Chapter 13: Royal VR training room
Rapid Fire Returns
It was still early in the day. Eiran said Ariel had studies to do and they couldn't see each other. I tried to comfort him, but it was hard to with my own problems. What I needed was a diversion. I told the nearest guard and told him to tell the queen that I'd accept her offer for her guards use the program IF I, and the other members of Fireflight got watch. He left and a minute later Queen Ymri and five of her royal guards were with her.

The guards were wearing crystal armor which was not unlike the castle itself in appearance. Each had this large polearm with a blade as shiny as their armor. Ymri thanked me for granting her request and said to follow her to the training room. One of the guards looked smug and said, "We're going to wipe the floor with those digital dopes you cooked up!"

"We'll see who gets erased." I responded, "Since this is no test and just a demonstration, I'll go easy on you. Two of my guys against you five with whatever equipment you normally get."

"You're going to regret being so generous, Cyborg." the leader sneered, "My squad is going to squash your artificial friends."

The others followed me, curious about what will happen or perhaps they too felt the royal guard was overly arrogant. The training room was bigger and more sophisticated than the one in the military base. The guards agreed to only use their standard weapons. I jacked into the computer. Without the skill chip it was harder to transfer the program. Actually I didn't so much as transfer it, but copy it into the palace's computer. Aleoi offered to help check to insure the program went through without any bugs.

In my mind's eye, I could see a light shine over the blocks of the virtual city. A broken roof was fixed here, a car turned right side up there. What I see through the interface is a representation of the program. If the program is broken, so is the landscape. Extra time was spent with the personalities. I did a personal check myself. They came through very well. "Who we gotta fight this time?" Briareus asked.

"Royal guards with an ego that needs reducing. But be careful. These guys won't be the push-overs from last time. They are trained professionals."

I noticed that Longarm still had her bike. Before the beam got to her, I did a quick modification that made it part of her standard arsenal so the scanner won't take it away. My last second addition survived the debugger and my virtual sister-in-law emerged just fine. Then in a flash of light, she and Ratchet vanished. When Pounce and Briareus emerged they were ready for action.

When I first created this program, I allowed for variable strengths and starting equipment. While the royal guard knew they had numbers, they didn't know that Rapid Fire had the guns. A computerized voice reported that all systems checked out and to prepare for program execution. Pounce commented about who's execution it really was. Five beams of light could be seen in the distance. The game has begun. I wished them luck as I jacked out to watch the fun on the big screen. I chuckled anticipating an easy victory when cries of foul play from my friends reached my ears.

I looked at the screen and the guard commander was in a Bulldog (a ten foot Road Striker) and the rest were in Gargoyle Road Strikers (slightly smaller versions of the Bulldog). Each looked like a smaller scale mekton, very close to being considered power armor. Neither were strong enough to defeat a mekton, but were perfect for taking on Badlanders, Stallions, and a pair of Edgerunners or so they thought. This would make victory more difficult, but far from impossible.

Even Queen Yrmi disapproved. "Remember Fox, you said standard equipment. heh heh heh" the commander boasted. I smirked and let the comment pass without remark. The 'Terrible Two' had my complete confidence. Again, Pounce stuck to the roofs doing recon. But this time he was in full metal armor taking away some of his animal appearances.

The guards were overconfident, but they weren't stupid. The squad split into three groups, two pairs of Gargoyles and one Bulldog. Each went into the darkness of Night City with thoughts of an easy victory. Too bad Pounce and Briareus had other ideas. They agreed to take out the leader last. "So he will smell terror." Pounce reasoned.

They waited until the groups were far enough apart to begin their attack. Briareus never cared for subulity, believing his borg body will protect him against almost anything on Earth. However on Algol he was now matched by larger robot suits of armor. He chose to attack from behind. With inhuman speed he executed a perfect leap and Paunzerfaust punch to a Gargoyle's head.

The real Briareus helped develop Paunzerfaust, the martial art for full borg. It was a deadly style which exploited the benefits of having a robot body. Even with cybernetics, regular people could not hope to match the speed and strength required to use Paunzerfaust. Both his right fists broke through the armor, sending large scraps flying through the alley, but he was unable to grab the pilot's head. The Gargoyle smacked him on his left side and he fell to the street.

