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Interlude 4 Main Chapters Interlude 5

Chapter 5

Kent looked at what he was seeing, trying to integrate it into his mental picture of how the world worked. He was seeing a massive, white robot, slumped to the ground. Could these be what were doing the fighting?

The battle seemed to still be in the distance, but he wanted some shelter. There was plenty of rubble around the white robot, and so he decided to hide in that debris. He surmounted some of it, looking for a good spot.

From this height, he could now see that a woman lay slumped upon some metal plates that extruded from the chest of the giant robot. Behind the plates was a cavity with a chair, doubtless the cockpit of the vehicle. The woman's long silver hair contrasted with the stark red blood on her head. Kent nervously moved towards her and felt for a pulse in the arteries of her neck. She was still alive.

He didn't want to be mistaken for a combatant, which she obviously was judging from her jumpsuit. Still, he felt he had to help her. Surely no one would mistake him for being a combatant if he was giving medical care? He was uneasy, but got out his first aid kit. He had little medical knowledge, and didn't want to risk increasing her injuries by moving her, so he found the cut on her head and bandaged it with a long bandage from the kit. This woman, he thought, was clearly the pilot of this device. She had evidently attempted to leave the ruined robot after it crashed, but she must've collapsed her after taking only a few steps.

As he bandaged her, without realizing it, his arm brushed against a red orb on the armrest of the chair. It glowed and whined slightly. A device which had been extruding itself from the cockpit noticed this and retracted.

Far away, in the control room of the Earth Defense Force, an officer noted this. She gave Commander Ken Sanada an update on the status of downed Core Robot Unit 1. "Sir, life sympathy was briefly detected in Unit 1! That made the core eject cancel!"

Commander Sanada leaned forward in his seat.

Kent wondered what his duty towards the injured woman was now. He presumed that her colleagues would come along eventually to help her and get her proper medical care. Doubtless they were prevented from doing so now by the enemy. Perhaps he ought to leave her.

What would he do without either signaler or the schematics?

There was a percussive sound nearby, and Kent decided it was probably the footsteps of a similar combat robot. He risked moving the woman inside the cockpit, and attempted to dash for cover nearby, to avoid drawing fire near the invalid's location. Kent saw that he was too late, that the other robot was rounding the corner, its arm pointed at him. He had only one option left; he ducked into the cockpit. He sat in the chair, and placed his arms upon the armrests, and his hands on two red orbs located exactly where one's hands would go.

There was a whine which reminded Kent of electrical components charging, and the orbs glowed yellow. At the same time, the plates began to fold in toward the robot. Kent realized he had somehow activated the hatch, and regretted it. At this point, though, hiding was more important than not appearing to be a combatant. He gasped as the closed hatch appeared to turn transparent. He was actually seeing a display of what the robot saw.

The other robot was bipedal and bulky, painted green. Kent noted a logo on it. The logo consisted of two bright red Rs, placed back to back so one faced forwards and the other backwards. The arm that had been pointed at him earlier did not terminate in a hand, but instead in the multiple barrels of a machine gun. The chest had a massive funnel set upon it, with the small end facing outward. Kent realized it was probably some sort of cannon. Both the machine gun and cannon were pointed at Kent, or rather at the robot Kent was in, covering him. It seemed confused. Pilots probably never left their robots and darted back in again as he had done. The other robot's pilot justifiably suspected a trap. If only Kent had set one. He felt more like he was in a trap himself. If the other robot was an enemy to this one, it would destroy or capture this robot as soon as it realized it was helpless.

Far away, in a massive control room of the RaRa Army, a war room different but similar to that of the Earth Defense Force, President Hiroshi Rara was receiving an update on the battle.

"The white robot's pilot cannot be seen, sir. She must've returned to the cockpit, since the hatch has closed. The robot looks ruined, but we're taking no chances."

President Rara leaned forward. His wife watched the scene with heightened interest.

At the same time, in the Earth Defense Force war room, Cmdr. Sanada was receiving further news. "Sir, Unit 1 now has two lifeforms in its cockpit! Confirmed Life Sympathy reading!"

United Nations Inspector Akane Yamano leaned forward from a standing position and placed her hands on the console before her for support. "That last reading indicated Pilot Schwael's Life Sympathy had fallen to 0!"

"Now showing 65% Life Sympathy!" another voice confirmed.

"No refugees are missing from the shelters," another person confirmed.

Inspector Yamano leaned back stiffly. "Then it's been captured."

"Can we contact Unit 1?" Cmdr. Sanada asked.

