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Unknown Dusk Moon
Gideon was riding atop Steak and Pat who had transformed into a traveling hoverbike the Scabbard and were racing across the grey dead world. Baxter was keeping up in his MK A Hind Canine power armor. They headed toward the eastern mountain, where the sensors were leading them towards the Decima’s last signal. They had to hurry as there was no telling if the Empire of Dusk would find and deactivate the signal. If the Rumblers shuffled about, they’d lose it forever.
Gideon was having a blast riding the merged Anforms. They reached a top speed of eighty miles per hour, dodging ash bluffs, iron crystals, and outcroppings. They began to see the greater portion of the Rumbler’s peak appear on the horizon. While Gideon could go faster, he held back due to the nature of their marooning. If they were caught, he doubted there was little they could do.
“Baxter, we’re getting close,” Gideon said over the coms.
“This is great. Going fast is great,” Baxter replied with a huff.
He was just off to Gideon’s side, his Hind was tearing up the ash-dust, creating a cloud behind him.
“No activity on my end. I did finish processing the iron crystals and ash-dust properties,” Shindow updated.
“Anything odd?” Gideon asked.
“Yes, actually. I don’t know what this dust is. It is a pseudo-organic or was an organic material. The iron crystals are the same. It isn’t iron, but something else. It too was of a pseudo-organic nature. I’m going to run more tests.”
“Thanks, Shin. Just one more mystery,” Gideon murmured.
“Tell me about it!” Shindow responded as she got back to work.
Gideon gave thought to what Shindow said before about Adonai and the vision. He just couldn’t let it go. That Adonai left him to his own devices while blessing his brothers and sisters with so much. He felt he was smart enough to be self-aware of his weakness, but not enough to exceed expectations. Adonai had nothing to do with him before and now decided to call upon Gideon.
Rescue the boy?
Prevent the invasion?
Where would he even begin?
The realm has changed…
Gideon went over those words in his mind, tumbling them like dice to make sense of them.
His thoughts were interrupted by the sensor updates. They were getting close enough that being spotted was a possibility. Gideon halted the bike and hopped off, the bike then transformed back into the separate anforms Steak and Pat. Steak and Pat were armed with the Mars Marksman rifles and switched to veiled mode. Baxter was gently thumping his tail as he watched the group. Gideon’s hands were then filled with orange pixelated light, summoning a pulse rifle.
“Gideon, we are eight miles from the target, we will need to travel on foot to decrease the chances of being caught,” Steak explained.
“We can share our veiling module due to your Excertius addon. Please accept,” Pat added.
You are invited to borrow Steak’s Excertius Veiling.
Gideon accepted without hesitation. The combat armor was fitted to allowing for veiling but did not have it by default. He was lucky to have gotten one due to Baxter’s thievery. It also covered him head to toe in armored plating, with a closed visor; Any open skin would not be veiled.
He activated cloak and could see himself become transparent, but not enough to be completely invisible from his point of view. Taking away the ability to see one’s hands and feet would lower one’s effectiveness. It created a one-way mirror effect.
“Steak. Your readouts are more sensitive than mine. Lead the way,” Gideon ordered.
“Acknowledged,” Steak responded.
“Shadowing rear,” Pat chimed in.
Baxter activated his dynamic mantilla, becoming colored and textured like the ash-dust. He could lie down and look like grey ash. If Gideon wasn’t here, he might’ve and taken a small snooze. Four hours would suffice. They began making their final approach to the eastern Rumbler.
They traveled in a line, imperceptible to the naked eye. One would see a dust billow and think it the wind. They made sure to check sensors for any sort of surveillance.
“Shindow, I’ve had some thoughts. Why did the Decima’s Tachodine drives fail? They were brand new,” Gideon’s footsteps made perfect cast impressions in the fine ash-dust.
“I had a theory. The IIT drive’s power consumption was much greater than anticipated; the drives burnt out after use. After all, we’re not even close to Lo IX, but an Empire of Dusk moon. We might have been set off course and simply burned out the drives on re-entry; millions of lightyears away overshooting our target coordinates.”
“And we’re now possibly knee deep inside their territory, hence the defense satellites and those Rumblers. The purpose of the Rumblers fails me, though.”
