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Sunday, April 3, 2022

Otaku Wars - Chapter 1: The Beginning

By Caelan Shrader

Infinity, a two-hundred capacity spacecraft that specialized in monitoring and communicating with other spacecraft, was traveling on a routine training mission. Captain Hiroto sat in his office chair overlooking the craft when he said, “Ichiro, I want you to check the storage room to check inventory of supplies. I’ve gotten reports of an aquabot, which are short but very dangerous.”

“No problem,” Ichiro said. “I’ll do it.”

Ichiro, a quiet man who hardly ever took off his standard combat uniform, swiftly jogged down the flight of stairs to the bottom floor of Infinity, and into the storage room.

He opened the door and walked into the room, when an aquabot jumped from the corner stacked with boxes and Ichiro grabbed his laser gun like he had a million times before. 

BANG! The aquabot dropped like a rock to the ground. 

Ichiro didn’t see any other concerns and thought his job was done. Therefore, he walked to Captain Hiroto, looking young with an impressive suit and just as he entered the control room, the alarm screamed throughout Infinity. Ichiro didn’t realize that when he slayed the first aquabot, it alerted dozens of others hiding in Infinity’s storage rooms, which all looked the same. 

Mass chaos erupted. The crew charged into battle, knowing that aquabots could inject poison like a snake bite if they got too close.

“Ichiro,” Captain Hiroto called out, pulling off the white cap from his head in relief, “We’ve got these aquabots covered. Go to Itro and make sure the power base is stable.”

“I’m on my way, sir.” Ichiro said.

Ichiro ran down into the hangar, hopped in a space jet and took off toward Itro, a woodsy planet with trails that lead from one village to the next. Most people liked to visit this planet, entirely run on solar power and homemade goods, because of the relaxed atmosphere and friendly people.

Ichiro landed, climbed out and felt the warm rays on his skin, bringing childhood memories back to him. A beautiful brown haired and green eyed soldier named Ruby, was driving by on her ATV, recognized his uniform and stopped near Ichiro’s space jet.

“Hey! You must be from Infinity,” Ruby said.

“I’m here to check the power base,” Ichiro said.

“Hop on. I was heading to the base, too,” Ruby said smiling.

Ruby drove, passing open fields of grass waving in the wind with a backdrop of forest so dense it was a cloud of green hovering above the grass. In the horizon, a small building caught Ichiro’s attention.

“That must be the power base,” Ichiro thought. As they got closer, a few UTVs collected behind them. 

They parked, and Ruby saw her friends and fellow soldiers Amaya and Chiyo, who knew each other since childhood, and who had another friend. Miranda, who was usually calm and reserved, and wore rectangular glasses, and worked for the Corps alongside her friends and her boyfriend, Alex, who were on a vacation getaway on Magnia, park next to them. 

“I didn’t know you’d be here today. We’re on the same mission?” Ruby asked.

“Yes, we’re here to check the power base. Who do you have with you?” Chiyo quietly asked, as she was shy, but curious as to who was with her close friends. She had blonde hair and blue eyes, with her hair flowing down her back.

“I’m Ichiro, Ruby just picked me up after I landed.” As Ichiro replied, something blazed in the sky. 

 “What’s that?” he asked.

“You’ve never seen pods before?” Amaya asked; her loud mouth always had a question or comment to add to any conversation.

“I’ve only been a soldier for a month. I’ve been doing grunt missions for Captain Hiroto and feel like I don’t know much, to tell you the truth.” 

 “The pods transport aquabots to various planets. The Nano Ring sends them to investigate and attack,” Amaya said.

“The Nano Ring Headquarters was conquered by Amuza, Tetsu, Emiko, and Asami. These guys are a devious pack of criminals whose goal is for power and control over every speck of the universe,” Ruby said.

“When they took over the Headquarters, it not only boosted their ego, but their power. They have secret training bases and everything.” Chiyo said.

After they chatted, they went inside the power base to make sure everything was stable. Inside, the walls were shredded, papers littered the floor, and several wooden chairs were broken across the floor. They could tell someone was looking for the key to get to the power reservoir in the basement. 

Amuza, leader of the Nano Ring, came out from behind the other room firing his Triton, a hand fitted weapon that shot electricity from the point of his finger.

“Get down!” Chiyo yelled out.

“Get out of my way. I have a universe to control.” Amuza’s voice echoed.

“Get down! Hide. This guy’s trying to kill us,” Ichiro said, dodging every shot.

Amuza stormed out, stole a UTV and drove off.

“Let’s go!” Ruby yelled.

They all jumped in the last UTV and followed Amuza. However, as they got close, they saw Amuza take off in Ichiro’s space jet. 

“What the hell just happened here? That was my space jet!” Ichiro screamed out.

