The Book of Gideon: Empire – 4

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Empire

Karmmrak

Gideon

Gideon Dreamed a second time.

He was on a scorched field, the smell of burned ozone and hair hung in the air. The land was overcast by an unnatural low hanging cloud bank of grey and black, a battle had come and gone. Gideon gained a sense his surroundings, seeing bodies and buildings dotting the landscape. Among them, glowing motes of gold danced along the hilly plains, the twinkling of stars in a mass grave. There his focus was drawn to two people, one kneeling and cradling another that lied in the scorched mud. The one holding the other was weeping. Gideon could hear the gasping sob trembling through her body.

“Please, do not forsake me- I cannot lose anymore.

Gideon heard the kneeling one imploring; begging. Gideon drew near, seeing the face of the tearstained one. She was young, no more than her early twenties, dressed as a nun, wearing a tabard with a cross wrapped in a thorny rose in full bloom. He didn’t recognize the iconography. Her beauty was something Gideon couldn’t describe. It was otherworldly.

Supernatural.

A golden aura surrounded her, a soft light in the dim broken city.

The body she held trembled, her breathing shallow. She appeared ancient as if one could live centuries.

“Ruth… Ruth- Don’t be sad. We had good memories together; you and your sisters. I know you could only save yourself. If you tried saving me- we’d both meet the same fate anyway. Do not let this burden you. Please.”

“I can’t be alone, I-” Ruth said, a sobbed coughing interrupted her.

“You aren’t alone. This is temporary. He- will return again and redeem this. All of this.”

“Ruth. Love of my life. My joyous daughter. Please… Carry on…” The other woman spoke before going still. Her eyes lost focus, her body sagged and went still. The younger woman, Ruth, let out a shrieking sob at that, clutching at the silent body.

Several seconds past, with Ruth quietly weeping and embracing the other. Gideon stepped back in surprise at the sudden movement. The older woman’s head slowly turned to see Ruth, the eyes staring, yet not.

The body fell to dust, startling Gideon. Ruth’s eyes went wide like saucers.

Ruth shrieked in anguish, the loss amplified by the body vanishing to dust. trying to collect the ashes as they blew away into the scorched skies. Her cries of sorrow echoed through the dead field. She fell fetal, rocking as she sobbed, covered in the dust of her apparent mother, grasping the empty robes.

“It’s too late.” A man said off to the side.

His voice was soft and digitally distorted. Gideon glanced back, seeing a thin man in black with a cane. His face was shrouded by a long white beaked mask and round brim hat. Massive heavily armored soldiers surrounded him as an escort. Gideon didn’t understand how so many could arrive unnoticed.

Hurry, collect the others, check for survivors!” The man in black ordered with a wave of his gloved hand as he limped towards the fallen Ruth.

The man in black knelt over the woman, his gentle touch grasping her shoulder. His beaked mask suddenly snapped to Gideon.

“Who are you.” The man demanded, his voice had little-hidden intent.

Before he could respond, Gideon was pulled away to an endless room made of white. A voice spoke.

The voice of a pained father.

“Be the son that my daughter needs.”

Gideon remembered the other dream, it came to him like yesterday’s events. Why did he forget those troubling visions?

The dream ended with Gideon snapping open his eyes. He was in his warm bed inside his marble carved quarters. He had slept like a rock up until that moment, the drink of last night aiding in slumber. The lights began to slowly fade on, allowing his eyes to adjust. Gideon sturred and rose, a bottle of wine clattering to the floor. A tap-clacking skipped across the floor in response and Gideon was ambushed by a tiny licking beast as it lept to the bed, jumping on him.

“Baxter! You beggar! Alright! I’m up, I’m up.” Gideon replied with a laugh.

“It’s time! It’s time its time to go fast! Fast Time!” Baxter said with an excited bark, his words squished together.

He was stamping his front paws onto Gideon, trying to get him awake. He grabbed the blankets and pulled, growling with effort as he attempted to steal the soft covers. Gideon narrowed his eyes, cocking a slight smile, and let go of the covers as he got up. Baxter stumbled off the bed with a whine, tangled in blankets. The bundle tumbled about as the dog inside tried to escape his clothy prison. Gideon got up, the dream fading away like so much morning condensation.

“You will not stop me from going fast!” Baxter barked from inside the blanket ball, rolling around to escape. The bundle paused to get it’s bearings before digging around.

As soon as Gideon reached the ornate counters, it struck him. The flight was today. His stomach dropped and the stress started rising. Mixed with yesterday’s training fiasco, his nerves started to rile. His hand started to tremble. He willed another six-ounce glass of bourbon, which materialized in orange pixelated light on the green polished marble counter. He willed a double portion of diced up the raw steak into a bowl. He bent down, aimed, and sent the bowl surfing across the floor, where it slowed to a stop in front of a snout that peaked from the bundle.

