“What the hell happened?”
Gideon was in shock over hearing the truth. He glanced to Deborah, who in turn looked away.
“Did she not tell, Gideon dear?” Monday replied calmly. She had re-equipped her mask, her voice coming out slightly distorted.
He shot Deborah another glance.
“No. She said he had left with the implication he would return.”
“Ah, then I shall do what your guardian angel refused to.”
“Thine Lord Adonai has vanished, along with the kingdom of heaven. The majority or angels, cherub, Thrones, cherubim, seraphim, and all the other wonderful angelic creatures have absconded.”
“For what reasons, I do not know.”
“And where over yonder did he go?” Monday ask rhetorically.
“Adonai abandoned us? And Emmanuel?” Gideon asked, confused by everything.
“He never showed, honey. The chaos that it caused broke the galaxy asunder.”
“Vacuums never last a day and now we have a misery ruling the universe.”
“No, it can’t be the fallen gods…” Deborah began, her voice staggered from the thought.
“If only it was like that; humanity would be united. Deary, it is more horrific than that. Mankind joined together under one ruler. He made himself pope, leader of leaders, and created the Third Advent Church of Chr-ist. They rule the majority of known systems. Humanity is shattered and broken, with not even the power of the church being capable of uniting everyone.”
“Jesus…” Gideon swore quietly.
“Monday, are you part of the church?” Shindow asked from atop Gideon’s shoulder.
Monday gestured to the group, showing them towards the deeper decks of the ship. Gideon rushed to her right to keep up.
“Heavens no!” Monday retorted with a golden-bell laugh.
“I find them too restrictive. Or we did. I’m not sure where the rest of the merchant fleet went to, frankly.”
“Good Monday, what happened to the Skylon?” Steak asked, trundling along in his massive power armor.
“Demons. It appears one of our supposed Thrones was a red herring. The crooked thing broke loose and now has control of most of the ship. It can’t fly it, but it sure can prevent us from doing the same. And so we drift, passengers and prisoners to Xyka.”
“The ice planet?” Shindow asked, curious of their course.
“A clever darling! We were hitching a ride, awaiting the arrival of the fleet when all hell and fury broke loose upon this ves-sel.”
“And what are these… Um,” Gideon stopped, realizing he was on the verge of insulting the creatures.
The large rabbit spoke up off to the side.
“We fair creatures are demihumans. Refugees from the savage Berberisk!”
“Berberisk?” Shindow replied, cocking a head at the strange name.
“They are kingdom-gone-empire of demihumans. The dearies, and that’s putting it mildly, have a seething hatred of human-i-ty. The church and the Berberisk are at tensions with one another, and the neutral planets are crushed in between.”
Gideon understood right away what that meant.
“And let me guess, Berberisk tend to hunt down neutral planets?”
“Very good. Yes, they snipe out planets or systems holding out from the Church. Of course, the Church tries to help, but you see the point. Rumor has it they worship a fallen god; their messiah.”
“The Risen King…” One of the demihumans muttered.
“So Church and Berberisk. Any other factions?”
“Well, there are probably thousands, varying in all sorts of power. We were one before the attack. And then not to mention factions inside the Church itself.”
“So tell me about the precious pup. How does a dog of… Varying awareness defeat a demon of such strength?”
“I barked at it and ate its paper thingy and made it sign my paper thingy and now we’re best friends and he is my pet and I named him Saddiffer!” Baxter jumped into the conversation as chuffing locomotive, breathless in his description.
“That’s… “ Monday began before trailing off. Her head twitched left to right as she tried to process what she just heard. She continued as if nothing happened.
“And you’re still with them, Deborah sweety?” She said as she glanced back to the larger angel.
Deborah paused for a moment before glancing back, her hood was still raised.
“I was told to be Gideon’s guide. I did not wish for him to do what he did. A demon has no place in our existence.”
“Did not wish for him to do what?”
“He is a Seal holder.”
Gideon gave Deborah a shocked glance that she would reveal information that easily. Shindow gave her the same look, falling backwards off of Gideon’s shoulder to float over to the angel.
“Why did you tell her?” Shindow scolded.
“No- Shindow, it’s OK. Adonai had spoken to me. He gave me this,” Gideon began with a sigh.
