Episode 3: The Soldier of Fortune! Guncannon's Wager!
Light danced across the stars as the MS clashed over and over again.
The shrill screech of the warning sensor filled Ray's ears.
Bright lights blazed through space behind him, and the Gundam twisted, avoiding their destructive gleam. White smoke erupted with a hiss from the Gundam's crotch, blinding his mindless pursuers for a few precious moments.
They collided with the colony wall, exploding violently.
The RX-78-2 flew forwards, its shield raised before him.
He pulled up, looping around and watching the bright slashes fly beneath his feet.
His foe had been disoriented. Pulling out his beam sabre, he pounced.
A clash of plasma, and a burst of yellow light. Ray shielded his eyes...
"WHAT THE HAY IS GOING ON!?"
"I heard you the first time. There's no need to yell!" the boy in red replied, "Anyhoo, Bell, you're under GP police investigation for potential GM activities!"
"Well, yes, I pilot a GM. I made it myself."
"I didn't mean- Kid, do you have any idea what's going on?! I'm trying to arrest you!" the boy yelled.
In response, Bell tilted his head curiously, "Wait, you didn't want to buy my upgrade parts?"
"No- Actually…" the officer seemed conflicted for a few seconds, "Hm…"
Ray spoke, "Why are you doing this?! He's just a high school kid!"
"Was it not clear before? We've been chasing this GM around for months. We suspect that it may be related to a series of illegal Gunpla Mafia activities."
"Wait, you don't mean… that mafia?!"
Ray had heard the reports. With the advent of Gunpla battle, of course it would give rise to illegal usage of the tiny battle robots… Somehow. Inexplicably, this eventually escalated to the formation of a literal mafia themed around, and that made heavy use of, Gunpla. The reports were everywhere.
But of course, Ray didn't take them seriously. Who would!?
"….Isn't this a little excessive? What crimes could a mafia based around tiny plastic battle robots even commit?!"
The officer's face darkened, "…Drug smuggling. Rigging bets. Breaking and entering. Blackmail. Maybe even Gunpla forgery for profit." He spat the last words, "All those parts. All those good, valuable, and very profitable bootlegged parts."
"…And you think that Bell is part of them?"
"We have proof that a sleek, modified GM-type was operating in this area and was involved in several criminal activities." The boy flipped out a notepad, "I'm afraid that we have to take him into custody for questioning until we can prove he's innocent."
"T-This is crazy!" Bell exclaimed, "Mr Officer, I'm just a high-school student, and GM Alpha is… It's my own creation!"
"Look, I'm just doing my job. Come along now."
He led Bell away, "Damn… I hate this part of my job…"
"Wait, hold on!"
Bell turned back to face Ray, "Mr Ray, you can't just let me be guilty… Please, help me!"
Ray watched silently.
"You can't do anything right now…. But I know you can help find who actually did it! Whoever stole my design can't have gone far…" Bell began to cry, "Please. I'm innocent!"
The officer led the young boy away, vanishing far from the boy in blue's sight.
The air seemed colder. Above, clouds drifted over the sun, as the wind rustled through the trees behind Ray. He had only known the young MS builder for a day, and yet…
"Bell…" Ray muttered under his breath.
Just as soon as I had met him, he was forced to leave me...
He couldn't be part of the GM… He couldn't be!
Now, I'm faced with the hardest of choices… I could use the time now to search for the real culprit, or to continue climbing the league ladder…
And I refuse to leave Bell behind.
I had to find out more about the officer. It was the only lead I had at the time.
I ran a search online. The name Scott Hakai was connected to a Gunstagram account. That was connected to his C-Book account. From there, I found his place of work.
Ray walked down the street, his coat pulled over his body. His entire being pulsed with determination.
And I honestly wish I hadn't.
He stood outside his target, glancing down at his phone again, before looking up and checking the sign above the establishment.
'Soup and Body Pillow Emporium'
The door swung open, and the man behind the counter turned to face the door.
"Greetings. Would you like to destroy your soul or heal it?"
"Why would you make such a ridiculously specific store?"
"I dunno, but we're satisfying some kind of crowd. Why else would you keep buying from here?"
Ray scratched the back of his head, "I… I'm not a customer. I'm looking for Scott."
The man behind the counter sighed, "Oi, bro. We got another guy looking for you."
Cue a sudden burst of smoke, followed by a loud clanking from the ceiling and a thud before Ray. When the smoke cleared, a pair of brown eyes stared into Raymond's very soul.
…Or, as it turned out, his wallet.
"Welcome to Scott Hakai's Parts store. Buy my stuff." The officer greeted in a deep voice.
Ray let out a high-pitched yelp, leaping back a good meter, "WHERE THE HECK DID YOU COME FROM!?"
"The ceiling." the reply came, "What, you saw it. Anyway, what can I do ya fer?"
"I'm looking for my friend. His name is… Um, Bell." Ray cautiously spoke. The strangest feelings seemed to emanate from the individual before him, as he was going to attack at any second, despite all evidence against such a thing happening.
"Oh, it's a GP matter, then. Well, regarding your friend, we sent him home. What, did you think we were going to hold him overnight?" the boy scoffed, "We're not an actual police force. Actually… Follow me to the back. Security reasons."
Wary, Ray could only follow the boy deeper into the store, his heart pounding out of his chest.
"Welcome to my humble shop! Here, I sell parts I have… acquired from my opponents, and some other stuff I… found… lying around." The boy in red greeted, opening up his jacket to reveal several pockets with Gunpla of all sorts tucked into them, "Before we start with business, may I interest you in some?"
Ray shot him a glare.
"Oh, fine. But I'm taking that as a maybe." Scott turned around, reaching up into a shelf and pushing aside some bottles to reveal a pile of manila files, "Anyhow, Bell Yoshino was released yesterday, but I had to take his GM and the upgrades into custody for investigation."
"…You mean you're going to sell it for profit, aren't you?"
Scott looked shocked, "S-Sell it?! What do you take me for, a low-life thief?!"
"Considering we're standing in a small cupboard and you started this conversation by trying to sell me wares of questionable origin, I'm beginning to think so."
"Questionable origin?!" the boy looked even more offended now, "How dare you!? I've sourced all these parts myself from years in battling! I've sold to hundreds of individuals, and never once have they complained back about the wares I sell! I'm…. I'm not helping my case, am I?"
"Fine, but you can take my word on this; this GM may be an incredible feat of engineering, but it is evidence for a GP investigation. My lives of selling parts and being an officer are as separate as they can be." The boy folded his arms, "I'd never let down the force, mister, so don't make that mistake again!"
"…I'm still not convinced. How can I get it back to Bell? He worked for months on it…"
"Well, SOMEHOW the plans fell into Gunpla Mafia hands. This little guy has been terrorizing other branches of the GP for about a month now. It's fast, it's generic, it's as sturdy as a rock, and hits like a truck." The officer scratched his head, "I'm actually the only guy on the force to actually have seen one that isn't a red blur that punches heads off."
"It's that dangerous? Surely you have something powerful enough to take it down! You're a big organization, so can't you requisition a… a Hi-Mega Cannon or something?!"
"What do we look like, actual cops?" The boy rolled his eyes, "All supplies come out of the officers' pockets. I can tell you about this one unit over in Tokyo that had to go fishing to get enough cash to maintain their Master Grades… But that's beside the point. Furthermore, Scott Hakai does not need their handouts. They trusted me with this mission because they believed my skills would be enough to complete it!"
"…How many missions have you been sent on before this?"
"Oh, this is my first one."
Ray began sweating, 'This might have been a mistake…'
"But you know… I've not been doing so hot recently… In fact, my own Gunpla is pretty badly shot up, I'm not sure it even qualifies a Guncannon anymore." He scratched the back of his head, "More like a walking scrapyard."
The boy in blue looked up, "A Guncannon?"
"It was affordable, easy to operate, heavily armored, and if it blows up, it won't take my wallet down with it." The reply came, "Of course, I could use a different grunt suit, but I happen to have an affinity for shoulder cannons."
"…But surely, there must be a more powerful grunt suit than a Guncannon-"
"Look, you came here to do more than just ask me questions. I can tell." The officer shook his head, "I've danced around enough; wanna team up?"
Ray's eyes widened.
"I told you. I've not been doing well recently. There is only so much a single Guncannon can handle, even one piloted by someone as amazing as I am." He glanced up at the celling, "Why do you think that I've thrown on so much random crap onto it? I'm not flexing; most of those parts are pretty much sub-weapons that I may need to use to mince up my opponents if I drop my weapons."
"The cannons on your shoulders weren't enough?"
Scott laughed, "More dakka always works, that what I've always believed. So, you in to help an officer out?"
"It just seems so sudden…"
"Well, regardless, we have the same goal. You want to prove your friend is innocent, and I want this paycheck."
Ray raised an eyebrow. Just a day ago, this very same person was telling him to leave, and now…
"Look man, I see that you don't trust me fully. That's okay. But truth is, I kinda suck at fighting."
"What makes you think I'm any better? I got my freaking leg blown off in the first battle, and keep losing limbs in battle."
"On the other hand, I'm good at acquiring parts. I could run repairs on our Gunpla, and it'd be like…" Scott paused, "Actually, it'd still look like crap. What do you expect, throwing on random stuff you found on the battlefield? But regardless, I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
"…Sure, you just tell yourself that…" Ray muttered, internally backing away.
"Okay! Acting officer… Hey, I never got your name."
"Okay, Yoshi! Say hello to Scott Hakai, officer of the 108th GP police unit! We're going to go on an adventure for fun and profit, but mostly profit!" he posed, "Let us begin the search for my paychec- I mean, the guy who framed your homie!"
Only now had Ray begun questioning every single decision that had led to this moment.
"Okay, so do you have like… like, leads or something?"
Scott pulled aside a random table-cloth in the room, revealing a massive corkboard with hundreds of zip-loc bags stapled onto it. Each bag contained plastic parts, and paper taped to the side described the contents.
"…I said leads, not your illegal Gunpla store."
"The gunpla is how I remember the stuff, okay?!" the boy seemed apprehensive, "Anyway, on 18 September last year, we first got wind of a sleek GM ripping through our ranks. HQ designated it 'Sexy GM'."
"Look, if you saw it, you'd totally think it was that too! Anyhoo, the GM became a hot topic when it was discovered aiding a Gunpla Mafia drug smuggling operation." he pointed to a bag of white powder on the board as he spoke.
"Woah woah woah, drug smuggling?! And is that…?!" Ray's jaw fell open.
"When you need to fight with plastic battle robots, you gotta afford it somehow. Besides, it's so ridiculously asinine, nobody suspects that they'd even do it!" he explained, "By the way, these are nubs. Don't do drugs, and don't snort the ABS! Believe me, I tried."
"…Are you sure you aren't on some kind of…"
"ANYWAY! Our research led us to believe this very town has the GM's drug branch's main base of operations!" He folded his arms, "And so, I was sent here to sniff them out, like the master detective-slash-police guy I am!"
"Again, I'm doubting your credibility."
"Doubt all you want, but I've got undeniable proof. I disguise myself as a black-market parts seller, you see. Last Thursday, some idiot tried to pay me for an overpriced LED unit with a bag of crack cocaine." he pointed at a white box that had been pinned up on the board, "Bam. Proof. Even got body-cam footage, right here, if you want to see."
"No, no I'm good. So… That's your only proof?"
"No… Well, yes. But I'm getting somewhere! I'm certain that with the help of one other guy like you, we'll be able to rake in that sweet, sweet pay money!" Scott grinned, "And by we, I'm of course referring to me exclusively. So here's the dealio, Yoshi."
"You go out there and disguise yourself as one of them."
Ray groaned, adjusting the fedora, "There's no way that this will work. And these shades are too dark for me to see anything. If anything, this 'disguise' of yours makes me more visible!"
"Nononononono, trust me. I'm a master of this."
Pulling on the dramatically oversized trenchcoat, Ray let out another groan, "I'm just gonnna get beat up in this!"
"No you won't! I've already given you a pouch to carry your Gunpla in! All the cool kids have one!" the officer pointed at the brown pouch attached to Ray's hip, "Now, all you gotta do is put your Gunpla in there, and it should be safe while you're walking around!"
Ray picked up his RX-78-2.
Upon finally spotting the white Gunpla, Scott's eyes widened.
"…You're right. You're going to get your ass kicked."
"You infiltrate their meeting grounds and attempt to ask for the drugs."
Ray cleared his throat, "Excuse me, my good sir, but I do believe that a man has passed out in the car outside."
