A.N.: Finally back my readers! I hope this chapter can help to make up for it! Beta'ed by 1 over 0.
The wastes were empty; in fact, they were known for it. For miles on end there would be nothing but yellow sand, blue sky, and the white-hot sun overhead. There weren't even any dunes, due to a lack of proper wind.
For this reason the sudden appearance of a sky-scraping steel spire was even more shocking in its appearance. Within its trunk labored many beastmen; and within the sprawling caverns that were its roots labored many more. Their mission, as decided by the upper echelons and approved by what Generals remained, was as follows:
To erase the memory of their loss at Beauty Village, totally and completely, no matter what the cost. And they would wash it out with blood.
"Pack up everything, and pack it fast!" growled a high-ranked wolverine beastman over the P.A. system. "Cytomander's transports will be here soon and they won't be waiting up for some slowpoke sloths! And remember your coats, sissies, because it's going to be cold enough to freeze hell where we're going!"
Viral grunted upon hearing the commander's voice. For some reason the Capital had not declared him as Thymilph's temporary substitute. Never mind that he had been Thymilph's right-hand man for years; it was a violation of the general's dying wish. But, like the good soldier he was, he accepted the Capital's decisions…no matter how much he wanted to protest.
Tsuuma looked up subconsciously as the announcement repeated. "Jeez, what a blowhard," she commented. She looked down and scowled at her partner. "And you. What a pushover."
She waited for the comeback. None came. She tilted her head.
"Viral? He-ey, Viral?" She put down the box of spare parts she was carrying, laying it in front of the kneeling Enki, and strolled over nonchalantly. She waved a hand in his face. "Command to Viral, we require a report?"
He started. "What?"
"You're a bit more airheaded than usual today." She frowned at him. "Goodness, I think your intelligence may have dropped a bit. Congratulations on the achievement."
"Knock it off, Tsuuma," he retorted, but only half his heart was in it. "I'm just anxious."
"The Mighty Viral getting anxious for a battle?" She gave her trademark laugh, as mocking as it was amused. "Now I've seen everything."
Viral gave her a look. His expression seemed to imply that he wanted to say something; but he crossed his arms and looked away. Tsuuma shrugged and turned back to her work.
"Now, pay attention," she said, crouching and sticking her head inside an opening in Enkidu's armor. "I've fixed up pretty much everything but it's a bit of a patch job. There's a couple of things you should look out for. First, the left arm, the elbow's a bit…"
Viral tried his best to pay attention to what she was saying. He really did. But despite his intense soldier's conditioning, he found his eyes straying to the curve of her butt, the curves of her waist, the way her hair fell around her neck…
"Viral!" The spanner hit him square on the nose. "The hell's wrong with you?"
"What?" He rubbed his nose, dreading the bruise that would inevitably result from it. At the same time he cursed his inability to pay attention; Tsuuma was right, what was wrong with him? It wasn't just his focus but his heart as well; he definitely felt it flutter once or twice. Maybe he should go the medical wing to take a look at it…
"The idiot says 'What'."
This time she personally smacked him upside the head.
"If you act like this on the battlefield you're toast!" She tapped him on the nose to get his attention. "Seriously, what's up with you today? Anyway, Upstairs is tired of losing ganmen, so some bright bulb decided we should at least make our losses count. If you get damaged beyond a certain point, your ganman will explode. Got it?"
"What?!" said Viral for the third time, this time in considerably astonishment.
"Again with the what! But at least you're listening now." She sighed. "Yes. The last system update contained a hidden routine set to detonate all unused munitions, and if that weren't enough, I found out the new computer set we were generously donated had a bomb in it!" She growled. "Both of them were pretty deeply rooted too. I managed to defuse the bomb but I had to re-load the operating system from a backup I made years ago. But that's like twenty versions behind so I had to bring it up to date with two years of features, by hand." She pointed a finger at him. "And I did all of this against direct orders, which means if anyone finds out, I will die. So don't. Screw. Up. All right?"
"Yes ma'am," he replied, with a scowl. But for some reason he felt encouraged, deep inside.
"Attention!" blared the loudspeakers. Commander and mechanic both glanced upwards. "Transports will be arriving in ten minutes. Prepare for loading!"
"Ten minutes?" Tsuuma scowled. "A bit hasty, aren't they? Meh, I'll finish tuning her up just fine, but I won't be able to install the cloaking device."
"I won't need it," said Viral. His confident grin returned. "I know I'll beat that red bastard this time, with the new weapon!"
"Wasn't that what you said last time?" Tsuuma turned back to Enki. "I'll just finish up here, and then it's back to the rearguard for me. Damn comms duty, so boring."
"Poor you," he replied. "If you don't mind I have just a few more things to get together before…hm?"
Cinoshisa passed by them at that moment. The commander adjusted his mask slightly as he went by, invoking strange, ominous feelings in the soldiers present. Followed by an almost tangible dome of silence, the temporary commander of Adiane's forces continued on, heading towards the newly-christened Namtaru Mk. II. What modifications it had undergone to deserve the new title, only the masked person knew.