“They are supposed to stomp things!” Baxter interrupted. He had hopped over a pit filled with the iron crystals
“Gideon, may I ask what else was in your Vision. The fact that the bad IIT test and visions happened together was no coincidence,” Shindow asked again, hoping the drive and walk clearing out the tension.
“Shin, I’m sorry about earlier. God is a tough topic for me. I know you do your best and He is an interest, but not for me,” Gideon began as he let out a sigh, breathing into his helm as the ash grey wasteland spawled out in front of him.
“With that being said, He first spoke of His image being based on expectations; where apparently I had none. He also spoke of the Seal of the Tetragrammaton, His Seal. That I would have authority to enter his domains, use his servants and artifacts, and gain his power. Hence the scar on my right hand. I don’t know that language either.”
“When we get back, maybe we can figure it out,” Shindow added.
“You mean you don’t know?” Gideon asked snidely.
“Uh, you’re speaking to a satellite and now co-pilot AI. A Historical AI is about five miles down,” Shindow shot back.
“Good to know, I’ll just replace you with him,” Gideon replied with a smiling scoff.
Shindow giggled over the comms. Good humor kept things upbeat in a supposedly hopeless situation.
“He also said I was the ninth to receive the Seal, He also stated I will meet the first and the twelfth, meaning there are at least twelve others in our galaxy that might have it. I was also close to the tenth seal holder. I don’t know if the twelfth has a seal yet,” Gideon finished. He surveyed the path ahead, a large ravine. They would need to take care and go around.
“Were there other visions?” Shindow asked.
“Yes, The first was me witnessing some sort of sacrifice to strange alien beings. Demons? I don’t know. The boy was bargaining with a third party to get rescued, but it seemed just as bad. I met a strange creature at the end, the being the boy was talking to. I saw it again during our flight…” Gideon explained.
“What did it look like?” Shindow followed up.
“It was two eyes and a mouth. The size of galaxies it felt like; it was horrifying. The second time, during the IIT flight, it was small and… It licked me,” Gideon explained, remembering the odd details.
Shindow giggled at that.
“That flight was strange, I could hear you, but couldn’t speak. Like I was frozen but aware. I didn’t see anything,” Shindow replied.
“How did you get the brand? The Seal of the Tetragrammaton?” Shindow asked.
“Adonai squeezed my hand, it felt like it was being burned and crushed,” Gideon responded with a wince.
He stepped over a crystalline structure, following Steak’s path. Baxter and Pat were right behind him. They began crossing over an ash-dust ravine, making their way to the other side.
“I was thinking a hot iron poker, so that doesn’t sound so bad,” Shindow chided.
“It felt like it, just for a second. I can show you what it felt like right now,” Gideon shot back with dry humor.
Reboot Shindow? Yes
“Wa-” Shindow tried to interject as she was rebooted.
A percent of a second later, Gideon was updated.
Reboot complete Running Shindow
-it, a minute, I’m running a… Process…” Shindow finally got out, not realizing she was rebooted until just now. She sounded dejected.
“I’ll be sure to forget how to open the doors when you get back!” Shindow said with a huff and cut communication.
Gideon chuckled to himself. He figured out a quick process to reboot Shindow after she crashed. Might come in handy against those hacking attacks next time. If she gets targeted, reboot and the hacking module will need to rediscover her as her connected process ID would change. If she was compromised, she might not be able to reboot herself and prevent damage.
“Captain Gideon, we are within three miles of the signal. It appears to be inside that Rumbler,” Steak announced.
Gideon glanced as he rounded a wall of ash-dust up to a hill, spotting the Rumbler and its closest leg. It resembled a slightly curved solid steel skyscraper. It eclipsed the overcast sky with its presence.
“Well. Shit,” Gideon breathed into the coms.
He squinted at the titanic structure. Seeing it up close made his stomach drop.
“I agree, sir. There appears to be no visible entry to this structure,” Steak concurred with Gideon’s brief sentiment.
“Our scouting mission is successful. Shall we tag the target for a later return?” Pat added.
“I can’t see any other way at the moment. We at least found the Decima within a mile. Tag it and let’s go home. It might shuffle around, knowing these Rumblers,” Gideon ordered as he remembered the one that barreled down on them.