 “You don’t know Amuza? Man, you must really be a new kid on the block,” Amaya said.

“Amuza, besides being the leader of the Nano Ring, is a criminal who got his start by robbing people and forcing other younger teenagers to work for him,” Ruby said.

“You are lucky he only stole your space jet. He could’ve zapped your head off back there,” Chiyo said.

Ichiro and the others drove back to the base to radio a pickup flight. Akira, one of the best pilots in the Otaku Corps, would be on his way in a couple hours. Akira was well known for his flying style on the Strikers, fighter jets that could break Mach speed and fly through space.

As they waited, they sat around the outside of the power base snacking on berries they found nearby, when Amaya asked Ichiro “How’d you get tangled up in this soldier mess, anyway?”

“My father is General Daichi Sato, so I was basically born in the Otaku Corps.” Ichiro replied.

Everybody stared at Ichiro with wide eyes.

“That’s your father?” Ruby asked.

“General Daichi Sato?” Amaya asked.

 “Yep, that’s my dad.” Ichiro said, hoping they wouldn’t treat him differently.

“What’s it like growing up with a general?” Chiyo asked.

“My dad might be a general, but at home he’s a pretty relaxed guy. He likes to joke around. But I knew I’d be a soldier when I was eleven. He told me it was in our blood, family tradition.” 

“Well, I just joined for the money,” Amaya said laughing.

“I joined because I was bored, and didn’t want to go to college yet.” Chiyo said.

Just as Ruby was about to tell how she joined in the Corps, Akira, a cool guy with a pair of shades, landed Jupiter, his commuter spacecraft with crew. 

“You guys call for me?” Akira asked, as he opened the door and welcomed them in. 

“We’re headed to Dynasty to talk to the captain. Amuza just took off with Ichiro’s space jet and we know he’s up to no good,” Amaya said.

Souka, a young but scrawny man who was the co-pilot said, “Akira, Dynasty, one of our space stations, is under attack. Captain Hiroto wants us to see what’s going on.” 

Akira leaped into the cockpit and grabbed the throttle, pushed buttons, causing the engines of Jupiter to roar to life. 

“I think you did a good job fending off the base.” Souka said.

“I’ve been training since I was thirteen.” Chiyo said.

“Hey, could we hang out sometime? I’d like to learn some techniques.” Souka asked.

Chiyo thought, “He wants to hang out with me?” and said. “I’d love to!”

Jupiter flew out from the horizon, and after several miles, Dynasty floated in front of them. Twenty pods filled most of the docking stations, so they knew Dynasty was filled with aquabots. Jupiter docked, and the crew ran into Dynasty.

Ichiro entered the station, finding men fighting off aquabots like an infestation of ants. Captain Kamada caught his attention with a bright sword given to him by his grandfather, that slayed the aquabots. Ichiro was impressed by the fighter’s stance and skill. Even though he was not a tall man, he fought like a warrior.

Ichiro pulled out his laser gun and shot at the approaching aquabots, wielding his way closer to Captain Kamada, who looked rough and tumble.

“You might just be fighting with a laser gun, but you’ve got some skills,” Captain Kamada said.

Ichiro felt a sense of accomplishment. At a young age, his dad instilled in him the fighting techniques of the Otaku Corps when they played around outside. However, being new to the Corps himself, he felt like a kid among giants.

“I’m trying,” Ichiro said, trying to keep it cool.

“I’ll let you fight next to me any day,” Captain Kamada said.

Together, with the help of Amaya and the others, they destroyed all the aquabots on Dynasty. 

Chiyo and Ruby were sitting together recapping all the fighting they saw when Chiyo asked Ruby if she saw how Ichiro was fighting. 

“He said he was new. I didn’t think he could fight like that,” Ruby said.

“We better keep him in our group. We could use a good fighter,” Chiyo said. Ruby nodded and agreed.

Captain Hiroto and Captain Kamada gathered the troops together. They congratulated the fighters on their win. 

“Because we’ve been under attack so often, we want you all to take the weekend off,” Captain Hiroto said. 

“We're not sure when the next attack would be. We just know Amuza is planning another attack,” Captain Kamada said.

“Where are you going for the weekend?” Amaya asked.

“I’m thinking about going back home to Magnia,” Ichiro said.

“I’ve never been to Magnia. What’s it like?” Ruby asked.

“Why don’t you all come with me?” Ichiro said, hoping they would because he hadn’t had a good friend since his father was in such high command and everyone around him was too intimidated to come over and hang out with him.

“Sure!” Chiyo said.

“Sounds like a good time,” Amaya said.

