The Third Chapter
You have chased God all over this existence and found nothing. I think you will be disappointed in where God has chosen to hide. – Nott
Deicide was splayed across one of the couches in the lounge area of his wife’s lab. He smacked his lips as he tried to bury himself deeper between the comfortable leather cushions. This cozy nook was contrasted by gargantuan industrial machines operating in the background. Not far from where Deicide was, there was an assembly line ejecting hulls for frigates for his massive star fleet; to many such an armada seemed unnecessary, but no one could guess just what would await the Aeolipile on the other side of this shrinking existence. Deicide had often asked his wife what if the higher dimensions were shrinking as well, she had only replied with: They probably are. However, the plane from which they came had collapsed upon itself a mere hundred years after the Aeolipile’s maiden voyage; it would seem that this phenomenon which was devouring the existence must have some sentience, and perhaps a bit of a grudge against them.
Visibly frazzled interns sipped coffee from gaudy, science-themed personal mugs. They sat around Deicide and spoke to one another as if he were invisible; strange, as he was the sole recipient, and in a few cases, the only subject of their research. To the medical community Deicide was the bejeweled lab rat that spit fire and shat golden eggs. Nott had turned Deicide’s body to a conversion center where pathogens were dropped off and recovered as glorious elixirs, curing every ailment from cancer to old age, even death in some cases. Deicide owed his strange and magnificent biology to Abstrusian scientists, the source material from which he was taken, Sample 172, and the fine specimen he had been. There was a price for sharing in Deicide’s genetic advantage, certain enhancements broke down the mental autonomy between the patient and Deicide, and few were willing to give up this freedom, those that did, spent the rest of their lives experiencing faint echoes and shadows of Deicide’s thoughts and were more inclined to agree with him than before the treatments. An older scientist, donning a pristinely, white lab coat appeared behind the couch and jabbed Deicide in the ribs with the tip of his pen.
“Lord Deicide, I need you back there,” he said; his tone was very dry as he looked down at Deicide. Though the nobleman was very well liked, even loved by nearly all of the Aeolipile’s crew, his antics and procrastination with the engineers and scientists had forced them to enact a zero tolerance policy on the man’s laziness. It was actually a duty of the most junior interns to always know where the captain was, by tracking device and line of sight. Anything to keep Nott’s hammer from dropping, even it meant treating Deicide like child.
“Argh. Vultures,” Deicide said, as he rose.
“Yes, yes sir. Our evil knows no limits. Just a few more hours,” he said. Deicide used his sharp fingers to scratch himself all over as he followed the white coated man. They weaved in and out of manufacturing pockets and ongoing projects by Nott’s legion of scientists. In this facility alone, there were miles and miles of workbenches; designs thought up by research teams eager to become members of Nott’s Somnus Engineering Corps. Intellectually elite, gifted with vision and carefully honed focus, they, led by Nott, were the crafters of the Aeolipile’s technological fate, and they did so with their eyes closed.
All around, metal edges were welded together; enormous vats of liquids were poured into molds, surfaces grinded to near transparency. A robotic machine being operated by a Somnus Engineer sleeping soundly in his quarters, was crafting the canine skeletal frame of some pet project. They were completely free to use whatever materials they chose and explore wherever their minds took them. The annoying stench of hot work and polyurethane oils crowded the air. An alarm went off as one of Deicide’s tails crossed into the danger zone for the giant robotic equipment surrounding him.
“Sir, could you please stay away from the yellow lines? I know your aim is to be as difficult as possible, but I wish you wouldn’t take it out on Flying Squad,” he said.
“I like to watch them scramble.” Deicide said; looking at the catwalks fill up with Damage Control Personnel. The building sized machine within the yellow line had shut down; people were already coming to see if anyone had fallen in.
When they had crossed into a quieter section of the facility and Deicide removed his shirt, exposing his supremely defined torso, preparing himself to be gouged with needles and probes. He headed to a group of white labs coats that were huddled around his tiny wife, but Deicide knew that everyone here believed she was the biggest one in the compound. He strolled over playfully and plopped down in the chair that had been set aside for him, wondering what they would be testing today. He was surrounded by a team of researchers in various fields of study; Deicide had been the subject of thousands of studies in his life time, beginning with Nott’s research. After she had cured Deicide of an array of ailments that were inevitable to immortals including dementia, she focused her work on the mysterious killbox. Most eaters could not maintain one for very long even with the aid of the vestige material, but Deicide was among the few who witnessed this phenomenon as reality and not a fleeting sensation. Besides the most gifted of Weavers and Risk Eaters, most eaters could only use the killbox to perform tricky sleight of hand or stutter step to fool an opponent.
