Energia, Web Novel

Chapter 28: Test Drive

Energia: Titans of Verità
Table of Contents (For Catching Up)

“Would you calm down already?” Bohai scowled at her. “It isn’t going anywhere! God, you’re just like your mother.”

“Whatever!” Anna waved the comment aside. “Just open it already!”

“Fine, fine.” The grubby man sighed, reached down, and flicked the locks off the black metal case. The lid rose with a quiet click and slowly slid open. Then, at last, she saw it. “Satisfied?” Bohai asked.

“Completely.” She answered quietly.

Her E-Suit’s smooth black surface seemed to capture the light around it, causing it to shimmer with an almost ethereal blue glow. The armor plates were so indistinct that it appeared more like spandex than metal. The helmet was round and smooth, it’s visor blending in with the metal seamlessly. The upper torso seemed to be wrapped in a black jacket, its hood folded neatly beneath the helmet. Beside the suit lay a black and silver rifle the length of her body, a pistol as large as her head, a small flare gun, and an array of small boxes.

“Well?” Bohai prodded. “Are you getting in or what?”

Anna paused as an embarrassing realization dawned on her. “Uh… H-how do I do that?”

Bohai cackled with an almost sinister joy. Anna started to wonder if everyone working at Order was a secret sadist. “Really?” he said with clear, mocking sarcasm. “And here I thought you were smart.”

“Ha ha.” Anna growled, trying to hide the fact that she was blushing.

“Relax, kid. I’m messin’ with you. Here, let me see that.” He reached over and closed the box with a snap. Then he heaved it over one shoulder, moved towards the big metal tube in the corner, and shoved it into a large slot in the side.

The tube came alight with a dim blue glow. The glass door spun aside, releasing a thin, cold mist. A holo-monitor above it lit up with the words ‘Ready for Pilot’. There was a quiet spinning sound from the black case.

“Hop on in.” Bohai said.

He didn’t need to tell her twice. Anna immediately climbed into the tube and let the glass door close behind her. Another monitor, this one within the tube, came alight with the words ‘Pilot registered. Begin equipment process?’ Without hesitation, Anna clicked the green blinking ‘Yes’ button beneath it.

The floor rose beneath her as long, thin mechanical arms began to spin around her. They reached up into the ceiling of the tube and withdrew, seemingly from the darkness, different metal plates from the E-Suit. They hovered around her as a pair of arms wrapped her in an E-Suit skeleton. When the harness was tightened around her, the arms began placing the individual pieces around her.

It was over before she could take it in. When all the pieces were in place, her helmet descended from the roof and slid comfortably and easily onto her head. The visor came to life, displaying the text: ‘Taking biometric imprint. Processing… Imprint complete. Pilot designation: Anna Ironchase. Operative #18567834. Beginning system diagnostics. Please step out of equipment capsule.’

Anna did as the visor instructed and stepped out. When she moved, she felt the familiar tingling of the E-Suit’s power. But this was so much more than what the skeleton could do. Each step filled her with an indescribable euphoria. Her every muscle roared joyously with power. She was glad the visor hid her features; if word got out about the stupid smile on her face, she’d likely never hear the end of it.

“How’s it feel?” Bohai asked. His voice came through clearly, as if the helmet weren’t there at all.

“Incredible!” Anna breathed. She closed and opened her fists, letting the sensation of power shoot through her again and again. “I feel like I could split a mountain!”

“I don’t know about that.” Bohai said. “But I can’t blame you for thinking that. Now, open the box up.”

Anna pulled the black case out of the tube. It slid out as easily as warm butter. Curious, she hefted it over head. It felt as light as a feather, even with one hand. When Bohai cleared his throat, she set it down and flicked it open. The rifle sat alone in the case. It, too, was shockingly light.

“You can holster that on your back.” Bohai told her. “Unless you just want to carry it around all day.”

The idea was strangely tempting. The gun fit so snuggly in her hand that it felt natural. She had to resist the urge to pop in a magazine and open fire. That can wait. She thought, putting the gun on her back. A metal clamp locked it in place. Huh. That is handy.

“Alright,” Bohai said, “let’s start the diagnostics.” He clapped loudly. “Bring it up, boys!”

The floor rumbled loudly. Slits opened in the surface. Through them rose a series of all too familiar obstacles. Anna blinked. “This again? But I already beat this!”

“But your suit hasn’t.” Bohai said. “Relax, you’re not gonna get covered in wax again. We took that off of this one.”

“I can see that.” Anna noted. “You took the whole slide with it.”

“That we did. Don’t worry, the suit will handle the fall. At least, it should.”

