Part 75: A Promise Fulfilled
Remember that 303rd that Holland claimed he was in? Well, and try to contain your surprise, he isn't. Once upon a time, Major General Dewey Sorenstram, overseer of the UN's counter-Image operations, was accused of using war orphans he'd taken in for dimensional physics experiments - culminating in the Agony of Doha, it would seem. Before the inquiry was concluded, he was assassinated and the matter was covered up. But Coda Lavelle here has been doing her own digging into the matter since then, under the table, and that led her back to Holland - and to Elgan. Holland Novak's team was indeed the 303rd Independent, and Dewey's suspected assassins, but she knows that the Holland Novak who Elgan assigned to GOONZ is a different man entirely, someone who eliminated the 303rd and assumed their identities.
Elgan knew all of this, so why did he employ Holland? Elgan coolly replies that it doesn't matter. They may pin the assassination on the current Holland Novak, but they can't touch him while he's under Elgan's protection. Coda's only here to find out the truth for herself, though. Why Holland was in GOONZ, why he's now left GOONZ, and what they intend to do with the Imáge spy robot and her boyfriend. So Elgan tells her the truth - about what became of the children of Doha, and why they want to reach Neverland so they never have to grow up. Neverland is another multiverse, one that almost crumbled, but was restored at the last moment by the combined will of humanity. It's a universe reborn by dimensional restoration, the same phenomenon that brought the Imáge to this universe, and Holland intends to "restore" this dimension the same way - by destroying its spacetime, then using the Imáge to recreate it. You hardly even need to look at the effects of the Agony of Doha to see how dangerous a plan this is, but Elgan morosely says that Holland would destroy a world that wouldn't let him live in it. In fact, Elgan is pretty sure he's already found out who can create a dimensional quake for him. Yes, Holland is going to try to puppetmaster the Imperium...
But who arrives at the Vodoh fuck it, they're going to be cryptic.
Are you one without hope? Or do you have something to hope for?
That's an excellent question.
I know you. ...no, I knew you once.
I saw you in a dream... suffering.
Of course. You were born from their lost memories.
When you go to rest... you must go with peace, not rage, mustn't you?
I know, but I can't find peace in any world I visit.
Tell me where to find the thing that damned me to this endless hell.
What will you do if I do?
You know what.
Don't be angry. Everyone has the right to pursue happiness.
Even you. So I'll give you the answer you seek.
The Imáge's lost memories. The heralds who were there when the universe was born...
Play Super Robot Wars Z!
Anyway, back in a magical land where people speak actual Japanese, Sheryl's left. Ozma, to his disgruntlement, has lost track of Ranka, and Crowe chimes in that he doesn't want to suffocate her. Which brings us to, who gets to escort her out, anyway? Kei points out it can't be Alto - with Sheryl absent, it wouldn't be fair to let Ranka at him like that. Ozma roars that he'll do it himself rather than let this band get their paws on her; unfortunately, he's needed at the strategic meeting. Crowe offers to take her, but even he's not safe from Ozma's judgment; he gets accused of plotting to ransom her off. Finally, he gets to Athrun, who's only come to call him upstairs - "I don't know why, but my gut doesn't like it!"
Ranka herself was last spotted wandering the ship looking for her pet. When did she get a pet?
She's named the thing Ai, and she's found it chittering about the Nirvash. She says it likes the robot (doesn't it not have to be a robot now?), but Renton thinks maybe it can tell the Nirvash is a creature like itself. Renton tells Ranka all about Eureka, the only other person who can communicate with the Nirvash...
Ranka's finally been found, but she wants Renton to take her back to the mainland in the Nirvash. Ozma stares Renton down for a while before he gives him his blessing (Athrun is crushed), and Ranka wants to hear more about Eureka on the way...
I'm sure we skipped a fascinating ride. Renton's glad he got to unload a little about Eureka, though; sometimes he's not sure if he can do it, but he has to try, and that thought helps him keep going. Ranka wishes she could be as lucky as Eureka, having someone come to save her. Renton wishes her well, and says so does the Nirvash.
But as Ranka leaves, Holland knocks out Renton as his squadmates capture the Nirvash...
Only to find that Crowe's tailed Renton on orders from Ozma, who expected this exact thing to happen.
