Stormy – Avalon Mecha

Summary: Stormy’s giant robot-inspired retake on Avalon.

Archival Note from The Jewel Riders Archive: This story is presented as it was originally published. It is presented for archival purposes and for the enjoyment of the Jewel Riders fandom. If you are the author of this story and wish to have it removed from the Jewel Riders Archive (or wish to share more!) please email us at archivist@jewelridersarchive.com. Happy Reading!


1) The Future

2) Katin

3) Tansy

 

Mecha.

Source language: anime speak

Meaning:

As a noun: giant robots. (singular or plural) that people control and ride around in.

As an adjective: including or having to do with giant robots.

**the camera pans up and we see Trina reading the definition and looking dubious** “Giant robots? How are you going to fit that into the JR universe?”

Other note: This is what happens when Stormy gets addicted to Gundam Wing and then the tapes get accidentally left in CA. I was going through SERIOUS mecha deprivation and this story just started playing in my head.

 

 

The Future

Imagine. A beautiful land. Green grass, flowers, happy farmers going about their work with smiles. Unicorns in the forests and mermaids in the sea. Wise, just, and kind rulers in a crystal castle. Magic jewels used by courageous teenagers to protect the land.

Freeze frame on that image. Lovely isn’t it?

Now add a century. Two.

Industry, machinery, and science have entered the picture. It hasn’t broken the beauty, but it has tamed it. Disciplined it. The people are still happy in the main, but they work in buildings as often as in the fields. The rulers are still wise, and do their best, but as the years passed their court has grown until the crystal palace is no longer large enough to hold everyone who governs the kingdom. The last of the Jewel Riders died fifty years ago, and the enchanted jewels haven’t been seen since.

Freeze frame and take a look.

And then the outside world found a way into Avalon.

Earth was running out of resources and space, things Avalon had plenty of. Governments fought over who would take the little world, as Avalon scrambled together defenses to fight back. From outside the mist walls came the latest weapon of Earth: robots as tall as castle towers piloted by Earth soldiers. One of the giant “mechas” alone could take out a large group of Avalon soldiers by physical force alone, without using its weapons. The Avalonians got real tough real fast, using weapons imported from the outside, bombs and flying ships, doing anything they had to.

It was war.

But the one thing no one could smuggle to the Avalon side was the mechas. Something that huge cannot be smuggled.

But they had to fight. A tiny world against a huge force of invaders from a place they couldn’t even see. A magical land without its magic. A peaceful people trying to become soldiers, with no time and against the odds.

A new image: a large stone and cement building high on a ridge beside a lake and the downsloping land of the Riverdells. A very bare, utilitarian building, unlike the beautiful and artistic older ones. What passed as an Avalonian military base. Its leader an officer known only as Lancer. The building also hosted a promising graduate, a likely poster-hero, Metaza Katin.

 

 

Katin

“Food.” The woman said, as if it were the most important thing in the universe. She leaned on the counter rubbing tired eyes while the low-ranker working food duty dug into the icebox and produced a ration basket. He handed it to her with a quiet, “Good morning officer.”

The woman just nodded. She stood with unconscious perfection despite having been up all night; her uniform neat and her wavy auburn hair falling in two tails down her back. Blue eyes that had looked at far too many tactical maps in the past eight hours scanned the room for an empty table.

“Katin!” A man with a fancier shoulder knot waved from a table, and the woman wandered over to sit with him.

“Lance, what news?” Katin asked shortly, digging into her breakfast

“Nothing urgent, sources say we have a week before the next bunch tries to come in..” The dark haired man known only as Lancer watched his sometimes partner eat with single-minded determination. “Skip dinner?”

“Mmhm.” Katin nodded and drained her bottle of juice, “But I got it done, the seaward defense assignment. But was it an assignment or for real?” she pointed the empty bottle accusingly at her commanding officer.

Lancer grinned. “Real. You’re a tactician as good as any the King employs, you just proved it.”

Katin shook her head in wonder, “It’s just a matter of studying. Which I spent all night doing, after the drills with the rest of my unit… Am I promoted?”

“You’re promoted. Which means nothing besides more all-nighters in the service of the King. You train all day and fight with the rest of your unit when they’re ready. Which is soon, yes?”

Katin nodded, “Which is today, except that I’ve been given the morning off so I’m going to bed if you have no emergencies for me sir.”

“Not yet, but hide in your room so no one can find one.”

Katin saluted casually, and took his advice.

