Mission 04: First Engagement – Viper vs. O-Chibi

Inoue had to walk quickly to keep up with Commander-General of Seigaku, Ryuzaki Sumire. Despite her advanced years, the head of the Seigaku Battle Fleets was light on her feet, with a loud voice and disposition to match it as she trained her young charges to bring glory to Seigaku's name. He was glad he was friends with the Commander-General, else he might not have access to the splendid sight he was due to see this day.

Today was the first day of the Intra-squad matches aboard the Royal First of Seigaku, and most of the time, Commander-General Ryuzaki did not allow outsiders to witness this tournament. However, with pleading and bribery with a few exclusive chocolate bars, the Commander-General had agreed to allow him and one other to come and witness the event, all of it, and not just the one day. His assistant, Shizune, was due to arrive later after she finished prepping the new camera, and Kodak XL 55BX – the newest and best on the market – for the viewing.

"So, do you want to head straight to the matches, or do you want a look at the Starters Suits?" Ryuzaki asked him, stopping at a fork in the hallway.

Inoue thought about it and recalled the schedule he had seen earlier. None of the starters would play each other for some time, though some did have matches going on. However, they wouldn't be that exciting all things considered.

"I'd like to see if the Suits have changed any since last time," he grinned at Ryuzaki, who smirked in return and turned left down the hallway towards a set of huge double door panels.

She pressed a button on the wall and a keyboard slid out. With practiced ease, Ryuzaki typed in a password, gave her thumbprint, and eye recognition scan. The computer analyzed all of this and the doors slid open with a hiss. Inoue was unsurprised by the high security measures. During tournament time, the security was pumped up to ensure that no one could mess with the starter's mechs in order to beat them. Granted, most of the members on the ship had more pride and common sense than to attempt such a thing, but one could never be to careful. The measures were also against spies, though that happened about as often as a comet hit Earth.

Mechanics were already running around inside the huge area created to house the seven starters suits, also known as STARS. There were three to the left and right on each side, and one sat at the very end of the long catwalk. Everyone knew whom the last one belonged to, as the spot was reserved for the Captain's STARS, and it was sitting there now getting prepped.

Inoue had never gotten over the sheer splendor of the STARS and the awesome power they both represented and radiated. He looked around and noted that Momoshiro, Kaidoh, and Eiji's STARS were gone, meaning they were having matches, which wasn't odd. That left Inui's, Oishi's, Tezuka's, and Fuji's still in the hanger, with their respective pilots probably watching the other matches from the viewing ports.

All of a sudden, a red light flared and a warning blared over the communications system. All personnel please prepare for the docking of Starter Suit 107, Smasher. In an instant, mechanics rushed to Momoshiro's docking spot, swarming it like ants. Tools and analyzing equipment was brought, as well as Momoshiro's personal physicians. Inoue watched as the pre-bay doors hissed open, revealing the heavy set STARS as it floated in on magnetic lines. With a precision that was most admirable in ones so young, the mechanics locked the STARS in place and immediately began running checks and retuning the machine even as the cockpit slid open and Momoshiro hopped out, his doctors immediately rushing to him to check for damage.

Ryuzaki wore a proud smile on her face as she watched the proceedings, and Momoshiro trotted over to her as soon as the doctors were done with him. Inoue noted the boy was still in uniform, and a simple one at that. It consisted of a tight muscle-t, no doubt made of material that synched with the nerve system in his mech, and basketball shorts, which the nervous system could easily bypass, as they were so loose. He was barefoot, as was expected, shone with a bit of sweat, though Inoue doubted the match was that difficult for the young starter.

"How did you do?" Ryuzaki asked him.

Momoshiro grinned. "Beat him 6 and 0, Baa-chan," he said.

Ryuzaki nodded her approval. "Good! Go rest up for your next match," she ordered and Momoshiro waved, slipping on some sandals waiting for him by the hanger door and running off towards the viewing ports.

Attention all personnel. Prepare for the launch of Starter Suit 106, Viper. Repeat. Prepare for launch of Starter Suit 106, Viper. T minus fifteen minutes.

Inoue blinked and started as Kaidoh appeared out of nowhere, dressed in a sleek pro biker outfit he wore in his own mech, colored the same green as his bandana. Mechanics and doctors rushed around him, doctors getting data on his current physical status as the mechanics prepped the formidable Viper for it's next match, running preliminary diagnostics and last minute fix ups.

Ryuzaki took Inoue's arm with a smile. "Shall we head to the viewing ports? I think this match you will want to see."

"Oh? Who is Kaidoh fighting?" Inoue asked, interest piqued.

"Our newest arrival," Ryuzaki said with that smile of hers that said there was more to this than what she was actually saying.

"Newest arrival?" Inoue repeated, not getting it as they stepped into an elevator and began to descend to the view port area.

