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 Neon

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PostSubject: Re: Neon   Tue 11 Mar - 18:11

For perhaps the first few seconds, Nathan was aware that what he was experiencing was merely a simulation. However, like a in a dream, his surroundings took over and he was left with only the true essence of who he was. The situation beyond his control, the knowledge that it was not real beyond his grasp.

Nathan adjusted his tie and smoothed out the creases in his slacks as he sat down to his desk with a huff. His cubicle was small, one of hundreds all in a neat little grid, on the 26th floor of the Howsner building. The computer monitor flickered to life as he shoved the keyboard out of his way and took the first packet of papers from his overflowing inbox. Forms. Hundreds, no millions, no more like billions of forms awaited him. With tiny print and boxes to check and Nathan immediately felt the anxiety of a beached and gasping fish. Nathan gritted his teeth in determination, took black pen from a coffee mug, and poised it over the first page. The numbers began to blur together, and he could no longer read. None of the words made sense—everything was written in gibberish. Nathan’s head spun, his boss stuck his head in to yell a few indistinct words, and in a flurry of movement Nathan began scribbling over the forms—any random phrase or number that would fit into the perfectly ordered boxes. And there he worked for hours until his hand was cramped and he was aware that he hadn’t peed for at least seven hours.

“Shhh.”

Nathan cocked the gun and motioned Lexi away from the door. He stood in the darkened entryway, head tilted, waiting for the telltale noise. A footstep outside, a crunch of gravel. He didn’t hear it in time. The door burst inward, knocking Nathan to the ground. From his back, he raised the gun and had time for one solid shot. In slow motion, Nathan watched the intruder’s head snap back and blood leak from a small hole in his forehead before another bullet spun towards him, and made impact, lodging in his lower cheek.

“NO!”

Nathan hauled himself up, launching himself towards the first intruder, who had already swept past him. Lexi’s screams filled his hears and his vision was red and he was falling

Nathan jerked awake to find himself, once again, in the padded room. He could not remember the last thing he’d done…only that the memory of this familiar room. He’d broken out. He’d run down the white-walled hallway, ignoring his open-backed hospital gown. This time, they had him in a straight jacket. The canvas material stretched so tight over his torso, he felt he would suffocate. Straps and ties held the jacket firmly in place, and an hour of fruitless struggle ticked by as he tried to through it off by force. Exhaustion stole over Nathan, and he slumped into a corner. No one came with food, or to allow him to relieve himself. Sweat trickled down his forehead.

Force wouldn’t get him out of this.

He moved his fingers experimentally. Millimeter by millimeter, he wriggled around, attempting to loosen the suffocating garment, never getting any closer than when he’d started.
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PostSubject: Re: Neon   Tue 11 Mar - 19:12

“High, very high.” Marx muttered away to himself, rubbing as his non-existent beard while the various charts and data streams reflected off of his glasses. Though he’d seen it many times himself, Steel still couldn’t make much sense of the raw numbers, but the doctor’s face was enough to affirm his initial suspicions about Stephen’s brother.

“… I told them to give me more warning before bringing in anyone above a %40 potential, but does anyone ever listen? No, of course not, but guess who’s going to have to spend the rest of the night going over the results? I swear, next time I’m just going to –“

“To…?” Kim leaned in, apparently having been doing her best to actually follow his rambling. It didn’t matter, though, for he was glued to the far left of his six monitor spread where a small window titled ‘Diagnostics’ had popped up with a stream of even more gibberish.

“Oh, I get it,” Marx whispered, chuckled, and leaned in for a closer look. “Now I’m really going to have to get him to sign something for me.”

Leaning back from the computer with a wry smirk, the doctor glanced meaningfully towards Steel who nodded. “I haven’t been informed of anything, but I’m sure they’ll want a full diagnosis as soon as possible.

“What? Why?” Kim asked, looking from Steel to Marx and back, but neither gave her even the slightest explanation. After all, working for HR made her the enemy of R&D and next to non-existent to the soldiers and brass. It was frustrating, but she’d grown used to it; no amount of begging was going to earn her their trust.

“He’s waking up.” She said with a sigh, nodding towards the glass room where Nathan was still laying on the bed. At the very least, she would continue to do her job.


