“I told you to pull the trigger before she saw her,” Doctor Parvathi said, shaking her head slightly as she did.
There were many things that one did not say to an Admiral. ‘I told you so’ might not be the top of the list, but it was a prominent feature out it. He turned towards her. “Doctor, at this point, I need you to remain silent.”
“Because I’m being insubordinate or because I’m right?” The doctor asked, her face the picture of insolent concern. The entire room fell silent.
“Because it’s useless now,” the Admiral said, grinding his teeth. “We need to figure out what she did to Cassandra, and we need to figure out how to stop her.”
“She’s become an anthrophage, Admiral.” Seeing his confusion, she elaborated, “A being that needs to feed on some part of human beings to survive. It’s a side effect of extended Hunger denial.”
The doctor didn’t seem to care that he was trying to speak, instead walking over to a computer and typing in it. “The best known example of an anthrophage is, of course, vampires and their thirst for blood, but there are several dozen different kinds. Most anthrophages can reproduce through feeding some part of themselves to a human, which is what Bast did to Cassandra.”
“What do you think-” The Admiral felt a vein begin to bulge in his forehead, but the Doctor wasn’t finished, didn’t care.
“Any time a god, or in this case, a goddess undergoes Hunger denial, they become a new type of anthrophage.” She began to click on the mouse, and the Admiral felt his blood begin to boil at the absolute dismissal of him as a person. “Bast is the first case of heart-eater I know of, so I’d love to observe her longer to find out how this works, but unfortunately I won’t get that chance.”
“Why would you not?” Admiral Bridge’s voice was low and dangerous.
“Because I’m going to die. Most of you probably will too, when Bast gets here, but I’m going to die before she arrives. I imagine she’ll be quite angry with me, and I’d rather not be here for it.” She stood up from the computer, and that was enough. The Admiral pulled out his sidearm and levelled it at the doctor’s head.
“What did you just do?” He growled.
“I emailed all my data to an external server, Admiral. I didn’t go through all this, and do such awful things to Bast, to lose it all now.” She said it like it was the most natural thing in the world. “I also deleted it from your servers as well. Can’t have that knowledge just sitting with the US Government, can I?”
The Admiral realized he was losing control of the situation. “What the hell is going on!?”
“You really are an idiot,” she said, crossing her arms and giving him a level gaze. “You capture a goddess, a live goddess, and within three weeks I have a working prototype to pull energy off her nanoverse – sorry, her ‘Black Sphere’ – and within five weeks we’re fielding soldiers powered by divine might. Five weeks from capture to implementation. I honestly worried you’d see right through it. It appears I overestimated you.”
The Admiral fought for something to say, but nothing came to him. He’d…well, if he was being honest with himself, he had assumed that it was divine intervention, ensuring they would be ready for the fight. And apparently it had been, but not from the source he expected.
The doctor continued, her voice dripping with scorn. “Or maybe you were just that desperate, where you chose not to look the gift horse in the mouth.” She saw the Admiral open his mouth, and her eyes narrowed. Something in her gaze silenced him. “It’s taken me decades to get to the point where I’m this far along, Admiral. My grandfather, the one on the Manhattan Project? The reason I had the reputation to get this job? That was me.”
She watched the Admiral’s eyes widen in shock, and continued with evident enjoyment. “I was also my father too. Not…not actually, of course. My actual father died several millennia ago. I’m so glad this era allowed me to be a woman scientist with minimal resistance. Pretending to be a man was getting old. And I’m glad for the data – this has been a huge help.” She cocked her head, studying him. “Are you going to pull the trigger? Or just stand there pointing a gun at me?”
“You’re a god, like her.” He wanted to shoot her for that, right then and there – but he didn’t want to throw away a possible asset.
“Oh, good, you’ve caught up to the situation,” she said with a roll of her eyes. “Of course I am. I’m also the last hope for the world. I’m going to save you all, even though fanatics like you won’t ever appreciate it.”
“Who are you? What are you trying to do here?”
