The Decima, Enroute to Lo-Nine
The Decima vanished.
She knew that the existence she had just occupied absconded. Her system’s lack of error feedback was an alert all its own. What she saw with her own visual sensory input was all the confirmation she needed that she left their vessel far behind somewhere else in the universe.
She stared down at her hands, seeing the familiar orange outline of her form. It had taken on a ghostly hue. It all started with her first shut down. She glanced about, spotting the familiar sunflower fields.
The azure sun was mid noon, splaying the sky violet and orange. A stiff breeze rustled the ocean of large sunflowers, sending clouds of pollen down wind. And a familiar yellow bumblebee. It spun in circles, buzzing in distress at the mighty wind. It finally landed, planting firmly on a sunflower. Shindow giggled at the ridiculous sight before zipping to the massive insect.
The bee turned, its antenna wiggling back and forth at her surprise visit. She floated close, allowing it to lick at her with its proboscis.
It fanned its wings, waving a hind leg at her.
"Is everything well? How's the honey business?"
It darted its antenna, telling her its day.
"And he ate all of it? The nerve!"
It wiggled its bee bottom, scattering pollen about.
"I'm sorry Busby, you'll just have to find a new place to stash it!"
The bee gave a quick buzz of its wings; an affirmative.
"Speaking of him, where's Berghain?"
One of her first dreams led her to this mysterious planet. She met the King of Beasts and Heart of Pride. He was accommodating to her. She heard of other dreamers getting trounced by him. Adonai explained his story, desiring the aid of the most ornery and stubborn dragon. The bee took off, wiggling a leg, gesturing to her to follow. She heard the bellowing beast off in the distance, towering over a woman.
“To demand of a dragon invites destruction. See to it that you never make that mistake again.”
His shadow hung over the girl like a falling mountain.
“I will let you off easy. Just. This. Time.”
"Oh dear, she must have really offended him!"
Berghain breathed out green fiery death. Shindow halted, taking in the impossible sight of seeing the green fire instantly blossom into a forest-shaped explosion cone, branching out from the point of impact. It created several acres of twisted conifers in that second.
Shindow grimaced at the girl's misstep and punishment. She zipped closer, undaunted by the powerful display. She flew through the instant forest of pine and oaks, refusing to get lost in the sudden woods. The dragon snapped his attention to her, teeth bristling in a lizard's smile as she pushed through a shrubbery foliage.
He bellowed a laugh, "Can you order a typhoon? Haha, a classic…"
His rumbling, grumbling laughter trembled the air. He lowered back down to the ground, golden eyes tracking her as she advanced.
"Ah, Shindow, a much needed reprieve from the besetation of squilts!"
She put on her best Duchenne smile, eyes closed and mouth wide, “Lord Berghain, King of Beasts! You're looking so green today!”
Start with flattery.
She landed on his nose, sitting down.
"You should have seen this one! She had little idea of anything, a babe in winter!" he rumbled in annoyance, Shindow felt it to her core.
"Wow, she sounded out of her element. Why waste your time?"
"It was a passing inconvenience, at the very least brief entertainment to fill her soul with woe!"
She adjusted her glasses, following along in their conversational dance.
"You've been practicing your speeches again?"
"Very much so! Busby here has witnessed all of them and is quite unshakeable."
He puffed smoke, glancing towards his favored steward as it buzzed off to a nearby sunflower. Busby buried himself deep, his hind legs splayed as his bee bottom wiggled. It went limp, dozing off mid collection.
"Bloviations are all but impractical in a serious bout, thus I have only the choice to crush down atop the squilts! Make them think twice before accosting me!"
She lied down on her stomach, arms propping up her large head as she looked to the old dragon.
“Will you tell me a story?”
The dragon smirked at her, eyes narrowing.
“Ah, ah, it is your turn to regale me, little artificially created intellect. Tell me a story. Placate me,” he eyed her coyly, awaiting her response.
Shindow darted her eyes up and down, thinking over where they’d left off. She lit up, smiling as she replied, “I told you about our time on Karmmrak, right?”
“Oh yes, the Karmmrak arc, very chilling revelations. You and the little Gideon lost on the planet you had only just absconded, a victim of time and space. And believe me, those abominable Watchers are disquieting even to me.”
He chuckled, rumbling this plane of existence.
His bellow silenced the planet. Shindow took off her glasses, rubbing them on her blouse as she recovered.
“Oh. And I believe I told you about our time on the Skylon, right?”
