Okay, this is the end... No, not the exciting conclusion (that hasn't been written in draft three yet) nor the final few written chapters I promised. I am sad to announce that those final few chapters are now discontinued. More than likely, they will never, ever see the light of day. Except... Except for this one little snippet I leave, this one final bit of the book. This is a little bit of chapter 26, an in depth explanation of the E.H.U.D. suit and the way it works.
So, why is this the end? Well, as I said in my last update, I believe I have found the central idea of the book, thematically speaking. So, I have taken that idea and crafted it into a short story that encapsulates the whole of the book, thematically speaking, into eleven pages. Yes, I've read it. Yes, I think, unlike the rest of the book, it is actually quite good. No, you can't read it; it's too personal. But what I'm going to do is write draft four now, using this story as a guide, to make what I hope will be the almost-finished version of the book (spllnig grammar need check, last) So, I leave now; physics class is starting. So long!
Five minutes after Wendelferce’s announced meeting time, John joined his group in a small, brightly-lit dressing room, walled with lockers and floored with a thick spongy material.
“Looks like nature boy finally decided to get with the program.” Wendelferce gestured for John to sit with the rest of his group on a thin bench, ignoring the fact that John was already headed towards them. Once John was seated, Wendelferce walked towards one large locker and pulled out a thick black one-piece suit. he turned it around, showing off its patches of thick quilting, and then tossed it to Allen. “Okay, if each of you will please look in the lockers behind you,” he paused while Vince, Naomi, and John stood and began rooting through lockers, “you will all find one of these suits. Once you have one, put it on.”
John pulled one out and looked at it. The front was slit to allow entry, and had both zippers and buttons to keep it closed. He examined the ends of the legs and the arms, but found that rather than openings, the suit was closed off by thin socks and gloves. He easily slid inside the suit, found to his surprise that it seemed to be an exact fit for him, and closed it up. Next to him, Vince, Naomi, and Allen had gotten their suits on as well. When all four were done, they returned to their seats on the bench and stared up at Wendelferce.
Wendelferce stared back at them, smiling, and carrying a heavy-looking club. “The suits that you are wearing are the underlying layer of the most advanced piece of defensive technology ever created. The Enhanced Human Ultimate Defender is not only proven to effectively protect soldiers against most small arms fire, it has also been proven to protect its wearer from large calibers, traditional armor-piercing rounds, weight loads in excess of half a ton, and high yield explosives. The Defender is the first major piece of hardware that the E.H.U.D. program has developed that will be released in a public manner. While you all remain locked away in this hole, every man woman and child in America will know what a Defender looks like, and will feel totally at ease around anyone wearing one.”
John looked down at the padding that encased his body. It was thick and warm, but it certainly didn’t seem capable of protecting him from a child with a BB gun, much less an armor piercing round.
Almost as if he were the one capable of reading minds, Wendelferce sprang forward and brought his club down on John’s collarbone with bone-crushing force. Other than some mild pressure and the shifting of the fabric on John’s shoulder, he didn’t feel anything.
Was that supposed to hurt?
A snarl passed over Wendelferce’s face, but he was able to suppress any emotions he felt. “As you all felt, this layer, the primary cushioning layer, was able to absorb almost all of the impact of that blow. The main part of the layer is a standard Gortex weave, able to withstand some good wear and tear, with fiber-mesh quilting on the inside. But through the middle of the layer you have packets of a special gel, normally fairly sloshy, which turns tremendously solid when force is applied to it. So when the club his Johnny-boy here, it hit a brick wall, which faded out to gel, blocking and absorbing most of the force, with little impact on the man inside.”
Again he suddenly lunged, this time hitting John in the stomach, the thigh, the crotch, the shoulder. Again, nothing.
Wendelferce circled behind his charges, reached into the lockers, and handed out four skull-caps, each of the same material as the body-suit. “You’ll want these in combat, of course. And yes, there are masks that can be attached to those, but they’re currently attached to the insides of the main helmets.”
