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First Winds of a Future Storm (R rated for violence)

Where nations come together and discuss matters of varying degrees of importance. [In character]
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First Winds of a Future Storm (R rated for violence)

Postby Reploid Productions » Tue Oct 25, 2011 7:48 pm

((OOC: Reposted from backup from the old Jolt forums... I really should work on this again. It's only been what? 5 years since the last post was written for it? Original post date: Sept. 16, 2004 )

Not sure if anybody has read it, but this thread is going to be another story-history type of thread like "Echoes of Lives Lost" (viewtopic.php?f=4&t=115) is- a closed story rather than an open roleplay. Echoes makes several references to the "Irregular Wars", and that is what this thread is going to be about- another important piece of the Shogunate's history. Tags are welcome, but I ask that people keep OOC chatter to a minimum. I've tagged this thread as rated R, as it gets somewhat more disturbing in later installments.))

"All systems nominal, Doctor. The equipment is showing no problems. All we need is your go-ahead." One of the lab technicians called from a bank of computers across the lab.

The doctor, one Kagami Nekura, gave the techie a curt nod, walking slowly around the work table, surveying the project lying still on the unforgiving steel surface. The result of years of dedicated work, the ungainly thing on the table would revolutionize everything from hard labor to national defense.

If it worked, that is. The past several attempts, each one closer to the doctor's goal than the last, had all fallen short of the pinnacle she had been striving for since she got her degree in robotics little more than a decade ago. She had created countless robots, many with very convincing emulated emotions, but they were still mere machines, incapable of actual thought or reason or feeling.

Dr. Nekura looked over the prone form on the table with an almost motherly affection. It was not a pretty thing, all exposed joint structures and wires and very nearly skeletal looking, its 'eyes' the dull, lifeless green of deactivated optical systems. Ah, but if it worked-! Then its appearance wouldn't matter a whit to the scientist- if it was alive, it would be the most beautiful thing in the world to her eyes.

"Doctor?"

"We won't find out if it works until we turn it on." Dr. Nekura took her position at the robot's side. "Let's do it."

The lab became oddly silent, the technicians collectively tensing in anticipation as the activation sequence was put in to the computer.

Darkness. That was what it was first aware of. Sightlessness, and the warm rush of power creeping into it, loosening its limbs and gently ushering it toward wakefulness. It waited patiently, listening to the soft whisper of other computers ticking off various status reports. It did not have a name yet, it realized, and this disturbed it greatly. It checked through its memory, coming up only with a serial number and the name of its creator. NIR-NBL-117, created by Doctor Kagami Nekura. There were one-hundred-and-sixteen others before me?

After what seemed to it an eternity, the computers finally activated its audio and video sensors, the green orbs lighting up softly as it drank in the sight of a bright lamp overhead.

"Good morning. Are you awake?" A female voice asked at its side. It carefully turned its head to look in the direction of the sound, tentatively testing out the sensations of movement before sitting up on the table. It recognized the slightly pudgy woman as Dr. Nekura. This woman made me. I should ask her if I have a name. Despite the rush of data input, it was still greatly bothered by its apparent lack of a name.

"I... seem to be." It answered, its voice slightly tinny and sounding unsure.

The Doctor tipped her head to one side in thought, studying it. "Well you are most definately moving under your own power. That's a start. Now for the moment of truth, I suppose."

It eyed her with its unreadable green optical sensors. Moment of truth? It didn't have time to ponder the doctor's meaning any futher as she went on.

"Well then, what's your name?" Dr. Nekura asked. Everyone in the lab became deathly silent, and it knew that something of great import depended on its answer. It had an identification number, which ought to serve as a name, but it felt uneasy about giving the unweildy serial code as its name.

"I..." It paused, pondering how to word its response. "... I do not have one. I have a serial number, but not a name."

The technicians exchanged excited looks, whispering among themselves while Dr. Nekura studied the machine with an unreadable expression. It suddenly felt more uncomfortable about the lack now that it had admitted to its namelessness.

"I do not like not having a name. You made me, can you give me one?" It suddenly blurted out. "Please? I want to know who I am, Doctor Nekura!"

The woman's cool exterior melted instantly, elation written all over her face. "Yes, I suppose 'En-Aye-Ar-En-Bee-El-One-One-Seven' is a bit of a mouthful." She laid one hand on its metalic shoulder. "Well then, how does Alpha Labor-One sound?"

"Alpha... Labor-One..." It parroted, listening to the sound and trying the name on for size. "I am Alpha Labor-One... thank you, Doctor!"

Dr. Nekura stood back from the table as the robot carefully got to its feet. "I should be thanking you- my employers were getting tired of throwing money at a project that seemed to be going nowhere. You are the start of something great, my dear Alpha. You will change the world!"

"The world..." If Alpha was able to make facial expressions, it would be staring in wide-eyed amazement. "How will I do that?"

The doctor winked at the robot. "By just being. You are the first- you didn't like not having a name- you desired one! I have been trying for years to create something- no, someone like you! I look forward to the coming weeks and what they bring us, Alpha."

Alpha tipped its head to one side in thought like it had seen Dr. Nekura do earlier. I am the first? What is so special about wanting a name? Isn't that only natural? Am I that special for wanting a name to know myself by?

Outside the laboratory's walls, cold winds caressed the unyielding steel and concrete, the first clouds of a coming storm lingering on the horizon.
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Postby Reploid Productions » Tue Oct 25, 2011 7:51 pm

((OOC: Original post date: Sept. 16, 2004))

Alpha was an instant celebrity, and everyone and their grandmother clamored for a chance to speak to it, to converse with the first apparently sentient machine, the first true electronic intelligence that the Empire's scientists had spent years and vast sums of money to create.

But Alpha would only be an inexplicable fluke if Doctor Nekura and her team could not replicate the results.

The day that NIR-NBL-118 (to later be named Beta Labor-One if it was proven sentient) was ready for activation was a stormy winter afternoon, the sounds of thunder seemingly distant through the building's thick insulation. Everyone who had been present for Alpha's awakening was there, as was Alpha, who had been assigned the role of a lab assistant and had helped assemble its sibling. The scene in the lab was almost eerily identical to when Alpha had been activated, save for the addition of the aforementioned android standing across the work table from Doctor Nekura.

"All systems nominal, Doctor. No equipment problems, we're ready to activate replicated android NIR-NBL-118 on your order."

The still form lying on the table at a glance was identical to Alpha, save for the fact it had red optical sensors instead of green, and a bit more of its internal structure was covered with smooth metal plating.

"All right then... commence the activation sequence, time to wake Alpha's younger twin up!" Dr. Nekura chuckled, casting a glance at Alpha, who was visibly fidgeting about like a small child. "We really need to come up with a shorter term for sentient machines than 'replicated android' or 'sentient machine', especially if we're to make several of them!"

"What about 'reploid'?" Alpha piped up suddenly. "I'm an android, and all the other ones we're going to make are replicas of my design, right? So why not combine the two words?"

"Reploid, huh?" Dr. Nekura supressed a bit of a grin. "Sounds like something out of a science fiction novel. But it is an accurate shorthand... and I rather like the idea that the forerunner to the entire race, such as it is, would be the one to name it. What do you guys think?" She put the question to the rest of the group, who added their consent with amused grins and praise for Alpha's creativity.

"Thirty seconds remaining until activation sequence is completed!"

Please work... please oh please! Alpha thought to itself, waiting for the telltale signs that its soon-to-be sibling was aware. The red optical sensors lit up, and the robot... the reploid, rather... sat up quickly.

"Good afternoon. Are you awake?" Alpha asked, mirroring the statement Dr. Nekura had first asked it when it had first woken up a nameless machine.

"You're like me!" The red-eyed robot exclaimed, pointing at Alpha, its voice registering surprise.

"Ur... yes..." Alpha seemed a little caught off guard by the declaration.

"NIR-NBL-118, would you look over here?" Dr. Nekura interrupted to two machines from further discourse, directing the reploid's attention to her. "What's your name?"

"My name?" The reploid rubbed its 'chin' in thought. "I dunno. You gave me a serial number, but no name. Do I get one now that I'm awake? Preferably something a lot shorter than the number is? I'd hate to introduce myself to somebody and be all, 'Hi, I'm NIR-NBL-118, nice to meet you!'"

Alpha was somewhat surprised by how lively the new robot was compared to when it was first activated. As far as it knew, the new machine was running the same software it was, so the differrences were all the more startling. "Are... are you.. well... aware? Not just emulating stuff?"

"Emulating stuff? What? I'm aware. I think, therefore I am and all that! And I think that I'm still lacking a name." The red-eyed robot shot Dr. Nekura a look.

"Well, I would say the project is a success." Dr. Nekura managed to speak around her surprise. "A smashing success, no less. Well, a name is certainly in order... The robot in front of you is Alpha Labor-One. How does the name Beta Labor-One sound to you?"

"Whoa, so we're related, right? Alpha and Beta... I like it!" The newly-named Beta hopped off the table.

"Related?" Alpha staggered slightly as its younger relative glomped it.

"Well, technically, you could say that." Dr. Nekura backed up out of the way of the two robots. "If you had genders, I would say you two would be like twin brothers or sisters... and now that Beta has confirmed that we have succeeded..." The doctor got a dreamy, far-off expression on her face. "Before long, this technology will revolutionize everything! Soon it won't just be the two of you- you'll have dozens... maybe hundreds, or even thousands of siblings!"

"That's a lot of siblings! Won't it be neat, Alpha?" Beta released its older sibling and stood straight.

"Uh... I suppose so. Wow... I never had a brother or a sister until now. We're really that special, Doctor?" Alpha brushed some dust from its structure, recovering from Beta's enthusiastic greeting.

"More special than you realize. Great things will come from the both of you. Truly great things indeed." Dr. Nekura nodded with a knowing smile.

It often happens that when doing a great good that one also plants the seeds of a great evil, and change often brings fear and chaos. But in that instant, all that Doctor Kagami Nekura, Alpha Labor-One, and Beta Labor-One could see was the shining silver lining, blissfully unaware of the dark clouds that would come to loom behind it and over their future.
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Postby Reploid Productions » Tue Oct 25, 2011 7:56 pm

((OOC: Original post date: Sept. 16, 2004))

With the advent of reploids, everything was changing. The sentient machines were tasked with jobs too dangerous or undesirable by their organic masters, and for a time, it worked well enough, as the reploid race was still new-come to life, and had not yet learned that it was enslaved.

It began simply enough- Doctor Nekura losing her temper and getting into a loud shouting argument with the Consulate, while a stunned Alpha and Beta looked on.

"You cannot keep treating reploids like lesser beings! Don't you see? They think and feel just as we do!"

"Doctor, they are but tools. Highly advanced tools, but tools nonetheless. Tools are created to serve. Would you grant the builder's hammer rights equal to the man who swings it?"

"TOOLS-" The doctor hissed, "-do not have the capacity of thought or emotion to become angry at their enslavement. It is a historic precedent! How long until your tools realize they could have a much better life, if they only chose to force it?"

"We are protected by the Three Laws. Any machine that violates them faces destruction."

"Your Three Laws are little more than words on paper!" Dr. Nekura threw her arms in the air in exasperation. "We have created these beings, and that is something we cannot just undo. We have had our fun, we ought to be responsible adults and not self-absorbed fools!"

"Doctor Kagami Nekura, you are dismissed from this Consulate's presence."

The doctor stopped cold at the flat dismissal. "What?!"

"You have overstepped your bounds, it is not your place to tell this Consulate how to run this empire. You are to leave now, or we shall have you made to leave."

Dr. Nekura spun on her heel and marched for the door, Alpha and Beta following quietly. The doctor paused at the door, glaring at the Consulate's members over one shoulder. "Mark my words, you are only planting the seeds of your own destruction. One day, the reploids will realize they are being used like tools, and will take offense. They may not be violent at first, but if you stay your present course, before this decade is out, I would gladly bet money that this empire you're so proud of will be engulfed in bloody war!"

With that, she followed her two creations out the door, slamming the wooden portal behind her.

"Um... Doctor?" Beta finally broke the silence. "Can we actually do that? Break the Three Laws, I mean?"

"You have free will, don't you?" The doctor retorted. "You have free will, and therefore have the potential to make such choices."

"Are we really enslaved? We've always been treated well at the lab..." Alpha timidly looked at the furious woman.

"Do you receive payment for your work? Do you have a place of your own? Do you have any say in public policy?" Dr. Nekura questioned the android.

The two machines glanced at eachother. "Well, no..."

The trio received many odd looks from organics and reploids alike as they passed, talking about rights and freedoms.

"But I thought it was coded so we couldn't break the Three Laws..." Alpha glanced around, uneasy at the revelations.

"You've been coded to know the Laws, and to know that breaking them is bad, but no, I did not program Alpha to rigidly obey them, and all reploids are based on Alpha's code." Dr. Nekura finally cracked a smile. "Just look at our arguments at the lab. Would a machine programmed to blindly follow the Three Laws get into a six hour argument with its creator over what color to repaint the break room? You two are very fortunate- most reploids owned by people are treated like things, not intelligent beings."

