The Twenty-Third Chapter
When I look at you, all I see is a misshapen and lame god, a god of nothing and no one. – The last words of Fawna Dearborne inscribed in Deicide’s Hall of Heroes.
Deicide sat next to the broken woman; in her rage he was sure the Abyss had severed her spine to punish her, possibly even to spite him. The Abyss had never been jealous of the common women he had taken into his bed, or even the countless children that came from such acts; it was only those women who had any power to change their fate, his fate. In truth, the Abyss never even considered the pretty things real people, no, only the strong deserved that respect in her eyes.
Alone with her now, Deicide was swarmed by signals from the Amanuensis and the crowing of the Abyss. He spent quite some time looking at her face, beautiful, even covered with grime and the hole in her cheek. He tried to wipe away some of the mud on her forehead, but she shook her head, and moaned, as if she were some zombie back from the dead. Her eyes parted to reveal brilliant violet orbs.
Fawn was weak, but could still manage to speak. “What the fuck are doing, finish it,” Fawn said. Deicide could see that several of her teeth had been shattered. He shook his head and then looked toward the now empty lake that the Abyss had previously filled with her girth.
“You know what?” Fawn said, pausing to take a breath. “You’re a coward. Not killing me doesn’t-”
“Just what would you know about bravery?” Deicide said, rubbing her neotenous cheek.
“I’ve stared down enough barrels to know a thing or two. I know you can’t depend on some fucker in the sky to save you,” Fawn said.
“You understand how things are, but not how they work” Deicide said, pulling her jaw down to better view of her teeth. Those that were still intact were edged like his own. “There is someone in the sky, and I’m going to meet this person.”
Fawn laughed at the absurdity. “I don’t think you’ve ever paid much thought to how a creature like God would actually be, if he existed. Why would someone like that want to speak with a fuck like you?” Fawn said.
“Because, I bothered to make the trip,” Deicide said.
“End this, I’m ready,” Fawn said, closing her eyes once more, but Deicide made no move to act on the command.
“I won’t,” Deicide said. “I’m waiting for Alpha to come collect you.” He turned as he felt a portal split through the reality. Alpha approached and tried to hand Deicide his spine blade.
“I don’t want that,” Deicide said. Though he was within his right to take it, as he did own all vestige material, but he supposed the Abyss owned it as much she owned him, a fact that she told him every night before he slept.
As Deicide watched Fawn and her brother from a distance two of his official heirs came to his side. Both of them were dressed in the uniform of the day.
“Is that mother?” Capella said. “Can we meet her?”
“Another time, perhaps one where she doesn’t want to taste my blood,” Deicide said.
“But, she’s ours, why can’t we just take her?” Eldora said.
“Because your mother looks like the type that would eat her cubs,” Deicide said.
Deicide returned to the ship having disposed of the only two of the Lionesses that mattered. Genocide had always been powerful, but lacked any sense of how to use her force properly. People approached Deicide to slap his back or shake his hand, believing that the war was over. He knew no one onboard the Nazareth had the courage or the strength to strike back at him, leaving the ship headless and without a mission. He was still unsure how the Nazareth intended to survive the calamity ahead; he hoped the crew had not been convinced that their math about the phenomenon was false.
As Deicide entered his estate he was surprised by the lack of activity. It was early afternoon and the staff should have been buzzing all throughout. The Abyss picked up the strong smell of fear and urine as he climbed the stairs. He mentally dialed the Amanuensis to route his secret police to his estate. He crept quietly to the dining room and allowed the Abyss to peer in with a small tendril.
“I know you’re there,” a woman’s voice said.
Deicide stepped inside to find his staff shackled together in the center of the room. As he looked upon the civilians faces pleased to see him, he wondered where his secret police were. He was disappointed in his estate security staff, but quickly realized if they were actually worth a damn they would be members of his entourage and not taste testers of the chef’s cooking. The Abyss babbled hateful nonsense at him as she could recognize the scent on the woman. She had Ecocide’s curly locks, but unfortunately Deicide’s face. Her collar device told him she was in the 903 Ground Forces; many of the officers in the unit lacked the skills to make good leaders, but they made up for it with bull-headed ruthlessness. Her division had a history of misconduct and unnecessary cruelty; the group was only used when enemy forces were unusually hard to crack and if Deicide was too lazy to bother.
“Having my blood in your veins is the only reason you made it in here,” Deicide said.
