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Kyane darted around the tank on the left and rolled up to its tracks. The tank on the right fired its volley of machine gun rounds along the ground. A few stray bullets clipped her heels. Now she knew what Achilles felt. She caught her breath for the second she could. The tank on the right fired its machine gun rounds through the tank she knelt behind, puncturing the hull. The timer in the corner continued to count down. It read: 1:37.
The tank on the right fired its shell into the tank Kyane hid behind. At impact Kyane realized her grave, grave mistake about this plan. Her cover exploded in a ball of flames and destruction. The shockwave kicked her through a thin tree and into some shrubbery. Her body rattled back and forth. She felt like it never stopped quivering. Smolders fizzled out quickly on her suit. Her vision blurred, and ringing blared in her ear. She stood up. D13 ran a quick system check. Saying it was bad would be a serious understatement.
Kyane began to run toward the final tank. Her body ached like she was a flattened chicken breast about to be cooked. Her legs were grass in a heavy storm. One leg tripped in front of the other. She caught herself before she fell to the ground, but she persisted.
The tank’s machine guns revved themselves up again.
Kyane’s heartbeat skyrocketed. She crouched down and built up the last drops of power Dieous had into her legs. The legs whined and glowed blue. The machine guns went off. She leaped into the sky and quickly fell like a rock onto the lid of the tank. The metal crinkled and crunched under her weight.
Kayne wrapped her arms around the tank’s barrel and curled it skyward. Her biceps popped. She dropped down a level, gripped the tops of the machine guns and tore them off the side of the tank. The chains of shells rained over the ground. She tossed them onto the burning pyre that was the first destroyed tank. She turned down the hull of the tank. She brought her fist back, then punched straight through the metal and into the wiring inside the death machine. She collected as many wires as she could, then pulled her fist out. She noticed it looked like a bundle of multicolored spaghetti. She tossed the wires aside and looked at the hole she made in the tank. She grabbed the metal on both sides and ripped it apart to expose more multicolored wires, along with square boxes of electrical equipment she guessed were used to control the tank. She dented the boxes with her kicks. They sparked then quickly caught on fire. The fire spread up the wires and into the body of the tank itself. She sprung off the tank and ran into the rest of the open battlefield. The tank exploded into a similar ball of fire as the previous two.
Kyane tapped the button on the side of her mask to open the faceplate. She sucked up a liter of air. “Are we done?” She knelt over and rested her hands on her knees. “Because I’m done.”
A beep went off on her headset. “I have incoming.”
“Oh, God.” She stood back up. “Where?” She looked around the field.
“Behind you. There is a truck with five people inside.”
Kyane spun around to see a military jeep with two people she knew right away, two she had never met, and a fifth she had not seen in so long it took her brain a solid minute to realize who it was. The fifth person was an elderly Japanese man with thinning white hair, and a full white beard. It was almost like all his hair diverted from his skull to his chin. He wore a black exercise shirt that accentuated his muscular features of the thirty-year-old weightlifter he looked like. Everyone stepped out of the jeep, and onto the torn wasteland that was the testing field.
Kyane sprung over to the jeep and wrapped her parents up in her arms and squeezed them. She felt like she was hugging a pair of ferrets. “Mom! Dad!”
“Hey honey,” Damon said.
“Hey baby,” Hinotomi coughed.
“Can you let us down now, honey?” Damon asked.
Kyane dropped them. “I’m sorry guys.” She looked at the man in the suit, the guard in military gear, and buff grandpa. “Who are these people?”
Damon waved his hands at the man in the suit. “This is our boss, Jerry. He… He ahh… he was the one who suggested we run this test.”
“Oh,” Kyane said. Her fists tightened. She stepped up to him, wrapped her hands along his dress shirt collar and hoisted him into the air. Jerry’s feet kicked up dirt. Vic quickly drew his gun onto Kyane’s exposed head. “So, you’re the one who put me here, made me go through all this bull-hockey. I got exploded by a rocket and almost died from tank attacks! Classmates of mine died yesterday! I have had it!”
“First, Vic does not shoot her, we need her. Second, Sensei, can you take care of this please. I can’t breathe,” Jerry wheezed.
The Sensei slammed the side of his fist on Kyane’s elbow. Her elbow buckled and dropped to her side with Jerry along with him. “What was that for… you buff… grandpa!?”
Hinotomi laughed. “Actually, you are closer than you want to admit.”
“What?” Kyane said. She cocked her head and raised her eyebrow at her mom. She looked back at the man. She could see he was wearing running pants and sandals. She looked back into his blue eyes. She remembered those eyes looking at her, picking her up, and saying something in Japanese she realized now. It was her sixth birthday party. He brought her some candies and an authentic umbrella with her name written in Japanese characters. She sold it when she was eight at a garage sale. “Hi grandpa.” She gave a fragile smile.
He nodded. “Hello, Kyane,” he replied. He had a thick Japanese accent.
“What are you doing here?” She asked, “My sweet 16 isn’t for a while.”
“Umm, baby, he never left the States,” Hinotomi said.
“I’ll explain,” Jerry said.
“Oh, please do,” Kyane said.
“He is the combat trainer for the pilot of the Dieous suit,” Jerry said. “I think your parents told me they told you about the UDCs already, and how Dieous was built to stop them. Well your grandfather here,” he patted her grandfather’s back, “Sensei Shaotoro, was the one training those soldiers to combat the UDCs. Unidentified Dinosaur Creatures, if I had to explain that.”
“Great…” Kyane said. “So why are you here then?”
