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/qst/ - Quests

Archive: http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=SRW%20Quest
The events so far: Carlotta Dubois, a regular girl, is transported to a universe ravaged by the fires of war. This is the last act in her adventure.

NOTE: there will be no prologue for this session.

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:

"Simon the Black is coming for us".

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.
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.

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.

In that moment, the door opened. The professor was staring at you behind his shaded glasses, an undecipherable expression on his face.

>About professor Isomäki, I...
>I wanna go home
>My brother. You haven't told me about him yet.
>Other [Specify]
>My brother. You haven't told me about him yet.
>>My brother. You haven't told me about him yet.
>I wanna go home
It was a greeting deprived of any feeling. Merely an attestation that the man in front of you was indeed alive.
"Carlotta. What is it?"
"My brother. The Anti-Spiral is dead. It's time for you to tell me the truth."

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.

This time, his speech began as soon as the two of you reached the lower floor.
"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.

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.

"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."

"Why did you kill her?"
This question was, in all honesty, long overdue. He had dodged it once. He could not dodge it again.
"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."

"So she didn't become the Anti-Spiral. She was always one."
"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."
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!'

"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."

>This is bullshit. I am nothing like her!
>Where is he now?
>And you granted her wishes, without asking a single question.
>Other [specify]
>>Where is he now?
Rolled 2 (1d2)

>>3644940 (1)
>>3644975 (2)
Let's break this tie
"I see what you're getting at. But where is he, now?"
"A good question, shame I don't have a good answer. I can, however, tell you about everything else. From the beginning, that is."
"Then let's begin," you urged him. He smirked, then resumed his explanation.

"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?"

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.

"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."

"How did you manage to fool the military, though?"
"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."

"Wait a second. Why are you speaking of 'robots'? Is there more than one?"
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."

"And you simply let her be?"
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.

"Of course not. 'Letting her be' is tantamount to ignoring her, but I helped her with all of my being."
"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..."

>What happened to the base, then?
>What happened to my brother, then?
>What happened to you, then?
>Other [specify]
>Cool story.
>What happened to my brother, then?
"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?"
"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."

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.

"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?"

He scratched his patchy, salt-and-pepper hair. He was getting there, to those events whose memory must've been painful for him.

"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."

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.

"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..."

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.

"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."

"What was his name?"
"You've named Simon the Black more than once. But what was his name? My brother's name. Not once did you mention it."

"Don't you dare."
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.
"Don't you dare call him by his name. You don't have any right to."

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.

>Do I not have a right to know?
>You're quicker to anger than I thought, professor Isomäki
>Then you say it!
>Other [specify]
>>Do I not have a right to know?
>>Do I not have a right to know?
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.

"Do I not have the right to know?" you asked, in equal parts sad and angry.
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.

"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."

[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.

"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!"

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,

"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.

"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."
"Then what did?"
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.

"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?"

>Of course I would
>That probably depends on the people tied to the tracks
>It feels like both options are hateful
>Other [specify]
>Blow up the trolley with the unknown amount of passengers on board. Better saving what's certain than preserving the uncertain.
>Of course I would
>Of course I would
It felt a bit too easy to be true. A trick question, perhaps?
"Uh, I'd go for saving the three, yeah, definitely. So I'd pull the lever"
"In any case?"
"I guess."

"What if the single person on the tracks was a baby, and the three people were criminals? Would your judgement change then?"
"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."

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.

"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?"

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."
"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."

"Regardless of how much sense it makes, that is nevertheless just sophistry. At one point Perceval must've reached his conclusion. What was it?"
"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."

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.

"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.

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.
"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!"

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.

"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."

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?

>Mari said that he might still be out there. Is that possible?
>I will keep my promise and the defend the base. I am a knight too.
>Those who slew my brother... they're coming, are they not?
>Other [specify]
>I will keep my promise and the defend the base. I am a knight too.
>Mari said that he might still be out there. Is that possible?
Rolled 2 (1d2)

>>3648979 (1)
>>3650779 (2)

My favorite sport.

