This is a work of fan fiction using characters and situations from the anime series Gurren Lagann, trademarked by Gainax Corporation.
For the most part, characters depicted in this work are characters created and owned by Kazuki Nakashima and Hiroyuki Imaishi. I do not claim any ownership over them or the world of Gurren Lagann. There are several original characters appearing of my own design, however.
The story I tell about the former members of the Gurren Brigade is my own invention, and is neither purported nor believed to be part of Gurren Lagann's story canon. This story is for entertainment only and is not part of the official story line.
I am not profiting financially from the creation and publication of this story. And I am very grateful to Messrs. Nakashima and Imaishi for sharing their wonderful story with the rest of us. Thank you!
Welcome, gentle readers. I normally don't preface a work with boring author's notes, although in this case I was encouraged to make an exception. For readers new to my work, feel free to skip ahead to the good stuff! I do want to speak candidly a moment to those of you familiar with my earlier Gurren Lagann work, "Gift of the Magi." Upon receiving excellent constructive criticism and greatly appreciated support from several of you, I decided to rework that story into the form you see here. I do hope you'll enjoy it just the same. I like to think that while I'm telling a story which has a similar outcome to "Gift", the manner in which we'll get there is very, very different. I'm happy with "Gift", but believe this story eclipses it in literary quality and dramatic content. I do hope you'll take time to review or message me to let me know whether I did just that. Now, let us begin.
It was whiteness so thick it could be felt.
The murky haze had the effect of amplifying any and all sounds emanating from within. An observer, if there was one, would have heard the footfalls of an interloper long before even a silhouetted form would be visible. They became a sharp staccato as if made by someone walking purposefully to carry out an important task, then ceased suddenly.
A woman stopped and looked around, knowing she was in the right place but unsure when her companion would meet her. To any said observer, existing only for consideration's sake, she would certainly have appeared quite attractive. Her long, pale hair curled in an unruly manner this way and that like wisps of smoke emanating from a campfire on a breezy night. The curves of her body were accentuated tastefully with a pink dress adorned with gold piping. But it was her eyes which truly distinguished her from everyone else. They were blue-green, like the waters of the sea, but with a trace of pink in the center. The shiny traces down either cheek were evidence she had been crying. She sniffled a moment before dabbing at each eye a moment with the sleeve of her dress as she fought to regain her composure.
When she had seen the white haze for the first time, it had reminded her of fog on an ocean's shore. Or perhaps the mist rising from a pond's surface on a crisp cool autumn morning just before a flock of geese took flight southward on their annual trek. But while the white haze was never cool and not damp, it still manifested a strange prickling sensation on the skin of any who ventured through it. Everyone was destined to experience this at the end of his or her lifetime, but she understood only a select few would ever do so more than once.
As she was doing at that very moment, in fact.
She sighed and smiled wanly. A memory came to her unbidden of another strange sensation -mud squishing between her toes for the first time - and how she had found it so surprisingly pleasant. Cold, wet, wonderful mud. The rain that had created the mud had still been falling, but had cleared up after she rose from the container she learned later had been intended to be her coffin. And she had come forth, after all, because of *him.*
The woman shook her head as if to clear it, chastising herself silently for allowing herself to lose focus on the task at hand. This was serious work, after all. Her future, *his* future, the future of the Universe itself and all the souls in it, rested squarely on her shoulders. The enormity of it had been overwhelming at first, and she had her reservations now. But then as now she marshaled the strength to believe in herself, knowing that *he* would believe in her.
"Hey there, kiddo!"
She started, whipping her head around to focus on the pair of red pointed glasses she could make out through the haze before she saw the speaker's face. "Kamina, you startled me! That was not a very nice thing to do at all," she pouted.
"Relax, Nia", the man replied as he walked up and clasped his big hands on her petite shoulders. "You knew I was coming, right?"