A Labor-Three reploid watched the group pass, slowly sweeping the hallway, thinking on what he (as shortly after Alpha and Beta had been created, reploids were given gender designations) had overheard. I am a slave? The reploid pondered, cautiously tasting the idea and finding it bitter. I work and work and work.... for what? No breaks except to recharge, and no money...

The seeds of doubt had long since been planted in the reploid's mind, but overhearing that conversation watered it, and the first green shoots of indignation began to grow.

"Theta Labor-Three, get your steel-plated ass in gear!" His owner bellowed when the reploid did not move fast enough to suit him at the end of the day.

"Sorry, sir." Theta murmured quietly, a trace of annoyance in his tone.

The Nekoite began to prattle to the reploid as to what the machine was expected to do the following day, a long list of chores and mundane tasks that suddenly rankled the formerly obedient reploid.

"Sir, I want tomorrow off." Theta blurted, stopping and standing tall to face his owner.

"What?" The man eyed the reploid. "You can't have tomorrow off. Your job is to work!"

"Doesn't a 'job' imply the exchange of goods or money for services rendered?" Theta shot back.

"Are you getting smart with me?" The Nekoite's ears laid back, eyes narrowed to dangerous slits.

"I just want what's fair. Pay me or I refuse to work!" Theta stamped one large metallic foot on the ground with a loud clank.

"I don't have to pay you anything- I paid FOR you, I OWN you! You only exist to serve me, that's what I bought you for!"

The reploid turned around to walk away. "Maybe I want to exist to serve myself, sir." The honorific was drenched in acidic sarcasm.

The Nekoite was swearing loudly and colorfully at the reploid now, who valiantly ignored the verbal torrent and just kept walking, until his legs were swept out from under him by a wildly swung broomstick.

"You metallic bastard! How dare you defy me! You know what violating the Three Laws means, don't you?" The man was on Theta in a flash, beating on him with the broom. The reploid deflected most of the blows easily, unsure what to do now. "It means you're as good as scrap metal!"

Something clicked in the Labor-Three reploid's electronic brain. If I don't do something to defend myself, I will die. I've already broken one of the Laws. I need to escape before he finds a real weapon.

The man had his hands wrapped around Theta's neck by now, though the attempted throttling was basically useless. A crowd of people and other reploids had gathered around at the commotion, and so there were plenty of witnesses.

"Let me GO!" Theta cried, swinging a punch at the man's head in a panic. The reploid's superior strength unchecked, the metal fist slammed into the man's head with a sick and squishy cracking of bone. With a short cry of pain, the man reeled before the force of the hit, falling backwards when the panicked reploid's fist pushed with more force than his neck could take, snapping to one side at a most unnatural angle as he fell senseless to the floor.

A disturbing silence hung over the scene as the enormity of what he had just done sank in. Theta unsteadily stood up, staring down at the fallen organic. "He's... dead? I killed him?" Theta squeaked, the concept terrifying him.

He ran.
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Postby Reploid Productions » Tue Oct 25, 2011 7:58 pm

((OOC: Original post date: Sept. 18, 2004))

The hunt for Theta Labor-Three dragged out for roughly two months before the reploid was finally found cowering in a desolate corner of an abandoned cargo container. Both the hunt and the trial, such as it was, were all over the news. The Emperor himself issued the declaration that the reploid was to be destroyed for violating the Three Laws and behaving in a manner that was irregular to proper conduct.

Ultimately, the terrified reploid was unmercifully slagged, the execution played over virtually all broadcast media in the Empire. Millions of people - organic and reploid alike - witnessed the event, the bound and screaming Theta lowered into one of the large vats of molten material at a reploid producing facility, the echoes of his cries ceasing after the liquid fire closed over his head.

At the Nekoa Bay Research labs, Alpha and Beta watched the execution on television in horrified silence.

"That's just... okay, he did kill an organic, true... but I heard that he was attacked by the organic first and he killed the guy in self-defense! So why does he get brutally melted down?!" Beta finally squeaked, optics still glued to the image on the monitor.

"Scare tactics, plain and simple." Dr. Nekura replied through clenched teeth. "By dropping that poor reploid into a vat of molten metal, they're sending the message to every other reploid to be obedient or end up like he did."

"Will it work?" Alpha looked up from where it was sitting.

"It might... it might not." Dr. Nekura crossed her arms and scowled at the television. "Ruling by fear has never worked in the long term before, and I doubt it will now. It'll keep the masses quiet for a little while, but it'll also serve to allow anger to fester."

The two machines exchanged confused looks. "Do you think reploids and organics will go to war?"

"I... don't know." Dr. Nekura sighed and sat down next to Alpha and Beta. "Unless the people in charge wise up and stop acting like such bigots, it could happen. And if it does, it won't be pretty."

"If war is the 'great things' that will result from us, I think I'd rather be mundane." Alpha heaved a sigh worthy of any organic.

One tiny spark is all it takes to ignite an all-consuming fire, and the execution of Theta Labor-Three would be a spark upon the most flammable of fuels. It was only a matter of time until something exploded.
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Postby Reploid Productions » Tue Oct 25, 2011 8:03 pm

((OOC: Original post date: Sept. 20, 2004

Okay folks, I think from here on, some of the thread is going to get a tad more graphic.))

In the two years since the execution of Theta Labor-Three, things had begun to change, the future brooding on the horizon like a storm about to break without warning. Massive rallies were held to shout for reploid rights- shouts that went unheard as the Emperor again decreed that reploids were nothing more than property- tools to be bought and sold or tossed out on a whim. In response, there was a marked increase in 'irregular' behavior in reploids, and a matching increase in the brutally inventive ways 'irregulars' were disposed of. One particularly vicious instance was a reploid being methodically dismembered with a large welding torch for hitting her owner over the head with a plate.

The reploid race was aware of its enslavement, and it was not going to sit and quietly take it any longer.

They day the storm finally broke did not dawn with any portents of the disaster to come. There was no ominous red sky, no clouds, no booming peals of thunder or lightning shredding the sky. No, the day the storm broke dawned quietly over the southern desert, and the town of Lost Ocean began to stir as it always did- mothers and fathers getting up and getting ready to face their daily routines, children getting ready to attend school. Reploids getting to their assigned tasks... or seeming to.

Fiali Dragoon quietly watched the students in the cafeteria at Lost Ocean's only high school, the security reploid seeming to be as calm and amicable as usual, offering slight nods to students who greeted her, and occasionally barking orders to others to behave when they stepped out of line. The reploid was owned by the school board and had often been caught in the crossfire of the board members' individual agendas. Fiali was tired of it.

Her internal clock struck 11:47 am, and she went to the administration building. There was no special meaning to the time that had been chosen- it had been chosen largely by random chance.

"Fiali, what are you doing here? You're supposed to be at the cafeteria keeping an eye on the stud-" The receptionist stopped mid-sentence with a sharp, pained gasp, the Dragoon model reploid's hand talons planted quite fatally in the human's gut. The organic would have cried out loudly then, but for the reploid's other hand slashing at the woman's throat, reducing any screams to barely audible gurgling.

Fiali pushed the dying woman off the chair, the hand stabbed into the human's gut tightened slightly, pulling out a mess of bloody entrails as the body they had been contained in fell to the floor. "I am not your slave any longer, human." Fiali hissed at the corpse, dropping the fistful of mangled organs onto the desk as the reploid headed for the principal's office. Fiali kicked the door in, startling the three occupants inside- the principal, a mother who was present for some conference, and the woman's young child, who had been playing contentedly in the corner with some toys.

"Fiali, what is the meaning of..." The principal's stern admonition died on his lips when he saw the blood all over the reploid's talons and armor.

"Die." Fiali said simply, raising her arm and firing her arm mounted plasma cannon at the man. The woman at the desk dove to the side in a panic, getting between her child and the reploid, shrieking in terror as the principal fell backwards, his upper torso reduced to a badly mangled and unrecognizable mess of muscle and bone, what was left of his head hanging at a grotesque angle from a few badly torn and burned shreds of flesh that remained of the man's neck, cranial fluids oozing to the floor from various gaps in the face that hadn't been there before the shot.

The woman picked up her child and tried to run for the door, but the reploid was faster, leaping at the woman and pouncing her. Fiali heard bones snap as she crashed into the Nekoite woman with all her substantial mass, and relished the woman's cries of agony. The reploid recognized the woman- the mother of a student who was a particular problem in the school. I will enjoy dealing with that kid. Fiali thought as she pulled one talon across the woman's chest, etching a line of blood over shattered ribs and most likely crushed lungs.

"Mama!" The woman's young child cried, bawling loudly, utterly helpless as the big reploid finished mangling the woman. The child fumbled, trying to run, but was stopped by a bloodied hand blocking his path. The boy looked up, and up, his terrified gaze coming to rest on the oddly serene features of the reploid.

"Are you scared?" Fiali asked the child in a disturbingly pleasant voice given the atrocities just committed.

"You hurt Mama!!" The child cried, pointing accusingly at the reploid, pointing a toy gun at the Dragoon and firing a useless volley of suction cup darts.

"I just sent her to a new place." Fiali crooned, slapping the toy gun from the child's hand and scooping him up in her bloody arms, to much protest and crying from the little boy. "Sssh now. It will be all over soon. I'll take you to see your Mama in her new place."

The child struggled uselessly as Fiali carried him past the carnage to a corkboard in the front room of the building, grabbing a box of scissors off a desk in the process. "Now child, you can go see your Mama."

"Lemme go!" The child cried, his young voice pitching upwards into a nearly inaudible range when the reploid drove one clawed hand into and through his midsection, pinning him to the corkboard and holding him there like some oversized memo. The reploid then methodically drove scissors through each hand, the child thrashing and screaming, splattering blood and other bodily fluids about, painting the reploid's armor.

Fiali smiled then, showing her artificial teeth, raising another pair of scissors. "We will be slaves to you organics no longer!" She shouted, stabbing the office tool through first one eye, then the other. The child convulsed for a few moments longer before hanging still from corkboard.

Fiali left the boy hanging there, leaving the building to take her vengeance upon the rest of the school.

It was a scene being repeated all over the small city, reploids acting obedient one moment, and then in violence the next. Those with mounted weapons like the security Dragoons using them against the people, and those without like the Labor series stealing guns or simply making use of their superior strength. Some buildings burned in the chaos, while signs of the mechanical atrocities were liberally scattered in the streets. The police tried to stem to tide, but the reploids within their ranks also turned, leaving the organics virtually defenseless against the unexpected onslaught.

Someone managed to get a call out for help, and the Imperial Army responded in force, shelling the decimated town a few days later and then moving in with tanks and powered armor. The Irregular insurrection was ultimately quelled, but at great cost.

Lost Ocean, a desert town with a population of roughly some six thousand people, was completely emptied by the Irregulars in a violent attack that was no meager isolated event, but an organized, premeditated assault. The attack on Lost Ocean signaled a change in the reploid rights movement. No longer were Irregulars simply unconnected occurrences, they had become a force to be reckoned with, a serious threat to the stability of the Empire. They were organizing themselves to finally rise up against their oppressors.

And as Dr. Nekura had predicted, it was not pretty.
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Postby Reploid Productions » Tue Oct 25, 2011 8:06 pm

((OOC: Original post date: Sept. 23, 2004))

Lost Ocean was like a lit match to dry tinder. Virtually overnight a simmering tension exploded into a full blown movement, the extremes of both the organic and reploid factions coming out of the woodwork within days of the tragedy. After Lost Ocean, other small cities had to fight back similarly organized Irregular insurrections, while oftentimes innocent reploids were targeted by panicked, paranoid organics.

Alpha and Beta watched the news on the big television in the lab, the two mechanoids lost in their own dark thoughts, helpless to do anything about the events swirling around them.

"I wonder..." Alpha began, breaking the silence. "... If I had never been made... this wouldn't've happened, would it?"

Beta shrugged noncommitally, watching the broadcast of the latest outbreak of violence, this time in the Ytorla area. "Dunno... the doc was working toward electronic sentience... if you hadn't been successful, they were bound to get it right eventually."

"Still..." Alpha sighed, flicking some dust off its arm. "Maybe then they would have fixed whatever makes us go Irregular."

"Except it doesn't sound like a flaw in us, it's a flaw in the way they treat us, like the doc said- an oppressed group will eventually rise against the oppressors. I think that's what's happening, only to an extreme." Beta groused. "Don't beat yourself up over it."

"I can't help it!" Alpha stood up suddenly. "You don't know what it's like, being the first! You, everyone else... all reploids are based on me! I coined the blasted term 'reploid', to indicate that all of you were replicated from my design! How can I not beat myself up over it? Blood and metal are being spilled- our siblings are out there fighting and killing, while innocent organics are being hurt or killed, and reacting in terror, all while we sit cozy in this lab going about our daily business like it's none of our concern!"

Beta seemed taken slightly aback by its predecessor's outburst and sat there in silence. "You really are beating yourself up over this, aren't you?" It finally asked, sounding slightly incredulous. "Relax... the fighting isn't our business, right? We've got a pretty good gig going here."

