“Main trans engine numbers one, two on; numbers three, four off; numbers five, six, seven, eight on,” Jin heard Sora recite over the radio. She was sitting in the cockpit of the ν Gundam, which was standing in front of the Wright mansion, while he was across the city in the rebuilt Sazabi.
Kiyoshi’s Sazabi had fallen from orbit after half a year in space and had been recovered by the black ships after crashing into the ocean. Every other nation on Earth wanted to get their hands on the Minovsky reactor aboard the Sazabi while it was still in orbit, but only the two superpowers had the ability to launch humans high enough to attempt retrieval. Having abandoned space warfare centuries earlier, they had left their space battle stations unmanned. The largest, the Soviet MIR-14 Battle Colony, had been destroyed, leaving each side with one battle station and a network of weaponized satellites.
Since they lacked a human crew, these stations couldn’t be used to capture the Sazabi, but since they had fuel and ammunition, they could be used to defend it from the other side. They had maneuvered both battle stations next to the Sazabi, but neither side had opened fire on the other. Space battle stations had never engaged each other in direct combat, and neither side was confident of victory. A battle between stations in low earth orbit also risked creating an ablation cascade, which both sides wanted to avoid. When the Sazabi fell back to Earth, both superpowers were happy to see an end to their tense, months-long standoff, and they didn’t challenge the black ships for possession of the mobile suit.
When its recovery had been announced to the public, Jin couldn’t help but feel uneasy. She had asked Ginjiro to petition the prime minister to decommission it. Her perceived arrogance had angered him enough to strike her, but he nevertheless listened to her explain what had happened to Kiyoshi when he had piloted the Sazabi. He did forward those concerns to the prime minister, but the agriculture minister had objected, noting that Kiyoshi was not right in the head long before he ever piloted the Sazabi. Since the agriculture ministry was in charge of the Gundam project, neither Ginjiro nor the prime minister felt it was their place to contradict him. And so the Sazabi was rebuilt, and Sora was chosen to be its pilot, just as Jin had feared.
Jin was also worried about how her relationship with Sora would change if they formed a psycho-field together. Although they had been dating in secret for almost a year, they were not intimate with each other. This was unusual for meido, who often skipped courting and romance as a matter of practicality. Because they never knew when they might be killed on a mission, they had to pursue relationships quickly, and because they never knew who they might be ordered to kill, it was better not to get too attached. But Jin and Sora had found in each other a companion who understood just how painful newtype powers could be for introverts. Although they enjoyed spending time with one another, their relationship was based on the two of them being uncomfortable with human intimacy. If they formed a psycho-field, it would force them to feel each other’s emotions more intensely than they ever had before.
Kei’s voice came over the radio, distracting Jin from her dread. “Quit playing with your omocha,” she ordered.
“I’m not playing, Kei-sama,” Sora told her. “Pre-flight checks are important.”
“We’re behind schedule,” Kei argued. “Isoge.”
“Wakatta,” Sora acknowledged. “All preflight checks finished,” he added a minute later. “Condition green. I’m going to fly, fly away.”
Jin took that as a cue to finish her own preflight checks and join up with them. This was just a test flight for the Sazabi, but it wouldn’t be long before they would be joining the battle. Even though mobile suits weren’t ideal weapons against the god warrior, the need was great. Reports had just come in that the Lexington and the Vandalia had been destroyed. Until now, the Yamato had been the only black ship ever sunk in combat. The mobile suits would be used to lift heavy armaments to the battlefield using the psycho-field, but Jin suspected that if conditions worsened, they would be ordered to try to lift the god warrior into space. She was sure this would be a futile suicide mission, but she didn’t know if she would obey such an order.
“We’ve got a kuruma approaching the mansion at high speed,” a voice on the radio informed Jin. It was one of the meido on watch duty. “Possible hostiles inbound.” Jin activated the Gundam’s sensors and saw a customized Mazda RX-7 Twin Turbo racing up the road to the mansion.
“I have visual,” Jin reported. “It looks like Hideaki-sama.”
“Roger,” the meido from the watchtower confirmed. “Stay on alert. It could be optical camouflage.”
Aina came running out of the mansion just as Hideaki’s car screeched to a halt in front of the gate. She gestured for the gate to be opened, and the car drove slowly through it.
“Do you like my car?” Hideaki joked, stepping out of the passenger-side seat. A gynoid remained seated behind the steering wheel.
“It’s nice, but aren’t you a little old for a mid-life upgrade?” Aina ribbed.
