Before things exist as they do now, the universe was a very different place. Small, compact, rational; this was the World of Dreams. The people farmed the land carefully and were given what they needed to survive. Science and medicine prospered. They lived in happiness for ages, but the greed in their hearts burned slowly.
They wanted more–oh so much more–and took what their world could not give. Even so they consumed and took ever still. They craved land and lusted after the bounties of the earth. They took and took and then there was nothing left to take.
The World of Dreams was dead. Buildings covered each tormented inch of its surface and its few survivors scoured what was left of their planet in search for food. Fewer still survived long enough to meet me.
I never gave them my name and they never asked me. I offered the survivors something more than starvation and death. I offered them life, light, food, land, money; more than their greed could swallow.
I explained the root of their problems. The five Fates, the over-gods, were to blame. They were really forces of nature more than gods; barely sentient. They did not care about the lives of those they governed. Source to create, Eros to bring love, Thanatos to bring death, Law to create order, and Consequence to account: each had a purpose, but none made it their job to make people happy.
I told them it was my job to make people happy. I could make them happy too, I said, and they were enticed. I told them I would gladly help them and I did.
Source was the main problem. She made their world too small. I straightened her out. Made a new universe; nice and big. Fertile planets everywhere with people to populate them, plants, wildlife: the works.
The survivors and I didn't talk much after that. I spent a lot of time with Source and they ran around The Fishbowl, the new universe, like kids in a playground. It was fun to watch them buzz around to each world and play god to all the new inhabitants.
They looked like they were having fun until some of the inhabitants began to wonder just why they were worshiping other people that looked just like them. But the twelve survivors had always been very handy at science and the like. They made reapers–five of them–to keep the people in line.
But the people didn't get in line and the reapers killed many in the name of their gods. And, as I'm sure you know, when you have a lot of dead and unhappy people, problems can begin to crop up.
It was at this point that Eye showed up. The hatred of those who rebelled against the twelve survivors took form. But it took from its creators first. It wanted more strength before it attacked the twelve. Many more died to Eye, doubly fueling the beings' malice.
The twelve survivors sent their reapers after Eye but even those creations fell to Eye's hatred. When they seemed doomed, they released yet another creation. It was named 01.
01 was a Nanite: a living machine. It could think and act on its own and was immune to Eye's call.
01 worked with the twelve. Together, they shattered Eye; destroying it.
But hatred does not easily die.
Black, freezing air whirled around him. He descended into the ruins of the temple. Masonry came free and fell to the ground as he slowly glided towards the few survivors. Statues of the God of the Air and the God of the Earth collapsed and broke free from the walls. He chuckled viscously.
The moon, blood red, silhouetted his slender form as he floated towards those that remained. He was a kid by his looks: no older than eighteen. His hair was jet black and his eyes may as well have been holes in his head. For the past two years, he was the avatar of fear to those who remained in the Empire of Talon.
Verge, The Eater of Worlds, stood before the few that were left. He was a Nanite–a living weapon–and he lived to rid the Fishbowl of every last trace of Talon.
It seemed easy enough at first. However, after he killed the emperor and his followers did not disperse, Verge knew exactly what he had to do.
His feet touched the dirt and dust: remnants of a holy place. He landed with a soft crunch as the rubble broke down under his feet. The rubble turned to grit; the grit to sand, the sand to dust; the dust to nothing.
A man, perhaps a priest, charged at Verge with part of a broken pew in hand. Verge struck him down dispassionately and walked towards the crying child at the other side of the shattered room.
Verge bared his razor-sharp teeth and smiled at the child who looked up at him in horror.
"Don't worry," he said softly, though his voice boomed. "I'm not interested in killing you."
Verge walked towards the heavy oak doors, now leaning in on each other. With a mighty strike he knocked them off of their hinges and onto the hillside below. He stepped out of the once-building to admire his work before he moved on to the next.
Someone was behind him now. Verge froze.
"It's over, Verge!" the voice slammed into the back of his head. It was loud, strong, and sounded as if it were made out of rusty knives. Verge could recognize Owen's voice anywhere.
