Author: The Full Metal Bitch PM
1990, an alternate world in which the superpower of Eurasia dominates world politics and giant robots are tools of war utilised across the globe. Young maybe-lesbian Alina Davison has just been recruited by her government to pilot a deadly superweapon...Rated: Fiction T - English - Sci-Fi/Drama - Chapters: 36 - Words: 102,061 - Reviews: 30 - Favs: 14 - Follows: 7 - Updated: 02-26-09 - Published: 01-03-08 - id: 2458145
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
1985, Siberia, Russia
A silence hung over the snow-filled wastelands.
It was, like all silences, extremely fragile, and a few seconds later it was promptly shattered, as most are at one point or another.
The thing that had broken the silence was very good at breaking things in general. It was a mechanical giant, of the type commonly referred to in its country of origin as a "Combat Humanoid". With every step it sent chunks of snow upwards, its feet leaving wide dents in the endless sheets of white as it walked. Servos whirred and clicked within it, slowly rotating the lumbering giant's torso in a horizontal arc. Its pilot strained his eyes, searcing through the snow to make sure he would be able to complete his mission unmolested by any opposing vehicles of similar power, and slowly eased his mech forward. The Combat Humanoid was around twenty metres tall, and was currently advancing towards a collection of well-concealed concrete bunkers only a few hundred metres away. Well concealed, but not well enough.
The Combat Humanoid stopped, suddenly, the momentum it had gathered nearly causing it to topple over forward. It raised the heavy black rifle it held in its short arms, and robotically took aim at the bunkers. The crosshairs on the pilot's main screen lined up with the largest bunker. He licked his lips, and pulled the trigger of his right arm control. There was a flash of light and a heavy report.
The entire complex exploded dramatically, and there was a shower of remains, both mechanical and human, a few moments later. The sounds of dozens of raised, panicked voices could be heard from the devastated remains of the bunker, mingled with the crackling of growing flames and the roar of the wind, buffeting and foilin their feeble attempts at organisation.
The pilot of the Combat Humanoid grinned behind his helmet. Another shell round spent, another separatist stronghold gone. It was only a matter of time, now, until the Civil War would be over, and then he could finally-
His radio had gone down, the constant stream of information he would normally be receiving from HQ no longer babbling in his ear. He looked at it, frowning in puzzlement. The explosion hadn't been that powerful, had it? He tapped it wistfully. Then, as if on cue, the mech's cockpit was flooded with blinding light.
The horizon had lit up a brilliant orange. The pilot knew this would not be a good thing. He began to sweat, nervous. He didn't like this. His hands on the controls, he was about to turn his mech around and head back to HQ when he was thrown against his safety harness with enough force to crack most of his ribs, his mech suddenly thrown into the air by a tremendous shockwave.
The survivors of the bunker explosion were reduced to stains on the ground within an instant, and lumps of concrete and tanks were mashed together and discarded as if they were nothing. The Combat Humanoid was hurled across the tundra with ease, and after a terrifying few seconds in the air it came crashing down to a halt against the side of a rock outcrop. Its legs were completely mangled, reduced to a few scraps of metal, and the body was dented and broken beyond repair.
The pilot sat in his seat, battling to remain conscious. He could feel blood trickling down his forehead, and only a dull ache from where his legs should've been. But that could wait until later. He didn't want to think about if there would even be a later. Groggily, he tried to lift himself up, but pain shot through his body and he collapsed back again, panting. Then he noticed something. That light was still illuminating the cockpit.
His Combat Humanoid's main camera was still working, miraculously, and he moved it to face the direction he'd just been thrown from.
He let out an involuntary oath to a God he hadn't believed in for years. It was a mushroom cloud. The bastards, whichever side they'd been fighting for, Separatists or Unionists, had used a nuclear weapon. But that wasn't right, he thought, in an attempt to detach himself from the situation. Nuclear weapons didn't have a blast radius of several thousand miles.
It didn't matter anyway. The end effect was still the same. The pilot felt his eyelids grow heavy, but somehow he didn't feel like fighting it. As he closed his eyes for the final time, all he could think of how was much he needed a rest.
Five Years Later, Kobe, Japan
"DIVIDING FLARE!" the red jumpsuit-clad figure on the screen shouted, forcing the controls of his robot forward as he did so. A laser cutter of pure light was formed over one hand of the blue and yellow mech, and it thrust it straight into the gut of the enemy, a fearsome amalgamation of a lion and a dinosaur. With a simple upwards slicing motion from there, the monster fell apart, leaving only the ninja-like super robot standing. The pilot, twenty-something Ryoji Furakami, clenched his fist in victory. "I've done it." he growled, seemingly to himself. "Rest in peace, Genjo."
