Luck and Circumstance
A bright flash of light raced across the dark room, nearly blinding the three people standing within. Loud mechanical whirring noises sounded from the source of the light, the large device unfolding and growing taller as it activated. The two security guards who had come in investigating a suspicious sound gaped in shock as they saw the previously inactive mechanized armor stand up and open up its hatch for its new pilot.
This by itself would not have been too much of a shock for them, as they had known this particular Infinite Stratos mech was fully combat capable and was in storage waiting for delivery. What surprised them was the person who had activated it. They both stared at the young teen that stood close to the machine, mystified as to how this was possible. "Did he just activate the IS?" one of the guards asked aloud.
"But that's impossible," her partner replied. "No male has ever been able to pilot an IS before. It shouldn't be responding to him."
For his part the boy was completely still, seemingly just as startled by the event as they were, but that was only part of his confusion. While he was staring at the mech in just as much awe as the two women behind him, the reason for his reaction delved far deeper than the impossibility of his gender. In fact, young Frank Martin didn't hear the guard's conversation at all, as his brain was moving on its own track trying to justify the sight before him.
What's going on here? Where am I? What is that thing doing? Frank's hand fell to his side as his computations ran their course. Okay, this thing is definitely some kind of machine, but I've never seen or heard anything like it before. Therefore it must not be real. I must be dreaming. This thought calmed the boy immensely, and he felt his shoulders loosen as he smiled. A dream with a mech in it. That's new.
A hand clamped down and Frank's shoulder and flipped him around, alerting the boy to the fact that two other people were in the room. Some small part of Frank's mind wondered at fact that both guards, and they were obviously guards with their stark white uniforms and matte black batons, were women, but he wrote that off as his subconscious lust talking. Hopefully this won't try to be a wet dream. Those always fail miserably for me.
The lecherous thoughts faded as he heard one of the guards ask, "Did you activate that IS?"
Frank's eyebrows twitched up at this. "I guess," he responded hesitantly. "But what's an IS anyways?"
Both women stared at him in bewilderment, one of them managing to stutter out, "How can you not know that? Infinite Stratos mechs are the most important technology ever invented."
One of them scrutinized him further and suddenly shouted, "You're Ichika Orimura! Chifuyu's younger brother! She was one of the best IS pilots ever. There's no way you couldn't know about IS's."
Frank, understandably freaked out by the women's outburst, cried out, "I have a sister?"
The guards gazed at him in concern now, his lack of knowledge beginning to worry them. The one on the left, who's name tag said Tamicha, swiveled back and forth between the large mech standing at idle and the confused young Frank, as if some idea was beginning to form from them. A look of realization appeared on her face as she turned to her partner and said, "He must have amnesia. Maybe activating the IS messed with his memories or something."
The other woman, Ramina by name, looked to Frank and asked, "Do you know who are?"
Frank looked back at the two women and realized with horror that he was not dreaming. No dream of his was ever this coherent. This is real. Thinking quickly, Frank decided to save the truth of his knowledge until he found someone in a position of authority, so that maybe he could find a way back home before this waking nightmare could continue. "I guess not. I mean I don't even know where we are. Or how I got here. Or what that thing is. Or why we are still standing here since you now know I know nothing."
Tamicha gaped at Frank in confusion, but Ramina nodded in comprehension and said, "Come on. Let's get him to Chifuyu. She's closest."
With that, the two guards gently guided Frank out into the corridor and marched him down the hall, leaving the mech behind them in stasis. Frank used this time to try and piece together what had happened to him. Looking back at his last memories he searched for anything out of the ordinary, a headache, an upset stomach, a weird rash. He didn't know! Sadly nothing came to mind, and Frank was completely stumped. Maybe it's just bad luck. He snorted at that. Bull. Fucking. Shite! Bad luck does not begin to describe this. He sighed in resignation and gave up on trying to make sense of anything regarding his apparent universe swap.
As he continued down the hallway following the two guards, he thought back to what they had said about the machine he had appeared in front of. Something about an 'IS' and mechs and impossible activation… something. Frank couldn't help but wonder why they would name the world's most advanced weapon system after a Soviet heavy tank from WW2. They should have used a German name. German is an awesome language.
Frank was jolted from his thoughts as the two guards knocked on a door and ushered themselves in. As the boy entered he noticed the large floor to ceiling windows lining one side, giving the room's occupants an unobstructed view of the city beyond. This proved to be worthless though as Frank didn't recognize any of the architecture, so he still had no idea where he was. The room itself was very spartan, with only a single desk and some chairs sitting in front of it. The person behind the desk was holding most of Frank's attention. The apparent owner of this office was a young woman with shiny black hair hanging down past her shoulders and had a stare of such intensity that Frank swore it could burn through steel. Gulping loudly as he entered the two guards gently pushed him forward until they were standing right in front of the desk. Ramina stepped up and leaned forward, her hands cupped in some odd gesture. "Miss Orimura, forgive us for disturbing you, but we thought it best to come to you immediately."
The woman nodded sternly and turned to Frank, who felt himself wilting under her glare. "And just what trouble did my brother get into this time?"
