The Book of Soltana: Sparring – 10

Decima, Enroute to Lo IX

Gideon

 

He slammed the floor with impact, a pained grunt escaped his lips as the wind was knocked out of him.

He rolled to his side, trying to recover as the larger angel knelt down, leaning upon her padded staff.

“You did better this time.” She encouraged.

“But still knocked on my ass in the end, eh, Deborah?” Gideon shot back as he gripped her larger hand to get back on his feet.

He could see little of her facial expression apart from her perfect alabaster smile. Deborah still wore her Watcher robes and wimple, even for the sparring match. How she could see was still a mystery to him. Every cycle of hours they would fight, with Gideon gaining more knowledge and wounds in equal measure. It was the price of martial prowess. He gently massaged his wrist, which had taken a light blow before she had grappled and tossed him away. A light blow for an angel was apparently just shy of breaking bone.

“Up! Again.” Deborah ordered with a grin as she reached through a portal, grabbing Gideon’s downed staff and tossing it back to him.

The staves were made of a light metal alloy padded with a foamy plasticine compound.

“Why do we need these again? I’m more of a pulse rifle kind of guy,” Gideon complained idly as he took his long forward stance.

Deborah was suddenly in front of Gideon, her toes just shy of touching his. He didn’t register the movement as she tapped his nose.

“What do you do now?” Deborah chided.

Gideon pushed out with his staff on the days of instinct and pain drilled into him, clacking into Deborah’s. She allowed herself to be pushed back on her heels before recovering.

“Good instinct! Do you understand? Attack!” Deborah began as she crouched down and tested with a slow jab. The air cracked as Gideon deflected the easy blow. Easy and slow were leagues of a difference than humanities as Gideon felt the blow through his core.

“You mean what I would do if someone gets in close?” Gideon asked pushing forward with a downward strike, then flowing to an upward strike. Deborah blocked both blows, staying firm in her horse stance. He finished off his four pointed strikes with a left and right blow.

“Not only that but what do you do when the enemy is faster?” Deborah added as she rushed off to Gideon’s side. He reacted with a wide batter’s swing, throwing out his training. The staff connected with hers, but it was a wooden strike to her stone foundation, send him stumbling back.

“Defend!” Deborah ordered as she swung with a downward blow.

Gideon recovered, catching the blow with his full core, the strike sent nerve shock throughout his hands and into his wrists.

Another low strike pushed him back, breaking his stance.

“You telegraph your hesitancy,” Deborah stated as she struck Gideon’s left.

Gideon felt the final strike pushed his hands beyond the limit, causing him to drop the staff.

“Dammit!” Gideon grunted as he felt at his shaking hands. He couldn’t feel anything apart from the numb shocked pain akin to sticking his hand outside of the Decima.

He stuck his hands under his armpits, willing the pain away.

Deborah dropped her staff, signaling they were done. They had cleared out the beryllite storage room, making for training.

Baxter, Steak, Patricia, Shindow, and Prosine were off to the side, watching intently.

“Also, that trick of tossing your weapon and storing it will only work once, if at all,” Deborah commented as she went off to the sideline with the others.

Gideon followed flapping his stung hands to get the blood flowing again.

“I don’t understand the training. If the opponent is faster, I’m dead anyway-”

“There is no death,” Deborah corrected.

“-Done for anyways.” Gideon amended.

“All of your training was against human targets or those considered slightly better than human.”

“If we fight a lesser demon, they will be faster. Stronger than anything ancient mankind could come close to.”

“How do you know so much of ancient humanity.”

“I had a tutor, of course!” Deborah replied with a wide smile, pointing to the floating blue transparent steel eye.

“She was most attentive.” Prosine complimented with a dip of his projection.

“I had taught her most of what I remembered,” He added.

“Good Father, we shall go next.” Steak began.

“It has been some time since we tested our abilities,” Patricia added.

“Oh! We get to see Excertius fight. This is great!” Shindow replied as she floated over and laid atop Prosine, her tiny feet kicking back.

The two anforms had kept their skeletal chassis as their upgrades were still ongoing.

Gideon looked on, curious what would occur.

Both Excertius stood apart and faced one another. They simply stared at one another for a time, still as stone.

Prosine floated in with Shindow atop glancing back from Steak to Pat. The anforms stared on at one another, awaiting some sort of signal.

Prosine flashed red, emitting a horn buzz and sending Shindow tumbling from her perch in a spook.

Steak and Pat’s hands were suddenly filled with blue pixelated light as they began materializing weapons. The laser pistols formed in their hands and they began to move. Patricia began falling back while Steak strafed to his left.

Both fired at once, the electric squeal of the pistols caused Gideon to jump back.

They both froze, with both green lasers hanging in the air. Steak had struck dead center on Patricia’s eye, with Pat missing him in the shoulder by a hairsbreadth. Both had froze, allowing everyone to see the results.

