2034-02-28 1300LT Kevin Is Impressed
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"Listen Corporal," he said, cutting off the large man with a sharp gesture. "This isn't my first ride. I know you have a schedule to keep. Right now? It waits." He pointed his heavily armoured arm toward Rebecca. "That woman has my full attention."
"Yes Sir," Corporal Oldman said. After several hours of working with Kevin his opinion of the big man was that he was a profound jerk - and almost as good as his arrogant ass thought he was.
Kevin was peripherally aware of Oldman's dislike for him. He didn't care. When Rebecca planted her feet where the wall met the floor and unleashed herself at the climbing wall 100m away he barked out a laugh and clapped his hands. "Cali, trajectory," he said. The wall was a huge slab of rock 25m tall, with precious few places to grab a hold or place a toe. His QAL showed her arcing path would put her just over the top. That's damn accurate for a newbie, he thought.
"Corporal, hit her with 50 cal next time she goes ballistic for more than a second," Kevin said, grinning. He could just feel the corporal take in a breath to argue. "Now!" he barked. His command voice did the trick: when Rebecca tried to use the same trick by leaping over an agility maze a few seconds later she found herself hammered by incoming fire. It didn't get through her LAL, of course. It did mess up her jump, spin her around, and leave her frozen in an awkward position until she was out of the machine gun's line of fire. He imagined her foul-mouthed fear-fuelled response would be a delight to listen to, but decided to move on.
He turned his attention to Syd. His QAL automatically zoomed in on the small man as he worked his way through a building in a simulated defense against a hostile home invasion. “Cali, what are his numbers?” Diagnostics appeared around Syd, showing a curious mix of complete calm and flat out panic. If we live through this I really want my tech’s to take a long hard look at that man’s lace, he thought. His competency ratings were not as good as Rebecca’s, but his integration rating was much better than any n00b should have. “Figures,” he said, shaking his head. “Technician, have you ever seen anything like Mr. Balta’s performance before?”
Corporal Oldman shook his head too. “No sir.” Getting Syd into a QAL had been a glorious nightmare. He’d gone into a mental flat-spin immediately when he discovered the scrub-and-stick procedure. That wasn’t fun for anyone but this guy… In the end, Syd had used his lace to put himself in a full-virtual safe room inside his own head. He watched everything that was done to him and let his lace control his body to assist. “The diagnostics went a bit wonky when he slaved his phone to the QAL, and then he…”
“Yeah,” Kevin said. He had abruptly stopped his own integration training when Syd dropped his phone into his QAL. All the physical integration diagnostics turned green immediately. He’d blurted out, "How the hell did you do that?" before he could stop himself.
Syd had stared at him blankly. "I understand how it works."
Kevin considered what he wanted from the hours before the team dusted off for the Jade Rabbit Warren. “Corporal, you’ve figured out that I have seen combat,” he said. “This is my first time in TALOS, but not my first time in a platform like it. Lockheed’s OTHAR is simpler to use, but you can’t field strip to replace armour plates. Setup costs more, but maintenance is cheaper. The Japanese SAMAURI platform is a mech like your Royal Guard armour but it’s faster and can’t take a hit worth a damn. UCANZ have bionic soldiers with hardpoints built into their artificial limbs.” Kevin gauged the soldier’s expression as ‘not impressed enough’ and sighed. “Fine. Let’s do it the other way, then.” He tensed his chest to tell Cali to keep his next words private, and said, “Put me through to the Duchess.”
A moment later the Duchess appeared. As soon as she saw Kevin she rolled her eyes and waved at someone not on the call. Ms. Smith also appeared. Despite their radically different appearances, their expressions of impatient irritation were remarkably similar.
“Yes?” Kevin noticed that Ms. Smith had just barely managed to not speak first.
“Your Grace, I’d like your permission to build some credibility with the Royal Guard.”
She looked at him, then at Ms. Smith, and then threw her hands in the air in a very un-royal way. She turned to his boss. “Damages will be added to your rent,” she said pleasantly.
Aurora turned to Kevin and glared. “It’s your quite limited budget to spend, Mr. Cahn. I look forward to your retroactive business case and the ROI.”
“Thank you, Your Grace, Ma’am,” Kevin said. That used up the last of his diplomacy. “Cali, open a broadcast to all personnel in the obstacle course.” Cali made the Duchess and his boss glow, starting red, easing to green, and then shifting back. Kevin smirked. “Both.” Cali added them to the general announcement.
“Attention! All personnel in the Obstacle Course Training Facility prepare for live-fire PVP combat scenario starting in three minutes!” Kevin walked through virtual menus while he spoke, issuing requests for armaments and other equipment. There was a pause. Privately, he said, “Your Grace?” to the Duchess. With a grim expression she authorized everything.
There was an explosion of activity. Trainees were pulled out in seconds. Techs like Oldman sprinted away. Kevin heard alarms wailing in the distance as they left. Around him, autonomous robot techs appeared. He stood still, arms out and legs apart while they removed his active-camouflage armour plates. As soon as they were off another bot sprayed him with something that turned him into a formless blob of darkness. Equally impossibly dark armour plates were attached moments later, along with a host of weapons too dark to be seen. He smiled when Dex, Syd, and Rebecca were turned away from the doors and sent over to Colour Sergeant Dale Young.
Ms. Smith’s voice was light and cheerful. “I’d like to hear about how you knew about that stealth armour, Kevin.”
He grinned, for the first time letting the killer inside out to say hello to his boss. He caught the tiny change in her body language when she recognized what he was showing her.
Royal Guards were pouring into the room now. They were in a mix of Protector armour – he saw Dale in his – and the TALOS active camouflage he’d been wearing earlier.
He toggled over to the open broadcast again. “My callsign is ‘Seraphim’. This scenario will begin with three seconds of darkness. My win condition is killing all three civilians. Your win condition is killing me. This is a live fire training action. Verify all weapons are training caliber.”
Cali said, °°Clear,°° two seconds later.
His personal diagnostic now showed his TALOS would be fully configured in twenty four seconds. “Training begins in thirty seconds, MARK!”
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