Richard walked towards the door of the building. It was made of dark blue glass, and towered ten floors upwards. He was very short for a person grown at Ganymedes, though taller than everyone from the inner planets, probably because he had done excessive amounts of high gravity exercise. Strenght had been important to him even as a young child. He had very short dark hair, and a beard that was as short. The pupils of his light brown eyes had compressed to tiny dots on the bright martian day. He was wearing a blue jacket.
He pushed his hand against the door and gently pushed it sideways. The door twisted open. He walked in, and the door sprung back in place. All of the walls were glass, and the inside was quite bright despite the lack of artificial lighting. In the middle of the two floors tall hall, there was a big cylindrical aquarium, showing off many colorful and probably genetically engineered fish in turquoise water. Around it was a bunch of martian evergreen palm trees and bushes with some clear terran species, which were differentiated by their lighter shade of green. Everything in the building was straight from the schoolbook of attractive interior design. He continued upwards walking up the stairs going around the hall and to the walkway on the second floor.
On the third floor was the room he was going to. He opened its door, and walked in. It was 7 am martian time. Martian clocks went from 00.00 to 24.35. Inside the room, there was a man. His teacher.
Teacher looked at his wrist.
"You're a little early, Richard."
"Shall we start right away?"
"If you wish so."
His teacher walked away from the door, towards a pane of glass, and activated the console. The surface of the glass lit up.
"Please go in the simulator."
Richard walked into a sphere held up with robotic arms. It was filled with impact gel. He put on the helmet, which linked to his electrode augment. The visuals showed the room just like his eyes had. He reflexively tested the shifting the wavelenghts.
"Now for something a little different. You are going to get a spirit. Her name is Senna. Say hi."
For a tiny fraction of a second, nothing happened. Then he remembered.
He had been sitting on a small café. In Suhenhamn, probably. The dome of the colony was a kilometer high. Sitting by the table, there had been a young girl, maybe eight or so. She had had long red hair with jewelry, and her blue eyes had catched his attention. He hadn't seen anyone with eyes colored that shade of dark blue. The girl had sat there, smiling.
"Hi Richard.", she had said, in a charming high tone.
He understood that had never happened. The memory had a glow to it. From the exomemory. He tried to think why the memory had been put to his exomemory. Then he remembered another thing. It was the way to communicate, which the spirits use. He noticed that memory wasn't his either.
"Is it supposed to be so intrusive?"
"Yes, actually. You will get used to it eventually."
He felt a feeling of deja vu. His teacher had talked with the voice of the little girl, or had he? Being unsure of everything went on his nerves. He was about to ask Senna to shut up, but suddenly remembered, that it would be rude. He thought, that he hadn't usually cared about his usage of words, and came to the conclusion she was messimg with his brain again.
"Senna, could you please stop messing with my brain?"
He had heard the girl say "If you wish".
He felt no more fake memories.
"I know it feels bad, but you must get some training. Brace yourself, and continue. We'll link you up to the flight simulator."
Richard allowed Senna to affect himself again. He saw the loading screen, and the simulator started. He was in space, in mars orbit. He heard a comforting hum through the auralization system.
The ship was a destroyer, Cobra class. A successor of the Valkyrie NXT. Escort and defence, interception pulse lasers, heavy railguns and thirty-two missiles. As big as an airliner. Long and thin. His favourite.
Suddenly he could feel danger. He looked around in the visual reconstruction from the cameras, and changed the settings until he saw it. A missile. Heavy and stealthy. No danger
He aimed, and shot the missile down with one of the lasers. The auralization provided him with loud boom, when the beam had cut to the explosive. He launched a sensor probe, and it traveled in the direction of the missile. He waited for any sensor response. Nothing. Pure black void.
The girl with the dark blue eyes again. Senna. The sensor probe catched a heat signature behind the horizon. Richard armed the railguns. Contact angle at +17° -6°.
He aimed, and followed the countdown.
3... 2... 1.
He pulled the virtual trigger. A steel bullet weighing thirty kilograms was accelerated to Mach 10. The rails opened sideways due to the enormous force, and were stopped by the spring mechanism. The recoil started turning the ship, and the reaction wheels turned the ship back. At the horizon, the bullet impacted, too slow to damage the ship due to its MPP. Too far away.
Richard set himself prograde, and burned with the fusion engine. He accelerated relative to the other ship, to slow down on the other side of the orbit. Both ships were out of their effective range. His ship probably had a longer range with the heavy railguns, unless the other ship had quake beams. Those would just cut through his armor. He cut the engine, and waited for apoapsis passage.
When the ship reached the highest point, and started descending and accelerating, he charged every weapon he had for a hawk manouver, which was doing a rendevous with the enemy behind by raising the apoapsis, and striking from above like the titular hawk. He waited for a while. After what had feeled like no time at all, he was coming to theoretical range of the other ship. It hadn't reacted yet. Probably it was ready to counter-attack. No quake beams. Great. He charged the MPP. He had reached his range. He aimed, and shot with one of the heavy railguns again, aiming with a slight lead due to gravity. He launched rest of the railguns, and they hit their target few moments later. The bullets had been slowed to a hundred kilometers per hour by the constant magnetic repulsion. The hits dented the armor and lodged into it. Six seconds passed while the railguns reloaded. The radiator flaps glowed orange to radiate the heat out. The railguns would melt unusable unless he would cool them down. He waited before he would get nearer before shooting again.
The other ship started shooting back. Heavily armored missiles swarmed him, and ripped away the outer armor. The interception lasers flashed as red beams on the visual reconstruction, swiveling as fast as the turrets could handle. He shot with the railguns again, and they blasted to the inner armor of the other ship. The other ship shot with plasma guns, and the bottles of superheated matter melted away his armor. The interception lasers could hit some of them, causing the white glowing plasma to burst free. The ships were barely hundred meters from eachother. Richard launched the missiles. He could see the fusion engines activate, and thrust towards the enemy, destroying its outer armor, and then blowing up the insides. The plasma escaped from the fusion reactor, melting away everything, flowing out of the holes his weapons had caused. He had won
"Great. Did you notice anything... unusual?", his teacher said.
"No, I didn't."
"Look at the HUD."
Richard looked, and was shocked. There was no HUD. He had won a one versus one fight without any data from the HUD.
"What did you do to me?"
"Just exomemory manipulation from Senna. She is good at it.", said his teacher and Senna in a choir, "Want to take another round?"
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