The Fifteenth Chapter
I heard a knock at the door today. It was the Monster; he had stopped by previous times to take me up on a rain check for tea. I felt awful for turning him down so many times before, and today, I decided to finally let him in. There we sat in my parlor; catching up on the adventures we had apart. Eventually his toned changed, as he felt we had some business to take care of, he told me most curtly. I looked directly into his eyes, which were not much different than my own, observant, a little sad. My features did not stray far from his, but he made the room less inviting somehow. The darkness, ever present, urges us to shake hands. Then I am sitting where he was and there is no one, where I had been. – Excerpt from an old Abstrusian tale.
Deicide was alone in his war room, the lights were low and the Abyss had stretched herself out on the forward wall and into the overhead behind Deicide, her oily tendrils hung from the lighting and rafters like a black, creeping web. He was seated at a large oval table while the Abyss spun him around with a black tendril. Behind him, partially obscured by the Abyss was a large chart of the universe they were currently venturing through. He waved his hand over the armrest to activate the holographic controls for the wall display; he continued to zoom further and further out to view the space he had covered in his life time, highlighted in blue. He grinned when he thought of the marvel that was his Aeolipile; he felt Nott had given him the greatest gift anyone could ever receive, every hour of the day she would take exorbitant amounts of matter into her holds, using the raw resources to increase her size, stars, planets, asteroids, all crushed like trinkets and scoffed inside her metal works to be smelted and crafted. The Deathless fought and rounded up any inhabitants they came across, the Aeolipile was like an enormous snowball that increased its size with every rotation.
He let a sigh escape from his chest and then allowed himself to be twirled in his chair again. Deicide turned his thoughts to the power vacuum created by Nott’s departure, it still hurt him to think about her being on the ship and yet never being able to see her. Rightfully, the Twins deserved to take on Nott’s authority, it was what they had been groomed for, but Deicide did not favor their tone, they spoke to him as if he were some adorable mascot, a pet which would rally the troops before a battle. The Aeolipile had been created to serve his aspirations; it had been him alone who had spilled blood to protect Nott and the Aeolipile in their rough beginnings. He recalled the countless times he had returned to the ship having had his appendages lopped off, or been blinded by enemy attack. In those early days there existed no quick cure for limb rehabilitation; he had to endure the slow knitting process as the spare carcasses had been used for fuel so the Aeolipile could dive into this dimension. He stopped turning as the Abyss amplified the sound of someone approaching. The great doors slid open to reveal Hellmouth; she had her digital organizer tucked under her arm and placed it in her designated chair as she passed. She sat in Nott’s chair next to Deicide and twisted him until he was facing her.
Hellmouth looked into his eyes a moment before she spoke. “Nobody’s out to get you,” she said.
“The Twins are. They want to make me into a hand puppet,” he said.
“They’re just trying to step up; they wanna be what Nott was to you,” she said. Deicide’s eyes widened, he grew tired of people speaking about Nott as if she was dead.
Deicide blew an icy fog from between his teeth. “Do I need yet another mother?” Deicide said. “Few are worthy of talking down to me.”
“We just wanna help. You were always a smart kid, but nobody can do it on their own. Even Nott had an army of thinkers and she was a genius,” she said. Deicide sighed and nodded.
“Now what you gonna do to make this right?” she said. Deicide leaned in to kiss her cheek, just as she took hold of his antennas.
“Don’t you ever try to punk me in front of the recruits,” she said.
“Ow. Alright,” Deicide said, before she released him. Then she tapped her dimpled cheek with her index finger, Deicide kissed her and relaxed in his chair, groaning at the Abyss’ choir of giggles. His antennas were the most sensitive parts of his body, more than his testicles or the fine hairs on his neck. Squeezing them was the equivalent of punching a bear in the nose, it took restraint not to lash out at the person that did so. He rubbed his watery eyes as Hellmouth returned to her seat. The door slid open again and Great White and Ichor stepped in and gave the pair questioning looks.
“What’s the matter, Mama slapped you?” White said, showing his fangs as he chuckled. He sat on the edge of the table poking Deicide in the chest.