"01 has requested an audience with you!" a woman's voice, like slate, attacked Verge. Verge knew Scarlet's voice by heart.
"Verge," an oily voice taunted, "We've caught you now. Come along now and we'll guarantee a painless execution." Verge knew that bastard Ford's voice all too well.
"That's up to 01," Scarlet snapped at Ford.
"Enough of this!" Owen boomed. "Verge, do you realize how much trouble you've caused me?"
"I have an idea," Verge smirked.
"Don't fight this," Owen said, almost pleading. "You wont be able to fight your way out of this."
Verge began to reply as he turned to face the three, but he stopped moving in the direction he wanted to. He felt a quick pain in his head as he began to fall towards the ground, limp. As the fuzzy darkness surrounded him, Verge thought he could make out Owen's voice one last time.
"I wasn't asking."
The warm, fuzzy darkness began to grow colder and colder still. It was sharp and painful and it made his stomach hurt. It felt like he was being taken apart by some cruel child. Pieces he knew he needed were being hacked out and tossed aside.
He could feel the cold air growing colder still. He could feel the cold table under his rigid back. He could feel the cold hands wrenching his limbs in all directions. Breaker, his Nanite and the source of his powers, was shrinking. Then, Breaker was gone.
He could feel the cold marble floor underneath his face. He could hear the crowd roaring out in anger. They called for his blood. They called for many things.
The cold snapped inside his head and he awoke.
His eyes took in light for the first time in ages, or so it felt. The pain was unbearable. Pure, white pain entered into his brain via the holes in the front of his head. His arms lashed out for something to hold on to. He only managed to knock away the nearby wooden stool in his flailing.
Moments passed and his eyes adjusted. He set the stool back upright and clung to it, attempting to orient himself. The crowd jeered on. He looked about, eyes wide open.
Verge knew this room well. It was the grand hall of the Nanites. Behind him sat the entire collection of Nanites from the entire Fishbowl. Before him were five thrones; one for the head of each Nanite caste.
He climbed up onto the stool and sat with his head in his hands. The room was still spinning.
"By Eros, it moves!" Ford called out from his throne. The crowd roared even louder still and Verge shuddered from the noise.
Owen motioned for the crowd to silence and the cheering died down.
"Nanite Verge Union Component Breaker," Owen began, "You have been brought here because you have deliberately and most villainously disobeyed the will of the Nanite Nation and, even more disgraceful, the will of 01. You have been charged with the needless destruction of over thirty-seven innocent systems. You have avoided and on two occasions, assaulted your pursuers. What can you say in your defense?"
Verge looked up at the thrones. Owen, Scarlet, Ford, and the two others sat looking at him. All eyes behind were affixed to Verge as well.
"I did what was necessary to rid The Fishbowl of Talon and all who followed him," Verge pleaded. The weight of his situation sat upon his head. It felt like his neck was going to break.
Verge continued, "If it were not for me–"
"Nanites Breia and Nother would be with us at this hearing!" Ford interrupted.
"They attacked me!" Verge offered. "I was acting in self defense."
"And they were acting in the defense of innocent people," Scarlet added. "Once you killed Talon, your part was done. You were supposed to let the dissemination teams clean up."
"They move too slowly," Verge whimpered. "The empire was reforming."
"Absurd," Ford chuckled. "My subordinates are trained to deal with these kinds of situations. And furthermore, on several occasions–"
Owen cleared his throat, sending an echoing ah-hem through the entire hall, nearly shaking Verge off of his stool.
"If the two of you are done lecturing my subordinate," he hissed, "perhaps we can actually bring this trial to a close."
"YES," a voice boomed from the floor. It nearly shook Verge from his stool. 01's voice always knocked him back a bit when he heard it. It was proof that he was still a young Nanite.
The eldest Nanite rose out of the floor. It's body, nearly featureless, was apparently made out of quicksilver. It turned to direct its empty face, or what must be its face, towards Verge.
