11. Finding Yourself in a Routine Plot

The Kursk industrial region, once a part of Russia, is now just another region occupied by the Jovian lizards. What’s worse is that they have used the area to build a new type of weapons platform, code-named the Walking Stick. Three demolition teams have already tried and failed to destroy the Walking Stick, and now it’s the Nadesico’s turn. Nonetheless, Yurika isn’t worried- surely this is just another target for the gravity blast cannon to blow away?

Approaching the Walking Stick, the Nadesico prepares the clear the nearby mountain and get a clear shot at their latest target. Meanwhile, Akito is enjoying another episode of Gekigangar; this time around Gekigangar pilots Ken and Joe are arguing, but after exchanging a few blows and insults, they are the best of friends once more. Watching the Gekigangar pilots make up, Akito finds a new appreciation for the idea of teamwork. It’s just a shame that such happy and resolved endings rarely pan out in real life.

Back on the bridge, the crew are in for a shock when the Walking Stick fires at them before they have even cleared the mountain. The cannon blast demolishes the top of the mountain and scores a direct hit on the Nadesico, seriously damaging the ship. As the distortion field and phase transition engines go down, the ship begins to fall, and in the background, Inez begins an explanation. The Walking Stick is a gravity wave rail gun which fires a destructive micro black hole at its target. Fortunately, the mountain absorbed most of the blast- this time.

With the ship damaged, the crew are forced to change tactics. Given the failure of their first attempt, Munetake finally sees fit to mention that the last teams were destroyed because the rail gun shot them through the mountain, which is just what it will do to the Nadesico once it recharges. Inez has calculated that it will take around 12 hours before the Walking Stick can fire again. With its defences concentrated against an aerial attack, the Aestivalis should be able to manage a ground assault before then.

The first firing was at 1700 hours, and at 1800, the pilots are given their briefing. The Aestivalis’ will be out of range of the Nadesico’s energy feed for the duration of the mission, so they will have to take along mobile batteries that will clip to the back of the frames. Akatsuki will be in command, but although he is sure that his training and knowledge of advanced tactics will ensure success, Akito reminds the others that teamwork is important too, only to find that the other construe this as his volunteering to do the donkey work.

As the “pack mule” of the mission, Akito’s Aestivalis frame is loaded up with extra batteries, ammunition, and enough food to supply a small army. After listening to messages from both Megumi and Yurika hoping that their relationship with Akito can advance on his return, Akito finally manages to launch, leaving a jealous Seiya and maintenance crew to wish the ladies were as interested in them- after all, they wouldn’t complain the way Akito does.

Whilst the remaining bridge crew dress in old-style military uniforms to get in the mood for land-based combat, at 2010 hours, the Aestivalis begin their march. Whilst the pilots sing a rousing song, the two land frames (Akatsuki and Akito) and three air frames (Hikaru, Ryoko and Izumi) march off on their mission. Naturally, no matter what terrain is crossed, it is pack horse Akito who ends up either doing the hard work or doggedly bringing up the rear. And when they finally make camp, naturally it is Akito who has to cook dinner.

Whilst Izumi and Hikaru take a nap, Ryoko goes off to find Akito, who is sitting alone by the river. Akito was so busy cooking that he forgot to eat anything himself, so Ryoko brings him a plateful of what is left. As they sit together, Akatsuki arrives to break up the party- he doesn’t want their military adventure to degenerate into some teen romance- and anyway, Ryoko really shouldn’t be so interested in Akito- he is only an anime fan, after all. As Akatsuki continues to insult him, Akito responds, and the two eventually conclude that basically, they just live in two different worlds (or as Akatsuki would put it, the real world, and the fantasy world of anime).

Fortunately, perhaps, further argument is forestalled by an incoming enemy attack. The enemy does have ground defences- their bug-machines have taken over a squadron of old tanks, and now the Aestivalis must fight their way through them. Fearing that the girls’ land units won’t have the firepower to hold their own, Akito refuses to go on ahead to their objective. Instead, he attacks with his heavy artillery frame, ignoring Akatsuki’s orders to save ammunition. And when the spare batteries are destroyed because he wasn’t guarding them, it just pushes Akito into an attacking frenzy that uses up most of his remaining ammo.

Worse still, Inez has bad news; despite her earlier calculations, it looks like the Walking stick is already recharged, and will be firing again soon. Last time, the micro black hole fired by the Walking Stick dissipated outside of the atmosphere, but this one is likely to dissipate within the atmosphere, destroying the surrounding region and leaving a residue of intense gamma radiation. The Aestivalis’ have no choice but to make their attack run straightaway.

With their spares gone, the batteries from the girls’ aerial frames have to be transferred into Akatsuki and Akito’s land frames, leaving Ryoko, Izumi and Hikaru stranded whilst the others continue the mission. But what seems like an annoying wait for the trio becomes something worse when an active enemy tank begins heading straight for them.

Without any power for their Aestivalis, there seems to be no way for the trio to fight back, but fortunately, mechanical geek Uribatake has a plan- they can take down the tank using a suction mine from one of the Aestivalis frames. Hikaru manages to get a mine free, but has to jump clear when a tank powers over her Aestivalis. However, this move leaves the tank’s underside exposed, and as Seiya knows, this is its weak spot. Running forward, Ryoko plants the mine on the bottom of the tank, and the ensuing detonation fries the circuitry and the Jovian bug machine inside.

Meanwhile, Akito and Akatsuki have problems of their own- a new wave of tanks, led by a giant sized “mother tank” have launched an attack, and all the while, the Walking Stick is getting ever closer to being ready to fire, much to the crew’s distress. Yurika is calm, however, her belief in Akito carrying her through. But can he justify that belief?

With time and power running short, Akatsuki realises that they need to make a run for the Walking Stick. Unfortunately, the mother tank is still in the way, but help is at hand. Ryoko, Hikaru and Izumi have commandeered the tank they took out with the mine, and, together with Akatsuki, they plan to distract the enemy whilst Akito makes the final run for the Walking Stick.

Ramming the mother tank with their smaller one, Ryoko, Hikaru and Izumi manage to expose the underside of their oversized enemy, allowing Akatsuki to fire at this tank’s weak spot. It is a job well done, and soon the mother tank is out of commission. Akito, however, is not having such good luck; having reached the Walking Stick, he barrages it with all his remaining ammo, but to no avail- he doesn’t have enough left to destroy it.

Riding onto the scene on the back of Ryoko’s tank, Akatsuki uses his own frame to fire on the Walking Stick, telling Akito that this is exactly why he told him to conserve his ammunition in the first place. Fortunately, Akatsuki has enough to finish the job, and with a few more rounds, the Walking Stick stops charging and breaks down.

Their mission over, the relieved pilots have only to wait for the Nadesico to pick them up. Despite his few missteps, Akatsuki praises Akito for his performance on the mission- it looks like Akito might have finally won the respect of his fellow pilot.