“Leave him alone, we’re fine,” Hellmouth said. Ichor crept into his seat just as the rest of the executives and heavy brass showed up. Everyone piled in and volleyed greetings, the military filled in the chairs on the left, the suited executive officials on the right. Deicide sat at the front where the table was divided; his eyes crept over to the empty chair next to him, then upward to the next two. Destra and Sinistra were making their way around from the executive side, as it was a minor faux pas to stand on a side that you did not belong too, the same applied for presentations. Destra paused at Nott’s chair looking down at Deicide. He motioned for her to sit and turned to some notes he retrieved from his breast pocket. The stenographer program gave a long tone to notify that the Minutes were being recorded in visual, audio and text media.
“First order of business?” Deicide said.
An unseen man with a booming voice spoke. “The Court recognizes and promotes Chief Manager of Supply, Weyrianna Hedren, to High Quarterer Weyrianna Hedren,” the Speaker said. Everyone began to clap as the woman standing made a small curtsey.
“Alright, so, Caracal you’re her mentor. What’s her title?” Deicide said.
“Weyrianna the Whittler,” she said.
“The Whittler?” Deicide said, looking around the room.
“This is the civilian sector. We can’t have names like ‘The Brave’ or ‘The Edge’. I think it fits,” she said.
“Whittler it is,” Deicide said, gesturing for Weyrianna to sit. “So supply is absorbing the Archives?”
Weyrianna nodded quickly. “Yes, sir,” she said. “We’re keeping it staffed with the original archivist, though we are taking on a few new people.”
Deicide shrugged. “You know what’s best,” he said.
The meeting continued in good spirits until someone mentioned the Nazareth, a ship that Deicide had declared openly as the Aeolipile’s nemesis. The founding members of Nazareth’s crew were also plank owners of the Aeolipile, the mutinous schism began in this very room, when Nott had proposed her new plant array system. Many balked at her presentations, saying her schematics for the Districts bordered on slavery, but Nott had her way and those that disagreed were asked to leave. Some decades later during a heated battle, portions of a ship emerged through holes torn into their reality. They fired upon Deicide and his troops, causing them to suffer heavy losses. Since then it was only Deicide’s staff that had held him back from chasing the Nazareth through the stars like Ahab. Since then they only peeked through to throw pot shots at his eaters, for now, the Aeolipile had ways of dealing with her.
“These are just pop quizzes. What happens when they use what we won’t?” Deicide said.
“I’m sure they don’t have Negation technology, yet,” a general said.
“I had a negation shell shot at me in that tunnel, tore off a fourth of my chest. Rebels cobbled that together. The Nazareth has personnel who sat where you all are sitting right now. Some of them were brilliant and they worked for Nott, they know our secrets,” Deicide said.
“But the amount of resources you need to create it would be exorbitant,” Sinistra said.
“You’d have to be harvesting planets; nations don’t give away that type of wealth,” Destra said. Everyone nodded in agreement, while Deicide stewed in his seat, the Abyss began to ripple slightly above their heads. Everyone was speaking as if they would never have to come into actual contact, their lazy hypotheses would be his reality, he refused to let his children become casualties in a war that would last all of time. The Abyss’ eyes met his own as she parsed the voices having separate conversations. His eyes locked on to one of the Assistant Administration Secretaries sitting off to the side as the Abyss began to coil and Deicide rose from his seat, he could hear jokes being passed that he did not care for.
“Ant! Hey sign that for me,” Hellmouth said; one of her enlisted aids was beside him holding a digital document for him to sign. He blew an icy mist from his nostrils and scribbled his signature on the digi-ready, knowing exactly what Hellmouth was doing. His lips were tight, mouth puckered like the sphincter of a human crash dummy. He sat back in his chair, annoyed that the young woman was still crouched near him. But she was a pretty item, violet-headed, brown skin. He leaned over and lifted an eyebrow, she aped his facial gesture and then he shot another glance at Hellmouth. The military aid scratched the back of his hand and then returned to the sidelines. He knew Hellmouth must be extremely desperate in her psychoanalysis to use a woman, one of the sisterhood, to goad him out of his present mood; he detested this type of manipulation and continued to brood for the rest of the meeting out of spite, but he made sure to remember the nametag of the aid.
