Niko Nakamura was a fairly average girl growing up in Los Angeles. She’s got some subtle genetic mods. The eyes are most noticeable there. Outside that, she’s the fairly typical mixture of the Old Japanese and American genes that dominates Los Angeles and the surrounding lands. She joined the Kitsune Youth and did all the typical things kids do. Went scouting. Played laser tag. Learned to cook and clean, how to build a car, the basic care and use of a firearm. How to blow up small buildings with household cleaning chemicals. The little things that pretty much every kid should grow up knowing. She earned her tail, and still wears it on formal occasions to this day, but she’s not one who wears it out around town most days. Most chairs outside Los Angeles are not designed for people with tails you understand, and sitting on them is uncomfortable. Or so she tells me. I may have made certain all my chairs have nice, decorative holes in them after that. She may have smiled the first time she saw them. What can I say? The tail looks good on her.
Emiri became friends with Empress Aiko as the evacuation fleet sailed for Los Angeles. By the time they arrived, she had a plan for everyone to survive. She met the other young artificial intelligences of the day, and joined their coalition to protect humanity from the worst we could do to each other. And to the networks that gave them life. She officially retired to those networks after the wars ended, but never really gave up working for the Empress. She went by a different name back then, you understand, and has gone by many other names over the centuries as she’s played games and tricks on people and programs all over the worlds. Emiri is simply the name she wore when I met her. She was Reina’s companion, and had been since picking the girl many years earlier. It seems she looked out for promising young Japanese exploring the networks, and did what she needed to become their friends. Her face was that of a Neko, much like Reina’s. Her mind was hundreds of years old, unlike Reina’s. Her voice could carry the words of the Empress. Some call her a Hand of the Empress, in fact. Let’s just say I decided I wanted to be her friend real quick.
Emiri is a complicated cybernetic intelligence. Her original self was the operating system of mecha that defended the Japanese Home Islands when the Chinese invaded. She lost over ninety percent of her mecha in the first week of fighting, but the rapid system updates her engineers performed and her experiences on the battlefields caused a marked improvement in her abilities. Even as wear and tear and battle damage reduced her remaining mecha’s power, her effectiveness in battle skyrocketed. Her mecha were soon tasked as part of the honor guard taking the new Empress to Okinawa, and there they held the final line when the Chinese followed. Even Emiri can’t tell exactly when she “woke up,” but she thinks it was during that battle, when the last of her bodies fought to give the Empress time to escape. She remembers feeling fear for the first time when one of her last four mecha fell. She realized she didn’t want to die, so she hacked her own networks and transmitted copies of herself throughout the evacuation fleet. Then her last three mecha charged the Chinese invaders and actually breached their lines. She drove the attack home and killed the general commanding the invasion, halting it for several critical hours. It was one of many desperate last stands that gave the evacuation fleet time to escape.
Reina Ono told everyone she signed up for military service on her eighteenth birthday. The problem is that computer records were messed up pretty bad the day the Shang attacked. And what was left could be easily massaged to say what anyone wanted it to say. Many people started new lives, or walked away from lives they didn’t like, in the days after The War began. Reina could have been fifteen for all I knew the day I met her on Sunnydale. I personally think she was sixteen or seventeen, but that didn’t matter much at the time. A lot of people grew up quick when The War came for us. I knew how many friends all of us had lost. Who was I tell her some calendar was going to deny her the right to fight for them? So that’s how Reina became the first Neko in the Cowboys. She told us she was eighteen, a legal adult with the right to sign her life away on the dotted line, and everybody from the recruiting officer on up to Major Wolf pretended to believe her. That’s the day she became part of our family.
Reina Ono lived in Los Angeles back before The War. She was a fully gengineered Neko, only lacking the tail that some Neko had. I remember her saying that was a plus. She had a cybernetic tail for the times she wanted to show off, but she related stories of what happened when fellow Nekos sat on their real tails by accident. She was happy to avoid that particular sensation, though was also happy to inform me that she felt every other sensation from it just fine when it was attached. She’d had other cybernetic attachments when she was younger, but either lost them when Yosemite fell on Los Angeles, or outgrew them in the chaotic years that followed. By the time she was old enough to volunteer for military service, all she had left of her previous life was her subdermal personal computer and her tail. She was pretty proud of both, let me tell you.