Chapter 5:

Chapter 5: Synchronization Tests (Part 1)


For the first time in his life, Nyk experienced what it was like to sleep on a real bed. The softness of the mattress couldn’t compare with the haggard mats he’d slept on the few times he could afford proper shelter. It felt like he was sinking down and hugged from all sides, and it was unbelievably snug and warm.

But he was too nervous to appreciate it. Just like he’d been too nervous to appreciate the delicious feast for dinner.

After all, he was going to be testing the Synchro Suit tomorrow. A piece of high-tech equipment he had no experience with. What if he broke it? What if he got hurt? At this point he was hardly any better than a slave, and he didn’t want to think about what would happen if he made his master upset.

In the past when he’d felt this way, he thought about Mysha. But even she was a cold comfort to him now, he didn’t even know if she was alive or dead. Neither Lulu nor Aud had answered any of his questions about what had happened to her and her party.

Eventually exhaustion and the softness of the bed overcame his nerves, and he slipped into a dreamless and far too brief sleep.

He was awoken the next morning by Aud’s entrance. He had no idea how rude it was in polite society to enter without knocking, but it spoke to how little value his personal freedom held. She dropped a pile of clothes at the foot of his bed and he changed in front of her, relieved that he’d been allowed to wear pants. When he finished, she escorted him to breakfast.

The only good thing about his agreement with Lulu was the food. Everything he ate was better than anything he’d eaten before, and it was almost delicious enough to make him forget about what she expected from him today. But then he entered the gallery.

“Good morning, Slum Boy!” Lulu greeted him with a smile. “Right on time! Shall we begin the first synchronization test?”

More words that he didn’t know. He just nodded dumbly, sure by now she had no interest in hearing what he had to say. She led him to a room nearly as large as the gallery, but almost completely empty. Only the strange suit from before stood in the corner.

It still astounded him how much free space there was. It must have been showing on his face, because Lulu smiled when she saw him.

“It seems to have made quite an impression?” She chuckled.

“I… I’m just shocked you own a building this big!”

She rolled her eyes. “Please. Like someone who lives in the slums has any idea what ‘big’ is. You have no frame of reference for the city, for all you know this is the size of an outhouse there.”

His face heated up with shame.

“It’s fine. You’re not wrong, even by the standards of the city this is quite large,” she assured him. “But then… we aren’t in the city.”

“Wait, what?! We’re not?”

“Do you think I would bring some slum rat past the wall, taking responsibility for you? Ridiculous. No, in fact, we’re in the wasteland.”

Hearing that sent a chill down his spine, and for a second his danger senses flared.

“…Well, it’s a little more complicated than that,” she sighed. “You’re standing in Number 24: Mounted Fortress Atlandal.”


“A special underground bunker designed by yours truly. Equipped with all basic amenities, and most importantly, serves as the workshop that I design all my… toys. This way I’m closer to my materials, and I don’t have to deal with all the red tape of housing a workshop in the city! A masterpiece of my own making, and the home of all my other beloved masterpieces! City life is fine, but… aaaaaah, nothing beats having the freedom of your own personal paradise!”

Nyk just shook his head. “Is it… safe?”

She gave him a disappointed look.

“…Yes. It’s safe. …Philistine…” She muttered under her breath.

“Tea, milady,” Aud set, setting down a tray. Brightening, Lulu sat down and took a cup.

“Wonderful, thank you Aud,” she said, turning back to Nyk. “Now Slum Boy, it’s time you got to work.”

“But…” Nyk wasn’t even sure what she wanted from him.

“Put on the suit.”

Nyk glanced at the black and silver armor suspended from the ceiling. He didn’t even know where to start.

“Milady, technology of this level may be difficult for an uneducated slum-dweller to grasp,” Aud reminded her.

Lulu rolled her eyes and let out a disgusted “ugh”.


She stood up and got to work helping him into the suit.

Nyk didn’t know what he was feeling. The armor was pressing into him from all sides, and with the helmet on he could only see darkness. He tried moving his arms, but it was like they were clamped down at his sides. This was Lulu’s special prototype he was supposed to test? It was so tight he couldn’t even breathe!

“Slum Boy, are you there?” Her voice crackled in his ear. He tried to look around but he couldn’t even turn his head.

“Hello? What’s going on?!” He cried. “I can’t move I can’t breathe I can’t see I can’t-“

“Geez. Calm down. It’s not even ON yet. ‘Boohoo I can’t breathe’ is everyone from the slums this much of a whiner? Now listen. What makes the Synchro Suit so special is that it’s designed to enhance the wearer’s abilities without needing any invasive body modifications. Do you understand what that means?”

“Yeah…” Nyk had seen other augment suits and power armor before, but they all required extensive cybernetic enhancements on the part of the wearer to function.

“Good. Now, I’m going to turn it on. And when I do, you’re going to feel a liiiitttttle itty-bitty pinch, okay? And maybe a mild zap.”

“A zap? Wha-“

“Aaaand… on!”

Light flooded Nyk’s eyes and a surge of energy shot through his body. It felt like the Sentinel’s bite, only across his entire body.

