Part 55: Connections
Remember this guy from Code Geass? Probably not. He's Kirihara, head of Kirihara Industries, which has Area 11's Sakuradite mining industry in a stranglehold, and he and Elgan are talking about Kyoshiro Todo and his lieutenants joining the Black Knights, making it the de facto center of the Japanese resistance. "Is this another one of your plays, Boatman? Or should I say Elgan Roddick?" spits Kirihara. Roddick replies, unflappable as always, that it was all Zero out there, and both men know that Zero won't stop until Britannia falls. Kirihara doesn't, though, unless what Roddick said is true - about Zero being a boy Kirihara is quite familiar with.
Kirihara changes the subject and reminds Elgan that it would be more than just a scandal if it got out that the WPC chair was in cahoots with the rebellion. Elgan returns that it would be just the same for Kirihara, who leads both the Britannia-overseen new Japanese government and, through the shadow corporation called Kyoto, much of the Japanese resistance.
So with the expositional aside over, back on the subject of Lelouche. Kirihara wouldn't be surprised if Zero really was that boy - he knows that he had very good reasons to hate Britannia, and his father. Elgan gives Kirihara the request to help the resistance, but Kirihara wants to know what Elgan's sticking his neck out for. Elgan just says he needs Zero to insure the future of humanity. So it's not Japan's future Elgan is interest in? "Japan is a part of humanity," replies Elgan, and hangs up.
Kirihara doesn't doubt that Elgan has selfless interests at heart, but that's just what makes him such a mystery...
This is Kagura, the real head of Kyoto. She figures Kirihara knows who Zero is, but unfortunately, he can't tell her. But that's quite all right, she says. What she should like to know is where his path will lead. Especially after seeing what happened at Narita. "What goes on beneath his mask?"
The student council - even Louise and Relena, of course - has all gathered for Shirley's father's funeral. Karen apologizes, sobbing, and Shirley asks what she's apologizing for. But then Rivalz apologizes too, for ever thinking the Black Knights were badasses, even when the battle of Narita first came up on the news. Millay just wants to make sure Shirley has cried it all out. "It'll just hurt more if you try to hold it in."
Shirley's cried a lot it seems, but Suzaku is full of rage instead. In his book, Zero is a coward who manipulates others into fighting and then takes credit as the hero, leaving suffering in his wake. "He won't change anything like that... there's no point accomplishing anything by the wrong means..." Lelouche just listens silently, but as all his friends leave, he wants to stay for a little longer, alone.
You're sorry for getting your friend's dad killed?
What, did you think this was a game? You've already killed dozens, by your own hand or by your orders.
I said be silent.
They had families too. And lovers, and friends.
Don't tell me you didn't know. Is this as far as you're willing to go?
Of course I'm willing! I killed Clovis, didn't I?!
So what's different now? Or did you lose your nerve when she forced a kiss on you?
And you made all those promises, too. I guess you're just another boy running his mouth.
You can't waver or stop anymore.
I thought this was your new reason to live? Don't fail me.
Quattre is also down about getting innocents killed. Crowe is determined not to let it happen again. "We're fighting Britannia, not Britannians."
But that's not up to us, and Wufei is not convinced that Zero will make it happen again. Zero held back to draw out Cornelia, and he knew that if the Black Knights had been fighting for real, we could have saved all of those Japan Liberation Front soldiers. He may not have known about the civilians, but Zero deliberately sacrificed those soldiers to show off his miracle in full light. "To him, all of those soldiers except for Todo were worthless," Wufei finishes.
As much as Wufei doesn't hate to say he told us so, we have to admit that, as terrible as Zero's plan was, it worked completely. Crowe suggests that we act as the brakes on Zero. We need him - to liberate Japan, and as GOONZ, to wage war against the Imperium. And on the way, we'll have to contend with the power-hungry nations, terrorists, and all those alien attackers.
"So maybe you're right, and Zero's little crusade is just a cover for whatever his real plan is. But if he wants to use us, we're gonna use him right back. We're going to make him be a real, honest hero and keep him from pulling any more Naritas. If he tries to say it was to avoid losses, we'll go back and win straight up without losses. If we can't get that far, we're screwed against the Imperium anyway."
Team Gundam is surprised at Crowe - Wufei in particular thought he was a flake. "Actually, don't forget," smirks Crowe, "I'm still way deep in debt. I can't afford to get pushed over easy."
So Trowa asks the important question: what if we can't stop Zero? Heero says the answer is obvious, though Crowe hopes it doesn't come to that. "Look at that, Chirico," mugs Duo. "This is the team we're going to be working in." We might even be worse off than Celestial Being.
