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Chapter 13

The Silver Haired Knight of Cerebus

"That should do it." I say to no one in particular as I look over my ACSIS screen. I had just finished modifying Direwolf, taking Shinji's advice into account. As it stands Direwolf could now fight both at extreme close range and at long range although emphasis was still on close range. While I really should've gone and modified Direwolf's hull itself instead of just its weaponry and internals I wasn't quite ready to shell out… THAT many AU…

"Looks good rookie, weight and energy consumption are well balanced, though your generator capacity seems rather…" Behind me I could just tell that Shinji shrugged, "That's to be expected when dealing with so many experimental parts it seems." He was referring to the fact that I had gone ahead and mounted Tabane's AC parts. He in particular seemed rather critical of the Generator and Laser Blade.

Tabane's Generator was rather… quirky, so much so that I merely had to look at its stats to understand as much. The output was almost absurdly high but the capacity was likewise almost absurdly low. According to Shinji it seemed to be a part meant for 'bladers,' those that used laser blades and not much else, and was designed to give as much energy as possible as quickly as possible. He warned me that I had to pay special attention to my energy reserves when using it, get too ahead of myself and I'll be nothing but a sitting duck.

By contrast the laser blade, called the Byakushiki, was, in Shinji's words, 'The most overpowered piece of junk ever.' It had a borderline absurd energy drain, so much so in fact that when activated alongside my boosters Direwolf's energy output would exceed his generator's output by nearly double. With the capacity of the generator itself that meant you could only possibly manage to activate it for less than 2 full seconds. However, it also boasted a blade over three times the length of my previous dragonslayers and the capability to deplete an AC's AP completely in under a second of direct contact. It was a terrifying weapon to be sure but not in any way, shape, or form practical.

With that in mind I honestly have no idea why I dared to mount that monster. It was so… out there that Shinji himself practically begged me for Tabane-nee's phone number so he could, quote unquote, 'Fix this monstrosity.' I don't know whether it was a good idea or not to actually give him Tabane's cell phone number or not but I did anyway. I didn't dare think of what would happen if Tabane's… quirkiness rubbed off on the man who just intentionally or unintentionally completely overhauled society itself… again…

Both of those parts meant that I had to get more tactical, something my recently reinstalled recon units would definitely help with. I learned from Isabeau… the ability to see through walls was definitely something I could use...

With a yawn I lean back in my chair, glancing at Direwolf as he had a cannon like weapon attached to his back, another new addition. I wonder what he does during times like these? This is after all the only time he isn't connected with my brain or some such. Behind me I could hear Shinji yawn as well and stand up, presumably stretching. We had been at it all night, after all. Never would've guessed that ACs were so complex… And to think we hadn't even gone over defenses and tuning as of yet.

"That's enough for the moment…" Shinji murmured between stretches, we'd been sitting in more or less the same position the entire time after all, "Wouldn't want to miss breakfast would we?"


His words sink in as I finally snap my head to the clock on the wall. It was really 5:00 AM. I hadn't thought so much time had passed! I'd ended up pulling another all nighter! No wonder I was so hungry, I hadn't eaten anything in about 10 or so hours!

Shinji, perhaps sensing my internal plight, patted me on the shoulder yawning himself, "Well today is going to suck isn't it?" I nod slowly, already dreading class, "You should get some practice with that weapon layout before the tournament, it wouldn't be good if you went in blind now would it." At my nod he began moving for the door, "Great, now come on, almost time for breakfast."

"So, Ichika-nii, how was your night?"

I resist the urge to smash my head into the table solely because my breakfast was currently there. Were I finished already I probably would've cracked the table with my forehead. Why did Madoka-nee have to bring that up?

"Oh? Did Ichika have trouble sleeping or something?" Rin asked lowly, as if honestly hoping that I had. Perhaps that flash rocket had been a bad idea after all... I mean she quite obviously still wasn't over it…

"Nah, he probably just did something stupid like staying up all night on a school day or something." Dan… you're not helping at all.

