The Book of Soltana: Exit – 65

Exit

The Decima Aboard the Skylon

Gideon

 

He sat in the Decima’s now full hangar bay, contemplating the news of the one they rescued. It explained her shady nature; that something wasn’t quite right.

“Really? That was why you acted unscrupulously?” Gideon asked in frustration.

Monday explained with a sigh.

“Yes. My former husband is well known throughout the systems and thus my little hide is also well known. If I broadcasted who I really was, there would have been a major chance I’d receive no assistance. And possible swift destruction.”

“Except I only know of Harker from a dream,” Gideon retorted, “also he calls himself ‘death’?”

“A pretentious little deary, I know,” Monday explained with a wave of her hand.

“I do apologize for the deception. It is a habit I am… Not proud of,” Monday added, choosing her words.

“His raid on a convoy of surviving refugees from a planet that was in the process of being raided by the Berberisk was the reason I had enough. I stole his capital ship and fled. I hoped that was enough to cause disarray…”

“So he was an opportunistic asshole,”

“That sums it up; spot on…” Monday replied.

Shindow floated to Monday’s side with a confused look on her face.

“But Monday, if you had told us sooner, we might have gone full force, saving everyone…”

“I know. While I dreamed of your help, I did not know where your allegiance lay. Were you a part of the church? Demons? Pirates? Some other faction? Vengeful former victims?”

“If we were to be clear on that now, it would be under the Kingdom of Heaven,” Deborah interjected.

Gideon nodded, feeling strange at being put into that category. Before the flight, he didn’t have much to do with God, leaving that to his family. And now he was a champion for Him.

“And my foolish mistrust and fear doomed my men, a spirit I had allowed entry,” Monday replied as she averted her eyes.

“I thought you were all Faithful Ones? Perfect?” Gideon asked.

“At first, your assumption would be correct, but in the presence of my former husband and his entourage, dark influences affected me.”

“In this regard, the separation was best. And now, my dear, I need to once again re-learn who I am.”

With a nod of his head and a purse of his lips, Gideon understood the motivation; the need for redemption.

“I’ve kept this farewell past it’s prime. Gideon, Shindow, Deborah, Baxter, Steak, Patricia, and Prosine, thank you for your assistance.”

Gideon sputtered at her saying Prosine’s name.

“Oh please, you couldn’t fool me on that. Retro is a church AI,” Monday explained with a laugh.

Prosine appeared and floated nearby, his blue eye examining her. He spoke calmly.

“Ah, my own ignorance of the universe undid my scheme.”

“And even then, there was little need of hiding your identity. What would I do, try to barter for the first AI like a utility?” Monday added.

“Or attempt to steal him!” Shindow replied.

Monday scoffed at the AI’s accusation, pointing to her as she replied.

“And then what? Enslave the first AI? How? Sell him off as a slave? Make enemies with every single AI and Anform in existence? I’m only surprised that you had him. Except, perhaps not so much of a surprise, seeing your retinue is also made up of an angel, Excertius, another AI, and a dog who defies category. So, of course, why not the first AI? And then not to mention the Decima.”

 

Gideon shrugged, giving that to her. Nothing about his crew or vessel were normal.

 

“Regardless. To you, Gideon, and your crew; the blessings of Adonai upon you,” Monday valedicted as she made her way down the ramp.

She turned, smiling serenely as she waved them off.

The hangar bay shut, finally ending their expedition. Gideon breathed a sigh at that.

“Captain Gideon, all CK DINEs, miniature Rumblers, and all miscellaneous gear is accounted for. Would you like for me to take our leave?” Prosine offered.

Gideon nodded, feeling the fatigue of the events set in.

“Prosine, get us the hell out of here,” Gideon ordered tiredly.

Both Excertius spoke up.

“Captain Gideon, I will be examining the replays for strategy correction,” Steak announced as he vanished in blue light.

“And I shall take inventory of the systems with Prosine. I will also examine this orichalcum,” Patricia stated.

