Everyone streamed into the living room, including Dex's random friends from outdoors. The physicals took seats on the couch and the chairs around the table, which they repositioned toward the sand wall. Keen was courteous enough to move its Gothtastic proxy to a virtual chair. It propped itself up, at least feigning interest. The proxies created their own virtual seats. T's plush recliner came with a tube that dispensed various liquid refreshments. He sucked down a fruit smoothie while his physical took another shot, in anticipation of seeing himself on the big screen again.
The couch and seats in the living room were oriented toward the main video wall. The main wall, behind the sound visualizer, was specially designed to deliver the highest definition video. It was 3D capable to the naked eye, but even with that the wall's visual effects were lame compared to Mike's augmented vision from his contacts, or the better-than-normal-human vision produced by the Plant. The prevalence of augmented reality gear meant that almost everyone carried around the highest quality theater experience with them at all times. Still, most of the walls in Sam's house came with basic video and sound. Most non-Plants used bionic contacts and ear inserts, but adding video and high quality surround sound speakers to the walls had become cheap enough to be a standard feature.
There was a bass speaker next to the couch, the only standalone speaker in the house. It was mainly for unaugmented guests. The walls could generate bass too, but sometimes an extra oomph was needed. Plants could provide more "bass" than anyone could ever need, and haptic clothing such as Mike's could also generate bass for their wearer, although it could feel a little localized.
Sam activated the living room's movie mode, which turned off the lights and any of the room's potentially intrusive virtual elements.
Mike pulled out a baseball with a tag for the movie and threw it at the wall. The living room disappeared, leaving only the people and chairs. Dexter was sitting in T's way so he turned him invisible. The virtual screen appeared in the distance, with dimensions a little bigger than one of the old IMAX screen and maximum resolution above the limits of normal human vision. Perceived resolution varied based on the individual's tech and settings, of course.
The video started with an overhead shot establishing the beautiful, futuristic battlefield that Neo-Kyoto had become. Fires blazed throughout the city. A series of explosions in the North sent up giant clouds of smoke and debris. As the camera moved to street level, mecha, or mechanized suits of various sizes, exchanged fire as they ran or rolled through the streets. Most of the mech were humanoid to various extents.
The sun was just coming up as the view lowered to street level. A light smell of smoke and exhaust filled Sam's living room, at least for the Planted members of the audience. Garish skyscrapers lined both sides of the street, many featuring obscenely sized 3D screens displaying ads for mech parts and news footage from around the city.
A bulky 15-foot tall mech marched down the street, shooting the screens as it passed, leaving them fractured and shooting sparks but still playing. Fans of this iteration of Ataraxia knew from the mech's distinctive paint job that it was piloted by a certain bastard named Riful. He was the captain of the 9 slightly smaller units, all colored light blue, which pulled up to flank him. Collectively they comprised "Blame5" squad. The color blue stood for Sure Fire, or SuFi, at that point the most powerful force in Ataraxia. Being light blue meant that they were part of the elite division Sudo Refresh.
Charred mecha of various shades of blue fled down the street past Riful and his crew. One of the fleeing mech exploded near Riful's squad, damaging two of his units. Riful, signaled the other mecha to stop and move to the side of the street to let the rest pass by.
Thomas, playing the role of Riful, appeared in a subwindow which tore across the lower-right of the movie screen. The faces of the characters appeared in transparent subwindows on the screen while they talked, creating a manga feel while not slowing down or obscuring the action. The windows showed mostly faces, as bodies were usually securely fastened by the cockpit's netting.
Thomas' head and face had been amalgamated with Riful's, so that both faces could be recognized by perceptive fans. Thomas' black skin and Riful's Chinese complexion mixed well, but Riful's iconic red wavy hair had been toned down a bit. They had kept the scar across his chin and the menacing robotic left eye. They had to respect Riful's beloved cliches.
In the city, there was a restriction on broadcasting video due to cracked codes, so Riful was blind at his position. He took off toward Tsukamoto Street, closely trailed by his squad.
Chester placed a proxy on Riful's shoulder to get a better look at the ruined city. She put her hand on one of Riful's shoulder guns and was burned by its intense heat. It had really only felt like holding her hand over a flame for a few moments, but it reminded her to turn off damage for her proxy in the movie.
