He dreamed a second time.
Gideon was on a scorched field, the smell of burned ozone and hair hung in the air. The land was overcast by an unnatural low hanging cloud bank of grey and black; a battle had come and gone. Gideon gained a sense of his surroundings, seeing bodies and buildings dotting the landscape. Among them, glowing motes of gold danced along the hilly plains, the twinkling of stars in a mass grave. There his focus was drawn to two people, one kneeling and cradling another that lied low in the scorched mud. The one holding the other was fragile; the calm before the sorrow. Gideon could hear the tremble of her voice, attempting to stay collected in that desperate moment.
“Please, my God, do not forsake me- I cannot lose anymore.”
Gideon heard the kneeling one imploring; begging. Gideon drew near, seeing the face of the tearstained one. She was young, no more than her early twenties, dressed as a nun, wearing a tabard with a cross wrapped in a thorny rose in full bloom. He didn’t recognize the iconography. Her beauty was something Gideon couldn’t describe. It was otherworldly.
A golden aura surrounded her, a soft light in the dim broken town.
The body she held trembled, her breathing shallow. The figure appeared to have lived for centuries, her nearly skeletal form akin to a recently exhumed body.
“Ruth… Ruth- Don’t be sad. We had good memories together; you and your sisters. I know you could only save yourself. If you tried saving me- we’d both meet the same fate anyway. Do not let this burden you. Please.”
“I can’t be alone, I-” Ruth started to say as her calm mien crumpled.
“-You aren’t alone. This is temporary. He- will return again and redeem this. All of this.”
“Ruth. Love of my life. My joyous daughter. Please... Carry on...” The other woman spoke before going still. Her eyes lost focus, her body sagged and went still. Ruth, clutched at the silent body. Several seconds passed, with Ruth quietly brushing at the elder one’s hair. The body then fell to dust, startling Gideon. Ruth’s eyes went wide like saucers. She attempted to collect the dusty ash of the body, as if to put her back together as it all blew away into the scorched skies. Her calm demeanor slowly gave way to sorrow. Her weeping cries echoed through the dead field. She fell fetal, rocking as she sobbed, covered in the dust of her apparent mother, grasping the empty robes. Broken. A golden mote glowed from within the clothing.
“It’s too late,” A man said off to the side.
His voice was soft and digitally distorted. Gideon glanced back, seeing a thin man in black with a cane. His face was shrouded by a long white beaked mask and round brim hat. Massive heavily armored soldiers surrounded him as an escort. It was power armor he did not recognize but knew at a glance they were technologically advanced. Gideon didn’t understand how so many could arrive unnoticed.
Perception's fuzzy. And the point of all this was..?
“Hurry, collect the others, check for survivors!” The man in black ordered with a wave of his gloved hand as he limped towards the fallen Ruth.
The man in black knelt over the woman, his gentle touch grasping her shoulder. His beaked mask suddenly snapped to Gideon.
“Who are you?” The man demanded, his voice hid little in the way of aggressive intent.
Before he could respond, Gideon was pulled away to an endless room made of white. He had no time to process what he saw, bt he could listen. A voice spoke.
The voice of a pained father.
“Be the son that my daughter needs.”
Gideon remembered the other dream. The sacrice and cosmic horror. It came to him like yesterday’s events. Why did he forget those troubling visions?
What did they mean?
Gideon felt a slamming pressure on his chest.
The dream ended.
He felt another slam against his chest.
“You are still asleep!”
Gideon woke to Baxter stamping down atop him with his stubby paws. An empty wine bottle clattered to the floor, disturbed by the ruckus.
“Baxter, not now,” Gideon muttered, still coiled tightly in the fog of sleep.
The corgi had black and light tan fur, with a fur-scarf of white around his neck and a well-defined pixie-saddle. He sported a white stripe running from his nose to his brow.
