Part 60: Straight FulcrumSuzaku recognizes Heero and that one guy who was with Relena that one time. Setsuna runs up and tells Suzaku he won't let him lay a hand on Heero.
Setsuna has, in fact, actually been ordered by Sumeragi to escort Suzaku, though he suspects it's not going to be necessary. How come, Setsuna?
Because the "public GOONZ" are swarming all over the newbie, of course! Alto, in particular, is very glad to have someone to lord over. Gainer remembers what that was like, having a little mentee to help out. Kind of like Kamina and Simon. Shinn remembers the time Gainer made a strategy out of yelling all his thoughts at the enemy - looks like Gainer's a lot more like Kamina than he looks! Or is he? What Gainer had to yell was his love! Eureka and Renton go bright red.
Suzaku, watching quietly, is amazed at the diversity GOONZ has to show: the Japanese, the Frontier-ians, and even ZEUTH. Shinn expects Suzaku to do his part to get along, forgetting that he was the loner in ZEUTH for a while too. But the point stands: terrorists aside, GOONZ is a big happy family of trust, and Suzaku is part of it now. They'll even try to help smooth things over with him and Karen. Chattering, all the new friends wander off...
So this is what you meant?
This team contains many annoyances.
...very few people are coming to the hangar today.
They're taking turns in the sick bay.
I see. Crowe is awake?
Crowe is indeed awake, and his current guests are 21st and Takeo. Aoyama sympathizes with his bad luck, though this was even worse than usual by a mile. Ibuki asks after his sponsors, but all they care about is his combat data. Speaking of which, Crowe didn't realize at the time, but he could get docked for that damage. What he wouldn't do for his freedom... but that's why he's working so hard to get his debt out of the way. That, and saving the world.
(Ikue offers him a snack, and he quips that he'd be lot less grumpy if every girl was like her. This sends all the OLs a-titter with indignance.)
The bad news is that we don't have the resources to repair the Brasta. However, Elgan's recalled GOONZ, so they're heading to the Union anyway, meaning they can pass by Traia's lab and turn it in to her. Speaking of which, GOONZ has never seen Crowe's boss. "Is she pretty?" asks Aoyama (of course it's Aoyama). Crowe can't deny it, but...
Sorry, chief. I screwed up.
You huge stupid jerk!
You stupid, worthless, lazy, idiotic, talentless, lame, poor, arrogant, unreliable...
What did you do to my Brasta! You know what I'm going to do to you, Crowe?
Yeah, there it is.
Good thing I came by myself so they don't have to see my "pretty" boss like this.
Oh goodness, I... oh, you!
Is that what you wanted? I'm not going to fall for that!
But boy, the place looks deserted. Traia says people don't really come in to work anymore with the world so unstable and a lot of factors gunning for Axion's head. What, so they've been attacked and the workers fled? Goodness no, says Traia. All she did was put up a maser barrier, and activate some death nanobots, and release some guard genetic experiments, and that's when everyone left. Weird, right?
Traia, on the other hand, still wants to see the Brasta perfected, and especially to crack the mystery of the VX and shove it in Carlos Axion's face. She's not going anywhere, and she honestly prefers it when no one's there to bug her.
And Esther, then? Esther is doing much better, to the point where she's Traia's new assistant. On the other hand, she's madder than ever, and she refuses to come out to see Crowe.
Oh, and Crowe's debt is cancelled! His last batch of data came out to 500,000, leaving him free man with a hundred grand to his name. Oddly, Crowe isn't happy, and grimly tells Traia to shut it down. Traia sighs and admits he's right. However much she wants to do science, and however much Esther wants her revenge, they just don't have the funds to keep it going.
So Crowe offers his money (!), and goes off to meet Esther. What's so special about her? It's not like Crowe's cooled on women in general. "Prometheus Experiment!" cries Traia, suddenly, and Crowe stops in his tracks. Well then. Is he trying to make up for that? "Maybe," says Crowe, cagily.
That satisfies Traia, then. She's on the Brasta job.
When Crowe gets to Esther's room, she starts yelling at him and calling him a liar. He's got no argument for that: he hasn't kept his promise, and he has nothing to say until he does. Esther's sort of impressed - she expected him to give up when MD became backed by the Imperium. She knows herself that she should be mad at the Imperium, not at MD.
"Okay, fine," sighs Crowe. "In exchange for an extension, I'll teach you a spell." He takes a breath. "'So what?'" A simple spell that enables you to get past any trouble no matter how hard it looks. Whether it's the Imperium or anything else that bugs her. Just say "so what?"
