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  1. (24.15.1) A surreal atmosphere stirred through the base, now all but deserted. People would avoid your gaze and start whispering as soon as they believed to be out of ear's reach. Not that this behavior was new, you probably simply fooled yourself into not noticing it. There were always other things to attend to: maintenance, training, even just a simple meal with your friends. Those distractions weren't there anymore. And so, you could hear quite clearly what they were whispering about:
  2.  
  3. "Simon the Black is coming for us".
  4.  
  5. It was probably a big deal for them. Maybe you would've thought the same, had you not completely lost your sense of scale in the last battle. What could possibly be worse than that?
  6.  
  7. Limping through the corridors, you were making your way to Deucalion's office. There were a couple of rewards left to claim, a meager compensation for all the trouble you had been put through. 'Who will compensate those who have lost their lives?' a voice in your mind wondered. It was hard to give it a proper answer.
  8.  
  9. After all, wasn't the whole gist of it that defending PN5-2 was up to them? Well, the base had been defended. This Simon guy was probably a bit of an hardass, yet no battle plan was being drawn, meaning he was likely not an enemy. Again, it would probably be an unpleasant experience, but nothing the professors could not deal with.
  10.  
  11. The man who blamed you for being the base's doom was nowhere to be seen either. Had he been transfered? Or perhaps... well, it wouldn't be the first time that Deucalion took drastic measures to ensure order in the base. The thought was chilling. On top of that, professor Isomäki had unilaterally cut any and all ties with you since her declaration of hate.
  12.  
  13. Back then the situation was very confusing, but the gravity of her proclaim was starting to dawn upon you. Just how had you slighted her to warrant such hatred? So much time had passed. So many things had changed. Even so, it felt like you still had no clue what was going on around you.
  14.  
  15. It was all so profoundly tiresome. All the questions you did not want to deal with were now knocking at the door of your soul, making you exhausted. You survived a situation in which death was all but certain. Why? How? Were you really the Getter Messiah Miroku was talking about? It felt lonely not to have her around. At least you had the comfort of knowing she was doing fine.
  16.  
  17. Deucalion's office was just a few meters away now. The realization that you were not nearly as ready as you had hoped to be was sinking in, making your legs budge and tremble. Not even your first battle on the Von Neumann instilled so much fear inside of you. It felt profoundly unfair. It was finally your time to win some, and now some absurd and unexplicable feeling was keeping you from claiming the spoils of your victory.
  18.  
  19. In that moment, the door opened. The professor was staring at you behind his shaded glasses, an undecipherable expression on his face.
  20.  
  21. "Professor..."
  22. It was a greeting deprived of any feeling. Merely an attestation that the man in front of you was indeed alive.
  23. "Carlotta. What is it?"
  24. "My brother. The Anti-Spiral is dead. It's time for you to tell me the truth."
  25.  
  26. He nodded, and for a second he looked old beyond his years. His mouth opened and closed several times, as if he were unable to physically articulate the answer he wanted to give you. Sighing, he motioned for you to follow him to the old elevator. It was probably a talk he didn't want other people to listen to.
  27.  
  28. This time, his speech began as soon as the two of you reached the lower floor.
  29. "Just so you know, I am intent on keeping my promise. Nothing about that changed. But you should make that decision only once you have all the pieces of the puzzle. At least that's what I think." It sounded like he was referring to the promise of sending you home, but that wasn't relevant to you right now.
  30.  
  31. The professor turned around, removing his spectacles. His eyes were something horrifying to behold: the sclera had turned pitch black, to the point that they looked like cavities. The iris twisted in some unnatural, green-blueish color, while the pupils were unrecognizable. There was something profoundly inhuman in his gaze.
  32.  
  33. "The others at the base prefer not to talk about it, but they all know. I have no clue why they turned out this way. It happened after I 'killed' Pyrrha, throwing her out of the Ark. Some doctors I asked assured me it was caused by stellar wind, some others disagreed. All I know is that they stand as proof of my sins."
  34.  
  35. "Why did you kill her?"
  36. This question was, in all honesty, long overdue. He had dodged it once. He could not dodge it again.
  37. "Forgive for the roundabout way I go to explain this, but - Naamah Pyrrha was never a human. She looked, acted and talked like one, but she was something else entirely. She was an artificial entity created by the Anti-Spiral to usher its own awakening. System for Extirpation, Extinction and Destruction, SEED for short."
  38.  
  39. "So she didn't become the Anti-Spiral. She was always one."
  40. "Correct. It was why her calculations made sense. An instinctive, subconscious part of Naamah understood her own true nature. That's how the Von Neumann was built and the Unified Power Theory articulated. And that... wasn't the only experiment she conducted. She... she tried her hand at creating life, too."
  41.  
  42. You swallowed. Something ominous was coming, something you did not want to hear. Pyrrha's proclaims about you being her daughter were echoing in your head, and you just wanted them to stop. 'No, don't tell me. I don't want to hear it. I am a human, too! I am nothing like that monster!'
  43.  
  44. "Carlotta, your brother was... and you, too... 'SEED'. We harvested her genome. We cultivated your embryos in vitro. She needed more power, and she sought to get it from the two of you."
  45.  
  46. >This is bullshit. I am nothing like her!
  47. >Where is he now?
  48. >And you granted her wishes, without asking a single question.
  49. >Other [specify]
  50. "I see what you're getting at. But where is he, now?"
  51. "A good question, shame I don't have a good answer. I can, however, tell you about everything else. From the beginning, that is."
  52. "Then let's begin," you urged him. He smirked, then resumed his explanation.
  53.  
  54. "Upon coming to our world, the man now known as Simon the Black swore that the entity known as Anti-Spiral escaped from his grasp on the verge of its death. Our knowledge of this species comes only from accounts given to us by the members of Gurren Brigade themselves. Apparently, the Anti-Spiral is nigh omnipotent, capable of creating and hiding in pocket dimensions, waiting for the moment to strike once again. And strike back it did, settling somewhere in our universe. The rest is history, I suppose. But that's not the subject of our conversation, is it?"
  55.  
  56. He walked onwards, further towards the laboratory. If the look in his eyes was still capable of betraying any emotion, then that emotion was undoubtedly nostalgia.
  57.  
  58. "I was always a very mediocre student. A mediocre man, in fact. But Naamah... she was brilliant. She was a natural, and she... well, I loved her very much. When she theorized the existence of a Unified Power, I suggested we applied for military grants to fund our research. All we had to do was wrap the generators we had in mind to a metal husk and call it a robot. And it worked."
  59.  
  60. "How did you manage to fool the military, though?"
  61. "I didn't fool anyone. Mirror Energy can imitate anything. Those empty cans containing a cockpit and a Mirror Generator could operate as robots just fine. Are you starting to get it? The Von Neumann is but a hollow husk. It's not that pilots can't operate it, there's just nothing to operate to begin with. Your case is different, of course."
  62.  
  63. "Wait a second. Why are you speaking of 'robots'? Is there more than one?"
  64. Another nod. "The first machine was called Morgenstern, Star of the Morning. And your brother was genetically engineered to be capable of riding it. Unfortunately, Naamah found his performances to be lackluster. That's when she started designing you, and the Von Neumann."
  65.  
  66. "And you simply let her be?"
  67. There was barely restrained anger in your voice. How could he - how DARED he play god? How dared he manifacture not simple humans, but rather real disaster machines? Above all, a part of you could still not accept to have been made into a tool of destruction at the hands of a duo of ambitious scientists.
  68.  
  69. "Of course not. 'Letting her be' is tantamount to ignoring her, but I helped her with all of my being."
  70. "Why?"
  71. "The power we used to foster our growth, what the Gurren men call 'Spiral Energy', will eventually bring this universe to destruction. Since their arrival, they have administered and managed its consumption. We were looking for a way to break free from the curse of Spiral Power. We were looking for a neutral agent, and Mirror Energy was the best fit. When Keter returned from the Getter Laboratories, he had changed. He had finally understood her real nature and purpose, and when he threatened to dispose of her, I killed him. Not for a second did I stop and think. Why? Because I was in love, and love had blinded me to everything. And then war began..."
  72.  
  73. "How much longer will we be beating around the bush?" you asked, frustrated. "Apparently me and my brother are human experiments, that much I get. I don't like it, but I get it. But where is he now? What happened to him?"
  74. "I... I am getting to it, ok? It's a difficult subject to deal with. The Civil War... isn't something you can discuss over breakfast."
  75.  
  76. He sighed, rubbing his face and then his cheeks. For the first time since you had met him, it seemed like he was no longer in control. As if he, too, had finally lost it. Were you evoking all the ghosts of his past? Perhaps. But you did not care. You were entitled to an explanation.
  77.  
  78. "In any case, war was awful, for all parties involved. Simon did not want the war any more than the so-called 'rebels' did. Some of them were downright scum, trying to abuse the powers they had obtained to assert their rulership." He smiled bitterly. "In hindsight, I was one of the bad guys, wasn't I?"
  79.  
  80. He scratched his patchy, salt-and-pepper hair. He was getting there, to those events whose memory must've been painful for him.
  81.  
  82. "Too late. I figured it too late. I told you, I am not that clever of a man. I understood what was going on when Naamah told me she'd use you as a catalyst to see if humans can unlock the potential of Mirror Energy. The only reason I consented to this was to have her locked up in a tank, in a dormant state. The only reason I could pull it off was thanks to your brother."
  83.  
  84. Things were starting to fall into piece. A cursed machine the Gurren Brigade and the Flaming Skulls hated. A portal to another world. And a girl 'assembled' to have some special characteristics.
  85.  
  86. "All the people you see on this base... when I was awarded the grant, I became their leader. Their lives was my responsibility. And so, when Simon found us... I struck a deal with your brother. He'd hold him off. I'd save his sister. With the creation of a convenient scapegoat, the base could be saved. I never met my parents, but even that is not a good excuse for how I treated my siblings... my children..."
  87.  
  88. His expression softened for a second. He was on the verge of tears. Then, Deucalion somehow regained his resolve and his usual stoic appearance. His voice was still cracked, but he could speak.
  89.  
  90. "This time is different. You've been exposed to Getter. For the Anti-Spiral, you're impure, an 'Irregular'. Once I'll send you home, they will not bother you ever again. As for me, I'll face my punishment long overdue. Simon is returning. I can feel it."
  91.  
  92. "What was his name?"
  93. "Pardon?"
  94. "You've named Simon the Black more than once. But what was his name? My brother's name. Not once did you mention it."
  95.  
  96. "He..."
  97. "Don't you dare."
  98.  
  99. The professor was stopped dead in its tracks by a familiar voice. Someone you were not expecting to find down there. Her eyes red and bloodshot, professor Mari Isomäki was standing by the lab's door, her hands balled into fist.
  100. "Don't you dare call him by his name. You don't have any right to."
  101.  
