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“Tokyo Raider” originally appeared in The Baen Big Book of Monsters, edited by Hank Davis, published by Baen Books in 2014.

This story is set in my Grimnoir universe, where magic appeared in the 1850s and our timeline diverged from there. “Tokyo Raider” takes place about twenty years after the novel Warbound, so if you’ve not read that trilogy yet you might want to skip this one because there are a few spoilers . . . and a whole lot of giant robot fights.

Adak, Alaska



The colonel of the 2nd Raider Battalion was pouring himself a cup of coffee and looking a bit more surly than usual. He returned the salute and gestured at the chair on the other side of his desk. “Take a seat, Lieutenant.”

The building was quiet. The office walls around them were covered in maps of the Imperium. If—or more likely, when—there was war with the Japanese, this place was going to be hopping, but until then the Marines on the island of Adak had to watch and wait, train, freeze, and shoo caribou out of the barracks. The colonel was normally in a rotten mood before he had his coffee, so Joe got ready for another ass-chewing. He was the new guy, and he didn’t fit in. Those made for a bad combination.

Luckily, the colonel got right down to business. “We got a priority magical transmission. Since everybody forgets about us stationed out here on the ass end of nowhere, the commo boys get excited when their window actually starts talking to them. They woke me up, telling me that the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet himself had special orders for one of my butter bars.”

So much for keeping his head down.

“Turns out my new junior platoon leader is some big shot back in the states. I knew you were a Heavy. File says you’re really good at manipulating gravity, and you’re qualified on a Heavy Suit, but nobody told me you were supposed to be some sort of genius wizard.”

“I wouldn’t say genius. It’s all in my file. I have a degree in magical engineering from MIT and a master’s from the Otis Institute.”

“You went to college at what, twelve?”

“I graduated when I was nineteen, then I joined the Marine Corps, sir.”

“Why the hell you ended up . . . Never mind. Whatever you’ve done impressed somebody. Congratulations, Lieutenant, you’re going to Japan.”

That was certainly unexpected. “Japan, sir?”

“Tokyo, to be exact. You’ll be leaving immediately. An airship is being prepped now.”

Joe took a deep breath. The ceasefire had held for a few years. There’d been some skirmishes and the usual saber rattling, but the Japanese had been too busy fighting the Soviets to cause any trouble for the American forces in the Pacific. The peace process must have broken down. If they were sending Raiders to Tokyo, that meant a full-blown war. A Marine Raider’s job was to be dropped behind enemy lines to cause as much chaos as possible. Tokyo wasn’t just behind their lines: it was the enemy heart. Joe wasn’t sure if he was scared, eager, or a combination of both, but he’d signed up, so he’d do whatever needed to be done. “Are we jumping in?”

“I believe you’ll just be landing at the air station.”

Now he was really confused, but Raiders were trained to be flexible. “My platoon is ready for anything.”

“No, Lieutenant, they’re not. Your platoon is made up of Marines who are still trying to decide if they trust their newly assigned half-Jap officer to fight the Japanese. Frankly, I’m not sure if they’d follow you or frag you. Can you blame them? You speak the enemy’s language, know their culture, and you even kind of look like one of them. I’ve heard of black Irish, but never yellow Irish.”

“The men don’t know if they should stick with rice or potato jokes, sir, but I carry on.”

“Don’t be a wiseass. Hell, I’ve been told you’ve got kanji brands on your body like one of their Iron Guards.”

“No, sir. Those spells are a family recipe. They were inspected and approved by the War Department when I joined.”

“I’ve been trying to decide what to do with you.”

Joe appreciated the colonel’s honesty. “My mother was born in the Imperium, but she was a slave. I may have been too young to make the last war, but I hate the Imperium as much as any man who’s fought them, and I’ll be here for the next.”

The colonel sighed. “I believe you, but I’m not some dumb private who’s going to be tempted to roll a grenade into your tent while you’re sleeping because he’s thinking he’s doing his country a favor. I’ve no doubt you’ll prove yourself to them eventually, but luckily, this assignment is just you.”

There were limits to a Raider’s flexibility, and Joe wasn’t feeling up to invading the Imperium by himself. “I’m kind of hazy on the nature of my orders.”

“Me, too. Per the peace treaty, you’re to be a military observer. I neglected to mention that the radio man was mistaken. Turns out it wasn’t the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet calling, but the Commander in Chief.”

“The president?”

“Yeah. I even voted for the man. I’ll tell you, that was an unexpected way to start my day. I was a little concerned about being told to send one of my junior officers off by himself to the Imperium capital with orders to help those bastards, but the president spoke rather highly of your aptitude. How come you never told anybody you’re buddies with President Stuyvesant?”

“Our families are acquainted.”

“He said that you would be too humble, but that you were the best man for the job. That sounds fairly acquainted to me.”

“Well, the First Lady does insist I call her Aunt Faye.”

“Uh-huh . . .” The colonel took a drink of his coffee. “He said your presence as an observer was requested by the high commander of the entire Imperium military, General Toru Tokugawa. You know, the man in charge of our enemies, who rules over an evil empire with an iron fist. You’re supposed to do him a favor for diplomacy’s sake. I take it you’re acquainted with him, too?”

He shrugged. “He and my father once worked together. It’s complicated.”

“Well, then, I can’t imagine why your men don’t have complete faith in you. Good luck in Japan, Lieutenant Sullivan.”

Tokyo, Japan

IMMEDIATELY AFTER LANDING, Joe Sullivan had been met with a lot of ceremony by the Imperium Diplomatic Corps and then picked up by an armored car and some Iron Guard who didn’t seem nearly so big on polite conversation. The Imperium elites had driven him directly to an ancient palace surrounded by cherry trees. The trip confirmed that Japan really was as pretty as Mom had made it out to be. They’d escorted him through the castle, to an ultramodern military command bunker beneath it. Then he’d stood there, waiting in his dress uniform, being eyeballed by a bunch of Japanese soldiers as they talked all sorts of shit about the gaijin, until somebody who’d been briefed told those idiots that he spoke Japanese, and they’d shut up.

The Imperium didn’t seem to be hiding anything. The red markings on the wall maps told him that the Russians were pushing back against the Imperium in Asia. The unit markers were either true, or it was an elaborate setup for his benefit. Either way he memorized every unit and location so he could put it all in his report when he got home and let the intel types decide.

