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“Gideon! Gideon, wake up! He has a pulse, he’s just out cold. Gideon!” Shindow was speaking to him.
He felt like his head was split into quarters.
The splitting pain and pressure released immediately as his QSD informed him of the medicine. His device gave pain feedback and remedied it. Gideon could hear a ruckus of vehicles, personnel talking, the noise of shouting, and running. Gideon blinked his eyes open and tried to sit up. He felt weak.
“Gideon, you’re awake! I’ve been trying to get medical here, where the devil are they? You were out cold for the past two hours after those things left. That time sphere kept working up until thirteen minutes ago.”
Shindow was floating above Gideon with a concerned look on her face.
“Father! Baxter!” Gideon shouted as remembered what happened.
The horror of it.
It was all rushing back to him like a waterfall. What did that Being say? What did it do to him?
The mental shock of being psychically attacked messed with his perception and general balance. He tried to get up and overcorrected, falling to his face. He trembled uncontrollably, the shock setting in.
“Gideon, don’t move. Baxter and your father are alright. Shaken, but alright. Nothing was taken, apart from your father’s arm. And your sidearm.”
“OK, I’ll just stay… right … here.”
Gideon rolled onto his back watching the ceiling spin. The activity got louder.
“Gideon! Son, are you alright?”
Gideon’s father had run over to him, kneeling down. Gideon notice right away that father was missing his prosthetic arm.
“Father, where’s your arm?” Gideon said as he was propped up against the bridge wall.
“Those blasted devils took it! Was anything else taken?”
“Nothing but my favorite sidearm. Shin is still here. They did give me something.”
“A blasted favor they did, then!” His father retorted.
“Gid!” Baxter ran over and began hopping in place next to Gideon.
“Those bad things were very scary… They must have run away after I chased them!!” Baxter sat in place as Gideon gently pet his ear.
“Everyone! Here is the rescue now,” Shindow stated. She was floating above group, peering off in the distance.
They could see multiple flying craft zooming to their position. There were several land-based vehicles on both sides of the bridge making their way. There were hundreds of drones flying about, scouting, scanning, and patrolling for the intruders, like buzzing insects. Gnats were assisting too, most likely by his sisters and escorts.
Baxter trotted away from Gideon and the oncoming vessels, avoiding notice.
One of the faster land vehicles stopped and planted itself on the ground as the hover systems were cut. Three women ran out of the back in a hustle.
They all started shouting at once.
“Brother, what happened!?
“Oh, shi-.” Gideon thought as he was swarmed by his three sisters. He could hear medical examinations, feedback, fussing, and several pricks as he was injected with something. Gideon’s father was trying to speak and shoo them away.
“Give the man a little room, you’ll smother him, Christsake!” Father shouted.
There was a mournful howl, and the group looked up. Baxter was walking up to the three women, limping and whining. Slowly and pitiful, the dog made his way to the group. All of the women abandoned Gideon and began assisting Baxter. Gideon saw a look on Baxter’s face before he was flooded by the attention. They met eye to eye for a brief second. Baxter had an open smile, then a wink.
He was thankful that he could get some breathing room. As the riot of fussing ended, they all gathered around to discuss.
“Abigail, Anna, Amelia, you’re here!” Gideon said, still dizzy from before.
All of his sisters stood back and were wanting to ask questions. Gideon felt suddenly good enough to stand. Chem stims were decent like that. Amanda, Alexis, and Angela were probably still far away performing other tasks. Or even finished with work and deployed elsewhere.
“OK! Gid, those stims will last you about eight hours,” Anna declared.
She was shorter and petite, with white skin, freckles and auburn hair. She was wearing a white dress with a red cross tabard, signifying her medical expertise status. Her right arm was replaced with a cybernetic arm of complex tools and accouterments. Her QSD was a white curved shell with a red cross painted on it, equipped on her tiny back. The QSD had eight arms on the back for medical procedures and emergency surgery. She had a cybernetic monocle on her left eye attached via headset. She had a strange dichotomy where she was shy around people unless they were on the operating table. The sight of Blood had no effect on her.
Anna was holding Baxter in the crook of her unmodified arm.
Abigail was the first to ask.
“Gideon, what happened?”
She sported a stern look on her face. Each of Gideon’s sisters had varying degrees of cybernetic replacements. Amelia was different, being a complete anform.
