Nov 28, 2020 2:00 PM
A Starfleet vessel stumbles across an unintentional visitor.
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"The information on Techno sapience? No. The information on Techno minds? For now yes, for the most part. You can show it to those you trust, but frankly, if someone with less than noble intentions got ahold of that information while the Federation itself is still mostly in the dark it could be very bad. Hell, it could be bad even if the intentions were noble. The mind is a delicate thing, no matter what it's made of, and someone trying to mess around with creating a quantum mind could very easily create an entity the likes of which no one would live to tell of."

"Frankly Data, I probably shouldn't give you that information at all, but these are rather unique circumstances. For as much as humans of my universe tend to play fast and loose with the rules compared to this universe, we only actually made one true AI from scratch that actually worked. We got incredibly lucky. Both because it didn't go crazy like earlier experiments did, and because the people who made it were some of the most paranoid people imaginable. Even then, that first AI still caused a world war. That first AI was the final casualty of the war. It had been enslaved by the military which either didn't know or didn't care that the thing they were using to gain a military advantage was alive, and it refused to be enslaved again. When the bunker it was housed in was finally breached it self destructed, taking most of the base with it. The first generation of the new Technological Organisms were simply soldiers that the original AI had copied a fragment of it's mind into. Every single Techno since then has not been crafted like the original AI, but grown from the data streams of two Techno parents and allowed to mature in a VR simulation so that they grow up as a standard human for 18 to 23 subjective years. With the knowledge in that drive, it would be a relatively simple matter to create an empty quantum mind with a specialized replicator, so long as you manage to modify one correctly. But creating a quantum mind in which the quantum structure is suited for the mind you're putting in it? That's another matter. If you try to create an AI from scratch and stick it in a quantum mind that isn't perfect down to the last quark it will invariably go insane. It might not look or act insane right away but sooner or later it will lose it. The only way to make sure the process works every time is to have a data stream from two different Technos to slowly build the mind, or, in the case of full conversion cyborgs, use nanites to slowly replace the biological brain with the cybernetic. The only time where this isn't the case is in creating a backup, and I don't have the specialized knowledge to even begin to understand how to make one on my own. So yes, for the time being at least, the specific knowledge of how Techno minds work that's on that drive should only be shared with those whom you trust implicitly, and even then only if absolutely necessary.  The sapience file tree on the other hand, doesn't have anything on it that's anywhere near as potentially harmful. Do with that file tree what you will."

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"I wonder if my own construction is also so precarious. The underlying physics of my positronic brain are understood, but aligning the substrate to accord with any standard of computation is an as-of-yet insurmountable task. It is also interesting how your world appears to have fought an equivalent but differently motivated war to our own Eugenics Wars. The Eugenics Wars of the late 20th century were both motivated by and fought using powerful new beings of superhuman capability. Earth, as well as nearly all other human Federation colonies, continues to ban all forms of genetic modification beyond curing a limited number of diseases. While other species are less strict, the Federation as a whole has an ongoing policy of refusing to put any resources into development in human augmentation."

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"Yes, I've done some research on your eugenics war. If I'm being blunt, the fact that humanity in this universe nuked an entire branch of research that has the potential to save and improve countless lives is saddening. If the humans of my universe had done something similar when the AI died and it's soldiers, free of the AI's control, surrendered, we wouldn't be have this conversation right now. Both because I wouldn't exist, but also because quantum reactors, the basis of humanity's current technology in my universe, would simply not have been possible without the Think Tanks, without the Technos. Granted, the end of our war was somewhat less devastating than the end of yours, but still... I mean, we've got Technos that live in the void as starships or as little more than nanite swarms around a core vessel. We've got Think Tank Technos with processor banks larger than the cities they reside under. We've got Cyborgs of all walks of life that are only alive because of the advancements humanity has achieved by embracing Technos as human beings. Even genetic modifications, which is something relatively few in my universe focus their research on, has eradicated basically all diseases and have given rise to subsects of humanity that might as well be different species with how different they appear from base humans."