_*_

Two children ran around the little shop, the boy holding a stick sword. The girl ran ahead, her dark red braids bouncing. In her hands she cradled a stained glass heart ornament. “Hah! Vile wizard, you have no chance against a Jewel Rider! My Heartstone will soften your heart and make you regret your evil deeds!” The nine year old taunted her brother.

Rafe Katin flourished his ‘sword,’ “But I haven’t got a heart! And all the invaders from Outside are at my beck and call! You have no chance!” he advanced.

The girl hid the glass heart in her pocket, “Oh no! My jewel has no power! I’m doomed! But we will return someday, others will take my place and defeat you!” She allowed her brother to ‘kill’ her, collapsing dramatically.

In the present, many years later, the woman that girl had become sighed and cast a glance at her book-piled desk before turning her back on it and going to bed for the morning. The glassmaker’s shop was long gone, the roof torn off by an enemy mecha and the inside left until sun and rain withered everything. Much the same fate had happened to the owners, and their two teenage children had joined the war along with their peers and friends.

_*_

That afternoon the alarm bell rang. Everyone formed ranks and grabbed weapons, as Lance shouted from the radio tower, “Outsiders coming through the Riverdells! Three Mechas! Everyone, we need both airships and all troops! Move out NOW!”

_*_

“Down!” Katin screamed for the fourth time that day. Everyone within hearing distance dropped flat and covered their heads as one of the Avalon airships dropped a bomb. Then everyone stood up cheering their lungs out as the bomb detonated just on top of one of the enemy mechas. A lucky shot, the mecha blew. Flames exploded upwards from the head of the thing, and it stopped moving, standing like a statue while its upper half burned merrily.

Katin looked around. The sun was shining more cheerfully than it had any right to. The enemy, in their mottled green clothes, filled the valley. Presiding over them were the two huge mechas, dull white metal giants. This was the first time Katin had seen a whole one and it was awe-inspiring by sheer size and power. Except that that power was raised against her people, her friends.

Hovering like evil bugs above the giants were Avalon’s pride and joy: the airships. They smoked terribly and the patched-together bombs were as dangerous to the allies as to the enemy, but they were the only thing that could take down a mecha. Katin was glad enough to be on the ground.

As she watched, a wave of green uniforms swept up the hill, and the scout shouted, “Gunners, archers, fire! Swords out!”

Katin flipped her rifle onto her shoulder, took aim, fired. Again. And again. She saw the airship move over them, its trapdoor opening. The airship was trying to bomb the enemy– but Katin’s people were in equal danger. She was not not not going to become a victim of friendly fire! “Down!!”

The world fell in.

_*_

“Oooooh…” The sun that had been cheerful was now overbright. “Where am I?” It wasn’t an easy question. She was in a hole lined with pale grass, with a stream flowing through it. She must have been closer to ground zero than anyone thought, and been thrown here. It was very, very silent. Katin flipped her hair back over her shoulders and climbed out of the little hollow.

The battle had passed. One of the airships was down, a burned-out hulk. The wounded must all have been taken back to base, but the dead were simply left lying. Katin wouldn’t loot, but she found a rifle with a full clip and took it. The sun shone cheerfully on the scene, and the dead soldiers of both sides. Then something made Katin turn to look across the stream and the river it was part of.

She froze.

Crumpled on its side on the ground was a mecha, intact. Its sheer size was enough to overwhelm, it was wider than Katin was tall, even partly buried. The huge head, glass eyes above a dull white metal mask, stared at nothing.

Katin walked towards it, entranced. Not entranced by the thing itself, but by the opportunity. If the pilot was dead, if she could take it for Avalon… A chance. This could be their chance. She climbed across the many-branched river to the chest of the fallen giant. The door was there, and she managed to pry it open with much tugging and cursing. She laid a hand on the chest plate beside the door and felt… warmth. Vibration. Without a second thought, she climbed in.

The cockpit was right there. The pilot was dead, he’d hit his head when the mecha fell and hadn’t been able to survive. Katin dragged the body out to dump it into the river, awkward in the dark inside of the mecha.

Why hadn’t anybody taken it? Mechas were… priceless. Even broken ones, and this one sure didn’t look broken.

She climbed back in and fitted herself into the pilot’s seat, difficult because the thing was on its side so she had to kind of lie on the wall and brace herself. There were two grooves with levers at the bottoms; she fitted her arms in. It was snug around her arms and wrists, felt good. She locked her hands around the levers and pulled one, hoping this thing would move somehow, she had to learn what did what, this weapon was no such thing if she couldn’t move in it!