But we did forget about Chirico, who merely says "suit yourself." But Crowe wants to know what Chirico's ideas are. Chirico shortly says he's a soldier, and he will neutralize his enemy, and no more or less. The others keep pressing him for his own goals, his own agenda. Chirico doesn't answer, save silently, to himself...
"As they spoke, I reflected on the fight I had been fighting since I deserted my squad. I had been fighting without ever thinking why, but there it was in my mind, as if gleaming faintly in the dark. That woman I first met on the asteroid Ridd, and again on the battlefield... somehow, she had become the only thing that had any meaning for me."
Speaking of, remember these guys? They have orders from Britannia to root out the Black Knights from the Ghetto. Boro tells the Phantom Lady that Chirico will be with them, and they will roll her out if they have to. She reacts in shock, and not noticing, they command her to kill him for certain this time. Failure will not be tolerated.
And speaking for the first time, she says "No."
And "what?" they say, and she repeats it. Fine, says Boro. But she has to dismantle his AT and bring back the man himself. Iskui adds a promise that they won't kill Chirico, either. Satisfied, Proto One goes to prepare.
Still, the Perfect Soldier, built to be better in body and soul, just refused an order. Boro remembers that they found some unusual readings in her brain scans - some sort of image. And when they translated the image to the display, they found...
Chirico. Chirico was the first one to open her pod, the first thing she saw, and a face imprinted onto her mind when it was a complete blank, before her training and conditioning. Even so, she's a Perfect Soldier. They can still use her for all she's worth; the only condition is that they never ask her to kill Chirico Cuvie. And the only way they can see around that is to kill him themselves.
Proto One should be able to capture him just fine. Then they can pin terrorism charges on him and execute him. With him out of the way, Proto One will be a completely flawless Perfect Soldier...
Viletta Nu has dragged Shirley out to the Ghetto. She's investigating the Black Knights, and she may have a clue as to the identity of their leader, Zero. She shows a picture to Shirley - it's Lelouche! Viletta has no proof he's connected to Zero, and she hasn't escalated it anywhere else in the military. First, she wants Shirley, the suspect's friend, to help her investigate him. Despite knowing Zero killed her father, Shirley isn't completely sold on this, but Viletta reminds her that it's in service of Wakamoto and country. And for her own protection, Viletta lends Shirley a handgun.
Of course, there's more to this request than meets the eye. Viletta suspects that Zero will have to tip his hand if Shirley gets involved. She's convinced he has some way of altering peoples' memories, and unlike Jeremiah, who lost his status and reputation, she has just the ruthlessness to turn her situation into an opportunity. That's why she's going to get this done all by herself...
Chapter 25: Connections
(Area 11 route)
The Black Knights prepare to defend themselves from the oncoming Enforcing that Diethard warned them was coming. But even Karen is hesitating, and Zero contacts her on a private line to ask if she really doubts him. Like everyone else, she wonders if what happened at Narita was the right thing. Can we change the world if we fight like that?
"That is exactly why we cannot hesitate," says Zero. "Whatever we have to do, even if they judge it as monstrous, we must win. Even if we must be villains. Even if we must spill even more blood so that the blood already spilled is not wasted."
But Zero will not have soldiers who are unwilling. He offers Karen a chance to turn her back on him and leave before more blood gets on her hands. She says she'll fight by his side. "Thank you," says Zero, and she beams.
Karen and Chirico aside, though, Zero knows that the Gundams have been distancing themselves from him since Narita. They won't make a move against him directly as long as they're part of the fight against Britannia, but he'll need to keep an eye on them.
The Enforcers arrive, Astragians with them.
Gameplay begins. Wipe out all enemies in five turns. Despite having a ragtag gang of robots, the enemies are choppers and ATs, so this should be easy.
Other than the terrible terrain. Maybe I should just let them come to me.
Karen is going to roast them all, though.
It doesn't take long for the Phantom Lady ("Chirico's stalker," as Duo calls her) to come out. Zero reminds Chirico that he's assigned to Zero's defense, but Chirico points out that the Lady will be after him. If he stays close, it's more likely that Zero will be caught in the crossfire. Zero relents and gives Chirico permission to engage her AT.
Oh, and the special win condition is to wipe out the enemies in five turns still, but the normal win condition is to take out the Phantom Lady's Brutish Dog. Luckily, there's nothing wrong with taking her out at the moment; it'll just be the trigger for the next event, so the stage won't actually end.
The Enforcer machines are not even worth mentioning. There are some cars dicking around in the back that I'll have to hunt down eventually, but it's no big deal.
The Phantom Lady, of course, ignores Crowe and moves directly for Chirico.