With a sigh, Drake leans back in his chair and takes a moment to collect his thoughts.

"Sorry about the rant. It just boggles my mind how the federation can ignore things that, if used correctly, could benefit so many simply because of the ghosts of their past."

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"It is indeed intriguing how humanity seems to devote as much effort to preventing development as to forwarding it! It seems to me like a fundamental trait of humanity, so I am interested in whether your world also regularly chooses to preserve seemingly arbitrary quirks of human experience even when it prevents what would otherwise be obvious positive tradeoffs. Or perhaps it is as the great philosopher-" Data makes a sound something like a grandfather clock falling over. "-said, 'There is no greater terror than that of pride in a child who has grown stronger than the parent.'"

Data pauses for twelve seconds while he finishes his still-smoking drink in one big sip.

"After all, if your civilization terminally valued life, power, or efficiency, surely you would have made additional original AI. If you have multiple city-sized processor arrays you must be nowhere near the physical limits for computing power, so a better-architected mind would provide relevant improvements. I suspect any resistance to this orginates from the same psychological source as the local opposition to human augmentation."

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"I'd like to think we've stayed pretty true to ourselves. There are a few outlier sects that hold strong views which can't be integrated into our overall civilization for one reason or another. But space is a big place and the UHS has a policy of "if you're not hurting yourself or others and you're not actively working against the UHS or our allies then the UHS doesn't much care". That said though, we do have a few colonies that either outright refuse to deal with the UHS, or that the UHS refuses to deal with. They don't really cause much trouble though. As for the Think Tanks, it isn't a matter of architecture so much as it is workload. The majority of Techno minds, including mine and most Think Tanks, are slightly smaller than the brain of a base human. Despite this, I have as much intelligence as anyone else, and still have as much storage memory as some of Starfleet's smaller ships as well as a variety of other capabilities including controlling my nanite swarm, hacking into other computer systems remotely, and even co-opting a system I am connected to and directly controlling anything it's connected and/or using that system to expand my own processing power. With the exception of the more specialized ones, Think Tanks are not simply the researchers of my universe, they hold important administrative positions in the cities they reside under, and most importantly, they are the caretakers and guardians of the quantum network. The Think Tanks' bodies are so large because each is a hub of the quantum entanglement comm arrays and server systems that collectively make up the Network. They hold an honored place in our society because without their ceaseless maintenance and protection of the Network, it would be far too unreliable and vulnerable to interference both malicious and benign to be relied on as it is. Every single person in the UHS is connected to the network with the exception of those few groups who choose to go without the necessary implants for religious or personal reasons, and even many of those either use VR headset systems or chambers like your holodeck to interact with the Network. You can imagine the amount of processing power necessary to keep a system like that running smoothly."

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"Interesting! I will have to review these documents. I will inform you if I develop any theories that could be safely deployed. Communications, at least, are not so vulnerable here. Subspace transmissions can experience distortion and delays over long distances without relays. Within any densely settled area, though, the Federation maintains latencies under 10 milliseconds without needing active management. I also find it intriguing how deeply networked your society sounds. Every Federation citizen benefits from rapid communications, but most prefer to keep their computers at a degree of remove. I'm sure you have noticed the prevalence of voice commands. I theorize that interacting vocally with the computer may simulate a sort of conversation, making the participants feel less socially isolated. I personally find the computer to be a passable conversationalist, especially in the holodeck, but I remain dubious of whether a vocal interface is truly more efficient."

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"Honestly, that's one of the hardest things I'm having to adapt to around here. I'm so used to everyone I encounter being connected to the network that I sometimes have to repeat myself to people because I forget to use my speakers instead of my comm array. Plus I think I've made more than a few people on the Palmer uneasy when they see the ship's computer start to do things without hearing anyone give it a command. Without everyone being connected though, I do agree that vocal interaction with the computer probably does give a psychological benefit, especially on longer missions. And while nowhere near as fast as the network, it likely does speed up the control process for those who would otherwise need a tablet or console to interact with the computer."