"WE HAVE MADE A DECISION," 01 spoke again, knocking Verge from the stool.
He tried to get up, but he couldn't. His limbs fell limp and his eyes failed him. The room that was so bright a moment ago became dark.
Darkness surrounded him. Not the warm and fuzzy darkness like before; nothingness. He felt nothing anymore. He was alone in the void. There was nothing around him at all. There was nothing.
In the grand hall of the Nanites, 01 stood over Verge's collapsed body. The Nanite god picked up the boy in his arms.
"Well?" demanded Ford.
"WE HAVE DECIDED TO CAST HIM INTO AN ORDEAL."
"SILENCE. YOU WILL ALL LEAVE NOW. OWEN, YOU WILL REMAIN."
Several seconds of blurs, gusts of wind, and flashes of light were the only remaining evidence that the grand hall had been filled with Nanites mere moments ago. 01 and Owen remained alone in the center of the hall.
"Yes, my lord?" Owen whispered.
"OWEN, THIS BOY IS STILL NEEDED. THIS ORDEAL WILL PREPARE HIM FOR WHAT IS NEXT. HOWEVER, THERE IS ANOTHER MATTER I WISH FOR YOU TO ATTEND TO. GATHER TEN OF YOUR BEST NANITES. DOCUMENTS HAVE BEEN SENT TO YOUR DESK."
In the darkness, alone in his own mind, Verge began to dream. He saw images of his past. They had come to haunt him. If that was not their intent, he could not fathom what it could be.
He saw images and faces: people he knew, people he loved, people he hated. He tossed about in a delirium, taking swipes at some, straining for others.
He saw places he had been: planets ablaze, cities razed, a cool stream beside a hill, a small room with white walls. He tripped through them all, as though walking, and came to an abrupt stop atop a black sphere. The air was cool and clammy.
He could hear laughter now. Not a happy laughter, but a sick, vile laughter. The air around him was laughing. He could feel hands grab at him and pull him to his knees.
Verge knew what was above him. He didn't need to look, but he did.
Above him stretched a great eye, as far as the horizon in both directions. It stretched from one side of the darkness in his head to the other. It fixed its gaze on him.
Verge began to lose himself in pain. The weight forced itself on him: that gaze, that look. It forced him into the ground, which was now an oily soil.
Verge wheezed out what could barely pass for words.
"I thought," he whimpered, "I told you–"
The weight doubled upon him. He felt the gaze prying its way into his soul; his very weave. It was trying to take him apart. It wanted to see everything he was made out of.
"I," Verge squeaked, his face pushing into the oily soil, "told you..."
A chilly breeze ran across Verge's face. It carried pollen and the smell of grass and water. Verge took his time. It was bright out and his eyes had caused him enough trouble in the grand hall.
He squinted and looked up at a pale blue sky. Sparse wisps floated by miles above. The breeze hit him again. Verge was getting tired of the cold.
He tried moving his arms. They moved, albeit more sluggishly than he had grown accustomed to. He still couldn't feel breaker.
He could, however, feel his stomach tying itself in a knot. He lay for a moment, gathering his strength, but the hunger pangs forced him to do something. Verge sat up.
"Well, well, well," a greasy voice cooed. "it's still alive."
Verge turned his head towards the source of the sound.
"Good morning, sunshine," Ford said.
"Go to hell, Ford," Verge spat back automatically.
"Well, I'm glad to see you're all bright and chipper this morning," Ford oozed, "but I think you would probably like for me to tell you what's going on."
Verge's eyes focused on Ford. He was exactly as Verge remembered him: tall, thin, creepy. Ford wore a black suit and a bowlers hat. His eyes were a hollow gray and he had a Nanite's hair. Verge could never figure out what this guy was after.
Ford stroked his goatee.
"So, Verge," he fizzled. "What does the Eater of Worlds do when he finds himself out on the frontier without his Nanite component?"
Verge said nothing.
"Dear me, you're dense," Ford chuckled. "You're supposed to make your way back to the Center, where 01 is. At least that's what 01 told me to tell you."
