A/N: It's been a while since a cartoon show has been able to so thoroughly brainrot me into writing fanfic for it... and the netflix cartoon Super Giant Robot Brothers succeeded in abundance. If by any chance you happened to have click on this story without knowing the source material- first of all, why? - second of all, please do yourself a favor and check this show out.
And to everyone else who knows what this story is about, please enjoy! A little stream of consciousness story I wrote out because I couldn't stop thinking about Alex's thoughts on her boys when she first made the two of them.
There's not a lot about Shiny's construction that Alex can remember. Unsurprising, considering she was three when she built him.
She can only recall fragmented images- doodling complicated-looking design plans in crayon, directing confused looking EDF engineers on how best to assemble a giant robot frame, and working long into the night perfecting the Rose Type Guardian Class AI on her custom-made, preschool-friendly toddler laptop (the one that's every color of the rainbow with the extra-large keyboard and a sippy cup holder built right into the base).
But that's all they are: fragments. Shiny's construction is as much a mystery to her as it is to the rest of the world, much to her frustration.
But she does remember Shiny.
She remembers turning him on for the first time, watching as his processor boots up and his optics open for the first time ever. He takes in the world with an excited gasp, eyes bulging near out of their sockets as his mouth goes slack jawed.
She asks if he can hear her.
"Yupper-doonie!" He responds.
His first words.
She giggles and jumps for joy, and he does the same (or at least he tries to. He's anchored down at this point, as his leg braces have yet to be properly reinforced).
Alex asks the robot for his name, and he responds with his serial designation. He struggles with the numbers, pausing and drawing them out at the syllables like he was chewing on a nasty piece of candy.
He doesn't like his name. Alex agrees, so she gives him a new one- his real name.
She calls him Shiny- because she is three-years-old, and that is the height of creativity for her.
Shiny loves it.
And he loves her.
Shiny loves everyone and everything, really. He quickly gets to know every EDF agent who passes by his hangar. Not just by appearance, but by name, too. He waves and calls out to them, strikes up conversations as he's being worked on, and picks up on their various speech quirks. He learns by talking and interacting, so much so that he never stops.
People are surprised at first to see a robot be so personable. But they quickly adapt, and soon, they're just as charmed by Shiny as he is of them.
Still, Alex is his favorite, and he relishes every second he gets to spend with her.
It's rarer than he wants it to be. Alex is a busy toddler, undeniably the busiest toddler in the world. It's hard for her to tear herself away from her duties as heiress of the EDF to spend time with her favorite robot, but she tries to make time for him anyway.
When she's with Shiny, Alex is not Dr. Rose, head chiefess of the EDF. When she's with Shiny, she's just Alex, kid genius in desperate need of a playmate. And they do play.
She shows off all her toys to Shiny, who makes sure to memorize them. She shows him her drawings, and then shows him how to draw, while promising him that she will look into designing an extra-large coloring book and crayons just for him. She shows him her favorite books, even the complicated math ones, and her favorite movies and cartoons.
Shiny doesn't get the books, but he does get the cartoons. He sings along with the theme songs and sings along with Alex when she doodles.
He knows he's built for destruction- Alex can't stop bragging about how cool and powerful he is, and frankly, Shiny is proud of that as well- but more than that, Shiny wants to help people. To be a real protector of humanity. A hero. It's his favorite word.
Heroes save people. Save Alex's parents. Save Alex's broken heart.
Alex smiles and calls Shiny her hero. It's what she designed him to do.
In Alex's eyes, Shiny is perfect. Her magnum opus. Earth's greatest triumph. And, most importantly, her best friend.
He disappears into the O.R.T. only a month later.
From then on, Alex's life becomes a haze of stress, kaiju attacks and desperation.
The Guardian Class robot project is declared a failure.
Earth is all but defenseless in the wake of Shiny's disappearance, and it's all Alex's fault, because she failed to curb Shiny's innocence and altruism.
Alex almost breaks.
Her parents are gone because she suggested they investigate the O.R.T. together.
Shiny is gone because he wanted to make Alex feel better.
And now, she might lose the EDF, her home and the planet because the kaiju keep coming and there's nothing she can do.
At this point, Creed steps in. He becomes acting head of the EDF and pulls everyone and everything together. He pushes for new defense initiatives: new weapons, new robots- anything humanity can cobble together to have a fighting chance against the kaiju, which are growing stronger and coming in faster than ever.
Alex does what she can to assist Creed, as she knows she's supposed to do, but she refuses to touch the robotics department.
