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Chapter LV

It didn’t take long for Spaceman to discover what had happened at Port Adelaide. The simple fact was the people of the church liked Spaceman. They were rooting for him. Freed for the first time in decades from the junk, Spaceman found it easy, almost liberating, to simply be charming. That this brought the knock-on effect of bending their loyalties to him was a pleasant surprise.

“I told him that he should not attempt the rescue,” said Iglesias.

Despite the transparent lie, Spaceman smiled. Iglesias meant well and that counted for more than a little.

“You did the right thing,” Spaceman comforted the slender, nervous man. “Where can I find The Master?”

“He has not left his quarters in many days,” and seemed once more nervous. This reaction mystified Spaceman until he realized Iglesias had assumed they all already knew this. The preparations for the transference had claimed most of his attention. Spaceman saw that he had put himself in an awkward position, the assumed successor of a nearly divine power and yet insulated from all of the actual decisions. That would change.

He began audience with The Master in a very different manner. He stood in front of him, held his eyes, and felt the gravity of the room shift in his favor. The Master was no longer strong enough to command the AC commandoes alone. The Archlord lurked in the shadows, a die-hard working again him. He would need to be dealt with, obviously, but not all snakes could be dispatched on sight.

Spaceman bowed to the deathless entity. When given leave to rise he said, “I have come to apologize.”

The Master narrowed his eyes. “For what reason?”

“It has come to my attention that a mission was enacted to rescue a member of the Anti-Cerebrist organization. During the course of the mission, a terrible tragedy occurred.”

The Master’s eyebrows shot up. He didn’t know. Spaceman looked over at the Archlord. In a second he saw the old man’s game. Playing for time, hoping that some other option would present itself. Spaceman nearly laughed out loud. There was nothing in his way now.

“The previous leader of the Anti-Cerebrists has perished in a gun battle.”

The Master gritted what remained of his teeth. “That is very unfortunate.” Although he did not turn his head, the true target of this pronouncement was clear.

Spaceman could not afford to gloat. The imbalance provided an opportunity.

“The ceremony will be ready for the scheduled night,” he goaded. He shifted his attention away from the Master, whose reaction he could guess, to the Archlord, who he didn’t yet know well. He suspected the Archlord had preferred to be a stranger.

“The men of this church have been preparing for this night for years,” the Archlord said simply. “They know their responsibilities.”

And do you yours? Spaceman smiled. Still keeping part of his attention on his rival, he kept his face open, honest. “We are nearing portions of the ceremony that will require more experienced management.”

The Master knew what he meant. He had been delaying having the Archlord work with him for precisely this reason. He betrayed some of his distaste in a flicker of his eyes. “So be it, Spaceman, tell the priests they may have audience with the Archlord.”

“And of course, as the vessel, I will require a similar audience.”

The Master’s frail body tensed, a flash of the old fury flashing in his eyes. But in the end what other choice would he have? He nodded. The Archlord, a much paler and uncertain figure left with Spaceman and the other priests.

There was a tremor in his hands when they stopped in front of the door to the knave. Why was he frightened? Spaceman only wanted to be the Archlord’s friend. Collegiality should never be a source of anxiety.

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