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Kyo Yu-Ni | "Yongsan"
Sanctuary Point Unified Command Naval Base - Hanger 12

Yu-Ni listened attentively, absorbing all the information being shared.

Meeting the mind behind the ARES program was humbling, but she quickly got over that, as the second woman began speaking up, who seemed to be more involved with the actual test compared to the first. Once they were given the all-clear, Yu-Ni turned and walked off, searching for her pod among the many.

The search didn't take long. As she approached her pod, there were some techs around it, finalizing whatever work they were doing. Her hand reached up, touching the lock symbol on the display screen like it was demonstrated. The icon changed from a red to a green color and the pod's doors hissed open, welcoming Yu-Ni with a familiar sight. She quickly climbed in, situating herself and adjusted her posture for a more comfortable fit. Though, there was only so much you could. Her previous ETA didn't offer much in the realm of pilot comfort, and she didn't expect this capsule to be any different.

Her eyes scanned over the controls, or the lack of. There were some controls she expected to see that weren't present. Was she really going to pilot an ETA with just mostly her mind? Well, first time for everything. Yu-Ni located the switch that would initiate the uplink with the Shell. Yu-Ni drew in a deep breath, letting it out, then flipped it.

It felt like she was struck with a thunderbolt. The sense of electricity ran throughout her entire body, giving her a mixed feeling of pain and tingling. Her back arched slightly as she held her breath subconsciously. As fast it came, the sensation faded and Yu-Ni relaxed her body. The rest of the pod began waking up, with it's lights and sounds greeting the pilot. In front of her, the on-screen interface came alive, a loading circle first appearing. Shortly after, the uplink strength number appeared.

Was she seeing things? Or did it really say 10 in front of her?

Maybe it was because of her prior training? Back in Korea, she was exposed to grueling and harsh training environments, designed to push her body and mind to their limits and then past that. Even after she completed her introductory training, it didn't stop there. There were bi-weekly conditioning trainings to ensure they stayed on the top of their game. And whenever she wasn't actively deployed, Yu-Ni spent a majority of her downtime personally training her body.

Well, she'd leave it to the techies to confirm whether this was a fluke or not. For now, she settled in her seat, waiting for the next instruction.

(hidden scroll ↓)

Hannes Krieger Haber
Location: Sanctuary Point Unified Command Naval Base
Nearby: ALL
Disposition: Ah, giving us ze grand reveal, eh?

Krieger listened to the presentation patiently as each gave their 'share', his attention being divided between them and the various ETAs around him. He seemed to be taking note of their armament and form. Later on he would need to see what he could do to assist in making sure they were in tip-top shape so they could guarantee that they would be returning from more than just a single sortie...Especially the one on the far right. The armor's welding is absolutely shameful.

Krieger's attention shot back to the pods in front of them once Dr. Simonova began to speak. He looked around at the number of pods and soon found his on...The far right.
Oh that better not be cruel foreshadowing.
Regardless, he walked through the crowd, his smaller frame seemed to work to his advantage as no one seemed to notice the mechanical man slip past them toward his pod. He did catch the first pilot's readout display. A seven was nothing to sneeze at. The young man would have a good future if he can work well with others and survive this war.

{Of course, Acht. Vunce I have run zhrough ze test, I zhall let you know. Unt 2 is fine vith all conzidered. A computer has a harder time reading your mind. Alzo yes, I vill assist vith your problem vhen ve have time.}​

Opening his pod would reveal an interesting sight. There were a fair number of metal shards lining the interior, all with German writing set near the base of each one. Names, perhaps? As he walked past the display, he set his hands on the walls near them and paused for a moment.
"...Ich kehre zurück, Kameraden." he droned, before he sat down. As he did so, his eyes began to glow ominously as he looked out at the other pilots.
"....Activating Shell now."

And then it all went black.

01001000 01100101 01101100 01101100 01101111 00100000 01100001 01100111 01100001 01101001 01101110 00101100 00100000 01001011 01110010 01101001 01100101 01100111 01100101 01110010 00101110 00100000 01000010 01100001 01100011 01101011 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01110100 01100101 01110011 01110100 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 01110010 01110011 01100101 01101100 01100110 00100000 01100110 01101111 01110010 00100000 01101110 01101111 01110100 01101000 01101001 01101110 01100111 00111111

The absolute pain this process put his mind through. It didn't matter how many times he had been put through this. All the precautionary trials that didn't need to occur, not to mention at least a FEW claims of ethical tests Dr. Minamoto could put under her belt with his consent.


He needed a focus. Something to keep the feeling of knives carving through every nano-angstrom of his brain out of his-


01010011 01110100 01101001 01101100 01101100 00100000 01110100 01110010 01111001 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01101001 01100111 01101110 01101111 01110010 01100101 00100000 01101101 01100101 00111111 00100000 01010101 01110011 00111111 00100000 01000001 01100100 01101111 01110010 01100001 01100010 01101100 01100101 00101110

His eyes fixated on the shards. His vision seemed to be malfunctioning. Outlines of hands seemed to be reaching out. Utter nonsense, right?
"Ich werde keinen prahlerischen Hersteller dulden, der keine Ahnung von Magneten hat."

His mind snapped back being his own once more, the various HUD alerts flooding his view as he looked back at the shards once more. Nothing stirred.

LEVEL : 10

{Acht, ze test has ended. It has graded me vith a ten. Alzo I feel ze system ztill has....Baggage vith me.}

2nd Lt. James Harland

<<It'll be fine, Frosty.>> Harland reassured the snow-haired woman as he approached from behind her. <<Safety precautions exist- ladies will probably pull the plug if things go south.>>

He adjusted his suit, as he started forwards to the rest of the units. <<Don't worry about it. You'll do great. Besides, we're going into hell anyway. What's a little shock therapy, right?>>

With those parting words, he made his way towards the capsules. Cheaply printed stickers tacked on the side of the capsules indicated which was theirs.



Yu-ni KYO

Hannes HABER


Clancy CLARK


Selfie NIKAN

Courtney JONES




The names reminded him of those on tombstones or a memorial. One giant metal coffin for them to fight and die in. At least these ones had ejection ports, he mused darkly.

The hatch opened up, and he stared into the cockpit. So familiar, yet so different. What he once saw, what he saw now, they were one and the same, and not at all like each other. He brushed a hand across the controls, stepped over the cramped space, and came to rest, back on the saddle again. The pneumatic hatch hissed shut next to him, settling him in the darkness, illuminated only by the controls and the screen in front of him.

He took a deep breath, and ran the checks across the board. It was a simulation, but the least he could do was familiarise himself with the controls and the readings. Life system stable, power core was good to go, all systems nominal. He leaned back into the seat, and took hold of the controls.

No fancy flying out there, Jim. Stick to the basics.
Can't promise that, boss.

<<This is 2nd Lt. James Harland. All systems green, ready for take off. Commencing SNU evaluation.>>

He thumbed the release, and hit the switch.

The surge like electricity, the rush of blazing through the azure seas. The howl of the wind outside the cramped coffin. The staggered breathing as he attempted to cope with the blood being flung through his body. It was beautiful. Blind to the numbers flickering wildly across the screen, he only saw what his mind saw: the vast blue beyond, the clouds beneath him, the deep dark receding blue above into the beyond.

Outside, and inside, the numbers rambled through. 10. 2. 5. 7 10 2 1 5 7 8 3 5 6 1 10 2 5 1 9….

Then it ended. The blue faded. All that was left was the dark, cold cockpit. A single number remained on the screen in front of him.


It was there for just a second, before the 1 blipped out of existence.

A grand total of 0.

Harland raised his hands in defeat and slumped back into his seat, a show of wanton expression that was unseen by anyone else. He wasn't much for tech like this. He’d be fine in a normal cockpit with manual controls, he reckoned, not one filled with newfangled tech like mind-reading and crazy control systems like these.

He searched the panels, and hit the comms. First thing on the list was to check on how everyone was doing, himself be damned. Someone else could have gotten a shit score. Maybe not as shit as his, but his score wasn’t important. Keep morale up. This was the next batch of bug killers. <<This is Harland. Harland to Two-Oh-Three-Seven Foxtrot. How's the E-ticket ride?>>

Interacted with:
- Gundam Watcher 27 Gundam Watcher 27 (Alex Skye)
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Location: Sanctuary Point Unified Command Naval Base - Hangar 12
Mentions/Interactions: Coin Coin (Unified Command/Dr. Simonova)

Cyrus was awakened from his meditative state as soon as the hangar doors began to open. He stood up and brushed off the back of his pants to make sure no dust or dirt on the tarmac stuck to him. Upon entering the hangar, Cy took inventory of the space beyond him. He first turned his attention to the ETA's being worked on. Watching the mechanics do their thing, he studied what procedures were being done to each model. When everybody stopped inside, a pale figure introduced themselves to be our commanding officer. Cy has had a small share of experience with informal CO's but this one was different. This one looked to have a very drained spirit and poor physical care routine. CO's have been disheveled before, but that was because they didn't have the time to take care of themselves on the field, this case appeared to be a matter of choice. He ended up introducing the program founder and an accompanied science officer to the group. Looking over the crowd, it seemed that many people recognize the individuals being presented before them, but Cy hasn't really heard much of them before. Cy looks over to the side and notices the ejection capsules being worked on and names attached to each one. Going down the line of names, it doesn't take him too long to find a capsule with his name on it. Returning his attention to the program director, she wraps up introductions in time to address the science officer. The science officer seemed preoccupied with their station at first but came to attention soon enough.

Once the pilots were given the go ahead to begin testing, Cyrus stuck around for a minute to see the preliminary results of some of the other testers. After the first few minutes the scores tended to err on the side of extremes; either a 2 or below or a 7 and above. None of the scores revealed to be in the typical testing ranges of 3 to 5. A very particular batch of pilots with this class, hitting average class scores through balanced extremes instead of middle ground results; like an inverted bell curve. Cyrus believed he would stand out by having such an average score. He didn't see himself getting anything higher than a 6. That's how he'd personally rate his overall capabilities. If he was taken at face value, then he'd probably get a 4 or 5, but with how luck has tended to favor him in his battles past, a 6 wouldn't be too surprising either. Satisfied with seeing the first round of results, Cy took to his capsule and settled himself in. Due to his large build, the fit was a tight one, but not one he wasn't familiar with. After all, many of the gen 2 ETA's he fought in all had one-size-fits-all piloting suites. So Cy did the best he could to make himself comfortable, doing his usual startup prep and routines before taking a deep breath and starting the test.