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PostSubject: Re: Neon   Wed 12 Mar - 15:29

The needle retracted remotely. Nathan sat up and took a moist towel from a tray at his side, wiping off the back of his neck and forehead for perspiration. The sliver of a needle left no need for gauze or a bandage, and so Nathan swung his legs over the edge of the bed and waited a few moments to regain his bearings.

As when waking from a dream, it took him a moment to convince himself that none of it had been real. Lexi was not in danger. He had not been sent to a nut house. Indeed, the first simulation was such a blur he could hardly remember what it had contained. His head, however, was aching as though under a great pressure. Steel’s look had assured him that this was normal. Like the proverbial dentist, Gelrik was either delusional or a liar about pain.

Leaning back, Nathan closed his eyes and rolled his head until he heard the satisfying cracks of his loosening neck. In all likelihood, he would be sore for a few days. Extra stretching would ease the pain and speed the recovery time.
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PostSubject: Re: Neon   Fri 14 Mar - 17:15

“I’m going to get going on this right away.” Marx said, waiving Steel and Kim off with the back of his hand as he plopped down in his chair. “And it’s not my call, but something tells me you’re going to want to stick around for the next little while.”

Steel chortled shortly in response, but nodded anyway. The times he’d left HQ outside of business were few and far between, and even then he was always reachable. It went without saying that they were to be on call at all times, but there were more than a few who did their best to squirrel away time when they could for whatever reason. Steel was a soldier first, however, and hardly anything more.

The door sliding open before him with a hiss, he stepped inside with Kim at his heels, ignoring the crawling feeling that the small room wrought. Like many others, his initial tests were nothing more than scrambled flashes of information now faded with time, but the discomfort they were steeped in still tugged at him.

“Can you stand?” Steel asked, almost rhetorically. Most people didn’t take the simulations without at least a little dizziness and fatigue, but some came out outright ill for days afterwards.

“You’re tired, I’m sure. We’ll head to the core wing right away so you can get settled in and grab something to eat.” Kim added. “It’s nice; you’ll be able to relax.”

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PostSubject: Re: Neon   Fri 14 Mar - 17:44

“I’m fine,” Nathan said, closing his eyes and placing his hands on his knees. A wave of nausea passed through him, and he realized that it was less like waking from a dream than he’d thought it would be. “I take it the results will take some time to process, then?” he asked. All he really wanted to do was continue to sit where he was. Movement didn’t seem such a lucrative option. But, in his experience, walking it off was usually the best cure for almost everything. Therefore, Nathan pushed himself up and stood to his feet.

--

Steel and Kim escorted Nathan back out of Dr. Gelrik’s office after the absentminded old man waved them away, announcing that the results would take some time to become clear, but adding that Nathan’s results promised to be interesting. They went back up the hallway they’d come and came to a set of gleaming silver elevators. Nathan looked up. The atrium they stood in now was large, circular, and open. Balconies on the upper floors looked out over the atrium, giving it a central feel to the entire compound. From this place, almost any place could be accessed, given the right credentials. It was therefore the first point of reference for Nathan to remember. Given the sheer size of the place, it would be easy to get lost. Kim suggested that Nathan may find himself returning to this central atrium in order to find each new destination, though in time he would learn how to get from place to place without backtracking to the central point.

Nathan had never been in a building so large. All of the amenities he could think of seemed to be included. Soldiers’ barracks, mess halls, clothing and uniform outlets, gyms and training rooms, and underground pool, shooting ranges, office space and council rooms for the brass, and, of course, the mech labs. The reason they had signed away their sanity.
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PostSubject: Re: Neon   Sat 15 Mar - 12:35

“So that’s that, then!” Kim finished up her long-winded explanation and handed Nathan a small screened device on which he would find a map, contact information, and other useful updates – as well of most of the information which she’d spent the last ten minutes droning over. Something told Steel that he wasn’t the only one who hadn’t been listening, but the girl seemed back to her usual self after a rough couple months, so he let her chatter on with an occasional nod in agreement.

“your room number is 412 – that way,” She pointed at a set of double wide doors on the other side of the room. “just follow the signs.” It was a running joke in the building that the greatest security measure at their disposal was the confusing labyrinthine layout of the facility, but Nathan seemed bright enough to find his way through their cozy little asylum.

“All food and drinks from the cafeteria are free, as well, so it might be a good idea to get some brunch before your results come in this afternoon.”