But they didn't expect Holland to have his own backup. Marguerite keeps Crowe busy as Holland escapes with his spoils. But she keeps attacking, and Crowe asks why - isn't her job already over? Marguerite wants revenge for her brother, and Crowe defends himself but still has no idea what she's on about...
And Asakim appears out of nowhere, pins her down, and reminds her that Ime Liard would like Crowe dead by his own hand, not by hers. Also, he needs her to take Ime a message for him - "I'm coming for his soul." He's the Accursed Wanderer, and he's learned where to find the one who cursed him.
Marguerite leaves, and Asakim says he just didn't want Crowe to die yet, not to her. Crowe bluffs that he wasn't going to die anyway, but Asakim can tell "that the moment she talked about revenge, your scales began to waver." Crowe's getting tired of people saying shit like that to him, but Asakim hardly needs his friendship. Only his soul. But, luckily for Crowe, not yet. By the way, he'd also like to let Crowe know that GOONZ is on their way to the Vodarak temple, though only because he wants both Crowe's and Ime's souls at once. "I'll be waiting there, Crowe. There, my fate, yours, and Ime's will be decided."
Everything is converging on that temple. But what will we find there?
The Gekko, at least, is already there, and Hap is torturing Renton for his cooperation, while Holland is out. Renton still has no idea what's going on, and of course refuses to let them do anything to him or Eureka, so Stoner decides to at least fill him in a little. Their immediate goal is to recreate the Agony of Doha so they can get back to Neverland. Doha, of course, was a failure, but they've found the notes at Warsaw outlining a much more likely method they were working on. Codenamed Method 7-E to Recreate the Legend, or "Eureka Seven" for short. There's a crystal inside Eureka encoded with the code that will rejoin her to the Imáge. When she is, the door between dimensions will be revealed. Renton is the key to that door. "The same way we can't survive this universe," he finishes, "you can't end up with Eureka."
Stoner will only tell the rest of the story if Renton cooperates, but it has to end with all of them going to Neverland. Of course, there's only more pain in it if Renton refuses. They give him some time to, er, think it over.
The Nirvash wants to go show them what's what, but it's a plushie. Still, it seems to...
Meanwhile, the rest of Team Neverland is journeying far below the Vodarak temple, where "number 6" - the woman with the pink hair - was locked away so the Imáge couldn't find her.
Eureka introduces her as Professor Dominic's fiancee, lover, and a creature just like herself, who the humans gave the number of 6. Her name is Anemone, and she knows who they are and why they've come. But she promised Dominic she wouldn't open the seal for those without hope, only those who have hope so that hope can be granted. Then she looks at Eureka alone and asks if she's ready. Creatures like them can never really dream, because they are dreams incarnate, the dreams of the Imáge. Dominic aborted the experiment so that she wouldn't disappear, but the truth is this: "The humans may touch the Imáge, but dreams will remain dreams, and only reality can change reality."
Eureka asks, why do they exist then? Anemone can only say that they do exist, as do the humans, as do the Imáge. They occupy this world, and they'll all die in it the same as anything else that lives in it. As for Eureka, Anemone knows all she wants is to dream.
Holland just demands to know how to control the Imáge, but unfortunately, the Imáge are here, in vast numbers, and they seem pissed...
Chapter 38: A Promise Fulfilled
That sure is a lot of Imáge; they seem to have sensed Eureka and come to take her back. Holland is up for a fight (though we'll see if his robot can handle it).
We're going to have to keep the Imáge away from the Vodarak temple, whose bounds are displayed, and the whole chapter has to be over in six rounds, so there's that, too.
Also, you know, it's a fight at fifty paces.
Since I'm on a timer, I might as well send Holland.
I can't die here... I... we're going to survive!
I don't care about the world or humanity... I'm going to remake the world... for Talho!
How bad can this be?
Oh, come on.
Oh, come on, Holland.
Luckily, no more Imáge can actually reach the Devilfish, so we've survived the round.
And now ZEUTH is here to bail Holland out, though they were expecting Ime and Asakim here. Even so, the Damons can arrive from nowhere.
Meanwhile, we have some words with Holland, but he has no intention to give us anything. As much as GOONZ (especially the hotheaded Cyber-Beast Force) wants to take him by force, we have to clean up the Imáge first. Holland wants to use us as cover to escape...
