[b “Appreciate it. They weren't complicated at all to me, but I'm used to complexity,”] Molly said with a smile as she watched her team go off to their training. She would join them soon enough, but she was not about to leave the group installing something in her hangar unsupervised. Even with Ryosuke there she would feel far more comfortable overseeing things herself for the time being.
Seeing two grown men start pushing and shoving each other as they bickered about the complexity of mathematics was enough to send Molly into a fit of raucous laughter. It reminded her a bit of her grandfather's relationship with his best friend Ryokan, and getting to see it brought back some good memories. The laughter left her doubled over as Ryosuke put a hand on her back to help steady his boss.
Sarah stated surprise at the fact the two were able to accomplish anything while having such an apparently antagonistic relationship. Molly knew better though thanks to her experience with similar men in the past. Still Sarah's surprise only made Molly laugh more as she had to crouch just to keep from falling over laughing at the scene in front of her.
[b “You two are better than anything on TV these days,”] Molly said as she struggled to catch her breath.
Sarah's surprise only increased at hearing the last name Vonham, but Molly just gave her a shrug when she looked to her to confirm. Molly didn't consider it that big of a deal considering her own background, and she wasn't about to dig into things now. There were bigger things to worry about at the moment, and installing the scaffolding was at the top of the list.
That was interrupted though by her being handed the coveted data pad with a bunch of maths on it showing that they miscalculated the Seraphim's power output. It could make the Gear a bit faster and more maneuverable, but at the cost of making its already annoying overheating problems worse. Still it was Lilly's Gear and Jack was her mechanic she was not going to tell them not to make the changes. Well at least as long as it did not cost them an actual match, as she would not hesitate to voice her concerns if it ended up hurting them.
[b “That all sounds alright to me, but I'm going to need you to sign a few waivers if you're going to be spending a lot of time around here,”] Molly said as she motioned for Satsuki. [b “Satsuki prepare the standard mechanic forms. You won't have a problem with that will you?”]
Molly gave a nod of agreement to Sarah's request before catching what Bill said and giving a wolfish grin. [b “We've got the best programmer in the country, what are we working on?”]
[h3 [center Yumi & Lilly]]Yumi gave a polite bow in greeting to the new AI, although she was aware at a glance that she was not as developed as she could be. Helping with that was something that she had an itch to do, but she would have to ask Molly for approval before making the offer. She knew not to do things that might upset her partner without at least asking first.
[b “Interesting,”] Yumi commented as she scanned the control setup in an attempt to get a better understanding of Lilly's preferences.
[h3 [center Yumi & Leon]]Yumi gave a roll of the eyes at Roland's first remark, as she was forewarned about his bad behavior by Molly. If that was the best that he could bring to the table it would be easy enough to tune him out and help the more polite Leon with his training. Leon at least gave a slight reprimand to his annoying AI, but Roland did not take it to heart as he continued to poke at her buttons.
[b “I will try, and I don't mind at all if you have your own warm-up routine,”] Yumi said as she drifted away from Roland's reach.
Yumi paid close attention to the scene that they presented her with Leon's warm-up routine as she did her best to collect useful data for Molly. Both in regards to how they set-up the scene to determine how he felt it best to get ready for a situation, and in how he handled the situation once he was there. She was quick to notice some of the traits that Molly had mentioned to her in their preparation of his training program, and she could not hide the happiness at that fact as she watched him shoot.
Unlike Molly and her who made heavy use of an advanced targeting system; Leon relied solely on himself and his AI to shoot his targets down. She was confident the installation of a modified form of the Gungnir could shave some time off of his warm-up and help him eliminate targets faster, but given how comfortable he was relying on himself she was not about to recommend it. If Molly had a complaint about his targeting time she could recommend the modification herself.
What was most impressive to her though was how well the duo was doing even as Roland did his best to continue to pester her. Eventually crossing the line that she had decided on before their meeting and so with a bit of effort she sent a system shock to temporarily disable the annoying AI. Still it did not take that long for him to come back online once they were back in the forest and waiting to move into the training program proper.
Yumi just smiled as Leon asked Roland about what had happened to him. Happy with the end results of her labor in stunning the other AI. The idea of him seeing her action as a challenge rather than the entirely justified punishment that it was left her a bit annoyed, but Molly had told her to prepare for such a response already. It did make her more sure of the strategy that Molly had in mind for determining the starting lineup though, as she knew it would be important to show them the importance of teamwork if they were going to make it to the finals.
[b “Is that the best that you can do?”] Yumi asked as she tilted her head in surprise at his effort.
A few lewd pictures that barely registered compared to some of the things she had seen in her efforts around the internet. Still if that was the best that he could muster she would hardly need to system shock him again as punishment, and so she set out to send him a few of the more disturbing pictures that she had come across. Indecent imagery that included a variety of disgusting things that would make the average Aristocrats joke look tame by comparison. Including an inappropriate image edited to include Roland and a ventriloquist dummy.
[b “If you expect to disturb me that would be a good starting point. Are you ready Leon?”]
Everyone nodded and head out to their job or training. All but Bill and Jack who pulled out a data pad and when to work reading something on it. “Thank I take a look at it in a second.” Bill said giving a thumbs up. “I trust my plan were simple enough to follow Jack says I have a tendency to make thing over complicate instructions.”
“Tendency if I would have stop you most of the instruction would have been just math and nothing else.” Jack retorted. “And don’t even get me started on the engines plan I still can't understand most of it and fuck I made the dam thing.”
“Well I'm not a simpleton like you.” Bill retorted cause Jack to hit him. “Ow” He called back as he punched back. Both gown men stated pushing each other now as each tried to gain control of the data pad. Despite what it looked like both men had been friend for year so no real injury happen. It finally ended when Jack got ahold of the Pad and held it out of reach of Bill. “aaa fine I go look at the scaffolding NNNNNE.”
“NNNNNEEEE” Jack called back as Bill walked away only for it to go back and forth several more time across the bay. “It hard to believe you two could ever build anything without killing each other.” A female mechanic said standing next to Jack. “Aaa you should see one of are real fight I still have few of the bruses from it.” He said smiling at her and rising his hand in greeting. “Jack Miller Co builder of Seraphim and the crazy person behind his engines.”
She laughed a bit taking his hand. “Sarah Woodly. Molly gave he his paper the other day and I have to say it the first time I seen anything like it.” Jack just shrugged as he led her to Seraphim waving Molly over to join them. “I had to work with a premade frame from a time long past. Bill father made him just before he got fames and rich so no one knew he existed until I found years later.” Sarah tilted her head. “And how Bill father?”
“Tom Vanham.” He said opening a panel on Seraphim leg. “Vanham as in Tom Vanham the president of the Greyhound the leading Producer of Cores and part in the world. That Tom Vanham?” She asked shocked turning to Molly to see if she knew. “Yep that his old man and my boss. To be honest if it wasn’t for his faire he would be fames and I would be standing right here.” She finally recovered and looked over at Bill who was talking with a few other making last minute adjusting on the from. “He doesn't seem like a million.” That caused Jack to laugh “Funny his father said the same thing when he first found him help me with Seraphim but anyway I didn’t call Molly over in here for small talk.” He handed her his data pad. “So me and bill been running some number after Lilly first test run a few month back turns out the engine put out more power then we first set up for.”
He turned back the controller and hit a button and Seraphim chest open to his first engine. “So, with that we can put more power to his thruster and his speed however the draw back to this is his overheating problem. The more power the quicker she will have to vent heat. At the moment I can't find a way around it but I keep looking into it. For now, I going to boost his power and give him that extra kick. It going to take a few days but once I'm done I'm going to need you to let Lilly take it out for a spin. After that I can give you a better reading on how things are looking with him. O also I be working here from now on if you done mind. Boss said my full attention should be on keeping Seraphim fulling working.”
Sarah turned to her boss. “ooo boss let me help I may not know much about this kinda stuff but you know I’m quick on learning let me help.” Jack just shrugged. “Could use an extra hand or two.” Bill returned with a few pushing the scaffolding in place. “And a programmer if you got one there a few scrips that I could use help with.” Bill said.
Lilly got into her training pod that had been set up for her. Most of the controls seemed to be there but it didn’t quite feel the same to her. Maybe it was the lack of steel around her but she could place her finger on it. Inserting Sora into the computer she noticed the other AI what was already in the system. Sora showed in left side as Lilly listened to Yumi. “Thank you very much say hello Sora.” Sora had her normal black look as she nodded to Yumi. Unlike Roland and Yumi was every well programed as her creator didn’t know what to add that was her basic personally. “I just finished uploading your control setup master and am ready to learn from Yumi.” Lilly smiled sweetly “Okay then let take it slow.”
Leon sat down in his training center and leaned back. “Begin neural up link.” He said as Roland worked his magic. “Roger starting system six seven and ten we be in in t mins 3 2 1 and we are live. O look we got a babysitter.” Roland said as he appeared next to Yumi. “And look we in her spooky forest. Scare.” Leon wasn’t paying much attention to him but said. “Be nice Roland we are guest in this system so don’t be rude.” Roland just laughed as he poked the other AI. “But just look at her she so cute acting like she so scary I’m shacking in my jacket.” Sighing Leon leaned forward and rubbed his face. “I'm sorry Yumi don’t mind him. Roland load the warm up program. We will be doing a quick warm up before we start with Molly training if you don’t mind.” Roland making a door show up next to the Circle. “Buckle up thing are about to get crazy.” said disappearing out of view as Leon walked into the door.
Once the light cleared a ruined city surrounded them. “Ten targets on the board five minutes and ten shot to destroy them.” Roland voice said as Leon took control. Suddenly the city exploded into live as drones' tanks and other thing started attacking Leon. Moving quickly into cover Leon moved like a dancer in and out of cover. He did this for several seconds moving around his attacker until a bull eye came into view. Drawing his rifle, he shot it in one shot. Doing this nine more time as more and more thing started to attack him was quite impressive. What made it more shocking was that Leon had no target systems he fired off his own aim.
Once everything was over Leon felt himself return to the forest. “Okay I'm warmed up. Roland you are awfully quiet. What up.” Roland didn’t say anything for a few second and just came back in an anger voice. “nothing I'm fine.” Leon tilted his head as he stepped into the circle. “You sure you sound off.”
“I said I'm fine gasper thing she funny messing with me and my systems and ram. Well two can play at this game girly.” Censured about what was going on but not wanting to ask he just shrugged. He knew Roland was in a spot to do much as this was a not his system and he was running only off the power in his back. “Well okay just don’t forget this is training.” Roland didn’t say anything but he could feel him laughing. Roland and sent a few lewd pictures back at the Yumi after she flooded his system with forkbombs causing him to reset his system mutable time. Nothing damaging but annoying all the same. “So funny attacking me like this I get you back just you wait. AAAAA dam you.” He cursed at her.
Molly slept peacefully after the rest of her team left, although not before issuing some overnight orders to her artificial intelligence Yumi. There was a lot of programming work to do and having Yumi make use of the hangar's processing power to do all of the base work overnight would make things easier for her in the morning. It was her first major assignment of the new season and she was happy to put the work into helping the team of her creator.
After getting up Molly was quick to get to work after doing her morning clean up and having a nice breakfast. She assigned Ryosuke to finish the modifications to one of the simulators for Lilly's use, although with the agreement that she would help out on the hard to reach parts. Along with assigning the mechanics to work on fabricating the unique connectors required of the Seraphim. While the mechanics were handling that she set to work with Yumi preparing the training programs for the team.