There was only one marker he didn’t understand. It was shaped like a dragon, was red like the rest of the communist forces, and it had to represent something naval because it was tracking up the east coast of the island, heading for Tokyo Bay, and several Japanese naval units had been destroyed along its path, including an entire carrier battle group. Several submarines were marked as missing. The kanji on the marker identified it with the code name: Gorilla Whale.

The Imperium were big on treating guests with respect, so the lack of respect had to be meant as an insult. After half an hour of waiting, without being offered so much as a chair, there was some shouting in the hall. Several military aides fled as a big, stocky, thickset Japanese man stomped into the bunker. He’d heard a lot about Toru Tokugawa growing up. Even though they’d been opponents, his dad had held more respect for this Imperium warrior than he did for most of the men supposedly on their side. The recent war had proven him to be one of best tacticians in the world, and in his youth he’d been one of the strongest Brutes to ever live.

Toru Tokugawa didn’t disappoint in person.

“Damn those wretched Soviet pig dogs!” the general shouted as he stormed across the command center. The rest of the Imperium army staff remained quiet and polite as expected, as Tokugawa, on the other hand, was not. “Stalin has no honor!” He punched one of the bunker’s walls, cracking the concrete. Tokugawa may have been in his fifties, but he still possessed an impressive connection to burn Power like that. “They fight like cowards!”

As their supreme commander flipped over a map table, the Japanese officers exchanged nervous glances. Having a visitor witness their leader acting in such a passionate manner was a loss of face. Tokugawa stood there, seething and glowering at the shower of falling papers, until one of the staffers broke the awkward silence. “Pardon me, General, the American observer you requested has arrived.”

“Already? That was fast . . .” He composed himself, adjusted his uniform, then turned around and switched to English. “Present our guest.”

“Second Lieutenant Joseph Sullivan of the United States Marine Corps,” announced one of the Iron Guard.

“General Tokugawa.” Sullivan bowed, careful to keep the gesture to the appropriate respectful level of a visiting dignitary of equal stature.

Tokugawa snorted. “You look more like your father than I expected. American Heavies are all so blocky and . . . corn fed . . . You’re not quite so doughy as most of your fat countrymen. You could almost pass for a proper Imperium soldier, if you’d been lucky and taken a bit more after your mother, that is.”

“I’d suggest leaving my parents out of this,” Joe stated.

“Why would I do that? Your parents are the reason I asked for you. If I were to inadvertently insult them, what would you do about it?”

“I know you changed a lot of the Imperium’s laws after the Chairman died, especially the ones about torture, slavery, and experimenting on prisoners, which all reasonable men can appreciate, but you’ve still got that thing where you can duel over insults, right?”

The Iron Guards shared nervous glances, but Tokugawa smiled. “Ha! Excellent. That is the defiant attitude I was hoping for. You will do. I was hoping you’d inherited your father’s fearlessness, not to mention his sense of diplomacy. This will save time.” Toru glanced at the assembled command staff. “All of you, leave us.” They complied, rapidly shuffling out the door. The two Iron Guard escorts remained standing behind Sullivan. “You may leave as well.”

“Our Finder believes he bears seven kanji, General. The Grimnoir knight is dangerous.”

“They’re not kanji,” Joe said, as if he’d stoop to copying the spells of Imperium butchers. “And I’m not Grimnoir.”

“I’m not worried,” Toru stated. “Go.” The Iron Guards bowed and left without another word. Toru waited for the bunker’s door to be closed. “Not Grimnoir . . . Curious. You do not wish to follow in your father’s footsteps?”

He’d had a bit of a disagreement with the Society, but that was none of Tokugawa’s business.

“Interesting . . . An American who has barely lived there, who chose to join a military where he will never be accepted because of his half-breed race, refuses to join the one organization that must surely want him. Where do you belong, Sullivan?”

He was still working on that question himself. “My orders say I’m supposed to help. What do you want?”

“It pains me to admit it, but I require your assistance. In a show of mutual cooperation, your president has seen fit to grant my request. Apparently, your old friend Francis sees the Soviets as the greater threat at this time. This agreement should be beneficial to both of our nations. America and Imperium have been enemies in the past, but today we are . . . temporarily on the same side.”

“Why in the world would he want me to help you? Once the Imperium finishes off the Russians, you’ll go back to trying to conquer the rest of the world.”

“I prefer the term liberate, but if you do not help, then we will be forced to use Tesla weapons to stop this threat, which will cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians . . . Ah, your face betrays your emotions, young Sullivan. You’ll need to work on that if you expect to make it long in this world. You might not wear the ring, but it appears you still have a Grimnoir knight’s morals. I need an Active of your particular skills.”

“I’m only a Gravity Spiker. We’re a dime a dozen.”

Tokugawa chuckled. “I believe I’ve heard that line before. Yet, according to my sources, despite your youth, your ability to manipulate gravity is unmatched.”

“I learned from the best.”

“Of course. We all stand upon the shoulders of those who came before us. Your father was self-taught. You benefit from his discoveries. We are alike in that way. I understand what is required to be the son of a great man. It is a burden, but also an incredible honor.” Considering who Toru’s father had been, that was probably one hell of a compliment around these parts. “There are many of your kind among the Iron Guard, some of whom are incredibly strong, far stronger than you, no doubt, but strength alone does not make a warrior great. That also requires awareness and will.”

“Most folks chosen by the Power to control gravity aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer.”

“I intended to be polite and say they lack nuance, but yes, most of them are stupid oxen good only for lifting things or throwing their bodies at the enemy. I’ve yet to find one among my army capable of the subtle manipulations of gravity your father was. Are you up to the task?”

Joe didn’t actually know the answer to that. Those were some big shoes to fill. “What’s the mission?”

Toru walked to the biggest wall map and pointed at the red dragon symbol. “Trust me, the monster is far more impressive in person.”

As the Iron Guard moved their general and his guest across Tokyo in a convoy of armored vehicles, Toru Tokugawa had continued his briefing. “They have sent giant demons against us before, but nothing like this. The Soviets have been experimenting with increasing the abilities of their Summoners ever since they saw what happened to Washington D.C. in 1933.”

“If I recall correctly, you were there for that,” Joe said.