  102. Deucalion nodded, consternated. For a while, no one dared speak up. The young woman reached for her pockets and placed something on the table, right next to the picture with a broken frame. It was the old drawing you had found, the one with the knight and the princess, reading 'When I am older, I will marry my teacher.' At least that explained who took it.
  103.  
  104. If Deucalion took the insult without objections, then it means he must've earned it somehow. Likewise, it probably meant that the memory was still painful for prof. Isomäki. But this didn't change the fact that this was your brother they were talking about, someone no one ever told you anything about.
  105.  
  106. "Do I not have the right to know?" you asked, in equal parts sad and angry.
  107. The woman acknolwedged your request. Her lips were visibly shaking, but she was trying to get a hold of herself for the sake of speaking.
  108.  
  109. "Percival. He chose the name himself. For the longest time, he had no teachers but the books about chivalry he read to himself. 'Percival' was his favorite knight. He wasn't the strongest or the handsomest, but he was kind and hard-working. In a sense, that description was very fitting for him too. Me and him... we were both alone on this base. Both 'orphans'. Both looking for our place in the world."
  110.  
  111. [Social background] There was a particular kind of sorrow in her eyes. The sorrow of those who've lost a loved one - nay, the one they loved the most. She had always been tiny and feeble, but right now, she looked like she could snap like a twig. It was as if she could fall apart any moment now.
  112.  
  113. "You see, Percival... he really believed in justice. In honor. In all those things people usually laugh about. He was a polite and shy boy. Our teacher would praise him and he'd turn all shades of red. He never would've hurt anyone, and yet...! And yet... they took him from me!"
  114.  
  115. Her frame, which so long held on to composure, finally shook and trembled. Mari was crying desperately, of a pain only widows and heartbroken lovers know about. She must've been fighting that feeling since a long time, or at least, since when she proclaimed her hatred for you,
  116.  
  117. "It was Simon! Simon and his gang killed him! And he let them, just so that he could save you in the process! I won't accept it! I will never accept it!" She proclaimed, her index finger aimed at you. Her facade was finally coming apart, laying her resentment bare. It was Deucalion who picked up where she left off.
  118.  
  119. "The war had a profound impact on him. It took his teacher away from him and to the frontline, where she was needed. It challenged his idea of justice, too. So many people died. So many people suffered. All the while everyone proclaimed they were just trying to do the right thing. Everyone would believe justice to be just a farce at that point, but no him. That did not quite break him yet."
  120.  
  121. "Then what did?"
  122. Perhaps you asked that question with a tone of voice that was more cynical than intended, earning a glare from prof. Isomäki. Even so, Deucalion's observation did sound like it would segue into a description of a traumatic event. At least, he did not seem bothered by your question.  
  123.  
  124. "You've probably heard this question before, but... suppose a runaway trolley is heading towards three people, who lay on the tracks incapacitated. By pulling a lever, you can redirect the trolley onto a side track and save those on the main track. But this comes at a cost: another person lies on the side track, and he too is incapable of moving away. So, what will you do? Will you pull the lever or not?"
  125.  
  126. It felt a bit too easy to be true. A trick question, perhaps?
  127. "Uh, I'd go for saving the three, yeah, definitely. So I'd pull the lever"
  128. "In any case?"
  129. "I guess."
  130.  
  131. "What if the single person on the tracks was a baby, and the three people were criminals? Would your judgement change then?"
  132. "I... well, I think it would. But that's a completely different situation, isn't it? No, it's not. What actually changed is just the amount of information I am given."
  133.  
  134. So that was the catch. Admittedly, you did not see that coming, but it looked like the professor didn't much care. With a dismissive motion of his hand, he stopped this digression and resumed his talk.
  135.  
  136. "In any case, yes, your observations are correct. But let us take a step back, and change the assumptions. Let us assume nothing about status or personal connections. Per contra, we'll postulate that they were all innocent people. So, what would a man styling himself a paladin of justice choose? Three innocents, or one?"
  137.  
  138. You shrugged, confused. "I'd have to know that person's criterium to give a reliable answer. I must confess, I would be at a loss, give what we just talked about."
  139. "So was he. And here's the bottom line: you can claim that the lives of the innocents must be protected, and thus choose three of them over one. But isn't that the same as saying that you'd even sacrifice the life of an innocent for the sake of saving another innocent? In other words, the argument would be contradictory, as the people you're protecting are at once both inestimable and expendable."
  140.  
  141. "Regardless of how much sense it makes, that is nevertheless just sophistry. At one point Perceval must've reached his conclusion. What was it?"
  142. "His conclusion was that he had to stop the trolley at all costs, before anyone could get hurt. He decided he was not worth saving the moment he learned about his true nature. And that's why he tossed himself on the tracks."
  143.  
  144. You instinctively covered your mouth with your hands. So that was the event that broke him. Knowing that he was a SEED must've been too much for him to bear. After all, nothing could be worse for a man whose desire was emulating the knights he was so fond of.
  145.  
  146. "He could come to terms with the fact that his existence was cursed. He could not come to terms with the fact that he could harm others. So he protected his sister and gave up his life. To him, it was the only logical course of action. Today, we honor that sacrifice. Today, we send you back. Objections?" He asked, looking at Mari.
  147.  
  148. The girl shook her head. No matter how much she hated you, she must've hated the idea of letting her beloved's sacrifice be in vain even more. A mix of sadness and anger was still clearly readable on her face, probably a side effect of her feelings of impotence. This negativity was dispelled by the resolute tone of her voice.
  149.  
  150. "I am not done, however. I became a scientist so that I could look for him. I know he's out there somewhere. I will look for him. I will find him. He's just as worthy of being saved as anyone else. He didn't do anything wrong!"
  151.  
  152. And then suddenly it hit you. Was this why your friends kept bringing up 'the pride of a knight'? Were they aware - did they know about him, and yet decided to keep the secret? Evidently you were doing a poor job of concealing your thoughts, because Deucalion answered right away.
  153.  
  154. "Percival was... a mentor of sorts, for Mark, and he in turn was a mentor of sorts for the rest of the team. He probably recognized who you were right away, but he was never free to discuss the subject. After all, Joan and the other Flaming Skulls were instructed to hate the SEED and their machines. He could not risk it."
  155.  
  156. It all made sense. The sacrifice of your teammates, all things considered, was the longa manus of your brother protecting you once again. Was it really right to turn your back on him?
  157.  
  158. "Is it true?"
  159. That question completely bypassed Deucalion's last comment. It was aimed at Mari. It was in equal parts a result of your desperation and of your hope. If he was still alive, then you owed it to him to try.
  160.  
  161. "It could be. We don't know that for certain. Does it matter, really?" she asked, her thoughts clearly elsewhere.
  162. "It does. To me, to you, and to professor Deucalion too, even though he might not want to admit it. We all care about him, and I have a debt to repay."
  163. "What?" she asked with a contemptuous laugh. "Are you implying you'll go fetch him?"
  164. "If necessary, yes. I will stay behind and see this through. No matter how high the cost for me, I'll show them that I have pride as a knight too."
  165.  
  166. [Social Background] Silence fell on the room. It was a heavy burden to carry, and a bold proclamation to make. Something indecipherable was lingering in their eyes. Was it perhaps... hope?
  167.  
  168. "I'll warn you right here and now, though: there's no going back. Our last remaining Portal Gate has already been turned on, and shutting it down will likely end its functionality for good. The damage it sustained last time is too severe. It's a miracle I could somehow repair it."
  169.  
  170. Regardless of the worrying implications of such a confession were, Deucalion's question was not something to be taken lightly. To stay behind meant exposing yourself to danger, once again. It meant to stand alone against the world. It jeopardized all your chances to return home.
  171.  
  172. But going away meant -quite literally- forging your escape through a path of corpses. All those who died protecting you did so without expecting a reward. They did it because it was the right thing to do. What was the correct course of action? Were you supposed to honor their sacrifice by living on? Or would they be more pleased if you stood up and fought?
  173.  
  174. No, that was the wrong way to think about this. None of them would have accepted anything of you, if it was done merely for the sake of appeasement. Those who call upon the dead to cover up their misgivings and to justify their actions desecrate the cadavers they use as shields. That behavior would have been unbecoming of you.
  175.  
  176. It was up to you and to you alone to decide the next course of action. And your decision was obvious.
  177.  
  178. "I will stay. I will remain right where I am - right where I belong. And I will do all that is in my power to end this abominable war."
  179. "The Gurren Brigade has raised its banners. An army is rallying not too far from here," the bespectacled man pointed out.
  180. "We'll take them head on."
  181. "Simon the Black himself is rumored to return from its voluntary exile in the Space between Spaces."
  182. "I'll smack some sense into him."
  183.  
  184. He nodded in approval, donning his sunglasses once again.
  185. "Well, that settles it. If you excuse me, I have some errands to run." Turning to Mari, he asked her a simple question. "Does my assistant feel like helping me, by any chance?"
  186.  
  187. The blonde girl did not respond. Her eyes were fixed on the ground, and her mind was probably still deep in thought. She had, however, not lost her resolution.
  188.  
  189. "Carlotta. Your brother's answer was that no single criterium, no single magical formula will bring justice to this universe. Mistakes and tragedies are sure to occurr no matter what, and atrocities will be committed in the name of the highest ideals. Justice does not mean always being right. It means bearing the consequences of all the times you're wrong. It means to never turn your back on others. It means never saying I don't care. Got that?"
  190.  
  191. Her speech was so impassioned that you couldn't help but nod. A faint smile appeared on prof. Isomäki's face. She stretched her arms, and then placed one of them on Deucalion's shoulder. "Alright then, looks like we've wrapped this up. Now, don't we have some work to do, professor?"
  192.  
  193. "Ah, one last question. Do we have any allies left? Anyone we can call upon? Anybody would do, at this point."
  194. It wasn't a consideration you were making half-heartedly. Soldiers and equipment are necessary to win a battle, currently the base lacked both.
  195.  
  196. "I am afraid I am out of favors to cash in. We gotta stand on our own this time," the middle aged scientist said, with a theatrical shrug. "However... that does not mean we don't have some aces up our sleeve," he concluded with a cunning smile.
  197. "An ace...?"
  198.  
  199. "Follow us," he replied, heading out. "It's time to show you what these corridors really conceal."
  200. Mari's eyes lit up for a second, too, with a glint of pure pride and excitement. She was quick to return to normal, however, and stayed behind to look the door to the laboratory.
  201.  
  202. The three of you walked in almost religious silence. The corridors were as musty as you remembered them to be, and the damp smell they were giving off was almost unbearable. What made it worse was that you had to suffer through that intoxicating odour for what felt like an eternity.
  203.  
  204. Finally, the scientists stopped in front of a large sealed door. Typing in several authorization codes and using biometric information to convalidate their identities, they finally managed to open it. As light started pouring in the previously locked room, you started making out a large silhoutte.
