The Nineteenth Chapter
Another like you had come looking for God once. He strode across the plains in a single pace. He ate the mountains on the horizon. – Villager of Fiaba.
Deicide was sitting on the fountain outside of the female Risk Eater complex. He was waiting for Rodela, while he and the Abyss shared a large plate lunch. He was surrounded by a few members of his entourage and a few civilians making cross conversation with Deicide in between. Every now and then he would mumble something with a mouthful of rice and steak, but he was not particularly interested. He was more worried with what Rodela had to tell him. She had started her billet as a Risk Eater security specialist in the Districts and he could tell she was disappointed with the work. Not only would an officer have to accustom themselves to the outlandish violence, but the pointless political struggles between the delegates and city officials. He was also sure she would have questions concerning Fawn’s whereabouts; the two women had spent considerable time together and Deicide felt he could hardly blame Rodela for bonding with her.
“Hey Baby Sis, what happened to that girl you was datin’?” Hash said.
Baby Sister scrunched her brow. “Which one?” she said.
“Ugh, the silver headed one, infantry,” Hash said.
“Hmph?” Baby Sister said.
Hash sucked in a short breath. “The one with the teeth going everywhere,” Hash said.
“Yeah, yeah. I had to let her go. It was like making out with a bag of broken glass,” Baby Sister said. “Hey, nobody ever complains about your mouth? Grandpops?”
Deicide snapped out of his trance. “What?” Deicide said.
“Your old ladies don’t nag you about your fangs?” Baby Sister said.
“Well, all of mine are straight,” Deicide said, allowing the Abyss to pick meat from between his teeth.
“You know they can fix that shit right?” Hash said.
“Yeah, if you’re a civilian. Otherwise they pull ‘em all out and start over. Shit takes like two years. I can’t be dating some chick with no teeth,” Baby Sister said.
Hash glanced at Deicide quickly. “Lady Nott didn’t have any teeth. No disrespect, Grandpops,” Hash said.
Deicide waved a hand lazily. “It’s fine,” Deicide said.
Baby Sister bumped Deicide and pointed up to the tier that held Rodela’s apartment. Deicide felt self-conscious when he saw she was wearing a flowery blouse and skirt. He was wearing one of his working uniforms, Deicide tried to think if he even had anything in his wardrobe that was not a uniform, a suit, or exercise gear. As he stood, the Abyss snatched the empty plate from him and absorbed it into her folds, picking away the errant grains of rice surrounding his mouth with her tendrils. Deicide walked over to meet her, trying to wave away his entourage.
“What’s the deal?” Baby Sister said. Hash immediately took the hint and strolled off.
“We have some matters to discuss,” Deicide said.
Baby Sister stood as tall as her tiny frame would allow her. “I am an excellent conversationalist,” Baby Sister said.
“Lot of syllables for you,” Deicide said, rustling her hair.
“Motherfucker,” Baby Sister said, giving Deicide a push, before walking away. Rodela stopped in front of him, holding a small purse just below her waist.
“Don’t you have any normal people clothes?” Rodela said.
“I’m flattered that you believe me and normal people have anything in common,” Deicide said. “You look nice by the way.”
“Thanks. So what are we gonna do?” Rodela said.
“You want some ice cream?” Deicide said. Rodela stopped walking.
“I’m not in grade school,” Rodela said.
“No, no. I just had lunch, some dessert would be nice,” Deicide said.
“Alright,” Rodela said. They strolled leisurely through the more scenic decks in the commercial plaza, a mall that never stopped growing. Each section possessed a different theme, presently they were on an ocean themed deck. Underneath their feet and above their heads sea creatures swam in an azure fluid that Deicide knew could not be pure water. Deicide had his hands in his pockets, gazing at the life that was swimming around him, secretly dreading what Rodela had to say.
“The babies are so cute,” Rodela said. “But they don’t look much like Lady Nott.”
Deicide was surprised, he expected Rodela to be questioning her standing, now that members of his official bloodline had been named.
“Ugh, yes. So what is it?” Deicide said, stopping at a bench. The two sat and Rodela waited for a person to pass before she spoke. Deicide tried to lean back to appear relaxed, he placed his arm across the top of the bench.
“What’d you do to Fawna?” Rodela said.
“I allowed her to leave,” Deicide said. “Have you heard different?”
“Plenty,” Rodela said. “Baby Sis says she’s still in your estate.”
Deicide rolled his eyes. “And when did you start listening to Baby Sis?”
