Aomori’s Dragons

The monster’s eye was red, its iris black and swirled like the vortexes Haruka used to watch as a child. Round and round it went. She could hear the thing’s nostrils sniffing, searching for her. Its snout was long, dark green and scaly.

Her bonded A.I., Sam, warned her about the damage: Left leg motor’s down, energy shield to twenty-five percent, water breach in rocket arm…reinforcements were on their way. From the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk.

Americans, Haruka thought as she started swinging her right leg towards the monster. Shouldn’t be here. Don’t need them.

The titanium exoskeleton attached to her frame lit up where it could, where it wasn’t damaged, and told the defense suit it was required one more time. The reinforced-steel around her shuddered and even though Haruka had ear-protection , she could still hear the grind of the cogs and release of pistons as seventeen-tonnes of robot swung into action.

“This is reckless”, Sam told her. “We can wait.”

From the corner of Haruka’s eye, she could make out the blue flames of the right-leg’s propulsion system kicking in. <Why are you speaking in English?> she asked the A.I. in Japanese.

“It is my native tongue. And I am afraid.”

The monster caught the leg with the lower of its two left arms. Haruka tried to jump back, but her suit wouldn’t move. The thing grabbed her leg with a couple of its other arms and pulled. She screamed, the neural connection with her machine making it feel real.

“Your pain sensations are overriding my access,” Sam commented. “You need to regain focus.”

Haruka couldn’t feel her leg. She could see it attached, twitching, but she couldn’t feel it. Her body stayed hunched over as she tried to take several deep breaths to calm herself down. Closing her eyes, she searched for her father’s voice. The one he used to call her with when they would play by the ocean. The one that called her home after a day of discovering new wildlife.

The monster bellowed, its roar penetrating the metal container. Something started to leak out of her ear. And when she opened her eyes, the vortex glared.

It knows, she thought. It’s figured out I’m in here.

The sound of metal being torn apart broke through her thought process. Sparks started to float down from the robot’s roof.

“It’s attempting to open our suit,” Sam chimed in. “I suggest evasive manoeuvres.”

<My leg doesn’t work,> Haruka responded. A piece of titanium in the ceiling disappeared and ocean water trickled in. A throbbing had started in her head. <How can you fix it?>

“You need to try,” Sam replied–panic now apparent in the machine’s female voice.

Haruka swung her left arm at the red eye, it hit air. The chassis shook as they were tackled by the monster. Water started to stream into the cockpit as the machine sunk into the ocean. Parts of the control room sparked and then went dead.

She stopped being able to feel her limbs. The neural connections hadn’t been able to disconnect properly: her body still thought the machine was part of her. Sweat mingled with water and streaked down her face as she heard the gurgling sounds of the ocean getting closer and closer. More scraping. More claws cutting holes in the titanium. <Sam,> she called out. <Sam, I need to get out.>

The A.I. didn’t reply. Silence. The first time in eight years.

<Help me,> Haruka whispered as water lapped at her chin. None came and she descended deeper into the twilight, watching as the moon’s glow drifted further and further away from her. There was only the eye, the pressure on her face, the cold. And then, nothing.

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