Titan Maintenance Hangar
The inside of the building is almost completely hollow, rising up seven floors. Observation decks jut out at various points along the walls, but never very far, and connect to catwalks and scaffolds and two giant Titan frames. The left one is still occupied by a 50-foot humanoid war machine, while the other is bare. Like a giant butcher shop, bare robotic limbs and components are held in mobile racks, while shell-like sections of armor take up another storage area. An elaborate system of rails allows robotic cranes and waldos access to the Titan frames.
Of all the technological wonders Layth has been exposed to and educated in, up until now none of it seems to be as useful as the little colored paper squares that stick to things. For the past day, he's had to use them to mark controls in the Silent-Ones Titan as well as trace out the connections and mechanical linkages to figure out what they actually do.
A translator function has been added to Fallen-Star's communication bowl as well, since it just wasn't practical to see her gestures while being hip-deep into an access panel. It is unfortunately not adjustable, which results in the girl having a monotone, masculine sounding electronic voice.
So far, progress has been made figuring out how the legs work, and the Lapi thinks he's found an automatic balancing system that controls the tail. The arms use complicated joysticks that seem to have multiple controls, along with triggers in the grips to control the fingers and thumb controls for wrist positioning. Currently, there's the matter of trying to figure out how the pilot controls the flat, crystal displays that cover the front of the cockpit when the chest is closed up.
"Panels, panels," Layth mutters to himself as he stares at one of the inert ones. Finally thinking of something, he twists about in the frame to try and look over his shoulder. "Maybe it uses some sort of head harness that makes it simulate looking around," he remarks.
"I don't see one," Fallen-Star's projection signs while the mechanical voice echoes it. "Maybe there is an extra control feature in the joysticks?" she suggests.
"I wish this was your machine, then you could tell me how to pilot it," Layth mutters as he turns back around to face forward. His attention now shifts to the joysticks as he looks for ones he hasn't tried yet.
There are so many extra controls festooning the pistol-like grips, it's hard to tell. The ones that fall naturally beneath the thumb are most likely related to hand movement. A knobby bulge on top has even more switches and buttons… but the left and right sticks have slightly different controls on the knob. The left one has something like another smaller joystick on it.
"This thing also makes my head hurt," the buck remarks as he slips his left arm back into the control harness and rests his thumb on the knob with the additional controls. He pushes against the smaller joystick gently, testing to see if anything happens.
It moves, and it seems the upper part can even be rotated slightly (although doing both requires quite a bit of dexterity). "That looks promising," Fallen-Star claims. "You just have to turn on the power to test it," the image notes, and looks up at several overhead switches that they have concluded to be the master power controls, since they're too out of the way to be used during actual operation.
Layth slips his arm back out and makes sure he's securely strapped in. "I hope that it doesn't explode when I flip that switch," he says, "Or otherwise there will be a second ghost." Once he's satisfied he's secure, the buck reaches up and flips on the presumably master power switches one at a time.
The whole machine rumbles, and things whine in its bowels as pumps and turbines begin to wake up. The front of the cockpit, composed of several crystal screens, begins to light up as well. Soon Layth is looking at at the hangar interior, but the view is a bit split up. The four screens in the center show a three-dimensional view looking forward, while two screens below them seem to just show the ground, from some point on the hips. The left one looks forward and the right one behind. To either side of the main cluster are screens that show fixed rearward views, and glowing symbols and graphs for remaining battery power, hydraulic pressure, auto-balancing control and temperature. There's a compass, which seems to just spin around aimlessly, as well as a speedometer and altimeter.
"Wow … this is what is called 'information overload'," Layth finally says after several minutes of staring at the various displays where he marvels at the sights before he tries to translate the symbols. He slips his left hand back into the mount and tests the knob control he was experimenting with earlier. "It is a pity your possession of me didn't turn me into a Silent-One," he jokes to the image, "This harness would be more comfortable."
"You're only a few inches too short," Fallen-Star notes. As the mini-joystick is manipulated, the central view shifts around. Side to side makes it turn left and right, back and forward are up and down, and rotating the knob zooms in and out. Letting go makes it reset to looking forward. However, since like looking through a window Layth's body wants to react like it's moving, and the disconnect between perception and reality is somewhat disturbing.
The ensuing wave of dizziness reminds the buck of his first time in an airship. But the nausea remains internal, at least it would be very annoying to have to clean out the cockpit.
"And no tail, and no spots, and my ears are too long, and … " Layth starts to say in response … only to find himself feeling rather ill from the disorienting movement. "Ugh," the buck now mutters and closes his eyes as he tries to 'steady' himself.
"Are you all right?" Fallen-Star asks. "Are fumes getting into the cockpit?"
"No, the odd movement is a bit nausea-inducing," Layth says and keeps his eyes closed for another minute until the queasiness passes. Once his eyes are open and he's not feeling sick, he looks for the screen output on the system diagnostics, hoping the machine is mostly functional.
