Chapter 6:

Chapter 6: Synchronization Tests (Part 2)


Discomfort was an old friend to Nyk, having lived his whole life in the slums. But after finishing all of Lulu’s tests, he felt more sore than he’d ever felt before.

And it didn’t stop there. She forced him to go through more “training” the next day, and the next, and the next. The only breaks he got were meals and baths, and the moments when his body couldn’t go on anymore and he passed out in his bed.

How much more of this can I take? He wondered as he dragged himself out of bed, ignoring his screaming muscles. How many days was this now? How many weeks? They’d all started to blur together and without any windows he had no idea how long he’d been trapped in this cold metal prison.

“…Sorry, what?”

He’d grown so used to the horrid training regiment Lulu had put him through that for a moment he was sure that he’d heard wrong.

“I said, you’ve been doing an excellent job on your physical training, but today we’ll be focused on handling weapons instead,” she repeated. “It isn’t like running and lifting and stretching is all you need to defeat Sentinels, you have to learn how to use a gun as well.”

“Then… why did I have to go through all that?” He whined.

She rolled her eyes.

“Please, Slum Boy, just like any other machine, it’s important to put you through your paces so we know what you’re capable of.”

“But…” He wasn’t a machine! He was a human!

“And besides, if you’re going to be able to handle the strain of fighting in the Synchro Suit it’s important to improve your condition. I can’t have you dying out there.”

It took a moment for that to sink in.

“Wait… what? But I thought…” Nyk couldn’t believe it. There was no way she was actually concerned about him, so why did she care if he died or not?

“It would be quite a pain to have to recover the suit and repair it, after all.”

Okay, that made more sense.

Lulu led him to the training room, which had gone through a redesign since the last time he was here. Targets dangled from the ceiling and more lined the walls, and a few were even mounted on strange Sentinel-looking machines, posed to leap at a moment’s notice.

And then there were the guns. More than ten shelves could hold, stacked in row upon row up toward the ceiling. Nyk had never seen so many different weapons in one place before, even the highest-rated shops, the ones right at the wall, didn’t have such a diverse selection.

“The Synchro Suit has several weapons already installed, but it’s designed to work with anything.” She gestured at the large assortment of rifles. “Take your pick.”

His eyes landed on a modified MX-Scorpion 7, the same rifle that Mysha used. He never would have been able to handle such a large gun normally, but in the suit it would be easy. “That one.”

“Great! Suit up, and I’ll had Aud bring in the ammunition!”

The pain from synchronization was barely a sting after all his training. His senses took a moment to adjust, and then he picked up the Scorption. He was right, it was unbelievably light.

Lulu’s voice buzzed in his ear. “Your suit comes with targeting software to help you aim. Just align to the indicated dots, and fire.”

Nyk looked out at the target field. Every marker was glowing red. He pointed the barrel of his rifle at the closest one, and began to fire.

The results were… far from impressive.

“You call that aiming, Slum Boy? I’m actually insulted! My software isn’t so faulty!”

“I’m trying my best! This thing isn’t exactly easy to use!”

“Yes! It is! I programmed it myself! Are slum rats just allergic to aiming or something?!”

By the time he emptied the magazine, he’d failed to hit a single target.

Lulu sighed, raising the scanner from her eyes, and pinched the bridge of her nose.

“…We’ve got a long way to go.”

Training continued like that for some time. He would focus on stamina training when he woke up, then shooting practice after lunch. The longer it took, the more Nyk began to improve, even if only slightly, and the more he started to question what he was even doing here.

Then his training regiment changed again.

“Hand to hand combat?”

“That’s right. You’ve shown some excellent improvements in your stamina, and your shooting ability has gotten… marginally better,” Lulu said, looking a little ill. “But it’s important that we improve everything we can. Martial arts builds coordination, focus, and control, all of which are essential for surviving the Towers. If you find yourself running low on ammunition, you might need to engage them with your bare hands. And for that, you’ll need suitable training.”

Nyk glanced down. He’d spent more time in the suit than out of it most days, but looking at his armored hands still felt unnatural.

