Gilbert turned to Richard and Susan. “Did you notice that the soldiers moved strangely… and fast?”
Richard nodded. “Almost unnaturally quickly.”
“Not just almost, but actually unnaturally. Tell me, do you know what happens when you implant a Time Distortion Drive in a human?”
Richard furrowed his forehead. “Well, nothing. Except that they die if you do it wrong, because small scale TTDs are unstable. Other than messing up, TDDs don’t work on living things.”
Gilbert raised an eyebrow. “Really? I don’t doubt that’s what you have been told, but what do you think happens to the people on a ship equipped with a TDD? They get accelerated just fine.”
“I didn’t think about that, but isn’t that a different kind of thing anyway?”
“Well… partly. I’ll just say that the truth is, you can apply time distortion to an individual. The soldiers you saw had that done to them, making them about twice as fast. That’s approximate, of course, because there are all kinds of factors that change the actual efficiency… especially when involving other objects.”
“They were pretty fast, but they didn’t seem twice as fast. I don’t think I could have handled that.”
“Oh, yeah, that was probably because they walked through the Null Reflector. As long as you don’t do it often, there aren’t any long term effects… with the short term being your body not functioning exactly properly. Even more so for people with TDDs installed.”
“Shouldn’t they have known that? It would have been better to have just tried again later.”
“They probably knew, but you don’t accelerate the time of a person and then accept failure… they’re basically suicide soldiers anyway. Twice isn’t too bad… they can be sent on a number of missions over a few years, but after that the body has trouble keeping up. Plus, to make it work on an individual… you can’t turn it off. That causes all sorts of problems. It’s not something you do just to make your soldiers better than the enemy.”
“Wow, that’s pretty horrible.”
Anna nodded. “However, because of the requirements involved in making such alterations to people, it is likely they are connected to the organization I’ve been working against… the one that made you, Susan.”
“Does that mean that all this is my fault?”
Anna shook her head. “We’ve already been over this. The fault is not yours. At most, the fault could lie with me, but I didn’t choose to have them clone me and work on other illicit experiments.”
“It could also be my fault,” Gilbert spoke, “though I don’t remember any groups still angry at me, I’ve had many enemies in the past. Regardless, the two of you are involved in this situation, and you’ll need to be able to defend yourself. Richard’s performance is good enough to deal with many people strictly in melee combat… but most people won’t give you that luxury. Even if you carry a handful of null reflectors, being able to kill people at a distance is a useful skill.”
Anna continued his thought, “Which is why I will be teaching you the basics. It probably won’t be fun, but I’d really like the two of you to remain alive, so you’ll have to bear with it.”
Richard had found he had come to enjoy training with Jot and the other Xevaronians. Though it was hard work, it was fulfilling. He could feel his growth, though it had slowed down from when he first started. Richard also liked to think he was good at it. At the very least he’d approximately held his own against a trained soldier… and although the soldier wasn’t in the best shape, with the time distortion he should have been about what could normally be expected.
On the other side, though, Richard found he enjoyed training with his mother for ranged combat significantly less. They started with learning how various common guns worked, and Richard found that interesting enough, though he would have preferred less information being crammed in his head at once. Simulated combat was less fun. Susan and he had to face off against their mother in a mock battlefield. Richard had no idea that such a place even existed so close to campus, but apparently it did. Though they were given weapons of their own and even worked together, it didn’t really make a difference. They found themselves getting shot from angles they couldn’t have anticipated, and before they could turn to fire back she was gone. That was assuming they could fire back of course. Though the ammo used was non-lethal, and not even designed to incapacitate them, it still hurt. They also wore suits that froze up when it detected a “lethal” amount of damage. Richard found his entire ribcage was bruised front and back at the end of each day.
Though Richard was in good shape, training with Jot he only carried himself. Running around with a gun was a different story, and though they weren’t that heavy at first, it felt like they became heavier as each session dragged on. When he mentioned the feeling to Susan, she agreed it was easy to think they were getting heavier as they got more tired. Richard then saw his mother with a smile on her face and a glint in her eyes that made him worried about what might happen in the future.
The training was varied, though it always consisted of a lot of running from cover to cover fighting for survival. Richard didn’t do that much running in training with Jot- or at least not so much frenzied sprinting. One of the variations in training was being shot by laser fire. In that case, the suit heated up at the points that had been shot, up to highly uncomfortable but not actually burning… and then of course it stopped their movements when they were “dead”. Actually, Richard felt that he could probably still move just a little bit, but there wasn’t any point. Sometimes, he and Susan faced off against each other. At first, Richard had the advantage of his better fitness and reflexes, but that started to taper off. In fact, she became better than him in some ways, because she spent the time he trained with Jot doing extra training with Anna. Sometimes, they were set up against soldiers with various levels of training, sometimes with equal teams and sometimes not. Even so, if Anna was involved, Richard didn’t think it mattered how many soldiers they had on their side. He didn’t see her move from point to point, but he was certain she was faster than even the soldiers who had been enhanced with personal time distortion. All of the training was exhausting, especially because Richard still had to attend normal classes.