"How is that going to help? Do you know what you're up against? They just destroyed an entire country!"
That just makes Esther madder, but Crowe says he doesn't care what she says. "I'll do my job my way, but I will keep my promise. It's one of my principles."
Then the alarm rings, and Crowe remembers the downside of coming out alone...
Chapter 30: Straight Fulcrum
Hey, this jerk is here.
But so are Pearlnail, MD, and a bunch of Damons.
Crowe's headed out in the only machine he could find worth piloting. Traia tells him to be careful with it. It's her custom Axio Scott SP VR Max. The machine is still junk, but as much as Marguerite wanted to have a proper duel, she can't afford to show mercy. "You don't have to go," she tells MD. "I'll handle him." Of course, it doesn't respond. "But I'll still protect you."
The Axio has the same upgrades as the Brasta, but it's still a piece of crap. We can charge at MD, or wait it out.
This also has the advantage of getting a few Damons into scrapes.
No seriously though the Axio is a piece of shit and has no chance taking on MD one on one even at this level of upgrading.
(Crowe Brust... I have no enmity or hatred towards you personally.)
(But I must have your life... to defend the one thing I have left.)
Or Pearlnail, for that matter.
Crowe manages to survive to turn 3, but can tell he's outmatched in the Axio Scott... whatever. Luckily, the Brasta's been patched up well enough to fight...
but Marguerite won't let him reach the base.
Esther volunteers to go out herself in the Brasta,
but Crowe stops her. Does she want to die? Because he doesn't what her to die. "Do you know how terrible it is to die and leave behind people who didn't want you to?" Esther sobs. "Look, don't worry about it," says Crowe gently. "Your heart's in the right place, that's good enough for me."
Marguerite is waiting for Crowe to switch mecha so she can duel him fair and square, but...
Ime is very disappointed in Marguerite, but knows he should have seen it coming. Crowe spits that Ime isn't willing to get his own hands dirty, but Ime just says, again, that Crowe is not worth being killed by himself. "All I need is results. The world will be safe if you are dead. Marguerite, kill him before he can enter the Brasta."
Marguerite starts, but Crowe reminds her that she is not the kind of warrior who can kill an unarmed man in cold blood. She sputters that she's a soldier of the Imperium, but Crowe also has no interest in fighting if she's trying so hard to convince hersef. So Marguerite puts it all on the table - if he doesn't surrender and accept his death, she'll shoot the girl.
You want me to weigh my life against Esther's?
Crowe, forget about me! Get out of here!
Choose! I mean it!
My life or someone else's? That's an easy answer.
I go to whatever asshole is making me choose and beat their face in!
What was that?
Did the VX just activate?
Now! Switch with me, Esther!
Ime! I'm coming for you!
Yes! I must...
Stay outta my way!
Now! SPIGOTs, deploy!
Marguerite is reeling, and suddenly, MD comes to her aid.
Ime demands she retreat, and when she refuses, goes bugnuts. "The rain of light shatters pure! Flowers fall and the ocean burns! The night the galaxy weeps! For the countless blue drops in the box! This is the end of man's nightmare!" Pearlnail vanishes and Ime looks smug. What just happened? "That is my power," he explains very helpfully. "Much like your fulcrum did not break, even as your scales wavered. You are, at last, worth my time to kill!"
He pulls Arietes back and summons more Damons...
But GOONZ has arrived too! (In the Gekko, but it can't all be perfect.) Just this once, I've filled the ranks with ZEUTH so they can butt heads with the False Black Sheep. They do, after all, need him to get back to their world. Holland too, has something he wants out of Ime, but screw him.
As for Crowe, he has his eyes on the prize of MD's head, and Traia explains the new tool he has to do it: the SPIGOTs, independent machines that control and channel the energy of the VX system. With them online, Crowe can push the VX to its full output and vent the excess energy into an attack without the core melting down. Ime is mad as hell that Crowe isn't coming for him directly, but that's what Crowe's team is for - he has a promise to keep, and with the complete Brasta at his disposal, now's the time to keep it!
As usual, the stage goal is completely contradictory to Crowe's actual motivation - he (or ZEUTH, at least) needs to destroy Arietes, who retreats at 10,000 HP, before MD, since destroying MD ends the stage. Although, since Crowe is one of the strongest supporters on the field, he may not actually take Ime down personally.
Oh, and one more thing - just for once, Crowe's Will has been jacked up to 200, a figure that is normally reserved for His Badassitude Kamina.
MD... it's finally time to end this.
It's not going to change the world one bit... but once you're gone, someone's going to be able to take another step forward.