"Most importantly, imply somebody has become unconscious out of view. This signals that you have come on GM business. No joke, they use all kinds of asinine codes and crap to disguise their true intentions. So please study this list of 300 useful GM phrases I compiled in secret based upon my personal knowledge."
The man standing behind the counter stared, "…Do butterflies fly in the desert?"
A password. Scott had warned him of such things, and he knew that there was no way the answer would be obvious. Furthermore, the GM had several codes for different things, he recalled from the brief crash-course he was given back at the base. The wrong password could be a coded message to be eliminated, or even worse, an order from the HQ to kill the inquirer.
He wasn't sure if he could take the big man with his bare hands… So he had to remember the right password.
For a few moments, Ray wracked his brain, trying to remember what to do next.
"Um… Exia is best girl." He finally choked out.
For a few seconds, the bartender stared.
"You're god-damn right she is." The bartender replied, walking out, "S, you stay here and watch the bar. I shall show this one… the toilet."
As the man walked off, Ray internally started screaming in sheer terror.
On the bright side, if he really was being led to the bathroom, he could say that he didn't need to use it anymore.
"Now, once you're in there… Honestly, I have no idea. You've basically managed to successfully infiltrate a Mafia at this point. I'm honestly not sure what to do, so… be polite and offer to get drinks for everyone?"
Ray stared, "That's your plan?!"
"Yoshi, I would do it myself gladly, but they have guys who can recognize the face of any GP officer in there. And I suck at disguises, so why not send in some random guy from the street and completely bamboozle them?" the increasingly less credible officer shrugged.
"Was this why I was needed?! To infiltrate a literal mafia!?"
"It'll be fun! Don't worry, you'll be fine. Lots of officers do this all the time, and I don't hear any of them complaining about it!"
"WHAT PART OF THIS PLAN IS SAFE FOR ME?!"
"On that note, now is the part of the chapter where we jump-cut to the bit where you inexplicably managed to get in with basically no problems and you're cursing me out."
'SCOTT I'M GOING TO KILL YOU ONE DAY I SWEAR.'
Ray sat at a large table, across from several other similarly dressed individuals.
"Okay, these disguises simply aren't working." One mafia member said, "We need some major reforms to them by HQ."
"You keep bringing that up every week, and we keep telling you not to wear them by day." Another shot back.
"I know, but aren't the cloaks and fedoras a bit excessive? I mean, we already have shades!"
"What, and just walk around wearing nothing but shades at night? That's even more suspicious! Who wears only shades at night?!"
"You could, like, blame it on pigmentation issues or something."
"Shut the hell up."
The door to the room swung open, and a woman walked in. Her blonde hair blew in the wind behind her, and a GM standing by the door closed it as she walked in. She wore shades and a black overcoat that swished as she walked.
"Okay, boys. So we did pretty good this week, but the Feds might be getting a little sus." The woman spoke, sitting at the head of the table, "We need to go higher."
"Well, for one, better security. GET HIM!"
Ray's blood ran cold. He flinched, closing his eyes and preparing for the eventual beating that would ensue.
"AGH! YOU CAN'T DO THIS TO ME! I'M INNOCENT! I'M THE KING OF GUNPLA BATTLES! NOT THE FACE! NO!"
He looked up, watching some red-haired person in black get dragged away, screaming and being punched in the face repeatedly.
"He never suspected a thing, boss. He was in and out just today, no potential information lost."
"I know. He was getting too close. Knock 'im out and we'll figure out what to do to him later. D, go and guard him to ensure he doesn't escape, I shall fill you in on the items in this meeting later."
"Anyway, onto more pressing matters now. Namely; Project GM GM. While an ingenious design, HQ wants us to push it further." She reached into her pocket, pulling out another sleek GM model.
The new battler held back a gasp. It really was incredible.
The entire body was a lot more slimmed down compared to Bell's GM, for one. But it held some resemblances, such as the arm design and the feet. Then again, the front skirts didn't have yellow squares on them like Gun Master's… And its head was different, with a more angular visor.
"Miss… What could possibly be wrong with the GM? It's practically perfect."
"Well for starters some of the people who pilot it don't support our cause! GET HIM TOO!"
Ray flinched again, watching as the inquirer was dragged off screaming and being beaten up as well.
"You incompetent idiots! You let two spies into our meeting?!" the boss yelled, "What kind of security do we have here, a revolving door?!"
"My apologies, Miss Koura."
"Apology accepted, SPY!"
She promptly punched that GM down as well, knocking him out. Several more GM filed into the room, pulling the third spy away. Ray let out another internal scream.
As the body-draggers left the room, she calmly shot another one with a taser, sending him collapsing to the ground, "Nice try, but I know everyone who actually works here like the back of my hand. TAKE THIS ONE AWAY AS WELL!"
A few minutes later, the room was silent once again.
"Now, as I was saying to you gentlemen…" she turned to face the table, realization flickering across her face, "Hang on, are you the only person who is not a spy here?"
Ray gulped. It was at this moment he realized the entire meeting room was empty, save for him and her.
He was alone in enemy territory. There was no way this could work.
"I see. Nevertheless, I suppose you'll be the only one who shall see this information… And also D, when I inform him later on." The woman flicked on a projector, "Take a look at this. What do you think this is?"
Ray tilted his head curiously. The thing on the screen was big, red and… Was it even a GM anymore?
"Ah, you're as stupefied as I was when I first laid my eyes upon this." The woman sighed, "This atrocity is the Psycho GM. The next evolution of the GM GM project. HQ wants us to begin mass-producing these using the printers here as well."
It was a good thing Ray was wearing shades, because his eyes went as wide as dinnerplates beneath them. His jaw fell open.
"I know. Does it look like we're made of filament here?! That crap's expensive! We're barely making enough cash with our 'muffin-sales' on the side!" the woman ranted, pacing around the screen, "We're lucky to get even ONE GM GM out here in a week, let alone this crazy thing! And as if they weren't crazy enough, they want this stupid thing to TRANSFORM!? AND USE SCREWS?! WITH INDIVIDUALLY ARTICULATED FINGER BEAM CANNONS?! And-get this-they want it to COMBINE with our GM GMs! WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL!? "
Ray gulped. Any moment now, he would come undone.
"This means we need a new method of making cash. I would ask for suggestions of you, but since everyone else was a spy, I'm pretty sure that this isn't exactly an efficient brainstorm right now, so I'll skip that part." She flipped through several notes, "What the heck are the higher-ups smoking?! At this rate, we'd be better off funding this affront to Gunpla with the money they're spending on those drugs!"
She paused, as if expecting a burst of laughter.
"I'm sorry. That wasn't particularly funny. Regardless, as you have just observed, we also have a bit of a spy problem. Which is why I also need you to… ahem, 'leak' some information about our GM GMs to the GP Officers. Namely, the files I have emailed to you. Once we get the GP police off our tails, we'll be able to put full focus into GM design and make something as good as the GM GM Early Type. Maybe. If it even is possible to love this crazy design."
She put down the papers, "Finally, now that I have relayed to you this vital information, I will ask of you to shut the heck up about it. I know that times have been rough down here at the build site, but soon… We'll eventually catch that big break we're looking for and we'll be able to quit doing this shit-ass job and get to do something actually good, like actually Gunpla Battling."
The woman looked a little distant when she said those last words, as if she was remembering something from long ago.
"My apologies. I'll stop rambling now. Meeting adjourned."
Ray rose from his seat, and respectfully bowed, quivering.
"One last thing."
The boy froze. This was it. He was busted for sure now…
"Why did you wear your shades the whole time this meeting was in session? Do you have something to hide?" the woman questioned in an icy tone.
"…I have… pigmentation issues." Ray replied, hoping she wouldn't notice his shaky voice.
"I see. It is nice to see that at least one other person within my ranks shares the same condition as I." the woman sighed, "Very well, have a nice day."
And thus, Ray departed, both his mind and trousers full.
Scott was waiting for him back at the ramen shop, "So, how did it go?"
Ray briefly entertained the thought of strangling the officer, before sighing, "Well, somehow I didn't get caught. But I found out all kinds of information. For starters, a false data leak, security issues, and mass-produced GM GMs."
"GM GM? That's what they're calling those?" Scott groaned, "Doesn't have the same ring to it…"
"They're working on something called the 'Psycho GM'. It's supposed to transform, combine with the GM GM and have finger beam cannons." Ray proceeded to explain the entire 'meeting' he just observed to the officer, who seemed oddly more interested in the details of the Gunpla itself.
"A custom Psycho Gundam… are they crazy? The whole point of the GM GM is that it's not supposed to stick out of the crowd! To turn it into something like that is…" he shook his head, "Idiots… Anyway, what other info did you gather?"
Ray paused, "… They're tired. They're low on resources, on manpower… Literally everyone but me in the meeting was a spy, for example. Well… Everyone else was caught, at least."
"Dammit, Patrick must have suckered his gang in on another stupid raid again… Anyhoo, did they mention anything else?"
"You're awfully calm for an entire squad being captured!"
"Eh, they'll probably release them when we raid the place day after tomorrow." Scott stretched, "Based on the information you've provided, they're under-staffed, low on defenses, and most importantly, working on something that will ruin the Gunpla economy."
"That Psycho GM is important?"
The officer nodded, "Imagine, for a sec, any woohoo off the streets could follow those schematics and make their own Psyco Gundams. What do you suppose will happen, eh?"
"…More Psyco Gundams?"
"Yes, and then how are we to differentiate between real and fake Gunpla in competitions?" he sipped some of his coffee, "Now, imagine you're a builder who spent years putting together your own custom…" he gazed up at the nearby shelf, where a Guncannon covered head-to-toe in weapons stood, "And you get sniped by some idiot spamming beams everywhere from a kit they downloaded illegally off the internet."
"…So, this is piracy?"
"Pretty much, yeah." Scott shrugged, "So, I'll be seeing you in two days then, my dude. Good work."
"W-Wait! Why two days? How do I know I won't be hunted down by the GM in-between?!" Ray exclaimed, before Scott raised a finger to his lips, silencing him.
"Firstly, it's only fair that we give them some time to surrender. Secondly, that's how long it'll take for reinforcements to show up here once I send this info to the others. To answer your next question…" he shrugged, "Why else did you think I sent you?"
"I probably should have seen that coming, in hindsight."
"Uh huh. Run along now, I've got a rather important customer coming in in a few minutes."
"Kai-Chan! I brought the karaoke stuff!"
Ray's eyes widened, "SOREN?!"
The girl in white almost dropped the large box she was holding, "RAY!?"
The man behind the counter glared, "Karaoke…?"
Scott looked in between the two, "S-Soren? You know this guy?"
"Kai, this is Ray! I told you about him the other day, remember?"
The officer's eyes, if it was physically possible, grew wider, "W-Wait, this is Ray?! I've been calling him Yoshi the whole time!"
"THAT's your main concern?!"
"It's not my fault I misheard your name!" Kai shot back, folding his arms, "Anyway, Ray… Can you leave now? I'm trying to have some alone time… whatever it entails."
"Kai, c'mon. I know him as well as you. He can stay."
"B-But what if-"
"Kai, it's Karaoke night. What information could possibly be given that he probably wouldn't already know?" Soren stared, "C'mon, it's not like he's in some kind of danger here!"
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN, YOU SENT HIM ON A MISSION!?"
Scott winced, "It was only one of them! And he totally asked to be sent in!"
"I thought you'd be smart enough to, y'know, NOT put somebody you just met into immediate danger! IT'S A MAFIA, KAI, A MAFIA!" Soren looked more freaked out now than Ray had ever seen her before, "Granted, it's a mafia that uses tiny plastic toy robots to beat people up… BUT IT'S DANGEROUS!"
"Well, what the heck d'ya want me to do?! Blow my own cover story by going in myself?" Kai shook his head, "I've already got one cover story, and adding another into the mix might bring up questions!"
Soren face-faulted, "Ray… Please tell me you weren't stupid enough to go through with that stupid plan…"
"To his credit… It worked…?" Ray awkwardly spoke.
The girl in white stared, before sighing, "Alright you two. Seeing as both of you literally kicked over the beehive, and AGAIN, I should add for Kai…."
The boy in red blushed, turning away, "That time didn't count…"
"…We need to strike while they do not suspect anything." Soren folded her arms, "Kai, how fast can the GP Police to show up?"
"Two days?! That's too slow! Do we have any officers in the area right now?"
"N-Not really… Other than us…"
"Just two?! Kai, this place is a GM HQ, and there are TWO officers stationed here!?"