Anna frowned. “Should?”

“As for the rest,” he continued, “you should be able to clear it no problem. If I didn’t screw up, and of course I didn’t, you should be able to punch through.”

She raised an eyebrow. “As in literally?”

“Correct.”

An excited, almost malicious smile crept across her face. “Now we’re talking!” She stepped up to the starting line and took position.

“Try not to break it. If you do-“

“-you’ll kill me?”

Bohai narrowed his eyes at her, then smiled broadly. “You’re a fast learner. Now smash that wall in!”

“Sir yes sir!” Anna rushed forward, feeling the rush of power shoot through her legs. She closed the gap between her and the wall almost instantly. Holy shit, I’m fast! She marveled.

In fact, she flew at it so quickly that she didn’t have time to react and stop herself. Instead of gracefully stopping and punching through it, like she had envisioned, she flew straight through it like a human bullet. She tripped over her own feet and toppled over, rolling like a tire until she reached the base of the rope. Chunks of black, shimmering metal flew over her like a meteor shower.

The words ‘Assessing damages’ appeared on her visor. One moment later, the message was replaced by: ‘Damage to pilot: none. Damage to suit: none. Shields at 99.9%’.

“Hey!” Bohai shouted. “What did I say about breaking it?!”

“I didn’t!” She yelled back as she climbed back to her feet. Her heart pounded against her chest. That was amazing! She thought, staring at the shattered remains of the wall. Seeing it in ruins brought her an unparalled sense of joy and satisfaction.

The rope swayed back and forth, brushing against her helmet. There was an almost inaudible buzzing as the rope slid against the shield. As soon as she touched it, it flew into a frenzy, flailing about so wildly that it blurred. With one powerful tug, it became too taught to move.

As soon as she started climbing, however, it fell into a frenzy so violent that the rope from the test would become pale with envy. But Anna didn’t become disoriented or dizzy. A message appeared on her screw. ‘Activating gyroscopic balancing system.’ She didn’t know what that meant, but given that her vision and sense of direction were both clear, she decided it was a good thing.

She climbed the rope with ease, aided by the suit’s iron grip, balancing systems, and superhuman speed. Within five minutes, she reached the top without breaking a sweat. Her Heart pounding with excitement, she turned to face the next obstacle.

Before, the swinging hammers waited for her to step into their path. This time, however, they were already swinging back and forth with great speed. Sparks flew from where they met the metal platform.

To a normal man, the speed of the obstacles would be blinding. But to Anna’s enhanced vision, they seemed hilariously slow.

She didn’t stop to consider. With all the speed and power of her suit, she dashed forward. Her pure speed was enough to leave the hammers in her dust. Only one, the last at the end, managed to hit her. Upon doing so, it shattered into a thousand pieces, spraying metal over the edge of the path.

Unfortunately, she got a little too excited by her speed. Just as she remembered that the slide had been removed and she needed to slow down, she tumbled off of the end of the plank. Her previous momentum combined with the E-Suit’s weight, sending her crashing into the ground with blinding speed. The floor caved beneath her weight, leaving an Anna-sized hole in its smooth surface.

‘Assessing damages’ her visor read. ‘Armor integrity at 100%. Pilot status: unharmed. Shield power at 99.9%’. Anna couldn’t help but laugh. A fifty foot drop and there wasn’t even a scratch on her.

She pulled herself free and brushed the metal shards off of her chest. There was a quiet buzzing as the shields around her arm and chest brushed against each other. The few that she missed slid off of her as she turned to face the final obstacle.

Before, this trial had been a test of courage. The trick had been to use the wax the last obstacle would cover you in to your advantage and slide right across. This time, however, there was no wax-covered slide. Nor was there a bridge for her to cross.

Anna paused. Had the pit always been that wide? It must have been fifty feet, at least.

“What am I supposed to do here?” She asked, shouting over to Bohai.

“What do you think?” He called back. “Jump, ya idiot!”

“I can make that?!”

“Of course ya can! Thrice over, probably! Just do it, ya ninny!”

If his words of encouragement didn’t do anything, his insult certainly did. To retaliate against the slight against her pride, she bent her knees, not bothering to get a running start, and leapt forward. The power coursed through her legs as she soared forward at blinding speed. The air rushed past her, but her visor kept her from feeling either it or the g-force pressing against her chest. A shock ran through the suit as she touched ground, though to her it felt like nothing more than a gentle shaking. The words ‘Shock Absorbers Activated’ flashed across her visor.

Bohai made his way over to her, grinning. “How does it feel?”