Other audience members placed similar proxies to get a better view (or smell) of one of the smoldering buildings, or to jump up on a skyscraper and get a view of distant fighting, which there was plenty of. Under Mike's screen settings, viewer proxies in the movie were unable to influence the movie or appear to the audience through the screen, so no one would be tempted to make a spectacle of themselves.
In-movie proxies were possible because the screen was less a projection than it was a portal into a gorgeously rendered, photo-realistic 3D world. The life sized buildings, streets, and robots were actually there, just beyond the "screen". Every element in Battle of Neo-Kyoto was as substantial as any given proxy. In fact, proxies could just step through the screens of most movies for full immersion.
The original recording of the battle, which Mike's crew had been reworking, encompassed a complete 3D recording of every detail of the game. With a fully rendered recording like this it was easy to put yourself in the middle of the action, or to just create one or more subwindows to explore the surrounding events and environment while still paying attention to the main screen.
Viewers changing events within some movies was encouraged, but Mike had locked that down. Static 3D recordings like Mike's could be set so viewers could blow up mecha or raise the entire town, but everything unaffected by the carnage would go on like nothing had happened. Mech would clip through rubble and corpses, and fire missiles at thin air. After the fun had died down, viewers would typically hit restore and go back to watching the unaltered video.
It was considered best before diving into a video to watch it once or twice from the filmmaker's default perspective to appreciate its dramatic framing and to follow along with all of the significant events. Framing helped define complex events and made viewers think about them in different ways. A "camera" perspective brought to light things that a viewer might miss if they were simply roaming around looking for the story by themselves.
Mike's hope for Battle of Neo-Kyoto was that it would offer a solid and interesting perspective on chaotic events, a dramatic framework which could help guide further exploration to overlooked characters and developments. He hoped that it could illuminate how chance encounters, such as Riful's fateful meeting with a certain mech, had shaped the narrative of Ataraxia.
An overhead view showed Riful's squad encountering a group of 15 enemy units a few blocks away from Tsukamoto Street. They began exchanging fire. The enemy were red, indicating that they were Kirin, Sure Fire's main adversaries. These particular Kirin units didn't seem particularly strong, but were protected by a suspiciously unified shield. It was probably another mobile base. This was bad news for Riful, as it meant that someone had carefully planned whatever was going down. But Riful was bad news for them too.
Riful's squad clustered around him and established their own collective shield, though they did not have the equipment to form a true base. They concentrated fire at the Kirin's weakest point, but it was compensated for. Even Riful's plasma cannon glanced off of it. With Blame5's own shield weakening, Riful directed their fire to a medium sized building adjacent to the Kirin. A mobile base was strong, but it was slow. As the enemy group retreated, Riful trained his plasma cannon on a larger building behind them and brought it crashing down on them. The Kirin broke the shield to pull away in time.
The street filled with smoke, dust, and chunks of the fallen buildings. The building Riful brought down physically pinned 4 of the Kirin and split the rest into two groups. Blame5 jumped over the debris from the first downed building and shot down the six Kirin units trapped in between the two fallen buildings, using their nonvisual sensors.
Riful was spraying plasma into the wreck of the second building with the 4 pinned units when a small scarlet mech, barely 8 feet tall, jumped over from the other side. As it landed it broke through Blame5's group shield and uppercutted Riful over the first building's rubble and some distance back down the street. The rest of Blame5 immediately went into retreat. Some got away, but the scarlet Kirin kicked one apart, which sent its pieces at high velocity destroying a second one. Then the Kirin ripped the third mech's head off and punched its exposed pilot to death.
Riful and his six remaining troops on the other side of the building gathered and established a new shield. The Kirin jumped over the building, and easily evading Blame5's fire. A thin, twenty foot "hyper-chainsaw" unfolded from its back and extended from its chest. It looks absurd, but it didn't slow the Kirin down as it rushed Blame5 and cut through two more units with its chainsaw in the most casual way possible.
Blame5 responded according to code, but they couldn't seem to touch the Kirin, who darted evasively around the street like a ninja. It went after Riful, who managed to dodge its chainsaw, and fired a spread at where he projected the scarlet menace would be in a moment. He missed. A subwindow showed Riful's face dropping. Blame 5 fell back, trying to create space. This gave Riful room to spray a wide path of plasma, but it missed the Kirrin as it moved past him on its way to dismantling the other SuFi units.
