Preview: Rikuzentakata: Book One of the Mecha Monogatari
Posted by Doug on May 17, 2010
And now, a preview of my upcoming novel.
Originally, I was writing under the working title of The Mecha Monogatari: Twilight of the Fierce God, but having written thirty thousand words of the narrative, that title just doesn’t seem right, so now, I have changed the working title to Rikuzentakata: Book One of the Mecha Monogatari. Inspired by mecha anime like Gundam, Evangelion, Full Metal Panic, and the like, Rikuzentakata follows a young mecha pilot named Enokido Harumi during her first few days of real combat, culminating in a stand against Japan’s attackers around a small town in southern Iwate prefecture, the titular Rikuzentakata.
Everything in this preview is subject to change before the finalized novel; most likely I will need to tweak some of the more specific bits to make them all match up. In any case, without further ado, on to the preview:
The previous pilot of the twelve-meter-tall mecha that Special Warrant Officer Enokido Harumi now sat at the controls to had committed suicide in the predawn hours of the previous day. Enokido had not known him–he had been part of a unit based in Saitama, whereas she was with the 389th Battalion, ‘C’ Company out of Itoigawa–but the specter of his tragic end weighed heavily upon her. The final act of the mecha’s former pilot had been to press the barrel of his standard JGSDF issue handgun, a Minebea 9mm, into his right eye socket, and then pull the trigger, while seated in the cockpit where Enokido now sat. Thankfully, it had been thoroughly cleaned, but Enokido found the harsh antiseptic odor lingering in the cockpit disturbing.
Enokido carried an identical Minebea handgun strapped to her side. That could have been me, she thought, and for a brief moment, imagined herself turning the pistol to her own head and–
Don’t think like that!, she told herself, pushing the ominous thoughts away. Enokido focused her mind on staying connected to the mecha’s control system as she piloted it. Known as a ‘titan’, the mecha was forty-three metric tons of steel and composite armor. As the light of dawn broke over the hills of Iwate in early spring of the year 2013, she ran eastward towards Kamaishi, paralleling one of the national highways at a little over seventy kilometers per hour, the titan guided by Enokido’s mental commands. Just don’t think about it. Focus on the task at hand. Get to Kamaishi, find the dismounted pilot, give him the titan, and then wait to be picked up. Then, I’ll go find a temple and pray for the deceased. But try as she might, she could not keep the morbid thoughts from dominating her: That is, if I survive. Maybe someone will be praying for me instead? Maybe Hisagi-nee, or Miyuki-san, she thought, the names of her friends from the 389th coming to mind. That is, if they survive…
Just as Enokido’s thoughts controlled the titan’s metal and composite limbs, the imagery from its cameras and other sensory packages was fed directly into her mind, and for as long as she focused on it, she could see through the titans digital eyes and hear through its microphone ears and feel through its metal skin. It was as if she had physically transformed from a small girl not 150 centimeters tall into an armored giant that towered over the houses that she ran past. It felt not so much that she was piloting a war machine as that she was a war machine, and the 45mm autocannon she carried as easily as an infantryman might carry his rifle only served to intensify the illusion.
No one knew why the Eschatos had appeared. No one knew why they attacked. All that Enokido knew was that since the 1950s, the Eschatos had slowly marched across the globe, crushing one nation after another. Most of Africa, eastern Europe, and the Middle East had fallen under their dominion; Eschatos proxy governments replaced the indigenous ones, and had rapidly began erasing the cultures and traditions of the peoples they had conquered. The Americas and eastern Asia had so far managed to defend against their relentless attacks by reverse-engineering the Eschatos technology to build their own mecha, the titans.
But only a rare few youths, less than half of a percent of the population, were able to synchronize their thoughts with a titans’ control system well enough to operate one. This ability peaked in the youths early teenage years, and inevitably faded away by their mid-twenties, despite all attempts to extend this time. Titans were crucial to the national defense–only they could fight the Eschatos on their own terms–and so, those youths who could synchronize were conscripted into the Ground Self-Defense Force, trained for war, and sent into battle against the armies of biomechanical monstrosities known as the Eschatos.
Relying on child soldiers like this was widely considered to be Japan’s greatest national shame, but at the same time, the alternative, complete cultural annihilation at the hands of the Eschatos, was completely unthinkable, and so, the youths who could synchronize with the titans were drafted and sent to fight and all too often die in their homeland’s battles.
Enokido was one such conscript. She had only been twelve when she had tested positive for synchronicity, not quite a year ago. After the test results were publicized, Enokido instantly went from being the shy bookworm and amateur stargazer nobody noticed, to being a shy bookworm and amateur stargazer who was her hometown of Chikuzen, Fukuoka’s greatest celebrity, virtually overnight. A circle of schoolmates she barely knew became her ‘official’ fan club, dozens of boys and two girls offered romantic confessions to her, she was doted on by the school faculty, bought expensive gifts by people she had never met before, interviewed for the local paper, honored at a banquet by the mayor.
Her family gave her all the support and encouragement that they could, but at the same time Enokido could tell that they were terrified for her. Enokido remembered her mother crying every day; her father, a rather successful attorney, had left his position at the law firm so he could spend as much time with her as possible. She had no siblings, but her extended family had all rallied to her side in a manner that reminded Enokido of the way they had come together after the death of the family patriarch some years before. It was no secret why.
The Eschatos mecha were largely unmanned, controlled by artificial intelligences that were no where near as adaptable or capable as a human pilot, and the stories of a GSDF titan pilot single-handedly taking out unmanned Eschatos by the dozens were not uncommon. Still, even the weakest of the Eschatos mecha could easily kill an unfortunate titan pilot. Then were were a few piloted by people selected by the proxy governments the Eschatos had set up. Given upgraded mecha to pilot, these elites were incredibly dangerous, and were often an even match for even veteran GSDF pilots one-on-one.
But even the Eschatos elites did not account for the majority of the casualties among the GSDF titan pilots. There were a handful of Eschatos mecha that were orders of magnitude more powerful than anything the GSDF had in its arsenal, commanded by pilots of unearthly skill, capable of destroying scores of titans without even taking a scratch. Known as Omegas, these nightmares of the battlefield were responsible for over half of all GSDF casualties; rather than just disabling the titans the GSDF sent against them, most Omegas actively sought to kill the pilots. In the seven decades since the Eschatos had appeared, only seventeen Omegas had been discovered, and only three destroyed. The pilots who lost their lives to those Omegas was unknown, but certainly was in the thousands, if not the tens of thousands.
And so, before reaching their twenty-fifth birthday, almost two-thirds of all titan pilots would be killed in action, and another ten percent would succumb to the stress and depression and end their lives in suicide. Even those that survived to lose their ability to synchronize would be mentally and emotionally scarred for the rest of their lives. These statistics were well documented, and despite the GSDF’s best attempts to keep them classified, they had still leaked out to become common knowledge.
Simply put, being conscripted as a titan pilot was a death sentence, and a stay of execution was far almost more than any of them could hope for.
But thirteen-year-old Enokido Harumi, fondly remembering lazy summer nights squinting through a telescope with her father, hoped anyways.