"Negative, communication system damaged," reported the communications officer.

Cmdr. Sanada was amazed. He had held off surrendering because he felt sure that once Unit 1 was disabled, it would be ignored, and he thought the other two Core Units could still win the battle. Unit 1 suddenly returning to the fight on the enemy side was totally unexpected.

The green robot fired upon the ground near Core Unit 1. Kent recognized it as a feint, and it confirmed for him that the robot facing him was an enemy to the robot he was inside. It must've thought he was playing dead and was hoping to rattle him out of whatever trap he was springing. Kent had no traps and no tricks; he seriously wanted to leave. It was rather astonishing, therefore, to see and feel that his robot was in motion, leaving the area. There was a whish and a flash of light as a missile was launched from the funnel chest of the green robot, and Kent ran farther. It seemed his thoughts were somehow controlling the robot.

His robot shook as the homing missile detonated near him.

Pres. Rara's titanic screen, which showed him the battle, displayed the overlaid text "Indirect Hit."

"Argh!" grunted Pres. Rara. "Ms. Rah, order our pilot to destroy that white robot as fast as possible!" Ms. Rah forwarded the orders.

Kent knew he was in a fight now, and there was only way out of it: victory. He shifted his focus from dodging to attacking. He charged the green robot, somehow avoiding the bursts from its machine gun, and closed to grappling range. Unit 1's fully humanoid arms and hands clasped and wrenched the enemy's machine gun arm behind its back, and Unit 1 remained behind its back as well to avoid the missile launcher.

"We're in luck," commented Cmdr. Sanada. "It hasn't been captured."

"I agree," breathed Inspector Yamano. The surprise that showed plainly on her face existed in Cmdr. Sanada's mind as well. 65% was a fairly good score for a top pilot, but whoever had boarded their robot and begun to fight their enemies? This required investigation, but first the battle had to be won.

"Can anyone back up Unit 1?" he required rhetorically. His staff was keeping him updated on all the giant robots, but he had to make sure.

"No sir," came the response, "Units 2 and 3 are both engaged with other enemies."

Cmdr. Sanada sighed. Giant robots were the only military units actually used in this war by either side, and all of his giant robots were in fights elsewhere on the battlefield. Unit 1's mysterious helper was on her own.

The commander had, you see, no idea that Unit 1's pilot was actually a young man. This young man was on his own, and found himself raised off the ground as the enemy robot leaned forward, catapulting Unit 1 over its head and onto the ground before the green robot. Kent was perturbed, but thought fast enough to use the machine gun arm still in his grasp to pull the green robot to the ground beside him. It immediately pushed itself up, but Kent managed to land a punch in a region that could've been its head before struggling to his feet himself.

Now he had a plan. The green robot's right arm was a three-fingered gripper, and relatively less dangerous than the machine gun or missile launcher. That meant that its right side was its weakest. He acted as though he were about to charge the enemy's left as he had before. It had anticipated that, planning to hit him with machine gun and missile. The machine gun would've struck him perfectly if he were doing that, but he had already begun to run to the right. The well-trained pilot carried through with her intention to launch a missile at Unit 1, and since it was a homing missile it shouldn't have mattered where he ran. Unfortunately for it, he had already gotten behind the robot, and the missile was unable to execute the sharp turn necessary to reach behind the green robot. The missile tried to turn as it traveled further and further away, but it struck a building instead.

The green robot attempted to turn around and use the gripper against Unit 1, but Kent had swiftly knocked it down and was pummelling its broad back with punches and kicks. The repeated forces were preventing the robot from rising, and soon Unit 1 broke through its armor and was destroying the robot's vital systems.

The RaRa Army screen had changed to a view of pavement, which was all that the robot's forward cameras could see, and was filling with overlays of damage readouts. "Our robot is inoperative sir," sighed the subordinate. Pres. Rara was furious at this report, and further bad news came when another subordinate reported, "All our forces have been defeated, sir."

Pres. Rara's wife sighed, and he moaned slightly as he asked, "Pilot status?"

"All alive, sir," was the response. "Two Life Sympathy backwashes."

The RaRa Army robots were not actually controlled from inside the vehicle: instead the pilots broadcast their commands from afar. The backwashes meant that those two pilots had forever lost their piloting abilities. At least they were all alive. "Ms. Rah," he ordered, "move all personnel back to our territory." Ms. Rah would now take charge of transporting all of the pilots from their battlefield headquarters back to their own territory. Pres. Rara himself was in his own main base, and had no need to move.

