Mecha TalkThe official forum of www.MAHQ.net
Sun Apr 27, 2008 3:57 pm
Joined: Mon Mar 06, 2006 9:15 pm
Sorry for interrupting again, but i just want to note, that however the Seed rewrite will end, you will at least make some big changes to the status of Natural characters (and equial important Shinn Asuka) if you make a Destiny rewrite, based on this Seed rewrite.
Sun Apr 27, 2008 6:28 pm
|Retconned MSV Ace|
Joined: Tue Oct 03, 2006 3:44 am
Actually, even if offtopic, that wouldn't be a bad idea. Even if giving the Naturals a "fair go" in GSD does require more than simple rewriting. And yeah, Shinn would no doubt be thrilled if he could keep his show. Enigma
, have you thought about a rewrite of GSD
once you're done with this?
-We will not be caught by surprise!
*Almost everyone I've killed uttered similar last words.
-Then I am glad once again that you are on my side.
*They've often said that too.
Sun Apr 27, 2008 7:03 pm
|Mysterious Masked Dude|
Joined: Sat Sep 16, 2006 7:45 pm
Actually, we have planned a GSD rewrite fanfic after we're done with this. But, it's been hush-hush for a long while. I'm not saying anything definite (so as to not spoil any surprises), but we're going to be taking out a large number of the flaws which made DESTINY an unlikable series by many.
"That's the problem with plutonium, Craven; it's limited in its application. It's not user-friendly. But as a vehicle for regaining one's self-respect; oh, it's got a lot going for it!"
- Darius Jedburgh, Edge of Darkness, Episode 6, Fusion
Mon Apr 28, 2008 4:22 pm
|Newtype Emo Guy|
Joined: Wed Dec 06, 2006 5:07 pm
Location: Somewhere in Kansas
Right now a rewrite of GSD is kind of in the works as Nu-Liberty has said, but at the moment college stuff is taking priority. In a few weeks this rewrite will be on full schedule and GSD should be up by the end of this year. Hopefully.
"Aaahh!"-The last words of many a mobile suit pilot.
Mon May 26, 2008 12:32 pm
Joined: Mon May 26, 2008 12:26 pm
Location: Hell's Backdoor
Just read this entire thing in the last two days. While there've not been many changes to the main storyline, I feel you've captured SEED's basic flow quite well. Aside from the occasional weird typo, this is well-written. I look forward to the rest. Keep up the good work!
Tue Jun 03, 2008 11:19 am
|Newtype Emo Guy|
Joined: Wed Dec 06, 2006 5:07 pm
Location: Somewhere in Kansas
New Phase 38
Kira looked in awe at the new Gundam that had appeared moments ago. Its equipment was indeed different from the Freedomâ€™s, but he could tell that it was a counterpart to his mobile suit. He wondered who the pilot was, but he received his answer quickly.
â€œThis is Athrun Zala.â€ The voice over the channel said, â€œIs that you, Kira Yamato?â€
But before Kira could give a response, a proximity alarm rang and he looked to find the Raider was swinging around towards him. He pulled the Freedom back, but the new Gundam flew forward instead. The two machines clashed as the Raider launched its hammer weapon, which the Justice dodged. Kira wondered how Athrun came to arrive at Orb, and he even was there. But those questions had to wait.
The battle below continued to intensify as the Orb and Atlantic Federation forces further clashed. M1 Astrays and Strike Daggers brawled, rifles firing and sabers slashing. While the Orb mobile suits were superior in performance, the Earth Forces mobile suits were superior in numbers.
Asagi was engaged in close quarters combat with one of the Strike Daggers. The beam sabers parried and swung. A shunt from the Strike Dagger shoved her back, leaving an opening the Earth Alliance pilot was going to take. However, and beam came from a different angle, separating the Daggerâ€™s arm at the elbow.
â€Asagi!â€ Mayura called out as she fired again. This time her shot pierced the cockpit of the Earth Alliance mobile suit. Its knees buckled just before it exploded in a fiery heap.
At the same moment, Juri was in a melee with another of the Strike Daggers. Her opponent was pressing the attack, forcing her on the defensive. She leapt away, but her opponent charged still. Bracing herself, she took her own beam saber and thrust it forward. It caught the Strike Dagger in the upper torso, stopping it. Juri leapt back again to escape the blast radius when the enemy unit exploded.
Back further the shoreline, Cade and Michael were faring equally. With the two enemy Gundams still dueling each other, they had slipped a safer distance away. Michael readied the grenade launcher mounted on his M1Sâ€™ beam rifle and fired. The grenade blast destroyed the shield of a nearby Strike Dagger and left it vulnerable. A second grenade blast tore it apart.
The Panzerâ€™s gatlingâ€™s rounds ripped apart everything in the path of fire. The rounds made short work of single mobile suits, and the mortar and missiles dealt with the larger, more clustered groups.
Meanwhile, the duel between the Strike and Gunbarrel Dagger remained a near stalemate. Mu had dealt his enemy some serious damage, but he couldnâ€™t deal a deathblow. Parallax tried to ignore the blood seeping from his eyes, but it was difficult. His vision repeatedly was clouded by a red film.
A new beam came in from a different direction. Both pilots looked to see the Buster Gundam coming and opening fire on the Gunbarrel Dagger. Parallax pulled back at the sight of a new enemy and stopped.
The Buster stood next to the Strike and Dearka opened a channel. â€œHey, think I could lend a hand here?â€
â€Donâ€™t mind if you do.â€ Mu answered, â€œI could use a little help.â€
Dearka nodded and fired on the Gunbarrel Dagger again. Parallax dodged and cursed under his breath. Now he had two enemies to fight. However, he still had one gunbarrel left and he wasnâ€™t going to let it go to waste.
Shani and Gren continued to engage in their senseless scuffle, forgoing their present mission. The two mobile suitsâ€™ weapons slammed each other back and forth until an outside interference halted them.
â€œHey, idiots!â€ Clothoâ€™s voice yelled over the communication channel, â€œWhat you doing? We need some help with this guy!â€
Gritting his teeth, Gren pulled away his Kazarian axe and leapt into the air, Shani following him closely.
Back on the Earth Forcesâ€™ flagship, officers watched the battle anxiously. They didnâ€™t expect the Orb military to put the sort of resistance they were. Their enemyâ€™s mobile suits outperformed their own.
â€œWe still havenâ€™t taken over their military headquarters?â€ Azrael asked as though he was watching a movie, â€œIsnâ€™t that a bit disappointing?â€
â€œThe reason is that those machines youâ€™re so proud of arenâ€™t doing their job.â€ The shipâ€™s captain harshly criticized.
Azrael shrugged, but turned his attention to the battle. It was true the four new Gundams werenâ€™t in fact performing to his expectations. However, he knew how to â€˜persuadeâ€™ their operators whenever they came back.
The Freedom and the newly arrived Justice continued their battle against the Earth Forcesâ€™ Gundams. While the Justice engaged the Raider, the Freedom resumed fighting the Calamity. Momentarily taking his attention off his opponent, Kira shifted it to the new mobile suit. It was holding its own against the Raider. Just then two more objects were detected and Kira zoomed in on them, seeing that they were more mobile suits he hadnâ€™t seen before. The battle was going to become more difficult.
At the Orb HQ, all hands watched the monitors as the battle unfolded. Everyone took immediate notice of the Earth Forcesâ€™ Gundams and of the Justice. Cagalli was as shocked as the entire staff.
â€œIs that another of the Earth Forcesâ€™ machines?â€ an officer asked.
â€œNo, itâ€™s providing backup for the Freedom.â€ Another answered.
Cagalli had an idea of who the pilot was, but she couldnâ€™t truly be sure.
The Justice fired on the Raider, but missed. A second later, Athrun detected object coming from behind. Evading them, he saw them to be missiles and their source was the approaching Scorpio. The Forbidden jetted forward and fired its Hresyelgr cannon. Athrun almost didnâ€™t evade the beam. He returned fire, but his own beams were deflected. Above him, he saw something else coming down at him. The claw-like weapon just grazed the Justiceâ€™s shield. The Scorpio followed its failed attacked with a barrage from its stringer beam guns.
The Freedom pressed the attack on the Raider. The two mobile suits streaked at one another back and forth. As they clashed, a pair of beams came dangerously close to hitting both of them. Clotho looked down to witness Orga firing wildly.
â€œOrga, watch it!â€ he shouted in anger.
Suddenly, he felt his head throbbing and his muscles tighten. It wasnâ€™t only him, as Shani Orga, and Gren all were suffering the same condition. Their drugs had worn off faster than expected and withdrawal was overcoming them. They felt small spasms and knew that itâ€™d only get worse. The only thing they could do was run away for now. The Raider swooped down to pick up the Calamity and headed straight for the Earth Alliance fleet, with the Forbidden and Scorpio following.
When the flagshipâ€™s crew witnessed the return of the four Gundams, there indeed was great disappointment and frustration, especially one Azraelâ€™s part. After all the time and work the technicians and researchers put in, the Extendeds werenâ€™t doing what they had been created to do. However, there was still a chance to save face and ensure this regrettable situation wouldnâ€™t happen again.
â€œLetâ€™s recall the remainder of our forces for now.â€ Azrael said, getting up from his seat.
â€Itâ€™s only temporary.â€ Azrael assured, â€œOrb has some hidden strengths we hadnâ€™t predicted and we wonâ€™t accomplish anything further using just the Strike Daggers for the time being.â€
â€œAll right.â€ The captain mutter before turning to the bridge crew, â€œFire a signal for a temporary retreat.â€
A single flare was launched. Upon exploding it released a white light surrounded by a dark red ring. Every Earth Alliance mobile suit and aircraft immeadatily turned away and fled.
Parallax saw the signal, but took a final glance at the Strike before he retreated. Again wiping a stream of blood from his eyes, he finally took the controls and turned around and made his way back.
Mu panted as he watched the unusual mobile dart away. He wondered who the pilot couldâ€™ve been and why he had a strange sensation in the back of his head.
â€œWhat do you think theyâ€™re up to?â€ Dearka asked, â€œTaking a lunch break?â€
Mu chuckled at the joke. â€œWhatever it is, itâ€™ll at least buy us some time.â€ He then contacted the three nearby M1 Astrays. â€œYou ladies all right over there?â€
â€Yeah, weâ€™re fine.â€ Asagi answered, â€œBut what about you, sir?â€
â€Iâ€™m okay.â€ With that, Mu switched the channel over to the Archangelâ€™s. He had to tell about his encounter.
Deep within the command center, Uzumi and the other representatives had watched the battle. While the Alliance had been beaten back fro now, everyone knew the battle was far from over. Uzumi also knew that he needed to prepare for the final contingency plan.
As the late afternoon turned to evening, the Archangel and Orb forces hurried to regroup and prepare for the next round of fighting. However, there was large amount of damage. Any M1 Astrays that were destroyed had to be salvaged and cleared away. Most facilities had sustained heavy damage from the dayâ€™s battle. Cagalli and Kisaka looked over the area and gave personal thanks to all pilots and soldiers who had fought. Mu and Dearka took a breather after they joined the others.
The Panzer and M1S linked up with the rest of the remaining forces and their respective pilots stepped out. Cade surveyed the area. Things couldâ€™ve have gone better, but they certainly couldâ€™ve gone worse, especially with those new models.
He turned to Michael. â€œNot bad for your first battle.â€
â€Thanks.â€ Michael replied, running his fingers through his hair. Although he admitted to himself that he never expected a battle like the kind he had fought in, despite the number of simulations heâ€™d done. Still, he thought his custom mobile suit had performed well in spite of being completed a matter of hours before the start of the fighting.
â€œCade!â€ a voice called out and the next thing he knew, Juri had her arms wrapped around his neck. â€œYou guys okay?â€
â€œYeah, weâ€™re just fine.â€ Cade answered.
Asagi and Mayura approached Michael and gave him a pat on the back. They congratulated him on his custom M1â€™s capabilities. He thanked them and turned his attention to the recently landed Archangel.
He watched as the crew stepped out, but one person really got his attention. Her beauty was amazing and she seemed like a kind person. The light reflecting off her brown hair and her turquoise eyes only enhanced her beauty. When she turned her glance towards him, he averted his eyes.
Miriallia wondered who the young Orb pilot was and if he was really looking at her. It was strange, but when she saw him, he reminded her of Tolle, in spite of his bluish silver hair.
Moments later, the Freedom and Justice were landing and everyone hurried to gather around them. The respective pilots stepped out of their machines and onto the ground. Removing their helmets, they then look to one another.
The crowd wondered what was happening. As everyone looked on, Cade immeadatily spotted the familiar face.
â€œDearka, isnâ€™t that Athrun?â€ he whispered.
â€œYeah, it is him.â€
Michael turned his head. â€œYou guys actually know him?â€
â€Yeah, we were on the same team.â€ Dearka answered, â€œBut whatâ€™s he doing here?â€
â€œAnd whereâ€™d he get that mobile suit?â€ Cade added.
After several moments Kira and Athrun began to walk to one another. A group of Orb soldiers thought they were seeing a potential threat in Athrun and in response they aimed their rifles at him.
Kira motioned to them not to fire. â€œItâ€™s all right.â€ He assured, â€œHe isnâ€™t an enemy.â€
Cagalli was stunned to hear him say that. After all, the last time they faced one another; it was when they were trying to kill each other.
The two locked eyes and continued to walk towards each other. Both had thoughts racing through their heads simultaneously. So much had happened between them over the past several months. Battles had been fought and friends had been killed. Kira had killed Athrunâ€™s fellow pilot, Nicol and following that Athrun killed Kiraâ€™s friend Tolle. But now they stood face to face, not saying anything for the moment.
Sudden there was a familiar chirping sound and Kira looked up to see Birdy as it landed on his shoulder. It was strange, but the tiny avian robot signified their friendship. Though Athrun never expected Kira to keep it for the years since they last met, he was happy to see his gift to his friend had been well taken care of.
Athrun seemed hesitate, but replied. â€œKira.â€
Cagalli couldnâ€™t bear it anymore. Upon an impulse she rushed out to them and embraced them both. â€œYou two are idiots, you know that?â€ she said, almost crying. She had spent much time with them both, knowing fully well what their friendship had endured.
Kira had to smile at Cagalliâ€™s method of breaking the ice. â€œWeâ€™ve got a lot to talk about, Athrun.â€
Later on when all Orb forces had pulled back and returned to HQ, the work to repair the Archangel and ready the remaining Orb mobile suits was in full swing. Pilots took this time to rest. Asagi, Mayura, and Juri sat after speaking with Erica and watched as their mobile suits underwent maintenance checks.
â€œGood evening, ladies.â€ Cade greeted, â€œMind if I join you?â€
â€œNo, go ahead, park it here.â€ Mayura said, pointing to the seat by Juri, which Cade was glad to take.
â€œI just wanted to say that you three did extraordinary well earlier.â€
â€œAh, we were just lucky.â€ Asagi commented.
â€œOh no, in my experience, there is no luck, only skill.â€ Cade told them, â€œAnd you three possess great skill.â€
â€Nah, weâ€™re just average.â€ Juri insisted, though she and her teammates blushed.
Michael then arrived and took a seat. He joined in the conversation, exchanging kudos with everyone.
â€œThe M1s outperform the Earth Forcesâ€™ mobile suits.â€ He mentioned, â€œThatâ€™s given us a bit of an edge.â€
â€œYeah, so says the pilot with all the customized weapons.â€ Mayura joked, â€œThe rest of us grunts stick it out with the regulation equipment.â€
â€œEven so, Iâ€™m not ashamed to admit that any of you girls could beat me in mobile suit combat.â€ Michael shot back.
Everyone had a little laugh.
â€œWeâ€™re limited if we have to keep on the defensive, though.â€ Asagi said, â€œAnd we may not have the chance to replenish any of our mobile suits before the Earth Forces do.â€
Everyone grew quiet then, knowing that she had a point. The Alliance did have sufficient numbers needed to carry out another siege. They didnâ€™t know what strategy they could use to push back such a determined enemy. Just then, they heard voices over a ways and realized that it was Kira and Athrun speaking. They didnâ€™t know what the subject was, but they still decided to listen in. In fact, practically everyone was doing the same.
Cagalli came by with drinks to the two and pass them along before taking a seat across from them.
â€œI know that itâ€™s the most difficult way,â€ Kira said, â€œbut I also believe that it cannot be helped.â€ He was referring to Uzumiâ€™s choice in the course of action against the Earth Forces. â€œI believe that Cagalliâ€™s father is right. If Orb sided with the Earth Forces, then the Atlantic Federation would use its resources to attack the PLANTs, but the same is true if Orb sided with ZAFT. The only difference would be who the designated enemy was.â€
He stopped before he chose his next words. â€œI know I killed your comrade, who was my enemy at the time. I know itâ€™s no excuse, but I never knew or actually met him, and it wasnâ€™t that I killed him out of malice or that I wanted to.â€ He paused again. â€œThe same is true when you killed Tolle. He was your enemy at the same time, and you didnâ€™t want to kill him for the sake of killing.â€
Athrun averted his glance. â€œNo, I didnâ€™t.â€ he admitted, â€œBut I really wanted to kill you and tried my hardest to do so.â€
â€As did I.â€ Kira conceded. He then looked up towards the Freedom and Justice. â€œItâ€™d be good if we lived in a world where fighting wasnâ€™t necessary. But this war is only continuing to worsen and everyday more people suffer.â€ He paused to take a drink. â€œWhen I started fighting, I did so to protect others. However, does that mean that you and I will have to fight each other again?â€
Athrun couldnâ€™t find an answer. He had informed Kira of his orders regarding the Freedom. Still after what his father and Lacus had said, his mind had been simply a blur. He didnâ€™t know what he would do.
â€œWell, I should get back to my duties now.â€ Kira said. He stood to leave.
â€œI have one question.â€ Athrun said, â€œThe Freedom has the N-Jammer Canceller. What if someone tried to acquire the data for their own purposes?â€
â€Iâ€™d fight to protect it.â€ Kira said, â€œEven if it meant destroying the Freedom or if I had to die to safeguard it.â€ He then left, leaving Athrun alone with Cagalli.
She could see by his expression that he still needed to work out some things and figure them out for himself. She wanted to help, but she couldnâ€™t force him to make up his mind one way or another.
Back at the Earth Forcesâ€™ flagship, Azrael paced impatiently.
â€œWhen can we resume the attack?â€
The Captain looked back over his shoulder. â€œWith all due respect, need I remind you that weâ€™ve received requests from Orb to open negotiations?â€
â€Thatâ€™s out of the question.â€ Azrael said, â€œAt this point in time I believe itâ€™d be best for Orbâ€™s leaders to simplyâ€¦disappear.â€
â€Why mince words, Director?â€ the Captain asked, but he didnâ€™t get a reply. â€œWeâ€™ll have everything ready by early morning, no later than 0600. However, I believe our sole concern will still be those pilots of yours.â€
â€Yes, I apologize for their shortcomings.â€ Azrael said, â€œBut donâ€™t worry, they know whatâ€™ll happen to them should they fail again.â€
At that moment, all four operators were locked away and made it suffer the agony of the withdrawal symptoms. It was brutal conditioning, but the scientists didnâ€™t show any concern.
Elsewhere on the ship, Parallax was undergoing a complete exam. His mental stress was at a high level and the cause of his unexplained bleeding from his eyes was still not found. At the current rate, he would likely not be medically cleared to continue taking part in the invasion. Even if he was, his Gunbarrel Dagger was extensively damaged, with no rapid access to any spare parts. As of that point, he would be out of action.
At Orb, Athrun now wandered around, but with Cagalli close behind. Everywhere he mingled, she was several steps away. He did notice her, as subtlety was one of her strongest suits.
â€œWhy are you sticking so close to me anyway?â€ he asked.
â€œNo reason.â€ She answered, â€œWell, maybe I just wanted to keep an eye on you.â€
While he didnâ€™t laugh, he did get her little joke. After all that had happened the two pervious times theyâ€™d been together, he wasnâ€™t surprised the sheâ€™d stick close to him for a while.
â€œYou must be relieved to see that Kiraâ€™s alive.â€ Cagalli went on.
Athrun didnâ€™t know exactly how to reply at first. â€œYeah.â€ He then paused. â€œI never got to thank you for before.â€
â€What?â€ Cagalli asked, â€œOf course you did. Well, kind of. After all, in your state of mind at the time, you might not remember.â€ She of course was lying.
â€œYeah.â€ Athrun said, not convinced.
Cagalli wanted to change the subject, and fast. â€œKiraâ€™s really changed, hasnâ€™t he?â€
Cagalli twisted her head. â€œNo?â€
â€Heâ€™s pretty much the same as heâ€™s always been.â€ He then stood up.
â€œSo what you plan to do about everything?â€ she then asked. She had been worried about the question and his answer.
â€œI really donâ€™t know.â€ He told her, â€œBut maybe the answer is right in front of me and I just havenâ€™t seen it yet. It is going to be a tough choice.â€
As he walked away, Cagalli had to agree with him. Everyone at Orb, she, her father, her friends, and the crew of the Archangel faced a daunting path ahead of them.
At dawn the following morning, relief at last came to the Extendeds. After suffering intense pain through the night, they finally were given new vials of drugs. They all didnâ€™t waste time breaking them open and consuming the doses. The drugs took effect fast, numbing the pain and steadying shaky hands.
â€œWeâ€™ve increased the Gilpeptin by ten units.â€ The lead doctor explained. â€œIt should work for at least two hours.â€ His expression turned cold, â€œIf you donâ€™t want to feel that kind of pain again, youâ€™ll have to improve your performance. That goes for all of you.â€
Clotho, Shani, Orga, and Gren breathed shuddering sighs.
â€œYes, sir. Thank you, sir.â€ Clotho said.
However, none of them had any shred of gratitude to any of the scientists who administered the drugs. They hated them and each would love to inflict pain onto them if it werenâ€™t for the fact they were needed to create the drugs.
They decided to redirect their anger at something else. And those targets were the stronger mobile suits they fought the day before. In their logic, it was because of them that resulted in their suffering. Today was going to be about revenge.
Not wasting time, the hatches were opened and the terrifying quartet emerged and prepared to launch a new attack on Orb. Not far behind them would be the rest of the Alliance invasion force.
"Aaahh!"-The last words of many a mobile suit pilot.
Tue Jul 22, 2008 11:07 am
|Newtype Emo Guy|
Joined: Wed Dec 06, 2006 5:07 pm
Location: Somewhere in Kansas
Sorry for the wait.
New Phase 39
The next wave of the Allianceâ€™s invasion was underway. Aircraft took to the air, carriers sailed forward, and Strike Daggers were deployed. Their objective was to once again pound Onogoro into submission.
â€œWeâ€™ve got multiple incomings!â€ an officer shouted, her eyes not leaving her console.
â€œDeploy all mobile suit teams!â€ Kisaka ordered, â€œInform the armored battalions to mobilize as well.â€ As his orders were carried out, he looked to see Cagalli standing by herself in a corner. He went up to her and saw that her eyes were filled with bitterness and scorn. â€œCagalli?â€
â€The bastards didnâ€™t even reply to our requests for negotiations.â€ She whispered.
The Raider, in its mobile armor mode, carried the Calamity, and was trailed by the Scorpio. At the same time, the Forbidden submerged under the oceanâ€™s surface and hid as it made its way towards the shore.
Alarms were raised and all hands hurried to their positions. Dearka hurried to suit up as he glanced up to see a line of M1 Astrays already heading out. Behind them were the silver colored unit and the Panzer. Halfway down the complex, the Archangelâ€™s engines roared to life and the ship maneuvered out the exit.
Kira headed for where the Freedom was docked, but was stopped by Athrun.
â€œKira.â€ Athrun said, â€œAs it is, Orb doesnâ€™t have a chance of winning.â€
Kira nodded. He knew his friend was right, as Orb could only defend against an enemy whose numbers surpassed their own by a great margin. â€œYes, I realize that, we all do. But that doesnâ€™t we should just give up and let them do as the please. Whatâ€™s most important is that we know what weâ€™re fighting for.â€ He paused. â€œIâ€™d rather not fight, but sometimes you canâ€™t protect anything without fighting.â€ He stepped onto the lift. â€œIâ€™m glad that earlier we at least had the chance to talk somewhat about this.â€ After that, he boarded the Freedom and took off.
