[NO LONGER UPDATING] Ceres's Chaos: A Tragic Space Opera
Within the military orphanage, every day followed the same schedule as before. Orphans were taught by the orphanage in a very fixed basic training routine.
Training started each day at 0500, breakfast at 0700, more training till 0900, then school and basic education till 1200, after which extra training was provided for the trainees who were about to participate as representatives of Zone 17 Military Orphanage, those who were aged 20 and above.
This made the days of Ceres, Erik, and Braton extremely hectic.
The zone was considered to be a sort of shanty-town on the surface, with signs of more advanced buildings, while the orphanage was slightly less miserable than the slums that took up the majority of the zone.
Temperatures soared way past human habitable levels during certain times of the day, but the trainees just gritted their teeth and went with it.
Training equipment was rusted after a few years of usage, while basic exercises were performed out in the open yard.
Weights were literally century-old leftovers handed down from the Legions, and VR pods used to train for exosuit use prior to the nerval jack installation were more than a hundred years old.
Trainees were taught on multis manufactured from 2 generations ago, teachers were local volunteers and retired veterans who needed something to do in the day and lunch was a simple nutritional paste slapped onto a mess tray, which every student had one.
It wasn't the worst condition, but it was not the best either.
Each day ended at 1500 sharp, where a low-pitched bass sound would reverberate through the orphanage, marking the end of the routine. The trainees were then allowed to have their own free time, only returning before their curfew at 2200 hrs.
The lazy ones lounged about the canteen in the orphanage, eating their lunch nutritional paste while joking with others.
The hardcore ones stuffed their mouths with the paste and continued training on their own, braving the insane yet common temperatures on the surface as they found their own avenues to practice both within the orphanage or outside in Zone 17.
As a residential zone of sorts, Zone 17 was the place where low-income workers stayed and lived at.
Naturally, most outer zones also became the dumping ground of the inner zones. No reason to leave trash filling up their precious underground caverns’ limited area when there was so much space on the surface.
Who cared if the trash was heated to 45 degrees during noon? Hence, the zone had multiple trash yards across the zone, with one being very close to the orphanage.
Unlike Braton, who had earned access to a good training centre by ‘squeezing’ another adult close to death, Ceres was most intimate with this trash yard, which regularly dumped salvageable equipment and appliances for him to make money with the local residents.
It was his hotspot, where he first learnt all the tools and trade needed to succeed as an exosuit repairer. And there was one man he could attribute all this too – his mentor.
Being one of the ‘hardcore ones’ ever since he decided to win the competition. Ceres stuffed his mouth full of nutritional paste at the end of the school day, running to a corrugated metal building known as Dawn Rigor's Workshop on the other side of the electrical trash yard.
It was the main thing he had been eating for the past twelve years, with a slight dash of wild meat and plants on an occasional basis during military outfield training.
The ‘paste’ was essentially all the nutrition a human needed packed into as small of a form as possible, making it easy to transport around. A combination of advanced compression technology as well as new genetically improved food allowed for the highest concentration possible.
A single pack of the stuff could feed an entire class for close to a month, and maybe the whole Zone for a day with rationing.
Naturally the orphanage took it as the lowest cost food, hence the menu of the canteen only having difference in colour and flavour of ‘paste’, also known as nutri-paste.
After checking his multi for the timetable of riots and ensuring no conflicts were scheduled today, he rolled up the closed shutter blocking the entrance door to the workshop and entered with his key.
This was his main haunt right after most school days, growing to be a part of his life that he lumped under ‘exosuit repair’.
It was in this workshop where he first learnt what was the intergalactic screw measurement sizes, how to weld and solder, design, and print a nano-circuit board, and manufacture his own armour plates.
It took a good five to seven years for Ceres to reach his current level of skill, but it was a tough journey with an equally tough mentor.
Turning on the lights, the workshop looked like a dilapidated warehouse floor about 10 meters wide that were littered with machining and precision tools.
Exosuits were either piled up on shelves in a dismantled form or hung straight supported by metal beams that circularly protruded from a central pillar that was tucked into the corner of the workshop on the right, forming something like a merry-go-round of rusted suits.
A few bookshelves decorated the walls on the left, but instead of books it was filled with different types of screws, washers, bolts, and nuts.
Some liquid containers and plastic rolls of material were also stored on the lower portions of the bookshelves. Ceres was the one who had arranged everything in order himself.