Houki scoffed, "He's not stupid enough to do that so soon after the last time." While I admire the effort that just makes me feel stupider, Houki.

I sigh choosing to scarf down another hunk of Salmon instead of saying anything. I know when it's generally a better idea to just shut up and let everything pan out without me and this was probably one of those times. Dan realizing why merely smirked and followed my lead knowing he had been right. How does he do that anyway? Am I really that predictable for him?

In other news after Dan's victory he'd actually accumulated a remotely notable fan club. Apparently they'd been for the most part avoiding him before since he had a rather… playboy air about him most of the time but since he beat me without a scratch... Luckily it was mostly my fangirls he had stolen so I owed him at least a trip down to his favorite Korean place. Wonder how long it'll take before the fangirl madness finally hits him like a gigantic flaming semi going a hundred?

As the silence begins creeping back up on us I finally decide to say something to confirm Dan's statement, "Dan's right. I had gone to get help from Shinji about my AC and we ended up working all through night…"

"…Oh?" Madoka sounded rather proud, "Good thinking. You won't find anyone out there with more experience with AC theory than him." She shrugged, "Still hurt you didn't ask me first though." I pointedly ignore her, from experience knowing that to be the best defense to such a jest. Eventually she chose to change the subject realizing that her barb had no effect, "Mount any of Ruined Country's parts?"

I could see both Houki and Rin raise an eyebrow at the name. A name like that would be rather attention grabbing after all. I wonder why… Mother chose it anyway, if she was indeed the one whom chose that name? It seemed to invoke nuclear imagery… Perhaps that was the whole point.

"Yes actually." I saw no harm in answering that between bites, "That back mounted cannon thing, the Innocence was it?"

"R-really?" I have no idea why she would be so surprised by that?

"At least you're actually preparing for the tournament…" Rin murmurs bitterly, "I still can't believe Chifuyu actually did that…" Yeah, she's definitely still holding that Flash Rocket against me. She's even branching out against Chifuyu… Although, to be honest, even I question Chifuyu-nee's judgment on that one, and I'm the one that benefited from it!

Dan shrugs, a bemused expression upon his face, "You realize of course that I hadn't actually wanted the position in the first place right?"

"It was still rather cheap." Houki commented between bites. She was a rather quiet person after all.

"I completely agree." I actually feel mildly offended by both Houki and Rin's questioning glances. Don't they know me better than that…? Regardless I say nothing more seeing no point to doing so.

"So~ anything else I should know about, Ichika-nii?" I'm just going to assume she's still on the topic of my changes to my AC. Wait, come to think of it…

"Actually yeah, there was something else now that I think about it…" I turn to Houki whom looks up at me with mild surprise, "Um… Have you talked to Tabane recently?"

Houki narrowed her eyes ever so slightly, a very minor change that made her look infinitely more intimidating, "No." A simple one word answer that was said in such a way that really, really, demonstrated just how much their relationship had apparently fallen apart.

"Oh… I was hoping that you could tell me how she reacted to-"

"She thought they were cool." She interrupted me with an eyeroll, already knowing exactly what I was going to say, "She called me a few months ago and told me to watch the news report about your first appearance then went on and on about how 'cool' your AC was." She sighed deeply, "She was acting like such a child so I dismissed everything she said and assumed she was talking about some anime that had caught her attention…"

Dan blinked, just now realizing something, "Wait a second, you're related to Taban-"

"I am not." Houki said firmly, her glare sweeping over to poor Dan. Dan just froze on the spot, unable to even raise his hands in surrender. What a terrifying girl…

Wait. Did I just blatantly change the subject on Madoka-nee? Oop-

Ah- My Salmon!

A silver haired girl crossed her arms, surveying the carnage before her. The carnage that she had caused. The carnage that she had trained to cause. The carnage that she had literally been bred to cause. Husks of ACs and shattered hulks of what had once been tanks, several decades out of date. The infantry that had relied upon them, their APCs destroyed, had scattered to the four winds. There was nothing she could do about that, lacking in dedicated anti personnel weapons as she was.

