Echo-1: Part 15
Back in the hall X stripped out of her coat in a flash and tossed it to the guard she’d got it from. He quickly stuffed it back in his pocket. She sprang like a cat back into her bike suite, flew backward and purposely crashed into my blue gogo flipping it over and denting it even further.
“That’s for hitting me. Meet me at the center port hangar bay, chummm-p!”
She sped off leaving me standing there, thinking about the WWII tank battle scene she had depicted on her right butt cheek.
The big grunt soldier Punchy shuffled forward. “Don’t get any ideas, pretty boy, that’s my girl.”
“She’s quite the character, you’re a lucky man.”
I lifted up my bike, the twin robots still attached to the outside glared at me with their matching blue eyes.
I climbed in, powered up, and headed off down the hall, zigzagging through the decks toward the hangar bay. Alone this time, I really opened up the speed and control systems of the Robo-a-gogo. Forward, left, right, extend power limit, engage buster engine. Its sleek handling was truly superb. Engage drift. I glided around corners at breakneck momentums, slid up and down walls with ease, and soon found myself passing through the hangar door just as X was flipping out of her bike with her usual gymnastic flair.
The hangar was filled with two rows of the mid-range galaxy class fighters. These fighter crafts were the pride of the fleet. Fast, agile, and armed to the teeth, they were the spaceships of boyhood dreams. Really, they were even better than anything I could have imagined as a child. Made of the same white metal alloy that the Banga’s hull was made of. They had a large cockpit, that accommodated two soldiers in full robotic combat armor stacked in a front to back stadium seating fashion. They had a snub nose, a chunky curved center and two short triangular wings with twin blaster cannons. The landing gear doubled as a grappling hook and claw, very useful for grabbing onto things in space. Behind the cockpit were three vertically stacked thrusters set like a traffic light.
X was talking to another type of grunt soldier when I pulled up. He was slightly bigger, with more pronounced muscles, if you could imagine. His skin was the color of a gray camouflage pattern. His head had a built-in, under the skin, helmet. His teeth were filed to points. He looked like a monster drawn by a war obsessed little boy. He wore huge metal boots, his legs, chest, and arms all armored with matching camouflage steel plates.
I was biting my tongue to hold back making a joke about not being able to see him. Stop and disengage. I climbed out of my go-go bike.
“Dr. Death I presume.”
“Got that right. I heard you tried to kick Uzi in the leg, ballsy. That guy would fucking kill you. You’re either real tough or real stupid, but you got away with it and I have to give you props for that. Last time he tried one of his little test the new guy scenarios it didn’t end so well.”
Dr. Death walked over and punched the wall, which opened to reveal racks of armor suits inside.
“Alright, suit up.”
You could easily have guessed that Dr. Death’s robotic combat suit would be painted in a matching space camouflage gray, but the hyper-glittery bright yellow reflective color of X’s left me wondering. I walked down the row of uniform white, red, and black combat suits, pretending I was looking for one that would match my personality. I accessed the ship’s computer and initiated my first download of info from the main supercomputer into my brain. The specs and user manual for the Robo-Combat suit, the deep space model.
“There are some blue ones in the back, Hands, they are meant for underwater missions, but they have the same specs as all the rest. And they’re your favorite color blue too.” X stuck her tongue out at me.
My favorite color blue, she had read my file. In the back of the storage closet were sure enough 10 blue suits.
The Ursa Minor Robo Exoskeleton Galaxy Class Combat Suit or the Robo-Com for short was designed by the Interstellar Robo Corporation, initially as the great equalizer for their people. It granted them an impressive stature that could stand toe to toe with just about anyone they might meet in space.
The original design had a small living quarters and control room in the chest cavity for the Ursa Minor Gnomes to live in while traveling. Usually, there would be a couple in each suit, sometimes with one or two children accompanying them. It was like a good size duplex apartment for them with all needed amenities. As their fame for robotic design spread throughout the galaxy they started to design exoskeleton suits with other species in mind.