The narrator cut in just as the camera turned to reveal Ryoji framed in a dazzling orange sunset, standing on his robot's open cockpit hatch.. "Ryoji and Vulcanion have triumphed over the evil Darkrobo Empire and Dr. Demonic's hordes of disgusting monsters, but for how long can this peace last? And why does Dr. Miyamoto refuse to tell Ryoji the secret of Vulcanion's origin? The battle has only just begun!"
As the credits began to roll, punctuated by the phrase "The End" in surprisingly good English, the theatre simultaneously began to empty. Alina Davison, unlike the majority of the audience, was frowning as she left for the lobby. She still didn't get it. That was what everyone was watching nowadays?
Maybe it was a Japanese thing. That was what her friend Aito always said. Giant robots were just a Japanese thing, or at least, this idolisation of them was. Alina just saw them as weapons of war, like the rest of the world did. Ok, so technically she was a Japanese citizen, or a citizen of the Japanese Sector of the supernation known as Eurasia, but that was more of a matter of convenience than anything else. A necessity, if you will.
She stepped out of the cinema's lobby and into the rapidly-darkening streets of her hometown, the Nada-ku district of Kobe. It had been a warm day, and Alina deeply regretted wasting so much of it watching such a resoundingly stupid film. With nothing else to do, she decided to take the train back home.
If one of her friends had accompanied her, it might've been a different story, but Aito Hayashi, her usual choice for a companion into town, had been busy, she'd come alone. So, disgruntled and alone, she set off back towards the train station.
Aito would be disappointed that she hadn't liked the Vulcanion movie. He was always trying to get her into his giant robot anime, but every attempt so far had ended in failure. It didn't stop him from trying, though, and he'd seemed so sure she'd like this one. Maybe she could tell a little white lie and go with her favourite non-committal response, the trusty shrug.
So focused was she on thinking about how to spare Aito's feelings, Alina walked straight into a rather fat man in jogging pants ahead of her. "Um, sorry-" she began, but he cut her off with a nigh-murderous glare. "Watch where you're going, boy!" he snapped, and Alina cursed herself for colliding with this man, of all people. "I'm a girl, sir." she said, trying to maintain a semblance of respect.
The Jogging Pants Man narrowed his eyes, scrutinising Alina closely. Alina fought the urge to glare back. "You don't look Japanese to me." He shrugged and leant back. "You're a Euro?"
Alina clenched her fists, as if preparing for a fight, but then thought better of it. She looked away. "...Yes." The term 'Euro' was a recent invention, coined by some right-wing politician to describe any of the numerous post-Civil War immigrants into the Eastern sectors, and ever since it had come into use Alina tended to hear it at least twice a day.
The Jogging Pants Man shook his head. "Typical immigrant behaviour." he said, rather patronisingly. He probably thought she couldn't speak Japanese very well as well, Alina thought indignantly. But she couldn't start a scene. Starting a scene would be bad. The police might get involved again, and no one wanted that. So she swallowed her pride, and submitted. "Sorry." she said, hurriedly, and, placated, the Jogging Pants Man harrumphed at her before turning back around and moving on.
Alina stuck her tongue out at his retreating back. It was an immature gesture, but better than nothing. Being mistaken for a boy wasn't too big a deal for her. It happened on a regular basis anyway, and with her short, roughly bobbed brown hair and rather wiry, flat figure, was understandable, really. The racism was hurtful, but not enough to really make her angry. What irritated Alina was that people got away with these things.
In a bad mood now, she proceeded to the train station with her hands in the pockets of her jacket and glowered at anyone who was unfortunate enough to pass her. Even the setting sun seemed to cower before her, ducking behind a nearby cloud in case Alina decided to turn her gaze upwards.
She handed the station attendant her return ticket and went out onto the platform. There was a train due in five minutes or so. She threw herself down onto one of the rows of seats and winced as she realised, too late, that it was solid metal, which did nothing to better her demeanour. She swore loudly, rubbing her aching back.
It was then that she saw she wasn't the only person waiting for the next train, unsurprisingly. She shrank down slightly in her seat, hoping no one had taken any objection to her unsavoury choice of language. There were the usual collections of bums and scruffy-looking addicts, and then, standing framed in a rather dramatic way by the setting sun, was a girl.
