The Eighteenth Chapter
As you know, Lord Deicide is more amicable than many nobles, but still there is something he wants from us all. And if he were to ask us to our faces, we would be thrown into a murderous rage, screaming for his dethroning. So he abides the Constant’s Principle, the ancient social contract between master and slave, ensuring he will never be overthrown by his servants. - Thessalian the Elder
It had been months since the Aeolipile had dropped Fawn on a mining planet in territory allied to the Widow’s Retort; she had recovered her gear and nearly made it to a work camp when she was stopped by a gash in reality. It was then she was greeted by the curly headed Captain of the Nazareth, Ecocide the World Eater. Fawn quickly discovered that she, like many of the higher ranking officers and engineers had been colleagues of Deicide’s. Ecocide and her sisters, Genocide and Vivicide, had, as she described it, been childhood playmates of the infamous God Eater. She spoke about Deicide as if he were some tiny pet of hers, often referring to him by some diminutive name, but beneath it all, Fawn could sense a hatred in the woman that would be thought of as unhealthy if publicly known. Her sisters had no problem displaying their hate and refused to even mention his name at times.
The Nazareth’s mission was to stop Deicide from piercing the wall which housed the Existence. Ecocide had confided in Fawn that Deicide’s goal was not really to save anyone, but to find the Demiurge and use his seal and his power to open the Corridor. It was one of the main reasons she had decided to split from the crew of the Aeolipile. She explained that the Aeolipile was a machine designed to not only power the new worlds created on the other side of the Corridor, but Deicide and the Abyss as well. Fawn was not pleased to be right about Deicide, that he was nothing more than a delusional man using the backs and blood of others to fuel his insanity.
Fawn’s time onboard the Nazareth had been pleasant enough, her aunt Cari and many members of her squad had found their way onboard some time earlier, but she still wished her brother could be with her; she still could not understand the choice he made that day, but she had allowed herself to forgive him and let the anger seep onto her impression of Deicide. Though the noble had spared her, what sort of choice had he given her? The Aeolipile was probably scheduled to chew up the planet any day after they dropped her off. Still, she adjusted quickly to the tempo and began some of the indoctrination courses, but she was apprehensive about opposing Deicide in combat. She had seen the damage him and his monster could do by themselves, let alone the entire Deathless Array, and she had no knowledge of the shipboard weapons of the Aeolipile. The fear she had of the future hurled at her by Deicide was so real that it may as well been branded on her flesh. The crew spoke of Deicide and his army so dismissively that Fawn began to wonder if they were as delusional as he was.
Presently, Fawn was curled in a chair in her Aunt’s quarters, the room was considerably smaller than her room onboard the Aeolipile. She had found out that the Nazareth did not use pillaged resources or forced labor to power her engineering plant. The Nazareth was funded and built by survivors of the Aeolipile’s attacks; they traveled throughout the Existence to warn civilizations of the impending doom of Deicide and the Deathless. Many aided them, once they had seen evidence of the carnage they were in for.
“Fawn, you have to fight. We all have to do our part,” Cari said; the older woman held the look of disbelief. Fawn thought there was little she could say to convince the woman that she had no desire to fight; Fawn had never backed down from anyone, but she had seen what Deicide expected of his enemies, and that alone made her wary of warring with him.
“I want to, but this isn’t just some noble,” Fawn said. “Guns don’t hurt him; nothing hurts him, especially with that thing watching him.”
“Yes. I saw some footage of it. They explained it was some kind of force field?” Cari said.
“It’s not a force field. It’s fucking alive; it acts on its own,” Fawn said.
“But they’re working on things to nullify it,” Cari said.
Fawn shrugged. “Maybe,” she said.
“We can do this. What choice do we have? You know they’ve taken Arbaro?” Cari said.
“Fuck,” Fawn said.
Cari nodded. “Like it was never there,” she said.
“It’s not just that,” Fawn said.
“Then what?” Cari said.
“He spared me,” Fawn said.
“That’s awful nice of him; but you don’t owe him shit,” Cari said.
“I know. He was just so sure,” Fawn said.
“Of what?” Cari said.
“That he’d kill me,” Fawn said.
“How the hell can he know something like that?” Cari said.
