Keely looked through the binoculars that Cassandra gave her. “That’s Neo- Berlin we usually take a wide berth. These lot are crazy xenos" She turned to Cassandra.
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"How many people?" Cassandra muttered.
"I don't know…a couple thousand maybe. Stone wall city - pretty modern - got electric from a 'chine that turns a wheel - off a waterfall. They got crappers and drinking water in pipes. Men bivouac at the south end, women compound here in the north." Keely climbed down from her high perch and mounted her Bay.
"Give me your thoughts?" Cassandra whispered the order.
"Lot of fire power - canon, horse mounted fighters. Some of those we killed back there were outcasts from here…those that lost the faith, gave up on Oding and Thors"
"These are the worst of men, My Lady." Beth rode up and opined her thoughts.
Cassandra stared at the little blond and smiled. She liked her strength. Keely 's face went white and turned her horse protectively between the girl and Cassandra.
"Keely my dear. I could kill you both and all in the blink of an eye. I have decided not to do that. You may die during our adventures, by snake, spider- crab, by bear, or by tooth cats… but not by my tender and caring hands." The women did not miss the sarcasm. "I have a need for sisters and my travel with you seems to have created a bond. I was made to have women want to be me, ironically, I find I need to be you. I am a genius, a monster and a terror for those that oppose me. Because of you I know the burden, and need, of companions. It sucks and was not in my plans, but life is change…so fucking relax. If I am going to kill you I'll let you know… or you would just be dead and all worries gone - save what heaven's Angels will heap on you. Beth, I want your thoughts since you all know mine. Oh…" Cassandra looked on Keely’s fear-paled face. "Was I thinking to kill Beth because of her insolence?"
Keely answered. "Yes, My Lady! I know you can kill us, but it was the way you were thinking to do it."
"Sorry - it did cross my - inventive mind - old habits die hard. They are just thoughts."
An unshaken Beth spoke with strength adding to Cassandra's admiration. "This was my village. They believe that they will create the Fourth Wright. They found a stack of rotting books, all in pieces, and took it for a sign from Oding. They call themselves Nassias. It's a military base. Women are used as breeders, menials, and pleasure objects. We were never treated badly - not really rape. Women are raised with the idea that men protect and provide for women; and women provided pleasure and comfort for males. The men spend their time learning as much of the old ways as they can glean from the rotting books. They spend a great deal of resources looking for these artifacts, these books. The ones they find, that do not serve their religion, are taken as tricks from Looky and are destroyed in bonfires. They seek books on science, math, engineering and ancient Germain history. Physical strength and endurance are considered paramount. Games are played once a moon, the losers die. I was not born here – they found me out wandering. The Father, their leader, took me into his house.”
"The women are allowed to learn?" Cassandra asked.
"Yes, we can help in any matter that furthers the prosperity of the village and the faith - but if we worked beside men we could be - 'had' at any time. There is no marriage. Children were the responsibility of the women." Beth trailed off.
"I don't like them - these Nassies. Am I to believe that only blonds are allowed? I have studied the society these bastards are - bastardizing. I don't like being unwelcome, Beth. We will kill all the men and absorb the women into our fold." Cassandra had climbed up on the rock, with the lens, staring at the walls.
All the women had dismounted and were circling Beth and Keely, buzzing their concerns. Cassandra heard the gripes - she ignored them. She climbed down and leaned against the rock. We are going to camp here. And we will make ourselves known. Some of these Nassies will come out to see who is here and I will kill them. We will mount them on crosses within view of the walls. I read about an ancient nation, a huge village of people that thought as these do - or model themselves after. They were a scourge. These men are a disease. My plan has changed. I will move in, kill all the men and blow up everything. I've let you all have fun - now it's my turn."
"My Lady? Could we save the machines? They could be useful." Keely asked firmly.
"I will do my best - I will find their leaders and kill them later. They may have information we could use. You all will rest with one eye open. Beth you will hear their thoughts as they near, I have apparently switched on a dormant aspect of your minds, and you and Keely stay awake! I'm about to have a little bloody fun. Feed me, my dear Keely, I have work to do and I will need the energy."
The women shuddered. Cutting off dicks is easily justified, but this was a dreadful goddess who delivered death at her whim.
"Relax my girls, we need supplies and munitions - we will get that and create a safe base of operations - a home for a while. The weather will soon lock us in. We will not lack for meat - I can call in big cat and Bears. I need a safe and quiet place to dream my lover - Samson."
"I saw him - an ancient dark, short stature, strong, off the wall smart, dangerous, arrogant, and celibate. He is pissed that you aroused him." Beth spoke.
Keely made a bark of disapproval.
"Keely you can 'see' too - cut the shit. I do arouse the little monster, it pisses him off, and gets me off. Fuck him if he can’t take a joke."
"He's coming for you - he has decided to kill you and default on his contracts. My Lady, can he kill you?" Keely almost whimpered.
"I don't plan to make it easy. He has to mate with me first."
"Is he a god?" Beth asked.
"He is a killing priest. A dark shadowy angel and the most dangerous man on this world."
