Third World War, or The War that end all Wars as people use to call it. First started as small clashes between countries, it soon bloomed into a full-scale war between world superpowers: China, America, EU, Russia,... Just after one year, one year only, and yet one third of the world population - More than 5 billion - Had vanished into oblivion because of tactical nuclear missiles, orbital bombardment and many, many more. For the first time, the term "Space Warfare" became reality. Mother Earth never be the same again, for no corner of the world were left untouched and thus bringing a fierce Terraforming process. No one know which kill people more: The War, or the Nuclear Winter that followed it. Only one fact had been confirmed: Humanity had never pushed itself so close to the verge of extinction.
After the long and bloody war, remaining shambled countries finally came into an agreement: They renounce their own government in favor of a united body, the United States of Earth (USE). Human has learnt their lesson from the bitter lost, and so it vowed to never let a similar Calamity to happen again in the future. In this united world, there are no more barrier that divided us: Race, Nationality, Language,... For the past six decades, USE has miraculously mended many wounds and scars of the world, an achievement that once seemed impossible in the past. The future has never look so bright like then for us.
However, it look like God has got another plan for his children. Just as we continue to advance forward, a disaster occurred: The first encounter with Extraterrestrial Specie ended up in disaster. Even today, after 8 years, many details of this accident are still shrouded in mystery. As the record go, in 2089, a scientific outpost on the Moon contacted an unknown life form. A short description of them was found in the personal diary of :
"The Unknown has humanoid figure. However, they were much bigger than the average human: The smallest in the group that we encountered is estimated to be at least 5m tall and 3m big. They wore thick metal spacesuits, with were also integrated with small thrusters that enable them to hover freely in space. A very resilient type of material was used, I may add, for they could stand directly under the scorching Sun, which could raise the temperature on the Moon to 123 degree Celsius. Their faces were hidden by masks the whole time, and they refused to remove them, so I could not confirmed whether do they have a similar facial structure to us. However, they seem to posses knowledge about us human: They could conversed with us in English, albeit in synthesized tone, presumably through a translation program..."
As these guests denied to be seen on camera, no further information of them was recorded. The only fact was acknowledged is: When the scientists who first made this astonishing discovery tried to contact the aliens again, they were slaughtered, as well as almost every men, women and children who were living on the Moon. Lutetia, the City of Light, USE's prize achievement and Humanity's symbol of union, was destroyed in the rain of ion beam. One ship no bigger than USE's Light Frigate Pegasus-class ship and yet they had taken 100,000 casualties with it. The last survivors were forced to leave their home for Earth, and the Parliament making a desperate choice to ensure our lives: Utilizing the remaining Nuclear Missiles to repel the alien's attack. They succeeded, but not without a price: No satellites or orbital elevators survived through the bombardment. Also, the Moon atmosphere became hazardous and no longer could support settlement.
Now, it's A.D 2097, 7 years after the nightmare. By Leaps and Bounds, UE has been re-building and re-exploiting all of their space resources. However, they still haven't fully recover - Scientists forecast that it would take a decade more for human to recovered to their pre-Crisis status. The mass is still optimistic about their prospect, though, and everyone is looking forward to the upcoming century which they see that is full of nothing but hope for a brighter future…
September 27, 2097. The State of Japan, Tokyo city
(Pant… Pant...) "Hey, wait for me!"
"Speed up, dude! You'll never make it with this speed!" Aren't you the one who drag me to this goose chase in first place? Why me, Ichika Shinonono, an ordinary teenager can't enjoy his birthday in an ordinary fashion? I know that I turned 16 today, but after a tired week of school and part-time work, all I want to is having a day to sleep...
"What are you standing here for! Run!"
… And that's my best buddy, Dan Gotanda. He is the first friend I made when entered Middle School. Now, in High School, we still share the same class. And I'm currently taking a part-time job at the Gotanda Eatery, his family's restaurant. I usually appreciate befriending a nice and laid-back guy like him, but not in this case. He woke me up at 9.00 AM, and then drag this groggy me to who-know-where.