On the verge of falling asleep, it was then that Steel felt Wild grip his shoulder, doing the same to Nathan beside him as she intruded into their circle.

“Kimmy! Nice to see you. I hate to intrude, but we’ve really got to get down to the simulation room. They finally got the sim rig done for that new girl’s mech – you know, the blind level-2 that came in last week? – anyway, it’s going to be good. Twenty minutes, be there.” Clapping them on the shoulder, Wild stepped back and jogged off leaving ‘Kimmy’ with an awkward smile on her face.

“It’s like a family here,” She explained. “so try to get along with everyone, alright?”


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PostSubject: Re: Neon   Sat 15 Mar - 16:43

It was a bit odd, Nathan found himself thinking as Kim pointed him down the corridor to the soldiers’ quarters, that the highest ranking person he’d spoken to thus far was Steel. He’d done nothing more than sign a contract and visit Dr. Gelrik for tests. And now they were going to let him wander the compound without orders? Without observation? No, likely not without observation. But with no course of action laid out for him, Nathan felt an awkward sense that he had to stick, for the moment, at least, with Steel.

Therefore, he turned to Wild. “A mech simulation?” he asked. “Is it open for anyone to watch?"
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PostSubject: Re: Neon   Sat 15 Mar - 17:18

“Anyone with access.” Steel answered, pointing loosely at the card Kim had just given Nathan. Despite his straightforward answer, however, he didn’t seem as eager as Wild had been to invite the new initiate along. It had nothing to do with whether or not he was allowed – the permissions built into the card would determine what he could and could not get access to – but rather the fact that it was yet a small circle of people who knew of Nathan’s existence, and that made him an outsider. In any other department ‘new guy’ status was just that, but in a tight-knit bunch of already unstable types, his presence was sure to catch some attention.

Then again, it was unavoidable. Best to get it over with now before Nathan’s own destabilization was added to the mix.

“Might as well go take a look.” He suggested, fidgeting with the cuff of his sleeve before giving Kim a departing nod and heading for the door through which Wild had already disappeared.

“On paper, officially, these tests are supposed to be entirely confidential. In all my fifteen years here, however, that’s never been the case.” ‘Confidentiality’ was a word the HR department, not the Kanjo.

---

Passing people on their way through the tight hallways, Steel received and returned acknowledgement with nearly all of them, but did not stop to introduce Nathan who was constantly being sized up or at least glanced at, apparently standing out more than even Steel had thought. The journey was straightforward, at least, and after arriving at the lowest stop of the only elevator they’d boarded, the chatter of excited voices met them immediately.

Stepping out first, Steel didn’t bother to explain what the massive underground hangar was used for. If the pockets of soldiers and technicians didn’t give it away, then the dozens of fifty foot tall mechs of all shapes, sizes, and colors made it abundantly clear. The collection of consoles and screens to the left was their target for now, but Steel made a mental note to show Nathan around later if he wished. For now, however, things seemed to just be starting up, with at least two dozen people cluttered around the four largest screens in the room on which multiple angles of a girl, twenty at most, was just climbing into the cockpit of a M-52 class mech – melee optimized.

“So you did show, eh?” A gruff voice said from the edge of the crowd, a hint of accent tucked somewhere in his barreling chest. “Wild said you might. Specially since word has it this kid’s up for a spot on your squad.” He thumbed towards the screen just as his eyes fell on to Nathan, and a scowl hung over his lips. “Babysitting?”

“New initiate, just took his test this morning.” Steel could feel a few pairs of eyes on them now, most not bothering to look away when he met their stares.

“Huh. Looks familiar.” The big guy grunted, unimpressed yet curious. Steel just shrugged, however, knowing the answer to the indirect question that was being asked but deciding to let Nathan make the call.

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PostSubject: Re: Neon   Sat 15 Mar - 18:04

The underground hangar into which he and Steel stepped a few minutes later was one which the all little boys of Noir always dreamed of entering. Little models of their favorite Kanjo soldiers littered their bedroom floors, along with the mech units each was famous for piloting. His eyes scanning slowly over a row of unmanned mechs, Nathan recognized several models he’d had replicas of as a child. No camera crew or news reporter had ever been authorized to enter this area, however. And so the cartoons based off of Kanjo adventures had never realized quite how dingy and…unglamorous it really was. Everything in the cartoons gleamed, as if waxed and polished at least seven times a day. In reality, the mechanics were grease-balls, the Kanjo shone with sweat, and the mechs themselves actually showed signs of use. Who would have thought?