Tsuuma sneered. "Man, what a creep. How'd he get a promotion when you didn't?"
"I'm just a soldier, Tsuuma," Viral said with a shrug. "I guess I'm not fit for a leadership role."
"You have no ambition."
"I have ambition! I will defeat Gurren Solvernia!"
"Simple goals for simple minds," she commented, clicking her tongue in disdain. "And then what?"
"Ah, that's easy, our duty to the King-"
She tapped his forehead, interrupting him mid-sentence. "Booooring. Just like a beastman."
She strolled off again with a huff, presumably to hunt for more spare parts. Viral remained behind, rubbing his forehead. "Was it something I said?"
Cradled within their new transport, Dai-Gurren left Beauty Village behind like a pleasant memory. They trekked northward, first crossing a wide, shifting savanna, and then they found themselves abruptly returned to the familiar landscape of dirt, rocks, and more dirt that they had come to expect from the world's wastelands.
For the most part, there were few incidents. Most wandering ganmen (sensibly) ran from the Dai-Zilla on sight; what skirmishes they had were with smaller battleships, but even these were no match for the metallic behemoth. They liberated a few villages, scaring most of them at first. But the villages quickly learned the advantage of having the King of Ganmen at their side and some of them joined its crew. Even this far out there were still those who wished to fight for their homes.
Dai-Zilla had ample quarters to spare, though they were filling up fast. It was impressive how their group had grown; at first there had been just one loudmouthed man, his humble sister and a smart-mouthed sniper. Now they were at almost a hundred members.
The recruits were quickly equipped using the Dai-Zilla's production facilities, which had somehow become even more impressive during the merge. The automated factories could create just about anything, taking scrap metal or plastic and melting it, shaping it, and cutting it to the desired shape. Things ranging from ganman parts to kitchen utensils were pumped out by the dozen with ease, and with the way they destroyed their opponents, they never ran out of spare materials.
Dai-Zilla truly was a wonderful mecha. Some said that there was no more powerful battleship on the face of the earth. And in a way, they were right.
"Hm…good one, Visay. But, uh. There's still room for improvement." Yoko patted him on the back. "All right. Give it another go."
She and three recruits were down in the shooting gallery, located to Dai-Zilla's rear. There were seven rows for seven shooters to practice at once; the standing targets weren't much of a challenge for her, but it was better practice than nothing, and they were just fine for beginners.
Her companions were from a village roughly forty kilometers north of Beauty Village. Their names were Visay, Chin and Keovin, of Vian Village. Visay was the tallest, with short black hair with bangs and one lock on the top of his head that just refused to fall into place. Chin was in the middle, and sported a grin that was one tooth too short beneath unusually grey hair that spiked up from under a simple cap. Keovin was the shortest, and he wore a single earring on his left ear, which was strange since his long brown hair almost always concealed it.
Vian was a relatively poor village. It was only slightly better off than Adai; its food supply was only a little less scarce, but was more or less guaranteed all year 'round, and in the spring they could scavenge edible plants as well. In their old village they had worn dull brown outfits meant to camouflage themselves with their environment; now they wore a uniform, designed by Leeron and approved (with much revision) by the senior pilots. It consisted of a black shirt and pair of pants, with the famous flaming skull stitched over the left breast, and a blue jacket that they had taken off for practice.
They used simple training rifles, synthesized at Yoko's request, built to be easy to aim with low recoil and handy iron sights. Unfortunately, despite all this, out of the ten-bullet cartridges they were given a grand total of zero hit the target. When Yoko said 'there's room for improvement' she meant 'you suck'.
"Look on the bright side, Visay," said Keovin. "At least you didn't drop the rifle this time."
"Only took four tries." He stopped to wipe the sweat off his forehead. "Man, what did I sign up for?"
"What did you expect?" said Yoko, placing her hands on her hips. "This isn't a vacation. You knew what you were getting into when you joined Dai-Gurren."
"I just wanted to make my mark," said Visay, sulking slightly. "My old man was nothing special, and his old man was nothing special, and his old man…I just want to earn my family some recognition!"
"Again with the obsession," said Chin. "Recognition is a double-edged knife, I'm telling you. My mom's famous for being the best huntress in the village. She's terrifying. I'm supposed to live up to that!"
"Well at least you're not 100% average like me. You're smart at least, and Keovin can play that windy-string-thing-"
"It's a khene."
"-but me? Nobody will remember me!"
"Stop it!" interrupted Yoko. "We have more important things to worry about, Visay. What if we get ambushed?"
"So what? We hop in our ganmen and fight with those. There's no point in having people running around with guns when you've got ganmen."
"Sorry, but that's not always how it works. Even ganman pilots need to be prepared to fight on foot: you never know where or when you'll need to fight. Now let's try again!"
In his quarters, Rossiu passed the time with the book he had received from Father Magin. After learning how to read with the help of Leeron, Tetsukyan, Yoko and Benta-chan, he had been eager to apply his new skills to translating the strange book. He copied its contents on to pieces of paper and tried numerous ways of deciphering its meaning; unfortunately, he found that the book remained illegible. He simply could find no way of translating its strange symbols into the alphabet he knew.
