Chapter 4: The Flaming Passion! Aniki versus the Antilovers!

Things looked grim for the forces of humanity. The Antilovers, those haters of all love and goodness, had attacked the neighborhood while Marmalade, the secret weapon of the human race, was in the repair shop! Just when it seemed that all hope was lost, the young man known only as Aniki decided to take action. Marmalade was not the only mecha in existence—as a government project, Ursus Paddington had been instructed to build several of the machines in order to present them to the military. The Antilover attacks had interrupted this plan, but as soon as Aniki saw that the mecha Jam was available, he entered the cockpit and went out to do what he had wanted to do for a long time—defeat the Antilovers! The enemies of mankind had shot him with semiautomatic machine guns, and for a moment, it looked like evil would prevail. But somehow, amazingly, Jam was not destroyed!

Aniki was still alive, and exclaimed, "Didn't you idiots learn anything from the last battle? I'm not going down that easy!"

This claim was met with jubilation by the onlookers, Moeko and Ursus Paddington, and Amy Myers, Moeko's only friend in school who just happened to be caught up in all of this. But that is known already. The fact that Jam was still functional meant that the fight would go on.

Now Amy was confused. She asked, "How did he survive that?"

The leader of the whole project, Moeko's father, answered, "That is due to the ability to ignore the odds and persevere through sheer determination, qualities valued in a pilot."

"Yeah, how unoriginal," Amy sighed.

Meanwhile, the battle raged on.

Aniki exclaimed, "Love is what makes the world go round; the random acts of kindness committed demonstrate the best of humanity! Destroying love would end us all! Your tyranny, Antilovers, will not be tolerated! Righteous Anger PUNCH!"

Aniki pulled the requisite levers and pressed the requisite buttons to make Jam's arm punch the mecha directly in front of him, which was the very same one that fired his gun at Aniki in the first place. To the surprise of everybody, the other mecha caught Jam's fist in its hands!

Aniki was just as surprised as anybody else, and said, "What is this trickery?"

His opponent, who was named Bob, responded, "You know what we Antilovers dislike the most about you humans? You're so arrogant. You know practically nothing, and are always surprised when your aspirations are foiled, as if the world was meant to bend to accommodate your desires! Prepare to get a reality check!"

Bob's mecha thrust its arm upward with such force as to rip Jam's arm off from its body. Its pilot yelped in pain, even though his own arm was completely unharmed, sheltered in the safety of the machine. If he survived, he was going to beat the designer who thought it would be a good idea to make the pilot experience the pain of the mecha to a pulp. This was unacceptable. Before he could further contemplate his revenge, however, Bob took advantage of the situation and kneed him in the stomach. See how depraved the Antilovers are?!

"Now you're fighting dirty, huh?" Aniki was enraged, "This is unforgivable! Compensatory POKE IN THE EYES!"

Jam's right arm was torn off, but its left arm was still attached. Its pilot extended its index and middle fingers, and used them to poke the enemy mech in the eyes. Bob did not expect that maneuver and recoiled, eyes watering, and took a few steps backward.

"Err," he seethed, "You'll pay for that!"

"Bring it!"

Both combatants decided to punch the other at the same time, and as a result, their fists collided, neither willing to give even an inch.

Amy watched in amusement, as Moeko started crying in the corner once Jam's arm came off. The homeroom representative really disliked Aniki, but she wanted him to win anyway because the alternative was extermination and a swift death. She sipped a soda which she had brought with her while watching the two exchange blows.

"I am definitely the better fighter!" Aniki exclaimed.

"Then why do I have you on the ropes?" Bob countered.

"Lies! The great Aniki triumphs over all his opponents!"

"You warlike humans deserve to be eliminated!"

Throughout all this, their two fists were still locked in position. But that was about to change. The pilot of Jam was taken by surprise when a fist slammed into the mecha's right side.

"Hey! What gives?!" he shouted angrily, ignoring the pain.

Bob replied, "You idiot. There was no way you could win with only one arm."


Aniki looked out the monitor screen and saw that Bob had used his mech's right arm to punch the side of Jam. The left arm which was locked in battle was just a distraction, which left the good guys' mecha practically incapacitated.

From inside the cockpit, Bob smirked. He radioed his comrades and said, "Now, fire at will!"

