Hello everyone who's still reading this! Here it is, another chapter! Finally. I'm so sorry this is such a slow story, like I've said before, this story is not abandoned and never will be. It will be finished eventually but I am so busy with RL and these middle chapters are fighting me for every word!
I hope you enjoy it, please let me know what you think.
Pan led them through the warren of tunnels at an excited bolt, twisting and turning as Lexa tried desperately to remember the way. What was it with the men in her life determined to travel everywhere at breakneck speed?!
After a few minutes of this frantic travelling with Pan bounding and leaping like a spring-legged jack rabbit they reached the tech hub. Rama and Ran looked up from the workbench they were hunched over, "Ah there you are, good work Pan" Rama smiled, "You pair ready to show us your tricks then?"
"Sure," Caleb grinned, "juggling or sleight of hand?"
Lexa whacked him on the arm.
"What's juggling?" Asked Ran, perplexed, Pan opened his mouth to explain but now, Caleb realised, was not the time, "I'll show you later," he promised.
"Yes," Lexa agreed, determined to stay focused on the matter at hand-they had a lot to do before tomorrow's mission and there were newlings to fight for now, they had to be the very best, "right now we've got tech to share, this is my piece, it's an-"
"EMP device! Magnetically charged using a crank handle storing the charge! Brilliant! You don't even need to tap into any other power supplies! Not even bio rods!" Lexa was taken aback by the pure (and correct) deduction by Pan. She exchanged a surprised glance with Caleb. "He's just like you!" Pan glowed as Rama ruffled his hair, "Don't tell him that, we're struggling to find boots that fit him already without anymore encouragement." He teased good naturedly, But he continued more seriously, "this is some impressive hardware. How did you come up with it?"
"How we come up with everything," She explain simply, "necessity."
"But the components! They're so basic, how did you think to put them altogether?"
This was going to be interesting thought Caleb, "Well," she began, "I was sealed in a bunker, no way out, no escape so it gives you a bit of thinking time. I was experimenting with some of the magnets I found down there, I was trying to work out a way of improving my radio signal to the outside world, I thought maybe I could use them as a better power source using friction to build up a charge. Turns out, not so much."
"I blew up every piece of tech in a 50cm radius."
"Oh. Were you alright?"
"I suffered no actual damage, only my radio pieces and a few monitors and that's the point," her voice raising in emphasis, "the magnetic field, powered with kinetic energy generates a charge lethal to technology but safe for humans-if I could do that much damage with only one magnet and the merest scrape of charge imagine what I could do with a whole stash powered up." She grinned, unclipping the emitter dish and hip pack, "it ended up looking something like this!" The men in the room clustered round excitedly Caleb included, he'd never really had time to properly examine the device that had helped save their lives on numerous occasions. It was, as it turned out, a ridiculously simple design and it was all the better for it, easy to modify, repair and manage.
"Ingenious!" Rama was quick to praise, "and with these components, well, he waved his hand about their workspaces, we can easily replicate them."
"Aye, and that's another weapon for the arsenal."
"There is something though," Caleb looked up sharply at Lexa's tone, trying to communicate an 'oh no you don't' with his eyebrows. Lexa stared at him full in the face for a good half second before continuing. Rachets to his pride-this was important. "When we use these, they need to be charged to a decent level first, any less and they won't have any effect and also, when you're using them, you can't be aiming anywhere near Caleb."
All eyes turned to the Futuregate leader who was looking mortified. "But why?" asked Pan, puzzled.
"It's your implants isn't it?" Asked Ran kindly, "we mess with the bio-energy there's no telling what damage that might do to you."
"Yeah, that's about the sum of it, but it's not a weakness!" Caleb flipped from furious to almost petulant in his defence. "Not saying it is my friend, way I see it you're going to have some serious advantage over some of us, but this is stuff we need to know."
"Aye, it's all important. Like Gil is lethally allergic to nuts and Pan can't have Iron touch him."
That took him by surprise, "Really?"
