The white didn't exactly fade this time. Instead, figures of everyone else just faded into existence in a strange white world. Or it was his vision fading in, he couldn’t tell. Regardless, everyone except the mentioned British Army were standing on essentially nothing. Dylan looked behind himself to see Kira looking equally perplexed. When she met his gaze she just gave him a lopsided smirk and a cocked head that he had came to understand as confusion.
To his left and right were a couple of rodent tank crewmen. One was a brown furred female. A mouse, he thought, the same height as he. When they looked at each other she squeaked out a very enthusiastic “Hi!” in greeting. He couldn't stop the big smile that plastered itself across his face. For someone that could hold him in her hand in reality she was incredibly adorable. He greeted her back and when he looked forward again Dahashi was there.
Dylan knew where this was going. The blue fox was wearing a black leather trench coat with all black clothing and boots. Among the other humans there were more than a few groans and laughs. “Okay,” the AI began, “The next simulation you get to pick your loadouts. So what do you need?”
“Guns! Lots of guns!” someone yelled out. You could practically hear the grin on his face. Dylan scoffed as his palm met his face. Some kind of Matrix reference was bound to have happened at some point.
Dahashi responded by spreading his arms out to his sides. Within a moment black shapes came hurtling across the white horizon towards them. Most of the UTO troops took a step back, but that was all they had time to do before the weapon racks came to an abrupt stop in front of them with an audible woosh of air.
It was just like the movie. Endless aisles of firearms, but with extras. It looked like body armor, backpacks, tactical vests, grenades of all kinds, missile launchers, even canteens and military rations. But most notable of all, UTO equipment was on the racks as well. Their sleek, advanced looking designs contrasted heavily with many of the older wooden and gunmetal weapons of human origin.
All eyes focused on something on those shelves. Humans visibly perked at the idea of getting a hold of one of those plasma rifles while the rest of the UTO troops zeroed in on the countless weapons they were incapable of using in reality.
“Dahashi!” Major Ufurin growled out to the AI. “Save your gun show for the rec sims.”
“Fiiiine.” The AI groaned and a myriad of disappointed looks crossed many a soldier's face as he snapped his fingers, starting the whole white wash vision again.
Dylan wasn't sure what to expect when it came to choosing equipment. Maybe some kind of supply truck full of guns, or just a pile of crates. Maybe an armory to stock up at. But he didn't think he would find himself looking at an oddly familiar sight.
It was a detailed loadout menu that could have come straight from a video game he played a year ago. It was some kind of projection right in front of him, and when he reached out a hand to touch it he found it to be totally solid. He also noticed from his arm that he wasn't wearing his Army Combat Uniform anymore. At least not one with the universal camouflage pattern. It was now patterned with the dark blues and light grays of the UTO camouflage he saw most of the aliens and the more experienced humans wearing. He also took note that they were in another square, but this town looked very European to him.
“You look good in standard pattern,” Kira commented, right next to him with her own menu before her. A peek at her screen showed a bunch of chicken scratches that must have been her language in written form.
“You look great yourself,” he responded, then furrowed his brow and looked back at his display. That sounded more suggestive than he intended it to. A sideways glance showed that she didn't appear to take it as anything beyond a simple compliment. Though, truth be told, she made power armor look good. Really, most of the UTO species might look like animals back on Earth but he would be dammed to deny that the women had great figures.
He shook his head – partly to shake the thoughts, partly from a little pang of sadness. When he was a teenager playing video games he would have jumped at the chance to get with a beautiful alien woman. Now the reality would just be silly.
He scanned over his options on the screen. It looked like he was locked into the medic 'class' but he had options for his equipment. He went straight to see what his choices were for his weapons. It was defaulted to an M4 in the assault rifles section. He cycled through the rifles to see what else there was. There was an M16, a few AK types, some bullpups – essentially the primary rifles of many human militaries back on Earth. But there was actually the option for a light plasma carbine as well. That was interesting. However it was listed as saying 'Training requirements not met.' Well, someone was being a tease. An alien plasma gun would be pretty awesome. He switched from the assault rifles to find there was only one other class of weapons he was allowed to chose from: shotguns.
There were only two: an M870 and an M1014. A pump action and a semi-automatic respectively and no UTO equivalent. It was a pathetically small selection. Perhaps more had yet to be added. He stared at the latter weapon. An automatic shotgun was what he carried around in the zone after finding one in an abandoned home. It wasn't this model, but this one was of superior quality. Small arms were near useless against armored Rynar, but a shotgun shooting a slug could cause a hard enough impact to agitate and draw attention – ideally away from civilians. A lot of guardsmen were lost that way. But a powerful enough shell or a high powered rifle could cause decent damage if the shot was placed right. Burrowing a round into a gap in the giants' ankle armor earned you bragging rights.
He also never killed or even threatened anyone with his issued M4. When it came to... certain matters with his own species the shotgun performed very well. He internally debated with himself over the rifle or the shotgun. The rifle would be more useful in general and the buckshot and slugs being capable of penetrating Rynar armor effectively was in question. But this was just a simulation – a game, even. He decided to go with the weapon he felt more comfortable with and selected the automatic shotgun. There were a few ammo types to choose from so he loaded up with an assortment of slugs, sabots, and buckshot. He was impressed by the selection of attachments he could choose from, but eventually settled on just a red dot sight.
He scanned over the rest of the options and decided to keep the default equipment – a few grenades, a knife, and an M9 service pistol. Some things were locked onto him – like his medical supplies of course. But he would even get an entrenching tool on his belt. He had some options for armor, all the way up to essentially a knight's suit of kevlar and plates complete with a ballistic face mask. Except all of that was locked out. The only option open was a lightweight set of plasma resistant armor, so he had to choose that. Finally satisfied he confirmed his loadout which prompted the menu to close and vanish completely from existence.
He figured he would load into the actual combat sim later with the equipment on him but it turned out he would get it now as the kit started to silently phase into existence right onto his person. He had to catch himself as he suddenly found himself bearing the weight of a full combat load. Within seconds he was dressed and armed with exactly what he had chosen. The armor consisted of a chest piece as well as protection for the whole lengths of his arms and legs. His tactical vest, equipment belt, and backpack settled on top of the armor and the familiar weight of a slung weapon graced his shoulder. The helmet was a full head piece with a large, clear visor for his eyes.
“So... based on how you humans reacted, I get the feeling that was some kind of reference to something,” Kira spoke again, grabbing the medic's attention. When he looked at her she was wearing some kind of unpowered heavy combat armor. He reached for his helmet to fiddle with and was pleased to find that the entire cover for the face could just slide up onto the top of his head. Kira cocked her own head at that. “It's kind of unnatural how simple and easy armor is for you people.” To emphasize her point, she had to release latches on her helmet and pull the entire front half of her helmet off to free her muzzle.
