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 Post Posted: Mon Jan 24, 2011 2:59 pm 
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Pilot's Doomed Girlfriend

Joined: Fri Jul 16, 2010 10:55 pm
Posts: 370
Location: over there
Epic!

I rewatched this episode the other day (not sure why), and I just want you to know that I like your version about 3x more!

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*insert witty eyecatch here*


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 Post Posted: Mon Jan 31, 2011 4:46 pm 
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Newtype Emo Guy

Joined: Wed May 02, 2007 7:43 pm
Posts: 258
Location: Illinois, USA
Thank you both very much for your responses. I apologize for not replying to each of you individually, but I was busy for all of last week and had multiple internet outages. I didn't even know if I was going to be able to post today until earlier this afternoon.

Hope you enjoy this chapter, it's a long one, but hopefully a good one.

___________________________________________________________________________
Chapter Ten: Fallen Angels

Garcia came to me in the night, in a world of pitch-black.

He smiled, but his teeth were missing. He spoke perfectly, as if he had all of its teeth anyway. "You had great fun at my expense, didn't you?"

The world was becoming hot. I tried to speak, but I discovered I had no voice.

"Well," he said, ever so nonchalantly, "Let me show you your reward for such fun. Such crazed, gleeful fun, taking joy in letting your allies, your comrades, getting murdered by a single ZAFT soldier. This is what waits for you when you die, Cagalli Yamato. This is what you will suffer the moment you are killed. You get to suffer it every day, every hour, with me. You got your five minutes of fun tormenting me in life, well, I get five lifetimes of tormenting you after life. What do you think? Fair trade? How about we find out?"

I tried to reach for him, but then I fell. He stayed above me, floating in mid-air, just laughing at me as I fell.

Suddenly, I was wreathed by flames.

I was on fire. My body disintergrated all around me.

It was then I found my voice. And I screamed.
***
I woke up to find my hand trying to strangle Miriallia.

"It's a nightmare, Cagalli! Stop it! You're okay!"

As I stared into her frightened blue eyes, her hands frantically trying to rip my right hand away from her, I realized that I had not fallen into hell, a volcano, or whatever afterlife horror I had dreamt of.

My right hand rubbed my pounding head, and I struggled to breathe. My body was absolutely covered in sweat, and my headache had remained, surging throughout my head with a vengeance.

"I'm sorry," I whispered, wondering if Miriallia had already run out of the room in a panic. But she was still here, and still close to the bed, albeit highly nervous, as if I would lash out at her like a snake. She finally visibly relaxed her hands and yanked out a nearby chair and sat in it, still trembling, but reassured I wasn't going to kill her.

"What happened?" she finally asked.

"Garcia," I said.

"Him?" Miriallia asked, surprised.

"He tried to pull me into hell. He wanted me to suffer in hell for what I had done to him, because I . . . I didn't protect Artemis." I admit that I was sugarcoating things, but how could I explain to Miriallia that I had let Nicol go on and destroy the base?

But Miriallia knew what I was saying anyway. "You're talking about letting the Blitz go scot-free."

I stared at her, then I looked away. "I . . . I hated Garcia so much for what he did to Tolle. I wanted him to die. I wanted him to suffer."

"If it means anything, I would've done the same thing. It doesn't make it right, but I understand," Miriallia said finally. "Probably a good number of people on-board would agree with you there. Garcia treated us all like caged animals to restrain."

"But like you said, it wasn't right. I should've fought the Blitz. Maybe more than four Mobile Armors would've escaped if I had."

"Or maybe none would've," Miriallia said. "You would've been so busy fighting the Blitz that you wouldn't have been able to protect them from the Duel and Buster."

"Yeah, sure," I said, skeptical.

Miriallia shrugged. "There's no point in second-guessing at this point. You did what you did. You kept us alive, we have twenty Artemis personnel still on-board, not including the four pilots you saved."

She sighed. "We've got quite a crew now. Fifty-something Orb civilians, a skeleton Atlantic Federation crew, and now twenty-four people from Artemis. And none of us completely trust each other."

"I thought there had been more people from Artemis on-board," I said.

"Apparently a lot of people decided to take their chances on Artemis' transports than risk our wrath when we took the ship back," Miriallia said.

I stared at her again. "You guys took the ship back by force?"

"Yeah," Miriallia said. "Neumann and Murdoch led the charge and we quickly took it back. About half of the Artemis personnel we have are locked up in the brig, they were guards taken prisoner. The others are the pilots you saved and people who opted to voluntarily surrender to us instead of trying to make it to an Artemis transport . . . and none of those made it out of the base."

I chuckled softly. This was darkly hilarious. What a ship. What a crew. We were nothing more than a bunch of glorified refugees just trying to find safety, and we could never find it. And all we did was wind up picking up more refugees, refugees that couldn't be trusted because they had locked everyone up. Not to mention had a clear language barrier.

I looked at Miriallia. "Did we at least get some new supplies?"

Miriallia shook her head. "Garcia didn't resupply us. He didn't think there was a point, considering ZAFT was besieging us. The Archangel wouldn't be able to leave without getting into a fight. At least that's what Lieutenant Ramius said when I asked."

"So we have more mouths to feed on the same crappy amount of supplies we had," I said.

Miriallia smiled sardonically. "Yeah, pretty much. Now, if you're not going to choke anybody else, it's time you got up."

"Ha ha ha," I said.

"I'm serious. Don't do that again. I don't want to think my best friend is going crazy," Miriallia said.

I nodded solemnly. "I understand."
***
We floated down the hallway when I noticed something odd at the windows. "Hey, Miri, look outside."

"What?" She squints as she looks. "Oh."

There were debris everywhere by our window, just casually floating on by. A lot of debris. For a second, I thought that we had wound up flying back into Heliopolis, but then I realized that this was far too random to be Heliopolis' remnants. This was something else. A ruin of a non-Orb nature. A ruin that's been around for a long time.

"We gotta be in the debris belt," I finally said.

"I heard the captain say we might try to hide in it so the Gamow doesn't catch us."

"The Gamow?"

"That's the name of the ship that deployed near Artemis. It's not the ship Le Creuset is based on. I guess they brought in reinforcements to keep an eye on us."

I thought about Athrun, who hadn't participated in the Artemis battle at all. I wondered where he had been the whole battle, and why he hadn't participated. Did it have anything to do with his "fiance", as that Nicol guy had said?

Who was Athrun becoming engaged to? Which political dynasty did Athrun's father need to consolidate support?

I suddenly remembered the Supreme Chairman was Siegel Clyne, Lacus Clyne's father.

I felt disgusted. What if Athrun's fiance was none other than that pop princess bimbo who sang about hope and kittens and pretty things while the real world was full of carnage? He had to marry that girl? I wasn't sure whether to despise him or pity him, especially as Nicol strongly implied it was against Athrun's will.

I wondered why I cared who Athrun was engaged to. Didn't I have a boyfriend already? I had moved on, didn't I? So why did it seem like I hadn't?

I looked at Miriallia. "These are ZAFT special forces. Three Mobile Suits and one cruiser wiped out a supposedly impregnable base with hardly any casualties. Does the captain seriously think we can hide from them in a bunch of debris?"

Miriallia shrugged. "What do you expect her to do, Cagalli?"

"I don't know. It's just . . . I don't think we're going to be able to hide from them for very long, if at all."

"You're probably right. We're running low on supplies. I've heard we're gonna start rationing water today. Even if we manage to hide from the Gamow we're not going to hold together without supplies." She shook her head and sighed. "Anyway, I'm gonna head for the bridge. I don't know what you're doing, so . . ."

"Yeah, I know. I figured I'd go see how the Strike's maintenance is coming along. I've been letting Prince Kira do most of the work, which isn't fair. I'm the one flying the thing, I should be trying to do it myself." Miriallia chuckled knowingly. "The prince is working for you?"

I wasn't amused. "Yes, I am."

Miriallia sighed. "Lighten up, Cagalli."

"I will once we're back in Orb," I said.

Miriallia just started floating away. "You keep brooding about this, Cagalli, you're not going to like your life. That's the honest truth." "I'm not going to cut myself or something, Miri."

"The last thing Tolle needs is you getting al depressed and pitying yourself. I don't want you to be a weight on his shoulders."

"I thought this was about me, not Tolle."

Miriallia just sighed and floated down the hallway, and, frustrated and filled with pent-up energy I couldn't channel anywhere, I just stared out the window, and punched the wall next to it. Naturally, the blowback made me float away from the window and it took a lot of effort to get my hands back on the railing.

Stupid weightlessness. Even while taking three pills, the sensation of floating in unnatural positions was still making me feel slightly sick to my stomach. How many pills did I have to take? Was this going to become an addiction?

And now Miriallia was acting all strange. I was confiding in her and she wasn't trying to make me feel better. Talking with her just made me feel worse. What had I done to set Miriallia off? Did this, in the end, all have to do with Tolle? I knew she and Tolle had been getting close before I walked into their lives.

Was Miriallia jealous of me? The more I thought about it, the more obvious it seemed.

Did she hate me? That was something I wasn't willing to consider yet. Miriallia had been with me just as long as Tolle. If she hated me, she would've made it obvious long before now. I didn't want to believe that someone I counted on, my own roommate onboard this ship, hated me. I just couldn't consider it. If she did hate me, I was far lonelier than I thought.

I hoped it was just jealousy, or stress, or something else. Not hatred. Anything but hatred.

I was about to head for the bridge when I heard familiar adult voice. "Cagalli? Is that you, Cagalli?"

I turned to my left and I saw the woman with her daughter, Melanie. I put on a calm smile. "Hi there, uh . . ."

"Oh yeah, I didn't give my name. My name is Dorothy Eliarez. You've already met Melanie."

Melanie nodded, and she smiled at me.

"Nice to meet you," I said. "My full name is Cagalli Yamato."

Dorothy smiled. "Can I make a request?"

"Yeah, sure."

"I'm going in for gun turret training this morning. Can you watch Melanie for a while?"

"You mean babysit."

"I'm not a baby," Melanie grumbled.

Dorothy chuckled awkwardly. "Melanie doesn't like that word, babysit."

I smiled. "Well, now I know. How long do you think you'll be?"

"Uh, three or four hours. I don't know for sure. It depends on long it takes for me to know what I'm doing."

"Okay." I looked down at Melanie, who was busy trying to float upside down. The unnatural sight nearly made me sick, but I shook it off. Last thing either Eliarez wanted to see was my stomach contents.

I turned my attention to the elder Eliarez, and tried to pretend I hadn't just seen Melanie floating around. "Yeah, sure, I'll watch her. I can put off servicing the Strike for just a while longer."

Dorothy smiled. "Thank you very much, Cagalli. I'll try not to take too long. You're an angel."

"Uh, thanks," I said, as I felt my face heat up.

Dorothy floated away, and there was Melanie, her feet on the glass window. "Hey, Cagalli! Look at me!"

I know a little girl's feet isn't enough to break the glass, but seeing her do that gave me what felt like a mild heart attack. "Melanie, not a good idea. Come down from there, please."

"Aww."

I pulled Melanie away from the glass. "I'm serious. Last thing we need is to be pulled out into space."

"Oh yeah. That would be bad."

"Really bad. Your mom would kill me."

"Wouldn't we already be dead?"

I sighed. "Yeah."

"Then how would Mom kill you?"

I decided to change the subject matter right then. "Come on, let's just go."

We floated down the hallway, towards whatever I could come up with to keep Melanie occupied.
***
It turned out we were going to be playing with her cat, which did not appreciate zero gravity as much as humans did. Its claws were always outstretched, and after both of us getting scratched, we decided to bring the cat into Melanie and her mother's room where the cat would be more uncomfortable. Of course, I got tasked with bringing this freaked-out orange tabby into said room, so that meant I got scratched everywhere. Even the fabric of my uniform at the shoulders and forearms got frayed.

It calmed down significantly after it returned to gravity, but I kept my distance away from it. Getting scratched has a tendency to make humans wary of cats. I did consider getting Tori and using the poor thing to keep the cat occupied, but even though Tori's a robot I couldn't quite bring myself to do it.

As I placed a bandage on one of my bleeding scratches on the back of my hand, Melanie laughed. "The cat hurts you more than bad guys."

"Oh really?" I asked.

"Yeah. You always come back unhurt from fighting. I bet the bad guys would be even worse than you with my cat!"

Ah, the innocence of children. They don't realize that there are always wounded from battles, it's just that the wounds aren't always visible.

I tried to make her understand that, as futile as it seemed. "I'm not invincible, Melanie."

"Mom says you are. You're like our guardian angel."

I barely held back a snort. "I'm not an angel."

"You even have golden hair, just like an angel!"

"I'm not an angel, Melanie! I . . . I'm just not," I said. It was hard to keep from blowing up at her, but children just plain believe things that adults don't. I forced myself to understand that.

Melanie's eyes moistened, just a little. "But that's what Mom says. She says you're our guardian angel, and that no one can beat you. You just say you're a Coordinator so people don't think you're something else."

What kind of crazy junk was Dorothy Eliarez stuffing into her daughter's head? Maybe Dorothy Eliarez wasn't even aware of how crazy she was. Not everyone in Orb was tolerant of Coordinators. Maybe she was one of them. Maybe thinking I was something unearthly, something supernatural, was her way of coping with the fact that her survival depended on a Coordinator. And she believed the lie so fervently she had spread it to her own daughter.

Or she didn't know how to explain the naunces of the Natural/Coordinator conflict and just made up a bunch of junk that Melanie would understand. In other words, she was just as tongue-tied as me about the whole situation. I hoped this was the case, because if it was the former, Dorothy Eliarez was short a few marbles.

I remembered Dorothy's comment to me. "You're an angel". That wasn't a term of endearment. It was an instruction. An instruction to pretend to be something else in front of her daughter.

It's not something I wanted to do. I'm not an actress, and I'm definitely no angel. I'm just me.

But how could I say that to Melanie, who wanted to believe that something like an angel existed and one of those beings was right in front of her?

In the end, I just couldn't do it. I couldn't pull off the act. It's just not who I am. Not to mention I'm missing an important accessory: the wings.

"Melanie," I said softly, "I'm a Coordinator. I'm a human being. I'm not an angel or anything else. I'm doing this to protect everyone onboard this ship."

I turned around and went down on one knee so I'd be at her level. "I don't have any wings or stuff like that. I'm human. But I'll do the best I can, Melanie. I promise."

I put my hand on her face. She was starting to cry. I was shattering her illusion, but she needed this. She needed to know the truth.

"I will protect you. Nobody is ever going to harm you, your mother, or anyone else on this ship. I promise. You're going to get home safe and sound and you'll be able to attend school again and make friends. Orb's a peaceful country. It's a wonderful place to live. And you will be so . . . so happy there."

I embraced her. "Melanie, I'm so sorry. I'm not perfect. Please don't hate me. Please."

"Cagalli, it's okay."

"Huh?"

"I know my mom is just saying that because she likes believing in stuff like that, but . . . could you just pretend with me? Pretend you're an angel? Just this once?"

Her blue eyes stared right into mine. "I need to pretend. It's only this once. It'll make my mom happy if you pretended with me."

I suddenly realized I was starting to cry. "Okay, I'll try. I . . . I will . . ."

My hands were shaking too much. I just gripped Melanie tightly and began crying, and I couldn't understand why.

Why? Why was I crying for such a small thing?

"Cagalli, it's okay. It's okay. I'm sorry. You don't have to pretend. I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

wasn't a small thing. It was people asking me to become something I'm not. It was the realization of how people were putting so much pressure on me, hope in me. They all wanted to believe I was greater than I was. And I'm plainly not a great person. I lash out too much, I've killed people, and my own lack of compassion and my lust for vengeance got way more people killed at Artemis than there had to be.

Coupled with the memory of my nightmare with Garcia, of being burned alive in hell, it was just too much.

I don't know how long I had held Melanie in her room like that. She stopped talking after a while, and just gently rubbed my back the best she could with her short arms and small hands.

I just didn't feel worthy of the responsibility placed on my shoulders.
***
A half-hour later, Kira Yeley Athha, the prince himself, entered the room. Thankfully, by that time, I had stopped crying. I self-consciously stared at a nearby mirror, and the only sign of my weakness was a small amount of red around my eyes. I hoped Kira wouldn't notice.

Melanie, for her part, was amazed the prince himself would step into the room of a commoner. She was completely speechless, and her eyes were indecisive, stunned, like she had no idea what to say.

Kira smiled as he saw me. "Cagalli, great to see you. Ms. Eliarez told me you were babysitting her daughter."

Melanie was still so in awe of the prince being in her room that she didn't even object to the word "babysitting".

"Uh, yeah, I'm watching her while Ms. Eliarez is, uh, practicing on one of the turrets," I replied.

"Well, I kinda need you in the hangar bay. We need to go over some things regarding the Strike."

"I promised I would watch her daughter and stuff . . ."

Kira smiled gently. "You can bring Melanie along. Wouldn't that be a good idea, Melanie? You want to see the Strike?"

Melanie was star-crossed. "You know my name-I mean, yes, of course, Mr. Prince Kira, sir!"

Kira laughed. "Just 'Kira' is fine, Melanie. And yes, I know your name, your mother told it to me."

"Uh, okay, Mr. Prin-I mean, Kira."

Kira turned his attention back to me. "Well?"

I offered him the best smile I could manage. "Yeah."

When we made it into the hangar, I was surprised by how busy it was. I was left wondering when these poor maintenance guys got any rest. Either that or they were machines in disguise. But considering androids weren't exactly in vogue, hadn't been since the end of the Anno Domini era when they were reportedly quite numerous, I doubted it.

Wonder what happened to all of the robots and androids, and why they'd all vanish. None of the histories I've read of Anno Domini have given me a straight answer.

Whatever. Considering the Anno Domini movies I've seen that still exist, featuring long-dead actors whose names mean next to nothing nowadays, there was probably a robot rebellion of some kind. I mean, those movies had to have been made for a reason, right?