“And I will search for the food and make sure it is good,” Baxter added with a sniff.

Deborah interjected, “I need to reflect on these events.”

Gideon winced internally. Her fight with the Breatherman had left an impact.

And growth.

They had gained beryllite armor cubes for repairs, power nacelles, tools, foodstuffs to last months, federacy weapons, and the orichalcum. Not to mention some currency called blueprints. And finally the strange medical nanites. He’d need to ask Prosine on that later.

He felt the slight lurch as the vessel began its ascent. Gideon strode through the hangar with Shindow in tow. He passed into the main hall, with Shindow breaking the silence.

“Gid, are you OK?”

He thought about that, with everything that happened, he was in no way in good shape. His mind was in tatters, his body was scarred; He was not fine.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Gideon replied with a weak smile.

Shindow crossed her arms at that.

“Gid, whatever you’re struggling with, you don’t have to go through it alone. We’re all here to help. We need you, our captain, to be in tip-top shape!”

He nodded at her gentle rebuke.

“Shin, thanks, but this is something I need to deal with alone right now,” he replied firmly.

She nodded, expression worried as she vanished in orange light.

“We’re all here for you,” she stated internally before going silent.

He arrived at his room and quickly headed inside. There the luxury room stood out to him. With but a thought, the incense burner activated, filling the room with a sweet spicy scent.

It helped him to relax.

He spotted the bottle of wine on the far table, sitting idly.

That also helped him to relax.

He sat on the extendable bed, feeling his hands trembling. He saw his reflection in the far mirror. He got up, stepping in close to meet the mirror. The horrific scar looked back, a sign of survival, of failure, and mortality. Or immortality, going by how the Seal reacted upon his demise. It flashed healed his body back to life, giving no consideration to aesthetics. And then the feelings of shame welled up. He was not fine with the scar, instead putting on a front of rock firm stability in the presence of the of his crew. He was the leader of a group that were comparable to demigods, with him being the average link. Not to mention that he was destined to meet others whose very existence were closer to divine beings then he was. How could he call himself captain when he felt like a fraud?

Can’t find love with a face like that, Gideon chided himself.

When he felt so weak?

The facade of strength gave way to the weakness that was.

“Preparing for FTL to Low-nine,” Prosine announced over comms.

Gideon felt the slight jerk as the vessel began its journey.

He raised up his left and right hand, seeing both the Brand and Seal. Something and Nothing. One appeared as a deep black tattoo, the other was raised blackened, scarred flesh. One was a sign of divine providence, the other a sign of slavery.

He sat back on the bed, head palmed in his hands. The scar on his face felt rough, foreign, and alien to him.

He had time to process the dreams, horrific confrontations, the Breatherman’s words, the scars, and branding, almost losing Shindow again, the feeling of inadequacy, the psychotic angel, the galaxy-sized god, Void, and the mysteries still in front of him; a monolithic barrier.

The simple journey to Low-nine had turned into a massive enterprise. Although they had won, and won big, gaining new technology, it had fractured him. The weight upon his back upturned him.

At that moment, Gideon broke.

His body was wracked with gentle trembling as he felt the warm tears stinging his eyes.

He wept quietly in his room, unable to contain the events that unfolded.

A knock at the door filled him with instant shame. The shame of being potentially caught in weakness.

“I need to be alone,” Gideon stated bluntly, his cracking voice betraying him.

“It is I- Deborah,” the angel stated.

He could hear it in her voice- she was struggling just like he was.

I can’t let her see me like this- I can’t have anyone see me like this-

“Come in,” He stated almost unthinkingly.

Despite his mind attempting to control the situation, his heart overrode it.

The door opened on his command, and Deborah stepped inside, hands clasped. He could see she had redone her eye cover from the torn Watcher sleeve, possibly a quick sewing job from Patricia.

He saw the wet stains on the white covering, just beneath where he believed her eyes to be.

