The Twelfth Chapter
All creatures should strive to become the God, those who do not, are food. – Gnomon.
When Fawn was finally released from the doctors’ incessant jabbing and poking she had gained nearly six pounds for no apparent reason and she had some severe pain radiating from her pelvic region. On their way to the Districts to find Fawn’s brother, Rodela told her that it was from the egg extraction, there would be more pain and bloating, which Fawn could deal with, but what made her wince was that there could be children walking around with her face, children that would never know who their mother was, or did and never cared to know her. What troubled her most was that it was only the father that mattered, and only one father, Deicide. He was the only man whose genetic material seemed to be involved in this elaborate breeding program. How did they hope to restart a race with these grossly inbred children?
Fawn had asked what Rodela had thought of it, and the woman had only shrugged her well-muscled shoulders. Being one of the many daughters of Deicide, Fawn thought the woman would have some type of opinion on the matter, but she had only curled her lips and raised her eyebrows, as many eaters did when they were indifferent. But just as Fawn had noticed this similar gesture they shared, did she notice that Rodela was missing the antennas, and the sharp fingers, though her teeth had begun to sharpen. However, sharpened teeth were an eater trait, and anyone, even those born human, would eventually lose their Milk Teeth, and grow multiple rows like a shark.
Fawn was disturbed and fascinated by these personal evolutionary traits people had picked up. How some high level eaters even began to take on animal-like qualities, on speaking with Rodela though, she was told that only the most vicious and monstrous of the eaters became things of legend. The wars that had turned Hellmouth and the Great White into living gods were mostly gone now, and the scuffles of the Districts was the only place where any sort of excitement or advancement in career was to be had, at least according to Rodela.
In the time she had been onboard Fawn had come to trust Rodela, the woman seemed to place Fawn’s needs at high priority, making sure she was settled in her quarters and that she made all of her appointments on time. It was strange that someone of her skill and talent was being used as a nanny. With a few selected moments of careful prodding, Fawn had encouraged the woman to reveal some more of herself.
“Was your mother a soldier?” Fawn said.
“She was a scout,” Rodela said. “They map out the area surrounding the Corridor.”
The Corridor was behind a door that led into the bridge of the silent ship, Antikythera, the vessel of the pretender god, the Demiurge. The sacred texts said that the crew of the vessel was sacrificed to create the Abstrusian people, but the atheistic race the Abstrusians had become said that the crew themselves, humans, were the original Abstrusians, evolved from living on board a star ship for millions of years.
“It’s so dangerous they don’t even let anyone do it anymore, well except for the nutjobs, the Sicariis,” Rodela said.
“Sicariis?” Fawn said.
“The ones with the yellow eyes,” Rodela said. “They say its vestige sickness you never get over. Poisons your brain, you hear voices and see things. They all think Deicide is a god.”
The women entered the Risk Eater precinct where Fawn’s brother was stationed, half the lights were off; people passed out with their booted feet propped up on cluttered desks. The place smelled of burnt coffee, one of the milder stimulants accessible to the crew. A senior administrator squinted at the women as they crept in, she hurriedly tried to straighten the personal clutter scattered on her desk, three dimensional images of children sat inside clear globes, a digital calendar embedded in her desk was partly obscured by remnants of lunches, a slim cascade of cheddar cheese ran off an old burrito wrapper onto an stained coffee lid where it lay frozen in a stiff yellow pool. The sides of her mouth pulled into a weak little smile as she greeted Fawn and Rodela. Rodela squirmed a bit, embarrassed by the display, but Fawn grinned as she expected it from a shop her brother was a part of. Over the last few days she had heard of the famed 001 Precinct, ace Risk Eaters who many thought acted as Deicide’s secret police. They were headed by an old eater named Doug Fitch, affectionately known as Dogface in the military community; he was constantly at odds with their seemingly undisciplined and listless behavior. One only had to glance at their quarterly reports, if anyone could find them, to realize the division always recorded unequaled results.
“Yes?” the administrator said; the emblem of the Risk Eaters, a star crossed with a sword and shield, hung on the wall behind her.
“Alpha here?” Rodela said.
“Yep, go on back,” she said, buzzing them in. The two women traversed the dimly lit office until they came to a crimson headed man stowing his Skid into a locker. He turned toward them with a stupid look on his face, and then beamed when he saw Fawn’s face. She attached herself to his neck and let out a loud noise. Fawn immediately began to ask him dozens of questions, giving him little time to answer any of them. Quickly they said their goodbyes to Rodela and headed back to Alpha’s apartment, inside the Aeolipile.
“All this for you?” Fawn said, twirling around the living room.