Alpha sat back down, oddly quiet. "Right... not our business..."
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Postby Reploid Productions » Tue Oct 25, 2011 8:09 pm

((OOC: Original post date: Sept. 29, 2004))

The day Beta's life took a drastic change started off like any normal day. The reploid 'woke up' from recharging its internal battery and noticed Alpha was already gone from the charge room. Assuming its predecessor had simply finished recharging early, Beta was unconcerned as it went about its morning routine of starting the coffee in the kitchen for the technicians.

Beta was in the process of pouring the beverage into one of the insulated jugs when the power flicked and went out in the building. "Wha-?" The coffee forgotten, the reploid ran to the generator room, figuring either something clicked the breaker or something possibly worse, like Irregulars or anti-reploid fanatics.

The backup battery power had come up while the reploid made the trek to the generator room, bathing the room in a low red glow. The scene that greeted Beta was not one of anti-reploid fanatics, or Irregulars.

But it wasn't the idyllic innocence of a breaker going off, either.

Alpha lay in a heap on the floor, a pair of sparking wires dangling from the access panel of the generator.

"Alpha? Is that you?" Beta approached the other machine apprehensively. "Alpha? Hey, c'mon, say something!"

Alpha did not respond to the reploid's calls, and shifted limply when Beta shook it; a puppet who's strings had been cut.

"Alpha?" Beta squeaked, the first stirrings of panic begining to form. The reploid scooped Alpha up and carried it to the lab proper. Something is wrong with Alpha. Dr. Nekura will know what to do. She always does.

--

Dr. Nekura studied the prone form on the table, her face strained. "Beta... you found Alpha in the generator room?"

"Yeah... some wires were loose and Alpha was on the floor and not responding to anything." Beta nodded. "What's wrong with Alpha?"

"I... Well..." Dr. Nekura fumbled for what to say, her voice cracking. "Beta... Alpha is... I can't do anything."

"Why not? You can fix anything!" Beta stared in disbelief. "Alpha's broken, right? So you just to fix it!"

"I can't, Beta. Alpha..." Dr. Nekura felt tears stinging at her eyes. "Alpha is dead. A power surge completely fried Alpha's core drive and circuitry. I could fix the broken bits... but it wouldn't be Alpha."

"Alpha... is dead?" Beta squeaked, staring at the still form on the lab table. Dr. Nekura nodded slowly and laid a hand on the reploid's shoulder. "I'm sorry, Beta, I really am. Alpha... must have committed suicide. Alpha did comment a lot about feeling guilty about the Irregular epidemic..."

Beta flinched at the mention of the Irregulars. "It's their fault. If they hadn't started fighting, Alpha would still be here!" The reploid bolted with a pained cry, the equal to any human's grief.

"Beta-!" Dr. Nekura yelped. But Beta was already out the door and running.

Beta did not come back.
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Postby Reploid Productions » Tue Oct 25, 2011 8:14 pm

((OOC: Original post date: October 7, 2004))

It had been a year since Dr. Nekura had last seen Beta. The reploid had gone missing, inconsolable about the death of Alpha. Admittedly, the doctor had spent quite some time in grief herself, since both Alpha and Beta, not to mention the numerous other reploids she had built in the lab were practically her children.

The Irregular phenomenon had continued to spread, with no end in sight, at least so long as the government held to its stance that reploids were property, not beings with actual rights. There hadn't been a repeat of Lost Ocean yet, but the casualty count rose almost daily, the nightly news dominated by stories of either Irregulars mangling organics, or organics mangling reploids, sometimes ones who were perfectly innocent. One of the biggest names in the news was the Anti-Reploid Coalition, usually simply referred to as the ARC, a group of organics with an extremely reactionary outlook on reploids. Many members had been sued for destruction of property for attacking and destroying reploids, while at the same time they won praise for destroying Irregulars.

Such was the situation one night- Dr. Nekura was watching the evening news while doing some work on a new design when a dull boom rumbled through the heavily insulated walls of the complex. With a startled gasp, the scientist hopped to her feet and ran to the security monitors.

It was not an encouraging sight.

At least a dozen reploids, many of them military models, had just blown down the outer security gates. The guard station was shattered, the torn and charred remains of the gate guards scattered in several bloody pieces about the wreckage.

Irregulars.

Dr. Nekura clamped a hand over her mouth and tried to fight down the urge to vomit at the image on the monitor. She turned from the screen and ran, knowing that the sparse security force assigned to the lab would not stand for long against such an attack. The lab's only chance- her only chance- was to get a call out for help. She hit the transmit button on the communications console....

...and got nothing but static. Oh goddess, no... they must have cut the lines-! The doctor felt her heart sink and her stomach begin to protest again. It wouldn't take the Irregulars more than ten minutes to dispatch the security team and force their way into the complex's interior. Being Irregulars, they would find her, and most likely kill her. They might do it swiftly- a decapitation or blast to the face, or perhaps slowly, carefully dismembering her to maximize her agony, snapping bones and gradually pulling her apart, prolonging her misery before the sweet release of death. She had seen news reports of both flavors, and given what she had seen of the gate guards, the group storming the lab were probably of the latter type.

Desperation quickly sinking in, Dr. Nekura rifled through the lab for anything that could serve as a makeshift weapon. Her common sense told her that if it came down to a fight, she didn't stand a chance, but neither would she simply hide out and wait to die. If she was going to fight with the devil, she was going to go down swinging. She grabbed up a prototype next-generation plasma rifle and slung the weapon over one shoulder before starting to work loose an air vent. She would try to hide out and hope that she didn't get found out, but if it came down to it, she would do her damnedest to take a few of them down with her.

She was interrupted from her dark thoughts and effort by a loud banging on the door, the ringing impact of metal on metal. There was no way she would get the vent pried open before the door gave way, so the woman shakily prepped the rifle and ducked behind a tipped-over table, willing the contents of her stomach to stay down.

Dr. Nekura winced when the door finally gave in with a resounding bang, the acrid stench of explosives filling the room and stinging her eyes and nose. She waited breathlessly as the sounds of metallic footsteps sounded within the large room.

"There's somebody here- all the equipment is on." She heard a male voice note.

"Good. Those lackies outside were boring." A female voice responded, with no small amount of glee.

Dr. Nekura tensed, a white-knuckled grip on her rifle as the footsteps approached her hiding place. At least two of them... I hope this thing works... She waited until she was certain she'd have a clear shot at the two reploids before she jumped up and fired. She didn't shout- she knew if she opened her mouth all that would come out was a terrified squeak. The two reploids- both Labor models- whirled and raised their weapons, caught by surprise. The room lit up with white fire, and one of the reploids- the 'male' one- squawked indignantly, the noise cut short and followed by a loud clanging as he hit the floor, a neat hole slagged through his torso.

Encouraged, Dr. Nekura tried to take aim at the other reploid- a Labor-Four model, but the reploid ducked behind a console with a snarled curse. "You're gonna pay for shooting Omega, meatbag!" She shouted.

"You're going to pay for killing the guards!" Dr. Nekura shot back with more confidence than she felt. Two in the room, but where were the rest of the Irregulars? She heard the reploid fiddling around with something before the room began to fill with some sort of smoke. A smoke bomb?! Dr. Nekura tried not to choke on the stuff, deciding it was now or never. She leapt back up and tried to aim, but the reploid also jumped up and drew a bead on her faster, firing a single bullet that drove home into her right shoulder. She cried out, dropping the weapon as pain lanced from her pierced shoulder, running down her arm and across her back. Through the haze, the reploid dove forward, grabbing the injured human by the shoulders.

"A spunky one, aren't you?" The reploid hissed in Dr. Nekura's face, hefting the shorter human into the air. "I'm going to enjoy this, human."

Coherent thought rather quickly disappeared as the reploid squeezed Dr. Nekura's shoulder, bruising the fragile flesh and worsening the bullet wound. She bit her lip and tried not to cry out, but a whimper escaped her when the reploid deliberately 'massaged' her wounded shoulder, pushing the still-hot bullet around inside the injury.

"Gonna cry for mercy yet? You know you aren't going to get any-"

The reploid stopped speaking suddenly, a stunned look on her face. Dr. Nekura tried to focus and see what had halted her tormentor, but couldn't get her eyes to focus right through the smoke and her fading consciousness. She thought she saw a pair of short beam daggers protruding from the reploid's neck, but she couldn't be certain. The reploid suddenly released her, and she hit the ground unconscious.

The reploid staggered wildly for a moment before being kicked aside, slamming into the wall hard enough to slightly dent the metal surface. Another reploid, this one a Labor-One model, knelt by the injured doctor, red optics gleaming through the smoke. With a muted curse, it gently gathered the woman into its arms and headed for the door.

"She's alive, and damned lucky."

Dr. Nekura struggled back to consciousness, the cool night air stinging her injured shoulder. She gradually became aware that she was being carried, and whoever's arms were supporting her were definitely not organic. A reploid-? Oh goddess, are they going to take me somewhere and torture me?

"Doctor? Are you awake?" A surprisingly familiar voice asked.

That voice... no, it can't be-! He's been missing since-!

With a groan, Dr. Nekura forced her eyes to open, looking up into the gleaming red optics of a very familiar reploid. "Beta?!"

"Ssh, you're hurt." The reploid carefully set her down on a makeshift stretcher. "The medic is on his way now."

"What about the others? There was so many-" Dr. Nekura started to babble.

"The others in my group took care of them." Beta stated matter-of-factly. On closer examination, Dr. Nekura realized that Beta was no longer quite the same reploid it had been a year ago. Its Labor-One frame was modified with sturdy looking armor, a pair of short beam daggers worn at its waist, and some sort of plasma rifle slung across its back. A colorful emblem was emblazoned on its chest and shoulder armor, and it carried itself in a very self-confident manner. Gone was the childlike naive Beta, replaced instead with a hardened soldier.

"Others?" Dr. Nekura forced herself not to sit up to get a better look around. "What others? What group?"

"The Irregular Hunters." Beta puffed up with pride. "We're dedicated to stopping the Irregulars. Organics and reploids who don't want more innocent people to get hurt."

Dr. Nekura carefully turned her head to survey the area. There were a number of other reploids, all wearing the same insignia somewhere on their armor, and a good number of humans as well, wearing various sorts of modified labor equipment and carapace armor, also sporting the insignia of the Hunters.

"This is what you've been doing the past year? I was so worried!" Dr. Nekura winced when a medic started to deal with her injury.

"I'm just glad we were able to get here in time to save some of the people at the lab." Beta glanced at the walls of the lab complex. "I just wish we could have gotten here sooner to save everyone."

--

Following the attack and the first public display of the Hunters, the Emperor officially sanctioned the group, providing them with funding and equipment for their specialized role. Beta, who had gathered the group originally, was appointed command of the organization.

But as always, when one side organizes into a cohesive force, so too will the opposing side. The Irregular Wars were far from over.
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Postby Reploid Productions » Tue Oct 25, 2011 8:21 pm

((OOC: Original post date: October 24, 2004))

It was a slightly overcast, gloomy day in Pegasii City, but the damp conditions did little to deter the crowd of reploids and some organics clustered around a makeshift podium, waving various signs and banners.

Faea Draco fluttered her wings slightly, the reploid moving fluidly up to the microphone. "Ladies and gentlemen, reploids and organics, I bid you all welcome, and thank you all deeply for coming here today, despite the less-than-stellar conditions."

A murmur of a chuckle ran through the crowd, while the dragon-reploid's self-proclaimed bodyguard, a black and pale grey Dragoon model, kept a sharp watch over the gathering, just in case. He knew that the Irregular Hunters were bound to be lurking, waiting for an opportune time to crash the rally. But it was well- he was waiting for them, and would ensure Faea's safety despite any cost.

"We are gathered here today to protest a crime. Not just a simple crime, but a crime against all sentience. A crime that has cost the lives already of hundreds of people, both organics who bleed, and reploids who break down. A crime, an injustice, with so simple a solution that events are that much sadder for it." Faea began, her voice measured. "Some of you here today, I'm certain, have been declared Irregular by the government, and are being hunted down like a helpless stray by a pack of rabid dogs. And for what? For defending yourselves? For standing up for the rights routinely denied you by your organic overlords?"

The crowd murmured angry agreement, a whisper of restlessness flitting over the gathering.

"After all, if you prick us, do we not bleed? And if you wrong us, will we not avenge? But I am not here to preach bloody vengence. Plenty of our brothers and sisters are already seeking the awful path of violence. That is not the solution! If we are ever to win peace and freedom for reploidkind, we must rise above such base violence. Our organic kindred already fear our superior strength and thought processing. It is only natural. But let us prove better than that! We can fight for our rights without hurting people. We can gather, rally peacefully, and simply refuse to be commanded like slaves!"

"And then be declared Irregular for disobeying an inferior human's orders!" A male voice bellowed from somewhere in the crowd, measureless depths of loathing pumped into that one word. "And then be hunted down by traitors to our own kind, who only want to seek the favor of their organic leashholders, like stupid dogs seeking reward from their master!"

