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Chapter 5 Main Chapters Chapter 7

Chapter 6

Inspector Yamano and Mrs. Nanjyoin met the dimensional travelers as they entered the Earth Defense Force base.

"Hi, Mom!" Dee called to Inspector Yamano before she remembered that this was not her mother.

"This may take some getting used to," Cmdr. Sanada said and put his hand behind his head as Inspector Yamano's eyes grew wide.

Ryla shrugged. "Don't worry about us, we're already used to it. We ought to get the galley set up; it's almost lunchtime."

"Do you need anyone to show you around?" Mrs. Nanjyoin asked.

Mitsuki Rara shook her head, "Thank you, but we know our way around the base and the artifact ship. We'll use the galley in the ship and lunch should be ready in an hour and a half."

"I hadn't expected such fine dining during our retreat," Cmdr. Sanada commented, "I thought we'd all have to break into my precious stash of instant ramen."

Before Mitsuki and her bodyguard trio could leave the room, Lt. Yayoi Schwael and D entered. D and Lt. Schwael were completely still for a moment.

"Commander," Inspector Yamano looked at him, "you did remember to tell them that they'd be meeting duplicates of themselves."

He laughed nervously.

"I only told him a few minutes ago," Mrs. Nanjyoin interceded.

Cmdr. Sanada moved towards the exit, "I have a lot of business to catch up on, so I'll leave you all to get acquainted with yourselves."

Yayoi addressed the thought that she was fairly sure was in her counterpart's head. "I will use a lower officer's jacket and rank so as not to confuse the command structure with my counterpart. As a pilot, I ought to work beneath her."

"There's no reason to worry," Mitsuki Sanada informed them all, "we're all used to everything here."

"If we don't go now, lunch will be late," Mena spoke up.

"Okay, you're dismissed!" Cmdr. Sanada made a production out of it. Mitsuki Rara and her bodyguard trio left for the galley. Cmdr. Sanada then said, "Seriously, I'm glad you're all being so accommodating about all of this. Mrs. Nanjyoin said something like you've lived through all of this before; just please, try to keep in mind that we haven't."

"Okay, Dad," Mitsuki Sanada agreed pleasantly, then remembered and added, "Sorry, Commander."

"Uh, yeah. Bye!" The commander ran off.

Ms. Hayase looked around. "I'm new to my role as a combat pilot. I'm more used to doing scientific work around the base."

Lt. Schwael invited, "Then please accompany me. I'd like to see all of your abilities first-hand."

D had walked up to her counterpart, and for a moment her unearthly eye flashed. Abruptly, she declared, "You are not me." This elicited a gasp from Inspector Yamano, and surprise from Mrs. Nanjyoin and Lt. Schwael.

Dee smiled. "Yes I am. I'm different now, but I'm the same too!" She laughed slightly as D stared at her expressionlessly.

Inspector Yamano and Mrs. Nanjyoin excused themselves, and went to complete their other duties, while the others went to the simulation room. Mitsuki Sanada, Dee, D, and Ms. Hayase climbed into Core Robot simulators, while Lt. Schwael asked Yayoi to hang back for a moment. She spoke in a low voice to her counterpart.

"You can pilot a robot."

Yayoi nodded. "I know how you must feel."

Lt. Schwael smiled, "Of course you do. Please don't worry about me; any sadness I may feel seeing myself pilot a robot will be offset by the joy I feel seeing myself do it."

Yayoi nodded again as Lt. Schwael looked at how the simulation was going. "They're all very good," Lt. Schwael commented with surprise. "How did all of these top-notch pilots emerge in your universe and not in ours?"

Yayoi was able to fill in her counterpart efficiently, since she knew how best to present the information to herself. She concluded, "Ms. Hayase has never fought in a battle, but she should perform well."

"Excellent," Lt. Schwael was pleased. "I'd like to get you and Ms. Rara in the simulators sometime with everyone. I suppose her bodyguards would be prepared to act as relief pilots."

"They should be amenable to that arrangement," Yayoi agreed. The attention of herself and her duplicate was attracted to a screen which had changed to show a broadcast over Darling Wave. The broadcast began with the RaRa Army logo, and they knew instantly it was a trailer.

"Foolish members of the human race who oppose our wondrous Mr. Rara!" Ms. Rah was telling them. "Your base of operations shall soon fall before our mighty armies! At precisely 3 PM in two days's time, the RaRa Army will finally win over the enemies of the world and be able to serve everyone!"

