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Chapter 3 : The Armored Core

Posted by Moon Walker, 24 February 2011 · 1,401 views

Coming out the VR room with the light scorching his eyes with its brightness, footsteps were coming his way. Bilal shaded his eyes from the light trying to visualize the person in front of him.

"Mr. Rabah? Please fill out this form for us to deliver the Next to your hanger."

"Sure, just give me a second to actually see anything first." Bilal replied blinking rapidly till his vision cleared up. He filled up the form to the best of his knowledge as soon as he regained his sights back and handed it back to the personnel in front of him."Thank you, so this makes just two special edition Algebra Nexts to deliver."

"Special edition?"

"Yes…" The personnel answered reluctantly then leaned forward to explain in low volume. "Typically, qualified Algebra pilots are given the EKHAZAR reverse-joint legged model which is the newest Next in Algebra's production line which you used in the training simulator. The Colonel instructed us to deliver the SALAUX model which is the original two-legged light weight Next that Algebra, or the former name Eqbal, had developed. They dubbed it as Nokhba Nexts which in Arabic translates to Elite if my sources were righ- Can I help YOU!?"The personnel suddenly yelled at the guy peeking over his shoulder to the papers Bilal just filled signed. In response he smiled backing off saying "Sorry, please excuse me, just seemed like you two were talking about Nexts and I wanted to join in."The personnel took a deep breath calming himself down then answered gently "Well if you don't mind, this conversation is somewhat private between me and him, so please…. Bug off."

Bilal on the other hand had his mind wander off elsewhere. He grinned at the thought of acquiring an "Elite" Next to start off his career, his confidence reaching arrogance level but still kept a leveled head. He still wasn't sure what the Next would look like but his mind was already wandering off thinking of what weapons and colours he's going to outfit his Next with until the guy waved at him to snap him back to reality."Are you paying attention? Even though it's classed as an Elite Next, it's much inferior to the newer models in terms of defense and armor points so personally it sounds more like a die-quickly kind of gift than something that would keep you alive longer than your average pilot."

"Thank you for killing the excitement for me." Bilal remarked sarcastically. At the same time his smile still remained on his face because he had actually completed the training and is about to have a Next to ride in. Itching to see his Next, Bilal excused himself and headed back to his hanger only to stop midway and get distracted by the news being broadcasted on the computer booth that someone else was using.

"We have received reports about BFF's ARMS Fort known as Spirit of Mother Will, had been destroyed a few days ago single handedly by Line Ark's White Glint. This colossal structure housed an army of Normals and numerous high powered cannons that make it one of the most feared AFs. The loss of this AF could further diminish BFF's already dying power.In other news, International pop-star Haley-Hilal is reported to be on Cradle 054 according to witnesses who spotted her leaving residential block F in her private limo. Many of the fans are hoping she'd perform live in Cradle 054 before vanishes yet again into another Cradle…"

"Dayum, man! Heli-Hilal is onboard this Cradle? I'd do anything to see her sing live no matter which part of the cradle she goes even if I have to sneak back stage." Said the user after noticing Bilal was watching with him. From his uniform, he appeared to be a pilot of some sort, probably a Normal."She sings pretty well as far as her music goes…"

"Singing? I could care less how she sings, she's got one heck of a body… like Urghhh!"

"Well that explains the sneaking back stage part, hahah."

"Heh, just don't tell anyone and maybe there'll be something in it for you, too."

"No worries, I probably won't be here by the time that happens. I'll see ya around."

It wasn't long before he was back at his private hanger, the guard, Lola, wasn't there by the door so that could only mean she's inside with Zhao either checking the place or the Next that's probably already delivered there. He opened the door and took his first step inside. The lights turned themselves on as soon as the motion sensor detected him, revealing a 3-meter long corridor with evenly distributed holes on both walls. Nothing happened as he walked passed them so it made him curious about their purpose. But he soon forgot all about them and remembered the Next waiting for him inside and started to walk faster. It wasn't long before he walked out to a big room and found a 10-meter high robot standing idly before his very eyes.

"Hey, it's Bilal! Congratulations on passing the test!" He heard from somewhere above him, sounding like Lola. "The ladder is just to your left, sir." And that was Zhao, through the speakers placed around the Hanger. After finding the ladder and climbing up still not taking his sights off the Next, Bilal was greeted by Lola walking steadily and oddly slowly towards him. Zhao was behind a holographic screen that was displaying what looked like the schematics of the Next. Taking one final look at the Next from a different height, just slightly above the knee level, it just hit him that something was off about the Next but he couldn't exactly pinpoint what it was.

Bilal made his way over to the room where Zhao is, while helping the slowpoke Lola back there to see what Zhao was playing with. Zhao stood aside for Bilal to look over the Next. It was then that Bilal finally realized what was wrong with the Next.

"It's the EKHAZAR model…!"

