The Punishment of a God, Part 3
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Last time on Nexus:
The Punishment of a God, Part 2

Tadao Akai sat in his coop and did what he was being paid for. Starring at surveillance screens, that is. There were significantly more exiting jobs in the Saiga Factions, but someone had to do this task and so far he hadn't complained. Here at least, he could switch off his brain. Right now, his glance wandered over to the camera feed of the cell where they had locked up this girl from nowhere. Mr. Masahito had overrun beyond measure by now. Tadao thought about paging him when he noticed that Masahito repeated a movement he had done before. It took a while and then he did it again. And again.

You could almost hear the penny drop.

"So, let me get this straight," Chloe began, while she walked through the corridors of the facility with Dean's Hand on her wrist. "I got thrown into another universe, into a building of the Saiga Factions?"


"Landed in the chamber of a god, who is about to be used as a weapon."


"Then you and Elli came, apparently because this is a very rare phenomenon and try to get me out, because I am pinned down in this universe thanks to the god."


Conversations with Dean were extremely one-sided, Chloe noted.

"Then there is still another thing bugging me. What actually are those Saiga Factions?"

"They are an organization distributed across many universes. They want to save other realities from destruction. As you can see, they are amateurs. This here, for example, is an abandoned underground complex they occupy. Nothing of their own. They don't even clean properly in here."

"Why did they imprison me then, if they are the saviors of worlds?"

"Because they don't want to save all universes. Necessary sacrifices, if you catch my meaning. You probably are from one of those necessary sacrifices, or they just didn't want to take a risk."


Elli, who was walking in front of them, took a gulp out of a flask she had taken from her purse.

"Wwwwath - Apologies. What brings us to the horrible vision of what this Saiga Faction wants to do with Ku's power once it is weapon-grade. He is a deity that eradicated entire star systems with one swoop."

"What? Why?", Chloe asked.

"Only he knows, I presume. Originally he was a very benevolent god. One that actually did something for his believers. But he probably got fed up somewhen because in the end his lambs went to war for the god of peace. Sounds to me like using arson to fight forest fires… Anyway, he seems to have developed a taste for violence after that."

She took another swig.

"What are you drinking there?", Chloe asked.

"Schnapps", was the short and clear answer. "Distilled it myself. You don't get any!"

Elli protectively laid her hands around her beverage.

"Elli, she is thirteen," Dean noted. "Additionally, nobody wants your booze. The stuff is classified as a weapon on nineteen planets. And it dissolves spoons…"

Chloe realized that something wasn't going as it was supposed to go…

"Wait, are you getting drunk while we're trying to get me out of here?" she asked in disbelief.
"No," Elli tried to appease her. "I was already hammered when I got here."

For a while Chloe had indeed had the impression that Elli staggered almost imperceptibly. And she was smiling the entire time.

Chloe was a little bit worried but Dean was reassuringly serious, and above all, reassuringly sober.
Suddenly, sirens started to attract attention with loud noises.

"Attention, all personnel," resounded from a nearby loudspeaker. "Mr Masahito was found unconscious in the cell of Subject Delta. The subject is together with-"

"And just like that, we got exposed", Elli commented. "RUN."

Chloe couldn't start running because Dean simply threw her over his shoulders in a firemen's carry. In this context she realized anxiously that he apparently had very pointy bones. In the distance, the thunder of shoes on concrete became audible.

To their left a door opened and two men, both relatively young, walked out, probably to evacuate. Elli immediately changed her course, threw herself against the ones fleeing. Dean followed at the double.
"Good reaction, Elli", Dean praised her, while letting a wobbly Chloe from his shoulders and closing the door. The two still dizzy employees he turned the hands on the back and held them down.

"Ouch!… What do you mean with 'good reaction'? I wanted to run past and not right into them…", Elli groaned and got tottering back on her feet.

"You should stop drinking."

"Forget it. I- oh hello…"

Apparently, Elli now got aware of the kind of room she was in. For Chloe, it looked like the Command Center of a futuristic space ship. Albeit one that got assembled from souvenirs from a computer component sale.