“The god of demons swatted me as if I were an annoying insect. We were only able to stop it because it was new and not yet fully formed. Luckily for all of mankind, even Stalin is not foolish enough to Summon anything that mighty. It would be too dangerous, too uncontrollable. However, they have made great strides over the last twenty years. This one is extremely resilient, far more armored than the last. The fact that they are still able to direct a demon this powerful is astounding.”

“It’s already destroyed a chunk of your navy.”


“So that part was real, but I’m guessing everything else on those maps was probably wrong so I’d provide bad intel?”

“You are a perceptive man, Sullivan.” Which didn’t confirm or deny anything. Joe figured the temper tantrum earlier had been some sort of test as well. “The Summoned is approximately fifty meters tall and apparently still growing. Its capabilities are a mystery. It is amphibious and has been walking along the sea bed, only emerging every few days to attack. It has already damaged several cities along the coast.”

“Civilian casualties?”

“I’m surprised you care.”

“They didn’t ask to be born under tyranny,” Joe answered.

“Perhaps you may get that duel after all . . .”

Joe figured he would lose, but he wasn’t in the mood to put up with nonsense. “I control gravity, so when we pick weapons, I vote telephone poles.”

“As your people say, the apple does not fall far from the tree. Twenty years ago I would have taken you up on that duel. I’d enjoy knocking the smug off your face, but we do not have time for that. There are over one hundred thousand dead so far, but we are still pulling bodies from the rubble.”

Joe gave a low whistle.

“Intelligence predicts the demon will be here within the week. Iron Guard have been unable to defeat it. Our own greater Summoned have been stepped on. Conventional weapons harm it, but then once sufficiently wounded it retreats back out to sea to hide and heal for a few days before striking again. Depth charges have done nothing. My forces have been unable to track it in the sea. Every submarine I have sent after it has been lost. Aerial bombing has stung it, but has caused more harm to the city it was attacking than the beast itself.”

“Have you tried Tesla weapons?”

“Once. A low powered firing to minimize collateral damage, but it did not work as expected. The demon’s hide does not react like human flesh. I destroyed an entire town only to chase it back into hiding.” The Imperium was far more casual about sacrificing its people than the West, but unlike his predecessor, it seemed this Tokugawa actually cared.

The general was staring out the narrow slit of the window at his capital city. They drove into a tunnel and Tokyo disappeared. “Our defense force is prepared to intercept it. We have moved the emperor somewhere safe. Anyone who is not vital to the war effort is being evacuated from the city. The Yamamoto is our newest airship and carries our most powerful Tesla weapon. It is on station above us and its Peace Ray is charged. If the demon cannot be stopped I will have no choice but to fire upon it at full power.”

That would obliterate a good chunk of Tokyo in the process. “So what’s the plan?”

The general didn’t answer. The armored car came to a stop. The doors were opened, revealing that they’d parked inside some sort of vast hangar. Tokugawa climbed out, and Joe followed. His first thought was Why are they building a skyscraper underground? Then he realized they weren’t actually underground, as much as they’d hollowed out an entire hill and covered the top to protect the interior from spy planes. The place was crowded with soldiers and engineers, and they began to panic when they saw who their distinguished visitor was. The Iron Guards snapped at them to get back to work. Hundreds of men were scrambling about on this level, and in the several floors of scaffolding overhead.

“There is my plan, Lieutenant Sullivan.”

Directly in front of them was an armored metal rectangle, painted olive drab. His first thought was that it was a train car missing its wheels. Then he realized it was a foot.

“Behold, the Nishimura Super Gakutensoku. It has taken over a decade to build. It is the most daring feat of magical engineering ever attempted by Cog science.”

He looked up, and up, and up. It was hard to wrap his brain around the size of the thing. “That’s one big robot.”

“Forty-six meters tall and nearly two thousand tons, it would destroy itself if it tried to move . . .”

“Galileo called it. That square cube law is a real stickler,” Joe agreed.

“Which is why it must be piloted by someone who can break the rules.”

“I’m good, but I’m not that good.”

“The spells bound upon it will increase an Active’s connection to the Power by an order of magnitude. It has a crew of seventy Actives, and the Turing machines inside control all of the minor systems. In theory, it should be as easy to drive as a suit of Nishimura combat armor. If the Gakutensoku works as projected, we should be able to defeat the demon and send Stalin a message.”

He couldn’t figure out what kind of spells they’d carved onto that thing to get it to work. Even powered down he could feel it pulling magic from the air around him. It was hard to tell through all the scaffolding, but it was shaped like a broad-shouldered man, with two arms that were too long and two legs that were too short. He couldn’t even imagine this thing moving.

Then he realized that there were craters on the concrete floor from where the thing had fallen. He glanced around the vast hangar. There were a lot of craters.

“I will speak plainly. As you can see from the dents on my giant robot, every other Heavy has lacked the will necessary to control it. We are still repairing the damage from yesterday’s test. I had hope for the last test pilot, since he was very intelligent for a Heavy. Sadly Captain Nakamura lacked finesse, tripped over his own feet within two hundred meters, and the Super Gakutensoku fell on its head.”

“I imagine it takes practice.”

“Feedback from the spell caused him to have an aneurism and die.”

“Great.” Helping his sworn enemies work the bugs out of a super weapon sure as hell wasn’t what he’d joined the Marines for. “So now that you’re running out of time, you asked for me.”

“Deciding between asking for American help or blowing up our capital with a Tesla weapon was a very difficult decision.”

Considering the fact that Joe had less than a week to learn how to drive a mechanical man the size of a 12-story building . . . “Keep that Peace Ray warmed up, General, because I’m not making any promises.”

“If it is any consolation, Lieutenant Sullivan, the Super Gakutensoku is purely a defensive weapon system,” Hikaru told him. “Since you are helping us—as you Americans say—work out the kinks, there is no way we could bring this magnificent device to America to lay waste to your cities and crush your armies beneath its massive steel feet. How would we get it there?”

“Good point,” Joe muttered, resisting the urge to drop a few extra gravities on the annoyingly helpful Cog’s head. It turned out that the Japanese Actives capable of magical bursts of intellectual brilliance were just as squirrely as their Western counterparts.

Hikaru continued talking while fastening electrodes to Joe’s freshly shaved head. “There is no airship that could carry it. Moving a machine of this size via sea would be too dangerous. Not to mention we’ve not solved the deep-water pressure problems of walking it across the ocean floor yet.”


