Dividing By Zero

While his silver-clad followers marched throughout the Citadel and into the streets, bearing high-powered laser rifles and bitter objectivity, John Rollof had discovered personally the reply of a recent inquiry.

The 43 year old televangelist had means of contacting any soul in all of Paria, through his online database dominantly. In a few seconds he had a means to reach this individual, without much real prior knowledge of the person. It was as such for all; everyone belonged to everybody. Utopias cannot afford secrets or privacies, and after Rollof's rather large, half-mechanical one became a selling news story, he had learned to embrace this simple truth rather than rebel against it.

Powerfully dainty, his guest pushed the door open, sending him a lipstick-stained, sultry sneer. Her blushing dress hung tight around her frame, emphasizing the curvature of her body– As if Rollof needed any assistance in focusing on such matters. "Hello, sweety," The woman chimed, gently closing the door, "Hope I'm not too late."

Rollof, suppressing his instinct to childishly grin, stood proper and returned, "Not at all, my love. Please, make yourself comfortable. I'm glad that you accepted my terms. You will receive the payment afterward, rather than in advance. It would terrible for you to leave too early, you know. I want to make this worth my while."

When Quentin knocked on the door, Rollof's hand was upon Essence's shoulder.

When Quentin knocked on the door, Rollof could be heard muttering in his raspy, righteous tone, "Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit."

When Quentin knocked on the door, Rollof whispered into Essence's ear, softly, seductively, "But I can deliver you from death."

When Quentin ripped the door off of its hinges, Hell's fire found a home in John Rollof, next to Tartarus' iced-over stake.

"Quentin! H-how did you– Where have you been?" Shrieked the televangelist as he rushed towards the door, trying in vain to block the image behind him. The cyborg, looking easily over Rollof's shoulders, bewilderingly asked as he was escorted away, "Father, why is Essence in your quarters?"

Rollof motioned for his servant to hush, but Quentin continued, "I thought no one was allowed in there." He led the giant back to his dungeon.

"That's why there aren't even cameras in there." That would not be enough; not this time, at least.

"I don't understand." Rollof closed the door, leaving himself in the unlocked room with his prodigal son.

"Do you like her, too?"

The fires of Hell were feeling extra bold on this occasion, for they displayed themselves on the front-line, on Rollof's own cheeks. "No," Rollof spat, contemptuously, "You Iscariot! I hate her, as God hates her; as God wishes for her to burn! I was offering her a chance to repent, in private, away from those invasive cameras. Don't put me on your level!"

Clutching his own shoulders, to steady himself, Quentin scurried into a portion of the room worn down from frequent visitation– the corner edging southeast. "F-Father," He whimpered, looking up at the worn-down, war-torn figure, "I am s-sorry. I don't know what I was thinking, Father! I can't even think, Father... These past few days, since I disobeyed you, have been so chaotic. Now I see the error in my ways."

Rendered statuesque, Rollof brought his hand to his heart and a prayer to his lips. "Lord, bless this child," He whispered, "For he has repented." Doves fluttered in Quentin's iron chest as he felt the Holy Spirit– or, perhaps, the Citadel's air conditioning– come upon him. As instantly as this peace fell upon him, this understanding from the Creator, a nearby screen fluttered into activation.

This screen was unique, in that it only turned on during special announcements, breaking news of the upmost importance, and the like. It had been triggered to tune into footage of the FFC HQ, and a scene was portrayed for the two of Clemond Oppei giving a sermon.

"My friends," He began, somber, "This is not a day any of us set out for terrible news, but alas, a fountain of blood has erupted in my own office, of all places. I came to my office, just a few minutes ago, to find a wicked sight– a young man's body, lying in a pool of blood, beaten to a pulp. The man was so horribly beaten that we gathered it must have been a group effort, but when we rolled back our camera footage, we saw only one culprit inside the office at the time of the murder. It was an eye for an eye; I suspect it was out of jealousy. At this very moment, the FFC Vigilante Elite are on their way to apprehend the murderer, but I feel you all should know the name, first. I believe that fame is something only some can handle, and the more savage of beings, the monsters of heart, simply cannot handle such pressures. They crack and rot with evil. It was Quentin, John Rollof's son. He murdered Philip Obone, Captain of the Citadel Brigade."

