Part 28: Trust and Conviction
Remember how Kinue Crossroads and Isabelle Cronkite partnered up to investigate Celestial Being and/or Dancouga? Because they've been keeping abreast of the latest developments - that both terrorist robots have teamed up with robots from Area 11, Japan, and the Frontier force. But doesn't that mean the Peacekeeping Council is in cahoots with terrorists? As hard as it seems to believe, it's the truth, and the man that made it happen was Chairman Elgan Roddick. He claims his Council has nothing to do with Celestial Being, but the journalettes aren't buying it.
So what does that mean? It's hard to say, since Celestial Being and Dancouga were both closed books from the start, but Kinue's wild guess is that the Council wants enough power to police the whole world. One thing's for sure - we've got a target on our heads.
Zero is breaking the news to the Resistance - working with GOONZ means leaving Japan and fighting across the globe. He assures them that his top priority is still the liberation of Area 11, and fighting for the U. N. is just a means, hower circuitous, to that end. Working with the Council and Celestial Being at the Fuji conference has already born fruit; the cries for help are piling up in the Black Knights' inbox.
He then introduces the Resistance to his new partners, Diethard Reid and C. C. They may not be Japanese - at least one of them is even Britannian! - but they're of use to Zero nonetheless, or so he excuses himself to the, er, excessively patriotic Japanese Resistance. Diethard is a newsman and he has eyes and ears, and in exchange he just wants Zero to put on a good show. And Zero's certainly good at that if nothing else.
C. C. assures Karen that she and Zero aren't an item. Karen insists she wasn't worried. It's cute, I guess. Zero vouches for her to the others, then assigns Karen, Ohgi, Tamaki, and Chirico to himself while picking his absentee commanders. Chirico says he doesn't care where he's ordered, but silently hopes he'll run into that red AT as he travels the world.
Zero introduces himself to the rest of GOONZ within the Quarter. Watta blurts out what everyone has too much tact to but think: "What's with the mask?" Zero just brushes him off, but assures the others that while he understands if they're suspicious as hell, he does intend to pull his weight. Most of them reluctantly agree. While Zero can always use the Geass, he intends to pull it out only as a last resort. Especially since the Black Knights would desert him if his secret came out.
As the introductions proceed, Karen and Tamaki can't help but resent the other-Japanese despite themselves - for avoiding being trampled by Britannia, and for never extending their hand to help. We get a little alt-history lesson; it turns out the other Japan did try to send help, but before they could do anything, Genbu Kururugi, the then-prime minister, suddenly committed suicide, and what was supposed to be a hard-fought war suddenly became an easy occupation for Britannia.
Tamaki also asks why Britannia never moved on the other Japan. The textbook answer is that the other Japan simply didn't have any Sakuradite, but Hayato suspects there must be something more. Britannia's done dumber military operations for less.
Anyway, Ohgi chides Karen and Tamaki and says they shouldn't point fingers. The other Japan has enough on its plate without trying to worry about its twin too.
The Dark Continent kids have been listening from the corner, and Kamina isn't too hot on the new guys. "First of all, we got that Karen chick's robot. You call that a Guren? You think it measures up to my Gurren?" There's only one way this can possibly be going, and it doesn't involve a peaceful settlement. "I gotta see if she's good enough to be in the Gurren Gang!"
For her part, Karen has no interest in being in the Gurren Gang, and that just makes Kamina madder. And he's not done, oh no. He calls out Zero, too. He doesn't think the masked man appreciates that this war is a matter of life and death, and he's sure Zero's doing something shady. Zero's silence inflames him even more; we all know Kamina's the type who says whatever's on his mind, and he can't stand that Zero hides everything from his face to his thoughts, let alone his intentions.
The outwardly silent Lelouche is panicking in his mask, realizing Kamina's got his number. Karen steps in to defend him, but of course, Kamina doesn't care for her, either. But Zero just coolly says that he will be a good little GOONZ squaddie, and he won't pitch a fuss if Kamina won't.
He excuses himself, and in his own quarters considers putting Kamina under a Geass. He doesn't think Kamina will be swayed by a persuasive argument, and--
A cat jumps out of the wall and runs away with Zero's mask! Serves you right for posing with it.