  205.  
  206. "What... is that?"
  207. Standing right in front of you was a machine looking exactly like the Von Neumann, with a single difference: rather than being pitch black, it was snow white.
  208.  
  209. "Isn't it obvious? It's the Von Neumann," Deucalion replied. "The real one, at least."
  210. "After the battle with Simon the Black, the Morgenstern's white armor changed color. We have no idea why this happened, but we decided to capitalize on it. By pretending that the Von Neumann had always been black unlike its sister machine, we could hide the high-performance prototype away. The real deal, on the other hand, is right in front of you," Mari proudly explained.
  211.  
  212. "In other words... this is the machine meant for me?"
  213. "Correct, though we still haven't refitted it. The Probe Blasters and the SatCom have yet to be installed, plus there's some spare parts from the Solarion lying around. Another Fractal Blade, which is a Getter-based weapon, is already built-in. Then there's your brother's sniper beam rifle, a weapon he was very proficient with, despite its knightly complaints about it being a cowardly weapon. We have lots of material we can work with."
  214.  
  215. Deucalion went on listing parts, weapons and components that the Von Neumann could easily accommodate, but most of it was going right over your head. The majestic machine in front of you - the REAL Von Neumann- was a sight to behold. Unlike its brother, it had a sense of solemnity, as if it were a statue sculpted in the marble of the Reinassance.
  216.  
  217. Just like the Morgenstern, it was faceless, but it still felt like its eyes were staring right into you. It stood not as a promise of power, but as a warning of the responsibilities that it would entail. It really was the embodiment of the pride of a knight.
  218.  
  219. "SALUTE system," you said, more talking to yourself than anything. "I guess I understand now. Knights remove their helmets when saluting, to show their true faces. That's why it's called SALUTE, no?"
  220. The scientists grinned. Bullseye. It wouldn't take rocket science to figure out who came up with the name, either.
  221.  
  222. "Can it be ready before the enemy arrives?"
  223. Realistically speaking, that was the first question you should've asked. Perhaps the awe took some of your usual level-headedness away.
  224. "It is ready to launch. The question is how much can we fit on it before the Gurren Brigade arrives," the man responded, furrowing his brow. "As far as we know they could get here in 10 minutes, next year, tomorrow or the next week. They're completely unpredictable. That's what makes them dangerous."  
  225.  
  226. "Well then, it's time to pull all the stops then. Tell the mechanics I will be working on the robot too, if the situation is what it is."
  227. "I am sure they'll be glad to hear that," Deucalion continued. "We'll be scraping the barrel real soon."
  228. "Not the first time I defend the base against impossible odds!" you replied, grinning. The two scientists smiled back, and then resumed their technical conversation. Most of it was jargon flying right over your head.
  229.  
  230. Finally, you left prof. Isomäki behind to work on the details and got on the elevator with Deucalion. He was scratching his head pensively, and sometimes stealing glances at you. It felt like there was something he wanted to confess, but couldn't quite yet.
  231.  
  232. "The battle between Perceval and Simon had one more consequence. One you might not know about. The Satellite System borrows power from PN5-3, but that moon is artificial. It was destroyed during the fight, and replaced by a machine," he suddenly explained.
  233. You nodded, not fully grasping what was going on. Be it as may, the atmosphere of slight cheer had been dispelled. Something serious was about to be revealed.
  234.  
  235. The bespectacled man adjusted his glasses, and then continued.
  236. "Cathedral Terra... is the real name of the current PN5-3. It's possibly the strongest weapon in the Gurren Brigade's arsenal. They left it right here, as a watchdog to unleash upon us. It's their trump card."
  237. "You're telling me we must look out for both the base AND the moon?"
  238. The scientists looked away, perhaps lacking the heart to admit to it.
  239.  
  240. But that wasn't enough to stop you. If the enemy had power overwhelming, all you needed was simply more power.
  241. "The situation is dire. I can't deny it. But if this is how things are going to be, we cannot waste a single second. Noah... let's get to work!"
  242.  
  243. And for the few days, everyone on the base worked harder than ever before. The looks of fear or outright disgust had turned into curiosity, and in some cases even admiration. Mechanics were now friendlier, and they would handle all the necessary changes to outfit the real Von Neumann with painstaking care and precision. It probably helped that you never shied away from any task assigned to you.
  244.  
  245. The food at the cafeteria was the same as usual, but the atmosphere was jovial and convivial. It felt like eating with an enlarged family. These were the people Deucalion had pledged to protect. Folks that pilot could've easily disregarded as 'background characters', all had their dreams, hopes and fears. None of them wished for war. None of them hated 'Newtypes'.
  246.  
  247. Meganoids announced that they were making 'preparations' too. Considering how ill-equipped they were for war, you were not expecting much. Still, their help was much appreciated.
  248.  
  249. This precarious peace was shattered by the sound of the alarms in the dead of the night. It was easy to imagine just what was going on. Jolting out of the bed, you slipped into your piloting suit. Stepping outside of your room, you noticed Deucalion walking in your direction.
  250.  
  251. "Carlotta, the base is on Orange Alert! To the meeting room, immediately!"
  252.  
  253. The day had finally come. This was no drill. This was the real thing.
  254. "Alright then, lead the way," you replied, steeling your resolve and preparing to face what was to come.
  255. The once familiar meeting room had been turned into a fully-fledged operative HQ. The large monitor had been turned into a real-time map, and several people along with their instruments and computers had been moved there too.
  256.  
  257. "Enemy units have broken past the line of the Galactic Horizon. Their number seems small, probably a vanguard group?"
  258. The staff member relaying this information looked positively agitated. Prof. Isomäki asked the following question with almost supernatural speed.
  259.  
  260. "Do we have data on the unidentified enemy warmachines?"
  261. "They'll be on the monitor in a second!"
  262.  
  263. A picture was broadcasted on the main screen of a strange, yellow machine. It lookes like a grinning face that sprouted limbs, armed with a lance and a shield. There was something almost 'sadistic' in its gaze, if it could be called like that.
  264.  
  265. "By the gods, S-King Kittan class mechs! The Gurren Brigade has arrived!"
  266. Deucalion rammed a fist against the table. "Yellowheadds! Viral is hoping to wipe us out before we can organize our resistance!"
  267. "Professor, what do we do?"
  268.  
  269. The desperate plea had come from a particularly anxious-looking woman, but you could tell that it was the question on everyone's mind in that moment.
  270. "Carlotta, prepare to launch. The Geschtam Catapult has been readied for..."
  271. "Wait, more signatures detected! Did they just get reinforcements? Monitoring team, what the fuck are you guys doing!"
  272.  
  273. "We're on it!" a panicked voice replied. "Units do not match anything we have in archive!"
  274. "Independentists, then"
  275.  
  276. Barely distinguishable shapes were floating on the screen, attacking the incoming assaulting forces with no hesitation. One of them, however, was immediately familiar to you.
  277. "That's the Black Getter! Miroku has returned!"
  278.  
  279. It looked like that wasn't quite enough for Deucalion, who ordered a scanning of the observed area to find any traces of Getter particles. The response came from the analysis team a second later.
  280. "Confidence intervals analysis seems to confirm the presence of Get machines. HPD analysis... has brought the same results."
  281.  
  282. This was good news. Excellent, in fact. People looked more optimistic, but you still had a job to do.
  283. "Getter or not, we cannot leave them alone. Professor, give the scramble order. I am ready to leave anytime."
  284. The scientist took a deep breath, then nodded. After almost a full month of inactivity, the order was finally given for you to return to the battlefield. Never had you imagined you'd be so excited about it.
  285.  
  286. The hangar welcomed you with a Von Neumann in full luster. You entered the cockpit as fast as possible, and then headed for the Catapult. Space welcomed you back less than half an hour after you'd left the meeting room. The situation was messy, but thankfully the Getter Robots and the Gurren Robots were clearly identifiable.
  287.  
  288. The first yellow machine came charging at you with its spear, and rather than aiming for a potential cockpit, you focusd on incapacitating it. The Von Neumann was, on all levels, a complete beast. It reacted faster than the Morgenstern, as if it could anticipate your line of thought. Its profiles shone blue rather than green, something you could only appreciate now that it was in motion. And you were yet to unsheathe your Fractal Blade!
  289.  
  290. The Black Getter was a bit further away, whereas a red machine loomed on the horizon. Taking a closer look revealed that its lower half was in fact an even larger dragon-looking mecha. Its loyalty was hard to discern. More concerning was instead the spectacle unfolding in front of you right now, with two units locked in mortal combat.
  291.  
  292. Saving both pilots was the plan, but to execute it, you needed nothing short of perfect timing and reflexes.
  293. With a kick on the Yellowheadd's cockpit, you pushed it away a second before the Getter's tomahawk could tear it in half. Then came the difficult part. The double-edged axe was now about to hit the Von Neuamann, meaning that you had to think of something to stop it.
  294.  
  295. Reaching for the usual spot, you called out its name. "FRACTAL BLADE - SOL KLINGE!"
  296. A blue bolt darted forward, in between the nameless Getter and the Von Neumann. It worked. The new Fractal Blade had been activated, just in time to prevent a serious accident.
  297.  
  298. "Oi, you in the white robot! Watch what you're doing!" the other pilot reprimanded you. After apologizing, you pulled back and joined the counter-offensive that Miroku was mounting.
  299.  
  300. Something felt odd. It wasn't just Miroku who stated this outright, but even the way in which the Yellowheadds were fighting was fishy. The intercom was producing an unnatural quantity of static, and even causing some of the enemy conversations to leak. There wasn't much you could make out, but it sounded like they were preparing a strategic retreat.
  301.  
  302. And indeed, the more the Getter forces pushed, the more the strange, banana-shaped robots withdrew.
  303. "Come on, soldiers! Let's give those heretics a beating!" Miroku was shouting, trying to rally her forces.
  304. The half-dragon, half-humanoid robot suddenly opened fire against a distant target, unleashing a powerful beam and wiping out a sizeable chunk of Gurren units.
  305.  
  306. "Miroku, can't you ask the big guy to keep it down?" you pleaded. "We're trying to convince them to stop. If we kill them, we'll just sow the seeds for another war. I know it sucks, but we gotta be more considerate."
  307. "Sheesh... fine, alright. I'll tell my men to avoid the cockpits, sounds good?"
  308. "Thanks, I'll leave that to you!"
  309.  
  310. With the Fractal Blade firmly in the Von Neumann's hands, you strove to incapacitate more enemy units. Much to your surprise, one of them literally threw its limbless torso at you, self-destructing and leaving nothing but scratches on your armor. It was heart-wrenching to see someone waste their life in such a way. You whispered a prayer for their soul, and then returned to the fight.
  311.  
  312. Or at least, that was your intention. A sudden burst of light, as if something had conflagrated, spread like waves and blinded you for a few seconds. The intercom noisy static was slowly becoming more understandable. Foes in droves were celebrating the activation of something they called 'the Beacon'.
