Chapter 9: Acrol's VR combat simulator
Rapid Fire vs. Fireflight
We returned to my room for some clean clothes in addition to the street map to Night City I kept on chip. The VR system did accept my interface plug and my programming skill chip was compatible with it. I recreated details of the city and had the computer randomly scatter various items about a twenty square block which was declared the combat area. Then I downloaded the opponents. That took most of the time. It wasn't that hard between the chip and the computer. I just had to build them in my mind and give them their capabilities and equipment.

Eliza used the inducer at the earliest opportunity and I grabbed quick naps while the computer did its compiling. By noon we were ready. The others had been granted free time which I suspected was spent playing games and such. Larani had told them last night about my assignment and as they came in, said they spent a lot of time wondering what I was planning. "What we are about to do is virtual combat. Once the program has started, everyone will be given their choice of weapons. Eliza will be joining you. Your enemy is myself and four others. They will be recreations of some of the people I mentioned last night at dinner. My team is well experienced in urban fighting so don't let the fact you outnumber us two to one get you overconfident. As you know we will be fighting in Night City. Our two teams will be the only ones there so you know who your enemy is. I have programmed the computer to scatter a variety of useful items across the battlefield. They will normally be hidden so keep your eyes open. If, and when, you die in VR, you may watch the others on the screens over there. Everyone ready? Into the gyroscopes and put on your equipment. The program will start automatically when you're all done."

I jacked into the machine and immediately found myself back home...almost. The scenery was clearly computer generated and the sky was a dark red. Old friends were there to greet me. I had downloaded my memories of Ratchet, Pounce, Briareus, and Longarm. "How are all of you?! It's been too long."

"We missed you too, Boss. Rapid Fire hasn't been the same without you." Pounce said.

"You know what you have to do, team?" I asked.

"Hey! You programmed us, Bro! We know what to do." my sister said.

Maybe I programmed her too well. Ten streams of light came down from the sky landing on the other side of the city. "Looks like the party just started." Ratchet said as he flicked the safety off his rifle.

I mentally had the computer bring up some screens of what the rest of my team was seeing so I could monitor their progress. Fortunately because of the way interface plugs work, this did not hamper my own vision. "Everybody spread out. We're more than a match for them. You know what to do." I ordered.

Replicas of friends from a previous life ran off in different directions. Pounce climbed up a small building and ran across rooftops. Briareus and Ratchet went down the streets, but they quickly split up. Longarm said she was going to stay with me, but then she found a motorcycle around a corner and opted for that. I armed my mauser cannon and went down a side street.

Tammis was the first to go. He and Eiran had the same idea Pounce had by going up on the roof top. In order to climb the wall, Tammis had to remove his armor. Pounce stood in the shadows watching his movements, letting his melee combat computer judge the best way to attack. Eiran had begun throwing bits of armor up to Tammis when Pounce attacked. The human-made-tiger roared as he leapt to his prey. His rippers came out of his finger tips and he barred his fangs with terrifying affect. Tammis was caught by surprise and released a scream of terror bringing his weapon to bear in vain. With a gleaming arc of Pounce's clawed arm he sliced through Tammis's arm at his right shoulder. The amputated limb fell silently in space as Pounce made his second attack. This time he speared Tammis's chest with his other hand. The utter look of shock on the Karganian's face stayed with him as he fell off the ledge. Eiran fired his own SMG at full auto in Pounce's direction, but with no luck. The feline fixer had already vanished back into the shadows. I could hear a distant thump through Pounce's ears then a beam of light returned back up to the red-black sky.

Just then I heard voices around the corner. I hid between some garbage cans and a stack of boxes and watched as Karin and Cedric walked along the alley. "...doesn't look so tough. I bet I could survive here." Karin commented. Time to make her eat those words. I made sure I was hidden by the cans then tapped the boxes loud enough for them to hear. Both of them looked in my direction but didn't see me. Karin stopped and put her hand on Cedric's shoulder. "It's an old trick." she said with confidence, "He's over there."

She swung around and fired her rifle in the other direction. Cedric followed suit and followed. While they emptied their guns, I came from my hiding place and aimed my mauser at Karin's head. The noise covered any sounds I might have made as I lined her in my sights. When the final bullet screamed from their barrels I fired. Karin's head vanished and her body returned to the sky an instant later. I then aimed it at Cedric as he frantically tried to reload. "Rules number one thru three. Watch your back. Shoot straight. Conserve ammo. Remember that."