Later, as the pilots continue arguing over Zero and Kamina, Zero's severed head skitters across the floor of the hangar! No, wait, it's just that damn cat.
Kamina immediately organizes his gang members (including the Crushers, obviously) to catch that cat! Karen gets Duo and Heero to join her trying to grab it first and protect Zero. The cat escapes, Team Japan runs off to get Takeru to help, while Karen goes to recruit Celestial Being's manpower, and soon all of GOONZ has divided into two teams and is crawling all over town.
In a warehouse outside the ship, Karen's squad finds not the cat, but Lelouche Lamperouge. Karen dives for cover, not wanting her classmate to know she's a Resistance fighter. Duo and Heero have a cover - they're working here as "baggage handlers" - but Lelouche has nothing.
He stammers that he's here for, um, uh, "stress relief," shouting cathartically in empty buildings, and demonstrates. Unfortunately, I have no clips of it for you, but feel free to imagine Lulu shouting at crates if it would amuse you. At least it'll probably make them suspect him less, he hopes. Celestial Being is cheating - Sumeragi phones in with a new tip on the cat's potential location, so they follow up.
But when they get there, Team Japan has already found the cat using Takeru's psychic skills. It's deeper into this warehouse and cornered, but there's someone else in the warehouse that they didn't want to disturb - "a Britannian, a tall guy with black hair yelling really loud." Sayaka adds, "he was handsome and seemed very smart." Karen wonders again what connection exists between the suspicious Lelouche and the mysterious Zero. She resolves to catch that cat and get her answers. At the same time, Kamina orders his men to charge in...
And Zero walks in calmly. He denies that he ever lost his mask. Karen, at least, sees Zero in front of her and knows that Lelouche is inside, allaying her suspicions once more.
Sumeragi calls in on the emergency line, reporting that Britannian soldiers are closing in. All the uproar must have made a lot of noise and brought them in looking for the Black Knights' heads. We have to regroup at the ship.
Zero sends everyone ahead of him, then alerts Lelouche that it's safe to come out. It was C. C. all along! Lelouche ordered her to grab a spare mask and appear at the warehouse while he was standing right there. And that's not the only miracle he's going to pull today - Britannia is walking right into his trap...
Chapter 14: Trust and Conviction
Karen and Zero are the first on the scene. Zero wouldn't have minded coming alone, baiting the Britannians, but Karen insisted on escorting him. "I believe in you, Zero. I have nothing to fear." Lelouche already has Karen's trust, and Ohgi's as well - and soon he'll have the rest of GOONZ on his side. All he has to do is make a miracle come true for them...
The Britannian forces arrive, with Suzaku at the head. It includes a team of the new Gloucester Knightmares, too, with Cornelia's knight Dalton in command. Zero advances and Karen follows. He's leading Britannia into the trap.
But the Mechabeasts, led by Strongar T4, charge in and open fire on the Britannians! Baron Ashura is looking for Kouji Kabuto, but he seems nowhere to be found. Oh well, s/he'll just show off Dr. Hell's power by burning this city to the ground!
Dalton orders his forces to retreat. The city's already evacuated (convenient!) so he sees no point risking Her Highness's knights dealing with this shit.
Before Zero and Karen can clear out, though, a pack of Damons crawls out of the woodwork.
The main GOONZ force mobilizes, but Zero says he doesn't need their help. Everything is going according to plan.
He sets off his orders, and Geassed slaves make their move...
Bombs go off all over town, knocking out the city's support pillars...
but in one section, it's a dud!
Zero runs into the area, intending to fix the problem himself. He refuses to let Karen follow, let she get caught in the blast or resulting crumble.
But Ashura pins him down...
and it's Kamina who steps in to help! Simon insists that he was trying to run away, but Kamina can see the truth: Zero has the courage and conviction to fight with his own hands.
At Zero's direction, Kamina and Gurren-Lagann's drill crack the rock at all the right places, and the entire city's foundation collapses under the Damon and Mechabeast forces! They weren't crushed like Knightmares would have been, but now they're stuck in cracks and chasms in the concrete.
Polling was a little fuzzy, so I didn't pay attention - though I definitely heard calls for deploying Ohgi and Tamaki, even if they won't do any good. I wanted Kouji and Crowe out here, since their enemies are, and Chirico, Heero, and Duo are former Resistance members, so they should be behind Zero.
