The Twenty-First Chapter
What's it like being you? Must be miserable, secretly hating those around you, knowing they find your beliefs contemptible. – The last words of Black Brian.
The war machine that was the Aeolipile had been ramping up production and efficiency for the inevitable contact with the Nazareth. With his children now more than capable, they took full chairs in Deicide’s cabinet, with the help of their mentors, Silex and Capella had become shrewd politicians and military strategists. Now conquering worlds at lightning speeds, Ecocide and the Nazareth hardly had time to scramble their unscrupulous units before the Aeolipile had swallowed half the planet’s population. Capella, a genius at engineering had found creative ways of dealing with the civilians to be processed into the Districts; soon it became a game for her to see how much she could lower the soldiers’ time on the surface of a planet. The rest of the children had excelled at other interests, Eldora, known as Eldora the Indomitable amongst the crew, had become a literal god of fighting, while Gue’guerre became a master at warfare. Though he was amazingly quick witted, his son Asotus remained a disappointment, preferring to chase after women and indulge in deviant acts allowing his younger brother, Amicus, to surpass him in all noble efforts.
Deicide was reclined in his usual chair in the war room, feet up, musing on the Nazareth. His cabinet had changed tremendously over the past few years, now considerably few even warranted sitting at the table. Departments had been combined and folded into others, with each of his official bloodlines taking over a sizable chunk. Some of his old favorites remained, his mentors, a few generals who could always be counted on to lighten the mood, but most that were here deserved it. He looked on at those sitting on the sideline, the staff of his brood, they had chosen their people off merit alone, and those who failed to keep up were quickly done away with. He thought this was rather cruel of his children, he had once asked them about loyalty and the family aspect of their entourages, to which they returned with this quip: We keep you around, don’t we? He was unsure of how he should feel about the remark.
Over the years Deicide had felt his role as Captain had become more and more ceremonial, though now, it seemed to be nothing he could change. His spawn was much smarter than he when it came to politics, even he could admit this, but their love for their father kept the ship focused on his one goal. They had never questioned why anyone such as he could believe in the concept of a god, especially one that flew around in a starship; in turn Deicide ignored the accusations that his children were becoming tyrants. Every month it seemed that Deicide was discreetly informed of a crisis of missing women or an entire District under the yolk of martial law. He wanted nothing to do with any of it; everyone had marginalized his voice since Nott’s exile, treating him as if he were a clueless foreign dignitary on his own ship. He had been glad when his children had taken over most of the trivial decisions, now he could relax, ensured that his wish would be carried out, once they had achieved their energy goal for a dive into the realm of the unknown.
“Is this really how we want to treat these people? They work for us,” Destra said.
“Who cares, they’re not slaves; they’re paid workers. It is us who have taken on the burden of rescuing them. Besides, how else will we cut through the wall?” Caissa said. Deicide grinned behind his folded hands.
“No one is suggesting that we halt power storage,” Sinistra said.
“I would hope not,” Deicide said. “As crazy as you all believe me to be, there IS a wall ahead of us.”
“We are moving toward a dive at a good pace. Why increase production? Why go after the Nazareth?” Destra said.
“Everyone understands your worry, Ant, but how feasible is it?” Hellmouth said.
“She’s right. No matter what’s being said this seems to be completely about vengeance,” Great White said.
“I don’t want them interfering with the dive. The entire operation leaves the ship and our father completely exposed,” Capella said.
“Right. We can barely keep the lights once we start,” Gue’guerre said.
“So what exactly is being suggested here?” Ichor said.
“I’ll be on the Bridge,” Deicide said, rising from his seat. He left the rest of them to argue about variable events insignificant to his goals. He was through justifying himself onboard his own ship. He was sure that the calamities ahead were a direct result of his refusal to take control over his own destiny. He burst into the Combat Information Center causing Operation Specialists and Fire Controlmen on watch to straighten their backs.
“Captain’s in Combat,” a squeaky voice of ship hand said. In CIC, no one was required to stand at attention when the Captain entered unless it was for a briefing. Combat was always dark and cold, with the only light coming from the holographic displays and people sneaking peeks at their comms devices sporadically. Deicide’s eyes snaked their way about the room, before he finally decided to step further in. His umbilicals were wrapped around a pair of sacks behind him; he crossed to one of the spare chart tables being used for stationary, jackets and coffee thermoses. His finger struck out like sniper’s bullet onto a group of low ranking personnel laughing in the corner.
“Clear this table,” Deicide said. They immediately rushed over, comically dumping stationary into random cubbies and throwing on multiple jackets. Then Deicide emptied the contents of the sacks onto the digital chart table; high-calorie drinks and snacks flooded the table. Before anyone could rush over to grab anything Deicide stopped them.
“We’re going to work for this,” Deicide said. “I want you to find me someplace like home.”
Those eaters on duty rushed out onto the squally planet not at all surprised by the strange orders they had been given. No matter which flag it was under the military had a Hurry-up and Wait policy. At any point in the day they could be dropped anywhere without knowing the reason, sometimes waiting hours for any word to come down that said exactly what was to be done. Fortunately, Deicide arrived moments later with the Abyss, swollen and giddy; she whirled around Deicide like a black, lustful flame. He said nothing and his soldiers did the same; they knew far better than to question the word of their commanding officer, even if it was only in their minds, for no one knew if the Abyss could read minds, but somehow, Deicide seemed abreast of something when his eyes set upon a soldier.
Deicide nodded his head as he scanned across the gray horizon. This place seemed like the first stage of Dante’s Hell, a constant frigid drizzle stung the face, while spiked leafless trees jutted out of the ground like giant caltrops. He chose this world because of its similarity to the bits of Abstruse he could remember, it also matched his mood, he was never happy when he found himself thinking of the Lionesses. Those women who warred with him from a side that claimed moral superiority only did so out of spite and revenge. Unlike Deicide, they would have little purpose if somehow war, as a phenomenon, was to ever end. Like so many the Eater had loved, they were useful brutes and served some purpose whether they sided with him or not.
The Abyss formed herself into a black, spongy poof, ottoman-like, and Deicide plopped down on top of her, ignoring the eaters milling and murmuring around him. He quickly began to exercise his mind for the battle that would take place here. He thought back to the events which had darkened his heart toward the Lionesses. It had been foolish of them to leave him, greater still to oppose him. During his brooding he also felt it was bad on him to allow them to leave. He had argued with his wife extensively, and the heartache he felt when they attacked him later removed the guilt he had about launching an offensive against them.
When the Great White emerged from the ship, the sea of soldiers parted to allow him passage.
“Why do we have our best people out here?” White said.
“When the siren blares, I want everyone back into the ship,” Deicide said.
“You got these guys out here for nothing?” White said.
“Take a lap, around the lake,” Deicide said; the Abyss amplified his voice so that it boomed across the gray sky. “Eaters do not leave until the moment they arrive.” Deicide gave White a grin as he sprinted toward the lake.