Chapter 46: DreamNet
Lan Jue rolled down the street on his antique bicycle, leisurely meandering down the lanes with a small smile curling the corners of his mouth.
His right hand still felt the grip of the teaching director, who’d vigorously shaken his hand following the class. ‘Thank you,’ he’d said before leaving.
As for the students, they left the classroom with slack or terrified expressions. Lan Jue, meanwhile, felt a contentment in mind and body as the class concluded. Perhaps it was the transmission of positive energy that had him so upbeat.
He still remembered clearly his own days as a student, that stodgy professor who’d taught a class very similar to his own. Even now it was like that enlightening voice was speaking right by his ear. He’d experienced so much in these last few years, but his origins were still fresh in his memory.
Leaving the university, Lan Jue meandered towards Skyfire Avenue. Suddenly he stopped, and slapped his forehead as though he’d forgotten something. “Wrong! This is an Etiquette class, not a philosophy course! I have to teach them how to live a quality life. I went way off topic…”
Beep. Beep. Beep. The familiar ring of his communicator interrupted his thoughts.
“What,” Lan Jue spat in to the communicator, distracted.
On the other end Zhou Qianlin looked at the number scrawling across the communicator on her wrist. She heard that familiar listless voice, and for a moment confusion crept in to her face.
Was this really that impassioned teacher from before? The one who had made those rowdy students sit in silence for more than ten minutes, who even after class filed out wordlessly?
“You taught well,” she said. Although her tone was somewhat frigid Lan Jue couldn’t help but feel a smile of pride turn his lips.
“Only, weren’t you supposed to be here to protect me?”
“Right!” It sounded like the thought had just come to him.
Zhou Qianlin’s voice snarled through the communicator. “Then where are you?”
Lan Jue applied the brakes, slowly coming to a halt. “Heh.. ehm… I forgot. I’m heading back now.”
I’m a bodyguard! Lan Jue quietly chastised himself.
“Where can I find you,” he asked evenly, suppressing his agitation.
“I’m in the mecha combat department. Come find me here.”
“Didn’t you say being seen with me would hurt your image,” Lan Jue asked. “Not scared of that anymore?”
“You can’t stand a little ways off? Just don’t talk to me. You’re a teacher, you can go anywhere on campus and no one will pay attention. We’re in the simulation area, classroom three.” Zhou Qianlin hung up.
Lan Jue slapped his forehead once more. This HATEFUL woman! He fought off the sudden gloom that had surrounded him and turned the bike back towards school.
The mecha combat department wasn’t the most important sector of the school, but it took up the most room. Proper mecha instruction needed a host of high-tech equipment and sufficient space to use them. The area was split in to various areas for theory, simulation, operation and more.
The Simulation Wing Zhou Qianlin had mentioned was the mecha combat department’s most oft used training module.
Learning to operate a mecha was a rather lengthy process. Before even beginning a certain level of Talent was required, otherwise the body couldn’t endure the effort or control the machine. Lately each of the three Alliances had ways of promoting the capabilities of normal people to perform the job, but only the highest ranked Talents could hope to be top-level mecha pilots.
Mechas were expensive to manufacture, and required delicate advanced technologies to produce. If students were permitted to train with real mechas, it was not only dangerous but financially wasteful. As a result the Simulation Department was created for the need. In fact, the simulations were just as good as the real thing. They emulated mecha combat reactions and situations very well, and so were just as effective as reality. The results were fewer accidents and less upkeep.
Only, wasn’t Zhou Qianlin a postgraduate mecha pilot? Why was she studying mecha operation?
But when he arrived at the simulation department’s third classroom, he had nothing to say. Because Zhou Qianlin wasn’t anywhere to be seen.
The classroom was massive, and looked like a giant metal warehouse. It’s interior was filled with over a hundred spherical simulators, each three meters in diameter. It was easy enough for Lan Jue to find it, thankfully, though that was due to the instructor microchip they’d installed in to his communicator.
Several of the large spheres shuddered and shook within the warehouse, occupied by students in the midst of training.
Unfortunately all of the spheres were sealed! Zhou Qianlin had said she was here, but how to find her?
Lan Jue had no option but to ring her communicator again. ‘I’m here. Which pod are you in?”
“Wait for me at the door,” was her terse response.
I guess I really am her bodyguard! His eyes, bearing no small measure of anger, swept the warehouse. He spotted a pod, it’s side open.
He clambered into the pod with practiced motions and took a seat. He couldn’t suffer standing around in vain, and there was an open pod available. Leaving the lid ajar, he shut his eyes and leaned back in the makeshift cockpit.
Simulation Department Number Three Classroom, Corner, Pod 12
Zhou Qianlin sat quietly in the cockpit, but had no begun her scheduled training regimen. The conversation with Lan Jue concluded, she found her warm moist lips pressed tightly, and a tear filling her eye.
“Lan Jue… A-Jue… Zeus…”
“Zzzzzzg—“ the trembling of the pod caused Lan Jue to awaken with a start. To his surprise the door to the cockpit quickly began to close.
He knew he had the capability to leave the cockpit effortlessly and with time to spare, but just at that moment he saw two students approaching from outside. To leave quickly would mean revealing his Discipline.
And as he hesitated, the door to the simulator sealed shut.
“Ding. Scanning microchip.”
“Greetings, Instructor Lan Jue. Welcome to the National Eastern University Simulation Department. Will you be using an existing DreamNet account, or would you like to register a new account?”
Lan Jue was temporarily stunned. It had been a long time since he’d used a simulator. DreamNet was a an interstellar company developed jointly by the three Alliances, made specifically as a large-scale network platform for simulated mecha training. It was used both for study and recreation.
Well, it’s better than doing nothing, he thought. Might as well mess around a little bit.
Five minutes later, a new face was wandering DreamNet. Meandering through the Eastern Alliance, along the avenues of the NEU, Nooblet appeared…