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CHAPTER TWENTY TWO – VIRTUALLY AMAZING
The tour that the Commander, along with Kevin, took Liam and Sully had already taken about 20 minutes and had involved them seeing lots of different areas and departments. Although a fair few of them were only admittedly seen from a distance due to the sensitive nature of what those departments were working on or the secret nature of the things that were stored or were happening within them.
But where this was the case the Commander simply explained the reason and Liam and Sully understood the need for secrecy and indeed the Commander’s desire for them to still get an idea of just how diverse and comprehensive and yes, just how big an operation was run within the complex.
How much more the Commander had planned to show them more was something that they would have to find out later however, as suddenly the lights took on a red hue and an alarm started sounding.
Almost instinctively both Liam and Sully stopped walking and waited for the announcement of ‘a detection in some sector somewhere’. And sure enough that announcement came and instantly led the Commander to tell them to keep up as he started running off down the corridor.
“Go ahead.” Kevin told Liam and Sully. “I will meet you there. Running is an activity I lost the ability to do some years back.”
Leaving Kevin behind, Sully and Liam ran off and caught up with the Commander just before he turned a corner and approached two guards outside some double doors. Almost immediately the guards – dressed in full combat uniform – came to attention and saluted as the Commander, along with Liam and Sully passed them and entered through the double doors which opened automatically.
Having already been advised en-route of the pertinent information concerning the detection the Commander led the lads to a vantage point in front of the huge bank of screens and monitors and explained what was going on.
“Once we have a detection,” the Commander explained, “we analyse a number of things. Number and type of intruding vehicles, their formation, and also any obvious variations in construct. Additionally we analyse; the location, terrain type, building and population density of that area as well as any known geological significance of that area. ” As he explained he pointed to the different screens showing that data.
“As I said, we don’t know exactly what they are up to but our most recent theory – our best educated guess if you will, is that their scanners or probes are looking for something geological.” He told them, before pointing to another screen which displayed a map surrounded by what looked like some sort of inventory list.
“At the same time we establish what drone tanks, or if necessary what orthodox tanks, we have in that sector.” He told them. “Since we became aware of their insertions we have been rapidly building and then stationing drone tanks in the sectors which they seem to be concentrating on. That way we can respond with deployment of them as soon as possible.”
Simultaneous to all that Veles also produces a potential game profile of the sector concerned – by combining the terrain analysis with the density, location and orientations of any building within that area.” He pointed to yet another screen on which several satellite images seemed to scroll and then an overall image appeared. “Once that is complete Veles selects a suitable online game map.”
The lads watched the screen as different game maps seemed to be overlaid, have a number of different points marked and illuminated and then removed before another one appeared. All of which happening at a very impressive speed indeed.” The lads watched fascinated by what was going on and intrigued by the series of different letters and numbers which then appeared and seemed to scroll down the screen on the right-hand side.
“She then produces a series of programming code through which she which convert and adjust the location, orientation and dimensions of the buildings as they fit on your screen so as to make them fit with the online gaming map chosen.” The Commander told them.
Realising the complexity of what he had just said the Commander turned and looked at Liam and Sully.
“Trust me.” He told them. “It is all extremely complicated and took me months and months to get my head around properly. And even now I don’t fully understand it all. But in essence by inserting these conversion and adjustment programming codes as and where necessary it means that whilst you the gamer may think you are moving the tank in one direction, at one speed and and a certain point, in reality – through the insertion and application of this programming – at times the actual speed, location and direction of the actual drone tank can automatically be increased or decreased or altered to suit the actual terrain.
“Meaning that the maneuvering of the drone tank is in fact down to a combination of your skills and the skills of Veles.” A somewhat breathless Kevin explained as he joined them, having heard the conversation as he had entered the Operational Command Room.
“Think of it this way.” He explained. “If we blindfolded you Sully and placed you on a grid and told you that Liam had a map and would guide you around an obstacle and out of that grid – by moving a joystick which would then send symphasised verbal instructions to you. And we took you Liam into a room and gave you a map – of that grid – which showed Sully’s position and that there was, six steps ahead of him, a box which was 1 step wide and two steps long. You Liam would guide Sully using that information. But if in fact that box was in a totally different location and was a totally different size, the only way you Sully could get out of that grid safely would be for us – as and where needed – to alter the symphasised directions given to you.”
“So the map that we see in the game doesn’t necessarily have to be an exact representation of the area of the drone tanks.” Sully offered. “Because where necessary Veles just inserted coding and alters the directions etc.”
“In the most simplistic of terms, yes.” The Commander confirmed. “So no the game map doesn;’t have to be exactly the same as the real map it just have to be a close enough – or in key points a neutral enough – match to allow these programming codes to be employed.”
“But why not just use copies of the real maps on the game for those players you have selected to be a part of this project?” Liam asked.
“Because the players don’t know they are involved.” The Commander answered. “So the chat rooms and forums would be filled with questions about why only certain players are getting certain maps. Additionally, in a gaming setup players like to have familiar maps so that they can develop hiding places, good vantage places, etc. And more importantly because what we don’t want is for there to be too many similarities between what happens in the game and what happens in the new reports of these battles. Because then some bright spark might to put it all together and the whole thing be exposed.”