“This is pretty much the standard for Lieutenants,” Alpha said, throwing his bag in the corner.
“This is unreal,” she said, making her way to the other rooms. Alpha began to rummage around in the kitchen, while Fawn returned with female garments.
“Put those back,” he said.
“She good to you?” she said.
“Yeah,” he said.
“Mom and Dad would be happy,” she said, returning the clothing where she found them.
“Why didn’t you call, Alpha?” she said.
“Wasn’t allowed, or able to. They kept telling me they’d pick you up sooner or later, and they came through,” he said, rummaging through the cold storage before finally retrieving two beers. They were cylindrical in shape, but they looked nothing like the bottles and cans human distilleries used. He waggled one at Fawn and threw one her way like a baseball. Fawn was surprised by how light it was, the container seemed as though it would never hold its shape if it was squeezed, but it was remarkably sturdy.
“Wow, chain of command telling the truth, Fawn said.
“This place is nothing like home. Captain’s orders are the word of god here,” he said, collapsing on the couch. Fawn followed him into the living room.
“So you like what you do?” she said, giving him a hard stare.
“Ah, c’mon. What’s that look for?” he said. “It’s not even my job. I’m a cop.”
“So you condone it?” she said.
“It’s not like we have much of a choice,” he said. “But maybe my outlook is better because I was recruited.”
“They just came and got you?” she said.
“Yeah. I got to meet the Captain in person,” he said.
“What? And he just lured you into his ship like the fucking Pied Piper?” she said.
“Actually…” he said.
“For fucks sake, Alfie. Are you telling me you didn’t fight back?” she said.
“It’s not that simple,” he said, sitting up.
“The judge awaits your rebuttal,” Fawn said, crossing her legs. She took a quick sip of her beer.
“First of all, he’s not like those stuffy Homosolium Nobles. He’s friendly, real persuasive. It didn’t make any sense to fight him,” Alpha said. Fawn glared at him, she was completely unconvinced. They were members of a proud clan; the Dearborne’s had been warriors and weapon smiths for ages. Fawn could not believe her little brother was capable of displaying such cowardice.
“Why not?” Fawn said.
“He’s…you know like in those old stories, the ones where people talked to the sky?” He said
“You mean the Bible?” She said.
“Yeah. He’s like one of those crazy prophets.” He said.
Fawn sighed. “What the fuck? I thought you said he was a nice guy?” Fawn said.
“That’s the scary thing. He really is. He told us he was here to save us; that the universe was going to collapse on itself,” Alpha said.
“And you believed that?” Fawn said.
“We had no choice but to believe. He was taking us whether we wanted to go or not,” Alpha said.
“I’m still disappointed, especially in how you believe you’re helping these people,” Fawn said.
“We are,” Alpha said.
“These people are indentured servants, including you, but for the promise of what?” Fawn said.
“A fresh start in a new world,” Alpha said.
Fawn stretched her hands out. “This place? Your bachelor pad isn’t that nice,” she said.
“Whether you agree or not Fawn, the universe is dying; I want to be on the side that’s doing something about it,” he said.
Fawn tried to hide her revulsion, she thought herself foolish for even being here. Once again she and the family she had left were at the whims of a noble. But she supposed it was easier to humor this madman than stand against him.
On days Fawn did not have indoctrination training, Alpha took his older sister on tours of the nicer areas onboard, not every District was a metropolis teetering on the edges of failure. There were special Districts assigned for crew member housing, entertainment and leisure; she enjoyed the safe and exciting nightlife of Penumbra, and the white beaches of Zephyr. Somewhere inside her she sensed that these paradises were propped up by something sinister, food was always fresh and abundant, the air and water was pristine, and crime of any type was nearly nonexistent. Such perfection had to be considered suspect to anyone with a fractionally functioning brain. She often imagined that the nobles and those that lived easy in this world would never desire to see the suffering which made their comfort possible. Pressing her brother harder about the Truth, he eventually told her of the problems within the countless District platters that the Aeolipile towed behind her.
Alpha reluctantly decided to escort Fawn to the District which he was assigned, Privy, one of the more recent problem communities, only saved from the Fringes because of their high energy output. With heavy rebel influence within, heinous crime was rampant, local police and Risk Eaters were taxed with prioritizing protection of the citizens or stopping the forces which sought to dethrone Deicide. To compete with the Risk Eater’s physical advantage, rebels and criminals often modified certain parts of their anatomy. Even though cybernetic implants were illegal, criminals still found access to the contraband. There existed individuals that were completely cybernetic except for their brains.
