Blackness. That's all he could sense. He? Yes, he was a He. Who was he? Was he dead? He must be. No need for a name when you are dead. Heh. Sounds like something Freddie would say. Freddie. Wait, is that who I am? A flash of color and the face a man swam before him momentarily. That was Freddie, he wasn't Freddie. Who is he?
Faintly a voice called to him. "Mykal, c'mon man, you can do it."
Mykal? What that his name? It felt right. Yes, that was his name, Mykal. Mykal McDaniel . Captain Mykal McDaniel . I'm a Captain, Captain of what? A Mecharmor unit. Wait. They died. All of us but Freddie. At least he made it out. But if he was the only one that made it, why was he thinking about all this, he should be in the afterlife. Probably Hades after all the things he'd done.
"Wake your stupid ass up Mykal; I know you can hear me." The voice came again.
A sudden, sharp pain lanced through the blackness. Ow! That hurt. Wait, if he was dead, how could that hurt?
The pain lanced through him again, a familiar sting. One he would never forget. Again the searing flame, followed by another, then another, quickly followed by dozens, then hundreds.
Synaptic connections! This was the same pain he felt after the first surgery when the military installed the system into his brain.
"Doctor, he's coming around! The synaptic connections are re-initializing." A female voice said sounding closer than Freddie's had.
"That's it man, you can do it, wake the hell up!" Freddie said to him, closer even still.
Oh, this is going to hurt, was the last thought Mykal had before his body and mind launched into the waking world.
"Aaaaaaahhhh!" Mykal screamed as his body launched upright into waking, nerves all over his body tingling in electric fire.
"Welcome back brother!" Freddie said, pushing his body back down to the bed, a large male nurse helping him.
"Get out of my way." A lilting voice said, as the nurse to his side was shoved out of the way and a tiny red haired woman walked up next to Mykal and plugged a connector into one of the arm ports on his right arm. "Everything seems to be booting up okay. No sign of damage or improper connections."
"Very good Brigit, keep an eye out for any changes, no matter how small." said a deep voice from the foot of the bed. "It looks like the restored connections took, as well as the new connections, and all of them are integrating properly."
Lifting his head slightly, the pain in his body now starting to recede, Mykal saw a dark haired older man looking down at a computer pad and occasionally glancing up at him.
"Welcome back Mykal. I trust the pain is starting to recede?"
Mykal nodded slightly, trying to get his dry and uncooperative throat to work out the words.
The man smiled slightly, "Nurse, get the Captain a bit of water, he's probably very parched."
Freddie snorted, "As long as he has been out cold, I wouldn't be surprised."
A sharp look from the man at the foot of the bed, a doctor by the look of him, silenced Fred. "Yes, well, we can get into that later."
The nurse returned with a bottle of water with a straw coming out of it. "Small sips now, don't want you choking." he said quietly, while the doctor and the young woman conversed quietly over the readouts they seemed to be receiving from their two pads.
Finally able to coax wind through his throat and lips, Mykal was able to croak out, "Where are we? Did the Family make it away okay?"
"I told you he was going to ask that." Fred said under his breath. The nurse shook his head slightly and Mykal saw the redhead girl, Brigit, smirk slightly as she scrolled through more information. There was something familiar about her.
Mykal gave Fred a withering stare, waiting for an answer.
Holding his hands up in surrender, Fred backed up a step. "Hey, I just went back and got you out of the 'Mech, the rest is up to them." Looking over at the doctor and Briget, he shrugged, "As to where we are, we're on a ship. Don't know where we're going."
Swallowing to get his throat working, he spoke quietly, "I ordered you not to turn back. You could have been killed." Fred snorted his disbelief, "Not after you got done with them." Looking over at the doctor, he asked, "So what's the damage Doc? Thought synaptic overload was fatal."
Looking up and into Mykal's eyes, the doctor nodded slightly. "Normally that would be true, but some cases can be saved; if the Synaptic Connectors are replaced with a higher grade of hardware."
