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Learning to walk

Posted on Wednesday June 21, 2017 @ 9:39pm by Lieutenant Ben Carsassis

Mission: The Gathering Storm (ST6)
Location: Jenna's work area
Timeline: Current

Jenna’s work area, 15:00 hours

“OK, so I’ve designed this frame so it’s as easy as I can make it to wear. You open the front of your chair, like this,” she paused as the chair front opened, “and then move forward, putting your arms into.. well, the arms. The suit will drape over you as you move forward, “She smiled encouragingly, “yes, like that! Good!” She beamed at him as he complied to her instructions. “The suit will then strap you in. It’ll be snug so we’ll go slow, I don’t need to shave any of your skin off.” Ben, being quite careful, did as he was told. “Ow, Ow, OW!” He said suddenly as the suit folded around him, catching his skin on his hips. “Sorry!” Jenna called, tapping furiously on her PaDD. The pressure eased and Ben stopped complaining as the suit started to cocoon him.

“OK, now I’ll get it to close you in. Ready?” Ben nodded as the suit seemed to crawl along his back and the backs of his legs like some kind of carapace. “This is really bloody unnerving,” Ben said.
“You’ll get used to it, Ben, just like you got used to getting into a flight suit yourself.”
“Yeah, but that wasn’t trying to wear me!” Jenna’s response was a smile.

Once the suit’s main frame was on and snug, Jenna moved over. “OK, boots,“ she said, pointing to the space-age looking footwear. “built in polarised fields to keep you attached if you’re outside or upside down. You might even learn to skate on the grav field.”
“Woah,” Ben replied, looking up as he put the boots on his feet. As with the suit, they were snug, the interior seeming to mould to his feet and legs. “The suit Will also act to keep your circulation going on long flights,” she said as Ben continued staring at the boots.
“Bloody hell, you’ve thought of everything.”

Next, she handed him a helmet. “OK, before you put that on, plug into the suit.”
“Plug in.. Holy crap!” This was like the first day he got the Arrowhead. Jenna smiled. “There’s an access here that allows you direct access to the LiveWire in the Arrowhead though you can’t control both at the same time, it’s likely to fry your brain. The data won’t gel.”
“Noted,” Ben said. If she was warning him off that, he wasn’t going to push it. In all likelihood, the suit itself would be dormant whilst in the cockpit (he wouldn’t need his legs and the HUD in his mind’s eye would make the helmet’s HUD unnecessary). There were backups, of course, just in case the LiveWire went down but he’d long ago learned how to deal with those situations.

He plugged in to the suit and immediately felt light-headed. “woah,” he said, feeling woozy for a moment. “Hang on Ben, just calibrating, remember your breathing exercises…” After a moment, “Ben, breathe!
Bern took in a deep breath and marvelled how the suit seemed to breathe with him. “Sorry,” he finally said. They disconnected and reconnected a few times before he was comfortable with the calibrations. It would take a few weeks to fully get over that and he would likely get a bit out of sorts when transitioning from fighter to suit for the first few times but they were both confident it would be ok. Ben decided he’d try it once he could walk.

“OK,” Jenna said, “now try to stand. Think abou-“ with a jerky motion, Ben stood upright so fast it took him off his own feet. He crashed heavily to the floor, the suit cushioning the impact. “Kow’la!” He said as he faceplanted the floor with a dull thud “Kow’la Ben, careful!”
“Your suit’s fine,” Ben said as he started to raise himself gingerly to his knees.
“Yes it will be. Are you ok?”
“Yup. I love how this suit moves with me.”
“It should, it’s designed to function as though you’re telling your limbs what to do. Now, try again. Get your feet under you. No, no, no! Not like that. Watch me.” Jenna laid on the floor and Ben watched how she gracefully rose from lying flat, up onto her arms and knees and then to raise the torso to a kneeling position. Ben hit the ground again at that point. “What the hell?” he said aloud.
Jenna, trying not to smile, said, “you’re learning to walk, Dear, it takes time. You have to learn how your body moves and how your centre of gravity and equilibrium move too.”
“Huh,” Ben said.
“Look at it this way. The suit is a LiveWire ‘ship’. The difference is that you are the engine. You can tell the ship to do things but ultimately, you have to be able to make your body understand what’s happening.”
“Not sure I like this, “ said Ben, falling over again.
“Stop expecting your legs not to work and stand the hell up!” She said. She used the tone of authority she’d used in the program; it was a tone he recognised and usually complied with straight away. It took five more attempts before he managed to stand without toppling over.

Ben hadn’t paid much attention to the HUD overlay (which he quickly realised was working in exactly the same way as in the Arrowhead; tactical over his forward vision with a full 720 global view of his surroundings. “I’m going to be really hard to sneak up on,” he said aloud.
“Well, you’ll be pilot, comms and scanners so you’d bloody-well better be hard to sneak up on!” Jenna replied. “I’ve put this together to give you the best survival chance I can. I’m not losing you to some random act of violence if I have anything to say about it!” Ben just smiled in his helmet.

So, he stood there for a few moments, getting acclimatised to just standing. Then he made the mistake of looking around. As his head turned, his torso twisted and yet again, he ended up on the floor. “Any chance of a jump pack,” he said jokingly.
“That comes later,” Jenna replied.
“You’re joking me!” Ben retorted. Jenna’s smile was mischievous. “Please tell me you’re not joking.” She didn’t reply to that.

Getting back to his feet was getting easier (lots of practice). Then came walking. Jenna again showed him how to do it, his first halting step saw him flat on his back as he lifted his foot, swung it forward and lost his balance. It frustrated the pilot to no end and his language got more and more vehement as time passed. The thing with Ben Carsassis however, was an almost inhuman tenacity. He didn’t react well to not being able to do something he really wanted to do. It was that tenacity that got him onto and through the program and why he was the Arrowhead’s pilot now.

After about ten minutes of falling over, Ben had an idea. The Arrowhead had tilt and yaw instruments for atmospheric flight and docking. Ben envisioned such things on his inner eye, slightly to the side so he could look at it if he needed to know what was happening but out of the way of normal operations. Suddenly everything became easier as he began to understand his centre of gravity and how the pitch and yaw of his body worked. His first attempt at a run had him head first into a bulkhead.

“OK, that’s enough for today!” Jenna said as she knelt by him, gently removing the helmet.
“No, I can do this!” He protested. “I have to, remember?”
“Ben!”, she said warningly, “we’ve been at this for seven hours. You walked for the first time today, appreciate that for a while. Learning to run will still be there tomorrow.” She gently kisses his forehead and stood up. “Now, walk back to your chair and sit down. Once sat, disengage the suit and the frame will remove it.” Somewhat reluctantly, Ben complied. Getting out of the suit was actually very easy; it simply opened up and all but spat him out into his chair. “Damn, that feels strange after running around like that,” he said. Jenna smiled and gave him a hug. “Let’s get something to eat, I’m starving. We’ll continue this tomorrow.”


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