We continue to run for a few minutes until the sight of Tokyo Tower in front of me. Then, Dan lead me to the elevator to the top. Through the translucent wall, I could have a wide view of the city. Since the first time 7 years ago, this city still amaze me of how complex it's. Rows of skyscrapers stretching to the horizon. Several parks, waterparks, stadium and various leisure places located everywhere in the city. Tiny dots moving across the chessboard, human rushing to their destination by high-speed electric cabs or monorail trains, all work automatically. And far, far away, you could make sense of the tiny white spot that is the top of Mt. Fuji, where snow never melt even in the summer. Like all city in Japan, Tokyo is surrounded by lush green forests, where even from here, I still can see flocks of birds moving out of them. Something big is coming, enough for the birds to leave their nests.
"Why do you take me to this place, Dan? Can't I just have a quiet day for myself!"
"If you want to spend your birthday laying in the bed, then no. I won't let my best friend to turn into a man in that way. And for what the surprise is..." He chuckles. "See it for yourself!"
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY ICHIKA!"
"... Guys… You don't have to do this..." Waiting for me is all of my friend, wearing party hats and blowing horns. Behind them, I could see a big banter of "Congratulation to make it to your 16th year!" Yeah… Really encouraging… But I still appreciate this!
"Nonsense! You are our friend, and friends has to stay together, right?"
"But how did you get the top floor for this?"
"Do you remember Karin's father, Kazou-san? He owns the tower, and it's turned out that it's going to be closed for maintenance in a few day. However, Karin convinced her father is to lent us this for your "Manhood Ceremony"!"... That doesn't sound very good. I ask him:
"What do you mean "Manhood Ceremony"?"
"Everyone, please let the star of this show to go through!... And here it's!"
"What is here? I don't see anything beside a rope."
"And that is the ceremony: Bungee Jump from the top of Tokyo Tower!"
... Now I really regret to befriend Dan. "Can I refuse this?"
"At least you could had tell me what to expect!" Said Ichika while nursing his bumped head. The culprit is a metal bar that supports the tower. And his best friend, who made him go through with this bizarre event. Around him and Gotanda now, everyone have dissolved into small group, chatting with each other. The two of them stand in a corner where they have a full view of the city below. Dan just humbled his red head in an unknown melody:
"Then what is the fun in that! And beside, your sister asked me to make this for you."
"Wait... What did Tabane-nee say to you?"
"Here!" Dan wave the camera hanging on his neck. "She told me: "Please video my brother so that I could add to the shameful collection." Nothing personal, Ichika!"
"Shameful collection" - A.K.A Album of Ichika's embarrassing moment. Even now, when being afar because of an international space researching program, his sister, Tabane still found a way to blackmail him.
"Maybe I would even show it here!"
"Oh no you don't..."
"Yes I do! Hey, everyone! Do you guys want to see Ichika in diaper?"
"Give me that!... Hey!"
"Catch me if you can!"
"Come back here! Now!... Ahhh!" The tower suddenly shakes violently, making the two running boys stumbled onto each other. The lamps go off, and all the glasses are knocked over.
"What is this? Another earthquake?" After the Terraforming, the Pacific Rim is still in movement, if not even more violently. And with the location of directly over above it, Japan suffered from the full brunt. For the record, this nation suffer from more than 2000 earthquake a year, or 6 per day. However, for this carefully constructed tower to be shaken like this, it must has been a really powerful one. Or something worse...
"Hey, look!" One boy shout and point his hand to the sky. Everyone, including Dan, rush to the scopes that are used for observation. Ichika, though, suddenly has an ill feeling. It's like a pack of ants is crawling under his skin.
"What is it, Dan? Let me see!"
"Hey, don't push!"
Through the lenses, Ichika could vaguely makes sense of what seem to be… robots engaging in dogfight? A bit more closer, and he could see metal gleams under the sun, trace of exhaust fuel, and laser beams. The three similar looking gray machines is cornering the fourth one, a red one, very much bulkier-looking like the rest. Although it's larger and in a disadvantage of three to one, the crimson machine is still able to stand the ground with only two curve swords in hands.
"What could be them? Military weapons? Or are they filming a new sci-fi movie?"
"No, I have never seen anything like this before... I've no idea what those are." Ichika whispers hesitantly, holding his breath to observe the fight before him. No, he has seen those one before... When Oka-san and Otou-san were still alive...
