MAD: Class S (Peregrine x firejay)

Peregrine

Waiting for Wit
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On fairly regularly, every day. I'll notice a PM almost immediately. Replies come randomly.
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  1. Adept
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Preferred Character Gender
  1. Primarily Prefer Male
  2. No Preferences
Genres
High fantasy is my personal favorite, followed closely by modern fantasy and post-apocalyptic, but I can happily play in any genre if the plot is good enough.
"No, that's okay," Vala replied easily. "I think a 360 degree sensor sounds incredibly useful. Normally I have to rely so much on Aemer to know what's going on around me, maybe..."

Maybe that tool would make her a bit more useful.

Then again, even if she knew where the squid were, she wouldn't know what to do about it. Wouldn't have any tools to manipulate the battlefield around her. Wouldn't...

Trying to block off the upswelling of uncomfortable thoughts that surged up within her, Vala's eyes roamed around the drawing, trying to actually imagine herself inside the device. The stillness and silence of the air around her seemed almost uncomfortable as her mind strayed back to the sim, her fingers unknowingly twitching. In her mind's eye, the gesture that would normally cause the mech's feet to twist to the side was immediately replaced with a side swipe that sent the entire cockpit revolving, with her in the center.

"It seems like it would mess up the foot controls," she finally said. "When you rotate, I mean. If you're facing completely backwards, or off to a side angle, the knees aren't going to bend the right way."

Inside her mind, she saw a giant piece of machinery, large enough to easily crush her small body if she got trapped in the wrong location at the wrong moment. She'd spent her youth crawling among mechanical ruins, and had seen so many different interactions between parts. She couldn't help but recall the rotating arms, which twisted freely through the area.

"If you want a revolving axis, wouldn't it be better to put the whole thing on top of a ball? That way, it could roll whichever way you happened to be facing. You'd need to find some way to keep the cockpit gyroscopic at the top, though, which might be a trick."

That thought caused her to pause for a moment, uncertainty sprinkled across her face. "...Has there ever been a spherical mech?"
 
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firejay1

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My times are pretty erratic, but I try to avoid being on EST 11pm-9am.
Writing Levels
  1. Intermediate
  2. Adept
  3. Advanced
  4. Adaptable
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Male
  2. Female
Genres
Fantasy, Modern, Historical Romance.
Jack laughed lightly at Vala's first comment. Aemer had always just said that squid sensors were unnecessary. That squid breaking through and reaching the city were the responsibilities of the bioengineers to be aware of, as a part of their basic job, and it was none of his responsibility, much less worth the expensive and very sensitive sensors along with the programming it took to compile and interpret that data when several bioengineers were good enough for that. Especially since the sensors weren't sensitive enough to be able to fire upon without a visual lock-on.

He jumped a little when she started speaking again, not having realized that a small silence had spread. He listened thoughtfully to her opinion, finding himself treating her like a test pilot. Except he didn't usually get test pilots to review impractical designs. He really only drew impractical designs to keep himself loose and imaginative. Might be a good practice in the future. He shook his head. "We've mostly worked with humanoid mechs. It's a mobile design that can carry a lot of weight, allows use of melee weapons, switch as easily between aerial and land modes as the squid, and still have few enough joint sections to properly strengthen and shield any potential vulnerabilities, while allowing for parts that a mech could survive losing. Extra appendages for the squid to focus on that won't get the driver dead immediately. Generally, any full-rotational designs are impractical because their full range of motion make shielding this major joint from any strains difficult to impossible. It also means sacrificing some level of connection between the upper and lower halves of the body, when that connection absolutely has to be seamless. A spherical mech is not theoretically impossible, but would mean either packing appendages inside the sphere, which would make the sphere bulky and sacrifice speed and ease of access to weapons, or sacrificing the versatility of weapons available. You can exactly precision spin-throw a net from a sphere. At best, it would be a lot of reprogramming and testing and building for a few years of squid confusion. Old records show that some early mechs were shaped like squid as the bioengineers are, to throw them off. But after a while, the Calamar got used to them and all it ended up doing was cause bioengineer deaths to rise. If you'd like, though, I could attempt to program one as a sim in my free time. It'd take a while, though. A few months at least. I'll include any weapons that suit a spherical design, but are there any specific unique weapons you particularly favor?" He asked, mind already off imagining the design and how it would work. It would have to be more mobile than just a ball-drone with a gun, and for it to be fully mobile, it'd have to have a lot more rockets than usual, and perhaps a full-glass design to widen visibility. He'd need a specialized fully immersive sim for that...
 

Peregrine

Waiting for Wit
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Posting Speed
  1. 1-3 posts per day
  2. Multiple posts per week
  3. One post per week
  4. Slow As Molasses
Online Availability
On fairly regularly, every day. I'll notice a PM almost immediately. Replies come randomly.
Writing Levels
  1. Adept
  2. Advanced
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Primarily Prefer Male
  2. No Preferences
Genres
High fantasy is my personal favorite, followed closely by modern fantasy and post-apocalyptic, but I can happily play in any genre if the plot is good enough.
"Ah, no, you don't have to put in that much time for me," Vala replied, somewhat awkward.

