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Karmmrak, Sutta galaxy
He was up in his marble room, preparing again for the test flight. With good fortune, the test would continue successfully. Gideon was nervous, yet encouraged. His secret vise was revealed, but he wasn’t crushed by Father as he expected to be. His sisters had kept quiet, if not distant over what had happened. The mistake of taking alcohol and then being given stims on accident had almost killed Gideon. This affected Anna the most, with Gideon promising himself to make up for it. He wondered if Lo IX had a gift shop. He and Baxter suited up in the white and green flightsuit, strapped on the QSDs and headed out.
“Gideon. Are you alright?” Shindow broke the silence by asking.
“Yeah… I’m alright this time,” Gideon began as he adjusted his flightsuit, ”I’m nervous, but sparked,” Gideon responded with a slight pause.
“With all the delays out of the system, we can actually inspect the finished ship,” Shindow stated.
“And hopefully nothing goes off the grid like the last few days,” Gideon said with a sigh.
He remembered well the Empire of Dusk and their orders. The black box he was given. Father had upgraded his system from 2 DOMs to 4 DOMs to make room for the package. Shindow merged with his systems to manage inventory and assist with the flight as co-pilot. Baxter was there as support and for his general heightened senses. He was trained to listen for anomalies that Gideon couldn’t hear, such as signs of a damaged Tachodine nacelle. These power cells came in all shapes and sizes and could power anything from a cruiser to a QSD. They lasted generations and could self-charge over time if depleted. The beauty of these nacelles was that they could be dematerialized and still be integrated for power in the QSD.
Gideon stopped over to a physical Tachodine nacelle to test the Quantum Storage Device again. The nacelle looked like a stretched rhombus with partial glass on both sides, showing the internals. Inside, one could see light spilling out of the active nacelle. This one was blue, but they could all come in a variety of colors, depending on the neutron star matter that was used. Gideon grabbed the battery, which is heavier than it looked and dematerialized it into orange pixelated light. His internal HUD updated him to the inventory and power changes.
1 - Tachodine Nacelle (100%) Power increased to 60,000 QC (from 55,000 QC)
Gideon was satisfied by the tests. Baxter had grabbed a shoe and dematerialized it in a pixelated rush of light. One of Gideon’s favorite shoes.
“Baxter! What are you doing?” Gideon shouted.
Baxter was already running away, making a strange chuffing sound as he exited the room.
I’ll get him for this. Gideon thought as he chased after Baxter.
Baxter played pranks from time to time when he was in a better than normal mood. Or if he was getting back at Gideon.
It must have been the flight delay.
Baxter had rushed down the hall at a mad run to beat Gideon to the lift, while Gideon was briskly jogging, knowing he could never beat Baxter in a foot race. He spotted the same Anforms from several days ago making their way to the elevator. Gideon briskly greeted them as he ran past. Baxter ignored all chat requests from Gideon.
“Oh! Good greetings, Gideon!” The floating Anform greeted again.
“The day of the test is at han-” The blocky insectile couldn’t greet him fast enough as Gideon jogged down the curved corridor, giving them a passing wave.
We’re they… Just waiting outside my door? Gideon realized.
He had fans? Stalkers? He remembered what his father said earlier.
Gideon arrived at the elevator, one of the lifts had already been taken off. He predicted that must have been Baxter’s lift. There were four other lifts, with Gideon grabbing the closest terminal to ride the elevator to the hangar tram. This time he didn’t need to stop at the observatory for a debrief, they were getting straight to the flight. All of his sister’s work was complete and they were now just preventing dust. As the elevator door was closing, an arm of decorated steel clipped in between the door causing them to slide open. A woman stood there. It was Amelia. She was wearing a hooded long white robe threaded with vertical steel thread on the front. Her usually bald head had a ponytail attachment.
“Good greetings, brother Gideon. How are you feeling?” She asked with genuine concern.
She was unable to see him in the Hospice for long due to her work.
“I’m feeling better. I’d feel better once the test flight started.” Gideon responded the nervousness was returning.
“This is good news to hear. I admit I was worried when I saw what happened. If I were in your jumpsuit, I might have been unable to process any good actions apart from what you did. You made the correct choices with the Empire of Dusk.” Amelia was encouraging. She was pretty good at it like father was.