But this did not dishearten Rossiu. He was still filled with energy from the encounter with his mother, and he knew that he couldn't give up against such a small problem. Besides, if something had to be written in such complex symbols, then surely its contents were very important.
Now that I think about it, I never asked Father Magin how he acquired it, he thought. Then he returned to his work, immersing himself in the book's mysteries…so much so that he jumped in surprise when the door opened.
"Hi, forehead!" called a feminine voice from the open door. He turned and blinked at Kiyal, Gimmy and Darry.
"Kiyal? What are you doing here?"
"Gimmy and Darry wanted to talk to you," she told him, cheerful as always. "They have a surprise for you!"
"Here, Rossiu." GImmy gave him a drawing.
"Thank you, Gimmy," said Rossiu, smiling. He looked at the doodle: it was a drawing of himself, with a head at least twice the size of his body.
"The kids miss you. When was the last time you left your room?" asked Kiyal.
"Huh? Last time?" Rossiu looked to the window. He had kept it shut for a while, as the glare from the setting sun sometimes made it difficult to read. His desk lamp hadn't been turned off since he'd closed it. "I…can't really say. I seem to have lost track of the passage of time."
"If you spend too much time in here with those books, you'll turn into a book yourself," joked the black-haired Bachika.
"I don't want Rossiu to become a book," said Darry, chewing her lip in worry.
"You should give it a rest," said Kiyal. "You don't even eat with us anymore; you just pick your tray and come right back here. Like, when was the last time you even trained? And what about visitors?"
"Nia visits. On occasion."
"Yeah but she looks after everyone, practically every day. After all, she's the boss, even if she doesn't want to be." She looked at the twins. "And as for you: These kids are your brother and sister, even if you don't want to be. They told me you've been looking out for them ever since they lost their parents. You can't just stop."
"It wasn't just me," replied Rossiu levelly. "The entire village looked after them. It would be difficult for me to have looked after them myself. That's not to say that it was easy, of course."
"Pfeh. Still better than nothing." She looked distant for a second, then: "But still, that's the rule of this world. You get someone else to fight for you, or you learn to fight yourself." She lightened up a bit. "Of course, then, the solution is to marry the biggest, baddest, toughest guy around!"
Rossiu smiled faintly. "Good luck with that, I guess. Who's it going to be? Dayakka? Iraak? Simon?"
She licked her lips and said: "Oh, it's someone…"
"Is there anything else I can do, Makken?" asked Nia.
She was helping in the hangar, while Boota tagged along on her shoulder. Dai-Gurren's mecha lined the docking bays along the wall; in addition to the team they had started with, a number of new mechas had been captured and refitted as servants of humanity. Altogether, the new units brought their number up to two dozen. It was a lot for the mechanics to work with, but they did their best; there was no shortage of spare parts, at least.
"Nope. Your concern is appreciated, Miss Nia," replied Makken, looking out from the open cockpit of Moshogun. "Just gotta get used to the new layout in here."
"Just Nia is fine." She smiled, and Boota squeaked. "I'm sure I can convince Leeron to change it back, if you'd like."
"That won't be necessary. A small change like this is nothing to complain about. Everything's just fine."
"All right. I'll see you later then." She bowed her head to him and left to chat with a pair of new mechanics doing diagnostics on Sawzorthn's sonic cannon.
Makken returned to his ruminations on the new cockpit layout, and after several moments of careful deliberation concluded that he really needed a drink before continuing.
He exited his ganman and walked over to the nearest water fountain. But, before he could drink, he was interrupted by a familiar white lab coat.
"You were pretty talkative with her." She leaned up against the wall and folded her arms.
"Jealous?" He put his mouth to the stream of water.
"Jealous of a kid like that?" She placed a hand over her mouth to cover a laugh. "Nah, I have a reputation to keep." She then placed a finger on her chin and smiled warmly. "But I was more interested in you. Normally you act like a jackalig bit your tongue off, but when she's around it's like the creature felt sorry and decided to bring it back."
He finished drinking and wiped his mouth on his arm. "Nia is a nice girl. She asks questions to make sure we're okay. It would be rude not to answer."
"You sure it's just about being polite?"
Sawzorthn's cannon fired at a dummy, scrambling the sensors embedded in it. The mechanics seemed satisfied, and Nia clapped her hands in delight. Makken looked over and smiled.
"What can I do?" he said laconically. "She cares."
Simon entered the hangar and made a beeline for the little digger. They exchanged a few brief words, and with a quick bow Nia excused herself to the mechanics. She then followed the prince out of the hangar, obviously in a hurry.
"How are we doing?" asked Dayakka.
"I've aaalllllmost got us connected," replied Leeron. "So strange, though! It's taking so long for the transmission to bounce back, but it's barely any weaker…"
All activity on the bridge had ceased, save for Leeron, who was busy establishing the connection, and Kinon, who checked and rechecked the radar with a deepening frown. Kittan's mouth was closed for the first time in a while, and even Attenborough had stopped spinning in his chair and listened attentively.
