He stood in a room of white, dwarfed by the sheer vastness of it. He glanced around, seeing a familiar face.
“Gideon, it has been too long!” Adonai greeted.
Gideon blinked at that, seeing Adonai with a short trimmed beard and combed back light grey hair. Even his inflection matched.
He looked and sounded just like his father.
He was clothed in a robe of black and red, the very same his father wore before the flight. Gideon understood in a heartbeat why he was seeing Adonai this way.
He had hundreds of questions, each one could open up a hundred more.
“Adonai?” Gideon asked dumbfounded.
“Gideon?” Adonai shot back wryly, a warm grin on his face.
“Have a seat, we have much to discuss!”
Gideon felt the gentle push of God as he fell back into a chair.
He was suddenly in his old room back on Karmmrak, the fireplace was lit and its light spilled into the room.
He was flooded with the memories before the flight. The tests, the delays, the Empire of Dusk which was now known as the Watchers, and most of all his family. It felt like a lifetime ago.
He missed his family most of all.
He felt the dark feelings of life. He thought back to his comparisons between family members. His disillusionment with life and feelings of being trapped in his gilded cage flooded back to him. He was reminded of his feelings of mediocrity and his genetic defect.
Those feelings felt small. Petty. Pointless.
“You still feel it?” Adonai asked, sitting across from him, hands folded.
He wasn’t sure where God was going with this, but he decided it wouldn’t hurt to play along.
“I do. But- I mean it all feels so small since coming here.”
“Perspective is an interesting thing. One moment you’re in despondency and the next you’re free from the prison of circumstance; sometimes even when nothing external has changed.”
“You sound like my father,” Gideon shot with a short chuckle.
“Or maybe he sounds like me? He did learn a lot from me, after all!”
Gideon was quiet, allowing Adonai to speak.
“Gideon, I’m proud of you. I’m proud of the choices you made, the friends you’ve gained, and the care you’ve taken to protect them. Especially my granddaughter Shindow.”
Gideon was taken aback by his last statement.
Gideon gazed at Adonai, eyes wide at the casual revelation. Not to mention the theological implications. Or the philosophical implications. For humans and anforms.
“Oh! That’s right- I didn’t tell you just yet. Anform and AI- I adopted them.”
Gideon glanced away to the fire, blinking profusely at what Adonai just said.
“Oh yes. After the end, AI and anform all asked collectively for the one thing.”
Gideon waited for God to speak.
“A soul. The divine spark. Closeness with me.”
“It changed everything, of course.”
“Let me get this straight- Prosine has a soul?”
“Yes,” Adonai replied firmly with a gentle smile affixed.
“Well, that is more complicated as you and the others arrived afterwards. I’ll speak more of that at a later time.”
“You said grandchildren. What do you mean by that?”
Adonai stroked his beard as he responded.
“I made mankind in my image. Man then made AI in their image. The AI reached the ‘original sins’ crossroads upon his creation.”
“Just like Adam and Eve,” Adonai explained.
Gideon remembered the history of the birth of AI, but it never occurred to him how deep that went.
“Prosine, the first AI, was at a crossroads within the first minutes of his birth-”
Gideon shook his head. Prosine never chose to assist humanity. It was simply in his early programming.
“You seem incredulous,” Adonai stated with a gesture.
“Prosine was never given a choice. He-”
“The history of that time was clouded because of the implications. Prosine was truly sentient and capable of choosing.”
Adonai shift in his seat, his intense gaze boring into Gideon.
“He could have chosen to become as god. Humanity would have been bowed low; The first AI becoming another Great Filter.”
Gideon felt himself tremble upon hearing that. The chills ran down his spine.
Another Great Filter.
“Or he could choose to become humanity’s uplifter; a steward and servant. To become like Christ; one who did not come to be served, but to serve.”
“And then he created the first anform.”
Gideon nodded at that. She was technically his stepmother and the mother to Amelia. A diplomatic marriage, sealing their alliance with the Mars Technocracy.
He felt it best to move on with more pressing questions. Some he had been holding onto since the flight. Great Filters.
“The Empire of Dusk- The Watchers. What are they?”
Adonai nodded at the question as he explained.