"I mean, there was more… Before they were caught… And Chief Iori left somewhere a while back…"
"This is crazy! You know what, screw it. Tomorrow evening, all three of us will need to raid that HQ, no matter the cost." Her eyes burned with a passion Ray had never seen before, "Ray, Kai, meet me at Ptolemaios Café near the arcade tomorrow."
"W-What?! We can't raid it now!"
"I know… That's why you two are going to learn the ins and outs of fighting as a team." Soren spoke, "If you're together, there's no such thing as the impossible!"
Ray glanced over to Kai, his jaw wide open. He would have to team up with this guy?
But right now, there really wasn't many other options. The GMs were probably onto him; there was no way that his disguise completely fooled them. If they found him, he would be in quite a bit of strife, so by all logical reason it made sense to keep connections to the GP officers.
On the other hand, his connection was Scott; the newbie wasn't even sure if the officer was even all that legitimate, or if he was actually competent.
"…Anyway, still up for Karaoke?" Scott weakly offered.
"I can see the moon…"
The moonlight fluttered down upon Bell's eyes, as he gazed out of the window silently. The soft glow illuminated the Gunpla on the table before him, hushing into silence the small desk-light he was working by.
Of course, his thoughts drifted to the news that officer had told him hours ago. The thought of his creation, GM GM being used to commit crimes had seared his heart.
He didn't want this to happen… He didn't expect any of this to happen. He just wanted to make a unit that he could truly call his own.
But sadness hadn't enveloped him.
Looking down onto the table before him, his eyes fell upon his previous Gunpla; each destroyed in battle against opponents he underestimated. He could remember his pride at launching in the white suit before him, the glittering wings of the moonlight spreading out behind him….
Only to be shot down by a stray beam blast directly into the exposed cockpit- friendly fire, no less, from an overexcited Freedom pilot.
When he returned to battle, he remembered the scent of impending success, as the large white panels on the back of his next unit unfolded, a glittering line of light outstretching from the virtual moon above into his chest, twin cannons charging up a powerful shot.
Only then to be destroyed by a shot from the rear from a GM who had snuck up behind him, hidden by the shadow of the massive panels.
Those past failures made him resolve to avoid such ridiculously powerful weapons again; these super-powered parts only caused him to grow overconfident and ignore important details in combat, in addition to making him a larger target on the field.
At the very least, that's what his sister told him.
He was even cautious about installing a Buster Rifle attachment onto his unit… and look where that got him.
But now, the young builder realized, that it was not as a result of the powerful weapons he had fallen. Having met someone who had even less than he did- even his only Gundam was underpowered compared to his first Gunpla- yet dared to take on opponents that Bell would shy away from. He threw himself against that Master Grade FAZZ like it was nothing, while all Bell could do was zip around and snipe that weaker Scopedog in the background. In spite of the technically incredible power of his creation, he hid away from battle, ducking under the cover of the trees and hiding away from true challenges.
He was a coward, as much as he hated to admit as such.
He could now see, with his own eyes, the problem that had plagued his Gunpla wasn't the design; it was the pilot. If Bell was to take hold of success, he would have to first overcome his own doubts and place his pride in the Gunpla he created and piloted.
"I need to be strong… Stronger on my own!" the boy muttered to himself, "I… I think it's time I go back to basics."
Opening a drawer, he gazed down at the contents.
"…Maybe it's time I scrap the GM GM project and try using actual Gunpla again."
Soren stood tall, arms folded, surveying the individuals before her.
"Alright, you two! It's clear to me you have no idea how to properly synergize with each other!" she barked, "Until now, you've been dueling; fighting with honor, rules."
"That's gonna change now. You gotta fight to SURVIVE." Her eyes burned, her body seeming to emit a red glow as she spoke, flames building up behind her back, "You gotta work harder. Your candy-asses can't handle the intensity of battle, let alone fighting more than one opponent off, as you stand right now. That's why I'm going to send you through a training course through hell and back!"
She raised her arm, "DO I MAKE MYSELF CLEAR, MAGGOTS?!"
The plushies sitting on the bed in front of her didn't respond, before one fell over with an anticlimactic squeaking sound.
"…Too much force?"
I'm ready for anything. Soren is more experienced than me; she started out young with years of experience, winning many local tournaments in our town, or at the very least coming into second-place.
Back in the day, she was well known throughout the battle scene here. She successfully fought off entire teams on her own in Pawn Gundam, even back when it was a straight-build Exia. It was actually as a result of her love of battling that we met, actually.
But that's a story for another time. Right now, I need her help more than ever before.
After this, though, that's it! I'm not teaming up with this Scott guy anymore! I don't even know if I can trust him! He's just so… so…
Ray looked across the table at the boy in the red T-shirt and trenchcoat, who was casually chowing down on a doughnut. He looked over at Ray.
"Hm. So, you're writing a diary, huh?"
The boy in the blue jacket quickly slapped the book shut, "What's it to you… You…"
"Hey, look, it's none of my business. Seeing as we're going to be working together more often from now on, I just figure that we should learn a little more about each other." The officer cleared his throat, "Anyway, my name is Scott Hakai, as you know from yesterday. Soren calls me Kai, though, and she was the first person who suggested I use a Guncannon because of it."
"…And that's it? You're using that Guncannon for the sake of a joke about your name?"
"In my defense, Kai in the series is pretty cool I guess. Did you know he was pretty much the only White Base MS pilot in the original novels who survived the entire story?" he grinned dumbly, "Also, you're one to argue. You're using an RX-78-2, and you go by 'Ray'."
"Look, that was a coincidence!"
"Sure, sure it is."
Ray huffed, "How did Soren even end up meeting someone like you, anyway?"
"Well, it's a long story, and I doubt you'd want to hear it."
"The idiot was at a beach party, fell into the water and didn't know how to swim. I was working as a part-time lifeguard and pulled him out, and then he hit on me."
Soren walked up to the table, a pink-haired waitress standing by her side, "Good morning, Ray, Kai. Are you ready to die?"
"…Soren, stop lying." The pink-haired girl slapped the back of her head, "Besides, you've never gone one day of lifeguarding in your life, while Mr Hakai here…"
The brunette scratched the back of her head, blushing slightly, "…I will admit the situations in reality were a bit reversed… In my defense, how was I supposed to know cider was alcoholic before then?!"
"I tried to tell you, but you kept insisting it was just 'Fancy Apple Juice'!" the pink haired girl poked Soren's shoulder.
Ray stared, "…My respect for you might have been a little misplaced."
"H-Hey, shut up! Anyway, I'd like to introduce you guys to another friend of mine, Gracia Anderson. She basically strategizes for our team."
The pink-haired girl saluted, "I try! Nice to meet you two."
"…Does she have any actual battle experience?" Kai spoke, putting down his doughnut, "You can't just expect us to follow the orders of an inexperienced soldier."
"K-Kai! Don't insult her like that! It was as a result of us following the stratagems she came up with that we beat our first few battles!"
"So she basically thinks for your team because they are incapable of coming up with ideas on the battlefield?"
The girl stopped laughing, before darkly muttering, "You're first."
Kai glanced up, confused, "Huh?"
"Anyway, I shall leave you two in her very capable hands." Soren turned around, "We attack at 7 PM, don't be late."
With those words, Soren turned to leave, whispering in Gracia's ear, "Remember, no disintegrations. We need live gunpla to break through those defenses."
"I don't remember asking your opinion, Miss Mikami." The girl snapped back.
Soren shivered, before continuing to walk away. An ominous cold wind blew past Ray.
'It's… It's like she completely changed…'
"M-Ma'am!" Ray stood up tall and saluted.
"At ease, recruit. I'm not drilling you yet." The girl in pink replied, smiling slightly, "You'll have plenty of time to call me that later. Right now, your first order of business is to finish your meal. I don't get paid for yelling at customers."
Kai stared down at his half-eaten doughnut, "…Actually, I don't think I'm that hungry."
The pink haired girl's eyes burned, "Oh... You will be."
Kai screamed, pulling on his control sticks as hundreds of missiles rained down upon him, riddling the area around him with craters, "STOP MOVING AROUND DAMMIT!"
Ray ran forwards, head Vulcans blazing, "Scott, use your shoulder cannons to put up a wall of defensive fire! That suit of yours is not designed for close-range com-"
"SHUT UP I'LL DO WHAT I WANT!" the officer screamed back, swinging out a large heat-hawk and charging towards the opposing orange MS; Gundam Heavyarms, a No-Grade version. He leapt skywards, his axe raised above his head.
The pink girl in the cockpit of the orange and red MS smirked, "I told you you'd be first."
She calmly swung up her right arm, punching the red MS aside.
"You would do well to listen to the words of your ally. Your Guncannon, in spite of its…" she licked her lips, "…Upgrades, is ultimately a support unit for mid-range attacks. As for you, Blue…"
She turned around, raising her gatling gun, "Fending off the missile barrage with small arms fire sounds like a good idea, but your pose while doing so leaves you wide open to attacks like this!"
The rotary cannon revved up, spraying the RX-78-2 with beam shots. Ray screamed, raising his beam sabre and spinning it in his hands, attempting to deflect the shots. However, several got through, pelting his breastplate repeatedly.
"Alright, I'll give you credit for using the Beam Confuse defensively, but remind me, Blue; what was your generator output?"
"Um… I think it was about… 1370… kW."
"Uh huh. Well, how much power goes into the sabre when in use?"
"And how much power do you suppose is required both to keep the plasma stream inside the I-Field generated while also deflecting my shots?"
Ray stared, lost for words.
"…Don't feel so bad, Blue. I don't know the specific values either."
The sabre's pink beam suddenly began to flicker, a warning tone screeching from the controls.
'I'm using too much energy! I need to attack… But how?'
Ray gritted his teeth, closing his eyes.
'Focus, Ray… There has to be something…'
"Tag, you're dead."
A missile struck the RX-78-2's head, blowing off part of his V-Fin. Ray let out a cry.
'She did not just do that. She did not just…'
The antenna creaked, before snapping off and falling to the ground next to him.
Ray's eye twitched.
"You… damaged… My… GUNDAAAMM!"
His vision blurred, and Ray charged.
"You idiot! That's a natural part of-"
The orange MS's pilot couldn't say anything else as a grey fist suddenly made contact with the head of the MS, punching it clean off.
"Okay, so as I was saying, being damaged is a natural part of Gunpla Battle." The orange MS, now headless, folded its arms. On the ground the RX-78-2 and Guncannon lay, their pilots shaking inside their cockpits.
"…B-But I only have…"
"Dude, it's a V-Fin. That's like, the weakest part of the Gundam. Besides, all it does is communicate, anyway." Kai folded his arms, "Chill."
"I am unable to chill! Do you have any idea how hard it is to find spare V-Fins?! I only have one more, and I didn't even get to the tournament yet, and-"
"Calm your ass down, I literally collect parts, remember?" Kai poked the RX-78-2, "I think I may actually have like a whole head left over."
Ray paused, "But… But…"
"Blue, if you keep being so ridiculously allergic to getting damaged, you'll never get anywhere." The orange MS dug around on the ground, eventually finding its head and shoving it back onto the ball-joint. Her eyes lit up again, "That's what repairs are for. Let pain be your mentor, and learn to adapt, overcome, and most importantly, triumph."
The boy in blue sighed, "…This is going to suck, isn't it."
"That too, yes." The pink-haired strategist cheerfully chirped.
Ray pulled up, barely missing the mountain he was hurled at and performing a quick roll to get back upright. The orange MS lunged for him, swinging her wrist-mounted knife repeatedly, screaming 'DODGE' with each swipe.
"You've been drilling me on dodging for the last ten minutes! When will you actually get to-" Ray pulled back, barely avoiding a slice directly to his cockpit.
"Ray! Take cover!" Kai radioed.
"What, like that isn't what 'dodge' means already?!" The RX-78-2's pilot paused, looking up at a nearby cliff and spotting the Guncannon. In its hands was a massive rifle.
A bright sphere of energy appeared around the tip of the gun, gathering more power and glowing brighter and louder.
A powerful white beam blasted out of the end of the rifle, slamming into the earth behind the orange attacker. Ray let out a yelp, running away from the suddenly expanding blast-zone. The orange Gundam was flung through the air, before landing atop a cliff before Ray, arms crossed.
"Nice try, but I saw that coming from a mile away!"
When the dust cleared, the Guncannon was nowhere to be seen.