This is my sister? Damn I really wish she wasn't. His eyes subtlety shifted down his sister's frame. For more reasons than one.
Tamicha shook her head and replied, "No trouble, or at least nothing dangerous, but he's done something that should be impossible. He activated an IS we had in storage down the hall."
There was a brief flash of shock on Miss Orimura's face as she digested this news, then her face returned to its impenetrable mask. "Are you certain of this?"
Both women nodded in affirmation while Ramina said, "Yes ma'am. We saw him do it. He was the only one in the room besides us, and it only activated when he touched it."
Orimura appeared to ponder this for several moments before turning to Frank again and asking, "Any idea how this could have happened Ichika?"
Frank angled his head in confusion. "Ichika? Who's that?" The boy paused as his brain caught up with him and he realized, "Wait is that supposed to be my name? Does that mean I'm Japanese?"
This time the confusion and concern on Miss Orimura's face stayed a great deal longer and her voice carried a hint of worry as she said, "What? Ichika what happened?"
Tamicha stepped up and said quickly, "We think he may have amnesia, possibly from activating the IS. We have no idea how he did it so anything is possible."
Orimura stared hard at Frank, who again felt far too exposed under her stare for his liking, before she turned to the guards and ordered, "Go and inform the school board of what has occurred, but leave Ichika here. I need to find out how much he remembers."
The two women nodded and swiftly left the room, closing the door loudly as they left. A small part of Frank wished he were going with them, and not staying here to be further scrutinized by the scary lady behind the desk. Sighing, Frank turned and sat in one of the chairs at a gesture from Miss Orimura, trying to bite down his fear of the unknown. The two sat in silence for some time, Frank desperately resisting the urge to squirm. He really didn't like how this intimidating woman was staring him down, as if daring him to slip up.
Eventually Frank couldn't stand it anymore and said, "Well, this is awkward isn't it?"
The woman, whose name Frank recognized as Chifuyu from the name plate on her desk, narrowed her eyes at him even further until they were barely more than slits. Is she part cat or something? Then the woman spoke, saying, "You're not Ichika, are you?" When Frank started rubbing his hair awkwardly in embarrassment she said, "Even if Ichika were to lose his memory, he would know better than to try and be cheeky with me. You, however, don't seem to care. So who are you, and why are you in Ichika's body?"
Frank stared at her in bemusement and responded, "Straight to the point eh? Guess there's no fooling you about me not being your brother. Oh well. Perhaps it's for the best." Frank cleared his throat and said, "My name is Frank Martin. I'm 16 years old and I have absolutely no idea how I got here. One moment I was asleep, the next I'm standing in front of this huge machine that stands up all on its own out of nowhere. No explanation at all." He paused to check Chifuyu's reaction but her face remained blank. A bit nonplussed at the granite woman he was speaking with Frank said, "My guess is something happened when your brother touched that mech that caused me to be brought here. Scientifically that should be impossible, but the universe sometimes likes to do its own thing, regardless of our puny human science. So yeah, that's me and why I'm here, though I don't think either of us are ever going to be happy with that answer for very long."
Chifuyu remained silent for some time, alternatively staring at Frank and weirding him out in the process or at one of the pictures on her desk. Finally she leaned back in her chair; her mind apparently made up, and started speaking. "So in summary: My brother touched an IS, which caused it to activate, and by some bizarre happenstance removed him from his body and replaced his mind with yours. You arrived, having no prior knowledge of these events and were immediately taken to my office. Is that correct?"
Frank found he could do little but nod.
Chifuyu pursed her lips and said, "Were I anyone else, or you for that matter anyone else, I would say you are lying through your teeth or just plain insane for trying to give out such a cock bull story. Unfortunately for me, and fortunately for you, I am me. Someone who has seen the world change multiple times, and even been the source of that change more than once. Were I just about anyone else on the planet, I would not believe you. But I do. So no matter how weird this story of yours may sound, right now it's the only thing that makes sense. With that in mind, let's talk about your future."
Frank tried to hold in his sigh of relief but failed. The fact that he didn't have to spend the next few hours or days trying to prove himself was a major boon. He kept silent though, waiting to hear exactly what his new sister had in mind for him.
Chifuyu leaned back forward, grabbing a pile of documents from her desk and started flipping through them as she spoke. "Despite the fact that I believe your story, it would be safe to assume that very few other people would. Even if they don't believe that though, there remains the fact that you are now in the place of someone who did not have the easiest of lives anyway. You being my sibling already put you in danger in the past, and now you being the world's very first male IS pilot does not make things any easier. As it stands you are going to be a very likely target for multiple terrorist groups and corporations around the world, which means we have to find a safe place for you to stay while we figure this out. The best answer in this case would be to enroll you as a student here at the IS academy so that you can learn how to be an IS pilot. Even a short time learning how to use an IS would make you immune to most forms of attack by default. While here at the school you should be safe from most threats as well as within easy access of me at any time, seeing as I'm one of the school administrators."
