Click here to read the first chapter of the Deicide Files

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Travel is kind of strange for a god. Even me, and I’ve been all over. The Jormungandr had zigzagged us all over, then we sat in the ark, an elongated vahana, I assume like a mortal bus. Our companion was silent. He wasn’t too obviously irritated with me and Aggie by then. I guess he figured that he just shouldn’t have picked up his phone or that he should have asked more questions when he had. He couldn’t have had any idea what he was getting into when he agreed to watch for two guys in a train station. I bet he wasn’t even getting paid ten drevens.

The ark stopped for us at an unmarked intersection. It was just two dirt roads that not a lot of gods could have used. Aggie gave me a look like he wasn’t too certain about this. Christianity finally asked, “Are we actually going somewhere?”

“We’re meeting someone.” I had to wait for the ark to trundle away before we could move. It was more than a little paranoid, but we didn’t want anyone to know where we were going or who we were seeing. We had to assume that no one had followed us. That was really a pretty safe bet, but if anyone recognized us, we needed to be sure no one knew who we were meeting.

We pushed through a clump of overgrowth to a path that you wouldn’t have known was there. A rusty, open topped vahana waited with a casual, manly god leaning against it. Cowboy hat, white moustache, rough, wrinkled face. “Didn’t know you were comin’ with an extra friend.”

At long last I undid the handcuffs. That was as much a relief to me as it was to our tag along. “We picked him up along the way. Didn’t have a lot of choice really. Chris Garden, meet Sun Smith.”

Chris looked wonderstruck again. “Sun? Is that short for something or are you actually a sun god?”

“I’m the real thing.”

Christianity held out his hand. “It’s an honor to meet you, sir.”

“You must be awful young.”

“Seventy three, sir.”

“You’re only seventy three years old?,” Aggie said.


“Nothin’ I guess. I’ve just never met a Christianity who was younger than me before.”

“Christianity grows.”

Aggie made himself clear. “Yeah, I know, but there are a lot more older Christianitys than younger ones. Don’t say it, I know, that just means old ideas don’t fade away easy. I was just sayin’ I don’t meet a lot of young Christianitys.”

Chris apparently wasn’t as concerned as Aggie thought he was. He turned back to the old cowboy. “They say Sun gods never fade.”

It was always fun to see Sun smile because of the way his moustache moved. “Ain’t true at all, I’m afraid. I’ve known too many of us that aren’t around anymore. It is true that the sun is in the sky though. There’ll always be part of the mortal mind that reveres that. Fellas, we got to be hittin’ the road, right?”

We piled into the dusty vahana and drove along the little used trails that only a god like Sun could have navigated. He had medical supplies right there, so Aggie got busy seeing to Chris’s hand. Even with his finger being splinted, Chris had to take the chance to talk to Sun. Sun gods might rarely fade, but there aren’t a lot of new ones being formed. I wondered if Smith was the first Sun that Chris had met. Sun didn’t seem to mind educating a young god. He told him, “Sure, I can remember old Suns that are gone. That’s the way it is. You haven’t known a lot of faded gods, I take it. And no one talks much about it. I’ve gotten far too old to worry about what’s polite and what’s not. That’s one reason I live on the frontier.”

Chris said, “Mortals can kind of fade, can’t they? I mean, forget who they are and all?”

“Different for them,” Sun said. “A mortal forgets himself, but other mortals don’t. When a god fades, every other god’s memory of him fades along with him. Thing is, when the fade is done, when that god is gone, then we can remember him here. The mortals don’t remember, but we do. It’s how we know that a forgotten god can be replaced with someone similar. It’s how we know that some gods are so forgotten that no one is left with that name.”

“I think I’ve heard all this before.”

“Not a lot of gods say it succinctly.”

Succinct. That was the word you used to talk about to Sun Smith. After we’d motored along, he got to the moment all at once. “What are we gonna do with him?”

“We don’t have a choice, Sun. We can’t allow him to let the Temple know what we’re doing.”

“You don’t think they’re gonna figure it out?”

“They don’t know where we are. There’s no way for the Temple to anticipate how much I’m willing to trust you.”

Sun gave me a look. He knew right then that in spite of my changed face and name that he knew me from before. I wondered if he had some idea who I really was. It didn’t matter. He was one of those live and let live kind of guys. I don’t think he would have told me if he had figured it out. Right then it didn’t matter. He said, “So what is it I can do for you?”

“For starters, you can know that you’re not doing it for me. You’re doing it for the frontier.”

“Is that right?”

“You know it is. That’s why I can trust you. You love it out here, and you know how important your work is.”

“What’s that got to do with a dead fade in my territory?”

