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Chapter 11

"This section..." said Cass, "houses our vegetables. We have samples of carrots, potato, turnip and bean plants amongst other root based varieties" a hint of pride ran through her voice as she spoke. She pointed down one of the pathways which forked off the main route, "we have a series of vine based plants ranging from tomato and bean plants to grapes and certain types of berry located in that section, while further back we have a successful herb section. Fruits and arboreal tree species are down that path" she continued pointing toward another path, "and we have established numerous flowering species of plant and certain types of grass down this path..."

"These pipes" said Aston indicating toward several thin tubes which ran down the sides of the soil, leading off in every direction across the dome. "Do they cover the entire dome?"

"Yes" replied Cass, "the excessive water collected from the rainfall is processed through several systems until the refined safe water is distributed into the colony and here...where it is fed directly into the gardens through our intricate irrigation system". Cass pushed back several large fronds of a large plant which spilled into the path and revealed an elevated tap on the edge of the plant bed. "The water can also be accessed manually if additional supplies are needed" she explained.

Aston ran his hand along the tap, tracing the line of the pipe. "with no corruption in the pipe system..."

"What do you mean?" asked Cass.

"The domes..." started the Reverend, "are all showing signs of stress caused from the rainfall. Excessive rust which is degrading the outside surface to such an extent that many of them may be in danger of corruption, yet here..." he stood to his full expanse and waved across the vegetation which lay about them, "there are no signs of rust...decay...or stress of any kind"

"It's due to our refinery..." said Lorraine interjecting herself into the conversation. "The water used within the colony is safe for consumption, both orally and indirectly through irrigation into the soil here...within Faith itself" she smiled toward Aston and Lotti as she spoke as though finally she had something positive to report. "Any excessive water...or waste produce are return to the refinery and reprocessed into safe water"

"Waste water?" enquired Aston.

"You don't mean...?" injected Lotti.

"Yes I do..." boasted Lorraine. "The water supply is completely self-sustaining and completely recycled. All water which would normally be wasted through washing or flushing is recycled through the refinery and redistributed into the clean water supply"

"What about the waste?" asked Lotti incredulously, "the human waste" she emphasized.

"That is also reprocessed" said Lorraine simply. "Everything within Hope and beyond is limited and thus all resources must be utilized to its full potential...and that includes human waste, dirty water, produce and any natural resource. If we are too survive on this planet we must be prepared to do so by any means necessary during our initialization"

Lotti leant close to Aston and whispered, "remind me not to drink the water". He smiled at her reaction and placed a hand on her shoulder.

"You seem to have to very efficient system in place Madame" he said.

"And yet you are here" a male voice boomed through the dome and the group turned to face the newcomers. Striding down the path toward them strode the imposing figure of Dillonger Creed, with the smaller figure of Cole trailing behind him. Aston regarded the figure as he strode confidently through the dome, casually batting aside leaves and branches which overhung the path. His frame was large and his physique was thick set, he had a mean looking face and his eyes darted about him as he walked as though searching for either a safe escape route or...and more likely thought Aston searching for a victim. This was a hunter, with a hunter’s attitude, here was his snake in Eden surmised Aston as Creed stood before the group. The two men stood staring each other down, challenging their opposite in silent defiance.

It was Lorraine who broke the silence between the two, "What is the meaning of this intrusion!" she demanded.

"Please Madame Norton" said Creed, still staring into the eyes of Aston. "I am not here looking for a fight" he spoke calmly and carefully, "simply to introduce myself to our illustrate guest"

"You are not welcome..."

"Madame! I am welcome everywhere" said Creed, "you of all people should know that". The stare of Creed was powerful and intense, but matched in every way by Aston who stared straight back at Creed refusing to back down in their silent battle of will. "As you have probably not been told Father, I am the true power behind the colony" he smiled and held out his hand in greeting toward the Reverend, but never allowing his eyes to fall away from those of the Reverend. "My name is Dillonger Creed...and everything which runs through this colony runs through my organization"

Aston smiled kindly toward his adversity, "and yet Mr. Creed, it was not you who called for my assistance"

"That was a mistake" cooed Creed softly. "your presence is not needed" he threatened, "you are not wanted here and I would suggest you leave before..." he allowed his voice to trail off to let the extent of his words strike their mark. If they did, then it did not show on the face of the Reverend.

