When Uso Ikari was told he was being stationed on God's Fist, Harmony; one would be lying if they said his face didn't light up the room. Uso had been waiting for this moment for the last three years, since he left basic and was put into the mechanics' program. He would have been happy with any station honestly, but the fact he had gotten one he wanted, a position so rare of new mechanics to be accepted to, was enough to make anyone's day. Especially his. He was told he was a good student, not only in grade but with his attitude. When he wasn't smiling, he was laughing. It's what had gotten him the position, apparently. The head mechanic needed a 'new spirit to break'. That was a bit unnerving to hear, and he hoped that it was only a joke.
Today, Uso was wearing his best MCUs as he traveled hundreds of miles across the planet Harmony via tram. While he had the option of flying, he had to admit the sensation made him sick. Luckily, the tram was always there. He had already been on for several hours, which made him start to question if he had missed his location. However, he hadn't been asleep, and the most recent stopped confirmed he was almost there. On top of that, his car was empty. For probably the hundredth time that day, he removed his tiny mirror from his pocket to check himself. He didn't want to be smoked right off the bat should he be out of regs.
Uso's round, wide-eyed, 26-year-old Asian face had not changed since the last time he had checked, his short black hair slicked to the side under his hat. His left iris was still it's discolored bright pink from a punch he had taken years ago, fucking up his vision in that eye. It had almost not let him get accepted. After days spent proving he could still shoot, fight, and perform basic tasks with his right eye and the assistance of a lens, they let it slide. They had since fixed most of his vision, but couldn't do anything about the color. He didn't mind, it looked unique.
There was a picture in the bottom of the fold out mirror of a young man and woman. It was easy to tell the man was him about five years before, when he was less in-shape although better looking (he was sure of it). The woman was a beautiful blonde girl with bright blue eyes, making a peace sign against his cheek. The photo was signed with a heart and a note.
'Find me when this war is over!'
Uso smiled. He had never got her name, only 'Blue'. In retrospect, she had called him 'Pink' their whole time together. It had been his 21st birthday, he had gone out drinking alone before his friends could 'kidnap him' and found her. She was leaving for her basic training the next morning and was getting absolutely hammered. Somehow, the two ended up going on a 8 hour adventure around the Capital of Harmony. It had been amazing, he could remember every single thing they had talked about, even five years later.
She had a ring of blue flowers in her messy gold hair, feet dipped in the river as they sat on the dock. Uso had been able to anchor it down to a nearby tree with a stolen rope, letting it carry them out a few feet into the river. They had a half-drank bottle of whiskey between them, occasionally passing it between each other. He couldn't take her eyes off her, in her muddy cocktail dress and her sparkling makeup now smudged from being splashed.
"Blue... Why are you joining the military?"
"Because the IMC is going to win."
"What?" He had been shocked, staring at her. She had looked right back, her stare tired, shaking him to his core.
"Look around you, Pink." She had said, holding up the bottle, "Do you really think we're going to keep them away from this place? They're funded by the core planets, and if we hadn't cut them off, maybe they could be on our side. Harmony is doomed, but I'm not going down without a fight."
"Why join the fray when you already know it could be a losing battle?"
"Because in the slight chance that we DO win this battle, would you rather be the one who tells your children that you had a hand in it, or that you looked the other way until it was all over?"
Now, five years later, here he was. Harmony was still safe, and they had become such a powerful force that they had a chance. He wonder what Blue thought of this, he wondered how she was doing, he wondered if she was still even alive. A shiver ran down Uso's spine as he tried not to think about that, looking up in time to see a sight that took his breath away. The tram was buzzing through a field of beautiful blue flowers that stretched as far as the eye could see. The bright pink sky of the early dawn touched it in the most beautiful way, and he remembered the sunset back on that night. The dying sun and the city lights painting the river pink as a dark blue sky touched the edges of the water. He wonder, quietly, if this was a sign.
There was slight jerk, signifying the train was starting to slow down as he clutched his backpack. There was a base all the way out here? He pushed his forehead to the glass, looking around. Sure enough, up ahead, there was a tiny platform. When he looked harder, he could see a jeep parked by it. The train came to a stop and Uso quickly got up, taking his big bag out of the overhead compartment before he started to shuffle out. When he was outside, the cool breeze of the morning greeted him like ice water, making him shiver but he shoved through it, marching towards the jeep with his two bags.
