Earth’s Gambit is now LIVE! You can buy it here! If you have the time, please leave a review on Amazon. If you didn’t buy the book you can still leave a review or rating on Goodreads. Reviews and ratings really help the book get noticed, so please do so if you can!
To begin, activate divided mind, Lambda sent. You will train in Cyberspace with Eve and in-game with me.
Alan activated divided mind, sending one half inwards, into the Citadel in Cyberspace. The half of him that was in-game focused on Lambda.
It is finally time for you to master using that power armor you wear. Luckily my vast banks of knowledge include details on all that jazz, otherwise, we’d actually have to go listen to Omega drone on about his second coming and so forth, Lambda sent.
Great, it’s about time, Alan sent.
Yes, well, there’s another thing I want you thinking about too. You have been ignoring a major game changer, something we will need to remedy, Lambda sent.
And what’s that? Alan asked.
Reality, Lambda sent. You have already begun to feel changes in reality due to the nanobots manipulating your body, but I can also help with translating abilities from in-game to both reality and Cyberspace. We’ll need to find and install a real, comprehensive Machine Lord implant, but I’m sure you can find one with enough money. It will be expensive, but you are beginning to reach the level where you cannot be useless in a real life situation. I’d feel safer knowing that there were more safeguards in place protecting you and your capsule. Remember that the Game simulates reality, not the other way around.
Great, so I’ll eventually need to tell the difference between in-game Cyberspace and then an actual Cyberspace? Alan asked. This is getting a bit complicated, how many levels are there?
More than you know, and perhaps fewer, Lambda sent. The parts of Cyberspace that you connect to in-game: the Market, the Arcade, the Archives—they can all be directly reached from reality, without the need for going through the Game first. There is only one ‘real’ Cyberspace. Only, some of the devices connected to Cyberspace aren’t real, while other devices are actually real life machines. But real life devices have security barriers far beyond whatever you’re capable of hacking into at this point, and the same rule that you can be actually killed in Cyberspace applies. Don’t try hacking in reality, the defenses in place are designed to eliminate greater threats than you.
How does that even work? Alan asked. Simulated devices within the Game?
They’re like virtual machines, Lambda sent. Before the Game, computers ran emulated versions of a computer; virtual machines provided the function of a computer without there ever being any physical computer. The same thing is done for electronic devices in-game. Even as emulated devices they still have a space within Cyberspace. Anyways, your takeaway should be that there are still only three things you need to worry about: reality, in-game, and Cyberspace. But you need to start thinking more about reality.
Don’t the Enforcers hold the peace? They’ve been the only ones I’ve seen in reality with weapons, Alan sent.
Not every species was so technologically backward that they had to unequivocally surrender to the Enforcer Fleet, Lambda sent. At least a few empires retained the right to bear arms, out of self-defense. There might even be a few ongoing conflicts nowadays. I haven’t kept up with the latest frontier news. Other ships and weapons aren’t allowed near Khersath, but that doesn’t mean nothing is ever smuggled through. The Enforcers aren’t infallible.
But this is a worry for later, Lambda continued, I‘m sure that the Black Rose guild has defenses in place. Better to be safe than sorry, though. If you’re ever fighting in reality you don’t want to be defenseless.
Okay, Alan sent. He wondered what he would do if an emergency happened in reality. He’d probably run and try to find the nearest Enforcer. He needed to make preparations for when that wasn’t an option.
Now, change out of the Scout Power Armor into the Spectral Power Armor, Lambda sent.
What about our job? Alan asked.
We’re doing it. I’ll scan the area every so often to see if there are any interesting players or signals, Lambda sent. Besides, you’re not expected to watch the Abyss Labyrinth entrance 24/7, you have to sleep. The android standing guard is also constantly sending out scans. The Black Rose guild put you here so you have easy access to the Abyss Labyrinth if needed. A card held up their sleeve, the quest holder.
But why give me a list of important figures to keep a watch out for? Alan sent. A few of these players have pretty serious bounties.
Killing two birds with one stone, Lambda sent. The guild definitely wants to know if any major players or higher-ups in the gangs are making moves, but they don’t expect it. I’m sure as soon as we alert the guild to anyone on the list they’ll tell us to clear out immediately.
When did you pick all this up? Alan asked.
It’s called reading between the lines, another skill you’ll need to pick up on, Lambda sent. But now, power armor.
What followed was a lesson in repetition. Alan went inside the empty store and put on the Spectral Power Armor. Alan took off the Spectral Power Armor. Alan put on the Scout Power Armor. Alan took off the Scout Power Armor.
It wasn’t very hard. Each set of power armor practically put itself on, Alan just needed to place a piece around the body part it would fit on—each arm, leg, his body, and his head—and the armor would attach itself. He repeated this motion for a good hour until his muscles began to ache. Power armor was not, in fact, weightless—Eve simply defaulted to have the power armor use energy to support its own weight.
Alan knew that the high-tech Revenant power armor was equipped with many technological advances. Only, he’d never had to deal with the settings before, that he’d left up to Eve. Lambda walked him through all the basic functions and commands.
Turn shields off. Turn shields on. Turn temperature down. Turn temperature up. Turn air filtering off. Gag a bit at the smell of the Undercity. Turn air filtering on. Turn weight assistance off. Scream as hundreds of pounds of metal crush your body. Turn weight assistance on. Yell at Lambda for not providing any warning. And so it went.
