Chapter 1:

A Parent's Opinion

Mechanical Chess : The Pawn


“I’m not saying the boy isn’t a good pilot Amy, but I don’t think the League is the best way to display such talents.” The man said frustratedly, pacing around the dining room table as his wife rushed around preparing to leave, grabbing keys, shoes, almost bumping into him on several occasions as she blitzed by him. Like a fly buzzing around a horse. “I think Harrison has tried for too long to prove to himself that he can be something to us that he doesn’t need to be.” Amy stopped moving, her back to her husband. She paused, taking a moment to process his words before turning and marching right up to him, not breaking eye contact on the approach. “And just what makes you think Harrison is doing this to prove something to us?!” She yelled. Bookmark here

“Luther our boy is smart,” she began, resuming her rush about the lavish home but making sure her husband could hear her from anywhere in the house. “If he didn’t want to be a pilot, he wouldn’t be. This is something he enjoys, something that he loves. Why wouldn’t you want to be there for him on the day of his first match? HIS OWN FATHER, I might add.” Amy continued ranting as she made her way around the home. Luther had heard this argument before. Once a month ago when he told Harrison he wouldn’t go. Twice the next week from his own mother and Amy. The third from his friends at work and neighbors. And the fourth, or more the continuous fourth given by Amy yet again. The past week was more of a long argument with some sleeping and work in between. Bookmark here

He had his reasons. He would think his wife would too. But the years have been too kind to them since the war. While they could never truly forget what happened it’s been so long since then that worries of the past don’t appear in everyday life like they used to. Luther began roaming the halls of his home as his wife’s lecture went on. Medals and military photographs adorned the walls. Various service photos intermingled with family ones and useless knick-knacks that most people acquire over time from vacations or bad housewarming gifts. Luther stopped at one photo that hung at the top of the stairs. A graduating class photo from his time at the academy. Many of these men and women died during the conflict. And Luther believed the League glorified their sacrifice in a tasteless manner.Bookmark here

Luther gripped the frame as the heat from his old claim reignited his softening heart in the feud with his wife. But before he could act, he saw her. Amy had stopped in front of him, prepared and ready to go. She wore a strapless red evening gown with her brown hair down behind her shoulders, put in place by a red band. She held a pair of red pumps in her left hand and wore some ratty tennis shoes. Luther could feel his angry resolve sliding away becoming soft and warm again as he approached her. “Have you been listening to me Luther?” Amy said as he walked up to her. Bookmark here

“I have dear,” he lied. “But I think you’re not hearing what I’ve been saying these past couple weeks.” Amy rolled her eyes and began walking away until Luther grabbed her arm. “Honey please.” Amy turned to yell at him again but stopped when she saw his face. What normally was a stoic, emotionless expression was now a worrisome and deflated man. Amy turned back towards Luther, she placed her shoes and purse down on an armchair and walked up to him. Luther took her hand and lead her down the hall. They passed more memorabilia, handshakes of each of them on several occasions with various Presidents, figurines in a glass cabinet of various mechs in a multitude of colors and sizes. They walked in silence through the tomb of their past, neither taking a moments time to recognize any of it.Bookmark here

The pare stopped outside a bedroom door, covered in stickers and decals. A large “Stay Out” sign in bold lettering met them at face level as they opened the door and stepped inside. “You never really get used to that smell.” Luther said. “You’d think after two or so years it would fade but I guess adolescence stains the walls.” Amy replied. Luther continued leading Amy into the room further as they came to the bed, she sat letting go of his hand as he walked back to the center of the room, still holding the class photo in his right. “Amy,” he began hesitantly. “Do you remember what life was like before the war?” Bookmark here

Amy chuckled as she replied. “Of course, I remember Elementary and High school, I remember scouts and yearbook, I remember Stacy Jackson and how much of a bitch she was. I don’t remember all of it, but I’d say I remember a good bit.” Luther walked around the room looking at Harrison’s belongings. “That’s not what I mean,” Luther responded. “I mean do you remember a time when you were really just you. When you weren’t a pilot, or a solider, or afraid that you wouldn’t wake up in the morning?” Amy paused. Since the war things had been normal, or as normal as things could be. The government gave them this house in a veteran’s neighborhood. They knew and fought alongside most of their neighbors. But as good as things were now Amy couldn’t deny that this normal didn’t take years of emersion to feel real.Bookmark here

The first year Luther and Amy couldn’t even sleep in their own bed over how soft it was. A stark comparison from 15 years of sleeping on cheap cots, the seats of their mechs, or on nothing at all. The slightest noise would wake them both if it wasn’t one or the other screaming awake from nightmares. Amy not wanting to remember the past attempted to ground herself by gripping the sheets on the bed. Luther noticed this and rushed to her side sitting next to her and grabbing her hand. “What are you getting at Luther?” She said halfheartedly. Bookmark here

