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Ch3. Part 2.

Moon Walker


-Cradle 054, 0600hrs-

"Listen up, this is day 2 of your training. You'll be here for at least a week before we can send you out to the field, unless of course you prove to be capable of handling yourself with the least amount of training."


Bright and early in the morning and Captain Stone sounds like he's been up for hours, or an early bird just like Bilal, he's usually up by 5 to half past 5 AM. Bilal never got into the habit of staying up late, from childhood onwards he still maintained his normal bed time anywhere between 9pm till before midnight otherwise he wouldn't be full sleeping. He could still remember the scattered bodies of Zhao and Lola in the hanger as he left to take yet another trip into the VR training center, couldn't help but smile at the positions of their limp bodies after what he could count to about 6 cans of "Surf's-Up", the most popular cold drink with a "rare mix of alcoholic and soft drinks" as the company kept describing it. The image of seeing a drunk and hyperactive person was too much for Bilal to even think of drinking it, being an alcoholic drink was a good enough reason.


"Today you will learn just how good Nexts really are. By the end of today, you will all appreciate these astonishing machines that we've given you and realize why not everyone can have to have one… Even amongst yourselves."


Gloomy mumbles and whispers echoed around Bilal's ears as he himself was thinking that the Capt. was implying that someone or ones won't be keeping their Nexts. Could that have anything to do with why he had the Ekhazar Next model delivered to him instead of what that form he signed had described?


"Not to add any pressure or anything, but uhh if you blow this chance then me and your buddies over at the hanger will most likely be out of jobs unless we get reassigned to where other personnel didn't make the cut." Chris whispered over the comm.-link.


"So all the personnel that were assigned to one hanger are a team in a sense, and each going through his or her own training programs and tests."


"That's… a good way to summarize it."


"Dang, guess my luck had ran out as soon as I got accepted into Algebra." Bilal laughed recalling what impressions he got from his teammates from only yesterday."This coming from a guy who nearly missed the first training simulation which would've jeopardized the whole team right at the beginning?"


"Point taken, so how about a new start?"


"Too late, your training begins now."




The HUD formed all over Bilal's vision, a timer watch was counting down slight above the center of his view. Billal was lost and confused as to what he was supposed to do and looked around hoping to find something to guide him."Keep still you idiot. You just need to wait till your Next goes into stand-by mode." Chris finally came through to save him, even if it was his fault in the first place.


Bilal regained composure and kept his view straight, his arms were stiff and stretched out front with the weapons aiming to where he was looking at. Upon further inspection, he could see a small crosshair dead center of his view. His curiosity was starting to get to him but holding his hands out front was wearing him out even more, fortunately enough the tension holding them was lifted and he could relax his arms down to his sides again. Suddenly something flashed in front of him and he was already seeing a massive fire ball headed his way. Without a second thought, Bilal quickly side-dashed out of harm's way, accidentally triggering that powerful booster burst to give him the needed push to save his skin before skidding to a halt. His arms stretched front again without him realizing it as he looked around for any more incoming fire.


"I should've used this technique long time ago. That, my terrified kittens, is how you use the Quick Boost function. It's not restricted to just side boosting as most of you seem to do so your next task is to try out all 4 uses… Well, "try" is not the best word here."


Again, another flash on the screen and Bilal heard echoes of a cannon fire, shortly followed by a loud jet-like roar very low in pitch. As soon as his mind analyzed where it was coming from Bilal used the Quick Boost to jump back and see the fire ball rip past him to his left. It was long before 3 more cannon rounds fired coming from different directions. Bilal thought it was best if he remained mobile to at least be able to spot the shell with his own eyes and evade them. At first it only handicapped him because the unbelievable speed in which the shell tore through air had stunned him stiff and had it burst right into him knocking him a few meters back, away from the other two shells.


More cannons fired, this time without any down time. He could see and hear those huge shells flying towards him one after the other continuously. Bilal took a deep breath and leaped up into the air dodging the first wave of shells only to see more coming his way. He quick boosted to the side turning around to anticipate the next shell and QBed forward as the shell barely missed his back. He left himself free falling hoping that altitude changing would further help dodging them.


"Rabah, incoming shell 5 o-clock!" Chris alerted him.


Bilal snapped his view to the mentioned direction, feeling the QB burst quickly rotating him clockwise close to where he intended. Before he could awe in fascination of the QB's convenience, he QBed to his left then front then left and all over the place, evading one shell after another until his boosters failed to respond and he found himself taking yet another blow to the side.


"That's enough. I'm sure most of you had fun zigzagging all over the place but eventually you'll be shot down IF you don't pay attention to your Energy Meter. Your Generators can only provide so much energy to sustain your Nexts. Regular boosting drains negligible amounts of energy compared to the powerful bursts of those Quick Boosts."


That's when Bilal finally noticed the thin bar on the top of his HUD quickly crossing the screen above his Armor Points which read 10479 after taking damage from those long range cannon shells.


"Also, you should realize by now just how tough these Nexts are after almost all of you got bombarded by cannon shells till you can't get up, heh-hah-hah-ha. Those cannon could decimate bases in few shots, to actually survive 3 or 4 rounds just shows you how well protected you are from all sorts of destruction. With that said, how the hell did pilot 471 dodge every single SHOT!?"