As he continued firing, Riful noted that his sensors were still picking up the other Kirin units on the other side of the downed building. They were just waiting there.
The scarlet unit put its hand through the chest of Riful's last soldier. It's fist was covered with her blood as it turned and barreled at Riful. Riful missed shooting it again, and this time its chainsaw connected with the helm of his mech, but it bounced off. He sighed with relief that his armor was strong enough. Its chainsaw retracted instantly into its back and the red unit started beating the hell out of Riful's mech with its fists. Riful was completely unsuccessful at shooting the Kirin, who always seemed to evade or push Riful's guns out of the way at the last moment. It looked like Riful was fighting water.
Riful snapped out of his half-drunk stupor and fought smart. He sprayed plasma on the ground around him, pushing Slack back for a moment. This gave Riful time to pull his shoulder cannon into his right arm. When Slack was back a moment later, Riful smashed his arm into Slack's side. Slack couldn't compensate for the unexpected weight of the cannon and danced backwards to recover. Riful shot everything he had at Slack, and even hit him a few times. This gave him time to switch into hand-to-hand mode.
Riful and Slack exchanged vicious blows. They grasped each other and spiraled down the street, rebounding off of the sides of buildings. Slack brought his chainsaw out, hyper extended it, and whittled away at a nearby hotel with it, attempting to bury both of them. Riful grabbed the chainsaw, but only managed to mess his hands up, costing him several fingers.
Just as the fingers fell, a large black mech appeared from the other side of the street and hit Slack all the way through the building he was trying to collapse. Slack took off running toward Tsuakamoto Street.
Then Riful noticed who had intervened. The large, ominous mech was piloted by Ko-Enshaku, one of the Core Guardians of Sure Fire. It passed him a secure message and jumped into the distance with rocket speed.
The message unfolded on the screen: "Krauser Brigade has taken Zero Daisaku prisoner. Proceed to office 23 to aid in guarding him."
Riful, the only surviving member of his squad, took off toward office 23.
The screen disappeared and the movie space reverted back into a living room. A few people applauded. Saitou set the wall next to the couch to display a sped-up overhead view of the the conflict of Neo-Kyoto on loop. It was complete with color-coded highlights indicating areas controlled by the various factions and points of conflict. The flow of colors had a strangely soothing rhythm. It stuck out of the wall to exact scale, which meant that occasionally a rocket would fly a few feet from hitting the back of Chester's head.
Thomas highlighted his character's presence on the wall map. Megan zoomed into the map to follow the action.
Chester turned toward Mike. She had activated her social mirroring function, so her proxy's wooden surface turned black to mimic his skin tone.
Everyone stopped to watch the wall for a few moments as thousands of units engaged in dozens of furious and desperate skirmishes all over the city. It was quite sparkly.
There was a video of lesbian sex on Sam's shirt. Sam didn't bother to change it. It went through several more porn clips before moving on to clumsy red panda babies.
Thomas shot some missiles at Blaze Snap as it flew along the wall map, blowing it up. It's flaming wreckage took down several buildings and doused the area in molten destruction.
T put on an air of mock indignance.
For years, Mike had set his agent Tenchi to record everything that T did around him, for occasions such as this.
Dexter's friends had gone back outside or left or something. No one really cares. Let's say they were dragged off and eaten by feral crabs. For reference, left sitting in the living room were: Chess, Dex, Keen, Meg, Mike, Saitou, Sam, and T.
Saitou pulled out a cup of liquefied Starburst and slurped it down through a straw. Seeing that only proxies were sitting on the non-couch side of the coffee table, he extended the table's top toward him and put his cup on it.
Thomas, recognizing that Chester was about to start telling one of her stories, set up a private layer labeled, "Chester is a dummy" and made it available to everyone but Chester. Accepting it sprouted a 3 foot wide neon sign out of the top of Chester's head, displaying commentary from T. Sometimes these commentaries were funny, but T was too drunk for anyone to get their hopes up.
Chester's proxy turned snowy to mimic Meg's winterland body.
The Neo-Kyoto display reached its end and reset, restoring the vast city to the pristine glory it emanated before being trashed by various sized robots. Chester's proxy turned starry to mimic Saitou.
Megan leaned in to whisper to Thomas.