Chapter 2 - The Chariot
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"Sir...this is incredible! Your son's scores far exceed most of our standard soldiers! Why did you not have him enlisted in our troops before?"
"You know well why. Even if he's the perfect soldier, he's still too young to accept what he's really doing."
"This excuse again. Has it not finally been drilled into your head our current situation?"
"Sir! What brings you here?"
"Calm down, there's no need to salute me. I'm just here to observe our new recruit. I hear he is both top of the class and your son, yes?"
"That is correct, sir."
"As this lieutenant said, it was a real shame that you had not enlisted him yet. But now there's no time to concern ourselves over that yet. Right now, we need to bring your son up to real training: a proper mission."
(The completely white stickman begins to regain consciousness. He finds himself in a hospital bed, surrounded by doctors and nurses.)
Doctor: By God, he's alive!
???: What...what happened?
Doctor: Oscillo told us everything. You were lucky that you managed to survive, especially against him. It's the first time we've had a single survivor from any squad he's targeted...
Nurse: Doctor, you don't need to frighten him anymore, he's okay now.
Doctor: Oh, yes, sorry. Don't worry, you'll be fully recovered in a couple of days, then they'll assign you to a new squad. May luck continue to be with you where ever you go...
(The doctors and some of the nurses leave while the rest stay behind to supervise ??? and the other patients.)
???: I...I'm the last member of that squad...I can't believe it...and who's Oscillo?
(A couple days pass, and ??? has fully recovered. He has yet to be assigned to a new squad, now being stuck to the ship's barracks. He is one day approached in the mess hall by the same red-armored soldier who saved his life.)
Red Suit: Hey, you. This spot open?
???: Sure, but it doesn't look like you plan to eat.
Red Suit: Got me there.
(The red suit sits down next to ???.)
Red Suit: In fact, I'm here to discuss some business with you.
???: What kind of business?
Red Suit: You should recognize me as, well, the guy who saved your life. After I brought you to the hospital wing, I reported what happened to the general. He was impressed. So impressed he wanted me to get into your life one more time to recruit you into our squad.
???: So this will be my new official squad?
Red Suit: Well, if you accept. Let me put it this way: You'll be fighting along the general's side if you accept. Whaddya say?
???: ...for the guy who saved my life, I don't know how else to repay the debt other than doing anything you say. I accept.
Red Suit: Anything? Even start worshiping me like a god and build me a shrine?
???: (Slight chuckle) ...got me there. By the way, I never even got your name.
Red Suit: Just call me Oscillo. Report straight to the Steel Comets barracks tomorrow morning at 7:00 sharp. It's at the West block of the Chariot. Oh, did I mention this ship was called the Chariot? Sorry about that. Well get used to that name, cause for your duration as a Steel Comet, this is your new home.
???: T-thanks...That was a lot of information...
(Tomorrow morning, at 7:00, ??? heads straight to the Steel Comet barracks, where Oscillo is waiting.)
Oscillo: Mornin', kid. Let's just get to the point and begin orientation. I know you're still kinda new to this army, you know, given you've only been on one mission, but we still expect top performance in the Steel Comets. Let's start with getting acquainted with the rest of the squad members. Obviously, you know me, Oscillo.
???: Oh! That reminds me, I was wondering why you've always been wearing your suit inside the ship...
Oscillo: Do you take off your head and your skin when you go inside?
Oscillo: Hah! Just foolin' with ya, kid. Until you climb the ranks, I'll be one of your superiors.
???: Y-yes, sir!
Oscillo: And, uh, don't call me "Sir," either. To be honest, it doesn't really feel right to actually command people, at least for me.
???: Um, okay.
(??? follows Oscillo down the Steel Comets bunkers, stopping at the closest door. Oscillo knocks on the door, which immediately opens to show a white with light-blue stickwoman standing at the door.)
Stickwoman: Hiya, Oscy! Whaddya need?
Oscillo: Just introducing the new recruit to the rest of the team. Oh right, that reminds me. (Turns to ???) I never got your name. Care to tell us now?
???: I-I'm sorry, but I don't remember...
Oscillo: Huh. Oh well, we'll just call you "new recruit" until we do decide on a name, is that cool?
Oscillo: Right. New recruit, Jennifer. Jennifer, new recruit. Jennifer's our firearms expert. She'll handle most long-range situations.
Jennifer: Hello! How do ya do! (Offers handshake)
???: U-um, hello.
Jennifer: Hee hee...must be a sensitive guy...he's a keeper!
(??? accepts the handshake before moving on with Oscillo, who briefly pauses.)
Oscillo: I know what you're thinking, Jennifer. Don't even try to crack into the guy yet, he's not entirely helpless.
Jennifer: Yet you're okay with my joking flirts on you.
