The room, and everyone in it, looked absolutely bizarre sitting on the ceiling, and what's more, no one seemed concerned by it. Though, there would be no reason for them to be concerned by it, since the only reason they were upside down was because it was the viewer who was in fact upside down. As such, the only bizarre looks were given to Cormac the Irishman, sitting in a couch with his feet where his head should be, and his head where his feet should be. A small plastic pouch of nutrient paste hung limp from his mouth as the look on his face did not even try to hide his disdain for his situation.
"Swanepoel, tell me a story," Cormac said, breaking the silence that the rest of his unit was happy to maintain. The bespectacled man that Cormac was talking to looked like he was about to respond, but paused.
"You know, I was going to ask if you were five," Donovan Swanepoel started as he looked over from his magazine. "But that question seems to be moot."
"Yeah, nehah, I'm totally way more mature than five," Cormac gave a rather nasaly laugh. "I wish these nutrient packets came in fruit flavors. Like those one breakfast bars."
"Seriously, man, just gotta wait, like, five more minutes before our squad is up," a woman called over. Cormac responded by getting up, or rather, trying to get up. The Irishman cocked his legs before flinging them up to try and launch up over the back of the couch. Instead he rebounded and fell down off the seat, crumbling as his head connected with the floor. On the plus side, the room took amusement from the antics of their more free-spirited member.
"I'm good!" Cormac called as he scrambled up to his feet again, raising his arms triumphantly. Then, after mulling around for a few minutes more, a woman in a lab coat came to fetch the squad; indicating it was finally time for their round of testing.
"Woo!" Cormac hooted as he practically jogged out the door, bumping past a couple of his squadmates in the process. They however moved to the side, almost as though it wasn't the first time he had done this. As such, Cormac was the first of his Fireteam to make it to the testing chamber.
"So Doc, what's on the docket today? More testing of the ionized capacitor? I noticed that the efficiency could be upped by probably nineteen percent if we adjusted the titanium casing," Cormac started as he walked up to the main group of scientists.
"Cormac, stop trying to sound intelligent, these suits don't have any ionized capacitors, and the casing is not titanium," one scientist responded, meanwhile another one looked as though he was actually considering the possibility of Cormac accidentally saying something smart.
"Can we do another round of capture the flag? That shit was fun!" Cormac said, unphased by the jab.
Cormac was Greeted by a dark figure coming up toward him from the other side of the testing arena. It was a Sabeline woman, just a bit taller than he was, wearing the black UGR uniform of an intelligence unit. Her dark violet skin was offset by a peculiarly white grin- one with somewhat longer canines than was normal for a human. Her jet black hair was tied back in a ponytail, and she had the outline of a mind-link band wrapped around her forehead and temples.
"Tonight's docket calls for a Team Deathmatch," She announced to Cormac and his Teammates. "We have equal sized teams, as you can see-" She paused for effect, gesturing to the area around and behind her, where there was nothing to be seen- "Last one standing is the winner. Simple rules, no?"
"Oooooh, Team Deathmatch, not quite as exciting, but there is something to be said about just smashing head together." Cormac said with a smile as he turned towards the Sabeline. He then cast about a little trying to see what she was gesturing too. "Oh Kinny, if you wanted a one-on-one with me, you can just ask. I know this great little place to get some good food, though they tend to go a little heavy on the garlic now that I think about it."
The Irishman had one hand balled in a fist and planted firmly in the palm of his other, obviously excited about the idea of going up against the woman. "Always did like showing Spooks a good time."
The Sabeline chuckled a bit, thought the emotion that accompanied it was something more akin to disdain for her race than the amusement it meant for Cormac's "Cormac Flynn, As your superior officer you should refer to me as either Kinalla, or as Sir." Her smile turned into a straight line asshe pursed her lips and hid the pearly white fangs. "Rikkel, Please discipline this man properly." She suddenly ordered to no one in particular.
"As you wish, Sir..." The voice of a moonie floated out from nowhere in particular, before the owner of the voice appeared next to Cormac, his tail whipping to one side, hitting the backs of Cormac's calves with quite a bit of force, knocking the Irishman onto his rear. The other spook bowed in respect to the Sabeline before fading into nothing once more.
"Oooh, discipline, didn't know it was my birthday," the Irishman laughed a bit just before he was knocked onto his backside. He continued to laugh some, though he sounded like the air had been knocked out of him. "Woulda preferred if you had disciplined me though."
With that, he cocked his legs back, like what he had attempted to get off of the couch earlier. Being on level ground this time made it easier though, and his legs gave him momentum enough to flip back onto his feet with no hands. "Besides, rank is like age, its just a number. Why should it stand between two people that care about each other?"