Leon's would focus on getting him more experience working with a team by putting him in simulated versions of all the team battles they went through last year. He would be put in the place of Kenta or Yohei depending on the match to get him used to working with a group, and even more specifically getting him used to working with Molly and Tatsuya. Given he was like a rookie Woodson she wanted to get him used to the requirements of a team, as despite his obvious talent they needed him to be able to work as part of a unit.
Lilly's would focus on getting her more experience period. She was the least experienced member of the team and so Molly made sure to let Yumi know that she might have to provide some extra guidance for her during the training. Just like Gates there was an abundance of talent there, but there was a glaring lack of experience that had to be addressed to make use of that talent. Still Molly believed that Lilly would develop fast enough to join her in the starting lineup, and from there she would only get better throughout the season.
Nana's would focus on improving her mobility so that she would be able to make optimal use of her shooting skills. Like Pennington she had the accuracy part down pat, but getting the rest of her skills up to par was going to be important. Filling the sniper role was a difficult one, and given Molly's own talent for maneuvering she wanted to improve Nana's skill to forge her into at least a reliable backup for herself. Of course if she developed more than expected Molly might just decide it worthwhile to use her talents in a double sniper alignment like she did back in the day with Naomi.
Onihei's would focus on ranged combat almost exclusively to shore up his weakest area. Just like Bettis he was reliable in close quarters situations and a useful shield for others, but he was borderline useless when it came to ranged combat. If she could get him to an even serviceable level as a shooter he would be a reliable option for the team, and given his ability to work as a teammate he could potentially crack the lineup.
Suzuna's would focus on general combat skills. Her mobility could almost compare to Sanders, but given her lack of combat skills she would sooner compare her to Goodwin. A talent for dancing around the battlefield like a ballerina, but with a lacking accuracy and physicality that prevented her from being much more than a distraction at the moment. Still her mentality was good and if she put in the work she could make a run at the lineup all the same.
Tatsuya's would focus on individual combat to get him the best chance at the lineup. He was a generalist extraordinaire and like Darren or Harrison he was happy to be put where his skills would be put to the best use. Molly already knew how valuable a card he was as a part of her team and so she was preparing him most of all to be valuable in the preparation of the starting lineup. If she could use him to teach the others an important lesson she would be happy to make use of his talents that way.
Tetsuo's would be the second most complex of the programs given his average style. While he was a generalist like Tatsuya his natural talent was worse, but like Bill Bates his work ethic was admirable. His training would be designed to either find a talent he could develop into an ace instead of relying on his skills as a generalist, or failing that to try to develop his overall skill as a pilot.
Thanks to the help of her mechanics, Ryosuke, and Yumi she was able to get all of it done just before the group arrived. She was even able to fit in a small lunch to help give her the energy she would need for their training session. So she was in good spirits when she greeted the majority of the group as they arrived, along with Lilly in her massive Gear Seraphim. The sight of it seemed to be awe inspiring to the rest of her team and it put a smile on her face to see the way they looked at Lilly and her Gear.
[b “Next is to get in as much training time as we can before you all have to head home for the day. Each of the simulators in the back have been linked to the central computer and my AI Yumi will guide you each through your personalized program,”] Molly replied with a friendly smile. [b “If you any questions or concerns about it; Yumi or I will be happy to answer them. I'm hoping we can get at least a few hours in the simulators for everyone. I will forewarn you all that Yumi is a bit unusual, but don't be alarmed.”]
[b “This is just practice though; so while I want us all to get as much of it in as possible I don't want any of you getting burnt out. If you need to take a break to have a drink, get something to eat, stretch, or just to keep from getting claustrophobic; do it,”] Molly said with a commanding tone. [b “No amount of training is worth not making it to game day alright?”]
Once she was done addressing them all at once she made sure to motion to Jack and Leon to get their attention for a moment. [b “This isn't directed at you Leon, but I want Roland to be aware that Yumi has been given my approval to handle your training as she sees fit,”] Molly explained. [b “So if he doesn't behave he can expect to be punished, and I promise you that Yumi is very experienced in that regard.”]
She was modeled after a character who would routinely punish people for their crimes after all, and although she was mostly scripted by Molly there was still plenty of her original inspiration inside her programming. Since Roland had shown he had an attitude she wanted to be certain he was aware that Yumi would have the right to punish him for his behavior. Which with the added processing power of the central computer that she was connected to would give her an astronomical advantage against the other AI.
After she was sure he was aware of the situation he was in she addressed Jack and Bill. [b “We managed to get the scaffolding and everything fabricated today thanks to fast delivery, and I would appreciate you looking over it,”] Molly said with as friendly a tone as she could manage. [b “If you can stick around long enough to help install it the extra hands would be appreciated, but just giving it your seal of approval would make me feel better before we mount it.”]
[center [pic https://i.imgur.com/z3LdUeX.jpg]][h3 [center Yumi to Lilly]]Yumi could be seen floating at the bottom right corner of the screen wearing a pair of glasses and a lab coat on top of her usual outfit. The center of the screen showed a wide open flat earthen terrain with a glowing circle less than a hundred yards ahead. Outside of the glowing circle though there was not much distinct detail in the area.
[b “Greetings Lilly, I will be your teacher this afternoon and so if you have any questions do not hesitate to ask,”] Yumi said with a friendly face for someone missing the lower half of their body. [b “I've been working with Molly for over ten years now so I have plenty of experience working with Gear pilots.”]
[b “Molly has instructed that we should start off with a simple one on one simulation to build up your overall experience and skill level. We have also put in the work this morning to prepare just for you the Longinus 0.01 system,”] Yumi explained as she floated along the bottom of the screen. [b “Part of the reason why I'll be helping you out especially is so that we'll be able to update that targeting system to help you better make use of your unique Gear. So when you are ready just walk forward into the glowing circle.”]
[h3 [center Yumi to Leon]]Yumi could seen floating in the bottom right corner of the screen wearing a stern expression. The center of the screen displayed a dark forest that was densely filled with trees and a glowing circle that was surrounded by candles. Even with all the sensory input from his simulated Gear it was clear that there was not much outside of the circle in the eerie forest.
[b “Hello Leon, I will be your guide this afternoon and so if you have any questions I am the one to ask,”] Yumi said with a neutral tone. [b “I've been working with Molly for over a decade now so I have plenty of experience with Gear pilots so don't think you'll be able to pull any fast ones. Now when you're ready just walk forward into the glowing circle.”]
Lilly rolled her eyes at most of Molly answer as she didn’t believe that it a could be true. “You say that now but who knows when you be swept off your feet by someone.” She said giving her best mischief smile well that was until she made the comment about Darjeeling. It hit hard and Lilly had no idea why. Her face went red as she tried to compose herself. Despite her best attempts she couldn’t as she stumbled over her words and her face looked like a tomato. “What no I would never.” She tried to say as Molly said her good bye and left her to sit in her wired fallings.
She took the ride home slow as her head was filled with images that she didn’t want to think about. Images of her and Darjeeling and married. Her over active imagination for once working against her. Shaking her head, she tried to get the idea out of her head but every time she did her thoughts came back around a few second later. “AAA why did molly have to say something.” She gowned as she parked and rolled to the front door.
The TV was on as she rushed to her room to try to figure out how to force herself not to think about it. “Hey kiddo.” Jack called from the couch as he watched her go by.” Lilly just made a load noise but said no more as she slammed her door shut. “What was that about?” Bill asked who was sitting next to Jack eating a tv dinner. “Don't know, she normal been happy after coming home from practice. Can't be anything to do with training as we drop off Seraphim tomorrow.” Jack explained putting down his own dinner.
“Thing she got into a fight with one of them?”
“No, she would yell about how wrong the other person would be she rarely thinks she wrong. No this is new maybe I should check on her.”
Bill nodded standing up with Jack. “Okay then lead on.” Both men walked to Lilly door and with a knock the heard a muffled go away. Looking at each other both had a question face as Jack opened the door and walked in. “Lilly?” Jack asked looking a bit nerve. “Is everything okay?”
Lilly just yelled. “I said go away.” Tossing one of her stuffed animals at him. Lucky, he stepped to the side in time letting the animal smack Bill in the face instead. “I don’t wanna talk about it now out.” She tossed a few more at him as both men retread back out the door. “What is up with her.” Bill asked looking a bit surprised. “I never seen her like this.” He said as both returned to the couch. “Same I raised her since she was ten and I seen her anger tired and sad but this is new maybe I should call doc and see if he knows what up.” Jack said
Lilly as face first in her pillow trying to make since of her own feeling. Why was she feeling like this why had what Molly said affected her so much? It was just return teasing for her trying to tease her. Wasn’t it? Darjeeling was just Lilly friend one of her first friend. They spent a lot time together yes but that as it even if she wanted to spend more time with her. She was from a rich family that expected a lot from her and someone like her wasn’t what she needs. “Were just friends. Were just friends” She kept saying to herself until she fell asleep.
The next morning and afternoon were easier for her as she had to forces on class and other events. Jack was gone when she awoke as he had to leave early to get everything ready for the move. Moving normal gear wasn’t hard but moving one that weighs twice need special equipment. She could have walked it but again his weigh slowed him down and she couldn’t use his boost making it an afternoon thing so driving was easiest. She had only two classes today making her one of first to the garage. Parking out back she waited for other. She didn’t have to wait long as shortly after Leon with his gear walking behind him came into view.
Like normal his headphones were in and he was quietly singing to himself as he walked up to the door and entered the key code he was given. Lilly was a bit shocked that he wasn’t driving himself but said nothing as she followed him into garage. Once he got an open spot that had his name next to it he stood in front of it as his gear backed itself into the spot. Normal one would need a spotter to make sure that they didn’t hit the wall but somehow his gear stopped in just the right spot. With a hiss of air claps grabbed the gear to prove it from falling and to help crew later work on it.
Leon gear was just as he said it was plain and slim. It looked like man in armor. She could see that it had dents and scratches despite a new coat of paint that tried to cover it up. This gear had history and more than just a gear for sport. Every time she looked at a gear she could feel other power or grace of it but not this one. It stood just slightly under what Seraphim height but at the same time she felt it stood taller. She felt like it could spring to light at any moment and attack.
“You okay.” Leon asked look at her questioningly. His voice made her jump a bit as she came back to reality. “O um yes sorry.” She said. “I was just looking at your gear. It looks like you had it a while from all the damage.” Leon smiled as he looked back up at his gear. “Yep had her several years now. Got her when first joined the army.”
“O nice who piloting? I was surprised when you walked in outside your gear.”
“I'm” He said smiling at her confused face before he explained. “Remember when I told you that I don’t control my mind. We I can do it if I'm a short distance to it. Note that I must be contacted to Roland when I do so it won't do anything. It only works like ten feet so it only useful when moving him so I don’t do it often. Anyway, is your gear hear yet Roland wanted to see badly.”
Lilly just nodded as she didn’t fully understand how Leon piloted but it seemed cool. “Not yet should be in an hour or so.
“Did not.” Roland said finally showing himself a bit late to conventions. Lilly raised eyebrow to Leon. “He was in the gear until it shut down so it was a delay until he could show up. He maybe an AI but when it comes to control that takes most of his forces.