They tuned out the rest of the trailer.

Later that day, Cmdr. Sanada met with all of the dimensional transferees and his remaining pilots.

"I'd like to begin this briefing on a very serious note," he began sternly. "We simply can't have people taking unlimited seconds at lunch. The line today was nearly an hour long, and we're going to eat up all the vital supplies of food we may need later on."

He paused a moment to stress the seriousness of the situation, then continued, "On a minor note, our base is being threatened by the army of evil. Also, there are duplicates and miscellaneous people from a different universe who will be piloting some of the robots."

"Commander, you're forgetting what's important here!" hissed Inspector Yamano from the side.

"Ah, the U.N. Inspector here has reminded me; we now have people from a parallel world doing the cooking too. Maybe that's why it tastes so good. I'll start researching that."

As Inspector Yamano put her head in her hands, Mitsuki Sanada raised her hand. "Commander, can you please tell us who's piloting what robot? It's getting hard to keep eight of them straight."

"I'm glad you asked," Commander Sanada pointed around the room as he spoke. "Units 1 through 3 will be piloted by their previous pilots, while Units 4 through 8 will be piloted by the anomalies from another world. So, I've got the other Dee in Unit 4, Ms. Kaoru Hayase in Unit 5. Then Ms., er, Sanada" he tried to ignore the whispers that ran around the room, "is in Unit 6, the other Yayoi in Unit 7, and Ms., uhhhh, um," -this was awkward, to have someone with the enemy's name as a pilot- "and Mitsuki is in Unit 8."

"The battles are going to be harder to follow," Mena thought aloud.

"I'm going to forget who to root for!" Alice complained.

"We're all on the same side," Mitsuki Rara observed.

Cmdr. Sanada offered, "Okay, I'll make it simpler. Dee's in the green one. Ms. Hayase's in the black one. Ms. Sanada is in the purple one, Yayoi, the other Yayoi that is, is in a yellow robot, and the other Mitsuki is in the pink unit."

"So the other Lt. Schwael is in the green one?" the pilot of Unit 2 asked.

"No, I'm the green one," Dee insisted.

"I don't know why everyone's so confused. I'm sure that Ms. Mitsuki ended up in the white one," Alice commented.

Mitsuki Sanada grunted, "None of us are in Unit 1! Your Mitsuki is in Unit 8, I'm in Unit 6, and the previous pilot is in Unit 1, just like Dad said!"

"He's your dad?" someone asked behind them, and the whole room began to giggle.

"Uh, right, dismissed," Cmdr. Sanada said hurriedly. At least they weren't likely to figure out who Mitsuki Rara's father was, he thought to himself.

Most of the pilots filed out of the room, but Lt. Schwael and her double approached the commander. "Commander, my counterpart has given me disturbing information. Very soon, we'll be branded outlaws by the United Nations."

Inspector Yamano turned deathly pale.

"Thanks for the tip; they probably wouldn't tell the inspector," Cmdr. Sanada mused. "Wow. I'll be a renegade, a bandit, a brigadier!" His jokes lacked their usual lightness; this was a stunning revelation.

"Perhaps that isn't going to happen in this universe," Inspector Yamano said weakly. "I can't believe those in authority would really retreat in this fashion." She took a deep breath. "They must know something I don't."

"Perhaps I shouldn't have mentioned it," Lt. Schwael withdrew a step. "There is nothing we can do about it in any case."

"No, I appreciate both of you telling us this," Cmdr. Sanada insisted. Yayoi agreed, "This really shook up everyone when it happened unexpectedly. I hoped that we might be better prepared to work our hardest when we know the sacrifices we must make."

Inspector Yamano sat down. "They're the ones in charge, and I'll have to do what they say. I'll have to leave the Earth Defense Force and go to another post in the U.N. I'll have to join the whole organization in telling the world that the RaRa Army is right and good. I don't know why, but I'll have to do it; they are in command."

Both the Yayois felt that the inspector needed privacy. They silently filed out of the room, making sure to close the door quietly. Cmdr. Sanada nevertheless started at the noise, and realized it was because he was expecting that the next noise would be inspector saying something. She was still sitting there, with the same stricken expression on her face. The commander wondered to himself why Akane's choice mattered so much to him.

Her eyes were haunted. "I'll have to think about it, though; why they did change their minds. There hasn't really been any change in the basic situation since Rara first declared his ambitions to rule the world. Are those in command really telling me that his ambitions are correct?" Then steel came into her voice. "No."

