ATTENTION! This chapter will probably be edited a little again, but I decided to go ahead and post it. Several revisions have been made in previous chapters already, but this chapter is where large portions of it are entirely changed. 'Halfway There' is now split in to three separate chapters as well. Originally what was chapters 7-8-9 are going to remain largely unchanged however. Only thing that may change will be the end of chapter 9 (now chapter 11) where I stopped to make revisions. Halfway There, Part 2 is underway, and new story (chapter 12) will be worked on immediately after. Thanks for your patience!
September 31st 2140, Top secret training facility on the Roman I space station
It has been over two months since the rookies' first training day. Every day since then was full of rigorous exercises, cardio, weight training, and endurance tests. Then, whenever their bodies weren't being tested, their minds were. History lessons, battle strategies, tactical thinking, memorizing so much vital information that a super soldier must know. Occasionally they would test their aim at the gun range, but combat training was not heavily focused on, not until now.
Vapor Team and the rookies were standing in the middle of one of the large buttes that lined the green, grassy gulch where they would end their morning runs most of the time. As their training had gone on, they would run to the end of the gulch, then a certain distance back the way they came. Every time the distance back and forth would get longer and longer until their runs lasted for over two hours, traversing their run path four times over each day. Their hearts beated strong, and their muscles were much larger and more toned. They were finally in the physical shape a super soldier needed to be.
Lying on the ground behind Vapor Team were eight crates, a little over half the size of a coffin. Four of them were a shiny silver with dull orange stripes running along the length of the crate. The other four were individually colored. One crate was colored rich crimson with gold stripes. Another was an ice blue with gray stripes. Another was burnt orange with bright white stripes. The last was a fairly bright yellowish tan with vibrant green stripes.
"Congratulations rookies, you have finally met the physical requirements we need to meet," John addressed them. "Now, we work on real combat, and honing your own personal efficiencies."
"Yes sir!" The rookies acknowledged. Over the past months, respect had been earned for both sides, between Vapor Team and the rookies. Vapor Team had also bonded much more with their rookies too. The relationships between them were strong now.
The rookies showed Vapor Team the respect they deserved by continuing to call them sir, and follow their exact teachings to the letter. Vapor Team, gave the rookies their respect by speaking more freely to them, and more often, as well as being more lenient in regulating their day to day activities.
"Before we start with serious combat training, you four will need battle armor suits," Arden proclaimed with a smile. Vapor Team turned around and opened each of the crates. Inside each of them were battle armor suits, respectively colored the same colors of the crates that contained them. The armor suits were shiny, and gleamed in the sunlight.
"Whoa," Margaret and Victoria muttered in unison.
"The four silver colored suits you see in front of you are training suits," Connor informed the rookies. "You can tell by the orange stripes, instead of the regulatory blue stripes. They've been fitted for your height's and sizes."
"Try them on rookies," Dale ordered as he began taking out his own armor suit. Dale's armor suit was the ice blue colored one. Connor took the yellowish tan suit. John took the crimson suit, and Arden took the burnt orange suit.
Vapor Team suited up quickly, and ran their suit diagnostics. The rookies fumbled inside the black memory under armor layers first before they could apply the armor plating. The atmosphere around them was stifling 92 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the rookies were in their under armor layer, they were almost instantly cooled down and felt like they were in 70 degree weather.
Vapor Team finished their suit diagnostics and turned to face the rookies. The rookies looked at them in awe, and fear. Vapor Team was already intimidating outside of their armor, but now they couldn't see expressions on their faces and the builds of their bodies seemed much fuller. The rookies could tell Vapor Team was felt at home wearing their armor suits again.
"You feel those temperature nano-laces in your under armor layer regulating your body temperature?" John asked the rookies with a muffled voice behind his helmet.
"Yes sir," the rookies responded.
"Good," John nodded. "Now suit up the rest of the way." The rookies pieced together their armor until the only thing left to put on was their helmets. They looked at each other, awestruck and marveling at the armor suits they were.
"Come on rooks, we don't have all day," Dale remarked. The rookies slipped their helmets over their heads. The world around them muffled just slightly.
"Now tell your AI to run suit diagnostics," Connor ordered.
"Computer, command," the rookies said together. "Run, diagnostics check."
The rookies heard their armor suits powering up. A low pitched hum started, then increased in pitch and frequency until the human ear couldn't hear it anymore. A textbox appeared on the interior side of the visors, saying "Diagnostics Initiated, Running BIOS". They rookies stared at the textbox as the AI ran through the self diagnostics checklist.
