The year is 289 LC.
With the reluctant approval of High Chancellor Danella Tagar, Operation Prodigal has been set into motion. The daring and preposterous Captain Kan has lead a successful effort to capture the EES’s new prototype Gundam Reta. Spearheaded by the successful infiltration of the Red training program by special agent Satie Skye, Operation Prodigal is off to a smashing success. Unfortunately for the crew of the Jiha stealing the unit is only half the task. With the entirety of the Arden fleet in pursuit of them, it becomes critical for the heroes of the Republic to stay one step ahead of the enemy…but that will be no easy task.


On board the Jiha:
The triumphant Satie Skye steps out her new Gundam. She is greeted with cheers and chants as she does and they are well earned. Not only did she successfully infiltrate the high security facility, made it to “Red” in less than three months, got out clean with the target, but she held off Rhegal Lucas in a real fight. Maybe people would start recognizing her for her accomplishments.

Satie looks down at the EES emblem on her space suit. She can’t rip it off fast enough. As the loading lift carries her down her fellow pilot Nick Fitzgerald steps out his unit, the Gundam Gatsby. The suave and sophisticated gentleman with coiffed blonde hair and vermillion eyes tips his hand and graciously bows to her. Satie tips her hand back at him. It would appear that the entirety of the rest of the crew is there to greet her.

As Satie steps off the lift she is warmly embraced by the self appointed “mother” of the ship, First Officer Commander Alla Yoko. Just shy of thirty, an inch short of six foot, white haired, with amber eyes the Commander was a comforting…and aprapo of her rank…and commanding presence. She is the reason, focus, and diligence behind the Jiha.

As Commander Yoko steps aside the incomparable and incorrigible Captain Kan steps forward. Grinning from ear to ear the thirty odd man’s man, tall, with his signature sunglasses, jet black slicked back hair, and still not wearing a shirt underneath his coat. He wraps Satie in a giant bear hug and spins her around as he lifts her up. As he steps aside he wraps his arm around his first officer’s shoulder.

The instant the captain is out of the way, Cadet Franz Allister rushes forward. The awkward auburn mop top is overjoyed to see his friend in good health.

“Satie! I missed you!”, he screeches as he stumbles into an awkward hug.
“So I see you’re still the same old Franz”, she mutters as she reluctantly hugs him back.

Franz tries to ever so slyly slide his hands.

“Did you miss me…Sates”, he says in an excruciatingly forced low baritone.

With a single hand Satie easily shoves him aside.

She sighs, “Yup. Same old Franz.”

While Commander Yoko is busy chewing the cadet out the ship’s coms officer, Maria Andalu steps forward. A few years older and a few inches shorter than Satie, her luscious candy apple hair compliments her caramel skin, but what is most striking is her eyes. Those jade pools shimmer with a shine that betrays her as Starborn as well.

“Good to have you back pilot”, Maria says with a cool reserve all the while empathically projecting passionate warmth.
“It’s good to be home”, Satie says as she empathically reciprocates with cool distance.

Maria picks up on it and winces slightly. She is content with a handshake and quietly excuses herself back to her post.

Next the haggard old veteran, Lieutenant Kao son Jinn steps forward. The stress of his difficult life does not rest easy on his shoulders. His prematurely greying hair is poorly combed and his teal eyes brim with sorrow and pain. Kao nervously avoids Satie’s gaze.

“Old man”, Satie greets him.
“Young Wan”, Kao replies.

Satie takes off the necklace and goes to hand it to the lieutenant but he refuses it.

“No no no! That’s yours now”, he insists.
“Thank you.”
“She’d be proud of you.”

His compliment doesn’t quite sit right with her. Satie visibly flinches.

“Yeah yeah”, she sneers.

Lastly there’s Ensign Gabriel Milton. A somewhat short man with long, wavy black hair and eyes red like rubies. With much dramatic flare he quietly salutes Satie who returns the gesture in kind. Only the two of them really know what it means. He glances over at Commander Yoko with disdain in those eyes but only for a brief moment.

Only a few seconds later the alarms go off and Maria is heard over the speakers, “Enemy approaching!”

“Everyone to battle stations”, Captain Kan starts issuing orders, “Fitzgerald get the Gatsby ready for the jump.”
“Good Captain, I don’t know if he can take it”, Nick responds.
“He’s going to have to”, Kan retorts as a matter of fact.
“Yes Captain!”

“Milton, I need you to launch with the Paradise”, Kan commands.
“Yes sir”, Gabriel replies.

Satie starts to move the lift into position so that she can board the Reta.

“Skye, stop!”, Kan barks.
“But sir”, Satie tries to argue.
“Don’t “but sir” me pilot!”, Kan snaps back, “Alla, tell her.”
“Those are orders Skye!”, Commander Yoko shouts.
“I’m good to go.”
“This isn’t about you Satie”, Kan rebuffs her.
“What?”
“We’re not going to risk losing that suit. So get down now!”, Yoko demands.
With a hard sigh Satie relents, “Yes ma’am.”

“Good.  Commander?”, he asks Yoko
“Yes sir”, she replies.
“Would you escort me to the bridge?” he says as he extends his arm for her to hold on to.
Being greatly annoyed she responds, “Can please take this a little seriously?”, as she obliges him.
“Let me think…Uh, no”, he coyly smiles as he speaks.

Gabriel Milton suits up and climbs into the Gundam Paradise, an “L” series warp fighter.

“Before their eyes in sudden view appear
the secrets of the hoary deep, a dark
Illimitable ocean without bound,
Without dimension”, he says as he prepares to launch.

Maria relays his ok to launch and he does so. Jettisoning off into the void of space. As he flies out he sees the two “L” series warp fighters that followed the Jiha. He prepares himself for two vs one combat as the Gundams Prejudice and Karenina that just blinked out of warp.


On board the Laconia:

Alexandras is overseeing preparations to launch her fleet. For all this calamity to befall them she is grateful that the were more or less restocked and ready to ship out. They have to be ready to make the jump the instant her pursuit units make contact. Depending on where the enemy warped that could be three hours or twenty minutes.

While she’s quietly fixated on ship formations Lord Rhegal enters the bridge. He stands tall and salutes her.

“Your orders Admiral?”, he asks her.
“I will meet you in my office in due time, Captain”, she curtly responds.
“Yes ma-am”, he replies without hesitation and excuses himself from the bridge.

After relaying a few more orders to her Grays, commissioned officers, she excuses herself and heads toward her office. There Rhegal is inside and he snaps to attention as Alexandras walks in. Alexandras stands ominous and still until the sliding door closes behind her. Once it does they run into one another’s arms and kiss.

“Are you alright my love?”, he nervously asks her.
“Am I alright? She could have killed you”, she half scolds him.
“Yes she could have but against anyone else she would have killed them.”
“Now is not the time for braggadocio, Rhegal”, she scoffs.
“Alex, I assure you that I am not.”
“Is she really that good?”
“Her numbers, unlike everything else, are not a lie.”

She holds her hands together tight, anxiously clasping and unclasping them.

“When we engage them I have to take point against her”, he tells her.
“I know”, she says holding back her frustration and fear.
“I can’t sit back and watch as my Reds die.”
“Yes. I know, and that’s why everyone loves you”, she smiles faintly.

Rhegal grabs her by the sleeve and pulls her in and they hold each other tight.

“I won’t tell you not to but I am ordering you to come back alive. Be our hero not a martyr”, she says as she rests her face against his chest.

Rhegal takes off his helmet and gently lifts Alexandras’ chin so that their eyes can meet.

“Alex, look at me. No matter what happens I’m never going to leave you. I’ll always find my way back to you”, he solemnly clutches her hand, “I promise.”

They quickly kiss one another. The love birds rub one another’s noses as they pull away, smiling with tender joy, and then he gently holds her cheeks in his hands as they go in for one more long, emotional kiss. Afterward they just stare into one another’s eyes and it’s as if all of time and space fades away…

Until a knock comes at the door requesting the admiral. They stare at one another just a little longer.

“I love you”, she tells him.
“I love you”, he doesn’t hesitate.

Alexandras opens the door while Rhegal puts his helmet back on. She did not expect to see this person standing at the door.

“Mr. Zara?”, she bemuses.

There stands their celebrity charge, Friedrich Zara. A man of average height, in his late thirties, royal blue eyes, light brown hair, but what was most distinctive about his appearance was undoubtedly his large bushy mustache. Wearing his Grays signifying his rank as a commander given to him by the propaganda agencies.

“Ms. Arden…”, he starts.
“Admiral”, she corrects him.
“My apologies. Admiral, I’ve come to inform you that Reds Levin and Austen have made contact with the enemy and that the Laconia is ready to launch.”
“Thank you Commander”, she says as she walks out making her way back to the bridge as Rhegal follows a little ways behind.
“It is my duty.”
“Speaking of, you may disembark and remain here at 2C3XI should you wish.”
“You are generous Admiral Arden but I must refuse. Though I may be but a novice I cannot in good conscience abandon my countrymen on the eve of battle.”
“Hmmm. I find that an odd conviction for a man who rescinded his citizenship”, Alexandras digs at him.
Friedrich smiles, “What can I say, they refused my letter of resignation.”

As they approach the bridge several Whites pass by them. They halt to salute the Admiral but they are clearly excited to see the Commander and have to restrain themselves from trying to speak to him.

“Well the commoners do have an affection for you”, Alexandras says smugly.
Friedrich senses her disdain and it makes him smile, “It does them good to see their own among the upper ranks.”
“Does it?”, she questions.
“I assure you my dear Arden, it does.”
“Then you shall not be dissuaded from your post?”
“No I shalt not”, he insists.
“Very well. Then you are needed at your post Commander. Standby by your Gundam and await further orders.”
“Yes ma’am”, he acknowledges as he heads toward the lower decks.

As Rhegal and Alexandras step onto the bridge the open coms of their fighters can be heard.

“We are engaged by a single enemy Gundam. Another L series unit”, Liza says over the com.
“Do you have the warp point?”, Rhegal demands.
“Yes sir!”, says Leo, “Transmitting them now.”
“Forward that information to the Morrigans and tell them to make the jump”, Alexandras orders.


The Jiha:
If Satie wasn’t part of the crew then Gabriel Milton would easily be the best pilot among their ranks. He soars in and around his enemies constantly harassing them and interfering with their ability to target the Jiha. Beam rifle shots fire past the three warp fighters as they soar in and out of each other’s sights.

“Get em Gabe!”, Satie shouts over the com.

The EES Reds are evidentially flustered but they are also good enough to keeps themselves from being shot down. It’s becoming clear that neither will they succeed in reaching their target nor will the Paradise be able to take down both the Prejudice and Karenina. Gabriel knows what’s coming. The L series warp fighters are the veritable blood hounds of warp travel with their AI’s ability to synch with target warp drives and be able to maintain pursuit through warp. They don’t need to kill the enemy themselves, they just need to keep the scent.

