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Interlude 13 Main Chapters Chapter 14 Cont.

Chapter 14

Mitsuki Rara had already left, but Pres. Rara waited until Kent had walked out of sight before he gave voice to his question. Ayuko, Kent, Mitsuki, and he had just been talking about the plans for the next battle. Again, Pres. Rara was going to make it follow close on the heels of the last conflict, so that the Earth Defense Force would not have much time to recoup their losses.

"Ayuko," Pres. Rara gave voice to his question now that Kent had departed, "you don't suppose that he and our daughter...?" His voice trailed off.

"Suppose?" Ayuko laid a hand on his arm. "Dear, I'm sure of it."

They both smiled happily at each other.

For the past two days, Kent had been wracked with indecision. He had mulled over and over what he had told the bodyguard trio the day before yesterday. Kent knew that everything he said was right, a very real risk. Still, there were always risks to everything, wasn't there?

The only thing that Kent was afraid of was failing to love as he ought. The obstacles he had enumerated to the trio were real, and could cause her a world of hurt. The RaRa Army might very well be destroyed if he were to follow the course they proposed.

On the other hand, perhaps Kent's proximity to her was a providence, not an obstacle. Upon yet another hand, bad ideas tended to be bad ideas no matter what the situation. This was often the trouble with Kent's deliberations; he began to run out of hands to turn to.

For the millionth time, his soul cried out for guidance. Kent was almost ready to give up, to just ignore the problem posed him and live in denial. Then his pleas for guidance were answered with a single thought. It was so startling that Slade came to an abrupt stop where he was, his mouth agape. He closed his mouth and drummed his fingers on the wall of the corridor as he considered the thought.

In any case, said this thought to Kent as his crafty expression stole onto his face, who said he had to go about this as the trio proposed?

With that thought, the answer to his cry, Kent strode off, his destination changed from the lounge.

When next he saw the trio, about an hour later, they appeared overjoyed; Ryla actually appeared to be crying with happiness for their friend. Kent chuckled softly. They really were the best of friends, he decided.

"You asked her out!" Alice burbled.

They were good friends, but Kent could not resist yanking their chain, as he considered they had yanked his quite a bit before this point was reached. The crafty expression had gotten a good feel for his head, and settled in quite comfortably. While his crafty expression put its feet up on his nose and leaned back in his eyes and clasped an cold drink in his cheeks, his voice began to feign confusion.

"Ladies, I'm not sure what you're talking about! Hm. Oh! We ate lunch together just now, but we've all done that many times! That couldn't be what you meant by asking her out, right?"

"Are we going to have to beat a confession out of you?" laughed Mena.

Kent now turned to mock shame: "All right, all right! I confess- that I'm so poor I could only split a hamburger with her for lunch!" Thankfully this was just a joke- there had been rather more food there.

"We are going to have to beat it out of him," decided Mena. "If we win in the next simulation, you have to tell Ms. Mitsuki that you love her."

"I want everyone to know that I love Mitsuki Rara!" Alice declared in her imitation of Kent.

Kent informed them with a laugh, "I only gamble with my life."

The next battle, two days later, was brief. One of the Core Robots tripped over a parked car as it began to run forward. The three were in tight formation, crowded into an alleyway, hoping to bring overwhelming force to bear on a jewel-cannon robot and then work to the rear of Himc. When one robot tripped, it collided with the others, bringing them all down. Kent snapped off a high-energy bullet at the pileup, blasting off three arms and two and a half legs. Both jewel-cannon robots galloped up, steadily firing their purple beams into the group and causing further damage. The newest Core Robot pilot was so panicked that she hit her personal callsign even after Cmdr. Sanada's callsign came through. Kent felt unaccountably guilty for winning because of that embarrassing happenstance. He pushed the thought aside, knowing that if he had faced a really tough battle, he'd wish it were as easy as the one just past.

"They won that battle," noted Inspector Yamano, shaking her head.