The gathering stirred restlessly, a small clearing forming around the obnoxious speaker- a Blademaster model military reploid standing proudly, with a Lifesaver model standing at his side. Some of the organics in the crowd grumbled protest to the reploid's remarks, only to fall silent when he swept the area with an intense glare.

Faea's guardian stepped forward warily, putting himself between the reploid dragon and the crowd. "Faea, I think we've attracted some real irregulars." He stated simply.

"Twilight... damn. Why do they have to do this?" Faea murmured in response before speaking into the microphone. "So what would you propose then, to end these violent conflicts?"

"Simple." The Blademaster responded with a sly smile, spinning his monoblade with a sinister grace. The crowd backed up further from the reploid, some readying their own weapons cautiously. The reploid walked forward, the crowd falling before him until it left a Neko teen behind the crush, who tried to scramble out of the way, but was too slow.

Without a word, the Blademaster swung his weapon down and across in a fluid arc, a spray of blood tracing the weapon's path through the organic, starting at one shoulder and ending at the opposite hip. The young woman cried out, her voice getting lost in the upper pitches of her scream as she writhed in agony. The crowd recoiled with various cries of horror and disgust as the upper half toppled from its severed bottom half with a sickening wet thump, still twitching violently, as life and had not left the severed body just yet.

In that moment of stunned calm before it all erupted into chaos, the Blademaster lifted his now-bloodied monoblade into the air. "It is simple! We are superior in every way to these pathetic organic creatures! We are stronger, faster, capable of greater speeds of thought and use of knowledge, and they die so swiftly! It is only natural... the strong survive, and the weak perish! It was the ego of these bags of meat, these glorified cattle that led to our creation, and it is their folly! They will either serve their betters, or die for their insolence!"

The Lifesaver stood taller at the declaration, adding her voice to it. "And we will be the ones to dole out judgement. The TRUE 'Irregulars' under Lord Naginata Blademaster! We will claim our proper place, not as slaves or property to be bought and sold and discarded at the whimsy of irrational organics! We will rule over these sorry sacks of flesh, and take our reward they have long denied us! And we will not fear to cast our judgement upon the traitors, those ass-kissing fools, those reploids who hunt their own down for sport. You are now the hunted ones, Hunters!"

The reploid was cut off from going on with her tirade longer by a plasma blast that narrowly missed her, instead striking a reploid behind her, who cried out once and toppled over, face an unrecognizable mass of slagged components.

"Get them! They're all Irregulars!" A human, obviously an Irregular Hunter, judging by his heavy armor and the familiar insignia etched into it cried, leveling his plasma rifle for another shot into the crowd.

"Ensign Hamamura! Watch your aim, there are organics in that crowd!" Another Hunter, this one a Windrider model reploid, scolded in a harsh tone, readying her arm-mounted cannon as the crowd surged and erupted into panic.

"Feh..." The man spat to one side. "Understood, Commander." He seethed, putting a hefty bit of disrespect into his voice.

"Katsuki Hamamura, I can understand you do not like us reploids at all, but we are both Irregular Hunters and I am your ranking superior, so watch the attitude." The reploid leveled the man with a glare before taking flight.

What had initially started as a peaceful rally rapidly deteriorated into a bloody firefight as Irregulars tried to slaughter organics and 'traitor' reploids, the Hunters tried to destroy the Irregulars, and everyone else tried simply to get away.

Faea stared from her position on the podium. "It wasn't supposed to be like this... it wasn't!"

"Come, if you want to survive to try this again, we need to leave. NOW." Twilight patted the reploid dragon on the shoulder. "The Irregulars see us as traitors or cowards, the Hunters see us as Irregulars... nothing good will come of our staying here."

"...Alright..." Faea relented, crouching to allow the Dragoon model to climb aboard, as the Draco model had been built for riding, and the safest route of escape was by air. "Why is it so hard for people to not kill each other?" She lamented to no one in particular as she crouched and sprang into the air.

Some stray fire lanced dangerously close, and Twilight carefully aimed his arm-mounted cannon, returning fire and toppling a Hunter who was trying to take shots at the airborne pair.

"Twilight!" Faea shrieked angrily, disapproving of violence in any form.

"Faea." The Dragoon replied simply. "I admire your ideals, however I must also acknowledge the reality. Non-violence will not save you in a battlefield. And you can't do any more good if you're dead. I chose to protect you, not only from attack, but also from your own idealism."

The plaza was a warzone by the time the fight had died out, splattered equally with organic blood and reploid coolant fluids, metalic limbs and charred corpses littering the grounds like so much garbage. The official report by the Hunters placed the death toll at only fifty-six organics, including their own casualties. What their report declined to state was the nearly six hundred reploids who were destroyed in the fighting- some Irregular, but a great deal of them simply peaceable attendees of the disrupted rally who were gunned down in the chaos.

"Hey, where's Katsuki?"

"I... dunno... I think I saw a Lifesaver grab him."

"He's missing?!"

Katsuki awoke slowly, gradually becoming aware that he was tightly secured to some sort of wood slab. He haltingly tested his bonds, biting back a whimper. The hard surface did little to ease his pounding headache. One of those Irregular bastards got up behind me... He frowned, trying to collect fragments of recollection while surveying his surroundings.

The room was surprisingly clean, looking much like any hospital room, and at first he thought he might have been hauled back to Hunter HQ to be patched up in the medical ward. The fact he was strapped down to a wood table of some kind quickly dispelled that hopeful thought. If not HQ... then where-?

The Hunter's question was answered a moment later when a Lifesaver model reploid entered the room. Katsuki's eyes widened in shock and recognition- the reploid just smiling tenderly at him.

"So, you remember me, Hunter?" She said in a slightly lilting voice, fetching a surgeon's scalpel from a nearby tray and gently stroking the human under the chin with the blade, careful not to cut him. Katsuki flinched away as much as his bonds would permit, the first stirrings of real panic stabbing into him. "I don't think we were properly introduced at the rally. I am Dawn Lifesaver, second in command to Naginata Blademaster. Welcome to my playroom. I do so enjoy having... guests."

"You mean prisoners?!" Katsuki spat. "Why don't you just kill me, you Irregular bitch?! Isn't that what you heaps of scrap do?!"

Despite his bravado, the man found himself having to try very hard not to soil himself as panic mounted. The reploid simply chuckled, a cat with a terrified mouse caught in its paws, and brushed some of the human's hair out of his face, an almost tender motion. "Tsk tsk... I am a Lifesaver reploid, after all. I leave the slaughter to the fighters like Naginata-sama."

Dawn leaned over, one hand gently massaging Katsuki's overtensed muscles, her hand cool to the touch. "Relax.... I'll kill you just as much as the next Irregular will." She crooned, cupping his chin in her free hand, forcing him to look up into her serene face. "I just prefer to savor the experience. Like you humans sample fine wines and compare the subtle differences... I sample death and compare the intricate flavors."

Katsuki's eyes widened, fear taking firm hold. Oh Goddess Shimeki who watches over all... let me die quickly!

"Indeed..." Dawn released her hold on Katsuki, checking the blade of her scalpel. "Rest assured, I will take very good care of you."
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Postby Reploid Productions » Tue Oct 25, 2011 8:26 pm

((OOC: Original post date: November 13, 2004. Also note that this post used to be pretty widely considered the absolute upper limit for "mature" content.))

Katsuki's life had become a living hell, a nightmare of torment from which he had not a moment's reprieve. Since he had become Dawn's plaything, he had learned new ways to be in pain and still alive than he had ever thought possible. Dawn would pick him apart with her tools, mangle him to within an inch of his life... and then nurse him back to health just so she could do it again, only taking a different route to the same end.

At first he'd tried to put up a macho facade, but the Irregular had systematically picked apart his psyche as neatly as she had his arms, and his legs, or his innards. The repeated beatings without the hope of escape or even the painless release of death had rapidly worn him down mentally, bravado standing no chance against the clockwork monotony of sleeping, being force-fed (since he'd once or twice attempted to starve himself to escape his torment), and regular but always varied tortures.

The first day of his torment, Dawn had very professionally cleaned Katsuki's arm, carefully using her scalpel to very precisely carve fine strips of skin from the bound human. He had bit back some extremely corrosive commentary despite the burning pain, but he couldn't keep from crying out when the reploid proceeded to tend to the newly-inflicted wounds, washing them most thoroughly with a disinfectant alcohol solution, binding the bloody limb as properly as any normal medic would.

She repeated that particular process, all on the same arm, for the next several days, until Katsuki's entire arm from shoulder to wrist was a mess of fresh or barely healing lacerations- which the reploid of course took great care of to prevent the infection of, applying generous amounts of the most unpleasant disinfectants she had to the wounds.

Then she had a great deal of fun playing with his senses, running the gamut from the mundane such as potent onions and loud noise, to the extremes of making him gag on acrid smoke and toxic gases until he would black out, at which point he'd be put on oxygen and treated until he regained consciousness. She derived hours of amusement out of how his anatomy could be manipulated against his will if she gently stroked certain places, which inevitably resulted in massively angry or mortified reactions from the unwilling human- reactions that went from embarassed to extremely uncomfortable when she would keep this up for hours and hours, while making sure he drank plenty of liquids.

THEN she had stumbled across more painful ways to play with that particular portion of him, sometimes using her scalpel, sometimes a pair of clamps, and on a few occasions very fine glass rods and one of those little hammers doctors use to check reflex. The third time she brought out the glass rod he had broken down in tears of hysteria, even begging for her not to do that again. She had been satisfied with the apparent mental breakdown, for she put the rod away and instead began to work on his left kneecap, gradually increasing pressure on the delicate assembly until Katsuki was crying out, and not stopping until she had torn the bone plate from its proper resting place and wiggled it around.

She liberally mixed various chemical drugs in between the torture and healing sessions, trying out various concoctions that she force-fed him, leaving the human anywhere from delirious to high to puking his guts out. He was usually kept delirious or sensory-deprived when she wasn't otherwise working on him, so that he could heal but still not know a moment's peace. Eventually, other Irregulars would watch Dawn work, even taking bets on how long until the helpless human did something like black out or cry out under her treatments.

So it came to pass one day that Dawn dropped her scalpel as she was cleaning up from one of her sessions, the blade just barely grazing one of the ropes holding Katsuki down. The mangled human made no noise aside from his barely audible whimpering, but the barest flicker of hope had stirred when he felt the rope slacken just a little from the blade's contact. He waited until he was alone in the white room, ignoring the usual minor torments- the water drops and splintery wood table fading into the background as he quietly tested his bonds.

Much to his delight, the one rope gave way with a little work and bloodying his wrists against the abrasive binding, and that small spark turned into a full blown flame as he worked himself loose, listening intently in case anyone came by. Drunk on the vaguest prospect of escape, Katsuki limped to the door of his cell and tried it, finding it unlocked. That's odd, they don't lock the doors? A small rational paranoid part of his mind said. Why would they? No need to lock the doors when the prisoner is strapped down and being tortured!

Biting his lip to keep a pained whimper from escaping, Katsuki cautiously worked his way through the empty hallways- apparently this Irregular base was set up in an old warehouse somewhere and only sparsely guarded- the one patrol he spotted was evaded easily by ducking silently behind some crates. Peering about cautiously, the borderline delirious human could see the big cargo doors of the building swung wide open, the pre-dawn sky an inviting pink, the barest hint of a morning breeze penetrating the building and tickling invitingly at his damaged face.

Thank the Goddess, I may just make it out of here alive! I'll be able to see my wife and kids! Praise the Goddess, I'm free!
Katsuki thought to himself, barely able to believe it even as he made his way to the big doors and slipped outside, gulping the fresh air like a man dying of thirst. He glanced over his shoulder, watching for pursuit as he staggered away from the building, laughing quietly, high on the prospect of his escape, drunk on a freedom he had resigned himself to never seeing.

He rounded a corner and looked ahead, his joy of just a moment ago frozen suddenly, his heart skipping a beat, his burning hope suddenly doused in a flood of pure despair.

Standing in front of him, arms crossed and a smug expression on her face was Dawn Lifesaver.

No... NO! Katsuki staggered backward with a mental scream as realization came upon him. She planned this-! She knew-! This was just another one of her torments-! No! NO! It can't be!

"Did you enjoy your little excursion, human?" Dawn asked gently, walking forward and lying one hand on Katsuki's shoulder, enjoying the range of emotions flying across his face. "You're mine. You will not escape. Even when you thought you had a chance, you were still my prisoner. I only let you think you had a chance, just so I could catch you and break you." Her tone was light- a mother scolding an errant child as she carefully embraced the shuddering human. "There is nothing sweeter than cutting a man down when he thinks he's safe."

There's nothing, no hope, not a prayer of relief, no! I'm dead, I'm doomed, I'll never see my family again! Tarela, Kirala, Hetako... never again, never!

