"My name is Jason Douglass, from the United States of America. I have been cursed with the ability to pilot an Infinite Stratos machine. Therefore, I am now here. I am pleased to meet you all, and trust we may become good acquaintances before our time in the school is over. That is all."

Chapter 1

Douglass

When these words were spoken from the newest Second-Year transfer student, not a single sound was made. For a moment, it felt as if time had stopped completely. This had happened twice before, although the second time, it turned out to be a trick.

This time, however, there was no mistaking it. The voice was deep and hard, and the form of the student was unquestionable.

A male.

Ichika breathed a quiet sigh. He already saw it coming that he would be the one to show the young man around, and that meant teaching him about the greatest danger the IS Academy posed: the female members of the student body.

"One...two...three." He counted under his breath, and on three, a huge uproar was made as a large part of the class sprang into action, trying to approach Douglass, get a word of introduction in, see if they could find a way to get closer to him than the others. Ichika watched the whole thing with a worried expression. He still didn't quite understand what the whole fuss that was always made was all about, but before he could get a word in, his sister walked into the room.

Orimura-sensei knocked on a desk loudly. "Order, if you please! Seriously, can't you people contain yourselves? Hmph!" At this, the group dispersed, every girl going back to her spot.

Ichika took this moment to look over the transfer student. He was tall, taller than any student Ichika had seen thus far in the Academy, and dressed smoothly, his uniform as straight and orderly as possible. Obviously, he was very well-disciplined. His hair was silver, lighter than Laura's gray locks, and seemed to be gelled back, apart from two or three spikes that hung in front of his face. His eyes were unseen, as he wore a strange pair of glasses with one single dark red lens that stretched horizontally across his eyeline. The glasses seemed to be attached to a pair of metallic muffs that covered his ears, but obviously did not restrict his hearing. The whole thing seemed to be there for a purpose, not because it was a fashion statement. A scar showing from beneath the glasses amplified that thought. His face was set in a scowl, but not in an angry one. It simply seemed to be a default facial expression. All in all, Douglass seemed to be a very serious young man.

Upon being directed to it, Douglass took a seat without a word. Even though there was whispering and giggling going on from the girls surrounding him, he didn't so much as move a finger, paying careful attention to the lecture that was being given by the instructors. Ichika looked over at him on occasion, only to see the boy seemingly staring to the front. It was impossible to tell what exactly was on his mind due to the glasses, but his body was rigid and he appeared to be sitting at attention, so it was obvious that he was awake and aware of what was going on around him.

After class, Ichika approached Douglass, smiling. "Hello, Douglass-san. I'm Okimura-san, but my friends call me Ichika."

Douglass looked up at Ichika, and said in a careful, but strong voice, "All right. In that case you may call me Jason." He gave a light nod, confirming this statement. "You're the first, right? I mean, the first male to be discovered to pilot an IS. How does that feel, I wonder?" Ichika chuckled weakly. "Well, I don't know. I don't feel that special about it, since I'm not actually as good at it as many people here."

As if it was scripted, immediately at that statement, 5 girls appeared behind Ichika and grabbed him by the shoulders. Ichika's response to this was a small squeak. "Oh, sheesh!" One of the females, with long blond hair, exclaimed, "Come on, Ichika, let's go get some lunch!" Another, who wore an eyepatch, noted Jason. "Who is this man, Ichika? Why are you conversing with someone from the outside?"

Ichika sighed, rubbing his head. "Do you pay attention, Laura? This is Jason Douglass-san, the other male IS pilot." The young man gave a nod in greeting as his name was mentioned. "I guess I should be the one to show him around, so why doesn't he come have some lunch with us?" he turned to Jason. "That's fine with you, right?" Douglass looked long and hard at Ichika, then said clearly, "Sure." The girls looked at eachother, then nodded, as if coming to some sort of agreement, and said simultaneously, "That's fine." To this, Ichika could only sigh.

As they walked to the eating area, Ichika introduced them in turn. "Houki, Rin, Cecilia, Charlotte, and Laura. These are my friends from this school. Most of you guys already know him. Rin, you're in another class, so, this is Jason-san. He's the student representing America." The girls seemed to accept Douglass readily, and he appeared to have no problems with them, though he still had yet to smile once. The question on everyone's mind however, was the same: How was it possible for Douglass to pilot an IS? It wasn't even certain how Ichika could do it, so now that there was another who had such an ability, the mystery seemed thicker than ever. Jason's response didn't help in the least.

