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Unknown Dusk Moon
Gideon just saw his best friend die.
Or so he thought. His QSD had alerted Gideon with the details of Shindow’s damage. He was relieved it wasn’t a complete corruption.
AI Shindow has crashed Repairing AI Initial Repair successful Repair Estimate: 4 hours
Father must have installed better repair algorithms since the upgrade, Gideon thought with relief.
Gideon was stuck in space without an AI to assist in a ship that had hemorrhaged it’s fuel. He set the viewport and saw that the grim Dusk satellite was active, it’s visor lit and staring right at him. Gideon suspected a security protocol was triggered to counter-attack outside AI interference. He rushed to the bridge, with Baxter howling at the whining nacelle screech.
Baxter was inconsolable.
Gideon had to grab him and strap him in his seat; with the satellite striking any second now.
The Decima shook as something hit the ship, confirming Gideon’s fears. Gideon linked with the outer cameras to the see a blue beam of light shooting from the satellite, latching itself around the hull.
“Some sort of energy… coiling?” Gideon asked out loud.
The ship shuddered again, the shock absorption failed as it was pulled towards the satellite.
Towards the grey moon.
Terrible became worse as power loss went terminal, a final ear-piercing shriek emitted from the engine room and a roar of a thunderclap as the Tachodine nacelles expired.
“Oh, Gid… I do not want to go fast anymore,” Baxter announced, he was slumped over in his seat.
The ship’s interior lights went out, bathing them in black. Gideon switched his QSD to materialize a suit light. Orange light surrounded him as his suit changed to a pressurized spacesuit, with Baxter following suit. The air was going to get very thin soon and his suit could last for only a few days. If The Dusk Satellite opened fire, they might survive a little while in space.
The satellite had no intention of attacking. Using the blue coil, it dragged them to the moon’s surface.
Gideon had another brilliant idea. He summoned his maximum number of Gnats, four of them. He gave them a single order,
“Gnats, gather everything you can!”
The four hovering assistants lined up and saluted.
“Hai! They all announced at once.
“Itadakimasu!“ They cried as they filed out of the room through the door to collect everything they could.
Gideon’s inventory was updated as the loose items were stored. He made a mental note to grab all items in the ships QSD, too. Which was substantial. He attempted to store in Baxter’s inventory to share the burden but received an error.
Error! Storage for User: ‘Baxter is the best doggy’ is full. Please clear space.
“What,” Was all Gideon could respond to that.
Baxter had one DOM, what he filled his QSD with was anyone’s guess.
Inventory update: Methos Melon White Wine 5 sets of 10 dishes 5 medical kits 1 dresser 2 dozen clothing items ……………...
Gideon had set the item update list to brief to prevent detail overload in this case. He also had it alert him to items of interest.
Inventory update: 3 Tachodine Nacelle - Personal
Tachodine Nacelles were precious, as they powered almost everything in the known universe. Gideon watched with grim fascination as the Dusk satellite reeled in the ship like so much baited fish.
Or a whale.
The Decima was no slouch in size which made the tiny satellite’s ability to grab the Decima and move it terrifying. Gideon would use this time to grab everything and setup his next plan. Baxter was out of phase still so he couldn’t do much more. Gideon wasn’t out of options, he had a plan to escape. On first glance, the planet appeared to be populated, going off of a Dusk satellite hunch. It wasn’t destroying them, but trying to capture the now derelict craft. While the main portion of the ship was shut down, there were emergency Tachodine nacelles for several critical components. Gideon hoped those nacelles weren’t dead either, his gut instinct told him this wouldn’t be so. The other spare or unused nacelles were still healthy.
Time to test his theory.
The Decima began to speed along the blue energy coil toward the moon, the Dusk Satellite towing the entire ship along. Gideon heard final feedback from his Gnats and QSD.
Inventory update: 1 Crate of armaments
“Owatta!” The Gnats declared the job was done and dispersed.
Whoa. Whoa! Weapons? Where the hell did that come from?
