Part 35: Crossing Futures
Over Azadistan, Esther chews out Crowe for letting MD get away, then tells him not to die.
Down on land, Queen Marina just got out of a negotiation with Ambassador Dorian. She needs outside backing if her country is to survive in one peace, but Azadistan is a political hot potato no one wants to touch. Conservatives within Azadistan refuse to allow it to go under the flag of any outside power, and as the Queen, it's up to Marina to fix it however she can. Shirin is trying desperately to get her to find the guts to do what has to be done - the revolution of Azadistan itself. But the Queen can't bring herself to pull the trigger to start that war, either.
There might be a way to save Azadistan without bloodshed, but might involve a deal with the devil. And whatever Carlos and Shioni plan to do for Marina, you can bet they're going to get theirs out of it.
Enough of that. Anyway, Heero is tailing Setsuna because Sumeragi and Lockon are "concerned" about his behavior, especially Azadistan, which is close to Setsuna somehow. Setsuna asks Heero back why he's a Colony spy, and Heero explains that he just found himself pulled into a war. Before he knew it, he was fighting with the Colony guerillas, and from there, he was made a spy and given the Gundam. (Obviously, all this exposition contains 100% of your daily dose of ellipses.)
Setsuna's backstory is more or less the same: he grew up in the terror of war, and was then handed his Gundam and his mission.
But I am not like you now.
What do you mean?
I refuse to answer.
Who should break up this awkward moment but Relena Dorian, in Azadistan with her dad on business (we know what business it is now). Setsuna believes she's not Ambassador Dorian's real daughter. Meanwhile, Heero lies to Relena that Setsuna is a native he just happened to be asking directions of. But a real Azadi passing by blurts out that Setsuna is clearly a Kurzhisi (from the territory that Azadistan took six years ago).
And those people aren't welcome here, so get out! The whole town is on Setsuna's case at this point. He and Heero make a dash for it.
The others are doing some sightseeing. Seems that the Azadi don't know who GOONZ is, so it's perfectly safe for the shadow team to spend their free time walking about the city. Besides, Zero and Sumeragi are putting together the plan to hit the WLF in Azadistan, and in the meantime, there's nothing the mere soldiers can do but kill time.
Renton and Eureka are making it a proper date, to the more hardened members' bemusement. Eureka's never seen this many people in one place before, which is sad, since there are like ten people just milling around. But she's been locked up by the military all her life, so cut her some slack. Renton promises again that he and Nirvash will protect her no matter what. (This is getting more sickening by the minute.)
Karen agrees, and everyone reminds Renton that while it's quite noble to be the white knight, there's no I in GOONZ. We're always there for them if they need it.
He blurts out that Musashi is way nicer than he looks, then immediately tries to get his foot back out of his mouth - but the Getter Team likes his honesty.
But Team D is watching and considering the contrast that the couple make to the rest of our shady bunch. Everyone is keeping everyone else at arms' length, for that is the way of the dark GOONZ. And that's not just between teams - Aoi points out once again that the four themselves have zero love lost between them.
It's a good day for GOONZ to be caught with their pants down by nosy B-characters. Sakuya wonders aloud what they're covering, but Isabel says it has yet to happen. Yes, Isabel is still trailing Dancouga like a bloodhound, and she and Kinue have noticed that it and Celestial Being have been together an awful lot lately. And it doesn't take a prophet to see that where those two go, trouble follows. Plus, they want to confirm that those two have joined up with these "Black Knights" characters.
So what brings them to Azadistan? Team Journalism has picked up on the same rumors that a branch of the WLF is hiding right here in this city. They've struck a deal with the Azadi elements that want to keep it independent, and they're going to make their move very soon. They're probably after control of Azadistan's natural resources, which raises the question of what makes the Azadi dissidents okay with terrorists and not occupation, but we digress. And on the local end of the contract, it's most likely they'll put a target on the Queen.
Azadistan, everybody! At least GOONZ' vacation turned up something useful, anyway. They run off to let the commanders know. Isabel tells Kinue that she blabbed on purpose to see how those kids would react. She recognized Aoi as the missing racer/model, and the Dancouga/Celestial teamup happened shortly after Aoi vanished. So it looks like Isabel's instincts were on the money. Dig up the facts and bring them together...
Back to these clowns. The cat's out of the bag as far as Relena's concerned, and she says Setsuna's eyes look just like Heero's. "I see sadness covering a core of strong conviction." Setsuna wants to know what the hell Heero was thinking bringing Relena along with them and blowing their cover to her in the process. Heero says he can't answer, and Setsuna realizes it was him getting carried away by emotion this time.
