Cyrus Alphard tapped his foot nervously as he waited for Zach Roland to arrive. He'd promised the young Lombax that he would teach him advanced weapons and gadgets handling, but wasn't sure if he was ready for it yet. He'd tried to pick something that his protégé wouldn't be able to destroy half a city block, things like the Suck Cannon and the Swingshot - in fact, Zach had asked Cyrus to teach him some new tricks after he had told him how he won several Swingshot competitions in his youth. But still, even with those seemingly harmless items, Cyrus knew better than to underestimate the Lombax capacity for unintended, yet massive collateral damage. And so, he stood there, and waited for his student to arrive, somewhat nervous at the prospect of actually giving him weapons and gadgets that could do any sort of damage.
The Apogee Adventurer Training Facility - named so for the famous explorer who rivaled even Lombaxes in his curiosity and tenacity, as well as his tendency to get embroiled in adventure - was located on the outskirts of the city, taking up several large hangars and a large amount of outdoor space. It was intended as a place where Lombaxes could learn the ropes of acrobatics and marksmanship, skills very much necessary in charting a new universe fraught with dangers and mystery. A few minutes passed, with other Lombaxes coming and going, and finally Cyrus saw Zach walk through the front gates, and waved him over. When Zach walked up, Cyrus smiled and said: "Hey, Zach. You wanted me to teach you some Swingshot tricks, right?" "I literally can't wait to hear about them!" - Zach enthusiastically said back. "Let's go over to the Swingshot course, then." Cyrus laughed.
The two Lombaxes walked up to the Swingshot course, which consisted of several towering structures with Swingshot targets suspended between them and some sort of gooey mass covering the floor beneath them. Zach looked at it and asked: "Is that..." "Jelly? Yes. Orange-flavored, to be precise." - Cyrus explained. "It's there to cushion your landings. Now let me show you how a real pro tackles this course." As he said that, Cyrus clamped a Swingshot to his robotic arm and started climbing the ladder to the start of the course.
When he finished climbing the ladder, Cyrus looked around for a moment, and then ran straight towards the first pitfall. He crossed over it with a flying leap, at the same time reaching out and firing a Swingshot line from his arm grappler. It attached to the Versa-Target with a loud "CLANG", and the speed that the Lombax has built up turned into a graceful swing towards the next target. As he flew forwards, Cyrus let go of the first target and aimed his hand towards the second. His claw latched onto it, and he flew towards the second platform. Releasing his hold at the best moment, he landed on the platform, turned, and immediately fired at the green target over the third one, propelling himself towards it. Zach stared at him in awe, as he leapt between the two walls installed on the third platform and fired his Swingshot at another target when he reached the top, then swung around a circle of yellow targets to climb even further without even touching the platforms below. Cyrus then proceeded to pull down a bridge with his Swingshot and follow to the next platform over, then latch onto a green target that was suspended over a large piece of jelly on an elevated platform, fall down, and finally use his wrench to zipline back down. "So, how was that?" - he chuckled. "That. Was. Freaking AWESOME!" - Zach exclaimed back. "Wanna try to do like that?" - Cyrus smiled. "Hell yeah I do!" - Zach grinned back.
Zach climbed the ladder and put on the Swingshot glove. He focused on the course ahead, and made a running start just like Cyrus. As he leapt towards the first Versa-Target, he felt the adrenaline rush and became sure he could do no worse than Cyrus. He grappled the first target and flew smoothly over to the second one, then landed on the platform and grappled the green target. Everything seemed to be going smoothly so far. He landed at the third platform, and started leaping between the walls, grappling the next green target. Landing again, he laughed aloud, thinking - "Yes, I can really do this! I'll be as cool as Cyrus!". He started grappling the yellow targets, but when he tried to leap from the first one to the second, he activated the glove too soon and started falling. He tried to grapple, but quickly fell out of range and plummeted towards the jelly below. Zach bounced off as he landed, then bounced a few times more, and fell flat on the jelly in frustration when he stopped. He heard Cyrus come up on a walkway a few moments later and ask: "You alright, Zach?" "Yeah, great..." - he groaned. - "I was doing so well, why couldn't I make it?" "Don't worry about it." - Cyrus said. "It took me years to become this good. Why won't you go and give it another try? Just take it slower, don't try to be an expert from the get-go, and you'll do fine." "Yeah, I'll give it another go." Zach chuckled. "No point giving up so early, right?"
