After the sound of marching troops died down, there was silence across the devastated city. A lone hunk of metal, once fashioned in the shape of a mecha's head, stood cold in the wind.

"Stupid piece of crap!" a plate of armor flew off, exposing a booted leg. "It's hard enough to squeeze in here, the DID oughta make the emergency capsule easier to get out of." Kaze emerged from the opening, still carrying his only passenger. The girl was unconscious, but otherwise okay. Kaze set her down on the ground. "So... what to do with you... I'm gonna have to signal for a ride. I can't carry you all the way back." He tapped a few numbers into his wristband, reached Hikari on the other line, and told him to come and get him. After he hung up, he sat down next to the girl. "God, I hope Kara's alright. There were still a bunch of troopers left when they took out my robot." He slapped himself. "C'mon! It's Kara I'm talking about. She's probably already killed them all." His words weren't very reassuring. And then he heard a voice.

"I... need water... please..." He looked down at the girl. Her eyes were glazed over, but she was conscious. She took the water bottle he handed to her and drank the whole liter in seconds. "That's better..."

"Are you okay? We found you out by an apartment complex. I've got a ride on the way to come and get you; we'll fix you up." She stared at him for a minute. She stared some more. "Uh... yeah. I'm gonna go get a Tylenol from my med kit..." The girl leapt into his arms and hung from his neck.

"Oh, my god, you're my hero! You saved little Sakura!!! I owe you my life!" He clamped a hand over her mouth.

"Ssshhh! There might still be troopers around-" a gun leveled at his face. "-here." Kaze pushed Sakura behind him and stood up. Without warning, she shoved him out of the way and leapt at the stunned robot.

"Stupid hunk of metal! Stay out of the way of true love!" She hovered in the air and dodged several blaster bolts. "Chiga no soku sare ka!" her chant ended in a dark blast that incinerated the soldier. When she stepped to the ground, all that was left of the droid was a single spent shell lying on the ground. Kaze was pressed up against the cold metal of his mecha's head, mouth wide open, staring at the devastating blow. "I hate it when someone interrupts." Kaze probably would have ran in fear if Hikari hadn't landed his mech at that moment.

"Hey, Kaze, we need to hurry it up a bit. There's still a bunch of robots patrolling, and it looks like Kara's got some trouble on her hands." Sakura helped herself into the bay, waiting for Kaze.

"Well, let's give her a hand."

-----

"Gee, this brings back memories." Kara spat at Jinx, dripping hate with every word.

"Now, now, let's try to start things on a friendly basis. May the best girl win." Jinx held out her hand.

"I plan to." Kara's suit turned into a veritable armory, shifting RPGs, bullet hoses, miniguns, and targeting systems into place from hidden plates and compartments. Jinx was quicker, though, and unleashed a devastating barrage of waves from her open palm at Kara. Her suit reacted in reflex, leaping high on foot thrusters and launching a dozen red-tipped heat-seekers. They homed in on Jinx, speeding up with every second. Kara saw a smile cross her face as the air turned cold. All of the rockets swerved in random directions, their targeting computers demolished. Hundreds of unlucky shock troopers bore the brunt of the missiles' aimless path; they spiraled off into quickly scattering battallions and detonated. "Dammit, lady, just die!"

"You first." Jinx's invisible storm rusted Kara's suit and completely destroyed her tracking, targeting, and life-support systems. The hulking giant fell from the sky, trailing smoke and spent shells as Kara emptied her magazines at her foe.

"DIE, DIE, DIE, DIE!!!" Jinx avoided every shot, spinning bullets away from her and dodging the rest. The redirected bullets took care of most of the surviving troopers. The rest fled from the battle. Kara's suit plummeted into the dirt and crashed, smashing to pieces and cratering the dusty earth. Kara was left lying in a pile of metal, her hands still gripping her control mitts. Jinx stood above her.