“Whoever killed him is rich. If I’m right. I could have found most of what I need in town, but if I did that, then the Temple might stop me. I wasn’t sure I’d find any real knowledge there anyway. I don’t know how deep this goes. You have maps and records, don’t you?”

“They go back a long way.”

“I need to know about frontier work. It looks like it’s slowed down. Is that really true?”

“Yep. In fact, receded areas are more common in the last six hundred years or so.”

“No kidding. Is that for any reason?”

Sun gave me a hard stare. “You sure you want to do this?”

I glanced at Agnosticism. He understood it then. We were officially in over our heads. He gave me the slightest little nod, and I’d swear my young partner even had a glint in his eye like he was looking forward to this. I told Sun, “You’ve got something to say?”

“This would all come out eventually anyway, you understand. I’ve been putting together a report for the city for a long time. An unofficial report. It wasn’t gonna be ready for another hundred years or more.”

“A report on what?”

“There are failed communities and roads out here. There always have been. It’s risky. But for a while now it’s been more common. In certain territories more than others.”

Chris decided to ask my question for me. “You got some worries already?”

Sun didn’t know how much this young theology knew about the frontier. “You see that hill over there?”


“In eight years or so it won’t be there anymore. The frontier isn’t like the city. It shifts. It changes. The ground moves and rises and falls like waves on an ocean. I suppose in a way it is more of an ocean than anything else. The closest thing we gods have to an ocean. Of course a long time ago it was an actual ocean, but I don’t doubt I’m the only one in this vahana who can remember the water that surrounded us. We built the city, and the area around started movin’ slower. It’s still unstable though. It’s the place between the center of human theologies and the boundary. I don’t know what’s beyond that, but between us and the unknowable is the frontier. We expand the city by building roads, bridges, power stations and small towns. It pushes the boundary farther away. Makes room for new gods in the city when it moves out into the settled frontier.”

I could tell that Christianity already knew most of that, but he wasn’t about to interrupt the old cowboy. I wasn’t sure that Sun remembered what point he was trying to reach. I got us back on the subject. “What does that have to do with your report and my investigation?”

“The frontier recedes in some places, but generally it’s expanding. No one could stop it if they wanted. We just speed that up and settle it down. That’s all. The unstable areas and the boundary lines that move inward, they’ve been gettin’ more common with passing centuries. I used to think it was because the idiots that run the city forgot how important it was to really fund the frontier work. Now I’m startin’ to wonder if maybe some of them are really trying to hurt it. I don’t know why, but it looks that way. There are some pioneers, ones that ain’t been out here as long as me, that seem to be a little too unskilled. A little too cautious too. There are projects that aren’t given the go ahead. There are problems that should never happen.”

At his cabin, buried in thick trees, Sun showed us the material he’d collected. The maps showed us what he was talking about. Even Chris could follow it, and he wasn’t too bright. “You’re sure these maps are accurate?,” Aggie asked.

Sun told us, “No such thing as an accurate frontier map. The shifting ground and landmarks make that impossible. ’Swhy every pioneer’s territory overlaps with others. These are as accurate as you can get though.”

I guess Aggie hadn’t realized that. “Overlap?”


I saw where he was going, but I let Aggie ask the obvious question. He was moving his finger around the map trying to find the right spot. “Where the fade’s body was found. That was in your territory, but was it just your territory?”

“Huhn-uhn. No. Police already know that. Three of us can lay claim to that area.”

“Is that common?”

“Not uncommon.”

Aggie looked at me. “We may have two suspects then.”

The area in contention was also run by Icarus Slate and Zion Red. Neither of them were old pioneers. Ganesha’s conspiracy theory was looking more and more likely. Sun was the perfect ally. He cared more about the frontier and his work than any amount of money. He loved the wilderness, and anyone working to diminish it was his enemy. After he showed us approximate areas of those two other territories, I asked him, “Do you have any idea which one might be crooked?”

“Oh, I can tell you which one.”

Aggie and I gave each other a look. “How can you tell?,” my partner asked.

“Icarus. Got some visitors over there at his place. Showed up not too long after the cops were gone. Been there ever since. And Icarus, he hasn’t been running the same. At home more, not a lot a time out under the sky. Tell ya the truth, he’s pretty lazy, so I wouldn’t wonder about it at all. There’s something about the other fellas at his place though. They ain’t just tourists.”

“Do they look dangerous, and how many are there?,” I asked.

“About eight or nine of ’em, I guess,” Sun said. “They all keep an eye out like it’s their own homes.”

“Lookouts. Guards.”

“What’s over there?,” Sun asked.

“Old timer, put two and two together. A fade comes out here after stealing a load of drevens. He turns up dead, and the money is nowhere to be found.”