  313.  
  314. Thus, all hell broke loose. Battleship after battleship arrived on the scene, accompanied by armies upon armies of humanoid mechas. They all resembled the Hi-Drapearl somehow, and some of them flied a black banner with a flaming skull sporting sunglasses. It wasn't a simple intervention, it was a full-scale invasion.
  315.  
  316. Getter units were scattering, and Miroku was trying to organize their movement. It was necessary to fall back in order.
  317. "Shin Dragon, are you sleeping? We need cover fire! The Kamin Terminus will... ah, here it comes!"
  318. A colossal, face-shaped capital ship teleported onto the battlefield before the Black Getter's pilot could finish her sentence. On its deck was a large opaque dome, which looked like it could contain several more cruisers and robots if it were hollow..
  319.  
  320. "Take a good look at that! It's the Kamin Terminus, the Gurren Brigade mobile fortress. There's an entire city inside, with industries and production plants. Do you understand why we can't simply damage their robots? For each one we break, they can produce three more!"
  321. If her words were to be trusted -and you had no reason not to- the enemy held overwhelming advantage.
  322.  
  323. "Rebel forces of Pseudo-Nergal 5, cease your resistance at once! This is Prime Minister Rossiu Adai speaking. You're guilty of conspiring to bring an end to humankind and to all life in the Universe, and the misguided fanatics following you have made themselves your accomplices! Stand down and surrender, and we guarantee a fair trial to each one of you!"
  324.  
  325. The man who made this announcement was nowhere to be seen, and yet, you could clearly picture him shaking. It was as if he himself did not believe in his own strength, despite the forces he had gathered.
  326.  
  327. "Prime Minister, this is Carlotta Dubois speaking. You're all victims of a misunderstanding! There are no Anti-Spirals here! Retreat your men, do not let them die in vain!"
  328. A long silence ensued. It was suddenly broken by the Kamin Terminus.
  329.  
  330. "There will be no further warnings. All of you, stand down!" Rossiu repeated, irated. All traces of uncertainty had disappeared from his voice.
  331.  
  332. "Miroku, take your men and disperse. This is not something you guys can handle. It's my problem, and I ought to resolve it."
  333. "Don't be stupid!" she replied, angered. "Everyone here would gladly lie their life down for you."
  334. "Because they think I am the Messiah?"
  335. "Some of them may think that, yes. But above all, we know that you're not the monster they're painting you as. You're a girl trying to do the right thing. And above all, you're my friend."
  336.  
  337. The idilly was unfortunately not going to last. The Beacon had called upon one final horror. A large black ship appeared, easily surpassing all others bar the Kamin Terminus in size. On its hull, a white face with red profiles. It felt like everyone, collectively, was holding their breath.
  338.  
  339. Only one soldier, whose name you did not even know, dared speak.
  340. "The Black Ship is here! Simon the Black has returned!"
  341. "Bullshit!" Miroku retorted. "The Cathedral Terra was... Oh, this has to be a joke. Are you trying to tell me what they left on PN5-3 is just a decoy?"
  342.  
  343. "Deucalion, status update!" you frantically requested, the unexplicable sensation of panic spreading.
  344. "I know as much as you do! All I can tell you is that PN5-3 is still producing Spiral Energy. For the time being..."
  345.  
  346. But there was no time to explain further. A drill-shaped missile was fired in your direction immediately from the Black Ship. Thanks to the improved and quickened responsiveness of the Von Neumann, you had time to maneuver the machine and use the Fractal Blade to slice the large warhead in two.
  347.  
  348. "As expected from an Anti-Spiral," an unknown voice praised you. "But it'll take a lot more than that to defeat us this time, you asshole!"
  349. "My name's not Anti-Spiral! I am Carlotta Dubois, and I am a knight!"
  350. "Silence! Your petty tricks won't work with me!"
  351.  
  352. The large battleship broke formation and headed straight for you. It sprouted a drill from its prow and came charging.
  353. "Ye who are the source of all sorrow in this Universe, allow me to give you a taste! This drill is my very own soul! It has pierced through the darkness to find you, and it shall pierce through the heavens! No matter how many times it takes, scum like you has no chance!"
  354.  
  355. Even though everyone else had fled, and even though Miroku begged you to move, you still didn't budge an inch. Rather, you were ready to meet the enemy leader face to face, and once he was close enough, the Von Neumann responded to your unspoken command. Its left arm changed shape, a drill ready to face an exponentially larger one.
  356.  
  357. The impact between the two sent shockwaves through space, but it was still not enough to make you move. Rather, it created a stalemate beyond anyone's expectation.
  358. "Don't you dare take this Von Neumann lightly! My brother's soul is stil... it's still... it's still lingering within it!" you shouted with anger.
  359.  
  360. And then you felt something wet and warm dripping across your cheeks. Were you... crying? For the first time since you arrived here, tears were finally flowing free, even if you couldn't figure out why now of all times.
  361.  
  362. "That's right! My brother isn't dead! His soul lives on in the hearts of all those who met him. He lives on in all those who still seek out justice. Simon the Black, no, Simon! You've come here to this world and you have brought it into chaos! This didn't happen because you're evil. It happened because you do not understand the heart of people. A drill that just digs away is a tool of destruction, and you've ripped a hole of misery in this universe."
  363.  
  364. It was a heavy accusation, but nothing you couldn't back up with facts.
  365. "If you say that your soul is a drill, I'll turn mine into an impenetrable wall! If you can pierce the heavens, then I'll exceed them! No matter what, I won't lose here!"
  366.  
  367. That had been your promise to all those who laid down their lives for you. A promise you had no intention to break. After all, they were all still watching over you. And because of that...
  368. "I will definitely win! Because I am not alone!"
  369. "Precisely so, young miss!" a familiar voice echoed through the cockpit
  370.  
  371. In that precise moment, space itself twisted as a massive fleet teleported on the battlefield. Left and right, new ships and new robots materialized in endless different ways, all making sure not to bump into each other. Empty spaces were filled in the blink of an eye, as if a mad Impressionist painter was giving a demonstration of his skill with Pointillism. Heterogeneous and colorful, it easily outnumbered the Gurren Armada. The communications were abuzz with status reports and introductions.
  372.  
  373. "Von Neumann, we have registered the presence of Newtype Dolphins aboard the ship on your six. That't the Independentist flagship, Eltreum-class 'Zeon Zum Deikun'"
  374.  
  375. There was unrest among the enemies, too.
  376. "That voice... Lelouch Lamperouge"
  377. "Oh, Prime Minister Adai. Such an honor to have you here. Afranchi sends his regards too."
  378.  
  379. "This is Imperial Commander Viral! All of you scumbags, what the fuck are you doing?" another voice protested.
  380. "Former Commander Viral, this is the Imperial flagship 'Spirit of Yamato' speaking. Please surrender peacefully, there's no need to turn this into a bloodbath."
  381. "Oh, fucking great! As if we hadn't had enough traitors."
  382. "Commander Viral?"
  383. "WHAT?"
  384. "Launch detected on the surface of PN5. They've sent us a message. 'Simon the Black, you're Banjo Haran born anew. We will definitely stop you'"
  385.  
  386. And so the Meganoids, too, were coming to the rescue.
  387. "I don't care for their bullshit!" the same angry voice responded. "Put me through any other admiral. Sanada was always a retard anyway."
  388. "I can't, sir."
  389. "What do you mean, you can't?"
  390. "They've all switched to Independentist encrypting. We're in the dark."
  391. "Ah, fuck! Kill this line! Kill it right now!"
  392.  
  393. Silence returned, but space was abuzz with the drums of war. A diverse coalition was coming together for the final battle, and no one was willing to back down. All of them, you were certain, were fighting for justice.
  394. "So, Simon, let me ask you a simple question: just who the hell do you think we are?"
  395. =================================================================================================================
  396.  
  397. This was a story about a man trying to defy his fate.
  398.  
  399. Having witnessed a tragedy he had hoped never to see repeat, he closed his heart to the world and fled into isolation. He had come to understand that his presence was a strain on the Universe, and thus chose to lie in wait. For he was not done yet. His duty had yet to be carried out.
  400.  
  401. And thus, when the signal arrived to him from the safety device he'd left behind, he broke free of his self-imposed chains. There was no joy for him in his mission, just the awareness that he was doing the right thing. But once again, he was surrounded by friends of old. People who had wanted to see him again. And that was more than enough for him to feel happiness.
  402.  
  403. Not only that, new people had come flocking to his cause. While he alone would pilot his lava-red mecha, many more would help him man his coal-black ship. Yes, the ship that earned him the nickname of 'Simon the Black'. Among all those newcomers, however, stood the oldest of his comrades. He was on the deck, issuing orders left and right as a first class commodore.
  404.  
  405. The Cathedral Terra was in the middle of a difficult retreat. Status reports were coming in one after the other, and Simon observed as his friend handled them all. The two fleets who had gathered around Pseudo-Nergal 5 were firing at each other, holding nothing back.
  406.  
  407. "Shield, class 8!"
  408. "Reflective layer, rapidly dissolving!"
  409.  
  410. Panic. Fear. Despair. Those were the true enemies. Simon took a few steps forward. It was up to the captain to restore his men's morale, after all.
  411.  
  412. "Block number 3-8-6, destroyed!"
  413. "Damage?"
  414. "Minimal, but our turbines' performance will be affected."
  415.  
  416. "Fret not. We'll give them a little lesson. We'll show them just who we are," he commented reassuringly. It was paramount that everyone kept their wits about them. The enemy, the Anti-Spiral, was already up to its old tricks: using the form others are most comfortable with as a mirror to inflict absolute despair. They even stole his catchphrase! The audacity on those assholes.
  417.  
  418. "The enemy fleet's size is out of scale!"
  419. "Are all the lights in the Heavens our enemy, then?" Boota asked, somewhat dispirited. This was not the outcome he had been hoping for. Not for the Gurren Brigade. Not for himself. Not for his friend Simon.
  420.  
  421. But the Digger's boisterous reply didn't take long to arrive.
  422. "They're not worthy opponents in the least bit! I'll twist them out of time-space!"
  423.  
  424. That was more than enough for Boota. In fact, this was his cue.
  425. "Ready the Elstraim Cannon! Align it with the Grand Dimensional Rift!"
  426.  
  427. All the hands that weren't busy calculating trajectory and direction of fire were now looking at their leader with newfound courage and hope in their hearts. 'As long as Simon lived, no battle was unwinnable', is what their admiring gazes were saying. He had thought and said that his task brought him no joy. But by the heavens, how long had he waited to say this.
  428.  
  429. "Gurren Lagann, spin on! Who the hell do YOU think I am?"
  430.  
  431. ========================================================================================================
  432.  