Nothing is flashing red and no warning symbols are showing up on the displays, although the sign for Neutral is being displayed.
Layth rotates the view to try and get a look at the suit's arms to see if they are clear enough to experiment with moving them.
It takes a bit of practice to pan the view smoothly without going too fast. The arms are still held in the upright cradle supporting the Titan, along with the various access catwalks and connections. "Do you want me to retract the restraints?" Fallen-Star asks.
"On just the arms. I want to experiment moving them," Layth answers as he slips his right arm into its frame now too and rests his hand on the attached hand controls.
Nothing seems to happen, but most likely there are lights flashing across various relays outside. Eventually the arm restraints disconnect and fold back to free the limbs.
Layth decides to start simple; he lightly manipulates the controls that they suspected were for the wrists and hands. "If the computer starts acting … odd, please tell me immediately so I can power it down," he says.
No matter how the controls are manipulated, however, the hand remains motionless. "There may be another control needed to… activate the controls," Fallen-Star suggests.
"Like what?" Layth asks and looks around for controls he hasn't tried to trace yet, to even more parts to the body harness he hasn't put on yet.
"It should logically be something simple, yet that does not require reaching for, since that would move the arms under normal circumstances," Fallen-Star suggests. A quick search reveals a covered switch on the top of the right joystick in a mirror position to the head control on the left.
"This may be it, or perhaps it is some sort of self destruct that Fred mentioned in class," Layth remarks as his thumb flicks up the cover on the switch on the right joystick. His thumb rubs lightly over the exposed switch and he then presses it. "Did you ever meet the original owner of this titan?" the buck asks.
The limb armatures all begins to slowly move, until they match the external positions of the Titan's arms and legs. Only then is there a chime and the symbol for Neutral changes to Active. "I did not meet with the Priest-Captain," Fallen-Star claims. "My station kept me separate."
"Did you have friends?" Layth asks as he tries to carefully move his, and its, right arm. A simple wave of its hand is the goal … and not a 'blow up the room' gesture.
The hand moves! And there's a bit of force-feedback from the armature it isn't quite like using the powered armor though, where the machine is able to anticipate the movement. It requires a bit of muscle.
"Nora was nice to me," Fallen-Star says. "I was in charge of three other Technicians, but we did not often work together."
Layth proceeds to test and work with just that arm to get a feel for the strength required and how much movement inside produces outside. "Any Silent-One friends?" he asks
The arm seems to move slightly asymmetrically, where movements towards the body are slower, requiring more motion of the armature, while movements away are slightly faster.
"I remember some, I think, but it is hazy," Fallen-Star replies. "I mainly remember a boy I called Freckles, because he had spots between his spots on his face. We played together as cubs."
"What happened to him?" Layth asks as he experiments with the fingers now, testing how tiring movement is for his hands and how much movement there is. If all works well, he'll test to see if there is pressure-feedback by squeezing some of the support frame.
"I don't know. We just went different ways," Fallen-Star notes. It isn't too tiring to move the arm, once Layth gets the hang of it, but he knows his strength and realizes someone else might have difficulties after a short while. The grip-triggers do have some pressure feedback when he tests them on the scaffolding.
Layth switches to using both of his arms at the same time to get the hang of moving them in tandem, if for nothing else as counterweights when walking later. "Do you miss him?" he asks.
"I suppose I miss being a cub and playing mostly," Fallen-Star says. The symbol for Auto-Balancing flashing brighter as both arms move, and the Titan makes adjustments to stay balanced.
"I didn't have much of a childhood," Layth notes. "Do you think it is safe to try walking?"
"I will remove the restraints," Fallen-Star says, and a few moments later the legs are free to move. "Should I open the door yet?" she asks.
"No. I don't want to have to worry about Doombeaks until I'm fairly certain I won't fall on my metal face," Layth says. He takes a deep breath … and then tries to take a single step.
The leg harness is awkward, since it has Layth's feet dangling free yet still provide feedback to make it feel like there's a solid surface. But he does make a full step, causing the Titan to lurch slightly and the lower display panel shows a utility cart being flipped over when the giant foot hits it.
"Well, I won't win any medals for being graceful," Layth admits in dismay as he watches the poor cart flip. "You still like me, right?"
"Why wouldn't I like you? It isn't as if you could step on me!" Fallen-Star claims, ears wiggling. Apparently moving the legs properly requires pulling the feet up deliberately, and more attention to how the knee and ankle and toe are positioned. It makes one wonder if extended use will make the pilot look like he's marching all the time.
Layth attempts to take a few more steps while sparing the vehicles in the bay! "Did you like, er, possessing me? Did it help you feel more real?" the buck asks rather absently. Most of his focus is on walking.
This time the results are better, and he's even able to practice turning (with only a few warnings from the tail). "It was odd. And not particularly physical, since I was trying to get into your head. Did you feel anything from it?" Fallen-Star asks.
