Chapter 2 : The Second Test

Baine Noman

“You and Riley have proven yourselves to be notable pupils, and as a reward you will be the team leaders in the Shot Arena.” Sergeant Emory said in an impossibly caring voice. “I am impressed by you in particular Baine, the Carbon class armored hover that you chose is allowed for two-year ace pilots and higher ranking only. Riley, your control and understanding of the Tungsten class tank was surprising too.”

***A note to the uninitiated***

The class system for armored and unarmored battle vehicles goes as so.

Paper Class — Unarmored troop and supply transport, a staple for inexperienced or unskilled pilots and drivers. Very few have weapons and all weapons are ballistic and thermal.

Aluminum Class — Light armored scouting vehicles. Ballistic and thermal armor only. Light long range weapons are common, mostly energy concussion weapons to kill drivers and pilots regardless of armor.

Steel Class — Medium battle vehicles and heavy transport vehicles with electro plating armor. Short range powerful weapons of all types. Anti-gravity engines.

Tungsten Class — Heavy and Super heavy hover and track vehicles. Long range energy and thermal weapons to destroy armor and leave empty and useless husks out of opposing vehicles. Very little maneuverability, known to be damage absorbers.

Carbon Class — The ultimate battle vehicles, super heavy cruisers, tanks, and hovercrafts. Electroplating and ballistic ceramic armor along with primary atomizer shields. Long range energy gauss cannons, capable of dealing devastating damage to heavily armored enemies. Very powerful and accurate pulse engines.

***

We were led away by a group of stiff necked old men and Sergeant Emory and Tanner were standing in the back of the group for some reason. We walked past the barracks and to a launch pad where we stood for about a minute.

A group of new men, younger and less important looking took Riley to a dropship that had landed. For a moment, I thought I was going with Riley and the lower ranking men too but Sergeant Tanner grabbed my arm and I got it, “Stay.”

A large black hover ship glided silently over to us and purred faintly. As I stood there I thought that Riley must be losing it right now, being taken with the lower ranking men and shown obvious biased towards me and against her by Sergeant Tanner.

That was something to think about soon, and maybe even discuss with her. Later. It would be better to sit it out and see how things start to pan out, maybe Sergeant Tanner would warm up to Riley or even come to like her. Wishful thinking of a boy over his head I thought regretfully. It was going to be a fight between the women, if Riley acts upon her feelings then Tanner will never soften towards Riley. And Riley was driven by her emotions. Not usually in an injurious way though. She reacted on those feeling and emotions that had been in her long enough to know they were not excessively rash.

Occasionally though she would be too emotionally aimed and make a detrimental decision. One time there was a shopkeeper that would leave some of the old food packs out for us. They were the ones that were a few days old that could not be sold because of some regulations put into place by the patrol. It was not legal for her to put the food out for us either but not many people go to the back of the shop, and I had never once seen a patrol go around the back. We were grateful and gave her scraps of things we could find in return, like a little coin that was still shiny, or an old hat that was still in one piece. Pretty much anything we found when we went scavenging that we couldn’t use for ourselves or our friends.

One time a patrol group walked around the back while Riley and I were grabbing the aged food packs. The first three men in the group hesitated, letting us run, but the fourth brought his rifle up, knowing what was happening. I felt the shot hit Riley, the thump that came when the electromagnetic waves dissipated in her thin body. I stopped to grab her and the fourth man shot again, so close to me that my hairs stood up on end.

Before I could even hope to completely comprehend what happened the first man in the group let off a shot, hitting me in the chest with a loud crack. I felt the shock and everything went limp. I hit the ground with a heavy slam, the crumby concrete digging into my skin.

I looked over to Riley moments later to see her sliding the knife I gave her for her birthday out of her woven metal belt. She waited for the patrols to come over and she jumped up before they had figured she was not unconscious. Jabbing the man that shot her in the neck as quickly as possible she fought viciously for almost a minute. Right as she was hit by a shock baton and quickly rendered unconscious I stood up and jumped at the man that had hit me, his grey and black energy rifle glowing with three red rings around the barrel. I didn’t know what that had meant at the time but soon learned at the police station.

The fight ended with two dead patrolmen and a small food related bust. At the station, I learned that the rifle I was shot with was set for taking out small hover ships. It should have turned me to a mist of rapidly vibrating particles.

It didn’t.

Riley was shot with an injuring shot and it just knocked her down.

The remaining patrolmen said that the two men that saw us had been so rushed they didn’t set their guns to stun. For some reason, me and Riley were affected very little by the energy weapons. A doctor looked at us and gave us the clear to go to the detention center.

After almost six months in a detention center for troubled adolescents we were offered an offer we couldn’t say no to. We were offered a job as tower monkeys for a year and we would get some payment and not have to serve the rest of our sentence. The towers that help relay information to other cities and other parts of the city needed to be cleaned otherwise they didn’t work efficiently.

The ports to the insides of these towers were small, too small for an adult to fit through. So, they sent kids up these huge spires of steel and aluminum to clean the electricals and replace corroded ones. It was dangerous because the electricals could still hold residual charges strong enough to kill an adult let alone a small child.

We worked off our time and worked hard, Riley getting shocked one time bad enough to knock her out. But not much else happened, we cleaned and replaced more pieces in those towers than I can count. The cold, wet, and miserable boxes we fixed were the only thing I really remember from those times.

When we were let out from the job and our sentence had ended we went back to the streets, helping a small group of criminals in their endeavors.