"You'll see," Ryuzaki said, still sporting that smile of hers.

Inoue just blew out a sigh, knowing that all he could do now was wait and see.

Attention. Attention. The match between Kaidoh Kaoru and Echizen Ryoma will begin shortly. Both stand with perfect win records so far. Repeat. The match between Kaidoh Kaoru and Echizen Ryoma will begin momentarily.

"Ready to go, Echizen-san?" the physician asked as he did a final log into his ComputerBoard.

Ryoma made a noise somewhat like a grunt in return and sniffed, watching as the mechanics did the last second checks. Finally, the mechanics gave him the go ahead and he stepped up to his machine, the cockpit door sliding open without a sound. With no hesitation, Ryoma slipped inside, the cockpit sealing shut behind him.

For a few seconds he sat in a cold darkness, floating in an endless abyss. Then, light swarmed him – charts, images, sound connections – and a stinging pain rocketed through him as the nerve system connected. He felt a presence enter his mind, a soothing voice that spoke no words stroking him, wrapping him in reassuring warmth.

He smiled a bit, welcoming Kalpin's presence. He felt the shift as his machine was turned on the magnetic strips, and Kalpin showed him the locks sliding open with ever increasing speed. Finally, the last door opened and he was thrust into space. He floated in the endless expanse for a moment before the suit's gravity function turned on and he had a sense of left, right, up, and down. He flexed his fingers and watched Kalpin do the same. He tested the sound detectors, motion detectors, heat sensors, communication ports, and the image streamers all in a matter of minutes, and had no doubt Kaidoh was doing the same. To not run such checks (even after the mechanics had done so) was not only plain stupid, but it could practically guarantee your defeat should you not catch a glitch early on.

Fighters ready? Remember, the first to cause six bars of damage with a two bar lead is the winner. If there should be a tie, there will be a Single Shot Round. Obey the rules. Cheating will result in instant disqualification and a suspension from competing. Understood? Ready? Set? Begin!

The millisecond the word 'Begin' was said, Ryoma's sensors blared warnings as Kaidoh's Viper roared at him. Twisting, he missed getting smashed by the bigger suits' fist, but that threw him into a spiral, which was bad this early in the game. He arched his shoulders, and felt his mech's 'wings' spread, their thrusters activating to right him just as his sensors blared warnings again.

Cursing, he blasted the thrusters full force and flew up out of the way of another punch. He leaned forward and began a flip, his feet landing on the back of the Viper and pushing off. He saw out of the corner of his eye a bit of the Viper's first meter go down and smirked to himself. It vanished as his sensors blared, but to late. He felt a pain in his gut and was thrown as he was smashed by the Viper's tail, his first meter almost disappearing.

He twisted and recovered himself, and so began their game. If one had to put a name of it, it was similar to tag, the Viper now trying to dodge Ryoma, and when Ryoma hit it was his turn to try and dodge Kaidoh. About half way through, with Ryoma down two bars in a 4-2, he managed to find a place to regroup on a small asteroid that had drifted into the arena space. Kaidoh seemed to have the same idea and floated a ways off, his mech's tail lashing this way and that, as if itching to hit something.

Ryoma summoned up the video files from the match so far, knowing he had a limited time to analyze them. He saw his medical charts next to the screen, displaying his heart rate, breathes per minutes, and such things. His heart rate was spiking, as was his breathe, and he had sweated more than he usually did. He could feel himself beginning to tire, but Kaidoh had to be the same way. The time frame spanned almost two hours so far, which was extremely long, he knew.

Ryoma had not heard much about Kaidoh, though one of those dorks he roomed with had said Kaidoh was known for his endurance, and that he liked to toy with opponents before he actually finished them off, like a snake's poison slowly crippling its victim. So, that would explain the length of the fight and why Kaidoh's hits were not doing out the wall damage. He was chipping away at Ryoma, mentally and physically, so it would seem.

Smirking, Ryoma reviewed the tapes one more time before dismissing them, his sights locking back on the snake that was waiting for him, tail whipping about in impatience. Time to see if his antidote for this snake's poison was working.

Inoue couldn't believe his eyes. Was this really happening? That little kid was keeping pace with one of the Starter members? It simply couldn't be possible! Next to him, Ryuzaki was smirking, and the other crewmembers were watching in open-mouthed awe.

Since the beginning of the battle, it had been like watching some sort of dance. Despite the much smaller size of the Viper's opponent, it moved lithely and with deadly grace, keeping pace with the Viper in all it did. They traded blows equally, though the Viper had more sheer force and had nicked away four bars, where as the smaller one had nicked away only two, in close to a two hour match now. Heaven only knew how tired they both had to be, but they kept up the blistering pace until finally the smaller suite came to rest on a small rock form that had drifted in, and the Viper took up a position a little ways off, tail ticking back and forth as if counting down the time its victim had till it destroyed it utterly.