Baxter grabbed the blankets and pulled, growling with effort as he attempted to steal the soft covers. Gideon held on to the blankets, warring for warmth with the corgi. The dog braced precariously on the edge of the bed as he pulled. With a sly look, Gideon let go. There was a squeak of protest and a soft thump as dog and blanket tumbled to the floor.
Gideon rubbed at his eyes, seeing the lights slowly winking on.
“You will not stop me!” Baxter grunted from within his prison of blankets.
Gideon sat up, rubbing his eyes as he tried to wake from the clinging morpheus.
He checked the internal time to see it was an hour before the scheduled meeting before the flight.
“Baxter…” Gideon muttered in annoyance.
Loud sniffing responded from the traveling ball of blankets at the foot of the bed.
“Release me!” Baxter demanded from within.
He thought back to the strange dream, finding it had vanished as dew in the morning light.
“Flight nerves,” he concluded.
Gideon shivered, finding that the room had not begun warming due to one blanket thief. The tumbling blankets rolled along the floor, with Baxter sniffing furiously to find a way out. And so Gideon sat and waited for the room to warm.
He began to ponder his life, his situation, and the flight. Internal comms activated and a voice inside his head spoke.
Shindow interrupted his thoughts before they could spiral.
“Well, ‘someone’ can’t,” Gideon commented snidely as he eyed the dog rolling around.
“Me neither,” Shindow shot back.
Gideon scoffed at her overt AI 'joke'.
“At the very least I can confirm that today is the day-”
“You better not say to go fast-”
“-that you go on your flight,” Shindow finished unabated by Gideon’s comment.
Shindow was an AI, and Gideon’s friend back when he was young. They had met during his tutelage on the planet of Magara after he had gotten lost, running away upon discovering his dark genetic flaw. Gideon continued to ‘get lost’ and visited her often, befriending her. When Gideon volunteered to become a test pilot for the Decima, he used his influence to gather her up as well.
“We’ll see. Maybe we’ll make it to an even one dozen delays,”
“You’re speaking as if there is a limit to delays.”
“Well, I am wasting away here.”
“You have been getting thinner. You need to eat.”
Shindow interrupted his excuse.
“Here, I’ll help,” Shindow announced before he could say anything; boggarting Gideon.
Glowing orange light announced Shindow was materializing something. A small tube of liquid rations was deposited nearby. With more flashing light, a steel bowl full of cooked steak bits. Gideon let out a sigh, nodding at her assessment. He planted his foot on the side of the bowl and sent it surfing across the marble floor. The peeling sound of metal on marble rang out, stopping the tangled dog who listened intently. The bowl slowed to a stop just in front of the blanketed bundle. A twitching snout peeked out from the ball, smelling the delightful breakfast. Baxter instantly freed himself from the blankets and dove for the food, which he knocked away with a squeak as he tumbled from his former prison. The dog planted himself face first into the morning breakfast, the sound of metal scraping on marble quietly rang out as Baxter pinned it to a far wall. Gideon could hear the contented grunts of a happy dog.
Gideon sipped from the liquid ration, finding Shindow had chosen the most addictive flavoring; vanilla ice cream maple bacon.
He quickly chugged it down as he tested the marble to find it had warmed.
“Mm, thank you,” Gideon grunted as he made his way to the marble counter. He felt the tangling knots in his stomach. Nervousness had killed his appetite, which had been causing weight fluctuations. The man who tested out the first FTL drive had lost close to twenty pounds within the months of the test due to stress.
He was down fifteen.
No doubt my brothers would have been doing fine compared to me.
He sat at the table, willing from storage the only real thing to help him cope. Six ounces of bourbon. He sipped on the libation, clasping the bridge of his nose. His leg jumped nervously at the thought of the IIT drive tests and flight. His only company would be Baxter and his spectators would be everyone from Karmmrak to Low-nine.
“Gerrard alone could do this in his sleep…” Gideon murmured as he sipped.
“Gideon, you need to stop comparing yourself,” Shindow gently rebuked.
“I can’t help it. I see my siblings and I just can’t help it.”