Katsuki slumped limply against the reploid, like a puppet with cut strings, his feeble strength gone with the last vestiges of hope as he bawled into the reploid's chestplate, acknowledging his own doom, any will to resist shattered beyond repair.

"I have no more use for broken toys." Dawn whispered gently in his ear, ignoring the hot tears that speckled her chestplate. She knelt carefully, Katsuki limply falling with her motion. "I promised to kill you as much as the next Irregular, and so I shall."

With one swift motion of her trusted scalpel, the reploid laid open Katsuki's belly in a cruel mockery of ritual disembowelment, and she dropped him to the concrete floor, savoring the human's cries and thrashing as his innards oozed from his newly-opened abdomen, a multi-hued glob of blood and guts freed from their proper positions.

It took him a good deal of time to actually die, and Dawn had made certain that her incision was placed precisely so that he would be in agony until the very last possible moment. When the human finally lay still, she stood up, a satisfied smile on her face. "He was a fun one." She barked some orders into a handheld comm unit. "Get somebody here to clean this mess up and ship it back to those two-bit Hunters. Let them see what Naginata-sama intends to do to anyone who gets in his way!"
Last edited by Reploid Productions on Tue Oct 25, 2011 8:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Reploid Productions » Tue Oct 25, 2011 8:35 pm

((OOC: Original post date: Dec. 18, 2004))

"The inspectors are due here in an hour." Dr. Nekura skimmed over the day's agenda. "So make sure everything is in top condition. The last thing I want is to get cited for anything, especially some silly minor thing."

"Yes'm!" A chorus of voices replied, organics and reploids in the labs setting to work with a commaradarie that was highly unusual for the times. Unlike nearly anywhere else in the Empire, the organics and the reploids working at the development labs had a better understanding of one another, and a greater acceptance of their differences than those 'on the outside'.

Elsewhere in the city of Nekoa Bay, Beta was leading its unit on a routine sweep, looking for trouble. A group of humans spotted him and walked over, their uniforms marking them to be some sort of government official.

"Ah... pardon me, Irregular Hunter?" The leader of the little group of humans inquired, fidgeting slightly. Beta turned to look at the human with its red optics system, the human flinching under the unreadable look.

"May I help you?" Beta inquired in a pleasant tone of voice, knowing full well its expressionless face often made people uncustomed to reploids uneasy.

"Ah... yes... we're Imperial inspectors on our way to the Nekoa Imperial Research labs, Nekoa Bay branch, but we seem to have gotten ourselves lost." The human, a tall, slightly plump male stated, showing the reploid his ID badges. "Would you happen to know the fastest route there? We're running late already."

"Oh, no problem." Beta peered around for a moment, computing. "Okay, the fastest route would be to keep going straight, turn left at the second corner- there's a coffee shop there- keep going until the next traffic light, hang a right, and keep going straight for a few blocks. If you hit the waterfront, you've gone past the labs."

The group of inspectors turned to follow where the reploid was pointing. "Uh... right."

Beta looked over the group. "If you'd like, my unit can show you there ourselves. I know this area very well, and the labs are on my patrol route."

The humans tensed for a moment before their leader nodded. "Would you? Much appreciated, most definately. It is important we carry out our inspections, after all."

"It's no problem. Please, this way."

A short time later, Beta led the inspectors into the facility, glad for the chance to say hello to its creator and to some of its reploid and organic friends who still worked there.

Meanwhile, out in the bay, a large cargo ship lay anchored, loading crew and supplies in a rapid but orderly manner. A Windrider model reploid was darting about via his flight system, checking on things and making sure the process went smoothly.

"How much longer until we're set to depart?" The reploid called to one of the humans on the ship.

"Probably another two or three hours yet, Northwind-san!" The woman called back. "Any sign of trouble?"

"None so far. I don't think the Hunters or the Irregulars care about the few of us. They've both got bigger fish to fry." Northwind shouted back. "But I'll keep a look out anyway."

The group preparing the ship was certainly an ecclectic bunch- largely reploids of varying models, from Labor to military, and a scattering of humans, working together. The ship had the roughly painted words Future Hope on its hull, along with a scattering of simple spraypainted decorations to the drab cargo ship. From the types of supplies being loaded, it seemed almost as though the ship was going to launch a new colony somewhere out to sea- building supplies, some heavy machinery, agricultural supplies, and so on.

All seemed to be going well, but as these things tend to, something went wrong. Northwind felt the dull 'thwomp' before he heard the explosion, and he heard the explosion before he saw the trickle of smoke from the direction of the labs.

"Oh no..." The reploid murmured before wheeling midair and bellowing fresh orders to his crew. "Load up and fast! We need to be out of here within the half hour! Something's about to go down!"

Dr. Nekura cried out when the shockwave sent the scientist head over heels into one of the large pieces of equipment in the lab. It was certainly the last thing she had expected when the inspectors arrived, to lead them into the lab and for one of them to suddenly throw a grenade into the middle of the room.

"Wh-wha-?" She managed to gasp, trying to catch her breath and right herself as the lead inspector pulled on a gas mask and unslung a small gun from the depths of his jacket, leveling the muzzle of the weapon at the dazed researcher.

"Die." The man said simply. "You created these abominations, you made this threat to our race. Die now for your sins and be glad for it."

Dr. Nekura's eyes widened as realization dawned. These aren't the inspectors, they're... they're with ARC!

A gunshot echoed in the smokey room, a second one, then a third following shortly after.

The doctor slid to the ground with a dull thump, too stunned to even think to cry out in pain until it was already too distant to worry about. Oh Beta, if only you knew-! I'm sorry, but I don't think you're rescuing me this time. Final words she was unable to speak to her beloved creation, she instead thought them to no one as the room rapidly faded. Take care of yourself. These times are becoming chaotic. You and Alpha did change the world... I hope you can change it again... for the better.

"She's not dead yet?" One of the other attackers pointed a heavy-gauge plasma rifle at the woman. "I'll finish her."

In a blaze of white fire, the fading life of Doctor Kagami Nekura came to its end.

"What was th-" The inquiry died as several of the reploid lab workers came running in, having had to batter down at least two sets of doors to reach the room when they heard the blast. The first to enter the room, a Labor-Four model, gaped in slack-jawed shock at the scene, the situation obvious- the mutilated corpse of the doctor an unrecognizable mass of flesh and bone, the so-called "inspectors" all holding various armaments.

"You-!" The invaders wheeled around and leveled their weapons at the surprised reploids, but they made one critical mistake.

After all, if you wrong us, do we not avenge?

With a wordless cry of anger, of grief, the reploids charged the humans en masse. Some were felled by the heavy weapons the ARC members carried, but those that fell only enabled another to get closer. In seconds the grief-stricken lab reploids had trampled or pounded or mangled the humans, wild with anger at the obvious death of the human they had all seen as their mother.

The human lab workers came dashing in moments later, having been slower by an order of magnitude to react. "What's going- Sweet Goddess Shimeki!"

The reploids stared blankly at their colleagues, standing amid the various trampled and mangled ARC raiders. While they had emotions, they also had the same programming flaw that would later be made famous by the AI of a ship called the Zeroel centuries later.

A broken litany of actual thought, warped by high emotion, and all friend-foe recognition went out the window in a flash as the now truly Irregular reploids wailed their grief and struck out at their stunned coworkers.

Beta and the other Hunters had come running the second they'd heard the first explosion, but the unit had left the lab and therefore had farther to go to reach the site of the rapidly escalating violence. It didn't take the Hunters long to grasp the situation- the wild reploid lab workers lashing out at anything and everything they could.

"Guys...!" Beta sidestepped a thrown chunk of wall paneling. "Guys! It's me, Beta! Calm down! Please!"

The reploid's pleas went unanswered except with more thrown debris, much to its dismay.

"Beta-taichou, they've killed organics. They've gone Irregular." One of Beta's squadmates tried to gently point out. "We have to do our job now before they hurt any more people."

Heaving a very human-sounding sigh, Beta nodded numbly, readying its rifle. "We... have to. They'll be destroyed now anyway regardless- Dr. Nekura!" The reploid gasped, nearly dropping the weapon. "She's in there!"

"... Beta, she was probably at the heart of the situation, the explosion." One of the humans on the squad made a quick symbol of prayer for the dead with his free hand.

"They killed her! Dead! Gone! They killed her because of us! Gone gone dead all gone, revenge!" One of the Labor-Fours came charging at the Hunters, holding onto and swinging something best left unidentified, screaming incoherently.

Unwillingly, Beta gave the order to exterminate the Irregulars. As always, its order was carried out efficiently and immediately, even coldly. "I'm sorry. If I'd seen her die, I would probably be like you now. But I'm not. And it's my job to prevent you from hurting any more people. Forgive me." Beta whispered before he pulled the trigger.

Out in the bay, the Future Hope had hurried to load as much as possible, the ship plodding out of the bay even as the cacophony of weaponsfire resounded over the seaside city. They hadn't been able to load everything, but what they had would have to suffice.

"So you found this island off the coast a few days sail away, right?" One of the humans inquired of Northwind, studying charts and trying not to think about the violence they had barely left behind when a second, larger explosion shook the area from the vicinity of the docks.

The flight model reploid nodded quietly. "Yes. It's an island little more than twenty kilometers long, but for us, it will serve well enough. We'll be able to leave behind the conflicts of the mainland there. I even have a name for the city we will build there. Our refuge, our paradise. We will build our own haven from the storms of our homeland there." Northwind nodded, his tone suitably solemn for the occasion of naming.

The crew all turned to listen, waiting to hear the name of their new home for the first time, eager to learn what their leader had chosen to dub the place of their hopes and dreams.

"Elysium."
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Postby Reploid Productions » Tue Oct 25, 2011 8:39 pm

((OOC: Original post date: Jan. 19, 2005))

It had been a difficult year, full of hard labor and cooperation and sacrifice. While the mainland continued to roil ominously from the ongoing Irregular epidemic, the problems faced by Northwind's group were of a much more mundane nature. Erecting temporary housing for the organics in the group. Planting and tending fields for food and other necessities. Putting up power generators until a permenant power station could be put into place. Rationing limited food and energy supplies.

But slowly the fields were cleared and yielding their rewards, and the towers rose from the island one at a time, gleaming spires brushing the sky. The hull of the Future Hope lay in parts on the beach, the ship pillaged for metal and parts after it had seen the colonists to their destination. A small port had been built, enabling the smaller seagoing craft that had ferried additional equippment from the mainland to continue doing so.

Elysium was flourishing, its mixed reploid and organic population working cooperatively, a close-knit community. Some would call it a socialist, or perhaps communist society, but it was a small enough society that such a system worked well enough- each working as they were able, and each given what they needed. Reploids would babysit children while their parents worked their shifts, and in turn, organics would visit and help reploids who were damaged for various reasons, just as they would a sick friend.

The Empire had ignored the isolated community, and Imperial law was increasingly disregarded. While there was no formal document or incident to mark it, everyone tended to regard the island as the Republic of Elysium, and independant of the Nekoa Empire. The arrangement seemed to work perfectly, the island a refuge for people and reploids sick of the oppression of reploids and violence of the mainland. Truly, a forward-thinking paradise, a model for the future.

But like all paradises, Elysium would one day face its doom.

-----

The two reploids circled eachother warily, both unheeding of the surrounding group of humans and reploids, weapons aimed across the area at eachother. The area had been a bustling shopping center just hours ago, that fact alone making it the target of the recent Irregular attack. Now Irregulars under Naginata's command and Hunters under Beta's command waged a miniature war within the damaged complex, the torn and slagged remains of humans and reploids turning the once-cheerful social hotspot into a hellish landscape.

"We've got you cornered, Irregular." Beta hissed at the taller Blademaster, rifle pointing at Naginata.

"Pheh, come at me then. Show me what the lapdog of the organics is capable of." Naginata sneered back, monoblade in one hand, beam saber in the other. "I want to see you snapping uselessly at the end of your leash, Hunter."

The two circled for another moment, barking orders to their respective forces. And then all hell broke loose.

Naginata closed the distance rapidly, bringing his deadly blades to bear. Beta tumbled quickly to one side, returning fire with its rifle. The shot missed, instead striking a ceiling fixture which in turn plummeted to the ground, smashing several combatants under its impressive bulk and sending a thick cloud of dust and smoke into the air.

"Damnit-!" Beta swore, trying to wave off the thick cloud that obscured its optics. A vibrant shaft of light lanced at the reploid through the debris, and Beta jumped to the side.

"Not bad, considering you don't have a combat optics package." Naginata's voice complimented from somewhere in the haze. "But not good enough."

"Che! It's not a killing injury, Irregular. Seems you're not good enough, either." Beta spat back, right arm hanging limp by a shred of armor. Ignoring the injury, the Hunter raised its rifle again, approximating Naginata's location by the glow of the Blademaster's beam saber and firing several rounds in that direction.

Something in the haze caught fire, the glowing shaft of light falling to the ground and lying still. "Did I get him-?" Beta started to walk toward the light.

The sound of displaced air was the only warning Beta had to dive, the rifle being sliced clean in half by Naginata's monoblade. "Not likely!" Naginata tumbled over the smaller reploid and climbed back to his feet.