Akira flew them to Hoshu Island, a small, touristy island on Magnia, where people go for vacations. The beaches were lined with chairs and umbrellas, while the cobblestone streets of town were busy with people walking freely, an occasional bicycle pushing through the crowd, and vendors yelling out and selling souvenirs and authentic Magnian food, which was some of the best food in the universe with great taste and they had excellent wine.

“This is Magnia? I love it!” Ruby said.

“This is home,” Ichiro said.

“What’s that smell, and where did all these people come from?” Chiyo asked.

“That’s the smell of spices and herbs added to our delicious Magnian cuisine,” Ichiro said with a smile.

“That’s your food? I think I’ll be taking groceries back to the hostel,” Amaya said.

“You guys are crazy! The smells, the sounds, and people! This place is beautiful with the sun starting to set behind the white palace across the hill, and an island to explore!” Ruby said.

“Look, it’s Chef Kenji!” Ichiro said. “If you want the best ramen on the island, we’ve got to stop here.”

“I’m out,” Amaya said.

“Me too,” Chiyo said.

“I’ll take some. I’d love to try it,” Ruby said.

Amaya and Chiyo were happy to snack on chips and cookies from a vendor by the hostel. They were even happier to hang out and relax where they weren’t surrounded by crowds and the humid night air. Ichiro’s heart pounded thinking of spending time alone with anyone, let alone a fierce fighter like Ruby. 

They sat at barstools against the vendor’s booth. Not knowing what to say, Ichiro studied the menu as if he had never seen it before. Ruby said “Your best ramen for two, please.”

Chef Kenji yelled out “Coming up!” as he reached for the ingredients for the order. 

“This is great!” Ruby said smiling.

“I…I…I’ve eaten here many times,” Ichiro said, struggling to start a conversation.

“I could stay here with you forever. Where I’m from, it’s gloomier and people don’t walk around smiling like this,” Ruby said.

Ichiro’s eyes got wide, and his cheeks reddened, while Ruby studied her surroundings like a test.

Ichiro’s thoughts twirled in his mind, searching for just the right thing to say, but all that came out was “You can stay with me forever.” 

“Did I just say that out loud?” Ichiro thought and Ruby’s head turned towards him.

“I didn’t mean literally,” she laughed. 

“Oh…me too,” Ichiro chuckled back.

“Relax, Ichiro. You look so nervous.” 

“Dinner’s up,” Chef Kenji said, handing them two bowls of ramen. “It’s Ichiro!”

“Hey, Chef. I’m back in town for the weekend. This is my friend, Ruby.” 

“On a date, I see!” Chef Kenji said, with his chef hat almost falling off his head.

“It’s our first!” Ruby said.

“OUR first date?” 

“Is Ichiro always so serious?” Ruby laughed.

 “Let me tell you, Ichiro is the most loyal, smart and handsome boy on this island. You won’t get a better date than him,” Chef Kenji said. 

Ichiro didn’t know what to say back; he knew they were joking but he was too shy and nervous to have any clever replies.

“Ruby is the name? You look familiar…have you visited here before? Or do I know you from somewhere else?” Chef Kenji asked, knowing he had seen Ruby before.

“This is her first time and she’s not from around here. I’m trying to show her the best of the island,” Ichiro said.

“Must just be a beautiful face,” Chef Kenji said.

As Ruby sat with a mouthful of ramen, she also thought Chef Kenji looked familiar, but she didn’t know where she would have seen him from. Changing subjects, Ruby said, “I can’t believe I’ve gone my whole life without having this before. I could eat this every day.”

Ichiro reminisced childhood stories as they both sat together eating ramen. Enjoying his stories, Ruby glanced in the kitchen and saw a couple Links with black swords tucked in their scabbards. Links, tall wolves that stood on two legs, were commanded by Amuza and were noted as brutal fighters who never went anywhere without a black sword.

Memories of Ruby’s childhood came flooding back and she remembered Chef Kenji. As a child, she saw Kenji with Links working with Amuza all over Juno, a cold and desolate planet where Ruby’s family was from. 

Suddenly, Amaya ran up yelling “Chiyo’s gone! She’s gone!”

Ichiro looked over confused, and Ruby knew something was wrong in her gut. 

“Where’d she go?” Ichiro asked.

“I think she’s been kidnapped. I left the room for a minute. When I came back, her weapon was on the bed. She’d never show anyone her weapon, let alone leave it on the bed.” 

Ichiro’s mind raced Who would have kidnapped her here at home? Where would they take her? How is she going to stay safe?

Ruby knew exactly what was going on; she knew how sneaky these guys from the Nano Ring were. “Amuza is behind all of this. I saw Links with Chef Kenji, and they must have recognized us as fighters. They may have taken Chiyo as ransom.”

“Chef Kenji?” Ichiro asked. “My favorite chef took Chiyo as ransom?” 

