He glanced away from the images of the Decima back to Prosine.
“If we wait any longer, it might fuse with the hangar bay,” Gideon mused, eliciting a laugh from the technicians.
“Then you’d best be on your way,” Prosine replied, bobbing his large floating form.
Prosine always did get to the point.
It had been over a year since the vessel’s completion, followed by thousands of variant testing methods, dropping what didn’t work and pushing forward with what did. The vessel had not budged since the last instrument was attached. The very best quantum techs Primetech and Mars Technocracy had to offer worked on this project.
The ‘Decima’ was the pinnacle of hardware and software from several different civilizations.
And he was going to fly it.
The only weak structure point is me, Gideon thought grimly as he remembered the flight tests that his brothers dominated.
While he was a better pilot than average, he was leagues beneath the rest of his siblings. The doors to the mirador slid open, revealing a lone corgi. Baxter ran passed him, running to the girls from yesterday and pranced around them as they clamored at the adorable dog.
He was done looking at the Decima through a viewscreen or blueprint; he needed to see it with his own eyes. Gideon stepped up the center of the mirador, to gather everyone's attention.
Everything had to be planned around the looming sun.
They needed to open the plated hangar bay doors on the planet’s dark side, lest they feel the full gaze of the super red giant’s fury.
Baxter was hamming it up as usual with the ladies, getting all of the attention. One of the techs was a petite blond woman, snuck him a treat, the same person from yesterday. She caught Gideon’s eye and gave a subtle wink and smile before cooing back to Baxter.
Eleanor is her name… Gideon recalled.
He made a mental note to ‘discuss the flight’ with her later.
“Come on, Baxter. If we wait any longer, we won’t be able to go fast,” Gideon coaxed.
“That shall not happen! Goodbye ladies I’m off to fly fastly- quickly- Going fast!” Baxter barked, stumbling in thought as he trotted to Gideon. The attention overwhelmed him.
“Good blessing on this flight, Gideon,” Prosine encouraged as his massive form dipped. The far doors led the way to the second mirador. This one dropped them deeper into the crust, to a horizontal tram branch that would shuttle them to the hangar bay. Gideon felt his breath shallow, his stomach in knots at the thought of flying. The reality of what he was about to do settled in.
The flight would take minutes, but the distance was vast.
The main tram opened up, an inviting jingle echoing in the hall. He got aboard with Baxter in tow. He quickly settled into the seating as the tram began its acceleration. The magnetic thrumming gave a muffled shriek and sent them barreling down the tram tube. They were both silent, save for Baxter’s panting and the constant thrum of movement. For a while, nothing was said until Baxter broke the verbal silence.
“Gid, all of those nice ladies were asking about you. Like what you eat and drink. I think they are spies,” he chuffed as his ears twitched.
Gideon couldn’t help but laugh.
“No, Baxter! They’re interested in me.”
“Oh,” Baxter replied, and then there was just the thrumming sound of the tram. Baxter’s diminutive form and outgoing personality made him perfect for sniffing out would-be assassins.
Baxter’s ears twitched as he glanced to Gideon, “You should see the short blond one. She gave me a treat and scratched my ears,” Baxter chuffed happily.
“Didn’t- didn’t they all scratch your ears? And that’s a pretty low standard to judge- getting bribed,” Gideon replied, cocking an eyebrow.
Baxter responded with a yip, “But it was a homemade treat! Made only with whole goodness and love! You should speak to her.”
“And it’s not because you might get more of these whole-goodness-love treats, hmmm?” Gideon sported a fake-stern look as Baxter averted his eyes.
“Um. No. Hold please!” Baxter tried to redirect, flattening his ears.
Gideon laughed in response to Baxter’s poor conversation skills. He ruffled the dog’s ears and chuckled.
“I’ll be sure to not take relationship advice from you in the future. Besides, whoever my parents wish me to marry, there will be so many steaks, you’ll be able to sleep on them!”
“Who is this woman that has these beds of steak..?” Baxter licked his lips as his ears perked back up.
“Unless she’s Anform-” he cleared his throat as he halted on that word, “Oh, this is our stop,” Gideon announced, redirecting the conversation elsewhere.
The tram shot through a now transparent tube; the hangar’s large expanse opened up to them. It was a massive open space, large enough for cruiser class vessels. Most of the buildings were low grounded bunkers, giving room for flight. It was an underground city-sized hangar bay. The ceiling was a massive white horizon. The ground was built with structures ranging from fabricators to anform storage bays. The whole hangar resembled a grey and white antediluvian circuit board from Gideon’s perspective.
The large vessel caught their view. Massive in size, with the dark phthalo blue outer armor with pearlescent white under-trim sheening in the lighting. The triple gyroscopic IIT drives peaked out from the stern. The ship radiated beauty, class, sophistication, and craftsmanship. If the Decima were a woman, she would have been Wisdom incarnate.
