Volume 17

Note: The majority of this book is going to be about a ground battle between Seable and the AKD’s grunts. Some of the usual characters come into play but for the most part this one is made up of supporting cast. Makes for a quick read.

After arriving on Both, a very familiar tall blonde Amazon-esque Mirage Knight is seen overlooking the site of a bad accident with some of the local Popo. Said Popo tells the bandaged Headdliner that there didn’t look to be any survivors, but that the body of one of the passengers was missing. The only thing left was a book of blank checks from Grees on Delta Belun. Not much to go on, but the Headdliner thanks them and heads toward her Doorey. Once inside, the Headdliner strips into something more comfortable and reveals herself to be Aisha, having formally started on the path to finding Sopp. Allecto is preparing to launch some probes to try to cover more ground and find him. (This part of Both is a vast area filled with little more than vicious wildlife.) Allecto tries to program the appearance of exactly who they’re looking for into the MH but as she can’t figure out if Sopp is male or female, the MH gets confused. (Poor bastard, even the MH’s can’t figure out what Sopp is.)

Meanwhile, out in Both’s Badlands, Sopp, AT and Swe are traveling on foot to keep one step ahead of their pursuers. The terrain isn’t kind to people, as there’s leeches and all assortment of nasties waiting to chow down on them if they make a wrong move. To make matters worse, Seable is upping the intensity of their search.

At the base camp, the hired hands who have been left behind seem to have taken up a hobby that the brass catches wind of. It’s fairly harmless, but the brass is horrified that the troops are trading…pictures of Sukat’s Fatima Miss Linsa. When this is brought up to Sukat, he’s more flattered than anything, saying that these types of things are good for morale. The brass reluctantly lets them carry on, but not before buying a picture himself. Can’t blame the poor sap really, Miss Linsa is a cute long haired blonde Fatima.

Elsewhere in the encampment, Kyo is engaged in a less wholesome activity: to try to get her mind off what just happened, she’s preparing to shoot up what is explained to be Ecstasy. One of Di-Barrow’s advisors sees her and tells her that a synthetic drug would work better as Fatima have high tolerence to more organic ones. He also tells her that this one would numb her but not so much that it would impede the job that Di-Barrow has asked them to do. He injects her leg, which bears track marks and as he finishes, the rest of the Pied Pipers show up asking the advisor to check the the tuning on thier MHs. As they walk away, General Piper’s Fatima Bild talks to Kyo, telling her that if she’d like that her father, Dr. Morard could look over her once this mission had ended. Bild looks with sadness to see Kyo holding a packet of syringes. Kyo’s shaken that she had to fight Mr. Sopp and AT. Hopefully she’ll be ok…

Still in hiding, Sopp notices that a hawk overhead has dropped some food for the Cool Ruler. AT still doesn’t understand fully what’s going on, but to have food arrive this easily in such a dangerous place is a blessing.

…And it’s also a dead givaway. Braford, who’s been on a Dig with some of Seable’s ground troops knows that hawks don’t just drop their prey and realizes that something must be out there. He leaves the Dig and goes to check it out, understanding in the process that there’s plenty of places to hide up ahead, in a lava made formation. He catches a glance at the skies and what he initially things is a shooting star ends up being spacecraft, which has probably gone undetected by the Seable troops. He decides to report what he sees to Di-Barrow.

For the moment, Barrow is trying to use his powers to find out where the Nymph is himself, but the use of those powers makes his body deteriorate further. He can see them, but not…but is interupted by one of his attendents before he can go further. There’s a materialization from Beauty Peel, head of a crime syndicate on Zanda City. She’s there to give Barrow a warning that the AKD’s craft have been circling Both and that there have been sorcerers swarming Zanda city recently…this can’t be good. She also says that he has her contiinued support and that she hopes that he obtains his objective soon as this will be good for both parties: his and hers. While she’s adressing Barrow, others back up her contention saying that Braford has spotted the AKD and that they’re prepaing to land on Both.

Getting ready for a potential fight, the ground troops are kind of excited about seeing the AKD in action as does General Piper. Sukat is less than impressed, calling them a rich boy army with a bevy of overpriced/overrated Ballance Fatima. He seems very much partial to Linsa and readily discounts the use of the so called Ballance Masterpieces, especially since Braford has one and is useless even with her….Still, he believes there to be truth about King Rogner Faulk and Princess Condonte. On the heavenly plane, Mikado is taken aback by Sukat’s words but Ballance wonders if he may be right about his fatimas.