In the middle of the workshop was a large device, towering 3 meters in a cubic shape, enclosing a series of convoluted machinery. It was an old generation 3D metal printer, built by Rawes Industries some 200 years ago.
It had lost its automation capabilities and its laser cutter, requiring any metal parts to be printed into a mould first.
Any user would have to manually control the 3D printer with his own hands to fabricate any part and also create the mould separately, an obvious step back that would be even worse than what humans had a thousand years ago but he stuck with it anyway, it was the only working one in the Zone that he could use.
Ceres flicked the power switch to the building, causing the workshop to emit a series of whirring sounds and rumbles as though a heavily injured dragon was sputtering out its last breath.
The machinery around the room stuttering into life, Ceres docked his multi into an interface, allowing him full control of the workshop and all its connected equipment with voice activation.
"Welcome back, Dawn Rigor. It has been three days since you've entered the workshop. Initiate start-up checks? 10,989 updates are pending installation from Rawes Industries, would you like to install the updates?"
"Fuck, didn't I turn off everything to do with updates? No, turn off all notifications and actions regarding updates. Initiate start-up check."
The Rawes old-gen printer started moving its nozzle along the three axes, testing its limits. Despite losing its automation, it could receive manual commands electrically from any external source, allowing Ceres to write an entire piece of code to test the 3D printer, though the language used by the printer was fairly outdated.
The coding language still relied on keyboard inputs rather than nerval jack interfacing, being extremely antiquated.
It didn’t even have holographic command blocks for Ceres to arrange in 3D like most other modern coding languages.
However, being haunted by an automatic update that occurred during one of his fabrication sessions, he swore to destroy the software department of Rawes Industries one day if he gets the chance and stuck with learning the archaic coding language using a scavenged keyboard.
"Maybe I should replace the entire operating system of the printer. Almost no one on the forums know how to use the old-gen system nor language. But I can't allow the printer to establish a serious net connection to download anything to the printer unless I want to get caught for independent repair!"
Shelving the idea to the back of his mind, he sat in a rugged office chair behind the table where his multi was running the start-up tests. The desk was filled with rubbish and only had barely a sliver of space left for Ceres to put anything.
There were even leftover bones from [Athen's Chem-Fried Chicken!] that produced a horrid smell still in the box from seven days, not to mention the box that was also designed to bio-degrade in 14 days.
"I'll clean up the desk during my annual cleaning next year!" Chuckling to himself, Ceres spun around on the chair lazily after picking up a picture that had fallen off the table.
The picture detailed an old white-haired guy who had a wrinkled face but a warm smile dressed in maintenance overalls, his left arm leaning over a younger Ceres that still had a buzzcut.
That was Uncle Dawn, the previous owner of the workshop. Just like many others of New Saint on this border planet, he retired after suffering from a serious injury during his military service and lost his left leg.
Having no family left and no descendants, he volunteered to teach the orphans in the Zone in which he stayed about manufacturing and repair.
Most kids hated the subject and wanted to join the Legion or whatever military division or garrison to get out of this hellhole, not be some dumb repair boy at the back of the fight stuck on the blistering planet’s surface.
Only Ceres stuck with the guy even after the subject lessons were over, forming a close bond over the course of five years.
Uncle Dawn was their mentor, and taught Ceres everything he knew, forcing Ceres to stay back after school to have extra lessons, drilling him intently on everything needed. At first Ceres was reluctant to learn, but as time went on, he got better at it.
It created a positive feedback loop, with him absorbing more and more information from Uncle Dawn, who seemed like an all-knowing engineer in his eyes.
Ceres thought that this would have gone on forever, with him continuously learning from him, treating him as his foster father.
They would venture out into the trash yard together to scavenge for parts and components, restoring them for use in repairs for both riots and contract jobs.
However, he passed away 2 years ago, and Ceres then took over the workshop as his personal training ground.
Uncle Dawn didn't exactly officially leave the workshop to Ceres, but instead left an encryption on the ownership of the store, which was easy enough to crack for Ceres.
The rental for the workshop was paid out of the remaining money left behind by Uncle Dawn, which has been draining repeatedly due to Ceres’s continuous disastrous mistakes in the workshop.
Now, Ceres had to run riot repairs just to keep the workshop alive, despite the fire department being the only frequent visitor to the workshop.
Ceres would never let the workshop go however, that he was sure of. He may not have a concrete aim in life right now, but this was important to him.