Athrun only watched as the Freedom disappeared outside.
â€œItâ€™s a tough choice.â€ Someone said.
Athrun turned to find Dearka.
â€œYouâ€™ve got orders to take that thing back, right?â€ his fellow pilot asked, â€œThings arenâ€™t going to go over well, as we are ZAFT soldiers interfering in something like this.â€ He referred what would happen if word got out that they had lent assistance to a foreign nation without consent.
Athrun wasnâ€™t certain how to answer. He knew he had all but completely disregarded his present objective in the recapturing of the Freedom. However, for now those orders meant nothing. â€œItâ€™s just that I donâ€™t to see any of them get themselves killed.â€
â€Hmm, for once we actually agree on something.â€ Dearka smirked, â€œNow how about if we join in as well? I mean, Cadeâ€™s already in the thick of it by now.â€
Outside the Archangel bombarded the Earth Forces fleet. The Igelstellungs filled the sky with an anti-air barrage, shooting down whatever missile or enemy aircraft that came within range. After the initial wave, a number of navy ships pressed an attack on the Archangel.
â€œAim Valiants 1 and 2!â€ Murrue ordered, â€œFire!â€
The cannons tore through the enemy ships easily and they were sunk.
A distance away, the Orb fleet was faring well for the moment. However, in the middle of the fleet, something shot straight up from the ocean and the center ship seemed to be sliced in half. The culprit was the Forbidden and it moved on to the next ship. The Raider, Calamity, and Scorpio dropped down from the sky to aid the Forbidden. The Raider and Calamity strafed the Orb fleet while the Scorpio landed atop on ship and used its grappler claw to smash the bridge. With it collapsed, Gren pulled out the Kazarian axe and hacked away at the remainder of the ship. However, all four werenâ€™t interested in dealing with what they saw as insufficient targets. All they wanted was to find the mobile suits from the day before and destroy them.
On the ground, the Orb forces were losing their numbers at an alarming rate. Strike Daggers poured in from seemingly all directions and M1s and linear tanks were taken out by the overwhelming numbers of the invaders. A line of M1s, supported by the M1S and Panzer stood their ground, but it was a difficult fight. One by one, the Astrays were destroyed. Michael aimed the M1Sâ€™ grenade launcher at the center of the enemy cluster and fired twice. The resulting blast radius took out a number of the Strike Daggers, while leaving the remaining mobile suits open to be destroyed by the Astrays. When the last Strike Dagger fell, everyone the area was cleared until a single shot came in from a distance and pierced an Astray through the chest. Another one shared the same fate as a second shot was fired. The last Astray, M1S, and Panzer took cover and surveyed where the enemy was.
It looked like other Strike Dagger, but was different in that it was armed with sniper equipment. Michael ducked back behind a ruined building. At the moment, he couldnâ€™t get a clean shot at the enemy mobile suit.
â€œGet that guy!â€
Cade peeked out and aimed the mortar launcher. It wouldnâ€™t be a direct hit, but itâ€™d be enough to drive the sniper out of his hiding spot. He fired, with the round corkscrewing towards the enemy mobile suit. The explosion didnâ€™t force the enemy out, but it did leave him with less cover. Cade aimed again and fired a second shot, then a third. This time it did knock the Dagger Sniper out into the open and now it struggled to stand back up. The Panzer leapt out, the gatling blazing. The Dagger Sniper was ripped apart piece by piece until fragments were all that was left.
Overhead, the Freedom flew by. Kira utilized the multiple target lock to shoot down any incoming missiles and disable numerous Strike Daggers. A proximity alert sounded and Kira looked behind to find the Justice was following him. He allowed Athrun to catch up and the two headed right for the frontlines.
It didnâ€™t take long to locate the high priority targets. â€œAthrun, itâ€™s those guys from yesterday.â€
â€I see them.â€
Over the next quarter hour, the fighting was more intense than the last battle. The four Earth Alliance Gundams were using all weapons and defense systems at full power. While both Kira and Athrun were all but on the defensive, they didnâ€™t need to worry about losing power thanks to the nuclear reaction sustaining their respective mobile suits.
Orga was the first to notice his machine was weakening. He went to fire the Calamityâ€™s Schlag cannons, but nothing happened. It was then he saw the flashing alarms showing that the energy supply was running dangerously low.
â€œToo bad, so sad.â€ Clotho jeered, â€œLooks like youâ€™ve got to head back.â€
Orgaâ€™s response was to jump onto the back of the Raider.
â€œWhat are you doing?â€ Clotho demanded.
â€œYouâ€™re taking me back to the ship, thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m doing.â€
â€No way, you can drag your own ass back.â€
â€œYeah right, donâ€™t give me that.â€ Orga countered, â€œYouâ€™re low on juice as well, we all are.â€
â€œI hate to agree with him, but heâ€™s right.â€ Gren chimed in, â€œWe wasting all our energy on these guys, but they wonâ€™t go down.â€
Clotho gritted his teeth and finally steered his mobile suit back towards the carrier, carrying Orga. Gren followed immeadatily, but Shani took one last shot, further draining his power reserves. The four Gundams departed the warzone, once again unable to fully show that they were the super weapons the designers claimed them to be.
When they returned, Azrael was extremely disappointed once more. He grumbled, seeing that the battle still wasnâ€™t any closer to any sort of conclusion. Sure, he had a quartet of advanced G-series units battling against the inferior production models, but the drugs keeping those pilots capable of piloting those monsters would wear off. Not to mention that Sutherlandâ€™s best pilot was in the sickbay because of some stupid reason. No matter what was done, whether because of the operators or by possible design flaws, the Gundams only displayed shortcomings. And this was causing delays in his plan.
Down in the lower levels of Orbâ€™s military headquarters, Uzumi and the other lords continued to watch the battle. If things continued as they were, all of Orb would be overwhelmed as soon as nightfall.
â€How are preparations?â€
â€œTheyâ€™re nearly complete.â€ The officer informed, â€œWeâ€™ve loaded the components for the MBF-02 and the additional weaponry and other equipment.â€ He hesitated before going further. â€œHowever, if we had just another two hours, we could have everything ready for a detonation via remote.â€
Uzumi shook his head. â€œThatâ€™s far too long, and we donâ€™t have such a luxury. Thatâ€™s why Iâ€™ll see to it personally that the objectives are fulfilled.â€ There were some gasps and murmurs, but he had already made his decision. â€œSend word to our remaining troops, weâ€™re abandoning Onogoro and order them to gather at Kaguya.â€
Just beyond the border of Orb, the Cousteau lay on the bottom of the sea, its crew observing the battle.
â€œOrbâ€™s certainly been putting a strong fight against the Earth Forces.â€ Monroe commented, impressed that such a small and isolated nation could combat a mighty military force.
â€œHowever, given their resources, itâ€™ll only be a matter of time before itâ€™s all over.â€ Le Creuset said, â€œOrb isnâ€™t a nation to be taken lightly, so I understand why the Earth Forces are so eager to seize control of it.â€ He turned his head. â€œDo you have any data on those unfamiliar mobile suits?â€
Monroe pointed to a monitor that displayed the six previously unseen Gundams. â€œIâ€™m having my men monitor them at the moment, but given this distance, we really cannot get a close-up look at any of them.â€
Le Creuset nodded. â€œThere is the chance we could very well face any one of them in the future, so keep on it. Report any changes in the present situation.â€
Le Creuset then left, trailed by Yzak and Shiho. They walked down the corridors for a ways until the Commander came to a stop and turned.
â€œYou look as though youâ€™re displeased, Yzak.â€ He said, â€œIâ€™d guessed that youâ€™d like to enter the fray.â€
Yzak only averted his glance. â€œNo, sir, not really.â€
â€œThe Orb government has turned down any support from ZAFT, and we must respect their wishes.â€
â€œIâ€™m not interested!â€ Yzak harshly whispered.
â€œAll right, I know.â€ Le Creuset said, â€œWell stay and observe for a while longer, then return to Carpentaria. You both must be tired of being stuck on board since Panama.â€
â€œCommander, there is something thatâ€™s been bothering us.â€ Shiho said.
â€œYes, what is it?â€
Shiho was suddenly nervous and shifted her glance to Yzak before shifting it back to Le Creuset. â€œItâ€™s that girl, the one you captured at Alaska.â€
â€œWith all due respect,â€ Yzak said, â€œif sheâ€™s a prisoner, then shouldnâ€™t she be treated as such?â€
Following capturing Flay at JOSH-A, Le Creuset had allowed her to remain in his cabin, without a single guard posted. This move did upset many of the crew, though no one had said anything about it.
â€œYzak, Shiho, thereâ€™s more to a war than firing shots at one another.â€ Le Creuset said, â€œI have my reasons. That girl may be a key to bringing this conflict to an end, or I at least hope so.â€ He stopped there without elaborating.
Yzak and Shiho were confused. Lately the Commander had become more secretive and they werenâ€™t sure as to what to make of it.
Back in the battle, the Archangel continued its assault on the enemy fleet. That was until a message was received and read out loud.
â€œWeâ€™re to fall back?â€ Murrue asked, â€œAre you sure?â€
â€Affirmative.â€ Sai answered, â€œRepresentative Athha wants the Archangel to withdraw and head straight to Kaguya.â€
â€œKaguya?â€ Neumann asked, â€œIsnâ€™t that where the mass driver facilities are housed?â€
â€œVery well, weâ€™ll follow our orders.â€ Murrue muttered.
All around, every Orb unit received the orders to pull back. All soldiers and pilots wasted little time in following them.
â€œBegin retreat! Fall back!â€
â€œKaguya will be the rallying point!â€
The Panzer, Buster, M1S hurried towards Kayura, along with the few remaining M1 Astrays.
Not an hour had passed before everyone gathered in the command center. Uzumi explained what the situation was becoming and what had to be done. However, his plan was shocking.
â€œLeave Orb?â€ Murrue asked. â€œYouâ€™re telling us to just run away?â€
â€œIâ€™m sure that youâ€™ve realized that we have already lost.â€ Uzumi grimly stated, â€œItâ€™s only a matter of time before it completely falls.â€
â€œWhat are you saying, father?â€ Cagalli asked.
Uzumi looked to her. â€œThe citizens have all been evacuated and theyâ€™ll be taken care of elsewhere. From here on, we will be the ones to take care of the responsibilities.â€ He turned back to the others. â€œEven if we must lose Orb, there are things that we mustnâ€™t lose. The current actions of the Earth Forces are under the direct influence of the leader of Blue Cosmos, Muruta Azrael.â€
This was a shock to Athrun, Dearka, and Cade. Of course, Cade felt a great deal of hatred, as his parents had been killed by Blue Cosmos terrorists.
â€œTo make matters worse,â€ Uzumi continued, â€œthe PLANTs are now under the rule of Patrick Zala, a man who views Coordinators as an entirely different species and Naturals as lower lifeforms.â€
Dearka and Cade shifted a nervous glance to Athrun. They knew that he was the son of Patrick.
â€œThe way things are developing, humanity will be split into two armed camps that refuse to recognize the otherâ€™s existence.â€ Uzumi said, â€œIs this what you want to see for the future? If you desire another, then please take what little hope there is and do what you can to alter from this path to doom. Itâ€™ll mean a hard road ahead, but you must understand why this is necessary, Miss Ramius.â€
Murrue nodded, but realized that it was going to be a heavy burden. â€œWe share the same hope for the worldâ€™s future. We will do what we must to see those wishes become reality.â€
â€œThen I suggest you all get ready to depart.â€
Several minutes later, Orb technicians hurried to prepare the Archangel for departure. It wouldnâ€™t be able to launch into space on its own power, so a pair of additional booster engines was attached to the sides. With them, the ship would be able to achieve escape velocity. Further down the facility, the Izumo-class ship, Kusanagi, readied to embark as well. Like the Archangel, it couldnâ€™t escape Earthâ€™s gravity by itself, but instead it would be launched from the mass driver.
Michael and other M1s stood by, waiting. He had been assigned to guard the ships from any surprise attacks by any Earth Alliance assault force. All were ordered to hold their ground until the last possible moment before they were ready to board the Kusanagi.
As they waited, Kira and Athrun, and Dearka and Cade stood about until they received word to board whatever ship they were instructed to.
â€œYou know,â€ Dearka said as he paced, â€œThere is still a chance that Carpentaria will welcome us back. After all, weâ€™ve been fighting the Earth Forces all this time.â€
Cade snorted. He knew that he couldnâ€™t do such a thing like return to ZAFT, especially with someone like Patrick Zala as leader.
Athrun absently listened. â€œShe called a soldier of ZAFT.â€ He muttered, â€œSince this war started, I thought you just had to fight whoever you were told to and follow the orders of your nation no matter what. But nowâ€¦Iâ€™m just not sure anymore. Whatâ€™s happening to everything?â€
â€We all have questions, Athrun.â€ Kira said, â€œYou, me, everyone here all has things they want to see for the future. If you come along, weâ€™ll try to find whatever answers we can.â€
Athrun smiled and looked back at the line of M1s that prepared to board the Kusanagi. He knew Kira had a valid point, and maybe his friend could help him through this turbulent point in time.
Meanwhile, inside the Earth Forceâ€™s flagship, Azrael sat up in surprise at the latest reports coming in from the frontlines.
â€œTheyâ€™re gathering at Kaguya?â€
â€Yes, it looks like theyâ€™re getting ready to make their last stand.â€
Azrael smirked. â€œAttha still is insisting to drag this out. Actually I find this amusing. Itâ€™ll be more satisfying when we crush them all into the dust.â€
â€œWhatâ€™s more, sir.â€ The Captain said, â€œWe already have an advance squad at Kaguya consisting of several Strike Daggers and one of the new Sword Calamity units. Theyâ€™ve been ordered to watch, but not engage until we give the word.â€
â€Well then, letâ€™s get those four ready.â€ Azrael said, â€œIâ€™m sure they wouldnâ€™t want to miss out on this. As for the other squad, letâ€™s just have them sit back and not get in the way.â€
Orb technitians explained how the Archangel would be launched into outer space. Using spare boosters from the Kusanagi, the extra power would assist the ship in reaching high altitudes. However, the Lohengrin would need to be fire at the same time, thereby creating a Positronic Interference Effect, which would further increase acceleration. This would allow the ship to escape Earth.
Positioned along an elevated ridge overlooking the facility, Earth Alliance officer Captain Amadeus and his team watched their enemyâ€™s movement. They had expected to find the Orb forces fortifying Kaguya, but were surprised to see the two warships preparing to lift off. This indeed was an unexpected move.
â€œWhat should we do now, sir?â€ one of the pilots asked.
â€œWe have our orders.â€ Amadeus answered, â€œall we can do is report in and wait.â€
â€Screw that and our orders.â€ A voice muttered over the channel.
Amadeus turned his Sword Calamity back to see one of his soldiers, Gene, aiming his Strike Daggerâ€™s beam rifle. However, any shot taken from their current location wouldnâ€™t be accurate. â€œWait, what are you doing?â€
â€œIâ€™ve got those Orb cowards dead center in my scope.â€
â€œNo, donâ€™t do it, Gene!â€
It was too late. The overeager pilot fired off one shot, trying to hit any of the enemy mobile suits. Of course, the shot went wide and harmlessly struck an empty building.
The line of M1s halted abruptly as the explosion rocked the ground.
â€œOh my god!â€ one of the pilots cried, â€œWhatâ€™d that shot come from?â€
â€œEnemy units have been spotted to the northwest!â€ the voice over the PA shouted. â€œHurry and load the remaining M1s! Prepare for immediate take-off!â€
The M1s all withdrew back towards the Kusanagi, quickening their pace. However, the M1S stepped out of line and took off.
â€œMichael, what are you doing?â€ a pilot shouted.
â€œIâ€™m going to tray and hold them off!â€ Michael replied, â€œI know itâ€™s risky, but if they get close, weâ€™re all dead!â€ He took his mobile suit to intercept the enemy units.
Back on the ridge, Amadeus scowled his subordinate. â€You idiot, you just gave away our position! Now weâ€™ve lost the element of surprise! We have no choice but to launch an attack now!â€ He then brought his Sword Calamity around, leading the charge down the ridge.
â€œDumbass!â€ the other pilot got out before following behind.
The bridge of the Earth Alliance flagship was in an uproar. Officers scrambled once word of the premature strike reached their ears. Azrael himself was annoyed, knowing that this move could upset everything.
â€œDirector.â€ An officer called over, â€œThe machines are ready. Shall I give the order to launch?â€
â€Of course, you dolt!â€ Azrael barked, â€œSend them out immeadatily!â€ Moments later, he watched as the Raider, Forbidden, Calamity, and Scorpio took off.
â€œEnemy mobile suits approaching from the ridge and four more are incoming!â€ Miriallia chimed in over the comlink channel.
Everyone had boarded their respective mobile suits by then and the Freedom and Justice waited to move out to defend the ships as the launched.
â€œThe Buster and Panzer arenâ€™t equipped for an aerial battle!â€ Athrun said, â€œDearka and Cade, you guys get on board the Archangel!â€
â€Iâ€™m going to help Michael!â€ Cade shouted.
â€œNo, the Archangelâ€™s launching right away, and the Kusanagi will be right behind!â€ Kira yelled at him. â€œIf we donâ€™t leave now, all is lost.â€
Cade grimaced but he knew there wasnâ€™t anything he could do. He hoped that Michael would get back in time before the launch.
Back inside the command center, all hands rushed to finish their tasks. With the sudden surprise attack, everything was now threatened. Uzumiâ€™s eyes raced over various readouts on different consoles. He looked up to find his daughter still inside the doorway.
â€œWhat are you still doing here, Cagalli?â€ he shouted.
â€œFather, please!â€ She pleaded, â€œThereâ€™s no reason you have to stay! We escape together!â€
Uzumi grabbed her arm and began to drag her behind him. â€œWe have our responsibilities, as you have yours! If no one is left to carry out our hopes, then everything is lost!â€
Outside, the attack was underway. Michael took cover and sniping at the enemy mobile suits as they approached. By now Athrun and Kira took to the air and attacked from the sky.
One enemy in particular caught his attention. Its outer appearance suggests itâ€™s a melee variant of the new artillery G-series unit. Itâ€™s obviously faster and more mobile, and it was heading for his position. The left hand of his Silver Astray reached for the grenade launcher, cocked it and loaded a round into the chamber. Aiming it at the incoming bogey, he fired both a beam rifle shot and HE grenade at the enemy, hoping it would strikeâ€¦
Amadeus, still approaching the enemy facility, suddenly saw a flurry of beam shots coming towards him. Quickly firing his thrusters to dodge, three of the shots impacted on his chest, turning the Scylla to a useless piece of junk.
â€œEh, it wouldnâ€™t have worked to full potential anyway.â€ Before he could get a bead on the target, it had disappeared.
Then, before Amadeus could react, a grenade round hit him square in the chest, sending him into a backward flip. As he was attempting to regain control, Amadeus could feel the painful feeling of a beam rifle shot cutting into the lower torso. Sparks began flying around in his cockpit as he attempted to regain control. After a few moments of struggling, Amadeus managed to get his Sword Calamity stabilized, and immediately spotted his barb.
It was one of the Astrays, painted on silver with what seemed to be a modified beam rifle. â€œBastard!â€ he screamed out as he charged at Michael, pulling out one of his anti-ship swords.
Kira and Athrun easily disposed of the enemy mobile suits with little effort. Kira then saw a set of four objects on a direct course towards Kaguya. He didnâ€™t need to zoom in on them to know who they were. â€œAthrun, itâ€™s those same guys!â€
â€œI see them.â€ Athrun said, â€œLetâ€™s just try to hold them back.â€
Behind them, the Archangel rose into the sky. Even at the present altitude, it was still in danger. Both Lohengrin cannons were deployed and were primed to fire.
Murrue felt the sweat on her brow and she prayed that the plan would work. â€œFire!â€
Both batteries fired a positronic onslaught straight into the sky. Seconds later, the ship was enveloped in what could be described as a glowing stream. The main engines and the spare boosters suddenly got a surge in power, and the ship was being propelled much faster. The Archangel soon disappeared from sight.
As soon as he was in range, he made a downward slash at Michael, who had already dropped his beam rifle, pulled out the saber and furiously parried. While in such close proximity, he opened fire with his CIWS at the Sword Calamityâ€™s head, seeing if he could scramble the sensors. One stray bullet managed to smash into the Sword Calamityâ€™s left eye, shattering the casting and revealing the optic sensor underneath.
Amadeus suddenly saw all vision in the left side go black as another CIWS burst destroyed the left eye and blew out some plates in the left side of the Sword Calamityâ€™s head with an accompanying explosion. Michael then pulled out his other beam saber, lunged at the right leg and burnt a nice, clean hole through the joint connecting the upper and lower legs. As Amadeus struggled to keep up the parry with this enemy, he could see that it was no ordinary pilot.
The Kusanagi had been fully loaded and all components configured for launch. The facility shook as the battle outside drew closer. At last Uzumi and his daughter reached the ship as Kisaka waved to them.
â€œLord Uzumi, Cagalli, hurry!â€
Uzumi shoved Cagalli towards Kisaka, but remained back. â€œHurry, Kisaka. Please take care of my foolish daughter.â€
â€Father, no.â€ Cagalli still pleaded.
Uzumi looked to her and his hardened expression became softer. He wiped tears that dripped from her eyes. â€œStop giving me that look, it doesnâ€™t suit the daughter of the Lion of Orb.â€ He said, comforting her. â€œI wonâ€™t be coming, but you wonâ€™t be alone.â€ He then handed her photo of a young woman cradling two newborns in her arms. â€œYour brother will be beside you.â€
Cagalli was shocked by what he had just said and looked on the back of the photo. In the lower right corner two names were scribbled on, â€œKiraâ€ and â€œCagalliâ€. She gasped and felt nearly overwhelmed by this revelation. A nod from her father only confirmed the truth.
â€œIâ€™m so proud of you, Cagalli.â€ He smiled, â€œI feel very fortunate to have been your father.â€ At that moment, the hull door was sealed shut, separating them, and the catwalk pulled away. â€œGo now, everything rest on you all from here on!â€ He called before retreating back to the command center.
The Kusanagiâ€™s bridge crew performed the final systems check and found everything was ready.
â€œDeparture of all personnel except those in Division C is confirmed.â€
â€œAll systems are a go.â€
â€œStart the final launch sequence.â€
One controller switched over to the one pilot who hadnâ€™t returned by then still. â€œMichael, weâ€™re leaving now!â€
Michael knew there wasnâ€™t any time for them to open the hatch, so he did the next best thing and grappled onto the side of the hull to hitch a ride. He only hoped to drive his current foe back to long to do so.
Growling in frustration, with his free hand Amadeus took out one of the combat knives stored in the now damaged leg below, and lunged into the upper torso of the Silver Astray, managing to stab the knife near the upper left shoulder, but only hitting the enemyâ€™s shield. Michael then detached his shield, pulled out his spare beam saberâ€¦and stabbed the Sword Calamity directly in the upper chest, but missing the energy battery. However there was an overload in the systems and the Sword Calamity fell to its hands and knees.
Michael rushed over to where the ship was still fortunately docked. He leapt onto the back section and held on tight, for a second later the ship started moving, accelerating rapidly.
The Kusanagi slid along the mass driver like a sled, gaining further momentum. However, it would be vulnerable for some time until it was clear.
Kira and Athrun saw the ship and fired their thrusters to maneuver to a point where theyâ€™d meet with it. As they retreated, the four enemy Gundams were in pursuit, firing their complete arsenals at the duo. As they neared the Kusanagi, they saw a familiar silver mobile suit standing on the shipâ€™s hull. They knew that it was Michael.
â€œCome on, guys!â€ He reached out the Silver Astrayâ€™s hand.