That was when everyone noticed what was happening. In Aniki's carelessness, he had run headlong into battle without realizing that he would be going up against more than one opponent. During his truly epic sparring duel with the leader of the squadron, the other Antilovers had been stealthily surrounding him, and now were firing their oversized weapons from all sides. Unlike the previous squad, which was so incompetent that even a clumsy girl like Moeko with no combat experience could defeat them, this group knew what they were doing, and riddled Jam with holes. There was a cry of pain, and the great machine collapsed on the ground.

This appalled the others. Moeko was in no condition to fight the Antilovers! Aniki was their only hope!

Amy gasped, and said, "Oh no!"

"You fiends!" yelled Ursus.

Moeko was even more devastated. She cried, "ANIKI! He's badly hurt! I'm scared!"

They acted quickly to remove the fallen mecha from the line of fire. The problem was, how was a rescue squad supposed to go out and retrieve it, without being noticed by the vile Antilovers. Those heartless warriors would attack anyone who went out there unprotected, but if nothing was done, then for all anyone knew, the Antilovers would continue to beat up Aniki until he was dead. If he were retrieved they could still save him, but they did not have much time. The makeup of the rescue squad was unquestioned, as there were only three others present: Moeko, her father, and Amy. It appeared that they had no choice: Moeko would need to go out there in Marmalade and take Aniki to safety.

Her father repeated, "Moeko. You need to go in Marmalade and get him back here!"

The girl was frightened. Who knew what the Antilovers would do to her?

"Ah!" she squeaked, "But it's scary!"

"Why do I even bother?" sighed Ursus as he slapped his hand on his forehead. His daughter really needed to grow a spine.

Ultimately, it was Amy who convinced the timid and frightened girl to act. The homeroom representative said, "Moeko, I know it's scary out there, but if you do nothing, that man will die! Do you want that? It would go against justice."

Moeko sighed, "I know."

For a moment it seemed like she would be too afraid to do anything, so Amy valiantly suggested that she get in Relish, the remaining mecha. Even though she disliked Aniki as a person, it would be a mockery of her station as a Koukou Academy Student Council Homeroom Representative to just stand back and allow someone to die, especially a fighter for freedom such as Jam's pilot. However, before she could begin to climb the ladder, Moeko finally spoke up.

"You don't need to do this, Amy-chan!" she stated, rather loudly, and even assertively, but still shyly, "You're just a civilian. If you go out there you could get just as hurt as Aniki, or worse. If that happened—I, I wouldn't be able to forgive myself! Let me get him."

The sudden switch from cute and helpless anime character to determined and assertive anime character came as a shock to Amy. She wondered about this behavior, considering that it was so out of character for her friend. What had gotten into her? Whatever it was, Amy hoped that it would never leave. After all, the whole reason she had befriended Moeko in the first place was to give that girl some much-needed confidence.

"Do what you must," said Amy.

And so, Moeko entered the cockpit of Marmalade and bravely stepped forward, though in reality this confidence was merely a façade. In actuality she was positively terrified, and her legs were quaking in fear. Naturally, do the synchronization and calibrations, Marmalade's legs were also shaking, though part of that may have simply been because it had difficulty supporting its own weight.

Amy noticed this, and promptly said, "Hey! Mr. Paddington, why are you allowing this? She could get seriously hurt!"

"Of course I am allowing this," Ursus shot back, "I am a pragmatist. We have no choice. And didn't you tell Moeko to 'do what she must'?"

"I was caught up in the moment!" came the reply.

A curious thought flashed through the scientist's mind.

"You seem to be very, er, protective of little Moeko. You wouldn't happen to be a—?"

"What?" asked Amy, who then realized what Ursus was implying. "It's not like that at all!" she yelled.

"I see," stated Ursus matter-of-factly.

Moeko went out to the battlefield, thinking happy thoughts to distract herself from the carnage, and noticed Jam lying in the street.

"Ah?" she surmised, quickly scanning the area for Antilovers. They were in humongous mecha, surely they could not hide?

"Now how do I pick it up?" she said to herself.

As she maneuvered the levers of her mecha to bend down, she tried to grab Jam by its side and carry it over Marmalade's shoulders. However, even with an incredibly-strong mecha on her side, this was more difficult than it appeared.

"Ah, heavy!" she shouted, "What's inside, rocks?"

She was not prepared for what happened next.

"FIRE!" yelled an Antilover.

Moeko squeaked in terror. How could she have forgotten the fact that she was surrounded on all sides by the enemy? They were right there, and had not moved at all. Her carelessness had allowed her to walk right into a sneak attack!

But as if being attacked gave her strength, Marmalade managed to pick up Jam and run off to the relative safety of the workshop.