Yayoi felt deeply ashamed, and her honor told her she had to turn to Cmdr. Sanada, bow, and apologize for what had just happened.

"It's not your fault or hers," Cmdr. Sanada assured her. "She only got what, four days of full training? All that time knowing what the big robot was capable of. I'd be scared to fight it!"

"Commander, perhaps they'd be less alarmed if you had better morale yourself," groused Inspector Yamano.

Pres. Rara was in hysterics over the battle he'd just won. "Stupid Sanada's robots tripping over each other! Did you install the Ancient Clumsiness Activator of Doom into them, Sanada? Or perhaps he found a new artifact that gives his robots the awesome powers of comedic timing!"

Cmdr. Sanada was talking with his scientific staff at that moment. The latest readings from the instruments proved that over the past several weeks, there had been a slow but steady and definite trend upwards in the dimensional distortions. Nobody was quite sure what to make of it. Some of the staff was of the opinion that the equipment was simply faulty, while others presented more bizarre theories. None of their oddest theories could top the wild fancies of Cmdr. Sanada, but as there was nothing useful to be done with the scientific data, he had to move on to other official duties.

Mrs. Nanjyoin poured her granddaughter Yayoi a large cup of tea as they tried to work out how to confront a hulking superweapon. The commander had given them the scientific team's report on Himc's high-energy bullet a few days ago. The report didn't manage to note much beside what they had already seen; it was a fast-moving bullet that needed a long time to reload, and was created by the incredible technology of an artifact. Yayoi wondered again how to use all of this information in the larger strategic picture, as her grandmother wondered how to keep everyone's spirits up.

Massive cranes and bulldozers finally managed to move the Core Robots out of the street and into their hangars, and refugees began to trickle back to their homes. D walked to her room in the base dormitories and sat in it motionlessly for hours. Taciturn as D was in her bioroid body, lately her spirits had been even more depressed than usual. It was not easy to see the robot that had killed her friends millenia ago, now winning effortlessly, and herself powerless to prevent it. She stared unblinkingly at the wall.

Inspector Yamano sat in her office and gritted her teeth as yet another squawk of an angry female voice clawed its way through the phone line towards her. When it paused for a moment, Inspector Yamano inquired, "And why, Ms. Plath, did you leave your car parked in the middle of a narrow alleyway?"

There was more angry cawing and carping, and Inspector Yamano remarked, "Obviously, however many times it escaped destruction in the past is of little concern now. When you left it out there, you took the risk that it might get damaged." There was an inarticulate screech, and Inspector Yamano hastily conceded, "Totally destroyed, even. The point is that the United Nations broadcast its warning about the impending battle so that this sort of thing would not happen. You had the opportunity to move the vehicle."

Akane was getting very frustrated talking with this Ms. Gwyneth Plath. "I seriously doubt it was even legal for your vehicle to be parked there in such a small street; you probably violated traffic laws. Under international law, civil suits may not be filed for destruction of property during a military action, so your threat has no legal standing."

The angry woman's response to this would've done an opera singer proud, if the opera singer valued volume and sheer passion over tone, note, and overall pleasantness.

"Slade, you haven't been feeling ill, or odd, have you?" Pres. Rara asked him when next he saw him.

"No, sir," Kent replied with certainty. The question set itself up for a wealth of comedic possibilities, but as some might be turned against him, he wished to refrain from joking. "That cut on my head healed a long time ago. It hasn't given me any trouble; no fainting or difficulty remembering things. I feel fine."

"Hm, I was just wondering. There's been a lot of instability between dimensions ever since you came to this world. Not all at once, it's just been slowly increasing. It just occurred to me that it might affect you. Let me know right away if it does."

"I will sir. I don't really feel any different than I did when I first came to this world," Kent reassured him.

"You don't feel any differently?" Pres. Rara looked rakishly at him.