“Uh . . . I . . . Never mind.” The Cog spoke English better than Joe spoke Japanese, and he knew the Super Gakutensoku inside and out, so he’d been appointed Joe’s assistant. Hikaru taped down the last wire. “There you go. The Turing machines are now monitoring your brain. The spells have been activated. The crew is ready. We are ready to test.”

Joe glanced across the control center. He knew how to fly an airplane. This was way worse. He’d spent the last twenty hours memorizing every control, and they’d skipped all the unimportant ones. There were four pedals beneath each foot, friction sticks directly in front of him, and half a dozen levers for each arm. Cables and pulleys were attached to bands around his abdomen, chest, biceps, and wrists. It was bad enough that he needed to tell each “muscle group” what to do physically; he had to simultaneously tell gravity what to do magically.

“It looks more complicated than it is. This should be no worse than controlling a Heavy Suit.”

“Have you ever driven a Heavy Suit, Hikaru?”

“No, Lieutenant. I have not personally, but that is what it says in the manual.”

“Then do me a favor and shut up.” Joe looked out the armored portholes. Cranes were lifting away the scaffolding to the front, and the workers were taking cover. The row of gauges told him that all twenty of their diesel engines were running. The indicator board was all green lights. There were Fixers on board making sure everything was working, Torches for damage control and weapons systems, Iceboxes making sure nothing overheated and taking care of the ridiculous amount of friction generated by their movement, Brutes to manhandle shells and guns, and other Gravity Spikers just to help channel enough magic into the machine’s spells to keep them balanced.

Joe checked his own connection to the Power. The magic was gathered up in his chest, waiting to be directed. He used a bit of it to test the world around him. Spells had been carved all over the interior of the Super Gakutensoku. They magnified his connection but also distorted it. It was like looking through a microscope that was just a little bit out of focus. Maybe it was because he was running on coffee and determination at this point, but it was already starting to give him a headache. No wonder the last guy had a stroke.

He put his right foot down on a pedal while simultaneously pushing forward with the right friction stick. At the same time he called upon his magic, imagining the pull of the earth against his own leg, and easing that just enough. He’d never tried to change gravity over such a gigantic space. It was like magic was being ripped from the Power and channeled through his body out into the great machine. Joe ground his teeth and held on.

A hundred tons of foot scraped along the concrete before rising a few dozen feet and then slamming back down with an impact that shook the whole world.

There were ten other men in the Gakutensoku’s head. They began rattling off readings and stats from their CRTs and gauges. This was requiring such focus that Joe only barely heard them. He pushed down with his left foot and repeated the process. The robot lurched forward, but stayed balanced and upright. The crew let up a cheer. They’d gone two whole steps.

“How are you feeling, Lieutenant?” Hikaru asked.

In actuality he felt like he’d just been mule-kicked in the head. The Power draw made his teeth hurt, and he wanted to vomit. “Are you asking because you’ve bought into that propaganda about how soft Westerners are?”

“Quite the contrary. On our first test, at this point blood shot from the test pilot’s ears. I just wanted to make sure I had the spells calibrated correctly.”

It was taking effort simply to keep from sinking into the floor. Joe lifted one hand to wipe the sweat that had instantly formed on his brow. The unconscious movement caused one giant robot arm to rise up and crash through the scaffolding, tearing it all to pieces. Luckily he froze before swatting the cockpit and decapitating them. The noise of cascading, crashing metal could barely be heard through their thick armor, but it still went on for several painful seconds. Joe slowly lowered the arm, then pushed the disconnect button so he could turn enough to look out the side porthole. Yep. The scaffolding was just gone. Hopefully they’d had the sense to get everybody off of it before starting the test.

“Perhaps that is enough for your first day?” Hikaru asked hesitantly. “The physical and magical strain is considerable.”

Iron Guard weren’t the only ones around here taught to never show weakness. “I’m just getting warmed up.” Joe looked up at the bank of CRT screens. Since the robot couldn’t turn its head and their footprint took up a city block, those cameras were as close as he was going to get to peripheral vision. He found the exit out of the hillside. “Buckle up, Hikaru. Let’s see what this baby can do.”

Five days later, the second biggest demon to ever walk the earth attacked Tokyo.

General Toru Tokugawa stood on the observation deck of the tallest building in the city, watching out the window with his hands folded behind his back. He’d moved his command center here temporarily for this very view. It was a beautiful, clear day. Twenty miles to the southwest he could see buildings falling and smoke rising.

One of his aides entered the room in a hurry. “General, the demon is crossing Yokohama.”

“I am aware,” Toru stated.

“We have begun the mass evacuation as instructed. The coastal defense cannons were engaging before we lost contact with them. The Iron Guard are moving into position now. The air force is scrambling. The Yamamoto is awaiting your orders.”

Nearly ten million people lived in the wards that would be directly affected by the Peace Ray. Those who would be instantly incinerated were the lucky ones. The burns and radiation sickness were far more painful ways to die. “And the Super Gakutensoku?”

“It is in the hills to the west. A message has been sent.” From his aide’s tone, Toru could tell the officer had very little faith in that option working.

He’d understated the danger to the American, Sullivan. This demon’s presence and constant raids were crippling his country and endangering the entire war effort. Demons could be banished from this world, but they were not as easy to kill as a mortal being. Their bodies were artificial magical constructs. They had no internal organs to wound or bones to break. They were filled with magical substances that best resembled ink and smoke, and the only way to end one this powerful was to bleed it dry. That took time.

“Tell the Yamamoto to hold its fire for now. The Iron Guard must fall back. Draw it in, farther onto land, and then we will strike. Wait for the demon to be distracted by the Gakutensoku, then we will hit it with every conventional weapon at our disposal. If we cannot fell it, only then will we fire the Peace Ray. Better to raze the greatest city in the world than to endanger the whole Imperium.” It would either be a scalpel or a tetsubo, but one way or the other, Stalin’s demon died today.

“We should get you to the Yamamoto immediately, General.”

“No.” Toru looked back toward the growing pillars of black smoke. If this city died, then he deserved to die with it. “I believe that I’d like to watch the fight from here.”

They were making excellent time. The robot’s legs were too short to call it a run, but when you covered this much ground with each stride, a shuffling jog still got them to fifty miles an hour. The fact that there wasn’t much they had to go around meant they could travel in a straight line. Joe had gotten good enough that he even managed to step over individual houses. Mostly.

