Part 76: The Last Red Shoulder
Happily, we've got the thumbs-up from Elgan to move in on that Red Shoulder base. With luck, Chirico's girlfriend will be in there too. Where is Chirico, anyway? The GOONZ still can't believe he's warmed enough to really fight for someone.
Chirico's old comrades have reminded him of some painful memories, memories he'll have to confront.
And here they are: Gregore the leader, Murza the grumpy one, and Byman the glib one. I think that's how they assign squads now. We'll be moving together on this operation, so we'll all have to get along.
The former Red Shoulders do not like being reminded of the fact, and Crowe again figures they've got a bone to pick with their former squadron. This'll be an interesting confrontation. Zero, on the other hand, asks them directly; Murza, the grumpy one, says it's none of our business, but Gregore rather thinks it'd be a good idea to show his hand. It's fairly prosaic, anyway; the Red Shoulders treated them like total crap before scattering them to the winds, where they "had a taste of Hell." Chirico has an idea of just how low they got; it must have been just as hellish as what he went through since that fateful mission on Rid. That's where Gregore, in particular, got that scar on his brow - and he says he's lucky just to have made it out alive. And Murza, worst of all, found his whole family murdered after his deployment on claims they'd accessed private data on that very mission. Okay, I guess that's why he's so grumpy. Byman won't even say what happened to him.
So that's their story; they've just got back together and they want revenge on the Red Shoulders. Are we in? Of course we are; we've got our own problems with the Red Shoulders. It's not going to be easy, though; the enemy force is going to be Yolan Pailsen's personal guard. Chirico's met Pailsen himself, once, before the quake. It was in his last mission with the Berkhoff squad, storming a Valarant base on planet Monad...
Berkhoff's team is one big dysfunction; it's a deserter (Nol Berkhoff himself) leading two other deserters and an unstable psychopath. Zaki, the coward, knows the newbie Chirico was a Red Shoulder, and of all the soiled pasts in this squadron, that might be the dirtiest of all. Speaking of the Red Shoulders, we learn about the very top brass of the Shoulders, the Bloodsuckers. Anyway, Chirico explains that Yolan Pailsen himself assigned Chirico and has him under observation - allegedly because he's what Pailsen calls a Abnormal Survivor, a being with a freak one in 25-billion mutation that warps causality so that they cannot die. Godan, the chameleon, rightly points out that that's complete bullshit. Chirico agrees, but it is strange that not one person has died despite warships, assassins, polar storms, and more, isn't it?
So what are the rest of them for? Berkhoff realizes that Pailsen assigned Chirico to them to test the whole squad - to see if they had the same properties as Chirico. And it looks awfully like the answer is yes, all five of them are Abnormal Survivors. Pailsen picked out a team of people who have survived long odds, even if by hiding or deserting, and put them to the acid test. He must not have believed that Chirico was the only one in the entire galaxy.
The Valarant find the squad, and Chirico warns them not to get cocky. Abnormal Survivors are hard to kill, but they can be wounded and hurt just like anyone else.
And it's playable! All we have to do is wipe out the Valarant without breaking the universe by letting any of these Survivors die, but there's a hidden, optional objective: each member of Berkhoff's squad needs to score at least one kill.
Curiously, no one else actually has Chirico's ??? skill. Perhaps they don't know how to use it.
This being a flashback, Chirico himself has standardized upgrades and none of the skills or equipment his future self has learned in GOONZ.
Dare Kochak's the one without Strike or Focus, so we put him with the commander, Berkhoff.
Chirico can operate just fine on his own.
And that leaves Zaki and Godan together.
Godan gets his kill. Chirico wipes out a squad himself.
And with Zaki's, the Valarant troops are eliminated.
But suddenly, reinforcements get the jump on the squad and shoot Kochak before anyone can return fire. His Scopedog collapses even as he screams that he can't die.
More arrive. Godan confidently charges in, swearing he won't meet the same end as Kochak...
Berkhoff took a hit too, and he groans that Chirico and Zaki should escape. They're the special ones, he and the other two weren't, but he can cover them with the little time he has left. Zaki howls as Chirico drags him away...