The Freedom was first to reach the ship, grabbing hold of the Silver Astray. Kira pulled himself on, then turned around and reached for Athrun. Enemy fire was becoming more intense, with the Justice falling behind. Athrun increased his speed as much as he could, finally getting close enough for the Freedom and Silver Astray to grab him. Once he too was safely on, he and Kira trained their weapons at their pursuers and fired. The combined blast shot up a massive cloud of sea spray, blinding the enemy units. This had bought the Kusanagi enough time and it safely arced into the sky.
Down in the command center, Uzumi saw the ship flying safely away. The plan had succeeded, now it was time for the final phase. He was going to give the Earth Alliance a pyrrhic victory with his last act. He pushed the detonation switch and instantly Kaguya was engulfed in flames. Implosions collapsed the facility and the mass driver crumbled section by section. Finally the command center turned to flaming rubble. It was all over in a matter of seconds.
From where she and Kisaka still stood inside the Kusanagi, Cagalli saw everything through the window. She gasped when she realized what had happened and sudden grief overtook her. â€œFather!â€ she screamed and she began to sob uncontrollably.
"Aaahh!"-The last words of many a mobile suit pilot.
Thu Aug 14, 2008 11:22 am
|Newtype Emo Guy|
Joined: Wed Dec 06, 2006 5:07 pm
Location: Somewhere in Kansas
New Phase 40
In Earthâ€™s orbit, work was being completed on the Kusanagiâ€™s components. M1 Astrays and the Freedom and Justice aided in the work. Like a giant puzzle, the ship was reassembled piece by piece. Soon the various hull parts were placed together and the ship was ready for travel and combat.
â€œWeâ€™re done with the docking operations.â€ Kisaka radioed over the Archangel, â€œAfter a final systems check, weâ€™ll be set to disembark.
â€œThatâ€™s good to hear.â€ Murrue replied, but her face turned somber. â€œHowâ€™s Cagalli?â€
Kisaka hesitated. â€œShe has calmed down somewhat, but itâ€™s been very hard on her. Sheâ€™s asked for some time alone for now.â€
Murrue nodded. â€œAll right, with your permission, weâ€™ll come over and discuss our next move.â€
â€œGood, weâ€™ll make preparations for you and await your arrival.â€ Kisaka said, â€œOver and out.â€
The channel was closed and Murrue and Mu headed towards the docking bay.
Inside the crew quarters section of the Kusanagi, Cagalli sat alone in her roomâ€™s lavatory. Her eyes were red and puffed from her crying and she felt like her world had collapsed. She stepped over to the sink and turned on the water, filling a small basin. She plunged her head into the cool water. When she straightened up and her vision cleared, she looked at her reflection. Her hair was a wet and tangled mess and her face looked tired and ragged.
It was then her intercom buzzed. â€œCagalli?â€
She recognized it was Kira, but she didnâ€™t answer.
â€œIs everything all right?â€ Kira asked.
She still didnâ€™t answer right away. She grabbed a towel and dried off her face. She came out and answered her door, finding both Kira and Athrun standing outside.
â€œSorry.â€ She said, averting her glance, â€œBut could you please let have a little more time to myself?â€
Kira nodded. â€œSure.â€ He then left, Athrun following him.
Cagalli returned to her bed and pulled the photo her father gave her from her pocket. She stared at the two infants, knowing one was in fact herself. The other was apparently Kira, a long lost sibling she had no knowledge of. But how was it possible, and how would she bring such a delicate subject up with him?
A short time later, a tiny shuttle launched from the Archangel and headed for the Kusanagi. Mu piloted the craft, with Murrue sitting next to him in the copilot chair. Behind them sat Cade, who all but pleaded to be allowed to accompany them. Since maintenance on the Panzer was complete, Murrue gave her approval.
â€œThe real challenge is ahead of us.â€ Mu said.
â€œYes, I know that.â€ She answered, â€œOrb has left us with a heavy burden. I only we are able to carry out the task.â€
Once they all arrived on board, Kisaka met up with them and led through the Kusanagi. Along the way, he explained the shipâ€™s layout and history.
â€œThe Kusanagi was originally used as a communications ship with Heliopolis.â€ He said, â€œIt is capable enough as a mobile suit carrier with adequate armaments, but it still doesnâ€™t compare to the Archangel.â€
As she listened, Murrue happened to turn her head to see the M1 Astray pilots Asagi, Mayura, and Juri wave to her as they passed. It was then that Cade came to an abrupt stop and kicked off the wall towards them. She and Mu chuckled, now understanding why he requested to come along. They had heard a little about him spending time with Juri.
â€œSo, this ship is made up of five compartments.â€ Mu said, getting back on subject. â€œAnd everyone on board travel between them all through the center. Talk about efficient.â€
Kisaka nodded and they turned one last corner before reaching the bridge. They entered and Murrue and Mu were even more surprised.
â€œThis is just like the Archangelâ€™s bridge.â€ Murrue commented.
â€œThis surprises you?â€ Kisaka asked, â€œAfter all, both ships were designed by Morgenroete.â€ He turned to his left. â€œCan you bring up a map of this region of space?â€
â€œSure.â€ A familiar voice answered. Murrue and Mu looked to see a woman whom they had recently been acquainted.
â€œChief Erica Simmons.â€ Mu said, â€œItâ€™s good to see you made it as well.â€
â€œLikewise.â€ Erica replied, â€œWeâ€™ll be using M1s in the unfamiliar environment of space, so Iâ€™m going to be busy for a while.â€ She typed the keyboard in front of her, bringing up a map on a nearby screen.
â€œThis is our present location.â€ Kisaka said, pointing to a flashing green dot. â€œAs you know, all the PLANTs are located in L5 and Artemis is in L3. For the time being, we should make our way towards the L4 area.â€
By this time Kira, Athrun, and Cagalli had joined them on the bridge.
â€œWhatâ€™s at L4?â€ Murrue asked.
â€œThere are some abandoned colonies located there.â€ Kisaka said, â€œFor now at least the Kusanagi and Archangel wonâ€™t need supplies for some time, but we still have limits, especially concerning water.â€ He pointed to the map. â€œThe colonies at L4 were damaged and abandoned shortly after the fighting began. While they are uninhabited, theyâ€™ll be useful as a means of a water supply.â€
â€œThis sounds awfully familiar.â€ Murrue muttered, remembering the similar dilemma the Archangel faced months ago concerning a low water supply.
â€œDonâ€™t worry.â€ Mu assured her, â€œThis isnâ€™t like Junius Seven.â€
â€œThere might be several fully functioning colonies at L4.â€ Athrun spoke up, getting everyoneâ€™s attention. â€œQuite a while back, ZAFT investigated reports of a suspicious group roaming the area, but found nothing out of the ordinary. Also, while nobody actually lives there, there should be some colonies operational facilities. Theyâ€™d be prefect for an out of the way hideout for the time being.â€
â€œThat sounds like a great plan.â€ Kira said.
The others thought about it, when Mu spoke up.
â€œHowever, are you sure that youâ€™re okay with this?â€ he asked, â€œAnd not just you, this goes for the other two from ZAFT.â€
â€œCommander?â€ Murrue asked, but Mu held up his hand.
â€œI saw what you all did at Orb and your action spoke for themselves, but I canâ€™t help but notice the uniforms youâ€™re still wearing. And, depending how things go there will a very good chance that weâ€™ll need up fighting ZAFT forces. This wonâ€™t be like Orb, so are you really ready for this?â€ He paused and then added, â€œAfter all, you are Patrick Zalaâ€™s son.â€
Cagalli leered at him. â€œWhat does that have to do with anything?â€ she demanded.
â€œFor a soldier to defect is a more serious matter than you seem to think.â€ Mu shot back, â€œOn top of that, itâ€™s all the more serious when your own father is the leader of the nation as well. Itâ€™s difficult to fight a war unless you believe in the cause youâ€™re fighting for, all the more so when that belief is turned on his head.â€ He faced Athrun again. â€œI hate to press the issue, but I need to know that I can count on you if we fight together. So can I?â€
There was heavy silence filling the bridge. Not a word was uttered for several long lasting moments. Athrun finally took a deep breath.
â€œAll I can say is this. Recently Iâ€™ve seen, heard, and thought many things about whatâ€™s supposed to be right and wrong. Iâ€™ll admit there are some things I do understand and a lot that I donâ€™t. The one thing that is clear to me is that the world I hope for is shared by you all. Iâ€™ll do what I can to see that our shared goal is achieved.â€
Mu hesitated to answer, but then smiled. â€œYou sound very determined, and thatâ€™s a good answer.â€ He then looked to Murrue and Kisaka. â€œOrb has entrusted us with a heavy task, and we are only two ships. It may be impossible to do anything that wonâ€™t be in vain.â€
â€œYou know, there are people in the PLANTs who think the same way.â€ Athrun said.
Kira turned around. â€œYou mean Lacus?â€
â€œOh, the pink princess, huh?â€ Mu commented.
â€œYeah, sheâ€™s Athrunâ€™s fiancÃ©e.â€ Kira said.
There were some gasps and Athrun saw Cagalli give him a quick glance, but turned away just as fast.
Of course, Athrun knew that wasnâ€™t the case anymore, as his engagement to her was nullified by his father. However, this wasnâ€™t the time or the place to inform the others of this just yet. â€œShe and her father are being hunted as traitors.â€ He said, â€œBy order of my father.â€
At that very moment, a message was being broadcasted on various channels through out the PLANTs. In it was Lacus, who pleaded the case of ending the war and building a peaceful coexistence with the Natural. She went on about the recent findings of the declining birthrates among later generation Coordinators. As her message continued broadcasting, Zala and the ruling Radical faction hurried to put out countering messages. Leading members such as Ezalia Joule and Zala himself claimed Lacusâ€™ statements were nothing more than traitorous propaganda and that the PLANTs would soon win the war. As for the concern over the birthrates, the Radicals said that the very best scientists were working nonstop and would soon find a solution. It was a fight of clashing claims and ideals, with the populace left to decide who was right.
After finish her latest message, Lacus sat back and sighed. She hoped her words at least made the people stop and spur them to take action. Forces loyal to her and her father joined together and formed what was called the Clyne Faction. Their aim was to undermine the authority of the Radicals and organize a means to which bring about a peaceful end to the war.
â€œMiss Lacus,â€ a voice said, â€œItâ€™s almost time to move on.â€
She turned to see Martin DaCosta in the doorway. After he had become part of her private security, he planned for her and her father Siegel to move to a new safe house every so often so theyâ€™d avoid capture and execution.
â€œIs there any news on the fighting on Earth?â€ Lacus asked.
â€œOrb was able to destroy their mass driver before the Earth Alliance could seize it.â€ DaCosta told her, â€œHowever, weâ€™ve learned that the Victoria spaceport is currently under attack, and it looks as though the Alliance has the advantage.â€
â€I had heard that ZAFT has a great deal of their forces stationed at the base.â€
DaCosta lowered his eyes. â€œThey do.â€
The Third Battle of Victoria waged on. The Earth Alliance, now with their own mobile suits, had come to reclaim their mass driver from ZAFT. With the scores of Strike Daggers in the fray, the Alliance seemed poised to achieve their objectives.
ZAFT forces had the contingency plan to self-destruct the mass driver to deny its use to the Alliance, as Orb had done. The command unit of a custom red and yellow colored LaGOWE streaked across the battlefield, making its way towards the rear lines of defense. Reaching its destination, the commander joined a group of GINNs stationed near the mass driver.
â€œHowâ€™s everything coming?â€
â€Sir, weâ€™ve almost planted the explosives.â€ One of the GINN pilots answered, â€œEverything will be ready in a couple of minutes.â€
â€All right, so far no enemy has gotten this far.â€ The commander explained, â€œAs long as the rest of our forces hold them off for a little more, it wonâ€™t matter if we lose this base.â€
At that moment, the entire plan began to fall apart. A green shot came from an unseen source and took out one of the GINNs. The remaining ZAFT mobile suits went on alert, but didnâ€™t see anything. There was nothing on any sensors and no visual sign of an enemy. It couldnâ€™t have been a sniper or long range artillery. Then another shot was fired, destroying a second GINN. Right then the rest of the ZAFT squad was almost panicked by what seemed to be an invisible enemy. The LaGOWE sped forward, even though its operators were all but fighting blind. In one split second, a beam appeared to be produced in thin air and sliced the LaGOWE apart.
Now all that remained were two GINNs. The first of the final pilots was now panicking completely and fired wildly. Rounds tore through the air, none coming close to whatever was attacking. There then was a blur and the GINNâ€™s cockpit and torso looked like it imploded inward, as though it was smashed by the unseen foe. It then collapsed. Now only one mobile suit remained standing as the last defender. Taking up a second rifle from the first fallen GINN, the pilot saw another blur and then a strange waving glow before he realized an enemy mobile suit was standing before him.
The machine looked similar to the other Earth Alliance mobile suits, apart from the different armaments and dark coloring. The ZAFT pilot wasted no time in raising one rifle and opening fire on the enemy machine. He only managed to squeeze off several rounds before a shot from the other mobile suit took off the GINNâ€™s right arm at just below the shoulder and nearly knocked it over. As it staggered to recover, the Earth Alliance mobile suit charged, igniting a beam saber mounted in the shield. The ZAFT pilot tried to bring up the second rifle, but it was already too late. The saber skewered the GINNâ€™s cockpit and it was over in an instant. The ZAFT mobile suit crumpled to the ground. The Alliance mobile suit shut down its weapon.
Then one by one, four additional units seemed to materialize. They stood next to the first, their pilots checking for any remaining opposition. But there was none, and they knew that they had succeeded in their mission.
â€œCaptain Sutherland, this is Dark Force Leader.â€ The squad commander said, â€œThe enemy has been neutralized and weâ€™ve secured the mass driver.â€
Several hours later, news of the Earth Allianceâ€™s victory reached the Clyne Faction. At the safe house, very piece of equipment was hastily loaded and transport to the next location. DaCosta stepped out, following by Lacus, whose face was concealed. Just then, another of their members rushed forward.
â€œSir,â€ he said to DaCosta, â€œThereâ€™s terrible news. Master Siegelâ€¦â€ He stopped when he saw Lacus.
â€Master Siegelâ€™s been killed.â€
â€œI donâ€™t know how, but Zalaâ€™s men found the safe house. Apparently our men were outnumbered three-to-one.â€
This indeed was crushing news. Lacus lowered her eyes, but she didnâ€™t cry. She needed to be strong for now. Sheâ€™d grief for her father soon. â€œWe have to go.â€ She whispered.
Meanwhile, work on the Kusanagi continued. Every mobile suit was being given a close examination and equipment overhaul. That and the pilots were preparing themselves for combat in outer space.
â€œYou idiot!â€ a shout echoed through the hanger, â€œWhat the hell were you thinking?â€
A small crowd of technicians and pilots hurried over to where the commotion brewed. There stood Cade, face to face with Michael in an argument.
â€œWhat was going through your head, going off to fight against a number of enemy mobile suits all by yourself?â€ Cade demanded.
â€œWhat, I felt I couldnâ€™t just stand by and let them shoot us down before we could even launch.â€ Michael countered. â€œBesides, I wasnâ€™t alone out there. Kira and Athrun were out as well.â€
â€œMaybe so, but it was still foolhardy. What if your mobile suit had been disabled or if you had been left behind? Youâ€™d be dead right now.â€
The two threw insults at one another and some of the observers thought of fistfight could break out. That was until intervention in the form of Asagi, Mayura, and Juri came forward.
â€œWill you two knock it off?â€ Asagi said, slapping the guys across their heads.
â€œRight, nothing good comes from meaningless arguing.â€ Mayura added.
â€œMichael may have pulled off a stupid stunt, but you have to admit that it held off the Strike Daggers and that unknown mobile suit.â€ Juri then said.
Cade and Michael knew the girls had a very valid point and then shook hands and dropped the subject. Besides, there were other matters that took precedence. Cade looked around the hanger to see mechanics work on the compliment of M1 Astrays, but one mobile suit stood out. It was a very familiar design.
â€œThe Strike?â€ he asked, puzzled.
â€œOh, thatâ€™s not exactly the Strike per say.â€ Michael informed him, â€œThis is the MBF-02 Strike Rouge. Erica slapped it together after we happened to swipe some data from the Earth Forces on Heliopolis. Itâ€™s exactly the same as the Strike, but for one feature.â€
â€œAnd that being?â€
â€œOh, youâ€™ll see when itâ€™s ready.â€ Michael said, rubbing his hands together.
Cade shrugged. He didnâ€™t mind the occasional surprise.
Back on Earth, at the newly captured Victoria spaceport, the Earth Alliance troops surveyed the battlefield. Various damaged mobile suits were scattered about as far as the eye could see. One solider saw a pair of vultures peering into the exposed cockpit of a DINN and went to investigate. Shooing them away, he heard moans of pain and looked inside to see the ZAFT pilot was wounded but still alive.
â€œThis is for Panama.â€ He then fired, killing the soldier. Now heâ€™d leave the corpse for whatever scavenger would come along.
Overhead, a group of large aircraft closed in, bringing large amounts of fresh supplies and dozens of soldiers. Among them were both Azrael and Sutherland. They looked down at the aftermath of the carnage with delight. After over a year of mobile suit dominance by ZAFT, the Earth Forces had at last turned the table. Of course the same almost had happened at Panama had it not been for ZAFTâ€™s trump card.
â€œI am indeed impressed.â€ Azrael said.
â€œThe Strike Daggers perform well, and the new Blitz Daggers are proving their worth.â€
â€œIâ€™ve heard you have another new machine of your own, Captain.â€ Azrael then commented, â€œThe GAT-X408 if I remember correctly, and thatâ€™s under development at the Ptolemaeus base.â€
â€œYes, the Montana has traits of the Raider, Forbidden, and Calamity and some original equipment. And the pilot is bit lessâ€¦eccentric than the others.â€
â€œMay I inquire on who the pilot of the Montana is?â€
Sutherland twisted his head. â€œI selected Lieutenant Commander Simon Parallax.â€
â€Really?â€ Azrael said, intrigued. â€œIt surprises me, what with little he accomplished at Orb.â€ He referred to the fact that Parallax was taken out of action by a medical reason.
Sutherland huffed. â€œYes, but the medics have corrected the problem. As you know, he has abilities that some consider extraordinary.â€
â€œThen Iâ€™m eager to see him in the X408, but there are more pressing matters to address.â€
â€œYes, those unknown machines our forces faced at Orb.â€ Sutherland sneered, â€œThere are still too many obstacles we must face. I understand Orb shared much of its technology with the PLANTs. It occurs to me that those machines just might have been made by ZAFT.â€
â€œIt doesnâ€™t matter really who made them. At that really matters is that we didnâ€™t and something has to be done about it.â€
â€œSo thatâ€™s the reason youâ€™re going into space?â€
â€There was something about them that got my attention.â€ Azrael said, â€œCall it a hunch, but I believe that they were running on nuclear power.â€
Sutherland was surprised by the claim. â€œAre you serious?â€
â€œI donâ€™t have any solid proof, but that much power is impossible with anything else with current technology.â€
â€The Coordinators did develop the N-Jammers, so it isnâ€™t out of the question that they developed something to nullify them.â€ Sutherland rubbed his chin. â€œIf that is true, then there could be serious consequences.â€
â€œWe cannot let things in outer space to become out of control by allowing them to run loose as they have up to this point in time.â€ Azrael narrowed his eyes, â€œI plan to take care of them personally.â€
Back aboard the Kusanagi, Athrun watched as work was nearing completion. However, his mind was now on the fact of his father was now leading the PLANTs and he feared what course of action they would take. He also feared for Lacus, wondering about her safety.
He looked to see Kira entered. He was already dressed in his flightsuit. â€œThings seem to be under control here, so letâ€™s return to the Archangel.â€
Just then the sound of another door opening got their attention and they saw Cagalli enter. â€œKira.â€ She said, â€œThereâ€™s something we need to talk about.â€
â€œOh, Iâ€™ll give you some privacy.â€ Athrun turned to leave, but Cagalli stopped him.
â€œNo, just please stay.â€
Athrun nodded and Cagalli passed him and went over to Kira.
â€œWhatâ€™s on your mind?â€ he asked.
Cagalli gulped and reached into her pocket. â€œThis.â€ She pulled out the photo.
Kira took it as Athrun came over for a look. â€œA woman and her babies? Who is this?â€
â€œLook on the back.â€ Cagalli said.
Kira looked and gasped when he saw the names scribbled on the back.
â€œMy father gave me this just before I boarded the Kusanagi.â€ She explained, â€œHe told me that I wouldnâ€™t be alone, that my brother would be with me.â€
Kiraâ€™s eyes widened at the mention of the word â€œbrotherâ€. Athrun glanced back and forth at the photo and his friends. He suddenly could see a resemblance, but he wasnâ€™t sure. â€œTwins?â€ he thought to himself.
â€œWhat does this all mean?â€ Cagalli asked, â€œI donâ€™t understand.â€
â€Whatever it may be, this only doesnâ€™t tell us anything really.â€
â€œBut what if thisâ€¦?â€ she said, â€œWhat does that make me? Who am I really?â€
â€œDwelling on it wonâ€™t do any good, Cagalli.â€ Kira said, comforting her. â€œIt doesnâ€™t change the fact the Lord Uzumi was your father.â€
â€œKira.â€ She whispered, â€œIâ€™m just confused.â€
A short time later, she watched as the Freedom and Justice moved to exit the hanger. Kira took a glance at her as she stood in the waiting room.
â€œShouldnâ€™t you stay with her for now?â€ Athrunâ€™s voice asked over the radio.
â€œNo, if Iâ€™m with her, she wouldnâ€™t be able to stop thinking about it.â€ Kira answered, â€œItâ€™d best if we both had some time to let this sink in.â€
Of course, he had to admit that he too couldnâ€™t help thinking about this situation. It was like as things continued, there were more questions that lacked answers.
â€œKira, on another matter.â€ Athrun said, â€œWhen we get back, you think Captain Ramius will let me borrow a shuttle?â€
â€I need to make a visit to the PLANTs. I need to speak to father about a lot of things.â€
On the far side of the moon, the Earth Allianceâ€™s military base built into the Ptolemaeus crater was bustling with activity as ships were either getting supplied or entering through the doors. At the moment, one of their Cornelius class ships was landing with supplies for one ship in particular that was preparing for war exercises, and to receive its captain. Meanwhile, announcements were going all around the place ordering various ground crews to switch their priority to one ship.
Docked near some generic Nelsons in Gate 406 was the second ship of the Archangel class, LCAM-02XD Dominion. It was a definite opposite compared to the Archangel, with improved radar systems and a slightly modified hull structure. Its stealthy color scheme was a sharp contrast to its sister, perhaps reflecting the Allianceâ€™s state of mind.
Meanwhile, doors opened in the base administratorâ€™s office to reveal a person stepping in and giving a perfect military salute. Natarle Badgiruelâ€™s violet eyes were looking forward and never back. She was full of pride, recently promoted to Lieutenant Commander after serving shore side since JOSH-A.
â€œLieutenant Commander Badgiruel of the 7th Mobile Fleet, reporting, sir.â€
Sitting in his comfy chair, Commander Patrick Haise stood up halfway and looked Natarle in the eye as he prepared to give her new orders.
â€œYouâ€™ll be in charge of the second ship of the Archangel class. Iâ€™m assigning you command of the Dominion.â€
As she received her new orders, Natarle smiled inwardly at this turn of luck while she kept her tight posture. Now she would have her own Archangel to command, and this time, she would command with proper military etiquette and a hard fist. No slackers, no excuses, no prisoners.
"Aaahh!"-The last words of many a mobile suit pilot.
Last edited by Charismatic Enigma on Tue Oct 14, 2008 1:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Mon Sep 08, 2008 11:28 am
|Mysterious Masked Dude|
Joined: Sat Sep 16, 2006 7:45 pm
(posted with CE's permission)
New Phase 41
Inside the Archangelâ€™s hanger, Athrun finished suiting up as his shuttle was being prepped for launch. It was one seated and designed for high speed transportation. With it he would reach the PLANTs in less than several hours. As he was leaving, Kira and Dearka were there to see him off.