”Nick you need to get your Gundam going. We only got a couple minutes before the rest of that fleet starts showing up”, Gabriel tells his comrade.

Indeed that is precisely what happens. With a blue blink three Morrigan class corvettes enter the battle zone. Very soon the Bubo class assault carrier is simply going to get outgunned and cornered. Unless Captain Kan has another trick up his sleeve.

“Captain, what are we going to do?”, Commander Yoko asks as she stands over him in the captain’s chair.
“Fitzgerald, is the Gatsby good to go?”, Captain Kan queries.
“Sir he is but my good friend can only carry this ship once more before his rest becomes an incontrovertible necessity”, Nick replies.

He thinks on it for a bit before proposing a radical notion.

“Milton”, Captain Kan asks, “their units are the same as yours, correct?”
“Yes sir”, Gabriel answers as he ducks his unit in and out of the line of fire.
“What does your warp synch target?”
“The frequencies sent out by the AI as it calculating where you’ll exist warp.”
“What would happen if you made the jump without the computer?”

The whole crew looks at the Captain with disbelief and you could hear a pin drop in their fretful silence.

“They would have nothing to track, sir”, Gabriel answers.
“Very well. Get back to the ship. We have a leap of faith to make.”
“I’m sorry captain I can’t do that.”

“Ensign that’s an order”, Commander Yoko snarls at Gabriel, “get your ass back here now!”
“Alla”, Gabriel replies, “do me a favor and shut the hell up! If they pick up only one AI making a calculation they’ll assume we’re both making the same jump. I’m going to lead them away from you.”

”Ensign! Don’t be stupid!”, Commander Yoko yells.
“Be brave son”, Captain Kan tells him.
“Yes sir, I will”, Gabriel says.

Gabe don’t do this”, Satie pleads with her friend, “you won’t make it back!”
He smiles, “Knowing you was the best part of my life Satie.”

With that he silences his coms. The corvettes begin to move in. Gabriel begins his warp’s targeting. Nick, placing his trust in his captain, prepares the Gatsby to make a blind jump. All the while Satie makes a mad dash for her Gundam but is stopped by Kao son Jinn.

“I can save him!”, she pleads as he holds her back.
“We’re not going to lose you”, he tells her.
“Let go of me!”, she screams as she breaks free of his grasp and climbs up toward the Reta’s cockpit.
“I can’t lose you too!”, he shouts back at her.

Those words provoke a memory that freezes Satie in her tracks. She remembers back to days when her mother was a pilot and that terrible day when she watched Basele Skye get ripped to pieces by mobile suits emblazoned with the sigil of an orange demon’s face.

“Gabriel!”, her mind screams across space, “I know them. The Arden fleet is where the EES puts the children of important people to pad their resumes. Go at them hard and they’ll panic.”

He hears her and responds, “Thanks…I’m sorry Satie.”

With those words both the Paradise Gundam and the Jiha blink out of existence. The Prejudice and Karenina follow the Paradise in kind.


Site CCXXXI:
The Laconia has launched and the Morrigans have warped to catch up with Prejudice and Karenina. Alexandras plots her next moves. The warp fighter Gundams will keep the trail while the corvettes corral the enemy ship. Once they’ve exhausted their options she’ll move in with the Laconia itself. If they surrender the Reta they will be taken as POWs. If they don’t then she will have them obliterated.

There’s a blue blink in space and she assumes that it’s one of her warp fighters. As it begins to open fire on her ships it becomes quite evident that it is not.

The Paradise soars along firing its beam rifle at point blank range on an Ashura class cruiser and Mangala class frigate scuttling them. Just as Satie said they would, the fleet panics and begins to open fire on the small, high speed, moving target and start blowing themselves to pieces with laser and turbo cannon fire.

“Cease fire! Cease fire! Cease fire!”, Alexandras screams at the top of her lungs.

She looks upon her eviscerated fleet and the calm, collected demeanor gives way to white hot rage.

“Rhegal, murder that bastard!”, she commands with a seething whisper.
“At once my love”, he readily accepts it.

The Lord Hand and greatest Red in the EES makes his way to his unit and prepares to launch. Meanwhile the Paradise is reeking utter havoc. Now that they’ve stopped firing on each other not nearly as many ships are getting scuttled but he is still annihilating their armaments. It dances through explosion and flame, in and out of storms of bullets, and with it’s golden wings and yellow beam saber it is as if it were some kind of angel sent to wreak holy retribution.

The Prejudice and Karenina blink back into existence and their pilots are left aghast at the damage left in their enemy’s wake. Reds Liza Austen and Leo Levin take formation and come in hot against their enemy. Unfortunately for them, Gabriel Milton is no longer trying to defend a target. Free to cut loose he easily overwhelms them. Levin gets his beam rifle cut in half but dodges quick enough to keep the Karenina intact.

In a desperate bid to save her fellow Red, Liza opens fire upon the enemy. It succeeds in diverting his attention. Now the Paradise comes barreling down at her with beam saber in hand. She can’t come anywhere close to hitting it. Just as she’s about to be run through, a flash of red and black sweeps in. It’s the Strike Maul!

Rhegal’s unit solidly kicks Gabriel’s in the face forcing him back, saving Liza’s life.

“Thank you most graciously, My Lord”, she tells him.
“Both of you fall back, now”, he commands.

They heed it and the two Gundams withdraw. This leaves the Paradise and Strike Maul to face each other alone in the wreckage of the Arden fleet.

“Shall we begin?”, Gabriel growls menacingly as his red eyes flare.
“Have at me”, Rhegal responds calmly as he ignites one side of his beam staff.

The Paradise rushes forward as Gabriel tries to blitz the blitzer. With fluid motion and genuine ease does the Strike Maul dodge, deflect, and maim its enemy’s off hand. Enraged, Gabriel rushes forward again. This time Rhegal subverts his strike with a back guard that he ripostes into a thrusting jab that takes the Paradise’s right arm off entirely.

“You are beaten. It is useless to resist”, Rhegal tells his foe.
“Is it now?”, Gabriel chuckles as he smashes the self destruct button.

The lights flash red in the cockpit of the Paradise and the external alarm blares. Gabriel Milton closes his eyes as he embraces his death with serenity. Yet before he can meet his fate the Strike Maul clenches its fist and rips the enclosed cockpit out of the Gundam. Channeling his power through his unit’s other hand, Rhegal telekinetically tosses it away where it explodes uselessly…and just like that the Gundam Paradise is lost.

Gabriel Milton is now in enemy custody.

Fin

Next time on Mobile Suit Gundam Reta:
Our heroes onboard the Jiha managed to get away clean, thanks to the sacrifice of Gabriel. Now that he’s in EES custody what fate shall befall him? Where is the Jiha? Even they don’t know! Next week: Aristoi

Follow to find out!

The year is 289 LC and after five years the Great System War enters its final phases. The Lunar Republic has been driven to the brink of collapse while the Eternal Empire of the Shadow, EES, stands poised to claim total victory. The fleets of the six divine families of the EES have out maneuvered and outclassed the seven fleets of the Republic’s Moon Guard. The superior tech of the EES has won over the superior numbers of the Republic.


Majestar:
It is this grim reality that weighs heavy on the mind of Danella Tagar, the twenty year young High Chancellor of the Republic. She was only fifteen when she inherited the monarchal title after her father’s assassination, the act that started the war to begin with. She stares out her office window down at the green surface of the terraformed Moon. Many miles above those who she governs she sits in the grand, ornate orbital colony that is Majestar.

“This feels wrong”, she mutters as the amethyst eyes of her reflection stare back at her.

She closes her eyes and pushes the thought aside as she walks back to her desk. That thought can explored another day. Today she must concern herself with survival. Danella taps a button on the side of her chair and a hologram schematic projects itself in front of her. It’s the complete details of a daring mission she has been asked to authorize, Operation Prodigal. After looking through the details for a bit she fiddles with her silver hair as she contemplates what she should do. She taps at the screen in her chair’s armrest and calls her Grand Marshall.

“Yes, High Chancellor?”, his voice projects into the room.
“Sir Dayne. What was that Earth phrase for a desperation play?”, she asks.
“A ‘Hail Mary,  ma’am.”
“Is that what Operation Prodigal is?”

Long silence.

“Yes ma’am”, he recalcitrantly responds.
“Is this the wisest course of action?”
“High Chancellor, you throw up a Hail Mary not because it’s wise but because it’s the only hope you have left.”
She grimaces, “Then we really don’t have a choice. Tell Captain Kan to commence Operational Prodigal.”
“At once, ma’am” he declares before ceasing communication.

Danella sighs heavily as she leans back and stares up at the ceiling.

“Father, what would you have done?”, she asks the ether.


Mars Orbit:
Far away from Majestar and the Moon a seemingly ill kept hauler comes screaming out of Mars orbit as it blinks out of existence in a flash of blue light as it enters warp. Emblazoned on the sides of the starship is an orange demon’s face with three claw slashes in front of it painted with a savage zeal. This symbol loudly declares to all who see it, “We are the Marauders. Be afraid and die.”

Inside the dimly lit corridors of the ship a quintet of criminals, thieves, pirates, terrorists, and murderers celebrate their latest score. Their leader is a towering and imposing man who’s amber eyes pierce through the shadows obscuring his face. Artificial fangs glimmer as he smiles sinisterly. High above them the sixth passenger has slipped his restraints and is making his way along the rickety ramparts. The tall, muscular man sneaks his way through the hazy, dark passage ways of his prison towards the hangar bay. There he finds ‘the score’. Six advanced prototype mobile suit Gundams, fifty foot tall robotic weapons of mass destruction, that had been stolen from the Olympia-Anu Conglomerate.

The man knows that the instant they drop out of warp he has to be ready to go. He finds a space suit and climbs into one of the Gundams.

“Alright bud, you ready?”, he asks the suit.
It’s large white eyes and chest piece activate as if answering him.
“Good. Don’t look back.”

With a flash of blue light the Marauder’s ship blinks back into existence as it exists warp in Earth orbit.

“Now!”, the man yells as the Gundam lunges forward shattering its restraints. Every alarm in the ship goes off filling the already hazy and dim corridors with strobing yellow light. The leader’s sinister smile turns to teeth clenched with fury and they all rush toward the hangar bay. As they enter the active Gundam swings its buster sword into the hangar door, tearing it wide open.

As the vacuum of space pulls everything that isn’t strapped down into the void the leader braces himself against the doorway. He resists even as the weight of his four companions comes crashing into his back. With tremendous effort he pushes back their combined weight  into the hallway before the airlock door seals itself. From there he snarls as he watches through the window as the black Gundam dives through the opening in the side of the ship.

As they fly through space towards Earth the Gundam’s eyes flash as its audio signalers electronically chirp.
“Yeah bud. I think we’re going to make it”, the man responds as if it actually spoke.

The Gundam soars toward the blue planet with several massive storm systems visible from orbit.


