Chapter 2 – The Explosion

In human calendar time, what Ameidjin would eventually come to believe was the beginning of the end of Cirxci had happened just a few short months earlier. As she had correctly posited, it had, as with many other such tales, all begun with a catastrophic, “Big Bang.”

“You do realize how fucking disgusting that is, don’t you?” Rieze, perched on a boulder a dozen feet over Mercy’s head, stared down her nose at him as she picked at her teeth with her bloodied claws.

Mercy, ignoring the hypocrisy, along with the bloody gashes around her freshest victim’s neck and abdomen, had turned the hapless human over, and taken off its shirt. He’d then pulled his skinning knife from his boot, and cut a clear line from the back of its head, straight down to its tailbone.

“Don’t watch then.” He was growing excited at all the uncoagulated blood pouring out of its wound, licking his jagged canines at the sight of its spine jutting upwards. Rieze’s eyes narrowed to slits when, in one swift and brutal movement, Mercy reached in, snapped the corpse’s spinal cord from the base of its skull and ripped out its entire vertebrae. The sickening sucking sound it made was enough to make her shudder.

“Hasn’t anyone ever told you not to play with your food?” Mercy didn’t bother with muscles, tendons or ligaments, he simply plucked out the bones he wanted and dropped what remained by his feet. One at a time, he put the pieces in his mouth, using his teeth to crush them up further, and suck at the soft marrow tissue inside. Once he’d licked them clean, he spat the whole thing back out, “Why do you even do that?” She asked him pointedly.

“Why not?” Happily oblivious, Mercy wasn’t about to explain his old habits to his not-so-old hunting partner when they both knew better, “I told you not to watch.”

Rieze grimaced, but Mercy was facing the other way. She turned her head, her contempt replaced by pure, unadulterated glee as something else entirely caught her attention, “Well, well, well.. Looks like karma finally decided she’s being a fucking cunt today.” She announced with a mad grin on her face.

Mercy spat out another mouthful of broken bones before he shot her, and her twisted smile a glance, “What is it?”

“You won’t believe me.” Rieze had the back of her one hand covering her mouth in a half-ass attempt at not stifling her laughter, while she beckoned him with a finger from her other one, “Come take a look.”

His curiosity effectively piqued, Mercy stuffed the corpse’s innards in its back in no particular order, wrapped its shirt around its neck, and kicked it off the edge of the cliff they’d found it sleeping on. It bounced off some stones below, disappearing into a large crevice too far down for daylight to reach or Mercy’s night vision to see. Satisfied with his work, he turned and climbed the boulder to stand next to Rieze.

“In what possible universe is this even remotely fucking amusing, Rieze?” Mercy couldn’t have missed it if he’d tried.

“What do you care?” It was her turn to shrug him off, her assessment of him too accurate for his liking; he was having a damn well near impossible time believing what was happening. ‘CARING’ was an altogether different matter, “Unless, deep down, you think he lied to you, and your precious pet is still hidden on board?”

“He didn’t lie. He killed her, and her bones are still hidden on board.” Mercy shrugged, keeping his eyes off of Rieze’s dumbstruck expression, and on the scene unfolding overhead; the former human colony ship they had collectively boarded, overrun, and assimilated to their cause not that long ago. The black, nigh impenetrable, floating fortress they had used as a weapon of mass destruction against its entire fleet. Their newly adopted alien mothership, lovingly re-christened “The Ezramatheia”…

… Had appeared out of virtually nowhere, and was now hovering a dangerously short-distance away, belching out thick plumes of smoke from the gargantuan cracks quickly spreading across her otherwise solid metal shell as she leaned precariously over to one side. The surreal spectacle took Mercy back, drowning him in nearly forgotten memories stemming from the time he’d decided to leave and live on the surface, much to the Maestro’s protests. Rieze, on the other hand, didn’t care to admit or explain why she’d come and found him. She had turned up on his doorstep one day, and now stubbornly refused to leave him.