“What I’m getting at is we were children when we were brought into the war. We saw our friends die around us for over a decade. Our hopes of college and futures, we gave up on them because we thought what was the point of planning that far ahead if we could die tomorrow. Our dreams became a liability, and we threw them away. Children to soldiers, to killers.” Luther said. Amy noticed Luther’s hand had begun shaking. She gripped his hand a little tighter and the shaking stopped. “Look at us here.” Luther said, showing Amy the class photo. As Luther brought the photo around with his left-hand Amy gently grabbed the other side with her right. In the center stood Luther. A big smile along his face. A tall young man with glasses and strong facial features. Amy was down in the right corner kneeling along with several other classmates. Bookmark here

“Did we even know we were in the same class back then” Amy said. “I knew you were,” Luther replied. “I had a big crush on you in high school, so I knew where you were all the time.” Amy shot a smirk at Luther and replied, “Okay creep very romantic.” Luther giggled before responding “No, but seriously Amy I had a big crush on you in high school.” Luther took the photo and put it down on the bed behind them, then grasped Amy’s free hand in his. “I crushed so hard on you I would hype myself up to go talk to you any moment I could, but I’d always chicken out and change the subject.” Amy’s smirk faded as her heart fluttered ever so slightly. “When the draft happened, I was so scared of what lied ahead that I couldn’t focus. That I couldn’t think straight. I wanted to run I wanted to flee. But I couldn’t. But then I saw you.”Bookmark here

Luther looked at Amy, lifting her head to look at him eye to eye. His blue eyes met her brown ones as he continued roping her in. “I thought to myself if Amy was here, and could do this, then I needed to be able to do it too. So, I worked hard, and I rose above, through all the training through all the shit I made sure I could learn whatever I could so when we were shipped out, I’d be ready. But are regiments were divided after graduation.” Luther stood up leading Amy by the hands again to the center of the room. “It would be 10 years before I’d see you again.” Luther said, letting go of her hands as he walked to the long windows in the room. The afternoon sun had begun beaming through the slits in the blinds painting the floor with glowing lines and beads, illuminating the lower half of the room while leaving the ceiling and far wall in darkness. Luther pulled the blinds making Amy recoil slightly to the change in light, Luther’s permanent scowl compensated nearly immediately.Bookmark here

“Imagine if we had that time back,” Luther began, looking out at the neighborhood. “Imagine if the war never happened, imagine if we got to live our lives the way we wanted. All of us.” Outside the window around the street several magnificent houses littered the area in a haphazard pattern. Various sounds entered the room from a barbecue down the way, yells and laughter bouncing around amongst the rustling of leaves and the birds. “We could have had our first date in a café instead of a foxhole in Canada.” Luther continued. “The Johnsons could have had their wedding on a beach in the sun instead of a flooded ship believing they’d be dead in an hour, and David Cavanagh could have earned his medical license in a classroom as opposed to that trial by fire in Montana.” Luther huffed as he shut the blinds, quickly looking over at Amy after doing so. “We could’ve lived amazing fulfilling lives without that decade-plus blight in our past but it’s always there, always reminding us of the cost for the future we fought for.” Luther gripped his hands into fists as he began to tremble again. Bookmark here

Amy seeing this shot to her feet and hugged him from behind, knocking over her sparkled pumps in the process, making them stumble into the light casting fluttery red specks over everything in the room. “The war took a lot from all of us Luther.” Amy began, slowly wrapping her arms under Luther’s and across his chest. “But the war took a lot more from others too.” Luther could feel Amy’s breath rise and fall on his back as she struggled to find her words. “We survived Luther. We fought and we won, Luther.” Amy let go of him as she walked around to his front, her head barely passing his shoulders. Amy looked at him, his despondent face struck a frayed chord in her that they all had buried deep down. Most of the veterans, like herself, have grown accustomed to their lives, even finding happiness after their time as pilots. But the chord remained underneath all the beauty and life that was handed to them after the final bullet was shot. Amy knew that Luther’s chord still rung taught underneath his skin, close to the surface. He never adjusted to the peace as well as the others had. “Luther,” Amy continued, caressing one side of his face. “You have a lovely home, a healthy son who adores you, a hot wife who loves you, and friends who would lay their lives down for you”. Amy brought her other hand up to Luther’s face, holding his head. “You have fought hard for everything you have now, and you’re afraid to take it for what it is.” Luther looked at his wife. Her eyes glistened in the flurry of red. As big of a man he thought himself to be Luther was still weak to his own wife. She knew what to say, and how to say it to make it reach him. Bookmark here