I looked up at the Strike, and wondered what would happen if it was sentient, like a real robot, instead of something that required a pilot. Mobile Suits are frequently misconstrued as robots for some reason when they aren't anything of the sort. They're their own unique type of machine. They are not airplanes or Mobile Armors, but they aren't actual robots either. Being a robot means it has to operate independently of a human controlling it.

Considering the insane amount of firepower the Strike had, it was probably for the best that it had no sentience.

I saw Kojiro Murdoch just stare at us. "Hey, why're you guys bringing a girl in here?"

Kira smiled cheerfully. "Oh, we're just going to show her the Strike! Cagalli's babysitting her, after all!"

Kojiro's face looked like it was going to droop to the floor. "This is your idea of babysitting, Cagalli? I'd hate to see what you'd call an actual date."

"Hey, I'm not being babysat!" Melanie yelled. "I'm not a baby!"

Kojiro facepalmed. "Oh God . . ." He just floated away then, shaking his head.

Kira looked embarrassed. "I'm sorry. I didn't know you didn't like that word, 'babysit'."

Melanie's face flushed. "Uh, um, I don't mind if you say it, uh, Mr. Prince Kira, sir."

Kira just chuckled softly and shook his head. "It's all right, Melanie."

We floated up to the Strike cockpit, and Kira opened it up. Melanie peered inside. "Whoa, this is where you fly it, right, Cagalli?"

"Yeah," I said. Melanie tried to crawl inside, but Kira stopped her.

"Uh, Melanie, no offense, but the Strike's lock isn't activated, which means anyone can try to use it. We don't want the thing to accidentally turn on right now," Kira said.

"Oh. That would be bad," Melanie said.

"Yes, very bad," Kira said.

"Aww." Melanie reluctantly stepped away from the Strike cockpit and I just looked at Kira.

Kira just winked in response. The puzzling response just had me shaking my head in dismay. Kira was having way too much fun with this. Then again, he left me the impression of being quite a gearhead. Getting to tinker with the Strike was probably like a dream come true for him.

I sat down in the cockpit, and I promptly discovered that Kira had told the truth, he hadn't turned the lock on at all. It made me sweat nervously. What if I felt like pretending to shoot something with the Igelstellung machine-guns? I could've opened fire in the hangar and gotten somebody hurt or killed just because of goofing around.

But I think Kira knew I wasn't going to do that. After everything I had been through, if I hadn't developed respect for this great machine, I never will.

I did a quick simulation with both Kira and Melanie watching, and I discovered the thing turned on a dime. Kira had done his homework, this thing was manuevering like something much smaller, like a Mobile Armor.

I paused the simulation and stared at Kira. "How did you do that?"

Kira flushed. "Uh, I just improved the O.S. It's like a ZAFT version, only better. I've been tinkering with ways to make the ZAFT O.S. even better to use, and this is one prototype O.S. I've been considering. You like it?"

"Yes, a lot."

Kira smiled. "That's good. You want to try the other prototypes, or is this one fine?"

I considered it, just out of curiosity. But I knew I had found an O.S. I really liked. It felt custom-built for me, even though that may not have been Kira's intention, if he had made multiple prototype operating systems. I was so fast and agile with the Sword Pack that no GINN would have a chance against me, not unless he managed to land a few hits before I got there. But the improved agility, which came from the O.S. reacting faster and more efficiently with my reflexes, would make me really difficult to hit.

But there was no guarantee I'd be able to defeat the GUNDAM machines. Aegis, Buster, Duel, and Blitz. Athrun, Dearka, Yzak, and Nicol.

Even if the O.S. was absolutely perfect, it didn't change the fact I was fighting a four-on-one battle there. As much as I wanted to include Mu La Flaga, he was at a technical disadvantage. He had shot down several GINNs in a famous battle called Endymion, but such a feat was considered miraculous. How could I expect him to fight GUNDAM machines?

And the Artemis pilots that I had rescued would be close to powerless.

No matter how I looked at it, it was a war being felt by my own lonesome.

I needed the best O.S. I could get. And I knew I had found it, instinctively.

"This one's good. Thank you very much," I said.

Kira looked surprised. "Really? You don't want to try the others?"

I shook my head. "No. This one's perfect. I mean it."

Kira blinked a couple of times. "Oh, wow. I didn't expect you to like that one so much. That's why I had you try that one first. Shows how much I know, huh?"

"No, you know me better than you think," I said, trying to reassure him. "This one's exactly what I want. I think I could even shoot down one of the GUNDAMs with this O.S."

"Well, if you did that, that would greatly help," Kira said, laughing.

Melanie peered inside. "Can you run the simulation again? That was amazing. The graphics looked so real!"

"They are, aren't they?" I said. I motioned for her to come inside. "Come on, you deserve a good view. Let me turn off the shaking so you don't go flying around the cockpit."

"You mean it?" Melanie asked.

"Yeah, come on. I'll show you what it's like to fly this thing," I said. I looked at Kira, who looked like he was going to have a heart attack. "I promise I won't accidentally turn the machine on."

Kira finally nodded. "Okay. But Melanie touches nothing, got it? Absolutely, positively, nothing."

"I promise," I said.

Kira sighed. "Okay. Melanie, go on in. You have twenty minutes, that's all. I don't think the captain will approve of you being in the cockpit of a machine that technically is still on standby."

"Okay," Melanie said. "I promise."

She got inside, and I closed the cockpit and activated the simulation. Melanie gasped in shock. "Oh wow, I had no idea the Earth Alliance fleet was so big!"

"This is a simulation of the Eighth Fleet, it's commanded by some Admiral Halberton guy," I replied. "Maybe we'll get to see him someday."

"He must be cool to command such a big fleet," Melanie said.

"No, he's just good at his job," I said. And responsible too, I silently added, knowing that Melanie wouldn't completely understand that last bit. But that was fine. Why bore the girl with explanations of supplies and morale and ammunition and all of that? Melanie just wanted to see how you flew this Mobile Suit?

I launched out of the simulated hangar bay of Halberton's flagship, the Menelaos. I took Melanie for a quick spin around the massive Eighth Fleet. I wondered what it would be like to command such a large group, and hold it together for so long against the ZAFT.

Admiral Halberton had to be good.

Melanie was in total awe, she placed her hand on the screen multiple times, like she could reach out and grasp each ship in her hand. I couldn't help but smile at I saw her look around in amazement. Kids can be so difficult to please, but when you do please them, they are possessed by so much wonder that . . . the feeling you get is indescribably warm and wonderful.

We wound up being inside for forty minutes, twice as long as I promised. But I didn't mind that at all.

It was worth it just to see Melanie's amazed, wide smile.

_________________
MURRUE: Infallible accuracy?? I thought you just usually shot all your weapons at random and they just happened to hit stuff.

KIRA: What do you think this is; a cartoon?


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 Post Posted: Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:13 pm 
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Pilot's Doomed Girlfriend

Joined: Fri Jul 16, 2010 10:55 pm
Posts: 370
Location: over there
I like where we're going here, even if it is a little melancholy. It plays along with what the series gives you.

rebel_cheese wrote:
"Yeah, I know. I figured I'd go see how the Strike's maintenance is coming along. I've been letting Prince Kira do most of the work, which isn't fair. I'm the one flying the thing, I should be trying to do it myself." Miriallia chuckled knowingly. "The prince is working for you?"

I wasn't amused. "Yes, I am."

Miriallia sighed. "Lighten up, Cagalli."

"I will once we're back in Orb," I said.

Miriallia just started floating away. "You keep brooding about this, Cagalli, you're not going to like your life. That's the honest truth." "I'm not going to cut myself or something, Miri."


I think that there are a few paragraph errors here. Specifically in the first and last paragraphs.

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 Post Posted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 2:49 am 
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Pilot's Doomed Girlfriend

Joined: Mon Apr 09, 2007 5:08 pm
Posts: 434
Location: Ontario
Okay, if the same thing from the series happens to those civilians...I'm gonna cry...


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 Post Posted: Mon Feb 07, 2011 9:49 am 
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Newtype Emo Guy

Joined: Wed May 02, 2007 7:43 pm
Posts: 258
Location: Illinois, USA
Rob DS Zeta wrote:
I like where we're going here, even if it is a little melancholy. It plays along with what the series gives you.

I think that there are a few paragraph errors here. Specifically in the first and last paragraphs.


I think I angsted it up a bit too much but I really wanted to show Cagalli's personality flaws here. Then again Gundam SEED isn't a "happy" series.

I fixed those errors for FF.net, I'll try to make the fixes here too if I remember to. Thanks for reading.

Quote:
Okay, if the same thing from the series happens to those civilians...I'm gonna cry...


Different things are gonna happen to the civilians this time around. Won't say whether they'll be good or bad. :twisted:

Thanks for reading!

Here's chapter 11. Somebody makes her entrance.
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Eleven: Laid to Rest

The next morning was the first one that seemed remotely uneventful all week. After explosions, death, explosions, Heliopolis falling apart, explosions, GUNDAMs, explosions, my childhood best friend appearing and reappearing out of nowhere, and yes, more explosions, an uneventful morning was heavenly.

Tolle was still nursing his gunshot when I checked on him but he was expected to resume his usual duties in a couple of days. Knowing that he was going to be okay for sure put me in a good mood when I entered the bridge to check up on my other friends.

It was then when I saw a massive structure before us. A dead PLANT.

"Whoa," I said.

"Whoa indeed," Mu La Flaga said from behind me. I turned to him. "We just found that thing right now. Biggest piece of anything we've seen in the debris belt so far."

"Can anyone tell me why we're still in the debris belt, other than to hide?" I asked.

Murrue got up from the captain's chair and smiled at me. "Mu La Flaga himself pointed out something to me yesterday. The debris belt is potentially a treasure trove. Leftover supplies and parts are all over this place. Right now, we haven't found anything substantial enough to hold leftover supplies and parts, though . . . not until now."

I looked ahead at it. It looked familiar to me for some reason. I thought I had seen that PLANT from somewhere before.

Then I realized where.

Athrun's room at the Academy contained a picture of Junius Seven, taken by Athrun himself as they passed by it on a slingshot route towards the moon. And it looked exactly like the dead colony we were staring at right now . . . except Junius Seven then was brimming with life and beauty.

This Junius Seven was nothing but death. Gray. Debris. Destruction.

"Are we really going to stop here?" I asked.

Murrue raised an eyebrow. "This is the first substantial structure we've found so far, Cagalli."

Mu knew. He had realized it just as I had spoken. "Cagalli, wait-"

I would not be stopped from pointing something inconvenient. "You people do realize that is Junius Seven, right?"

I was greeted with silence for several seconds, before Murrue finally spoke. "I should have guessed. It did look suspicious to me."

Mu sighed. "I heard wreckage from Junius Seven drifted into the debris belt, but I didn't think that included the main structure. Look at it, it's like a grave marker in space."

"Are we really going to take supplies from there? It's barbaric!" I shouted.

I wasn't raised in Junius Seven, but I could not see any benefits from raiding such a place. A place of odious atrocity, for no apparent reason than to start this violent, never-ending war. Then coming here, like grave robbers, moving the dead aside like they were nothing more than sandbags or something while stealing what remained? It was depravity. I didn't want to go in here, it felt like spitting on those who died just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

My imagination went haywire, and I briefly imagined a zombie apocalypse, ghosts possessing everyone, or some insane crew member killing anybody who ventured inside one by one . . . until he found a way to get onboard the Archangel and do the same to everyone in here. It took me ten seconds or so to get these ridiculous yet terrifying nightmares out of my head so I could refocus. I did just in time to hear Murrue.

"We are not going to be grave robbers, Cagalli. But we have a water shortage, and we need parts to repair the various malfunctions and damaged areas of the ship. We absolutely must have both of these things. Anything else is secondary, and that includes ammunition . . . which I doubt any ammunition we'd find would be compatable with the Archangel anyway," Murrue said.

"You're just justifying stealing from the dead," I said.

Miriallia stood up. "Cagalli, the water shortage is getting really bad. I was talking with Flay earlier, the civilians' water ration is being cut drastically. Flay doesn't even have enough to shower with."

"I don't care about Flay," I said.

"You should. The military's water ration is going to be cut next," Miriallia said. "Unless we take the water from Junius Seven, soon there won't be any water period."

"I can't believe you're saying that," I replied.

"You can't always do what's pretty," Mu said. "We need to survive, and that's how we're going to survive. Or would you rather keep your hands clean and join Junius Seven as a permanent part of the debris belt?"

He pointed at the wrecked colony, and I knew what he, Murrue, and Miriallia were all saying was right in that we needed to survive. But this . . . this wasn't living. No matter the justification, stealing from the dead is the wrong thing to do in my opinion.

But I knew there wasn't any choice. If water was that short, there was no guarantee we'd find anything else in the debris belt. We had to go in.

"Fine," I said. "But I'm not taking part in stealing the supplies."

"That wasn't the plan for you anyway," Natarle Badgiruel said, as she emerged from behind Murrue. "You're going to be running patrols outside with Mu and the Artemis pilots you rescued. In the event of enemy attack, you will have to hold any ZAFT forces off until everyone's back onboard. Not to mention there is a possibility the ZAFT may keep a small guard around here."

That just pissed me off. "Oh great, we murder soldiers just to steal from the dead. This gets better."

Murrue spoke so calmly that I had to take notice of her words. "There is no guarantee that there's soldiers in there, Cagalli. It's just something we have to take as it comes. Like everything else. Now, will you help or not?"

I looked at the others. I could see, whether they were friends, or just acquaintances, that there would be no changing their minds. I was in the minority, the fringe minority.

Survival trumped all.

"Yes, I'll help," I finally said.

Murrue smiled. "Thank you, Cagalli. I know this has to be hard on you, but please understand. There's no guarantee we'll find anything else out here. We don't have much of a choice."

"I understand." I took a deep breath, and closed my eyes. I did my best to collect myself. It has to be done, there's no choice, it has to be done, there's no choice, I kept telling myself.

But in the back of my mind, I wished that there was a better choice, that we had another option besides running out of water.

But the cold, stark fact was that we didn't.

I opened my eyes. "When do we get started?"
***
The answer turned out to be "as soon as possible". In a half-hour, I was in my piloting suit, and standing out in the hangar bay. I was surprised at the size of the search team going inside. It looked like a small army, at least to my untrained, civilian eyes. And I even saw Tolle among those donning space suits.

I floated towards him. "You're really going, Tolle?"

"I can make one trip before I need to change the bandages," Tolle said. "Junius Seven is the size of an entire city. They need as many people as possible to go inside. They're even stripping the bridge crew. I gotta go, Cagalli, even if it's only for one trip. They need people to carry the equipment, we're expecting to be melting a ton of ice."

"But . . ."

"It's not like I know enough about this ship to repair it," Tolle said. "We have mechanics for that. But they need go-fers, most of all. And if I can at least help melt some water or find a part the mechanic guys are really desperate for, that means I'm still useful."

I could not argue with Tolle the way I could argue with anyone else. Especially as I knew he was right. "Just be careful, okay?"

Tolle smiled broadly. "Don't worry, I will. No psycho base commanders with pistols waiting for us over there!"

He quickly realized his mistake. After all, there wouldn't be anyone around to meet him when he went over there, 'cause they were all dead, lest we forget. "Uh . . . sorry. I, uh . . ."

"It's okay." I tried to smile. "What kind of girlfriend am I if I can't even forgive one bad joke?"

My smile must have looked like the sickest thing in the solar system becaue Tolle couldn't quite meet my gaze. "Seriously, sorry."

"I said it's okay," I said. "Just do your thing and get back over here. And don't do anything to aggravate your wound. It hasn't been very long since you were shot. I don't need you bleeding in zero-G."

"Trust me, I know. I've bled enough already," Tolle said. He kissed me on the cheek. "I'll be safe, Cagalli. I promise. Kuzzey, Sai, and Miriallia are all coming with me, and I know you're hanging around outside the base to shoot any bad guys down. I know i'll be okay with all of you guys around."

"Thanks." I kissed him back. "I'll see you soon, okay?"

"I will," Tolle promised, and we traded an embrace before we went our separate ways.

As I went over to Mu La Flaga, I saw him standing around four people I had never seen before. Three men, and one woman. I realized quickly that they were the people I had rescued from Artemis' destruction.

Mu waved at me as I approached. "Hey, princess! I need you to take two of these fine pilots under your command."

"I'm not a princess," I said, almost by force of habit.

Mu sighed. "This is Vasili Federov and Natalya Trotsky. They're Russian, and I can't speak Russian, so . . . can you make do?"

I looked at the two of them. Vasili was tall and late-twenties, and Natalya was petite and early-twenties. Both had blonde hair and brown eyes, and if it weren't for their different facial structures they could be almost mistaken for siblings. It was actually kind of eerie to look at them.

I tried to be professional, and extended my hand. "I am Cagalli Yamato, pilot of the Strike Gundam. I look forward to working with the both of you," I said in Russian.

The Russians looked dumbstruck that I could speak their language. The man, Vasili, actually ran up and kissed me on the cheek in that passionate Russian way that disturbs everyone but other Russians. This would include me, even though I kinda saw it coming. Why Russians kiss people they never know will forever be a mystery to me.

After Vasili separated from me, I looked at the equally-dumbstruck Mu La Flaga and gave him a thumbs up. "I think I can manage."

Mu nodded. "I suppose so."
***
When it was my turn to fly out into the void, I felt sick. It wasn't my spacesickness, it goes away after enough time being weightless. It was the knowledge I was trepassing on the dead. I just hoped that the crew was living up to their promise, their orders, to only take what they needed, and not steal any possessions or valuables. Those things belonged with the dead, with the bodies.

They had been able to repair the Archangel while I was waiting for my turn to head outside. The engines were back up to full capacity and the small amount of battle scars were being patched up by a combination of suitable debris and what the extraction crews had been able to bring back. Water, however, was proving a scarce find, in the four or five hours that took up Mu's shift, they had only been able to find enough water for two more days at the current personnel level. Murrue wanted at least two weeks' worth.