After a few more tries, Zach was satisfied with his abilities at Swingshotting around the course. He said to Cyrus: "Alright, I think that's enough swinging and flying through the air today. You promised me that I could practice with the Suck Cannon, right?" "Sure you can." - Cyrus smirked back. "I'll even throw some crates for you to catch." "Let's go to the shooting range then!" - Zach said with barely-concealed excitement. Cyrus nodded, and they went off to one of the hangars. As they walked, Zach turned to Cyrus and asked: "Where'd you learn to be that good with a Swingshot, anyway?" "Oh, I can easily give you the standard answer, Zach." - Cyrus told him. "I practiced. A lot. When I was your age, I lived in a mountainous area of Fastoon, and me and my friends set up a few Versa-Targets to quickly travel across the canyons. When I was nineteen, I won my first competition in the Young Adult Swingshot League. I grabbed a few more trophies as I grew up, but had to retire... my family thought I was being too reckless, even by our standards. And then... well, then Tachyon attacked, and I think you know what happened." He glanced at his bionic arm. "But that was what brought me back onto the playing field, ironically enough. My doctor said that I had to learn to operate my left arm if I wanted it to feel right, and it turned out that attaching a Swingshot to it was not that bad of an idea. I did that myself, and enlisted for the Enhancements Swingshot League tournament. And needless to say, I won. And then won a few times more, for good measure. Went a long way to convince myself that I'm not due for the scrapyard yet." "Scrapyard? Are you kidding me?" - Zach asked incredulously. "You are freakin' fantastic with that thing! I don't know anyone who'd be a tenth as good as you!" "Well, as I've said..." - Cyrus turned to him - "I saw long ago that I've still got it. And I'm sure that with practice, you'll be just as good." he grinned as they arrived at the shooting range.
Zach and Cyrus went into the hangar where the shooting range was located. Cyrus went over to the counter where a Lombax was keeping watch and giving out weapons. The guy behind it was scrawny, even in his small-sized uniform, with stringy hands and dimpled cheeks, but with a steely gaze in his eyes that showed he was not to be messed with. Cyrus walked up to him and asked: "Hello there. Can we have a Suck Cannon and a Kemelite Blaster for target practice?" "Can I see your permit, please?" - the Lombax behind the counter asked back. "Sure thing." - Cyrus replied and showed him the permit that allowed him to handle weapons. "And the other guy?" - the Lombax clerk queried. "He only has a learner's permit, but don't worry." - Cyrus said. "I can vouch for him. Hey Zach!" - he turned to yell. "This guy needs your permit!" "What?" - Zach yelled back. "I said, this guy NEEDS YOUR PERMIT!" - Cyrus answered, louder and clearer. "Oh, of course, I'm coming right over!" - Zach hollered. He walked over to the counter and showed his learner's permit to the clerk. "Alright, here are your Suck Cannon and your Kemelite Blaster." - he said, putting both of them on the counter. "Just don't have too much fun, okay?" - he said with a wink and a smile. Cyrus nodded, and he and Zach left for the target range.