“So this is Excertius sparring?” Shindow asked, moving in close to inspect the hit on Pat.

“Correct, it is a test of materialization speed, accuracy, and agility,” Prosine explained.

“Is Pat just OK?” Baxter asked with a whine.

“The sparring pistols are harmless but will cause Excertius to freeze when struck,” Prosine explained, floating in close to Baxter.

Steak and Pat began to move again, storing their pistols and returning to positions.

“Good Steak, that was a terrific hit,” Patricia complimented.

“Good Patricia, Thank you.”

And so Gideon watched in fascination as Excertius dueled itself. Or Steak and Pat dueled one another; it was hard to keep things straight. The duels escalated in ridiculousness as Pat summoned a defensive barrier instead of outright attacking. She gained the upper hand and won the round. It became a blur of training as each victory quickly began the next duel, with Steak rushing in to quickly tag her from behind cover. In the later bouts, Gideon lost all sense of sanity seeing the mind games between them as they would twitch, bob and feint, with one instance of Steak spraying a silhouette around Patricia before she ended the match with a hip shot. Before long, sixty bouts had come and come, with Steak slightly edging out Pat by a percent.

“Ah, the diverging has had some effect,” Prosine explained.

“How so? A single percentage seems to be alright,” Gideon replied idly running his fingers through his hair.

“Usually the split is within point zero one percent. A single percentage is a large comparison, enough to have warranted maintenance for the losing Excertius.”

Both Excertius looked to the machine father with impassive looks. It made Gideon wonder if they felt jealousy.

“But that was in the ancient past. Patricia’s specialization as a shipwright leaves her combat specialty expended in comparison to Steak. Overall these are good tests.”

“I want to play!” Baxter barked, scampering around the training grounds, his tap clacking adding to his excited barking.

“How can Baxter train? We don’t have really good opponents…” Gideon began, chuckling at the high energy dog.

“A simple dummy will suffice for experimentation,” Prosine began.

Blue pixelated light materialized a stuff punching bag attached to a triplicate of chains. A few moments of Pat welding a hook and Baxter was ready to agress the target.

“Baxter, you may now practice,” Prosine began.

“Practice is boring I want to play, Properstop!” Baxter whine with a chuff.

“It is Prosine. Verywell. Go play with the bag.”

“This is great!” Baxter barked as he took a low stance.

He began growling at the dummy, hackles raising as he began to agress.

Which meant growling, scampering, and barking at the heavy bag. He barked at the heavy bag only to scamper away with a whine as the bag gently swung. Gideon stifled a laugh at the ridiculous dog, only to bite down on it as Baxter feinted and charged, leaping into the air and head butting the dummy.

The heavy punching bag burst in half from the force, showering the area with foamy scraps.

Everyone was silent as Baxter rummaged through the scraps, tearing and shaking the bits. The upper half of the bag swung as a sad emptied pillowcase.

“Fascinating,” Prosine said as he broke the shocked silence.

Gideon gingerly walked to the suddenly terrifying dog.

“Baxter, how did you do that?” Gideon asked with an edge of caution.

The dog stopped ripping at the foam to stare back at Gideon. Much of it was stuck to him as he spoke.

“I wanted to be very heavy and hit really hard. So I did!”

“Is this to do with Saddiffer?”

“Yes,” Baxter answered with dog-like clarity.

Shindow floated over to Baxter, landing side saddle on his nose.

“Baxter, does he speak to you?”

“Not with speaky words… I feel what he knows and so I can do it!” Baxter replied, clear as nebulas gas.

“What do you mean do it?” Shindow replied, palming at her face.

“Uh. Yes. Hold please.” Baxter began as he tried to think.

Baxter stared ahead as if he was thinking.

“Hello?” Gideon replied, breaking the long awkward silence.

“Uh yes. Saddiffer can speak and is a good boy. He has things he can do and because I made him sign my paper thingy I can do those things too!”

Everyone glanced to Gideon, who suddenly felt the center of attention.

“What?” He asked with a shrug, feigning confusion.

He knew.

“The dog has abilities that he is not ready for,” Deborah began her lecture.

“Well, we’re alive because of him!” Gideon shot back. He wasn’t getting into this again.

“Gideon, Baxter could snap you in half by leaning on you now,” Shindow replied, floating over to Gideon’s shoulder.

“No I would never hurt Gideon, nope nope nope!” Baxter began as he sat down in the foamy ruins.

“Not even accidentally?”

“Saddiffer’s thingies do not work like that!” Baxter replied wit ha chuff.

“Good Baxter, how does it work?” Prosine added.

“Because Saddiffer signed Gid’s hand thingy, he doesn’t want to hurt Gideon. And I will not hurt Gideon and Saddiffer will be a good boy and listen!” Baxter added with a bark.