Dylan shrugged as she attached the helmet halves to her shoulders. “I guess, none of those extra protrusions to get in the way.” Her muzzle, tail, ears on top of her head, and bent legs all complicated the design of her armor. But it all made her look extremely badass. He thought he looked rather plain in comparison. “As for the reference... yeah, that was from a movie.”
“We should watch it sometime. I'm curious what kind of scene could possibly need all of those weapons or that... clothing.” Dylan only chuckled in response. He wondered how aliens would react to over the top movies like 'The Matrix.' It almost felt embarrassing to think about them watching films with insane action sequences. Surely they had their own equivalents though?
“I wonder if he pulled that stunt in an attempt to humor away the problem.” It was amusing, but Dylan wasn't exactly going to forget what Dahashi had done that easily.
“Didn't you hear Mitchell? He pulled the wishboning from my head.” He was more or less over the fact the wishboning happened at all. That haze had a brilliant dream like effect, so it really was just like calming down after a rough nightmare. But the fact that someone was picking through his head was most definitely not something he could shrug off.
“He probably picked it up from the virgin connection. Whenever you first connect to a simulation as advanced as this with an AI, there will be a sort of leak. This ends up bombarding the AI with information until they can plug it. I highly doubt Dahashi pulled anything from you himself.”
“Seriously?” He asked, more than a little flabbergasted. Was there some kind of briefing he missed on how these things work? “Why didn't he tell us this?” Kira only shrugged in response. Was privacy not a big deal for these people? “Okay, so how would I be able to tell if he didn't just go looking for stuff on the zone? He asked me to help him build a sim of the zone but I turned him down.”
“You can't, not without an implant. Dahashi would never have gotten this contract if he violated privacy like that. If it makes you feel any better, he deletes anything private. However, wishboning is an act, something to expand his knowledge. He would have kept what it is and how it's done, but not any experiences you had with it.”
Dylan sighed, defeated. “That was something I wanted to die with the zone, Kira.”
He felt her heavy hand rest upon his shoulder once more. “Just remember it wasn't real. Mitchell and I'm sure Ufurin know Dahashi made a big mistake here. They'll handle it.” She lightly squeezed his shoulder before letting go. “Now, I need a favor from you.” Dylan perked up, curious as to how he could help his guardian with something. “Could you keep an eye on Trikil's charge?” The wolf nodded towards one of the human soldiers. It was Corporal Cody Shaw, if Dylan's memory served him right. The very one that was grabbed by the fox. The bespectacled Canadian was speaking to his guardian while holding a belt fed machine gun that looked almost too big for his slight frame. He handed it to the taller red vulpine who looked at it curiously. “I'm sure its nothing, but I heard Trikil say some odd things. Just look out for any strange behavior.” Dylan nodded silently. The pair seemed perfectly amicable, but that didn't mean much – it had only been a day for these relationships to develop.
Cody noticed their look and smiled. He grabbed his machine gun by the carry handle and lifted it out of the fox's grip, said something to him, and turned to approach with his guardian by his side. “Hey there!” the smaller soldier chirped as he approached, “People can't stop talkin' about ya. You may have the coolest head here.”
Dylan shrugged, but didn't say anything before Trikil spoke next. “I hope we get to switch scales at some point. That would be fun.”
Dylan wanted to ask him how it would be 'fun.' Thinking about giants tearing through smaller people made his stomach churn because he himself had been on the receiving end – along with the rest of humanity. Even with the brutal realism of the simulations, you didn't lose anything in the end. Your comrades were not really pasted across the pavement. The aliens would never be able to fully understand what it was like to be the little ones.
Before they could continue, Yirshan came padding up, expanding their little huddled group further. “Ugh, I'm just going to talk with you lot. I have got to get away from Kemeng. He completely lost it when I told him.”
“What could you have possibly told him to make things worse?” Dylan asked. Kemeng already disliked Yirshan for being a female with power over him. He drew a blank on coming up with anything that could exacerbate the problem.
“I'm a hermaphrodite,” she deadpanned.
“What,” both humans stated flatly. The dragoness' eyes darted between them, analyzing their reactions.
Well that certainly could do it. With someone as backwards as Kemeng something like that could most definitely fan the flames. Dylan was the first to speak, rather interested, “As in both male and female genitalia, no problems?”
She fluttered one of her armor clad wings, something he had picked up on as meaning confirmation. “A third of my species as well as our sibling species, the Jahkatians, are fully functional hermaphrodites.”
“No way,” Cody drawled out. Yirshan looked at him, trying to gauge his reaction. A moment later he chirped out, “That's awesome!”
Her eyes widened a bit and her mouth gaped in surprise at the words. She then offered him a toothy smile and looked up to Trikil. “Can I have your charge? I like him already!”
“Sorry, that would mean I would get yours. He doesn't seem very nice.”
Cody chortled and looked at Dylan. “I bet Kemeng's upset that she's basically a woman with a dick bigger than he is.”
The medic snorted. “Oh, that shattered pride.” He started to laugh with the other man. Yirshan appeared to be very happy that the two humans were not at all like her charge in their prejudices. Dylan never would have guessed it. She looked totally female, right down the mounds on her black scaled chest. He noticed that there appeared to be more female dragons and gryphons than males. This must account for that, and implied that the hermaphrodites tended to take on the female figure. “So,” Dylan continued when the laughter stopped, “is this unique to yours and your sibling species?” She nodded in confirmation. It was nice to know that humanity wasn't the only one with an unusual twist.
Kira decided to interject. “Well... technically, yes. The only ones that are born that way naturally.” Dylan thought she was referring to sex change operations until she elaborated. “Thanks to modern medicine, people born with intersex traits can fully develop.” The two humans simply stared at her for a moment until she realized. “Oh, I'm female.” She confirmed with a grin. Dylan and Cody looked at each other again, both a bit surprised. The medic would have expected them to adjust intersexed persons to one gender. Apparently UTO medical science just decided to say 'Why not both?' Maybe the dragons and gryphons had a role in influencing that decision.
They idly chatted for a few minutes. Trikil didn't seem particularly threatening and Cody didn't exhibit any signs of being afraid of him. Perhaps Kira was worried over nothing. Yirshan appeared to be much happier now that she found herself in good company, and much less threatening – but that had to do with size more than anything. These sims truly eliminated the daunting size gap and left all of the pleasantness that was talking to actual aliens. If only reality were like this.
