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*MEANWHILE AT THE GRAND CHRISTMAS*

Nibhal: Mr. Alteur, congratulations on being named the Special Associate Vice President.

Alteur: From that, I take it to mean I’m still below Vice President Dan Hendrix in the order of succession.

Nibhal: Still, it’s very impressive you were selected. It speaks to the importance of the GS to President Grusman, and to what great things are expected of them.

Alteur: … So what did the report say?

Nibhal: As instructed, the Re-Tech machine has been transferred to the Aggressors in Izu.

Alteur: The pilot is Dr. Radcliff’s son. I take it he has no idea of our plans?

Nibhal: The doctor has been silent. And I asked Kenneth to not tell the Aggressors any other details.

Alteur: Understood. I’ll be expecting good data. …Anything else?

Nibhal: There’s a message from Grey. Based on the investigation he’s started…. X-Day should be within a week.

Alteur: Hmm… As I read. What’s their objective?

Nibhal: Our heads and our hearts…. And our little ravens[1].

Alteur: Heh, so they’re still worried about that, I see. And of course they’re moving while the Granzon is missing.

Nibhal: The ravens are getting overhauled at the Orleans Factory.

Alteur: Then transfer all units here. Notify Mao Industries, with the authority of the Special Associate Vice President… to leave the transport to the Federation.

Nibhal: Yes, sir.

Alteur: Just to be safe, send Omega as well. Besides Grey, there’s the ravens, and the man in green…. They might be trying to outsmart us.

Nibhal: He, or rather, that person knows where the bird is?

Alteur: Yes… He was most likely spying on it before it was moved.

Nibhal: Then, how shall we handle X-Day?

Alteur: As we planned. Oh yes, I received some information from Marshall Gaspard Gillan.

Nibhal: Is Paris one of the candidate cities?

Alteur: No. Inform the others. I’ll be deploying with Alpha in the Air Christmas.

Nibhal: And what if Gaspard doesn’t take Grey’s advice?

Alteur: Then his head will roll… but he turned the other way for Mission Harpe, and he kept his position during the transfer of power… he’s not a fool. He’ll play into our hand. It’s a shame for him that the Steel Dragons he authorized are gone….

Nibhal: But because of that, the GS can make their sensational debut….

Alteur: Yes… Our time is coming.

*BACK IN IZU*

Kai: …We’ve been ordered to guard the Huckebeins during transport?

Kenneth: That’s right. You all will depart at 0600 hours from Izu, and head for Mao Industry’s Orleans Factory. The final transport destination is Hawaii’s Hickam base.

Kai: Why are we being assigned this mission, and not someone from the southern hemisphere branch?

Kenneth: Mao’s higher-ups asked for the Aggressors by name. The people at Albiano took that to heart and now it’s under my jurisdiction. I had figured the southern branch was enough to round up the Huckebeins, but….

Kai: …Roger. The Aggressors will begin their new mission at 0600 hours.

Kenneth: You were also around for that Vanishing Trooper incident. I don’t need any new legends. I’m concerned about my reputation.

Kai: Yessir.

Kenneth: Also, regarding Lt. Aqua Centrum who transferred from the Tsentr Project…

Kai: What about her?

Kenneth: Please treat her well.

Kai: …I have no intentions of giving her special treatment. Unless Tsentr Project has something relevant to say? If that’s the case, I have many questions for them.

Kenneth: The Tsentr Project’s work is ordered directly from the authority of the president. I don’t know the details either.

Kai: Then what is it?

Kenneth: It’s her father. He contacted my office directly.

Kai: (I see… So that’s what’s going on, huh?)

*In a room*

Taylor: Aqua, please think it over one more time….

Aqua: You’re still bringing that up? I finally became a pilot, so I don’t plan on coming home.

Tailor: You grandfather is also worried about you. A woman in the military… If the worst were to happen, what would we do?

Aqua: He’s just worried about his lineage. I told you already, I don’t plan on inheriting the company or becoming a politician.