He began the trek down the hillside bluff back towards the ravine. Pat changed ammo on the Marksman rifle to that of a tracking diode. It would attach to most surfaces and give a signal read out of the object it was tagged to. In this case, the Rumbler. Pat casually aimed and fired, a soft ‘tuff’ was all the feedback they heard.
“Tracker attached,” Pat confirmed.
Gideon’s readout was updated by the massive structure. Baxter was waiting down in the ravine, wagging his metal tail.
He asked a question no one wanted to hear.
“Why is the Rumbler glowing?”
Gideon turned to see a red laser light travel across the outer hull of the Rumbler. It was the size of a small vehicle. His eyes went wide as saucers at seeing the new activity.
“Gideon. We must hide, now,” Pat instructed.
Gideon, Pat, and Steak run down the hill into the ravine with Baxter, leaving line of site of sight of the Rumbler. The red light traveled along to the tracking diode. Gideon quickly summoned a Stealthed Gnat to survey. The camera feed felt like a third eye. He zoomed in to see the red light travel under the diode suddenly go dark, the steel hull cooled back to normal. Gideon then noticed three claw-like fingers ascending from the steel hull like water around the diode. They grasped at the diode all at once and pulled it from the hull, where they then proceeded to crush the diode to bits.
“Oh,” Gideon said simply.
A red light began to form and grow along the Rumbler. It reached the peak and became the size of a vessel. Seven more of these laser lights formed along the hull, scanning the terrain like spotlights. The beam of red from the lights focused near their position.
“Oh, Shit,” Gideon announced to the team that they’ve been spotted.
“Quietly, Gideon. We must move,” Steak said.
“Keep low and tight, follow quickly,” Pat added.
They began a soft sprint away from the Rumbler, keeping sure to hug the ravine wall as the red light passed over them. They heard another noise. A strobing screech.
“Gideon, satellites are overhead. Sensors indicate four of them. We will be spotted within thirty seconds,” Steak announced. His surveillance mode must be pretty strong to guess the details of that.
“Entering vehicular mode,” Pat announced.
“Wait, we’ll be discovered!” Gideon exclaims.
“Judging by the light, it is already too late. We must flee quickly now,” Pat explained.
Steak and Pat form up and begin glowing in blue light, rebuilding themselves into the Scabbard in which Gideon reluctantly hopped aboard, stowing his rifle away in orange pixelated light. While he was Captain, Excertius had centuries of military knowledge that he must trust and acknowledge. Baxter followed closely behind as they sped away. In the rearview, four of the Dusk combat satellites appeared. They were trying to surround the group before they took flight. If Gideon hesitated any longer, they would have been hemmed in. The satellites gave chase, not only keeping pace but catching up.
One of the satellites tried to speed by Gideon’s left to hem him in. It was rushing across the ground sideways just above the ash dust. Gideon glanced, seeing the angry visor staring at him. A blue glowing of energy was charging on one of the cannons; the energy coiling from before.
His stomach dropped.
“Firing,” Steak announced.
The left-wing swiveled to meet the curved red visor staring at them. twelve missiles fired in a clapping wave at the Dusk satellite. Each missile took different routes and patterns. Some went in straight, others curved off, while others went completely wild, veering off target. The wild missiles would flank. The Dusk satellite suddenly stopped dead to deal with the missiles, being left behind. One of its other cannons fired, shooting a blue blinding laser that cut the first four missiles down. Another cannon swiveled to life and began firing more blue laser beams, cutting down the other four flanking missiles. It did a quick scan, ensuring the last four missiles were misfires. It turned to chase again, being passed by the three other pursuing satellites. Its mistake was keeping it’s guard down as the four flanking missiles rush in from different directions. The smart missiles hid inside the ravines, waiting for its guard to drop. The satellite reacted and cut down two more, only to get struck by the last two missiles, the molten core of the first explosive package tore into the hull, then the second ordnance exploded inward, sealing the deal. The Dusk satellite had two massive cannon blasts to the hull with exit wounds to match. The satellite spiraled to the ground, leaving a smoking ruin.
Gideon let out a small gesture of triumph. Their first Dusk kill. He had mental updates of the missiles and tracked the last four.
“Target one of four down,” Pat updates. The satellites were speeding by in a flank, attempting to block escape. The missile pod on the Scabbard shines with blue light as it was reloaded.
