Shichinin no Nezumikishi, Part I
Posted by Doug on May 19, 2009
I’ve been working on a thorough write-up for my revamped Mecha Monogatari RPG system, which will draw heavily from the ruleset, language, and design of the Fourth Edition of the Dungeons & Dragons RPG. It’s not a straight conversion, as I am doing away with the core concepts of class and level and even of experience points in favor of a more fluid system.
Part of the style of the write-up is a series of short stories that will appear at the beginning and end of each chapter, bookending the description of the game mechanics and helping to set the mood of the game world. The short stories will focus around a legendary group of titan pilots from the “past” generation (as compared to the generation of Seki & Company): the Shichinin no Nezumikishi, or in English the “Seven Gray Knights.”
As yet another flurry blanketed the Toyama prefecture in snow, four humanoid war machines, each one near twenty meters tall and weighing sixty metric tons of cold gray steel and composite apiece, charged towards the town of Kamiichi. Known as titans, these machines were the centerpiece of the Japanese Self-Defense Force’s campaign to protect Japan from the Eschatos, biomechanical monstrosities that for the last fifty years had descended from their orbital cities and decimated half the world.
Each titan was piloted by a youth, one of the rare few who could synchronize their minds with the operating system of the titan. It was a Saturday, and an hour ago, the four had been spending the day much as any other teenager might: Gin had been working on his homework, Miharu had been trying to teach the perpetually clumsy Reiji how to dance, and Ami had been sleeping the day away.
When the alert sirens had gone off, they did not seek shelter in the underground bunkers like a civilian might. They were each a member of the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force, and so they had rushed to the Toyama Defense Station and suited up for battle. They were Squad Three of the 72nd Titan Battalion, A Company.
Lieutenant Okuyama Gin led the charge. At seventeen years of age, he was the oldest of the four; he had been a titan pilot for three years. Serious and possessing self-discipline beyond his years, he often found himself butting heads with his more carefree teammates, but he knew he could trust them with his life.
Warrant Officer Takagi Miharu followed, carefully listening to the battle reports coming in over the comm system even as she ran. She was fifteen, and was already well-known for her quick intelligence and tactical instincts. Miharu always gave Gin a hard time, except in combat. She was every bit as serious as him then.
While known for being uncoordinated, fifteen-year-old Warrant Officer Shinoda Reiji was utterly fearless in battle. He always seemed to be first to run to his teammates’ assistance, somehow weaving through a hail of enemy attacks as he rushed to their aid.
Warrant Officer Yoshimura Ami had only completed titan pilot training three months ago; her fourteenth birthday was coming up next month. This would be her first engagement with the Eschatos. Jittery and nervous, Ami prayed only that she not let her teammates down.
Ahead of them, in Kamiichi, the Eschatos had already begun their attack. Kamiichi’s defenders had been overwhelmed, and had been forced to regroup and wait for reinforcements to come from nearby regions. There were reports of large numbers of Eschatos, including at least one elite enemy unit, the one known as the White Demon of Khabarovsk, a unique Eschatos controlled by a living pilot of impressive skill, who had destroyed many JGSDF titans, and killed at least a dozen pilots. Even worse, the White Demon was known for attacking the civilian shelters.
Despite the dangers, the four of them pressed forward. This is what they had trained to do. This is what no one else could do. If they failed, Kamiichi would be no more; possibly tens of thousands of civilians would die, and there was no way the four young soldiers of Squad Three would let that happen. Not while they had any say in the matter.
If it were not for the electronic senses that their titans provided them, the four youths would have been blinded by the incessant snowfall. It would continue to snow well into the night; by the time that evening when the last snowflake of the day fell to the earth, the Eschatos will have retreated, Kamiichi would be safe once again, its citizens slowly returning to their normal day-to-day routines, and only one of Squad Three would be left alive.