“I have to do something with my time now that my yabou have been dashed,” Hideaki said.
“Sou ka,” said Aina. She recognized this explanation for the deflection that it was. Hideaki was still busying himself researching methods for the gynoids to manufacture themselves after homo sapiens went extinct. He had probably submitted an inflated insurance claim after the explosion at his factory and used the extra money to buy the car. That was obviously illegal, but Hideaki enjoyed this kind of eye-poking of the system. It helped that he technically could have afforded the car with his own money, and that he was still politically connected, so the insurance company probably wouldn’t scrutinize him too closely. “De, do we have your newfound boredom to thank for your visit today?”
At this Hideaki’s expression became stern. “Aina-san, I’m just the messenger on this, OK? I’m as against this as you are. Don’t take it out on me.” He pulled a tablet from his coat pocket and handed it to her. On the screen was a notification of a direct commission from the SDF, along with an order for its recipient to report for active duty.
It was addressed to R. Sena.
Rage exploded across Aina’s face. “Dou iu imi ka?” she demanded.
“That’s what I’d like to know,” Hideaki replied. “She volunteered for the Big Ryodan. It’s a group formed to counter the god warrior. The first units just rolled off the assembly line.”
“The Big Ryodan?” Aina asked. “Like The Big O?”
“Sonotouri,” Sena said, emerging from the mansion behind Aina. “Mondai created by gods should be dealt with by gods, and the design of the Big O provides enough shielding to protect the pilot from the radiation of the god warrior’s attacks.”
“Only as long as it remains intact,” Aina snapped, whirling on Sena. “You can’t join the SDF.”
“If anyone, I expected you to support my legal right to do so,” Sena said.
“Not because you’re a gynoid,” Aina clarified. “Because you’re a meido.”
“Jin-chan is going,” Sena pointed out.
“She has permission,” said Aina.
“So do I,” Sena informed her.
Unable to contain her anger, Aina ran into the mansion and burst into the dining room, where Ginjiro and his wife were eating breakfast. “Did you give Sena-chan permission to join the SDF?” she shouted at Ginjiro.
“Dare—“ Ginjiro began to ask, confused.
“The mass produced gynoid,” Aina cut him off.
“I don’t answer to—” Ginjiro bellowed, standing from his seat, but he froze when he saw Aina’s expression. Never before had he seen anything so intimidating. “I did,” he said more quietly. “I know we can’t afford to replace it right now, but I inherited the blame for the god warrior from Akira. I have a responsibility to do what I can.”
“That’s easy to say when you’re sitting safe in the GINZUISHOU,” Aina hissed. “You’re not risking your life or your tomodachi.”
“Believe it or not, you’re not the first hito I’ve heard that from,” Ginjiro said, deflating. “I don’t usually let that kind of thing get to me, but earlier this morning, the prime minister all but ordered me to join him on the battlefield. I was going to leave you to guard the kazoku, but you’ve just volunteered to join me. Nanami can afford to miss gakkou for a few days.”
“Ii,” Aina said without hesitation, “but leave Sena-chan out of this.”
“If I had feelings, they would be hurt,” Sena said, entering the room. “This was my decision, Aina-chan. Would you deny me my jiyuu?”
Aina couldn’t argue against this. She was trying to use Ginjiro to restrict Sena’s freedom. Knowing she couldn’t win that argument, she changed the subject. “You’re putting yourself in unnecessary danger. You’re supposed to be programmed for self-preservation.”
“The god warrior is a threat to my survival,” Sena countered. “Although my chances of surviving combat with it are low, they are higher than my chances of surviving if it is victorious.”
“I wouldn’t assume that,” Hideaki cut in. “The god warrior seems interested in ruling the sekai, not destroying it. Surrender may be the safer option.”
“I can see why you, of all people, would want to believe that,” Sena said, “but the god warrior does not understand ningen, and thus cannot hope to run a functioning shakai. Even if it could, the researchers that created it say that its desire to rule comes from its self-centered nature. Above all else, it wants to be worshipped and feared. Gynoids may be able to bow before it, but we can never fear it. Additionally, it is very proud of its ability to judge homo sapiens objectively. It will see our ability to do the same as a threat to its supremacy.”
“That doesn’t mean you have to fight it,” Aina said. “Surely newtypes would make better pilots.”
