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Hermes Trismegistus, Chapter 14
Posted By: Tursas<tursas@shaw.ca>
Date: 24 October 2001, 2:35 am

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The smell of cooking flesh wafted into his nostrils.
     Bob grunted.
     "I don't know how you feel, but screaming in your ear every five minutes for the past three and a half hours has had a rather calming effect on me. Some people collect milk caps for the tranquility of it. Others hunt. Some even do both. I like to scream in peoples ears..."
     Bob lost track of what the voice was saying and opened his eye. Little blue blobs of light glowed at him from an otherwise very bland, brown expanse. He realized he was lying on his back. His feet were still naked and a cool breeze was carefully blowing past them.
     Something dark swept in from the side of his vision, cutting the light. Bobs right arm went for a USP. The holster strapped to his body was as empty as the Grand Canyon was deep. Something small and hard thumped him in the middle of his forehead.
     "For Gods sake, DON'T do that again."
     A growl that might have been a string of words in another place was heard to his left. Bob lashed out, rolling and striking with his right fist. His punch was stopped dead by the meaty forepaw of a more than worthy opponent. The paw began to squeeze his hand. The same growl ricocheted off the walls.
     "He just asked you if you'd like to eat something."
     Bob's vision sharpened, producing before him the face of the Rogue Elite. Bob could see his hand in the left paw of the beast. He realized that he was still pushing his fist into the others'.
     "What do you want?"
     The beasts' even stare didn't let up for even a moment.
     "He wants to know if you would like to eat something. That, and he'd like you to stop pushing before he finds himself forced to crush your hand."
     Bob relented. He looked with his own eye into that of the other. He found there nothing but a pit of blackness ready to swallow the entirety of space at the slightest provocation.
     "Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh as one; he that is righteous is favored of God."
     "What was that?"
     "You heard me."
     "Did he say that?"
     "He thought it, and asked me to tell you."
     It took a second for the realization to kick in that the Elite wasn't going to speak English.
     "Do you have anything to eat?"
     The Elite smiled. It's long yellow teeth made a brief appearance, but were gone as quickly as he was. Bob watched it move back through the cave to what looked like a small stove which gave off the blue light reflecting from the crystals on the roof.
     "He got a stove? Why didn't I get a stove?"
     "You got guns. He's a weapon by himself."
     "So am I. I was certified as a seventh degree black-belt in just about everything."
     "Even so, he knows more than you do."
     Bob sat up on the broken, rocky floor of the cave, then looked towards the mouth, through which it could be seen that this part of the ring was in the night cycle. Dull light reflected from the edge of the ring many hundreds of miles away.
     "Where's the forest?"
     "The forest ended about a hundred yards spinward from the mouth of the cave. Ten meters from the mouth there is a thousand foot drop to the plane."
     Bob turned around to look at the Rogue Elite. "What's his name?"
     "He doesn't have a name. Nobody in his order does. Er, that is, did."
     "How many years have you brought him forward?"
     "About three and a half thousand."
     "Fuck you, voice."
     Bob knew well that his diseases would not be lethal to the Elite, and vice-versa, for the same reason that his germs wouldn't be lethal to a cow, or vice-versa. There was too much evolutionary clutter between his own race and that of his new friend for there to be any likely biological danger for himself or the Elite. But he didn't want the voice to know that he knew quite yet.
     Another growl.
     "What's he asking now?"
     "He's commenting on how bad the Jackal smells."
     Bob looked around. He couldn't see or smell anything dead beyond the cooking meat.
     "Isn't he cannibalizing?"
     "The Jackals' home world is 87.46 light years from his own. His people weren't space faring when he was taken, just as yours weren't; so to him that Jackal is just another piece of meat; like you. The difference is that he believes you're righteous.
     "He thinks he's God?"
     "A god."
     "You're kidding, right?"
     "Why don't you ask him?"
     Bob didn't want to start believing in gods. All his life he had grown up without gods of any kind. In the Republic there hadn't been any reference to religions of any sort. Parents who were caught teaching their children of any higher power than the government were shipped to the northern wastes on the next train out of Dodge. Many children found themselves orphaned in this way. In fact, this was the category into which Bob had been roughly forced at the age of five. His father had been a professional football player and his mother a sports doctor.
     It could have been argued that it was this policy of tearing families apart that had begun the downfall of the Eastern Coalition -- the people on the Nautilus had filled him in on this missing historical information while he was still a prisoner there. In the eyes of the experts, the breaking of family links, among other things, had caused a dramatic increase in civil disorder, causing a slow breakdown of government and hence the military, allowing the CWS to annex great plots of land until only a thin wire of coastal territory remained of the Coalition. Bob had witnessed the beginning of this turnover during the few years previous to his departure. The real kicker, though, was that the people who had inhabited those annexed lands had all been killed before or during the assaults, allowing the CWS to take over everything without facing the same civil problems inherent to the Coalition. It was interesting to note that both the Coalition and the CWS were responsible for this carnage. Many had called this systematic approach to giving and taking lands and the extermination of the civilian populace the Second Holocaust. There had only been one since in human history, when large numbers of Martians had been killed under much the same circumstances.
     "Why does he think he's a god?"
     "According to his religion, and that of every other Elite here, their God is an entity that is 'in all and through all' because he has no physical form. He was here before the big bang, and has been every time a new universe was formed through the convergence of his power. In other words, although he has no physical form himself, he creates and created all things physical through his non-physical influence."
     "That doesn't explain why he thinks he's a god."
     "I was getting to that part. In order to entertain himself through the monotony of time, this nameless God decided to bring order to the convergences by creating life through the process of evolution. Every life, from the microorganisms in your gut to his brothers in arms is a 'child' of this God. When his God decides to create a new life, it squeezes out enough of itself into the body of the new organism to make it work on its own. It would be like chopping one of your fingers off, except that the finger would be able to operate independently and at the same time operate a computer under its own power and motivations. Every life is grafted into its own body, and every life is stuck there until the organism dies. Upon death, the exuded part of the God returns to the greater whole."
     "That still doesn't explain why he thinks he's a god."
     "I'm getting there. He thinks he's a god, rather than just a child of God, because he's overcome death and become his own miniature version of the much larger and infinitely more powerful primary God."
     "Overcome death. Right."
     "He claims that he could kill himself now and come back as another animal."
     "Wouldn't that be what would happen anyways?"
     "He never thinks of it in that way. The difference, according to him, is that normal life wouldn't have the memories of previous lives. He thinks he can die and come back as another animal and still have the memories."
     "Has he ever done that? Die and come back, I mean."
     "No. He and every other member of his order measured themselves against the one and only member of their race to have ever claimed to do so. I could have stolen him, but then the whole race would have known about me. He wants to know if you're ready to eat."
     Bob turned slowly to look at the Rogue Elite, who had slipped beside him so quickly and quietly that Bob hadn't noticed. That was a very hard thing to do indeed. In its left paw it held a small board of wood on which rested a fat slab of meat. The Elite proffered it to Bob, who took it cautiously.
     A grumble was all he had in reply.
     "You'd better eat it. He might kill you otherwise."
     Bob looked down at the meat. It looked no different than a beefsteak from Earth would, except that it was yellow with light green blotches. He remembered wondering once, a very long time ago, what eating human flesh would be like. It seemed like he would now find out as what, really, was the difference between eating the flesh of one sentient being as opposed to another?