"And so it comes to an end... I did have fun, though. I hope your precious friends give me as much of a good time as you did." One last shot rang from the suit's minigun, missing Jinx entirely. "That was it? That was your grand finale? That one bullet was your testament to the world? I pity you." Kara drooled blood.

"...You fell for it..." There was a soft, whining sound from far away.

"WHAT?!" Jinx turned to see what Kara meant- and came face-to-warhead with one last missile.

-----

"Did you see that?" Hikari flew towards the explosion. "It looked like an RPG blast. I think it was Kara's!" The pilot and passengers jumped from their seats and ran to the blackened clearing. They heard a weak cough and found Kara, lying in her own debris. She reached for Hikari, the smoking and tattered metal arm reaching with her. He pulled the glove from her hand and threw it to the ground; the robot's arm crashed and fell to pieces. Kara held Hikari's hand and opened her eyes.

"Hikari... I'm... not afraid anymore." She closed her eyes again and gripped his hand tighter. Kaze helped him pull her from the dead machine and bring her back to the waiting mech.

Eight days later, Hikari was still sitting next to Kara while she rested in the life-support and respiration chamber. Kit and Kaze came in to check on the two of them.

"Sheesh. You think she's been in there long enough?" Kit tapped on the glass. "She looks like a frog in formaldehyde."

"Well, maybe you'd like to fall fifty feet from the air and crash into the ground with nothing but your own suit under you."

"Point taken." She poked Hikari in the arm. "Hey, you don't have an excuse. Wake up." Hikari looked up at the two of them.

"So here's my wakeup call. Where's the chocolate mint on my pillow?" Kit kicked him.

"This ain't the Hilton, kid. Get up and eat." She motioned at Denki, who was eating pizza rations like there was no tomorrow. "Just don't eat like this sorry pig over here." He threw a chunk of the food at Hikari.

"Don't hit. I'm twice as big as all of you."

"Thanks, guys, but I'll just have some chips. I need to get to work in the machine shop." Hikari took a bag of Lays and walked to the shop.

"Huh. What do you think he's doing?" Kit scratched her ear and retreated to the armory to count guns.

"I dunno. Something about Kara, I'd guess." Kaze followed her from the med room.

-----

"I hurt in my everywhere. That lady had to jack up my suit a week before my birthday, too. I slept straight through my fifteenth." Kara pulled an IV from her arm, covering the blood flow with a cotton ball and tape. "One heck of a present. I hope we can fix my suit up alright. I'm gonna have a hell of a time gettin' around without it." She let her dead legs hang off the cot as she fixed up the IV holes in her arms and neck.

Without notice, the light flicked on and blinded her. "What the-"

"Happy birthday!" All of her friends stood in the room with her, clapping and cheering.

"Congrats on surviving through another year. These past few weeks have been a doozy, huh?" Kit sat with Kaze and tossed her a gift. Game Guy droned in the background, and Chiga was inquiring Denki about what a birthday entailed.

"Is she a mother? Has she given birth to a child?" Kara shuddered.

"Oh, god, no. If there's one thing I don't need now, it's a kid." Everyone passed by and gave her a gift to open. "Oh my god! A Desert Eagle! I've always wanted one of these!" Kaze pointed at Game Guy.

"Game Guy found that in the armory. He figured you'd like it." She opened up another box and pulled out a fetching set of throwing knives. Denki hugged her and started thumbing through the collection.

"These are some of my favorites. There are some Hibben knives in here, and a few of my own." Kara thanked him and opened up her present from Kit and Kaze.

"Combat boots! I love these! Here, help me try 'em on!"

"We won't need to, Kara." Hikari walked in, carting a waist-high box behind him. "Try these on instead." He pushed a button on the side, and the package split open. Inside was what looked like a pair of slim pants. On further inspection, however, there were metal joints and small pistons in the knees and hips. The waist was supported by a form-fitting seal. "Try 'em out. With these suckers on, you should be able to keep pace with my mech by running." Kit helped her put the braces on her legs. Using Kit's shoulder as support, Kara stepped from her bed and stood on the floor.