6. The Guiding Hand
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Gestalt United Arc Start

The luxury of the dorms provided to these cadets was that of privacy. Each cadet would get their own "room". Calling it a room was a little bit of an overstatement, instead each cadet was provided with their own capsule. Capsules were basically small coffins, able to accommodate a single person laying down with about a 6-inch gap on each side. There was a port on the top, housing the charging port for the cadet's armor packs. It was more then enough space for them, as they would only be back here sleeping, if for some reason they had some free time there was a common area outside this hall of coffins, allowing for cadets to relax and socialize there.

The princess was given a separate accommodation just across the hall from them. While everyone got their own privacy within their coffin pods, each pod was housed in a large room, so once people exited their pods all privacy was lost. Princess Damocles got her own room for her pod, which also housed her personal bodyguard and maid.

Numa incidentally got his own room, but instead of it being a sign of status it was directly the opposite. Numa was on the fast track to becoming an augmented, and as such was separated from his classmates. In fact, the only reason why he had a room to himself was because he was the only augmented within this CO class.

UCMA didn't split classes based on merit, instead they were spread into different classes based on skills. Those who they believed would do their best work as commanders were put int the CO class, those with great scientific skills were either placed into TH (technical) class or MC (medical corps) class. Just like that people were separated within those cordons.

Numa had voluntarily signed himself for the augmentation process, so this meant that he was treated as an augmented already. Numa wasn't sure when the actual process would take place, but he had already been designated away from the group. By the time everyone had been introduced to their quarters, enough time had passed for everyone to be exhausted, having come off a long voyage into a stressful environment, into combat, all the while being bombarded with information.

Most people were relaxing in the common area, talking to each other as cliques formed around people, those who basically had "Rising Star" written all over their face. Marines were meant to be disposable, and so the ones that had the most customized armor meant that the marines saw in them someone worth investing in—that is someone who was going to survive, someone who wasn't just going to become a splatter at the edge of the pavement.

So, the individuality of the armor in some ways represented your strengths, the better the armor you were supplied with, the stronger you were, the more likely you were to survive, and better yet the more likely that you might even see the bloody conflicts the Marines were built to handle. In that way, the have nots flocked to the haves and the class was divided. This was the CO class, so this meant that everyone here had some modifications to their armor, and by that metric were all expected to see some form of strength, but it was also too early to tell, and even then, there were already extreme class differentials, some had barely modified armor, and some even had completely new ones with their own color scheme.

Nothing was truly equal here, and people naturally flocked to those who they believed could lead them to a better life. Numa wasn't apart of this, a couple minutes after they were dismissed Numa was signaled by the augmented assistant, Higgins. Higgins didn't speak much, instead motioning for Numa to follow, and Numa without knowing where he was going, followed without any word. The trip was short and as equally silent, nothing was said. Higgins didn't seem averse to him, but on the other hand didn't seem to be that friendly, instead Numa felt like he was perfectly neutral. To be fair, that's the vibe he felt from most people, and just as he seemed to be missing his emotions, it become more and more likely that he was not reading his own emotions as well as the emotions of other.

Either way, they soon reached their destination, it was hard to tell if they were in the same building, as they had travelled through the underground tunnels crisscrossing the planet. In fact, it was almost meaningless to gauge whether they were in the same building as this entire planet was all connected by a network of underground tunnels and rooms, in fact most buildings were skyrises, yet even then most of their space was found underground.

The walk was quick, going down a short flight of stairs and then walking down crisscrossing hallways before arriving at an office doorway. On the side of the door there was a golden plate that read: "Room 255" and underneath that read in silver lettering: "Commadore R.C. Hickens". Upon reaching the door, Higgins paused in front of the door, most likely waiting for the Commadores approval to enter. Surprisingly, it wasn't immediate, instead they both waited two or three minutes. Not a word was said, and Higgins remained unmoving and unflinching.

Eventually the door slid open to reveal a simple office, containing a desk and a sofa, and two little chairs in front of the desk. Everything in the room was white, a bright blinding color. With the sterile bright white lights on top of that it made it seem like the items on the desk were floating. Higgins stepped into the room without hesitation, and Numa followed along without hesitating.

The Commadore was sitting behind the desk, tapping away at a data pad, and didn't bother looking up. Eventually she finished up with writing on the data pad, handing it off to Higgins, who grabbed it and proceeded to step out of the room. Once Higgins had left the room, the Commadore finally looked up and seemed to be staring at Numa.

Numa stared back, neither could see the other one's face, in fact all Numa could see in the commadores visor was his own reflection. Once again, no words were exchanged, Numa didn't know why he was here, but he had a good guess.

The Commadore was the first to break the silence, "Do you actually want to go through with the gestalt procedure?"

"Commadore, I'm sure you are aware of my situation—"

"You still have other options, you know that? I represent a faction that can protect you, not as a Tullis but as Numa, your own individual…"

"I don't want another's power; I want my own"

"What a naïve answer, become one of those abominations isn't the solution nor does relying on another's power mean you won't have power of your own. I'm offering a final salvation to you, a guiding hand if you will."

"So, you represent the Guiding Hand?"

Commadore R.C. was surprised that Numa knew the name of the organization or was even aware of its existence in the first place. Right now, it was a small military faction whose members were almost all members of the leadership of the kingdom of mankind.

Numa had unwittingly accidently used some of the information that didn't have a source in his brain, information with dates that were in the future. Realizing his mistake, Numa simply remained silent and waiting for the Commadore to do something. He wasn't panicking, instead he was calm, submerged in his thoughts.