“My God… She’s gorgeous,” Gideon murmured upon seeing the vessel obscured by a surrounding fog bank.
It was a timeless masterpiece made up of thousands of year’s worth of knowledge. And many race's worth.
The tram halted as it descended down the main tube shaft to the ground level.
Gideon’s father would be there. Seven of his sisters were also assisting with the final diagnostics and last second prep-work. Most likely finishing the internal accommodations. Gideon could see his father was waiting at the tram exit at the bottom. The doors slid open.
There he was. The man who ruled thousands of planets. Emperor, CEO, Inventor, Innovator. To Gideon, he was just Father.
“My son!” the deep booming rusty voice of a wizened man echoed through the docking bay, some of the Anforms ceased their work to look. Father was beaming with pride. His black and red robes billowed as he strode to Gideon.
“My son, today is the big day!” Father quickly approached and embraced him. Gideon gave it back half-heartedly.
“I know. It’s- well it’s difficult to believe that it’s here,” Gideon stammered.
“You’ve been losing weight, I see,” Father commented as he felt at Gideon’s forearm.
Gideon was taken aback at that barking comment.
“It’s good you’re nervous. Less likely to make mistakes. More likely to pay attention.”
Gideon nodded, grunting an affirmative.
“And besides, weight is temporary; your life is forever.”
Gideon glanced away at that.
As if reading his thoughts, his father consoled him.
“Gideon, you will be fine. We’ve accounted for the anomalies, the pathway to Low-Nine, the IIT drive, and everything in between!”
Father was staring at him, with a warm look on his face.
“I know, father. It’s still difficult. The burden, the risk. My brothers wouldn-”
“Being worried or scared isn’t a sign of cowardice, just sanity. And don’t compare yourself to them! They have their own struggles; regardless of what they accomplished. Besides, have you ever had to deal with a tide of fangirl wives like your older brother?”
His father winked at him. He got in close and whispered, “he complains all the time wishing for some quiet. He’d trade places with you right now if he could.”
Gideon knew what his father was doing, trying to keep him encouraged, distracted before the first takeoff. His father had turned to Baxter and was scritching his ears, asking the all-important question of who's a good boy?
“And this whole issue of Shindow being reassigned and sent elsewhere-” Gideon began, but stopped as his father’s gaze shot up from the dog.
He rose to his feet, his mood turning somber as he turned to address his son. He fiddled with a device in his robe.
“Gideon. I’m giving you this for the trip. It may help with the flight. She may help with the flight.”
He was handed an intricate disk. It was made of platinum, gold, and silver. With a press, the scissor iris opened, activating what was inside.
An orange globe appeared in front of Gideon and began to transform into a tiny woman. She had an oversized head with a simple face, eyebrows, eyes, a mouth, and a tiny simplified body. Her hair was done up in a ponytail. An eight-inch tall glowing AI floated in front of them.
“Shin, there you are!” Baxter said with a quiet chuff.
“Gentlemen. And Dog,” Shindow faced and addressed them cordially, nodding to each one.
“System diagnostics for the Decima are complete and we’re ready to fly,” Shindow explained as she adjusted the glasses that adorned her face. Her limbs were tiny compared to the rest of her.
She sported a cold stern look.
Everything suddenly clicked into place.
Shindow stopped playing coy and perked with a half-smile.
“Captain Gideon, permission to come aboard?”
Gideon had to admit, his father was pretty damn good at distracting him away from dire thoughts.
However, that didn’t stop him from asking the obvious.
“But Shin, how? You were moduled for satellite surveillance, not for flight,”
Shindow bent down and gave a look of incredulity.
“No Welcome aboard?… “ She asked, ready to unleash a withering volley of sarcasm as she looked unamused at Gideon’s dumbfoundedness.
He broke into a smile of his own.
“Sorry Shindow, I get it. This is fantastic! I don’t even know what to sa-” Gideon caught himself as Shindow crossed her arms, tilting her head with a winking smirk, “permission granted, welcome aboard, Shindow!” Gideon affirmed with a salute.
Shindow returned the salute, a beaming smile plastered on her face.
Gideon’s father laughed at the interaction.
“I knew I made the right decision. You two work well together. She was an excellent student.”
“Father, you taught her? I thought your processes were fully committed!”
His father gave a shrug as he explained.
“I had one process open, and besides, your sisters are more than capable of picking up this old man’s slack, hah!”
‘Yes, Gideon. I was the one who ordered her reassignment. And the one to train her to assist in the Decima’s flight. And to support you,” Father replied warmly, gently tapping Gideon on the chest with his biological arm.
“And before you ask, it was a surprise; a going-away present. I want you to be the captain of the Decima, not just the test pilot. Shindow was reorganized and reassigned as your Chief Officer,” Father explained with a grin.