“If you think that’ll help me stay alive out there, then okay.”

“Great! Aud?” Lulu snapped her fingers and the tall woman stepped in front of him, bowing.

“Wait, what?!”

Lulu shrugged. “From what I hear, for stuff like this it’s important to have a sparring partner, no?”

“B-But she’s human! What if I… you know how dangerous this suit is!” He’d lifted enough barrels to know how much strength his artificial body had.

“You need not concern yourself with me. I am more than equipped to combat you at your given level of ability.”

“But I still don’t think…”

“Oh, come off it. Aud, just show him already and get on with it! My tea is getting cold!”

“As you wish, milady.”

Aud raised her hands and rolled up her sleeves, stripping off her gloves.

Nyk gasped. “That’s-!”

Her arms from the elbow down were made of metal. The prosthetics shined silver in the light of the training area, looking as smooth as skin. They were the finest cybernetic enhancements Nyk had ever seen.

“Aud’s the one who saved you from those Sentinels, remember. And with just her bare hands. Trust me, she’s the perfect choice.”

“O-Okay, then,” Nyk nodded, swallowing his nervousness. “If you’re sure about this…”

“I am,” she nodded, taking up a fighting stance.

“I’m uploading some fighting styles right now, Slum Boy. The suit will help guide you in the proper forms, you just need to follow what it’s showing you.”

Images flashed in front of his eyes faster than he could see, and he felt his body start to move. Was he moving the suit or was the suit moving him? He wasn’t even sure at this point, but he took up a stance that mirrored hers.

Nyk stepped forward and threw a feint, which she stepped back from, keeping a close distance away from him as she watched with her sharp eyes. He threw a second punch and she blocked it, making sure to keep just out of his range. She was always moving, hopping around and shifting position, forcing him to keep turning to face her.

Then he stepped in close and threw a punch, preparing to stop just shy of caving her face in. But he soon found out how pointless that was.

Aud stepped in close and grabbed his wrist. With the heightened senses of the Synchro Suit, Nyk could see it all happen in slow motion. With a tug she pulled his arm forward, turning in and bringing her other arm up under his elbow. His feet left the ground, and he found himself flying in the direction he’d been headed, crashing into the floor.

The pain dampeners minimized the pain of the throw, but Nyk’s head was still spinning. He’d seen the whole thing and he still wasn’t sure what had happened.

“Pathetic, Slum Boy. That was like the easiest throw in the world.” Lulu’s voice, of course, was right with him.

“Milady, it would appear copying the patterns of the suit is not sufficient. He needs to train significantly.”

“I feel the same way. Aud, throw him a few more times so he gets a feeling for it, alright?”

Okay, that was it. Enough was enough!

“What’s the point of all this?!” Nyk shouted, standing back up. He turned towards Lulu and finally asked the question that had been on his mind for days. “Why are you going through all this trouble? Wouldn’t it be easier to grab a Scavenger who already knows how to fight? Or how to shoot a gun?! Why don’t you put Aud in fucking suit? Why do you need someone as pathetic as me?!”

Lulu’s face was unreadable behind the scanner.

“…Because it has to be you.”


“It. Has. To. Be. You. Do you think that I would have just saved any random Scavenger I saw bleeding out in front of me? No, of course not. If you were anyone else, I probably would have left you to die. But you’re special, Slum Boy. You have to be the one testing the suit, nobody else is even close to as qualified.

Special? He was special?

Nobody had ever called him that before. Most people thought he was worthless trash from the slums. Even Mysha, whose kindness and concern had saved him more times than he could count, had never said he was special.

“Milady, I believe it would help clarify things if you told him the truth.”

Lulu sighed, and removed her headset. “…Yes, you’re probably right,” she murmured, Nyk hearing her voice through his vocal sensors and not his speakers for once. She was staring right at him.

“Tell me, Slum Boy, what do you know about the city?”

“…Not a lot. Just that it’s the place where all our technology comes from, all the corporations and rich people live there, and they pay us for artifacts and also sell stuff like weapons and food and medicine to shops.”

