Taurian Invasion 11: First Day


The aliens seemed to be coming from every direction. I whacked two of them with my spatula that got too close. They fell to the ground and began to buzz and … I opened my eyes and looked at the ceiling. The third buzz penetrated my brain enough to realize that it was the doorbell. (I changed it because the voice was just too creepy.) I stumbled to the door and opened it to find an impatient Sylvia, who pushed past me almost before I could tell who it was.

“It’s about time, mister. You really don’t want to be late to your first day do you?”

“Um, no, not really.”

“OK then, let’s get you ready. I’ve got your ID card right here. It has a transponder chip in it that lets all the doors know who you are. If you are supposed to go in, the door will open when you walk toward it. If not, the door will stay locked. Watch out, though, if you are walking with someone who isn’t authorized, it’ll stay locked and you’ll probably run into it and get a bloody nose.”

‘OK,” I failed to suppress a huge yawn, “Sorry, I think I got that.”

“You’re supposed to wear something loose fitting so that you can get fitted for your suit.”

“Will these do?” I asked, indicating what I had on.

“Sweats and a T-shirt are fine, but those are your pajamas and are ragged besides. Right idea, but you need something that you will look decent in.” She walked into my bedroom and rummaged through my dresser. “Here, this will do for now, but I’ll get you some decent stuff soon. What time did you get to bed anyway?”

“Around midnight, I guess.”

“Well, you’re definitely going to have to get to bed earlier if you’re going to be this sleepy in the morning.”

“I wasn’t planning on getting up for an hour or so yet.”

“That wouldn’t have given you time to get dressed properly, much less time to get a decent breakfast. If you don’t want to take time to go to the Main Cafeteria every morning, then I suggest that we stop by the store after work so that you can get some breakfast stuff that you can make here. That will save you time and be cheaper besides.”

“Oh yeah, I’m not the big prize winner anymore, I’m just an employee. No more free food. Do I need to get an advance or something until I get my first check?”

“Your signing bonus should cover you easily until then unless you go crazy.”

“I got a signing bonus?”

“Didn’t you read your contract?”

“If I had tried to read all the stuff that they gave me yesterday, I’d still be reading even if I hadn’t slept.” I actually hadn’t read any of it, but I wasn’t about to admit that to her.

“Well, you should be fine anyway, and I’ll keep a watch on your account to make sure you don’t go overboard. Go get yourself ready and then we’ll head off for breakfast.”

We ate and then hopped on the “freeway” to head to my new job. I was glad that she was with me because I probably would have tried to wander there on foot and it’s several miles from the Main Cafeteria to the training center. She dropped me off in front of a huge set of doors and drove off with a wave.

The doors opened as I approached them and I walked into a huge room filled with clusters of battlesuit simulators. Many of the people were clad in what looked like diving suits and I briefly wondered if I had accidentally wandered into some sort of underwater simulator.

One of these figures turned and approached me. “Allen? I’m Captain Rustle Sullivan, but I’d appreciate it if you called me Rusty. We don’t stand much on rank and ceremony here. I’m the company’s XO or Executive officer. I’ll be showing you around until you can make you own way without tripping over anyone. Do you have a handle?”

“Not any nicknames I’d admit too, just ‘Allen’ works.”

“You’ll get one soon enough, whether you want it or not. The company commander here is Captain Sniper. That’s not his real name. I’m not at liberty to divulge his real name because I don’t want him to deck you for using it. Sniper’s tough as nails, but there isn’t a better man to be beside in a fight. Work hard and you’ll earn his respect. I’ll give you the nickel tour and then we’ll get you outfitted and put you to work.”

He walked briskly to a set of doors without looking to see if I was following. “This is the locker room for the pilots. Here is your locker, and you’ll need a lock, some flip-flops, and a robe if you plan to shower here. This area is used by all the pilots, including the women, so decency is required at all times.”

“Decency?”

“Just don’t wear anything you wouldn’t wear to a public beach. There are separate shower areas you can change in if the need arises.”

We then set off on another breathless trek to the medical area, which was across the bay.

“Doc. I’ve got the latest acquisition for the company here. I will leave him in your lovely but capable hands.”

She rolled her eyes at his behavior and then turned to me. “Hello, I’m Barbara, the unit’s chief medical officer, but nearly everyone here calls me Doc.” She turned to Rusty and gave him one of her stunning smiles, “I’ll give you a call when we’re done with him.” As soon as he left, the doctor took me to an exam room with a scanning table. “This will not only give me a medical baseline, but will also take the measurements for your suit. Strip down to your shorts.” I always hate that part of going to the doctors. After I went through the scanner, she gave me a cuff with some wires attached to it, which I assumed was just to take my blood pressure until it bit me. When I jumped, she said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot to tell you that it takes a blood sample.” Her amused smile made me doubt her sincerity, but I already knew that all doctors are vampires.