"Yeah, it burns my skin." The boy admitted simply
"Ouch, well that's rubbish still, it proves you're no Roboid in disguise!" Caleb wisecracked, grinning at the lad. Pan laughed and the mood was instantly lifted, Lexa sighed internally, one of these days Caleb would calm down about his cybernetics, till then, she was just going to have be the one pushing him to accept them and get on with things.
"Well, with that safety feature in mind what have we got next?"
"We've got something sort of similar, not as powerful but it's kind of got the same principle behind it."
"Oh? What's that then?" Smiled Lexa, curious as to how else they could have manipulated magnetic to the resistance's advantage.
Pan's eyes shone to the point Caleb was convinced the boy had beams hidden in there, he was almost hopping foot to foot.
Rama sighed then chuckled, "All right then. Go on boy, fetch your skill." Pan's eyes widened in delight, shooting an excited look at the Futuregate pair he bounded off to retrieve whatever treasure he loved so much. "He's a good lad."
"Aye, well, he would be, you raised him!"
"We raised him you mean, I only had him for the middle bit."
"True, but it's you who he looks up to."
"So Pan's your son?" Caleb queried, attempting to follow the banter.
"He might as well be."
Seeing that this wasn't answering the question Rama launched into more detail explanation, "No, he isn't, I'm not his blooded father-found him manning his home base solo."
"Solo?" Caleb pressed, knowing exactly how that felt. Lexa looked sombre, her jaw tightening as she steeled herself for the next question, "Which cell?"
"Pangaea." She closed her eyes sadly. Caleb watched the shared horror wash over the other three adults-he knew better by now just to ask what had happened when it was so blatantly obvious. "How bad?"
"The worst, I'd lost my cell, so was moving as a single unit and picked up their transmissions, their SOS-I got there as fast as I could." He paused, "I thought the battle was raging full throttle." The remembered disbelief creeping back into his eyes.
"What was it instead?"
"A trap-well, it should have been a trap by the time I picked up the cry they'd been dead for three weeks."
Lexa nodded sagely, arms folding across her chest, "They were luring you all in, playing on our humanity, that's why Galen never answered calls for help. He said those who could survive would and those that couldn't died for the cause and we couldn't dishonour them by adding to the body count."
"Kept us going." Came her steely response.
"But you wore down." Rama countered.
Before they could debate this massively sore subject Caleb interrupted, " But why did you think there was still a battle going on?"
"Because there were still Roboidz attacking, exploding and firing."
"What?!" That caught and re-focused Lexa's attention.
"A patrol were inspecting the wreckage and got more than they bargained for! Turns out one little sprocket survived the onslaught-nowhere to run he set his own traps –did a damn fine job too! That's what was causing all the commotion-by the time I reached there I saw the last of the patrol get blown all the way back to Kali. I got as close as I dared and called out for any survivors-normally traps are the first things to go so someone had to have set them after the initial attack. I was expecting a few fellows but all who appeared, all green eyed and defiant –my Pan, eight going on warrior-he stood guard with his catapult and pipe. I had to convince him I was a friend before he stood down. Poor sprock, lost everyone, like me. He was guarding the remains of his home."
"Rama took him with him and hooked up with us half a year later-been a useful pair," He paused with a smirk, "sometimes." Rama laughed good naturedly at Ran's teasing, "and this one's," he indicated at the approaching footsteps, "never lost his love for the pyros!"
"Not true! I love my comms systems too!" Pan re-appeared carrying something almost reverently.
"What have you got there then?"
"My best invention! It was a metal box covered with what appeared to be lots tiny dishes-similar to Lexa's EMP device, "It's a radio scrambler!"
"A wave disrupter? You built something that can interrupt Roboid transmissions?"
"Well," his face fell a bit, "not that grand but it does confuse them, got the idea listening to you use the glass trick!"
"Glass trick?" Lexa echoed, confusion etched all over her.
"You followed that?!" Caleb was aghast, "That was just a muck around-wound them up a bit-did you," He paused assessing Pan's device with an experienced eye, "did you seriously make a working weapon out of that?"
