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Interlude 6 Main Chapters Interlude 7

Chapter 7

Hiroshi Rara, president of the RaRa Army, looked up from the report on the prisoner Kent Slade, which he had devoured eagerly. His officer in charge of the borders had assured him it was very important and interesting, and he was right.

"Are you sure about this?" he asked his officer in charge of the borders.

"Hino and his squad are my best men, sir," the officer, Takei, replied. "If there's going to be anyone who'll disappoint you, it'd be the prisoner himself."

"Another world, a proof of my theory, as well as a male robot pilot!" President Rara had now stood up in jubilation. Takei hoped that this Kent Slade would prove capable of fulfilling such hopes.

Slade got medical attention during that hour he had to wait for the prison transport. The doctors came to the security tent, and Kent never left it. His interrogator seemed very competent to manage all of that. Kent honestly thanked his interrogator, without a trace of irony, for the medical attention, to which he had replied gruffly, "You're welcome." There was an uneasy silence between them and all the guards during the entire trip to the nearest RaRa base. There, to the surprise of Kent and of the interrogator, they were both placed aboard a helicopter and taken to an island. Kent didn't know what his interrogator knew: that this was the island headquarters of the RaRa Army. Someone must've found the report interesting reading.

As soon as Kent arrived at the base, he was met by Pres. Rara. He was much shorter than Kent, but there was something about his bearing, presence, and striking cape that made him an imposing figure.

Upon catching sight of Kent, Pres. Rara ran to him and grasped Kent in a manly bearhug. Then he stopped in confusion, "Uh, are you all right? You don't seem to be responding."

"Well, sir," Kent explained as best he could, "I'm, er, constrained." Kent was still handcuffed.

"Oh, take them off," ordered the president casually. Kent's interrogator removed the handcuffs. Kent was astonished. What about assassination attempts? Kent wasn't going to complain, though.

"Excellent work, Sgt. Hino," Pres. Rara congratulated Kent's interrogator. "Really excellent, you've just done a great deal for the cause! A pride to us all!"

Sgt. Hino had saluted as soon as he had seen his president, and was really delighted by this high praise. "Thank you very much, sir," he replied.

These courtesies seemed to spark in the president's mind an idea to do introductions. "Kent Slade, I guess you've already met Sgt. Hino at the checkpoint. I'm Dr. Hiroshi Rara, President of the RaRa Army."

"Pleased to make your acquaintance, sir," Kent responded, trying to determine if there would be another bearhug.

"Takei, now he's Sgt. Hino's boss, forwarded me the report as soon as he got it. He knew I'd be interested," Pres. Rara was continuing. "Takei said that Sgt. Hino and his squad were his best men," (at which Sgt. Hino was even more pleased) "and on another subject I think you, Slade, are mistaken: it was really me who sent you here, not Sanada, right?"

"No, sir, it was most definitely Dr. Sanada. I heard that you were probably funding the research, but all my contact was with Dr. Sanada," Kent contradicted him.

"He was sent here by Dr. Sanada?" This time Pres. Rara was asking the world this question in stupefaction.

"That's what he said, sir," the interrogator replied. He had also been surprised that their archenemy had sent him from another world.

Kent had no idea why this was so odd.

"There's no time to lose: we'll get you analyzed right away!" President Rara continued. How wonderful it was to get to do some pure science after having to rule the world for so long! He hurried on ahead, Kent walking briskly behind him. Sgt. Hino supposed since he hadn't been dismissed, he was still supposed to guard Slade, so he followed.

The three of them continued further inside the base to a little-used room. In it, Pres. Rara performed various tests that Dr. Sanada had done on Slade before the transport, but Pres. Rara's bedside manner was more cheerful. For fifteen minutes after the tests were done, the president appeared to be puzzling over the results: then he grunted "Aha!" and activated various pieces of equipment. He quickly ran a wand over Sgt. Hino, to the sergeant's great surprise, and over himself. Dr. Rara then muttered something about accessing a database of other subjects, and fiddled with a computer. It was only now, seeing him at work in a laboratory, that Kent realized he actually was a competent scientist; he had suspected he was just a money man who gave the scientist Dr. Sanada a great deal of funding. Dr. Sanada was rich: this man must be very rich, to own a personal army.

After twenty more minutes, Pres. Rara finally concluded, "At last, I've got conclusive proof of the existence of a parallel world! Your dimensional signature is completely different from ours!"