“Can only out so much ram in one-person head.” Roland shrugged. “But anyway, it was him who could wait to see your gear.”
Leon just rolled his eyes at this and said. “Yea sure I was the one that tried to find anything about her gear.” Roland just crossed his arms and looked away. “I plead the 5th.”
Lilly giggled at the two. “Well you won't have to wait long.” A large truck could be seen backing into the parking just outside the door. “That him.” She then made her way to the door as she looked at a massive 18-wheeler. Resting on the back of trailer was Seraphim crouched to help center his weight. Smiling to herself as she moved up to him with Leon behind her. His mouth was a bit slack gnawed as he looked at the larges gear he ever seen.
Jack and Bill got out of truck and moved back to Lilly. “Sorry we late but traffic was a bit crazy.” Bill said as he started working on a few of the straps. “All good we still a bit early to everyone else getting here.” Jack picked Lilly out of her chair moved to the chest of Seraphim and helping her into the cockpit. “Well hopefully we will make this quick then.” Once she was settled in he helping to move to the other straps as a small group stated to form around the hanger to see the strange looking Gear. Once the straps had been undone Lilly started one of the two engines as that was all needed to move him into the hanger.
Slowing rising to his full height Seraphim looked over the crowd much to Lilly amusement as she couldn’t stop smiling. His size plus unique design made everyone in the group shocked. Lilly vented the heat small amount of heat that had built up causing a gust of wind to hit the onlooks in a display that made him seem even cooler. Well at least to her.
“Well she knows how to show off.” Bill laughed as he moved to guild her into the hanger. Jacked laughed as well as he followed with Lilly coming in last. She noticed most of the onlooker as her new teammate and people that worked in the hanger. Parking in a spot that was empty and had no shafting he shut down everything and grabbed Sola from her computer before being lowered to the ground by Seraphim hand and then into her chair as she noticed Molly walking in. “Hey.” She smiled waving as the rest of the team joined them with Bill and Jack behind them. “So what next?"
[b “Well I think you'll find I'm more dangerous than I look. Just keep your guard up,”] Molly said with a smile.
Molly nodded along to the mention of Bill and made sure to make a mental note to thank him for the design. It would help move things along enough that it was deserving of a thank you in her opinion. Especially if it helped Lilly be more comfortable, even though the training would be made comfortable by Molly's efforts alone.
Roland's offer of designed training programs was a welcome one even though Molly was certain she already had ones for Lilly. However the rivalry statement between close quarters and long range fighters was one that brought out the fire in her. Before she could give a venomous retort though Leon took control of his rogue AI. Their relationship made her wonder if her relationship with Yumi was the strange one or whether theirs was the outlier, as despite her experience with gears she did not have much experience seeing other people interact with their AIs.
Their continued bickering helped ease her mood as Roland wanted to show off and Leon just wanted to be a good teammate. It made her thankful that Leon would be the one in primary control as he was clearly the more levelheaded of the two. The fact that he was going so far as to try and help her make the best use of him was a good sign even if it was not necessary.
Before she could say anything about it though he yelled at his AI and Lilly. She just cocked an eyebrow at Leon's outburst and lightly flushed face. There was clearly something there that she had missed between the trio, but she was not about to stick her nose where it did not belong. So long as it did not impact teamwork she would leave them to their own devices.
[b “I promise I'll be able to find a way to use you, whether you make the starting lineup or not,”] Molly said with a smirk.
They were quick to say goodbye after that as he rushed out the door. Leaving Lilly leaning halfway out of her chair as she eyed Molly with a strange look and a mischievous smile. It was a bit disconcerting until she showed the subject that brought on her interest, as Molly was expecting one of them to bring up the interview. Molly had expected Leon to be the one to do it, but Lilly was an unsurprising candidate given the way the others responded to her.
[b “You saw that huh. No I'm not right for protecting someone else and I'd never tolerate someone else thinking they had to protect me,”] Molly said as she took the seat Leon vacated. [b “I want someone who's going to fight alongside and for me. What about you? What kind of person catches your eye?”]
Whether Lilly expected Molly to flip the script or not it was a situation she was comfortable with from hanging out with girls all over the world. Unlike the interview this was simple girl talk and so it was much easier for her to change the line of questioning. Plus Molly was hoping to satiate some curiosity regarding the relationships of Lilly's that she had seen during their meetings.
[b “I can tell you that actually. I'm a fighter by nature and not much really scares me,”] Molly said honestly. [b “The AI for the Red Death was modeled after my favorite horror anthology character so haunted houses and scary movies don't really work on me, and the last time I got jumped I wasn't the one who went to the hospital. Now sure I want someone tough, but I want someone tough enough to handle me not anything else.”]
It was the truth as Molly knew that during her more energetic episodes she could be quite the handful. Just the thought of it caused her to glance at Tatsuya before looking out the meeting room windows at the work space outside where Ryosuke and Satsuki were still going about the tasks she had assigned them. They had all put up with her outbursts for years and remained staunchly loyal, she should get them a gift basket for that.
Despite her own thoughts drifting elsewhere, Molly remained aware as Lilly gave her own response about what she looks for in a partner. She described someone rather specific in Molly's mind, but she had no intention of bringing them up here. That is until Lilly tried to bring the focus back onto Molly's own interests as she felt she answered those questions well enough.
[b “Someone like Darjeeling then?”]
Direct hit. A newborn could see through those disguised feelings, and it took a lot for Molly not to laugh as Lilly almost fell out of her chair. Her first denials were just amusing and made it even harder for Molly to keep from laughing at her as her face flushed even more. However her last line was what pulled at her the most as it did not feel like it rang true at all, and was in fact just a way of preventing herself from taking a step forward.
[b “Do you really not swing that way or have you just never considered it?”] Molly said knowing that experimentation was far more common elsewhere in her travels.
Molly made sure to call things there as she wanted Lilly to marinate in those feelings after the attempt to dig into her. Both because turnabout is fair play, and because she thought it would be for the best that Lilly actually looking at her feelings on the matter. It could be good for both of them long term since it could keep Lilly from trying to get too involved in her own affairs.
She made sure to make appropriate goodbyes to everyone and was happy to see that all of the new recruits did the same with Lilly despite not getting a real chance to talk to her. They might have been a bit overly polite in their bowing after what she told to Tetsuo and Nana. Still it was a nice change from last years meetings where she had to fight to keep everyone's attention, and struggled to keep everyone on task. The thought of it made her even more thankful for Tatsuya's loyalty to her cause.
[b “So, honestly what are our chances?”] Tatsuya asked once they were alone.
[b “If they progress as I expect we should be good. A lot of them are raw and I think I can work with that well enough,”] Molly replied after a momentary pause. [b “Leon's a different story, he's by far the most developed of the six of them, but I think he's going to be the hardest to handle. Thanks to Roland I think the two of them are closer to rookie Woodson and I want to get him to DPOY Woodson.”]
Whatever it was that Molly was referencing just drew a blank stare from Tatsuya as he paused cleaning up the leftovers. She made a rolling motion with her hand to try and get him to follow along but he just shook his head in response.
[b “That's right you don't know about gridiron players,”] Molly sighed. [b “He's a solo artist joining his first band if that makes sense. There's going to be some growing pains getting him used to fighting with and as a team.”]
That drew an understanding nod from her right hand pilot. They let that thought sit for a moment as they finished cleaning up and collecting all of the leftovers. There was not a lot thanks to the appetites of some of the group members, but there was still enough that some of her employees would have a ready lunch option tomorrow.
[b “You got a plan?”] Tatsuya asked.
[b “Maybe. After dealing with Roland's cocky attitude I think that I need to do more than just tell them,”] Molly said. [b “If anyone can beat the sense into them it's gonna be me, but it won't be easy.”]
[b “If there's anything I can do to help let me know,”] Tatsuya said as he put on his jacket.
[b “You know there may just be a way you can help,”] Molly said with a grin as the idea struck her.
Leon smiled and laughed a little bit. “No no nothing like that.” He had no doubt that she could fight and defend herself. No, his intention was a lot more innocent then most. The last comment brought a smile to his face that looked innocent to Lilly. It held more confined then his normal relaxed face it seemed almost like someone ready. “You could try however I think you will find out I'm not that easy to kill.” Lilly knew it was just two fighter trash talking but why did that statement seem odd to her.
“Well that good as much as I love getting in him it hard some time.” She said hoping to change the convention away from fighting each other even if it was just for fun. “If you need help I'm sure Jack could be happy thought I believe it was Bill that made most of the that.” She nodded at the amount of training she would need before their first match. “I had planned on doing nothing but training after school.”
Roland nodded at that and added in himself. “I made a bunch of training missions for Leon and I be happy to help as well. Our mission focus more on dodging and moving in and out of fire. Since we are more forces around mid-range with close combat in mind we had to learn how to move quickly.” He explained. “But I mean that up to boss lady if she wants you trying it.” Jabbing a finger at Molly. “Don’t know how you long range gear train but us skilled pilots have to know how to get hit by you.”
“Roland.” Leon called out. “Quit it now.” He seemed a bit shocked that his AI would say such thing to other. He didn’t mind about helping Lilly but insulting Molly after watching her skill the other day was a bad idea. Yes, he knew they could give Molly a run for money but he knew where she could win and he knew where he could and she had the more favorite spot with the ability of range then him.
Leon and Roland fighting style had always been based on one on one fight. So, throughout the years they had learn how to deal with almost any kind of battle. Angel his Gear only had two weapons the first being a heavy assault rifle with a under barrel grenade launcher. The weapon was common among amacrine troops but it was nothing special. His second was a large broad sword for close combat. Over all nothing special about his gear it true ability came from his ability to run jump role and over all just move. He did have once secret weapon that he would use if he felt like he needed it but most of the time he didn’t.
Roland just rolled his eye. “What if we don’t show some of our ability the younger kids might think you are a fake.” Leon just faces palmed. “I don’t care what matter is that we do our job when it comes to team play.” He turned back to Molly and offered his opinion on how best to use his skill. “We can mostly do one of two things in combat for you very effectively. One is we lock onto a target and we hunt them out until they are dead. Our ability to fight one on one is mostly unmated these days however we aren't indestructible. Second is we can play guard duty and watch someone back. Say you wanna lock down to deal with an enemy sniper I could keep any close combat mech off you until you are done without any fear of them getting to you.”
Roland and Lilly both snickered at that last example but no loud enough for Molly to hear. Leon however heard it and gave them both the death stare. “It just an example.” He yelled at them. Only for Lilly to give a mischief smile. Sighing he gave up and turned back to Molly. “Well that the best way to use us but will adept to whatever you need me to do” His face was tinted a bit red from Roland and Lilly teasing from behind him. ‘God, I hope I'm not that easy to read.’ the thought to himself. “Anyway, It getting late and I need to get going. See you all tomorrow.”
Lilly watched as Leon rushed from the room. Lilly then turned her Mischief eyes on Molly hoping to get a bit of teasing on the younger girl. “AA that cute he wants to protect you.” She said leaning forward in her chair. “Not that the great and powerful Molly need any protection from some a simple and small man. Nope not after what you said on tv last night. Nope sounds like to me you want to protect someone hmm.” At this point she was half way out of her chair and leaning into Molly. A simple push would make her fall from her chair again but she kept going. “Maybe what you should tell him that you don’t need protecting you want to be the protector.”