â€œDearka,â€ Athrun said, â€œif anything happens to me, I want you to pilot the Justice.â€
â€œNo way.â€ Dearka chuckled, â€œYouâ€™re the only one for that mobile suit.â€
â€œWait a minute!â€ some called out. Suddenly Cagalli appeared and all but tackled Athrun. â€œWhy are you doing this? Why are you going back to the PLANTs?â€
Athrun shifted his glance. â€œIâ€™m sorry I didnâ€™t tell you this earlier.â€
â€œSorry doesnâ€™t cut!â€ she yelled, â€œWhatâ€™ll happen if you donâ€™t return without that?â€ She pointed to the Justice.
â€œIâ€™m leaving the Justice here, itâ€™s better this way.â€ He explained, â€œShould worst comes to worst, Kira will take care of it.â€
â€œThat isnâ€™t what Iâ€™m talking about!â€
Athrun sighed. â€œI know, but I still have to do this.â€
Kira then came over and put his hand on her shoulder. â€œCagalli, you know why he has to go.â€
Defeated, she nodded and then left.
A short while later, the shuttle took off and sped away. A minute after, the Freedom followed as escort. Whenever everything was done, the plan was to rendezvous with Athrun and both would return to the Archangel. All hands on board both ships nervously watched as both machines disappeared out of sight.
At Aprilius One, Patrick Zala sat inside his office and watched footage of the Earth Alliance and Orbâ€™s battle. It had been recorded by Le Creuset, but portions were heavily edited. Following the events at Orb, Le Creuset and the others had returned to Carpentaria before relocating to Kaohsiung. Following ZAFTâ€™s loss at Victoria, the Commander and his underlings boarded the first flight to the PLANTs, leaving Earth behind.
As he continued watching, Zala spoke with another person. â€œYes, thatâ€™s right.â€ He said, â€œLe Creuset returned less than an hour ago and had this information with him.â€ He tapped his fingers as a very familiar mobile suit appeared on the screen. â€œI donâ€™t how or why the Freedom ended up at Orb. Athrun may know, but the little fool hasnâ€™t reported in.â€
â€œYou did say that his mission was top secret.â€ The other replied, â€œNeedless communications is but one way information can be picked and leaked.â€
Zala shuddered, as that subject was the cause of a great many recent headaches. He chose to move the conversation to something else. â€œThe overconfident Naturals have been gathering at the moon. We need to crush them this time, completely.â€
â€œI understand completely, sir. I shall give every effort to repay you for giving me this second chance. Now, on the topic of the Eternalâ€¦â€
Deeper within the PLANT, the entire large scale mobile suit factory was more busy than normal. All hands of every work team labored without haste. Both Yzak and Shiho had disembarked from the Vesalius and now explored the factory. There standing above them was a new model of mobile suit, its design unlike any developed by ZAFT.
â€œIs this the new model GuAIZ?â€ he asked.
â€œYes, itâ€™s a new mass production type from MMI.â€ the technician said, â€œThe assembly lines are all retooling for this guy. Once we get them rolling out, weâ€™ll stamp the Naturals out of space in no time.â€
Normally, Yzak wouldâ€™ve easily believed such a boast, but after everything heâ€™d experienced, he didnâ€™t think that one new mobile suit would change the direction of the war. He took another look at the machine and just shrugged.
Back on board the Vesalius, Le Creuset sat and down his daily dose of pills. He then set the glass aside onto a tray which was then carried away by Flay. Recently she had been treated as Le Creusetâ€™s aide, but she didnâ€™t enjoy it. As she stepped she happened to see the Commander insert a diskette into a computer. She didnâ€™t see the contents, but she could waste time just standing around. If she didnâ€™t continue her â€œworkâ€, itâ€™d no doubt raise more suspicions.
Le Creuset carefully studied the data on both the Freedom and Justice as it was displayed. He really wasnâ€™t very interested until one feature caught his eye. The information on the N-Jammer Cancellers greatly intrigued him and would be very useful in his plan. He hurried to copy the data. By the time he was done, Flay returned and waited for him to leave. Once he was gone, she searched through his desk. She found bottles of the blue and grey pills, wondering what their purpose was. As far as she could see, Le Creuset was in perfect health.
Within the large hangar bay of the Kusanagi, a swarm of Morgenroete and Starling Enterprises personnel were furiously working on finishing up assembly of the MBF-02. The mobile suit was, in almost all aspects, a perfect copy of the Strike, built from additional assembly parts and components created when Morgenroete rebuilt the original Strike. But, seeing as it could stand for some improvements, the engineers from both groups contributed. A power extender circuit had been integrated into the energy battery to increase its endurance in combat.
Since this suit was going to be piloted by a girl who had only flown a Skygrasper, Michael and his chief Starling Enterprises engineer had installed a modified version of the Natural OS with an AI program written in. It was developed explicitly to aid Cagalli in combat operations.
As the technicians, mechanics and engineers began finishing up on final assembly, Erica and the Astray girls watched in awe at their capacity for speed and efficiency. One of them floated up to the group. Dressed in white overalls with a white head cap emblazoned with the Starling Enterprises logo, it was Ericaâ€™s opposite from Starling Enterprises. Name of Hermann Vendt, he had been a long-time friend of Michaelâ€™s family, and had served as chief of Applied Sciences for the past two decades. He was well liked by both Starling Enterprises and Morgenroete personnel for his cheerful, yet no-nonsense aura that was constantly generated.
Something he had inherited from his ancestor, Guenter Vendt who had been in the NASA space program right up to the first flights of the space shuttle.
â€œSo, Hermann, how goes the assembly?â€
â€œWeâ€™re almost finished, Fraulein Simmons. All should be completed in less than fifteen minutes with final adjustments. Then weâ€™ll go ahead with startup tests.â€
Smiling at how fast that both Morgenroete and Starling Enterprises personnel had managed to assemble the MBF-02 in half the normal time, Erica could see why Michael entrusted Hermann with maintaining the Silver Astray.
Fifteen minutes later, final adjustments on the assembled MBF-02 had been completed, and now it was time for startup tests. After signaling Erica it was time to begin startup tests, Hermann and the engineering personnel floated away from the mobile suit to observe. Erica sent over Asagi to serve as a pilot for this test. Getting into the cockpit, she powered up the MBF-02 one system at a time. After about five minutes, the MBF-02 was fully activated and the battery was working at twenty percent above normal efficiency. Asagi then activated the Phase Shift armor, and when it enveloped the mobile suit, everyone on the outside could see that it was mildly different. When Erica and Hermann could see the pink on magenta color scheme, they somehow knew immediately what to name this machine.
â€œStrike Rougeâ€¦â€ they said in unison.
Bursting out into laughter at this coincidence, they went back to reality and saw that the mobile suit was working perfectly. Now they had another good machine to be used in the fight for peace.
â€œIt looks like an impressive machine.â€ A voice said.
Everyone looked to see Michael leading Cagalli, as well as Murrue and Mu to where the now finished mobile suit stood.
â€œInteresting color pattern.â€ Mu said, â€œIt makes it stand out, which I really donâ€™t know is a good thing.â€
â€œWell, on the subject of standing out, you all certainly know much about that, right Captain Ramius?â€ Michael asked.
Murrue turned to the youth with a slightly bewildered look. "Forgive me, but I don't think I know you. I saw you once, during our first time in Orb, repairing the Archangel, but after that..."
Michael nodded. "Forgive me, Captain Ramius. How rude of me. Let me introduce myself, Michael R. Starling, future chairman of Starling Enterprises."
Murrueâ€™s face turned to a shocked expression. "Starling Enterprises? Chairman?"
â€œWell, I wonâ€™t have the position until I turn twenty-one.â€
It was then Mu came forward. "Starling Enterprises is one of the most well-known companies in the Earth Sphere.â€ He explained, â€œIt's been known for developing advanced technology in all fields, especially in civilian fields. But I also know that it began as a branch of Morgenroete. I need to ask, did your company participate in the development of the G-series?"
Michael smirked. "Oh, yeah. We're the ones who made the Striker Pack hardpoint system work. If it weren't for my company, those suits wouldn't have become such effective juggernauts. How do you think I was able to develop the panoramic cockpit?"
Of course, everyone apart from the absent Kira and Erica and Hermann understood what he was referring to.
"Oh, sorry about that. Up until now Erica, Hermann, and Kira were the only ones who knew about it. Hermann, if you please?"
"Sure, Michael. I guess I could explain it better. Young Herr Starling here developed an experimental cockpit design which allows for a 360-degree view of the battlefield. The pilot sits in a linear seat where all the controls are located, while the rest of the cockpit is freed up for a series of visual screens which join together to form a complete view. It allows for better visual targeting, ease of spotting enemies and quiet possibly increase the chance of survival for the pilot overall."
"Well, for a kid, that's pretty impressive. Exactly how many of those have you made?"
"Only one, Commander La Flaga. Erica assisted me in completing the prototype, and also helped me to install it into the Silver Astray. Cade assisted with final adjustments, while Juri tested the effectiveness."
"Again, quite impressive."
"Thanks for the complements, Commander, sir. But I'm sure you and Captain Ramius are wondering 'why is a rich kid fighting a war as gritty as this?' Well, I'll tell you. Sometimes, when you want peace, you need to get your hands dirty."
Back in space, Athrunâ€™s shuttle reached the defensive perimeter surrounding the fortress of Jachin Due. By that time Kira had already parted ways and now waited at the rendezvous point. Athrun could already see a group of GINNs moving in to intercept his craft. He switched to a ZAFT communication channel.
â€œThis is operative Athrun Zala of the National Defense Committee.â€ He began, â€œMy identification number is 285002. Jachin Due Defense Forces, please respond.â€
The squad of GINNs slowed but didnâ€™t stop. Instead they flew past before turning around and surrounding the shuttle. Athrun now only hoped the ZAFT forces didnâ€™t believe this to be a trick.
In his office, Patrick looked over the data of what he planned to be his ultimate weapon in his war against the Naturals. It was already in the final phase of its construction and could be operational shortly thereafter. It was at that moment his intercom buzzed and he pressed the receiver.
â€œYes, what is it?â€
â€Operative Athrun Zala has arrived at Jachin Due, sir. He was piloting an Earth Forces shuttle.â€
This was a shock for Patrick.
â€œGiven the circumstances, heâ€™s being detained at this moment.â€ The officer continued.
â€œBring him here at once.â€ Patrick ordered and shut turned off the intercom. He had many questions for Athrun.
Later, Athrun was escorted to his fatherâ€™s office, flanked by two guards. Once they arrived each gave a salute to the Chairman.
Patrick said nothing at first. He then sighed and stood. â€œGuards, leave us.â€ The guards obliged and once they exited, he looked to his son. â€œWhatâ€™s happened? Where are the Justice and Freedom?â€
â€I know where they are, both are intact and safe.â€ Athrun answered, â€œBut I need to ask you this, Father. What direction are you planning to take this war?â€
â€What?â€ Patrick demanded, â€œWhat sort of absurd question is that?â€
â€Iâ€™m talking about what happened at Alaska, Panama, and Victoria. Every time thereâ€™s another battle, the war only escalates and more blood is spilled. How much longer will this drag on and how many more will have to die?â€
â€œWhatâ€™s this nonsense? What about your mission, thatâ€™s what you need to report on.â€
Athrun nodded. â€œI will, but the main reason Iâ€™ve returned is because I needed to speak with you directly.â€
â€œWhere did you get such ideas?â€ Patrick asked, â€œDid Clyne and his daughter get inside your head? Meeting force with a great force is just what we need to win.â€
â€But how far are you willing to go?â€
â€Once every last Natural is exterminated, that is when this war comes to an end.â€
Athrun was taken aback. â€œWhat did you say? Do you really mean that you plan on killing all the Naturals?â€
â€Of course!â€ Patrick shouted, grabbing Athrun by the collar, â€œThatâ€™s been the primary objective from the start!â€
â€Youâ€™re a madman!â€ Athrun fought out of his fatherâ€™s grip.
The next moment, Patrick pulled out his sidearm and aimed at Athrun. â€œEnough of this, you donâ€™t understand anything and doesnâ€™t see the bigger picture. Once we eradicate the weaker species, we can truly thrive and bring mankind to full prosperity.â€
Athrun could see the glint of madness in his fatherâ€™s eyes. He could see now that this was a mistake and that he needed to escape. He saw that his father was reaching for his intercom and saw a chance to flee. Sprinting quickly, he hurried to the exit. He had only run ten paces before a shot rang out and he felt a burning pain in his right shoulder. He staggered and the next moment he realized he had become surrounded by military police. He was then handcuffed, the guards taking no regard for his injury.
â€œDonâ€™t kill him, there is still information we need from him.â€ Patrick ordered, â€œTake him to confinement and use whatever technique to pry information on the Freedom and Justice.â€ Putting his weapon, he gave final leer to his son. â€œIâ€™m very disappointed, Athrun.â€
Athrun spat at his fatherâ€™s feet. â€And I even more, Patrick.â€
On the other side of the PLANT, DaCosta hurried inside what seemed an unused warehouse. However, it was in fact another location used by the Clyne Faction. Following the death of her father, Lacus was being moved every several hours to avoid being found.
â€œWhatâ€™s the word?â€
â€Itâ€™s near chaos.â€ DaCosta explained, â€œThe public has been thrown in confusion thanks to the bulletins by the Radicals. News of your fatherâ€™s death hasnâ€™t even been mentioned.â€
Lacus nodded. â€œI see. What about the ship?â€
â€The Commander says that we can take it whenever the time comes.â€
One of DaCostaâ€™s subordinates stood. â€œMiss Lacus, weâ€™ve just found out something new.â€ He turned to the computer screen and pointed.
Lacusâ€™ eyes widen when she read everything. â€œThis is a surprise indeed. Is there anything we can do about this?â€
â€Yes maâ€™am.â€ DaCosta said, â€œItâ€™ll only take a few of us. The rest can prepare for the operation without delay.â€
â€Good, get to it right away.â€
Back in outer space, the Archangel and Kusanagi arrived in the L4 region and soon located one of the many abandoned colonies. However, its design was different from the PLANTs or that of Heliopolis. According to the data files, it was known as Mendel. As a precaution, a team of M1 Astrays, accompanied by the Buster, were sent out on recon. However, nothing out of the ordinary was found as the team searched. Cagalli meanwhile sat idly in the Strike Rougeâ€™s cockpit, waiting. She hated that she now was only sitting back and doing nothing.
Back at Aprilius One, Athrun was now being escorted by armed guards to a waiting armored truck. He knew fully well what was going to occur next once he was taken away. Despite his injury, he had to find some way of escape.
â€œAll right, you, get in.â€ the lead guard ordered.
Instead of complying, Athrun answer was a sweeping kick that sent the guard flying back. He then slammed into the second guard and ran. He glanced back to find that both the one guard and another were now behind him. However they werenâ€™t trying to stop him, it looked that they were in fact helping him. The two lobbed stun grenades, blinding the others. All three then ducked behind a wall.
â€œTurn your back to me.â€ One guard told him, â€œIâ€™ll shoot the handcuffs.â€
Athrun did as he was told this time and seconds later, he was freed. He removed the remains and was given a pistol. â€œSo who are you?â€
â€œMartin DaCosta.â€ The guard introduced, â€œIâ€™m a part of whatâ€™s being called the Clyne Faction. Miss Lacus sent us to get you out, even though itâ€™d delay our plans.â€
â€œSorry about that.â€ Athrun said.
â€œNever mind.â€ DaCosta said, â€œLetâ€™s just go.â€ With that, the trio was on the run again.
Sitting in one of the secure hangars of Aprilus One was another ZAFT secret weapon, the FFMH-Y101 Eternal. Built primarily to support the G-series units that had been developed in secret, the ship was sparsely armed but made up for this with a sleek design and her powerful array of ten high-powered thermonuclear pulse engines. Unbeknownst to anyone, this ship was already under the control of the Clyne Faction.
â€œWell, letâ€™s get to it.â€ Picking up the intercom phone was none other than Andrew Waltfeld, albeit with several scars. A large scar obscured his left eye, and his left arm had been amputated. One of his legs had also been amputated, but that had been replaced by a prosthetic already. Surviving by a thread, Andrew had decided that working for a corrupt nation was no longer worth his time after seeing Patrick Zalaâ€™s new strategies. Now sitting in the command chair of the Eternal, with a smile on his face Andrew ordered the ship to prepare for departure.
â€œUh, the ship is beginning its final preparations. Is that understood? The ship is in its final preparations. Get to work!â€
Suddenly, all about the ship, Clyne Faction members pulled guns on the other green coats and quickly began to herd them off the ship. Once that was finished, the ship was secure.
In one of the elevators leading to the hangar area, Lacus and her supporters were en route. Her pink Haro began jumping up and down in her lap.
â€œShush! Thatâ€™s enough out of you, Pinkie dear. Go to sleep now.â€
Then, the toy relaxed in her lap as the elevator continued to go upward. If all went well, theyâ€™d make their escape shortly.
Meanwhile, in his office Patrick was furious at the turn of events. â€œYou idiots! How could you let him get away!? Issue a citywide search warrant immediately! Close all the spaceports and notify the military! We canâ€™t let him get away!â€
Hanging up the phone, Patrick silently cursed his son for being a traitor.
Simultaneously, DaCosta had acquired a small shuttle for him and Athrun to take to the Eternal. Time was of the essence as Athrun took one last, sad look at the place that had been his home for most of his life.
A short time later, with the Eternal secured, Waltfeld relaxed a bit more into his chair and looked at his pocket watch when he heard the opening and closing of doors.
â€œSorry for the delay.â€ Lacus floated onto the bridge after a quick change of wardrobe, accompanied by Pink. Gently floating to her chair overlooking Waltfeld and the command crew, Lacus was relieved on how things were turning out now.
â€œNo worries, as long as you made it safely. So, should we make our exit?â€
â€œYes.â€ As Pink squealed in the background, the bridge crew rapidly began making preparations for their â€œdepartureâ€. The Eternalâ€™s engine array quickly came to life, each of her engines emitting a brilliant blue glow.
Lacus stared sternly out at the horizon ahead of them as the hangar personnel locked down the doors in frustration. â€œThe security code to the main gateâ€™s control system was just changed.â€
â€œHmm, what a clever bunch they are. Theyâ€™d have been better off leaving things alone. Now our exitâ€™s gonna be a bit messier. It might get rough, so hang on.â€
Lacus nodded. â€œWe really have no alternative, do we? The fact remains that its time to move forward.â€
â€œMain cannon, prepare to fire! Target primary gate! Fire as soon as we take off!â€ The Eternalâ€™s forward beam cannon raised slightly, targeted to fire a full-power shot at the main gate blocking their exit.
Looking back at Lacus, Waltfeld nodded with a smirk as Lacus said, determined, â€œNow Eternal, launch!â€ The shipâ€™s engines were fired at full power; simultaneously her forward beam cannon fired off a full-power shot at the space gate, blowing it apart.
Making her exit, the ship continued forward at full thrust. DaCosta and Athrunâ€™s shuttle quickly exited through a small hatch not a moment later, heading for the Eternalâ€™s rear hatch. After entering the rear hangar bay, the doors closed and the Eternal was on her way.
Almost immeadatily, Le Creuset received word of the recent fiasco. â€œReally, so the Eternal is now gone, along with Athrun.â€
â€œSir, we have orders to pursue.â€ A controller said.
Looking at the screen and seeing the fleeing ship, Le Creuset only shook his head. â€œEven at top speed weâ€™d never catch them. Weâ€™ll have to leave this to the Jachin Due defense forces.â€ Secretly to himself, he wished he could see the look on Patrick Zalaâ€™s face. Once again the fool made a blunder thanks to his overconfidence.
As the Eternal streaked through space, Athrun received medical attention for his injury. After the treatment was finished, he was led to the bridge by DaCosta.
â€œAthrun, youâ€™ve made it.â€ Lacus smiled, â€œAre you all right?â€
Athrun nodded, surprised to actually see her. He then looked to the man sitting in the command chair.
â€œNice to meet you, kid.â€ Waltfeld greeted, â€œThe young miss here has said a lot about you.â€
DaCosta came forward. â€œCommander, whatâ€™s our destination?â€
â€œWell, truthfully I donâ€™t know.â€ Waltfeld shrugged, â€œWe really didnâ€™t plan that far ahead.â€
â€œI know where we can go.â€ Athrun said, â€œAll I need is to send a message.â€
Meanwhile, Kira waited patiently when suddenly his console flashed. He switched the comlink on and his ears were filled with partial static at first.
â€œKira, are you there?â€ the voice said, â€œAnswer me.â€
â€Kira!â€ Athrun shouted, â€œListen, Iâ€™m on the way back to the rendezvous point. Iâ€™m here with Lacus.â€
Kira was shocked. â€œLacus is with you? But how?â€
â€Itâ€™s a long story butâ€¦â€ Athrunâ€™s voice trailed off. â€œOh, no.â€
â€What? What is it?â€
â€Kira, weâ€™re being pursued. Itâ€™s a large group of ZAFT mobile suits, at least fifty strong.â€
Kira felt very worried then. Even with the Freedom, he knew he wouldnâ€™t be able to face down such a number of mobile suits. â€œAthrun, I have an idea.â€ He said, â€œJust keep heading here. Iâ€™ll call for help.â€
â€œAll right, I only hope this works.â€
â€œYeah, me too.â€ Kira thought to himself.
Back at Mendel, the Archangel and Kusanagi quickly heard from the Freedom.
â€œCaptain, itâ€™s Kira.â€ Miriallia said, â€œHe says that somethingâ€™s happened and he needs all available assistance at his current location.â€
A blip on the map showed where Kira was currently.
Murrue bit her lip. â€œThe Strike is undergoing maintenance right now and the Buster is still on recon. All we could send is the Panzer.â€
On the Kusanagi, Kisaka faced the same problem. Most of the M1s were on their recon mission and the rest were needed to guard the ship.
â€œColonel!â€ Ericaâ€™s voice suddenly called, â€œYou have to stop her!â€
â€Itâ€™s Cagalli! Sheâ€™s trying to take out the Strike Rouge!â€
Kisaka switched the channel. â€œCagalli, what do you think youâ€™re doing?â€
â€œIâ€™m going, thatâ€™s what!â€ she shot back, â€œAthrunâ€™s in danger and I am going to help.â€
â€Thatâ€™s too reckless.â€ Kisaka said, â€œYouâ€™re not ready for this sort of combat.â€
â€œWith all due respect, sir,â€ Michael chimed in, â€œI donâ€™t think youâ€™ll win this argument. Besides, she does have the assistant AI thatâ€™ll much of the work for her. That, and I am going as well, so Iâ€™ll keep an eye on her.â€
Kisaka thought of a retort, but he knew that further arguing would mean a delay in sending the reinforcements. â€œAll right, you can go, but donâ€™t go overboard.â€ Kisaka cautioned.
â€œThe Archangel will be launching a set of spare equipment.â€ Erica said, â€œYouâ€™ll have to rely on that.â€
â€œThatâ€™ll be fine.â€ Cagalli said.
Back aboard the Archangel, Cade and the Panzer had been prepped to launch, armed and fully equipped. The portside linear catapult was on-line and ready to deploy its deadly cargo. On-board the Kusanagi, Silver Astray and Strike Rouge, the latter to be equipped with a spare Aile Striker which would be transferred over from the Archangel, were also ready for launch. Erica, Hermann, the Astray girls and the hangar crews looked on from the observation box. It was time to witness the results of their work take flight.
As the hangar doors of the Kusanagi opened, the Aile Strike Rouge was the first to launch. Blasting out of the hangar, Cagalli quickly lined up with the launched equipment. She thought back to her brief training on the Skygrasper and the lessons on launching the different packs. Now she had to think of it as doing it backwards and with a mobile suit. Once it attached, she activated her Phase Shift, and the distinctive colors of her suit appeared as she floated near the Kusanagi. Michael launched next, carrying his modified beam rifle and a shield. Quickly assembling into a delta formation with Cagalli at the lead position, they set course for the PLANTs, to hopefully rescue Athrun and give the ZAFT military forces one hell of a repair bill.
