It was the slight lack of the intense afternoon sun light that had the locals looking up and around, taking note of the building clouds. Not that some storms were too unusual this time of year or in the regain. Nor overly large, as in those earth soaking tempests that reminded one and all that the world was still ultimately in charge. No, this was more in the normal down poor that was for the heath of the land, yet just big enough to encourage people to start migrating to sheltered areas if not inside.
The land itself was almost like picture to those not of this world. There was a harmony that saturated all, of the land and sea, the people and the plant itself since terraforming. It was the ideal result of such a process, a hybrid agricultural and technological cultural that had evolved over thousands of the years into the optimal balance.
The end result could very easily be called a paradise, even the people had settled with inner peace, human and mecha alike had lost aggression and negative feelings with each generation until they could truly call themselves Utopians. The down side was that the vast majority of the populace lost the fighting instant to rise up in defense of themselves; the blood thirst their founders had to use up to secured and shelters their world. Those same founders knew their own faults and darkness so the human founders had freely given over the planetary and civilian defense to the Gundams.
The plan had worked far better than any had a hope to believe, but it did, and it led into the times now.
Back to the present on the outskirts of one of the capital cities, citizens were scurrying under trees or in waiting shelters, made for just this reason, early to be ready for the rain. There were a few that didn't mind getting wet, or were resigned to getting wet.
Sahara, 'Shute' to family, gave a long sigh as she skated down the long road back home. It was another forty minutes at a steady pace before she was back on the other side of the city and a bit more to her home. The girl could go through the capitol but she never did, Sahara like rollerblading around the outskirts so much more.
It was peaceful in the semi country, on this track, the hour in the morning and in the afternoon to and from school or her apprentice work, gave her time to think. To work on school and personal projects and problems, she could also do 'last minute' reports using her speech to text converter on her compact computer that was mounted on Sahara's left forearm.
It was good exercise too.
Coffee colored eyes glanced upwards at the clouding sky, and the brunette youth worried for a few moments of the chances of being rained on, as she was actively working on a class project designing of an energy shield for avalanche survival.
Sahara sighed again and saved her work before closing up her computer to focus on the path ahead. The entertained the hope that she could out skate the rain, and grinned in response as she picked up speed. The path stayed smooth with no rocks invading, just some grass over lapping the edges, making them seem softer.
Spotting the one other person and his drone companion on the road ahead, Sahara's grin turned to a beam of pleasure. "Officer O'Conical!" She called once close enough.
The blue and white mech turned smiling himself as he opened his arms to receive the shorter human, turning with the Sahara's gathered momentum and lifting her up. He was nearly a foot taller than Sahara, broad shouldered, with a belt of sorts wrapped around his hips, mostly for easy aces. No weapons were visible other than a uniform baton that had only ever been used to tap a wall to startle youth at night to go back home, and in one case to help a pet down out of a tree.
Chuckling softly as he set her back down, the named Officer O'Conical twitched the sensors on his helm, "Back again are you young lady?" He asks, holding the girl's shoulder until sure Sahara had her balance on her skate.
"Yep!" Sahara nodded happily, pulling her backpack partly off and around to her front, keeping one strap on to support it. "And I have something for you, first batch of the spring harvest." Sahara pulled out a hand sized bag with pinkish red powder inside, holding it up to the mech.
"And you're giving me the first one to test out again are you?" The Officer mech chuckled again, but gladly took the bag, knowing that it made a great fruit juice when mixed with water.
"Well you've been the tester for first seasonal batches since my mom was walking this path," Sahara pointed out, crouching down on her skates to stroke the chirping drone on the side of his domed top, "Hi Patchy, is big old O'Conical still making you trundle over the grass?" She giggled as the drone whistled in complaint as its linked mech shook his head in exasperation at the line that was like their daily meetings.
"He's fine just like yesterday lass." The mech shook his head, whistling at his drone to fallow. Holding a hand out for Sahara to grasp and right herself before the girl started to skate circles around him as the Officer started off again.
"But that was yesterday!" Sahara chirped, grinning as she coasted on the road, "Are you coming to the next festival of light Officer O'Conical?"
The blue and white mech considered, pulling up his schedule on his heads up display on the inside of his visor, "Sadly it looks like I'm not Sahara, I'm on patrol duty."
"Aww..." the girl pouted, shoulders dropping a bit in disappointed, "You have the best throwing arm and get the best prizes though." Sahara made a face as the mech placed a hand on her head and messed up the girl's short hair.
O'Conical laughed as Sahara ducked away from him, "Maybe the next festival lass. I'll see to it you get something fuzzy and cute." The mech promised, "Are you going to skate around me the whole time to your turn off?"
Sahara considered and nodded slowly, "Yeah, I think I will."
"Homework you don't want to do at home?" The mech asked, getting a giggled in return that assured him he guessed it right. "Alright, let's hear about your new project."
The girl beamed again and launched into explaining her homework. Happily chattering the next for the next half an hour, alternating between skating slowly and going in circles around the mech as they approached the side path to Sahara's home. When reaching that point, Sahara pulled off her roller blades and socks, pausing long enough to hug the blue and white mech goodbye before running out on to the grass with her hands stuffed into her skates.
Of course, not ten steps away, the clouds that had been continuing to group together and plot, finally let loose with a fine sheet of rain.
Sahara wilted a bit, taking that second for the universal feeling of, 'Aw man...' before sprinting to the nearest tree in the flat grassy plan. Ducking into the marginal shelter that remained dry up against the trunk and barley a foot beyond, Sahara shook herself and ran her hands through her hair. Glancing back she saw with a bit of a put out feeling that Officer O'Conical's drone was extending an umbrella like rain shield over them both.
