Story and art by Ryuko Azuma
See it in larger format on Comic NewType here
Back up to Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10
Narrative reads right to left
Alexei and Abbey sip coffee and ponder the fate of the Mifune robot they lost to the AI fleet. Despite this, Alexei points out that the Mifune that just served them coffee is a restored version from a backup.
Right side: nevertheless, the Mifune that was lost is no longer the one they knew. It remains linked to the AI in a virtual space, sailing away from the solar system. “We don’t know what he felt or did in that virtual space,” the new Mifune says, “but I think he evolved unexpectedly through contact with the combat AI. Experiences can change us. But if the AI is also intelligent, it will inevitably be changed by experience. I’ve tried to simulate his behavior a few times to understand it. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s a very ambivalent feeling.”
“People call it sadness,” Abbey replies.
Left side: Abbey takes her first sip of the coffee and is surprised by how different it is. Alexei reveals that it’s Moscow coffee, made of beans he just received from his home country.
Talk turns to new mysteries. Alexei says he found something odd in the Seireness cell sample he covertly recovered several chapters ago. He describes it as some sort of unique mitochondria that lets them move through time. With a shock, Abbey realizes what he’s talking about: space-time crystals, the secret power source for their own ships.
Right side: “The structure of Seireness’ space-time crystals is unstable,” Alexei explains. “Probably due to some sort of radioactive decay. Maybe when a large number of space-time crystals gather in one place, they go critical. The rate of decay increases explosively. That’s why you can’t attack with a large army.”
Left side: the mystery deepens when Alexei calls up a genetic analysis of both the Seireness and the Topness pilots.
Alexei continues: “Seireness and Topness have the same mitochondrial mutation. Genetically speaking, Seireness is an 800,000-year-old descendant of Topness.Perhaps Nirvana was looking for this gene through [the video game] Star Sailor. A gene that allows access to space-time crystals.”
Abbey is stunned. “Then Topness and Seireness run on the same mechanism!? They’re killing each other with the same blood!!?”
“I think so,” he answers. “I don’t know how I’m going to face them…”
Then, a sudden knock at the door.
Alexei tells Abbey to hide, but when he opens the door, he is confronted by members of Topness in costumes.
“TRICK OR TREAT!”
Surprised, Hugo asks if they interrupted something. “NO NO NO NO…”
CHAPTER TITLE: HAPPY HALLOWEEN
Later, the Topness pilots are gathered for a Halloween party, gossiping about what they just interrupted. They’re certain Abbey and Alexei must be a couple. Then talk turns to food. Hugo likes the chicken wings, and Marina takes credit for making them. Hugo thinks she must be lying, since they taste too good.
The argument escalates until Yu tries one and is amazed by how good they are; they taste just like his grandmother’s recipe. Marina says that was Nina’s special touch. She’s embarassed, and Yu’s adoration stops her in her tracks.
Right side: frozen with panic, Nina throws off her costume and immediately jumps in the pool. Yu wonders if he said something wrong, and Marina chides his naivete. (Nina did this especially for him as a show of affection, but couldn’t handle it when he found out.)
Left side: elsewhere on the station, Linne Aegis catches Alexei on an illegal smoke break. She demands to know if he’s the one who brought the AI fleet here that led to so much trouble.
Right side: Alexei answers that it was all Stan Foliant’s doing and apologizes for the fallout. “But it’s better than Nirvana, right?” Linne is startled that he knows the name of this sinister shadow organization and asks what he wants from her.
“I’m chasing down a shady “conspiracy” that’s lurking around UN headquarters. It’s okay, I’m not from Nirvana.”
Left side: Alexei admits that he’s run a background check on Linne that reveals a few things: “Linne Aegis, 18. Second generation Martian pioneer. Your mother died giving birth to you at Marinis Canyon Hospital. She’s listed only as an unidentified woman.”
Right side: “She was rushed to the hospital in her late 50s. Cause of death was a stroke. She was a little old to be having you. To me, it looks like she just rolled up and you took advantage of the body.”
He produces a photo of her father-in-law and the founder of the hospital, Dr. Aegis. With him in the photo is a Mexican oil tycoon named Seth Cardenas, whose wealth helped to fund the hospital.
“Who the hell are you,” she asks.
Left side: “Alexei Letvizan…Son of Yuri Letvizan… Do you get what that means? Linne Aegis…the hidden first Topness.”
Right side: “The destroyer of the original space-time crystal was named in my father’s last will and testament. The Deus crash was orchestrated by Nirvana. My father was killed by them. If you’re free, I could use your help.”
“If you want to know the truth,” she replies, “you’ll have to help me too. Their home base…find out where Mark X is.”
Right side: with that, the scene shifts to another meeting of the shadowy Nirvana. They study a hologram of a man from Earth.
Right side: we don’t yet know the names of any of these speakers, but their words begin to reveal some details…
“I didn’t think the National Security Agency would use Novichov. The irony is unbelievable.”
“I guess they’re in a bit of a bind. It’s unexpected that the AI fleet has been evacuated.”
“Thanks to Seireness.”
“But the thing that stands in the way of our scenario is still Vimana.”
“Vimana’s designer, Alexei Letvizan…it’s regrettable that we lost him.”
Left side: “He would know the path that led us here is on the ridge of a sharp knife.”
Then a return to the image of Novichov.
“Dr. Stan Foliant needs to go. This is also a warning…”
On these two pages, we are back on Earth at UN headquarters. Stan Foliant is approached from behind by Novichov and brutally strangled to death.
Back on Vimana, a Mifune robot wakes up Alexei, saying there’s been some news.
A broadcast from Earth lays it out: “Earlier today, security guards at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva found Stan Foliant, a staff member, hanging in the bathroom. Mr. Foliant was pronounced dead at the hospital where he was taken. A suicide note with what appears to be a coffee stain on it was found at the scene. The police will be investigating both the incident and the suicide.”
Mifune offers Alexei a coffee, but Alexei can think only of what this implies.