“You will bow before me and join the Mechanical empire!” Shouted Mechanica, standing in front of the girls. “If you fight me you shall perish!”
“Alright girls! Let’s take this fight to the climax!” Nodded Aria, pulling a switch on her gauntlets as she did. “Overcharge!” She shouted as the gauntlets started to glow, heating the air around them.
Mechanica just laughed, raising her hands and balling them into fists. Aria wasted no time and dashed in, swinging and hitting Mechanica flat in her chest, sending her rolling backward, a cloud of sparks coming off her armor as she landed.
“It will take more than one punch to defeat me!” Cackled Mechanica as she rolled onto her side and pulled herself up, producing a silver blaster.
“Metal Heart Gear,” came a robotic voice from the gun, putting all the girls on edge. Mechanica spun around, firing shots towards each girl. Aria dodged the one coming towards her with ease while Ulla jumped over the one coming her way.
Gaim was unlucky, misjudging the trajectory of the shot, causing it to nail her hard in the chest, the silver dart lodging in her armor. “Gaim!” Shouted Space Kitty, dashing over to her friend. “Are you okay?”
“No one ruins my staring moment!” Growled Gaim before moving forward and producing a blaster of her own.
However, as she went to fire at Mechanica, the dart in her armor cascaded with electricity, causing her to stiffen. “I can’t control my body,” she grunted, almost like she was struggling to move her mouth.
“Metal Heart Takeover!” Shouted Mechanica’s blaster as more electricity dropped Gaim to her knees.
“Gaim!” Shouted the other girls in terrified unison.
Beth smiled as she looked at the dice tray. “Gaim failed her saving throw. The dart in her armor is taking over her suit, knocking her to the ground,” she continued, watching as Lucy dropped to her knees, making a soft thud on the wooden floor.
“Gaim!” Shouted the other girls, turning to face Lucy.
“Gaim, you feel strange, an odd energy spike in your suit, Mechanica is teleporting you out of the battle into her fortress!” She added, watching as Lucy writhed on the floor.
“She is teleporting her!” Shouted Kim.
“Where are you taking her! You’ll suffer for this!” Screamed Karen, pointing right at Beth.
“Oh you’ll see, you’ll all see!” Cackled Beth before holding up a single finger. “Mechanica teleports away as two Mechanical Knights take her place!” Shouted Beth, watching the shocked expressions on the girls’ faces as she dragged two inflatable punching bags into position before taking Lucy by the hand.
Gaim blinked and gasped, the tingling in her chest still making her feel off-balance. She waited for her vision to come back into focus, only to find herself in a massive lab, full of shiny chrome machinery.
She tried to stand but found it impossible, she looked down to find that she was held in a metal chair by thick steel bonds that seemed to prevent any and all movement.
“Now, do you wish to rethink my offer,” came a familiar voice from behind her.
“Never, my friends are coming to rescue me,” replied Gaim, fighting a little against her restraints.
“They stand no chance against my army,” smiled Mechanica, walking in front of the chair. “And they stand even less chance against you.”
“I will never help you! I’m a heroine, through and through!” Insisted Gaim, Mechanica’s taunting doing nothing but angering her. Suddenly she felt a bolt of electricity course through her body, making her stiffen in the chair.
“You feel it, don’t you?” Chuckled Mechanica. “Metal Heart. As we speak it is working its way through your body, converting you into part of my army.”
“Your technology won’t affect me, I won’t let it!” Exclaimed Gaim, pulling against her bonds once more. “I will never serve evil!” She added, her voice growing louder as if she was using her anger to blot out the pain of the shock.
“I have many ways to break you,” winked Mechanica. “I’ve converted whole planets and you won’t stand in my way.”
“Never!” Screamed Gaim, watching as Mechanica picked up a heavy metal helmet and slipped it over her head. Suddenly Gaim was dropped into a world of flashing colors that seemed to grow brighter and more intense by the second. Gaim tried to close her eyes, but it was fruitless, the bright flashes were even more disorienting with her eyes closed, the light forcing its way through her eyelids.