Creed understands. He cares for Alex as if she were his own daughter, and he's proud to have her help in any way he can get it. But he knows she's not ready to design another robot. Not another Shiny.
It's a shame, because Shiny was by far their best weapon against the kaiju.
More robots are developed, of course. Designed by different engineering geniuses, granted, but they do their best to mimic X-90-38's structure and build, given his success against the initial attack.
Most don't even make it past training. G.R.I.T.S. was designed by Creed himself to test his bots to the limit, to be sure they were only sending their best out against the kaiju- but their best were few and far between.
Still, there are a few that survive. They even do well against the kaiju- until the next one shows up, stronger than the last, and destroys them. Then it's back to the drawing board.
Creed tries everything. Stronger robots, faster robots. Bigger. Smaller. More technology. Sometimes less technology.
They try human mech suits, once. It leaves them with one wrecked mecha and one dead pilot.
Eventually, they do find success with a pair of robots- a twin design that necessitates the construction of a dual hangar bay. These robots last much longer than the others- until eventually, they too meet their end at the claws of a kaiju.
Almost nine years into the war, Creed is at his wit's end. That's when Alex decides it's time for her to return to the drawing board.
Alex has watched every move Creed's made up to this point. She sat by and watched as numerous robots were developed, nurtured, trained and deployed- and how every one of them were brutally destroyed. And she thinks she understands why.
She's grown a lot over the years. She's no longer a precocious little toddler. Now she's a teenager, with a mind sharper than ever and the maturity to handle even greater pressures.
At least, in her opinion.
She knows everyone else at the EDF and the world at large still have their doubts. If she's perfectly honest with herself, so does she- but she's the head of the EDF now, and self-doubt is a weakness she can't spare.
She gets to work designing a new robot, her first in nearly a decade. It's scary, because she's finding that there's so much she's forgotten about over the years, despite her memories of Shiny still feeling as raw and clear as ever. Nearly all of her design documents for the original X-90-38 model are gone, and the few that have survived are unreadable, childish scribbles.
Eventually, Alex realizes she doesn't need her old documents because she's not going to recreate Shiny. Nothing could ever possibly replace Shiny in her heart.
Now, it's time for her to make a new robot- one better, faster, stronger, more mature and adult than the machine she developed when she was three.
Well, maybe not better. Different, at least.
Alex intentionally designs this new robot to be as different from Shiny as she can feasibly get. Where her first creation was juvenile and simplistic in its aesthetic, this new bot was to be sophisticated and meticulous, with just a hint of anime influence. Creed approves, at least.
Most importantly, though, Alex knows she cannot make the same mistake she made with Shiny. She can't get attached to him in the same way, or else he might try to do something stupid to please her.
The XK-22 cannot be her friend. He is a soldier, and Alex is his commander. Nothing more, nothing less.
Finally, the robot is completed, and for the second time in her life, Alex watches as her own creation opens his eyes for the first time.
Alex asks if he can hear her.
"Affirmative," he responds.
A wave of emotions overcomes Alex, and not all of them good.
XK-22 is a stunning piece of work to behold, for certain. The entirety of the EDF engineering department is enraptured by him, especially Creed. Alex can't deny she's particularly proud of how cool he looks.
But he also looks like every other EDF robot ever created, and he sounds like one, too. He answers every one of her questions promptly and precisely, with clean language and an even tone.
It's the total opposite compared to Shiny's infantile mannerisms and hyperactive ramblings, and it just makes her miss Shiny even more.
All of the childlike wonder and excitement she poured into her first robot is completely absent in this new one, replaced by ruthless efficiency, soulless industrialization and desperation. A harsh reminder of all that Alex has lost.
After receiving a grilling from the now Colonel Creed, Alex asks her new robot what his name is.
"My serial designation is XK-22," he responds.
And nothing more is said.
The next day, after he has been given time to download the necessary briefings, XK-22 is taken to G.R.I.T.S.. Alex and Creed personally oversee his training, and the young 'bot is put to the test.
Scenario after scenario, training regimen after training regimen, and XK-22 is put through his paces. He spends a full week in G.R.I.T.S. alone- the longest any machine has spent so far.
It's during this intense hell week, as Creed so adequately puts it, that Alex realizes she misjudged her robot.
She realizes she had written him off too quickly because he wasn't Shiny. She had been afraid she'd made another soulless automaton, like some of the EDF's previous, weaker 'bots.
Certainly, XK-22 moved and talked like one, but she quickly realizes it's not because that's all XK-22 can feel. It's because XK-22 wants to be a robot.