When the mech motioned over to her, Sahara shook her head, calling out, "I'm good!" even knowing that the Officer O'Conical was more than willing to walk her home so the girl wouldn't get overly wet. In fact he used to do just that when Sahara was younger. She was older now after all, nearly thirteen and in her opinion had the body mass to survive the rain perfectly fine until Sahara got home.
There would be a warm lavender latté waiting for her there, as their always had been since Sahara turned ten and whenever it rained. Now it was a leap frog like 'game,' running from tree to tree, Sahara taking the extra few moments for a minute of shelter as she worked her way as close to passable to her home.
A completely unexpected flash of light and boom of thunder so loud it sounded like it was right above her. The girl reflexively screamed, flailed and dived for the ground, flattening herself in the grass away from the tree. Taught in instinctive fear at the audio assault, Sahara didn't move until the ringing faded from her ears. She jumped as there was another flash, but it took a full three seconds for the thunder to come this time thankfully.
Sahara edged away from the tree behind her, lifting up a little to judge the best place to go to. She knew single and lone trees were bad to be by in a lightning storm, but couldn't remember if the same applied to more than one. Sahara wondered if she should wait it out in the orchard, or brave a full pelting run back home to the assured safety of shielded walls and roofs that existed even in her little work shed/room. That latter option did involve the seemingly riskier prospect of open land and sever lone trees.
Against any unrealized better judgment, mostly due to the fact that Sahara was still young, she retreated into the fruit orchid. Flipping her arm mounted computer open; Sahara sent a message to her mother that said she would be late as she was waiting out the rain until it got better. If it didn't, it was easy enough to send a request to the local Mobile Aid and Assistance units, the M-2A, to have someone help her get home.
The girl nodded, closing her computer as she decided to wait an hour before doing just that. That would give Sahara just that much more time to work on her project, and by done so she could have the rest of the evening to play. Dipper duty or not with her baby sister... but maybe Sahara could get to her workshop and now half room after dinner.
Pleased by her options, Sahara ducked into the hallow of an old, old chestnut tree's truck, carved out long years ago but kids of another past generation for games of hide and seek that still ran strong today. The tree was a perfect insulation against mechs that could see heat, as some mechs that specialize in care giving. Thus the need for open hideaways in trees for the games, but the opening was large enough that those mech guardians could easily reach in and pull out the giggling child. It was those games that gave Sahara to idea of where to wait out the storm.
Settled down in the chestnut tree, Sahara crossed her legs and once more opened her arm mounted computer. She was focused on it to the point of nearly being engrossed, so it took a little while before Sahara realized that there were sounds differing from the now established normal noise of the storm. Voices penetrated next, many of them really, strangely.
One stood out as it was deeper; it had such a commanding tone and integrated edge of power to it that the girl sat up but not knowing why. Sahara peeked out, looking around, hesitating to walk out into the wet but curiosity was growing despite herself. All the Pickers, mecha civilians of the non bipedal type, would all either be in shelters made for them or using their stabilizers to ground themselves. So the speakers couldn't be them... and didn't the Pickers only speak in base mechian (whistles, chirps buzzing and other mechanical sounds)?
Sahara frowned in confusion, wondering if the M-2A's had been called in to pick up someone else that was hiding from the storm. That was a reasonable explanation in the girl's mind as far as she knew there wouldn't be anyone else out until the rain lightened. If the M-2A's mechs were out getting someone else then getting a little wet while walking over there, but she'd get home and her lavender latté that much sooner. The girl extracted herself from the chestnut tree, cocking her head and listening for the voices, they were clearer now so the direction they came from was as well.
The ground was wet, making the grass slick under her bare feet, and the few earthy patches squished between her toes. It made Sahara make a face but she still headed deeper into the orchard.
"Hello?" Sahara called as she walked, looking around several trees. A snapping sound, this time like that of a stick instead of air, had her turning and then blinking at the three mechs that blinked right back at her.
They were her size, which was odd enough, as most adult mechs were at least six feet tall. These mechs were only about four feet or so, and these mechs weren't children for they had fully formed armor and... Some sort of hand held hardware that Sahara couldn't identify; one even had a strange axe that was visible over a green shoulder.
Green and black seemed to be their colors, mostly the dark green. Though short for mechs, as least in comparison to the nation Utopian mechs, they were strongly built. Probably able to lift their own weight if not more, judging by what could be seen of their support stricter. The other thing that stood out was that these mechs only had one optic like eye, two were a different shade of golden yellow and the third mech had a blue optic.
"...Zaku?" One asked, blinking his golden optic again.
"Hi?" Sahara half asked, tilting her head.
"Hi, Zaku." The blue optical mech replied, stepping closer, and seemed surprised when Sahara didn't react to him in any way. "You're not afraid of us? Zaku?"
"Why would I be?" Sahara asked back in confusion, "Aren't you apart of the M-2A?"
"Of course!" The axe carrying mech blurted, slapping his hand held hardware onto his hip before grasping his complains by their collar ridges and pulled them back.
Sahara blinked again before shrugging, having always seen mechs as nothing but safety there was no negative response in her to these strange mechs, "Can I get a lift home? Since you're already out here helping someone?"
The axe carrying mech, who seemed to be the speaker of the three nodded, "Yes, we can do that, Zaku, but you should come back to see the commander first." He reached out to take Sahara's hand, his grip firm but none harmful as he tugged the girl with him. Behind the other two were exchanging looks, smirking under their masks.