"Greetings, Team Dai-Gurren." The voice of their contact was male, flat and bored; Dayakka likened it to what he'd expect to hear from a Littner watchman on a calm night. There was no face, though; Leeron had compensated by placing a green line on the black screen that shifted and peaked with the voice.
"My name is Stratos," it continued, "Third Prince of Teppelin."
"A prince?" said Kinon with a gasp. "I-I don't like this!"
"He was polite enough to say 'hi' before trying to kill us. Let's hear him out." Leeron grinned. "Perhaps it'll turn out better than we expect~"
"All right," agreed Dayakka. He picked up the microphone. "This is Dayakka Littner, chief officer of Dai-Gurren and captain of the Dai-Zilla. What did you want from us?"
"I request that you, Dayakka, and your entire crew surrender unconditionally, returning all of your equipment to the beastman forces, and stand trial for your crimes against His Majesty the Spiral King."
"That's outrageous!" cried Attenborough, punching his console in anger.
"You smarmy bastard!" said Kittan, raising his own fist. "Like hell we will! Dai-Gurren never retreats, never gives up, and never ever surrenders!"
"You can't just expect us to put down our weapons and let ourselves be executed!" said Dayakka. "Just who the hell do you think you are?"
"I am someone you cannot hope to defeat," replied Stratos. Just like Straea, he had a way of saying it that made it sound as if he wasn't boasting, but stating a cold, hard fact. "But you are wrong: you won't necessarily be executed. The Spiral King can show mercy to those who have the wisdom to accept it. Bow down a bit, and you won't have to lose your head."
"Don't give us this crap!" Kittan was practically screaming now. "Screw this bastard! Cut the chat!"
"Wait!" Simon entered, followed by Nia. "Allow me. Stratos, it is I, Simon, Prin…Former Prince of Teppelin. Will you not allow us to speak face to face, as brothers?"
The visual feed turned on, showing the face of Teppelin's Third Prince. He was like his sister in a lot of ways, from the shape of the face down to the color of the eyes; they even sported practically the same hairstyle. The cabin of his ganman was like any other.
"There's the uppity ugly twat!" said Kittan.
"I must disagree, brother," replied Kinon. "He's…not all that unattractive, actually…"
"What the hell? I already told Kiyal that there's no falling in love with the enemy! Don't you start too!"
"Prince Simon. I see now with my own eyes that you have joined the rebellion." Stratos put a hand to his chest. "May I ask your reasoning for betraying your family?"
"I have a new family now," replied Simon, his eyes burning with suppressed emotion. "Our brother, Arshun, rejected me, as did Father. They did not consider me to be their equal. Here in Dai-Gurren, we are all equal; even if we are not related by blood, we are family in spirit! I would gladly give my life for any of these people, and I know they would do the same." He narrowed his eyes. "I know firsthand how your family treats its members. And I believe you do too."
"Arshun." Stratos' poker face didn't even waver. "Yes, I know. However, he is a Prince. The rules are different."
Simon's hands and teeth clenched. Stratos, seeing his half-brother clearly speechless, continued smoothly on.
"Even if I wished to raise a hand to stop him, I could not; it took all of my resources to give my sister what protection she had already. However, it is good to see that you finally possess the strength to stand against him. In better times I might have commended you." He paused momentarily. "But ultimately I must keep my loyalty to His Majesty. I request again: surrender unconditionally. If you do, you will be spared."
"Why are you so loyal to him?" asked Nia, joining the conversation.
Stratos' eyes flicked over to her. "Ah, this is the little one with so much power, isn't it? Would you care to elaborate?"
"Why are you so loyal to your father?" she repeated. "I cannot think of a reason for you to support him so fervently. Your sister decided to support us. Why not-"
"Leave my sister out of this," he interrupted, raising his palm. "Just because I am her brother does not mean I have to mirror her choices, especially if mine revolve around her safety."
"There are some things more important than being safe," replied Nia firmly. "We will not be surrendering."
"I see." He sighed. "It seems I will have to persuade you with force."
"Aren't you a smug bastard? Treating us like we're nothing!" Kittan stepped forward and raised an angry fist at the screen. "I'll punch you out right now! Right now!"
"Kittan, he's not really there, you know…"
"Indeed I am not," said Stratos, the faintest ghost of a smile on his face. "I am quite far away from here. So far away, in fact, that from where I am you are nothing, less than even pebbles on the ground. I nest with the stars, way above the clouds. On the ground, you soldiers can only slay each other…but from the sky, I slay wars." He gripped the controls tightly. "Behold the power of Karamuru!"
The transmission cut to static.
"You mustn't underestimate a Prince, Kittan," said Simon worriedly. "I have never seen Stratos fight, aside from a few sparring duels. All we have to go on is what Straea told us."
"A fortress above the clouds…what could this mean~?" mused Leeron.
There was an earth-shaking roar, and the entire battleship shook.