Pan seemed to be wilting on the spot, stuttering his answer, "Er, yes, yes I mean well, I,"
"That is Brilliant!" Caleb beamed, "Brilliant Idea!"
"You think so?" Visibly relieved, the boy's eyes had grown to the size of juggling balls.
"'Course! Anything we can use against the army effectively is time well spent and ingenious too! What's the range on them?"
"Ah, erm, only a few feet so far-it's hard building the resistors strong enough to generate the field."
"So you made them portable!" Lexa was grinning excitedly, "Pans and Rama's eyebrows shot up in surprise, "you've built miniature amplifiers, only reason for that is to have smaller devices capable of being worn to act as an extra protection, good thinking."
Pan blushed scarlet in pride as Lexa commented on his work. "Well I thought it would be the best way around the problem, I wanted to make sure we had the best possible chance, our food's getting lower and lower all the time so giving any of our hunters an extra chance it's better for all of us!"
"Absolutely," Lexa agreed, "any trick or kit is an advantage. Are these ones thermo based?"
"We're not exactly sure, they've not used heat seekers on us as far as we're aware however none of us have hung around long enough for us to find out."
"Quite." Agreed Rama, "but we've taken precautions none the less, we've designed some basic masking waves to keep us hidden down here, mainly lead waves and and thermo-blockers to try and reduce our own heat signatures."
"Wow, that's some impressive planning! Are they portable too?" Caleb looked up from inspecting Pan's inventions.
"Not yet, we're still working out the kinks and the energy needed to create the field just isn't practical yet-all the kit weighs about as much as Dorrio."
"Ah, another one of the Shinagami sprockets, I'm surprised he hasn't leapt at you both yet, especially you," Rama pointed at Caleb, "he's almost as big as fan as Pan is." Pan reached beetroot levels of colouring which Caleb tried to ignore, "you'll meet him soon enough," continued Rama with a smile, "that one's full of bounce, desperate to go out on mission, can't yet though, no matter what he tells you, he's seven winters only-not old enough for fieldwork yet so don't let him try and bargain his way onto tomorrow's plan."
"Understood," Caleb looked serious, "seven is definitely too smalI, made sure my lot were at least double figures."
"Yeah, that's when they can start outside for real, till then it's tech, schematics and tactics."
"Good way to be," nodded Lexa, "theory them up with plenty of know how before unleashing them, and they've got a stable base," Caleb didn't miss how wistful she suddenly sounded. "They're a lucky lot to have somewhere like this, with such a close knit unit."
"Well, we all need each other we've got to make each human count."
"Too right." Agreed Lexa
"Which is why we're going to succeed tomorrow," stated Caleb emphatically, "human resourcefulness isn't a patch on those can-heads. We've got teamwork, skills and useful kit, so long as we can keep our nerve we'll win."
"That won't be a problem, grinned Ran, but speaking of kit, how does your blaster work? We've been trying for years to make some sort of propulsion that's actually effective against the Droidz."
"Well it took a while," he began, mentally counting up the days, "best part of a month," he continued missing the look of shock pass over his comrades, "I noticed the casing on the Roboidz, the coloured layer is treated, it's a compound, specrulite, it's designed to repel most alien materials so it's got a much higher frequency."
"Frequency?" The rest them looked non-plussed.
"Yeah, it's cranked up a few gears so it's ready to react with anything whilst protecting the all-important steel layer, anyway, this stuff is really hard to remove or get through but after a bit of experimentation I got lucky with my own compound Potassium Magnesiate, it's a good disrupter and after a few goes I found it reacts spectacularly with the specrulite if it's got the right catalyst. I needed something strong enough to charge the KMg rounds and punch them through the Roboidz, turns out the energy in the biorods can do more that keep the can-head clanking about, he palmed up a spare bio-rod, those things charge enough that they ignite the rounds as they leave the barrel, melting the Roboidz casing, punching through their armour and exploding inside the circuitry. It all happens pretty fast, I had to try several times and record the reaction before I worked out exactly what was going on but it turns out it's all just a lot of chemistry," He paused, considering, "and metaphysics," he added.
