Chifuyu Orimura ground her teeth, clenching her hands to the point where her nails dug deeply into the flesh of her palms. The image flickered on screen once more, the words written beneath clearly giving it purpose.
Participate at the next Mondo Grosso, and lose what family you still have.
She looked at the image once more; the IS-core of her Kurezakura already at work trying to trace the sender, trying to find out where those bastards took her brother to. It wouldn't be enough however. Her IS couldn't track them fast enough, not alone, and even if she did there would be laws infringed —it would mean the end of her career as an athlete.
Yet she would have gladly given it away, if only to have the location of Ichika on her map. To save him, she'd gladly give it all away, even the IS she was currently piloting.
She hated feeling weak and impotent; their parents had abandoned them, and she had taken charge of the household as fast as possible. She always put up a strong front, because it was the only way to go forward in life. For Ichika's future, she had gladly studied and bled through her eyes in order to graduate top of the class. She had taken the responsibilities their parents had discarded.
Her IS' right fist slammed against the nearby wall, cracking it as she screamed. Blood dribbled down her knuckles. She would not participate in the Mondo Grosso. She wouldn't, but she would find the people responsible for kidnapping her brother, and she would make them pay.
Even if she had to make a deal with the devil, she would.
Unfortunately for her, the German Minister took too long in coming to a decision to deploy allied IS pilots and hackers to find the kidnappers' base.
When Chifuyu Orimura slashed her way through the thick metal doors…there no longer was a brother to save. The kidnappers had already moved him elsewhere.
Five Years Later
The sun was setting over the mountains in the province of Hokkaido. The assorted greenery of the mountain range was the home of a small and easily forgotten cubicle of concrete, which was barely a speck of grey in the middle of a lot of green. Satellites were useless, and from up close the cubicle looked no different from a normal power alternator.
Within the concrete block, a metal ladder descended down in the depths for quite a few miles. Deeper down, a large hangar for IS and the few men assigned to their handling entered the final stages of preparation.
A black framed IS hovered softly, reactors humming as large overextending metal limbs floated close to its back and sides.
The pilot's face obscured by a helmet, the rest of his body hidden by the thick plating of the forward and backward armor, the IS appeared more akin to a knight clad in steel rather than a nimble and agile fighter.
"We have the Active Inertia Dampeners mounted on the frame," a technician remarked from the side of the pilot, giving the last checks from the outside. "Caliber point eighty on the forearms and the caliber fifty shots are on the side arms. They'll spray in semi-circle. Remember you don't have a back protection. It was somebody's great idea."
"I just need to keep on firing and hold the enemy pinned down," the pilot replied. "Support?"
"Nothing. You go out, you destroy a bit, and then you return. Don't let anyone follow you. Keep it quick and don't waste your time. I'm uploading a map of the main electrical plants of Hokkaido. Whatever happens, you must keep the electricity cut off for at least five minutes. You're acting as a diversion kid, nothing more."
"What's the main show about then?"
"Uchigane and Revive squads moving to capture a few diplomats just returning from the IS Academy in Tokyo. Arachne will provide support to them. It's going to be nighttime soon."
"Autumn gets squads and I'm left with going out alone? Really?"
"She is a part of the Operational Squad. You are not."
"Fine. Dākutaipu ready to depart," the pilot said, clenching his left hand on the controller for a moment.
Checking Absolute Protection Barrier. Energy Drain Stabilized.
Main and secondary thrusters online.
Active Inertia Dampener found. Compatibility check. Compatibility Problem. Rewriting Drivers. Drivers rewritten.
Active Inertia Dampener Testing.
Test completed —parameters within the norm. Active Inertia Dampener Employable.
First Shift Initialized. Dark Type –IS Serial Number 002 ready for deployment.
"Dākutaipu, you ready for this?" Ichika whispered, lifting the controls to gain altitude as the hangar's doors slid open.
"Remember to minimize civilian casualties," the operator's voice came through the Dākutaipu's audio output. "The Board of Directors can halt the Peacekeeping forces as long as there are no visible signs of slaughter. Wouldn't want your pretty face on the most wanted list now, would we?"
"I got that," Ichika replied as his IS cut the connection.
Main Gas Pipes found. Main Electrical Generators found. Suggestion: Coal plant of Tomato-Atsuma provides One Thousand Six Hundred Fifty Megawatts of electricity. Tomari Nuclear Reactor is a viable alternative at Two Thousand Seventy Megawatts for the Hokkaido region.
"I'm not in the mood for nuclear holocausts," Ichika grumbled. "Where are the main lines of power?"
The Dākutaipu soared out of the hangar and through a narrow path dug in the rock to the side of the mountain, just as the sun finally died to leave the place to the night. He exhaled. The Dark Type, his IS, began to gain altitude as it left behind the ground and reached way above the commercial airplane heights. The oxygen levels were stable, and the interior of the Dark Type turned crimson as they warned of the remaining amount of breathable air within the cockpit.
Oxygen reserves at ninety-nine percent. Optical Camouflage Available for deployment.
"It won't be needed," Ichika said. His eyes moved across the map of the Hokkaido region. He could travel from one side of the place to the other in a matter of hours rather than days thanks to the IS. "Established time of arrival to Tomato-Atsuma's coal plant?"
It will require half an hour at full velocity. Do you require music?
"No, it's fine like this Dākutaipu."
Understood, linking with Phantom Task satellite coverage. I am picking up signals departing from Japan Self-Defence Forces base Chitose. The pattern of movement and speed is viable with the F-15 Eagle Interceptor Jet, heading at Mach 2.5 in an intercepting course.