The Quent artifact at the planet's core is gonna blow, but Zaki's got a gun on Chirico. This isn't the first time he's felt compelled to kill Chirico, and he knows damn well he's being mind-controlled, but he's not the master of his own body right now. If Chirico really is a Abnormal Survivor, though, Zaki knows he'll survive this - and he wants Chirico to find out who's controlling him, who wants Chirico dead, and eliminate them.
Then, with the last of his strength, he turns the gun on himself.
Chirico can no longer keep that memory from himself; Yolan Pailsen's involvement in the Abnormal Survivor experiment is the only clue he has to Zaki's last wish. Like Gregore, the strings of his past pull him into battle with the Red Shoulders. "But will cutting those bonds let me live with Fiana in peace?"
Back in the present, Gregore has a plan to add the Red Shoulders' weaponry and boost systems to the Turbo Custom design. It's an audacious loadout, but Byman figures their squad, if no one else, should be ble to pull it off. Besides, they'll tune up the Scopedog's core as well. In the meantime, we should scout the base and prepare for the assault. Pailsen seems to have help from his backers - and it sounds like a Gundam. We came in the hopes that we'd find a clue to the Celestial Being traitor, and it looks like we nailed it. Murza growls that we can do whatever we want with the Gundam, but he wants Pailsen's head himself.
Byman tells him not to be stupid, and Murza quits on the spot. If that's how Byman's going to be, he's not fighting by his side. So Byman calls him a chicken, and Murza slugs him.
And that's when it comes out that Byman has a prosthetic arm. He wasn't going to bring it up (Gregore and Chirico both tell him not to be stupid), but he promises there's enough strength and skill in it to give Pailsen one.
Before the mission, Chirico reflects that Yolan Pailsen is definitely the one who's been pulling the strings that have pulled his fate in every direction. He'll have to face his dark, forgotten past if he wants a future with Fiana...
Speaking of, Fiana awakens a newborn PS and tells him his name is Ypsilon. She says her own name is Proto One (but almost says Fiana).
Ypsilon's brain has been programmed with the skills to fight, but not the human faculties of experience and judgment. Someone has to teach him, but Boro isn't sure Proto One should be the one to do it. The twins, Aron and Gran, don't think Proto One's problems will prevent her from interfacing with Ypsilon.
Pailsen himself (it's this guy) agrees, it can't be anyone but Proto One.
Fiana herself was a fan of his idea to use emotions as part of PSs, but now she thinks that they have no place in a creature created for war - mainly because of the pain and confusion they've sown in her. She would be happier if she hadn't seen Chirico before she was born, right?
"Don't lie to yourself," says Pailsen. "You're in love."
And it's part of his experiment now anyway. He wants to see if she can transcend her humanity even with her emotions weighing her down. Like Chirico, who's learned to wield his power and throw off his yoke despite his human frailty and doubt and fear. Pailsen tried to kill him, over and over, and he survived. So now he has Ypsilon, and he wants Ypsilon trained to fight intelligently, based on training and reason rather than instinct - so he can be an even more perfect soldier than Chirico.
Fiana wails "why?" Pailsen replies, because Chirico has to be slain by a human's hand.
Riemann reports that GOONZ is moving on the base. Pailsen murmurs that it was worth taking that soldier on...
Ali, in his usual glib way, faintly resents being used as bait, but Pailsen also recognizes that if he was just a little more disciplined, he might be a perfect soldier himself. As it stands, Ali's free to fight as he wishes. Riemann is also taking his forces out to meet us at the gate.
To Fiana's horror, they're serious about crushing GOONZ and Chirico with them - it's what Pailsen's backer wants anyway. Ypsilon, however, will not be deploying yet. He's too immature for now. But if Chirico survives, then next time...
Chapter 39: The Last Red Shoulder
Of course, we've made it into the base. Byman is about to apologize to Murza, but Gregore stops them. Better to save that so they'll have a reason to live through this.
The Bloodsuckers come out to meet us, along with Ali's Throne Zwei. GOONZ still believes they were on the money, just as Pailsen predicted.
Riemann's here too, and he's still set on seeing Chirico dead!
So let's take 'em all down.
The Bloodsuckers' custom ATs are also called Bloodsuckers, and they're incredibly high-spec even for ATs. This can be fixed with Strike or Sense, but for once, Focus alone isn't enough.
It's a pack of Pailsen's lapdogs!
