2034-02-28 1115LT Suit Up
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Corporal Lisa Sinclair introduced herself to Rebecca as "the 'SET' who will get you suited up." As a veteran of costumes and costume changes, Rebecca didn't bat an eye when step one was to get naked. As a madam she kept her composure when the next step was a very thorough scrub down with the Corporal's assistance.
"This is a fairly intimate job, isn't it?" Rebecca said at one point.
"When I trained as a Space Engineering Technician I didn't expect to end up in this particular role, ma'am. Just you wait five minutes when I help you put in your catheters," the Corporal said. Her tone and face were professionally calm, but Rebecca could see the woman was struggling a bit to contain laughter.
"We've been to gynocologists," she said. "I bet the boys have a lot less fun than we do."
Sinclair's face broke into a grin. "You have no idea." For the rest of the scrub down, the Corporal explained how the men had to have their suits fitted for 'all states of arousal' or risk some heinous injuries. Overall the catheters were a little uncomfortable to start with, but they faded from notice quite quickly.
"Last step in the cleansing phase," Sinclair said. "I mean, unless you've changed your mind about going bald...?"
"I'll keep it', thanks," Rebecca said, touching the hairnet that held her hair tight to her scalp. "Towels?"
"No ma'am. You stay wet for the adhesion layer. Put these on, then hold your breath with your mouth closed until I tell you to exhale." Sinclair handed her two small, oval, acrylic domes. "Press one around each eye." The Corporal pulled a spray bottle of bright pink liquid off her belt. "Nod when you're ready, then follow instructions." When Rebecca nodded, Sinclair began spraying her with a fine mist. "Arms up." "Knees apart." "Stand straight." "Slow exhale." That last instruction came while she sprayed Rebecca's face. "Don't inhale yet." A strong breeze whipped through the fitting room. "Clear to breathe. Do not touch yourself."
Rebecca stood still, aside from her slightly heaving chest, while the tech carefully inspected her. Looking in the mirror, Rebecca had to stifle a laugh. Her naked body was bright pink from head to toe, and the goggles bulged out like insect eyes. Whatever was in the spray was heating up slightly as it reacted with the water.
Standing behind her, Sinclair said, "We missed a spot between the cheeks. Happens a lot. Stay still." Rebecca felt her left buttock pulled to the side. This was followed by a cool mist and then a warm mist. "Looks good, ma'am."
"I never thought pink was my colour," Rebecca said, "but if you say it looks good..." She enjoyed seeing a little colour appear in Sinclair's cheeks.
"Time for your QAL, ma'am," the Corporal said, suddenly acting very professional.
Still got it, Rebecca thought.
Sinclair lead her over to a metre high platform with a pile of thick, black, quilted cloth rumpled all over it. "Plant your feet on the marked areas."
Rebecca positioned her feet on the flat spaces with footprint-shaped outlines, about half a metre apart.
"Good," Sinclair said. "Keep your knee down, but lift your left foot back toward me. Use the hand holds to keep your balance."
There were two hand-holds at shoulder height on the wall half a metre in front of her. They were about a metre apart. Rebecca did so, looking over her shoulder to see Sinclair spray her foot with some water and then some of the pink liquid. She also noted that the tech was quite red in the face. Maybe I put a little too much heat in that last comment, she thought.
"Good. Left down, right up." Once she was coated, Sinclair said, "Your Q-A Layer is going to put itself on you now. You'll want to keep your hands on the bar while it gets to know you. Calibration and fitting of the QAL takes about a minute the first time. Enjoy it ma'am." She had regained her composure, and was back to her friendly but professional demeanor.
Around her feet, the thick cloth began to ripple and shift. The first image that came to mind was a cauldron of eels, seething and writhing around her. Then the eels rolled up over her feet, enveloping them. Rebecca made an involuntary shriek and automatically tried to jump, but found her feet were locked down and her hands could not let go of the hand holds. The cloth stopped moving.
"You're doing fine, ma'am," Sinclair said. "The hand holds are there for your protection as a new wearer. I suggest you close your eyes, take a breath, and imagine a full body massage. It really does feel good."
Rebecca craned her neck back to look at the tech, who wore a slight smile. "Payback?"
