Wednesday, May 8, 2013

10/15/12 - The Reclamation War - Pt. 9

If asked, Kinnokagi Hanami will tell you she was born in the Spring, and what's why she was named after the cherry blossoms that bloom at that time of year.

She will say that, when she smiled, her mother was reminded of the fragrant, pink-and-white explosions of beauty that hung from the black trees. She will also say that her mother always called her "her little cherry blossom," even when she was fully-grown. And she will admit that she now feels ashamed for having been so embarrassed by this, and wishes she could have one more day with her mother, just to tell her how much she loved her, and how much she misses her.

She would tell you these things, but these things are not true. They are falsehoods she has adopted, both as part of her disguise, and part of her mental therapy. She tells herself these lies, and many more, each night before bed, in the hopes that one day they will no longer feel like lies.

She hopes, as her guardian once did, that she will come to believe she is human.

The truth is that Hanami was not born in the Spring -- that is simply when she was discovered. The police found her stumbling outside of Kyoto, dazed and confused. She was incapable of speech, wearing strange clothing, and bearing nothing that could tie her to this country, other than her appearance.

And when an overzealous policewoman tried to wrestle her to the ground, thinking she was some drunk college student, Hanami accidentally knocked her head into low earth orbit.

The best that her handler in the Organization -- the stately Doctor Kinnokagi -- could get from her was that she had come from the future. Why, how, and from when were questions no one could get from her, given how badly her mind had been damaged by the journey. It was enough to know that she was here, she was very powerful, and that while she could not tell them any concrete facts, her personality was that of a well-mannered and well-meaning child just starting on the road to maturity.

Left to her own devices, anything could happen. So Doctor Kinnokagi took her in, and treated her as he would his own daughter. He taught her to be a good and dutiful young lady, and to be cautious of her own strength, but to do anything she could to help others in their time of need.

And when she was needed by the Organization, Hanami would do such amazing things...

Even now, as she runs down a long, white and silver corridor, heading for an exit that she knows The Dignitary will make for her, she feels no fear, and no worries. She knows what is about to happen, and knows what she can and must do, and that is all that concerns her.

Indeed, while she can register the emotion behind Mister Ten's cries for her to stop, and come back to him, she cannot share his concern for her safety, or the true reasons behind it. She knows that he loves her, but she cannot truly love him back, though she tries. Even a full year after she has added "I love Ju San" to her nightly list of affirmations, she feels nothing towards him at all.

It is simply not something she is programmed for.

The door to the outside opens. Her muted business suit becomes garish, brightly-colored plastic-weave. Supple, lovely flesh becomes hard, angular plastic. Flowing black hair becomes a dark, cubist swoosh of motion.

And she flies out the back of the massive, white robot's head, ready to protect the country that has adopted her, by protecting the machine that will save them from doom.

* * *

The Earth is truly a beautiful thing, when you see it from the right height.

From space, it seems to be a shining green and blue treasure, stark and bright against the endless, star-spotted darkness that surrounds it. The further one goes from it, the more precious it becomes -- acting as an anchor in the eternal void. And it remains so, up until the point when one is so far away from it that it's colors and contours are lost, and it becomes just another dot of light amongst so many.

The first time Director Straffer saw it from high up, he was going to Icarus Station for the first time. When the G-forces that had smooshed him back into his seat finally let up, and he could at last look out the nearest window at the world they'd just departed, his heart leaped out of his chest. He had to sit there, a hand on the window, tears floating from his eyes as he saw how truly beautiful it was.

From then on, no matter where his career took him, he always started and ended his day with a hand on a window, looking down at the world. He stopped crying about it a long time ago, but he still got a wistful smile, thinking of it.

He can't cry now, even if he wanted to.

His body has proofed itself against the void, which means that his skin has completely sealed itself up. What few biological components he still has are being kept from dehydrating, expanding in vacuum, and boiling out into the incredible cold. He can only see the world, now -- not even feel it -- and then only through a hazy, filmy lens over his eyes.

And he is incredibly grateful for that, right now.

He can barely see as the Imago in charge of his weapons platform fire volley after volley at the planet that used to make him weep. He cannot see the atmosphere pucker and part as the particle cannon beams enter it. He cannot see the land burn and the oceans boil. He cannot see the cities fall and the people die.

He cannot fully see the consequences of his failure, and for that he is thankful. Full sight would lead to full knowledge, and that might drive him to his knees, screaming and insane. 

Instead, he puts one stumbling, stick-like, metal leg in front of the other, over and over, heading for the still-superheated ruins of Alpha Base Seven. He wills himself to do this, in spite of the pain and the anger and the horror. If anything, they are fueling his motion, right now.

Especially the anger.

There's something he needs in the wreckage. Hopefully it is still there. Hopefully it will still work.

And it he can get it up and working, he will repay the Imago for what they are doing to the wonderful, beautiful world he has dedicated himself to keeping safe -- day after day, year after year.

Not on my watch, he thinks with each step: Not on my watch. Not today. Not ever. 