Tailor: Aqua, if you’re not happy with something…

Aqua: I just hate people who ride on coattails their whole lives. No matter what you say, I won’t change my mind.

Tailor: Sigh… You get that stubborn streak from Amalia….

Aqua: If mom was still alive, I’m sure she’d agree.

Tailor: S-she would not. There’s not a parent alive who wouldn’t worry about their child joining the military…

Aqua: …

Tailor: The Aggressors that you were transferred to collaborate with the Steel Dragons, right? If something happens, you’ll be on the front lines…

Aqua: Dad, I need to start work. And please don’t contact the base like this.[2] If a federation officer receives contact from a senator, it may become a big deal.

Tailor: No, I asked your superiors if I could contact you…

Aqua: You did what?! I don’t believe you! Even over-protection has limits!

Tailor: No, I, Aqua….

Aqua: I’m hanging up! Good bye!

*beep*

Aqua: Haaaa…Jeeze, I could have been in my DFC suit…. If he would have seen that…

*Briefing room*

Arado: We’re going to France? Woo!

Seolla: Arado, we aren’t going there to fool around.

Arado: But France has croissants, baguette, and batard…. I can’t wait to eat!

Rim: Aren’t those… all breads?

Lamia: And why are we going to France?

Kai: We are to go to Mao Industries' Orleans Factory and transport the Huckebeins to Hickam Base.

Latooni: Why are the Huckebeins there?

Kai: I don’t know myself. We leave at 0600 hours. Prepare yourselves.

Aqua: Um, Major…. Is it alright if we go as well?

Kai: Yes, I don’t plan on giving you any special treatment.

Aqua: …Thank you.

Kai: But I do understand how your dad feels. I have a daughter as well…. There are times where I just don’t care about what else happens, as long as she's safe.[3]

Aqua: …

Hugo: (Her father…?)

Rim: Um… Aqua, did something happen with your dad?

Aqua: No, not really. Don’t worry about it.

Joshua: …

*MEANWHILE, IN FRANCE*

Yuan: It’s been a long time, Major Kai.

Kai: Director… You came.

Yuan: Yes, I came 3 days earlier from the moon.

Kai: …We still have no information about the Steel Dragons…

Yuan: Please don’t worry about it. Rio… My daughter is surely in good health. She has her friends with her, after all.

Kai: That’s true.

Robert: Latooni, what’s the condition of the Schnabel?

Latooni: I redid the target stabilizing of the rail gun in Flyer mode. It was moving a bit too much…

Robert: I see… Then I’ll look at the data later.

Latooni: Thanks.

Kai: Professor Hamil, Professor Oomiya, what’s the status of the Huckebeins?

Kirk: 008L, Mk-II, Mk- III…. They are all ready for transport.

Robert: The only one left in this factory is the EX.

Kai: The EX…. You collected the parts?

Robert: Yep. It’s not officially a Huckebein, but an Exbein made from the data acquired from inside the company… There’s no need for it to be displayed.

Kai: Exbein…

Robert: Short for Extra Huckebein. Because it’s like a backup. In any case, why are the Huckebeins being transferred to Hickam?

Kai: What? You hadn’t heard the reason?

Robert: No…. It was just an order from Special Associate Vice President Steinbeck.

Kai: That man… He’s the central pillar of the GS, if I remember correctly.

Robert: We thought it was suspicious, so we asked the Aggressors to be on guard duty…. But if you don’t know the details either, something fishy is going on…

Yuan: Could it be that the GS are after the Huckebeins?

Kai: If that were the case, that would make Hickam their home base… But then why would they allow the Aggressors to take the mission?

Robert: That is strange… If they didn’t want to be found out, they could have refused our request.

Kai: (I should contact Gilliam and ask him to investigate…)

*OUTSIDE*

Rim: Mao’s factories are so big… It’s so different from Mother Base.

Joshua: Mother Base wasn’t made with mass production in mind.

Rim: Still, there are so many production lines, but so few robots…

Joshua: (These days, there should be more personal troopers being produced… Maybe upper management is getting fed up?)

Rim: Huh? What’s that?!