The entire engagement had begun with her hyper sensors picking up the formation following a valley into South Korean territory little over five minutes ago. After a minute in which it was confirmed that no UN forces besides herself were supposed to be in the area she had been given authorization to fire at will. At the time the order had been given they had been little over a thousand meters away and showed no signs of acknowledging her presence. Even though they had already been well within her range she waited until they advanced for two more minutes before she opened fire with her 20mm Railgun, the visible centerpiece of her IS.

It took just five seconds for her railgun to cycle projectiles. It took a third of a second for her projectiles to reach their mark, each with pinpoint accuracy. A single shot was all that was needed for each target. The moment the projectile cleared the barrel she began moving her gun to the next target, zeroing in, and exactly five seconds later firing. There was no escape. They had been too far into the valley for even a single one to escape back out. They had entered her kill field and there was nothing they could do to get back out.

The tanks were literally torn in half, some cooking off their full load of shells in their last moments, some just exploding as the plasma that trailed her projectiles ignited their fuel supply. Both at once occurred more likely than not. The ACs however merely took a single hit before dropping with no visible damage. She suspected that the armor eliminated the projectile itself but could only somewhat negate the force behind the projectile. Considering how much force actually went into a single shot from her railgun she was fairly sure that while the ACs themselves were for the most part undamaged, the pilot themselves had likely been killed.

Oh the things one takes for granted when commanding something that bends physics itself to its will.

Her mission complete for the moment, all she had to do was wait for the recovery teams. Not for her completely undamaged IS mind you, but rather for the mostly undamaged ACs she had just taken out. The ACs were still a relative mystery to the UN after all and the capture of working ACs were rather high priority. This mission had been more than just a success.

And so Laura Bodewig, Germany's more prominent Representative Cadet, merely waited. Her arms folded across her chest and a smirk tugging at the corner of her lips…

A/N: Aaand Laura. Enough said.

Schwarzer Regen is a terrifying, terrifying IS once one realizes that in war most engagements occur across such great distances that with the range of a Railgun augmented by some sort of pseudo magical vision no one would ever even be able to return fire. I actually had a rather lengthy conversation with one of my reviewers, Foldguy24, about what would be the best methods for an AC to take on the absolute monster that is Schwarzer Regen. Some of the things that came up in that conversation is definitely going to make an impact on that later chapters. I really need to flesh out AC IS combat as so far it may seem that I'm severely overpowering the ACs, which is not my intention. This brings me to my next point...

I'm sorry if it appears that I'm underpowering the IS but do be aware that every IS Ichika has run into so far had various circumstances about them that made them easier to take out. The Golem I's for instance were implied to be the prototype for the Golem II that appeared during Rin's fight in Canon. Not all prototypes are super prototypes after all. Cecilia's pride severely hampered her in her 'fight' against Naname Bernard way back when, and Rin's put a tad too much faith into her Impact Cannons, not anything to really fault her for, I mean who would've thought... Ichika's first real fight with a competent IS will occur at the end of the representative tournament arc...

Also I can just imagine that an IS's Hyper Sensor actually make Flash Rockets more effective than against even infantry. Enhanced Vision can suck sometimes...

This is still a shorter chapter than most but that felt as good a place to leave off as any. I had nothing further planned until the Pre-Tournament so I decided to cap it all off with an early appearance for Laura. Also, the fact that an IS had been deployed should say alot about the state of the UN at the moment considering that such breaks the Alaska Treaty. Then again, since the ACs were also under the Alaska Treaty (technically) I suppose you could say that the corporations broke it first and the deployment of the IS was the UN's response. Still doesn't change the implication that the war(s) have started going so badly for the UN they have started panicking and released the IS.

R&R and have a nice day!

My, I've just noticed I forgot that line for the last few chapters... Oops. Either way, you never know when reading a review may break my writer's block...