"You know that makes no sense, right?" Swanepoel called from across the room as the rest of Cormac's squad caught up, but maintained a certain distance from Kinalla; they looked to begin whispering among each other, sounding worried.
Kinalla smiled once more as Cormac's team followed him into the testing area. "You should probably listen to your fellows before you get hurt" she jested with the man, but the words had a bit of a deadly aura to them. "We shall commence shortly, but first, some ground rules- Your testing equipment will calculate damage based on the theoretical output of everyone's MagiTek weapons, which will of course have their actual outputs limited. The field will be chosen at random, so Neither team will have time to prepare, finally, you may choose to fight either alone, in groups, or as a united team. Each choice has its pros and cons, so that will be something left up to you.
"Yeah yeah, save us the coaching, Soccer Mom," Cormac butted in prematurely, almost as though he wanted to aggravate the woman. "Besides, these guys are plenty book smart, but they keep me around for my street smarts. And getting hurt is the only way to grow and get better, so as an old adage of my people goes; bite me."
The Irishman's team looked visibly distraught by his insubordinate nature, and gave him choice looks when he turned and called them all in for a huddle to discuss strategy. From the outside looking in, there were still some looks of displeasure, but the others still listened carefully to Cormac. When it came to formal testing, he often had a short attention span, but when it came to combat maneuvers he shined. He was getting the general strategy out of the way, focusing on ways to counteract the spook brigade, and would specialize the strategy when they learned what the field would be.
"Alright, four on three," Cormac finally called, the rest of the squad joining in. "One, two, three, FOUR!" The team split and finished prepping in their ready area, as addrenaline began pumping while waiting on the field to form.
After a few minutes more, the doors slid open to the testing field. Roughly five-hundred feet in diameter, this was the largest arena in the facility, and with state-of-the-art hardlight holographic projectors, it was used to test combat effectiveness of the MTek suits. The arena chosen for the teams today was a worn down urban area. One of Cormac's team swore when they saw it, saying the Spooks would have the field advantage. He wasn't wrong, the buildings were pretty closely pack from the looks of it, with a lot of blind corners and upper floors to set up ambushes.
"Chill team, the Spooks may have a leg up, but we are far from useless in this setting," Cormac started as he lead the way on to the field, planning as he went. "They are likely already moving, since they have advantage, but their biggest assets are their stealth units. Way I see it, we can hunt around until we get picked off, or we can force the fight onto them. So we are going to split into two teams of three until mid-field, then one I will split off and press forward. If I am lucky, I can draw some attention, and give you lot some openings to start picking off some of our superiors in a wave of cathartic glory." The team then split according to predetermined groups that balanced range, support, and offense. Cormac led the way for his group, taking their time after a certain distance, making sure there were eyes covering alleyways, doors, and windows.
Once Cormac's team had reached midfield, the Irishman gave a signal. One squad flanked right, another left, and Cormac rushed straight. If it went as planned, Cormac would draw the attention while his team laid low, and once the Spooks showed themselves to ambush him the trap could be turned around and sprung on them. While he wasn't hooting and hollering, he certainly wasn't tiptoeing; and he was banking on even the dimmest Spook being able to zero in on him pretty quickly. After a fairly brief jaunt, he arrived at a good spot. It looked like a town square, roughly twenty feet across, and slowed down and stopped with a slight hop. Now he was focused on interception, since his plan was pointless if he scrubbed and got taken out immediately.
"Man! I really thought there would be more around here!" Cormac called, sounding oblivious.
"You really are a fool, aren't you?" Kinalla's voice came from above Cormac, though the echoing in the square made it hard to pinpoint exactly where. She was nowhere to be seen, which was not much of a surprise considering how the other spooks had been just as invisible earlier.
"Even as we speak your teammates are being hunted down by my subordinates. If they keep their wits about them, they may have a chance, but-" She paused, for dramatic effect, and appeared, her form solidifying out of a bit of a mottled shimmer that Cormac found atop a light pole, The Sabeline woman standing on one foot, the other leg slightly cocked with the to resting gently on her other heel.
"I doubt any of them will be fast enough. Unfortunately for you this test was less for you and more for us." She smiled at him in a superior sort of way, but remained atop the light post. "If I'm correct, your Flame thrower cannot reach me here, and the other one you have isn't nearly as reliable, so, What will you choose?"
Cormac seemed to think for a brief time, part of him knew this match would be a wash, but wasn't sure to the degree. Maybe they had a chance, Kinalla had said, but from what it sounded like and from what he knew of his team then there wasn't going to be much of a team left. If they cooperated, they could probably take a spook or two with them, maybe even three if Swanepoel decided to not be a knob.
