discriminant

r | minor character death



In a foolish act of sentiment, he touched the security monitor as his parents lowered the lever on the teleporter. There was a whirring noise as the machinery came to life. The light that floated up like fireflies from the input pods was aesthetic, as near as his research could determine. The data only transmitted out from the nucleus.

And like that, it was done.

His hand hovered over the button for the X-Door, but it was too early. If they found it open, they might assume he or someone else had entered the shelter and would panic. He had to wait until they turned to the lounge.

His father pulled his mother into a long embrace before they opened the pods and took their babies into their arms again. As much as they had cried in the months leading up to this, he found it odd that neither had shed a tear since Diana had given birth. Not even tears of joy or relief.

Delta was exhausted.

He should have been dead years ago. In other worlds, he probably was dead. There wouldn't be much point of living in QE-CCA-DLR once Diana committed her little murder-suicide. Or QE-CCA-DBR-DDA once Mira went on her rampage. He would have to play along with the little game in any of the DE universes, but aside from DE-CKA-QIDK-DST, they would probably be pointless. Too many branches on his little chart ended with DE - Dead End. Game over, as it were.

He could continue to take the HeLastin, but it would never grant him actual immortality. It had kept him going for the past three years, when his body had started to act - if not show - his age, but it was a stop-gap.

"Would it hurt?"

Snapped out of his thoughts, he focused on the screen, on his mother's soft question. A repeat of a question she asked many months ago, when she was likely already pregnant but unaware of it.

"What are you talking about? Do you ... Diana, do you really want to die?"

"No, but if Akane doesn't return ... we're going to run out of food eventually. If ... if it gets to that point, and we use that knife we found in the healing room, or the gun that was in the lockers in the ... in trash disposal room - would it hurt?"

"I ... The gun would be quicker. Less painful. But -"

"I'm not leaving you, Sigma. I'm not giving up. I won't hurt myself as long as you're alive."

"God, Diana. Even if I ... if I die before you, please. If there's the slightest chance you can survive, I want you to live."

"Not if we're close when it explodes," his father replied.

Delta felt his heart race. He had never overheard them discussing suicide after Diana discovered she was pregnant. Even before, they never discussed anything exploding. He had every moment of their lives in the shelter on tape ... although he had never watched any of their intimate moments.

People had called him a sociopath, a monster, but he wasn't a pervert.

Maybe they had discussed blowing up something while cuddled together in the input pods, or on the chairs in the healing room, or in the shower stall in the locker room. The blue and red balls had been removed from the large bomb in manufacturing, but the ones in the small arcade games remained, simply because it was virtually impossible to get at them. Or so he thought.

He could let them do it. Perhaps it would be the ... humane thing to do. Without Radical-6, humanity was hurtling towards extinction. His parents, his sister, and his original self would all be lucky if they died quickly, if they were at ground zero when the bombs fell. It was more likely they would suffer from radiation sickness and the consequences of nuclear war. An explosion would be fast, and it would take care of him as well.

Ultimately, he typed a command into the computer, before they could discuss it further. There was the familiar tone and then the synthesized voice.

"Now announcing: the X-Door will be opening in ... thirty seconds."

Sigma instinctively clutched Phi closer to his chest; Diana did the same with the baby Delta. Their eyes darted to the ceiling, the apparent source of the sound, before meeting each other's gaze.

"Go!" Sigma shouted.

Diana didn't hesitate. She took off for the lounge, holding her son tightly. Sigma was close behind, even with though he hadn't eaten in days. He could have easily outpaced her if he had been healthy, but malnutrition had taken its toll.

Albeit not as much as it should have. The food may have been disgusting, but it was rich in calories and loaded with vitamins and minerals. The water was laced with folic acid. He couldn't risk birth defects.

He waited exactly thirty seconds before pressing the large black button. Both Diana and Sigma were there when the X-Door began to rise. They stared at it in disbelief.

"Akane ... she must have come back," Diana said.

"I don't ... I don't think so."

Sigma glanced around the room, locating all the areas where he had found and dismantled security cameras. They were all decoys, of course. Obvious enough to be found, just hidden enough to seem like a genuine attempt to keep surveillance. There were still plenty scattered across the shelter.

"Do you think it's a trap? Should we ... we should go, right?"

While he understood Diana's apprehension - the hallway was equipped to release either poison or anesthetizing gas, for those timelines where it was needed - Delta still sighed in frustration. He was tired. He had no more use for this world.

He activated a light so that his parents could clearly see what he had left out for them, sitting in a large wagon. Supplements and milk, with an article on refeeding syndrome, although he suspected Diana would already be thinking about that once she saw there was food. His father hadn't eaten anything in eleven days. Nutrition had to be reintroduced slowly. Blankets, water, baby clothes, diapers, wet wipes, a change of clothing for them, as well, and a cell phone with one number programmed into it.

They finally, cautiously, exited, so he switched to the hallway cameras. Sigma examined everything suspiciously before scanning the walls, the ceiling. Delta had made no effort to hide the cameras, so his father located one almost immediately.

"Did you fucking plan this?" he shouted at the screen, gesturing to their children. His mother hastily closed the top button on her blouse, her face turning bright red. He could get on the intercom, assure her that he had no incestuous leanings, but it seemed pointless. She started to cry, and that snapped Sigma out of his ranting at the camera. Delta couldn't make out what they whispered to each other. Apparently some part of it was that his father would test the milk, because Sigma removed the bottle from the cooler, took a sip, and waited several moments before allowing Diana to drink.

"There are slow-acting poisons," Delta said, to no one in particular. But Sigma was correct; the milk was safe.

Diana passed her son over to Sigma and took the handle of the wagon, slowly dragging it to the elevator. Delta toggled the cameras to watch them as they rose to the surface. There, they found a tent to protect them from the sun and the wind. He pressed the button on the side of his watch.

Akane should be back in Nevada by now.

Eventually, probably after drinking some more of the milk, but before changing their clothes, one of his parents would examine the phone. They would discover that it could not dial 911 or any other number, except the one programmed in, the one that went to the phone that had been delivered to Akane just the day before.

He did not know if Sigma or Diana would believe her explanation. He did not even know if Akane would tell them the truth - that as far as she knew, she went to bed in Dcom one night and woke up the next morning in the hospital. That the nurses and doctors had told her she survived a terrible explosion. That when she insisted on returning to Dcom to look for survivors, she found only debris. She remembered nothing about the Decision Game, due to powerful drugs and some electroshock. She was only here because of bread crumbs his lieutenant had started dropping two weeks ago, leading her back to the shelter.

His father might give her the benefit of the doubt. Diana likely wouldn't.

He turned off the monitors.

What happened to his original body was of little interest to him now.

He sent a final message to his lieutenant. Free the Soul was his now, for however longer mankind had. He set the self-destruct to go off at the first sign of anyone trying to breach the compound. It would likely be one of Akane's little foot soldiers; he doubted his father would be foolish enough to come back after escaping.

If he did, well, what was the phrase? 'Your funeral'?

His last HeLastin injection had been fourteen hours prior, and he felt it in his limbs. They shook as he made his way to his bedroom. His heart was tight in his chest.

The simple solution he drank before he lay down would put him to sleep. The explosion when the Crash Keys tried to gain entry would finish him off.

He closed his eyes.

Perhaps it had been foolish, but at the bottom of the wagon, under the blankets, the water, the diapers, the coolers, there was a notebook with everything he knew about the fanatic written in it, in tiny, precise handwriting. It was highly improbable that his parents would be able to find them. Even more unlikely that they'd be able to stop them.

Still.

Perhaps.

(fin.)