“I don’t know. I don’t know why I even listened to him,” Fawn said.
“You said Alpha’s still there?” Cari said.
“Yeah. I can’t forget that look on his face,” Fawn said. “Like it was the only place he’d ever known.”
“I’m sure he has his reasons,” Cari said.
“And what could they possibly be? We’re his family,” Fawn said.
“Alpha needs you. This crew needs you. They said someone like you can take on thousands of Deathless with the right equipment,” Cari said. Fawn nodded, though she could not believe it. But then she remembered her scrape with Baby Sister, both of them without Skids. She was of Deicide’s blood, perhaps he could be beaten if they somehow stopped the Abyss.
Fawn stood and then slipped out into the officer’s plaza. The Nazareth was a large ship, but almost claustrophobic when compared to the Aeolipile. She shoved her fists into her pockets as she hopped from the stairs and as she stepped onto a moving walkway she saw a dark haired man heading in the opposite direction. With no more than a glance she looked away at some feature in the overhead. As she passed him she looked back to see that he was still eyeing her, smiling. He gave her a small wave and then stepped off. She had seen him before, guessing he was a junior officer by the look of his age. She was disappointed that he never came to talk to her. Her entire time on the Aeolipile, not a single man had approached her. She had laughed when Alpha had explained a few of the rules of courtship, signals had to be so clear you may as well been waving a burning flag at a potential mate. Odd that a ship that condoned dueling had such strict laws against sexual harassment.
Fawn strolled through the barracks until she made her way to her room. The door slid open to reveal Flechette performing maintenance on her new E.P. rifle, the Penny Red, a modification of the model Fawn’s parents had designed. Lechwe was spilled over the couch in the common area, she did not look pleased. Her purple hair was in rollers and she was flipping through channels on their wall display. She looked back at Fawn with a raised eyebrow as she crossed the room.
“What?” Fawn said.
“Did you talk with your aunt?” Lechwe said.
“Yeah?” Fawn said.
“This place is shit. You know active soldiers and their support team get like, actual condos, big as hell. Not sharing this box with five other people. Six people, one shitter. It’s like I’m back in the army all over again,” Lechwe said.
“Man, you got soft quick,” Fawn said.
“It’s not about soft. I just know what I deserve. We put ordnance on target; that’s our trade. Why ain’t we doing that? Oh, the biggest heathen I know, up and found the Lord!” Lechwe said, waving her hands in the air. Laughing from the other bedrooms was heard, even Flechette grinned a bit.
“It’s not that,” Fawn said.
“Have you finally blinked in the face of death Fawna?” Flechette said, placing the pieces of her rifle down neatly on a clean towel.
“No. I still got the fire,” Fawn said.
“Then use it. They’re classing up next week,” Lechwe said.
“I’ll check it out,” Fawn said, wondering if she sounded convincing enough.
“Now that that’s settled get your ass in the shower, we’re going out,” Lechwe said.
A few hours later they were inside their third club of the night. All were close to being drunk, except Flechette who seemed to remain eerily sober no matter what was put into her tiny body. Lechwe and Flechette piled into a booth with two men they met earlier while Fawn went to the bar for drinks. Cheerfully aggressive she pushed her way through the crowd; she swung her pink hair back and forth as the hard beat thumped against her body. She threw back the rest of her drink and slammed it down on the bar. Then made her order and rested her chin on her knuckles as she watched the bartender perform what she thought was magic. As he twirled the glasses and bottles in front of her, she caught the sight of the dark stranger she had passed on many occasions during her time here. She obnoxiously waved to him and screamed.
“Hey! Hey fucker! Will you get him?” Fawn said, to a group of strangers. As soon as he looked her way she instantly felt self-conscious, but the alcohol made her toss it aside and waved him in. He approached her as if he was being recorded by a film crew; Fawn scrunched her nose when he arrived next to her.
“The fuck was that?” Fawn said.
“Um. Walking,” he said.
“Like you were gliding or something,” Fawn said.
“M’am?” the bartender said.
“Huh? Oh,” Fawn reached for her purse.
“It’s cool.” he said. Fawn watched as the man nodded to the bartender.
“Hope these are for your friends?” he said.