The screen continued, and the voices remained, but no longer were either of the two in the Citadel's attic listening to the words and meaning behind the continuous speech, as Oppei eventually was replaced by a more composed speaker, one who was not inclined to dab away at his tears from time to time.

"They found a way to use me," Quentin muttered, from his corner, "He still found a way to use me! And now they are going to come for my Father, and for Essence, and for us all, and for me, too."

Rollof caught Quentin by a quivering glare. "You killed a man?" He asked, his hands twitching themselves into fists, "You defile the Lord's name! You are an abomination, Quentin– inside and out!" Dashing forward, the man's claws dug into Quentin's metal shoulders, and drugged with adrenaline, Rollof hoisted the behemoth to his feet.

Quentin stammered, his eyes nervously focusing on the pain centers on his shoulders, "You must believe me, Father! I didn't do it! The man's lying, Father! Who is more trustworthy: him or your son? You know in your heart, father, that I'm innocent. Don't cast judgment on me now! I may be a sinner, but I would never do this. Am I not a beautiful child of God– just like you, like everyone else?"

Slamming Quentin against the wall, Rollof vehemently retorted, "Do not put words in my mouth, foul blasphemer! I cannot stand the taste of them. You have never been beautiful; God set you apart as God set apart Ham. God chooses our fates, and God is telling me that yours is to end in damnation for what you have done! Beautiful? Quentin, if you are beautiful, then beauty isn't pretty. In fact, it is the Fountain of Youth run dry, the broken mirror, the smudge of the poor on gold, the very faces of and very hearts of the vile homosexuals that poison the streets, the spark in deviation's eye– Quentin, you could never be beautiful! I should have killed you when I had the chance, when the corpses of your mother, father, and siblings lay at my feet. I should've ended it then."

Crushed, crumpled, and crippled– Such terms could not even accurately convey Quentin's state of being. It was a scientist's nightmare and a writer's dilemma; Quentin's feelings were indescribable. It had been his impression that Rollof had adopted him from parents who simply did not want him, who were negligent, perhaps, but this revelation indicated that this was far from the truth, that his parents had perished because of Rollof.

"Y-you killed them?" Quentin asked, frozen, "Didn't you? Tell me the truth, please! God can hear all that you say, Rollof!" The televangelist drew back his hand and – Crescendo! – left scathing redness across Quentin's face, a streak that tore through even his heart. That was the wordiest reply Rollof was willing to grace Quentin with, given such an accusation.

Quentin automatically grabbed Rollof's collar with his mechanical arm, using only the little effort necessary, and launched the televangelist away from himself. Rollof landed with such momentum that, when he crashed into the Citadel's main computer, the entire device was obliterated. All of the delicate circuitry that kept much of the building running at once shattered, brought swiftly to ruin. One would hardly know by merely glancing at the pitiful mess that Rollof lay on top of that at one time these devices had been regarded in an almost sacred manner and held up an entire civilization. One would not know that such a wasteful pile was man's greatest accomplishment.

"You hastily edge to violence," Rollof hissed, after realizing that all he had worked for had been shattered beneath him, "As I had expected. But you cannot destroy me; no, I will not go until it is my time. I am invincible, up until the moment God takes me from this world! And as such, in this time I have, I owe it to Him to cleanse this world of those like you, whose mere presence encourages sin! Quentin, you have brought so much misery into my life and now, it is all becoming all too apparent what I must do, to rid myself of you– a true demon! Bid this world farewell, Quentin, for now the other half of you is going to perish!"

Unrestrained, Rollof lunged forward, propelling his feet off the floor as he opened his claws wide for Quentin's fame; but this particular sinner was not prepared to die. Quentin helplessly stepped aside, giving Rollof clear passage to continue on, without the expected tackle and take-down of the frightened former-servant. No, John Rollof continued on– straight into the lone window in Quentin's cell, and he crashed through it, to descend towards the Parian floor he had looked down upon for so long.