"I didn't ask for it. I don't even readily accept it yet. I suppose I'm going to need to do so, since I'll be spending my time here with it, but I think of it as a curse, not some ability I should be proud of."

The group seemed slightly surprised by this, but appeared to decide not to argue with it. Speaking for the group, Ichika said, "Everyone's entitled to their beliefs, I suppose." Jason nodded. "Thank you." They continued to the eating area casually, talking to Jason about themselves and telling him about the Academy. Jason didn't offer too much knowledge about himself, but shared some things, including the fact that his hobbies involved reading and listening to music, and that he was (to the surprise of several of the people present) an aspiring mangaka. It was noticed by everyone that he did not smile at all during the conversation.

As they made their way to a table, Ichika looked at Douglass's tray. "Wow, you don't eat so much. How did you become so tall if you don't have a good appetite?" Douglass chuckled, albeit without smiling. "Don't ask me. I guess it's just part of my anatomy. I've never been the biggest eater." He looked down at Ichika's own food. "Unlike you, haha." Ichika's face reddened slightly. "Hey, I can eat as much as I like as long as I don't get fat, right?" Douglass stared at him for a good long time, or at least that's what it looked like, since he was still wearing his glasses. After a couple of long seconds, however, Jason's face split into a grin, and he burst out laughing. His laughter wasn't loud, about the same volume as his voice, but it also had the same clarity as his voice, and sounded hopeful and clean. Ichika smiled to himself. So, this guy wasn't the emotionless puppet he made himself out to be. This was good. Maybe he'd be able to get Douglass to open up more.

Even after he stopped laughing, Douglass wore his smile through the whole lunch session. The girls were happy about this, too, knowing that they won't be spending the rest of their time at the Academy with a sourpuss tailing Ichiko.

Douglass, in the meanwhile, noticed how clingy the group of girls was to this Ichika character. After watching it for a moment, and seeing a session of them deliberately getting him to feed them and the like, Jason understood, and chuckled lightly to himself. What was probably the funniest thing here was that Ichika seemed completely oblivious to it. Douglass wondered how long it could hold. He was, however, relieved to understand that none of them would be chasing after him. That would be a bother, since romance wasn't a priority to him. Spending time around people interested in another man, therefore, was ideal. He decided there that he would become closer to this specific group.

Jason spoke up rather suddenly. "Um...if I may get a word in? I'd like to thank you guys for being this inviting to me. I didn't expect there to be a group of people to take me in like this on my first day. Therefore, I am grateful." One of the girls, a tall one with long brown hair that she wore in a ribbon, Houki, he remembered her name was, spoke up, "Not at all. It should be only natural. We're not just going to turn someone away, right? That wouldn't feel morally correct. Also, you're the second male to be able to pilot an IS in the world, right? Obviously, we're honored to have you." Ichika picked up where she left off. "Houki is right on all counts, but, also, we just wanna be friends with you. Nothing wrong with that, right?" Douglass smiled and shook his head. "No. Nothing at all."

As Ichika walked down a hallway to class the next morning, he was surprised when a sudden tug came at his arm and pulled him to a side path. A hand clapped over his mouth before he could speak, and he saw that it was Douglass, who was looking furtively in different directions. Ichika broke free of the grip and asked, "What's going on?" Jason put a finger to his own lips. "Shh! I'm being pursued!" He pulled Ichika closer, still looking around carefully. "You didn't warn me about the student body, Orimura!"

Suddenly realizing what was going on, Ichika chuckled weakly. "They've locked onto new prey, huh? Must be rough..." He was silenced by furious hand signals from Jason, who sneaked a glance around the corner. He was obviously troubled by what he saw, and immediately turned and ran down the hall and out of sight. Ichika sighed and looked to see what bothered Douglass so much.

