Author’s note: Rewrote the second chapter. A lot more showing and a lot less telling. Hopefully it’s a much more enjoyable read. Illustration by Michael Lynch. – BladedPen
Karmmrak, Sutta galaxy
9930 Galactic Year
He woke with a start.
Gideon sat up breathing heavily. The dream was disturbing, to say the least. His nerves trembled from his body’s reaction to a supposedly real horror. His cloudy fugued mind slowly sharpened as he awoke, the black cloud brought on by the dream was slowly vanishing in the morning’s rise.
His room was filled to the brim with luxury, a sleek, green, silver and clean room meant to give the greatest amount of rest. There was a feeling of absolute comfort with the large deep rug near the circular fireplace in the center of the room. The silver vines, filigree and trimming glinted throughout the room, with the carved reliefs telling the tale of his family. Gideon fully woke, the room responded by immediately warming the temperature in response. The lights from the lamp nodes slowly brightened with a warm yellow light to allow the eyes to adjust. Gideon sat up in his bed, stock still with his head in his hands.
Today was massive.
Baxter had awoken and was sitting at the foot of the bed, quietly staring at Gideon. He cocked his head and his ears perked, letting out a soft whine. All of this would only make sense if Baxter was a dog; which he was.
A Welsh corgi; Pembroke.
That spoke. And was sentient.
“Are you OK, Gid?” Baxter inquired with a whine.
He could sense something was off with Gideon.
Baxter was attending the test in a supportive manner. He was a genetically engineered dog; a helper animal. There were many such animals for many different roles. A good portion of them were for search and rescue. In Baxter’s case, his heightened senses of smell, hearing, danger, and consciousness would aid the flight. He had been a family pet since Gideon was young and had decided to join in on the tests. Baxter sported black and light tan fur, with a fur-scarf of white around his neck and a well-defined pixie-saddle. He had a white stripe running from his nose to his brow.
He could psychically broadcast his thoughts acoustically, giving the impression he was speaking verbally. He had heightened senses and a human-like intelligence with a doggy demeanor.
“Hey… Yeah, I’m alright. This is the big day, right? It’s just first flight nerves..” To say Gideon was having cold-feet was an understatement; it was frostbite.
“It will be just OK! Today is the day we go really fast!” Baxter chuffed.
He spoke in a slight staccato, making words slightly over-pronounced. While he projected his words psychically in a loud audio broadcast, he would also verbally emote.
Baxter got up and tap-clacked over to the bed, where he wiggled his rump and lept, trying to jump to the bed for warmth. He lept with all his might, slamming into the bed, his little front legs struggling to gain traction. He gave a sad look as he fell, plopping to his back with a squeak. Gideon let out a chuckle. The dog’s legs were just too short. Baxter’s second valiant attempt succeeded and he scooted to Gideon.
“That first time was truly on purpose,” Baxter said, justifying his stumpiness. He ignored the fact he was short.
“I wish I had half of your enthusiasm, I definitely need it right now,” Gideon replied with a chuckle at Baxter’s lack of self-awareness.
Gideon’s internal thoughts were restless today as well. He needed a drink to calm it.
“And I definitely need food! Right now…” Baxter cocked his head down and gave Gideon sad eyes, letting out a half-bark whine.
“You beggar!” Gideon retorted with a chuckle hitting Baxter with a pillow. Baxter yelped in protest as he lept off the bed.
Gideon finally got up with a yawn, walking across the green marble floor. Baxter followed with loud clacking behind him. The room was large, with the bed off to the side, the centerpiece of the room was the large circular marble fireplace. On the other side of the bedroom was the kitchen. Gideon moved to the storage unit on the marble counter and simply thought what he needed, and orange pixelated light answered his call, emitting from storage. The counter had dozens of decorative designs, but no cabinet space as it wasn’t needed. Two steaks were materialized, one on a plate well done and one in a bowl, raw. Baxter happily danced from paw to paw, the gentle clacking dance ringing out in preparation for his food. With more orange pixelated light, a fork, knife, and a glass of bourbon appeared. Just something to calm his nerves. Gideon placed the bowl on the ground and Baxter rushed it, creating a growling ruckus of shaking his steak around.
Sometimes chewing on it.
Gideon grabbed his meal and sat at the silver lined marble table eating quietly.
Gideon should have been cold, with so much marble; whose two temperature states were between frigid and freezing. It was all heated, down to the chairs themselves. His family had a thing for marble and silver, which is why the rooms, table, fireplace, counter, floor, and even the bed were all made from a single piece of green marble. An entire block of marble around twenty-five hundred square feet, carved with intricate designs and images. Silver was fitted to many of the carvings or used as etching. His entire room was worth a fortune. A family could retire for five generations off of it.
Gideon gazed at the far corner of the room, seeing one particular relief of a man handing out cogs to the awaiting hands of the masses. The man was the representation of his entire McDonough family; the leaders of corporatic empire Primetech. They had merged technology and art, mastering both into a medium of their own. He thought to his siblings, whom he felt eclipsed by.
They were the shadow that he could never hope to surpass.
Baxter had finished most of the meal and sat nearby, staring intently at the troubled man.
“Gid? If you do not want to go fast, we can stay right here and explore!” He began with a chuff in an attempt to help.
“Baxter, we- I really need to do this,” Gideon replied, stumbling in thought.
“But why? We have steak, warm beds, and scritches,”
“Because there’s more to life than steak and pats,” He began with a sigh.
“Ever since I found out- you know- I’ve watched my family reach the heavens on wings of glory. I’m just here, watching from the ground with my wings of wax,”
“But I don’t see wings- Oh,” Baxter began before stopping to think of the strange metaphor.
“So I’m trying to find out my own path of glory. Even if it… Doesn’t end well.”
“Like that one time I was getting too many back scratches and someone stepped on my tail!” Baxter replied with a knowing chuff.
Gideon cocked his head at the strange dog, seeing the wiggling of his rump.
“But you never had a tail,” Gideon replied, deadpan.
“I know! It was very tragic.”
Gideon chuckled a laugh at that. He found it difficult to read the dog, but he did mean well.
“But yes, just like that. My family built all of this, just for the test. My father and sisters have worked endlessly building the Decima. Our family built it and I just get to sit in a chair and shift sticks,”
“But father said it was very important! You are important!” Baxter countered, his half bark echoing along the marble.
“You said- I want to fly- and father said- yes you can fly-. They need you. Father needs you,” Baxter added with a quiet chuff.
Baxter eyed his bowl and trotted back, returning to his meal.
Gideon shook his head upon hearing the extreme abridged version of the story. Although Baxter was correct. He heard of the new experimental drive, he lept at the chance to be involved somehow.
He was going to be the experimental pilot for not only the greatest ship designed yet but the new intergalactic interdimensional drive; the IIT Drive. Exploration was the lifeblood of current galactic civilization as multi-planet empires churned through resources daily. With the IIT drive, one could do the impossible, hop directly from one known point to another. Two known coordinates and a pilot were all that was required.
His siblings had the skills to invent and build such a device. He only had the skills to pilot it and even then he would outdo the normal man. Each of his siblings had titles to their glorious deeds. His father was known as the Innovator. They were the stuff of legends. He saw himself as just average, Gideon the genetic lottery winner.