The Eternalâ€™s crew now prepared for a battle with the pursuing enemy forces. With no mobile suits for their own use, they would have to rely on only the shipâ€™s speed and sparse weaponry.
â€œThe enemy force will be on us in two hundred-fifty seconds.â€ A female controller said, watching her console.
â€œPrepare the main cannon for firing.â€ Waltfeld ordered, â€œActivate the anti-air CIWS.â€
â€œAny idea how long itâ€™d take to reach the Freedom?â€ Athrun asked.
â€œAssuming we donâ€™t get blown to pieces by then, at least three hundred-thirty seconds.â€ DaCosta answered.
That was unsettling, as it would only take the ZAFT mobile suits not even a minute to break through and destroy the ship.
Not long after, the first of the pursuing mobile suits were in sight. The force was primarily comprised of GINNs armed with heavy weapons, with a few CGUEs leading them. If they were able to encircle the Eternal, it would all be over. The group split into two and flanked the ship. Those armed with large missile launchers instigated the first attacks. The Eternalâ€™s CIWS managed to bring down some of the missiles, but a few did strike the ship, causing it to rock heavily. The ship was being battered, but was holding together. As the Eternal continued forward, the ZAFT mobile suits nearly finished ensnaring it. But just then, several GINNs inexplicitly were disabled, their heads and some limbs destroyed. The bridge crew looked forward in surprise.
â€œWe have four new contacts!â€ another controller yelled, â€œOne is the Freedom, but the other three are unknowns.â€
The crew then zoomed in on the image, showing the oncoming reinforcements. Athrun immeadatily saw the Freedom, then the Panzer and the silver color M1. But the last of the machines was different; it was like the Strike, but with a different coloring. The four suddenly separated and began the counterattack. Kira and Cade went to portside and unleashed their arsenals on the ZAFT forces. While Kira only worked to disable the enemy units, Cade had no qualms with having to completely destroy them. Michael headed to the Eternalâ€™s starboard side along with Cagalli. With her assistant AI, she quickly became adapted to handing the controls of the Strike Rouge. Each worked together to box in the ZAFT mobile suits. In a matter of minutes, it was all over.
After the battle, the Eternal was led back to Mendel, where it docked within the colonyâ€™s interior alongside the Archangel and Kusanagi. Once its engines were completely shut down, the crew of the Eternal disembarked. Murrue and Mu both went to meet their newest allies.
â€œGreetings, I am Commander Andrew Waltfeld.â€ Waltfeld said, â€œAlthough we have met before, itâ€™s good we finally get properly acquainted.â€
Murrue politely saluted, â€œIâ€™m Murrue Ramius. I must say that this is something of a surprise.â€
â€œWe never imagined meeting the Desert Tiger in a place like this.â€ Mu chuckled.
â€œI can say the same thing, Hawk of Endymion.â€ Waltfeld added. He then turned to Kira. â€œYou saved our hides out there, kid, you and your friends.â€
Kira averted his eyes. â€œYou have a real reason for wanting revenge against me.â€
Walt only shrugged. â€œThatâ€™s the way war goes. However, Iâ€™m not going to hold anything against you. We were just victims of circumstance.â€
Kira wasnâ€™t all too sure, but saw that Waltfeld had no hate or bared no grudge towards him.
A short time later, Cagalli had found Athrun both now stood on a walkway overlooking the three ships.
â€œYouâ€™re always getting hurt.â€ Cagalli teased.
â€œYeah, but it looks like someone was looking out for me.â€ Athrun said, pointing to the pink pendent hanging from his neck.
Cagalli saw the Haumea pendent she had given him and had to smile. She then looked back to the Eternal. She had never seen a ship like it before.
â€œBy the way,â€ Athrun then said, â€œThanks for the rescue.â€
â€œIt was nothing.â€ Cagalli looked around and saw Kira standing together. â€œDonâ€™t you mind them spending so much time together? Isnâ€™t she your fiancÃ©e?â€
Athrun â€œShe was, but not anymore.â€ It was true his father had nullified the engagement, but felt that there was another reason. â€œI was such a fool.â€
â€œWell I guess itâ€™s better to realize it now than never.â€ Cagalli said, surprisingly happy. She now saw that she maybe had a chance herself.
Across the way, Kira and Lacus stood, talking. Partly through, Lacus suddenly started quivering. Tears then began to fall from her eyes.
â€Kira, my fatherâ€™s dead.â€ Up until then she had to keep up a brave face, but now she could allow herself to express her bottled up sorrow. She wrapped her arms around Kira and buried her face in his chest.
As he comforted her, Kira felt a heavy pang of sadness. First Flay had lost her father, then Cagalli, and now Lacus. This war was having a terrible toll on those he cared for the most.
"That's the problem with plutonium, Craven; it's limited in its application. It's not user-friendly. But as a vehicle for regaining one's self-respect; oh, it's got a lot going for it!"
- Darius Jedburgh, Edge of Darkness, Episode 6, Fusion
Tue Sep 30, 2008 5:43 pm
|Mysterious Masked Dude|
Joined: Sat Sep 16, 2006 7:45 pm
New Phase 42
At the Ptolemaeus base, the intercom system continued to deliver orders to various vessels to assume stationary orbits, while numerous ships on the inside continued being supplied with delivered GAT-01 Strike Daggers. With mobile suits of their own, the old Moebius units could pretty much be retired as frontline units. The only problem really was training mobile armor and fighter pilots how to use a mobile suit. Meanwhile, in a far orbit above the moon, the Dominion was stalking silently as war simulations ran.
Sitting in her command chair, Natarle kept her eyes opened for anything that may work either in their favor or against them. Suddenly, she heard her helmsman speak.
â€œSensors are picking something up! Large heat source approaching, distance 500, Orange 14, Mark 233 Alpha...looks like a warship class!â€
Now it was time to show her command potential. Her face firm, Natarle began barking out the appropriate orders to her subordinates.
â€œStand by for anti-ship and mobile suit combat! 10 to starboard, lower bow to pitch angle 15! Activate Igelstellungs! Target enemy warship with the Valients! Load launch tubes one to four with Corinthos missiles!â€
Almost like clockwork, the Dominion complied with the orders of its masters. All appropriated weapons were activated; the Igelstellungs were swerving around, the Valients were poised for attack, and four missile tubes had launch doors opened with missiles loaded and ready to fire.
With Natarle working at the speed of light, the bridge crew down in the CIC attempted to keep up with her commands. Rapid typing and inputting of commands were to no avail as the simulation ended in mere seconds with the words â€œMISSION FAILEDâ€ and â€œSEND A SHIP TO THE BOTTOMâ€ written all over the sim screen. Standing up from her seat, Natarle quickly got around to berating her crew.
â€œWhat the hell do you guys think youâ€™re doing? Youâ€™re too slow! At this rate we wonâ€™t even survive our first battle! Canâ€™t you get that through your heads?â€
Then, Natarle was interrupted by her chief communications officer sitting just a few feet away from her.
â€œCaptain, I have fleet headquarters online.â€
Sighing, Natarle sat back down in her chair as a small group rapidly approached the Dominion. In the front was a small shuttle, with the Calamity, Forbidden, Raider and Scorpio surrounding it like guardians. Behind the shuttle was a trio of Strike Daggers led by the repaired Gunbarrel Dagger of Parallax. Despite his little incident during the invasion of Orb, Simon felt no ill effects on his ability to control that Striker Pack strapped to his back. He swore that sometimes it felt like he was carrying dead weight.
A few moments later, the party landed in the portside hangar deck with Commander Haise and Azrael on their way to the bridge. The doors opened to the bridge with Haise and Azrael stepping onto the deck.
â€œMy apologies, Iâ€™m interrupting the simulation.â€
Natarle was already standing up and flashed yet again another perfect salute for her superior officers.
â€œLet me introduce youâ€¦to Director Muruta Azrael, of the National Defense Industry Association. Iâ€™m sure youâ€™ve heard of him,â€ Haise spoke, as Azrael seemed to look around with that smugness of his.
â€œYes, of course...â€
â€œHeâ€™ll be joining you; he wants to observe the performance of the four state of the art mobile suits that have been assigned to your ship. Please, make him feel welcome,â€ the last part seemed to be a mixture of an order and a request.
â€œNice to meet you, Ms. Captain.â€
â€œYes, sir! Commander Badgiruel at your service, sir! However...â€
â€œHowever...â€ Azrael said, interrupting her mid-sentence as he began stepping closer to her. â€œI must say, I never expected the captain of our ship to be quite so young and beautiful. Is this an added benefit of some sort?â€
Turning to him, Haise said â€œRest assured, sir, sheâ€™s more than a capable commander. Her family has a long history of military service.â€
â€œWell, thatâ€™s true, but...â€ Natarle stopped as she was interrupted by Haise again.
â€œAnd before she was given command of this ship, she was deputy captain of the Archangel.â€
Azrael was indeed impressed, now he had another ace in the hole. Not only was this captain attractive in body, she knew pretty much everything he needed to know about that damned ship. As he was about to speak, Orga, Shani, Clotho and Gren stepped onto the bridge with twisted smiles on their faces. â€œWow! So, that means youâ€™re familiar with it then. That should come in rather handy...because after all, by order of Captain William Sutherland, our mission is to seek and destroy the Archangel.â€
As the shock set into Natarle's face, another person appeared behind the group. He looked so familiar to her, when she recognized him as one of the officers from the official inquiry at Alaska before its destruction. The neon green eyes and buzz-cut silver hair definitely stood out. Azrael looked behind him and saw Simon as well, chuckling slightly, followed with chuckles by the quartet. Out of all the people theyâ€™d met, that Parallax guy had treated them with decent respect. They were glad to have a friend amongst them.
â€œOh, please forgive me, Simon. Administrator, would you mind?â€
â€œOf course not, Director Azrael. Captain, to bolster your forces, Captain William Sutherland of the 9th Fleet has transferred the four newest models of the GAT-series to your ship.â€ He then gestured to his right. â€œAlso, this is Lt. Commander Simon Parallax. Heâ€™s been transferred to this base to oversee the final construction of a new model mobile suit currently under development. You may remember him as one of the officers from the official inquiry in Alaska.â€
Suddenly, Natarle remembered Simon as the one who made the comments that really hit home for most of the crew, even more so than Sutherland's comments. His vehement hatred of Coordinators could be seen just in the way he was staring her down.
â€œYou need not worry about experience, Captain. Lt. Commander Parallax is a veteran of the invasion of Orb and our recent victory at Victoria, and has certain...abilities that allow him to make use of the Gunbarrel Striker pack developed as a limited production prototype. The four operators present are also veterans of the invasion of Orb, so they are all experienced in battle.â€
â€œI...understand, sir!â€ Natarle said as she took all the information in. Simon walked over to her, grabbed her hand and gave it a light kiss. She didnâ€™t know whether or not he was attracted to her or was just being polite.
â€œItâ€™s a pleasure to meet you personally, Commander Badgiruel. Your hands are quite soft for someone so cold on the inside.â€
Shocked by this sudden change in attitude since Alaska, Natarle decided to take a bold risk and smiled as she shook Simonâ€™s hand and gave him the barest of smiles.
â€œUm, well, thank you.â€
As the Dominion continued onwards, another ship soon pulled up alongside her from one of the outer orbit angles of Ptolemaeus base. An Agamemnon-class flagship, the Schwarzkopf, had been assigned to join the Dominion in her search for the Archangel, largely to provide material support in the form of her mobile suit complement. She was also one of the few vessels of her class augmented with additional anti-mobile suit defenses. Sitting in his chair on the bridge, Captain Javier Rojas stared down the empty space ahead of him. He didnâ€™t fancy the idea of being second chair to Natarle, someone who he saw as such a rookie officer, but this also was his chance as the path to a commendation and eventual promotion.
A trio of Nazca-class ships, led by the Vesalius, cruised through space in an attempt to locate the Eternal. Their mission was to search out and destroy the now rogue ship and crew.
On the Vesaliusâ€™ bridge, Ades pointed to map. â€œJudging from the projected course, the Eternalâ€™s destination should be somewhere in this area.â€ His finger tapped a blinking red light.
Le Creuset leaned closer. â€œHmm, the L4 colony group. This is disturbing.â€ Behind his mask, no one saw his eyes flash.
â€œYes, that area has given us nothing but trouble.â€ Ades agreed, â€œFirst there was the suspicious group that was holed up there for a very long time, and now this.â€
â€œI hadnâ€™t realized that the Clyne Faction was this organized.â€ Le Creuset continued, â€œJust when did they get the urge to fight? It doesnâ€™t help that certain people are sympathizers and have defected to their forces.â€
â€œI know what you mean, Commander.â€ Ades sighed, â€œI once met Andrew Waltfeld, but I never thought him as one capable of treason.â€
Yzak narrowed his eyes at the mention of this. He too had met Waltfeld during his time on Earth, and now he couldnâ€™t understand why a decorated soldier such as the famed Desert Tiger became a turncoat.
â€œWhatâ€™s done is done, thereâ€™s no way around it.â€ Le Creuset said, â€œThings seldom go as planned, and itâ€™s hard to really see into what lies in a personâ€™s heart and thoughts.â€ He turned to his youngest subordinates. â€œYzak, from now on Athrun is our enemy. Can you shoot him down if we face him in battle?â€
Yzak didnâ€™t hesitate in answering. â€œYes sir, as I would any traitor.â€ He then looked to Shiho, surprised to see her with a dejected expression upon her face. She quickly averted her eyes.
Shiho knew the circumstances, but it didnâ€™t sit well with her that Yzak could easily say heâ€™d kill a former comrade just like that.
Shortly thereafter, Le Creuset returned to his quarters, with Flay in tow. Sitting at his desk, he opened a drawer.
â€œYou look exhausted.â€ Flay cautiously said.
â€œIâ€™m only human, my dear.â€ The Commander said.
Even now, Flay could hardly believe such talk from a Coordinator. In spite of her time with Kira and now with the ZAFT soldiers, it was difficult for her to see Coordinators as mere mortals. She had always heard about their supposed great abilities, but now they seemed average.
â€œIâ€™ve spent much of my life as a soldier going from one battlefield to another.â€ Le Creuset went on, â€œWhile I made that decision on my own, no one is even born to be a solider.â€
The words struck a nerve with Flay. She almost couldnâ€™t recall her pervious life as a pampered teenager with a doting father. She once had lived a life in relative luxury, but no it was all gone, and she had no one to blame but herself.
â€œIâ€™d like nothing more than to put an end to that forever. And wouldnâ€™t you?â€ It was then Le Creuset pulled out a diskette from the drawer. â€œI hold this final key, but if it stays here then the final door will be unlocked. I wish there was something I could do about it.â€
Flay gazed at the diskette, wondering what secrets it held.
At Mendel, the three ships had been fully secured and docked inside the abandoned colony. Now all that was needed was for some sort of strategy to be made. Both Mu and Waltfeld now discussed what information they knew about their impromptu base.
â€œThis colony was abandoned because of some biohazard threat, right?â€ Waltfeld asked.
â€œYeah, I heard a lot about the so-called Mendel Incident.â€ Mu said, â€œI know quite a few people made a fuss about it, but its abandonment might be the reason itâ€™s escaped with the least damage. Thisâ€™ll be a perfect place to pitch our camp. â€
The two then rounded a corner and entered the Archangelâ€™s bridge, where inside a meeting of crewmembers of all three ships was underway. Lacus was at that point reporting on what she and her supporters had learned.
â€œOur immediate concern right now is most likely the moon.â€ She explained, â€œI hear that now that the Earth Forces have recaptured Victoria, theyâ€™ve been continually sending up both troops and material.â€
That was a piece of troubling news, as it meant that the Earth Alliance would be sending their own mobile suits to the frontlines in outer space. But there was another possible threat.
â€œYou think theyâ€™re planning an all out attack on the PLANTs themselves?â€ Murrue asked.
â€œItâ€™s something a lot of the top leaders in the Alliance have wanted to do right from the very start of this war.â€ Waltfeld grimly said and then sneered. â€œâ€™For the preservation of our blue and pure world.â€™â€
â€œLetâ€™s not start with that.â€ Mu snapped.
â€œHey, their words, not mine.â€ Waltfeld shrugged, â€œHonestly I cannot see how they think killing all Coordinators would lead to a so-called pure world. Hell, I donâ€™t even know what a â€˜pure worldâ€™ is supposed to mean. But I do know how the people on the PLANTs feel about being attacked for such an inconceivable reason.â€
As he continued, Cagalli decided to silently slip out, as she had noticed that a certain someone was missing. Kira was the only person to pay attention to her sudden departure.
â€œOn the other hand,â€ Waltfeld further explained, â€œthe ones currently leading the PLANTs look down on Naturals as nothing but vermin. They do have every right to defend themselves from attacks, and then retaliate. But the question remains on how long the cycle continues.â€
Murrue glanced down to the floor. â€œWe live in such cruel and troubling time.â€
â€œEvery generation has said that.â€ Michael suddenly said, joining the discussion, â€œSince the beginning of history, humanity has used different reasons for fighting against one another, whether it was race, creed, nationality, or even religion. Now itâ€™s down to whose genes are altered and whose arenâ€™t.â€
â€œThat is true, but every generation also had those who could put a stop to it.â€ Lacus said, â€œNow itâ€™s our turn, we can hope to achieve a peaceful era for once.â€
Cagalli wandered through the Archangel until sheâ€™d found Athrun sitting alone inside the observation deck. â€œSo here you are.â€ She drifted over to him. â€œIâ€™m guessing that right now your mindâ€™s going around in circles, going nowhere. Thatâ€™s why you need to talk to at least someone and not sulk about and bear it alone. Whenever we have a meeting, you really need to be there too.â€
â€œYouâ€™re right.â€ Athrun said, â€œThanks, Cagalli.â€
She then looked at his arm in the sling. â€œSo does it still hurt?â€
â€œDonâ€™t give me that.â€ She told him, â€œYour own father shot you.â€
â€œI tried to stop him. But in the end I was just powerless and still donâ€™t see the whole picture of how things really are.â€
â€œHey, we all feel that way.â€ She comforted, â€œAnd you never know, you may just get a second chance to speak to your father and work out everything between you two.â€
Athrun could see the hurt in her eyes. He knew that now she wouldâ€™ve liked nothing more than to have had such a talk with her father while he was still alive. However he knew that wasnâ€™t possible for him. He only shook his head. â€œNo, Iâ€™m afraid not. When I saw him he had the look in his eyes that said it all. He isnâ€™t the man my mother loved anymore.â€
â€œWell then, please do whatever you need so that you donâ€™t just stand around andâ€¦â€ Cagalli started, but she was cut off when Athrun suddenly had his arm around her, holding her in a tight embrace. She could feel her face turning red.
â€œIâ€™m sorry.â€ He whispered.
â€œWhat do you mean, sorry?â€ she squirmed nervously.
â€œJust that.â€ Athrun said, holding her more tightly.
Deeper in outer space, both the Dominion and Schwarzkopf continued towards the destination. It was during this time Natarle looked up the records of her four newest soldiers. However, there wasnâ€™t very much apart from the names and levels of enhancements implants, ranging from stages two to four, and what machine each operated. All personal information had long been deleted. But what disturbed her most was that all four were listed as biological CPUs, and not as pilots. That could mean that they were seen as expendable equipment. She wondered where they came from and what sort of training they had undergone.
â€œHow much longer before we reach L4?â€
Natarle looked over her shoulder to find Azrael approaching from behind. â€œWeâ€™re almost there. However, I must admit that Iâ€™m still not convinced that we should even be going there without any solid proof.â€
â€œMy sources are never wrong.â€ Azrael replied with smug confidence, â€œThat is more than enough.â€
â€œBut that information is also from the PLANTs.â€ She argued, â€œThis could very well be a trap.â€
Azrael then narrowed his eyes. â€œThe Freedom and the Justice, those are the codenames of the two mobile suits Iâ€™m very interested in.â€ he coldly said, â€œThere are also three Nazca-class ships heading for L4, so that shows that there is something there. We cannot afford to miss a chance such as this, and thatâ€™s the reason weâ€™re going.â€ He leaned in closer to her. â€œAnd so that weâ€™re on the same page, you may be the captain of this ship, but ranking above you are those people who look at thing with a broader perspective, who then make the appropriate decisions based on that. Youâ€™ve been told to take my suggestions, correct?â€
Natarle fought back an angry retort. â€œYes, sir.â€
â€œGood, I hope you donâ€™t forget that fact.â€ With that Azrael then left the bridge.
Natarle didnâ€™t approve of someone like Azrael being on board what was her ship to command. Someone like him breathing down her neck could possibly lead to a disaster if they went into combat.
Back at Mendel, every available mobile suit worked to unload the equipment brought by the crew of the Eternal. Several dozen crates containing ammunition and other essential resources were divided up and distributed among the three ships.
From the bridge of the Eternal, Waltfeld explained to Kisaka what would most likely happen concerning supplies. â€œAs for future deliveries, our allies in the PLANTs are working on a means of creating a supply line for us. Most likely the Junk Guild will be contracted to do so.â€
Behind him, Lacus directed other officers with what task needed to be completed next.
Outside, both the Strike and Panzer worked on a stack of containers.
â€œIâ€™ll admit, she may be a pop idol, but she has her fatherâ€™s political savvy.â€ Cade said.
Mu nodded. â€œIâ€™ve got to hand it to that pink princess.â€
Asagi and Mayuraâ€™s M1s then came along side of the Strike and Panzer. â€œCommander La Flaga, Cade.â€ Asagi said, â€œWe can handle this work ourselves. Thereâ€™s no need to trouble yourselves with it.â€
â€œItâ€™s okay; Iâ€™m doing this as a part of my training.â€ Mu assured, â€œYouâ€™ve all had space simulation training, and I cannot let myself fall behind youngsters like you.â€
â€œI might as well labor along side you too, seeing as how now Iâ€™m a crewmember of the Kusanagi.â€ Cade chuckled.
â€œWhat, really?â€ Mayura asked.
â€œYeah, Captain Ramius mentioned something about now that what with the Strike Rouge being up and going and she figured that having two Gundams per ship would balance out our battle strength.â€ He grinned. â€œI swear that Iâ€™ve almost lost count about how many units Iâ€™ve been assigned to.â€
Mu heaved a large container and maneuvered the Strike to the Archangel, with some help from Asagi of course.
Meanwhile, Michael worked to connect another device brought over by the crew of the Eternal. It was apparently a type of new OS called the Advanced X-perimental Interface System, or A.X.I.S. What intrigued him most was that it seemed similar to the training AI programming used in the Strike Rouge. He wondered how this new system worked.
Outside the perimeter the Dominion and Schwarzkopf had come within sight of Mendel. Both ships slowed down and observed the colony structure.
â€œCaptain, weâ€™ve got three signal silhouettes.â€ An officer informed, â€œTwo are unknowns, but one is confirmed to be the Archangel.â€
â€œLoad missile tubes one through four with jamming shells.â€ Natarle commanded, â€œFire on my order.â€
The jamming shells functioned in the same manner as chaff grenades. Upon detonation, they would scatter pieces of a foil like material that would temporarily interfere with sensory equipment.
â€œJamming shells?â€ Azrael sneered, â€œWhy waste time using those useless things?â€
Natarle sighed. â€œWeâ€™re going to use them to mask our approach, thereby allowing us to corner them and therefore ensuring we can capture the two precious machines you want so badly.â€ She then to her CIC officer, â€œGet me the Schwarzkopf.â€
Quickly following her orders, the officer hurried to make contact with the second ship. Captain Rojasâ€™ face filled the screen.
â€œCaptain Rojas, weâ€™re going to launch a barrage of jamming shells. Once our ordnance is fired, that will be when we move forward.â€
â€œUnderstood.â€ Rojas answered, â€œWeâ€™re let you take lead, Dominion.â€
â€œFire the jamming shells.â€ Natarle ordered. Seconds later, four smaller cylinders streaked away from the ship. When the exploded, it meant that the Dominion and Schwarzkopf would likely have a free run at the colonyâ€™s hanger bay, thereby cutting off the ships with. She watched as one by one, each of the shells exploded in white and yellow flashes.