The pilots are a little miffed that Zero sacrificed a town as part of his plan, but Kouji's busy baring his teeth at Ashura. Zero predicts that his plan will hold the enemies for about three minutes (three turns). Kamina and Karen intend to decide their match right here and now!
Speaking of three turns, the SR Point comes from defeating the enemies by the fourth player phase - in other words, before any of them are able to move.
The field. The Damons are fewer, but stronger; Yellow Team has a Rhinodamon while Red has Strongar, and Gurren-Lagann and Guren are going to eat through the left side. Naturally, I want Kouji to have a crack at Strongar, too.
So let's get started with the left side.
Simon! Zero did his thing, now it's our turn!
We're not gonna let those Black Knights own our burning red Gurren Gang!
Kamina gains a level of Spiral Power, putting him temporarily equal to Simon.
Next up is the Red Devil.
As long as we have Zero, we always have a chance.
I have to fight... with Zero, for good!
It's not quite as overpowering as Gurren-Lagann, but what is?
With very little to buff, even Zero gets to attack.
(There were some minor setbacks, but everything is going according to plan.)
(Everything will be fine. We just have to win this.)
Zero isn't such an awful pilot. He's just supposed to have better things to do.
Next is Kouji, charging in the general direction of Strongar T4.
Unfortunately, Damons are much tougher than Talos.
The rest of the main team just moves in. Most of them don't even get to attack.
And so I hand over the turn.
As Zero promised, the enemies can't move. Most of them idle, impotent.
Strongar attacks Karen.
He's actually quite a fearsome opponent.
Luckily, the Guren's radiation shield protects it, though Strongar's fan reduces its mobility.
The powerful Strongar handles the Guren's assault like a boss. Which it is.
The Damons are in the same boat as the Talos, only able to attack those already in range.
The ones further down actually start shooting at the Talos.
One uneventful enemy phase down.
To handle the enemies like this, I have to make sure I'm in their range. The Talos' shooting range is 4, conveniently equal to Guren's range of death.
Here should work. If Karen can hit them, they can (try to) hit her.
And Guard, just to be safe.
Maybe she doesn't need it. Wow.
The Gurren Gang duo needs to take a bite out of Strongar at some point too. And in the meantime, they'll chew through some Talos.
Hell, let's let Zero kill it. He doesn't get experience from sitting and giving orders.
Unable to actually reach Strongar for an attack, Kouji approaches it again. But next turn - Photon Beam!
As with the Talos, our units have to come to the Damons. But their ranges are 5, 6, and 7, respectively, so it's a slightly easier job.
The quick team members dive right into the Damons.
The slower ones move at the wall of HP that is Strongar T4.
And Crowe finally gets to fight his favored enemy.
What are these guys doing here?
There's no sign of a recent Shock, so they must have been lying in wait.
I've said it repeatedly, but Damons are annoyingly tough.
Turn 2's enemy phase starts.
After Karen fights off the Talos (and runs quite low on energy), Strongar attacks Mazinger...
You've got a lot of nerve being here after I beat you in Atami, Mechabeast!
Be silent, Kouji Kabuto! By Dr. Hell's greatness, this Strongar T4 is now even more powerful than before!
This is the end for you! Speak your final words!
How about instead, I smash your stupid Mechabeast and show you what happens when you try to take over the world!
That actually kind of hurt.
On the other hand, Kouji counterattacks powerfully...
and Mazinger is now taking minimum damage from Damons.
Many of the other Damons are sent back where they came from, and the Rhinodamon has sustained some damage.
It's the beginning of the third round.
Guren's looking a little drained, though.
Let's start by taking out Strongar.
This is all your doing! This should have been my victory!
Well, tough! You're the one that made this a fight!
Come on, Simon! We gotta show this man-woman-thing how the Gurren Gang rolls!
Um, bro, we're GOONZ now, not the Gurren Gang...
Who cares? Either way, we're still in the evil-stomping business!
Gurren-Lagann is basically the Hulk.
You know what? Giving orders isn't supposed to trigger lines, but I won't tell if you won't...
How dare you spring a trap on us!
(It wasn't a trap meant for you, but oh well.)
(I still have to thank you. You allowed me to play an even greater hero than I had planned.)
