There were many things involving the technology of Rutera that Anton didn’t understand. For example, there was a very common practice of those uninvolved in the diplomatic interactions to hold something up towards what was happening. It wasn’t a scanner as far as Anton could tell. It only used a small amount of energy for whatever it was doing. Fortunately, Anton had Koby to help him, and the ability to conceal his own ignorance. “What is that?” he asked, “Those people over there, holding up those devices?”
“Who? Ah, I see. The photographers. They’re taking pictures for the news. Does it bother you?”
“I was simply curious,” Anton said. “These pictures… how can they produce drawings so rapidly?”
“Perhaps it would be easier to show you the result,” Koby said. “It captures incoming light and allows it to be displayed later.”
“Interesting,” Anton said. “I believe there were occasional attempts at similar things, but they were generally larger and more unwieldy.”
“Earlier versions were certainly less portable,” Koby explained. “But now they can do quite a bit with a small amount.”
“Thank you,” Anton said. “I was wondering about that.”
“You are welcome,” Koby said. “Can I ask something?” he was getting used to Anton’s friendliness, and was actually willing to interact outside of required work. “How do you do… this?” He gestured around them. “Cutting off the sound around us. Does it make people unable to hear us?”
“That’s right,” Anton said. “And the method is rather direct. I simply halt the sound from moving beyond a boundary with my control of natural energy. And I conceal the images of us slightly so that our lips cannot be read, and our body language becomes less distinct. Otherwise it hardly helps.”
“Fascinating,” Koby said.
Leaving the diplomatic compound was a rare event, though Anton didn’t exactly feel trapped. He could see why they would be reluctant to have anyone go out, with how many people were watching every move. The people in the surrounding city were very cognizant of the presence of foreign individuals, and there were quite a large number of individuals involved in the news present. Apparently, they were displaying it to other parts of the world nearly instantaneously.
Communication at a far distance was not a new concept, but transmitting more than simple text in a continuous manner was not something Ceretos could accomplish. They had a very different path, though they were beginning to learn some of Rutera’s technology and adapt it to their own uses.
The land vehicles that carried them away from the compound were highly protected, windows tinted to prevent people from seeing in and also fortified with hidden barriers. They seemed intended for privacy and safety, though in truth they were unnecessary for either. The gesture was appreciated, however.
Today was one of the excursions Anton had been looking forward to. Since it was decided it would be too much fuss for him to walk around the city unaccompanied- and too much of a scene to have him wandering around at his whim- the next best thing was something practical. Specifically, a military demonstration. Anton had seen Matija’s personal weapon in action, and it made efficient use of her energy- but he was curious about the various different things the locals had.
General Nicodemo was obviously looking forward to the demonstration, no doubt to show the visitors how weak their outdated weaponry was. And if it truly was better, Anton was certain that people would be interested in changing their fighting styles. Though personally Anton would have to see something remarkable to make him change away from archery. Perhaps if their technology could make a better bow it would be one thing, but centuries of experience would be hard to replace with only a minor improvement in power.
The results were… interesting. Anton could say that the weapons demonstrated were better than what Grant and those in the same field as him had developed so far. In general, the weapons were more compact. Personal weapons seemed to be either using an individuals internal energy like he had already seen, or like small versions of cannons. Both were guns, but the projectile weapons stored their own power in the ammunition, using both an explosion of some sort of powder and the local versions of formations to propel things with energy. The actual projectiles were rarer for personal weapons, but both forms served the purpose of bringing up the average combat ability of individuals. Then there were larger weapons, which in effect were the same as cannons. Capable of creating large explosions that would damage a wide area.
Anton was fairly certain they had more weapons in reserve, though some of the larger ones could match an Essence Collection or Life Transformation cultivator in power, if not flexibility. Yet weapons weren’t the only thing demonstrated. The more interesting properties were the defensive shields they had, less versatile than a cultivator defending themself with energy but also more automatic. These could be powered by the individual wearing them or an attached device. They could be standalone or part of a full-body combat suit, a body hugging outfit that served as armor as well as a form of amplification.
In their combat outfits, Anton saw the movements of soldiers amplified, and it seemed their reactions as well. There were only short demonstrations between personnel- with lower powered weapons for safety- but while the individuals weren’t trained like normal cultivators, Anton could see them move more quickly and smoothly, aiming their weapons and avoiding enemy fire. There was much focus on ranged combat, and thus cover became an important factor. The larger weapons could destroy it, of course, but there were high energy costs involved.
“Well?” General Nicodemo asked, puffing out his chest proudly.
The others no doubt had their own opinions, but Anton proffered his first. “I must admit, I am impressed. Efficient use of energy, and a fighting style that greatly suits your developments.” Anton paused to gently word the next part. “It would be even more impressive with the addition of personal energy control. If they could adapt to the situation, the effects would be magnificent.”
“The soldiers are quite able to adapt to new situations…” General Nicodemo said. It was clear he wanted to be more forceful with his response, but he was politically savvy enough to restrain himself. “Do you have… specific comments?”
“Your weapons fire in straight lines. Functional, reliable, but predictable. A small bit of control could allow the beams of energy to curve around cover.”