On the Archangel, Sai was watching his console, when the screen suddenly became fuzzy. â€œWhoa, whoa, whoa. Somethingâ€™s wrong with the sensors.â€ His fingers tapped keys as he tried to see if the problem could be corrected, but to no avail.
â€œCaptain, all sensors appear to be malfunctioning.â€ Chandra said, â€œI donâ€™t know what is causing this.â€
â€œIt has to be jamming shells.â€ Tonomura said, â€œSomeone knows weâ€™re here.â€
â€œGet me the Eternal and Kusanagi!â€ Murrue shouted.
Waltfeld was the first to respond. â€œCaptain Ramius, this interference is heavy. Any idea what caused it?â€
â€œJamming shells. Somebodyâ€™s figured out our hiding place.â€ She then answered the second hail. â€œColonel Kisaka?â€
â€œYes, itâ€™s the same for us.â€ Kisaka replied, â€œHowever, I think we know what happened. Weâ€™re not sure, but it looks like two unknown blips appeared on our sensors before the jamming commenced. This could be an enemy attack.â€
â€œI know.â€ Murrue turned to her crew, â€œAll hands, weâ€™re now on level one battle stations!â€
Klaxons roared as everyone hurried to get ready. Until the interference died down, all ships were sitting blind.
Dropping whatever work they had been doing, every mobile suit available hurried to get ready for a possible battle.
â€œA pair of enemy ships is heading our way?â€ Mayura muttered, â€œYou think they know what weâ€™re doing here?â€
â€œWell, weâ€™re not here to sell Girl Scout cookies.â€ Asagi replied, â€œSo they more than likely suspect something.â€
â€œBut who are they, Earth Forces or ZAFT?â€ Juri asked.
Michael, having finished his work with the A.X.I.S., had joined them. â€œWhoever they are, theyâ€™re trying to block us in so we canâ€™t launch.â€
Back on the Dominion, Natarle checked the time remaining on the effects of the jamming shells. Seeing there was only thirty seconds remaining, she knew that they would only be to move a short distance ahead before their presence would be visible.
â€œIncrease speed.â€ She commanded, â€œWe need to move in as close as possible.â€
Inside the harbor, the Archangel was the first to cautiously move out into the open. The effects of the jamming shells had all but dissipated, with each of sensors resuming normal operation.
â€œCaptain, weâ€™ve located the two ships!â€ Miriallia exclaimed, â€œOneâ€™s an Agamemnon-class.â€
Murrue stiffened in her seat. So it was the Earth Forces that had found them. â€œWhat about the second?â€
â€I donâ€™t know.â€ Miriallia answered, â€œWait, we should be getting a visual of it right now.â€
Everyone looked and couldnâ€™t believe their eyes. There in front of them was an close match to their ship, apart from the coloring.
â€œItâ€™s another Archangel-class.â€ Murrue gasped.
Natarle saw the Archangel emerge from the colony. She suddenly remembered her last conversation with her former commanding officer. While they didnâ€™t part on the best of terms, she felt that Murrue would be reasonable and decided to give a final chance to her former shipmates. She picked up the comlink and opened a channel. â€œThis is the Earth Alliance Forcesâ€™ mobile assault ship, Dominion. Archangel, do you read me?â€
Everyone on board the Archangel gasped in shock at the sound of the familiar voice.
â€œItâ€™s Natarle.â€ Murrue whispered, â€œSheâ€™s the captain of that ship?â€
â€œCurrently your ship is listed as a renegade vessel by the Alliance high command.â€ Natarle continued, â€œWe demand your immediate and unconditional surrender. If you fail to abide, you will be fired upon. What is your answer?â€
Murrue picked up the receiver and watched as her former subordinateâ€™s face appeared on the main screen. â€œItâ€™s been a long time, Natarle.â€
â€Yes, it has indeed.â€ Natarle replied, â€œIâ€™ve heard about what occurred at Alaska, so I can understand why you may feel outraged. However, I now am acting under the orders of Captain Sutherland to bring the Archangel and its crew into custody, and that also goes for the two ships stationed with you.â€ She paused. â€œWhile I cannot promise anything, I can at least see to it that you and the crew of the Archangel will receive a fair trial, but thatâ€™s only if you surrender willingly.â€
Murrue snorted. Outrage about what happened at Alaska was an understatement. And she knew that neither she nor anyone else would get a fair trial, what with Sutherlandâ€™s influence looming. Any trial would be a mockery of justice, if there even was one. She indeed was aware that battling against another Archangel-class and an Agamemnon-class with a full compliment of mobile suits would be difficult, but what would her answer be? Just then, she remembered what Mu told her about at Orb about Anthony McAuliffe. She licked her lips and raised the speaker back up. â€œNuts.â€
â€œWhat?â€ Natarle asked, puzzled by the answer.
In fact the bridge crew and everyone listening in were baffled by Murrueâ€™s reply. All except Mu, who smiled to himself. He knew exactly what she meant.
â€œThis isnâ€™t only about Alaska, Panama, or even what happened to Orb.â€ She continued, â€œWe have serious doubts of the entire Earth Alliance as a whole, what with the actions of Atlantic Federation. No surrender and no compromise. If you want us, then come and get us.â€
â€œOh, this is so amusing.â€ Azrael spoke up, clapping his hands. â€œSuddenly the once pride of the famed 8th Fleet and its crew decide to become revolutionaries. However, this little show of rebellion has to be crushed.â€
â€œDirector Azrael.â€ Natarle started to protest.
Everyone on the Archangelâ€™s bridge fell silent for a moment.
â€œIsnâ€™t Azrael the name ofâ€¦?â€ Miriallia started to ask.
Murrueâ€™s eyes narrowed. â€œYes, the leader of Blue Cosmos.â€
Inside the Panzerâ€™s cockpit, the air suddenly became tense and filled with pure hate. Gripping his controls tight, Cade suddenly felt like a caged wild animal wanting to break loose. The mere mention of the name Azrael sickened him, but knowing the very man was so close filled him with fury. He swore that heâ€™d take down that ship, just to kill the man whose group murdered his parents.
From the hanger of the Dominion, the Raider and Calamity were the first to be launched, followed by the Forbidden and Scorpio. At the same time, the Schwarzkopf launched its entire force of Strike Daggers.
â€œWeâ€™ve got multiple in-comings.â€ Tonomura said, â€œTheyâ€™re throwing everything at us.â€
â€œGet the Strike and Buster out there immeadatily!â€ Murrue ordered, â€œWhat about the Kusanagi and Eternal?â€
â€The Kusanagi is coming out right now, but the Eternal still has to finish several last minute adjustments.â€ Sai answered.
Murrue held her breath, knowing theyâ€™d be on their own for a short while. Sheâ€™d made the first move with her defiance, but now she hoped that they could survive this fight. With Natarle as the adversary this time, it would be a difficult battle.
Wed Oct 01, 2008 8:03 am
|Retconned MSV Ace|
Joined: Tue Oct 03, 2006 3:44 am
I think it's great you guys have stuck with this project this far already. You're on the final stretch now, not much longer to go.
You're still keeping it interesting yet faithful to the original. I wonder if you're going to make some more drastic changes to the ending or keep it as it is...
-We will not be caught by surprise!
*Almost everyone I've killed uttered similar last words.
-Then I am glad once again that you are on my side.
*They've often said that too.
Wed Oct 01, 2008 3:04 pm
|Mysterious Masked Dude|
Joined: Sat Sep 16, 2006 7:45 pm
Time will tell, Antares. But hopefully, you'll be pleased with upcoming chapters. We've got some BIG surprises in store...
Sun Oct 19, 2008 1:14 pm
|Mysterious Masked Dude|
Joined: Sat Sep 16, 2006 7:45 pm
New Phase 43
â€œReady Igelstellungs and Valiants! Load all missile tubes!â€
The Archangelâ€™s weaponry was primed as the Dominion sped towards it. In front were the four familiar Gundams they had fought at Orb. Rounding out the enemy forces was the entire compliment of Strike Daggers from the Schwarzkopf. In terms of numbers alone it would be a difficult battle, but with a brilliant tactician like Natarle in command, if they made a single wrong move, it was going to be all over for them.
â€œSend out the Strike and Buster at once!â€ Murrue commanded, â€œWeâ€™ll send out the Freedom and Justice when theyâ€™re ready.â€
She watched as first the Strike, armed with its Launcher Strike Pack, entered the battlefield, followed closely by the Buster. Hopefully with their heavy long-range weapons theyâ€™d be able to bring down whatever enemy mobile suits right away.
As the Archangel maneuvered around, another thought came to her mind. â€œKeep watch for debris. The metapolymer tether lines out there can be hazardous.â€
A moment later, the Freedom and Justice both launched and immeadatily went after the four closest enemy units.
Kira checked his console and saw the displayed data. â€œAthrun, itâ€™s those guys again, the ones we fought at Orb.â€
â€œYeah, I see them.â€
At the same time, the Kusanagi slowly moved from its mooring to join the battle. Even with its sub-par armaments, it would still even the playing field.
â€œAccelerate to full speed once weâ€™re outside.â€ Cagalli commanded, â€œWeâ€™ll cover the Archangelâ€™s port flank.â€
The four Extendeds saw their primary targets right away. As much as they wanted to just demolish them, they had to remember their orders. If they failed, they feared theyâ€™d be subjected to the conditioning methods once again.
â€œRemember they want these things intact.â€ Orga said.
â€œWell, you think theyâ€™d be satisfied with just one?â€ Clotho asked. While he knew the orders, he also knew that sometimes accidents happen.
Attacking first, the Calamity fired every weapon it possessed. Beam shots mixed with bazooka rounds streaked through space, forcing the Freedom and Justice to take evasive action. It was then the Scorpio moved in, firing its stinger beam cannons, thereby boxing in Kira and Athrun more.
As the Kusanagi prepared to enter the battle, Cagalli quickly surveyed the area to see where the ship needed to go first. The Archangel and its forces already were taking on the mystery ship, so that left only the Schwarzkopf to contend with.
â€œEngage the Agamemnon-class first.â€ Cagalli ordered, â€œAim for its engines.â€
But suddenly the entire ship jerked to a complete halt, as though it collided with an invisible wall. Everyone on the bridge was nearly thrown around
â€Sir, weâ€™ve been snared by some kind of cable! Itâ€™s wrapped around the port engine section!â€ the helmsman answered.
â€We canâ€™t, weâ€™re already at maximum thrust!â€
Kisaka growled in frustration. The Kusanagi would be a sitting duck until it got freed. â€œAsagi! Whateverâ€™s attached to the ship cut it loose!â€
Asagi now had to hurry to find where they ship was entangled and get it free. She only hoped that she had enough time.
Back on the Dominion, Natarle took notice of the Kusanagiâ€™s plight. She opened a channel to the Schwarzkopf. â€œCaptain Rojas, the Izumo-class seems to be incapacitated for moment. Concentrate your forces and firepower on it and take it out.â€
â€œGladly.â€ Rojas grinned. He turned to his crew, â€œAll hands, our primary target is the Orb battleship. I want it reduced to stardust.â€
Every one of the twelve Earth Alliance mobile suits made a beeline for the Kusanagi, but the Forbidden was ahead of them. Shani was ignoring the present orders concerning capturing the Freedom and Justice.
â€œShani, where are you going?â€ Gren demanded, but he didnâ€™t receive an answer. â€œUgh, that dumbass.â€
Asagi didnâ€™t need to search long before she had found the cable that had the ship immobilized. Pulling out a beam saber, she cut into the cable, melting it away layer by layer. However, due the material it was made of and its thickness, she had no idea how long it was going to take her.
Suddenly out the corner of her eye, a dark shape loomed out of nowhere. She quickly recognized it as one of the enemy Gundams from the battle back at Orb. It was right in her face, and there was no time or means to dodge or even fight back. The Forbidden reeled back its Nidhoggr, ready to slice her M1 to pieces. Abruptly a new shape suddenly struck, slamming into the Forbidden and sending it flying. Everyone looked to it was the flightpack of the Justice. Athrun had come in just in enough time to save Asagi.
â€œDonâ€™t just sit there!â€ he shouted, â€œHurry and get the ship loose!â€
â€R-right.â€ Asagi wasted no time to get back to work.
Athrun got his equipment reattached, when a proximity alarm rang. He saw the Forbidden was returning, this time now focusing on him. Drawing one twin-bladed beam saber, he charged forward to answer the challenge.
Simultaneously, Kira had his hands full taking on both the Raider and Calamity. However, the Scorpio was nowhere to be seen. The two enemy machines were flying circles around him, but he did what he could to take shots at them when they drifted into his sights. The Calamity came to a halt, aiming its Todesblock. Kira tried to take the chance this apparent opening gave, when a second alarm rang. He looked to see the Raiderâ€™s Mjolnir hammer was coming right at him full speed. He fired the Freedomâ€™s head mounted vulcans, hitting the weapon to try and slow down its momentum. It worked just barely, but it was enough. Swinging his shield, he batted away the hammer, causing it to now strike the Calamity straight in its torso.
Natarle briefly could watch as the Schwarzkopf moved in. She hoped that Captain Rojas could overtake the Orb battleship. She herself had no knowledge of what kind of armaments it had or what its complement of mobile suits could be. Her data analyst got her attention.
â€œCaptain, the Archangelâ€™s present course is projected at Green 94, Mark 3, Bravo.â€
Natarle then recalled an exercise similar to this situation from her days in the academy. She already had a plan in mind. â€œLoad missile tubes one through six and set the Corinthos to auto-control pattern B! Set targeting to Orange, Alpha 17 to 42! Set the firing angles at five points apart. Meanwhile launch a decoy beacon and change our course to Indigo 13, Mark 20 Charlie, at maximum thrust!â€
â€œTheyâ€™re nowhere near there.â€ Azrael protested, â€œWhat good will shooting missiles there be?â€
Natarle narrowed her eyes. This was no time for a bigwig to run his mouth, even if he was the National Defense Industry Association. â€œIf you donâ€™t understand the strategy,â€ she bluntly said, â€œthen sit back and keep quiet.â€
The Dominion pulled back and away as the missile were launched and sent adrift.
At that moment, the Strike and Buster were handling the Dominionâ€™s own force of Strike Daggers. With what they dealt with at Orb, this battle now was all but a cakewalk for them. Coordinating their attacks, they were picking off the Earth Alliance mobile suits. One Strike Daggers tried to sneak behind of chunk of a meteoroid, but its hiding spot didnâ€™t last. Dearka aimed the first of his cannons, blasting away the meteoroid as well as damaging the Strike Dagger. Mu followed up with an attack from behind, obliterating the mobile suit with one shot from the Agni.
On the other side of Mendel, the three Nazca-class ships had arrived unseen. Along with Yzak and Shiho, Le Creuset could see the battle unfolding in front of them.
â€œWell, look at what we have here.â€ The Commander said, â€œThe curtainâ€™s been raised on this little show.â€
Ades looked up from his console. â€œThe Eternal is definitely there, along with two other vessels. And one happens to be the legged ship. It seems that the Earth Forces have one Agamemnon-class, but the other is unknown right now. â€
Le Creuset took a look at the console and then back out the bridgeâ€™s windows. â€œWhatever the case, until weâ€™ve a better understanding of whatâ€™s going on, itâ€™ll be best if we stay out of it for now.â€ He then rose from his seat. â€œHowever, Yzak, Shiho, and I will enter the colony and gather information.â€
Ades was taken aback. â€œYouâ€™re personally going, sir?â€
The Commander nodded. â€œI want both the Helderton and Heusinger to remain here. If all goes well, we can easily bring a number of matters to a close. Now, get my GuAIZ ready.â€
Back in the middle of the battle, the Archangel fired in every direction. However, the crew hadnâ€™t yet encountered the Dominion. What worried them is that they knew their path shouldâ€™ve brought them right in front of it.
â€œWhat is it?â€ Murrue all but growled, â€œWhereâ€™s the Dominion?â€
â€I donâ€™t know.â€ Sai answered, â€œAll the debris makes it difficult to locate anything.â€
Murrue slammed her fist. She knew Natarle had to be somewhere near, but where?
The Kusanagi wasnâ€™t fairing any better. The ship still hadnâ€™t gotten loose and the Schwarzkopf was getting within firing range. The Earth Forcesâ€™ shipâ€™s mobile suit team was now also ready to take on the handicapped ship.
One of the first Strike Dagger opened fire, pelting the Kusanagiâ€™s hull. Suddenly a barrage of enemy fire blasted its shield away. Before the pilot could see what had done the damage, it was already too late. The others looked to see an M1 unlike any they been informed on. This one was silver colored.
Michael had finished with the A.X.I.S. just in time and now had the equipment activated. The results so far seemed promising enough. Already he could see improvement in his piloting. It was like he could see what the enemy would do just before they did it. As the Strike Dagger formation broke apart, he easily targeted the nearest one and brought it down.
It was then that the Panzer emerged from the Kusanagi and Cade joined Michael. â€œHey, youâ€™ve gotten good at this.â€ He commented, â€œJust try to leave a few for the rest of us.â€
â€Oh, thereâ€™s plenty more.â€ Michael replied, readjusting the A.X.I.S. controls, â€œAnd here they come.â€
The Archangel arrived at the spot where the Dominion had been tracked, but it wasnâ€™t anywhere in sight. Just then, the crew spotted something. It was a small piece of equipment, a globe-shaped decoy beacon that had been sending out the same signal pattern as the Dominion. They had fallen into a trap.
â€œCaptain, the Dominion!â€ Sai yelled, â€œItâ€™s coming at us from Blue 19, Alpha! Theyâ€™re right now us!â€
At that precise moment, the Dominionâ€™s two Gottfried cannons fired.
Neumann gripped the controls, taking the ship out of the line of fire. However, the Archangel was now right where Natarle wanted it. She had timed it perfectly so that the ship would be in close proximity with the missiles once the delayed auto-launching function expired. The cluster shoot forward directly at the Archangel.
â€œWeâ€™ve got missiles approaching from Orange, Delta!â€ Miriallia screamed.
Kira saw the predicament the Archangel was in. Breaking off his duel with the Raider, he aimed beam cannons the Freedom carried on its back and fired ahead of the incoming missiles. The streaking barrage cut into the path of the missiles, taking much of them down. However, several remained intact and each hit their mark with deadly accuracy. The Archangel began to list to the left.
Kira threw a hateful glare to the Dominion. â€œNatarle, you bitch!â€
On the Dominionâ€™s bridge, Azrael sat back and liked what he saw. It seemed to him that everything would go in his favor. â€œI must say, that was impressive.â€
â€œThis level of tactics is hardly anything to be impressed about.â€ Natarle said, â€œItâ€™s all manipulating your enemy to do exactly what you want and where you want them.â€
Not far away, the Schwarzkopf now had the Kusanagi in its crosshairs. However, Rojas wasnâ€™t about to deliver a quick broadside to the enemy ship, he wanted to savor it. Heâ€™d let his mobile suit forces soften up the Orb ship before heâ€™d slowly finish it off.
â€œCaptain,â€ his XO stated, â€œthereâ€™s something ahead.â€
â€œWhat is it?â€
â€A mobile suit, but itâ€™s not an Orb model.â€
â€Well, what is it then?â€
â€I donâ€™t know, sir.â€ The XO meekly admitted.
Rojas almost stammered, â€œContact the Dominion, then! Maybe they can give you a hand.â€
The CIC officer on the Dominion quickly received the hail. He turned to Natarle. â€œCaptain, the Schwarzkopf is contacting us.â€
Natarle groaned. This wasnâ€™t the time for any interruptions, now that the Archangel had been damaged. â€œOpen the channel.â€
Captain Rojasâ€™ face appeared on the screen. â€œCommander Badgiruel, thereâ€™s some mobile suit out here we havenâ€™t yet identified. Is there anything you havenâ€™t informed me about?â€
â€œDonâ€™t be absurd!â€ Natarle snapped back, I know as much as you do.â€
â€œCaptain!â€ a controller on the Schwarzkopf shouted.
Rojas turned his head. â€œWhat?â€ He then peered closer at the information that had been newly received. â€œEnemy identified asâ€¦GAT-X619 Panzer?â€
Natarle shuddered, knowing fully well the might of that Gundam in terms of firepower. She needed to find a way to take it down quickly. However, Rojas thought he had the perfect method.
â€œUnits Two, Three, and Four, surround that mobile suit and take him down.â€ He ordered.
Natarle knew that three Strike Daggers with standard armaments wouldnâ€™t be enough against something like the Panzer. But before she could say so, Rojas had cut off communications.
Three Strike Daggers broke away to engage the Panzer. The lead charged straight ahead, while the others spread out to flank it. Cade saw what they were trying to pull; heâ€™d encountered a similar tactic while facing mobile armors early in the war. Starting at the right, he opened fire at the closest Strike Dagger. The gatlingâ€™s round tore through the mobile suitâ€™s right arm, destroying it along with the unitâ€™s beam rifle.
Turning to the second, he drew his beam saber and charged.
Meanwhile Michael continued to hold his own. The reaction time provided by the A.X.I.S. was phenomenal. He never anything like this was possible until now. The information feedback loop provided by all incoming data was concentrated and he used it to the fullest potential. Suddenly his sensors picked up a new signal. He looked and knew it was something different from the Strike Daggers. â€œItâ€™s one of them again.â€
The Scorpio, which had snuck away from its three sibling units, now charged into the fight between the forces of the Kusanagi and Schwarzkopf. Gren recognized the Silver Astray from the battle at Orb, remembering that he never had the chance to finish the fight with it. He decided that now would be as good as any time. The Scorpio swung the Kazarian axe, but it was blocked effortlessly. Michael parried, nearly cutting into the enemy Gundamâ€™s armor.
Michael felt a surge of information stream in and quickly readjusted the A.X.I.S. once again. Against an unpredictable enemy like the person operating the Scorpio, needed any advantage to stay alive.
As she watched from the bridge, Cagalli grew more frustrated. The additional M1s were moving out, but the ship was still in danger. That and she could take the Strike Rouge out in this sort of chaotic battle.
â€œWhatâ€™s the holdup, Asagi?â€ she called over the comlink.
â€œThis is taking longer than I thought it would!â€ Asagi shouted apologetically.
â€œLess chatter, more cutting!â€ Cade broke in. He fired another burst of his gatling, mowing down another Strike Dagger.
Inside the hanger of the Vesalius, three mobile suits were ready to disembark. Le Creuset now piloted one of the new GuAIZ units, this one fined tuned for ace pilots and officers. Shiho was back behind the controls of a CGUE D.E.E.P. Arms type, and of course Yzak sat inside the Duel. It had been a long time since he last fought in outer space.
â€œYzak, Shiho, weâ€™re moving out.â€ The Commander said. Taking the lead, Le Creuset thought he felt something, a presence he knew but had not felt for some time. Then looking at the Mendel colony, a sea of memories flooded his mind. Memories that were not pleasant.
Mu suddenly felt a flash of intuition. He knew exactly what the cause of it was. He turned about face and headed back towards the colony.
â€œHey, Pops!â€ Dearka called after him, â€œWhere are you going?â€
â€œWatch it with the â€˜Popsâ€™!â€ Mu warned, â€œTheyâ€™re ZAFT forces close by!â€
Dearka was bewildered by the claim. He wondered how La Flaga could even think such a thing. However, he knew he couldnâ€™t let him go alone. He fired the Busterâ€™s thrusters and followed the Strike.
Natarle watched as the Freedom moved into a new defensive position to protect the Archangel. She twisted her head to Azrael. â€œThatâ€™s one of the mobile suits youâ€™re interested in, correct?â€
â€Why, yes it is.â€
â€œThen have the Raider and Calamity ready.â€ She then turned her attention back to her crew. â€œReady the Valiants and Gottfrieds! Target the enemy mobile suit and fire!â€
Green and yellow beams of energy fired at the Freedom. Kira blocked the first of the shots, but moved to dodge. However, the Raider and Calamity encircled him again. Kira tried to deflect attacks from the Raider, but that left his back open. A round of the Calamityâ€™s Todesblock tagged the Freedom in the shoulder. A new volley of fire from the Dominionâ€™s cannons nearly hit him. He was now boxed in, being attacked from all sides. There wasnâ€™t any noticeable means for him to escape the present onslaught and there wasnâ€™t anyone who could him support.
