N4. Recombination

“Great work, Eisu. Keep it up, Feito.” Lucille stood with her hands on her hips at the window of her Lunar Command Tower. Outside, two enormous human legs independently stumbled on the moon’s dusty surface. Each leg was 500 meters tall and each muscle group was a different color, like an anatomical diagram. If Lucille squinted she saw each color was made of robotic arms, legs, and torsos guided by accompanying heads. The robot-pilots approximated human gait to guide the legs together. “Now!”

The thighs conjoined along the groin. Thousands of pilots readjusted, and the legs stood strong. In the Lunar Command Tower, Charlie ashed his cockroach. “Lucille, we’ve never combined so many robots at once. I’m impressed.”

Daisuke sighed and wheeled back from the window. “It’s an impressive training exercise—nothing more. The fully-combined Zephyr robot is a glorified org chart, a cute mnemonic to help pilots find their superiors in crises.”

“Daisuke, you know my pilots have no superior.” Lucille spoke into her microphone: “Alright, everyone, keep steady while we put ourselves together.”

“Put… ourselves together?” Daisuke soured. “You mean you’re not stopping at the legs?”

Charlie bit the scar in his lip. “Lucille, Zephyr Purple doesn’t even have a head pilot yet. Purple is at the core of our org chart, you need it to relay your commands.”

“I’ll pilot ZAP.” Lucille ushered Charlie and Daisuke to the elevators down to the hangars. “You’re assigned to pilot multiple robots at once. Why can’t I be?”

“I work in Zephyr Blue’s right arm, but I’m actually the pilot of Zephyr Yellow’s head, wirelessly.” Charlie tousled his yellow-blonde hair. “My dual-pilot status lets me convey your commands to the right arm of the moon-base quickly and accurately. Same with Daisuke, and the left arm.”

“Just trust me,” said Lucille. The elevator opened into Zephyr Blue’s hangar. They boarded their respective cockpits; the blue torso remained empty, as Lucille controlled the chest-engines from the head. All around them roared hundreds of robots launching from surrounding hangars. After a precisely coordinated amount of time, Lucille activated her own engines and the Blue Zephyr shot into space on a column of creamy steam.

Lucille, Charlie, and Daisuke floated kilometers above the moon. Below them thousands of pilots maneuvered their robots to build a massive human chest. Lucille drifted to align the Blue Zephyr’s hips over the combined robot’s muscular neck. Zephyr Blue contorted in a way which would kill a human, to become a crude head atop the chest.

N4 pictb

When Daisuke pulled a lever, the combined robot brushed lunar dust with its left arm. “Left arm, check.”

Charlie clenched the combined robot’s right hand with a dial. “Right arm, check. Where are our abdominals? Where’s Zephyr Purple?”

“On its way.” Lucille’s largest monitor displayed the view from Zephyr-Alpha-Purple. The purple robot bounded over craters to stand between the enormous legs and chest. Zephyr Purple alone stood almost as tall as the conglomerations. The purple pilots appeared at attention on Lucille’s monitors. “Just like we planned, everyone. Charlie, Daisuke, fold our arms.”

The enormous chest folded its arms. Zephyr Purple squatted with both hands under the chest’s ribcage, and hefted the chest a kilometer into the sky. Zephyr Purple raised its arms and the chest fell onto it like a T-shirt. This completed the torso. It walked with tiny purple legs. 

N4 pictc

“Eisu, Feito! About-face and take a knee.” The combined legs turned their calves and glutes to the torso. They bent their left knee to the ground. They wobbled, but slid their right foot to steady themselves. “Charlie, Daisuke, help Zephyr Purple walk. Jump on my mark.”

The arms planted their fists to knuckle-walk like a gorilla.

“Jump!”

They tried to leap into the combined legs like a pair of pants, but they only knocked them over. All the robots fell onto the moon. Just before impact most of the pilots disengaged from the combination to brace themselves as individual arms and legs. 

“Damage report!” shouted Lucille. Zephyr Blue had its own arms and head, and was still connected to the combined robot’s right arm, but Lucille was upside-down and suspended by her seat-belts. “Shit.”

“Cut the comms when you cuss,” said Charlie, “it saves Daisuke the trouble of writing formal reprimands. Everyone’s fine, Lucille. Safety tech has come a long way.”

“We warned you ZAP needed a pilot!” lambasted Daisuke. “Your feet aren’t hearing you when your hands do!”

“Nah, nah. We’ll just do it in zero-g next time!” Lucille beamed at the camera on her monitor and made a V for victory. “Great job, everyone! Hit the showers and take the afternoon off.”

Robotic limbs collected each other. They combined into humanoids of solid color and meandered back to base.

“Hold on.” A red light blinked on Lucille’s control panel. “There’s a distress signal. Are we sure no one’s hurt? Has someone had their comms cut?”

“Commander, look!” The robots pointed to the sky. From black space spun a blue shape. “Is it debris?”

Lucille magnified her main monitor. The blue shape had an eye and half a mouth. “Debris doesn’t send distress signals,” she said. “That’s one of our own.”

“But everyone’s accounted for,” said Charlie.

“Not everyone.” Lucille gripped her steering wheel. “Charlie, tear off Zephyr Blue and throw us at the newcomer.”

N4 pictd

The combined right arm tore Zephyr Blue from its neck and hurled it. Zephyr Blue caught the falling object mid-flight. “No way,” said Charlie. “It’s ZAB’s right half! The original right half!”

Lucille eased their descent with steam. She held the half-face eye-to-eye with ZAB. “Repair bay! Double time!”


Charlie and Daisuke prepared a live feed so every news station on Earth could witness Lucille’s debriefing of ZAB’s lost half.

Twenty experienced mechanics repaired the half-face while another twenty cut ZAB into two. Lucille paced before the head-halves, hands folded behind her. “You mean Professor Akayama survived on the Hurricane for almost twenty years?”

“Or so I estimate,” said the half-face. “I can’t imagine she survived the fall back to the planet.”

“What a hero. Even if she was indirectly responsible for the Hurricane, as you suggest, her ceaseless struggle to protect humanity is inspiration to us all.” Lucille motioned for the mechanics to fuse ZAB’s original halves back together. “The moon’s changed since you left,” said Lucille. “Hurricane Planets invade more frequently than ever, stealing stars from the edge of the Milky Way. We’ve built hundreds of robots based on Akayama’s designs and expanded the lunar crew to ten thousand. We can combine into a single mech a kilometer tall.”

When the mechanics wired its halves together, ZAB consolidated its knowledge. “We are still not strong enough,” it said. “I know our power and the Hurricane’s. There are far more Hurricane Planets than we anticipated, and their organization is primitive but powerful.”

“You know how the Hurricane is organized, huh? Anything we haven’t guessed?”

ZAB thought. “The highest density of Hurricane Planets is called the Dance of the Spheres. It’s so far that light from the Dance will not arrive in the Milky Way for eons. This is where Hurricane Planets meet to exchange information and ensure homogeneity.”

“So they’ve got a weak-point, huh?”

“No. I would call the Dance of the Spheres the Hurricane’s strongest point, because it is the densest—”

“But if we destroy it, or infect it with a virus, the rest of the Hurricane will tear itself apart in chaos.”

“Perhaps.”

“Perhaps nothing.” Lucille posed for the news. “Grit those teeth, humanity! We’ve got our battle-plan.”

Next Chapter
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