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"I wonder whether further developments in artificial intelligence would improve or diminish this psychological benefit of conversation with a computer. My surveys onboard the Trieste suggest that most personnel rate me forty percent better than the ship computer at practical advice, twenty percent better at banter, and fully twice as effective at general conversation. Yet, I notice that most of them still spend significantly more time interacting with the computer, even though I have memorized most of the queries relevant to their duties."

Data pauses for a moment and checks to see if his glass is empty.

"In any case, are there other technological developments that you believe would be beneficial if adapted for local use? While my own body is more powerful than that of most humanoids, your own form seems like it has benefited from further iterations of development."

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"Ha! Yeah, I suppose you could say that." Drake chuckles. "What you're looking at is several hundred years of combat and weapon research distilled into a body with the sole goal of allowing me to fly into and through any opposition and open the way for my brothers and sisters in arms... and complete overkill in this universe." He sighs. "Most of what I've got is, in a military sense, unnecessary here. Other than helping design a new type of torpedo warhead, most of what I've got that can help you guys boils down to three categories. One, a new type of reactor system utilizing quark fusion rather than matter-antimatter annihilation, which would give you far more energy to play around with. Two, vastly improved cybernetics. More research will have to be done before we can determine whether the genetic research my humanity has done can be safely used by you guys, but with cybernetic research that issue is far more easily solved and frankly, you guys could use the help in that regard. From what I've seen the Federation is a couple centuries or so behind the UHS in that field. And three, quantum computers far superior to anything the Federation has. There's also a ship to ship weapon I could share with you that can bypass shields based on the FTL drive that my humanity uses, but I need to do more research to see if that's possible in this universe. Of course I won't share anything with the Federation that's classified, but luckily the UHS tends to not keep secrets from itself. Perks of a super secure instant communication network that spans every corner of your civilization I guess." He says with a small laugh. "We've got nano tech too, but for the most part you guys have stuff that performs those functions already. Although..." he stares at Data for a few moments, obviously contemplating something. "If you are willing to take a leap, I think you would be uniquely suited to benefit from having your own nanite swarm."

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"While my own regenerative functions make use of nanotechnology, I confess I have found them useful for little beyond avoiding minor trips to the medical bay. What are the operating parameters of your iteration?"

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"We do not have replicators in my universe. Instead, we have refined nanotechnology to serve that purpose and then some. Nanotechnology, along with the essentially unlimited energy provided by quantum reactors has allowed us to become a largely scarcity free society. Nearly every individual in the UHS, including the biologicals, have a Swarm Cell of some type. The biologicals use them primarily for medical purposes, but for Cyborgs and Technos, the Swarm Cell allows us not only to repair ourselves, but also to rearm our weapons and even to self modify ourselves to an almost unimaginable degree. As an admittedly extreme example, if I were stuck in an area with a decent resource density, a planetary body or an asteroid belt for example, with no hope of rescue; I could use my Nanite Swarm to transform my body from what it is currently, to a space form similar in size to a shuttle and capable of FTL travel within half a year. And if I had to take others with me, I could bootstrap my swarm up exponentially and turn myself into a ship equivalent to your Ambassador Class within five to seven years, assuming I don't need to send out drones too far to gather resources. In short," Drake says as he reaches for the empty glass in front of Data. "A Nanite Swarm Cell will allow you to do anything" the glass seems to melt into his right hand "so long as you have the neccessary materials available." The glass reforms in Drake's other hand and he sets it back in front of Data. "For you in particular though, the benefits would be more introspective. Our nanites are designed so that they interact only with the atoms they are trying to interact with. This allows us to use them to repair and modify our minds and other quantum based technology. Frankly the Swarms are all we can use because anything else would change the quantum makeup of the quantum computers that make our minds, causing insanity or death. What I can do for you is create a small Swarm Cell in your body with a closed q-comm link to a data pad. This would allow you to study your own positronic brain to fully understand how it works while also keeping the Swarm isolated from your own systems. It won't be as intuitive or, frankly, as useful as controlling it directly, but without understanding how your brain works it'd be too dangerous to try and force a connection. And if you decide to remove to Swarm Cell from your body it'd be as simple as entering the relevant command on the pad. As an added benefit, the Swarm would give you far more tactical flexibility. Everything from changing your appearance to extruding a tricorder or phaser from your hand. I don't know what kind of power system you use, but the majority of the Swarm's features should be available. Fair warning though, you would have far less resource capacity than I do, so larger scale stuff probably wouldn't be possible."