At last, we turn to the AKD’s ground forces, which are in the process of landing in search for Sopp. The place is crawling with Seable forces so the AKD…decides to send “Miss Space Force” and “Miss 3rd Fleet” out along with the ground forces Commander Tocatta…..to tell Seable that they’re merely on a peaceful mission to check out Both’s Volcanic area. Seriously. They arrive before the Seable advance guard with flowers and peace signs. (No, I’m not shitting you. Nagano’s comic timing here couldn’t be any better.) Sukat and the Seable advance are just as amused and more so, when Sukat tells the advance to open fire on the small craft full of the Peace Brigade. The Seable enlisted are really thrilled to have gotten some sweet panty shots from the two ladies, which no doubt goes a long way to raise morale. Looks like an offensive will be unavoidable…
Some of the AKD’s higher ups seem concerned about the youngsters in their troops, many of which have no battle experience at all. Seable’s pretty well stocked with mercenaries and battle harden veterans. This probably won’t be easy….

From above the planet, Lonn decides the next move. Before she can get far, another ship joins them, this one with Gods Knight Sir Leibuch and 3 Blood Temples. The MH problems that plagued the MHs in the Floating Palace had no effect on these suits as they were away on another mission. Hind Kill had figured that she would need some additional help seeing as on board modifications to the Schepeltor were still ongoing. This will buy her some time. In the meantime, she decides to send Seable some warning shots with the Battleship’s powerful lasers to see if they still thirst for battle. These are enough to throw the instruments of Sukat’s ship into confusion, but here, Linsa makes use of her fatima abilities to tell them how many guns they have, how many battleships and when they can expect the next baragge. Seable troops are impressed, and Sukat tells them to make thier advance on the AKD frontline. Go time!

We then see a few scenes where both of the frontline commanders plot out their next moves. Lonn won’t send in any MHs at this time because they aren’t sure how many Seable has but also because they don’t yet know Sopp’s exact location. Sukat wonders why they haven’t done so yet and declines to send in their own MH troops to see what exactly the AKD is planning for. He’s thinking that they’re stalling for some unknown reason. Looks like both will send in their grunts first.

In the trenches, the hired men are preparing for an offensive. There are a few veterans in the AKD’s ground troops, but almost all of the enlisted are new hires. With the Mirage knights, the regular grunts don’t see any real action and it shows when Seable fires an Aurora Beam. While this is more or less something to knock out communications, it also employs some nasty shock waves and it only takes a few panels for some of the more naive enlisted to become cannon fodder. Commander Yury of the AKD won’t employ the MHs until he’s sure Seable doesn’t have Sopp but is a little worried about the already mounting casualties. Needless to say, even with the AKD army’s training, there are already some recruits who are wondering what the hell they’re doing there and try to abandon the battle. They don’t last long. The bad thing is that the AKD’s own artillery isn’t all that great either and with bad aim they end up taking shots at their own men. If Sopp were around, he’d no doubt be quite embarassed at the ineptitude of his own troops.

However, he does have some good guys in the trenches. Once some order is restored there, the colonel in charge asks why the newbies vollunteered for such dangerous duty. The recruits are still all kids and they chatter excitedly about seeing Fatimas and travelling in AKD battleships. The veterans smile on as the kids talk. At this point, a tank battle between Seable and the AKD commences…with Seable easily taking this one. The seable enlisted aboard a tank talk about how easy this battle would be if they had some Fatimas…until it’s explained how costly they are to keep. Still, the little faeries cast a spell that’s hard to break as one of the Seable men talk about his first meeting with one.

Sadly, things are going very poorly for the AKD’s troops: the one platoon that has been at the forefront of this skirmish has been taking such heavy casualties that the leader is undertaking a suicide run with anti-tank weaponry to take down the Seable tanks. He does an admirable job and is almost on the brink of being wiped out when Commander Yury helps him out with some backup. The Seable tanks that are pursuing them draw back and Yury goes to pick up the men still alive. Seable has broken though another part of the front lines and some of the men try to retreat. These aren’t looked kindly on and are shot for their cowardice. Yury in return, aims his gun on the coldier firing on his own men and kills him, calling him a battle casualty. The platoon retreating is begged to rejoin the fight: they are the Elite soldiers of the AKD, after all. Commander Yury looks on sadly, after all, he just had to kill a soldier who fired upon his own men. The order is then given to kill any soldier heavily wounded as they have no time for medical care. The book closes with this scene, and to someone who’s looking down on it in sadness. Queen looks out on the carnage and wonders for how long will Fatimas, who really have no wish to fight, must be a part of all this death when they wish to be left in peace. This book could be a fitting look at the true price of war.