She dragged on the lever, and the mecha lurched. Progress. It took fifteen minutes of experimenting and being jolted around the cockpit to figure out which lever did what, and another ten to get her feet under her… the mech’s feet under it. That progress was immensely satisfying, something about feeling your motions move the huge metal bulk. She could hear it too, hear metal tendons straining and pieces moving with every motion she tried.

Finally she dropped all her weight on the lever, and the mech rose from crouching to standing. As it did, the wall in front of Katin lit up or became transparent, and she saw the trees sink away as the metal creature around her straightened up. All she could think was a very irreverent children’s slang: “This is sooooooo cool.”

The next thing to do, even before puzzling out how to walk, was to call home and let them know what she’d gotten them. She found a radio, thankful to see it as a real radio, not one of the super-complicated Outsider systems. A short while toggling with that and she found the channel her side used, “This is Katin calling in. Lance, you there? Lance?

There was a crackle of static and a tiny version of Lance’s voice shouted, “Katin! Where are you?”

“I caught a mecha.”

A squawk of static echoed Lance’s squawk of surprise. “You what?” he shouted, though that was definitely not military correctness, “Can you get it back here?”

“Yes.”

“Do it then. See you soon.” Lance signed off, though Katin could tell by the hum from the radio that he hadn’t turned off on his side. Well she wouldn’t either, it might be no bad thing to have Lance listening in.

Now for the hard part: walking.

_*_

Everyone was appropriately surprised. Katin could see them all, on the ground a hundred feet below, break formation to stare up at her and yell. As she stepped her mecha– very carefully– over the wall around the base, a young man with red hair dropped the gun he’d been practicing with to run over and wave up at her. “Woohoo, good going!” he yelled.

Ketin grinned even though he couldn’t see, and turned a switch from ‘radio’ to ‘outside speaker’ “Hello, Rafe. Anyplace special I should put this thing?”

Her brother shrugged dramatically so she could see the gesture. Katin shrugged to herself, and made the mecha crouch down there in the yard. There was nothing to shut down; this creature was more mechanical than electronic. She found the door release, which made one of the chest panels drop open like a drawbridge, and hopped out of the cockpit to say hi to everybody.

Even crouching, the doorway was a good twenty feet off the ground, farther than she cared to jump. In the wall beside the drawbridge was a rope with a stirrup on the end so the pilot could get up there; Katin let it down, wondering who would outrank everyone else and get the privilege of being first up. As she’d expected, it was Lance.

He examined the cockpit with a briskness that didn’t hide his enthusiasm. The thorough inspection turned up a few things Katin hadn’t noticed, most valuably a sheaf of notes that must have belonged to the late pilot. Lance also found something very strange– scratched on the wall just inside the hatch was the word “Windward,” presumably the machine’s name.

“I want to pilot it.” Katin said, “I think you should let me.”

Lance looked at her with what could have been surprise, momentary anger at her forwardness, or both. “Why?” he asked simply.

“Because I can.”

That was almost a challenge and they both knew it, but what Lance said was, “So how did you find this thing?”

“It was right there.” Katin motioned out a map with her hands, “We were fighting here, the river delta was here. It was in the river, partly buried in the silt on a kind of island. I think… trying to recreate the scene in my head, it must have been knocked down by the shockwave when that airship blew up. The pilot had hit his head on the wall in here and was dead when I found it; I left him in the river. Really Lance, anyone could have seen it from the battle site, why didn’t anybody pick it up when they came for the wounded?”

Lance looked at her soberly, “Because it wasn’t there then.” As Katin continued to stare at him, he added, “I was with the group helping get the wounded away. There was no mecha in the valley except the one whose top we blew. And no sign of you, incidentally.”

Katin had no answer to that, and told him so. “I’m alive obviously, and this thing’s real.”

“And we need to tell the King we have it. Come on, I want you in person for the report and the scientists need a turn to examine this thing.”

They wouldn’t take it apart; having a working mecha when they needed it was worth a lot more than finishing the plans that would enable them to make more in a year. Katin reluctantly let herself down on the rope and went to complete the official stuff. That part went in a whirl once she’d verified that yes, Avalon now had a mecha! She was ordered to bring the Windward to the capital as soon as possible.

That was quite enough for one day. The last thing Katin did was to corner someone who knew, and get a report on who hadn’t made it out of the battle. The list was a long one. And that was much more than enough for one day.

_*_

They had some peace. No attacks, no assassins, not so much as an enemy scout. Katin was named the official pilot of the mecha; after all, she was the only Avalonian to ever ride in one. She spent every spare minute learning how to use Windward’s weapons, to move freely, to run and jump. And best of all, to fly. She hadn’t believed it until Lance had yanked a thing in the ceiling and a huge kite had unfolded from the mecha’s shoulders. It wasn’t for actual flight as in upward, but for controlled falls and the occasional lucky updraft. That was fun.