Naturally, they set Jam down on the floor and opened the hatch. Despite the fact that it is not a very good idea to move a person who has gotten into a serious motor vehicle accident, Ursus and Amy did so anyway. Aniki should consider himself lucky that this did not give him any more injuries than he had sustained in battle, even though Amy accidentally dropped him on the concrete floor.

"He's still alive, fortunately," Ursus stated, "Just seriously unconscious."

Amy took a look at the unconscious body, and when she did so her eyes widened in shock. Surely this could not be.

"Moeko, you have to see this!" she called.

Unfortunately, poor little Moeko would not be able to go see what the situation was, for there were still enemies to fight. As long as the cruel and despicable Antilovers were surrounding the area, innocent people would be in danger, and this very building would also be under attack. Not that the conscious mecha pilot wanted to get involved. However, one of the enemies had taken the opportunity to, while no one was looking, walk right into the garage and mount a preemptive strike!

"ACH! That was valuable equipment! Do you know how much money I paid for that useless control panel?!" yelled Ursus to the offending Antilover.

At this, Moeko turned around, and upon seeing an even larger mecha behind her, promptly screamed. In a panic, she began mashing the buttons and levers on the dashboard furiously, in an attempt to get away. Of course, since she was inputting random commands to Marmalade, the machine's appendages jerked uncontrollably, and by pure luck, Marmalade's right arm connected with the other mech's face. Naturally, the foe stumbled backwards and fell over, into yet another piece of valuable equipment, much to Ursus's consternation.

Not that Moeko was any less frightened. She was startled by what had happened and squeaked out an apology, while stumbling around blindly out of the building. This very dangerous combination of klutzy girl and many-ton machine flailed about and eventually fell towards Bob's mecha. What? You did not think that he was forgotten about, did you? His machine's arms were doing their absolute best to keep Marmalade away from him, so that he would not be crushed under the weight of thousands of tons of metal.

"Geez," he muttered, "How many of you are there?"

Moeko heard him, which in itself was surprising since the radio was not turned on. Perhaps Bob accidentally hit the "transmit" button? It is the only logical explanation for this insanity.

The scared girl replied, "Ah, sorry! Why must you keep fighting us? What have we ever done to you?"

"Why do you destructive humans keep asking us that question?" asked Bob, "You claim to be against war and fighting, though you designed machines to go to war with your own kind. You are hypocrites, all of you!"

It may be interesting to note that Bob said this while still holding off gravity and preventing Marmalade from falling on top of him. Moeko was that ditzy, that she was unable to steady herself without help.

She replied, "But I'm telling the truth! I am scared of this whole situation, and I'm not meant to be a mecha pilot. I wish we could all just get along. Why do you have to be so mean?"

"Listen kid," said Bob, "The human race has committed all the evils in the world. It deserves to be punished."

Upon hearing that, Moeko would have had a response. However, at that moment, the mechanical arms restraining Marmalade gave out, and Bob's mecha was smothered. But due to a stroke of coincidence, Moeko did not land right on top of him. Instead, her mecha only hit the torso of her opponent, which was enough to knock him down, to be sure, but Marmalade rolled over to the side and lay beside the other mech. The somewhat dazed pilot fiddled with the levers, and to her great surprise, managed to get up. Somehow she had managed to avoid any serious blows that would render Marmalade inoperable. Looking out the monitor, it did not appear that Bob was so lucky.

When his subordinates realized what had happened, they were stunned. How did their great leader manage to lose to a shy and inexperienced girl? She had gotten lucky not once, but twice. One may suspect that they would have reacted to this by all ganging up on poor Moeko and bringing her down. However, had they been smart enough to do that, they would have done it before the leader of their squadron was defeated. Instead, the minor Antilovers gathered round their fallen superior, picked up the mech he was in, and evacuated the neighborhood, returning to their secret base, where Bob could receive medical attention. There were no deaths on this battlefield. (As for that poor mook who had fought Marmalade in the garage himself, he was left in the Paddingtons' care.)

Bob's immediate subordinate in the group was the last to leave. He faced Moeko and exclaimed, "You may have won this round, but we'll be back. You will all pay for this."

And with that Parthian shot, he vanished along with the rest of his comrades.

There was nothing left for a bewildered Moeko to do but go back inside. Once again, Marmalade was severely damaged. Presumably, her father would make her do the repairs. It was unlikely that the mecha could take many more beatings: it was surprising that Marmalade was even still functional after falling down three times. The bigger they are the harder they fall, after all.

