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I looked at Van accusingly and saw an unhappy look on his face. He quickly changed his look to neutral when he notice me staring. Salma used the IJ Battle-axe and minigun to push herself up. The short legs of the Trackbot worked to it’s advantage and the suit was quickly in a standing position. Van took a good look at his tablet and announced the findings.

“Suit has no problem getting into a standing position while on the ground. Suit integrity is excellent even after the fall. Toby, your Trackbot can’t transform while moving?”

“No.”

“Why not? The Trackbot-P is a combat suit and in combat, movement is important. There will be times when the operator will want to transform while in battle.”

I quickly reigned in my anger as I realized how important my answer would be. I knew that I can’t tell the SOFS the real reason why the Trackbot can’t transform while on the move. It was too hard to design such a vehicle might be true but admitting something like that would probably do more harm than good to my reputation as an up-and-coming suit designer. I needed to tell him something else and a reason spring to mind. I silently gave thanks to the Cybernetic Gods for my Quick-Thinking Promotion skill.

“It’s a safety feature.”

Van wasn’t expecting that and look intrigued by the answer. “Please explain Mr Wong.”

“The fact is that the Trackbot is a dream come true for some of us. Transform while moving? Who wouldn’t want to do something like that? It’s a thing we all saw in cartoons when we were kids right but I need to consider how safe it is. The last thing I want is for some dumb kid to go a hundred kilometer per hour and then turn on the transforming technology on a dare.” I stopped as Van and Jaya nodded at what I said. We were all young, stupid and dumb once. “Even with the armor of the suit, that is dangerous. So dangerous that I even thought of adding a program into the transforming cubes to prevent all transforming function while the Trackbot is moving.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“Because that comes with it’s own set of problems. What if the operator need to transform to prevent in case of emergency for example? I did not want to totally take away the option from the operator.”

“So the fact that the Trackbot can’t transform while moving is deliberate?”

“Yes. As they say; it’s a feature, not a bug.”

Van nodded at the answer. “I can see why you were worried about users abusing the function but I’m not sure your answer is the solution. Allowing the suit to transform while moving but not allowing it to transform in full seems neither here or there. The operator would still be taking a spill.”

“The Trackbot will keep the operator safe in the event of a crash and I figure after a few spills, the users would realize it can’t be done and just stop.”

“Still not sure if your answer is the right one but that’s not for me to say. I’m just here to assess your suit for safety and as things stand, there’s no problem on that front. A recommendation would need to be put in to advise buyers that the suit is unable to transform while on the move though.”

“I can live with that.”

“Let’s move on then. Salma, continue the test and this time, stick to the program.”

I immediately understood the situation. The moving transformation maneuver was something the operator of the suit did on her own initiative and was not part of the test. She must be one of those stupid dumb kids I was talking about!

The Trackbot-P began moving again, this time running towards another row of targets on its two short legs. Or at least I want to say it was running. With it’s short legs, the Trackbot-P was more lumbering than running. Much like the first row of targets, the Trackbot-P ran along the targets and shot them from thirty meters away. I couldn’t help wince. The targets were destroyed but the stray of bullets were all over the place. The Trackbot-P don’t have targeting system so everything depends on the operator’s aim with the minigun. Run and gun was a hard enough tactic for a normal human, so imagine how difficult it was for a human operating a three meter tall suit!

“Terrible.” My mouth moved before my brain caught up.

“To be expected really. Your suit don’t have aim assist and most operators and pilots nowadays are used to them.” Van replied as he look at the readings on his tablet. “Still, the test is on the minigun and whether it works when running, so on that front the Trackbot-P passed the test. Go on to the next test Salma.”

The Trackbot began running again, this time towards another target. I knew they were testing the axe and my confidence in the weapon allow my mind to wander. I began to wonder if I should look into changing the design of the suit so that it could transform while moving. The ability to do such a thing would give the operator a huge tactical advantage in the field but the task was daunting. Several factors need to be considered for such a function to work.

The base issues were speed and timing. There is a huge difference between travelling at twenty kilometer per hour and at a hundred kilometer per hour. The faster the suit travels, the less time it has to complete the transformation. I need to figure out what was the optimal speed for the transformation. I also needed to know the maximum speed the Trackbot-P could be travelling at for a safe transformation. Several ideas and questions sprung to mind. I need to change the internals to make the suit more agile but how do I do that? If this was a modern exoskeleton suit, I could do things to the synthetic muscle. If this was an armor suit, then I could make changes to the component armor. A suit based on a mixture of steam and clockwork technology?

I have no idea. I need to do more research. Someone somewhere must had thought of doing this before and written it down. I just need to find it and hope they succeeded where I failed. Well, maybe failure was too strong of a word. I never thought of doing it before so…uh?

I heard clapping. I quickly realized Jaya was clapping and quickly turn my attention back to the test. The Trackbot-P was in a kneeling position with it’s right knee on the ground. Once again I was so lost in my own thoughts that I was in my own world. I missed something important. I was about to ask what had happened when Van shouted over the comm.

“Salma! I told you to stick to the program! You try to transform while moving again and I’ll throw you out of that suit myself!”

A weight that I didn’t know was on me lifted. It seems like the operator tried to transform while moving again and this time, she somehow succeeded!

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Ghostman

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