Note: From the very first episode, I just loved Kiddy Grade. And unlike a few anime I'd seen, I loved it from beginning to end. (You know how it goes – you find an anime you adore, and in the last episode, the whole thing goes straight to hell, and you end up hating the entire series because of it.) The voice acting is great all the way through (the FUNimation cast is wonderful here), the music is fantastic, the script is fast-paced, and the characters and plot strong all the way through. And besides, the guys are HOT! My personal favorite, though is Armblast… those eyes, that hair, those clothes, that voice… sigh. And you have to admit, the man just has style
This was one of those rare stories that practically leapt onto the page (or in this instance, the computer screen) nearly fully written from my imagination.
A CRASH COURSE IN ELEGANCE
"Chief? ES members Éclair and Lumiere are here to see you."
"Good. Send them in, Mercredi."
"Yes, Chief." Mercredi, the efficient secretary and personal assistant to the Chief of the G.O.T.T. opened the door and stepped aside to allow Éclair and Lumiere to enter. The two girls nodded and smiled to Mercredi and crossed the length of Eclipse's office, coming to stand before her desk. Mercredi nodded once to the Chief and quietly closed the door behind her.
For a short while, the Chief did not acknowledge them, or even look up from her terminal.
Lumiere waited quietly, but Éclair began to shift from one foot to the other, looking back and forth from her partner to her boss. "Um… Chief Eclipse?"
Eclipse ignored her for a few moments longer, then she shut down the screen and finally looked over at the two girls.
"Thank you both for coming. Won't you please sit?"
No sooner had the two girls seated themselves on one of the couches and helped themselves to some tea than another knock came at the door, and Mercredi could be heard on the other side. "Chief Eclipse? Inspector Armblast is here, as you requested."
"Thank you, Mercredi, send him in."
The door opened, and in strolled Armblast – inspector for the Global Union, auditor, and the bane of Éclair's existence.
"Oh, great, we have to work with you again?" Éclair groaned aloud. "Why me? Whatever sins I committed in my previous lives, I'm sorry already."
"And as always, it's a pleasure to see you, too, Éclair," the young man said gallantly. Before Éclair could stop him, he had lifted her hand to his lips and bestowed a kiss upon it.
"Argh, didn't I tell you not to do that!" she howled, snatching her hand away as though she'd found herself fondling a snake.
A faint smile curved Eclipse's mouth as she gestured Armblast to the other couch. "Actually, Éclair, you might be grateful for his help this time. You see, the Inspector here has volunteered to be your partner for this assignment."
Éclair's head came up and she stared at Eclipse in surprise. "My… my partner? But what about Lumiere?" Then she noticed that the other girl was carefully concealing a smile.
"This is one instance where having a female partner will not be… sufficient, shall we say, for the task at hand," Eclipse said, lifting her teacup to her lips and taking a careful sip.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Éclair asked, her eyes narrowing.
Chief Eclipse met her gaze directly over the rim of her teacup. "As Lumiere is fond of telling you, a lady should always strive for elegance. An ES member, even more so. And while your predilection for rambunctious behavior in the past has usually been overlooked, I feel it is time that we… polished your image, as it were."
"Wait a minute…" Éclair began. "You're not saying that…"
Eclipse touched a control on her desk, and the room-sized monitor flared into existence. Displayed prominently was a picture of Éclair wearing a pizza delivery uniform, a huge smile on her face as she held a pizza box in one hand and a power-of-attorney document in the other.
"In all truth, Éclair, one might find it a bit difficult to take the G.O.T.T. seriously under circumstances such as these."
"Yes, well…" Éclair stammered, but then Eclipse touched another control, and the picture vanished to be replaced by one of Éclair wearing a black catsuit and a mask over her face, standing in the middle of a 6-d arena with one arm over her head as though in victory.
"Then there was the little matter of you impersonating a combat cyborg…" Eclipse drawled, while Éclair blushed hotly.
"I was trying to get a fix on who had the high speed reactor…"
Then another image came up, this time of Éclair slinging an enormous mechanized suit around in the middle of a docking bay.
"Destroying material evidence in a case…"
"They were trying to escape!" she protested. "What was I supposed to do, let them go?"
Another touch of the controls, and there was Éclair again, this time wielding her customized lipstick monofilament whip while riding Donnerschlag with a young man flying as co-pilot.
"Assaulting three members of the Nouvlesse..."
"Those elitists practically dared him into risking his life!" Éclair growled, then she whirled around to point to Armblast, who had prudently remained quiet, although he couldn't quite manage to hide his smirk. "And HIM being there didn't help matters any!"