At the shattering of glass, Quentin's hair stood on end; he knew little, but even then, he knew that no mortal, even a true man of God, could survive such a terrific fall. After inching his way towards the window, he peered below, only to find himself dizzied. He could not even see the body, only a massive pool of spectators gathering to gawk over the new drama that had interrupted their lives.

Gruesome as it was, and regrettable as it was, Quentin felt a sense of relief rush over him now that this whole ordeal had come to an end. He questioned whether or not it was a sin to feel this specific contentment, but such questions did not last long in his skull.

Quentin abruptly fell to his knees and connected his hands. Head bowed, he began to pray to God, more earnestly than he had ever in his lifetime. Tears came rushing down, sliding down his metal cheeks, and the frigid breeze now let in through the gaping hole in the wall did not help with the chills he felt. His prayer could have gone on for several hours, but it was interrupted in much less time than that, by a sudden opening of his door.

"Freeze, y-you– you freak! Put your hands up, now!"

Such hesitancy could not be found in a hardened Brigade officer and/or killer, and certainly, the mere familiarity of the voice threatening Quentin now was enough to put him at initial ease. This was not the voice of Clemond Oppei, or the haunting whispers of John Rollof; this was an actress who had worked with such famous male leads as George Reiner. It was a woman with an angelic voice– it was Essence.

The trouble was, angels typically did not hold high-powered laser weaponry, and in her hands, Essence kept tight the same weapon that had been both in Philip Obone's sheath and at one point pointed at Quentin's entire family. Essence was standing at the door, make-up running down her cheeks, aiming a lethal weapon at Quentin.

"You threw him out the window," Essence whispered, another wave of fear rushing through her, mixed with pity. "The old man was a creep, sure, but he still didn't deserve that! You're just like Clemond, you know? Don't have the patience to just let a man die. I get that you were jealous of him, because he was about to be with me– just like you got jealous of that Brigade Captain. There was a screen in your father's room; I watched Clemond's speech. You've got some nerve and guts, for a machine. The guy just wanted a chance to be with me, and you turned him into mush. It's freaks like you have that make me worry about the future, you know. Makes me want to never have kids."

Quentin did not even know how to respond to such remarks, for truly, if he would have had any inclination to respond a certain way, he would have reacted accordingly. Instead, though, he just stood there, giving himself at least the dignity to remain on his own feet, rather than in his usual corner.

The sunlight pouring in through the window wrapped itself around Quentin, giving him an illuminating glow. "I did not kill Philip Obone," Quentin finally stated, "And I did not kill John Rollof. I did not kill anyone. I did not do anything to anyone... No. I am a beautiful child of God."

Quentin gulped, closing his eyes now.

"I am a beautiful child of God."

"What are you talking about...?"

"I am a beautiful child of God."

"Just shut up, already!"

"I am a beautiful child of God."

"I am going to shoot you!"

"What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul? I am not afraid. You cannot break me. I am a beautiful child of God. I am a beautiful child of God. I am a–"

Hissing light bore through Quentin's clothes, cracked into his metal chest, traveled through his inner workings– past wires, past circuits, past valves, and past organs – and bid slumber to Quentin's heart.

A grenade blast: The absolute permeation of a nuclear bomb. Tissue to dust, tangibilities to dust, connections to dust, sins to dust, ashes to dust, dust to obliteration; only feelings, only thoughts, and only spirit remaining. Quentin's body– Dust. No more. There were machine parts on the attic floor, certainly, but not Quentin's body.

Light fluttered by his consciousness. Another indescribable feeling. Waves of colors, of brilliant hues, of memories given new life in death. Death– Quentin would have smiled. To die is to live, to live is to experience, and Quentin knew he had experienced life on the highest level. His prayers had been realized; his tears had been vindicated.

And if Quentin could have smiled, he would have smiled, for certainly a man such as himself would have smiled at the poetic light that he now saw, a mysterious and comforting light– the unmistakable light of the broken mirror and the Fountain of Youth run dry.