“Today’s the big day, eh sweetheart?”
“Yeah Dad…I’m excited…a little nervous, but mostly excited. I just hope I pass.”
“Enough of that now! We’ve practiced plenty, you know all the rules and regulations and I know you’ll do just fine. Now your mother is waiting for you and you don’t want to be late so kiss your old man on the cheek and go!”
A sunny day in suburbia, birds chirping happily to each other, white picket fences marking the boundaries between one perfect lawn and the next. Happy neighbors waving to each other and making small talk as they check their mail or water their garden. Looking out the window as her mother drives her to the D.M.V., Vanessa Lowman, or ‘Nesa to her friends and family, sighs wistfully and tries to quiet the butterflies in her stomach. This is a huge day…HUGE, she thinks to herself. This is the day I get my licenses, this is the day when I get to feel the freedom of the open road…of course, there’s always that pesky responsibility thing looming over it all. What if I don’t pass…I mean, I can always take the test again…but what if they keep track of failing grades and make the test harder next time? No! No next time…today is the DAY!
“Stop gathering wool darling…you’ll give yourself grey hairs like your mother!” her mom says with a snerk.
“Oh…I know Mom, but it’s just so exciting…like, I finally get to drive myself and I just feel like this is the day I finally become an ADULT. Ya know…?”
“Yes ‘Nesa…I do know. Not that you would credit it but I was once a sixteen year old girl myself, once…long, long ago…in the Dark Ages back when we didn’t have the internet or even SHOES!”
“Oh Mom…you’re such a DORK!”
…and both girls squeal and laugh as they make their way through the town of New Rockport. A smallish community, one of several in the region, and made up of a comfortable balance between farmers, miners and modern conveniences. Nesa’s father was one of the chief business men in town, President and C.E.O. of the biggest bank in New Rockport and on his second term as Mayor. Her mother was a retired Sergeant in the Army and was currently working as a Registered Nurse at the Rockport Regional Hospital. Needless to say, Nesa didn’t lack for much. Her parents made sure she went to the best schools and had a safe and happy home in the nicer part of town. She was popular in school more for her way with others than her family’s money and while she always had the latest technology and fashion; phones, e-reader, expensive name brand jeans and the like, she never let that sort of thing determine who she was or who she was friends with. It sounds cliché, but she really was the “girl next door” type. Turning a corner and coming to a full stop, Nesa looks out at the bulk of the D.M.V. looming in front of them like some sort of modern temple. Police cruisers parked along the side of the building like guardsmen and a line of waiting people snaking around the building as though seeking audience with the powers that reside within.
“Wow…I didn’t realize so many people would be here today Mom. How long do you think it’ll take to get through that line?”
“Not long dear, we made an appointment for your test.”
“I guess that’s okay…but…isn’t it kinda cheating to cut in line like that…”
“Don’t worry dearest, everyone with any sense makes an appointment for these things. If they’re standing in line it’s because of something else…or because they didn’t plan ahead. Now go on…I have some shopping to do and you have a test to take. I’ll be back in an hour or so, you should be done by then.”
“Okay…love you Mom.”
“Love you too Nesa.”
…and with that Nesa watches her mom head off to the shops and bank and all those other things that parents do when their kids aren’t pestering them for money. Nesa laughs at the thought, stands up straight, and walks into the D.M.V. A police officer stands at a relaxed approximation of attention just outside the entrance, mainly to give the impression of security and lend the building just a dash more seriousness. As she approaches the door he graciously opens it for her, letting her into the ‘Appointment Only’ section with a small nod. Passing by the officer she hears his radio garble out some static and words, something about Gang violence on the outskirts of town. The officer quickly turn responds with a string of numbers, turns down his radio, and goes back to monitoring the door. Shrugging to herself, Nesa enters into one of the waiting rooms and does just that. Within a few minutes a thin and slightly harried looking young man with thick glasses comes in, greats Nesa and takes her out for the Road Test on a track behind the D.M.V. Within thirty minutes they are back inside and Nesa is filling out the written portion regarding traffic laws, safety hazards and all sorts of things like that. Before she knows it an hour has passed and she is holding the well folded paper copy of her license. As she heads out of the D.M.V., she notices that the officer at the door is missing…in fact; all the patrol vehicles are gone. Plopping down on the curb she waits for her Mom to come back, smiling like a kid at Christmas and texting all her friends the good news.