“Actions prove more than words, Baxter.” Prosine began.

“You may not want to hurt Gideon, but you may accidentally injure him,”

“Nope nope nope! Pramblesnap, I will not hurt Gideon!” Baxter responded with an irate bark before scampering away out of the storage room.

“Baxter wait!” Gideon began, but he was already long gone to somewhere else in the vessel.

Gideon felt at his brow in frustration.

“We can’t keep talking about it like this!” Gideon began, shooting a look to Prosine and Deborah.

“But we must speak of it. Gideon, we have an enemy aboard who may be influencing Baxter. Look at the floor!” Deborah shot back.

Gideon gave a quick glance at the foamy mess.

“So? He’s strong now. Maybe we need strong crew members. God knows he picks up my slack!”

“Upon the point of impact, Baxter emitted a force of twelve tons,” Prosine explained.

“Jesus…” Gideon replied wide-eyed.

He shook his head, pushing that massive detail aside.

“Saddiffer’s demonic influence can change Baxter’s personality-” Prosine began.

“He’s not a demon.” Gideon interrupted bluntly.

“You may have signed a covenant, but he will not change-”

“He’s a Eudaemon. Whatever that is.”

“We can’t be passive aggressive towards Baxter either! It will hurt-” Gideon began, but he felt movement in the ship.

“Good Gideon, exiting FTL. You may want to see this.” Prosine interrupted as he winked out of existence.

Gideon felt the ship stopping in his stomach as it fluttered. He felt heavier for a brief second, which were all signs of exiting FTL.

“Gideon, we can talk about this later. I know you mean well.” Shindow replied as she winked out in orange light.

Steak and Patricia stored themselves in QSD, leaving Gideon and Deborah alone.

“Look, Deborah-”

“Well? Let’s head to the bridge!” Deborah stated with a smile as she fell through a portal and vanished, leaving Gideon to walk.

He let out a brief sigh.

Better than being devoured. Better than being enslaved to a demon.

His lonely journey to the bridge allowed him time to think of their situation. Flying to Lo IX with a strange artifact from the Watchers and to also meet the other Seal holders weighed n him. He thought back to the Seal and wondered what other sorts of trouble it would get him into.

“Adonai give me strength.”

Never thought I’d be praying that.

He entered the main bridge to see the new object displayed on the screen. Only Prosine and Shindow were present.

It was a large frosty blue planet, isolated from all other bodies. Behind it was a massive vapor trail of mist, which appeared to stretch on for thousands of miles. A misty tail for a cerulean moon. Gideon took his seat, finding Baxter was still absent. He furrowed his brow trying to figure out where he could be.

“It looks to be a wandering planet. Sensors indicate a physical wobble to its outer crust, implying liquid underneath.”

“A planet wandering by itself? Like Karmmrak?”

“Negative. Karmmrak was immobile, this appears to have been dragged away out of its system by another celestial body.”

“That was not why I asked you up here.”

There as a slight pause as Gideon glanced to the floating eye.

“Well?” Gideon asked, not in the mood for guessing games.

“Gideon, look!” Shindow began as she appeared nearby.

The screen zoomed in, showing a massive vessel hiding inside the tail of the planet. It was massive in size, appearing as more of a space wharf than a vessel. It was bronze, bulky, blocky and long, dotted with many smaller structures.

“Is that vessel being towed by the planet?”

“That is my calculation as well. It appears the planet’s trajectory is quite fast, the vessel is being towed along in its gravity well.”

“This is exciting! Our first vessel!” Shindow exclaimed.

“Vessel is communicating with us,” Prosine announced.

Gideon felt his stomach flutter. He had no recognition of the brand or make of the vessel. For all he knew, it was a completely non-human vessel.

“Put it on,” Gideon ordered with a gesture.

The voice that came on sounded unlike anything he had heard before. It was monolarynxular and feminine, however, the language he heard was alien. Yet he recognized it.

“Shada M’hyla! B’r’orni jask’kai hy’na. Brimol’der D’asic’saol. Mshalter d’thia tombl’tor demor t’nyia. Sh’ilita ma’lisol ni’older, ke ke ke!

Gideon paused for a moment as the transmission ended. He palmed his chin in thought at the communicai.

“What the fuck was that?”

“It sounded human, but that type of speech…” Shindow began as she trailed off.

“Gideon your sister spoke that type of speech before,” Shindow added, she perked up as she remembered.

“What? You mean an alien language? The Scarabaeidae?”

“No! For prayer.”

“Prayer… You mean she’s speaking in tongues?”

“Actually the technical term would be glossolalia,” Prosine explained.

“You’re telling me that babble speech is a language?”

“Yes. a very complex and dynamic language of heaven,”

“Dynamic? Meaning it changes constantly?” Shindow asked with a wide-eyed expression.