Somehow, despite hearing from Aemer what Jack did for a living, it hadn't really occurred to her that her words might end up being taken seriously. She hadn't been speaking out of any expectation that Jack would actually try and act on her words. At best, she'd hoped he'd be somewhat impressed with her ability to think about potential problems.

Yet somehow, she'd ended up almost sending a qualified mech craftsman on a wild goose chase that could take months because she couldn't keep her random ideas to herself.

Still desperately trying to backpedal, Vala grabbed at the only other thing she could think of. "It's not like I'm even all that practiced at driving normal mechs. The only one's I've been in are that first one I wrecked and the line they use for the sims at the college. I haven't even gotten time to try out anything other than the standard weapon loadout, so there's no point in you trying to customize anything for me."
 
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firejay1

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  5. One post per week
  6. Slow As Molasses
Online Availability
My times are pretty erratic, but I try to avoid being on EST 11pm-9am.
Writing Levels
  1. Intermediate
  2. Adept
  3. Advanced
  4. Adaptable
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Male
  2. Female
Genres
Fantasy, Modern, Historical Romance.
"It's not much trouble at all." Jack started to say, but then his brain caught up with what she was actually saying, and he paused. "Wait. What weapons have you tried then? Aemer told me your eval said you would be getting training with specialized weapons, and I would have thought she would want you to be in the sims as much as possible."
 

Peregrine

Waiting for Wit
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  1. Looking for partners
Posting Speed
  1. 1-3 posts per day
  2. Multiple posts per week
  3. One post per week
  4. Slow As Molasses
Online Availability
On fairly regularly, every day. I'll notice a PM almost immediately. Replies come randomly.
Writing Levels
  1. Adept
  2. Advanced
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Primarily Prefer Male
  2. No Preferences
Genres
High fantasy is my personal favorite, followed closely by modern fantasy and post-apocalyptic, but I can happily play in any genre if the plot is good enough.
"Uhhh," Vala hesitated, feeling somewhat flustered by his confusion. "I mean, I've only been in a sim three times. The first was that whole assessment thing." They'd assigned the weapons to her then, perhaps out of consideration for the fact that she'd only just gotten here, that mech had controlled in a manner quite similar to the one she'd handled out on the battlefield.

"Then the second time was right at the beginning of this week." There was no way she would have been willing to play around with weapons when her potential ability to partner with Aemer had been on the line.

"And then the third time was today, but that was for an assessment so..." She honestly hadn't been thinking about weapons at all, far too busy trying to figure out how to deal with Jensen. Imagine how much more she would have been able to mess the thing up if she'd tried to wield some unfamiliar weapon then?

"Between studying and everything..." It wasn't as though she really had time to worry about weapons right now. Not when half a semester of educational material seemed to be weighing down on her shoulders.
 
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firejay1

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My times are pretty erratic, but I try to avoid being on EST 11pm-9am.
Writing Levels
  1. Intermediate
  2. Adept
  3. Advanced
  4. Adaptable
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Male
  2. Female
Genres
Fantasy, Modern, Historical Romance.
"Oh." Jack said, listening to her speak. It made sense, he supposed. He hadn't seen Vala so much as touch a mech sim in the month since they'd been living together, and Aemer had been off on one of her research-theory kicks, as she did sometimes get into when she got an Idea in her head. He'd just thought, from how Aemer talked about Vala, that she would have wanted to spend as much time as possible pushing Vala in sims. Usually, there was nothing Aemer liked more than developing raw talent. But then, she had seemed much more... gripped with whatever her current obsession was.

"Well." He said, awkwardly. "Would you like to try some more weapons, then? Y'know, for fun. Or, well... erhm-" That was the sort of thing Aemer would find fun if she had any talent in mech-driving, at least. "I mean, you could give me your opinion on other impractical designs I've actually coded or just play around with different types. From Aemer's description, I was always planning to design you your own mech, and need the data anyways. Only if you're up for it, that is...."
 

Peregrine

Waiting for Wit
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On fairly regularly, every day. I'll notice a PM almost immediately. Replies come randomly.
Writing Levels
  1. Adept
  2. Advanced
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Primarily Prefer Male
  2. No Preferences
Genres
High fantasy is my personal favorite, followed closely by modern fantasy and post-apocalyptic, but I can happily play in any genre if the plot is good enough.
"Oh, I, uhh..." Vala squirmed, feeling a bit awkward. She'd just all but run away from school. What was she even considering, going to help someone out with their work when she could barely even manage to do her own responsibilities?

But then again, what else was she going to do? The idea of heading up to her room and trying to continue studying the endless documents full of theories and tactics made her head swim and her stomach churn. At the very least, it might be a good... distraction.

"You know what? Sure. Why not. It does sound... fun."
 