They had only been on the streets a few moments before a battle spilled out from a nearby alley. Men covered in dark coats wielding black spine blades and submachine guns chased hooded rebels into oncoming traffic. The rebel youths fired handguns at their pursuers; the bullets thudded against their dark coats and fell to the ground. After they had emptied their weapons, they stood there shouting obscenities while the long coated personnel checked their watches, a sooty smoke rose from their collars as they spoke to one another. Most of the innocent bystanders had already made their way up the street and into side shops and private residences.
The men holding the spine blades put away their submachine guns, and from where she was Fawn could see the arsenal of weapons one of the men had tucked into the lining of his coat, spotting grenades, multiple handguns, knives, and even parts of an RPG. They then began to attack the now weaponless rebels, hacking them into wet dog food as the rebels screamed curses at their assailants. Fawn clenched her fists and moved closer to her brother, who was staring at the bedlam with a smirk on his face. A ragged truck full of rebel reinforcement power slid into one of coated men. The man was thrown several dozen feet into a busy intersection. Seemingly unhurt, he hopped up and returned fire indiscriminately as civilian cars swerved to avoid his bullets.
“What the fuck is this? Aren’t you gonna call this in?” Fawn said, as Alpha pulled her inside a shop. They continued watching from behind the safety of the shatterproof windows.
“Nah. See those guys in the coats? Grief Givers. They’re our allies,” Alpha said.
“You’ve gotta be shitting me,” Fawn said.
“They’re scum, but they drive everyone back into the arms of the government,” Alpha said. Fawn watched as the rebels were turned into fresh stains on the sidewalk. Then the Grief Givers disappeared into the alleys just as the Risk Eater’s sirens began to blare from a few blocks away. Fawn was sickened by the monstrous parade, the Risk Eaters arrived and a few pretended to give chase, while the others called in medics to scrape the luckless rogues off the pavement. She then looked to her brother with a scowl on her face, questioning the stories she had heard of his bravery.
“Then what’s your job?” Fawn said.
“The Griefers keep the schmucks in line, the upstarts with a few crumpled bills and a dream. If they survive the violence and extortion on the streets and managed to build something vaguely paramilitary, then we step in,” Alpha said.
“It’s fucked up. I didn’t see this on the way in. Why would you have the puppies guarding the gate?” Fawn said.
“No one’s a threat until they see the inside of the Districts. It’s the tanks, planes and other toys that make us weak, if you can believe it,” Alpha said. Fawn thought back to the raid she had witnessed, on a loose leash by a senior instructor, the Deathless recruits were free to test their abilities, vaulting through the streets, dodging rockets and shells, they looked more like ballet dancers and gymnasts than soldiers. The Grief Givers were stiff demonic pariahs compared with the charismatic and lively Risk Eaters. For the first time since she was a girl she wanted to meet a noble, to stare him down and see if he actually believed in the orders his subjects were slaves to. The more she saw of the Districts the more she began to hate Deicide and the poison he had injected into the mind of her brother. The grand speeches he wretched up about success and opportunity were not his words. Alpha was no fool, but those passionate lines about duty and universal law had been written by a professional, she doubted that even the Captain had such talent with his words.
Once they were back inside the safety of the Aeolipile, Alpha led Fawn to the Risk Eater gymnasium. Even after what she had seen of the ship, it still looked like an impossibly large space. There were multi-tiered levels, each filled teams of personnel all engaging in a wide range of sports and activities. They both were dressed out in PT gear, the gray and blue of the Risk Eaters, except Alpha had on his Skid underneath. He had explained to Fawn about the many things the suit was capable of, even shown her first hand that standard small arms ammunition was not enough to puncture the suit. As the siblings began to spar Fawn noticed Baby Sister enter with Rodela and a few other men and women she had not met. Alpha waved and they strolled over, the whole time Fawn and Baby Sister’ eyes were locked on each other.
“Why you got your Skid on? New talent giving you some trouble?” Baby Sister said.
“Nah. Just showing her a few things,” Alpha said.
“I got a few tricks she can use,” Baby Sister said.
“No thanks,” Fawn said; turning away from her and nearly chest-to-chest with Alpha, he began to whisper to her.
“I know you’re not one to run from an ass kicking, but training is going to be rough if you don’t earn their respect. They’re wearing the Captain’s tag,” Alpha said. Fawn sighed and nodded slowly, then immediately she spun and landed a kick into Baby Sister’s side.