"JACKPOT!", Elli rejoiced and ran to what was seemingly the main frame.

"Hey, hey! What are you doing?!", one of the scientists held in a head lock by Dean yelled after her.
"Yes, what are you doing?", Chloe joined in quizzically.

"Weeeell", Elli smirked. "This here is, if the readings on this monitor don't lie, a terminal with access to the network of this building. Yes, just shake your heads, you're just confirming I'm right."

Elli searched in her purse and finally pulled out an USB stick adorned with kittens that was unceremoniously inserted into a port that was certainly not designed for an USB stick.

"Universal port stick", Dean explained because of Chloe's asking look. "Fits on any computer with an access point. Five hundred yottabyte storage and a micro processor with fifteen exaflops."

Chloe gave him an uncomprehending look. It took a while until Dean interpreted the facial expression correctly.

"The stick has a better performance then the most modern super computer of your world", he finally explained.

"Aha… And what do you want with that?", Chloe asked.

"I don't have a knack for hacking", Elli answered. "Therefore, I have an artificial intelligence on this stick that does it for me. I just have to tell it what I want."

She looked briefly at the numerous screens.

"Hehe, anti-hacker protocols, what a bunch of suckers… Oh?"

Elli opened a file that had gotten presented to her.

"110F after all. Chloe, I found our Destroyer. From here, I have access to his cell."

Chloe stepped closer. One of the screens showed a surveillance feed of the chamber she had gotten pulled from.

"Quite savvy," Elli commented, while studying several pictures and diagrams that told Chloe absolutely nothing. "This device saps his energy from him and not really gently at that. This makes his power easier to control if those people load it in, let's say, a canon. A genius contraption, really. Perfect if you want to build a weapon for deterrence. That's probably also how they caught him. But it was a really dumb idea to connect the controls with the main network, if you ask me. Typical amateurs… Let's see if I can tweak it a little…"

Chloe got dizzy as she watched how Elli's hands seemed to become specters, scurrying over the keyboard like two hyperactive tap dancers.

From the other side of the door, the already familiar stomping of several foot pairs resounded.
"No proper protection against hackers but corruption alarm… How predictable."

Elli pulled the stick out again when the door got kicked open. Several people in something they probably thought was tactical gear, walked into the room. Several gun barrels were pointed at the trio. Dean let go of his captives, walked in front of Elli and pulled Chloe behind himself while doing that.

"Surrender, you're surrounded!", a especially brawny man yelled.

Apparently he was the one in charge.

Elli grinned as she stuck out her head behind Dean's back.

"Are you sure that we are the ones that have to surrender?"

"Ma'am, we have the permission to shoot you and your college in an emergency. We matched your descriptions with the databases of all Factions."

"Then you are a tactical genius because you didn't do it until now."

"What did you do to them?", Chloe asked panicky.

"Long story."

"I am counting up to three now. If you do not raise your hands and surrender until then, we will shoot you and take the girl back into custody. Well then, one…"

The ground started shaking.

"Before you start doing something extremely stupid, I should probably inform you about what I did.", Elli announced. "This god you have locked up, very clever to drain his power from him to weaken him. But I just reversed the flow of energy. Ku is getting pumped up with his own power right now. How long will your security measures hold until he breaks out?"

"Wha-", the squad leader stammered. "If this thing breaks out, it will annihilate us! Us all! Including you!"

"What?" said Chloe tersely…

Nobody payed attention to her.

"Look at this whole thing from our perspective. Me and my college will probably be locked up for the rest of our lives, provided you don't kill us on the spot, and I have no clue what you are going to do to my friend. However, if I remember the sense of ethics of this version of Earth and your opinion towards the person of little Miss Winter here correctly, it won't be something pleasant. Seriously, you rip out nails for parking violations… So why shouldn't we prefer a fast and for the most part painless death? Oh, don't force your two eggheads over there to solve the problem. I bugged the remote controls. You can't access it anymore, from here or from any other terminals."

Elli put on and engaging salesperson smile.

