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  1.  
  2. June 1st, 1999.
  3.  
  4.  
  5.  
  6.  
  7. “Milo, hand me another round.”
  8.  
  9. The heavy hand of the refurbished drilling mech wrapped around one of the 40 MM Anti-Material Rifle rounds. Milo’s grasp faltered, the exposed slick metal of the mechanical hand dropped the round.
  10.  
  11. “Milo, fucking dammit. Can’t you do anything right?” Snapped Veronica, grabbing the shell herself, out of Milo’s reach.
  12.  
  13.  “Could have nearly killed us both..” she continued furiously.
  14.  
  15. “I’m so-” He began, before his partner cut him off.
  16.  
  17. “IF WE’RE FOUND OUT, WE’RE DEAD, YOU HEAR ME? NO BACK UP. NO LEGION!” She yelled back, silencing him over the comms.
  18.  
  19. Milo sat there for a moment, before realizing Veronica was waiting for him to recalibrate the rifle’s targeting system.
  20.  
  21. “Maybe if we come home with one of the Japanese demons we can get moved towards the back lines.” Milo murmured, hopefully. Veronica would soon quell any kind of hope he still had.
  22.  
  23. “Target spotted.” Milo murmured, barely a whisper.
  24.  
  25. The two masses of metal sat high up on a stepped mountain, nestled into a narrow alcove in the rock. Milo had taken to obtaining some foliage for cover earlier while Veronica had kept watch.
  26.  
  27. For all intensive purposes, Milo and her were equals. However Veronica was much more assertive, and therefore his superior.
  28.  
  29. The scanner for the rifle agreed with Milo after a moment, highlighting the hulking titan of metal and carbon fiber. It was a Japanese vessel. It had been named “Holder” after the almost brutish looking, eye set in the front of the behemoths helm. The sight of the titan made Milo’s hand shake on the scanner, and Veronica huffed pissily as her crosshair jumped around.
  30.  
  31. “Milo, steady your nerves, or I’ll toss you out like bait for Holder.” She hissed, shutting up Milo almost instantly.
  32.  
  33. The Holder was looking for something. In this wasteland of a battlefield however, whatever it was could have been anything. There were thousands of steel carcasses littering the ground of the field which sat beneath the cliff. Eventually it picked up one of these desecrated tin cans, shaking it out, before peering inside of the gutted Russian mech, as if trying to find a lost toy.
  34.  
  35. There was a bit of a shine from the mountain top, as the glint of Veronica’s rifle stared down at the Holder.
  36.  
  37. The rifle recoiled, the explosion almost deafening. Milo was unsure if it had actually went off, although the ringing in his ears confirmed this.
  38.  
  39. “Hey, you know it’s not very fun to hide from someone who’s looking to play...” came a soft voice across the comms.
  40.  
  41. The white and green form of the Holder seemed to laugh playfully, inspecting the large round it had caught in it’s fingers.
  42.  
  43. “Guns are no fun, come down here and play my game!” Came the voice once again.
  44.  
  45. Milo stared in horror as the Holder began to dart towards the cliff, and turned to find Veronica already scaling the cliff face.
  46.  
  47. “W-wait.” Milo spluttered out, attempting to climb the sheer cliff face, although he lacked the climbing gear, or the gravitational field that most assault units had. The support tools around the Mech’s waist jangled almost leeringly, weighing him down. He managed to stab at the release button, the heavy welding torch, and bomb defusal kit rolling down off the cliff, before smacking the holder right in the face.
  48.  
  49. “Ow!” came the voice in their comms once again.
  50.  
  51. Veronica finally decided to talk.
  52.  
  53. “JUN! How are you in this channel!” she asked furiously to the Holder presumably, turning around to peer down the cliff.
  54.  
  55. Milo’s brain whirled as he attempted to figure out the context for the situation they were in. Did Veronica know the pilot of the Holder? He didn’t get much time to think about this, as a boot was firmly planted into his visor.
  56.  
  57.  “Nevermind.” She said continued gruffly, noting Milo following her. “Sorry Milo.” She said coldly, before kicking at the visor in his helm.
  58.  
  59. “That should slow her down..” She grumbled, skittering up the cliff like a cat climbing a tree. Her Assault mech had been stripped down for mobility. Not that armor really mattered against Oni class mechs. The Japanese had mastered their craft.
  60.  
  61. Milo tumbled down the cliff, his Support Mech landing with a sickening crunch, back and neck separated by a rock. The unit seized, causing Milo much pain. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t see. His viewports were smashed in with dirt and grime. This was it. Food for an Oni.
  62.  
  63. The sound of the Holder clambering up the mountain side was absolutely frightening as it was fast, the ground trembling as the giant landed on the cliff face beside the crumpled drilling mech.
  64.  
  65. The white demon reached up to snatch at Veronica’s leg, however she responded with several hard light slugs to the creatures face. Holder was unphased by this.
  66.  
  67. “C’mon Ronnie.” the voice cooed over the comm’s which crackled and buzzed in Milo’s crippled mech. Veronica had heard it loud and clear.
  68.  
  69. “Get off me you crazy bitch!” She replied, pulling a large fragmentation grenade off of her equipment pylon, dropping the charge below her.
  70.  
  71. The grenade bounced off the Holder’s head, who caught it , and closed her fist around it, saving Milo from what would have been friendly fire. The giant opened it’s fist, metallic plating in it’s hand shredded wide open. The strange oil like blood gushed from the wounds, drenching Milo’s damaged cockpit with fluid that smelled of raw meat.
  72.  
  73. “Ronnie! Come back! I just want to play! It’s no fun when you tease me so!” Came “Jun’s” voice over the comms, before they crackled out for good, and Milo was cut off from the outside.
  74.  