"Under armor layer, sealed and fully functional... Armor plating in place... Synodic clock set to U.S. and Canada, central time... Acquiring polar coordinates,...... Error, polar coordinates not found, compass malfunctioning... Sonar radar functioning nominally... Self vitals analyzer, online... Scanning for viruses rooted in BIOS. . . Computer is virus free... Vocally induced command procedures ready... Bringing Heads Up Display online..."
The rookies' HUD flared to life and they noticed their vitals analyzer, sonar radar, and clock in different corners of their visor. One corner had very small letters saying, "Error, compass malfunctioning".
"Com check," John said bluntly in to his helmet com. Everyone looked at each other and nodded their heads.
"Loud and clear, sir," Brian confirmed.
"Excellent," John said. "Now I'm sure you noticed your compass isn't working. Don't be alarmed. This station doesn't have magnetic poles like Earth does, so our compasses don't work up here. Go ahead and test your vocally induced command processes, or VICP. Tell your AI to hide the compass on your HUD."
"Computer, command," the rookies initiated a command for their AIs. "Hide, compass icon." The error message at the corner of their visor faded away.
"Did it work?" John asked them.
"Yes sir," the rookies answered.
"Good," John replied. "Welcome to your temporary battle suits rookies. Once your training is one hundred percent complete, you'll build your own custom issued armor suits, just like what we have."
The rookies definitely liked the sound of that, and were slightly jealous of Vapor Team and their unique armor suits for the moment. Vapor Team wore the same armor that they used in the Great Civil War. Their suits had been refurbished since then, and they gleamed bright and smooth in the sunlight.
"Now then," John addressed the rookies. "Let's get started."
Two months passed them by, every day was full of lighter cardio and less intense muscle building, followed by an increase in time spent at the gun range and sparring centers. Several different fighting styles were each learned one at a time. Every single common firearm from the armory was integrated in to the rookies' arsenal. After the basics and generic weapons were mastered, the rookies focused heavily on personal training, learning Vapor Team's specific proficiencies.
Arden taught Viktor piloting skills as best he could, as well as coaching his hand to hand combat through numerous spars. John repeatedly engrained battlefield tactics in to Brian's mind, and tested his marksmanship with sniper rifles several times. Connor instructed Margaret on his skills as well, making her an amazing driver and medic just like him. Dale ran Victoria through the arts of stealth and adaptation to the battlefield around her.
Each rookie learned surprisingly quick, due in no small part to the strong foundation given by physical training, classes and gun range practices they already had under their belts. At last, Vapor Team was beginning to feel the rookies' strength, tactics and lethality come close to rivaling their own. The final examinations were about to begin.
Viktor stood posed in a judo form. Arden mirrored his exact pose. They were completely still, standing in the middle of the main facility just in front of the elevated landing platform. They were in their armor suits as well, frozen like statues. One could argue that nothing was even inside the armor, and the suits were merely on display.
Seconds passed by, even a couple of minutes. A trickle of sweat ran down Viktor's forehead, fortunately hidden behind his helmet. A handful of base personnel even stopped to watch what was about to go down.
"Remember, no rules. Anything goes," Arden broke the silence without moving from his pose. Another minute passed. Just when the base personnel almost lost interest, Viktor lunged his foot forward offensively.
Arden swept his leg around counter-offensively to trip Viktor's leg. Viktor raised his foot just slightly and stopped Arden's incoming leg. Arden spun around the other way and hopped in the air, whirling his opposite foot at Viktor's head. He deflected it with his elbow, leaving Arden in midair with his back to Viktor. Viktor lunged forward to get Arden in a chokehold as he came back down.
Arden reached behind him and seized one of Viktor's forearms with his hand before he could lock it around his neck. He elbowed Viktor's opposite arm in to the air and quickly latched on to that forearm with his other hand as well. He pulled down hard on Viktor's raised arm and sent him over his head. However, Viktor only used this to his advantage. He whirled his legs around above him, landed on his feet on the other side of Arden and swung his arms around his side, taking Arden's feet off of the ground and flinging him sideways.
Arden somehow flipped around in the short airtime that he had, anchored himself on his arm and rolled around Viktor's side. He popped out of his ball and elevated himself off of the ground with one arm, then triple thrust kicked at Viktor.