Joshua: It can’t be…?!

*Inside*

Lamia: Major Kai, there are unknown units approaching us.

Kai: With this timing… Are they after the Huckebeins?

Lamia: I think that’s likely.

Kai: Send out the Aggressors and Hugo and Aqua! Quickly!

Chapter 21: Blazing Black Huntress

Lamia: All units accounted for. The targets are still approaching.

Kai: This is Erebus 1 to all units. Prepare to counter attack.

Arado: I think we should move the Huckebeins to the hangar, then to the transport unit…

Latooni: The units are in sleep mode, so we can’t move them quickly.

Kirk: Exactly. The Huckebeins will be moved to the carrier when they reactivate. Please buy time until then.

Arado: Understood!

Hugo: !

Kai: Josh! Why did you come out?

Josh: Don’t you need all the help you can get? And my sister is in the factory. I don’t plan on letting it be taken over.

Rim: Josh…

Hugo: Josh, this time your opponent will be real pilots in those machines. Are you going to be okay?

Josh: There were problems besides the Einst at the South Pole. This isn’t the first time I’ve fought people in mechs.

Hugo: …

Aqua: Hugo, the unknowns are coming!

*And there they are. SHIT THEY SHOOOOT*

Kai: Hmmph, they saved us the trouble of warning them. All units, they may be Armored Modules, but they outnumber us. Don’t let your guard down.

Latooni: Roger.

Kai: Josh, you’re on the back line. Protect Rim and the others.

Joshua: Yessir!

Aqua: Hugo, is your body okay?

Hugo: Yeah. You just need to worry about the power output. If we power down at a crucial moment, we’ll die.

Aqua: You don’t have to tell me that!

Chapter 21: Blazing Black Huntress

Victory: All enemies defeated.

Defeat: Any allied unit is shot down.

SR Point: Complete the victory condition without a single enemy unit entering the factory.

*Hugo attacks!*

Hugo: Grr, this response….

Aqua: What’s wrong, Hugo?!

Hugo: You’ll understand after this is over, so just focus on the DFC!

*kai Attacks!*

Kai: They’re not here by accident. They somehow knew what we were doing…!?

Kai: Ugh…! They’re not reacting naturally to the fight… Could it be?

*lamia Attacks!*

Lamia: If their objective was to destroy, then they could have attacked the factory directly, or fired at the transport ship during the transfer… They’re here to plunder…!

Lamia: (This reaction is strange… could the enemy pilots be...?)

*Lat Attacks!*

Latooni: That strange response… could they be?

*josh*

Josh:  You all dealt the first blow… So I have no choice! I’ll return the favor!

*Seolla*

Seolla: ! I remember this sensation!

*kill ‘em all*

Kai: …It’s over for now. All units, Check around the base for other openings.

Latooni: Roger.

Aqua: Do you think those enemies were Neo DC Remnants?

Arado: Probably… If they’re attacking the factory, they’re aiming for the Huckebeins…

Lamia:  You’re both right and wrong.

Arado: Huh?

Lamia: Most likely, they were not Neo DC remnants.

Arado: Wha?

Kai: Lamia, you felt it too?

Latooni: I did…

Seolla: Those pilots felt very strange.

Hugo: (It seems everyone felt that way.)

Arado: Huh? What? What do you mean? Josh, did you notice anything?

Josh: Well, their movement seemed unnatural. I can’t really explain it well.

Kai: (He felt it. He’s got good instincts.)

Arado: Unnatural… Now that you say it, they may or may not have seemed that way…

Lamia: If you examine the wreckage, you’ll understand. Though there may not be any evidence left….

Hugo: That itself is evidence, right?

Lamia: That is correct.

Aqua: (What is correct?)

*MOAR SIRENS*

Aqua: !! Th-this reading is?!

Latooni: A huge power reading! Right above the factory!

Lamia: A teleportation signal! That means they’re!

*ALL UP IN THE BASE*

Aqua: Guarlions?! How can they teleport?!

Seolla:  The Huckebeins are!

Lamia: So they’re still going after the Huckebeins now that we know who they are!