Or the genetic lottery loser; whichever way one looked at it. He discovered fairly quickly he was unable to be enhanced by modern cybernetic upgrades, unlike his siblings.
Suffice to say when he saw the chance to get out of his gilded cage, he jumped at it at lightspeed.
A voice broke him out of his introspection.
“Gideon, you’re awake. Good. You’re needed in the observatory in one hour,” A female voice chimed in while he was still deep in thought over today’s affairs.
“Thanks, Shindow. I’m on my way down,” Gideon had finished eating and slammed the rest of the bourbon down.
He started feeling a good buzz, he was becoming more functional when he was. Baxter furiously licked his bowl clean for the last choice of meat juices.
“Come on Baxter, it’s time.”
“Oh boy! It is today and I cannot wait.” Baxter was chuffing and hopping around with no direction. He followed as Gideon walked off.
They marched off and Gideon started his daily training regimen. He went to the lavatory and took his daily health check, which he passed with flying colors as usual. The health check did fuss at him to get better sleep, which he ignored. He went to the showers, looking into the mirror. A blond hair, blue-eyed man in his mid-twenties looked back. He was built like a Greek statue and could have been compared to the gods themselves. He felt nothing for that after discovering the truth of being genetically modified to be completely symmetrical, beautiful, healthy, intelligent, and fabricated. He sneered at his image; even his looks felt propped up. All of his family was inhumanly beautifully, being one of the ruling class all but demanded it. He quickly showered, pondering the work needed for today. The warm mineral water was comforting and relaxing. He could stay in the shower room for ages.
Why me? Gideon thought glumly.
Why not Vlad?
He turned down the shower and left to dry off.
The more tired and nervous he was, the more his inner monologue spiraled. The more he drank, the quieter it got. He was happy he couldn’t have a quadrilogue with his processes, it would only multiply the negativity.
The prestige of his siblings having surpassed him weighted constantly on Gideon’s mind, confining him to the dark shadows of his family lineage. How he got on this test flight was still a mystery, even with father explaining it several times. Even his sisters, most of whom were Primetech’s top engineers worked with Gideon and assisted in building the test vessel.
Gideon eyed the uniform jumpsuit. White and green, sleek, soft, and very comfortable. Made from Dugrum spider silk. He felt at the silk, he always wondered what the exact value of the silk was. Handling money was something he didn’t do.
“Did you ever get to meet a Drugrum? What was it like?” Shindow asked absently as Gideon felt at the soft silk.
Gideon’s thoughts were blessedly interrupted.
“Um, never met one. Seen, yes. I just couldn’t get over how they looked.” Gideon explained with a squint and disquieted memory of the creatures.
Gideon had never seen one but heard that the first contact with them was terrifying. Man’s hardwired instincts towards creepy crawlers was multiplied by the encounter of the large insectoid alien race. That was second contact with alien life. First contact had been worse.
“I would love to meet just one Scarabaeidae, someday,” Shindow replied.
Next to his jumpsuit was his Quantum Storage Drive (QSD). His father made it for him for his eighteenth birthday and It was a handmade one of a kind. It resembled a platinum egg half, with an orange-lit groove down the center, the size of a bowl. The device had grandmaster quality filigree inlay all throughout. It was a masterpiece melded marriage of artistry and tech. The QSD attached to a strip of gold alloy diodes implanted in the spine; non-cybernetic tech. He did a quick status update.
Instance 199309105 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 nodded approvingly at that, his QSD was fully functional. The location was kept secret at this point, everyone in the facility were considered nonexistent to the rest of the outside system. This was his favorite tech of all, the ability to dematerialize and materialize matter. His QSD had a special administrator feature on it, allowing for the bending of some rules. There was Baxter’s own matching uniform and a steel colored Quantum Storage Drive with leafy design. He got Baxter into his suit, with much struggling and complaining, and attached the blue-lit QSD to Baxter.
Gideon still didn’t know why Baxter specifically asked for blue, it wasn’t as if he could see that color palette. He didn’t know why Baxter did many things in life, he just accepted the fact that Baxter was odd.
“Gid, how do I do the quantum thingy?” Baxter asked with a chuff. He stared at Gideon with a dumb doggy grin.
“Baxter, we’ve been over this before, you just grab something- like that sock, over there- and just think about storing it,” Gideon replied humorously.
The corgi trotted over to the silk sock and gently gripped it with his muzzle, giving it a gentle shake before the sock broke down and vanished in blue pixelated light, storing inside his small QSD.
“Oh. It is gone.”
“Yes, it’s gone. Now just think of it and search your inventory.”
“Um, yes…” Baxter began, his nose twitching with effort.
As if a great burden was released, Baxter managed to summon the sock which appeared in blue pixelated light on the floor.
“This is just great!” Baxter announced as he grabbed the sock, storing it with a shake.
“Now don’t use it for trouble, alright?” Gideon warned.
“I will not steal things!” Baxter responded with a chuff.
Gideon cocked an eyebrow at that.
He placed paw on Gideon’s discarded night-shirt. It broke down and vanished in blue pixelated light.
Gideon shook his head at that. Baxter was one for pranks now and then.
Gideon began doing final diagnostics on his QSD, you either stored an item by holding it and willing it away, or by summoning a Gyroscopic Holographic Assisted Throughput, or Gnat for short. They were a particle holographic assistant that one could use to manage QSD but would borrow a process to use. He looked for an item to test, storing a shirt. He grasped the cloth and willed it away, the shirt breaking down into orange pixelated light and vanishing. His QSD updated his inventory in realtime, his mind filled with information on the item stored. Gideon set it to abbreviated, as one could get lost in details; down to the molecular makeup.
1 – Polymer T-shirt
He then willed a single Gnat into existence. With orange pixelated light, the Gnat came to be. Gideon’s Gnat appeared as a grey-blue cube with a face in a depression on the front side. It had the appearance of a floating view-screen cube. It had four floating hands that were halves of a circle, one hand for each corner. It sported a simple LED dome on top and bottom, capable of giving out light codes. The face was a simple five-piece ASCII character; brows, eyes, and a mouth. While simple, they were pretty expressive. The Panasians knew their empathy and anthropomorphization well, after several tries. The alpha versions were disembodied heads and were a creepy uncanny valley. Gideon chose the easiest skin to read and react to.
Gideon headed Baxter off at the pass before he could ask a load of questions.
“Baxter, That’s a Gnat. You can only have one if you have two or more processes,” Gideon addressed Baxter.
“What is a process-esses? I don’t like gnats they buzz and bother.” Baxter complained with a whining chuff.
“Processes are the amount of true multitasking one can do. I have four processes. Audrey has sixteen now,” Gideon explained.
“But Audrey is still a baby!” Baxter responded with a surprised whine.
“Yeah, I would have more, but you know.”
Baxter’s ears drooped at that.
“Yes… Your cyber thingies. It is just like me and my tail…” Baxter added with a chuff.
“Actually it’s more like- Well, yeah it’s just like that. I can’t have cybernetics and you can’t have a tail,” Gideon conceded with an absent nod.
“Genetic defect.” Gideon concluded, knitting his brows at that.
“Gnat,” Gideon commanded with bark.
“Hai!” The Gnat responded in a digital voice in the pitch of a child’s.