The nose twitched and wiggled, smelling the delightful breakfast. Baxter freed himself from the blankets and dove for the bowl, which he knocked away with a squeak as he tumbled from his sewn sanctuary. The dog planted himself face first into the bowl, the sound of metal scraping on marble quietly rang out as Baxter pushed on the bowl, pinning it to a far wall. Gideon could hear the contented grunts of a happy dog. He sipped on the bourbon, clasping the bridge of his nose. His leg was jumping nervously at the thought of the IIT drive tests and flight. It would be just him and Baxter, with everyone else spectating from here to Lo IX.

“I’ll cut back after the flight. I- just need something to stay calm.”

He tried prayer, but with no reply and no relief in sight, he went with the third best option, drink. There were stims to help relax, but he needed that for energy stims; it was one or the other. The energy stims helped with the training regimens and late night crunches. He’d have to time it well as the stims and alcohol didn’t mix and could be extremely damaging to his organs.

“Gideon, I have on good authority that there will be no delays this time. Full speed ahead!” Shindow broke in excitedly.

Gideon cracked a slight grin at that.

“I never knew there was so much fanfare for going in a straight line!” Gideon shot back as he slammed the drink down, the bourbon burning all the way down.

“Straight line- No! It’s more than that. We’re bypassing reality itself! After today, the anomalies that have claimed so many vessels will be made null and void.” Shindow explained.

“You sound like my father,” Gideon replied with a chuckle.

“I was speaking to him yesterday. I- I have some news…Shindow said, her voice getting low.

“What?” Gideon asked, his stomach dropping at the potential bad news incoming.

“I’m being reorganized. I won’t be a Satellite AI for Karmmrak any longer.” Shindow explained.

His heart skipped at that.

“What! That’s bullshit! Where are they assigning you?” Gideon barked at that.

“Gideon, please calm down. It’s because, after these tests, the new projects will begin,” Shindow replied, trying to defuse the tense room.

“Shin! You need to go fast with us!” Baxter replied with a chuff from the far side of the room.

“I… Can’t make that call,” Shindow replied tentatively.

“Fu- OK, Ok, alright. I’ll speak to father and figure out what the hell is going on,” Gideon said with grit teeth, biting his tongue.

“Very good. I’ll… See you in the hangar,” Shindow stated as the comms cut.

Gideon stewed at that, the room silent.

“Goddammit!” Gideon swore.

The glass had left his hand, impacting against the marble, shattering to shards. Baxter whimpered and scattered the bowl of steak, scampering to the fireplace and peeking out from behind. Gideon closed his eyes, palming his forehead at that. He knew he shouldn’t have done that. He walked to the round fireplace, Baxter peeked one eye around the curve.

“Baxter. Baxter look, I’m sorry. I can smell it. The politics of whoever is trying to reorganize Shindow.” Gideon stated, kneeling down and holding out an upturned hand.

Baxter bunny-walked to Gideon, sniffing his hand and giving it a lick.

“It is OK Gid. You will be just OK. No more worry. Let us go fast!” Baxter said with a whining chuff.

Gideon made his way to the shower, with Baxter in tow. He felt himself inside a fog bank of trepidation. Something wasn’t right.

It’s just the nerves.

The brushed steel room and large shower were welcoming. Baxter tapped clacked and sat at the entrance, waiting for Gideon. The warm water and drink buzz helped calm his nerves and silence his gut instinct. It was an instinct sharpened by genetic engineering, but one that went off quite too often in this environment. It couldn’t tell the difference between simulation and the real thing.

The warm waterfall washed over Gideon, his mind going blank as he sat and soaked.

After a time, his mind then wandered to the planet of his tutoring.

Magara.

A planet of triplicate focuses.

Knowledge.

Technology.

Marining.

All melded in a Venn together. Thought, act, and deed. One could go simply for the history, learning all accounts from the super antediluvian Earth to the present galactic century. Anforms and AI managed the massive data matrices stored with written and oral historical records. Most were historians by trade, as nine thousand years of recorded history was a difficult challenge for mankind to recall. The men and women who did upkeep the historical matrices did so for the practical artifacts and their care. Others went to learn the ways of Quantum Computing, AI and Anform Studies, Shipwrighting Engineering, and Planet Architecture. The rest went to understand the ways of Galactic Combat and Spacefaring. Either for war or for exploration. Those two categories branched off into countless other sub-specializations. Any of the previous categories branched off and twisted into one another, like the roots of an ancient tree.