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firejay1

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My times are pretty erratic, but I try to avoid being on EST 11pm-9am.
Writing Levels
  1. Intermediate
  2. Adept
  3. Advanced
  4. Adaptable
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Male
  2. Female
Genres
Fantasy, Modern, Historical Romance.
Jack let out a breath of relief he hadn't realized he'd been holding. "Oh. Okay good. Let's go, then. My labs are in the military complex. The more experimental weapons are stored with my fully immersive sims." Jumping up, he went over to the door and grabbed his keys.

The thing Jack called "his labs" was a small, but still heavily fortified hangar on a far edge of the military complex. Unlike the in-use hangars, it was not filled with rows of functioning, ready-to-go mechs, instead front and center containing 6 full immersive sims, only two of which were attached to bioengineer sims, all of which were attached to a large computer with a collection of several monitors. While sims were usually attached to a monitor and a power source, with self-contained and pre-programmed computers hiding within the machinery, Jack's work required too much customization for that hiding to be practical, especially since it was not necessary, and the sets of large wires connecting to his computer gave the room a much more wild appearance than the practice room. The rest of the hangar was just as much of a sight to see, with a number of old mechs clearly being stripped for parts, large mechanical pieces strewn across the floor in various states of disassembly, and rows of black-topped worktables to the right, covered in smaller mechanical parts as well as what looked like hundreds of prototype mechs ranging from the small sim type Aemer had first tried Vala on, to robots that looked no bigger than dolls. Behind the computer, however, looming as if intentionally placed there to intimidate anyone who entered, were the mechs being assembled. All were either unique or newer designs, looking quite similar to a standard mech but each with its own different set of parameters or weapons. Some looked fully finished, while others were almost skeletal.

Since it was a Friday, and Jack wasn't scheduled to come in today, there weren't so many people around as on a typical workday. The greatest number of people were dismantling the old mechs and organizing their parts, while only a few were working on actually building the fully built models. Jack liked to oversee that part most closely to make sure they were following his designs precisely, and really the only bits he allowed to be done without his watchful eye were the outer colorings and the easiest parts of the base structure. Plenty of people were around the tables, though, assembling the smaller prototypes, fiddling with the mech sims, videotaping explorations of how easily the mechanical parts of different models moved together, or whether physical issues delayed weapons drawing.

Vala and Jack got a few curious glances, and one of the peoples at the tables threw out a cheerful, "Hey Jack! I thought that daughter of yours says no working on weekends!"

Jack laughed. "This isn't exactly work, just wanted to help one of Aemer's friends try a few things!"

The man made a hat-tipping motion to Vala despite not having a hat, but went back to his work, engrossed in what looked like the somewhat delicate work of soldering two tiny parts together.

Jack headed over to his computer, pressing a button that started up a whirring in the massive computer that made up the base of his work station, many monitors flashing to life. His work station was tall and clearly meant to be stood at, but a few chairs were lazily dotted around. It wasn't unusual for him to have visitors. He beckoned for Vala to join him, as he went into a folder within folders and folders, opening file after file of differing weapon designs. They were organized by type: long-distance, mid-range, or close range, then high-power or precision, throwable or projectilic, metallic or ion-based, he even had one folder that was just labeled "Stupid." With each file he opened, a roughly schematized image of the weapon displayed, along with careful notes classifying the intended power and use of the weapon, ease of use and learning curve, as well as the observed effects of the weapons in test situations. "You can't test every weapon that's ever been shoved in a mech, but are any of these catching your eye?" Jack asked, not looking at Vala as more weapons filled his screens.
 
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Peregrine

Waiting for Wit
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  1. 1-3 posts per day
  2. Multiple posts per week
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On fairly regularly, every day. I'll notice a PM almost immediately. Replies come randomly.
Writing Levels
  1. Adept
  2. Advanced
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Primarily Prefer Male
  2. No Preferences
Genres
High fantasy is my personal favorite, followed closely by modern fantasy and post-apocalyptic, but I can happily play in any genre if the plot is good enough.
Vala trailed along somewhat awkwardly behind Jack, fixedly staring at his back. Even though she wasn't looking around, she felt as though people were staring at her. Their eyes seemed to weigh heavily on her back and shoulders.

She hadn't been to the military quarter since they'd done that assessment on her a month ago. Was she even allowed here? Vala kept trying to remind herself that, even if she didn't, she was here on invite from someone who clearly was.

That vague feeling of tension didn't fade until the moment they stepped into Jack's 'lab'. Then, all her thoughts were simply blown out of her mind. Her wide eyes darted about wildly, flitting from the computer to the mech, along the cables, to the sim, to the people scattered around, and finally back to the large, sleek mechs that seemed to take up the center of the room.

Her fingers twitched, unconsciously longing to reach out and feel these intricate bits of machinery that boldly stood before her.

She almost bunked into Jack's back before realizing he'd stopped. Offering a somewhat tentative smile to the man who tipped his fingers in her direction, she was finally able to draw herself back into focus. Following Jack's footsteps, she worked her way over to his computer.