They ran to the windows, and when the dust and debris had settled, they saw a crater before them. It was larger than anything they had seen, even those punched out by artillery shells, and was perfectly, uncannily circular.
Then they heard a peculiar whining sound, and they looked up.
Two, five, eight bright lights screamed overhead, slashing the sky with their glowing tails, burning up what clouds got in their way. Eight, sixteen, thirty-two…the sky become filled with them, as if the stars of the night had risen to reclaim the day from the sun.
The rain of fire fell to earth without mercy.
The first ones made more craters as big as the first, shaking the ground all across the plain, rocking even the great battleship with their power. It didn't take a genius to guess what sort of damage they would cause in the event of a direct hit.
And then, one did hit.
"We were hit! For real!" yelled Tetsukyan. His screen flashed, showing damage to the shoulder. The area blinked red, and then returned to green as the shield restabilized.
"Goodness me! What a wonderful field test!" said Leeron. He typed some commands into his computer, and after a moment of whirring calculation it gave him a slew of numbers and a diagram showing the ground, a blue-dot representing Dai-Gurren, and a red dot representing the enemy. The two were very, very far apart. "Based on the trajectories of these shots, I'd estimate the enemy is 160 kilometres high in the sky!"
"What?" said Kittan. "Wait, what does that mean?"
"Redirect all power to shields! All crew to battle stations!"
"It means he's really high up!" explained Kinon quickly.
"We have no weapon capable of attacking him, dear~." The screen changed, showing a group of yellow spears descending on the blue dot. "And even if we did, he'd probably see it coming from a mile away anyway!"
"What's going on?! Are we under attack?!" demanded Yoko over the intercom.
"We gotta scramble the ganmen!" said Kiyoh. "Let's go! Open up those hangar doors!"
"Oh that wouldn't be a good idea, honey~"
"If they go out, they'll be slaughtered," said Kinon, while the battleship trembled under the assault. "They'll be washed away like dirt in the rain."
Nia snatched the communicator away from Dayakka. "Do not leave Dai-Zilla!" she ordered, her voice raised nearly to the point of yelling. "Please! Do not leave Dai-Zilla! Stay in your ganman but do not leave Dai-Zilla!"
After a couple seconds filled with nothing but the ongoing booms of the bombardment, Kiyoh replied, "All right. We'll wait here for now."
"Gabal, get us out of here!" cried out Dayakka. "Find us some cover!"
"The area is nothing but plains for miles!" replied the helmsman, putting the Dai-Zilla into motion. "Where are we supposed to find any cover?"
They had no option but to endure the attack, and while they did, the enemy's aim only got more precise. Tetsukyan's screen blinked wildly in all areas; the shields flickered as the generator struggled to keep them stable. Outer layers of armor started to take significant amounts of damage, and there was a commotion as the crew inside retreated away from them towards the inner areas.
One shot managed to hit Dai-Zilla's head, causing windows and screens to crack under the impact…and then, everything stopped. Anxious silence permeated the room.
"…What?" said Dayakka numbly.
"Why has he stopped?" asked Simon.
"Hey, is it over?" asked Attenborough, emerging from a hole in his console.
"It seems so," replied Dayakka, slowly getting up. "Report?"
"Well, dear, for starters the shield generator almost melted itself," reported Leeron.
"Armor is at stage yellow for the most part," added Tetsukyan, "though in most places it's just about in stage orange. Also one of the smokestacks got holed pretty badly."
"The wheel isn't responding," said Gabal, trying to move the stuck wheel.
"…Hell." Dayakka picked up the microphone. "Attention Engineering! How are things down there?"
"Pretty good, actually! Running those shields barely even scratched the full potential of this baby's output. The only way she could get damaged at all would be if the enemy somehow managed to punch through every layer of armor and hit it directly, so we're fully safe!"
"Need to redesign for higher energy output…" mused Leeron.
"Good, that's one less worry," said Dayakka. "Send a repair crew to take a look at the legs."
Kiyoh's voice crackled suddenly over the speakers. "We're all right in the hangar! But, geez! What was that? Are we under attack?"
Dayakka hesitated just a moment, and Tetsukyan reached over and snatched the microphone out of his fingers. "Yes, Kiyoh," he replied. "We were under attack, but the enemy retreated. And…" He peeked over Kinon's shoulder. "There's nothing on the radar, so they've disappeared."
"Oh, okay. Hey, some of the ganmen got a bit beat up there. Tell Leeron to get down here!"
"Oh, my darlings! I'll be right there~" The mechanic rose and left.
"I need to see the damage for myself," said Nia. "Simon, can you stay here and help the bridge?"
"I will, Nia."
"Thank you." She bowed and followed Leeron out. Those who remained sat in silence and wondered if the worst was yet to come.
"I will return to fulfill my duty."
The recording came to them out of nowhere, suddenly whispering out of the comms. Stratos' parting message only made their silence grimmer. Their peril was far from over.
Three days passed.