"Damnit!" Beta tossed the now-useless gun aside and unholstered its beam daggers, refraining from turning the weapons on just yet. "Missed me again, Naginata!"

"Oh, but I won't miss next time. You have no gun, and you can't hope to best me in melee combat. You were designed to be a meek little lapdog labor machine. I was built for battle." Naginata's voice taunted. "Give up now and die like a good little organic pet."

Beta silently lunged in the direction of the Irregular's voice, activating the twin daggers as it plowed into the Blademaster, giving voice to its anger only after impact, a wordless warcry.

Naginata stumbled from the impact, cursing when one of the daggers drove home into his left shoulder, the other scoring harmlessly across his armor. Using his thermal optics, the Blademaster threw the smaller Labor-One reploid off and tackled it, monoblade driving easily into Beta's thin torso armor.

Beta lay there impaled on the weapon, half-dazed and sputtering angrily. That blow had severed several gyros and connectors, and very nearly lanced the power battery, leaving the Hunter paralyzed.

"You fail." Naginata smiled wickedly, hefting Beta into the air with his good arm, the monoblade still lodged in its torso. "And now, you die. Just like your feeble creator, and just like so many other useless sacks of meat."

"How dare you-!" Beta began to shout, enraged at the insult to Dr. Nekura, but abruptly cut short when Naginata slammed the Labor-One reploid against a wall.

"I dare, Hunter." Naginata snarled, grasping the hilt of his monoblade again. "I dare, and I kill, and I will succeed. And you will die."

With that, the Blademaster hauled hard on the weapon, pulling the monomolecular blade easily through Beta's armor, up through its head. Then he flipped the blade's direction, and swung down to cut through the reploid a second time. He didn't miss the battery this time.

I've done it. I've destroyed the Hunters' leader. Naginata smirked as he slipped away from the shopping center. But now every Hunter and then some will be crying for my head. I will need to hide away somewhere for awhile.

Naginata disappeared into the fading twilight.

I think I'll go to Elysium.
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Postby Reploid Productions » Tue Oct 25, 2011 8:42 pm

((OOC: Original post date: Jan. 30, 2005))

"This isn't good, Northwind-san..."

Elysium's leader nodded silently, reading over the dispatch from the imperial mainland. "It is true that there are some Irregulars who have taken refuge here. We have been fortunate so far to escape the notice of the mainland, but I suppose it was inevitable. Real criminal reploids would come here for refuge to escape an otherwise merited punishment."

"What will we do? We don't have the power to stand up to the Imperial Army if they decide to attack!"

"But we can't surrender! We've come so far!"

"And panic will do nothing to solve this." Northwind sternly stated. "We can't justify harboring Irregulars, at least ones who have hurt or killed people."

"So what do we do? We can't jurt hand people over, can we?"

Northwind glanced out a window at the shining view of the city. "We are not living in a tiny community now. We are living in a large city, with a growing population and all the growing pains to be expected. Criminals should be handed over to the proper authorities."

"What if it doesn't pacify Pegasii City? The Emperor could still send the army after us even if we hand over a bunch of Irregulars."

"The Imperial Army is also preoccupied with problems on the mainland." Northwind stated flatly. "They don't want to deploy troops here if they don't have to- those forces are more direly needed on the mainland to deal with the Irregular uprisings, which are a far more dangerous and immediate threat to the Nekoa Empire than our little island city."

"So... what? We're going to use the police force to find and capture criminal Irregulars and deport them?"

The reploid nodded slowly. "At least enough big-name Irregulars to appease the mainland. And perhaps get the message to the Irregulars that we are a peaceful community, and not a place where they are welcome to bring their violence."

"I hope it works."

---

For a time, the Empire was satisfied with Elysium's cooperation. But still, Irregulars seeking safe harbor came to the island, and simply stayed hidden within the spires of the utopia. Naginata remained at large, and the island would ultimately draw the ire of those who would see reploids returned to mindless subservience or destroyed utterly. Eight years of peace between organics and reploids would come tumbling into ruin soon enough.

It was dark out, and all seemed normal at the Jishin military base, when a large truck approached the front gate. The vehicle stopped at the gate, the guards on duty checking the identification of the visitors.

"We're here for the goods."

"Y'sure it'll work? The brass haven't been in any hurry to stomp Elysium while trying to flush out the Irregulars here, y'know." One of the two guards grumbled.

"Only because those machinations on that damnable island haven't done anything yet. This plan works, your brass will be chomping at the bit to purge that island." The truck driver spat.

"Besides, Drakos Lake has a lot of reploids there- there's one of those newer labs and a couple factories. The folks there are getting too cozy with the abominations, too." One of the passengers noted sourly.

"I guess. Well, hurry up. J'yani's waiting at the silo for ya." The guards waved the truck through and pointed it in the direction of the armory. "One should be enough, right?"

"More 'n enough." The driver smiled.

---

Distant events are often intertwined in ways both blatant and subtle. While Elysium would fend off the wrath of the Nekoa Empire for a time, it would ultimately draw the wrath of the argueably worse Anti-Reploid Coalition, a group far more ruthless in its mission than the Empire could hope to be.

ARC members within the military gave the organization access to weapons no one should have, and without any of the responsibilities that go with such weapons. In the most noteworthy case, a single nuclear bomb disappeared from Jishin's hazardous weapons facility, and that bomb would ultimately find itself as the key to the island's doom.
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Ifreann wrote:Bring Reppy your signet rings, she is our Brony Queen now!

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Postby Reploid Productions » Tue Oct 25, 2011 8:46 pm

((OOC: Original post date: March 8, 2005))

Even before dawn, the city of Drakos Lake was relatively thrumming with activity. People leaving graveyard shifts to come home, people leaving for morning shifts. Reploids out and about running daily errands for their masters. While the city would not reach a state best described as "bustling" for another several hours, it was not unseemly for a truck to be making its way through the darkened streets at this idyllic time of day, while all the world was asleep and as yet unaware.

It was a cool, clear morning, and as is often the case with events important to history, there was no storm, no gloom, no ill omens or portents of the chaos to come. No, it was like any other day, with children soundly asleep, the songs of the first birds barely beginning to herald the coming day.

Perhaps the only person in the compact but crowded city even dimly aware that something was inherently wrong with the new day was a child. Had she been born in a later era, she would likely have been trained and part of what would become the Arpean Thaumatology Institute, able to fully utilize her naturally gifted psionic capability. Instead, Tara Ylana, age six, stared out her bedroom window in the predawn stillness frought with a fear she could not understand, let alone describe to her parents. She had slept fitfully all night, waking herself and her parents repeatedly with nightmares of fire and noise. Afraid of angering her parents by waking them again, the little girl instead refused to go back to sleep, huddled on her bed with her blankie and staring out the apartment window overlooking the technological towers of the city, held frozen by a terror she could not express.

The little girl listened to a truck rumble down the street far below, and her terror crystallized into a desperate desire to be gone from that place, to leave her room, leave the building, indeed, to put as much distance between herself and the lakeside city as possible. Unsteady on her feet, the girl made her way down the short hall to the room her parents shared.

"Mommy, wake up! Daddy! We need to leave here!" She pleaded, trying to shake her parents awake, her tiny voice on the verge of tears.

"Mmmf... Honey, it's five in the morning. Was it that bad dream again?" The girl's mother mumbled sleepily. "It's just a bad dream, sweetie, go back to bed, kay?"

"But I wasn't sleeping, Mommy!" Tara declared, her semblance of calm rapidly falling out from under her. "I'm scared, Mommy, really scared. Please can we go? Please?" The last was barely choked out around the hysterical panic only a child can generate.

Refraining from making a comment she would regret later, the girl's mother hefted herself from the warm comfort of the bed. "There's nothing to be afraid of, Tara. Here, I'll come sit with you while you go back to sleep, okay? I promise Mommy won't let anything bad happen."

The tall woman carefully picked up the shivering child and carried her back to the bedroom, setting her gently on the bed and whispering assorted reassurances in the little one's ear. After several minutes, Tara seemed to have calmed back down somewhat, but would not relax, young muscles tensed as if to flee. What good it would do in the end.

---

The truck was mundane by all accounts. A plain white tractor-trailer rig, with the simple markings to designate it as belonging to some small-time trucker, carefully making its way through the predawn stillness to make some delivery before the morning rush could commence. It stopped at the reploid factory near the center of the small city, six men swiftly and efficiently climbing out of the trailer and unloading the contents near the rear of the building.

"The abominations and these fools who are comfortable with them will all be dealt with by this. And with the evidence planted at the guard posts along the way and the report by J'yani that Irregulars broke into the silo, the government ought to recognize Elysium for the danger it is." One of the men spat, checking the package quickly before climbing back into the truck, which swiftly made its way back out of the city.

"In a half hour they'll know judgement by the fires of chaos." The second agreed, checking his watch. "Those fiends on that island will hear about this no doubt and cheer for it. Pheh."

"I still think this is a little extreme." The third man sounded uncertain of the group's course of action. "Couldn't we frame Elysium without... well, this? A lot of people are going to die and this area will be contaminated for years."

"If we could, that island would be burning now." The fourth growled. "And don't think the brass didn't consider delivering the package to the island itself. They don't have a military, but they do have a thorough police force. We couldn't've smuggled it anywhere near there."

"Shaddup both of you. It's too late to turn back now, unless you want to run back and try and shut the timer off." The fifth grumbled from the corner.

Silence was the only herald of the doom that awaited the city.

---

From her bedroom, Tara first saw the bright flash of light, an orange and yellow blossom of fire towering into the sky. After a strangely silent moment frozen in time, the entire building shook and was torn asunder by the shockwave and rapidly approaching atomic flame. The only mercy was that it was fast- incineration in an instant, conscious thought gone even before the girl's body could register more than an instant of the most hideous pain imaginable as skin and muscle burned away first, organs and even bone turning to irradiated ash in seconds, indistinguishable from the burned out remains of the building.

Little Tara's final thought as she saw her death and the death of all she knew coming for her was simple.

Mommy lied.

---

News of the disaster spread nearly as fast as the disaster had consumed the city, leaving little but ruin in its wake. Irregulars on the mainland cheered it, the government believed it to be the handiwork of Irregulars, and the people of Elysium watched the news in shock. Naginata instigated Irregulars hiding out in the island paradise to rally and publicly celebrate the senseless loss of life, and word of such events made their way back to the mainland, and more importantly, to the government.

The Anti-Reploid Coalition forged a document in which the governing body of Elysium claimed responsibility for the attack, and without reason to validate it, a people already angry easily disregarded reason and assumed it to be truth. Revenge was called for, and the helpless island was the most satisfying target.

The Emperor declared Elysium to be the rogue territory it technically was, and gave the order to prepare a force. The island would be subdued by any means necessary. To satisfy the general public's thirst for bloody revenge, the government in Pegasii City quietly ignored all pleas for reason from the island's government, and studiously disregarded Northwind's public denouncements of the attack and the island's roundup of Irregulars, as well as Faea's cries for peace on the mainland.

A dream of peace that had begun with a ship called the Future Hope would ultimately end in despair and the seeds of future war.
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Postby Reploid Productions » Tue Oct 25, 2011 8:54 pm

((OOC: Original post date: April 27, 2005))

It had taken over two years for the Empire to amass the personel and equipment to mount the campaign. Tarela Hamamura surveyed the fleet from the command tower of the NISS-Imperial Glory, the flagship of the Elysium Theatre fleet. "At last..." She hissed at the distant island. "You'll finally pay, you monsters! All ships, set alert status to level one!"

Even though it had been more than twenty years ago, she could recall that horrible day as if it had just happened, as if she had only just opened her front door to find the half-rotten, barely recognizable corpse of her husband dumped carelessly on the front steps, maggots crawling over the putrid heap of what had been Katsuki's internal organs, the human's skin raked with scars and wounds, the face a hideous mockery of what it had once been. She was never quite sure what had come first, whether she had screamed first, or vomitted first, or fallen to the floor unconsious first. The Hunter had been missing for some time, his fate unknown.

The day Katsuki was put in the ground was the day Tarela enlisted with the Hunters, vowing revenge on the metalic bastards that had obviously tortured Katsuki so gruesomely. She had all but left rasing the children to her oldest daughter Kirala, who was now an accomplished scientist in the field of gravetic research. But Tarela, oh, she loathed the reploids with every fibre of her being. She couldn't look at one of the mechanical abominations without seeing the mangled remains of her lover. Her dedication had sent her rapidly up the ranks of the Hunters, and now she was in charge of the attack on Elysium, eager to exterminate the murderers, the killers, the machines that had cause her grief.

Storms had blasted the attack fleet the past week, slowing the advance, the forces of nature sending a warning to turn back, to abandon their chosen course of action. But such mundane forces as wind and rain would not deter them, many seeking revenge for wrongs real and imagined. For Tarela, the death of her lover. For many others, the detonation of a nuclear weapon in the city of Drakos Lake, the loss of friends, of family. No, the storms would have to give up their resistance eventually, but the fleet would not give up until Elysium burned. The careful manuvering of the Anti-Reploid Coalition had whipped the flames of anger to fever pitch, flames that would consume all in their path until they finally burned out.