Gideon was astonished.
Some unknown had dropped off a full crate of armaments inside the ship and didn’t update the ship manuscript; a secret gift.
I’ll open it later, focus now.
Gideon decided. Enact the plan first, examine crate later. The adrift Decima halted near the satellite. Gideon looked out a viewport and noticed there were several other Dusk Satellites.
Those satellites also fired the blue energy coils, and flew next to the Decima, carrying the vessel like a coffin. Gideon hoped it wasn’t his coffin. Gideon was feeding the ship consoles minute amount of power from his nacelles, getting the blast charges ready. The Decima was being escorted into the lower atmosphere, the grey cloudy albedo prevented line of sight. He also couldn’t get a scan off the surface due to the cloudy overcast and hoped the satellites had the same issue. This is where he’d fire off.
The mental interface command was enacted. The blast charges went off with rapid thunderclaps, the bridge was ejected from the main body. The bridge looked like a rounded horseshoe crab, the bottom of the vessel had a large ‘Orhicalcum’ curved sword blade hull beneath the vessel that settled into the Decima like a blade to a hilt. Gideon felt the Decima’s former bridge powering up from the emergency nacelles, but Gideon halted it as he needed to appear as debris. The escape bridge named the Ferrum was shot up and outward and left to drift as the Dusk satellites and Decima flowed past it. The albedo covered their escape beautifully. The Ferrum continued the free fall, the vessel vibrating in the clouds from the descent. Gideon gave the mental command and powered up the thrusters to hang still. His gamble hopefully worked, hide in the cloud as it seemed to block signal and fly away to another side of the moon to an unpopulated portion of land. He would need to leave the upper atmosphere soon, being blind didn’t help. Who knew if anything else was in here.
“Please no tall mountains,” Gideon begged to no one.
Gideon halted the ship and began his descent.
Baxter awoke with a sneeze.
“Gid, what is going on? Where is space? Why is it grey?” Baxter shot out questions with chuffing. His ears perk up as he tried to listen for new noise.
“Where did the ship go? It is not loud or heavy,” Baxter let out a soft bark.
“Hold tight, Baxter. We got caught by some Empire of Dusk defense satellites. And we lost the ship. We’re in the Ferrum now in the upper atmosphere of the planet.”
“That is truly terrible. Can we go home now? Where is Shin?” Baxter asked with a soft whine.
“Shindow… The satellites attacked her. She almost perished. She is being repaired and should be good in…” Gideon explained as he shared the timer application with Baxter, which he accepted.
AI Shindow Repair ETA: 3 hours and 30 minutes
“Shin…” Baxter let out another whine.
“Hold on, we’re going to leave the atmosphere soon. This may get rough!” Gideon announced.
The Ferrum descended slowly, its sleek sword hull peeking through the bottom of the ocean-like-cloud. The Ferrum fully descended out of the cloud and Gideon was met with alert updates on sensors.
He saw the moon’s surface.
It was an ashen and bleak place. There were mountains, bluffs, canyons outcroppings and flatlands.
All of it grey.
All of it dead.
There were orange speckled iron crystal clusters jutting from the ground as enormous quartz structures. The horizon to the east was filled with a massive segmented mountain with legs, like a sloped centipede. In the north was the same. The south was also the same. To the west, a mountain was closer, which Gideon noticed one thing,
It wasn’t natural. It was made.
Gideon zoomed in on the western mountain range. It was made of what appeared to be steel. In between the segments, Gideon could see joints and connectors, cable and wiring. Further down, there were massive structures jutting from the base of the mountain, each the same size of skyscrapers, or larger. The jutting structures were curved and shaped like a claw, the point gouging into the grey earth.
Gideon decided to avoid any and all of these mountains. Anything that had an appearance of Dusk technology. Although it did look different from Primetech and Dusk technology.
“Who built these structures?” Gideon asked no one in particular.