Nathan ignored the babysitting remark and examined the bank of monitors, to which Steel had led him. He tried to determine what all the graphs and running numbers represented, but was only able to identify a few of them. Soon, he hoped, he would begin the classes that would prepare him for life as a Kanjo.

“Huh. Looks familiar.”

Nathan turned and stared at the large man who spoke in a low, gravelly voice. He could tell he was being sized up, and the fact that he was thin, short, and weighed less than the average college cheerleader, automatically put him at a disadvantage in the military.

“I used to date your sister.”
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PostSubject: Re: Neon   Sat 15 Mar - 18:51

Having been sitting on a nearby steel crate, s strong-jawed, broad-backed onlooker slipped off of his perch and whistled in amusement, striding over with a cockiness in his step that had clearly been honed over the years. It was nothing new for the ‘pretty boy’ of the crew, a level 3 Kanjo with more press attention than most of the rest of them combined, but with grease on his brow and his jacket casually tied around his waist, he looked just like the rest of them.

“A cocky one? Guess Steel didn’t tell you, but you’ve got to earn that kind of talk around here.” He spoke casually, conversationally even, but Haze’s smooth talking was rarely without deeper intent. Still, he look towards Steel to see if Nathan was going to get any protection, but his attention was already on the screen as if nothing more was going on around him. It was enough to know that if a brawl broke out, he wasn’t going to come to the new kid’s rescue.

“Boys, the show’s on. Pick on the rookie during the commercials.” Came Wild’s voice as she strode up to them and stole Haze’s seat while he reluctantly backed off.

“Only for you, dear.” Haze sarcastically cooed, glaring Nathan down for several more seconds before turning to the screen while his larger counterpart chortled and turned, doing his best to stand tall directly between him and the screen.

Arms folded across his chest, Steel paid no mind to the scene going on beside him, focused solely on the monitor where the cockpit of the mech was locking shut with a hiss and starting up with a rumble. Albeit a simulation, it was a test of the pilot’s cerebral synchronization with the system, meaning that she, as calm as she looked, was experiencing it with nearly as much accuracy as she would in real combat. A good test would mean that her mech would soon be put into production and she would be field-ready within a week. A bad simulation… well, the physical damage wasn’t translatable, but with a digital interface so real that it could even trick the brain, recovery time upwards of three days wasn’t unheard of.

“… Excitement 3.0, Pride 1.2, I hear - but it looks like they’ve got her in a level 4 rig, what’s with that?” Someone to his right asked, and Steel piqued his ears. He’d been wondering the same thing. A level 4 rig was typically too intrusive for anyone without the right amount of capacity to handle it, but as an upper atmosphere battle loaded up it was clear that she was able to maintain control enough to control the mech with relative ease.

“I’m guessing it’s her sight.” Another guy answered. “She must’ve willing given it up, too, otherwise the synapses would be unusable.”

It made sense, but Steel had to agree with the first guy whose only response was a grim expression and shake of his head. Regardless, the swells of the crowd in response to the chaos on screen was enough to give credit to the skill she’d gained – at least until another pilot approached her, taking her mech’s arm off in a single swipe.

Nearly everyone cringed in response to the screaming coming from the monitors, but both Steel and Wild forced themselves to keep watching while the girl on the screen continued to fight through the tears. It was well known that a mech’s pain was a pilot’s pain, and the greater the link, the more accurate it was. It was what allowed them to react with the lethal precision that they did, but the risks were high. Still, the girl continued to fight, and after nearly a minute of forcing herself to remain conscious, the screens flashed and the simulation went down, the heavy white words ‘Simulation complete’ pasted on the screen.

“Good.” Steel muttered under his breath.


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PostSubject: Re: Neon   Sat 15 Mar - 19:09

Nathan’s only reply to the Kanjo who’d butted in was a scoff. He turned his attention back to the monitors with his arms crossed tightly over his chest. It was a risk. If the guy had decided to take a swing at him, he would have been able to see the reflection in the monitor. But with enough time to duck out of the way…? That was a bit less certain. Possibly Wild’s comment had saved him from his first brawl. But it didn’t matter. Nathan had been dreaming of the day when he’d get to pound a Kanjo into the pavement ever since Stephen came home. Not because they had done anything to him. No, they were as much victims of Noir’s desperation as Stephen was. They’d just survived longer.