He was humbled at that moment; at what her meeting meant. That an angel of indescribable strength, experience, and wisdom was also dealing with the events in a similar fashion as him. She felt more human than he had thought possible in those brief seconds. It grounded her; she wasn’t so alien as he believed.

“Gideon, I- I need someone to speak to,” She stated quietly, her tone betraying the vulnerability.

“Yeah, me too,” Gideon replied with a pained smile, rubbing at the tears. His cheeks burned at being in such a position.

He stared at her, and she averted her eyes. He felt the pain of judgment at that moment, self-conscious of the hideous scar. That small act felt like a knife to the gut.

“That bad?” He asked on instinct.

Deborah turned back, mouth shifting as if fighting back more tears, understanding what she did was apparent to her.

“I’m… I’m sorry- It is not the scar. It is not that. It is- I… I failed you, Gideon,” she managed to get out as she covered her mouth with a hand.

 

Gideon felt a jolt of shock at those words. He was so busy with his own perceived failures he didn’t even consider the others. He had assumed they would all be fine, that he would be the only one to struggle. That these comparatively demigod-like beings would have no struggles was the height of arrogance.

Would Prosine or Shindow be struggling with these events? Steak and Patricia? Baxter?? Is that why Monday left so hurriedly?

He made a mental note to speak to the rest of the crew.

He breathed a sigh, putting aside his own struggle for now. Someone needed support; right now.

“Deborah, how can you say you failed me?”

Deborah had stood back near the wall, keeping distant. She gestured with her hand and a tilt of her head.

The scar.

“Wait, the scar reminds you of..?” He didn’t need to finish.

She nodded quickly.

It was a reminder, to her, that she failed to protect him.

“And you had said you were fine with it- But I am… I am not. It hurts too much- I’m sorry I’m not stronger-” Deborah quickly explained before she was interrupted.

Gideon let out a sudden burst of laughter at the situation. Deborah pursed her mouth.

“So it is the scar! No, it’s not that- I’m- God I’m an idiot. I was putting on a front- If I made no fuss over nearly losing my life, everyone would be put at ease!”

Deborah put a finger to her lip, thinking that over.

“So you’re not fine with that scar as a badge of survival?”

“God no! I was making it seem like I was- shit- like I was this great captain. I’m not.”

Deborah scowled at that self-chastisement.

“I mean, if any of my brothers had performed the flight instead, everything would be fine,” Gideon continued his self-flagellation.

Deborah moved in and sat next to him on the bed. She spoke quietly.

“If your brothers were indeed as strong as you say, and they were in your place, then perhaps I would have never existed.”

Gideon felt burning in his cheeks at that comment. A chill ran down his spine. She continued.

“Maybe I would have been unneeded, and thus unborn. My very calling is to protect you and guide you. Emmanuel made that clear to me from the time I could fly. Do not degrade yourself because you then degrade me and my calling; my very identity and existence is dishonored,” Deborah explained.

“Gideon, you are captain. And that is that; no other words or false-truths will change this fact,” she exhorted.

“But I’m weak,” Gideon protested.

“Yes,” was all Deborah responded. A slight smile broke out as she continued.

“From what Adonai has told me, you are the weakest of the Seal holders.”

Gideon’s stomach dropped at the blunt comment.

“But then why choose me?”

“As I’ve said because you are weak. And in this regard, the other Seal holders will be jealous of the support you will be given by Adonai. The closeness, tutoring, and encouragement you will receive from him will be greater than the others. And his power will flow stronger through you because of this.”

He remembered his father’s words in the past, recalling to the forefront.

“Less of you, more of Him.”

 

Gideon shook his head, redirecting the conversation before he felt reduced to a puddle of melted ego.

 

“Why did you feel like you failed?”

“Because the Breatherman- that demon- forced me to choose a second calling. An experience that should have been profound and divine, one that I was waiting to choose, was reduced to a desperate stab in the dark. Chosen from the fear of losing you; of losing everything.”