Cy was flushed with a ticklish and tingling feeling throughout his body. It reminded him of one of the few fond memories that he had of his father. His father enjoyed surprising him by tackling him out of nowhere and giving Cyrus tickle fits. It would often turn into playful wrestling matches that his father often let Cyrus win. However, there was one time where he caught his dad off guard. It was around when he was 13 or 14 and Cyrus was at home for the weekend reading a book that his father gifted him titled Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky. The book was about humans trying to recreate earth on another planet but instead accidentally kickstarting a society of intelligent spider aliens and interacting with their unintended consequences. While he was reading, he had heard his dad return from work early and remain eerily quiet since his return. Cyrus knew what this meant and prepared himself to counterattack. Cyrus pretended to have his guard dropped but as soon as his dad made his move, he countered and wrestled him down first. Cyrus was about as big as his dad by this point, so it really caught his dad off guard that he was anticipated and countered so swiftly. It's not that he wasn't trying to be countered by his son, but being in special forces, getting caught off guard by your child a third your age is a feat not to be snuffed at, no matter the context or circumstances. After his father tapped out, Cyrus got off of his father and he saw that he was reading the book that he gave him. His dad asked him a couple questions about the book to him; simple ones at first about his initial thoughts and opinions, then later more thought provoking ones on the philosophies the book was trying to convey. Impressed by his son's thoughtful responses, he chuckled with subtle pride and pulled his son in for a hug. Cyrus accepted the hug but fell for his father's trap and ended up getting tickled anyways. They both laughed off the matter and sat down next to each other on Cyrus' bed.

It was at this point where Cyrus' dad decided to take the moment to drop a random piece of dad advice that Cyrus has carried with him everyday to the present one. His father told him, "I'm glad to see that you're turning out to be a very well-rounded and bright young man. That alone will take you far no matter where you go. But it's also important that you keeping pushing forward anyways. Credit where credit is due, you really did catch me off-guard with your initial feint, that was really crafty of you. Just make sure that victory doesn't go to your head. Nor any other victory for that matter. It's important that a man stays of sound heart, body, and mind. A good man needs a strong heart to carry him appropriately and surely through the highs and lows of life. A good heart comes with a strong spirit. The more you take care of your spirit, the better your heart is. A good body comes from discipline and dedication. No timeless masterpiece was made in a day. With time, patience, and dedication, your body will be the river that cuts rock into grand canyons. A good mind comes with being open and aware. You nurture your mind by giving it experiences and taking advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Your mind is the command center of everything, if you lose faith in that, everything else goes down with it. All three effect and balance each other out. If you can build on all three, then there's nothing that can hold you back."

It was a lot of information for Cyrus to take in and process all at once. A random Sunday afternoon after reading and wrestling each other. Why do dads feel so compelled to drop the most impactful pieces of information in a child's life at the most sudden and random of times? His dad noticed the look on his son's face and laughed a sentimental laugh, "Ah sorry kid, I know that was a lot to take in all at once, just getting sentimental is all. You know I love you and just want the best for you."

Cyrus acknowledged and responded to his dad in kind and hugged him before he headed off to go make himself a light meal before dinner. Cyrus took a minute to himself to continue processing and internalizing everything his father just told him. What he said was important, and sure it may have been lot, but that wasn't any excuse to give it any less respect than what it was worth. After processing and memorizing his father's words to him, he went back to reading.

Cyrus zoned back in, not realizing that his test had finished some time ago, and that he was just sitting in his capsule doing nothing but smiling to himself. Grounding himself back to reality, he looked over at the display to see what score he got. He was baffled to see the number before him. The test results came back and he scored a 9. That was way higher than what he anticipated. He couldn't believe it. He doesn't even consider his combat ability being 9 out of 10, let alone any of his other skills. Cyrus would start interacting with the interface, trying to search for the science officer from before. He made the mistake of focusing on his surroundings when he should have been focusing on introductions so he doesn't remember the name of the science officer, just what she looks like. Upon spotting a name with a 'Dr.' before it, he pinged her and began asking his questions, "Hey, so what exactly is the test measuring for? Like, what specifically is being evaluated here? Also is there any way that I could retake the test? I want my assessment to be accurate, not just good and I don't think I did the test correctly."
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Mentions: Coin Coin (Captain Vidal, Dr Minamoto, Dr Simonova, Various Techs)

His eyes hadn't drawn away from the small, shaggy man from the moment he laid eyes on him. Even as the Program Director began her spiel about the program and how they were meat for the grinder heroes of humanity, Percival would not drag his eyes away from the smaller man. Percival acknowledged the strength of the pilots around him, but he always felt as though he were one of the bigger fish in the pond, if not the biggest than close to it. The man before him, though... there was a gap between them. It had been a long time since Percival had felt a gap between himself and another pilot.

Not since London

The grey haired man seemed to the naked eye to be unimpressive, inattentive, bored. But pilots like Percival knew to not just rely on what their eye said. This guy exuded a quiet confidence and power that gave even Percival pause. Not once did his eyes drift over to meet Percival's gaze, and it didn't seem like a single muscle was tense. Yet, Percival knew he was facing the most perceptive and dangerous man in this room. He needed to reach that level. He had too. But first...

"... We will begin the evaluation shortly."

Almost reluctantly, Percival dragged his dark eyes away from the Snowfox and back towards the presentation.

A few moments later, Percival found himself led before one of the simulation pods with a name card of his plastered on the side. The tech fiddled with it for a moment before opening the pod and revealing a classic (if modified) Hurricane escape capsule/simulator. With a wordless grunt, Percival slides into the seat with the hatch hissing shut behind him. It takes him a moment to click into the harness and start up the pod's procedures as directed by the tech. Without much ceremony, Percival flicked the Shell Neuropath Uplink switch and waited. He didn't have to wait long.

Pins and needles flooded his body, and he felt his fingers and toes go briefly numb as his head filled with white noise. But for as sudden as it came, so to did the sensation leave. Percival resisted the urge to grunt, it was a bad habit of his, and instead pondered how that felt. It took roughly twenty seconds for the sensation to come and go, and even now he still felt a little disorientated by-


The number.

On the screen.

Said 3.

"Thank you very much, Lieutenant, you can disengage the-"


"Uh, sir?"

"Do it," Percival nearly growled as he gripped his arm rests in a silent fury, "Again."

"Sir, the likelihood of your score changing is very slim. All you'd be doing is putting unnecessary strain on-"


A moment of silence, and the sensation of pins and needles.






"Do it!"


"Fuckin' BOLLOCKS!" Percival raised a fist but resisted the urge to strike the screen. 3. His compatibility was- No, he can't afford it, he needed to get higher, needed to be higher, better, stronger to kill that fucking THING perform his duty to avenge them all-

"Bugger all!!"
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Selfie Nikan
Meat day. Meat day. Their privilege, the officers had chimed. Meat day, meat day, everybody to meat day like pigs to their troughs. Not her, she scoffed. She was here for a reason and it wasn't to eat sausages by the dozen. She'd been skipping breakfast for most of her life so today was no different, meat or not.

So to say, five minutes late and with a chip on her shoulder, Selfie stood in Hangar 12 with an empty stomach, chewing on the scenery.

The song and dance was funny, or at least the know-it-all smirk stuck to her face said she thought as much. This and that about their accomplishments, the expectations that they had of them, so many words that didn't need to be said. Selfie, again, reminded herself that she was here for a reason, and it wasn't to have her ego stroked by a pair of techies who had probably seen dozens of men and women off to their early deaths in these steel coffins of theirs. She wouldn't have been surprised if that had been the real purpose for this evaluation. To see just how small a coffin they could get away with lowering into the ground come their inevitable passing, empty of their remains.

"Mmm, yah- Sure thing, Bosses." She half said, half scoffed, as she brushed her way to her capsule. If there were any benefits to her service, it was this. Not meat day, and certainly not the good work that she was doing in the name of her nation. The cockpit. A world, hers and hers alone. Even this imitation of the real thing was enough to bring a real smile to her face. The embrace of metal-stained air as she stepped into it, and then the flash of electric life as the rest of the world was closed away, replaced by blinking LEDs and blaring monitors.

She was dumbfounded, still, as to just how she managed to blunder her way into all of this. She supposed she had that much to thank the Starfallen for. In any other world, in one where Mankind had been left to go on its merry way, unfettered by the wrath of the cosmos, these things would've been pointed against one another, she'd still be some two-bit thug on the streets, and et cetera. Not that she appreciated the fucking bugs, but she figured that beating down on aliens sure as hell presented a lot more job prospects than beating down on punks.

...Or maybe not. Half of the older folks on the streets had been Veterans, after all.

And then there was all of this tech that she'd let them cram into her, too... What was gonna happen with all of that, once this was over? Were they just gonna have to go on with life and hope it didn't short out on them? She'd been keeping her trap shut about it, but the week since installation had been hell enough on its own, and the thought of her own body starting rust made the metal within her start to ache again.

"Fuckin' hell..." She breathed, mirthlessly, as the evaluation program blipped to life.

Happy thoughts, she urged herself.


Happy thoughts.

No, no, that wasn't working.

She breathed in and out. Once, then twice. Slow and steady. Eyes shut. Breathin' exercises. She remembered reading something about those at some point in her life.

One, Two, One, Two, One...

...Two. A final, steady exhale. Eyes open.

And, again, 1.

No, no. She was done with the breathing.

That wasn't it.

1, right in front of her.

"Hah?" Selfie squinted at the fat, blocky number. She knew she needed glasses, but she didn't think her eyes were this shot.

1, still.

"Piece'a'fuckin' shit..." She cursed in her comms. Not that she cared, but this thing was definitely busted. "Oi, Cap', we done here? This thing smells like sweat."
"Ah, this is a rather simple neurological pathway evaluation," Dr. Simonova responded to Alex, giving the cadet an honest smile. "No one has ever died during this phase of the evaluation, and there is a very very low probability of neurological shock, with an even lower chance if your body has not already experienced a Total Rejection of the Shell augmentation. When we switch to more complex evaluations within the simulator, the chance does increase, but is still very slim -- far slimmer than a real sortie against the Starfallen."


Dr. Simonova winked to Alex as she turned to the rest of the candidates who hadn't plugged in yet, "Please, if you would, find your way to your assigned testing pod and follow the technicians' instruction. Dr. Minamoto, the technicians, and I will be closely monitoring your vital signs. Trust that we will terminate the evaluation if we detect the slightest anomaly that may cause harm to anyone."

As the candidates began to plug into the simulators, the corresponding technicians read the scores aloud for the doctors who had returned to the control station.

"Cadet M. Coaling, Level 7," one technician reported. "No anomalies."

Another chimed in, "Cadet AX-8, Level 2. Station Green."