Not that she has anything to worry about from him. She's not even taking evasive action (which she should, because she has no counterattacks at the range of the Clutch Sniper) and she still has this evasion.
Those reflexes are off the scale for a human!
And she's got a custom AT! Just who is she?
But that's what Sense is for.
We'll place Crowe to knock out those tanks.
(What is this feeling? She has me targetted, but I sense it's not as en enemy...)
(What... do I want with this woman?)
Chirico also uses Sense, drives back the Phantom Lady, and loots a Gigilium Chip, a pretty good Mobility part.
The lady flees, and Chirico chases after her. She shoots wildly, and once again, it destabilizes the earth and sends them both plummeting into the depths of the Shinjuku Ghetto.
And if that wasn't enough, Suzaku arrives with a platoon of Knightmares. Lloyd taunts Suzaku, half-seriously, that it's his chance to prove his loyalty to Britannia by taking up arms against the Black Knights despite being an Eleven himself. Suzaku accepts his orders without hesitation. "I can't allow Zero's methods to continue!"
...Suzaku, this is probably not the time, but I've got to ask.
You don't like seeing people die, but you're a soldier. Whyzzat?
I'm a soldier because I want to keep people from dying.
That's gonna be the death of you one day.
Zero knows Lancelot is gunning for him and orders his men to forget Chirico and defend him.
And Shirley is watching the battle, still unsure of herself despite knowing that Zero is responsible for her father's death.
And this is going to be the final change in conditions: defeat the Lancelot, last of all if we want the point, because its defeat spells the end of the stage. Of course we do.
Also, our secret weapon needs refueling.
Do you care about Tamaki? No? Well, he learns Luck from the refill action.
A couple of the tanks survive, but this will be fixed easily.
The Southerlands that try to tangle wisely attack Tamaki. That'll show me to get him anywhere near enemies.
Suzaku's forces don't fare much better than the Enforcers, though.
(Why do you keep interfering with my plans?)
(Why do you keep spilling blood needlessly?)
(If only you weren't here...)
(It's all because of you!)
I suppose Suzaku wasn't going to be as impressive a battle for Zero as Jeremiah or Cornelia.
Oh, and he's one of the odd bosses that goes before his men.
Team Gundam shortly takes down the Knightmares, leaving only the White Knight.
A brand new special forces KMF, huh? I'm taking your data home to the Chief!
As steeds go, it looks like a wild one. My hat's off to the guy who can ride it.
(That KMF... it must be Todo's!)
(I know those moves! Is the pilot of that KMF...?)
Okay, white knight! If you want Zero, you'll have to go through me!
I'm on Zero's side! I'll cast aside all my doubts and regrets!
Yep, chapter over.
But Suzaku isn't done yet. He flips out on Zero's Burai and disables it.
Shirley gasps, and Zero's Knightmare slides out and falls into the Ghetto underground.
But the Lancelot has just about had it too, and Zero pulls out as another platoon of Knightmares rolls in. The Black Knights have no choice but to hold their ground until they can save Zero...
"Sad, Zero," says this douchebag, "but you and C. C. just don't belong together."
Chirico and the Phantom Lady's ATs are both out of commission, even though they can hear the sounds of battle raging on topside.
She takes off her mask and asks why he doesn't kill her. He returns the question. Great, no one's killing anyone. Then he asks her name, and all she has to offer is "Proto One." That's not a name, but it's the only name she knows.
Chirico reflects that this is their third meeting, but the Lady says she's been watching him "always." And he knows she's been ordered to take his life (she finally tells him who). Why doesn't she? "I don't know," she said sadly, "but I don't want to fight with you." She asks what she is, and what was going on on Ridd, but she has no answers.
An Enforcer comes to finish off Chirico and take Proto One back in. He flees, telling Proto One they'll meet again.
"The woman who had changed the course of my fate was no longer my enemy. I felt like I was slipping ever deeper, but I was also surprised at myself. Had I ever wished for something as much as I now wished to keep living?"
Shirley finds an unconscious Zero with his Knightmare. She remembers the sidearm she carries, and considers taking the chance to avenge her father.
But then his mask slips off, and it's Lelouche's face underneath.
Just as Viletta Nu finds the scene. She knew the student she was investigating was a lead, but she never imagined that he was the man himself. But whatever, this is her ticket out of the knighthood and into the nobility. She promises Shirley that she'll have a hero's place in the tale, too.
Only to find Shirley pointing the gun at her. "G-get away from Lulu!" Before Shirley realizes what she's doing, she fires. As Viletta's consciousness slips away, her last thought to inform the Viceroy, Shirley flees...