Week Two, Training Op 13
This simulation was more vivid than the rest. The antique suit and helmet Gheitley wore had a rich, deep odor inside it—not the sharp, flat scents typical of Viro simulations, his helmet actually smelled old—real, like it had been lived-in for weeks. Even the weight of the old railgun—the gravity in simulations always felt shallow and predictable—not this time. The flechette rounds wobbled and clattered when he shook his spare magazine.
"Careful!" Boondock yelled. "This isn't a game, Tabasco!"
Gheitley wasn't happy about his callsign. Grant had named him that because of the color of his piss on initiation day—it had looked just like tabasco sauce.
During the two weeks and twelve 'missions', the simulations had gotten more and more detailed, more realistic. The Amygdalal Regulatory Medium they had implanted into his head had finally 'learned' his brain, the doc had said. This mission was just another test to gauge how integrated it had become. It was just the three of them this time—Boondock, Pincer, and him. Everyone else was out on other missions.
Gheitley set his rifle back down and watched the dunes speed by outside the window.
The hovertruck clung to the terrain like it was running on a rail—sliding over boulders and riding high over gullies as if they weren't there. The simulation was committed to making it as real as possible though—there were random spits of dust and pebbles hailing against the hull. The transport had been traveling for a couple of hours. That's a lot of high-def processing time for a computer. He wondered what other Viro games he would be granted access to when his training was over.
The hovertruck's vortus drive whined and lifted up over a ridge of rock. He could see Olympus beyond the rise. They were driving through a densely populated part of Tharsis, and it was clear outside—daylight, no storms. About a kilometer away, a windmill farm. The spinning rotor blades looked like ghostly orbs set on dead, white sticks.
"This vehicle," Gheitley said, "When we're out on the rocks for real, won't someone see us?"
"We'll be black," Pincer said from the cockpit, "Satellites can't see us."
"It's embedded in the system. Our transceivers make blind spots in all the sats. Been in place since the beginning."
"Why hasn't anybody noticed that?"
Boondock looked at him for a long moment, then grabbed the patch dispenser off the rack.
"You were trained how to use these, right?"
"Yeah," Gheitley answered with a hint of suspicion in his voice, expecting some kind of embarrassing lesson to unfold. Everyone knew how to use the emergency sealant quick-slap patches called kwikseel.
"Do you know what chemicals they use to make these work?"
"But you know how to use them."
"Yeah, just peel and slap, like the commercial."
Boondock laughed. "You'd never be able to find out how they're made."
"And why's that?" Gheitley sighed.
"Company secret. If they let it out how they're made, anybody could make them. Patents and stuff."
"And? So?" Gheitley said, not masking his annoyance with the lesson Boondock was wringing out of him.
"The workers building satellites, do you think they try to find out what is inside every piece?"
Gheitley nodded. "Right. Okay, I get it."
Boondock continued. "No, they put the parts together the way they were trained to do it. They put chip A into slot B, they tighten the screws and solder the wires and go home when their shift is over. They know that the parts are all made from different places, and all the pieces each have their own patents and their own secrets. The factory workers just do their job and get their pay and don't care why it works, as long as it works."
"I get it, I said," Gheitley barked. "But what if someone did find out about the blind spots?"
Boon put the peel-and-slap patches back in the rack and sat back in his chair. He rested his hand on his rifle.
"What do you think we're doing out here, Tabasco?"
Gheitley heard Pincer chuckle over the com. Boondock was smiling something predatory behind his visor.