Eventually, Dahashi appeared in the center of the square, now wearing British camouflage. Standing next to him was a female black squirrel. He gathered everyone's attention. “Hey! Sorry, had to sort out some problems on the Earth end.”
Right after he spoke, the squirrel piped in, “Greetings! I'm Jahlay, the administrator of the Catterick Garrison simulation hive. Today, you will be participating in a cooperative battle with counterparts from the British Army here on Earth – a platoon of infantry and a troop of tanks. Before we start, how about you all say hello.” She gestured to the other side of the square where the figures of human soldiers and three tanks began to fade into existence. They all had a straight backed pose and dead eyes pointing forward. Once their forms fully generated consciousness came to them. The hatches to the Challenger 2s opened up to reveal the crews already inside.
“God! Are those real UTO troops?” one of the British soldiers exclaimed, and within moments the dozens of human soldiers closed the gap between the two militaries. The furred and scaled soldiers, now finding themselves with a number of humans other than the handful of charges, eagerly met them. The two platoons flowed together with human troops happily greeting their other worldy fellows. It was fascinating to see, Dylan thought. You would be hard pressed to find a human that had a negative opinion of the UTO. But meeting the aliens in reality was daunting simply due to their size. But here, human arms were quick to clasp with alien in a show of gratitude impossible in reality. It didn't matter that these soldiers were never sent to Earth – they were still a part of the body that saved humanity.
“Those are big tanks,” Yirshan noted as they approached the metal behemoths. By now the rodents had moved their five tanks to rest next to their three human counterparts and the crews were checking out each others' machines. Their similar sizes allowed them to easily slip into the vehicles.
“You know, it's funny that you say that,” Trikil said, “considering in actuality they look like toys.”
There was a powerful contrast in appearance between the tanks. The UTO versions were a fair bit smaller and bore a sleek design with sloped, rounded hulls and compact, domed turrets with comparatively short barrels jutting out for their guns. At their rears were massive heatsinks whose sole purpose was to soak up the heat from strikes against the armor and vent it out the back – hot enough to melt the skin from your bones. They also lacked any kind of suspension at all as they hovered about. So when turned off they actually sat right on the ground making them look even smaller. The human tanks could easily catch them under their tracks and totally flatten them.
The British machines, while sharp looking in their own right, looked like boxy monsters with their gigantic turrets, tall profiles, hard edges, and long gun barrels. They appeared a lot more menacing to Dylan, but whether or not they were more effective was up in the air. He wanted to say the UTO tanks would destroy the Challengers simply due to the technological gap. It made sense. But these were totally different technologies, and that question could only be answered by putting it to the test.
A black and white mouse poked out of the driver's hatch to the middle human tank wearing a pair of goggles he likely swiped from inside. One of the machine's crewmen pointed to a few things in front of him that the rodent fiddled with and then suddenly the tank's engine came to life, much to the surprise of many. That was something else different between them. The hovering tanks had a sort of hum to them that you could probably fall asleep to. The tracked versions, however, growled loud enough to rattle your bones.
Dahashi and Jahlay appeared next to the vehicle and the fox lightly tapped it, abruptly cutting the engine. “Now now, you all can play with each other's toys later. We need to get this going. Take it away, Jahlay.”
The black squirrel stepped forward and paced in front of the tanks. “For most of you at Turhal Grounds, you probably will not recognize this architecture. It's actually based off of a small English town on Earth. We're going to have what I hope will be a rather exciting battle here, and the humans joining the UTO military will get a taste of how it works. However it is not going to be as...,” she paused for a moment as she gazed at the avatar of Dahashi with a hard look, “intense as the previous session. The haze will still go into effect, however the pain aspect will be heavily toned back.”
“You can do that?” one of the charges asked before blurting out, “God dammit! Why the fuck did you torture us with that crap last round, fox?!”
Dahashi responded with his ears folded back, “That was not my decision! It was meant to shock the other UTO troops. To make them fully understand how difficult the human position is.”
Jahlay gave him an angry look as she said, “You didn't need to abuse the pain aspect with that stunt at the end.”
“You're right, I should have done that without the pain set to realistic. But that is one of the worst things I have ever heard about done to their kind. That brutality needs to be known.”
“Why?” Dylan piped in. “What was the point of putting it in there, and not your zone simulation?”
“Was that not how it played out in reality?” Dahashi countered.
The medic didn't immediately respond. His mind danced with memories best left forgotten as he simply stared at the AI with a blank look in his eyes. The zone was a unique place in that it was an occupied territory surrounded by fighting. That made it a heavy deployment area for the Rynar. Troops moved in and out in large numbers. Those coming back from the fighting were often very stressed and tended to get deployed to tracking down human resistance. The National Guard units were severely under equipped to fight the Rynar. It was not uncommon for the invaders to just dive in to a group and go wild. Wishboning was an unfortunate result of that. What happened in the simulation was much like what actually happened to the Guard units that stayed organized. Soldiers would be completely overrun and defenseless against whatever twisted whims the Rynar had in mind. If there were civilians with them, they were even worse off. Guardsmen could have dangerous equipment on them, including explosives, that made holding onto them too long risky. A lot of frustration was directed towards human soldiers, but plain clothed civilians were absolutely vulnerable. When humans were alone and the giants were bored and filled with hate – the worst happened. It really was the zone in a nutshell. Under normal circumstances, the Rynar were too busy with military action to stop to waste time tormenting people.
Dylan felt Kira's hands on his shoulders and he realized her face was directly in front of him. She lightly prodded him with her nose and he felt her fur graze his cheek. When she noticed he snapped out of his stupor she pulled away and he finally answered the question. “Yeah... more than a few times.”
“What?” Cody lightly said and looked at him confused. That was another thing. It was hard for the larger species in the UTO to grasp the human perspective, but at the same time few of his fellow man fully realized what giants could do to them.
To Dahashi's credit, he didn't say anything like 'I told you so.' Instead he merely slipped right into the briefing on the mission, but Dylan drowned it out. Whatever the case will be, that strange dream haze thing would make sure he knew. Instead, he just felt anger in his heart. His hand caressed the barrel of the shotgun behind his shoulder as his long, blank look turned to a fierce scowl just before the world flashed white.
Kira's squad lay prone upon a low rise surveying the edge of the town before them. It had been occupied by a light Rynar force, and that just would not do. It was a small objective in the grand scheme of things, but it had to be done. Thankfully soldiers from their ally, the human nation of Britannia, wanted their town back and provided what they could.