Frank just kept nodding his head as his mind ran into overdrive. I can't believe this! Not only am I apparently stuck in this new… place, but now I find out that me simply being here makes me a target. On the plus side, it seems like I get to pilot that mech I saw back there, and if anything could be more awesome than that, I can't really think of it. The now excited boy sat up in his chair and asked, "What sort of things would I be learning here at school?"
Chifuyu cracked a slight smile and her tone descended into an even deeper deadpan than before. "The IS Academy offers the very best in education in training of IS pilots for students from all over the world. While studying at the Academy students will be taught the basics of piloting there is, tactics and strategies for use in battle, as well as the various rules and regulations that apply in the sports and tournaments available to graduates." The older woman smirked to herself as she said, "I knew there was a reason they had us memorize that stupid speech. In short kid, this school will teach you how to use your IS to best of its ability, which would put you many miles ahead of just about any modern military on the planet. Sound good to you?"
Frank sat with his mouth hanging open as he absorbed this. When he eventually regained control of himself he stammered, "So I'm going to learn how to be a super badass mech driver?" At Chifuyu's answering nod Frank leapt out his chair with a very loud whoop. "Oh YES! This is so awesome I can't even put it into words. This just… YES!"
Chifuyu seemed very surprised at Frank's outburst, her hands on the arms of her seat in preparation to stand. She thought better of it though and relaxed into her chair. "Well, that certainly wasn't the reaction I was expecting. I'm glad I don't have to waste time convincing you." Her voice turned serious now as she said, "Now we have to talk about hiding just who you are. The two guards who escorted you here seem to be under the impression that you have amnesia, which is just about perfect all things considered. If anyone asks about your past, just tell them that you have no memory of your life before touching the IS. Not your name, not your family, nothing. Got that?"
"Yes," Frank said soberly. Then his tone lightened considerably as he leaned back in his chair. "Really this sounds like we don't need to worry too much huh?"
Chifuyu furrowed her brow a bit. "There is still a problem though."
"Your personality. You have no way of knowing this, but you are very different from Ichika in a lot of ways. You're loud, outgoing, snarky, and appear to have very little respect for authority." Frank didn't know whether to laugh or wince at the description. "Anyone who knows Ichika at all will recognize the difference in a heart beat."
Frank's shoulders slumped at that. If what she was saying was true, then he might have to pretend to be someone else in order to hide who he was.
He need not have worried though because Chifuyu immediately said, "It shouldn't be too much of an issue though. Thankfully for you, Ichika only really has one good friend at the moment, and he will not be at the IS Academy to recognize you. Your other friends were from your childhood several years ago and it's very unlikely you'll meet either of them here."
Pleased at his new sister's words, Frank let out a sigh of relief. He had little time to relax though as the phone on Chifuyu's desk rang. She picked it up promptly and answered, "Yes? Mr. Chan. Yes I have him here. Yes, I have confirmed his loss of memory. Total sir. Ho doesn't even remember who I am. Sir, I recommend… Exactly sir. No I have not confirmed his ability. A test? Are you sure that's… Very well sir, I shall bring him immediately. Goodbye Mr. Chan."
Frank had tried to follow the conversation as best he could, and the glimpses he got worried him. A test? What test? Does she mean an IS? She can't seriously expect me to pilot one of those mechs now does she?
As soon as Chifuyu had hung up the phone she had stood up and moved toward the door, motioning for Frank to follow. "Come on. They'll be ready in a few minutes."
Gulp. Frank followed her out of the office hesitantly, asking, "Who will be ready?"
"The Board of Administrators. They'll want to see proof that you can pilot an IS before letting you into the school. You're actually a bit lucky. Most students have to wait until the year has started to take their pilot's test. You'll be able to get your placement right away."
Frank felt a pang of fear spear through him. He was going to have to pilot an advanced mech with absolutely no training. This will be just fantastic. He was determined to hide his fear though, so he asked another question. "What do you mean by placement?"
Chifuyu kept on walking, her pace brisk as they turned down a new hallway. "Each student at the Academy has a rank based on their year and skill level. Each year has three ranks, and every time a student graduates to the next year they gain three ranks so they remain at the same level in regards to their peers. Initial rank is determined by a test given during the first few days of school. Their performance in the test is evaluated and their rank, 1-3, is given. Rank 1 students are those who have very little natural talent as a pilot or those who have yet to discover it. They are therefore put in classes with heavier focus on theory."
She paused for a moment as they reached an elevator and climbed in. Frank briefly saw that they were on the top floor of this building before Chifuyu pushed the ground floor button and lead them down. "2nd rank students are those who have shown basic understanding of the IS and know how to perform basic maneuvers, such as walking and fighting during the test. These make up the bulk of the students here and have a mix of practical and theoretical training. They are also the first rank which is allowed to practice in an actual IS on the training fields."
The elevator arrived and the two siblings stepped out into a new hallway. "3rd rank students are top of the year. These students have shown great skill in handling there is and succeeded in battle against an instructor. These are the rarest students, usually no more than 5 per year, and their focus is heavily around physical training in the IS itself, with some more advanced battle theory and tactics taught in the classes. 3rd ranks are also the only students in the first year who have constant access to the training fields unless it interferes with the upper year classes and can use some of the school's better amenities."