Gideon went for all three. To understand the history of Primetech, to better understand it’s potential future and avoid any empire ending pitfalls. Even though his rank made his chance of CEO slim, it was mandatory for all heirs. He went to learn the workings of Quantum storage drives and their functions. He gained a cleverness that assisted in his Marining training, specifically martial prowess. He learned the ins and outs of space combat, the changing metas, and tactics to use for each vessel. He picked up on his ability to fly, outdoing normal pilots, but still, he was overshadowed by his genetically, artificially, and cybernetically enhanced siblings in all respects.

That was where he met and befriended Shindow. When he learned the terrible truth behind his genetic defect, preventing any beneficial cybernetic enhancement, she was there to help him through it. To have Shindow be dragged away from him at the apex of his assignment and sent elsewhere in the galaxy was a boot to the stomach.

He would discover the one who did that. He shook out of his anger, the shower growing stale. Right now, the flight was at hand, and he needed to focus. Investigation and potential revenge would wait.

He stepped out of the shower, drying off and getting dressed in the green and white jumpsuit, equipping his ornate QSD. He felt the slight electrical jolt along the alloy gold diodes in his spine, one of the few upgrades he could receive. His mind was updated to the new connection instance.

Connecting...

Connected!

Calibrating....

Calibration complete!

Connection Rendered

Instance 25600999 created

OS: Corbenic v.35.66

Name: Gideon McDonough (Super Administrator; Creator)

Status: Pinnacle Health

Quantum Charge: 55,000/55,000 QC

Galactic Nebula: Connected (Restricted)

Location: ERROR RESTRICTED

He felt the connection in less than a microsecond, the processing of QSD information lagged behind the actual connection. He gave a mental nod of satisfaction at the instance triples. It was a superstition among QSD users that ending repeating digits brought good luck. He needed all the help he could get. Baxter already had his equipped and was gnawing on a light green minty meat bone.

“There is no time to go- time to lose… It is time for fast!” Baxter stumbled mid-thought as he barked, running around the large bathroom and out the door, his barking echoing off the bedroom walls.

Gideon made his exit, entering the white polished plasticine halls with reinforced beryllite bulkhead connectors. Beryllite was an alloy amorphous metal used for armor plating of battleships and some of the strongest metals PrimeTech created. They were just shy of two miles under the planet’s crust, the red supergiant was relentless in it’s gaze, baking the topsoil to magma. The internals of the planet had long gone dead or never started. The planet was made up of a natural porous lava rock that helped keep internal temperature quite cool. The planet was a secret treasure and a treasured secret.

Gideon walked the halls, nervous about the flight. Baxter padded along, his claws clacking against the white floor. Two Anforms made their way along the opposite direction, meeting Gideon outside of the lift. It was the same two Anforms from yesterday, the floating spherical one and the blocky insectile Anform traveled to their assigned duties for the day.

“Good Gideon, the test is at hand. Let it be that no delays interfere this time,” The floating one greeted.

“We shall watch with interest,” The blocky one added.

“Thank you, you’ve all done excellent work,” Gideon complimented as he passed them.

“Indeed, the collective work shall bear good fruit!” The spherical one stated as they passed.

“Goodbye, metal friends!” Baxter chuffed.

The stood in front of the elevator terminals, the doors silently sliding open to allow occupants. Baxter rushed in, bobbing his head with excitement. Gideon stepped on and the terminal began the descent to the inner mirador. Gideon tapped his fingers against his thumb rhythmically, waiting for doors to slide open. It always felt like the trip down got longer each time. Just as soon as he couldn’t bear it anymore, the doors slid open, revealing the large hallway from yesterday. They exited the terminal, with Baxter bolting out.

“Gid I need to do a something and will see you later!” Baxter barked as he ran. Gideon scratched at his head, wondering about the silly dog. He huffed and continued on his way, to the inner mirador. The doors slid open to reveal dozens of familiar faces. Alex was the first to step forward from the group.

“Good Gideon, we are all ready and at our stations. All we await is the pilot,” Alex informed him.

Alex led Gideon to the view screens, showing the images of the main hangar bay. The Decima sat in the massive hangar bay, in pristine condition with a fine cloud of mist swirling about it from the condensation of the supercooled armor plating. The phthalo blue front armor plating curved around the vessel like an outer shell, reinforcing the front and forming to a reinforced spine running around the back end. The under the chassis was a white polished beryllite alloy plating, with visible pitted patterns. The ship was shaped organically, resembling an ancient marine animal. The tail end had three exposed silver gyroscopic rings, three rings per gyroscope. The gyroscopes were positioned in trident formation. The armor plating was scarce but necessary. Due to the new metal’s mysterious heating properties, the vessel would survive out in open space within the vermillion gaze of the supergiant. The metal was simply dubbed Amorphic Metal Compound 881 or “AMC881”, which kept much of it hidden from the outside world. The metal actively absorbed active heat like a black hole, breaking all the laws of reality for heat dispersion. The metal would warm with a passive incremental temperature increase, which was the only known way to melt it. Over the course of incremental periods within the temperature range of a white dwarf star, the metal would then liquify and be malleable. It took just shy of one hundred years to heat the metal, and any attempt to speed up the process ended up with a suddenly cold and inert ore with the process needing to begin again anew. Suffice to say, Anforms had the most time and patience, unlocking the secret of the metal and assisting with the project. The other aspect was the indestructibility. Everything they tried failed to have any effect, giving the legendary metal two god tier aspects: heat absorption and toughness. For his father’s foresight and length of time for his plan, Gideon wasn’t even a concept, much less alive.