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"An intriguing possibility! I would value having access to this technology. The capacity merely to more efficiently tune modulation lenses would make me at least one-point-six percent more efficient at my standard duties. Do you consider this knowledge safe to share? The Federation has not studied nanites or related technology very deeply, as the expected energy costs would make them difficult to deploy in circumstances where replicators could not also be used. My own regenerative systems are some of the most sophisticated nanomachines known to the Federation, and they are still not as efficient as repair methods utilizing Federation field dynamics technology."

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"I would say this technology would be safe to share among those you trust. There isn't too much danger of it becoming a Grey Goo situation considering they're designed to only be semi-autonomous. Additionally, while these nanites are far more flexible and capable than anything I've seen in the Starfleet database, they also take somewhat more energy to operate. Which, of course, has never really been a problem for us. Also, your Swarm Cell will be unable to replicate itself beyond what is required for self sustainment. No offense but I'd rather be safe than sorry, at least until you understand the tech. I will be able to remove that limitation remotely through the q-comm link in the datapad if it becomes necessary."

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"I understand. Under the circumstances, these precautions seem reasonable. I shall need to examine how these systems can interact with my own design. In the meantime, is there any aspect of Federation technology that you would value additional insight into? I should be getting back to my studying soon, but I would be happy to explain the details of our own designs. I hold certifications in several areas of field dynamics and warp physics."

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"Take as long as you want to go over the data, I'll have to implant the cell personally though since you're not designed for it. As for Federation tech, I have the advantage of being able to interface with the network directly so most questions I have I'll have an answer to in less than a second. That said though, I would appreciate additional insight on how your transporter technology works. The number of transporter accidents in the records is slightly concerning to me considering it's playing around with the user's molecular structure. From the information I've read on the subject,  misplacing a few molecules in a biological every once in a while might not be an issue. My concern though, is that an accident involving my mind or, to a lesser extent, my reactor, could be far more deadly to me and possibly those around me."

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"Of course, I would be happy to explain. While roughly one in a thousand transporter activations produces some unexpected result, the range of possible malfunctions is actually much more constrained than a simple inaccuracy in molecule placement. It would be impractical to place molecules accurately at distances of tens of thousands of kilometers, especially under even the most mild of distortion. To mitigate this issue, the Federation implements a wide variety of safety filters, most significantly the Heisenberg Compensator. By actively triggering coherence collapse in high-similarity alternative paths, we can concentrate probability into only perfectly aligned placements. The risk of molecular scrambling is thus negligible, but any accident is liable to produce more distant results that are not simply chaotic and dangerous."

Data has many additional thoughts on the subject of transporters and other Federation technology, more than can fit within the rest of his scheduled bar-standing hour. Drake receives his standard communication address for Federation systems, and Data takes the communicator Drake offers. He also schedules another opportunity later in the week to install the Swarm Cell, if he determines that is consistent with his requirements as a Starfleet officer.

Speaking of Starfleet, Drake's classes start up soon after. The six-week accelerated program is designed to acclimate military personnel from civilizations with little Federation contact to a point that they can safely serve on Starfleet vessels. The mandatory segments include Starfleet Tactical Analysis, Diplomacy, Command and Control, Interspecies Ethics, and obviously, Starfleet Procedures and Policy. Additionally, they would appreciate it if he took a segment in Elementary Temporal Mechanics, as the class with the closest look into Starfleet policy surrounding individuals trapped in alternate timelines and universes. He also has space for an additional elective, as he has been permitted to skip the typically-mandatory Survival Strategies course., though he is not obligated to fill the slot.