“Yes, because I fully intend on expounding on my goals. That way, when Bast inevitably captures you and tortures you, you can tell her who I am and my entire plan.” She unbuttoned her shirt, revealing she was wearing some kind of white bodysuit beneath it. “Put the gun down, Admiral, or pull the trigger.”
He was reminded of cartoons from his childhood. In them, the coyote would chase the roadrunner, and occasionally run out over a cliff. He’d manage to stay there, floating in the air…right until he looked down. Grasping for some reason not to fall, he asked the least important question. “What’s that shirt?”
“It’s my own design. Lined with thermite tape, set to go off if my heart stops. Destroys my body, and allows me resurrect at my nanoverse, which is over a thousand miles away from here.”
He smiled, finding his footing again. Even though Bast was coming, and the Myrmidons weren’t going to beat her back in time, they had their own super being to protect them. “Then I’m not going to shoot you. If you don’t want to suffer her wrath, you’re going to have to help up stop Bast. And if you could use your power to off yourself, you wouldn’t need to use the suit.”
Doctor Parvathi – or whatever her name was – sighed again. “I absolutely can ‘off myself,’ as you put it, with or without the suit. The suit makes it quicker and ensures that if I die of non-incendiary causes, my body will still be destroyed. Still, it would be less painful if you shot me in the head.”
“I won’t let you!” he snarled.
“Admiral. You don’t have any choice. You never had a choice. Men like you never understand what it means to fight against the divine. Your only choice, the only one that matters, is which of us you follow. Any other option just results in you getting swept aside or crushed underfoot.” Now her voice sounded almost sad, bordering on pitying.
“I made that choice!” he snapped. “I follow the one true God!”
“No one’s seen him in over two thousand years. Longer depending on if you don’t consider his son to be him. He certainly isn’t the only god out there, and if he’s omnipotent, he certainly isn’t showing it. You’ve chosen…poorly.” She shrugged. “When Bast gets here, give her a message for me? Let her know it wasn’t personal. She was just the first opportunity to present itself, and I didn’t like doing that to her. But it had to happen – the clock, as they say, was ticking.”
The Admiral realized his hand was shaking. “You think she’ll care about that?” he growled. “We all fucked her over, every last one of us. You think she’ll give a damn if it was personal or not?”
“Probably not. But maybe it’ll matter in a few hundred years. You’d be surprised what you can eventually move past. It doesn’t matter. But at this point, Admiral, I really must be going.”
“You can tell her yourself,” he snarled. “I’m not going to kill you. But if you even twitch your hands, I’ll shoot you in the gut so it messes up whatever you’re doing. You won’t die, and Bast will have you.” The Admiral didn’t know if it worked that way, but he hoped it might.
Apparently, it didn’t matter. Doctor Parvathi smiled. “Fortunately, it has a command word. Dahan!”
And before the Admiral’s eyes, the suit began to glow. As hot at thermite burns, death was nearly instant, and the stench of charred meat combined with smoke began to rapidly fill the room. Vents began to activate, working as hard as they could to keep the ash and stench out of the room…and in a matter of seconds, all that remained of Doctor Parvathi was a charred husk.
“What,” he said. It wasn’t a question. It was a statement. Everyone was looking to him as the smell cleared out and the smoke began to thin. He should be giving orders…but he had just watched a woman he had worked with for weeks immolate herself before his eyes.
He couldn’t find the words. He was standing over thin air.
At that moment, the door between Operations and the rest of the base turned to mist. “Hello, Admiral,” Bast said, her voice floating through the mist like an ill omen.
At least this was a known quantity. The Admiral knew how to respond – he turned his pistol towards the mist and began to fire into it. Several others in the room began to do so as well, a hail of ichor-infused lead flying into the void. If Bast was standing in the doorway, she was dead.
The mist billowed further into the room as the last of the gunfire died down. Admiral Bridges’ ears were ringing in the silence that followed, and he began to reload. Visibility dropped in seconds, and the Admiral found himself unable to see more than a foot in front of his face.
Then the screaming starter.