The others in the room just gaped at him.
"Are you being serious?" Ran asked, staring at Caleb with the kind of intensity that could melt rock. "Absolutely," Caleb was completely unabashed, "it's all quite easy when you put it into place-the trickiest bit is making the compound itself, and getting the bio rods of course!" He grinned, pleased with himself and expecting the others to enjoy the joke. Instead, aghast silence surrounded him, Pan's jaw was hanging open, staring goggled-eyed at him. "What?" Caleb puzzled.
"How did-No, I mean, you've said how, but, but does it actually work? In the field?"
"Of course it does!" He answered a little indignantly, he'd just said so hadn't he?! "Of course it does, I mean, I've not made it hugely practical yet, Lexa can't carry it, nor the recruits, it's still a bit dense with all the storage chambers, pressure gaps and compound pockets, plus the bio rods but it certainly works! Tell them Lexa," he nudged his comrade who was still staring slightly boggle-eyed at him, "we destroyed some of Arkon's best droidz between my blaster and your EMP-didn't we!," He nudged her again. Lexa snapped out of it, "y-yes," she began to recover herself, "Yes we took down a dozen of his best, took a bit of a pitched battle but we did it!" She beamed at him with the memory.
"This," Ran struggled to contain himself, "this is incredible, do you have spares if we can work a way of mass production those rust buckets won't know what hit them!" He was almost trembling with excitement, "may I take a look?"
"Course, you're welcome" Caleb hefted over the blaster matter-of-factly to the eager Ran. The large man stumbled as he took the weapon. Ran said nothing though his eyebrows raised in surprise, he Caleb the once-over, taking in the young man's lean frame. There would be questions later.
"Nice work, Rama what do you reckon? Quick fit and replicate?"
The technician scrutinized the mechanics carefully, "maybe, it won't be as powerful if we make it more wieldy," well, he paused, weighing up his comrades, "Gill could probably manage an unmodified version."
"Why only Gil? Surely it's not that bad!" laughed Pan, apparently oblivious to Ran's struggle.
"Be my guest," the older man smiled.
Pan licked his lips and took hold of the blaster eagerly. He couldn't even lift it off the bench. "You're, you're as strong as a Roboid!"
He had no idea what a devastating comparison that was to unleash as a look of horror passed over Caleb's rapidly colouring face. Lexa jumped in before it became too obvious, playing for deflection-they didn't need to know Caleb's deep-lined insecurities just as much as he wouldn't want to share, "Well, not quite that strong, just very strong, he's saved my life a few times because of it!" She grinned happily at him. He nodded back, face returning to normal, eternally grateful.
"Still, that's just so cool!" Pressed the excited boy.
"Pan, you've been listening to the Zodiacs too much! Low temperature is not a good thing! Cool is for robotics, we've got to be warm if we're going to survive!"
He rolled his eyes, "It's just a figure of speech mukpitaa! Plus, it sounds good!"
"It's only because Gem says it a lot," chipped in Ran failing utterly to hide the grin from his lips.
Pan rounded on him, "No she doesn't!" Ran chuckled as Pan began to turn pink, Rama patted the boy on the shoulder affectionately, "don't worry boy-he's only teasing."
Lexa tried desperately to keep her face under control, partly for the sake of Pan's rising colour and Caleb's utter bewilderment-she could actually see the question forming on his face. No time for that and probably best avoided right now, "So gentlemen," she began, "you think we've got enough to work with?" Seriousness returned to the room, Rama grinned at her, "You know? I think we just might."
Two hours later with a lot of soldering, wiring, hammering, muttering and a fair few explosions they managed to create an interesting arsenal. It was a joy for Caleb to work with like-minded people and actually multiple responses when he posed questions-Mr Ball was never very good at coming up with his own ideas when Caleb became stuck. He was glad he's thought to bring as many spares with him as he did, between him and Lexa they'd supplied enough kit and new ideas to re-equip the Shinagamis with deadly force. "Well," commented Ran, surveying their handiwork, "that's time well spent, let's hope they work as well in the field than as we've tested them."