He would have to talk to Deborah about keeping information private.
His right glove broke down into orange pixelated light, storing it into his QSD.
His hand revealed the Seal to all. Only Monday showed any interest; the demihumans all looked curiously at Gideon with little understanding.
“I figured that was the case. Afterall, you are the last normal human in existence, sweety!”
“But how do you know?”
“It’s easy to tell, deary. Faithful Ones can sense the spiritual energy of others. You come off as a blank slate; An empty chalice, hon!”
“And it doesn’t hurt that I dreamed of this.”
Rumblings were heard among the demihumans. Some nodded, others shook their heads. It seemed the group was split.
“Ok, you say the last human, but what is a Faithful One?”
Deborah interjected at that, moving to Gideon’s right.
“They are ascended humanity. They are far beyond what a normal human being is- was.”
“Exactly. And it does not stop there,” Monday interjected.
“Those are beings who believed in their first life and held firm until the end. They are the rarest of beings at this time- next to angels of course.”
Gideon’s glove rematerialized in orange pixelated over his hand, clicking in place.
“So there is a second ascension?”
Gideon’s head began to hurt. They traveled down the massive brass corridor, their footsteps quietly echoing through the hall. Gideon thought they could easily fit different smaller class vessels easily enough. The CK DINES would thrive in an environment such as this. Tall ceilings and long straightaways.
“Monday, what happened to the galactic nebula?” Shindow asked, floating atop the woman’s outstretched hand.
“That is another faction who caused that particular piece of chaos.”
“Pirates. They come under many names. Galactic Reapers, Vanguard of Steel, etc and etc.”
“As if organized, they began cutting down the many galactic nebula hubs. Captain Jeremy Harker, The scoundrel was responsible for most of the plundering.”
Gideon’s head suddenly rang. He remembered his early dreams and the battle of the lost ancient Earth. The Archangel Chaumuel had soundly defeated the fleet, sparing the survivors. Gideon felt the Archangel was aware Gideon was present in the dream. That brief glance and order to remember Jeremy Harker’s name were dead giveaways.
“Good Monday, that must mean the galaxy is one large black hole, and all of the factions are rushing to the center,” Steak conjectured.
“A very fine observation, my dear Steak.”
“And back to the topic of the demon. How did it change? Even now the demon’s signature is fading away,” Monday began, changing subjects. She stopped at a cross intersection.
“I.. Used the Seal, Adonai’s power and formed a covenant with him- with Saddiffer.”
Monday gently took off her mask, her glowing eyes staring awestruck at what she heard.
“What possessed you to do such a thing?” Monday asked, not out of castigation but genuine wonder.
“The crew would have broken apart. Deborah and some wanted to purge Saddiffer. Baxter wanted to keep him as a pet-”
“He is a good boy!” Baxter began but was ignored.
“-And because Baxter defeated him, taking that away would have fractured the crew; and broken Baxter.”
Baxter’s ears drooped at that.
“I took a risk. And you say his presence is fading?”
“Yes. I sense his demonic spirit is fading away. It might be depleting to nothing, deary.”
“No no no! Saddiffer is my pet and he is not dying!”
“Now that’s a word I haven’t heard in an age…” Monday commented.
“It could be-”
A thunderous slam interrupted them, jolting all of the demihumans to ready their weapons.
“Hold that thought. It looks like they got past the defenses,” Monday said hurriedly.
A tall long-armed figure shuffled from the shadow. Its flesh was black rubbery skin, with oak arms that reached the floor. It’s body was large and wide, implying great strength. Its massive bug-eyes darted to each person. It sported a large perpetual disquieting grin and a pencil nose, all of its features were large, giving its face little room for anything else.
Gideon felt the large white eyes track and snap to him. The black dot irises stared unblinkingly at Gideon. He felt this stare before. Saddiffer had given him the same look.
A tasty morsel.
It let out a death rattled gasp as it lumbered back into the shadow.
“HELENA!!” One of the demihumans bellowed. It was a very large bipedal bull. It hefted a massive six-foot steel pipe and rushed off to the retreating imp.
“Mandikar no!” Monday screamed, but the large demihuman was gone, chasing down the imp.