Although she was facing away from Alina, she looked to be around the same age, but far taller. Her hair was blond and slowly curled outwards, going down to her waist. Alina could see the arms of a pair of glasses just visible under her hair, and she was holding a plastic bag with a large cardboard box jutting out of the top.
For a moment so brief it could barely even be described as a nano-second, Alina felt a pang of inexplicable attraction towards the lone figure. Alarmed at herself, she shook her head, trying to dispel whatever had taken hold for that half-a-second. Then the girl turned around, and Alina was even more horrified by her moment of lust.
A friendly, freckled face. Pale skin. Dull green eyes. Now, she recognised who she'd just been staring at. Her name was Miyuki Akiyama, and at one point Alina would've classed her as her best friend. Alina realised she was gawping again, and quickly stopped it.
"Alina...?" Miyuki said, upon noticing her. Alina immediately felt the desire to sit up straight, brush her hair out of her eyes, and...what the hell was she thinking!? "Er, hi." she said awkwardly, to cover up her confusion.
Miyuki sat down next to her, shopping bag held in both hands. She smiled. "I, er...I haven't seen you in a while."
"N-no. I guess I've just been busy with..."
"...stuff." Miyuki finished the sentence for her. "Same." she said. There was a brief pause, as if it was a memorial for their rapidly fading friendship. "So, er...what'd you come into town for today?"
"I came to see the Vulcanion move, the compilation film that's just come out. Another of Aito's attempts to get me into that show." Alina laughed, slightly nervously. She sensed that things had changed between them, somehow. The atmosphere was different from the usual air of cheery familiarity when old friends meet. "It wasn't very good."
"Hey, I like Vulcanion." Miyuki said, defensively. "It's dumb, but good for a silly diversion."
Another awkward pause. Alina didn't understand. What, exactly, was different between the two of them? Even a few months ago, when Alina had first thought Miyuki was trying to avoid her, when they had talking it had been easy and relaxed, as talk between friends should.
She was saved from pondering the matter much longer when, with a roar, her train arrived. She stood up perhaps a bit too quickly. "I'll..." she began, but the same strange feeling that had made their conversation so far so awkward cropped up again, and she stuttered. "I-I'll...I'll see you around, Miyuki."
"Y-yeah." Miyuki said, similarly.
Alina boarded the train, after a token wave goodbye, and took a seat, still confused as hell. Why had both of them acted like that? Had she inadvertently done something to upset Miyuki? There was, of course, another, quite obvious possibility, but Alina refused to consider it.
Although she'd never actually had a crush on a boy...no! It had happened too quickly for Alina to be sure it was anything like that. Nothing else explained the way Miyuki had acted, though, but...Alina slumped down in her seat, trying to force the encounter from her mind. She groaned quietly to herself. Who'd have thought going to see a stupid robot film could've lead to something like this? Behind her, a burly-looking man in a dark suit glanced her way for a moment, lowering the newspaper he was only pretending to read.
The train came to a halt only a few minutes later, and Alina lifted herself out of the seat and disembarked, the man in the suit following closely.
She first noticed he was following her as she left the train station. A cursory glance backwards confirmed it. He could, of course, just have been going the same way as her by chance. But even so, as a young girl walking through Kobe at night, it was far better to be safe than sorry.
She followed her normal route home for a few streets, and then suddenly ducked off to the side, down an alleyway. If the man did intend anything indecent, then he'd likely continue to follow. Alina hurried to the end of the alleyway, and waited for a moment. Sure enough, a few seconds later she heard the sound of his footsteps on the dry ground.
Alina fled along the street she'd ended up on, which she recognised as not being too far from her house. That was good. Once she was home, whoever was following her couldn't touch her, unless they were, and she gulped at the thought, unless they part of the police. Her parents would kill her if...
Her worst fear, something she was wary of far more than a mere pervert, seemed to be confirmed a few seconds later when the man emerged from the alleyway, calling her name. "Alina Davison!" he said loudly. She froze in midstride, her heart beating against her chest with such ferocity she thought it might burst straight through. The man jogged up to her, again repeating her name. He was at least two heads taller than her. "Your name is Alina Davison, isn't it?"
Alina nodded, slowly. She knew this couldn't be leading anywhere good. "...Are you with the police?" she asked.
The man shook his head, suddenly much more formal. "You're required to come with me immediately."