Each one tried to fire, but neither could keep Briareus in their sights long enough to blast him. As he dodged the gunfire, he drew his borg-only assault rifle and fired into the first Gargoyle's face. The bullets tore through the damaged armor, reducing the pilot's head to a fine mist as the white light yanked the guard out of the game. Shocked to see his partner 'die' so horribly he began firing wildly. With a kick, the Gargoyle's weapon was knocked several yards away. Its minigun was ineffective against the cyborg's armor. Briareus sternly marched to his remaining enemy, picked him up, and slammed him into the opposing wall. There, heavily damaged, the pilot was put out of his misery by a borg-sized pistol shot.

Pounce, on the other hand, was not physically equiped to defeat his pair of Gargoyles. At least, not straight on. Instead he decided on hit-and-run techniques. Pounce did have his favorite weapon, a compound bow, which he used wisely. With 21st century technology and hours of training, his bow was deadlier than any rifle. His first goal was to destroy their rifles. The broadhead arrows stuck deep in the guns, leaving them relatively defenseless. Then he destroyed them by leading them to an old building. There he tricked them into destroying the main support, bring the structure down on their heads. Pounce had shed his cumbersome armor in favor of unrestrictive movement and dexterity. Such agility was needed to escape the falling concrete unharmed. Before the entire building collapsed, the familiar pillars of light appeared through the dust.

Now it was time for the grand leader himself. The brothers regrouped and watched him from high and low. As Pounce predicted, the commander was shaking with fear. This was impossible! Never before had two mektonless people been able to defeat his entire squad. From a doorway across the street, Pounce tossed a flash grenade into a pile of boxes near the Bulldog. With fear-enhanced reaction he shot the boxes and a good-sized chunck of the wall into atoms. The light from the gernade appeared to calm him down, "Got one of you freaks!" he said triumphant.

"Not so fast." countered Pounce as he ran up and snagged the carbine from the Bulldog's outstretched hand. The commander was about to leap after it when Briareus sent him back with a flying leap kick. The mighty borg stood on the Bulldog's chest with rage in his eyes. All four arms gripped a Hyper Hammer (a jet assisted sledge hammer). The commander tried to shield his face with his arms, but Briareus was faster. The hammer swung down hard and fast, caving the helmet in. For a second, before the light vaporized the body, the Rapid Fire insignia (embossed on the hammer) was clearly visible in the center of the crushed helmet.

Victory was ours again. But this would not last. I wouldn't always be here and people learn from their mistakes. Programs do not. This team of four will do well for a while, maybe even become part of standard training. But they will not always win. Eventually, for revenge, the royal guard will return with greater and greater numbers until they win. I was unable to tell my concerns to the simulations of my adopted family. This was the first time anyone ever directly interfaced with an Algolian computer. Maybe they were a bit more than programs. Only time will tell.

The real players were less than happy to say the least, the smell of soiled uniforms was coming from their stations. But the accepted their defeat and vowed to do better next time. Ymri admitted that Dr.Tal and I were right in that this was too much for a woman carrying a child, but enjoyed watching even if her side lost. She did tell the guards that there will most definitely be a next time because until they win, they will repeat this once a week. I gave them my regrets that I couldn't attend their next failure due to my being in space.

The fight made me feel better. The stress of Eliza leaving was practically alleviated and I was ready for the next challenge. So now we had two days of R&R. The ride back was spent discussing plans. Cedric said he was going to go about Loriel some more, as did Celine. Tammis mentioned an air show that he planned to attend. However it was several miles outside the base and Larani told him that several others would have to go with him for security reasons. He then began asking around to see in anyone else wanted to go with him. Eiran, who hadn't spoken so far, was apathetic about going and only answered yes because he had no plans. Karin and Laian also say they'd go. Karin didn't give a reason, maybe because some of the planes on show were military or because she didn't want to see Tammis mope about not going. Laian said she liked the vibes of happy people. Real new-ager she is. I suppose most psionics are.

Aleoi and Tharis said they had plans. They didn't go into detail, but they did promise Larani that they would stay within city limits. As for our leader, she said there was some checking that needed to be done to be followed by just relaxing. I said that I wanted to see more of Algol and get to know some new friends better. Like everyone else I said that I wouldn't go beyond city limits alone. Once back at the base, plans were finalized and arrangements were made.