Chapter 7:

A Small Victory

[NO LONGER UPDATING] Ceres's Chaos: A Tragic Space Opera

[Okay okay, so you know how mobs generally throw firebombs or other electrical bombs that can disable exosuits during fights and...]

“Ardan, please! Bullet point form!” Ceres harshly whispered into his earpiece, while remaining absolutely still, keeping his other ear open for sounds of the exosuit approaching. He could hear the slow thud of the Athen Defender approach him.

[Brother, my team is about to engage, be ready! I don’t care what this Defender shit is!] Braton barked on the communication channel, himself roaring before he charged out onto the main street and catching the attention of the Athen Defender who was in the building hunting Ceres amongst the many abandoned rooms.

His team was caught off-guard by Braton’s brazen move that was definitely not part of the plan.

[Infrared vision, enhanced armour, improved mobility but very much less firepower. They don’t have a lot of weapons, only to disarm and incapacitate people. It should not have more than the energy pistol and riot shield that it is currently carrying! The legs in particular should be really weak.]

Ardan rapidly spoke while the Athen Defender stepped out back onto the main street of the town, facing Braton who had his upper half of his body bare while his bottom bore the same uniformed pants everyone else was wearing.

“What the fuck Braton?” Ceres cursed again for the umpteenth time as he witnesses absolute stupidity walking with bravado in front of the Athen Defender.

Surprisingly, Braton was the same height as the Athen Defender exosuit, which gave Braton even more confidence as he puffed up his chest. Was this what Braton meant when he said that ‘his team is engaging’?

Ceres didn’t continue watching, instead retreating back into the building, hoping Braton will buy enough time for him to set up something good!

“HEY YOU. IN THE EXOSUIT.” Braton shouted at the exosuit, while his team fanned out around the area, occupying the rooftops and the buildings and forming a semicircle of crossfire against the enemy.

They were already accustomed to Braton’s shenanigans, so they made the best of it as a distraction.

The Athen Defender turned to face him, confused. [Hey erm, aren’t we doing a test run? You can’t just stand out here in the open. How am I going to prove that the exosuit can do it’s job? Are you even a participant?] A male voice echoed from an external speaker on the Athen Defender’s chest.

“Oh yea? You think you can use us as test subjects for your fancy exosuit? Well, it’s time for me to test my real muscles against that wacky armour of yours!” Bellowing out a primal roar, Braton charged straight at the Athen Defender, but not before the Athen Defender got two stun shots of his energy pistol off, striking Braton directly!

That didn’t stop his momentum though as he slammed into the riot shield, knocking the exosuit back five meters.

The rest of the team immediately popped out of their positions, firing indiscriminately at the Athen Defender, peltering it with non-lethal energy beams.

However, the riot shield blocked most of the attacks, the exosuit far from being disabled by the various energy discharge shots that fizzled on the surface of the shield! “Shit, none of the shots are landing on him!”

Before Braton could perform yet another charge, the exosuit fired more than ten rapid stun shots into Braton’s upper body directly!

His muscles twitching uncontrollably, Braton stood in a frozen position, his nerves overloaded by the electrical shock, saliva starting drooping from his mouth.

The Athen Defender exosuit immediately started firing back at the rest of the team, resulting in a swift firefight. Braton’s team were vastly outgunned, and the Athen Defender’s riot shield negated any shots the team members managed to land.

With its advanced sensor suite, it was able to block shots from the flank as well.

Eventually, the exosuit managed to knock all of them down with precise stun shots over the course of five minutes.

[Whew, almost thought I failed the test run. If I had lost to a few kids, it’ll be over for me… I guess they aren’t as good as I feared.] The wearer knew if he let a bunch of kids with no exosuit land a hit on him, it would be terrible for the test results!

The way he took out the squad gave him a lot of confidence, making him smirk internally.

A few beams from a building striked the exosuit in the back, causing it to swivel around and shoot behind it in a flash. Ceres yelped while he ducked, narrowly avoiding being hit by the stun shots. He dashed back into the building that he was in, waiting for his prey to take the bait.

“Okay, trap set. Let’s see if this guy bites.”

Entering the building, the exosuit scanned its surroundings with infrared vision. Being sure that it saw Ceres run into the building, it carefully proceeded through the ground floor. The building was a simple shopping boutique shop with a rooftop.

Mannequins left from years ago were scattered across the floor, their internal electronics fried from when they used to showcase a variety of clothes that would be holographically projected on their bodies.