Then Heero catches Marina in the bushes. She says this is her alone place, and she didn't think anyone would be here. Setsuna blurts out that he's Kurzhisi. Marina asks him to tell her more, but he snaps that he has nothing to say to her and stalks off. Relena asks Heero to listen to her, but he also refuses to listen and leaves.
The two girls briefly bond over their shared whatever-the-hell-it-is with their not-boyfriends.
Then the WLF takes Marina. WELP. They say they're helping protect Azadistan, and take Relena too.
Chapter 18: Crossing Futures
But at the actual scene, the WLF soldiers plan to keep Marina Ismail as a puppet ruler, putting Azadistan's resources under their control. The conservative soldiers thought they were going to take her down so their leaders could govern Azadistan as they saw fit, but the WLF just laugh at them. "Your so-called 'conservativism' is just an excuse to deny that the world is changing!"
Hard-hitting political commentary in my giant robot video game? Impossible! (Though I'd like to remind you that the WLF are the bad guys. Actually, they're all bad guys. The only moral I can draw is that giant robots are awesome.) They even point to the Gundams to demonstrate that you can change the world if you just have enough power. Whoops.
The WLF rolls out their machines - now including PMC ATs and Tieren snipers.
Aoi's Nova Eagle will be taking the empty spot. Crowe, Setsuna, and Heero are wrapped up in events. Renton and Holland, regrettably, have lines this chapter.
Sumeragi and Zero congratulate each other for each successfully divining the location of the WLF base. The terrorists warn GOONZ that they have the Queen, but Zero orders the attack anyway. They plan to use the Queen, so they wouldn't kill her. Besides, "the Queen is responsible for Azadistan's instability. Her death may be in the country's best interests." That gets the WLF good and riled up.
Meanwhile, Setsuna is off doing a side mission - one that, surprisingly, he volunteered for, and at least as surprisingly, Heero volunteered to go with and back him up. As for Crowe, Lockon just says it's "his kind of job." In short, it pays better.
Aoi reminds Team D that they owe Isabel one for the tip. The best way to pay her back? Let Dancouga Nova go wild and put on a hell of a show.
Time to clear the map within two enemy phases.
With all these cheap-ass robots, the main problems are going to be those two Genocidrons (hee hee) and three Tierens.
The order to Attack! will help hit, which will be important against the ATs.
Let's get these two over with.
(I have no idea what these GOONZ goons are thinking, but they're the easy way to keep Eureka under the radar.)
(Guess I'll let them do that until our plan comes to fruition...)
I guess I gotta keep Eureka's SP from rotting away. The odd Attune for someone that needs it (Tieria) helps.
Don't worry, Eureka! Nirvash and I will protect you!
I don't know what we're trying to do here! But I will protect you, and that's all that matters!
Do they talk about anything else?
Anyway, back to useful people.
At the end of the first phase, the grunts are dead or suffering and units are closing in on the snipers and Genocidrons.
Chirico damage update.
Once the crapmechs are ripped through, the snipers start doing what they do.
But this time, the Scopedot RSC is ready with long-range weapons.
But overall, an unproductive enemy phase. And now I have to wipe out these enemies before the turn ends.
Another order to Attack!
First the snipers go down.
Then the mechs.
Then the first Genocidron.
Then the second.
With absolutely no time to spare, the SR Point is mine.
Marina wails that her incompetence as Queen got Relena into danger. Relena reveals that she's Ambassador Dorian's daughter, and says that her father highly respects Marina for always seeking the nonviolent option. But Marina has been trying that all this time, and she's starting to wonder if the terrorists are right - that she will have to break a few eggs to turn her country around. After all, her example of peace was the Sanc Kingdom, which cast aside its weapons and adopted a policy of complete pacifism. The trouble is, that policy got the kingdom ripped apart, which makes it a suboptimal precedent.
Setsuna breaks in to save them, having cleaned out the base, but Marina just gets mad at him for not even trying diplomacy. Setsuna obstinately says that "people will die while we talk." For example, Kurzhistan. Marina protests that they were trying for a peaceful resolution, but Setsuna just says again that people died as they talked. She realizes he was a child soldier then. He reveals that he's still a soldier, a Meister in fact, and he tells her that trying to change her country by talking will only extend the war.
Relena asks if he thinks he can end the war. She's not the first one, and Setsuna says the same thing he always has: a simple "yes."