"Cadet K. Yu-Ni, Level 10. Confirmed perfect connection strength!"

"Cadet H. Haber, Level 10. Perfect connection strength, but we are detecting minor anomalous brainwave fluctuations."

"Cadet C. Abadie, Level 9. Station Green here, doctors."

Dr. Minamoto grinned like the devil and muttered under her breath, "I knew I had a good feeling about this class, Dr. Simonova. You're lucky you get to work with so many interesting candidates this time."


"Move the candidates that are holding Level 7 and higher to Evaluation 1b, duration: 15 seconds," Dr. Minamoto ordered the technicians who had reported in.

Another technician raised his hand in interruption, which both doctors shot their glances over to the pod of Cadet J. Harland. Dr. Simonova glanced back down to the terminal screen in front of her and squinted. She adjusted her glasses and let her bottom lip drop and hang open just a few millimeters. Just what was she seeing?

"Cadet J. Harland was reporting 10, but it dropped to 0 after a few moments, ma'am," the technician cleared his throat, sweat building on his brow. "I double checked the vitals. There are no anomalies, ma'am. The cadet is not suffering from Total Rejection."

Dr. Minamoto raised a brow, then turned to the same screen that her colleague was tapping through.

"Refreshing the system isn't changing the result. Could the pod be damaged?" Dr. Simonova suggested.

"Not likely. I checked the pods personally yesterday night. He's definitely alive in there, so maybe it's not the pod that needs to be changed, but a change of scenery for the pilot. Advanced the cadet to Evaluation 1b with the others," Dr. Minamoto smiled as she delivered her order to her subordinate. A collective chill ran down the spines of the technicians as they did.

Those that went on to Evaluation 1b had the interior of their pods dim until only the emergency lights remained. It held like this for a few moments before they flickered back to life. The displays now bathed the inside of the cockpit in pale blue light. The screens had perfectly emulated the video feed of an ETA in the middle of a bright blue sky in nearly every direction; they were flying. The ground was below, and getting closer and quickly. 5000, 4000, 3000, 2000 the altimeter read. An [EMPTY THRUST FUEL] klaxon blared across the screens. Worst of all, the Shell made them feel like they were falling, even though they were just in a simulation pod. For fifteen seconds, the sensation of freefalling in a bingo fuel ETA completely overwhelmed the senses, stopping just before they hit the ground.

Dutifully, the technicians outside of the pods were recording any changes in their Shell Neuropathic Uplink.

Meanwhile, more scores from the other cadets rolled, "Cadet S. Nikan, Level 1. No abnormalities."

"Cadet A. Quiller, Level 3. Cross check four times, at cadet request," the next technician reported back, clearly looking a little flustered from Percival's insistence.

While the pilots with an Uplink Strength of Level 7 or greater underwent the continued evaluation, the rest of the candidates' simulators entered a standby mode. Several calibration bars appeared, causing a continued tickling sensation with the Shell augment.

<Neuropathic uplink enabled>

<Sensation-guided controls enabled>

<Forwarding uplink to Simulation 3010: Arclight>

<Feedback strength: 3%>

In the middle of the calibrations, Captain Vidal's face appeared in the lower right hand corner of the cadets' simulator screen, all except those who were still undergoing Evaluation 1b. His expression on the video feed was entirely unchanged as before, "For the record, I scored Level 2 on the initial evaluation you just took. Your scores can develop over time, and they can change in the moment. The longer you stay uplinked to your ETA, the better it gets, too."

"And I'm afraid not, Nikan," the Captain continued. "We are just getting started. I think you'll like this part."


So, to summarize:

If you receive a score of 7+, you are briefly put (15 seconds) into a momentary freefall in an ETA simulation with no thruster fuel. Notably, this simulation feels much more real than any other simulator, and that is due to the Shell. This will test your pilot's ability to maintain composure under stress and really see if that Shell Neuropathic Uplink can hold its strength under pressure. Again, completely up to you. This is supposed to classify as "pretty low" on the Shell output stimulus, but is meant to catch some pilots off guard. Afterwards, you are put into the second situation, too, but please update us on your score if it changes at all.

If you receive a score any lower, you are undergoing calibrations for some sort of new simulation. You are also in communication with Captain Vidal as a group.

Second half of this post that will move us into a new scene will be up sometime late this weekend to give everyone that wants a chance to chat and for the other cadets to plug in.

Re: americanCaeser americanCaeser , Remembrance Remembrance , Gundam Watcher 27 Gundam Watcher 27 , Zahzi Zahzi , simj26 simj26 , Kameron Esters- Kameron Esters- , FabulousTrash FabulousTrash , The One Eyed Bandit The One Eyed Bandit , YLVillain YLVillain
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Location: Sanctuary Point Unified Command Naval Base - Hangar 12
Interactions/Mentions: Coin Coin (Unified Command)

Cyrus waited for a response over the comms, but soon caught himself and the anxieties he was putting himself in. He knew better than to let that slip, especially at an aptitude eval, so Cyrus took a step back and eased himself up. If there was a way to redo the test, why would they tell him anyways? It would only make things less realistic and would lead to less appreciation for the seriousness of the eval. Cyrus closed his eyes, and focused on his posture and breathing again. That was the one helpful thing that got him into the current position he was in, it could help him with whatever came next. Just as Cy began to settle down, the lights in the pod began to dim. Cyrus paused for a moment to observe the emergency lights turning on. If this were an emergency, he'd at least hear yelling or banging on his pod. Whatever was happening, he was getting a chance to redo his test, although not like the first time. Cyrus closed his eyes and began whispering a prayer to himself, "Thank you for this second chance. Please let me have the strength to do things right once more."

With his eyes still closed, he could see bright blue lights pierce through his eyelids. Before he could open his eyes, he felt wind rushing past him. This was different from the sea breeze he felt outside the hangar earlier, this was faster, colder, and turbulent. When Cyrus opened his eyes, he was met with the sky all around him and a piloting interface he had never seen before. He saw the horizon slowly rising, a number in the four thousands dropping rapidly, and a red screen blaring at him that he was out of fuel. Y'know, if he had a nickel for every time he had been in this situation, he'd have two nickels; which isn't a lot, but it's weird that it happened twice.

Back on his second sortie in Algeria, while being deployed in his Kaban, he was being airlifted out to his mission site. Kabans had no means of independent and self-sustained flight, so they were airlifted anytime they had a mission far from base. Cy was still new to the interface and new to paratrooping all together. One of the pilots next to him told him, "Don't worry, the suit will do all the hard work for you. Your parachute is automatically triggered and all you gotta do is turn on your jump jets before landing to cushion the blow. It'll be easy, you'll see."

Unfortunately, things didn't pan out so nicely as he was led on to believe. The Starfallen had lured them into a trap and ambushed the airships with a new Anti-Air type of Starfallen. Airburst shots ripped through the fuselage and ETA's were torn apart and dropped in seconds. The pilot that told him things would be easy ended up having his ammunition well shot and his ETA blew up. This explosion sent Cyrus and his ETA plummeting out of the drop ship. The explosion sent debris into his fuel tank and jammed the parachute door shut. Leaking fuel and falling out of the sky was an experience a lot more terrifying the first time it happened. Cyrus got out of it in one piece then, all he'd need to do is apply the lessons he's learned since then and he'll be more than fine. He might even still have a functioning ETA after landing if he gets lucky enough.

Cyrus flattened himself out so he could slow and control his descent. He spent a few seconds controlling his fall to try and turn as much of his descent into sideways motion as he could. Cyrus interfaced to move his armaments below him so he could use the recoil to break his fall, but noticed there were no armaments for him to interface with. He assumed that must be part of the test and corrected himself to make do without it. With all the wind he could feel flowing around him, it made focusing a lot harder than when he first did this, but the mech was moving a lot more fluidly than when he last did this too. Gives and takes and fruits bore from labors spent. Cyrus looked over and saw he had just passed the 2000 mark on his altimeter. This was it, the last thing he could do: let the legs take most of the impact, fall into a ball, and roll onto your side. Now, when Cyrus did this the first time, he didn't do any of that and just fell legs first; but he had the benefit of falling parallel to a dune on his side. Cyrus didn't have quite the same luck here as he did then. He was going to have to learn the theory taught to him with trial by fire; the way he learned most of his combat skills. The altimeter went below 1000. He relaxed his body, aimed and positioned his legs, readied his arms to roll, and... the simulation ended.

The abrupt ending was jarring. In one instant he was falling at terminal velocity, the next he was still and unmoving. It felt like he had a sack of sand dropped on his back, he felt so heavy under his own still weight. With the cold wind gone, despite the temperature in the suite being unchanged, he felt hot and started to lightly sweat. Cyrus had to pull his arms into his chest and press his body into the suite in order to fight off the vertigo that was suddenly plaguing him. He said to himself, "I think I would've preferred breaking my fall than this."

After a few seconds of composing himself, he looked over at the screen. He saw the numbers bouncing back and forth. He must have missed that when he was lost in his memories the first time. As the numbers began to settle down, they resolved to only bouncing back and forth between 7 and 8. Not as high as the first time, which he expected to be a fluke anyways, but still higher than what he was expecting for himself. Cyrus felt his body heat up hotter than before, and he started to sweat even more. It was cooler outside in the sun than how he felt right now. The air wasn't getting hotter, except by what heat was coming off from him. What he was feeling was all internal. The number stayed still on 8 for a moment but as Cyrus got hotter and hotter and more uncomfortable, he watched as the number dropped to 7.