Viktor's hand deflected kick one, two, three. Arden collapsed his elbow inward and rolled away backward. Viktor took the chance. He leaped high in to the air and clenched together his fingers in to a fist coming down with unrelenting force toward Arden.
Arden smiled, for he knew it was over for Viktor. He leaned back and laid himself flat on the ground. Then he shifted his upper body just barely to avoid Viktor's incoming blow. Finally he thrust his leg upward and in to Viktor's gut, balancing him on one foot. He brought his other foot up and spun Viktor around horizontally while pushing him upward.
Viktor spiraled and felt his torso and arm suddenly seized by Arden's hands. He whirled around uncontrollably and lost all orientation of which ways were up, down, left, right, forward or backward. The nightmare of motion only lasted for a split second, then ended with Viktor slamming headfirst on to the metal floor. Arden kicked Viktor away from him, ensuring that he fell on his belly instead of his back. He wasted no time, and quickly sprinted two steps before rolling on top of him and grappling Viktor's limbs. He was immobilized.
"Gotcha," Arden said. He let go of Viktor's limbs and let him up. "I think you're holding back, rookie. You're making small mistakes, and you know better. Remember, I am your enemy. Do not hold back, despite whether or not I get hurt."
Viktor rubbed his now sore neck. "Understood... sir," Viktor murmured. He turned around and faced Arden again, this time showing a Sambo stance. Arden readied himself in a Hapkido stance. The spectators quickly pulled out their wallets and knelt down, placing bets. Another minute passed. Viktor knew Arden was right. He had been holding back.
Arden swung his arm around to strike Viktor, but Viktor confidently grasped his incoming strike. He fell backward and thrust his foot in to Arden's abdomen as he pulled him by his arm down with him. Viktor launched Arden behind him ten feet. Arden rolled to his feet on contact with the ground, the turned around to see an incoming fist at the center of his visor.
Viktor was unnaturally quick this time. His fist struck Arden's visor hard, sending his entire upper body backward. He stumbled back two steps then planted his feet. Viktor continued his assault with a salvo of lighting fast strikes, but Arden was blocking every single one of them.
At last, Viktor sped up even more, focused his strikes at Arden's blocks instead of his head and body. Arden's arms were increasingly knocked to his sides. Viktor threw one more hook at Arden's head and struck the side of his helmet hard. Arden returned with a fist to Viktor's throat, but Viktor nimbly dodged it, latched on to Arden's forearm and side kicked him away.
Viktor smiled this time. He planted one foot in front of him, swung his opposite foot around and tripped Arden up to a horizontal state. Viktor brought his tripping foot behind him, spun his upper body around and brought his other foot as close to him as possible. Finally, Viktor lurched his leg out and jab kicked Arden with a force more powerful than Arden had ever felt.
Arden was launched tens of feet across the landing and slid just barely past the blast door. He reached out and grabbed the open ledge of the chamber before he fell to the water below. Viktor briskly walked to the chamber's opening. He saw Arden's clambering his way back in to the chamber. Viktor reached him just when he had both elbows on the ground and the rest of his body dangling off of the edge. He was worried Arden would be furious with the extremity of his blow, almost knocking him out of the facility entirely.
"Now that, is what I'm talking about!" Arden praised Viktor. Most of the spectators threw up their arms in frustration after having bet on Arden's victory.
Dale and Victoria readied their rappelling hooks firmly in the dirt on the top of the mountain range. They were in their armor suits. Everywhere around them was a near ninety degree drop off. It had been a while since they had seen Earth from the station. They took a moment to marvel at the planet before commencing their training session.
"So aside from violating the unspoken rule to keep ourselves out of Earth's view, are you sure this is okay with Nakahara, and the rest of the science team for that matter?" Victoria asked Dale.
"Of course not," Dale answered honestly. "So don't get caught."
"You're crazy. What was this game called again?"
"I call it, Clipboard Capture."
"And the goal is to capture a certain clipboard right out from under the science team's nose without getting caught?"
"Cool!" Victoria exclaimed. "I've always wondered what the science guys have been working on since we got here anyways."
"Me too! See, who says training can't be fun?" Dale asked.
"Uh, you guys did, since like day one, remember?"
"How long are you gonna hold a grudge on me for shouting at you?"
"Until you apologize."
"Well then you should know lifelong grudges aren't healthy."
"You're such a dick."