Oscillo: That...is different.
(??? and Oscillo walk past a door labeled: "Oscillo" and stop at the next door.)
Oscillo: This right here is the barracks of Symphonus. She seems to prefer to be left alone at downtime, and we've never seen her outside her suit or heard her speak. Don't push her, though. She' still good at expressing anger. Anyways, Symphonus is our main supporter, so be to get near her in battle if you need a morale boost.
???: Got it. Hang on, is she like a combat medic?
Oscillo: She's more like a combat musician. Don't laugh, that stuff actually works, hard as it is to believe.
(??? and Oscillo reach the end of the hall, with a door directly at the end and another to the left wall.)
Oscillo: That door to the left will be your barracks. Lucky you, cause you're right next to the general.
???: T-the general?
Oscillo: Hey, calm down, kid. He's no sergeant nasty as long as you stay on his good side. Besides, it's the only other barrack we have open, especially since...he disappeared.
Oscillo: Oh, never mind that. Just thinking to myself out loud. Make yourself at home for now.
(Oscillo opens the left door, revealing a private bunker with two closets and a bed.)
Oscillo: One of these closets will be for storing your suit. Which I'm sure you don't have at the moment.
???: What about my Lancer?
Oscillo: ...I don't think that needs any explanation. I mean, you did trash it pretty badly. It's amazing how you survived in decent condition while your suit got broken beyond repair, huh? Besides, as the Steel Comets, we're given control of suits exclusive to our abilities as opposed to the mass-produced ones the standard soldiers have.
???: A suit that's exclusive to my abilities...?
Oscillo: Tell ya what, how about we get to finding a suit for you now?
???: A-alright. Let's do that.
(??? follows Oscillo to the suit storage room. The room seems to be completely empty, with the exception of a couple of soldiers.)
Oscillo: Hey guys! Where's the rest of the suits?
Soldier: Sorry, Oscillo. Looks like all the higher soldiers already took them. We've only got the mass-produced ones left.
Oscillo: You're kidding! Well, uh, not to say that the mass-produced models are bad, new recruit, but...
Soldier: Unless you want to try that one.
Oscillo: ...that one? Not even the general could use that suit!
Soldier: Yeah, you dolt! What makes you think the kid could use it?!
???: ...let's try it.
(Oscillo and the soldiers briefly pause in shock.)
???: If it's rejected everyone, then there's nothing to lose in trying, right? I won't mind using a mass-produced suit if it doesn't work.
Oscillo: ...you know, at times like this I forget that your quiet demeanor masks your dog-gone determination. Stuff like that is exactly why we wanted you in the Steel Comets. Alright, guys, bring it in.
Soldier: (Scoffs) Have it your way...
(The soldiers reach into the far back and bring to Oscillo and ??? a strangely designed white and blocky suit. Its triangular eyes stare lifelessly into the two.)
???: It doesn't seem too picky to me...
Oscillo: Yeah, that's the thing. Whenever any of us tried that suit, it just refused to work. Whatever it can do, it just didn't do it for us. Not even the CPU systems booted-up. But hey, this is your call.
(??? takes the white suit and outfits himself in it. After waiting for a while, nothing seems to happen...)
Oscillo: ...huh. I can't say I expected a miracle. Oh well, you said you'd be fine in the mass-produced models, righ-
(The suit's yellow eyes suddenly light up, as its internal systems activate. Soon, ??? has full control over the suit.)
Suit CPU: System check: OK. Evoluzione suit: Online.
Soldier: ...so how's that for a miracle?
Oscillo: What the...new recruit, is there something you're hiding from us? How did you even...
???: To be honest, I don't know either. I just...felt as if the suit chose me...you understand what I'm saying, right?
Oscillo: Well, uh, I guess that makes sense. I should probably report this to the general. You can go back to the barracks, if you want.
(Oscillo leaves the suit room.)
Soldier: Hey kid, you know what you should do instead? There's a training room over at the east wing of the Chariot. You should go and see what that suit can do!
???: ...yeah, that's a good idea.
Soldier: Come on, we'll escort you over.
(??? follows the soldiers to the left wing training room. A battle has just ended, and the loser is staggering out of the room.)
Soldier: Looks like we just missed a battle.
Voice from training room: Oh yeah! I'm on fire! Who's next?!
???: I don't the sound of that voice...
Soldier: Are you kidding? This guy'll be perfect practice for you!
(??? and the soldiers walk into the room to see a crowd of soldiers and a single suited soldier standing at the center of the room. His suit is crimson with claw-like hands. Its narrow and angle eyes scan around the room.)
Crimson Suit: Come on! Anyone gonna take me on?! Or is the great Vinny too powerful for all of you?!
(Vinny suddenly spots ??? walking in.)