Frank silently absorbed all of this information, wondering which rank he was going to be. He hoped he could avoid making such a fool of himself that he would end up as a rank 1, because that sounded like it would be both boring and hard work. He silently admitted that he would probably just be a rank 2, though he held out a silent hope that he could pull some bassassitude out of his ass and make it to rank three. Oh come on, how likely is it that I could master the movements fast enough to use that to my advantage? He hid these thoughts under yet another question, asking with some real curiosity, "What kind of amenities do you mean?"
As Frank asked his question the two travelers found themselves outside and walking away from the cluster of buildings that apparently made up the main campus.
"Rank 3s and upper year students can access several different entertainment or relaxation options that the Academy provides due to the increased physical strain of pilot training. These range from an arcade and pool hall to a private sauna."
Frank was practically salivating at the idea of a practically personnel arcade, though Chifuyu seemed to get the wrong impression. "You should know that you wouldn't be allowed in the sauna for some time even if you earn 3rd rank."
Confused, Frank nearly lost his step and had to jog for a moment to catch back up to the ebony haired woman. "How come?"
Chifuyu scoffed and continued on, ignoring Frank's near slip. "Because I'm not going to be letting a boy run around a sauna built for women."
Frank returned the scoff, annoyed that his sister had so little faith in him. "So I would be seeing them in their swimsuits. Big whoop. I could easily get the same effect walking on the beach."
Chifuyu rolled her eyes at this and said, "You are obviously not from Japan or you would know better. No one wears swimsuits in sauna around here baka."
The young boy in Frank blushed as he realized what a problem that would be. "Oh right. I guess that I am a bit of an idiot for not remembering that huh?"
If Chifuyu noticed his understanding of the Japanese word she had said, she made no showing of it. Instead she increased her pace and Frank saw that they were nearing a huge stadium that he assumed would be the place of his test. "That brings up another point I wanted to speak to you about."
Tearing his eyes away from the giant wall of concrete and steel in front of them, Frank questioned, "What?"
She paused for a moment, forcing Frank to pull up short in his walking and turn to her, wondering what was going on.
Chifuyu looked at him, her eyes guarded as she said, "You being a male is going to cause a lot of trouble, not just for your safety from outside groups, but here at school as well. I don't know you very well Frank, so I have no idea just how you will react to what is likely to happen. If you were still Ichika, then I would have almost nothing to worry about, but you are an unknown. Therefore I want you to listen very carefully to what I say right now." Frank was beginning to be seriously concerned here. "I want you to hold yourself to a high moral standard and NOT get involved with any of the girls here at school. Am I clear?"
Frank was silent for a moment, and Chifuyu wondered if she would have to pull her authority to make him accent to her command. She was stopped though when her new brother keeled over and fell flat on the ground with a soft thud. "Um, are you alright down there?"
"That's seriously what you were all worked up about just there? Honestly? The way you were talking I thought you were going to drop some serious bombshell on me. Clearly you don't know me ma'am, because if you did you would know that I have the absolute worst luck with the ladies of anyone I know, and that includes a lot of fictional characters. You don't have to worry about me initiating anything."
"It's not you I'm worried about."
Chifuyu reached a hand down to help Frank up, which he gladly accepted, brushing off the dirt as best he could on the way up. "I'm not sure if you've realized this yet, but this entire school is made up nothing but girls, so the presence of a single boy in front of several hundred teenage girls is a recipe for disaster. If you show even a hint of being interested in any of them the rest will not leave you allow for a second." She sighed then said, "I just want you to be careful Frank. I was a teenage girl not to long ago myself. I know how bad complete isolation from the male populace affects a girl's mind."
Frank eyed Chifuyu carefully before nodding. "If you say so. I'll try my best to ignore any 'offers'. But if I do fall in love with someone – as unlikely as that is – can I be free to act how I want from there?"
Now it was Chifuyu's turn for silence as she contemplated his request. "Alright. I suppose that would be acceptable, as long as you can prove that you are actually in love with her. Do that, and you can do whatever you want. Within reason of course."
Frank smiled and nodded at that, and the two Orimura's started walking towards the stadium again. As they did, a though occurred to Frank that he soon vocalized. "So this entire school is nothing but girls right?"
"And they are romantically starved due to the lack of guys to date right?"
Chifuyu was glaring at him now as she said, "What are you suggesting?"
"Oh nothing," the boy said as he shrugged his shoulders. "I just think that there is a very real chance that the girls would search out another outlet for their frustrations. That's all."
Narrowed eyes stared back at him when Frank risked a glance. "Is there a problem with that Mr. Orimura?"
"Oh no. No problem at all. I just can't help but wonder how many of the girls indulge themselves in such a manner. I might be remiss to say this, but my personnel estimate would be 40% or more."
"40 perc… that's ridiculous!" Chifuyu exclaimed as she voice rose an octave above its usual deadpan.
Frank raised an eyebrow in surprise. "Oh is it? Tell me, what's the national average here in Japan."