Even if he won the competition and left the planet, he would still retain ownership of the workshop in whatever ways he could. That’s how important Uncle Dawn was to him.
"Startup check completed. Would you like to purchase any downloadable content from Rawes to spice up your printer? The printer can be customized to provide RGB lighting that could prove to be great for creativity. We also provide cybersecurity services all for the low cost of 100 L-credits + 250 L-credits per infiltration attempt squashed. A great deal for..."
"Disable all notifications and actions regarding downloading, purchasing, updates and anything involving money!"
Ceres heavily regretted not analyzing the modified code test script that he wrote into his multi.
The original version was shamelessly copied from a dubious online forum with minimal changes on his part, resulting in this wreck of a system that somehow was still functioning.
Ignoring the 3D printer, he headed over to his riot repair backpack, opening it up again. The backpack panels folded out again as usual, but the container of components was dangerously low from the frequent riots Ceres had been doing recently.
“Well shit, it looks like I’m empty. Capacitors, resistors, batteries, the whole lot is used up!” Ceres groaned.
Despite having a notable amount of L-credits in his account, he was saving them up for the rent of the workshop, so he had no spare cash to buy any components.
“Buying components is for idiots anyway, there’s an entire yard full of it right here!” Putting on his usual dumpster diving outfit that protected him from the heat, he headed out of the workshop into the trashyard.
The entire trashyard was effectively his playground. He had even memorized the layout of each of the hills, using them as landmarks.
Some of them already had been scavenged to their limits, and as long as Ceres could not use an exosuit, there was hardly any heavy machinery he could utilize to break the hill down further.
Sure, he could rent a excavator, but that would defeat the purpose of him saving money.
Either way, such vehicles hardly existed for the general public use. Exosuits were everything in the Galactic Era! “Wonder how my nerval jack installation would go..”
Ceres was so excited that he couldn't stop thinking about it. The installation of the nerval jack would unlock so many potential applications. The biggest boon would be the VR pods, as a direct connection was better than simulating the surroundings in a helmet. “Can’t wait to play Glucose Rush in VR!”
He smiled as he walked through the hills of trash, randomly using his gloves to sort through the scalding pieces of metal and plastic. They had been left out in the day under the heat radiated from the local star.
Many of the trashed products were all recognizable as slight improvements of devices that had already existed in some form or shape on Ancient Earth.
Technology usage was naturally not uniform in New Saint due to the cost of living. Many outers did not buy into the high-tech equipment, clothing and furniture that inners enjoyed. They had neither the disposable income nor the will to try and repair it if it broke down.
Why reinvent something simple that already worked more than a thousand years ago? There was simply no reason an outer had to buy an extremely fancy water filter when he just needed a kettle to boil some water to drink.
Simplistic and ease of repair were the main focus of the outers, who were much more practical.
“Oh! A anti-grav shoe!” Ceres pulled out a soiled sneaker that was barely floating on its own, hovering close to the ground when he placed it on the floor.
Ceres quickly took out a prepared bag from his pockets, preventing the smell of the shoe from assaulting his nose.
It was a big prize despite its condition, as it was laced with a small amount of an anti-gravity exotic called Floa!
Many of the extravagant lifestyles in the Galactic Era would not have been possible without the discovery of exotics – special minerals and metals that have almost magical properties due to the unique environment that they formed in.
The existence of exotics did not really shocked humanity on Ancient Earth – rare earth elements with unique properties along with high entropy alloys were already prevalent that time. Technology and chemistry only got better exponentially.
The Floa in this shoe was synthesised however, but it was still worth a lot. It was not the only anti-grav exotic out there, but it was one of the weaker ones.
Athen and specifically the city of New Saint was built around these resources – the planet had plenty of exotics available in it, and thousands of colonist groups were making it out on their own and trying to find their own vein of exotic metals to get rich!
Naturally Ceres did not really care about anything apart from its monetary value. As long as he managed to extract the exotic, he could then sell it! Ceres already had a few old contacts thanks to Uncle Dawn.
“This still doesn’t solve my problem of not having components for the riot repair!” Ceres got to work, diligently finding spare parts and components all over the trashyard.
It was in moments like this where he focused seriously, giving it his all. It was something he had inherited from Uncle Dawn, who taught him the importance of focus.
Soon, with a bag full of ‘fresh’ loot, he happily made his way back to the workshop. “Okay, that’s the components out of the way – let’s check and see if we can continue Uncle Dawn’s project!”
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