“Thanks, but why are you so focused on them?” Gideon caught on that Amelia was pretty obsessed with them after the matter.
“A good question, Brother Gideon. The Empire of Dusk is an unknown factor. Are they friend? Foe? Neither? For the first time, we have a better idea of who they are. We know they mostly observe, only intervening into society for reasons yet known. We know their appearance is unlike anything we’ve seen, even compared to known aliens; the Scarabaeidae. Their psychic and telekinetic powers are unmatched, with humanity’s psychics being like children to them. Their technology is beyond what we can comprehend, with their ‘Titan Observatory’ being the largest space vessel in existence. All Anforms online the Galactic Nebula discuss this topic frequently.” Amelia quickly laid out her interest.
Gideon rarely saw her this excited, with her cyclopean LED eye in her built-in visor becoming yellow and growing in size to represent her excitement.
“Like right now?” Gideon was fishing.
He had a small game of trying to tease and fluster the human intellectual portion of Amelia. It worked sometimes, like now.
“Um, well, I mean….” Amelia stumbled at the question shot out of left field with her eye staying yellow and darting around.
She recovered, with her eye turning back to green. It was thought of rude to browse the Galactic Nebula while speaking to someone, even as a background process.
“I’m always researching new data on the topic in the background…” Amelia finished.
Gideon tried to hide his smile and Amelia realized she was being teased. Her eye changed red and shrunk to a line as her mouth pinched. She gave him a light jab on the shoulder, as he taught her when he teased her; to make things fair. She was quick to encourage and build up, but not so much when flustered or teased. Gideon sucked in air at the jab, while soft, was still given with an arm made of metal alloy. He let out a laugh.
“I’m just getting you riled up. I don’t get to see you often enough.”
“Yes… It is advantageous that we were all placed on this project.” Amelia added, her eye turning to a green circle again.
“If we could all have time off together, would you take it?” Amelia asked.
“With all the stress and excitement from the equivalent of driving in a straight line, I’m inclined to agree,” Gideon admitted.
“Good. We leave after the final test back to Karmmrak.” Amelia matter-of-factly stated.
“What?” Was all Gideon could respond with.
“Yes, I’ve scheduled time off for all of us. Father is in agreement as well as the rest of our family. We shall take a year off.” Amelia finished, her eye becoming bigger.
“What?” Gideon densely asked again.
Vacations were common, but taking a year-long venture was unheard of.
Amelia went in and hugged Gideon. Gideon just sat there confused for a second before returning it.
“I got you,” She whispered contentedly, her green eye becoming a flat line. She finally flustered Gideon.
Amelia backed away and also added,
“Also, you shouldn’t leave your door unlocked. Baxter told me he absconded one of your shoes.” Her hand flashed a mint green light as her QSD deployed a familiar item, his favorite left shoe. Baxter had the right.
“I’ll protect the other shoe from that rascally Baxter!” Amelia declared with a smile.
“I must go. I will see you after the test, brother! We shall discuss the vacation on your return!” Amelia exclaimed as she turned to mint green pixelated light.
She, the shoe, and her own QSD were stored in the facilities built in QSD net. It was a strange paradox where ones QSD could be stored in another, larger QSD. Like putting a bag inside a box. Because Amelia was an Anform, she could store her body, consciousness and her QSD into the facility, and re-materialize anywhere on base. QSD was hard-coded to prevent the storage of living matter, though.
That’s just not fair.
Gideon thought on the prank humorously. Amelia not only returned the favor and flustered him, but she also pranked him back. A culture for pranks is that they were kept low key or subtle, and the loser was the one who complained first. Amelia was growing up.
The elevator arrived in the tram station, Gideon quickly hopped off. He rushed to the tram to find a new one being lined up. Baxter was probably nearing the ship.
As the tram was making his way to the hangar, he had an idea.
“Shindow, encrypt my items for the future.”
Shindow appeared in a ball of orange pixelated light and formed. She floated there with a slight smile.
“Of course. The task will be finished in an hour for current inventory items. Glad you got an AI now don’t you?” Shindow responded with only a little bit of snideness.
“Preventing item pranks is not what I had in mind for wanting an AI. Also, setup permission notices when receiving items. Set it to verbose as well so I can see what we’re given.”
Gideon ordered again. Not going to let them prank gift him anymore, too.