The message about scaffolding was a welcome one as Molly knew Jack would have a better idea of the connection system needed by the Seraphim. She had put some work towards that modification, but doing it by memory of a system she only saw once was not the easiest thing in the world. With Jack's concept work she would have an easy time making one to optimize accessibility for Lilly and keep it from being readily apparent at first glance. Although it did come with the requirements of a promise that she would not let anyone touch the engines of the Seraphim, something that she would not trust the average mechanic with anyway.
Preseason did not cause much concern for most of the pilots as all but one of them had experience with similar situations. Still Molly made note of Lilly's nerves regarding it as she would do her best to help acclimate her before the first match. Even if it was just the equivalent of some light sparring it would be useful to get her some practice in with the other pilots. Two weeks was not a lot of time to get her used to Gear combat, but Molly trusted Lilly to put in the effort.
All of the reactions to her announcement were ones that she analyzed and the one that stood out the most was Roland's. A confidence that was admirable, although a challenging attitude that she would have to be sure to put down given the opportunity. While Roland seemed aggressively confident his owner showed a far more calm demeanor. Both just made her more interested in showing off her talents to the two as she did not want them getting complacent.
After getting everything squared away Molly double checked the schedule to see about optimal training for the group. She had seen all of their application sessions and could come up with an efficient training program for each of them, but she was not fond of the amount of time they would have to complete the first leg. Tatsuya and Leon were the closest to being ready given their experience, but Leon needed more experience operating under the rules of a group competition, and Tatsuya needed some more time to adjust to the modifications made to his Gear. Tetsuo's exceedingly generalist style left him without any real weakness, but at the same time he lacked any real strength even when compared to Tatsuya's similar style. Suzuna was easily the closest to her when it came to mobility as a pilot, but the rest of her skills could all use work. Onihei piloted a unique Gear and was skilled when it came to using it for defensive purposes and close quarters, but anything beyond melee range put him in a bad spot. Lilly needed as much experience as she could get and Molly had to hope she would embrace that fact in Molly's intended schedule for her. Nana was in a similar boat as she may be experienced as a sharpshooter, but outside of that her combat skills were all wanting.
Overall Molly expected to have three elite pilots supplemented by a reliable fourth member. With a bench full of people with good attitudes she had trust that the group could go the distance compared to last year. Even if their fourth member did not turn out to be as good as Kenta or Yohei. After the shit show that those two forced her to go through she would be happy if they finished the year with a solid step forward for next year, but with all of the potential lurking on the team she was confident they might be able to make a stride forward.
Once the pizzas arrived everyone seemed to break off into smaller groups to try to get to know each other better. Lilly and Leon built on their preexisting relationship, Tatsuya was answering questions from Tetsuo and Nana, and Onihei was trying to impress Suzuna. It was a relaxing scene to watch as they all conversed with a variety of pizza in front of them, although Molly did notice that none of them seemed to share her preference for plain cheese pan pizzas.
Molly did not get to take it in for long as she knew mingling would be important, and Tatsuya gave her a plea for help with his eyes that drew her attention. With the most charming face of leadership she could muster Molly strode over to see if she could help. This was probably the most Tatsuya had talked to strangers in some time after all.
[b “They're asking about,”] Tatsuya started to say with a tilt of the head, but Molly cut him off as she caught on quickly.
[b “She's a secret weapon,”] Molly said with a wink and a shushing motion. [b “Does that answer your question?”]
If it didn't neither one of them said anything about it as it seemed to inspire them enough to get their eyes to sparkle. Neither of them put up a superb score in the simulation test, but both of them passed the personality portion with flying colors. That positive attitude was a welcome one compared to the lackadaisical one her teammates had last year.
Their concerns assuaged Molly made her way over to her 'secret weapon' and let out a laugh at the sight of her messy appearance. Apparently it was not just ice cream that she was prone to getting all over herself when she ate.
[b “You got a little something,”] Molly said as she waved her hand over her face with a laugh.
Her introduction was followed by a quick chat about Jack's text and all the work that would go into getting Seraphim safely into the hangar. Its oversize design required some special care procedures that Molly had predicted along with a few that went above and beyond her expectations. Still Jack was apparently prepared for most of it and she would easily be able to cover the rest of it. After it was settled Leon made a show of removing his headphones to invite her to his self defense course.
[b “Of course just let me know what equipment to bring, and don't try to tell me it's Greco-Roman style,”] Molly said with a grin. [b “You should know though that if you hold back against me I might just accidentally kill you.”]
If there was anything off about his offer or positioning Molly did not notice as she did her best to maintain a friendly appearance to go along with her partial threat of manslaughter. Given how she was trained it was a valid warning to give him, but she worried that it might not be well received given his background. She knew how prideful military men could be, and especially when it came to a short young woman like her.
Lilly brought a welcome change of subject though by bringing up something she already wanted to discuss. [b “I've got most of the work done preparing one of the simulators to be accessible for you,”] Molly said. [b “No need to have you go through all the effort of climbing into the Seraphim every time you want to practice.”]
[b "Especially not given the amount of practice I hope to have you do before our first match,"] Molly said as she segued into another topic she wanted to cover. [b "I want to get you as much experience as possible to give you the best chance at making the roster. You'll just have to let me know how much is too much."]
“Okay.” He yelled back as he turned to Lilly and both moved to the room. Taking a seat in the corner with his back to the wall he turned to look at Lilly who was next to him. Lilly pulled out her phone as Leon put his head phone back on his head as both waited for the meeting to start. Both looked up at Molly as entered with a bunch of new faces behind her. The extra Lilly thought to herself as both looked them up and down. Most seemed exited at seeing Leon as most have seen him on TV and like Molly he was famous however when their eyes came over Lilly they looked a bit puzzled. She couldn’t blame them as it must be odd to see her. The only pilot to be handicap in all of japan.
Once everyone was settling Molly started the meeting in the normal way. Interdiction went quicker than last time as she said hello to everyone with a sweet smile. Leon was just a quick hello with Roland being more into then him. Once that was done she moved on to the main business of the night. The first match was only two weeks away and that didn’t seem very long to anyone. Lilly felt very nerves as it would be her first match ever. Luckily it was just the preseason so even if they lost they wouldn’t be knocked out of points. No, the first month was the preseason to get sponsor and showing off of new designs.
Once she heard about moving Gear she text her brother about it as she would need help doing so. She got a text back later about it. “Got it will get the truck ready at work and have it moved in after your school. Also, I texted Molly some designs for a scaffolding that would help with getting you in and out easier. Plus, will need their help with targeting but no one touches my engines. Took three year to put them together and not dealing with that again.” Laughing a bit at him she turned her attraction back to Molly.
One she talked about having to fight for the top spot she looked around at the other. Everyone seem exited if not nerves like her. Everyone problem had more time than her but she had a gear like no other so I would be even fight. Leon seemed fine and she doubted anyone would win against him. Roland just looked at Molly as if he wanted Leon and her to fight it out. To be honest she wanted to see it too as both seemed to be top tier.
Once everything was said and done everyone seemed to be talking in small groups or in two. Leon and her seemed to be the only exception Leon and leaned back and put his headphone back in. He didn’t seem to be interested in small talk or was he nerves she couldn’t tell. Everyone else seemed in high spirtes as Pizza arrived and was handed out. “Yea meat lover.” She said taking hers and eating a slice. Spilling some on her lap and getting some sause on her face.
“Are you always this messy?” Roland asked showing up on the table in front of her.
“Yes.” she said her mouth half full of chess. Swallowing the last of her food she smiled. “It drives one of my friend nuts so I do it mostly for that.” He laughed at this as she noticed Molly coming over to them. “Hey you get Jack text about the stuff.” She had already forgotten.
Leon took his headphone out to enter the talk. “I be bringing mine tomorrow after school. It not that far so I'll just be walking him over no need for a truck.” Some sidewalks had been made around town for people to use for their Gears. “Also, I got an opening next week if you wanted to try my corse. I understand that you know some styles so I be doing something move advance with you then I do my other students. Just be warned I won't hold back because you’re my captain.” He seemed laid back as if just taking about the weather. However, Lilly could see how stiff his back was Giggling a bit, she watched Molly reaction to being “asked out”. Roland was also holding aback a laugh as he could tell just how fase Leon mind was racing at such a simple question.
Once that was all done Lilly asked another questions. “So with my gear close network are we going to find a way to set im up to your normal system or make a copy of my cockpit?” It was a good question for her as she couldn’t use normal train stations as her was comply defeat. Roland nodded as if finally understand something. “So that how you do it. Sorry but I always wondered how you piloted but that make since.”
[b “First meeting room down the hall, I'll be there shortly just finishing something up,”] Molly replied. [b “The rest of the potential team should be here soon too so you're aware.”]
After that a few quick taps at the keyboard made sure that everything she would need for their meeting was ready on her laptop. They had a lot to cover not counting the introductions of the new members and she wanted to make sure that it all went as smoothly as possible. Especially after all the hell that this experience had put her through so far. Still the better attitudes made the difficulties of replacing Kenta and Yohei worth it.
Molly stepped out of her office with her laptop in hand just in time to meet up with a group of inexperienced looking individuals who all stopped at the sight of her. Despite all of them having at least a few inches in height on her they all seemed to demure in her presence. They showed they were at least obedient though as they followed her willingly after just one motion from her hand.
[b “Good afternoon everyone,”] Molly said as she walked into the rather stereotypical looking meeting room. [b “We have a lot to cover and I want to get through it as fast as possible so for now hold your questions.”]
Using her short strides she walked over to the screen at the front of the room and hooked up her laptop immediately setting up a display of two calendar months already partially filled out with details. [b “Now before I get into this introductions are in order, but we're going to do this the fast way,”] Molly said as she prepared a pointer. [b “So when I say your name raise your hand so we all know who we are dealing with here.”]
It was a lot faster than their first round of introductions, although not as useful for team building purposes. That would come later on after they got all of the basics out of the way. There was not a lot of time left before their first match, and Molly had a lot she wanted to do with them all before then. Optimal use of what little time they had left was key to getting all of the done, especially as one of the things she wanted to get done was a competition to see who would make the first team.
[b “Now onto the primary matter of business here, as you can clearly tell this meeting is mostly about scheduling. You can see here is the date of our first match and we have a lot to get done before then,”] Molly said as she used the pointer to aid in her presentation. [b “Those of you with your own Gears can start moving your Gears in tomorrow, and I want them all moved in by the following date. If you need any help just let Ryosuke or I know and we'll send out one of our trucks with a crew.”]
[b “As you see here this is the date that I want us to determine all of the first team by, and I know it is close to the match date but I want us all to have as much training time as possible before then. Tatsuya and I will be included in that competition though so everyone has an equal opportunity to make the first team,”] Molly said to the surprise of some of the meeting participants. [b “So take this training and study time seriously because I want to give everyone their best chance to succeed. Part of that opportunity is that the hangar will be accessible to you all within any reasonable hours, along with the simulator systems in the back, and if any of you need anything adjusted about your Gear specifications we have a crew of mechanics that are ready to help.”]
The odds of her or Tatsuya losing their spot was slim, but Molly was taught the mantra of always compete by her grandfather. A thought process from a coach of his favorite sport was always compete and win forever. It had been a guiding principle of his both in his career in that sport, as well as when he moved on from that sport into the business world. Since it had served her family so well it was one that had served to inspire her from a young age.