He gulped as she saw the massive crowd of girls rushing down the hall. They stopped at the corner. One of the girls at the front sighed. "Aww, we lost him..." Another one, however, noted Ichika's presence. "Hey, everyone, it's Ichika!" Their mood seemingly revived, they began to move forward. The boy didn't think twice before running off in the same direction as Douglass. He didn't get very far until he felt Jason's hands pulling again, and he was dragged into another side passage. The two boys stayed undercover there for a moment, hearing the large crowd charge by, and they only took a breath when the whole group was past. They then looked at each other and burst into quiet, relieved laughter. Douglass asked softly, "Is it like that for you every day?" Ichika grinned. "Pretty much." Douglass sighed. "Well, at least I don't get such issues with my roommate."

Ichika looked curious. "Who were you paired with?" Jason smiled lightly, the same smile he usually gave, cool and small in its existence, but sincere. "Laura. She's fairly considerate as a roommate, although she seems to have an unhealthy interest in you. She's constantly calling you her wife for some reason." This called another small chuckle from Ichika. "Yeah, that's nothing new. I'm not sure what she's all about when she calls me that, but I think she simply misunderstands something about Japanese culture..."

The two walked hurriedly to class in a comfortable silence. Once at the door, Ichika put a hand on Jason's shoulder. "Hey, why don't you join us for IS practice after school? Since you're a transfer student, you have a personal IS, right?" Douglass nodded. "That's right. I would be happy to help out." Ichika grinned. "That's Stadium 3. Well, we'll see each other in the changing rooms, so it doesn't really matter if you for-" Before he could finish, Douglass said, "Stadium 3. I have committed it to memory." They grinned at each other and walked into the classroom.

Ichika was unsurprised to see Jason run into the changing room, slam the door behind him, and breathe a sigh of relief. Douglass shook his head, "Seriously, they're everywhere."

He looked about. "Well, guess I'd better get ready..." Ichika nodded. "Your piloting uniform is in that locker over there." He pointed to a locker across from his own. Removing it, Douglass's usual frown deepened. "Isn't it a bit small? My stomach will be exposed." He looked over at Ichika, who was already in his uniform. "Oh. Yours is small, too." Ichika laughed quietly. "Yeah. They're obviously designed like this on purpose, though, they're nothing like the female uniforms."

Jason sighed and began to change, removing his coat and undershirt. Ichika instinctively turned away to give him privacy, but Douglass noted, "You seem extremely shy. We're both guys, right? And we're only changing." Ichika sighed. "Sorry, but I got really used to turning away when people change around me, since I've been around only girls for about a year now." Douglass chuckled. "I guess you're right." He slipped on the top of his uniform, although he did not remove his glasses to do so. They seemed thoroughly attached to his head. Ichika spoke out loud, "Hey, why do you wear those all the time? You don't even bother to take them off when you change, so are they really important to you?"

Douglass frowned deeper than Ichika had ever seen him frown. After a pause, he said, "You'll see soon enough." Ichika looked confused, but shrugged and turned to exit. "I'll see you out there. Finish changing quickly so we can start." Jason nodded. "Stadium 3, right?" Ichika smiled. "Yep. See you soon."

When Douglass walked into the preparation room, Ichika had already mounted his IS, as had Charlotte and Houki, who had apparently also come for practice. Laura was there, too, but she had not seated up yet. Douglass sighed and tapped the metallic earmuffs of his glasses twice on either side. Some beeps were heard, and a whirring sound came from his glasses, and then the muffs twisted and released their clamp on Jason's head. He removed them and folded them up, putting them on a table to the side.

Ichika looked over to see if he could get a look at Douglass's eyes, but was disappointed when he saw that they were closed. The scar that had been seen coming from beneath the glasses intersected with Jason's left eye, making an x-like shape on the left side of his face. With closed eyes, Douglass took hold of a small crystal that hung on his belt. "Assist me, Canyon Splitter!"

The IS emerged like any personal IS Ichika had seen before. It came out peice by peice, clamping around his chest first, then expanding to the rest of the body. Something Ichika had not seen before on an IS (discounting Gospel), however, was a helmet that wrapped around the top part of Douglass's head, covering his eyes once again. The IS itself was massive, bigger than both Akatsubaki and Byakushiki, with dark gray coloration. The limbs were massive, and the wings appeared to have numerous rocket boosters to aid in flight. All in all, the thing looked extremely slow. Douglass reached out with his right arm and called out, "Canyon Splitter. Activate Heaven's Breach." In response to the command, a massive black shotgun appeared in his hand, and Douglass immediately caught it with the second, balancing its weight in both arms.

