A story set 400 years in the future, where mechs are powerful military units.
Marilin was never scared of Spirit Striders.
They were beautiful, elegant machines, an incarnation of years upon years of humanity's research, never-ending dedication and the unified dream to create functional, pilotable mechanised infantry. They were enormous and deadly, yet so dexterous that seeing one fight in combat reminded Marilin of the ballet dancers she had seen performing in the Academy hall. To others they were harbingers of destruction, death and chaos, but to Marilin, they were beautiful. They were Spirit Striders, angels of death, dancers of steel and a monument to humanity's unstoppable advance through time.
But now, standing in a back alley obscured by the shadow of towering buildings with a six meter tall leviathan of tungsten and titanium along with a sixty millimetre chain gun pointed at her face, she would be telling the lie of the century if she said she wasn't scared.
The freezing air bit at her skin and bile rose in her throat as she stared, unable to turn away, at the angel of destruction in front of her. The machine was humanoid, with enormous pauldrons protecting its ball-socket joints and numerous plates of armour welded onto its body. Its legs were long and encased in plates of titanium, painted in police colours. Its arms were bent and armoured, with a glowing cora-sword in its free hand, its wicked tip shining and staring forward with deadly purpose, and a long barrelled gun longer than an old world telephone pole built into its left arm. Marilin was a star student at the Shinevaarean Academy of Mechanised Personnel Combat, but even she had never come this close to a Spirit Strider. To her, it looked remarkably like the medieval knights that she had seen only in pictures. Only they were taller than a three-storey building, held a sword superheated by sarinium that could slice a tank in half and had a fully-automatic chain gun that could decimate a Tyrannosaurus in a single shot.
The machine standing in front of her was a nightmare. A beautiful nightmare.
Marilin was frozen in place, feet rooted to the ground by a strange mixture of fear and awe. She stared up at the Spirit Strider and the Spirit Strider stared back, it's dull, steel eyes like knives that could hack their way into one's soul. The sounds of the protest out on the main street grew unnaturally quiet, muted and faded, as time seemed to freeze. Gone was the screaming and the shouts of the angry mob, now replaced by the quiet creaking of metal as the Spirit Strider walked ever so closer to her. She barely could keep up her calm demeanour.
"State your name and purpose, citizen." The voice was robotic and monotone. Cold and mechanical. Unforgiving.
Marilin tried to open her mouth but couldn't. The silence permeated the air like a thick fog, trapping those ensnared in it in a deathly, crushing tension. Marilin could feel her blood freeze as she clenched her fists and waited for her mouth to open.
But it didn't.
A sound did come, but it wasn't her voice. A single ping pierced the brittle silence and shredded it like a sharp blade slicing through paper. Marilin went numb. She knew the sound too well, remembering the many times she had listened and admired it in class. Beautiful, mesmerising. A single bullet had been loaded into the chamber, and it had her name on it.
A low rumble, and then a monotone, dead sound. Two words. This time carrying so, so much more meaning than before.
Marilin had two, simple choices. She could speak, save her life, and get herself in more trouble she had ever been in her in. Or she could continue to be silent. Silent until true, eternal silence, graced her, and lifted the burden of life off her shoulders.
Two, simple choices.
"M-m-marilin." Her voice, almost inaudible, cracked, and she saw the black, gaping maw of death moving forward and caressing her. Taunting her to come. "Everton."
The Spirit Strider rose, folding its chain gun across its torso and looking up. The crushing fog let go, almost disappearing like it was swallowed up. She could feel the blood pulsing through her veins again. The sounds of the world returned, shouting and screaming sounding strangely welcoming in Marilin's ears as a wave of relief washed over her. Short lived, she knew, but at least she could live another day, go closer to possibly achieving her dream. She was too young to die.
The Spirit Strider cocked its head towards her and stared blankly with its dull eyes. The air was no longer cold, and Marilin noticed her brow was lined with perspiration and her long hair thick with sweat. The very air seemed oppressive to breathe as the steel leviathan eyed her, never lifting its gaze. It was the Spirit Strider's turn to be silent, and it was taking its time.
Twilight’s setting sun sent pillars of light that refracted off the dull brick walls of the building, casting an eerie orange glow to the ground beneath her. Furtive shadows played across the brick walls of the alleyway as the rabble of the angry mob continued to sound ceaselessly on the main street. But Marilin's attention was on none of that. She looked at the Spirit Strider. Her face was rapt, staring back into those cold, menacing eyes, void of emotion.
"So, you are a student," the Spirit Rider said, almost nonchalantly. Marilin swore she heard a little something behind the dead voice. She realised that during the whole ordeal, she had never regarded the machine as human. "Taking part in a protest and intermixing with rebellious commoners is grounds for an expulsion from the Academy. Even your status and rank won't save you."
Even if the Spirit Rider was piloted by a human, they played a hard game. Marilin had just been hit by a ten of clubs and an ace of spades. She had a problem on her hands, and this time, even money couldn't save her.
Second chapter is out, and you can find it on my portfolio!