"We've put them through their paces, tomorrow'll be the judge."
"Aye that it will, still we've done all we can with them for now but there's a few more things we need to sort before we're done," Rama looked sharply at the Futuregate pair for a moment, taking in Caleb's decidedly shabby knee pad (the other lost during a slightly too close-for-comfort run in on Futuregate) and heavy, weathered leather jacket and Lexa's battle vest and dented joint armour," He sighed with an almost parental disdain, "Come on you two let's get you kitted up."
"Kitted up?" Caleb looked surprised,
"Yeah, going into battle tomorrow or, at least might be-it's all well and good having a decent arsenal for once but it doesn't excuse the fact that you two are barely covered." Caleb opened his mouth to argue before Ran cut in,
"He's right, no telling with these rustbuckets what they're going to try next so it's best to be prepared." He led them to an old storage container in the corner and began pulling out pieces of armour, chest plates, shoulder guards, knee pads.
"But all of these are metal!" Exclaimed Lexa in protest.
"Yes, what else did you expect? A blanket?! You both want to survive an attack don't you?"
"Well we've managed a few already," Caleb began to point out before Lexa cut over him, "But their weapons are based off electricity, it's bad enough no armour but these won't faraday, they're too small, we'll just fry right alongside them!"
Ran was smiling all the way through Lexa's worry, "Not if they're plastic resin coated."
That stumped her.
"What? Plastic?! You mean you've managed-"
"To temper liquid plastic and coat the plates with a nigh-on indestructible insulating resin?" His smile beamed, "Yes."
Lexa's grin spread all across her face, "You," she pointed to the Shimagami's , "are far too prepared,"
"Best way to be, you can't be too careful,"
"Not with Roboidz about you can't!" chipped in Pan,
"Exactly," concurred Rama, "so here, take what fits here and kit up, it's not going to make you invincible but it's better protection than what you've got already."
Rather than argue that they had in fact lasted fine up till this point they dutifully sifted through kit, Lexa discarding the too-large chest pieces and Caleb the too-small shoulder pieces. Eventually they ended up with a semblance of armour, Caleb gaining a chest plate concealed under hoodie and jacket-the only way he could get it to fit to him and Lexa took the shoulder, elbow and knee guards, her battle vest more that capable of giving her enough protection. If she was fast enough.
"Well, you two'll make smart soldiers yet," Ran teased,
"We'll prove it tomorrow, just you wait," Caleb grinned back.
"Caleb! Lexa!" two shrill voices cried out, "Ran, Rama, Pan!" Gem and Scor barrelled through the door, "dinner's ready!" They stopped short at the sight of their leader and his friend kitted up more like the Shinagami's. "Wow, you guys look ready for battle!"
"Well, that is the plan, never know what we're coming up against recruits and given that you lot now look so sophisticated how could I not join in?"
The younger pair giggled, "good call Caleb, very sophisticated."
"Heya Gem," Pan cleared his throat, "did, did the rig work okay?"
Gem smiled, "er,yeah it works fine," colour began to bloom over her, "thanks very much."
"You're welcome." The two of them stared at each other, stumped for anything else to say.
"So, you two mentioned something about dinner?" Rama prompted, trying and failing to keep the smirk from his face,
Gem snapped back to reality, "oh um, yeah, dinner, right," Scor rescued her,
"Yep, Imunji's made food for us, come on guys, it'll be getting cold!"
Ran laughed and patted Scor's shoulder, "right then, we've got our orders, it doesn't do to keep Imunji waiting! Let's move out."
"You heard the man, quit the gooey eyes routine you two, we've got some scran to scarf." Both Gem and Pan flushed scarlet and hurried out without another word. Caleb turned to Lexa looking puzzled, Lexa shook her head with a 'I'll tell you later' look. She nudged him instead, "come on then, let's show off our new gear!"
He laughed as she linked arms with him, all of them following the confident Scor.
So there we have it! Another chapter down, once again apologies for the massively infrequent postings but I promise this will be finished eventually!
Please let me know what you think