The tension never dropped; in fact, in many ways it got worse. They had always been prepared for attack at any second, but usually they had at least a little forewarning. Now, attack could come at any time, with no warning at all, and nothing for them to do about it.
Old memories of the days before Dai-Gurren resurfaced, and many of the crew found themselves afraid as they hadn't been for a long time.
The engineering and mechanical teams worked feverishly in that time. When not frantically searching for new ways to improve the shield generator, Leeron ran calculations on the data recorded during the bombardment. He quickly concluded that Karamuru was an orbital ganman; it took him some time to explain the concept. On the one hand, they knew where the enemy was; on the other, they also knew now that he was virtually untouchable.
Dai-Zilla had weathered the first attack, but Stratos would almost certainly return with a bigger stick. After some deliberation, they decided to move towards the closest range of mountains, hoping the terrain would give them an advantage.
The 80-meters long battleship passed through a jagged pass and emerged onto a plateau, new land that was dubbed by the original maps as Asakai. The going got bumpy as the terrain became more and more irregular; Dai-Zilla had some good balancing systems, but not perfect. They went slowly so as not to fall down…not that it made a difference, as some noted. If Karamuru attacked they would be helpless anyway.
But it wasn't only the terrain that made life difficult for Dai-Gurren. The climate began to change, moving away from the familiar warm days and cool nights; the days grew cold, and the nights even colder. Many of the crew started to go around with jackets on during the day to fend off the chill, and the nights were even colder than the harsh desert temperatures they were used to. Even Yoko now donned a white overcoat.
When they were about three kilometres above sea level, they began to encounter strange, cold white stuff that turned to water at a touch. They had to consult Leeron's records to find out that it was called 'snow'. The snow covered everything in a soft white blanket; even sound seemed muffled by its mere presence. It was a strangely serene atmosphere, one that calmed the crew a bit.
"Brr…the hell's going on? We're getting closer to the sun! It should be warmer, right?" Kittan rubbed his arms in an attempt to recover a little warmth; his vanity prevented him from donning a warmer jacket.
Dai-Zilla's repairs had been completed, and everything was more or less back to normal. The bridge crew went about its business as usual, including giving the occasional annoyed glance at Kittan, who always seemed to tag along despite never doing anything.
"Kittan, hon~," Leeron said, "I'm sorry but that's not how it works. According to my predictions, the temperature's just going to keep on dropping~"
"I can see my breath!" said Attenborough, staring with childish curiosity at the fog created by his breathing.
"Those clouds look dark," observed Kinon, looking up from her radar screen. True enough, a dark mass of clouds sat on the horizon, and the mountain winds picked up as the storm front approached. "I think it's going to rain."
"The pass might get dangerous if it rains," mused Dayakka.
"I don't think so, dear," replied Leeron. "Recall, if you will, the lovely little freezer we have in the kitchen."
"What about it?"
"Remember how the water turns to ice?"
"Well, it's actually just about as cold as that freezer out there~"
"We'll have ice falling from the sky?!" said Kittan, alarmed.
"No, silly!" Leeron giggled. "That's where the snow comes from!"
"From the sky?" Kittan shook his head. "That's crazy talk!"
"You're the one who said a moment ago that ice was going to fall from the sky…" muttered Kinon.
"We haven't had any problems with it so far," said Dayakka. "And we're already wearing our jackets. What else could we do?"
"Well, dear, snow melts, and our uniforms aren't waterproof. I'll have to work on that. And maybe make them warmer too…"
"Fog bank, dead ahead," declared Tetsukyan. Dai-Zilla advanced into the thick cloud, and the their field of vision diminished rapidly.
"Keep an eye out," Dayakka said.
"I don't like this," said Kinon, eyeing her radar apprehensively. "The radar is flickering. It was working fine before…"
"Attention, crew," said Dayakka, speaking into the ship's PA system. "We're running into a bit of fog. Stay alert, and try to stay off the deck if possible."
They wandered nervously through the fog, knowing full well that this would be the perfect opportunity for an ambush. The ship had been mostly repaired, but Stratos' attack had taught them a lesson in humility that they wouldn't soon forget. Nia and Simon came up to the bridge, drawn by an uneasy feeling of apprehension. A half-hour passed, with the only sound being the sound of the mountain wind…and then they found something.
"Guys," said Kinon suddenly, "I see something."
"Put it on the screen," ordered Dayakka.
One of the outer cameras zoomed in on something embedded into a cliff face. It looked like a slab of rock, or possibly metal.
"What could it be?" asked Kinon.
"A trap." Simon said, his voice deadpan.
Red lights blinked around the slab's edges. A moment later, a series of explosions, too many to count, went off all across the cliff. The thick fog was set alight and torn asunder, and the ground reverberated as even more explosions went off underground.
The mountain shook, and then fell apart.
Thousands of tons of rock, dirt and mud descended the mountain at high speed in a massive avalanche, uprooting the sparse trees and washing away the pure white snow with dark brown earth. The wall of moving earth slammed into Dai-Zilla's side at high speed, knocking it right over like a toy.