There was someone, something, in the driver's seat of the jeep. At a closer inspection, he realized that it was a heavy-Spectre, with one of those shark-like heads. It had bright red optics with silver paint for the armor, but didn't wear it's usual battle gear. Instead, it worse something like a mechanic's jacket.
"Specialist Ikari?" The robot voice tore through the silence, the optic flicking gently with it. Uso dropped his bags, saluting.
"You can drop the military act, kid." The voice had something like a chuckle to it, "Throw your stuff in and let's go, it's cold as hell."
Uso didn't show the look of confusion as he tossed his bags in and climbed into the passenger seat. The tram had already started to leave by the time he had buckled up. The spectre threw the jeep into reverse, trying not to trample the flowers. The young mechanic noticed.
"Are you Head Mechanic Smith?"
"Sure am. A pleasure to meet you, Uso."
"You too… So, where are we?" The young mechanic looked across the expanse of blue flowers, blinking in amazement.
"The Field of Souls." Smith said, putting the transmission into first and starting to cruise down the mountain. "They say a new flower appeared for every soldier we lose in the war."
"Probably not, but this field wasn't this big years ago. Apparently they're not native to Harmony, but to the Core planets instead. I think the first seeds must have come over with the first titan we confiscated."
"What makes you say that?"
"They only started showing up when the war began."
"Oh…" He turned his head back to the field to stare out, the cold wind stinging his eyes as he held his PC on tight, his small bag clutched tightly to him.
They drove maybe three-quarters of an hour before he noticed they were approaching an in-ground tunnel, in which Smith switched on the lights and drove into. It was a dark drive, spooking Uso out a little as he watched the light fade in the rear view mirror. But as the light faded behind them, a new light became apparent before them. Soon, they were surrounded in it, Uso squinting as his eyes tried to refocus.
When he could see again, his jaw dropped.
They were in a massive titan hanger, built into the stony walls of a natural cave. Like some sort of classroom anthill, he could see rooms carved into the walls and covered in (bulletproof) glass so someone wouldn't walk off the edge. There were hundreds of militia soldiers, pilots, and mechanics around them on the floor, most seemingly crowded around the two hundred-ish titans. On the opposite end of the cave, giant hangar doors were open to overlook the Kepian Sea, where small ships were landing or taking off. He realized only then that God's Fist was built in the side of a cliff.
"Holy shit," He muttered, now realizing why they were never supplied with any pictures of the place.
"Pretty, ain't she?" Smith chimed in, parking the jeep as he got out. Uso quickly followed after, pulling his bag out.
"This place is amazing."
"It's the biggest base we've got. Good people run this joint too, let us go visit the nearby city on four-days."
"Eyup. City isn't too far from here, the people are nice and let us use some parts of town for training. We stimulate the economy too; Soldiers visit all the time."
"How far away?"
"Maybe a thirty minute drive or a hour titan ride, depending on your form of travel. Kid, you see that blue door over there, by Bay 134?" The mechanic looked over where the spectre was pointing. Indeed, he saw a blue door. "Go in there and sign into the base, then get your room and your work uniform. You should be able to take your time, but make sure you're back out here BEFORE 1600, alright?"
"Good. I'll be in one of the number fifty bays when you come back. I've got shit I need you to do."
Uso was exhausted by the time he got back to the hanger; now wearing his brand new coveralls, bandana and black boots. The coveralls were a wooden brown with his name and rank stitched in expertly with bright white thread. They had been waiting for him when he got there, getting him quickly cycled into the system before he was at his room. It was nice, the window overlooked the PT area, but he could see the shops and mess hall surrounding it. He had gotten food before he came back, and by checking his watch, he saw it was about 1230.
He was searching for the 50's hangers, which happened to be along one of the walls, when something caught his eye. Turning to look, he wasn't sure what it was until he saw it again, a flash of light. His line of sight fell upon something he didn't expect to see in a hanger like this.
Bolted down to one of the docks was a Vanguard Titan in terrible condition. It looked like it hadn't be serviced in years: rust, missing pieces, bad paint, dusty, broken hull, and battle damage. Uso couldn't help but be drawn towards it, a skeptical look on his face.