And given his performance and the fact that I still lose if he dies, I'm inclined to cooperate.
All of GOONZ is an easy match for the Imáge, and luckily, they prioritized attacking our units over actually making it to the finish line.
Okay, maybe some of them do want to make it to the finish line, which means they won't give counterattacks.
Crowe can't figure out what's in that building that the Imáge want...
But this fucker knows.
And we're going to have to fight him for it. Crowe takes the chance to ask Marguerite what she means about her brother. Ime answers for her: her brother was killed at the hands of the Firebug unit back when Crowe worked for them.
Crowe can't deny it, and Ime delights incoherently in "the wavering of the scales in your soul."
I will take your soul... your Sphere!
I can't let you have that, False Black Sheep.
Asakim's impressed that Ime survived that - his must be more fully "awakened" than the Wavering Scales. Ime orders Marguerite to escort him away from the front lines. Marguerite pauses, then turns, and shouts to Crowe - "It's all lies! My brother fell to you in a fair duel! There is no shame in it!"
Marguerite will take a lot for the Imperium, but she will not let the death of her brother be taken advantage of. Ime growls, but still has no choice but to take her and leave - leaving the DAMons behind, of course.
Everyone from ZEUTH, meanwhile, knows exactly what it means that Ime tried to kill Crowe, and Asakim Ime. But with Asakim still moving in for Crowe himself, there's no time to explain.
But a couple of new robots step in to defend him, and Asakim, who "hasn't felt this pain in a long time," turns to leave. Crowe demands to know just what he's after. Asakim smirks and says that "your soul grows more worthy of being reaped."
Crowe is assured by ZEUTH, though, that there's no need to go after Asakim. They know why he wants Crowe's soul, and that means he'll be back. And they'll need the power of a Sphere to fight Asakim anyway.
Amuro has to check that Quattro is prepared to do this, but Quattro wouldn't be here if he wasn't.
Nu Gundam (Amuro Ray)
Vulcan (10 ammo, mobility)
Beam Cannon (8 ammo)
Beam Rifle (10 ammo)
Nu Hyper Bazooka (6 ammo)
Beam Saber (20 EN)
Fin Funnels (6 ammo, 105 Will, Newtype L1, barrier, size)
Ace Bonus: +10 mobility and accuracy when piloting a mech named "Gundam."
Amuro's pretty good. Ammo-based and beam-based, high Skill, great Newtype, and can pilot any mecha from the UC timeline, hence the Ace bonus.
Hyaku-Shiki (Quattro Bajeena)
Vulcan (10 ammo, mobility)
Beam Rifle (8 ammo)
Beam Saber (5 EN)
Clay Bazooka (8 ammo)
MS Squad Assault (2 ammo, 110 Will, barrier, size)
Mega Bazooka Launcher (70 EN, 120 Will, size)
Ace Bonus: Negates successive hit adjustments.
It's Quattro. He has fantastic shades and his MS Squad as an attack. He is not subject to the mechanic where dodge rate drops as a unit dodges attacks repeatedly in one turn.
This may be another universe, but it's one full of people.
We'll do whatever we can! I left Treize's side so I could find out what that is!
(Was I ever as determined as Treize Kushrinada?)
(I'm just a pilot now, swept along the current...)
Soon, a surprise Imáge shows up on the radar and attacks the temple.
As Renton searches desperately for Eureka, the two doll-robots argue.
An explosion knocks Renton out, and he finds himself having a vision of Dominic. Renton apologizes for being two weak to keep his promise to take Eureka to see the moonflowers. Instead, Dominic chides him for thinking too much. "Is that all you've learned in eight years, Renton?"
Humans are stupid creatures. They've picked the flower, thinking it was the easiest future.
And that's why the world's the way it is.
Do you see now, Renton? The Imáge are a mirror. They show the true self of whoever looks into them.
I don't get it, Professor. What should I do? Just tell me.
I think you already know.
Not in your head, but in your heart.
Professor, where are you going? Professor!
I always liked you for being clumsy. Let me tell you something to help you stay that way.
Renton's awake and running to protect Eureka - bodily, it seems, to GOONZ' alarm.
Whooooaaaa! Don't beg...
Don't beg! Earn it yourself! That's how you get it!
Eureka is as confused as the rest of us.