First Lieutenant Fahne Kulshah's voice spoke out over the radio, “Since we have no support at all, it looks like the tanks will have to lay down fire to cover the advance...”
The officers among the tanks and infantry platoons were going back and forth on how to proceed. Kira, meanwhile, was assessing the Rynar defenses. On the platoon wide combat map pings and notes were coming up along the edge of the town marking confirmed Rynar positions as well as suspected locations. The data would be sent to their tanks to maximize damage while they fire and advance. Unfortunately, the British humans didn't have such technology. Their soldiers didn't even have HUDs. How they were still a standing nation even with the UTO as an ally was beyond her. Speaking of humans, she looked to the one laying right next to her. Private Maddock, the medic assigned to her squad. He wasn't connected to the network, so she reached a big hand over to his helmet and flipped a small switch on the back of it. He cocked his head lightly as he said, “Oh look at that! I have a heads up display.”
“How did you even get out of training without knowing about your HUD?” she asked, amused. She should be angry at him, but for some reason she just found it humorous.
“I... don't remember training?”
“Oh, well that's just great isn't it?” She noted he was also carrying some kind of human designed weapon, rather than standard issue. What was it with humans and their crazy boomers?
“Readiness check!” The commanding dragoness ordered over comms. “Dolby! Turn your HUD on.” There was a pause, and another human connected to the platoon, followed by quite a few more. Incredible, do humans hate technology? “How did you people get into my platoon?!” the officer cried in disbelief. Kira looked over her squad. There were fifteen connections and they all looked ready to move, so she signaled her squad's readiness.
The British troops didn't have this system so they had to speak out over the radio. The infantry platoon confirmed its status and the tank squadron commander growled out, “We're gonna grind 'em under our tracks.” The wolf looked over to the human tank to her left. The thing was so heavy it was practically sinking into the ground. There wouldn't be much left if a Rynar got crushed by that.
Once the whole unit was ready the tanks were ordered over the hill where they opened up with their main guns. The British tanks took longer to begin firing, as they had to find a target, but when they did Kira felt like she was punched in the chest and her aural dampeners had to work overly hard to suppress the incredibly loud sound.
The tanks gunned their engines and peppered the edge of the town with their automatic weapons. Kira's squad followed directly behind one of the human vehicles. The sergeant jogged up to the rear and peered over it as it moved to look at the Rynar defenders. This could make a good mobile firing position. “Get up here Jorik!” she ordered to her gunner. The wolfess nodded to the other side of the tank and the lion propped his plasma repeater against it and began to add his fire while Kira fired from the other side with her rifle. Her ear protection made the loud engine noise bearable, but the vibrations on the other hand were insane. Her weapon rattled on the engine deck, but she couldn't jog and aim properly without it. So she did her best and fired into what looked like a group preparing an anti-tank weapon. She flagged the position as a high priority target and was rewarded a few moments later by a satisfying blue plasma cloud obliterating the threat. It was a good spotting position, too. You couldn't do this with a normal tank, the heatsinks on the back would really ruin your day. At least these monstrosities had that going for them as they trundled along with all the grace of the mighty fipatia of the great plains back home.
Return fire streaked across the field back at them, but the human tanks stood up remarkably well against plasma through their sheer armor thickness. She would damn well hope so – the things were heavy enough to shake the ground beneath her paws.
But they could not vent heat from their armor like a normal tank without heatsinks. Several impacts from light anti-tank weapons hammered into the front of one of the machines. They didn't burn through, but its front was practically on fire as the plasma bolts licked across the armor. “Bloody hell! Open the dammed hatches!” The crew commander cried as he popped out of the turret. He grabbed a hold of the heavy gun in front of him and started to rake the enemy line with it while staying low behind the gun shield. “God, turn the AC up!” he yelled between bursts. Return fire started to pelt the turret and a couple struck the gun shield, prompting the man to wisely duck back inside, but with his hatch still open. It wasn't long before all three tanks were opened up in a desperate bid to ventilate heat before it became too much. Kira shuddered at the thought. Maybe plasma couldn't get through the fronts of these tanks easily, but heat it up enough and the crew would be cooked alive.
Once they reached the town the soldiers broke out from behind the tanks and began to spread out. The British and their vehicles formed together and took their own streets while the UTO did the same. Very rapidly Fahne issued her orders to her squads through the command hub. Kira's map lit up with objectives and waypoints. She took a moment to assess her tasks before she sent her squad down one street that would head straight to the town square. A pair of hovering tanks and another squad accompanied them. Kira nodded to Yirshan leading her squad parallel to her. Both sergeants had two of their three fireteams begin to check each building for hostiles as the rest continued down the road.
The British troops had to regularly report their progress through comms. Fahne did her best to keep her own platoon in synergy with the humans and to avoid incidents of friendly fire in the event a UTO team ran into a British team while clearing buildings. But through an impressive demonstration of coordination, their ally managed to keep pace as the teams went room to room without missing a beat. The chatter of human gunfire erupted from a few buildings and the flashes of plasma fire could be seen from a few windows. A couple reports of wounded came up, and two dead among the British.
When they reached the town square they were met with a large portion of the Rynar garrison that managed to collect itself to meet them here. The Rynar looked like they wanted to have a firefight right here across the open space. With all these tanks? The fools. If civilians were around what the tanks did next would be out of the question. But the only ones in this place were the Rynar. Perfect.
Ignoring the Rynar tanks moving into position their own armored vehicles fired into the buildings the lizardly troops were shuffling into. Explosive charges gutted the lower portions of the structures, scattering the soldiers and briefly sowing chaos that the UTO soldiers gladly took advantage of as they blitzed across the square. It was akin to a firing squad when Kiras team reached the other side, took aim, and essentially executed their foes. Apparently the Rynar decided to send their greenest soldiers here. This was rather pathetic.
The tanks were right behind them, and they made sure their next salvo was destined for their counterparts. Specialist Veena was already preparing her light plasma cannon to help overwhelm the heatsinks of an enemy tank in front of them. The zebra had her weapon aimed, ready to try to deliver a killing blow if the tanks failed to overwhelm the armor.
The Rynar vehicle was in the process of reversing away as infantry weapons pelted its armor. Kira was about to give the order for Veena to shoot anyway, to at least force some downtime on the tank as it cooled, when something big and fast flew over her squad and straight into the front of the retreating tank. The human shell, designed for sheer kinetic penetration, had no problems at all in tearing a neat hole right through the armor made to halt plasma. A loud boom and a flash of flames blew out the bottom signaling the destruction of the power core. The hovering vehicle plopped down onto the ground, unmoving.