The other demihumans let the large beast go, not keen on getting in its way.
Gideon readied his weapons as Steak began to strafe off to the side, prepping weapons.
“That was unwise of it,” Steak stated bluntly.
“And why is that?” Gideon asked, syncing to his barrel camera.
A bellowing scream echoed from the hall. It sounded like an animal being slaughtered. The scream became unending, starting from deep bass, going from a bellow to a shriek. Gideon blanched upon hearing the noise as the pitch hit a falsetto, then silenced.
There he spotted the perpetrator. The lone imp shambled back into view, dragging something behind it.
“Jesus Christ…” Gideon commented. He felt pale.
The imp carried the head of the Minotaur by its horn, dragging it behind. The bloodied torn spine scraped against the brass floor, with the flesh showing signs of being torn. The trail of blood led all the way to the shadows.
“Gideon… They tore his head off,” Shindow state flatly as she vanished back into his suit.
Monday let out a cry, opening up her hand and firing a charged a wide energy blast. The imp was engulfed, leaving behind the legs and arms as they flopped to the floor. The remnants instantly crumbled to ash.
The light from the laser blast revealed the hallway was packed to the brim with imps.
The cacophony of death rattles became a roar.
“Oh my God…” Shindow quietly swore.
Sixty-four Gnats instantly appeared on Shindow’s command.
“Kids, get your nightlights!” Shindow ordered in a rush.
“Hai! Gannbette!” All sixty-four Gnats cried together as they spread out, rushing into the expansive hall and lit their bottom LEDs. The hallway dazzled with light, showing it packed with shambling imps.
“Brawler imps. The most basic of all demon fighters. Stronger than sin, slower than sloth and cheaper than ash,” Monday explained as her hands glowed.
“Good crew, why do you all hesitate?” Steak asked.
His tower shield and pulse cannon vanished in blue pixelated light. What appeared were seven barrel cannons of two dual tempest cannons. Two barrels for each arm revved up as he aimed down the hall. Both shoulders held mounted pulse cannons.
He sent a roaring volley of yellow energy bolts into the crowd, cutting through them as a scythe to wheat. Gideon heard the thunder bang cracks of the shoulder cannons, launching the hypersonic explosive ordinance into the dense crowd of imps. Gideon felt the shockwaves to his bones as fragmentation tore through the mob. Gideon leveled his pulse rifle aim at the closest.
“They’re just like those demonkin I saw in the video recordings… No shock to losses or injury,” Shindow commented.
“That’s a weakness. Makes them stupid,” Gideon replied as he gently pulled the trigger.
The pulse rifle let out a screech crack as fifteen rounds were shot down range, penetrating the imps hide and peppering the neighbors behind. It continued to move with multiple dinner plate holes, only to be bowled over and trampled by ‘faster’ imps.
+1 Imp collateral kill
Gideon grumbled at that. He needed better stopping power.
The demihumans all fired their weapons, which were varying states of powder, energy, and even a crude crossbow.
“Oh, these guys are desperate…”
Monday focused another beam, cutting another column into the pack of imps. Grey ash swirled in the roaring din as any touched by it disintegrated.
Gideon finally spotted Deborah, flying above with the Gnats, peppering the imps below and drawing many away. thirty-six more Deborah copies continued to zoom about, cutting swathes into the pack.
“Gideon, I think we all need a pick up me,” Deborah said from behind, Gideon glanced back, seeing the original Deborah had stayed put.
“It’s pick me up!”
“Why would I do that? You’re fine down here.” She replied with an alabaster smile.
Gideon stood struck dumb at her casual conversation in the midst of battle.
The weapons surrounding him glowed with a slight golden aura, just like before on Karmmrak. He switched to single fire, opting for headshots.
As he aimed, his reticule trembled.
“Adjusting suit. There!” Shindow announced.
Gideon felt the suit compensate for the tremble and planted a shot into the head of an imp. The round punched through, ruining the eyes and turning the head inside out. It struck the eye of another, which blossomed in a fountain of black blood.
+2 imp kill
“That was a whole lot more power than before,” Shindow commented.
“Yeah, look at Steak.”
“Good Gideon. There is too much chatter, not enough shooting!” Steak corrected.