He flew to a good outcropping of iron crystals and planted down. The ship stabbing into the ground as it landed. The phthalo blue steel blade was durable and nigh indestructible. He then ran the burrow protocol, the ship descended into the ground burying itself in the grey earth. The ship stopped as it reached a depth of ten feet from the top of the vessel, and began to vibrate. The ship vibrations caused the grey soil to shake loose and cover the ship. The protocol finished with the only appearance being a shallow sinkhole near an iron crystal formation. The Ferrum was an emergency vessel meant as a last ditch attempt at survival in harsh environments, in the case one became marooned on a planet. It only had antigrav thrusters for movement, so long travel outside of the moon was impossible. Gideon needed to find a way to get the Decima back.
“Alright, Baxter here is the update,” Gideon announced as the last of the dirt finished sifting.
“Yes!” Baxter got out of seat and harness to trot over to Gideon.
“First off, our long-term goal is to get off this planet. Get the Decima back under our control; fueled up and get the hell out of Dusk territory.” Gideon began as he swept back his hair, fatigue was setting in, “My guess is those disappearances of tech and people have led to them expanding their knowledge base, creating vessels unseen before. I can’t explain why the jump went so off the grid, with our star map being all but useless. I can only guess that we jumped so far that we made it deep into the Empire of Dusk’s territory. “
“Were there any questions?” Gideon finished.
“Yes,” Baxter chuffed.
There was an awkward pause as Gideon was waiting for the question.
He cocked an eyebrow and held out his hands in an exhausted pleading motion.
“And…?” Gideon tried to lead Baxter along.
“Where is Shindow?” Baxter asked.
Gideon clasped the bridge of his nose in frustration. There were no words, just a forced updated timer to show Baxter.
AI Shindow Repair ETA: 2 hours and 13 minutes
Baxter was quiet and was awaiting Gideon to continue.
“Anyways, those satellites appeared to be autonomous, so there is a good chance of grabbing working nacelles. Maybe the metal mountains would have something akin to that as well? But first, wait out the clock for Shindow. Create a base of operations and get a tally of supplies,” Gideon got up and paced as he spoke, trying to stay awake, “Finding the Decima will be easy with the Ferrum, so we can leave that for last after base setup. So right now, let’s get a supply tally,” Gideon finished explaining, remembering his core training.
Gideon felt a sense of dread. This was one of the worst case scenarios, if not the top of the list. Being stuck in Dusk territory without a ship. He had been trained for this case scenario, but that did little to assuage his fears.
“Also… Baxter, why is your inventory full?” Gideon asked.
Baxter looked sheepishly off to the side, his ears twitching like radar dishes, telling Gideon some of the story.
“Ah I… Well I went to find… You see it was the Alex…”
Gideon was deadpan, eyes half opened and mouth pursed.
“What did you do?” Gideon asked with a sigh.
“I went to the provisions and the quarter lady, she was really friendly, I went inside past the big metal door and she gave me back scritches and she might have left me alone for a minute.” Baxter let out like a freight train.
“I stored everything,” Baxter admitted.
“What.” Gideon raised his eyebrows at that.
“In my pack pack,” Baxter finished.
“That was you?” Gideon remembered his father was talking about a missing cache of items during the meeting after the Empire of Dusk gave him that cube. Gideon inspected the cube again to see if anything changed.
???: ???, ???, ???
As much as I expected. Guess delivery to Lo IX will have to wait, Gideon mused somberly.
“Alright, let’s see what you have, Baxter.”
What Baxter showed Gideon floored him.