“Why did you wait?” Gideon asked, curious as to why one would hamper themselves.

“Because an angel’s calling is an important event, our calling is our very existence and it needs to be chosen at the right time. If you were to be wed, would you not want it to be at the correct time with the correct person? Would you not want it to be at the height of timing and expectation? The full height of the love between man and woman?”

Gideon blinked at that, not completely understanding how they compared.

“And then I was weakened, and unable to assist your fight in rescuing Shindow,” She further explained, “and then seeing you broken like that- If I had been there-”

“Trust me, if you were there, they might have singled you out and killed you,” Gideon replied nonchalantly.

“They could try,” Deborah shot back.

She may have been correct. Sending Slate and Amy into deep space may have quickly ended the battle. Unless they had immunities like Saddiffer. With the way Slate acted, it was apparent she was beyond mighty. And then dealing with Void…

Perhaps not so correct.

“You did the very best you could, beating the Breatherman. Like- not just beating it- you annihilated it,” Gideon explained.

Gideon purposefully omitted the Breathman’s ability to revive based on the memory of the victim; he felt she needed a win.

“I did but-”

“But nothing! You protected me. And that’s that, and no amount of false-truths are going to change this fact,” Gideon replied with a grin, shooting back her own words.

“Because of this scar, I know more of this Seal.”

Gideon looked down, breathing out a sigh before turning back to her.

“Deborah, that demon, Slate- she killed me.”

Deborah’s mouth hung open for a brief second, trying to process what he said.

“The Seal can revive me when I- perish? Expire? Not sure the correct lingo anymore…

Deborah closed her mouth, tapping at her lip.

“That is an incredible gift, I would like to know the limitations-”

“Oh whoa, I don’t!” Gideon protested. He didn’t want to experience that again.

Gideon continued, speaking of what he heard from the being that explained the Seal. It might have been Adonai, or someone else.

“That is concerning. It may work only against divine beings. It may not work against lesser foes. I can only theorize. Ask Adonai first thing,” Deborah suggested.

He had forgotten to, all of the other questions taking priority.

“I will,” he affirmed.

She glanced to the wine bottle scooping it up in a portal to deposit it in her hand.

She handed it to him, a smile on her face.

He uncorked it easily, having already broken the seal and cork before their discovery of the Skylon.

He swigged a gulp, feeling the cooling liquid followed by a minty melon aftertaste. He felt his stomach start to warm.

“To Low-nine,” he cheered with a smile.

She grabbed the bottle, her own smile affixed.

“To Low-nine and eternity,” she replied.

And then she drank from the bottle.

And kept drinking.

And drank some more.

“Hey, Deborah- leave some for the rest-”

Deborah had drunk the entire bottle, letting out a loud gasping sigh as she finished it.

“Gideon, this is- amazing…” she stated quietly.

He could see wine blossoms forming on her cheeks. He blinked rapidly at seeing her finish off the wine he was intending to drink the night away. And at the fact that she was starting to show signs that she had no ability to handle her drink.

Deborah let out a stifled giggle at handing the bottle back.

“I was- hic- was… Was? Was told you liked to imbibe- and I was going to- fulfill my calling and protect you from the most…” Deborah stared off into space, her head starting to lull in circles, “this most? Moist? Most debil-it-tating foes!” She finished, slowly straining on the word, as she smiled.

“Oh my God. You’re drunk!” Gideon pointed out as he took the bottle, finding it empty.

“Imposs- hic- possi –hic- impassib- hic- That’s not true,” Deborah retorted, unable to get out the word; opting for the shortest route.

She poked him on the nose, getting in close.

“I am no- hic- not in-ebri-ated; I am not,”

 

She paused, trying to find her words and bearings.

“Did you know that… Em-man-u-well said my calling was to,” She paused, holding her finger in the air, her trail of thought lost, “guard the prince. And do you know- hic- who… Who the prince is?”

“Is it me?” Gideon asked. He felt immense amusement at the idea of an angel getting drunk on his behalf.