Keely spoke" What of the children?"
"Are you speaking of an issue between Samson and myself? Or have you changed the subject?" Keely did not flinch. "You all don't strike me as maternal. I don't know about children, I was born like this. I personally think we should ring their necks, as soon as they are born, so they don't have to endure this shit hole of a world." Cassandra did not change her expression. The women knew this was important and were afraid.
"And does our Lady mind if the women we save …who are not warriors, tend to the children. A longer view may be needed. We could train the boys to be both fierce and kind - the girls to be nurturing and fearsome." Keely spoke softly and with respect.
"Seems a paradox and I enjoy paradoxes. I'll do my best to not kill these women and children. Keep them out of my way. They must be made strong by the spring or they will be left behind." Cassandra sneered.
The women, in good spirits, started to set up camp. A fire was set and in all twenty-three women sat in a ring around the fire. Some rangers had returned and were brought up to speed on their new champion and her abilities. The giggling was annoying to Cassandra, but she allowed it. They ate and sang their exploits and hope for a brighter future.
Cassandra prepared herself and wrapped herself in gun and knife, "I will come with you."
"I demand the right." Beth disappeared. A knife appeared at Cassandra's neck. Beth was on her back in a blur of movement.
Cassandra laughed. "Little sister, you have hid this ability from your friends. Was that fair!"
In a blink Cassandra was standing ten feet away with a nick on her neck. Blood trickled from the wound. Beth stood up from the ground then jumped, flew through the air aiming her boots at Cassandra's chest. Cassandra grabbed her mid-flight and set her on the ground - hard.
"Military growthy tanks - I thought - files indicated that all of you were eliminated. I smelled it on you. The swill we floated in never quite leaves our skin. What an awful embarrassment to the Elite we are. You, sweet innocent Beth, lied to me. You are near to what – a hundred years old? - seen and done a lot of crap, I'll bet? You must be the last."
Beth sat and stared at Cassandra with adoration in her eyes.
Cassandra continued. "Titanium reinforced bones, redundant organ and vascular system, nano-mechanically assisted lungs, enhanced endocrine and immune system, enhanced nervous system, hyper- muscular output."
Beth grinned slapping dust off her pants."There were twelve, six men and six women - I killed them in their tanks and all the monsters who made us. I am an anomaly like you. I was made just to see if I could be made. I was made to be your little sister. I knew you would come and I waited, sometimes not patiently, all these years. I did put up with a lot of crap. All those things in me are in you, but you are so much more. I waited for the opportunity to test you and kill you, if I could. I'm a curse and you are the word that started it.”
“I have no idea what that means sounds a little religious spooky to me, but I can tell you this. You and I are not a curse, except to this ruined world. We were made to be above it – to control it. I for one don’t want this lousy space wobbling rock.”
“Well, I am on this cosmic ride you want – either that or you kill my tired old ass.”
“If you ain’t again’ me - you are for me.”
Beth stood, blew a stray lock out of her eyes, and smiled. “You are a terrifying and perfect goddess. How very cool! I pledge myself to you. Kill me or let me live. Should you allow my life, I am your warrior priest, servant and your sister. I am, to my death, pleased that I could find one to serve."
Cassandra frowned."YEah! And I'm your huckleberry." Beth looked puzzled. "I am uncomfortable with this whole goddess thing - between you and me, you need to get a grip. We'll swap family stories later, but for now, come my terrifying little sister, warrior priest, lets go do what we do best."
"They made you and me, or most of you and me, hundreds of years ago." Beth continued.
"I know - I killed them for that. They didn't know I was aware all that time I floated in their tanks. It served me to manipulate all they thought they were doing to me. They used bits of me to make you. In an odd time twisted sense, little sister, you are my daughter. I arose from the tanks when I believed the time was right."
Beth Stared at Cassandra. "You were aware, awake all that time? Damn!"
"Yeah, I think my fetus was created long before the Change.I don't think I was really aware - more like active dreaming. Who knows how long ago that was? The Elite found me, I was grown to a state of a pre-pubescence, and I waited. I am much older than the time of change. Yet my fifth birthday has yet to arrive."
Cassandra turned and had her back to an astonished Beth. “Come on I have a real urge for some deadly play!”
They chose to run to the city walls. The horses would be too slow.
The women who stood guard watched the city in the light of the two half moons. The other women intoxicated by the dream of the goddess and the booze found in the dead men's booty, fought sleep and climbed the rock to watch. The night lit up in concussive explosions and high rising clouds of fire and smoke. The scouts were indeed hung on crosses shadowed in the distance. Screams and gunfire filled the whole of the night. The women yelled their excitement as each explosion rocked the village. And then it was still and they fell asleep where they lay. The guards waited agitated and afraid. They now had two goddesses, fearsome and beautiful. Here was the seed of dread, or paradise.
Ken Lehnig (c) 2010
Why is doing what you love the hardest thing to do? Is it because failing what you thought defined you would be too devastating a thing from which to recover? If so, we stay where mere accident has left us.