200 Pulse Rifles 35 Laser culverins 80 Personal Missile Pods 120 Pulse Compacts 60 Shoulder Weapon Mounts 20 MK V Riot Power Armor 15 MK V Combat Armor 5 MK VII Stealth Combat Armor Suit (Assisted) 120 Smoke grenades 60 Solar bombs 400 Pulse Pistols 60 Tempest Cannons 10 Pulse Cannons 1 Pulse Onager 25 Combat Armor “Excertius” Addon Module 25 Pulse Fletchet Rifles 15 Pulse Scatterguns 10 Pulse “Quiet” Modules 100 Mobile Turret Stand (Empty) 80 Blast mines 2 MK IX Mars Heavy Centurion Armor 25 Mars Energy Rifles 10 Mars Marksman Rifles 15 Mars Scout Drones. Hind Canis MK A Canine Power Armor 15 Riot Pikes 15 Riot Shields 1 Mars Neutron Rifle 2 “Excertius” Mars Military Combat Anform 25 Tachodin Nacelles 1 Jerum comfort sole shoe (Right) Total Space Used: 99%
“Oh holy dammit. I thought it was a supply room. You took a weapons cache. A weapons armory! Baxter you…”
Baxter’s ears drooped as a tirade of punishment was incoming.
What he did was bad.
“Genius! I can’t believe you got away with this!”
“We’re going to make it!” Gideon said, shouting like a madman.
Gideon had picked up Baxter and was running around the cockpit with him whooping like a madman. Baxter was barking and crying in a mixture of joy and confusion.
Gideon stopped and looked Baxter in the eyes. Baxter stared back and idly licked his lips. A realization dawned on him.
“We have ‘Excertius’. Two of them.”
“What is Exygstus?” Baxter asked, but was ignored.
“Oh man, that levels the playing field. We need to tell Shindow,“ Gideon shouted.
“Wait, not yet,” Gideon stopped to think.
“We need to wait, then tell Shindow.”
There was a grumbling of a stomach, Gideon couldn’t tell whose.
“OK, we need to eat, then wait, then tell Shindow,” Gideon said with finality.
They both looked at each other and said the same thing.
It was a rain in the desert.
A rain of dessert.
Baxter had more items in inventory, but they were more of the miscellaneous kind. He had some necessary supplies, such as steak and more steak. Gone was his tiredness, morale had instantly improved with his new armory thanks to one rapscallion dog.
The room smelled of cooked and seasoned meat as Gideon deployed an empty crate as a table, kitchen supplies, cooked steak, and the Methos-melon. The room filled with a scattering of pixelated light, orange and blue as Baxter and Gideon setup the impromptu feast. They ate and drank to their heart’s content, with both Gideon and Baxter feeling the buzz of the wine. Baxter finished the wine in his doggy-bowl and slumped on his back. The corgi materialized a bed and fell asleep almost immediately after jumping into it.
Gideon felt exhausted and summoned his four Gnats.
“Yeah, hey just set up the room, generic,” Gideon ordered; he was tired and didn’t care to manage the room setup.
“Hai!” The Gnats all announced and scrambled to work.
“Ganbette!” They all shouted together as they went to work. The light for rematerializing an item was a dark orange for Gideon The bed, lights, and other essentials were deployed in an orderly fashion, to keep everything near each other, but not enough to block anyone in. There was another slight noise Gideon heard. He knew it wasn’t his imagination as Baxter’s ears perked as well. It sounded like a drum beat. There was a slight vibration in the ship.
“Shh! What’s that?” Gideon got quiet as did Baxter. The Gnats stopped working and were looking around curiously, their four floating hands were miming as if they were trying to listen. The sound grew in volume and vibration. It was audible now.
-THUM THUM THUM THUM THUM THUM THUM THUM-
Gideon needed to get eyes on the surface.
“Gnat, go to the surface and see.”
“Hai! Ganbette!” One of them shouted again as it floating through the ceiling and to the surface.
Gideon patched into the Gnat’s holo-camera to see what was going on.
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The trembling of grey earth intensified, feeling like the beginnings of a staggered earthquake.
Gideon got a video feed of the open grey moon. The Gnat was hovering just inside the iron crystal structure to cover itself. Gideon ordered it to go to stealth mode, the Gnat appeared as vapor.
The Gnat pointed North to see anything. The steel mountain was still there on the horizon. Nothing else to report.
The Gnat looked East. The mountain was still there, no other activity, or dust clouds.