The face gave a happy vacant look.
“Get that empty glass on the table, will you?” Gideon requested with a nod in the direction.
“Hai!” The Gnat gave a salute and floated off with Baxter barking and jumping at it. Gideon heard the Gnat shouting in the background as he addressed Baxter.
“Do I have a gnat thingies?”
“No, you have a single process.”
Baxter’s ears drooped at that.
“Owatta!” The Gnat announced it was finished and flew back to him.
Gideon waved it away, dissolving it in orange pixelated light. He could sense his inventory updating:
1 – Glass cup
“Alright, let’s head down.”
Baxter shook out of his brief melancholy, reminded of what day it is.
“Yes! Let us go fast to go…. Faster!” Baxter replied with uncontained excitement.
While Baxter was excited, Gideon was terrified. Terrified because he was smart enough to know what failure meant. A quick death at best, or on average being flung to a nowhere part of the galaxy to slowly die. At the worst, an eternity of suffering as time and space ceased, with Gideon resembling a man flattened and stretched by a rolling pin. And with time stopping, he would feel that moment of agony forever.
Happy thoughts! Gideon attempted to assure himself.
He was going to succeed and make history; that would be his legacy. Or the crash and burn would be his legacy. Either way, he would have a legacy. His father worked on this project himself, creating the ship, with the help of his daughters and Anform engineers from the Mars Technocracy. If there was anyone Gideon trusted to make an experimental vessel, it was his family. The doors silently parting for Gideon as he exited the bedroom with Baxter in tow.
They passed several Anforms walking down the white pearlescent halls before them. They all spent a brief moment staring at one another. Anforms were bizarre in that no one ever looked alike, apart from Exercitus. Outside diverse, inside moreso. They were sentient AI that had taken robotic, cybernetic, or animatronic bodies of their own. A conventional robot’s sentience was usually made for the body that bound it, while an Anform would use a body like one would use clothes; to feel and sense, touch and learn.
For these two Anforms, one was a hollow brass filigree sphere with gears and cogs floating upon a blue antigrav half sphere. That was a dead giveaway it was an Anform meant for the management of systems. The more impractical an Anform looked, the more one could tell it was for a support role. The other was a larger Anform, clanking upon seven legs like an off-set, blocky insect. That type of Anform were meant for practical physical systems and processes.
“Good Gideon, greetings!” The floating one announced.
“The test is soon, we await with anticipation. Be well on the flight,” the insectile one stated.
Each voice for an Anform was different, some sounded elegant, others sounded primitive.
“Yeah, you too,” Gideon replied just before he caught it.
He swore quietly, trying to ignore the gaff.
The Anforms didn’t.
“Pardon us lord, but we are not fortunate enough to partake in this test of the IIT drive,” The spherical one state as they moved on.
“Goodbye, metal friends!” Baxter barked at them as they left.
“Dammit, this is getting to me,” Gideon swore again.
“What were those metal friends again?”
Gideon squinted his eyes at the silly dog.
“They’re Anforms. They are sentient automata with nonessential bodies, meaning they can simply transfer their mind from one body to another. Then there is AI that are meant to go without a body, apart from the holographic particle projection.”
“That is a lot of words. Make it so much simpler!” Baxter replied, cocking his head in a confused fashion.
“Anforms walk, AI float,” Gideon replied with a smirk.
“Uh, what about the metal ones that float?”
“Alright, fine- Anforms you can touch, AI glow and you can’t really touch them,”
“Is Shin coming?” Baxter said with a chuff as he changed the subject.
They continued their journey down the tube like corridors the bottom half was steel, the top half was a white plasticine, lit with gentle, natural light. There were no windows, and with little wonder, as they were underground. It was quiet, apart from Baxter’s clacking and Gideon’s soft boot falls.
His brow was damp and his cheeks flushed. He kept moving. He dare not drink anymore, lest the test would be postponed or a new pilot would be chosen to his permanent shame.
Gideon and Baxter made their way to the main lift terminal, stepping on the closest lift to begin their descent, deeper into the planet.
“No, Shindow isn’t coming. She’ll be watching us and awaiting our return,” Gideon responded. There was a tinge of sadness to his tone.
A voice broke in.
“Gideon, it’s alright, I’ll be here when you return. It may be dangerous, but if things go well, there will be no question to the glory,” Shindow spoke inside his head.
“Shindow, no need to go through the list of possible risks, I’ve lost enough sleep on that already; you’ll heart attack me if you say anymore.”
“Yes, I… Understand. You were entitled to know the risks in great detail,” Shindow responded remorsefully. She continued.
“I am sorry for that. And to pay tribute, I brought your favorite white after the successful test. Methos-Melon!”
That made Gideon give a slight smile.
“I forgive you.”
“But if we’re successful.”
It was true the brand of wine was in the garbage tier compared to what his family got regularly, but he needed his guilty pleasures. An intense melon flavor that slowly burned down to a mint aftertaste. Gideon could taste it now.
“We will be,” Shindow quickly responded.
She needed to believe. So he would too. Baxter? Baxter would believe anything.
The lift opened silently, the lower halls branched open to them.
“I will follow you later, Gid. I need to do things before we go fast!” Baxter announced.
The lift ended and Baxter shot down the hall, with jingling and clacking, leaving Gideon to himself. He could hear a strange chuffing sound.
“What’s that about?”
“Who would know, but Baxter?” Shindow added.
“Would he even know?” Gideon shot back.
Gideon made his way to the inner mirador, which was deep underneath the planet of Karmmrak. Part observatory, part laboratory, the planet itself was secluded around a host of white dwarfs, neutron stars, red giants, and a detonated nebula. This made it incredibly difficult to navigate without the proper chart; a company secret. It was a terrific place to experiment without corporate or government spies.
The large double doors to the underground mirador opened revealing the grand monitoring room.
Humans, Anforms, and different types in between populated the room. They all quieted down to a hush as Gideon entered. To them, he was nobility; a god among them due to his status. Maybe if he was like his brothers he wouldn’t feel like such an imposter. He thought himself swapped out as an infant. But that was still a weak theory, the resemblance to his father and third mother was too uncanny. His thoughts were interrupted by the same lone bodiless voice.
“Gideon, initial tests were far better than expected, this looks to be a close to perfect flight. After the meeting, you’ll need to head to the hangar.”
“Good to know, thanks Shindow,” Gideon responded.
Gideon stepped to the center of the room. It had an auditorium feel to it with a mix of a command bridge. He had their attention and would give pep-speech as usual.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, Anforms and others. I thank you all for your incredible work on this… Momentous day.”
“Today is the first of a new age of travel, of exploration. The galaxy will be ours to document, explore, colonize. It is all thanks to your good work in this. God bless our craft and lineage.” Gideon finished.
It was off the cuff, so hopefully, it was good. There was a murmur of approval, then an applause, confirming his hopes. Somewhat. He could have stumbled in a stupor and slurred a half-assed rant and they would still applaud.
Belief in God or the upholding of religions was commonplace, even among Anforms. For Gideon? Adonai felt far away. The sacraments, traditions, rituals were all… Empty to him. His family was continually changed by it, but he felt left behind.
This feeling of being left behind wasn’t relegated to just his physical or mental performance.
