Orion's Child
On a beautiful, crisp morning in April, Jesse left Boston Harbor In a
thirty-five foot canoe stern sloop. Bright sunshine, a fresh,
southerly breeze, and the sleek little ship ran northeast with a bone
in her teeth.

He set a course for the sunken remains of the Titanic, wishing to
stay well south of the Grand Banks, notorious for steep waves
during heavy weather, and simply to be able to say he had sailed
over the famous wreck.
Jesse intended to ride the Gulf Stream, pushed by the northern westerly’s, to Ireland and England. He
would cruise the British Isles first, then head south for a few years of exploring and cruising Europe and
the Mediterranean. Below, in the main saloon, sat a small suitcase filled with tourist brochures, maps
and canal charts, complete with brilliant photos of the places he knew he had to visit.

  The wind and weather held steady for the first four days. Wind speed occasionally dropped, then
picked up, and the seas eased and grew in accordance, but overall, ‘Sacajawea’ averaged seven knots and
made good about 800 miles. Jesse had very little to do. Of course, he adjusted the halyards and sheets,
to compensate for the small changes in wind and seas, but that was all. The wind vane self-steering on
the stern held the course, and Jesse fell into a random system of keeping watch in the cockpit, eating
any time he felt the urge, and listening to the short wave radio for weather updates. If things kept going
like this, he thought, he would see Ireland on the horizon in just another twelve days or so.

  There was news of a front coming from the west, but nothing serious. Forty knot winds with slightly
higher gusts. Another report claimed the warm front, the one Jesse had been reaping the benefit of,
would probably overpower the approaching cold front, and little would change. Jesse’s occasional
adjustments in the sails should be all the situation might require.
  The warm southern air, providing the fuel for the sails of Sacajawea, could not diminish the raw cold of
the North Atlantic, however. Dressing warm and dry, and packing in the food fuel for body heat, did not
prevent the energy drain the conditions caused. He decided to go below and get some solid, warm sleep
in the bunk, just in case the weather did turn sour and he had to stay awake for a day or two.

  That was at 3 PM.

  Six hours later, at 9 PM, the changing motion of the ship awakened him. Warm and refreshed, Jesse
decided to get into the waterproof foul-weather gear before venturing into the cockpit. A good idea, he
soon realized.

  The stout little sloop, designed and built to handle heavy weather offshore, made a good job of
handling seas now coming from two directions. There were following seas of about three feet, and
southerlies now reaching five feet. The combined peaks of the two waves were beginning to pass eight
feet in height, and it was not long before 'Sacajawea' arched up and over one. As soon as he saw it, Jesse
realized this is what had awakened him.

  The boat handled the peak well, but Jesse had to hold onto the wheel to keep from sliding aft. Much
colder wind replaced the southerlies and he took the opportunity to get a warm hat, gloves, and pull the
rain gear hood up over his head. It looked like he had a long, rough night ahead.

Jesse tended the helm as conditions deteriorated throughout the night. By the first gray light of dawn,
he surveyed the seas and corrected his course, slightly more northerly, to ease the motion of the boat
and reduce the strain on the wind-vane self-steering device. While the seas remained confused and
troublesome, the ship handled them better and Jesse went below to make a hot breakfast. The
temperature had dropped and a bitter wind threatened to coat the steel rigging with ice.

  Once below, the sounds of the sloppy seas and howling rigging faded enough for him to hear an odd
grinding coming from the Master Cabin in the stern. He went aft and located the sound. There was
something wrong with the boats steering mechanism, located beneath the double berth. Jesse flipped
the mattress off to the opposite side and lifted the wooden panel exposing the steering gear.
He could see nothing wrong, but turned and retrieved a flashlight from the dresser, then lay down and
searched the area with the light.

Water sloshed in the bilge. A leak! A serious leak! He shone the light on the big shaft seal serving the
rudder post and found the source. The ships rudder post had broken the top of the fiberglass rudder
pipe off, just below the seal! The seal was now just an ornamental collar, turning with the rudder post as
the wind-vane self-steering drove the rudder to hold the course. Water oozed and squirted from the
seam and into the bilge.

  Jesse quickly started the engine and lifted the bilge hatch in the main saloon, watching just long
enough to be sure the big bilge pump was doing its job. The engine would keep the batteries charged
and he would find a way to slow the leak.

  The boat lurched and rolled as he rose to his feet and Jesse's head slammed hard against the edge of
the chart table.