Natarle Badgiruel had personally taken charge of the extraction team, and was now probing deeper in the colony with Miriallia and a few others, searching for something that stored water. Anything. That's what we needed the most.

And, just for the record, no survivors had been found. So, for right now, we weren't getting transported into a horror story involving monsters, mutants, ghosts, or crazed serial killers. Though Natarle was insistent on everyone staying in groups, just to be safe.

I ordered Vasili and Natalya to watch one side of the thinly defined "corridor" in-between the Archangel and Junius Seven and I would handle the other on my own. I thought it was strategically the smart thing to do, that my firepower would make up for being on my own, but it was hell on my nerves. I felt vulnerable, and surrounded by unseen, malignant spirits seeking to possess me, corrupt me, destroy me at every turn.

It had to be my imagination, but every few minutes, I would see a pale, nearly-invisible figure out of the corner of my eye. I would turn in the direction, and it would be gone.

"I'm sorry," I whispered softly after the fifth or sixth time that happened. "We're only here for water. We're not after your possessions. Please. I'm sorry."

It was another sign that my sanity was not at its peak. First was nearly laughing maniacally at Artemis, and now I was seeing things. Not good. Not good at all.

I cabled the Archangel. "Murrue, is Kira there, or did he go with the extraction team?"

"I believe he's still here, Cagalli. Why?" Murrue asked.

"I need to talk to someone or I'm going to lose it out here," I said. "And I'm not going to have my new wingmates think I'm going crazy. Please, just send someone to find him and bring him on the line."

A pause. Then Murrue said "I understand. He'll be here soon."

As I waited, I saw what seemed to be another ghostly figure out of the corner of my right eye. I spun the Strike in the direction, aiming the Launcher Pack's artillery where I had seen it, but it was gone. I was chasing phantoms, figments of my imagination. But they seemed so real, so plausible, out here by myself.

"I'm sorry," I whispered. "Please don't hurt me. Don't hurt anybody. We're not going to stay here. Don't hurt us."

It was foolish, but in my mind, it seemed like words were the only things I could use to defend myself. Like some invisible shield was rising around me, preventing the phantoms from reaching in and spiriting me away to their reality, where there was no such thing as eternal peace or being laid to rest.

I didn't want to see their horrible, painful world, their purgatory, their hellish realm of undeserved pain and suffering. I wanted to stay here. I wanted to live. And there was no charm, no pendant, that shielded me from these spirits. I wished I had a cross, a Star of David, a crescent, anything. Something that would ward these beings away.

And the trouble was, these spirits lived in one area: my imagination, and I could not tell my imagination to shut down. My imagination was completely out of control and feeding me nightmares while I was wide awake. That is not good for your state of mind, let me tell you. You start hating your imagination and your creativity after a while.

Kira came on the line. "Cagalli, you all right? Murrue says you need to talk to me."

Now that I had him, I realized I had no clue what to discuss with him. After some quick soul-searching, I grasped at the first straw I could find. "About Heliopolis. What made you want to investigate Morgenroete?"

A brief pause. "Oh, that. Um, I wasn't happy with the rumors I was hearing about Morgenroete building Mobile Suits for the Earth Alliance, and I asked my father to investigate the Heliopolis facility. My father gave me permission. Not like there's anything I could have done to stop Morgenroete from producing the machines at that point, all five were pretty close to being done as you know pretty well."

"And then you just walked in."

"Nobody shuts the door on the prince of Orb," Kira said with a short laugh. "Being a royal causes a lot of doors to open. After all, after my father dies, I'm going to be their leader. I'm going to find out about their activities one way or another, might as well be now, you know?"

"I wish I was in your position."

"You'd probably drive my father crazy," Kira replied.

I laughed. "Yeah, I would. I don't think I'm the 'royal' type at all."

Kira changed the subject. "Seriously, Cagalli, you doing okay out there? Lieutenant Ramius is concerned about you."

"Just stressed out, that's all."

Kira's voice turned skeptical. "You sure that's all there is?"

I paused, wondering what to say. Finally, I decided to tell him the truth, even though I would look stupid. "Kira, do you believe in ghosts?"

Kira realized what was going on immediately. "You think you're seeing things out there, flying around."

"Yeah," I admitted softly.

"I understand. You're not the only one who's thinking about ghosts. That red-haired girl you seem to know . . . Flay, right? She's all freaked out right now, she thought she saw a ghost too."

"Yeah, but she's Flay. I'd almost expect her to do that."

"Anyone can get spooked, Cagalli. You're not the only person. Even an atheist can suddenly find himself believing in the supernatural, in what comes after, given the right circumstances. It's only human. Now calm down out there, okay? The Strike has plenty of power left since you haven't been shooting anything. Do a short patrol around, take a look around."

"Like I want to see any more of this lovely scenery," I replied.

Kira sighed. "It'll help, Cagalli. Trust me. And remember, you're not alone out there. We're all in the same boat right now."

"Thank you, Kira."

"I'll stay on the line. It's kind of cool to be on the bridge right now, anyway. There's so many buttons for Lieutenant Ramius to tell me not to push."

I admit it, that made me laugh. "What, her buttons or the Archangel's buttons?"

"Both. And I think I'm pushing Lieutenant Ramius' buttons right now by joking about her," Kira said, a sheepish tone creeping into his voice. "Let's drop the subject. Just fly around. Everything's okay, Cagalli."

"Okay." I slowly accelerated the Strike, and began navigating my way through the debris.

The Launcher Pack, meant for long-range, was a curious choice to bring into the middle of a debris field. The advantage, however, was that the Launcher's weaponry could shoot through entire pieces of debris, vaporize them, and still hit its target. The thought was that the sheer power would give me an advantage, especially if I gained the element of surprise.

Personally, I found it a bit of a risk, but I needed to improve with the Launcher Pack anyway, and now was as good of a time as any to give it a spin.

That was when my console beeped.

I immediately stopped the Strike. I looked at my sensors, and realized that the Strike had managed to detect an enemy. I immediately pulled up close to the nearest significant piece of debris I could find and hid. and slowly poked the Strike above the debris so I could get a visual.

I saw a civilian ship in the distance, it seemed to have little, if any, armaments. And it was damaged. Badly damaged. Inoperable. It hadn't been completely blown apart, but it didn't look like it could run or even support life. It also looked too new to be part of the Junius Seven wreckage, which made me think it had to be some kind of ceremonial group who had gotten caught up in something. Whether they had been unable to avoid debris or had been attacked was immaterial, but they were in serious trouble, if not already dead.

My sensors beeped again as something else was detected. I zoomed in using my rifle's scope.

A GINN.

A long-range reconnaissance GINN, to be exact. And it wasn't moving either, but showed no signs of battle damage.

Then I saw something. A lone figure, emerging from the wrecked civilian ship.

The pilot, wearing the standard green ZAFT uniform.

Not good. This was not far from the Archangel at all, and dumb luck was the only reason why it, me, or anybody else hadn't been picked up by the GINN's sensors yet. It was only a matter of time before it did, though, especially at this close range. One move in the wrong direction, and it would find us. And the Archangel was in an exceedingly vulnerable position right now. If reinforcements got called while we were so vulnerable . . .

There was no choice.

The pilot entered the GINN and shut the hatch. It was too late to blow up the GINN and save the pilot. Any second, an extraction team would launch either form Junius Seven or the Archangel, and it could alert the GINN's sensors.

No choice. No choice at all. It was still sitting right there, an easy mark, and by destroying it, and the pilot, the Archangel would still have a few hours to grab what we needed before we'd have to vacate the area.

Or not even that much. All ZAFT knew was that we were somewhere in the debris belt, and they knew that a long-range GINN was in the debris belt. They didn't know where we were, and how would they know where the GINN was?

I aimed right at the torso of the GINN and fired.

The GINN was ripped in half as the torso, and presumably the pilot, was vaporized. The remaining two pieces of the GINN both exploded seconds later, obliterating the Mobile Suit completely. The GINN had no time to react, or sound an alarm, or anything.

It was an efficient, cold-blooded kill.

And it was terrifying to realize I was capable of that. No, not just capable. I had done that. And now that I had, I could do it again.

And again.

It was easier this time, too. Compared to the previous three pilots I had killed, this one was professional, cold, calculated. I had planned it like a soldier, and had gotten my kill.

I was turning into a soldier a little more every time I stepped into this cockpit.

I heard Murrue's voice almost immediately after I shot the GINN down. "Cagalli, we've detected a shot fired. What happened?"

"There was a long-range GINN near the Junius Seven entry point," I said. "I had to shoot it down."

Silence. Then Murrue asked "How could a GINN get this close to us?"

"The debris is interfering with everything. It could be hours, even days, before ZAFT has any idea of what happened to it," I said. "I'll keep an eye out for reinforcements."

As if on cue, my console beeped again, and I immediately raised the Strike's artillery, ready to fire at any arriving backup. But I didn't see any GINNs. It took me a moment to realize the object I'm detecting wasn't any Mobile Suit, it's a lifepod.

I brought it up on the screen. It's a tiny, one-man lifepod, and it was not functioning very well, the engines seemed to be damaged. But some lights were still working, suggesting that whoever was onboard still had to be alive.

It was close to the civilian ship that had been destroyed. The pieces came together in my head. The civilian ship had carried some important ZAFT person, and a GINN had come all this way into the middle of the debris belt in search of that person.In all likelihood, this important ZAFT person had been shoved into a lifepod and launched, but its engines had been damaged by debris or something shortly after leaving the civilian vessel.

I knew what I had to do.
***
By the time I had brought the lifepod onboard, the extraction teams were taking a break from their work, and most of the personnel had returned, including Natarle Badgiruel. She was not happy with me.

She did not raise her voice, but the look in her eyes suggested I was on the verge of crossing a line. "You need to stop putting yourself at risk over lifepods. This is becoming a bad habit, Cagalli Yamato. One of these days you are not going to be safe while you be a hero."

"Like you would expect any of us to let this guy rot in space," Mu said curtly. "Anyway, look at it this way. We just got ourselves a P.O.W. Some important ZAFT guy's now out of the war."

Natarle pursed her lips. "True, I suppose."

Murdoch had been busy cracking the unlock codes. The ZAFT person inside hadn't been inclined to open the door, perhaps the person literally couldn't open the door. There was no radio communication either, the receiver appeared to be damaged. Natarle summed it up as "he might be able to hear us, but we can't hear him . . . or her."

A beeping noise echoed throughout the hangar bay. Then Murdoch sighed. "Opening . . ."

The door hissed, and flew open. I peered inside, and then got attacked by a hopping pink ball.

Not joking.

"Haro! Haro!" the mechanical doofus-thing yelped as it jumped up and down and bounded over my head. I recognized it from somewhere, but I was so surprised I couldn't recall where exactly.

And then it occurred to me. And I felt like I was going to collapse. I spun around, and tried to keep myself from staying conscious.

I saw the person emerge from the lifepod, and it was one of the last people I ever wanted to see.

Ms. Hypocrite herself, the daughter of the Supreme Chairman whose warmongering was helping prolong the war while she sang pop songs of hope and idealism.

"No," I whispered, so softly no one else seemed to hear me. "Not you."

But it was true, and no amount of denial was going to change that.

She smiled so gently, so innocently. "Hello there, thank you for saving me. My name is Lacus Clyne."

She paused as she looked around at all of our collectively stunned faces. "Uh, this is a ZAFT ship, right?"

Heaven help me.

_________________
MURRUE: Infallible accuracy?? I thought you just usually shot all your weapons at random and they just happened to hit stuff.

KIRA: What do you think this is; a cartoon?


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 Post Posted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 10:31 am 
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Newtype Emo Guy

Joined: Wed May 02, 2007 7:43 pm
Posts: 258
Location: Illinois, USA
Chapter Twelve: Special

I am not a big fan of pop music in general, I find the genre full of insufferable, shameless fluff built around the concept of easily replaceable "singles" over a whole body of work that rarely exists these days, an "album". What albums get released these days tend to be five or six of the more popular singles released with five or six other songs seemingly for the hell of it.

I should at least respect the singers and musicians for their work ethics. The singles model means they consistently have to churn out music and hits every three or four months at a time and build up to that album release twelve, eighteen, or even twenty-four months in advance. Lacus Clyne was new to this business, but her opening singles had caught fire in the Earth Alliance, ZAFT, Orb, you name it. Her first album was eagerly anticipated openly by Coordinators and privately, shamefully, by everybody else.
And of course, it helped that her father was famous, and that she had top-of-the-line songwriters tailoring lyrics to her soft, yet elegantly mature singing voice. And the arrangements that were put together for her involved elite musicians that surrounded her vocals with walls of sound, whether guitars, electronics, percussion, strings, you name it. After her first single rocketed to number one and stayed there, she could have any arrangement she wanted, and there was no musician whose services were too expensive.

And I absolutely despised her for it. She got her break because of her name, and she had gotten a rare kind of luck that most people never see. She represented everything that was wrong in pop music, from the glamour to having everything she could have wanted. And here she was, right in front of me, as if taunting me for wasting my time saving her life instead of someone more valuable, more human, than she was.

Her kind was better off not existing.

And her comment, speaking in such a ditzy manner . . . only someone spoiled rotten like her would have the gall to ask whether this was a ZAFT ship. Either that or she was truly stupid.

The anger was churning deep inside me as Natarle asked, stunned, "You're related to Siegal Clyne of the Supreme Council."

Lacus nodded. "Siegal Clyne is my father."

The annoying pink bouncing thing with eyes jumped around her, yelling "Haro" over and over until it was drummed into my skull with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Lacus giggled as she took it in her hands. "This is my friend Haro. Say hi to everybody, Haro!"

The airy voice. The innocent, snobbish smile on her face. The idealistic, wide-eyed look in her eyes. The long, lavishly cared-for pink hair. And, perhaps the final nail in the coffin I so wanted to prepare for her, was her useless, inane robotic pet-thing that bounced around and made random noises.

I could not take the sight of such a unnaturally innocent person.

I marched up to her and punched her in the face.

Let's just say nobody took it that well.
***
I was thrown into the brig immediately. Natarle gave me one look after unceremoniously dumping me in there. "She is the daughter of the Supreme Chairman, Cagalli Yamato! We can't afford for her to be hurt in any way or this war will further escalate! Now stay here until you cool off . . . and when we come back for you, you better have one helluva good reason for your actions."

"I already have one," I snapped. "I hate her sniveling, self-righteous guts."

Natarle rolled her eyes. "I don't like her either, believe me. But punching her in the face could cause wide-reaching consequences. Remember who she is the daughter of. And also remember this: you technically abused a captive, submissive prisoner. That breaks so many humane treatment laws that I don't know where to begin . . ."

She rubbed her forehead. "I'd throw the book at you, but Lieutenant Ramius is in charge, and she'll likely be lenient with you. Now cool the hell off, or stew in your stupid anger, or whatever. We will be back for you."

And then she was gone, leaving me completely alone to focus on my bruises.

I had caused a bit of a scuffle when I had punched Lacus in the face. I think quite a few of the crew members were looking for an excuse to punch me for some time, repressed anger over being protected by a Coordinator. Granted, I had done something incredibly stupid by punching Lacus but you would think your average enlisted EA soldier would cheer such a development more than anything else.

After all, Lacus is the daughter of their enemy's leader, right?

Hours went by, and not so much as a guard walked outside my cell. I guess I was receiving the "isolation" treatment for what I had done. Not even my friends were stopping by for a visit. I'd figure at least Tolle would show up, but maybe they were letting no one pass.

They were probably fussing over Lacus, apologizing profusely. Babying her. The thought of that just pissed me off more than before I punched her. She was probably relishing the attention. Gratified that the Earth Alliance would trip over themselves trying to make her comfortable. All because she is a stupid pop idol and the daughter of the Supreme Chairman, so she absolutely, positively, must not come to harm.

I waited for so long I was beginning to wonder if everyone had forgotten about me. Maybe this was my punishment for taking part in raiding Junius Seven, this imprisonment. Maybe the ghosts had already taken me into their realm, and I was dead, drifting in space, and this was some kind of purgatory. I started feeling the walls, seeing if I could phase through them, or they would warp and bend in impossible ways.

My imagination runs wild when I'm alone. I can't help it. That's the way I am.

Suddenly, I heard footsteps. I ran over to the bars that kept me in my cell and peered through the gaps. I saw two guards, a shorter, stouter one in front, and a tall, lankier one in back, and they seemed to be in-between someone. The shorter guard looked at me funny. I must have seemed like a feral animal locked up for him. Considering my various mental issues and visions over the last couple of days, I don't think I looked fully sane to anybody.

The guard turned around, and behind him, I caught a small amount of very familiar pink hair. "Um, are you sure you want to do this?"

The voice. That godawful voice. "Yes."

"Oh no. Not you," I groaned. Now I wasn't thinking I was in purgatory, I was wondering if I wound up in hell.

Lacus Clyne walked past the shorter guard and looked at me, with strangely sympathetic eyes. "Your captain has granted me permission to meet with you for a short while until I am kept in permanent quarters. I would like to make the most of it, considering she did not have to do that."

"Oh yeah? Why do you want to talk to the girl who punched you?" I asked.

"Because I want to know why you punched me." Lacus' eyes seemed to darken, just a little. I suddenly realized that maybe the ditz act she had was precisely that, an act, and underneath was someone far more intelligent and worldly.

It made me freeze, just for a second, and I finally stepped back. "Fine. Go on."

Lacus nodded. "Thank you very much."

The guards both looked at us weirdly. The tall one said "Uh, ten minutes. That's all you get."

"I will make the most of it, then," Lacus said. The door opened, and I made sure that I didn't look like I was going to pounce on her.

There was a slight red mark on her left cheek, where I had hit her. It seemed indecisive whether to develop into a bruise or not.