Rodela shrugged. “It’s not that hard to believe,” she said. “Have you stopped liking pretty girls?”
“I would like to think those closest to me knew me better than that?” Deicide said.
“So you’re saying it’s never happened before?” Rodela said.
“I’ve always required a willing participant,” Deicide said. “Is this all you wanted to discuss?”
“No,” Rodela said. “Being a Risk Eater’s not what I thought it’d be.”
“I told you it would be brutal,” Deicide said.
“That’s not what I mean,” Rodela said. “I know what the Risk Eaters really protect. I know where the people go. And I know you set it up so the inevitable will always happen.” Their eyes met and Deicide fought hard to not look away.
“But I don’t know why?” Rodela said. Deicide clamped his jaws together tightly, wanting to phrase his answer just right, he was sure that a lie would only cause her to withdraw from him completely. He reflected a moment on how much she looked like her mother, tiny nose and soft, full cheeks; it was a face that said: I trust you.
Deicide rose. “I have to show you something,” Deicide said.
Deicide said nothing as they made their way toward the center of the ship. Through the Abyss he could feel that Rodela was growing increasingly uncomfortable with his silence and the increased security checkpoints. None of the men guarding the stations possessed name tags; their eyes were mustard yellow, seemingly dead to any stimulus, even their passing registered no response. Yet if any unauthorized personal proceeded after the warnings they received, they would be hacked into a chunky paste. As they reached the final door at the end of this long passageway, Deicide motioned for Rodela to enter first.
They both entered a space that seemed to stretch into eternity, rows and rows of fluid filled tanks; each one was occupied by a rapidly growing humanoid creature. These were the husks that supplemented the size of Deicide’s great array. Loaded with battle data and a careful assortment of memories, the creatures could be used to flood a planet, conquering massive areas within a few hours. Every few moments a creature would be ejected through a port in the bottom of the tank to be filed in a holding gel elsewhere in the facility. Rodela put her hand on the glass of one of the tanks and peered inside.
“I’ve never seen a husk without his faceplate. They all look so sad,” Rodela said.
“How are they supposed to look?” Deicide said. “They bring misery to the world.”
“Creepy,” Rodela said.
They stepped on a moving walkway and slid along to the heart of this massive space. At its center, there were large machine arms dabbing each of the tanks, beginning their vestige intake cycle. Deicide very rarely visited this place, he always marveled at the efficiency and engineering of the husk chamber. They were carried further until they entered a separate chamber, much smaller than this one. The lighting changed from a bright sterile white to a hazy peach. The air in the lobby was filled with such a thick and sweet scent, that many had trouble breathing at first. Deicide noticed that Rodela adjusted to the change easily.
“Where are we?” Rodela said.
“The Carnica are housed here,” Deicide said, approaching the desk. Behind the reception desk was a nurse dressed in orange scrubs, a color that was not used on the medical decks. She smiled wide when she saw Deicide approach.
“Lord Deicide,” she said politely. “And this is?”
“Sgt. Adarga, Rodela EG-5-6H22V7-093711528-A” Deicide said.
“Here we are. Just follow me; we have to get you two suited,” she said.
“You know my eater ID number?” Rodela said.
“Sure. Every person in my entourage,” Deicide said.
Rodela narrowed her eyes. “I don’t even know my own by heart,” she said.
“How about some accountability shipmate?” Deicide said.
“Don’t you shipmate me. Nobody knows their ID number,” Rodela said.
They were handed loose fitting suits to keep their germs to themselves. With some slight annoyance Deicide thrust his legs, umbilicals and the Abyss into the suit and activated the filtering system. They were led into the inner chamber of the facility, where the strange heavy smell grew stronger. After a set of air locks and a DECON check point they entered an atrium with several passageways leading to apartments. Deicide headed down the center hall and pressed a pink button next to the door. A chime sounded and then the door slid open a moment later. Before the pair was an apartment decorated in soft pastels, silk ruffles and alien flora. Deicide put his arm around Rodela, even though some of the effect was lost because of the bulky suits.
Deicide felt Rodela’s body tense up when they turned the corner, in front of them was one of the Carnica surrogates, the breeders of Deicide’s children. Her back was turned to them, exposing her large useless wings; hundreds of umbilical cables ran out of her back and into the organic cloth in the ceiling. Her peach colored hair spilled over her shoulders and down to the backs of her knees. Deicide waited patiently, not wanting to upset the hive-minded creatures. Rodela continued to push against Deicide, if he were not in her way she would have fled from the room.