"You did not expressly say so, of course, but knowing the loveable buffoon you are I thought you might follow me," she said as she smiled sweetly, relief plain on her face. "It would be untruthful of me not to admit I am grateful you came to see me off."
He looked around, remembering the first time he had seen this place. "Sure, Lil' Sis. You know I'd do anything for you."
Nia said nothing, but turned her eyes downward nervously.
"You know you don't *have* to do this, right?"
"But that is precisely why I must," Nia countered, clenching both fists at her side in a show of resolve. She had made her emotions known to him over time as she vacillated back and forth on the matter, considering the gravity of the choice she had made to bring her back here. "He sacrificed so much for so many, and gave me what I could never have even wished for. Now I must follow suit."
Her chin dropped to her chest. "Although," she said, "my heart aches within me knowing I will never be able to be with any of you again," she said in a small voice as her eyes began to mist over.
Embracing Nia, Kamina shushed her as he stroked her long pale hair. "Leave it to a heart as tender as yours to break even in a place like this, kiddo."
"And I am scared, Kamina. Scared that I may never be able to be with him again! If I am unsuccessful in my task, I will not - "
"That's enough, Nia," Kamina rebuked her, gently yet firmly. "I believe in the Nia who believes in herself, remember?" He pulled her head gently away, taking her tear-strewn face into his hands. "You will find a way to see this through. Or maybe he will. Only a fool would bet against either of you."
"Of course, Kamina, you are right," she sniffled, dabbing at her eyes again with her sleeve before moving to take up her station. Even standing mere yards away from him, the only part of him she could still see clearly were the red glasses. She steeled herself and mouthed silently the mantra she had learned years before.
*I am Nia! I believe in the me who believes in myself.*
"Oh, and one more thing, Nia...the lads and I want to see that ring."
"And you shall, Kamina," Nia replied, giggling in spite of herself as she felt her confidence returning. "All of you shall in due time look upon it whenever you wish. This shall be my final promise to you until eternity's end whence we meet again, my dear Big Brother."
Her sweet face grew stern as she turned and flung out her arms wide.
"Hail ye, souls of those yet to come, well met!" Nia shouted in a commanding voice which echoed all around them.
The breath caught in Kamina's throat as the very air surrounding her began to glow.
"I am Nia, the one now tasked with your well-being, a task I accepted of my own free will. I shall do my best to teach you, encourage you, and care for you."
He watched agape as bolts of energy began lapping at her form from all sides.
"Allow me prepare you for your new lives, so that together we might build a Universe the Spiral Nemesis shall never threaten!"
The bolts of energy grew larger until they completely obscured Kamina's view of her. "Nia..." he breathed.
"Come unto me, precious little ones, so I may dry your every tear!" She started to glow with an ethereal pink light surrounding her like an aura.
Tiny orbs as bright as stars flew from every direction at once directly into the rapidly growing energy field. Kamina reflexively placed his arm in front of his eyes to shield them from its dazzling brilliance.
"Let me love you, little ones, with all my heart, just as I love him. Let me love you for all eternity!"
Kamina dropped to his knees, eyes clenched tightly shut. He placed his hands over his ears but could not keep the din from pounding in his ears terribly.
"Follow me, little ones, as we walk the path to tomorrow! I AM NIA, MATRON OF SOULS TO COME!"
He knew Nia's thundering voice would surely have ruptured his eardrums had he still possessed a mortal body.
Kamina uncovered his eyes, hearing Nia gasp sharply. He looked up into the blinding light in time to see Nia's silhouette disappear as the field collapsed inward. But another form -slender, young, strong, clearly male - had been there too, barely long enough to register. He stood stock still, uncharacteristically speechless as stars danced around in his vision.
"Well, whaddya know about that," Kamina chuckled, rubbing at the back of his neck. "Never thought I'd see the day Nia would upstage *me*!"
As his form disappeared back into the white haze, the lights in the sky were silent once more.