Power armor, Alan had to admit, was a genius technological advance. It was capable of adapting to a thousand problems Alan had never even thought of when it came to having to fight in space or on other planets, an adept tool of war in nearly any scenario.
Once he ran through the basic checklist of commands a message appeared:
[Finally demonstrating the basic functions of power armor, you gained a new ability Power Armor Instruction (Basic)!]
That’s not much of a stat boost, Alan thought.
Diminishing returns, it’s a very basic ability that doesn’t take much effort to get, and your intelligence is already relatively high, Lambda sent. There are other factors as well, but it boils down to stop dying. There’s a reason I’m telling you to slow down and train.
Okay, let’s continue, Alan sent.
You’re going to need to get Phantom’s help with taking power armor apart and putting it back together, but we’ll make do with what we have, Lambda sent. Let’s start with the Scout Power Armor.
Alan turned on the basic invisibility field. He then turned it off. That part was easy. What came next was hard. Alan began to understand why Eve had to devote a large part of her processing power to maintaining the advanced stealth mode—there were simply too many variables to keep up with.
First, the entire electromagnetic spectrum in the area that Alan was standing in had to be replicated perfectly. To be successful Eve had hacked together a way for the armor to access the electromagnetic spectrum using Alan’s bionic eye implants. The scan wasn’t at the level of a full scan, thus requiring computational energy to activate, but still provided enough information to provide a snapshot of the electromagnetic spectrum surrounding Alan. His bionic eye implant sent out constant pings that had to be read and copied; it was like playing a game of Marco Polo, except the call-and-response happened hundreds of times a second and there were multiple levels of reality you had to keep track of.
Next, the various mechanical waves had to be propagated correctly. Alan knew things like sound waves had to travel through a medium, but to pretend to be that medium was complicated. Different types of waves had unique movement patterns whose direction of energy had to be calculated, and even with the power armor’s instruments and Lambda’s help with the physics calculations, the work was cumbersome.
Then, while all this was going on, the power armor’s own energy shields had to be kept up and disguised as noise or empty space. Alan didn’t even try to figure out how this worked, he just trusted in the black box that was advanced technology and followed Lambda’s instructions.
Of course, since all that wasn’t complicated enough, most of these calculations had to be done in anticipation of the future, for all these waves traveled at a speed which would be impossible to copy in real time.
There should be some way to automate all this, that’s what the basic invisibility mode does, it just detects all incoming light and copies it, Alan sent.
Maybe, but it would require the armor to have more scanners and computational power, Lambda sent. Besides, light is easy, with a nice constant speed.
Alan then repeated this process, but with the Spectral Power Armor. This was slightly easier to use, as Alan only needed to worry about electromagnetic waves. The armor had to be set to block the correct wavelength before it hit Alan, but with most electromagnetic waves moving at approximately the speed of light the only way this was possible was if Alan calculated the correct wavelength before a weapon was fired. (Though electromagnetic waves would be slowed traveling through matter like air, it wouldn’t be noticeable to Alan.)
What followed was a lesson on the wavelength of lasers, plasma, and similar energy-based attacks, and what they signified by Lambda. Eventually, for simplicities sake, Lambda decided to just color code incoming attacks, tying energy-based attacks to colors Alan was familiar with. Lambda used the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Red, having a long wavelength, would signal lower energy attacks, while progressing along the colors of the rainbow would signify higher energy attacks, violet being the most powerful.
Alan’s power armor instruction ability rose to intermediate and he gained five points in intelligence, strength, agility, and endurance.
That should be enough for now, reaching advanced will take a while, Lambda sent. Let’s move onto the Revenant training program after the next break.
Meanwhile in Cyberspace Eve had Alan memorize entire volumes on the weaknesses of various species, items, and vehicles. It seemed oddly racist, or speciest, to take a look at a hologram of an alien and then evaluate its weakness. At least, that’s what Alan thought. Eve didn’t care. More often than not the weakness of a living being turned out to be their head or reproductive parts. Go figure.
Technology turned out to be a bit more complicated, but usually, it boiled down to go for the power source. Either removing the power source or disrupting the flow of energy tended to disable most items. Certain more popular laser weapons and power armor had design flaws or backdoors, but this tended to only involve older models, as the newest versions had patched these obvious defects.
Instead of going into calculations or thought processes, Eve provided succinct summaries. Shoot here, ask questions later. If someone looked like this, shoot them here or here. If they wore armor that looked like this, shoot the shields with this type of ammo or in this place.
Vehicles were more complicated, but Eve taught Alan how to identify and navigate to the engine rooms and command centers of a few of the most popular starships, including the Rank A capital ship that helmed the United World Government’s space fleet.
Once he exited the Machine Lord implant’s Cyberspace bubble, also known as the Citadel, a message appeared:
[Learning the basic weaknesses of many players, items, and starships, you gained a new ability Detect Weakness (Basic)!]
Alan deactivated divided mind, and let everything he had learned from Eve and Lambda settle. While each divided mind was aware of the other, when the ability was active Alan had two distinct thought processes running at once. Alan worried that his mind would somehow diverge if he let the ability run for too long. There was also the worrying thought that he was killing off one of his ‘minds’ each time he activated and deactivated the ability, but the transition from two to one was seamless enough that it did seem like a true merging rather than one mind subsuming the other.
Well, whatever was happening when the ability was used didn’t matter now. Alan had more training to do. He reactivated divided mind and got back to work.