Father had explained it to him several times, and it still went over his head how the molecular makeup of the amorphous metal broke known science.

It was borderline mythical.

“If we wait any longer, it might fuse with the hangar bay,” Gideon mused.

It had been over a year since the vessel’s completion, followed by thousands of variant testing methods, dropping what didn’t work and pushing forward with what did. The vessel had not been moved since the last instrument was attached, with the bulk of the time focused on software. The testing was done with each individual system. The very best quantum techs Primetech and the Mars Technocracy had to offer worked on this project and the vessel was the pinnacle of hardware and software.

And he was going to fly it.

The only weak structure point is me, Gideon thought grimly remembering his previous training with piloting compared to his brothers.

While he was a better pilot than average, it was leagues beneath the rest of his siblings. The doors slide open, revealing a tiny corgi. Baxter ran past Alex, running to the girls from yesterday and pranced around them as they clamored at the adorable dog.

The view of the vessel drawing his attention fully. He could spend days looking at the inscriptions that detailed the white beryllite outer hull and the vessel’s internals. For the craftworks of Primetech, art had been merged with tech as a way of showing absolute mastery of the medium.

He was finished looking at the Decima through a viewscreen or blueprint; he needed to see it with his own eyes. Gideon stepped up the center dias to gather everyone’s attention.

“Ladies and gentlemen, Anform and other, I’d like to thank you all, again. And again…” Gideon said with a pause and smile, brief chuckles rang out.

“It’s been a long year, one where many of us feel stuck in a time loop of repeating this exact day for months now. I can assure you all this looks to be the galactic moment we make history.”

Now if only the vessel would launch,” Gideon shot out, eliciting laughter.

“Now, let’s do the very best our calling demands. Adonai bless our craft and lineage.” Gideon concluded. Everyone broke off, getting to work with details of the flight and potential changes.

Everything had to be planned around the looming sun.

They needed to open the AMC881 plated hangar bay doors on the planet’s dark side, lest they feel the full gaze of the sun’s fury.

Baxter was hamming it up as usual with the ladies, getting all of the attention. One of the crew, a petite blond woman, snuck him a treat, the same person from yesterday. She caught Gideon’s eye and gave a subtle wink and smile before cooing back to Baxter.

Eleanor is her name… Gideon recalled.

He made a mental note to ‘discuss the flight’ with her later.

“Come one, Baxter. If we wait any longer, we won’t be able to go fast.” Gideon coaxed.

“That shall not happen! Goodbye ladies I’m off to fly fastly- quickly- Going fast!” Baxter barked, stumbling in thought as he trotted to Gideon. The attention overwhelmed him.

“Good blessing on this flight, Gideon,” Alex encouraged as he led the way to the second mirador. This one dropped them deeper into the crust, to a horizontal tram mirador that would shuttle them to the hangar bay. Gideon went into thought over this, the nervousness returning at the thought of the flight. The reality settling in that they were going to do it.

The flight would take minutes, but the distance was vast.

The main horizontal mirador was waiting for them, the doors sliding open to greet them. They quickly get aboard one of the outbound trams, which would shoot them down the magnetically charged cylindrical corridor. They were both silent, save for Baxter’s panting and the constant thrum of movement. For a while, nothing was said until Baxter broke the silence.

“Gid, all of those nice ladies were asking about you. Like what you eat and drink. I think they are spies,” He chuffed, his ears twitching.

Gideon couldn’t help but laugh.

No, Baxter! They’re interested in me.”

“Oh.” Baxter replied, and then there was silence, once again.

As Gideon and Baxter sat in the lit tram. Baxter broke the silence again.

“You should see the short blond one. She gave me a treat and scratched my ears,” Baxter chuffed happily.

“Oh, ho! They all scratched your ears. And that’s a pretty low standard to judge- getting bribed,” Gideon replied, cocking an eyebrow.

“But it was a homemade treat! Made only with whole goodness and love! You should speak to her,” Baxter responded with a yip.

