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Interlude 11 Main Chapters Interlude 12

Chapter 12

Cmdr. Sanada stared at his map, looking at the divisions between RaRa territory and the territory that the Earth Defense Force controlled. He stared and thought about the trailer he had just received. There would be a battle in eight days- little more than a week after the Earth Defense Force had trounced the RaRa Army.

"That ugly man couldn't have gotten more robots already," said Inspector Akane Yamano as she entered the room, echoing the commander's thoughts. "Our robots could be repaired," she continued, "but most of his were disintegrated- he'll have to build them from scratch. He must plan to use some other robot he had in reserve."

The commander grunted, and spoke with firmness, "I hope not." Some of the robots he and Rara had dug up from the artifact would be more than a match for his current forces.

"Or," Inspector Yamano said hopefully, "maybe it's desperation. Maybe he's going to throw everything he has at us and finally call it a day!"

Cmdr. Sanada shook his head at that statement as Mrs. Nanjyoin entered the room. "Rara may be an idiot," Cmdr. Sanada said with finality, "but he's not dumb."

"Commander, that doesn't make any sense!" complained Inspector Yamano.

Mrs. Nanjyoin smiled and said, "I brought the list of replacement pilots for Unit 1." The pilot of Unit 1 had experienced a Life Sympathy backwash, just as Lt. Yayoi Schwael did before her.

"Oh good, let's start on that," Cmdr. Sanada eagerly turned to face Mrs. Nanjyoin.

"I'll be sure to impress upon the candidate we select," assured Inspector Yamano, "the full range of benefits the U.N. provides for the position, such as-" she halted, for she could tell Cmdr. Sanada was not listening, and sighed in resignation.

Earlier that day, Pres. Rara rushed to meet Slade as he emerged from the simulator. "Slade, we've had wonderful news!" he shouted, thoroughly startling Slade. "Himc is going to be completed ahead of schedule!" bellowed Pres. Rara, and a look of shock appeared on Slade's face.

"Already?" Slade asked, feeling a slight prickling under his skin. He soon didn't notice that, because Pres. Rara exuberantly gripped his upper arms. Slade supposed this was in lieu of one of Pres. Rara's manly bearhugs.

"It'll be done this week, in seven day's time," explained Pres. Rara, "a full two weeks ahead of schedule! And, I'm sure you'll appreciate this part, Slade, we modified it so that the shield remains permanently on without your having to think about it!"

"That is good news sir!" Slade agreed wholeheartedly.

"Mitsuki's already doing the trailer for your battle!" Pres. Rara went on, "When Himc finally is completed, you'll do a live test for an hour here on the island. Then, get a good night's rest, and the next day you'll defeat all our enemies!"

For a moment, Slade was surprised that he felt no doubts, no uncertainty that he could pull off the feat. Wasn't there some sort of rule that said he wouldn't feel up to the task until someone, hopefully a pretty girl, told him he could do it? Slade didn't feel worried about the battle. Instead, he found himself more occupied with how to pull away from this man and not injure his arms or the president's feelings. Slade just spoke honestly, "I shall fight with all my ability, sir."

"I'm so overcome with emotion!" shouted Pres. Rara, and bearhugged Slade without even changing his grip.

Alice, Mena, and Ryla, had emerged from the simulator behind Slade, and had heard the news. Their countenances abruptly shifted from brooding to ecstatic as this unforseen good news took hold.

"That's great!" exclaimed Mena.

"Don't worry," Pres. Rara said, now addressing her and her friends. "You won't be left out. Your jewel-cannon robot and the other that survived the last combat will go with him. Our Ancient Arms will crush the Earth Defense Force!"

"We're gonna win!" cheered Alice.

"I'm sure you'll be a great help to us, Slade," Ryla told him over Alice's continuing cheering.

"Thank you; I'll be glad to have people who actually have experience in this watching out for me," Slade replied.

"You'll be fine," Mitsuki and Mena both assured Slade. "We're all going to do our best, father," Mitsuki Rara told her father as she walked up.

"I'm sorry to have to deprive you of your bodyguards like this all the time," Pres. Rara said, referring to Alice, Mena, and Ryla.

"Don't worry. I'll be ordering them around so much, it'll seem like we're not apart at all," Mitsuki Rara informed her father.

There hadn't been any shortage of pulchritudinous women proffering encouragement, Slade realized, and this was causing him to wonder if he was in some sort of odd fantasy world.

Alice gave a last cry of "We're gonna win!" and punctuated it with a yell of glee.

Upon the day of combat, Slade found himself in the cockpit of the golden Himc.