“Correct. I am translating now.”

“How do you translate a dynamic language?” Shindow asked, tapping idly at her temple.

“Dynamically,” Prosine replied dryly.

Gideon sat and waited for a brief moment,

“Translation complete.”

“Hello there traveler, this here is the Skylon! A mighty fine ship you have there if I do say so myself. Would you do us a kindness and maybe lending this distressed damsel a hand? Port quarter. And please hurry now, you hear? Thank you kindly. – M.M. Lewis.”

“Ok, what the hell. How did you translate so much from the transcript?”

“It is best to not ask questions when glossolalia is being translated,” Prosine responded bluntly.

“Yeah, OK. Suggestions?” Gideon asked, conceding his curiosity for the bizarre language. He felt at a crossroads. Curiosity or safety.

Shindow poked at Gideon’s shoulder at that.

“What do you mean? You heard the lady, port quarter!”

“And what if this nice lady in her nice Skylon is a very nice pirate?” Gideon replied, cocking an eyebrow.

“I have detected no active weapon signatures. I have also detected portions of the ship are damaged.”

“That must be why they’re stowing a ride on a planet…” Shindow concluded.

“Exactly. Just wait for us to board, then grab us.”

Gideon was no fan of helping strangers in a larger vessel than his. Large vessels meant more people. More guns.

Deborah appeared through a portal to the bridge, carrying Baxter.

“Oh, hello Gid,” Baxter announced with a yawn.

“Did you two work it out?”

“She gave me ear scritches,” Baxter replied with a chuff.

“It is still… Ongoing,” Deborah replied tentatively.

“The demon still sleeps.”

Gideon shook his head at Deborah using that word.

“Yes! So do not try to wake him, he is a very sleepy Saddiffer,” Baxter shot back with a whine.

“I came because I sense demonic influence on that vessel,” Deborah explained.

“Well, there we go. We continue to Lo IX,” Gideon concluded.

“Gideon, we have to help them!” Shindow retorted.

“It is not near the power of Baxter’s demon. This may be a good test for you, Gideon,” Deborah said as she cocked her head.

“But what if this M.M. Lewis is a demon?”

“Then it will be a simple matter to defeat it,” Deborah replied firmly.

“Gideon, the choice is yours as you are ultimately captain; and CEO. We could assist and gain much from the encounter; influence, wealth, technology, experience, knowledge and power. It will give us a good introduction to the beings that exist here,” Prosine began to explain.

Gideon thought it over. It did seem like a good opportunity to meet the post Armageddon locals. The idea of throwing himself into danger wasn’t appealing to him. He couldn’t help but think of what could be inside that vessel. The curiosity was getting to him.

“And based off of Deborah’s assessment, it would be good combat experience. The CK DINES may be able to assist as well so you will not be without backup. Then let us discuss the dangers.”

“I will bark and bite bad guys!” Baxter said with a chuff. He wiggled free from Deborah’s grasp, trotting around the bridge.

“While demonic influence appears to be weaker than the one we fought, they can still have abilities that may render them difficult to defeat. Afterall, if those aboard are Faithful Ones, they will be no slouch in combat. There is possibly a reason why they struggling with the demons.”

Gideon’s desire for safety was overruled by his desire to know what this vessel had to bring.

“Alright. Keep the ship warm, Prosine. If it’s too dangerous, we bolt,” Gideon concluded.

“We’re going?” Shindow asked, sitting atop Gideon’s shoulder.

“They better not be pirates infested with demons,” Gideon replied with a laugh.

“Setting coordinates for port quarter.”

“I’ll take everyone apart from you and Pat. We’ll need someone to watch the ship.”

“Gid, why don’t we take the smaller ship thingy?” Baxter chuffed.

“And we can’t exactly take the Ferrum, I doubt they’d be kind to a new hole in their vessel’s hangar.”

“We want to make friends, afterall!” Shindow added with a giggle.

“Alright, get Steak prepared, I’ll meet you all in the hangar.”

The Decima flew toward its target, the Skylon, inside the massive vapor trail along the sojourning planet. Gideon had no idea what this would bring apart from the adventure. Hopefully, those aboard would be friendly. He did feel better about with the inclusion of an Angel, a dog with demonic strength, two Excertius, his best friend Shindow, and an ancient AI.

He hoped in his heart of hearts they weren’t demon pirates luring them to their destruction.

I hope Saddiffer wakes.

He shook his head as he made the journey to the port quarter hangar.

If you told me before the big flight I’d be saying that…

The Decima flew on into a strange adventure.

>>> The Book of Soltana: Directive 11

<<< The Book of Soltana: Hybrid – 9

The Book of Soltana Glossary

3 thoughts on “The Book of Soltana: Sparring – 10

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