The hardest part about training in the vaults is the fact that you’re not only being led by an AI, but the terrain changes with every decision you make. The way the course evolves depends on whether or not you obey the AI. It seems like a simple task, but no one has been able to make a perfect run.
The training courses were originally designed to test Navy SEAL soldiers on endurance and problem solving as well as their ability to obey orders in difficult situations, but the vaults containing these courses have taken on the new role of “reality TV challenge” and this has proved to be quite dangerous.
“Are you a girl, or a boy?” the mechanical voice of the AI synthesizes, two little grey buttons blinking in front of the contestant. He picks “boy” and waits as the small pedestal the buttons are on lowers into the ground.
The room flickers then the voice buzzes out again. “No, you’re a girl.”
The challenger nods and shrugs, thinking this is just a little pre-game taunting, not knowing this course was originally designed to break hardened soldiers. He trots forward on the black platform and walks up a few stairs and comes to a pit filled with barbs. The challenger takes a few steps back and as he does the AI speaks again.
“Jump over the barbs.”
The man snorts at the obvious statement and effortlessly leaps over the pit and a small metallic jingle rises into the air- the sound cartoons make when something is sparkling- and the AI’s electronic voice synthesizes into the room again.
A few feet further the man finds a small statue of a person connected to a sensor plate. It’s the only thing that is gold, whereas everything else in the entire course (for now) is a solid matte black metallic colour.
“Touch the idol. I will forgive you.”
The man nods and pushes the statue’s raised arm down to its side and there’s a flash of green light and the floor in front of the statue starts to grow small metallic vines. The contestant shrugs this off and continues, hopping up a few stairs and jumping over a few barbs and then comes to a small area with two levels. The lighting is dim so he can’t see what each path holds, but he takes a moment to ponder.
He takes a step forward then is stopped by the AI speaking again.
“Take the lower path.”
Thinking this is meant to be helpful the man nods and trots his way down the platform and is met by a few trip lasers and a few tall barbs that looks rather difficult to jump over, so he tracked backwards and climbed his way onto the higher path which gave him no difficulty at all.
Once he comes to the end of this “stage he jumps down and there’s a flash of blinding light and an angry sounding mechanic growl.
The metallic vines now glow in various colours and try- very slowly- to tangle around the man’s feet. They’re growing small barbs with hooks at the end that scratch at his ankles and are all around nothing but a minor annoyance. With a huff the man continues down the metal platform and works his way over some more barbs and touches another idol- still unsure of its purpose.
He now stands in front of a pit filled with rather large barbs and spikes. The gap is wide, but not impossible to clear, and there is enough light from the glowing metal vines around his feet for him to make out there the platform ends and begins.
“Throw yourself into the pit.”
With a bitter laugh at the stupid suggestion the man now comes to realize the AI is here not to help him, but to make him fail, so he gets a running start and jumps over the pit. With a little slip he claws at the ground and manages to pull himself up. As he stands he’s met by another angry mechanic growl and the vines around his angles glow brighter and dig further into his skin and they begin to grow from the ceiling. They’re not low enough to touch him, but they’re just as sharp as the ones tearing at his legs.
In pain and confused the contestant now runs at a slow pace to try and keep his ankles from getting wounded any further, now dodging small ED-E (Eyebot detection and Enforcement) attacks. They’re long antenna are a mess of stingers that are razor sharp, and if you get to close they emit a small sound wave and flash that cause you to lose your sight and hearing for 30 seconds.
Now panting and slightly frightened the battered player makes his way to the end of the first of two stages. He rests his hands on his knees and bends over, spitting some bloody saliva onto the metallic platform as it raises up away from the vines. A small pedestal with two buttons rises up, and begins blinking.
“Do I own your body, or your mind?”
Regaining his composure the player presses the second button, hoping the challenges will become less physically demanding this way.
“Beg for me.”
The platform lowers and the vines above the man’s head lower and begin curling and spiraling towards his shoulders as the ones around his ankles become sharper. They all glow brighter and brighter, causing his field of vision to glare and make it difficult for him to see the platform in front of him.
Despite to burning pain in his legs and back and arms he continues to run through the course, dodging ED-E units and jumping over pits of now very deadly looking barbs and running full speed into walls that he cannot see from the bright light surrounding him.
Finally, after what seems like miles of this horrible fighting he comes to another idol. Pushing its arm down the light begins to dim just a little.
“We will meet soon.”
Panting, bloodied, and weary the game contestant wipes some blood from his mouth and then smears his blood and sweat onto his shirt. He takes a deep breath and then continues to run, his determination stronger than ever.
“Do not move.”
The man looks up and finds a latter. The vines aren’t long enough to reach all the way across, so he takes a chance. He jumps and catches the first spoke, then the evil churching growl fills the course like a sonic boom, and the vines glow all different colours and flash, growing longer and scraping deeper into his skin.
Now whimpering in pain the man reaches the top of the latter, only to fall forward for what seemed like 60 feet. He crashed to the ground and let out a small scream as barbs and spikes are thrust into his body, then everything goes dark and he is lifted by his shirt back to the idol. His wounds are sprayed with a gel that keeps them from bleeding, and the lights return.
Frustrated but happy to not be dead the player makes his way back through what he just did, this time carefully jumping down into the safety platform. He pants and smiles through swollen dry lips, walking slowly into the finishing platform.
“You’re journey is not over.”
Looking around in terror he is swarmed by ED-E units and runs down the dark platform, screaming that the game must be over. He won. It’s over, but the lights do not come on and the vines to not give in and the game does not end.
The man is one of the many poor souls to fall for the trick of training new soldiers. The lie of riches and fame, only to be met by danger and pain.