"So, my choice for opening move, huh?" the Irishman rephrased as he looked deep in thought. "In that case, I choose... monkey wrench powers!" His hand shot into his back pocket and quickly flung a small adjustable wrench at Kinalla while immediately dashing forward, trying to close the distance. "I ain't gettin' washed," he thought to himself, thinking that even if he lost, he wanted to either take Kinalla with him, or at least make sure she wouldn't forget it.
Kinalla hopped gracefully out of the way, floating to the next street light with grace, an ability that very few beings possessed- and Sabeline were not included on that short list. So that showed Cormac at least two of the abilities the spooks currently had at their disposal- Stealth, and gravity field manipulation. The Sabeline shook her head, disappointed by Cormac's first attempt. "Literally pulling something out of your back pocket is a little childish, is it not?" she chided the man, brushing down the front of her pencil skirt to ensure that it did not wrinkle from the effort.
"Now, I want some real effort out of you. The data is no good if we defeat you all too easily."
"You call it childish, I call it imaginative," Cormac said back, unbothered by her insults, though once he got to a new position he grumbled under his breath. "Oh, I'll give ya some data to crunch."
"Just a fair warning, you wouldn't be the first woman who thought she could get the upperhand on me. I mean, she eventually did anyway, but boy did I put up a fight!" He began his attack by rushing forward, once he reached the base of the pole he leapt and angled his momentum to begin running a short ways up the pole. Once he was about six feet up he began to spin slightly. As his feet spun downward again he let loose a torrent of intense wind which compounded with his upward momentum and carried him quickly up the light pole. Just before he reached the top he stopped his torrent and spun around once more, this time releasing a powerful gust to sweep her left side. While its power diminished at greater distances, from close quarters the air magic can hit hard.
Kinalla was blown easily sideways by the gust of wind, flinging her off of the top of the pole and toward a nearby building. However, much to Cormac's disappointment, the Spook reoriented herself mid-air, and touched down gently on the side of the building with a bit of graceful flair, sticking at the spot, now oriented in a horizontal plane when compared to Cormac.
"Not bad. Seems like they've gotten it working better since the last test" she complimented, seeming completely unperturbed by the fact that Cormac had essentially landed a hit on her. She had still yet to raise a finger against the Irishman, though, instead keen more on testing the combat maneuverability offered by her own MTek.
"It's a shame that won't be enough to let you win, You look much better when you're under duress."
Cormac caught hold of the top of the pole and braced himself so he could redirect towards Kinalla's new position. "I'd be very disappointed if that had been enough to beat you, cause I ain't even warmed up yet!" From there he launched himself off with another blast of air, and using it to begin another spin. As he closed in he began to sheath himself in fire, using the spin to create a flame wheel that would both obscure him and hopefully get the stick out of Kinalla's butt so she would actually start fighting.
"And you, uh, fuck it," Cormac started to say before deciding against a quip, since all that came to mind sounded more like compliments. "WE FIGHT NOW!"
Kinalla raised one of her hands up above her head, orienting the palm toward Cormac as she did so- And he met with an oppressive barrier of gravity, slowing him down for just long enough to allow the violet woman to drop to the ground below, landing on her feet nimbly, as if she had some sort of feline instincts. "You almost had it, you'll have to be quicker than that." She commented, turning to face the building and bounding smoothly backward and out of the way of whatever Cormac's next move was. Would he be able to rebound off the building? Or simply smack into it with all the rage of a rat trapped in a cage?
Sure enough, Cormac was having trouble with wit at the moment, but that meant that he was focused; and if there was one thing that got his Irish blood pumping, it was being an underdog. Now in full skirmish mode, he grit his teeth against the gravity well, but reoriented himself with a quick burst of air. As he approached the wall he got a bead on where Kinalla may be moving next, and as soon as his feet made contact he pushed off again. This time he launched himself towards the ground while he began throwing out several large billows of fire at Kinalla, obscuring the air with heat, flames, and the smell of ozone.
The Intelligence officer held out a hand toward Cormac as he descended, seeming unperturbed by the flames potentially flying at her, and used her MTek suit's gravity manipulation to pull the soldier closer toward herself at an extremely high rate of speed. Then, just a few feet short of smashing the man into her own self, she held up her other hand and stopped him in his tracks, holding him up as a shield between the flames and herself.