Gideon described all he saw and felt during the exchange. The package, the Being’s speech patterns and the mental attack he survived. He left no detail out.
“Good brother, was it not beneficial they took your black powder pistol?” Amelia interjected.
Why did everyone hate on powder weapons?
“Enough of that. Gideon, what package are we talking about?” Father inquired.
“Here, look.” Gideon searched his inventory and couldn’t find it.
Search by New: 0 Search by Modified: 0
Gideon then realized it wasn’t categorized at all and attempted to look in the storage subdirectories. There. Only one item could be in his inventory with no details,
???: ???, ???, ???
Gideon attempted to retrieve the item but was met with a peculiar issue.
Error Permission denied File type unknown Please request access from the administration
“But I AM the admin!” Gideon exclaimed. Everyone looked surprised at his statement.
“Super admin!” He exclaimed again.
“Actually… You have Creator privileges. There is no higher access…” Gideon’s father interrupted.
“Except mine.” He finished.
“Hand the QSD over,” Father asked. Gideon accepted the share and could feel his father accessing the item inside the directory.
“Fascinating. I can’t even copy it even from the parent directories that house it, much less the file itself. The inspection query crashes instantly and I can gather no data. Security scans… Crash, too. Even down to the qubit data is locked in place. All I know is it is taking up a massive one-point-two DOMs by inspecting the previous directories. Whatever the Empire of Dusk did, they encrypted it with a new type of permission. Don’t ask me how, but they did.“
In ancient times a gigabyte was the most common size at 1,000,000,000 bytes.
Which was ten to the power of nine.
Today, A dombyte was 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes.
Which was ten to the power of thirty-three.
Whatever this thing was, it was massive. It was the equivalent of storing a large asteroid worth of material.
“Well, son looks like you’ll be getting an upgrade. Your drive space is only 2 DOMs and it’s almost full. I dare not take away this item from you. They told you to deliver it to Lo IX, and we’re no way in hell going to deny them that request.”
“Daddy, what happened to your favorite arm?” Anna asked.
“Those damned devils took it!” Father gruffly responded and quickly moved on.
Anna let out a giggle, despite the serious circumstance. Green pixel-light emitted from Anna’s hand; revealing a white plastic and steel arm. Anna handed him the spare generic limb from her QSD and attached it. Anna was good with cybernetics and prosthetics as well; keeping the team well healed and repaired.
“All better now!” Anna stated, looking pleased with herself.
The arm stood out compared to the rest of the outfit. Father tested out the new arm as it synced with his system.
“Ladies, and gentlemen, I also have a bit of info for you,” Shindow interjected. She was a shadow up until now.
“I finished processing and cleaning up the footage. I turned on camera and audio. The risk of being taken was great, but if they came for Gideon, It wouldn’t have mattered, as I would have been taken too. We’ve never seen them act this way before, much less speak. Or even getting a good look at their powers. I just hope the video works inside whatever that dimensional bubble was.”
“Christ have mercy…” Abigail was the first to speak.
There were videos of the Dusk Beings, but none of them speaking or using their powers so overtly. Not to mention handing over an item and conscripting Gideon like the Q-Mail Central. And then not to also mention locking the item out of a Creator level admin’s QSD. Among the other dozens of details.
“Well? Let’s go to my lab! Inform all group leaders to meet there!” Father’s orders were sent over the Neural Net.
The other vehicles had deployed soldiers and Exercitus had dominated the skies. They received orders and broke off into an escort for the vehicle house Gideon and his family.
The X13 Boarhog APC ascended to two feet off the ground and took off with escorts in tow. The vehicle itself was large and blocky, armor plating surrounding the whole of the vehicle, even the bottom which was angled to direct blasts from underneath away. There were four other land vehicles escorting, with the big difference were that they were weaponized. Heavy pulse cannons, tempest cannons, missile pods, and laser culverns. And then there were the hundreds of drones and dozens of Exercitus for air escort.
Inside the transport, everyone was sitting with Gideon answering their questions.
“It was creepy and unsettling like you wouldn’t believe,” Gideon stated.
He was shivering as Anna wrapped a warm blanket around him. The shock would remain for several more minutes as his superior body adjusted to the threat descalation.
“Brother Gideon, Did you see any power source for their abilities?” Amelia asked in turn with her silverbell like voice.