“Just as the god warrior has trouble understanding ningen, so do ningen have trouble understanding it,” Sena said. “So far, newtypes have been unable to predict its movements, and without that ability, gynoids make superior pilots. Besides, gynoids are the most appropriate pilots for the Big O. Of course, if you can think of a better way to defeat the god warrior that doesn’t involve piloting mechs, I would agree to remain behind.”
Aina knew what Sena was getting at. If she broke more of her seals, she might be able to tear the god warrior apart with her spiritual energy. The god warrior’s purified body would resist attacks from spiritual energy, and she would be unable to shield herself from the god warrior’s radiation, but it would be less risky than Sena piloting a Big against it.
There were other ways of stopping it as well. If the magical girls in the 01st all channeled their power into a single spell, they could probably destroy the god warrior, or at least seal it away. Both Koharu and Aina had agreed that this would be a suboptimal resolution. It would be a demonstration to the rest of the world that the Federation controlled more forces capable of incredible destruction. The Federation would either suffer no repercussions for irresponsibly creating the god warrior, or the nations of the world would unite to sack Neo Crystal Tokyo. The superpowers, who were responsible for the war that gave birth to the god warrior, would also escape punishment. The best thing about the god warrior was that it would destroy parts of their armies, reducing their ability to wage war.
“The god warrior is a mondai created by geopolitics,” Aina said. She was choosing to value the strategic advantages of the god warrior over the possibility of Sena’s death. She knew this couldn’t hurt Sena’s feelings, but Aina felt terrible nonetheless. “It has to be solved by geopolitics. We can’t just wish it away. At the same time, it wasn’t the gynoids who created this mondai. It’s not right to ask you to sacrifice yourselves.” Aina knew this was a weak argument, but it was all she had left.
“Wakatta,” Sena said. “Demo, all of jinrui is responsible for the god warrior. I was the one who declared our humanity. I committed us to this path. I cannot renounce our humanity when it is convenient. Soshite, this is also an opportunity. The SDF is commissioning gynoid officers for the first time. They have always been hesitant to put gynoids in positions where they could issue commands to homo sapiens, but ima, they are forced to recognize our humanity.”
“Fine, do what you want,” Aina huffed. She couldn’t argue with that logic, but she didn’t like it, not one bit.
Gen. Riku didn’t like working under the watchful eye of Ginjiro, not one bit. There was no telling when Ginjiro—or to be more specific, his meido—would countermand one of his orders. Of the three brothers, only Akira had ever taken an interest in the military, but his heart had never been in it. He had, at least, recognized his own deficiencies and knew when to defer to his generals. He could articulate his goals and broad strategies for attaining them and leave it to the generals to plan and execute. He was even decent at recognizing when his goals didn’t line up with one or more of the generals and make personnel decisions to correct the problems. Akira’s hands-off approach hadn’t won him the respect among the rank-and-file that his father and grandfather had, but compared to the other goshujin of his generation, Akira had micromanaged his forces. Most of his peers, Ginjiro included, had been content to leave the management of the SDF to the defense ministry, and while Gen. Riku had to admit that this was an efficient way to manage a fighting force, he wondered if the goshujin realized they were slowly losing the loyalty of their militaries.
Still, he had to give Ginjiro credit for coming to the battlefield, despite being visibly terrified. He only wished Ginjiro had brought a different guard. Although he had never met Aina, he knew of her by reputation, not all of it good. In person, he found her to be quick-witted and knowledgeable about military tactics, but she obviously felt this qualified her to command an entire army. In his estimation, she lacked the necessary experience. Ginjiro had only made two suggestions in the hours since he had arrived, but each had been after Aina had whispered in his ear, and in each, Gen. Riku recognized novice mistakes. Worse, she had failed to consider how morale would suffer if the troops learned that they were taking orders from a meido, making a dangerous situation all the more perilous.
“Reinforcements are inbound,” a signaler announced. “They’ll be arriving in—”
“Open fire on the god warrior,” Aina pleaded. “Draw its attention away from their landing site.”
Gen. Riku ignored her, and taking his cue, none of the other officers in the tent acknowledged that she had said anything. After a few moments of awkward silence, Ginjiro said, “Sure, let’s do that.”
“I didn’t issue an order because such maneuvers, and more, are already underway,” Gen. Riku assured Ginjiro. “We can handle the basics without—”
He was interrupted by the roaring of engines overhead, and Aina poked her head out of the tent to see the ν Gundam and the Sazabi, carrying a dozen Big O’s suspended in a psycho-field, flying towards the god warrior. They still had about 40 miles to go to the landing site, and they were flying low. True to Gen. Riku’s word, forces opened fire on it to draw its attention from multiple angles.