Baby Sister caught Fawn’s ankle, before her foot could do much damage. “Nice, but I’m the Queen of Dirty around here,” Baby Sister said, throwing Fawn’s leg away. The shorter woman curled into a boxing stance, her tiny fists wrapped in white tape. Fawn knew the woman was unable to form a killbox without the filtered vestige material being pumped into her spine, but she was still cautious, she did not want to be knocked out in front of her little brother. Fawn dodged the quick, but stubby straights; what Baby Sister lacked in height was doubled when it came to her speed. An uppercut whizzed by Fawn’s chin and grazed her cheek as Baby Sister launched herself into the air. The crowd that had gathered began to cheer, everyone knew Fawn had not even entered training yet, but no one dared to stop the fight. Senior Instructors actually began to take bets on the women.
Fawn watched as Baby Sister slipped her jabs easily, she began to panic as she felt a repeat of the events before were about to happen. She wondered if perhaps the inert vestige material was just a small secret to the Deathless’ power. A solid hook snapped Fawn’s head to the right, but she remained on her feet, eyes bulging, sucking sterile air into her lungs. Immediately she took hold of Baby Sister and tried to muscle a takedown, but her force was used against her and Fawn was spun away. Before she could stand a biting kick punished her ribs. The second one she caught and the two women became entangled, wrestling for position, until Fawn was on the shorter woman’s back, squeezing her throat. She began to apply intense pressure to her neck, even as Baby Sister rammed solid elbows into her gut, Fawn did not let go. The excitement and the pain had her blood up; she could hear her younger brother shouting through the unintelligible screams. Her gums began to bleed and dripped through her grimace, she could smell panic radiating from Baby Sister, not from death, but from a potential embarrassment, which many eaters would argue was much worse.
Fawn screamed as her grip began to wear out, Baby Sister was shaking, but her muscles seemed to find new vigor. Finally Fawn could hold on no longer and Baby Sister whirled to face Fawn belly-to-belly. As she cocked back her small fist, Fawn reached up and pulled the woman toward her and bit into Baby Sister’s bicep. She clamped down with as much force as she could; trying to tear away the threaded muscle. Suddenly the crowd was upon them, wrenching them a part, Baby Sister screamed as Fawn bit down harder, until finally ripping away a small portion of skin from her arm. A fury was surrounding Fawn, people were screaming as they pinned her to the deck. Her brother was holding her cheeks and attempting to sooth her mood, but she could not understand anything he was saying. All she could hear was an extraneous voice inside her head, loud, but not angry, reaching to her from across a stretch of space impossible to traverse, even with all the power the infinite universes could supply, it would always remain out of her reach. The voice was grave and female, singing to her a sad epic of the end of all existence. It assured her, that all life would eventually end soon; it was up to her to decide how. Would her children and those born to her children ever after, die without ever knowing the warm kiss of a morning sun? Would they live their entire lives imprisoned in this can, left to fight each other like starved dogs once the life support could no longer handle the load?
A medic shoved his way through the crowd and injected Fawn with a vial of halcyonic cider. As the chemical rushed through her blood stream she began to see odd shapes and strange creatures float through the air above her. A hard faced old woman with gold teeth was standing over her. Behind this woman she could see giant ghost fish swimming through holes in the overhead. Before her eyes was a black dot that bled from a focal point high into the ceiling, as she was jostled all around in the hovering stretcher it never moved. It seemed unreasonably far away, she reached up out of the stretcher to point at the little dot, only to have her hand swatted back inside by a corpsman. Then she watched as it began to grow larger before her eyes, stretching and spreading itself until it was the only thing she could see. Eventually she was engulfed in its cold darkness, just barely able to hear the goings on of the outside world, and yet she was here, in this black nowhere. Imprisoned in this strange inner space, the darkness around her was moving, now that she was aware of its organic quality. The entity surrounding her was ancient, mistrustful of her youthful presence. At first she wondered if this presence was God. She smirked as she tossed the thought aside; finally determining that she had died and this was all there was to report should she ever awaken from this nightmare. This Deicide was bound to be disappointed, she thought. Then she could feel this entity was protecting something, an egg perhaps, or maybe a child? She reached out once more and was met with enormous oily yellow eyes; they contracted to long and slender lines, glaring at her with malice and suspicion.
Even in what Fawn thought was the end of her existence she was defiant, even as the gigantic eyes saw into her being, she could feel the black tendrils covering her legs and breasts. The creature heaved in laughter at her suffering and shame; slowly her nails began to pull away from her fingers and toes, black needles punctured her skin and muscle, tendrils attached themselves at all of her joints. Then Fawn grit her teeth as she prepared to be torn into several pieces by the brutal force she could feel welling up in this creature, a muffled moan escaped from her belly and out through her cracked lips. From her own mind sprung chaotic laughter, mocking her with biting insults. Well, if this is the end, she thought; then at least I was right.