Monday, February 13, 2017

Mecha Kaiju Sensō Tai!!!: Intro Fiction




The klaxon sounded and Captain Tom Rodgers jolted awake. It felt like he’d only just fallen asleep. Thankfully, somebody had hooked up his coffee machine to the kaiju monitoring system and a fresh cup was waiting for him even as he finished pulling on his flight suit. He poured the extra-strong brew into a thermal bottle, added a cup of milk and heaping spoonful of protein powder, shook it up, and dashed out into the pre-dawn light at Yokota Air Base.

As he approached the hanger, Rodgers saw that the crawler-transporters were already carrying Achilles and the Mobile Launcher Platform down the runway. Ops must have been tracking the incursion for hours. 

“Temporal, aquatic, or astronomical?” Rodgers first question to the command crew sounded strange to his ears; it wasn’t the kind of sentence he ever expected to say when he was growing up in Birmingham. The world had gotten so weird over the last few years.

“Astronomical,” Lieutenant Diaz responded. “A meteor shifted course at 0200. We thought it was headed toward Nevada until an hour ago, when it changed course again.” She glared at the radar screens. “Sneaky bastards.” 

“We haven’t been able to get a good picture of it on any of the satellites,” said Colonel Tatopoulos, “but you know those space monsters. Probably some kind of cyborg with ray shielding and laser eyes or some crap like that. Get down there and get strapped in. We’ll let you know more as we know it.”

Rodgers paused long enough to finish his coffee. He didn’t want to spill anything on the giant robot’s controls.

***

A nightmare woke Kaneko Ayako – a vision of shattered concrete and melting steel, screaming people and roaring monsters. Her alarm clock went off moments later, the Vocaloid AI singing her a personalized wake-up song. She paused for a moment to enjoy the bishonen hologram dancing on top of the clock before shutting it off. She’d learned that the summons was never so urgent that she didn’t have time for little pleasures. 

She got dressed and made breakfast, alone in the apartment as usual. She wondered for a moment if she should get a cat, but then reconsidered; if she died protecting the planet, who would take care of the cat? Her parents worked overseas, after all, and bearing the magatama meant her life was devoid of close friends. She had to skip school so often that she could hardly participate in any clubs, let alone hang out.

Ayako sighed. She was going to get expelled at this rate.

Moping about cost her extra time. Toast dangling from her mouth, she dashed off to the train station. She needed to get to Yumenoshima before the government closed off access to the island. She hated meeting Seiryuu further inland; Odaiba had been closed for week after she met him at the Ferris wheel there.


Oh well, at least she got to see her “boyfriend” today.
 

***

“Swordsman, we’re tracking an aquatic incursion in Tokyo Bay.” 

“Roger, Lighthouse,” Rodgers responded. “Any visuals on kaiju 2?” Rodgers suspected it wasn’t a threat. Blurry photographs from the surveillance buoys popped up on his HUD; the dorsal plates, scaled hide, and sinuous body confirmed his suspicions.

Seiryuu.

The dragon-like kaiju had first appeared in 1954, attacking US facilities in the Ryukyu Islands and Tokyo before being driven off. Since then, Seiryuu had returned time and time again, more often intent on battling other kaiju rather than destroying cities. Sometimes it seemed more cooperative than at others; Rodgers remembered it being considered a hero when he was a kid – there was even a cartoon – but then it had run amok for a few years when he was at the Air Force Academy.

He’d first personally encountered Seiryuu two years ago, during a temporal incursion by a kaiju code-named Ultraraptor. When the dragon rose out of Tokyo Bay, Captain Rodgers had asked the ops crew to tell his mother he loved her – he was sure the two kaiju were going to rip him to shreds – but Seiryuu had turned on Ultraraptor instead. Ever since, Seiryuu had protected Japan; they’d fought side by side repeatedly.

“We’re putting Ajax on standby,” Diaz said from ops. Rodgers knew it wouldn’t be necessary, but also knew there was no point in arguing. Seiryuu was still considered an unfriendly; he just hoped Ajax’s pilot wouldn’t be pissed. Edwards could be a jackass at the best of times. “The bogey has hit the thermosphere. Impacted expected in 10… 9… 8… 7… Bogey has slowed. Countdown has restarted. 5 minutes to impact. Fighters engaged.”

Rodgers watched on his screens as a squadron of F-35s engaged the falling kaiju. It looked like a big hunk of space rock for the moment, but he could see that it braking, decelerating in mid-air as it fell. The jets tested it with short bursts from their cannons, but the bullets didn’t penetrate. 

Maybe they irritated the kaiju, though, or tickled. The center of the meteor began glowing and the fighters pulled back; they were safely outside of the blast radius when the meteor exploded. Gigantic wings spread as the monster uncurled from its fetal position inside the stone.
 