She stood up. "Nothing has changed. The basic facts are still the same, and Rara is still in the wrong. I'll resign my commission before I agree that the world should be turned over to that ugly old man!"

"Thanks, Akane," Cmdr. Sanada said, heartened by this display of courage.

That courage was required as the crack forces of the RaRa Army descended upon the base of the Earth Defense Force two days later. Around the base, the land was largely level and there were few tall buildings. There would be little or no cover for either side.

The eight Core Robots stood in a line before their base, pointing the muzzles of their grenade launchers towards the foe. Each pilot in the Earth Defense Force piloted their robot from a heavily armored cockpit in the torso. The RaRa jewel-cannon robots, however, were controlled by three people per robot, operating from the main RaRa base on the faux island. There was only one RaRa robot piloted directly; the giant, golden-sheathed Himc, piloted now by Kent Slade.

"Complete our conquest! Destroy all who oppose the glorious Mr. Rara!" commanded Ms. Rah, standing upon the closest vantage point that combined both a good view and a dramatic height.

"Affirmative, Commander," Slade affirmed. The thirty RaRa jewel cannon robots moved forward in a box, and Himc moved behind them. They crossed the boundary of Earth Defense Territory at precisely 3 PM. They proceeded forward doggedly.

"If everything goes wrong, stick to the plan," Cmdr. Sanada ordered.

The Core Robots waited for the enemy to come into range of their grenade launchers. The RaRa Army moved ahead in a large box, just as it had when attacking the base in the other universe. The Earth Defense Force noted a small flicker of light before Himc for only a moment before the light formed into a bullet, barreled toward them, and impacted squarely on the ground in the middle of the line of Core Robots.

The explosion knocked back Unit 2, which had been in the middle, and it fell to the ground missing its right leg. The other robots were moved aside by the explosion, splitting the line in half. Ms. Rah was ordering loudly and gesturing, and in a moment the RaRa formation had changed. Himc was still at the rear, but now the jewel-cannon robots had formed two triangles on either side of it and were running ahead at their top speed. They hoped to drive a wedge between the Core Robots, then have each triangle turn and launch a devastating attack upon the Core Robots. If the Earth Defense Force was divided, it would be conquered.

"Regroup, all Core Units regroup!" Lt. Schwael ordered urgently.

"Ms. Hayase, follow me!" Mitsuki Sanada told Unit 5. She and the otherworlders had, within seconds, rejoined the other Core Robots to one side. Now, with Ms. Hayase and Unit 1 joining them, the Core Robots were regrouped. If only a few more seconds had passed, the jewel-cannons would successfully have divided them.

"We must take the fight to them," Yayoi voiced from Unit 7, and the others, from long association with her, knew exactly what to do. The Earth Defense Force now charged forward themselves and began to fire. Their charge brought them into range, and the jewel-cannons began to fall in swathes of grenade explosions.

Reacting to this, Slade fired his high-energy bullet rapidly just as he had at the start of the battle. He wished he could do more, but the disadvantage of this battle plan was that his other weapons would not come in range of the front lines for a little while longer. For now, these high-energy bullets were his only means of attack, and he intended to use them as best as possible.

The bullet directly impacted none of the Core Robots; they had just begun to dodge in response to return fire from the jewel-cannons. The shock of the bullet did hinder effective dodging by the Core Robots. Yayoi and Unit 1, unable to complete their planned dodges, instead stumbled back awkwardly and away from the blast.

Deep within the RaRa base, the bodyguard trio, piloting one of the jewel-cannon robots, noticed the vulnerability and attacked Unit 1, bringing it down.

Inside the Earth Defense Force base, the bodyguard trio from the other universe was frustrated by what they were now seeing. Unit 7 was brought down before their eyes, and they fumed. Yayoi commented mildly, "At least that didn't backwash me."

Mitsuki Sanada shook her head. "It's not supposed to be able to do that! That stupid thing always has to charge its blasts before releasing them, it can't just keep firing them out without our having time to see it!"

Cmdr. Sanada communicated to everyone from inside the base, "The pilot tends to charge it for a very short time; we don't see its true destructive potential."

Kaoru Hayase charged forward a moment, then suddenly skipped back as the jewel-cannons fired upon the spot where she should've been. In the meantime, she fired upon them and destroyed them. Ms. Hayase was damaged and thrown to the ground by a nearby high-energy bullet, but converted this into a roll and stood again, ready to take on more foes. Himc's beam sliced off all of Unit 5's limbs in two strokes. The Life Sympathy with Unit 5 made Ms. Hayase scream a moment, but fortunately the pain was soon over as the robot shut down, its systems extremely damaged.