She sat on the other side of my cell, and stared at me. "What is your name, soldier?"

I thought about lying, but considering Lacus was a P.O.W. for all practical purposes, I was thinking she would never get to head back to ZAFT and blab about who punched her in the face. A stupid assumption, considering the Archangel was practically behind enemy lines, if such things existed in space, as Artemis no longer existed to protect Earth forces in this sector.

So I told her my real name. "It's Cagalli Yamato, and I'm from the Orb Union's Heliopolis colony. I volunteered to help protect the Archangel until we make it to safety in the wake of Heliopolis' destruction. Destruction you people instigated."

Lacus gave me a sad smile. "I had no knowledge of the operation."

"You're the daughter of the Supreme Chairman. You had to know."

"My father would prefer if I'm not involved and for now, I'm going to respect his wishes." She sighed. "So you are Cagalli Yamato. I shouldn't be surprised. You look like the kind of girl Athrun truly desires."

Seeing Lacus speak so frankly nearly fried my brain. Once I got over it, I managed to form a response. "Athrun's talked about me?"

Lacus nodded solemnly. "He considers you a close friend. In fact, I think he cares about you more than he cares about me."

I could tell that was a sore point with her, just by looking at her face. She wasn't angry or anything, just . . . sad. She had this look that suggested she felt she wasn't good enough, in some unfathomable way, and she didn't want to accept that but had no choice but to.

Hearing Lacus' admission was stunning. I had no idea one simple kiss could have made Athrun long for me so much. It felt kind of creepy, like I had a interplanetary stalker who would follow me everywhere, whether I went to Mars, Jupiter, or as far out as Neptune. Did Athrun know how to let anything go?

I wanted to feel flattered, but in the end I was more unnerved by Lacus' statement than anything else. It made me truly think Athrun was becoming a stalker. And unlike most stalking cases, I wasn't going to be able to file a restraining order to make him go away.

"Really," I finally said, unable to come up with anything that seemed proper.

Lacus nodded. "It's all right. It's a marriage for political convenience. Our fathers are trying to unite the hard-liners and the moderates behind one solid way to conduct the war."

I remembered that Patrick Zala, Athrun's father, was a renowned conservative. Siegel Clyne, ostenibly, was a moderate, but any "moderate" who warmongered as much as his government did was subject for re-interpretation. "I didn't know the ZAFT had anything resembling politics, much less something as antiquated as political marriages."

"We are governed by PLANT," Lacus said. "ZAFT is our military arm."

There it was again, denial of the truth. And I could not stop myself from lashing out. "It's smoke and mirrors, pop princess. ZAFT pretty much governs the PLANTs now, whether you want to admit it or not. The war's turned the government into a military dictatorship in all but name. Your politicians are just figureheads for what the military wants done."

Lacus' solemn smile made me stop. It just had this power, like she understands me better than I understand myself. Like Athrun's overtures towards me, it was creepy. "As long as my father retains the Chairman position, PLANT will never become a shell for a shadow military government. I can promise you that."

"But your father has ordered so many things! What about what you people did on April Fools' Day, remember?"

What I was referencing was the "April Fools' Crisis", as inane as it sounds. On that day, the ZAFT fired a massive neutron jammer into the Earth. It worked like an EMP, shattering communications, but also disabled nuclear power for the most part. Earth has managed to get some communications working, but long-distance phone calls remain a thing of the past, at least for the near future. Nuclear power remains touch and go as well.

Lacus kept that solemn smile. I so wanted to believe she was mocking me, but her eyes were powerful, resonant. It was like she was gazing deep inside me. Not like I was being violated, but like she was trying to make contact with something.

"My father was placating the hard-liners with that move," Lacus said. "It was supposed to show he was in charge, that he is willing to take aggressive steps to end the war. The fact that Earth's casualties would be minimal compared to other methods was a major selling point. But the move didn't help my father at all, it just made the hard-liners hunger for more battle, for more destruction. Some even talk about conquering the Earth, now."

"So you say," I replied.

"You don't have to believe me if you don't want to, Cagalli Yamato. I fully understand your distrust. What happened to your colony must've hurt deeply."

"It was my home," I said. "I was going to college there, and your people ruined my life."

Lacus nodded. "I know. Many lives were ruined. Ended. I noticed you are not the only civilian onboard this ship, either. It seems everyone is working together to keep this ship alive, and strong. I wish my father was able to inspire such unity."

"Isn't that what the marriage is for?" I asked.

"I have no idea if that'll work. It might be just a cynical ploy by Athrun's father to usurp my father. Not that I blame Athrun for it if that turns out to be true. He and his father are very different people."

"Oh yeah?" I asked.

Lacus gave me what seemed to be the first joyful smile since she had stepped onboard the Archangel. "Athrun is an honorable young man, and he treats me well whenever he sees me. He is trying his best to make our relationship work, even with his feelings for you, even with pressure from his father. All he wants to do is the right thing. Just like you."

"How can you assume that about me?" I asked.

Lacus chuckled softly. "You are the only Coordinator onboard this ship, unless I'm mistaken. That means that the Strike GUNDAM that's been giving Athrun's special forces unit so many headaches is being piloted by you."

"Nice deduction," I said.

Lacus' smile turned solemn again. "You are just protecting this ship because you're a good person who knows what you have to do. These civilians, these soldiers, they all need you here. Trust me, anyone who will step into the cockpit of those GUNDAM monsters is a brave person. Athrun's brave, his friends are brave, and you are brave."

"Thanks," I replied, trying to sound as noncommittal as I could.

Lacus stood up. "I believe our time is about up. I would like you to walk me to my room, please."

"Why me?" I asked.

"I feel that I understand you, Cagalli Yamato. Do you understand me? I tried to make my thoughts as clear as I could."

She reached her hand out towards me. "I don't think you want to be locked in this cell anymore, do you?"

I admit it, I didn't hesitate before I took her hand and shook it. "No, I don't."

Lacus nodded. "Good. Thank you for understanding, Cagalli."

The truth was, I was more confused about her than anything else. But I didn't let her know that. I just wanted out of that holding cell, and regardless, I was no longer in the mood to punch Lacus anymore.

Isolation, and Lacus' honesty, has a way of disabling aggression that is something to behold.
***
When Lacus made it to her room, there was Haro, waiting for her. It bounced up and down. "Lacus, you're back! Lacus, you're back!"

"Yes, Haro. I'm back. And I think I made a new friend," Lacus said, and she picked up Haro and shoved it in front of me.

"You punched Lacus. You punched Lacus. You're mean, you're mean," Haro said.

I felt like turning the robot thing into a metallic baseball, but Lacus just laughed and set the robot down. "Oh, Haro, you always see things so simply."

I would disagree. I don't think Haro sees things at all. He's just a stupid robot pet. But I can't hate him completely. It would be insulting to Tori. Who am I one to talk about robotic pets, I own one myself.

Lacus sighed as she watched Haro jump and down. "You're probably wondering how the daughter of the Supreme Chairman can be captured so easily."

I actually wasn't. "You're not part of the military. If you're floating around in outer space unprotected, and you got attacked or something, that's your own fault."

"So you do know I was attacked."

"Logical deduction. Some Earth Alliance ship probably decided to pick on you."

"Earth ships did," Lacus did, sighing. "We were supposed to be a simple memorial service. But we got damaged and chased into the debris belt. I was put into an escape pod right before the air was completely gone. I don't know if anyone else got on a pod before it was too late."

She looked at me sadly. "I assume that since you didn't collect any more pods, there weren't any to get, were there?"

"I would've detected them," I replied.

"What about the ZAFT pilot who was talking to me? She said she was going to rescue me. That's part of the reason why I thought I was placed onboard a ZAFT ship."

I knew my eyes betrayed me instantly. There's no forgetting something like that, killing someone in cold blood. And this was the first woman I have killed, the first three were men. Four people already, and it hasn't even been a week since this whole ordeal began. And that's not including Commandant Garcia, who I let die, by my own choice.

"I killed her," I said. "She was too close to the ship, to my people. I had to take the shot. If she detected us . . ."

Lacus nodded slowly, sadly. "I see. You made a soldier's decision, then."

"Yes, I did."

"She was a nice person. Professional, but nice. She genuinely cared about my survival. That's all I can ever ask from whoever rescues me," Lacus said softly.

I did not want to know any more about a person who I've killed, so I quickly changed the subject. "I did what I had to do, okay? And that's final."

I walked over to the intercom. "Hit the green button if you want to buzz the bridge, like if you need any food or need to use the restroom. You are not allowed outside. In the meantime, I'm going to protect this ship. And that means I will have to kill more of you people."

Lacus sighed. "You have no interest in joining PLANT?"

"I have given you my position on PLANT. I want to see your father prove that PLANT is more than a front for ZAFT before I believe there's any good about your government at all." I realized I hadn't answered her question directly. "So no, I am not interested. I'm going to head back to Orb, and that's final. Once I've done my duty onboard this ship, I mean."

"I'm glad to hear you say that," Lacus said. "You don't enjoy war, like some of the people I've met. Coordinators are prone to enjoying war, I've noticed. Many of the people have a sense that they're invincible against Naturals, and so view this as a game, an adventure, even a glorified shooting gallery. They sincerely don't think they're killing people. To them, Naturals are little more than scraps of the past, scraps to be eliminated, the modern-day equilvalent to Neanderthals."

"Who are these people?" I asked.

Lacus shook her head. "It doesn't concern you."

"What do you mean, it doesn't concern me?"

"This is an internal PLANT affair and you're wearing an Earth uniform, Cagalli Yamato."

I looked down at my uniform, and realized Lacus' point. I was definitely the enemy, even though she seemed to like me, in some odd way.

"Right," I managed.

"Please, you should leave before people think you're conspiring with me," Lacus said with a slight smile.

"That's crap."

"Some people are willing to believe anything as long as it satisfies their own prejudices," Lacus said.

Lacus' ditzy persona wasn't what was bothering me anymore. It was this sense that she was always right. Why did she have to bring up these points? Everything was simpler when I thought she was stupid. But she was proving a match for my political science education. In hindsight, I shouldn't have been surprised, she is the daughter of the Supreme Chairman, after all. What kind of politician wouldn't thoroughly school his child in, well, political science?

"Yeah," I finally said, and I turned towards the door. "See you later, I guess."

Lacus' voice sounded just a little happier. "Thank you for talking with me. With you, I finally feel like I can be myself. Please stay safe, Cagalli."

"I'll try, I guess," I said, and I opened the door and walked out into the hallway, making sure it was locked from the outside as I exited.

I rested my head against the wall, lost in thought. That was Lacus Clyne, pop idol, and surprisingly adept at political science, a match for me.

I wanted to hate her. She had everything to succeed in life, and she didn't have to deal with prejudice like I did. It made thoughts of defecting to the ZAFT tempting, just for a short moment in time.

But the promises I had made, the friends I had here, they kept me straight. I have to do what I said I will do. Without me, everybody's lives onboard this vessel are forfeit. They will die.

Innocent civilians will die. My friends will die. The soldiers will die. Melanie will die.

Their lives laid in my hands, and I could either protect them or crush them, by the decisions I made.

I made up my mind, then. I was not going back to Athrun. I knew my place, and it was here, prejudice and all.

If Athrun wanted me, he was going to have to come to me, and betray his friends, his father.

And that was final.

_________________
MURRUE: Infallible accuracy?? I thought you just usually shot all your weapons at random and they just happened to hit stuff.

KIRA: What do you think this is; a cartoon?


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 Post Posted: Wed Feb 16, 2011 11:06 pm 
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Pilot's Doomed Girlfriend

Joined: Fri Jul 16, 2010 10:55 pm
Posts: 370
Location: over there
I finally tore through all of my school work to get to read something. @.@

It was tough and serious, which is a great thing. Thank GOD that someone finally physically attacked Lacus. I've been waiting for almost two whole years for that.

Next up... peeps gonna die.

_________________
*insert witty eyecatch here*


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 Post Posted: Mon Feb 21, 2011 1:15 pm 
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Newtype Emo Guy

Joined: Wed May 02, 2007 7:43 pm
Posts: 258
Location: Illinois, USA
Rob DS Zeta wrote:
I finally tore through all of my school work to get to read something. @.@

It was tough and serious, which is a great thing. Thank GOD that someone finally physically attacked Lacus. I've been waiting for almost two whole years for that.

Next up... peeps gonna die.


I figured a lot of haters (jk XD) would want Lacus to get FAWKON-PAWNCHED in some manner so I decided to make everybody happy, even though I did try to show that Cagalli was in the wrong by doing that.

And yes, peeps gonna die . . . right now.
_____________________________________________________________________________

Chapter Thirteen: All Mixed Up

I was playing with Melanie again when the P.A. blared with those infamous, hated words. "All hands, primary battle stations! All civilians should remain in their quarters!"

After saving Lacus Clyne's life, it didn't shock me that ZAFT had found us. They were likely frantically searching for Lacus and found us . . . and, inadvertedly, found Lacus too, though how would they know that?

Melanie looked up at me. "You're going to have to fight again, Cagalli?"

"Yes," I said. "I have to. Please stay here."

"Mommy's on the Gottfred, Kotfryed, whasit?"

"The Gottfried?"

"Yeah, that." Melanie's eyes shimmered. "I don't know where it is. Do you know where it is?"

I didn't. I honestly hadn't paid any attention to the position of the Gottfried, or any of the Archangel's powerful weaponry. All that had mattered to me was where the bridge was. The point was that everyone I wanted to protect was in one place, a place I recognized. But now, by becoming close to Melanie, I now had to protect her mother as well, and she was not anywhere close to the bridge knowing my luck.

"No, but I'll find out right away, before I deploy," I promised. "She'll stay safe."

Melanie nodded. "Thank you very much. Please don't die."

"That's something I guarantee," I said, and I rubbed her forehead. "Just stay right here. I'll be back soon."

I went into the hallway and let the door slide shut behind me.

The terror was still there, but it was masked somehow, like there was this feeling of ruthlessness and inevitability. The Cagalli I had been was a distant ghost, whose vestiges I could use when I needed to appear more normal. But fighting, and killing, had already changed me.

And it was getting easier. Could I have killed that ZAFT pilot in cold blood if she was the first opponent I was going to kill? Probably not. I would have let her get away. But I had already killed people, already knew what that felt like. And it truly did not feel like a tragedy to do it. Just something I had to do, something to ensure everyone's survival.

I was thinking like a soldier, not a civilian. And that was not the most horrifying part of it.

More and more, Commandant Garcia's observations seemed to apply to me. That's the terrifying part. I was, too easily, getting used to fighting, getting used to killing. Justifying it, for the most basic of all reasons: survival. That's all that this was for, nothing but survival. Not even living.

I was really starting to feel like a monster. I was adapting too well to this, the life of a soldier, the life of someone always in conflict.

I heard a voice then, a familiar voice that I wasn't particularly fond of. "Cagalli! Cagalli!"

It was Flay Allster's voice. While not as high-pitched as Lacus Clyne's, there's something about it that sounds annoying. Maybe "prissy" is the best word to describe it.

I turned towards her. "I kinda have to rush to the hangar bay, Flay. Some other time."

"You don't understand!" Flay shouted.

"Don't yell in my face," I replied.

"Sai says we're going into battle, and one of the ships has my daddy on it!"

Okay, this was news. "Which ship?"

"The flagship!"

"What's the name of it?"

"I, uh, I don't know!"

Great. I was going to have to ask Mu La Flaga for something else, besides the location of the blasted Gottfried. Now I needed to know where Flay's father was.

Why does everyone expect me to be a hero and save everyone? I can't do everything all at once.

"I'll try," I said.

"Cagalli, please! Save my daddy! If you do I'll take back everything I've said about you, like you being manly and a Coordinator and a bitch and stuff."

"Thanks for the reminder," I replied. At least I still had some sarcasm not beaten out of me yet, as bitter as said sarcasm was.

"Please, Cagalli." I seem to have an inability to say "no". "Fine."

"You promise?"

"I guess."

"Cagalli-"

"I promise I'll try, okay? I can't guarantee something like that. All I can promise is that I'll try my hardest, that I'll even make it my first priority, but I can't promise I can save him, I don't even know what I'm up against," I said.

Flay sighed, and her eyes became teary, her voice bitter. "You suck, you know that? I wish Tolle, or Sai, or even Prince Kira was in your position. They would tell me Daddy would be okay."

"Flay-"

"Just leave me alone, Coordinator!"

She started floating away, and I moved to stop her, but then I realized someone was behind me.

It was Mu La Flaga, already in his pilot suit. "Princess, what are you doing?"

"Uh, having a productive conversation?" I asked.

Mu buried his forehead in his palm. "We don't have time for this, princess. We have a three ship group under heavy attack directly in front of, the Bernard Law Montgomery group. If we don't move now we're not going to be able to help them."

"But-" I turned to try to drag Flay back into this conversation, but she was gone, like lightning. I guess Mu scared her or something. Maybe there was a good reason, a lot of the military personnel weren't looking too kindly on the remaining civilians who weren't volunteering to help. Mu didn't seem to be one of them, but I guess Flay had decided that it was better being safe than sorry.

"Never mind," I said. "Which one's the flagship?"

"The Montgomery," Mu said. He cocked an eyebrow. "Why?"

"Just wanted to know," I said. We went down the hallway another few feet before something occurred to me.

"And for the last time, I'm not a princess!"

Mu groaned.
***
Flay's bitterness was weighing on my mind heavily as the launch sequence again, and I was propelled into outer space. I could've made the promise. It would have made her feel better. But I'm not that kind of person, who makes stupid promises.

Okay, I made stupid promises to Melanie. But she's a little girl, and the promises I made were that I wouldn't get shot down, and that the Archangel wouldn't be destroyed.

Oh wait, I kinda-sorta promised I'd protect Melanie's mother too.