[b “That in mind we are going to check schedules and see how much training time we are going to be able to fit in. Now the floor is open so are there any concerns so far?”]
Lilly waited til Leon was finished with singing before she said. “Wow that was really amazing.” This caused Leon to jump a bit as he hadn't noticed Lilly until that point. “Wait what no I'm not that good.” He said waving his hands. “Are you kidding me like that was supper good I you matched the song almost perfectly.”
Roland showed up a few second later sitting on the top of the car. “Give it up Lilly he won't listen he to self-conscious about it.” Leon shrugged. “I just don’t thing I'm all that good.” Roland rolled his eyes. “See?”
Lilly just giggled as she came closer thing back to the news last night. “So Molly black mailing you hmm?” Both Leon and Roland looked at each other before looking back at Lilly. “Wait what?” Leon asked confused. Now it was Lilly turn to look confused as she asked. “You know the news yesterday and last night.” She said. Roland was the first to answer. “We don’t watch the news why what happen?” Lilly was shocked not expecting this answer. Who didn’t watch the news it was like the only way to understand what was going on. “How do you not watch the news it like importin plus all the intel on your opponent?” Leon shrugged. “Too much drama plus we just normal run with the punches in matches keeps you on your feet and more fun.” Roland nodded in agreement. “So, what happen with Molly?” He asked
Her mouth was open wide. He was insane how could they win fight like that I was crazy. Molly was right he wasn’t normal at all. Pulling out her phone she showed both videos the them starting with the first one and them molly interview. Nether said anything as both watched with blank expression. Leon was the first to speak. “So?” he asked. Lilly was incredulous at his answer. “SO SO SO?” she yelled at him. “SO, THEY BLAMED MOLLY FOR BLACK MAILING YOU.” Again, Leon just shrugged. “This isn't the first time something like this has happened and it won't be the last. If I go around caring about every rommer that someone said about me I wouldn’t be able to have fun. Plus, she couldn’t find anything on me anyways no matter how she looks. Hard to black mail someone when they don’t care about what other think about him.” Roland nodded in agreement. “Remember doll this is our first Rodeo.”
Lilly could say anything as she just stared at them. “But Molly was anger and she set up everything just to clear the air.” She tried to say. “And she chooses to do that. I didn’t ask her. I mean I will still apologize for causing a problem for her but I care little.” Roland then made a evil smile. “We he did get to see her in a dress so I guess he a little happy.” Leon face went red as her turned to Roland and said. “Shut it.” Lilly however picked up on this quick. “Wait you like Molly?” Leon then turned on Lilly his face redder. “NO, I DON’T THAT NOT IT.”
“Wait is that why you joined the Devil bat was to be closer to her.” She gasped. “It all makes senesce now.” Her head then filled with star fantasy. “Lady and Gentleman Lilly has left the building.” Roland laugh as Leon tried to recover. “Please stop you two.” He begged. “No” Roland said as Lilly kept on fantasying. Seeing as they would be later Leon pushed Lilly into the building as she was lost.
He led them into the hanger where most people were working after running into a fumily face and being as about pizza both agreed on a meat lover and head up to meet Molly however stairs kept Lilly form being about to go up and so Leon when up to get Molly. Knocking on her office Leon waited saying. “Hey It Leon. Lilly and I have arrived where did you want us to wait?”
[b “Yes grandpa I am thankful for the help, but I would have appreciated a bit more insight into Momoka's interview style,”] Molly said as she continued to type away at her computer. [b “You don't need to fire them grandpa, you should just take it into consideration for the next time you have to do an interview. Everybody remembers the Kumabukuro interview grandpa we don't want a repeat.”]
The response made Molly pull her phone from her head as her grandpa showed who developed her cursing habit. None of it was directed at her as he would never yell at his favorite grandchild, but the volume of him yelling at his subordinates was enough to make her recoil. Not that she wasn't use to it at this point.
[b “I'm sure I looked innocent, but they should have seen that line about dating coming from Momo,”] Molly explained. [b “It's one thing to look childlike for innocence, but having to talk about dating while looking like that is ridiculous. I'll probably get even more messages from perverts than usual thanks to that fuck up.”]
[b “No you don't need to kill anyone grandpa, if I wanted them they'd be dead. I know you care grandpa, I'm just ranting at this point anyway. If I was that set on stopping the messages I'd just pretend to go out with Wataru. Yes I know marrying him could be good for the business grandpa, but I'm not marrying an imbecile if I have a choice in the matter. You and I both know he's a dumb ass grandpa, kindhearted doesn't matter much when they're so softheaded that any bitch can manipulate them.”]
Molly pinched the bridge of her nose as her grandfather changed the line of conversation. [b “I already took care of it. Yes I did. No, I did not do anything illegal. I promise I did not do anything illegal, and that if I were going to do something illegal I would have one of your fixers do it for me. Yes I promise.”]
She may be her favorite grandchild and they may have the best relationship of him and any of his descendants but it did not mean they saw eye to eye on everything. He still looked at her more as the child that followed him around the world and not the young woman who was now in charge of her own group. Still she knew him well enough to know how to navigate these situations and she was ready to use her ace in the hole.
[b “Grandpa do I need to tell grandma about what happened in Vegas? No? Are you sure? Okay then, love you too,”] Molly said before she hung up and collapsed onto her desk.
[b “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you're going to make it to class on time you need to leave now,”] Satsuki said as she set some paperwork down on her own desk.
[b “Are you sure you don't need me to stick around and help out here?”] Molly asked hoping for an excuse to stay home.
[b “You have a minimum attendance to reach and you're already pushing it this semester,”] Satsuki said in as scolding a tone as she could muster for Molly. [b “Go, we'll be fine.”]
Molly just groaned as she wheeled her chair away from the desk before dragging herself to the door. She paused there though as she considered all the possibilities of the day. A clap to the face brought her back to reality and gave her the juice needed to tackle the day, and to be ready to tackle anyone who tried to start something with her.
She was right to be prepared as there were a number of people who took her interview in an unpleasant direction. It took three threats of broken femurs before they finally stopped bothering her, but even so she made sure to keep her head down and focus on class. Not that she really needed to given her knowledge base compared to those of her professors.
Even with her attendance in mind Molly asked the professor of her last class if she could leave early without penalty. Something that they did not seem to mind given she was keeping up on the coursework without trouble. This allowed her to be the first one back to her hangar, and have plenty of time to get a meal in before the rest of her team arrived.
[b “Satsuki when the rest of the team gets here ask them if they want to order pizza later and get it squared away please,”] Molly said as she ate her lunch. [b “Maybe if we have something to look forward to we'll be able to get something productive done this meeting.”]
[b “Will do boss, but don't forget that we have the possible new recruits coming in today too,”] Satsuki said. [b “Screened for negative personality traits and everything.”]
Molly just gave a thumbs up as she continued to eat. They may not be the most talented individuals in the world, but their personalities were better than Michelangelo and his pal. Given they were almost certainly just going to be depth for the team their personality was of more concern to Molly than anything else, as a positive mental attitude would at least mean they would not hold back the starters.
Darjeeling coved Lilly ears at curse word Molly said. “Laugh my dear no need to be vulgar.” But it seemed that her words fell on deft ears as Molly left. Sighing she let her ears off Lilly. “You better not pick up on her bad habit.” Lilly back when straight knowing what she would do if she was caught by Darjeeling cursing. “I would never.” She lied knowing that she had early today. “Good we wouldn’t want to restart your training, would we?” Lilly shrunk away at that knowing it was a fun time. “No no I wouldn’t.”
“Good. Now let us finish and get you home I’m sure your exhausted.” As if the words had trigger it Lilly let out a heavy yawn. “No no I’m good,” she through the yawn. Darjeeling laughed softly as she went to pay for their ice cream even Molly as she had stormed out before paying for it. Lilly noted this act and thank her to Darjeeling giving a smile and saying. “She can repay another day.”
The trip back to Lilly apartment was faster then she would have liked as she knew that meant Darjeeling would have to leave soon. She hated being alone but she couldn’t ask her to stay as she was the leader of a team and very busy with school. Lilly still took advantage of every second she had with her as she was help back into her home then into her bed.
Once she was dressed and tucked into her bed Darjeeling asked. “Lilly dear would you mind if you gave me Molly number?” Lilly was a bit surprise but nodded as she told Darjeeling Molly number. After copying it into her own phone she petted Lilly hair as she yawned again. “Don’t you have to get going?” Lilly asked after minute. “You don’t want to be lone dearest so I won’t leave until you are asleep.” Lilly face was almost priceless as Darjeeling answered the un asked question. “Because you are easy to read my dear. No matter how hard you try to hide it.” Lilly opened her mouth to say something but stopped herself and just cuddled up until she fell asleep.
Smiling Darjeeling reacted into one of Lily drawers pulling out a set of cat ears and placing them on Lilly head at taking a picture. Once she was done and she returned the ears she turned out the light and locked up behind her. Once at her car she sent off the picture to Molly with the captions. “Take care of my kitten or I will never forgive you.” Closing her phone, she got into her car and head back to work.
Hours later Lilly would wake up with a large yawn as she stretched out her arms. It was late as she could hear her bother down stairs doing some stuff. Crawling out of bed into her chair she rolled into the living room to see him cleaning up the dishes with a plate set for her on the counter covered in tin. “Afternoon.” He said as he noticed her. All she did in return was humph and looked away. “Traitor.” Laughing Jack unwrapped the tin showing chicken alfredo her favorite meal. “Well I guess you don’t want this then.” Her eyes light up as she grabbed it form his hand. “Fine you’re forgiven this time.” Laughing he moves to the cough. “Molly on TV by the way.”
Lilly let out a what as she came over and watched Molly. It was half way into her interview but Jack rewound the event so she could watch the full thing. The first thing she noticed was the way Molly was dressed and her hair. It brought her endless giggles. “She needs to fire her dresser and makeup person because she looks so silly.” Lilly said. “Yea I have to agree not knowing her it nothing but after talking to the normal girls it gives off the wrong idea.” Jack nodded in agreement. “Plus, I get the feeling she doesn't do this often as she looks like a deer in head lights.” It was Lilly turn to nod. She watched almost every team interview over the years and she wasn’t doing most of the thing they had. The rest of the first part of the interveiw went a bit better until Lilly almost fell out of her chair laughing. “Such an easy question and she let it slip her up.” She laughed.
Jack more laugh at her then Molly. “We she doesn't do this often so I’m not surprised at all.” He been in many meetings and learned that if you gave an inch in a speech they would take a mile. Molly would need to learn this if she wants to fight the game of politics and not pilot. You need to think hard on your move and play out several steps or the other person would lead you like a dog on a leash. If Molly knew this or not she was being taken for a ride. By the end all he could say was that she did okay but if she was going to need a lot of help to fix some of the mistake she made. She may have fixed the problems from early today but she made more for herself in the long run.
Lilly didn’t pick up on as much as he did but he wasn’t surprised as she didn’t know the game ether. After it was over and he was cleaning up her dish she finally asked a question she wanted to all day. “So, what happen that you could come get me? It not like you to do something like that unless it an emergency.” Jack has ready and flipped a page on folder what was on the counter. “Today we had a brake in at work in my lab they took schematics on a weapon I was building for Seraphim. We have no idea who or how they got in but they are gone and so are other idea I had been working on.” Lilly gasped. “Who would do such a thing?” Jack shrugged. “I don’t know but whoever did should have no idea how it works without Seraphim plans which only I have.”They talked a bit more before Jack when to bed and Lilly when to her room. Her phone had a message about a meeting after classes tomorrow. She had forgotten that she had to get ready for class and decided to go back to bed.