“How did you know? I didn’t tell you- Adonai- stop spoiling – hic- things!” Deborah slurred as she pointed to the far wall.

And then pointed to the mirror. She looked confused. Her movements were jerky, floaty, and imprecise.

She turned to him, leaning in close.

Too close.

He smelled her breath, finding it sweet, unlike that of one normally inebriated.

“And do you know- hic- do you know- do you know what else I did?”

 

Gideon felt his heart jump.

Is she coming onto me?

 

“I- hic- I fell in-”

Deborah didn’t finish as she did what she said and fell towards him. Gideon jumped up and off the bed as she thumped heavily atop it. He heard the bed creak and see it shake as she slumped. That could have crushed him.

“Deborah?” Gideon asked.

Silence responded. He shook at her shoulder, hearing her whispered muttered breathing.

“Deborah?”

Nothing.

He attempted to move her, finding he could not budge her.

“How the hell- how much do you weigh?” Gideon asked, toning his voice down as the undiplomatic words left his mouth.

Her flesh felt it was made of stone, and probably weighed as much, as if God himself carved a living statue.

And now that angelic statue was blacked out drunk on his bed. His plans to drink himself to sleep were put on hold.

He stood in quiet shock at what he witnessed.

“Well, not getting any sleep here,” Gideon commented dryly as he left his quarters.

He met face-to-face with a surprised Shindow, who was floating in midair; on the verge of knocking.

“Oh, Gideon, I was wanting to speak real quick- I mean not about you, but about…” Shindow paused as she caught sight of the seven-foot-tall angel sprawled on his bed and the empty wine bottle in his hand.

Gideon glanced from Deborah to Shindow. His heart jumped and he didn’t know why.

“…Deborah..?” Shindow stated with a disturbed whisper.

Shindow’s eyes, which were normally straight lines, widened to ovals in shock at not only what she saw, but what she perceived. Gideon saw her cheeks go a dark shade of orange as she rushed down the hall, vanishing into orange light.

Realization dawned on him at what she meant; at what she thought she saw. He condensed all of his feelings into a single word.

“Shit.”

He chased after her, trying to get her back.

“Shindow! Wait! Shindow it… It only looks horrible,” Gideon trailed off as he stopped in the hall.

He had somehow fallen into a pit with a shovel and only one direction to dig.

Down.

He ran his hand through his hair at the incredible situation. His room had privacy settings, so no one would know what went on apart from himself and Deborah.

He felt a sudden lurch as they exited FTL.

“What now?” He muttered in frustration.

“Good Gideon, we have arrived at another planet. You may want to see this,” Prosine announced over comms.

Gideon made his way to the bridge, that long and lonely walk as he thought over what Shindow witnessed.

I just need to explain to her, she’ll understand we were just talking. And a lot of drinking- on Deborah’s part. Dammit, why now? We just survived, can we just… I don’t know, have nothing for the next month?

 

Gideon kept his complaints internal. He was grateful that he was not focused on the thoughts from before; although distracting drama was not what he desired. He dropped the wine bottle, letting it clatter to the ground.

The bridge doors opened up, displaying the full view of the planet on the viewscreen. It was unfamiliar. He glanced around the room, seeing Patricia gazing at the viewscreen. Shindow sat atop the Excertius’ shoulder, arms crossed. Prosine’s particle projection floated in the center of the screen, turning to greet him. Gideon’s cheeks burned at seeing Shindow, but he remained calm.

“Good Gideon, we have officially entered the Kraken Nebula,” Prosine stated.

Gideon cocked his head, remembering the war with The Dusk- The Watchers.

“Kraken Nebula? Aren’t we way off course?” He asked.

“In this case, we are just sticking a toe inside before exiting it,” Prosine added.

Which planet was just in the nebula?

“It was a planet you may remember. Titanyia-five,” Prosine explained.

“Wait, that’s Titanyia-five?”

 

“Correct.”