Aqua: You know who they are?!

Kai: Damn! If we attack, we’ll hit the Huckebeins!

Lamia: But they shouldn’t be able to teleport again right now! The only time to retaliate…

*Nevermind, they done blowed up*

Kai: Who shot them?!

Seolla: It wasn’t us!

Kai: Then, who?!

Latooni: Major, there’s an object headed this way fast!

*cut scene!*

Arado: What is that?!

Seolla: It looks like a Personal Trooper…

Latooni: and a Huckebein!

Lamia: There’s no response on the IFF, and there’s no data on that unit…

Kai: Director Yuan, have you seen that thing before?

Yuan: N-no! That’s not from our company!

Kirk: It doesn’t look like a mere copy… Rather…

Arado: Since it shot down the Guarlions, does that mean it’s a friendly?

Lamia: We don’t know that yet.

???: …

*SHE GOANSHOOT HER SOME HUCKIES*

Yuan: Aaah! The Mk-IIs!

???: … If their objective is to capture them, then I don’t mind destroying them. That is the order.

*More explosions*

Seolla: Wha…!!

Aqua: The Huckebeins!

Kai: Dammit! All units, attack the unknown! But don’t damage the factory!

???: Not yet… there should be more of them.

Yuan: N-no! That’s the hangar!

*and away she goes*

Hugo: She’s fast!

Latooni: Th-this can’t be….!

Kai: Dammit, their objective was…!

Lamia: The destruction… of the Huckebein series….!

*SAD FADE OUT*

Kai: I am so sorry, Director. I never imagined this would happen….

Yuan: No… We should just be glad that none of the workers died…

Robert: And not all of the Huckebeins were lost.

Kai: Certainly. We still have the mass produced Mk-II…. And the first prototype mass producible Mk-III…

Robert: That, and the Exbein.

Kai: What? It was undamaged?

Robert: Yes… Well, it took some damage, but the frame wasn’t destroyed. We’re not going to give up. For the sake of the Steel Dragons, we’ll collect the parts we still have, and finish the Exbein.

Kirk: Originally, we had been planning to design a large reinforcement backpack for it.

Robert: At the moment, we can’t do much more than first aid, but someday…

Kai: Then I’ll leave you to your work. I’ve confirmed that this is what I was afraid of.

Aqua: Major, what do you mean?

Kai: You’ll understand soon.

Yuan: But still, what was that black machine?

Robert: I think that was a machine created using data from the Huckebein series… but It wasn’t simply a copy, and it was as powerful as a Mk-III… Or perhaps even more capable. But that unit had the Huckebein’s black hole engine and Tronium engine core removed.

Yuan: Wh-what?! Really?!

Robert: Yeah… from the results of the tests I did on a fragment, it’s conclusive.

Kai: It didn’t seem like they were involved with the earlier group…

Kirk: Yeah… The first group wasn’t interested in destroying the Huckebeins, but capturing them.

Joshua: That wasn’t a machine made by Mao Industries… So where was it made?

Kirk: Given the data in the mass produced Huckebein Mk-II, the only company who could make that unit… I think would be Isurugi Heavy Industries. They probably wanted the Black Hole Engine and Tronium Engine know-how.

Kai: What they needed was the internal workings of the units, not the units themselves… But why destroy them?

Kirk: There’s another point that hasn’t been addressed. If they wanted that power, they would have taken over the entire factory.

Robert: That’s true…

Lamia: Major Kai, the analysis is complete.

Kai: What were the results?

Lamia: It’s as you feared. Bioroids were piloting the Armored Modules. They are very similar to the models used by the Inspectors. And the ESW pattern emitted when they teleported is the same, as well.

Aqua: Then they enemy who sent them were the...?!

Kai: Yes…. The Inspectors have come back to earth.

 

Previous Chapter: Chapter 20: The Knight who Wished to Fly      Next Chapter: Chapter 22: Black Jinrai


[1] This is referenced as the BAD BIRD.

[2] Something about quick short electricity.

[3] Other people’s affairs?