Cyrus had got his score but he didn't feel any more relaxed than before. He felt like he was suddenly running a fever, although he knows fevers don't strike as fast as this did. This had to be a side effect of the shell implant. Cyrus started panting and felt his shirt getting more damp. He spread the sweat across his arms, neck, and thighs and wherever he could to get the water to take more heat away from him. Cyrus looked over to the comms panel and went over to go and turn it on but stopped himself. Would it be better to pull the plug now or try to solve this himself? If he could figure this out, that would bode far better for him eval wise than calling for help. However, if this was something he couldn't figure out, then all he'd be doing is more harm than good to his body. Cyrus moved his hand to touch the shell implant and felt it was as hot as a stove. The staff can see his vitals, if it truly becomes an issue, they'll make the call on it. He did what he could to relax his body in the meantime, before the next part of the test, and bear through the inferno that roared inside of him. Cyrus remembered at this moment the heat he felt traversing the Sahara alone, dehydrated, and sun burnt. Against what Cyrus expected, this made him laugh. That heat felt relentless, while this heat felt agonizing and... good? Somehow, for some reason, Cyrus felt great despite it all. The fire couldn't be from anything but the shell, but the mind and body are capable of stranger things. Maybe, just maybe, this was coming from something much deeper inside of him than what the shell could reach. Impossible as it may be, it was the only thing that felt comforting to think about. So as he waited, he grinned, laughed, and sweat harder than he had ever before.
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The day Rie came to after surgery, she woke up to the unfamiliar sight of an ICU nurse hovering overhead. She'd gone into shock, he'd said. They'd been concerned she would completely reject the shell, though it seemed she'd managed to stave off that fate. In the hours following, she was slowly weened off the painkillers. She'd never felt pain like it before — her nerves felt like they were live wires, each little pulse sending her brain scrambling.
Now, the pain was nothing but a dull ache, yet fatigue dogged her every move. Performing her duties wouldn't be an issue; she was a trained soldier. She'd been stuck fighting against the Starfallen in worse conditions. Even if she had no appetite, she ate, as her body required fuel.
By 0900, she, along with other ARES cadets, milled about in front of Hangar 12. They would be under the supervision of none other than Captain Vidal. As close to a celebrity as military personnel could be, barring the faces they used as patriotic propaganda during the previous World Wars. She, better than most, understood why people needed a hero.
The other faces were equally famous, or infamous, in the case of Dr. Minamoto. The cockpit presented was familiar, yes. It wasn't all that different from the ETA she used to pilot, sans the missing controllers. But it had never been a metal coffin she'd looked forward to being in. While other pilots found pride and thrived in the expectations placed on them, Rie only felt the heavy weight of dread sitting on her stomach.
"Cadet A.R. Nakamoto, this is your pod." The technician stood at its side, looking expectantly at her. In the black screen of one of the monitors, she saw her own face: tired eyes, bruised underneath as her body sapped all available energy to recover fully. Her lips curved in an automatic smile as she thanked him before stepping inside.
The darkness was familiar, but familiarity also afforded her room to think. She flipped the switch that would begin the SNU. Would she be able to do well? Or would she fail? All that pain, just for her to be sent back in a wheel—
A jolt of pain not unlike those first few hours after the painkillers wore off traveled through her body. Nerves on fire, teeth gritted, fists clenched. Endure. You can manage it.
Then just as suddenly as the pain began, it ended. Rie expelled the breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding.
Level: 01
Well... she should've expected that. It was probably a miracle she hadn't gotten zero. No orders yet to vacate the pod, so she waited patiently. A prickling sensation soon began, similar to that initial link, but nowhere near as severe.
Captain Vidal showed up on the screen, and it did provide some comfort that the ARES program's best was also a low-scorer when he first started. She had no aspirations to be on the same level, but she at least wanted to be passable
"Does the initial pain ease as well?" she asked. Though the buzzing now she could ignore, the initial shock to her system was still enough to take the wind out of her.
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TIME: 0700


Even through walls as thick as these, there was no escape from the sound of moving parts and hissing machinery. Yet, within the dimly lit room, Clancy didn't seem bothered. His gloved hands folded neatly behind the back of his head as he rested atop his stiff bed. The coldness of the metal frame was fortunately unfelt thanks to the compact mattress, singular pillow, and paper-thin blanket.

Hints of pain nipped at the rookie's being. The byproduct of the numerous surgeries he'd undergone. Despite that, his expression seemed comparable to that of a stone. It only made sense... After all, his mind was preoccupied with the thoughts of how his first day would be. The pilots he'd inevitably meet probably had vastly different experiences, and he was eager to see how said experiences set them apart. But more importantly, he was wondering what he'd need to do to prove he's cut from an entirely different cloth.

The urge to prove that he's superior gnawed at his psyche for hours. It chewed at him so much that he'd even lost his interest in eating breakfast. Maybe his desire to prove himself was felt by some unknown entity, because the chime of his ICD alerted him of a change of schedule. They were tasked with going to Hangar Twelve at 0900 for evaluation instead of 1300. Outstanding. This was the perfect opportunity to prove he was the best pilot in class 2037F from the get-go. So, he'd try his best to get some more rest before it was time to move out.

"There's no chance I'll mess this up." He'd whisper.

TIME: 0900

Clancy was one of the last people to arrive to the hangar, and he didn't seem interested in introducing himself yet, but he did make a mental note on all of them. By studying their demeanor, their outward appearance, and how they carried themselves, Clancy was able to get a very vague idea on who they were as individuals. In other words, he was getting a feel for who was competent and who wasn't.

Once they were guided to the pods, Clancy listened to their spiel of what was gonna happen. It was incredibly simple. All he'd need to do was find his name, step into the pod, and see what he scored. Several pilots already did just that.. with drastic numbers being the normality. One unlucky bastard even managed to have their score reach a perfect ten, then drop to a humiliating zero.

He would've been busy laughing at the low-scorers if it weren't for the ones that actually maintained tens. They were making a name for themselves already.. and Clancy wasn't gonna be left in the dust. So, he shoved his way through the ones that hadn't gotten into their pods yet and made his way to the one labeled "Clancy Clark." As demonstrated, the rookie unlocked the pod and eagerly entered! A mix of worry and excitement forced his heart to beat faster.

As the door to his pod hissed closed and darkness enveloped him once again, Clancy flipped a few switches to boot the pod up and begin the evaluation. He didn't feel any sort of "pain" during the process. It'd be more accurate to describe it as an itch underneath the skin, or an occasional soft pinch. It was completely insignificant, and fortunately so.. because he could divert all of his attention to the monitors.

1.. 2.. 3.. 4.. 5.

And it increased no further.

Seeing so many of the others get higher scores gave Clancy the false idea that he'd be a shoe-in for a perfect ten. Him being one of the youngest to become a Wonder Nine made him believe this would be child's play. Surviving the ARES program surgeries made him think he was built different. And yet, there he sat. The only thing keeping him company within the dim pod was the number five. A completely average score that belonged to a completely average pilot.. so why in the world was he given that accursed number? Had he not done enough to warrant more?!

The corners of his lips curled downwards. Lines danced across his brow. Anger settled deeply within his visage... And as the monitor's shifted to a reverberating "STANDBY", Clancy was left with a single question. Just what the hell is going on here?

(hidden scroll ↓)



Philip Warragul Bernadotte "Kiwi"

Location: Sanctuary Point Unified Command Naval Base - Hangar 12
ARES Program: Day 1
Mentions: Coin Coin (Unified Command/Dr. Simonova)

"G'Day to you two Krieger. Not sure if I'm a shining soul though, remember to most I'm just a heap of a rats bag." Replied Philip to Krieger's welcoming comment, though hearing his later words did make a spark light up in Philips's head, his words did move him in a bit. Not in the right way mind you just in a certain way, a wicked vengeful way.
"Count me in on that mate. The private talks that is, cause showing those surfies, what is what in Aussie land is a must, as a host and a member of a similar program."
Soon after this little exchange, Alex left with her guards, and soon after her Krieger left as well, but Philip wanted to properly finish eating his food, only to be pulled off his seat by his collar cause Alen picked him up like a mamma cat does to her kittens. Philip looked at Alen with a sausage and a piece of pancake in his mouth, trying his hardest to say or even mouth out "Can I at least finish the food before we go?" But Alen knowing Philip well as he had his guard for at least 3 years now, just said "NO! Now let's go to the hangar, but if you really want I can allow you to finish the rootbeer while we walk there." "You don't have to say more mate." Replied Philip quickly grabbing his bottle of rootbeer, and after being put down by Alen they began to walk off towards hangar 12, where he finished his bottle of root beer mid-way there.

Philip hasn't spoken since leaving the canteen, and after rocking up at hangar 12 he just glanced over the area and people within, especially at the sciency folk, those Doc. Alen stayed just two steps behind Philip to shadow and monitor him. The two of them listened to Doc Minamoto's explanation and speech, though it was mainly Alen who listened with Philip ignoring most of it, and yet when he heard they got the clearance to enter the machine he ran off with a speed that might have outran an emu.

With the two arriving at Philips pod, he took off his hat, scarf, and outermost jacket giving it to Alen saying. "Can ya' hold it for me for a bit will ya?"
After handing off his things he entered the pod like a Joey Roo in a mama Roo's pouch.
Once inside the pod, Philip took a few glances around the pod, locating all the things that he would probably use or actually never use knowing himself. After a minute or two he took a deep breath and as he exhaled he flicked the switch for the Shell Neuropath Uplink, it took a few seconds for him to start feeling things, the connection was established, and the sensations came flooding in at first there were normal, but soon he began to feel numbness in his extremities, and said numbness slowly traveled towards his torso stopping on his midway joints. "Crikey! Which Dipstick wants to get some ear-bashing cause honestly they can go and rack off! "
As soon as he yelled those words out on his screen flashed a number: Level 7.

"Oi Alen after this we are going for a bikkie and a smoko 'cause this will drain me mentally my mate." As Philip said this his pod dimmed till only the emergency light remained, for a few moments he thought that someone pulled the plug for the pod out of its socket but soon they flickered back to life, with the displays now blaring pale blue light straight at him, along with the screens emulating the feed of a real ETA, falling from great heights at neck-breaking speeds even for an ETA.

Philip quickly checked every meter and counter in the pod checking for any information that could help him, only finding out that the 'ETA' was out of thruster fuel, and without many other things which would be useful. Then, the klaxon blared the [EMPTY THRUST FUEL} message across the screens. "As if I didn't know it ya' cactus."
Philips's mind raced, his adrenaline sky high, with those few seconds feeling like minutes, Philip controlled the simulated ETA to spread itself as wide as it could to increase air resistance mimicking a sugar glider, and as he reached the altitude of 2000 he quickly balled up his ETA, with the legs covering the chest trying to fall legs first, onto the ground, perhaps even planning to do a roll to save himself.

But the simulation cut off before his actions could show a result to them, though unbeknown to him it did have some result, as Alen could attest to that seeing the changes in Philips Shell Neuropathic Uplink swaying from its level of 7 all the time during the simulation, sometimes dropping totally to level 6, but at other times rising to a level 8.

After the additional test, Philip took a deep breath to relax his nerves and calm down his adrenaline, stabilizing his SNU to level 7, and as he finished doing so he asked Alen.
"So how did I do Alen?
"Well you are a whacker that loves to whinge but what you did could yakka."
"That's good then. Let's just get the experiments done fast, 'cause I really need that smoko."



Kyo Yu-Ni | "Yongsan"
Sanctuary Point Unified Command Naval Base - Hanger 12

Yu-Ni was stilling idly by when the lights dimmed.

Immediately, she straightened her posture, her body tensing. Was this another part of their evaluation?