“We have methods for that,” General Nicodemo said defensively. “Specialized weaponry that can be calibrated to any situation.”
“I am certain it is excellent,” Anton said. “But if it could be fast as thought, it would be even more impressive.” Anton’s words were all genuine, and he made sure to add as much positivity as possible, but he knew that any negativity seemed to drown out greater amounts of good.
“Not enough swords,” was Elder Intan’s only comment. The answer merely served to baffle General Nicodemo, because despite his disdain for ‘outdated weaponry’ the comment was not even related to what was shown.
Ayodunde kept his opinions between himself and Anton. “They’re decent,” he said, “But I could be upon them in an instant while they were unprepared, cutting them down.”
“Perhaps so,” Anton agreed. “But I think they would have more soldiers to replace them. It is not the preferred method of cultivators like us, but allowing a larger portion of your population to be militarily capable is effective.”
“Greater numbers are cultivating every day, though,” Ayotunde pointed out.
“I also prefer our own methods,” Anton said, “But that may be because they are familiar. And I can see the possibilities of merging parts of them. If nothing else, their transportation methods are impressive.”
“No teleportation though.”
“We haven’t seen any teleportation,” Anton said. “That doesn’t mean there isn’t any.” He hadn’t asked about it, because that would lead towards questions about Ceretos. That was one secret they probably still had.
Anton didn’t mind curious individuals taking pictures, but when they were being taken from outside of the compound he was less comfortable with them. Not those walking up to the gates and looking in, but those off in the distance looking down upon the gardens. Apparently pictures could be taken with such high fidelity to allow for them to function from a long distance. Anton had asked, just in case the individuals in question were spies.
“Someone taking pictures from a nearby building?” Koby asked. “I don’t see any but… it is on the edge of what is allowable. With private individuals it would be forbidden, but taking pictures of a government facility such as this from a location the individual is allowed to be is tolerated. Though we could have them stop, if you point them out.”
“I don’t mind if they wish to look at my wrinkles,” Anton shrugged. “Though I suddenly want to play a prank on them. I could wait for them to take a picture… and then show up behind them.”
“Hah!” Koby grinned. “Now that would be something. Running like that would be hard on the knees, though. How do you see them anyway?”
“I have good eyes,” Anton said. “And I could do it. Though I’ll probably keep things toned down. Watch,” Anton said.
Koby watched Anton as he asked, unsure what he was supposed to see. The old man suddenly turned to look in a specific direction. Then, an instant later, he was gone. No, he was a few dozen feet away, behind a hedge- at least from the viewpoint of where he had been looking a moment earlier. Anton waved to Koby, who scurried over. “What was that? I didn’t even see you move.”
“I just scrambled over,” Anton said. “In a very short time.”
“How does that even-”
Anton’s face suddenly turned serious, and he held out a hand to stop Koby. “I need you to get me in contact with General Nicodemus. Immediately.”
“What is it?” Koby looked around- though he dutifully pulled out his communication device. Before he could speak into it, Anton stopped him once more.
“Sorry, hold that thought. I’ll go myself.”
Then he was gone- though not far. Anton simply appeared in front of President Park, who was coming in through one of the gates. “President Park. Are you expecting visitation from other non-Ruteran individuals?”
The president took a step back as Anton appeared, his guards taking half a step forward. “How’d you get…?” he quickly composed himself, seeing Anton’s serious manner. “We haven’t been in contact with anyone else.”
“You had best make sure everyone is prepared then,” Anton said. “You would want to make-”
A harsh tone rang out, indicating that the president was being contacted. “One moment,” he said, pulling out the communication device he carried. “This appears to be an emergency.” He turned away and lowered his voice as he spoke into his device. “Yes? Who is it?” Anton could hear both sides of the conversation, though it was about what he expected. “Unknown signals? Very well, I’m on it.” He turned towards Anton. “How did you know?”
“I sensed it,” Anton said. “A powerful energy signature. Not like any of yours or ours.”
“Really?” he looked taken aback at the information. “Is that even possible?”
“It is.” Anton frowned as he looked up into the sky. “It seems you will not be preparing in the same way as you might have expected. Hostile action has been taken by the newcomer.”
“Are you sure?” President Park asked- but he was answered immediately by another call. The compound quickly broke into action, as information poured in from various directions.
“Mister President,” one of his guards said, after a message on a slightly different communication device- ones Anton knew were always listening for specific sorts of communication. “We need to get you inside the building. This is the safest nearby location. The guests as well.”
“One moment,” Anton said, “I’ll round up everyone who is outside.”
“That won’t be-” before they could even begin to explain, Anton had dragged Koby and several others over to the door. Anton smiled at the most experienced guard who had almost managed to track him with his eyes.
“You should get inside,” Anton said. “It doesn’t seem they are going to stop shooting things up there.” As a guest, it was only proper to contribute to the defense of their hosts. Or at least, Anton didn’t want to wait around while anyone died. Fire was being exchanged in both directions, so even if their side suddenly became more effective it wasn’t as if he would be sparking something that wasn’t already on the way.