I'm sorry, Eureka... I may have never got the power and the courage together to protect you until now...
But the Professor taught me... to win our future together!
Come with me, Eureka! I love you!
Renton... Renton! Renton!
The one that breaks the laws of the world. When its Compac wakes, two children become one, and the holy white one is born...
What did you do to them?
All I did was cheer them on.
If we don't reenact the legend, we'll die! You knew that!
Don't be foolish.
Why didn't you ever try to write your own legend?
Like they did.
Are... are you saying this is because they refused to play their parts in the story?
Holland's backup arrives, and he tells them to contact Ime and pulls out. Now that he's lost Renton and Eureka, Roger points out, they have no choice but to depend on Ime Liard.
Break Will Limit
(Eureka - SP Regen)
HP Regen S
EN Regen S
Staff (20 EN)
Bit Laser (8 ammo, 110 will, size)
Ace Bonus: Renton's, Eureka's, and Nirvash's max SP +30.
So it's the end of that turn where all that happened, the Imáge are down to the big ones, and the Damons are still untouched.
The lesser Imáge are still largely ignoring GOONZ to make a run for the temple.
Firebug... looks like I can't escape my dirty past after all.
Ime, I hate to admit it, but it looks your plan went off without a hitch this time!
I don't like Dinodamons.
Why are there two of them.
Don't worry, though. Mazinger can take it.
The Imáge are shortly exterminated.
The Bulldamons are done soon after.
Except for this weirdo. I don't know what his deal is.
And there go the Rhinodamons.
It's the end of turn 4.
This is the point where Akagi learns the mighty Soul spirit, which is like Valor, but it amplifies damage by 150% instead of doubling it. In retrospect, it's ironic that I used his turn refueling Gurren-Lagann. As if that weren't enough, Ibuki learns Rouse, which gives 5 Will to anyone on the map, and Aoyama gets Faith, which fully heals one unit. Three really good Spirit commands at once! Anyway, back to the beatdown.
I just want to point out that while those attacks were modified by Zero's order and Analyze, not one of them was affected by Valor or Soul.
Eureka... Nirvash and I will protect you!
From the Imáge, from Holland! I'll fight to protect you!
Oh, and there was this thing.
And that's a wrap, but Nia points out that "this is only the beginning for those two."
You're so stupid...
You're stupid, Renton! You're always being so stupid! What are you thinking?
Stop saying "stupid."
I can't help being stupid. But whenever I'm stupid, it's for you.
But you're my stupid.
Wow, this is legit not the Eureka I remember.
Unfortunately, there are some questions about Eureka we do still need answered. She wants to tell us about her "function"...
And she needs all of GOONZ to hear it. As we know, she's a spy robot created and deployed by the Imáge, and the crystal within her is encoded with all the information she's learned in this world. The researchers at Warsaw said that crystal and the data in it is what the Imáge are after - so they could learn humanity's weaknesses, they said, so they could wipe us out. That explains why they sent her and why they want her back now, and Leeron suspects that everything else the Imáge did was also to see how humanity would behave.
Anyway, Eureka was ready to die. She wanted GOONZ to destroy the Gekko and its crew and her with it so the Imáge wouldn't get what they needed to destroy the humans. They still have the chance to...
Renton stops her. Whatever she is, he knows how he feels, and that's all that matters to him. And he'll fight anyone who stands in their way, whether it's Holland or the Imáge, or even all of GOONZ if they want to kill her.
But if that happened, Garrod and Gainer would stand with him. Not that that'll happen; all they really need to do is keep Eureka from falling into the Imáge's hands, and GOONZ is more than enough to defend her. Or did Renton honestly think we'd turn our weapons on an innocent, defenseless girl? GOONZ is about doing good, and each soldier in it has something of their own to protect; Renton's may be a robot, and that's okay. He and Eureka are both our own.
(Kids, don't date robots.)
Anemone sizes up Renton and pronounces him just as her love (now alive only within her) described. She asks Renton to protect Eureka, but she really didn't have to. As for Eureka, she believes in her.
ZEUTH is absolutely shocked to find what's become of this Anemone (Cynthia says she's an adorable old lady, though). Anemone actually acknowledges that they knew another her, and leaves Eureka with her own advice - "You don't simply recreate legends. You write them yourself."