“I am your last test, magomusume,” Sensei Shaotoro said.
“That is, if you want to keep doing this,” Damon said.
“You don’t have to,” Hinotomi added.
“You can stay our little girl and let the adults handle it,” Damon said.
Kyane kicked up some dirt. She tried to put her hands in her pockets, but then remembered that the suit didn’t have pockets. She bit her lips and squinted her face. “How… How have the adults been doing so far?”
“Well…” Damon began.
“Terrible,” Jerry said. “Just absolute, total failures.”
Kyane nodded her head. “I’ll do it then.”
“NO!” Damon yelled. “I can’t let you do this. I won’t let!”
“What!?” Kyane yelled back. “This is like me wanting to take driver’s ed! This is the stupid rock thing all over again!”
“What’s the rock thing?” Jerry asked.
“It’s nothing like that!” Damon said. He cut the air with his hand. “I refuse.”
“Damon,” Hinotomi rubbed his arms. “You were the one who was telling me about how strong she was.”
“No,” Damon said. “You were dying while we watched this!” He pointed to the wasteland of destroyed tanks. “You can’t be on your dad’s side now!” He looked at Shaotoro. “No offense, Takao.”
Hinotomi backed away. “I’m not on his side! I thought we said we would let our daughter choose. She needs something outside of school.”
“We did say that. But I changed my mind,” Damon said
“No, no, no no,” Hinotomi said. She shook her head back and forth.
Sensei Shaotoro stepped in between his family. “I have a solution. Kyane will fight me now. If she wins, she can fight. If she loses, she will put the suit away.”
“No!” Damon said.
“Deal!” Kyane said louder.
Sensei Shaotoro nodded. “It is agreed.” He went into a fighting stance.
“It is so agreed,” Kyane said. She raised the face mask and went into a similar fighting stance. “Are you ready, Die?”
“I am very low on power,” D13 said.
“Can I still punch, kick, and stuff,” Kyane asked.
“Yes, very much. I just cannot predict his fighting moves, and we have no shields left.”
“Be careful, got it!” She turned to Jerry. “Count us down.”
Jerry stepped back, raised his arm up, and counted down. “Three, two, one,” He waved his arm down. “Fight!”
Kyane threw a jab with her right elbow. Sensei blocked it with his left arm and punched her in the right shoulder. Kyane staggered backward. Sensei stepped in and backhanded her with his fist. Kyane’s right arm lifted into the air, Sensei gripped his hands around her wrist and forearm then tossed her onto her back. He threw a punch at her neck. Kyane caught his fist a hair away and jerked him to the side. Sensei flipped to catch himself from falling. She rolled off her back and onto her knees, then sweep kicked her grandfather’s ankles. The kick connected. He fell but caught himself on his palms then kicked her on the crown with the front end of his sandal.
Kyane’s head bobbed up and down on impact. Sensei pulled back for another finishing punch, Kyane rolled backward away from the punch and crouched back on the tips of her toes. Sensei leaned in and punched again. Kyane blocked the punch with her left arm then quickly delivered a palm-strike with her right hand to his jaw. His teeth clattered. He staggered back. Kyane took the offensive, stood and ran toward him and kicked him in the chest. Sensei took an inch back, avoiding any major damage. She tried the kick again. Her leg jetted into the air and toward her grandfather’s face. He side-stepped the attack and she knew it was over. In mere seconds he caught the leg with his left hand, punched her knee, chopped the back of her leg, ducked under the leg with his left hand still on it, and punched the small of her back. She felt a pop reverberate through her skeleton. He dropped the leg and she collapsed to the ground. He brought his fist back and threw a punch. His fist stopped before it touched her face. He opened his fist into a hand. She took it and got help up. “Ow. Ow, ow, ow,” Kyane said. She rubbed her waist with her free hand.
“Dad!” Hinotomi yelled. She and Damon marched over to them. Damon took his baby girl and helped her into the back of the jeep. Hinotomi didn’t leave her father’s face. Shaotoro folded his hands behind his back. “How could you do that to your own granddaughter!? She could be seriously hurt!”
Shaotoro watched Kyane open the facemask, then prop her leg up onto the driver’s seat of the jeep. Damon sat down next to her. “If this suit is as strong as you say it is, she should have been fine. She did very well for no training.”
“That’s what I have been saying Shoa!” Jerry blurted out. “She could really be the one.”
“No, no. Stop. Stop,” Hinotomi said. “My daughter. Our daughter,” she moved her hand toward Damon and the jeep, “is not the hero of some stupid prophecy BS. She is just a teenager.”
“But you approved of this,” Jerry said.
“No, you said I would approve of her trainer. I did not say I would approve all this.”
“It’s close enough.”
“So am I from punching you.”
Shaotoro nodded. “What was the meter your daughter excelled far beyond anyone else?”
“The T/S meter.”
“I thought it was S/T,” Jerry said.
Shaotoro shook his head. “Does not matter.” He closed the gap between himself and his daughter. “That meter was to show the spirit of a person. Your daughter has it. My granddaughter has it.”
Hinotomi nodded furiously. “Yes, you’re right. She can be great,” she said in Tin-Man rusty Japanese.
“She really can,” Shaotoro said in perfect Japanese. He took her hands in his and rubbed the tops of her palms. “This is no ‘prophecy BS.’ This is not her destiny to be great. This is her potential to be great.” He moved back to English. “Those UDC monsters are coming no matter what.”
“Sensei is right, Hinotomi,” Jerry said. “The UDC are coming and won’t get any less hidden after the baseball incident. We need someone, and that someone is your daughter.”