  "Motherfucker!" He exclaimed as he placed his palm on his forehead and checked it for blood. No
blood. He nodded a quick gesture of relief at that and opened one of the tools and supplies lockers,
pulling out rags and small diameter lines.

  Back in the Master Cabin, Jesse started wrapping the rags around the leaking shaft seal and lashing
them as tightly as possible with the lines. It was then he realized the break in the rudder pipe was below
the center rudder post bearing, and that the top of the rudder pipe was not just turning freely, it was
orbiting, and occasionally allowing seawater to gush in, past the seal mount.

  “Oh, shit,” he hissed, just above a whisper, “this is bad. This rag shit won’t work.”

  He returned to the cockpit and surveyed the sea state and weather. Conditions were such that Jesse
couldn’t decide if they were worse, better, or still the same. A metallic ‘clunk’ forward drew his attention
and he went there to kind the primary anchor a bit loose in its chock. After tightening it down and
inspecting the rest of the foredeck, he hurried below and gathered up all the towels and sheets he had.

  An idea popped into his head while on the foredeck, and he was anxious to give it a try. Bringing his
bright, battery operated lantern into the aft stateroom, Jesse quickly removed the previous rag-and-line
patch, then grabbed the broken shaft seal and, twisting and tugging, raised it a foot or more. Each time
Sacajawea plunged off a wave and pressed het transom deep in the sea, water gushed into the boat like
an open fire hydrant.

  Jesse took a large beach towel and began twisting it into a huge rope, some two inches in diameter. He
forced this into the gap between the rudder pipe and the thick, stainless steel rudder post.
  The first two times the transom plunged into deeper water, the towel pushed back and out, but by the
third time, it stayed inside the gap. Now Jesse worked feverishly. Tighter and tighter he twisted the
towels, hammering them into place with a hammer and a spare hammer handle. In twenty minutes, he
stood up and watched the rudder post turn easily back and forth in the wet cloth. It was working. The
bilge pump suddenly sucked air and shut off, and Jesse laughed aloud.

  He wrapped a plastic trash bag around the rudder pipe, and up onto the rudder post, then covered it
with another towel. A hose clamp around the top, and strong lashing around the much larger rudder
pipe, and the job was done. At least, for now. The leak had slowed to a small trickle the pump would
have no trouble handling.
He checked the sails and the wind and decided it was time to shorten sail. Not that the ship could not
handle the conditions, but because it would be more difficult shortening sail as the weather worsened.
In fifteen minutes he had the main reefed, the jib furled, and the cutter staysail doused and stowed
below. Jesse settled into the cockpit and gingerly felt the big knot on his forehead.

 He frowned and grumbled, not about the lump, but about the way cold water found several ways past
his expensive foul weather gear. It oozed down his neck and wet his chest, both feet were wet, and it felt
as though the seat of his pants were wet.

 For the next day and a half, Jesse did not sleep and seldom ate. Conditions were now so bad he had the
big jib furled completely, the small cutter storm jib set and sheeted in tight, and the main on its third
and final reef point. Steering remained left to the wind-vane self-steering, and Jesse engaged the prop
and increased the throttle so the engine could help control the boat and make more way against the seas.

 He now had a severe headache and blamed the knot on his forehead, though he silently suspected
stress and a lack of food and rest.

 The rigging howled its complaints about the weather, rain fell sideways, and several times Jesse
noticed ice forming, then melting away. In the dark of night, he began to see stars when he closed his
eyes. Ready to go below and get aspirin or something, he stood and was immediately knocked off
balance and down to the cockpit sole. Jesse gripped the ships wheel and held on tight as Sacajawea
rolled flat down on her port side.

 Icy seawater gushed into the cockpit, covering Jesse and sloshing out again as the boat rolled upright.
He clambered to his feet and strained to see into the darkness ahead. Another wave picked up the boat
and moved her sideways, not knocking her down, but rolling her to about forty-five degrees.
 "What the fuck is going on?" Jesse muttered, understanding exactly what had happened as he spoke.

 "Oh, shit!" He gasped. "I'm north. Way north. I'm on the Grand Banks!"

 With the boat limping in the steering department, turning south and thrashing into oncoming seas, to
get off the Banks, did not seem to be an option. The seventeen thousand foot deep Atlantic Ocean
shoals up to a few hundred feet here, even less. It meant big waves turn into very big waves.
 Jesse went to the steering gear to adjust the track to straight North, to take advantage of the
southerlies try to get north of the confused seas. The boat did not respond.

