Proficient

The prize was a certificate. All that stood between him and a watermarked paper copy of the ‘Mechanically Assisted Servitor Unit – Proficient Pilot Certification’ was the final test being held at his nearest certification center. It was just a short trip east on the transit system from his nearest station to Yeoman Heavy Industrial Ltd. He’d made the journey early in the morning, and spent the free hours before the test by his mech.

The Mechanically Assisted Servitor Unit, known generally as a MASU, stood at eighteen foot tall. The connectors and frames all confirmed to a global standard, the result of a UN ruling to promote competing brands and choice in the bipedal mech market. They had long been a fascination of Ronnie Byers, and the seventeen year old boy from Bromley had scored highly up till now.

In the preceding hours to the test, Ronnie spent his time checking, adjusting and tweaking the unit. They were pretty basic models, with standard being the word of the day in regards to loadout and chassis. Originally developed for use in space, they had quickly become a workable alternative to vans, trucks and various specialized equipment. Just one could do the job of a crew, changing tools very quickly to perform a different job. They had found use in military conflicts too, as urban assault weapons ideal for navigating quickly through the gardens of concrete and metal.

Others had gone before him, and in the minutes running up to his test, he made the final checks in the cockpit. The pilot sat themselves in a frame-mounted chair, locking their legs and arms into exoframes that controlled the corresponding limbs of the MASU. Each arm had a Human-Machine Interface port for the wrist, along with one for the neck in the head brace. Piloting them was a mixture of thoughts, movements and switches. It came more naturally to some than others.

The power up signal was given to Ronnie. As the systems in the unit fired up from standby mode, he could feel his consciousness spreading through the machine and becoming an extension of himself. The mech begun to stomp its way outside, the large feet designed to prevent the ground cracking under its weight. The monitors inside the cockpit automatically adjusted to the change in light as he took in the test track, a mock-up urban setting that he was to traverse via GPS guidance, using his skills, techniques and available tools to complete.

“Pilot Byers.” The voice came from his comms unit. “Test will begin when you give your ready signal. Good luck.”

Ronnie took a deep breath, tasting the micromachine-filtered atmosphere of the Biological, Chemical and Nuclear sealed unit. “Pilot Ronnie Byers here. Giving you my ready signal, let’s do this.” The display lit up with the GPS overlay. Driving forwards, he soon switched to the Dyson Drive System hidden in the large feet, using a combination of caterpillar tracks, drive wheels and turning orbs to make his way through the traffic simulations. The grading from all the parts of the test would help his application to the UN Police Force, where high transit speed was a requirement.

Ducking and weaving through the traffic, he followed the co-ordinates given to a building site just off the main road. The directions shifted, instructing him to perform a variety of building tasks with the tools at hand. A burst of thought moved the directions notification window to a sub screen, and over the main screen he overlaid radio-frequency identification meshes that flagged up the tools and their locations.

Equipping them was easy, picking them up like he would out of the suit. Going to the building assigned to him, Ronnie made equally easy work of his tasks. A section of wall was knocked down thanks to a RamSurge unit and proper use of a structural analysis tool. A quickly programmed macro for wielding gave a neat join that would have been more difficult if he tried to do it manually. Holes were dug, drilled and filled. Ground was leveled, walls painted, and supplies moved with thanks to the massive strength increase a MASU provided.

There was a chime from his directions display. All passed and to move on. The next section was on agility and balance. Before even getting onto the course, Ronnie remembered to realign the gyroscopes after using external equipment, as well as perform a weight distribution check. The actual course for this was easy with all the hours he’d put in the simulator, as well as utilizing some techniques not taught in the course, such as a drive wheel clamp lock, to propel himself along the narrow crossing part with speed and perfection. When the course called for him to climb upwards, it was a jump-drive assisted cable climb, mindful of the structure of the building to avoid damage. Another success chime.

Mechanized crime had become an issue, so the next section was dedicated to combating and restraining a stolen unit. The cable system came into play again for this. Entering close range with the Dyson Drive, Ronnie fired the cable clamps out between and around the enemy unit’s legs, keeping the wires taut on the approach. At the last moment, he veered right and around to ensnare it before backing off. Firing the lock breaks into the ground, he crouched the unit to provide a solid base before reeling the cables in. Success chimed thrice, and it was on to the next courses.

Fine Motor Manipulation. Search and Rescue Basics. Law Enforcement Basics. External Machine Interfacing. In-Action Unit Repair. On-Board System Diagnostics. Self-Righting. Each part of the test came and was bested. And now that he was on the home straight back to the base, Ronnie radioed in.

“Test Base, this is Pilot Byers requesting permission to park”

“Permission denied.” An unfamiliar voice came over the comms.

“Repeat that, Test Base?”

“One final test, Pilot Byers.” The unfamiliar voice spoke again. From one of the side roads, a UNAF Defender unit burst out at speed, the white paint gleaming in the sun. “Captain Lance Silverstone, UNAF. You’re good, Pilot Byers. I’m uploading RFID frequencies to you. Arm up.” The mech slid to a stop and gave a salute, before gesturing to a building.

Speechless, Ronnie followed the gesture, the equipment’s tags popping up on his HUD from there. It was as easy to equip the shield, Shock Tonfa and UK N15 ‘Buckingham’ Combined Assault Rifle provided. The display flagged up that the gun was loaded with training rounds. He turned to face his unexpected opponent.

“Just one question before we start, Captain.” He asked, a slight tremble in his voice.

“Of course, Pilot.”

“Why are  you doing this?”

Lance laughed over the comms. “Your documentation says you want to join the PF’s. I think you’re Armed Forces material.” He shifted his Defender into a combat-ready pose. “So you better prove me right. Bring your A-game, Pilot. I want to see that potential!”

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