"Yes, I'm surprised you know of us. Did your father warn you about us? Is this your price of freedom? Is becoming an abomination and losing your soul worth it? Look at Higgins, he disgusts me. All he is good for is those of a golem, a good for nothing. Things like it will lead to the downfall of the kingdom and we of the Guiding Hand will become its saviors"

Numa knew that his father held augmented in the same disgust as the Guiding Hand did, so that wasn't why he was wary of them. If Numa had to guess, it was probably a more partisan issue, the Guiding Hand represented a new faction, a faction that seemed to oppose the current standings of power. Numa knew that his father relied heavily on augmented as his ground troops, and it seems that the Guiding Hand's goal was to wipe out the augmented.

Numa simply thought it over in his head, debating how to respond. At this point, Numa saw the writing on the wall, the Guiding Hand were going to grow to power and in the process creating a schism through mankind, for those who were augmented and those who weren't. They were probably planning on removing his father and sticking him as the replacement head, a figurehead in all but name.

"Do not fret, my father hasn't spoken to me about you. But your Guiding Hand isn't as covert as you think it is. It was an interesting choice choosing one of those 'disgusting' augmented as your assistant that handles all of your information"

"It's an idiot, a step above a golem. It disgusts me yes, but it seems to have friends in high places and is protected. Listen Numa, not everyone can see the light, and some even want to give more control over to these disgusting machines. So yes, I use it, but until the revolution prevails, I will need to deal with those of its kind."

"He was the one that warned me about you, him and whoever the instructor was that assessed me"

"An easy lie to see through, Rung isn't an augmented, and he is actually another one of the Guiding Hand"

"Was he the one that told you about the gestalt request?"

"Well, yes"

"Ah, well he is one of my fathers' men, why do you think I asked him of all people to enter me into the program." Pausing, Numa added on to the end, "You don't have to believe me, but it would be easy for someone like you to check the security footage, I doubt he bothered deleting it."

Getting up, Numa simply left with the vague threat of, "Doesn't matter to me, you took the decency to warn me, and I have returned the favor, and just as you're free to ignore my advice, I'm free to do the same"

The Commadore didn't have the chance to respond, as Numa simply slipped out of the office before she could. Numa was partially down the hall before running into Higgins, who simply walked past Numa. Taking the chance to stop him, "Oh, Higgins, was it? The Commadore knows you warned me, you might want to run back your resistance…"

Higgins simply turned to look back at Numa, the question mark forming on his face was so obvious that Numa didn't even need to see his face to know this.

Before Higgins could respond, there was a loud crack as electricity arced, and in an almost surreal fashion a round red-hot hole formed through Higgin's head. A slug had bored its way all the way through the back of his skull and out the front, slicing through his armor and cybernetics like it was nothing. The wall in front of Higgins was now smoldering with the remnants of the slug born into the wall.

Garishly, Numa could peek through the smoldering hole and see Commadore Hickens pointing a railer (an electromagnetic handgun that fired a slug with magnets) at whatever was left of Higgin's skull. A quiet moment passed, before Higgins collapsed to the ground. To say collapsed might be the wrong word for it, many of his cybernetics were still firing so in a way he was still alive. His final orders to his body still being carried out by whatever was left of his cerebral augments.

At this point Higgins was on the floor, his body shaking as the magnetic force of the slug was now truly doing damage to the exposed cybernetics. It was hard to tell if Higgins was still alive if he could even still be called alive in this state.

Numa was first to act, crushing what remained of Higgins with the heal of his boot. Grinding the battered skull into the ground, Numa turned to return to his pod. Numa throughout this didn't feel much, not even surprise, instead everything that transpired, transpired almost as if it didn't affect Numa at all. Railers were one shot weapons, that is they only carried one round and even if a new round was supplied it would take a bit for the railer to recharge for another shot.

Numa was confident she wouldn't attack him, and he was right, instead of attacking she simply watched his back while he stalked back off to his pod. Reaching the annex to their living quarters, Numa paused to collect himself, and then stepped into the common area. A couple of people looked at him, seemingly noting him down, before returning to their conversations.

Numa stalked through the common room before entering the room where his loan pod stood. Upon entering his pod, he removed his armor pack, placing it in its charger above his head. His pod flashed into stasis mode with the simple push of a button, the visor closing on the pod and the lights dimming to an emergency red color.

Before setting his alarm, Using the display within his pod Numa reviewed his orders, which stated classes would be starting in seven solar cycles, and that he was expected to visit the armory to pick a weapon before the start of his first class. This weapon would be the one he trained in and would most likely be the one he died with.

Numa had orders separate from the rest of his class, tomorrow he would be required to report down to the med bay. Tomorrow would be the last day as Numa Tullis, whether this meant it would be his last day ever or would be the start of his brand-new life, Numa had no way of knowing.

Yet Numa wasn't excited or nervous. Instead, it was almost like a serene experience, floating within the vast expanse of emptiness. Put simply, Numa felt nothing, and it had passed the point of not bothering Numa, it was now at a point where Numa didn't even notice or reflect on his generally feeling of emptiness. He was free from the constraints of his emotions—maybe or maybe he had lost something vital to him…

Thanks for the recent support, it means a lot to me! Whoever can find the Transformers reference within this chapter and comment it (or dm it to me) gets a shoutout and my eternal respect*
Hint: There are two references, one is within the Transformers universe and the other is an out of universe reference.
Here's a hint for the in universe reference: One became five, but one was part of the five, then there was four, but now there are none.

*Subject to change

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