"Are you all right?" Mitsuki Rara asked in concern. Ms. Hayase was only able to breathe heavily in reply. Yayoi checked Ms. Hayase's readouts from the cockpit of her own downed robot, and said calmingly, "You're all right, Ms. Hayase. You're not even backwashed. You've made me proud."

"That was awesome for your first time!" Dee enthused. "It was wonderful!" Mitsuki Rara added.

"Yeah, it was," Mitsuki Sanada agreed. "Dee, could you give me a hand over here?" She was close to being cornered by several RaRa units despite her steady fire.

Both versions of D moved towards her, attacking foes on the way, so Mitsuki was twice as covered as she had hoped. "Thanks," she commented, and continued her assault.

Slade noticed that one robot, the pink one, was acting in a familiar manner. Much of the time it preferred to stand and fire its grenade launcher repeatedly, like the purple robot. Occasionally, however, it would simultaneously jump to the side and shoot, as the blue and green robots were prone to doing. All this reminded Slade increasingly of Mitsuki Rara. The robot was out of his range for the moment, so he concentrated on the closer enemies.

The bodyguard trio, relaxing in the RaRa base, also noted this behavior. "That robot's moving kinda like Mitsuki," Alice noted.

"It's also acting like the others," Mena offered.

Ryla spoke, "To get back on subject, Mena still hasn't told us: which fish do you think looks the silliest?"

"Say clownfish!" Alice insisted.

"Clownfish are pretty; blowfish look silliest when they're all blown up," Mena said.

Ayuko frowned at the screen on the RaRa war room base. "Their confidence has been renewed. We weren't expecting them to be able to take out so many of the jewel-cannon robots."

Pres. Rara shook his head. "No, we weren't, but it'll be a major victory for us nonetheless. Sanada can flee to other territories, and by other means, but losing a home base is always a great defeat."

"Of course, dear," Ayuko put her fingers to her cheek.

D observed the battlefield. Only four of the Core Robots remained standing, including her own, and only seven RaRa robots, including Himc, could continue the fight. D jumped through the air as she and her counterpart fired upon the jewel-cannon robots.

Himc's beam was within range and Slade fired it towards the green robot.

"I'm not afraid of you!" Dee declared as she narrowly dodged the beam.

Lt. Schwael reported, "We await your command, sir."

"Launch now!" Commander Sanada ordered.

The ground slowly opened up near the side of the Earth Defense Force base, but once open, in a matter of moments, the Earth Defense Force's artifact carrier emerged. Immediately it streaked towards the ocean.

Slade exclaimed "What!" in surprise.

Pres. Rara grimaced at his war room screen. "Ms. Rah, ignore that vessel. It's going to be outside the combat zone soon enough." He growled to himself, "Well, at least we got his main base. Stupid Sanada!"

"That's entirely irrelevant now, dear," Ayuko pointed out.

Pres. Rara grumbled, "I suppose so," and glared at the main screen: a glare directed towards stupid Sanada. He and his wife could see now exactly what Sanada's plan for keeping his army intact was. Sanada had meant to damage the RaRa Army forces as much as possible, then flee and use that ship as his base of operations. The Raras and Sanada both knew its capabilities because they had excavated it together. It was mobile and fast in the air and under the water; it would be difficult to track it down. The vessel could also launch giant robots for attacks, so Sanada had managed to preserve his fighting strength.

Lt. Schwael was very grateful that they had completed all the major preparations, such as loading spare parts and personal belongings onto the warship, on the previous evening. It helped to know that the people from the parallel universe had been through these trials before. She observed Cmdr. Sanada as he completed the plan by sending his callsign, surrendering to the Raras his land base, and in exchange gaining the right to keep the Earth Defense Force pilots' lives and robots. The commander laughed maniacally.

Inspector Yamano, standing beside him on the bridge of the warship, huffed, "Commander, we just handed over to the enemy our base and the dig site from which all the artifacts originated. The occasion does not strike me as humorous."

Commander Sanada turned his beaming face upon her. "Look on the bright side, Inspector- imagine his face as he sees what we've done!"

From her position on the bridge, Lt. Schwael arranged for the Core Robot transport planes, now stationed in the artifact ship, to retrieve the Core Robots.