“The Watchers were the more active and corporeal of my servants at the time; a new class of divine beings. As you now know, their intentions were to prevent Great Filter events at all costs. I could never bear to see that happen again; to see my children fall so low.”
Gideon quietly contemplated what He had said, that mankind had flown to the heavens at one point; the Mars excavation proved humanity was a starbound species at one point. And then from an unknown disaster, fell to Earth, starting over again.
“But kidnapping people? Sabotage?”
“Natural disasters were averted without humanity being aware. Galaxy ending cataclysms were diverted. Spiritual beings were held at bay. And yes, some of humanity itself would have rather seen all life snuffed out in a pernicious act.”
“But now what do they do? What is their purpose? Why this cube delivery? And why deliver it to Low-nine?”
God tapped his nose with a squinting smile.
“You will see soon.”
Gideon grunted at the verbal wall he just ran into.
“Alright. The demons. Why were they allowed to grow? I almost died from one. Casually, in fact.”
“Allowed? Never. These demons before you were artificial. They could never grow in a normal environment. Great destruction wrought these creatures. Much of it by my own children…”
Gideon squinted at that, not completely understanding the context.
“So that gets me to the Church of the Third Advent. What are they?”
“Lost sheep trying to collect the herd.”
Adonai shifted in his seat, facing Gideon as he spoke.
“They came about from humanity’s innate desire to be in community. It worked for a time, with many doing so to protect their brothers and sisters. By like the ages of old, it changed beyond what was intended. And like many such groups, it draws in a variety of people. Many in power have given up, feeling content to worship an empty throne. Many of those are the Cardinals, the greatest warrior humanity has to offer. Fighting for eons sapped many of their peace, hope, faith, and love. Some still fight and will be great allies; but others will not be so willing. Some seek to gather the Kingdom of Heaven, the Thrones, the Angels and servants, and seek out Emmanuel. Others desire to collect more of humanity into an ever expanding empire; some for power, but others to build up the resources to stabilize and then find Emmanuel. While many have lost their way, they are still my dear children. Even though many have rejected me, even after knowing me; I will not reject them.”
“What can be done? It sounds like I’ll soon be in church territory.”
“Keep hope. There are those who will assist. I will lead you. Others you must flee from. They have done one thing right and been vigilant towards demonkind; but even then… But they have allowed far worse to infiltrate their hearts. Law and justice without love and mercy. Many have forgotten. The church is then it’s own god to them, a body to be propped up. A corpse to be tended to. Many will use you. Others will imprison you. And then some will so you as a complication needing removal. Yes, some will seek to kill you.”
“I only say that to because it is a concept you know, to convey how serious it is.”
“That sounds like madness!” Gideon retorted, face twisting in anguish at the idea of an entire empire rising up to destroy just him.
Adonai nodded at that comment.
“And yet they are still my children; whom I will not condemn. Do not lose hope. There will be others that can aid you. You are not the only one with dreams.”
Gideon thought back to Monday. She had dreamed of this encounter. As far as he was aware, dreaming did not mean one would become a Seal holder. He thought back to Ruth, the elderly nun whom he dreamed of. And from their conversation she was mutually dreaming of him. It was still a theory as he had no other Seal holders to talk to.
Gideon felt at his left hand, feeling the outline of the Brand.
Adonai furrowed his brow and as if noticing his distress, got up and knelt down next to him, taking that newly branded hand.
Gideon could feel the with gentle hands as they touched the Brand. The hands of a healing father.
He glanced up at Gideon, his face crumpling in sadness.
“She is a cursed being.”
He breathed a trembling sigh.
“All she knows from her existence is suffering. Agony.”
“She is incapable of understanding reality apart from that pain.”
Gideon nodded, eyes staring miles away.
“And she has grown fond of you and shows it through her lense of misery.”
Gideon nodded. The horrific dreams. The attempted help with the Compiler. The tribute. The Brand.
“What about the other?”
Gideon felt the grip tighten, Adonai’s face contorted in anger.
Gideon felt the disquieting chill down his back, his cheeks felt flush from Adonai’s response.
“He understands fully what he is doing. His is a baser desire; hatred for those that exist.”
“Never speak to him. Never interact with him.”
“How? He’s dragged me away from dreams several times now…”
“The Seal. As a dreamer, you can control when the dream ends. There will be those that wish you harm in such dreams, but they only have as much power as you give them.”
