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
Narrative reads right to left
Abbey Yan speaks to the gathered Topness pilots, explaining that the UN Defense Agency has sent a fleet of 18 AI ships to their station, Vimana. Whereas the Nerfthis fleet is powered by space-time crystals, these new ships run on fusion reactors and will be deploying against Seirenes with particle cannons. Hugo gripes that “they’ll never beat Seirenes with those toys.”
Right side: Tension rises around the table when Abbey states that she welcomes these new ships because sending out minors on these dangerous missions is inhumane. She adds that if the Mark 8 ship is ever completed, another minor will probably be selected to fly it. Aisha Mezedier (mark 5 pilot) retorts that age doesn’t matter; they are all here to protect human life.
Left side: Yu fumes as Abbey replies that the AI ships will reduce human casualties. He states what’s on everyone’s mind: “So we’re being sent back to Earth? I don’t want to go back. I don’t ever want to see those bastards’ faces again.”
Abbey explains that NerThis will operate as backup to the AI ships, but no one can conclusively say if NerfThis will be disbanded.
Right side: Yu rises and walks out, ignoring Laine’s call to stay.
Left side: Laine finds Yu sitting alone and offers to give Yu a home on Earth if they get sent back. He promises no one will call him names because of his mother (who is believed to have crashed the Deus station on Earth and killed thousands). Yu answers that there were a lot of dead where Laine lives in Hawaii, and “there’s no place for me anywhere on Earth.”
Right side: Laine promises to protect Yu since they are best friends until death. Linne watches sadly.
Left side: In Carlos Jones’ office, UN representative Stan Foliant is delighted to be here in orbit around Jupiter. “If you’re a physicist, you want to come here at least once before you die.” However, he notes Carlos’ cold expression and admits to not feeling welcome here.
Right side: Stan says that the UN went into a panic when they discovered how the Star Sailor video game was being used to identify and gather recruits for Topness. “What the hell do you think you’re doing here at Vimana?”
Left side: He smiles as he says the UN is considering removing Carlos but that it’s taking a while, so he must have some “rats” looking out for him. Carlos finally speaks up, saying they are fighting for the survival of the human race and details are unimportant. Stan says his AI fleet will be taking over that battle and comments that Carlos’ chair looks comfortable.
Right side: Elsewhere on the station, Mifune addresses his crew of maintenance robots, announcing the imminent arrival of the AI fleet. A conversation about the ethics of AI begins with a comment that humans seem to think it’s OK for AI to be destroyed despite the clear presence of an ego. “It’s hard to prove that,” Mifune says. “The same can be said for humans,” one of them answers.
Left side: Everyone ponders whether or not the AI battle system also has an ego and emotions, and they all wish together that they could “dive inside it to see.” Mifune replies, “We are strictly forbidden to have pyschic contact with other AIs. Humans believe that contact between AIs can lead to unpredictable evolution.”
Right side: In an undisclosed location, the leader of the secretive NIRVANA group talks about the disruptive presence of Stan Foliant. He is probably aware of them.
Left side: She continues, predicting that the AI fleet will be no match for the enemy, but their mere presence could hinder their progress. “If an AI fleet can intercept Seirenes, then so be it. The original space-time crystal is in our hands, and we’ll have no problem running the scenario.”
Right side: Alexei looks at the docked AI ships, and Stan approaches from behind. They know each other, and Stan asks how Alexei’s coffee trees are doing. Alexei offers him a taste, but Stan isn’t a coffee drinker.
Left side: Stan suspects that Alexei is the one who tipped the UN off about the Star Sailor video game, but he plays dumb. “It’s okay,” Stan chuckles, “it helped me get the AI fleet on board. But is it true that the Seirenes are related to humans?”
“There was a report in my father’s papers that suggested as much. It means that Nirvana knew about the existence of Seirenes before the fall of Deus.”
Right side: “That doesn’t make sense,” Stan says. “I thought Nirvana was a group of seers. Alexei…when did you start believing in the occult?” Alexei demures, insisting he’s agnostic. He asks Stan if the AI ships really can win, and Stan has every confidence.
Left side: “Their armor is light-colored carbon nanotubes with a plasma shield. The new wake field accelerator may not have the firepower of the NerfThis, but that’s not a problem.” But there is a shadow of doubt; “Seireness…if they’re related to humans…”
Nina (Mark 1 pilot) and Malina (Mark 4 pilot) are having a swimming race and Mifune declares Nina the winner.
Right side: Aisha approaches Mifune and asks if he’s sure he wants to go aboard an AI ship. Mifune answers that he’s excited about it. “A new mission is a treasure trove of new information.” He admits that the mission could kill him, but it will take Aisha out of the firing line. “No, Mifune! AI ships are no match for the Seireness!”
Left side: Mifune, stunned, listens as Aisha says she’s seen the data on these ships and there’s no way they can prevail. He’s about to board a deathtrap. “Even if the AI fleet is doomed, our job is to serve humanity even if it means sacrificing ourselves.” Aisha tells him that would just result in continued violence, and she begins describing a manga she once read.
Right side: In this manga story, an old monk collapsed in a desert and three animals appeared to help him. The bear and the fox both brought him food. The rabbit could not, so it leapt onto a fire in sacrifice so the old man could eat him. Aisha says she didn’t think anything like this could ever happen.
Left side: Aisha tears up as she says “life is not something that can just be thrown away. All animals know that. Only humans don’t.” Mifune asks why she’s crying.
Right side: Belated chapter title, The Life
Left side: Yu is dreaming about a disaster in battle. He’s lost control of his ship and no one is responding.
He watches helplessly as Vimana starts to explode. His ship still won’t respond and no one answers his call for help.
Then, a voice: “As of this moment, the Seirenes-infested Yamato will be destroyed…It doesn’t matter if the Topness lives or dies…The priority is to destroy the Seireness.”
Right side: “No!!! I don’t want to die!!! Somebody help!!! Don’t kill me!!! Laine!!!” Yu is startled awake by an emergency alarm.
Left side: Stan watches as the control center moves into action. A Seireness wormhole has opened and the enemy is approaching. The AI fleet has been launched and the members of Topness are booting up. Abbey is impressed by how fast the AI ships mobilized. Stan says, “The advantage of an AI fleet is that it can operate in space indefinitely. Not so with NerfThis.”
Right side: “Wormhole open! AI ships have Seireness contact!”
Left side: The AI ships launch torpedoes. Abbey wonders why, when they have particle cannons. Stan says it’s a jab that will come into play later.
The torpedoes are quickly shot down, making Alexei nervous. Stan says not to worry and a controller is surprised to see the Seireness convulsing from the attack.
Right side: Stan reveals that they’ve deployed A-232 Novichok, the most powerful nerve gas ever created. Alexei is shocked, but Stan answers coldly. “Seireness are outside the scope of the Geneva Protocol. You wouldn’t call them human, would you?”
Left side: Abbey calls for the Topness pilots to get ready, saying the AI ships have deployed nerve gas. Hugo is disgusted. This is no humanitarian gesture after all.
Right side: The lead enemy charges forward and is split in half by an AI-fired particle beam.
Left side: Abbey is stunned when it is announced that the mission is complete. The enemy has been silenced. Yu fumes as he listens. But then, something unexpected occurs. A controller shouts, “I can’t cancel combat mode! The AI has changed its target! The new target is…”