"Do you think... Hey, Ichika! Earth to Ichika!" Dan waves his hand in order to wake up his friend from the day-dreaming.
"Oh, sorry! I must have spaced out. What were you saying again?" Ichika shakes his head, try to flush away the unknown blueprints and diagrams appears in his head. Although one still lingers his mind: the image of a silver, green and blue mechanical suit.
"Do you think that I should take a picture of them and sell it to a magazine? We could make tons of money with it!" Ichika unconsciously nodded his head. The abnormal armor still haunts his mind. And now, it's murmurs. Not from the confused yet excited crowd around Ichika, but something far more greater. Like standing in a stadium where everyone cry and yell uncontrollably. As Dan carefully choose a suitable position for a his picture, much more disturbing scene go through Ichika eyes:
A sea of flame... The sun becomes blurred because of the illuminate beams that passing through his eyes... Everyone die...
"Three... Two... One!" In that flash of the camera, Ichika suddenly become panic and terrified. He has an urge to scream, to flee in all cost from these. Follow his instinct, he yells:
"Everyone, GET DOWN!"
The moment these words left his mouth, a giant explosion erupt. A pink beam tear through the sky, pinning the the lower part of the tower. It lean to the left, and the floor suddenly tilt to one side, bringing everyone with it. The only thing that stop them from falling to the ground below is a layer of glass. And it's creaking, meaning it won't last long.
"Ichika!" Dan shouts. One of his hand is grabbing a metal pole. "Give me your hand, now!" The Orimura desperately struggle to get a hold of his friend, but...
"DAN!" The glass finally succumbed to the weigh and crash. Ichika, as well as everyone, was pulled down by gravity and the powerful wind that blows around the tower. In that moment, luckily, Ichika managed to get a hold of the bungee rope...
"Damn it!" And on the other end of it, it's Dan. With all his might, he pull the rope. But no, he can't do a thing - He isn't strong enough, that's all. Dan silently cursed himself for slacking of PE, as well as the monsters flying even closer to them. In here, he could even see the tiny horn on the crimson machine's head. For each second, the rope continue to saw off his skin, making it burn like hell. He is reaching his limit.
"Dan... Let me go. Hurry and get to a safe place!"
"NO! GET UP! ICHIKA!" Ichika finally let go of his hand...
So, this is the end, huh?...
I must agree that you're truly alive when facing death. Everything is like looking through a Kaleidoscope, which colors got stronger until your eyes got blinded by their brightness. Even the tiniest dusk is like a mirror reflecting Sun. A dreadful, yet also full of excitement feeling running through my veins. It's like a pleasant dream if you close your eyes and let the wind brushes through you. Forget everything.
But like all dream, it doesn't last long...
People says that your head is flooded with memories, dream and other stuffs when you're near death. But for me, the only thing that I still conscious of is what the blowing wind whispers to me:
What is this?...
I don't want to die! Save me!...
Men, Women, Children, Families, they all scream of agony, of pain, of being tormented seeing their beloved and themself dying. And before they faded into oblivion, they all share a core thought, a lingering question:
"Why am I die? What did I do? WHY?"
And they all yearn for Revenge, for the Justice that they never have. As well as the me who knows that its short life is going to end. Slowly, the ecstasy feeling fades away, replaced by the dreaded feeling of death and powerless.
The pressure is too much for me to bear. It makes me want to cry in pain and terror. And I do cry, silently in my mind, for all energy seems has left me. I fell... numb. The freezing sensation running upward from my feet, through my spiral, creeping through every neuron in my brain. Aghhh! It hurt!... I try to shut it down, but the red waves, they are corroding... no, more like plunging me into the depth of Hell with the victims!
... But in that moment, a crystal clear voice, like a lucid note in this disorder symphony, echos through my heart and sooths my pain:
"To Be, or Not To Be?"
"To Be!" And I found myself consumed by Light...
It has been a hard day for her. The Unknown's unexpected assault, and now she finds himself surrounded by three of them. The city is in ruin, and nothing she could do to help its citizens.
