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“You really did it this time Toby. If today goes well, we’ll be rich! I might be able to sell your Trackbot to people other than collectors and museums.”

“Might?”

“Hey, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Your suits still need to pass certification and today is not the greatest day for testing.”

On that, Jaya was correct. I looked up at the sky and frowned at the rain coming down. Due to the rain, the SOFS had placed the two of us were in a two storey building a little distance from the testing site. The building was a little run-down but it did offer us a good view of the testing site and sheltered us from the rain so I can’t really complain. I only wish it would stop raining.

Like most designers, I would prefer it to be a bright sunny day to cut out all the variables but this is Singapore and if there’s one thing more constant than death and taxes here, it is the rain. I knew the SOFS was not going to let a little rain postpone a test so I console myself that the rain wasn’t the hard driving rain of the seasonal monsoon. It was instead the steady lazy rain that would last for the whole day.

“The Trackbot can handle a little rain,” I tried to sound more assured than I felt. “And just for the record, I like the fact that some of my Jumpbots are in museums.”

“Oh please, get a hold of yourself. Only third and fourth rate museums have your Jumpbot. It’s not like it’s in the Louvre.”

“Too highbrow for me. I’ll take the Technical Historical Museum of Mars over the Louvre any day of the week. Is it true that they placed it beside a Steambot?”

“Yup. Placed in the Old Technology wing and last I heard the curators had it beside a Steambot as an exhibit on how old designs could still be relevant today.”

“Maybe I’ll take a trip to Greendom to see it. Never been to Mars.”

“Oh no you don’t. Once we’re done here, you are going to get your fat ass back into Dive to…wait, you never been to Mars?”

“Nope. I’d been to Esapce Station but I never stop at Mars.”

“Alamak, what kind of idiot are you? You went to the asteroid belt but didn’t land at Mars?”

“A round trip to the belt and back was cheaper. I had no reason to stop at Mars. Where’s the furthest out you’ve been?”

“Titan. That’s settle it. Once we start making some money, you’re going on a trip. Go get some inspiration for a new suit, preferably one that’s totally original.”

I stop myself from telling Jaya that I had no intention of coming up with an original design before figuring out the cards. That’s information he do not need to know. So instead I hedged.

“Who’s the one who said that we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves?”

“Me. One got nothing to do with the other. Pass or fail, you need more designs.”

I was going to response when I saw Van approaching. I was surprised when I saw that he would be overseeing our certification test but it was nice to see a familiar face. The man must really be a fan of the Steambot.

“Mr. Wong, fancy seeing you here again.”

I smiled and told a white lie as I shook his hand. “The pleasure is all mine. I was kind of expecting you to be here actually.”

“Considering you are here with another variant of the Steambot, that’s a good guess. I have good news on the inspection for you. Both your Trackbots passed the inspection and initial test with flying colors. We will be proceeding to the practical tests immediately. Please look over there.”

I followed Van’s direction to a big warehouse at the edge of the testing site. The door of the warehouse lift up and my Trackbot walked out in to the rain. At first glance, there wasn’t any difference between it and a Jumpbot but if one look properly, one can see some differences. The Trackbot at two and a half meters tall was a little shorter than the Jumpbot. I had kept the downward pointing exhaust but added two protruding tracks on the suit’s back.

"Michael, begin Phase Two."

The operator didn’t waste time and immediately activated the transforming mechanism at Van’s order. The legs of the Trackbot folded up by the side of the suit’s body while the twin exhaust on it’s back begin to move down. The exhausts lay on the ground and the legs hooked into them. In seconds, the second form of the Trackbot came into view. A suit that sat on twin caterpillar tracks. The Trackbot began to move and Van told the operator to kick it.

The Trackbot sped up and the spray of water showed the speed of the suit. It was moving well and I saw no indication of trouble but I couldn’t help but look at the Van’s tablet to check the readings. Van obviously knew what I was doing but he didn’t seem to mind and allow me a clear view of his device.

The speed had reached a hundred kilometers per hour and was still climbing. Once the Trackbot reached a hundred and twenty, the operator suddenly hit the brakes. The Trackbot slid a short distance on the wet ground before coming to a dead stop. I wasn’t expecting a brake test but considering the conditions, I thought the suit did very well. The operator was in communication with Van and the supervisory technician nodded.

“No whiplash. You build the suit well, Mr. Wong.”

“Comfort and safety is a priority and please call me Toby. No one call me Mr. Wong.”

Van gave a slight nod as the Trackbot began moving again. It turned and headed towards a series of tall traffic cones. Van spoke to the operator again.

“Okay, it’s rainy so be careful out there Michael. Maintain speed at thirty kilometers per hour and hit the course.”

The Trackbot sped up a little and began to weave between the cones. I wasn’t too worried about the maneuverability test even though it was raining. The Rolling Clocktrack I selected had a great track record and I had considered many factors before selecting it. The tracks were soft enough not to damage roads but strong enough to move the heavy suit even through rough terrain. With my tinkering skills, I also increased the sensitivity of the control so that the operator has higher control. I was more worried about another aspect of the suit.

“Van, can you ask the operator how comfortable he is in the suit?”

Van nodded at the question and relay the question. Whatever the answer was got him smiling. “He said he feel like he is in a luxury vehicle.” The three of us laughed. I guess I really was a worrywart. Jaya was the first to recover.

“So what do you say Van? Do we pass?”

“Toby, in my professional position as a supervisory technician of SOFS, I deem your Trackbot a safe and suitable product for the open market. I can’t quite believe it but you had managed to redesign the Steambot into a modern personal mobility vehicle. Congratulations!”

Jaya couldn’t help but to give me a congratulatory slap on the back. He then ask Van an important question. “So Van, you think there’s a market for such a vehicle?”

“For such a vehicle, then the answer is probably no. However as a suit that could transform into a vehicle, I’m sure there will be people out there who will love to own such a novelty.”

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Ghostman

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