I'm just a hypocrite, making promises to people I like and driving the hopes of people I don't like into the ground. Flay's eyes were bitter and angry, not just sad. Perhaps even dangerous-looking. Was she going to try something onboard the Archangel? Maybe she was going to volunteer for a gun or something, maybe she was finally going to be useful.

I could only hope.

Mu and the Artemis Mobile Armor pilots quickly followed me, and we launched towards the battle zone. It did not look good.

"Did we make it in time?" I asked.

"I don't know," Mu said. "There's only one ship left, and it's nearly demolished."

I turned on my sensors, and saw there were only four enemy craft. Maybe this was a Pyrrhic victory of sorts for the ZAFT to have only four Mobile Suits left, that this was going to be easy.

Then one of the signatures came up as the Aegis, and my heart sank.

Athrun was here. And if Athrun was here, that meant . . .

"Le Creuset," I said softly.

"It's like you read my mind," Mu said. "Princess, go back and tighten defenses around the Archangel."

That strategy made sense. There was no sign of Le Creuset's ship. It could easily be in ambush somewhere. While the debris belt was lighter where we were at, there was still enough to provide cover for a vessel, as long as the vessel stayed inert.

But before I obeyed, there was something I had to know, before I could follow those orders. "Miriallia, Kuzzey, or whoever's in charge of this thing, what's the last ship standing?"

It was Kuzzey who answered. "Uh, I think it's the Montgomery, Cagalli."

That meant I could not follow those orders.

It was guilt motivating me, guilt over not promising Flay I'd protect her father. Granted, such a promise looked hopeless right now, perhaps even justifying my decision, but that just made me feel worse. Cold, callous.

If there was a tiny chance he was still alive on that flaming hunk of slag . . .

I had no choice.

"I can't follow those orders," I said. "I'm going after the GINNs circling the Montgomery. You and the MAs keep the Aegis busy. There's people still alive on there, I'm not letting them die."

"Wait, you stupid kid! If we're both shot down . . ." Mu shouted, but I had already hit the acceleration, and was charging straight towards the battle.

"Keep the Aegis busy! I'll only need a couple of minutes!" I shouted to him.

I realized, after a moment, that Vasili and Natalya, my wingmates, couldn't understand a word I was saying. I quickly switched to Russian. "Vasili, Natalya, I need the both of you to join La Flaga and distract the Aegis. That's all you two have to do, fly around and annoy it. I'll take care of the GINNs, come back around, and shoot the Aegis down myself."

Vasili's voice was full of trepidation, for good reason. How would you take being ordered to attack a GUNDAM? "Understood, princess. We're on our way."

Great. Mu's habit of calling me "princess" was spreading around the crew like a virus. Now I was getting called "princess" in Russian.

"Thank you, both of you." I was almost at the battle, and got off the com. I was using the Sword Pack, which was the weapon package I was the most comfortable with anyway. I was going to use the Strike's speed and mobility and lodge this sword right down the throats of those GINNs.

As I approached the Montgomery, Athrun forced his way into my com. "Cagalli, what are you doing?"

Damn it Mu, attack him already! "Stay away from me, Athrun!"

"I can't-AAAAGH!" For a split second, I wondered if Athrun had been shot down, but my sensors indicated the Aegis was still intact, that the shooter had managed a glancing blow at best.

Mu and the Mobile Armors had elected to follow my strategy. Not like there was any choice now. Mu was going to have my head after this battle was over.

I charged towards the GINNs, who were circling the Montgomery like a ring of sharks around a sinking boat. They had no clue I was coming, they were so focused on firing their cannons on the glorified slag that the Montgomery had become.

The first kill, then, was the easiest. I just charged forward and cleaved the GINN at the torso, slicing it, and likely the pilot, in half. I didn't stop my momentum, killing was fully on my mind now.

I could take it. I could take killing in cold blood if it was to save somebody. If I saved Flay's father, maybe she wouldn't hate me as much. If I saved more personnel, more soldiers, people who were reduced to just trying to survive now, I could deal with killing. Maybe I'd get a medal. Something to show that what I had done was worth it all.

Nothing's going to change the fact that I am a killer. Nothing will make me forget what I've done. All I could do, all I can do, is, in the heat of battle, is kill. Kill so others can live. That's war. Protect your buddies by killing your enemies.

Don't die for your country, make the other bastard die for his.

The GINNs knew I was coming the moment I destroyed the first one, they immediately backed off from the Montgomery and started shooting at me instead. Which was what I had wanted.

I heard Natalya scream on the com, which was suddenly cut off by static. Athrun got her.

One of my wingmates had already given her life so I could save the Montgomery. I had to work faster. Much faster.

I kept charging, and even let the lasers hit the Strike a couple of times, causing the cockpit to rock violently. But I did not let my momentum or speed abate as I launched towards a second GINN.

He had no time to get out of the way. I cleaved him in half too.

The third one rushed me, just as I heard Vasili scream in a gut-wrenching way before his scream was also cut off. Both of my wingmates were gone now.

I got pissed.

I sliced the GINN more than I needed to. I carved it into little pieces, slicing every appendage and significant section over and over and over until nothing was left but tiny pieces of metal.

They were dead, killed by my orders, killed by Athrun. I had hardly taken the opportunity to know them, those brave pilots who owed me their lives, and threw their lives away to save a glorified piece of slag on my orders.

I wanted to cry over the uselessness of my orders, of my objective. But I had to try. The ship was burning, but it was still intact. Somebody still had to be alive, right?

"Montgomery, this is Cagalli Yamato of the Strike GUNDAM. Do you read me?" I asked.

Silence.

I forced myself to repeat. "Montgomery, this is the Strike GUNDAM. Do you read me?"

Still silence. It was creepy, like I was trying to communicate with the dead inside a coffin.

My voice was choked up, begging. "Montgomery, please, if there's anybody still alive on there-"

The ship suddenly exploded.

I stared.

A massive fireball ripped the ship into two burning pieces, which were both quickly enveloped in flame and exploded as well. Nothing could have survived that. No signs of escape pods. Total obliteration.

I had done this for nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

Killed three ZAFT pilots, and sent my wingmates to their deaths, for absolutely nothing.

Flay was not going to get her father back, and I was not going to get my wingmates back.

This had all been for nothing.

Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

That word floated in my head incessantly. Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing.

NOTHING!

I pounded my cockpit door in rage, in despair, in some strange concoction of emotion I can't describe. I punched it over and over and screamed and cried and finally just leaned back in my seat and wondered what I had done to deserve this. To deserve this reward for all of this death: nothing.

Mu snapped me back to reality. "Princess, stop screaming wherever you are and give me help! The Mobile Armors have all been shot down and-dammit, I've been hit!"

Not him too. I accelerated immediately. "I'm coming, Lieutenant! I'm coming, I'm coming, I'm coming!"

I saw the Aegis. The Moebius Zero was smoking, and Athrun was about to finish Mu off. Athrun was a good pilot, to put Mu on the brink of death, to fight five enemies at once and beat them all.

And he had been the one who had been caught by surprise.

I charged frantically, knowing Athrun would likely notice me coming from a long while away but knowing there was no other way to distract Athrun. If anything, my presence was always a distraction to him. He should turn his eyes off Mu and onto me immediately the moment his sensors caught me.

And the Aegis did turn towards me. "Cagalli?"

Part of me wanted to kill him, and part of me didn't. I was, however, completely and utterly pissed off at him. "Damn you Athrun!"

"Cagalli, wait, stop!"

I rushed him, and and made him dodge and run away from me, allowing Mu to pull back. He fired a few shots, but they were half-hearted, and sloppy, I didn't even need to dodge to miss them.

"Damn you, damn you, damn you! Those were my people you killed!"

"You killed my people too!" Athrun shouted back.

"I was trying to save the people onboard that ship!"

"There was no one left to save, Cagalli! Didn't you see that?"

Being reminded of my worthlessness didn't do anything but make me angrier. "You're the reason why they're all dead! It's all on you, you bastard!"

I kept slashing at him, trying to cleave something off. If Athrun had been a worse pilot, I could've done some damage, but Athrun was no ordinary pilot. He dodged me well, in fact, pretty easily. He could have shot me down if he wanted to, but he was in no mood to do that. His fantasies of getting me back were probably filling his brain.

Or something.

I suddenly heard Murrue shout "Cagalli, emergency retreat! The enemy's main guns are locked onto us!"

"What?" I asked.

"They were hiding in the wreckage of an escort vessel! We need to get out of-"

"There's no time for that!"
Natarle Badgiruel shouted. I could hear her fumbling with the com, taking it away from a surprised Murrue Ramius.

Her voice came in on an open channel. "Attention to all ZAFT combatants! This is the Archangel, we are currently holding Ms. Lacus Clyne captive onboard this ship! And by that I mean the daughter of Siegel Clyne, the Chairman of the Supreme Council!"

I could not believe Natarle was playing this game, using Lacus like a bargaining chip, but at the same time, I could understood. Only now did I see where the Vesalius was, and it definitely had the Archangel in its sights.

Natarle continued to speak. "By chance, we discovered her lifepod and took her in for humantarian purposes. If you persist in attacking this ship, Lacus Clyne's safety will not be guaranteed."

Just like that, cold, brutal, and direct. Making it damn clear that Lacus would come to harm some way, some how, if the battle continued. Whether the ZAFT killed her by blowing the Archangel apart or if the Earth Alliance did something inhumane to her, she would come to harm. And Natarle was vicious enough to do the harm personally.

Her words about Lacus haunted me. She didn't like Lacus Clyne either . . .

Would she enjoy that, tormenting, torturing Lacus?

I got the horrifying thought that maybe Natarle was harboring a complete monster inside her stoic yet rough military shell.

Athrun screamed at me, breaking my reverie. "Is this what you're fighting for, Cagalli? These are the people who you want to protect? People who would hold an innocent girl hostage?"

I had no clue how to answer that.

I heard a man's voice then. It was smooth, calculated. I wondered if it was Le Creuset. "Our military does not submit to threats! If she is the daughter of the Supreme Chairman, she should be prepared to die an honorable death in battle rather than go on living as a prisoner."

The cruelty of his words trumped even Natarle's. I nearly laughed as Athrun's point became meaningless. "Oh yes, like your side's any better, Athrun."

This time he was the one who didn't answer.

Natarle replied back, this time clearly taken aback by the man's total lack of concern for Lacus Clyne. "We are not pirates! We will hand Ms. Clyne over in exchange for a temporary cease-fire."

A pause. I wondered if the man would simply decide to let God sort everything out and kill us all. He definitely sounded like the type of cold-blooded individual who would decide such a thing.

And here I thought I was turning into a monster. I didn't know what a monster was.

But, finally, he said "Very well. I will defer to your sensible proposal."

Just like that, the battle was over, and I leaned back against my seat.

Now all of this carnage meant something, albeit something very little.

We had battled for the right for a brief respite from battle.

It was something crappy, something almost meaningless, but it was better than fighting for absolutely nothing, right?

Right?

It didn't feel any better at all.

It didn't change the fact that all of these people had gotten slaughtered, for reasons I couldn't even begin to try to figure out.

In that respect, they truly did die for nothing.

Nothing at all.

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MURRUE: Infallible accuracy?? I thought you just usually shot all your weapons at random and they just happened to hit stuff.

KIRA: What do you think this is; a cartoon?


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 Post Posted: Mon Feb 21, 2011 3:57 pm 
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Well those Artemis fellows had quite a run >.>

Good chapter.


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 Post Posted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:59 am 
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Woah, rebelcheese... That's some hot stuff.

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 Post Posted: Tue Mar 01, 2011 12:38 pm 
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I apologize for there being no post yesterday. Was really busy yesterday and the day before that.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Chapter Fourteen: Extraordinary Girl


I returned to the Archangel, my arms sore, my head soaked in sweat, and afflicted with a mild headache. My engineers immediately got to work with changing my battery pack, they started shouting that they didn't have time to do anything else. I guess getting Lacus off of the ship took first priority. Probably had something to do with the fact that the man had expressed a willingness to blow us away with Lacus onboard. Nobody wanted to give him an excuse to do so.

It had to be Rau Le Creuset. Athrun's commander. Mu La Flaga's rival. No wonder Mu hated him so much, and how Athrun had gotten as weird as he was. Le Creuset just did not seem human, from his voice to his words.

That was our enemy? It's a miracle we weren't already dead.

Every few seconds that passed, I wondered whether I would suddenly see this bright flash of light, then a moment of total chaos . . . and then nothing.

But nothing happened.

Murrue came on my com. "Cagalli, you doing okay in there?"

"Yeah," I said softly.

"You did everything you could. There's nothing for you to regret," Murrue said.

Somehow, that made me feel even worse about my failures out there, but I couldn't let her know that. There's a time and place where you have to lie about how you feel so someone who means well but doesn't get it will continue to mean well. That way, when you truly need that person's words, he or she will still be there.

"I guess," I said. "I wish it didn't have to come to taking hostages."

"That was Badgiruel's idea, not mine," Murrue said, slightly defensive. "I don't approve of taking hostages like this, but Badgiruel brought up a good point to me, if we didn't do this we'd likely all be dead right now."

"Uh huh," I said.

Murrue sighed. "Cagalli, I know you're not feeling well, but I insist. You did everything you could. You were aggressive, yes, but if the ship hadn't been so badly damaged you could have said everyone. Don't-"

"Liar!" screamed a voice on the com.

The figure shoved Murrue out of the way roughly. "You stupid ZOINKS liar!"

There was Flay all of a sudden, completely tear-stricken. "God damn you, Cagalli! No wonder you didn't promise to save Daddy! You had no intention of saving him at all!"

Not a single word came to mind to say to Flay at all. I could only stare at her as she seemed to suddenly possess inhuman strength as she wrestled with a pair of soldiers, continuing to scream at me in a wretched shriek.

"You let the Coordinators kill my daddy! You let them do it! Damn you, you stupid, stupid bitch! If you're not going to save anybody than just die! Die, die, die, you piece of Coordinator-"

Her words, mercifully, became incomprehensible as the soldiers wrestled her away from the camera, and its speakers. Murrue, noticeably discomposed, reappeared, and she nervously brushed her hair from her eyes. "Cagalli, don't listen to her. Please come back the moment you return Lacus Clyne to ZAFT, understood?"

"Uh huh," I said. "When's Lacus Clyne supposed to arrive?"

[i]"Any second now,"
Murrue offered. "I'll talk to you later, Cagalli. Stay brave."

She killed the communications, leaving me to sit in the cockpit all by myself.

I had been too aggressive again. I should've known the ship was doomed, I should've stayed by the Archangel. My wingmates could still be alive if I had. Maybe Athrun would've shot them down anyway. Who could possibly know anymore?

I had to try. Just like with rescuing my friends and Flay, just like rescuing the Artemis soldiers, just like with rescuing Lacus. I could not bear the thought of letting people die out here in space. I had to try to save the Montgomery's crew, no matter how hopeless the situation looked for them. I did everything I had to do, and I was still too late, and my wingmates were both dead. Killed because of my orders.

Mu La Flaga was considered a hero because he downed five GINNs in some battle called Endymion. I can kill three without breaking any sort of sweat, with my genetic abilities, and with this highly advanced machine. Who could've taken those GINNs on but me? But, at the same time, who else stood a chance against the Aegis but me?

Mu could easily have been killed along with the other Mobile Armor pilots. I had barely made it to him in time. If Mu had gotten killed too, I'd be all that's left to defend the Archangel.

How could I fight off entire squadrons of GINNs by myself?

This situation was so close to bordering hopelessness. Everything was just barely hanging together, if one thread unraveled so went the rest of the ship. When were we going to reach safety, already? I wanted to go back home to Orb, to my parents.

This mismatched crew, with all of its inexperience, reluctance, language barriers, jealousy, hatred, and whatnot, was only going to hold together for so long. And who knew how long the supplies taken from Junius Seven would last.

We needed protection behind a big strong fleet, and I needed a ticket home.

I never understood why my parents adopted me, a Coordinator, when Coordinators made them nervous. They loved me, of course, but they didn't embrace my kind, staying off to the side, and quiet, whenever they were at public gatherings for the parents, or even things like school plays. It was like they felt they were inferior to the people around them, just because of their genetics.

I wanted to see them so bad. I don't look the least bit like them, that's why I know I'm adopted, but I knew they were worried for me like I was their real daughter.

It would really suck to die out here without telling them "I love you" one last time. Just so they knew, forever, what I felt.

How long had it been? A week? Longer? Did they assume I was lost? What about the rest of the civilians onboard? Were we all considered lost, along with the actual dead of Heliopolis? Or are we on some list that basically states "hope is dwindling", in which we're not confirmed lost but chances are we'll never be found?

There was no way to talk to them, either, to let them know I was still alive. To tell anyone we were still alive.

We really were stranded out here.

Someone knocked on the cockpit door, and I opened the hatch. There was Lacus Clyne, wearing a white spacesuit. "Hello, Cagalli."

Her Haro chirped its name out loud, and I made a mental note to pretend it did not exist, for the same of my sanity.

"Get behind me," I said curtly.

"Okay." Lacus shifted until she got behind my seat as much as she could.

Kojiro Murdoch peeked inside. "You all set to go? The ZAFT commander just made . . . let's just say a veiled threat towards us."

"What kind of veiled threat?" I asked.

"You know, the 'I mustn't be kept waiting' pretentious crap," he said.

"Sounds like a ZAFT officer to me," I said softly. "I'm ready to launch anytime. Let 'em know."

Murdoch saluted. "You got it, princess."

"I'm not a princess," I started, but he was already gone by the time I spoke.

Lacus chuckled. "What?" I snapped.

"Nothing. It just amuses me for some reason."

"Glad to entertain you." I shut the cockpit door. "Now get ready, we're getting out of here."

Lacus' smile turned solemn again. "I assume I'm being turned over to Athrun himself."

"Most likely. You are due to marry him," I replied.

"I apologize for the awkwardness."