"A desire to sign instead of speak," Layth explains as he walks in a slow circle in the bay and tries to use his arms to keep the balance better without constant auto-adjust. "And according to the doctor, I broke out in spots for a bit."
"Spots are attractive," Fallen-Star notes… or agrees. There's no inflection in the mechanical voice. "How is the Titan handling for you?" So far… nothing else has been stepped on or knocked over but it's difficult for Layth to extend his 'body sense' out to the machine's limbs especially the tail.
"It's … difficult. It doesn't feel like me," Layth admits as the slow circle continues so that he can hone the movement. "The tail is the most difficult since, well, I don't really have one."
"Titans are not meant to be easy to use," Fallen-Star notes. "It takes many years to master one well enough for combat, as opposed to simply using it as a heavy piece of machinery."
"I can probably get it back to the ship," Layth says as the practice continues, "But at this rate, I may wish to keep it since it is taking so much effort to learn."
"Keeping it will still require bringing it to the Bellerophon," Fallen-Star points out.
"Well, of course," Layth agrees. "Maybe it can be your new body… "
"That would be awkward," Fallen-Star claims. "Do you want to try the manual door release to test you dexterity?"
"Hm, I may as well," Layth agrees as he heads towards the outer door now. And if you had this as a body, no one would dare flirt with you," the buck points out.
"Is flirting important?" Fallen-Star asks. There is a U-grip jutting from a circular base that is itself on a vertical track on the right side of the giant hangar door. It's clearly Titan-sized. "It should work by gripping it, turning clockwise and then sliding downward."
"It is a ritual of courtship," Layth explains. The buck goes quiet now as he focuses his attention on arm movement as he goes to manipulate the door control as per Fallen-Star's instruction.
Once again, Layth discovers he needs to use a bit of force when it comes to pulling the latch mechanism down along the track although the rotation of the wrist was completely motorized and took no effort beyond maintaining the finger grips and using his thumb on the control. There's a rattle, and the giant doors begin to aside to the left.
"So … when do I become an honorary Silent-One?" Layth asks while grinning at the opening door. "Now I just have to walk a long way to the ship… "
"Don't forget to close the door behind you," Fallen-Star says. "And I do not know the requirements for becoming an honorary Silent-One, or if such a title can even be granted!"
"Your kind does not joke much," Layth says as he carefully walks the large suit outside of the hangar … then foes about a several minute process to carefully turn around to close the door.
The process is the reverse of the opening motion, pulling the handle up and turning it until it locks. Then the heavy door sections begin sliding closed again.
"I still feel like the moron in the library; an uneducated thing in something he barely understands," Layth admits as he waits for the door to close before turning the suit around and starting the long walk to the Belle bay.
"I would feel like that in public, without a machine to repair," Fallen-Star claims. The pathway is still fairly clear from the initial foray into the biodome, so there are two straight roads and one turn that can be followed, or else trying a straight run through the jungle.
Layth chooses the roads over the jungle, simply because they are clearer and less likely to have tripping vines, or worse. Slow and safe is better than fast and killing yourself, after all. "That's silly," he notes, "People would love you."
"I am not used to being seen," Fallen-Star claims, as the huge machine marches along the road, the slight height difference between the original pilot and Layth means that the narrow 'seat' of the harness is rubbing against his lower back with each step.
"I feel like this harness is making lewd gestures by rubbing my butt and lower back," Layth finally admits as it lumbers along. "This is likely to get painful by the time we reach the ship. Ah well."
"If you plan on keeping it, you will need to modify the harness, and hide the origins to avoid offending the Silent-Ones," Fallen-Star claims. It's surprisingly takes only a few strides to reach the temple before it's time to turn and make for the giant doors.
"I don't know if I will. I do not have much real use for it, other than the effort I put in to collecting it," Layth explains as he turns and now heads for the doors out of the area. "Perhaps I am feeling sentimental."
"You did use a lot of sticky paper," Fallen-Star notes. "I'm sure your efforts will be rewarded."
The door separating the biodome from the central avenue of Silent Town doesn't have the familiar latching system. It doesn't have anything at all, in fact.
"I … never have much desire for a reward," Layth admits, "It is more about helping others and those I consider friends." He peers at the door for a bit, then asks, "Any idea how to open it?"
"We used the flash code on the smaller doors," Fallen-Star notes. "But only a Titan could open these. Maybe you just have to push or step up to them?"
Layth tries the basic thing first, he steps up to the door and tries pushing on them. "I hope I don't break something," he thinks.
Just stepping up seems to do it, as the doors swing outward before the Titan's hand gets close enough to touch them. There must be a weight sensor in the base.
Layth waits for them to open fully, then marches the machine slowly through. "Hours and hours of walking and doors ahead," the buck says. He's suddenly very glad for being in shape because this will be quite a workout by the time he reaches the ship. "One thing is certain," he remarks, "Piloting this thing does instill a sense of accomplishment."