West of Paradise, Galatia
“Hey, wake up,” Sylvia’s voice urges, drawing Gideon out of one of the deepest sleeps that he had ever had.
Feeling a mix of confusion, surprise, and, quite frankly, sadness, Gideon looks around for a short moment before his eyes settle on Sylvia who is squatting beside him. Gideon lets out a low groan before he presses his palms firmly against his eyelids. He rubs his eyes roughly until he sees lights playing on the insides of his eyelids as he asks, “What do you want? I took first watch.”
Gideon rolls his head about for a moment until he pops his neck and he lets out a content sigh. Taking a deep breath, he stretches and then he feels someone’s firm grasp on his arm. Opening his eyes, Gideon looks over and sees that Meghan at latched onto him once again. Frowning, Gideon groans and shakes his head. He had ensured that he didn’t have to watch over the camp with Meghan because he didn’t want to sit through her talking at him the entire time. Things worked out perfectly for him. Or at least he thought they did. Meghan must have finished off her night watch and then snuggled up to Gideon who was dead to the world at that time.
Sylvia lets out a giggle before she teases, “I was wondering if you knew that she did that. Jake had the watch before me, and he said you guys looked too cute together, so he didn’t want to wake you either.”
“Well, thanks for waking me up,” Gideon nods appreciatively to Sylvia as he worms his arm out of Meghan’s steely grip. The task of freeing himself was a lot easier this time around because Meghan was asleep, but that didn’t mean that her grip was any les firm.
“Well, that isn’t the real reason why I woke you up,” Sylvia admits. She glances over her shoulder and Gideon sees that one of Roland’s people is tending a nearby fire. Sylvia watches that person for a moment before she whispers, “I think I figured something out about the flashlight.”
“And why couldn’t it wait?” Gideon asks tiredly as he rubs his face again. He hoped that whatever it was that Sylvia was on about could be quickly resolved so he could get back to sleep—albeit on the other side of camp and away from Meghan.
“Because it has to be dark for this to work,” Sylvia replies unhelpfully. She tugs on Gideon’s shirt and urges, “Come on!”
“Why can’t you just show Maverick this?” Gideon inquires groggily from his spot. He had already warmed up the small sleeping mat and blanket that he is tucked between and he didn’t like the idea of leaving their warm embrace.
Seemingly unfazed by Gideon’s question and lack of movement, Sylvia cheerfully replies, “Because I wanted to figure it out with you.”
Not another one, Gideon thinks as he takes a deep breath. Shaking his head, Gideon looks up to the heavens and lets out a silent, teasing prayer to God, One crazy girl is more than enough, thank you. How about a normal one instead? Groaning, Gideon convinces himself to rise to his feet and he follows Sylvia to the edge of camp. She then slips into the tree line that encircles the small clearing and Gideon stops dead in his tracks. Concerned, Gideon queries, “And where are we going exactly?”
“There’s a cliff over here that we need to go to,” Sylvia explains as she pulls out her flashlight.
“A cliff.” Gideon sounds, saying it as more of a statement than a question. Rolling his eyes, Gideon resolves to entertain Sylvia’s escapade and he follows along the rest of the way in absolute silence. After trekking far enough through the woods that the camp’s fire is out of sight, Gideon feels a nervous shiver shoot down his back. He had come this far away from the others and he had left his backpack and, more importantly, his weapons back there. Fearing what might be lurking in the shadows, Gideon clears his throat.
“We’re here,” Sylvia announces before Gideon can say anything.
Perplexed, Gideon asks, “So, what’s so important about this cliff?” He closes the distance between him and Sylvia and he then peers down the steep cliff at the deep darkness below. He thinks he can hear the faintest echo of a small stream’s burbling that reaches up along the sheer cliff walls, but he can’t be certain.
“It’s where I figured this out,” Sylvia replies as she shines her flashlight at the cliff face opposite of her and Gideon.
Gideon stares at where Sylvia is shining her light and he frowns. Nothing seemed too important or threatening to him over there. Shaking his head, Gideon prompts, “I don’t see anything, what’s so important?”
“Look at the light itself,” Sylvia urges excitedly.
“I’m looking and I don’t see anything.”
“Look harder, just at the shadows the light makes.”
“It would be easier if your flashlight didn’t have scratches on the lens.”
“That’s the thing!” Sylvia exclaims as she hops up and down in joy.
Completely at a loss, Gideon scans her and feels like she is making some sort of a joke. In return, Sylvia is smiling broadly, and she seems completely on the level. Still confused, Gideon says, “Okay, I’m really not getting this.”
“My mom must have made these scratches!” Sylvia explains as she scratches at the lens of the little red flashlight that Gideon had delivered for her.
“Lenses get scratched all the time, what makes you think that these are special?”
“My mom wouldn’t have risked everything to pass along a beat-up flashlight. This has got to mean something.”
“I don’t know, that’s why I brought you along.”
“…To look at scratches on a flashlight lens?”
“Yeah,” Sylvia nods. Seeing that Gideon is not very entertained at the notion, Sylvia’s smile drops. She looks at him with pleading eyes and, with a desperate voice, she asks, “You don’t think I’m making something out of nothing, do you?”
Gideon is about to speak his mind and say that Sylvia was making a big deal of nothing when he stops himself. Logically speaking, Gideon didn’t think the flashlight was as important as Sylvia’s mother made it sound. There didn’t seem to be anything special about it. It was poorly made, and the light it provided was faint. But then Gideon felt something in his gut nudging him. Something that told him to hear Sylvia out and entertain her. Giving in to the inner urging, Gideon requests, “Can I see it?”
