Chapter Six:

I followed Nove into the gymnasium/dojo where she acted as a teacher of the Midchildan close range martial style Strike Arts (Developed in the period ranging from 6-10 A.B., there is some debate on who was the first actual practitioner. I'm afraid I shall have to do additional research), the gym bag she had packed for me tucked under my arm. I had wished to bring more advanced armaments, but Nove had restricted me to only a gi and a change of clothing.

I felt that Nove was perhaps underestimating the security risks involved. This was a membership gym, but per my initial security sweep they also ran occasional public an unrestricted public location. Any one of these children could be an assassin, with the possible exception of the child near the front desk who appeared to be three years old (Only possible. She might have had a small explosive device inside her plush bear). We had to be prepared for...

Nove smacked me lightly on the back of my head. It was unpleasant, but as she was a superior officer for this mission, I did not return fire. I considered the research I had done on social conventions as of now, and determined what would instead be a more appropriate response.

I said, "Ouch."

Nove rolled her eyes. "Sette, I volunteer here four days a week. There's never been so much as a burglary in all that time. This building is perfectly safe, so you can stop looking around like there are snipers in the potted plants."

"Negative, the pots are too small for even the physically smallest sniper to fit inside along with the plant. It is, however, possible that some kind of small drone is inside, and it is possible that even a fist-sized unit could conceal a small-caliber lethal weapon, or a small quantity of plastique explosive if it was meant to act as a suicide unit rather than a-"

Nove smacked me lightly on the back of the head, again.

"Ouch," I said, again.

"As I was saying, I have been going here for years, you loonie. Nobody is going to pop out of anywhere and kill us."

"If we knew they were going to pop out, it would be a very poor assassination attempt, Nove. That is why vigilance is important," I explained patiently. Subtle operations had never been her particular strong suit. It was entirely possible she needed this explained to her.

"Just go get changed, Sette."

"Objective confirmed."

After leaving the locker room in the gi that Nove had chosen for me, I entered the training hall where her intermediate lessons took place. I noticed immediately that many of the students were young, probably no older than nine or ten years old. I approved; inducting children to martial skills at a young age was essential to good soldiering. I felt very certain that I would meet many of these youngsters on the battlefield one day, and they would be complete professionals in the encounter.

While fewer, there were a number of older girls as well, ranging from as young as pre-pubescent to as old as the cusp of adulthood. Again, I approved. It indicated that this particular martial style began at a young age and continued training throughout the formative years and into adulthood, showing a thoroughness I could appreciate.

I began to relax. Nove had been right; Strike Arts seemed like something I could appreciate after all.

Four girls broke out of the crowd, running up at Nove with large smiles on their faces. They did not appear to be armed, so I prepared to initiate non-lethal countermeasures as requested by Cinque (Primary Mission Objectives: "Try not to kill anyone, for God's sake.") before Nove clamped a hand onto my shoulder and informed me, "No hitting anyone until class starts officially, Sette."

"Confirmed," I said. This was a somewhat short-sighted order, but I would do my best to work with it. Nove was not known for her tactical skill.

"Oh, Nove! I heard that one of your sisters would be coming," said the first girl, a small blonde with mismatched red and green eyes. "My name is..."

"Sankt Kaiser Recreation Project, subject #18. The first successful duplicate," I said. "Congratulations on achieving genetic fusion."

"...V-Vivio...?" Subject #18 said.

"Yes, that is your unofficial designation. However, it is highly non-indicative of your true nature, so I tend to prefer the use of your official project and number. It makes things tidier," I confirmed.

Nove winced. "Sette, call her Vivio."

"New orders processed. From this point on, Sankt Kaiser Recreation Project Subject #18 shall be referred to by its unofficial designation," I said. Emboldened by this new order, I chose to engage in Secondary Objective, 'socialize'. "Hello, Vivio. How has your life been since you were created in a laboratory as part of a weapons experiment?"

"... … … … Good?" Vivio said.

"That is nice," I said. "My life has also been good since I was created in a laboratory as part of a more fully realized weapons project. Perhaps later, we can discuss the ways in which our lives have been good, and the differing types of re-purposed military hardware used in our constructions."

"I... think I need a drink of water," Vivio said. "I feel dizzy."

"It is unlikely you are ill. As a designer human, your immune system is nearly perfect," I offered helpfully.

Two of the other girls, a dark-haired young lady and another blonde, one more lightly built than the other children, stepped between myself and Vivio defensively, despite having little reason to since I was offering her no threat and in fact bonding with her quite well.

"Stop saying things like that!" the dark haired one said angrily.

"Yeah! Vivio isn't some project, she's our friend!" the other agreed.

I blinked. "They are mutually exclusive?"

"... Huh?"

