“Great work, Eisu! Keep it up, Fumiko!” Lucille stood at the window of her lunar command-tower with her hands on her hips. Outside, two enormous legs hopped toward each other across the moon’s dusty surface. Each leg was 500 meters tall and each muscle group was a different color, like an anatomical diagram. Squinting, Lucille saw each color was made of robotic arms, legs, and torsos guided by accompanying heads. Thousands of robot-pilots approximated human gait to guide the legs together. “Now!”
The thighs conjoined along the groin. The pilots readjusted and the legs stood strong. In the command-tower, Charlie ashed his cockroach. “Lucille, we’ve never combined so many robots at once. I’m impressed.”
Daisuke sighed and wheeled back from the window. “It’s an impressive training-exercise—nothing more. The fully-combined Zephyr is a glorified org-chart, a cute mnemonic to help pilots find their superiors in crises.”
“Daisuke, you know my pilots have no superior.” Lucille spoke into her microphone: “Alright, everyone, keep steady while we put ourselves together!”
“Put… ourselves together?” Daisuke soured. “You mean you’re not stopping at the legs?”
Charlie bit the scar in his lip. “Lucille, Zephyr-Purple doesn’t have a head-pilot yet. Purple is the core of our org-chart. You need it to relay your command.”
“I’ll pilot ZAP.” Lucille ushered Charlie and Daisuke into the elevator down to the hangars. “You both pilot two robots at once. Why can’t I?”
“I work in Zephyr-Blue’s right arm, but I’m actually pilot of Zephyr-Yellow’s head.” Charlie tousled his golden hair. “My dual-pilot status lets me convey your command to the right arm of the moon-base quickly and accurately. Same with Daisuke and the left arm.”
“Just trust me,” said Lucille. The elevator opened into Zephyr-Blue’s hangar. They boarded their respective cockpits; the blue chest remained empty, obsolete as Lucille controlled the engines from the head. From surrounding hangers launched hundreds of roaring robots. Lucille activated her own engines and the Blue Zephyr shot into space on a column of steam.
Lucille, Charlie, and Daisuke floated kilometers above the moon. Below them, hundreds of robots maneuvered to build a giant human chest. Lucille drifted to align the Blue Zephyr’s hips over the combined robot’s muscular neck. Zephyr-Blue contorted to become a crude head.
When Daisuke pulled a lever, the combined chest brushed lunar dust with its left arm. “Left arm, check.”
Charlie turned a dial to clench the combined chest’s right hand. “Right arm, check. Where are our abdominals? Where’s Zephyr-Purple?”
“On its way.” Lucille’s largest monitor displayed the view from Zephyr-Alpha-Purple. The purple robot bounded over craters to stand between the enormous legs and chest. Zephyr-Purple alone stood as tall as the conglomerations. The purple pilots appeared at attention on Lucille’s monitors. “Just like we planned, everyone. Charlie, Daisuke, fold our arms!”
The combined chest folded its arms. Zephyr-Purple squatted and gripped the chest’s rib-cage with both hands, then hefted the chest a kilometer into the sky. Zephyr-Purple raised its arms and the chest fell over it like a T-shirt. This completed the torso, which walked with tiny purple legs.
“Eisu, Fumiko! About-face and take a knee.” The combined legs turned their calves and glutes to the torso. The left knee bent to the ground. They wobbled but slid their right foot to steady themselves. “Charlie, Daisuke, help Z-Purple jump on my mark!”
The combined chest knuckle-walked like a gorilla.
They tried to leap into the legs like pants but only knocked them over. Thousands of robots fell onto the moon. Just before impact, pilots disengaged their robots from the combination to brace themselves as individual arms and legs.
“Damage report!” shouted Lucille. Zephyr-Blue was still connected to the combined chest’s right arm, but Lucille was upside-down and suspended by her seat-belts. “Shit.”
“Cut the comms when you cuss,” said Charlie, “it saves Daisuke the trouble of writing formal reprimands. Everyone’s fine, Commander. Safety-tech has come a long way.”
“We warned you ZAP needed a pilot!” lambasted Daisuke. “Your feet aren’t hearing you when your hands do!”
“Nah, nah. We’ll just do it in zero-g next time!” Lucille beamed at the camera on her main monitor and made a V for Victory. “Great job, everyone! Hit the showers and take the afternoon off.”
Robotic limbs collected into humanoids of solid color and meandered back to base.
“Hold on.” A red light blinked on Lucille’s control-panel. “There’s a distress signal. Are we sure no one’s hurt? Has someone had their comms cut?”
“Commander, look!” The robots pointed to the sky. From black space spun a blue shape. “Is it debris?”
Lucille magnified her main monitor. The blue shape had one eye and half a mouth. “Debris doesn’t send distress signals. That’s one of our own.”
“But everyone’s accounted for,” said Daisuke.
“Not everyone.” Lucille gripped her steering-wheel. “Charlie, tear off Zephyr-Blue and throw us at the newcomer!”
The combined chest’s right arm tore Zephyr-Blue from its neck and hurled it. Zephyr-Blue caught the falling object mid-flight. “No way,” said Charlie. “It’s ZAB’s right half! The original right half!”
Lucille eased their descent with steam. She held the half-face eye-to-eye with ZAB. “Repair-bay! Double-time!”
Charlie and Daisuke prepared a live-feed so every Earthly news-station could witness Lucille’s debriefing of ZAB’s lost half.
Twenty mechanics repaired the half-face while another twenty mechanics cut ZAB into two. Lucille paced before the head-halves, hands folded behind her. “You mean Professor Akayama lived on the Hurricane for twenty years?”
“Or so I estimate,” said the half-face. “I can’t imagine she survived the fall back to the planet.”
“What a hero. Even if she was indirectly responsible for the Hurricane, as you suggest, her ceaseless struggle to salvage even humanity’s most despicable portions is inspiration to us all.” Lucille motioned for the mechanics to fuse ZAB’s original halves. “The moon’s changed since you left,” she said. “Hurricane Planets invade more frequently than ever, stealing stars from the edge of the Milky Way. We’ve built hundreds of robots based on Akayama’s designs and expanded the lunar crew to ten thousand. We can combine into a single mech a kilometer tall.”
When the mechanics wired its halves together, ZAB consolidated the knowledge of both portions. “We’re still not strong enough,” it said. “I know our power and the Hurricane’s. There are far more Hurricane Planets than we anticipated, and their organization is primitive but powerful.”
“So you know how the Hurricane is organized, huh? Anything we haven’t guessed?”
ZAB thought. “The highest density of Hurricane Planets is called the Dance of the Spheres. This is where Hurricane Planets meet to exchange information and ensure homogeneity. It’s so far from us that light from the Dance will not arrive in the Milky Way for eons.”
“So they’ve got a weak-point?”
“No. I would call the Dance of the Spheres the Hurricane’s strongest point because it is the densest—”
“But if we destroy it or infect it with a virus, the Hurricane will chaotically tear itself apart.”
“Perhaps nothing.” Lucille posed for the cameras. “Grit those teeth, humanity! We’ve got our battle-plan.”