“Skylon? Yes… Regale me again, oh tiny artificial intellect.”
She perked up, adjusting her glasses as she sat up.
“Right! Well, as you remember it all started with Gideon’s Father-”
“-Mikial McDonough, yes I do remember-”
“-Of course! And about how he perhaps knew our flight would go bad!”
Shindow retold the past events in great detail, much to the dragon’s delight.
“That’s when Baxter just took off! He just ran off into the hallway chasing those imps!”
“He is a little scoundrel!”
She tutted Baxter’s past misdeeds, clearing her throat as she continued.
“So these crawler imps then ambushed us, hiding in the ceiling! Those jerkoloids almost got us too, but Gideon was too fast! So we’re stuck in close quarters, fighting off these pale jammers, barely surviving!”
“Fascinating that demonkind is evolving to combat technology. You’ll never find one who could do so against a dragon.”
“Yeah! Anyways! We saw Void- again. Awful!”
“Void? She is a smitten kitten of a liking to you.”
“Right? Like, go away! We don’t want any! And so she tries to help us by deploying this black slime- a Compiler- which tries to kill us!”
“A disruptive third party? How chaotic.”
“And so the slime gets me- look I know this story is weird as is- but a demonic slime capable of grabbing and ripping me from Gideon’s QSD is not possible!”
The dragon raised its brows, keeping quiet.
“I woke and dreamed again. Some silly girl in a vault- not important. I realized the slime was actually a mixture of nanite tech and demons! It hacked me!”
“A preposterous qaundry! Do tell more.”
“Gideon and crew went on a crusade to find me, using all of the Rumbler and CK-DINE tech before-”
“-Finally! Why did he hesitate?”
“Well- I guess he didn’t trust Monday-”
“-An easy judgement, she’s obviously a corrupted villain; enraptured by power-”
Shindow sputtered, doing a double take.
“Oh! You didn’t know? A cursory glance at the details you’ve relayed tell me that for one, the Skylon wasn’t hers. Two, she was hiding something- that much was obvious!”
Shindow adjusted her glasses, her eyes darting from the dragon to his new cone of forest.
“And third…” he smiled wide, “Monday is known to me. She’s- how you say- a bad apple.”
Shindow stared off into the distance, shaking her head.
“And she fooled us all… But Gideon’s dream of the battle for Earth changed!”
“As it would. You added a new player for the piratic vagabonds.”
“But she attacked them!”
She snapped away from the dragon to the horizon.
That can’t be! She gave us some priceless metal- the orhicalcum! Unless... Oh, God- is it bugged? Enchanted with tracking? Magic? Gah!
“We won’t speak of Him here- continue.”
His firm words urged her on.
“OK! We’ll go back to Monday later. Based on the video recordings, the ebon slime began attacking Gideon and crew, pushed back by the mini Rumblers. It spawned a being of pure magic- we couldn’t touch it physically! A Breatherman- a greater or elder demon variant, I think!”
“Breatherman… A minor nuisance.”
“Minor? Well for us little folk, it almost got us!”
“As it would, naturally.”
“Gideon eventually defeated it with his Seal, burning it away, but it came back!”
The dragon guffawed loudly, sending Shindow spiraling into the air.
“You mean he didn’t lobotomize that portion of his own memory?”
She brushed back her hair, adjusting her glasses, “we didn’t know it would revive based on who remembered it!”
The dragon narrowed his golden eyes, willing her to continue.
“So they eventually cornered the Breatherman- or it cornered them. And it took everyone out! Deborah fought, and it tortured her, eventually she grew to become a Lesser Angel of Life.”
“About time! It sounded like she held out. The choices of her own growth paralyzed her decisions! If she just made a choice back on Karmmrak, the Breatherman would have been nothing to her!”
“What? No, she grew in that moment of fighting that monster!”
“Look, Shindow, child of the artificial intellect, I understand the growth of angels as much as I know the antediluvian ways of this particular universe. An angel who only grew in that moment of El’ihm’aushia- pain beyond pain- only did so because it was a destination she had already arrived at. She finally chose.”
“Why- What- why would Deborah keep from getting stronger?”
“Fear, obviously. Her past is a ghost, haunting her own mind.”
Shindow didn’t know how to process the dragon’s wisdom. Or total bullshit. It was difficult to parse, but she continued.
“Well OK, then! Anyway, so she used her healing to slay the Breatherman! She collapsed after that, her new power Phoenix‘s Rise drained her.”
“Fascinating, she chose that as her first. She really did it, didn’t she?”