“Good idea. Setting that as well,” Shindow announced.
Gideon was sitting at the tram, the quiet rushing noise of being sent sub-sonic speeds down the tunnel was relaxing if you didn’t focus too hard on it. Magnetic railings sent the cylinder tram shooting through the tunnel like a missile, quickly transporting one around the planet.
“You ready, Shindow?”
“As ever,” Shindow replied while adjusting her glasses with her tiny arm.
“Me too. After the past few days, I could punch a Dusk Being,” Gideon added with a sigh.
“Oh really?” Shindow was incredulous. She smirked and cocked an eyebrow.
“A sedated one.”
“From space. With a frigate.”
“How very brave!” Shindow giggled.
The tram stopped near the ship this time. Gideon stepped out to be greeted by the sight of the enormous vessel, the Decima. Gideon now had a closer look compared to last time. The Decima was a sloop sized vessel, the smallest of the ‘large’ class vessels for interstellar ships.
As the complete ship entered view, Gideon noticed the three gyroscopic drives, They were in a trident formation with the appearance of a ring inside a ring inside a ring; a gyroscope. Gideon knew once the ship started, those rings would light up with energy, filling the rings with what appeared to be a spherical blue dwarf sun. Its rounded organic shape had phthalo blue outer hull plating with white under-hull. If one got close, they could see engravings, text, scripture, quotes, images, and filigree all seamlessly blended together.
The ship had multitudes of smaller thrusters for precise control. The ship lacked weapons as it was a test flight after all.
Father, Abigail, Anna, and Amelia were there, waiting on Gideon. Baxter was off to the side, tongue lolling out of his mouth as Amelia absently scritched his ears.
“Gideon! Over here!” Father shouted as he spotted Gideon.
“Father, everyone. How is the Decima?” Gideon casually asked, trying to calm his nerves.
“Shipshape as it could ever be for this test. The previous tests are all complete, and now we await the brave and illustrious pilot,” Abigail explained without a hint of sarcasm as she gestured towards the ship with three of her left arms.
She had a genuine smile on her face; a rarity. Gideon could see the phthalo blue hull of the Decima was steaming from evaporated condensation.
“I always wondered why it frosted over…” Gideon mused, running his hand through his blond hair.
“This metal is unique in that it acts as an incredible heat sink, as well as protection. Left alone, it could actually ice the ship over as it absorbs the heat from the surrounding area. However, it acts like it has a mind of its own. If we heat it up gradually, it doesn’t disperse the heat. Right now as the ship warms up, the ice crystal sheet turns to vapor. However, If we hit it with an immediate temperature burst, it then disperses it; the perfect heat sink.” Abigail explained.
Anna jumped on Gideon before he could respond, hugging him. She backed up with a sniff, looking away.
“Anna. I’m sorry. For everything. I’ll make it up, you’ll see,” Gideon apologized.
“You get back in one piece or I’ll hit you!” Anna said with a threat and perhaps an ounce of humor.
“Brother Gideon, we shall have a great vacation! To new travel and new exploration,” Amelia stated as Baxter trotted off to Gideon’s side.
They made their way to the ship, Father escorting Gideon.
“Look at this beautiful metal. That black blue steel is what I still would like to call ‘Orichalcum’ or God’s metal. How the Mars Technocracy made such a thing is still a mystery to me. One I will discover myself one day!” Father exclaimed as he explained it again, waving towards the newest family member; the Decima.
“I don’t know, it might never catch on,” Gideon replied with a grin.
His father stopped, turning to Gideon.
“Gideon, my son. Thank you. Thank you for doing all of this. I’ll be praying for you,” Father spoke somberly, with a tear in his eye. Father embraced Gideon and Gideon returned it.
“Father, thank you for letting me do this. You have no idea how much it means,” Gideon replied.
“Oh, I have an idea,” Father said with a wry smile.
“Go on, she’s waiting for you!” Father hurried Gideon to the ship.
The ramp was extended down, with Gideon and Baxter making their way inside the belly of the vessel. The storage bay was massive, capable of holding cargo of all sorts or even vehicles. Not to mention it’s thirteen DOM storage could simply hold a planet’s armory no problem. He walked to the bridge, admiring every tiny detail his sisters put into the ship. As he walked he felt something. Like he bumped into someone. He quickly turned, staring at an empty hall, with Baxter lagging behind, sniffing the new smells. Someone was looking at him.