 Confused, Jesse disengaged the self-steering and turned the wheel. There was nothing there. The
rudder no longer connected to the ship’s steering mechanism.

 Jesse hurried below to see what was going on with the steering in the aft stateroom. As soon as his feet
hit the cabin sole, he felt water.

 "Oh, no, please, don't be fucking sinking." This was not an exclamation, just a quiet statement.

 He aimed the flashlight to the aft cabin and sloshed through foot-deep water to the open bed platform.
The rudder post was now sheared off, and the entire rudder pipe had come free of the hull.

Seawater now gushed unhindered into the boat. He had ten minutes, at most.
 "Aw, fuck." Jesse struggled to hold on as the boat pitched and rolled. He moved to the forward cabin
and grabbed the 'Ditch Bag', prepared before leaving Boston for just such an emergency.
Leaving the cabin, he lurched against the jamb and his hand slapped against the cabin bulkhead. It
struck an old Crucifix he had hung there years before. It once belonged to his long-dead mother. He
ripped it from the wall and stuffed it into his jacket pocket.       

The water in the cabin now reached nearly to his knees. Sloshing through it to the companionway, Jesse
suddenly stepped into the open bilge hatch he had forgotten about.

"You stupid, fucking idiot!" He yelled as he pulled himself up and out, feeling a painful injury to
his left shin.

Limping as he reached the deck, Jesse made it to his life raft canister. He released the hold-downs
and pulled the cord. The canister opened and the small, two-man life raft inflated. The wind grabbed it
and Jesse had to fight to hold it. He moved it to a spot between the cabin side and the mast shrouds,
where it immediately snagged an exposed cotter pin, and was punctured.

"You motherfucker!" Jesse screamed into the night.

He secured the rafts lanyard to a cabin roof cleat and hurried below to get a roll of duct tape, returning
with it as quick as he could. Twice he tried to plug the small tear with the tape, but it was wet and the
tape would not stick. He was about to return below for a dry towel or rag, when a voice startled him and
he whirled around.

"That will not work." A voice behind him spoke loud, above the wind and waves.

Jesse stood facing a man of middle age, bald, wearing a loose shirt and slacks.

"It's over, Jesse." The man indicated the punctured life raft. "There is no possibility of your
survival in that raft." He pointed at the half-deflated mess. "If you get into that raft, you will die."

“Who the fuck are you and what are you doing here? How did you get here?"

Jesse frantically looked around, and lurched for the rigging as the boat turned sideways to the seas.

  “Questions for later.” The man responded. “I’ve come to bring you to safety.”

  Jesse lunged for the companionway.

"I'm out of options." Jesse said. "I don’t know who the fuck you are or what you’re doing here. I
don’t see no ship, and I think I might be hallucinating.”

An almost imperceptible ‘thud’, more felt in his feet than heard, told Jesse the diesel engine had just
inhaled water and died. He stopped short and stared into the darkness below, his mouth agape, as if to
speak. He snapped it shut and returned quickly to the life raft, snatching up his ‘Ditch Bag’ on the way.

“May I have just a moment?” The strange man grasped Jesse’s hand, and for the first time in years,
Jesse jumped in fear and surprise.

“Holy shit!” He gasped, “you’re real!”
In an instant, the motion ceased, and Jesse felt warm air on his face. The man dropped his hand and
spoke softly.

“Sound,” he said, and all the noise of wind and waves also ceased.

“Light.” The man said, and the space around them brightened.

Jesse stared at the cockpit of Sacajawea as it slowly rose out of the ocean. The bow, now filled with
water, was dragging the ship under. As the transom lifted clear of the seas, Jesse jumped back a bit,
away from the image, and saw the broken rudder hanging awkwardly to one side. In another moment,
the boat slipped silently beneath the waves, leaving random bursts of spray and fountains of bubbles,
then nothing.

Jesse’s head drooped and his shoulders slumped.

“Well, fuck me.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Go sleep with your namesake, baby.”

He took a deep breath, sighed heavily, and raised his head to see the curved wall of a round room. There
was a single opening. It appeared to be a door with two panels which slid into pockets on either side.

“Where the fuck am I?” He raised a hand toward the wall and doorway.

“It is a spaceship, actually,” the man beside him replied, a bit haltingly.

Jesse turned his head to meet the man’s eyes, and the stranger indicated behind Jesse with a hand
gesture. Jesse turned around and saw the rest of the large, circular room.

Two rows of curved consoles faced the men, with an occupant at every desk. Slowly scanning the room,
in a lower voice, Jesse asked a new question.

