~*~ Here's the story that describes the world NeoSpikey is now living in... Enjoy~ ~*~
2012 (Sonoran Desert)
“Ugh… Where am I…”
I sat up to find myself surrounded by sand and cacti. The air was hot and dry and the sun beat down on my chest. My mouth was dry and I had no recollection of how I got to be at my present location.
“Is this a… dessert…?” I looked around to see there was no one else around. Something nudged against my hand and I looked down to see I had a canteen. I shook it and was relieved to hear ample sloshing inside. Hastily, I screwed off the cap and took a generous gulp of water. I exhaled and wiped my mouth.
I couldn’t stay under the sun for too long. Judging by its position, it was probably just after 11 am. In the distance, I saw a mountain. If I could get to it, there would probably be a cave. Or at least an overhang to provide shade until I could come up with a better plan. Guess I’d better get started before I turn to jerky…
I don’t know for how long I walked… But I only had one sip of water left and my movement became sluggish. Whether it was a trick of the sun or the actual distance, I didn’t know, but the mountain didn’t seem to be getting any closer. My body couldn’t take anymore and I fell face-first into a dry patch of desert grass. I caught my breath as the sweat on my back rapidly evaporated. Am I going to die out here…?
“Beep…?” I looked up and saw a floating, round object in front of my face.
“Oui!” it squeaked and repeatedly bumped into my forehead.
“H-hey now…” I grabbed it and held it at bay. It looked mechanic, “What the heck are you, anyway…?”
Suddenly the ground shook and opened up underneath me. I screamed as I fell through darkness. The opening gave way to a chute which twisted and turned until I was spit out and stopped by a cold, metal cabinet. I rubbed my nose and checked to see if I broke anything.
I was about to complain to the little metal basketball when I saw my surroundings. I was in a room full of mechanical parts, glowing monitors, and walls of dials. In the corner, I heard a grumbling. A large mountain of a man was assembling and soldering parts and wires together.
“THEO6278, what have I told you about wandering aboveground? You didn’t loosen your wires again, did you? Hm…?” The man locked eyes with me. “Oh, good boy, you picked up some meat!”
“WHAT!” I attempted to get up, only to bump my head on the overhang of the metal cabinet. “Agh… look I’m not meat… or at least I shouldn’t be edible…”
“Technically you are flesh and blood… you could be eaten…”
“WHO CARES ABOUT THE TECHNICALITY OF MY ABILITY TO BE EATEN. DON’T EAT ME!”
“Hm… I suppose you’re too scrawny anyway…” the man tinkered with a gauge on the table he been muttering to.
Scrawny….? “Look, what is this place? Where am I? Who ARE you?!”
The man placed his hand on my head and looked me straight in the eye, invading my personal space zone, “The edible human asks too many questions in rapid succession…” He sat down on a stool which creaked under his weight. “This is my lab for one. You’re in it. Isn’t it a bit redundant to ask that second question after the first? Don’t answer that. As for who I am… you can just call me Professor A.”
“Professor A…? Well… I have no idea how I got here or why I’m here… Or even what’s going on, for that matter. But thanks for getting me out of the sun.”
“Hm? I didn’t do anything for you. My THEObot escaped and I was simply retrieving it. I’m going to use too much power vacuuming up that thing… You just happened to be on top of hatch M.”
The small, bunny-eared bot spun in rapid circles midair as it beeped repeatedly. It accelerated toward me and bumped into my chest, landing on my lap and making little whirring sounds.
“Umm… your thruster thingies are hot and burning a hole in what I hope might bring me a kid someday…”
“Seems 6278 has taken a liking to you… Tell me, meat, do you have a handle?”
“Umm… a handle?”
“A handle… a tag? A moniker?”
“Oh, my name? It’s…” I rubbed my head trying to recall, “Spikey.”
“What a weird handle…”
“Professor A isn’t exactly inconspicuous, either…”
Ignoring me, the professor pressed a button, “Feeding time!”
Suddenly, a rumbling came from behind a door and it burst open to reveal 20 plus round robots of different sizes flying through the air. I covered my head and ducked as they bounced off the walls and beeped frantically.
“Line up, you orbs!” the professor barked. One by one, the tiny bots hooked themselves to ports on the wall and hummed contentedly. The basketball that was on my lap flew over and took a spot next to what I assumed were its siblings.