There's also the revelation about Crowe. He grimly explains Firebug for GOONZ' benefit: a special Britannian squad made up of the worst of the worst. That's all he's willing to reveal though - less because he doesn't want them to know, and more because he doesn't want to remember himself. Lockon backs him up - everyone has a skeleton in their closet here on the Ptolemaios.
In exchange, Crowe wants ZEUTH to spill on Asakim's deal as they promised. First, Roger asks if Crowe's feeling okay physically. "Thinking about my debt makes my head hurt," quips Crowe; Roger smiles and says that's good news, since it means "there's still time to turn it back," which doesn't sound like good news to me!
Anyway, this is Z stuff, so pay attention. That VX thing in the Brasta? It's an entity called a Sphere; they don't know a lot about these things, but they're sources of absolutely tremendous energy, each keyed to a person, and Asakim is hunting people who can tap into them. Sure, Asakim may have helped Crowe out of jams in the past, but that was always before he'd activated the VX. Each Sphere seems to have a different condition for activating it; ZEUTH knew of two, triggered by sadness and pain respectively, and their owners came to be known as the Sorrowful Maiden and the Scarred Lion. Traia theorized that the VX was keyed to some sort of mental state; she must have been right, and those guys have been going around calling Crowe the Wavering Scales. Going by history, that's a pretty good clue.
The point is that Asakim wanted to keep Crowe alive until his Sphere was active, then kill him to take it. They don't know what his endgame is - perhaps they can't comprehend it - but it's likely that he's also after Ime for some Sphere business. Crowe has already realized that Ime has his own Sphere, since Asakim keeps calling him the False Black Sheep, and that would explain everything very neatly. Incidentally, if you didn't pick it up, the Spheres are named maiden, lion, scales, and sheep - all signs in the Zodiac.
As for Roger's question, he explains that as Sphere bearers tap more and more of the Sphere's power, it affects their bodies in unique ways, like fading senses or wracking pain. If Crowe's still okay, it means his awakening isn't complete yet. But if he keeps piloting the Brasta...
"So what?" interrupts Crowe.
He's aware of what the Brasta is doing to him, and what Asakim intends to do. But he's not about to skip on his debt, even if he has to stake his life on it.
ZEUTH laughs. Their own Sphere bearers each had a reason to keep fighting with their mechs despite the danger, and debt is as good a reason as any. And ZEUTH will back him as long as he needs them. If Crowe will pilot the Brasta until the Imperium is defeated, they'll do all they can to make that happen even a little faster.
Crowe's Sphere may act different from Rand's or Setsuko's, but Amuro and Quattro muse that all of them are strong of will. Team Gundam is glad to have their commander back, but the Wing boys are shocked to hear they were hanging out with Treize Kushrinada - the commander of OZ, and with OZ's increasing power, more the most powerful man in the AEU with each passing day. On top of that, he's half the power team behind the U. N. Forces, along with Schneizel el Britannia, at least by way of the Romfeller Foundation. He seems to have wanted their outsider's view as visitors from another universe, nothing more. Treize had "doubts" about the state of the world, and no doubt he wanted their opinions to harden his own resolve one way or another.
It's worth something to have one of the most powerful men in the world looking out for it, but Duo's not so sure - something's fishy about the Treize/Schneizel partnership. GOONZ has gotten stuck between Britannia and the AEU before, Treize has connections with the PMC trust, and there's still the outstanding issue of the Celestial Being mole. Kouji's ready to go beat him down right now, but it's hardly going to be that easy to take on the might of a whole country...
Speaking of the PMC trust, some former friends of Chirico's have unearthed the Red Shoulders' base, and we know they're in cahoots. Sumeragi's planning an assault on their base; we can't pass up a chance to beat down some terrorists...
Quattro's feeling "tired" and leaves to rest. Amuro wonders just how much Treize got to him...
Zero is finishing taking the message from Chirico's old squad. They must be former Red Shoulders themselves; wonder what grudge they have. There's also a chance that PS will be there (Zero explains that whole deal to Sumeragi).
In more pragmatic matters, Sumeragi is looking over the secret base plans, and it looks like only machines 20 meters tall or less (that's M to you and me) will be able to get in. We'll have to leave any size Ls or larger behind. And the enemy forces will be the legendary Red Shoulders. It's not going to be easy...