Kent returned the look. "Not physically, sir." So apparently he knew about the date, Kent thought to himself. It was just as well; Kent was glad to know that he approved. He would've been spectacularly embarrassed if his actions got his boss in trouble with her boss, not to mention potentially throwing him out of a job.

At that moment, Mitsuki Rara walked down the hall. Pres. Rara looked at her fondly, and then excused himself with perhaps too much ceremony and alacrity to convince one that he didn't know what was occurring between the new pilot and his daughter. Kent thought he heard a booted footfall behind a nearby doorway, but he couldn't say for certain if Mitsuki was being tailed by her bodyguards.

"Please do tell us if you feel ill," Mitsuki Rara told Kent. "We're all very concerned about your health." Kent couldn't be certain, but he thought she might be blushing slightly. It was unfortunate, he decided, that he had not only bad eyesight, but also partial colorblindness.

"I assure you that I shall," Kent gallantly obliged. "Should I drop dead, I'll tell you first. As I'm still alive, I was wondering if you'd care to join me outdoors. It's rather nice weather."

Her eyes expanded in happiness, and now Kent was fairly certain she was blushing. "I would enjoy that. Just give me some time and I can make us a lunch!"

"I'll look forward to that," Kent told her as she departed.

Kent had decided that the best thing he could do would be to begin dating very subtly and quietly, simply by asking her to join him for lunch two days ago. He couldn't be certain that what he felt for her was not simply a wash of hormones, and he wasn't sure she thought much of him. Kent thought this strategy of starting very small was far safer than the strategy proposed by her bodyguards. The bodyguards seemed to want a full romantic onslaught from the very beginning, and Kent feared the onslaught might have as its result indiscriminate carnage.

He was prepared to take things slowly. No longer considering himself a prisoner in this world, Kent still was keenly aware he had quite a lot of time before he could even hope to return to his old universe, assuming he ever could. Whatever happened, he wasn't going to jilt her. There was still plenty of time to see if they even liked each other that well, let alone what to do about traveling between universes.

For her part, Mitsuki Rara seemed to be entirely more enthusiastic about spending time with him than he had hoped. He knew she was nice and went to a lot of trouble for others. She had seen in him these same qualities as well as a determination and loyalty that she admired him for. From observing him all this time, she knew he held honor and decency in high regard. It was some comfort to her to think that a good person was in charge of what was clearly the deadliest weapon of the RaRa Army. Mitsuki Rara continued collecting and sorting ingredients as she thought. Kent cared deeply for his family, as she did for her parents. Her love for her parents only made her sadder when she considered the fact that despite all the propaganda she spoke, truly their only purpose was to conquer the world.

Mitsuki Rara finished folding the cloth over the lunchboxes. He had not believed her before when she tried to tell him what was happening. Perhaps he would come to believe it himself the longer he was there, in the midst of evil. She hoped, even if Kent did not love her, that he would come to see just what a horrible travesty the RaRa Army was. She hoped it though he might come to despise her and his own self for their furthering its evil cause.

Inspector Yamano wondered however this enraged Ms. Plath had gotten her cellphone number. She'd have to search for it on the Internet when this call was done and see if it was listed anywhere a civilian could access it.

"Guess what, Inspector Yamano!" was the greeting of the riled madam. "I just joined The People's Committee for a Chaotic Overthrow of this World by the RaRa Army."

"You actually want that ugly old man to rule the world?" leapt out of Inspector Yamano's mouth. "He's not going to compensate you for that car, you know."

Ms. Plath had apparently been practicing talking at very high frequencies so that both humans and dogs could hear her distinctly. "They gave me a very nice looking volunteer's T-shirt. That's more than the Earth Defense Force has given me! What's more, the Committee gives me respect!"

"No, I don't think even a handsome T-shirt comes close to respect or compensation for an automobile. If we're comparing material benefits, the United Nations clearly respects me far more than the RaRa Army respects you."

