[2019. British Greece. Thessaloniki.]
Two men in a small cozy pub in the corner were talking about something. One of them, middle-aged dark haired man in the business suit, took a huge folder with papers and put it on table. The second one, who looked tired a bit, put on his glasses and began to read documents. He looked surprised and a strange smile appeared on his wrinkled fase.
–Sir Stevenson, I don’t understand. This case… It’s not my profile, – elderly man talked indignantly. – You could find more competent specialist in this area. There are many psychiatrists, who studied effect of ACV** neurointerface on a pilot.
–That’s why I’ve chosen you, doctor Lambert, – businessman fetched a sigh. – They see nothing but influence of the machine. They even don’t try to find if the patient was ill before the incident or not.
–So, You’re trying to avoid your responsibility for this destructive tragedy. I see something is hidden here, – Lambert said this in such intonation, that he wasn’t glad to have any relation to this deal. – At first, can you explain me, why this mechanic with dark past took part in testing this prototype?
–You should understand, MechInd has some difficulties now, – Stevenson started to excuse away, it seemed he hided something. – Some generals support MechInd, but that’s not enough. We are out of money. The idea of making fourth generation ACV wasn’t supported by parliament, so none of big corporations wants to invest in this project. That’s why we haven’t got enough people to work and provide security. Our only pilot was slightly injured in a car accident. Several simple checkouts at the testing field were planed that day. Just walking from one marked point to another. And then one mechanic offered his help. He could drive mech enough to do tests. Yes, that was Paul Lebel, who made all this mess.
–But how could he drive this vehicle? Does it require huge training? Some people say that’s as easy as computer game, but I don’t believe that. Or am I wrong? And was it so difficult to find a better certified person? – Doctor continued asking.
–That’s half-true. Interface of modern ACV is simple and obvious, computer can correct even rude mistakes and there are build-in training programs and hints. So if you just want to have a walk at your backyard in ACV, it will take couple of hours or even less to study this. As for our problem, there are so many insane rumors about development of neurointerface. As you know, first generation had serious problems at the beginning. Pilots had hallucinations, delirium after long-time using ACV. It was some kind of addiction to neurointerface. Some of them became mad. It took much time to fix this problem. But it defiantly was fixed. And some time ago new rumors appeared that new ones have the same issue. So, there were not many people who wanted to be test pilot.
–Just rumors?!! – Lambert shouted as loud as he could, so his potential employer flinched. – I don’t see rumors. I see facts. Lebel became insane when he was driving ACV. It wasn’t in the middle of battle. It was calm sunny day. Nothing should worry him. It could be only fault of machine. And you call that rumor?
–Doctor, it seems you didn’t read all the materials, – Stevenson said it calmly and pointed one more folder. – Here is Lebel’s dossier. We haven’t got much information.
Paul Lebel. Name could be false. Age about 20. Born in France. In 2007 he and 11 more children were kidnapped by Islamic terrorists and transported to Afghanistan. He spent there about a mount, after that camp was attacked by another radical group and he could run away. Certain Farid Ursa sheltered him. Two years later Farid was killed by robbers and Lebel joined local guerrillas. He took part in civil war when he was 12 (may be 10). In 2017 he was found injured in the cockpit of destroyed ACV by peacemaker forces. Then he was sent back to France to children’s community. In 2018 Lebel went to British Greece and started to work for MechInd.
–Well, interesting story. So you are looking for connection between his hard childhood and this incident? And new neurointerface isn’t a reason? – Looks like new information made Lambert calm.
–That’s possible, but I need to talk with Paul to be sure.
–I’m afraid it’s impossible, – Stevenson objected. – Journalists somehow find out some information about his location and a huge crowd appeared near hospital. They wanted revenge. Now Lebel is missing. He escaped from hospital. Or he was kidnapped. We are trying to find him, but there are still no results.
–That’s strange. Something isn’t clear here. Prototype also disappeared, am I right? – doctor was suspicious.
–It’s debris. But sometimes just human mistakes, laziness and stupidity are better explanation than conspiracy. However, Colonel McMillan doesn’t think so. You can talk about this with him if you want. It was a total bedlam just after the incident, nobody knew what to do. We know our competitors spied on our developments. Looks like, they stole debris of Hexham.
–And what’s special in this ACV?
–Everything! Quasi-organic muscles, which can self-repair. Ordinary electro-muscles degrade after some time. Their fibers tear due to stress. Plus combat damage. So muscles should be replaced from time to time. And they’re expensive. New ones can “heal” themselves. Bio computer based AI. Just prototype, but it’s a huge step forward, – there was pride in Stevenson’s words. – Specialist say that one such ACV can fight against 3-5 previous generation vehicles.
–Looks like it’s very, very expensive. So, why you didn’t kept this in secret?
–As I said, it’s matter of finances. Also most people think this project has no future. It can be closed at any moment.
–This incident is very usable for your competitors, don’t you think?
[From the mass media]
[…] That’s an example of criminal negligence. Nobody should give access for such dangerous vehicle without any education. Moreover, the pilot could have psychical illness. And company could find this if they check their stuff better. […] Pilot’s behavior changed, he started responding not clearly. Dispatcher had to notice it. Then the pilot said about hallucinations. But the tests were not interrupted. […] The pilot became insane; he didn’t understand what he was doing. He started to crush everything he saw. An attempt to stop this made him even angrier. […] At the train station he attacked British military forces. 3 APC, 2 ACV and one tank were destroyed. During battle a shell hit train full of toxic chemicals. Fire was started. Then it exploded. An hour later poisonous cloud covered Thessaloniki. Dozens people died, about 1000 were heavily poisoned. […] Hexham was seriously damaged during the battle. Pilot walked 15 miles before ACV shouted down. That’s amazing, but he wasn’t injured. However, his mind was totally broken. He almost nipped off nose of an officer, when British solders tried to arrest him. […]
–Heh, Lebel is a remarkable person, you know, – Doctor was really interested. – I’m not a military expert, but that’s amazing. I know new generation ACV and so on. But he has to be genius to do these things. He had no experience in driving that particular vehicle. Moreover, that was just a prototype without weapon and some systems, am I right? And he alone blew up those tanks and ACVs. It wasn’t just talent. He had to have huge combat experience! Lebel could make fantastic career in British forces. Instead, he is badly paid worker in colony. Maybe he hates all this military stuff because of his childhood. But he works with APCs! I don’t understand!
–All employees say that mechs were his passion. However, he didn’t communicate much with other staff. Most information came from certain Mary Leonis, his friend. Or girl-friend. Even she didn’t know Paul well. But there can be some difficulties. She’s underage, so if you want meet her, you must reach an agreement with her parents. And they are… difficult persons.
–So, that’s a private investigation. Authorities don’t want to interfere.
–Yes. You know the situation. Central government thinks that’s problems of colony. Locals don’t want this headache at all. And even those who support separatists are glad. That’s an occasion to call Britain evil empire one more time. So nobody wants it to be official.
–And nobody cares about the victims. That’s sad. I think I will help you.
*In 2019 Greece is still divided. After WWII Greece is colony of the Great Britain. At the beginning of XXI century the revolution happened. Half or Greece became independent. British Greece is still colony. It’s capital is Thessaloniki.
** ACV – Anthropomorphic Combat Vehicle. Human-like mech. Uses direct link between pilot and machine, called neurointerface for better synchronization and finer and faster control.
Hexham ACV by Sunder_59, on Flickr
Check this model in 3D on Mecabricks