"A dimensional autograph? Sir?" was Kent's bewildered inquiry. He was having trouble with the Japanese words Dr. Sanada had just spoken.

"Sgt. Hino, myself, and various other readings I've done on other people from this world," Dr. Rara said, "all have this world's dimensional signature: or at least what we thought a dimensional signature until now. Since it was always the same, we couldn't be sure. You, however, have just proved it: your readings are exactly as predicted for someone from another universe!"

Kent noted that he still hadn't really answered his question enough for comprehension. For example, what were these tests measuring anyway? Dr. Sanada had never told him either.

Sgt. Hino, meanwhile, was completely astonished. Kent's story was actually true?

"But you should have a counterpart," Dr. Rara continued his investigation, "so his disappearance is odd. Let me ask you, who are your parents?"

Kent told him about his parents as they left the room, and Pres. Rara queried him for details about them. Kent found himself talking about his little sister and older brother, and about how his parents met. He felt as though he were dying to speak about them now, when he was potentially locked away from them forever. Pres. Rara had now arrived at some sort of records room, and performed a variety of computer searches. Finally he turned to Kent with a sad expression on his face.

"I'm afraid you never had a counterpart, Slade," he explained. "According to this information, your parents were never married. You and your brothers and sisters were never born. Your parents are both living in different places in the United States." He waited a moment, and added, "I'm very sorry."

It was one thing to not have a duplicate of yourself, but quite another thing to know that your entire family and all its special memories never existed. Kent was quiet for a moment with the shock. It could be worse: at least they hadn't all died horribly, and at least they still existed in the other world. That would be some comfort even if Kent couldn't return to them.

Kent had the chance of returning to them: he had the ear of Pres. or Dr. or whatever his title Rara, and Kent felt fairly sure that he could build a parallel world transporter to get Kent back. This man had funded Dr. Sanada's pursuits in the other world, so surely he was enthusiastic and knowledgeable about traveling between dimensions. Kent was not quite as enthusiastic as he thought he should be, and decided it was because he didn't really believe that. If Pres. Rara were able to do that, it seemed like he would. He had the resources of most of the civilized world in his favor and yet he hadn't done it. Neither had Dr. Sanada, if the incomplete transporter in this world was any indication. Kent suspected there had to be a very good reason that neither man had pursued their interest in dimensional theory. He wasn't going to give up without trying, though.

"Thank you, sir. I really appreciate your finding that out. I'd like to ask another favor of you. Can you please find a way to return me to my old parallel world?"

Pres. Rara's face fell even further. "I'm very sorry about that, too, Slade. I can't, really. First of all, nobody's gotten around to doing much dimensional physics in this world. It could be years before I assemble the theoretical knowledge. The reason, of course, is this war. I suppose in the other world it was more peaceful and I had time to sit around and think about parallel worlds, but as a leader I have a responsibility to plan and win this fight. Even if the knowhow were ready, all the factories are geared for war production- we couldn't really change to other things very easily."

"I understand, sir," Kent reassured him, and he did. He hadn't set his hopes too high. That sadness he felt would just have to wait a better time for its expression. Besides which, after the war was done, perhaps then he'd have an opportunity to ask for a signaler or parallel world transporter. In any case, he shouldn't let his face be downcast.

Sgt. Hino continued watching Kent. He looked disappointed.

"Slade," Pres. Rara began speaking into the miserable silence, "if you'd like to try to rest for now..."

Kent looked at the president for a moment, then shook his head and enunciated, "No thank you, sir."

Pres. Rara smiled tightly, but inside he was jubilant. It was as he'd hoped- this was a strong young man. He wasn't going to run away from pain or danger. The RaRa Army could use a man like this.

"If you'll both come with me," he continued, gesturing to Kent and Sgt. Hino, and then stood and led them out of the room.

There was a sudden voice on a public announcement system requesting the presence of Sgt. Hino in a debriefing room. Sgt. Hino turned to Pres. Rara with an inquiring glance. Pres. Rara seemed surprised, but said, "Thank you very much for your great services to the RaRa Army."

"You're welcome, sir!" Sgt. Hino saluted him. He moved quickly out the door and hurried toward the debriefing room.

As Kent and Pres. Rara emerged into the hall, Pres. Rara's wife walked up to them. "Here you are, dear," she said to her husband.

Kent was astonished at the sight of her. He had recognized her instantly, from having seen her photograph in a creepy basement. She was Dr. Sanada's dead wife in the other world!