The screams of the crew were quickly buried by the avalanche's deafening roar.
Luckily, the ship was spared by its sheer size. However, panic started to spread, and wasn't helped by the fact that familiar rooms and hallways were now flipped on their sides.
"Another attack?!" demanded Yoko, her voice coming over the intercom from the practice range.
"Most likely," replied Dayakka. "Simon said it's a trap!"
"Dammit! I'm going to the hangars!"
Dayakka put down the mic again. "What's going on out there?"
"The fog is too thick to see anything," replied Kinon. "And something's messing with the radar!"
"We aren't going anywhere either," Gabal declared. "I've been trying to get us up an' out, but the head keeps jammin' up against somethin'." He tried again, and just as he said, the head stuck against the wall of the pass.
"Let's try something, hmmm~?" Leeron swiped at his keyboard. First was an infrared filter; he got nothing but static. The mechanic frowned. Next was night vision; nothing but fog. Finally he tried the sonar, which would work outside of the water, though with greatly limited effectiveness; ironically, it was the only one that worked. A fuzzy view of their immediate surroundings appeared.
"Well, well. Seems we've stumbled upon a dead end. There's a wall forward, and another wall beside us – that's where the avalanche came from. On the other side there's empty space, but that could be a way out or a hole to the center of the earth."
"Or another trap," said Simon flatly.
"That too." Leeron frowned. "Well, the avalanche blocked off the path behind us, so our options are going that way or trying to climb up the direction the avalanche came from. That's assuming we can get up, of course, which you'll notice is a bit of a problem. Oh, and, thought I'd mention the shields are down to about eighty percent overall, though recovering. Got all that, dears~?"
"You are way too calm for this," muttered Kittan.
"Nia, Dayakka, we had better prepare ourselves," said Simon grimly. "This is only the beginning."
"Again…" Nia whispered, clutching at her drill-key.
Simon's words proved to be true. A couple of moments later, the inevitable attack began. From up above in the mists, flashes of light began to appear; a moment after that, the thunderous symphony of a projectile barrage began. The shield repelled them at first, but slowly depleted; it would only hold for so long.
"Where are they coming from?" yelled Dayakka over the rumble of the impacts being absorbed.
"Punching up the external cameras now!" replied Tetsukyan. A flurry of windows appeared on the main screen, showing various views of the outside. The attack came from three directions: from the mountain itself, from the direction the avalanche had come from, and from the path to the left.
"Well there go our escape routes…"
"All right, aim all guns at the mountain group!" yelled Dayakka. "They're the only ones we can hit from this angle anyway, so let's get them off our back!"
"Already on it, sir!" replied Attenborough gleefully. "Finally, some action!"
"Wait, don't we have to move-" began Gabal, but he was too late. The cannons pulverized the cliff face, sending a new wave of debris tumbling down on them.
"Well that was pretty dumb," remarked Tsuuma. "At this rate we won't even have to do anything to finish this off." She stretched as much as she could in the cramped little control room, and then returned to her monitors.
"Round two deployed," declared one of the many beastman voices that whispered through her headset. "Armed and ready."
"Acknowledged," replied another. "Clear flag, retreat, and prepare for detonation."
"Tsuuma, what's going on?" asked Viral, appearing on one of the monitors. "I was under the impression we were going to be fighting!"
"Everything is according to plan, Viral. Now just relax and let everyone do their job, mmkay?"
Another set of explosions went off, causing yet another avalanche. A second wave of rocks and dirt tumbled down towards Dai-Zilla.
"They're going to bury us!" gasped Kinon, covering her mouth with her hands in terror.
"No way!" Kittan slammed a fist against the railing. "Cheating bastards! Come and face us like men!"
"No offense Kittan, but I don't think they're going to listen!" Dayakka snatched up the mic again. "All hands, brace for impact!"
The second wave of earth hit, and soon all daylight taken from them.
"Aaaaaaand done." Tsuuma leaned back in her chair. "Operation complete."
Viral blinked. "What? It's over?"
"Yep, I'm afraid that's the case. They'll be dead within an hour. Three cheers for the Spiral King and oxygen deprivation." Tsuuma mimed raising a glass in a mock toast.
"That's…that's…unacceptable!" cried Viral, shock slowly giving way to irritation. "What kind of cheating bastards are we going to be known as?"
"The kind that win wars, Viral. Haven't you ever heard the saying? 'If something's worth fighting for, then it's also worth fighting dirty for.'" She folded her hands under her chin. "Are you in it to win, or just to fight?"
"I am a warrior! I must settle my battles in honor! What kind of warrior will I be remembered as?"
"As one of the guys who took out the Spiral King's biggest threat in years. With a zero casualty rate, I might add. Suck up your ego and accept it." She sighed. "Still, I can't shake this feeling…this entire operation reeks of stupid."
Viral coughed, very politely. "Tsuuma, you know we're being recorded."