Demihuman Frog Beast Alien: 9
“A Scoreboard? Really? Goddammit does anyone take this seriously? I just saw one get their head ripped off!”
“This is shameful. I need to do better,” Deborah replied, ignoring the chastisement.
She shouldered the pulse cannon and pulled out her brace of pistols. And then pulled out twelve dozen more as her dimensional self went into overdrive. Her phantoms limbs blossom out from her and she let loose a massive crescendo of pulse pistol rounds, creating a wall of sabots that tore the front two lines of imps into shredded black viscera.
Gideon glanced around at the lone individual that had done nothing and said nothing. Or at least where he should have been.
“Oh God, where is Baxter?” Shindow spoke first.
“Shit! Baxter, where are you?” Gideon announced on comms.
A disturbing silence answered him.
Gideon focused on the battle ahead as the line of imps were pushed back, but with no end in sight.
“OK kids… Um, where is Spot!” Shindow ordered with a stammer.
Four Gnats broke off, zooming down the halls and back the way they came.
“Gideon, keep firing, I’ll keep the others loaded. Uplink established with Decima inventory… There.”
“Good Gideon, I am aware of your conflict. When you need assistance, you will have it,” Prosine announced.
“It will be a wonderful surprise!” Patricia added.
“Does everyone treat this as a game-” Gideon began as he glanced at Deborah, Steak, and Monday competing for kills. Monday had blossomed tiny drones which added more laser beams to her attacks. Deborah and her copies were decimating the front and back line. Everything Steak pointed at was reduced to molecules.
They answered his question.
If you had centuries of experience in combat, would it not be a game?
“Gideon, I think the combat is handled well,” Shindow began. Gideon was shaken from his thoughts.
“We can deploy barricades and kill zones here. Then find Baxter,” Gideon added.
“Ok kids, make a pillow fort! Extra fluffy!”
“Baxter is MIA, we’re off to search for him. Signal is taking us down the right hall,” Gideon updated.
“I’ll tend to the guests, hon!” Monday replied as she focused another massive beam into the mob.
The barricades were quickly established, with Gideon playing the hapless engineer. Turret mounts were put to good use, adding to the support fire. Gideon shook his head at seeing the demihumans mostly ineffective weaponry.
“Hey Prosine, can we get a cache here?”
“Keep it simple; rifles and scatters,” Gideon ordered.
“Of course, CEO Gideon.”
A large crate appeared in blue pixelated light behind the barricade. Gideon flipped it open, revealing around two dozen different long guns.
He opened his helm, whistling to the demihumans. They all glanced awkwardly at him as they glanced from the crate to their weapons.
They all broke rank and gathered new weapons, hefting them with obvious grins.
“Mm, thank you, Seal holder.” The large frog demihuman stated with a slow clipped accent.
The rabbit took two scatterguns, akimboing them as he bound back to his post.
“OK, we’re heading out to find Baxter.”
“Deploying CK DINE Sentinel escorts,” Prosine announced.
Gideon sprinted down the hall, chasing the signal Blue pixelated light above him alerted that the Sentries were set. The black silver armor plating and red visor reverse starfish points glinted in the poor lighting. Four surrounded Gideon from above, solar cannons primed.
They made their way down into the dark massive hall.
He felt a fleck of something bounce off his armor. Gideon glanced up, seeing only the glow of the four DINES.
“Gideon, scans indicate dozens of rooms. Possibly hundreds,” Shindow explained.
The din of the chaos behind him continued to ring out, echoing through the massive brass halls.
“Easy ambushes if they somehow snuck past here. Jesus, Baxter, why did you leave us?”
“He may have smelled something or…” Shindow began before breaking off.
Most had little idea why Baxter did what he did, including Baxter.
“Oh, Gideon! Steak was a gentle-anform and gave me access to the comunicai channel.” Monday began.
“Is everything stable where you are?”
“Easy as pie. It’s just a worry of mine that there were only brawlers. We’re pushing them back to the breach now,” Monday began.
“Worried? Why is that?”
“Brawlers never fight alone; from my experience. They are too slow and unwieldy for such a wide open kill-zone.”
“The other imp is the crawler. Fast and can go almost anywhere. Keep an eye out.”
Another fleck of debris bounced off his armor with a clatter.