“Narcissistic fucking bastard had it coming.” Mercy, not entirely processing Rieze’s spite, kept his face blank as she talked, “Hey, do you think it’s going to…”

Mercy never got the chance to dignify her comments with answers. As though they had been waiting for her cue, colossal chunks of hull broke away from the ship. Riding the shockwaves of a series of ear-shattering blasts, they came hurtling towards Rieze and Mercy at breakneck speeds. Diving out of the fiery projectiles way, neither of them had much time to notice her exposed engines were engulfed in flames. One after the other, they exploded, punching more holes along the side of the ship. Unidentifiable pieces of stone, metal, and machinery were sent flying, setting most of the forest that surrounded them ablaze where they landed.

“Hey, do you think she’s going to make it?” Mercy shot Rieze a glance. The murderous look on her face made it abundantly clear that was not what she’d been about to ask. Quite the opposite, in fact… But while the explosions subsided, the Ezramatheia herself was completely overcome by smoke. Mercy sucked in some fresh air, convinced he could hear those on board screaming in panic, pain, and death. He found himself praying that it wasn’t nearly as fucked up as it had sounded and, for the extended moment she stayed afloat, it did look as though she had pulled through… Except all hope evaporated faster than the staling air in his lungs as the smoke began to clear, revealing the full, horrifying extent of the damage she had taken.

Hanging onto her top section by the metaphorical skin of their literal, metal-plated teeth, her engine blocks were already dragging her downwards as her thrusters sputtered out and died. Her lines and pipes sparked and gushed as they ripped apart, while the few bolts holding her together twisted out of their sockets and fell, bisecting their beloved mothership in one final, languishing shriek of despair. Unceremoniously, her broken, smouldering husks crashed into the mountains, burying themselves beneath the rocky avalanches they caused upon impact.

It was Rieze, muttering profanities under her breath, that snapped Mercy out of his daze. Neither of them had any more use for words as they scrambled to their feet, and jumped over the edge of the cliff, flying down its steep face in a bid to see who would hit the ground first. Once they’d reached the thin forest below, however, Mercy stopped in his tracks, watching an unwitting Rieze as she kept racing towards the ship. Maybe deep down she hoped her consort had survived, but Mercy had other, more pressing urges to attend to first.

“… Please … Help me…” It always made it so much easier when they found him. Without looking at who was calling out, Mercy stepped on its neck with his heavy boot, breaking it, and putting the dying human out of its misery. He then dragged the body behind some nearby rocks, and returned to scout the area more thoroughly. Already he counted; five, six, seven… Humans dead from falling, from being impaled, from being burned alive. Much to his frustrations, a number of them had been crushed under fallen trees, catapulted boulders, and flying debris, making their retrieval all but impossible. Fortunately, where most were ripe for his taking, it wasn’t long before he’d amassed a veritable smorgasbord of corpses, neatly piled up, and awaiting consumption. So caught up was he in his grisly scavenger hunt, what sounded like his newest capture suddenly talking to him nearly gave the veteran hunter a heart attack.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing with Basha, dummkopf?” The static-charged, inhuman voice had barely registered when Rieze’s screams of anger filled the air, “Nice to hear that fucking banshee still can’t find her way back home.” Mercy turned around, realized who was talking, and nodded; “Long time no see, little sister.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake Mercy, spare the formalities.” Hyde, in all its bionic glory, wore unlaced combat boots and a dusty, sleeveless white shirt under ripped green overalls that did a phenomenal job camouflaging it in the tall grass it sat in. With its slightly misshapen gas mask perched on its knee, it glared at Mercy as though daring him to say something about the sad state its face was in… But the tense anticipation was ruined when Rieze let out another series of murderous shrieks.

“… Would strongly suggest you drop Basha before I pop your eyeballs with my tweezers, steal your knife, and go hack out her vocal cords.” Hyde had to shout to be heard through the racket.


It was enough to make Mercy drop Basha’s leg, although he waited until Rieze’s voice had trailed off before he spoke, “Be my guest. You know exactly what will happen to you if you do.”

“In this fucking mess? I’ll take my chances. I doubt anyone’ll care.” Hyde shrugged, banging out the dents in its gas mask with a fist-sized stone.

“Care to explain what happened?” Mercy was keeping an ear out, expecting either another outburst, the sound of people dying or, in Rieze’s case, more than likely both.