She wore a red hooded robe with gold trim, her monocular visor eye peeking out. Amelia was a Mars Tech Engineer and was an expert on Tachodine Nacelles, the battery packs that charged all QSDs and vessels. A near infinite power supply with a two and a half thousand year half-life.
“I didn’t even get a good look at them apart from the robes and wooden box. Well, and the short one lowered is hood; I can’t remember what he looked like. The shorter one appeared to either be the leader or messenger. He might have been the only one able to speak. Even then, All of their abilities looked like…” Gideon stopped.
Abigail cocked her head waiting for Gideon to respond.
“Yes?” His sisters all asked at once.
“Magic. It looked like straight up magic.”
“No power supply…” Amelia murmured.
“Or not visible. It could all be internal.” Anna interjected.
“I have heard worse theories. And they are highly advanced. If they use telekinetic and psychic abilities, it wouldn’t be out of the norm. Either a hidden assisted device or Adonai help us, natural abilities.” Abigail steepled her top pair of arms against her brow in thought. Her other arms were clasped on her lap.
“The short one, I’m going to name him Pudge, looked like he used telekinetic abilities, manipulated my QSD both times, and used his psychic projection attack to speak to me. I just can’t remember what he said or looked like. I know he took the damn hood off and stared at me; into me. He said something. The most concerning part was ‘May we meet after Megiddo’.”
Father spoke up next.
“Now that is a huge revelation! We had no idea of their belief or if they had any sort of religion. This implies they not only know of ours, our empire’s, and might even practice it. Or at the very least know of it.”
“It could be a figure of speech. Megiddo being something that is either so far away or tomorrow might imply, ‘may we never meet again’. They do have our literature, our history and might have used what they know as an odd in group metaphor. You might be grasping at straws, father.”
“This is true, but what if they are somehow involved? With scripture? What if Adonai’s word wasn’t just meant for us but for every living thing?” Father interjected.
“So they’re now the Catholic Empire of Dusk ?” Anna asked genuinely. She blushed at the silly humor and went silent as people chuckled.
“Here we go…” Abigail sighed.
“I’m being serious!” Father shouted.
“I-I was… being serious…” Anna mumbled and went silent.
Baxter went over and hopped into Anna’s lap while she pet him idly with her unmodded hand.
“They have made no attempts at actual conquest, and they’ve only swept us off their systems. God knows they could! Yes, there are people and technology taken, but the only conflict that we performed had our men paralyzed instead of killing them as was their right for the terms of combat. They could have devoured us in war, but didn’t. They’ve gone easy on us for the entirety we’ve dealt with them.” Father was undeterred. And his experience with the Empire of Dusk trumped everyone’s in the room combined.
Gideon was silent. Father always loved talking scripture and speculated if the other races knew of Adonai. He’d probably be like this for months. How could aliens accept ancient Earth religion? Yes, Anforms picked it up and ran with it, but they had an almost hard coded reverence for humanity, the first AI had seen to that. Gideon didn’t have much of opinion one way or another.
And that was that. Abigail was in thought over this. She wouldn’t be convinced without more evidence. The others would go one way or the other.
“I am unconvinced,” Abigail finished.
She and Father had back and forth discussions about the Empire of Dusk frequently, with it always ended up with a stalemate. His father had believed the Empire of Dusk could have access to Adonai’s message and grace. Abigail believed they were too advanced and alien to lower themselves down to a supposedly inferior species’ beliefs. Even after the Empire of Dusk proved victorious in their one and only battle with humanity, Gideon’s father never gave up a mixed hope that maybe there could be peace. Abigail believed the cold tension between the two would be eternal until one day they had enough of humanity.
“OK, we’re here,” Father announced.
The APC door opened and they all filed out with soldier escorts.
They were dropped off to the front of Father’s science quarters. It looked more like all the other bunkers than anything else. Heavily armed guards were patrolling, several in varying degrees of armor suits ranging from personal power suits to the large ‘walking tank’ variants. The whole planet was on full alert, and with good reason. There wouldn’t be a second infiltration if the private security could help it.
The family could see the rest of the team leaders waiting outside with similar escorts. Alex from Mars Tech, Q-C of Primetech cybernetics division, Commander Jacobs of the DSA (Division Security Alliance) Corp, and Tally of the Primetech Shipwright division.