Chris wasn’t sure he understood. “So, what is it then? You guys think they’re hidin’ money over there?”

“Here’s what I need,” I said. “I’m headed back to town. I’ll be back with some cops as soon as I can get here. Then we go over and see what they have. If they’re sitting on a payoff, then we have them where we want them. Sun, Chris here is going to have to be your guest for a while. Until I get back. A day if I can cut it that close. A little longer if I have to do some serious convincing.”

“Don’t mind the company,” Sun said.

Chris complained of course, but it didn’t matter. I told him, “I have official deputy status. If it turns out I’m wrong, you can press charges. If I’m right though, then everything I’ve done I’ve done in the service of the city.”

“And what keeps me frum leavin’ when Sun goes to bed or sumthin’?”

Sun laughed. “Be my guest here, or try to wander the wilderness. You think you can survive out there? You think you can find your way back? We’re about as far from Pantheon City as you can get. You’re trapped out here as surely as if we had you behind brick walls.”

“You said you didn’t mind company,” I said, “so I hope you don’t mind Aggie hanging on. I need someone here to keep an eye on that place. You can’t do it, because it has to look like you’re not interested.”

“Sure thing.”

Aggie told us, “I don’t know how practical this idea is. I can sit in the shade somewhere on a stakeout. I’ve done it before. What if something happens though? Am I supposed to come running back here as fast as I can to get Sun?”

“Here,” Sun said, “take this with you”

Agnosticism held it up, a funny looking black box with buttons. “Is it a radio?”

“More or less,” Sun said. Then he pressed a button on a second one, “We can hear each other miles away.”

Sun’s voice wasn’t just on his side of the room. It came right out of the thingamajig in Aggie’s hand. He was surprised. “Whoa! So it’s like a private radio?”

“Not exactly. Anyone tuning in can hear us, but how would they know what to tune to? It’s called a walkie talkie. The mortals have had them for decades. Maybe a century.”

“Right.” Aggie regarded it like it was a dead cat wrapped in a newspaper.

I asked, “What’s wrong? You usually like gadgets.”

“I’m just dreading the day that these become commonplace in the city. Can you imagine every god carrying around his own little radio to talk to other gods that aren’t there instead of the ones in front of him? Can you imagine being expected to carry one of these? Never a moment’s peace? Always in reach of anyone at all who wanted to remind you something or who doesn’t know how to get to the north end of the Limbo Division.”

Sun smiled. “You’re young yet, so I understand. That’ll never happen. Not even the mortals are crazy enough to want to carry these around all the time every day.”

“I hope you’re right,” Aggie said. “Not a lot of gods have attention spans at all as it is. I can only imagine the decline in civilization if we all had these.” Aggie forgot the doodad and considered his role. “You’re sure about this, Boss?”

“You can handle it,” I said.

“Not that part. What I’m asking, Ax, is whether or not you think you can actually drag back some cops. How are you going to convince them to head out here and search some pioneer’s home?”

“I just need something to get them convinced that there’s more to do. I already have an idea how to prove there’s more to the case than the papers are reporting.” I wasn’t as confident as I sounded, and I’m pretty sure that Agnosticism could tell. He’s good that way though. He was ready to do his part even if he didn’t want to. He didn’t like the idea of parking under some tree in the great outdoors with a pair of binoculars. “If Icarus’s guests leave, then you need to know where they’re going. Leave a trail somehow, but follow them.”

“Out here?”

“You’re right. If it looks like they’re moving out, head back and get Sun. He can track them.”

Aggie had to ask him, “Could you do that?”

“Sure thing,” Sun said. “I know what goes on over there, and they don’t know if I’m comin’ or goin’. An advantage we have, I live out here. Icarus? He’s just working. It’ll be fifty years before he can travel out here like I can. He could cover his tracks if he had to, but if he doesn’t know he’s bein’ followed, and if there’s some of his buddies with him, then there’s no way for him walk or drive without me following.”

Along with holding the stooge and showing Aggie the ropes, Sun let me borrow one of his old vahanas so that I could get back to town without anyone knowing. He was concerned about that briefly. “Are you sure you can get back? Even with a set a wheels you got to know your way around out here.”

“Just give me a direction, and I can get us back.”

He nodded. “I believe you. You’re givin’ away a few things about yourself, Detective.”

“Extreme times, extreme measures. And I think it’ll get worse. I think when I get back that it’ll be time to exercise the harder points of negotiation.”

“Well I can’t say I’ll be sorry about that. Haven’t been in a real honest to goodness fight for a long time.”

“Just get through it, old timer. The world needs its old heroes.”

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Click here to read Chapter 9.

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