Chapter 69

Haziel tries on some sunglasses during one of har ten hour down times. “How do these look?”

Sha and Senciner are in the center of three compartments in the tall, narrow space vehicle. Below them is the engineering space. Raziel and Beleth are on the top deck, having been minimally trained to operate the Big Board. If they encounter any emergencies they can’t handle, they are supposed to come below and alert them. It is Haziel’s sincere hope that nothing more complicated than propellant re-balancing crops up.

Senciner replies, “Blessed are the cross-eyed for they shall see God twice.”

“You blaspheme, Senciner.”

“Okay, then how about, ‘Blessed are the skeptics, for they make great scapegoats?’”

Haziel chooses a video spool from a wall cabinet and threads it through the viewer.

“Agent Y is a genetic freak, even for a human,” Senciner says when he notes har choice of entertainment. “He’s got YY sex chromosomes.”

Haziel shakes har head. “There are no YYs, only maybe YYXs”

“If I say he’s YY, then that’s what he is.”

“Well among humans there’s XX’s, XY’s and rarely XYY’s. But YY is impossible.”

“Haziel, no, besides, Agent Y is a fictional character.”

Haziel says, “Is it true what they say, Senciner, that too much testosterone makes yeng bald?”

“That’s absolutely one hundred percent correct. That’s why baldness is a sure sign of virility. You’re sweating, Haziel.”

“Yen don’t sweat, we glow. Besides it’s hot.”

“Ship’s internal temps are well within specs.”

Haziel drops into bed like falling timber, so very slowly under the low acceleration. “Come here, I want to test the testosterone theory.”

“You want a short little stub like me?”

“I once knew some fairly tall Fallen Angel babes who were married to tiny little runts.”

Blessedly, Beleth doesn’t come below until their lovemaking is well over and they have covered up once again. When sha does arrive sha says, “Please come upstairs, Raziel is very upset about something.”

What Raziel is very upset about is the amount of remaining propellant. A week of low but constant acceleration has depleted the tanks to 68%, and hy has just discovered that fact on hyz watch. “You failed to mention that we almost at the point of no return,” hy complains bitterly. With almost a third of their velocity-change expended, they would need another third to come to a halt, and the final third to return to Barbelo and successfully land.

“Because we were at the point of no return the instant we launched,” Haziel replies sweetly. “I thought you knew. And if you didn’t know, I’m still not going to feel the slightest bit guilty about it, Raziel, because you were the one who insisted that you and your wife replace Malkiel and Xaphon.”

“How could I possibly know?”

“Because your special weapon is set to detonate the instant it is detached from the ship,” Senciner puts in, hyz glance upwards indicating the long needle fixed to the very top of the ship like a church steeple. “You, in fact, were about to advise us of that fact to force us to abort the mission and return to Barbelo.”

Raziel holds hyz expression in check, but a slow grin infuses hyz features. “Fine, it’s all out in the open now, that merely pushes up my timetable a bit. Proceed with turnaround.”

“We will do no such thing,” Haziel says. “If the comet is allowed to strike Barbelo there will be a second Great Deluge and millions of people will die.”

“Then I will detach the special weapon and allow it to detonate now, in deep space. The Deluge will still happen, but we four will all die as well.”

“Husband!” Beleth exclaims. Such talk was well out of character for hym. She now fears hyz mind has somehow broken. And sha also fears for har own life.

“By all means do as you have threatened to do,” Haziel says. “But your very presence aboard this spacecraft tells me you do not have the courage to take your own life. Your plan was to ride out the Deluge up here, then return to Barbelo when it began to ice over, perhaps forage on the Larund or Sala food caches.”

“If you do not turn this spacecraft around I’m dead anyway.”

“You are dead even in that case,” Senciner says. “Yes we already know the special weapon will detonate the instant it comes off the rail, but we also know it will detonate after a very short amount of time under one full gravity. If we land on Barbelo, there no way you can run fast enough to get far enough away from the ship to survive the blast.”

“That last part is a little surprise from Thaumiel,” Haziel says. “He didn’t tell you that part, did he? You’re an intelligent yang, Raziel, but did you really think Thaumiel would permit you to carry off this particular sort of weapon unless it suited his purpose?”

