There was an Attack Macaque in the courtyard—AM-120 from the looks of it: forward infantry mecha, fast, and trigger happy for an AI. But that’s not what worried Daiju. He was worried about the mushroom cap standing guard, so called for their umbrella-like helmets. It wasn’t a nice term. Wasn’t meant to be. They fancied themselves modern day Samurai and secluded themselves up in the mountains, lived by some strange Neo-Bushidō code. No implants. Humain au naturel. It meant they couldn’t steal the mechs, couldn’t interface with them. Made them good mercs. Dangerous opponents—unpredictable.
But susceptible to deception. Something to exploit.
Daiju followed his normal route past the tenements. Same time every day. It gave the illusion of a routine. But now the sun was setting earlier; it was dusk. Harder to see, for human eyes anyway. The Macaque was as clear-eyed as ever. Daiju walked a little crooked, but not too crooked. Tried to look like he was trying not to look drunk. He was counting down in his head; he’d swallowed the hack-tab Aoi gave him a couple blocks back. Maybe 20 seconds left.
He looked straight ahead, but knew the shiitake was eyeballing him. He stumbled a tad closer and the merc’s back straightened, ever so slightly readying his quench rifle. Any second now…
And that’s when Daiju spilled his guts—puked all over the sidewalk. An unconventional tactic, but rebellions are at odds with convention. He looked up at the merc with pathetic eyes, made himself look weak. The tablet was still doing its job in his GI tract. And here comes act two—
Daiju puked again. Blood this time. He held his gut and moaned miserably, reaching out to the merc for help and edging closer. Almost there. Usually you’d be shot for getting this close, but he’d put on a convincing show. Humain au naturel; eat shit.
Along with the stomach geysers, the hack-tab had also gone to town on some spare proteins, using nano-origami to fold them into a biotransmitter. He must have gotten within range, because Aoi pulled the trigger from inside one of the apartments. One of the smart rocket shells in the Macaque’s munitions box detonated, taking out one of its own legs. The merc whirled around with barely enough time to cry out before the mech collapsed on him—all three tonnes of it. Dead Samurai.
Daiju bolted for the tree line before the mech scuttled itself, shooting flames high into the gloaming and shaking roof tiles off the tenement. That’s how this war was going to go. Small risks, small gains, small wins.
Because that’s how you got to big wins.
Notes: I used an image as a writing prompt for this piece. You may be able to find the image on the artist’s ArtStation page. Image by Kobe Sek, used with permission.