Taurian Invasion 12: Basic Training


A little later in Sniper’s Office

Sniper sat behind a large desk with multiple monitors watching over his command. “How’s our new cadet?”

Rusty looked a bit sheepish. “He pushed himself too hard during the tests and collapsed. Barbara is watching him and says he’ll be fine as soon as he learns his limits.”

“What the flip did you do, Rusty?”

“Nothing Sniper. He was fine as long as he was going, but as soon as he stopped, he fell down because he’s really out of shape.”

“Great, we have to put him through basic.” Sniper waved that thought away. “That wasn’t what I wanted to know anyway. How did he do in the dim trials?”

“Oh, he passed them all with flying colors. He came close to beating me in a couple of them.” Rusty’s brow furrowed. “I don’t get it. How does an out of shape civilian get those kinds of skills?”

“Doesn’t matter. As useful as his blasted battlesuit skills could be, I want you to push him in a different flipping direction.”

“Hey, don’t get me into too much trouble. I’m already on notice for pushing him too hard.”

Sniper laughed at his friend’s discomfort. “You are so whipped man, but I want you to see if he can lead and if anyone will follow.”

“Lead?”

“He has the best tactical and organizational scores of anyone in the Prometheus armed forces, but that means crud if he can’t lead. I want you to put him in a suit this afternoon.”

“But we don’t until they pass … “

“All those tests that you just said he passed this morning. I need to find out fast if he’s the flanking one we’re looking for.”

* * *

There is a sense of power when you are in an actual battlesuit that is completely absent in a simulator. Some people get a similar sensation when driving a sports car or using heavy equipment, but this feeling is much more intimate. You don’t drive a battlesuit; you wear it. It becomes an extension of you and its power becomes a part of you. The sensation is both intoxicating and addictive … and like most forms of intoxication, it is easy to end up looking like an idiot.

I was in a real battlesuit for the first time I could feel the vibrations of power from the servos and hydraulics kicking in every time I moved my arm. I could probably pick up a car with it and hardly feel …

Rusty thumped my helmet, “You’ve been staring at your arm for a while now; Does it do a trick?” I know I jumped, but at least I didn’t yelp. He turned toward the group. “Alright everyone, break up into teams of five for target practice. Anyone want the new meat?”

“I’ll take him Rusty.” He turned to me and said, “Are you familiar how we do target practice?”

“How does it compare with the simulator target practice?”

“It’s the exact same drill, except we use live ammo here.”

“Well, I’m good in the simulator, but in real life, who knows.”

“Well then at least we’ll have a challenge this time. You lead.” Asking me to lead on my first run might sound like a position of honor and trust, but it’s really the position where you are the least likely to shoot one of your teammates.

I was hoping to impress someone with my marksmanship, but the leader of the group was easily tripling my score. The onboard computer not only kept track of how many targets you hit, but the time it took you hit it and gave you a bonus for a faster shot. I probably had my mouth hanging open as I watched the precision and elegance with which he destroyed the targets. It wasn’t until we got to the run and gun stage that I was able to barely surpass half his score.

“Not bad kid. I think you beat Rico’s overall score on your first time out. I’m John, but they call me Sureshot.”

“I’m Allen, but apparently they call me ‘New Meat.’”

He chuckled and thumped my back. “Don’t worry about that too much, you’ll get a better handle soon, especially if you keep going like you did today. Speaking of which, here comes Rusty.”

“Sureshot, your team came first again, big surprise there. Allen, not bad for a first outing. You went from number seventy to number thirty-six. Listen to Sureshot here and you’ll be in the top ten in no time. Any of you guys see anything that can be improved?”

“Um … I don’t know if anyone has suggested this before, but can the display be set up to show fire zones or zones of responsibility during team firing?”

Rusty stared intently at me. “What would that accomplish?”

I wished that there was a convenient rock to hide under, but since there wasn’t one present, I had to try and answer his question without looking as awkward as I felt. “Well, I can already see what the others are targeting because I can see the other’s sights on my screen, but we still kept targeting the same ones or even worse, two of us would see that the other was going for a target and we would both move on and no one would get it. If we could divide the field into zones, it could lessen the confusion.”

“How would you do that Allen?”

“Well, if you used a color overlay for your section, or better yet have the overlay for the parts that aren’t your section, everyone could tell where their responsibility was.”

“How would you determine who got what areas?”