Gracia blinked, "Wait… where…"
Kai smirked, "Yeah. Good thing my actual plan was two miles off, then."
A rattling of steel chain, and all of a sudden, the red MS was right behind her, a serrated knife in hand. The girl's eyes widened.
In response, the Heavyarms blocked the knife strike with the blade on its right arm, sparks flying as the two daggers clashed. Performing a leap, she landed on the desert sands, opening her chest gatlings and letting loose a volley of gunfire.
The Guncannon's pilot smirked, returning fire with his own Vulcans and reaching onto his waist. One of his front-skirts detached with a clank, and Ray briefly caught a glint of steel.
'Are those skirts… grappling hooks?'
He swung the skirting armor around, before hurling it to the side. It slammed into a mountain, and the chain began rapidly retracting, pulling him out of the line of fire. Once it had reached the end of the chain, he yanked it out of the cliff, leaping into the air.
His opponent began to fire skywards, attempting to shoot the Guncannon out of the air. The red MS raised its arm, using a piece of sheet metal or something that was attached on as a shield.
Landing, he spun, stabbing forwards with the knife. The orange MS deflected the strike, catching his arm and pulling it out of the way. Head Vulcans roared, opening fire into the Guncannon's faceplate.
With the slightest head-tilt, the MS avoided the gunfire, before ramming his shield-arm into his opponent.
A rapid expanding cloud of orange gases erupted from the impact site. An orange arm rained down from the air.
"Sorry, but I don't know the meaning of going easy!" Kai apologized, shrugging off the blast. The one-armed Heavyarms rose from the smoke, a green eye cracked.
Ray could swear he heard the sound of a glass shattering in the other cockpit.
The pink haired girl let out a grin, before laughing.
"That's alright… I'd have it no other way!" she roared, her MS suddenly bursting into orange flame, "Screw the trainin'! Let's THROW THE HECK DOWN, RED!"
She charged forwards, whipping out a beam sabre from the stump of her arm and swinging at the Guncannon. The Guncannon responded in kind with a heat-hawk. Kai licked his lips.
"Come at me, YOU OVERSIZED CLOWN!"
"WHAT, YOU EGG?!"
Ray awkwardly raised a finger, "Uh… G-Guys…?"
He was drowned out by the sounds of screaming, maniacal laughing and punching.
Soren adjusted her shades, "…So, she told you to dodge repeatedly, then spent the rest of the time getting into a knife fight with Kai."
Ray nodded sadly, "That's about the size of it."
The brown haired girl glared at the pink-haired waitress, who blushed.
"…Gracia, we talked about this."
"I didn't break him too hard! Look, his Guncannon is perfectly fine!"
Kai nodded excitedly, "Yeah! I'm more than ready to take on whatever those GM can throw at us!"
"And what about Ray?"
"…Oh, I guess he learnt some stuff too. He'll be fine."
Soren face-faulted, "Alright, well, regardless… We begin the raid after one last tea-break."
Kai nodded, "Sweet. That's about all the time I need to prepare the rest of my gear for the raid, all while striking up expositive conversation about your origins!"
"…Why do you keep talking like that?" Gracia muttered.
"Anyway, Soren, how did you meet Ray? He seems to trust you quite a bit."
The green eyed-girl removed her sunglasses, "…I don't think now's the time for that story."
"Why not? It might help me later on. Y'know, to get closer to him so we can improve our bonds in battle as a fighting unit, to allow us to have sympathetic backstories that we've shared with each other so that we understand our reasons for fighting!"
"…You literally told me you're hunting down a paycheck." Ray pointed out.
"I know! Sympathetic, isn't it?"
The brunette shook her head, "Look, Kai… It's nothing interesting. Ray moved here from overseas because his father got some work here, and since then, he's been living with my family."
"Well, until just recently. I managed to get my own apartment…" he replied, scratching the back of his head, "But Soren's been really helpful ever since I've moved here."
"…That's it? Wow, that wasn't very interesting at all." Kai folded his arms.
"That's because that wasn't the actual circumstances by which we 'met' per-say." Ray looked up, "That story… is for another time, just as Soren said. Right now, I'm not even sure how we might even fare in the battle to come."
"Don't you worry, buddy! I've got a foolproof strategy!" Kai grinned, "All you need to do follow my lead, and I'll never let you down!"
"F-Following your lead got me potentially on a Mafia's hitlist!" the boy in the blue coat spluttered back.
"Hey, I never said me not letting you down was a completely secure investment of your trust."
Soren sighed, "Gracia, you managed to write up a strat, right?"
"Yes. Based on the combat styles of both Red and Blue, I've decided that a head-on assault is impossible."
Ray froze, "W-What?"
"Calm down, Blue. We've got other plans. When you launch later, Soren will take point. Using her high-speeds, she will utilize the Semi-Q Mode to break down the enemy formations. In the resulting debris field, Red and you will dart from cover to cover, taking pot-shots at the stragglers." Gracia folded her arms, "I'm sorry, but with your current experience, you'll only be good for providing cover fire."
"Are you underestimating me?"
"Alright, Red. I'm all ears. Which element of this plan would you like to change?"
"I… Huh. Hm…" The officer scratched his head, "I… I'm just saying, I've got quite a few guns too. I could… maybe help…umm…"
"While I acknowledge the enthusiasm, Red, your Guncannon is a slower unit than Captain Mikami's. It could be possible if you were equipped with a shield, but the sheer volume of enemies you will face may greatly outclass your Gunpla's weight class." The waiter sat down, "Take that fact into account when you are modifying this plan."
"…You don't think it's a good plan?" Ray asked, "Are you… unsure?"
"There is no such thing as a perfect strategy." The girl sipped from a cup of tea, "If there was, then we would be living in a very linear world indeed. Therefore, to refuse to account for even the smallest of suggestions in one's planning would be to go against the very notion of strategizing."
"So was that why you were asking me to dodge earlier?"
"Yes. The truth is, I was not assigned to train you. I merely was there to gauge your combat capabilities for myself. For as much as Mrs 'Beyond the Impossible' likes to claim, accomplishing the impossible is preceded by first acknowledging the possible. The dodging drills, in addition to my continuous use of ranged attacks, was meant to distinguish how well you could find cover while using ranged weaponry to retaliate. However, after analyzing your combat style, I fear you may use up too much beam energy in combat against your opponents."
"…That much is obvious…"
"And our knife fight... That must have been to determine how good I was at fighting off opponents at close range!" the officer slapped his forehead.
"Oh, no. That was because I just like knife fights." She grinned.
The pub was bustling with life and activity. Drinks were consumed, Gunpla was being wrecked, transactions of legal and moral ambiguity were performed and cosplayers were trading tips on improvements to their costumes. Everyone was having a great time.
The doors swung open.
A girl in white stood in the doorway. Her red scarf blew in in the wind behind her. A pair of shades covered her eyes. And yet, they somehow burned through like a flame.
Everyone stared. The air was tense enough nobody noticed the boys in the blue and red jackets step out behind her, the latter also wearing a pair of sunglasses.
"Hey, sweet Setsuna cosplay!" a patron called out.
"T-This? Oh, it's nothing special." The girl bashfully grinned, "How do you do, fellow cosplayers. My associates and I merely wish to consume in the beverages available within this establishment in a completely law-abiding and certainly not illegal manner, M'yes."
"…You lookin' for some Blue Giant Vodka?" the bartender asked, as the rest of the pub returned to business as usual.
"Vodka, you say?" Soren's eyes seemed to light up a bit, "Well, I…"
Ray nudged her.
"Oh, right. Exia is best girl." Soren giggled slightly, "Yes."
The bartender stared suspiciously.
'She's supposed to signal that she was here to talk with the GM!' Ray's eyes widened, 'Dammit, Kai was supposed to brief her on this!'
"…What do you mean by that?" The Bartender merely questioned.
"What I mean is you have won a free trip to Mars, courtesy of Side 3." Soren spoke, her voice suddenly gaining a serious edge.
The man looked shocked. Ray stared silently.
"T-There has to be a misunderstanding. I-I've been stationed here for the last few years! The higher ups can't… They can't do this to me..."
"Well, they have." Soren gruffly spoke, her eyes gaining steel, "You are to be replaced by S in this position and report to Side 3 for a lesson in understanding."
"No, please! Tell me you're kidding! I have a girlfriend and two kids!"
"…I raise goats, okay?"
"Well, soon the only milk you'll be getting… will be soy."
"No… Not soy….!"
Ray stared, 'That wasn't part of the code…'
"Yes, soy. Buuuttt…" Kai grinned, "The higher-ups aren't all that good at keeping track of their people, y'know what I mean? In fact, I'm pretty sure we can… cut a deal."
"W-What are you sayin', scavenger boy? Don't think I've forgiven yer for overpricin' that LED unit! It stopped working when I tried to install it in my PG!"
"Doesn't it breaking down mean its genuine, then?"
The man paused.
"You do have a very valid point…."
"Exactly. Now that I have proven to you that I am, indeed, trustworthy, I wish to speak to your boss about changing your codename. The orders were to Mars Ray 'a' D… But they never said that it had to be you, right…?"
"…You make a compelling argument, but I can't let all three of you in all at once. It's too much of a security risk."
"I can give you another LED unit… For free." Kai reached into his coat, holding up a small plastic bag.
"HOT DAWG! Get inside, hurry!" the bartender quickly invited the three into the back. When they were sure the 'guard' was not looking, the three of them face-faulted simultaneously.
'No wonder they have security issues…'
It was only after the three entered the basement that the gears in the bartender's brain slowly clicked into place.
"…Hang on, what's a scavenger doing delivering messages from the top?"
Alarms screamed within the depths of the base.
The woman looked up slowly, a shadow covering her eyes. Brushing hair out of her eyes, she turned to face several GM.
"Let them in. I wish to personally show them what I am capable of."
The Grunts paused.
"Miss Koura… Not to question your reasoning… But what the actual heck." One grunt finally spoke up, "If these guys were officers, you'd give us orders to attack on sight. But because they're kids, you're going to let them in?!"
"Wait wait wait, he has a point." Another cloaked member spoke, "Isn't letting them in a potential vulnerability that may be exploited in an incredibly obvious and forseen way? We're running a drug trade here! We can't just allow anyone under a certain age in! We should take them out right here while they think they have the upper hand!"
"Dude, do you have any idea how embarrassing it would be if we, a branch of the freaking MAFIA, got caught because some kid ran home and told their mom that they got physically beaten by scary people in a dark corner while Gunpla battling?!" another retorted, "We're supposed to be professionals! Professionals have standards!"
"If I could-", Koura tried to speak up, only to be interrupted again.
"Don't talk to me about standards! We need to protect our enterprises as much as possible, and in order to do so, we need to do some wicked things!"
"DO YOU WANT TO GET SUED?! WE'RE TRYING TO SELL PLASTIC BATTLE ROBOTS AND COCAINE! If we were caught because some kid ran home crying… THAT WOULD BE THE DUMBEST LAWSUIT EVER!"
"You're telling us to hold off the attack… because you're embarrassed that we'd disgrace our DRUG trafficking?!"
"WE HAVE STANDARDS, BILLY! STANDARDS!"
The leader of the bickering peons sighed, face-faulting.
"Hey! STHAP RITE THERE!"
Soren stood at the door, a crowbar grasped in one hand and an unconscious peon in the other, "If you shoot, I'll use this body as a meat shield! It may not be illegal to knock someone out in self-defense, but shooting at him with intent to kill…"
"HOLYCRAPSHEHASAHOSTAGERUN!" a grunt yelled, and the rest of the grunts ducked for cover, "I'M NOT GOIN' BACK TO COURT!"
The leader was the only person left in the room, silently staring at the intruder.
"I suppose you have come here to try and stop our operation, then." She sighed, "Very well. I believe in the virtues of a fair duel. If you win, I'll silently turn myself in. If I win, though…"
"I suppose I'll have to work for you, correct?"
"Yes. And I will make your life a living hell while doing so."
Soren bit her lip in thought, "A hefty wager."
"Yes. If I was in your position, I would be considering it too. But then again, I would also take up the challenge as well, for the scent of battle has always-"
"Why the heck are you our leader, anyway?!" a grunt suddenly called out, "You're like, the worst drug dealer ever!"
"…Anything to make these idiots shut up." The woman sighed again.
'She doesn't seem too happy to be in the GM…' Ray observed from outside in the hallway, clutching onto the shovel he had pilfered from a nearby cupboard, 'In a sense, fighting her seems to be a sort of kindness…'
"Alright. I can see your point." The woman stood up from her chair, "Will our battle be one on one or one on three?"