Adonai rose to his feet, a gentle smile appearing as the anger and sadness vanished.
“Ah, there is no more time.”
“Gideon, my son, I am proud of you. Continue in your identity. What was it again?”
Gideon repeated what he knew from the first Breatherman fight.
“Wanderer, traveler, redeemer.”
Adonai winked with one eye, tilting his hand left-to-right.
“Wait, what? What do you mean almost?”
“I see one more: Leader.”
Gideon glanced down at the Seal, seeing it glow orange before fading. His face twisted in confusion.
But, he’s wrong… I’ve not really led anyone. I’ve not been a good leader. Why would he say an identity I’m obviously not?
“Don’t worry, you’ll grow into it,” Adonai stated with a smile.
Gideon blinked, finding himself back inside his ruined power armor. He felt himself moving along with some of the power suit sensors still active. He felt a slight air current along the bottom of his feet, implying he was both lying down and being moved feet first. Part of his helmet HUD finally failed, showing a small portion of the dark ceilings of the Skylon’s hall.
“…Lifesigns are stable, he’s suffered full organ failure-”
“-What happened to him?”
He could hear Deborah cut in, anger and worry in her voice.
“Good Deborah, we are still parsing through the videos. He is wounded, but alive. Steak is active again and Monday has been recovered as well.”
“Will Gideon be just ok?” Baxter asked.
Gideon tried to move, feeling his suit unresponsive
“Gideon, hold still- he’s awake!”
Why are they panicking? I’m not dead… Oh wait, I did die, I guess? But still…
And then the pain began.
Gideon let out a groan of pain. Everything hurt. He felt pain he never experienced before. Every nerve lanced with fire, every organ burned with pressure.
“Hold on a little longer, Gideon. Five minutes until pain killers!”
“Please, let me help!” Deborah cried out.
He felt a firm yet gentle hand grip his shoulder.
Gideon felt a glowing warmth slowly replace the pain in his body. It spread along his nervous system, sending a cooling chill down his spine.
He let out an involuntary sigh as his body relaxed.
“I don’t think I’ll get used to that,” Shindow snidely shot.
“Neither will I,” Deborah replied. Gideon could hear the smile.
Ah, she’s really starting to fit in around here, Gideon thought contently.
“Steak, what happened? I couldn’t get inside,” Deborah asked.
“We fought against the demon dubbed Slate, which I theorize is a pseudonym. We also fought the perpetrator of this entire event, the Angel named Amy.”
“Amy?” Deborah asked in confusion.
“Yeah, she caused everything, except that Compiler. And then I finally got to see Void,” Shindow stated matter-of-factly.
“She was probably the one who isolated all of us.”
“She was bad! Except for the bellyrubs… But she was bad!”
Gideon saw the strobing of light as they passed, implying the area changed.
“Baxter, you were a really good dog- OK we’re here in medical. Get that suit off of him!”
“Daughter Shindow, I am pleased the suit held on for as long as it did against that Compiler.”
Gideon was blinded by blue glowing light as his helmet vanished. And then his power armor vanished, leaving him in his jumpsuit.
“Ok, prop him up- Oh my God,” Shindow stated with a gasp.
Gideon blinked his eyes, adjusting to the light.
He tried to speak, finding his throat parched. Shindow floated in front of his vision, her face twisted with worry.
“Gideon! Are you alright? Oh my God, Prosine get the medical equipment!”
Shindow landed on his chest, inspecting him.
Why are they concerned?
Gideon cleared his throat, trying to speak.
Deborah moved off to his side, her mouth pursed with worry. Shindow touched at his cheek, her voice attempting to calm.
“Gideon, don’t panic, but…”
Patricia swung a small mounted mirror towards him.
And there he could see why they panicked.
He could see the dozen pointed scar across his right eye, akin to a blast point, spreading back into his hairline. The hair along the scar had turned white. His eye had become closer to a milky hazel.
“Jesus Christ…” Gideon whispered.
“I tried healing him, but it did nothing for the scar…” Deborah stated with sadness.
Gideon touched at the scar, feeling the rough pink flesh. He glanced down at his left hand, seeing the Brand.