“So… what are these things…?”
“THEObots… Technical Healing of Erased Otakuism robots.”
“Erased Otakuism…?” I blinked.
Professor A turned around and looked at me hard, “You did just come from the surface, right? You must have some idea of what’s happening, right?”
“Actually, I can’t remember much… I just woke up in the desert maybe a few hours ago…” my stomach grumbled. The professor rummaged in a chest and tossed me a sub sandwich. Graciously, I unwrapped it and took a bite.
“Hey… if you had food, why were you gonna eat me…?”
“Always a good idea to stock up on replacement stores…” he said as he bit off his own sandwich. I couldn’t be sure if he was being serious or just messing with my head. “So you don’t remember anything… then maybe they’ve gotten to you, already…” Before I could ask what he meant, he called over the metal basketball from before, “6278, perform sequence ‘Otaku Restore.’”
The THEObot began to beep in a pattern and flew over my head. I looked up to see a compartment open from… do robots have butts…? I hoped that wasn’t the case, but I saw a dish attached to a hose come out and attach itself to the top of my head.
“Wh-what is it…?” I began, but was stopped when I felt a wave of information enter my brain. It was overwhelming and I felt like my head was going to explode, but it stopped almost as soon as it started. Suddenly I felt… something familiar. My memories… I used to work for a company that published and distributed manga. Why would I have forgotten that…?
“Is it coming back to you, now…?” the large professor exhaled as he leaned on his knees and examined me.
“I… I was kidnapped… I didn’t know why or for what purpose, but they hooked me up to something… Said it was ‘for the good of humanity…’”
“What that was…” the professor said, leaning back again, “was the oppressive corporation, OtaKira. They erased all your memories of anything to do with anime, manga, video games, you name it… If it was fun, they were out to delete it.”
“But why? It doesn’t seem like it makes any sense…”
“Why? Because they want to create a society where no one can have any fun. They say that a world of people focused solely on work will help get the economy back on track. They think that things like anime and manga are taking away from progress. But they don’t get it!” The professor slammed his fist on the table, causing several parts to go flying everywhere, “Things like anime, video games, manga, conventions, etc… They HELP us to get through these hard times! They might think it’s frivolous, but a world without anime… without manga and the like. It’s just…”
“Too boring,” I finished his sentence.
“EXACTLY!” he clapped his hands together and pointed at me. “And the fact that you agree with me is probably why you were one of the first to be ‘de-otakufied.’ But I’m curious… how is it you were able to get out? They should have packed you into one of their tight office cubicles and had you doing nothing but stamping papers all day.”
“I remember… they were sucking out my memories when… the power went out. In the confusion, my shackles were released and I began to run with what little energy I had left… then the next thing I knew, I was in the middle of the desert.”
The basketball-sized robot started spinning and whirring, then cuddled up to me again.
“What is 6278 doing?” the professor raised an eyebrow.
“I think… it’s saying that it cause that blackout… Wait, how do I know that…?” I furrowed my brow.
“HA! You must’ve established some sort of connection when it restored your memories! Matter of fact, I did install a program into 6278 to track down those whose memories are being erased… It must’ve escaped to go stop that process and hacked into their computers. Well I’ll be a snake’s rattle… Little thing never stops surprising me, despite being its creator.”
Isn’t your character steadily changing…? I looked at the professor sideways, “So what does this mean?”
“I guess it means that it likes you special.”
The bot spun and beeped in response as it smiled up at me. “So if this corporation… OtaKira, you said…? If they’re deleting people’s memories of everything otaku, then that means more people are being kidnapped aboveground.”
“Right you are, Spikey…”
“Well, then we need to do something about it! What they’re doing isn’t just morally wrong, it’s illegal! Because it’s not just adults, they’re probably kidnapping kids, too!”
“Yes… It’s only part of their plan, they’re also confiscating all video games, anime DVDs, figurines, manga, and all other swag and disposing of them. It would be as if it all never existed.”
“So how is it you’ve escaped OtaKira?”
“I’ve seen this coming for years, so I took myself off the radar. Hacked into anything I’ve ever had to do with and erased my presence… Only go out in disguise and never trust anyone in a suit.”