Peering over his shoulder, she watched with a mix of awe and bewilderment as the outline of weapon after weapon appeared in front of her. She couldn't help but stutter slightly as Jack queried her. "I... uhhh... maybe.... that one?" She pointed somewhat at random, only to realize that her finger was directed towards some sort of spiked sphere with a glowing red core. Just by looking at it, she couldn't even begin to imagine how it worked. "...What is it?"
 
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firejay1

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  5. One post per week
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Online Availability
My times are pretty erratic, but I try to avoid being on EST 11pm-9am.
Writing Levels
  1. Intermediate
  2. Adept
  3. Advanced
  4. Adaptable
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Male
  2. Female
Genres
Fantasy, Modern, Historical Romance.
Jack took one look at the weapon she'd pointed at, and his face lit up with a wide grin, a small chuckle slipping from his lips, as he pulled up a customizable simulation program, fingers flashing across the keyboard as he inputted the weapon's parameters. "That is a great choice." He said, sounding more animated and confident than he ever had in front of Vala. "Sadly, another impractical design, but a very fun one. I call it a flying mace. You control it from the mech, and it flies through the air to cut through squid. Simulated squid don't try to avoid it because it's too strange of an object, but it's slower than a bullet, so the faster squid don't have much trouble once they learn that it's dangerous, unfortunately. My test drivers also said it required too much extra concentration to control, but perhaps you won't have as much problems with that?" He said almost hopefully.

Since he was loading a unique weapons test, he put more weapons in the simulation than a standard mech would be able to hold, ignoring the simulation's standard warnings that some weapons were overlapping each other in where they were being stored. In total, she'd chosen a little over ten weapons, with his encouragement, and he did not include the standard ion sword and gun, though the shield was nonnegotiable on almost all mechs. It had seemed a little odd to him that she'd asked to test the flamethrower, when that was sometimes included in standard loadouts for sims, but then he supposed she'd only been on a sim and in a mech a few times. Other than that, though, she'd seemed drawn to a mix of power-based and interesting weapons, like knuckle claws, an ion sword that could modify its thickness and length and split its tip into multiple prongs, and a catchpole.

"Pick whichever sim you'd like, I'll get you started with a simple sim, so you can just get used to the controls for all of the weapons, and then load a battle when I've seen you complete the controls for each one." The simple sim would have stationary squid floating in the air or standing around as target practice, while the battle would have a simulated bioengineer. While simulated mech drivers mostly just followed instructions and otherwise only did a few basic moves on autopilot, simulated bioengineers just diverted squid force and fed the mech driver a steady stream of unfiltered information about what was around them and what the Calamar were planning to do in a cold, mechanical voice.
 

Peregrine

Waiting for Wit
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  1. 1-3 posts per day
  2. Multiple posts per week
  3. One post per week
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Online Availability
On fairly regularly, every day. I'll notice a PM almost immediately. Replies come randomly.
Writing Levels
  1. Adept
  2. Advanced
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Primarily Prefer Male
  2. No Preferences
Genres
High fantasy is my personal favorite, followed closely by modern fantasy and post-apocalyptic, but I can happily play in any genre if the plot is good enough.
After she got over her initial burst of uncertainty at seeing the countless weapon prototypes flashing before her eyes, Vala found herself actually having fun picking out weapons. The countless shapes and colors seemed to blur before her eyes, and she couldn't help but wonder how much life out on the Wastes would change if the various scavenger groups had access to some of these weapons. Change for the better, and for the worse.

Vala hadn't thought about Malcom and the other scavengers in a long time, she abruptly realized. They'd been her entire life for a few years, but that time seemed so distant now. Briefly wondering how they were holding up living in the City, that thought vanished as fleetingly as it had come when Jack’s voice drew her attention back to the monitors.

In the end, they picked out more weapons than Vala would likely have time to actually test. However, somewhere along the way Vala had stopped worrying about those specific kinds of details. She’d come here for a distraction, and a distraction was exactly what she was getting.

Vala was loaded into the sim before she quite had time to guess how she got there. Fortunately, she was no longer as foreign to the whole setup as she had been before. Closing and buckling herself in with general comfort, Vala felt the familiar, comfortable vibration start up around her.

Unlike the other mechs she’d been in thus far, this one didn’t begin with an automated message about the mech. Perhaps that was because it was hooked up to Jack’s computer.

Instead, Just like Jack had promised, Vala was in the same, plain arena space they’d used for her previous examination. Several squid floated lazily in the air. They moved realistically, but clearly didn’t respond to Vala or each others’ presence.

It was a strange feeling, staring at them like that. Despite the fact that she understood them consciously, simulations were still a strange concept to Vala. Only at moments like these did the unreality of the situation really strike her.

Well, that and when the mech blew up…

Shaking these thoughts from her head, Vala instead focused on the calibration prompts that showed up on the screen. Her fingers lifted easily. However, before she’d fully completed the first stroke, Vala couldn’t help but release it. A red light flashed.