“It was a good speech. You do have a way with words, you know?” Shindow encouraged.
She was always like that.
He couldn’t respond as others began filing him updates, many of them through Neural Net. Faces of men, women, and Anforms that he was accustomed to speaking with flooded to him. After a time of getting an information dump, He felt overwhelmed and raised a hand to know he was good.
Baxter had entered the room and was getting swarmed by the women, being pet and fussed over. Today was a great day in Baxter’s mind. He played the crowd like a champ, using the good ol’ puppy eyes. Someone even snuck him a treat.
Gideon was met with pale blue pixelated light as an AI appeared. It was a blue, semi transparent steel spherical eye that gaze at Gideon with an unreadable mood.
“Momentous day, good Gideon. The ‘Decima’ is ready and she awaits you as its pilot,” the sphere began. It was father’s AI. The first AI.
Gideon thought back to the vessel he was supposed to pilot.
The pinnacle of Primetech’s totality of knowledge compressed into a sloop sized vessel. He had witnessed it when it was just a blueprint in his Father’s lab. He witnessed the plan germinate and grow. Seeing it in reality, was even better than on paper.
“Prosine, are there any last minute details?” Gideon nodded and responded curtly.
He stared at the view screens, seeing the blasted wasteland of above ground. It was a balmy eight hundred and two degrees outside. The color was an intense red, painted by the super red giant off camera.
“None that I am aware of. The travel plan is a brief jump from Karmmrak to Lo IX. The coordinates are locked in,” Prosine responded matter of factly as he bobbed in place.
“Good Gideon, you are in a grand position. This event will solidify a new way of travel. Similar to advancing from thruster power to FTL, and FTL to wormgates. We are one step closer from the total dominion of space,” Prosine explained.
The AI floated to the side and gestured with its body that Gideon could continue to the ship. Gideon appreciated Prosine, he was straight to the point and got things done. He also ran most of the empire’s processes galactic-wide.
“Gideon, I need to go but will see you after the flight,” Shindow interjected as the internal link went quiet.
Gideon wished she would be coming, at least he could have more company. Shindow was a satellite AI that had befriended him when he was young. He saw Baxter on his back getting the full attention of the women in the observatory. Gideon wanted Good company.
“Baxter, let’s go. When we get back, you can have as many belly rubs as you want,” Gideon announced as he gathered the dog’s preoccupied attention.
He winked at one of the ladies as she looked coyly at him. He bet he could have looked like the ass-end of a Pacospine and the ladies would still swoon at him.
Baxter reluctantly scampered to his feet and trotted away to Gideon.
“Goodbye, my friends. I will be back for more scritches!”
There and then a sudden alarm blared.
Prosine snapped his eye back to Gideon as everyone stopped to listen. Many looked down as most understood.
The flight was delayed.
“Good Gideon, I am very sorry. I am processing updates now, one of the IIT drive Gyroscopic rings failed to perform as standards demanded. It appears your father has delayed the flight, yet again,” Prosine explained, his blue form winking for a moment.
Gideon felt his stomach twisted in both relief and frustration coupled together. For one, he wouldn’t go on the flight today, which helped relieve the stress.
On the other hand, he wouldn’t go on the flight today, which frustrated him. Most of the orderlies began to file out, with many staying to manage communications.
“How many times does that make now? Five?” Gideon asked absently.
“It would now be seven delays,” Prosine responded with a slight nod.
“Dammit, I might spend eternity like this… Forever stuck waiting to fly,” Gideon complained absently.
“You must have more faith in your father. And sisters. I am sure these issues will be forged out.”
“Now, your father has asked you to report to training once again.”
“Again? Prosine, I’m ready. We all are.”
“Regardless, training will prevent even a slight err; which may doom this mission,” Prosine explained.
Gideon furrowed his brows, shaking his head and sighing. Prosine was right, but he still disliked the training. Gideon felt like he had capped out on what he could do. But the training also pricked the back of his mind.
The constant reminder of his mediocrity.
He stopped and turned to address Prosine again.
“Can we fly anyways?”
“What do you mean, Gideon?
“It still has thrusters, right?”
“It does, but we are supposed to test the IIT-”
“You mean test the vessel!
“Gideon, father does not recommend flying the vessel,” Prosine replied, becoming firm.
“But the time is perfect. The sun is to our backs, the bay doors are free. It’ll be a quick lap around the planet.”
Prosine paused in thought at that. His eye twitched to an fro as it processed what Gideon desired.
It then flickered, staring back to Gideon.
“I am sorry I cannot allow it.”
Gideon nodded his head, accepting the outcome.
“Training begins soon.”
“Sorry, Gideon. I was sure it was today. I’ll check up with you after training,” Shindow said over comms.
“Same here. Talk to you later,” Gideon valadicted.
Shindow and Gideon had met some time ago when he was in training and tutoring. She managed a dozen satellites throughout the galaxy. Many of them scanning for a potential invasion, others for science missions. They kept in contact ever since, and he even pushed around influence, getting her added to the science station of Karmmrak as an observer. Gideon left the same way he came in.
“Gid, I will see you later I have more places.”
“To be!” Baxter said with a strange pause.
Gideon grimaced in confusion. He didn’t know if Baxter meant going somewhere, or becoming somewhere. The corgi galloped back to the woman who were petting him, enjoying their attention.
He left the same way he came, alone down the halls. This time, skipping the lifts and heading in the direction of the armory. He glanced by the door to the armory, its fortified plating was out of place with the rest of the decor. A giant sign that it was off limits.
His father would be there to encourage him. Maybe he could be relieved for today. Although Gideon felt it would have then been spent on sleep. There wasn’t much to do in the way of entertainment, going on leave or top side was completely out of the question. Having an instant crisp char suntan on the planet’s surface was not on his list of life goals. The sliding doors to the training facility shook his thoughts, revealing a much larger room than the silver and blue four paneled doors implied. Inside was a gauntlet of different simulation booths. Today his schedule would be the usual, piloting maneuvers, galactic strategy, alien world survival, and combat.
The screech crack of a pulse gun resounded through the combat training area. It was his first stop anyways, the sound pricking his curiosity. He descended the stairs to his right; one could train in a circuit. He didn’t know who else would have been training today.
No, they have no need for physical training.
Rows of booths opened up to him as he rounded the hallway. There he spotted the hem of a black and gold robe. The person was hooded with most of their features hidden. The screech crack of the pulse pistol rang out, causing Gideon to flinch from the shock to the ears. He checked the nearby wall, finding his earpieces to cancel out the noise.
He stood behind the shorter person. The figure was feminine, with the sleeveless robes revealing armor steel filigree designed plating covering the arms. The person was firing one-handed, with the recoil nonexistent. Pulse weaponry was one of mankind’s great achievements in weaponry. Capable of firing metal sabots at hypersonic speeds, with even the small arms being capable of devastating damage. He cringed as the white holographic figure took a hit to the face. The head shattered like glass with fake glass like blood and gore, the body dropped, alerting the shooter to the good hit. Another two targets, a blue, and a green materialized and were quickly dispatched with two quick shots to their heads. Both targets crumpled and shattered like glass. Ten targets appeared, all varying colors of red blue and green. Within just shy of seconds they were all dispatched, all taking rounds to their heads. Whoever was shooting was a dead shot with a pistol. Another target appeared, this one was yellow, and sidestepped as she fired, shattering the head above the nose bridge; the back of the skull burst outward. The simulation gave her feedback on a perfect score.