“And what purpose is that?”

“To destroy whatever enclave you thought to seek refuge in after the Second Deluge,” sha says. “You know what we’re saying is true. Consider! We discovered the approaching comet, but did Thaumiel allow us to warn anyone outside of the House of Gerash?”

Raziel shakes his head. “No, and Thaumiel is content to let perish the less desirable parts of even the House of Gerash.”

“Such as soldiers like yourself who do not have a full retinue of wives,” Haziel mutters. “When I said this flight is a turning point in nephilim history, Raziel, I meant exactly that. The people of Barbelo will learn that we sacrificed our lives to divert a comet that Thaumiel was content to allow to strike the planet. He has no idea what’s about to happen to him. Everyone, even those in House Gerash, will know once and for all that he is an evil god.”

“We still have time,” Raziel dares to hope. “You can set back down on the planet and let Beleth and myself run free, and depart again before the timer detonates the weapon!”

“You just told me that Thaumiel is using the comet as an opportunity for selective genocide. Does that sit well with you, Raziel? Do you really feel no obligation to try to thwart such an evil god?”

Senciner adds, “I’m not blindly following Haziel, and neither were Malkiel and Xaphon. We know full well this flight is to be a one-way trip. It’s a chance to prevent a second Deluge and save the lives of millions of people.”

“In a way, Raziel, I’m glad you insisted on coming,” Haziel says. “I am quite fond of Malkiel and Xaphon back at the armory, who were displaced by yourself and Beleth, and now they will survive, if we succeed in changing the path of the comet.”

Raziel is miserable. He turns to Senciner. “This is easy for you in House Sala, with the irrational beliefs you have been taught by Haziel, but for me death is oblivion. When I’m dead I won’t even know that I’m dead or that I ever lived. So I must grasp every additional moment possible, no matter how great the cost to others.”

“Our lives and the lives of millions of humans and nephilim on Barbelo do mean something to us,” Haziel gently asserts, “and so does this mission. Whether that is also true for yourself and Beleth is entirely up to you. The thing has been set in motion. Nothing you can say or do will coerce myself or Senciner to turn this spacecraft around. Your greatest possible remaining span of life is now measured in days. But whether we succeed or fail is entirely in your hands.”

When Raziel and Beleth both show signs of failing to understand, Senciner explains, “We cannot watch you every moment of the short time remaining to us. We still have to sleep. You could sabotage the ship, perhaps blow out a hull panel and let all our air escape into space, or launch the weapon, which you assure us will result in instant obliteration. We can’t stop you, if you decide to thwart the mission out of spite. No one would ever know.”

Raziel can now see hyz death is going to happen no matter what hy says or does. The realization of the certainty of this is a psychological crisis of misery that peaks, then after hy sees Haziel’s look of sympathy for hym, fades gradually to end in a sigh. “Exactly how do you intend to deflect the comet?”

“We will ram directly into it,” Haziel reveals. “The weapon will go off on impact and vaporize at least half of it. The other half will enter a new orbit and miss the equatorial zone of Barbelo, or perhaps even miss the planet altogether. Thaumiel has no idea what’s about to happen to his stupid religion. Already Yeshua has departed Barbelo, giving Thaumiel the impression that che knows what’s coming and is very afraid. The Ark was recalled to Earth long ago, my avatar was destroyed by Thaumiel himself, and when this body dies my fold-line will retract through the passage and Thaumiel will finally be able to close it, blocking me and Yeshua from returning to Barbelo ever again. That too will be a turning point that will open the next act in our long conflict.”

“But as you draw near to the comet, you and Senciner will be very preoccupied, I imagine.”

“Very busy,” Haziel admits. “I’m afraid we will miss Malkiel and Xaphon very much before the very end. And that end will be better than most, Raziel. It will be very quick, and you will not suffer in the slightest way.”

“Then we will do what we can to help,” Raziel says, and hy permits hymself a wry grin. “Both Tabaet and myself. It will be…the excellent thing to do.”

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About Linuxgal

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