O GALILEO LET ME GO
Ehhh. I feel like Jeremy Clarkson being frustrated on his TV show once again by random acts of stupidity. Mostly self-inflicted.
Here we go again...the story I am rewriting...
"Never saw no military solution,
that didn't always end up as something worse."
- Sting, "If I Ever Lose My Faith"
The golden-blonde schoolgirl ahead hadn't noticed him yet.
That's good, Roland Cousseran smiled quietly as tailed his target at a distance. It's all going to plan.
The target he stalked was the daughter of his boss and uncle. The Company's owner, a man of power and influence whom Roland wished to curry favor with. That girl of blonde locks and elegant bearing had disobeyed her father's command, revealing a secret the company would have rather kept silent.
She happened to also be an exceptionally talented pilot of the Infinite Stratos exoskeleton system, the reason she was here in this foreign land.
But still just a fifteen-year old girl.
It was simple, really. All he had to do was to walk up to the girl and confront her with news of her father's orders. Roland knew she was an obedient child--despite her willfulness, she would not resist her family after all.
There were other complications that Cousseran did not care about. He'd heard family talk of 'solving the matter quietly', and did not think things through. If he brought this girl back, under the noses of the authorities of this east asian country, he would be highly regarded in the corporation. Regarded as a problem-solver by the rest of the family.
All he needed was to bring the girl home.
Easy enough task, he mused. The timing was perfect, and the opportunity was there.
That is, until he heard the ringing of his mobile phone.
What the hell? He stopped a second and opened up the device cautiously. "Oui?"
"Did you really think you could pick her off the street just like that, Messr. Roland Cousseran?" the firm voice of a woman spoke to him--in fluent French.
"Who is this?" Cousseran was flustered, but hid it well as he continued to stalk his quarry. The flow of people was steady, and he could still see the blonde girl ahead.
"Stop at that tree before you regret it."
Roland then froze. Yes, he was right next to a tree--the only tree on the pedestrian walk for yards.
How did she get this number? How does she know me? The girl he had been tailing was now almost out of sight. "What do you want?"
"Abducting an Infinite Stratos (IS) Academy student, and a country representative at that? It'll cause an even bigger incident than the one you're desperately trying to hush up." The voice almost seemed to chuckle. "Rather sloppy work, I might add."
He spun his head around, scanning for the source. There were not many passers-by, and not any of them were on a mobile phone. They were also all Japanese, and Cousseran doubted any of them could speak English, much less his native French.
"Tell Dunois Industry to give it up, Messr. Roland."
He tried bluffing. "How do you know I work for the company and not the French Government, little lady?"
Something like a wasp buzzed past Roland's ear and landed with a soft THUNK into the tree behind him.
"Because I'd like to assume the French Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure isn't as stupid as you seem to imply."
Roland then realized the hot flush across his earlobe was from a razor-thin cut. Barely visible was the small throwing knife embedded into the tree's trunk. And still none of the passers-by seemed to even notice.
How the hell--?! there were a few on their mobile phones walking to and fro, but none seemed to be the person he was speaking to. Much less the person who threw a knife at him just then.
"Seriously, Messr. Roland. You don't want to die here."
Roland grit his teeth, then caught sight of a woman on the walking bridge he had just passed half a minute before. She looked tall for a Japanese woman, wearing sharp business clothes and glasses. Even at this distance, Roland could feel her imperious glare as she spoke into the mobile phone she held.
"You wouldn't dare," he hissed, defiant despite the trembling fear building in him. How can she have thrown that tiny blade from that distance?
"This isn't France, Messr. Roland." The woman continued to speak on her end. "And while the Academy itself does not belong to any one nation, the surrounding area is Japanese territory and responsibility. You're already violating a few local laws just by being here."
"And what could a civil servant from a nation of pacifists do to me?" Roland sneered, trying to hide the anxiety from his voice. "If you're a police officer, all you can do is arrest me."
"Oho. Whoever said I was with the police?" The woman gave a most wicked grin as she reached into her shirt pocket.
That broke the man's nerve.
"I'll leave," Cousseran bit back the profanity and bile as he retreated from her sight. But don't think this is the last you've heard from me.
Oh lord, that was totally not my character at all,
Haruko finally relaxes as the man she'd been talking to on the phone had disappeared from sight. Removing her glasses, she bent forward, catching her breath--she'd been holding it all this time as she put up the act. Now, it was all she could do from letting her knees buckle.
"I am SO not a field operative."
"You could have had him talking for longer. I wanted to see him wet his pants."
A slender young girl with a baseball cap, shortsleeved jacket and pants approached her. At first glance, most wouldn't pick her as any more extraordinary than any other fifteen-year old girl. Her face was softly shaped, the youthful cheeks a direct contrast to the cold crease of her lips. Gloved hands toyed with a little throwing knife that she just as quickly hid with a flick of her wrist.