Walk-in closets that were three meters tall lined up against the side of the wall, where customers could previously enter and have clothes projected on them, just to see how it would look like.

Despite the messy state of the clothing store, the exosuit could still use its infrared vision to see through thin surfaces, seeing Ceres hiding behind the main cashier counter in the centre of the store.

The Athen Defender looked around the ceiling and the surroundings, afraid that there may be more hiding.

Yet it didn’t see anyone else other than Ceres. Deciding on a split second, the Athen Defender dashed forward with its high mobility, closing the gap in a split second!

What it didn’t see was a carefully covered up pitfall trap in the floor of the building, falling into it as its heavy foot stepped down into it, breaking through the loosely arranged rubble and causing it to fall 2 meters deep, face first.

Ceres laughed, but not before coming out from behind the counter and firing his energy pistol non-stop into the exosuit that laid at the bottom of the pitfall. “Hook, line and sinker. Maybe they need to invest in some X-ray vision too.”

Ceres noticed that the Athen Defender had dropped its riot shield to the side. “Heh, mine now! Now I can regroup with Erik and take out the other exosuits. Will I get a prize for defeating all ten?”

[Cadet Ceres, your role in the exercise is over. Put down the riot shield and report back to the Director once you return.]

A stern military voice echoed into his ear through the earpiece, scaring Ceres. \

[Team Ceres will now be led by Erik for the remainder of the exercise.]


“That boy is good.” Ann Lesion reclined in her chair. Her office had an enforcer liaison, watching the results of the test on three large holo monitors above her desk with her.

“Thank you for agreeing to pulling him out, I believe that kind of action should not be included in the test. It is beneath the enforcer division to have to watch for potholes covered by minors who haven’t graduated.” The enforcer liaison smiled, but deep down he was afraid of how badly the test could have gone if Ceres was allowed to continue.

He had been paid a good amount of money by the manufacturer to make sure this contract went through, so he hoped that the test would be seamless.

Having the design of the exosuit vetoed because one scrawny orphan kid in the outer zones covered a pothole would bear a bad marking on him, though he internally made a note to fix this glaring issue.

“No worries, thank you for providing excellent training resources to the orphanage.” Ann smiled too.

She did not do this for free, naturally, having received a fee to continue running the orphanage. Despite being a military orphanage, the allocated budget was only barely enough to keep her afloat.

If she wanted better resources and training equipment for the orphans, she had to scrounge up the extra cash herself!

“Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll have to have a chat with him.” She got up from her seat, leaving the office while the same two guards from before that were standing outside the door entered the office, making sure the enforcer liaison didn’t do anything stupid.

Ceres sat alone in the classroom, unsure of what was happening. He had never been pulled out of an exercise that fast, even the last time when he almost blew off the limb of his teammate due to certain explosive factors.

This time, he didn’t have any explosives used (or more specifically wasn’t allowed to) and had to rely on the environment, in which he succeeded.

The door swung wide open, with the orphanage director, Ann Lesion striding in, seating in the teacher’s chair opposite Ceres, who sat up straight and saluted.

The Director could be lenient most of the time, treating them mostly as children, but this was a military orphanage first and foremost.

“Ceres, at ease. Great job on your performance today, you’re making some of the higher ups involved in today’s exercise very impressed. Too impressed in fact. I would like you to stop using your friends as bait in the future if possible.” The director tapped her finger on the desk, causing Ceres to tense up.

“Ma’am, I didn’t use any explosives today, nor did anyone get hurt, apart from the enemy of course. Also, Braton volunteered.” Ceres tried to reason his way out, sensing a punishment on the horizon.

Ann noticed the stressed expression of Ceres, and slightly chuckled.

“You’re not in trouble Ceres, but I just wanted to talk to you, seeing as you have nothing to do now while the exercise goes on.” The director too sat up, clasping her hands together as she rested them on the table, looking straight at Ceres.

She could never tell him that she didn’t want to be in the same room as that slimy enforcer liaison who was obviously biased against her military trainees, orphan or not.

Many people from the inner zones just had that sort of bias, as though everything they did should be miles and leagues above anyone from the outer zone.

It was an unspoken discrimination that stemmed from years ago, as well as difference in living standards. She hated it with a living passion, but she knew it would be no small effort to change this mindset overall.

“Talk to me about...?” Ceres forgot when was the last time he had a one-on-one talk with the orphanage director.