"Jesus Christ, what happened to you?" He murmured, reaching up and grabbed onto of the service handles, pulling himself up the side. He stopped where he knew the chassis' unit number would be, brushing off the dust that had formed.
Uso continued his climb, getting to the top. Maybe if he could open the hatch, he could see how long this thing was sitting here. But from what he could tell, it was rusted shut. The mechanic popped his joints, stretched his arms, and went for the hatch, wrapping his fingers around the hand-
"I wouldn't do that if I were you." He jumped at a voice, looking up to see Smith sitting on a titan a few bays away from him, reading a datapad. "She bites."
"Oh...What happened to her?" He asked, moving away from the hatch.
"Dunno. We found her rusted solid in the middle of nowhere a few weeks ago. Pilot's been MIA for six months, so maybe she was abandon. It happens. The AI is all kinds of fucked up too, almost killed us when we tried to turn her on. She's hooked up to the main generator right now, so she can still process but she can't go anywhere without shutting back down."
"Are you saying you made her a vegetable?"
"I had no choice, I can't remove her datacore. Not only is it rusted in place but she's overridden her own controls and protocols. What else am I supposed to do?"
"That's cruel," Uso felt awful for the titan, sliding down the side and staring at the dark optical unit, "Hasn't anyone tried to repair her?"
"We did, but she's bloodthirsty. If she doesn't almost kill you, she'll drive you crazy trying."
"...can I try?"
Smith looked over, greeted with the very serious yet curious face of the young mechanic. This will be fun, he thought, grinning internally.
"If you can get her to turn on and not try to kill you, you're free to see what you can salvage. But don't say I didn't warn you if shit goes south."
Uso nodded, a twinkle of joy shining in his eyes. Smith jumped down from the titan he was running scan on to stand back and watch, just in case. There was a few other mechanics and pilots around who had been listening and now stopped to spectate.
Uso lifted a fist to knock, stopping when he realized that might not be so kind. Instead, he grabbed the service handle and pulled himself up with one arm, using the other to gently brush the dust of the optical unit.
"Hello? Unit Slah?...Slay?..Sluh… S... Sola?" The last word seemed to work, Unit 'Sola's optic flickering online as she jolted. Uso was glad he had a deathgrip to begin with as he grabbed onto another service handle, swinging his legs in the air. The titan's gear started to grind, vocal processor a garbled message. "Woah, woah! Easy, calm down!"
"Protocol th-th-three: Protect-protect-protect-" The vocals got higher pitched with each 'protect' before it slowed down, deepening. "Protect the pppiillooootttt."
"Hey, it's okay! I'm a mechanic for the militia, there's no enemies hheeEEEAAAWOOAAAAH-" There was a sharp jolt and the service handle broke off, Uso falling towards the ground. It was only maybe a dozen feet, but it would be enough to hurt as he could not drop and roll at this angle.
"Ikari!" He heard Smith shout, shutting his eyes and bracing for impact.
Something caught him and slowed the fall, stopping him mere inches from the floor. Opening his eyes, he realized that he was being suspended and upon looking back, discovered the massive rust bucket of a titan had grabbed the back of his coveralls. The titan had a brilliant golden optic that shone through the dirty lenses, blinking shakily. It's stare seemed to bore down into his soul, but he was not afraid as he stared right back. Slowly, it set him down.
"M-M-Militia?" It's vocal processor sputtered, trying to correct itself. He could hear the voice of a woman, it sounded frantic.
"You're at a militia base, God's Fist. Recognize the name?"
"...Some-Some-Somewhat." The titan seemed to stern up, trying to lean forward, "What is today's date?"
"17th of April, 2312."
Sola slammed her palm on the floor. The noise was enough to make Uso's ears ring as the cement cracked, the titan's eyes narrowed into an angry glare. More pilots came to investigate at the sound, making a little crowd at the ends of the rows.
"Where is Pilot Sauer?"Her voice was just below a shout, anger spilling over the brim.
"Your pilot has been reported MIA since last September," Smith chimed in, getting the attention of the massive machine and the new mechanic. "We were hoping you knew."
"P-P-Pilot Sauer was ab-ab-abducted by IMC f-f-f-forces, I have been searching for her s-s-since the 8th of July, year 2311."
"July?" Uso asked worriedly, getting the attention of the titan again. "We found you rusted in place. What happened?"