“Well I would leave that up to your group leaders. The overall leader would determine where each group’s zone was and the group leaders would determine the zones for his people. The hard part would be making it dynamic enough to work when you’re on move. I guess it would have to be based on your direction of travel …” I kind of wound down because no one was saying anything.

Indiana, connect me with Godmode … Godmode, did you get any of that?”

“I have it recorded,” said an unfamiliar voice in my ear.

“How long do you think it would take you to implement something like that?”

The mysterious voice sounded confident. “I think that I could have something workable for the test range in a half hour or so. It shouldn’t be too hard.”

“See what you can do.”

“Everyone else, you have a half hour break to piddle and then we’re going to do it all over again. Group leaders: I want to talk to you.”

I went over and cracked my helmet and got something to drink. I was just starting to relax when I got a call. “Cadet Spenser, this is Godmode. Could you put your helmet back on? I’d like to go over some things with you.”

“Sure thing, I don’t think I’ve had the chance to meet you sir.”

“No need for the formality. I’m a programmer, not military. Godmode36000 is my screen-name. Are you hooked in yet?”

“Yeah, I’m up and going. My screen name is VictoryNAlienSp8ce.”

“How did you pull off getting a cool one like that?”

“I’ve had it since I was eight. It’s a play on my full name, Allen Victor Spencer. Kids used to call me Alien Spaceman instead of Allen Spencer and I turned it into a screen-name.”

“I’m downloading some stuff I’m working on into your suit, so if anything goes wonky, don’t panic; just tell me. Anyone ever try to buy your screen-name off you?”

“Oh yeah, a few. Some guy even offered to trade me his girlfriend, but I’ve had it so long that I couldn’t imagine being without it. My screen just went blank, OK, it’s back. What do you need me to do?”

“I need you to see if what I am making is the kind of thing that you were thinking of. How does that look?”

“Whose view is that?”

“That would be the squad leader’s”

“The fields need to have a few degrees of overlap so that there’s no boundary gap.”

“Like that?”

“Yeah, that’s cool.”

“What about the spacing of the fields?”

“Well, the forward 120 degrees the most critical, so we need to set it up so that everyone has a slice of that. Let’s try giving the point man the central 50 degrees, his wing men should have 30 degrees with a 5-degree overlap, and the flankers would get 20 degrees with the same overlap as well as their flank. I think that adds up right.”

“You have a good head for this kind of thing. Have you ever tried programming?”

“Nah, I’m a gamer. I took a few classes but I could never get my head into the codes.”

“I probably couldn’t pry you out of that suit any more than you could get me away from my computer.”

“You can have my keyboard when you pry it from my cold hands.”

“What?”

“Sorry, old memory. I had a friend in high school who was a programmer. He used to say that all the time. I think I’m beginning to see what he meant.”

* * *

The Director appeared on Sniper’s video screen. “Sir, with all due respect, what kind of bullshavings are you trying to pull on me?”

“My dear Sniper, with everything I have in the works, you’re going to have to be more specific than that.”

“You’re trying to tell me that this Spencer kid is a civilian straight off the streets and he pulls something out of his asterisk that improves our squad’s performance by flipping twenty percent on his first day?”

The Director’s eyes were shining. “Oh, do tell!”

“He set up some sort of visual field markers for the combined fire practice and BOOM! Everyone’s score shot up.”

“Well, that is impressive.”

“You’re dim right, that’s impressive. Four teams broke the previous flicking team record on the first go through. What is the real, no BS story on this guy?”

“I assure you that the file that I gave you is accurate and complete. I’ve left nothing relevant out.”

“So, should I promote this guy, give him a dumb medal or shoot the fruitcake?”

Angelia moved into the picture, pushing the Director to the side. “You will not do any of those things young man!”

“Angelia, ma’am! Sorry about the language ma’am! I didn’t know you were there.”

“Don’t worry about that, but you listen to me. You are not to do anything like that at all. Treat it like it was just a typical day for your people and nothing unusual happened. If you make a big deal about it one way or the other, there is a good chance that he will either quit or withdraw and stop being a useful part of the team. If you accept him and just make him one of the boys for now, I think he will continue to amaze you.”

“Yes ma’am, but I don’t really understand why.”

“Right now, he just needs to be accepted and to become part of the team. This is a big change for him. He has always been a loner, and if you single him out, he will find it really easy to go back to that way of life, which would make him useless to us. I’m putting a lot of resources into him, don’t mess it up for me.”