"Just a little farther!" Simon exclaimed, though he knew neither his ground man nor anyone else would hear him over the din. He manipulated the control stalks of the drilling rig skillfully, gritting his teeth as another eighteen inches of bore pipe disappeared below grade into the rocky ground. He hardly could hear his own voice over the roar of the machine's engine, though he ended up talking to himself just the same during these critical moments of each operation.
High pressure air hissed loudly from the hole with such velocity as to carry dirt and debris torn loose by the massive drill bit below straight up and out the stand pipe atop the drilling rig's tall derrick. The stiff breeze fanned out the exhaust plume into a thick cloud of dust which obscured the bright afternoon sun above. L. T., his ground man, monitored the operation from nearby as exhaust whipped the queue he kept his plaited hair in straight out behind him. The young man kept a respectful distance, being careful to avoid the larger chunks of rock and debris which careened outwards and upwards in random helical motions. His eyes darted up and down the length of the derrick keeping watch over the spinning drill shaft as the work progressed. L. T. stood ready to immediately give Simon the "dog everything" sign at the first indication any bending or twisting of the drill shaft which forewarned imminent breakage. Each had seen the often tragic results of catastrophic drill failure first hand and up close.
Finally, L. T. gesticulated wildly to Simon with both hands, indicated depth had been reached. "HAH!" Simon cried, baring a satisfied grin. He yanked back on both control stalks and stomped on the throttle to retract the drill bit from the hole then smacked a mushroom-shaped valve treadle to cut off the air. A moment later, he took his foot off the pedal to let the engine idle, threw open the cab door and leapt off the machine. He stepped over to where L. T. knelt down and nodded after glancing at a small instrument waved over the hole punched into the earth.
"We're at seventy, no - seventy-two feet," the young man said as he stood up and drew his goggles and respirator down around his neck, revealing a toothy grin of satisfaction. "Uniform circumference all the way down with a minimum of spalling. A little bit of spoil slid to the bottom though. Will they still be able to set the pier nice and tight down into the bedrock?"
Simon walked up next to his companion and tossed a small rock down the hole. He tugged at his scraggly beard for a moment, nodding with satisfaction as the rock hit bottom with muffled *spak*. "The drag bit was down the breach, not the tri-cone, remember?" he said snarkily as he turned and thumped the younger man's forehead with his thumb and finger. "We need that spoil in the bottom of the hole to fill the void for the pier to sit flush on," the older man continued as he crossed his arms disapprovingly over his bare chest. "Although there's more spoil than I like down there because the blowback nozzles are nearly shot. You'll have to break down the flumes and build them back up before the next job."
"Me?!" L. T. exclaimed incredulously. "Aw, geez, Simon! You know what a mess I made of them the last time I struck an arc - "
"Hey hey hey hey!" Simon yelled, cutting the younger man off. "Enough of that talk. This is the last bore for this site. Before we start the next job, you'll have plenty of time to stick weld more metal back in them then mill them back out to nominal. Besides, just who in the hell do you think I am?"
L. T. sighed as he took off his hard hat and gloves, trying in vain to shake the dust out of his jet black hair. Dirt had caked to the front and sides of his face, obscuring most of his copper-colored skin save for the area right around his eyes. "Yeah, I know...'believe in the me who believes in you'," he recited, scowling. "Doesn't make it much easier, you know."
"This time don't crank the current up so damn high and make sure the ground clamp is secure to the work. You'll do fine," Simon said, winking at his young companion. "Keep it up and you'll earn enough money to buy or build a rig of your own soon enough!"
"Hardly," L. T. snorted in reply. "With what you're paying me, I *might* be able to buy this rig when you retire."
"Well, then I know this old girl will be in good hands. You'd best take good care of her then!" Simon said as he laughed heartily while patting the metal skirt covering the rig's crawler treads with his hand. "Now quit complaining about that raise you *think* you've got coming and get cleaned up. I want to get some miles behind us before we bunk down for the night. You can work on those blowback nozzles tomorrow after we arrive at the next drill site. I'll finish stowing the rig. Chop chop!" L. T. sighed and climbed up onto the platform of the derrick, stripping down a pair of shorts and a tank top before ducking inside the cabin on the back of the rig which served as their shop and living quarters.