Slade buckled his seat belt and said to the intercom, "Thanks for remembering, sir."

"No problem!" affirmed Pres. Rara.

Ms. Rah had already been helicoptered ahead to the battlefield. Slade and the remaining robots were transiting over the ocean. Slade sat in Himc, keeping it on course, constantly busy. He wanted to be a passenger again, and not have to worry about keeping Himc flying. Even if he was a passenger, there wasn't any in-flight movie, so he'd only be bored.

Pres. Rara monitored the progress of his attack force. Its numbers were scanty, for there were only two jewel-cannon robots and one Himc, but their power should be more than sufficient to win the battle. He instructed Ms. Rah, "They're right on schedule. Try to limit the jewel-cannon robots' engagement with the Core Robots, but at the same time, give Himc all the support it needs."

The robots entered the inland urban battlefield upon the battle's preannounced time. The three Core Robots were arrayed in a line to meet them, and the RaRa Army robots faced them in a line.

Cmdr. Sanada boggled at his control room's giant screen, nearly filled with the massive image of the gold and brown Himc. An officer called to him, "Sir, Unit 3's Life Sympathy has fallen drastically!"

Unit 3 had crouched to the ground. Its pilot, D, clutched her hands to her head, terrified at this horrid image from her past. Her unearthly left eye flared a brilliant blue, shining through her green locks. It was Himc, looking no different from the day on which it had destroyed her civilization, killed all her friends, smitten her robot Zinv to the ground as though swatting a fly. It had not diminished in power at all, and D was now in a fake body and a robot less powerful than Zinv. Himc had stepped out of that era and into this one, and now it would destroy everything she cared about all over again.

Cmdr. Sanada, also alarmed by the sight of such an unexpected and menacing robot, shouted at D through the communication system, trying to revive her somehow.

Slade had waited upon no ceremony; he and the jewel-cannon robots had streaked ahead in formation at Himc's top speed, the long period of training allowing them confidence in their teammates' abilities.

The other two Core Robots, not knowing anything of why D had stopped, rushed forward to meet the RaRa robots. Cmdr. Sanada was joined in his shouting by Inspector Yamano, and D realized for the first time that they were saying anything at all to her.

"D! Are you all right? If you are, you can't just stop! It's too dangerous! You have to do something!" Cmdr. Sanada was shouting.

She brought her robot to its feet. She always had fought, always had tried to make a difference, but it almost never made a real difference. She had failed to destroy Himc before, and what was happening now was the result. D nevertheless struggled to her feet to join the fight.

Ms. Rah's eyes focused upon Unit 3. She had thought it removed from the battle for an unknowable reason, but now it was showing signs of life. After considering the situation briefly, she ordered the jewel-cannon robots to prevent Unit 3 from engaging Himc.

The jewel-cannon robots, who had been exchanging some fire with the Core Robots advancing upon them, obeyed her order and broke formation, easily exceeding Himc's speed as they ran towards Unit 3. They took paths to the sides of the two startled Core Robots. The Core Robot pilots attempted to attack them en passant but missed their aim.

"D can handle them both easily," Lt. Yayoi Schwael directed the Core Robots, "you two attack that other robot."

Unit 1 leapt upon a skyscraper's roof in order to face better the giant Himc. Its grenade launcher reported loudly thrice in relatively rapid succession. Thrice, explosions detonated against Himc's shield, clearly failing to affect the golden robot.

Before Unit 1 could make another movement, Himc's tentacles grasped its limbs firmly, one tentacle for each limb. Lifting it slightly off the roof of the skyscraper, Slade fired the beam twice, moving the beam down vertically like a knife, precisely slicing off two limbs off the torso with each strike.

Unit 2, still moving forward, looking for a good place from which to engage the mammoth robot, felt an onslaught of fear.

Cmdr. Sanada pushed himself away from his console for a moment. Inspector Yamano sputtered in utter shock. Only partially recovered from sheer awe, the Commander pulled himself forward again and received the report, "Life Sympathy of Unit 1's pilot at 0, sir. Core Unit ejected."

"Make arrangements to pick up the pilot and the robot's pieces," Cmdr. Sanada voiced.

In the meantime, the two jewel-cannon robots were in pitched battle with D. These robots she fought well, attacking and moving swiftly. Himc's actions were only surprising in the tactics it had used; she knew it had incredible fighting prowess. These jewel-cannon robots were far easier to fight, though still challenging. Just now she blew an arm off of the robot being piloted by Mitsuki Rara's bodyguards. She was unable to follow up this advantage because of purple beams from the other robot.