“Hm! Almost a perfect record,” The person spoke with disappointment.
There was no mistaking her silverbell ring and slight tinged automata voice. She turned to Gideon, revealing her hooded head. She had a fully steel face with a monocular visor with a glowing green eye tracked Gideon. Her face moved with realistic expression, despite its metallic medium.
“Amelia, what are you doing here?” Gideon asked with a cock of his head.
“Good Gideon, I am…” Amelia began as she trailed off, “relieving frustration- as father had asked me to.”
“Also, what do you mean almost a perfect record? All I saw were headshots.”
“I was going for the right eye; up until the final target,” Amelia stated plainly, dematerializing the pulse pistol in green pixelated light, storing it in her QSD.
Gideon raised an eyebrow at that. Scoring perfect shots with a pistol was only possible for the highly skilled or highly modified; Amelia was both.
She walked lightly to Gideon, standing a head shorter, her robes trailing behind. She flung her arms out to her side, her robes billowing as she wrapped her arms gingerly around Gideon’s torso, nuzzling her head against his chest.
“Hello brother,” She whispered contently.
Gideon returned her hug with a smile and a breathed sigh.
She was Gideon’s younger sister and an Anform.
Amelia pulled back at that, looking up at her older brother.
“Is this about the flight?” Amelia inquired, catching on to his feelings.
Her cyclopean eye went blue, representing curiosity.
Amelia was one of the few Anforms that loved dressing up. Her skin looked like a smooth matte steel alloy with dark filigree engraving. She had slender, dexterous fingers for crafting. Her fingers alone were artistic masterpieces. Out of all of the siblings, Amelia had the most artistic engineering put into her design. Several centuries worth.
She was not only daughter to Primetech’s President CEO, but she was also a Matriartech of the Mars Technocracy, the highest ranking Mars engineers. She was one of the main techs working on the Decima. She was only sixteen galactic cycles. Their father’s second wife was the head Matriartech Exigenesis and Machine Mother. Amelia’s mother was also the oldest of the family, at three thousand galactic cycles; their marriage a symbol of an alliance.
How Amelia was Gideon’s sister was simple. For Anform or AI reproduction, one gathered the mental matrices map of two Anforms and combined them to create an Anform child. Father had a mental personality map taken off his mind and merged it with the Machine Mother’s mental matrices. This created Amelia, effectively making her half human.
“The delays are getting to me,” Gideon replied as Amelia stepped back.
“As they are with me, good brother.”
“I also desire to see your tests, if you do not mind.”
“Well If you’ve come to see a man hit the heights of just above average, you’re in the right place,” Gideon said with a smirk.
Amelia walked in and tapped his cheek with her slender hand. It didn’t hurt, but it made a point.
“You should not degrade yourself. I know you can do great things, regardless of augmatonization and cybrification. That is why you are piloting the Decima,” Amelia said, her eye turning an orange, representing passion. She had father’s encouraging spirit in her.
“Thanks, Ame. Its difficult seeing everyone else evolve in their proficiency and for me to stay… Stagnant,” Gideon replied with a furrowed brow.
“But you are not stagnant. Yes, the growth of your siblings has far exceeded calculated expectations. However, you are the pinnacle of human genetics; compared to any normal human, you are beyond exceptional in all areas,” Amelia explained, her eye fading to a green hue.
Gideon quietly scoffed at that, but let it go. Amelia was helping, and he didn’t want to discourage that. It may have been true, but knowing it and feeling it were separate categories.
“Alright, let’s get this finished,” Gideon mumbled.
He stepped to the booth, his QSD updating him to the new shared inventory. He had a basic armory to choose from, his mind was filled with different options for weaponry.
A Manticore 99 Primetech long rifle.
Fire Rate: 39K
Modules: Auto, Burst, Sin-
Gideon interrupted the list, choosing the Pulse rifle. The gun materialized with a flash of orange pixelated light in his grip. The sleek layered rifle was wide but comfortable. It sported several rails and mounts for attachments. His mind was updated to the objectives, but he glazed over as he heard it dozens of times before
Goal: eliminate all targets-
Gideon skipped the rest. He knew what to do. White pixelated light formed on the shooting range, with several moving, human-shaped targets appeared and began to move, dodging and going for cover. They all had slight variations in color, in hues of red, blue, and greens.
Gideon didn’t hesitate, couching his rifle to his shoulder, aiming for the more critical red figure. He gently pulled the trigger, the rifle shuddered and let out a horrific screech crack that Gideon could feel to his bones, striking true. The rounds flew at hypersonic speeds into the back of the red figure, catching it in the spine and shoulder blade. Its chest and arm blew apart in a mixture of gorey glass, the figure tumbled to the ground before dematerializing in white pixelated light. His mind was updated with a notification sound on the hit and critical target down. He snapped to the second target, a green figure that was taking cover, peaking out to shoot back. Gideon snapshot, cursing internally as the three rounds missed, with the fourth round striking it in the side of the head, spilling the glassy gore and dropping the figure. A sound updated in his mind to indicate the good hit. He would get penalized for the three rounds that missed.
Gideon shot down another white figure that aimed to return fire, dropping it with two rounds to the chest. It felt a long time to Gideon, but in actuality, the time passed in mere seconds. Gideon hated the blue figures the most once they dug in, you’d have to go fishing by shooting through the cover and hope for the best. He shot into a long wall off to his right, trying to get a blue figure that was hiding. He wasn’t lucky this time and had to switch to another red figure that materialized. He missed a critical shot, the red figure returning fire and scoring a hit; his QSD buzzed in response. Through grit teeth, he fired again, striking the figure at the throat, beheading it and sending the remains tumbling into shattered glass gore.
He cleared several waves of figures, getting to the second final wave of ten figures, which cost him the most points from getting hit. The final wave was the yellow figure Amelia had fought before. The yellow figure had the same characteristics of one that was cybernetically and genetically enhanced. It moved with a grace and speed that Gideon envied for a simulation. It vaulted over a wall, firing as it did, scoring a hit against Gideon. He returned fire into the cover, missing; the yellow figure was already gone, A brief half second of a yellow hand with a gun peaked above the wall, firing and scoring another hit, frustrating Gideon.
He hated this portion of the challenge most of all. He only cleared it perfectly just once. The yellow figure would dance around cover, firing with great accuracy, as if its limbs were controlled by different individuals. It would misdirect with false shots before popping up from cover elsewhere with a kill shot. The time was running longer than he wanted this time, those blue figures from the previous waves stalled well. He focused, seeing a brief flash of yellow snaking around a wall. Gideon switched and fired a sixteen round burst, drawing a cross of holes on the wall. He would be penalized for so many misses, but it was worth the sacrifice as the yellow figure tumbled from cover in pieces.
The simulation ended, Gideon now faced the hardest part of the challenge.
The scoreboard displayed in his mind.