“That’s right. But did you know that it’s actually possible for people in the slums to receive admittance into the city?”

“But that’s… really rare, right? Like, you have to be a really famous and successful Scavenger to apply.”

“Yes, excellent. But even then, not everyone who applies is granted entry. Would you like to know why?”

He nodded.

Augmentation.” She made a face like she wanted to throw up.


“Take a look at me, what do you see? Any enhancements? Cybernetics? Data ports?” Lulu rose from her seat and posed for him, inviting him to admire her flawless figure. Her pale skin didn’t have so much as a scar.

“I don’t understand.”

“The residents of the city are all like me. Pure. Pristine. No augmentation at all. It’s considered… perverse to enhance yourself with technology. Only servants like Aud, slaves, are exempt. But if someone from the slums tried to live inside the wall, and they had so much as an artifical pinkie finger… they would be denied as a matter of course.”

“But that’s… everyone has augments!” Nearly every Scavenger he’d seen was enhanced in some way or another, save for Mysha. That policy was insane!

“So it goes,” she shrugged. “The city residents don’t want disgusting, inhuman augments polluting their streets. Only the best, of course! Only those who manage to become the greatest of Scavengers while maintaining their purity deserve to live among their betters.”

A twisted smirk spread across her lips. She seemed… upset?

Nyk gasped. “That… That’s why you chose me?”

“Look at you,” she crooned, reaching up to cradle his armored cheek. “So pure, without a single modification. The perfect little poster-boy. People like you… are exactly who I designed the Synchro Suit for.”

“What do you mean?”

Lulu stepped back and sank into her seat, taking a sip of her tea. “I despise the city’s rules against cybernetic augmentation. Our factories create them, and yet we’re too good to make use of them ourselves? That’s when I got to thinking, what if there was a way of enhancing the ability of a human being without resorting to physical augmentation?”

She pointed at him. “Boom.”

Nyk glanced down at his suit, surprised. “This? I mean…”

“Perfected, it will perform better than any prosthetic or enhancement ever could. All while being entirely non-invasive. Imagine, a world where Scavengers would no longer have to risk life and limb to recover artifacts! They remain safe inside their suits, rising through the ranks while remaining ‘pure’, and finally… well, I suppose you can guess.”

“So you want everyone to have one of these?”

“Of course, what self-respecting capitalist wouldn’t?” She scoffed. “…Oh, right. ‘Capitalist’ is a word that means ‘person who works to make the world better’.”

“…So that’s why I’m ‘special’ huh?” Nyk muttered, his heart sinking. “Because I’m ‘pure’ or whatever.”

Lulu winced with sympathy. “Oh, no, Slum Boy, I swear, it’s not just that. Yes, someone without augmentation was necessary, but it had to be you, it just HAD to!”

He just didn’t understand.


She smiled. “Because of all the Scavengers I’ve ever seen… you are, without a doubt, the most scrawny, pathetic, worthless, absolutely biggest loser of them all.”


Lulu leapt from her seat, her eyes shining with glee. “Imagine it! You, wearing that armor, going around the slums, destroying Sentinels in the Towers, bringing back treasure after treasure while rescuing your fellow Scavengers! People start talking, see, wondering ‘that guy is amazing! He’s the greatest Scavenger ever! Look at how powerful his suit is!’ and then, the grand unveiling. Product, ready to hit the shelves, holding a press conference broadcast to the entire slum district… ‘who is this mysterious armored Scavenger who’s taken the slums by storm?’”

She grinned, rapping her fist against his chest.

“Can you imagine the look on everyone’s face when the suit opens up, and they see that it’s poor, pathetic little you? It would be the greatest marketing campaign the city has ever seen! ‘Buy one of Volstgalph Industries’ newly-minted Synchro Suits! If it can turn the biggest loser in the slums into an absolute beast, imagine what it could do for you!’ Think about it, Slum Boy, isn’t that a marvelous idea?!”

Her eyes were shining brilliantly, but Nyk could only see a yawning abyss. He was going to be sick. For just a moment he had thought…

…No. It didn’t matter what he thought. It had never mattered.