"Crybaby," Dale muttered. "Anyways, somewhere in that facility below us, is a clipboard, containing information on prototype kinetic shielding technology that the nerds plan to integrate in to our armor suits. I heard rumors of it last night."
"Kinetic shielding technology?" Victoria said in a questioning tone. "You mean like energy shields in sci-fi movies and whatnot?"
"We can only hope, 'cause that would be fucking awesome."
"That would be fucking awesome."
"Alright, let's get to it."
They both grasped their tether lines and jumped backward down the mountain. The largest of the science facilities in their training ground campus was over a mile below them. It took them a couple of minutes before they reached a small ridge just behind the facility. They disconnected their rappelling lines.
"Take a moment to pull up the facility's map," Dale told Victoria. They both commanded their helmet AIs to show the science facility's map on their visor. They took notes of all the hallways, rooms, camera placements, fire escapes and more.
"You ready?" Victoria asked Dale. He didn't answer. She collapsed her map out of her view and looked to her side. Dale was already gone. "Hey! No fair!" Victoria complained on her helmet com.
"Haha, better hurry up Haze," Dale said. Victoria noticed there were two FKPD soldiers patrolling the rooftop. She jumped down to the roof of the science facility and rolled on impact in order to silence her fall as much as possible. Regardless, the two soldiers heard her land, and cocked their heads her way.
Luckily, there were plenty of AC vents that she used to hide behind. She evaded the view of the soldiers, snaking her way around the AC vents. At last, she found an unlocked hatch. She quickly opened it and descended on to a ladder inside. Victoria closed the hatch and dropped down the ladder. She knew she was on the top floor of five total floors.
Victoria peeked in to a hallway outside the rooftop access. Two scientists in white lab coats were walking right toward her. One of them was holding a clipboard. "Come to me little clippy," Victoria whispered to herself.
The scientists passed her doorway and turned to enter a room just a few steps down the hallway. She noticed the scientist with the clipboard hang it on a nail right beside the door, then both of them entered the other room. Victoria cautiously rushed to collect the clipboard. She pulled it off the nail and checked its contents. The clipboard held information on possible animal habitat arrangements to be made on the Roman I.
"Worthless," Victoria muttered and replaced it. She silently continued through the facility, avoiding cameras and wandering scientists. After checking almost the entire fifth floor, she moved down a flight of stairs one level. As soon as she stepped out on to the fourth floor, she noticed a set of double doors at the end of a hallway. A sign above the door read "FKPD Technology Research and Development Wing".
No, that's too easy, Victoria thought. I need a more privileged access wing, a special research center for alpha prototype technology. Victoria retreated back in to the stairwell and pulled up her map again. She noticed on the third floor was a wing that looked almost like a prison cell block. A single hallway with small labs on both sides, as well as a larger testing chamber at the end of the hall. An asterisk was dotted beside the hallway schematic, and Victoria noticed a footnote at the bottom of the map. It read "Top Level Security Clearance".
Bingo. Victoria quietly rushed down the stairs one more level and proceeded through the hallways swiftly and silently. She reached another set of double doors that appeared heavily fortified. On the other side was the hallway she saw on her map. Two cameras were aimed directly at the door. There's no way I'm getting in there without being seen by those cameras. Her thoughts were interrupted when she heard voices and the squeaking wheels of a cart being pushed down an adjoining hallway right behind her.
Victoria panicked and desperately looked for a place to hide or run to. Her best bet was a janitor's closet right next to her. She rushed inside the closet. The door had a tiny window that was right at her eye level. The light inside the closet was off and she peered through the window. Indeed, four scientists in white lab coats came in to view walking down the hallway. Two of them pushed the squeaky cart.
Victoria was intrigued by what was on the cart however. It was a full suit of training powered armor, colored the regular silver with orange stripes. The scientists stopped right in front of the closet. Victoria listened intently to their muffled voices through the door.
"Help me get a few things from the lab here before we go test the kinetic shield generator on this suit." All four of the scientists entered the lab room further down the hall.
So Shadow was right after all. Victoria glared at the armor suit right outside her doorway and a wide grin stretched across her face. She rushed out of the closet and threw the armor suit inside, then shut the door. Then, she clambered on top of the cart and laid flat on her back, just like the empty armor suit was laying originally.
"Computer, command," Victoria addressed her AI. "Power down armor suit." Victoria's suit turned off entirely. Her HUD disappeared and her suit's slightly elevated temperature slowly subsided. She waited two minutes and the four scientists returned with a few gadgets in their arms. They placed the items on the bottom shelf of the cart and continued to wheel it down the hallway.