"One on… three?"
"I believe enough in my skills that I can handle all three of you at once. If not… Well, then I am the fool."
Kai's eyes widened, "We've been spotted?!"
"It's not that hard. We have security cameras… Also, the guards, incompetent they may be-"
"SERIOUSLY?! HOW THE HELL ARE YOU OUR LEADER?!"
"…They also relayed the information to me." She muttered, seemingly nonplussed, "Besides, I wish to fall in battle."
"But why?" Kai asked, walking out from the doorway, "Do you have that much faith in these, and I quote, 'incompetent' individuals that you would give up your place for them? Does a hidden part of you nurture a kindness that would drive you to defend them? Do you, deep down, believe in them?"
"No. Absolutely not. They are idiots. I'll do anything at this point to get away from them." The woman grunted, ignoring the cries of annoyance in the background, "Well, let us begin."
She wandered over to a nearby elevator, pulling out a small pistol.
"All units. This may be my final order to you, so listen up. Wait in this room. Do not shoot at the intruders. I wish to keep to my terms of a fair fight." She spoke coldly, "If you wish to escape… Feel free to do whatever."
"This is bullshit!" a grunt yelled, pulling out a gun, "I ain't gonna take no orders from yer!"
Before he could fire, a bullet spat out of the woman's own weapon. It narrowly missed the guard, only to bounce off a nearby concrete wall and strike his arm. He let out a horrific cry, falling to the ground.
"The bullet has lost enough velocity by that bounce that it should probably not be lethal. Consider that a warning, however." The woman lowered her gun, "I have been challenged. There is no reason for you to shed blood for me."
With those words, she walked towards the elevator, tossing aside her gun, "Now, come."
Kai stared, "…Awesome."
"…They're trying to kill us, remember?" Ray hissed.
"Oh, right. Unawesome, then."
"So. It's come to this." The woman spoke.
"That statement is technically applicable to any situation." Kai pointed out, "But yes. So, anything you say can and will be used against you in Gunpla Court. Anything you wanna say before I kick your ass?"
"I joined the GM thinking it would lead to a more exciting battle experience. I hoped that by joining, I could break free from the restrictions that bound me in the tournament battles." Came the reply, "For a while, it was good. But as I spent longer and longer here, I came to the realization that by breaking from those very restrictions, I was no longer the battler I once was.
"…So what you mean to tell me is that you want out of the thug life."
"To put it crudely… yes. But I can't run away now. My honor prevents me from doing so. As far as I have fallen… I wish to try to prove to myself, once more, that I still hold the power I once did. Furthermore, if I were just to walk away from the mafia, they would come after me. As such, the only way I can see… is to be arrested."
"So why don't you just come quietly…?" Ray asked.
The woman glared at him.
"You fool! If I was to go down like that, what would I get out of that? I wish to hold out to the very last, even now." She glanced skywards, the lights in the lift glinting off her shades, "…Such is the glory of a loser."
"…Also, you have pigmentation issues?"
"Oh… So you've heard. Well, I have heterochromia."
Soren stared, "That's it?"
"It's a rather personal issue I'd rather not get into." The woman replied, "Regardless. Let us introduce ourselves to each other, before our names become drowned out by the waltz of war. My name, as far as you need to know, is Koura."
"Then, mine, as far as you need to know, is Exia." Soren stated, "As for my compatriots…"
"I am the guy who is about to take you down! Call me 'Kai' for short."
"And… um… I'm… Um… Ray, I guess…"
The woman squinted at Ray, raising a finger and holding it horizontally, before bursting into a laugh, "Ah, you were the intruder! So, in spite of these eyes, that have managed to deceive me."
"I… Uh… It wasn't…"
"That is fine. It is just my luck, after all, that after years of subterfuge and perfect stealth, I would be done in by something as silly as a single boy." She rubbed her chin, frowning, "I hope this doesn't become a trend among us GM…"
"Perhaps if your guards weren't as incompetent as they are, they'd be able to sus them out easier."
The four stood in silence for the longest time.
"Is there a way to make the lift go faster?"
"No. There is not."
What felt like an eternity had passed when the doors of the elevator finally opened up.
Ray stumbled out, "FINALLY!"
"…Huh. I can see a quite valid argument that may be made for your elevators serving as a psychological warfare deterrent." Kai noted, "But my GOSH, you have this massive arena down here?!"
The basement was about the size of an entire football field. Stretching across from one end to another was a massive Battletop. Empty seats lined the walls around it, dusty and cob-webbed.
"…This is a full on stadium…!"
"Well, it was, once." The woman muttered, "But the rent caught up. Once, this was owned by the Gunbre Corporation. Unfortunately, they underwent some… financial troubles." She sighed, almost as if remembering something.
"You worked for them once, right?" Kai asked, raising an eyebrow, "There doesn't seem to be much other reason you'd bring up something rather arbitrary like that."
"Correct. Once, I was stationed in this very place… But that is in the past now!" she approached the battletop, "That's why I wished to fight you all alone… Now, enough talk!"
She reached into a pouch on her hip, pulling out a dark blue Gunpla, placing it onto the scanner before her. Soren jogged over to another, plugging in Pawn Gundam.
Ray and Kai were last, docking in at the same time.
"Now, you children…" Koura spoke, her eyes glittering with a strange light, "You shall see my true self."
The RX-78-2 flew over desert sands, performing a quick flip to lose some of its momentum before performing a three-point landing. The Guncannon slammed to the ground by his side, rolling on the sands before coming in to rest on all fours.
The Pawn Gundam sped overhead at last, elegantly landing on its feet.
"I'm ready to kick some ass. Let me at 'em!" Kai cracked his knuckles, before slamming forwards on his throttle and jogging across the sands, pulling a heat-hawk from his waist. Ray charged after him, leaping up and hovering slightly over the ground as he pursued.
"Remember the plan! I'll advance first and directly attack Miss Koura. You two can't keep up with whatever she's going to throw at us."
"R-Right!" Ray replied, but in his heart a small flicker of doubt arose.
'I don't know what's going to attack…. It could be anything….!'
A scream, followed by Kai being thrown back and slamming into the ground before Ray. The Gundam hovered in to land, looking up ahead at the attacker.
It was, as Ray noticed prior, dark blue. Aggressively so. A pair of red missile pods lined the shoulders, sourced from the Buster Gundam. The chest featured a glowing hexagonal insignia, burning a bright yellow. Her head sported a yellow v-fin, with a smaller secondary fin attached behind it. Attached to her legs were a pair of beam sabres, and a blue beam rifle with grenade launcher. A vent mounted on the abdomen hissed, spitting out some smoke, as a sound oddly similar to a computer's fan was emitted from the machine.
A white decal on the shoulder gave away its name; GAT-X102BD-2 'Duel Destiny'.
"A Blue Destiny unit…!" Ray gaped, "That's…"
"It's equipped with the EXAM System. Here, it allows me to detect attacks before they come, thanks to advanced Platsky particle sensors that can pick up the 'foreimages' of an attack." Koura spoke, holstering the beam rifle on her back and pulling out the sabres, "As such, I am certain that I can avoid any and all attacks you may throw at me."
She swung out the sabres to her sides, spinning them, "You, on the other hand, are beginners. This battle shall be over in less than a minute, and I shall be victorious."
Without any other words, she charged forwards, blades flashing out towards the Guncannon.
Soren accelerated, landing a flying kick on the attacker, "Kai, cover fire. I'll take this."
The opposing suit raised its sabre, swinging down on Soren. The white MS slung up her blades, catching the slice. Soren grinned.
'After forcing the sabres out of her grasp, she'll be a sitting duck.'
"EXAM SYSTEM. STANDBY." A mechanical voice spoke from the enemy mecha, as it glared up with burning red eyes.
A second lavender flash to swung up towards her cockpit. The Exia performed a backflip, the blade grazing its foot. Soren pulled hard on the stick, switching one blade to the rifle, charging up a shot. Before she could release the built up energy, the opposing MS flicked off a sabre, slotting it into a small holster in her wrist and grabbing the gun arm, twisting it around to point away into the ground.
Green eyes grew wide, "T-That fast?!"
Koura did not reply, instead ripping off Pawn Gundam's arm, forcibly swinging out the flickering GN Sword II, cleanly slicing across the Pawn's chest.
However, her back was turned to another player as she did this.
Ray raised his rifle, taking aim and pulling the trigger. The opponent reacted nearly instantly to the movement, flicking the sabre from her wrist, swinging and deflecting the shot into a nearby cliff-face. It twisted around, leaping into the air over Ray.
Eyes wide, he watched as the blue blur flicked open one of its shoulder missile-pods.
"Your ammo rack is exposed!" Kai raised his rifle, pulling the trigger.
With nary a flick of a shoulder, it avoided the shot flawlessly, spitting out a flock of missiles. Streaming white smoke filled the air as the red explosives soared, striking the Guncannon. The RX-78-2 leapt to his feet, running from the blasts.
It was, naturally, hopeless. The One Year War mecha was far slower than the artillery.
The world erupted in orange and white. Ray tumbled, his armor smoking and dented.
'She noticed me?! Does she have eyes behind her head?!'
Pawn Gundam fell back, raising her remaining sword and igniting her wings. One curved around and covered her left shoulder like a cloak as she charged.
The two MS clashed, Soren using the beam cloak as a makeshift shield to block a sabre strike. A compartment on the Duel's chest plate hissed open and the glossy ivory MS's vision became awash with smoke in an instant.
"Smokescreen!" Kai yelled, "Keep your eyes on the target!"
Ray turned around, 'If she's hiding in the smoke, I'll have to get out of it...'
The Gundam leapt into the sky, raising a beam sabre.
A burst of grenades spat out from the smoke below, speeding directly towards him. The RX-78-2 looped around, easily avoiding the stream of fire, "K-Kai, do we need to stick to that strategy?!"
All of a sudden, a burning sphere of light erupted within the smoke, followed by a clank of a shell casing. The smoke had dissipated enough for Ray to see what had happened.
The Guncannon stood, his fist shoved through his opponent's chest-vent. His wrist smoked, and it could be seen that its fist had extended slightly on a piston. A shining shell casing lay on the ground beneath the arm.
Before his foe could react, the mech ripped out his arm and fired up its feet verniers, speeding in retreat. "That better have done something." Kai growled, using his free hand to shove the fist back into the arm, "That maneuver almost broke my hand…"
No such luck. The opposing MS drew out her sabres. The Guncannon's pilot sighed, reaching behind his back and swinging out a crude pistol-like weapon from his back. Shots spat forth from the end of the weapon, most of which were shrugged off by the plating. Soren charged in from behind, swinging up her sword. She repeatedly attempted to strike. Once again, her foe seemed to be able to read her every attack, back-flipping out of the way. She elegantly weaved between the wings of light, raising an arm and firing out a grappling hook from the top of the left wrist. The wire shot out, wrapping around Exia's leg.
The white MS was slammed repeatedly into the ground, before being slung skywards directly towards the RX-78-2.
Ray yelped, dropping out of the way, "S-Soren!"
The ivory white MS slammed into the ground, rolling before ramming into a rock.
"Screw the previous strategy, Ray! ATTACK! ATTACK!" Kai opened fire with his shoulder cannons, circling the Duel, "She can't dodge everything!"
Koura grinned, "So you would think."
And dodge she did. No matter what Ray or Kai fired at her, the dark-blue MS seemed to be always one step ahead. A Beam Rifle shot got barely a second's notice before a roll, or a flip. Gunfire was slashed through by the sabres. Sand spilled up from the ground beneath the MS, blocking her moves as she dodged.
With a cloud of sand, she took off, speeding across the artificial desert. Kai growled, "She's no-selling all our attacks!"
"Kai, calm down! W-We just need to find a way to exploit her strategy!"
"TOO MANY WORDS NEED FIGHT!" came the response from, oddly enough, Soren. She charged forwards, smoking and sparking, but still on her feet. Her green eyes were wide, scanning the area.
A kick into her back sent her flying. She rolled, stabbing her sword into the ground and spinning around, launching back at the Duel Destiny, "ALL UNITS, ATTACK! SHE CAN'T HOLD US ALL OFF AT ONCE!"
Ray charged in, Kai running in by his side. The former raised his beam sabre, preparing to slash. The red MS pulled a heat hawk off his waist, leaping skywards to attack from above.
The three swung at the same time, attacking from above, in front, and the rear.