Nott’s interns attached a drainage needle near Deicide’s bladder to bleed off the vestige well located there. All vestige material was required to be removed except the Oris gland attached to his brain stem; it was a growth that had emerged shortly after Deicide began puberty, allowing him and the Abyss to occasionally share senses, until the opening became so wide, neither of them had any secrets between them. Even now Deicide could hear her incessant whisperings as the Abyss poured herself into a large cylinder so she would not interfere with the tests. Deicide joked quietly with the interns, knowing they could use a bit of a laugh to escape the rigidness and sterility of his wife’s work environment. In her own element, Nott was extremely focused and expected the same attitude from everyone in her command; Deicide had long given up trying to lighten her mood when she worked.
He watched as she darted back and forth scribbling on a large digital board with her finger, figures and formulas Deicide had grown tired of seeing. Nott had told Deicide that she was beginning to believe that the vestige was affecting his fertility; that the extreme conditions he created inside his killbox were affecting his own sex organs. It was her theory that something was affecting Deicide’s sperm, and perhaps the man himself, making it and him, selective.
Deicide stood as he was waved over by a technician in coveralls. As he came to the man’s side, a section of the facility was enlarging, unneeded projects were shuffled out of the way as the ceiling rose up and the walls ran away from each other. Then various items of different sizes and shapes were brought in, from drinking glasses to the carriage of an oil truck. Though it appeared to be a test just concerning his killbox, in actuality many tests were taking place. Transparent screens came down just outside of Deicide’s maximum killbox range; it was about the size of a football field.
“Go ahead, sweetie,” Nott shouted from the catwalk directly above. Deicide spread his killbox and began to crush the items within the space. He compartmentalized his attacks, placing an intense gravity on large potted trees until all splintered into a soft pulp; then turning his attention to a set of glasses, lifting and crushing them into crystals with an unseen hand. He forced the glass into a fine powder and let it fall to ground like snow. He focused on the oil carriage. First it imploded and bent it at its center, and then it was flattened. Nott urged him to go on and then the metal was formed into a tight ball and pounded into a thick disc. Large androids shot up as if they were fired from canons in the floor, they twisted and adjusted themselves mid-air, landing with their weapons firing. Deicide lashed out with an umbilical, slicing an arm mounted mini gun in half, the weapon continued to cycle impotently unable to fire from the ruined barrels. An unarmed android grabbed Deicide by his waist and attempted to suplex him, but just as the machine hefted him to the y-axis, Deicide increased his density by a great degree. He fell on top of the android crushing its entire trunk. As Deicide stood, he dashed away from bullets stitching their way toward him, until he found himself behind his assailant. He allowed the android to turn before he locked grips with the machine. He smiled to his wife on the catwalk, before overpowering the mindless droid with only his muscles to impress his audience. The metal limbs squealed as they were weakened by Deicide’s superior force, the smell of the overworked motors poisoned the air. Within seconds the android reached total failure and dropped into a mess of sparking cables and warped metal. He sat down on the crumpled machine and released a frigid breath from his lips. His umbilicals, now drained of any vestige residue from the action fell to the deck; his killbox shrank as his body had depleted the bit of vestige fumes in his well.
“That’s enough,” Nott said. The facility began to form itself back into what it just was. Deicide seared over to the elevator to meet his wife as she descended. The Abyss poured herself out of the large vessel she had been contained in, and slid over to Deicide in a high arc like night stealing the world from the sun. When she had touched his body her consistency changed and she became a silky, black shadow once more, part of her girth seeped into Deicide’s umbilicals and brought them to life once more.
“Well?” Deicide said, shooing away her assistants so that he could be next to wife.
“Let them draw a sample, come back later, love you,” Nott said, kissing him quickly before she hurried off. Deicide groaned as a stone-faced assistant approached him with a needle for a semen extraction. And here he had been hoping the two could have lunch together, like the old days, but he remembered that even that was not correct. They had never been alone, she had always brought her work along, and he had been accompanied by the Abyss, unable to ever break line of sight with the creature. The thought shoved Deicide’s mind into activity, had he ever actually been alone? Ever? No, there had always been the hum of the engines, the squeak of Nott’s test subjects and lab pets, but most of all there had always been the Abyss.
Hours later Deicide was lying across the couch in his wife’s office, with an ice pack on his groin and an intern dabbing his forehead with a wet cloth. The sounds of high powered machinery and foremen shouting at subordinates could be heard in the distance. Deicide thought it strange that his wife had never bothered to have this office soundproofed, when all of her others were, it was the loudest and most active. The intern jumped when Nott stormed into the room mumbling and cursing in Abstrusian under her breath. She collapsed in a chair that was much too big for her and laid eyes on Deicide.