Chifuyu actually sputtered a bit before saying loudly, "I don't know what it is off the top of my head, but I know for certain it is not nearly that high."
His inward smile grew in proportion to Chifuyu's rising voice. He knew quite well that the number he'd suggested was utter BS, but it was an awesome way to mess with his new sister. Another thing about Frank that Chifuyu was clueless about was his habit of trolling his siblings horribly. He suspected that his usual tricks would not work very well on an adult female, but it wouldn't be to hard to a new set of buttons to push. With that in mind… "If you're so sure you're right, care to make a wager on the subject?"
Chifuyu turned and stared at Frank, as if measuring just where to strike him to cause the maximum pain possible. "What kind of wager?"
Frank's smile now appeared on his face as he explained, "If I can prove that 2 or more out of every 5 girls in this school either prefers or is amicable to dating another girl, then I win. If I cannot find proof of this by the end of the year, or if you can find proof that the number is less than 40%, then you win. Winner can force the loser to do any one task they want, so long as the task does not require any sort of injury or possibility of harm." Chifuyu seemed surprised at how properly Frank had stated the terms, if the lack of his being punched in the face was any indicator. "So, you in?"
Silence reigned for several minutes as the stadium before them continued to approach. Frank snuck several glances at the woman next to him, a slight smirk on his face as he walked. Just as they reached the entrance though she finally cleared her throat and said, "Fine. I accept your terms. Only because I know that you will lose. Anyway we're here, so get ready." With that she lead him into the stadium. After walking around the concourse for a while they reached another set of elevators to take them up to the second level.
When the doors opened a middle age man with sharply cut hair and a well-made black suit met them. Frank tried his best to look friendly and said, "Mr. Chan I presume."
The man looked startled for a moment, but swiftly recovered and held out his hand. "Yes, well observed. I am Hue Chan, current leader of the Infinite Stratos Administration Board and, to borrow the British term for it, Headmaster of the IS Academy. Normally I wouldn't be personally attending a student's placement test, but I think we all know why I am doing so now. Young man, we are expecting a lot from you. Be sure not to let us down."
Though he could feel the pressure begin to build up on his shoulders, Frank steeled himself and said, "Sure thing sir. I'll try not to trip over my own feet."
Chan nodded and waved goodbye as he walked into the elevator, presumably to some observation level to watch his test. Once the doors closed Chifuyu lead him into a large room that had two massive doors that appeared to open up on the stadium. In the center of the room was an IS, one which looked significantly different from the one he'd seen in the storeroom.
It had a simply gray and white color scheme, but was very radical aside from that. Despite being heralded as the most advanced system in the world, it looked less like a suit of battle armor and more like a bunch of metal limbs loosely connected together that had wing-like growths for some reason. The whole set up reminded Frank a lot of the second heartless boss from Kingdom Hearts, Guard Armor or something like that. "Um, are you sure it's supposed to look like that?"
Chifuyu strode past him to a console sited behind the IS, mockingly calling back to him, "As one of the head instructors of the IS Academy and an experienced pilot in my own right… Yes. That's what they look like."
Frank rolled his eyes and walked closer, circling round the mech and eying the very thin looking back plate. "If this thing is supposed to be powered armor, then why the hell is there no covering for the pilot in the middle? Wouldn't you be exposed to almost any attack launched at you?"
Frank heard a sigh from behind him as Chifuyu entered a series of commands on the console. "The IS doesn't protect you with physical armor baka. It projects an invisible energy shield that deflects and absorbs any harmful energy, either kinetic or plasma, that it encounters. Now get in so we can start it up."
Shaking his head to hide his laughter at Chifuyu's obvious annoyance, Frank walked up a small set of stairs set behind the IS and climbed into the leg slots. As soon as he did he felt the insides of the leg armor latch onto his clothes and press up against his skin, locking deep into place. He looked over his shoulder and asked, "Uh, should I be wearing regular clothes for this?" The clacking of keys on the console stopped. "Chifuyu?"
"It's fine Ichika, just place your arms in the gauntlets."
Frank was silently thankful of the fact that his shirt had short sleeves. Ignoring his concern for his pants, these are some nice pants damnit,he plunged his arms into the rest of the armor and felt another clench and winced as he felt the hairs on his arms tingle uncomfortably. Once that was over though he tried flexing his arm and felt a massive influx of strength. He experimentally swung his arms around and was surprised at how intuitive it felt. More confident now, he took several steps forward, extremely happy at the ease with which he could do so. He smiled with glee and tried a small jump. Small being relative as he flew up over 3 meters, nearly scraping the ceiling as he did so.
"Watch what you're doing Ichika!"
"Sorry." Properly chastened, Frank decided to save the strength tests for outside, and instead adopted a fighting stance and threw punches as fast as he could. He laughed proudly at the speed and power of his blows, imagining them demolishing a building in just a few seconds. "This is too awesome."
Chifuyu had been quiet for the duration of his exercise, though the look in her eyes was slightly lighter than before, which was encouraging. "If you're done fooling around we can start the test."