Laura had mounted her Schwarzen Regen while Douglass finished up preparations, so after that, they were set to practice as they pleased. They started off doing some of the more complex maneuvers that had been taught in the last couple of days, and all four of the people who had attended the Academy earlier were surprised at how easily Douglass and his Canyon Splitter managed to move around, despite the massive bulk of the IS. Before long, Laura announced that she wished to do mock battle with Douglass, since they were roommates and she wished to see his power. Douglass calmly accepted and the others moved out of the way to watch the combat.

Douglass immediately pumped the Heaven's Breach, and a gigantic shell fell from the side of the shotgun, making a massive clatter as it hit the ground below them. Laura frowned. A weapon with ammunition that large would no doubt be slow, so if she could move out of the way properly, she would be able to escape without a scrat-

Before she could even finish her though, the blast hit. It was alarmingly fast, not at all what she had expected. Jason's voice came on through the intercom. "You've gotta move fast! Don't let appearances cloud your strategy!" Looking at her information screen, Laura's eyes widened. Her shield was already down to half power. Such immense strength, with such speed! It seemed as if the only weakness of the Heaven's Breach was the...

She nodded, understanding what she needed to do. Douglass muttered something under his breath and began to reload, pumping the massive shotgun. While he spent time doing that, however, the wire cables extended from Schwarzen Regen and wrapped around Canyon Splitter, knocking the massive bulk of the IS off-balance and sending it toppling. A call to the rocket boosters halted its descent, but he was still wrapped tightly in the cables. Laura took this moment to aim, her cannon lowering to Canyon Splitter's level. She was about to fire it, when suddenly, the IS stopped responding to her commands. The cables loosened and drooped, and the Schwarzen Regen was simply hanging in the air, a sitting duck. Laura called out, "What happened? What did you do?"

Douglass smiled, spreading his arms. "Overdrive Pulse. A function added to the Splitter series of IS which allows me, through contact with another IS, to disable its systems for a brief moment. This gaves me time to perform a counterattack." The shotgun disappeared from his hands as he called out, "Misery Cleaver!" A huge sword replaced the shotgun in his right hand, and, once again, he shared the weight with his left. As a two-handed weapon, it looked immensely powerful, but due to the bulk of Canyon Splitter, approach would be slow. Laura took this offered time as a chance to attempt to reboot her system, and she began giving out commands rapidly to see if she could start something, anything, that would keep her safe.

Misery Cleaver was about two feet from her head before she managed to get AIC running, and raised her hand just in time to stop the massive sword. Douglass gritted his teeth as he realized that not only was Misery Cleaver not going to be able to break through this defense system, but that he couldn't move his IS. The tables had turned on him. During this time, Laura had managed to completely reboot the systems on Schwarzen Regen, and was once again locking onto Canyon Splitter.

Then, the unexpected happened. Jason, who had not been moving until then, disabled a portion of his IS, and the helmet that had been covering his eyes slid off. Laura was distracted by this motion from her work, and the AIC shield lowered. Before she knew it, Misery Cleaver was at her throat. She looked straight at Douglass's face, and immediately realized that something was wrong. Despite his advantageous position, Jason's mouth was set in a grimace, his teeth clenched from obvious discomfort. His eyes were still shut tightly. He asked in a troubled voice, "Am I in victory position?" Laura nodded. "Yes. You are."

Douglass sighed. "That's good. In that case, can we be finished? Help me into the loading bay, if you will."

The group helped Douglass get his IS over to the preparation room, where he dismounted and stretched. He reached out a hand in no particular direction. "Could I have my glasses, please?" Ichika grabbed them from the table and handed them to Jason, who unfolded them and attached them to his head. Some whirring sounds came from the contraption as the muffs tightened around his ears and Douglass breathed a sigh of relief. Ichika stepped forward. "Hey...are you ok? What happened just there? Why didn't you open your eyes?"

Jason seemed to be staring out into space, but replied coolly. "Isn't it obvious? I can't see without the glasses. They, as well as the special helmet on my IS, connect to my nervous system around my eyes. Without them, I'm as good as dead."

"I'm blind."