“Outstanding work!” Fahne cried over the radio. The square was already theirs. These Rynar must have been fresh out of basic training. It was like putting down a bunch of animals. But it wasn't over yet. “Kira, clear the town hall, bring the wounded in, then leave a fireteam to defend them. Now keep going! Don't let them gather their wits!”
Dylan broke off from her squad and went straight to the wounded being brought into the hall. She was glad to see there were only a few, even with her squad carrying more over. A check on the platoon roster listed two dead and four wounded. She silently wished a prayer for the dead, but at the same time her own will mounted. That was an outstandingly good exchange for the amount of Rynar put down. Now they just needed to carry it on to the end and smash the rest of these lizards into the ground.
“Over here.” Specialist Tihiri Walay, a black fox, motioned with her head towards a table. She kicked the chairs away then they placed the stretcher on top. Dylan tossed his shotgun onto one of the chairs then immediately got to cutting off the hyena's tactical vest. He managed to yank it off, allowing his fellow medic to find and release the clamps on the chest armor with practiced ease. The human then cut open the tattered undershirt; finally revealing the wound. It was a burn, of course, but the impact against his torso spalled the armor, so now he had a burn with blood pouring out as fragments from his chest rig burrowed in.
“Is it bad?” the canine gasped out as his head twitched and he bared his fangs in agony.
“It's a lot better than I thought. You're going to be fine, just relax so we can work.” That was a lie. He didn't actually anticipate the armor spalling from plasma fire. Both UTO medics looked up from their patient to see their British counterpart leading members of Kira's squad carrying in the rest. A total of four wounded for three medics. This was good. But where were the British wounded?
“I'll take care of this one. I want you to assess the rest with the other human,” the vulpine ordered and went straight to work on the hyena.
The Briton was inspecting the thigh of a huge lion before he looked up at his fellow. “Looks like massive damage to the muscle. Non-life threatening, can't walk on it.” He gave the big male a shot of painkiller and the pair checked the next soldier. The horse was clutching his arm between his forearm and upper arm while the whole thing hung limply.
“I've been stabbed, doctors,” he said rather flatly. It was bleeding badly, he likely was feeling lightheaded.
“Shit, right there, lad?” The Englishman nodded to the last patient, a gryphoness that his HUD pegged as Corporal Hatia Pafil. “Check her, I'll handle him.”
The winged alien was hunched over, clutching a large gauze pad to her abdomen. “What happened?” Dylan asked as he lightly pressed his hand to the bandage and eased her onto her back.
Her feathered face twisted in pain as she laid back. “I- I was shot in the stomach. I had to take the plate off. Then of course an explosion goes and blows some shrapnel into me.”
“No burn then?” She shook her head. “Quite a bit of blood though.” He peeled away the bandage to find her undershirt riddled with small holes. He cut the clothing away to see that they were all fairly shallow. She was one lucky gryphon. “Okay corporal, this isn't too bad. I just need you to stay still while I start pulling these out.” She relaxed and he used a pair of surgical tweezers to tug on a shard sticking out of her.
“Oooh ow ow, watch the fur, human!” the golden furred gryphoness snapped at Dylan as he pulled it free, bringing some of her fur with it.
He looked up to her amber eyes, leaned a little closer and simply asked, “Would shaving it off help?”
“No! Don't do that!” She squawked and her eyes darted to the electric razor resting on a nearby table as if it were evil incarnate.
“Then quit your whining! Aren't you supposed to be some kind of awesome predator? You squeal like an infant.”
“I'll show you a predator, little one.” She growled to him and watched him pluck another bit of metal out, this time with no fur.
He offered her a victorious smirk before chuckling lightly. “Sorry. You're actually handling this quite well. I'd probably be crying.” He assured her as he pulled out more shrapnel. He was happy to hear her talking. It suggested the wounds really weren’t serious. For all he knew from just a look one of these could have went deep enough to reach an organ and he wouldn't know until he tried digging it out. But considering her behavior it just seemed like they damaged her abdominal muscles.
Hatia only sighed in response and laid back down. As he worked, he looked up to see Corporal Sior Ahnel the red wolf in the room. Dylan decided to ask the question bugging him, “Where are the British wounded?”
He shook his head sadly and responded. “They don't have any. Seven dead. That armor they wear isn't very protective.”
Once the wounded were quickly treated the other two medics and Kira along with most of her squad returned to the main force. This left Dylan alone with his patients while he watched for any changes in their conditions and waited for anyone new to be brought in. If it weren't for the bad condition of the hyena Tihiri could have requested he be allowed to return the front to help more wounded right now, but he had nothing to complain about. All of the wounded he had dealt with so far have not died on him and if their earlier progress had meant anything the town would be fully theirs very soon with few friendly casualties. So why did he feel disappointed?
This was rather unexpected. At the other end of the town was another, smaller square. In this one the Rynar had set up in preparation with what must have been the bulk of their forces in the town. There were prefabricated fortifications in place to hold back the attackers. What kind of ridiculous defense was this?
But it worked. They turned into the square, high on their successful push so far, before heavy repeaters cut down troops before they realized what was happening, and the combined force of five Rynar tanks protected behind their own fortifications managed to obliterate two of the UTO vehicles in vicious batterings of seething blue heat.
They actually had to pull back and give the Rynar the standoff that they wanted, but that wouldn't last long at all. The decision to send the British forces en mass down their own route was about to pay off. They managed to break through the Rynar defenses they encountered at the cost of two of their three tanks and were preparing to attack the defenders from the rear. Unfortunately, it looked like the tank would have to double back. The infantry would enter buildings meaning it could not shoot into them, and large walls blocked off most of the square. Breaching them while exposed to enemy fire was out of the question, and if the tank could blow it down then it would be exposed to a return shot from a Rynar tank while it reloaded.
“We've entered the buildings, cover us!” the British commander reported, signaling for the UTO troops in cover to open fire and suppress any Rynar in the bunkers from trying to reinforce their distressed comrades in the buildings. Jorik was crouched down in front of his squad leader firing his repeater wildly. Kira leaned over him to place her own shots when something rather incredible happened.
The wall behind one of the Rynar vehicles suddenly exploded in a cloud of dust and debris. What came hurtling out of it was the surviving British tank with its turret turned around backwards. But it didn't stop to swing it back around to shoot the enemy machine right in front of it. Instead, it decided to just keep going until it slammed into the other's rear end. It pushed the Rynar vehicle right through its protective barrier and kept going until it was shoved into one of the infantry fortifications.