Azrael watched with glee, knowing that one of the prizes he sought would be his very soon. He wanted that machine and the secrets it held.
Natarle had the target pushed back and now readied to deliver the final blow. â€œFire all Sledgehammer missiles at the enemy mobile suit!â€
On her order, a count of six of the heavy yield Sledgehammer missiles was launched. Designed to take out the most heavily armored enemies, theyâ€™d easily pummel the Freedom into submission.
Kira saw the deadly swarm coming straight at him. His mind flashed to think of any way to defend himself, but nothing came. It looked like he was certainly doomed.
Wed Nov 19, 2008 12:44 pm
|Mysterious Masked Dude|
Joined: Sat Sep 16, 2006 7:45 pm
New Phase 44
Kiraâ€™s predicament was equal to that of a wounded and cornered animal. The cluster of missiles was only seconds away from blasting him. However at that moment, he felt a sudden surge of clarity, every one of his senses increased sharply. He fired his thrusters, sending him backwards at an angle. Engaging the multi-lock function, he locked on the lead missiles and fired. His attack was accurate, as each of the targets was destroyed. Those missiles that werenâ€™t hit were either caught in the blast radius of those that were and detonated prematurely or were thrown off their trajectory and smashed into each other. The tables had been turned in the blink of an eye.
Although the missiles had been dealt with, the Raider and Calamity hadnâ€™t let up on their offense to any degree. The Calamity laid down a barrage. The Freedom blocked the shots, but it was almost too late. The Camalityâ€™s Scylla then fired, nearly blowing away the Freedomâ€™s right arm entirely.
Clotho turned to Orga. â€œIdiot! Weâ€™re not supposed to destroy it!â€
Orgaâ€™s tune hardly changed. â€œThen how about we just put some dents in it?â€ He began to unload the Todesblock on the Freedom.
On the Dominionâ€™s bridge, Natarle was taken aback by the failure of her tactics. Even with the careful pacing of the most rudimental of strategies, the target had escaped at the last possible moment. â€œWhoever that pilot is,â€ she thought to herself, â€œheâ€™s something else.â€
Kira resumed his defensive tactics against the other two Gundams. The Raider, now in its mobile armor mode, swooped in and peppered the Freedom with cannon fire. It followed with a strike with its talon-like claws, nearly tearing away the Freedomâ€™s shield. The Calamity was now closer, but couldnâ€™t acquire any clear shot with the Raider flying around back and forth.
â€œClotho, move it!â€ Orga snarled, â€œGet out of my way!â€
Not too far away, Athrun saw his friendâ€™s situation. He wouldnâ€™t be able to hold out much longer. â€œKira!â€ He couldnâ€™t waste anymore time with his present duel. Pulling out the Justiceâ€™s twin-bladed beam saber, he ignited both blades and spun the weapon like a baton. He easily cut apart the Forbiddenâ€™s Nidhogger scythe and inflicted some damage to its weaponry backpack. Launching his flightpack once again, Athrun hit the Forbidden with a second surprise attack and knocked it back. He then quickly hurried to aid Kira before the Forbidden could recover.
As Kira held back the Raider, the Calamity at last had a clear shot. With one hit to the Freedomâ€™s unprotected back, it would all be over. Orga powered up the Scylla again and fired. The sapphire and crimson beam sped directly towards its target. Abruptly the Justice dove in the path, holding its shield up high. The beam collided with the shield, creating a stand-off of attack and defense. Athrun accelerated the Justice as much as it could handle and pressed forward against the flow of the energy blast. To counter, Orga tried to increase the Scyllaâ€™s output, but that took a heavy toll on the Calamityâ€™s power supply. Athrun pushed back and started to refract the beam. Several tense moments later, there was an overload, resulting in an explosion. Both Gundams were thrown back, with the Calamity receiving the more damage. The Scylla was rendered all but inoperable, but the Justice took some stress damage to its left arm. Thankfully the shield had held up.
â€œAthrun!â€ Kira brought the Freedom next to the Justice. â€œYou all right?â€
â€œIâ€™m fine.â€ Athrun answered.
From her seat, Natarle watched in awe at the strength of the mobile suits sheâ€™d been tasked to capture. She never imagined that they would have this much power.
â€œWow, that was close!â€ Azrael shouted excitedly. He turned to Natarle. â€œCome on, you canâ€™t stop firing now.â€
Natarle was nearly appalled by Azraelâ€™s commentary. He clearly didnâ€™t understand how serious the situation was becoming. â€œAt this range, weâ€™d hit our own machines.â€
â€They have TP armor, they can handle it.â€
Natarle shuddered. She remembered back when she was still with the Archangel on Earth and said the same thing when the Strike was fighting. Her ordered attack during that battle had left the mobile suit in a dangerous position.
â€œCaptain, the Archangel has recovered!â€
Natarle looked back out to see her former ship was now maneuvering to reengage. Apparently the ambush hadnâ€™t been enough to cripple the ship.
Back inside Mendelâ€™s port, the Eternal was anchored in place. As the crew hurried to finish preparations, Waltfeld and Lacus saw both the Strike and Buster zoom past them quickly.
Waltfeld picked up the comlink. â€œHey kid, where are you going?â€
Dearkaâ€™s face appeared on the monitor. â€œHe says that ZAFT is nearby.â€ He shrugged, â€œI donâ€™t have a clue how he thinks he knows.â€
Waltfeld and Lacus both stiffened. They had expected that ZAFT would eventually find the Eternal, but not this quickly.
â€œThereâ€™s another port like this one on the other side of the colony, right?â€ Waltfeld asked.
â€œAffirmative.â€ Dearka answered, â€œWeâ€™re checking it out just in case. Over and out.â€
The screen then went black. If things were as they seemed to be going, there was more trouble on the way. They now faced attack from both sides against enemies who wanted to wipe them out completely.
â€œPlease hurry with the launch, Commander.â€ Lacus said, â€œAs long as we stay here, it wonâ€™t do any good whatsoever.â€
â€œRight away.â€ Waltfeld turned to his right, â€œDaCosta, bring engines to maximum and ready all weapons!â€
Meanwhile, on the opposite harbor of Mendel, a trio of mobile suits entered the landscape and began to conduct intelligence gathering. Leading was Rauâ€™s silver GuAIZ, with Yzak and Shiho taking up the rear with the Duel and CGUE DEEP Arms. Yzak merely grunted as they did something he thought was pointless. Shiho meanwhile actually enjoyed the look around. It was a rare joy to see beauty in a war as horrible as this was. Rau suddenly smiled as he sensed Mu approaching, alerting the latterâ€™s spatial senses.
In their minds, they both said, â€œHeâ€™s here!â€ Suddenly, both groups caught sight of each other and were identified.
Yzak immediately recognized both the Strike and Buster. Dearka managed to identify the Duel, but the other two suits were unknown to him. They opened fire almost immediately, with Yzak and Shiho attacking the Buster while the Launcher Strike and GuAIZ attacked each other. All immediate shots missed, as Mu opened up with the anti-ship shoulder vulcan, knowing the hyper impulse cannon would be useless at close range.
Rau responded with a beam rifle shot. â€œI seeâ€¦so youâ€™re the one piloting that machine nowâ€¦MU LA FLAGA!â€ Rau shouted to himself as he continued to let loose shot after shot from his beam rifle.
Dodging each with grace, the Launcher Strike opened up with the hyper impulse cannon. â€œA new model? This might not be the best equipment,â€ Mu said in frustration.
Back outside, the two-on-two fight between the Freedom and Justice and Raider and Calamity raged on. Both sides were stalemated for the moment. But then a new object was detected. Shani was storming in and firing the Forbiddenâ€™s Hresyelgr plasma cannon wildly. The deadly beams arced in around, even narrowly missing the Raider and Calamity. All four Gundams spread out to evade the ruthless onslaught.
â€œShani, stop!â€ Orga yelled.
â€œWhat do you think youâ€™re doing, you idiot?â€ Clotho shouted.
Shaniâ€™s answer was only an animalistic scream and a further barrage.
The Justice spun back and forth to dodge the incoming beams. â€œThis guyâ€™s gone nuts!â€ Athrun thought. A loose cannon like that would only make the battle more dangerous.
As the Silver Astray continued to defend itself against a Strike Dagger hammering at him with its beam saber, Michael began to feel more aggressive. Then, parrying with one hand, he slammed the tip of his shield full-force into the cockpit of the enemy suit. Going dead almost instantly, the Strike Daggerâ€™s collapsed cockpit area had the gory remains of its pilot splattered all over it. Looking at it, Michael didnâ€™t feel disgusted or strange...almost normal actually. As he wondered if that AXIS OS was beginning to affect him, the Scorpio came around from behind and swung his axe down hard. Raising his beam saber high, the blow was blocked while Michael swung his beam rifle hard into the Scorpioâ€™s head, throwing Gren off balance with its impact.
At that moment, Asagi had finally come close to getting the Kusanagi free from the cable that had snared it. Her beam saber melted through the last bundle and the cable snapped back.
â€œSorry that took so long!â€ she shouted.
With the ship now free, Cagalli quickly orders to the crew. â€œBring engines to maximum thrust!â€
As the shipâ€™s engines roared back to life, Kisaka glared at the nearby Schwarzkopf. â€œReady Gottfrieds One and Two, target the Agamemnon-class!â€
The remaining M1 Astrays were sent out, with Mayura and Juri linking up with Asagi. The trio led the charge against a new wave of Strike Daggers.
While Shiho kept up her heavy fire to keep the Buster occupied, Yzak drew one of his beam sabers and made a vertical slice at the Buster, not knowing Dearka was still piloting it. â€œBastard! How dare you use Dearkaâ€™s machine!â€
Thankfully, Dearka managed to dodge the slice, but knew that Shihoâ€™s continuous fire needed to be stopped. One of those beams came close to severing his arm. While dodging another slice from Yzak, Dearka docked together his weapons in the beam shotgun configuration and sprayed a burst at the arms and upper torso of the CGUE DEEP Arms, if only to try and drive it back.
Shiho skillfully dodged the shot, and drew her laser sword to attack the Buster with melee. Making her downward slash, she was surprised when Dearka dodged and fired another blast with the beam shotgun. This time, it struck true and blew off both her arms from the elbow down. Knowing sheâ€™d be useless in this condition, she retreated for the harbor and began to make her way back to the Vesalius for emergency repairs.
Meanwhile, the Launcher Strike continued to fire another volley of 120mm shells from its vulcan cannon towards the GuAIZ, which was proving itself to be more agile than the shells it was running from. â€œWhat are the odds of you and I meeting again in this place?â€ Rau shouted to his enemy over an open comlink. Mu merely shouted out Rauâ€™s name and kept on the attack. The GuAIZâ€™s beam claws were activated and made a slash towards the Launcher Strike. Mu dodged them with a horizontal barrel roll, but Rau merely grinned. â€œIt was meant to be, Mu. Iâ€™m glad.â€
The Kusanagi and Schwarzkopf neared one another, both ships having all weapons primed.
â€œCaptain Rojas, the Izumo-class is at Distance 20, Orange 15, Alpha.â€
â€œLay down at barrage!â€ Rojas barked, â€œWeâ€™re still outside the range of their weapons.â€ However, he didnâ€™t realize that he was very wrong about his enemyâ€™s capabilities.
On the Kusanagiâ€™s bridge, gunnery crew locked on to the Agamemnon-class. â€œWeâ€™re ready for your order, Colonel.â€
â€œFire Gottfrieds one and two!â€
Four green beams of energy shot forth from their cannons and flew with near deadly accuracy. The Schwarzkopf was hit with grazing fire, but it was enough to get Rojasâ€™ attention. Damage reports instantly came flooding in.
â€œCaptain, sections twenty-four through thirty have been hit!â€
â€The hullâ€™s been compromised on our starboard side!â€
â€Engine output is decreasing rapidly!â€
Rojas couldnâ€™t understand. How could have he made such a miscalculation?
Natarle saw the damage the ally ship had taken and grimaced. The Dominion also now was taking a pounding from the Archangelâ€™s guns, and the primary targets were on the offensive. For what she had hoped to make a quick and overwhelming assault was turning into a drawn out battle, one where they were starting to lose.
â€œRecall all mobile suits! Weâ€™re temporarily falling back! Fire the signal flare!â€
Azrael stood up. â€œWhat?â€
â€Weâ€™re at the disadvantage for the moment.â€
â€But we had them cornered.â€ Azrael whined.
Natarle huffed. â€œThe energy levels of your four machines are reaching dangerously low levels! If we donâ€™t retreat for now, weâ€™ll be the ones dead!â€
â€œSo this is something the old limerick about running away to fight again later?â€
â€œExactly, unless youâ€™re eager to meet your maker.â€
Just then, the Dominion rocked heavily from the impact of a duo of missiles.
â€œWeâ€™re pulling out!â€ Natarle shouted to her troops, â€œHead ten to starboard. Weâ€™re leaving this battle zone. Contact the Schwarzkopf and have them follow behind.â€
From the hull of the Dominion, a set of purple, blue, and green flares erupted out and lit up the surrounding darkness. Clotho and Orga immeadatily knew they had to withdraw, as much as they hated to. Shani, however, wasnâ€™t able to follow orders have quit. He kept up his attacks until the Calamity literally placed its between the Forbidden and their targets.
â€œShani, we have to retreat for now!â€
â€But, those guysâ€¦!â€ Shani growled.
â€œWe have to!â€ Orga shouted, â€œIf we donâ€™t, theyâ€™ll punish us worse than usual!â€
Shani then shuddered, fears of the negative reinforcement overcoming him.
At the same time, the Silver Astray and Scorpioâ€™s duel was cut short by the order to retreat. As the remainder of the Schwarzkopfâ€™s mobile suits fell back, the Scorpio did the same to rejoin its sibling units.
At the sight of the fleeing enemies, Michael was suddenly filled a sense of bravado heâ€™d never felt before. â€œYeah, keep running! Iâ€™ll just shoot you in the ass!â€ Abruptly he wondered where that sort of attitude came from. He had never behaved like that before. He then felt a mild throbbing sensation inside his head. He powered down the AXIS and withdrew back with the others to the Kusanagi.
On the Archangel, Murrue watched as the enemy force turned away. She sighed in relief. Even when retreating, Natarle executed her commands with great precision. She was an enemy who knew she had beaten for the time being. But she would soon be back to resume the attack.
The Freedom and the Justice slowly backed away to Mendel. There was now a great deal on Kiraâ€™s mind. The face that Natarle was now an enemy was one thing, but there was something else.
â€œAthrun, those guys.â€
â€œWhat is it?â€
â€I canâ€™t say why, but something tells me that they arenâ€™t exactly Naturals.â€
â€But they obviously canâ€™t be Coordinators.â€
â€I know, theyâ€™re something else.â€
Back on the Archangel, Murrue contacted the Eternal to discuss any plans for a counterattack.
â€œHey, have you heard anything from La Flaga or Elsman?â€ Waltfeld asked.
Murrue was shocked. â€œWhat do you mean?â€
The Launcher Strike and GuAIZ continued to let loose attacks on each other, whether they be Vulcan cannon shells or plasma blasts. Then, Mu fired another shot from the hyper impulse cannon just to see Rau dodge it with grace. â€œHa, youâ€™re pretty good in that suit.â€ Rau merely responded with a pair of beam rifle shots. Attempting to hit him again, Mu saw the GuAIZ dodge another shot from the hyper impulse cannon. â€œBastard! Todayâ€™s the day you die!â€ Switching to the gun launchers, Mu fired off a pair of missiles that were meant to blow off the legs of the GuAIZ. Instead, they just plowed into the ground as it descended and then ascended.
â€œYou stinking Natural!â€ Yzak screamed out in rage as he made another slash towards the Buster. Now no longer content with avenging Dearka, that pilot had almost killed Shiho, the only girl who he could, just maybeâ€¦ Dearka merely grunted in frustration at Yzakâ€™s state. â€œIâ€™ll make you pay for this!â€ Instead of making another slash, Yzak let loose a shot from his railgun and fired five missiles from the pod in the Busterâ€™s direction. Firing a shot from the gun launcher removed the missiles from the equation.
â€œYzak, stop! Itâ€™s me!â€
Suddenly releasing his on his controls, Yzak stopped dead in his tracks. â€œD-Dearka?â€
All three ships hurried to try and establish communications with the missing Strike and Buster. But no matter what they tried, no clear signals could be found.
â€œIâ€™ll go and look for them.â€ Kira suddenly said, â€œEveryone else can re-supply and make any repairs.â€
â€œKira, the Justice is just fine as well. Iâ€™ll go with you.â€ Athrun said.
â€œNo, the enemy can return anytime and weâ€™ll need all available mobile suits.â€
â€œI agree with Kira.â€ Cade said, bringing the Panzer next to the Justice, â€œHeâ€™s more than capable of conducting a solo search. The rest of us can guard this position.â€
â€You sure about this, Kira?â€
â€œNo worries, Athrun, I wonâ€™t do anything stupid.â€ With that, the Freedom streaked away and disappeared into the colonyâ€™s interior.
The colony doors opened as the Freedom entered the scorned battlefield of Mendel, Kira surveying the desolate surroundings.
Meanwhile, the Duel and Buster remained aloft in the air above the ground; Yzak quite shocked at seeing Dearka alive and well. â€œBut, Dearkaâ€¦is it really you in there?â€ he said questionably with a hint of tension.
â€œYeah, itâ€™s me.â€ Dearka said sadly to his former ally.
â€œWhy the hell are you fighting alongside the Strike? What the hell is going on hereâ€ Yzak said without holding back his anger and contempt for the suit that gave him that scar and killed Nicol.
Dearka tensed as he saw the Duel assume a fighting position again as Yzak spoke again in confusion. â€œI mean, Iâ€™m really glad that youâ€™re alive, but man, I canâ€™t forgive you if this is what it looks like!â€ Wondering what to do about the situation, Dearka suddenly heard Kira over the communications line.
Yzak then saw the Freedom approaching in surprise, recalling what the suit did to him during the invasion of Alaska. â€œBut thatâ€™sâ€¦â€ Letting his anger get the best of him again, Yzak prepared to fight the Freedom just as Kira was ready to fight him when the Buster moved in-between the two suits, Dearka saying in no uncertain terms to stop.
Turning to the Freedom, Dearka said to Kira calmly, â€œPlease, just let me handle this, okay?â€
â€œAre you sure, Dearka?â€
â€œAlright then, but please be careful, remember what happened with me and Athrun.â€ Kira then added, â€œListen, Athrun, Cade, and the others have pulled back for now, but the Earth Forces will likely attack again soon.â€
Yzak was shocked by this information. So Cade was still alive as well? And what was Athrun of all people doing here?
Then, the Freedom took off to find Mu and the Strike, while Dearka decided to find a way out of this mess. Opening his cockpit hatch as a sign of trust, he said to Yzak over the COM, â€œLetâ€™s lower our weapons and talk.â€
Meanwhile, the Launcher Strike and GuAIZ moved in for melee combat, with Rau slashing with his beam claws and Mu grappling onto the shield. Both growled with fury at the other. â€œIf itâ€™s my fate to be shot down by you, I thought this place would beâ€¦appropriate.â€ Then, the GuAIZ kicked away the Launcher Strike in shock. â€œBut it doesnâ€™t look like thereâ€™s any chance of that happening. After all, how can the child ever hope to defeat the parent!?â€
Suddenly hearing those words, Mu was confused as hell as he detached the Launcher Strike equipment and pulled out both Armor Schneider knives. Retaliating, Rau fired both of his arrestors and watched as they slashed off the right arm and stabbed the Strike in the lower torso. The cockpit exploded and sent a piece of shrapnel into Muâ€™s abdomen as he screamed in pain. Suddenly, the Strike crashed into the ground while Mu was in pain over his wound.
Gloating, Rau said to his defeated opponent, â€œIt appears that destiny is firmly on my side.â€ Suddenly, his senses alerted him to the Freedom who fired a shot from his plasma beam cannons and blew off the arm holding the GuAIZâ€™s beam rifle. A shot from the beam rifle blew off the GuAIZâ€™s head, and Kira quickly sped past with a beam saber deployed and slicing off both legs above the knees. The GuAIZ fell from the air and smashed into the ground. Rau seeing everything no longer working in his favor left his ruined suit and ran towards a complex in the distance.
â€œJust follow me!â€ he laughed, â€œIâ€™ll personally show what the hands of fate can produce!â€
Mu was confused by Le Creusetâ€™s banter. But that didnâ€™t matter to him right now. Ignoring the pain, he hastily patched his wound and retrieved his sidearm. Wasting no time, he chased after his foe.
â€œMu, wait!â€ Kira yelled, but it was no use. Setting the Freedom next to the Strike, he exited the cockpit. He then drew his own sidearm and looked at it hesitatingly. He knew how to use it, but knew he wasnâ€™t a great shot. However, he couldnâ€™t just stand around and hope for the best. He hurried to catch up with Mu.
Not far away, both the Buster and Duel faced each other after they had landed and their respective pilot had stepped out. Dearkaâ€™s mind was racing, wondering how he was going to explain everything to Yzak. But before he could start, Yzak immeadatily drew his sidearm and aimed it. Dearka tensed up seeing this.
â€œYou honestly think Iâ€™d be naÃ¯ve enough to just talk to an enemy?â€ Yzak sneered.
Dearka knew this wasnâ€™t going to go smoothly. But he did understand Yzakâ€™s perspective. â€œSo Iâ€™m now your enemy just like that?â€ he asked.
â€œThe only person Iâ€™m seeing is an enemy and a traitor.â€
Dearka stiffened. â€œI didnâ€™t make the choice to become your enemy, Yzak. And I havenâ€™t betrayed the PLANTs in any way.â€
â€œThen what is it? Why are you fighting alongside the Strike?â€
Dearka paused before he answered. â€œI cannot agree with ZAFTâ€™s methods anymore. Not if it is only about killing Naturals.â€
Yzak was bewildered by Dearkaâ€™s behavior. He kept his weapon aimed.
Meanwhile back inside the harbor, all available hands worked to make repairs to the Archangel. As the task was being completed, the Kusanagi and its forces kept watch to see any new developments.
â€œColonel,â€ a controller aboard the Kusanagi said, â€œAsagi is coming back in.â€
A lone M1 Astray entered the harbor and hurried over to the trio of ships.
â€œThere are three Nazca-class ships waiting by the other harbor.â€ Asagi reported.
Hearing this, Waltfeld grimaced. â€œThey mean business then. But whose unit are they?â€
â€œItâ€™s Rau Le Creuset.â€ Murrue said over the communication line, â€œThatâ€™s why Mu took off like that.â€ Seeing the confused looks on the other commanding officers, she elaborated further. â€œSomehow, Mu just knows whenever Le Creuset is nearby. Itâ€™s like he can sense his presence.â€
Simultaneously, hidden back inside the nearby debris field, the Dominion and Schwarzkopf prepared for their next move. The Schwarzkopf itself was undergoing hastily repair work, but it was promised to be ready for whatever decision was made.
On the Dominion, Natarle was shocked by Azraelâ€™s insistence to attack as soon as possible.
â€œThatâ€™s too risky.â€ She said, â€œIn this sort of situation, we really ought to either call in reinforcements or pull out all together.â€
Azrael narrowed his eyes. â€œThat attitude is annoying. If we hesitate, theyâ€™ll beat us to the prize.â€ He pointed to the three ZAFT warships on a monitor. â€œWe cannot allow that. But donâ€™t worry, after a little more of the treatment, those four will be ready, and they will get the job done this time.â€
Back inside the facility, Kira slowly crept through the shadowy corridors, listening. The sound of a sudden gunshot reverberating got his attention and he leapt out and ran across an open area before ducking behind another piece of cover. Above him, he could see Mu crouched back behind a corner.