“Speaking of your sisters. Come, let’s meet them for flight prep,” His father suggested.
As they began walking to the Decima, his father described the details.
“Yes, that blue-black steel you see is completely indestructible! The Mars Tech had been working on it for several hundred years. It takes that long to get the metals to reach such a temperature. It was designated metal AMC881, but I might call it something more personable… Orichalcum? God’s metal? Maybe… Hmmm.”
“It’ll never catch on,” Gideon chided humorously.
“Let this old man have his dreams!” Father shot back with a chuckle.
“Why not Adamantite?” Gideon asked.
“Taken, already. Another metal has been underway for a time before this metal was realized. Oh-See-Ar-two-two-one, was the coded designation. It will hopefully replace armor plating and ordnance one day. Mixed with this AMC881, vessels will be largely indestructible. Don’t speak of this as it is top-secret.”
Gideon scoffed at the fantasy talk. They continued their walk, crossing a bridge that hung over a large series of fabricators.
Father went silent, glancing around nervously.
Something was wrong.
“Gideon, Baxter, get close. Shindow, hide. Now.”
Shindow instantly compressed to a sphere of orange pixelated light back into the disk. The disk itself was then stored into Gideon’s QSD, uploading Shindow to Gideons Quantum Storage as his permanent AI. Gideon could feel his mind and hers bridging together as she began running the merge protocols.
AI ‘Shindow’ installed
The normally happy dog became alert with a shrill bark. He raised his hackles, growling angrily.
“There are bad guys there!” Baxter announced with another bark.
Gideon willed his handgun into existence from storage. Glowing light materialized above his right hand, Gideon caught the ornate powder revolver with a twirl before sighting it.
All signs pointed to an intruder.
“Father, what’s going on?” Gideon asked, worry betraying his calm demeanor.
Father glanced back, giving a look of disapproval.
“Black powder? Really? Put that damn fool pistol away!” Father chastised as he knit his brows, his face taking on an intense edge, “it’s the Empire of Dusk.”
And that was all his father needed to say. His stomach dropped. His hands began to tremble. He could feel the name alone triggering his flight response.
“Of all the times, they choose now to show up? Dammit!”
Gideon wasn’t used to Father losing his temper like this.
This was a different side that he had not seen in him. Gideon obeyed and dematerialized the pistol to orange light.
The brief war showed that weaponry did little against the Empire of Dusk.
“Why are they here?” Gideon asked, his voice trembling.
“Only God knows, boy! They take whatever they wish- makes no damn sense! After Kraken, they can do as they damn well please!”
Gideon remembered the stories and videos of the Kraken Nebula war. It was a total loss for humanity, lasting only a few hours. A permanent stain that everyone would rather forget; but couldn’t.
The massive galaxy had a way of humbling mankind.
“It must be the IIT drive they’re after. Or the creators,” Father began as he scanned the bridge.
“What do you mean? They’re here for us?”
Gideon’s father turned back, a disheartened knowing in his eye as he nodded.
“It was my own damn hubris… Now they’re coming for penance and judgment.”
Gideon remembered the first contact. The surviving merchant vessel returning with the remaining crew in deep catatonic shock. They never recovered the missing.
Gideon’s pulse race, his left hand trembling. Once target by The Empire of Dusk, you couldn’t run, hide, or fight. And now they had arrived inside Karmmrak’s underground hangar bay by unknown means and pursuing him.
Gideon, father, and Baxter stood at the center of the bridge.
There another group stood.
Emissaries of the Empire of Dusk.
Shrouded completely in black robes, standing at seven feet tall, skeletal thin and emanating an aura of disquieting dread, they stood as doom on a wire. The group of silhouetted emissaries surrounded another in the center. They were aliens from the darkest reaches of nightmare. Humanity’s bogeyman.
They looked wrong, sounded wrong, and felt worse. It was like staring into the empty black vastness of space. And space stared back.
Gideon’s father walked up with a wide stance to block the view of his son. The Dusk began their procession, making their way to them.
“Keep your distance, stand down weaponry,” father ordered over comms.
Gideon couldn’t spot armed guards, drones, or even Excertius.
The bridge was eerily quiet, except for the soft padding of the Emissaries and the gentle blowing of air currents.
“Why?” Gideon asked no one.
His father glanced to him, his biological eye wide with anger and panic.
He turned back, shouting to the Dusk.
“Why are you here?”
One of the tall Emissaries raised its hand and the surrounding area started to lose color, looking more grey, more pastel. Gideon held his breath as he looked around, seeing they were in a perfect sphere. Outside appeared hazy and discolored.