“Understood Ma’am! Any further instructions?”

“Not for the moment. If you have any further questions, he has a full time counselor assigned to him that you can always contact and you should keep her updated with any new developments.”

* * *

By the end of the day, we had gone through the full targeting exercises four times, which everyone seemed to enjoy. I kept going up in the ranks for my overall accuracy until had reached number 21, and this really seemed to impress everyone. I was introduced to just about everyone that day and became completely confused about everyone’s names and handles and therefore had no idea who anyone was. Something began nagging me in the back of my mind again, but I was too busy to worry about it.

Sylvia showed up after work to collect me, and I couldn’t believe that I had just put in a ten hour day. I excitedly told her about everything that had happened to me several times. She put on this smile that I have since learned meant that she had no interest at all in what I was talking but was ignoring me politely anyway. When we got to my place she said for me to get a shower while she picked an outfit for dinner for me. I dutifully hit the showers and once again started thinking. I had to nail down what was bugging me earlier. I went over the day in my head, and couldn’t find anything that had gone wrong.

I finished my shower and put on another set of “nice” clothes that Sylvia had apparently gotten for me and we headed for the Main Cafeteria. We headed for a section that I hadn’t been to before and we arrived before a set of doors that had the title “Suit Closet” on a display board over them. When I opened the door for Sylvia, I found a big room full of people I recognized from work as well as a number I didn’t. I said hi to a lot of people whose name I couldn’t remember … and then I saw the food! It was a nerd’s dream come true. Pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, chips and all the sodas you could drink!

I overloaded a plate with food, and once I felt pleasantly overstuffed, I looked around to see what everyone else was doing. There were a lot of people just sitting around talking, but there were also groups playing board games (but no video games) and darts and a beach ball that was being batted randomly around the room. Sylvia encouraged me to talk to people I knew, so I went over to say hi to Rusty who was sitting at a booth with Doc Sullivan. (I asked Sylvia later if they were a couple and she informed me that they had been married for three years.)

Rusty introduced me to Gloria who was sitting across from him but didn’t introduce me to the large black man with the shaved head sitting next to her. The man smiled at me and asked, “So, how was your first day Allen?”

“It was great! It was like living a video game except nothing that shallow. No, what I mean is that it was so much fun, but it really means something. We getting ready to defend the Earth from aliens, which still sounds like a video game but, the things we do can really help save lives and make a difference, and … I’m really not making sense am I?”

“No, I know exactly what you mean. This is the real flipping world and we’re making a real flipping difference, and the fact that we’re having a flapping blast is a bonus.”

“Yeah, that’s mostly what I meant. I can’t wait until tomorrow, although I’m probably going to be so sore that I can hardly move.”

“Have your counselor give you something for that, although I doubt that she could give you a freaking massage like Gloria here can.”

“Sweetie, be nice! You’re embarrassing the boy.”

“OK babe. Allen, go out and play some games and enjoy yourself. You’ve earned a place on the team.”

I headed out and, with Sylvia’s encouragement, talked to more people whose name I couldn’t remember. After losing a couple of games of checkers, I asked Silvia, “Who was that sitting with Rusty?”

“You didn’t know? That’s your boss.”

“Sniper?”

“I think that’s what he goes by.”

“Well, crud. I wish somebody had told me.”

“I guess everyone assumed you knew.”

“I must have sounded like an idiot.”

“You did fine. I think he’s impressed with you.”

“I didn’t get that impression.”

“Trust me. It’s my job to notice these things.”

“OK. I’ll take your word for it.”

After the get-together started breaking up, Sylvia escorted me home. She gave me some aspirin and made me promise to brush my teeth and not sleep in my new clothes. As I was settling in, it finally hit me. The feeling that had been bugging me all day was that I had been accepted a group and I felt like I belonged there. It was a new sensation and I really didn’t trust it. If things followed the normal pattern, they would figure out that I wasn’t one of them within a few days and I would be back on the outside looking in. Such thoughts always made me feel a bit lonely, but heck, I was used to it.

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One thought on “Taurian Invasion 12: Basic Training

  1. Allen is living his dream. He is in a suit of powered battle armor in a live-fire training session. Everyone seems to have a plan for Allen but he seems to be the least sure of his chances. What will happen to our hapless hero? Stay tuned and see.

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