1st Reload – Arisawa
There's a lot of hot topics out in today's world, like the latest war being fought or the newest technology out on the market, but two things tend to stand out from all of them; Infinite Stratos and Butei, with the former being a really hot topic due to it being only around for just a decade. To say that technological marvel made an impression on the world is an understatement, and depending on what gender you are, it was either good or bad, depending on how one looked at it.
For as long as I can remember, I never had to deal with either of them for my whole life, only hearing about them in passing, even though my mother knows a lot about both subjects. Apparently, all that changes today, though how it started threw me for a loop…
"Nii-san, time to wake up!"
"Hey, it's my turn to wake up Onii-chan!"
"No it isn't!"
"Yes it is!'
"No. It. Isn't!"
"Yes. It. Is!"
Ugh, I love my sisters, but I still have the urge to give them a smack to the head for being this annoying this early in the morning. I try to open my eyes but the sunlight is really painful that I have to keep my eyes shut…
"…Will you two be quiet? You're both making so much noise again!"
"Ah, Nii-san's up! Mom told me to get you for breakfast before we go out!"
"Hey, Mom told me!"
Fuuuu…well, can't get back to sleep now, even if it's Sunday. Might as well go eat breakfast. Still, why can't these two be a bit more normal and wake me up with a gentle nudge? Their arguments always give me a headache…
Sunday, the one day in the week that Mom demands that we spend time together as a family. After what happened to Dad…well, who are we to argue?
Mmm, that's smells heavenly… It's been a while since Mom cooked breakfast. Even with a fractured arm, she can still cook? It looks like Sera's helping her though.
"Oh, you're already up Jun? I thought it would take a bit longer considering it's Sunday."
"Yeah, but Rina and Sera's arguing wouldn't let me sleep…"
Mom and Sera look confused, while Rina just sat at the table drinking tea while reading a newspaper. Weird, Rina doesn't usually read the newspaper…
"What are you talking about Jun? Sera's been helping me with breakfast the entire time. I only sent Rina to wake you."
Only Rina…? Oh, I see now…
Looks like Rina's avoiding my eye as she dives a bit deeper into the newspaper. Ha, looks like I got tricked by Rina's acting, again. These twins, they sure love their acting.
"Tch, nevermind. Breakfast smells good Mom, Sera."
I sit down at the table where most of breakfast was already waiting. Looks like Mom and Sera are bringing the last dish now.
While everyone was busy eating, Mom suddenly looks at me with a serious eye. Was it time for a check up again? She usually looks at me like that either when a check up is scheduled or when one of us is in trouble for something, and I don't remember doing anything to warrant the latter.
"Jun, I need to talk to you later, okay?"
All I did was nod as Mom turned her attention to Rina and Sera. Why do I have a feeling that this isn't one of those regular parent to child talks?
Walking down the steps to the basement, I can't help but wonder what on earth Mom wants with me. She's being real private about it too, that it's making me kinda nervous. Letting Rina and Sera go hang out with their friends on a Sunday? Something's really wrong here…
"Jun, could you make sure the door's closed? Don't want to leave it open, or else those two might get curious and look around when they come home. For all they know we've gone out…"
Okay, Mom's never been this secretive except when it comes to Butei business, IS business and planning surprise parties. Still, I checked the door and remembered that I closed it behind me. A habit I suppose…
"Alright, it's closed Mom. So…what did you want to talk about?"
I didn't notice it before, but when I asked my question, I saw the look Mom had on her face, and I gotta say, I do not like that look. She definitely had something planned, and odds are, I'm not gonna like it.
Looks like Mom was busy with her thoughts until I called out to her. She snapped her attention onto me as she pursed her lips.
"Follow me Jun, there's something I want to show you."
Raising an eyebrow, I follow Mom until we're facing a stretch of blank wall. I always wondered why she kept this part of the basement clear of stuff when she presses a part of the wall, revealing a pad of some sort.
Well, that's something you don't see everyday. Except in fiction I suppose.
Part of the wall opens, revealing an elevator as Mom turns around to look at the disbelief on my face. She smirks as she walks in, waving a hand at me.
"C'mon Jun, we don't have all day."
With the weirdness factor going up by a point, I follow Mom into the elevator and she presses a few buttons. The doors close and we start descending, and my curiosity starts to come up.
"…Since when does our house have an elevator in the basement?"
"Oh, it's been here for a while now. You know that this house used to be the place where me and some of my university colleagues lived right? Well, let's just say we…uh, found a few things the last tenant left behind that made things a lot easier where research is concerned."
"So what you're saying is…"
The elevator reached it's destination, which I think isn't too deep considering how slow it felt, and the door opened, revealing some kind of laboratory.
"…you and your friends found a hidden laboratory during your college days. How on earth did that happen?"