Two mechs came to life as the men gathered around the bank of monitors, eyes flicking from the glowing displays to the simulation fight in front of them. Nathan watched as the mechs engaged in hand-to-hand combat, much as street fighters would. The history of warfare had taken a great leap with the synchronization of mech and soldier. And escalation could do nothing but continue.

Nathan stared, wide-eyed as the girl’s mech lost an arm, and her screams filled the air. A wavering line on the monitor spiked. And a few minutes later the lights were flashing. The mechs powered down, and a few men were running to collect the unconscious Kanjo from the cockpit.

“Good,” Nathan heard Steel mutter. He turned and offered a sharp, questioning glance at him. Good what?
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PostSubject: Re: Neon   Sat 15 Mar - 19:34

Steel didn’t care to explain himself, but he was well aware of Nathan’s glance and met it with his calm, pigment-less eyes before looking past him to Wild who did well in hiding her concern but was still able to convey silent approval. The girl would have a rough couple days of phantom limb pain for an arm that wasn’t hers, but immediately after that she’d be assigned a team and a mission - probably under Steel himself, if his instincts were to be trusted.

“She’s young, but I’ve heard good things.” Wild piped up, striding over while ignoring the looks that Nathan was still drawing his way.

Her next words unusually quiet as if unsure whether or not to let them go, her eyes drew back up to the monitor just for something to focus on. “Kinda’ reminds me of Nel.”

Steel fidgeted, absently scanning the statistics on the screen without reading them. Two weeks was too soon thereafter to speak on the matter, and so he said nothing, mouth suddenly dry. Already emotionally deprived, the last thing any Kanjo needed was to be shaken; it was rule number one. The only reason he was back on the field so soon was because he had proven himself stable, and so he swallowed hard and forced himself to remain that way. They didn’t have enough men left to be granting leave, whether he needed it or not.

“Anyway,” Wild coughed, nudging Nathan to break the tension. “that’s what you have to look forward to. Best start thinking about your paint job now, ‘cuz you’re going to be stuck with those colors for the rest of your life.”


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PostSubject: Re: Neon   Sat 15 Mar - 20:54

As the rest of the Kanjo put their heads together to murmur about the potential of the unconscious girl, Nathan watched as she was wheeled away by two men in white medical coats. Without consciously allowing the emotion, he felt a twinge of regret for the pain that she would experience over the next couple of days. It was not hers, but she would bear it anyway.

But there should be no regret, he reminded himself.

That was what they’d signed up for.

He took the small devise Steel had given him from his pocket and pulled up the floor plans of the building. Quickly scrolling through the levels, he found the recovery wards and made a note of the route. Then he stowed the device in his pocket and headed for the doors.

Wild caught him just as he was about to leave.

“Give me the colors Stephen had,” he said without looking back. “I’m replacing him anyway.”
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PostSubject: Re: Neon   Sat 15 Mar - 21:58

Cold, stoic, and rigid, Steel was his name, but Nathan’s parting words sent the hardened Kanjo’s eyes to the floor just long enough for him to force a slow, calming breath through his lungs. He did not- could not- feel anger, but he knew there were others around the hangar that would not take lightly to such casual mention of Stephen. Thankfully for him, none had heard, but questions were sure to be asked when a shiny new mech in crimson and bronze was wheeled out into the hangar.

“Ah, I get it. His brother, the Ex. You knew him.”

Wild was a lot of things, but unaware was not one of them. It was one of her few personable assets. At least, when she chose to use it that way.

“I did.” Steel nodded. He knew Stephen about as well as a Kanjo could. He knew Stephen about as well as Stephen knew Lloyd, but that was long enough ago that even he couldn’t remember who they were back then without the haze of nostalgia tainting his point of view. No, the man he’d known and respected was Blaze.

“He was the captain of my squad.” The admission came out even and flat, but made Wild felt uneasy nonetheless. If there was one thing that was never to be prodded into, it was a Kanjo's past.

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PostSubject: Re: Neon   Sat 15 Mar - 22:20

Nathan walked at a quick and determined clip through the corridors. Having studied the map and committed to memory the directions Kim had given him, Stephen had no need to pause for direction on his way to room 412. Like home addresses, evens and odds were on opposite sides of the hall. And, like college dorm rooms, the doors were close enough together that everyone had just enough room for comfortably sleeping, but not much more. It was unlikely that anyone spent much time alone here anyway.