And it still kept going. The bunker stopped the Rynar tank, but not the behemoth behind it. With the enemy vehicle pinned the tracks managed to catch a grip and the huge tank actually started to climb. The hovering tank had no chance of holding all that weight. It offered practically no resistance as it was forced onto the ground. The turret of the lighter tank was torn off as the heavier vehicle ascended up on to the hull. Kira could see the smaller tank crumble and crush under the immense weight as the other reached the peak of its short climb. The British vehicle almost looked like some kind of predator pouncing on its prey as the front end came crashing down onto the small bunker, crushing it as if it were a toy.
It then turned in place while swinging its turret around. The tracks churned through the wreckage of the fortification. The remains of the Rynar troops were visibly stuck to the treads as the hull traversed to bring its frontal armor to bear. Before the vehicle was even done turning the gun settled on an enemy tank and fired a round into its side. The solid shell tore out the other end of the tank to fly off into a building beyond.
By this point the UTO forces had broken from their positions to bring all of their firepower to aid the tank. Their own tanks went screaming out to save their brother. The big, metal, clumsy monster had just provided the opening to bring this standoff to a very quick and decisive end. The remaining three Rynar tanks swiveled their turrets around, taking their aim off the UTO vehicles, so they could put shots into the one that just destroyed two of their own.
But for all the speed and agility that came with the rodent crewed tanks, it was just not quick enough. Three heavy plasma cannons hammered into the human vehicle. The armor, simply not thick enough for a tank grade weapon, was burned through as three massive charges hit it in quick succession.
“Help them!” Kira cried as she ran by a bunker, tossed a demo charge through the slit, and didn't even look back as it exploded behind her. She dropped her weapon and clambered up onto the now burning vehicle followed by a few others from her squad. Her HUD reported the extreme heat, but her armor would have no issues resisting it long enough for her to get these men out. When she reached one of the hatches she was met with a human engulfed in flames scrambling to climb out. She grabbed him by his shirt and heaved him free and threw him down to the others where they began to essentially smother him with their bodies to put the flames out.
She reached in to try to feel around for someone else when she was suddenly launched off of the tank as a geyser of fire burst out from the hatch. She sat up on the ground to see a tower of flame, taller than even the nearby building, screaming out of the turret hatches as if it were a rocket trying to drive the machine into the ground. It only lasted a few seconds before it settled down into a gentle burn.
What was THAT?! She had to shake some sense into herself. She grabbed her rifle, ready to carry on fighting... only to find the fight was over. What was left after the blitz, just a handful of infantry, had just surrendered.
She relaxed and looked down at the human tanker with much admiration. This man's crew just forced the end to what could have been a vicious fight that ended with a lot more dead friendlies. Tihiri was in the middle of treating his significant burns. She wished she could have saved the rest, but it was not to be. She sighed as she felt her battle high wash away from her. “I want status checks on the wounded!” Fahne ordered over the radio as she padded up to the tanker and crouched down to get a good look at him. There was a hole punched through the armor on her left wing that she didn't seem to mind.
Reports were quick to come in and Kira was in the middle of organizing her own squad in preparation for the next advance to clear out whatever paltry resistance the Rynar had left in them when Sior came on over the radio. “Hostiles in the town hall!” he cried, “Over half a squad, send help!” He then cut off, presumably to fight. Kira was already moving before Fahne gave the order for her squad to go back.
Dylan just finished handing weapons to the three capable wounded before he grabbed his shotgun from the table and cycled the action eight times to empty the magazine of the sabots. He then slipped in the buckshot shells and watched the door while his wounded slipped out through one of the windows. When it came to the hyena, the horse hefted up one end of the stretcher while Dylan supported the other.
All four made it out without any issues. He was halfway out of the window when the gryphoness said to him, “We can go from here ourselves, but you may want to help the others.”
“Stay safe, Hatia.” She nodded, fluttered her wing, and then turned around to help with the stretcher. Dylan dropped back down into the room. “Ahnel, Maddock here,” he said into his radio to the corporal leading the team that faced the Rynar to protect him and the wounded. “Status?”
“Sikil's dead and we got three wounded, including me,” he responded in hushed tones. “At least four of them got away! Did you get the wounded out?”
“I did. Where are you? I'm coming to your position.”
“Don't. Get out, I already called back the rest, they'll be here soon.”
“No way, what if they come back to finish you off? Where are you?”
He was silent for a moment before saying back, “Opposite end of the building, we drew them as far away as we could. Be careful.”
Dylan made his way out of the room and lightly stepped through the halls with his weapon raised and ready. A few turns later and he found himself looking down a long corridor that he was certain would bring him all the way to the other side where Sior was. It was the front of the building as evidenced by the large windows that showed the square outside.
Dylan silently made his way down the hall. It wasn't a huge building, those enemy soldiers could easily turn the corner right in front of him. He could feel beads of sweat collect on his forehead as scenarios of him dieing horribly went through his mind. As he neared another door in the hall he heard voices coming from the room. He very quietly stepped closer and placed himself next to it to hear what they were saying.
“...coming, we can live if we just surrender.” That definitely sounded like Rynar. His translator worked with their language as well.
“We should go back and finish those four before then. We outnumber them.”
“We outnumbered them before they were wounded and look how that turned out! I'm pretty sure they used this place to treat wounded, they must have a few incapacitated somewhere.”
Dylan's eyebrows furrowed at that. They wanted to get to the wounded? He doubted it was for a game of chess and some tea. He pulled one of the grenades from his vest. He could just keep an eye on them and wait for help to arrive. But what if they leave the room, kill him, then go after Sior's team? He pulled a second grenade. No, they were in a room together, he could take them out now without risking any more friendly lives. There was that, and for whatever reason he just wanted to do this.
“Alright, we'll go after the squad, lets go before reinforcements show up. Saasiah, did you get that?” He heard movement on the other side. They were about to come out. It looked like fate decided for him. With his shotgun hanging at his side he held both grenades in either hand and pulled their pins. He opened the door to see four lizardly soldiers look towards him. He underhand threw both bombs and slammed the door closed. He stood off to the side and raised his gun up near the top of the door. There was some shouting, stumbling, and then the door flung open. A big lizard ducked through the portal to try to get out, but Dylan was ready.
The muzzle of the gun was almost making contact with the side of the soldier's head when the medic fired. At this close range the shot did not spread. Instead, it was nearly a solid mass when it slammed into the side of the alien's brainpan. It blew nearly half of its skull apart as the shot rat holed in and came out the top of its head, spraying both the door, ceiling, and the human with brain matter and bone fragments.
Before the body even hit the ground the grenades detonated and launched the corpse forward into the hall. Dylan side stepped into the doorway to find the room a wreck, and the Rynar soldiers... not quite as wrecked as he anticipated. Damn that armor!