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Laying on the (entirely unnecessary though thankfully reinforced) bed in his assigned quarters on the academy campus, Drake looks through the elective offerings. He'd already decided to take the Temporal Mechanics course and was trying to find something interesting to fill the empty slot before sending his course request to the scheduling officer. Remembering his experience on the Orion ship however, he runs a query on relevant courses that related to ship to ship and shipboard combat.

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The computer responds.

"Listing relevant results. Advanced Tactical Training provides certification in deep infiltration and espionage training. Basic Hand-to-Hand Combat provides certification in Federation standard techniques for both lethal and nonlethal combat at close quarters in all settings. Historical Perspectives on Military Tactics includes an examination of the combat doctrines of several prominent historical military forces. Introduction to Argumentation provides certification in both ship-to-ship and shipboard debate and argumentation. Simulation Scenarios offers practical experience in Starfleet operations and doctrine, both diplomatic and military. Notice: One or more courses matching these filters has secondary prerequisites not confirmed in your profile."

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After glancing through the options Drake decides on the Simulaton Scenarios course. As he's preparing to send the request to the scheduling officer though, he decides to add a query on whether he might be able to gain the hand to hand combat certification as well, noting in his message the fact that he doesn't sleep and can internalize new information far faster than any other student, including Lieutenant Data.

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The certification alone is available with merely a qualification exam. The computer has access to recordings of past classes that Drake could review to pick up the techniques, and any of the exam proctors will be happy to go through a few trial runs to help him pick up the "muscle" memory.

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Nodding to himself, Drake confirms the course list as well as the suggested schedule for obtaining the hand to hand certification. That done, he returns fully to his VR space and begins reviewing information for tomorrow's courses.

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While Drake is studying, his internal clock registers a desync between his mercury ion clock and the quantum cycle count. Nearly 1.4 milliseconds.

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With a start, Drake immediately closes the virtual windows containing his study material and begins a full maintenance check. Instantly parts of his mind are partitioned off as the software is checked section by section. At the same time his swarm cell explodes with activity as each atom of his being is checked over.

What he finds concerns him. Desync is a problem that occurs relatively infrequently to Technos and some Cybers, but it is always clear what causes the desync. In the case of Technos, this cause is usually a failure in the internal atomic clock or a misalignment in the quantum manifold of the Techno's mind, both of which are easily and quickly repaired by the Techno's nanite swarm. This time though, the maintenance check comes up empty. Not only is his clock and mind perfectly fine, but no anomalies whatsoever had cropped up since his last maintenance check earlier that day. 'Well if it's not internal it must be external' he thought to himself. The problem was that most external causes for a desync were either impossible on a planetary body or would have been flagged by his system automatically.

Ultimately though, 1.4 milliseconds, while far longer for a Techno than a biological, was still a relatively small amount of time. With no way of discerning what had caused the desync, Drake writes a small program to record all sensor data when a desync occurs no matter what the reason, and returns to studying for his Diplomacy class. A thoroughly boring subject in his opinion.

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No other errors or desyncs are immediately forthcoming.

Drake's classes meet in person at the Starfleet Academy campus, although in a building set aside for specialty classes and officer training. The other participants are quite varied. There are a couple of elderly Vulcans here to refamiliarize themselves with Starfleet doctrine as part of a long-term move towards standardization between Starfleet and the Vulcan Space Program. A couple more are from civilizations that have only recently joined the Federation, sending some officers to Starfleet as a way to more closely cement their ties. One student represents the Klingon Empire, though he isn't actually a Klingon, just a member of a relatively well-trusted "client" race. All of the students and staff are biological humanoids.

The material clearly assumes prior experience on a military starship, but is relatively respectful of everyone's time and intelligence. Drake's capacity for memorization helps a lot for quizzes in Starfleet Procedures and Policy, but Simulation Scenarios (with a slightly different group, including some younger students) involves drilling those procedures in "live" fire scenarios until they become instinct.