Victoria didn't move a muscle. The only thing she moved was her eyes from behind the safety of her visor. They reached the double doors and one of the scientists typed in a code on a number pad beside the door. A disembodied female voice said from a small speaker nearby, "access granted." Victoria couldn't help by smile at her Trojan horse play.
They proceeded all the way down the hallway to another set of double doors. This time a different scientist typed in another pass code on a number pad. The doors slowly opened forward to reveal the large testing chamber Victoria noted on her map. She couldn't see very well around her, since she had to remain on her back. The bottom half of the room was very well lit by a grid of vibrant lights that hung from the ceiling. However, the top half of the room was rather dim, relying only on the reflection of light off of the floor. A partially lit catwalk also lined the perimeter of the room as well.
The scientists stopped her cart right next to a wide table. Each of them picked her up and transferred her on top of it.
"You know, this armor suit felt a lot lighter earlier," one of the scientists moaned.
How dare they, Victoria took it as a fat joke.
The scientists plopped her not very gently on the table.
Ow, Victoria muttered in her thoughts as her limp head banged on the tabletop.
"Hey careful with that armor suit. The FKPD were only kind of enough to spare one for now," a different voice called out from across the room. Suddenly Victoria tensed up when she noticed one of the covers of an AC vent that lined the side of the room swing open in the dim light. A rope slowly descended until it was a few inches above the catwalk.
Patience, Victoria, patience, she told herself. She saw Dale slowly crawl out of the vent and gently slide down the rope. He landed on the catwalk without a sound and got down low to avoid being seen. Victoria noted his head movement until he stopped and fixated his gaze somewhere in front of her. He slowly turned his head and he was looking directly at Victoria. She suppressed jumping in surprise when a scientist's voice spoke right next to her.
"Get ready to test power consumption levels that the lowest degree kinetic shield generator has on the armor," the scientist said. He was holding a clipboard. Victoria glared intently at the clipboard. She wanted so bad to just reach out and grab it, but figured she better wait. Her wait paid off.
"Hey, where did you put today's test file?" a scientist asked from across the room. The one holding the clipboard laid it down right next to Victoria on the table and walked away to help the other scientist. Victoria looked back at the catwalk. Dale was already gone. Slight panic struck her.
She very, very slowly turned her head just barely to the left and right to scan the room. All of the scientists were either focused on a computer, or on a large apparatus that looked like a generator of some kind near the middle of the room. To her right she barely spotted Dale's knee from behind a desk. She raised her head just slightly to see eight scientists standing around the generator, including the ones who were at the computer.
Victoria took the chance. She snatched the clipboard and silently stepped off of the table. She quickly scanned the side of the room and noticed a small set of stairs leading to the catwalk. The scientists still seemed to be making final preparations around the generator. Victoria rushed swiftly across the room while stepping in perfect silence. "Computer, command," she muttered. "Power on armor suit." Her armor suit turned on again.
Dale remained squatted behind the desk for a second, facing the other way from Victoria. He peeked at the scientists and planned to move for the clipboard, but when he peeked back at the table the armor suit and clipboard were already gone. What the hell? Dale wondered.
"Yoohoo," Dale heard in his helmet all of a sudden. "Check your rope." Dale turned around to see Victoria climbing the rope he used with the clipboard tucked under her armpit.
"Damn," Dale muttered. He snaked his way back to the rope as well, staying out of sight of the scientists. They both backtracked through the ventilation shafts and found their way back on to the rooftop.
"Trojan horse tactic. Worked like a charm," Victoria boasted.
"Nice work rookie," Dale praised her. "Let's see what's on that clipboard." They spent a few minutes skimming through the information the clipboard had to offer.
"So it looks like you were right," Victoria said. "They are working on some kind of energy shields for our armor suits."
"Yeah, but it says in this guy's notes that they are having problems with finding a source of energy that can handle the shields," Dale pointed out. "It seems the power sources in our armor suits aren't strong enough to handle it."
"I guess we'll find out some time later if they come up with a solution or not." Victoria took the clipboard to one of the FKPD guards on the roof. "Do me a favor please and give this to the scientists in the top level security wing. Also, let them know that their armor suit is in the janitor's closet."
The soldier took the clipboard and stared at Victoria for a moment. "Uh... Sure," the soldier remarked, confused.