He approached another set of lockers and produced from one a complicated tangle of nylon straps and rubber tubing. After a few quick shakes, the tangle unfolded into a complicated harness, with large rubber bags attached where joints and primary muscles would be located on a person, with the tubing connecting all of the bags and criss-crossing the gaps between the harness straps.
“This is the next layer of the suit: the pneumatic sinus system.” As with the last layer of the suit, he tossed the harness to Allen and gestured for the others to get their own. While they struggled to put on their harnesses, he continued to explain the new layer. “In addition to providing protection, the Defender augments your physical abilities. The pneumatic sinus system works with the body’s own movement to pump fluid and build up pressure, which can be stored and released in the normal patterns of moving. For instance, if you bend your knee, you move the fluids in such a way that they are sucked and stored in the bladders on the back of the thigh. When you straighten the knee, an opposite suction is created in the frontal pouch, the fluid is released, and it changes position, providing a significant blast of power to the wearer’s simple, muscle-powered action. In addition to the purely mechanical suction power, the system is equipped with motion sensors that will also create suction and change the internal pressure based on perceived moves, so you don’t have to force movements; the suit works with you. C’mon, hurry, we don’t have all day!”
The E.H.U.D.s didn’t respond. They continued to put on the suits, trying to unravel the twisted material, find the right holes for their limbs, get the suits cinched in place. Finally they gave up and slipped into Wendelferce’s mind. Within a few seconds, they had a two-week training course on the suit, and were able to get it on, tightened, and attached to the inner suit.
“About time. Now take a couple minutes to get used to the movement on those.”
Naomi was the first to respond to the order. She crouched as Wendelferce had been trained to do, and felt the harness building up pressure in her thighs and buttocks. She stood slightly, and the fluid instantly shot around to bladders on the front of her thighs, forcing her legs straight and launching her into a six-foot vertical leap. She made no sound, but her companions could feel her surprise and terror as she came crashing down onto the padded floor.
“See, that’s using the pneumatics as a baseline human; if you also brought in some telekinetic forces, there’s no telling what you’d be able to do.”
Naomi smiled maddeningly and jumped into the air again, sailed towards the ceiling, brought up her arms, bounced off at an angle, flipped, twirled—
The others quickly stepped aside.
As Naomi continued her acrobatic display, Vince looked over the pumping systems on his suit, then glanced up at Wendelferce. “Does the mechanical system work, even if the electronics are offline?”
“In theory. The electronics are just supposed to be there as an additional supplement.”
Vince nodded and slowly moved his arms experimentally, watching as bladders inflated on his shoulders, and then abruptly emptied as his arms swiftly lowered, hitting his thighs with a loud smack. He raised one arm fractionally—it jerked up and his shoulder twisted awkwardly. John had to quickly close his mind to avoid feeling the pain that flooded through Vince.
Allen walked forward and helped to hold back the arm as Vince tried to lower it without further pain.
This isn’t working… we have the minds of being trained with this, but not the bodies…
Naomi stopped bouncing, Vince stopped struggling, and John opened his mind as they all felt Allen focusing on his body, on the muscles that were most affected by the pneumatic system, tweaking them, burning off some parts and rebuilding others, smoothing and altering his muscles until they were like Wendelferce’s, adapted to the shape of the harness, the forces of the suit. Once he was done with himself, Allen turned his mind to Vince’s body and began to reshape it. After only a few seconds, Vince stepped away and carefully raised his injured arm, feeling it rise in time to the patterns of the pneumatics, giving just the right amount of pull to counter the forces of the fluid’s movement, yet not enough to trigger the electronic system’s opposite reaction. Vince smiled, and then went sprawling as something rammed into his back.
From the resulting tangle of limbs, Naomi pulled herself away from Vince and playfully jumped backwards. This is fun! This almost makes all the pain worth it! With these… with these nothing can stop us!
