Accolade – Chapter Sixteen

Maverick Gracian

West of Paradise, Galatia

“Alright, run that by me again,” Maverick requests as he stares at Sylvia through his bleary eyes. He closes his eyes as he yawns and then he does his best to rub the crusty junk out of his eyes.

“Gideon and I figured out why my mom gave him the flashlight,” Sylvia starts.

Maverick nods and interrupts, “I got that, what was the bit about the map through? Are you sure it’s actually a map?”

“Absolutely certain.”

“What’s so important about where the map is showing?”

“Well, I’m assuming my mom intends to meet us there.”

“I thought you said she couldn’t visit you?”

“She can’t. It sounds like she’s going to make a run for it with the rest of my family.”

“And what if it isn’t a rendezvous point?”

“Then it must be a supply cache or something else of importance.”

“Do you think we might be able to split off from Rolland and his team long enough to check it out?”

“They seem friendly enough, maybe we could take them with us.”

“We only just met them!”

“And they stuck their necks out for us before they even met us. You know deep down that they are good people.”

“That doesn’t mean that we should bring them in on something that could potentially get the rest of your family killed. Think about what could happen if someone overheard your mother’s plan!”

Clearly not convinced, Sylvia quickly points out, “She doesn’t seem too terribly worried about it, she told Gideon enough of it that she could have been shot the moment he told the wrong person.”

Shaking his head, Maverick groans, “I don’t like this one bit.”

“What if we waited a few more days to check out the spot?” Sylvia presses anxiously.

Maverick can tell that this meant a lot to her, but he still wasn’t convinced that going straight to the location Sylvia had told him about was the wisest course of action. Frowning, Maverick asks, “Was there any indication of when we should get there?”

“No,” Sylvia admits as her head drops down in defeat.

“That’s strange,” Maverick breathes, mostly to himself. He purses his lips as he slowly nods in thought.

“What do you think about it?” Sylvia inquires cautiously. Maverick can tell that Sylvia still wanted to check the spot out, but he really couldn’t bring himself to agree to such a plan so soon.

“I don’t like it, it just seems too… convenient? I don’t know, something just doesn’t seem right about all of it.”

“What if it’s where my mom wants us to set up our campsite? Maybe she scouted out a good spot and wants us somewhere she can find us when she makes her move.”

“If it was then why didn’t she tell Gideon about it? She barely told him anything as far as I can tell.”

“She probably thought that we would just follow her directive without question. Maybe she thought we would see it as a Godsend, you know?”

“Maybe,” Maverick shrugs, “But we can worry about all that later. Right now you need sleep and I need to stand watch.”

“Will you think about it?”

“You know I will,” Maverick pledges with a chuckle. He was a thinker and everyone knew it. Hardly a second went by that he wasn’t thinking about something important that could shift the tide of his future.

Sylvia looks Maverick in the eyes for a few too many seconds before she abruptly spins around and makes for her bedroll. Once she is a few paces away, Maverick lets his shoulders slouch a bit and he lets out a slow breath. He knew that he would have to check out the spot that Sylvia is now so intent on visiting but he didn’t like the thought of it. According to Gideon, the flashlight had been in the hands of Paradise’s guards for a while. There was a chance that they might have tampered with the lens that Sylvia said was etched on and they could have made the map themselves. For all he knew this could be a part of an overly elaborate trap.

Maverick shudders as the next thought hits him, What if this is all a plot to frame Sylvia’s mother and get her killed? What if they use this as an excuse to enlist Sylvia’s siblings into this horrible, star-crossed mission to reclaim the planet?

Maverick decides to pace as he considers his next moves and he circles the camp several times. After nearly a half-hour of fruitless plotting, Maverick leans against a tree a short way off from the fire that one of Rolland’s people are tending to. Something was keeping him from forming a worthwhile plan. As he saw it, it had to be something about the mix of the fresh air, Maverick’s newfound freedom, and the events of the day.

Maverick’s mind wanders to what he could do to regain his focus when his eyes begin to wander. He cocks his head slightly when he sees that Sylvia had moved her bedroll much closer to where Gideon is sleeping, and his heart skips a beat. Is Gideon stealing Sylvia from me? Maverick asks himself as his muscles tense up noticeably. Releasing the tight fist that he made, Maverick realizes that his face had flushed as jealousy momentarily overtook him. Cocking his head slightly, Maverick thinks, I’m not even dating Sylvia, why should I care? I’m not even into her! We’re friends, sure but—

“Hey, mind if I ask you a question?” Maverick hears a voice ask from behind him.

Jumping slightly, Maverick is ripped away from his thoughts. Turning to the intruder, Maverick does his best to act unfazed, “Go ahead, Rolland.”

“Can you tell me what the fuss is about with that flashlight?” Rolland quietly asks. He looks around and adds, “I wasn’t eavesdropping or anything, I just caught Sylvia and Gideon with it, and they were very interested in it. Should I be worried about anything?”

“I don’t think it’s anything to be worried about quite yet,” Maverick shrugs, there was no use in lying about it. Maverick wasn’t even sure what the map could mean, and he wasn’t about to visit its location either. That was a task for another day. Maverick glances to the person who is tending the fire and whispers, “But can you keep the flashlight thing between you and me?”

“Sure,” Rolland nods as he gives Maverick a strange look.

Maverick is sure that Rolland is wondering what the big deal was, but he hoped that he wouldn’t ask too many more questions about it. There were still too many variables and unanswered questions for Maverick to be able to pull together one cohesive thought about the whole thing.

“Hey, Rolls, you taking over for me?” the person at the fire asks before either Maverick or Rolland can say something else to each other.

“Just a sec,” Rolland requests. Turning back to Maverick he asks, “Think we need to talk about what’s going on now, or do you want to put that off until the morning?”

“I can’t get anything done right now so let’s make the most of our time,” Maverick shrugs. In a way, he is happy to have a distraction to pull him away from the torrent of conflicting thoughts that are racing through his head right now. Briefing Rolland on what I knew might help me to gather my thoughts. I’m not getting anywhere on my own. Plus, it can’t hurt to pick Rolland’s brain on everything he knows about life out here, Maverick reasons.

“Yeah, I’m taking over for you,” Rolland tells the person at the fire before he motions with his head for Maverick to follow him to the fireside.

“So, where would you like me to start?” Maverick asks, knowing that Rolland would be a lot more forthcoming with information if he answered all of Rolland’s questions right off the bat.

“Well, first I’d like to know what the deal was with your friends who shot at you,” Rolland quickly replies, “But I really want to know everything.”

“That’s quite the steep request,” Maverick chuckles. Taking a seat by the fire, Maverick then proceeds to fill Rolland in on everything—or at least everything that he thought wouldn’t endanger Sylvia’s family.

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