The first time had been when he first entered the orphanage, and maybe once every year. He became a bit suspicious at what she was implying.

“You’re about to enter the graduation competition soon, Ceres, how do you feel? Anything you look forward to after you graduate?” The director tried to ask a long question to buy time for her to continue avoiding the enforcer’s liaison.

However, for Ceres, it was a heavy hitter for him. The question asked by the director was the one he had been asking himself ever since the competition announcement a few days ago. Yet Ceres couldn’t answer it, not even to himself truthfully.

Like most others, he was really going through the motions of each day, participating in military training, repairing for money at the riots, eat, shit and sleep.

Sure, he had a goal of getting off the planet, but that’s way ahead in the future and it could come about in anyway.

“I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m aiming for right now.” Ceres admitted.

“I just wanted to hear what your life goals was, it’s okay if you don’t know what you want right now. I always try to understand my cadets, so maybe I can help you with whatever you need. I have helped my orphans even long after they had graduated.” The director smiled gently, causing Ceres to wonder deeply whether there were any actual goals he could aim for.

The director looked at Ceres, hoping Ceres could continue explaining his goals, but it dawned on her that Ceres was really taking it seriously and had no answer now. An awkward silence lasted for a minute.

“Keep thinking about it, Ceres, and eventually you’ll find it. Maybe not now, but five, ten, twenty years later, you can always come back to me for help.” Getting up to leave, the director walked towards the door, while Ceres stood at attention saluting. “Thank you, Director!”

Ann sighed as she left the room. She recalled the day Ceres arrived at the orphanage, heavily wounded. She herself had spent countless hours trying to track where Ceres’s parents were from, but all she knew was that he was abandoned in an asteroid mining station.

It was a gut-wrenching story, though that was the same for almost every orphan in the orphanage. The expansion of humanity into the Galactic Era only made the backstory of every orphan even worse.

Ann gripped her hand into a fist as she walked back to the office. “I’ll make sure he gets a better future than his past.”

Back in the classroom, Ceres racked his brain, trying to pull out any incidents that might have happened in his childhood that may pertain to answering the question.

Did he have a questionable birth? Sure, but he wasn’t in an actual hurry to find out. He started recalling all the novels that he read and what the main characters wanted. What was his primary motivation?

Did he want to rule the galaxy? That’s a far-flung fantasy, he wouldn’t even be able to run for Zone mayor if he wanted to.

Did he want to be the strongest human alive? Well, he was already off to a bad start, being leagues behind the colossus that is Braton. Ceres shuddered as he imagined his body being even more muscular than Braton.

Did he want to be the smartest? As much as he enjoyed tinkering with exosuits and other types of devices, he wasn’t intending to pursue a research path.

How about becoming the captain of a starship and sailing amongst the stars? Honestly, that wasn’t so bad, but there’s one major obstacle blocking him: the competition!

As the result of the competition determined one’s qualification, naturally a higher score meant a better job or outcome. “Maybe winning the competition isn’t so out of the question anymore…”

While he was deep in thought, an hour passed before the test run concluded successfully.

“Hey Ceres, we’re back!” Erik returned to the classroom with all the other 20-year-old kids that were in the military exercise, some obviously more exhausted than others.

No one was seriously injured, only suffering minor bruises and a few lingering side effects of being stunned.

Everyone was joking around, talking about either the insane manoeuvres they pulled off or the stupid acts they saw others do.

Braton too lumbered into the room, obviously affected by the multiple stun shots that he endured. “Brother, I’m in a bad spot, I can’t feel my hands, how am I going to lift today?”

Ceres smiled as the rest of the class poked fun at Braton for being a gym maniac, laughing at the video replay brought up at the front of the screen of Braton standing bare chested against a fully armoured Athen Defender.

As he watched the rest of the class laugh with him, he felt that maybe a life goal of just hanging out with his friends like this, wouldn’t be too bad.

However, Ceres was aware that this wouldn’t last forever.

“The competition is the only obstacle in my way right now – any goal I want to achieve is blocked by it. If I win, then I can decide what path I want to take. But regardless of what happen, I’m getting off this planet!”

“Alright people, it is 0900 hrs, class is about to begin. Today we’ll be covering the history of the Loeric Empire and its founding Dynasties.” The teacher struggled to walk in, clearly an old local resident on his last legs, only supported by a failing prosthetic leg.

The class groaned at the mention of the subject, with Braton immediately falling dead asleep as his head banged on the table, mumbling “Gotta rest before them gains.”

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