The settings and characters of Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann are copyrighted to Gainax.
This could only be the final loss.
The interior of the ruined Teppelin was cold and endlessly dark, lacking the usual hum of machinery and working parts that usually characterized it. Perhaps some of the other beastmen had survived its collapse, but no sound of their efforts to escape the fallen hulk reached Viral's ears through the rubble surrounding him.
He had managed to climb out of Enkidu's crushed body somehow while Teppelin was still falling, in some anonymous upper corridor as it twisted and shuddered itself apart, but there was nowhere to run to. There had been a tremendous, groaning boom that echoed through the whole structure when it hit the ground, and the ceiling had given out, trapping him against his ganmen. Whether his eyes were open or shut, all he could see was the dark. Futile… it's all completely futile.
What had been the purpose of it all? His loyalty, his ambitions, his reasons for existing… all were gone, defeated at last with the Spiral King. Perhaps he should have died, crushed when Enkidu was… but it seemed that he was incapable of even that, now. Every scratch he'd received had healed within seconds, leaving him unmarked and trapped to consider the endless future stretching before him.
Undoubtedly the humans were celebrating their victory by now. All of the systems that had been powered by Lord Genome's will would break down with his defeat; the war for the surface had ended. No matter how many other beastman had survived, within a few more generations there would be no more; they were incapable of perpetuating their own species. Humans would rule.
A swarm of monkeys, eh… Once, that idea would have infuriated Viral. But now, he wasn't sure what to think of it. If everything he had been taught, his entire life up to this past month, had been a lie… what came next?
He was going to have to extricate himself somehow—but he was not strong enough on his own to shift the wreckage that lay between him and the outside. Even if he were, though, he would not feel right about leaving his Ganmen behind… Viral braced his arms against the broken Enkidu's side and managed to push himself up onto his hands and knees, plates of the collapsed ceiling sliding off his back along with a sifting of dust.
The cockpit had been broken open by the Gurren-Lagann's drill earlier, and he slowly crawled around to that opening, dropping inside with a grunt—Enkidu had landed on its back, and he had to work against gravity to get back into the proper position for piloting. The grips were cold.
Let's see if you still work, Enkidu…
Gears ground together somewhere deep inside the Ganmen's body, and he held his breath, nearly shouting in frustration when the noise and feeling of energy stopped again. Forcing himself to remain calm, he closed his eyes and tried again. Come on…
This time the gears caught—one ruined arm strained against the debris pinning it down, whirring with the effort. Viral gritted his teeth and pushed forwards—slowly, the Ganmen began to sit up, dislodging the ceiling above it.
A piece of that rubble fell through the hole he'd used to climb in, hitting Viral on the side of the head and causing stars to flash past his vision—but of course, the new body he'd been given made the pain vanish entirely within seconds, and his concentration did not waver. Mouth shut in a thin line, he pushed aside more of the rubble, Enkidu's broken limbs screeching with the effort. You just have to last long enough to get out… I can try to make repairs later.
He'd never been the one directly in charge of fixing his own Ganmen before—but he would be on his own from now on. Whatever other beastmen had survived, chances were they wouldn't want to associate with him by now—and he could say the same for himself, really He'd learned too much, changed too completely to ever fit in with his own kind again.
"We'll see how much of a hash I make of the repairs by myself," he said to Enkidu, and then laughed harshly at the sound of his own voice muffled in the darkness. Already talking to myself, eh…?
It took a good few hours to free himself of the rubble and find a way out of the destroyed Capitol—the sky overhead was pitch black by then, the stars glowing sharply down around the gaping white disk of the moon. Enkidu's engines were a consistent, halting whine in his ears, and he allowed it to power down once he had emerged into the night air, climbing back out of the Ganmen to look out at his surroundings.
He was standing atop of the destroyed Capitol. The air was cold up here, the metal of Teppelin's skin smooth and equally chilled beneath his feet, and beyond the sprawling mass of death beneath him the familiar barren landscape stretched out to the horizon, marked with crevasses and craters as he had known it every day of his life.
…And yet, he never truly had. If humans were truly meant to be the rulers of the planet's surface… what had he devoted his being towards protecting, for all those years?
Damn it…He gritted his teeth, glaring at the dark patch some distance away on the surface which was dotted with the small lights of fires, marking the humans' encampment. Of course they were celebrating; it was their victory, was it not? There was nothing left of the Spiral King, his armies, or his cause; nothing left for Viral to fight for.
The thought made him catch his breath, still looking over at the humans' camp in the distance.
…I am free now, am I not? The Spiral King is dead. The four generals are no more… there is no one to keep me in check now, but myself.
No orders to follow. It was a strange feeling, when he had spent his entire life being expected to do the bidding of someone else—his every action had been dictated for him, whether directly or indirectly. Now, though, there was no one left but the enemy…and they probably—and rightfully—had put him out of their minds for the moment.
I can choose my own cause. A purpose that he could believe in, now, was all that he truly, keenly felt the lack of—but that was something he had been missing ever since the Spiral King had informed him of the true nature of humans and beastmen, after all. No, he had been missing a cause since long before this defeat.
The wind blew dust across the smooth curve of Teppelin's main body, trails of it splitting and blowing past Viral's ankles as he watched the stars flicker above the distant mountains. Free…
Ahaha I'm an awful person for doing this when Winter hasn't been updated in months and is still ongoing… but I couldn't help myself. Viral's change of attitude between the pre- and post-timeskip scenes is too drastic for my imagination to leave it alone, even though the show does throw out enough clues that I think I understand the gist of the change.
So here's an experimental prologue. I may continue it or I may not, depending on whether I get another inspiration… time will tell. It may stand well enough as a one-shot to leave alone.
As a side note, Word seems to want to change 'Enkidu' into 'Enid', which is hilarious but would somewhat ruin the tone of the story. Although I can see the seed of a cracked picture in there somewhere… (Catsharkman and his epic mount…. Enid. The fans go wild!)