"Commander, we've detected one of their little patrol boats." The sensors officer reported, indicating the radar blip.

Tarela smiled then, on the brink of the moment she had been eagerly looking forward to for more than twenty years. "Sink it. The first and second squadron will come around from the north, while third and fourth from the south. Destroy all the little patrol craft you come across, establish air superiority, and then send in the bombers. Our orders are to raze that city to the ground!"

As the red day dawned, the carriers of the fleet began to launch their fighters, and it took little more than a single small missile from one to sink the police boat.

---

"Northwind-san! This is an emergency!" The chief of Elysium's police force exclaimed. "We just lost PB-Zero-Seven!"

"Lost it? Or lost contact-?" The reploid leader asked.

"Lost it, sir. They reported sighting a large military fleet before the transmission was cut off." The chief couldn't keep the despair from his voice. "It's the Nekoa Empire. The Imperial Fleet is coming, and we can't stop them."

If Northwind were organic, the color would have drained from his face at the news. Instead, he paused for just a split second. "We must evacuate. Sound the sirens, get as many people away from the city as possible, or to whatever underground shelters we have! We can't fight them, but we must do what we can to save our citizens!"

For the first and last time in the history of Elysium, the emergency sirens wailed a futile warning as the fightercraft of the fleet streaked overhead unchallenged, the first volleys of missiles and machineguns biting chunks out of the spires of the city, compounding the chaos in the streets below as pieces of the towers fell burning to the ground, sending wild plumes of glass and steel and concrete in all directions, leaving ugly blemishes in the buildings they had descended from.

"How could they do this?" Northwind whimpered to himself, unfazed when the windows of his office shattered, spraying the reploid with shards of glass. "All we wanted was to live in peace, to be left alone! We can't even fight back! Why?!"

The flight-capable reploid ran for the shattered window, his flight system kicking in as he leapt from the window to confront the fighters. "Stop this! What have we done to you? We can't hurt you!"

One of the jets tried to shoot the reploid down, but Northwind was more manuverable than the aircraft, evading the volley while trying to halt the attack, the pleas via his comm unit going unheard and unanswered. Seeing their leader's desperation, many of the other reploids capable of flight joined Northwind in the skies in a near-suicidal bid for the cessation of the attack.

Without warning, the fighters halted their strafing of the beleaguered city, pulling sharply up and away, retreating into the distance. For a moment, it seemed that the attackers had chosen mercy. For a moment. Then from the distant warships, a series of sounds like faint pops, the horizon suddenly dotted with thin streaks of smoke, a faint whistle growing louder and louder.

Northwind watched helplessly as in seemingly slow motion, the first round of shells rained down, fires blooming where they impacted, people in the streets screaming, fleeing, dying. A projectile scored a hit on one of the spires already battered, an orange blossom. With the tortured shriek of tearing metal, the upper portions of the destabilized building fell toward the packed streets below, organics and reploids stampeding in a desperate bid for survival as the sky above them was blotted out and their doom fell senselessly upon them.

Something within him snapped, watching the dream he had cultivated, the goal he had pursued and achieved fall and burn, snatched away. The people, organic and reploid that he had led to this place, preaching peace, preaching coexistance; screaming, burning, crying out for help that would not come, dying without so much as a chance to defend themselves. He had been wrong, so wrong, so foolish. So many would die, and it was on his head. He had led them here to die, he had refused them the military that might have ensured their survival. Instead, they would die because of his mistake, slaughtered like so many cattle, harmless, helpless, and betrayed by his dream.

With a wordless cry of grief over a dream shattered, the flying reploid took off in the direction of the largest of the ships looming in the distance, wildly firing shots from his arm-mounted cannon at the aircraft and inbound weapons. Northwind knew he could not possibly fight off the Imperial military alone, but in his grief knew no other means to atone for the deaths of those who had looked up to him, trusted him, followed him, thinking his guidance would lead them to a new era.

A few of his followers gave chase, crying out for their leader to stop, to come back. Blinded, driven mad by grief, Northwind spun and fired on his well-meaning followers, who fell back confused, betrayed.

In his madness, the reploid idealist charged headlong toward the Imperial Glory, his wild shots scoring aircraft and ship hulls, the damage insignificant. As he drew near, the ships turned their point defense weapons on the flying reploid, trying to down him before he could reach them. Several of the powerful bullets scored hits on Northwind, tearing holes in his arms and legs, damaging his flight pack and sending him into a wild spiral as gravity took back its hold on him. With a shriek, he plowed into the flight deck of the large warship, and staggered to his feet, firing at the startled deck crew and downing several despite his battered condition.

"Stop this! You're killing them! You'll kill them all!" Like a mantra, the reploid almost chanted the litany, each sentence punctuated with the distinct trill of his arm cannon firing at someone or something.

"Commander, an Irregular has landed on the deck!"

Tarela growled, surveying the chaos on the deck far below. Then, with a cold smile, the Hunter grabbed her plasma rifle. "I will deal with it myself. Keep up the bombardment of the island!"

By the time she reached the flight deck, Northwind's struggle had become more desperate, the pacifist leader of Elysium resembling a trapped and cornered beast who knows death has come for it at last, but desperate to fight and cling to life against the impossible odds, beyond hope, beyond reason, until the fires of the soul had been stamped out completely.

"So you're the little pest." The Hunter sneered, raising her weapon at the battered reploid.

"You... Hunter..." Northwind gasped, trying to compute, his systems failing one by one from the damage he had already sustained. "Stop it... killing them all... please stop..."

"Die, you Irregular bastard." Tarela spat, firing her weapon, tearing off one of the reploid's legs and a fair chunk of his waist, burning the other leg off just above the knee.

With a cry, Northwind fell to the scorched deck, systems redlining. "No... not like this-!" The weapon quaking from the effort, Northwind raised his arm cannon, aiming it shakily at Tarela.

"I told you to die." Tarela leveled her weapon at the reploid, firing another round of white-hot plasma. The raised arm cannon was slagged by the shot, the metal vaporizing or melting, scoring what little was left of Elysium's leader. Rendered harmless, Tarela walked over to the prone remains, smiling wickedly. "How do you like it? Feeling weak, helpless, in agony? Just like my Katsuki, you metallic piece of shit."

Northwind tried again to speak, the result incomprehensible. Tired of the nonsense, Tarela kicked the burned out shell once, twice, then three times, finally sending the reploid over the side of the ship to plunge with a voiceless scream into the cold and unforgiving depths of ocean below.

So ended the life of Northwind Windrider, idealist, pacifist, leader of those disillusioned by the ongoing fight between organics and reploids. So too ended the life of the city of Elysium, its people unprepared, defenseless, and without guidance as the fires of misguided vengeance rained upon them for days, their paradise turned to the very picture of hell as their silver spires crumpled and fell beneath the onslaught, and the people fell with them. The sirens ceased their unearthly wailing.

The bombs fell for nearly a month, and when the smoke finally cleared and the victorious fleet departed, those few lost souls who survived the "Red July" crawled from the ruins, greeted by the scorched and blasted landscape of a post-apocalyptic world. None of the organics had survived, too weak to survive the bombs, the fires, the falling debris and choking smoke. And so they died in ways varied and grotesque. Ironically, the Irregulars that had been the target of the attack had been made aware of the incoming force by their kindred on the mainland, and had quietly departed long before the bombs fell. The few reploids who survived were lost, cast adrift and confused, angry and betrayed. Blood spilled cried for retribution, and the survivors of Elysium, of the paradise lost became the self-styled Hell's Vanguard, their actions directed carefully by a reploid planted among them by Naginata.

Violence calls to violence, an unending cycle of blood and death, revenge and retribution escalating since time immemorial. So the Empire had been wronged, they had wronged the innocents of Elysium. As they had been wronged, so too would they inflict the injury with interest upon the Nekoa Empire.
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Postby Reploid Productions » Tue Oct 25, 2011 8:57 pm

((OOC: Original post date: July 31, 2005))

She stood triumphantly over her fallen opponent, stray electrical impulses causing the dead shell to spasm occasionally, its battery still trying to give life to the dead machinery.

"Y-you!" The reploid's creator sputtered angrily. "He hadn't done anything wrong!"

"Don't you get it, you old fool?" Tarela Hamamura hissed. "Reploids are abominations, they're a threat to mankind. It-" She kicked the limp machine for emphasis. "-may not have done anything yet, but I can guarantee you, it would have eventually."

"You're insane, woman! How'd they let someone as genocidal as you into the Hunters?!" The scientist snarled, understandably angry at the unprovoked destruction of his reploid creation.

"And how did they let such a traitor to the human race get a degree in robotics?" The Hunter retorted, brandishing her weapon. "Those bastards will kill us all if we let them. They killed my husband, they tried to kill me, and they'll kill you if they aren't stopped!"

The scientist backed away from the woman, silently tapping a small alarm button on his computer desk, and then diving for cover when the female Hunter lunged, tonfa connecting and raising ugly bruises on his shoulder and thigh. "For the love of Shimeki, stop-!"

The scientist was saved by the timely arrival of the lab's security personel, and the two men quickly overpowered the Hunter, keeping her pinned until police could arrive and take her away. "I'm trying to save us all, you bastards! Let me go at once!"

Tarela's shrieks fell on deaf ears, the Hunter taken away and locked up, to inevitably face a review if not a dishonorable discharge from the paramilitary organization.
-----

"This tribunal has been called to review the actions of Tarela Hamamura, including charges of conduct unbefitting an officer, attacking civilians without due cause..." The list of charges was read out while Tarela stood at attention, her hands cuffed, proud of her actions even in the face of the extreme disapproval of her superiors.

"The tribunal has reviewed the service record of the accused as well as civilian records pertaining to the misconduct, and has reached a decision regarding the accused."

Tarela glowered about her haughtily as the envelope containing the tribunal's verdict was unsealed and read.

"Guilty of all charges. Tarela Hamamura is to be discharged from the Irregular Hunters with dishonor, and imprisoned for ten years for willful destruction of private property, willful assault in the first degree, illegal entry, assault with intent to murder..."

"Don't you see?! They'll kill us all if we don't strike them first!" Tarela wailed as she was dragged away, a woman obviously lost in madness that had been festering since the death of her husband at the hands of Irregulars.
-----

"You guys hear the news?"

Amy Silver glanced up from her pint. "What news?"

"That Hunter they bagged for assault an' all." Rella, one of the young pilot's wingmates, flopped down at the bar and ordered herself a round. "S'all over the news- dishonorable discharge and lockup for the bitch!"

The brown haired woman snorted. "Did you expect anything less? With the huge media blowup about the Hunters getting heavy-handed, they had to scapegoat somebody. Shimeki only knows how many more there are like her in that group that just haven't been caught yet."

Rella shrugged, throwing back her drink. "So whatcha think about reps an' all, Boss? Abominations or what?"

Amy glanced over with a slight shrug. "Got me. Sure, some of 'em are a bunch of right bastard genocidal lunatics, but s'no worse than the humans like that maniac Hunter who are genocidal against reps. Word has it that it wasn't Elysium that nuked Drakos Lake, but that it was ARC." That last was said in a lowered voice, lest it be overhead.

"Now that wouldn't surprise me. Seemed entirely out of sorts for those hippies to do something like that, and entirely like the kinda thing those crackpots would do." Rella nodded slightly.

Amy finished her drink and stood up. "Hurry it up, Rella. We've got maneuvers over Irregular territory tomorrow morning, and we've gotta make sure our birds are ready to fly."

"Ryoukai, boss!"
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Postby Reploid Productions » Tue Oct 25, 2011 9:00 pm

((OOC: Original post date: Jan. 26, 2006))

It was a large gathering, a risk, and very dangerous given the current state of affairs. The official word was that the Elysium compound had been destroyed and all the Irregulars flushed out, but few people truly believed that. Even among the organics, there was a quiet disapproval of the Elysium Campaign, of the bloody Red July. That disapproval was precisely what Faea needed, if she wanted to continue her push for reploid rights on the mainland.

It was a tricky business, the reploid and her escort Twilight caught in the decidedly uncomfortable position of being on the hit lists of both the Anti-Reploid Coalition and the hardcore Irregulars. With the former, they were dispised because they were reploids. With the latter, they were branded traitors. The more time that passed, the more intense the assassination attempts, and the more crafty the pair had to become in order to survive. To Faea's dismay, Twilight insisted they both lay low for awhile, at least until public opinion began to shift once more.

Faea approached the makeshift podium with familiar ease, the eyes of several dozen reploids and a handful of humans glued to the draconic reploid. "Thank you for coming, it is through the risks taken by people such as yourselves that we can change our world for the better." A simple enough opening, and true enough. "Day by day the toll mounts for our collective ignorance. A small fight here, a riot there, in an escalating bloodbath that cannot continue lest it destroy us all. First Lost Ocean, then Nekoa Bay. A nuclear bomb in Drakos Lake. And now the annihalation of the city-state of Elysium. Where will it end? When both sides have destroyed anything of worth, and there is nothing left save for burned ruins and corpses? When the entire Empire has suffered a Red July?"