"What the hell does that mean?"
Ford scoffed, "What the hell do you think it means? You're stranded, idiot."
"How am I supposed to even get back to the Center?"
"Walk," Ford chuckled.
And then Ford was gone. No footprints and no bent blades of grass. He was simply gone. Now that he was no longer a Nanite, Verge was beginning to understand why others found it annoying when Nanites did that.
Verge struggled to his feet. He stumbled downhill to a dirt road which stretched around the hill he had been put on, meeting another road at the bottom. An old, wooden sign was jutting out of the mud from a recent rainstorm. In stenciled letters, messily spray-painted onto the wood's unfinished surface, the sign read: Coria - 25. A crude arrow pointed one direction down the road off into the distance.
Verge had never heard of Coria. At the very least it made Ford's story more credible.
Verge didn't have a difficult time believing he was on the frontier. The Center was a grand place.
Everything was large, sweeping, and colored some combination of white, eggshell, and alabaster.
The frontier was the band of worlds around the belt of The Fishbowl. It was Hicksville; the boonies. His knowledge of the frontier was cursory at best.
The sign sat in front of Verge. It smugly presented him with his one option.
Verge cursed quietly and began to work his way down the road towards Coria.
Coria was an orange city. From the bright orange guide lights they had at their modest port to the deep umber of the roads. The buildings were orange and the windows had orange shades behind them.
Verge stumbled into the city and began his search for something to eat. A very informative billboard read: They'll see us from light-years away! Verge could believe it, but he was still hungry.
He shambled on through the streets in search of a restaurant. A few other citizens gave him a second look, but none stared for too long. At the very least, Verge knew he was in a real city.
A few blocks in to the city, as he was approaching the market district full of delicious food, Verge noticed he was being followed. He wasn't sure what to make of it at first, because his stalker wasn't exactly going out of its way to make itself hidden.
He ducked and wove between other pedestrians as best he could, given his condition while trying not to move too quickly. A running person in a crowd is easy to spot.
At the fruit baskets he figured he had lost his tail. He looked back and saw no one out of the ordinary.
Then, he heard her voice.
"Um," she softly began, "I was hoping you could help me find someone."
Verge turned around to see a young girl–well, younger than him, which is what mattered–standing right beside him, a little too close for his comfort. She was short and had long, red hair, which she kept under a brown sock cap. She wore a large brown coat, which was many sizes too large for her. It was old-looking and had as many pockets as stains.
"What makes you think I can help you, kid?" he said.
"Well, I think you're him."
Verge scanned his surroundings, looking for an escape route to run through, using the last of his energy.
"Nanite Verge Union Component Breaker," she said, rehearsed; squinching her face at each word.
"Oh him," Verge's face lit up. "Never heard of him," Verge said, returning his face to a frown.
"Come on," she pleaded, "You look just like him!"
"Don't I know it, kid. Lemme tell you, I've ran into quite some trouble on account of him."
"Well," she smirked, "it ain't like there are many look-alikes left after all of them being hunted down for the past five years."
"Five years?" Verge spurted.
"You look hungry," she said. "Help me find him and I'll buy you a meal."
Verge weighed his options. He was making a deal with the devil. She smiled politely and waited for Verge to answer.
"You buy me lunch," he offered, "And we'll talk."
The girl walked ahead of Verge, beckoning him to hurry up. The contents of her coat jingled with each step. Verge began to wonder what exactly it was that jingled.
Shortly they approached a local greasy-spoon. The girl forced her way inside and held the door open for Verge for a moment before continuing inside. It had closed by the time he got up the steps to the entrance.
Inside was ripe with the smell of a deep fryer and local food. Spices and boiling fat filled the air and Verge nearly exploded–or imploded–from hunger. He saw the girl sitting at a booth in the far corner of the restaurant.
"I ordered you the house special," she said, contented. "It's called Shorian Ens."
Shorian Ens. Verge had heard of Shorian Ens before, but where?
"Thanks, kid," he said, sliding jerkily into his seat at the booth across from her.