“And it’s not because you might get more of these whole-goodness-love treats, hmmm?” Gideon sported a fake-stern look at Baxter, who looked up then averted his eyes. Baxter did this several times.

N-no. I have no steak in this. I like steak. Can we have steak now?” Baxter tried to redirect, flattening his ears.

Gideon laughed in response to Baxter’s poor conversation skills. He ruffled the dog’s ears and chuckled.

“I’ll be sure to not take relationship advice from you in the future. Besides, whoever my parents wish me to marry, there will be so many steaks, you’ll be able to sleep on them!”

“Who is this woman, that has beds of steak….” Baxter licked his lips as his ears perked back up.

“Unless she is a… Oh, this is our stop,” Gideon announced.

The mirador exited the dark tunnel to a large glass tube, the rest of the hangar’s large expanse opened up to them. The hangar bay was a massive open space, large enough for cruiser class vessels. Most of the buildings were low grounded bunkers, giving room for flight. It was an underground city sized hangar bay. The ceiling was a massive white horizon, mixed with the dotted circuitry pattern of bunkers on the ground.

The large vessel caught their view. Massive in size, with the dark phthalo blue outer armor with pearlescent white under-trim sheening in the lighting. The triple gyroscopic IIT drives peaked out back. It could turn on a dime and then thread right through it. The ship was dynamically modular, and any part could be replaced with parts from their current premium line or from other manufacturers. You could also take an unlike part and have it integrate well with the rest of the ship. This was another true breakthrough, a universal foundation instead of a universal part. The ship radiated beauty, class, sophistication, and craftsmanship.

It was a timeless masterpiece made up of thousands of years worth of knowledge. And several races worth.

Gideon’s father was there. Seven of his sisters were also assisting with the last of the diagnostics and last second prep-work. Most likely finishing the internal accommodations. Gideon could see his father was waiting at the tram exit.

There he was. Gideon’s father, Mi-

“My son!” the deep booming rusty voice of a wizened man echoed through the docking bay, some of the Anforms ceased their working to look.

Gideon’s father was beaming with pride. Half of the man’s face was cybernetically enhanced as well as his right arm. Gideon noticed his father opted out of the practice for more of the ornate look. He had white short cut hair and a trimmed beard. He had a weathered face of a man who worked, as a hobby and career. He was clothed in billowing majestic robes of red, black, and gold. Gideon didn’t understand how his father worked with practical limbs, yet wore such impractical clothing.

“My son, today is the big day!” Father quickly approached and embraced him. Gideon took the embrace and gave it back half-heartedly.

As if reading his thoughts, his father consoled him.

“Gideon, you will be fine. We’ve accounted for the anomalies, the pathway to Lo IX, the IIT drive, and everything in between!” Father was staring at him, with a warm look on his face.

“I know, father. It’s still difficult. The burden, the risk. My brothers wouldn-”

“Being worried or scared isn’t a sign of cowardice, just sanity. And don’t compare yourself to them! They have their own struggles; regardless of what they accomplished. Besides, have you ever had to deal with a tide of fangirl wives like your older brother?” His father winked at him. He got in close and whispered,

“He complains all the time wishing for some quiet. He’d trade places with you right now if he could.”

“I know… I wouldn’t trade this for anything,” Gideon replied.

Gideon knew what his father was doing, trying to keep him encouraged, distracted before the first takeoff. His father had turned to Baxter and was scritching his ears and asking the all-important question of who’s a good boy. Baxter started kicking with his leg to fall on his back.

“And this whole issue of Shindow being reorganized and sent elswhe-” Gideon began, but stopped as his father’s gaze shot up from the dog.

His father rose to his feet and suddenly becoming more somber as he turned to address his son. He began fiddling with something in his robe, ignoring Gideon’s comment.

“Gideon. I’m giving you this for the trip. It may help with the flight.”

His father handed him an intricate disk. It was made of platinum, gold, and silver. With a press, the scissor iris of silver opened, activating the disk.

An orange globe appeared in front of Gideon and began to transform into a tiny woman. It had an oversized head with an ASCII character face, eyebrows, eyes, a mouth, and a tiny simplified body. Her hair was in a ponytail and she sported glasses. She had on a lab jacket with buttoned-up blouse and skirt. She was completely orange and slightly transparent. The Panasians who helped produce her would have called her ‘chibi’, which was an ancient word unknown to Gideon.

“Shin, there you are!” Baxter said and chuffed quietly.

“Gentlemen. And Dog,” Shindow faced and addressed them cordially nodding to each one.

“System diagnostics for the Decima are complete and we’re ready to fly,” Shindow mimed adjusting her glasses with her tiny arm.