Simon jumped back into the derrick's control cab to begin breaking down their equipment. The entire machine was built upon a crawler chassis to enable it to traverse the remote and often rugged terrain where they worked. The derrick was mounted at the rear of the machine, which shook back and forth as Simon goosed the throttle and worked the control stalks to disassemble the drill pipe segments and stow them in their rack on the derrick platform. The massive drilling head itself was the final piece, which Simon carefully removed from the last pipe segment and placed in a job box built into the side of the pipe rack.
Dust trails from approaching vehicles appeared over the horizon for some time before three more crawlers came into view. Simon noted their approach - the Beam Wranglers were right behind them, as usual. He knew they would have their pipejack rig positioned and derrick erect before sunset, ready to start work on the foundation for the new solar beam collector at first light. He figured they would certainly have the foundation set by lunchtime tomorrow; likely before they knocked off for the day the tower would be standing too. One more collector, focusing the sun's rays to the distant concentrator out of sight over the horizon, would provide that much more electricity to the growing population regardless of whether they chose to live on the Surface or below it. It was a task that L. T.'s clan had taken on under contract from the new Terran United Government which had combined those of the burgeoning city states that had sprung up over the last fifteen years. Contracts like this would help build the infrastructure to ensure the safety and welfare of people everywhere.
At length Simon began lowering the derrick from its vertical position, bringing it gently to rest on its cradle above the crawler's platform. He smiled fondly as the Gurren Brigade standard with its jawless skull and pointed shades waved proudly in the breeze, hung from a moveable mount weighted such that its small flagpole stood vertical regardless of the derrick's position. He jumped down from the derrick cab to walk around to the front of the machine, pulling a pair of small steel cables taut to secure the end of the now-horizontal derrick to the front bumper of the crawler.
They were still making good time as they worked their way toward Kamina City. Simon grinned, looking forward to seeing his old friends again soon. The days were getting shorter and a noticeable chill hung in the air now that autumn was upon them. The rains would soon come, followed by blowing snow and the hard freeze. The work would shut down for the winter, resuming at the first sign of the ground thawing the following spring. Simon knew that while he could drill through several feet of frozen ground if need be, concrete used to set foundations for the beam collectors wouldn't cure right if poured into an icy hole. The Beam Wranglers would return to their settlement deep in the rocky crevasses of the distant mountains, where Simon himself had three years ago spent an entire winter after an early blizzard cut off the only route his drilling rig could navigate.
As the Beam Wranglers arrived on site and began setting up their rig, Simon found himself daydreaming back to those winter days he'd spent among them. Back then he can come to know T. T., superintendent of the Beam Wranglers and the clan's chieftain. L. T. was his troublesome only son. Simon had come to know him as a bright kid who grew bored easily. His father had later told Simon L. T.'s transition into young adulthood had been difficult. T. T., seething with anger after one of his son's many scrapes with trouble, had made ready to exile the boy. But Simon had already taken to the young man, seeing how much he had come to like his furry companion Boota despite the little pigmole sounding the alarm during his failed theft attempt. It was then Simon decided to take on L. T. as his apprentice. The boy's father had been happy to oblige.
The seasons since had come and gone uneventfully enough as they moved from one drill site to the next. Simon knew his apprentice was now of age where his father would want him to begin fully manifesting his Talent. He would have to ask L. T. soon whether he planned to stay on through the winter or would return to his clan to begin serving as a Guide. In the regions south of the frost zone, Simon had heard growing cities needed more water. That meant drilling. Drilling was, after all, the one task to which Simon the Digger had set himself to avoid dwelling ruefully on happier times from bygone days.