Gaim doubled her efforts to break her bonds, trying to block out the lights as best she could. However, her struggling and the flashing made her feel dizzy, making it hard to work out which way was which. She started to shake her head, trying to throw the helmet off, but that only made the dizziness worse, almost like the whole world was spinning around her.
“Your friends have abandoned you” came a voice from inside the helmet, sliding from her left ear to her right ear. “You are weak, mentally and physically, submit now and save yourself from future pain.”
Gaim shook her head, both to doubt the words and in an attempt to throw the helmet off. “No! They have not!” She shouted, thrashing in the chair. “I’ll never submit!”
“You won’t have a choice,” laughed Mechanica. “The metal heart cannot be stopped, you are polluted, infected and compromised. If there is a crack, the metal heart will weave its wires into it.”
Gaim tried to focus on her friends, to hold them in her memory. How she had met Aria at a party, how they had worked to help Kitty understand Earth and people in general. But each of those memories seemed to shimmer slightly, the colors of the helmet flashing into her mind, making it hard to block them out.
Each flash seemed to color the memory, almost as if it was putting a filter over the image, making it harder and harder to focus on any of the individual parts. And the more the helmet flashed the more of the image faded, being replaced by just the colors. Gaim kept having to stop and center herself, having to force her thoughts to block out the invasive colors.
However, she couldn’t keep the effort up forever, happy memories or not, the flashing was causing her head to throb and she was finding it harder and harder to keep her thoughts on track, the colors seemingly growing even brighter.
“Are you feeling okay?” Came a soft voice in Gaim’s ear. It was undoubtedly Mechanica’s but she sounded more human than she had before.
“You know I’m not,” growled Gaim, opening her eyes for a moment only to get the full force of the flashing colors, her retinas feeling like they were on fire.
“Can you feel yourself breathing heavily or are you heavily breathing?” Asked Mechanica. Gaim tried to concentrate, something about that question seemed wrong, why would someone like Mechanica care? But Gaim could feel her breathing growing heavier, she was starting to fall into a panic, her heart was beating fast in her chest and her mind was spinning.
“Is red or blue the worst color?” Asked Mechanica, pulling Gaim from her thoughts. As another series of lights flashed into her eyes, Gaim couldn’t help but dwell on the question for a few moments. The blue light felt like a spike being driven into her brain, but the red light made her feel like she was hitting her head on a brick wall. Neither was good, but she couldn’t decide which was worse.
Suddenly Gaim shook her head. She had to block Mechanica and the colors out. “I’m not going to dignify that with an answer,” grunted Gaim, trying to pull herself out of the chair once more.
“But that was an answer,” replied Mechanica, a hint of mockery in her voice.
“When I get out of here I’m going to take great pleasure in destroying you,” growled Gaim.
“See? Aggression, it is the first side of the Metal Heart at work. Pushing you to greater spikes of emotion, they just need to be redirected to a more useful purpose,” laughed Mechanica, gently running a hand down Gaim’s neck, making her shudder.
This shudder threw Gaim off for a few moments, making her open her eyes once more, only to get the full brunt of the colors in her eyes.
“Are you feeling light or heavy?” Asked Mechanica, knocking Gaim off balance. She couldn’t work it out, she felt light all over, but her head was like a weight, her brain a seething cloud of pain.
Gaim squeezed her fists tight, trying to focus herself on the pressure, trying to block out these questions. Something about them seemed wrong.
“Is your left arm heavier than your right arm? Or is your right arm heavier than your left?” Added Mechanica, giving Gaim less and less time to think.
“I’m, neither, stop this!” Screamed Gaim, her focus drifting to her arms for a few moments. She tried to pull her thoughts away from the questions but found herself falling.
“Are you feeling your thoughts or are your thoughts feeling?” Interjected Mechanica, her tone not changing despite Gaim’s screams.
Gaim gritted her teeth and clenched her fists even harder, doing all she could to stop herself from looking at the colors or listening to the onslaught of questions.
Suddenly Mechanica grabbed Gaim’s arm and pinched it hard. While it wasn’t enough to hurt, it was enough to make Gaim gasp, her eyes flying open as she did.
Instantly the colors flashed at a greater pace, becoming like a strobe light. Gaim screamed once more, each flash felt like was frying her synapses, causing her mind to unravel.