Faster than the three could react, the blue MS raised its sabres, blocking the GN Sword and beam sabre. She jabbed the blades into the ground, flipping upwards and kicking the Guncannon into the air. She raised a sabre, rotating around the other and speeding towards the RX-78-2. A violent kick rammed into the Gundam's chest, as she raised her blade to strike. Ray deflected the swing, screaming bloody murder as he scrambled backwards. Pawn Gundam took a missile to the knee, crumpling to the ground.
This entire exchange merely took a second, but all three MS had been forced away.
Koura's eyes glittered that burning red for a second, "Don't you know… Those overcome with rage cannot defeat me!"
Punching the ground, she let loose a hailfire of missiles forth into the desert sands. A violent sandstorm burst forth.
"Another smokescreen! Get away!" the RX-78-2 turned tail, running.
Kai raised his beam-rifle, taking to the air and hovering away from the tornado of sand and rock. Soren, on the other hand, stood her ground, her wings of light shifting about on her back and growing ever larger.
"GET BACK HERE AND FIGHT!" she yelled into the storm, charging forwards. A large rock flew towards her, but she raised her sword and cleanly sliced it in half.
Ray could spot hints of ice around the cut, 'She's activating Queen mode…'
All of a sudden, a massive steel wall burst out of the sands, flying high into the air before the Exia. The Wings of Light bent around before her, and like a bullet she boosted through, shattering the wall into molten slag.
Explosions illuminated the opposite side of the wall. Before Ray could figure out what was happening, a powerful gust of wind plucked him off his feet, sending him into the air towards the tornado. He fired up his verniers, attempting to fight the pull…
"It's a waste of fuel!" Kai called out, flying spread-eagled in the gale, "Save your verniers for the outside!"
Ray flicked off his boosters, curling up in a fetal position. Debris buffeted the cockpit, and for a second Ray began to fear that a large piece of rubble could strike him down in an instant.
In the blink of an eye, bright light became replaced with inky darkness. Looking up, a massive wall of engraved steel met the eyes of the battlers, and in the distance, a glowing ball of light.
But below their feet was a familiar blue orb…
"T-That desert was in a colony…" Ray muttered, slowly getting his bearings again, switching to his beam rifle, "I don't think I've fought in a no-gravity environment before…"
He fired up his thrusters, raising his rifle cautiously. Debris was still being spat out of the hole in the colony, spinning and spiraling off into space. Light glinted off them beautifully as they drifted across the stars.
The Gundam darted around behind a single large piece of rubble. The Guncannon drifted over, raising up a large rifle in one hand and a heat hawk in the other.
"Well, we're in a bit of a fix here."
"You think?" Ray growled, "This whole thing is going south! We were supposed to provide cover fire against multiple opponents!"
"Not quite. If anything, I'd say our situation has improved immensely." Kai grinned, "Think about it. She's capable of detecting our attacks against her. So what if we attacked something next to her and made that damage the MS?"
"I mean, that has been done before…" the Gundam cautiously poked his head out from behind cover, rifle at the ready, "Won't she expect that?"
"The only advantage she really has are all those extra eyes afforded by EXAM." Kai's eyes glinted dangerously, as he gently hovered out behind the Gundam, raising his rifle, "But it's useless if she doesn't truly know where everything is coming in from!"
"There's no way I can do anything like that…"
The Guncannon pilot let out a hearty laugh, "You… absolute… fool! Look around you! We are swimming in a sea of potential cover and diversion!" he gestured around to the debris field, "We just need someone to distract that Duel, then the other one will give the first more scraps and junk to sneak around in. When her back is turned, leap off and attack, only firing up weapons when it's close enough that she can't avoid it!"
"Y-You're joking, right?! There's no way we can exploit the EXAM system like that!"
"Oh, you of little faith…" The boy in red smirked, "There's no use in seeing an attack if you can't defend against it!"
The Pawn looped around, firing off a burst of shots at the Duel. In response, the blue MS leapt off a large slab of debris, flipping open a missile pod and firing a burst of smoking cylinders through the ether.
Soren sped away, swinging around a wing of light and enveloping the tiny projectiles in a curtain of light. Bright flashes illuminated space around her. She swung her blade out, allowing the light to coalesce around the length.
The Duel Destiny looped around the shining space, pulling out a beam rifle from her waist and firing a grenade at the Pawn Gundam. The ivory MS easily dodged, darting forwards and swinging around the colossal beam blade, slashing down upon her foe.
The dodge that followed was practically effortless. More missiles spat out of the Duel Destiny. The girl gritted her teeth, speeding backwards while weighing up her options. She couldn't just keep attacking like this forever. If she kept just swinging blindly at the foe who could read her every move, she would be wasting energy. Her only hope would be to catch them off-guard.
A nearby debris field provided ample opportunity to lose the projectiles, and they vanished upon impact with the scraps in orange flame.
She darted behind some debris, deactivating her weapons and spying her second, forgotten GN Sword drifting through space in the distance. Virtual sunlight glinted off it.
If only her other arm was intact, she could successfully wield both, parrying and striking at the same time...
A beam shot grazed her remaining arm. She leapt away, raising her sword cautiously.
Hundreds of smaller beams made short work the piece of debris she had took cover behind, and it was from here that she could spot the source of this new beam fire.
"Wonderful. You have bits."
The dark blue autonomous beam weapons sped through space, weaving throughout the debris and blasting the general area around Pawn Gundam. She swung her blade, slicing down one bit, but it seemed that for every one she cut down, another three gained a bead upon her. They were small, nimble, capable of dodging every single attack she could throw at them.
But regardless of how many foes surrounded her, the Pawn Gundam refused to fall. She swung, fired, and darted through the lasers in a deadly dance, speeding down towards the external surface of the penetrated, now-descending colony.
Koura stood atop a piece of debris, inspecting the battlefield. Her beam rifle had been replaced upon her hip, and her sabres were in her hands now. A flap upon her MS's back sourced from the Qubeley fluttered periodically, spitting out a funnel every time it opened up.
The girl was putting up a good fight. However, she had made the fatal mistake of merely circle-strafing and attempting to dash in to find weaknesses in her opponent. This allowed the GM to simply force her away and deploy the Bits, hindering future advances the Pawn Gundam had planned.
It is hard, after all, to dash in and strike while one has to deal with ranged fire coming from all sides.
Her mind now flicked over to the girl's compatriots; a straight-build Gundam and a modified Guncannon. Part of her mind was telling her not to worry about them, but she quickly silenced it. They may have been early UC suits, but they weren't to be merely swatted away just like that. They were still MS; any MS had the capability to destroy another upon the battlefield.
The armor's Phase Shift buff would allow her to tank fire from the Guncannon, but that Gundam pilot, based upon the way he merely ran forwards and spammed beam fire at her, was a slightly harder nut to crack. The EXAM system, while it allowed her to easily avoid most fire, was ultimately only an aid. Furthermore, she had spent almost a whole minute and 35 seconds in EXAM mode. In about three minutes, she would lose control of the Duel to a crude, automated combat system that only knew how to attack without mercy.
If that happened, she would fall shortly after. In a sense, it was a sort of timed self-destruct sequence.
Back to the operation at hand, the Gundam- the first one- was still out there. It had a beam rifle; one of the easiest weapons for her to avoid, thanks to its large Platsky signature. She would dodge every shot while cautiously firing off missiles at him to wear down his armor; it may have lighter armor than the Guncannon, but the difference lay in the fact it had weapons that had an actual potential to harm her MS. The heat-seeking missiles were no funnels, but they were the best she could manage accounting for the energy drain of both the PS armor and the Psycommu. Then, once he had run out of beam energy, she would speed in for the kill with her sabres, tearing him asunder and using the scraps as a shield as she sped towards his ally.
She gritted her teeth.
"Did I kill like this before….? How brutal."
A sensor began to sound within her cockpit. Time to go.
The asteroid she stood atop shattered, and she leapt away mere milliseconds from the initial blast. She spun a sabre, destroying several smaller pieces that had flown towards her.
"Gundam!" Koura rasped.
Ray gripped the controls of his MS, pulling it away from retaliatory fire. The Duel's missile pods flipped open, unleashing a stream of missiles. Ray instinctively reached for his beam sabre to defend against the missiles, darting aside as the rockets chased him through the ether.
'W-Wait, no. I'll use up too much beam energy defending like this… I'll have to try something else!' he growled, 'What can I do….?'
His mind drifted back to the sight of Soren's wings of light, easily flapping around before her to destroy each missile. If only he had something like that…
A way to make those missiles disappear…. Or perhaps…
'Maybe I can disappear from the eyes of the missiles!' Ray's eyes widened, as his eyes fell upon a darkened part of the control panel, reading the label upon the switch.
'T-There it is! The procedures for atmospheric re-entry!'
Indeed, those very controls were there. Perhaps they were installed for the sake of anime accuracy. Perhaps there was a gamemode where gunpla would need to fight in re-entry, struggling to destroy each other before they melted away. Or maybe they were simply an easter egg, a joke among the developers.
Who was going to use that sort of thing in battle, anyway?
Whatever it was, the Gundam pilot could not be more thankful of them in this very instant.
"Cooling shift, activate! Please work…!"
Upon slamming his fist down upon the virtual switch, a white cloud of smoke hissed out from his MS's crotch, covering space behind him as he flew. From a distance, it appeared the Gundam had become a white comet, speeding against the darkness of space.
All of a sudden, a missile spiraled out of control, slamming into a colony wall. The rest of the missiles followed soon after, losing their lock on the Gundam and spiraling through the stars. The extinguisher foam had, effectively, formed a block in the missile sensors, as the heat-source they pursued vanished.
As far as the missiles' sensors were concerned, Ray had disappeared.
The Gundam spun about to face the Duel, the extinguisher vent clamping shut. He raised his beam sabre, darting forwards with the shining point before him. A pair of blades swung out, deflecting his strike.
"You don't know how to fight with that sword, do you?!" his foe called out, "You're no different from that girl!"
Ray smirked, "Thanks for the compliment. I try."
He spun, kicking the Duel back and opening fire with his head-vulcans. His foe merely took the shots, flying forwards towards the Gundam with both sabres outstretched. Ray darted away, gripping onto his rifle with both hands and charging up a shot.
He fired. The MS dodged.
Right into the path of a large piece of wall.
The dark blue MS rammed straight through, cracking its V-fin. All of a sudden, several large pieces of debris, dirt and dust began to fly across the battlefield at high speeds. The Duel flicked open its missile pods, firing rapidly to clear the field. The world lit up in bright orange and scarlet.
In the haze of gunfire and blinding explosions, she couldn't see a white MS darting away.
Ray dodged through the scraps and shards, rapidly kicking off larger pieces. The debris field provided ample cover for him to slip around, mostly undetected. His heart was pounding out of his chest, a strange pressure exerted itself above his forehead, but the newbie pilot kept course, speeding faster and faster through the steel and rock.
'I think I've got her!'
Koura growled, slashing through a large grey fuel tank with a sabre. Where did all this debris come from!? Did that one Guncannon do all this!?
These bewildered thoughts scrambling for attention were interrupted by the realization that she had the means to clear the field swiftly once more. By now, her Bits should have already made short work of that Exia, so they could easily return back to her. Then, using the extra firepower, she'll blaze a path across the field, while also catching the Gundam within the crossfire.
That move with the fire extinguisher was… unexpected. Admittedly, it impressed her.
It reminded her of those glorious days, before all this…
Back to the operation. Where was that Gundam anyway…?
She scanned the battlefield, both with her eyes and sensors. No good. There was too much debris and dust to confirm visual contact, and EXAM was drawing a blank as well; no attacks had been launched yet, thus she could not detect them.
"Where did that mouse go?"
Soren looked all around at the attacking funnels, gritting her teeth. She was low on energy, outgunned, and generally in a bad place. She swung up her blade, hacking through a Bit, but another soared around towards her rear.
"Beam shields up!"
Spinning about, a segment on the elbow of the MS flipped up, a beam shield popping up and catching the shot.
"Can't keep this up for too long. I…. I think I need…" Soren's eyes glittered, "I didn't think I'd have to reveal it so soon…"
She reached onto her back towards the GN Drive…
Sudden gunfire ripped through space. A hailfire of missiles streaked through the debris, several shots landing directly on the bits that surrounded her. A proud red blur rose from the blasts, multiple sub-arms folding from his back wielding various ranged weapons. They automatically locked onto one target all at once, letting loose a flurry of bullets and beams at the Bits.
"Now, do my ears lie, or did you call for help, miss?" Kai drifted over to Soren, pressing his back up against hers.