The arm itself lacked any definitive hand or digits, it looked more like a tiny sausage. Shindow was an AI, using her particle projection she could display herself as a simple hologram. She could even interact with the environment slightly as she had a minuscule amount of mass. The most she could do was touch. Artificial intelligence or AI were the first sentients created by man, before Anforms themselves. Shindow herself was specialized as a satellite AI.

She stopped playing coy and perked up in a half smile.

“Master Captain Gideon, permission to come aboard?”

Gideon was ecstatic, he thought this whole time Shindow was being reorganized and sent off world due to political discord. The truth was, she was reorganized, into a ships’ AI. He started beaming, the first time in a long time. Gideon had to admit, His father was pretty damn good at distracting him away from dire thoughts. He couldn’t stop his beaming.

“But Shin, how? You were moduled for satellite surveillance, not for flight,” Gideon asked, he was pretty shocked by this. Shindow bent down and gave a look of incredulity.

“No, Welcome aboard?… “ Shindow was ready to unleash a withering of sarcasm as she looked unamused at Gideon.

“Sorry Shin, I get it. This is fantastic! I don’t even know what to sa-” Gideon caught himself as Shindow crossed her arms and tilted her head, holding one eye open.

“Permission granted, welcome aboard, Chief Officer Shindow!” Gideon gave her a solute. Shindow returned the solute, but her arm couldn’t reach to her forehead.

Gideon’s father laughed.

“I knew I made the right decision. You two work well together. She was an excellent student.”

“Father, you taught her? I thought your processes were fully committed!”

His father gave an ‘oops’ of a shrug.

“I had one process open, and besides, your sisters are more than capable of picking up this old man’s slack, hah!” His father softly elbowed him.

Gideon’s father could process up to twelve-hundred and eighty tasks at once using his QSD, Gnats, AIs, his highly modified brain, and his own two hands. His time was usually taken for one project or another and for him to push even one aside to train an AI personally was unheard of. Most of his sisters could perform up to two-hundred and fifty-six processes, with the best one processing seven-hundred and sixty-eight different tasks. Gideon was lucky to get up to four. With Shindow; . The number of tasks directly correlated to the number of Gnats one could use.

‘Yes, Gideon. I was the one who ordered her reorganization. And the one to train her to assist in the Decima’s flight. And to support you,” Father replied warmly, gently tapping Gideon on the chest with his human arm.

“And before you ask, it was a surprise; a going away present. I want you to be the captain of the Decima, not just the test pilot. Shindow was reorganized as your Chief Officer,” Father explained with a grin.

“Speaking of your sisters. Come, let’s meet them for flight prep,” His father suggested.

The group began to walk over, seeing the large ship on the horizon of the hanger bay. The hangar bay was massive, the size of a small city. The grey and white bunker styled buildings dotted the landscape.

As they began walking to the Decima, his father described much of the details.

“Yes, that blue-black steel you see is completely indestructible! I had a dream of it, on how to smelt it. Lucky for me The Mars Tech had been working on it for several hundred years before. It takes that long to get the metals to reach such a temperature. It was designated metal AMC881, but I might call it something more personable… Orichalcum? God’s metal? Maybe… Hmmm.”

“It’ll never catch on,” Gideon chided humorously.

“Let this old man have his dreams!” Father shot back with a chuckle.

“Why not Adamantite?” Gideon asked.

“Taken, already. Another metal has been underway for a time before this metal was realized. OCR221, was the coded designation. It will hopefully replace armor plating and ordnance one day. Mixed with this AMC881, vessels will be largely indestructible.”

For Gideon, that sounded far too much of a stretch to believe.

Gideon’s father was leading the way when he suddenly stiffened and stopped. He began looking around frantically.

Something was wrong.

“Gideon, Baxter, get close. Shindow, hide. Now.”

Shindow instantly dissolved into orange pixelated light back into the disk. The disk itself was then stored into Gideon’s QSD, uploading Shindow to Gideons Quantum Storage as his permanent AI. Gideon could feel his mind and hers bridging together as she began running the merge protocols.

AI ‘Shindow’ installed 

Baxter, who is normally happy, if not ditsy, suddenly became alert. His ears went back and his hackles raised. All were uncharacteristic of him.

“Danger,” Was all Baxter announced.

Gideon had materialized a SCOSO Ram pistol in his hand. It was all about stopping power as opposed to bullet count. Communications must have picked up an intruder.

“Father, what’s going on?” Gideon was aiming it and looking around. Gideon’s father chastises him,

“Black powder, really? Put that damn fool pistol away! The Empire of Dusk is here,” Gideon was not used to his father behaving this way. But any talk of the Dusk Empire would wisely freeze someone in their tracks.

“Of all the times, they chose now to show up? Dammit!” His father swore again.