***

Ayako flattened herself on the ground, hoping the hedgerow would be enough to hide her from the police. Warning sirens blared everywhere in Tokyo, urging people to seek shelter in an underground bunker as quickly as possible. Police rounded up everyone they could find and spirited them away to safety as best they could.

Years ago, the Japanese government had learned there was no point in evacuating the cities. Highways clogged with traffic just led to more loss of life when kaiju or mecha crashed through them, crushing or incinerating scores of vehicles. Earthquake-resistance building codes enacted in the 1980s doubled as an opportunity to increase Tokyo’s preparedness for kaiju attacks, and now most city blocks contained at least one civil defense shelter.

Ayako heard the explosion and looked up. Burning meteorites showered across the sky, falling to earth all across the city. She sprinted across open lawn toward the shelter of the Daigo Fukuryū Maru museum, unconcerned now with whether or not the police grabbed her. 

A man screamed as the sky darkened. A massive shadow descended across the artificial island as a humungous form rose from Tokyo Bay. The crash of water sluicing off of Seiryuu’s body was louder than the exploding meteor. Ayako couldn’t hear the hiss as flaming shards of the meteorite were deflected off of the draconic kaiju’s hide.

She stopped running. 

Seiryuu snaked his head toward her as Ayako closed her hand around the comma-shaped, blue jade bead she wore around her neck. The kaiju’s eyes narrowed, focused on her. No matter how connected they were to him, Seiryuu still had difficulty perceiving the tiny forms of humans scampering at his feet. He chuffed, a deafening purr of recognition as he registered where Ayako stood. 

Across the vast gulf of human and kaiju perception, across the divide between mankind and the sublime, Kaneko Ayakao and Seiryuu, the Azure Dragon, Guardian of the East, communed.

The instinct toward territoriality, the deep urge toward rage and violence that were programmed or trained into him ages ago (or perhaps ages from now) by his creators, focused as Ayako’s consciousness suffused into his. The Pacific coast of Japan was not merely his hunting territory to be defended from another predator; Tokyo became his den, his lair, and the humans in the city became his hatchlings. The predator became the protector.

Ayako sank down onto the grass half-conscious. Seiryuu turned his head toward the kaiju in the sky and roared.
 
***

“Swordsman, you are good to go. Lethal force is authorized against Peacock King,” said Diaz.

Whoever was in charge at the Japanese institute that monitored kaiju had named the kaiju “Peacock King” as soon as it unfurled itself. A dozen barbed, ribbed, yet flexible tails lashed menacingly behind the creature as it descended toward the city; its wings flapped lazily, obviously used more for maneuvering than actually keeping it airborne. Some kind of antigravity unit must be contained in its mechanized torso. A glaring red light oscillated back and forth in the visor-like contraption installed in place of its eyes. Rodgers thought that it sort-of looked like a peacock, if you squinted real hard.

Maybe it was more intimidating in Japanese.

Achilles ran full-tilt through the streets of Tokyo, following a route that would only take him down avenues wide enough to accept his massive frame. Captain Rodgers let the computer-assisted navigation handle most of it, keeping an eye on Peacock King instead. The kaiju was now swooping over the skyline on an intercept course with his mech. 

Gouts of plasma erupted from the barbed ends of its tails, scorching lines across skyscrapers, boiling glass and steel. Rodgers pulled Achilles up short, flipping a few toggles. “Achilles, arm shield,” he commanded the computer-assist. Scores of electromagnets unlocked. He shrugged, the giant robot copying his motion as it shifted the mass of reflective titanium panels it used as a shield onto its arm. 

“Achilles, arm sword,” he said. The electromagnetic coupling released the weapon, and he unsheathed the Xiphos 9000. Five belts of industrial diamond-tipped chainsaw blades ran down its length, ducking under a titanium-steel stabbing tip. He pulled the trigger and the blades began whirring. 

Peacock King’s mindlessly lashing tails suddenly stilled, radiating out in a circle around its body – a weapons system coming online, arched and waiting like a scorpion’s sting. Plasma jets arced toward Rodgers and Achilles took shelter behind his shield.

Suddenly, hurricane-force winds buffeted the enemy kaiju, catching in its wings and tossing it into a bank of buildings. Plasma fire went wide. Seiryuu dove out hiding like an oversized crocodile, battering Peacock King with another typhoon roar before seizing it in his gigantic claws.   

Achilles leapt to assist. As he stabbed at the alien kaiju with his power sword, Captain Rodgers could hav sworn he saw Seiryuu wink at him.

***

Miles away, Kaneko Ayako – only dimly aware of what went around her, barely conscious of the fact that the police were carrying her away to a shelter – smiled to the handsome brown face she could see in her mind’s eye. 

There were worse ways to spend an afternoon than flirting with an American pilot.


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