And something else was happening: everyone looked up to Katin more, even people with twice her experience looked up to her. Not because of her though; because of the hulking metal figure that took up half the training yard. It was inspiring the little army, just having it there. People off duty came to watch Katin practice in it, and to cheer her on even when she messed up and the great weapon fell flat on its face in the dirt.

Katin wondered at the reactions; it almost felt like she was a hero who’d tamed some kind of monster and gone on parade with it. But she wasn’t a hero, just in the right place at the right time. And there were no more monsters in Avalon since the magic had left. And this ‘monster’ could have been tamed by anyone.

 

_*_

Katin woke to alarm bells and someone pounding on the door of her room. “What?” She shouted to the pounder.

Rafe stuck his head in, “Outsider mechs and airships over the lake! Get dressed, you’re taking Windward out!” He vanished and slammed the door.

Katin gaped, but training had kicked in and she was scrambling out of her nightclothes and into a uniform while she gaped. Then she ran for the courtyard listening to Lance’s report which was being broadcast from the tower at top volume. The news was not good; three fast Outsider airships and two mechas. This base was not ready for that kind of thing!

She reached her mecha; the rope was down, she grabbed on and yanked, and the mechanism pulled her up to the drawbridge. She scrambled in and fit herself into the cockpit, adrenaline kicking in and turning fear into a wild readiness. The radio crackled, “Anytime, Katin.” Lance said.

Katin tightened the strap on her helmet, grabbed the control levers, and had the metal giant around her stand up. She jumped over the wall onto a clear spot on the ridge. And brought up one of Windward’s guns. The targeting display jumped in front of her eyes, superimposed over the real world. One bomber airship; two carrying fighters. Katin squeezed the firing lever, and Windward sent bullets ripping the air– and through the bomber, which went up with a truly spectacular show. An enemy mecha fired, not bullets, but some kind of energy blast that shoved her backwards and over. Her helmet cracked against a side wall and she yelped. But the controls were still under her hands, and she knew just how to get up, as if she’d been doing this forever… Katin’s hands moved over the controls without conscious direction, and a blast exploded from above her. The enemy mecha’s chest plate buckled under the impact and it hit the ground on the other side of the lake. She hadn’t known how to do that!

No time to ponder it, the other mecha was hesitating, floating over the water as the remaining airship landed and disgorged its fighters. The Avalon soldiers were coming out to face the Outsiders and Katin felt more than saw the gunners start shooting.

She leaned all her weight back on a lever, and Windward leaped out over the lake. Its wings unfolded and it hovered there. The wind was pushing back towards the ridge, there would be no trouble landing… Except for the enemy mecha coming in above her. Katin saw the firing cross appear, and shot straight up. She got a lucky hit, smoke started coming out the enemy’s seams. Then it exploded right over her. The shockwave collapsed Katin’s wings and it and gravity slammed the Windward into the water!

_*_

Katin dragged on a lever. It wouldn’t move. She was in total darkness and nothing, nothing, would respond! She tried the door. It was as stuck as everything else. She might possibly survive to reach the surface and that was a better chance than running out of air trapped in here! She gave up fruitlessly banging on the hatch, and returned to her seat in the cockpit. More than ever in the darkness the seat and metal armrests seemed to fit themselves around her, to hold her perfectly.

They were still descending, drifting downward. Wasn’t there a legend about this lake? A spirit that lived in it? “Yeah.” Katin muttered, “Soon there’ll be another spirit, me!”

She waited. Eventually panic rose and she dragged on the levers some more, trying to do something, anything, even a light to see herself! Nothing worked. She forced herself into calm and thought, but couldn’t come up with anything helpful. She could almost feel the water outside, as if the cold liquid was against her skin instead of the armored plates of the machine wrapped around her. She shook herself. “Seeing things. Definitely seeing things.” The air tasted stale in her lungs.

Then real water splashed her ankle and she screeched in surprise. It was rising fast! Suddenly empty of fear, Katin sat back and waited as it swirled around her legs, around her waist, around her chest. A wave broke over her head and she gasped and sputtered. It was cold, so cold she couldn’t feel her body. Another gush poured into the cockpit and she took one last breath by the ceiling. Then she settled in her seat and waited.

Waited. Waited. Her lungs began to strain and her head pounded. Dying– any second now she would die. She breathed out air, and felt the water fill her lungs. And didn’t die– or at least didn’t think she died. The water seemed to work like air.