"Of course not, ma'am," Sinclair said, breaking in to a grin. "But I do mean it. Suiting up really does feel good." Rebecca shook her head, but did as instructed. "Continuing calibration now."
She had to admit, the suit flexing itself up her body really did feel good. There was a ring of pressure that moved up her legs where the suit wrapped around her and connected to itself. Below that, it flexed, bulging and rippling upward in waves of pressure - like a really good massage. Once it was past the joint, the part of the QAL below her knees began to ripple, shake, and pulse with no particular pattern she could discern. She opened her eyes to watch, and saw that Sinclair's grin had not faded. "You weren't kidding," Rebecca said.
"Deep breaths," Sinclair said.
The suit continued to envelop her from the feet up, throbbing and pulsing. It was a decidedly strange feeling to have it kneeding her breasts before firming up into what felt like a very compact sports bra. When it reached her arms she expected it to work down from her shoulders. Instead, it sealed at her wrist first and then worked up toward her body. The suit crept up her neck, until it was at her jawline, then went still.
"You're doing great, ma'am," Sinclair said. "Your biometrics and biofeedback are all coming in loud and clear. We're ready for the last step now. The QAL will cover your entire head. Your eyes, nostrils, lips, and ears will remain exposed, but it may cover them for a moment while it fits itself to you. I recommend you hold your breath with eyes closed until it settles down again."
"You haven't lead me astray yet, Corporal," Rebecca said. She took a breath. The suit enveloped her head quite quickly. There was a moment of darkness through her eyelids, and she felt it creep up over her lips and then recede slightly. It rippled for a few heartbeats, then went still. She exhaled and opened her eyes.
"Your hands are free now, ma'am. The gloves are the last step."
Rebecca let go the hand holds and watched as tendrils of artifical muscle enveloped her fingers, sealing together around each digit. She turned to look at herself in a full body mirror a few metres behind the platform. She looked... alien. She reached up to touch the smooth, matte black mask covering her face. It was warm and soft, like felt. She ran her hands down her body, amazed at how different she looked. The ropey artificial muscles had turned her into a body-builder with no body-fat. "I can hardly believe that's me," she said.
"Sounds like the tactile feedback is working well." When Rebecca turned to look at Sinclair she saw the woman surrounded by a halo of AR information. "AR looks good too. Time for the kinetic calibration." With her right hand, she touched a human wireframe and flicked her fingers open, causing it to expand in AR space. "This is you." She expanded the suit with her left hand. "The suit." She studied it for a moment, then pointed to a set of amber readouts beside each. "For the next five minutes I'll take you through a series of movements so your QAL can learn how your body works. It's going to feel a bit heavy and stiff to start with. As these move into the green it will get easier." She reached out toward the suit model with both hands together, then split them apart. The diagnostics for the suit duplicated themselves. Sinclair pushed one over to Rebecca. "Yours is read only, but it will guide you through what it needs. Start with a walk around the platform."
Walking did start out a bit tough, but after only a few steps she felt completely natural. "Now jog to the showers and back," Sinclair said. It was a similar experience. By the time the suit was registering green almost everywhere Rebecca had sprinted, done cartwheels, pushups, planks, and burpees. Her face was still amber though. "I'm starting up your AI now, ma'am," Sinclair said. "I'll need you to authorize it to integrate with your personal systems while you are in the suit." She handed Rebecca her phone's brain. "It slots in over your heart."
Rebecca looked down and saw a pocket open in the musclature over her breastbone. She slid her phone into the slot. The familiar voice of her personal assistant immediately said, °°Hello, ma'am. Do I have permission to integrate with the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit platform's Quasi-Organic External Nervous Integration Muscle with integrated Advanced AR Haptic Suit hardware environment?°°
"With what?" Rebecca lost track of the string of names after 'quasi-organic'.
"Got it," Rebecca said. "You know I don't like alphabet soup, phone."
°°It is a terms of service thing,°° it said.
"Fine." She shook her head. "Permission granted." As she spoke the QAL diagnostic view over her face shifted to green.
°°Integrating.°° A few seconds passed, then a new voice came online. It had the same cadence as her her phone's soft female soprano, but had pitched down to a mezzo-soprano. °°Hello, Rebecca. I am your QAL.°°
"Nice to meet you, ah, QAL?" She had integrated her phone with external systems before, but it had never changed it's voice or personality before.