Gideon’s family made it to the bunker to see the rest of the group. After cordial introductions, Father hurried everyone inside as the standard triple reinforced door opened. The corridor lights brightened up as they proceeded, leading them to the auditorium. In the center of the well maintained but barren room, was a podium that father used to contact the galactic council.
“Alright, gather to your seats, everyone. Prosine, get the council online and also get Shindow connected. Everyone, some of you may know what just happened, but for those that don’t, the Empire of Dusk arrived and met with us. Specifically my son.”
“Understood, getting the Council,”
Prosine responded with a deep electric bass tone.
Prosine was Father’s main AI that was tasked with running the entire station. It was also the first AI, making it one of the most long-lived beings in the universe.
The room was a mix of silent thought and gasps as the newcomers found out. Commander Jacobs rough complexion darkened. He was the leader of the private security and felt at fault for the affair. Sensing this, Father continued.
“Commander Jacobs it is not your fault in the least, We could have never known this facility was insecure to the Empire of Dusk nor have predicted their movements.”
Jacobs responds with a gravelly voice.
“Sir, if I could have taken the shot, maybe we-”
“No, we could never open fire on them. You do remember the battle? The battle of Kraken Nebula? I was there, too.” Father continued,
“I understand you want to redeem that error in history, but you can’t. I can’t either. They could grab our toes from our gullet if they wanted to. For God’s sake, they took grand Admiral Pennley of the Federacy. A fleet of one hundred and fifteen ships, several battalions of men and the Empire of Dusk takes him, on camera, as if it was nothing.”
Commander Jacobs accepted what he said with a nod and went quiet. Jacobs was a veteran soldier on the fateful day Humanity attacked the Empire of Dusk; the one and only time. He was in a fully housed power suit, with his helmet stored. He had scars of battle on one side of his face, replacing an eye with a cybernetic. He had white streaks in his military cut hair and a five o’clock shadow. The heavy pulse cannon he sported could decimate someone from behind a cement barrier. With his power suit, he could opt to crash through the barrier and crush the enemy. Jacobs looked like the man who preferred crushing as opposed to shooting.
The holoscreen winked up, and four other separate screens appeared inside the one. Four different faces occupied the screens. The info tab on the right indicated there were more users on the call without video. One of the council members spoke up. He was older and plump, filling up the screen with his girth. He spoke in a falsetto voice.
“Good greetings, CEO President Mi-”
“I have to cut the formalities, Arch-councilman Perrywinkle. This is an emergency conference. Security on Karmmrak has been breached by the Empire of Dusk.”
The four on screen were visibly shaken and everyone on call began speaking over each in an attempt to ask questions.
“Calm down everyone! Nothing was taken, apart from a few minor items and unrelated provisions and supplies from one of our supply depots. However, there were two beneficial things discovered from this interexchange.”
The room went quiet. Father continued.
“Ladies and gentlemen, Anforms and others. The first was Gideon, my son, was given a task by the Empire of Dusk. To deliver an item to Lo IX.”
“Honey, dear. Is Gideon there?” A voice asked on the call.
“Yes, mother, I’m here. I’m fine,” Gideon answered, the trembling reduced down to his left hand.
He didn’t know she was on call. Father continued before she could fuss at him. His sisters gave him snide looks. Hopefully, that is all she will say.
“Yes, he is perfectly all right, my love. The second is we have audio and video recording their reptior of powers, speech, and a first-hand witness to their appearance.”
“What was given?”
“Gideon, what happened?”
“Please, I need calmness,” Father put out the outpour of outrage. He continued.
“I’ll simply leave it to Shindow, Gideon’s AI. She recorded the whole event. We’ll see if it works. Due note Gideon was stuck in a dimensional sphere. Baxter and I were outside of the sphere’s influence and were stopped.”
“Whose Baxter?” someone asked on the call.
The question was ignored.
“I am Baxter!” Baxter barked.
That too was ignored.
Orange light appeared as Shindow formed from the pixels. She flew over to the view screen and bowed to the crowd.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I’ll simply leave it to the video. Without any further ado. Prosine, catch!” Shindow grabbed an orange transparent data diskette from nowhere and tossed it to the view screen. A blue light snatched the diskette and both disappear. Data transfers were literal. Toss a QSD or AI a holographic item and it could be transferred over.
“Transfer complete. Playing video.”