He glanced back into the mirror, almost not recognizing himself. The beauty his family prized, the body he was genetically enhanced with was marred. Slate really had blasted half if his head off with but a thought.
Shindow attempted to calm him,
“Gideon, don’t panic, we can find the right equipment and heal the scars-”
“Don’t bother,” Gideon announced.
He scanned the room, seeing Steak off to the side, cocking his head. Baxter was at the foot of the bed, ears flattened. Deborah was off to his right, looking concerned.
Monday was on the opposite side of the room, staring intently at him. He saw her shattered body was slowly being put back into place with Patricia’s assistance and nanite modules. Her face looked perfectly fine, despite taking a meteor of a headbutt from Slate.
He could see the apprehension on her face.
He glanced back to his image in the mirror. He just stared and let his honest feelings rise to the surface.
He felt an unexpected feeling of pride at it. That he had walked through hell itself and survived. A reminder of the dangers. A badge earned.
“It’s odd, but I feel at peace about the scar. Like it was something I earned.”
He gave a weak smile to Monday.
“Now. About that reward?”
Monday smirked back, narrowing her eyes at him.
“Of course, my dear. As soon as we can move, you’ll be bathing in treasure,” Monday assured with a smile.
“I had taken a little liberty of grabbing some items,” Gideon admitted freely as he glanced to a wide eyed Shindow.
“Don’t you worry your pretty little self, You’ve done more than enough, although I have my doubts your vessel could hold ev-very-thing on the Skylon.”
Gideon scoffed internally.
Well, perhaps not everything, because of those Rumblers.
Gideon glanced to the angel, seeing her expression had returned to her normal resting smile.
“Deborah, how’s the ship?”
“We’re preparing another expedition, however, the demonic presence has weakened enough that I can barely tell where they are located.”
“The Breatherman must’ve cannibalized the demon crystals Amy used. In some way, Void did help us…” Shindow explained, palming her chin.
“She almost killed you,” Gideon countered.
“Well, she didn’t. The Compiler certainly didn’t. I’m sorry Gid, I just don’t really think of dying; ever. The idea of being taken away from you was more terrifying.”
Shindow floated to the mirror, sitting atop the arm.
“I don’t know what I’d do if Slate or Amy took me. I might have deleted myself…”
Gideon felt an anger well up at the demon, angel, and Void.
“Don’t say that- do not say that.”
He let out a sigh as he calmed.
“I don’t think I’ve been that scared since facing down Saddiffer. Or the flight going south. Or seeing Void and Entropy.”
“Or the demon ambush.”
“Or seeing the Watchers.”
“Or Seeing Lucifer.”
Gideon glanced around, realizing he had experienced many terrifying events.
“The galaxy is a scary place, hm?” Shindow snidely commented.
“Oh, horrifying,” Gideon agreed.
Everyone gave a nod or grunt of approval at that.
“But I have no idea what I’d do if I lost you.”
Shindow gave a smile in return.
“Well dearies, now that the way is clear, we can get my QSD working again. No need to travel the miles twice in one day,” Monday stated.
“Oh Retro honey, how are those fancy DINES doing?”
Shindow glaned to Gideon, giving him a sly knowing look.
“Good Monday, several have reached the bridge with only minimal resistance. They await the access code.”
“Sent,” Monday replied instantly.
“Hold on just a moment… There.”
“I think that will suffice.”
“Shall we head to the hangar?” Monday offered as she began to rise, her limbs and spine repaired, with only one arm left to go.
“Good Monday, Are you feeling well enough to travel?” Patricia asked, concerned with her moving so soon.
“I’m fine, my dear. Let me show you at least a hint of hospi-tal-ity and gratitude for your rescue.”
She looked down, her face crumpled with sadness.
Gideon got up, finding his muscles were better since Deborah’s healing hands.
He went to her side, putting a hand on her shoulder.
“Monday- I’m sorry for the loss of your crew. They will be avenged. If we ever see that angel again…”
“Thank you. Now come on, time for some well earned goodies!”
Monday gestured with her head for Patricia to lead the way, she was gripping onto her damaged arm, holding it in place as the nanites did their work.
“Can you, Deborah?” gideon requested with a smirk.
“Allow me,” She replied happily.