Gideon stopped. His eyes grew wide with knowing.
“Prosine, tilt the DINES up. Ninety-degrees,” Gideon ordered quietly.
“What’s wrong?” Shindow asked.
Their questions were answered as the DINES tilted upward, splashing LED spotlights into the crevices of the angled ceilings.
The ceiling shift and moved.
As far as he could see the ceiling was packed with bodies.
“Monday, I think we found our crawl-”
Gideon was interrupted as a massive blanket of black bodies began to drop from the ceiling.
“Gideon run!” Shindow shouted.
The DINES fired into the falling wall, disintegrating some as they caught up and crushed by the swell of bodies.
Achilles compensators active
Shindow had boosted the suit, giving him a burst of speed as he simply ran for the closest hall entrance.
“Shindow, get those doors welded!” Gideon ordered in a panic as he burst through the first sliding door, then the next. The hall was thinner and more restricted than the main massive vein outside.
Brass grating covered the floors, which rattled with every step; implying they were loose. The walls were angled brass, glowing with soft LED. If he had time, he would have stopped to appreciate the design.
But not yet.
Gnats were pulled back and formed again, floating to each entry as they shut.
“Lock the door, kids!” Shindow screamed.
The Gnats began spot welding the doors, preventing them from sliding.
The first door folded and crumpled as the wave of black bodies pushed through with ease. The second door lasted seconds.
He heard the muffled shriek of the Gnat as it went down. The others went along with it.
Gnat 45 has crashed
Gnat 01 has crashed
Gnat 32 has crashed
Gnat 61 has crashed
The Gnats bodies were incapable of surviving such pressure and were instantly destroyed. Their fragile particle projection could take only a little bit of strain before dispersing.
Gideon sprinted down the hall, summoning more Gnats to weld the doors as the wave of bodies broke up.
“Gideon! Bombs!” Shindow suggested.
Gideon searched his inventory, finding the det mines and began materializing them just behind.
The comms were silent.
Gideon didn’t risk turning, lest he be rundown instantly by the crawling horde. The first mine detonated seconds after he dropped it, implying they were just behind. The second mine shuddered the hall quickly after that.
Gideon spotted a tight four-way hall and went left, dropping a det mine at the center.
Shindow materialized more Gnats, pulling away from the ones facing the brawlers.
“OK kids, split up and make noise!”
The Gnats all shot down the separate halls, blaring their LED lights and shouting.
The mine detonated a dozen seconds later, giving him a head start. He stopped and turned, seeing black blood and body parts. More crawlers flooded all four hallways.
Gideon continued his sprint, seeing a larger thick door just up ahead, slightly ajar. He rushed inside and pushed with his stim enhanced might, the door budging and clicking shut. The sound of a locking arm jutting in place rang out.
Then the pounding against the door rang out as the crawlers slammed into the door, crushing one another against the barricade.
“Door is holding!” Shindow said with relief.
“Not for long by the sound of it,” Gideon replied, sweeping his gun around the room. Apart from the pounding and shrieking of tearing metal, all was quiet.
“Prosine, come in.”
“Running comms diagnostics… Something is interfering,” Shindow explained.
Gideon opened his helm, the faceplate opened and slide off to the side. Brass and steel crates were stacked neatly along the wall. In the center was a workbench, piled high with half made gear.
“We should check for a way out,” Gideon began.
“Or for more openings. They’re probably looking for ways in,” Shindow replied.
“Set everything to silent. No sense in telling everyone where we are,” Gideon ordered.
He felt instant relief upon seeing more entrances and exits throughout the room; all of the doors were locked.
“If we can find the source of disruption, then we can get Prosine’s assistance.”
Gideon ignored the junk, opting to search the next room.
Gideon’s heat stopped upon seeing one of the hatch doors open slowly. A large white hand gripped the door, pushing it in. The head that was of pale white flesh peak inside with no discernable eye and a large gaping mouth that went down to its collar bone.
“Gideon, I found the source of the disruption. It’s that guy.”
His eyes went wide as his helm slammed shut. He looked for an exit, finding several.
The creature let out a low thrumming growl that pitched to a shrieking gasp.
It pushed into the room into full view.
Gideon’s stomach dropped.