The next morning flew by as Lilly when to class and learn more about child care and other thing she would need. She had finished all her base classes last year and had started learning more about taking care of younger children and baby. She loved learn about this as much as she did play with her Gear. She saw Molly once or twice in the halls as she went from class to class but she didn’t have time to say anything as she didn’t have a lot of time. Once classes had ended she rushed to the meeting point and was shocked by the line at the door.
It didn’t look like she could get in as she was blocked so she moved to back where she noticed a new car parked. It shocked her as it was a 1996 Ford Mustang. Heavy metal was coming from it and a voice was coming form it that she recognized as Leon was singing a song. She never heard the song before as it was in English but she could tell he was singing really well with it. She didn’t say anything and just listened. She didn’t notice someone else pull in as she listened to him sing along.
Molly's grip on the wheel tightened as Lilly explained that her brother trusted the doctor and would not let her change healthcare providers. The idea that he knew better than her what was best for her own mental health put plenty of fire in her belly. Still she kept her mouth shut as bringing it up now would not help anyone as there was not a ready alternative available to them.
Price being the explanation behind it would make a bit more sense as the man did not exactly have the credentials needed to prove his knowledge worth a deserving salary. Still given the fact that she was clearly dealing with the medications side effects Molly wondered if it was not worth trying to find a better medication. Given what she had been told she wondered if it was incompetence on the doctor's part, the brother's, or if this was legitimately the best they had found. It made her feel for Lilly as she knew from her friends stories that it was not an easy thing to deal with even though she had never dealt it with herself.
She made a mental note to try to provide an alternative, along with one to do her best not to rip Jack a new one the next time they met. He may have scars from forcing her to go to the doctor and forcing her to take her medication, but it was nothing compared to what she certainly had from the experience. Dealing with someone she hates that much for a decade was certain to leave far worse scars on ones system than could be compared to the physical scars borne of her resistance.
Molly was thankful that Lilly did not seem to mind much her dominance of the conversation on their journey, but still she welcomed her response. [b “Leon was a highly sought after pilot who decided to join a team at the last minute and went with a team that has some nasty rumors surrounding it at the moment,”] Molly replied. [b “That and being former military and I'd say there's not much normal about him.”]
They pulled up to a doctor and a couple of nurses waiting for them with an umbrella by the front door. Lilly explained she was not much up for conversation at the moment before thanking Molly for something. She managed to say it just before the nurses and doctor set to work helping to get her out of the van.
[b “Anytime,”] Molly whispered so only Lilly would hear.
It may not make much sense for Molly to be so invested in helping out Lilly given they had only just recently met, but there was something about her circumstances that called out to her. A talent like hers is rare to find and the fact that she had to suffer for so long being unable to get a Gear that she could pilot hurt her in her core. The idea of having a dream like that be unobtainable because of physical and financial restrictions was one that Molly could not leave alone.
The doctor at the very least put on a good face in front of people as he was seemingly nice to Lilly even as she told him she hated him. However he fucked up the moment Lilly was out of ear shot as he thanked Molly for bringing her to her appointment. Referring to a patient with that kind of negativity especially to a friend was inappropriate as far as Molly was concerned and hearing him say it so casually raised a red flag with her. She made a mental note to have some of her contacts look into him and make sure that everything was on the up and up with his practice. If her contacts found any dirt on the doctor she would see to it that Lilly would not have to suffer the man any longer.
[b “Of course, no trouble at all,”] Molly said as the bastard walked away.
After finding a parking place Molly knew that she was in for quite a wait and as always when waiting for something she set to work to make the best use of the time. Downtime was not something that she enjoyed and so she made use of the time doing as much research as she could to try to help out her teammate. Lilly had been through enough that Molly wanted to do what she could to help out, but even so a decade of possible mistreatment was not something that could be solved in an afternoon.
Darjeeling showed up a little over an hour later and gave a polite greeting to her. They knew each other well from the competition last year, or at least Molly knew Darjeeling well given her habit of watching competition footage and her memory. Still this was probably the first time they said more than a few words to each other outside of trash talk before a match.
[b “Good afternoon, and thank you for the kind words,”] Molly replied doing her best to match Darjeeling's friendly facade especially after her last line. [b “I guess 'I owe you more thanks than that if you are the reason Lilly came to my team.”]
That line made her wonder why Darjeeling did not attempt to recruit Lilly for her own team. Although it was quickly pushed aside as the possibility of them having a complete team along with valid concerns about Lilly's ability to adapt to a new team given her status as a rookie. Still Molly was thankful that Darjeeling had made that mistake as it could very well cost her team the tournament.
The nice interaction had done well to calm the fire that was in Molly's belly, but it blazed back up at the sight of a damn near colorless Lilly rolling out from the back. If this is what the experience made her feel like there was no wonder that she fought so hard to avoid it, Molly would kill anyone who tried to put her through an experience like that. Still she did her best to keep a neutral expression on her face, however she was certain that some of her mood leaked through to the surface.
Darjeeling showed she was much better equipped to handle this than Molly was as she was by Lilly's side in an instant. Just being in her arms seemed to bring some color back to Lilly's face and it softened Molly's expression some to know that she had such a solid support system in Darjeeling. The softening did not last long though as Lilly explained that Darjeeling would not have been let back on Jack's orders instead of her own. Another massive red flag as Lilly was an adult that was being told even if she trusted someone she was not allowed to have them with her for comfort.
Darjeeling was quick to get her out of the mind space that this place seemed to put her in though. The idea of inviting her out to ice cream was a good one that Molly had considered herself, but it made her happy that it came from Lilly's friend. They were all more likely to go along with the suggestion of the more friendly Darjeeling.
[b “I'd love to if you'd be willing to have me,”] Molly said with a weak smile. [b “I was going to offer myself so I'd be happy to pay if you'd let me. You can consider it thanks for the help with my team.”]
After that they agreed to meet at a place close to Lilly's house. That worked best for Lilly, and Molly had no problem driving around the city even in her parts van. It would give her time to herself listening to music and after all of the emotional experiences of the day she was certain that she would need some of that time to cool her head.
Once she was in her van Molly set up some aggressive music to listen to as she did her best to follow Darjeeling on the way to the ice cream shop. The thoughts that flooded her mind as she drove were of the fact that Jack and Lilly had worked with this system for a decade and it seemed to work out okay. They obviously knew more their own situation than she did, but even so Molly was dead set on providing Lilly an alternative avenue. Even in all of her travels this was the worst response to therapy that she had ever seen and it left her an unpleasant feeling in her gut.
Molly recognized the shop when they arrived as it was a popular destination, but thankfully the weather seemed to leave them a bit more privacy than usual. They got a nice booth in the back and managed to make their orders quicker than Molly was used to at a place like this. Still it did little to help her emotional state as she could still see that Lilly was worn out from that experience.
[b “I'm happy to do it. We're a team no need to thank me or apologize for any of this,”] Molly said with the most genuine smile she had all day. The way Lilly struggled with it was enough to make Molly want to go and beat the doctor to death with her bare hands, but fortunately for him she was well aware that it would not solve much other than her own feelings.
Darjeeling showed her experience navigating this once again by bringing up a simple subject switch to the tournament. Molly was not keen to give information to a competitor, but given she was a friend of Lilly's it put her a bit more at ease with the idea. Especially as the subject switch would almost certainly do them all some good.
[b “It's certainly going,”] Molly said with a little laugh. [b “I've got two excellent prospects to join, but we're still without backups at the moment. Not an ideal situation given what we went through already.”]
It was not enough data to give any real competitive edge, and given Leon's status Molly was sure Darjeeling would find out about him in no time. Still Molly thought more of Lilly's potential value add to the team, as she provided a different style to the team. Especially given the unique design of her gear that would make it difficult to deal with for most gear designs.
[b “They've got enough pull to be in every competition, but I think I've got enough to overcome them this year,”] Molly said with a smile as Darjeeling spoke confidently about her own team. [b “I wouldn't have it any other way.”]
[b “The Golden Dragons are the team I'm following the closest. They were top ten last year and with the addition of the second best sniper in Naomi I think they're going to turn some heads,”] Naomi said. [b “It helps that Agon might be the best melee pilot in Japan, but just top to bottom I think they're the best. After the Devil Bats of course.”]
Whether it was the conversation or the massive ice cream Molly would not be able to say, but it seemed to help Lilly get back to what Molly knew as her usual self. Darjeeling seemed to handle the transition in stride as she wiped at Lilly's face with a napkin. Their closeness brought a thought to Molly's mind, but whether it was an accurate assessment or not she did not really care. Lilly had been through a lot and Molly was glad that she had as reliable a friend as Darjeeling.
The idea that it was proper etiquette that allowed one to eat without making a mess drew a small laugh from Molly as she continued to wolf down her own. Your ice cream cannot melt if it is eaten before the temperature can get to it. Just like with other sweets Molly was only careful not to make a mess to avoid wasting the precious sweets a trait she picked up from her grandmother.
[b “Fuck that noise, you can be friends with whoever you want,”] Molly said once they were alone. [b “Friendly rivals are the best kind in my book. Hell my grandfather's were in competition when they were in school and they are still friends to this day.”]
Molly followed Lilly's change in focus as she eked out an oh no. She turned just in time to see a news reporter standing in front of her hangar with the text talking about Leon. After the bullshit with the last report she was not happy to find out how they were going to spin this one, but she was not prepared for just how bad their take was going to be for her.
Someone was trying to claim that she had blackmail material on Leon; which was probably true given her connections, but it was not at all how she recruited him. All of the fire from the day came rushing back and threatened to boil over. Made worse as her own teammate made light of the situation even if she got reprimanded for it without Molly's interjection.
Molly took in one deep calming breath before stuffing the rest of her ice cream cone into her mouth. The motivation to keep it in was key here as it served to muffle the string of curses that would otherwise be spewing forth from her mouth. It took her several moments to work through the cone and that was enough she felt to keep her from spewing a line of obscenities in a family friendly environment. Still the surprised looks from the staff did not help this process any.
[b “ If you'll excuse me I have some motherfuckers to deal with,”] Molly managed to say before storming off to a comment about her language.
There was no hesitation as Molly pulled out of the parking lot and drove off. She didn't have a destination, but she knew just sitting around would only make her explode more. Something that she wanted to avoid doing in front of Lilly and Darjeeling if she could avoid it. Especially as this explosion was likely to end in violence after the slandering of her good name by the shitty news network.
Molly pulled into a local gym and made her way to the punching bags where she could safely burn off some steam. It was not something she did on a regular basis, but it was the best idea she had given how angry she was at the moment. Especially as the anger seemed to be blinding her judgment and she would need every ounce of it to get this problem to go away.
A half hour worth of violence and a broken bag later; Molly climbed back into her van and just rested her head against the steering wheel. Now that she had cooled off the entire situation seemed so obvious to her, and if anything she was more angry at herself for missing it than at the perpetrator. Of course she would still make the perpetrator suffer more, but that was just a given for someone like her.
She was brought back to the world by her phone ringing. Just a glance at the id twisted her face in disgust. [b “You better have good news for me,”] Molly said as she answered.
