If Ira Gamagoori had said he was entirely disappointed with the way the morning was going, he would have been lying. The smoke and the rubble and the sounds of battle held no fear for him, especially now, when even in her powered down form Tekketsu was more than capable of protecting him from stray bullets that shot out from the gloom pouring out of the huge doors before him. Beyond that it was a maze of corridors, and nobody who’d gone in had come back. Better to spare the men, surround and siege them out.
Especially considering what was in there. What was leading them. He’d much rather have that thing out in the open.
[I’m sorry about your prison.] Tekketsu said in her silky telepathic voice. They were well acquainted enough by now that she knew it wasn’t the building itself, but his men and the reformation project he was attempting on the prisoners that he was concerned for. Not like the main structure was going anywhere, it was reinforced concrete carved into a hill on the Tokyo outskirts, solid as the bedrock itself. [Two years of work down the drain, huh?]
“Well, not quite,” Ira answered, his voice stern – if it were anyone but her this kind of casual conversation wouldn’t be permitted at a time like this. He interrupted himself to issue a command, “Second squad, form a perimeter on the breach in the eastern wall and post sentry for any sign of the enemy. If you see the commander, fall back and report to me.”
“Sir!” The captain of a squad of soldiers in DTRs – the new kind that didn’t leave your legs hanging out the back end – shouted back in affirmative. They broke off from the group stomping in Ira’s trail and vanished into the smoke. The sound of their whirring servos vanished not long after they did into the general chaos.
[Not quite?] Tekketsu asked when they were gone.
“Well, now we get to see if those two years were worth anything.”
[Yes the prisoners…] She trailed off in though. [Well what would you do if one of those monsters was in front of you, spit in its face?]
“Well, I would. Them?” He wasn’t so sure about that. Takamori, oh no, he was definitely a lost cause. They’d never gotten even close to deprogramming him, hell, how do you deprogram the programmer? The assassins that had tried to kill Ryuko in her bedroom weren’t going to resist either, they were disciplined, hadn’t even talked once. The prisoners Nonon had taken in the base raid? That was a tossup - he was pretty sure some of them had been deprogrammed, but when their lives were threatened that probably didn’t mean much.
And that just left Itsuki. The first one, the one who Ira was sure he’d fully converted to the light. How many days hand Ira sat playing chess or cards or go with him, having totally normal conversations with him that almost made Ira forget where they were? How many stories about his past life, before he joined REVOCS, had Itsuki shared? And he was even the one who revealed the location of the base! Ira tried his best to treat him how Mako would’ve treated him (besides all the hugging, that would’ve been weird). What would he tell her if that hadn’t been enough? He wouldn’t cave. Right?
But if he didn’t, they’d probably just gut him on the spot…
[Well, I guess I’m not especially optimistic either. But look on the bright side – it’s not like you wanted to be a prison warden forever]. Things were dying down in there. An uncomfortable silence was filling the air. Behind him a large steel barricade protected soldiers who didn’t have the dodging speed of DTRs. They shuffled nervously, pointing needle guns downrange. The DTRs meanwhile whirred and hummed, ready to leap into the fray at a moment’s notice.
“No, I suppose not.” But what was there for him to do now? It looked like it was back to full time soldiering now. At least Nonon and Uzu seemed excited about that. And, despite her sympathetic tone, Ira knew Tekketsu was too. Battle was what she was meant for, she could feel it on an instinctive level. The eagerness to get to grips with a powerful foe nearly infected him too.
[They’re coming!] Tekketsu said in a hushed whisper [I can feel them!]
Ira held up a hand, and the men behind him froze. He could feel them too, and then he could see them. The entire main entrance was filled with vague silhouettes, watching them from within the billowing smoke. And the one in the middle, the slender woman with the horns in her long hair and the great rounded pauldrons, that was her.
Ira and Tekketsu decided as one that now was the time to power up. When Junketsu was in control of Ryuko she’d had no interest in honor or holding back. Ira clenched his upraised fist, pushing his Seki Tekko – a pin in the palm of his glove – deep into a vein. He got a chance to see Tekketsu’s chainmail fill with solid red like a twisty straw before she exploded off of his burly frame, a vast serpentine shape of fire, draconic horns twisting high above his head. He looked up to admire that vast creature with a satisfied smile – a little embarrassing, if anyone could see, but his soldiers could barely even look at him for all the brilliant, brassy light that flew from his body. Tekketsu was about to collapse back up on top of him, but she suddenly froze.
Something large and flat and metallic was hurtling through the air towards them. One of the twenty-foot-tall steel doors to the prison’s main gate, flung like a frisbee. Ira instinctively held out a hand, and Tekketsu surged down towards it, just in time.
Gigantic, curling fingers snatched the door effortlessly, serrated talons that glinted black and blue sunk into the steel as effortlessly as with a sponge. It felt good to crumple the metal so easily – this was how strong they were meant to be, as though some great invisible chains had fallen loose around them.
The rest of Tekketsu’s flaming, draconic shape was too vast and luminous to long maintain itself in this world. She wrapped around Ira, carving a new landscape of hulking metal in the shape of muscle. The sword in Ira’s right hand, which had just moments ago felt ridiculously long and imbalanced, now hung perfectly in his hand. He could feel the indignation surge through her, drawing his face into a grimace.
“Life Fiber Synchronize! Kamui Tekketsu!” He shouted, and Tekketsu shouted not moments behind him.
[Interrupt my transformation will you! Now its really on!] Usually so unruffled, Tekketsu had just realized how ruthless this foe really was. And that pricked a nerve.
The Kamui straightened itself imperceptibly, and Tekketsu suddenly radiated agitation, [Oh shit, I think it heard that!]
“No matter. You’re right though, now it’s time to do our job.”
The Kamui stepped from the smoke. The white fabric, traced through with those glowing red lines that squeezed and embalmed its host, the great glaring eyes, that was all about what Ira expected. Now that Tekketsu could see it she crawled with discomfort, something like an “uncanny valley” effect at seeing this thing that looked and felt similar to her but just… not quite right.
That was all what Ira was prepared for, but the woman underneath, she was more interesting. That couldn’t be Minazuki Kiryuin, Satsuki’s older cousin, right? But it was!
“Oh hell, that’s not good,” Ira muttered fairly pointlessly as he stared at that face – so similar to Satsuki’s, blond hair aside. And the phalanx of one-star Ultima uniforms armed with bulky assault rifles behind her, that wasn’t good either. Nor were the other prisoners behind them, all also armed and ready to fight their way to freedom. Takamori grinned viciously. He clearly felt on top of the world. But Ira was too busy thinking about how disappointed Satsuki would be until he saw Itsuki in the back and his heart sunk.
Itsuki saw him too – really how could he miss a ten foot hulk of a man – and quickly turned away in… fear? Shame? Disgust? Ira couldn’t tell. But it didn’t matter.
No, Ira wasn’t completely disappointed with how this morning was going. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t still absolutely livid. He pointed his sword at the monster that shouldn’t be, and she stared back at him serene and unruffled as he bellowed:
“NOT ONE STEP FURTHER, REVOCS SCUM!”