So close to the ground, and yet so far, Cormac thought as he grasped at the pavement; fingers grasping nothing significant. Instead he was pulled through his own flames towards his quarry. Thankfully, he had launched the flames intentionally to be all bluster, not burn; so aside from some slight scorching all that was accomplished was Cormac closing the distance with Kinalla. As the plumes of flame washed over him a second time he threw his hand forward; not to launch wind, not to throw fire, but instead he released a handful of sand that he had grabbed when trying to grab the ground. It wasn't a whole lot of sand, but he threw it at her face, so with luck she would falter or flinch.
Kinalla dropped her off hand as sand was thrown in her face, taking her eyes off of Cormac and dropping him to the ground, though she kept up on the hand that was keeping the man at bay. "Playing dirty, eh?" she fired back at the man as she brought her eyes back to bear on the soldier that she was squaring off against.
"Channeling my inner Spook, thought you'd be proud of me," Cormac quipped. With his distraction a success, he would likely not get another chance at taking her down. There was still a barrier in his way, so he figured it was time to try for a hat trick. Bracing his stance, he looked like he was focusing on something. From behind Kinalla, a small jut of rock broke through the ground, and in a quick motion Cormac urged it to move towards him; and impact the back of Kinalla's calves, reminiscent of the punishment she sentenced him to just earlier.
"RIkkel, Now!" Kinalla called, and the Moonie appeared from thin air, dropping to the ground just behind his superior and bracing his shoulder for the impact. Kinalla had of course seen every type of MTek gear in action and knew how all of it worked, and had seen the attack coming, though she had made sure to keep a lackey with her in case she needed someone to take a hit.
"I would say that's cheating, but I did just throw sand in your face, so, call it square," Cormac said, taking some joy in seeing the Moonie that had knocked him down bashed by a rock as big as it was; maybe he would get lucky and end with a net zero kill to death ratio for the match as a result. Not wanting to let Kinalla off easy, he crouched and launched himself upwards with another torrent of air. He didn't know the spread of the Spook-shield but he was going to find out. Once he was about ten feet up he pulled his hands together, and in a loud, commanding voice shouted, "Ar an sciatháin na tine! Flynn Fire Dragon!"
From his hands launched a large, admittedly impressive storm of fire, but no part of it actually looked like a dragon.
"Amusing" Was Kinalla's only response as she watched Cormac launch into the air and launch his largest burst of flame for the day, but the spook simply raised her outstretched hand, then clenched it in a fist, creating a gravity well that sucked all of the low-mass plasma particles easily within its confines, and then, with her other hand, she raised and open-fingered palm up toward Cormac, similarly clenching that fist, at which point the Irishman felt as if he was having the wind knocked out of him, then, with a downward jerk of her elbow, she brought her opponent none too gently to the ground.
Cormac was stunned, winded, and frankly a little disappointed. He was slow to get up, and he had flashbacks to boot camp as he tried desperately to push himself up off of his stomach one last time. He had no quips, as his lungs ached and wouldn't let him speak; and he couldn't attack, since it was all he could do to keep from collapsing back onto the ground; but he still looked defiantly up at Kinalla. The look in his eyes was one of excitement.
"Got... gotta... practice that one a bit more," Cormac gasped, his lungs hurting as he worked air back into them. His body was screaming at him, his joints ached, and his muscles were bruised. "Good hit... Yeah... Good hit." Unsteadily he got back on to his feet.
He hadn't realized it, but Kinalla had been approaching him the entire time he was struggling to get up, and now that they were face to face, She gave him a toothy grin, showing off those vicious canines that set her species apart as being just a bit more of a predator than the Terran race. She held up one hand, but thankfully for Cormac no Gravimetric push came. Instead, she used good old fashioned manual labor, and pushed the man back down onto his backside.
"And that is 100% simulated damage." She reported to the man sitting in front of her.
"Fuck your simulated damage," Cormac said, taking offense. He tried to throw more fire, but his suit was deactivated. The noise he made sounded like a snarl as he showed off his own canines. "The only way I'm leaving is on a stretcher, not accepting a TKO." In one last push of grit, he kicked forward again, but with his suit's weight with none of the augmentations all he could do was make a kick at Kinalla's legs.
Kinalla responded by scoffing at the feeble maneuver, before taking pity on the poor fool and granting him his wish. She spun on one foot, lashing out the other in a gravity-augmented roundhouse kick, the side of her foot impacting forceably with the side of Cormac's head. Just before Cormac lost consciousness, He could swear that he had seen a flash of white silk between Kinalla's legs, under the skirt.
Sure enough, Cormac got his wish. The kick left him limp and unconscious, but at least he got a parting gift to give him sweet dreams. As he was carried out of the now empty arena on a stretcher, there was a faint smile on his face, and his hand was curled in a thumbs up.