Before she had an opportunity to ask what was going on over the comms, light flooded back into her pod. She was greeted with the sight of a bright blue sky, the ground underneath her. She was flying, or at least it was a simulated flight. No, thats not right. If she was flying, why did it feel like she was falling?

In the next moment, the sensation of freefall took over her body. Her breathing quickened as adrenaline began running through her body. Yu-Ni's hands initially reached for the harness that kept her secure in the pod's chair, but she fought against her instincts, taking control of her body and forced her hands to reach for the controls. An altimeter on the interface before her was counting down and a warning repeatedly flashed on and off, telling her there was no more fuel on board.

She needed to flatten down and increase her drag to slow herself down. But before she could manipulate the controls to position her ETA accordingly, she watched as the simulated ETA's arms and legs spread themselves out, her Shell reading her mental impulses and translating it into instruction. Just as it was designed to do.

Immediately, Yu-Ni's hands reached up to an upper console. If her interface was still powered, there had to be an auxiliary source that she could use to fire her boosters and soften the blow. As she prepped for the power transfer, Yu-Ni instructed her ETA to flip over so it's back was towards the ground. If her idea didn't work, at least this way she wouldn't hit the ground head first.

2000.... 1000....

A gasp of relief left her lips as the display indicated it was ready to reroute power to the thrusters. She would only have enough power for one burst though. She'd have to wait for the right moment. Her finger remained on the button that would trigger the power shift as her eyes watched the altimeter.

50... 40... 30... Now!

It had to be within milliseconds that the pod went dark just before Yu-Ni pressed the button. At the same time, the feeling of falling ended. Her breathing was heavy as she tried to process what had just happened. The interface returned to normal and displayed her uplink strength once more.


Her heart rate began to normalize, her breathing returning to a normal and relaxed pace. Yu-Ni sat back in her seat, staring at that number. She wasn't sure if she should be proud or annoyed.

Up until now, she had never found herself in a freefall situation like that. The mechanics and techs in PASEL always made sure that ETAs had enough fuel on board to make it home. But perhaps being an ARES pilot meant taking more risks, which meant even greater consequences should those risks fail to pay off.

A deep breath helped Yu-Ni relax as she waited for the next thing to come. The technicians working at her pod analyzed the results and data recorded during the simulated fall, including a graph that showed a minor fluctuation in her SNU level at the very beginning of the evaluation. But afterwards, it maintained it's level 10 connection.

(hidden scroll ↓)

Hannes Krieger Haber
Location: Sanctuary Point Unified Command Naval Base
Nearby: ALL
Disposition: "Zhey really love zheir tests..."

"Cadet H. Haber, Level 10. Perfect connection strength, but we are detecting minor anomalous brainwave fluctuations."

"Ohh, I'm zure you know vhy...." Krieger responded as the light changed in his pod. Much like the others, he was unsure what the next shift to this examination would be, but he would prepare himself accordingly.

Krieger was prepared for many situations. He had to, it wasn't like he was going to get a third chance. But going from a grounded position to a freefall of 5000 meters and dropping fast? Well, that was a new scenario to be sure!
His mind raced for few moments before the obvious dawned on him. This was, after all, still a simulation. There was no way in hell they would just catapult an entire ETA, let alone just the twelve billion dollar Pod of one, 5000 meters into the air with little to no provocation.

"...Not cool...." He sighed, seeing what all control he DID have in this simulation once his calm had returned to him. Much like the others, he had flattened the ETA to create as much drag as possible. Not that it would be particularly after terminal velocity was reached in a giant rust bucket...

01010111 01101000 01111001 00100000 01100011 01101111 01110101 01101100 01100100 01101110 00100111 01110100 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 00100000 01101010 01110101 01110011 01110100 00100000 01100100 01101001 01100101 00100000 01101111 01100110 00100000 01110011 01101000 01101111 01100011 01101011 00100000 01101000 01100101 01110010 01100101 00101100 00100000 01110000 01100001 01110010 01100001 01110011 01101001 01110100 01100101 00111111 00100000

"Ich weigere mich, mich von etwas belästigen zu lassen, das Ampeln nicht erkennen kann."

Krieger stared directly at what seemed to be the camera pointed directly at him, as if waiting for more aggressive binary to be hurled at him, and yet, only silence followed as the simulation ended, leaving him in darkness, and an unaltered score of 10.

"....Perhaps I ztruck a nerve?"

pyvdcbpnqby.pngMoraes U. Coaling - ARES Program Day 1 - Aptitude Evaluation, Hangar 12

The sensation of freefall was disorientingly real. Moraes's heart raced as the altimeter readings plummeted, the ground rushing up to meet him. His initial shock at the sudden plunge was quickly suppressed, replaced by his training. Recognizing the familiar sensation of stress-induced panic that could cloud judgment in such scenarios, he swiftly employed a technique he had refined over years: a focused breathing method known as box breathing. Inhale for four counts, hold for four, exhale for four, and hold again. This method helped him regulate his heart rate and maintain clarity of thought even in the most intense situations.

Surrounded by the noise of the simulation and the palpable tension of the other candidates in their pods, Moraes closed his eyes briefly to center himself. He visualized each breath as a wave washing over him, calming the storm of his initial reactive instincts. This mental imagery, combined with the rhythmic breathing, allowed him to transform the chaotic freefall into a series of manageable moments, each one a beat he could navigate and control.

As the altimeter numbers dwindled rapidly, Moraes focused on maintaining his composure. For those intense fifteen seconds, every nerve in his body screamed in simulated freefall, but his response was measured and calm. When the simulation abruptly ceased, just shy of a catastrophic crash, Moraes's heart rate began to normalize almost immediately. He noted internally that his uplink had maintained its Level 7 strength throughout the ordeal—a sign of his profound adaptability and control.

As the pod’s door hissed open and the normal lights of Hangar 12 greeted him, Moraes stepped out with a deep, settling breath. As the simulation pod transitioned back to calibration mode, Moraes relaxed slightly, allowing himself to process the experience.

Feeling the calibration bars activate, Moraes experienced the peculiar tickling sensation of the Shell augment adjusting. He focused on the sensation, using it to further acclimate himself to the Shell's interface. This minor discomfort was nothing compared to the earlier simulation, and he took it as another opportunity to refine his control over the new technology.
2nd Lt. James Harland

<<Huh.>> An incredibly bland and unimpressed querying remark given the circumstances.

The warning klaxons and the bright red [EMPTY THRUST FUEL] were not ideal. Perhaps what should have been more alarming was the altimeter informing that he was plummeting from a height of angels 5. The lurch in his stomach, the rumbling of his craft, the push and pull of gravity and inertia forcing themselves upon him, the thrill of it, the beauty of fighting against gravity and giving in to its relentless pull, it all rushed back to him. How long had it been since he had experienced this feeling? A laugh rose to his throat. He suppressed it. He had to remain calm, he had to cut off all of his emotions, he had to remain at zero. He adjusted himself on his seat, and began to work the controls. Out of habit, perhaps, he brought himself back up on the comms. No one had responded to him earlier, thing could be busted, but he might as well try anyway.

<<This is Zero Actual, I’m bingo fuel and dropping. Transferring power to suspension systems. Bracing for impact. I’ll be right back.>>

He flicked the comms off, and began to manually adjust the controls in front of him, diverting all power from the ETA’s weapon systems, life support, radar, everything he could get his hands on, to the legs. It might not be enough. Can’t trust this bucket of bolts with his goddamn brain. A Zero like him couldn’t even properly interface with it. Brain must be fried from all that fancy flying he did, and the damn thing couldn’t be read by tech made by the world’s brightest. Not that he minded. This was the kind of play he liked. On the edge of his seat, uncertain death, and all systems below nominal. Straight into hell.

To tell the truth, part of him was hoping that this would kill him. Death had been on his tail for the longest time, radar locked and ready to fire at any time. <<Come on. You know you want to,>> he hissed as he observed the ground growing ever closer to him.

Time to die.

Or not. The simulation ended as soon as it started, just as the altimeter hit ground level.

<<Huh.>> Another bland, uninspired remark that betrayed none of his attitude towards this change of scenery. He adjusted the switches and power system. The rest of the simulated ETA'S systems returned to life with a hum.

<<This is Zero Actual, all systems green. Had uh, some technical issues there. What the hell was that?>>

The screen flickered back on with the rest of the systems. Bastard thing still had a whole egg on it, taunting him. Not that he needed anything more than that. It didn't matter. 0, 5, 10, who gives a shit? He can work this thing without a brain invasion. He can kill just as well without it, he can die just the same with it.

Interacted with:
-Everyone on comms
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LocationHangar 12
Courtney closed her eyes and leaned back in the pod. It had been a hectic morning - she was late to the mess hall for breakfast, as she had dropped a rock down the toilet. It was an honest mistake, really. The specimen in question was a nifty sparkling rock she picked up while jogging this morning.

Tragically, it fell out of her pocket while she was in the latrine, and well… there had to have been at least three people in the evaluation room right now who had seen her frantically trying to find a plunger in the cleaning closet.

Then, she thought she’d be clever and save time and sneak some scrambled tofu into her room for breakfast. That went well enough, and she even got to catch up on reading some old comic books she had gotten her grimy paws on. Courtney was so immersed in the plot that she failed to hear the notification on her ICD, and now the others knew for sure that a five-minute jog to the hangar could be turned into a three-and-a-half-minute run.

At least the pod was cozy, sort of. There was something about it that vaguely reminded her of her grandpa’s schoolbus. It was probably the smell of off-gassing vinyl, all-purpose cleaner, and aspirations that hadn’t yet met the future.

Then the uplink started, and the blonde dweeb groaned in pain. It wasn’t like she was on the verge of dying or anything dramatic like that, but sweet baby Jesus it was like someone took a week of cramps and condensed them down to 30, 40 seconds.

“Ow! Ow… Ow ow ow ow ow….!”

All her extremities were twitching like she had chugged four energy drinks in a row, and she curled forward in her seat like a dead spider as she rode the wave of pain.

Level 4.

“Ffffuck,” she whispered with a pounding headache. The pain had passed, and all that was left was her in the testing pod… and a keen desire for a chocolate bar and some Motrin.

“That hurt too much to not be at least, like, a six. Actually… could I get a six? Is that a grade bump I can ask for?”

The Level 4 remained unyielding. It had been worth a shot, at least. Courtney sat back, and twiddled her thumbs, looking around.