After she asked me about my medical history, she pulled out her phone and started talking without seeming to dial. “I’m done with him Rusty. Could you pick up his longjohns on your way over? … We’ll discus that later Captain.”

He arrived a few minutes later, carrying one of the wetsuits which all pilots wore. It turned out to be a form fitting sensor and feedback suit (which we called longjohns) that we wore into the battlesuits. Not only did they have the sensors that controlled most of the battlesuit’s motion, but they also had fibers woven into them that actually heated or cooled to keep the pilot comfortable when we were hooked up to the battlesuit, (which is more important than it sounds when fighting in an enclosed environment.)

The feet, and gloves could be removed when you weren’t actually in a suit or simulator (which explained the need for flip-flops.) There was a heavy belt around the middle which holds the chiller, computer and med pack, all of which only worked when you were connected to a suit or simulator.

Rusty looked me over, “How long have you been out of the service?”

“I’m afraid I’m a civilian, sir. I tried to enlist once, but they turned me down.”

“Well, that explains it, but we’ll get you whipped into shape in no time. Let’s head over to pod six and see what you can do.”

Any pretensions I might have had about how good I was were beaten out of me over the next four hours, but I was having so much fun I almost didn’t care. Rusty went through drill after drill alongside of me, and I wasn’t able to match his score once. He out-shot, out-ran, out-maneuvered, and out-right dominated me … and I loved every minute of it because I was learning from a superior. Something that you find out pretty quickly if you’re a good strategy gamer, is that there are limits to learning from less skilled or automated opponents. The best opponent is another strategist who’s better than you because they are the ones who challenge you to grow.

I really didn’t realize how hard I had been going until I stepped out of the simulator and unhooked my suit connections. I was just about to tell Rusty how great it had been when the dinosaur stepped on me. Shooting stars filled my vision and my legs went out from under me.

I was sweating and nauseous and felt like the dinosaur had decided to settle in for a nap on my chest.

Rusty appeared above me, “Are you OK son?”

I tried to smile and said in a weak voice, “No, but I want to do it again.”

He keyed in a well-practiced vidlink code, “Doc, we need you at pod six!”

“On my way.”

I laid there and tried hard to continue breathing.

The doctor and two assistants arrived laden with orange boxes. “What’s the situation?”

“He collapsed as soon as he unplugged.”

“Plug him back in and go get me a gallon of electrolytes from the break room stat!”

“On my way ma’am.”

Cooling relief swept over me as the chiller did its job. The shooting stars went away and the dinosaur wandered off. I was still shaking like a leaf and felt sick, but I didn’t think I was going to die anymore.

The Doc sat me up and gave me some pills and water. I asked weakly, “What happened Doc?”

“You over did it and now you’re paying for it. The salt tablets that you just took should stabilize you. When was the last time you did four hours of continuous exercise or hard labor?”

“Um … I don’t remember?”

‘Exactly. You’re young enough that it should only take you a couple of months to catch up to the pace that they run around here, but if you don’t take it gradually, you’ll kill your stupid self.”

Rusty returned carrying a bunch of sports bottles. “Here you are ma’am.”

The Doc turned on him, “And just what were you thinking, Captain? He’s a cadet on his first day. You know that you have to set a reasonable pace. Honestly, Rusty.”

“He seemed to be doing just fine and kept up with me all the way. I honestly didn’t think there was any problem until he fell down.”

“Well, watch it mister. If you keep increasing my work load like this, I just might have to work through dinner.”

“Sorry, ma’am. It will not happen again.”

“Get some of those drinks into him and get him to the med station. He is not to leave until he is cleared by one of my personnel. I have other things to do so I am leaving him in your care.”

“Understood ma’am.” He sat down beside me and watched the doctor closely as she and her assistants gathered their equipment and walked away. “Let me know when you think you can walk.”

“Let me stop shaking first.”

“She’s great, isn’t she?”

“Huh?”

“I could’ve kissed that bloody loon if Sniper hadn’t nailed him. Who would have thought that a bullet through the thigh would be the best thing that ever happened to me?”

“What?”

“Nothing lad. I was just waxing romantic about the object of my affection.”

“OK …?” I still had no idea what was going on, but I decided it was probably for the best.”

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One thought on “Taurian Invasion 11: First Day

  1. Well, Allen loves his new job … if it doesn’t kill him. What do you know, a sedentary nerd is not ready to step into combat nor is he the best even with natural talent compared to seasoned professionals. He may be promising, but he still needs to put in a lot of hard work before he’s ready.

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