Internally, the Pawn Gundam's pilot sighed, lowering her arm and preparing her weapon again.
"Your ears are lying." Soren smiled, "But thanks for the assist. Do you reckon she has any more of those bits?"
"Normally, the HG Qubeley's tail only carries 10 bits. But judging by how many just came at us…." Kai tutted, "You don't suppose she packed a MG Qubeley tail with HG bits, do you?"
"I don't really care what she did with that thing. All I need to know is how to take her down!" Soren growled, "Kai, do you have a spare arm in that crate of yours?"
"Soren…. You're being awfully impatient here. Talk to me. What's going on?"
The green-eyed girl glared, "So what? I thought you'd be more serious about this! Ray is out there on his own in a weak MS taking on that crazy thing, and I'm just sitting here, unable to give my all because I'M MISSING AN ARM!"
"…And that's it?"
"L-Look! We're on a battlefield! I'll tell you more about it later!" Soren growled, "Give me an arm!"
Kai narrowed his eyes. Soren was behaving rather strangely. In all the time he had seen her, he had never observed this rasping, biting seriousness. There seemed to be some kind of hurt behind the words she spoke, but what it was remained unknown to the officer.
But for now, he wouldn't pursue this investigation further.
There was a battle on. He could only observe.
"One janky arm, coming up."
The Duel flew through the rubble and dust, scanning the area. All of a sudden, her sensors lit up.
Confirmation. A white head peeked out from behind a large piece of rubble.
The shrill screech of the warning sensor filled Ray's ears.
Koura fired a barrage of missiles, but a lavender beam soared out from the darkness, splitting them apart. Gunfire roared as head-vulcans picked apart any stragglers. She narrowed her eyes, boosting forwards.
Bright lights blazed through space behind him, and the Gundam twisted, avoiding their destructive gleam. White smoke erupted with a hiss from the Gundam's crotch, blinding his mindless pursuers for a few precious moments.
They collided with the colony wall, exploding violently.
She flew forwards with reckless abandon, raising her beam sabres. However, in her haste, she made a critical error; she never noticed the blip on her sensors had dashed around behind her, ducking behind the dust and rock to avoid detection.
This error would cost her the battle.
The RX-78-2 flew forwards, its shield raised before him. He swung, slicing
Her cockpit flashed scarlet and violently shook. A damage report flashed up by her side, and her worst fears had been confirmed; the opposing MS had sliced off the large, white open target mounted upon her unit's rear.
The Bit storage floated into space, cleanly sliced off.
The Gundam floated before her, deactivating his sabre and looping around behind the Duel. Koura spun around as well, swinging but only slicing at thin air.
Ray pulled up, looping around and watching the bright slashes fly beneath his feet.
His foe had been disoriented. Pulling out his beam sabre, he pounced.
The dark blue MS raised her sabre.
Milliseconds too late.
The Gundam's sabre slit across the left shoulder like a knife through butter, cutting upwards. Upon reaching the missile pod, the remaining ammunition exploded. The head of the MS was ripped into shreds from the force of the blast.
Its red eyes flickered, growing dark.
The Duel's pilot growled, raising her remaining beam sabre and flying forwards to strike Ray. The Gundam kicked the dark blue MS in the chest, sending it spiraling through space. The blue MS's pilot removed her shades, narrowing her eyes.
She threw all strategy out of the window. The one-armed MS sped through the darkness. She reached for her beam rifle, ramming it into the stump on her shoulder violently enough to ram a hole in the side of her MS, plastic shards flying.
The HUD lit up, indicating that the rifle now was counted as an attached weapon.
Beam shots, grenades and missiles illuminated the air. Ray danced through the fire, the pressure above his head growing greater. His eyes widened, the lights glinting off his glasses as he flew ever closer to his foe. He kicked off a colony wall, leaping into the air. A grenade hissed through the air, but he knocked it aside with his shield. Extinguisher foam hissed, forming a cloud, and he vanished into the smoke.
The Duel flew away from the smoke.
In the distance, she could spot a white stream speeding down towards the colony's remains. With a snarl, she gave chase.
Ray slammed onto the surface of the colony, already raising his sabre. Without the aid of the EXAM System, or main cameras, the Duel Destiny was heavily crippled in its ability to avoid the blade's strikes. He didn't want to risk having to sharp-shoot at such close ranges with his rifle, running the risk of aiming incorrectly.
Green beams hailed from the air, tearing up the surface of the colony.
The RX-78-2 leapt aside, raising his sabre before him to strike.
"My Duel and I have been through many a battle…." His foe glared upwards, mismatched blue and brown eyes glaring up at the RX-78-2, "I'll defeat you with this final strike!"
The beam sabre swung out, spinning to deflect the beam shots. The newbie sped skywards with a cry, moving to stab the MS.
"There's no way an amateur like you can defeat me!"
The Duel pitched down, ramming against the Gundam's chest violently, opening up her missile pod. Inside the cockpit, Koura slammed down on the switch to fire every single missile she had at once.
A clash of plasma, and a burst of yellow light. Ray shielded his eyes.
That ivory MS came to his rescue once more, kicking the Duel Destiny aside.
The missiles flew off into space, having been launched before they could correctly lock onto their target.
Soren descended before Ray, her blades raised, "Ray, good work. Fall back, I'll take her down." Her eyes burned with a mysterious light, as she hovered slowly towards the blue MS. Her damaged arm had been crudely replaced with a sub-arm like frame, with her secondary GN Sword now firmly clamped on.
Raising her blades, she flew forwards.
The Duel blocked the strike with her remaining sabre, "So, is this it?"
"I guess so."
"To the very end, I do not wish to surrender!" the Duel's pilot growled. The beam sabre glowed a bright blue. Soren growled, kicking the MS into space. The Duel fired a smoke grenade, dashing away.
Soren flew through the smoke, spinning with her blades outstretched like a fan to dispel the cloud. The Duel raised a foot, blocking the following sword strike at the cost of her leg.
"Don't forget about me!"
Copious amounts of gunfire burst through the debris field as the Guncannon poked its head –and an assortment of other weapons- out from behind a piece of debris. Firing off his waist grappling hooks, he latched onto a large rock. While Soren kept swinging away at the GM, he spun up the rock on the end of the chain like a hammer, before hurling it forwards.
The rock smashed head-on into the Duel, propelling the officer towards it, heat-hawk outstretched.
With a swift swing, he slashed off the arm of the dark blue MS. The Duel spun to kick him, only for a GN sword to hack the leg cleanly off.
"I'm not going down like this!" the MS began to emit a rising, whining sound.
Kai's eyes widened in recognition, "Self detonation procedures! Get back!"
His warning came in just a few seconds too late. The blinding flash of the explosion covered the vision of all the pilots. Ray gritted his teeth, covering his eyes.
When the light faded, a glowing pink orb of light remained on the battlefield. It unfurled, revealing itself to be Soren's wings of light curled around to protect the ivory MS.
"We… We won…!" Ray nervously spoke, "D-Did that do it?"
Soren remained silent, her wings retracting back, "I trust you shall keep your end of the deal, Miss Koura."
The GM remained silent for a few moments, before sighing with a laugh, "I shall. Thank you for giving me this final chance to prove myself in battle."
"Same here." Soren replied, "Now, I believe Kai can take the rest from here."
"Gotcha… Crap." The officer spoke, his eyes lighting up in realization, "I… I can't arrest you!"
"…What." Both Ray and Soren spoke, staring at the boy in red.
"I don't have a warrant for her arrest… Or even this operation!"
"Are you telling me I just fought that woman for nothing?!" Ray exclaimed, "MY GUNPLA ALMOST EXPLODED SEVERAL TIMES THERE!"
"So… Do I… um… wait here while you do that or something?" the GM muttered.
"…You really aren't made for this whole 'mafia' thing, are you?"
"To be honest, not really. I didn't think it'd get this far-"
A bright flash of light and a loud crack of sound filled the room.
It was at this moment, a sudden burst of blood spurted from the GM's arm. She let out a yelp, collapsing to the ground, clutching the wound. Ray turned to the door, spying several of the black-clothed peons standing there. One of them held a smoking pistol.
"We ain't takin' orders from no traitor! We'll capture all of them!" one yelled out.
Soren and Ray exchanged glances, stepping back from the door.
Kai, however, held his ground, "You idiots… You actual buffoons! What the hell did you think you just do?!"
"Zip it, copper! Or would you like to be next?!" the armed grunt took aim at him.
"Please, add more manslaughter charges. That'll look real good with the drug dealing on your rap sheet." The boy in red spoke, "I'm going to give you all of five seconds to drop your weapons."
"Well, I'ma gonna give yer two to shut your lip before I do so forever!" the grunt charged forwards.
All of a sudden, a door on the opposing side of the room swung open. Kai dropped to the ground, and a gunshot echoed in the room. Ray gasped, looking away.
"DROP THE GUN NOW!"
The GM's pistol clattered to the ground. Ray glanced over at the open door, spying a uniformed police officer standing in the doorway. He, along with several other officers, entered the room.
Kai, glancing up behind him, let out a sigh of relief, "A-Are you guys police?"
"Are you Scott Hakai?" one officer asked, walking up to the GP officer, "I'm Constable Healy. Your brother, Izumu Hakai, called us here after your investigations into this drug ring."
"Oh. Well, yeah. I'm with those two." He pointed at Ray and Soren, "GP Police business."
"…You're literally kids..." the man face-faulted, "Ugh… Well, anyway, we've got some questions for you. Would you care to answer them back at the station?"
So as it turns out, Kai's brother called the cops onto the pub with a tipoff of a large drug lab. He was operating on his own plans to call the actual police to allow them to sort out this whole thing as it fell outside the jurisdiction of the GP Police.
But Soren's plan threw him off. He was waiting to collect a larger amount of evidence for proof that drugs were actually being made there, but upon hearing that his own brother was on his way there to personally deal with the issue, he had no other choice but to call the actual police in.
Soren, Kai and myself were taken back to the station and asked a series of questions. I mean, I didn't really have much to hide from them, so I told them everything. Kai brought up some of his previous encounters with the GM, and there was a lot of legal jargon being thrown about.
The geist of it was that this whole plan was insane and Kai should probably try to avoid engaging in battle with drug dealers with plastic battle robots.
We were held for hours, but the moment we were released (We were basically minors, after all, and GP Police stuff is weird surrounding things like that), Soren wanted to check up on that GM we fought.
On the other hand, I had to go visit a… friend.
I had a GM to deliver. The good sort.
"Here you go. I believe that your friend should be acquitted of all GP Police charges now."
Ray picked up the slender custom GM, looking up at the older man- Izumu, if he recalled what the officer said, "T-Thank you… Also, thanks for calling those police to the place! I thought… I thought I was going to die."
"Well, fortunately you didn't." the owner of the soup store glanced down at Ray, "But next time maybe don't, I dunno, blindly follow your friend into a drug den. Or listen to a GP Officer to do his dirty work for him. We aren't exactly police, you know."
"I understand… Well, I get it now."
"Though I will admit, I think a bit of my brother's crazy good luck may have rubbed off on you." The man glanced off, scratching the back of his head, "He's always pulling off crazy stunts like this. I mean, this time was sort of not his fault since his girlfriend told him to do it, but based off what I heard from Kai, don't you think that this was all a little convenient?"
Ray thought back to the events of the day. It was awfully nice that the GM's leader was so honourable as such to allow them to battle like she did. And convenient that they were able to actually break into the base just like that. And that's not even talking about the police arriving just in time as the officers were about to shoot them…
"D-Did you plan this?" Ray stared, wide-eyed, "Did you manipulate the GM… then told them to let us in… and…"
"Trust me, I did not do anything. Kai is just that stupidly lucky. After all, how else would he have managed to strike such a lucrative deal with a body pillow store to allow us to run this oddly specific store?" the GP officer laughed, "He's probably the luckiest guy I know, and I'm his brother."
Ray glanced down at the GM in his hands, before shaking his head, "I don't believe luck like that exists."
"I'm not telling you to believe that." Izumu replied, "Frankly, I don't believe it myself. But am I going to look a gift horse in the mouth? Hell to the no."
"R-Right. Thank you again!" Ray politely nodded, turning to leave.
As he did, the officer called out to him, "One last thing; Miss Mikami told me you were looking for a teammate…"
"I guess so…?"
"And you're piloting an RX-78-2, right? That's pretty fragile." The man grinned, winking, "I bet you'd need quite a bit of luck out there to pull through, right?"