“You okay sweetie?” Nott said without looking directly at her husband. She began to type on the holographic display that emerged from her desk. This office was where most of work her was done, it showed, there were piles of wasteful digital documents, perhaps thousands since they were so thin. Dozens of holographic displays held information cycling with blinding speeds. On each screen there was also a scientist reciting something to Nott through video conferencing. It hurt Deicide’s head to even be in here. His Amanuensis Array and the Abyss typically moved information to him in one direction, they were like a massive school of fish, but these talking heads were arguing with Nott and each other; it was like watching a Preschool teacher being pestered by begging, screaming children.
“My greatest enemies have never caused me such precise and humiliating pain,” Deicide said, adjusting the ice pack on his testicles.
“As long as you know who loves you,” Nott said. As the intern shifted in his seat, it was almost as if she had noticed the man for the first time.
“Don’t you have exams to prepare for?” she said.
“Umm, yes m’am,” he said.
“Well?” She said, causing the man to flee from the room.
“Leave the towel,” Deicide said, and then sighed as the man left without doing so.
“Are you that hurt?” she said. “I don’t recall you complaining this much when that turbine ripped off your leg. Of course you never said much of anything.”
“You’re awful,” he said, throwing his arm over his eyes. Nott turned down the volume of assistants jabbering on the displays and came from around her desk. She motioned for Deicide to sit up so that she could sit and then he threw his head back into her lap.
“The tests say that your sperm is either impossibly lazy or very selective,” she said.
“What? Even after getting rid of the vestige?” he said.
“It’s not that simple. She’s a part of you. She IS you, even your swimmers,” she said. Deicide exhaled and shook his head in her lap. His whole body slacked as the seconds passed, as if he were slowly dying. Though it was not under his control he felt as though he had failed her, it was he that was defective, he and his doting monster. There would be no pure blooded Abstrusians, but somehow Nott had seemed to accept this.
“They found the wall,” she said, playing with one of his antenna.
“Really?” he said, trying to sit up again. She pulled him back down by his shoulders.
“It’ll take a lot more power to punch through it,” she said.
“Alright, I’ve waited this long. Give me some numbers,” he said.
“My calculations point to plausibility, but that’s not the whole picture.” she said.
“Which is?” he said.
“Load Shed,” she said. Deicide did not look surprised; they had been racked by the same problems in the early days of the Aeolipile. The days before Nott had invented an engine that could handle the gluttonous energy consumption of the Aeolipile, before the Abyss could maintain enough girth to fuel it.
“We’re speaking of just the lab, right?” he said.
“I mean the ship,” she said. Deicide sat up quickly, wincing in pain. He looked at her with a confused and hurt stare.
“The entire ship?” he said.
“District plants, Engineering Deck, everywhere. I doubt we could afford enough power to keep a Nightlight on,” she said. Deicide turned away and then back to her; a mask of horror covered his normally calm and slightly melancholy demeanor.
It was a long time before Deicide could say anything. “What about you?” he said. Many wrongly assumed the umbilicals Nott and Deicide used were a part of some type of spacesuit assembly, not so. In Deicide’s case it was the suit itself, as long as he had air, and his body kept a seal he could perform space walks and enter other hostile environments. Unlike Deicide, Nott had no immunity to the vestige toxicity and needed to have it converted, which took massive amounts of power, this converted vestige is what had kept the couple alive all these millennia.
“Well, we have to step up the campaign. Back-to-back invasions, we’ll triple the number of occupants,” he said, standing up, holding the ice pack to his crotch.
She patted the cushion beside her. “The mission, my love,” she said.
“How can we complete the objective without you?” he said, sitting beside her.
“Everything is in place. The necessary systems are all automated, now. Remember what I told you?” she said.
“Captain, fuel,” he said.
“That’s it,” she said.
“What will keep me going?” he said.
“The love that my sisters and mothers used to create you, the hate they felt when the Pretender took our men away from us,” she said.
“Of course, but…” He said. She covered his mouth with her tiny gray fingers.
“You must see these people through to the other side. The mission, it’s all that matters,” she said. Deicide nodded slowly. As he searched for some greater meaning in his wife’s eyes he mentally reached through the network that held them together, past the Abyss, past the Amanuensis and into the dark realm that surrounded his wife’s mind. As he began to stumble around the entrance of her virtual consciousness, Deicide felt more and more hopeless as Nott’s emotions were conflicted. The only thing he could pull back was a strange taste in his mouth; like gunpowder and burnt asparagus.