"You will bow before the might of the RaRa Army!" was Ms. Plath's high-pitched claim as she hung up: stolen, of course, from Ms. Rah.

Akane put away her cellphone. She allowed herself one point of admiration for Cmdr. Sanada, which was that his determination to prevent the Raras' victory was as strong as her own. They were not going to lose.

She reminded herself of that as she stood in the control room of the Earth Defense Force one week later, wondering what the ugly Rara's next stroke would be in this war. She didn't have long to wait; a flood of jewel-cannon robots was upon them.

"30 enemy units confirmed," reported one of the sensor officers.

A giddy surge of emotion buoyed Inspector Yamano's soul. The big unit didn't seem to be there. "No sign of the big robot?" she asked with fierce expectancy.

"No, ma'am, it's trailing along behind them," the same sensor officer replied.

Now Akane could see it on the screen, trailing almost leisurely behind the purple-shouldered robots. "And why wasn't it confirmed?" she groaned, her hopes dashed. "It's too big to miss, neh?"

The officer stuttered a moment, not knowing how to say he thought it so obvious that the big unit was coming that he had said nothing about it.

"It'll be all right," Cmdr. Sanada said breezily. His calmness simultaneously infuriated and inspired Akane. "Rara," continued Cmdr. Sanada judiciously, "has just given us 30 targets to shoot at."

Yayoi nodded. She decided to use the same tactics that had worked so well against the first large mass of those small units. She ordered Unit 3 to charge the front of the formation, while Unit 2 circled to their left flank and Unit 1 to the right flank. They might not be able to get the big robot, but they'd annihilate the little ones a second time.

Slade remained in the rear of the formation, as Ms. Rah had ordered him to do. He saw the three Core Robots begin to attack as they had before, in the battle when they decimated the first shipment of jewel-cannon robots. Slade was here to make sure the same thing did not happen to the second shipment. He fired a high-energy bullet at the white robot, and it leapt aside. It had successfully dodged the bullet, but Kent's main intent was still fulfilled. The white robot's forward momentum had been lost, and it would need time to reach its full charging speed again. Kent quickly served the other two Core Robots in the same manner, not having dwelt overlong upon his observations of Unit 1. It was growing harder and harder to remember that he had ever piloted it.

Within the space of six seconds, Himc's long-range firepower had changed the course of the battle. The Core Robots had been attempting to outflank on two sides the main group of jewel-cannon robots, but the high-energy bullets had slowed them critically. Now the main group was following the tactics Ms. Rah had decided upon in the wake of the first shipment's fiasco. The van charged the Core Robot in the middle, which once again was Unit 3, while the remainder of the jewel-cannon robots split apart into two columns. Each column charged one of the two remaining Core Robots. After many joint simulations and discussions, the plan moved perfectly.

The enemy, of course, had also been trained well. This time, even the newest pilot kept her head; the Core Robots fired their grenade launchers at the incoming RaRa forces, bringing many down. Himc, however, was present. Kent was worried about hitting his own forces, so close to the Core Robots, so he mostly used his medium range beam to cut off the retreat for the Core Robots. When he did this to Unit 1, it turned abruptly, firing twice and destroying four robots. Two other jewel-cannon robots had already flanked it, and finished off Unit 1.

Kent turned towards Unit 2, and scored his beam into the road behind it. The robot promptly dodged to its right, avoiding incoming purple beams, and also managed to move backwards slightly. Kent fired, attempting to hit the red robot, but it lunged forward. Seven jewel-cannon robots ran up to it and shot it. They disabled through sheer force of numbers Unit 2.

D had run and shot calmly into the van of the jewel-cannon robots as they charged her, quickly changing position so their return fire missed. She ran away and ducked behind an edifice. The robot piloted by Mitsuki Rara's bodyguard trio ran towards the building she was sheltered behind.

"Blue robot, I know you're not ready for us-" began Alice with belligerence.