Ruby grabbed Ichiro’s hand and said, “I know this sounds crazy, but I know how these guys work, too. Trust me.”

 Ichiro saw concern in her eyes, and then knew something bad was going on. “Follow me. We can run to my house and get a ride instead of waiting for Akira,” Ichiro said as he ran down several alleys to his childhood home. He opened the garage and revealed his father’s prized space jet.

 “You want us to get in this? If you crash this, your dad’s going to kill you. He’s a general,” Amaya said.

“I might not be the best soldier, but I know my way around this beast,” Ichiro said.

They hopped into the space jet, Ichiro driving and Ruby by his side. 

“The controls on this thing are a bit tricky…” Ichiro started to say.

“I’ve driven these before multiple times,” Ruby said.

Ichiro looked over and was impressed. “Really?” 

“Yeah. I grew up flying and fighting. I know more about soldier life than most our age.”

“I’m glad you guys know how to fly this thing, because I’d be hitching a ride without you,” Amaya said.

After about an hour, they docked and ran inside the Headquarters and straight to Captain Hiroto to report Chiyo’s kidnapping.

“This is the third kidnapping reported today. We’re working on plans for a rescue and notifying everyone to be on guard.” 

“I think they are probably being taken to Grey Fang, a Link warship, where Amuza has an open prison,” Ruby said.

“Yes,” Captain Hiroto said. “Our spies confirmed that they were taken there. The planet is so hostile that it would make a battle look like a one-sided game of dodgeball.” 

“We need to get into Grey Fang and get all of the hostages free before the Nano Ring decides to do anything to them,” Ichiro said.

 “Agreed, but not so fast,” Captain Hiroto said. “Ruby, you know Grey Fang like the back of your hand. You’ll be one of our greatest resources in this mission, and we’ll let you know when we’re ready to go.” 

Having a few hours to themselves to wind down and relax, Ichiro thought how tough this mission would be and doubted his skills. He wanted some solid advice and thought going to Captain Kamada would help.

“Sir, I’ve been thinking about the hostage and the mission. I’ve never done anything like this before. What should I expect?” Ichiro asked.

“First mission? We’ve all felt that way before, Ichiro. The best you can do is be watchful of your surroundings and think of those soldiers as rescuing your family,” Captain Kamada said.

Ichiro looked him in the eyes, nodding in agreement. 

“However, Ichiro, we know you’re so skilled that we have a private mission for you already planned. Captain Hiroto wanted me to take you to prepare. Can you be ready to leave in a few minutes and not tell anyone or look suspicious?” 

“I’m ready when you are, Captain,” Ichiro said.

In the cover of night, Captain Kamada and Ichiro slipped into a space jet and flew off. Ichiro felt privileged to be included in a secret mission, so he didn’t want to be seen as nervous or ask dumb questions. When they got closer to Grey Fang, Ichiro asked what the plan was.

“I’m going to handcuff you and when we enter, we’re going to pretend I’m handing you over for the reward money,” Captain Kamada said.

“How could that work?” Ichiro asked.

“We have spies and soldiers planted all over the open prison. When they see me hand you over, they will attack,” Captain Kamada said.

 “That’s a great plan,” Ichiro said, excited to see some action.

The space jet docked, and Captain Kamada walked Ichiro out in handcuffs. The heads of every Link and soldier turned their way. Ichiro kept his head down, and out of the corner of his eye, he saw Chiyo caged with other prisoners. Captain Kamada walked him up to Amuza, who was standing at the command center.

“You want General’s son? Here he is, for your own torturing pleasure,” 

Captain Kamada said, with Ichiro’s stomach turning in anticipation to see his fellow soldiers come to his rescue.

“It took you long enough, Kamada. You’re twenty seven years old, and you shouldn’t keep us from waiting. We’ve been waiting for quite some time,” Amuza said.

“What did you expect? I can’t just grab him in front of everyone,” Captain Kamada laughed. 

Ichiro’s heart started to pound. “This isn’t a rescue mission. It’s a trap; it’s betrayal,” Ichiro thought.

“Cage him!” Amuza laughed. “We’ll torment you, and get some top secret military information in no time. Or better yet, maybe we’ll get Daddy to come give us a visit with your fresh meat here, Ichiro.”

“Kill me. I’m not scared,” Ichiro replied. 

“No, take me, I know all the secrets,” Chiyo yelled out of the cage.

One of the Links went up to the cage and shocked Chiyo with a taser. She cried out and fell to the floor. Ichiro ran over to help her get up. They sat together watching Captain Kamada and Amuza sit back and laugh about the weak Otaku Corps and how they were going to demolish them...

To be continued...

The Author:

Caelan Shraeder is the author of Otaku Wars, who agreed to exclusively publish his creation with Otaku Fantasy. 

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