The Gnat looked South and saw nothing of consequence.
The Gnat looked West and Gideon had to sit down.
–THUM THUM THUM THUM THUM THUM THUM THUM-
A large amount of grey dust was being kicked up, but Gideon could still see it. The mountain of steel was moving. The ash dust cloud billowed to a sandstorm.
It had a lone red eye like a red dwarf sun gazing in their general direction. The mountain moved like a sideways centipede, each of it’s claw-like structures was a leg. The sound strobing was it taking steps in a successive traveling fashion, legs walking from left to right. The walking stride was probably calculated in the miles as each skyscraper leg trundled forward like the crashing of an asteroid.
It was within a few miles of their position and they were in its direct path.
-THUM THUM THUM THUM THUM THUM THUM THUM-
The crystal formation shuddered and some of the iron crystals shook loose, crashing indents into the grey dust. Gideon unsummoned the Gnat and sat in shock for a minute. The good times of the armory, food, and drink vanished like a cataclysm. He was done for.
“Shit! Baxter! Wake up! We’re under attack!”
“Danger!” Baxter instantly jumped up in an alert guard dog stance, which was a silly look for a corgi.
Gideon knew what he had to do. He re-equipped his pressurized spacesuit, got Baxter into his with the QSD. He strapped Baxter in and took a seat at the bridge chair. There wasn’t much he could do but wait. Gideon shut down all power to be as discreet as possible. If they took off, who knows what armaments that walking mountain had. They’d either be sent to plummet to the ground or captured, and those were the positive outcomes. If they stayed still, there was a possibility of being compressed to a fine wafer by the walking mountain’s foot. Or they’d be safe and undiscovered.
-THUM THUM THUM THUM THUM THUM THUM THUM-
The shock dampeners of the ship could no longer keep up with the living earthquake. Gideon could feel his teeth vibrating by the tremors. His bones threatened to shake apart.
“I do not like these rumblers at all,” Baxter whined. He hopped in his chair and strapped in.
“Rumblers? Catchy name. If we survive, we’ll call them that!” Gideon was trying to keep things relaxed, despite the chance of instant death.
Baxter looked at Gideon, ears twitching to and fro. It was an awkward look.
“What?” Gideon asked defensively.
“This matter is serious, I may never have steak again,” Baxter responded with a chuff.
“Now you’re serious? You never take anything seriously!”
“I am always serious,” Baxter said without an ounce of self-awareness.
“When? You stole my shoe- dammit!” Gideon swore as he realized he lost the prank; he complained first.
There was a strange chuffing sound as Baxter laughed.
“It was delicious!” He barked, wiggling his rump.
-THUM THUM THUM THUM THUM THUM THUM THUM-
The Ferrum shook like the moon itself was cracking. Food and dishes went flying, cashing around the ship.
Should have cleaned up as we went. Gideon thought with regret.
The beautiful interior got trashed by debris. Hopefully, Abigail wouldn’t be too mad. Baxter yipped in surprise as his helmet was splattered by a rogue steak. There was licking sound on the coms as Baxter tried to get the steak by licking the inside of his helmet.
“See? See!? Every little thing distracts you!” Gideon was actually mad now.
“This -mnol– is -nom- important! Baxter said in between licks. He opened his helmet only to have the steak fall to the floor. He let out a whine while staring at Gideon before slowly closing his helmet back up.
“Why don’t you do something helpful!” Gideon shouted, his eyes wide with adrenaline.
“This is outside my being special! And it is good you are flying we might have been safe right now!” Baxter shot back with a bark. Gideon was letting that comment get to him.
“What is your expertise, bellyrubs? Mooching?”
“And not getting lost in space that is your area of expert-is!” Baxter finished with a bark-growl. He was irate as well.
“You little SHIT-” Gideon couldn’t finish his sentence as the ‘Rumbler’ began to pass over them.
-THUM THUM THUM THUM THUM THUM THUM THUM-
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Author’s Note: Oh dear.