Unit 3 had now run down a side street, and was out of sight of the trio for a moment. The trio ran down the side street, their guns blazing, but they entirely missed the blue robot. It was crouched behind the corner at the opposite end of the street, and as soon as the jewel-cannon robot appeared in the side street, D fired once. Above the trio, the light indicating their robot's viability abruptly darkened.

"I guess she was ready," Alice completed her statement quietly.

The few jewel-cannon robots remaining of those assigned to attack D lost her in the maze of the city, shrouded by the fog of war. Ms. Rah called on Slade to take care of D's robot. He was able to see over several buildings, so he was able to locate her, and severed her robot's right arm and leg with a sweep of his beam. Just then, Cmdr. Sanada's callsign came through to his cockpit, as it did to everyone in the RaRa Army.

D's fearful expression left her face. She knew Himc was capable of far worse destruction, but for now it was being kept in check by the rules of war Cmdr. Sanada and Rara made up. She wondered if Himc would long obey those strictures.

This time it was Slade who bushwhacked the trio. They didn't look particularly despondent, but Kent carried through with his intention of cheering them up anyways.

"There's always next time," the trio heard Kent say.

"That's very true," Ryla answered, pleased. "Thank you, Slade."

Kumu was quite pleased with the direction the battle had taken. Slade, danger though he was, was restricted by his ridiculous scruples. Even if there was not that, he was restricted by her limiters, whose existence he didn't even suspect: the limiters that prevented most males from piloting robots. He was devastation kept in check and turned upon Sanada's army. The Earth Defense Force was practically on the run after losing so many battles.

Not all battles, of course, were visible and upon the front lines. Kumu perused some papers she had purloined, gathered in her personal shadow war. She knew the world was already losing faith in the Earth Defense Force, and that most of it was already under the control of the RaRa Army. It remained only for the entire planet to turn decisively against Sanada, and when it did, victory would be very close.

Mena, some weeks later, was walking down the corridors of the base to rejoin Ryla and Alice for another chat with their friend Ms. Hayase, and saw Mitsuki Rara near at hand. She was smiling greatly, and seemed to be holding her hand. Mena looked at the hand, squealed loudly, and rushed forward to hug her leader and friend. Ms. Hayase and the rest of the trio heard her and emerged from the room. They soon saw that now Mitsuki Rara wore an engagement ring.

Kent and Pres. Rara chatted comfortably alone. "Don't think," Pres. Rara was saying, "that this makes you high and mighty. She's still going to be your boss."

"I never thought anything different," Kent told him, adding, "I knew perfectly well that being married would only present her with more opportunities to boss me around!"

Both men laughed raucously. Mitsuki Rara entered the room as they were still laughing. "What could you both be talking about?" she asked.

"You, of course," Kent said, standing up to greet his fiancee.

In some ways, the progression was entirely logical- in others it was extremely rapid. Only a few weeks had sufficed to move Kent from refusing to even date his commander to asking her to marry him. If someone had challenged him upon this change of mind, he would've probably said something like, "Another sad case of a pretty face subverting sober judgment." In reality, he had decided he knew her, and was certain that love between them could and did exist. The RaRa Army had not imploded in favoritism and gossip, and so Kent could sense no other obstacles between them.

Mitsuki Rara looked at him. "Do I want to know what you two were saying about me?"

"No," Kent smiled at her. She returned the smile, but sighed slightly at the secret being kept.

Pres. Rara stood up. "I'll tell you anyways," he said expansively. "We were just affirming that you are still in command."

"As ever," Kent quipped.

She smiled again as her father continued. "At tomorrow's battle, I'm going to need everyone working together with all their might. Can you do it?"

There was very little hope as yet of changing anyone or anything here in the RaRa Army. Mitsuki Rara was still certain that things could still turn out better than they were now. That was why she had accepted Kent's proposal; she believed that in time, he would do what was right, because that was what he always tried to do, even now when he was alone in an odd new world. It was what she had been doing for so long in her own home.