°°You may choose another name for me if you wish,°° it said. °°Your phone is a critical input to my integration with you, but it is not powerful enough or suited to the work I need to do with you. When we separate it will return to it's original settings.°° Before Rebecca could respond, it continued. °°Your biometrics tell me you understand and are relieved. As we work together you will find I will speak less and less. For now, you need to understand what I can do to enhance your natural physical assets. We will begin with resistance excercises.°°
For almost an hour the suit took Rebecca through all sorts of movement. She was shocked at how strong and fast it was, not only when it enhanced her actions, but when it opposed them. At one point it asked her to stand from a crouching position. She couldn't move at all. Later it helped her lift a 2000kg lead block. It felt heavy, but that was it.
°°We are almost done phase one.°° QAL's diagnostic display of was solid green. Rebecca's was amber in a few places where her muscles were tired, but her bladder was red. °°Time to test the catheters.°°
"What, right here?" She was standing in the middle of the fitting room, with dozens of other people all around her.
°°That's what they are for, and no one will know.°°
She finished drinking from the straw that appeared beside her mouth, not even noticing how seamlessly unconscious the action was. She didn't feel like she was wearing a muscle suit any more. She felt like it was her natural body. Her face screwed up in a rueful expression for a moment. Then she shrugged, and made the appropriate efforts. QAL called up her messages while she went. It was a surprisingly liberating experience.
Eventually QAL said, °°Phase one integration complete. Time for a meal.°° Rebecca followed the faint glowing line out of the fitting room down to a busy mess hall. Sinclair was sitting at a table with two meals in front of her. Beyond the two of them there were sixteen people wearing QALs. Six of them were paired off with marines wearing the same uniform as Sinclair. Rebecca's QAL shifted to an AR view, showing her the people inside of the other QALs. Kevin was eating a huge meal across from a man even larger than him. Syd and Dex were sitting together, with two female SETs. She didn't recognize the other three newbies.
Sinclair was grinning widely as Rebecca sat down. "You did great in there, Rebecca. Good work!" She raised a mug of coffee in a toast.
Rebecca picked up a large cup full of a thick, cloudy greenish liquid. QAL labelled it as an electrolytic replacement in the AR. She clinked with Sinclair. °°Sorry about the taste,°° QAL said as she took a sip. °°Faster is better.°° It wasn't too bad, but the combination of salt and sweet was not particularly appetizing.
When she was done, Sinclair said, "You eat while I tell you about the next two layers." A miniature model of Rebecca appeared on the table between them, dressed in the QAL. "SCHEP is like 'scuba' - an acronym for Self Contained Hazardous Environment Protection."
Rebecca put on a wide eyed look of utterly innocent surprise. "Are you telling me you military types use acronyms?"
Sinclair laughed. "One or two here and there, maybe," she said. "The SCHEP is easy to put on and take off." The model pulled on a stretchy grey one piece bodysuit. It pulled the zipper up from the crotch, until the turtleneck was snug. Then it pulled on a balaclava, which sealed to a dark band of material low on the neck."
Rebecca read the 'operational capabilities' floating beside the model. "Ok that thing doesn't look strong enough to keep me safe from "vacuum, chemical weapons, extremes of heat and cold, and water to a depth of 200m."
"That's 200m on Earth," Sinclair said. "I don't know all the materials that go into it, but it does all that and more. Your QAL already recycles your sweat." The small figure put on a slim backpack. She zoomed in on it a bit. "That is a recycler for air, urine, and feces. As long as you have power you won't die from lack of oxygen or water."
Rebecca felt a bit uncomfortable at the thought of drinking reclaimed waste water, but after living on the moon for a few years it was relatively easy to get over it. She frowned, noticing something. "How does it do all that with the openings for my eyes and..." She trailed off when the openings all snapped shut.
"If the environment gets unhealthy the suit seals up in about a tenth of a second, give or take," Sinclair said. She zoomed in on a black band that went around the head like a blindfold. "These sensors tie into your AR system. You'll love what they can do."
"I can't wait," Rebecca said, putting down her fork. She was a bit surprised at how quickly she had demolished her lunch. The women cleared their table and started back to the fitting room. When they arrived, Rebecca donned the SCHEP in short order.