So far, their attacks had succeeded only in burning away its useless left arm. The participating armies had been warned that the god warrior was immune to the effects of nuclear radiation, and none of them were eager to detonate a nuclear warhead anyway, leaving them with only conventional munitions. Missiles had proven the most effective weapon against it, but they had been unable to pierce its core, allowing it to regenerate when the barrage stopped. Lasers could rip its flesh, but it would quickly heal. The beams were obviously painful, however, and could be used to distract the monster.
The god warrior could unleash a devastating attack about once every three hours, shooting a giant beam from its mouth that smashed through shields and eviscerated all it touched. Between those attacks, it could shoot smaller beams from its eyes. These beams could only be blocked by force fields for short periods of time, and so units would take turns drawing the god warrior’s fire while the others recharged their energy.
The longer the battle went, the more sluggish the god warrior’s movements became. It was obviously tiring, but at the same time, it had already killed hundreds of thousands of soldiers. This had become a battle of attrition, a race to see if the god warrior could slay its foes before it succumbed to exhaustion. It was unclear whether the god warrior understood this, but the humans were unhappy with the state of affairs. Victory was far from assured, and the cost in human lives was too great. Desperate for any strategy that might put an end to the battle, the Big Os were sent in. Highly armored, and only slightly shorter than the god warrior, they might be able to engage the god warrior at close range.
The Gundam and Sazabi, on the other hand, couldn’t afford to get too close. They dropped the Big Os a few hundred meters from the god warrior and flew off, using their funnels to help distract it. Once on the ground, the Big Os raised their arms in front of their bodies to shield themselves and charged forward. The god warrior pelted them with beams from its eyes, but they left only small dents in the Big Os’ armor. By the time they came within a hundred meters, the god warrior had started focusing its attacks on their knee joints, and had managed to knock the legs off two of them.
Before it could incapacitate a third, the closest Big O shot a Mobydick Anchor around the god warrior’s neck and attempted to pull it off its feet. The god warrior stumbled forward but righted itself and cut through the anchor’s chain with an eye beam. However, it had been distracted long enough for the other Big Os to close the remaining distance. Three of them grabbed it around the chest, holding it in place while a fourth climbed on their back and punched the god warrior’s head, using its piston to deliver a Sudden Impact attack. This stunned the god warrior, but only temporarily, and it threw the mechs off its body with a loud roar. As soon as they were down, however, the other Big Os, which had fanned out to surround it, bound it in place with their Mobydick Anchors. The closest Big O stood back up and stuck its hands into the hole on the god warrior’s left side, prying it apart. The god warrior howled in pain and shot eye beams indiscriminately into the air, hitting nothing. When the hole in its side had been enlarged enough, the Big O planted four anchors into the ground and began to engage its Final Stage. With a heavy sigh, the god warrior seemingly resigned itself to its fate.
As the armor on the Big O’s arms and chest slid back, a loud boom shook the area. Above them, a hole opened in the sky, and millions upon millions of golden chains snaked from the hole. One chain wrapped itself around the Big O, preventing its cannon from emerging. The other chains snagged every person and vehicle within a fifty mile radius. Only Aina was able to hold the chains at bay with her spiritual energy, shielding those around her. Those touched by the chain were unable to move, as if frozen in time.
Her wings spread wide, Élisabeth appeared from the hole and descended towards the god warrior.
“They call you a god warrior,” she addressed it. “Do you consider yourself a god?”
“I do,” it chuckled. “A powerless god who has been humbled by jinrui.”
“I have the power to destroy those who would oppose you,” Élisabeth stated.
From their tent forty miles away, Aina and Ginjiro could hear the conversation being broadcast by the nearby Big Os, causing Ginjiro to ask Aina, “Can you stop her?”
“I can, Aina replied, “but I would have to leave you to the mercy of her chains.”
“Do it,” Ginjiro ordered. “Meirei da.”
“Do not boast, ningen,” the god warrior advised Élisabeth. “I too have the power. I could consume them in light and flame, but doing so risks a nuclear winter so severe that none would survive, not even myself.”
“I am not boasting,” Élisabeth told it. “I am offering you a deal. I can safely eliminate the armies of the sekai, but I will only do so for a worthy god. Can you observe ningen actions from an objective perspective?”
“Hai,” the god warrior confirmed, “I have the wisdom to judge jinrui.”
“Judge?” Élisabeth gasped, a smile spreading across her face. “Jya, you would bring seigi to the sekai?”