[b “You're booked for the nightly news of the most watched station in the area,”] Wataru replied with a hopeful tone. [b “Is that good enough?”]
Molly breathed a sigh of relief as the tension left her muscles at that news. She may be a hothead but she could be a good spin doctor given the circumstances. [b “It's good, but not good enough. Answer me this, was Chouko Ryuugasaki the one who put this idea into your head?”]
[b “How did you know?”] Wataru asked.
Molly didn't bother to give him an answer before hanging up as she had much too much to do before her interview. Even with Satsuki's help she might have difficulty getting it all done in time, and so she made sure to use a card she was not fond of playing. She called her grandfather for help preparing. He was possibly not the best person to call as he did blackmail someone to join his team, but as the head of the Hiruma Group he had plenty of experience dealing with interviews. Plus access to an army of assistants who could make her look more appealing to the public eye.
By the time of the interview Molly hardly looked like herself as her usual tough exterior was now caked in makeup that made her look even more youthful than usual. Combined with her height and she barely looked like a teenager let alone a college student. Still it was what they thought best for the interview and so Molly was willing to wear it for the good of the team. She did think that the twintail hairstyle was a bit much, but she went along with that too.
All of the makeup, the primping, and the uncomfortable dress would be worth it if this meant she could get the newshounds off her team's back. Still it was hard not to fidget in her seat as she waited for them to switch over to her and the interviewer. Especially as the interviewer seemed to pay her no mind as they waited for their cue.
[b “Good evening everyone, Momoka Hanai here with Molly Mushanokoji the leader of the Devil Bats who has quite a story to tell us,”] the interviewer said right on time at the switch. [b “So, Molly you've been accused of blackmailing Leon Kennedy to join your team. What do you have to say for yourself?”]
The sheer ineptitude of that question caused Molly to hesitate for a moment as the prepared answers leaked out of her mind. No pussyfooting around with rumors about it just straight up claiming that she has been accused of something when no reports have been filed. Even with all of her preparation Molly could not help but drop her head at the question.
[b “I have to say that I am disappointed in the people that would bring forth such unfounded accusations Momo, I'm disappointed in the news networks that would reiterate such claims with no attempts made to find the truth, and most of all I'm disappointed in the people that would believe it all so readily. The idea that I would have to blackmail Leon to get him to join my team is one that I just cannot comprehend,”] Molly said as she managed to find some semblance of what she was supposed to say. [b “We may have had a few setbacks this year, but we placed in the final four last year. While I will not fault those that do not see my team as an attractive landing spot I will say I am thankful to those that have been willing to overlook the drummed up scandals.”]
Momoka gave the appearance of an interested interviewer as she nodded along at all the right moments before launching into her follow-up question. [b “So what you're saying is that the scandals surrounding your team have been blown out of proportion?”]
[b “We have had two members who failed to live up to our teams expectations and were cut for violating our personal conduct policy. Beyond that there is nothing negative to note when it comes to team Devil Bats this season,”] Molly explained. [b “That is not an entertaining thing to say though, and although the news should be focused on facts it has become more and more about entertainment. Given that I want to thank you for inviting me on to clear the air.”]
[b “You heard it here first folks straight from the source,”] Momoka said with a friendly smile.
The interview continued with some empty talk about the up and coming stars of the tournament. Talk about the champions from last year and whether they would be able to repeat this year. Questions about how confident Molly felt about her new teammates; questions that she dodged as artfully as she could. However after several minutes of empty praise about this group or that group the interviewer switched subjects to try to get a potentially more honest and exciting angle.
[b “So, Molly how does it feel to be the youngest female captain in this year's tournament?”] Momoka asked.
It was a smart angle to take as it was a question that Molly had not actively prepared for, but still it was one that she was used to dealing with throughout her life. [b “It doesn't feel like anything to me to be honest with you Momoka,”] Molly explained with a marketable smile. [b “I don't pay it any mind as a competitor. The only thing I have on my mind is going out there and proving that my team and I are the best out there, and there is nothing about me that might hold me back from that.”]
[b “Good answer!”] Momoka said excitedly. [b “So no mercy then, not even for a special someone?”]
The casual way she asked caught Molly off guard and left her face a bit more flushed than she would have liked in an interview. Still she was prepared for this question as well and she was quick to respond. [b “No mercy. If I'm going to have a special someone they're going to have to get used to the fact that I'm all-out all the time.”]
Momoka jumped on the opening Molly unintentionally left her and the rest of the interview was just her being grilled on her preference in a significant other. By the end of it Molly was as flushed as she could be although thankfully the makeup did a good job at hiding most of it. Still having the public be told that her preference is for a man or woman who loves music, aggressive tactics, and is good at following orders was an embarrassing event. Unfortunately it was not quite over even as Momoka sent it back over to Riko.
[b “Well that was quite the interview Momoka, it seems that Ms. Mushanokoji knows how to handle herself and her team. Which is not a surprise when you learn that she is the granddaughter of the famous Yoichi Hiruma of the Hiruma group,”] Riko said as she settle some papers in front of her. [b “A fact we discovered thanks to the investigative talents of our own Kanoko Naedoko. It appears she even named her team after the American football team that her grandfather captained when he was in high school.”]
Molly rested her palm against her face as Riko wrapped up the broadcast with a few more anecdotes about her and her grandfather. She may have gotten her team out of the spotlight for bad news, but this would almost certainly draw more attention her way given the unsavory business practices of the Hiruma Group. All she could do was hope that her alternative would be enticing enough for them.
[b “Great interview Molly, I'd love to have you on again anytime,”] Momoka said as she stood up from the desk and extended a hand.
[b “Thanks, but I hope to never have to do this again,”] Molly said as she shook Momoka's hand and slipped a flash drive to her in the process. [b “If you use that tomorrow morning I bet you'll get an even more interesting interview tomorrow night.”]
Momoka looked confused for a moment, but Molly just gave her a polite bow before joining Satsuki offstage. Even without a word Satsuki set to work undoing the twintails that her boss was wearing as she knew that was the thing Molly would want out of first. She also made sure to hand her a wipe to get the makeup off of her face.
[b “Thanks Satsuki, you have my change of clothes too?”] Molly asked as she cleared her face.
[b “In your dressing room ready for us to go,”] Satsuki replied. [b “They said we can use it as long as we need.”]
Molly just nodded as Satsuki finished freeing her hair from the ties that had kept it up through the interview. The act reminded her of Lilly and Darjeeling and set her on a course of remembering all the events of the past few days. Who would have guessed that two of her teammates getting arrested for street racing would lead her to have such an exciting week.
[b “Thanks for sticking with me Satsuki,”] Molly said with a smile that was made a bit unsettling by the partially removed makeup still on her face.
[b “You're welcome,”] Satsuki said with a head tilted in confusion. This was not how Molly would normally go about showing gratitude, but it was a welcome change compared to the kicks to the rear that she was used to from her boss. [b “So what was in that flash drive?”]
[b “Evidence on Chouko Ryuugasaki, Makoto Hanamiya, and the rest of their team,”] Molly said once they were alone in their dressing room. [b “They picked a fight with the wrong person.”]
Satsuki nodded vigorously at that as she was well aware of what her boss was capable of when she was motivated. It reminded her how thankful she was that she was on the right side of such a terrifying individual. Even if it meant helping her get undressed after an embarrassing interview where she was forced to wear a fancier dress than usual.
[b “Oh, and do me a favor. Set up a meeting for the team after school tomorrow,”] Molly said. [b “If the newbies watched that interview they might have questions, and I'd rather get them out of the way now.”]
After the interview the rest of the night was shot as far as Molly was concerned so she went straight to bed after she made it back to the hangar. All she could do now was trust that Momoka had enough sense to hand over the evidence to Kanoko. The fact that that woman was able to dig up so much information about her grandfather meant she was sure to be able to make use of that evidence.
Molly was woken up earlier than expected by a call from Satsuki about a growing line outside the building. Her interview having apparently worked better than expected as a bunch of applicants that had dropped out before came to try to get a second chance. Something that only served to upset the person they were trying to impress.
[b “If they weren't one of the applicants that stuck around have Ryosuke get them to fuck off,”] Molly said. [b “I don't care how good they are if a shitty scandal like that can scare them off I don't want them on my team. Fuck them for their cowardice and their shortsightedness.”]
Satsuki gave an affirmative response before hanging up to do as she was told. While she was not expecting to be up this early it was still worthwhile as Molly turned the television on just in time to see the news break about Chouko Ryuugasaki and Makoto Hanamiya's team. The evidence suggested a conspiracy that included sabotaging gears as well as prostitution. Even this early on in the investigation Molly had apparently provided enough evidence to get the team banned, and there were even talks about the entire school being disqualified this season. It put a smile on her face and warmed her heart to know that the spotlight would by firmly placed on another school for a while.
Her underhanded enemy defeated and the fair weather applicants being dealt with by Ryosuke made for a decent start to the morning. Still she had a lot to do to get ready for the team meeting, and so she unhappily made her way out of bed to go get cleaned up for the day. At least she would not have to be so dolled up for this meeting, although the line of questioning could get just as uncomfortable as the one in the interview.
Lilly didn’t say anything as Molly went and got the van. She didn’t understand it why didn’t Molly yell back or ever get made. It was just like all the times she yelled at Jack. She was in the wrong she couldn’t control her emotion yet she didn’t get any backlash. She once got into an argument with Jack that she called him almost every name in the book and some she made up yet all done and she tied to apologize but he told her it wasn’t her fault and she didn’t need to Apologize. Why why why didn’t they get mad she didn’t understand.
Once Molly pulled around she moved to sit in the passage seat. It was a bit hard as the van wasn’t quite made for her to get into but with Molly hand she was able to get in. Her purse had been picked up but she still cradling her bear to her chest. It was the only thing keeping her from breaking down again. Her eyes have gone from their normal bright blue to a blackish color as she just looked down. The rain was made small ting noises until the radio was turn on.
She would have found the music funny if it wasn’t for how she felt. She didn’t listen to Night core often as she was more into heavy metal bands and older music. It was nice however and it worked nicely with what she said next. “My brother won’t let me change. He knows and has listened in most sessions. He said that the Doctor is doing everything fine. My brother trusts him but I hate him.” She said after letting Molly finishing.
She finally lucked up but only out the window. She couldn’t bring herself to look at her. “Plus, my medication isn't easy to get only a few places sell it. It also expansive but my brother gets a discount here.” She knew she couldn’t leave even if she had a choose. “My brother forces me to go every time and when I was younger forced me to take my meds.” she snorted a little. “I think he still has some of the scares to prove it. I don’t understand why but he keeps making me come back even after ten years.”
Molly next speck was good and she didn’t know how to fell. Yes, they weren't all normal but they still had legs and could do things she couldn’t. If it wasn’t for her brother she wouldn’t even be here now. She was nothing without other she couldn’t do anything without support. She had to be washed for years until she learned how to mover around again without her legs. “What about Leon he seems pretty normal to me. Even with his over egger AI he doesn't seem like you or me.” She felt bad for bring it up but she just felt so frustrated.
The rain picked up as they started as they pulled up to their destination. A doctor and two nurses waited with an umbrella by the front door. “It fine I want in the mood to talk really.” She said at the end as the doctor walked up to the van. “And thank you haven't even seen half of the pain I can be but thank you none the less.” One of the nurses grabbed Lilly chair while the other help her out of the van and into it. The doctor kept the umbrella over her keeping her dye while he was getting wet.