“Woah,” the dark haired woman said softly to herself. “That’s… strange…”

Ignoring the prompts on the screen, Vala quickly rotated the mech’s torso back and forth. “Hey, uhhh, Jack?” Vala began, somewhat awkwardly. He hadn’t said anything to her since she’d gotten in the sim, so Vala could only assume he could hear her like the bioengineer pods could hear her. “Is it supposed to do that? It feels like things are going… through each other.”
 
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My times are pretty erratic, but I try to avoid being on EST 11pm-9am.
Writing Levels
  1. Intermediate
  2. Adept
  3. Advanced
  4. Adaptable
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Male
  2. Female
Genres
Fantasy, Modern, Historical Romance.
"Mmm?" Jack said, in response, not quite sure what she was referring to at first. "What do- Oh! Yes, I suppose sometimes the elites can feel a bit of the difference. Of course things are going through each other. The simulation is mean to look and feel like the real thing, and a real mech has only so many places you can put weapons. Most of these weapons are designed to be placed in the same approximate load-out areas as typical weapons, such as the sword, gun, and missiles. The only place they won't probably come from is the shield storage, as shields are the best designed defensive weapon. Oh, you'll get a couple that deploy from unique areas like the back or thigh areas, but with 10 weapons, several of them are bound to overlap. It's also why some of your load sequences are more complicated. I had to go to backup controls for ones whose buttons overlapped. Is that a problem? From Aemer's chatter, I thought someone as skilled as you would still pick it up quite quickly, but we can split the weapons so that you're restricted to the max physically possible. It would just take much longer to test them all on an actual battle simulation."
 

Peregrine

Waiting for Wit
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  1. 1-3 posts per day
  2. Multiple posts per week
  3. One post per week
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On fairly regularly, every day. I'll notice a PM almost immediately. Replies come randomly.
Writing Levels
  1. Adept
  2. Advanced
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Primarily Prefer Male
  2. No Preferences
Genres
High fantasy is my personal favorite, followed closely by modern fantasy and post-apocalyptic, but I can happily play in any genre if the plot is good enough.
I thought someone as skilled as you would pick it up quickly...

Jack's casually spoken words seemed to prick at Vala, reminding her of her incapability. Everyone said she was here because she was a genius. Everyone seemed to have so many expectations of her. What would they think if things that were supposed to be simple kept getting in her way?

She hadn’t come here to think about these things.

Swallowing her words, her uncertainties, and her thoughts in one silent gulp, Vala shook her head. “No, I… uhh… It’s okay. I’ll get used to it. I wouldn’t want to waste our time.”

It couldn’t be that hard, right? All she had to do was ignore some of the machine’s feedback from its torso, and focus on the things that really mattered for fighting squid, legs, hands, active weapons, and balance.

She’d get used to it.

Taking a deep breath, Vala focused on completing the calibration prompts once more.

Calibration complete. User adjustment at 1%.

A worse result than any other calibration she’d done, except that one time Aemer had asked her to use the strange set of goggles. But it was so hard to ignore the fact that her movements seemed to be sending things crashing against each other, and it had caused her fingers to waver, ever so slightly.

It was fine. This wasn’t a test. It was just supposed to be fun. It didn’t matter. Once the weapons went back to normal, so would her calibration score.

Unable to remember where exactly Jack had stored what weapon, Vala reached back somewhat at random and closed the mech’s hand around a long item. What came out was a double-tipped, two handed lance, with an integrated pellet discharge stored in the mech’s arm. A combined melee and ranged weapon, Jack had described its major downside being that it was impossible to use with a shield at the same time.

“How is this going to work? Do I just.. attack the squid? Are they going to attack back? How many will there be? Are any bosses coming out?”
 
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firejay1

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My times are pretty erratic, but I try to avoid being on EST 11pm-9am.
Writing Levels
  1. Intermediate
  2. Adept
  3. Advanced
  4. Adaptable
Preferred Character Gender
  1. Male
  2. Female
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Jack tilted his head to the side, not certain what she meant by wasting time. The point had been to mostly waste time anyways, and either way, he'd get data. But her user adjustment was 1%. He stared at that result for a little bit on his monitors. 1%. Almost unbelievably low. He couldn't imagine her actually having any trouble with this sim.

Vala's voice jolted him back to the task at hand. Stupid of him. He hadn't bothered to actually explain. "This is a first level weapons test. The squid are there to give you something the right size and shape to aim at, but they won't respond. This is just the stage for you to get comfortable with drawing and using each weapon. If you don't like the overlapping weapons, we can test them more slowly. I'm in no hurry, if you're not. Start when you like. As you kill squid, new ones will regenerate, and just ask me if you want a really far target to aim at, I'll generate some further away for target practice."
 

Peregrine

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They won't respond.

That was right, they were just squid-shaped target dummies, intended for her to try out a weapon on things that moved like squid.

