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Chapter 9 Main Chapters Chapter 10

Interlude 9

The day after Kazuki and many others had stepped in Zinv's cockpit for testing, Dr. Sanada talked to Kazuki.

"Kazuki, we're very grateful to you for letting us experiment on Zinv all the time. It's really quite necessary, I assure you. Without any other pieces of artifact technology in this world, he's the only source of information we have that might help us to get into outer space. His power supply," he began to pace and mutter strangely, "if we could only make one of our own with even a quarter of its power, we could have an awesome engine for our starship. Then, there's also his ability to move through dimensions, like he did just before the worlds merged. That might be the key to moving faster than light!"

"Uncle," Kazuki said, somewhat used to his uncle's bizarre moods, "Zinv and I don't mind the experimentation at all. We want to visit outer space too."

"Thank you," his uncle told him. "Unfortunately, there's not a lot of pilots we can call on to test it. I should say we don't trust many pilots to use Zinv responsibly."

Mitsuki Sanada had entered the room in an apron and was dusting. Dr. Sanada continued, "The ones we do trust are busy most of the time, including you, Kazuki. So we need some way for there to be a pilot who can use Zinv a great deal of the time, so we can get a lot of tests done. Our progress into space is limited by the rate at which we get that data faster."

Kazuki suggested with a smile, "I'll just pilot the robot all day and not go to school, Uncle!"

Dr. Sanada laughed. "An excellent idea!"

Mitsuki Sanada glared at them both. Kazuki shrugged, "I was just joking." Unappeased, she returned to her dusting.

"We could have someone who's already there pilot Zinv," Dr. Sanada opined, winking at Kazuki. He desperately wanted to be the one picked to operate Zinv.

"Dad," Mitsuki Sanada reasoned, "if you or Dr. Rara is the one to pilot it, all the two of you will do is argue about whether the other is stealing it and trying to take over the world again. You'll never get anything done and then Kazuki will never get to visit outer space."

At this juncture, Dr. Rara entered the room. He had just used his spare key on the door moments ago. After recent events, he did not feel comfortable using the doorbell, despite assurances that it was fixed.

Dr. Rara countered Mitsuki's last statement thusly, "We only bicker when you kids are around, to keep up appearances. When we have honest disagreements, we use straightforward debate tactics and provable facts."

Akane's voice was carried to them on the winds from several rooms away. "Such as, 'Sanada, that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Kazuki will never pick you. He lives in your house; he knows you're a maniac and would break poor Zinv to pieces.'"

The scientists glanced awkwardly at each other. Kazuki put his hand over his mouth to hide a grin. Mitsuki Sanada chuckled softly. When Akane had overheard the argument she was quoting, Dr. Rara and Dr. Sanada had thought she looked more disgusted than usual, but they had no idea she was so put out by their conduct.

"Or perhaps," Akane continued, "you're thinking of 'Rara, if you think Kazuki will pick you to pilot Zinv, then you're an idiot. You're always an idiot, you'd just be a bigger idiot.'"

Kazuki wasn't having much success suppressing his laughter. Mitsuki Sanada was only somewhat more capable at hiding her amusement.

Both scientists could tell that some damage control was required if either was to have any chance of piloting Zinv. Perhaps reminding Kazuki of their bonds of brotherhood would help. Both tried to clap Kazuki on the shoulder while saying "Kazuki," in a voice of fraternal affection, but as they were both aiming for the same shoulder, they only clapped each other.

Now Mitsuki Sanada doubled over with laughter, and Kazuki gave up all pretense of gravity. Dee had seen this last attempt to flatter Kazuki, and giggled as well.

Once all three could breathe again, Kazuki had an inspiration. "Hey!" he cried. "We need someone to pilot Zinv when I'm not around, a person who's often at the lab. Why not Ms. Hayase!"

Everyone was surprised.

"Can she even pilot a robot?" Dr. Sanada asked in some confusion. Then he realized he had a source of information standing next to him. "Hey, Rara," he asked, "what were her life sympathy stats?"

"I don't know," Dr. Rara admitted, "we never tested her while she was on my side. I thought your people would've tested her when she was on your side."

"We didn't, no," Dr. Sanada remembered.

"None of you know if Ms. Hayase is a pilot?" Dee asked.

"Well, I hired her in her capacity as a scientist," Dr. Rara told them undefensively. "It honestly never occurred to me."

"I didn't realize it myself," Dr. Sanada agreed. "Kazuki, are you sure she's interested?"

"You could ask her," Kazuki replied. "I trust her with Zinv." He had found out long ago that Ms. Hayase was an enthusiast for giant robots as much as he was, but he considered it a confidence between them. Kazuki was trying to suggest her without revealing the secret, because he felt certain that she would like piloting a giant robot.

