“Sòngyáng shì wŭng Shénfù,” Copper said as he closed the door, sequestering himself in his prayer closet. “Praise be to God.” The room he used for prayer was, at one time, a refrigerated storage area, inside of a small storeroom outside of Looking Glass’ infirmary.
When he’d come aboard ship to become its medic, they’d offered him his choice of the guest berths. Instead, he’d taken over the small storeroom, moved in a single bed and some modest furniture, and emptied out the broken-down refrigeration unit. A Shepherd’s quarters didn’t need to be anything opulent, and the berths, while far from majestic, were better served for transporting paying customers.
He knelt in front of the utility ottoman that he’d stripped down and turned into a makeshift altar, and lowered his head. Copper wasn’t worried about crashing. He’d come to trust the skills of the Brothers ‘zeru over the last couple of months. The talk of going down in flames was just that: talk. Still, a little prayer never hurt.
After a moment’s silent reflection, wherein he’d asked for a safe landing, and for the Lord to touch the boys’ hearts and souls, he opened his eyes again and unlocked the small drawer in the altar. Sliding it out, he took out two photographs and placed them next to the brass cross that had been bolted to the old ottoman.
One picture was beginning to show the wear of a long-held memory. It showed a beautiful young woman with long, curly hair tinted red over auburn in the light of Paquin’s small moon. The second photo was the same woman, twenty-five years later, with two children, a boy in his mid-teens and a girl just entering puberty, standing outside of an antique shop on their first trip to Beaumonde.
He prayed over both pictures, then kissed them both and placed the second one back in the drawer, closing and locking it. The first picture was placed in a small stand behind a glass used for holding votive candles. He put a fresh, red candle into the holder and lit it beneath the picture. The light reflected off the glossy finish and bounced around his face as the flame flickered.
“Don’t worry, Addie,” he said to the photograph. “I’m not joinin’ you just yet.”
Rising slowly, not for ceremony but more because he was a man in his early fifties, he stepped out of the prayer closet, closed the door, and sat down on his bunk. “Probably a good time to belt in, Shepherd,” said Tyler’s voice, speaking through the comms. “Looks to get a mite bumpy.”
Copper smiled to himself and opened the top drawer of his dresser. Pulling out the Holy Bible, one book among many, he pulled down the door to his quarters, climbed out to the hallway, and made his way to the common area. Choosing a seat from which he could see through the cockpit window, and sat down and read out loud, Proverbs 29:25… both for comfort and, admittedly, a little humor.
“The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe.”
“What was that, Shepherd?” Durden asked, honestly having not heard him clearly through the sounds of grinding metal from a taxed ship trying to fight gravity.
“I was askin’ God to keep me safe in case it was your ‘time’,” he said, a bit louder.
Durden looked back at the old man with a smile. “You ever think it might be your time?”
Copper tipped his hat back and got comfortable, looking at the ceiling. “Not even a little,” he answered honestly, loud enough to be heard, while locking the seat belt on the emergency landing seat. Then, low enough that he knew no one could hear, he added one last thought. “It’d be way too easy…”.