It got light. Light pink to be exact. And bubbles started rising through the cockpit from no visible source. And someone came in through the wall.

Katin just sat there and stared. The someone was female, with long pinkish white hair and huge deep blue eyes. And wings. Three pairs of pink wings, unfolded out in a circle behind her; the feathers were glowing, that was where the light came from. “That’s it, I’m definitely dead.”

The lady shook her head and seemed to giggle. She held out a bowl of something silver, “Drink.”

Katin was not believing this, but couldn’t deny it was happening. She took the bowl and drank. The liquid felt silver inside her as well. When she couldn’t drink any more the bowl dissolved.

The lady stepped back and dropped to one knee, raising her arms in a dancelike gesture. Garlands of silver stars twirled off her wrists, but they hadn’t been wrapped there before. “Avalon needs magic to win this war. For magic it needs hope. For hope… there must be a hero. That hero is you, whether you like it or not. You’re the best choice.”

The ropes of stars were flowing away from her in ever-larger circles, vanishing through the walls of the cockpit. Katin was getting dizzy watching them. Or maybe actually being dead was catching up with her.

_*_

Rafe Katin waited on the wall, looking out at the lake. His red hair blew forward in a crest above his head as the wind rose with the coming of night.

“Aren’t you missing dinner?” A deep voice said from the stairs, and Lancer appeared.

Rafe caught the food package that was tossed to him and shrugged, “You’re very casual. How do you know she isn’t dead.” He asked almost accusingly.

“How do you?” Lance replied, to say no straight answer would be coming. They waited.

The last bars of copper sunlight fell across the lake.

The mecha sprang from the water into the light. Both men gaped as it landed perfectly on the shore and seemed to kneel to the fortress on the ridge. They could only stare.

Windward’s dull armor had been replaced by panels of silver. Every surface mirrored the orange glory of the sunset and reflected gold rays at the fortress walls. It froze there. After long minutes it began to move again, more jerkily like it was being controlled by a pilot instead of moving like a living being. Rafe and Lance ran down to the courtyard to meet it.

The chest panel swung down and Katin stepped out onto it. She looked at first to be wearing the same silver armor as he machine, but the light changed slightly and the effect vanished. Wordlessly she grabbed the rope ad swung down. Silver still flashed from two wristbands she hadn’t been wearing before. “I just… something unreal happened. You guys are real right?”

Lance put an arm around her to prove his solidity, while Rafe just stared round-eyed at his sister’s dripping vehicle. “Looked at your mecha lately, sister mine?”

Katin turned and looked, and her eyes practically fell out of her head. “I think I met the lady of the lake.” She said. “She said… and she made Windward silver… ohboy. Can I explain later?”

_*_

‘Later’ came and went, and all they came up with was ‘something weird is going on.’

“Magic.” Rafe said, “Gotta be. I mean you say the cockpit filled up with water, but it’s completely dry.” He tapped his pencil on the table, waiting for an answer.

“There hasn’t been any magic in Avalon since the last Jewel Riders died, sixty years before the invasion.” Katin countered distractedly over the papers she was editing.

Lance had an answer for that: “The Lady said we needed magic to win the war. That says to me that the magic is coming back. Or she’s making it come back. And doing it through you.”

“For magic there must be hope. For hope, a hero… Through me?”

Rafe grinned, “Face it sister-mine, you’ve got a bad case of destiny.”

Katin put her head down on the table and groaned.

 

 

<grin> No, it wasn’t Trina at the bottom of the lake. It was someone you’ve met, but you’ll have to wait until she sprouts wings to identify her.

About the rest of the story: I have two wildly different endings planned and don’t know which one to use. If ever I figure it out I’ll post the result. In the meantime this part is kinda complete in itself. You decide on the ending. Will the war end with Avalon still standing? And will Katin survive to see it?

 

One Response to “Stormy – Avalon Mecha

  • Stormy of many years later speaking: Katin’s story was my favorite Jewel Riders story that I wrote and still holds a place in my heart. This was the first story I wrote with an adult protagonist rather than a teenager, and the first time my characters looked like real people in my head instead of like anime characters. I also just love the story of soldiers in a once-magical world, it’s tragic and hopeful and… and I have no idea how much of that comes across to my readers! Story-writing is strange.

    There was more to the story than is written here but I don’t remember how much of it ever made it onto paper. I do remember that in the end Katin inherits the Sunstone and she and Tansy meet the first unicorns returning to Avalon. With magic returning Avalon is safe and the new generation of Jewel Riders has to decide whether they’ll try to bring magic to Earth. And that’s the end of my wonderful Jewel Riders epic that’s missing most of its middle.

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