“Which color is worse? Red or Blue?” Asked Mechanica once more.
“No, no, stop stop stop!” Shouted Gaim, squirming and thrashing in her chair.
“Which part of your brain feels the worse, the front or the back?” Added Mechanica, totally ignoring Gaim’s pain. Gaim’s whole brain felt like it was on fire, she was doing her best to do anything to pull herself away from the lights.
“Got to close my eyes,” she mumbled to herself, trying to pull her thoughts together long enough to formulate a plan of resistance.
“Don’t, it is just extending your pain,” interrupted Mechanica, pinching the other arm, causing Gaim to jump once more. “Is the red or the blue worse?” She added, pinching Gaim on the leg.
Gaim started to stutter, she didn’t want to say anything, she wanted to push through for her friends, but the pain was too much, the strobing colors were hurting her brain and if they didn’t stop soon, they would destroy her mind.
“I can stop one of the colors if you do something for me,” chuckled Mechanica. “Red or blue? Which is worse? I’ll stop it.”
Gaim knew deep down that she couldn’t make a deal with someone like Mechanica, that there would be a catch. She shook her head, doing her best to stay strong, to fight Mechanica, to deny her the pleasure.
“Take advantage of my kindness when you can, as my wrath is much worse,” sighed Mechanica, shaking her head as she pressed a button. Instantly the lights strobed even more intensely.
Gaim’s body tensed, her eyes tearing up as the lights drilled into her mind and her psyche, the red and blue flashing overwhelming Gaim. “Blue! Blue! Blue!” Screamed Gaim, not even thinking about her actions. “Please! Blue!” She squirmed.
“Wonderful,” laughed Mechanica, pressing a button. Instantly the blue light vanished and the red light pulsed gently. “See, when you listen, you get a reward,” continued Mechanica, watching as Gaim’s body slowly started to relax a little, her fists unclenching slightly.
“And isn’t the red light nice?” Purred Mechanica. “It is like a warm fire, one you can just relax in front of. Would you prefer to relax your left or right side in front of the fire?”
“Left,” mumbled Gaim, her voice wavering slightly, her mind still trying to recover from the intense flashing as she stared into the slow red pulsing.
“Yes, and you realize how easy it is to rest, to relax that left side, to let it grow limp and heavy without having to worry.” Purred Mechanica, watching as the whole of Gaim’s left side got limper and limper.
“I, relax?” Mumbled Gaim before shaking her head. “No, I’m not going to give in, I have to fight you!”
“No.” Replied Mechanica firmly. Suddenly the flashing reverted to a bright and fast strobing onslaught of red and blue. “While I can stop your pain, I can also inflict it on you. If you wish to argue with me then you can endure the pain that comes with it.”
Gaim started to scream, thrashing around in her chair, unable to escape the lights that were pushing into her mind and body. Her mind was spinning, she was unable to string together her thoughts, all she wanted was the pain to end.
“Blue blue blue! Turn it off!” Shouted Gaim.
“I won’t be giving you other chances,” said Mechanica. “For me to turn the blue off, to allow you into the warm relaxing red, you’ll need to do something for me.”
“Anything, please help me!” Shouted Gaim once more, not even thinking about her answers, just wanting to stop the pain.
“You need to totally relax. You know how to relax don’t you? I’m sure you can do that, can’t you?” Asked Mechanica.
“Yes! Yes! I’ll do it!” Yelled Gaim, doing her best to relax despite the intense pain in her mind. Mechanica made good on her word as the strobing faded until just the gently pulsing red remained. Gaim started to relax, panting a little as she did.
“See? You know how to relax, you know how easy it is to let your body relax, you deserve to relax, fighting is too hard,” explained Mechanica gently, rubbing Gaim’s arm as she did.
“Yes, easy,” mumbled Gaim gently, her body slowly relaxing, too exhausted to tense any of her muscles and far too tired to even consider resisting Mechanica’s words.
“And is the red warm like a fire or warm like an electric blanket?” Asked Mechanica. Gaim didn’t resist and let her mind turn over the question, staring into the flashing red light.
“Fire, warm like a fire,” replied Gaim. Sinking into the light. “Like a fire, warming certain parts,” continued Gaim, feeling her brain tingling.