“I’m sorry Ant. I had to put my face on,” she said. Her eyes were large and dark, the makeup she was using made them appear larger. When she talked her black tongue slipped out of her tiny mouth.
“You shouldn’t have bothered for me,” Deicide said.
As she lunged forward her antennas probed against his face. “Well, you never visit,” she said. “And you’re the only man that’s allowed down here.” She was wearing a sheer carnation negligee that nearly matched her skin, through the thin material several of her breasts were visible, as well as her pregnant belly, holding members of the next generation of Deicide’s family. The bee-like Carnica quickly noticed that Deicide was staring at her abdomen. She motioned for both of them to come closer as she began to rub her stomach, causing it to glow and become transparent. There were five children inside her belly, where they would remain for centuries until the next generation was needed.
The Carnica’s large eyes narrowed. “So you were explaining?” the Carnica said.
The thickness of the suit could not mask Deicide’s fidgeting. “It’s an awful lot of trouble to get here,” Deicide said. “Schedules and such.”
“Really? The Captain of the ship can’t be where he wishes?” she said.
“Of course you realize it’s more difficult than that,” Deicide said.
“I suppose,” she said, lowering her eyelids.
The Carnica excreted a peach mist from the pores in her neck. Instinctively Deicide backed away, even though there was little he could do to avoid the pheromones, as the microbes were small enough to leak through the suit. Even if he breathed only through his umbilicals, the chemical would seep into his skin. He glanced at Rodela, still fawning over the unborn in the Carnica’s abdomen. His mind became muddled with thoughts of lust, the Carnica surrogate no longer appeared to him as an insect hybrid, but a goddess of fertility and desire. The Carnica’s pupils dilated and the lights on her antennas grew bright. He could hear her vaginal walls relax as the outer folds swelled and secreted fluids to allow easier entry. Rodela snapped her head back at Deicide when she noticed the puddle of pink fluid amassing between the woman’s legs.
“Shit. Shit. Hey she needs help. Nurse?” Rodela said.
Deicide grabbed Rodela by the shoulders. “Stop. That’s not what’s happening,” he said.
Rodela pointed to the puddle. “But. Look at that. Do you see that? Her water broke,” Rodela said, pausing when she saw the look on Deicide’s face. “What’s wrong with you?”
“I’m fine,” Deicide said.
Rodela clamped both sides of the man’s head. “Are you drunk?” Rodela said.
Deicide began to speak as if his tongue was glued to his teeth. “She’s ovulating,” Deicide said.
Rodela curled her lips inside her mouth and looked back to the Carnica. The surrogate never took her eyes away from Deicide. Rodela buried her shoulder into Deicide’s chest and pushed him from the room. Once they were back into the atrium Deicide shook himself out of the stupor and marched for the airlock. When they had removed the suits and were moving to another side of the building Rodela turned to Deicide.
“Was I born here?” Rodela said. Deicide slowed to a stop and tightened his lips.
“No. Your birth was natural,” Deicide said. He had a hard time meeting her eyes.
“Did…did you love my mom?” Rodela said.
“I cared for her. But like Nott she treated our relationship as a science experiment,” Deicide said.
“That’s not the way she described it,” Rodela said.
“I’m sure that’s how she wanted it to be, but Nott only allowed it because of desperation. She didn’t want our race to die out completely,” Deicide said. He began to explain to Rodela how he and Nott were the last of their people. His wife’s goal was to restart the Abstrusian race using human variables, since they were similar in genetic structure, but they had been unable to create a full Abstrusian child to begin the program. The alternative was to draw eggs from female candidates and use Deicide’s sperm to inseminate them, leaving the next generation half Abstrusian. From there Deicide could only assume that Nott had a plan to avoid their descendants being bred into genetic abominations.
“You still haven’t told me about the Districts,” Rodela said. “Why keep them in such a way?”
“Rodela, what exactly do I owe those people?” Deicide said. “Without me they would die anyway.”
“But this game,” Rodela said.
“The way it works is that the worst and the useless are singled out. Greed and selfishness are the reigns I use to direct them,” Deicide said. “And the rebels are no better than I am. I’m sure you see it every day.”
Rodela let her head fall into his chest. “Yeah,” Rodela said.
“Come. There’s more,” Deicide said.