“You refuse to give credit where it’s due,” she said.
“The automated security wouldn’t have stopped any of my children,” Deicide said. “And you should hardly be congratulated for scaring cooks and maids.”
“How about the Great White?” she said, shoving her hostages to the side.
The Great White’s body was headless and contorted grotesquely, his limbs had been broken in several places; the jagged bones that poked through his skin had dried in the open air. Deicide had a difficult time drawing in breath; he was trying to stay collected as blind animalistic hate surged through his body. His gums were swelling as his teeth were being pushed to their full extension. The Abyss was coiling deep within, ready to consume the woman should she make any slip. Deicide’s secret police peeked in from various points within the room, but none of this mattered to him anymore, he wanted to be the cause of her death. In his mind he could think of nothing that would be painful enough to equal what he felt, the Great White had been one of the few men that could cuss him, or openly deride him in public without a fear of reprisal, for he was White’s son in everything except blood.
The woman opened her coat and revealed a vest of large Negation shells. In her hand was a dead man switch, she waved it out in front her, knowing that Deicide would know exactly what it was. He estimated that it was enough to cancel out a third of the Aeolipile if the chain reaction went unchecked. There was no one way he could amass enough vestige material through his umbilicals if she was determined to execute. Even if he could, it would drain so much vestige that there would never be enough to for the ship pass through the divide in existence.
“What is it that you want?” Deicide said. His staff looked to him with troubled eyes.
“Answers,” she said.
Deicide spread his hands. “Why should I tell you anything? You obviously plan to kill us all,” Deicide said.
“Wouldn’t you rather spend your final moments talking with your daughter?” she said.
“Of course, if you were one of my favorites. Before today I didn’t know who you were,” Deicide said casually. And it was true, only his official heirs born through Carnica surrogates mattered unless they had some trait which he enjoyed, a healthy sense of humor, a singing voice, anyone of them could be a soldier, but they all had an even chance of being special. He could see that her blood was up from the comment; she had her mother’s temperament.
“That’s a fucking lie,” she said.
Deicide poked his lips out while shaking his head. “Actually you only exist because of one of my wife’s algorithms. A program called for a batch of eggs to be selected and one of your mother’s was chosen,” Deicide said.
The woman shook her fists. “That can’t be true,” she said.
“And how would you know, Ecocide left centuries ago,” Deicide said.
“I can feel it,” She said.
“Would that feeling be an incoming call?” Deicide said.
The woman looked away.
“Who gave you the shells?” Deicide said.
“I made them,” she said.
“Neither me or your mother were smart enough to make a kid that could do that,” Deicide said. “Which group are you working for?” The woman eyes found the ground.
“No matter,” Deicide said. “I allowed your mother to leave. Every chance she had to kill me, she took it. But I’m the monster? If I’m so terrible why haven’t I killed you yet?”
“Because I have these,” she said, opening her jacket wider.
Deicide shrugged and turned away, he exited the room without looking back. Once outside, Deicide frantically tried to think of a way to reach the woman without her detonating the device, but the dining room was too large and even the Abyss could not close the gap that swiftly on a graded eater. He also knew she would set the device off if he spread his killbox. He cracked the door and peeked back in the dining room, noticing how much she resembled him, she would be far easier to kill if she looked more like Ecocide. He licked his teeth and then pushed back into the room.
“Your attack dogs out there?” she said.
“No, but they’ll be here in time to clean up the mess,” Deicide said. He watched the woman casually, noticing that she was sweating and her breathing was labored. She lowered herself, before finally sitting down, hutched over her cross legs like some merchant pedaling wares. Through her brown skin her veins were visible, like a tree in the jungle racked by dark vines. Being of Deicide’s blood the Abyss was active inside her, but still needed to be converted to be useful. Like the pure vestige material stored in the well, the Abyss was poison because of the chemicals and compounds she consumed; a toxic substance that would never fully break down, but only continue to ferment and brew.
The woman appeared to be attempting to open her hand, but she was unable. She stared at her fist out in front of her gripping the dead man switch. Her skin showed the marks of an advanced Grief Giver, their minds corrupted by the voices of the Abyss, their bodies were owned by another. Deicide approached her and deactivated the switch, looking at her with less pity than he would many of his other enemies. He turned away from her completely unconcerned and freed his civilian staff, while the Abyss dragged her writhing body into her inky folds.