However, no matter how much she wants to deny it, she loves this battle. The sudden rush of Adrenalin makes her world clearer, but narrower. It's like squinting the eyes, only focus on the danger that she is facing. Gazing into death somehow makes her feels... alive. But also, it's a chance for her to let out of the agony, the hatred that have piled up for all these years.
("These monsters, they're such a pain to deal with!")
She has to give them that. These alien machines are like reptiles with long tails, short arms and muscled legs. Four of its limbs have fangs like lion, and two wings sprout from its back only increase the beastly appearances. They are like ancient creatures stepping from the myth, wyverns in gray armors.
Two of them try to flank her, while the third gives them cover by constantly fires beam shot form the palms. Although their skill is far behind her, but it's evidence that her trusted [Uchigane Custom] can't follow them. Every time her twin katanas find a way near them, they just doge them and move faraway, before repeating the process. And because of her below-average aiming ability, she can't use her beam gun to shot down these fast and well coordinated targets.
One of the Unknown begins a frenzy combo of slashes. While the [Absolute Defense] system won't give up that easily, she could sees the "Shield" meter is dropping steadily.
("Got to make an open!")
She dashes, clamping the attacker between her two swords and flies away from the other. Forgetting the beams that grazing behind her, she continues to accelerate. The beast struggles to get out, but it can't escape such a force, such a determination. And when it get to the perfect point...
... she unleashes slashes after slashes after slashes. Pieces by pieces, the Unknown is chopped away. Finally, like a ballet dancer, she spins around in a perfect arc - quite a feat, consider the bulkiness of her machine - and her sole hammers upon the monster's abdomen. A roundhouse kick that sends her target straight to the ground.
("One down, two to go.")
Luckily, when she turns around, her lightning reflection makes her able to dodge - in a hair length - crimson beams that aim straight to her.
('That is close!... Wait!")
The remaining Unknown turn their head to the direction of her gaze. The cause of her and their interest is a particular ball of light, which is slowly floating toward the ground.
("Could it be?...)
But before she could do anything, her enemies has turned their pursuit to that unidentified object.
Tokyo Tower has totally collapsed with a loud explosion. The metal has been twisted, cracked, melted. Several holes is carved through it. Debris from the tower and from other building fly everyone, blocking the blue sky and replace it with a desert-yellow dome. Its weight help to bring down the whole block surrounds it. Nothing is left of the one proud tower that is the beacon of Tokyo.
But what is more astonishing is the existence that is slowly descending. Simply say, it's the perfect example of what you would expect of a machine coming from some sci-fi movie. It's like an armor, a very bulky armor with oversize body parts. Separate plates are put on the pilot body: On the chest, ribcage, legs, arm. However, they don't cover the whole body, but left out some exposed parts throughout the figure. The outer layer of metal is painted in a dark silver. Silver particles that are let out from the shoulder and legs thrusters - more like really short wings - look like dancing flames from afar. It also has sharp nails, too. However, the most imitating feature is the head: A mask that covers both of the eyes, sprouting over to form a pair of horns. Above it is a crest that is glowing in a mysterious green. From the first looks, everyone could say that this not a machine of Peace, the marriage between War and Science.
The moment that white machine touches its feet to the ground, one bright beam flashes through the sky. In that split second, the armor swiftly dodged it. Turning the head upward, it spots the two machines from before, missing one. They then land onto the solid ground, clumsier and much less gracefully compare to their target. But the killing intent is no mistaken. Their tails are wagging in excitement for death to their target. A perfect match to the humanoid machine, a battle that reminds people of the age angels waving war with devils.
The three machines take time to observe each other, the beasts encircle the angel. Then, the two beasts raise their hands in tandem, and then...
*CHIU! CHIU! CHIU!*
... Their enemy is nowhere near their shot. But still unfazed, they unleash shots after shots, raining the destructive beams toward the silver one. This cat and mouse game continues for a few minutes. The angel is like a blur before the barrels of their guns. However, he slowly finds himself cornered to the pile of debris, step by step.
"CALCULATING RESPOND MEASURE... NO WEAPON IN INVENTORY"
"Here, take this!"
From above, the pilot of the crimson machine yells. She hurls toward the angel a small metal cylinder.