"… What do you want?"

"First, I want you all to lower your weapons, and then you are going to escort us to the cell of Ku. From there, I can reverse the energy supply again by reconnecting a few cables."

"Why shouldn't we simply send somebody else to do that?"

"You keep thinking, glorious, you have earned a promotion. I changed the system parameters a little bit. Imagine the flow of energy at the moment as a giant knot. If you let someone who doesn't have a clue pull on it, you will blow up the building. And probably a remarkable portion of the continent we are on…"

The ground shook again.

"Think fast," Elli advised sardonically. "The system is just ticking over but if I see it correctly, you just have about fifteen minutes."

It took a short while but then the leader signaled the soldiers to lower their weapons.
"Follow me…"

"Did you plan that?", Chloe asked while they went towards room 110F, accompanied by a dozen soldiers. She pressed her Translation sticker as she spoke. Elli had explained to her that she could temporarily deactivate it like that, so nobody could listen in. Elli did the same.

"Well, actually I thought we would be caught while in route but hey, the result is the same."
Her German had a weird inflection Chloe couldn't quite place.

"And what do we do now? If you weaken the god again, we land in prison!"

"Not if the god prevents it," Elli said with a wink. "He didn't kill you when you landed in his cell. Quite the opposite, he did his damndest to keep you to himself. Let's see how attached to you he truly is. With some luck we simply have to ask him. Then I reactivate the energy-draw system, and we bail out."

"Hey, talk in a way we can understand!" one of the guards yelled.

"Alright, alright."

The squad stopped in front of the entrance gate while it got opened slowly.
"And if you are wrong?"

"Then it apparently has to be that way," was the short answer.

The doors where now opened far enough, so they could pass through.

"Whoa, in real life this looks even more impressive. Did you build all this with electronic and container scraps?"


The scientist who had wanted to interrogate Chloe, probably Mr Masahito, looked angrily away from his work. Said work was seemingly to figure out how he could solve this problem with the energy supply.

"Mr Masahito, sir, that woman claims she can reverse Ku's energy supply again," the squad leader explained."

"And you morons believed that? What if she's here to free the Destroy- WHAT ARE YOU DOING THERE!?"

Elli had inconspicuously walked away and tinkered with a wiring.

"What does it look like?", she asked. "Remember, you swallowed a bomb."

"I already know that it was just a glass marble! You are not fooling me again!" Masahito flared. And while addressing his security squad he continued: "Why are you not stopping her?"

The men and women cowered like caned dogs and hemmed and hawed for a little while before a somewhat more courageous guard rose to speak.

"Well, if we stop her we're going down anyway but like this…"

"Masahito, your really have to keep in mind that you are not working with pros. And besides, I am already done."

Elli made a pose that did justice to every show girl.

"And your were right, by the way. What's behind door number one?"

The ground started to shake due to a shock wave and two the container got pushed open from the inside by two big hands. Ku exited and shakily stood up to his full height. And seemed to grow.

Things were yelled and shots fired. Ku flinched because of the impacts and roared loudly. Nobody seemed to mind, except for Chloe who again had the feeling to be disassembled into her individual atoms.

"Hey, what the-", Elli exclaimed in horror. "Chloe, you didn't tell me that he's on his last legs! That one's almost a living dead."

"What? Why?", Chloe wheezed painfully while Elli and Dean used the panic to run to her.
"That there isn't any more than a rampaging beast, not a force of nature like I anticipated. He can be put down by simple backfire, despite his energy! Wait, I do something against the nose and then I will have to improvise a bit. Metaphysical ear plugs!"

Chloe got the described objects shoved into her ears. She still heard Ku's roars but now it seemed to limit itself to her ears. Also, she could now tell where exactly Ku was, even though she still couldn't fathom his true appearance.

Ku indeed got brought down to his knees by the assault. He did start to sweep away his attackers with his arms and threw them against the surrounding walls but that didn't stop the onslaught. He bled from many wounds.

"You wretched bitch!" Masahito bickered, while he stomped towards Elli together with two guards. "Ten years worth of work for nothing! Just you wait!"