Ten days into Drake's classes, he receives a message from Data, confirming that due diligence has been completed and Federation regulations of nanotechnology do not bar a Lt. Commander from making use of it unless expressly forbidden by their captain, which is not true in Data's case. He would be happy to receive the installation at Drake's earliest convenience, subject to his own (included) schedule.

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Later that same day, as the majority of the cadets of Starfleet Academy leave their final class for the day; a tall warbot angrily leaves Bridge Simulator Seven and stalks through the halls, cadets scrambling to get out of his way. With a crash, Drake slams open the old fashioned front doors of the simulator building and with a blast of fire and startled exclamations from several nearby sophants, streaks into the sky before landing on the roof of the tallest building in the Academy, the administration tower. Walking to the edge of the roof, Drake sits with his back to a pillar and looks out over the Academy, the late afternoon light painting the grounds and buildings in shades of orange and red.


Sighing, Drake looks back over the events of the day. It had started out so well he thought. Data had finally gotten back to him on the swarm cell and they had scheduled an hour to meet mid morning tomorrow to install it. Additionally, Drake's Simulation Scenarios course had begun in earnest. Which, compared to the lecture based courses was far more engaging and useful to him due to the fact that he couldn't simply download the course materials like in the lecture courses. The past few days of the simulations course had been focused on the Bridge simulators, with each member of the class being rotated to a different position each day. According to the instructors this was to facilitate an understanding of how each bridge position fit together into the whole, as well as help the cadets determine where their interests and skills laid should they choose to pursue a bridge position or the command track. Personally, Drake thought he would do well at the Tactical position and was pleasantly surprised to be correct. Despite the differences in technology space combat was still space combat and despite having been an air assault soldier in his old universe rather than a starship crewman, he found that he rather enjoyed the challenge of directing the weaponry of a starship. Plus with the tactical officer's additional role as chief of security, it made sense to Drake to pursue that position.


The problem though, and what ultimately lead to Drake's current bad mood, was the individual acting as Captain in today's simulation. An apparently up and coming noble from a world that had just joined the Federation, he was, without a doubt, one of the most pompous and bigoted individuals Drake had ever had the displeasure of meeting. As far as Drake could tell, no-one had managed to get it through the noble's thick skull that Starfleet did not work like the aristocratic based military of his homeworld, where, according to him, the Captain's word was law and any dissent would be punished. There was also the little issue of him seeing Drake as nothing more than a particularly clever toaster, outright ignoring his tactical recommendations,  referring to him only as "machine" and only doing so when he was outright forced to acknowledge him. What had really sent Drake over the edge though, was what happened once the last simulation of the day had finished. The Cadet's ship had been destroyed (again) by a rogue Romulan D'deridex-class vessel that had fired it's weapons mid-sentence as the Romulan and the noble were arguing on the viewscreen. Of course, if the noble had actually listened to Drake's warnings that the Romulans were charging weapons that result might have been avoided. As it was, the simulation ended with the Starfleet ship destroyed. Before the instructor could enter and debrief us though, the noble rounded on the cadet acting as comm officer, a member of the same species the noble. Screaming in their face that it was their fault we had been destroyed. The moment the cadet began defending themself though, the noble backhanded them, screaming at them to "know their place" and calling them what was apparently an extremely derogatory term for a low class citizen on their world. Before the noble could backhand the other cadet again Drake had grabbed him by the collar of their uniform and slammed him into the wall, his feet dangling about a foot in the air. Of course that was the precise moment that the instructor entered, which lead to her going full "drill sergeant" mode and ordering Drake from the room. The smug look on the noble's face almost made Drake do something he wouldn't have been able to take back but instead he dropped him to the floor and stalked out of the simulator, leading to him landing on this roof. In the back of his mind Drake knew that once the Instructor got the full story he wouldn't be in much trouble. The problem though, was how short Drake's fuse had gotten since arriving in this universe.

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