"Damaged B-B-Battery. I was forced into S-S-stasis as of the 3rd of D-December, 2311."
"What was your mission?" Smith asked, Unit Sola pausing.
Uso sagged. She was pretty messed up, that entire frame needed to be scrapped. Awkwardly, he started to approach her, getting her attention. She leaned away almost immediately.
"What are you doing, m-m-m-mechanic?"
"My job. I need to see what needs to be fixed."
"Fixed?" Smith scoffed, "Kid, I appreciate the enthusiasm but that chassis is a scrap heap. She needs a whole new frame before she can work again, something I'm not giving her until she knows it's not nice to murder good guys. If you want to do anything for her, get that database out of that chassis."
"N-N-Negative. If I am removed from this chassis, I loose my free will of what h-h-happens to my database. I do not trust the Militia to not wi-wi-wi-wipe me."
Uso sighed, rubbing his temple. How was he suppose to fix this, then? He patiently thought before looking up.
"Well, would you trust me?"
"I have known y-y-you for a total of forty five-five-six seconds. Conclusion: N-No."
"Understandable," He sighed, humming. "But let me ask you this: If I could keep you from being wiped while also giving you a way to communicate with the outside world as to keep your free will, would you take it?"
Uso removed his comm from his ear, "I'm guessing you know what these are?"
"If you eject your datacore, I can comm you so you can hear and speak with us. Your frame is destroyed, they're going to have to scrap it."
"You can easily be-be-betray me."
"Why would I?"
That stopped Unit Sola in her tracks, optic blinking. She seemed to be running simulations in her head, keeping them in a tense silence for several moments before speaking again.
"I will agree-agree-agree to these terms, under one-one-one condition."
"My datacore is to only-only stay with you, mechanic Ikari. If this is not kept, or I find out this wa-wa-wawas a tr-tr-trick, I will leak this location to the str-str-strongest IMC radiowave I can find."
The hairs on Uso's neck stood up. The titan was serious about her survival. He looked back at Smith, who put up his hands to say 'I want nothing to do with this'.
"Well… Alright. Let me get some rust-eater to get your optic out."
Unit Sola stared at the ground as she felt the tingling of the rust-eating solution clean around her optical database. She was unsure why she agreed to these terms… the possibility of statis-fever might have damped her better judgement. But the mechanic was gentle and careful in his work, seeming to take his time. It was much different then Pilot Sauer, who always had a heavy hand.
They had managed to get her SERE kit loose, the cylinder sitting on the ground as Uso tinkered to get it open and press the optical release. He soon had the left side open, a screwdriver gently playing with the switch until there was a grinding noise and the locks released.
"There we go," Sola read his lips as he gently removed her golden optic, holding it in his hand. She noticed his pink eye, wondering what had happened before he turned her around, placing her on a piece of cloth. She could see Smith standing not to far off, investigating her frame as he talked with other mechanics.
A few minutes passed before a tiny window popped up in her vision, an unknown caller. She answered it.
"Sola, can you hear me?" Uso's voice. Her optic was picked back up to face him, a curious look on his face.
"I can." Her voice sounded much better than before. Softer. He smiled.
"Good. They've decided to scrap your old frame, unfortunately, but maybe if you're good they give you a new one along with a new pilot."
"I do not want a new pilot." Sola could see the surprise in his face, "Pilot Sauer is still out there, once I find my frame I'm going to get her."
The mechanic did not say anything, an unreadable expression before he hummed, and looked down into the SERE kit. There was an old SMARTpistol in there and a dataknife, that she knew. After looking, he must have decided on a different fate for them and put them back, scooping it up under his arm before picking her up and siding her safely in his breast-pocket, the perfect size for an optical to rest safely. She wasn't sure what to think of staring up at a roof but she had a great peripheral vision, able to see most people around him from the shoulders up. She had a good look of the entire left side of his face and his chin, which was good, she could read facial expressions from here. The comm was clipped to the pocket too, and he headed over to Smith.
"Smith, sir? Got her out of the SERE kit. Should I take this to the armory? It still has weapons in it."
"Nah, I've got it, those weapons are probably ruined and outdated by now." Smith took the SERE kit, "Unit Sola, is there anything in there important to your pilot in that cockpit?"
"No sir, her personal items were on her person. The only thing in there are the common issued items."