Why did he have that feeling?
“Come on Baxter, let’s go,” Gideon said, Baxter perked up and fell in line.
They arrived at the bridge, seeing the craftsmanship, or craftwomanship, as the detail of engravings stood out as each their own artistic masterpiece. The chairs, being two, one fit for a small dog and one for a human were placed near each other. Gideon sat down in his captain’s chair, feeling the comfort of it; he could sleep in it. Baxter hopped in his seat and let the belt clamps wrap around him for safety.
“This is the time! To go fast!” Baxter was chuffing with excitement.
“That it is, Baxter,” Gideon replied with a smile.
The pilot and captain’s chair was of pure comfort. There were three types of controls, manual for emergencies, holographic feedback, or pure mental interface.
This is what got him up in the morning.
Exploration was the passion that drove him.
After a time of simply sitting absorbing the reality of this flight, Gideon acted.
“Shindow, let’s fire it up.”
“Understood. Beginning thrusters test sequence.”
Gideon felt the ship tremble for a second as the mini-thrusters fired up in machine gun procession. He couldn’t hear the thrusters testing but knew they were firing off due to Shindow’s AI interlink showing him readouts.
“Test complete. We’re all good for thrusters. Testing IIT drive,” Shindow stated.
The three gyroscopic rings began to spin with a thrumming that increased in intensity to a snap crack as they reached full power, the spheres inside the rings glowing and growing to their full dwarf sun size. One of the arms abruptly stopped, as per the test. The other two rings continued to flow at full power. Another ring ceased, leaving only one of the IIT drive running. Then the third ceased and powered down. All three rings were quickly powered on at once, continuing the test three more times.
“OK, Gideon. IIT drive test successful. Prosine, all tests completed, we’re ready for takeoff,” Shindow finished a gleam of excitement in her voice.
This is it.
“Gideon, good luck. I love you, son,” Father chimed in.
“I… Love you too, dad,” Gideon responded.
He hadn’t called him that in a long time. It felt right too.
“Shindow, taking manual control,” Gideon needed to manually control the Decima, just to see how it felt.
“Understood, try not to scratch the paint,” Shindow snidely remarked.
“You should buckle in for this,” Gideon retorted.
He touched the controls and felt his mind link to the ship, getting a third person view of the ship. He was able to switch at will for different circumstances. In the confined area of the hangar, first person to the ship’s nose was best. He fired up the IIT drive and thrusters. He felt a tremble and slight shudder from the snap-crack of the drives reaching full power. As he revved the drives, they produced a deep rumbling thrum with a background squeal.
“Liftoff,” Gideon announced.
The Decima rose slowly, the feedback to the surrounding area was almost nonexistent. One could stay close to the ship and takeoff without fear. Anforms, Gnats and other recording devices were all zeroed in on the ship, capturing every detail.
“Thruster efficiency off. Recalibrating. There. I love easy work,” Shindow chimed in.
It was a straight shot out of the hangar. Gideon pressed forward on the controls a hair’s breadth, the ship responded immediately to the input and began to fly forward. Slowly at first until the hangar exit. As soon as he exited the hangar, he pushed it twenty-five percent. There was lightning crack as the IIT drive responded, shooting the ship forward like a bullet. Gideon could feel the pressure, even in the lower atmosphere of Karmmrak. The hangar was already becoming a dot as they flew off into the horizon. The area inside the planet had a red hue to it. Gideon gave off a loud cheer as the ship responded to his controls like a partner in a dance, the perfect follow. Baxter was barking, too excited to speak. As he began his first orbit around Karmmrak in low orbit, he tested the agility of the ship. It could spin 360` like a champ. He pulled back and did a loop-de-loop. He made several orbits around Karmmrak, each time was faster than the last. He pressed the engines harder, breaking out of Karmmrak’s atmosphere and then it’s gravity well.
“IIT Drive A is flickering. Patching,” Shindow responded.
Gideon continued flying along in space, the ship pulled to the left as the IIT drive A was getting fixed. He felt the ship correcting slowly, going in an exact line.
“She feels good now. Let’s head to the coordinates,” Gideon stated.
