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Unknown Dusk Moon
Gideon and the group were quickly making their way back to the Ferrum. The scouting mission went to hell, but they only lost the Scabbard, and even then repairs were possible.
The Decima had been found residing inside the East Rumbler. The Empire of Dusk was also antagonized by another unknown party, which saved Gideon and his squad. They also scored their first four kills against them while losing the Scabbard. Automated or not, it was a good trade.
“Were there other humans marooned on this planet?” Gideon asked.
He was soaked through with sweat from the last battle, his internals were working overtime scrubbing it. His eyes were foggy and heavy with fatigue, the adrenaline dump had ceased.
“There is a possibility. Or was. You said the Rumbler was engaged with another target,” Shindow responded.
They had finally left the ash cloud enough for contact with the Ferrum. They were off course, but not by much.
“I am tired,” Baxter announced. He was ignored.
“The worst part was we saw the Rumbler repairing itself from the neutron rifle round. We also lost the neutron rifle,” Gideon explained with a sigh and furrowed brow.
“Melted,” Gideon said simply.
“I am also hungry,” Baxter added. That too was ignored.
“Well it’s good it only melted. I saw the first two tests. It was pretty bad. How Baxter got this experimental gun, I’ll never know.” Shindow added.
Gideon cringed at that. He felt very lucky.
“Also, the Rumbler is still fighting. We can feel the tremors still,” Gideon further added.
“Well then let’s just get you all back to base. No more stops, just head back here. See you soon.”
Shindow cut coms. Gideon was a little nervous how she’d get back at him for rebooting her during an important running process, forcing her to start over.
“Captain, We have picked up strange signs. It is a structure, nearby,” Steak alerted Gideon.
“Sonar density was different compared to the ash-dust, we believe it to be made of stone,” Pat finished.
“The structure was undetectable due to the ash interference, our sonar can only travel several feet beneath the surface, but it must now be partially visible,” Steak added.
Gideon was starting to feel the effects of the fight as the adrenaline dump, the exhaustion was starting to set in. Baxter was dragging his feet and tail now.
“We’ll need someplace to stay and rest, that fight took it out of me,” Gideon explained.
“Understood, we shall lead,” Steak affirmed as he activated veiled mode.
They made their way down a hill of ash-dust, the top of an ancient shrine peeking out from the base of a bluff, the ash-dust had been shaken loose, revealing the green marble pillars and the dark ominous passage, the height of which was around sixteen feet tall. The green marble had signs of designs but it was all alien to Gideon and the group. The stone was ancient, yet still looked no worse for ware. They cautiously made their way down the ascended slope to the shrine. The group stopped at the entrance, dwarfed by the size.
“There appear to be tight corners and hallways. Switching to close quarters mode,” Steak announced. Pat followed suit.
They both emitted blue white light around themselves. The light grew as they had a sudden increase in mass, becoming a massive bulk of flat edged metal armor, equipping their Anform Detritrius MK VIII power armor. It was fitted together with segmented plating, the head looked was an angled flat edge, with a blue curved visor eye. The height was well above six feet, with massive legs and core for support. Steak and Pat looked the same, apart from their gear loadout. Steak had dual Tempest cannons, the seven-barrel railgun was intimidating, to say the least. He also had two more sets of arms wielding energy shields. He had a further set of pulse rifle shoulder mounts. Pat resembled a mobile bunker, wielding two great tower shields that fit close together and were energized for added protection. it had two shoulder mounted pulse gauges that peeked just above the shields. Pat’s fourth sets of arms were strangely out of place. The arms held two smaller canes that had blue spheres atop them. Pat turned to address Gideon.
“Captain Gideon, we have no idea what we will find in there, requesting that you equip your MK V riot power armor.”
“Agreed, can’t have us being ambushed with me being a liability,” Gideon affirmed.
He was surrounded by orange pixelated light, using Abigail’s QSD module app, equipping his own power armor suit. While not as bulky or as sleek, it would work well in protecting against the unknown. He was armed with a riot shield and pulse rifle. He had an unextended riot pike set to his hip.
“Baxter, you should equip for close quarters,” Steak added.
“Yes, I had the same idea too thank you Steak,” Baxter chuffed as he squished his sentence together.