"Well…" Mom led me through the lab as she put a finger to her chin. "We needed a place to do our own researches, and the university labs aren't really secure, much less stocked with the stuff we needed. I think Tabane pulled a few strings when it came to the renovations, along with Shizuru, I think…"
This pretty much needs some explanation. My mother, Haruhi Arisawa, was one of the people who helped develop the scientific wonder we know as Infinite Stratos. Sure, Tabane Shinonono is the one who was credited as it's creator, but even a genius like her couldn't have developed it without help, especially with all the diverse tech you can find in a frame. From what I can remember, Mom specialized in anti-gravity technology, and her, along with a number of others, pooled together their specialties with Tabane, the mastermind if I recall correctly, to make Infinite Stratos. Didn't get much attention at first, waited four years later to reintroduce it after improving the technology somewhat, and women got a big boost in social standing as a result, due to a bug that Tabane seemed to have 'overlooked', according to Mom.
She still thinks it's some kind of conspiracy. Either that or Tabane wants the moon to be filled with female moon rabbits in IS suits. That would explain the mechanical ears on her head.
Anyway, out of the entire crew, Mom's the one that got upset the most, since the anti-gravity tech is her pride and joy, until Tabane explains that she took the credit in order to let the others live peacefully, since the bunny lady planned to go into hiding at the time. Still is, now that I think about it. Well, after that, Mom joined Dad in the Butei business since she attended Butei High and is a registered Butei, then eventually became who everyone knows as IS Butei Inspector Tsubaki, though her real identity is kept a secret for security reasons.
Hmm, I'm pretty sure Mom keeps up her research as a side hobby though. She tends to disappear on her off days sometimes, not to mention she still keeps in contact with Tabane and the others. Makes me wonder what she's up to…
Still, remembering Mom's first expertise pretty much explains the Infinite Stratos standing in front of us in Standby Mode, a Rafale Revive that Mom somehow obtained and modified heavily. I think she calls it Rafale Revive Pandemonia, or something like that, can't remember.
"Uh, what's going on Mom?"
"You're going to help me with an experiment, Akira."
"O…kay, you need me to help you handle a few things?"
"…No, it's something more important than that."
Oh boy, now I really don't like where this was going…
"If this experiment works, then you are going to be the world's first male IS pilot!"
"Uh, are you sure you're thinking alright Mom? You're not on any 'special' meds again, are you?"
"No, no, no. This is something I've been working on with some of the others for the past few years. With me out of action due to my arm, this is the perfect time to test it!"
My gosh, she can't be serious, can she? Everyone knows that Infinite Stratos can only be piloted by women. I personally agree with that since I've seen pictures of girls in IS suits and I gotta say, they look good in them, in polite terms. I know they're a mecha musume fan's dream, that's for sure. Although, I wonder why the pilots have to wear such…delicious attire to pilot them though…
"Okay, so how exactly is this going to work? It's not like I can just walk up to it and try to activate it."
[That's where I come in, Master Jun.]
I couldn't help but jump when the sudden female voice came from the IS of all places. Really, I know technology has advanced pretty far during the last decade, but a talking machine still seems a bit far off.
"Mum, what was that?"
"That, Jun-kun, is what is going to help you be able to pilot this IS." Oh boy, this outta be interesting. "Thanks to my associates and I, we have created the first 'sentient' AI support program to help enhance an IS' functions, though it's more bringing out an IS' AI to the forefront and giving it more active functions."
Okay, even with that dumbed down explanation, I couldn't understand much of it, but I tried, nonetheless.
"So…this AI is going to be the reason for me to be able to pilot an IS?"
"Unfortunately, it would be only this IS specifically. If other AI support programs were installed into the other cores, then maybe…"
[We should get the testing underway Mistress Haruhi. By the way Master Jun, I am IS Core #469, codenamed Arianna. It's a pleasure to meet you.]
"Uh, same here?"
"Good. Now that you are acquainted, we can begin testing!"
"And how is that supposed to work? Just jump in and hope something happens?"
"Good lord no." Mom looks at me as if I was a madman. "Just go up to it and put your hand upon it. Standard recognition procedure."
Okay, I couldn't help but get a bit nervous. I mean, who knows what can happen. On one side, this works and we make history, and on the other, it doesn't and I'll get electrocuted or something…
Hey, I heard stories about men trying to use IS, and all of them are not pretty!
Right, on to the testing. Walking up to the IS, I take a deep breath and put my hand over the IS, touching the armor. I wait for a few seconds and when nothing happens I sigh a breath of relief.
"Well, looks like it's not working Mom, so-."
Suddenly, a glow erupts, interrupting me as I look back in shock. I hear Arianna's words pop up as the glow gets brighter.
