Padre. Thankyou for you time. I’ll let you get back to your unpacking.”
“Ah, that can wait. I’m going to go see the captain shortly.”
“Don’t misunderstand this Padre, but I’m a little surprised that Captain Bell would want to talk to you. He isn’t a Christian.”
“No, that’s true, but he’s a very old and dear friend of mine. I have a feeling he’d knock me senseless if I didn’t put in an appearance.” Boyd began to laugh merrily. Apparently he found that statement very amusing.
“Good day Padre.”
“Take Care Commander.”
Colonel Brice Millwood hated hospitals. He hated waiting and he hated being helpless. The doctors were insisting on keeping him under observation for a little longer but he just wanted to get back to work. He’d considered going AWOL when nobody was looking, but the nurse on duty was a Nazi and she had eyes everywhere.
“Hey there slacker. I see you’re resting comfortably while the rest of us do all the hard work.”
Brice looked up to see the very cheerful face of Sarah McDermott beaming at him.
“I would have brought flowers but there just doesn’t seem to be a florist on this ship. I hope that Doctor Bank’s team bring back some nice blossoms from the planet surface.”
“Hey good to see you Sarah.”
“That’s Ensign to you. Don’t you have any respect for the woman who saved your life?”
Brice chuckled. “I hear you did an amazing job. Thankyou Ensign. I owe you a debt of gratitude.”
McDermott gave him a playful punch in the arm. “Oh come one, it was nothing one fighter Jock wouldn’t do for another.”
“So, any change you can get me out of here? I hate lying around and you can’t get a decent cup of tea in this joint.”
“Forget it CAG. I’ve gone up against the worst of the worst in dogfights, but I wouldn’t dare go up against that nurse patrolling the hallways. She’s tough.”
“I’ll promote you to Lieutenant if you can sneak me past her.”
“Don’t tempt me Colonel.”
Millwood took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “So what’s going on out there Ensign?”
Sarah’s face fell from joviality to utter serious in a split second.
“Things are pretty ugly out there actually. Lieutenant Tareen just arrested Captain Bell for murder.”
Millwood looked at McDermott in disbelief. “The murder of Commander Murphy?”
“Yeah. It sounds crazy to me but he says he has evidence.”
Brice shook his head. “That’s crazy.”
“I know. The captain is a good man. I don’t think he has a dishonest bone in his body.”
“Well, I’m not sure I’d go that far.”
“What do you mean?”
Millwood let out a sigh. “I don’t know if I should say anything, but I do have some concerns.”
He leaned forward. “Look Sarah I need your help. Can you get Lieutenant Tareen to come in and see me. There’s something he needs to know about Captain Bell.”