  433. The black flagship was retreating, and the newly formed Joint Armada was throwing even the kitchen sink at it, with little to no success. The Gurren leader was living up to his name, apparently. Everything was dyed in the color of utter confusion, and you were struggling to make sense of the events unfolding.
  434.  
  435. A red and black shape was rushing towards you. It wasn't particularly hard to make out: the Mazin Emperor G had returned. But...
  436. "Move, move! The white one is mine!"
  437. The Mazin Corps and the Gurren Brigade were old allies. Was Shirou coming for you, or...?
  438.  
  439. A swift movement. Avoiding conflict when not strictly necessary, and talking Shirou out of his plan if needed. Dodging his blow was getting two birds with one stone. But then something happened. The evasive maneuver you undertook brought the Von Neumann face to face with another pearl white mecha, one whose face was on its chest and that possessed four arms in total. Each two of them were holding a black katana-like blade.
  440.  
  441. Shirou bolted right next to you. His target was right in front of him. Admittedly, doubting Shirou had been a lousy thing to do. You made a mental note to apologize to him later.
  442.  
  443. Two sets of blade for each side were being blocked by the Emperor's two swords. It was an almost perfect stalemate between the two.
  444. "It's been a long time, uncle Viral!" Shirou greeted him.
  445. "What the fuck are you doing, kid? Move!"
  446.  
  447. His opponent's voice was clearly recognizable. It had been barking orders to the Gurren Armada until the communication line was killed.
  448. "I don't think I'll be doing that, uncle. I came all the way here to protect my friend. I can't give up now."
  449. "So are we not friends?"
  450. "Of course not! You're much more than that to me. You're more like a father. And because of that, I can't let you do something you'll regret!"
  451. "You little...!"
  452.  
  453. The stalemate was broken by the white robot's sudden retreat, which was then used to charge at the Emperor again. The two were clashing, with next to chance for you to intervene. Even so, it was best to respect your friend's request. In all likelihood, his goal was not to kill, but rather to stop the man called Viral.
  454.  
  455. A subliminal intuition of sorts warned you. A powerful blast was coming, headed right for the Joint Armada.
  456. "Everyone, spread out! A beam weapon is about to fire!" you cried out.
  457. But it was too late. A wave was already surging, fathered by the Gurren flagship. It easily trumped even the Solarion's most powerful shot, and it looked fully capable of wiping out a sizeable chunk of the allied fleet. Perhaps the Von Neumann could've survived it, but you knew nothing about the newly arrived forces. For all you knew, nothing stood in the way of their complete annihilation.
  458.  
  459. Until...
  460. "Stay back, everyone!"
  461. A roughed up, somewhat grimcrack spaceship suddenly rushed ahead, breaking formation. While all the cruisers around it retreated, this one was advancing at full speed. It wouldn't have been wrong to call it a gunboat, considering it had a large gun strapped right on top of it.
  462.  
  463. And the man leading it was none other than...
  464. "Lieutentant Kess!"
  465. "It's Admiral now, miss Carlotta. And my warning applies to you too. Fall back, this thing is no joke!"
  466.  
  467. Heeding his advice, you moved away, noticing that the white robot and the Mazin Emperor G had taken their duel elsewhere too.
  468. "Now! IDEON GUN, FIRE!"
  469. The Meganoid frigade unleashed a potent beam, which looked a lot like thundering whirlwind. It rapidly engulfed enemy fire, wrapped itself around it and redirected it towards the Kamin Terminus. The fortress shook and part of its dome cracked. Several units in the Gurren Armada were now in disarray or out of formation. Disaster had been averted.
  470.  
  471. "Carlotta, there's no time to lose! You have to take down the Cathedral Terra before it transforms!" the Admiral warned you. "Hurry! We'll be covering for you!"
  472.  
  473. The large, Black Ship was still falling back, trying to get into a comfortable position perhaps. There was no time to lose. Uttering some words of gratitude, you took your leave. Both fleets were just beginning to deploy, so there was a discrete chance for success.
  474.  
  475. Suddenly, a large missile grazed the imposing frame of the Von Neumann, exploding just past it. The recoil shook you up in the cockpit, but left no tangible damage on the robot. Fighting through the pain, you managed to execute an evasive maneuver and dodge the next one coming.
  476. Where were they coming from? Looking left and right, you could not spot their source.
  477.  
  478. Then, another one of your intuitions showed you the way. Hidden behind a field of small asteroids and debris was a large railgun tank, whose hull looked like a face to which a set of sturdy limbs had been attached. No doubt about it, it was a Gurren machine, and what was worse, its railgun was visibly charging. This was really aggravating for you. To be done in by a sniper's bullet!
  479.  
  480. The intercom was catching strange signals. Orders, battlecries, reports... and a singular shout. "PERFECT CANNON, FIRE!"
  481. Bracing for impact, all you could see was a blinding light spreading in all directions. The impact was coming. One second, two seconds, three seconds... any time now. But nothing happened. Lowering your robot's guard to take a look at the situation, you noticed that nothing in your surroundings had changed.
  482.  
  483. The sniper was still in its place, possibly looking for whatever had foiled their plans. The pilot didn't have to wait for long: a bizarre robot, vaguely describable as a train on legs, stood now between the two of you. A large, green gun was placed on its shoulder. With a glance, you were filled with the alien yet familiar understanding that it was a Wave Motion based weapon.
  484.  
  485. "Brave Express Great Mightgaine has arrived right on schedule!"
  486. It wasn't the pilot who made such an announcement. Rather, you felt that it was coming from the robot.
  487. "So the Storm Hero has come, huh? Here to seek out vengeance?"
  488. Another unknown voice. Perhaps the sniper.
  489.  
  490. "Revenge is a futile endeavour. But wherever there's somebody fighting for justice, the Brave Express Corps will stand with them!"
  491. "This is no justice, Maito Senpuuji. That girl will spell the end of this world!"
  492. "She's no longer an Anti-Spiral, Yoko Littner. You should know this better than anyone else. More importantly! It doesn't matter to us, Spiral or Anti-Spiral! So long as they have justice in their hearts, we'll stand with them."
  493.  
  494. "Now you're just spouting nonsense! If you hoped to be my opponent, tough luck. Mo-Shogun will be here anytime now."
  495. "I doubt it. Exkaiser has already intercepted him. We'll be facing you here. And you, young miss, go on ahead! Carry our hopes with you."
  496.  
  497. It was clear by now that the voice speaking belonged to the robot. It was unusual, but certainly not the weirdest thing you'd seen. Saluting your rescuer, you prepared to move away. In the skies above, battle was raging on. The Gurren forces were not moving an inch, holding their position with everything they had. But there were holes in their formation which could be exploited...
  498.  
  499. >Go for the shortest path, no matter how dangerous.
  500. >Take the long way around.
  501. >Attempt to strike a compromise, cutting out the most dangerous spots
  502. >Other [specify]
  503. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- you are here
  504.  
  505. [Missing chunk]
  506.  
  507. Soon, you noticed that someone -or something- was on your tail. A strange machine, sporting only one face on its chest, was giving chase, emitting supersonic waves in your direction, occasionally. Turning on your back, you attempted to return fire with your shoulder cannons, but the target seemed to be too mobile.
  508.  
  509. Salvation came in the form of a set of spinner knuckles, outmaneuvering and outpacing the pursuer before colliding into it. Only one woman was capable of such a feat: Saki Rukino, driving her fearsome Carmilla. Opening communications, you sent her a thank you message, sure that she'd receive it if she were nearby.
  510.  
  511. But that wasn't going to be the end of it. If one enemy ace had been taken care of, two more appeared. They seemed to be customized version of the standard Gurren robot, the so called 'Grapearl'. The one on your left was red and blue, with a single horn on top of its head. The other, on your right, was pink and green, with ear-like horns on either side of the head.
  512.  
  513. Persistent and incredibly skilled, they kept firing at you without endangering their allies even once. They were probably hardened veterans, no match for someone like you. And as if that were indeed the case, someone appeared to take care of the problem.
  514. "RISING ARROW!"
  515.  
  516. A volley of green, arrow-like energy projectiles was fired against the Gurren aces, forcing them to stop on their track. A red-torsoed Gundam, bow in hand, had stopped them. Another, blue-torsoed one appeared in front of the former. As if speaking in one voice, they issued their proclamation.
  517. "Gimmy and Darry of the Gurren Brigade! By the name of the King of Hearts, we're here to issue our challenge."
  518.  
  519. Assuming a martial pose, they introduced themselves.
  520. "Asia Kasshu!" was the pilot within the Blue Gundam
  521. "Kyoji Kasshu!" was the pilot within the Red Gundam
  522. "School of the Undefeated of the East! Behold, the East is burning red!"
  523.  
  524. "We have no time for this stupid game!" the man in the single-horned Grapearl retorted.
  525. "Exactly! Move out of the way," echoed the other pilot, a woman.
  526.  
  527. "Such arrogance! It's because of people like you exist that wars won't end!" Asia protested.
  528. "Carlotta! You go on ahead, we can handle this!" Kyoji urged you. "Our grandparents' machines... they were built for a moment like this!"
  529.  
  530. Having cleared some space for themselves, the two duos were about to clash. The Drapearls, with their disciplined salvos, were getting closer by the second. The Gundams, on the other hand, were standing as if in meditation. Once again, they spoke as one.
  531. "These hands of ours are glowing red! Their loud cry is telling us to stop you!"
  532.  
  533. Right. They were buying time for you, and you couldn't afford to stand by and watch. Echoes from their battle were still spreading through the cockpit.
  534. "RISING..."
  535. "GOD..."
  536.  
  537. More Drapearls were coming your way. Slicing through a couple of them, you made sure to avoid the cockpit.
  538. "SEKIHA! TENKYOKEN!"
  539.  
  540. Judging from the loud noise and by the bright light, the Gundams must had won their fight. The status of the enemy pilots was - unfortunately- unknown, but you had to proceed. The Kamin Terminus was right in front of you. What do to?
  541.  
  542. >Take a detour (this will cost time)
  543. >Go forward, no matter what
  544. >Ask for cover, take the shortest path.
  545. >Other [specify]
  546. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  547.  
  548. [missing chunk. If Detour is taken, nothing happens. Going forward activates Moonlight Butterfly (minor) and Shin Dragon fires. If ask for cover, Spirit of Yamato intervenes]
  549.  
  550. It seemed like the worst was now behind you. The Black Ship was in sight, as the Gurren Armada was forced to spread out its forces to combat the overwhelming enemy superiority. Taking aim with your cannons you considered firing a few preliminary shots.
  551. That was indeed the plan, but then an enormous, three-faced enemy robot appeared.
  552.  
  553. With each face covering one shoulder and protuding an arm from the mouth and a leg from the neck, the robot possessed a single head with yet one more face. It easily trumped the other opponents you had met so far in terms of sheer size.
  554. "You've come far, young one. But there's no escaping the Twinboekun!", two voices united as one proclaimed.