Not that there's any point telling you, I guess.
Only one of our sides is going to come out of this alive... it's either you or us!
Good to have you back, partner.
Ime is likely to gun for Crowe, so ZEUTH is in position to intercept him, and then bring the heat down on MD.
Next turn. Time to start the party.
Oh, shit. This is gonna be rough on the SP.
A Singularity among Singularities. It is truly an honor to meet one so rich in the taiji.
So we are here because we all became Singularities!
Now why don't you tell us how we get back?
That is impossible. Your world has already been destroyed.
Not buying it. We have people waiting for us back home! We're getting back there no matter what!
Okay, that won't do. ZEUTH needs to build its morale up a bit.
MD guns for Crowe, so the two have been skirmishing. MD's side of this battle is going to be easy. Ime, on the other hand...
Crowe Brust, we meet at last.
You are one creepy dude! Stalking me around, first you don't need me, then you do...
Let me make myself clear. I want your life...
Sorry, but it's my life and I'm keeping it! You're not getting it for all the money in the world!
Okay, let's try this again.
What is he? He's like looking into a black pit...
Asakim wasn't like this... is this his malice?
A Newtype, trying to touch my soul. You must be punished for your transgression.
Ime Liard! Tell us how to get back to our own world!
There's no need for that. Your sister is alive in this one.
Mayu is... alive...
Heh... ha ha ha! A great reaction! A perfect reaction!
You... were lying to me?
What if I was?
Damn you! Even to get me off guard, that was too low!
(By the way, in his battle dialogue, Ime tells the members of ZEUTH that working for him is their only hope of returning to their world. Not that it works, but he tries.)
There you are, Ime Liard! Tell us how to get back to our own universe!
Why does one universe matter out of the whole of the cosmos?
No duh! That's where my mom and dad and all my friends are probably worried sick!
If you won't tell us, we'll just have to make you!
(Oh, and I have to note this one here: "Calling yourself 'Invincible.' How arrogant.")
So... Kappei didn't get a counterattack. Why?
Well, The End of Merciless has just grown a status effect since last we fought Arietes. Specifically, the single worst status effect in the game, Immobilize, which makes any robot it hits a sitting duck for the whole rest of the turn - unable to attack or even take defensive actions, and when it hits before the enemy's attack, even negates their counterattack. The only time we've seen it is with Ali al-Sachez' Agrissa, but Ime's is much more spammable and he's far better at Countering. Arietes hoses super robots specifically, since they're less likely able to dodge, use Alert, or outrange the attack.
So basically, fuck.
Ah, an early model of Overman. I've never fought one before.
You know King Gainer?
Why, of course. I constructed your Overman myself.
A good reaction. And your hesitation has opened you up to attack.
Roger Smith. It's not too late, you know. Join me again.
Together, we can unravel the mysteries of the taiji.
You really can't think of any way to treat people other than by manipulating them.
I can't suffer you to even say the word "sincerity," so close to my heart! You and I are like water and oil!
Uh, that's pretty much all he'll take, so I'm gonna fake the rest again.
I can't even imagine I could get to like you!
Even if I told you I was the reincarnation of your late father?
Ha ha ha. An excellent reaction. I see your father has a great influence on you.
Damn it! You tricked me!
It was quite simple. I do like people like you.
You want to return to your world? Then why not join the Imperium?
It was an accident that you came here. We will return you as quickly as is in our power.
Don't listen to him, Touga. We can't trust this guy.
Sandman told me not to trust anyone who comes with sweet words.
Oh, goodness. Lessons from Confucius.
That's what my gut says, too! This guy is bad to the bone!
We will defeat you! Not only to return to our world, but to rid this one of evil!
We've got you now, Ime Liard! You're not getting away this time!
Join me and I will show you the way home.
Sorry, not happening! I've fought people like you before!
I don't trust any of you one bit! We're enemies here!
Stupid child. You must receive your punishment.
Only three wasted. Not bad, False Black Sheep, but it's time for the finish.
You really, really stink.
Do you mean that you can tell how dangerous I am?
If you won't believe my lies, I must destroy you as quickly as possible.
And you think I'm just gonna lie down and take it? I'm gonna wipe away your stink!
Oh, so Apollo's Spirit Block prevents him from being Immobilized by Ime's attack. A few other pilots, notably Takeru, have the same thing.
Ime seems smug, if anything. Crowe has awakened, and he's confident he can kill him easily anyway. But for now, he's out. "We'll pick this up when next we meet, Crowe Brust. Or should I say, Wavering Scales."
Anyway, the other Damons are not much of a concern, so we're just going to take MD down now.
