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Chapter 7 Main Chapters Chapter 9

Chapter 8:

Ayuko's laser cannons fired from the hull of the Voyageur, trying to hit the combat mecha of the bodyguard trio, Dr. Hayase, and Mits.

"We can't see the weapons, we're too busy trying to avoid them!" Mena complained to Dr. Hayase.

"We'll just hit the Darling Wave antenna," Mits told them, "and be alert."

Akane and Mrs. Nanjyoin, alone on the bridge of the Voyageur, had been rapidly checking the ship's systems. Together, they had confirmed that the weapons were not a normal part of the ship, and the normal control systems couldn't influence them. Since Ayuko didn't have access to the ship's sensors at the moment, she must've had some of her own installed, so she would know where to aim the weapons. Akane huffed. "I don't believe it. How did Ayuko and her cronies have time to install all of this!"

"They didn't, not on the mission schedule," Dr. Sanada said tersely as he and Dr. Warai and Dr. Rara fiddled with electrical wiring. "Ayuko was stalling for them when we were trying to change orbits. Maybe she even got people to do this during their rest periods. I should've figured this out earlier."

"Don't blame yourself," Dr. Rara told him. "If anyone should've figured this out, I should have."

Kazuki called in, "Hey, are you any closer to getting Ayuko's hands off life support? I want to help!"

"We're getting there, Kazuki," Dr. Sanada assured him. "How are you doing, Slade?"

Kent Slade was rather distracted by the danger his wife and yet more of his friends were in, though was trying his best. He had already determined the connection points between the power cables and the shield generator Ayuko had installed in the hangar. He and the doctors had agreed that he would try to sever the cables. Kent now managed to cut the last one.

Kent told them through his microphone, "That's the last one, doctors. Looks like there's no danger to cutting the cables physically. Doesn't seem to be connected to anything else."

"Thank you," Dr. Warai told him. He and Dr. Rara and Dr. Sanada readied themselves to sever cables which, according to what Slade had just learned, were feeding power to the shield blocking the secure room. That was their hope.

"You're welcome," Slade replied. He was moving through hangar by pushing himself off of walls, ceilings, and floors since the hangar's artificial gravity was off. "I'll help fight in your stead, Kazuki."

"There's another combat mecha left?" Kazuki was confused, but remembered even as the words left him.

"Himc's left. I'll take Himc," Kent said as he propelled himself towards Himc's berth.

This universe had only one piece of genuine artifact technology remaining, Zinv. The expedition had quite a bit of technology derived from what people could remember of the artifacts, and they had constructed combat mecha similar to what could be found in the artifact. The Himc aboard the Voyageur was a replica of the original, and seriously underpowered in comparison. This Himc was therefore somewhat disappointing for Slade to pilot, and the other pilots had too many negative memories of Himc to want it.

All that was as nothing now. His wife and his friends, old and new, were in danger. It was time to put aside his pride in having commanded Himc the behemoth and start using Himc the weak. He wouldn't let pride rule him, as it had when he had stubbornly worked for the RaRa Army despite moral qualms. Kent would not stand by while Ayuko once again tried to seize the power of the artifact, and control of all humanity.

Slade muttered to himself, "If I ever hear anyone complain about their mother-in-law," without finishing.

Ayuko's Darling Wave antenna was located where Dr. Hayase had anticipated, but they soon found it was protected by a shield as well.

"Slow down!" Ryla cautioned, "We'll hit the shield!"

"It can't have much power, we'll break through it," Dr. Hayase guessed.

As she realized what the combat mecha were attacking, Ayuko frowned. She carefully aimed every cannon in range.

Dr. Rara, Dr. Sanada, and Dr. Warai were still panting from their run as they quickly removed a wall cover in another location on the ship. The cables they had to cut, being relatively far from the shield generator around the secure room, were some distance from each other. Every second that they could save would mean Kazuki could act that much sooner.

"Fire into the shield and dodge!" Mits said firmly, and the combat mecha did so. The shots crashed into the shield around the Darling Wave antenna, which overloaded and was burnt out. The dodge helped them avoid Ayuko's counterattack, but they were still in range of her weapons. Ayuko prepared to fire again.

Himc emerged from the hangar bay. Slade carefully played his medium-range beam along Ayuko's weapons, carefully selecting a power level and sweeping quickly with his beam to destroy the weapons and keep the ship's hull intact. The hull was heavily armored, but he didn't want to depend on that. Ayuko was surprised by Himc's sudden appearance, and the others took the opportunity to destroy the Darling Wave antenna.

There was barely time for Ayuko to realize what had happened when the three exhausted doctors cut the last cable to the shield generator around the secure room. That shield fell from lack of power. Ayuko growled fiercely. She didn't even want to think about the irony involved. Her daughter, Dr. Hayase, the bodyguards, and Slade had been the backbone of the RaRa Army, which was supposed to give her dominance over the Earth. Instead they turned against her and frustrated her every move. Ayuko shot at the combat mecha outside the ship. She could continue to do that for quite some time.

"We need to get everybody back to the ship as soon as we can," panted Dr. Rara. "It'll take nearly all of us to strip Ayuko of her authority over life support."

Yayoi spoke, "Units 1 through 4 to Voyageur, we have nearly reached our ascent rockets, so we'll be returning to the ship shortly."