  555.  
  556. "Oh? We'll have to see about that!" a squeaky female voice protested.
  557. "Speaking too soon, aren't we?" another one joined her.
  558. "We'll show you the extent of our determination," the last one chimed in.
  559.  
  560. You didn't even need to turn around to recognize them. The Flip Flap trio had arrived, onboard their unlikely and sturdy mecha, the Great Pacoya. Were they, too, here to provide cover for you? Either way, they seemed ready to battle. Anchors attached the large machine to space itself, as the large shining panels spreaded behind its back.
  561.  
  562. "Carlotta, dodge this!" Cocona pleaded.
  563. "Where are we aiming?" Yayaka asked.
  564. "The head!" Papika replied.
  565.  
  566. It was clearly a strategy to avoid a direct hit, despite what it could have sounded like. Indeed, it seemed all Gurren machines, sometimes called 'Gunmen', had their main face on their chest. The head on the shoulder was thus likely just a sensor.
  567.  
  568. As for the Twinboekun, it didn't look like it'd take the hit lying down. It, too, was charging its beam weapon and aiming it at the massive block-like machine. The Von Neumann stood exactly in the middle, meaning you had to move if you didn't want to be caught in the crossfire. Yes, move away and continue towards your goal. That was your mission. But...
  569.  
  570. "Mayday, mayday! Our forces are being overrun!"
  571. It was a cry for help coming from the Joint Armada. In other words, allies in need.
  572.  
  573. >Rescue them (this will take time)
  574. >Ignore them
  575. >Conduct a strafing run on their position to help them a bit.
  576. >Other [specify]
  577. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  578.  
  579. [missing chunk. We have recieved info that people have been dispatched to support us: Dancouga Nova and Vilkiss.]
  580.  
  581. It was one thing after another. Two more Gunmen were waiting for you, right ahead. One of them resembled a dinosaur, the other a monkey. But reinforcements were indeed on their way, just as promised. Two large robots had arrived, one black, one white.
  582. Predictably enough, they both encouraged you to continue on your trip, and promised they'd cover for you.
  583.  
  584. It was disheartening. That was not the way you handled things. Back when the rest of the team was alive, you'd deal with large threats together. Leaving your new allies behind felt like betraying them, in a sense. But this was the nature of war: priority objectives must be dealt with, and the tasked forces must take care of them swiftly.
  585.  
  586. Those offering their lives to protect yours were no more than phantoms to you. Their names, their desires, their personality, their fears, their hopes, their dreams, their regrets. All things that qualified them as individuals, but that you'd never get to learn. Was it even humane to treat them as meatshields?
  587.  
  588. You couldn't help but smile sadly. So this was 'justice', in the end: to have nothing but questions, and to always be looking for an answer. As you advanced towards the Cathedral Terra, an answer had already formed in your mind. They were offering their lives out of their free will, not unlike you. You had no right to stop them. After all, they desired and end to this war just as well.
  589.  
  590. Saying 'thank you' wouldn't have been enough. It was time to demonstrate your gratitude with facts. As more cruisers started falling into position to block your path, you resolved to take care of those personally.
  591.  
  592. The Von Neumann's arms stretched far beyond their usual limit. They were limpingly hanging on the sides, like snakes waiting for a prey. Tossing them behind you to gain momentum, you unleashed them on their target.
  593. "Let's get those assholes out of here! DAISETSUZAN OROCHI!"
  594.  
  595. The elongated arms of your mecha twisted and coiled around the encroaching battleship, tossing them away with unexpected might. They all dispersed as a consequence, but they did not seem to have been harmed by any means. In other words, it was a complete success. Cheers and celebrations were coming from the Joint Armada. You had taken care of this issue on your own. You were proud of that.
  596.  
  597. Nothing stood between you and your targed now.
  598.  
  599. >SatCom, on! Prepare to fire!
  600. >Let's give them a taste of our blade!
  601. >Probe Blasters, activate!
  602. >Other [specify]
  603. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  604. [Missing chunk]
  605.  
  606. A few steps away. You were a few steps away, when the enemy trap sprung on you. Emerging from a dimensional fold, a frigate arrived to bar your way.
  607. "Feel for it hook, line and sinker!" Someone boasted from the enemy ship. "Dimensional Anchor, fire!"
  608.  
  609. Two large, drill-shaped tools bolted in your direction. A thin, bright green thread linked them to the boat, and as the drills circled around the Von Neumann, so too did the threads. Unconventional as it could have been, your opponent's plan had come to fruition. By using his anchors as restraints, it had incapacitated the mecha you piloted.
  610.  
  611. But that was not all. A constant barrage of fire was being unleashed on the Von Neumann by the crimson-red frigate, all the while the anchors swung it around. It was clear that the enemy was gaining momentum, hoping to toss it away and remove one of the most impellent threats to the Gurren Armada.
  612.  
  613. "I am disappointed in you, mister Dayakka. You have a wife and children, and yet that is how you treat a lady?"
  614. Harsh words of condemnation had come seemingly out of nowhere. Well, it was difficult to focus on the source of that reproach while your field of vision was spinning around madly, but even so, there was no doubt on who that voice belonged to.
  615.  
  616. "Roger! Dorothy!"
  617. "It's been a long time, Carlotta. Let's skip the formalities, at least for the time being. Captain, release that young woman at once!"
  618. "You guys have all gone mad!" the man called Dayakka retorted. "Why do you insist on saving the Anti-Spiral? Do you not understand this is an enemy of all creation?"
  619.  
  620. "I have seen her place the life of strangers before her own. No matter what, you can't convince me she's the enemy. But above all, what I cannot forgive is your rudeness. Big O, it's showtime"
  621. Another set of anchors was unleashed, this time coming from the large, black robot. They severed the dimensional anchors, causing you to lose control of the Von Neumann, as it spun madly. It was a small price to pay to avoid being thrown away, and thus it was a welcome development.
  622.  
  623. "Big O, final stage!"
  624. With the enemy firmly in his graps, Roger Smith deployed his machine's final weapon: a large cannon, capable of bringing about untold destruction. It was aimed at the ship's bridge, and it was ready to fire any second now.
  625.  
  626. "STOOOOOP!" you screamed at the top of your lungs. "If you open fire, you'll kill them! We can't keep repeating the mistakes of the past!"
  627. Dayakka had a family, mr. Smith said so himself. What good would have come of turning a wife into a widow and children into orphans?  The goal of this battle was to stop Simon, not to kill his subordinates. That, for you, had never been up for debate.
  628.  
  629. "Very well then, we can find a different arrangement," the negotiator convened. The Big O pulled its right arm backwards, charging its piston. Its anchors dragged the foe closer to its position, and when it was in range, it unleashed a powerful piston-powered punch. The hit displaced the frigate, but it didn't destroy it.
  630.  
  631. "Thank you, Roger. I am going ahead to put an end to this pointless war."
  632. "Good luck, miss Dubois. We'll be cheering for you."
  633. "Take care," the ever-emtionless Dorothy then added.
  634.  
  635. The first order of business was...
  636.  
  637. >Repair the Von Neumann (this will take time)
  638. >Charge at the Cathedral Terra before it's too late
  639. >Carry out only the most urgent repairs
  640. >Other [specify]
  641. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  642.  
  643. [Missing chunk: adapt in case the Super Galaxy Gurren Lagann has appeared]
  644.  
  645. Something gripped the Von Neumann's shoulder. A familiar face, Dix-Neuf.
  646. "What's wrong, Carlotta?"
  647. "That thing... it's too big. How am I supposed to...?"
  648. "Fool! Have you forgotten? Strength isn't the size of your body," Lal'c explained.
  649.  
  650. "Exactly! It's the power residing within your heart."
  651. Another girl spoke, from a much larger robot looming behind yours. It was large, grey, and its face resembled that of a cyclops, with a single eye. Compared to all other mechs you'd seen so far, this one looked like an antique.
  652.  
  653. "That is the original Gunbuster. Remember? We were able to meet thanks to you, Carlotta. Thanks to you, I could keep my promise. Let us repay our debt of gratitude. Let's teach the Gurren Brigade about hard work and guts!"
  654. "Carlotta, you know what to do!" the girl in the Gunbuster shouted.
  655.  
  656. Indeed, it was almost an instinctive response. Using the thrusters on the Von Neumann's legs, you propelled yourself upwards.
  657. "INAZUMA!"
  658.  
  659. The Dix-Neuf joined you a second later, slowed down by its size and by its outdated technology.
  660. "TRIPLE!"
  661.  
  662. Finally came the much larger Gunbuster, weirdly agile and responsive in spite of its look
  663. "KICK!"
  664.  
  665. A roaring whirlwind of pure kinetic force and electrictiy came down on the [Black Ship \ Super Galaxy Gurren Lagann], piercing it like a drill from side to side. It was a feat that defied logic, brought about by the sheer force of will of four girls and their robots. Almost like in a fable in which the knight slays the dragon.
  666.  
  667. But all fables come to an end. Out of nowhere, a massive hand grabbed you. [The dormant Gunman awoke \ The colossal Gunman was ready to counterattack.] And it did so with incredible violence, tossing you away as if you were a mere pebble. The G-forces were so overwhelming that you lost consciousness a few seconds later.
  668.  
  669. Opening your eyes, you found yourself stranded on foreign ground. Judging from the battle still ongoing, you had not traveled far. The Super Galaxy Gurren Lagann was preparing to wreak havoc on the Joint Armada, tangible evidence of your mission's failure. The Von Neumann, on the other hand, was perfectly responsive. It must've been repairing itself constantly.
  670.  
  671. Away from the chaos of the battlefield, you could hear a quiet voice beckoning. Logic suggested that the constant screaming coming from the intercom must have covered it. But now it was perfectly audible, and it reminded you that the moon you were standing on, PN5-3, was connected to the SatCom through microwaves. And its purpose was...!
  672.  
  673. >Locate the entrance to the SatCom Central System
  674. >Ask someone to locate the entrance to the SatCom Central System (This will take time)
  675. >Use all the Mirror Energy you have left to the entrance to the SatCom Central System
  676. >Other [Specify]
  677. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  678.  
  679. [Missing chunk]
  680.  
  681. Predictably enough, the System required a massive drill as an access key. That wasn't a problem, of course. The Von Neumann started changing shape to fit the mold. There was no way such a cheap security measure could've stopped you now.
  682. "MIRROR IMPACT!"
  683.  
  684. It worked, just as expected. The entire chamber started pulsating with a green light at first, and then with an azure one.
  685. "What the hell d'you think you're doing, stupid bitch?" Simon's voice chastised you. It was a mistery how it could reach you in such a faraway place, but then again, that man was unpredictable. "That artificial moon is just a fake. It's just a repository of Spiral Energy. It won't save you."
  686.  