"No need to apologize. Not like this was supposed to happen, anyway. Like so many things, this sort of just fell together. You should be happy, though, you get to go back home," I said.

The Mobile Suit rocked as it got shifted onto the launcher. I hoped that a bazillion GINNs weren't waiting to ambush me. I didn't want any part of another battle, not this soon after surviving one.

"This is a really impressive weapon," Lacus finally said as we were positioned to launch.

"It is, I guess," I said.

"It never ceases to amaze me, on how we come up with new, horrible ways to kill each other. Eventually, we'll find the one way, the ultimate weapon, and we'll all be dead."

Thanks for the cheery thought, Lacus. Not. "Save your preaching for someone who isn't in the choir," I said, and I blasted the Strike out of the launch bay, and accelerated in the direction of the ZAFT ship.

Somewhere out there was the Aegis . . . and Athrun Zala, waiting for the girl who was supposed to marry him. And me, the girl who he was apparently still infatuated with after just one kiss, a kiss I didn't even initiate.

This was going to be awkward beyond belief.

"It's so sad," Lacus said softly. "Both you and he are good people. You two shouldn't be fighting each other."

"Well, guess what, we are," I said. "Deal with it."

"You don't need to talk like that, Cagalli."

"Maybe I do, maybe I don't," I said. "I just want to get this over with so I can head back to the ship."

The Aegis appeared on my sensors, and I accelerated in the Aegis' direction until it appeared in plain sight. I slowed the Strike down and parked it right in front of the Aegis, which had also powered down.

And there we both were, floating in space, and helpless.

I opened the cockpit. Lacus sighed as she looked ahead to the Aegis, which was doing the exact same thing. "I'm sorry for the trouble I caused, Cagalli Yamato. I hope you have a safe journey."

"Yeah, good luck with that," I replied.

Lacus frowned at me, and I sighed. "You stay safe too, Lacus Clyne. Keep making those smash pop hits that incredulously captivate people other than me."

Lacus chuckled. "I will. And I'll do my best to show you that PLANT is not an evil place."

She jumped away then, floating towards the Aegis, her Haro in her arms. The Haro seemed to want to say something, but obviously since there's no sound in space any response it could give was muted. And I was thankful for that, the Haro's incessant, infantile chatter would have ruined the moment.

Lacus landed right in Athrun's arms, and they stayed together for a second, just for a second. I was close enough to hear their communications.

"I'm sorry, Lacus," Athrun said.

"It's all right, it's my fault," Lacus replied calmly. "It's great to see you again, finally."

"Yeah."

I was about to close my cockpit and fly away when Athrun suddenly noticed me. "Cagalli, what are you doing?"

I stopped moving. "What is it now, Athrun?"

"This is your best chance, maybe your last chance! Cagalli, come with us! You shouldn't be in the Earth forces!"

This again. This argument repeated ad nauseum, when I had made it emphatically clear that wasn't an option. "Are you deaf, Athrun? For the last time, there's people I have to protect onboard that ship! I'm not leaving them!"

"I can't keep you protected, Cagalli," Athrun said. "My teammates are getting impatient and my commander is sick and tired of this. You don't need to devote yourself to a cause that's losing this war. You keep fighting for them, I'll have no choice but to shoot you down!"

The thought of Athrun shooting me down was so laughable I just started chuckling. "You, shoot me down? You'd never do that, not in a million years. You're content with stalking me all over this debris belt! You get your kicks off of tormenting me like this?"

"No, Cagalli, I-"

I didn't let him finish. "You think that one kiss, one measly surprise kiss, from back in prep school, is enough to make me want to be with you, want to fight with you, live with you? You think that seals our friendship forever? I've got news for you, pretty boy! I have new friends, a new life, and I've moved on!"

"Cagalli, what are you saying?"

"You attack this ship again, I'll shoot at you at will, Athrun! I've got too many promises to keep, and I have no interest in serving a military dictatorship that your father is a proponent of!"

"Don't talk about my father that way!" Athrun shouted, finally riled up a bit.

"Move on with your ZOINKS life, Athrun! The past is the past! After all, you got a hot young pop princess as your girlfriend now! You want to be faithful to her, right? Or is that considered too old-fashioned for the new and improved Coordinator society?"

Athrun didn't answer, I could see him turn towards Lacus, as if asking for guidance. Lacus just placed a hand on his shoulder.

"You don't want to fight me, then stay the hell away from me, Athrun! This ship is under my protection and it's gonna stay that way! Now take your blue-haired ass and get out of here! And don't come back!"

I slammed the cockpit shut and powered up the Strike, turned the machine around, and blasted away.

I knew what I had said hadn't gotten through to him. I deliberately had tried to push him away by taunting him, threatening him, berating him, and it hadn't fully registered with him. He was just going to keep stalking me across the entire Earth's orbit as long as he wanted.

He was never going to leave me alone. Never.
***
When I returned, I saw so exhausted I thought about collapsing right into bed and never waking up. But as I floated down one of the hallways, en route to my room, I saw Tolle. He waved towards me as I approached him. "Cagalli," he said softly.

"Tolle. How's the wound?"

"Getting better." He fell silent then, and seemed to be lost in thought, a fairly rare occurance for Tolle.

"What is it?" I asked.

Tolle smiled. "A lot of people were thinking you weren't going to come back. They thought you were gonna abandon us."

"Did you?"

"Of course not. I knew you'd come back. You're not the kind of person who runs away from her responsibilities. That's part of the reason why I love you."

"Tolle, please-"

He embraced me. "Thank you for staying, Cagalli. Really. We all need you here. After what just happened, I . . . "

I returned the embrace slowly, softly. "What else happened besides me turning Lacus over?"

I could hear the surprise in Tolle's voice even though his tone was so soft. "No one's told you?"

Now I was nervous. "Told me what?"

"Flay kinda went nuts and tried to force the captain to kill Lacus Clyne while you were fighting out there."

This was news. I knew Flay didn't like Coordinators that much but I had never expected her to pull such a stunt. Worse, I knew why.

Her angry, bitter eyes right before I left to fight that battle. Now I knew what she had been planning inside her head. I had not reached out to help her, to reassure her, and so instead of her becoming heartened and steadier, she instead committed a rash, stupid action that could have gotten everybody killed.

"How did she get Lacus?" I asked. "Weren't we smart enough to leave a guard outside her door at least?"

Tolle scratched the back of his head. "Yeah, some guy from Orb, he looked like a tough, intimidating guy. He got it good downstairs."

I wish Tolle would realize he doesn't have to dance around delicate subjects with me. "You're serious, Flay kicked a guy in the balls to get Lacus Clyne?"

Tolle laughed nervously. "Actually, she kneed him in the balls, but yeah, that's what she did."

Huh. Flay was more of a fighter than I expected, for her to do something like that. Now, granted, she probably tricked the guy into letting his guard down by being perfectly innocent and sweet, and then when she got close she made her move. For making such a rash decision, Flay had planned her move pretty well.

It's amazing how calculated stupidity can be sometimes.

"If we stay on this ship for much longer, we're going to need to find Flay something to do. Especially now."

Tolle gave me a confused look. "Huh?"

"Tolle, she just lost her father. The thing she needs now is something to do rather than mope around all day. Talk to her about putting on a uniform and try to do something for the next few days until we're safe. Even if it's just cafeteria duty. Anything's better her doing nothing, especially after what she just did."

Tolle snapped his fingers as he understood. "Oh yeah, the 'idle hands' thing."

"Yeah. Flay's shown how stupid and reckless she can be with idle hands. So let's make sure she always has something to do, especially now."

"Yeah, good idea. I'll talk about it with Sai first, though. Sai until now's been wanting Flay to stay out of the fighting, but if I can convince him maybe Flay will be more willing to help."

"Don't bring it up that I suggested it. Flay's probably really pissed off at me over failing to save her father."

Tolle whistled. "Yeah, she was not happy when the Montgomery exploded." Oh no. "What did she say or do?"

"Freaked out, screamed about you a couple of times, and then fainted." Tolle gave me an uneasy smile. "I doubt she's going to be that happy when she gets up, if she hasn't already."

"Then don't let them know I'm involved with the suggestion at all. They're not going to listen to me, especially Flay. I don't think Sai's happy with me either."

"Cagalli, you don't need to think you're an outcast or something, stop it."

"I am an outcast, now that the truth is out. Admit it, you feel weird knowing who I am, what I am."

"I don't, I swear."

"Tolle-"

"Cagalli, it doesn't matter whether you're Natural, Coordinator, or something in-between, or even an alien. It really doesn't."

I gave him a look. "Alien, huh?"

"You know what I mean!"

I smiled, and put my hands on his shoulders. "Stop talking before you blow this."

We kissed right in the middle of the hallway, and I for once believed that we had to be getting close to safety. That maybe there was an ending waiting for us.

It had already been over a week. We couldn't be that far away from friendlies, right?

I just hoped I had seen my final battle.

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MURRUE: Infallible accuracy?? I thought you just usually shot all your weapons at random and they just happened to hit stuff.

KIRA: What do you think this is; a cartoon?


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 Post Posted: Tue Mar 01, 2011 8:11 pm 
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Quote:
"Move on with your ZOINKS life, Athrun! The past is the past! After all, you got a hot young pop princess as your girlfriend now! You want to be faithful to her, right? Or is that considered too old-fashioned for the new and improved Coordinator society?"

Athrun didn't answer, I could see him turn towards Lacus, as if asking for guidance. Lacus just placed a hand on his shoulder.

"You don't want to fight me, then stay the hell away from me, Athrun! This ship is under my protection and it's gonna stay that way! Now take your blue-haired ass and get out of here! And don't come back!"


SNAP

This is easily one of the best chapters.


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 Post Posted: Thu Mar 03, 2011 10:11 am 
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Now that my computer is back in tip-top shape, I can resume my fanboying! I was going to review on FFN, but something is blocking me from access the link. So MT will have to suffice.

Anyway, this definitely the best chapter yet. Cagalli gives Athrun a piece of her mind, Lacus is given back under decent terms, and Mu doesn't have to make a debacle of the judicial defense system. EVERYBODY WINS (except Flay, but that's okay)!

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 Post Posted: Sun Mar 13, 2011 11:06 pm 
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I'd like to apologize for the delay. Chapter 16 is a really difficult battle chapter, and I'm not sure I'm happy with it as it is. However, I will go and post chapter 15 tomorrow morning, regardless of 16 being ready or not.

@The Green Flame: Yeah I kinda intended that to be the "aw, snap" moment of the fic so far. Cagalli is the aggressor here, not Athrun, and I thought it would be an interesting reversal of canon if Cagalli screamed at Athrun instead of Athrun screaming at Kira as in canon.

@Rob: Nobody wants Flay to win, I see. I'll keep that in mind for future reference.

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 Post Posted: Mon Mar 14, 2011 3:06 pm 
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Chapter Fifteen: Ill Communication

"You did a good job trying to avoid me, but that's over with, princess! You and I need to have a serious discussion over who's following the orders and who's giving them!"

I couldn't dodge the inevitable harsh lecture from Lieutenant Mu La Flaga forever. As it was, I was lucky to avoid Mu after the battle the day previous, and even managed to dodge him all morning until he finally caught me by the mess hall.

"I don't need to hear it," I said softly. I knew full well what he was going to say, and he, of course, was gonna be right.

Mu just shook his head. "Yes, you do. We're not safe yet. We don't know how long it'll be until we're safe. Until we're safe, and you civilians can go, you need to follow the chain of command. You are a civilian, and I have fought through this entire war."

"I know that," I said.

Mu sighed. "I know it's been a rough two weeks. It's February 8th. This whole debacle started on January 25th. We had Lacus Clyne onboard for three or four days, don't remember which. We had to search Junius Seven. There was Artemis. You've had to kill people. And I know the deaths of the Russians are weighing on you. But you need to hear this, Cagalli."

I knew what kind of lecture he was going to give me, and I wanted to snap at him, tell him I didn't want to hear it. But at the same time, if I just let him talk, the lecture, that would tell me everything I already knew, it would be over with, and I could go on with my life, and continue to feel guilty forever and ever.

"You can't let the battle become any more personal than the matter of your own life and death. That is already a lot to bear. Trying to put someone else's problems on top of yours is a recipe for disaster. I know why you tried to rush to the Montgomery, why you tried to save it. I know you were trying to save the Allster girl's father. It's a heroic thing to do. But it got four pilots killed, four pilots we desperately needed, and even including the GINNs you terminated that is an unfavorable casualty rate."

Mu sighed and rubbed his forehead. "Now it's just the two of us again. If either one of us goes down, that leaves just one of us on his or her own. How long do you think the lone survivor can keep fighting out there, with everything the ZAFT has swarming him or her?"

"Not very long," I said.

"Probably even less time than that. I saw what happened when you were swarmed the first time, one of those Mobile Suits was going to try to carry you away. Unless you want to become a ZAFT P.O.W., where your only escape would likely be volunteering for the ZAFT and fighting until you're shot down, you need to follow the orders of people who've actually seen battle, who know what we're up against. Subverting the chain of command is just going to get everyone killed, princess." "Why do you keep calling me 'princess'? It's driving me crazy!"

Mu facepalmed. "Not the point, princ-erm, Cagalli. Has anything I said gotten through to you?"

"Yes, I must follow orders, or we all die in the vacuum of space."

Mu sighed again. "I suppose that's close enough. You need to get a better attitude about this, princess."

I decided not to bite his head off over the "princess" thing at the last second. That was just going to make this lecture even longer, and probably even more aggravating.

"Yes, sir."

"At the same time, you're still a civilian, so I'm not going to say anything more. If you were a soldier, you'd be liable for a court-martial. Plus, nothing changes the fact that we still need you in the Strike. But you need to understand that your actions have consequences, and if the Aegis had managed to shoot me down as well, you'd be defending the Archangel by yourself. How would that work out in the end?"

"Not very well," I said, knowing there was no other answer to give.

"That's an understatement." Mu sighed. "Just follow our orders. We know what we're doing, and we're going to get everybody home." "Yes, sir," I said.

"Don't pull a stunt like that again," Mu said, and he left me, and just as I expected, he had said everything I had expected him to say.

I had screwed up, rushed into a battle I had no business being in, all in a futile attempt to save someone's life. That battle could have come out even worse than it did. What if Creuset had managed to destroy the Archangel? What would have happened to me then?

I would've been taken prisoner by that man. And he did not seem like the kind of man who put welfare of prisoners high on the priority list. After all, he had seemed tempted to kill Lacus Clyne to kill the rest of us. What kind of man would consider killing the daughter of his nation's leader just to take out a ship? Did the man have any kind of humanity, or, failing that, any sense of self-preservation or of the long-term consequences of his actions?

He had destroyed Heliopolis, and ended the lives of anyne not prudent enough to make it to a lifeboat, just to take the GUNDAM machines. It was an action that could have dragged Orb into this war. Maybe Orb no longer existed for all I knew. We hadn't had communication with anybody since Heliopolis. We were still completely cut off.

Orb had to know their prince was out here somewhere. Had they already given up on him, on all of us, as lost?

It seemed more likely now. Maybe Mom and Dad were already planning my funeral service, or even had hosted it by now. Everyone had to be losing hope back home, if they hadn't lost it already.

Had my name been moved to the "Missing, Presumed Dead" list? Or maybe they just moved me straight to the "Confirmed Dead" list because any remaining survivors from Heliopolis surely would have stopped streaming in by now.

I couldn't imagine how my parents felt right now.

Suddenly Mu popped in around the corner. "Wait, I just thought of a suitable punishment for you."

"Huh?" I asked stupidly.

"Toilet duty for the entire week." Mu handed me an empty bucket and dry mop. "Get to it, kid."

"Thanks, sir," I said. Okay, this had been something I hadn't predicted.

On one hand, it was nice to know I wasn't always right. On the other . . .

Toilet duty. Just . . . toilet duty.

Argh.
***
I was comforted to discover I wasn't alone in my suffering. Miriallia and Sai had been dumped to toilet duty with me. And surprisingly, so was Flay, though she should have been exempt considering she had opted to stay a civilian. She glared at me angrily and then started scrubbing one of the toilets, grumbling about something or other, likely about me.

Miriallia edged up towards me. "She's not happy. Tolle suggested that she should volunteer to keep busy, and Natarle overheard. She thought it would be a great idea and 'volunteered' Flay on the spot."

"Sounds fun. She hates us even more now," I said.

Miriallia shrugged. "Sai volunteered so Flay wouldn't work alone, and I volunteered for toilet duty so you wouldn't have to work alone with these two glaring at you all of the time."

I smiled at her. "Thanks. That means a lot."

Miriallia smiled back, though it was a tad enigmatic. "No problem. That's what friends are for."

I was developing suspicions whether Miriallia was a true friend or just pretending to be so she could compete for Tolle. I shoved them aside here, of course. Why would anyone want toilet duty? Miriallia didn't seem to be calculating person, someone who would strategize her moves. She had to be a real friend, didn't she?

At the third bathroom, Flay did a freak-out and started banging her mop on top of one of the toilet heads while yelling gibberish until it broke, and then she broke down sobbing in Sai's arms. It almost was hilarious to witness. Almost.

Flay, in her purple naval uniform, undecorated just like all of the other Orb civilians who had volunteered, with her hair tied back messily, crying and sobbing and looking like the world had crashed upon her, didn't seem like the old Flay anymore. She was different. The superficial issues that she focused upon didn't seem to matter anymore. Her old life had vanished with the death of her father. The innocence she had was no longer permitted.

What made any vestige of a smile appear on my face when Flay broke down was gone when she collapsed into Sai's arms, crying. There had to be so much anger, so much sadness, so many feelings of helplessness churning inside of her that there was no release. She had nowhere to channel it, and clearly she could not suppress it. Her pain is the kind of pain that clutches you from the inside out, crushing you inside an incessant pressure until you just burst open.

It was then when I realized, irrevocably, that Flay was truly a human being, not a physical embodiment of torment directed towards yours truly.