On board the Laconia:
Inside the unlit Admiral’s quarters onboard the flagship Laconia of the EES, two lovers lie unclothed beneath the satin sheets in each other’s embrace. One man and one woman. She is a slender woman in her early twenties, her long red hair reaches down to her mid-back, and she is Alexandras Arden: Admiral of the Arden fleet. She rests her head on his chest; him being a relatively tall man with blonde hair, also in his early twenties, and Rhegal Lucas: Lord Hand of Emperor Karn. Rhegal’s face is obscured by shadow.

They are content in each other’s arms. Both have been awake for a little while but neither wants this moment to end. Alexandras gently caresses his chest with the tips of her fingers. As her thoughts focus the caressing becomes a less gentle tapping.

“What’s on your mind?”, Rhegal asks.
“Why don’t you read it?”, she responds.
“Because I like it when you tell me.”

Her lavender eyes look up and lock with his blue. They smile and sweetly kiss one another before she rests her head upon his chest again as he holds her a little closer.

“Soon, Alex…soon”, he answers.
She sighs, “Why must it be a negotiation?”
“Because your family wasn’t keen on letting their heir marry a bastard of a lower family.”
“Well that was before you were appointed Lord Hand…”
“Before they thought I was the quickest path to the throne”, he pointedly quips.
“Can you blame them? I mean ‘Empress Alexandras’ does have a nice ring to it.”
“Yes, yes it does.”
“What should we name our future prince or princess?”
“I was thinking Toni.”
“Tony?!”
“Yeah, Toni. It could work for a boy or girl. Besides, all the empire will be expecting some grandiose name. Why not surprise them with something simple?”

She giggles and he chuckles at the thought.

“That would be nice”,  she says.
“Just as soon as the Lucas’ quit using their golden boy as leverage”, Rhegal sneers.
Alexandras gets up close to his face with hers, “Enough of that! Soon they’ll be my family and I won’t suffer to hear such disrespect.”
“Yes my once and future wife”, he smiles as he speaks.

They close their eyes and hold another. After not nearly long enough a buzzing sound goes off. It’s the alarm and both groan at it.

“Must we?”, he asks.
“Hop to soldier”, she fires back.
“Yes ma’am”, he salutes as he rises and marches over to the closet as she wraps herself in the sheets.

While he’s assembling the parts of his uniform she makes her way toward the bathroom door. As she flicks on the light she stops.

“You should wear your Black”, she says, “you are the Lord Hand now.”
“But I look so much better in my Reds,” Rhegal says as he exits the closet wearing his Red uniform, masked helmet covering his face.
“Must you hide your beautiful face?”, Alexandras laments.
“It was my father’s.”
“And you’d make him proud.”

They share one last quick kiss before he salutes and excuses himself to complete his
rounds.


Site CCXXXI:
On the far side of the base from where the flagship is docked is the testing/training facility. One of the Arden Fleet’s primary responsibilities is the development and training of new Reds, what the EES refers to its Gundam pilots as. Given that a single Gundam can do the work of entire army Reds are held in high regard. The Whites, cadets, designated with either sufficient potential or noted for Starborn abilities get sent to site CCXXXI for evaluation and training. A trio of such soldiers walk into the facility located in the cylindrical space station.

After several hours in the mobile suit simulator they get their results. The two young men’s results are either inconsistent or middling. The young woman’s are consistently among the highest in 2C3XI’s history. Occasionally even surpassing Lord Rhegal’s numbers from his time here. Important people are starting to take notice, people like Lord Rhegal.

As the Whites are cleaning themselves up after the session Rhegal enters the room. They salute him and he excuses the two men. There he stands in his full formal Reds, his father’s mask, and Hand’s rank. She being an eighteen year old with her dark brown hair held up in a bun by a purple head band, wearing white fingerless gloves, camo tactical pants, and a white tank top. She’s about half a foot shorter than him but she carries a cold intensity that is backed up by her lean muscle and striking blue eyes that are just like his.

“Kamille Yui?”, he puzzles out loud.
“That’s me, my lord”, she responds tersely.
“Isn’t Kamille a boy’s name?”
“It’s also a perfectly serviceable girl’s name, sir.”
“I suppose that it is.”

Rhegal takes a long moment to try and analyze her.

“You’re a Starborn aren’t you”, he says.
“How did you…”, she starts to say before being cut off.
“I can’t read your mind. That and your scores are clear indicators.”
“So it’s not just propaganda. You’re one too”, she says mildly excited.
“Indeed”, Rhegal responds as he levitates and takes notes with a pen, “How advanced are your abilities?”
“Not very”, she says as she poorly scribbles her signature with that pen.
“You underestimate your telepathy.”
“Is that so?”

Rhegal closes his folder and stuffs the pen into his coat pocket.

“I can casually pierce most telepathic barriers but I can’t with yours”, he says.
“Is that a fact?”, she says with some pride.
“So what are you trying to hide from me?”, he asks.

Her cold confidence breaks and she grows visibly nervous, eyes widening.

“You will answer me Yui”, his command is foreboding.
She covers her face and begins to shake as she speaks, “Please don’t tell the Admiral.”
“Tell the Admiral what, Yui?”
“That I…that I…”, she struggles to say the words.
“Say your peace now or suffer the consequences.”

“That I have the biggest crush on you!”, she screams very loudly.
“What?”, Rhegal is befuddled.

Her stoic mannerisms have given way to seemingly latent girlish tendencies.

“You’re amazing! heroic! brave! handsome! cool…”, she rambles faster and faster.
“Enough!”, he bellows, “Now I understand.”

Clearly embarrassed the young lady tries to compose herself. Rhegal smiles, he finds this display endearing.

“So then I suppose I have either very good or very bad news for you.”, he tells her.
“What would that be?”, she replies nervously.
“I’ve decided to take you on as my apprentice.”

She glomps him.

He sighs as he pushes her away, “but this type of behavior is not permissible.”
She snaps to attention as she shouts, “Yes sir! It will cease immediately!”
“Good. Be ready to fly tomorrow.”
“You mean…am I a Red now?” she exclaims happily.
“Almost. As I’m sure your aware, we have the new model arriving tomorrow. I need to see how you handle the real thing.”

It takes every ounce of her energy to hold her salute. Rhegal dismisses her and she all but prances away. He smiles as he watches her. Once she’s certain that she’s out of sight she drops the act. Her cold confidence is back and she looks back with disgust.

She finds her way back to her dorm. It’s immaculately kept and devoid of all flare or personality. With a laser focus and adamant purpose she composes a message.

“Hey mom!
I have great news, well I can’t say just yet but I can’t wait to tell you!!! XD
Oh I finally got your gift. It’s everything I could ever hope for! Can’t wait to see you and the family tomorrow! :P”


On board the Jiha:
Somewhere out in space a Bubo class assault cruiser hides amongst some meteor rubble. On board it a tall woman with white hair receives the message. She walks to the bridge where a tall shirtless man with jet black hair, signature sunglasses, and military jacket hung over his shoulders sits in the Captain’s chair.

“Captain, tomorrow is go”, Commander Yoko tells him.
“You’re nervous”, Captain Kan tells her.
“And you’re not?”, she sighs mildly annoyed his confidence, “Of course your not.”
He chuckles, “Believe in Satie. She’s the Republic’s last hope. So hold her high in your thoughts and dear to your heart.”


Site CCXXXI:
Back in her dorm, Satie lies awake thinking about her encounter with Rhegal. At the same time, he lies awake thinking about her. Neither can shake a profound but nebulous feeling about the other. They both get up and stare out their windows. Somehow they know each other is doing the same.


The following morning finds the undercover Satie continuing her masquerade as “Kamille Yui”. The hapless fangirl act is going over so well that it makes her sick. It is with iron resolve that she prevents herself from digging her nails into Rhegal’s arm as she hangs on it.

After what feels like an eternity to her they finally arrive at the Laconia’s hangar bay. There the new unit, her target, is being unloaded, the Gundam Reta. The state of the art mobile suit has the distinctive red and black color scheme of S series commander units.

“Is that the new S series?”, she asks fishing for information.
“No. Actually it’s the first MSGT”, Rhegal unwittingly confirms her objective.
“It’s not a DT?”
“It’s not a dark type. It’s the first ever grey type.”
“Please tell me I get to fly that!” she feigns girlish enthusiasm.
“Indeed you do.”

Playing her part she kisses his cheek. He wipes it way.

“What did I say about this type of behavior?”, he chides her.
“I’m sorry my lord”, she apologizes.

Satie straps into the Gundam Reta with her EES space suit as Rhegal observes from the hangar while Alexandras oversees from the bridge. The countdown begins and Satie presses a signal button hidden in her necklace. Just before launch she blows a kiss at Rhegal and somewhere deep in his soul he realizes that he’s been had.

Before he can react the Gundam Reta is launched as a Bubo class assault cruiser comes out of warp immediately next to the space station, and every alarm in 2C3XI goes off. The dozen ships guarding the space station are caught off guard by the suicidal tactic.


On board the Jiha:
Captain Kan laughs in fervent triumph as the rest of his crew slowly gather their spirits after narrowly obliterating themselves coming out of warp.

“Fitzgerald!”, he barks at his ensign on the coms.
“Yes Captain my Captain!”, Nick responds as tries collect himself inside his warp suit’s cockpit.
“Great work on the jump! Be ready to do it again the instant Satie’s on board with that thing!”


On board the Laconia:
Alexandras is observing her fleet’s seeming inaction against the enemy.

“Why aren’t they firing?”, her first officer asks in credulity.
“Because the enemy is too close to the colony. Their laser and turbo cannons would rip us to pieces”, she responds calmly.

As certain as she hates them for showing her up, she also admires the enemy’s tenacity.

“Shoot it down!”, Rhegal’s voice comes over the coms.
“We can’t Lord Lucas. The enemy ship is too close to the colony”, she replies.
“Not the assault carrier”, he clarifies, “shoot down the Reta!”

The EES ace launches with his MS-DT “S” series commander unit, the Strike Maul. The high speed blitzing unit is in hot pursuit of the Reta.

Alexandras stops to consider the situation.

“Admiral, your orders?” one her officers asks.
“Launch the Prejudice and Karenina!”, she yells.

Shortly afterward two “L” series Gundams launch; one green and yellow, the other red and light grey.


Site CCXXXI:
Satie flies toward the colony wall closest to where the Jiha should be. She knows this thing is supposed to have a Dark Drive, a piece of tech that magnifies her Starborn abilities. As she has the suit fling its arms out to its sides it rips a giant hole in the colony. Indeed it does have one hell of Dark Drive. The Gundam Reta jets through the opening as the vacuum of space starts sucking everything into the void.

The Strike Maul rushes forward. Rhegal knows that he doesn’t have more than 3 seconds to clear the opening before the emergency shielding seals the opening. He could break off but he’s not going to. The Strike Maul blitzes through the opening a split second before metric tons of carbon steel slam shut sealing the opening.

“Great work Skye! Now get on board”, Commander Yoko orders Satie over her coms.