Mykal glanced over at Fred who shrugged his shoulders. "I know my clearance isn't all that high, but I thought that Mecharmor pilots had the highest grade of implants." Mykal noticed the young redhead scratching at the back of her neck while flicking her eyes over the computer pad she was reviewing. "At least, that's what we were told when it was getting put in." Fred frowned and nodded in agreement.
Without looking up from his screen, the doctor smirked, "Well, yes, it is, as far as most people are concerned."
Mykal sighed and looked up at the ceiling, concentrating through another wave of electric fire, this one lesser than the one that woke him. As he rode through the pain, he dimly noticed that the young woman and the doctor where speaking quickly and quietly, showing each other the readings on their individual readouts.
After the pain had passed, he took notice of the young woman, who seemed to be getting more and more agitated as they conversed.
Finally the Doctor looked up at Mykal, "Captain, we are going to need to run some more tests, but everything seems to be working out well as far as the replacement hardware goes." Looking up at the nurse, he nodded once. "You are going to need to get some more rest before you will be ready to start your training."
Mykal glanced over at the nurse, who was fiddling with the IV drip controls. "Training? Why? I know how to use a connection."
As he started to feel his world get fuzzy and dark, the doctor smiled softly at him. "It's not for the Synaptic Connectors. We'll go over it when you are feeling better."
As Mykal's world faded, the last thing he saw was the young woman's piercing green eyes looking at him sadly. "We should have told him. It's not right to do this. Dad said to tell him when he woke up Uncle Jason."
The doctor's voice was the last thing he heard. "I'll handle my brother. I've been doing it since he took..."
The words barely registered, but as darkness closed in on him, he thought, "I don't like seeing her sad; I'm sure it can't be that bad."
"You put what in my head?!"
"Captain, this is not as big a deal as you are making it out to be. You should be honored to have gone through this procedure." The doctor made a calming gesture with his hands, trying to get the situation under control.
"An honor? Let me see if I understand." Mykal's steel grey eyes flashed with a rage barely held in check, "You cut open my head, took a chunk of my brain out and put even more computer parts in there? Computer parts that no one else, but 'a select few' get installed?" The medical equipment keeping watch over his vital stats, started to beep louder and faster as his brain activity and heart-rate steadily cranked up to near un-safe levels. "What am I now? An experiment for you to poke and prod? Is that why only 'a select few' have this? Because you can't find many guinea pigs for you little project?" Mykal was seeing red and trembling with rage when he finally trailed off, his head throbbing from his elevated blood pressure.
"Mykal, you don't understand..." the doctor cut off as the doors to the room swished open.
"I see that your bedside manner hasn't gotten much better Jason." A strong, deep voice came from the tall, powerful looking man that walked briskly through the door.
The doctor dropped his head and pinched the bridge of his nose, taking a deep breath, "No, brother mine, it hasn't. It doesn't need to. The problem is that these combat pilots are so damn aggressive that they immediately see anything done to them as an attack on their person."
Mykal's eyes were glued to the man that had just come into the room. At just a hair under 2 meters tall, with the wide shoulders, strong jaw and close cropped dark hair that women all over the galaxy swooned over, there was no mistaking who had just walked into his recovery room.
As those fierce ice-blue eyes turned from the exasperated doctor and locked onto his face, Mykal remembered himself and bowed his head, bringing his right fist as close to his chest as the connectors would allow. "Y-your Highness, you honor me with your presence. "
His Royal Majesty, Hans Davidov IV, King of the Davidov nation and ruler of over a hundred systems smiled at the young man in the bed, "No son, it's me who is honored to be here."
With a shocked intake of breath, Mykal's head raised and he looked his king in the eyes. The older man was smiling softly, a hand resting on the doctor's shoulder. Now looking at the two of them, it was obvious that the two were closely related; so close in fact that Mykal was surprised he hadn't seen it before. He had seen this man's face almost daily since the day he began training, in the military academy that the orphanage had opted to put him into, when he was just a small boy of 6 standard years. It was a face that had changed little, but in very noticeable ways. Grey sprinkled around his temples, small creases around his eyes and on his forehead; a testament to a life of great strain and responsibility, but of happiness as well, if the laugh lines evident were any proof.