After Flay was done crying, Sai went to get a replacement mop, leaving just Miriallia and I working by ourselves, as Flay just sat there, a hollow look in her eyes. She stared at me then, and the look of her eyes, while not necessarily hostile, was so eerie and soulless that I had to look away from her and concentrate on my work.

A few minutes passed, and Sai still hadn't returned. Flay continued to sit on the floor, staring at the wall, or staring at us whenever we happened to work in front of her. Finally, she spoke, which both relieved some of the stress in the room.

"This is all your fault," Flay said softly.

Miriallia sighed. "Flay, you and I both know Cagalli did her best. I mean, she's in trouble for trying to save your father. You have to realize that, right?"

"She didn't try hard enough," Flay grumbled.

"I did everything I could," I said. "When I tried to contact the ship, there was no answer. Finally, it just exploded in front of me. They were all dead before we got there, Flay."

"That's not true!" Flay stood up and grabbed me and shoved me against the wall. I could have resisted, but in this situation, it's better not to retaliate. Flay wanted to start a fight, I could see it in her eyes. And if I beat her up it would only justify her anger towards me. "That's not true! Daddy wouldn't die so easily He's not that kind of person!"

Miriallia tried to shove herself between us and only partially succeeded. "Flay, there's no point to this! Please, Flay, you have to calm down!"

"We should never have trusted her, Miriallia!" Flay yelled. "Even if she's trying to kill her fellow Coordinators, she's only in this for herself! She isn't worried about anyone else!"

That struck a nerve with me. I had made multiple promises to protect people. To say I wasn't worried about anyone else hurt as much as a slap to the face, possibly even more.

But again, I can't fully blame Flay for saying those things. As far as she knew, Coordinators were the enemy. How could any of them have the best interests of a ship full of Naturals at heart?

I was really regretting that everyone had found out I was the Strike's pilot, causing the logical deduction that I was a Coordinator. Not that there could've been any way to hide that fact for long. Eventually, my secret would've been out and I'd be in this situation, where I am an outcast on the ship I'm trying to protect.

Miriallia, thankfully, chose to speak for me. "Have you seen Cagalli fight, Flay? She's doing everything she can! Now leave her alone! You can sit there and mope if you want but these bathrooms aren't going to clean themselves."

Flay glared at her, and then looked back at me with her furious, tear-stricken eyes. "I want my daddy back. Those Coordinators took him away from me. Give him back to me."

"I can't do that," I said. "You know that. I'm sorry."

"You're not sorry," Flay said. "I know your type, Cagalli Yamato. I know you hate me. It must feel good to you to know I have no parents anymore . . . no family waiting for me when we finally get back to Orb, if we get back to Orb."

I had forgotten that Flay's mother had died before the current conflict had broken out.

Sai, mercifully, showed up then with a new mop. "Whoa, what the hell's going on here?"

Flay finally separated from me with a growl and stomped towards Sai. "Just give me the stupid mop."

She yanked it out of his hands and starting washing the floor with a vigor I had never expected out of Flay. She could not keep it up and started grabbing her back behind long, and finally her arms, and finally she dropped the mop, leaned against the wall, and just rested her head against it, pounding her fist against the wall a couple of times.

No one seemed to know what to say. Despite being pinned against the wall by the girl just moments before, and that I could hurt more than help, I knew the onus was on me to try to help Flay.

The girl was clearly devestated, and if something wasn't done she was going to go crazy, and that meant more stuff like Lacus being taken hostage.

"Look," I said, "I'm sorry I couldn't save your father. I did everything I could. I got both of my wingmates killed trying to save him. I killed three Coordinators to save him. There was nobody alive on that ship when we got here."

"You're lying," Flay whispered.

"You want someone to blame? Blame the ZAFT pilots who killed your father, who I happened to kill! Blame the Aegis! Blame the captain for not arriving here fast enough! Blame me for not killing them fast enough! It's not going to solve anything and all you're doing is beating yourself up!" I shouted.

Sai went to Flay, and softly gripped her shoulders, and Flay seemed to melt in his arms. Sai looked towards me. His eyes weren't hateful, but they weren't sympathetic either. "Cagalli, I know you're trying to help, but . . ."

"Yeah," I said, knowing Sai didn't need to say anything more.
***
After toilet duty came to an end, we all went our separate ways. Miriallia went up to the bridge, Sai and Flay went off somewhere together. Flay didn't look like she was completely in this reality, like something was trying to pull her soul elsewhere. She had drifted in and out of the job, sometimes putting in a fast, furious effort, other times going through the motions, and the majority of the time just standing around, staring into space.

Look, you can say whatever you want about Flay. She's a snarky, cutting bitch. Whatever. It was very clear she loved her father, and he was the world to her, and without him she was devestated and directionless. I hoped Sai would be able to steer her in a good direction, where she could find something resembling happiness.

I wasn't going to be able to take her in a good direction. I was just a reminder of her loss, of the failure to prevent her father's death. I realized it would be best to avoid her for the rest of our stay onboard the Archangel. Let her grieve without giving her any sharp, painful reminders. I would still have to interact with her on toilet duty, but every other hour, I could try to leave her alone.

Since Flay had no reason to head into the hangar, that's where I chose to go. I figured Prince Kira would be hanging around in there, tinkering with the O.S. like it was his own personal pet project. Hell, at this point it pretty much had become his pet project.

And there he was, sitting in the cockpit like always, running some random algorithm. He looked up from his work when I opened the hatch from the outside. "Oh, hi."

"Hi yourself," I said. I leaned in, and looked at the seemingly incomprehensible code. "What the heck is that?"

"I'm trying to make the battery more efficient. Trying to squeeze a few more minutes out of it. The captain was emphatic on that. You're running the Strike too close to empty."

"Well, gee, I have to, like, shoot things. Of course I'm gonna drain it!"

Kira chuckled. "Yeah, but you have a tendency to waste too much power. You accelerate off and on instead of moving at a steady pace, which kills the battery, and when you have a rifle you have a tendency to use a gaming tactic: 'spray 'n' pray'."

"'Spray 'n' pray'?"

"Yeah. You just do this rapid-fire thing and pray you hit the bad guy," Kira said. "Militaries strongly discourage this tactic for obvious reasons. You're wasting ammunition, and a lot of energy on your part, and it's more likely you'll hit nothing or a friendly than the bad guy. You're getting away with it because the only friendly you've had most of the time is Mu La Flaga. Once we have dozens of friendlies around us, spray 'n' pray isn't going to go over too well."

"For a civilian prince you know your military tactics," I said.

Kira smiled. "My teacher used to be a soldier, she taught me a few things."

"Oh yeah, Erica Simmons, right?"

"Yeah, that's her." Kira shuddered. "Her military lessons were worse than her programming lessons. God."

"They were that traumatic?"

Kira just gave me a look.

Something tells me I'm not going to enjoy meeting her."

Kira just started laughing and left me to stare at him in disbelief.

Kira finally stopped. "You'll wind up meeting her, trust me on this. After what you've been doing, Ms. Simmons will move heaven and earth and the whole solar system to get ahold of you. She's going to want to know how a pilot adjusts to the O.S., how . . . I could go on for hours and just scratch the surface. It's best that I don't explain."

I wasn't sure whether to be happy Kira was stopping there, or be extremely nervous. No matter what, the image of Erica Simmons grew more frightening.

I admit it, I was envisioning this musclebound woman in an overly-strict business suit, with cruel glasses on a steely face, and this deep voice bellowing orders and instructions into poor Kira's face.

I started shaking slightly at the thought of this hopefully-fictitious depiction and thought of something, anything, to get the image out of my head. "Uh, has the captain given you any updates?"

"Huh?" Kira asked.

"You are the Prince of Orb. I thought you were privy to what Murrue and the others have planned."

"Oh yeah. Lieutenant Ramius gave me a report this morning."

Kira scratched his head as he struggled to remember. "Well . . . I don't know whether to tell you this, but we've managed to find an allied fleet beyond the debris belt. Communications were patchy, we're still in the belt so there's interference, but we managed to get in touch with the Sixth Fleet for a moment."

"The Sixth? Isn't that Admiral Halberton's fleet?" I asked.

Kira nodded. "Yes. We didn't get to speak to him personally, though, and what we were able to get only lasted a few minutes. We're trying to take the fastest way out of the belt so we can work out a rendezvous point. But the Sixth Fleet knows we're alive and we're on the way."

A gleeful thought went through my head. "That means people are gonna know we're not dead!"

Kira smiled. "Yeah. Ramius did drop a mention that there are Orb civilians onboard, along with some Artemis personnel. Hopefully that'll get passed on."

"Your father's going to be so happy," I said.

Kira's eyes grew more distant. "He'll be happy I'm alive, but he's going to be angry, too."

"Why?" I asked.

"I should never have gotten involved in this. I'm risking a major diplomatic incident that could affect Orb's neutrality. I've spent weeks in danger, and could have easily gotten killed on Heliopolis. I'm definitely going to get a lecture out of this, from my father, and then from Ms. Simmons."

"You had no choice, though," I said. "The shelters were all full up there, at least, I think they were. You made the right decision to come with us. I mean, you're still alive, right?"

Kira's smile grew shaky. "That can change at any time. Lieutenant La Flaga made sure to point this out to me: that if we are indeed approaching the Sixth Fleet, ZAFT will make at least one more go at us before we're safe."

That made my heart sank. Here I was, thinking I was done with the fighting, that all I needed to do was hold on to my precarious situation with Flay and I was going to get through this safe and sound. Heady thoughts of seeing my parents again rushed through my head. I had never missed them so much as I did right that second.

"So, I'm going to have to make one more sortie."

"Definitely one, in Lieutenant La Flaga's opinion. Possibly two if we're unlucky or if ZAFT concentrate their forces."

Kira sighed. "Look, ZAFT is running out of opportunities to catch us, and they have to know it. It won't be long before they know we're coming up to the Sixth Fleet, if they didn't already. They will make one last go at it. Might even try it twice. Can you do that, Cagalli? Fight in this thing again? I know the last battle was hard on you."

I already knew the answer to his question before he finished talking. "Look, it's just nice knowing there's a light at the end of the tunnel, all right? And it's not a train coming to squish me. That's all I need to know. Fight them one last time, kick their asses, link up with the fleet, we go home."

Kira's smile grew more warm. "Yeah, that sounds about right."

"I can handle one more fight," I said. "I don't care if it's Athrun or his three stooges that come after me for the last fight, or if they all try. I'm not letting everyone die, not when we're so close."

Kira placed his hand on my left shoulder. "That's good. You stay strong. We're going to make it through this."

The sensation of his hand on my shoulder felt strange. It was like I had known him, or should have, for years. I wanted him to be closer, and yet I wanted to push him away. It was undescribable.

"Yeah," I said. "We will."

But saying you'll do something and actually doing it are two entirely different things.

Words are words. They're easy to say. Actions are a lot harder to do.

Actions have consequences.

And if I committ the wrong actions, there will be horrific consequences.

I was not ready to see what those horrific consequences were.

I think that's why I lost myself in the next battle.

_________________
MURRUE: Infallible accuracy?? I thought you just usually shot all your weapons at random and they just happened to hit stuff.

KIRA: What do you think this is; a cartoon?


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 Post Posted: Mon Mar 14, 2011 6:08 pm 
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Pilot's Doomed Girlfriend

Joined: Fri Jul 16, 2010 10:55 pm
Posts: 370
Location: over there
Very nice character dev chapter! We see advancement in Flay, Kira, Cagalli, and even Mu!

And Natarle's still a ZOINKS, even when only referenced. :mrgreen:

Next up, EPIC WIN! (and epic Yzak screaming like a little ZOINKS)

_________________
*insert witty eyecatch here*


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 Post Posted: Thu Mar 24, 2011 1:10 pm 
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Newtype Emo Guy

Joined: Wed May 02, 2007 7:43 pm
Posts: 258
Location: Illinois, USA
Rob DS Zeta wrote:
Very nice character dev chapter! We see advancement in Flay, Kira, Cagalli, and even Mu!

And Natarle's still a ZOINKS, even when only referenced. :mrgreen:

Next up, EPIC WIN! (and epic Yzak screaming like a little ZOINKS)


I do better with character development, I don't know why. Mecha battles are so tough to write.

I apologize for the delay. Work kicked my ass and I've been obsessively trying to fix this chapter to make it work. I still plan on chapter 17 being this Monday but we'll see how that goes.

___________________________________________________________________________

Chapter Sixteen: Shut Up and Explode

Kira's words haunted me into the next day. I had been so sure, at the time of the conversation, that I could handle one more fight. One last battle to protect the Archangel. I had the best weapon, well, one of the five best, anyway, on either side of the conflict. I could annihilate GINNs at will instead of struggling for every kill like an ordinary Mobile Armor pilot. And I had the best tech support I could ask for.

Rumors had spread across the ship that we were close to linking up with the Eighth Fleet. The cafeteria was filled with discussions over finally getting off of this ship, over finally being able to come home.

Most of the Orb civilians were smiling. Their suffering, their struggles, their chafing under the strict orders of a foreign military, it was coming to an end. They were done playing soldier. They wanted to go home, live in peace, pretend this never happened. They wanted to see their families again.

One civilian wasn't smiling, Flay. Unlike everyone else, she wasn't going to regain what she lost just by going home. There was no one waiting for her, and I was sure Flay was not looking forward to seeing her friends. I wondered if those friends, shallow and perky and self-absorbed in their superficial lives, meant anything to Flay now. I doubted it. One snappy comment and those friends would abandon Flay.

The soldiers had more mixed emotions, especially the Artemis personnel, identifiable because of their different flags on their uniforms and their foreign languages. There was no escaping the war for them. Most of them wouldn't be staying on the Archangel, unless they were dedicated crew like Natarle Badgiruel. Murrue Ramius had been in charge of the GUNDAMs, and Mu La Flaga was a pilot, they would be deployed elsewhere.

As for the Artemis soldiers, they looked nervous. The pilots I had saved were, of course, dead, but the remaining twenty or so had to be pondering their futures. How would they be able to explain what they did at Artemis, trying to take control of the Archangel and attempting to take the crew hostage? The Atlantic Federation wasn't going to be real happy about that. They were going to be taken off the career path at the very least, and see court-martials at the worst.

I guess that leaves me.

Garcia's words again mean something. I am unique. I am a rare Coordinator who chose to fight against her own kind. It doesn't matter what my reasons are. What matters is that I did. Not only then, but I'm really good at killing my own kind. That makes me even more valuable. The Earth Alliance will do anything to have me, or, perhaps, even make sure that if they can't have me, no one can.

I'm not naive enough to think that the Earth Alliance are the "good guys" in this war. Even if I did, Artemis was a hell of a wake-up call anyway.

Who knew what was going to happen to me. I was finally going to see my parents again, though, and I already had made up my mind on what I was going to do.

I had spent the last several years at a school far away from them. The Coordinator academy on the moon was done because I wanted to challenge myself, and I wanted to show I was just as good, if not better, than your average Coordinator. Just because I was from Orb didn't mean I was a stupid or inferior Coordinator like a lot of Coordinators think. I was determined to make my parents proud of me, make my kind take notice of me, and perhaps most important, accomplish a goal for myself.

Even when I started attending Orb schools, I was away from my parents. Heliopolis isn't exactly across the street, you know. It's still in orbit, and it's still expensive to fly from orbit down to Earth and vice versa.

I was thinking I had enough of that. I was going to find a college close by and live with my parents again. They were going to be so happy to see me, when I finally made it to them.

I was thinking it was time the three of us lived like a family again.

As I ate the cafeteria food, possibly pilfered from the ruins of Junius Seven, I felt somebody tugging on my left side. I turned and there was Melanie, looking as childishly adorable as ever.

"Hi, Melanie. What's up?"

"Mom says we're almost safe," she said.

"She's right. We are. Might have one more battle to get through but we're almost safe," I said. I smiled at her. "We can make it through one more battle, right?"

Melanie averted her gaze for a second. "I don't want there to be another battle. I just want this over now."

"Well, hopefully ZAFT is too stupid to figure out where we are," I replied. "Maybe they got lost in the debris belt."

Melanie smiled. "That would be great."

"Yeah." Too bad I doubt it.

"My Mom's been in the Gottfried this whole time. It's so exposed, I kept thinking during the last battle that someone was gonna shoot at it."

"My goal is to make people focus on me. I am in the most powerful Mobile Suit out there. ZAFT is going to focus on me, because I'm more of a danger than the Gottfried to them. That simple, Melanie. Your mom is not ZAFT's primary enemy out there. I am."

Melanie's eyes shimmered. "I see."

"Melanie, your mom's going to make it through this, and so will you. Now stay strong. Hopefully nothing will happen and-"

But the alarm rang out, and I felt like chucking my food across the room. Talk about rotten timing.

"All hands, level one battle stations! All civilians, get to your assigned quarters! We have encountered a ZAFT vessel, I repeat, we have encountered a ZAFT vessel! Preparing to engage!"

Murrue's words of doom seemed to echo even more than usual through the loudspeaker in the cafeteria. Immediately, people got up from their tables and tried to hustle out. I knew I had to follow, and not only that, but had to make time. I needed to get my pilot's suit on and be ready to launch within minutes before the ZAFT got a free run at the bridge.

I looked at Melanie. "Go to your room. I'll handle this, okay?"

Melanie nodded. "Okay. Just don't die."

"I won't. I've come too far to die now. We all have."

I left her then, and went straight for the hangar.
***
"Cagalli Yamato, Strike GUNDAM, launching!"

I accelerated the Strike out of the hangar bay and propelled it in the general direction of three bogeys. They were quickly identified on my screen as I accelerated away from the Archangel.

It was the Blitz, the Buster, and the Duel. No sign of the Aegis.

So it is Athrun's three stooges.

I had launched in the Aile Pack, which meant I was equipped for medium-range combat. No melee weapon, though. I was going to have to rely on my shooting skills, or lack thereof, for this one.