“Captain Vidal, sir, why didn’t you get a higher level? Wait, no, I mean, what was the justification for the two?” She panicked and backtracked mid-sentence, foot in mouth.
"Lucky" Anton


Anton woke up late. Which wasn't unusual, especially after such extensive surgery, but he has an actual military schedule now. After finishing his morning routine with a grin in the mirror he went for the canteen where he snatched the last few sausages of the day. Lucky him. Thankfully Anton read the message in time so he could adjust himself for the schedule change.

Having arrived barely on time, Anton didn't even get to make a bad joke before the assessment started. Or rather the introductions before it. And while he did try to lighten the mood with some puns, he got shushed by his fellow Wonder 9s instead. Thankfully he had an audience in the engineers around his pod.

"What is the worst way to hit on an ETA pilot? "Hey, are you in league with the enemy? Because I have Starfallen for you!" Bahahahaha."

The engineers led out various sighs and groans and left the pod ready for Anton, who was slightly disappointed at their reaction. But the inside of the pod made his engineering heart warm.
He inspected every nook and cranny as he slowly crawled inside, analyzing as much as he could. Most of all, Anton appreciated having actual space for once.

As soon as he got comfortable, he hit the button to close the hatch and begin.

Now, thirty seconds is really not a long time. But you add a pain that seems to cover every nerve underneath your skin to it, it becomes a small, hellish, eternity.
"Ghuarg", was the only thing Anton could squeeze out before the pain consumed his being. It felt as if the Shell itself wanted to break free from his skin. Thankfully it eventually came to an end, and the pain ended with it.

The screen in front of him showed a "3" and while he would have been satisfied with that, his focus was on something else as he called the doctor.

"Hey Doc, a know the Shell nearly rejected me durin' surgery but is it really supposed ta hurt his much?"
"Cadet C. Abadie, only minor variation with SNU during Evaluation 1b. Final report: Level 7," the senior technician in charge of recording the cadet's scores reported. "Body temperature and vital sign fluctuations detected, but still within safe limits. Maintaining connection."

"Cadet P. Bernadotte, initial evaluation: 7. Evaluation 1b only triggered minor variation in SNU. Final report: Level 7," the next technician noted. She hit the comms to Philip's pod and her voice broadcast into the pod. "Bad news, Cadet Bernadotte. Smoke break won't be for another few hours. We're about to send you into another simulation, so please hold tight."

The trend continued as Moraes, Krieger and Yu-Ni's scores remained unchanged from their initial scores during Evaluation 1b. This earned a widening grin on Dr. Minamoto's expression. Everyone that had been fed Evaluation 1b managed to maintain, or even improve their scores slightly. Great, not being caught off guard by a sudden change in the situation was paramount to a pilot's survival.

"Impressive, cadets," Dr. Minamoto said after thumbing the comms key to the pilots who underwent the additional evaluation. She sipped the miserably bitter cup of coffee and continued. "Well done, indeed. Maintaining a high level of connection between your ETA and your Shell will mean that the machine will do exactly what you want it to do, so long as the machine is capable. That part is the hard part -- you will be learning how to control a body that isn't your own. Not even close."


"Uh, madam director?" the technician presiding over Harland's pod interrupted, getting the doctor's attention. "Cadet Harland's SNU spiked to 8 briefly during Evaluation 1b, now it's dropped back to 0. Should we run the test again?"

Dr. Minamoto's grin faded as she shook her head. Just what was happening in Harland's head? She turned the communicator so she was in touch with his pod in time to hear him to report the technical issue, "Pardon Cadet Harland. We weren't able to get a consistent score, so we had to run some additional calibrations to the evaluation. We have the data that we need. You'll be moved to Evaluation 2 with the others shortly."

She thumbed the communication line off and turned to Dr. Simonova, "Keep an eye on that cadet. We'll just chalk it up to an anomalous reading for now, but anomalies should be studied. Carry on."


"The initial pain? The intensity and duration certainly improve with time," Captain Vidal responded to Rie. "Some pilots dose up on painkillers before connecting in the first few months, too. Just keep in mind that it might impact the quality of your SNU if you plug in high as a kite."


"Same to you, Cadets Serejlvik and Jones. The more times you repeat the connection process, the easier it should get," Vidal stated.

He pondered Courtney's question for a moment, reliving the memory of his evaluation. His skin was on fire, his eyes felt like they would burst from their sockets, and every extremity felt like they were going to pop. It was some of the worst pain he'd ever felt in his life, but it didn't hurt him nearly as much as the score of 2 that he had received that day. It felt like a lifetime ago already, though it was only a couple of years.

"The lower your score, the more mistakes the ETA makes trying to read your neuropathic brainwaves, Jones," he finally replied, still monotone as ever. "Imagine driving a car, but every so often the brakes and accelerator switch inputs, and the wheel jerks suddenly left to right without warning. Won't sugar coat it, but you'll struggle with the controls for a bit. I sure did."


<Simulation 3010-Arclight rendering complete>

<Deploying candidates...>

<Begin Evaluation 2>

With the conclusion of Evaluation 1 and a whole heap of calibrations later, all of the cadets of 2037F were moved along to the next phase of evaluations. The interior screens of the simulator pod darkened once again. The pilot inside was once again left with the sound of their own breathing, heartbeat, and thoughts. The first sensation to return to the pilot was weightlessness. It began gradually, but the feeling of drifting in the void never came. It was near weightlessness, but not quite.

Next, only a soft pale light returned. The scene in front of the cadets had transformed once again into the vista of the inky blackness of space, speckled with trillions of pinholes that were unmistakably stars in the abyss. In the horizon, Earth loomed. Roiling stormclouds billowed along the surface, and the radiant web of city lights gave mankind's cradle a halo of smoke and gold.

Looking down at the crumbly grey soil and the uncountable craters on the surface confirmed the location of the second evaluation. They were on a simulation of the Moon.
October 12th, 2037
ARES Program Day 1
Evaluation 2
Moonbase Arclight

Along with the perfectly constructed lunar environment was a massive structure that dwarfed the size of Sanctuary Point in total acreage. The facility had habitation modules, massive greenhouse domes, landing pads, communication towers, factories, and all the other works that made a self-sustaining colony. The whole scene could have been taken from a cheap science fiction movie.

"Welcome to the Moon," Dr. Minamoto exclaimed as her face popped up on the ETA's main monitor. "Well, it is technically a simulation of the Moon. This is 3010-Arclight, a proof of concept model for the UN that was scrapped in favor of the ARES Program. The gravity here is 1/6th that of Earth's gravity, so it makes it easier for new ARES pilots to get used to the feel of the ETAs in a more forgiving environment. It's best not to get too used to it, since we don't expect to be fighting the Starfallen on the Moon anytime soon. Consider these your training wheels. We'll be moving on from the Arclight simulation after Week 1, so soak up the scenery while you can!"


Her face disappeared from view, allowing them to experience their surroundings more clearly. The pilots had been transported to a firing range for ETAs, just outside of the base itself. They were simulated in their ETAs that they had requested during pilot registration, all lined up in a neat grid formation on the grounds behind the zero line. Each one of their ETAs was powered down, so only the machines directly in front of them were immediately visible. That much signaled that all of them had indeed synchronized as an avatar within the simulation in tandem with the other cadets.

To their left flank, ranging markers were incremented with flagpoles adorned with yellow banners for easy viewing all the way out to 5km. Scattered across the plains, hills, and craters were various sheet metal cutouts of Starfallen from as small as a lurking Drone to as large as a fearsome Mauler. Across the whole range, hundreds of silhouettes made for a target rich environment across a variety of ranges. Nearby, a portion of the range was partitioned off by 30ft tall concrete walls. Along these walls in big yellow block font displayed the words CQC HOUSE. In the walls of the "house" was an open roof, and a wide field of lunar terrain, and scattered targets. Among these targets were sheet metal cutouts, tank hulks, and rectangular bales of scrap metal. Perfect targets for repeated ETA melee strikes.

Dr. Simonova's face was the next to pop up a few seconds later, "While I know most of you are probably eyeing the range, let's go over basics first before we get there. I am forwarding you a list of tasks to perform. This will serve as Evaluation 2. Once you are finished with the list, use any remaining time to get a feel for some of the mobility controls. Once the duration on the test has expired, come back here to the zero line of the firing range for Evaluation 3. And as a warning, you are not weapons clear until we start Evaluation 3. If you break the rules, I'll deliver a debilitating electrical shock directly to your Shell so hard, you won't be able to chew dinner! Just kidding!"


It was hard to tell if she was kidding or not, but her face still held onto her beaming smile before it was replaced by a notification ping. A message reading [DIRECTIVE RECEIVED] appeared as a blue pin in the corner of their viewscreen. It expanded and read as follows:

- 1) Start up ETA
- 2) Engage Shell Neuropathic Uplink control mode
- 3) Disengage manual control mode
- 4) Without thrusters, travel forward [100 meters] at [half speed]
- 5) Maintain stable hover of at least [4 meters] for [10 seconds], using [vertical thrusters only]
- 6) Without thrusters, travel forward [500 meters] at [full speed], and come to a complete stop in less than 10 seconds, without using [adjustment thrusters]
- 7) Without thrusters, travel forward [500 meters] at [full speed], and come to a complete stop in less than 5 seconds, using [adjustment thrusters]
Time Limit: 30 minutes

Hey cadets, welcome to 3010-Arclight, a moonbase simulation where the rest of the evaluations will take place for the day.

Things to consider:
- Getting used to the simulation environment can cause vertigo for some, just like trying VR for the first time
- Gravity is 1/6th of what Earth's is, everything is 1/6 what it would weigh on Earth which has a lot of kinetic implications
- You can "feel" what your ETA "feels" in the closest adjacent synaptic sensation (treads on the ground feels like walking on the ground, snapping an antennae might feels like a hair being plucked, etc.)
- If you wipe out, it hurts. Pain feedback has been lowered to 3%
- Crashing in a way that would disable the ETA or mortally injure the pilot will "respawn" the ETA to the starting location
- You are directly interfacing with the controls of your ETA for the first time -- if your character is a natural at it, make it interesting
- It's okay to be sloppy and sluggish, most first timers are
- That being said, if you scored higher on Evaluation 1, your ETA will respond to your commands more accurately
- The lower your score in Evaluation 1, the more input anomalies will occur (joints lock up, thrusters vector the wrong direction, left side input on right side controls, etc.)
- Despite how simple the directions of Evaluation 2 might seem, it is to be done entirely on SNU control mode
- The 30 minute time limit seems like a long time... until you get stuck on a task
- You're in the simulation with your fellow pilots, observe and help each other out (or make jabs)
- Captain Vidal is also observing and is available to give pointers
- Show us how you practice with free range of movement if you finish the tasks with time remaining
- No post limit/rotation, interact with each other as much as you'd like over the next week or so. I'll respond in batches like I did the previous time if you interact with any NPCs
- If you missed last post rotation, no fret. Catch yourself up however you'd like, just let us know what your SNU score ended up being. Need help? Ping me

Re: americanCaeser americanCaeser , Remembrance Remembrance , Megilagor Megilagor , Gundam Watcher 27 Gundam Watcher 27 , Zahzi Zahzi , simj26 simj26 , Kameron Esters- Kameron Esters- , FabulousTrash FabulousTrash , The One Eyed Bandit The One Eyed Bandit , welian welian , @TheRealAngeloftheStorm, YLVillain YLVillain , tonka tonka , @The One Called X, fluticasone fluticasone , @The Regal Rper, Mechking Mechking


Kyo Yu-Ni | "Yongsan"
Sanctuary Point Unified Command Naval Base - Hanger 12 / Moonbase Arclight simuation

Finally, she could stretch her legs. Metaphorically speaking. But in a literal sense too.