"We'll work on the TALOS sensors after we have you in your LAL," Sinclair said. "You're going to need to practice in the gym for a bit."
"Whatever you say, boss." Rebecca followed QAL's instructions for putting on the liquid armour layer. She sat on the pile of rubbery stuff and pulled the boots on over her now substantial feet. Her hands went into the gloves next. Before standing, she pulled the hood up over her head.
°°Connecting to LAL. Please stand,°° QAL said.
She popped up to her feet. The thick, floppy suit melded itself around her in moments, until she was encased in the somewhat stiff material. Her AR goggles came online seamlessly, giving her a view of the fitting room that was indistinguishable from what she's seen with her natural eyes. "Right," she said, turning toward Sinclair. "What's this gym--" She stopped abruptly when the aluminum baseball bat smashed into her head with a whole-body swing from Sinclair.
Rebecca felt the impact as a minor push. The biggest effect was that her head and neck froze for a moment, going solid at the moment of impact and then softening up an instant later. She could feel her mouth hanging open in surprise as the corporal hefted the badly bent bat, shifted her stance, and came in swinging. Rebecca flinched back from the blow, but with the enhancements that QAL gave her, she ended up overbalancing and started to fall. Sinclair was on her immediately, taking advantage of the stumble. Rebecca caught her balance before she came anywhere near hitting the ground. Without any conscious thought, she blocked the bat with her left forearm. It stiffened up for a moment, then relaxed. She blocked two more blows to her head and body, dodged an attack aimed at her legs, and then caught the bat as it flew toward her face. It stopped instantly, like it had hit a wall. An instant later her hands relaxed enough to let her pull the bat from Sinclair's hands. It was effortless.
Sinclair stepped back with a strange look on her face. Rebecca couldn't really tell what she was thinking, with raised eyebrows, pursed lips pulled to the left, slightly narrowed eyes, and a head tilt that put her right eyebrow front and centre.
°°The LAL has taken no damage in this encounter,°° QAL said. °°I have a better understanding of your combat experience and instinctive reactions.°°
"Do you now." The adrenaline was wearing off a bit. Rebecca was in turmoil. It was abundantly clear to her that the attacks could not have hurt her in any way. Looking at the mangled bat - not only bent from impacts but crushed by her super-strength grab - she had a moment of vertigo.
Sinclair stood at ease two metres away, watching.
Finally, Rebecca handed the bat to the corporal. "This is the most amazing and scariest thing I've ever worn," she said. "Does it come in red?"
Sinclair stifled a laugh. "It does not, ma'am," she said. "You'd need to have on the adaptive camo layer, and probably need to hack it to make it red, ma'am." Rebecca watches her examine some data related to their combat. "You're no soldier, but if you're interested and plan to be doing more of this kind of work, I think it won't take long to train you up to not embarass yourself in a real fight." She dismissed the diagnositics and analytics with a sweeping gesture. "For now if you get in a firefight I suggest you tell your QAL to take care of you. It's no good at fighting, but it can get you out of harms way."
°°Gym,°° QAL whispered.
Rebecca looked at the small woman for a long moment. "I'll think about it. You mentioned going to the gym?"
The corporal wore a bemused smirk for an instant, then said, "Yes ma'am. It's an active obstacle course that will put you and your suit through your paces." She lead Rebecca toward a door. "The added layers change the way you move enough that you have to spend some time inhabiting the new system." The door snapped open as they approached it, revealing a large room tha looked like a giant children's playground. "Your QAL will lead you through all this. I may be off shift when you're done. If I'm not here, find me at Gopinder's."
QAL tagged the meeting request. Rebecca knew Gopinder quite well, of course. She knew almost everyone. Whether it was just a friendly invitation ro a possible date, Rebecca liked the idea of getting to know the woman better. "I'll do that, Space Engineering Technition Corporal Lisa Sinclair. I'll do that."
Rebecca turned to the open door. There was a hazy line glowing in the air, tracing an insanely acrobatic path through the obstacle course. °°You have three minutes.°° The number 5 appeared in the air, inside a transparent sphere. The sphere shrank while the numbers ticked down to 0, before Rebecca was really ready.
"Fuck it." She stepped through the door, planted her feet with her heels on the wall, and launched herself as hard as she could at the first checkpoint.