Our suits linked with the individual wearer’s neural transmitter and extensively became part of their body. Movement was controlled by the mind and as easy as lifting your arm. The suit also responds to muscle contractions, so when you are inside it and lift your arm or grip your fingers, the suit mimics your actions in real time.
The Robo-Com suit is a bit like wearing a flexible tank. Think of it as becoming an ant. You have your soft fleshy self inside and you have 3 centimeters of prehensile steel alloy around you. Your strength is amplified 100 times by the suit’s built-in powers systems. The visor for your eyes to look through is made of the same glass that lines the Banga’s inner sea. They claim you can take a missile in the head and shake it off. The suits have a limited thruster pack for maneuvering on spacewalks, as well as low yield magnetic boots for walking on the surface of ships. The hands, though chunky, are rather agile and can perform precise functions.
I touched the panel on the front of the first blue suit and it opened.
“Wa-aaaaaa-it.” “…for us.” The modular voices of Wingus and Dingus finishing each other’s sentences came zooming up behind me. “Incoming…” “Transmission.”
The face of both of my droids turned into monitors and on them was Charlie, the leader of the Ursa Minor Gnomes on board. I was delighted when he had a long gray beard, but the absence of the pointy red hat left me wanting.
“Hello, Hands, I’m Charlie. If this is the suit you’d like to use, please give us a moment to modify it for you specifically. We find with your human mentality we need to adjust the controls to respond more quickly to your emotional states. We’ve seriously enjoyed working with those of you who have come out of Jonas’s simulation. We’ve read your background file as a human and we would love to meet with you and discuss lucid dreaming sometime. Dreams are an important part of our culture as well.”
The suit pulsed and came to life on its own. It stood up straight and the front panel closed and then opened again.
“Ok, Hands, you are all set. Enjoy your first spacewalk. Always keep an eye on where the ship is and sink your internal sensors with the ship’s array. Good Luck!”
The droid’s faces cleared and their blue singular eyes returned. They attached themselves to the back of the suit. I turned around and eased myself back into the suit. It closed around me and I had that feeling of being trapped in a refrigerator again. I took a few steps forward and it responded to my every move. This was a very empowering experience.
I ran down the row of suits and jumped right over X and Dr. Death who were suited up and standing in the middle of the hangar. I panicked on the landing and crashed down flat on my face. I was hoping it would be like when I’m dreaming and I could run and jump over cars. I looked up from the floor.
“That was almost impressive. We’ll take the first two fighters out.”
X was climbing into the first one already and Dr. Death gestured that I take the second. He walked to the front of the hangar. There was a mechanical jetpack leaning against the side wall and Death attached it to his back. Then he walked into the airlock and four small remote-controlled crafts flew down the row and into the airlock with him. I climbed up the side of the second fighter and lowered myself into the cockpit, which locked around my suit and the fighter also became an extension of myself. It felt like being in a refrigerator stuffed into a chunky jet plane. Ignition on, stationary hover. The twins connected the fighter with the ship’s main computer and cleared us for take off with central control.
“Incoming Transmission from the Captain,” they droned from behind me.
As the cockpit closed and I looked out through a second windshield, a projection came to life in front of me. It was like a tiny holographic whale swimming around in my fighter. It was Jonas.
“Uzi is concerned about your training, please do your best. I’ve been informed of your progress with meeting others on the ship and I would like you to be my personal representative on an upcoming mission. We’ll meet and talk about it when you return. The freedom of flying in space should be experienced first hand. Jonas out.”
The hologram sperm whale blinked away.
My fighter was floating a meter off the ground and I glided it into the airlock next to X’s ship, the four droid ships and Dr. Death. The airlock door closed behind us. All the lights turned red. The outer door opened to the vacuum of space, but I didn’t notice any real difference. When the lights went green, X and the four droid ships rocketed out of the airlock. I looked to my right and Dr. Death was climbing onto the outside of my fighter.
“I’m going to tag along with you. Let’s go.”
I engaged the thrusters and we moved away from the gravitational pull of the ship and out into the void.