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Chapter 6 Main Chapters Chapter 8

Chapter 7:

The four combat mecha, piloted by Mitsuki Sanada, Yayoi, D, and Mitsuki Rara, charged over the barren surface of Loki, around large depressions, above windswept hills. They were headed towards the exploratory mecha that had attempted to attack the shuttleful of scientists. The shuttle had survived and was now returning to orbit, but the shield Ayuko had placed on the Voyageur's hangar bay would prevent it entering. The combat mecha hoped to, in some small way, strike back at the paralyzing treachery Ayuko and her cohorts had worked.

D moved in her seat. "This is going to be an interesting fight. I don't know that anyone's ever installed that kind of laser cannon on a robot before."

Yayoi's expression was one of sudden surprise. "We should discuss our tactics before we reach the target," she told the others calmly enough.

"Why, because we're being chased by that other robot?" Mitsuki Rara asked, referring to another enemy exploratory mecha attempting to catch up to them. Yayoi clarified, "That enemy unit needs to be considered as well, but that isn't what I meant."

Ayuko, sitting alone in her cabin, had come to the same realization. She sat before her computer screen, which showed various data sent to her by the exploratory mecha and received by a Darling Wave antenna Ayuko had installed in the last few hours by people on the ship using bribery. Her plot had been very well concealed, so no one was prepared for battle. The combat mecha, she realized, had left their weapons in storage on the Voyageur.

Yayoi had just reminded the others of that fact. "Our tactics will require getting to hand-to-hand range against the enemy."

They had no weapons of any sort- it'd be their mecha's fists and feet against the laser cannons the traitors had recently mounted on the exploratory mecha.

Mitsuki Sanada nodded. "Let's try not to get hit by their cannons," she suggested archly, "because I don't want to have to carry anyone across the planet."

Ayuko ordered the exploratory mecha that was the object of their attack to charge them. Its pilot, Gwyneth Ursula Plath, responded with the screech, "With pleasure, Mrs. Rara!" and a cackle to end it. Ayuko's lips thinned and eyes narrowed.

"We should attack the one behind us while the other one's out of range," D suggested.

Dr. Hayase reported from the ship, "The one in front of you is charging you as well. It'd reach you while you were dealing with the other one."

"Then we'll continue our charge, and pull a surprise on them," Yayoi decided.

Aboard the ship, the bridge crew was trying to think of a way to deactivate the shields Ayuko had installed some hours earlier and turned on when she led the mutiny. Dr. Rara was saying, "I didn't think we'd need any heavy weapons aboard the ship. There's nothing strong enough to penetrate the shield she put around the secure room. Something more subtle will have to make up for it."

"Why don't we just turn off the power?" Dr. Sanada asked.

Dr. Warai had been feverishly working and mumbling with Slade for the past five minutes, but the remark about the power prompted Dr. Warai to look at the others. "We can turn off power to areas of the ship, but we located the secure room in the same section as life support. If we turned it off, we'd cut off the supply of air and heat for the whole ship."

Dr. Hayase looked at him. "The power to Ayuko's cabin could be turned off. She's probably running the whole operation from there."

Dr. Warai shook his head. "Coincidentally also in the same section as life support." He returned to poking at controls and screens.

"We could turn off power at the hangar," Dr. Rara suggested.

Nobody said anything for a few seconds, so Dr. Rara repeated his suggestion confusedly.

Slade now looked up distractedly from his screen, "The hangar. The hangar?" He nudged Dr. Warai. "There's nothing mission-critical attached to the hangar, is there? I don't think there's a problem."

Dr. Warai took a few seconds longer to come out of a reverie of work, but finally concurred.

"Turning off hangar power, that'll deactivate the shield so we can launch stuff, right?" Mena realized.

Akane said, "We ought to do it right away, before my crazy sister tries anything else."

"Right," Mits agreed, "We'll start changing into our pilot suits." She, the bodyguard trio, and Ms. Hayase began to file out of the bridge.

Dr. Rara peered quizzically at Mits. "Why bother, Mitsuki?"

"We are facing a bit of a time crunch," Slade put in as he tore himself away from a last-minute check with Dr. Warai about how to shut down the section's power.

"It's tradition," was Mits' only response as she left the bridge.

Dr. Sanada was complacent. "You know how it is with women and clothes," he pontificated unconcernedly.

Akane folded her arms. "You know how it is with men and being annoying."

Slade wasn't listening to this exchange. He was heading off the bridge, but then turned back to Dr. Warai to murmur, "You're sure this is the only way?"

"Well, we need to know how Ayuko is making those shields, which means we need to actually find one of her shield generators. If not, we won't be able to break into the secure room." Dr. Warai said with finality.

"Not exactly what I meant." Slade frowned. "I meant, shouldn't we have someone who's good at this do it? Like Dr. Hayase?"