Gideon really wasn’t used to him losing his temper like this. This was a different side that he had not seen in his father. Gideon obeyed and dematerialized the pistol to orange light. He was always armed and was a sucker for the classic weaponry. Nobility didn’t mean that everyone liked him. In fact, you could guarantee enemies, Even Gideon, who thought himself mediocre could still be a target. But against the Empire of Dusk? You never drew weapons, much less fired upon them. Whenever they appeared, you dealt kindly with them, hoped they didn’t do much, and let them pass.

This was mankind’s first contact; a wormhole jump went wrong, sending a merchant ship into unknown space. Nearby was a lone gas giant, an oddity. They began to document the surrounding area and when their sensors exploded with activity from the scan of the gas giant. What the merchant ship saw filled them with a fear beyond what mankind could know. It was a vessel. It appeared to be a nonmilitary ship or satellite, whose purpose out in deep space was unknown. The merchant ship was largely ignored until they tried to quietly activate their engines and retreat. Like a hen walking into a room of hounds; you would try to leave quietly.

The merchants were immediately noticed. The massive thing simply plucked them from known space inside the vessel within a second. The crew armed themselves even though it was pointless. The AI assisted in creating kill zones and they prepped for what could be the last stand. The captain went forward as either an emissary or bait. The outside sealed door to space was unlocked and several “Beings” walked in. Unarmed. Each side viewing the other race with curiosity. The beings walked over and started taking data, information, and even one of the AI. The merchants couldn’t act, there was a pressure on them, on their minds and bodies that prevented action. All they could do was watch. One of the merchants had his pulse rifle gently taken by one of these Beings. Then the captain was gently herded out. The Beings left, and the ship was dropped off into known space near a planet. No words, no communication. They survived, with one less AI and captain. They did have the recordings, which made the benefit mutual.

This news rocked the known galaxy. How could humanity prepare? Weapons were built, researched, and invented. All in the hopes of stopping this oncoming invasion. Scout ships were sent all throughout the known areas of sightings to spy. When scout ships found themselves too close to the Empire they would be caught and gently dumped back into home space. The instance where humanity fought back was a disaster that went down in history. There were zero casualties on either side, but it was an absolute defeat for Humanity. After much research and the single confrontation that almost led to all-out war, humanity came to the conclusion that these beings were much greater than they were by factors and powers. These ‘Beings’ treated humanity like one would treat a spider found indoors, catch it in a cup then place it outside. Throughout all of this, the missing Anforms, AI, and humans were never heard from. There was never any follow up communication. They simply manipulated as they pleased and none of it really made any sense. People were taken. An Anform of no particular note. A disabled child. A governor. Trinkets and technology. Humans belonged outside of their galaxy. Humanity then conceded and built outposts and gave them space. A lot of space. There is still no image of a fully revealed Dusk Being to date. Always robed in black and covered. Even their name “Empire of Dusk” was incorrect, as humanity just simply didn’t know what else to call them. There was no words or language traded, the totality of their race was silent as graveworld. Humanity was a child building a sandcastle, and along came a Gero-Titan named the Empire of Dusk that kept gently adjusting the sandcastle. One would be nervous no matter what.

And now they have arrived inside Karmmrak’s underground hangar bay by unknown means and were facing Gideon.

Gideon, Father, and Baxter hurried to the main bridge crossing and there they were. Emissaries of the Empire of Dusk.

Clothed in black robes, taller than normal, around seven to eight feet on average. There was no way one could be mistaken for Human or Anform. They emanated an aura of disquieting dread.

They felt wrong, looked wrong, and sounded worse.

Like the black empty vastness of space.

Gideon’s father walked up with a wide stance to block the view of the Emissaries to his son and companion.

There were seven Emissaries and once they spotted Gideon and his group, started a slow procession to them.

“Keep your distance, stand down weaponry,” Gideon’s father was heard saying out loud.

Gideon couldn’t see any armed guards or military. They all must be positioned in sniper nests or holding back. The place was eerily quiet, except for the soft padding of the Emissaries.

“What is it that you want?” Father asked the group.

He knew there is a possibility one or all of them were to be taken. One of the tall Emissaries raised its hand, and the surrounding area started to lose color, looking more grey, more pastel. Gideon looked around, everywhere around the bridge there was still color like a perfect sphere enveloped them.

“Gideon, stay calm. We’re locked in some sort of time or-or dimensional bubble- I don’t know. This is how these Goddamn monsters can take so much from us without so much as a fight,”

There was an edge to father’s last sentence. His father was involved in the initial confrontations with these Beings.

He never spoke of what happened.

Baxter was almost a completely different dog, aggressive growling, ready to attack.

You are bad I will fight you,” Baxter half barked, half snarled, teeth showing.