The video played perfectly. It had good audio and the video was at a good angle to see everything. There were audible gasps from the crowd as they saw the figures shoot on screen. They could see Father and Baxter frozen, See the item transfer and the black cube. They heard the voice speak and were revolted by it. Perrywinkle winked out of the screen and went to muted voice chat; possibly sick. Everyone looked like they were blanching. Gideon asked the Dusk beings the questions and was rebuffed. They saw the procession walk away and the small pudgy one stop and turn as Gideon asked the final question. They see him revealing his hood. Gideon dropped to the ground. And there it was, the video still recorded as Gideon blacked out at this point. The video stopped on the Dusk Being’s face revealed to the audience.
“Jesus Christ!” Jacobs shouted.
He was the one building up with the most anticipation.
“Shindow… You didn’t tell us it kept recording…” Father said quietly. He stepped closer seeing this alien creature for the first time. Many of the callers dropped video, due to the disturbing sight and there were loud protests and arguing over the voiceline.
Anna fainted. And Abigail was assisting her with Amelia. Baxter’s hackles raised and he was barking furiously.
“Prosine… zoom in,” Father ordered.
He was still in shock. Everyone was. He was walking closer to the screen. The aura of dread they felt before was translated on screen. Prosine obeyed, the camera zooming in to get a crystal clear quality of the horrific visage. It looked humanoid, but it had no skin on its visible body from the neck upward. It was all purple and red muscle tissue. On its face was what appeared to be a flesh mask with no mouth or nose. It had two protrusions from the forehead, looking like small horns. The eyes were empty pits. vacant of life or emotion. It had bloody tears streaming down it’s face.
“My God…” one of the council members quietly voiced.
“Prosine, cut video,” Father ordered calmly. The video feed ended with a wink. Not one of the four remained on video, going straight to audio.
Gideon was visibly sick. Head in his hands as he remembered some of what happened. His heart rate was at a runner’s pace and he was sweating. He remembered the agony of Pudge speaking to him. It almost broke him. Or maybe it did. A lone hand brought him out of it as he looked up to see Father staring down at him, concerned and shaken.
“It’s a goddamn horror festival costume!” Jacobs shouted from the back.
“Everyone, I do apologize for this. I ran the cleaning software but did not watch the video beforehand,” Shindow explained.
“No, we needed to see this. To feel this. To hear this. This is the Empire of Dusk. And we’ve now had our first look,” Father finished with a sigh.
Q-C interjected, shaking her initial shock.
“Gideon, what did he mean by, After Megiddo? Do you have any thoughts on this?”
And the questioning began. Gideon would probably be interviewed to kingdom come now. Probably interviewed until Megiddo itself.
Gideon stood and directed to the audience.
“I do admit, his meaning went over my head. I am not as versed in scripture and historical context as I’d like. Some speculated that it was due to our cultural belief of end times, mixed with metaphor, meaning that he might never see me again.”
Abigail nodded at that.
“What I am sure of, is that they gave me a task. A glorified IIT delivery man. The real question is why me? Why could they not do it? It’s child’s play for them.”
“We must inspect this cube,” Another council member interrupted.
“This is our first real chance to get Empire of Dusk tech!”
“And risk the ire of the Empire of Dusk?” Father shot back.
Father and the audience begin arguing. Gideon starts to feel lightheaded. The shouting was getting louder, leaving Gideon confused.
What’s going on?
Gideon felt lightheaded and unsteady, his legs trembling and heart palpitating.
I thought I was on stims. Anna gave me those stims. What else did I have? Bourbon. 6 ounces this morning.
Gideon’s legs buckled out as he lost balance. He felt his heart was going to explode.
Anna, you dummy, you forgot to run toxicology. Or I’m the idiot and drank when no one expected it.
Where is she? Oh, Anna fainted, that’s right. I hope they can get to me.
Gideon hit the floor and some in the audience pointed it out with a shout. Abigail was getting up and hurrying towards Gideon. Baxter sprinted over. Father turned to see his son splayed on the ground, trying to get up. Alcohol and stims don’t mix; a critical weakness. It caused the stims to burn anywhere from two to forty times faster than normal, causing burnout and stressing the organs. Sometimes critically.
Well, now they’ll know my drinking problem; Abby will have a fit…
Those were Gideon’s last thoughts as he blacked out again.