"Oh come one. Like Command even gives a crap. I don't think they even watch these recordings. Now look here." She gesticulated in the air with her hands. "If the plan is so easy, right, if it's so simple, then why did we bring so many men? Seriously, there's like six battalions out there right now, and then you've got the Grable Squad on top of that! Why do we need so many men just to bury them under a bunch of dirt and rocks? We're not even using shovels!"
"Why do we have to make such a big fuss out of it anyway? Why not just slip someone inside and kill them all in their sleep? Noooo, we have to make everything as big and flashy as possible! Ain't worth doing something if we're not making it as much work as possible!"
There was movement on one of the numerous camera feeds. The mound of dirt shuddered, and then trembled, a low, grinding sound coming from deep within. A third time it shook; and then, on the fourth, earth exploded outwards, followed by a titanic metal hand, emerging from the debris like a zombie from its grave. A moment later the head broke through, and Dai-Zilla's triumphant roar echoed out over the area.
Tsuuma watched with wide eyes. Then she hurriedly pushed away from her desk, rolling her chair back towards the trash can in the corner of the room. She reached into it and snatched out a document labeled CLASSIFIED MATERIALS. The mission plan wasn't complete – obviously a comms monkey didn't need to know all of the details – but it was still clearly only two pages long. Granted, she'd only skimmed it briefly before going back to her games, but she still found nothing new in it.
Then there was a beep at the comms. She pushed herself back over to read, to her surprise and growing irritation:
[INCOMING FILE. Origin: Commander Cinoshisa. Contents: Text Document (1): "Classified Instructions In Case of Failure of Phases 1 and 2, To Be Released Only Upon Such Failure"]
The Commander herself appeared on her screen. "Read quickly, Tsuuma. We will be launching Phase 3 as soon as you have prepared the beacon."
The beastwoman ground her teeth. "Yes, sir." Seriously, why did they promote this bastard?
"Switched over completely to the submarine's electric engine. It'll keep us going until we've got the smokestacks cleared." Leitte paused to shout something at her work crews. "Give us a couple minutes to clean 'em out!"
"Good work, that'll do it!" replied Dayakka. He turned to the bridge. "All right, let's make her life easier and clear away some of these debris! Motion systems are still functioning for the moment, so let's make use of them!"
"Yeah, you bastards! Taste some metal!" Kittan grinned from ear to ear as Dai-Zilla rose, shoving aside masses of rocks and dirt with its enormous limbs. The shields pulsed, pushing aside debris, and repulsing the enemy fire that poured down on it.
"I'm going to Solvernia," said Nia. "We can't let them bury us again!"
"I'll do the same with Shoten," added Simon.
"Shoten is still a template ganman, are you sure you wanna' go?" Leeron asked.
"Yes. This is something I must do."
"Alright, time for King Kittan to shine!" whooped Kittan, darting away to the hangar.
"Wait, brother!" called out Kinon, but it was too late. She sighed, and turned to Nia, who was just about to leave. "Look after him, all right? It might be dangerous in the fog."
"You know what to do, don't you Nia~?" asked Leeron.
"Push back the enemy and prevent them from causing more explosions and avalanches." She nodded. "I'll take care of it."
"Go for it, girl!" Leeron gave her an encouraging wave as she sprinted towards the hangars, tailed by Leeron.
Everyone else was there already, from Makken in the Moshogun to Kittan in the King Kittan. There were even four rookies in nameless grunts, ready to act as rearguard. Rossiu waited for her in Gurren, and Boota was already in Solvernia.
"Rossiu, let's combine!" said Nia, jamming her key into Solvernia. Boota jumped on her shoulder and squealed in agreement.
"Yes!" replied Rossiu. Green energy flowed, and the two began combining.
"Combining time? Allriiiiight!" Kiyal jumped into the Kiyalunga and began pestering Kittan. "Let's go bro, you heard what time it is!"
"Can't you just stay put, Kiyal?"
"Nah, you're useless without our combination."
"Well y'know, if you want to get shown up by Gurren Solvernia again, that's all right…"
Kittan paused and grumbled as he made his decision. "Fine!" he finally spat. "But if that loudmouthed prince shows up again and you start mooning over him you go right back! Understood?"
"Don't treat me like a kid!" She made a face at him.
"You are a kid, and always will be!"
Still making a face at him, she combined with the King Kittan, giving birth to the King Kittan Deluxe.
The rest of the team suited up as well and prepared to move out. Yoko leaned out of Dayakkaiser's cockpit.
"We're still doing some final adjustments, so I'll follow along later!" She raised a fist. "Kick some ass for me!"
"Right!" Nia nodded, and pulled her goggles down over her eyes.
The hangar doors creaked open. The deck was still on a bit of an incline, though the left hand, now unstuck, had largely cleared it of debris. Bullets and missiles rained down on them, while Dai-Zilla's many cannons fired back. They had nothing but dead ends behind them, and nothing but death before them.
Just the way they liked it.
"Team Dai-Gurren, go!"
A.N.: And cut! Thanks for reading, also I must remember that TTGS has a trope page on TvTropes, please add tropes as well. Also I created a new poll, you can see it in my profile. Thank you for you time and stay awesome!