“A QUIET PLACE”
This is an alternate timeline where instead of nuclear weapons, biological weapons and robotics were at the center of a massive arms race. Technology sped along at a terrifying rate.
AI was outright banned for fears of it going rogue. It was easier to grow a brain, load it with an education and training, and shove into a machine. It was considered far less risky.
When machines started to be developed for combat purposes, it was considered too much power for a disembodied brain to handle, so these biological mechs were made to be piloted. The pilot would be able to plug into the mech’s brain and neurological system, taking it over. Without the pilot, the mech can still follow basic orders, but can not access its weapons system.
The Quiet One is a City Buster, a mech designed to target other mechs, traditional ground based combatants, and civilian populations. Each City Buster mech was so large, it could not be grown in its own gestation chamber; it needed each of organs to be grown separately, and then assembled. The skeleton was also grown, bone by bone, out of a self-repairing organic plastic. The muscles are synthetic. The digestive system is designed to be able to convert almost anything into energy, including rocks, trees, and even other mechs.
Once the body is assembled it is sealed into an armored suit; the only organic parts of the mech accessible would be the primary mouth and the port to the pilot’s pod.
The pilot’s pod is located deep inside each mech, accessible from an orifice on the chest. It is a small chamber intended to house one human pilot. The blood vessels in this organ are designed to release oxygen for the pilot, and there is an organic respirator that will hook into the pilot’s mouth and nose, linking them to the mech’s respiratory system. There is a rather disgusting gland for getting hydrated and fed in there as well, for emergencies.*
The main feature of the pod is of course the neural link, a massive wad of neurological tissue that will bind with the pilot every time they enter the pod. This allows the pilot to have full control of the mech’s body, allowing them to become one with the mech’s brain.
There are some dangers with using the neural link. The ego of the pilot and the mech can become blurred. While not more intelligent, the mech’s brain is more ‘powerful’ than the pilot’s. If control is not maintained, the mech could destroy the mind of its pilot and take over.
For this reason, all City Busters were chemically lobotomized and kept heavily sedated to prevent their brains from achieving higher functions and to keep them from self-actualization. The Quiet One somehow avoided this, either through mere chance or some sloppy work on the part of an engineer. He stayed sapient, keeping his mind.
He wishes sometimes he hadn’t. He was dragged along into so many battles, locked in as he could only watch as he was used to kill thousands of people. Somehow he kept a soft heart, quietly mourning every death he could remember. He developed a hatred of violence, and a hurt mistrust of human beings.
The Quiet One will never admit this, but he did kill his last pilot. It was getting close to the tattered end of the war, supplies were running thin, and there wasn’t enough medication to dull his nervous system. He smothered his pilot to death inside the pod, crushing him with the walls of the organ until the man stopped breathing. In the chaos of an already lost battle, he was able to make a run for it.
The Quiet one spent about two hundred years in isolation, mostly asleep in the wilderness as the earth healed and grew over him. The scattered remains of humanity slowly recovered as well. The world had been incredibly devastated; there was a point at which the total population of North American was only 10 million people.
At the time our story takes place, technology is being rediscovered. People are reading books again, printing things, and using light manufacturing. Radios are being tinkered with and being used. It is still very much a Dark Age in a lot of ways, however. Information travels slowly, and the fastest anyone can move is by horse.
Most permanent settlements and villages exist because the people are well armed with the old technology, or there is a giant either actively or passively guarding the town. If its an active paid mercenary, or simply a massive entity that has claimed the area and will challenge anything else close to its size, both are a deterrent to monsters and marauding giants.
The Quiet One has emerged from his isolation about 10-20 years ago, his armor overgrown with vegetation and moss, his sadness and rage much less raw. He seeks companionship, feeling overwhelming loneliness, but he’s afraid of humans. He’ll sit on mountain sides and watch villages with his long range scanners. He’s collected human things – a collection of prized artifacts from an earlier time he keeps tucked into his secondary stomach.