Yu-Ni hid it well, but excitement was building up in her. As she listened the instructions from Dr. Simonova, she took deep breaths to center herself. Baby steps first. Just because she had done well so far didn't mean there was a chance something goes sideways.

The checklist appeared at the top left of her main display along with the timer. Once they were given the green light, Yu-Ni immediately reached for her controls, beginning her startup procedure. She spoke over the open comm channel so that everyone could hear her.

"Yongsan, starting up."

The lights across the body of her ETA came to life as as it's hybrid internal power source spun up. She could hear a series of motors and gears turn as her ETA stood up straight, entering standby mode. The visual display inside her pod expanded to allow for peripheral vision, revealing the other ETAs around her.

"Engaging SNU controls and switching off manual."

A few more switches and buttons, and she felt the same tingling feeling experienced at the beginning of the evaluation. This time, however, she was prepared and it didn't faze her as much. With manual controls disabled, she was now in full control with just her mind. It was still a concept she was trying to grasp, but one that she was getting more familiar with by the minute. Her hands gripped the manual control sticks subconsciously however. It felt weird not holding anything.

Yu-Ni glanced over to her checklist to see what was next, then looked forward. Small steps forward huh? She'd have to move slow to compensate for the gravity.

She guided her ETA out from the formation so she'd have more room to navigate. At the same time, her hand reached up an overhead display, engaging her weapon safeties. Better safe than sorry, in case the Shell misreads an input. The barrel of her railgun retracted slightly before the entire assembly tilted backward and recessed into where her right shoulder blade would be. The machine gun was holstered on the left side of her back, mirrored to her railgun. Clamps secured the weapon, which left the ETA's hands free. The warheads on the missiles she packed in the pods behind her shoulders disarmed.

Once she had enough room to maneuver without the risk of hitting another pilot, Yu-Ni guided her ETA forward at a walking pace. At least that what she assumed was half speed. As her ETA put one foot in front of the other, Yu-Ni could feel the shape of the terrain under her own foot. She could feel every small divot, rock, and the dusty sand that occupied the lunar surface. Another sensation she'd eventually get used to.

Yu-Ni glanced behind her to see who would be the next to spin up and get moving.

(hidden scroll ↓)
Location: Sanctuary Point Unified Command Naval Base - Hangar 12/Moonbase Arclight Simulation
Mentions: FabulousTrash FabulousTrash (Kyo)

Despite having an internal body temp of 38 C (100.4 F), Cy would still feel chills running through him when he gets jutted into space. Having his body seemingly lift itself up to the lower gravity was quite the experience in and of itself, let alone the scenery cast before him. Countless stars, more than he'd ever seen before in one-sitting, lay out before him. To think, amidst all this beauty and wonder, one could afford for a moment to forget the terrors that now infest our day-to-day. When the program director appeared before him, he made sure to pay better attention to her words this time. Listening intently to both the program director and eval proctor, Cy consolidated his thoughts to focus on the task before him. He spent what time was given to admire the scenery and get over his fever, now he was on the clock. Watching Kyo step forward first, Cy saw it best to follow her initiative and take the next step forward close after her. Cy cleared his throat and opened his comms after hearing Kyo's start up, "Red Herring, initiating startup."

The tech in this ETA was all new and fancy, and started up fluidly without sounding like it was going to tear itself apart just by turning it on. The most convenient part of it all was that the interface was in a language he knew well; French. For the last few years or so, he had been stuck with reading Cyrillic and assigning his own interpretations of the words on the interface after enough trial and error. It was nice not having to go through all of that this time around. It was also nice that the system was displayed in French instead of Arabic, despite where he grew up. It reminded him of his dad more this way and that meant a lot to him. Once the system was fully booted up, he leaned back in his suite and interlocked his fingers, resting his hands on his abdomen. Cyrus noded his head along as he started mentally playing the intro to Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes in his head. Feeling hot and ready, he called out over comms, "Disabling manual and switching over to SNU now."

Cyrus started off by testing his extremities, seeing what dexterity and flexibility his ETA had. He lifted his right arm, then his left and the ETA lifted its right and left barrels. He lifted his right leg, then his left and the ETA did the same. The controls felt smooth, but the fire in him that he had thought died down earlier started to slowly return. One is a point, two is a line: Cyrus didn't want to jinx it so he wouldn't say what he was thinking to himself, but he was hoping that what he was thinking wasn't the case, or at least was a fixable one. Putting that aside, he looked at his checklist seeing that he had finished 3 of 7 items within the first minute. Of course they'd make half the list be easy, despite their significance. Gives you the opportunity to get ahead of yourself and see the rest of the list to be just as simple. Seeing Kyo take off, moments before, Cy moved onto objective 4 and began walking forward. One step forward and... his right foot was supposed to move forward first, not his left. Well, he was still walking just fine, but it was still something he wasn't expecting. The ETA moved like an elephant, slow and loudly. Despite being in the grace of no atmosphere, ground tremors could still be felt, and its like the ETA had no care in the world for the ground beneath it. This wasn't any issue with his connection, this was Cy getting used to having his weight distribution and extremity capabilities being different. In manual, you just accepted what you had for what you had, but with SNU, you feel everything you have. Well, no time like the present, and this is the place for learning these things. It really is nice having a training day and having your hand held before deployment, it feels like how things should be done. The gifts of having time on your side.

Looking forward, he could see Kyo's mech turned to see behind her. Cy lifted his right hand, or barrel, and waved. This felt fine and natural for him, which gave him peace of mind that at least he could effectively communicate visually in case his comms went out. With the heat inside him spreading even more, he moved his hand to clear his forehead of sweat before noticing that his ETA followed suit by moving his right barrel up with his hand. More things for him to take note of and get used to. Cy would find his own lane to continue walking, giving his comrade plenty of space to work with for herself, and followed in suit of glancing behind to see who was next to follow. Afterwards, Cy would continue walking forward until item 4 marked itself complete, upon which he would stop and observe his comrades behind him. Only a couple of minutes had passed thus far, he had some time he could afford to see how the rest of the class was doing. If not, this was also a good excuse to give himself a break from using SNU to test his hypothesis.
Alex Skye

Alex got into her pod and sat down in the pilot seat. She closed her eyes as she felt shocks surge through her body. Her muscles contracted as she fought to withhold her screams of pain. This was just a test, she reminded herself. She couldn't let this one minor thing get in her way of her goal. She soon felt the pain leave her body, and when she opened them, she could see her score on the screen.

"2.... I have alot of work to do then."
With the conclusion of Evaluation 1 and a whole heap of calibrations later, all of the cadets of 2037F were moved along to the next phase of evaluations. The interior screens of the simulator pod darkened once again. The pilot inside was once again left with the sound of their own breathing, heartbeat, and thoughts. The first sensation to return to the pilot was weightlessness. It began gradually, but the feeling of drifting in the void never came. It was near weightlessness, but not quite.

Next, only a soft pale light returned. The scene in front of the cadets had transformed once again into the vista of the inky blackness of space, speckled with trillions of pinholes that were unmistakably stars in the abyss. In the horizon, Earth loomed. Roiling stormclouds billowed along the surface, and the radiant web of city lights gave mankind's cradle a halo of smoke and gold.
Never had Alex seen a sight as beautiful as what she was witnessing.
The green, Blue, and white, along with the grays, Alex knew what she was looking at.
'And unseen is the enemy we'll have to fight again....' she said to herself, without speaking.
Alex then realized something. If she was seeing the planet, where was she that gave her such a view? Alex's ETA looked down to see the white surface and the multiple craters that scattered about.
"The moon?"
"Welcome to the Moon," Dr. Minamoto exclaimed as her face popped up on the ETA's main monitor. "Well, it is technically a simulation of the Moon. This is 3010-Arclight, a proof of concept model for the UN that was scrapped in favor of the ARES Program. The gravity here is 1/6th that of Earth's gravity, so it makes it easier for new ARES pilots to get used to the feel of the ETAs in a more forgiving environment. It's best not to get too used to it, since we don't expect to be fighting the Starfallen on the Moon anytime soon. Consider these your training wheels. We'll be moving on from the Arclight simulation after Week 1, so soak up the scenery while you can!"
"⅙th? I didn't get that far in math. What does that mean?"
Her face disappeared from view, allowing them to experience their surroundings more clearly. The pilots had been transported to a firing range for ETAs, just outside of the base itself. They were simulated in their ETAs that they had requested during pilot registration, all lined up in a neat grid formation on the grounds behind the zero line. Each one of their ETAs was powered down, so only the machines directly in front of them were immediately visible. That much signaled that all of them had indeed synchronized as an avatar within the simulation in tandem with the other cadets.

To their left flank, ranging markers were incremented with flagpoles adorned with yellow banners for easy viewing all the way out to 5km. Scattered across the plains, hills, and craters were various sheet metal cutouts of Starfallen from as small as a lurking Drone to as large as a fearsome Mauler. Across the whole range, hundreds of silhouettes made for a target rich environment across a variety of ranges. Nearby, a portion of the range was partitioned off by 30ft tall concrete walls. Along these walls in big yellow block font displayed the words CQC HOUSE. In the walls of the "house" was an open roof, and a wide field of lunar terrain, and scattered targets. Among these targets were sheet metal cutouts, tank hulks, and rectangular bales of scap metal. Perfect targets for repeated ETA melee strikes. Dr. Simonova's face was the next to pop up a few seconds later, "While I know most of you are probably eyeing the range, let's go over basics first before we get there. I am forwarding you a list of tasks to perform. This will serve as Evaluation 2. Once you are finished with the list, use any remaining time to get a feel for some of the mobility controls. Once the duration on the test has expired, come back here to the zero line of the firing range for Evaluation 3. And as a warning, you are not weapons clear until we start Evaluation 3. If you break the rules, I'll deliver a debilitating electrical shock directly to your Shell so hard, you won't be able to chew dinner! Just kidding!"
Alex did not laugh. She was pretty sure Dr Simonova could have the power and technology to do so, if possible.