“Targets on all sides. They are charging weapons,” Steak announced. Gideon took a risk and willed a weapon from his inventory.
“Pat, Steak, get the flankers and keep us stable, I’ll get the rear,” Gideon said; he was determined to not lose this time.
He let go of the steering, letting Pat take over and summoned a large object in pixelated orange light.
A Neutron Rifle.
The massive rifle was six feet long, with segmented steel plating. The pneumatic barrel was blocky as well as the scope. Gideon linked up with the scope and turned to aim, shooting like an ancient calvary warrior. It took all four processes to get a good shot. The rush of twenty-four missiles firing at once filled the sky with the screeches of ballistics. The weapon of the satellite Gideon was targeting began to glow blue. The blue glow flashed as the weapon began firing.
Gideon pulled the trigger.
The neutron rifle was an experimental device that attempted to focus the energy of a tachodine nacelle into a weapon. It released the stored neutron star energy all at once, the resulting blast was a supernova intensity.
A violet beam of light left the barrel, Gideon’s visor turned black to protect his vision. The din of the sound was akin to one long roaring explosion. The spear of light pierced through the Dusk satellite, instantly liquefying it to slag. The beam traveled long into the distant horizon.
Into the Rumbler.
The sky lit up in a white detonation, appearing as a massive violet sun on the horizon. Gideon’s teeth and bones rattled as the detonation scattered up ash-dust in a giant dust storm, obscuring the view. The noise finally caught up, his helmet silenced the deafening noise as it shattered the silence with a thundering boom. The wave of dust kicked up in a wide torrent towards the group. Gideon felt the pressure of the sun, knowing if he had any bare flesh, he might be burned from here. Gideon dropped of the rifle, his suit warning him of the rifle overheating The Scabbard kept racing on, the missile pods reloading in blue light.
The other satellites saw the destruction but continued firing laser beams at the oncoming missiles. It appeared they communicated and learned with one another as they waited after the diversion missiles were finished to shoot at the kill missiles. Both payloads were easily stopped, Steak and Pat changed weapon wings to pulse cannons in bright blue pixelated light. They fired sixteen-millimeter rounds in thirty-six bursts, sixty thousand rounds per minute. Their sleek barrels swivel to meet both satellites that have turned to engage Gideon. One of the satellites fired from behind a hill of ash, the blue lasers flashed passed the vehicle, scoring into the ashy terrain. Pulse rifle rounds streaked the sky and peppered the satellite’s rear. Black smoke billowed behind it as it turned too late to engage, dropping from the sky.
“Baxter you genius!” Gideon praises over the coms.
“Baxter is the best doggy!” Was all he said with a bark, the screech crack chattering of fire continued into the satellite.
Baxter’s dynamic mantilla kept him safe from scanners, where he took the opportunity to flank and protect Gideon. He had his bright moments. The right wing fired it’s burst, sounding like screeching thunder bees. The satellite fired a beam in return, with both vessels striking each other. Gideon was sent flying as the engine of the Scabbard was struck, sending the vehicle vaulting.
Warning: crash detected Deploying body airbag
Gideon’s QSD updated him to the obvious as he sailed through the sky, his vision was suddenly surrounded by white fabric. A balloon sphere filled with air enveloped him the microsecond the crash was detected. Gideon felt like he was in a bed as he tumbled through the sky, making contact with the ash-dust and rolling around in the sphere of plastics, cloth, and air. As soon as it touched down it began to deflate.
The final Dusk satellite flew a slow death spiral, being peppered with dozens of rounds through the visor, strafing up its side.
Gideon struggled to get out of the now deflated sphere, only realizing too late he could simply store it. The flattened air sphere broke up into orange pixelated and stored into his junk inventory. He summoned a Pulse rifle from inventory and surveyed the area, making sure it was clear to check on Steak and Pat. He rushed over to see the wreckage, the backend of the vehicle was cut through. A wing was missing and the nose was bent.
“Steak! Pat! Are you alright?” Gideon shouted as he rushed over to the wreckage of them.
“Affirmative. Damage sustained to nose and engine. Reforming,” Steak updated Gideon as the Scabbard broke up in blue pixelated and was stored; Steak and Pat returned to their base skeletal forms.