“So, what, like, did you ‘beam me up’ like Star Wars or some shit?”

“Star Trek.” A young man with long hair offered.

“Like there’s a fucking difference.” Jesse said.

“There’s a huge difference-” The man began, but Jesse cut him off.

“Not to a fucking football fan.”

“Okay, man!” The young man rose from his console and quickly approached Jesse, his hand extended,
which Jesse automatically shook.

“I’m Rick. You’re on a spaceship; get your head around it. We’ve been watching you for several days.
Our weather information tends to eclipse the Earth stuff, and your rudder situation looked bad. I
stuck my neck out and requested we monitor your progress, just in case,” he directed an open hand at
the scene behind Jesse, “this happened. We all understand you’re tired, discouraged, and probably a
little upset, but there’s no need to keep talking like a drunk longshoreman. It’s kind of an indication
fear or ignorance, and neither is the case, so drop the dockside sailor language and start acting like a
civil human being who has just been rescued.”
Rick smiled and nodded, stepping back about half a step, crossing his arms over his chest.
“What were the crystals used to beam people up and down,” he asked like an impatient father.

“Dilithium.” Jesse answered sheepishly.

“And who always asked about their condition?”

“Captain Kirk.” Jesse grinned.

“I knew you knew the difference. You may not be a Trekkie, but I know you saw all the Star Wars
movies, so stop acting like a fucking meatball.” Rick grinned and pointed at him, then turned to return
to his seat.

At the same time, a woman laughed, just once, from the rear of the room, at a console near a door
opposite the one Jesse had already seen.

This caused Rick to stop and turn, pointing to the woman, but looking at and speaking to Jesse.
“She,” he began with a nod, “is the Captain, the Commander here, and he,” he pointed toward the man
standing next to Jesse, “is her grandfather, so you’ll want to slip your polite tongue into your mouth.
You have a great opportunity and you don’t want to screw it up.”

“What?” Jesse barely shook his head.

Rick pointed to the floor.

“You’re ship just sunk in the middle of the ocean. You are, for all intents and purposes, lost at sea,
which means it is possible you might be offered a chance to join the crew.”

H stretched his neck toward Jesse’s face.

“Nobody wants a goon onboard. Rally your wits and try to make a good impression.” Rick returned to
his seat and continued. “Your boat is worth what? A hundred K? One-twenty-five? We’ll give you that in
cash and drop you in Boston. You get a free do-over.”
He paused and met Jesse’s eyes.

“Oorrr-” he drew the word out slowly, raising his eyebrows.

“You got asked to join?” Jesse asked.

“Ten years ago.” Rick answered, paused, then added, “I cannot begin to tell you how much cooler it is
here than down there.”

Rick went to work on his console and the hologram of the ocean vanished. The light in the room
brightened and Jesse could see some faces clearly, but only the tops of some heads.
“How much time I got?” Jesse asked.

“I cannot say.” The man beside Jesse offered his hand. “I’m Joshua.” He indicated the ‘Captain’. “She is
Dak Zee, ‘Responsor’ 0f the ‘Orrojihn’.” He indicated the ship they were on.

“ ‘Origin’, like the original?” Jesse asked.
“No,” Joshua shook his head and pointed away, “ ‘Orrojihn’, as in, a star in another part of the galaxy.”
He turned to Dak Zee.

“What does our departure look like?”

“I’d like to pick up Karen.” Dak looked up, “her situation has deteriorated and I don’t dare wait another

“A few days,” Joshua turned back to Jesse, “no more.”

“I need some rest,” Jesse surveyed the room, “you got a corner somewhere I can crash.”

He suddenly chuckled and grinned, though the expression seemed far more a grimace than a smile.

“I really am tired,” he spoke near a whisper, “I’m searching a round room for a corner.”

  "No corners to crash in." Rick spoke without looking up. "You go to a cabin. Rest and eat. Joshua will
show you." He indicated Joshua as he spoke. "We have you as Jesse James Eva." Rick indicated a screen
on his console.

  "Yeah," Jesse sighed, "that's right. It was Evangeline. The old man hated it. I guess he took a beating
growing up. He was drunk when he went to court to have it changed. It was supposed to be Evans."

  "Evangeline is a beautiful name." A woman Jesse could barely see, in a console off to his left, craned
her head up to see him as she spoke. All he could see was her black hair and large almond shaped eyes.
He took her to be Asian, though the eyes appeared double their normal size.