One was on its knees crawling away from him. He shot it in the rear end and sent it on its chest. Turning left, one was standing there in shock with blood pouring down its face from significant shrapnel wounds. A snapshot to its side found it crumbling to the floor. The third was on the ground writhing when it abruptly sat up. He tried for a quick shot to the head, but he wasn't exactly an outstanding marksman and ended up blasting it in the shoulder. The alien slammed back down onto its back with a heavy thud.
By now all three were either crying or screaming. The buckshot failed to penetrate their armor at any deadly points, but the force alone probably did some serious damage. He should have kept the sabots; buck was a bad idea. But no matter. Combined with the shock damage from the frags and the probably broken bones from the shot, these guys were done for. Dylan stepped into the room towards the one he shot in the rear. For whatever reason it was the only one that decided to keep its helmet on, so he had to shoot it in the back of the neck which nearly took its whole head off. The one he shot in the side was gasping for air and coughing up blood when he pressed the barrel of his gun into the side of its skull and shot its brains across the floor. The last one was wailing in agony from its dislocated shoulder and wouldn't stop thrashing about. The human pressed his boot onto the alien's chest to still it before placing his shotgun's muzzle between its eyes. The Rynar babbled a few things to him that he didn't pay much mind to as they locked gazes. He cocked his head when he realized this one was female. They didn't have the spiked eye ridges. He squeezed the trigger and silenced her.
Dylan let out a breath he didn't know he was holding before turning away from his grim work with disgust. It looked like a blood bath in there. He was almost to the door when a massive fifth Rynar in heavy armor blocked his path. The medic tried to bring his gun up when the alien grabbed the weapon by the barrel and jerked it off to the side as he pulled it out of the human's grip. The tug forced him to pull the trigger; firing a shot harmlessly past the alien and into the wall.
The sling slipped free from his shoulder as it ended up pulling him towards the lizard. The side of his own gun smashed him the face plate, denting the armor and cracking the visor as the alien used it to push him back. The Rynar brought the shotgun into its grip and raised it to put Dylan down while the medic tried to draw his sidearm.
His hand wasn't even on the pistol when the trigger of the scattergun was pulled.
Nothing happened, just as he knew it would. It only held eight shells. His fingers wrapped around the grip of the handgun and in a swift motion he had it pointed at the alien's chest. He rapidly fired several times and the impacts pushed the bastard backwards out of the doorway. However, with all that armor, there was no penetration. Dylan charged, intent to put a bullet into its neck, but the lizard was ready for him and easily batted the gun away. He kept going anyway and slammed into its midsection with enough force to send it stumbling backwards and through the window outside the room.
It landed on its back with Dylan on top. Unfortunately, this Rynar was bigger and better trained. Without any issue it regained its wits and before Dylan even knew it the alien was on top of him with a massive knife raised, ready to take his head off. The blade was about to come down on him when several bolts of plasma struck the enemy soldier in the side and knocked it off its perch.
Dylan got to his feet and reached behind his back. He thought about using his knife, but this would be more satisfying. He pulled out a pentagon shaped satchel and tore it open as he approached the wounded soldier. The pouch fell away and with a jerk the folding shovel unfurled and snapped into readiness. The alien managed to gather itself to see what was coming and tried to ready its sidearm. With a sideways swing the spade smashed into the arm trying to get the handgun, causing the Rynar to finally open its mouth to let out a loud cry of pain. Without missing a beat he swung the next hit down onto its head, knocking the sense of out it.
He sat down on its chest and struck again, and again. He thought he was free to pound into the monster when he suddenly felt something stab into his ribcage. With the shovel still up for another swing he looked down to see his deadly mistake. The lizard didn't drop the knife when it was shot, and that weapon was now impaled right through his lightly armored side. It didn't take a man of his training to realize he was dead. It was just a question of how long he had left. Damn, better use his last moments well.
He gripped the spade with both hands and drove it straight down onto his killer's face plate, and resumed the beating. The helmet began to dent inward with the repeated strikes. Dylan didn't know when it died. Hell, it seemed to go unconscious during one of the first hits. But he didn't care. He just screamed and cursed at it as he battered the alien's skull. Whether he screamed in agony or hatred, it became indiscernible as he started to gurgle and the blade shifted and tore at his innards while he swung. The armor on the helmet cracked and blood began to seep out. Yet he just kept going until he abruptly fell forward onto his kill.
The haze had worn off sometime during the beating, he realized. He laid there on top of the dead Rynar trooper. He had a few thoughts on his mind. First, he was glad he wasn't actually going to die. Two, for a guy that's been stabbed, he felt very content with himself. And three, again for a guy that's been stabbed, this wasn't so bad. He was hurting and bleeding like a torn ketchup packet, but he wasn't exactly screaming in agony. Not that he could since he was pretty much drowning in his own blood. He felt a primal part of him wanting to panic, but he just felt... okay, all things considered.
He felt someone touch him and he was rolled onto his back. He was propped up by a big hand while another flipped up his faceplate. Just before the HUD vanished, he saw that the armored figure was Kira. She said somethings to him as she held him. Hm, she sounded angry.
It was shortly after that thought when Dylan suddenly found himself with a high view of the town. This must be the spectator view that he missed out on last time. He wondered how it worked. How does he go down? Then he went down... forward? He went forward until he no longer wanted to go forward. Thought control, then? He was like a ghost! He spent a few minutes figuring things out when the simulation ended. Aw, he was just getting the hang of it.
Considering the significantly less horrible nature of this combat simulations there was no need to discharge right after it ended to allow the soldiers to recover from the shock in the familiarity of reality. Instead, they were just put right back into the ready room. The sound of exuberant humans reached Kira's ears.
The British soldiers looked like they were going wild as they celebrated the victory. “Wow,” Yirshan said, amused, “that was a great win, but come on, this is a little silly considering how easy it was.”
“They're not celebrating the victory.” Dylan responded through his now cleaned faceplate, sounding very cheerful. He turned to face the two with a big grin that was revealed when flipped the protection up. “We're fired up over getting to kill the Rynar. I killed FIVE!” He held up his hand as if the two didn't know how much five was. “I shot four dead and beat the other to death! I-I, Jesus, I should be disturbed with myself, but I feel like I'm on top of the world right now!”
Kira cocked her head at him and gave him a confused smile. His happiness was a bit contagious, even if it was strange. “Dylan, you died. And I don't get it. Humans killed plenty during the war.”