"Your statement implies they are mutually exclusive, i.e. 'She could be created in a laboratory as part of an experiment, or she could be our friend'. I was unaware that she could not be both. Be advised that she was, in fact, created in a laboratory, as part of an experiment. If this offends you, I recommend you cut social ties soon," I said. Then, turning to subject #18, I said "Vivio, please be aware as you grow older that you may often experience social distrust of this nature. You should not let it upset you, or dissuade you from the efficient accomplishment of whatever mission objectives your superiors deem important."

Nove blinked at me. "Sette, I can't decide if that was horrible or sweet."

I turned to look at her, confused. "I do not think it was anything important. I am merely imparting useful information into Vivio, as one who has more life experience. Artificially created beings often have to face a great deal of discrimination, as I learned in prison when Rebecca 'Shanks' Moreau attempted to kill me in the shower because, and I quote, '[EXPLETIVE DELETED] tin soldiers piss me off, way you [EXPLETIVE DELETED] be walkin' around like you own the place.' She must be cautious when dealing with racists such as these horrible children, lest they attempt to shank her as well."

The room became very silent. I assumed this to be because of my wisdom.

"I... I think I need a glass of water too..." the dark-haired girl said.

"Yeah, I... am a bit dizzy," the blonde agreed.

"Let's... let's go..." Vivio said. "Find... some water or... something."

"Be cautious, Vivio. Though I detect no weaponry on these two, they cannot be trusted to not attempt to assault you when your back is turned," I advised her. "They envy your clear and easily defined sense of purpose, while they themselves are the product of random genetic permutation and have no obvious reason to exist."

The three girls left, then, their heads hanging low and a palpable aura of some emotion (I assumed joy). I nodded in satisfaction at a job well done.

Nove winced. "Um, Sette, I'm gonna go try to lure my advanced class out of their existential funk. You stay here with Einhart and... I don't know. Try not to drive her to alcoholism."

I turned to the young girl who had remained, Designation Einhart, and said, "Extended alcohol use can have negative effects on your physical well-being, most particularly liver function. Please avoid it if possible." Objective completed.

"Yes, thank you," she said, quietly. "I will take that under advisement."

Finally, someone who appreciated my well-thought-out advice. I had begun to wonder if my efforts would be ignored for the duration of my term of service with the Nakajima family. Emboldened by this early success, I chose to again attempt socialization. "My name is Sette. I am a Scaglietti Model cyborg, combat-class. My interests include reading and mid-to-long range aerial combat."

The girl's eyes widened, and some tension leaked out of her posture. "Oh, really? I haven't studied such things much, beyond the few distance strikes present in Kaiser arts. My specialization is more in the area of close-range melee. If you would like to exchange advice, I would appreciate your pointers in becoming more well-rounded."

I felt something which I believe was joy, then. For the first time since my release from prison, I had encountered someone who made perfect sense.

"Of course. I would be very happy to discuss tactics. Tell me, have you read any of the tactical manuals published by General Roculus Volvo?"

Einhart blushed. "I have the collected works. I like to read a passage before bed each night, so I can think of them as I sleep."

I nodded. "Yes, that is very comforting."

Einhart smiled, her eyes lighting up. "Is it not just? I've always felt that each re-reading adds something to my personal understanding of the martial arts, even if they are designed more for traditional battlefield tactics rather than one-on-one confrontation."

"Well, the two have more similarities than many give them credit for. The scale may be different, but both rely heavily on understanding and predicting the actions of the enemy," I pointed out. "Any warrior, regardless of their chosen specialization, can benefit from enhanced understanding of basic tactics."

"Yes, yes!" Einhart agreed excitedly. "I've always thought this was more than clear, but it's so uncommon a viewpoint. A tactic that an army uses on the battlefield can almost always be altered for use by a martial artist in the arena, and vice-versa. It is only a question of understanding the basic lesson and adapting it as needed."

"Well, I'll be damned."

Einhart and I turned to see Nove looking on us with a small smile on her face. "Hello, sister. Einhart and I were discussing the similarities between large-scale tactics and individual combat strategy in a martial arts setting."

"It was very illuminating. I was wondering if I might have Sette's interlink address so we could continue after class," Einhart agreed.

"You know what? As soon as she has one, we'll get right on that," Nove said. "Get ready for class, you two.

My sister patted me on the shoulder, and whispered in my ear, "One out of four ain't too bad for a first try."

Author's Note: Wow, it has been a long time on this one. That said, it also just kinda flew by, didn't it? I mean, it's kinda short but it also flowed like nobody's business! I gotta love that.

Now let's see if that doesn't happen again. The story is near the end, so I may just make it a focus until it's done.

As always, check my profile for additional works, fanfic and original fiction alike. Hope you enjoy!