Hell Could Be Many Things

The cargo hold door hissed as the locking cylinders depressurized, and then it swung silently open. A rush of stale air blew back Faulkner’s coal-black mane. There was an electric light inside.

“Please, let me go now,” said the technician. Faulkner had already forgotten about him; pity. He faced the tech, placed his hands atop his shoulders, and nodded in gratitude before grasping the man by his chin and crown and twisting his head like a tamperproof lid—and there was a snap-snap-snapping in the same rapid fashion. The tech crumpled to the deck, disregarded and once again forgotten.

Faulkner approached the light.

How long had this Sparker been kept hidden here in the depths of a junk hauler in this dead system, falling in endless arcs between one brown dwarf and another? Centuries? Longer? There would be hell to pay. Hell could be many things, and Faulkner meant them all. But first…

The sour rubbery smell of ozone suddenly permeated the dark space, and the Sparker flickered with blue-white intensity. It knew he was here. He reached the circular base and stood beneath the crackling machinery of those ancient times—when the galaxy was still bright and empty and its people pulled in only one direction, guided by the yoke and lash of Holy Faulkner the First.

Now began the reign of Faulkner the Last. The Reborn. The Eternal.

He raised his arms in a slow summoning, staring into the eye of the God Machine. “What once was old is new again,” he said, and laughed a dark, bloody laugh that reverberated in the lonely space. All across the galaxy, he imagined, the stars themselves averted their eyes with a shiver and bowed in recognition.

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