"Kazuki," Mrs. Nanjyoin told him, "I think it's safe for you to attack Ayuko's other forces down there. Her antenna is down, so she won't know you hit them."

"Right," Kazuki agreed. He ran towards the habitat on Loki's surface, which had a shield around it. The shield had been placed by the exploratory mecha which had sided with Ayuko. Two of them now remained.

Mrs. Nanjyoin relayed to Kazuki the intelligence sent by the loyal people within the habitat, "The shield generator should be on top of the habitat. One of the exploratory mecha is to the right of the habitat, and the other is to the left."

Kazuki said gratefully, "Thank you, Mrs. Nanjyoin." The cliff Zinv stood before was only about as tall as it was. Zinv jumped up and quickly hauled himself over the edge.

He was only a short distance from the habitat and the shield around it. Zinv fired a gravitational shell tangential to the shield. The shot only struck the shield at one point and impacted on the landscape well in the distance. The massive amount of energy needed to repulse the gravitational shell was too much for the shield's internal components, and it overloaded and collapsed.

Only now were the exploratory mecha turning around, but it was already too late for them. Zinv was incredibly fast on his own, and with Kazuki there to provide light-hawk wings, it moved too quickly to see. One moment the exploratory mecha stood there, trying to position their slow robots to fire on Zinv. The next moment they had collapsed to the ground, their power packs missing.

The backup pilots in the habitat cheered.

Zinv was already hurrying back to the rocket that would be used to move Zinv back into orbit, back to the Voyageur. D, Mitsuki Sanada, Yayoi, and Mitsuki Rara were already heading back to the Voyageur on their rockets. The backup pilots, now free to move, were repacking their equipment for when it would be safe to return to the Voyageur. The shuttle hovered a safe distance from the Voyageur. Kazuki listened with concern to the progress of the combat mecha fighting near the Voyageur.

"Trying to clear a path back to the hangar," Slade grunted, firing his medium-range beam again. He had tried using his tentacle earlier, but it was ineffective in this situation and had been shot. Kent moved slightly to the side to make himself a more difficult target. Several beams knifed past him, only a short distance above the Himc replica's vestigial light-hawk wings.

"Careful out there!" Dr. Sanada panted as he and Dr. Rara and Dr. Warai trotted into the secure room. "I'd rather not find out if you can pierce the Voyageur's armor."

"The hangar can't be used without destroying some of the lasers," Dr. Hayase pointed out as she carefully shot out two of Ayuko's weapons. The bodyguard trio's jewel-cannon robot managed to destroy one before they were forced to dodge several others. The jewel-cannon, as well as Dr. Hayase and Mits, were near the wreckage of Ayuko's Darling Wave antenna, pinned down by the remaining cannons. Himc was near the hangar, evading other laser cannons and trying to destroy them in turn.

"We'll be there soon," Mitsuki Rara encouraged them. "We're going to help."

"Cover us so we can get into the hangar and retrieve our weapons," Yayoi requested.

"Affirmative," Kent affirmed.

Zinv was rising through the atmosphere on his rocket. Kazuki added all the speed Zinv could muster, saying, "Zinv and I are almost there."

Units 1, 2, 3, and 4 emerged from the atmosphere of Loki and jettisoned their rockets. Himc covered their entry into the hangar, but even this new and improved version of Himc had slow weapon reload times. The combat mecha took several hits before they were in the hangar safely.

As they retrieved their guns, they heard Mena wonder aloud, "Our shots are bouncing off that section of the ship!"

Mits exclaimed as she flipped around to avoid several cannons, realized, "It must be another one of Ayuko's shields!"

"It's protecting the weapons near the hangar!" Dr. Hayase confirmed, blowing up the last remaining weapons near the shield with a grenade.

Slade cried out in pain, then added, "I'm taking a beating from them. They'll cut into Himc's vital systems soon."

Zinv emerged from the atmosphere at the same time as Mitsuki Sanada, Mitsuki Rara, D, and Yayoi boiled out of the hangar. While the latter four struck at the shield, Zinv flew towards the Voyageur at incredible speed. The shield was soon broken, and Zinv and the others proceeded to lay waste to the weapons inside it.

"No! Argh! Unggh!" Ayuko shrieked, as she fired every weapon that had just been exposed. She had the bribed maintenance crews install quite a few of them inside the protection of the shield. There were only so many shields she could've place on the ship's exterior without someone noticing before her putsch.

The high concentration of laser cannons, and the many combat mecha in the area, meant that there were plenty of targets for both sides. Several of the mecha became seriously damaged, and many of the laser cannons were broken to bits by bullets and explosions. Both sides launched withering fusillades at each other.

Realizing all hope for victory through direct battle was lost, Ayuko kept firing weapons with one hand and reached her other hand out to the controls she had mapped to life support.

Before her hand could reach it, a flood of material poured out of the ship in a torrent. No one on the Voyageur or in the combat mecha was quite sure who was screaming, everyone was screaming at once. The combat mecha were either shoved aside or used their thrusters to move away quickly. The Voyageur pitched sharply away from the combat mecha. Inside the ship, people were thrown to the floor, unsecured items flew across rooms. The Voyageur shot towards Loki, propelled by the gaseous cloud emanating at high speed from a fissure on its side formed in the blast.

Chapter 7 Main Chapters Chapter 9