Crowe loots its DM Radar (+20% crit, +1 range).
Oh, there is one last thing...
Eep! That white mech's pilot is...
You... my former debtor!
So you're piloting that machine to work your way out of debt?
Not anymore. I'm flying on the wings of freedom.
Good for you. And it must be fate that brought us together. This is my thanks for before.
Zennitori's gift is a Super Repair Kit, which is a 1/map complete restoration - HP, EN, and ammo.
Are you sure?
Don't worry about it. I took it as collateral, but I'll just say it broke in the confusion.
Thanks, buddy. It's my principle to take anything if it's given free.
Oh, it's not free. I want you to keep busting all those Damons.
Can do. I've got a new lease on life.
But more importantly, Crowe has finally kept his promise. He's almost a little sad to see his longtime rival go, but that's life. Traia, however, has something important she needs to tell him with regards to the VX. As the rest of GOONZ packs off to the U. N., Crowe wonders what he'll do with his newfound freedom...
But Ime Liard isn't the only one out for his head. "Your soul will not be claimed by the False Black Sheep, but by me, Asakim Douwin."
Traia's news is that while the SPIGOTs did their job and pushed the Brasta past its theoretical limits, the VX was not activated by any outside control. How do you explain the SPIGOTs just now, then? "Maybe the force of your righteous fury awakened the VX from its slumber!" giggles Traia. But she's only half joking - she has no better serious explanation. Maybe the VX has some sort of psychic interface. It's not out of the question - the HRL has been working on something like that. Whatever it is, it happened, and Crowe may as well take advantage of it.
There are other reasons than pure science for Traia to keep working on the machine, too. We may have put down MD, but we know there are bigger, badder DAMons out there. Well, then, Crowe... will carry on as the test pilot! He's choosing this path of his own free will.
"Your own free will? When did you get your hands on that?"
Crowe's debt has rocketed back up to 1,990,000 G!
Traia's charging him for all the work she did on the Brasta after all. He did say she could use his money, and it came to 2 mil, short the 10,000 he was left with.
Actually, that's not true. Esther promised him 10 Gs for taking down Rhinodamon MD, so that gets taken off the tab too.
Wha... what can I say?
If you're not gonna talk, I will.
Shut up and listen, okay?
I... um... I'd given up...
On MD, and on just living...
You saved me. You look like you're always going back and forth, but you're really perfectly steady.
You're the best. I...
I said shut up! I'll kill you!
Thank you, Crowe... I... I can keep going now.
Done! You can talk now!
Man, first I'm at a loss for words, then I can't say what I want to...
Esther... now that MD's gone, what's your plan?
I don't know. If it's okay with the chief, I want to keep working here.
You're free to, Esther. I know I could use a hand.
I can't pay you much, though.
I think she's serious about that.
Who cares! I'm not the huge miser here, okay!
Well, with that much energy... how about test piloting?
You ran the Brasta for a bit. That's pretty good.
Me, a test pilot...
Hmm... not just anyone can control the Brasta, though.
Is that it, Esther?
And it's not easy test piloting, either...
You say something?
I wanna do this, Chief!
I... I know it's gonna be hard, but I have to try!
Sure. If you feel that strongly, I'm not gonna stop you.
I don't wanna hear any whining, though.
And that's the senior test pilot's cue to ride back out onto the battlefield.
Bring me back lots of data. Everything you've ever sent, but twice.
The more I can sell, the faster your debt clears.
Yep. Gotta keep up the good fight for the faraway dream of freedom.
Don't die, Crowe.
You too, Esther. Good luck.
Shuval chews out Marguerite mercilessly until Ime stops him. As far as Ime's concerned, Marguerite may not have done what she was told but she gave him what he needed nonetheless. Besides, her brother just died.
Marguerite didn't know, but yeah, apparently Crowe Brust killed him. Ime dismisses her, rubbing his hands in glee at the thought that Marguerite's new hatred for Crowe will make her stronger in the battles to come. "How will you avoid her wrath, Wavering Scales?"
As for GOONZ, Gaioh wants to leave them alone for a while. He wants the strong to challenge the Imperium, and GOONZ is his best prospect.
And Marguerite Pisteil...
Chene... my one and only brother...
I'm sorry... I couldn't protect you...
I'm sorry, I'm so sorry... I'm the worst sister...
I'm supposed to protect my little brother... I'm so sorry, Chene...
And I'm... completely alone... Chene... I'm sorry, Chene...
We are in so much debt now. On the plus side, next week is a totally awesome scene, Godmars, and Mazinger!