"If not for the battle prowess of yourself and your command, there would not be a royal family right now. You saved not only me, but my wife, my youngest three children and my brother." A shadow flickered over his face so quickly, that Mykal wasn't sure that he had caught it as the king continued to speak. "I was unable to help the majority of your command, but I was more than willing to see that anything that could save you would be done. That is why you have had the upgraded hardware installed."
"Your majesty, I just made sure that your family had the opportunity to escape, and the added bonus that Freddie got a chance to get away, but that is my job. My life for the Crown, I swore that, the day I received my commission. I don't deserve special treatment...." He was cut off as the king raised a hand.
"After I commanded Lt. Davidson to return and recover you, and you were holding on by a thread, I told my brother to save you; no matter the cost. " The King came around to stand next to the bed. Leaning forward, he whispered into Mykal's ear, "I heard what you said as you lost consciousness in your 'Mech." Standing up and putting a hand on the young man's shoulder, he said out loud, "Bravery and loyalty like that are going to be needed in the coming days, weeks and months. You have a lot of things going on with your healing and implants, but we are nearing the home system; I need you to be functional and out of this bed by then. I have much to talk to you about young man." With a final smile and a nod to his brother, the King turned and walked out of the room, striding with the bearing and grace of a man who knew he was a leader of men.
"I'm so glad he was born first. There is no way I could pull that off." the doctor's voice cut into Mykal's thoughts as the King swept out. His guards, who had stayed outside the room, taking up their protective perimeter with such practiced skill that they seemed to sprout from the wall.
Looking back at Mykal, the doctor smiled. "I do suppose I was never properly introduced. I am Dr. Jason Davidov, younger brother to our esteemed king, head researcher and cybernetic surgeon at the Royal Medical Institute." He picked up the data pad that hung from the foot of my bed and started going over my charts. "Now, as I was trying to say during our lively 'debate', the hardware that I installed into you is not experimental. In fact, it is the most stable and safest cybernetics suite that has ever been available. On top of that, the technology level we are talking about is leaps and bounds better than even the military has access to.
"To be honest, only eight people have technology of this level in their bodies and because of how extensive your system needed to be wired in due to being a pilot, your equipment is rivaled by only two of them."
Taking a calming breath, Mykal looked the doctor in the eye, a strange suspicion falling over him. "Who are the eight?"
The doctor smiled a little as he went back to looking over the readouts on the computer pad. "You, myself, the king, the queen and the children are the only ones currently. " He chuckled slightly, "Actually, the upgraded synaptic connections and the cerebral core I installed in you were going to Tobias Davidov's set next week, when he passed the basic pilot exam at the Academy.
At mention of the youngest Davidov, a thought struck Mykal from nowhere. "Wait, so if you are the king's brother, and you are Uncle Jason to Brigit, then she's...."
"The Royal Princess Brigit Elenor Davidov II, heir Tertiary to the Davidov throne? " Doctor Davidov nodded. "One and the same she is."
Mykal felt a small twinge in his chest at hearing this. "Get over yourself". he thought to himself. "Even before I knew she was royalty, she was way out of my league."
"Now get some rest. You are going to have to learn how to use that hardware and you should be fine to start tomorrow."
Leaning back into the bed and trying to get comfortable, Mykal's thoughts swirled, "Why does the King want to speak with me, and why do I need to be healthy to do it? Why put such expensive equipment in my head and body?"
As sleep began to over take him, his subconscious thoughts brought to the forefront the stunning red hair and piercing blue eyes of the young lady that had enchanted him in their first meeting. Blackness stole over his waking mind with one last thought, "I wonder where she is.
"Do it again Captain. This time don't let the controls overwhelm you." Doctor Davidov's voice came over the radio link.
"Easy for you to say," Mykal mumbled under his breath and began booting the training program back up. In a matter of moments, the electrical jolt that let him know that his Synaptic Connectors were meshed with his controls rolled over him. With a mental command, Mykal slipped his mind into the system; still a connection depth that unnerved him a bit, "Even if it's a training pod and not a real 'Mech." He thought to himself. Seeing as the giant robotic suit of armor saw, flexing alloy arms and legs and feeling the power the destructive machine had as if it was his body.