"Such a pity," his wife remarked. "I was so sure that we had that white robot, that the battle had decisively turned in our favor."

"So did I, dear," President Rara sighed, settling into his high-backed chair. "I wonder why that white robot's pilot dashed out of the cockpit like that when she and her robot were both fine?"

"I don't understand it either, dear," his wife returned.

The scene inside the Earth Defense Force war room was exultant. "We beat that idiot Rara back again!" shouted Cmdr. Sanada as a general whoop of victory filled the atmosphere.

"Commander! Shouldn't you have more dignity?" Inspector Yamano admonished him.

Cmdr. Sanada ignored her, which didn't surprise the spectator Mrs. Nanjyoin. "Unit 3's closest; get her over to Unit 1 and check it out!" Mrs. Nanjyoin stepped forward, though still behind the commander and the inspector. Cmdr. Sanada turned to face her. "Don't worry, Mrs. Nanjyoin. I think she's going to be all right. We've still got positive vitals on her, right?" A subordinate confirmed this, and the commander flashed Mrs. Nanjyoin a grin. Though she didn't show it on her face, Mrs. Nanjyoin was enormously relieved and thanked the commander for his concern.

Kent wasn't certain if the hatch had opened in response to his own command or an outside influence. A small readout near his arm held Japanese characters which Kent knew meant "Battle Concluded." Of course he knew that for himself, but then reconsidered and wondered if it meant the whole battle. The robot was thankfully in a position where he could safely and easily reach the ground. He stepped out and reconsidered the woman. It had been awkward, at times- she had been flung like a rag doll in the cockpit, and he felt like they were a pair of beans rattling in a can. His seat didn't have so much as a restraining harness, and he was surprised neither of them had broken their heads on any of the walls. Still, she seemed to be unhurt, or at least had no new injuries he could detect. Kent had planned to leave her to her comrades, but upon further thought decided to at least watch from hiding until he knew she had been rescued.

Somehow, they had ended up near the huge pit where his holster signaler lay. He had finally seen it in there, after he was in hiding. It was lying in a puddle, and he decided the schematics was the small dark stain of ashes behind it. There was no hope for him now except to find this world's Dr. Sanada or Dr. Rara and convince them to build a parallel world transporter.

Earth Defense Force Core Robot Unit 3 marched into view only half a minute after Kent had concealed himself. Kent held his breath, hoping this blue robot was a friend. His hope was rewarded; it pointed its single-barreled machine gun down, not towards the white robot. The blue humanoid shape of Unit 3 crouched, and its pilot, D, stepped out towards the cockpit, and carefully examined the injured woman. D raised her head and, with an absence of emotion, confirmed to headquarters through her jumpsuit's communicator that the pilot lived. This lack of feeling was very normal for this D, as this counterpart was still in a bioroid body and had limited her emotions to cope with life.

Kent had done his duty, and so departed.

D wasn't sure what motion attracted her attention to the pit, but she noted something shining in its depths. Commander Sanada was saying to her, "That's great! But D, what about the other woman who piloted the robot? Where is she?"

"Unknown, Commander," D responded, "but I have located an anomaly in a nearby pit. It appears to be a device."

"What, you mean no one is around there?" Cmdr. Sanada realized he had to be very direct and clear when speaking to D; she took things rather literally.

"Negative. Pilot Schwael is the only person here," she replied in her usual monotone.

"Besides you, D," Cmdr. Sanada laughed at his own joke. D was unoffended and unmoved. "Well, all right, look into the device." He addressed all of his personnel. "All right, everyone, search the area for our great helper! We need extra manpower, and I don't think anyone wants to cross the border with RaRa territory only a few minutes after the battle. Therefore, let's take down the border checkpoints so those personnel can help with the search."

D retrieved the remains of the signaler from Kent's holster; the ashes had largely disassociated. She climbed back out of the crater and into Unit 3. She would bring the device to Cmdr. Sanada. A medical team pulled up beside Unit 1 and confirmed that Yayoi Schwael would be fine, though the preliminary examination indicated she had suffered Life Sympathy backwash.

Kent moved quickly towards his apartment in his original world. He still wasn't enthusiastic about meeting himself, but he hoped to get some sort of refuge there. He then recalled that he lived fairly close to a hospital, and decided to see if it was open before he visited his apartment. Kent was ready to go anywhere but where he was. He thought it expedient to remove himself from the battlefield as quickly as possible, before he became any further entangled in this bizarre war.

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