Lab RatMature

Vincent uneasily entered the testing room and sat on the bench that lined the left side of the small room. He waited for nearly twenty minutes before an aid entered the room.
    “Vincent Alastaire?” The nurse aid asked, barely taking her eyes of the data pad before her.
    “That’s me.” Vincent said as he got up from the bench.
    “Do you understand the reason for this test Lieutenant?” She asked.
    “Yes, I’ve been admitted to the medical ward and the standard operating procedures dictate I have to be retested for flight status before returning to operations.”
    “Correct. The test will take approximately forty minutes and it will be conducted in three phases: A physical, mental examination followed by a flight simulation test.”
    “Ready when you are.”
    The aid turned about and entered the room she had come from. Vincent followed. They continued down a hall and turned into an examination room where Vincent was left alone for several minutes. Eventually a physician entered and administered a physical, followed shortly by a psychiatric evaluation which together took just over half an hour.
    “Well Lieutenant Alastaire, you’re quite physically and mentally fit. I see no issues in returning you to active flight status, however we still have to process you through the combat simulator if we’re going to give you combat status. Another psychiatric evaluation will take place afterward if we encounter any problems.”
    Vincent felt the unease swell in his stomach. He dreadfully remembered the incident in the pub two days earlier. He reluctantly followed the aid to the next room where he entered a much more advanced simulator than he had sat in at the pub.
    A voice came through the speakers in Vincents helmet. “This will be your standard encounter simulation Lieutenant, standby for initiation.”
    After a few seconds he heard a knocking sound as the simulation module was unlocked from its clamps and a magnetic system pulled it into a hovering position several feet above the lab floor. The screen lit up into an astonishingly lifelike representation of a docking ring. The light signals before him told him to taxi forward, Vincent took the controls and began the simulation. He launched from the carrier and followed his nav points. He found himself in open space, several thousand kilometres from anything. His instruments indicated no activity. Annoyed at the length and monotony of the exercise Vincents mind slid into complacency, his unease waning slightly.
    He waited at the designated point for what felt like eternity before action rolled over the edge of his targeting panel. He scanned the incoming object and it confirmed as a fighter class. Vincent rolled the craft toward the incoming vessel and hailed with the standard warning messages before the fighters weapons systems warmed, warning him that it was indeed a hostile craft. He primed his weapons systems and began to decelerate. The vessels approached each other at incredible speeds, the incoming craft travelling well over fifty thousand kilometres per second. Vincent clenched his teeth, trying hard not to think about the surmounting pressure of anxiety and that yet unfamiliar buzz in the back of his mind that slowly gnawed forward.
    The weapons finally entered range and both vessels engaged, volleys of rockets, particle beams and conventional machine gun fire was sent flying into space. Vincent focussed past the holographic heads up display, knowing that although his unaided eyes saw nothing but stars before him, his shots were aimed quite precisely at his opponent.
    Sweat rolled down his forehead, anxiety grew heavy in his gut as the seconds passed in silence while his enemies projectiles made their way through the empty space between them. “The calm before the storm” He thought in his mind, this time acknowledging that not only was the incoming fire the storm, but also the uncontrollable incapacitating state that he knew was already winding up in his mind. Alarms blared and displays shone red as the computer registered homing weaponry in range. Vincent watched on the display as the distance between him and the warheads quickly shrank. His experience kicked in, his pupils expanded quickly and his arm pulled on the control stick, shifting the simulation module abruptly to the left. He felt the realistic pull of inertia caused by the simulation system and noted the differences between it and the real thing, trying to concentrate on anything but the moment that was about to occur.
    “I’ve got this, it was just a one time thing.” He said to himself out loud, rolling into a complex evasive manoeuver. His anxiety was nearly completely gone, although the buzzing still rumbled in the back of his mind, he felt confident that he could hold it back and stay in a relatively normal state until the end of the simulation.
    One of the rockets tracking him swiftly changed course on its way toward him and Vincent knew that it was going to be a close call. He pulled the vessel the other way, increasing speed and peeling back from his previous location. The rocket adjusted, still intercepting his trajectory about six thousand kilometres ahead, which gave him only a fraction of a second to react.
    The buzz grew stronger, he held it back, pulled the controls quickly one last time before it completely overtook him. Once again the cold feeling overwhelmed his head and time seemed to come to a crawl. The intercepting rocket entered visible range, screaming toward him at astonishing speed. The impact was imminent and he would have closed his eyes if it were not for the fact that time stopped, the rocket split into dozens, then hundreds of versions. His consciousness pulled away from his body and he saw in all directions, his vessel as interpreted within the simulation, yet also the exterior of the simulator. The movements of all those nearby split into blurred copies just as the rocket had. Unlike the previous time in the pub, Vincent seemed to feel much more aware of the background activity, this moment was lasting much longer than the last and he could concentrate on the fine details of things around him such as the colour of the aids bracelet four rooms down the hall or the spilt coffee in the break room off to the right that he hadn’t known was there until now.
    His attention was pulled, focussed on the rocket now. He examined the several versions of it and noticed some where much more “real” than the others. He couldn’t explain the sensation, they simply seemed “closer” to him, while those that swerved away were pale or distant, not visually but as felt by this strange sense. His mind flared, he saw his escape, all he had to do was purge his right boom and it would eject a jet of plasma large enough to push his fighter sharply out of the trajectory and at the same time damage the rocket. His attention turned to himself, forcing its way in to his mind with no avail. Instead the vision in his mind grew, larger and larger. He could feel people several decks above and below in the real world, and could see the carrier he launched from within the hypothetical reality of the simulation. He couldn’t hold it back, it simply kept leaping forward until he couldn’t take it anymore. His mind shuttered, cracked and blacked out into unconsciousness.
    “Lieutenant?” said a voice from within the darkness. “Lieutenant are you alright?”
    “Yeah.” Vincent replied, opening his eyes to see a man leaning above him, the screen of the simulator behind him flashed the words: “You have been killed”.
    Vincent sighed. “So where’s that shrink, let’s get this over with.”

The End

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