"Yes," Mitsuki Rara told her father. "We'll do our best. Right, Kent?"

"Of course," Kent nodded.

Standing in the expanded Core Robot Hanger, Inspector Yamano breathed in delight as she examined the five new Core Robots. Cmdr. Sanada walked up behind her, only now free of other duties so he could do the duty of examining the robots. He asked, "Do you like them?"

"Of course I do!" Akane exclaimed. "They're excellent models. They should be able to push back that ugly old man."

Yayoi joined them. "Inspector Yamano," she commented, "perhaps the time is right for us to name the units."

"Yes," Akane said with some animation, "that green one there should be-"

"Huh?" said a confused Cmdr. Sanada. "It's already Unit 4."

A horrified expression doused Akane's face, while a merely depressed one crossed Yayoi's face.

"Yes, and then the next one's Unit 5, and the next one-" Cmdr. Sanada was cut off by Inspector Yamano.

"Commander, those names have no individuality! No personality!" she protested.

"Sure they do," Cmdr. Sanada said easily, "Unit 5 is a different name and even a different color from Unit 2, wouldn't you say? And then Unit 6, that's a different name from all of them. See, they all have their own individual names."

Akane fumed in amazement while Yayoi merely looked askance at the commander. Finding voice again, Akane wailed, "You named D this same way too, with a temporary name and then procrastinating and then declaring the problem solved! Look how she turned out! They've got to get better names than her!"

"D's all right. She's just fine. Isn't she, Yayoi?" Cmdr. Sanada turned to her.

Yayoi's unease at this question was less from her being placed in the middle of an argument between two superiors, but more for honest concern for D's welfare. "Sir," she explained, "while her piloting skills remain excellent, since the last battle she's been even more withdrawn than usual."

Cmdr. Sanada nodded in concern, while Akane hammered home her advantage, "Do you see, Commander! You have to do something!"

He nodded again. "Yes, I've tried talking to D a few days ago, but you're right, maybe trying again is a good idea. Thank you both for bringing that to my attention. Until next time!" He promptly and hurriedly walked towards the dormitories to find D.

Inspector Yamano growled in frustration, while Yayoi's face had turned to resignation. "We did our best, Inspector," she comforted her.

Akane huffed and decided, "Perhaps next time we'll just have Mrs. Nanjyoin name anything before it even gets into his hands."

On the morrow, Ms. Rah declared battle to be joined, and Himc and many jewel-cannon robots took the field. At first, they could not see any sign of the Earth Defense Force. There was next a whooshing sound as eight Core Robots leapt off the ground, surmounted several skyscrapers, and aimed their grenade launchers squarely upon Himc. They fired several volleys synchronously, each round impacting Himc at exactly the same time.

They were only able to do this for a few moments. In the next, Kent had fired a high-energy bullet at the rooftop upon which Unit 5, a black Core Robot, stood. It was the robot closest to him. The rooftop showered debris, and Unit 5 toppled forwards, hitting the ground with a slam. One of its feet had been disintegrated, and the other was melted beyond recognition past the ankle. Kent had now come within beam range, and severed its limbs while it remained on its face.

Meanwhile, the jewel-cannon robots had charged the other Core Robots. Yayoi ordered the Core Robots to fall back from the rooftops and engage any enemies attacking them.

The bodyguard trio and two other jewel-cannon robots fired upon D's Unit 3, but the blue robot leapt off its skyscraper, returning fire during its controlled descent. The other Core Robots fought similarly.

Pres. Rara noticed that one of the new enemy units was colored hot pink. He chuckled at that.

"Why are you laughing?" Ayuko asked him. "Nothing good has happened for our side for several seconds now."

Rara was astonished to realize he had no idea why a huge pink robot commanding vast destructive power was funny. It simply was. "I don't know," he eventually said.