  75. The Holder clambered up the rock face, before continuing it’s pursuit with the fleeing Assault mech into the densely wooded marshlands.
  76.  
  77. --
  78.  
  79. Milo lay for some time in the rancid stink of his mech, growing more and more paranoid by the second. The Russian prototype mechs were not refined like the Japanese ones. They were crude machines, with crude modifications. They used cheaply implemented 1:1 movement sensors, many of which required the pilot to be either half naked or extremely close to fully, to sense where and when to move the muscles. These 1:1 imitation pilot “handshakes” were rip offs of the far superior Japanese versions, which the Russian engineers and arms companies fighting to be sponsored by the Russian military could only guess at.
  80.  
  81. The Japanese Army had never lost one of their mighty titans in a battle before. And Jun and Milo had just secured another loss for their country. In fact the specific Mech they’d been sent to disable had been ravaging the Military encampments on the front for days.
  82.  
  83. “Another failure.” Milo murmured, awaiting his death. With his luck he’d suffocate in this smoke, or even better yet another Japanese Oni would smush him flat.
  84.  
  85. With a sickening jolt, the earth shook, and the sound of a mechanical beast filled the air. Perhaps it was Jun? Had she come back for him?
  86.  
  87. Instead a message prompted on his cracked but somewhat legible tactical map. It was diagnostic firmware.
  88.  
  89. -------
  90. starting automatic hatch release…..
  91. hatch release failure
  92. multiple errors detected
  93. view errors?
  94. >n
  95. errors not displayed
  96. accessing manual access release
  97. permission granted
  98. manual access hatch released
  99. -------
  100.  
  101. “M-manual access Hatch..?” Milo wheezed out, reading the screen. Someone was directly interfacing with his Mech. There was a tearing pop, as several large mechanical fingers tore away the smashed in cockpit like tinfoil.
  102.  
  103. Milo pulled the shoddy piperifle he’d been given along with the even shittier Mech off it’s rack shakily, coughing before fumbling the shortened rifle. It clattered to the floor just in front of him, going off with a deafening explosion. The shoddy pipe rifle had begun firing into the wall beside him, the rifle eventually jamming. Hot shells lay everywhere, only adding to the already terrible smell and smog.
  104.  
  105. It felt and tasted like licking a battery.
  106.  
  107. Milo now half deaf, blind, and unable to smell due to the acrid smoke of melted wires and Oni blood, could barely breathe. He passed in and out of consciousness, feeling hands touching his bare shoulders.
  108.  
  109. “Boy they really do have you hooked in there good. It’s okay.” a feminine voice called from in the distance, the thunder of the rifle still echoing in his mind. He felt someone lug his half lifeless body into something warm.. and soft.
  110.  
  111. “Easy now.” Came the voice once again, and Milo obliged, content to sleep after the struggles of today.
  112.  
  113. --
  114.  
  115. Jun had been tracking the russian pilot for some time now.
  116.  
  117. “C’mon Ronnie. Can’t just be like old times?” Came the spritely Japanese girl.
  118.  
  119. “I don’t want to lose to you anymore.” The russian replied.
  120.  
  121. She wasn’t native russian. But you could barely tell anyways. Jun was not native Japanese either.
  122.  
  123. The much smaller mech was much clumsier somehow, probably due to the shoddy tech, and quite easy for Jun to follow.
  124.  
  125. The 1:1 Russian Simulation tech was not very well tested or even synchronised. So pilots often had a sense of dissociation with their Mech’s while piloting, while their brain attempted to process the direct feedback.
  126.  
  127. Veronica was starting to feel the effects.
  128.  
  129. She stumbled, attempting to jump over a tree line, before getting her foot snagged on a tree, pulling her back down to the ground. She yelped in pain, nose bleeding from her face smashing into the ground
  130.  
  131. The Oni Mechs skipped this entirely, opting for assisted biomechanical piloting, which was sort of like having an extension cord come out of a suit directly hardlined into the titan itself. This allowed Jun to gracefully follow.
  132.  
  133. She stopped beside the thrashing Assault Mech, giggling a little at the predicament Veronica had gotten herself into. Several large branches hand punctured themselves through her Mech’s vulnerable ankle socket, most likely severing the foot from the leg. Of course this wasn’t as funny to Veronica as it was to Jun, as it did quite hurt.
  134.  
  135. “Shu-Shut up.” Veronica snapped attempting to grab the Oni’s leg, only for said leg to kick up and step back down on the Russian AM’s arm, causing Veronica to hiss once again.
  136.  
  137. “Relax Ronnie, I’m not going to hurt you.. Much.” She continued, Jun’s shit eating grin almost visible through the communication line.
  138.  
  139. The Oni shifted it’s massive knees onto the small mech’s wrists, straddling it so it couldn’t move.
  140.  
  141. “I’ve heard rumors that the Russian Military has been employing 1:1 Sensory Simulation..” The Japanese girl continued smugly, using one of her Holder’s finger to trace the edge of the AM’s chin, causing it’s head to visibly twitch.
  142.  
  143. “Fuck off.” Veronica snapped, her mech’s face turning away, as if to avoid eye contact. This only emboldened Jun to go all the way.
  144.  
  145. “Disengage. Or I’ll torture you. And I promise you, you’ll like it.” Jun said, tapping on the visor of the AM.
  146.  
  147. “Never..” Veronica said, refusing to even look at the Oni. She was blushing. Fuck this shit. She didn’t run away from the Oni program to get roped back into it.
  148.  
  149. “Ronnie I’ve been hunting you for the last 3 years, at least let me see you. It’s been a while!” She said drumming on the visor of the mech. It was the equivalent of someone poking you in the eye but with the intensity of chinese water torture.
  150.  
  151. “Fine.”
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