Baxter’s ears twitched at hearing the supposed one-sided conversation.
“You need to accept who you are and be content with that; to be content with your identity.”
“And be content with mediocrity?”
“No! Who said you were average?”
He regretted the second he said those words. Shindow was really good at picking apart unstable arguments, “You’ve seen the media reports-”
“-And if you compare yourself to most of humanity that ever existed, you’re probably in the top point-zero-five percentile of men that ever existed. Just in terms of raw mental capabilities.”
He sighed and nodded.
It’s actually closer to point-zero-four, but I can see why she would say it that way.
It was to subtly guide him to the truth of the matter.
“And what does the media saying anything matter to you? Or anyone outside of the family for that matter? How many mental processes do they have?”
Gideon rubbed at his temple, “most people are stuck at one. Even your average newscaster has sixteen or more.”
“Not to mention the Anform techs!” Gideon retorted.
“With. Cybernetics,” Shindow repeated firmly,“You have four perfect individual processors capable of committing true multitasking; all of it from a biological brain!”
“Only four,” Gideon countered as he sipped his drink.
“So the newscaster paid for training wheels. You have this ability. Naturally! Well I mean- with genetic programming and gene splicing alongside biological conditioning- but- well... Naturally!”
Gideon chuckled at her amending. But she was correct. Others needed to pay for their multiprocessing abilities. His was a birthright.
“And do I compare myself to other anforms? I only have sixteen processes, near the bottom rung of AI capabilities. And yet Abbie’s AI Sepulcher has three-fifty-six!”
“I see what you mean.”
“Don’t you see? Adonai made you with a purpose! I can’t say that about myself- being produced by the Panasians and all. Don’t you see how special that is? Again, He made you with a purpose!”
She, like many AI, held onto humanity’s religious belief. Some anform held on for the cultural stability, others had true belief. Shindow was the latter.
“Such as flying in a straight line?”
“No, don’t be obtuse,” Shindow rebuked, ”was the first man in space only going up?"
She paused, letting what she said stew.
“Oh! Did he also lament that he would never be as good as the first man on the Earth’s moon?”
Gideon nodded, mouth pursed at where she was going.
“Did the first man on Earth’s moon lament that he would never be as good as the first man on Mars? Or the first to fly FTL? Or now the first to fly IIT?”
Gideon nodded silently in agreement over that.
“Don’t short change yourself, Gid! Your purpose, right now, is to make history.”
Gideon felt slightly better. At the very least more uplifted than a moment ago.
“I- You know I struggle with ‘God’, but still- you do encourage me. So, there’s that.”
He always found it ironic that an AI had more faith in a God than he did.
“That’s a lot of words just to say thank you."
Gideon downed the last of his drink, sitting and thinking on what Shindow had said, “How are the satellites?” Gideon asked, changing the subject.
“Shop talk? Mm, It’s good as usual. Just finishing up here on my end. ”
He called her out wryly, “bullshit. You’re already done and are scanning the colloquies!”
“How do you know?”
“Because it takes nearly half of your processes to encourage me at least,” he teased.
“True,” Shindow shot back.
Baxter had trotted away from his bowl and was content to sit under the table by his feet.
“Empire of Dusk. On Magara.”
Gideon’s stomach dropped at hearing Dusk so close to home.
Shindow explained, her voice going quiet, “They got a kid awaiting reconstructive spinal surgery. Those shit-stools!”
Gideon blinked at her uncharacteristic and colorful swearing.
“And why did they stop taking Federacy generals?” Gideon asked, thinking back to the leaked news.
“Because most had quickly retired after the fifth five-star,” she retorted.
Shindow was correct, of course. The confrontations had begun to die down as they sued for peace. It also didn’t help his brother Gerrard was the final weight that broke their collective backs by keeping Primetech’s hold on the planet Dallas. They then had a perfect straight shot to threaten Jersey and York. During this time, the brilliant minds behind the Federacy military were kidnapped one after the other by the Empire of Dusk.