Even though she'd been in the simulation several times now, Vala occasionally found herself forgetting the details of the sim. The vibrations of the mech under her hands felt so real, it tricked her into forgetting there were no consequences here. It was a safe space to learn.

Still, she didn't want to gain that kind of instinct. Just in case it came back to bite her someday, on the real battlefield.

Chewing slightly on her lip, Vala's mind circled around Jack's words. We can test them more slowly. I'm in no hurry.

Feeling a bit like she was bracing for impact, Vala nodded to herself. "I think I'd like to test the weapons more slowly." And then, even though that should have been good enough, a few extra words of self-defense tumbled out of her lip. "It's not that I couldn't get used to it, it's just that it makes me less precise because I keep thinking I'm causing a collision in the mech. So.... uhhh..."

Only then did her words uselessly peter out, her fingers drumming across the screen in a way that caused the mech's hands to open and close around the lance.
 
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"Sure." Jack said, fingers flying over the keyboard to change the sim parameters. He'd had enough test pilots for his sims to be rigid, and even with her loaded in, he started removing weapons. At the end, she was left with just her shield, the knuckle claws, adjustable ion sword, and flame thrower. The other weapons were slotted in to be easily switched out as soon as she was ready. "Try it now." He said, resetting her calibration so she was prompted to recalibrate. "Once you're feeling comfortable with them, I'll load up a full sim, and I can switch out any of the weapons if you decide you don't like any of them."
 

Peregrine

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The instant Jack agreed to her request, Vala felt a faint, foreign, electrical jolt course through the mech. Her hands unconsciously froze in place, toes curling in with discomfort. For one brief moment, as the spear in her hands vanished into faint grey mist, Vala felt like everything was outside her control.

It was one of the things she loved about the mech. That her hands could move, and it would respond. It made her feel like she was one with the machine. Like she was safe. Like it wouldn't suddenly act against her, leaving her floundering for survival in the belly of a mechanical beast that would not care if her fragile bones ended up trapped between grinding gears and crushed under that insurmountable force.

And then the control was back. The strange contradictions inside the mech were gone. Everything was normal. Vala took a short breath, before beginning to run her hands over the controls once more. A giant flamethrower strapped to the mech's back soon found itself grasped in metallic hands. She squeezed the trigger, and a narrow burst of flame shot out of the flamethrower. A slight twist of her wrist, and the flame began to spread, shortening and widening until it became a long cone.

Instantly forgetting any sense of discomfort she might have had, Vala's eyes widened. "Can it shoot fireballs?" she asked, mouth slightly agape.
 
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Jack laughed as Vala finally seemed to be settling in. Though he could only read her vitals and see how many of the Calamar she was killing, he could tell she was actually feeling comfortable for once, the most comfortable he'd ever heard her be. "Yes, though you have to switch modes, just like the sniper mode on your average gun. They don't go as far or as fast, but something about the Calamar make them pretty damn flammable." He said. Aemer would've probably gone off trying to explain the theoretical reasons for it, but all that mattered to him was that the Calamar were so flammable, they almost seemed to spread it to one another when you hit a cluster. There was a reason flamethrowers were one of the favorite alternative weapons of a number of drivers, despite their more limited range.

His brain was booting into test pilot mode, and he let her play around with her weapon selection a bit, before asking, "How are you feeling about them? Would you like me to switch any out before loading up a full sim?"
 

Peregrine

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High fantasy is my personal favorite, followed closely by modern fantasy and post-apocalyptic, but I can happily play in any genre if the plot is good enough.
With that slight bit of instruction from Jack, it didn't take Vala long to find the toggle on the flamethrower into its alternate mode. She felt a faint clunk as something seemed to connect to the flamethrower from the mech's system. Moving the mech's hands upwards with a swipe of her fingers, Vala took careful aim at one of the lazily floating squid, before pulling the trigger. A mass of substance, coated in flame, erupted from the nozzle of the flamethrower, arcing slightly through the air before impacting against the squid.

Just as Jack had promised, the squid seemed to almost ignite, like it had been soaked in oil. Emitting a faint, high pitched squeal that left Vala feeling slightly dizzy, it only took half a second for the squid to go limp and flutter down through the air like a fallen leaf. She couldn't help but giggle slightly.

Shooting a few more of the arcing fire balls in quick succession, Vala quickly adjusted to the slower, more weighty attack, flicking back and forth between the short and long-distance mode comfortably. The squid around her burned brightly, to the point she could almost imagine she felt the heat radiating on her face through the heavy metal of her mech.

Jack's voice broke Vala out of her pyromaniac daze, causing her to lick her lips slightly. With some reluctance, she returned the flamethrower to its holster on the mech's back, before releasing the metallic claws that had been attached to the mech's fist. "I should... probably rotate through the other weapons first," she said, a trace of reluctance in her voice. However, she picked herself up just a moment later. "Lots of them looked interesting, so it'll be fun to try out! For this one, it'll be hard to test properly if the squid are so scattered. Can you move them into some sort of melee range configuration as well?"
 