Alex took a look at the objectives and had to squint to make sure she was reading it right.
- 1) Start up ETA
- 2) Engage Shell Neuropathic Uplink control mode
- 3) Disengage manual control mode
- 4) Without thrusters, travel forward [100 meters] at [half speed]
- 5) Maintain stable hover of at least [4 meters] for [10 seconds], using [vertical thrusters only]
- 6) Without thrusters, travel forward [500 meters] at [full speed], and come to a complete stop in less than 10 seconds, without using [adjustment thrusters]
- 7) Without thrusters, travel forward [500 meters] at [full speed], and come to a complete stop in less than 5 seconds, using [adjustment thrusters]​
Time Limit: 30 minutes

Alex blinked, before she had to speak up. "What if my ETA doesn't have vertical thrusters?"​
AX-8 | "Eight" | Arcade
Priority: Second Law

In one moment, Eight was sitting calmly inside the pod, with hardly any light to speak of. In the next moment, they were in a vast, dull, and gray wasteland. Mounds and shifting hills covered the horizon, craters littered intermittently across the landscape. Eight peeked a glance through the top of their cockpit, and realized for the first time in their life how tiny they were. This was space. Every tiny dot that seemed smaller than a nail was larger than Eight could possibly conceive. And yet, what triumphed every star in the sky was this one pale blue dot.

The environment and structures around them were self-explanatory, what mattered more was how they could be of use. As their eyes scanned the surroundings, the directives list materialized in the corner of their screen. The first three were easy. Each action had a button or switch given to it, all Eight had to do was press them.

Reactor: Online
Sensors: Online
Weapon Systems: Disabled
All Systems: Nominal

The systems' readout checked green all across the board, except where weapons were concerned. LED lights flashed across the control board. All that was left was switching the controls to the Shell.

Manual Controls: Disabled

The ETA lurched forward. Thrusters turned on and off, flickering with life until being snuffed out. Every step a struggle to execute. Gaining control of their ETA was a sisyphean task. During Eight's tenure at Nova Levis, Eight was set to working on sensitivity procedures; they frequently swam vast lengths of a pool and immersed themselves in shallow waters. They weren't efficient at swimming or even moving in water, but they could manage it at the end of the day. If there was a way to describe the sensation of piloting their ETA through the Shell, it would be that it is just like wading through water. If this were on Earth, Eight could visualize this as moving through dense water. Being on the Moon, the gravity certainly helped in mitigating the worst of it. Well, it would not be correct to say that they are on the moon, but getting into specifics comes after moving the ETA past 5 meters.

The last four directives seemed simple, but gaining that fine of control to complete the directives put Eight at a standstill.

There was an old saying; 'mind over matter'. The phrase was too vague for Eight to ever comprehend it fully. Three words can seem so simple when put together, but from a logical standpoint, Eight could never crack it. Can humans truly solve physical problems with just the power of their mind? Was it a power that only some had, or could all of humanity do it? Of course, this discussion devolves into continuous questions with no answers. But then, the most important question is asked; what about someone like Eight? With a logical and truly unknown brain, and with none of what humans call 'willpower', how can Eight overcome this?

What if I reverse the order? Matter over mind.

This was a farfetched plan, but in spite of its absurdity, Eight was unable to find an alternative. Eight tensed each part of their body, as though they were preparing to undertake high amounts of g-force. Putting their focus into their own legs, Eight took a step in their ETA. It worked. Well, it worked well enough. The ETA had collapsed face forward. This feeling of having fallen was a new one to Eight. The ground ascending, a lurch, and then that one moment where the brain realizes what happened, and attempts to solve it. Of course, getting off the ground was more difficult than getting to it.

After what Eight calls 'relearning how to walk', their motions have started to become more fluid. However, having to put the mind on standby and lead it with the body was straining. Moving with two legs was easy enough, but the cost of individually controlling each leg reared its ugly head. Eight's legs burned with effort. For humans, this must be an easy task. For Eight, their mind had already started thinking about the events after evaluations. Considering lunch was next, they'd have to get back to cleaning the cafeteria. After that, Red Hall. Then, doctrines...

By the time Eight put their focus back onto the evaluation, the fourth directive had already been cleared. Eight had progressed some distance away from the initial formation. There were others that Eight could assume have progressed to this point. Eight sent a digital 'hello' message to the pilots nearby them. Although they have gotten farther along than they originally thought, Eight was hardly confident in waving a hello as one pilot had. At least, Eight wouldn't have to stay later to fully complete the evaluation.


Oh, thank goodness Vidal wasn’t upset. Hopefully. Well, his voice was flat and kinda freaky, but so far that just seemed to be normal. Maybe he was like, on the spectrum or something. Or traumatized! Lots of trauma here.

“Struggling with the controls…” She pondered his warning. Advice? Advice.

Had she ever struggled with random controls like that? Not really. There was a learning curve when learning something new, but no machine had let her down so far. There were safety regulations for vehicles and equipment. And these ETAs were – ah, beans. Right, this was the experimental part.

One explanation later…

The moon was gorgeous. As soon as the lovely doctors explained the next test and cut them loose, Courtney spun around to admire the scenery of the Arclight.

“You know,” she said to her colleagues, bragging, “If I had scored higher in Chinese classes, I could have enlisted in the Space Force. Maybe been stationed up on a moon base one day!”

Now, the test. Starting up the ETA was easy-peasy. The sequences and checklists were committed to memory. The second uplink was exactly as painful as the first, leaving Courtney faintly nauseous and but otherwise unharmed. At least this time, she had an idea of what to expect.

Turning off manual controls was difficult. Not because the switch was hard to reach or anything, but because it went against the Canary’s very personality. Her precious manual control! The ability to push her machine as exactly as she intended, and no further! The ability to ignore blinking yellow warnings!

She swallowed her control-freak nature and turned off the manual controls. Now, it was only her mind in control, and… that was a bit scarier than the Starfallen.

That spinning around would be her first major obstacle – sure, the main body of her mech could rotate freely, but a human body could not. Courtney instinctively grabbed the controls to continue rotating the cab, but they wouldn’t budge. Manual controls only, of course. And Courtney, being human, had never spun her own spine 360 degrees. She couldn’t picture it, it didn’t occur to her.

The other pilots in range would see her ugly-cute mech rotate about one-third counterclockwise, all six legs still folded and planted on the rocky surface, and the cab come to a shuddering halt.

She frowned.

In the cockpit, she physically turned to her right.

The mech rotated clockwise, but not all the way.

The cockpit didn't have much legroom, if at all, but Courtney was able to bounce her knee up and down, willing the Trawler to walk. One of the mech's six legs hissed - brakes releasing - and pushed up, leaving her tilted down toward the ground, looking at the mech-feet of whoever was in front of her.

“I’m stuck,” she announced, not yet realizing that it was her own imagination getting in her way.
2nd Lt. James Harland

Alright. Not the first time in a cockpit like this one. Not exactly the real thing, but it looked and felt like one. Same as the type he operated in PASEL. He duly ignored the instructions to switch off manual control for the time being. He had to see what this thing was capable of. How much he could push it. He slammed the controls forwards.

The thrusters roared to life, and the machine lurched forwards. He jerked back with it, but continued to hold the thrusters. Stopping now would break his neck. He wrenched control of the craft, turning it sharply around. Moondust scattered into the vacuum of space, shrouding his impromptu donut. He eased the thrusters back down, slowing the craft to a standstill.

He tilted the controls forwards, bringing the ETA to a steady stride. All movement systems seemed to be functioning, on manual at the very least. Switching to SNU support would be the hurdle. When it came down to speed and maneuvering, he was the goddamn best, there was no doubt about it, but with the brainjack? That glaring 0 was worrying.

He still had to do it. Whatever it was, he had to get past that hurdle. Hesitantly, he reached for the switch for SNU control.

The muffled sound of grinding gears and whining machinery from outside his craft, thankfully, took his finger off the switch. One of the other crafts, the unique one with insect-like legs, had pitched itself forwards, angling itself staring straight down at one of the craters on the moon.

He reined in his craft, and brought its arms under the fallen machine. With a groan of effort from his own craft’s servos, he lifted the machine upwards so it was level with the ground.

<<I’ve got you. Switch back to manual control. Reset your position and try again. First time for everything. Focus.>>

He didn't know if this advice was a workable one. He hadn't even switched manual off yet. His readings of SNU had implied that it was based off a person's mental state. To utilise it fully, the user had to be of clear mind, or something like that. It didn't matter to him. First thing's first - help this poor soul out. He'll deal with his own problems later.

Interacted with:
Canary welian welian
Location: Sanctuary Point Unified Command Naval Base - Hangar 12/Moonbase Arclight Simulation
Interactions: welian welian (Canary), Remembrance Remembrance (Eight)
Mentions: simj26 simj26 (Harland)

Seeing his fellow classmates get off the starting line, he saw everybody's scores proceed to reflect in their movements. He watched as the next person off the line was Eight. There's a lot of humility to be had in this environment. After all, it is a class, so we're all learning still, so it's worth giving credit when feats are accomplished. When Eight finished their 100 m, Cy rocked his left and right barrels back and forth, as this was the best celebration he could visually give, and sent a digital message back to Eight, "Good job Eight! Great recovery too!"

Looking back down range, he saw one of his comrades in a crab-like ETA fall over and call out for help. He was about to move forward before he saw Harland move over to assist her. From the looks of things, the ETA's mobility was limited to what she could do herself. That makes sense since she's the only one here with a non-humanoid ETA. Cy opened a channel with Canary to help her out with imagery part, "Canary, remember that you're still a pilot and not the ETA itself. You don't need to be able to do what the ETA can do, that's the point of having the ETA in the first place. When turning, don't think that you need to do it yourself, just try and lean in that direction and imagine your ETA following you until you want to stop."

Cyrus paused for a moment and imagined how he would go about walking like a crab for the first time before responding again, "Walking with 6 legs for the first time may be jarring but there's an easier way to imagine it than using your actual legs. Try holding up three fingers on each hand and treating them like the legs of a crab. Move those how you think a crab would move its legs. Your brain will start to map it out that your fingers are actually your legs and you can use that as a little trick to assist you until you get the hang of it."

Cy didn't know if this would work for her, let alone him. This was just the first idea that came to mind as to how he'd approach solving the problem.

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