"Dammit, <Ren>!" Haruko gave her exasperated answer. "Next time, do this yourself! I can't take it!"
"I can't speak French. Also," <Ren> lifted the cap from her head and fanned herself with it. Black hair fell to her shoulders, framing a pretty face and a cool smile. "How many people ever take an innocent young girl seriously?"
Haruko sighed with defeat. The shock passed quickly as she stood.
Innocent? You? Behind that pretty baby face was one of the most wicked people she'd ever met. "Why did you use one of your knives on him, anyway? It was hard pretending that I planned that!"
"Knives are silent. No gunpowder residue. Retrievable." <Ren> turned to prop her back against the bridge railing. "Unless you've forgotten that Japan is still a gunless society, Miss intelligence expert."
"That's not what I meant!" Haruko shook her head and gave another exaggerated sigh. "I wish you wouldn't speak or act so bluntly. You didn't really have to throw a knife at him, did you?"
"Nope." <Ren> just shrugs.
I can't deal with you, Haruko mentally gave up on the matter-for better or worse, their working relationship was like that. To ease her stress, she reached into her bag. The can of Blue Mountain coffee she had been reserving all day felt like a welcome treat at the end of such a tough job.
"You drink too much coffee," <Ren> quipped.
"Shut up. I thought our main mission was to watch Orimura?" Haruko pulled the can ring open and savored the roast coffee scent. "Whether Dunois Industries tries to get their daughter back is none of our business."
"Dunois is part of Orimura's inner circle of friends," was <Ren>'s nonchalant reply. "For her to disappear suddenly would cause Orimura to overreact badly."
"Overreact? In what way?"
"That blockheaded idiot would break a large number of international laws to protect any one of those girls he knows." There was the hint of a pout on <Ren>'s lips as she said that. "Really, acting like a white knight in this day and age. It's not like they need his protection."
"<Ren>-san? You almost sound jealous."
"I've told you before, I don't like those girls." <Ren> leaned further back against the rail, watching the blue of the early summer sky. "It's nothing personal."
Oh boy, here we go again. Haruko fel like sinking. Once again, she'd opened up an opportunity for <Ren> to complain.
"Houki Shinonono has serious anger management issues. She's halfway near killed Orimura already on more than one occassion for little things as simple as a joke." <Ren> replaced the cap on her head. "Cecilia Alcott would be a lot more effective if you let most of the air out of that empty head of hers."
Your way of speaking is WAY too blunt, A grimacing Haruko keeps the thought to herself, but lets her partner continue.
"Laura Bodewing's exceptional skills in piloting an Infinite Stratos pale in comparison to her complete lack of common sense." <Ren> scoffed without taking her eyes off the opposite horizon. "And Fan Lin Yin? No chest. No self-control. No sex appeal. No chance in hell. Just my professional opinion."
That's plain old backbiting, and you know it! The grimace grew even wider as Haruko's face turned purple. "What about Charlotte Dunois?"
<Ren>'s lips disappear to a crease on her face.
"I had no idea she was female when she first transferred in."
"They sacked the entire French desk at Johohonbu because of that lapse in intel." Haruko took another swig of her canned coffee. She had been an analyst with the European desk of the Johohonbu--Japan's Defense Intelligence Headquarters--prior to her transfer to this assignment.
"Right. She even had me fooled. It didn't help that Orimura helped her cover it up for awhile as well," <Ren> massaged her forehead, as if feeling a headache. "Really, the government should have just locked that idiot up in a concrete box somewhere and thrown away the key. Save us all this trouble and serve that moron right."
That was so blunt you could beat someone to death with it! Haruko felt like collapsing. "Aren't you being just a little too harsh?"
"Orimura's surrounded by all kinds of troublesome people." <Ren> almost spat. "Monitoring him means keeping an eye over the rest of his group. If it means we meddle in Dunois Industries' affairs, then we might as well."
"But I'll admit, it would have been nice if that Dunois really was a boy," there was an almost wistful, dreamy look on Haruko's face--thoroughly out of place with her businesslike attire. "He would be the most adorable boy a girl would love to take home with her."
"Shut up. Act your age. She's not a pet dog."
"Eh? That's it? You really have nothing bad to say about Dunois, do you?" Haruko notes, then snickers mischievously. "O-ho-ho. Could it be that you also found her cute as a guy? Was there some attraction? Did you even have fantasies about 'him' when--?"
The bottom of the can of coffee spilled out, neatly cut open by a knife too fast to see.
Haruko let out a shrill wail.
"--My three hundred and twenty-nine yen Blue Mountain blend coffee!!!"
"Anger Management calls this 'a healthy venting of frustration'." <Ren> just walked off, an arrogant satisfied smirk on her face. "You drink too much coffee anyway. 'Ta."
Still holding the empty can, Haruko found herself staring at <Ren>'s back as she walked off.
God, why do I have to partner with such a difficult person?!
From today, I'm partnering with an awesome person.
