13
Oct
08

Cleansed by Fire, Part 20

For the previous installment of this story, click here

Or, visit the Cleansed By Fire portal page for comprehensive links to previous chapter installments and additional backstory and information about the novel.

Cleansed by Fire

Chapter 4, Requiem’s Eve (continued)

“You may yet learn to regret having let the templar live,” Nemesis told Stavin over an audio-only sliptrans channel; Stavin had never seen Nemesis’ face, and doubted he ever would. “Certainly I am regretting that Lyseena xec-Juris and her minions are currently poring over whatever Maree sup-Juris gathered on us. They have arrested the priest on Bleeker Street.”

Stavin shrugged; not that Nemesis could see that, but he hoped to put as much casual dismissiveness of the situation into his deameanor as possible. “There is so little he can tell them. It was a listening post, and he wasn’t the one doing the work of listening. He was a landlord and we were short-term tenants,” Stavin noted. “Having leads to follow will make them think they’re actually getting somewhere. Our dutiful regional commander has no idea of what we have in store for her and the rest of the Vatican, she is down one admin officer and two critical comm experts, and you’re still providing us with one charming surprise after another. I’d still like to know how you obtained an activation code for a hellpod.”

“You can continue to wonder, Stavin,” Nemesis said neutrally. “And yes, I will be just as good for giving you the precise location to aim it at when the time is right. Just do not underestimate the templars and do not underestimate your wayward Maree.”

Stavin frowned and stroked his beard. “You and the others agreed with me that it would be too risky to kill Maree because it might tip our hand. And the strategy for keeping her in line was mutually accorded.”

“Be that as it may, you were the one looking into Maree’s eyes when you threatened to kill her family. It might have been wise to look a little deeper and discern whether the threat was having the proper effect on her psyche. Or to forego carrying out the threat once she bolted.”

“Carrying out my threat against her family will send a message to anyone else who wants to remain in Secular Genesis and entertain thoughts of dissent. As for her defection, and the modest gains the templars are making through the information she left them, they are nothing,” Stavin reminded Nemesis. “What we are planning will make all of that wilt in comparison. We have lost nothing.”

“You may yet lose your life,” Nemesis said. When Stavin was silent for a trio of heartbeats, he added: “That wasn’t a threat, Stavin. Simply an observation. Whom do you presume that Maree most wants to find now that she’s loose?”

Stavin couldn’t hold back a short, barking laugh.

“Let her hunt,” Stavin said. “I’ll turn her into prey soon enough.”

***

Only his wrists were bound now, and rather loosely with a very soft set of bindercord, but it didn’t seem to have improved Emil Standish’s mood one bit. As Sarai entered the room that was serving as his rather spartan quarters, he glared at her with poisonous malice.

“Are you here to rape me again?” he sneered.

“Again?” Sarai said, and laughed, a sound like a hundred crickets suddenly bursting into song. “We haven’t yet done so, nor do we plan to. If my sister and I had raped you, you would be nursing any number of wounds, both internal and external. If we had raped you, not only wouldn’t we have troubled ourselves to keep you as comfortable as possible, we wouldn’t have expended any effort in coaxing an orgasm from you once the eretine wore off.”

“I’m not some fucking toy, you bitch.”

“Of course you aren’t a toy, Standish-gift,” she replied, her voice wounded. “My sister and I are adults. Why would the leader Stavin give us a toy? You are a gift. You had your chance to be returned to the Catholic Union, but you feared the Vatican’s retribution, and so you accepted your role.”

“I did nothing like that,” he said. “Gift. Fuck you, you damn gene-trash.”

Sarai frowned, and her white skin grayed slightly with anger. “I am sorely tempted to kill the leader Stavin for giving such a gift to us,” she muttered, a gravelly burr in her voice. “The only thing that stays my hand is that it is unclear whether the gift is poor or that my sister and I simply lack the creativity to properly make use of you.”

“I am not something for you to enjoy, whoreslut,” Emil insisted.

“Clearly,” Sarai responded. “If you are at all representative of an Earther male’s ability to copulate, it is a wonder that your women bother to reproduce with you and continue the species.” She paused, then said, “You chafed your ankles trying to struggle with us earlier against your restraints. I have some salve for that.” She reached out her hand, which was holding a small tube.

“Don’t touch me. I would rather die, you freak.”

For several seconds, neither Emil nor Sarai spoke, but their eyes were locked onto each other’s.

“Standish-gift, it is clear that we will not be keeping you much longer. You are a worthless gift. It would go well for you to be civil and to accept aid when offered, so that your remaining time is peaceful. Then you can go on with your life.”

“I. Am. Not. A. Gift,” Emil replied. “Whoreslut freak.”

“You realize, of course, that the leader Stavin gave you to us in the hope that we would torture or kill you,” Sarai pointed out. “You should be giving us thanks for not having done as he assumed we would.”