Alina took a step back, her legs tensed and ready to spring into action at the slightest hint of aggression. "And you are?"
The man pulled a wallet out from inside his jacket and flashed her a badge that was impossible to argue with; the infamous stylised, slanted id that represented the organisation known simply as the Intelligence Division; the wing of the Eurasian government that dealt with espionage, conspiracy and other murky activities. Alina had only ever heard rumours about it and seen it fictionalised, so secret were its activities. "I have orders to escort you to headquarters."
Alina was at a loss for words. None of this made any sense. So she wasn't wanted by the police. But apparently the government wanted her. "W-why?"
He shrugged. "I have no idea. I'm just a grunt. But I'd recommend you come quietly. The guys in charge can be quite harsh if they don't get what they want." The man set off walking, in a direction that pointedly wasn't the one her house lay in.
Alina hesitated for a moment, and then followed. Whether any of the rumours about the Intelligence Division were true or not, she would rather not find out. With the story of Akira Musashi, the young man who'd refused a summoning from the ID only to find his entire apartment building gone upon his return, running through her head, she walked with her head down. It was getting genuinely dark now, with only the street lamps to provide any light.
"Hurry up, kid." the man said, snappily, as it began to rain. "I was told this was urgent."
In the city's harbour, an air-raid siren was wailing, competing with the rain to be heard. Both were drowned out, however, by a tortured, sinister roar that seemed to almost absorb all other sounds and surpass them in both volume and urgency. The cry rang out across the entire city and, gradually, the thing that had made it emerged out of the water.
The creature resembled a praying mantis, or at least that was the only frame of reference a human being could have. A gigantic, glowing, white praying mantis, but a praying mantis nonetheless. It was roughly thirty or so metres tall, and towered over the entire harbour with ease.
Saliva dripped from its tooth-filled maw and splashed into the raging waters below in massive globs, and its scythe-like claws waved through the air ahead of it as it advanced forward, its emaciated limbs somehow managing to keep it upright.
It projected an ethereal, mysterious glow only enhanced by the rain splattering against its hide, and this combined with its slow movements made it appear almost serene. But it was difficult to ignore the sinister claws and unearthly appearance of the creature.
On the harbour wall, a man wearing a heavy raincoat observed it through a pair of binoculars with the professional calmness of someone who thinks any happening, no matter how bizarre, can be seen through if procedure is followed to the letter. He pulled a handheld radio from the depths of his coat, and had to shout into it to make himself heard. "Class 7 sighted. ETA 9:00. Over." He glanced at his watch. 8:30. Whatever Steiner was planning, he thought, it better be quick to prepare.
Alina had been skeptical enough when the man had entered an abandoned subway station and ordered her to do likewise, but as he hopped onto the tracks she resolutely refused to follow. "This is too ridiculous." she protested. "Why would the ID have their base in such a hard-to-reach place?"
"This is the route we use when we don't want to give our location away." the man answered. "Now, hurry. I doubt your parents would approve of you earning a five-year prison sentence." That galvanised Alina into action, and she clambered down onto the tracks, and followed the black-suited man into the darkness of the tunnel.
After a few minutes of walking nearly blindly in the dark, the man's footsteps stopped. "Here." he said, and Alina followed the sound of his voice to one of the tunnel's walls. She could just make out the shape of a door if she squinted. "You've got to be kidding me." she said incredulously. "This is too much like something out of a spy film."
As he swiped a card through a slot on the front of the door so small Alina hadn't even noticed it, the man grunted. "It's not an entrance that sees much use. But it was closest." He pulled it open with a tug, and stepped in.
The corridor Alina found herself in was so generic it could've been anywhere on the planet, but she supposed that was the plan. The walls were grey, the doors were grey, the ceiling was grey, the floor was grey...it was almost headache-inducingly bland. She wondered for a moment what sort of person you'd have to be to want to work in a place like this, but there was little time for reflection as her guide set off walking again.
The corridors seemed to twist and turn endlessly, and what's worse was that they were all identical. Alina knew if she hadn't had the black-suited man to follow, she'd have been hopelessly lost within minutes. He came to a stop in front of a pair of double doors. "This is where I was order to escort you to." he informed her. "Whatever they want you for...good luck."
On that ominous note, the man walked off, probably to some other equally bland and grey area of the facility. Alina was more than a little curious, she had to admit. It didn't seem as if she was going to be punished for anything...with trepidation, she pushed open the double doors, and saw the most incredible sight of her entire life.