The inspector shrugged. "At least I never doubted your abilities, Éclair, for getting yourself out of trouble as easily as you get yourself into it."
"OH!" Éclair was up off the couch and halfway across the room to slap him across the face when Eclipse's voice stopped her.
"Stop… right… there."
Éclair halted in her tracks, but continued to glare daggers at Armblast.
"Now, as I was saying," Eclipse went on, as though there had been no outburst, "Inspector Armblast will be your partner on your new assignment."
"And what is it?" Éclair asked warily, still not taking her eyes off Armblast, who was grinning openly at her.
Eclipse touched a different control, and the image of Éclair and Tim riding on Donnerschlag was replaced by an elegant building, one that looked much like Lumiere's house.
"This is L'Ecole," Eclipse explained as the younger woman turned to look at the display.
"French, for 'the school,'" Lumiere said helpfully.
Éclair rolled her eyes. "I know what it means, but what kind of school is it?"
"It is a finishing school for young ladies of society," Lumiere replied, and Eclipse nodded.
"It is not so exclusive as the schools that the Nouvlesse have, but I believe it will serve our purposes nicely."
"What do you… oh, no. No, no, no," Éclair protested as she realized what was going on. "No way am I attending some… some debutante daycare!"
"Oh, yes, Éclair," Eclipse said, taking another sip of her tea. "You will be accompanied there by Inspector Armblast… starting tomorrow."
"You have got to be kidding me!" Éclair wailed.
At Éclair's crestfallen expression, Armblast smiled cheerfully. "Cheer up, Éclair, just think of it. Learning how to dance, how to dress, how to actually hold a knife in some manner other than as an offensive weapon…"
"ARGH!" Éclair howled again, starting across the room once more with every intention of throttling the inspector. "One more word out of you and I'll find a way to disembowel you with a shrimp fork!"
"That's enough, Éclair," Eclipse said firmly, although the Chief was clearly trying her hardest to hang onto her severe expression.
"But why him?" Éclair pleaded, turning back to Eclipse. "Couldn't you have paired me up with someone like Dextera or Sinistra? Tweedledum? Even Cesario would be an improvement over…"
"And why not me?" Armblast said in an aggrieved, long-suffering tone. "What could someone like Dextera or Cesario offer that I can't? I happen to be quite charming, well-dressed, good-looking, sensitive…"
"Too bad modesty isn't in your catalog of virtues," Éclair shot back. Then she looked back at Eclipse. "Please, Chief, you can't stick me with him. Please? I'll buy Viola dinner for a month if you'll let me borrow Cesario for this!"
"As I recall, you barely had enough to cover your own meal at Ubu when you and Ricki were there last… before you nearly brought the place down, that is," Eclipse said dryly.
"That wasn't my fault!" Éclair screamed, stomping her foot in absolute frustration. "How was I supposed to know that Laughing Jester was planning a gang meeting at the same restaurant I was visiting on my day off, for goodness' sake? And that was after having to put up with some lecherous creep acting like… acting just like Armblast!"
"Lecherous? Me?" Armblast said in amazement, spreading one hand across his chest in mock dismay. "Why, Éclair, I'm shocked at you, thinking such a thing!"
Eclipse looked over at Lumiere, who was still sitting quietly on the couch, sipping her tea and trying very hard not to giggle. "Lumiere, you will be on standby these next two weeks, working with Mercredi in improving the G.O.T.T.'s computer network. Also, I've arranged for the La Muse to have her general maintenance scheduled for this time."
Lumiere got to her feet and placed her hand over her heart. "Yes, Chief. Understood."
The Chief looked to Éclair, who was standing with her face in her hands, moaning, "Why me?" quietly to herself over and over.
"Éclair, your assignment is to attend L'Ecole for two weeks, under the monitoring of Inspector Armblast. I expect you to conduct yourself in a manner befitting an ES member."
With a sigh, Éclair placed her hand over her heart, while placing her other hand where Eclipse couldn't see it and giving Armblast an obscene gesture. "Yes, Chief. Understood."
"So sorry to disappoint you, Éclair, but if it's any consolation, I did ask Sinistra and Dextera if one of them would partner you in this assignment."
"And what did they say?" Éclair asked.
"That they would buy me dinner for a month to not assign them to work with you." Eclipse gave the other woman a slow smile. "I hear that the food at Ubu is quite good, and that both Dextera and Sinistra are very good dancers, in addition to being gentlemen. Enjoy your classes, Éclair."
To be continued…