Kumu, deep within the depths of the RaRa Army base, pondered the situation with grim triumph. The enemy had not been beaten as well as she wished. Kumu was glad she had the foresight to influence a decision. It had been brooding for months, and now was going to be released on worldwide television in a few seconds.

"I think we'll want to watch this, dear," Ayuko said, bringing up a small subscreen on the main screen. Glancing quizzically at his wife, Pres. Rara elected to have it fill the entire screen and watched the beginning of a press conference.

"The world has been sorely threatened recently," a high official was saying, "by the warmongering tactics of a few people, who have highjacked the international political system in order to force their views upon the populace of our world."

Pres. Rara bristled, "How dare those people speak about me in that way! I'm trying to prevent the world war that would surely erupt if every country on earth fought for the power of the artifacts!"

"They don't mean you, dear. Keep watching," Ayuko encouraged him.

The high official continued, "The Earth Defense Force is today the greatest hurdle we must overcome in order to realize world peace. On this, all the nations of the world are agreed, and in concert, we have come to the agreement which will now be presented to you by the secretary-general of the United Nations."

There was applause as the secretary-general of the United Nations entered the room.

Mrs. Nanjyoin received a buzz on her cellphone and answered it. She listened a moment, then said to the commander, "The prediction has come true, commander. Please tune an antenna to a television broadcast."

Commander Sanada placed the television feed on the titanic main monitor of the artifact vessel, and heard the middle of the secretary-general's speech.

Pres. Rara had been stunned for a moment, then laughed in delight, and now listened in unbelieving rapture as the secretary-general made remarks similar to those of the high official and got to the decision of the world around the middle of his speech.

"The Earth Defense Force is a threat to us all, and so we must all face it squarely. The United Nations hereby declares the Earth Defense Force to be an outlaw organization."

The press conference room burst into raucous applause.

Inspector Yamano's hands clenched into fists, and she glared at the screen. Cmdr. Sanada laced his fingers under his chin.

"Our countries alone cannot defend ourselves against the titans of the outlaws." the secretary-general continued. "We must enlist the help of others. I hereby resign my position as secretary-general of the United Nations, and respectfully request that Pres. Hiroshi Rara of the RaRa Army lead in my wake. I announce of the creation the Science and Technology Guidance Committee, to be composed of the leaders of the United Nations, and ask that Pres. Rara become its Chairman."

There was a sudden standing ovation in the press conference room. Across the globe, wave after wave of world leaders, high officials, businessmen, reporters, and common people sighed in relief as they saw the threat to their daily peace of mind vanish.

"This is something to be happy about, I think," Ryla commented lazily as she and the bodyguard trio lounged in the remote piloting area of the RaRa base. The feed had been piped through to the area.

"Probably," commented Mena. "I can't believe they're broadcasting this instead of the softball game, though."

"I wonder what Mitsuki's making for dinner," Alice wondered.

In the kitchen of the artifact warship, the counterparts of the bodyguard trio had turned off the intercom so they wouldn't have to hear the broadcast of the press conference. "I couldn't bear to hear that again," Mena explained.

Ryla nodded and said, "To take your mind off it, could you please find the knife sharpener for me?"

"I wonder what Mitsuki's making for dinner," Alice wondered.

Dee was loading the pieces of Ms. Hayase's Core Robot onto a transport plane while listening to the broadcast which the commander was piping through to them. "I remember this part," she remarked cheerfully, continuing, "Don't worry, it'll get happier soon." The last parts were loaded, and she moved her robot into position on a plane, which winged towards the artifact carrier. When every piece of the Core Robots and every transport plane was aboard, the carrier began to move further out to sea.

The secretary-general of the United Nations was now saying, "The United Nations thanks you all for your support. There are, of course, many other important issues on the global scene-"

The television cut to a news anchor at a desk. "That was the secretary-general, now former secretary-general, of the United Nations announcing his retirement and the RaRa Army taking his position," the anchor announced brightly. "In other news, is this actress planning a breakup with her two-week millionaire boyfriend? And hear what does this pop star have to say about it? We'll have more after this break."

Inspector Yamano angrily turned off the feed.

"I wanted to watch that," complained Cmdr. Sanada. Inspector Yamano wheeled on him. "Just kidding," he grinned.

Kent Slade looked towards the ocean, where he could see the artifact carrier hovering above the waves and sliding noiselessly away, like a small white cloud. The war had not yet ended, though he was still confident it would do so in his favor.

Chapter 5 Main Chapters Chapter 7