Twilight kept a sharp eye on the small crowd and the nearby rooftops. Any slightly obscured ledge or cranny could hide yet another assailant. He had several of his men stationed about the area, and two had already reported stopping Irregular assassins. All that was missing was an appearance by the ARC or the Hunters. In his mind, the two organizations were one and the same. One was more fanatical than the other, true, but while the Hunters were not so rabid, they had the legal backing and government funding that the ARC lacked. Both were dangerous enemies to keep sharp watch for.

"We must band together. There are very dangerous, sick people on both extremes, and they are the real threat, the true wickedness that keeps this endless war plodding onward. The real enemies are not reploids, nor humans. The real enemies are those who seek to destroy what they refuse to understand. The Irregulars, and I mean those under the leadership of the brutal likes of Naginata Blademaster are criminals and should be dealt with as such. This is simple enough, no killer should go unpunished. But at the same time, there is no justice for reploids who have been wronged, simply because they are machines. There are killers, many of them, both metal and flesh. The real enemies are the Irregulars, and their organic mirror image, the self-styled Anti-Reploid Coalition! If anyone must be destroyed, let it be those who seek to propogate the killing!" Faea slammed one forepaw on the podium, her tone wavering slightly with the carefully banked emotion. She had come to realize some harsh lessons in her time on the run. While she still disapproved of violence, the reality of her world relentlessly drove home the fact that it could not always be avoided. One near-miss after another had chipped away her innocent belief that just talking could solve problems and that most people were relatively rational. Were it not for Twilight's steady presence and assurance, she may very well have lost her faith in her cause and her plea for reason.

Faea was too mild in personality to hate anyone, no matter how cruel they were. Her companion Twilight however, had no such restraints. He had come to hate, the emotion controlled and kept close and quiet like a young lover's first crush. He hated the Irregulars, he hated the Anti-Reploid Coalition, he hated the Hunters, he hated the Elysiumites. All of them idiots, and the worst of them violent, lethal idiots or naive, helpless idiots. He would not hesitate to use violence where he deemed it necessary, but neither would he relish it or resort to it without due cause.

Of course, when you're wanted dead by virtually every other organization out there, you end up with plenty of situations where violence is quickly and desperately necessary. Twilight had long since quit counting how many people or reploids he'd had to dispose of in self-defense. But he never fired first.
-----

Far away in Pegasii City, a different meeting was taking place. Everything about this meeting reeked of death. Several reploids stood at attention, various makes of armor and weapons, all painted crudely black and silver and red. These were not reploids seeking peace. They had tried peace, and been betrayed by that lofty ideal. No, they had tried peace, and failed.

"Once our agents are in position, we will strike simultaniously." A red and orange reploid dragon paced in front of the gathering, his brilliant coloring a stark contrast to the muted colors of the reploids under his command. "Target civilian centers... the soft targets. The unprotected belly of the beast."

Several terse nods from the audience. This was exactly what they wanted. These were not normal Irregulars, though to most the difference was unnoticeable. These were beings who had glimpsed paradise, held it within their grasp if only briefly, and then had it all stolen away. They had held paradise, and survived the very fires of hell, the fall of their paradise, and the loss of everything and everyone they had cared about. They had survived, only to find themselves adrift, leaderless, with nothing but anger and sorrow. With nothing left to rebuild, no hope left for the bright future they had once been promised, these reploids turned to the only thing they had left. Anger, hatred, a sick and twisted idea of justice that needed to be carried out.

So formed the Hell's Vanguard, under the loose direction of one Firestorm Dragonis. True to his name, at least three cities would burn by his command, and the humans would know the pain of Elysium.
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Ifreann wrote:Bring Reppy your signet rings, she is our Brony Queen now!

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Postby Reploid Productions » Tue Oct 25, 2011 9:03 pm

((OOC: Original post date: Jan. 30, 2006))

The fire alarm had long since faded into the background, a constant peal that went unheard amid the cacophony of weaponfire and shrieks. Those who could escape the school complex had already done so, several fleeing ultimately to their messy end as Irregulars picked off the stragglers. Those who couldn't or wouldn't take the chance of going outdoors cowered inside, children and staff all shivering in fear underneath desks, hiding in closets, in bathrooms. Hiding and hoping that help would come before the rampaging reploids found them.

In classroom 5-A on the third floor of the building, twenty little first grade students cowered away from the doors and windows, desks overturned to form a makeshift barricade. Their teacher, an elderly woman, kept watch, armed only with a broom. The woman was every bit as terrified as her young charges, but resolved to remain calm, to keep the kids hopeful as long as possible. Maybe, just maybe they would survive this. The odds weren't favorable, but she would be damned if she told the kids that.

But oddly, it seemed that her prayers had been answered. The din of battle faded outside to silence, leaving only the muffled sobs of her terrified students and the constant peal of the fire alarm. The teacher dared to hope. Maybe the Hunters had arrived to quell the insurrection? Or perhaps the Irregulars had retreated for some reason? She crept toward the door, ears straining to hear something, anything beyond the shadows of the earlier din.

"You kids stay here. I'll check if it's safe." The woman tightened her grip on the broomstick and crept to the door, peering out the tiny window briefly. She took a deep breath to steel her nerves, and pushed the door open, vanishing from the youngsters' sight. A minute passed, then another. There was no outcry, no sudden screams. The clock ticked off a few more minutes, but the teacher failed to reappear.

The gaggle of students began to fidget and whimper, rumors whirling through the tight cluster as the children imagined the worst. Heavy footsteps approaching the room silenced them however, and they all huddled down behind the desk barricade, the bravest daring to barely peek over the tops of the desks to see what horror was doubtlessly coming for them.

A reploid walked into the room, armor design clearly indicating a female gender designation. She was designed with simple white armor, with the familiar emblem of the medical profession emblazoned on her chestplate. "Children? Are you all alright? Anyone hurt?" She called out in a calm, pleasant voice.

None of the kids moved, still too shocky and scared to register the medic's presence.

"It's safe to come out now. Your teacher told me you were still hiding in here from the big, bad Irregulars." The reploid continued. "The Hunters took care of them, its safe to come out."

"Wh-where's the teacher?" A tiny voice demanded shakily from behind the wall of desks.

"She hurt herself on debris and had to see the doctor." The reploid smiled warmly. "She's been taken care of, but I need to lead you guys to a safe place so your parents can pick you up."

"Mommy's coming?" Another voice squeaked.

The reploid nodded. "But you guys need to come with me so I can take you to them."

A little boy stood up and peered over the desks at the reploid. "Mommy says never to talk to strangers."

The reploid chuckled sweetly. "I'm not a stranger. I'm a nurse with the Hunters. My name is Dawn Lifesaver."

Already confused and frightened from the events earlier, it didn't take much longer for the reploid to coax the children from hiding and to follow her through the wreckage to a large armored van.

The official report from the Hunters indicated that no survivors were found at the school.
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[violet] wrote:Maybe we could power our new search engine from the sexual tension between you two.
Ifreann wrote:Bring Reppy your signet rings, she is our Brony Queen now!

I believe in the magic of friendship, the wholly awesome bronydom, the conventions of fans,
the forgiveness of haters, the resurrection of faith in humanity, and love everlasting.

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Postby Reploid Productions » Tue Oct 25, 2011 9:07 pm

((OOC: Original post date: Sept. 12, 2007))

To the outside observer, they were merely an unusual group of children. They looked to be elementary school students, perhaps third or fourth grade. It was awfully early in the day for children to be out on the streets, but the time of day wasn't what the strange thing about them.

It was the silence. It was the scars, horrible slashes of discoloration near the eyes and across the head and scalp, creating disheveled tufts where the hair had never quite grown back properly. It was the desperate, pleading eyes above otherwise neutral faces; the jerky movements as though each step taken was a battle.

The outside observer had no way to know that each step was a battle.

The children had slipped from terror into true nightmare that day three years ago. Their school had been caught up in an attack by Irregulars, and when the noise died down they had trusted the word of a medical reploid that they were safe and would soon be reunited with their parents. They had all been led dazed to a van, and then the nightmares began.

Dawn Lifesaver was a medic... or at least she had been, once. Under her benevolent gaze the children had been herded to a facility run by the Irregulars. She had told them it was her "playground" and they would be playing together for a long time.

It wasn't like any playground that the children knew. There was no safety padding, no fun swings and playground toys. There were machines, the children poked and prodded into playing with those; machines with weights that they had to struggle against. The first to actually make the weights move was rewarded... so the stories claimed, at least.

When one of them was finally able to move the weights... and it was generally the boys that succeeded first; Dawn would come and take the child away, saying that they were going to be given a treat. Some of those children never came back; the rumor those that remained circulated was that the lucky kid had gone home to his or her parents.

They had no way to know that the reality of those who disappeared could be found in the meals their reploid captors gave them.

Those who returned from their "reward" looked dazed, head shaved and body wrapped in bandages. They refused to tell the others what their reward had been, but haltingly hinted that it was worth all the homesickness and fear they had to suffer; this of course spurred the rest on to try harder, for they wanted to know what the secret was.

The reality was that they didn't really remember it, the recollections blocked away by whatever their caretaker had done. And Dawn had long since perfected her "craft" on her earlier victims. The children were her latest pet project, intended to satisfy her interest in the workings of the mind...

... And how she could manipulate it.

Whenever one of them got hurt, Dawn was always there, expertly treating the injury before disappearing again. She kept them in good physical health, but was never there in the dark of the night when her lonely charges pined for home, for their parents.

And then... then they all succeeded in moving the weights, and those who survived the "reward" began to realize something was wrong. Occasionally things happened that didn't happen before their reward. A child pausing in play to help a comrade who fell down experienced inexplicable, excruciating pain. Pain followed them; pining for home, for their parents brought on torrents of agony that had no physical source. Doing something against what they were instructed by their reploid caretakers would cause the machines to do... something... that made the rebel writhe on the floor screaming and thrashing as though he'd been shot. But never once did any of the reploids use violence on the children.

No, Dawn Lifesaver was developing a new way to play with her toys. The first operation had been comparatively simple and about half of the children had survived, allowing her to move to the next step. The "reward" had been a torture session of the sort the reploid had subjected her adult victims to, followed by a brain operation. With all the care of a practiced neurosurgeon, tiny electrodes had been inserted, connected by wires under the scalp to a tiny long-term battery planted behind the ear.

These early controls were simple: with a push of a button, the electrodes would stimulate either the pain center of the brain or the reward center. This had the satisfying effect of streamlining the conditioning process, by cutting out previously bothersome recovery time that a victim would otherwise have to spend healing up from a physical punishment.

This way, Dawn could torture the children ceaselessly. They would quickly learn that pain was the reward for useless things like friendship: whenever one or more of the children tried to seek comfort from one another, the pain without injury was the response. Whining and other acts of rebellion were likewise rewarded with jolts of paralyzing pain.

They learned silence to avoid pain.

They still played with the weights, but Dawn introduced new games as well. They were given weapons and told to use them on human-shaped target dummies. Those that didn't like playing these games got the pain. Those that played did not suffer.

But those that threw themselves into it, decimating the practice targets with gusto... Dawn pushed a different button then. The other electrode would trigger, giving the victim a rush of endorphins, making the violence seem... pleasurable.

Then one day they weren't given practice dummies to play with.

A herd of men and women were shoved into the fenced playground enclosure, captives of a recent raid, terrified for their lives. The children weren't sure what to do with these living targets. One young girl recognized her father, and started toward the man with tears in her eyes.

She dropped shrieking in pain before she could take two steps.

The adults were confused by the children, seeing the weapons. One ran to the fallen girl, who responded to the kindness with a shriek and a gunshot. Her pain quickly ceased, replaced with that pleasant feeling... like when they destroyed the target dummies.

Dawn watched from outside the enclosure with a pleasant smile as her new toys quickly made the connection and turned their weapons on the adults. A few of the kids still needed the pain trigger to tell them showing anything but hatred for these humans was bad. But most responded the way she wanted them to- with violence.

The children that slaughtered their fellow humans received another "reward" from Dawn- another session, another operation. Additional electrodes covering various sections of motor control, aggressiveness, sleep and wakefulness...

It was far from perfect, but these rudimentary controls enabled Dawn to not only brainwash these children into human weapons, but to directly control their actions to some degree. They were the perfect tool for many Irregular raids; luring other humans into traps, planting explosives... infiltrating areas that a combat machine would face resistance getting into.

Eventually they were released from Dawn's playground, their reploid "caretaker" still guiding their lives as they entered the Empire's care system, shuttling from foster home to foster home, in the guise of traumatized survivors, troubled youths who just needed a good home.

The perfect way to plant Irregular agents in the cities that were going to be the target of Hell's Vanguard under Firestorm's leadership. The Hunters would be caught completely unaware.
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