"Dear," Pres. Rara responded, "I'd like you to meet Kent Slade."

"Pleased to make your acquaintance," Ayuko Rara greeted them.

"It's very nice to meet you," Kent returned, though he was unsettled. It wasn't every day that you met the living dead.

Pres. Rara quickly explained to his wife who Kent was. "How interesting," she said, with a stare that reminded Kent of a cat, for some reason he couldn't identify.

Pres. Rara now turned to Slade with a fierce grin on his face, "We just happen to have a robot simulator around here that we use for training purposes. I'd really appreciate it if you could use it for us- we've never gotten to observe a male pilot of a robot. It should be a lot better than what you've experienced already, because Sanada's only got flimsy tin cans for robots!"

Kent wasn't sure at all what Dr. Sanada had to do with giant robots, or why they should be a logical comparison to the RaRa Army robots, but he agreed. Ayuko accompanied them to the simulator; evidently she really was interested. Kent was surprised how quickly he had gotten used to Dr. Sanada's dead wife in the other world here being alive and married to Pres. Rara. He idly wondered why she had picked either husband. Not that either were bad.

They arrived at the simulator. It was a seat enclosed in metal, soundproof to help the pilot concentrate on the simulation. Kent seated himself in the seat and placed his hand upon the sympathy orbs. Pres. Rara had hurriedly and with a fierce grin rushed to a bank of consoles running the simulation and monitoring the pilot's responses. Ayuko accompanied him more deliberately.

Pres. Rara had turned on the simulator seconds before Kent placed his hands on the orbs. The orbs thus instantly alit as soon as Kent placed his hands upon them. Pres. Rara, seeing the life sympathy reaction, cried aloud, "Have you got this, Sanada! You have no idea what data I've got! The first known male pilot! I've got all his data, and he's going to be on my side!" He began to laugh maniacally.

Ayuko couldn't believe it. She had been assured this was impossible. Yet the impossibility had been delivered right to their door, and was now their greatest opportunity.

"I suppose you're going to offer him a job as a pilot," Ayuko commented.

"Yes, dear, of course I am!" Pres. Rara answered with glee.

"That's a very good idea," she continued. "I certainly hope he does accept." She returned to watching the test.

Kent felt somewhat foolish- he had thought this was similar to a flight simulator, not a combat simulator. He thought he was just supposed to maneuver to no purpose in his simulated robot. Therefore, he had in surprise let a simulated enemy give him quite a pummeling before he struck back. He was also rather confused as to what sort of robot he was supposed to be piloting. It seemed very, very slow compared to the Earth Defense Robot he had piloted earlier. Probably it had a lot of armor on it. He wished he had a better idea of its equipment and looks, because then he could fight better. The simulation concluded with Kent victorious nevertheless.

Pres. Rara managed to envelop him in a hug again as he emerged from the simulator. "You are the first known male pilot!" he laughed aloud. "You're a good one, too! It's my honor to offer you a job as a combat robot pilot for the RaRa Army!"

In a flash, Kent remembered his situation: no prospects except this, and this prospect didn't seem immoral or imprudent. He replied, "I'm honored as well, sir. I'd be very interested in becoming a mercenary for you."

"Excellent!" Pres. Rara shouted.

"Thank you for your aid, Slade," Ayuko added.

"Let me introduce you to the battlefield commander," Pres. Rara said, coming down from his euphoria. "She'll be your new boss. She reports directly to me, and is my eyes, ears, and mind on the battlefield."

Kent felt a quick burning edge of disappointment that quickly subsided. He had asked to be a mercenary largely in order to get a great deal of freedom. Still, he had apparently short-circuited the chain of command almost to the head honcho, and so that should provide him with as much freedom as he desired.

They were walking towards yet another room. When they arrived, Kent realized that this was the entry room that he had first entered the RaRa headquarters through. Walking in the opposite door was another familiar face. It was Ms. Rah, just returned from the battle. She was escorting the pilots from that battle, and everyone stood at attention as Pres. Rara entered the room. He advanced towards them, and said, "Thank you all for your excellent efforts on the battlefield today. The RaRa Army may lose battles, but we shall win the war!" He proceeded to dismiss the pilots and introduced Kent to Ms. Rah with the words, "Ms. Rah, this is our newest fighter, a mercenary for our army. He is the only known male pilot of a combat robot. Meet Kent Slade!"

