Sounds of klaxons piped through the intercom alerted everyone to ready for combat.
Murati climbed up a wheeled scaffolding into the awaiting, open cockpit of her Strelok. Once she took her seat inside, it sealed completely and locked in the current pressure. Several monitors in front of her displayed the camera feeds, as well as diagnostic data. She ran the cables for her communicator headset through her vest and suit, connecting herself to the Strelok. She strapped herself to the chair and pushed back on it to adjust the angle to her liking.
In front of her were two horizontal joystick-like objects with loop grips that her fingers slid through. Pulling on these or pushing them into depression in the joystick allowed her to control individual digits of the Strelok’s hands if necessary. Each joystick was also a throttle control, and buttons atop the stick had other functions. At the foot of her seat were several pedals.
Between the joysticks and pedals, she could control the Strelok’s jets and systems. While perhaps crude-looking, the setup gave her enough inputs to exercise a degree of control over her Strelok that almost felt, in a sense, like moving her own body. While the arms and legs had a lessened degree of motion compared to her body, she could turn, grip, and move in a way that had come to feel natural to her from all the simulations and live testing that she had done.
Behind her there was enough room for a few tools and survival equipment, including a smaller pressure suit and helmet, along with an air tank. Even with such tools, she did not fancy her survival outside the Diver. Killing the enemy and avoiding damage were the best survival tools.
Once she was settled, she waited for the crew on the hangar to give her a signal.
“Lieutenant Nakara, your partner will be Ensign Sonya Shalikova. Unit 005.”
Rear Admiral Goswani’s voice sounded in Murati’s ear.
“Copy.” Murati said.
On the forward camera she saw the crew wave flags. The deployment chutes opened.
One of her monitors flashed briefly as someone connected with her over encrypted laser.
Big indigo eyes, a pale face, pink lips. White hair now tied up behind her head.
“I’m Ensign Shalikova. Awaiting orders, pair leader.”
Her voice was a bit intense. A little bit brusque, and blunt, but also seemingly quite matter of fact. She was not angry, Murati could tell. That friendless look was just how she was.
Murati smiled at her. “Lieutenant Murati Nakara. We’ll get out of this alive, Ensign.”
Shalikova nodded and shut off her feed.
The Strelok group stepped forward into their deployment chutes. It was finally time. The 3rd Battle of Thassalid Trench awaited them.