Chapter 14: Please Explain

Fletch was startled, but remained composed as he looked at Noki suspisciously, "Noki, what's going on?"

Noki didn't say anything, but one of the Robos that was pointing a weapon from inside the door demanded, "Identify yourself!"

"Can't you see we're civilians? Lower your weapons!" Noki barked at them.

"Were you followed?" one of them asked, weapons still raised.

Noki tapped a finger on her elbow, annoyed, "All followers have been dealt with. We have someone to drop off and places to be, and not much time on our hands, so either lower the weapons or use them."

The speaker for the armed Robos hesitantly lowered his weapon slowly, then nodded to the others to do the same. They stood down. "All right, you can come in. Just don't cause any trouble, and keep quiet. We don't want to give away our location."

Noki remained relaxed through the entire exchange, "We're just dropping one off. And quiet won't be a problem. He's not said a word since we picked him up, though he may need some therapy after this."

Fletch repeated his question, "So… what's going on? What is this?"

The guard at the door ushered the boy inside and explained, "We're gathering civilians here to keep them safe as best we can. We were able to overpower some of the attacking Robos and took their weapons. It's safe here, you're sure you don't want in?"

Noki nodded, "We have things to do, but thanks for taking the kid off our hands," then turned to continue up the next flight of stairs, "Let's go Fletch, we need to keep moving."

Fletch rolled his eyes slightly before nodding in appreciation to the guard and following her. Noki was moving slightly faster now, and Fletch had to jog slightly to keep up. "So do you feel like explaining things a bit more now?"

Noki rounded the next landing to continue upward, "As long as you can talk and move at the same time. We can't afford any more delays."

Fletch kept pace with her, "Don't worry, I'll keep up." He again took notice of the white tail that was attached to her shorts, and made a mental note to ask about that if she didn't come around to it on her own.

Rounding another flight of stairs, Noki started her explanation. Fortunately, her mouth wasn't moving as fast as her feet, "This holoseum has special properties. The device they brought in with them reads the entire area in its range, creates an exact replica as a holoseum, and forces everyone into it, whether they have a robo or not. Anyone without a robo enters in human form." They reached the top of the stairs where there was a door to the roof. It was locked, but Noki gave it a forceful slam to open it.

They were blinded briefly by the sudden faux-sunlight from the ceiling of the dome city, but once that wore off, Noki continued as they crossed the rooftop at a brisk jog, "While in robo form, your energy will deplete steadily. Once your robo reaches 5% energy, you are forced into human form, and while in human form, the energy level increases and your robo is repaired." Fletch remembered earlier how he had changed from robo to human seemingly at random and realized it must have been the steady energy drain bringing him below the five percent threshold. Noki picked up speed to a near-sprint near the edge of the building and leapt. The adjacent building was a story shorter and across a sizeable gap, but Noki was able to clear it and land with a roll. Fletch attempted to follow her, but being the less physically fit of the two his landing was not nearly as graceful, to put it mildly.

Strangely enough, Fletch noted, he didn't feel any pain from the hard landing and was able to recover and keep following as Noki continued, "Since it is still a holoseum, you still won't feel any pain that remains within the safety tolerances, even when in human form. You can still take damage in any form, however, and if your energy reaches zero, you are removed from the holoseum, but kept in mental stasis until the holoseum is closed." They reached another building edge, and Noki put one hand up to silently tell Fletch to stop. Looking down, there was an enemy squad of four robos on the street beneath them. Noki looked around to make sure there were no other enemies in sight.

Noki brought her voice to a whisper, "You can manually change form between robo and human with the same kind of mental command you would normally use to exit a holoseum." At that, Noki half-dove off the edge, and as she fell, her robo armor reappeared piece by piece and deployed around her, transforming her completely by the time she landed hard on one of the Robos, bringing it to the ground with her dagger in its neck. As the other three turned at the noise, Noki leapt forward with a spin, cleaving through two more. She continued her fluid motion with a lunge at the last remaining robo, who was only just then raising his weapon, but Noki was upon him before it was in an effective firing position. She pushed forcefully on his shoulder while sweeping fast with her foot to knock him off balance. While he was in mid-fall, Noki repositioned and brought her dagger hand down hard, slamming the robo to the ground with her dagger embedded in its chest armor.

As all four robos disappeared, Noki reverted back to human form, still on one knee with her dagger in her hand. There were some cracks in the ground where the fourth robo had landed violently. Fletch landed on his feet behind her in robo form, which he had tried shifting to before hopping over the edge, just to be safe. Once he was safely on his feet, he reverted back to human form as well. Noki stood up and re-sheathed her dagger after twirling it once, "Robos here can also be eliminated very quickly if you can hit vital points that aren't as vulnerable in normal holoseums. Now, our robos are still not fully charged, and we still have some ground to cover, so now that you know how this holoseum works, what else can I explain for you?"

Noki continued walking as Fletch noticed her dagger and tail again, so he asked, "Well, can you explain the-"

Noki interrupted, "Oh yes, the blade and the tail. I did say I would explain those, didn't I. I train for robo battles without my robo, since moving in a holoseum is easier. By training outside of one, I can fight more effectively when I am in my robo. The dagger is built into my Robo, so I also use one to train, and fighting with a tail like my robo has can take some getting used to, so I have one pinned to my shorts so I remain accustomed to it."

Fletch raised an eyebrow as they kept moving at a near jog. She made it sound like robo commanding was her lifestyle, rather than a hobby or profession. She was a fanatic. He didn't say anything about it though, accepting her explanation as reason enough. "So that's how you move so fast? I've never seen a robo move as quickly as yours."

Noki stopped at near a corner of the building and flattened her back against it, silently indicating for Fletch to do the same. Not a moment later, several larger robos came out of the alley with their weapons pointed in various directions. They looked down the street both ways, but Noki and Fletch were so close and so much smaller than them that they were unnoticed. The Robos turned away from them to continue on. Noki signaled for Fletch to move with her as she turned the corner into the alley. She finally answered his question in a hushed tone, "That, and my robo is built for mobility. Burning Beast models are extremely rare and very hard to build, but we dug up some of the old Wolfen robos a while ago. They were far too sluggish, so we took them apart and rebuilt them from the ground up to make these." They stopped at another corner and Noki checked around it to make sure all was clear before they continued; "Now they're hardly anything like the old ones, but they still use the Burning Beast robotics, which was the real goal."

There was only one other question on Fletch's mind that he expected Noki to be able to answer, "So where exactly are we going?"

Noki pointed ahead of them. A few blocks away, the towering Ray Robos Production HQ could be seen above all the other buildings, "The same place as everyone else. That's when the fighting gets tricky."

"Well, with the way you fight, we should be fine," Fletch offered as a compliment.

Noki sped her pace up just slightly, "You've not seen me at my peak yet. When I'm fighting for real, you'll know it."