“Good day Lilly. How have you been.” He asked in a soft friendly voice. Lilly turned her head to the side tightening her grip on her bear. “I hate you.” was all she said. The doctor let out a sigh but kept the smile. “Good to see you too. Nurse take her to my office I'll be there shortly.” The nurses nodded and took the umbrella and took Lilly inside. She gave one helpless look to Molly as she was taken out of sight. The doctor then turned to her and smiled. “Thank you miss for bringing her. I know she can be troublesome sometime I hope she didn’t cause you mush problems. I can't offer you to sit in on her hearing but you are more than welcome to wait in the lobby. We should only be about an hour or two.” He then turned and left for inside.
About an hour and a half later Darjeeling showed up and looked around the lobby until she noticed Molly sitting. Walking over to her she smiled and waved. “Good day Miss Himuro.” she said being the proper British lady she was. She knew Molly from other tournaments and events. “It good to see you again hope the team search is going well. Sorry to hear about that other girls I didn’t believe the nasty new reporter about your team you always shown good sportsmen ship against us. If I did I wouldn’t have sent you my dearest Lilly to join you.”
As if speaking her name Lilly was rolled out form the back her face was even more sad then before her whole body was almost limp. Once Darjeeling saw she move over and kneeled down next to her. “He so means.” Lilly said as the nurse left. “I know dear but it okay.” Darjeeling said hugging Lilly to her chest. “I would have been here sooner but the storm slow traffic down.”
Some color returned to Lilly face as Darjeeling held onto her. “It fine it couldn’t be helped plus they wouldn't have let you in. Jack only lets himself to be able to enter.” Darjeeling finally let go and walked behind Lilly chair. “I know but I know how you are after these events. Now let go get some ice cream.” She looked up to molly and smiled. “Would you like to join us?” Lilly looked up but her face was still blank.
Once everyone had agreed to meet at a store just up the road and close to Lilly home. Lilly road with Darjeeling but didn’t say much. Darjeeling seem to have an easy time picking up Lilly and resting her in her car. Lilly didn’t even seem to care that she did. She seemed very comfortable with Darjeeling helping her unlike other people. Even with Molly she had tried to do most of the work but not with Darjeeling. Once they arrived at the store she again allowed Darjeeling to put her back in her chair.
It was a very popular ice-cream shop but the rain and colder weather had left it more empty today. Picking a table in the back Lilly was help into a booth next to popular and Molly across from them. After a waiter took their order did Lilly let it show how tired she was. Her face had mostly returned to it normal color and her eyes seem bluer again. She leaned her head on Darjeeling shoulder as Darjeeling too her hand and squeezed it.
“Feeling better?” Lilly just nodded as she looked at Molly. “Yes, thank you for coming Molly and again I’m sorry.” Her voice was strained like she been crying for a long time and her red eyes help tell that story. Trying to change the subject to something cheerier Darjeeling said. “So, Himuro how dose getting new member go? Hope you haven't had any trouble makers.” She also had some small talk about this years team seeing who Molly worried about and setting up her own concerns about other team.
“I think Firestarter is shaping up to be a challenging team.” She said as the Ice cream arrived with Lilly being twice as large as anyone. “They have two new members but both are top of the leader board plus I heard some stuff about a new design that supposed to be fast and more mobile.” Firestarter was last year winner and had been known to be quite the aggresses. Some had even called them cheater and thieves for some of their design of their weapons and Gears. No profile could be found however and no charges had been forwarded. “But I won't let them get the best of me this year. Plus, I won't go easy on you just because Lilly with you. We will come guns blazing and sword drawn. “
Lilly giggled finally form Darjeeling shoulder. “Well then I be ready for you.” She said her lips coved in chocolate syrup. She almost seemed back to normal. Darjeeling let out a sigh as she picked up a napkin and wiped Lilly face. “I swear sometime dear you are a child.” Lilly tried to retreat from the attack of Darjeeling napkin. “Hey stop that I can clean my own face.” The two had a small scuffle until finally Darjeeling won and was able to wipe of the syrup. “I swear.” She said as she finished.
“Sorry mother.” Lilly said rolling her eye and finally smiling. “I don’t understand how you eat it without getting it all over you.”
“That because I know how to eat like a proper lady.” She said tapping Lilly noise. “Now if you please excuse me I need to use the restroom.” She then stood up and left leaving Molly and Lilly alone. Lilly normal care free audited had seemed to returned as she dug back into her ice-cream. “I'm glad she could make it. Sorry if being friend with the competition is bad but she been around form me in the last few years.” She looked at Molly fully. “She more then I deserve.”
Suddenly Lilly was drawn to the tv just behind Molly. “O no.” was all she could say as the new played. “That right Ladies and Gentlemen it seems that the Devil Bat can't keep out of the spot light. We just got to major update to last night story and new one about new member of the devil bats. Caral come to us with that story. Caral” The screen moved to a new picture of someone standing outside Moly garage.
“That right Yugi I'm outside the Devil bat garage. Early today it seems they held a meeting with new member after new early this week about two members being arrested for illegal street racing. A new update tells us that both members did so without the knowledge of other member of Devil bats. Both members have been released from jail but has been fired for not following the team's rules about such activities. However, the next story it even more interesting. Free-lance and foreign gear pilot Leon S Kennedy has finally joined a team after much anticipation but it not to who most would think.”
“Leon is very skilled pilot from the united states who transfer on a scholarship. He holds many metals and Records for one on one combat. He also a joiner with make him an even large target for most teams. He was offered many spots in some top tier team offing up to 15,000 dollars to join however after week for searching today he sighed on with the devil bats. official sources say that he joined for no bonuses and wasn’t even asked. Some say that the leader of the devil bat Tatsuya Himuro has some kind a dirt on the man.”
“When confronted today about his join he said no comit and refused to listen to anything questions marking the theory a bit more concert. Just how far is the devil bat willing to go this year. The other pick this year however isnt as easy to find as Miss Himuro was caught sneaking them out he back early today.” A video was shown of the van leaving at some point. Molly could be seen in the diver but Lilly face couldn't as she was looking down and only the top of her head was shown. “Just who is this new pilot and why would Miss Himuro sneak them out in a van? We have no answer yet but will keep you up to date as we find out. This is Mis Caral reporting form outside the Devil Bats garage.”
Lilly coved her mouth as she watched the srceen go black “O no.” She said knowing what was about to happen. However, she couldn’t help one joke. “I didn’t know you black mailed Leon.” A second a later she got a smack upside the head form Darjeeling. “That not nice Lilly. She did no such thing an you now it.” Lilly looked down like a dog. “I know I'm sorry.”
Even after getting Lilly righted it did not seem to do anything positive for her mood as she seemed to whisper something before hanging her head. The change from the usually excitable Lilly was one that Molly was not prepared for and so she just gave her a moment to breathe hoping that Lilly was more experienced with her own emotional shifts. After over a minute of silence she was tempted to call Jack, but before she could get her phone out Lilly spoke up again.
Rehabilitation. No wonder she hated the place so much. Going to a place so often and having to fight tooth and nail just to get back to where you were before the accident. It might as well by synonymous with the underworld considering some of the easy comparisons to Sisyphus.
The fact that it was such a traumatic event and that it had even impacted her memories only made things worse. Loss of memory was a phobia of Molly's given how crucial to her sense of self her intellect was, and so just the idea of being unable or unwilling to remember something left a haunting feeling in the pit of her stomach. She almost wanted to tell her they didn't have to go as she saw Lilly hug her bear tightly as tears fell down her face.
Molly opened her mouth to get a word in, but was silenced by the presentation of a pill bottle and an unnecessary apology. The side effects were clearly hampering Lilly now and it made Molly wonder if she truly hated this whole experience or if it was a side effect of the medication. Either way she was confident that there had to be a better option available to her. At least from her time traveling the world she had seen people who dealt with mental illness who were far fonder of their therapists.
[b “I would never kick someone off my team for this,”] Molly managed to say, although she was not sure Lilly heard it as she got louder.
Lilly was right that Molly had no idea what it was like to be told there were no medical options available to help you walk again, or what it was like to have people look down on her because of her need for a mobility aid. The way Lilly talked about it though pulled at Molly's very being as the earlier haunting feeling was burned away by empathetic anger. It was only her final yell that managed to pull Molly out of thoughts of violence towards the jackasses mistreating the lovely Lilly, and it was that line that made it clear to her that there might be more similarities she could reference than she thought.
[b “You never need to apologize to me for yelling,”] Molly said with a weak smile as she tried to soften the mood. [b “You're right about us needing to get a move on though, I'll bring the van around it should be easiest. Don't worry about me wanting to get rid of you, if I wanted you gone you'd be gone already.”]
Molly was careful not to mention that what would make it easier was its lift for parts. No need to draw additional attention to the thing that was upsetting Lilly at the moment. Besides she had a plan of action in mind now, and avoid any setbacks would give it the best odds.
The parts van was not the prettiest thing in the world, but it would do the job well enough. Molly brought it just inside using the gates so that Lilly wouldn't have to go out in the rain to get in, and made sure to provide as much help as she could without seeming coddling. She did not want to make things any harder than she had to on the girl.
Once they were both safely strapped inside she set up the stereo with a song that she felt could sum up some of how she felt in the moment. A nightcored version of Take It Out On Me by Thousand Foot Krutch. It was maybe not the best thing to do in this moment, but it was the best way that Molly could see to connect to the situation. She also meant that if Lilly needed to scream or shout some more that she was free to do so as Molly knew the healing power of loud.
[b “I'm gonna be honest I don't know what your life is like and especially not dealing with disability. All I can do there is offer you an open ear and maybe the advice to look for a different therapist,”] Molly said after the song ended. [b “You aren't the first person I've known who has needed a therapist, but you are the first to speak so negatively about them so it may very well do you some good to find someone who can better understand your needs. Also if you can't make your own neurotransmitters store-bought is fine.”]
[b “Now I can understand you wanting to fit in and be normal though, and I won't say that's wrong of you, but I will tell you my feelings on the subject. Fuck normal, fuck everything about normal,”] Molly said in a perfectly calm tone as her eyes focused on the road. [b “Nikola Tesla is the inventor of the alternating current that powers our lives and was friends with pigeons. Katherine Johnson's calculations were integral to getting humanity to the moon and she was practically a human calculator and had to fight hard for every ounce of respect she got. Hell if Satoshi Tajiri were 'normal' we would have never had Pokémon.”]
Molly was sure to spit that last normal out with venom as the idea of normalcy being an ideal to aspire to was one that would never sit right with her. Normalcy was dormancy when it came to invention and sticking to the norms would mean that humanity might have never made it past the hunter-gatherer stage. Going against the grain was key to just about every discovery that she had ever made and Lilly should be able to respect it even more given just how wildly abnormal her own Gear was even when compared to the bleeding edge Red Death.
[b “Those are three people who helped make the world what it is today, and none of them were exactly normal. I can name them off the top of my head and I'm not exactly a history buff,”] Molly said as she changed lanes on the expressway upon getting closer to their destination. [b “Far as I'm concerned none of the best people are normal.”]
[b “Sorry for dominating the conversation here, but I just want you to know you're not alone here. Not anymore at least,”] Molly said as she realized that she did not exactly let Lilly get a good word in edgewise.
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