It was around forty metres tall. Blocky and angular in build, and olive-green in colouration, it looked for all the world like someone had grabbed a regular military-issue CH and stretched it tremendously. The hands were grey, and clawed, jutting out of the rectangular arms and looking quite sinister in the dim lighting.
The head was pointed and triangular, like a hood, and the face was obscured by a thick metal plate of armour, with only a pair of glittering green eyes visible. There were two chunky, cumbersome-looking rocket boosters extending diagonally out of the upper back, for flight, Alina assumed. The feet were massive slabs of armour, large enough to dwarf even the biggest tank.
It was a giant robot.
Alina, her worries and reservations forgotten, walked up to it as if entranced. She placed a hand on the robot's foot, and stroked it. There was something about it that felt...reassuring. Like a letter from a family member when you were away on a camping trip. And she could feel something else...as if it registered her presence, somehow.
"You seem to like it." a nasal, snide voice remarked, and Alina jumped. A man, thin and frail looking, calmly walked out from the robot's shadow, hands behind his back. He looked greasy, and there was something of his bald head and long nose that reminded Alina of a vulture.
"What's going on here?" Alina demanded, her fascination with the robot forgotten. The vulture-like man smiled, and, if it had been intended as reassuring, it fell far from the mark. He gestured an arm upwards at the robot. "This is the most advanced weapon in the entire world." he said dramatically, and Alina detected a hint of a Teutonic accent. Was he from the German sector? "Advanced Combat Humanoid One, ACH-01, also known as Aradoll."
"...And?" Alina asked, not sure she'd like what came next.
The German shrugged. "Well, it needs a pilot."
As what he was inferring came to light, Alina found herself lost for words not for the first time that day. "...What?"
"I said it needs a pilot." he said, as if it were blindingly simple. "And for whatever reason, it's chosen you."
"C-chosen me...?" Alina said. "Wait! This is ridiculous! It's a machine! It can't...this is like something from a TV show!"
"That's true. But television can sometimes prove educational in matters such like this."
Alina laughed. "You can't be serious with this. Look at that thing! I'm a teenage girl. How do you expect me to pilot it?"
"We'll have you instructed."
Alina began to turn away. "Sorry, but I'm not interested. Giant robots aren't really my thing-"
"I wasn't," the German said slowly. "offering you a choice." Alina stopped, stunned. She turned back around, trying to digest what he'd just said. "I...I have to?" The German nodded.
He took a step towards her. "You seem like a bright enough girl. Don't you want to help your country?"
At this, Alina was enticed. Nobody could say then she didn't belong. "It isn't as simple as that." she said, after a few seconds' thought. "I'd have to fight and kill people, wouldn't I? I don't want to be a soldier."
"Not people. Monsters. Things. It sounds unbelievable, but soon, this city will be attacked by a creature we have no means of defeating. Except for you."
Alina wasn't sure whether to laugh or not. "You don't actually expect me to believe that."
"I expect you to believe that you're needed to pilot that robot."
This was intensely irritating to Alina. She pinched the bridge of her nose with her right hand in exasperation, and then said something she would deeply regret later. "Or what?" She wanted to take the words back as soon as they'd escaped her mouth.
The German smirked. "Since you asked...you are aware, of course, of just what organisation you're dealing with here? We," he said, motioning upwards to the roof of the cylindrical room they were. "Are the Intelligence Division of the great Supernation of Eurasia. We can rewrite your entire personal history, if we desire so.
"We can have you put away for any crime we feel like. We can have your exam results converted into the lowest grades possible. We can deport your family if you annoy us. We hold all the cards here, Davison, and there's no contesting our will. My name is Wolfgang Steiner, and I am this all-powerful organisation's commander." Wolfgang Steiner held out a thin hand to Alina with mock geniality. "I'd recommend you join us."
Alina stared at Steiner for a few minutes, trying to find a way to adequately put into words just how much she hated him at that moment. None would come. "I...you win." she said, head bowed, and she shook hands with him.
Suddenly, the brief glimmer of personality Steiner had displayed was gone, and he was all business. "Now proceed up the ladder to your left." he said. "At the end of the walkway up there, you'll find the entrance to ACH-01's cockpit. Once inside, we'll instruct you via radio."
Alina complied dully, and as she was climbing upwards, she looked down at him. He was still standing there, watching her intently. It made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. She sighed to herself as she lifted her feet onto the metal walkway. Who'd have thought going to see a stupid robot film could've lead to something like this?