“Slay herself,” he snorted a plume of smoke.
She… Oh my God. She never really said it to me…
“And not to save herself or even to rescue her friends. It was for one. The one she loves.”
Shindow skipped a process at what she heard.
The scene of seeing them in Gideon’s cabin made sense now. He thought Gideon was smooth talking her into bed to soften the pain of what he experienced. It was in fact the reverse. Deborah arrived at his room searching for healing. They both were. She processed the guilt she now had, her accusatory judgement. An angel and human?
“I’m surprised an Artificial Intellect didn’t catch on! Haha!”
The dragon’s coughing laugh filled the sky with a volcano’s density of smoke.
She sat back down on its snout, staring up at him.
“Here’s the weird part. I met the one who attacked the Skylon. Amy the Angel of Liberal Arts- which she hates people saying by the way! If I ever see her again..!”
“Amy… A fallen angel? Ah- oh, oh-ho! Haha- that’s absolutely delectable! Four parties enter the fray!”
Shindow stood, cocking her hip as she gave him a coy smile.
“Oh? Oh! More? Do tell…”
“So Amy takes control of the slime, trying to force me to sign a contract so she could take me as a minion and feed me cheese! Can you believe it?”
“So I trick her into thinking I’m degrading, the slimes constructed carbon tubing was ‘failing’,” she quoted her fingers with a sly smile, “and I rushed to a nearby console, burning out the slime’s chip.”
“Right? Amy wasn’t fooled for long, the slime ratted me out! But then Gideon arrived, getting Amy’s attention!”
She folded her arms, diving into the intense portion of the story.
“So Amy sees the Breatherman and takes control of it- you should have seen Gideon’s face!”
“Haha! Squilts and their obsession with soiling themselves when afraid never gets ancient!”
“Yeah- anyways, another party shows up! Some dumb little girl of demon, hiding off to the side. She gave herself away by eating!”
“Hiding? Gave herself away? Eating? You don’t mean…”
“It was some dumb god demon named Slate! Amy tries to take control of her and-”
“-Slate? You mean Nem- Ah, can’t say it!”
“Her true name,” he snorted, narrowing his eyes as the black cloud of smoke grew larger, “You’ll die.”
“Die!? But- how!? Death is no more!”
“Haha, little Shindow, I used the old colloquial term to drive home the point. Only some know her true name. The strongest.”
“And you’re one of them?”
The dragon smirked, mimicking her own sly smile.
“Wow… This universe is beyond bizarre… So you’ll never guess what Slate does when Amy tries to control her! She punches the shit out of her! POW! Amy goes right through a bulkhead!”
The dragon’s chuckled rumbled her quiet.
"Ah, what I'd do to have seen it?"
Shindow's sly smile grew larger.
"You really want to see it?"
The dragon nodded hurriedly, sending her skyward.
She put two fingers together, pulling a holographic screen into existence. The video played, with Slate giving Amy a look of death.
The dragon bellowed a laugh, slamming a claw into the earth, sending the sunflowers shaking in a wave around them. The cone forest collapsed on itself, a series of thunder booms added to his laughing din.
"Do you- HAH- see Slate? Another- Another- HAH- time you’d never see this- always sooo serious! See- HAHA- that look of pure irritation! I'd give a Throne for a portrait frame!"
His fit of laughter died down to a series of rumbling quaking chuckles. He gestured silently with a claw for her to continue.
"Now look at this."
Shindow turned the view to display Amy's dumb face. Then she hit play.
Slate pulled back, taking a fighter’s stance before socking Amy right in the face, sending her flying at supersonic speeds through the bulkhead.
Berghain bust out laughing, the sound of a planet crashing, the sheer vibrations obscured Shindow’s vision. He snorted suddenly, the noise of tearing a mountain. His laugh died down to a consistent chuckle.
“It is a difficult decision, Slate’s transcendent annoyance or Amy getting thumped in the face!”
Shindow floated back down. A satisfied look on her face. Seeing Berghain laugh was not uncommon, but snort? That was a first. She recorded it for posterity. She liked that dreams were inviting to such technology. She replayed the screen dozens of times before it sated Berghain.
“Do go on, little Shindow! I haven’t been in this uplifted of a mood since seeing Baal himself was split asunder!”
His bellowing voice died down, his tail wagging back and forth as his full attention was on her.
“Well. This is the bad part. Slate shoots Gideon, blasting his skull open. I… Saw him die."
The dragon knit his brow.