Hikaru was giving him directions based upon roads, power lines, and compass directions. They’d quickly discovered that when you were twelve stories up you couldn’t give directions based on street signs, and local landmarks meant nothing when your pilot had never been here before. Joe’s entire knowledge of Japan’s geography came from stories his mother had told him and maps he’d studied in the off chance the Marines got to invade the place.

“The demon is tracking north. To the east is an orchard, after you cross it there is a railway. Follow that toward the city,” Hikaru told him.

“Got it.” He couldn’t see the Cog or the rest of the crew sitting behind him. Joe had learned the hard way not to turn his head enough to look back over his shoulder because the Turing machines read that the wrong way. The first time he’d done it they’d face-planted in a field. On the bright side, that had been a few days ago, and it had taught him how to stand this thing back up without waiting for multiple construction cranes to come save them.

Moving was fairly instinctive at this point. There was a rhythm to it. Clomp. Clomp. Clomp. It made sense that the cockpit was where the robot’s head should have been, since that was how the human body’s control center was wired, and once you were magically connected, he was the brain and it was all a matter of scale. He’d spent the last few days learning to move about with a modicum of grace, and slugging boulders, and it really wasn’t that much different than working a punching bag with his own fists . . . except for the part where he could punch through mountains.

The buildings were getting taller and the neighborhoods more populated. Joe had to step carefully to keep from landing on any moving cars. He was burning a lot of magic trying to keep a light step, but they still weighed so much that each footstep left an impact crater, so he wasn’t sure how many of those automobiles unwittingly drove into the suddenly created holes they’d left in the roads.

One armored foot clipped the edge of a warehouse, but it was enough to rip one wall off. “I wish you people would’ve built wider streets!”

“I’ll have you know Tokyo is the most advanced city in the world,” Hikaru snapped.

“Horseshit. We’ve got an interstate highway system in America you could drive an aircraft carrier down. Hang on, I see smoke.” The buildings here were already smashed flat or knocked over. A giant lizard-shaped footprint was clear as day in the middle of a park. “I’ve got the demon’s trail.” Joe guided the robot toward the path of carnage. Since everything here was already destroyed, he might as well take it up a notch. Joe pushed both friction sticks forward. “Hang on!”


The trail was easy to follow, what with all the spreading fires and collapsed buildings. Hundreds of civilians were down there. He could lie to himself and say they looked like bugs from up here, but they still looked like people, and he tried his best not to land on any of them. They might have just had a war, but that was no excuse to be an asshole.

Following in the demon’s wake gave him a good glimpse into how the creature thought. If he’d been down there at ground level, he would have missed it. The scene would have just been too damned big to take in, but from up here, from the perspective of somebody twelve stories tall and nearly indestructible, he could tell that the demon was angry. It was heading toward the capital, but it was meandering about, swatting down anything that stood out along the way. A temple had been kicked over. Ornate wooden arches had been stepped on. It had gone three blocks out of its way to chase down a bus. It had picked up a passenger train and tossed it out into the ocean. The miles went by, showing an ever-increasing amount of spite. This Summoned was an engine of destruction.

It was enjoying itself.

“I can’t believe this,” Hikaru whispered as he looked out over the devastation. “This is nearly as bad as when the Americans firebombed the city.”

“That was different,” Joe snapped.


“You started it. Now zip your lip. I’m concentrating.”

An alarm horn sounded. There was some shouting in Japanese. Joe had thought he was fairly fluent, but polite Japanese was different than the profanity-laced military exclamations you got when one of the techs spotted a giant demon. Joe eased back on the sticks to slow them down.

They were in an open campus of large, ornate buildings, probably a university. The opposite end of the space was covered in black smoke, and through it, something truly vast moved. Long spines appeared, cutting ripples through the smoke, and there was a tremendous crash as a clock tower was knocked off its foundations to topple to the ground. The spines froze, then swiftly turned and disappeared, as the demon sensed the approaching footfalls.

Four brilliant beams of red light appeared in the smoke, about even with the Gakutensoku’s cockpit. Those were its eyes. It was watching them.

“All weapons, prepare to fire,” Joe said with far more calm than he actually felt. Hikaru relayed the order. The gravitational magic lurched as a dozen other forms of Power were channeled through the spells carved on the great machine. “Let’s hit this son of a bitch with everything we’ve got.”

The wind shifted. The smoke parted and the Summoned revealed itself. It was reptilian, with a dark, glistening hide perforated by random shards of black bone. It was thick-set, muscular, with a long spiked tail, two squat, powerful legs, and arms that ended in claws that looked like they could do a number on even the Gakutensoku’s armor. The demon stepped full into view, lowered its dragon-shaped head, and roared. It was so loud that it vibrated through their hull. Humans on the ground probably had their eardrums ruptured from the blast. The screech dragged on until it threatened to blot out the world. Then it snapped its razor jaws closed, spread its arms, and raised itself to its full height to meet this new challenge.

It was far bigger than they were.

“I believe that the greater Summoned may be significantly taller than the specified fifty meters,” Hikaru stated.

It didn’t matter what country you were in, military intelligence was always wrong.

“Put that record I gave you on the player, Hikaru. I want it blasting at full volume over the PA system.”

“Lieutenant, despite your intentions, I truly do not believe that music really soothes the savage beast. That is just a colloquialism.”

“Put my record on the player or I’m getting out of this chair.” He waited until he heard the scratch of the record and the whine of the intercom. “That’s better.” Joe flipped open the safety cover and put his finger on the trigger. “Fire on my command.”

Toru watched as the two titans faced each other. To the north was the Summoned, a horrible alien creature, its spirit torn from another realm and given form here. On the bony plates of its chest the Soviet Cogs had engraved a hammer and sickle, and then filled it in with molten bronze so that it would never heal. To the south was the Super Gakutensoku. It was rather impressive, though not nearly as intimidating as the demon. Though it made no sense to camouflage a walking mountain, they’d painted it brown and olive drab, except for the glorious rising sun painted on its shoulder plates. Both sides of this duel were proud to claim their champions, each one representing their mighty nation. There was a certain dignity to this event.