  687. "Fake or not, so long as it's an instrument of justice it won't become useless!" you defiantly replied. PN5-3 was a receptacle of raw energy, in other words, an untapped well of potential. It was just like a caterpillar waiting to turn into a butterfly. And you would be the catalyst for that transformation!
  688.  
  689. A robot to challenge the Super Galaxy Gurren Lagann. A device to bring about a change, an instrument of freedom and justice. Its name was...
  690. "CHANGE! GETTER ARTEMIS!"
  691.  
  692. A knight clad in the purest of white, to contrast Simon's black robot. A moon-sized artifact capable of standing toe-to-toe with your mortal enemy. His desire to keep tabs on the enemy's nest would turn out to be his undoing.
  693.  
  694. It was difficult to get a clear view of the Getter you were now riding, considering that technically speaking it was the Von Neumann who was controlling it. It was a principle not the least bit dissimilar from how the Gunmen had a humanoid cockpit controlling them from within, but it certainly required some getting used to.
  695.  
  696. Around you, all the cruisers that had gathered for battle looked like flies. Mechas barely registered, be they friends or foes. Only one constituted an exception, standing in front of you with its arms folded over his stomach, ablaze with a palpable aura of anger.
  697.  
  698. "Why? Why do you insist on bringing about misfortune, you bastard?!?" Simon cried out, trying to punch the Getter Artemis.
  699. [Social Background] "That's my line!" you replied, intercepting his blow. "This universe is sick and tired of your tiranny! What it needs is the light of justice to shine upon it!"
  700.  
  701. "Justice this, justice that! What have I done to be dubbed a tyrant? When and how have I been unjust? You all have gone mad with power when you could get your hands on Spiral Energy. What you're witnessing is the inevitable outcome!"
  702. "What about you, then? Are you not abusing Spiral Energy right now, by consuming so much of it?"
  703.  
  704. The Getter and the Gurren Lagann became locked in combat, as if in a stalemate. Fist against fist, they were like two sumo fighters tryign to throw each other off the ring.
  705.  
  706. "This is an exception! I have to do it, if I want to save the universe!"
  707. "How comes you're the only one allowed exceptions, then?"
  708. "Isn't it obvious? Because they've demonstrated to be prone to greed and pettiness. It wasn't me who made the rules! They have disqualified themselves because of their own limitations!"
  709.  
  710. "No, that's YOUR limitations!" You retorted, breaking free for the Gurren Lagann's grasp and preparting to punch its face. "The limitations of a man who secluded himself from the world! The limitations of a man who couldn't understand other people's heart! You see Spiral Power only as a tool of destruction because that's the only way you can use it! That's YOUR limited perspective!"
  711. "Then what do you propose?" he asked, a hint of weariness in his voice.
  712.  
  713. >Let's stop the war! Let's look for a solution together!
  714. >Take your leave! Your presence is no longer welcome here!
  715. >You can never atone for what you've committed
  716. >Other [specify]
  717. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  718.  
  719. [Adapt]
  720.  
  721. "Heh. So that's your solution. What a worthless pile of crap. Only death can cure your stupidity!"
  722. A salvo of missiles launched from the black robot, enough to annihilate a planet. The Getter Artemis took most of them emerging unscathed, but it was more about the message than about the damage. Simon refused your point entirely.
  723.  
  724. [Social Background] "You have confused the means with the end! Without a solid criterium to support it, even moderation becomes tiranny! When people are made unable to tell the reason behind a prohibition, they are also made unable to tell fair government apart from despotism."
  725.  
  726. "And let me guess, that criterium is justice."
  727. "By learning from others' mistakes, we can grow as individuals. That's how a mirror works. And by learning from our own mistakes, we evolve as people. That's how a drill works. Justice is made of both of them! Without a synthesis between those two, we'll forever be stuck in the paradigms of the past!"
  728.  
  729. "Rubbish! Sweet talking that comes from a wolf in sheep's clothing. Stagnation and evolution cannot cohexist. They represent polar opposites!"
  730.  
  731. Another frontal assault, this time using the drills on his robot's shoulder as a battering ram. There was an impetus animating his soul that permeated in every single attack, as if the Gurren Lagann was merely an extension of his body - no, not his body, for every body has a limit. It was an extension of his will.
  732.  
  733. All of his words, all of his proclamations exuded charisma and conviction. He was a natural born leader, capable of exerting enough pressure to make all his opponents waver. It would have been a lie to say that you had not been shaken in the least bit. But...
  734.  
  735. "XXVIth Gespenst squadron reporting, I am the last man standing. Good hunting, Carlotta Dubois!"
  736. "This is it for me. Carlotta! Take what's left of my aura!"
  737. "To you, the last of my mana! Miss Dubois!"
  738.  
  739. Even if his words were enough to make you lose faith in yourself, those who had come here still believed in you. Their hopes as they died, and their dreams as they fought on. Both of them still lingered in the air, as a gentle breeze no one but you could perceive.
  740. The Getter Artemis produced another drill, capable of matching the black machine's. It refused to go down without a fight.
  741.  
  742. "My cursed heritage and the futile quest for revenge! I cast them aside, just as I cast aside the future you have decided for us. We will be the ones deciding the path we'll follow! The path that joins polar opposites, the path of synthesis! GETTER FLARE!"
  743. The coruscating wind engulfing the Artemis started whirling around it at a breakneck speed, causing the white mecha to shine like gold. It was time to put an end to this.
  744.  
  745. Your drill was winning the fight. It was time to push back, and then push back some more. As fast as you could. And as if responding to your desires, the mechanical knight acquired speed. Before you even had time to realize it, you found yourself screaming at the top of your lungs.
  746. "FLARE SPARK!"
  747.  
  748. By this point, your world had twisted into an endless wasteland of pure light. It was enough to burn one's retinas and probably melt off their face, too, but you couldn't help grinning madly. You had a vague perception of just how far everything was moving outside of the robot, but the strange feeling of ecstasy was numbing all sensations.
  749.  
  750. You passed out, and when you came to, it was indeed in a desert. The sun was mercilessly shining from up above, and below was only sand. Thirst was the only thing on your mind as you took step after step in that never-changing scenario. The only element that seemed to break the monotony of that place was a man lying on the floor, unconscious. He was wearing heavy clothes, too heavy for a desert-farer. Around his chest and legs were thick chains, too.
  751.  
  752. >Try to wake him up
  753. >Ignore him, walk on
  754. >Hit him too, for good measure
  755. >Other [specify]
  756. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  757.  
  758. [Missing chunk]
  759.  
  760. Now that he stood up, he easily towered over you. It really wasn't your fault that you couldn't recognize him immediately, but that voice was a dead giveaway. Assuming a fighting stance, he threw a few punches that you miraculously avoided.
  761. "Just because you're a woman, it doesn't mean I will hold back!"
  762.  
  763. "Good, I don't intend to hold back either."
  764. Knowledge of martial arts was flowing into you, perhaps a side-effect of the attunement to Mirror Energy. Rather than replicating Simon's style, it was endowing you with knowledge about Baji Quan, the technique used by Father Matheus while he was still alive.
  765.  
  766. Notably, whereas he was stronger and more muscular, the Eight-Extremities Fist was giving you a edge in terms of sudden painful strikes, which often caught him by surprise. A fight that would normally be unwinnable had turned into a tie that was almost imposssible to break.
  767.  
  768. Matching each other blow for blow, you let the fists do the talking. After all, there was no way to convince him with just words. It was time to show just how hard your resolve was. Still, he wasn't half bad. In a sense, this was almost enjoyable.
  769. "Good form, Simon."
  770. "Same to you, asshole."
  771.  
  772. His compliment wasn't as genuine, of course, but his grin was. He must've been enjoying this too. Perhaps there was something primal about hitting an opponent with one's own fists, something that figthing in a huge humanoid robot simply couldn't convey. Piloting removed the 'pilot' from the battle and turned foes into machines. It dehumanized conflict.
  773.  
  774. It was curious just how much philosophical speculation could fit into a fist fight. He spat a tooth. You probably broke a rib. The pain had long disappeared. All that was left was a desire to annihilate each other.
  775.  
  776. ===========================================================
  777.  
  778. Meanwhile, someone was looking from a distance.
  779. "Guys, what do you say? Should we stop them?"
  780. "Oh no, I am enjoying this. Tell you what, I kinda wanna join in"
  781. "Don't be like that. You know very well this is bigger than us."
  782.  
  783. "Yeah, well, fuck you dude. I wanna watch."
  784. "Would it kill you to be reasonable for once in your life?"
  785. "Holy fuck, look who's talking."
  786. "Guys, enough of that. Let's just stop them. This has been going on long enough."
  787.  
  788. "Gods have mercy, why was I stuck here with two killjoys? Alright, alright. Let's go.
  789. ===========================================================
  790.  
  791. A kick. A punch. An elbow drop. A headbutt. The duel continued, and with it, your descent into animals. Perhaps to cling on to his humanity, Simon had started talking.
  792. "You piece of shit! Like fuck I'll hand the universe to a being as twisted as you!"
  793. "I'm telling you, the Anti-Spiral is dead! I killed it!"
  794.  
  795. "You THINK you killed it! If it really had died, you would've died with it. Moron!"
  796. "Fuck you! How would you know that, were you even watching?"
  797. "Of course I was, dumbass. What did you think?"
  798. "So you watched ME fight YOUR enemy, and didn't even have the decency to intervene? I've had it with you!" Pulling your hand backwards, you prepared to put an end to this struggle. "Simon, let's see you grit those teeth! Become a man, BRIGHT SLAP!"
  799.  
  800. The impact of your open palm on his cheek was strong enough to turn his neck and push him backwards. Losing his balance, he fell on the ground. The first moment of respite in what felt like an eternity.
  801.  
  802. "Alright guys, you've gone far enough. Let's stop this now."
  803. The voice issuing this command belonged to one of three figures that were barely visible on the horizon. It wasn't familiar in the least bit.
  804.  
  805. >You want some of this too, huh?
  806. >Hey, he started it.
  807. >Not like I wanted this, truth be told.
  808. >Other [specify]
  809. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  810.  
  811. [Missing chunk]
  812.  
  813. "Both of you," the man with a red scarf said, pointing his index fingers, "are fucking idiots. Simon's right: had you killed the Anti-Spiral, you'd have died with it. And Carlotta's right too: you've done a shit job at being an example and a leader for many of the people your gang has recruited from many different universes. Else we wouldn't be here, would we?"
  814. "Wait, doesn't that make us both right?" Simon objected.
  815.  
  816. "Nah, it makes both of you retards," the guy with scars on his faces replied almost immediately
  817. "Yeah, you're retarded. At least the girl knows how to fight though."
  818. "Shut the fuck up, Benkei. No one asked for your opinion."
  819. "Fuck you too, Hayato."
  820.  
  821. The scene was... surreal to say the least. They seemed to be a team. Why were they squabbling? At least Simon seemed to be just as confused ad you were.