[Overriding initial protocols. Beginning imprint recognition.]
What happened next is hard to describe. It's like basic data about the IS was pouring into my mind, and it feels a bit painful and forced for some reason. Turning my head, I see Mom looking extremely pleased with what's going on when the glow suddenly dies and the information load stops. The sudden stop makes me fall backwards due to the shock, and I still feel a bit disoriented.
"Ugh, what was that…?"
"That was a successful imprinting. Congrats Jun-kun, you're now an IS pilot!"
"Now that that's taken care of, hop in!"
"Wait, right now?"
"Yes, yes. Need to make sure everything's in excellent condition."
I remember that all IS pilots wear 'special clothing' when they pilot, so I really need to ask Mom this. "Uh, don't I need to wear a special suit or something?"
"No, I configured Pandemonia to be able to operate with regular clothing. It helps when I have to use it in a pinch."
Makes sense. Being a Butei is no easy feat, and adaptability is one of the most important aspects.
Anyway, Mom helps me get into the IS, and when the armor starts latching onto me, I can't help but feel a bit claustrophobic, though that passes when the procedure's complete. For some reason though, something feels different, but I can't put my finger on it, until I look at my armored gauntlet.
This is what this IS feels like.
I wonder if this is what other pilots feel when they get into an IS for the first time.
Right now, I feel like I can take on the world without breaking a sweat.
Mom's voice snaps me out of my thoughts as I hone my attention onto her, who happens to be in front of a computer screen. "Yeah Mom?"
"Try moving your arms now. I want to see if everything's working as it should."
Well, it looks like I'm going to be down here for awhile, being put through my paces. At least I have Arianna for company, though I don't know if that says much.
I feel like I've been separated from civilization for my own good. The only person I've seen for the last few days is Mom, and she likes to put me through my paces. However, it's mostly Arianna that provides me with instruction, as Mom had to go upstairs so Rina and Sera don't worry.
So now I have an idea on how to use an IS. I'm shocked that the government hasn't found out about this lab. I mean, it even has an underground test field for crying out loud. Something like this hidden under a suburban area is just plain crazy.
…Well, at least now I have an initial grasp of piloting Pandemonia. From what Mom told my, my natural piloting aptitude falls somewhere between C and B, and she's hoping that it would rise to A after being trained. I should consider myself lucky that I have Arianna helping me with everything, considering I have the tendency to slip every now and again.
I wonder how Rina and Sera are reacting to my 'disappearance'. I know Mom made up some story to the twins, but she never said anything on how they reacted. Oh well…
Right now, I'm in this shooting range, looking over the weapons Pandemonia has, and I gotta say, Mom packed quite the number of weapons into this frame. Looking through the list, I have to ask Arianna, "Which one should I use first?"
[The Starlight + Rifle. The Mistress want to see if it needs more calibrations again.]
A black and white rifle appears in my arms as Arianna explains to me what this rifle can do.
[The Starlight + Rifle is a rifle that Mistress bought from the UK three months ago and had it modified. In addition to the standard energy shots, the rifle's barrel can open up and extend to shoot cannon-like blasts of energy, but requires charge up time. Used only for breaking through reinforced barricades and such.]
"…Why did Mom modify such a rifle in the first place?"
[The Mistress said she was bored, and the rifle looked so bland to her, that she decided to modify it.]
That's Mom for you. And you'd think that her job as a Butei would be exciting enough for her.
Holding the rifle in shooting position, I aim at one of the targets. Ready, ready, FI-!
"Jun! What are you doing right now?"
Shoot, that was close. Lucky I didn't pull the trigger, else there'd be a hole in the ceiling, and I don't want to know if there's something above this room. I'm not keen on causing a cave in, you know.
"I'm in the shooting range Mom. Please don't shout."
As I hear Mom approaching my position, I re-aim the rifle to the target again. Steady…now!
Shooting at the targets, I can't help but be amazed the amount of technology that was put into this. One would thing that energy weaponry wouldn't be possible for another few decades at the very least. But one thing that puzzles me about this weapon is the recoil. Even for an energy weapon, isn't the recoil a bit too much?
[Recoil feedback is too much. Logging information for recalibration later. Please switch to the IS-24 Assault Rifle.]
Hmm, I'm going to be here for a while, aren't I?
Whew, all those weapons, it's a wonder I can remember everything. Infinite Stratos is really complicated…
Still, apart from the Starlight + Rifle and the pile bunker on the left arm, all the weapons on Pandemonia seem to be restraining. Then again, it wouldn't do good for a Butei like Mom to do collateral damage every mission.
"Alright, that's enough for now. Let's head back upstairs."
Wow, going back already? Though I must admit the laboratory setting is kinda getting to me. Being stuck down here makes me feel like I'm a test subject or something…
Shoot, I am a test subject. One for Infinite Stratos…
"Are the twins out?"