Where Shiny was fascinated by humans and eager to mimic their personalities, XK-22 had a fascination with other machines. He watched the documentation of previous EDF mechs with an engrossed fervor and sought to emulate their example in his speech and movement. He knew he was heir to a long legacy of super science, and embracing his nature as a giant robot was his way of living up to that expectation.
But XK-22 was far from an emotionless husk. In fact, he was extremely expressive: when he aced a test, XK-22's facial interface would beam with pride. When he failed a test, XK-22 would pout and act dejected.
In battle he worked to maintain a calm façade, but if pushed to the brim he would react aggressively or even panic, though in the end he would always recompose himself.
He wasn't a brute, however. He treated every simulated combat round like a puzzle to figure out, even if one with lots of punching and explosions. He wanted to learn about his opponent as much as possible, so he could finish it off in the most efficient- and coolest- manner calculable, in a way that somewhat reminded Alex of herself.
In many ways, he was little more than an oversized child, eager to please and excited to learn. Her child.
And her child deserves a real name. A call-sign.
Creed says it be something cool, like Thunder.
XK-22's optics shimmer at the suggestion, and Alex agrees.
Thunder has his first mission that day.
The world watches with bated breath as Thunder makes his grand debut, the latest in EDF's fighting robots and the first new Rose-Type in ten years. His opponent is a highly aggressive rhino-like kaiju that knocks through buildings like they were tissue paper, a recent variant that had been popping up more and more. Worse yet, it's the same type of kaiju that bested the twin robots, and Thunder is taking it on alone.
Tensions are running high, especially at high command, and Alex prepares herself for the worse.
Against all odds, however, Thunder prevails. Despite some rookie mistakes and youthful over-enthusiasm, Thunder proves himself to be more than a match for the monster, and with proper guidance from the EDF, makes quick work of the kaiju. Faster work than any other robot on record, aside from one.
The EDF, and the world at large, celebrates. Earth was back, and its newest defender is stronger than ever. Thunder cannot contain his pride. He radios back to command to report his success, and then, basks in their praise.
Did he do good? He asks.
Alex tells him he was amazing.
Hearing her praise, the first unabashed admonishment he ever received from her, makes Thunder's emotion circuits soar. He immediately knows he needs more.
He asks Alex- and the rest of the EDF- if his performance was not the best they'd ever seen. Alex laughs and agrees.
Was it brave?
Was his execution near flawless?
For a first timer, certainly.
Was Thunder heroic?
Alex's blood runs cold.
"No!" she suddenly shouts, spooking Creed enough to drop his pumpkin spice latte all over the technician sitting below him.
For a second, Thunder's expression falters. Did he anger her…?
Alex catches herself and corrects herself. "You were… gallant today, Thunder," she says, trying to soothe his wounded ego. "But… you must remember. You're not a hero, Thunder. You are a guardian."
"I do not understand the difference."
"The difference is…" Alex struggles to articulate, because even she knows that's not what she means. "... A hero saves the day, often at the expense of his own life," she finally says, hoping this will satisfy Thunder. "As earth's guardian, you have a duty to stay alive as best you can to protect us. Do you understand?"
Thunder isn't sure that's the actual definition of a hero or guardian, but he agrees to Alex's terms nonetheless. Anything to keep her happy.
Alex sighs with relief, then calls Thunder back home. It's only his first victory, and there are many more battles to come. They need to be ready, and Thunder needs maintenance.
He nods and takes to the air to make his way back to base.
In her mind's eye, Alex can't help but picture Shiny again. She imagines him flying by Thunder's side as if he were watching over him, and her. And maybe he was. She still didn't know where she stood on the topic of an afterlife or religion, but… she wants to believe that wherever Shiny is, he'd still be looking after her, alongside her parents. And, Alex realizes, Thunder too- his younger brother.
A small smile threatens to creep across her face.
She wonders what Shiny would think of Thunder. If were he still alive somewhere on the other side of the O.R.T. and ever made it back to earth, would he embrace his newly made partner? Would he be offended that Alex seemingly moved on without him, and created a replacement robot in his stead?
No, of course not. Shiny could never accuse Alex of something so heinous and patently untrue.
And of course he would accept Thunder. After all, they're practically brothers.
No, if Shiny ever came back, he'd probably hug Thunder, introduce him to her parents, and together, they would be a family again. All the Roses, human and robot alike.
It's a childish thought. But it makes her feel better.
She just hopes Thunder lives long enough to see him.