“I would sooner die than thank you.”

Sarai pulled back her hand, slipped the tube of salve into a pocket inside her robes, and sighed. It was a sound like pages rustling in a damp wind. She left without further comment and closed the door.

More than an hour later, Emil sensed the inertia of the vessel shift in a manner that suggested they were coming to a halt. Mehrnaz appeared at the door and said, “Sarai has made it clear to me that you wish to leave our company. We are in agreement with you that the time has come, and we are meeting with someone who can take you home. I will now release your wrists. I presume you have the common sense not to attempt violence against me.”

Emil nodded. The anger in his eyes never left, but Mehrnaz sensed no impending hostile intent, and cut the bindercord. He stood up and rubbed his wrists; a thoroughly pointless gesture, Mehrnaz thought, since there was no way the cords could have caused him the least bit of discomfort.

She led him down the corridor and to the primary airlock.

“Good journeys, Standish-gift.”

“For the last goddamn time, I am not your gift, you gene-twisted lab freak.”

“You are until you leave us,” Mehrnaz said, then left him and closed the inner airlock door.

When the outer door opened, Emil realized that it was not another airlock facing him but the cold void of space. A bitterly empty infinity seemed to stretch out before him, and for the first time in a long time, he wondered if there really was a God, and whether he was looking at the true nature of Hell—an eternity of near-nothing. His head struck the edge of the outer doorway as he was sucked out of Ishtar’s Folly, though, so he spent the last seconds of his life unconscious and unable to ponder the theological possibilities that had just barely sprouted in his mind.

In the control cabin of the ship, Mehrnaz turned to her sister. “Do you think our response was extreme?”

Sarai closed her pale violet eyes for a moment as if to consider. “Perhaps the Abrahm-Elohim will grant him a new life. If so, perhaps the Standish-corpse will think better next time of how he uses the phrase ‘I would rather die than.’ Particularly when he uses it twice in fewer than that number of minutes, and in the presence of an Ishmaeli hirebrand.”

***

The templar medtechs had declared him sufficiently recovered from his gelding—performed by the infamous Lukas man-Juris himself, thank you so very much for the shitting honor—that he had been moved to a cell by late morning. It was hard to judge time without a window, but Adam Devan suspected it was late afternoon or early evening now, as he heard the heavy tread of armored templar officers coming toward his door.

He had expected that his removal to a work farm out West—Pacifica seemed most likely—would happen soon and his life of indentured servitude, the sentence for fucking his fiance and daring to use a prophylactic, would begin. He had been told several times now that working an ag-field under the hot sun for the rest of his life was the final judgment.

What confused him was why it required two armored templars to drag him from his cell. Had he been a traitor giving up secrets or working for a terrorist cell, he might understand. Had he killed a templar, he would understand. But he was utterly confused.

Until he saw the two medtechs outside, the seals of the White Pope crisp and clear against their tunics. And the gurney waiting for him.

“But I’ve already been gelded!” he shouted, knowing how foolish that sounded. Castration was the work of templars like Lukas and his staff—people who served the Red Pope. When the medtechs of the White Pope came for a prisoner guilty of sexual crimes, it was for an entirely different purpose. To be fitted with implants. Filled with nanos. Shot full of exotic hormones. All to be made into a drone for one of the Dry Sisters. Into a sisterhound or a sisterguard. “No. No. No. I’ve been sentenced already,” he moaned as the templars dragged him to the gurney. “I’m for the work farm! That’s official! The Sisters can’t just pick me after that!”

It seemed like the right thing to say, even though he knew full well there was no truth to his words. What Lyseena had decreed was meaningless now.

Adam was fit, but not nearly strong enough to fight off two templars, particularly after getting a calm-patch slapped on his neck by one of the medtechs. He lost his will to struggle almost instantly, but the thrashing panic in his brain wasn’t dulled one bit. Even though he could no longer continue his pointless fight, and his eyelids dropped to half-mast, his brain continued to pummel him over and over and over again.

They took away my manhood. Now they’re going to take away my humanity. They took away my manhood. Now they’re going to take away my humanity. They…

(To read part 21 of this story, which concludes chapter 4, click here.)

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4 Responses to “Cleansed by Fire, Part 20”


  1. October 15, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    The past two installments have been gripping. You are really hitting your stride.

  2. 2 Deacon Blue
    October 15, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    The interesting (and sometimes frustrating) thing about how I write this is that I sometimes regret how I handled earlier installments, as I’m only now beginning to get a real full grip on characters and their motivations…as well as understanding this world I’ve created.

    So, it’s fun but I also sometimes look back at older installments and, while I don’t hold my nose, I definitely shake my head from time to time.

  3. December 4, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    That happens with any writing, surely.

  4. 4 Deacon Blue
    December 4, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    True, but magnified by the fact that I am releasing it as I go, so there is no wholesale editing and rewriting before the finished product comes out.


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Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

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