Dr. Warai looked at him. "Maybe, but if we really are in a time crunch..." Slade nodded and walked quickly off the bridge.

Dr. Rara and Dr. Sanada looked at each other, then at Dr. Warai. "Is there any way to take out the shield generator directly?" Dr. Sanada asked, for both himself and Dr. Rara.

"The one around the secure room?" Akane asked, and Dr. Warai waited for the confirmation as well. Dr. Rara and Dr. Sanada nodded, and Dr. Warai pronounced, "We should be able to cut off the power of just the shield generator by severing the cables that are supplying its power. Hopefully some of them run outside the shield itself. It'll be a long process, and we'll probably disable several systems."

"Then we'd better get started," Dr. Sanada decided. "Why don't we three start cutting wires?" He rubbed his hands together.

Akane looked worriedly at Mrs. Nanjyoin. Mrs. Nanjyoin was good at hiding her disturbance.

"You'd think I was going to cut wires randomly!" Dr. Sanada complained.

Dr. Warai chuckled, "From what Slade's told me..." and left it unfinished. Dr. Rara also began to snicker, rubbing his index finger.

"You're not going to leave just the two of us on the bridge!" Akane protested.

"I thought you two got along!" Dr. Sanada feigned surprise.

"We do get along, Ken; when have Mrs. Nanjyoin and I not gotten along?" Akane declared. "The point is that we need more than just two people on the bridge."

"I'm sorry about this, but there's not really any alternative. We don't know anyone else we can trust with something as important as the bridge," Dr. Rara apologized.

The combat mecha continued the attack, with one enemy in front and the other behind. Ayuko decided to call the combat mecha through the normal communication system, to tell them something she'd just thought of. "I hope that no one gets seriously injured in this fight. I wouldn't want anyone to get backwashed. It'd be tragic, since we won't be making any new worlds for such things to be undone."

With some difficulty, the pilots kept their tongues in check, though this reminder was rather alarming. The exploratory mecha that had been their target this whole time was now visible, running towards them. The foursome noticed that they were receiving a communication from "Chevalier, Christina." Akane had learned only within the hour that this was actually an alias for Gwyneth Plath, a woman with virulent hatred for the former Earth Defense Force and Akane in particular.

"I can hit you where you stand! You'll never get close enough to hit me!" gloated Gwyneth Plath, evidently pilot of the exploratory mecha before them.

"Plath, stop talking and start concentrating. Your tongue has frustrated my plans enough today," Ayuko slapped her down.

Kazuki desperately wished to step into fight, he stepped forward, but then thought of what Ayuko might do to the people on the Voyageur. He almost wanted to attack anyways, but they didn't want him to do it at the moment, and so he restrained himself. Zinv agreed; it was so hard standing still when so many people he cared about were in bodily peril.

Slade paused outside the door to the hangar, which he had just completely deprived of power. That meant that the shield Ayuko had her co-conspirators install in the past few hours was inoperative, but it also meant that artificial gravity was offline in that area. At least life support was being pumped through from the rest of the ship.

With careful, small movements, Kent moved through the door, from an area with Earth-normal gravity to the hangar's freefall. He was managing to do much better with these small movements than he had with large ones in the antigravity testing. Now he needed to find the shield generator, and hope that he didn't injure himself along the way, or that Ayuko didn't feel like closing the air vents to the hangar.

The pilots of the four combat mecha on Loki were surprised that they said almost at once, "Do it now!" They shouldn't have been surprised; being friends and fellow pilots for so long, they would naturally come to the same conclusion about the appropriate point from which to launch an attack.

One exploratory mecha was coming from the front, and the other from behind, and both were now in firing range, blasting at the combat mecha. Plath was trying to wipe away the shame of Ayuko's words by firing as often as possible. The traitors had an advantage in position and in the range of their weaponry, but they lacked combat experience and versatile robots.

The four combat mecha split into pairs, wheeling to face different enemies and running towards them suddenly in a serpentine pattern for dodging. Mitsuki Rara and Yayoi attacked the robot that had been in front, while Mitsuki Sanada and D took the one in back. With this abrupt maneuver, the combat mecha gained better positions. The traitors were cut off from each other, while each robot in a pair had the support of another.

"Do you still remember how to do unarmed combat, D?" Mitsuki Sanada asked as their robots ran.

"Sure! Not only that, I've improved. You're my big sister, I've seen you do it plenty of times, and I've learned from you!" D reminded her.

Their pair had made the unspoken decision to rush their target on its flanks. The combat mecha could only fire directly in front of it, so was forced to only target one at a time. Its rookie pilot made the mistake of trying to fire on both of them anyway, and hit neither. Mitsuki Sanada and D had by now reached point-blank range.

Mitsuki vociferated, "Why does everyone think I'm such a violent person! Most of my life I'm just cleaning up the house for you troublemakers!" Her robot, Unit 2, slammed both fists into the exploratory mecha's side while D's Unit 3 kicked the back of the knee joint. The combined attack made it fall down, stunned.