Vladimir M. – 1200
Mikail M. – 1200
Gerrard M. – 1156
Victor M. – 1001
Amelia M. – 1000
Magnar M. – 1000
Abigail M. – 999
Anna M.- 940
Master M. – 902
Booker M. – 878
Angela M. – 824
Alexis M. – 801
Jedrek M. – 777
Constantine M. – 743
Benjamin M. – 720
Audrey M. – 699 *Advanced*
Gideon M. – 697 *Declined*
Excertius – 690
Tarintor – 651
Joseph B. – 634
“What!? Audrey beat me?” Gideon said out loud in disbelief, turning to look back at Amelia.
He was comfortable in the fifteenth place, but that was shattered with the new score. He had been dueling Excertius, the military Anform, for some time, only getting the upper hand in recent weeks.
“Yes, I didn’t want to say anything. She was tested several days ago and scored well. But so did you on this test.”
“But she’s six years old!” Gideon shouted back, stepping away from the booth, dropping his rifle, the gun dematerialized before hitting the floor.
“The violence was reduced for the test- Oh, yes I could see why you are cross.”
“Being outdone by someone younger than oneself is frustrating,” Amelia quietly responded as she stepped back.
She did not like anger or shouting. Gideon caught onto that and stopped, his shoulders drooping as he sighed.
“I’m sorry, I’m stressed out with this constant awaiting to dock,” Gideon explained.
Amelia nodded at that and smiled.
“As am I, good brother. The next test awaits.” She responded as she raised her hand.
Amelia began to dematerialize in green pixelated light, storing herself into the facilities QSD. Anforms had the ability to store themselves inside a QSD, and with the facility-wide QSD network, Amelia could appear just shy of anywhere.
That’s just not fair. Gideon thought as he moved on to the next test.
He then moved on to his favorite course, galactic strategy. He was given a series of complex scenarios to maneuver, tests on what vessel to use to counter the enemy ship, the range of weapons, and limitations.
Prosine was there, guiding Gideon on a particular scenario.
“You have a choice of a fleet. You are tasked with defending a planet. You are spread thin, and reinforcements are coming to the planet,” Prosine explained.
The mock war room had a was a large holomap table, showing a glowing figure of a planet and five vessels in high orbit.
“Now how would you defend the planet against an unknown enemy force?” Prosine inquired.
Gideon began to think at blurring speed. He had some time to choose his fleet. He went with a kitted out cruiser core, two kitted out dreadnoughts, a frigate with a pulse onager, and three escort sloops.
The simulation had now started. He could order vessels with just a thought, positioning them where he desired. His first order was to use Jarkniv’s maneuver, all vessels spreading out and moving in an erratic manner. Pulse onagers were a terrifying, war defining weapon. The faster than light projectile could be fired from across systems, making interstellar combat possible. This changed how space combat was fought. If one stayed static, that increased the odds of a hit.
On the other side of the planet, six sloops and a frigate exited FTL, making their way in a three-dimensional star formation. No onagers, but plenty of lasers and tempest cannons, a skirmish. Gideon ordered the fleet to form up and engage with the dreadnoughts up front, and the cruiser in the center. The sloops would stay with the larger frigate to guard as it fired.
He calculated he could get one and a half shots before they targets would be too close to engage. He didn’t like pulse onagers at point blank range, the risk of friendly fire was great even on an indirect hit. Gideon targeted the frigate in the hopes of downing the lead vessel early. The enemy fleet cleared the planet, with the dreadnoughts and cruiser stopping off to the side, content on letting their frigate do work.
The frigate fired the massive cannon. The vessel was built around this awesome weapon. A streak of yellow emitted from the cannon, and faster than a microsecond, the round struck the lead frigate, the shield instantly shattered and the round passed through off into deep space. The sloops broke formation but recovered quickly. The light from the shot faded, the frigate debris was turned inside out, the shot did not detonate. To warp such strong metals with such a weapon was terrifying and awesome in the same breath. Only six sloops remained. If he had a single dreadnought, he’d still be pressed to win. But with two dreadnoughts and a cruiser to support, he was guaranteed victory. The sloops flew in a head-on tightening formation. His dreadnoughts picked their targets, one sported a nose, the other was a war axe head. The sloops opened fired with single tempest cannons, the dreadnoughts responded by taking the shots, their frontal shields could withstand most fire from a single direction, but not from multiple angles.
The cruiser returned fire, a barrage of blue lasers flashed in black space, striking and crippling a sloop. Five left. The dreadnoughts rushed ahead, going to ramming speed. The faster sloops suddenly broke off, fleeing in all directions. Six comets streaked by, faster than thought, striking one of the dreadnoughts head on. It was engulfed in a white nova blast from six pulse onager shots, being completely reduced to molecules from the force of several asteroid impacts. The enemy sloops had the most basic of shields and only a single tempest cannon. Cheap cannon fodder.
Shit. It was bait.
Gideon chastised himself but recovered.
He could get a bead from that, the onager frigate aimed and fired into deep space, and then moved. The sloops began to rush past, trying to destroy the only threat to their own onagers. There the dreadnought shined as it began strafing to the side and spun on its axis, using the momentum to slam it’s axe head into a sloop, breaking it in half. Four left. Its tempest cannons blazed away, peppering two more sloops, their shields holding. The cruiser blossomed a cloud of missiles that rushed off to the sloops, giving them either a choice to focus on defense or be destroyed. Its laser cannons struck true, all striking the same portion of the sloop, slagging the bridge. Three more sloops remained, they tightened formation and let loose their tempest cannons, attempting to sweep away the missiles that chased after them like bees. The cruiser kept up its own laser fire, shattering the shield of an already weakened sloop.
Five more pulse onager shots rushed passed, missing the frigate and sloop escorts by thousands of miles; way to close for Gideon’s comfort. A trail of missiles caught up to the damaged sloop, and crashed into it, detonating in a blossoming cone of blasts. Two left. Gideon’s escort sloops sprang into action, firing their own orange lasers, damaging the shields of one of the final sloops. The cruiser fired from behind, with the dreadnought adding its own lasers, finishing off the final two sloops. The dreadnought still had the remains of the previous sloop affixed to the axe head like a wolf to a fresh rabbit. Gideon kept the fleet moving to prevent good shots. Five more shots flew past, striking the escort sloop and detonated. The blast caught the frigate, shattering the shields and warping the large barrel.
They were damn good at predicting movement. Gideon did a scan, finding several surveillance satellites in orbit. They were civilians, but a fact dawned on him.
This was a planet he was taking. There would still be those on the surface aiding in the defense. He hated scenarios like this, he had come into a story half told. There wasn’t much he could do now apart from silencing the spy satellites. Precious in-simulation hours were wasted to deal with them, which could have been better spent preparing. As the final satellite melted to slag, Gideon then maneuvered his forces to the other side of the planet, stalling for time. They would have to risk hitting their own planet or come in close. A dreadnought could wreak havoc at that range with its twisting and turning. A large vessel exited FTL near the opposite side of the planet.
A War Galleon ship sporting five pulse onagers. A sixth pulse onager folded out, ready to fire. The vessel looked like a six-pointed star, with the pulse onagers braced against the massive tale end of the vessel. It was large enough the engulf any one of his vessels. To Gideon, the War Galleon had hidden one of its weapons to give the appearance that it was a small frigate fleet, taking a casualty from return fire.
“Dammit!” Gideon swore as he racked his brain on the possibilities.