Kokuto Haruko of the Johohonbu (Japan Defense Intelligence Headquarters) stood silently, in front of n apartment door unremarkable in the afternoon light. Her first true field assignment. The thought gave her chills, the realization of dreams and fantasies she'd had since high school.
An assignment that was critical not only to her home country, but the world as she knew it.
Infinite Stratos Academy. An educational organization dedicated to the training and development of pilots for the Infinite Stratos, or IS. The IS was the most sophisticated type of technology in the world, originally developed for space exploration but now used for both military and sporting purposes.
In a nutshell, it was probably the most important responsibility for Japan as a whole.
While the school itself was not privy to any one nation, it was located on Japanese soil. Thus, it was the Japanese government's duty to provide protection for all those enrolled there.
She calmed herself, then prepared to knock.
How did she--? Haruko blinked at the female voice from inside, and how she knew someone was there. That voice sounded a lot younger than I expected.
Slowly, she turned the knob. Opening the door, she cautiously peered inside. Making her first steps into the apartment, she noticed the room was barren of furniture or decoration, save a chair and table to which a computer was affixed. The computer was being used by a girl much younger than Haruko was, almost ignorant of her entry. Aside from the table and chair a plain bed sat, markedly unused in the far corner.
"I'm the replacement analyst sent by the Johohonbu (Defense Intelligence Headquarters), Kokuto Haruko reporting." A pause as she took in the details of the room and its sole inhabitant. "You're <Ren>?"
"You were expecting someone older." A cold fact, not a question.
That's an understatement. The girl before her did not turn to face her. She looked no older than fifteen at least--almost half Kokuto's age. Absolutely nothing like what was in her file, at first glance.
What Haruko had read of <Ren> seemed straight out of a mystery adventure novel. That <Ren> was a deep-cover investigative agent, with a talent for solving problems that other, older members of the Johohonbu were unable to make heads or tails of. That <Ren> had a strange knack for finding what couldn't be found. That <Ren>, aggressive as she was, could make the impossible possible. That <Ren> was one of the legendary Iga clan.
At the moment, Kokuto couldn't reconcile those stories with the baby-faced teenager in front of her.
"Uhm, can I ask a question?"
"Act your age. You're an adult, stop asking for permission to look stupid."
That was blunt! Haruko visibly recoiled at the words.
"Why am I here? Assigned to you, that is?"
"We have only two missions. First is to monitor Orimura Ichika and ensure nobody tries to kidnap or assassinate him." <Ren> almost seemed to recite this from memory--the boredom in her voice was striking. "Second is to uncover Shinonono Tabane's whereabouts and secure her if possible."
"No, that's not it. I know what our mission is," Haruko started to worry even more. "I mean: Why am I replacing the previous analyst assigned to you?"
"He was a pain." Not explaining anything, the girl was still focused on the monitor screen. Even as she cautiously stepped closer, the screen contents were still not visible to Kokuto's eyes. "You've read the dossiers?"
"Yes I have," Haruko coughed, fighting the temptation to ask about her predecessor further. "Orimura Ichika. 15 years--"
"Toss them. The information on those documents is static. Put together by some stupid cranky old mailroom clerk from Australia."
Only then did <Ren> look away from the screen, and Haruko shuddered when the girl's eyes met hers. It was like matching stares with a snake--it seemed that her eyes glowed, but Kokuto dismissed the thought as mere fearful imagination. Still, it was a look that was disturbing enough that Haruko made note not to look the girl directly in the eye when they spoke.
"I need your opinion. What are your thoughts on Orimura Ichika?"
"Ah?" Haruko, still avoiding <Ren>'s direct gaze, registered the question and answered. "He's cute."
<Ren>'s stone face raised one eyebrow.
"I mean, he is. Physically. And his behavior is just so representative of old-fashioned chivalry. Like a white knight in shinign armor--"
"STOP right there. That'll do." <Ren> looked back at the screen, wore a shrug, then stood up. "Now that we're acquainted, I need to go."
"EHH?! But I just got here!"
"Shut up. You're an analyst." <Ren> turned the chair around, and shoved it into Kokuto's floundering arms. "So, analyze."
"Do you have to be so blunt?" Haruko complained in a near-whine as she rescued the tossed chair.
"My job is to stop problems before they start. Patience is no virtue to me." <Ren> pulled a jacket off the floor, followed by a baseball cap. She donned both with casual efficiency. "Do your job and I'll do mine."
She's not an analyst or a hacker. Haruko swallowed, realizing the implications. <Ren> is a field operative. Aloud: "Why is someone as young as you involved?"
"It should be obvious. When tailing the target, someone of their age group is far less suspicious than an adult." <Ren> replies without truly answering the question. "There was even a plan to have me transfer into IS Academy at one point."
That makes sense. "Why didn't they go ahead with that?"
"Simple," For the first time, she saw a bitter grin on <Ren>'s face. "I can't move an IS. At all."