"Ms. Rah," Pres. Rara then asked from his war room, "have those new robots got any advantages over the old ones?"

"They haven't displayed any yet, sir," Ms. Rah informed him. "There are five pitiful new units in addition to the puny three. Of those eight robots that stand against your might, one has already been dispatched."

Ayuko examined the war room screen. Each of the five new robots was colored differently; a green robot, a yellow robot, the now-disabled black robot, a purple robot, and a pink robot.

Kent nodded in approval of the color choices on the new robots. Being so distinct, it would be very difficult to mistake them for each other, even for people with some colorblindness like him. The pink robot was nearly an exception to this rule, but no matter.

Ms. Rah noticed that the pink robot was only being attacked by one RaRa robot, and seemed to be holding it off. She ordered Slade, "Attack the pink robot!"

"Yes, Commander," Slade agreed. He hesitated a moment, checking to be sure which robot really was the pink one, and rapidly pivoted Himc towards the correct robot. The rotation wedged Himc's golden sheath against the buildings on either side of it. Slade tried moving forward and backward and rotating again, but Himc wouldn't budge.

"What is wrong with Himc!" Pres. Rara demanded; all the data on his screen indicated its functions were nominal.

Slade was humiliated. "I'm stuck, Commander," was all he could tell Ms. Rah.

The green robot, which Slade had been attacking before Ms. Rah's order, fired upon Himc's back to no avail.

Yayoi ordered, "Unit 4, good instincts, but break off your attack! Assist Unit 3!"

D, unemotionally piloting Unit 3, had managed to destroy one of her three pursuers. The other two, including the bodyguard trio, were still attacking. D leapt over a building. The two jewel-cannon robots followed, but D had quickly turned around and crouched. She brought down another of the two jewel-cannon robots.

Yayoi carefully noted the situation that Himc was in. It might be possible in the future to more fully exploit it.

Slade now used his tentacles to push the buildings off of Himc and the beam to cut the buildings away. He managed to free himself relatively quickly, but it felt like an eternity.

Unit 4 was still running to D's aid. Ms. Rah told the jewel-cannon robot facing the pink robot to go and assist in taking out the blue robot. Himc took the place of the departing jewel-cannon robot, unperturbed by the Core Robot's grenades. Without even using his tentacles, Kent sliced off the pink robot's arms and legs with his medium-range beam.

D sprang up from her crouch, turning to face the jewel-cannon robot of the bodyguard trio, the last of the three that had been pursuing her. They fired at each other and dodged. As they did so, the trio fired again, not even really expecting that they'd actually manage to hit. Their purple beams did indeed strike Unit 3, and it collapsed to the ground. D's robot lay motionless.

The jewel-cannon that had been coming to fight the blue robot instead attacked Unit 4. It was the RaRa robot who won that engagement.

Cmdr. Sanada stood up from his seat. "What're D's readings?" he demanded.

"Her life signs are good," the officer declared, "and it doesn't look like her life sympathy is adversely affected. Unit 3's core link, however, has been damaged, disabling the robot. Core Unit ejecting."

"Hooray!" shouted Alice. "We finally got that blue robot."

"We knocked it out of the park!" Mena laughed.

Ryla, though glad they were winning, said nothing. After all, the blue robot had defeated them only the battle before.

"How many backwashes?" Inspector Yamano asked.

"Three," was the reply.

"Three too many," sighed the commander.

"Regroup!" Yayoi ordered. "All Core Robots, meet at the first point!" She was referring to a position previously agreed upon with all the pilots- an intersection of streets that also happened to be something of a border between the urban area and the suburbs beyond. Yayoi hoped that the availability of both open ground and cover would give them some advantage.

"The poor doctor must be so disappointed," Ayuko said with sarcasm aplenty. "How sad."

Pres. Rara laughed. "Did he really think more worthless copies would help?" he joked.

Interlude 13 Main Chapters Chapter 14 Continued