Not like I had much of a choice. I couldn't take three GUNDAMs with only melee weaponry. I wasn't good enough of a pilot to pull that off.

I remembered Kira's words. I had to avoid "spray 'n' pray". If I ran out of battery charge I was going to be completely, totally screwed. I had taken so many risks already, who knew what would be the risk that would kill me at last.

Speed and hit-and-run tactics. I was really good at manuevering the Strike, that wasn't going to be the primary problem. I had to choose my shots wisely, stop shooting when it was going to be clear I wasn't going to hit anything, and never relax. I could not let my guard down even for a tenth of a second, not against these three.

They weren't Athrun. They would shoot to kill.

In a way, I wished it was Athrun who was facing me here. He I'd be able to distract. If I could tie him up, there would be no real danger facing the Archangel, other than enemy ships. We'd escape easily.

But no. Things didn't work out that way. And now, here came "Nicol", "Yzak", and "Dearka", all eyeing to kill me. Except maybe Nicol. He seemed to be a nice guy and he didn't seem to want to kill me. But he was outvoted here by Yzak and Dearka. And he seemed more practical than Athrun did. And, even though he seemed to have a conscience, Nicol was more than willing to go and murder Garcia and everyone at Artemis.

How good was a person if he was willing to slaughter an entire military base?

Mu joined me then. His Zero had been repaired following the battle with Athrun, there hadn't been any unrepairable damage done to his signature machine. The crew, like the rest of the ship, was a patchwork of Orb refugees and professional soldiers, it was amazing they were able to work together as well as they were.

They wouldn't be able to get Mu off of the ship so soon if there wasn't some real teamwork here.

Even with all of our problems and differences, the mismatched crew of the ship, at least for now, was functioning as a unit. As a team.

The Gamow was in the distance, and starting to take potshots at the Archangel. I cabled Mu. "What should we do about the ship?"

"Nothing,", Mu replied. "Our mission are the GUNDAMs and the GUNDAMs alone. We take them out, we annihilate the ZAFT advantage in high-powered Mobile Suits. The Earth Alliance and ZAFT will be even if we take those three out."

"Yes, sir."

Suddenly, somebody called me on the public channel. It was the Duel.

I thought that Athrun had put them up to contacting me one last time, but that wasn't the case when I accepted the call.

"You," the Duel's pilot said as he appeared on my screen.

"What is it?" I asked.

"You humiliated me at Artemis. I will not be taken lightly by a treacherous Natural-loving bitch like you!"

His words were so predictable, so generic, that I could barely keep from laughing out loud. In this situation, as we were about to fight, why would this guy be so stupid to hail the enemy? Just to issue a crappy challenge like that?

I did the mature thing. I blew a raspberry at him.

His face crinkled in bewilderment. "What the hell is that supposed to be mean?"

"Stop compensating for your lack of manliness. I'm so not impressed."

I could hear laughing on the com. "She got ya there, Yzak."

The angry Duel pilot punched the side of the cockpit. "Shut up, Dearka!"

I saw the Duel was locked on. I smiled as I aimed directly at the cockpit. "Hey, Yzak or whatever your name is! Have you eaten today?"

Yzak, again, looked completely confused? "Huh? Not since breakfast."

"Hope you enjoyed it, because tonight you're dining in hell." I opened fire.

Yzak helped and barely managed to get his machine out of the way in time. Wisely, he killed the communications, and it became a comical game of cat and mouse as I chased the Duel all over space, shooting at it and even scratching the Phase Shift Armor a few times.

I heard Mu then. "Never announce your intentions to the enemy, princess. You could have killed him right there and it would be two-on-two."

He was right, of course. I didn't want to admit it, but he was.

"And, in case it wasn't obvious, stop chatting with the enemy, too."

"Yes, sir."

Miriallia entered the com. "Cagalli, Lieutenant La Flaga. We've gotten in contact with the Eighth Fleet, they're closer than we thought. They're rushing to our position, forward elements will make it in ten minutes. You two must keep the GUNDAMs away for ten minutes-AAH!"

"Miriallia, what's wrong?" I shouted, as I struggled to keep my bearings on the Duel's position. The Duel was recovering from my assault, and starting to shoot back. I wasn't going to have the advantage for much longer.

"The Gamow just hit us!"

"Should we go after the Gamow then?"

Murrue Ramius' voice, strong and sure, spoke instead of Miriallia. "Worry about the GUNDAMs, we'll handle the ship. That's an order."

Mu spoke then. "Princess, Blitz has activated Mirage Celloid. I have no visual, repeat, no visual."

Great. That meant that Blitz was going to be sneaking up on the Archangel any second to wreak havoc.

Mu had his hands full keeping Buster busy, and I was engaged with the Duel. The Blitz had made itself scarce, and it likely wasn't retreating. No, it was probably aiming to loop around and attack the Archangel's engines. It was the logical place to strike, as the damage could cripple or destroy the ship immediately, causing more damage than the Gamow could.

With Mu and Buster trading shots, I was going to have to take two GUNDAMs at once. At least Athrun wasn't here. Perhaps he and Creuset had pulled back to get Lacus to safety. If he and Rau Le Creuset had been here, the situation would've changed from difficult to untenable.

The Duel managed to graze me with a shot, giving me a warning that my free reign blasting him was over. I took the opportunity to thrust the Strike away from him and start looking for the Blitz. I took off towards the Archangel, banking that the Duel would shoot at me instead. It was a risky gamble but considering how angry the pilot had seemed . . .

Well, it didn't hurt to make sure. "Hey, Duel. Maybe if you got your girly hair away from your eyes you'd be able to hit something."

"Shut up!"

Okay, he was pissed off. Good . . . and bad.

He started firing at me as we closed in on the Archangel, and the anti-air turrets opened up, though the fire was inaccurate as they were trying to shoot around me to try and hit the Duel. The result was wasted ammunition, none of it hit me but none of it hit the Duel either, and in fact was barely a nuisance to it. The Duel, thankfully, ignored the Archangel and kept its focus on me. I was going to have to trap it where it was vulnerable to the Archangel's fire, and then finish it off for good.

But then a brief signal suggested there was a flaw in my strategy.

I still hadn't accounted for the Blitz. And, as the random flak blasted around, one shot, by dumb luck, grazed the Blitz.

It couldn't use Phase Shift and Mirage Celloid at the same time. The result was the Blitz briefly showing up on radar as it was jolted by the shot. I saw it, and realized I had to take care of Blitz first while keeping the Duel off of my tail.

But most horrifyingly, the Blitz's position being revealed didn't matter.

It was right on top of the Archangel.

As I turned towards it, the pilot seemed to realize his cover had been blown, and set the Blitz down on one of the Archangel's "legs", and activated its Phase Shift. Immediately, it raised its weapons and prepared to fire right at the bridge.

Miriallia noticed too. "The Blitz is on top of us! Someone get it off!"

Everyone was at risk. The captain, my friends, Melanie, Prince Kira, everybody.

Just a few minutes away from rescue, and we were going to die just like that?

What a joke.

What a cruel, odious joke.

There was no time to line up a shot, I was going much too fast. I was going to have to do this the hard way.

I raised the Strike's shield and hit the acceleration.

The Blitz saw me coming quickly enough to not take a direct hit. I managed to clip it, though, and send it spiraling away from the Archange, briefly out of control. Relieved, I forgot about the Duel, which proved to be a horrible mistake.

The Duel finally shot me.

It was like an earthquake had erupted in the cockpit, and I screamed as I struggled to keep control. I struggled to turn the Strike around, but barely turned it around in time to get bodyslammed by the Duel and we crashed on top of the Archangel's left leg, where the Blitz had positioned itself just moments before.

The Duel drew its saber and raised it to stab me. I was going to die, just like that.

Then time stood still.
***
It hovered before me, wrapped in a bright brown aura. I couldn't grasp quite what I was seeing, but thoughts were crashing through my head so rapidly that I couldn't focus on anything other than I can't die.

They were all counting on me. Everyone onboard. They needed me one last time and I was going to fail them now after getting them so far? After so many battles, after all of the shortages and hardships and death? I was going to die to some punk flying a stolen Mobile Suit?

The faces of my friends, of my colleagues, flashed before me, rapidly. Something powerful, glorious, horrific built up inside me with each passing face. I saw glimpses of my failures, like Heliopolis, Artemis, the Montgomery, interwoven with the faces of all of the people that needed me, that were reliant on me.

They would die if I died.

No one was innocent. Not even Melanie, the little girl. She would die just like everyone else.

I had promised her that I would not die.

And what about Tolle? Hadn't I made that promise to him, too? I had told him I was never going to abandon the Archangle.

Dying was the same as abandonment.

Damn it, I'm not going to die.

I'm not going to die!

I can't!

My body burned as the thing I was picturing started to crack. My whole body and mind felt like it was starting to go into some kind of overdrive. I couldn't comprehend the speed of what was happening to me, just that it was. Like I was accelerating beyond human boundaries.

I realized, a split second before it broke, what I was seeing.

A seed.

A little brown seed, the same color as my eyes.

And as it broke, my humanity went with it, as it was absorbed and disintegrated by the power inside me.
***
I am not going to die.

Everything was on sheer instinct. Everything I did was solely to protect my own survival. No other considerations were at mind.

I had to live.

The Duel's pilot had made a big mistake. He had forgotten to pin me down. I saw that, as my eyes flashed open. My body felt the fastest and strongest it had ever been, and everything seemed to be moving slower than usual. Not the slow-motion you're thinking of, but something slower than normal speed. And I could see everything the Duel had done, and every vulnerability of its current position.

I took my shield arm and slammed it right into the Duel's torso just as it was about to stab me. It being a machine, the saber didn't fly out of its hand like a sword would have fallen out of a human's, but it didn't matter. I had hit the Duel with such vicious force that I had knocked the machine, and the pilot, completely off balance and away from me.

I saw the Blitz to my right, recovering from my previous attack. I fired several shots at it, and the majority of them connected, sending the Blitz fleeing for its life, smoke pouring out of it.

There was no reason left in me. My intention was to kill. I didn't understand what killing meant anymore. Killing was a means to an end. I could not die, and no one on that ship could die. The only way to prevent either was to kill my enemies. There was no regret, no emotion, just instinct and intention.

I was lining up the kill shot when the Duel charged right at me, its saber aiming for a wide slash that would cleave me in half. Like the Blitz, it had taken a decent amount of damage, but it was more operable. I could see, in that split second, that the chest part of the machine was damaged. I could kill the pilot.

Logic dictated that instead of continuing to shoot at the fleeing Blitz, it would make more sense to kill the Duel and then finish the Blitz off.

I followed that logic.

I turned and aimed right at the chest compartment and fired.

A massive explosion erupted from the Duel, and I realized, faintly, that my aim had been slightly off. I hadn't hit the damaged part of the chest, just damaged a whole new section of the chest. It caused fire to erupt from the cockpit for a brief second, and metal and electronics to float out of it, but I hadn't made the kill shot. Even in this berserk mode I was still not an elite shot, I was definitely better than the other pilots, but still wasn't at the level of, say, Athrun.

Still, one shot was one shot. I had to take another, and that would finish the Duel off for good. I aimed again at the damaged chest cavity. It didn't matter whether the pilot was alive or dead at this point. Logic and instinct dictated that it was best not to take the chance. I could not let that machine return to ZAFT one way or another.

But as I was about to shoot I felt myself lose control of the machine as an explosion erupted under me.

I was startled out of my hypnosis.
***
I don't forget what it's like being in this berserker mode, this combat hypnosis, whatever it is. I see it all in hyper clarity. The images are burned into my memory for me to remember when I'm idle and alone.

As I returned to my normal senses, I was spiraling away, out of control. My machine had taken mild damage, though it would have been kill damage if Phase Shift hadn't been turned on. The Phase Shift had to work hard, though, I had lost a lot of energy while taking what damage I had. I grabbed the control stick with both hands, slammed the brakes, and managed to rotate the Strike around, to see who and what had hit me.

I saw one of the legs of the Archangel smoking, among a couple of other sections. The Gamow had fired again, and the damage was more serious this time. The Archangel couldn't absorb hits like this forever.

To my horror, I saw one of the Gottfrieds smoking. I knew that Melanie's mother was on a Gottfried. Was it her Gottfried that had been hit? I couldn't see any bodies flying out of the smoke, so at least there weren't any guaranteed deaths, unless everybody was vaporized, anyway.

With that lovely thought in mind, I realized that there were two people I had been trying to kill who I had forgotten about in my moment of total loss of control.

The Blitz and Duel. I had caused serious damage to the both of them, and now I didn't know where they were.

I raced towards the battle site. Now that I was normal again, I felt sick to my stomach. I didn't want to kill, but at the same time, I was pragmatic enough to know what had to be done. The Archangel would be much safer if I killed the two of them off. So would the Eighth Fleet, which would be showing up any second.

I searched my sensors, and finally found them. Surprisingly, they were together. I looked towards them, and saw the Blitz dragging the badly damaged Duel away from the battlefield. Of course, since there's no gravity or ground in space, the Blitz could drag the Duel away at a really high speed.

Nicol Amalfi had reacted quickly to me being blasted away like that, and he had done a heroic thing by rushing to the Duel and pulling it away from the battlefield.

There was no point in pursuing. The Buster had adjusted its battle patterns as well, and was doing nothing more than spraying fire to cover the retreat. The Moebius Zero had already backed off, and considering the damage I had taken, it wasn't worth the risk of pursuit. Especially when the possibility was strong that I could lose Phase Shift in the middle of the battle.

What an anti-climactic end. Just like that, the battle was over. We had fought to a stalemate, there had been no victors. Pretty much just like the last battle, though I guess you could say the ZAFT won that one considering we had been at Rau Le Creuset's mercy at the end.

Forward elements of the Eighth Fleet entered the outskirts of the battle area, and knowing it was outgunned, the Gamow had already stopped shooting.

I heard Mu's voice then. "Good job, princess. That's more like it. You did well out here."

Did I? I wondered about what I had seen, and how it had changed me in an instant. Was what I had become really the right person for this war, for this situation?

It didn't feel right. Not even close.

That me that had emerged . . . was both animal and machine, driven by logic and instinct and nothing more than that.

It was not human.

But, being a human, I knew I had to respond to Mu. "Thanks."

That's all I could say without lying to him, or anyone else what had happened.

I decided to keep what I had seen a secret from everyone. Even Tolle. I was the freak onboard the Archangel already. What would happen if they learned about this too? Soon the word that described me would change from a mere "freak" to an outright "monster".

I didn't want to be a monster.

I couldn't be a monster.

So I stayed quiet, and hoped that what I had decided was my inner monster would never emerge again.

After all, the war was over for me, right? I'd never wind up in a situation that could cause the monster to emerge, right?

That still didn't change the fact that there was a monster inside me.

And knowing it was there meant that I would be afraid for the rest of my life, fearful of what would happen if it escaped again . . .

If I let it out again.
___________________________________________________________________________

Stupid P.S.: For some reason, over the course of the fic, Cagalli's voice has changed from Vanessa Morley's into Jennifer Hale's. I don't know why that is, it just is. Around chapter 3 that started happening and around chapter 8 the switch became permanent, though it never completely solidified until this chapter.

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MURRUE: Infallible accuracy?? I thought you just usually shot all your weapons at random and they just happened to hit stuff.

KIRA: What do you think this is; a cartoon?


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 Post Posted: Thu Mar 24, 2011 1:34 pm 
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Pilot's Doomed Girlfriend

Joined: Fri Jul 16, 2010 10:55 pm
Posts: 370
Location: over there
Great stuff, as usual.

Combat is one of those things. As long as you put what happens, why it happens, and what it causes, then you've got it as good as you can get. Adjectives help, too.

Anyway, great commentary by Cagalli on this one. Since I don't really like her Eng voice, I usually just hear 'generic female teen #4' while I read. Jen Hale is a nice touch, but I've played too much Mass Effect recently to channel the Sheena Fujibayashi voice. :P

Great chapter!

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 Post Posted: Wed Apr 06, 2011 1:10 am 
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Newtype Emo Guy

Joined: Wed May 02, 2007 7:43 pm
Posts: 258
Location: Illinois, USA
Rob DS Zeta wrote:
Great stuff, as usual.

Combat is one of those things. As long as you put what happens, why it happens, and what it causes, then you've got it as good as you can get. Adjectives help, too.

Anyway, great commentary by Cagalli on this one. Since I don't really like her Eng voice, I usually just hear 'generic female teen #4' while I read. Jen Hale is a nice touch, but I've played too much Mass Effect recently to channel the Sheena Fujibayashi voice. :P

Great chapter!


I just have trouble replicating the terror of combat. Strangely, this is not a problem with hand-to-hand fights. I'm really good with those. Vehicles are my problem for some reason, and that includes Mobile Suits. I keep trying the best I can, though.

Never played Mass Effect, oddly. Heard Hale's amazing in that game though, a lot of people prefer playing as a female Shepard solely because of her.

I'm working two jobs right now, that's the reason for the long delay going on. I'm still trying, though. Still trying . . .

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MURRUE: Infallible accuracy?? I thought you just usually shot all your weapons at random and they just happened to hit stuff.

KIRA: What do you think this is; a cartoon?


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 Post Posted: Sun May 01, 2011 6:27 pm 
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Der Bigen Slicen
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Joined: Fri Jan 04, 2008 3:36 pm
Posts: 2600
Location: Cruisin' the Universe w/Spaceman Spiff!!!
Hey, hey, hey! Where's the updates man? This is a a great story! Keep on trying!

I'm curious as to how you're going to work with the relationship between Flay and Cagalli. Seeing as how Flay isn't a lesbian, seducing Cagalli isn't going to work... so what? Is she going to just try to outright kill Cagalli? Maybe try to frame her or something?

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AMURO: What? Don't be ridiculous- Tomino is just an abstract construct, he doesn't really exist.


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