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Jack nodded, entirely forgetting - as he usually did - that the driver couldn't see his face. He loaded up a couple of preset still sims. He'd entirely forgotten Vala wasn't a pro who'd been doing this for years, as this was a pretty common request. The simulated squid were clustered into more dense little gatherings, not unlike they actually traveled as a group at times, but behind those clusters remained a few scattered squid dotted around, and he included several clusters floating at various heights in the air. Each set was assembled just a little bit differently, some more loose groups, some with a larger squid, indicative of a boss somewhere mixed in. "They'll start moving a bit." He added, "Melee weapons seem easier to test when the Calamar are moving a bit."

Jack continued to adjust the sim, as she tried different weapons, loading up the new weapons as she got through the ones she was already testing. When she'd made her way through all of the weapons with the squid either completely stationary or moving slightly for effect, he loaded up a full simulation. An automated bioengineer was assigned, which would keep the squid force off of her, respond to basic commands to shift the Calamar slightly, and notify her if any of the squid were getting close to the city. Otherwise, a sensor with red dots would tell her where the larger squid were. Despite all the work that had gone into simulating real Calamar biology, very little had gone into coding automated bioengineers, and for the most part they lacked not only the personal touch and style of a real bioengineer, but also the ability to do anything especially complex. Jack supposed this made sense, since it was better for mech drivers to be trained on hard mode rather than having it easier, but he rather suspected the practice was in part because the people smart enough to try that kind of coding were more concerned with other things. Like him with his actual mech designs.