"…I'll consider it." The boy in blue sighed, "See you."
With those words, Ray turned to leave. As his back was turned, he didn't notice the storekeeper performing a quick victory dance behind the counter.
"Are you… okay?"
The woman lying on the hospital bed turned to face the girl, "I'll live. The doctors said it just grazed my arm. It never went in at all." She chuckled, "Those idiots managed to miss at point-blank range."
"That's…. lucky." Soren slowly muttered, her green eyes scanned over the woman's arm, "I'm glad you aren't hurt in any way, Miss Koura."
"As am I…" the woman sat up, "Of course, I suppose I have to thank you, in a sense, for what will transpire next. I will be hauled off to a prison to serve a sentence, but it is a far better fate, in my eyes, than remaining under the thumb of that gang."
The green-eyed girl bit her lip. Whatever hardship the woman had suffered upon the GM's payroll had clearly left scars all over Koura.
"I… I'm sorry."
"You shouldn't apologize to anyone. I chose this foolish path. It is my burden to bear." The woman smiled, "Of course… I wish that I could attempt to repair the damage I had wrought…"
Soren remained silent, before the burning question made its way to her lips, "…Gunbre ran academies. Would you have happened to be a teacher for the junior program?"
"How… nevermind, the police had background files for me, didn't they… Well, yes. I was. But it was a while ago, several years before all this. I'm retired now. "
"…Miss Koura, I was once a student under you. My name was Soren Mikami." The Pawn Gundam's pilot's eyes welled up with tears, "…You taught me all those years ago the basics of Platsky technology. You were the reason why I kept being a Gunpla battler to this day..."
The woman's eyes widened, "…M… Mikami? Wait, you were that impulsive child from back then…"
"Yes. I was that troublemaker who flunked out of my first year. That's why I apologized." Soren wiped a tear, "I… I didn't know that we'd end up here…"
"I-I never would have thought you'd have… You've changed so much, Soren."
"As have you…" the green-eyed girl smiled, "Please… If there is anything I can help you with, I'll be here for you."
For the longest time, the two gazed into each other's eyes. There was no conflict between the two now. For a few moments, it was as if the last few years had never happened between them…
Even if only for a while, this comforting familiarity was very much welcome.
"Where did my life go wrong? Well, it all began when I needed some quick cash, so I became a bartender…"
'This is so awkward.' Ray internally sighed, watching the children before him file excitedly out of the school gates.
After a short while of searching the town, he had managed to stumble upon Bell's home school. Now, all that remained was to wait for him outside the school gates and pass the GM back to him, closing off this brief chapter of his career.
What he intended to do, following this, he was less certain of.
Having spent an entire day searching for the boy's GM, he had no idea how far down he had fallen on the ladder. He didn't have the time that would be needed to reach Soren's place, let alone the time required to research and surpass her.
Pawn Gundam, in spite of the damage she had sustained, would be back on the battlefield better than ever in a matter of days. Of this, he was certain. Soren wasn't the type to cry over such matters, after all. Furthermore, she had taught Ray everything he knew so far about battling, so she would surely be able to counter everything he could throw at her.
And there was the matters of her teammates.
Gracia was heavily reliant upon ranged homing attacks to pick off opponents at long range, before or while dealing with close-combat with her knife. While Ray had a reasonable counter for the former, he lacked a method of combatting the latter, on account of his inexperience with close-combat with sabres.
And at least two more teammates were going unchecked…
'Hang on. Is this a four-on-three fight?' Ray shuddered, 'I barely have one other teammate, let alone two more! How am I supposed to win against such odds?'
He looked up, spotting the face he had recently become acquainted with; Scott Hakai.
"H-Hi. I was just waiting for Bell, and…"
"I know. You're looking for him because you need an extra team-mate and wish to head for the tournament."
The boy in blue blinked, "How did you…"
"Soren told me about it. That, and I'm quite good at piecing things together." Scott leaned against a nearby tree, "I'll cut the chatter and get to the point of me coming here; I'm in."
"You want to join me?"
"No, I want to buy your Gundam." Kai quickly corrected this sentence with a smirk upon spotting Ray's shocked expression, "Of course I mean joining you. You're going to need all the help you can get. And you probably don't want your tutor to be only the same exact person you'll be fighting later on. Makes it hard to catch them by surprise in battle, hm?"
…No, Ray was not about to question how the officer had been able to read his mind exactly.
"I guess so, then… But how do I know-"
"Here." He reached into his coat's pocket, pulling out a white piece.
Ray's eyes widened.
It was another Revive RX-78-2 head. However, the eyes were darker. Upon closer inspection, he noticed that this was because the eyes were actually transparent, the sticker not placed over them.
That, and the completely intact V-fin…
"I captured this off one of the destroyed GM machines. It just didn't feel right, watching your Gundam run around all damaged like that, so, here."
"Wait, is this legal?"
"Maybe. Look, ultimately, you need a teammate, and I'm a particularly good one, if I say so myself." Kai held out his hand, "So, what about it?"
Reluctantly, Ray took his hand, shaking it, "Alright, then…"
"Sweet. We cool."
"This is so sudden-"
"Hey, no worries. I'm a super pilot." Kai flashed a thumbs-up, "Worry about yourself. I'll be able to handle myself just fine out there."
"That's what I'm worried about…" the newbie trailed off, spotting the familiar red-eyed boy in the crowd, "Oh, there he is."
He began walking towards the boy, calling out to him. He turned his head, spotting his approach.
"Oh, hi Ray. What are you doing here?"
"I got your GM back. Here you go." He held out the red gunpla.
Bell's eyes widened, "Woah, really? Wow, thanks… But I don't think I'll be re-joining you, though."
'That was all you can make out, Ray? 'Oh?' You can't even muster the courage to say a proper goodbye?' that nagging voice cried out within his head.
"But it's not because of you! It's not your fault… Well… Sort of, but hear me out!" Bell smiled, "When you deployed with me that time, you showed me that, in spite of the overwhelming odds that you faced, you still launched your underpowered Gundam!"
"I mean… it wasn't really much of a choice. It is the only Gunpla I own…"
"Regardless, I was inspired to, similarly, find my own courage by myself. I'm going to try becoming stronger by myself." He picked up the GM, gazing up at Ray with those young, scarlet eyes, "I'm sorry, Ray… But I must go on my own to discover this strength."
The newbie placed a hand on the boy's shoulder.
"I'm not going to stop you. What you choose to do is your own call, after all." Ray smiled, "Good luck out there."
"I have the nagging feeling our paths will cross again, though. Watch me, Mr Ray. I'm going to become an incredible battler!" Bell grinned, "I've got to rush home, though. I have drawn up a new design for my Gunpla, and I can't wait to test it out! See you around!"
With those words, he took off down the sidewalk, waving goodbye to the boy in the blue coat.
And with those words, Bell went off on his separate path, seeking out his own path divergent from my own. However, as one ally departs, I seem to have potentially made another.
My own internal fears have been renewed with this development. Can I truly open myself up to this person? How do I know if I am truly treating them as a friend, or if I'm just seeing them as a means to an end?
The worst case scenario would be a repeat of the last time I attempted to connect to someone to this degree… This time, I don't have Soren to bail me out if things go wrong, because at this age I'm expected to be able to handle such simple things on my own.
But can I really do so?
Next up, the Gundam. He took quite a beating in the last few battles. If I'm to make it to the big leagues, I've got a lot of work ahead of me. I'm going to need to ration parts; this may need me to fight in a damaged MS for a long period of time or accept several less-than glamorous repairs.
Do I even still want to go through with this? I'll only take more such damage if I continue down this risky path. Part of me is telling me to forget all this, to just settle down, maybe paint the RX-78-2 and make it simply a display piece.
However, a strange force keeps calling me back. I feel… oddly empty without Gunpla Battle now. Is this some sort of drug that keeps me coming back to it?
What part of this painful procedure do I even enjoy?
"Don't stray too far ahead from the pack. If you do so, there may be a chance we may not be able to get back together again."
Three Zakus flew through virtual space, their monoeyes scanning the area. One- a white 'Shin Matsunaga' custom with a large gatling gun- flew over to the leading zaku, a pink Zaku with a commander fin and a bazooka.
"Sir… You don't actually believe… that… Thing is here, do you? It's just a bunch of heresay, isn't it?" the pilot nervously spoke, "No way something like that could be that fast…"
"It's doubting like that that resulted in those other people losing…" the third Zaku responded, raising its sniper rifle and looking up ahead, "So in my opinion, you better shut your mouth. We appear to be entering its territory."
The three flew through a debris field, weaving between the wreckage of destroyed battleships and crumbling buildings. Thunderbolts periodically arced through, striking any exposed metallic surfaces.
They never saw the haunting blue light illuminate the back of a large piece of sheet metal.
"I think it's time I blow this scene." The pilot smirked, the light glinting off the visor of the helmet, "Alright. Three."
The roar of engines filled space, as it flew towards the unsuspecting prey.
The green one, lingering near the rear of the group. A prime target. His back was turned; the first and last mistake he would make in this battle. A missile ripped through the chest of the Zaku, cleanly blasting the MS in half. The other two turned around; right into the path of the blade that flashed out from the smoke. One wasn't fast enough to avoid the glowing light of destruction cleaving his arm off, taking the bazooka out with it.-
Space was awash with bright light as the ammunition went critical.
In horror, the white Zaku's pilot choked out, "I-It's real! S-Shoot! SHOOT!"
Gunfire glanced off the body of the blue MS, as it darted between the debris. It sped towards the pink Zaku, reaching out and dousing it in a hail of rockets. Off came all of its remaining limbs, its pilot screaming in absolute terror as the cockpit was suddenly impaled by the blade. The blue MS spun its arm around, flinging its foe right into the oncoming bullets. It struck the gatling gun, exploding and rupturing most of the barrels with it.
The white Zaku's pilot yelped, gunning his engines. He would run. He needed to.
After all, he was the last one left… other than the blue demon.
With a clank, the verniers of the blue suit screeched to life, sending it in hot pursuit.
"Let's jam." The pilot grinned, cyan glinting off that menacing smile.
An ally has been lost, another gained! Ray will need all the help he can get in the battles to come!
The owner of this arcade is an old experienced battler, molded by his days of Plamo battle. As much as Ray hates to have to fight against a powerful foe, he has no choice but to in order to climb ever higher up the rankings. The battle that will come ultimately leaves a strong impression upon him, but for more reasons than he initially thinks...
The Revive Chronicles; Next time, Listen Up! A Hummingbird's Song!
TRC MS FILES:
GAT-X102BD-2 'DUEL DESTINY'
Pilot: Yurika Koura
An MS that appears to have been designed as a sort of 'SEED Version' of the Blue Destiny Unit 2. It's pilot seemed to be really devoted to that whole 'Duel' aspect, at least before she began firing missiles and funnels at us.
To be frank, there are a ridiculous, literally clown-car like amount of funnels crammed into it. Enough to surround one of its foes and pick away at it. Basically, it can perform the firepower roles of two MS in one; while the funnels' autonomous systems distract one opponent, the Duel itself can dash off and slaughter its other foes. The latter task is easily accomplished with its twin stock beam sabres.
Furthermore, it has missiles. A RIDICULOUS amount of custom 'heat-seeking' missiles. However, their seeking capabilities serve as their downfall as well; upon the loss of the source of heat they are trailing, the missiles may become regular, dumb artillery.
In the current battle system, it may be assumed this is true for most other 'heat-seeking' missiles as well.
This is where its EXAM System kicks in; detecting the 'foreimage' of an attack (thanks to the Platsky Particle System), it automatically moves to avoid the attack while also executing the entered commands of the pilot. An example of this might be automatically dodging from an attack while using a free hand to fire its beam rifle (57mm HE BR). When used in conjunction with the missiles and funnels, it becomes a formidable foe capable of detecting an individual from afar and following up with a burst of artillery.
Simple, but effective.
Naturally, standard issue combat prediction system suppression techniques are advised against it, in addition to utilizing techniques that may allow one to avoid the heat-seeking projectiles. And whatever you do, avoid sword-fights with it. She can and will probably win.
Thanks to the large energy drain of all the systems, though, one's best option in battle is a war of attrition; avoid her for long enough to wear down her power, or for her to slip up. After doing so, strike hard but carefully. In the end, EXAM is just a program here, and all it does is see one's… 'intent to attack'. If the right actions are taken against it, there is no way for her to avoid it.
There's no point in seeing an attack if you can't get out of the way in time, I say.
Go get 'em, tiger.