Flicking his ID card across a scanner, Nathan gained entrance to his room and paused to look around. The bed was regulation size—extra long to accommodate even the tallest soldiers. A nightstand, alarm clock, mirror, dressing table, and shaving kit were the only other accommodations the room provided. A hidden compartment soon revealed his new wardrobe—military issue socks, underwear, undershirts, slacks, dress uniform, and combat uniform. All arranged neatly and, of course, already fitted to his size.

Nathan paused for a moment, unsure what it was customary for a new recruit such as himself to wear. Most of the Kanjo in the Hangar had worn slacks and nothing more than their undershirt. It appeared that, unless they served an official function, they were not required to wear the dress uniform. And so, although Nathan would have preferred the formal attire displaying his new rank and identity, he chose the more casual option. He would blend in better that way.

After stuffing his street clothes down the rubbish chute, Nathan left his room for the cafeteria. It had been a long morning.
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PostSubject: Re: Neon   Sun 16 Mar - 1:34

The cafeteria was something of a meeting place for those who weren’t into simulations or the darker atmosphere of the lounge a floor lower, yet despite the bright, open space with sitting room for two hundred, it had never once been filled to capacity. Even with the clock above signalling noon, hardly anyone was filling in for a lunch that, especially for a military facility, looked and smelled surprisingly appetizing. It was life as usual, however, and not one person was concerned with the openness of the space, occupying only the tables nearest the food lineout of habit.

At present, Nathan’s seating options were limited to a half dozen tables dotted with people, the odd one with a conversation or two going on, or the liveliest table where a group of soldiers from downstairs were having an animated conversation.

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PostSubject: Re: Neon   Mon 17 Mar - 18:39

The dining area was quiet despite the coming of the noon hour. Attempting to blend into the crowd, Nathan went to the first food line he saw and ordered what the woman ahead of him had asked for. Taking his tray, he quickly found an empty table, hunkered down, and started eating at top speed.

--

Fifteen minutes later, Nathan was on his way to the hospital ward where Saya, he presumed, was recovering. It was 12:30, less than an hour since she'd been hurried away from the hangar. Though he did not know whether she would be conscious yet, or if it was traditional or even permitted, he planned to go and see how she was doing. Perhaps it was not normal to offer such encouragement in the military, perhaps he wouldn't even make it into the ward. But knowing that he would soon undergo similar tests, similar failures, and similar pain, he felt drawn to her.

Walking straight up to the receptionist's desk in the hospital ward, Nathan cleared his throat. "I would like to see Saya Menin. If she is awake."
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PostSubject: Re: Neon   Mon 17 Mar - 19:30

“Saya Menin…” The lady behind the desk repeated, though she required no time to sift through her computer for the information she needed. “She was just admitted; I don’t expect she’ll be taking visitors anytime soon.”

---

It hurt.

It hurt in ways she’d never before experienced, and yet it was still there, fingers and all, as if unaware of the panic burning through her nervous system. Out of pure habit she couldn’t help but to examine it with her free hand just for confirmation, but despite all signs disproving the deep-seeded belief in her mind that it was gone, the sensation remained.

“It’ll probably remain sore for the next couple of days.” The doctor explained from somewhere to her right. She didn’t bother turning to him; it wouldn’t achieve anything. “But no damage was done, so you’ll be better than new by Friday.”

‘Better than new’ – That was a sentiment more hollow than the pain of false phantom limb.

“I can go, then?” She asked timidly. The brief pause she received in response was enough to tell her that it wasn’t the best idea, but he grudgingly admitted that they would do nothing to keep her there if she wished to return to her quarters. Her next check-in would be tomorrow morning, but until then, she wasn’t going to lay around feeling sorry for herself.

Carefully placing her feet on the ground to get her bearings, Saya blinked her unfocused hazel eyes unwittingly and stood up, pretending not to take a couple of seconds to gain her bearings. It wasn’t all black, but shades of very muted grey in which she saw the world, but now that she faced the proposition of going it alone in such a state, the muted palette was almost worse than pure nothingness.

“Do you require an escort?” The doctor asked, concern in his voice, but Saya shook her head. She had lost many things, but she would not lose her dignity.