  "Yeah, so did my mother," Jesse replied.

  He turned back to Rick. "I don't care. Call me whatever you want."

  “I’ll log you in as Jess Eva.” Rick glanced up at him. “If you’re here for two days, who cares what your
name is, and if you stay longer,” he looked up again and held Jesse’s gaze, “it’s a Brave New World, and
you can use any name you want, as long as you want. Until you get married.”

  “No identification?” Jesse asked.

  “Our little version of dilithium crystals now has your complete DNA blueprint. You can’t hide from

  Joshua extended a hand toward the pocket doors next to Dak Zee’s console. As they reached the
doors, which opened automatically, Joshua stopped and looked at Dak.
  "The first is empty," she said, glancing up at them.

  Dak winced and stood up as she noticed the terrible skin graft scar on Jesse's right cheek.
  She slipped her hood back and Jesse saw she was bald, not a hair on her head, and no eyebrows.

"Cecelia," she spoke softly, and the Asian woman with black hair rose from her seat and approached.

Jesse stood still and almost held his breath. Joshua and Rick looked like regular American people.
These two women were different. Dak Zee wore a loose frock with a hood. Her eyes a startling, beautiful
blue, and her skin like polished marble.

  The second woman, Cecelia, stood about five feet tall, had a round face, with straight, shoulder length
black hair, and large, chocolate brown eyes. As she raised a hand to Jesse's face, he saw she had four
long fingers, and thumbs on both sides of the hand, and webbing between all digits which only reached
about a third of the way up. She blinked once and her irises grew to fill the eyes, a clear eyelid swept in
diagonally and the pupils grew to the size of quarters. She touched a pale spot on Jesse's scarred cheek.

  "This painful, is it not?" she spoke softly.

  "A little." Jesse replied.

  "Necrotic," Cecelia nodded to Dak Zee. "The graft is dying. It should be attended to."

  Dak nodded and Cecelia returned to her seat.

  Jesse followed Cecelia with his eyes at first, and turned back to Dak Zee. Thinking it only polite to
introduce himself formally to the Ship’s Captain, he quickly offered his hand. The cuff of his jacket
snagged one of the screws protruding from the Crucifix in his pocket, and the item flew toward Dak.
  In a movement so fast and smooth it defied description, Dak caught the cross and stared at it in
surprise, turning to her left almost immediately and showing it to the woman on the next console.

  “I’m sorry,” Jesse apologized, “it caught on my sleeve.”

  He stopped talking when he realized the two women were not listening.

  “It is identical.” The second woman, taller, stood and reached for the cross. She examined it and
added, “almost identical.” She looked at Jesse and handed the item back to Dak, who turned back to

  She held the cross in her left hand and offered Jesse her right hand.

  “I am pleased to meet you Mr. Eva.”

  They shook hands and she handed the cross back to him.

  "Does this mean something to you?" Jesse held up the Crucifix. “If it does, you can have it.” He paused
for a moment, then continued. “It was just shi-, um, pure luck I got it off the boat. It was my mothers.
She’d have never forgiven me if I let it sink.” He tried to smile, but smiles hurt and made him look really
bad. “I mean, she would have forgiven me. She would always forgive me. But still, it would be safer with
you, so why don’t you take it?”

He offered it again, holding it out to her.

  “You are very kind, Mr. Eva.” Dak replied, “I thank you for your generous offer, but I cannot take a
mothers heirloom from her son.”

  “Well, I mean, I can get another one any time,” Jesse said, “these things are all over Boston. You can’t
swing a dead cat without hitting one. So, you know, if you want-”
“There is-, forgive me,” Dak Zee cut him off, “I am sorry. There is no need for additional explanations,
Mr. Eva. I am content and will not feel the slightest regret should you cease speaking. Please, get some
rest and nourishment.”

  She nodded toward Joshua.

  “Oh, okay, sure.” Jesse reddened slightly, and turned away, adding quietly, “sorry.”

  He fell in with Joshua and they left the room.

  The hallway they entered, ten feet wide, a hundred feet long, with an eight foot ceiling, ended in a ‘T’
intersection with a matching door at the other end. Each wall contained two doors, evenly spaced and
dividing the walls into thirds.

  Joshua stopped at the first door on the left and waved his hand near a small circular pad just to the
right of the door. The three foot wide door slid open and Joshua stepped inside, followed by Jesse.