"Is it true?"
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.

"It could be. We don't know that for certain. Does it matter, really?" she asked, her thoughts clearly elsewhere.
"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."
"What?" she asked with a contemptuous laugh. "Are you implying you'll go fetch him?"
"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."

[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?

"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."

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.

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?

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.

It was up to you and to you alone to decide the next course of action. And your decision was obvious.

"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."
"The Gurren Brigade has raised its banners. An army is rallying not too far from here," the bespectacled man pointed out.
"We'll take them head on."
"Simon the Black himself is rumored to return from its voluntary exile in the Space between Spaces."
"I'll smack some sense into him."

He nodded in approval, donning his sunglasses once again.
"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?"
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.

"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?"

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?"

>On that topic, what happened to the Von Neumann?
>Do we have any allies left?
>What can I do to prepare for the upcoming battle?
>Other [specify]
>>Do we have any allies left?
>Do we have any allies left?
"Ah, one last question. Do we have any allies left? Anyone we can call upon? Anybody would do, at this point."
It wasn't a consideration you were making half-heartedly. Soldiers and equipment are necessary to win a battle, currently the base lacked both.

"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.
"An ace...?"

"Follow us," he replied, heading out. "It's time to show you what these corridors really conceal."
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.

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.

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.

"What... is that?"
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.

"Isn't it obvious? It's the Von Neumann," Deucalion replied. "The real one, at least."
"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.

"In other words... this is the machine meant for me?"
"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."

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.

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.

"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?"
The scientists grinned. Bullseye. It wouldn't take rocket science to figure out who came up with the name, either.

"Can it be ready before the enemy arrives?"
Realistically speaking, that was the first question you should've asked. Perhaps the awe took some of your usual level-headedness away.
"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."

>How can they be so fast?
>I'll work on it too, if it's necessary.
>Shouldn't we evacuate the civilians?
>Other [specify]
>>Shouldn't we evacuate the civilians?
>I'll work on it too, if it's necessary.
>I'll work on it too if it's necessary.
"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."
"I am sure they'll be glad to hear that," Deucalion continued. "We'll be scraping the barrel real soon."
"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.

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.

"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.
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.

The bespectacled man adjusted his glasses, and then continued.
"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."
"You're telling me we must look out for both the base AND the moon?"
The scientists looked away, perhaps lacking the heart to admit to it.

But that wasn't enough to stop you. If the enemy had power overwhelming, all you needed was simply more power.
"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!"

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.

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'.

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.
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.

"Carlotta, the base is on Orange Alert! To the meeting room, immediately!"

>Are we already under attack?
>No time for that! Let's launch the Von Neumann!
>Very well, lead the way
>Other [specify]
>Very well, lead the way
>Very well, lead the way
The day had finally come. This was no drill. This was the real thing.
"Alright then, lead the way," you replied, steeling your resolve and preparing to face what was to come.
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.

"Enemy units have broken past the line of the Galactic Horizon. Their number seems small, probably a vanguard group?"
The staff member relaying this information looked positively agitated. Prof. Isomäki asked the following question with almost supernatural speed.

"Do we have data on the unidentified enemy warmachines?"
"They'll be on the monitor in a second!"

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.

"By the gods, S-King Kittan class mechs! The Gurren Brigade has arrived!"
Deucalion rammed a fist against the table. "Yellowheadds! Viral is hoping to wipe us out before we can organize our resistance!"
"Professor, what do we do?"

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.
"Carlotta, prepare to launch. The Geschtam Catapult has been readied for..."
"Wait, more signatures detected! Did they just get reinforcements? Monitoring team, what the fuck are you guys doing!"

"We're on it!" a panicked voice replied. "Units do not match anything we have in archive!"
"Independentists, then"

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.
"That's the Black Getter! Miroku has returned!"