“Yes, and isn’t it nice and easy to relax in front of a fire? To let it gently erode all your worries and cares, to just melt into it,” explained Mechanica, watching Gaim continue to sink into the chair.
“Yes, warm like a fire,” nodded Gaim gently, her mouth dropping open a little.
“Warm like a relaxing fire, a fire you can lie in front of and just watch the flames dance around, watch them dance and play,” continued Mechanica, her voice growing softer and more gentle. In Gaim’s mind, the red light morphed into a warm crackling fire. “You know you don’t need to worry anymore, no need to worry about a single thing.”
Somewhere in Gaim’s mind, there was a small cry of fear. Some small part of her knew she had to worry and that she had to fight. But she just couldn’t generate the energy, she couldn’t go through the pain again.
“Just let the fire take you to a nicer place, a place you’ve needed to go for so long,” purred Mechanica softly. “A warm safe place away from everything and anything that could cause you pain.”
Suddenly, Gaim felt like she was outside her body, in some faraway place, lay in front of a fire. There was no Starlit Knight, there was no Mechanical Empire. She was normal. The world was as mundane as it had always been. And it felt wonderful.
“Just relax,” came Mechanica’s voice, floating around Gaim like a gentle breeze. “Just enjoy the fire, there is no need to worry, no need to fear, everything is better now. No more pain, no more suffering,” she continued to coo.
“Yes, I can do that,” nodded Gaim gently, sprawling out in front of the fire.
“I have something to show you,” came Mechanica’s voice as Gaim spotted a newspaper in front of her. She gently reached out and picked it up, the fire casting a red glow around the room.
“A blockbuster hit!” Declared the headline, with a massive picture of Gaim underneath it. “Critics declare Gaim’s new film perfection! A must see!” Continued the paper, making Gaim grin from ear to ear. This was everything she had ever wanted, this was a perfect life.
“See, isn’t relaxing wonderful?” said Mechanica once more. “Stay with me, relax for me, and I can bring you wonderful things.” She gently explained.
Gaim’s mind and resistance crumbled, she wanted this life more than anything, she wanted this mundanity and this simplicity. Suddenly the fire went out as the helmet was lifted off Gaim’s head, allowing her to see the lab once more.
Mechanica smiled at Gaim, her grin seeming oddly friendly and weirdly soothing. “Now, are you ready to join perfection?” Asked Mechanica softly.
Gaim took a deep breath, a small part of her wanting to say no. But before she could, she saw the strobing lights restart inside the helmet and she froze, a shiver running through her whole body. She couldn’t go through that again.
“I’m ready,” nodded Gaim, a small smile forming on her face as Mechanica beckoned her forward towards a small chamber and pointed her inside.
“Pose for your headshot!” Grinned Mechanica as Gaim adjusted her body, giving her best red carpet pose. Suddenly the chamber fired into life, lights and electricity starting to cascade along the walls. Suddenly Gaim felt a shock run through her body, she looked down only to see metal slowly moving up her legs, rendering them heavy and cold. Gaim could only stand in shock as the metal moved higher and higher, taking over her body.
Gaim didn’t have long to question what was happening as the metal climbed over her head and sealed tight, throwing Gaim into darkness for a few moments. Suddenly she heard a loud whirring noise as her vision returned, but the world was different.
The whole world was tinted red and text ran across her vision, each one telling her something about the world and the lab she was in. The second Mechanica came into her line of vision the text declared what Gaim already knew. Mechanica was her Mistress. Mechanica was in charge. But Gaim didn’t care, her mind was quiet, mentally she was still in front of the fire, reading her glowing reviews.
The chamber opened as Mechanica stepped in, running her hands over the metallic Gaim admiring her new form, especially Gaim’s new robotic head, topped with golden metal cables. “MechaGaim, begin testing sequence.”
“Affirmative,” responded Gaim, her voice flat and emotionless.
“Raise left hand,” commanded Mechanica, pressing a few buttons on her gauntlet and watching as Gaim’s hand raised into the air. “Perfect, perfect,” chuckled Mechanica. “I think it is time to show your friends your upgrade!”