“So now it’s our turn. That will definitely hurt the peace talks…”
“I doubt it. Federacy’s people have had it. They didn’t want conflict in the first place.”
“Don’t be the first to initiate, but definitely be the first to end it,” he muttered.
“It’s difficult to not worry.”
“Well, they’ll definitely not come for me. I’m not important enough.”
“I bet that paraplegic thought the same thing.”
“There’s more to that story for sure,” Gideon countered.
He was trying not to think too hard of The Dusk right now. He might not be as important compared to the five-star generals of the Federacy, but his siblings were. His Father for sure was an important man. Possibly the most.
He wouldn’t know what to do if he lost anyone.
“On the bright side, Abigail sent out an early update to Corbin firmware for QSD.”
“You can now materialize garments on yourself.”
Gideon raised his brows at that.
It didn’t sound like much, but if one really thought about it in practicality, that would mean the QSD would need to calculate the exact size of a moving person in realtime, and not materialize the clothing inside the flesh or hair of said person. And then not to mention if said person got their own clothing size incorrect, the QSD would need to have safety features built in for such mistakes.
“Also Gideon… I was just told yesterday I was being reassigned.”
Gideon widened his eyes, glancing up at the marble ceiling. He got to his feet, the sudden news rocking him as he paced the kitchen area.
“I’m being reassigned. I will tell you later after the flight.”
The comms cut out as Shindow went quiet.
Gideon felt he could say more, but the word condensed so many of his thoughts.
He didn’t know what else to say. Either way, he would be speaking to Father before the flight. It would be simple enough for his father to overturn the reassignment with a stern ‘no’.
Gideon glanced at Baxter who cocked his head in response.
“Now you’re calm?”
“I am always calm,” Baxter stated with a sniff.
As if sensing his apprehension, he scooted closer within hand’s reach.
“Gid? If you do not want to go fast, we can stay right here and explore!” He stated with a chuff in an attempt to help.
“Baxter, we- I really need to do this,” Gideon replied, stumbling in thought.
“But why? We have steak, warm beds, and scritches,” Baxter countered, oblivious to the deeper things.
“Because there's more to life than steak and pats,” He retorted with a sigh.
“Ever since I found out- you know- I’ve watched my family reach the heavens on the wings of glory. I’m just here, watching from the ground with my wings of wax,”
“But I don’t see wings- Oh,” Baxter began before stopping to think of the strange metaphor.
“So I’m trying to find out my own path of glory. Even if it… Doesn’t end well.”
“Like that one time I was getting too many back scratches and someone stepped on my tail!” Baxter replied with a knowing bark.
Gideon cocked his head at the strange dog, seeing his wiggling rump.
“But you never had a tail,” Gideon replied snidely.
“I know! It was very tragic!”
Gideon chuckled a laugh at that. He found it difficult to read the dog, but he did mean well.
He shrugged as he checked the time.
Gideon made his way to the showers and got prepped. He needed to hurry. If he rushed quickly, he could get the test flight completed before they could delay the flight again. He stepped out of the shower, drying off and getting dressed in the green and white jumpsuit and equipping his ornate platinum QSD. He felt the slight electrical jolt along the alloy gold diodes in his spine. His mind was updated to the new connection instance.
Instance 25600999 created
He felt the connection in less than a microsecond, the processing of QSD information lagged behind the actual connection. He skipped the rest as he gave a mental nod of satisfaction at the instance triples; a simple superstition among QSD users that repeating digits brought good luck. He needed all the help he could get. Baxter already had his vest and Blue-lit QSD equipped and was sitting by, watching Gideon. He still didn't know why Baxter specifically asked for that particular design; it wasn’t as if he could see that particular color palette. He didn’t know why Baxter did many things in life, he just accepted the fact that Baxter was odd.
Did he just use… Abby’s new application?
Baxter interrupted his thoughts, asking a question.
“Gid, how do I do the quantum thingy?” he stared at Gideon with a dumb doggy grin.