Didn't think there'd be this many of them still kicking!
Well, we'll fix that even if it's the last thing we do!
Small units can handle them, but they're tough, too.
Oh yeah, the Turbo Custom Last Red Shoulder Scopedog combines many of the strengths of the TC and RSC setups. It's very convenient.
(Fiana... please, if you know I'm coming, get out of here...)
An army of evasive units with decent HP and Prevail. What's not to love?
Luckily, we have Karen (Strike, defenses, high damage output). She becomes the second non-dead GOON to gain the power of Valor.
And Mazinger (who is, amazingly, medium).
Anyway, there's not that many of them.
Ypsilon's programming is itching to join the battle he was born for, but Fiana says that before he can fight, he has to learn how to love - not only another human, but all humans and all other living things. Ypsilon can't comprehend what she's talking about and runs away.
Anyway, my GOONZ are overpowered, so it takes about a turn to wipe out most of the Red Shoulders...
Leaving Riemann, who has sat on his ass despite his Command aura; Sachez, who's just dicking around; and a couple of jerks who don't matter.
Riemann, at least, is finally moving.
You must die! You have to die![/img]
I'm not about to let myself die here.
You know, I just came out to play, but if you're out here, that's a whole different story!
What... what do you consider battle?
The best game in the world... 'cause you're both putting your own lives in the pot!
Setsuna triggers his Block skill with his sword.
And then takes advantage of his gigantic damage boost.
Ali al-Sachez! You...
Come and get me if you can, sniper! But it looks like you're still hurt, aren't you?
Lockon, don't push yourself! Lockon, don't push yourself!
If that's what it takes to take him down! I'll make him pay!
That should be Setsuna-safe.
And he didn't even finish the job.
But that's what supports are for. Setsuna loots a Quentian Sensor; it must have been part of Ali's contract with Pailsen.
Dammit, guess I played too hard.
It was a good time, though. See ya later, GOONZ.
Spreading war for his own amusement... I'll make sure he doesn't get away with this.
Moving on, it turns out Gregore doesn't have any form of Strike, so I'm dropping Ozma's Command here to give him a shot at hitting Riemann.
Incidentally, what does he have? Focus, Accel, Invincible, Analyze, Spirit, and Fury - a decent soldier's set. He comes with Chain Actions and his Ace bonus (he has one?) gives him Ammo Save. On the other hand, he's only staying for this chapter.
Sgt. Maj. Gregore!
There's no rank here, Riemann! We're not Red Shoulders anymore!
You've done more than enough for us already!
If you didn't like us, you could have just transferred us out!
You were strong enough to catch his Excellency's eye, but you could not understand his goal! You weren't worthy to serve!
Well, watch those unworthy crush the Red Shoulders you're so proud of!
Gregore has Platoon Combat instead of Assault Combat.
It's not too late to go running back to your mommy.
Chirico finishes him with no more fanfare (looting a Gigilium Chip). He's quite dead. There's more to get to this chapter. Gregore still wants Pailsen's head...
Ypsilon dashes out in a Bloodsucker and clips Gregore's Scopedog - not fatally, but enough that everyone can see that's no ordinary human in there. GOONZ - including Chirico - assumes it must be the only Perfect Soldier they know of: Fiana! Does she not recognize him somehow? He'll have to disable her mech.
Funny story - the SR point is to take it out entirely. There are two complications: the stage ends if he's left with less than 8000 HP, and now that we've done the flashback thing, we also have to take out Ypsilon with Chirico's attack.
There's still room to hit him, at least.
Maybe not so much (the Hurricane was just to knock down his armor).
Just about perfect.
So he's definitely going for Chirico, but unfortunately, despite my preparation, I forgot they're both at too long range to use anything interesting.
Can you hear me, Fiana? It's me! Don't you know who I am?
(What if it's not Fiana? But those reactions... that's no ordinary human.)
(It couldn't be... another PS?)
Looks like it's not going to work without a critical. I'll have to load and let Chirico defend and then attack with the new Assault Combat.
Yeah, like that.
Chirico learns Soul, the better version of Valor.
Ypsilon screams and flees; still not sure whether it's Fiana, Chirico chases him.
But finds Yolan Pailsen.
Did you come for Proto One?