But none of that mattered at the moment. What did matter was that her friend had told her to look at something. Moeko had been unable to do so because she had been snuck up on immediately afterward, but now she was willing to do what Amy had asked. Those who were not fighting had fled to the interior of Moeko's house, so the girl looked in every room for them, eventually finding the three in her bedroom, with the highly battered one, still unconscious, on the bed.

"Oh thank heavens you're here, Moeko!" Amy exclaimed, "You're okay! But look at Aniki!"

This the girl did, and she was just as surprised as her friend the homeroom representative had been. The hot-blooded mecha pilot had suffered serious injuries in his battle, but his face was recognizable. Indeed, without his ridiculously oversized sunglasses, he was even more recognizable. Now Moeko knew why Aniki's sideburns were so familiar. For lying in the makeshift hospital bed was none other than Reginald Darcy!

Now Moeko was curious about her classmate. He was, after all, a mild-mannered and very polite student at school, not the type to rush headlong into battle while giving inspiring speeches on truth, morality, and justice. Besides, the two spoke in different ways. Somehow Moeko had managed to be fooled by him wearing large goggles. If a disguise as thin as that could deceive her, then maybe it was not such a good thing that the fate of mankind was in her hands. A few days passed without incident, wherein Reginald was taken to the hospital. He was in a coma the entire time, so fortunately the Antilovers, for whatever reason, had decided to hold off their attacks. Moeko and her father were visiting him in said hospital, because like it or not, Moeko had become his coworker, and they needed to check up on him.

"I'm gonna go get a drink," said Ursus, "You want anything?"

"Water, I guess," replied Moeko.

Her father left the room, leaving her alone with a comatose Reginald.

Little did anybody suspect that, mere seconds after Ursus Paddington left the hospital room, Reginald Darcy would finally regain consciousness! What luck! Now Moeko could finally tell him her feelings!

Reginald, on the other hand, was somewhat confused. He had been out for days, and was only just coming to. Naturally, his vision was blurry at first, and he had a splitting headache. After blinking a few times and seeing Moeko hovering over him, he acted in the natural way of a person in that situation.

"Aah!" he yelled, startled.

Moeko ran into a problem. Now that she knew who Aniki was, she could not talk to him without becoming extremely shy. Nevertheless, she managed to squeak out, "Hi, Reginald-kun."

Still somewhat shocked, the high school boy replied, "What have you been doing? How did you find out who I am?"

"Uh, your sunglasses—"

The shy girl pointed to a nightstand, upon which sat the glasses which had concealed Reginald's face.

"I see. Well, this complicates things, now that you know I work for your father…" Reginald mused.

"How did you get chosen? You're only my age," Moeko pointed out.

"And this is coming from a mecha pilot herself?" Reginald responded, "Well, to tell you the truth, I've always wanted to do something helpful with my life. When I heard about the auditions for mecha pilots, I applied and got the part. Perhaps your dad was impressed by my charisma and atmosphere…"

"I see," said Moeko. She wondered what else there was that she was not being told.

"Um, Aniki?" she asked, nervously.

"Yeah?" the boy answered, curious as to why Moeko went back to using that title.

"Uh, um… never mind."

Try as she might, Moeko was simply too embarrassed to tell Reginald that she liked him. Oh, the shame! Isn't that just too sad?

Well, Reginald was released from the hospital that night. The day after that, Moeko had a surprising experience at lunch. Just like always, she sat all by herself in a corner, concentrating only on what was on her tray. She saw her friends at the popular kids' tables, but they seemed to have forgotten her. Her fears were unfounded, however, because suddenly and without warning, Reginald stood up from his seat and tapped his glass with his spoon, to divert all attention towards him.

Reginald silently thanked the fact that the in crowd at Koukou Academy commanded the attention of the entire student body, and then stated, "Now that I have your attention, I have an announcement to make."

Moeko looked up. Only she and Amy knew of what Reginald did after school. Could this somehow be related to the incident with the Antilovers?

The charming youth continued, "As you are all aware, vile and despicable people who call themselves Antilovers have declared war against all of mankind. They must be stopped, and so… I have volunteered to go and fight them! And so, I hereby invite the daughter of the creator of the mecha program to sit at the popular table, Moeko Paddington!"

Upon hearing this, the girl was stunned, but went up to see Reginald.

Now the tables have turned! Will Moeko be accepted in Reginald's clique? How will the student body react to this news? What are the Antilovers planning? Stay tuned!