 

“Titanyia-five- where we couldn’t terraform due to a strange issue with the planet’s nearly hollow core? Where it was a dead husk of a planet? Worthless?”

“Correct.”

Gideon shook his head.

 

Impossible things. All the time. Alright, sure.

“What do you say, Gid? Up for a nice vacation?” Shindow asked, showing no signs of the distress from earlier.

“Good Gideon, I think it would do well for everyone to have a good rest,” Patricia advised.

“I am in agreement with the others,” Prosine added.

 

Gideon got in close, inspecting the planet. He saw the green oasis and sandy deserts. He saw the temperature capped at seventy-eight. It was once a dead brown planet; it had now become a wealthy vacation tier world.

And yet, upon looking at the serene planet- where a vacation would be well called for- he had a bad feeling.

A bad feeling about the entire planet.

He shook his head, squinting his eyes in thought. He felt all of the shame of feeling a fake captain and fake leader. All culminated to this point.

Stand firm.

He perked up, reaching an instant conclusion.

“Nope!” He shouted as he spun on his heel, leaving the bridge. The AI and anform stood still, confused at the sudden rejection.

The doors to the bridge closed as he sauntered away, confident in his choice.

Shindow flowed through the door behind him.

“Gideon wait! What do you mean ‘nope’?”

“I said no. I don’t have a good feeling,” Gideon stated bluntly.

Shindow frowned, but acquiesced as she folded her arms.

“What?” Gideon asked, knowing well why.

Shindow responded, brows furrowed.

“What do you mean what? You and Deborah are free-”

“Nothing happened,” Gideon bluntly replied as he continued, “we both felt awful- feel awful. She needed the wine more than I, apparently.”

Shindow nodded unconvinced. She then spoke quietly.

“Which is why I wanted to talk. I didn’t want to say it in front of everyone; especially Monday.”

Gideon cocked is head, face scrunched at what she was trying to say.

“I lied. I was terrified of being taken; of being destroyed,”

Gideon blinked in confusion. AI didn’t have algorithms for fear; which made them perfect Scarabaeidae emissaries.

“What do you mean, terrified? How can you feel fear?”

“Well… I…” Shindow began to stammer.

Fear and stammering? What the hell is going on?

 

Shindow cocked her head, putting on a pained smile before she replied.

 

“Well, I guess I’ll ask: are these dreams always such a damned mess?”

He caught a look in her eye and spotted a sparkling glint rush down her cheek. She brushed at it, realization dawning on her what exactly that was. Her face crumpled in sorrow as she vanished in orange light. Gideon began to say something, but stopped as he spotted the flickering glitter gently fall to the ground before vanishing.

“Was Shindow… Crying?”

 

“Wait, she was dreaming… Dreaming!? Dreaming…”

He quietly thought over that.

“How can an AI dream?”

And then Adonai’s words made sense; he described anforms and AI desiring a soul and how Shindow was a special case. Monday dreamed, which implied others dreamed.

Did Prosine dream? Steak or Pat? Baxter!?

 

More questions. More need for encouraging the crew. Hopefully, Deborah was blissfully content with their talk. Now it was Shindow’s turn. Baxter would be next; no doubt something may have stuck with him.

“If I can’t be strong, then by dammit I’m going to build up those that are,” Gideon promised.

He made his way to the medical bay; it had the most comfortable beds anyways. He felt the sudden lurch again as they entered FTL, passing by the resort planet. There would be no vacation, but a staycation today. Or for the month. It would still be some time until they reached Low-nine. He entered the medical room and sat on the stretcher bed from before, sending the mental command to dim the lights.

His head hit the pillow and he instantly drifted off.

Gideon dreamed.

He floated in deep space with a familiar planet in view.

Earth.

Same dream? Why?

 

The pirate fleet emerged from FTL. Except there was a wider variety of vessels. Dreadnoughts, cruisers, and even the dreaded galleon class vessels arrived. It put the previous fleet to shame.