“No,” She answered back softly. Gracefully. “I’ll be fine, thank you.”

As she continued down the hall, she was already glad that she couldn’t see the pity or concern on the faces of anyone she passed whilst sticking close enough to the wall to ensure that she didn’t lose her way. From what she’d been told, the implants she’d been given would grant her an instinctual sense of direction to compensate for her blindness, but it was all too foreign yet for her to actively take advantage of, and so she continued onward, blinking consciously every so often.

“… visitors anytime soon.”

Had she heard her name?

Saya’s ears perked and her head turned towards what she assumed was some sort of reception, but she couldn’t quite make out whether or not the figures were looking her way. Thankfully, they seemed to notice her first.

“Oh, it seems I was wrong.” A female voice said – the one sitting down. “You have a visitor.”

Was she speaking to her? She stopped walking.

“O-oh.” She said, a little dumbly, not sure where to direct her eyes so as not to seem lost. She didn’t know anyone in the building yet, and it certainly wasn’t anyone she knew from the world beyond. “Who is it?”

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PostSubject: Re: Neon   Mon 17 Mar - 19:53

Recognizing the recruit as the same girl who had fought bravely on through the pain until finally it had overwhelmed her. Watching the mechs fight had been painful with the knowledge that she and the machine had become as close to one being as science would allow. That knowledge was not open to the general public. And although it was not a shocking discovery, it was slightly painful to accept. The trade-offs for this job were not to be taken lightly. Used and discarded. And hailed as heroes for it. That, in the end, was all they’d be left with while people averted their eyes and tried to shove them under rugs. Somehow, though, Nathan wondered if it would be all that easy. Once the Kanjo began breaking down en masse, it would be more difficult to cover up the brutal truth.

Turning from the receptionist, Nathan stepped up to the recruit. She had likely been there only a few days longer than he had, he thought.

“My name is Nathan Cross,” he said, his voice stiff with military professionalism. “I am a new recruit, just arrived. I saw your simulation and came to wish you a speedy recovery.”
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PostSubject: Re: Neon   Wed 19 Mar - 21:37

“….Oh.”

It was an admission of surprise rather than a fully articulated thought, but it gave Saya just enough time to straighten herself and collect her thoughts to face yet another stiff military-type. As to why he’d come visit her, a stranger so far as she knew, it was beyond her, but that wasn't the foremost question that came to mind.

“I didn't know they made that public.” She stated, a tinge of bitterness escaping. Then again, she’d never been told anything to the contrary, and most of her assumptions had failed to hold water the moment she’d walked through the doors to the place. Best to brush it off, she thought. With any luck she’d be able to be as rigid as the rest of them by the end of the week.

“Nathan, you said?” She repeated, just to prove she’d been listening. “I’m Sa-“

No she wasn't; not any more.

“… Whisper.”

It was impossible to describe the feeling her knew name gave her, though perhaps only because she didn't wish to acknowledge it. The name fit, and she didn't care to understand intimately why, but now was as good a time as any to embrace it. The process would be easier that way, or so she’d been told.

Walking the last couple steps to Nathan with as much normalcy as she could, Whisper held out her hand, her hazy eyes fall unfocused on his silhouette. It was a strange feeling meeting someone who was likely only hours away from no longer being the person he’d introduced himself as, almost as if she was meeting someone on death row. The difference, however, was that they were willing, at least in some stretch of the word.


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PostSubject: Re: Neon   Tue 25 Mar - 9:16

Whisper.

Had she just chosen the name, or had she already had it for a while. Nathan couldn’t recall any of the other Kanjo referring to her as Whisper. The transition was so raw, he could tell she was not yet comfortable with it. But in time it would become a crutch. A way to help her forget what she was losing. What they all were losing.

He shook her hand, trying hard not to stare. Though he wasn’t sure she’d notice anyway. Then again, she would likely sense any awkwardness a mile away. And so, with a stiff nod, he excused himself.

“I’m sorry for intruding. Perhaps it is not…normal conduct for a Kanjo. Please excuse me.”