He was tired. Blue pixelated light surrounded Baxter as he changed to pulse scattergun shoulder mounts and a twin pulse flechette rifle back mount. Baxter let out a yawn.
“I shall take point,” Pat announced.
“Captain, I should support center. Captain Gideon should be with me and Baxter should watch rear,” Steak suggested.
Gideon wasn’t going to question someone with several centuries worth of military knowledge. He said a brief thank you for Baxter stealing them.
“Pat, what are those small steel pipes?” Gideon asked, gesturing towards the second set of arms that had the steel canes.
“These are support canes, capable of using many support modules,” Was all Pat said.
“I only ask if I say to do something, that it be done without hesitation. These canes can emit repair nanites, among other things.” Patt continued.
“And what else?” Gideon followed up.
“The most basic is shielding where it is needed most, allowing for bulwark defense,” Pat explained.
“But timing is everything, so when I ask you to do something illogical, assume it is logical.” Pat finished.
Pat began to trundle forward, the plates of armor jingling against one another. Steak followed suit, as did Gideon then Baxter. It sounded like a chaotic jingling procession. They made their way through the pile of ash-dust blocking the entrance, unsteadily making their way inside as the loose ash-dust and marble floor didn’t interact well together. The sound of clicking lights added to the wind’s whistling against the entrance. The lights illuminated the front entrance, which branched into three paths. There in front of them was a stone sign, made of green marble. Gideon brushed away at the caked on dust to find a language he didn’t know, there were angelic images carved into it as well.
“Shindow, this is Gideon. We’re exhausted and resting for the day, we found shelter in a newly discovered structure; some sort of green marble shrine. Sending images now.”
Transfer images to Shindow complete
“Gideon, this is big. I don’t understand the language. This could be our first interaction with the Empire of Dusk’s culture. The question is why is it abandoned? Why is it not maintained?” Shindow said excitedly, despite her previous demands of getting back to base.
“Also, the green marble, why is that familiar?” Shindow pondered.
“I know. Is it possible it was stolen? There was that shipping freighter full of it that vanished several years back,” Gideon theorized.
His father spent a while raging about that one. Pat, Steak, and Baxter were watching the three corridors, the light went on for quite a distance.
“Captain Gideon, this structure is massive,” Steak announced.
“We must not split up, or risk becoming lost,” Pat added.
“Believe me, there was never an idea to split up. With this marble, we might be closer to humanity than we imagined,” Gideon mused, his face scrunched in thought.
“Let’s hope it isn’t trapped,” Gideon added nervously.
A place this huge under the ash-dust, who knew what was inside. If this shrine or temple was occupied, the stay may be even longer than anticipated.
“Steak, Pat, Baxter, which path are you all thinking?” Gideon asked. It was a three-sided coin flip right now. He sadly got three different responses at the same time.
“Left,” Pat responded first.
“Right,” Steak replied.
“Center, for naps, ” Baxter finished last.
“Alright, why the different choices?” Gideon asked, tired of this grey moon.
“The left corridor is bare and a straight shot through, making defense easy while we explore. The right side has many rooms, places that are good for an ambush. The center descends downwards and my scans stop up to that point; exploration is not advisable,” Pat explained.
“The right passage has rooms for defense, once cleared. It is easily defendable for resting. The left side would only need a simple ambush for us to fail, such as a boulder or collapsing floor. The center has no obvious reasons for exploration, I have the same argument as Pat,” Steak countered.
“Center because it goes down and I am tired,” Baxter said with a thrilling argument.
Gideon noticed that Excertius was not as uniform as it once was. Maybe this was good?
“And this is all under the assumption that there are traps or creatures waiting to snack on me or Baxter. For all we know, it’s a dead temple, long abandoned by the Dusk or whatever people was here before,” Gideon argued.
“The assumption of danger is stronger than the assumption of safety, Captain Gideon,” Steak countered.
“We’ll let the Gnat’s decide. We may alert whatever is in here, yes, but we can scout ahead. I have four to use,” Gideon explained.
‘With stealth mode, they are difficult to detect. I agree with this,” Steak announced.
“As I,” Pat was also agreed.