“Gideon, stay calm. We’re locked in some sort of time or- or dimensional bubble- I don’t know. This is how these Goddamn monsters can take so much from us without so much as a fight,”
There was an edge to his father’s last sentence. He was involved in the initial confrontations with the Dusk.
He never spoke of what happened.
Baxter was growling, ready to attack.
“You are bad I will fight you!” Baxter half barked, half snarled, teeth showing.
Which showed how serious the situation was. Baxter being anything but dopey happy was bad.
The procession got within fifteen feet, and dangerous disconnect drew his perception away. Gideon felt a pressure forming on him, like someone stacking weights on his back coupled with heart palpitations. He heard a series of barks as Baxter charged on the offensive.
“Wai-!” Gideon called out too late. Baxter lept out of their prison bubble and stopped in mid-air, turning a grey pastel color. He hung like a floating statue. Gideon’s father continued like it was nothing.
“I ask again, why are you-” Gideon’s father tried to ask as he was pulled by nothing outside of the time sphere. It was as if time ceased for his father as well.
“Father!” Gideon wanted to move, but the weight was too much.
There was no response, his father stopped moving, becoming statuesque.
Gideon fell to his hands and knees with a gasp as the weight increased. His bones risked fracturing, his muscles and tendons screamed at him. He felt the pressure even in his veins, the blood coagulating. He knew Shindow couldn’t help either. If she revealed herself, they would take her for sure, along with the technology of the IIT and ship. But if he was taken, it’d all be a loss as he had everything. That leaned on the fact they were not here to take him and were just observing.
In plain sight.
With a large group.
Shindow had taken a risk. If they survived this, then…
Adonai please let it be that they’re observing.
His thoughts were grim.
His face was contorted in agony from the pressure. His ears roared from the pressure like being inside the wall of a hurricane.
“Keep calm, don’t let them know,” Shindow advised. Gideon affirmed internally, keeping positive gestures hidden.
The six tall Dusk stopped and parted, making way for a shorter Dusk. It was carrying a hinged wooden box, which caught Gideon off guard; using something so rudimentary. Gideon couldn't see their faces or any flesh revealed from their completely obscured forms. The shorter one had more bulk compared to the taller skeletal Dusk. The shorter Dusk marched towards Gideon, stopping within arm’s reach.
And then all at once, the pressure vanished. Gideon fell to his side, feeling his body crying out in relief from the pressure.
The Dusk waited for Gideon to rise. They all stood as looming doom itself.
Gideon slowly rose to his feet, his breath raspy as he still felt the echoing phantom pain of whatever pressure they emanated. The Dusk opened the box, reaching to ponderously take out an item. He was unsettled by the strange cube, the same disquieting feeling as staring at a corpse. It didn’t look real as light neither bounced off of it nor did it emit light. It absorbed all light. It was the dark matter of the blackness of space itself.
Then, it spoke.
“Deliver to Lo-Nine.”
Gideon revolted at once at the sound. Of rasping, clicking, buzzing, an almost mechanical sounding torture to his ears. It was wrong. But still, he took a chance.
Who knows, maybe they’ll answer? Deliver to the planet they were testing the IIT drive? Why?
“W-who are you?” Gideon asked.
Genius first question, he chided himself.
Everything in his heart and mind screamed to run. That this phantasmagoria was going to murder him.
“Irrelevant. Deliver the Item.”
“But why? What is this... Thing? Why do you suddenly- I mean why do you decide to speak to us? Will you at least put my father back- stay and talk?” Gideon asked in rapid succession.
Quantity over quality.
Gideon felt the word slammed down as absolute authority.
Should have stuck with quality, Gideon thought as he breathed heavily.
His heartbeat at a runner's pace, he felt the tickling of sweat down his jumpsuit.
Gideon’s hand was forced open by that unknown power, palm up. The cube floated to his hand and began to dematerialize in glowing orange light. Gideon had briefly felt it; it was neither hard or soft, smooth or rough, hot or cold.
His eyes widened to saucers at seeing them manipulate technology.
More glowing light off to his side announced something else was materialized; his SCOSO Ram revolver floated in midair. The pistol traveled over into the black box, the lid snaped shut.
How the hell did they open, store, and steal items from my QSD? That pistol was a relic! Gideon thought.
He was at least happy nothing else was being taken.
Glorified mail delivery service? Come on!
He chastised himself; this was quite possibly the only best outcome.
There was another unexpected reply. To what question, Gideon did not know.
“We may meet again. After Megiddo.”
“Wait! What do we call you?” Gideon shouted.
That did it. The group ceased walking as the shorter one turned to gaze at Gideon. It did something completely unexpected. It took off the cowl and showed its true face. Gideon felt like spears skewered his head to the ground. He could see that horrific face, hear the name in his head, yet his mind could neither hold on to the memories nor understand it.
Their name was,
The pain ceased as Gideon’s world went dark.
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.