It's a long way to where he needs to go. The anger keeps him moving. He'll cry later, hopefully with someone he loves to hold him and listen. But right now he doesn't have time to be anything but angry.

Angry and resourceful, at that.

* * *

"So, Myron, they say you're a genius," Mr. USA says, handing Myron a weird, small, bronze cube that's lit up from within: "How about you show me what you can do with this?

"Is that it?"  Myron asks, looking at the little thing: "That's what Moloch was using to transmit his signal?"

"Near as I can tell, son," the ancient man says, sitting down on a nearby chair as soon as he's handed it over: "It's got a transdimensional energy signature on it, anyway."

"How do you... oh, nevermind," Myron says, remembering who he's dealing with. He grabs some tools and gets to work, trying to see if he can reverse-engineer the thing.

"I just followed the rattling pieces upstairs," the man says, gesturing back the way he came: "There was another body up there. I think he was putting it together, using old pieces and new ones. I melted it down pretty good, so I think we're safe for now."

"Persistent guy," Mark Clutch comments as some SPYGOD SCOUTS see to his many wounds: "So if the machine's gone on their side of things, what will happen if we get this going again?" 

"We'll just have to aim it somewhere," Winifred answers, getting another box of tools and heading up to assist Myron, who's very grateful for the help: "We can cannibalize the parts from the machine and do it. Pretty !@#$ simple, I think."

"I agree," Myron says, smiling at her. When she smiles back it makes him feel ten times lighter.

"How's Thomas doing?" Mr. USA asks Mark, who looks over at the barely-breathing lump of burned flesh under the blankets, being attended by a half-dozen other Scouts.

"He's touch and go," Mark says, trying to keep his voice down: "I think he'll pull through, but we need to get him back and get him into some real care. It's a miracle he's lasted this long."

"How about I try and aim us at a good hospital?" Myron asks: "I think we could all use some patching up at this point."

Mr. USA's about to agree, but then there's a very familiar -- however strange -- noise, and Skyspear has appeared amongst them, again. Her eyes are red and wet, and she kneels down on the ground, clearly tired from her journey.

"Did you find him...?" Mark asks, reaching out to take hold of her shoulder. He thinks, a second later, that maybe that was too forward, but she doesn't seem to mind it. 

"I did, yes," she says, nodding, her eyes screwed shut: "At the base of the tree, there is wreckage. The brass creature is there, in pieces. And the Lion... he is..."

Her mouth screws up and she begins to weep, and ultimately leans over onto Mark, who comforts her as best as he can.

"He should be buried," she says: "But there is nothing left. His bones... the dust on my hands, it's all that is left when I picked him up. He fell apart between my fingers, like sand..."

"I think God will understand if he doesn't get a proper burial," Mr. USA says, trying to get up and go to her, but failing to do so. Mark notices this and is concerned, but doesn't say anything just then.

"Has anyone seen the !@#$hole?" Myron asks, trying to change the subject.

"Who?" Mark asks.

"The Green Man. Anyone seen him?"

"No, come to think of it," Mr. USA says: "Where was he last?"

"In the infirmary, fighting to save his son," Skyspear says, wiping her eyes: "I do not know what has happened to him."

"Someone might want to go and look," Mark says: "I don't think I like the idea of him wandering around with nothing good to do."

"You know, his son is right over there," Winifred points out in a harsh whisper: "He could just hear you."

"You're right," Mr. USA says, looking at the boy: "We probably shouldn't disparage his father. The man did risk his life to save the boy."

Mark nods, but doesn't really feel it: "I'll go look," he says, giving Skyspear another, re-assuring squeeze and then getting to his feet.

"I'll come with you," Mr. USA says, getting up and walking along with him, limping as he goes: "I figure we have a few other things to talk about."

"Agreed," Mark says, taking the old man's arm in his, and wondering why he's so !@#$ frail, all of a sudden.

Wondering about a lot of other things, too, come to think of it. But those sorts of things aren't for everyone's ears. They are, instead, the sorts of things that should be shared between soldiers in private -- somewhere far from the prying and the curious. 

Somewhere that veteran heroes and their admirers can talk in confidence, away from the crowd.

 * * *

Tokyo is the largest and densest megalopolis on Earth. A little over 13 million people are pushed against and stacked upon one another in an area of only 845 square miles. Its glittering towers reach for the sky, its suburbs sprawl as far as the eyes can see, and the thrum and hum of its industry never ever sleeps.

Much like the country it is emblematic of, the city has endured much over the last century. It seems that, no sooner is it just a little larger than the time before, than something else comes to try and knock it down. Atomic war gave way to atomic beasts. Foes from the future and dangerous types from the present. Alien invasions and strange occurrences. 

Tokyo has been shaken apart, burned to the ground, swamped by tidal waves, and eaten by monsters. But somehow, Tokyo always survives. Tokyo always rebuilds. And whatever hazards and threats the next day may bring, Tokyo's people know that it will endure. Anything could happen, here, but nothing could ever destroy it.