With a crippled frigate, a sloop, a dreadnought, and a cruiser, he would be hard-pressed to survive. He didn’t want to make a pointless suicide run out of frustration, either.
“Can’t just quit or suicide, father would be cross…” Gideon murmured.
He made the one choice that had saved him countless times, cheesing the system.
“Keep the vessel in between the planet,” He ordered mentally.
The fleet clustered together to keep the war galleon out of line of sight, the large planet blocking view. He would simply stall for time until reinforcements arrived.
The war galleon began to circle, way out of the range of most weaponry. Its distance would keep its rotation slow, compared to Gideon’s.
The war galleon snapped and went the opposite rotation, Gideon moving his vessels to match. There the vessel stopped as if it realized what was happening.
Got you, asshole, Gideon smugly thought.
He kept his fleet sitting still, counting down the time.
He felt the timer reach zero, his waiting paid off as dozens of tiny vessels exited FTL. They were larger missiles streaming out of formation, dozens of them. They rushed to Gideon’s fleet.
“Torpedos?!” Gideon rasped, his face paled with sweat at that.
The torpedo was a vicious weapon designed for interstellar combat. Autonomous intergalactic ballistic missiles with massive payloads; enough to destroy larger vessels. They were the fastest of all flight based weapons and the most maneuverable with built-in FTL.
The cruiser let out a full volley of lasers at the cloud of torpedos, the missiles all jumping and moving like hopping insects before zooming off. Some were flash melted by the sweeping laser cannons, but there were still dozens more.
“That bastard maneuvered me right into them,” Gideon thought glumly.
The capital shape had outplayed Gideon, in essence, out-cheesing him. It had given him the appearance of spinning around the planet, trying to get a shot, and Gideon avoided it, putting him in range of where the worm gate manifested.
He did the only thing left his fatigued mind could.
The vessels fled away from the planet, with torpedos and war galleon in pursuit. The vessels entered FTL, ending the simulation. He would get scored for surviving vessels and enemies destroyed, regardless of victory. He stepped away from the table, sweat covering his brow. The intense concentration took its toll.
“You said there would be reinforcements!” Gideon pointedly said as he faced Prosine.
“I did not say on whose side they hailed,” Prosine rebutted.
Gideon went silent, stewing at that. A door opened, with a robed figure entering the room.
“Gideon, you should know better than trying to exploit the systems,” A deeper female voice spoke out. She came into view, with a smug look.
“Abigail, you were the opponent?” Gideon asked, realization dawning on him that he didn’t fight the usual AI.
“Of course. Father had asked that I have time off, we’ve all worked hard. Did you like the sloop bait?” She said with a gentle laugh and smile.
She was dressed in a flowing navy blue robe with a white wimple that was gilded with copper filigree. She had a longer face with fair skin; resembling a Greek statue. She was tall and thin, over six feet. She had a large copper shelled Quantum Storage Drive that sported several antennae. Where her forearms should have been, they instead were replaced with cybernetic prosthetics at the elbow. Instead of a single arm on her elbow, she had three finely crafted arms made of steel, platinum, and copper plating. One triplicate of arms per elbow, giving her six hands. Each hand was created for a multitude of tasks with long delicate fingers. Abigail specialized in quantum microscopic machinery, nanomachines, and other fine details. She had one pair of hands clasped at her chest, one pair steepled at her waist, and one pair clasped behind her back.
Gideon sighed at that. Abigail was one of the more superior siblings, and let it show. It wasn’t out of arrogance per se, as she was highly logical. To her, it was just truth. She was superior to most, apart from a handful of siblings and parents.
She went in, opening her arms for an embrace. It always felt disconcerting to feel six hands from one person for Gideon. He returned the embrace, but quickly pulled back.
“Gideon, brother, what’s wrong?” Abigail asked, catching on to his absence.
“Its just sour loss, that’s all,” He quickly responded.
“Don’t be like that, dear. You did put up a good fight. If I rushed in, I would have probably lost most of my forces, if not the push. I needed to resort to trickery and cunning to get you,” Abigail replied matter of factly.
Her idea of a compliment was revealing she needed to strain her mental capacities. It did help Gideon that he was a challenge for her. However, space combat strategy wasn’t in the same galaxy as her specialty with tech. She had performed a fraction of the simulations Gideon did but acted like a master.
“But dozens of torpedos? The match was unbalanced,” He complained.
“You did notice the vessels were lightly armed? I went top-heavy, putting most of my currency into the war galleon. Everything else had the bare essentials.”
“Min-maxing…” Gideon sighed with a furrowed brow.
Attackers always got to choose their weapon options, giving an equal currency to the defenders. Abigail maxed out the war galleon and took as many cheap units as possible. The sloops were perfect bait targets for dreadnoughts, and the spy satellites would have allowed Abigail to know what she fought beforehand.
“If I led with all forces, you would have ignored the sloops and struck the war galleon. I would have taken one of the dreadnoughts with it, but the second dreadnought would have destroyed it, not to mention the others. The torpedos were insurance,” Abigail explained, her arms gesturing outward.
“-Would have won with a single dreadnought and my currency doubled. You know that!” Abigail interrupted with a brass bell laugh.
And he did. He saw the recordings of Gerrard’s defense of Primetech planets against the Federacy. They followed the books by attacking a weak planet with dozens of sloops to attacked from angles to cripple the lone vessel and onager frigates just out of planet range. They underestimated Gerrard being the lone Grand Admiral in control of the planet. His dreadnought, The Judas Unrepentant, a heavily modified capital ship class dreadnought stared them down. It brushed the sloops aside like trash, then raced to the frigates to finish them. The Federacy, slow on the uptake, tried this three times. And three times Gerrard crushed them like he was committing a war crime.
“Gideon, you must understand perspective. You are a good fleet commander and made the correct choices. Prosine was being ambiguous as always,” Abigail said, glancing with a fake scowl to the Anform.
Prosine just turned his transparent image to Abigail.
Prosine always had hard details and soft details, it was always difficult to figure out what was a fact and something you couldn’t take for granted. War was always like that, and Prosine mimicked the fog of war and misinformation. In this case, Gideon thought incorrectly he was getting reinforcements.
“Prosine, that is enough simulations for today, my brother is half shell-shocked as it is from the flight delays,” Abigail ordered.
“But good Abigail, we need to-”
“Not work my good brother to a coma,” Abigail said more sternly as she stepped forward, steepling her hands.
The argument was over. Abigail was the top engineer and project lead for the Decima. She had third-highest authority overall. Only her father and the security chief out did her authority.
“As you wish, good Abigail,” Prosine capitulated with a nod. He dematerialized in white light, ending the simulation.
“Come, brother. We’re going to do something that we both enjoy,” Abigail said cryptically.
“Please no painting,” Gideon begged. He had a hand, but not an eye for it.
“No! Something more fun than that!” Abigail said with a laugh as she grabbed Gideon’s hand and led him to the exit.
He did want to do the test flying, his favorite part of the tests, but relented. She led him out of the simulation room, down the lit corridor to a large reinforced door. The tall doors had a six hand imprint running across it; Abigail’s lab. She pressed all six hands, the door, the imprints glowed as she began to decrypt the lock. She set hers to be a series of complex quantum reality equations in which she needed to solve in a limited time span. A minute later, the doors opened revealing her large lab to Gideon. He had never been inside and gasped at the almost museum-like setup of different technology pieces. The room was a sterile white, with warm lighting, belying her artistic talent. Her tables were neatly arranged near the back with unfinished projects. Everything was in order, down to the spare part.