"Maybe I'm psychic." the pilot joked, a feminine voice that Bilal recognized immediately.


"Very cute, we'll see about that. Those who are still standing, we'll commence the next training immediately, those who were beaten down are… NOT taking more intensive training this evening, you all need to learn these two booster functions."


After what seemed like a quick screen refresh, Bilal notices the Armor Points back at maximum value that it had begun with. "Activate primal armors." He heard Capt. Stone instructing the operators. The screen pinged and a pointer crawled just inches away from the center of the screen reading "Target".


"Ok now what…." Bilal thought to himself, Capt. Stone seemed to be trying very unorthodox ways to trigger people into using new Next functions either through fright or necessity. Can't imagine what he had in store for them all, and surely it won't be anything anyone will be happy about. As he predicted, something unpleasant just appeared on his screen. Drones. Lots of them. They were charging recklessly head first his way, all coming from the same direction which happened to be where the Target marker pointed. In a matter of seconds the drones all circled around him and pounced over the Next, pinning it down and trapping it.


"Now you guys will really enjoy this." Capt. Stone said over the comm. "Your task now is to wrestle yourself free of their grip. I'd like to see how many of you cats can bare their claws out and tear them to bits. Don't even bother with your weapons, won't do a thing to their armor."


"Then how are we supposed to…?"


"Assault Armor. Rabah, think you act like King Kong and just go wild or something?"


"Are you kidding me? Wait, French guys aren't funny so… "


"I'll pretend I didn't hear that, now just DO IT!"


Bilal took a deep breath and braced himself for a short moment only to then fling his arms open as if he was trying to break free of being shackled down. His screen flared greenish white then shortly a crackling explosion boomed around him, nearly deafening him in an instant. As soon as the roaring faded and the screen dimmed to counterbalance the brightness, Bilal awed at the crater that he then stood dead-center in. Only rubles of the drones that had been over him a while ago scattered outside of the crater. Looking above, he saw the Kojima particles dissipate with little green particles being taken away by the wind like fireflies.


"NICE JOB, Rabah!"


"What kind of weapon is this!? This is suicide!"


"Don't worry, your Primal Armor will begin to recover shortly."


"Wasn't talking about the armo- wait, BEGIN!?"


"Yeah, the down side of using Assault Armor function is that the Primal Armor locks up for a while to cool down then restarts to generate the shield bubble. Think of the AA like overloading the Kojima bubble and going POP!"


"No way I'm calling THAT a POP!"


"Anyways, stay focused, looks like everyone managed to pull of the AA already. Man, that was quick. Especially that "psychic" chick, she activated her AA just before the monkeys jumped her."


"Huh… Guess she's very defensive?"


"That or maybe she IS psychic. Shit, that's just… interesting, heheh."


Claps from the Capt. echoed into Bilal's ears, interrupting the conversation between him and Chris. "Very good, cats. Very good. Now there's just one more task ahead and you've official learned just about everything there is about the combat potential of these Nexts… Operators!"




Again the screen refreshed and the Next was back to top shape with full energy, Armor Points and Primal Armor. The target marker crawled across the screen to the right which made Bilal follow it till it stopped at the center of his view.


"Alright, let the Cabracan rip."


A roar of chainblades suddenly boomed from behind, kicking up the dust underneath Bilal as he felt a strong gust coming from behind. He only peeked over his shoulder to see an 80meter tall wall of chainsaws treading his way. He spun towards it with the help of the quick boost just to make sure his eyes wasn't fooling him and as soon as the magnitude of the danger finally registered into his mind he jumped aside only to hit an invisible fence of laser knocking him back on the moving wall's path.


"The hell are you waiting for, you idiot. Head towards the escape point with your Overed Boosters, like that chick did yesterday!"


"How am I supposed to do that!?"


"Use your head, genius. Nexts are cerebral machines, just do- THINK something!"


Bilal spun around again giving his back to the chainsaws and dashed off towards the target escape point. He applied the quick boosts to give him the push to get ahead of the thing chasing him which seemed to do the job. He then heard the latch detach something and the ground started to shake. Sliding sideways to see over his shoulder, Bilal's eyes widened as he saw the chainsaw wall running along the ground on its own without the body that was carrying it. It was gaining speed, more than what the QB could give Bilal.


Refocusing his attentions at the escape point, Bilal braced himself to do a mad dash to the finish line. He relied on one big burst of speed from the quick boost for a kick start and that burst turned out be a really major burst that sent him literally flying towards it, his feet barely touching the ground below yet at the same time not gaining altitude.


He noticed over his screen the primal armor and energy being drained rapidly, and the speedometer reaching bizarre speeds. Keeping his sights forward and ignore what's going on, Bilal reached out for the finish line and made it just as he glided energy-less in the air before skidding the last few meters to the target point. He finally looked back to see the chainsaw blades' rotation slowing down and stopping just before his skid mark started.


"Congratulations, all you Lynx of Algebra. Mission complete, that's all for today."


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