Fully secure that he was ready for the conflict ahead, Frank whipped up a salute and exclaimed, "All set ma'am!"
"Very well then." A few typed commands later the doors opened, a flood of sunlight nearly blinding Frank for a moment before a Heads Up Display appeared before him and automatically shaded his eyes. After regaining his sight he took a moment to familiarize himself with the HUD, analyzing the data presented in various organized boxes. He had no clue what most of them were saying but one had a curved colored bar circling an icon of his mech, which he guessed that it represented his health or armor or something. Everything else was so much gibberish as far as he cared. He turned back to Chifuyu, who nodded in confirmation and he ran out into the stadium beyond.
Asuka Belvara was having an absolutely horrible day so far. Waking up to an extremely loud alarm clock blaring in her ears started everything off terribly, which wasn't helped by her rolling off her bed in sleepy confusion. After that things continued to trend downhill, as the hot water in her shower ran out in seconds, the toaster died in the middle of making her toast, the paper was missing from her front door, and her hair had decided that today was the day of its armed uprising against her scalp.
Taking nearly twice as long as usual to recover from her awful morning, Asuka finally managed to escape her flat at half past 9, a full hour late for her meet up with her friends. She consoled herself that they would understand and managed to get to the mall in fairly decent time, skirting around the traffic snarl that normally affected her commute to work. The bad day hit her again with a fury though when she found out that her friends were no longer at the mall. One of them had managed to get tickets to her favorite band, (not Asuka's, thank God) and they had left early to get decent seats. Meaning she was alone for the rest of her Saturday. Normally this would be annoying but manageable for the young woman. She was used to being alone after all and had previously had plenty of fun on such days. Today was not one of those days and Asuka found herself in dire need of support from her friends to make up for her shit day so far.
Loneliness didn't have long to sting her though as she received a call from her work to come in for an emergency pilot test. Her groan drew several annoyed stares but she couldn't bring herself to care at the moment. This was the last week of her summer vacation and here they were bringing her in early. It was probably some whiney national representative wanting to get an early placement so she could lord it over her fellow students. God how she hated teenagers!
The only reason she dealt with being an instructor was so that she could continue to use an IS. Apparently there wasn't room in her national team back in Germany to go on the professional circuit, despite the fact that she could personally kick the asses of almost half of the current roster by herself. Asuka secretly blamed her mother for keeping her from being officially recognized. The 'wondrous woman' just had to insult everyone who wasn't in her intelligence range, which sadly covered about 99% of the human population. It didn't matter to most that she was Germany's best IS designer and engineer. To them she was an arrogant bitch who sadly had the brains to back up her boasts. Friends Asuka's mother does not make.
Asuka felt herself growling at the thought of her mother, the sound growing deeper as she plowed her way through midday traffic to the IS Academy. As she got closer though her mood began to brighten as she remembered just what made being the top instructor worth it. She would be able to pilot an IS again after nearly two months away on vacation. She laughed to herself as she neared the school, noting the irony that her 'vacation' actually forced her away from the thing she loved most in the world. It was necessary, however, because as wonderful as the IS was, it didn't fully make up for all of the crap teenage crap that she had to deal with. The way some of those girls acted, you'd think they thought it was all one big slumber party with all the effort – or lack thereof – they put into their learning. Still, this was just a pilot test, so all she had to do was fly her mech and kick some ass. She was hesitant to dare and be happy on a day like today, but she couldn't help but smile as she got closer and closer to the only love in the world.
She arrived, miraculously, only ten minutes after her call and immediately made her way to the training stadium. With the school year approaching and the IS competitive season done for the year, the huge parking lot that was reserved for visitors to the matches was completely barren, allowing Asuka to get a wonderful parking spot next to the entrance. As the call was an emergency, Asuka made her way immediately to her garage slot, not taking the time to grab a pilot suit to change into. As soon as she entered her launch room she leaped into her IS and started the prep sequence, thankful for what little luck she had today that she was wearing shorts and a t-shirt instead of something fancy. The final part of the checklist was completed and the doors opened before her. Asuka paused, taking a deep breath and feeling the joy of the moment before plunging out the door at high speed.
She flew up to the very top of the stadium, relishing the freedom and power flowing into her. Ah, it was glorious, unlike anything Asuka had ever experienced anywhere else in her life. Every bad thing that had happened to her today evaporated as she let herself be consumed by unrestrained joy.
Her euphoria was cut off as her comm. unit beeped, reminding her that she was here to work. When she answered the call an image of Mr. Chan appeared on her HUD, her distant superior wearing a brilliant smile on his face. A genuine smile, not that political mask he wears for the cameras. This must be really important for him. "Hello Mr. Chan. Nice day isn't it? So, who's but am I kicking today?"
Chan laughed and replied, "Someone very special Miss Belvara. Someone very special indeed. Your job, should you choose to accept it," (Chan was a big spy fan, and was a religious follower of James Bond), "is to take this pilot and push them to their limits. We need to see just what they are capable of. Don't pull any punches. Give them your very best. And don't be afraid to have some fun with it. Good luck."