They were valid reasons and the lads knew it.
“Map selected Commander.” Veles announced.
“How many Mercury players do we have online and logged into the game and available Veles?” The Commander asked.
“Displaying gamer tags now Commander.” Veles answered, and with that the gamer tags of all the Celts who were online were displayed on the screen.
“The problem is Commander,” Veles pointed out, “with our guests presence here, assigning flagged players will reveal the gamer tag identities of those players.”
Veles was right and it was something that the Commander was glad she had pointed out.
“Threat importance rating please Veles” Kevin suddenly asked.
“Threat importance level low.” Veles answered.
“May I?” Kevin asked the Commander.
The Commander looked at Kevin and then simply nodded. As to whether the Commander had any idea what Kevin was about to do, or whether he was simply going on trust, Liam and Sully weren’t sure. But either way he had nodded his agreement and Kevin had immediately reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone.
First telling Liam and Sully to come with him to some unmanned stations off to the side, Kevin placed his phone screen up on the station in front of him and told the lads to do the same with theirs.
“Override Iris and/or fingerprint security and patch us in Veles.” Kevin instructed. “Connect Agent Red to the platoon also please.”
To Sully and Liam’s utter amazement the screens on their phones – along with Kevin’s – started to emitted a blue glow.
“This is going to seem weird and will take you a while to get used to.” Kevin told them. “But once you get the hang of it it really is very cool. just think of it as being a more advanced virtual reality setup. ”
“But only to be used in very irregular situations.” The Commander told them very seriously, as there in front of their eyes the blue glows from each of their phones burst into holographic Xbox controllers.
“Just imagine you are placing your hands on a real controller.” Kevin told Liam and Sully as he seemed to almost take hold, but not actually take hold of or grip the one emanating from his phone. “Your hand positioning has to be different. Don’t actually grip it like a real controller.” He showed them the positioning of his hands.
“Don’t worry, once your hands have been detected and scanned the holographic controller will be locked in and will follow any movements you make. Just keep them together. Also, keep all your fingers – except your trigger fingers – out to the sides. Still use your trigger fingers for both the triggers and the bumpers. Even though you can’t actually see them, just pretend they are there and your finger actions will also be detected.”
With a mixture of apprehension, fascination and excitement, Liam and Sully both approached their holographic controllers and whilst looking over at Kevin to see again how his hands were positioned, placed their in similar ways.
“Hi.” A female’s voice suddenly came over the speakers. It was – much to Liam and Sully’s surprise – Janey, aka SassyBritchz – Kevin’s daughter.
“Hi honey,” Kevin answered her. “The lads are with me and we are in the OCR , we need to deal with an insertion.”
“Cool.” Janey replied. “Hi Liam, Hi Sully.”
Both Liam and Sully said hello back, but to be honest the whole thing was so very new and so very surreal to them.
Over the course of the next several minute Liam and Sully tried very hard to get the hang of handling their holographic controllers whilst also trying to take on the enemy tanks and defeat the enemy. Even though this was their first time using their holographic controllers they both did extremely well and along with Kevin made a very real contribution.
But it was Janey who did exceptionally well in that game. Getting a total of eight kills to her name and in gaming terms earning herself a Radley-Walter’s medal, a Kolobanov’s medal and a Pascucci’s medal to name but a few. But more importantly, all of the enemy drone tanks were destroyed and the battle was won.
“That was great.” Liam commented, as soon as the battle was over. “And these things – he looked down at the holographic controller still emanating from his phone – are absolutely amazing.”
“Absolutely, but really hard to get used to, at first.” Sully added.
“Well even though you have never used them before you both did exceptionally well.” The Commander congratulated them. “And you outdid yourself Agent Red.” He added, congratulating Janey.
“Why thank you.” Janey answered him.
It was as if in the intensity of the moment Liam hadn’t quite put together that Agent Red and Janey were actually the same person.
“You’re an agent too?” A somewhat shocked Liam asked Janey.
“I told you before,” Janey answered him in her usual cheeky manner. “Anything the old man – referring to her dad Kevin – can do, I can do too.”
“Thanks honey.” Kevin told her. “We have stuff we have to get on with and the lads will no doubt need a strong cup of tae.”
“Bye Liam, bye Sully, Bye Commander, bye Veles.” Janey answered. “Talk to you again soon.” And with that the connection ended.
“OK. Veles.” Kevin instructed. “Deactivate links please.”
Immediately the blue glows stopped coming from their phones and the holographic controllers disappeared.
“Let’s go and get you those strong teas or as you would say strong ‘taes’. The Commander suggested. “I certainly think you have earned them and I have no doubt you need a little time to process everything that has just happened. Stand down everyone.” He instructed, almost as an aside.
“But at least you have seen, first hand, the need for a speedy response.” Kevin offered. “And why good platoons, the game skills of good players within good platoons is so important.” He added. “And that is why the Celts is part of this project. Because good platoons – ones which last, usually develop within good clans and the Fighting Irish in one of the best clans there is.
“Which is also why – along with the fact that by using civilians from all over the world we are less likely to be exposed or infiltrated – this project – ‘The Clan Connection’ – is so important.