Vinny: You! (Points at ???) I've never seen your suit before. How about it, newbie?
???: M-me? I-
Soldier: (Whisper) Just fight him, man! What have you got to lose? The other soldiers aren't going to tackle you like savage dogs.
(The soldiers push ??? forward, who proceeds to walk up to the center of the room towards Vinny.)
Vinny: So do you have a name?
???: ...no. I only know the name of my suit: Evoluzione.
Vinny: Alright then, Mr. Evoluzione, prepare yourself!
(The room's force-field barricades activate, blocking off the crowd from Vinny and ??? as they jump back to the ends of the area. Both combatants begin to feel the weightlessness of Zero-G.)
Vinny: Hope you know how to use that suit, cause I'm about to wreck it now!
(Vinny approaches for a punch, forcing ??? to jet away.)
???: Shoot...he's right! What is this suit supposed to do?!
(Evoluzione and Vinny go into an endless loop of jettisons and whiffs.)
Soldiers: "You call this a fight?!" "What are you doing out there?!" "If you're not gonna fight, get outta here!"
???: I still don't get it! What is the Evoluzione supposed to do?!
(Vinny's hand enlarges as he fully grabs ??? and squeezes him in his grip.)
Vinny: Seriously, if you weren't going to do anything, you shouldn't have even come in! But now that you did, I'm going to teach you a hard lesson in wasting other people's time...
(Vinny continues to tighten his grip on ???, crushing him further. Suddenly, Vinny starts to feel a burning sensation in his palm. ??? proceeds to break Vinny's grip, causing him to flinch in pain as his hand retracts to normal size. ???'s hands radiate a bright light as he fully re-balances from Vinny's grab as if nothing happened.)
Vinny: What in the...
(The eyes of the Evoluzione flash red as ??? suddenly punches Vinny. Vinny regains his composure from the punch soon after.)
Vinny: Oh, I get it. You weren't fighting for real! Alright, bring it on!
(Vinny and ??? both punch each others fists, then zip around trading blows and dodging. Eventually, ??? grabs Vinny by the torso. ???'s hands reach a dangerously burning temperature.)
Vinny: Argh! Kid, this is just a training match! Calm down!
(??? only tightens his grip as he raises his other hand towards Vinny's face. Energy begins to charge up in his hand as he prepares to crush Vinny's head. Suddenly, a dark green stickman general steps into the room.)
General: What's going on here?!
(The Evoluzione's eyes suddenly flash back to yellow as ??? loosens his grip on Vinny in surprise. The force-fields go down and gravity returns to normal, as ??? lands back on the ground while Vinny falls unconsciously. The soldiers make way for the general to approach ???.)
General: You. Return to your barracks, now. I'll speak with you later. Bring Vinny to the hospital wing immediately!
Soldiers: Y-yes, sir!
(??? leaves the training room along with the soldiers. On his way, the other soldiers leer at him briefly and whisper over how he'll personally be kicked out by the general. Once he gets to his bunker, ??? removes the Evoluzione and sulkingly waits on his bed. His door opens, and the general walks in.)
General: You probably understand that I came over upon the news Oscillo brought to me. To think someone was finally able to pilot the white suit...but little did I foresee the dangerous power it had. Vinny is a great soldier, too, and the injuries he's sustained may put him out of commission for a while.
???: I...I sincerely apologize, sir. I just lost myself once I began to lose...
General: Even though it was a mere training match. You should have known you were not fighting for real at that point! Everyone in this ship is your ally, even when they kick you down! But...I can hear your sincerity. I definitely noticed your change in attitude once I stepped in, and that's not a natural transition that anyone would go through. You know, the only information we have on that suit is comprised of rumors and speculations. I will not deny that I am greatly upset about Vinny...so upset that if you were anyone else, I would've personally booted you out of this ship.
General: But the fact is: You're the only pilot of the Evoluzione, and you have the most potent that I've ever seen from any soldier in my years of military work. Just know that from now on, I'll be placing you under serious and grueling training in order to maximize your potential and understand what that suit can do. You have what is truly the soul of a fighter.
???: ...I understand. Thank you, sir.
General: As long as you fight under the name of the Steel Comets, you can call me Genghis. And have you decided on a name for yourself?
???: I...wait! The lieutenant of Bravo Unit...what was his name?
Genghis: Bravo Unit? I believe his name was "Fugo."
???: Sir, if I may ask permission to be referred to by that name!
Genghis: ...I understand. I'll update the records so that you'll show up as "Fugo."
(Genghis leaves the room.)
Fugo: That sudden feeling of extreme rage as I began losing to Vinny...I can't let that control me again...Fugo...you were the first person to give me what I needed. Please understand that I need something from you one last time: Your name. When I die, I'll gladly return it.
- End -