12 - Program (Sanmer)
Megakat City had not faced a single invasion or attack in weeks. This was generally the norm around winter time. Maybe it had something to do with the season. If any criminal minds were going to make a big public display of might, it would happen around the new year or one of the many feast days. But the weeks leading up to that always ended up being rather quiet; almost a de-facto holiday for the protectors of the city.
Particularly the Swat Kats. Considering how `on' they were for most of the year, it was nice to be able to kick back a bit, repair some cars, and sell gallons upon gallons of antifreeze.
That was not to say that they slacked off entirely; their morning training regimens hadn't changed too much. Their usual obstacle courses, workout routines and training exercises would take up the early hours of their day. It wouldn't be a good idea to slack off.
The Swat Kats gotten some new equipment recently enough as well; the lack of need for repairs to their vehicles meant they could afford some other methods of training without ever leaving the hangar. The cockpit-shaped booth looked (and sounded) like an arcade machine too, with its incongruous camo decals and its plastic shell. Apparently it was one of the most advanced flight sims in the world.
Not that Chance would know. Jake had been hogging it; he was always the first one to hop into the machine, and even got up earlier than usual to ensure he'd get some extra time on it. Whenever Jake was finished, Chance would have already given up on his chance to have a turn, and focused on more analogue methods of training. He didn't really see the point in trying to get up earlier to beat Razor to the punch.
One morning, though, Chance was surprised to find Jake waiting outside the empty booth, gesturing for him to jump inside.
``Really?'' Chance asked, crossing his broad sandy-furred arms. ``I thought I was never gonna get a go.''
``I just felt kinda bad!'' Jake shrugged. It's only fair. Trust me, it's gonna blow your mind.''
``Alrighty.'' Truth be told, Chance was almost at the `sour grapes' stage, eager to discount the arcade machine as a waste of time. It would take a lot to impress him now.
``Let me know what ya think!'' Jake said, practically bouncing on his feet as he watched Chance clamber inside. He had the crazed look of a religious fanatic; clearly he was addicted. Chance rolled his eyes as he climbed in.
The machine did give a good first impression, to be fair. The seat was comfortable and springy. He couldn't even tell that Jake had been sitting in it every day; he couldn't feel any butt grooves or other depressions. It was far cushier than a real cockpit, but he wasn't gonna complain about that. It was a welcome extra comfort.
The cockpit controls looked pretty similar to their jet, similar enough that it'd be useful practice. On the AMOLED screen in front of him, he could see a demonstration of the game in motion, the sky pitching and swirling before him. PRESS START TO BEGIN was superimposed over that. He pressed the flashing green button labelled start, and the chair rocked from side to side with a slight vibration.
``Welcome to FlightMaster,'' a feminine voice cooed alongside a loud chime. ``Would you like a tutorial?''
``Nope,'' Chance said, already scrolling through the brightly coloured menu and examining the rotating models of jet planes. It was impressively comprehensive. As soon as he selected one - the closest one to the Turbokat, naturally - he was in the game. His paws worked automatically, checking the controls and testing the throttle before taking off.
The rumble of the chair was very pleasing; more like a massage chair than an accurate representation of G-Forces, but he understood it was a necessary tweak for the plebs. The handling was shockingly accurate too. He found himself smiling in spite of himself, his frustrations vanishing away. He got it. This was pretty cool.
Even more so when the enemy fighters appeared. Warnings flashed on the screen as the in game radar pinged; it was bigger and bolder than what he was used to, and it made his heart race a little more as it tickled his lizard brain. He barrel rolled expertly to let the attackers roar past him, before immediately opening fire with missiles. As each enemy erupted in a swirling gout of flame, green text flashed over the explosion.
``Great!'' The announcer said, repeating what was on that text. It happened each time he took out another fighter, and another, and another. Perhaps it was more intense than reality, but man was it fun. The pace began to quicken too, more and more fighters coming for him with each consecutive wave. He slipped into the zone before long, his eyes flicking from the screen to the radar to his controls, his hands moving automatically and easily as he outpaced and outmanoeuvred them.
``Great! Great! Great job!'' The announcer kept coaxing him on, as did the flashing, beautiful flames from each destroyed ship. They expanded and lingered like little hurricanes of flame, and he found himself lingering on them a little more every so often.
There were a few glitches, though. Sometimes the words on the screen were different for a fraction of a second, but he didn't get to see them long enough to perceive them properly. Something that began with S. Or O. Or C. It was hard to tell.
There was a bar at the bottom of the screen too. He never got to look at it for very long before it flickered away again. It said something that began with a P.
The swirls of colour enveloped him, and the rumbling of the chair rattled right through to his soul. It was soothing. Very soothing indeed, particularly with the knowledge that he wasn't at risk of death. He could let his body do all the work, and let his brain enjoy the ride. Maybe he would be able to catch those words eventually, and figure out what they were...
``Great! Great! Submit! Obey! Great! Comply! Great! Obey!''
His eyes glazed over as his body moved, and they lingered on the swirling explosions and the throbbing saturated colours of the screen. His ship unconsciously began to roll and spin, and everything else spun with it.
``Submit! Comply! Obey! Great!''
The screen suddenly shook, as did Chance's chair. He was jostled out of his trance for a moment, watching as the screen dissolved into static. GAME OVER, it said.
``Good job! Try again?'' The announcer asked.
Before Chance could press the green button, the screen flashed and strobed black, white, and green. He only wondered for an instant if this was another bug before his mind switched off, overwhelmed and unlocked by the flashing patterns. He stared and drooled.
TRY AGAIN, the screen flashed. Chance nodded.
GO DEEPER, it flashed. Chance nodded.
LEARN MORE, it flashed. Chance nodded.
FALL FURTHER, it flashed. Chance nodded.
His hands rested on the controls again, moving unconsciously once more. Even though all that was on the screen was the camera-flash strobing and the flashed commands, pushing right past his conscious mind and into the deepest reaches of his mind. He would go deeper. He had a lot of training and conditioning to do to catch up with Jake. They had to be ready for their big day at the Megakat New Year Ball. Master would be expecting much of his new drones, to assist him with his grand entrance.