The guards advanced fast. Elli, as cool as a cucumber, took a sip from her flask and spluttered it towards her adversaries. Whatever that fluid consisted of, as a mist it apparently was a very reactive mixture that ignited immediately. She improvised a flame thrower.

The guards caught on fire and hastily fell back while trying to beat out the flames.
"In my defense, you would have probably killed us anyway. Whatever that weapon was, you are destroying it yourself right now."

Elli walked confidently towards the scientist.

"Even if you kill me now, I won. As soon as the god is dead, your plans are down the drain and the girl will be free. Dean, to the gate!"

Dean did as told and took Chloe with him. At the entrance a portal to Elli's ominous Nexus opened.
"GUARDS! STOP THEM!" Masahito raged, and drew a pistol from the belt of one of the two goons still occupied with extinguishing the fire.

The security team reacted partially because Ku still struggled. Several weapon muzzles were pointed at the fleeing Dean.

Elli seemed to have expected exactly this.

Because now, Ku had a merciless advantage.

Everybody who was still firing at him got swept away in an instant and thrown against the people aiming at Chloe and Dean. It was just that the momentum was large enough to carry the two further and crush them into the walls.

And Dean.

Together with two unfortunates, he too made an unpleasant acquaintance with the wall. There was an audible crack upon impact. Chloe came shocked to a halt.

Ku meanwhile finally collapsed on the ground and started to crawl towards her. Slowly, but implacably.
"Chloe!", Elli yelled while hastily rummaging in her purse…

Then she got shot in the hip by Masahito.

"Your problem is over here", he growled while she groaned and tried to keep her balance.

Chloe was paralyzed with fear. She could not move while KU crawled towards her, leaving a trail of dark blood. And finally closed the hand around her.

And Chloe became one with the god…

Ku once was a god of peace. A god of knowledge and life. However, unlike other deities before him he did not see his goal in doing whatever he wanted. Instead, he wanted to help the ones believing and relying on him. It was a symbiosis, because the ever increasing belief in him made Ku more and more powerful and allowed him to work greater and greater miracles.

But peace is not really known for holding forever. Others, driven by envy and greed, invaded the countries belonging to Ku's believers. They destroyed his temples, enslaved whoever worshiped him and decried him as the devil.

Ku saw himself forced to discard his title as a god of peace and retaliated against the invaders with elemental force. Floods struck their lands, earthquakes opened fissures swallowing their armies and cities and plagues carried off anybody wishing harm to his proteges.

Even if Ku wasn't a peace god anymore he was still the patron god of the countries in which he got worshiped. But envy, greed and stupidity are very widespread, and even Ku's own people weren't immune to them and went to fight for their god. And Ku with them, driven by his task to protect his people. His entire world, later his solar system, his galaxy and finally the entire universe got devoured by war, while his civilization reached new heights again and again.

It was terrible. He didn't know what to do in the face of all that destruction.

Until one day, he heard in the fresh ruins of a planet a cry.

It was a child crying over the dead bodies of his parents.

And then Ku realized that there would never be peace as long as there was somebody that could wage war against his people.

So he drained the power out of every life not believing in him, made himself so powerful that a snap of his fingers could destroy galaxies.

But when he tried looking for his believers he saw, that they as well had fallen victim to him. Somewhen after the beginning of the takeover of the universe they had stopped to truly believe in him, had seen him as a matter of course, although not as an ordinary being because that would have robbed him of all his powers. Even so, he had become a tool of the ones he had trusted. And he had eradicated so many innocents…

In his grief born from this realization and lasting for millennia he destroyed all worlds of his universe, now freed from intelligent life. He didn't even notice visitors from other universes and killed them without differentiation. That gave him the name Ku, the Destroyer and made him a threat for the multiverse. And a possibility…

Gradually regaining his senses, Ku saw himself confronted with new enemies, this time some who wanted to use his power for themselves. That power that could eradicate an entire universe.