With covering fire from the Jiha she could probably lose the Strike Maul but she’s not going to miss this opportunity. Satie has Reta ignite its beam saber. Rhegal has the Strike Maul ignite it’s beam staff. Both are red.

“It doesn’t get anymore real than this, traitor”, Rhegal says to Satie.
“Come and get me, Tiger”, she says to him.

The two Gundams rush one another. The Strike Maul spins and summersaults wildly while the Reta patiently defends and dodges the assault. The units’ beam blades get caught in a mutual bind.

“How advanced are your abilities?”, he asks.
“You want to find out?”, she replies.

The each break off their blocks and prepare their strike. Each fires off a powerful telekinetic wave that pushes one another back an equal, substantive distance. A true draw. However, Satie uses the distance to make a break for the Jiha. The Strike Maul starts to pursue but breaks off when the ship starts to cover her withdraw. The Reta reaches the carrier and it prepares to make its jump to warp.

“Open fire! Don’t let them escape!” Rhegal screams at the ships surrounding the enemy.
“At ease Captain”, Alexandras says, “Prejudice and Karenina, what’s your status?”
“Prejudice synched”, Liza replies.
“Karenina synched”, Leo responds.
Rhegal sneers, “Blow them out of warp.”
“Yes sir!”, they reply.

With those words the Jiha threads the needle between the tight enemy formation and blinks out of existence in a flash of blue. As it does so two smaller flashes of blue follow it.

Fin

Next time on Mobile Suit Gundam Reta:
Operation Prodigal so far has been a success but that may not last…The Gundams Prejudice and Karenina are in hot pursuit in warp! What’s this? Our heroes only have one warp fighter! Our lives are in your hands Gabriel. Next week: Archangel

In the year 284 LC (Lunar Concordance) Valorum Tagar, High Chancellor of the Lunar Republic is assassinated on the order of Tenabrae Karn, supreme ruler of the Eternal Empire of the Shadow (EES). The long simmering political tensions erupt into open war that engulfs the entire solar system. Refugees are forced to return the planet their ancestors were forced to abandon many centuries ago, Earth. Five years on and the Lunar Republic stands on the precipice of defeat.

Desperate, the young Chancellor Danella Tagar authorizes a daring mission: Operation Prodigal. An elite team of pilots will infiltrate the EES and steal the advanced Dark Type prototype. Success could turn the tide of the war where as failure will doom them to certain defeat…

Meanwhile, the infamous pirates, mercenaries, terrorists extraordinaire known as the Marauders steal 6 prototypes from the Olympia-Anu Comglomerate (OAC). AWOL soldier Eddie Badger manages to abscond with one of the units and heads to Earth…

Will Operation Prodigal save the Republic? Can Eddie stay one step ahead of the Marauders.

Follow to find out! Next week on MSG Reta: Hail Mary…

Post Earth
After the Earth became uninhabitable humanity sought refuge in its orbital colonies throughout the solar system. The longer they lived in space the more humanity adapted to their new environment. A small handful of the population began to develop extrasensory abilities. This portion of the populace would quickly rise to become the new ruling elite. The combination of the failure of Earth’s democracy and the wide spread perception of “Starborn” genetic superiority would advent a new aristocracy and herald the return of the monarchs.

The Lunar Civil War
Peace in the Starborn aristocracy would not last. Tensions between the colonists on the Moon would boil over into out and out civil war between the “light” and “dark” sides of the Moon. After years of bloody conflict the Lunar Concordance was signed, implementing a tenuous cease-fire. Despite the terms of peace being met tensions remained high. In their efforts to subvert one another the Lunar Republic and the Eternal Empire of the Shadow (EES) began cultivating alliances. In this time of fragile peace a new weapon rose to prominence…the Gundam.

Gundams
These ultra advanced mobile suits can do the work of an entire army with a single unit. Naturally the Gundams eventually replaced the armies. Piloting a Gundam comes with great prestige and phenomenal political power, thus such an honor became reserved for the Starborn aristocracy. The Lunar Republic and EES began developing “light type” and “dark type” units to be piloted exclusively by Starborn. These specialized units greatly enhance and weaponize Starborn abilities.

OAC
The Olympia Anu Conglomerate (OAC) is responsible for the development and production of all Gundam units. It sells to both sides of the conflict through its subsidiaries the Athena Group and Ares-El Foundation. OAC pushed for the shift from mass produced units to specialized Gundams due to the profitability of the shift. The research and development costs for each new Gundam is greater than the production of 100,000 mass produced mobile suits. With this profound wealth OAC built the Martian colony into the industrial heart of the solar system, the throne of their corpocracy.

The Moon
Both the Lunar Republic and the EES rule from large orbital colonies on either side of the Moon. There the Starborn nobles live in wealth and privilege. The ornate palatial designs of each spiral upwards with every new generation. Meanwhile the Lunar colonists they claim dominion over live a frontier lifestyle to establish new settlements.

Majestar is the seat of the Lunar Republic. Together the senate, comprised of representatives from the nobility, and a monarchal executive (High Chancellor) rule in concert with one another. The Tagars have maintained their position as High Chancellors since the founding of the republic. Chief among their responsibilities is to serve as Supreme Commander of military forces.

Impericant is the temple/palace of the Emperor. Emperors rule as absolute dictators of the EES with an iron fist and strict military control. Though known to live unnaturally long lives most emperors die young due to the cutthroat internal politics of the Empire. Most of the day to day tasks fall to the ruling council, which is headed by the Lord Hand.

Colonization and Terraforming
The inner rim colonies have historically allied themselves with the Lunar Republic. Earth orbit colony collectives’ primary trade are resources scavenged from Earth. The Venusian colonies primarily harvest carbon from the planet’s atmosphere, which has proven to be a very valuable building material. All attempts to terraform the hellish surface have proven futile.

The Moon itself became the heart of post-Earth humanity for a number of reasons.
1.) proximity
2.) water (used for rocket fuel)
3.) helium3 (for nuclear fusion)
4.) REMs (rare earth metals, essential for electronics)
Terraforming the Moon became the grand unifying goal of the human race. After successfully generating a habitable atmosphere through engineered comet strikes, a subtropical climate came to define the Moon. Due to its synchronous orbit the common perception of the moon not spinning is incorrect. As such “light” and “dark” sides of the moo are little more than colloquial holdovers.

The terraforming of Mars proved much more straightforward if not easier. The weak atmosphere had to be reinforced by a planetary magnetosphere generator. This tremendous task was accomplished by the Anu Corporation (who would later merge with the Olympia Foundation) and paved the way for their dominion over the planet. All who live on Mars are employees of Olympia-Anu from birth to death. Many critics have called the practice corporate slavery.

The Outer Rim
As humanity progressed into the Outer Rim, Saturn’s moon Titan and Jupiter’s moon Europa became the centers of human life and civilization. Neither needed to be terraformed to support sustainable life. Titan is the most earth-like object in the solar system and Europa has a vast ocean underneath its frozen surface. Due to their extreme cold (-250 degrees F) both would seem uninhabitable. Manmade bio domes allow colonization on Titan, where as by definition the unfrozen ocean of Europa has to be warmer than 32 degrees F, thus underwater cities are built. Both support primitive alien life, especially Europa and its vast ecological system beneath the frozen surface of its ocean.

Much like Mars corporate investment paved the road for the development of Titan and Europa, but unlike Mars no single corporate entity was able to gain utter supremacy. This competition allowed for “towns” to form which would mature into governorships. After gathering themselves into a loose federation the Governors of the Outer Rim (GOR) was established. Here in the frozen fringes of the solar system the last remnants of human democracy grows anew. GOR’s primary trade is the hydrogen, helium, and methane they mine from the atmosphere of the gas giants.

The Marauders
Many revolutionaries, rebellions, terrorist cells, and mercenary armies have come and gone in this new age of man…but none more infamous than the Marauders, terrorist for hire. The delight in the work that is too dirty for nation states and corporations to touch. As such they are universally decried in the public whilst being secretly paid by most of the powers that be. They are pirates and war criminals with multiple massacres to their name.

To anyone who knows me it is not a surprise to hear that anime has had a tremendous influence over me. Like many of the geekier kids of late 90s and early 2000s, Toonami and Adult Swim would be gateways to a whole new world of storytelling and entertainment. Anime was like nothing western children had ever seen before. The long form narratives, high intensity action, grand stakes, and foreign aesthetic captivated us. Shows like Dragonball Z, Sailor Moon, and Gundam Wing became integral fixtures within our own nerd culture and garnered the lifelong adoration of fans across the world. The latter of which affected me the most.

More than introducing my pre-teen brain to the notion of giant robots fighting in outer space, Gundam Wing was my first cognizant introduction to political subtext in entertainment. Yes the giant fighting robots were cool but the notion of them fighting for some greater, tangible purpose enthralled me…even if I didn’t understand any of it at the time. As I look back on it I now realize that many of the precepts for my anti-war political leanings are rooted in my experience watching Gundam. My pre-teen brain may not of understood it but my heart knew that truth, that peace is worth fighting for, was a foundational truth for my life.

Fittingly, the Gundam franchise is a well I regularly draw from. I am copiously familiar with the many sub-franchises and timelines, the characters often serve as the exemplar archetypes within my conception, and the stories will stick with me forever.

For a long time Gundam has been a primary inspiration for me. Now that my writing skills have matured I feel it is time to make use of that inspiration and knowledge. I have planned and now shall write a Gundam series of my own design. Why?

To see if I can.

The following is a fan’s original story inspired the series.
Gundam
and all its associated properties are owned by Bandai, Sunrise, and Yoshiyuki Tomino.
Please support the official property.

P

Here I present my offering to the trending gods. Lists get clicks and thus I present you with a complete ranking of every Marvel and DC movie I’ve ever seen, including Black Panther. Now this list is just my opinion…and I know that statement will do absolutely nothing to dissuade any anger over me expressing an opinion that may be contradictory to the denizens of the internet. With that acknowledged I would like to quickly explain the method to my madness.

This list is based on my enjoyment of the films and not their objective quality. Objective quality is a rather strong factor in my enjoyment but it is not the standard at work here. Other factors include: strength of themes, coherent narrative, engaging or relatable characters, story structure, cultural significance, faithfulness to the source material, and general enjoyment to be had. This is not a mathematical formula. Critical ratings (2.5/5 stars, 7/10, etc…) will not be used.

Preface done, let us begin…

1-10. The best of the best.

1.) The Dark Knight

TDK

Some would say this is the cliché choice. I say that clichés exist for a reason. Simply put no other superhero film and very few films have reached the height of Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece. Brilliantly realized and gloriously executed, “The Dark Knight” is a tour de force of narrative tension, thematic resonance, and cultural impact. This is the film that showed the world that not only could superhero films be great for what they are but be great films…period.