Anna paused, looking for the right words for it. She had thought the skeleton she wore during the entrance exam was incredible. But this? It was something so much more. Something… “Beautiful.” She answered quietly.

“Ha!” He laughed. “Your mother said the same thing!”

The comment made Anna blush. It was still strange for her to hear someone talk about her mother. Back home, everyone tried to keep that subject quiet, especially around Anna. They certainly didn’t point out the similarities between them, for fear of angering her.

Bohai was completely unlike them. He was oddly comforting to talk to. To Anna, he was the only one who didn’t seem to be lying to her through his teeth.

“Wanna try the guns now?” He asked, sounding almost as excited as she was.

“Yes!” Anna nodded eagerly, bolting back to her feet. Without instruction, she dashed back over to the case, a movement that took less than fifteen seconds despite the distance, and threw the lid open. She withdrew both weapons, holding the massive guns in each hand as if they weighed nothing at all.

Far on the other side of the room, a holographic light came to life on the wall. A simple target, resembling a giant dart board. Five of these quickly lit up. Above them, a sign reading ‘Score: 0’ blinked on and off.

“Ya ever play darts?” Bohai asked.

“Once.” She answered. “I snuck into a bar once, when I was fifteen. Only got thrown out after I lost to everyone in there.”

He raised an eyebrow at her. “I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that. You know the rules, then?”

Anna thought about that for a second. The only thing she really remembered was that the bullseye was valuable, but not the most valuable. She couldn’t remember the rest, though. “Of course I do!” She proclaimed with false confidence.

“Then go ahead.” Bohai grinned, pointing at the targets. He reached into his pocket and withdrew a small black box. With a flick of the wrist, the box’s sides shifted and changed, becoming a set of protective headphones.

Hiding her uncertainty, Anna took aim at the board. She didn’t notice the suit’s slight adjustments, which kept her aim steady. The words ‘Zoom in on target?’ appeared.

It can do that, too? Anna grinned. Then, quiet enough for Bohai not to hear, she muttered “Zoom in.”

The image of the target suddenly seemed to grow closer. A small red aiming reticle appeared, following the movements of the gun. Using it to guide her, Anna aimed at the bullseye and pulled the trigger.

She didn’t feel the recoil. The sound reached her ears, but the helmet dampened the sound so much that she almost couldn’t. A hole the size of a golf ball appeared at the dead center of the bullseye. Behind it, a gap the size of a watermelon had appeared in the wall.

Oh my god. Anna thought, feeling the intense, tingling euphoria in her arms. This thing is the best!

“Whaddya think?” Bohai asked, pulling the headphones down. “Those were the exploding shells. Perfect for quickly taking an alien monster down.”

Anna stared at the rifle in hand with wonder. As she did so, she noticed a small, circular dial on the side, near to her trigger finger. “What’s this?” She asked.

“Your options. Rubber rounds, tranquilizers, regular bullets, electric shots, and exploding shells.” He held up a wide magazine, in which five differently colored bullets, yellow, blue, golden, violet, and dark red, lay beside each other in that order. “You’ve got something for every situation.” He nodded at the pistol. “Same goes for that one. Although it lacks the range or firepower.”

She grinned like a child in a candy store. She raised the rifle again to try another one, but Bohai stopped her with a hand. “Why don’t you try the hood first?”

Anna blinked. She had the impression that the hood was only there for the sake of style. Curious, she pulled the head over her helmet.

The fabric rippled like a puddle. The motion ran over the entire E-Suit. Then, the suit vanished. Anna looked down at her usual black clothes, stunned. The only thing different was the jacket, which remained the same as the E-Suit’s.

“Dude!” Anna exclaimed excitedly. “This is awesome!”

“I knew you’d like it.” Bohai grinned. “Now, it ain’t perfect camoflouge. The suit still has a seven day battery life. Forget that and you’ll end up stuck in an iron cage until retrieval. Plus, people might notice a redhead dashing with superhuman speed, so at least try to act normal.”

Anna nodded, only half-listening. “This. Is. Perfect!” For a second, she almost wanted to hug him. Instead, she settled for a “Thank you.”

“Not a problem. Now, time for the big question: what’re ya gonna call it?”

That made Anna pause. She had been throwing names around for a long time. Part of her wanted to take up my mother’s old name of Dragon, but she didn’t think it would fit.

She lowered the hood and the E-Suit reappeared. It fit so comfortably, despite being skin-tight. Looking down, she felt a great sense of confidence.

The name came to her then. “Sexy.”

Bohai blinked. “Well. That’s certainly original.”

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