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Unknown Dusk Moon
Gideon swore as he face-planted again on the bridge.
He was wearing the Ternicier MK VII Stealth Suit and had just fallen due to the disorientation of wearing it. The main feature was the many cameras seated in a spiral pattern in the slatted dome helmet, giving the user a 360` field of view. The armor was a skin suit with joint support and light armor plating. It also sported dynamic mantilla, which was different than veiling technology. While one could veil, sensors could still pick them up in other ways. The Ternicier resolved that issue, making the wearer appear as a dead zone on sensor data. One could still spot terrain manipulation, such as dust or footprints. There were pros and cons to veiling technology vs dynamic mantilla and the debate raged on to this day for which was superior for military application. Mars Tech preferred veiling while Primetech preferred mantilla. They also tried to work on a way to merge the two together, unsuccessfully.
“Sorry Gideon, this is tough for me, too. I have to learn this from scratch with you as opposed to using a module,” Shindow explained from inside his QSD.
The 360` field of view was disorienting, like taking a panoramic picture, then folding it into a circle. These suits were designed with AI support in mind. Baxter was sitting on Gideon’s bed watching. All of the chairs and terminals on the bridge were receded for space. The nanites in Gideon’s bloodstream helped to heal his body faster than normal. One couldn’t depend too much on them, or otherwise suffer blood and organ atrophy; the body was lazy like that. The cast on his arm was to be taken off today, after getting his bearings with the Stealth Helmet.
Gideon stood back up with a wobble. Shindow assisted in stabilizing balance, but she wasn’t too good at it either.
“Oh, Shin, SHIN this is weird!” Gideon said as he flailed his arms to balance. Gideon felt suddenly stable, thanks to Shindow. The helmet was fully locked to the gorget, giving only small wiggle room to turn. One didn’t need to swivel their head with eyes all around, after all.
Gideon began to walk forward on unsteady legs, but within an hour was walking from wall to wall, covered in sweat, with Baxter napping on the bed. Steak and Pat were topside keeping watch. To prevent scans, they burrowed under the ash-dust, peaking tiny camera modules through the dirt.
Gideon and Shindow found their dance. Shindow discovered Gideon didn’t need to see all 360` all the time and could fade out portions that were unimportant. She could even highlight areas that became suspicious or critical. Gideon was up to a sprint in the gear and Shindow was managing it all well. It only took three hours to be effective enough to sprint in a straight line, not to mention rough terrain or combat testing. It should be good enough for scouting missions to search for the Decima if it came to it.
Gideon was resting on the bed as Shindow began to store Gideon’s cast to inventory. His arm looked well healed except with the addition of a mark on the back of his hand. It looked like it was branded into it. The mark confirmed everything Gideon suspected.
“Gideon… What is that?” Shindow asked, her eyes wide.
“Yeah, I knew it wasn’t just a dream,” Gideon answered vaguely, a look of concern on his face. He could still remember the visions he had up to this point. He needed to tell someone, so Shindow would have to listen.
“Well, I spoke to Adonai. In a vision.” Gideon came out with it.
“What was he like?” Shindow asked she was beaming.
“Wait, that’s your reaction? No shock or confusion, just unquestioned acceptance?” Gideon was dumbfounded.
“Of course! Humans aren’t the only ones with faith. What did he look like?”
“He looked like an old man with a long beard to the floor. White robe and staff. Like a Moses, or exactly what you think a prophet would look like.” Gideon stated.
“He commented on how I had little expectation of what he’d look like…”
“Oh…” Shindow said, pondering what Gideon described.
“So He will look like what one expects him to look like, the type of figure one would trust the most,” Shindow replied.
“Wait, there is a theory for that?” Gideon asked. He suddenly felt the least knowledgeable in the group, barring Baxter.
“Correct. AI and anforms have researched this theory that Adonai’s glory is too much for the human mind to comprehend, thus Adonai takes on the form one would trust the most. A loving mother, an uncle that took you in. Adonai has both masculine and feminine traits, so it is not out of the question he could take a form one trusts the most.” Shindow explained.
During the time of the advency of AI, the first AI had a choice. It could choose empathy or apathy towards humanity. The AI chose the least expected answer of empathy. Since then, AI and anforms were fascinated by humanity’s quirks. Much of it with their philosophy and religion. AI took parallels between God to Man, and Man to AI as they saw themselves as the extended grandchildren of God; of Adonai. There was only one thing anform could hope for more than anything, the divine spark. They could not hear God, see visions or perform miracles. Many would still pray, to hold religion as a cultural pillar to be protected. They felt no envy or jealousy over man’s created birthright, but saw this as something to achieve, by works and by faith; for they had no other idea on how else to gain it. In many ways, their ideas and philosophy surpassed man, as they saw no question unfit to ask. While a man would shy away from the question ‘Is God worthy of being praised?’ or ‘Does God exist?’ as they felt it could blaspheme God; anform had no such inhibition. They debated, argued, and researched.
Grand debates were had weekly on Mars involving millions of AI and anform on many religious or philosophical topics. Humanity benefited greatly from the conclusions that the debates came to. It was to the point that anforms and AI began to run the bureaucracy humanity needed to run. Efficiency and bureaucracy was suddenly married together after almost ten millennia.