Gideon kept up tests, using thrusters to pull the ship in different directions, checking the stability and handling.
“Starboard thrusters are still unstable. Give me a second,” Shindow replied.
Gideon received updates that the patching was complete. The vessel felt more stable than anything he flew before.
“OK, Gideon. Everything is looking good,” Shindow added.
“Control, all tests completed. Preparing for the jump to Lo IX. This is our final broadcast, Adonai bless our craft and lineage.”
The transmission ended. Gideon sat there and simply breathed. Like getting ready for a jump into the pools deep end.
There was a deep temptation to take the vessel and leave his caged life behind.
Gideon slowed the ship down in deep space and observed what surrounded the technically dead planet. He saw the greens and yellows of a neon gas nebula. It covered most of his view and was a dangerous anomaly in that it could drain away the power of vessel. It was described by pilots as quicksand in space. In the center was a black dot, Gideon knew that was the only visible black hole in this sector. Further around it were dwarf stars war in orbit with one another, like a ballroom dance. The were several detonating stars further in space. They were in the eye of a galactic storm.
Gideon Turned the cameras around back to see the tiny Karmmrak silhouetted by a massive super red giant. This was why the AMC881 or ‘Orhicalcum’ armor plating was so important. The planet itself was superheated on the side that faced the sun, which was why everything was underground.
“Temperatures stable, heat absorption is working far better than anticipated,” Shindow explained.
“Alright, Shindow. Activate IIT drive.”
They could see the portal open, the color of blackness engulfing the ship. Suddenly a surge of speed rumbled through the vessel that the dampeners could not affect. Gideon felt like he was stretching as the ship hurtled through the blackness. It was the same feeling as being in a room and occupying every square inch of it at once. Gideon was and he wasn’t. There was no light outside of the ship, no stars or galaxies. Complete blackness. For a brief second, Gideon could see something.
It looked like two eyes and a mouth. Watching him slowly pass, despite the speed. It had a simple curiosity. It closed in on Gideon, and then it did something unexpected, it licked him. He felt instant revolt at that, the tongue felt like nothing he could describe. He heard a child’s giggle as the face shied away to the outside of the ship.
The dream. It looked like that face in the first dream.
“Shindow-Shin! D-do you see that? Jesus Christ!” Gideon’s voice came out distorted and slow.
Gideon couldn’t hear an answer. The ship stopped in open space. The ride was complete.
Little did they realize that this was the start of an incredible journey.
Alarms starting blaring, alerting them they were off course.
“Shindow! Where did we drop off at?” Gideon shouted over the alarm.
Baxter was barking in response to the claxons.
“That was fast! Let us go again!” Baxter was oblivious to the change.
Baxter undid his seat harness and began loping around the room, making his strange chuffing laughter.
“Gideon, we’re near a planet. I don’t recognize it in our database. Scanning the stars and comparing to all known star charts.”
“No… This isn’t right…” Shindow murmured.
“Wait, what’s going on?” Gideon got out of the chair and was looking through the viewport. His mental link also gave him a 360~ sphere view of the ship. He just needed to see with his own eyes.
“Gideon, The stars… It’s all wrong!” Shindow cried out.
“Shin, What do you mean? The stars are right there.” Gideon retorted, he was starting to get nervous.
“Gideon… I… Can’t get a reading on the star positions. Our relative position in space,” Shindow sounded slightly defeated.
“Shin, talk to me. Where are we? How far off track? How long was it? It just felt like a second.” Gideon asked. Now he was nervous.
“Right, I could track star movement and get an approximate date. However, many of these stars have not moved. At all. Many have moved backward compared to the star chart. Some have disappeared completely. None of this makes any sense. I don’t know where we are, or when we are. All I know for certain is we’re orbiting a dead moon,” Shindow explained. If she was losing her temper, things were bad.
“What the hell… Shin, are there any stars that have the correct predicted move pattern?”
Gideon was beginning to panic.
“There 732 billion stars visible on the last star chart from here; I’ve lost twenty-five percent of them, another seventy-five percent are out of order, fifteen percent have moved in reverse, and only five percent have any sort of positive movement. Of those five, the timing is off, like having thousands of runners suddenly traverse through different substances, like water, jelly or having no friction at all. That is to say, if they’re even the correct star at all…”
“I get it. Get me an average of those five percent. We can queue up an estimate at least,” Gideon replied.