Cedric threw himself away from me as I fired and missed. Before I could fire again he went down another street. And then there were eight. Ratchet had been working on something during all this. I gave up long ago trying to figure out what he was doing. Eiran was running down the street still panicking from Tammis's 'death'. Ratchet was working on the roof. When the timid boy rad under him, Ratchet let loose this large car that plummeted. Who knows how he got it up there, but the trap worked. I could hear Eiran's scream get cut short as the car landed on the street, a brief beam of light rushed through the auto upward. The scales were tipping in my favor.

In the distance Longarm's cycle roared. I focused in on her. She had pinned Larani and Eliza behind a car. Laian was in full battle armor shooting at my sister with a SMG from another direction. She let go of the handle bars and with her left had shot at Laian with a Fed. Arms Tech Assault II. In her other had was a grenade launcher. Neither weapon had no affect on Laian. Why did she do that? Longarm knew perfectly well that Fed. Tech couldn't penetrate armor like that! She had used some pretty bizarre tactics in the past but this one.... Larani helped Laian behind the car. "Hey what's that thing on her back?" Eliza said.

Then I figured it out. Longarm fired a magnetic bomb from the launcher. She clicked a button on the remote to set off the explosive. The fireball was permeated only by the sign of three more Rimfire members return to reality a bit wiser. I chased Cedric to an intersection where the remaining members had gathered for a final stand. I attached the pistol grenade to the PUG before activating it. Celine spotted me and began shooting. Using the wall as cover I retreated backward. Briareus was behind them on a roof top leaped down to ground level with a heavy SMG in each of his four hands. He landed on a pile of garbage making a lot of noise. I knew perfectly well that he could have landed without a sound. But he wants his targets to see how kills them. The four Algolians turned around to watch him fire all his weapons with deadly accuracy. He had run through all bullets in the guns before they were consumed by the white light. Myself and the others walked to Braireus and helped him to his feet.

We laughed triumphantly at how inexperienced they were. We agreed that while Braireus deserved an award for taking out the most, Longarm did the job most creatively. It saddened me to face the fact that they were all simulations. I almost cried as I jacked out, returning to Acrol. I opened my eyes to a crowd of upset teammates. "That was suppose to be an exercise, not a slaughter!" Larani said, "I mean, what was that. I don't even know how I got killed!"

"My sister attached a mine to Laian's back. She set if off when you pulled Laian behind the car."

"And what the hell hit me!" Karin demanded. "Old trick, new twist. You were firing in the wrong direction! You left yourself so open to attack, you deserved to get shot!"

"How did that car get up there!"

"Don't know. Ratchet's been known to do stranger things."

"What was that...that beast?"

"Tammis, meet Pounce. Pounce, eat Tammis." That shut him, and everyone else, up. "I'm sure all of you learned something. Out of your mektons, you are extremely vulnerable. Remember what you did that got you killed. Axis agents won't be this bad, but there will be more of them. You have gained something that training cannot give you, real life experience. If there is a next time, I'm sure you will do better. Every one of you made what would have been a fatal mistake if this was real. Remember what you did and never do it again."

"And just was our mistakes?" Eliza asked more amused than angry.

I was glad she wasn't taking this hard or personally. "Well I'm sure all of you know the one that got you killed, but there is a bigger one you might have missed: teamwork. You didn't act like a team. Instead you went off in small groups making yourselves easy pickings."

"Well YOU went off alone and so did your friends." countered Tharis.

"Exactly and we pounded you into the ground! Despite being novices in urban situations, teamwork would have allowed you to defeat us, maybe. But in any case you would have done better together than alone."

This realization drove home the lesson. All seemed to be forgiven. The simulation lasted only half an hour. This left us with three and a half hours to recover before it was time to get ready for the party. Eliza said she had to leave to make some reports and keep some of her projects going. After we kissed good-bye she ran off. My male teammates shaked their heads in amazement as Aleoi and Celine had stars in their eyes and giggled to each other. Larani dismissed us and we headed off to the rec room.