2.) Logan

Logan

“Logan” is a work of art that could only exist under the circumstances that lead to its creation. This is (arguably) the best embodiment of a character by any actor in this genre, a role Hugh Jackman inhabited for nearly 20 years, a character who helped define the genre, and said actor’s last turn as that iconic character. The film beautifully realizes its farewell to both the actor and character, paying ode to the classic westerns which Wolverine became the modern day embodiment of the archetypal “lone gun slinger” who must ride off into the wilderness after saving the day because he has no place in the society he fights to protect. Tearfully we said goodbye to the best and this was the final chapter worthy of his legend.

3.) The Avengers

Avengers

When it comes to impact there are none who can top “The Avengers”. This movie revolutionized its industry, not just genre, and every film to follow it owes some debt of gratitude to it. “The Avengers” is both the bar and gold standard in which every other superhero film is measured against. It is so because of how brilliantly it validates its own existence. Achieving this milestone forever changed what a superhero film could be by cementing the validity of long form story telling in cinema.

4.) Captain America: The Winter Soldier

CapAmericaWS

If it was not for its titanic impact, “The Avengers” would fall to 5 on this list as “Winter Soldier” and 5 are superior films in every other way. Guiding Marvel Studios into a wildly successful strategy of genre blending, “Winter Soldier” is a taught, impactful, and relevant political thriller that dares to ask some difficult questions of its audience and what they are and are not willing to lose to maintain the world as they know it. Big ideas for a film of genuine significance.

5.) Captain America: Civil War

MarvelCivilWar

When Marvel has something to say they like us to hear it from the mouth of Steve Rogers. The payoff of stage 2, “Civil War” brings all of our Avengers’ character development to a head. In unexpected, but true to their own personal arcs, ways our heroes find themselves at odds with one another. It’s a glorious spectacle and heartbreaking tragedy as these teammates rip themselves apart while both sides earnestly fail to find the right answer to a difficult question.

6.) Superman (78)

Superman78

Speaking of debts of gratitude…This is the grand daddy of the genre. No way around it, “Superman” is the proof of concept for every superhero film to follow it. Christopher Reeve so perfectly embodied the character and all he stood for that it effectively made it impossible to make a Superman movie w/o him. Combine this with John Williams’ iconic score, the best in the genre, and there is something not short of magic at work in this film. Sure its simplicity may seem quaint to modern eyes but it is precisely that simplicity that allows it to endure across time.

7.) Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

GoGVol2

All prior entries, even if disagreed with, probably were not considered a surprise for their placement. This one might be. Vol. 2 proved that there was a heart and mind behind its predecessor’s soul. Genuinely funny and emotional at the same time, we laugh and cry with our heroes as James Gunn’s masterful theming and character development guide us through the complicated ordeal that is coming to terms with your own family.
“He may have been your father but he wasn’t your daddy”, is but one of a dozen beautifully realized moments of humanity to be found in this modern classic.

8.) Iron Man

Iron Man

Plain and simple, there would be no MCU without “Iron Man”. With how much of a juggernaut Marvel now is in Hollywood it is easy to forget just how risky this film was. A disgraced actor leading a $100,000,000+ budgeted blockbuster based on what the public considered a C list superhero…Yet overnight Iron Man and Robert Downey Jr. skyrocketed to be the top of the A list. Our third and final contender for the title of “best embodiment of a character” got backed by a near perfect character study script. All that holds this film back is a lackluster third act and subpar villain.

9.) Wonder Woman

WonderWoman

I feel like my blurb on the pervious entry could be copied and pasted with a few key word changes and perfectly explain my feelings on this film. We have another stellar performance that fantastically realizes the character while being backed up by a near perfect script for a character study. Now unlike “Iron Man”, “Wonder Woman” saved the DCEU as opposed to launching it. She was the Hail Mary thrown up by Warner Bros. on 4th down and she came down as a miracle. All that holds this film back…just like “Iron Man”…is a muddled third act and big dumb villain (who is also a large grey purveyor of war).

10.) Spider-Man 2

Spiderman2

It should be noted that this film’s high ranking is a true testament to its quality, given that I am not a fan of the Raimi Spider-Man trilogy. The original was a marvel (pun unavoidable) when we had little to compare it to (more on that MUCH later). Its dated effects and tropes are an odd testament to just how good the story telling and characters are in this film. More than being everything you could reasonably expect from a superhero film the time, “Spider-Man 2” is everything one of these films could be at its time. Despite the hokiness of the direction and corny moments in the story this is still a story of fully realized potential and that must be applauded.

11-20 The greats who only aren’t higher because others were greater.

11.) X-Men: Day of Future Past

XMenDoFP

“Days of Future Past” is everything right about Fox’s X-Men franchise: excellent comic story adapted well, great performances, engaging narrative, grounded direction, with resonant and relevant political overtones. The only real negatives to this movie are some minor plot inconsistencies and a few wayward story threads. In the scheme of movie sins that is as minor as it gets. Truly this film is not higher on the list only because others were better.

12.) Batman Begins

BatmanBegins

This is how you do an origin story and resurrect a franchise. After the atrocity that was “Batman & Robin” (more on that MUCH MUCH later) that IP that was Batman was both a joke and a hazard. So when Christopher Nolan wanted to tell a “real” superhero story it was a tall task to meet but meet it he did. This is what made Batman the most serious and dramatic superhero in popular culture. By staying true to the essence of the characters and story while deftly adapting them for a realistic modern context, Nolan laid the ground work that would elevate the entire genre to new artistic heights and critical acclaim.

13.) Black Panther

BlackPanther

The most recent entry so its position may be subject to fluctuation. As it stands, “Black Panther” is a better version of “The Dark Knight Rises” (more on that soon).  An excellent cast portrays a good story that is told very well. The “Once and Future King” style story and the Afro-futuristic setting serves as fertile ground for the narrative to explore the deeper meaning behind the tights and crown. However the true triumph of the movie is the villain, Eric Kilmonger. Best in the MCU and second only to Heath Ledger’s Joker, Kilmonger is truly formidable while being sympathetic. Indeed he is the hero of his own story and imparts a difficult wisdom to our hero so powerful that it forces T’Challa to, at least in part, accept it.

14.) Deadpool

DeadpoolMovie

Who better to follow the King than the Court Jester? Like “Spider-Man 2”, “Deadpool” is fully realized potential. Like “Logan”, it could only exist thanks to the circumstances that preceded it. Like “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”, it shows us beautiful human endurance through awful trauma. So why is it lower then all of them?
Because the thematic weight gets spread thin over too much ground. It’s funny as hell though.

15.) Guardians of the Galaxy

GuardiansOfTheGalaxy

If any film encapsulates the soul of the MCU it is “The Guardians of the Galaxy”. A fun, action filled romp across wondrous worlds with plenty of clever humor and just enough heavy shit for dramatic resonance. This was also another big bet that’s easy to take for granted in hindsight. With excellent direction and a now iconic sound track that is the envy of Hollywood, “Guardians” greatest strength is its soul that paves the way for the weird yet thoughtful limits of its universe.

16.) Doctor Strange

DoctorStrange

Marvel returns to its wheelhouse to bring you another great performance backed by an excellent character study. Also like “Iron Man” another C-list hero in the public perception gets catapulted to stardom. In addition to examining its hero “Doctor Strange” blows the doors wide open for nothing short of cosmic possibilities in its universe…and it’s wildly inventive and fun.

17.) Avengers: Age of Ultron

Ultron

This movie is underrated and it’s mostly due to the audience’s expectation. We expected this to be the payoff to Stage 2 when in reality it was the final most critical building block. The Avengers take actions that will inevitably put them on a collision course with one another and events are set into motion that will have drastic and lasting impacts on their world. Ultron is everything you could ask a villain to be…which may have been the fault in that star…and has there ever been such a radical degree of character development between movies than for “working dad” Hawkeye?

18.) X-Men: First Classx-men-first-class-cast

This is what happens when you take a franchise back to its roots and you do it right. Surprisingly faithful to the old comics while being a very believable starting point for the future versions of these characters that we already know. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender own the young versions of these iconic frenemies. Fassbender is particularly compelling as the tragic hero falling into villainy. All around excellent choices made for every phase of production down to this feeling like a genuine 1960s setting.

19.) X2: X-Men United

X2

For its time this was as good as the genre could be. Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, Patrick Stewart’s Professor Xavier, and Ian McKellen’s Magneto all build off of their phenomenal turns as these characters. The film opens incredibly strong with the Nightcrawler scene that sets the plot in motion while introducing us to a very well utilized fan favorite character. A common criticism of the franchise as a whole is that, “it’s supposed to me an X-Men movie not a Wolverine movie”, but it’s hard to argue against a performance that lends so much to the story. This film is as good as it could be…for its time. Time does not favor this installment as it becomes more and more dated with each passing year. The failure of its sequel only makes the promise of the Phoenix that much more painful in hindsight.

20.) The Dark Knight Rises

The_Dark_Knight_Rises_poster

Every film in this section has been a very good film that is only not higher because others were better. This film should have been better and unlike “Ultron” that failing is not attributable to the audience’s expectations. Christopher tells an excellent story with a stellar cast adequately, and with the standard he set in “The Dark Knight” adequate is not up to par. Tom Hardy turned Bane into a household name, Anne Hathaway turns in the most faithful portrayal of Catwoman, while Bale, Kane, Oldman, and Freeman continue with their stellar work with their characters…but Cotilliard, who is perfectly cast btw, is criminally underutilized as the logic of the story and clarity of the theming takes a back seat to dramatic revelation theater. The harshness of my critique should not obfuscate “The Dark Knight Rises” ranking on this list as it is a very good film, but it is a very good film that should’ve been great.

21-30 The good that suffer from major flaws.

21.) The Wolverine

TheWolverine

Coming off of the truly horrendous “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (you know where to find it) where Jackman’s Logan was one of two positives in a sea of terrible, Fox couldn’t afford to mess around. So they pulled out Frank Miller’s seminal run that took Wolverine to Japan and it paid off…mostly, until the third act. What was otherwise an interesting and compelling chapter of the titular hero reconciling his tragic life by reexamining his storied past gets marred by a big dumb action set piece. The character from Logan’s past reveals himself to be a moustache twirling villain and the PG-13 editing severely undercuts the tension in the fights. Despite these flaws “The Wolverine” is a mostly compelling look into the past life of one the great heroes.

22.) Blade

Blade

This is a very silly and yet dark movie that is so unabashedly “itself” that it is hard not to look past its many flaws. Wesley Snipes is a damn cool Blade who is criminally underappreciated in the pantheon of superhero performances. The story is about as simple and straight forward as it can be but as a result it gets set in motion very quickly and never loses steam. The unabashed tone lends itself to some pretty iconic scenes. The villain is somehow bad yet perfect for his role in this story and the film has the wisdom to forgo a forced romance between its leads. You could pick this movie to death  but, “some mother f***ers are always trying to ice skate uphill”.