And he turned to walk away. Though, this time, without a sense of where he should go or what he should do next.
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PostSubject: Re: Neon   Thu 27 Mar - 22:22

‘Normal conduct for a Kanjo’

What was that, anyway? She’d been briefed on all the science she would never understand, all the military procedures and expectations, the facility and its many uses, but conduct had been more or less left out altogether. It was already clear that they seemed to have their own set of social rules, but they were yet beyond her full understanding. Still, the more she dared to consider her own brand new mind, the more she inherently understood. Isolated as individuals, but cohesive as a group – that was the gist she got – but the last thing she wanted to do for the moment was consider her own place within their skewed social construct.

“If your name’s Nathan, then you’re not a Kanjo yet, right?” It was an attempt to pursue conversation and she knew it, but she managed to pull it off rather well, making her way to the exit through will and mechanical instinct. She just hoped the shadow beside her was actually who she thought it was.

“If you can help it, don’t try to act like them until you’re one of them. ‘You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone’ and all that.”

Even delivered via a distinctly soft voice, there was a blunt boldness to her words that surprised even her. There was no self-pity, and there never had been, but it was clear that she was, in her own way, trying to make up for Nathan’s unexpected show of concern.

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PostSubject: Re: Neon   Mon 7 Apr - 20:00

“Erm, no,” Nathan hesitated, unsure exactly what he was at the moment. “I signed my contract just last night. But I’ve already had my aptitude test. I guess they like to get things moving pretty quickly around here.”

He fell into step beside her as she walked out of the hospital ward. Apparently, a Kanjo never liked to stay longer than needed laid up in a hospital bed. They likely came from the pool of citizens characterized by restlessness. Always in motion, they would not feel right spending time idle. No matter the reason.

He pondered her next words. There was a hint of remorse in the voice. Or maybe just in the words. Or maybe he was simply imagining it, thinking about Stephen. Don’t go down that path before you have to. The more you act like them, the more you become them, the more danger you are in.

“I didn’t take this job ignorant of the risks,” he answered evenly. “In his own way, everyone has to make sacrifices to keep this rock alive, I suppose. Ours is just…more drastic than most.”
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PostSubject: Re: Neon   Sat 12 Apr - 20:25

It was true, Whisper had expected her first couple days to be spent, as per most government institutions, doing paperwork and twiddling her thumbs. Part of her would have preferred it, but the brevity of her transition had denied her a chance to overthink things, and for that she was grateful. After all, as Nathan had said, they were something akin to pillars that kept the sky from raining down on their depressing little space rock. Still, the exhaustion was already catching up with her, and before she could think of anything to say in response, the first numb waves of vertigo began to dull her focus.

“I guess you have a point.” She said, her tone betraying the fact that her heart was not entirely in agreement. Regardless, now was not the time to chat about ideology with someone she knew by name only.

“I’m sorry, I have to head back to my room. Lie down.” Was that a complete sentence? It didn’t matter.

Nodding in what she hoped was Nathan’s general direction, Whisper dropped a quick ‘see you around’ and was gone, led by the new instincts she had yet to understand and the monochromatic static that made up her vision, feeling all at once determined and frightened.


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PostSubject: Re: Neon   Wed 23 Apr - 20:36

It wasn’t until the evening when a brief message would vibrate the glorified cellphone Nathan had been issued, dictating politely that he make his way to a small room on the west end of the complex where, though not outwardly stated, it was suggested that he would receive news of his test results. Steel hadn’t sent the text, rather Commander Benett had sent it via administration to keep things official, but as he sat straight backed in his chair watching Dr. Gelrik toy around with his handheld computer he mused on the nostalgia that other Kanjo seemed to have for the simple summons – some going so far as having saved the message, keeping it even years later or deleting it the day after their operation, almost exclusively out of some sort of sentimentality.

“He’ll made a great addition to the team, eh Steel? Quite a broad spectrum of options here, but he’s sure to be very capable.” Dr. Gelrik chattered, but Steel made no reply. He’d already scoured the results and calculated the most probably outcomes for the type of Kanjo Nathan would become, but his place on Steel’s squad was going to come down to more than numbers. He valued training, rules, statistics, and everything that could fit into a snug box made of the rules that defined it, but nothing could say more about a person than their first time in a real battle.

“He’ll certainly be dangerous.” The broad shouldered commander responded in lieu, to which both Steel and the doctor nodded. All Kanjo were dangerous, but a level 4 with an already volatile personality was the sort of thing that could redefine a word. Certainly the commanded had insinuated something more than that, but none of them cared to elaborate, opting instead for the dull silence that preceded their guest.

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