Asuka smiled confidently as she signed off. "Let's hope I can get some sir. We day has been kind of sucky till now. Over and out." Now focused on the job at hand, Asuka turned and made her way over to the other end of the field searching for her opponent. After spotting her, Asuka's imagination started dreaming up possibilities as to who they were and why Asuka was needed to test her. As head instructor for the Academy, Asuka was only called out to administer pilot tests when the prospective pilot was either A) very, very good, or B) they were somewhere above decent and needed a lesson in humility.
As the red-haired German approached she took the opportunity to study her target. The girl was in a standard practice IS, an old but powerful generation 1 juggernaut that could dish out some heavy punishment when allowed. It was very outdated and had been phased out of active use years ago, but they still did some good work here at the Academy, preparing students for the more advanced IS's they would eventually use.
Asuka's own IS was a Gen 2 Standard Model, a French design that she had fully customized in a bright red and white paint scheme. One of the most heavily produced designs in the world; the SM was a versatile, rough-and-tumble mech that was the ultimate J.O.A.S. (Jack Of All Stats). Extremely modular, the design could be modified to fit nearly any role and in the hands of a skilled pilot it could be absolutely deadly. Asuka personally favored a mix of high speed and defensive ability, eschewing heavy firepower for improved handling and precision. It was a difficult variety to master, but it had paid dividends for her in the past.
Sadly Asuka would not be allowed to use most of this capability in her fight today. All IS's used during tests had limiters built in to keep novice pilots from going out of control. She sighed, resigned to what was likely to be another sad note in an already disappointing day.
She flew closer, and was rather surprised to see how fast the trainee was moving in her IS. She must already be set to level 2. They have a lot of faith in her if she enters the arena with that level of freedom. Surprised and pleased, Asuka kept her approach as silent as possible. The trainee wasn't fooled and instantly turned around to face her. Oddly enough the pilot had only a helmet covering up her face, a curiosity Asuka had not encountered before. Perhaps she wants to hide her identity until after the test, keep me as impartial as possible. Reassured, Asuka began to move closer when the girl yelled out in a synthesized voice, "These things can fly too? Oh this is just too awesome!"
Asuka was surprised to say the least. She doesn't even know that an IS can fly? Jeez where the hell did they find this rookie? Mars? She smiled politely and called back, "Yes, they most definitely can fly. You can too. You just have to know how it's done. What's your name?"
The girl turned away and said, "I'm not supposed to say."
Asuka nodded, understanding it as part of the ploy, and studied her opponent. Rarely for a standard IS, the girl's body was completely covered by a metal exoskeleton, no doubt to continue the effect of keeping her in the dark. Well it was certainly working. Asuka had no clue what body type the girl in front of her had. Funnily enough the armor was shaped somewhat in the likeness of a boy, though she guessed that it was all part of the plan. She decided to indulge the Admins for now and asked, "Well trainee, are you ready to begin your test?"
The girl nodded and said loudly, "Hell Yeah! Let's do this!"
Asuka's smile broadened as she settled onto the ground, her wings folding up to save space. "Very well. We shall start with hand-to-hand combat on the ground only." Close quarter fighting without weaponry was very rare for use in a test, but Chifuyu had requested it of her in the call, so she would oblige her.
A computerized hologram appeared between the two pilots, slowly counting down from ten. Asuka used the time to study her opponent's stance. The girl held her arms loosely at her sides, but Asuka could tell she was not relaxed at all. The trainee's body was poised to strike out in any direction, a defensive stance that the German recognized very quickly. So, this girl has some martial arts training huh? Well let's just see how much she knows. With both mechs' limiters in place the two normally very different IS's were frozen at the same ability level, so that testing would be based around the pilot's skills and talent rather than the capabilities of the machine.
As the clock round down to zero, Asuka readied herself in a runner's position, prepared to pounce as soon as the match started.
DING! The bell sounded and Asuka raced forward, attempting to catch her opponent off guard with pure speed. The tactic failed though as the trainee leaped over the coming attack and angled herself to strike as Asuka passed under her. Surprised, but not alarmed, Asuka easily rolled out of the way, allowing the younger girl to waste her punch on the empty ground below. With her adversary firmly distracted with their mistake, Asuka leaped back at her and launched the larger IS away with a strong kick. The trainee flailed helplessly for several meters before regaining control and landing on her feet. Impressed, the red-haired instructor settled back, letting the rookie take the lead for now.
The girl wasted no time, barging forward with what appeared to be reckless abandon. The instructor was not fooled as she easily blocked the punch aimed at her face and ducked under the kick that followed. Now that she was within her enemy's guard, Asuka pressed up with her legs and released a devastating upper cut that knocked the younger woman off her feet. The experienced pilot allowed herself a smile of confidence, but felt the happy feeling be replaced with shock as she saw a metal leg flying toward her.