A deadly silence covered the city after the demon’s roar. It had been loud enough to break windows a mile away, and Toru could smell the smoke through the open wound in the building’s side. There was a new sound, tinny, and much quieter than the demon’s bellow. It was coming from the Super Gakutensoku. The machine had been equipped with a bank of loudspeakers for psychological warfare purposes. Now it was playing a song.

“What is that noise?” asked one of his aides.

So much for dignity. Toru sighed. “I believe that is the American National Anthem.”

Magical energy was building in the air. A bolt of lightning erupted from the clear blue sky and struck the Gakutensoku. Thunder rolled across the city. The mighty robot lifted one arm. Brilliant orange fire danced along that hand. Then the other arm came up, shimmering with reflected light as ice formed along that limb. Hatches opened on the giant robot’s torso as cannon barrels extended outward.

Toru stuck his fingers in his ears. This was going to be very loud.

“Open fire!” Joe shouted. A dozen 120mm anti-tank cannons went off simultaneously. Expanding gray clouds appeared across the demon’s body.

“Spells are charged,” Hikaru said.

“Magic up!” The Actives released their magic, and Joe hurled it at the enemy. He slammed the far right stick forward. Normally a Torch could direct a stream of magical fire or cause small objects to combust, but, magically augmented by the Gakutensoku’s spells, that same magic now caused a super-heated ball of plasma the size of an automobile to shoot across the campus, melting everything beneath it, before crashing into the demon in a shower of sparks and smoking demon flesh.

The demon charged. He’d been expecting that. That’s what an aggressive beast would do when confronted by a seeming equal rather than being stung by hundreds of ants.

Joe cranked on the left stick. A wave of magical cold shot forth. It was absolute zero at the release point, and not a whole lot warmer when the wave struck the demon’s hide. It shuddered as molecules slowed, tissues became inflexible and cracked. Then Joe activated one of the right sticks to throw a punch. The Gakutensoku responded a second later by slamming its steel knuckles into the monster’s side. The frozen layers of hide shattered. Flaming ink ruptured from the hole.

There was an impact that shook the entire Gakutensoku. The shift in gravity told him that they’d been hit low, in the legs. The tail! Joe directed gravity to pull them back from tripping while he worked the foot pedals. They slid across the campus, through a four-story building and out the other side, but they didn’t fall.

“Damage to the secondary servos and the port accumulator,” Hikaru reported.

“I don’t even know what those things are,” Joe said, trying to concentrate on not killing them all while the Power surging through him felt like it was going to yank his heart out of his chest.

The forest of spines was visible through the portholes, and then it was gone. The demon was circling to the side faster than they could turn. One of the CRTs had gone black, the camera lens covered in demon sludge. The others told him that it was about to grab hold of them. There was a lot to keep track of, especially on a system this complex that he hadn’t had time to properly learn, but Joe was a Sullivan, and Sullivans didn’t get rattled.

“Cracklers. Release on my signal,” Joe ordered, and Hikaru repeated it to their Actives who could direct electricity. The Gakutensoku shuddered and metal groaned as the demon collided with them. “Now!”

The stored energy leapt between the two huge bodies, and a billion volts blasted the demon off of them. It flew back, across the street, through several apartments, and disappeared in a cloud of dust at the base of a large office building.

There was a terrible burning smell inside the cockpit. Smoke drifted in front of his face.

“That’s horrible!” Then Hikaru began to gag. “One of our electricians is on fire. The augmented spell was too much.”

Joe couldn’t turn to see right now, he was trying to turn the robot to keep track of the demon. “Have one of the Torches put him out. I’m busy,” Joe snarled. The magical strain was really getting to him. “Get another Crackler in that chair. Charge our magic. Get those guns reloaded. I want them to fire every time they’ve got a shot. Pour it on!”

The demon lifted itself off the ground. The Gakutensoku covered the distance in a few strides and caught it on the way up. As the big fist came down, Joe threw as much extra gravity as possible to haul it down faster. The blow hit so hard that it blew demon ink out of one of the demon’s eye sockets.

It hit them around the midsection, wrapping its arms around their center of mass and squeezing. Cannon shells fired at point-blank range. A few floors below, one of their Brutes died screaming as flaming demon ink poured through the gun hatch, and then the noise stopped as it washed him away.

Joe acted on instinct, the robot an extension of his own body, as he pummeled the demon. There was an awful grinding noise, and the stick wouldn’t pull back. That arm wouldn’t retract; it was stuck. It took a moment to find the right CRT screen to see that their wrist was stuck on a horn. So Joe reached across with their other hand, grabbed that horn, and squeezed. The diesels powering those hydraulics redlined and it still wouldn’t break, so Joe changed gravity’s direction to the side and basically hung tons of extra weight on that horn. It tore free with a sick crack that they probably heard back in China.

The Summoned lurched away, spraying flaming blood everywhere. Joe still had the horn, and it was pretty stout, so he went about beating the beast about the head with it. Their movements were powerful, but slow. The demon was organic, fluid, and far faster. It caught the descending horn with one hand, turned it aside, and then bit down on their shoulder.

It was distant and down a floor, but he could heard the grinding of metal, breaking of welds, and the scream of men as they were torn from their seats and flung to their deaths. More smoke filled the air, and this time it smelled like burning wires. More CRTs had gone black. Half the lights on the warning panel had gone red. He tried to hit it with the horn again, but couldn’t tell if it worked. Feedback through the electrodes told him that hand was now empty.

“Torch magic is charged,” Hikaru said.

Joe drove their right fist deep into the monster’s side. “Fire!”

The contact point between them was briefly hotter than the surface of the sun. The explosion rocked them. A wave of heat flashed through the robot.

“Right arm is not responding,” Hikaru warned. “Repeat, right arm down!”

Joe could have told him that by the way the control had frozen up. “Get the Fixers on it, now.” The demon lurched away, so Joe lowered their uninjured shoulder and pushed both of the friction sticks all the way forward.


They collided, a wall of steel meeting a wall of meat. One of the armored portholes shattered. A thick chunk of glass spun over and hit Joe in the jaw. It hurt; he could feel the cut leaking blood, but he sure as hell didn’t have time to check it. He jerked back on both sticks, stomped on the pedals to plant their feet, and even let gravity return to normal for an instant to drag them down into the ground to stop their forward momentum. Their feet dug a hundred-foot-long trench through the road, tearing up water mains, but they came to a full stop.