You're up against nothing less than my dream. She's a perfect soldier.
You'll never defeat her.
I appreciate the tip. Do you really think we'll give up so easily?
Do you really think you can kill me?
I have to, or I'll regret it forever.
Ypsilon comes back, still screaming, and wrecks Chirico's AT. Chirico continues yelling at it as if it's Fiana until the machine pops open, leaving Ypsilon's face clearly visible. Pailsen yells at Ypsilon to kill him...
But Fiana begs them not to. Pailsen mutters that he was wrong, that his experiments were too dangerous for mans' hands, Chirico most of all.
Fiana leaps bodily between Chirico and Ypsilon's AT and cries that she'll protect him with her own life. "This is... the thing called love!"
Pailsen shouts that he'll just kill Chirico himself...
But the opportunity was just what Gregore's squad was waiting for; they leap in front of Chirico and gun Pailsen down. Then they turn their weapons on the Perfect Soldiers. Chirico shouts not to shoot, and Ypsilon grabs Fiana and drives away.
So ended the lives of Riemann and Pailsen, not to mention the Bloodsuckers; our large allies outside report that the remaining Red Shoulders have abandoned the base, too. This was a victory, but not for Chirico...
Rochina knew Pailsen well, and can't believe even he didn't have the power to eliminate Chirico. But that's all right, he has a new ally - "a God with enough power to alter the fate of even Chirico Cuvie, Abnormal Survivor." He's become a servant of that creature, along with the rest of their secret society, and he swears to Pailsen that they'll carry out his last wish and end Chirico's life.
Good lord, it's literally called the Secret Society. Anyway, Kira's trying to hack their computers, but the Red Shoulders set the data to wipe itself when they jumped ship. At least we know that the PMC is connected to the CB traitor, and the traitor to the U. N. Forces, and whoever the mysterious puppetmaster is, they're trying to change the fate of the world.
Luckily, we've managed to recover one scrap of data, but it's not good. It suggests that Pailsen and his Red Shoulders were not the masterminds here, but one arm of a much vaster conspiracy. This group was the one who took the PS from Gilgamesh and sent her to Area 11 for testing. The Enforcers, and Pailsen, were just pawns of the Secret Society. Anyway, the ominous and silly words "Secret Society" and the fact that Pailsen had a backer (the CB traitor again, perhaps?) are all we have to go on right now. Though it's likely that the backer is also someone with ties to the U. N., meaning most likely with ties to the highest echelons of one or the three empires. That's the guy who has control of the UNF right now and is trying to change the world with it.
A chilling possibility comes up: Could it be Elgan Roddick?
Team Gregore is glad to have made it out alive; they certainly didn't expect to, and now they're not sure where to go. Maybe they'll turn their skills to Battling; they are capable of thrashing the Red Shoulders, and Gotho, the old jackal, has already made them an offer. Chirico, on the other hand, has found a home with us, and he still has to find Fiana. They understand - if anything, they're impressed he's come to the point where he'll fight for a girl.
Oh, and (the reward for jumping through all those secret hoops this chapter) they found a nice spaceworthy AT hiding in the base's hangar and fixed it up for Chirico. I'll say a word for it after the chapter.
Chirico came to terms with one thing from his past today, but in exchange, his future only grows more uncertain. The revelations of Ypsilon and the Secret Society, and the fact that they have Fiana... "As I saw my old comrades leave, I felt like I was left alone..."
Oh, god, these two are going to be cryptic again.
You met the keeper, I see.
It was well worth coming to this world.
And I found two Spheres, too.
Do as you wish. I have no wish to associate with you.
So you say, but I think you need my help.
You really don't change. It's almost boring.
Think what you like. I am me.
Then let me give you a hint. Something big's about to happen.
Saotome Laboratory in Japan, you mean.
I can feel it... the herald of Armageddon.
Oh, and here's our prize, a new mech: the Scopedog TC-ISS.
It's light on weaponry compared to the Red Shoulder models, but far from bad, and it's as fast as the TC (which, by the way, has been replaced completely by the TC-LRS). Mainly, its gyroscopic stabilizer means it's the only Scopedog worth anything in space (though you could attach a Thruster Module manually). It comes with the upgrades Chirico's basic Scopedog had, but from here on out, it's a different mech.