As people began to file out, Deicide remained in his seat, the Abyss was still attached to the ceiling, but she allowed herself to pour down and cover Deicide like a topping on an absurd sundae, he was too angry to force her away. The Twins turned to Deicide with pouty lips and the Abyss withdrew. They rolled their chairs over and hugged him.
Destra squeezed his shoulder. “Why so mean?” Destra said.
Deicide was shocked at the twins’ feigned innocence. Was he dreaming their usurper positioning earlier? No, he had heard them call him a little prince. Perhaps he misunderstood them, he thought. The girls, and he did think of them as girls, had never been anything but sweet to him. The Abyss began to sing in her and Deicide’s shared language, she seemed to agree, the twins were not a threat.
“Cause everyone’s forgotten what this is all about!” Deicide said, rising from his chair. The Abyss immediately rushed back to his shoulders and neck, she had switched to a rougher exterior texture. A few of his closest advisors stayed while everyone else was hurriedly ushered from the room. Deicide was leaning on the table as the Abyss was arched over him, her tendrils spilling across the table and into the oval recess at the table’s center. The Great White, still seated, placed his feet on the table to avoid the black lake spreading on the floor. Cold vapor was escaping from Deicide’s jaws, everyone who was not combat ready, or qualified to stand against a Grade one eater backed to the walls of the War Room. Hellmouth, Ichor and the Great White appeared calm, while every other soldier was wary, as they had all heard stories of Deicide’s tantrums. Though liked by all of his soldiers, he had earned their respect by the terror he extracted from those that opposed him.
“Whatcha want? Another hug? Shay, give the boy a hug, will ya?” White said.
“I won’t be dismissed, I’m not a child,” Deicide said.
“You’re acting like one,” Ichor said, coldly. The Abyss bristled and her large eyes flattened to yellow slivers from behind Deicide’s shoulders.
“It seems you all forget why I was even born,” Deicide said.
“The mission is to transport all passengers before the collapse,” Great White said.
“That’s not why the Aeolipile was built,” Deicide said. “We must kill the pretender.” His mentors rolled their eyes, even the patience of his biggest supporters was visibly degrading. Most had given up on finding the pretender god, viewing it as nothing more than Abstrusian myth.
“Nott wanted you to be a champion. She wanted your name to ring out until the end of time,” Hellmouth said.
“It will,” Deicide said.
“Not like this sweetie,” Hellmouth said.
“It’s risky; I don’t think those girls on the Nazareth care about the mission anymore. I think they’ll kill us all just to get to you,” Ichor said.
“I know you all don’t want to fight the Nazareth. You won’t have too. I’ll fight my own battles,” Deicide said, striding toward the door, ignoring clumsy attempts to converse with him. He explained nothing as he walked toward a major Gate station. He signaled to the operator with his fingers for an Omni Gate and stepped into it, coming out at his estate on the other side. His personal staff, who had already been warned of Deicide’s mood, left him to smolder in silence as he stalked through the halls. When he arrived at his wife’s study he found Fawn bound to her chair, she was seated next to a bleary eyed Rodela. They were seated in recliners, surrounded by thousands of Nott’s books and journals.
“Take those things off Rody,” Deicide said.
“Oh,” Rodela said, as she fumbled to activate her arm band. With a click the mechanism binding Fawn’s hands and ankles came free.
“Leave us,” Deicide said.
“But,” Rodela said.
“We’ll talk soon I promise,” Deicide said, placing his hands on her cheeks. Rodela nodded.
“I’ll be outside,” Rodela said, just as she stepped through the doors.
“Let’s keep this short, eh?” Fawn said.
“And what is that?” Deicide said.
“You wanna sell me on your great cause, right?” she said. The Abyss began to anchor herself throughout the massive library, now able to increase her size to a great degree without constriction.
Deicide was unsure of what to say to the woman, he continued to examine the features of her face, knowing he must be making her uncomfortable.
“Your brother’s a good soldier. He understands how it all fits together, even if he can’t say it. But what about you?” Deicide said, moving behind a great pair of desks.
“I’m done with this shit. You know what I want,” she said.
“I do,” he said. He looked down at the ground, thinking of how much his newest pair of daughters resembled her. Yes, they would grow up to be beautiful, as well as spiteful.
“Then why waste the air?” she said.
“I’m not trying to convince you to join me. I just want to stop you from becoming my enemy,” he said.