Jenner gasped, her hand diving to cover her chest as the sled-car fired its engines. She watched the frozen vista beyond the cupola, her eyes never leaving the solid red door. Neptunes gale force screams fore past the rusting environ-seals, scratching a stinging head migraine across her mind.
“Sit down, damn it” a gruff gurgling voice came from the driver's seat, loud in the sled-cars confinement. Jenner turned, red eyes sweeping the heavy set bulk of the man braced at the steering wheel. He was looking away from her, wett eyes straining beneath the moisture hood he wore as he aimed the sled-car around a nearby pillar of ice.
“She did not come out to say goodbye” Jenner breathed. Dimly she was aware of how little strength remained in her voice, how it must match the red weariness surrounding her eyes. She remained where she stood however, determined to at least play at defiance, even as the direction of her life was stollen from her.
She did not come out to say goodbye.
“You will have to get used to that” the man said in his rasping gurgle. “Its better that you forget this place, forget your mother and your friends and that damnable red door. It will do you better to forget all of it.”
Jenner looked at the heavy set man, keenly aware of the gurgle of recycling water pumps that surrounded his broad brawny presence. There was a petulant air about him, as if he wanted to be gone from the frontier settlements faster than their current antique transport would allow. The scent of brine of stale fish fell of the man in waves, a powerful melange of odor too powerful to ever truly escape her awareness.
“And if I don't want to?” she asked, feeling the hollowness of that defiance now, the weariness. “What if I refuse what the council says? I am surly within my right to demand a hearing. Why have the people of the town accepted my banishment so easily?”
The man grunted, turning milky blind eyes upon her for the briefest moment. She saw it then, the patches of skin where the old Earthian duskiness has bleached from the skin, morphing morbidly to the pale green of his malady.
Is that what will happen to me, she thought, and she could not escape the mental impression of her own image, hunched, the darkness of her skin morphing terribly to that twisted shade of sea green.
“It was inevitable” the man stated, seeming to read the play of her thoughts. “You have the blood of our kind. The change would always have manifested in your teen years. Sixteen standard winters is not a merciful age to have them appear.”
Jenner turned to the man, feeling the weight of his words, the finality of them.
“So it is true then?” she asked, her lip quivering a fraction upon her weary face. “My blood is cursed?”
“Cursed!” the man barked in a snapping grumble. Outside the thrum of a speeder could be heard passing level above them. The man’s gloved hand flashed up, twisting several dials on the dashboard in a frenzy of aggravated energy. The speeder passed by after a moment, vanishing off north, bering straight for the palatial palaces that ringed Neptune's equator.
“There is no dark spell upon you, girl.” The man grumbled, the gurgle in his voice becoming more pronounced. “The only malice set upon you is the malice of man. Little earthlings came to Neptune, seeded it with their fighters and their tanners and their stewards and their priests. The consequence of their survival never crossed their damned ape minds. Not until we began to turn up.”
Jenner gave a slow nod, watching the play of agitation across the mans face. His head occasionally twitched, darting his milky sight across the surrounding ice flats as if looking for dangers within the screaming mists. His gloved fingers twitched at the wheel, the minute water pumps within twisting like miniature eels within the plastic-polymer fabrics.
“So it is true then” she breathed. “I really am one of you?”
The man barked a savage laugh. The sound shocked Jenner in her seat. The man had since their first encounter only a week ago expressed nothing but agitation and momentary barks of anger. The sudden expression of humour was another unwelcome surprise.
“Yes girl, you are one of us. You have known that since the first signs showed up.”
Jenner felt her heart drop at the words, tumbling with the finality of them. A part of her had known, known for years in fact. She had hidden the first signs so well, so completely, that she had begun to forget that they have ever appeared at all. Such a repression had failed as her sixteenth year came before her. There had been no hiding the signs then.
“Will it be like the old stories they told us in the nurseries?” Jenner asked, a note of panic touching her voice. Her mouth felt dry, her skin sore in its moistureless state. She eyed the man’s body suit, the curve of filtration tubes, the covering rise of the moisture hood. What she would give to just take a bath.
“It is nothing like those nightmares, girl” he said, a note of genuine empathy rearing its head within his words. It occurred to Jenner then that this man had been in her seat before, a boy panicking at the prospect of never truly becoming a man. If the weight of exile bothered the man he wore it well, she thought.
“Here is how it goes down” he said, more softly than he had spoken before. “I will take you to the shores of the Bering Sea. Many of the brethren already know to expect you. They will gather on the shoreline as we approach, presenting you with the ritual conch. In it will be the archeonine, the waters of rebirth. It will accelerate your mutagenesis, saving you from a life pilfering fishermen's catches, making you more than you would otherwise be.”
Jenner shuddered at the imagery his words brought forth. She could imagine her back arching, great webbed fins breaking free, her jaw elongating like the maw of some monstrous shark. She liked her lips with a dry tongue.
“It is not as bad as you think” the man said, seemingly reading her thoughts. “You will become Naga, one of us. There are things in that ocean no man-thing dares comprehend, little sister. Once you are of the brethren, you will know them all.”
Jenner tensed in her seat, her eyes on the lip of the moisture hoods dripping crest. the ir was an air about the man now, an air of religious fervour. More dreadful still was the certainty.
“What will I find at the bottom of the ocean...brother?”
The amused arch of a smile ghosted beneath the damp hood. The man turned the sled-car sharply, turning the antique motor vehicle from the main road ways. The peak of the vehicle dove sharply forwards towards the foaming horizon of the ocean. Jenner felt that she could almost see the flash of humanoid shapes within the beaches roaring surf.
“Things you could not imagine, sister” he whispered, and she saw that the line of his vision had lasered in on the shoreline. His breath came out in a whisper, as if his zealous eyes now touched the sight of his manifest God. “Believe me when I say this; there are greater wonders and mightier battles awaiting you beneath the waves than a life on an algae plantation could ever supply you.”
Jenner stared forwards, trying to make out the cavorting inhuman figures she saw within the surf. Suddenly she turned, her eyes boring into the man before her. “What is your name?”
He was silent for a moment, the slow build up of a smile growing across his dusk and green face.
“My name is Dagon, sweet sister. I am Neptune’s Watery Eyes. And I have so very much to show you.”