"My name isn't 'kid', it's Mei."
"None of your damn business," she smirked. "Maybe if you help me find who I'm looking for, I'll tell you."
"Get the last name of a hobo-girl," Verge scoffed. "That's one hell of an incentive."
Mei paused a moment.
"I'll let you eat before we talk business," she said. "Maybe you'll be less grumpy."
The Shorian Ens was practically orgasmic. Every ion danced on Verge's tongue as the ambrosia quickly slid down his esophagus into his eager digestive system. The salt, spice, and deep flavor added to the experience.
Verge enjoyed himself so much that Mei bought him another plate of Ens. The forkfuls of the noodles and sauce went down easily. Another half dozen bites went down. Oh yeah, Shorian Ens.
Verge put down the fork.
"Are you okay?" Mei asked.
"I just remembered what the sauce on Shorian Ens is," he said, sickened.
"What is it?"
"Well, you know that animal on the sign over the entrance?"
"Well, its manure is considered a delicacy in some places."
"Oh," she looked down at the empty plates in front of Verge.
"Yeah," he hissed, "Oh."
Verge wiped his face on a napkin from the dispenser and composed himself. It wasn't poisonous, he told himself, and he was full.
At last he spoke.
"So, Mei, you're looking for this Eater of Worlds?"
"Well, I said I was looking for Nanite Verge Uni–"
"Union Component Breaker, right," he huffed. "As far as I understand, they're supposed to be the same guy."
"And that's you," she smiled.
"Woah, slow down," he reeled. "Let's not jump to conclusions. I told you I'm a look-alike, remember?"
"And I don't believe you."
"What can I do to convince you?"
"Okay," Verge took in a deep breath, "The Fishbowl is a big place right?"
"So even if the real Nanite Verge guy is long gone, there's still a chance that someone could look like him. I mean, you yourself said the other look-alikes were hunted down. And plus, if I were a Nanite, why would I have been starving just now? It just doesn't add up. I don't know how I can make this more clear to you."
Mei's eyes began to water.
"I–I just thought after all my searching that I'd finally found him. I've been looking for so long and now I have to start all over again."
The locals in the restaurant began to look in Verge's direction. He got the feeling that guys that make girls cry weren't welcome.
"Okay, calm down," Verge pleaded. "Look, I know a guy who might be able to find this Verge guy for you."
"You do?" she whimpered, wiping tears from her eyes.
"Yeah, he's on Delgratti. Can you get me there?"
Mei sniffled and then it was as if she had never been crying at all.
"I'll see what I can do," she smirked.
The bar at the space port was even more shady than the restaurant they had just come from. It was rank with cigar smoke and the smell of liquor so strong it could take barnacles off a ship's hull.
Verge weakly coughed as he took in the first breath of the bar's foul air. Mei pretended not to notice.
"So we're going to hire a captain to take us to Delgratti?" Verge asked, coughing again.
"It ain't like I have fortunes and fortunes to spend or nothing," she said, sarcastically. "I'll find someone who is going that way and see if we can catch a ride."
"Oh," Verge said quietly.
Mei hopped around the bar from table to table, chatting briefly with the most important looking man at each. She had evidentially done this before and knew just which men were drunk enough to accept a low fare but sober enough to remember the bargain.
She stopped at one table and which was populated by a lone man in a wobbly chair. Verge slowly sidled up to the two of them.
"And we'll need two rooms," Mei continued, "One for each of us."
"Thersh two of ya?" the man said, swiveling towards Verge as he arrived.
"Yes," she said, "He's the other."
"Ah," the captain said, taking another swig of his drink. "But thersh only one room."
"It'll have to do," Mei said, "How long will the trip be?"
The captain motioned them to come closer. They leaned in.
"Well, I know thish short-cut, ya see. I can get us there in under two weeks."
"That's not good enough," Verge said, "Make it one week and she'll double your pay."
The captain burst out laughing. His face was red and he kept laughing until he began to choke on his own spit. He washed it all down with the remains of his drink.