"Yes, the new standard issue Algebra Next. It is quite a work of art if I say so myself unlike Omer's alien-look. The Next is equipped with-"

"No, this isn't my Next…" Bilal interrupted Zhao, stroking his hair once only to realize that his shades aren't on his head anymore. "Damn, that makes two." He mumbled to himself.

"What do you mean it isn't yours?" Lola asked looking as confused as Zhao.

Bilal minimized the Next schematics screen and brought up the main menu, quickly going into his Algebra mailbox. There, he found 3 new mails, one of them requesting his signature that his Next had been delivered. He opened it and quickly skimmed through to find what Next had been delivered to him. It showed the EKHAZAR model, details of recipient matched his details as well as the Hanger number. Bilal was still not convinced, everything was in order and that did seem logical that'd he'd receive the standard EKHAZAR model like every other qualified Next pilot, but then what was all those talks about the original Next or as he still like to call it, the Elite Next. Problem is that the model name slipped his mind and can't quite focus to remember what it's called when he's still thinking about why he got this EKHAZAR model.

"You look disturbed, Bilal. Is there something wrong with the Next or the maybe you were expecting something else?" Zhao asked reluctantly, fearing harm that might come onto him if Bilal happened to snap."The delivery form I filled, I could've sworn it mentioned a different Next model." Bilal replied crossing his arms, still thinking about it."Maybe you're thinking about the DUSKAROR model? It's a 4 legged Next, also Algebra manufactured but they are given to pilots with specific roles." Zhao speculated, seeing that Bilal looked like he knows what he's talking about."It's not DUSKAROR…. Feh, still can't remember what it's called but it's a 2 legged, light weight Next, the guy said it was the first Next model made by Algebra back when it was called Eqbal."

"I-I don't know much about it, sorry sir." Zhao apologized bowing twice.

"What are you apologizing for, it's not something you've done. Besides, we'll just have to wait and see if this is right, they probably gave me the wrong form back then and just transferred my details onto another form."

With that settled, Bilal went ahead to check the other mails he received. There was one from the Colonel, the one who told him about the training he attended earlier. Subject read: "First Task". As usual, serious from the get go, Bilal was starting to get used to it by now.

"Attention, Lynx. A well deserved congratulation is in order after that impressive display in the training simulation. While it is true that GA got the best of you in the final moments, your team work with your partner was most admirable.
With that out of the way, we already have a new task for you: Take a nice long rest for the day. You'll have more things to do tomorrow."

"YES! That just spells CELEBRATION!!!" Lola jumped, startling everyone in the room. "Come on, let's go somewhere, we got the rest of the afternoon to have fun!"

Bilal closed the mail window, the last message he had received turned out to be the reminder about the training simulation that he nearly missed, and faced Lola the overexcited one. "You're looking for an Arcade kind of fun or a Disco kind of fun?"

"I'm a law person, why would I even think of going to bars and night clubs?... unless I work there of course." Lola quickly rejected the notion of Disco fun, she turned to Zhao who was still admiring the control panel and exploring the system through his laptop which looks like a simple touchpad with two pillars that projected the screen.

Zhao started to notice the conversation getting quiet, he turned around only to see both Bilal and Lola staring at him. "W-what are you looking at?"

"You coming with us or staying here and hack through the systems?" Bilal joked with a big smirk on his face. Remembering his Next, he looked shifted his sights towards the idle Next that was staring back at him with its helmet shaped head. Staring deeper into the face of the next, he could the light bulbs behind the "visor" faintly glowing dark green."I can activate your Next from here, Bilal." Zhao mentioned after noticing him staring out the glass screen at his Next. He slid his finger across the pad and tapped on something which caused the Next to twitch slightly. Sounds of its generator running echoed throughout the hanger into the monitoring room. The lights hidden behind the visor, glowed brighter that the whole visor turned green and glaring at whatever stared its way. Shortly the sounds of its weapons loading ammunition into them, and the clips snapping in tightly made more rackets in the hanger. The 3 people present started fearing the Next was going to start gunning them down by some twisted accident but the Next lowered its arms and stood straight, neither making any more noises nor sudden movements.

Everyone sighed in relief once they were certain the Next had stopped moving, Lola of course glared at Zhao who was trying to avoid eye contact as much as possible. "I think it's better if we stick around here for today just in case…. Uhh, well just to be safe that the Next doesn't go anywhere." Bilal finally said carefully picking his words but still failing at covering up his accusation of Zhao causing trouble. Lola understood what he was saying and didn't look the least bit annoyed about not being able to go anywhere, instead she suggested getting drinks from the nearby vending machine and quickly ran to get them before anyone had the chance to speak.

In the mean time, Zhao was still intensely working his laptop that's wired to the control panel in order to access Algebra's servers. It wasn't long before he finally leaned back letting out a sigh of relief that he had got what he wanted. He faced Bilal for a sec then hinted the holographic screen over the control panel, it had dissolved and reappeared displaying multiple TV channels in a grid. "So, what do you want to watch?" He asked smiling.

To be continued...

May 2022

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