“The vehicle is inoperable until repairs can be made,” Pat announced it’s eye swiveled to meet Gideon. Baxter rushed at the group from the horizon, the ash cloud kicking up and meeting the large billow in the sky from the neutron rifle.
“Jesus Christ that was a good gun,” Gideon mused. His stomach dropped as he realized the Decima was on the Rumbler he hit.
“Confirmed. That was the rifle’s third test. Captain Gideon, It is fortunate it only melted.” Steak informed.
Suddenly, Gideon no longer liked that gun.
“We must make haste. If the Rumbler is still active, the cloud will prevent discovery,” Pat said.
Baxter arrived with a halt and sat in the ash-dust.
“That was a good fight. I am hungry now, let us go home,” Baxter chuffed over the coms.
The hind distorted his voice, lowering the pitch and giving him a rumbling bass, which was ridiculous combined with his speech patterns and mannerisms. The wind started to pick up, the curtain of ash began to drift away.
“We need to get out of here!” Gideon shouted.
The peak of the Rumbler was more visible now. Gideon’s visor zoomed in, viewing a massive gaping hole in the top of the Rumbler where the neutron round detonated. The metal was beginning to reform, healing and reknitting like living tissue.
“You guys seeing this?” Gideon said as he shared his vision with the others.
“Fascinating,” Steak responded.
“That is a new technology,” Pat stated.
“We need to move, now!” Gideon exclaimed.
He realized he was now the slowest man on the team as he began sprinting away back to base. Gideon felt the tremor of earth and ash. The Rumbler was active now. A distant a series of explosions thundered off near the Rumbler. A crashing sound similar to an asteroid impact knocked Gideon to his knees, his bones rattling from the impact. Baxter was knocked off balance as well, which was a difficult task to pull off against the Hind power armor. The Anforms folded back on to their feet, peering at the now clear horizon. The Rumbler was reared on its hind legs, slamming the front down onto something.
“Is it fighting something?” Gideon asked, viewing the Rumbler’s battle with awe.
What the hell could fight such a thing?
Seeing a massive structure able to move so easily for its size was breathtaking. Gideon felt the same way one would view a red giant absorbing a nearby system; with horrified curiosity. Gideon braced for impact as the massive legs shot down in a volley, it’s now twenty-four red eyes peering at the ground. An ash cloud wall sped towards them from the massive impact, then the thundercrack boom of the legs striking the ground at near subsonic speeds. The twenty-four eyes lasers fired into the ground beneath it, the bluffs and ravines blocked his sight on what the Rumbler was firing at. The group could see no more as the ash-dust being shaken loose from the impacts, a large cloud formed, blocking line of sight of the battle. The wave of ash dust swept up upon them, blinding them save for a few feet in front of their faces.
“This is good fortune, it will no longer focus on us,” Steak deduced.
“Except whoever is the victor may pursue us still,” Pat added.
“Let’s make our way back, I doubt we have any more tail they can track at this point,” Gideon ordered.
“And then we get steak! Not you, Steak, but the other steak. Steak!” Baxter let out a bark.
Steak simply stared impassively at Baxter.
“This dust is interfering with the scanners and maps. We need to get out of this cloud before making our way back to the Ferrum,” Gideon added.
They needed to make sure they weren’t heading towards the fighting Rumbler. An earth-shattering noise broke their thoughts but also alerted them in the direction to not go towards. They trudged away from noise, getting a distance between them and the battling Rumbler.
And whatever it was fighting.
“Shindow, come in,” Gideon attempted to contact the Ferrum.
“……In… Clear…” Shindow tried to respond.
“Dust must interfere with comms… We need to get out of this cloud,” Gideon muttered as he sent a tiny code strobe to Shindow, hoping she’ll see that they’re OK, but stranded.
He was thinking about the events of the past few days, the flight going south. What was that thing that licked him? Another type of extraterrestrial? Everything went off the grid the second he punched the IIT drive. Once he got the Decima back, he’d pry it out those systems.
If they did.
Can’t think that. Otherwise, I might as well let Dusk take me.
“This would be the most probable way,” Pat stated.
“Lead the way,” Gideon said with a sigh.
This was too easy…
They all activated their veiling and mantilla. This was going to be a long day.