Gideon realized he may not have been the only dreamer.

Looks like they upgraded.

Another fleet left FTL from the opposite side of the planet. There he spotted it right away.

It was the Skylon. More vessels left FTL behind it. They appeared to be Mars tech vessels. The rag-tag fleet was tiny compared to the attacking pirates, but the symbolism was not lost on him.

Former Husband versus former wife. I’ve heard of bad divorces, but this is ridiculous…

 

The Archangel Chamuel flew from Earth, rushing to the Skylon’s fleet, appearing to join them.

More vessels exited FTL from the pirate’s side. And then more.

Thousands more than before.

Oh shit… They really did prepare…

The battle quickly joined as Chamuel’s vesselform attacked, wiping swathes of pirate vessels from existence. Golden lightning nebulae formed, spitting hot electrical death to nearby vessels.

The full volley of the Skylon hammered into the fleet. Bright flashes sun-intense light engulfed several ships, scattering them to molecules. The battle quickly turned sides as new vessels appeared from the cruisers. Thousands of small twisted vessels flew to Chamuel, engaging him. Gideon felt a wave of dread wash over him. Demons in their own vesselforms.

A third fleet exited FTL. Gideon could instantly tell it was a Mars Tech capital ship, however, it was larger than the Skylon. It was almost shaped like Prosine; if the first AI was a massive space wharf vessel with an angled visor.

Gideon’s eyes widened at the impossible.

Red glowing light surrounded the Mars Tech Capital ship, equipping it with a large five-pointed star hull that surrounded the sphere. It had used QSD in way only theorized by master shipwrights. The instant armament of a vessel.

More ships followed behind.

Hundreds.

Thousands.

Tens of thousands.

The new fleet dwarfed every other fleet combined. And the new fleet looked better equipped with higher quality ships. Gideon could not use the word amateur or ragtag in their formation, approach, or vessels. It all spoke of a professional army.

Pirate vessels began to detonate in massive bright white explosions.

“Pulse onagers done correctly,” Gideon commented in awe at seeing the pirate fleet being wiped out from long range attacks.

The demon vessels were quickly destroyed by Chamuel; they were no match. The professional fleet moved in to guard the planet and strike the pirates from different angles. He spotted tiny fleets working in tandem together.

The battle was intense, far more than before.

All this over Earth? I mean, it’s our birthplace, but it’s not all that special…

He felt eyes glaring into him, his heart rate spiking at something else noticing him. He turned around, seeing the massive dead eyes and nebula sized smile gazing back. It spoke with the voice akin to galactic heat-death itself.

“Ah, it looks like she has taken a liking to you; a very nice branding,” Entropy commented.

Gideon was silent, his mouth firmly shut, his mind locked up at the phantasmagoria in front of him.

“I’m thinking this Earth is a little too important. What do you think? Maybe something should be done about it? Too many prophecies, too many dependencies, too many predictable encounters,” Entropy explained, the reflection of the battle glinted off his dead eyes.

“What’s the matter? Can’t speak?” Entropy chided.

Gideon awoke, ending the dream. He had taken Adonai’s advice, refusing to speak to the Nothing. What it said made no sense anyway. What was concerning was the dream changed. His act of rescuing the Skylon rippled throughout the universe, somehow changing the battle of Earth; possibly implying that Monday’s final resting place was in the gravity well of that ice planet. His breathing was ragged and harsh as his body began to recover. His mind was in shock over the changed vision.

Who was that third fleet?

 

He didn’t know and didn’t care at this point as his heart rate slowed to normal. His head hit the pillow as he thought over everything. The small outing he and his crew suffered through was over. But the overall adventure continued. He didn’t know what else to expect from his flight to Low-nine, but he suspected it would be interesting, if not dangerous. His crew had grown wiser, stronger, and wounded from the encounter. He felt the damage would pass. He knew nothing could prepare him for what awaited. But prepare he would all the same.

“The next planet better have good beer,” Gideon muttered into the dark.

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