Vince was on his feet in an instant, resting his weight on one leg, extending the other, letting the pneumatics straighten his knee, catch Naomi in the ribs, send her flying. She smashed into a set of lockers, rolled onto the floor, shot herself into the air with a powerful flick of her arm. She righted, got her legs under her, launched at Vince. He grabbed onto her arms as she shot past, jumped up and back, twisted so that his feet hit the ceiling and bounced off, finishing his flip and landing with his knees embedded in Naomi’s back.
This is wonderful! Naomi radiated joy through the room, but John felt that it was aimed specifically at Wendelferce. With these, we can kill you so much easier!
Allen shot Naomi a disapproving glare, but she purposefully ignored him.
Wendelferce sighed heavily and rounded on Naomi. “So, you’re still planning on killing me. You think that since finally got out of that rotten little hole you were in before, you can suddenly make good on your escape.” He shot out a booted heel and caught Naomi squarely in the jaw, then pulled the boot back for another blow. Naomi tried to jerk away, but Vince was still pinning her to the ground.
“You just don’t get, it do you?!” Wendelferce roared. “None of you do! Mistlethwakey has been planning this whole thing out for years! He’s left nothing to chance! The only reason you’re out of the hole and up here is because we know that we can handle you! And if you want to test yourself, go right ahead, we’re ready to shoot you down!” He dropped to one knee and grabbed Naomi’s face, twisting it so she looked up at him. “One way or another, you will all follow Mistlethwakey’s plan. You can either make it unpleasant for everybody, or you can just get with the program and learn the skills we’re trying to teach you. Is that understood?”
Before Naomi had a chance to respond, Allen stepped forward and placed a hand on Wendelferce’s shoulder. “That’s enough.”
Wendelferce glared up at Allen; John was sure that the pistol was about to make another appearance. But to his surprise, Wendelferce merely shrugged away from Allen’s touch, stood, and walked towards the door that led out of the room. “If you want to know how the rest of the suit works,” he said as he left, “figure the **** thing out for yourselves.”
No one moved for almost a minute, and then Vince climbed off of Naomi. “I… I’m sorry…” he mumbled.
Naomi grunted, her chin stopped bleeding, and skin covered the wound.
“You shouldn’t have done that,” Allen said.
“Do what? Tell him we’re going to kill him?”
“Antagonize him. It’s cruel.”
Naomi tried to speak, but only expressed a blast of intense anger. When she was finally calm enough to find her voice, she yelled, “What they’re doing is cruel! Don’t you think that ******* deserves to sweat a little compared to what we’ve gone through?”
“If your roles were reversed, do you think he’d see it as you see it now?”
Allen sadly shook his head. “That’s exactly right. And we don’t want to be like him.”
“Maybe you don’t but—“
“Why did you kill your partner?”
“What the **** does that have to do with—“
Naomi took a deep breath and considered. Beside her, John and Vince paced a little and then sat on the bench. “I killed my partner,” Naomi answered, “because it’s better for her to be dead than to be what we are… to do what we have to do.”
“Wendelferce would have killed his partner, if he had had one. But he would have done it out of some misguided survival instinct, or for the sheer **** of it.”
John felt a sudden pang of guilt. Despite all of his internal struggle, all of his rationalizing, he couldn’t help but wonder if he had killed Suzanne merely because he was to afraid to die.
“The difference between you and Wendelferce,” Allen continued, “is that his motivation is self, while yours is others. He fears for himself, and he knows that, if we really tried, we could kill him, and he would lose that self. So if you prey on his deepest fear, who are you pleasing?”
Naomi didn’t answer.
“And who are you hurting?”
“Others…” she muttered.
“Exactly. You lose your motivation, you lose the little distinction that makes you a victim and him a tormentor. You become him.”
“But he has to know that we’re coming for—“
Allen raised a hand. “He knows. If you listen, you find that that’s almost all he thinks about. We don’t need to rub it in. All we need to do is bide our time.”
“And what do we do while we bide?”
Allen shrugged. “Prepare ourselves.” He gestured to two unopened sets of lockers in the room, and as one the four of them moved to investigate.