"Cooking!" Mitsuki ranted, "cooking is very relaxing and feminine and gentle activity that I enjoy!" She stomped on the floored exploratory mecha's visual sensors and laser cannons while D rooted about, attempting to extract its power generator. D remarked as she wrenched it free, "You especially enjoy chopping vegetables."

"D!" Mitsuki snarled. D was confused, "Why are you angry? I thought you liked being good at unarmed combat." Mitsuki returned, "That's not the point!"

Any further discussion was cut short by a cry from Yayoi. Plath, in the operational mecha, had managed to hit Yayoi's robot, more by the sheer luck of firing many shots at random than by good aim. Mitsuki Rara jumped the remaining distance to the target and tackled Plath's robot. She ended up on top of it, in the line of fire of nearly all its cannons. Plath somehow kept her head and fired them.

Akane blanched. "This can't be happening!" was all she could say as Mitsuki Rara's cry echoed over the communication systems.

Kazuki blurted, "Are you all right! Answer me, someone!"

Mitsuki Rara smashed some of the laser cannons with her fist, and used the momentum to roll off Plath's mecha. Yayoi had recovered from the pain of her hit to reach them, and flipped Plath's vehicle onto its back, so that its laser cannons now pointed harmlessly towards the ground. Mitsuki's Unit 4 sat up, and together she and Yayoi savagely ripped off the robot's power generator, leaving the raggedly severed power cords to emit large sparks.

Mrs. Nanjyoin spoke into the communication system, "Are the two of you both all right?"

"Answer us already!" Kazuki insisted.

"We're fine!" Mitsuki Rara answered brightly. "Thank you for your concern. Really, some of Mother's tantrums are worse than that."

"Yes," Yayoi agreed uneasily, "it's such an easy opponent that it was embarrassing. I hope no one was recording the skirmish."

"But it's part of history!" Dr. Sanada insisted into a microphone he wore around his head, as he and Dr. Rara and Dr. Warai removed a wall cover some distance from the secure room. "The first battle on an alien planet."

"Kazuki fought the first battle, Dad," D reminded him.

"Don't be ashamed, dear," Mrs. Nanjyoin told her granddaughter. "All of you fought very well, just as you used to."

"They used to tell me if they were all right or not," Kazuki sighed to himself. "I always answered as soon as I could!"

Kent had nearly jumped into a wall, he was so startled by the screams of Yayoi and Mitsuki Rara that he heard through his headphones. He had been searching all this time with no luck until finally he saw it on the ceiling of a maintenance corridor. With gentle, slow movements, he headed towards it, and pushed himself up off the floor slightly so he was now hanging in the air below it. He took only a moment to marvel at the sensation before reporting in through the microphone on his headset.

He had unintentionally interrupted a fierce argument between the doctors about which wires to cut first, but they were glad to hear from him. Kent described the layout of the generator and examined the wires it was connected to and with. They were beginning to get a much clearer picture of how to disable the shields.

"Kent, we're ready for launch here," Mits informed him. "Should we go on without you?"

"Yeah, go on ahead, Mits," Kent agreed, "I'll probably be awhile longer."

The bodyguard trio had settled into the remote piloting room of the Voyageur to command the jewel-cannon robot. Dr. Hayase and Mits had installed themselves into the cockpits of Units 5 and 6 respectively.

"I have an idea where Ayuko's Darling Wave antenna will be," suggested Dr. Hayase. "We should destroy it quickly. I don't want Ayuko to be able to talk to her forces about what we're doing up here."

Mrs. Nanjyoin told Akane, "The shuttle has nearly reached us." Akane had a sudden thought, "We did leave the hangar doors open before turning off the power?" Mrs. Nanjyoin nodded.

Units 5 and 6 retrieved their guns and loaded them, while the bodyguard trio tested their control of the robot. "The robot is fine, Mitsuki," Ryla declared.

"Let's launch together then," Mits said, and without further ado, the three robots propelled themselves into open space with the thrusters embedded into them.

Ayuko was watching the shuttle's approach on her console, and now pressed a button. On the exterior of the Voyageur, bulbous laser cannons extruded themselves from protective casings and fired a warning shot near the shuttle.

The shuttle veered away from the Voyageur, broadcasting in panic, "Voyageur, cease fire! It's us!"

Mrs. Nanjyoin said calmingly, "We aren't firing on you. What sort of weapons fire was it?"

"It looked like a laser!" the shuttle pilot shouted.

Ayuko noticed the mecha flying outside the spacecraft for the first time.

Mits said sadly, "I suppose Mother had those installed as well."

"This is going to be harder than I thought," Alice worried.

"Everyone watch out for the weapon locations," Dr. Hayase recommended.

Ayuko aimed the lasers and prepared to fire.

Chapter 6 Main Chapters Chapter 8