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The rest of the test went smoothly. I don’t know if it was due to threat by Van but the operator did not attempt the transformation move again. A pity as I really want to see it. After the test, Van gave his approval for both Trackbot designs and gave me his prepared speech again. I barely listened as my mind was elsewhere.

Once the speech was done and the paperwork was finished, I asked for a recording of the test. As this was Singapore, I naturally had to pay a pretty penny for it. I know it doesn’t make sense but that’s how it’s done here. In almost every other country in our solar system, a copy of the test would be given free to the company. I mean the company already paid for the test so you would naturally assumed that the SOFS would give the recording to the company for free right? Sure sometimes the company might have to ask for the recording and sign an agreement freeing the SOFS of liability, there’s such a thing called corporate espionage after all, but they would ultimately receive a copy of the recording for free. Not in Singapore. Here you need to pay for everything and that includes getting a copy of a test you had already paid for!

That was why I didn’t have a copy of the Jumpbot test but in this case, I had no choice. Even if I had been paying attention, I would still need the recording. It was the only way to get a detail understanding of how the operator managed to transform while moving.

Now most people would think that this was a good new development but that’s wrong. Nothing worries a designer more than his design doing something out of the ordinary. A designer want everything to follow the blueprint and every action accounted for. If the Trackbot-P did something it was never meant to do, it could mean that there was a design flaw in the Trackbot-P that I had overlooked.

So after the test I immediately went to my workshop, turned on the white noise filters, and saw the recording. The recording starts from the moment the SOFS took control of the Trackbot-P and I naturally skipped everything till the moving transformation. The recording shows that the Trackbot-P was moving at twenty-five kilometer per hour when it transformed. It wasn’t perfect. One knee was dragged along the ground and the operator had to put a hand on the ground to keep the suit upright but in the end, the operator did it. The Trackbot-P was travelling the whole time and it did successfully transform. Now I had to know how.

I reran the recording several times in slow motion and used the workshop computer to slowly piece together what happened. The workshop computer was never designed to do this but it was the best thing I got. It would have been easier if I could use the Dive or speak to the operator but both were out of the question. There was no way to upload the recording to Dive and after a series of bribery scandals, the SOFS do not allow companies to have any contacts with their pilots and operators. I made a note to myself to upgrade my computer the first chance I got.

After a few hours of work and countless reruns, I managed to piece together how the operator did it. It turned out that the trick was in the springing mechanism of the SH-3 Legs. Both the Trackbot and Trackbot-P were variants of the Jumpbot, this was why my mission to create a Grade 1 Battlesuit is still ongoing, and both versions of the Trackbot use the SH-Legs. When the transforming mechanism is activated, the legs would be unhooked from the Rolling Clocktrack and be placed on the ground as the tracks took their position on the back of the suit. The whole process took only three seconds.

What the operator did was something rather ingenious. She activated the springing mechanism of the SH-3 Legs while the transformation was only halfway through. This caused the Trackbot-P to make a small jump while transforming, giving the suit more time to finish the transformation. Although it sounds simple, it was anything but when you are moving. From the recording, the operator hit the jump half a second after activating the transformation and even then the transformation wasn’t a complete success. As the legs did not have a firm footing when the suit started the transformation, this caused the suit to end up only in a kneeling position.

I never thought of this. I never thought of someone trying a jump while the transformation was halfway through. This operator not only thought of it after just one unsuccessful try, she partially succeeded! If my estimate is correct, she only had seventh hundred of a second at most to activate the jump after hitting the transformation and after that, she still had to balance the suit while it was both moving and changing shape. I could do nothing but sigh; there’s just no accounting for talent.

Still, my findings were generally positive. There wasn’t any flaw in my design and the operator did gave me an idea of how to get the suit to transform while moving. I could design something to provide the Trackbot-P with a small lift while it was in the midst of transformation. This should give the suit the small window it needs to finish the transformation while it was moving. There were several ways for me to do this but they all come with their pros and cons.

I could program the SH-3 Legs to do an automatic jump during transformation but that won’t work if the suit was travelling on uneven ground or if it was travelling too fast. I could install some small devices to lift the suit during transformation. There are many such steam-powered devices around but the Trackbot-P is a heavy suit so the devices would have to be pretty powerful.

There’s also the option of forgetting the whole thing and just install a lock to prevent the suit from transforming while it was moving. This would solve all my problems but I didn’t want to run away from the problem. The operator had opened the possibility and I am now intrigued by the puzzle. As I was thinking, a call came. I saw who it was and answered immediately.

“Toby here.”

“It’s me. I found someone you might be interested in seeing.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yes. The person I found is the real deal and she’s very interested in meeting you.”

“Okay. Arrange a meet but let’s not take any chances. Make sure it’s someplace quiet but public.”

“I have just the place but she has a request.”

“What?”

“She want you to bring along one of your cards.”

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Ghostman

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