The blow knocked Asuka off her feet, requiring a full flip to right herself. By the time that was done though, the trainee's fist had already connected to Asuka's face, the shield protecting her flaring a bright crimson in protest to the strike. Shocked and caught off guard, Asuka retreated to regain her footing. That was some impressive strategy there. This girl clearly had some excellent teachers to be doing this well. More cautious now that the younger girl had proven herself, Asuka relaxed her stance to be more fluid, attempting to adapt her style to fit this new adversary. It had been a very long time since she had fought hand-to-hand, in the IS or otherwise, but hours upon hours of practice kept her still and poised. A quick check of her shield meter showed that she had lost a quarter of her 'health' in the last exchange, an astounding result for her enemy.
The rookie, her face unreadable behind her face mask, once again entered the limp stance, mimicking a snake reared up to strike. The two pilots circled each other for a few moments before both froze in place. Silence floated on the air as they stared each other down, daring their opponent to strike. Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity, both women leaped right into the fray.
How long they traded blows for Asuka could not be sure. Punches and kicks, counters and blocks, all merged together as the two women spared. It did not take long though for an edge to become clear. As skilled as the trainee was, Asuka's experience and extensive training steadily gave her the advantage. Seeing her moment in the works, Asuka deflected a right hook and ducked a left jab, then rammed herself into her opponent's torso. Unprepared for the attack, the helmeted girl was knocked back until Asuka leapt atop her and kicked her into the ground. Readying herself for the final strike, the instructor jumped back, her thrusters roaring as she leaped up as high as she could. Her unsupported mass was too heavy to stay airborne and the red-head began her decent towards the ground, directly targeted at the rookie still lying stunned in the dirt. A satisfied smirk graced Asuka's lips as she wound up a mighty punch that would knock her opponent right out. Caught up in the emotion of the moment, she let out a loud war cry, her roar of triumph echoing across the empty stands.
The trainee was not done yet though. Asuka spied a hint of movement along the girl's arm, suggesting a last ditch attempt at stopping her punch. The red-head had spotted it though, and reangled to dodge the future blow. Now mere feet away from her victory, Asuka was relishing her success when a second glance tore it all away. Just below the focus of her vision was a blur of movement. Aware of the danger as she was, it was already far too late to correct her mistake now. Clever girl.
Just as Asuka's rocketing fist collided with the trainee's IS, a monstrous kick slamed into her side, sending the astounded instructor careening into a wall.
All was quiet for some time, the last bits of dust just settling to the floor as thoughts raced inside Asuka's mind. I can't believe it. She got me. I practically had her gift wrapped and ready for mailing when she gets me completely out of nowhere. How could I have missed it?
After wrenching herself out of the wall Asuka turned and stared hard at the trainee, who had not moved from her crater in the ground. The instructor brought up a stadium report on her opponent's status, not at all surprised to see that the IS's true shield had held up under the limiters. Despite the ferocity of their fight, Asuka knew neither IS was anywhere close to the breaking point. Being designed to absorb hits from highly advanced kinetics and plasma, it was very unlikely some bare-knuckle brawling was even going to scratch the paint.
Satisfied that the girl was still breathing, Asuka slowly walked over to the crater, puzzling out just who the girl could be. She was obviously incredibly well skilled, almost certainly a national representative for her year. The question then was which county she was from. England? France? The U.S.? Germany, (heaven forbid)? Whichever is was, that girl would clearly be a rising star with the first year, perhaps even a future world champion in the making. The instructor clapped her hands in glee at the opportunity to train a potential world champ. A record like that would definitely open up some eyes back home. By the time Asuka reached the trainee's hole, she was day dreaming about touring around the world on an IS team, competing with some of the best pilots out there and soaking in the adoring love of her fans. She could almost see it now.
That 'almost' turned into complete blindness when she climbed over the lip of the crater and saw her rookie champ inside. The training IS had shut down automatically with the end of the test, returning to its standby state, which included removing the pilot's exoskeleton armor and helmet.
The person she saw as the pilot of the IS sent Asuka's brain on a one way trip to the moon. Sitting in the pilot seat of the IS who had given the instructor her best fight in years was none other than the 100% male Ichika Orimura, younger brother of her boss, Chifuyu. A lot of things could have been said which would have jolted the young woman out of her stunned silence, but none of those thousands of possibilities exited young Ichika's mouth. Instead he said in a pleading tone. "Could you help me out of here? I'm kinda stuck."
Asuka, the top IS instructor at the Academy and one of the most unshakeable women to have ever graced its halls, keeled over backwards and fell faint onto the ground, her IS forming a bright metal cocoon around her.
"Hello? Uh, ma'am? You still there? That was a really funny joke and all that, but I'm still trapped down here? Anyone? Help?"
AN: Hello readers of Infinite Madness and welcome to my story. Now those of you who know your stuff will instantly say that this is a self-insert and call it a night, because there is no way a self-insert could ever be good right? Well two things on that subject. 1, I have read several awesome SI's and can proudly say that they were my inspiration for this story. 2, this isn't technically an SI, as the character of Frank will diverge from myself in numerous ways, most of which will not be clear until much later in the story. Until then I hope you give me a chance and will enjoy what I've written. Don't forget to review at the end, even if it is just to rail on me for getting someone's hair color wrong.