Ms. Rah shook Slade's hand firmly and resonantly declared, "We're glad that you have joined our campaign for Pres. Rara, Slade. I look forward to leading you to victory."

This was Kent's first time ever meeting a television personality, especially one as strangely dressed as she. He managed to come up with, "Pleased to make your acquaintance." Her eyes seemed to observe him, but have no reaction to him. He began to wonder if joining this outfit actually was a good idea.

"Shall I conduct him to new quarters, sir?" Ms. Rah asked.

"No, Ms. Rah," Ayuko told her, "we'll handle that. Go on ahead to debriefing, do one last trailer, and that'll be all for today."

Ms. Rah nodded and made a production of her salute, then turned abruptly and walked deliberately to an exit.

Pres. Rara gasped, muttered something about not having arranged any quarters yet, and ran at full speed out of the room, presumably to arrange said quarters. Ayuko excused him with aplomb: "It's so hard to have to run the world, Slade."

"Yes, ma'am," Kent agreed, glad to find something that he was certain about around here.

"Your outfit will be the standard RaRa male outfit, since we haven't got any male pilot suits. I suppose the seams could be modified a bit, but then that might destroy the balance of the whole thing."

Ayuko was conducting Kent as she spoke to a fitting room. She seemed very knowledgeable about clothes, and prattled without end about them. This was actually a relief to Kent, as the subject bored him to tears and he wouldn't have been able to maintain his end of the conversation. He finally found himself in the uniform, an affair consisting of black and red pants, jacket, and a black cap with the RaRa Army logo on it. Ayuko put a finger to her chin and pronounced that it "suited him" and then talked yet more about it. Finally Pres. Rara hurriedly entered the room and informed them that Kent's quarters were ready. These proved to be stylish, spacious affairs, probably because they were in the pilot's wing, and as Pres. Rara said, "They're our main fighters, and we need to keep them happy!" Kent chuckled with him. Kent was intrigued by how great a relief it was to finally set down his great backpack and know it could remain there for some time.

By this time Kent had gotten very, very hungry. It was a normal dinnertime for him, and during all his adventures he hadn't a moment to consume lunch. The Raras insisted on bringing Kent an excellent meal there in his room, though whether to please Kent or Ayuko was unclear. They asked him endless questions about his original world, and about his fight that day. Kent doubted that they'd be this nice to him once he became something familiar. Still, he honestly did find himself liking Pres. Rara, and maybe even coming to understand Ayuko.

Once Kent was full of food, he started to become very sleepy, due not to any drugging of the repast, but to the strain of his journey. The Raras left him to retire.

"I think I'll take a turn in the garden, dear," Ayuko said.

"I'd love to join you dear, but so much work has piled up," Pres. Rara was saying, and Ayuko smiled at him.

"Don't worry, dear," she replied. "We're all counting on you to get that finished. I just wanted you to know where I was."

Ayuko walked outside, under the full moon. She reckoned that Kumu knew already of the day's mad events, and probably was in a fury over them. Ayuko herself was convinced they were for the best, and she'd have to convince her of that. This interesting young man could help win the war for them, and not even Kumu could deny that.

At that same instant of time, many miles away, Cmdr. Sanada sighed. He desperately needed a break of either time or luck, but both were against him now. The search for the person who had helped Yayoi had drawn up a blank. It was most maddening that her helper had not vanished into thin air, but left many clues: Yayoi's bandage, the fight against the RaRa robot, and the odd device from the crater.

Right now, the commander needed desperately any aid that the helper could've supplied. It had been confirmed: Pilot Yayoi Schwael had suffered a Life Sympathy backwash. Yayoi would live, but never be able to pilot a robot again. Cmdr. Sanada had, of course immediately approved one of their strongest candidates to become Unit 1's new pilot. Unit 2 was piloted by a similar woman, and Unit 3 was piloted by D. They were all good pilots who did their best, but lately their best had not been enough to stop RaRa. He hoped this day marked a turn of their fortunes for the better, but it seemed more likely they had turned to the worst.

There was nothing Cmdr. Sanada could do about it now, though. He almost considered returning to his house for a moment, then laughed the idea away. What would be the point? It was just a place to eat and sleep, both of which he could do here, Inspector Akane Yamano's complaints about his malodor notwithstanding. There was no one waiting for him at home, and so nothing to make returning home worthwhile. He shook his head ruefully and grimly pressed on with his work.

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