“Slate began taking the party apart, Baxter got taken out, dropped through the floor, she blew Steak way, crushed Monday in an instant, and retrieved her ebon slime.”
She sat down, folding her arms, “But then, Gideon revived. I saw the glow, Slate got distracted.”
“Revived? For a simple human? The Seal!”
“His Seal revives him when he falls!”
“Hm- needs to be seen. Will bleeding out or dying from low attacks trigger it? Or will he only recover from swings of mighty power? Theories…”
Shindow added those to the list. She needed to be careful of Gideon falling from weak demons, or otherwise fail to revive again.
“So Gideon crawled all the way to me as Steak used his own QSD to keep himself running.”
“That Steak! Why does he not replicate himself? You’d have an army of infantry, mixed with air support and ground armor- a mighty force!”
Shindow halted, gawking at the dragon. That was a good question.
“Perhaps he is all too aware he’d cease to exist, maybe. He’d just be Excertius.”
“Then let him be Excertius! Force the issue! Order him!”
“-Is defective! Emotion hooks are not a fitting trait for a killing machine!”
She nodded, leaving the issue aside.
“So Steak stalls for time, dying repeatedly while battling Slate. And then Amy shows up and fights Slate to a standstill! Amy! The idiot angel!”
He scoffed, blowing more smoke.
“You underestimate her as much as she does herself. Complete immunity from demonic attacks is far beyond the norm.”
“But how do you know all of this!? I haven't described their abilities yet!”
“I know many peoples, places, and things. You are speaking to a dragon.”
He said it as if being a dragon was the answer in and of itself. For Shindow, that answer may have been, based on some of his early stories before the creation of the physical plane. There was an entire history beyond her own time. Stories upon stories. And she was in the presence of one of those that had witnessed that age.
"Eventually, Gideon rescued me, and Void shows up. Party number five."
Her processes skipped at finally witnessing the cosmic horror.
"Baxter returns and sacrifices himself to stall for time. We fight the slime, and I show Gideon how to kill it. And get this- Amy and Slate become best friends and then they both become best friends with Void!"
The dragon chuckled another laugh.
"Amy… She did have an obsessive fascination with cheesery… A good fit, yes."
"Slate and Amy leave to go eat cheese, but not before Gideon gives Slate a crate of Primetech rations to placate her. Then Void brands Gideon."
"Is that all?"
"Yeah, that's pretty much it for the Skylon arc."
"I do say, what a delightful story and good bit of gossip. A demon god of gluttony befriending an Angel of the Goetic Demon due to her cheesemaking skills? An odd couple, indeed!"
"Right? Wait, they're still friends?"
"Absolutely! They are, dare I say, besties."
She palmed her face blinking vacantly at his revelation.
“Shindow, I do say this has been one of the better stories you’ve regaled. I am placated. Next time, you’ll hear from one of my deep well of stories. Pre-creation or post-creation? Pre-Armageddon or Post-Armageddon?”
“Uh. Wow. I’ll need to process all of this- thank you, Lord Berghain! But you know what? I want to see you! For real!”
“For real? Shindow, you’re too forward! Let us continue these contacts. Maybe another day. For now, it is time.”
Shindow put on a faux-pout, crossing her arms and stamping her heel.
“Do we have to?” she whined.
“Yes- yes, we do! The dream is over- have a nice existence, little Shindow, Artificial Intellect!”
Shindow felt the dream fade to white. She heard the familiar voice of Adonai speak. The voice of an adoptive Father.
“Shindow, my delight, you’ve done what no one else has done! Berghain has shown interest and affection towards you. Continue to befriend him. He will be a valuable ally.”
Shindow stored those words away for later, processing through what she had just witnessed. A dragon interested in AI technology. But it was twofold. She was truly interested in who Berghain was and his wealth of stories. A bit of empathy went a full distance with a dragon of Pride.
She awoke in the Decima’s systems, starting the next adventure.
She processed all she learned. If someone had told her that she'd be friends with an ancient dragon that had been around since before the creation of man she'd call that someone insane beyond reason. Or oddly specific.
The voice of the Machine Father spoke to her.
"When you are free, you may want to see this."
She skipped a process at Prosine's supposed knowledge that she shut herself down to dream and the experiment he was performing.
"Is it- you got it?!"
"Indeed. We're all in the lab now."
She rushed along the quantum biocircuitry, excited to finally see the Tesseract Catalyst.
Support "After Megiddo"
Writer. Entrepreneur. Computer Science graduate. Madman.
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.