"I am sorry Mr. Creed, but it is you that is not welcome here". said Aston. "My authorization is fully sanctioned with the Earth council and my orders come directly from H.O.S.T itself. I do not recognise you as anything within this colony and neither does my organization" he emphasized the word organization as he spoke echoing the statement made by Creed only moments before. "Too me Mr. Creed, you are simply a commodity...nothing more, nothing less"

"Don't fuck with me Vicar" spat Creed.

"Reverend..." corrected Aston.

"As I said, Vicar...don't fuck with me. Otherwise it could be the last thing you ever do..."

"Is that a threat Mr. Creed?" asked Aston, a smile flickering over his face.

"No Vicar...it is a promise". The threat hung between the two and caused members of the group to step back expecting trouble between the two antagonists. Creed allowed his gaze to shift from the Reverend for the first time noticing the figure of Lotti hiding behind the back of Aston. "And what sweet little thing do we have here" he purred smiling and pushed his hand through his hair pushing it back down in place on his head. "Come here child"

Lotti cowered behind Aston and watched as Creed moved his position to gain a better vantage point. Cass noted as Creed moved closer and around the Reverend, the holy man never moved during any of the brief exchange between Creed and Lotti, simply stood staring ahead as though frozen to the spot. Lotti in contrast backed away until her foot slipped of the path and sank into the soft soil behind her. Her hand fell to the book close to her and she pulled it from its pocket on the belt around her waist and she pulled it close to her chest and whispered through a clenched mouth. "Although I walk through the valley of darkness..." she whispered clutching the book tight to herself. She could feel the leather bound cover through her cloak as she continued her mantra, "I shall feel no fear...even within the presence of evil"

Laughter made Lotti open her eyes and she recoiled in horror as Creed stood before her. "My dear...I'm not evil" he purred, "I'm good" he smiled and leant close to her ear, "I've been told...I'm very good". She could feel the hot breath from Creed against her cheek as he spoke.

"Creed...please. She's only a child" said Cass.

"And I could make her a woman" said Creed. He reached out and stroked her cheek causing Lotti to flinch under his touch. There was a blur of movement as the Reverend suddenly spun in his position and rushed forward grasping Creed from behind. He grabbed at his arm and pulled it sharply up Creed's back and used his weight to push the pair down into the vegetation. Creed struggled under the suddenness and ferocity of the attack, but the grasp of the Reverend and his position with his arm high up between his shoulder blades made it difficult for him to fight back. A steely look of determination crossed the face of Aston as he used his free arm to grab of other arm of Creed and using his body weight pushed him heavily into the ground. With Creed on the floor, the Reverend shifted his position and placed his knee over the pinned arm and with his hand free he placed it onto the head of Creed and pushed it into the soft soil, covering part of his face.

Aston leant close to Creed's ear and he whispered, "be warned Mr. Creed I do not take threats kindly" he warned.

"You won't harm me" said Creed spitting out soil as he spoke through gritted teeth. "Your vows..."

"That is where you are wrong Mr. Creed". He pulled his hair allowing Creed to free his face from the soil. "See Lotti..." he whispered pushing Creed's face back into the dirt. "She wears white, not because of her age...not because she is learning, but because she is pure. I on the other hand..." he paused pushing Creed's face further into the soil, "have darkness in my heart. I joined the order to cleanse my soul, but I will not hesitate to use my skills to defend the weak". Aston released his grip and stood in the midst of thick foliage and used his habit to wipe his hands of the soil. "I have dealt with people like you before..." he said speaking over his shoulder as he pushed his way back onto the path "and you do not scare me. We will meet again Mr. Creed and next time I may not be as forgiving" Aston stood on the path and turned to face the trail of devastation in his wake. "Please forgive my actions Madame Norton...Cass...it appears I may have damaged some of your crops".

"That is quite alright Father" said Lorraine smirking.

"If we could continue..." he said and moved away down the path.

Creed pushed himself out of the dirt and spat soil from his mouth. "Cole!" he roared. As Cole emerged from the foliage he could see traces of soil falling from Creed's face as his employer rubbed his skin from the evidence of the altercation. "Where the fuck was you!" he roared. Cole stood looking through the plants as Creed stood. He had never seen his employer manhandled like this before, and it had scared him.

"I... well..."

"I'm not interested" yelled Creed. "I will see that vicar dead" he stormed as he pushed his way past Cole and onto the pathway. "Get me Banjo" he ordered through dirt encrusted teeth, "I will meet you both back at my dome" Cole watched as Creed stormed his way along the path, heading toward the main hatch with a feeling a dread sweeping over his body. This won't end well, he thought as he followed at a distance, his eyes casting a quick sideways glance into the distance where the Reverend was still inspecting other plants within the Bio-Dome.

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