But she gives him an answer he's apparently never heard before: No, he can't, because the only thing fighting causes is more fighting. This turns Setsuna's entire world upside down, or as he most eloquently puts it: "I... can't be Gundam..."
Crowe tries to get them back to business. They're taking the ladies and getting out of here.
Crowe plans to take the rear, rightly worrying about what Setsuna might have blabbed to the Queen - but he's interrupted by Ime Liard, now claiming to be from the Azadi government. Ime says it doesn't matter what Setsuna might have said, because the Queen is soon to die anyway. You see, the WLF has planted a bomb on her, and they're about to detonate it!
This is, of course, a troll, and Ime introduces himself over again. In fact, pretty much the same conversation goes down, right down to Ime briefly claiming to be Crowe's one true love.
And as Crowe begins to see red, Ime snaps the dimensions.
As if signaled, the Invaders also charge in.
The rescue team escapes having placed Marina and Relena in a safe place, but we're stuck between two packs of monsters.
And it turns out they're not too safe after all - a Damon spots them and moves in hungrily.
Like the wind, Heero dives in to block the attack.
Setsuna F. Seiei! You are not Gundam!
So you must become Gundam!
Inspired (somehow), Setsuna strikes too and eviscerates the Damon as Marina and Relena look on, bewildered. They come to their senses and take the opportunity to escape. Sumeragi orders them taken into custody while we deal with the monsters.
The SR Point is already in, so we can take our sweet time.
Which is good, because the bad news is that only the rescue team has moves left.
I need everyone to try to regroup around Sumeragi and Zero - Setsuna most of all, since he's not allowed to be shot down anymore.
I am not Gundam... but if I am not Gundam, then...
And of course, best to put Crowe somewhere his supports can be put to good use.
So if Ime caused the shock... he basically summoned the Damons.
How does that work? Does he actually have the power to cause dimensional quakes?
It's only the end of turn 2.
Nirvash gets shot down by a Rhinodamon because it's not very upgraded. Renton cries for Eureka. I don't really care, though.
Karen fights off every single Invader. She quickly runs herself out of energy in the process.
As the next turn starts, two more Invaders arrive.
But a new robot enters the battlefield at incredible speeds and rips through both of them.
But while Team D wonders what's going on, the new robot also attacks Dancouga! And according to the readings, it has the same type of power core as Nova too. Team D is up for a fight if the red Dancouga is, and Zero orders the team to focus on the Damon and Invaders while Dancouga Nova duels the unknown.
So fyi, to win we don't actually need to take down the red Dancouga, just everyone else.
On the other hand, the "R-Daigun" drops an A-Adapter. Also, I think she looked at us funny. Let's focus on the Damons first for now, though.
Just gonna point out that she has four Spirit slots. Interesting, no? (Scan and Alert, if you're wondering.)
Pull out, Karen!
In fact, the Invaders are much weaker, so we should be focusing on the Damons, who are annoying.
Also, let's try out a MAP weapon!
After a turn of a concentrated front, most of the Damons have been defeated. The Invaders are also weak, though they'll probably charge anyway. R, of course, will almost certainly gun for Dancouga.
The Damons are putting up their final struggle.
The Invaders are almost gone too, though they're still out for Karen's blood and she's not able to fight effectively without power.
R-Daigun, as predicted, goes for Aoi's throat.
Fortunately, she's protected by Tieria.
Who are you, anyway? I know we're fighting, but have some basic courtesy.
Ha, the silent type. Just warning you, this is gonna hurt!
I guess it turns into a plane. Makes sense to me!
Tieria absorbs the blow completely.
Mystery pilot says something strange as she eats Dancouga's sword - "You think that's enough to protect the planet?"
Anyway, this ends now.
Time for a Charge!
One angry red super robot to another? You're out of your league.
Dancouga finishes it off.
She wins xp and the A-Adapter.
But the red robot heals right back up and casts Guard on itself. It's actually possible to grind it indefinitely at this point, since there's no time limit and no drawbacks, but I've got places to be, man.
Now there's just the Rhinodamon.
Crowe finishes it off to end the chapter.
Now that the field's clean, the Dancouga-alikes run off to have their own little duel.
But a straggling couple of Invaders distracts Aoi. The red Dancouga attacks. Nova's surrounded!
But the pilot of yet another Dancouga gets impatient and takes down the Invaders! He tells off the red's pilot for being a dick and using the Invaders to get an advantage, and delivers a slap as punishment!