Inoue couldn't honestly believe that Seigaku was holding such talent in its walls, and this was only one of the junior ships running for Japan, and that the oldest of these kids was fifteen, sixteen at most and stretching it! He was sure that some of them were far better than any of the senior ships!

"I see you like it," Ryuzaki smirked at him.

"Ah? Oh, uh, of course!" Inoue sputtered. "To have such talent! It's…amazing."

"Well, it's about to get even more amazing," Ryuzaki said and pointed.

Inoue's head snapped around to watch was the little suit, which he heard people calling Kalpin, take off and practically leap at the Viper at break neck speed. The Viper braced itself, tail swinging around to meet the attack first. Inoue thought for sure that the attack, in his opinion careless and reckless, would only put the Viper further in the lead, if not crown him winner of this match.

Inoue blinked his eyes as Viper was suddenly hurled towards the ship, the health meter inside the port blinking as he lost nearly three quarters of his third bar. What in the -? A screen in the port flashed and replayed the scene as fast as it had happened. When Inoue looked again, he saw the Kalpin activate side boosters and swing around the tail, its leg connecting squarely with the Viper's head center.

But it wasn't over yet, that was for sure. The Viper activated the boosters hidden beneath the base of the tail, righting himself out of the spin, but not going any closer to the Kalpin. Inoue didn't blame it. More than likely it was still reeling from the sudden attack.

With a flare of light, the Viper took off, intent on attacking the Kalpin full out. Inoue watched as the claws on the Viper's hands and feet extended and the tail seemed to bristle, as if the scales were rising up off it. Inoue thought the Kalpin was done for sure this time. He, along with the rest of the crew, audibly gasped as the Viper went into a spin, throwing its tail at the Kalpin.

With a flair of angel like wings, the Kalpin hurtled up out of the way. Immediately, it proceeded to do a front tuck and came crashing down on both of the Viper's shoulders. Inoue glanced over, watching the third bar vanish and two thirds of the fourth fade as well. He had to admit, that was a smart move. Though there was no gravity in space itself, by coming down from above it took what small weight the Kalpin had and turned it into a mega-sized punch by adding in the rocket boosters, which simulated gravity in the situation.

Inoue and the rest watched in silent awe as the battle continued. Things had changed. The Viper was struggling to make hits, though it was obviously not easy for the Kalpin to dodge as it did, just barely missing getting nicked each time. What was more, the Viper was having extreme difficulty dodging the blows that came at it, which always happened after it tried to attack the Kalpin. It simply wasn't recovering fast enough to block the blows decently. While the match was still close and obviously taking a toll on both combatants, it was also clear the Kalpin now had the advantage and was making full use of it, if not abusing it entirely.

Inoue started as the sensors around the field flared red, almost blinding him really. He blinked as the two players floated away from each other, each sporting their own battle scars now.

Winner: Echizen Ryoma. 6-4.

In the next instant, roaring cheers deafened him.

"What? No way! Kaidoh lost?" Arai and his merry band of juniors cried out as they watched from monitors in the prep room.

"But how? He had that kid on the run! How did he get beaten?" cried another junior.

A sort of amused chuckle ran through the prep room, and they all turned to see Inui and Momo. Momo was coming back from a match against Eiji, which he had lost in, but that didn't hurt him. He had not expected to win, nor did the juniors think he would, as Eiji was not only Momo's senior, he was also more experienced and was the direct opposite of Momo's style.

"Inui-sempai!" Arai breathed. "How did that happen?"

"It would seem our newest member figured out Kaidoh's strategy before Kaidoh figured out his," Inui said, pushing his opaque glasses further up his nose.

"Uh?" they all chorused, watching the two.

Momo laughed. "Kaidoh likes to toy with opponents. He has a pretty good amount of stamina, and by using his tail and giving himself a longer range, he can pick away at a victim, slowly working away at them till they're to tired to really fight back." Momo grinned at them. "People call him a Viper, but he's really an adder."

Inui coughed. "That's about the right idea. Kaidoh thought he had Ryoma on the run, but in reality, Ryoma was also wearing out Kaidoh. Kaidoh's not used to such close range combat that takes that much movement from his arms and legs. He's used to keeping a distance of about the length of his suite, and not having to use his arms and legs for much more than balance. However, since he was forced to use them unconsciously, he used up energy that much faster and tired himself more than Ryoma. Ryoma has done this before and is probably used to that kind of combat, so it didn't take as much energy from him."

"That little punk figured that out in time to make it work?" the juniors blustered.

"It seems that we got more than we bargained for," Inui muttered to himself, making another note in his cyber-notebook.

"Oooh, he had better watch out," Momo whistled as he went to change out of his mech suite.

Inui just pushed his glasses up on his nose again and tucked his notebook under his arm, heading out towards the viewing ports.