As he ran through the systems to connect to his "Lance mates", or more specifically the computers pretending to be them, Not only could he feel his own 'Mech, but now he was 'seeing' and 'hearing' what the other machines could. As the data continued to flow, increasing in volume as each machine joined the web connecting them, Mykal found it harder and harder to control his own 'Mech. As the last one joined, he took a calming breath. While trying to compartmentalize the information and keep track of all of it, he stepped forward, trying to move over the 'landscape'. As he began moving, he felt the connection to some of the nine other machines waver and flex, threatening to break. Even after two weeks of this training it wasn't getting any better.
He brought his 'Mech to a stop and opened a com line to Doctor Davidov, "Doc, I can connect to all of them now, but as soon as I try to control my 'Mech, the connections start to collapse. My head just can't filter that much info."
"Well, that in and of itself is very impressive. Any signs of overload?" the doctor asked.
As he answered he shook his head, causing the 'Mech to shake its head. "Not at all Doc. Even when I tried walking or moving, the connection didn't feel like an overload; it just got to be too many different things for my brain to handle. "
"You are over-thinking it." a soft voice from the control booth said. "You just shook your head and the 'Mech did the same. I'm willing to bet you didn't consciously do that." Mykal's breath caught for a moment as an unbidden image of bright blue eyes and red hair flashed in his mind.
"She's right Mykal. You are still treating the Mecharmor as a vehicle, not as a set of cloths, like you should be." The doctor added, "Once control of the other 'Mechs is tied in, you shouldn't have to concentrate on them; they will work with your subconscious. That's part of what we installed. It acts like a separate brain controlled by your brain. Let it do the work." In the control room, the doctor twitched a momentary smile as he saw Mykal's vitals spike for a moment. "You're thinking too hard. Just do what comes natural."
Mykal took a deep breath, to calm his self and try to clear his mind, and smiled when he felt the control of the other "Mechs recede to the back of his mind, but not disconnect. The sensation was like seeing through a fly's eyes in the back of your mind. As Mykal started to go back over his controls, a warning claxon started sounding through the ship. Mykal's head snapped up as he 'saw' the wall opposite the control booth detonate into the training area.
As Mecharmor came pouring through the breach, Mykal launched into action; his 'lance mates' moving in a coordinated defense with him. Two members of the Family were in that control booth and there was nothing that was going to harm them, so long as Mykal drew breath.
His 'Mechs fanned out and individually moved close into melee so that their targets would be unable to fire at the control booth, thus killing his charges. As Mykal struck forward to engage what appeared to be the lead 'Mech of the attackers, his machine reflexively unsheathed the massive alloy arm blade, setting the giant serrated blade into its offensive position protruding in front of its right hand. Leading with his left hand, he swept his target's arm away from its chest and with a yell, slammed all seven feet of advanced alloy through the most likely location of his enemy's cockpit inside the massive machine, in the center of its chest. With a mighty twist, he ripped the blade outward, shearing through the side of the 'Mech. Watching it fall to the ground, he was aware of nine other battles playing out in the back of his head. Almost all of them ended in different ways, though all with the same results. He took a mental inventory; saw that two of his units were badly damaged after their combat and three had minor damage, but all of the enemies were down and the room was clear.
"Princess, Doctor, is the control booth secure, is your security there?" he snapped over the com line.
Shocking him to his core, a hearty laugh and tinkling giggle came from the control booth. "I told you. You were over thinking it." said the soft voice of the princess.
Reality crashed in on Mykal as the training pod started to shut down and the computers that were his 'lance mates', started to shut down and disconnect from his controls. "Oh. Oh that was dirty." Mykal said softly through the com line.
"Dirty, but effective" the doctor chuckled over the com. "It got you to not think about it. Good to know that your psych profile was accurate too."
Mykal was shutting down the systems in the pod when that comment brought his mind to a standstill. "What was that?"
"Your yearly profile, it was completely correct."
Mykal grunted, finished shutting down the pod and climbed out, walking to the control booth. The two door guards nodded to him as they opened the door to let him through. He gave them a tight smile and a head nod as he passed them.