Across the valley, Darris Harson sat before a holodisplay, studying the surveillance readout as the paladins gathered and welcomed Theis back to their fold. He took note of any signs of tension or anxiety as they greeted one another with smiles and hugs. “This isn’t right,” he muttered softly as he spied on the men and women who used to call him brother.
“The drones were your idea,” Anne reminded him. Seated at the desk next to him, she kept her head down as she focused on her own work.
“I know.” A flush rose on his cheeks. “It was a good idea in theory, but this feels too intrusive. It’s too intimate.”
Anne looked up from her tablet. “Someone has to dig deep, and I would rather it be us than some outsider.” She smirked. “At least Thomas understands.”
Darris sighed as, on the display, the paladins took seats on the grass, forming a circle. “Except we’re the outsiders now.”
“Yeah… we are.” Anne’s shoulders slumped.
Darris reached over to nudge her arm and offered his hand. She flashed a slight smile, placed her hand in his, and both took up the song.
The office door slid open, cutting their singing short. David Evans paused in the entrance and frowned at the display and the unfamiliar song. “What language — wait — Creed just passed something to Sparks.”
Darris dropped Anne’s hand, and both straightened in their seats. Anne’s fingers flew over her keyboard as she zoomed in on the object. “It’s… a rock?”
The trio watched the silent interaction between the two senior paladins until they once more closed their eyes and bowed their heads. “Any idea the significance of it?” David asked.
Darris shook his head. “No clue, but it obviously holds meaning to both of them.”
“This is the first time Rett has joined the singing,” Anne observed. “Usually he remains quiet during meditations.”
“Because of the rock?”
“It’s likely, sir,” she replied, and backed the recording up to the start of the meditation. “He wasn’t singing before Paladin Creed handed him the stone.”
“Some sort of message?” The director pondered. “Look into it further. I want to know about that stone.” He nodded towards the display. “You know the song. What language is that?”
Darris shook his head. “We don’t know. Paladin Creed taught it to Lincon Sparks, who then taught the rest of us shortly before the Raqmu mission.”
“Apparently Paladin Creed learned the song from his mother, but never learned the meaning of the words before she died,” Anne supplied.
“And they all use it now?” David nodded to the display.
Darris nodded. “It adds a depth to their connection that quiet meditation doesn’t provide.”
The director sighed. “Which could mean trouble if one of them is compromised.” He looked at the man and woman sitting before him. “And I imagine it’s a connection you both miss, too. I know I asked you to make a tremendous sacrifice, but it’s vital we discover any Alfath leaks within Dawn’s Light.”
“We understand, sir,” Anne assured him. “We’ll do what we must now and mend bridges later.”
“Very good.” David turned his attention back to the display. “Learn more about that song. It doesn’t sound like a lullaby, and I doubt they would get the same benefit if they sang Happy Little Glowblob. Find out the language and just what the words mean.”
“That could be tricky.” Anne pursed her lips. “Theis is our best source for finding out the language, but I’m pretty sure he won’t be eager to help us right now. Second best would have been Caelynn Creed due to her expertise in pre-Thelian history. Third is Evangeline Harris.”
David frowned. “Lieutenant Harris? This isn’t a tech issue.”
“No, sir, but if information about the language is held in any database or system on Thelios, she’d be the one to find it.”
“I’ll search personnel records to look for anyone with a background in history or linguistics,” Darris offered. “We can vet the results and I can have a list of potential candidates by tomorrow afternoon.”
David nodded his approval and gestured to the display. The song had ended and the paladins remained seated on the grass, chatting. “I’ll let you two get back to your monitoring.”