“…Wow, you’re quite a screamer, Slum Boy.”

“That… That was-!”

“Relax. What, you thought synchronization was going to be a fun tickle? I needed to kickstart your brain to connect your entire nervous system to the data receivers. How does it feel now?”

Nyk blinked in surprise. As quick as the pain had come, it was gone. And now his body felt so much lighter, like all the weight of the armor dragging him down was gone.

…No, it was more than that. He felt stronger than he had before. He looked around, seeing the room clearly. Words he couldn’t read flashed in front of his eyes whenever they landed on something, before finally settling on Lulu. She waved.

“This feels really weird…” Nyk said, lifting his hand to his face. It felt like his hand, but what he was seeing was an armored glove nearly twice as big.

“That’s the synchronization,” Lulu explained. She was wearing some sort of fancy headset that covered her ears, with a boxy scanner over her eyes. And, for some reason, metallic cat ears. “The suit’s sensors are linked directly to your nervous system now, so everything is registering in your brain the same as if it were your actual skin and bone! Pretty genius, huh? Even the most advanced prosthetics on the market can only get to maybe 65 to 70% sensitivity but this baby captures everything!

Nyk waved his hand and could actually feel the breeze brush against his face.

“Okay, let’s check the data… great! Synchronization levels appear normal. You’ve fully connected with the suit. Let’s warm up with some light stretching to test motor functions.”

Pictures of a man in various poses flashed in front of Nyk’s eyes, and he began to mimic them as best as he could.

“Looks good, looks good… do you have any trouble moving your arms and legs?”

“Not really.”

“Great. Is there any sort of stretch you can’t do, do you think? Let’s test it.”

For the next hour Nyk twisted his body in all sorts of shapes. But he didn’t have trouble with any of them. He did feel pretty sore and exhausted by the time they were done, though.

Lulu, on the other hand, was all smiles. “Great! According to the readings, the suit maintains 98% of standard range of motion! That’s only a 2% deviation from our expected norm! Very good. Next, we’ll try some more strenuous exercise.”

More strenuous?!”

Obviously. What, are you planning to stretch the Sentinels to death next time you go to the Towers? Now come on, we’ll start with some laps. I’m expecting no less than 50 kilometers/hour at your maximum speed, go!”

Ridiculous. She didn’t really expect him to-

She typed something on a small device, and the far wall opened up to reveal an adjoining room with a massive red circle drawn on the floor as a crude racetrack.

…Insane. This woman was insane.

Nyk started running, and he was shocked by how light he felt. He may never have had much muscle but he was always quick to run away. The pickpockets who weren’t ended up dead. But he’d never felt THIS fast! It was like the world was shooting past him! He completed another lap, and then another, and another. With every lap he picked up speed, and even though he was reaching speeds that shouldn’t have been possible it didn’t feel like he was straining himself. He could see everything crystal clear, as though his vision had been enhanced to match.

After about fifteen minutes of that, though, his lungs started to burn.

“Slum Boy! You’re slowing down! What’s the problem?!” Lulu demanded.

“Can’t… breathe… need… air…” He gasped out, his heart pounding in his throat. He’d never run for this long before.

He didn’t receive the most sympathetic of responses.

“Oh, I’m sorry, is this too inconvenient for you? Maybe you’d prefer testing the suit’s ‘lounging on a couch’ features instead? Get it together Slum Boy, this isn’t about you!”

A mild shock punctuated her statement and nearly made Nyk fall over.

“What just happened?!” He sputtered.

“I sent a feedback discharge through your sensory neurolink. Painful, huh? Well, starting now every time I see a dip in your speed, you’ll get another one. Or will that make slacking off too inconvenient?”

Forget insane. This woman was evil.

Nyk ran harder and faster than he ever had before. Even when he felt like his lungs would explode, even when it felt like his body was going to collapse, he kept going, running lap after lap until Lulu mercifully allowed him to stop.

“Great work, Slum Boy!” She chirped as he collapsed on the ground. “You managed to reach 51.29 kilometers/hour! Well done! Next we’ll move onto the weight training!”

“Wait… weight training?” He wheezed. He could barely move. Even if the Synchro Suit was augmenting his body to perform feats he’d never been capable of before, it was still a human body and he was already at his limit.

“That’s right, it’s not just about running! We need to see how much weight the suit can carry,” she explained. “Aud!”

With a snap of her fingers Lulu summoned Aud into the room. She was driving a forklift, and towing a large stack of metal drums behind her.

“What… what is that?”

“I’ll explain in a second. For now, pick up that sheet of reinforced plating, and hold it flat over your head,” she ordered.

Nyk did as he was told. Aud used the forklift to lift up one of the drums, and set it down on the plate. Immediately Nyk felt serious pressure bearing down on him.


“Each of those drum barrels weighs exactly 1 ton,” Lulu explained. “To see how many tons the Synchro Suit can carry, Aud will be placing a barrel on the plate every minute.”

“What?! That’s insane!”

“No, it’s basic mathematics. When the suit gives in and you collapse, then that means we’ve found our maximum weight! Sound good?”


“Great! Next barrel, Aud.”