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Chapter 10

Sitting in the simulator chair some ten seconds after the joint simulation battle had concluded, Kent's emotions were not what he had expected. He had expected to be more upset at losing the match, but instead he felt strangely happy.

Kent hadn't realized it until now, but he had been growing bored with just running a simulator all day. This experience was fun, fun he hadn't had in some time.

"Well fought, everyone," congratulated Kent. "I don't suppose we could have another?"

"To make it fair," announced Ayuko as she strode into the room and stood behind Ms. Hayase, "I shall join Slade's team."

"Glad to have you aboard, ma'am," replied Kent through the speaker grille on Ms. Hayase's desk.

"Hello, mother," was Mitsuki Rara's demure yet warm greeting. "We weren't expecting you, but we're glad you could join us."

"Are you sure you want to come between a mother and her daughter, Slade?" Ryla mischievously mused aloud.

"I have nothing to lose: I have no interest in the family car," quipped Kent.

"Family helicopter," slyly corrected Ayuko as she seated herself in another simulator. Kent and the trio chuckled appreciatively: the Raras were very rich indeed. She appeared on the field of honor as the blue Core Robot. Himc and the white Core Robot were miraculously reconstituted, and the miscellaneous damage upon the other robot was healed. The environment then shifted as Ms. Hayase began the simulation anew.

"Whoever wins should do the dishes for a month!" bet Alice. "Uh, you know, I mean..." she corrected, and then trailed off in embarrassment.

"Then I'm taking a fall," declared Kent, pretending her correction hadn't occurred.

The setting was now a beach area, dotted with occasional expensive homes.

"Not into la mer, I trust," was Ayuko's response to Kent's last entry in the battle of wits.

"Touche! But, s'il vout plait, I'd rather not lose this match," suggested Kent as he chortled at her funny.

"Then you get the white robot and I'll get those naughty girls," recommended Ayuko as she sped towards her target.

"Mother!" declaimed Mitsuki Rara with feigned shock. "To suggest this ravening wolf annihilate your daughter! And a second time, too!"

Kent fired his beam weapon upon the white robot, but had not yet advanced quite far enough into range. "Ravening wolf, nice imagery. But flattery will get you nowhere," commented Kent.

"Never fear, Mitsuki!" announced the bravado of Ryla. "We're here to help!"

The jewel-cannon robot had evaded Ayuko and was moving towards Himc on a tangent. Ayuko wheeled to pursue it, growled in frustration, and fired frantically in its direction. Several of the bullets hit Himc's shields by mistake.

"Why thank you!" Mena chirped with sarcasm. "You're too kind!"

"It's great we get along so well even as we rip each other to shreds," offered Kent. His beam tagged one of the large sheaths overlaying the jewel-cannon robot's shoulders. He attacked it because Mitsuki Rara had peeled off towards the blue Core Robot, and was farther from him than the jewel-cannon robot. Purple beams from the trio's robot lanced into Kent, but his shields were up and they were repulsed.

The tentacles of Himc rapidly arced out of the cocoon and assembled themselves in front of Himc. They began to wave and meander before the eye, each tentacle taking a random path different from every other tentacle. The trio attempted to fire upon the tentacles, hoping to strike them outside the shield. The tentacles' sinuous undulations frustrated their aim and clouded their perception of Himc's next move.

The jewel-cannon robot was too far from Himc to jump upon it or grapple it, but Himc was within tentacle's reach of the jewel-cannon robot. The tentacles suddenly sprang upon the jewel robot, a tentacle clutching an arm, another tentacle clutching a leg, four tentacles latching onto the limbs before a thought could pass. Each of the four tentacles pulled, and in five seconds the jewel-cannon robot was drawn and quartered.

Mitsuki and Ayuko Rara, deep within their own private duel, simultaneously gasped at what had transpired in Himc's victory. Alice's eyes were wide with surprise, and she said nothing for several minutes. Ms. Hayase stared in horror at her screen, terrified by her sudden conception of the raw power the world was now threatened with. Ryla, after several moments, shrugged and said with resignation, "You certainly won that round, Slade."

Mitsuki Rara sent a simulated callsign and explained, "Neither the Earth Defense Force nor the RaRa Army usually fights when the odds are like this. Well done, everyone."

Kent's elation was like a field of fire encompassing him, and he gave thanks to heaven audibly. Three straight weeks of practice it had cost him to accomplish that feat. The execution appeared effortless, as it should appear for a technique mastered, but the determination and gritted teeth of practice were what was needed to reach that point. It was no secret power he had, and certainly not as impressive or potent as magic. That maneuver was simply his mental instructions to move the robot in a certain way. Perhaps, he admitted to himself, it was even an obvious move, and one that could be easily countered once its surprise wore off. Nevertheless, the praise of his comrades maintained the burning of joy in his bones.

"What was that move?" Mena asked with voice in awe.

Kent grinned with properly humble pride, and spoke:

"I call it the Hydra."

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