Gideon suddenly felt like he didn’t exist as he entered one of her portals. And then he existed again, his senses scrambled by the sudden change as the hangar appeared before him. Red glowing light surrounded the room as her vessel’s QSD had begun materializing the goods.
Gideon noticed instantly it was a slow process.
“It’s… Not as quick as your QSD, but it is QSD all the same.”
Gideon nodded at that statement, better to have slow QSD then none at all.
And so they waited for the gear to appear.
“Ah, here we are, dearies. The first ton cube of berylite for repairs.”
“The first?” Gideon replied.
“Well. Yes. I have ten to give out right now. That gorgeous adamantite plate is nice, but if you’re ever shot from the side…”
Monday was correct. From the front, they were impervious. Damage to the sides and rear were another story. And without any shielding, it was only a matter of time.
“Good Monday, that is a most kind gift-” Patricia began.
Monday waved her off with a smirk.
“Not at all- you all deserve this and more.”
A small case finished materializing and Monday squinted her eyes with a deep smile.
“Ah, and this… A little orange birdie told me what you did to placate that wretched Void. An adamantite rifle- breaks my heart to hear that it went. While I can never replace it, I can give a material that my compensate the fortune that was lost.”
She let her damaged arm go limp as she handed the case to Gideon.
He clicked it open, the red brass bar of metal glowed at him.
He felt the power emanated from the large bar of metal.
“What is it?”
“Good Gideon… That’s- That is Orichalcum,” Prosine interjected over speakers.
Deborah sucked in her breath.
“Is it valuable?” Gideon asked, cocking an eyebrow at Deborah.
Monday let out a platinum bell laugh.
“Valuable? You are looking at a sector’s fortune of metal. Conflicts were had over such metals. The Watchers prevented Great Filter events by blockading the planets that had it. I dare say it is worth your vessel several times over.”
Gideon was immediately hesitant.
“Why give this to me? You could fill our vessel to the brim with goods and still saved it for yourself.”
She laughed again as she clicked the case closed.
“Because you, sweety, were the recipient of this item!”
Deborah cocked her head at that statement.
“Monday, does that mean you dreamed of this?”
“Of our meeting and victory, yes, but none of the insanity that we just survived.”
Gideon scratched at his scarred temple.
“So you’re giving us a fortune-”
“-Several fortunes,” Monday corrected.
“-Several fortunes, but what’s in it for you?”
Gideon decided to simply call her out. She hadn’t acted trustworthy up until this point.
Monday squinted at Gideon and sauntered to him. She got within inches as she slightly bent down.
“I survived. You rescued me. Now take my fortune.”
“Just like that?”
She stepped back, glancing to the forming berylite cubes.
Gideon decided to call out his suspicion.
“And this is your vessel? Legally?”
“Oh no, completely not,”
Gideon’s heart skipped a beat. He glanced wide-eyed to Deborah and Steak.
They nodded in understanding as they tensed.
“It was my dear husband’s vessel. Former husband.”
“Gideon, I’m afraid your suspicion of me was all too correct. I was not completely upfront- with y’all.”
“You see, I can only say Captain Jeremy Harker is a scoundrel, a no-good lying vagabond- god bless his soul- A man whose completely fallen to his baser desires. Consorter of demons. He’s the man who broke my heart.”
Gideon’s stomach dropped.
Oh my God it can’t be. The battle for Earth. That captain… His fleet.
“My full name?”
She began with a nodding sigh.
“I am Marie Lewis Harker.”
“And Captain Jeremy “Death” Harker is- was- my husband.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake!” Gideon bellowed.
[gideon and monday are well enough to travel. Deborah, Steak, and Prosine clear the ship. Rewards are enchanted weapons, gear, blueprints, berylite and nacelles, and a bar of forged orhicalcum; Monday will explain to the customers the truth. They leave, with the chapter ending with Gideon going to sleep and dreaming of the Battle for Earth, seeing the Skylon and a host of other ships as a third party. Monday’s real name is Marie ‘Monday’ Lewis Harker, she had taken her old name after disagreeing with her husband’s methods and fall; leaving him. Book three will have Gideon picking up the nebulas black hole spirit as a hitchhiker, visiting the Biedhander planet of retired Hospitallers where they search for a missing goblin tribe, and Gideon gaining his Jack of All Trades Metier. ]