23.) Captain America: The First Avenger

CapAmericaFA

Coming off “Iron Man” and building towards “The Avengers” left Marvel a lot of freedom to do whatever they wanted with the publically perceived C-list heroes. Captain America was the one in that group that pop culture cared about prior to the MCU. With “First Avenger” they found the perfect way to incorporate the hokiness of the old comics into Marvel’s first foray into heart. A great performance in a good origin story that carries it through its sillier moments, while laying the foundation for what will become enthralling, heartbreaking, and glorious.

24.) X-Men

X-MenfilmPoster

It’s all too easy to equate “the fifth best” with “bad” but that doesn’t do justice to Brian Singer’s “X-Men”. Back in a time when superhero films were for kids and only kids, “X-Men” dared to attach some significance to its story and, as much as any uneasy studio would allow, remain faithful to the core concept of the source material. I’ve mentioned them previously so I’ll make this quick…Jackman, Stewart, and McKellen made this franchise. What immediately set this film above audience expectations was to dive in head first to the villain’s backstory as a Holocaust survivor and how that informs his motivations.

25.) Spider-Man: Homecoming

SpidermanHomecoming

Once you get past the fanfare of Marvel’s favorite son “coming home”, you are left with a fun but largely inconsequential movie. This is an extremely well made movie with minimal faults but little more than par for the MCU’s course. Tom Holland is a good choice to play the part and I’m sure he’ll develop it quite nicely over his tenure as the web slinger. He’s been surrounded by a fun cast of supporting characters and has a high ceiling for future installments. As it stands, all that elevates this movie this high is its villain. Michael Keaton’s Vulture is easily the third best villain in the MCU as a working class man pushed into a corner he got all too comfortable in.

26.) Ant-Man

Ant-ony

“Ant-Man” is some delightful ridiculousness with more than enough heart to make it more than comic fluff. Yes, the villain is one of the guys who gives MCU villains a bad name. Yes, it’s rather forgettable (I kept forgetting its existence as I made this list). Yes, it is utterly ludicrous…but it’s also Ant-Man. They fact that I was grinning from ear to ear for the entire movie, that I actually gave a damn about Paul Rudd being able to see his little girl again, or that I audibly cried out “NO!” when Antony died is a minor miracle worthy of due respect.

27.) Thor Ragnarok

ThorRagnarok

As you can tell from the poster, the art direction is nothing short of sublime. If an 80s Metal album cover was a movie it would be this movie. For an idea that sounds that awesome how can it be ranked so low? Well like most acid trips “Thor Ragnarok” is a psychedelic thrill ride that wastes potential. If this was just Thor and Hulk get stuck on an alien world and have to “Gladiator” their way off of it then this would be a superb buddy action-comedy. Unfortunately it deigns to waste the truly compelling story of Hela’s return from exile and the unmasking of Asgard’s dark past. So while what’s good in this movie probably should’ve put it in the top 15, up until this point no film has made me more pissed off at it. There are simply FAR too many genuinely great moments that get stomped on for the sake of a cheap joke to allow me to rank it any higher.

28.) Iron Man 3

IronMan3

This is probably another one people expected to be ranked higher, and like “Ragnarok” its parts are much greater than its sum. Tony suffering PTSD after the events of “The Avengers”, great. Having his tech fail forcing him to be creative, excellent. The Mandarin as a front to another villain, fant…uh…we’ll get to that. Shane Black writes the daylights out of this movie’s dialogue but unfortunately he doesn’t like telling a story as a smaller part of a larger whole. The “Extremis” storyline is poorly adapted. The villain…oooh boy…the real villain, Killian, doesn’t get nearly the flak that he deserves. He’s a Hollywood hunk doing a bad “nerd’s revenge” 80s trope that was insufferable in its own decade let alone 30 years later! Now about that Mandarin…
The idea of him being a front for someone else is brilliant. Him being a front for Killian is unforgivably stupid. All that negativity said; the cast is incredibly fun to watch, the film oozes wit and charm, and it’s RDJ doing Tony Stark.

29.) Spider-Man

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By most standards I think this is a bad movie. The acting is subpar, action is laughable, the story and effects are horribly dated, but it has some of the most iconic scenes in film history (see above image). This film was great when we had very little to compare it to. Raimi’s direction clearly treats the material as kid’s stuff and a joke but every couple scenes he’ll allow them the opportunity for something more to shine through. Mary Jane as written is a shadow of her comic counterpart and everything redeemable about the character is thanks to Kirsten Dunst’s performance. For all my problems with the film the first act is quite excellent and for most of the world is the definitive telling of Spidey’s origin.
Now this scene will undoubtedly continue to be lost to time but for every kid who remembers watching the Twin Towers fall the words, “you mess with one of us you mess with all of us!”, and that scene on the bridge when the citizens of NYC rally to help fend off the Green Goblin will always hold a rare power.

30.) Superman II

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Let me be clear. If I was talking about the Donner cut this would be in the top 20. I’m not, so it isn’t. The presence of Christopher Reeve as Superman will always be a boon to a film but it can only carry you so far. The obvious reshoots, disjointed narrative, and bizarre plot turns simply outweigh the virtues and charms of Reeves, Kidder, Hackman, and Stamp in their great turns in these roles. FTR, Margot Kidder is severely undervalued as the definitive Lois Lane.

31-40 The average to bad with redeeming qualities.

31.) Blade II

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Damn it Blade! The best thing about you was how unrepentantly YOU you were. Stop ripping off the Matrix!

32.) The Amazing Spider-Man 2

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This is one I suspect that most people expected to see at the very bottom. While I certainly wouldn’t call this a good movie, it’s positive qualities are often overlooked. Garfield is a superior Spider-Man to Maguire. Emma Stone is perfect as Gwen Stacy and how her death plays out is heartbreaking. It’s like an over seasoned and over cooked steak. There’s too much going on with too much looking towards the future and not enough attention on the present.

33.) Batman/ Batman Returns

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I know for a fact that this will piss people off. Sorry, I can’t place them any higher. I recognize the first film’s significance but these iterations of these characters and the story are too divorced from my understanding to accept them. Burton is one hell of a stage designer but his interest is only skin deep. “Returns” is the same beast uncaged. While Michelle Pfifer is unelrecognizable as Selina Kyle, her Catwoman is still an absolute knock out.

34.) Justice League

JusticeLeagueDCEU

Please take careful note of the above image. The Justice League is usually established by “the Founding Seven”. Can you tell me who’s missing? The correct answer is not, “Green Lantern”…
The Martian Manhunter, the League’s avatar of wisdom, who is totally absent from this entire franchise. There is not a more perfect metaphor for the DCEU.

35.) The Incredible Hulk

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Another film I kept forgetting that existed when I made this list. This is definitively average as in that it is devoid positive or negative qualities.

36.) Thor The Dark World

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When you think of bad MCU villains everyone thinks of the elf dude from this movie. I know his name because I read comics but I refuse to grant him that level of significance. Outside of him and the awful comic relief there really isn’t anything bad about this movie. It’s just bland, generic fantasy fare. Hemsworth is great as the titular hero and the dynamic between him and Sif is intriguing…though it gets sacrificed to make room for the droll Jane Foster romance. What elevates this movie above its predecessor is Tom Hiddlestin coming into his own as the MCU’s second best villain and the relationship he has with Renee Russo’s Frayje. The climax devolving into a live action “Portal” movie was inventive and fun.

37.) Thor

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The quality faux-Shakespearean royal family drama is weighed down by the lousy fish out of water comedy. Hemsworth and Hiddlestin are fine in their roles but they have yet to find their strides with them.

38.) The Amazing Spider-Man

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ASM is everything said about ASM2 but less. While that is better in some regard it is also worse in others.

39.) X-Men Apocalypse

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Over stuffed, overwrought, and under thought. This marks the second time that the third entry in a trilogy brought a Fox IP to a screeching halt. Internal logic is not a premium consideration. The villain might as well be the Power Rangers villain Ivan Ooze (seriously, Pokémon villain Mewtwo is a wildly superior version of Apocalypse). Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t want to be there anymore…and it shows. What elevates this movie above the lower tiers is Magneto’s gut wrenching subplot and Quicksilver’s scene.

40.) The Punisher

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I was honestly conflicted as to whether or not to include this movie. It’s really not part of the genre but then again neither is blade. This is a middling action movie with a talented but underutilized star. It’s neither dark nor visceral enough to do justice to its source material. Unless I’m referencing this list I’m not certain that I’ll ever have occasion to remember this movie again. Even teenage me wasn’t especially impressed by anything in it.

41-50 The Bad

41.) Daredevil

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By all fair judge of quality this train wreck should be in the bottom 10…but I’ll be damned if there isn’t a charm to its awfulness. Jennifer Gardner is a terrible Elektra Notches but damn it she doesn’t make an incredible Evanescence music video. Ben Affleck is so much better than the material he’s given. Michael Clark Duncan (RIP) is always great even when he’s a terrible Kingpin. Collin Farrell’s, “heh, Bullseye! yar!”, is an unholy delight of pure gleeful psychosis and absolute zero reservation. I can’t help but smile at every insane second of his screen time. For all that ironic joy, none of it can save this doomed endeavor (see above image). It’s real bad but it’s also a very watchable bad.

42.) Iron Man 2

IronMan2

A horrible adaptation of seminal comic story and being utterly bereft of coherent direction is carried entirely by RDJ who can’t quite manage the task this go around. By no means awful, “Iron Man 2” is definitely flat and unfocused. In the scope of history this film is little more than setup for the Avengers. It does that well at the expense of everything else. Thank the heavens for RDJ’s smug charm and AC//DC’s incredible music because w/o either of them this would have been a slog.

43.) The Fantastic Four (94, Roger Corman)

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Like I said with “Daredevil”, if the primary criteria of this list was objective production quality then this…thing would be second to last (yes, there is one worse than this). Alas it is not and I can get some solid enjoyment out of good laugh. The story is silly, stupid, and simple. The acting is ham-fisted. The effects and designs are ABYSMAL. All around truly, wonderfully awful but somebody had a nickel and they tried damn it! How tragic is it that the film that was never intended to be released is still to date the best live action depiction of Dr. Doom?

44.) X3 The Last Stand

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Everything that is good about this movie only serves to highlight how truly bad the rest of it is. Xavier’s death, the awakening of the Phoenix, and Logan killing Jean are all truly beautiful and impactful moments. It’s just a shame that they’re in service to this lame plot, slipshod direction, and atrocious adaptation of the greatest story in the X-Men’s history. Jackman, Stewart, and McKellen cannot save this effort. It’s also a shame that the perfect casting of Kelsey Grammar as Beast goes to waste on this movie.

45.) Ghost Rider

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Oh Nicholas Cage…
You prove that delightful madness and an awesome visual can only carry you so far. Whether it’s the stupid plot, lame Hot Topic villain, pointless romance, or incomprehensible humor this movie tests the limits of what can be considered enjoyably bad.

