The Book of Gideon: Packsquad – 17

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Unknown Dusk Moon

Baxter

A mechanical beast ran along the grey ash death, billowing dust clouds trailing behind him. He was inspecting the damage from the Rumbler, with massive holes being formed from the skyscraper legs. He was also scouting out to see where it went. There was no sign of the Rumbler on the horizon. There were still the three other mountains at the three other poles.

Baxter did well to avoid those pitfalls, as it looked like he could have fallen forever. His escorts kept cover for him while he scouted the terrain. Baxter and the two ‘Excertius’ were performing a scout mission to survey the land. Baxter was trying out his Hind Canis MK A canine power armor. This armor was jointly created in part by the Mars Technocracy and Primetech, allowing genetically altered animals to protect, server and scout. Rescues missions from disasters or war were also one of their main uses. Their speed, stealth, and agility allowed for lightning strikes or rescue ops. Not to mention staring one down in a tight corridor was terrifying. An item quality went from one to ten, then ‘F’ to ‘A’. Items of MK ‘I’ to ‘IX’ were usually weaker than an MK ‘F’. Mark ‘A’ was seen as the pinnacle of that item, an artisan or borderline legendary equipment. An item only a master could have made.

Baxter never had it so good.

He ran at full sprint, reaching 90 miles-per-hour. Excertius kept true to their reputation and kept up in full veiling, invisible from sight. Both were armed with Mars Marksman rifles, they left the neutron rifle for Gideon. These silent weapons could tag targets miles way, lethal or nonlethal.

Baxter kept up the sprint. Using his helm scanners to survey the land, getting a good detail of mapping. Shindow told him to run and run and map, and that is what he would do.

His power armor fit him like a glove due to adaptive sizing, his stubby legs going inside the longer suits legs like enclosed stilts. The shock absorbers worked wonders to allow him to move quickly without stumbling or injury.

The suit had a canine/feline look to it. Curved sleek grey, it had taken the color of the ash with it’s dynamic mantilla. The visor assisted in giving him a 180` field of view with neck turning, and the muzzle of the helmet was shaped like a shark, the mouth was workable and the teeth were energized; capable of melting steel. The legs were multi-jointed, allowing for quick sidestepping or ‘crab walking’. The Hind could roll sideways across the ground as an evasive maneuver. It had two shoulder mounted pulse cannons, a back mounted turret built into his Quantum Storage Device, for quick weapon changes, and finally a long tail for balance. Baxter never had a tail before and was excited. The flexibility even allowed it to roll forward like a wheel.

“This is a great day! I am fast!” Baxter declared with a bark.

“Acknowledged,” Excertius responded as one over the coms.

Baxter had used Shindow’s plan, map the terrain via a nautilus formation, spinning outward from the ship. He had Gnats keeping up well for surveillance; in veiling mode of course.

“Baxter, Gideon is awake. We’ve made good progress with a map, so head back to base when you’re ready,” Shindow reported to Baxter.

“I will do just that!” Baxter responded.

“Gid…” Baxter mumbled. Gideon’s words still stung, however the injuries he received during the argument worried Baxter.

I hope his arm is OK. Two hands for ear scritches are the best, Baxter mused. He had his priorities straight.

“OK, Eggstuss, We will head back to base for steak. You were all good boys.”

Baxter couldn’t pronounce their name ‘Excertius’, so he said the closest thing. They ignored this indiscretion.

“Understood, continuing to shadow,” One of the Anforms responded.

Baxter did a quick about-face and began a beeline for the base. He avoided those rusty crystals like he was the best. Because he was.

A thought had occurred to Baxter. These Anforms all looked the same, how could he tell who he was speaking too? For Baxter, they were all ‘Eggstuss’, which confused the poor dog. It was decided.

He was going to name them.

“Eggsbenedict. What is your favorite thing?” Baxter asked.

“Irrelevant. We exist to serve the Machine Mother of Mars and her children.”

“OK, your name is now Steak!” Baxter stated. He lept over a fallen iron crystal formation.

“Understood…” Steak sounded dejected.

“Ecstug… Er, Other Ex-estoke. What is your favorite thing?

“Ummm… Excertius?” The second Excertius stated. Anforms being confused was a rarity; Baxter was making it a commonality.

“OK! Your name is now Pat!” Baxter chuffed.

“Understood,” Pat accepted the new name faster than Steak did.

“Very good! You are both very good boys!” Baxter announced.

“Acknowledged.”

“Acknowledged.”

Steak and Pat both affirmed together.

Why they were confused over such a thing was because they were both the same being, Excertius. They were the Mars military Anform, each one housing Excertius’ mind. The mind of Excertius were interlinked with one another, This is what made them a terrifying military force. They could not be shaken by fear or shock and awe tactics. They couldn’t get flustered with failure or the unknown. They wouldn’t fly into a rage if their tactic was upended. They changed their very physical selves depending on the situation. If the enemy was fortified, they changed into long-range artillery and guerilla tactics. If the enemy used swarm tactics, create mobile bunkers to be the rock wall against the ocean. If the enemy used elite soldier tactics, change to swarm tactics. Each Excertius had their own built-in QSD filled to the brim with armor, weapon, and utility items, changing to whatever was needed in a moment. Excertius was simple to repair with it’s modular body, and even a fully broken Excertius could be easily recycled for reuse.

What Baxter did was the equivalent of naming one half of someone’s body Bob and the other half Jill. Baxter was the third senior officer of the flight, outranking the Excertius on this mission; they could not refuse.

Baxter was getting close to the Ferrum, escorts in tow, being all too pleased with himself. He did do good work mapping and testing the Hind suit. Baxter made sure to test the suit out thoroughly by digging, running, rolling, and sleeping. He made sure to stay alert and hide when Dusk Satellites scouted overhead. He even got to name Excertius and unconfuse the situation.

He was a good boy.

They arrived at the entrance to the Ferrum. The ascension platform rose from the grey ash to receive Baxter and his team, the dust being billowed up around them. The Gnats dispersed into a brief light and vanished. As Baxter stepped onto the platform, Steak and Pat both unveiled, revealing themselves. They had bodies of matte steel and were very thin, vaguely skeletal in appearance. Their limbs were ball jointed, allowing for flexbility. Their single LED camera eye focused on their surroundings, gazing for apparent attacks in this moment of weakness. The platform lowered the three to the bridge of the Ferrum where they exit into the Ferrum. The platform rose to the top again, being covered in ash. The platform began to vibrate, the ash coating the platform with the appearance of undisturbed dust. Baxter’s Hind suit opened up, releasing the tiny dog inside.

“Goodbye, Steak and…” Baxter had forgotten the other’s name.

“Pat,” The Anform corrected.

“Goodbye, Steak and Pat!” Baxter finished. The Anforms dematerialized into orange light as they were stored in Gideon’s QSD, as well as Baxter’s Hind. Baxter did everything right. Apart from one thing.

They were followed.

A being in a black robe stood atop a bluff of grey caked dust. It towered at seven feet tall, long and slender, wrapped in billowing black robes. It’s left arm was visible as the sleeve of the black robe was torn just above the elbow. The arm was twisted and bent like it was broken and never set right. It ponderously made its way down the bluff like a specter; it had plenty of time. It saw the entrance to the Ferrum, it’s destination.

It sat and waited, content to survey from an ashen bluff up above.

Gideon, Shindow, and Baxter had no idea what was to come.

>>> The Book of Gideon: Debrief – 18

<<< The Book of Gideon: Sealed – 16

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