Episode Four
Hasshin!! Mikan no Saishu Heiki!
(Launch! The Incomplete Ultimate Weapon)
The death of Smith Toren is deeply affecting Noriko. She is constantly reminded of him and with this grief she throws
herself into her training that much harder. Under the close supervision of Coach Ota, Noriko uses all of her free time
operating an
RX Trainer, which has a cockpit similar to the Gunbuster's. This extra training does not go unnoticed,
though. Up in the observation deck in the training bay, Jung-Freud is watching. The feeling of anger boiling up within her
causes Jung to confront Noriko after training is over. She states that the Coach has been working Noriko too hard, and
that she would like to challenge her to a fight. Noriko tries to say there would be no contest, but Jung misunderstands
Noriko's statement that she is not the better pilot, and this further angers her. Noriko agrees to the contest.

On the way up to the
Exelion's flight deck, Jung tells Noriko they will use training shells which will deliver an electric shock
to determine who is hit. Noriko states her affirmation, but as soon as the cargo elevator reaches the flight deck, she
freezes. Staring off into deep space, flashes of memory from her recent combat experience burst into her mind. Noriko
breaks down and sobs, stating that she never wants to go into space again.

Down in the woman's berthing area, Jung is telling Kazumi about the incident and says that perhaps she should have
never bothered. The ire in her voice is readily apparent, and Kazumi reaches back and slaps Jung. Jung in turn slaps
Kazumi. Jung says that if Noriko goes into space again, she will die. Noriko, laying in her bunk, overhears the argument.
She asks herself if she would really die if she went on another sortie.

A few hours later, Kazumi is in Coach Ota's quarters. He asks her what is on her mind. Kazumi brings up the fact that
Noriko is still unprepared for the task of being a pilot. She asks that Ota stop using Noriko as an instrument of revenge,
and use her instead. Ota tells her that she is conceited. Kazumi then asks him:
"How can one who cannot protect herself
look after the lives of others?"
Ota tells Kazumi that things are not over yet. That is all he has to say on the matter.

On the bridge of the
Exelion, Captain Tashiro is informing the crew of their last long distance warp jump. He states that
they will warp while in subspace, so as to not allow the alien fleet to track them back to Earth. Tashiro then finishes that if
things go right, they will emerge from warp with Halley's Comet on their flank. The date will be 23 July 2032.

Once under warp, things do not go as planned. A huge explosion rips through the ship, totally devastating a section of the
Exelion. Alarm klaxons ringing everywhere, Tashiro is informed that they are under attack. He is shocked. The evidence
that the aliens could attack under warp is staggering, even though it should be impossible. Tashiro gives the order to fire
all cannon. Then the unthinkable happens. The fleet begins to drop from warp, despite the best efforts of the humans to
keep it from doing so. Earth's location has now been revealed to the aliens.

RX-7 squadrons are planning to launch when Coach Ota finds a small group in discussion around one of the
Machine Weapons. Asking about the delay, Jung tells Ota that her partner's RX-7 is not in working order. Ota then tells
the pilot, Linda Yamamoto, to take Noriko's
Machine Weapon. To make matters worse, Ota orders Noriko to stay aboard.
She is angered by this, and her humilation shows.

In space, the
Top Squadron is in defensive position. The Exelion fires a cluster of photon torpedoes at a huge alien
mother ship, which just shrugs off the attack. Startled, Kazumi and Jung stare at the monstrous sight, preparing for what is
coming next. Large amounts of soldier drones begin to attack, causing massive amounts of damage to the already
decimated fleet. Jung kills her 23rd opponent, but is soon caught in the claws of a drone, as is Kazumi. The struggle
seems hopeless. Jung watches as her friend Linda is killed by one of the drones, her
RX-7 crushed like a walnut.

In the berthing area, Noriko is crying heavily. The humiliation she feels at having been forced to remain aboard is too
much. She finally makes up her mind, however, to ignore this feeling. Stating that she has cried for the last time, she vows
to the spirit of Smith Toren that the old her will die with him. She stands up and heads for the docking bay.

The battle is not going well. The once large fleet has been reduced to a small handful of ships and the
Top Squadron has
suffered enourmous casulaties. Tashiro is about to order the
Exelion to ram the mother ship, but warning klaxons sound
as one of the hangars open. The Captain is informed that the
Gunbuster is launching. Upon hearing this, Tashiro orders
Noriko to back down, but Ota countermands the orders. Noriko takes off with only ten minutes of power to the

The sight is overwhelming. Beaten and humiliated, the human pilots watch as the
Gunbuster appears, possibly one of the
most enourmous saviors imagined. Inside the cockpit, Noriko orders the
Gunbuster to fire its primary weapon by
"Buster Beam!" The powerful laser cannon mounted in the Gunbuster's head cuts loose and vaporizes scores
of alien drones by the thousands, without harming any of the
RX-7 or Cosmo Attack Fighter squadrons.

As Captain Tashiro supervizes the transfer of his troops back aboard the
Exelion, the Gunbuster covers their escape to
safety. The alien fleet has been reduced down to just the mother ship. Noriko tries her best to snag the alien monster, but
it is too fast for the
Gunbuster's tracking system. Realizing she has no other options left to her, Noriko turns the machine's
inertial canceller to full power and prepares to catch the monster.

Horrified, Noriko's friends watch in disbeif as the alien monster impales the
Gunbuster straight through with part of its
body. Noriko feels victorious; she now has the creature right where she wants it. Vocalizing another command, Noriko
slams both fists of her machine into the creature's body. Panels then open up on the forearms and massive electrodes
drive their way into the alien's skin. Screaming in triumph, Noriko watches as the
Gunbuster begins to boil the creature
from the inside out. The explosion which follows is staggering.

The joyful mood has changed suddenly to one of disbelief as the crew of the
Exelion believe Noriko has perished with the
alien. However, cries of relief and triumph abound as the
Exelion's radar picks up the Gunbuster. Kazumi is overcome by
joy, as is Jung. Their friend has proven herself in combat. Coach Ota smiles. His pupil has finally grown into the pilot she
wanted to be. Like a phoenix emerging from out of the fires of war, Noriko has been reborn.
To be continued...
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