"What's wrong with the kid?" the captain said to Mei, "He retarded or something?"
Verge was livid. He was trying to stay calm, by clenching his fists and shaking.
"No," Mei said apologetically, "He hasn't spent much time in reality."
The captain turned to Verge.
"Now sonny, you need to be careful when experimentin' with drugs. Itsh dangerous."
The captain let out another laugh. Mei, sensing that Verge was about to jump over the table, turned to him quickly.
"Calm down," she hissed. "This guy can get us there faster than anyone else I've talked to today and he's doing it on the cheap. Try to keep your mouth shut until we're done."
Verge huffed and went over to the bar to pretend to look at the various bottles.
"That kidsh all right," the captain said. "Half now and half when we get there. Soundsh good?"
"Sounds fine," Mei said, handing him a fistful of coins.
"Got any luggage?"
"Then I'll meet you on dock six in," he paused to take out his watch. He took a quick look then grimaced and quickly gathered his things.
Mei and Verge quickly sprang into action, following the captain as he threw some money in the direction of the barkeep and ran out the door.
The Teacup was exactly as large and spacious as Verge had imagined it to be. Verge expected a small cramped ship with barely enough room for the captain and crew of four, let alone two guests. He was not let down.
Verge knew that the ships in The Center were grand things. He had been on a few in his time as a Nanite. They were massive alabaster dreadnoughts that sailed a sea of light. It stood to reason that ships on the frontier would be derelict rust-buckets that barely made it from port to port.
The Teacup was a small, cramped ship, roughly the size of a small house. Verge thought that a real teacup would be better suited for travel. However, after hitting his head several times on pipes and conduits, Verge became something of an expert at moving through the corridors of the ship.
Verge and Mei were lead through a few twists and turns to their cell-like room. The captain flipped with switch by the door and a buzzing fluorescent light flickered on.
"Dinnersh at six and six," the captain mumbled. "The mess hall is down thish way and to the left."
"Thanks again," Mei said with a smile.
"Itsh no problem mish," the captain sputtered as he slid his way down the hall towards the bridge.
Verge examined what would be his prison for the next two weeks. There was a bunk bed–thankfully–a metal chair and a desk. In addition to the light and its switch, there was a mysterious console that most likely controlled something important against the rear wall.
Verge sprung up onto the top bunk and lay his head down on the lumpy pillow. He sighed loudly. It was going to be a long, long trip.
Mei sat down on the chair and it pushed back along the floor with a scree. Verge cringed.
"So, what was that back there?" he asked.
"Mmm?" Mei said, she had half a mouthful of a candy bar.
"When the captain laughed at me: what did I do wrong?"
"Uh, do you know how far away Delgratti is?"
"Not really," Verge admitted, "no." It had never really been an issue before. Nanites could travel between planets rather quickly.
"Well, it's really far," she said, finishing her bite. "And we'd have to go really fast to get there so quickly."
"So the ship can't travel that fast?"
"No doofus! There's laws against going that fast."
The Teacup lurched into life and took off. The launch was remarkably unremarkable and Verge was kind of disappointed. He had expected himself to be thrown from his bed and, if he was luck, get to see Mei thrown from the chair and hit the wall.
What he felt was the inertial dampers humming to life and jerking uneasily as they caught up with the ship's movement.
Verge rolled over and tried to sleep. The loud smacking sounds of Mei eating her candy would not let him rest. Just when he thought he had gotten used to it, she opened another bar with a loud, incessant crinkling. The light buzzed overhead.
Three crackling, smacking bars into her snack, there was a moment of silence.
"So," Mei began, "How old are you anyways?"
Verge remained facing the wall. He tried rhythmic breathing but he could feel Mei boring a hole in the back of his head with her eyes.
"Hey, I asked you a question!"
"Yeah, and I was ignoring you."
"I'm paying for your ticket. The least you can do is talk to me a little."
Verge rolled over.
"Fine, what do you want to talk about?"
"Well, I asked you a question. How old are you?"
"I don't know."
"What do you mean you don't know?"
"What do you think I mean," Verge shouted.