“No, my dear brother. We’re going to test out quantum storage,” Abigail said with a wry smile.
Gideon raised an eyebrow at that. That was going to be fun.
“Sepulcher, please assist us,” Abigail ordered.
A cloud of black pixelated light materialized near Abigail, revealing a tall AI dressed in black. She stood at eleven inches tall, floating in midair. She was slightly transparent with pale white skin with short black hair curved to one side.
“Abigail. How can I help?” She asked sleepily.
Her face as made up of simple lines for eyes and a mouth, giving her the expression she was either concerned or asleep. Or both
“Sepulcher, we’re going to perform the QSD tests and I need you to assist, please,” Abigail stated as she hurriedly walked to an empty table.
The AI floated behind with a sleepy sigh. Gideon followed, not sure what to expect.
Abigail occupied one half of the table and gestured to Gideon to the other side with one of her arms and three hands.
“I’ve been working on several modules for QSD. With that one can become even more efficient!” Abigail stated excitedly. She only sprang up like this when talking tech. Gideon was the same with QSD technology.
“The first breakthrough is called an equip module. It allows a user to equip clothing, armor or even swap them out with their QSD,” Abigail explained.
The AI floated onto Abigail’s shoulder, lazily hanging off to watch.
“Watch this. Put your hand on above the table,” Abigail ordered.
“Uh, has it been tested yet?” Gideon asked incredulously.
“Hand. Table. Now,” Abigail said with a playing sternness.
Gideon floated his hand above the table awaiting the test. The AI floated down in front of Gideon, scanning his hand, processing variables. She turned back, seeing Gideon staring through her at his hand.
“Maybe it’ll work this time,” Sepulcher stated.
Gideon flared with concern.
“It hasn’t succeeded?” Gideon asked with worry.
“Of course it did. She is being fatalistically negative,” Abigail said, looking pointedly at the AI, with Sepulcher smiling sleepily before going quiet.
Glowing pixelated surrounded Gideon’s hand before he could react. He stayed perfectly still internally praying that his hand would remain intact. The bright light vanished, and what remained was hand, gloved in a simple cloth glove. He turned his hand side to side, flexing, feeling the new sudden soft sensation on his skin as if his nerve sensors finally caught up.
“How the hell…” Gideon murmured.
For the QSD to have done that, it needed to calculate the exact position every molecule in the outer layer of Gideon’s hand. Off by even a few microns and the glove would fail to form and be ruined. The built QSD in coding laws prevented one from materializing items inside someone. Abigail had just threaded a micron needle with code and quantum.
“See? It was off by point-zero-zero-zero-two degrees on the z-axis,” Sepulcher stated, floating in and pointing at a wrinkle.
“She can be so literal. All the time,” Abigail responded with a gentle laugh.
Gideon gingerly pulled the glove off, hoping it wouldn’t take flesh with it. He heard the theories of catastrophic failures and wished to never experience them.
His hand was perfect, as it was before. Gideon’s eyes went wide with the consequences of what this entailed. He and Abigail’s eyes met.
“So this can work with-”
“-Full power armor yes, and also with-”
They both spoke over one another excitedly. For QSD, they were both on the same light spectrum.
“The inspiration was based on Execertius’ ability to transform at will into different combat modes,” Abigail explained with a smile.
“And you translated that our living tissue,” Gideon replied inspecting the cloth glove for defects, he could find none.
“Correct. My next project is transmutation,” Abigail added.
“Ancient alchemy?” Gideon replied with a cocked eyebrow.
“No, she means transmuting one element to another using QSD,” Sepulcher replied.
“So, alchemy?” Gideon retorted to the floating AI.
“You are technically correct; the best kind. I am working on the ability to transmute lead to gold, for instance. We’re in the planning phase right now. Eventually, I would move from transmuting Quantum Charge energy to raw materials,” Abigail explained.
What Abigail said was pure mysticism to Gideon. It would have been like saying one could create matter from almost nothing. Quantum Charge Energy or QC was cheap and near infinite, with a tachodine nacelle having a twenty-five hundred year half-life.
“So that would put mining industries out of business,” Gideon mused.
“The reverse would happen. it would increase the value of cheaper metals, making them lucrative again as opposed to simple byproducts. The theory is that an element can only convert to another, at a good ratio, if it is near the same periodic. The farther away it is, the more expensive the conversion,” Abigail explained in detail. Gideon already began to glaze over at the high level of speech.
“But that is for another time. The reason you are here is not for the QSD tests. Amelia spoke to me just after the simulation,” Abigail began as she tapped her templed with a finger.
“You have been… Sullen over your results as of late. Audrey scored well on her first test, surpassing you,” She added.
Gideon dropped the mitten and looked away, shaking his head at that.
“Do not let scores on simulations determine your worth. Do not compare yourself to anyone else. You are Gideon. Be Gideon.”
“But you don’t know what it’s like to see everyone race past you,” Gideon retorted.
Sepulcher let out a yawn and vanished in black pixelated light, signaling she wanted nothing to do with the domestic conversation.
“You may think we have raced past you, but have you stopped to think that you’ve raced past most of mankind? You have four processes with your biological brain alone. That was impossible decades ago.” She replied, turning the perspective over. She stepped closer and held his hand with one of hers. He felt the warm metal, seeing the two other hands cupped against the back of the one holding his. She stood over him, a head taller.
“Yeah, that is true, but the defect-” Gideon began but was cut off.
“Your strength, skill, speed, health, learning, intellect, spatial and abstract reasoning, introspection, extrospection, self-awareness, memory recall, metabolism, and senses are all above anything man could imagine. Yes the defect is concerning, but that does not mean you are somehow defective as a whole,” Abigail continued unabated.
“How are you and Adonai?” Abigail suddenly asked. Gideon felt himself shrink back at that.
“Well, I mean. I haven’t heard from him, you know,” Gideon stammered.
Abigail nodded at that.
“It is possible your view of Adonai prevents a good relationship with Him. And if your view of yourself is incorrect, that would affect it as well,” Abigail explained.
“Would you like to talk about it?” Abigail inquired. Gideon pulled back.
“No. But thank you,” Gideon replied. Abigail had a brief flash of sadness in her eyes before nodding.
“Very well. I suppose the day is now yours to enjoy, brother,” Abigail said as she embraced him.
“Please take the module. You may never know when you need it.” Abigail added.
Abigail wants to share module: QSD Equip Module 7.0 with you
Gideon accepted without hesitation. Something like that would be useful.
“The only thing needing any special care is your confidence. You’re testing the Decima for a reason. Believe that you are incredible!” Abigail said as Gideon began to leave.
Gideon walked away silently at that, thinking.
I’m incredible, but not enough for God to say so Himself.
surrounded his mind. His internal thoughts began to descend.
“I could use a drink,” Gideon murmured as he walked out the large doors. The sealed shut with a metallic vacuum screech. There Gideon walked the halls back to his room.
“Where did Baxter go?”