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Van just smiled and began touching his tablet. The hologram of the Jumpbot-S disappeared and the supervisor began reading some technical readouts that appeared in its place. The three of us just stared at him. Jaya broke first.

“She seems young.”

“Salma is one of the top graduates of her year from Tiger Force Academy.” Van replied. “She’s more than capable of some simple testing.”

“What’s she doing here then? No offense.”

I could only nod at Latiff’s question. Tiger Force Academy is the top military school in the SEAL and their graduates are practically drafted in to the armed forces. To sweeten the pie, the top graduates are all targeted for further promotion after enlistment and enjoyed benefits far beyond those of normal soldiers.

“None take.” Van replied. “She’s here because…well, she’s a she. Salma is interested in piloting combat mechs and battlesuits but the army would never allow a woman go on the frontline. If she join any branch of the armed forces, she’ll be pushing paper. So she’s here. Will that be a problem Mr. Wong?”

My first instinct is to say ‘yes’ but there was something about what Van said that spoke to me. The girl was young but as a top graduate from Tiger Force, she could have been a Lieutenant or Captain by now. Forgoing a high ranking career in the armed forces to be a test pilot was one hell of a climb-down yet this girl was willing to do it just to fulfil her dreams.

”If you say she’s good enough, then she’s good enough.” I ignored the looks of Jaya and Latiff and continued. “Let’s get this started shall we?”

Van’s smile got wider and he touched his ear. I didn’t even notice his earpiece before this. “Salma, you may begin when ready.”

The operator activated the Battlesuit and began walking. After walking a healthy distance, it turned around and walked back to her original starting position. The Jumpbot-S was swinging it’s arms the whole way, testing them out. Van must be in communication with the operator as he nodded his head and told our group some good news.

"Startup is completed. Power reading is normal. Limbs are working fine. Go for a run.”

The last part was for the operator as the Jumpbot-S began running. The operator switched the spotlights on and off several times and stretched the suit’s limbs at various angles. The test has begun in earnest. Van and the operator began to dig up faults but I refused to turn away. I don’t want to waste this chance to see how my Jumpbot-S operate under stress. I watched anxiously and after some time I noticed that while the Jumpbot-S seems stable enough, it had problems whenever it tried to make a sharp turn or when it try to go sideways. Half an hour later after the start of the test, Van expressed his satisfaction.

I let out my breath in relief. Jaya slap me on my back and joked. “See? Told you there’s nothing to worry about. What now Van?”

“Now we test the weapons.”

The moment Van said that, the Jumpbot-S began walking out of the test center. It seems that the weapon testing would be taken outdoors. I was a little surprised at this but figured it wouldn’t matter. These guys must have done this a thousand times before and I was quietly confident about this aspect of the certification. The Jumpbot-S didn’t have that many weapons on it and I didn’t change the design of those it did have.

Once we were outside, my breath caught slightly as the Jumpbot-S shone in the sunlight. I couldn’t help the smile that came to my face as I thought my Jumpbot-S looking like a knight in shining armor. The Jumpbot-S walked to an open area where a few targets had been placed and the test started anew.

“Salma, begin Phase Two.”

They started by testing the Battlesuit carrying capacity. The operator picked up and carrying a variety of weights, trying to figure out the maximum weight the suit can carry. More reading appeared on Van’s tablet but he kept quiet about them and I didn’t pry. Then the operator fired the X-S Cable Punch at one of the stationary target. The punch hit the target and smashed through it as if it wasn’t there. The cable then reeled the hand back in and I saw that the SOFS was timing how long It took to reel it back. The Jumpbot-S then walked towards one of the targets and sliced through it with the IK Battle-axe.

“So far, so good. Go for a jump.” Van said and the Jumpbot jumped into the air. It landed with a thud but everything seems fine to me. It didn’t to Van. “Reading is spiking. Temperature is rising...”

I immediately realized the problem and offered him the solution. “Vent the heat.”

“What?”

“The temperature rises after a jump. Just vent the heat and it would go back to normal. It would also release a smokescreen.”

“You heard that Salma?”

She did as white air surrounded the Jumpbot-S. This was the first time I was seeing the smokescreen in action and I was suitably impressed. The accidental smokescreen I created was fast. Within moments, I couldn’t even see the Battlesuit within the smoke.

“You changed the vent into a smokescreen? Why?”

Latiff was incredulous and I found myself lying about how I came up with the idea of the smokescreen. “The Steambot is known as a slow and clumsy Battlesuit so the SH-3 Legs allow it to cover ground quickly. Once it’s close, the operator can release the smokescreen to help with close range combat.”

“How would it see anything within the smoke?”

Latiff was undeterred by my explanation and my Quick-Thinking Promotion skill got to work. “Originally I was thinking of replacing the spotlight eyes with infrared or x-rays, but that would bring cost up and during testing in the Dive, I found it to be a little unnecessary. The Jumpbot-S is so big and powerful that once it is up close, it will win most engagements.”

“Any plans to introduce them in the future?”

I just smirked at the reporter. “Let’s just get through the certification first shall we?”

“Well, it’s now up to you Van?” The reporter turned to the supervisor. “What do you say?”

“Rig connection is fine. Stability is excellent. Turning is a little slow but that comes with the base design of the Steambot. No leaks detected. Power output is stable. Rising temperature after the jump is a design function, and not a flaw.” The supervisor took a final look at his tablet before announcing the verdict. “Overall, you made an excellent suit Mr. Wong. In my professional position as a supervisory technician of SOFS, I deem your Jumpbot-S Battlesuit a safe and suitable product for the open market. Congratulations. This is very impressive for a first-timer.”

[Mission completed. Knowledge Manual awarded to User Tobias Wong. New Mission available]

[Mission completed. Enhancement Upgrade awarded to User Tobias Wong. New Mission available]

[Mission completed. Lottery Chance awarded to User Tobias Wong. New Mission available]

“Huh?”

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