“With what? Rieze or the ship?” Mercy couldn’t help but stare as Hyde locked its gas mask into its gullet, pulled it up to what should have been the bridge of its nose, and firmly reattached it to the back of its head. It had the effect of clearing up the static in it its voice, but dropping it lower in pitch, “Jesus, haven’t you been paying attention? The piece of fucking shit blew up, killed a bunch of people, and left the rest of us stranded down here.”

Mercy blinked a few times and tried again, “So what actually happened?”

Hyde let out a long sigh, “Spoiled brat here was complaining about his life sucking, and wanting to leave. Big Brother obviously couldn’t have that, so he got Faustus to build Basha a new heart reactor. Figures it’s the day we’re supposed to replace it, and ‘KABOOM!!’ there goes the motherfu-…”

“Mothership.” Mercy finished in its stead.

“Shut up. I’m not playing cult, I don’t care what those stupid troglodytes on board say.” Mercy didn’t bother arguing. He’d left the ship to get away from his older brother, and almost everyone, including Hyde, knew it, “I was running out to meet Faustus to do the thing, all of a sudden, there’s smoke everywhere. Next thing I know, I have tinnitus that still hasn’t worn off, and Faustus is dragging me out of the dirt, saying Basha’s unconscious but alive. He brings me here, and tells me to keep him out of trouble. I’ve been watching over the dumb brat ever since.” The top half of Hyde’s face was flushing red from its own, barely suppressed rage.

“You haven’t seen anyone else?” Mercy risked asking regardless.

“No. I haven’t seen anyone else. I don’t even know if any of my family members are alive, never mind where any of them might have ended up. I fucking told you. I’m stuck babysitting the Maestro’s fucking brat until Faustus comes back with his dumb upgrade.” Hyde jabbed a finger at Basha, “How the hell he can even still fucking breathe with a busted reactor is beyond me.”

“Well, I don’t know anything about any of that.” Mercy bent down, and pulled his skinning knife from his boot again. Hyde’s eyes lit up like the sun when he handed it to them, “But I’ll let you keep this if you tell me which way the doctor went.”

Hyde took the knife from him, carefully examining the serrated, razor-sharp blade before using the tip to tighten the loose screws around its neck. “I don’t know. Something about tasks, and second tasks, and went back to the ship. I should be dragging Basha to another settlement somewhere back there.” It gestured behind its left shoulder. Mercy could see plenty of hills, and desert beyond that, but nothing that looked remotely close to a settlement, or a camp, “He said it’s best to keep him hidden until the Maestro is found.”

“Nice to hear that new mask of yours hasn’t dampened your sarcasm any.” Hyde rolled its eyes at Mercy’s comment, “Try not to kill anyone, and I’ll try to send some extra hands your way if I find any.”

“I promise nothing.” Was the best Hyde had to offer, “Wait, you mean real people and not just… Hands… Right?”

“I promise nothing.” He parroted back as he began making his own way towards the Ezramatheia.

“… Did you hear that, you fucking brat? You and I are going to have some fun…” He thought he overheard Hyde say, but didn’t stop or turn to look at what they were doing. Nor did he remember to look for Rieze’s footprints in the singed, cracked earth they’d both threaded. Not until he’d almost reached the ship’s mangled thrusters. As such, he didn’t immediately think it strange she had never made it closer than a dozen feet away from the Ezramatheia’s melted outer shell. All he bothered to notice was the path she had taken towards the ship’s top half, where most of their surviving human followers were more than likely rallying together, trying to salvage what remained of their pitiful human existences.

Mercy got closer and put a hand on their mothership’s scorching hot surface, burning his skin, and relishing the sensation. After all this time in self-imposed exile, he had forgotten how absolutely overblown their spaceship had become since the Maestro had run her over. She was so large, and so heavy, not only had she crashed into a mountain, she’d utterly obliterated it, and taken its place. It was an almost impressive ending for such an impressive piece of machinery.

He heard… Thought he heard… What did he think he’d heard? Mercy involuntarily moved up a step. Was someone whispering to him through the cracks? The holes that perforated the ship were more than big enough to hide a person. His fingers traced the smaller lines while smoke kept billowing out. He took another step, kneeled down, leaned forward to listen and…

(Who Said it’s “The End”?)

… Promptly disappeared. Bound, captured, pulled through the mothership’s gaping fissures, and swallowed by the darkness that lurked underneath.

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