Ku retaliated valiantly, but he determined that he had become too powerful and had taken too much guilt upon himself to allow himself a continued existence. But he could not die because there was nobody in his world that could not believe in him. So he discarded all power he could, made himself as frail as possible and sought out the most incompetent adversaries he could find in hope that they would waste his might instead of causing harm with it. And he hoped they would eradicate him.

But he was mistaken. He happily let himself get taken captive but the Saiga Factions had their eyes and ears everywhere. They appeared amateurish and kindhearted but their know-how was real and their morals ambiguous. Therefore, Ku was to become a weapon of deterrence, a fate he rejected with all his might. He thought that he would still exist when he was robbed of all his powers thanks to the method with which this Saiga Faction worked with him. Masahito was too clever as to simply let him pass away. He would find new ways to generate energy with Ku.

In his weakened state, he could, had to flee into the body of a mortal. Because in the body of a mortal he was nothing more than a thought. And like this he would perish in the mortals mind and vanish like a forgotten memory. And he would never harm anybody again.

But from where to take?

Ku listened into the void and finally found somebody that had fallen into it by an unfortunate accident.
Because of the absorption device, large amounts of power were required to bring the unfortunate one to him and even more to keep her here. But in his despair, Ku had not regarded two points. First, his being, his voice, was still too massive to be comprehended by an ordinary mortal and second, he had not payed attention to the guards.

Just before he could initiate the fusion process, his last hope was taken from him.
Until now.

This and more poured into Chloe's head while she tried desperately to not forget Elli and Dean in this flood of information. She felt the grief of this being His regret and his wish to finally vanish.
As much as Ku had frayed her, now she pitied him. Because all of this had happened out of sheer despair.

And then Ku spoke.

"Will you help me?"

Given what she had seen, Chloe didn't think long. Her own minor ailments like lost shoes or her clumsiness were nothing against what this being had lived through. She knew that there was no way out for the god anymore. Even if he escaped, he would forever be trapped in his prison of his own negative emotions, because such was Ku's character.

"Yes," she therefore answered.

Then Chloe noted that she could perceive the world with Ku's senses. It was a downright cosmos of alien inputs, none of them possible to describe.

She tried to get a hold of herself. She had wasted too much time!

Through Ku's eyes she saw Dean, collapsed at the wall and trying to free himself. And Elli, who got put a pistol to her head in this very moment.

"But before that, you need to help them."

"So it shall be."

Chloe blacked out. The last thing she saw was how Ku's/her? hand sped towards Masahito with the last ounce of strength and swatted him like a fly…

Chloe woke up. Slowly, as if her body tried to keep her in a blissful blackout.

According to her sense of touch she laid in a bed that was strangely familiar to her…

Chloe opened her eyes.

She was greeted by a white ceiling. She had a hunch that she had left the universe of the Saiga Faction.

Sluggishly she turned her head. An approvingly smiling Elli and a stoically looking Dean came into her view. Both stood besides the bed Chloe lay in and didn't wear coats anymore.

"That… was absolutely awesome! ", she got greeted.

Chloe didn't really know what the woman was referring to.

"What… What has actually happened?"

"You took a god into yourself!", Elli explained in awe. "And then wrecked that security team. How did you get Ku to do that? He was almost dead but no human should be able to just absorb him."

"he… he wanted to be absorbed by me, from the beginning…"

And Chloe explained what Ku had been in actual fact. Elli and dean listened attentively and pensively and after she had finished she asked: "And what will now happen to me?"

Elli shrugged.

"The same that always happens when you take something into yourself. Your body processes it and excretes what he doesn't need. Don't worry, gods aren't poisonous, the worst that can happen is maybe apotheosis but that didn't hurt anybody until now… at least not directly… And your body may retain some shock symptoms, but those shouldn't inconvenience you."

Chloe sighed in relief.

"Actually, where am I?"

Elli started to grin.

"Isn't this familiar to you?"

Chloe looked around and realized perplexedly that she was in her room.

"Voila, only one and a half hours after you started", Elli commented. "I like your bed sheet."

Chloe didn't know exactly what she should answer to that.