Mei jumped from her seat a little before regaining her composure.
"There's no need to yell," she said reproachfully.
"That area is kind fuzzy. That's all. Just think of me as being eighteen or nineteen. That's probably right."
"That old and acting like a baby? Hmph!"
Verge searched his mental library of conversation material and came up empty.
"Let's talk about you," he offered. "Girls love that."
"Umm," she paused, "Let's not. I'm sure you wouldn't find anything about me interesting anyway."
"Probably not," he said conversationally. Verge rolled over. He felt the sadness seeping off of Mei. Verge rolled over again to face her. He opened his mouth but it was too late.
"Have you ever heard of Hanchun Chews?" she asked, nearly pulsating with energy. Verge assumed his peace offering had been accepted.
"No, what are they?" he asked, regretting as each traitorous word as they rolled off of his tongue.
"Well, Hanchun Chews are my favorite candy in the whole world."
Verge knew there was no turning back now.
"They taste great and last a long time. Do you know how many ingredients there are in a Hanchun Chew?"
Verge was silent as she sped through each sentence.
"Well?" she prodded, more insistently, "Do you know how many there are?"
"No," he said, "I really have no idea."
"Well, there are 37 ingredients. I know 'em all! I can list them alphabetically and in the order they're on the wrapper. But my favorite game to play with Hanchun Chews is the song I made with the ingredients."
Mei smiled with pure self-satisfaction. She stuffed the wrapper she had into the closest pocket and took in a deep breath. It sounded rehearsed and mindless, but verge knew there was a sinister intellect behind this macabre show.
"Ooooooooo, guar gum, glucose, indigo numbah eighteen...
It was one of the few times Mei was quiet. The lights were out and she was asleep on the bottom bunk. Verge suspected she had lost count of the days they had been on the ship. It was only eleven. In another three days, or so the captain said, they would reach Delgratti.
Verge lay back and tried to get some sleep.
Verge looked ahead and saw something far away in the distance. It was odd. He knew he had seen it before.
It was a cool autumn day. His home city cried out in pain. Talon's soldiers were cleaning up the mess from the artillery strike. They herded the survivors into groups for eventual reeducation.
They couldn't see Verge. He was hiding in the shadows. Ahead of him was the capitol building. He could see the hustle and bustle of soldiers escorting the princess to the place of power. She was getting ready to make a speech to her new vassals.
As Verge walked inside the main doors, past Talon's royal guard, he could see things more clearly. The building was on fire and the soldiers were being consumed, scorched to the bone. Another shadow cut down the few that remained around her. The princess fell down, terrified.
She looked up in horror to see a boy who grabbed her by the neck.
Verge ran towards the two, but his feet would not move.
The fearsome child with the black hair squeezed her jaw until her mouth opened. He took his other hand and reached inside her mouth, pulling out her tongue with a jerk. She convulsed in pain as blood torrented out of her gaping mouth.
He showered in it, rubbing it on his face and laughing. He dropped her to the ground and returned to the shadows.
The Eater of Worlds.
There are thirty-seven ingredients in a Hanchun Chew. Mei knows all of them by heart. She can list them in alphabetical order, the order they appear on the package, and in song. Verge also knows all thirty-seven ingredients in a Hanchun Chew by heart. He can name them in alphabetical order, the order they appear on the package, and in song. Mei is proud of this accomplishment of the mind.
Verge wished desperately that he could have somehow unlived the past five weeks of his life.
Five weeks Verge endured listening to Mei on that infernal tub. Five weeks Verge at the revolting slop the crew shared with them. Five weeks Verge put up with that alcoholic captain who didn't know much of anything about interstellar travel at all. He could have gotten them all killed!
To make matter worse, Mei never shut up the entire time. She prattled on and on about such banal things as candy bars and the worthless planets she had been to. She tried getting Verge to join in, and on several occasions he did. But they ended up fighting nearly every time and he quickly learned not to truly participate at all.
When they landed, Verge rushed to the door as Mei finished paying the captain and chased after him.