The demon wasn’t so lucky. It hit the next building, a big twenty-story affair, and went through it, to crash across the next street, trip on a bridge, and then roll over to shatter a canal.

Joe drove them around the collapsing building. The demon was already getting up. Cannon shells were falling around it like rain. “Where’s my ice magic? Come on!”

“Still charging. Two of our Iceboxes were in the shoulder. They are not responding.”

There were more explosions around the demon than could be accounted for with just the Gakutensoku’s 120mms. Tanks were rolling down the street. Several fast-moving aircraft buzzed by just overhead, strafing cannon shells into the monster before veering off. Tokugawa had sent in the cavalry.

Black demon ink was pouring from its wounds, down the gutters, pooling on top of the canals to shimmer like oil, but it charged them anyway. It leapt across the distance, and the only thing he could see through the portholes was a forest of spines. “Brace for impac—”


No amount of gravity manipulation was going to keep them on their feet this time.

They hit a building, and then another building, and another. Joe couldn’t tell what was going on. They were changing direction too fast. The demon had ahold of them, and was swinging them back and forth. It was hitting them over and over again. Magical energy was flowing back through the electrodes, and each impact was like getting hit directly in the brain with a hammer. Every warning light on the panel was red, and then the panel disappeared entirely as the demon ripped the Gakutensoku’s face off.

The black, slimy claw, big as a bulldozer blade, was thrashing back and forth, only a foot in front of him. It should have been terrifying, but all Joe could think of at the time was that it smelled like the ocean. And then the claw vanished as fast as it had come, and they were falling forward.

The view through the hole was of rapidly approaching ground. Joe slammed the main left arm stick forward and mashed the button to open their hand. He called upon all his magic at once, reversing gravity, trying to pull them upwards, but even the spells on this thing couldn’t reverse two thousand tons once it was in motion.

Their hand hit, and that took most of the impact. They froze in place for a moment, leaving Joe hanging by the straps on his chair, staring down into a pile of debris and squirting pipes. Somebody had unbuckled their harness and fell past him, screaming, to disappear out the face hole. He hoped that hadn’t been Hikaru, because he needed the little guy to relay orders.

Then a big hydraulic cylinder in the arm burst, and they were falling. Joe stomped on the pedals to kick out, pushing them so they’d land on their shoulder rather than flat. Facedown—assuming he didn’t just get impaled on some rebar or smashed like a mouse beneath a boot heel—they wouldn’t be able to get back up as easily, especially with one working arm. Besides, everybody in that shoulder was probably already dead.

On the upside, they landed like he’d hoped. On the downside, he smashed his head against the controls hard enough to knock himself stupid. Joe came back to reality a moment later dangling sideways about thirty feet over a ruined street. The moisture on his face was from a broken fire hydrant spraying upward.

It hurt to think. Talking was worse. “Hikaru, you still alive?”

“Yes, Lieutenant.”

“Good, because we’re not done yet.” His voice was ragged. He didn’t know if it was because he was breathing in clouds of dust, or if all the magic he was burning had damaged his vocal cords somehow. They were at a really awkward angle and looking out a jagged hole, but from the noise and shadows, it appeared the demon was trying to get away. If Tokugawa thought it was going to make it back to the ocean to heal, he’d light it up with the Peace Ray. “Get those Fixers to work. I want my arm and my ice magic, and I want them now.”

“I’ll do my best.”

“If you don’t, we’re going to get flash-fried.” Joe very gently tested the pedals. He’d gotten this thing stood up before, but he’d had both arms and a whole bunch of monitors to keep him informed then. This was going to take some finesse and a whole lot of screwing with gravity. “On that thought, get me a radio. This might take a minute.”

“The Gakutensoku appears to be disabled, General. The beast is severely wounded, but it is merely fleeing back toward the bay. They have failed to stop it.” The aide presented him with a radio. “The Yamamoto awaits your orders.”

Toru took the radio with a heavy heart. He grieved for his nation, and gave no thought to his own life. The greater Summoned had to be stopped. If not now, then it would simply heal in the depths and then return to finish the job, even stronger than before. “This is General Tokugawa granting permission to fire the Peace Ray. Authorization code one five three tw—”

“General!” Another staff officer rushed forward. “Please wait.”

Normally Toru was very unforgiving of rude interruptions, but since he was about to obliterate them all, he was allowed to hope for a bit of good news. “Hold on that authorization . . . What is it?” He was handed another radio.

“It is the Super Gakutensoku!”

—hear me, Tokugawa, you son of a bitch! Don’t you dare touch that thing off. I can still do this.

Toru keyed the radio. “This is General Tokugawa.”

The young Sullivan sounded exhausted. “We’re not out of the fight yet. We’re getting back up. I can still stop it before it gets back to the ocean.

One of his aides warned, “Time is of the essence, sir. It will be at Minato soon. Once it is out to sea, we will lose it.”

“What is your status, Sullivan?”

Just peachy.” There was something that sounded like a groan of metal and a loud clang. Couldn’t be better.

“There! The Gakutensoku rises.” A spotter was pointing at the financial district.

Broken glass crunching underfoot, he moved over to see. In the distance the mighty mechanical man was swaying, badly charred on one side, and missing an arm . . . but standing. The men began to cheer.

“There is no time, General!” the aide shouted.

Give us one more shot.

Toru had once trusted this man’s father and he’d not been disappointed. He keyed the radio. “Sullivan, go southeast as fast as possible. You can cut it off at the port.”

Got it. Sullivan out.

The Gakutensoku began an awkward limping jog through the city.

“That is our only chance. Do everything we can to slow the monster down. When it reaches the ocean, we will have no choice.” He handed back the radio that offered hope and took up the one that could only dispense doom. “Yamamoto, await my signal.”

Joe didn’t worry about the landscape now. It was better to bounce off a building to keep up speed than to move carefully if the whole place was minutes from being vaporized anyway. Since the robot was missing half of its head, wind was blowing freely through the cockpit. He’d not thought he’d need to wear goggles. On the bright side, now that they had a convertible, they all had a lot better view.

“Demon sighted!” Hikaru shouted.

The forest of spines was visible on the other side of some buildings to their left. It had gotten turned around and slowed down while being harassed by the Imperium military and not taken the most direct route to the bay. So they’d caught up before reaching the ocean, and judging by the numerous cargo cranes in front of them, just in the nick of time.