One set of lockers contained large plates of grey armor, heavy and rough, with straps on the edges and a few large magnets on the underside. Allen thought that these should be left alone for now, so John and Vince opened the other lockers and found suits similar to the first layer, but thicker and heavier, with short straps and clasps hanging from them. The suits were passed around, put on, tested. They were filled with the same gel as the under-layer, but were reinforced with stiff pads of heavy fabric. Despite this, there was little interference with movement, and the pneumatic system still worked exceptionally well.
Once they were fully dressed and the suits adjusted to fit properly, they returned to the armor plates. Vince and John spent several minutes trying to put them on, and found that attaching them to the suit was relatively easy, but finding the right order was difficult. They finally gave up and looked out through the complex until they found Wendelferce’s mind.
Soon they were back at their task, matching up the pieces against Wendelferce’s memory of them and attaching them to the proper points on the suit. When they had managed to get John completely encased in the armor save for his head, Naomi and Allen came forward and together they all got the armor on.
Then John went back to the lockers. At the top of each one was a small shelf, and on the shelf was a helmet: grey and lifeless, yet curiously human, with mournful eyes and a thick nasal ridge above a vent of some sort shaped, oddly enough, like a grossly oversized toothbrush mustache. John reached up, carefully pulled one down, and looked at it more closely.
It seemed to look back at him, to see into his eyes, behind his eyes, to know him…
A hand rested on John’s shoulder. “This is the face history will remember us by,” Allen said.
John didn’t respond. Reluctantly, he turned the helmet so that the eyes left him, ad he looked inside the helmet. There was padding all around, mostly on the facial portion, like Wendelferce had said. John tried to pull the helmet over his head, but it was too tight. He searched the outside of the helmet and found a series of gaskets which, when opened, allowed the faceplate of the helmet to disconnect and pull out on two strips of fabric. He tried to pull it on again, and this time the helmet slipped on easily. The gaskets couldn’t be easily resealed however, so John reached out with his mind and forced them closed. There was a sharp pop of pressure change, and John was sealed into the helmet.
Now he stared out through those empty eyes, seeing the world around him highlighted with artificial colors, with floating blocks of text labeling things, with a thin crosshairs floating in the center of his vision. No, not quite the center… the crosshairs wasn’t stationary; there had to be controls for it somewhere.
There weren’t any external electronics on the armor, there were no protrusion on the insides of the gloves, no movement seemed to initiate a change in the crosshairs. John experimentally extended his tongue and found a series of pressure-sensitive switches and rotational mushrooms in front of his mouth. The crosshairs moved, the whole view shifted, zoomed in and out, the text moved around wildly. John sighed, focused on the controls, felt them moving… Good, that was better.
Don’t bother touching the helmet controls…
The others put on their helmets, looked around at each other.
I don’t really like the way this looks…
Who cares about looks; if Wendelferce is right, we can do anything now…
We could do anything before…
Yes, but with these on, the scramblers have no power over us…
John blinked as the import of the thought fully dawned on him. Without their powers, they were exceptionally well-trained soldiers, but the scrambler also caused other effects in them, from bouts of pain to simple stupor; all there training was worthless then. But if they were armored like this…
As soon as everyone’s suited up, we can attack… Do it now! Vince, and especially Naomi, exuded a fierce anticipation.
John looked at Allen. Allen looked back, making no response of any kind. Again, he was insisting that the decision was John’s to make.
No… no attack, not yet… A year ago, we couldn’t make the escape, because we didn’t have these… who knows what new toys we may get in the coming years? If we wait, we get more from them…
There was a grudging acceptance from Vince, but Naomi refused to be swayed.
Besides, Mistlethwakey has had years to plan this… he knows what advantages we get from the suits; he would not give us the suits if he thought we could win; isn’t that right?
The question was aimed to Naomi, who even know was faltering… But John was staring at Allen, standing passively in his armor. Allen, who seemed to have everything planned out for the E.H.U.D.s, who trained and led them, who had gained their trust… their hearts…
Allen, who always reminded them that Mistlethwakey had planned out everything perfectly…