They entered an elevator that took them down hundreds of decks. When it stopped the lights dimmed until they finally went out, leaving them with only the minor illumination from Deicide’s antennas. The red glow would allow Deicide with enough light to see, but Rodela would be completely blind to anything except his face and perhaps the eyes of the Abyss. Her ocular implants were created for protection and extended range, but not for the minimalist lighting conditions they stepped into. Deicide felt her grab his arm as he pushed on, but he knew it was not because of the darkness, she had nothing to fear from the dark that surrounded them.
“Where are we?” Rodela said. Her voice sounded muffled even though they were entering one of the largest spaces onboard.
“The Well of Thelema,” Deicide said.
They had stopped at a railing that surrounded the circular platform they were standing on. Just beneath them was a slow, churning black ocean, voices of laughter, anger and sorrow drifted up the folds, and once these sounds met the ear they sounded like the unintelligible chatter of a massive audience. Deicide climbed on top of the railing and plopped down, swinging his feet over the side and gazing at the endless black before him. He had always been told that vestige material was dead, that any reaction that appeared as sentience was a delusion; a ridiculous urge people had to anthropomorphize objects. Deicide could not accept this, for even though most people saw the Abyss as an oily black blob, he knew his enemies had seen different. They had heard her voices, seen the millions of eyes and her gaping maw, an entrance to a godless space.
“Wake up,” Deicide said.
Immediately the weight and power of this ooze was felt, it seemed to give a bluish glow that lit the entire space. The voices increased in volume, some of them seemed to be angry. They shouted curses and hexes, but none of them addressed the man by his birth name, only God Eater. The angry voices were defiant, but somehow knew they had been conquered. Deicide took a deep breath before shouting down the dissenters.
“Enough, you are beaten,” Deicide said. “Bring me Ekvidi Adarga.”
After a moment a pillar rose out in front of them. Deicide nodded and then jerked his head at it, causing the Abyss to leap to it in a giant arc. When she returned she dropped a ball of ooze no bigger than a baseball in Deicide’s lap. He peered at it for a few seconds, turning it over in his hands before he passed it to Rodela. She was hesitant to touch it.
“It’s just a myth, it doesn’t cause cancer. Come here,” Deicide said. “Turn around.”
He stepped back onto the platform and lifted the back of her shirt. At the bottom of her spine blade was her umbilical plug, beneath it was the fill symbol. With one of his sharp fingers he punctured the seal, and pressed the glob of vestige material on top of it. Her forehead was scrunched up with worry and her eyes were full of doubt. Deicide’s expression did not change the entire time.
“So I won’t get sick?” Rodela said.
“Vestige doesn’t make US sick,” Deicide said.
Finally suction was heard at the base of her spine. The vestige had converted the inert material in the small bladder back into live vestige. Rodela straightened her posture and began to shake. Deicide had let go of her back and had a hand on her face, his eyes never left hers. He watched as her grip on the railing loosened.
“You’re fine,” Deicide said.
Rodela gasped. “I can hear Mom,” Rodela said.
“Most of its just echoes,” Deicide said. “You’re not really hearing her. Just feeling. She’s there though.”
From Rodela’s collar a gray gel peeked out and then slid back to her umbilical plug. Rodela’s hand crept to the hilt of her spine blade and hovered just above it. Deicide nodded as she gripped it firmly. As she withdrew the weapon from her spine track, gone was the initial electric crackle, replaced by tortured screams. Rodela’s gaze shot back to Deicide.
“I hear more people,” Rodela said.
“You’re my daughter, they will serve you,” Deicide said. “You will move along my interests while I’m gone. The other children will listen to you.” Rodela looked as though she wanted to speak and then she closed her lips tight.
“Before we breech through the wall, someone will have to take a look,” Deicide said.
“It has to be you?” Rodela said.
“A Skid won’t hold up against the forces keeping us out,” Deicide said.
“It has to be dangerous or you wouldn’t be showing me this,” Rodela said, sheathing her Spine Blade.
“Not yet, anyway. I didn’t want you to miss out on your share,” Deicide said. “The Vestige is the only wealth you should respect. From now on anything you want is yours to take.”
Deicide watched her nod without any expression. He hoped she would accept his gift as it would be the only thing that would save her if the rebels ever discovered how to mass produce negation shells. She gave him a little smile and hugged his arm as they stepped back into the elevator. Deicide released a sigh and leaned against the elevator wall. Out of his hundreds of thousands of children and grandchildren alive at the moment, he enjoyed his time with Rodela the most.