“Yeah,” Fawn said, scooping up the drinks. She led him back to the table Lechwe and Flechette were at, talking over her shoulder. They were surprised at what Fawn had brought back, their dates straightened as soon as they saw the man and they avoided eye contact.
“Where’d you get him?” Lechwe said.
“They’re handin’ them out at the bar,” Fawn said, laughing a little too loudly, even with the blasting music.
“So what’s your name?” Fawn said.
“Secant Cerulean,” Secant said. Now that they were close up, Fawn could see that his lips were scarred, a common feature for those that called themselves eaters. Fawn quickly threw the thought away, he was handsome, and fighting on the right side, she decided to let him actually make a mistake before she threw him away. However, Secant ‘The Edge’ did not make mistakes; the man seemed to have a perfect answer or retort to all of Fawn’s questions, she was attracted, but the seamless conversation was somehow annoying to her, he hardly took any time to think before he spoke back. It was as if he were some actor that had been rehearsing for this moment for years.
“It’s like you’re reading my mind,” Fawn said.
Secant shook his head. “Your eyes,” Secant said.
“Hmm. What are they saying now?” Fawn said.
“Close to last call. Still buzzed. Need drunk food,” Secant said. Fawn’s mouth was agape as she looked to Lechwe, whose eyebrows were nearly raised to her hairline.
“Let’s go then,” Fawn said. The group of six shuffled out of the club, but only Secant and Fawn decided to head to the diner further down. After waving her friends away she bumped into Secant’s shoulder, he was considerably taller than her, notable, as Fawn herself was much taller than average. They were seated in a booth in the diner, which was just about half filled. Fawn ordered an ice-tea then laid her chin on her knuckles. Secant gazed back without saying anything; his eyes were moving all over her face.
“What took you so long to say hi?” Fawn said.
“Why trouble a woman who doesn’t want to be bothered?” Secant said.
“But you waved today,” Fawn said.
“I saw you looking,” Secant said. Their waiter had brought their drinks and nodded and smiled to Secant.
“Are you like some kind of celebrity here?” Fawn said.
“They treat me like I am. I’m an active duty combatant,” Secant said.
“They keep trying to get me to sign up,” Fawn said.
“Why don’t you? You have an amazing build,” Secant said.
Fawn scrunched her brow together. “How would you know?” Fawn said.
Secant smiled, revealing teeth that were a little too sharp for a normal human. “I see things,” Secant said. Fawn shot him a playful glare, then sipped her tea.
“I’ve heard that you guys have nothing to fear from Deicide’s soldiers,” Fawn said.
“Anything below a Grade Five is a Mook,” Secant said.
“And what grade is Deicide?” Fawn said.
“Ecocide estimated he was a One, but, we haven’t had battle contact with him in years,” Secant said.
“You really think we can win?” Fawn said.
Secant leaned back. “Of course,” he said.
Fawn raised a questioning eyebrow.
“Don’t fall into the trap of believing your enemies are complete monsters,” he said.
“What the hell does that mean?” Fawn said.
“Deicide is playing by a set of rules as well,” Secant said. “If he wasn’t we’d already be dead. Haven’t you ever wondered why he would just allow us to leave?”
Slowly Fawn’s chest began to sink, like a hole had been cut in the bottom of her heart. For months she had lived on this ship trying to find a good reason not to fight. Even if Deicide’s concern for her was an act, what purpose would it actually serve? Alpha was only a Lieutenant, one of millions, the man could not have possibly meant that much to him. Still, whatever crude system of values Deicide was working with Fawn was appreciative.
“Why do you fight?” Fawn said.
“Because no one deserves to be used that way,” Secant said. “He’s forcing them to sell their lives to him just so they can live on his terms.”
Fawn nodded to the man’s answer, but she thought that it may have had more to do with some sort of penance. Like so many other soldiers onboard, Secant had fought alongside Deicide and knew the man personally, yet he did not hate him as the Lionesses did. She guessed that was the reason why he seemed so determined to free the civilians, because he had placed Deicide on the throne. Everyone she met seemed to have some bitter history with the noble and they all blamed themselves, as if Deicide could not help being what he was. Fawn would eventually learn that this was true.