The sound of violins entered the cockpit as Ichika rolled his eyes while his IS spun and twisted in mid-air. The side thrusters pushed him further upwards as he increased in speed, holding the IS limbs to the sides. The music picked up, the IS beeping softly to announce they had reached the point to begin their descent.
The Dark Type, Dākutaipu, was a hit and run IS that was extremely useful in guerrilla operations. It was one of its kind, and it was his. The pilot gripped the handles within the cockpit firmly, stabilizing the frame and moving the body downwards. The thrusters shone as they began to heat, while the weapons fixed themselves as the internal computer calculated the optimal trajectory for the bombing run.
Bombing run initialized.
He pushed the handles down as he began his descent. The rail guns opened fire from his back, as the bullets soared the air. They hit the ground of the coal plant, igniting the volatile gases and materials within. The explosion was visible even from his position beyond the plant, at the end of the bombing run line.
Target neutralized. F-15 eagles on engage pattern.
His visor zoomed on the set of tiny spots over the horizon coming closer each passing second.
Two tactical squadrons, fifteen members strong.
He pushed the buttons on the side of his handles. The limbs' muzzles opened fire as he gained altitude once more.
Picking up signal from IS academy set on intercept course. Acceleration of over 9G detected. Database links to one model. White Knight IS-001 moving to engage us. Evasive maneuvers. Countermeasures Initialized.
Chaffs sprayed out from the IS's back, as a volley of missiles from the Japanese aviation lost their tracking system and exploded in mid-air.
"Why all these guys?" the pilot growled, "Why all these guys!?"
The bullets nicked the cockpit of one of the pilots, detonating the jet as the others broke their formation.
Calibrating muzzle velocity.
The pilot kept firing, the bullets tearing holes into the wings and sides of two more jets as the pilots within could do nothing but eject, before their crafts exploded.
Forewarning of potential terrorist attack leaked to maximize diversion ability.
The jets bypassed him, before doing a back-flip to begin pursuit. They opened fire in turn, aiming at his back and clipping one of his shoulders.
Active Inertia Dampener initialized.
"Fuck," the pilot spun the IS, opening fire as the bullets sprayed in the air and the night sky from both sides. One of the jets' wings clipped, emitting fuel as the pilot ejected a moment before the fighter exploded. Missiles detonated against the front of the Dark Type, leaving the frame unscathed as the pilot ground his teeth from the concussive force. Another jet broke apart as the Dākutaipu shot forward to slice his wing with his bare hand.
The pilot grumbled as he spun the IS once more, gazing at the remaining jets coming back for another pass. He began to pick up the pace as one of the shoulder armaments of the Dākutaipu opened fire, releasing a concussive shock-wave in mid-air. "Radars scrambled. This should keep them off my tail for a while."
Recalibrating aim for sonic speed engagement. White Knight inbound. Absolute Protection Activated.
It was a flash. A giant particle beam cut through the air, bursting apart one of the side cannons as it cut through the shield with the ease of a flaming sword against a small slip of butter.
Right caliber point eighty destroyed. Calibrating. Loss of operation of twenty-seven percent. Still functional. Suggest Retreat.
A giant broadsword sliced the air coming from a tiny white dot off in the middle of the sky, one that soon grew to become an IS. It roared as the blade slammed straight against the front of the Dākutaipu, the forces of the Absolute Protection clashing against those of the White Knight's own.
The Dākutaipu screamed —or maybe it was the pilot— as the arms of the IS began to crack under the strain of holding the energy of the blade off.
"Take this, Phantom Bitch!" the voice on the other side screamed, before spinning and delivering a kick to the IS' side, sending it to crash on the ground. The pilot of the Dākutaipu hissed from the shock, his back repeatedly slamming against the surface as the momentum carried him through the countryside. The crater he ended up in burst a water pipe, as the cold water sprayed from the ground and against his frame.
The White Knight IS stood with the tip of his broadsword right against the neck of the Phantom Pilot's IS.
"Deactivate your IS," the voice said coldly.
Mission Parameters have yet to be completed.
The pilot didn't reply.
"I said, deactivate your IS," the White Knight growled.
The left side cannon jerked, trying to open fire only for the White Knight's broadsword to pierce straight through the metallic frame, tearing it apart.
"Last warning," the White Knight growled. "Deactivate your IS and stand down!"
The timer on the lower side of the visor reached the zero. The five minutes elapsed.
Mission Parameters completed. Energy level critical. Deactivating.
The IS flashed for a brief instant, before turning inactive and disappearing from view. The IS pilot of Phantom Task wore a military jacket and a dark helmet to cover his face, as well as combat boots and a pair of long trousers. He didn't try to reach for his combat knife, or his pistol. It would be useless against the enemy's IS.
"You…are a male?"
The pilot didn't reply.
"Remove your helmet."
The pilot didn't obey.
"I said, remove your helmet!" the tip of the broadsword came dangerously close to his face, cracking the light sheen of tempered glass.
Carefully, the pilot's hands went to the sides of the helmet. He unclasped the safety harness, lifting and then dropping it on the ground near him.
The White Knight IS' pilot remained silent for a moment.
"What is your name?"
The pilot glared at her, but didn't reply.
"Your name! What is your name!?"
"Orimura," the boy said, his eyes dark and narrow as he gazed at the White Knight frame, his cheeks covered in savage scars as if somebody had driven hot pokers into them. "Orimura, Ichika."
The IS White Knight stood still.
Chifuyu Orimura stopped breathing.
"I…Ichika?" she whispered.
Ichika just glared.