“Radio your air force to back off for a minute.” With them all hanging in the breeze, one unlucky hit and shrapnel would kill them all. Then what good was their fancy robot? Joe had both friction sticks all the way forward and was running the foot pedals as fast as he could. He veered them to the side and tracked directly toward the demon.

The magic draw was intense. His personal Power had long since been exhausted. He was only a conduit now, a circuit between the Power itself and the hungry spells on this machine. The other Gravity Spikers aboard had either been killed or incapacitated, because it felt like he was on his own. He knew he was probably going to die here, but that just made him want to make sure this thing didn’t get away even more.

The demon heard them coming. It had to be severely weakened, because rather than turn to meet them, it kept on moving toward the ocean. The demon was stumbling as bombs kept going off around it, leaving a smoking trail of lost tissue. They were almost on top of it.

“Cold magic ready.” Hikaru had to shout to be heard over the wind.

“About damned time. I’ve got an idea. Hold on.”

They were both in the open, smashing their way through stacks of cargo containers and trucks. He realized what was really slowing down the demon. The horn that he’d ripped off earlier had wound up impaled through one of its legs, causing it to limp. So I did stick it. Nice. Joe pulled back on the friction sticks, slowing them just a bit, allowing the demon to reach the water first.

“What’re you doing?” Hikaru probably thought Joe had decided to throw in the towel.

“Trust me.”

The demon reached a moored freighter and began clambering over it. Waves crashed as the ship capsized and the beast hit the water. Joe lifted their remaining arm. The crosshairs used for aiming earlier were long gone, but he wasn’t shooting at the monster: he was shooting at the ocean around it. “Release the ice magic now!”

He’d not realized how well insulated they’d been before. The cold that blasted through the cockpit was a shock to the system, but it was far, far worse on the receiving end. The ocean around the monster turned solid instantly. Partially submerged, the creature could no longer move its legs or tail, and fell forward. Its snout smashed into the suddenly hard surface, and it flailed about through the slush and breaking ice.

Joe plowed ahead, only there was no longer ground ahead of him, only man-made dock facilities, and those came apart beneath their weight. It took all of his skill and concentration to keep them from falling over in the mud, but below that was bedrock, and that was solid enough to get some gravity-assisted purchase on. Waist deep, they slogged forward as water came rushing through the fresh holes in their robot.

The demon was sliding, trying to gain purchase. The loss of smoke and ink was shrinking it. The thing was no longer so massive and imposing, and Joe drove straight into the monster, crushing it back into another ship. Once he was sure they were partially on top of it, and there was solid rock beneath, Joe cut his Power and let gravity return to normal.

There was an unholy screech as the giant monster’s legs were crushed, but demons didn’t have bones to break, so there was still work to be done.

Its head was far beneath them, jaws snapping, so Joe lifted their remaining arm, pushed the button to form a fist, and then let the thing have it right in the teeth. He kept hitting it, arm rising and falling like a jackhammer. Each blow caused the head to deform further, spraying burning ink in every direction. The second of its four eyes went out, and then a third, and Joe just kept on hitting it.

The monster was shrieking and thrashing, A claw caught the rest of their cockpit and tore that away, but the controls were still connected, so Joe just kept on plugging away. There was so much black floating on the waves that it looked like the ship they’d rolled over had been an oil tanker, but that was just demon ink.

There was a gleam of bronze through the churning salt water. It was the giant hammer and sickle embedded on the demon’s chest. Joe opened the palm and reached down, plunging the robot’s fingers through the thick hide until they were around the symbol. Then he hit the button to make a fist. Satisfied that the crunch meant he’d caught it, he yanked back on the controls, ripping it from the demon’s body.

The demon opened its mouth to screech one last time, and this time Joe slammed the hammer and sickle right down its throat and through the back of its head.

The vast Summoned body began to dissolve, but so did Joe’s consciousness. The pain was making it hard to think. He was leaning forward, and as he lost it, so did the robot.

The dark ocean rushed up to meet him.

Joe woke up in a hospital bed. General Tokugawa was sitting in a chair next to him.

“You know, if I ran this Imperium the same way my father did, I would simply notify your president that you perished in the battle and your body was lost in the harbor. Even his best spies would not be able to discern the truth. I have thousands of witnesses who saw the ruined Super Gakutensoku sink into the bay. Then you would be experimented upon, your will broken, and your impressive Power utilized for the greater good.”

“Lucky for me you’re not like your father,” Joe croaked.

“And lucky for my city, you are very much like yours . . . I have named you an honorary Iron Guard and awarded you the Order of the Golden Kite. Wear the medal with pride.”

“The Marine Corps is gonna love that.”

“You may stay here if you wish, and I will gladly change that from honorary to official . . . From your expression I shall take that as a no? Oh well . . . My Healers have repaired your wounds. All that remains is the exhaustion. Soon, you will be returned to your country, whether to a hero’s welcome or to the shame of having aided an enemy, I do not know. Your people are fickle and unpredictable.”

“Yep, but they’re my people.”

“Indeed.” Tokugawa smiled. “It is good for a warrior to know where he belongs.”

One of my favorite things about short story collections are the little extra bits the author puts in explaining how the story came to be and the process behind it.

In this case, “Tokyo Raider” was kind of an experiment. The original Grimnoir trilogy (Hard Magic, Spellbound, and Warbound) began in 1932, in a world that diverged from ours when magical abilities started appearing among the populace in the 1850s. It was inspired by noir, pulp, and hardboiled detective stories. It often gets labeled as “diesel punk.”

But for the second trilogy I thought it would be fun to jump ahead a bit so I could get more into the golden age of sci-fi—basically I wanted to write wizards in space—and since technology is moving faster in the Grimnoir universe than our own, that meant the 1950s. So I jumped ahead a couple of decades to take a look at the son of two of the previous trilogy’s heroes doing a favor for one of the previous trilogy’s antagonists.

Plus, I’m a sucker for giant robots.

One fun thing about this series that fans of old monster movies will catch, in Spellbound I had a giant monster climb a building swatting biplanes in the same year King Kong came out in real life, and “Tokyo Raider” is set the same year as the original Godzilla. That’s where the code name Gorilla Whale came from.

That 1950s Grimnoir trilogy is currently in the works.

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