"IDENTIFY WEAPON... BEAM SABER"
From the object, a yellow blade materialized.
("Good luck, Ichika. Don't die.")
She then flies away to the collapsed tower, in search of the survivor.
And the angel. Without hesitate, he lunges toward his enemies.
One of the beast disappears in a loud explosion. Without delay, the angel jumps toward another machine, intending to cleave through another beast just like how it did with the first. However, its enemy also quickly parries the attack with what seem to be a beam sword from the palm. Then, the beast retaliates, using its other hand in a straight vertical slash, the claws gleaming like pain, diving with a force that could cut through even hard metal
The moment the claw touch his armor, it bounces back, producing a sound that is similar to a deep-tone bell. The whole duel continues for a few minutes, with both side no doubt try to cut each other into pieces. But the angel finally get an advantage. After a mighty slash that send the beast staggering, it activates the thrusters again, crashing both it and the beast to a wall.
The brassy noise of metal impacted to each other, followed by an inhuman shrill could be heard even from afar. The angel step away, and under him is the crushed form of the beast, its eyes slowly fade away. The remained try to move away, but on the first step, it slumps to its feet and then falling backward, showing the unconscious and maskless face of Ichika.
Heaven must be really close to us, for if it isn't, then why is the angel is so similar to his dear old sister? Down to these distinctive purple orbs...
"Ichika Shinonono, WAKE UP!"
Oh wait… Ichika isn't dead yet! He slowly open his eyes. Sweats roll on his dirt and oil covered body. A sudden pain surges through him, but also helps him clearing the mind. Luckily, Ichika could no longer hear the yelling
"Ik-kun, are you ok?"
"I'm fine… Tabane-nee, is that really you? But how…"
"I'm here, your nee-chan is here." The woman pulls her brother on a tight hug, full of love and concern. Ichika use his armored hand to stroke his sister's face. The cold sensation of steel make her shivers a bit. Yes, this is no other than Ichika's sister, Tabane Shinonono. Just like last time the boy saw his only sibling, Tabane still wearing her usual lab-coat, together with a pair of headphones. Tabane's long purple hair is being sprinkled with a layer of white dusk. The eyes of her, behind the beautiful and rare violet shade, is brimming with tears.
"Tabane-nee, what is going on?"
"No time to explain. Let's go, Ik-kun!" Tabane grab Ichika arm, but he forcefully pull it back.
"No, Tabane-nee… What am I?"
"An [Infinite Stratos] pilot." Tabane answer after a minute of hesitation.
"Wha… What is [Infinite Stratos]?"
"[Infinite Stratos], or [IS], are Exoskeleton Suits made for the purpose of combat the Unknown."
"You mean these Aliens?"
"Yes. Ik-kun, you must understand, conventional weapons won't work with them. Only IS may stand a chance."
"... And you make them?"
"I've known for 7 years that the Unknown will strike at us again, sooner or later. And so I contacted the Government and started this project."
"Then… Why didn't you tell me about this? Why did you lie to me that you have been researching about space?"
"I… IS is designed for space exploration. At least that was what Oka-san intended."
"Oka-san? You don't mean..."
"I found various notes and blueprints of IS in her computer. Maybe it's because that you're her son that [Albus] choose you."
Tabane uses her hand to brush the crest on Ichika's helmet. A letter "I" - Latin Number of One - glows under her palm.
"That is your IS' name, "Albus", or "White" in Latin. Oka-san designed it herself." Ichika's brain is now slowly digesting the information. So his late mother, and now his sister is creating powerful armor to combat Alien, and somehow, he has got a part in this war. How the heck did he find his way into this mess?
"Ik-kun...Are you alright?" Tabane is the first one to break the heavy silence that have casted down between the two siblings.
"... No..." Ichika runs his hand on his body. The armor, it's pulsing underneath the outer metal layer. Inside this suit, it's make him feels warm and comfy. He could senses the world much more clearly now. The migraine from before is over, replaced by a much more calming feeling. It's like he is in the his everyday Zen. The only unpleasant thing that he's suffering is dizziness. So sleepy...
"I sorry… Please understand, Ik-kun, I do all of this for you!"