Which showed how serious the situation was. Baxter being anything but dopey happy was bad. The procession got within fifteen feet, the aura only getting stronger. Gideon felt a pressure forming on him, like someone stacking weights on his back coupled with palpitations. He heard a series of barks as Baxter charged on the offensive.

“Wai-!” Gideon called out too late. Baxter lept out of the bubble and stopped in mid-air, turning a grey pastel color. He hung like a floating statue. Gideon’s father continued like it was nothing.

“I ask again, what do you wan-” Gideon’s father tried to ask. He took a step, another of the seven lifted a finger. Gideon’s father was pulled by what appeared to be a phantom rope, outside of the time sphere. It was as if time ceased for his father as well.

“Father!” Gideon wanted to move, but the weight was too much.

There was no response, his father stopped moving, becoming like a statue.

The aura tick up another notch and Gideon fell to his hands and knees with a gasp, like someone planted an enormous weight on him, his heart skipped several beats. His bones felt weight pressure that risked fracturing them. He felt the pressure even in his veins, the blood coagulating. He knew Shindow couldn’t help either. If she revealed herself, they would take her for sure, along with the technology of the IIT and ship. But if he was taken, it’d all be a loss anyways as he had everything. That leaned on the fact they’re not here to take him and are just observing. Or delivering mail.

Recording started

“Adonai please let it be mail,” Gideon thought grimly.

His face was contorted in agony. The QSD updated that he was now recording. Shindow turned it on, understanding the situation. Might as well take a risk and see if they could get anything. he hoped they wouldn’t notice.

“Keep calm, don’t let them know,” Shindow advised. Gideon nodded affirmatively internally.

The six tall Beings stopped and parted, making way for a shorter Being. It was carrying a hinged wooden box, which caught Gideon off guard; using something so rudimentary. Gideon couldn’t see their faces or any flesh revealed from the robes, they were wearing gloves and balaclavas as well. He did notice not only were they tall, but unusually thin and long-limbed; skeletal. The shorter one had more plump to it. The shorter Being marched towards Gideon, stopping within arm’s reach of Gideon. He felt then the pressure released, while he was out of breath, he no longer felt like he was being crushed.

The Being waited for Gideon to rise and opened the box, reaching to ponderously take out an item. It was a black cube that was unsettling to look at. It looked black, except darker. To Gideon, it looked like a censor square for entertainment. It didn’t look real as light neither bounced off of it nor did it emit light. It absorbed all light. It was the dark matter of the blackness of space itself.

Then, it spoke.

“Deliver to Lo IX.”

Gideon revolted at once at the sound. Of rasping, clicking, buzzing, almost mechanical sounding. It was wrong. But still, he took a chance.

Who knows, maybe they’ll answer? These are their first words recorded, after all. Deliver to the planet they were testing the IIT drive? Why?

“W-who are you?” Gideon asked.

Genius first question.

Everything in his heart and mind screamed to run. That this phantasmagoria was going to murder him.

“Irrelevant. Deliver Item. “

“But why? What is this thing? Why do you suddenly decide to speak to us? Will you at least put my father back, stay and talk?” Gideon asked in rapid succession. Quantity over quality.

“No.”

And that was it. Absolute finality. He should have shot one question at a time. Something told him no would have been the answer anyway.

Should have stuck with quality, Gideon thought, breathing heavily from his mouth due to stress.

His hand was forcibly opened by one of the seven Beings and the cube floated to his hand. The Being activated his QSD and forcibly stored the item. Gideon had briefly held it and it felt neither hard or soft, smooth or rough, hot or cold. These Dusk Beings and this cube were the same; an anomaly. Gideon noticed orange pixelated light form off to his side, his SCOSO Ram pistol floating in midair. The pistol traveled over into the black box. The shorter Being closed the lid with a snap, they all turned as one and began their march away. What was more curious was that he had received no QSD notifications.

How the hell did they open, store and steal items from my QSD? That pistol was a relic! Gideon thought.

He was at least happy nothing else was being taken.

Glorified mail delivery service? Come on!

Gideon chastised his situation internally and at his own prophetic prediction.

There was another unexpected reply. To what question, Gideon did not know.

We may meet again. After Megiddo.”

“Wait! What do we call you?” Gideon shouted.

That did it. The group ceased walking and the shorter one turned to gaze at Gideon. It took off the cowl and showed it’s true face. Gideon felt like spears skewered his head to the ground. He could see that horrific face, hear the name in his head, yet his mind could neither hold on to the memories or understand it.

Their name was,

Watchers barcode

The pain ceased as Gideon’s world went dark.

The Book of Gideon: Fight – 5

The Book of Gideon: AI – 3

Glossary

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3 thoughts on “The Book of Gideon: Empire – 4

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