  822.  
  823. Holding their necks on a choke from behind, Ryoma resumed his speech.
  824. "Let's get to the point. This is the realm of the King Who Should Not Be. You've seen him in your dreams... haven't you, Carlotta?"
  825. "Nightmares would be a more fitting term to describe them."
  826. "Good. What you see here is one of the outcomes for this universe - one we have sealed away. Just like the Spiral Nemesis, there's nothing but devastation outside of this mech."
  827.  
  828. "Wait, mech? We're inside a mech?" you asked, perplexed.
  829. "We are. This mechanical disaster is quite content with the environment we have created for it, a scenario of endless war. Some other entities, though, tend to get a bit pesky.
  830. "Anti-Spiral," Simon commented, grimacing.
  831.  
  832. "Yeah well it's not like you ever think about anything else either way. I'd ask when was the last time you got laid, but I am not exactly in a position to judge. ANYWAY, here's the point. We found it. We found the creature's hiding hole. The Emperor did, to be precise, but let's not sweat the small stuff."
  833. "Then what are we waiting for?" the Gurren leader asked, barely restraining his anger. "Let's get there immediately."
  834.  
  835. "Woah there, buddy. You sure you wanna go? No matter what you do, she won't be coming back."
  836. "Stupid question."
  837. "And you, girl? The stakes are much higher for you."
  838.  
  839. Ignoring for a second the fact that he was effectively depriving his friends of oxygen in that very moment, he made a valid point. Killing it meant killing yourself. But...
  840. "I've made my choice. I'll stop the runaway trolley, no matter what it takes. Ryoma, Hayato, Benkei... bring us there."
  841.  
  842. Letting his friends go and turning his chokehold into a hug, Ryoma nodded and stuck two fingers in his mouth, whistling.
  843. A dark hole opened on the strip of land dividing you and Simon from the others, and two large mechanical red hands emerged. Grabbing a hold of the hole's extremities, they stretched it until the robot's head had enough space to emerge.
  844.  
  845. "Oi, Nono. Bring this lass and this lad to you-know-where. Koji will handle the rest."
  846. "Understood! But first..." the robot turned to you, and seemed to be smiling. "Thanks for helping my older sister. It meant the world to me."
  847. "Ah, huh... you're welcome?"
  848.  
  849. You would've loved to be a bit more polite, but there was no time for that. The hands grabbed you and Simon, dragging you into the hole. The robot had disappeared, and was nowhere to be seen. A beam of light ran you over, and suddenly you were back into the Getter Artemis. The Super Galaxy Gurren Lagann was right next to you, as the beam of light continued its path forward.
  850.  
  851. "Just... what is that?" Simon asked, confused.
  852. "I think... from the very start, he's been the one opening a path for us to follow."
  853.  
  854. "That's quite right!" someone responded enthusiastically. "And I'll continue doing just that. As for you guys... well, thanks for taking care of my younger brother. I know he can be a bit of a handful."
  855. "Ah, you can say that again," Viral replied, seemingly out of nowhere.
  856. "Huh? Guys? What... how...?"
  857. "Let's skip the explanations, Simon. Follow that guy for now!"
  858. "Thanks for the summary, Leeron. Let's go, Carlotta!"
  859. "I am on it!"
  860.  
  861. "Alright newbies, feast your eyes!" the lighting trail proudly proclaimed. "ZERO Mazinger is the light of possibility itself!"
  862. As moths drawn to a flame, both the white and the black robot were wrapped tightly by its glow and pulled close. For a second, the world accellerated to the speed of light. And then...
  863.  
  864. A sudden exit. A sudden surge of power. The Artemis and the Gurren Lagann had reached their final forms, replete with energy gifted by the Mazinger and the others.
  865. Emperor Artemis.
  866. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
  867. Both stood together, ready to face their destiny.
  868.  
  869. The entity that had dragged you here against your will was lurking in the darkness of that pocket dimension. A shade in the shadow. And yet, it was perfectly recognizable.
  870. "Carlotta, let's see you use the good ol' you-know-what."
  871. "I intended to do so even without being told to."
  872.  
  873. Imitating Joan's final moments, you raised your arm over your head.
  874. "GIGA DRILL..."
  875. "GIGA DRILL...
  876. "... MIRROR BREAKER!"
  877. "... BREAKER!"
  878.  
  879. Two enormous drills were now charging head-first against what was left of the Anti-Spiral. The purple one was slowly but surely gaining speed over the green one, and as it surpassed it, it started unfolding it and weaving itself together with the loose strains.
  880. "What's the big idea, Carlotta? Stealing my thunder?"
  881.  
  882. Only one large drill remained, shining with an azure light. The drill you were driving forward.
  883. "My apologies, Simon. But this is my responsibility. I will see it to the end."
  884. A double helix in which past and future met to empower the present. That was the weapon you were driving - no, the weapon you had turned into. Several appendages and tentacles sprouting from the frightened Anti-Spiral flew in your direction, trying to stop you, but to no avail. Giving a last glance to the crimson red mecha you were leaving behind, you spoke some parting words.
  885. "Sorry, man. I'll be taking your wedding ring with me."
  886.  
  887. All that remained after the impact was an engine pulsating with glowing blue energy.
  888. No one responded. No farewell came.
  889. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  890.  
  891. EPILOGUE
  892.  
  893. The faint scent of flowers and spring. The first thing you smelled before reaching that hellish dimension - that parallel universe. It had returned, and it was stronger than ever. Was that the smell that the afterlife had? It was rather peaceful, if not for the distinct sensation that someone was looking at you.
  894.  
  895. A flood of emotions came running through you. Was that... it? Were you dead? Opening your eyes, what you noticed instead was an endless field of green, with a girl sitting not too far from where you stood. Her hair was fluffy and platinum blonde, but what really made her stand out were the flower-shaped pupils covering part of her blue eyes.
  896.  
  897. "Ah, you finally woke up, Carlotta. We were getting impatient."
  898. "Huh? Impatient? 'We'?"
  899. Two strong arms wrapped around you from behind, hugging you tightly.
  900.  
  901. "Dindrane! Finally we meet!"
  902. It was the voice of a tall young man, wearing something that looked a bit like a piloting suit. In sheer contrast, the girl was dressed in frilly clothes. "Ah, I suppose your name is Carlotta now. Well, I liked the name I chose for you. But I suppose Carlotta suits you better."
  903.  
  904. Turning around, you got a good look at him. It was almost like looking in a mirror. He was older, of course, and he had a neatly trimmed beard. How was that even possible you could not tell, and you did not care. You reciprocated the hug, trying to hold back your tears. "Brother... I..."
  905.  
  906. His hand gently patted your head. He had never stopped caring about you. Even now, he was trying to reassure you.
  907. "It's fine. It'll all be fine. You have the ring, don't you?"
  908.  
  909. Taking a few steps back you handed it to him. The girl came closer too, to take a look at it.
  910. "Ah... my wedding ring, you brought it back safely. Thank you, Carlotta!"
  911. "Wedding ring? So... Simon is...?"
  912. She nodded, with a smile that concealed her sadness. "He's a good man, isn't he?"
  913.  
  914. "Well... more or less," You and Perceval answered in unison.
  915. "Listen here, Dind... ahem, Carlotta. This was all part of the plan! The gem on this ring can absorb Spiral Energy, and you have enough to take us out of here!"
  916. "Sounds like good news. But where exactly is 'here'?"
  917.  
  918. "We're still within the Anti-Spiral's pocket dimension. That thing... it represents the human desire to use a mirror for the sake of complacency, and not for the sake of self-improvement. It revels in its stagnation, mocking those who dare challenge its paradigm. That's how a mirror can become the source of despair. And that's why it can never be fully defeated. But don't worry: weakened as it is, it fell prey to its own Mirror Energy. We have placed our mirror against the one it wields, creating an endless labyrinth of reflections. He won't get out of here easily."
  919.  
  920. "Wait.. Deucalion said that the Anti-Spiral cannot fully control Irregulars."
  921. "That's only partially true. You guys are harder to control, but by no mean impossible. Isn't it so, Nia?"
  922. "Yeah. I am an Irregular too. It helps, but by itself, it's not enough."
  923. So the girl's name was Nia. You felt kind of bad for never introducing yourself, but the news you had been given held a bit of an higher priority at the moment.
  924.  
  925. Perceval must had noticed that the mood was getting sour, so he quickly changed the subject. Social skills were a family thing, apparently.
  926. "But now! With our barrier, the Anti-Spiral will bother no one else, in no other dimension. And thanks to Nia's ring and your clever use of Spiral Energy, we can go home. Nia, do you mind?" he asked. The girl shook her head, and he proceeded to separate the gem from the circlet, planting the former on the ground and giving the latter to you. He took a few steps back, and then a green barrier enveloped you.
  927.  
  928. "That's good, brother, it looks like it's working. Brother?"
  929. Nia and him were looking at you from a distance, with a sad smile on their faces. "Brother, what's the meaning of this?"
  930. "I am sorry, Dindrane. I mean, Carlotta. I lied to you."
  931. "I don't understand. Aren't we going home? You know, a very nice family has taken me in. I am sure they'll be happy to have you too! And Nia as well! And then we can be together... like a real family..."
  932.  
  933. "Isn't it nice, Perceval? I always wanted a younger sister. A bit like Carlotta," Nia replied.
  934. "Yeah. It's a nice dream. Carlotta, I... we can't come with you. If we did, the barrier we've erected to trap the Anti-Spiral would crumble. At least one of us has to stay behind. I insisted, I wanted Nia to go with you, but... she never accepted."
  935. "And how could I? Perceval is the one who should've come with you. But he's a big dork and never listens!" she complained, pouting.
  936. "Oh don't be fooled by her sweet appearance, she's constantly teasing me. But... this place is a prison. And solitude would be a prison within that prison. That's why I can't leave her alone. The Anti-Spiral menace is no more. Live happily, Carlotta."
  937.  
  938. The man spoke those words as if it were someone else's business. As if the freedom he had gifted upon the multiverse was something trivial. With his sacrifice, people would now be at peace. His words contained such hopes. But this didn't change the crux of the matter.
  939.  
  940. There was no salvation available for that knight.  
  941.  
  942. As the green barrier narrowed around you, the garden receded. Nothing could stop that process. Nothing could stop your tears. Until the very last second, you called out his name. When even the last shred of light disappeared, you were left crying in the darkness.
  943. Slowly but surely, you recognized where you were: in your bed, with no light filtering from the windows. it was a rainy day, just like the day in which you had disappeared.
  944.  
  945. Was that all a dream? No, the silver ring in your hands was proof of what you had been through.
  946. Responsibility. Faith. Courage. Love. Justice. All the teachings you were given, all the teachings you would not forget. And the last wish of a certain brother of yours, which you would see fulfilled no matter what.
  947.  
  948. 'Live Happily.'
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