Then the recruiter for the army found us in the apartment we were given by the men we worked for and offered us a chance to join the roadkill experiments. We accepted, got taken for a physical a week later, along with some testing and was sent off on the shuttle to the training grounds along with Riley.

***

“It was a test Private Baine, to see who would be effected best by the pressure. Normally we don’t show any of the weapons hangars to the new Students but I had to give you the opening for what was to come. I had thought that you might be the one that would stay calm and think through the, situation.” She thought about the words next to come out of her mouth, like she was trying to say it to someone that was inferior. “You actually did great in the testing contrary to the reports we gave you. Also, to top it off the gang you had been in was extremely political, and very violent. That was what really caught our attention. It gave me the idea that you were very intelligent and quick thinking.”

She turned away with a quick turn and kept on giving her speech with gusto as she played with the computer in the small presentation room we were in, “You have passed the first test and are expected to perform exemplary on the rest of them.”

She stopped jabbing the computer screen with her fingers before the door opened. She said, “go to your quarters. There is a small hover ship waiting outside for you.”

“Where is the way out?” I asked with obvious tension in my voice.

“You will need to find it yourself, soon enough you will be navigating this base and the surrounding area yourself.” She reminded me, referring to a conversation we had on the hover ship over to the small base.

I found the hover on the pad after about ten minutes of searching. The pilot was a young boy, maybe eighteen or nineteen. He had short, curly brown hair and small, brown eyes. He said hello when I walked up and asked, “Are you Private Baine?”

“Yes” I answered quickly.

“Good, I am Private Reaver, we are on the same team for whatever the Shot Arena is. I think we even are in the same bunk room.”

I boarded in the passenger seat and felt the rocking motion of the sleek hover. For a moment Reaver sat typing something into the controls. Then he politely asked me, “Would you like to go on a joy ride? This baby is equipped with some of the fastest thrusters in the entire base. It is also equipped with a set of RAM energy gauss guns, frightening things. Sergeant Tanner instructed me to let you drive after we get to the range fields.”

“I guess I don’t have a choice, do I?” I smirked.

“Well. I guess not, we could just claim that we did though.”

“I have a feeling that there is something in store for us there. Did you wonder why a transport would be equipped with dangerous guns and powerful thrusters?” I questioned him.

We sped past two small training skirmishes between the older veterans of the training program. Their training energy rifles and all types of vehicles modified for training. It was an awe-inspiring sight both times. The red and green streaks shooting far off in the distance as several hundred young adults fought hard.

As the Range fields came into view a lightning fast streak shot by. The screens of the ship lit up, “Incoming fire, 85% power shots.” Enough to kill.

“That’s not good, the auto target won’t turn on, you must man the guns yourself.” Reaver exclaimed.

I jumped out of my seat and got into the controls. As I sat down the two twin guns powered on and when I snapped the buckles of the seat together the screen in front of me lit up. The ship rocked and Reaver commanded, “Start firing those things man, we are in trouble if you don’t. he shields can’t keep up.”

On the screen the seven carbon class hovers that I had used earlier lit up on the screen. I could see the RAM rifles rocking the ships back from their kick back. I moved the handles of the controls to the right and pressed the buttons. The ship rocked and Reaver cheered from the front of the ship, “One’s hit man, hit it again and it should be done for!”

I aimed the gun again and this time pressed the fire buttons on each side of the handles. The pounding of the guns firing was all I heard for a moment and then a ship disappeared off the screen behind a white and black flash streaked with shades of oranges and reds.

Not even looking for the wreckage I aimed and fired both guns at the next hover in the line. “Like sitting ducks” I though.

Then the real fight began. Five remaining ships floated up off the ground and sped towards us, dust trails behind them rising like miniature tornadoes and twisters. I was glad for the harness that held me I the seat as Reaver wordlessly spun the ships so the stronger, side shields could block the first intercepting ships barrages. I wordlessly worked too, shot after shot, hit after hit until there was only one.

Right as I was about to fire everything went black.

Still dazed I recognized what happened when I saw the gaping hole in the middle of the ship. Reaver was already grabbing the two rifles and turning them on. He tossed one over and whispered, “ I don’t know what is happening but it is not good man. There is a small arena almost a hundred yards away, we can use the entrenchments to fight the ship. The guns are ARC cannons, they have a recharge time of almost six minutes.”

I sprinted as fast as I could. My legs pumping and my breath thrown in and out of my lungs with a painful sting I leaped over the first barrier and looked back amazed at my luck, first surviving the ship I was in getting blown to smithereens.and then not being shot as I ran.

The sight I saw was the hulking hover that attacked us dropping of a handful of guys. I immediately started firing, not even noticing the bruising kickback. My shots were on target and so were Reaver’s. We cut the oncoming men down efficiently, we weren’t even shot back at.

Next, we turned out rifles on the ship, Holding the trigger until our power packs were overheating. I ripped mine out and grabbed my backup so the original could cool. Another barrage from our rifles.

Switching the power packs until the ship tumbled down like it was falling from it’s throne.

We sat there for a moment and suddenly three airships went roaring to us and we had our rifles up and ready to fire until Sergeant Tanner came out and acclaimed, “You boys passed with flying colors. The second test is complete Private Baine. Come with me. You too Private Reaver. We are going to discuss some things.”

As Sergeant Tanner boarded the gunship I patted Reaver on his back.

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