The Twenty-Fourth Chapter
Long ago a man set out to find God, but God was not in the church, nor any of the divine nooks of the universe one would expect.
Fawn stirred in her bed, and found Secant next to her, adrift in a coma like sleep. She sat up and flipped on the news, listened to reports of a major personnel shortage on the Nazareth, a fact she already knew. With no ground forces to oppose the Deathless, the Aeolipile continued on its business of swallowing every particle in the universe for Deicide’s mad scheme. The strange vestige that had emerged from the dead umbilical plug on her back squirmed under the covers. Now Fawn’s body and the parasite had grown accustomed to each other. In the beginning, Fawn had to consume enormous amounts of food to appease this guest, though later a chemical substitute had been developed to sate the creature’s intense hunger, but this did nothing to stop the strange cravings Fawn herself was feeling. She oddly found herself wondering about the consequences surrounding cannibalism. Secant squirmed and latched onto Fawn’s waist, rubbing his stubble against her back, moaning at the sound of the news report.
“What are they going to do about this?” Fawn said.
“No one knows. Genocide hasn’t been sober since it happened,” Secant said.
“I wouldn’t be either if something ate my kin,” Fawn said. Secant rolled over and sat up in bed.
“Most people want to give up,” Secant said.
“They can’t, not now. What home world would they have to go back too?” Fawn said.
“Many have already lost their homes, they’re just tired of fighting,” Secant said. “Besides if Deicide is right, it won’t matter anyway.”
“I hardly know what to believe anymore. I just can’t let him win,” Fawn said.
“You really don’t want to spend your final moments in battle, do you?” Secant said
“Arbaronians don’t know what it’s like not to be in a war,” Fawn said.
“We can’t all be like you and Alpha. Homosoliums have some good ideas about some type of mediation. Perhaps he can be reasoned with,” Secant said.
“Homosoliums are only a few notches higher than Deicide,” Fawn said.
“I’m Homosolium,” Secant said.
Fawn squeezed Secant’s cheeks together. “I never said there weren’t exceptions,” Fawn said.
Now when Fawn walked through the halls of the Nazareth she saw the looks of despair on the faces of the people, people who looked to her for hope, sadly she could give them none. Ecocide had been the strongest person onboard and she had been swallowed up by the Abyss as if she were a pebble thrown into the sun. Fawn had heard rumors that she was to dethrone Genocide and take over as Captain; only part of it seemed like a good idea. Genocide was constantly a hair away from murderous rage, her assistants no longer bothered to wake her up for Quarters. Even if she did show, she was drunk, yet she was one of the few who had the courage to stand up against Deicide, her last wish in this life was to pull the man’s heart out through his throat.
Fawn popped her head in their usual meeting room; already officials were here, crestfallen, spinning their mugs between their nervous hands, shuffling useless notes. She wondered why she even bothered to show. As she slid to her seat she was joined by her aunt Cari, before Genocide barreled into the room. She sat down hard and cracked her knuckles, the woman stunk of booze, but so did a few others. When Secant and a few more had arrived, they began, tossing aside the usual motions and jumped straight into the main issue at hand.
“What the fuck are we gonna do?” Genocide said, so slouched in her chair, she looked as if she was about to slip off its edge.
“R&D’s working on a cannon delivery for a sizable Negation shell,” someone said.
“We’ll never be able to fire it fast enough,” Cari said.
“She’s right. The Aeolipile’s increased its efficiency. They’re in and out before we could ever get ready to engage,” Secant said
“Not that we have anyone to engage with,” Cari said.
“Maybe we should look for some kind of truce,” someone said; everyone’s eyes found their way to the man that had said it, his eyes promptly found the floor.
“Who would agree to it? I know I wouldn’t. I would kill the fucker the very first time he popped his head up,” Genocide said.
“We could just focus on recruiting,” another said.
“It’s no good if they won’t fight. Only a few, other than those in this room, are willing to pick up a gun. Besides when’s the last time we’ve found planets with anyone on them?” Fawn said.
The meeting broke off with that revelation. Fawn wandered about the ship until she came to the gun range. Flechette, a regular, was here with her new rifle, the Penny Red. Lechwe was lying next to her on the hill she was sniping from. Fawn crept up behind them both and lay on her side. She watched as Flechette went through her preliminary maintenance before firing, years of monotonous checks had done nothing to degrade her firearm responsibilities. As she assembled the weapon Fawn noticed that the zeros in the serial number were crossed, which told her the weapon was from the company her parents worked for. The Penny Red had not been cleared for mass production before their lab had been destroyed and this was one of the few that were sent off site for real world trials.
For some time she remained still, saying nothing, desperately trying to think of a way to get at the Aeolipile, but her mind could grasp nothing. The Nazareth was full of civilians, people they needed to protect; engineers, cooks, teachers, everyone was doing their part, but she was unable to do hers. She was unsure if she had it in her to lead again, her aunt Cari had tried to goad her into taking the crown from Genocide, but Fawn did not want that fight just yet. She wondered why a ship that opposed Deicide and the culture he had created would promote such an eater’s way of thinking. Fawn hardly ever agreed with her superiors, but they had rank for a reason, how could any army run if their leaders were killed off every few months?
“What are we doing?” Fawn said; her arms were crossed behind her head as she lay on her back. Then she adjusted the volume of her antlers, just before Flechette fired a round. The vibrations created from an E.P. Rifle rattled the women’s chest cavities. Fawn could never figure out physically what it was about snipers which made them so apt to handle the large weapons. Like a machine the dark-haired women removed a casing from the weapon and replaced it with another shell.
“Huh?” Lechwe said.
“I mean what are we doing here? We’re useless now, we were useless before. We might as well sit and wait for them to come get us,” Fawn said.
“Don’t start talking like that again,” Lechwe said. Flechette fired another round.
“I met the woman that killed Chital. They take lives on a whim,” Fawn said.
“So do we,” Flechette said.
“Yeah, because they’re taking our homes, our culture. They kill because they can. They’re monsters,” Lechwe said. Fawn nodded.
“You two hate your enemy, and you shouldn’t. Our enemies explain all of us to ourselves. They test our weapons, sharpen our skills, because of them, we ensure that the next generation is stronger,” Flechette said.
“What the fuck, Flech. You sound like you wanna to send them a love letter,” Lechwe said.
“I do,” Flechette said. “With this,” she said, firing another shot.