46.) Fantastic Four (2005)

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This is not awful, but it is really really really bad. This is why “Spider-Man 2” deserves so much praise. Given how far the genre has come this may be hard to believe, but this was once considered par. Before I trash this thing I want to give credit to the one good thing it has going for it, Michael Chickless’ Ben Grimm/Thing. It’s not just being the best in a weak field as he is legitimately good in the role. That aside…everyone else is terrible or their talents are being squandered by this hokie, trite, childish mess of a story. By far and away the worst part of this movie is the bastardization of Doom.

47.) Superman Returns

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Oh boy. Let’s keep this short as there is little to say. Poorly cast, unfocused direction, sloppily written, and needlessly confusing. It only appears better in hindsight because we have seen worse since.

48.) Man of Steel

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Case in point. This film had it all: failure of its potential, deep misunderstanding of its own themes, genuine pretentiousness, a hopelessly fragmented plot, and an utter betrayal of character. What keeps this from being among the truly awful is the good performances by the entire cast and give the man his due; Zack Snyder can’t tell a story deeper than “buff men beat up bad men!” but the man is one of the best in the business when it comes to filming action.

49.) Blade Trinity

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Dear Blade, what a fall this was. Before the MCU kicked off the third entry in a Marvel trilogy was destined for the kiss of death and Blade was no exception. While it will always be great to see Wesley Snipes in this role it was obvious just how much contempt he had for this project and I can’t blame him. If the second was treading on “The Matrix” then this installment was some edge lord s*** treading upon the original “Blade”. It’s such a shame that Blade vs Dracula is such a blatant and desperate ploy for relevancy. Hands down the best part of the movie is when Blade is tearing the amateurs down for being the rookie hacks that they are, which simultaneously serves as Wesley Snipes ripping apart those riding off of his cred.

50.) Suicide Squad

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There are two things keeping this film out of the ranks of the truly awful and their names are Will Smith and Margot Robbie. Ok, Jai Courtney was pretty good too.
Everything else about this dumpster fire of a film is comically, mind boggling atrocious. Jared Leto butchers his turn as the greatest comic book villain. The internal logic that drives the entire premise is side splittingly hilarious in its stupidity. The studio’s interference is blatantly obvious across the film and the climax is akin to what I’ve seen out of the “Naked Gun” series, except I’m supposed to take this s*** serious now. All these failures pale in comparison to the movie’s greatest sin, squandering its potential. People had a reason to be hyped for this. This should have been great and it’s REALLY bad.

51-62 The truly awful

51.) Superman 3

Superman3

This is not a terrible superhero story…but that’s only because it’s not one. It’s a terrible comedy and the worst of Richard Pryor’s career. Who green lit this? Why did they do so? What drugs were they on? These are the eternal questions that will forever surround this movie.

52.) Green Lantern

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The only good to come out of this movie is that it gave “Deadpool” plenty of ammunition. What should’ve been “Training Day in SPACE” got boiled down to the same lazy conventions of “Fantastic Four” (05)’s shitty par, except that we now lived in a post-Dark Knight cinematic landscape. There is no good in this movie. Both villains are laughably terrible. The plot is insipid and the writing is unforgivably trite. All this put on the back of a hero who is decades pasts his cultural relevancy. Truly terrible.

53.) Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

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You remember what “Blade Trinity” was to “Blade”? Well that is what this collection of moving images is to “Ghost Rider”. I didn’t realize that you could fall that far from a low perch. Take everything lame and exhausting about the original and suck out the cool to replace it with more Nick Cage craziness. The only thing going for this movie is the mad zeal of its directors that manage to maintain a high level energy and nothing else.

54.) Punisher: Warzone

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Excessively violent and needlessly stupid, “Warzone” is the worst of 80s action two decades too late.

55.) Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

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This is another one certain to raise consternation. Unlike every other entry in this section, this film had excellent qualities and a vast potential. Ben Affleck is the best live action Batman to date. Gal Gadot’s introduction as Wonder Woman was in this movie. In the end that means its failings had to be that much more substantial. To steal a perfect quote from @MovieBob,
“…here is a film that is not only bad but disastrously conceived, ineptly produced, poorly written, incomprehensibly directed, badly acted, creatively splintered but also crushed by pretense in a way that only an auteur project can be, hideous to look at, painful to listen to, and existentially depressing to think about after the fact. A film willed into being by a marketing algorithm yet somehow believing it had been birthed fully formed from the kiss of the muses. That flails about with no coherent plot or theme, bludgeoning its audience, knee capping the very ambitions it was meant to empower, and does genuine violence to eighty plus years of pop mythology from which it was drawn. And on top of all that, a film that in its totality embodies everything wrong and that can go wrong with a self-referencing continuity obsessed franchise…”

56.) Elektra

Elektra

Let’s be honest about Elektra as a character; she is almost entirely sex appeal. Now while Ms. Garner is more than appealing enough to meet that requirement, that gives her story possibilities a very limited and shallow capacity. Pair that up with Hollywood hacks grinding for a paycheck and you’ve got a plot doomed to fail. Cloying emotionality and absurdly convoluted pretense cannot disguise that the appeal of this project is only skin deep.

57.) Batman & Robin

Batman&Robin

It is very evident that Joel Schumacher wanted to return Batman to the Adam West era. That was wildly out of synch with the trend of the pop mythology for the character. You can explain in a hundred different ways at great length every terrible choice decision made by this movie but it all boils forth from that conceit. Since the Burton films were too far removed from the characters for my liking then this neon circus might as well have been from another dimension.

58.) Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

supermanIV

What can I say about this movie that hasn’t been said a hundred times over? It’s cheap, ridiculous, nonsensical, bizarre, and an affront to the genre. This is what happens when you don’t know when to stop or how to course correct. If you can find joy in the mockery then I am not one to cast stones, but it is too tall a task for me to abide for myself. Believe it or not this is not the worst film in this franchise. That dubious distinction belongs to…

59.) Supergirl

SupergirlMovie

Oh Kara, what have they done to you. To say that this film has a plot is an insult to the concept of plot. To say that it has characters is to fail to comprehend the notion of character. Random events occur without reason or significance to narrative objects that are forced to interact with them. The blatant sexism directed at the lead and her antagonist is gruelingly offensive. Absurd and horrendous.

60.) Howard the Duck

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Yes, you’re seeing the above image correctly. That woman is about to get intimate with an animatronic duck. From the mind of George Lucas!

61.) Steel

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Question…Do you have a camera phone? Do you either cosplay or know someone who does? If the answer to both is “yes” then congratulations! You can make a better movie than “Steel”.

62.) Catwoman

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What do you get when you combine the shallow sexuality of “Elektra”, the childish logic of “Fantastic Four”, and the blatant sexism of “Supergirl”?
A truly horrendous movie. There is not a single virtue to this movie’s name. Take one of the most played out concepts in Hollywood script writing, dumb it down, throw some tattered leather onto it, film everything way too close, and pay zero regard for the source material. Truly the genre at its absolute worst.

Before we arrive at our last entry I would like to explain the absence of several films from this list. Remember that this list is comprised of what I have seen, ergo “Fant-4-stic” will be spared judgment. Now I have seen “Batman Forever” but not since I was age 10 and I feel like that shouldn’t really count. Now we come to the worst of the worst…

63.) Spider-Man 3

Spiderman3Poster

In terms of objective quality this film is far from the worst but no film has ever personally wounded me as deeply as “Spider-Man 3”. While far from being a fan of the Raimi trilogy I can still recognize when something comes up short in one regard and blows it in another. This movie blew the chance at a “son of the goblin” story that had been so well set up by the second movie whilst failing to deliver on the potential of Sandman. Now the most common complaint against the film is that its overstuffed with villains, which it most definitely is, but that fails to address the scope of the failure.It’s not like these were good portrayals of these characters that got cut short. Harry fulfills his anti-arc by descending into villainy but is immediately hit with one of the lamest tropes in fiction, bonk on the head amnesia, so that they ca reset him to not be an antagonist. Sandman is a nice idea that is given no purpose in the plot. I still can’t believe that the comic fans didn’t riot over how they butcher Gwen Stacy…And then there is Venom…

Before I dive into this you need to be made aware of one fact. Eddie Brock Venom is my favorite comic book character. I adore the dynamic between the predatory alien that wants to be Batman and the over aggressive, hungry for justice, distrustful of authority disgraced journalist. To my eyes Venom is the quintessential Marvel anti-hero; made a villain by his vendetta against the hero while performing heroic acts in service of the downtrodden and vulnerable. Venom gives a damn about the wretches of society and is more than happy throw down with the structures of power to have their back, the Lethal Protector of the innocent…and what does this movie do to him?
It reimagines him as a petty weak romantic rival (which Eddie and Peter have NEVER once been in the comics), a cowardly tabloid photographer, and a mindless/soulless killing machine. Not only did they destroy his character by having him kidnap Mary Jane for that awful joke, but they also had him make a veiled rape threat at her. Raimi took everything I loved about the character and dismissed it out of hand. Worse, Raimi’s abominable iteration would go on to poison the character in the comics for a better part of the decade.

This is what makes “Spider-Man 3” the worst movie going experience of my life.

I see a black orb with an ultraviolet halo.

Then we blink back into existence

WOAH! WHY? NO! HOW? NO? WHEN? WHERE? WHAT! RAGE!…*exasperated gasping*

So we’re here! Here being a place that isn’t death or oblivion and beyond that I don’t know a goddamn thing.

Augumon!

Ok he’s here, we cool. He’s about as disoriented as I am. Ok, ok, ok. We good? We good. Get your bearings. It appears that we are surrounded by stacked metal containers. It is night. We appear to be on a dock of some sort next to a…red bridge over a river.

Oh! We landed in a designated bombing zone.

I desperately try to attune my senses the weave’s presence in this world but I’m still more than a little off. It’s like trying to watch TV through complete static. Even with the heavy interference I can sense two very powerful presences very nearby. They have to be heroic spirits and top tier ones at that for their “signal” to be this strong through the static.

Then Augumon screams as loud as he can as his brain desperately tries to cope with the hell we just experienced.

I clamp his jaw shut as I desperately whisper, “Shush! This place is death considering who we art!”

“Mongrels!” a voice I am terrified to recognize shouts at us.

FAHK!

Up in the sky upon a golden platform, a man in golden armor with gold hair and eyes red like rubies stares down at us with murderous contempt. It is the King of Heroes. He is Gilgamesh.

“How dare you interrupt us!” he bellows at us.

“We’re sorr-“ Augumon starts saying before I clamp his mouth shut again, holding on to it.

I’m not just being mean. I know what’s coming and I won’t have time to grab him again.

“For your insolence you shall die” Gilgamesh says coldly as the heads of three spears appear out of the small portals behind him.

I raise the pointer and middle fingers on my free hand up to my “third-eye” chakra. Barely an instant after I get them in position those spears fire out of those portals as they were missiles. Upon contact they explode like them as well. Fortunately I had successfully teleported Augumon and myself to the top of the containers across the way.