"I made them go out for a few errands, so they'll be back soon. I don't want them to hear the elevator when we come up."
"So…we're keeping secrets from them?"
"From pretty much everyone Jun. As much as I want to go out and proclaim that my son is the first ever male IS pilot, I really can't handle the publicity right now, especially after what happened to your cousin."
That I can totally understand. One to many things happened in this family that causes Mom to avoid the media like the plague when she helps it. Seriously, people can be such bastards at times.
"Oh, and by the way, we're going to HQ tomorrow, so be ready when we go out."
"To get you registered as a Butei Apprentice of course."
The elevator door opens, revealing the basement, but I just stand frozen. What does Mom mean, register as a Butei Apprentice? I thought she didn't want any of us becoming Butei?
From what I know, there are two ways to become a fully certified Butei. One is the modern way, taking classes in specialized middle and high schools that focus on Butei skills. A few examples would be the middle school Kanagawa Butei High and the high school Tokyo Butei High. There's Butei Universities too, where a Butei can train and study to become an Armed Prosecutor or a specialist. The other way is the traditional method, apprenticeship. Due to the whole Butei concept being invented by Sherlock Holmes, Buteis, or Armed Detectives passed on their skills through apprenticeships until sometime after the end of World War II, where it somehow became institutionalized. A lot of Buteis come out of the school system these days, but apprenticeships are still around, due to the shorter, yet harsher training while working as an actual Butei, complete with pay and such. Apprentices usually function as a helper of sorts, kinda like how Watson assisted Sherlock back in the day.
A Butei needs an instructor's licence to take on apprenticeships, and Mom happens to have one as she has an apprentice attending Tokyo Butei High. Now that I think about it, I wonder how she's doing…
"Jun? I know it's a bit of a shock, considering what my stance used to be, but…" Mom looks resigned for some reason. "This is just in case you get caught, as it's against the law for civilians to be doing Butei missions and such. You still don't have to be a Butei when this is all over, okay?"
Mom sounded like she was pleading at that last sentence. She's scared after what happened to Dad, and I don't blame her. I'm feeling a bit scared myself, but for slightly different reasons. Death is still a large one though.
"Mom, we're home!"
The twins' shout snapped some sense into me and I quickly walk out of the elevator. Mom presses a few buttons and the elevator goes back to being a plain wall in the basement. She sighs a breath of relief as footsteps go around the house.
"Mom, are you home?"
"I'm in the basement with your brother Rina. We're coming up."
That seemed to set them off as the twins practically run through the house towards the basement. Hmm, let's make it a surprise…it's been a while since they were surprised, hahaha…
Hiding behind some boxes, I wait until the twins are in the basement with Mom, and they're surprised that I'm not with her at the moment. Sera looks around while Rina narrows her eyes in suspicion.
"Mom, where's Nii-san?"
"Well girls, it looks like he ran away when he heard you coming, such a shame."
Really Mom, I'm glad you're playing along, but that's kinda cruel, don't you think?
"Oh really, Mom? I'm sure he's around here somewhere."
The twins must be looking around, so it's probably time to make my queue.
Both girls latch onto Mom, scared out of their wits. Oh how I love scaring these two ever since I got back my eyesight.
Uh oh, looks like the girls are torn between greeting me and ripping me a new one, while Mom just looks plain amused. A laugh escapes her lips as her eyes are full of mirth.
"Ara ara, it's been so long since the two of you latched onto me like this. It brings back so many memories. I wonder what your friends would say if they saw you two like this?"
That made the twins quickly detach themselves from Mom as if she was on fire as I step out from behind the boxes. From the looks on their faces, I'd say the greeting part won out this time.
"Nii-san, where were you?"
"Yeah Onii-chan, disappearing like that is bad."
How on earth am I supposed to answer to that?
"Girls, like I said before, your brother was busy running an errand for me that just took a while."
Mom, that's so vague, that even I would ask questions about it.
"Now, let's all go upstairs. You two got what I asked for right?"
Following my family up the stairs, I can't help but wonder, how long will we able to hide all of this. I know that I'll be getting back into my regular routine after Mom's arm heals, but what happens in between now and that time still worries me.
Hold on a minute… Mom said that I'll be doing Butei Missions in her place, but that means…I'll be going around masquerading as Tsubaki…
NOOOOOOOO! Why Mom, why do this to me! I don't want to be like my cross-dressing cousin!
"Mom? Onii-chan's acting weird."
"Don't worry about it Sera. From what I can see, he just figured out a few things, fufufu."
A demon. That's what she is. A demon.
I can only dread what will happen when we go to HQ tomorrow, with the stories Mom is weaving around us.