Tokyo is eternal. 

Maybe that's why, when the people of the city see the Heaven House Tokyo building turn into a massive, white robot, and stride through the city streets towards the Pacific, they take its picture instead of screaming and running. They somehow know that this is not something to be feared, but to be remembered, just like all the other strange and mighty things that have walked through, around, or over the city in the last century.

And maybe that's why, when they see a great, white flash in the sky, and hear the heavens splitting open overhead, just like they did seven short months ago, its people treat it as a hazard to be avoided, rather than the end of their world. 

They are just now coming to the conclusion that the Imago have been lying to them. They know that a mighty force of heroes and armies is fighting them. And they know, having suffered such would-be conquerors in the past, that departing deposed rulers tend to punish their almost-subjects on their way back to whatever realm they came from. 

So the citizens scurry underground and into their basements, barricading themselves behind heavy walls and closed curtains. They pray and they cry, and hope that whatever saviors are active this day, they hear their calls for aid. And soon.

They do not have long to wait.

Witnesses will later say that they saw a young woman, flying. She had long, black hair and wore strange, brightly-colored clothes, and those who were close enough thought there was something strange about her face, and her skin.

They will say that she flew right up to where the bright light was coming from, and then hovered there for a moment, her arms stretched out longer than should be possible.

And then, when the bright, white column of fire came down from space -- threatening to atomize the robot, and take a good amount of the city with it -- she did... something.

What was it? No one on the ground can say, mostly because they could not actually watch what took place without going blind.

But facts are facts. The particle cannon's beam had the power to destroy anything that stood in its path, leaving nothing but a smoking crater in its path. And yet it touched nothing in that city.

In fact, it went right back where it came from. 

And when it was done and gone, and the people could see again, the flying girl was still up there, keeping time with the massive, white robot she'd flown out of. It was as if she was guarding it from attack, along with the city it was striding away from.

Was it a miracle? Or was it just crazy science, come to the rescue yet again? No one could say. But once again, the people cheered and thanked their Gods, ever so grateful to be saved by whatever guardian spirits were looking out for them, that day.

And hoping -- for the first time since they'd come out of their confusion -- that this war might be won.

* * *

"Yes!" SPYGOD shouts, dancing in Lady Gilda to a song only he can hear: "That's where that android had been hiding. Mister Ten, you sneaky !@#$-"

"She should not be out there!" Mister Ten shouts over the viewscreen, not caring that he's speaking in English without Hanami there to translate: "She could be destroyed!"

"We could all be !@#$ing destroyed, Ju San," he says, pointing a finger at his screen, and then at the others: "And that's the !@#$ing point I've been trying to !@#$ing get through all your !@#$ing heads, today! Are you going to let your armies by shown up by a !@#$ robot with amnesia in an orange, plastic skirt? Or are you going to take some !@#$ing chances?"

The leaders of the various strange armies of the world look at him, and then at each other. One by one, they nod, sighing. And then they sign off to give their orders.

"Don't worry, Ju San," SPYGOD says, still boogieing: "That !@#$ kid can take a !@#$load of punishment. I've !@#$ing seen her in action-"

"I am very well aware of what she can do," the man says, seething: "But no one can keep deflecting that kind of energy for that long."

"Well, hopefully she won't !@#$ing have to," he says, wondering if that's true or not.

"Do you have a plan to take out those cannons, yet?"

SPYGOD looks at him and smiles: "Ju San, when have you known me to never have a !@#$ plan?"

* * *

My love? the leader asks, sensing concern from The Fist: What has happened, my love? Are you alright?

"No," the ersatz Director Straffer says, holding his hands over his ears to protect them from the numerous alarms going off: "I don't know how this happened, but somehow the beam we aimed at Tokyo was deflected right back at us."

Was the robot too tough to destroy? The Dragon asks, perhaps just a little mirth in his voice.

"No, but something got in our way. It deflected the beam-"

I've got it on my view, The Motion says: We've got some spies in Tokyo... okay, oh.

What is it? The leader asks, not liking the sound of his voice.

So that's where that girl's been hiding all these years, the Motion says

Is it the android? The Dragon asks.

It is, and this is bad news, The Motion says: She's immensely powerful. You could fire every particle cannon you have at her, and she'd still be able to deflect them all. 

She is but one person, though, The Dragon points out: If you continue to target the city, and target the robot at the same time, she must make a choice. I do not think she will make that choice easily.

"Well, that's a nasty idea," the Fist says, smiling: "I like it. As soon as I deal with the fact that there's a big !@#$ing hole in my station, right where that cannon used to be, I'll start making her make the tough choice."

Speaking of tough choices, The Motion says: I've had an idea about how to bring this whole rebellion to a close without losing more of the population.

What would accomplish such a thing? The Leader asks, sounding hopeful.

And The Motion tells them, and there is agreement, and then laughter -- all of it dark. 

 (SPYGOD is listening to Behind the Wheel (Depeche Mode) and drinking a couple old cans of Astro Beer)

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