  The room matched the décor of the hallway outside; light gray, with illumination apparently glowing
from the wall and ceiling panels themselves. The main room they walked into contained chairs, a table,
several stuffed lounges and a low table before a sofa. The walls against the hallway, opposite, and to the
right, were plain, gray panels, seamless and featureless. The wall to the left had two doors, which
Joshua pointed to, the closer first.

The bathroom is here and bedroom over there.” He touched the wall near the door and a panel lit up.
“These control panels are placed around the cabin and can be moved wherever you find convenient.”

  He began touching and swiping the panel and the room came alive. The ceiling and walls transformed
into 3 dimensional screens displaying a blue sky and pleasant countryside scene, all around the entire
room, complete with sunshine and sounds.

  “There are thousands of variations,” Joshua explained, “and each is entirely responsive; night, day,
rain, snow, hurricane, tornado, and on and on. There are also theater options, where you can find any
comfortable seat you prefer, the call up a menu of several million shows and programs, including
hundreds from Earth, and watch whatever pleases you.”

  “Holy crap.” Jesse sighed, “I never saw anything like this! I never even heard of it!”

  “Honestly,” Joshua smiled, “the entertainment aspect wears out sooner than you might think. The
single largest demand on the system is educational upgrading and specialty training. You may work in
one field, come back and train for another, preparing to move over when you are ready. It is very
interesting and many people hold more than a dozen skills.”

“This is awesome,” Jesse placed his duffel on the floor and put the cross on the larger table.
  “About the cross, Jess.” Joshua pointed to the item.

  Jesse looked at it, then back to Joshua and shrugged. “What about it?”

  “Dak’s mother was my daughter,” he began, moving to the table, “mine and Aasha’s. She is the woman
Dak handed the cross to. Her name was Tanya, Tanya Song Orro, and she was our only child, and the
center of our lives.”
He picked up the icon and stared at it, pausing for a moment.

 “I prefer this type.” He showed it to Jesse, “sans the poor soul nailed there, suffering in mortal agony
until dead. I find that more disturbing than I can say.”

 He set the cross down and turned back to Jesse.

 “We don’t know exactly how she connected with this Prophet and Book about him,” he said, “but she
did, and it meant a lot to her. She took the cross with her, her and her husband, Dak’s father, on what
should have been a simple reconnaissance mission, during the Fringe War, twenty years ago. She took it
for good luck.”

 Again, he paused, this time visibly shaken.

 “Forgive me.” Joshua looked away and cleared his throat. “They never had a chance. At the end of the
day, thirty-five billion people were gone. Most had been vaporized. I am not so proud as my
granddaughter. If you are still willing to give up the cross, I would be most grateful.”

 “Of course, man.” Jesse immediately picked up the icon and handed it to him.
 “Thank you.” He accepted the cross and held it with both hands, then looked at Jesse. “Dak is not so
proud either.” He said, “you caught her by surprise and she recoiled. Frightened and exposed, her
demeanor became terse and obtuse. I am sure she is suffering for it as we speak. Please do not say
anything to her about this. I’ll have to find the right time to breach the subject. She really is a fine young
woman and exceptional Responsor.”

“I was a little rattled myself.” Jesse grinned, “you and the whole ‘spaceship’ thing, Pickard, you know, it
all fit. Rick is a regular guy. But Cecelia, well, that’s alien stuff. And Dak, no hair or eyebrows-that’s when
I noticed you don’t have eyebrows, either. But her eyes,” Jesse stared off for a bit and shook his head,
“she got some eyes.”

      Jesse looked back at Joshua and chuckled as he lifted the ditch bag onto the table and opened it.
      “I never been good talking to pretty women,” he said, “never. And that ‘dead cat’ thing, you know, I
never know when something like that’s about to pop out of my mouth. Not until it’s out there floating
around like a fart and making people wince.”

      Joshua chuckled.

      “It is unfortunate there is no way to go back in time and correct an unsatisfactory first impression.”
He turned around and touched the control panel and the room reverted to the plain gray box they had
walked into. “This function,” Joshua indicated a symbol on the pad and touched it, bringing a food menu
up, “select whatever you prefer,” he scrolled through part of what looked like a huge selection, “order it
here,” he indicated another icon, “and it will appear right over there.” Joshua pointed to a space on a
plain, featureless wall.

      “Awesome.” Jesse nodded and began taking off the wet raingear. “I’m gonna get out'a these wet
clothes and lie down for a while.”

"I will see you when you rise." Joshua held up the cross. "Thank you, again."

Jesse nodded and continued undressing as Joshua left.
Chapter One