Zach lifted the hefty weight of the Kemelite Blaster up to his chest and stood at the sandbags beyond which the firing range laid. "Alright, I'm ready!" - he said to Cyrus. "Just don't throw those crates straight at me, will ya?" "Heh, of course I won't!" - Cyrus replied with a slight smirk. As he said that, he pressed a wind-up button on his Suck Cannon and pointed it towards the stack of crates on the firing range. The tornado-like stream from the canon immediately started dragging the crates toward it, sucking them inside and raising the ammo meter. When no crates remained, Cyrus pointed it skywards and asked Zach: "Well, ready to shoot some flying targets?" "Do I look like I'm not?" - Zach teased back. "Well, here you go then!" - Cyrus shouted, and began to fire the crates into the air. Zach aimed upwards, and let loose with the volley of shots, pulling the trigger and cycling the action in the same quick motion of his arms. The kemelite shards flew through the air and exploded on impact with crates, breaking them apart and showering the firing range with bolts. Zach just kept firing until there were no crates left in Cyrus' cannon, and even after that he fired a few more shots. Finally, he flicked on the safety, lowered the gun, and said: "That was AWESOME! I want to shoot more things now!" "Hey, slow down, Zach." Cyrus said. "We don't want you taking down the whole building, do we?" "No, guess not." Zach replied, putting down the Blaster. "So, where to next?"
As Zach and Cyrus went out of the shooting range hangar and made their way to the Grindboot course, Zach asked Cyrus: "Why do we need to go to the Grindrails, anyway? I already have decent experience with the boots, y'know. It's like... the basic transport gadget, everyone knows how to use it . Why can't we go do something fresh, instead?" "You've never been to the Apogee Center's Grindboot course, though, have you?" - Cyrus replied. "There's more to it than just grinding down rails." As they entered the bay, Zach glanced aside and noticed backpacks with propellers on them standing at one wall. "You mean... I'm gonna get to fly a Helipack?..." he asked reverently. "Okay, now I'm interested." Cyrus smiled and said: "It's not like normal grinding, Zach. Are you sure you can take it?" "Yeah!" - Zach nodded. "Besides, even if I wasn't, there's no way I'd pass up an opportunity like this!" He grabbed a Helipack and headed for the start of the course. "This is gonna be AWESOME!"
Zach reached the starting point of the course and put on the Grindboots and Helipack, then jumped onto the rail and started moving. Keeping his balance was a bit harder with the backpack than it would be without it, but not that much. As he approached the first gap in the rail, he grabbed the control handle and jumped, activating the two contra-rotating rotors on top of the pack to propel himself forwards, then landed on the rail on the other side and continued grinding it. Seeing bouncy barriers blocking off the rails ahead, he started dodging them, jumping from rail to rail. When he was done with that section, he saw several drops ahead, and engaged the Helipack to make the drops softer. Finally, he saw a climb ahead, and after that, a steep drop back to the jelly floor at the start of the course. He turned on the Helipack's rotors again, and they worked splendidly, allowing him to control his descent and land soft as a feather. Grinning, he turned to Cyrus. "So, how was that?" "Quite decent, Zach." - he replied. - "You really do know your way around with the Grindboots. I'm impressed."
Zach looked around and asked: "So, what do we do now?" "How about we swing by the cafe?" - Cyrus asked back, then shook his head. "Not literally, of course." "Sounds like a good idea!" - Zach said. "All this gadget practice made me pretty hungry." Cyrus smiled at him, and they went off to the training center's cafeteria.
The cafeteria was designed in Lombax tradition, its walls lined with yellow sandstone and its windows being large enough for the sun to shine over everyone. Cyrus took a seat, and invited Zach with a gesture to have another. "I wanted to ask you something." - Zach said as he sat down. "Do you think I could be an adventurer some day?" "I'm pretty sure you can." - Cyrus replied. "But there's something that you need to realize. It's not the talent with gadgets, or physical fitness, or even passion to explore that makes a good adventurer. It's your friends. Charting new worlds is dangerous, and you need someone who could help you if things get bad. Take me, for instance. Many a time my friends saved me when I missed a Swingshot and ended up falling, or hanging off some ledge high above the ground. So when you set off for new horizons, take someone with you. Preferably a whole group of like-minded 'baxes who will be there to bail you out of tough situations. I think someone like Arkas and Felix would be very helpful if you are to go out exploring the unknown." "Yeah, you're right." - Zach said. "Thanks for the advice, Cyrus. You're the best mentor a guy could wish for." "I'm flattered to hear that." - Cyrus said. "Now let's go get something to eat."