He narrowed his eyes; Baxter knew what to do already.
“Baxter, we’ve been over this before, you just grab something- like that sock, over there- and just think about storing it,” Gideon replied dryly.
The corgi trotted over to the silk sock and gripped it with his muzzle, giving it a gentle shake before the sock broke down and vanished in blue pixelated light, storing inside his small QSD.
“Oh. It is gone.”
“Yes, it’s gone. Now just think of it and search your inventory.”
“Um, yes…” Baxter began, his nose twitching with effort, “Hold please.”
As if a great burden was released, Baxter managed to summon the sock which appeared in blue pixelated light on the floor, “This is just great!” Baxter announced as he grabbed the sock, storing it with a shake.
“Now don’t use it for trouble, alright?” Gideon warned.
“I will not steal things!” Baxter responded with a chuff. His ears twitched wildly as he averted his gaze, telling the most of it.
Gideon's face relaxed to deadpan. Baxter placed a paw on Gideon’s discarded night-shirt, breaking it down and vanishing it away in blue pixelated light. Gideon shook his head, the lost sleep was getting to him as he would have normally scolded the dog. Right now he just needed to complete the flight. The nervousness was rising to the top. He had tried prayer, but with no reply and no relief in sight, he went with the third best option, drink. There were stims to help relax, but he needed to save that for energy stims; it was one or the other. The energy stims helped with the training regimens and late night crunches. He’d have to time it well as the stims and alcohol were dangerous together at best. He willed another glass of bourbon onto the table and quickly downed it.
I’ll cut back after the flight. I- just need something to stay calm.
Deadly at worst.
He exited his room and made his way to the inner mirador.
Gideon walked the halls, nervous about the flight. Baxter padded along, his paws clacking against the white floor. The dog flattened his ears, arming a question.
“Gid, if the sun is hot and we are buried, how far down are we?”
Gideon nodded at that, a fair question, “About two miles.”
Baxter’s ears twitched at the answer, “is that far?”
Gideon cocked an eyebrow at the question. “Two miles? Of course, that’s far.”
“Is it more than four?” Baxter asked with a cocked head.
Gideon stumbled in thought over the silly question.
“Four!” Baxter barked a reply.
Gideon shook his head. It could mean anything from four sleeps to four biscuits, “Uh, yeah- It’s definitely more than four.”
Baxter hummed in thought over that.
They passed by several metallic beings as they trundled past. Sentient robots known as anforms. Their glowing, sheening chassis were gorgeous artisan craftsmanship.
Baxter stopped, his ears twitching in thought. Gideon halted as well, knowing a question was coming. The two guesses were either where is food or when is fast.
“What were those metal friends again?” The dog asked. Or a third entirely unrelated question.
Gideon squinted his eyes at the silly dog, “You already know this-”
“-Yes, but say it again with less words,” he interrupted with a sniff.
Gideon sighed as he continued walking, with Baxter trotting alongside, “Anforms are living automata built from alloy, plasticine, and quantum-”
“-Those are too many words! Make it so much simpler!” he barked, cocking his head.
Gideon sighed again, tapping his jaw, “Anforms are metal people.”
Baxter flattened his ears, muttering aloud his thoughts.
“But I know that. That is much too simple. Explain better.”
Gideon cocked his head, pleading with his hands. A large sigh escaped his lips.
“Anforms are metal people- just a moment,” Gideon held up a finger as Baxter began to protest, “-They are like you and I, except made of metal. They do not need to eat or sleep and are really, really smart.”
Baxter pondered that explanation, “Ah. Hm. Yes,” His ears perked up, a new question was loaded, “And what about the glowing guys?”
Gideon cocked an eyebrow and nodded, “Anforms are also two ‘people’ groups. Anforms and AI. Those that are metal, and those that float.”
There was no way Baxter had any questions this time. Baxter flattened his ears again, proving him wrong, “Uh, what about the metal ones that also float? Are they ay-eye? Or are they An-froms?”