Besides the shield, he gave Vala only three weapons, based on her feedback and the way she seemed to feel about them, and they just barely managed not to overlap on one another because of their configuration. He was sort of looking forward to watching her full fight.

~~~

Aemer had spent most of her time in the back practice room for what felt like a month now. She half-wished Jack had been a Calamar researcher instead of a stupid mech designer, so that he would've been able to modify her bioengineer sim to try different things, or even discuss theories with. Instead, she'd been forced to go into her books. Old textbooks and autobiographies on Calamar she hadn't touched in years had been dragged out of her old workshelf and were strewn haphazardly around the room, open and covered in notes, though those were mostly old ones, but she'd also printed articles from actual scientific journals from her personal device, and spent some of her significant savings from being a reserve on newer Calamar theory books as well. Those too, had been heavily marked up with red pen. The white board from the other practice room had been dragged in, so that there were two in the room. One had the word "Squid Frenzy" in giant letters circled several times over. A number of other words were scattered across both boards, ideas circled and with arrows pointing to one concept or another.

The word "blacked out" was written multiple times, as well as "syncing" modified with various other words and question marks. Aemer was on the floor, reading through another article, muttering to herself. The contents of her research and her multiple attempts at different things in the sim had proven less than useful so far. The additional little tidbit Vala had let slip about the Calamar having frenzies much more commonly, and simply organizing after they were done and flying away, suggested there was something necessary about them. Necessary enough at least, that squid didn't mind doing them at intervals, which they'd never learnt before because groups that went into frenzies in the middle of battles were typically wiped out easily by the end. But then add to that, the fact that the connection between bioengineers blacked out when the frenzies happened, that mech drivers were left completely alone, but bioengineers were attacked, and that they couldn't seem to stop the frenzies in a fight, but that happened infrequently... there had to be some time period that it worked in. While Calamar were absolutely murderous towards anything that moved, no one had ever seen a Calamar feed, and the textbook she'd grown up with had said that baby Calamar attacked and ate each other when put together. It was why they'd had to be isolated for proper study. Calamar were notoriously difficult to keep alive. Trapping one was difficult enough, and years of research had finally led to the development of a sedative gas that would only work if a Calamar were completely submerged in it, but for whatever reason, both children and adult Calamar died within months of captivity. The longest anyone had ever been able to keep an adult alive was 3 months, and the longest a baby, 2 years, without it ever reaching adulthood. They'd attempted to feed the babies to the adults, as feeding babies to one another seemed necessary for their survival at all, but both had utterly ignored each other.

Since she wasn't sure about it yet, (and also because Calamar researchers terrified Aemer for many reasons she was never ever admitting to herself) Aemer had kept her theory to herself, but she was now certain squid frenzies were part of the Calamar life cycle. It was a theory that had been proposed before, but there'd never been enough information about frenzies for anyone to go past that vague thought. But if it was not only a part of the Calamar life cycle, but a regular occurrence necessary to their survival, maybe that explained why they'd never been able to keep one alive before. In the past month or so, she'd tried to shutter her connection with the Calamar several times to see if she could induce this "sync black out" that seemed to accompany squid frenzies, but that had never once worked, though that could have been a part of the limitations of the simulation. She'd carefully pored through autobiographical accounts to see if there seemed to be some kind of trigger, but all she'd gotten was a certain "feeling" most bioengineers seemed to describe right before that was entirely undefinable. That, of course, made perfect sense considering most interactions with the Calamar were difficult to describe as more than "feelings" if they weren't precise thoughts, but if she could just understand where the feeling came from... how it worked, but no, nothing. All she could find was that the frenzy seemed to start from one member, and ripple out in waves, connection going dark before a member would be attacked. Which particular squid it started from, no one had had the presence of mind to apparently try to keep track of, as frenzies were such rare events in battles. If she could get a simulated black out that would work well for her study, but the point was that black outs weren't well characterized enough to code into sims. It was a nightmare of information she felt like she was one step away from understanding. The best she'd gotten was an approximate timeline of possible frenzies, and even that was a guess that had taken her HOURS, by carefully looking up and writing down the timeline of all records of Calamar attacks (with the frenzies starred) that had ever occurred, and that had been a nightmare to get, as there wasn't a single simple record of it.

She'd mostly muted her personal device, as even the slightest communiques had been distracting her thoughts, but there'd been a few people (outside of major government and military announcements) who were put on her exception list. Only three people, actually, and while Jack was one of them, he never bothered her when he knew she was on a research spree, like the one she'd been on to develop that fancy new trick she'd debuted with Vala the other day. The other consisted of one person who never ever contacted her though she wished he would more often, and one person who only called her when something was terribly wrong. That being the case, when her personal device pinged loudly, Aemer scrambled out of her thoughts, and reached for it in a panic. "Myra?! What's wrong?" She shrieked, before checking who it was that had messaged her.

There was a grim silence on the other end, and she could feel her heart smashing in her chest, as she looked this way and that, trying to orient herself to the real world after hours in her research hole, and praying that no one had died, considering Myra usually came out and spoke quickly. "Myra?" She asked again, anxiously.

"Aemer. Check your screen." Said a quiet, toneless male voice. Aemer started and actually looked at the name glowing on her screen. She stared at it, entirely uncertain how to respond to the person who had never once voluntarily messaged her before. She continued to stare at it, opening her mouth to try and say something, then finding it utterly impossible to squeak out a word. "Aemer?" Jensen said.

"Yes!" She finally squeaked. "Uhm- uh- why are you- did somebody die?"

There was an awkward silence for half a second, before Jensen asked, "Why was that your first conclusion?"

"Well you've never called me before."

"This was definitely a mistake." She heard him mutter.

"No it wasn't!" She said, hastily. "I mean, well, what do you want?" Aemer could feel her spirits rising, her disbelief being replaced with an almost disturbing giddiness mixed with confusion. It was not a set of emotions she experienced often, but Jensen Miles was a special case to her.

There was another long silence, and Aemer giggled awkwardly, heart thumping in her chest for an entirely different reason than it had when she'd thought it was Myra. The sound seemed to signal to Jensen that he'd best finally say something, and with the deepest resignation she'd ever heard someone ask her this question (and that was saying quite a lot), he managed to sigh out, "Can we meet?"

She jolted upright, and bolted for the door. "Yes. When? Right now? If righ-"

"Tomorrow. I need to get my notes organized." His voice cut through her scrambling. She knew, of course, that his statement meant this was about work. That didn't bother her. Well, it wasn't that it didn't bother her, but she was very used to Jensen only contacting her for work, and he hadn't done so in over three years - not since he'd gotten on the battlefield and gained some real experience. The only times she'd seen him since they'd stopped having regular practice sessions together when he turned 17 had been when they'd had to attend meetings or training exercises together. She'd been disturbed to find that time never seemed to change her opinion of him, not that she'd really expected it to. Aemer had always known when she wanted something, and that her mind wasn't easily changed about it. She'd kept a keen eye on his career since then, as keen as she could without raising any eyebrows. Though that one time she'd heard that ass Sally Pritchard call him a robot, she'd punched her in the nose, but she'd been talking shit about bioengineers in general, so most people had just assumed it was Aemer being her regular old crazy Aemer self about it.

"Home?"

He sighed. "If you wish."

"What would you prefer?" She asked with bated breath, half-imagining them at a cafe, or- no way in hell he was ever letting her into his home, but a girl could dream.

After another moment's pause, he said, "I'll arrive tomorrow at 8am. We just need to talk." And hung up. He always had preferred morning meetings. Get the most nerve-wracking things out of the way first. He'd accidentally said so directly once (and then proceeded to turn bright red). But Aemer didn't mind. She'd rather he find her slightly unnerving for very different reasons than most people did, than have no opinion of her at all. Jensen saw most people in a cool way, and as far as she figured, had many many people he felt nothing at all about, and at least she'd never been in that category.

Still standing near the door, she snapped out of her haze and looked back at the room. He'd said he was just coming for a talk, but she'd gotten so used to him coming by for dual sims, it was hard to imagine him not popping in during his visit. This was the room with the dual bioengineer sim in it. The books and papers thrown willy-nilly around the room, white boards covered in her incomprehensible scrawl surrounding conspiracy-theory type strings of ideas. She was covered in ink of various colors, wasn't quite certain when she'd last taken a shower, and hadn't slept properly in weeks.

"Shit."
 
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