Instantaneous movement can be quite helpful. It’s also worth noting the clarity and focus that the threat of imminent death can provide. From this perch I can see who the other heroic spirit. It is as I expected: wherever Gilgamesh is he is in pursuit of her, the King of Knights, Arturia Pendragon.

For the initiated this is expected. For the uninitiated I imagine there is some confusion. Pardon this terse explanation but it’s the best I can do under present circumstances. King Arthur was woman who pretended to be a man to protect her claim to the throne. I’ll unpack that later when I’m not desperately trying to not die!

“You defy me!” our good King of Heroes bellows.

“Augumon!” I anxiously shout. “Yup!” he shouts equally anxiously. “Mega dino-crazy!” “Mega dino-crazy!”

The distinct sound of a particular whistle is heard and he shines with a luminously bright light as he grows in size. If you know tune to play then play it!

“Wargreymon” he shouts as his metamorphosis completes.

Remember how I once described my little buddy as Superman if he was a t-rex. It would be more accurate to say that he is a 20 ft. tall t-rex Superman with a pair of enormous clawed, dragon bane gauntlets. Aside from the obscene strength, the Superman comparison is apt because he can also fly. Which is precisely what he’s doing now, flying at Gilgamesh whose platform turns out to be some sort of airship and the two engage in epic combat.

Meanwhile I leap down from atop the steel containers so that I may attempt to engage the King of Knights. As I do a thousand questions race through my mind:

Which Royale is this? It looks like the 4th. But if it is the 4th there should be a lot more people here. Who’s the mage that summoned them? Could the 4th have played out on a different path than the one I’m familiar with? Is it the 5th? But the 5th never came here. If it is the 5th maybe Japanese Hermione actually managed to successfully summon her. Maybe it’s the 5th but that one stupid path I avoided. Could it be an as yet unknown to me 6th? 7th? 8th? Or is this a Great Divine Chalice Royale?

And many many more but I got to keep my composure because:

  1. She’s the perfect hero to take on this quest and I need to make a good impression.
  2. Can’t let anyone else who may be watching smell my fear.
  3. If I come off as a threat or weakling she could be provoked to kill me.

Stay strong.

“Greetings, your grace” I say summoning all my poise. “So you are a Master?” she asks me.

Panic panic paanic

There is reason for my consternation over that question that does not correlate to my cowardice. For one, I don’t the answer to that question because I haven’t had any goddamn time to figure anything out and that is embarrassing. For two, if I say yes then I am basically proclaiming myself as her enemy but her high honor is likely to prevent her from striking down an unready foe…so long as her summoner doesn’t compel her to kill me.

If this is the 4th and she has the same summoner then he’s definitely going to have her kill me.

“Must we use that term? I find it so gosh. I prefer Boss” I bluff like a son of a bitch. “Very well then, Boss” she responds with a faint grin, “you seem to have me at a disadvantage.”

I introduce myself. Normally that would the stupidest thing you could do during one of these things but since I didn’t exist in this world less than five minutes, I think I’m good. Besides, I stand to gain far more with obliging the courtesy; her good will.

“I imagine that is your Servant” she says as she points toward Wargreymon still engaged in epic combat with the King of Heroes.

Wargreymon keeps in pursuit of his target as they soar over the river’s surface. He deflects and dodges the projectiles shot as closes the distance to slice his enemy, but as he tries Gilgamesh evades him and zooms high above him to begin firing at range. Opening fifty portals he fires the projectiles in rapid succession. The assault forces Wargreymon to break out his shield and pins him down.

“No. He’s my friend” I tell her, “Any chance I could persuade you to assist him in knocking that pompous ass out of the sky?”

“I hear your treachery, Mongrel!” he turns his full attention to shout at me, giving Wargreymon time to break free and start chasing him again.

With a soft smile and a hearty compliment to him, she politely declines. She asks me, “So what of your Servant?” “Oh, I uh, haven’t summoned one yet” I stammer feigning bravado. “You are aware how advantageous it would be for me to prevent you from doing so?” “Indeed it would. But what if I don’t need one?” not feigning nothing. “Then you would be a fool.” “Or maybe I’m just bold, good King of Knights.” “Is that a challenge?” “Yes your grace, I do believe it is.” “You are too bold, sir. Stand down now and I shall not hold you to it.” “With all due respect your grace, what manner of man would I be if I did?” “Fare thee well then” she says as the Sword of Promised Victory shines not unlike my saber.

Excellent, I’ve kept her talking long enough to get my powers ready. I can sense a faint joy she has in and respect of me. Now all I have to do to build upon this foundation is not die. I think, I hope I can manage that. I call for a significant portion of my ADF as I ignite my amethyst blade, knowing that I’m going to need it to keep up with her speed and strength.

We begin.

At first it goes slow. Right off the bat I learn that Excalibur, or at least when it’s empowered by her legend, can in fact block a star saber. I suspect that I should suspect as much from all legendary weapons wielded by heroic spirits. Next I discover that she likes to press an advantage and then back off. She’s clearly studying my form. When the battle gets up to speed that will be my only chance at victory.

After dancing around one another for a bit she creates some distance and holds her blade perfectly still in a high guard. This fight is about to get real. For a very brief moment I see the flash of combat in my mind. She’ll lunge forward attempting to drive her blade through my face. If I sidestep she’ll reverse the grip on her blade and run me trough my back. I must deflect he blade up and away.

With that she lunges forward and she is far faster than I anticipated. I have to dodge as I can’t get my blade up to make the block. As she slides forward to make the backward thrust I sweep out her leg. She pirouettes on her back foot into a whirling power sweep. I duck underneath. As she raises the blade and slams into the ground I roll out of the impact.

When she swings with power then there is no point in me trying to block it, she’s far too strong. I could try to out maneuver her but she grounds herself too well and her defense is too tight. With a good feint I might be able work inside her guard if bites but that won’t work. Her instincts are otherworldly.

Bar none she is the greatest swordsman I’ve ever encountered. Crossing blades is going to be my doom but then again I was never anticipating holding a candle to her. All I need is to lull her into a false sense of certainty and break out the energy manipulation techniques. Let her bind my blade and as she twists it out my hands and that’ll leave me free to telekinetically push her back and follow up with an energy attack.

She attacks, binds my blade, and swings high to force it out of my hand. She’s open and I initiate the tk push but she doesn’t go nearly as far as I hoped. My energy blasts winds up being used as a makeshift shield against her return until after a few blows it dissipates. If she doesn’t declare victory now and end the fight I’m going to have to unlock my full ADF and at that point I won’t have anything left to help Wargreymon against Gilgamesh, if I win.

“Well fought” she says and I breathe a sigh of relief. “So you’re just going to let live to fight you another day?” I ask. “You never intended to kill me, so it only seems fair.”

So I guess that means she was taking it easy on me.

“Your friend is in trouble” she tells me as points towards the other combatants.

Indeed he is. Gilgamesh has Wargreymon bound by the Chain of Heaven. My partner struggles mightily and his strength keeps the King of Heroes preoccupied enough to keep him from striking the decisive blow.

“Cease your squirming you wretched beast!” he shouts.

I teleport behind Gilgamesh, one of his portals opens directly above my head.

“Goodbye, Mongrel” he says to me as the spear passes through my image and it vanishes into smoke, “an illusion!”

Dark sorcery is a beautiful thing if you know what you’re doing. Metal chain, metal armor; hmmm…I wonder what trick I got up my sleeve? He is far away and very powerful so the lighting doesn’t do much, but it is enough for him to loosen his grip and have Wargreymon break free. Once free he takes the chain wrapped around his arm and cracks Gilgamesh in the face with it like a bull whip. The King of Heroes crashes into the bridge with tremendous force.

“You…you dare!” he howls like savage beast.

He pulls a sword that looks more like a lance out of his gate. It’s his ultimate weapon, Enuma Elish. Gilgamesh points it to the sky and cries its name aloud. The blade spins and a great red beam fires up from its tip into the sky. Tectonic plates begin to shift.

Wargreymon flies high above his enemy, raising his great claws above his head and calling for the “Terra Nova!” As he does he gathers a great fireball a hundred times more massive than himself.

The two seem prepared to annihilate everything around them to win this battle. Arturia and I can’t allow that. She runs across the surface of the river and demands that Gilgamesh cease. I fly over and perch myself on top of Wargreymon’s head and tell him to “chill”. With those small gestures they relent, not because of what was said but who was saying it.

“This is not over you feral lizard!” Gilgamesh threatens as Arturia rests him upon her shoulder and they vanish into golden sparkles.

Once they’re gone Wargreymon devolves back to Augumon and is utterly spent. I hold on to him as I fly us toward the city center. He’s beat up pretty bad. It’s going to be a little bit before he’s back up to speed.

Through pained breaths he tells me, “Ok. This time we need a place with room service.” “Alright bud, I know just the place.” “So I guess the secret’s out, huh?” “Nope.” “Wha?” “You see that fog over the city?” “Yeah” “There’s some benefit to having major magical organizations overseeing this affair.” “But that fog isn’t thick enough.” “Brother, no. It’s a memory charm.” “Oh ok. That makes a lot more sense.”

It’s not long before we’re in the heart of this Japanese metropolis. This bag might be the best idea I’ve ever had. ID, credit cards, a non-conspicuous change of clothes, and a large dog kennel to pass Augumon off as one. No small town. No shitty motel. We’re staying in a five star suite.

As I talk to the concierge she says that they don’t accept dogs. I wave my hand in a small circle and ask her if she can make an exception. She agrees to make an exception. She asks kind of what breed it is. I wave my hand in a small circle and tell that I don’t have a dog, this is my suitcase. She agrees and so does everyone else, all thirteen of them, who asks.

We setup shop and settle in. Augumon wraps five different ice packs around his bruised body and utterly devours a cart full of room service. After that he starts becoming more like his cheerful, inquisitive usual self.

“So how do we know if you’ve been chosen?” he asks. “I will receive a special series of markings that will allow me to summon a heroic spirit after I prepare the ritual and deliver the invocation.” “What does it look like?” “Usually some artfully cryptic design, typically an old magic rune.” “Does it look like that?” he asks he pricks one his claws into the back of my neck.

I go to the bathroom and yup. That is definitely a summoning seal. Weird place for it though. We rest that night. Augumon is going to have to take it easy for the next couple days but in the late morning…ok, early afternoon…I get up and get the ritual ready. Later that evening everything is ready (thank you bag).

You know what? Despite a very fast start, things are actually going pretty good. Depending on who I summon the three us will actually be in a good position to win this thing. If I can keep Arturia’s favor throughout this conflict then we’ll be in an excellent position to our larger purpose. Things are going good.

I speak the invocation and the arcane might of the Chalice courses through the summoning circle through. There at the foot of the beds in that suite a heroic spirit returns from the veil of death. Whether it’s the distinct armor or the fact that she’s the spitting image of her “father” there can be no mistake. I have summoned Mordred.