Steve’s eyes danced back and forth between the two approaching officers. Like most mamono he had seen, the kitsune approaching him was stunningly beautiful in a very exotic way. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the human general was a giant, growing more imposing by the second as the pair approached the elevated testing platform.
“That was quite the spectacle.” Buzz Cut called out as he approached, his gravelly baritone voice easily cutting through the air. His heavy boots beat into the metal stairs before he stood smartly in front of the trio of test pilots, hand extended for a handshake.
Steve, being closest, couldn’t avoid being the first to stick his hand out and give the officer a handshake. To his surprise, he found rough hands with a sensible grip, not the type he expected a desk job to have. Mark and Rachel then offered their hands in turn, spurring the officer to continue.
“My name is General Muhreen Amundsen, and this is my associate, Scientist Dahlia Itrevka.” The kitsune gave a short nod to the three pilots assembled, keeping her hands very neatly folded in front of her. “How did you all find the exosuits?”
While they all remained silent, Steve, being the closest, was once again spurred to act first.
“There’s certainly a steep learning curve associated with them, sir.” Steve remarked while doing his absolute best to keep a quaver out of his voice. “But once you get used to that curve they work phenomenally, sir.”
General Amundsen nodded and turned to Mark, who simply nodded in agreement, then to Rachel, who remained completely stoic. After a brief pause the general heaved a short sigh and shook his head slightly, pushing the aviators up towards his scalp and letting them sit there, revealing deep blue eyes with equally deep bags under them.
“You can all relax. We’re not here to write you up.” Dahlia nodded in agreement at the general’s statement before finally speaking up herself.
“I’m the scientist who invented the mana conversion system that the H’ARM exos are based off of. While Harnsworth has been down here working on the technical side of these suits, General Muhreen and I have been working on the paperwork side. We’ve finally gotten approval to move forward with live testing.”
Steve shared a glance with his other pilots before speaking up.
“What do you mean by live testing?” Steve could feel his heartbeat rising in anticipation.
“Live testing, like in the sky. No steel hangars or safety control consoles. Free flight up to a maximum of 10,000 feet.” General Muhreen stated drily. The barest hint of a smile crept onto his face as he watched the test pilots once again share glances, this time with palpable excitement.
Steve could hardly believe it. It felt like yesterday when he was just getting the hang of using the flight stick and now someone wanted him to fly it for real. It was an intimidating, exciting idea that he couldn’t fully wrap his head around.
“Holy shit.” Rachel muttered, tail swaying behind her as she considered the prospect.
“Wait a minute.” Mark interjected, frown creasing his face. “What do you mean no safety control console? Rachel almost put holes in the both of us!” His hand gestured back and forth between himself and Steve. “And what if the flight system fails? I feel like this is fairly rushed.”
“To start, you won’t be given weapons to put holes in each other with.” General Muhreen chuckled softly. “This is purely to test the flight capabilities of the H’ARM suit. You’ll all need to take basic and advanced flight safety courses through the Air Force and during the test you’ll all be equipped with your own parachute.”
“This isn’t an order, either.” The kitsune added. “This is an offer. Currently you three are the only ones qualified enough to undergo live testing but you may decline. If you do, you’ll be taken off the H’ARM program and testing will be delayed until we can train a suitable replacement.”
Steve remained silent, glancing between Mark and Rachel for some kind of understanding between the three of them but his companions were too absorbed in their own thoughts to respond. Suddenly, though, Rachel’s head snapped up and she gave a short nod.
“I’ll do it.” She blurted out, tail wagging behind her. “I’m definit-”
She was cut off by Dahlia raising one hand.
“You don’t need to decide all at once right now. We’ve left all the relevant paperwork with Dr. Harnsworth. There are release forms to fill out, waivers to sign, and full details on exactly everything that’ll be happening in Nevada. Sending those back to us signed will be considered your acceptance.”
“Nevada?” Steve piped up.
“You’ll be operating out of Creech AFB in Nevada. Lodging, equipment and leave will all be handled.” General Muhreen confirmed before a slight smirk formed on his face. “It’s just about 35 miles outside of Vegas.”
Dahlia tapped on her watch and after a rushed goodbye the two officers stepped off the platform and returned to their car, talking softly between themselves. After watching them walk most of the way Steve turned back around towards his two companions.
Mark was still deep in thought and General Muhreen’s interruption seemed to have put Rachel off balance, although after a few seconds Mark also straightened up and nodded.
“That’s definitely not how I thought that would go.” Mark commented as he started to remove his exo, spurring Steve and Rachel to follow suit. “What do you think about all this, Steve?”
What did he think about it? It was such a whirlwind discussion that he hadn’t even processed everything that had been said. He glanced down to Harnsworth, who was bent down over his desk studying a stack of papers.
“I think we should probably read the paperwork.”
As the trio walked back towards the engineer, Rachel turned to Steve and raised an eyebrow.
“What’s Vegas?”221 Views