Luther brought his hands up to her cheeks and slowly brought his forehead down to hers. “I love you, Amy”. He said, “I love the life you’ve given me, and the home we’ve built together.” Luther brought his hands down from her face to her wrists and gently took them away from his face, holding them gently. “But I can’t support Harrison. Not just yet.” Amy yanked her hands away from Luther’s and picked up her shoes storming out of the room, Luther followed hot on her heels. “Amy please, listen to me.” He said stopping her at the stairs, stepping between her path on the landing. “You made yourself clear Luther, if you won’t be there for our son tonight then I can’t be here for you now.” Amy pushed past Luther while hastily getting ready to go, throwing on her blazer and picking up her purse from the armchair as she moved past it. “Amy that’s not what I meant just please stop and LISTEN to me.” Luther jumped in front of Amy again grabbing her by her waist. Amy was willing to risk being a bit late to try one last time to convince her husband to come to the match, but she now believed she was only talking to a wall. While it broke her heart to leave him, she couldn’t abandon her son over Luther’s stubbornness. Regardless of his reasoning.Bookmark here

Amy shook out of Luther’s grasp and walked up to the front door, opening it in a quick fling, slamming into the spring and bouncing back at her much to her frustration. “I’m going Luther.” I don’t know what your problem is with the League. It’s just chess Luther. Just CHESS with MECHS.” Harrison’s great at chess, loves it even, and you always told him the chess club was a waste of his time and talent, so he goes off to join the ROTC program and you shut him down again.” Amy made her way down the driveway to a limousine. The driver opened the door impatiently looking at his watch. Luther still following behind her. Amy sat down quickly throwing her shoes and purse onto the seat next to her. “Miss we should really get going” the driver said getting back into the front seat. “In a moment Charles I still have a few choice words for my husband.” Bookmark here

Amy slammed the door then rolled down the window as Luther arrived at the car. “I care about you Luther, and I care about our boy just as much. He’s more then excited to show you what he’s learned tonight, and it will mean the world to him if you’d appear. Not to speak, not to sign autographs, just to be there, that’s all he needs and all he wants, and you can’t even do that.” Luther dug his nails into his palms again knowing she was right, but he accepted the words without rebuttal knowing he couldn’t tell her the truth. “I’m going now Luther, I Love you, but I don’t have the time anymore to talk to you about this. Regardless of how you feel about the League, the showmanship, the spectacle, the sport itself. You could stand to swallow your pride for your son’s sake.” Amy rolled up the window as the car began to pull away. Luther looking on defeated. Then the limo stopped, Amy’s window rolling back down. She stuck her head out the window and looked back at Luther. Luther stood up straight hiding his shame and embarrassment, putting a bold face on for his wife. Half expecting another lecture he was taken off guard when Amy said, “There’s a Lasagna in the fridge, just bake it at 350 for an hour or so. I’ll be home late.” There was a pause between them. Amy continued to stare at Luther and Luther the same until Amy cracked, “I Love you” she said, frustrated and directly, but still sincere. She stuck her head back in the limo as the limousine pulled past the gate and disappeared around the curve. Bookmark here

Luther stood alone in his front yard. Hands in his pockets thinking about what he’d done. It’s not that he didn’t want to be there for Harrison. It’s not that he enjoyed disappointing his wife. He was insurmountably proud of him. A pilot with great potential just like his old man, how could he not be proud. But Harrison couldn’t know just yet, nor could Amy. Harrison needed to learn the field for himself, his team for himself. For the time being he had to be distant. For the time being he had to be cold. Harrison was capable of greatness, but he had to be willing to do it himself. Bookmark here

As the streetlights came on outside the gate and the lawn lights flickered to life Luther pulled out a small radio and clipped it on to his belt. “Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, welcome to the opening match of the Mecha Chess 2056 season. You’ve waited months to see them, we’ve waited months to show them. Stay tuned for The Chicago Sentinels Vs The Boston Golems featuring a legacy newcomer, the son of legendary Mecha Pilots Luther and Amy Andross fighting in his first match ever. Just under 30 minutes to go folks until we’re back to the grand duels, the shocking upsets, and the phenomenal plays. Stay tuned for some words from our sponsors.” Bookmark here

The radio continued to play as Luther turned on his heel and made his way to the garage, the door opening on his approach. Luther looked around for suspicious eyes as he reached for the doors strap. “Now boy, let’s see what you can do.” As he closed the door behind him.Bookmark here

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