Sylvia hands the flashlight to Gideon and she watches him expectantly as he shines the flashlight around for a few seconds. Anxious, Sylvia presses, “So?”
“Well, there definitely is something about the way these scratches are here,” Gideon observes as he trains the beam of light on a surface a lot closer to them than the cliff wall was. Squinting, Gideon examines the scratches and frowns. There was something vaguely familiar about a few of the lines. Gideon glances around and his eyes lock onto a good-sized rock that had a very flat face. Approaching the stone, Gideon shines his light and uses it as a projector screen. Without a jagged surface casting strange shadows, the scratches on the lens made a lot clearer of an image.
“What is it?” Sylvia asks, still perplexed.
Gideon reaches down to the map that he had hung around his neck. He glances between it and the faint projection before him several times before he tentatively asks “Does this look like anything familiar to you?”
“Yeah,” Sylvia breathes as she stands behind Gideon. She leans forward a bit and Gideon flinches slightly as her chin brushes against his shoulder. Sylvia continues staring and she eventually cocks her head to the side, inadvertently headbutting Gideon in the process. She and Gideon both jerk away from one another as they laugh and Sylvia promptly apologizes, “I got in the zone there, sorry!”
Still chuckling Gideon assures her, “I was too.”
“So, do you know what it is supposed to be then?”
“I think so!” Gideon exclaims happily as he holds his map out for Sylvia to see. Nodding, he explains himself, “If I’m right then the flashlight is showing us a place where this mountain and this river and this stream are all present on the map.”
“And that would be right there,” Sylvia acknowledges as she points at a small point on the map that Gideon is holding up.
“Exactly,” Gideon agrees happily. It seemed like Commander Hayes was a lot more cunning and resourceful than he had started to think she was. The initial lack of results with the flashlight had really taken the wind out of Gideon’s sails but now he felt very encouraged. In his heart, Gideon felt like he could fly all the way to the location on Commander Hayes’s map.
“I’m going to tell Maveric,” Sylvia exclaims as she spins around.
“Tell Maverick what?” Roland asks from seemingly out of nowhere.
“Woah, how long have you been there?” Gideon demands as he instinctively steps between Roland and Sylvia. Sure, he didn’t have a weapon but that wouldn’t stop him from standing in the way to protect her from a potential threat.
Roland scans Gideon and Sylvia for a moment before he replies, “I just got here; Warren woke me up a little bit ago when you two took too long to get back to camp. He wanted me to make sure that you guys were safe.”
“We’re fine,” Sylvia assures Roland, “We just had to slip away to check on something.”
Gideon is still holding the red flashlight and he does his best to casually slip it into his pocket. He didn’t know Roland yet and he didn’t quite trust him. Sure, Roland was a lot easier to trust than Danni and Jason were, especially since he and his people saved Gideon and the others, but that just felt too convenient for Gideon. It wasn’t often that things worked out that well just because.
“So, what were you going to tell Maverick?” Roland asks in a friendly tone. In many ways, he sounded like he was just trying to start a casual conversation.
“We think we have a map,” Sylvia reports, seemingly convinced that Roland had no bad intentions. Gideon looks back to her and she gives him a reassuring nod.
Roland gives Sylvia and Gideon a curious look before he presses, “And what’s so important about this map?”
“Ah—” Sylvia starts before she clamps her mouth shut. She is now standing beside Gideon and he can see Sylvia’s face twist slightly as she thinks. After a beat, Sylvia admits, “I don’t know, but it’s from my mother.”
“And why did you have to come this far out to look at this map?” Roland asks.
Gideon can’t help but see the reasoning behind Roland’s question and he looks to Sylvia expectantly. When Sylvia fails to answer Roland Gideon decides to press the matter, “Yeah, why did we have to come all the way out here?”
“Well, I needed it to be dark enough for us to see the light so we could find out that it was a map,” Sylvia eventually answers, clearly hiding something.
Roland seems to pick up on the fact that Sylvia is withholding something, and he frowns. He shakes his head ever so slightly before he changes gears and says, “Well, next time please be sure to tell your watch buddy where you’re going. You can’t just go out on your own like this.”
“Got it,” Sylvia nods. She gives Roland a look that silently tells him to leave and he quickly picks up on it and does so. Once Roland is out of sight, Sylvia turns to Gideon and lays it all out, “I know we can trust Roland and his people, but I don’t know about our own team. There are a few people that I thought were loyal to Jason, but they still stayed behind with us. I already told Maverick about them and he thought the same thing. Be sure to watch your back.”
“Why don’t you tell Roland about them?” Gideon asks, “They could just as easily turn on him and his team as they could turn on us.”
“He doesn’t need to know everything about us this soon,” Sylvia answers quietly.
Gideon lets out a half chuckle as he gives Sylvia an incredulous look. She returns the look and Gideon goes on to explain his thinking, “I’m pretty sure Roland can tell that our team isn’t as close-knit as it ought to be. He witnessed Jason and the others shooting at us, after all.”
“But he might overreact if we tell him that we might still have some bad actors with us.”
“He seems pretty level-headed. I think he could handle the news.”
“Well, I’ll have to run that by Maverick first.”
“Go for it,” Gideon nods. Yawning, he asks, “So can I go back to sleep now?”
Chapter Sixteen is one click away!!!