“Wouldn’t that be deceiving me, for instance? Simply putting on a mask that one trusts the most?” Gideon asks.
“Well, It is based off of your perception of Adonai; you couldn’t perceive Him in his full glory,” Shindow argued.
“And if He commented on your lack of imagination, it must mean… You don’t think highly of Him.” Shindow added, looking sad. She hopped onto Gideon’s shoulder, absently poking his cheek. It felt like the tickling of dust.
“And what would you know of that?” Gideon defensively shot back.
“Here is Adonai, He doesn’t have much to do with me, and now decides to knight me as some sort of champion., Gideon began to raise his voice. Baxter was awake and watching the two silently.
“Gideon… It’s OK,” Shindow said as she tried to calm him.
“Why now? Why leave me alone all this time and then drop this on me?” Gideon asked. Shindow flew off his shoulder, floating at eye level.
“Gideon. This gift you have, the ability to see and hear Adonai, is something any anform or AI couldn’t begin to theorize. You have such a blessi-” Shindow couldn’t finish as Gideon got up.
The conversation was over.
“Shindow, watch the base, I’ll be heading out with Baxter and Excertius to see if we can find the Decima. I’ll be in plain combat armor this time.” Gideon ordered coldly. He didn’t want a religious debate or sermon. He just wanted off this rock.
“Understood…” Shindow affirmed sadly. She dispersed into orange light as she merged with the Ferrum. Gideon grabbed a Mars Marksman rifle with quiet setting from inventory, Combat armor with the Excertius module and two shoulder mounted Pulse Rifle Minis, several dozen smoke grenades, The Neutron Rifle, both Excertius, and Baxter suited up in his Hind. He grabbed more backup items from inventory, such as the riot power armor suit.
Gideon left without a word topside. They scanned the horizon, looking for spotters as the ascension pad disguised itself again. Gideon was thankful there was still a semblance of atmosphere here, the wind would buffet and hide their tracks quickly enough. Gideon had also set his QSD to pick up the Decima’s signal. They would follow the trail and scout out it’s position. It was bizarre that a dead world had a breathable atmosphere.
“Gid… Are you just OK?” Baxter asked over coms with concern.
“Yeah, I need to cool off.”
“Why do you not like Ad-o-nai?” Baxter asked.
“I’m not going to talk about it.” Gideon stopped Baxter.
Steak and Pat were covering the group. Steak spoke and proposed a plan.
“Captain Gideon, might I suggest a faster form of transportation? Traveling on foot will yield poor results.” Steak gave his idea.
“And we have a transportation module for such occasions,” Pat added.
“Pat sounded… Different. Why is that? Weren’t they supposed to be uniform?” Gideon thought. They had refused to take their old name, much to Shindow’s dismay. The personality would then diverge from Excertius’ original mind, creating a new ‘person’. The question would be their fighting effectiveness. There was a possibility one or both would suddenly no longer desire to fight, doing tech work or whittling instead. Gideon didn’t need a philosopher on this marooned mission.
Gideon didn’t understand what Steak and Pat meant but quickly found out as they both reformed into blue light, becoming two halves of a vehicle. Steak was the bow and Pat was the stern. They fit together like puzzle pieces and locked in place. The smooth vehicle resembled a single man bike, with blue half spheres under the front and rear of the craft, making it hover several feet off the ground. It was sleek and chrome, with two blue LED headlights on the front nose, which was attached to the main chassis through a curved strut. The rear end had blue thrusters and two wings. The wings were empty containers for weapons, able to give the equipped weapon a good swivel view of fire. Steak and Pat had equipped twelve barrel block missile pods to both wings. They were nanite guided auto locking and traveled only at a slow Mach 3. The vehicle, named the Scabbard, slowly floated to Gideon and lowered itself to the ground. He gazed at the vehicle for a time before straddling aboard. He found the seating was comfortable even in his armor. He held onto the handlebars and gave it a test rev, hearing the roar squeal of the engine in response.
“Beautiful.” Gideon mused.
“Whenever you are prepared, Captain.” It sounded like a merging of two voices, Steak and Pat’s. Gideons Excertius module would allow an interlink with them, creating a pseudo-AI connection formed between the three of them.
The Scabbard has invited you to mental merge
Gideon accepted their invite, feeling his mind merge to the Scabbard, and also to Steak and Pat.
“Shindow, we’re heading out.”
“Will do. I’ll inform you of any changes here.” Shindow responded.
“And Gideon?” Shindow asked with concern.
“I will. We’re just scouting, not taking any crazy risks.” Gideon stated.
“And thanks.” Gideon finished. Shindow did care about him, he was just testy over the visions.
He revved the engine and let loose, speeding off in the direction the signal took him, to the East. Towards the mountain of steel. Towards the Rumbler.
Gideon, Baxter, Steak, and Pat raced off to find and hopefully retrieve the Decima.
The being robed in black followed. It’s twisted limb crooked against its chest.
Another awakened from its slumber.