“Go… Center,” Baxter chuffed. He was lying down. Half napping.
You have invited Steak, Pat and Baxter to view your Gnats
Steak has accepted
Pat has accepted
Baxter has rejected (timed out)
Gideon summoned his Gnats with a thought, the square faces sporting their vacant ASCII smiles. Baxter was snoozing in front of the center hallway. Gideon let him lie.
“Gnats, scout the hallways, two for the right,” Gideon orders.
“Hai! Ganbette!” The Gnats shouted as they rolled out, one for the left hall, two for the right, and one for the center. They all entered cloaking mode, becoming closer to a vapor.
Gideon mental feed is updated, the left hall goes long for a ways. He notices no obvious signs of danger waiting. Gideon’s concern was the time it would take to find shelter. Eventually, it split up into multiple paths, becoming a tangled labyrinth. Gideon was going to cross off the left path.
The right side was similar, except for the many small rooms dotting the twisting corridors. Rooms were unfurnished, which was disappointing. One could get good research done on artifacts such as that. He would wait on a decision for the right room, there could still be hidden things a Gnat couldn’t see.
The center room went down quite a ways inside the temple shrine. The marble stairs were long and shallow, like segmented slats placed on one another. Down the steps was an auditorium, the Gnat was in a top circle surrounding the seating area, which surrounded the center. It could seat several hundred. The Gnat traveled left around the outer circle, finding decent sized rooms. He could see the remnants of the plumbing. It was a good room to stay, easily defendable, and not a long distance. Due to the nature of the room, it was possible the room was a lavatory of some sort. He could set up defenses on either side of the entrance in the form of Steak and Pat, have the Gnat’s patrol and rest like a baby. Gideon checked his power.
Current QC: 120,000 of 200,000
He was grateful he looted the Decima and that Baxter swiped the armory. Conserving energy would last him several days if for some reason they were unable to return to the Ferrum. They could lay low, wait for the Dusk satellites to pass, then make a beeline for the vessel. Gideon dare not use a QSD uplink to the Ferrum on top of their normal communications and risk the uplink setting off alarms planetwide. QSD uplinks were where one could link two QSD devices together for sending items, energy, or information from one QSD to another. It lit up on the sensors, making stealth impossible. Gideon didn’t feel like being pancaked by every Rumbler known from here to the moon poles. The fight still bothered him, though. The Empire of Dusk sent only four satellites, the Rumbler itself was mostly inactive apart from surveillance until the fight with the unknown perpetrator. It felt like a very half-hearted defense. If it were him, the whole area would be swarming those Dusk satellites, hidden surveillance everywhere, Rumblers on random patrols to keep intruders off balance. He’d also use tiny drones for random surveillance to deal with his situation of finding shelter. All the security measures Dusk took was perfect up until they made planetside. It still felt like kids gloves for Gideon. Or were they really that incompetent? Was it all set to bare minimum automation and abandoned? Was there anyone on the planet besides his team? Was this the remnants of a dead planet; half automated machines made to guard a planet-wide tomb?
Gideon made his decision. The Gnats vanished.
“OK, we’ll go center, there is an old empty lavatory that we can bunker down in for the night. The left and right corridors are either too long or have too many options,” Gideon planned.
“And it is close to the exit of the shrine,” Steak added.
“It is a better alternative,” Pat finished.
“See… I am right… Center,” Baxter took credit he did not earn.
They all got up and marched down the stair ramp to the auditorium, Steak, and Pat in front, Gideon and Baxter rear. They made it to the empty lavatory without issue and began setting up. Gideon and Baxter set up their beds, a heating lamp in the center and basic food. Baxter had a quick bite and dozed immediately in his tiny cot, his Hind opened up and was sitting there in case he needed to hop in quickly. Gideon was the same, he had a quick bite, stored his riot power armor, and grabbed a cot. He drifted to sleep thinking about the other dreams.
Outside the shrine, a figure in black had been following. It stood outside the entrance, feeling the marble gingerly. The broken arm still hung crooked against its chest, bare against the wind with its robe trailing behind. The being had not stepped inside this shrine for a time and a time. There were footprint patterns in the dust, all congregating down to the central corridor.
It followed their steps.