Red says that the attack had "the power of a god who has transcended both man and beast" and retreats. The new Dancouga leaves as well, muttering about how he's going to get a lecture. Since Aoi asks nicely, he introduces himself as "the final Dancouga."
Setsuna goes to introduce himself to Marina once again. Tieria is about to stop him as promised, but Heero steps in. Setsuna tells Marina that "this is a new age for us as well as your country. Fight in the name of whatever god you believe in."
Team D calls into the Dragon's Hive to see what they know about the red Dancouga. Seimi can say for almost certain that it's a solo mech, because "there's no irregularities in its movement. Your Dancouga is clumsy because your teamwork is frankly terrible." Team D demands to know why they have to be four anyway; it's not like they were ever a team to begin with, or wanted to be. Tanaka just says their Dancouga is a four-man robot and that's all there is to it. Even he can't tell them exactly why.
Well, fine then. Team D moves on to question 2: the "Final Dancouga" that bailed them out, who was that? Naturally, Tanaka can't answer that, either. But it looked similar enough to our Dancouga Nova, which surprised Tanaka too. Team D gives up on getting any info out of Tanaka and tell him to pass a message onto his boss: enough with the secrecy already.
After hanging up, Tanaka promptly turns around and delivers the message directly. The mysterious man says that their curiosity is not to be looked down on, and Tanaka reports on the red Dancouga - optical camouflage, high maneuverability, and strong specs in aerial combat. But it's a one-seater, so it "can't fulfill a true Dancouga's purpose". Still, hopefully it will lead Dragon's Hive closer to "them." Whoever "they" are, the unknown commander hope they'll enjoy Dancouga Nova's show...
While Setsuna and Heero get lectured by Tieria, everyone else is back to hanging out in Azadistan, gossipping away about the two silent Gundam pilots. Setsuna's going crazier by the day, and as Duo says, Heero tries to act like the silent professional, but seriously, he's a loose cannon. Crowe asks what Setsuna means by "being Gundam," but even the other Meisters haven't the slightest.
Despite a little chaos and a lot of unanswered questions, Team D had fun. But they're not the only one with unanswered questions. Isabel and Kinue know that the WLF was utterly stomped, and they're sure that not only were the culprits Dancouga and Celestial Being, but Colony Gundams, the Black Knights, and some other bogeys besides. She tries to grill GOONZ, but they just deflect her questions and simply say they're interested in the Queen's philosophy of nonviolence - and, even if it's impossible now, if it can become reality somewhere in the future. The journalettes are still suspicious, but moved, and hope to cross paths with us again.
Next in the parade of callers is Relena Dorian. She just needs one little favor from a complete stranger: if we happen to see a boy named Heero Yuy, can we maybe deliver him a message? "I'm looking forward to the next time we meet," she says. Duo evenly replies he has no idea who this Heero kid is, but he'll remember if he bumps into him. It's pretty obvious we all know what's going on, but Duo is certain she also won't let it out. She knows exactly who Duo is; they met in Area 11, remember? Hopefully Marina's on the same page re: Setsuna.
That same Marina is declining Carlos' offer of a deal with Axion and an alliance with Limonesia. She says she wants a bit more time to think about how to restore her country. Some people may die in the process, but it would be even worse if she were to dive headlong into all-out war. She really wants to come to an agreement with her people. Shioni spits that she's being naive, and Carlos reminds her of the Sanc Kingdom. Even so, Marina's made her decision, and Shioni storms out, dragging Carlos behind her.
As soon as they're out of sight, she doubts if she made the right decision. Shirin assures her that only she, as the Queen, can make that judgment.
Carlos and Shioni were hoping that pushing the WLF would scare Marina into cooperating, but it looks like whatever happened out there only strengthened her resolve. Now Azadistan is a lost cause, and almost all of Limonesia's DEC went to trade with the Frontier. Project Uzume isn't looking good, and Shioni refuses to let it fail. Carlos agrees that there's no turning back, but he's sure their mysterious benefactor has a plan.
If you forgot, it's this fucker. Once again, the dice are rolling...
And Elgan Roddick is pulling GOONZ back together to make a move of his own.
Now that the path split is over, do we want to step back and have an intermission? I'd like to throw out the opportunity to talk about our playthrough's favorite pilots now that we have them all together again, and maybe chat about pilot training if anyone has specific opinions. For reference, there are 15 deployment slots upcoming, but the automatic deployment is the interesting duo of Shunsuke Akagi and Lockon Stratos. (I don't plan to do this every chapter, obviously, but after path splits seems like good occasions to give the chance to do a status check.)