Gideon scrunched his face, eyeing the dog suspiciously. Baxter tended to mispronounce common words; on purpose or well-intentioned, Gideon couldn’t say either way. He relented.
“Alright, fine- Anforms you can touch, AI glow and you can’t really touch them,”
Baxter sneezed at that, implying he was done with questions.
Or the lack of follow up meant he was done with questions.
“Is Shin coming?”
Or he had different questions.
“Not this time. She’ll be cheering us on, though!” Gideon stated, the sourness of his tone bleeding through. He wanted nothing more than to have her join the flight.
They arrived in front of the elevator terminals, the doors sliding open with a pleasant jingle. Baxter rushed in, doing his doggy dance of excitement. Gideon stepped in, terminal jingled as it began the descent to the inner mirador. Gideon tapped his fingers against his thumb rhythmically, waiting for the doors to slide open. The bourbon buzz kept him calm. The doors slid open with an announcing jingle, revealing the large white plasticine hallway. Baxter bolted out, scurrying away.
“Gid I need to do something and will see you later!” Baxter barked excitedly as he ran.
Gideon scratched at his head, wondering about the silly dog. He shrugged and continued on his way to the inner mirador. The doors slid open to reveal dozens of familiar faces. The massive AI peered down at him impassively.
He wasn't any AI. He was the first. The Machine Father. To Gideon, he was just Prosine, the family's Artifical Intelligence.
Prosine spoke, his rumbling and archaic voice tone reverberating off the walls.
“Good Gideon, I trust you are well. Everything is prepared and all that is needed is the illustrious pilot.”
Gideon glanced at the viewscreen, seeing a portion of the vessel. Father had explained the special alloy that lined the outer vessel from the nose to spine; stern to bow. Several times in fact, and it still went over his head at how the molecular makeup of the amorphous metal broke known science.
It was borderline mythical.
He turned back to the large projection.
“I’m ready, Prosine,” Gideon announced.
The larger particle projection tilted on its spherical axis, the sole glowing blue eye contracting to a point. The doors opened again and a diminutive corgi clacked in, galloping to the crooning women. Gideo turned his attention back to the larger AI.
“The mission, as you well know by now, is a quick flight to the fabrication planet Low-Nine of one hundred and twenty million light years. There you will have a brief respite before making the return journey back to Karmmrak. We pray for a safe journey and the best of luck,” Prosine explained as he glanced to the other scientists and engineers, “Good Gideon, was there anything you would like to say before the flight?” He in turn asked.
Gideon cleared his throat, gathering the room’s attention on him. Except Baxter who continued to paw for attention.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, Anforms and others. I thank you all for your incredible work on this… Momentous day,” Gideon strode the room, gesturing those who made this moment possible, “today is the first of a new age of travel, of exploration. The galaxy will be ours to document, explore, colonize. I’d like to thank you all, again. And again...” Gideon paused and smiled as brief chuckles rang out, “it has been a long year, one where many of us feel stuck repeating this exact day for months now. I can assure you all, this looks to be the moment we make history,” he gave a brief pause as he cocked an eyebrow, “now if only the vessel would launch,” Gideon shot out, eliciting laughter, “let’s do the very best our calling demands. Adonai bless our craft and lineage,” Gideon finished his speech with a pearly-white smile. It was off the cuff, so hopefully, it was good. There was a murmur of approval, then an applause, confirming his hopes. Somewhat. He could have stumbled in a stupor and slurred a half-assed rant and they would still applaud.
“It was a good speech. You do have a way with words, you know?” Shindow encouraged. She was always like that.
Gideon eyed the doorway to the inner hangar lifts. His heart lept at the idea of flying. The speech was over. Time was up.
And now he was going to make history.
Writer. Entrepreneur. Computer Science graduate. Madman.
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Writing since Christmas 2017 due to life changes that inspired me to write. Had many bizarre dreams that influenced my writings. Many of the writers and authors here on this very website also inspired me. A digital artist inspired me as well. My goal is one million words written.