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.
"Confidence intervals analysis seems to confirm the presence of Get machines. HPD analysis... has brought the same results."

This was good news. Excellent, in fact. People looked more optimistic, but you still had a job to do.
"Getter or not, we cannot leave them alone. Professor, give the scramble order. I am ready to leave anytime."
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.

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.

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!

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.

>Save the Getter, even if it means killing the King Kittan's pilot
>Try to save both.
>Prioritize saving the King Kittan's pilot
>Other [specify]
>Try to save both.
>>Try to save both.
Saving both pilots was the plan, but to execute it, you needed nothing short of perfect timing and reflexes.
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.

Reaching for the usual spot, you called out its name. "FRACTAL BLADE - SOL KLINGE!"
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.

"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.

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.

And indeed, the more the Getter forces pushed, the more the strange, banana-shaped robots withdrew.
"Come on, soldiers! Let's give those heretics a beating!" Miroku was shouting, trying to rally her forces.
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.

"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."
"Sheesh... fine, alright. I'll tell my men to avoid the cockpits, sounds good?"
"Thanks, I'll leave that to you!"

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.

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'.
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.

Getter units were scattering, and Miroku was trying to organize their movement. It was necessary to fall back in order.
"Shin Dragon, are you sleeping? We need cover fire! The Kamin Terminus will... ah, here it comes!"
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..

"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!"
If her words were to be trusted -and you had no reason not to- the enemy held overwhelming advantage.

"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!"

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.

>A fair trial? Like the one you've given to my brother?
>There are no rebels here! Only people who will not lower their head again!
>This is a misunderstanding! There are no Anti-Spirals here!
>Other [specify]
>This is a misunderstanding! There are no Anti-Spirals here!
>This is a misunderstanding! There are no Anti-Spirals here!
>This is a misunderstanding! There are no Anti-Spirals here!
"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!"
A long silence ensued. It was suddenly broken by the Kamin Terminus.

"There will be no further warnings. All of you, stand down!" Rossiu repeated, irated. All traces of uncertainty had disappeared from his voice.

"Miroku, take your men and disperse. This is not something you guys can handle. It's my problem, and I ought to resolve it."
"Don't be stupid!" she replied, angered. "Everyone here would gladly lie their life down for you."
"Because they think I am the Messiah?"
"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."

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.

Only one soldier, whose name you did not even know, dared speak.
"The Black Ship is here! Simon the Black has returned!"
"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?"

"Deucalion, status update!" you frantically requested, the unexplicable sensation of panic spreading.
"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..."

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.

"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!"
"My name's not Anti-Spiral! I am Carlotta Dubois, and I am a knight!"
"Silence! Your petty tricks won't work with me!"

The large battleship broke formation and headed straight for you. It sprouted a drill from its prow and came charging.
"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!"

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.
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.
"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.


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.

"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."

It was a heavy accusation, but nothing you couldn't back up with facts.
"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!"

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...
"I will definitely win! Because I am not alone!"
"Precisely so, young miss!" a familiar voice echoed through the cockpit

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.
"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'"

There was unrest among the enemies, too.
"That voice... Lelouch Lamperouge"
"Oh, Prime Minister Adai. Such an honor to have you here. Afranchi sends his regards too."

"This is Imperial Commander Viral! All of you scumbags, what the fuck are you doing?" another voice protested.
"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."
"Oh, fucking great! As if we hadn't had enough traitors."
"Commander Viral?"
"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'"

And so the Meganoids, too, were coming to the rescue.
"I don't care for their bullshit!" the same angry voice responded. "Put me through any other admiral. Sanada was always a retard anyway."
"I can't, sir."
"What do you mean, you can't?"
"They've all switched to Independentist encrypting. We're in the dark."
"Ah, fuck! Kill this line! Kill it right now!"

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.
"So, Simon, let me ask you a simple question: just who the hell do you think we are?"
(The thread will autosage soon. Next thread will start with a... mid-logue? Excursus? Either way, look forward to it)

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