But his final task here was one which always brought back bittersweet memories. Simon opened up a gang box slung low on the crawler's front bumper. "Bui," came the reply from the drowsy pigmole who blinked with annoyance as his afternoon nap was rudely interrupted.
"I was wondering where you'd gotten to," Simon chuckled as he ran his hands through his bushy hair to shake out the dust. "C'mon, lil' buddy. You can help me finish up."
Simon drew forth a staff with a hard rock drill at one end along with a small white bin, slinging the staff over one shoulder as he walked over to the base of the hole where the Beam Wranglers were leveling their machine. He nodded to them in greeting as one by one they excused themselves. One mumbled something about recycling some coffee; another shuffled off to grab a smoke. A third smacked a fourth one in the back of the head before sending him into the rig to retrieve a tool Simon knew they wouldn't need until much later. Simon nodded and smiled fondly at the foreman, silently thanking him for educating their new apprentice in this unspoken ritual. It was one Simon preferred to complete alone.
He thrust the drill into the ground a couple yards from the base of the hole, kneeling down to form a circle around it with some small rocks ripped from the depths of the earth shortly before and strewn about with the rest of the spoil. Simon stood, pulling the staff out and piercing the sandy dirt several times to make holes within the circle. He laid the staff down and popped the lid on the bin before shaking one hand forcefully, causing his glove to strike the ground. Simon plunged his bare hand into the bin, drawing forth a small handful of flower seeds. Making a fist, he knelt down again to carefully place seed into each hole before covering them all up with his hand. He looked up and around as he patted the dirt lovingly, looking for the one thing he needed to finish the job.
Simon turned to his left as he heard the sound of Boota padding up to him. "Bui", the little pigmole squeaked, dropping a metal stake from between its teeth. "Thanks, lil' buddy," Simon said warmly as he patted his furry companion's head. Simon picked up the stake, driving it point first into the ground with a grunt into the center of the circle of rocks. After kneeling down to retrieve his things, Simon stood before the marker, silently mouthing the words represented by the letters he himself had routed into its narrow blade.
A single tear traced down his cheek, its trail glinting in the late afternoon sun as Simon turned and walked solemnly back toward the rig.
"...and the moon is made of honey," he said softly while Boota trailed silently behind.
He'd remained faithful in his promise since those first days after she had left him. Wherever he went, he planted flowers. And when he did, he thought of her. But he knew that was the way she wanted it. Everywhere she herself had travelled became a little more beautiful only because she had been there. And so it would be at each one of these drill sites for generations to come. The Beam Wranglers who had arrived to complete the work at this site and everyone who followed would take great care to not disturb this little monument. In so doing, they paid their respects to the two heroes of yore who had made their very existence possible. For that, Simon was grateful. While one still walked the earth, the other did not; when the day came neither did, these flowers and their marker would remain bearing silent witness to their both having lived.
His melancholy was broken at the sound of the air horn on top of the drilling rig. "Hey, daylight's burning, Simon. Shouldn't we be heading out?" he heard L. T. call to him.
Simon looked up to see L. T. shrug his shoulders from where the young man sat in the driver's seat of the big machine. He nodded a silent reply.
"Let's go, buddy," he said to Boota as the pigmole leapt up on Simon's shoulder. Simon placed replaced the staff and bin in the gang box, closing it with a loud clank and snapping the latch closed. He walked around to the other side of the cab and grabbed his cloak from where it hung on a cleat on the side of the machine. Simon shook the dust from the day's work out of it, shivering slightly from the cool air nipping at his bare back while the sun neared the distant horizon. He pulled the cloak over him before he scrambled up the side of the machine to the cab, its cloth rustling as Boota worked his way out from underneath. The pigmole leapt from Simon's shoulder as he opened the door, taking up his place on the center console as Simon sat down in the passenger seat. Boota curled up and quickly resumed his quiet snoring, blowing bubbles from his nose even before Simon had finished belting himself in. With a nod from the older man, L. T. stomped the throttle and the big machine lumbered forward with a roar.