“OtaKira needs to be stopped!” I stood up.
“You…” the professor once again invaded my space bubble, “you’d be so willing to do something as risky as face the oppressors head on?”
“No one else seems to be, besides you…”
“True enough… Alright then!” instantly the professor began typing on a laptop. “They’ve already gotten you once, so you need to change your appearance. I’m deleting your histories in a non-discreet way. You’ll also need a new ID card… We’ll change your name to… NeoSpikey.”
“That’s not much different…”
“OkaKira is database-based… they’ll be looking for any occurrence of where you are, but only your name, which is in the ‘S’ database. Being a few letters off will keep them off your trail…” he looked me up and down, “We’re also dyeing your hair… that light color is too conspicuous… Black will do. It should also be cut…”
I examined a tuft of my course hair. It had always been grey like this. I guess it did make me stand out.
“But how are you going to…” I began to ask, but I was suddenly surrounded by THEObots and they began tweaking with my hair, clipping away bits with scissor attachments, affixing themselves to my head and going through dye, wash, rinse, and dry cycles. One of them scraped against my chin, giving me two cuts.
“That should be fine either way,” the professor said when I complained, “They don’t have you in their database as having any scars. It’ll further confuse them. Here, put on these clothes.”
He tossed a bundle of clothes at me, and the basketball brought me a scarf. I stepped into a closet and changed. I was surprised they fit so well. I looked down at the robot and realized it was difficult to identify it by just a number.
“I think you need a better name,” I said to it as I walked back into the lab. “How about… ‘Oui?’”
“Hey!” the professor said, “Don’t go reprogramming it! You’ll confuse it…!”
“Oh-ee!” the robot squeaked, “NeoSpikey…! Oh-ee!”
The professor put his hand on his face and pulled the skin downward in frustration, “Ugh… well it’s too late now… it’s already bonded with you, more or less… Fine, ‘OHEE’ it is…”
“If you put that in your database, it’s spelled O-U-I. Kinda like the French word, but sounds different…” I poked at Oui and it made a sound that seemed like laughter.
”Done…” the professor closed his laptop and turned to me. “Here….” He held out a metal bracelet with a tag, “This is your new ID card. The scanners you walk through will recognize you by your new name. I’ve planted false entries and a false birth certificate in OtaKira’s database. As far as they’re concerned, you’re an ‘ordinary’ citizen that has never stumbled across anything otaku-related, so they’ll leave you alone as long as you keep your head low.”
Professor A stood and walked across the room to hand me a case. I opened it, “Contacts?”
“Those contacts will allow you to see what 627… what OUI sees. It has a program in it that can also seek out fellow otaku. What you need to do, NeoSpikey, is travel aboveground and gather those that haven’t yet been de-otakufied and bring them back here. After we’ve gathered enough people, we can begin to plan a counterattack. Do you think you can handle it?”
I put the contacts in my eyes and saw a display appear in front of my eyes. Lists of names scrolled on the right and Oui’s own statements appeared in a box on the left. It currently said “Hi NeoSpikey!” I laughed.
“Yeah, I think I can… I can’t say I have much choice, but even if I did, there’s no way I’m going to live in a world where I can’t read manga or watch anime in peace.”
“Then I’ll give you this survival pack,” the professor hand a rather heavy backpack to me and I put it on, “As well as this earpiece. You can communicate with me whenever you need me. However, don’t contact me while you’re inside cities. They’ll be able to trace the signal back to me, and then it’s game over. Also, Oui can’t been out inside the city, so you’ll have to use the codeword ‘minimize…’” when he said this, Oui, shrunk down to a size small enough to fit in my pocket, “And when you need it, just say ‘maximize’ and it’ll return to normal size.”
Oui poofed back into a basketball and squeaked. I nodded going over everything I’d just heard.
“Then with that,” the professor opened another door, “I have nothing more I can tell you. Good luck, NeoSpikey.”
I nodded and walked through the door. It was shut behind me and the floor lurched and moved upward. I was returned to the surface. The first person to find wasn’t too far off, maybe only 2 miles away.
“Well, we may as well get started, Oui,” I said and Oui squeaked in response. I began to run down the sand covered path toward the city to find our first ally. The revolution has now begun...