Kazuki's selection of a pilot had panned out well. Kaoru Hayase had agreed with embarrassment, alacrity, and joy to the initial tests of her piloting ability. To everyone's astonishment, including Ms. Hayase, and Kazuki when he heard of it, she registered a 66% life sympathy score in her first trial.

"I guess you've got the job," Dr. Rara had said, and she replied happily, "Thank you, sir."

Dr. Sanada used the control to retract the roof of the island lab, and both men scurried around the control room, making sure data was being recorded, and starting preliminary analyses. When the roof was retracted, they both concurred that Ms. Hayase's life sympathy was still stable and that it was safe for her to start walking in Zinv.

Slowly, she ordered Zinv to rise to his feet. This was the first time she had ever piloted any sort of robot, and she savored every moment of it. She took a first step, getting a feel for the robot, then another step and another step. She had now walked out of its hangar and was in the open.

"What now, sirs?" Ms. Hayase inquired.

"How about a standard robot practice routine from the old days?" suggested Dr. Rara.

"Yes," Dr. Sanada nodded, "start running forward."

As she did so, Dr. Rara sputtered, "What! The first practice maneuver is jumping in place!"

"Are you a complete idiot, Rara!" Dr. Sanada shot back. "It's always been running! Then skimming forward rapidly-"

"Skimming! My robots can't-" Dr. Rara said in confusion.

"Your robots were inferior!" Dr. Sanada announced triumphantly.

Ms. Hayase stopped the robot awkwardly, having run a good distance. She was not very used to piloting yet, and decided to wait out the argument by trying small motions.

"Your robots were copies, and mine were originals! Yours were the inferior robots! Oh, your stupidity in using copies against me!" Dr. Rara decried his former adversaries' choice of combat units. "We ought to use the RaRa Army standard practice routine, which clearly calls for jumping in place at this time."

"Well, we're using the Earth Defense Force practice routine this time, since our copies beat your whole army!" Dr. Sanada yelled.

Ms. Hayase knew the retort that came next like the back of Zinv's hand.

"And we're doing things my way," Dr. Rara retorted, "because my army was only trying to preserve world peace, and I'm still smarter than you are!"

"Well, since she's already done the running, I suppose we could try the jumping," Dr. Sanada decided. "And you weren't trying to preserve world peace," he swiftly alluded to Dr. Rara's earlier statement.

Ms. Hayase began to jump in place. After several repetitions, everyone decided to make Zinv sprint across some distance. There was a tiny valley Ms. Hayase hadn't seen, and she tripped over it.

"Are you all right?" both doctors asked.

"Yes, both myself and all the systems are fine," Ms. Hayase responded. "Zinv hasn't taken any damage."

Her first test ended with a successful return to Zinv's hangar, and there were many other successful piloting runs in the days after that.

"I'm glad she's doing so well. She's been so happy lately," Mitsuki Rara commented at a Sanada household supper.

"Ms. Hayase's very fortunate," noted Yayoi, "to be able to pilot the only giant robot remaining in this world as part of her duties."

Kazuki found time to say, between mouthfuls of the three dinners made for him, "It's too bad we can't watch her piloting it, or help her."

"I am not able to teach her directly," Yayoi said, "but I have been instructing her as best I can without simulators or the ability to spend a great deal of time with her."

"The results of your efforts are showing," Dr. Sanada informed them. "We're getting more and more information about Zinv's power source with every test, and she's getting better at piloting it."

He suddenly looked at Akane. "Hey, do you want to try piloting? We've never measured your life sympathy either!"

"Thank you," Akane replied sincerely and certainly, "but I would rather not. Piloting a giant robot is not a prospect I enjoy enough to do the work required for success."

Within another week, Ms. Hayase and the doctors adjudged that she had gained enough skill to begin more strenuous maneuvers in Zinv, to see how the power generator reacted. She learned combat maneuvers because they were the only high-power maneuvers anyone could remember making a giant robot do. Kicking and punching were fairly easy. Controlling local gravity to crush objects in Zinv's fists, one of Zinv's unique abilities, was achieved after some pointers from Kazuki and Yayoi.

After a great deal of deliberation, they decided that Ms. Hayase would use Zinv's ranged weapon, the gravitational shell. Kazuki would be needed to access Zinv's more power-draining activities, but they needed the intermediate-range data that using the gravitational shells could provide, and Ms. Hayase could use them.

She carefully aimed Zinv's arm into the water and successfully fired the shell. As the glowing blue shell entered the ocean, there was a glow as it transferred its energy to the water, just as it was supposed to. The water shot into the air, rippled, frothed, and boiled. Small particles of it refracted a rainbow. Kaoru Hayase stared at the vista with a wordless, calm, contented smile.

During the next few weeks, she kept practicing and practicing, growing better and better. There were still other tests to be done, more data to be gathered, and she worked tirelessly to perfect her ability to control the giant robot. Everyone was now certain that Ms. Kaoru Hayase was indeed an excellent pilot.

Chapter 9 Main Chapters Chapter 10