He canceled the alerts and was met with silence. As Baxter calmed down, it dawned on the dog something wasn’t right, he was kind of slow like that. Gideon walked through the bridge door to inspect the ship. Baxter tagged along behind him, his paws softly clacking against the alloy floor.
He stepped in the main power room, the Tachodine nacelles appeared to be in working order. They look like an enlarged version of the personal Tachodine nacelle he grabbed earlier. They were emitting a healthy blue light. Baxter’s ears began perking up over some unknown noise.
“Gid, the sound and smells are not right. These power things are not right.”
“The nacelles? They look health-” Gideon didn’t finish. He saw the healthy blue drop a shade, getting closer to violet.
“Shit,” Gideon swore.
“Shindow, what is the status of the nacelles?” Gideon calmly asked.
He noticed it turn a slight shade darker, losing the blue completely, it became a purple. An orange globe of pixelated light announced Shindow forming. She floated over to the Nacelles and inspected them, her tiny arm up to her head holding her glasses.
“Gideon, the nacelles… They’re dying- Not draining, but dying. These are their last moments,” Shindow quietly stated.
She turned to Gideon with a look of shocked sorrow. The cell turned a deep purple, and a slight keening sound emitted from the nacelles. Baxter whined as he backed up, his ears flattened and posture stooped.
“Ow ow ow! This is too loud!” Baxter cried out and fled out of the engine room with a shrieking whimper.
“Shin… What can we do?” Gideon was at a loss. His own personal nacelles would be worthless in this position.
Like trying to bathe a Nacowhale with a cup of water.
“I’m trying to scan the moon now. The grey albedo is interfering, almost like a shield. There are satellites in orbit, but they appear dormant. We have thirty minutes until power failure,” Shindow answered.
They needed hope right now.
“Get us closer to the planet, but not enough to get caught in the gravity well. If there are old satellites, then there must be something on this moon. Even just a listening post would be good enough for a rescue,” Gideon’s plan seemed sound.
Shindow responded with more dire news.
“Gid… Those satellites… They’re Primetech. I don’t recognize the make and model,” Shindow began to explain as she dragged an image from thin air, showing the vessel, “They look too sophisticated, too… futuristic. They look like-”
“Empire of Dusk.” Gideon finished for Shindow as he sucked in his breath, eyes wide.
The satellite looked similar to the Titan Observatory that humanity met up with so long ago. It was spherical in design, sporting four large angled facing wings coming out the top, bottom, and sides, giving it a strange finned four-pinned starfish design. The metal looked foreign; alien. A black obsidian mixed with a silver sheen. It had a red visor viewport bent at an angle to give it an angry sinister look. Gideon could see Primetech designs of armor plating, and signature engravings. It had an uncharacteristic design; weapons.
“What the hell is that?” Gideon whispered.
“I don’t know. My guess is a defense satellite gone cold,” Shindow was just as confused as Gideon, perhaps moreso.
“My only theory is we flew off course- So off course we ended up inside the Empire of Dusk’s massive territory. We overshot by millions of light years. Perhaps billions…” Shindow explained.
“We’re in position now, the ship is barely able to move, but it’s enough to keep it idle here. If we have any luck, we could use some of the stored minor nacelles to push towards the moon,” As Shindow updated their position, the lights began to flicker, and switch to emergency mode.
The purple nacelles turned to an orange and the volume of whining increased suddenly. Gideon’s head was starting to hurt as well as his ears. As he started heading back to the bridge, another idea formed. Shindow was floating behind Gideon.
“Shin, can we communicate with the satellite?”
“I will try. They are armed, and this could backfire. If they open fire on us we’ll-”
“Have a quicker death,” Gideon finished.
“OK, starting communication. We should hurry back to the bridge in case anything HAPPENFFFFFF-” Shindow shrieked in a distorted digital scream as she fell to the floor.
Gideon rushed over to help.
“Shin! What happened?”
Shindow peered back up at Gideon, her form flickering and distorting, orange pixels were crumbling away from her.
“D-dammit… T-t-the satellite. Active….” Shindow couldn’t finish as she exploded into pixelated light, the fragments drifting serenely throughout the cabin.
“SHIN!” Gideon cried out seeing his AI, his best friend die.