“But not with our rifles! Not our machine guns. Our grenades. Our goddamn shovels!” He shook his head and took a deep breath. “It just feels amazing. It's like being presented with your worst nightmare and getting the chance to slaughter it. If I could kill the Rynar in my dreams with just a shovel then I'd actually look forward to sleeping. And yeah... I died. I kind of screwed up there. I had no idea he still held the knife.” Kira was rather upset with him about that. She shot the Rynar herself. That should have made him realize help was there. But no, he takes out a shovel and just jumps onto the lizard. She didn't even know he was stabbed until he slumped over while she was approaching. Though she got the sense that it was still therapeutic to him. She could talk to him about his screw up later. Right now she didn't want to dampen his chipper mood. He actually looked happy with himself.
As per the usual, Dahashi felt the need to share the highlights of the battle, but this time with a giant projection on one side of the square. The humans had a lot of good moments. So much so that the AIs had to admit the weak haze couldn't fully restrain the humans' burning desire to kill Rynar on their scale. That lead to a lot of zealous behavior. Dylan managed to secure his own highlight through his actions near the end of the battle. Kira was thoroughly impressed. It was like something from an action movie. The frightened medic making his way through the hall to aid his comrades. He runs into trouble, but instead of fleeing he takes it head on. Two grenades and a few exploded skulls later and he's beating someone to death with a shovel while having a large combat knife stuck in him. The casual executions were a bit disturbing, but he couldn't be expected to take prisoners while alone. Even if they did ask for mercy like the last one he shot.
Kira couldn't help but wonder if Dahashi manipulated the simulation a bit to give Dylan a chance to vent like that. Perhaps it was a silent apology for the incident during the last simulation. There was no way her squad was sloppy enough to miss half a squad of Rynar soldiers. Perhaps they were hidden in a building that was somehow missed during clearing and came to the town hall after the offense moved on. Dahashi would never confirm or deny it, though, as it would ruin the mystery of his art.
After a certain point anyone was free to disconnect from the simulation, but many stuck around. The rodents and the human tankers swapped vehicles and went to who knows where. The infantry switched weapons and started to shoot at targets Jahlay or Dahashi spawned in. But Kira just wanted to leave.
“Dylan. What do you say to us getting out of here? Maybe lunch?” she asked her charge, hoping he would agree to accompany her. He was in an outstandingly good mood right now. Perhaps it would be a great time to just interact with him on their real scale.
“Let's go then. Uh, how do I leave?”
“You can either pinch the back of your neck to manually open a menu, or just think hard enough.”
“Pinch my neck? Really?” He reached behind himself for said pinch and then recoiled slightly at the menu that only he could see. He reached out and poked it a couple times before he abruptly vanished. Kira was actually surprised he did it. Most everyone first assumed that was a prank. She chuckled lightly, actually a bit pleased that he was so quick to trust her, before she herself mentally disconnected.
Kira stepped out of her pod and made her way down to the human sector. The catwalks were nearly empty as most decided to stay in to goof around with their offworld allies. She saw Dylan already waiting on the pad and he offered her a wave. She gave a little wave back as she approached. He still looked absolutely proud of himself.
She laid out a hand for him and he hopped aboard without hesitation, much to her delight. She raised him up to her face, slowly of course. She saw him mellow slightly, but by the time he was eye level, he was smiling at her. “So, it takes you killing some things to feel good. What kind of medic are you?” She teased him. She knew very well why he was so upbeat.
“Hey now, all of my wounded made it out alive. I feel good about that as well.”
“So you got your first taste of treating someone with fur. How did that go?” As easy as that sim battle was, it actually was good practice for the humans. Not only did they get to see how the UTO military operates in combat before they got their mechs, but Dylan got to see the kinds of wounds that might come up with plasma.
“She wasn't very happy about her fur being pulled out.”
“You PULLED it out?!” She mock gasped. At least he didn't shave her, that was one of the worst parts of being wounded.
“I didn't mean to! I felt bad about it, honestly. It was so soft and fluffy and there I was ruining it.”
“As you should. You furless little things do not understand our labors to maintain the fluffiness.”
“Well, I think you do very well for yourself.” His eyes focused on the fur around her neck where it was thickest.
“Aw, thanks! I know you like touching the fur on my hands. That's nothing compared to my neck fur. Want to feel it?” She wasn't exactly sure how well a furless species could even tell if someone's fur was in good shape or not, but she knew hers was and her tailed wagged from his acknowledgment of it.
“Um...” He paused for a few moments to think about it. She was basically asking if he wanted to ride on her shoulder. Kira sorely hoped he would say yes. “Alright.”
She silently celebrated to herself. This was progress, sweet progress, already. She carefully brought her hand to her shoulder. When he stepped off she immediately formed a protective barrier around him with her fingers to catch him if he fell. He carefully stepped up to her neck fur and reached out a hand. It promptly consumed his whole forearm. “Oh.” He reached out his other hand to stick it into the fluff. “You weren't kidding, I could get lost in this.”
She giggled in amusement as well as a building happiness. Apparently the promise of softness was a good method to winning over a human. “Why don't you get yourself settled in? I'll head off to the mess.”
“Er, okay.” Her hand didn't leave him until he was seated on her shoulder and was holding onto her fur. “Ready.” With that, she set out and left the simulation hive with one eye constantly peeking over to check on him. She was barely out of the building before she felt herself already growing worried and regretting this. He should have some kind of attachment to her. What if he fell off backwards? She wouldn't be able to catch him! At least in her hand and against her stomach it would be hard for any bad accidents to happen. “This is great,” he commented, “I can see around much better.”
“Are you worried you'll fall?”
“A little.” She stopped walking at that. She was hoping he would say that, actually.
“Would you rather ride in my hand?” He rather quietly confirmed that he would. He sounded a bit ashamed of himself, so she had to reassure him. “It's okay. I'm actually almost driving myself wild worrying about you falling. Is it okay if I grab you? Don't want to risk anything.”
“Do it, please,” he was quick to say back.
He just agreed to their first grab. Leaving the simulation while he was ecstatic was definitely a good idea. She carefully wrapped her fingers around his little form and plucked him up. When she brought him into view she was met with a sight that looked like it could have come from a giant monster movie. There he was, essentially trapped in her grip, helpless to do a thing and totally at her mercy. The thought that she could just lightly squeeze crossed her mind, much to her disdain. But she felt good. She was not sure how long it would take for this to feel normal to her. But right now she just felt... great. This little alien trusted her enough to do this, to hold him in her fist.
She realized she may have been holding him too long and finally placed him down gently onto her other hand. She then brought him to her stomach and continued on. Yes, this was better. It was much safer. Just keep doing this.