"Good, then we won't loose much when we melt this down. Ikari, I appreciate you getting her out of there, we needed a new spot open soon. We have a team stopping overnight in a week or so when they come back from the frontier."
"No problem, sir."
Sola felt a bit unnerved to hear her chassis was being destroyed, but she had no other choice. It was unusable, and if she had any intention to get her pilot back, she'd need a working one. She needed to prove herself quick, so she could jump the next ship and get the fuck out of here. Maybe she'd use a non-vanguard frame, that would be easier to be less-detected.
They were suddenly moving, and she realized she'd zoned out, refocusing. "Where are we going, Mechanic?"
"To work. Luckily for us, I'm ahead of schedule, so taking you out didn't cut into the work Smith needed me to do. C'mon, maybe you can help me a little bit."
"I mean, you were a vanguard. That's what they work on here. Might need a little assistance on part names and stats."
The next few hours were eventful, Uso was more then glad to have found this little Unit. Sola really wasn't a talker, but she was very, very informative. Anything he didn't know, she did, correcting and teaching him more then he'd ever thought possible about a vanguard frame in only a few words. By the time he was done with work for the day, around 1900, Smith told him he'd gotten twice as far than most new mechanics on the first day here had. He's sent him home with a smile on his face, deciding he'd go to one of the food-shops he'd seen by the PT area.
After getting some food for himself and for weekends that he didn't want to go down to MESS, Uso started to trot up the stairs; the light golden glow on the left side of his face had been getting some attention. A few pilots watching him go by in the hallway towards his room.
"Hey, mechanic!" He looked back to see a woman in her late twenties with bright blue eyes and silver hair swept to one side, a tired yet concerned look on her face, "What are you doing with a Titan Datacore?"
"Oh, her?" Uso said, unphased, "I got her out of the rusted frame in Bay 54, Master Tech Sm-"
"You shouldn't have her. Take her to the titan tech, she needs to be wiped and put back to work," Another pilot pipped up, and the mechanic tensed. Sola dimmed noticeably, but he didn't know why. The woman turned and slugged the second talking pilot in the arm, telling him to shut his trap before turning back to Uso.
"Ignore him, Mechanic Ikari. But I do want to know why you have her. AI's are very important to the militia."
"...Master Tech Smith is having me evaluate her AI stability, to see if she can out her back in a frame without wiping her clean. She's been trapped in that rust-bucket for a long time."
"I see. Well, good luck with that, but a heads up? You need a better place to put her. If you lean forward, you'll crack the lens."
Uos hadn't thought about that, but stood at attention and saluted, "Thank you...erm..."
"2nd Lieutenant Hope, Nini Hope. Go on to your room, kid. PT is at 4:30 here." The pilot smiled, and Uso nodded before he trotted off.
"You okay, Sola?" He finally asked when they got to his room. It was a tiny little bunk with a bed, sink, microwave oven, a few cupboards, a closet, and a shared bathroom to a seemingly empty bedroom on the other side. There was a tiny window, which he gently removed the optical to put her and the comm on the sill of to see the room and outside at the same time. The titan did not answer. He frowned, but decided to not press it, going to put the food away and make himself some instant noodles.
It wasn't until he had wound down for the night that he heard her speak again. He had taken a shower and was cross-legged wearing only sweat-pants on the bed, eating the noodles and studying for the future tests he knew he'd have to take to get more qualifications when her soft voice drifted through the air.
"What is it, Sola?"
"Why did you get me out of there?"
He was quiet a long moment, "Because I don't think you deserve to live your life like that."
"Titans don't live or die, mechanic. We go one until our data-core shorts or we can't run properly, and even then we're recycled to keep going." Sola said softly, "Do you think Suaer is my first pilot?"
Uso blinked, gently setting his book aside and coming over, leaning on the sill, "Then... why do you not want to do it again?"
There was no answer again. He sighed softly, picking up a nearby soft towel and gently started to rub down the optical.
"What are you doing, Mechanic?"
"I got you all greasy today, and I'm sure you don't appreciate that."
"I do not feel."
"Well then , it's not a flattering look for a sweet girl like you," He laughed, and again did not receive an answer. "Goodnight, Sola."
It was much, much later that night, when he was almost asleep when he thought he heard her voice.
Uso smiled, and drifted off into dreamland.
To be continued...
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