"I know, but... just give me a minute..." Without any further word, [Lumine] rocket toward the tip of the fallen tower, much to Tabane's sadness and guilt.
"Dude...What are you?"
This certainly not Dan's day. First, the party got crashed. Second, aliens attack, and his life is hanging on the edge. No, literally, for he could feel his hands are slowly slipping from the metal pole.
And third, his best friend is wearing some sort of mechanical armor like these monsters. From here, Ichika is like an angel without any merit.
"I... don't know... Let's just get you out of here."
"Right... Watch out, Ichika!"
The one invader machine that missing from the group before suddenly appears behind the duo. It's armor has been chipped away by a large chunk, revealing the electronic components inside. One of its arm is broken, but the normal one rises up, ready to be fire a deathly beam. However, before the crimson beam even has a chance to leave the barrel...
... the gray machine is cut down. A swords pierces through it, then swiftly chop it into two. The Unknown turn into a giant fireball, and through the flame, Ichika could see another delusion, an armor that is fierce red like the rising sun. It vanishes mysteriously just like how it appears, though.
"Hey, Ichika, I'm still here!"
"Oh, sorry!" Ichika carefully taking his friend's hand, and guides Dan to ride him on his back.
"Hey, stop moving! It's hard to control this machine!"
"It should be a girl, not a man like me for you to carry like this. Unless you're homo..."
"One more word and I will drop you."
The trip continue for a few seconds in silence until Dan continue:
"OH SHIT! Is that our block, Ichika?" He points his index finger to a smoke column on the left of them.
"... It's true. It's our home..." Once again, despair and powerless swells inside Ichika. And so does Dan.
"Damn! Mother and Ran it's Ok, but Grandpa..."
A few days before, Dan's mother and little sister has departed from Tokyo to visit their distance relatives. The only one remains at home is his grandfather, Gen. And from the shamble view of Tokyo that they could see upon here, it's unlikely for the old man with Rheumatism could survive this. But still...
"I have to get home, now!"
"No, it's too dangerous! These monsters, they aren't human! They will kill you on spot!"
"But I still have to help Grandpa!... Hey, can you go with me? You can fight them with this armor, right? Please, Ichika!"
"Yes, but... Ok, I will go with you."
"Absolutely Unallowable!" The voice of Tabane boomed from Ichika's headphones, which make Ichika startle and almost drop his buddy.
"These two Unknown that you just have fought, they are just grunts. And even so, Tokyo is now crawled with them, each with the ability to wipe out an entire platoon of trained soldiers. You're simply very lucky to survive them on your first encounter, Ik-kun! Come back now, and..."
"No! Tabane-nee, I'm not a soldier, so don't order me!"
"Yes, you aren't a soldier, but you're also my little brother. So listen to me."
"I'm not a kid anymore! I turned 16 today! Please, Tabane-nee, please let me help Dan! I'll be careful!... And the sword! I must get it!"
"Do you really need it?" But Tabane has already known the answer.
"Yes! That it the only thing that Otou-san left us! Dan's house is near us, so it will be Ok, I promise!"
For a few minutes of hesitation, the older Shinonono then finally gives up:
"... Fine! But be careful! And I want a full-body massage as a compensation!"
"Sure thing, Tabane-nee!" Ichika's mouth opens into a small grin. Well, at least something never change…
"Isn't it too risking to let him wanders the city like this?"
The mysterious horned machine from before shuts down its thrusters and land next to Tabane. However, the woman's eyes continue to look after her brother and his friend's figures that is getting smaller and smaller onto the horizon.
"Orimura-san, can I ask you for a favor?"
"What is it?"
The red IS dematerialized, revealing a girl about Ichika's age. She wears some sort of full body pilot suit, but much more enclosed compare to normal jet fighter suit. The long, silky black hair tied neatly into a ponytail by a green ribbon with black stripes. On be the center of this beautiful and serene face is a pair of dark blue eyes. In contrast to her soft, tender voices, these globes are radiating an aura of strictness, courage, a hardness that remind people of tempered steel.
"Could you please follow Ik-kun for me?"
"... Leave it to me." And with that, like the passing breeze, the little girl vanished. Tabane simply turns around and starting to walk through the destructed zone, her blouse flaps with the hostile wind.