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Gideon woke, still in the medical bed. It had been twelve hours since he spoke with his family. He had dreamed, but it too vanished like smoke in the morning light like the others. His mind went the events of yesterday, the Empire of Dusk and their complete domination of the facility. How the Dusk being that he had named ‘Pudge’ forcibly deposited an item, and then stole his favorite pistol. He had been given the task to deliver the item to Lo IX, the destination of the test flight with the Decima. To him, it sounded more like an execution than a delivery.
What would they do to me once it was delivered? Vanish me like the others? Why not deliver the damn thing themselves?
None of it made sense unless it had something to do with the test itself.
Can they not use IIT flight like we are attempting?
No, of course they can, otherwise, they wouldn’t have been able to move so quickly whenever they pleased.
It was occurring to Gideon the military application of being able to travel anywhere within supposed hours or minutes. Calculating pulse onager trajectories and then dropping a dreadnought into the fleet within minutes had serious tactical application. The biggest and most obvious would be the exploration.
The discovery of more resource-rich planets, untouched by humanity was the major blood of the empire. This was the lifeblood of any cosmopolis. Whichever galactic state failed to find resource-rich planets, starved. Resources also meant influence among the other cosmopolises or galactic nations. It was a never-ending race, one that Gideon hoped would bring PrimeTech unimagined prosperity. This was why he was ultimately so nervous. The weight of the empire road on him for this single test flight.
The door slid open and a man stepped through. He had one plain grey robes and a plain white polymer arm.
“Gideon, my son. How are you feeling?” Father asked gently.
Gideon had felt better, but not nearly as bad as one of his hangovers in the past. It took around five times to get to that state than a normal human; which turned what should have been an act of sloth into actual work.
“Doing better, thank you,” Gideon said formally. He was stiff mentally since his chastisement.
His father grabbed a chair and sat down, the squeak of the legs as it slid audible in the medical room.
“I heard about Audrey topping you in the simulations. I know it was a blow on your ego.”
Gideon stewed at that but remained silent.
“You have to give yourself more credit. Yes, my precious button of a daughter excelled far beyond what we expected, but you have your strengths, too.”
“And that would be?” Gideon asked, frustration building.
“Wanderer. Explorer.” His father replied without pause.
“You desire, more than all the others, to roam the galaxy. To travel and explore. That was why I quickly sent you to Magara, to test in as many possible locations that the planet could offer,” Father explained.
He sat down, sitting eye level to Gideon. The gaze of his unmodified portion of his face was gentle.
“I know you haven’t had much interest in the religious.”
Here we go. Gideon glumly thought.
“Before you go writing this old man off, I love you all the same, belief or not.”
“But I have seen you all hear from Adonai, change and react to what he supposedly says and does. But I’m an observer to all of that,” Gideon replied in a sullen fashion.
“Uninvited.” He added.
“Nonsense! You just haven’t figured out how you hear him. It took me half my life to understand.”
“You first need to understand covenants.” His Father continued.
“Covenants? Why?” Gideon asked.
He heard it before in the past, but it had been a decade ago.
“That is one of Adonai’s most powerful abilities.”
“More than supposedly creating everything?”
“Equal to. It has the power to affect reality itself. Adonai bent and broke the rules of nature to gather us into his kingdom. It changes those who follow it. While his first six didn’t appear to do much; in fact, it put him at a disadvantage as it was unconditional to the other party.”
“Why have six covenants if they didn’t do anything?” Gideon replied.
“Because they built up to the seventh. The New Covenant. They were all put in place for the redeemer. Once it was in place, it began to change mankind. Those who accepted it changed.”
“And that was where the real power lay, covenants have the ability to change someone from old into new; Or if you’re an originalist from new back to their old self. Old in that we become what we were created to be from the start.” Father finished with a chuckle.
“Why tell me all this?” Gideon asked, not understanding the point of the conversation.
“Because you need not stick to your old ways, the habits you use to cope. The false identities you’ve picked up. You can change.”
“And lose all sense of who I am?”
“No. You would lose the sense of who you are if your identity was based on what you do.”
“But it’s not the case. Your identity is not what you do, but who you are naturally. You do because you are, not you are because you do.”
“What?” Gideon asked, squinting at that.
“You wish to travel because your identity is as a Wanderer. An Explorer! It’s built into you.”
“And what is your identity, father?” Gideon asked, half trying to trip him up, and the other half trying to understand.
“Innovator.” His father answered without hesitation.
“I thought that was just a title.” Gideon shot back.
“Well, yes. It became a title because it is my identity.” Father retorted with a smile.
“But what does that have to do with covenants?” Gideon asked, confused by the conversation.
“The power of covenants is that it can take what was a foe, and turn them to an ally. Changing them. Redeeming them. All without the use of force. Not only that but with their newfound identity, they can fly higher than they ever could.”
Gideon sat at that, thinking about what he just said.
“Gideon, I say all this to you in an effort to win you over, to help you understand you are powerful. Not because you scored well in a test, but because it is fundamental to who you are.”
“I would speak more on this, especially the insecurities you feel towards your siblings.”
That comment pricked something in Gideon, he hated talking about it.
“If you would join us for morning prayer…” Father asked sensing the mood and changing the subject.
He turned his head, idly adjusted his robe.
“I’ll have to think about it when I return from the flight,” Gideon said, stalling the invitation.
“Your sisters all miss you and wished you would return.” Father implored.
I know… I just don’t fit in.
Gideon hard changed the subject.
“Will you tell me about the Empire of Dusk?”
“I haven’t spoken of it to anyone,” Father said, like a shut door.
“Well, now you have someone to speak to.” Gideon retorted.
Father replied with a soft chuckle.
“Quick as ever. Alright. Ask.”
“What do they want? Has this happened in the past?” Gideon began, the thoughts that bothered him most floating to the surface.
“This has never happened before,” Father answered.
He held out a finger before Gideon could press him on the first question.
“As far as we can tell, they are simply observing. For now. Planets rich in that AMC881 resource are kept under tight lock by them. That was the major goal of the scouting parties, as what we have here now in the facility is around thirty-five percent of the total galactic supply.”
“Jesus…” Gideon swore at that.
“It is no small saying that a fortune is riding on you; literally.”
“I had wished to make the vessel’s outer shell completely out of the AMC881, but there was not enough for an order from the Mars Technocracy. I had to make do with what they could spare.”
“Their other purpose, the kidnappings, I have a theory. We investigated the correlation between the kidnappings and discovered one thing; there is no common link between all of the victims.”
“The victims did not know of one another, didn’t have the same line of work or hobbies, were different species and sexes. Their statuses were all different and their property ownership was different for each individual. Even their political preferences were wildly nonlinear. The big similarity is they were different. No more than three matched up in any one area.” Father explained.
“My theory is they are studying us. For science or war, I do not know.”
“If it is for science, we can breathe a sigh of relief.”
“What about war?” Gideon asked, getting nervous at the answer.
Gideon’s father turned away, turning back to meet Gideon’s eyes with a worry he had not seen before.
Gideon’s stomach dropped at that answer, he felt a numb stunned silence.