Unit 2 raised its grenade launcher's barrel towards where Himc hovered above the ground. Slade performed the Hydra upon it, and Unit 2 fired wildly, hoping to score a hit upon the tentacles which frantically danced before its gaze. Its response came too late, for the hands on the tentacles' ends ensnared its limbs, and it was served as Unit 1 had been.

Without a second thought, Cmdr. Sanada sent a callsign.

Unit 3 and the jewel-cannon robots halted their war of weaving and firing, and moved away from each other. The jewel-cannon robots tramped past the dissected Core Robots, and their vision was relayed to the far-off pilots.

Ms. Rah pumped her arm and declared in a loud voice, "The godlike Pres. Rara has triumphed once again, foolish members of the human race!"

Slade shifted in his chair in Himc and gave thanks for this great victory. Weariness seemed to suddenly descend upon him. He wondered what a real soldier, one who actually had to carry heavy things and run long distances, felt like after combat.

Alice surveyed the disassociated Core Robots with disappointment. "We missed Slade's opening battle!" she complained.

"I guess we'll have to watch it in the video room when we come back," suggested Ryla.

"Yeah!" enthusiastically agreed Alice. "Can we, please, Mitsuki?"

Mitsuki Rara, still in the guise of Ms. Rah, was being helicoptered back to the island base, since she had no further responsibilities on this battlefield. Himc and the jewel-cannon robots were beginning the long flight over the ocean, proceeding to the same destination.

"A celebration of this glorious victory for the RaRa Army, and the hard work of all of you would be appropriate," Ms. Rah replied, making a horizontal slicing motion with her arm to enforce her agreement.

"Eh, why not," was the amiable response of Pres. Rara.

Slade said nothing. He was not averse to the idea, nor was he a party animal, nor yet a wet blanket.

Ayuko leaned her right arm against the high back of Pres. Rara's chair. "What a desirable outcome," she purred. "I think we'll be seeing quite a few such effortless victories."

Deep beneath her feet, Kumu stirred with the knowledge of the battle. That man was still a threat, but perhaps Ayuko had been right: a threat contained could be a useful weapon. Kumu's vigilance was not relaxed in the slightest as long as Slade was in the cockpit of a robot. If ever he acted against her, Kumu would use Ayuko's control network and override him. As long as he acted in her interests, she need merely watch the looming defeat of D and her friends.

Yayoi, from the Earth Defense Force control room, directed the movements of the people on the ground. Under her direction, they busily collected the shorn arms and legs of the Core Robots, retrieved their ejected Core Units, and conducted the pilots back to base. She felt sympathy for the pilots: they had only just begun the path to recovering from a Life Sympathy backwash. She checked again upon Unit 3, and was relieved to see its Life Sympathy normal, D returning to base under her own power, silent as ever. Yayoi wondered if she'd ever know what had happened to D when she collapsed. D seemed to not have any fears or other emotions, so if she had been daunted, they may be in desperate trouble. Yayoi returned her mind to developing and teaching tactics to defeat the big robot that had appeared today. She was sure they hadn't seen the last of it, but they'd be prepared for it on the next battle.

"They're starting to call Unit 1 a deathtrap," remarked Cmdr. Sanada with morose humor. "You'd think somebody had actually died in it."

He was sitting in the map room again, looking at the territory he had just ceded to the RaRa Army.

"Did you want to discuss your idea for supplementing our forces now, commander?" asked Mrs. Nanjyoin.

Although Inspector Yamano was seated straightly, her dejection was plain to see. She looked at Mrs. Nanjyoin and Cmdr. Sanada in turn. "Is this the one you had a few weeks ago?" she asked.

"Yes. I think we have to have more combatants in the fight. Knowing the sort of robots Rara has up his sleeve, I thought we should get more robots of our own. I should've pushed ahead back when I had the idea."

Mrs. Nanjyoin spoke again. "In any case, Commander Sanada, we should discuss the matter seriously now."

"Mrs. Nanjyoin is right," determined Inspector Yamano. "You had a good idea, and we ought to do it as soon as possible."

Despite himself, or perhaps because of his depression, Cmdr. Sanada began to laugh. "Today you got me, idiot," he snorted, "but next time, there'll be a few more robots to handle! Your poky flying hulk won't have enough arms to get them all!" His laughter became maniacal. Inspector Yamano glanced uneasily at Mrs. Nanjyoin, who merely kept her mouth in a straight line and her eyes neutral. Yayoi glanced in the room, shrugged, and walked on. Sometimes, you just had to allow people their idiosyncrasies and get on with your own work.

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