Now we're ready to focus fire.
Karen hits Strongar, but drains the Guren's battery in the process.
Luckily, Dai-Guard is here to save the day!
Kouji pulverizes Strongar...
scoring a Precision Lens for the team. Cursing, Ashura flees.
That just leaves a couple of Talos and the Damons to clean up.
Setsuna uses his double turn to go deep.
With little to lose, I'm just going to dump resources all over the remaining enemies.
And Ryoma Nagare is great at that. Getter Beam isn't even expensive (40 EN) for its damage.
As if Hayato's job wasn't the Getter Taxi enough, he learns Accel from the battle.
Watta starts on Rhinodamon with the terribly inefficient Bird Attack.
The Invincible he learns afterwords would have been nice before he took damage, but it'll help him in many boss fights to come, I'm sure.
Heero seems surprisingly pissed at Damons today.
Come to think of it, so does Duo. They are serious business.
But the D. Fault blocks Crowe's finishing blow.
Prevail! It makes the worst bosses.
Looks like the enemies still can't move.
Absolutely nothing dies, and it's my last turn to get anything done.
One important tool is Setsuna's mobility.
Another, as always, is Offensive Supports.
With a clear path, the Talos fall quickly.
And the last Damon follow.
(Duo learns Strike.)
And Crowe manages to break through the stupid Rhinodamon's stupid barrier and finally kill it.
As usual, I am just in time for the SR Point.
Crowe is still wondering if the Damons had an angle in attacking here. Kamina graciously accepts Karen's victory, and she thanks him for having Zero's back.
Zero is bragging about his big victory, trying to make GOONZ recognize his power, but the team is mostly still aghast at his sacrifice of an entire town's structure, emergency or no. He reminds them that he is not their enemy; the terrorists, the aliens, and the Damons are all out there, and they can't afford to hold back. Grudgingly, the GOONZ captains realize he's right. You can't bring peace to an omelette without breaking a few eggs.
As GOONZ pulls out, this mysterious douchebag continues to watch. "So Carlos' little game has borne fruit. And power is collecting around him. Heh heh heh... excellent."
CEO bonus etc.
The Japanese are glad they didn't have to fight Britannia, which would make them be held as terrorists. Karen is still sulking. The other-Japanese try to tell her they're on her side, and they all admit that when they said they would catch the cat to unmask Zero, they were probably just going to give him his mask back. Karen, in return, confesses that being part of the Japanese resistance with the eyes of Britannia everywhere has made her paranoid. She's forgotten what it's like to have comrades to trust.
Everyone agrees that there's no discrimination in GOONZ, made up as it is of Japanese, Elevens, terrorists, office workers, and even aliens from other planets and universes. Besides, they can't afford not to trust each other when they have the whole world looking for their heads. And when they're fighting for that whole world, not just one Japan. Karen truly smiles for the first time in ages and asks the other Japanese to tell her about their own Japan.
Kamina's warmed up too, and grinning, tells Zero that "now that you've shown what you've got, you're my pal too!" Zero is moved that Kamina considers him a friend, but keeping up his facade, coldly insists that he doesn't care to be Kamina's buddy. "But I will agree that we both aim to be forces for good. Let us say we are compatriots." That's good enough for Kamina, who promptly makes Zero an honorary Gurren Gangster. Zero agrees, and returns the favor by making Kamina a special agent of the Black Knights.
Lockon quips that it ended well, but Crowe recognizes that GOONZ' job is just beginning. The two feel weird playing at heroes, but they agree that it's not a bad sort of weird.
According to the reporter girls, the WPC is still denying connections with the Black Knights and Celestial Being, but otherwise admits it's putting together a non-affiliated fighting force to protect humanity as a whole - a force that crosses lines of nation and creed, as well as the lines of black and white, legal and not so much. It is, of course, GOONZ, which is a very silly name for a motley crew of heroes.
But the truth is still out there, and they won't stop digging until they find all of it.
Coming up next, we have Setsuna automatically deploying and fourteen other slots. All the Meisters, Heero, Duo, Crowe, and Chirico have business on the field, by which I mean lines, so I'd like to send them out. If you want to see all of those, that's seven slots left; otherwise, go nuts on all fourteen. Or I can just send out all the cool guys.