"How did you find that?"

"I had recorded your portal jump and determine your entrance point with this data. In addition, I checked the house plaque. By the way, there was ash on the ground, Dean has swept it away."

Chloe nodded briefly to show that she had understood that.

"And what will now happen to you? Do you stay?"

"No, we are going back to the Nexus. You probably have enough for now. And also, you need to go to school tomorrow if I interpret your lesson plan over there correctly."

Chloe was briefly flummoxed because Elli cared for something as trite as school. The woman meanwhile walked together with Dean to her closet. The door got opened with an omnibus creak and behind it one could only see black instead of Chloe's wardrobe. The entrance to the Nexus.

"Well then, take care."

"Will we see each other again?", Chloe asked.

"Certainly, because I really want to go with you on a somewhat less deadly adventure. If your closet creaks, hold yourself ready. You can keep the translation sticker for the meantime but keep in mind that you can only comprehend languages and always express yourself towards others. But you can't actually speak those languages. In case you had planned to cheat on your foreign language test."

Elli winked at her.

"I would never do something like that!", Chloe answered with honest indignation.

"Hehe, I thought as much."

"No, you didn't, you owe me ten", Dean objected, causing Elli to roll her eyes in annoyance. "Until next time, I wish you good luck."

Dean stepped into the blackness. Elli followed with sashaying steps and before she had completely vanished in the Nexus, she turned around a last time to wave.


And with these words Elli closed the closet door to follow her companion. Chloe immediately ran to the closet to open it again but there were just her clothes, sorted into their shelves in an orderly fashion.

They were gone…

Chloe passed the hair-raising events in review. Even though she had almost died, she had felt something she had never felt before. True thrill and the feeling to be exactly where she wanted to be. Although she was to exhausted today, she already looked forward to her next meeting with Elli and Dean with excitement.

While lolling on a garish green leather, Elli realized frowningly that her flask was empty. Even though more than one hundred liters fitted inside it, prudently without affecting the container's mass.

"If you keep that much company with the bottle…", Dean noted, "then it's because you're uncomfortable, like your shoes are pinching you. I know you."

"What do you mean by keeping the bottle company?"

"You took five minutes to drink it empty. I am still amazed that your body can actually cope with such quantities of alcohol. What's going on?"

"I don't want to talk about it…"

Dean sat down besides her on the couch and gave her an expressionless look.
"Is it because of the girl? I know you lied to her. Why?"

"What was I supposed to do?", Elli replied heatedly. "Should I have told her 'Well, sorry, you have just one year to live, maybe a little bit longer'?"

"Can't you help her?"

Elli chuckled completely without humor.

"She has swallowed a god, Dean. A human body cannot endure that. And I can't just give her pills and everything is well. The problem lies not in her body alone, you know, but in her entire existence, which cannot possibly contain one like Ku. It will start to degrade and with it her body. Against something like this, there's absolutely nothing. I visited enough worlds to know that. Ku probably knew but did not mention it in his despair… frickin' jerk…"

Elli started to look around the room for further alcohol.

"So you want to take someone terminally ill with you on your journey?", Dean concluded and tilted his head. "Why? Do you wish to use her as emergency sacrificial lamb if things get dicey? I would have expected more of you."

Elli payed him an pitying smile.

"You still have much to learn, Dean. Chloe will under no circumstances be sacrificed or killed somewhere, not as long as I can prevent it."

"But why then? You will not be able to make her an full-fledged helper like me. There is not enough time."

"Call it the pity of a woman that already lives way to long. If Chloe's life is a no show in the quantity department, then I will give it quality. Live fast, die young, you understand that?"

Dean shook his head.

"Not really."

"Then think a little bit about it and please bring the Scottish single malt whiskey I bought last week to me."

Dean got up, still shaking his head.

"You will only make yourself and Chloe miserable in the end," Dean predicted.
Elli sat up and looked after Dean while he left the room.

"We will see. There is always more than one way to save someone, remember that."

Next time on Nexus:
The Better Man? Part 1

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