…a half hour passes and her Mom hasn’t shown up yet…
…another half hour passes and Nesa has been texting her Mom every ten minutes or so. This is the point where she starts to get worried…
…two hours and a dozen or so unanswered calls and text messages after exiting the D.M.V., Nesa is on the verge of tears when she sees her Mom pull up into the parking lot. Running to the driver side door Nesa starts screaming at her mom in typical teenage ways. “Where were you? Mom I was so worried about you! You didn’t respond to any of my texts or calls and Ithoughtsomethinghorriblehadhappenedtoyou!!” Her voice cracking, Nesa begins to cry and throws herself into her mom’s arms.
“Shhhh honey, shhhh…I’m sorry…I know I worried you… I’m sorry…” her mom soothes as she strokes her daughters hair.
Muffled by her mother’s chest, Nesa asks “Where were you?”
“Honey…there was an incident…Gang warfare on the outskirts of town started earlier this morning…by the time I got to the shops it had made its way down to Main Street…there were several casualties and I…I did what I’ve been trained to do as both an Army Sergeant and a Nurse. I tried calling you as soon as I knew what was going on, but the signals were being cut by the smoke and the fires…”
“Yeah…Main Street is pretty much a wreck right now. Luckily there were only a few people hit by the weapons fire…”
“WEAPONS FIRE! ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS!!?”
“You watch your language young lady!”
“Don’t give me that there was WEAPONS FIRE and you were there and you could have been killed Mom! What were you thinking Mom? You’re retired from the Army…you don’t need to do that stuff anymore…”
“You’ll learn one day soon dear heart, sometimes you just have to do what you need to do, regardless of the situation. In this case I had to help…”
“Okay…okay…I guess I can understand that. I just don’t want anything to happen to you Mom…I just want to protect you and Dad and everyone…”
“I know honey…that’s what makes me and your Dad so very proud of you…now come on, let’s go home.”
…on the ride back home, Nesa shows her mom her new license and after a few jokes and some talking she begins to feel more in control of her emotions…at least until they pull up to their house. Right there, right in front of her house is a surprise. Her parents never had any doubt that she’d pass her test…so they bought her a present.
“Oh. My. GOD!” “You like it?” her mom asks. “YESOHYESOHYES!!”
Jumping out of the passenger door, Nesa runs up to her new ride; cherry apple red, convertible, ten feet tall and bipedal. Not one of those cheap plastic Off-Planet jobs for her. No, this is a classic. Lovingly maintained and armed with a vintage rotating gatling cannon strapped under the left arm and a new, high yield plasma cannon in place of the right fist. Jutting over the shoulders like stubby wings are two rocket launch boxes, the arrow headed tips just barely poking out of the launch holes. Vector thrust nozzles and rocket boosters pimple the back of the mech from shoulders to feet and give her ride much envied speed and lift. Hanging from the rear view screen is a pair of fuzzy pink dice, her father’s little joke no doubt.
“Wow…” she says as she runs her hands over the legs of her new Mech.
“Now this is a gift dear daughter of mine, but don’t let it give you a big head…you ARE going to take care of it and you WILL be responsible for the insurance payments. We fully expect you to start earning your way and this is as good a place to begin as any.” her father says as he steps out of the house and walks across the lawn.
“I can’t wait to take it out for a test drive!” Nesa squeals.
“Well, the Department of Mechanized Vigilantes is mustering a group of raiders as we speak. The Gangers left enough of their warriors scattered around the battle site earlier today that we should be able to just follow them back to their hive. They won’t be able to coordinate very well with such low numbers and we’ll be able to stomp this nest into the ground with little fuss.” her mom chimes in, the spark of battle in her Ex-Sergeants eyes.
“Now dear, raiding is a young person’s game…you know that. Better you stay at home and keep your old husband company, lest I have to chase after you and throw my back out in some sort of poorly thought out heroic gesture. Besides, Nesa has her license and I’m certain that boy…what’s his name…Derek…will be joining this raid as well. I was just talking to his father the other day and he was so proud of his son getting his license.”
“Oh poo…” says her mom with mock disappointment. “Off you go darling…don’t stay out too late and remember the rotator will pull your torso to the left if you fire for more than a few seconds at a time.”
The last words had to be shouted as Nesa was already clambering into her cockpit, strapping herself down and firing up the big fusion engine. Feeling the thrum of power racing through her mechs limbs, Nesa realizes…today WAS the day!