“They say it’s the work of a Starslinger.”

Eyes widened and hands covered mouths during the rapturous silence that followed. Only Bilia had something to say, and it was as against the grain as ever.

“Then they’re wrong.”

Nine turning faces made him the focal point of a human parabola, wearing expressions that said I’m not surprised I’m surprised.

“They’re all dead,” he added.

“They can’t be dead; they’re immortal,” said Obet. Always Obet. What a pain in the ass.

“Fine,” said Bilia, “inert. But if a Starslinger was active we would know about it. Everyone would know. It wouldn’t be a rumor; there would be evidence.”

No one else had anything to add, though Obet’s cherry cheeks told everyone how much he wished he had a retort. Donal finally reined things in, sending everyone back to their stations. Everyone but Bilia.

“Always the skeptic. You know, Bilia, it’s not the most endearing of traits.”

Bilia’s back stiffened. “I’m sorry—”

“I don’t need you to be endearing. I need you to be smart. Sometimes that means keeping your thoughts to yourself; like when I’m addressing the whole crew. Got it?”

Bilia nodded, keeping his thoughts to himself.

“Good, because I need you to do something for me. I don’t believe the reports either. I want you to investigate. Try to find this Starslinger. Find out if these are the End Times. We can work out the details tomorrow.” Donal ran his fingers through his gray-streaked hair. “What do you think kid, can you do that for me?”

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