â€œDo you know what this place is, Mu?â€ Le Creusetâ€™s call echoed.
â€œWhy would I, you psycho?â€ Mu replied. He then squeezed off two shots. He dove out, running to a column.
â€œItâ€™s such a tragedy that you donâ€™t know!â€ Le Creuset said.
â€œMu!â€ Jumping from his hiding spot, Kira shot at the ZAFT commander, forcing him to sneak back.
â€œKira, donâ€™t!â€ Mu cautioned.
Le Creuset was then stunned. Is this youth was Kira Yamato? This made for an interesting twist. â€œThe prodigal son returns!â€ he called out.
Hearing this, Kira was confused. He couldnâ€™t think about that at the moment. He looked out to see the coast was clear and rushed over to where Mu was hunkered down. He immeadatily saw the wound on his senior. â€œMu, youâ€™re hurt.â€
â€œItâ€™s nothing.â€ Mu lied, â€œListen, this is our chance to get this guy once and for all. Now follow me and keep close.â€
The duo then slowly moved out, checking every corner and hallway for any sign of Le Creuset. They knew he was close, but where?
â€œThis is where it all began, Kira Yamato!â€ Le Creuset called out again, â€œThis place is where you and I were born!â€
Kira stiffened. â€œWhatâ€™s he talking?â€
Mu glanced back over his shoulder. â€œDonâ€™t listen to anything he says. Heâ€™s trying to play mind games with us.â€
They saw a door with a sign reading â€œHUMAN GENE MANIPULATION LABâ€ posted above it. Pressing the switch, it slid open and they ventured inside. They moved down a dark hallway before coming into labâ€™s interior. All around them they found large dark cylinders lined in rows. What was eeriest about them was that they power sources were fully functioning. But why would that be if the colony had been abandoned years ago?
Moving across the catwalk, they found an even more disturbing find. In front of them was a cluster of glass tubes, each containing a dead human fetus. All of them were underdeveloped and malformed.
â€œWhat the hell is this place?â€ Mu muttered.
â€œDoes any of this bring back memories, my dear Kira?â€ Le Creuset mocked.
Mu twisted to the side and saw movement inside a room to the left. He rushed inside, firing his weapon. He then saw a figure and a muzzle flash. The bullet tore into his arm, the pain forcing him to drop his gun.
â€œMu!â€ Kira ran in, grabbed his companion and shoved him behind a sofa. He then cowered behind it as well.
Le Creuset finally emerged from the shadows and walked towards his two enemies. â€œI wonâ€™t kill just yet, not after all the trouble I went through to bring you here.â€
â€œCut the crap, you maniac!â€ Mu growled through clenched teeth, â€œWeâ€™re not playing your game!â€
Le Creuset remained nonchalant. â€œIâ€™ll give both the full story before I finish you off.â€ He then produced a pair of objects in his free hand and flung the first.
It clattered to the floor and slid to a stop next to Kira. Glancing over to it, he was shocked by what he saw. It was another copy of the photo Cagalli had shown him. There was no mistaking the woman in the picture.
â€œAnd this should interest you, Mu.â€ Le Creuset tossed the second object, a photo album.
The album fell open as it landed, scattering the photo it contained. One fluttered to the middle and it quickly caught Muâ€™s attention. The photo was of a man carrying a small boy atop his shoulders.
â€œThatâ€™s me.â€ He gasped, â€œThatâ€™s me and my dad. But why isâ€¦howâ€¦?â€
Le Creuset smile was cruel and he laughed in wicked delight. â€œIâ€™d like to tell you both a little story.â€ He grinned, â€œOne of the ultimate extents of mankindâ€™s insatiable desires, and of the crazed fools who followed their insane dreams all in the name of progress.â€
Mon Dec 29, 2008 2:50 pm
|Mysterious Masked Dude|
Joined: Sat Sep 16, 2006 7:45 pm
New Phase 45
Rau swept his hand, gesturing to the laboratory around them. â€œThis place is like a forbidden temple.â€ He mused, â€œItâ€™s the remnants of the dreams of fools thought they were gods.â€ He then looked straight into Kiraâ€™s eyes. â€œDid it ever occur to you that the people you called mother and father were in fact your birth parents?â€
Kira shuddered. Yes, there had been times when he thought along those lines, but he always concluded that it was because his parents had been Naturals.
â€œIf you had truly known,â€ Rau continued, â€œthen perhaps you wouldâ€™ve turned out different. You wouldnâ€™t have been so normal, without a trace of your tainted past.â€ He paused, â€œEven when Athrun first mentioned your name, it hadnâ€™t dawn on me that you may very well be the one. I had heard that both twins died, as along with your real father, Dr. Ulen Hibiki, you were at the top of Blue Cosmosâ€™ hit list.â€
â€œWhat?â€ Kira whispered.
â€œBut youâ€™ve survived, grown up, and plunged into this war, and still you are alive.â€ Rau said, â€œNow why do you think that is? Seeing you now, even Iâ€™m convinced that those fools were on to something. Perhaps their dream wasnâ€™t so farfetched.â€
Kiraâ€™s body shook more and more and raised his gun at Rauâ€™s head and thumbed back the hammer.. â€œIâ€™m what?â€ he demanded, â€œWhat is it you think I am?â€
Mu grunted in pain from his wound as he saw the words of that psychopath get into Kiraâ€™s head.
â€œYou are humanityâ€™s dream.â€ Rau sneered, â€œKira Yamato, you are the Ultimate Coordinator.â€
Kira froze, wondering what that statement meant.
â€œIt was Dr. Hibiki who created the artificial womb, in the pursuit of that dream. Out of all the specimens, you were the only one to survive. A great many of your siblings had to be sacrificed along the way. All but one prototype ended up in Hell, and that sole surviving prototype was a failure in itself!â€ Rau said harshly to Kira.
It was then Kira was so overcome by shock that he dropped his gun. He trembled as he looked to the side and stared at the glass containers. If what Le Creuset said was true, then that meant that all the dead fetuses were his unborn brothers and sisters. The though made him feel sick. He slumped back slightly, utterly shocked at this outpouring of truth and realizing that all of his life had been a lie...all of it!
As Rau fired another round, Mu leaped out to pull Kira down to the ground. Quickly standing back up, Mu fired two rounds at Rau, who quickly retreated into an empty corridor. Continuing to fire, Mu grabbed Kira and the two began walking down a set of stairs. He paused to reload and looked to Kira, easily seeing the horror and disturbed look in the youthâ€™s eyes. â€œCome on kid; donâ€™t take his nonsense serious even for one second. He doesnâ€™t know what heâ€™s talking about.â€
Back at the harbor, repair work on the Archangel was completed. Now everyone stood around anxiously. They waited for the Dominion and Schwarzkopf to make another move or for any word on the missing members of their taskforce.
â€œThere are three Nazca-class vessels behind us?â€ Mayura asked, â€œWhat are we suppose to do?â€ She had a valid question, as the option of retreating would be hindered by the ZAFT presence.
â€œWe have enough problems as it stands.â€ Juri said, â€œItâ€™ll be difficult fighting those mobile suits from the Dominion with only M1s.â€
â€Uh, Juri,â€ Asagi replied, â€œI think itâ€™s going to be more than just difficult.â€
As he listened, Michael adjusted the specs on the AXIS. It was true that the system was improving his abilities, but he felt that he had to increase the settings. If at all possible, he might be able to overpower the enemy machines in the next engagement.
Just then, the Panzer came next to the Silver Astray. â€œMichael.â€ Cadeâ€™s voice spoke.
Michael ceased his work and opened the channel. â€œYes, what is it?â€
Cade wore a somber expression on his face. â€œThis next time, that ship, the Dominion, is my number one priority target.â€
â€Azrael is on that ship.â€ Cade narrowed his eyes, â€œAnd all I need is one clear shot at its bridge.â€ He swore that heâ€™d take revenge for the deaths of his parents. The leader of Blue Cosmos was going to pay in blood.
Meanwhile, Athrun felt the most anxious of everyone. He thought that Kira wouldâ€™ve at least contacted them by now. He grew more nervous until he almost couldnâ€™t take it. â€œIâ€™m going to go looking for them.â€ He started to grip the controls when Lacus contacted him.
â€œI cannot permit that.â€ She said, â€œPlease remain on standby for the time being.â€
â€œLacus,â€ Athrun answered, â€œweâ€™re facing a situation with three of our troops and mobile suits missing.â€
â€œThat is the very reason you must stay here.â€ She replied, â€œWe cannot afford to reduce our numbers any further. The ZAFT forces are nearby and we donâ€™t know when the Earth Forces can attack again. No matter what, we must press on.â€ She paused before continuing. â€œEven if Kira, Dearka, and Commander La Flaga donâ€™t make it back.â€
Athrun felt powerless. Uncertainty hung over him. He could only hope that everyone would return safely.
Down in a deeper level of the lab, Mu and Kira hid and waited. Muâ€™s injuries were starting to severely bother him. His adrenaline rush numbed most of the pain, but he knew he needed to get medical attention. But before that, he had to kill Rau. The two entered a room filled with bottles and vials of medical supplies and medication, taking cover behind a lab table.
Out of the surrounding dimness, the sound of descending footsteps echoed. Mu peered out to see a shape proceeding down the staircase. Rau reloaded and twisted his head, searching for his adversaries.
â€œâ€™ My fellow humans, Iâ€™m now revealing a secret I have kept from all.â€™â€ He called out, â€œâ€™I did not come into the world through natural birth. My genes were artificially operated on during the early embryonic stage.â€™â€ He stopped. â€œThose were the words of George Glenn, humanityâ€™s very first Coordinator.â€ He pressed a button and a series of lights came on, illuminating a medicine cabinet of sorts. â€œLittle did he realize what chaos was to follow after his announcement. He set into motion a wave of avarice unlike any before. So many parents wanted their dream children, choosing traits that fulfilled their own desires. It was as they were special ordering of some catalog.â€ He sneered in disgust. â€œPeople paid a great price for their dream, but not everything goes as planned. Babies that werenâ€™t miscarried were born with traits different than what their parents wanted. Of course, no one wants to see their dream destroyed, and that is what drove them onward!â€
Rau now reached the bottom of the stairs. He knew his foes were close. â€œThat is where Dr. Hibiki came in. He found that the most uncontrollable variable was in fact the human femaleâ€™s womb. So he set to create an artificial womb that he and his follow researchers had total control over. After many setbacks, he found he was running short of specimens. Thatâ€™s around the time he learned that his wife was carrying twins, so what did he do? He harvested one of her embryos and used it for his own goals! By some miracle, it survived the process. Kira Yamato, you were that child!â€
Kira was mortified and Mu had enough. He couldnâ€™t stand seeing the kid in this shell-shocked state.
â€œShut up!!â€ he screamed, diving out and firing wildly.
Rau dodged every shot. â€œThey thirsted for knowledge! They sought to fulfill their desires! And ultimately, they forgot why they were doing it! Even when they proclaimed their reverence for human life, they began toying with it, and then they began destroying it!â€ He roared, â€œNo matter what knowledge humans obtain, they never learn anything! They still have envy, hate, and resentment!â€ Rau continued to rant as his shot began destroying monitors and vials of medicine. â€œIf thatâ€™s what they truly desire, why donâ€™t they simply exterminate each other!?â€
â€œWhat give you the right to sound so superior!?â€ Mu retaliated in anger, opening fire again in Rauâ€™s direction. The last bullet passed right through Rauâ€™s ear, making him far angrier as he fired more shots.
As the clip slid out of Rauâ€™s empty pistol, he screamed with a twisted smile, â€œIn all the universe, I am the only one whoâ€™s earned that right! I have the right to judge humanity! My own birth gives me that!â€ His demeanor turned even more demented. â€œI am he, that arrogant fool...who thought he could thwart Death itself with his money. Al Da Flaga, your fatherâ€¦but I am merely that manâ€™s defective clone!â€
Mu spat at the raving man. â€œCut the crap, you crackpot! You donâ€™t really expect us to believe that?â€
Rau then became silent and still. â€Very well, Iâ€™ll show you the truth.â€ He then slipped off his mask to reveal a horrible sight. Rau let all present take a good hard look at his face, sweating profusely and the eyes full of pain and pure psychopathic hatred. â€œIâ€™m surprised you donâ€™t remember. Weâ€™ve met once before, Mu. Long, long ago before we ever met on the battlefield...â€
The past changed to a more civilized tone, as a younger Mu saw someone approach from behind and had no idea that it would turn out to be his greatest enemy. Then he recalled another event with the same child as he accidentally eavesdropped on his father and another individual. He never forgot his fatherâ€™s words.
â€œBut are you sure thatâ€™s me? Oh, well. He will be my successor, in any case. Why should that womanâ€™s child be my heir? Make sure you keep a close eye on him and educate him well. Whatever you do, donâ€™t make him into another weakling.â€
Mu was dumbfounded. The man before him, his arch enemy, had the exact same face as his fatherâ€™s.
Rau palmed his signature mask. â€œThe pain I suffer is the price I am forced to pay for being a physical prodigy.â€ He sneered. â€œThat manâ€™s raw genetic material was vintage and there wereâ€¦complications.â€ He then placed his mask back on his face. â€œWhen I was a child I hadnâ€™t known the reason why I had been abandoned, until I did my own research. During the process, my telomeres were shortened thanks an unforeseen side effect. When that man learned of it, I was labeled a weakling and cast aside like a piece of trash. When I saw just how ugly human greed was, I did something about it. â€
Muâ€™s eyes went wide with shock. Now, the past changed again to a tone of death as the screams of humanity trapped inside a burning mansion emerged, while the twisted laughter of vengeance reverberated in its background.
Servants scrambled in vain to at least try something. â€œThe master and his wife are still in there!â€
Mu struggled against the restraining arms of his tutor as he tried to break free. â€œDad! Mom!â€ He cried he watched the inferno engulf his home and take his parents.
â€œBastard, that was you?!â€ he raised his gun once more.
Back within the debris field just outside of Mendelâ€™s perimeter, the Dominion made final preparations for reengagement. However Natarle was still nervous about the situation. The nearby Nazca-class ships had yet to make a move, and that worried her the most.
â€œWeâ€™ll be at a disadvantage if we make the first move.â€ She said. â€œI cannot guarantee success.â€
â€œItâ€™s easy to say something is impossible,â€ Azrael replied, â€œitâ€™s another to actually make it happen. Thatâ€™s how it is in the business world.â€
â€This is war.â€ Natarle sharply countered, â€œFailure means death.â€
â€œThe stakes are the same in the business world.â€ The Blue Cosmos leader then cocked a smug grin. â€œIs it youâ€™re someone whoâ€™ll only fight battles you know you can win?â€
Natarle clenched her fists, but didnâ€™t say anything.
Azrael took notice. â€œThatâ€™s fine by me. I mean, no one wants to waste anything on a lost cause. But we canâ€™t keep sitting here forever, can we? Not if we want the prize.â€
Down in the hanger, the four Extendeds were almost being to move out. Each took a vial of Gamma Glipheptin that was required. However, when no one was looking, Gren sneaked another vial. He wanted to defeat that silver mobile suit more than anything, and the extra drugs would give an added boost.
â€œYou think weâ€™ll be in trouble again if we fail?â€ Shani asked.
â€œProbably,â€ Clotho answered, â€œsince that guy only wants us to make him look good.â€
â€œNo matter,â€ Orga smirked, â€œAs long as we get to pummel those two machines.â€
It wasnâ€™t long before all four Gundams were prepped and ready to attack once more. As they took point, the remaining Strike Daggers from the Schwarzkopf followed close behind.
On the Archangelâ€™s bridge, Saiâ€™s console flashed red. â€œCaptain, theyâ€™re coming back!â€
Dread hit hard for everyone. With a great deal of their mobile suit forces missing, it wouldnâ€™t be easy to fight on equal footing.
â€œThe Dominion is closing in.â€ Miriallia reported, â€œDistance 50, Green, Bravo.â€
â€œThe Agamemnon-class is right behind it.â€
â€œAll hands, level one battle stations!â€ Murrue commanded, â€œPrepare to move out!â€
On the other side of Mendel, the ZAFT forces were plunged into confusion. Shiho had made a report upon her return, but there had been no contact with the Commander or Yzak.
â€œCaptain Ades, the Earth Forces ships are reengaging the rogue vessels again!â€ a controller shouted.
Ades cursed under his breath. â€œWhere is the Commander?â€ he muttered, â€œWhat could be happening inside that colony?â€
Within the laboratory, Rau continued his venomous tale. â€œI also learned that Iâ€™m not the only one, there are others.â€
Mu cringed at this. There were more freaks like Rau?
â€œYouâ€™ve already met one. You shouldâ€™ve crossed paths with him at JOSH-A.â€
Mu wondered what that meant, until a memory flashed in his mind. It was of another man who gave him a strange vibe. The same one heâ€™d met at the inquiry. â€œYou mean that Simon Parallax guy?â€ He then recalled the unusual mobile suit he fought at Orb. That time also he felt the same presence. Did that mean that Parallax was piloting that thing?
â€Yes, he is, in a sense, a brother of mine. We share the similar genetics, but he is different. He is a pure, unaltered Natural clone and he doesnâ€™t suffer what I endure. Our physical difference is a simple matter of some cosmetic surgery to sculpt him a new face and altered eye color. It was him that provided the information that allowed ZAFT to attack the very heart of JOSH-A.â€
Mu couldnâ€™t believe it. There had been a double agent that had infiltrated the center of Alliance command. However there was another fact that troubled him. â€œBut he shouldâ€™ve known about the Cyclops.â€
Rau nodded. â€œHe did, and he informed me of it. I just didnâ€™t share it with the rest of the ZAFT superiors.â€
â€œWhat? Why would you do that?â€
â€œWeâ€™ve been working behind the curtain for someone else since the start of this war. However, what they donâ€™t realize is that they are my pawns in my game.â€ Rau now slipped his mask back onto his face. â€œMy goal is the total annihilation of humanity as a whole, both Natural and Coordinator alike!â€ He raised his arms dramatically. â€œThe final door is about to open, and Iâ€™m the one opening it! Then the world that we know will come to an end, this world of insatiable desires will end!â€ Rau said as he began approaching Muâ€™s position behind the corner while Mu himself continued to breathe heavily.
Kira looked over at a piece of debris and an idea formulated in his head.
â€œAnd then the conceited fools who struggle with it will finally have their wish come true!â€ Rau shouted maniacally as he raised his gun in Muâ€™s direction, thumbing back the hammer.
â€œNo, it wonâ€™t happen!â€ Kira yelled as he picked up the weapon and came running at Rau, the latter firing multiple shot as Kira declared, â€œI wonâ€™t let you!â€
Rau emptied his clip, but no shot even came near Kira. â€œHa! Do you think you can change whatâ€™s going to happen!? Nobody can do anything about it! For the world full of hatred is engulfing the universe!â€ He suddenly ran off in pain, while Mu attempted to catch up.
However, due to his loss of blood, he stumbled and fell back down. Kira rushed over to him.
â€œWe need to get out of here. Can you stand?â€
Mu nodded, but needed help to get back up. Before leaving, Kira scooped up the entire collection of photos. The pair then slowly made their way outside and back to their Gundams.
Back inside Mendelâ€™s center, Dearka slowly explained some of the recent transgressions involved with his semi-defection. He was tense, what with Yzak still aiming his gun. He liked to believe that he wouldnâ€™t pull the trigger, but it was a dicey situation.
â€œSo Commander Walfeld has joined Lacus Clyne?â€ Yzak asked, â€œAnd the same goes for Athrun and Cade?â€
â€œBut why?â€ Yzak demanded, â€œWhat justifies this treason?â€
â€œIâ€™ve learned some things.â€ Dearka explained, â€œThe Freedomâ€™s pilot is the same guy who piloted the Strike. Heâ€™s a Coordinator and it turns out that he and Athrun have been friends since they were kids.â€
Yzak was overcome with mixed thoughts. Now he understood Athrunâ€™s initial hesitation to battle the Strike earlier in the war. â€œWhat are you saying?â€
Dearka sighed. â€œIâ€™m not quite as devoted to the cause as the others, but at this point I simply canâ€™t go with ZAFTâ€™s methods, fighting as Iâ€™m ordered to.â€
â€œDearka, thatâ€™s enough!â€
â€œThink about it, what are even fighting for?â€ Dearka retorted, â€œAlaska, Panama, Orb, this war is getting worse by the day! And for what?â€
Yzak couldnâ€™t come up with an answer. But what was Dearka going on about? It didnâ€™t make sense. Just then, the entire colony shook heavily.
â€œYzak, are you there?â€ Le Creusetâ€™s voice came from Yzakâ€™s wrist comlink, â€œWeâ€™re leaving at once.â€ With that, the channel went silent.
Dearka turned his back and stepped back towards the Buster. â€œIf you think Iâ€™m an enemy now, then go ahead and shoot me.â€
Yzak couldnâ€™t stand it. Surely someone had gotten into Dearkaâ€™s head and filled it with strange ideas. â€œYouâ€™re being deceived!â€
Dearka paused and glimpsed over his shoulder. â€œI wonder which one of us is really being deceived. I donâ€™t have anything else to say, Iâ€™m now going. If I had a choice, Iâ€™d rather not fight you.â€ He hurried to return to the Busterâ€™s cockpit and powered up his Gundam. He then took off, leaving Yzak behind, bewildered and alone.
As the Archangel and Kusanagi launched, Athrun took the lead, flanked by the Panzer and Silver Astray. â€œYou all hang back and protect the ships.â€
â€œRoger that.â€ Asagi replied.
The Justice, Panzer and Silver Astray rushed forward, ready to engage the closest enemies. Quickly the sinister quartet saw their adversaries.
â€œHey, there they are.â€ Orga smiled.
â€œThat silver one.â€ Gren sneered, â€œHeâ€™s all mine.â€ Opening his visor, he took out his extra vial and downed the contents fast. The extra intake of drugs started to have its effects on him almost immeadatily.
Charging forward, the two sides clashed. The Raider and Forbidden took on the Justice, while the Scorpio attacked the Silver Astray once more. The Panzer and Calamity opened fire on one another.
As she watched, Lacus wished that there was more her ship could do to support the forward units. Then she remembered another of the Eternalâ€™s special equipment. â€œCan we use the METEOR?â€
DaCosta turned his head â€œNegative, the unit is still charging.â€
Lacus tensed, knowing that Athrun would have to just on the Justice itself.
On the Archangel, Murrue had to make a snap decision for the shipâ€™s next move. â€œWeâ€™ll use the debris for cover. What about the Nazcas?â€
â€They still havenâ€™t moved.â€ Sai answered.
â€œCaptain, itâ€™s the Freedom!â€ Miriallia shouted, â€œNo, itâ€™s everyone! Theyâ€™re coming back!â€
Murrue was relieved until Kira opened a channel to the ship.
â€We need help! Muâ€™s been hurt badly!â€
Murrue gasped when she saw the damaged Strike being pulled along by the Freedom.
On the other side of Mendel, Yzak had returned to the Vesaliusâ€™ hanger. He quickly exited the Duelâ€™s cockpit and rushed over to Le Creusetâ€™s all but destroyed GuAIZ.
â€œCommander!â€ Looking inside, he only found an empty cockpit.
Turning around, he saw Shiho coming over to him. â€œShiho, whereâ€™s the Commander?â€
â€I donâ€™t know.â€ She told him, â€œAs soon as you got back, he just leapt out and took off without saying a word.â€
Flay was startled by the sound of the opening door. She stood back as Rau rushed in and over to his desk. By this time he was panting and letting out sharps groans of pain. Opening the drawer, he pulled out the bottle of pills and chocked down a handful. Flay cautiously approached the quivering man.
Rau slowly recovered enough to where his body had stopped shaking. He pressed down on the intercom. â€œAdes! Have our forces move out now! Send out every mobile suit we have, the same goes for the Heusinger and Helderton!â€
â€Just do it!â€ Rau roared, â€œWe didnâ€™t come out here to just sit back and watch! Iâ€™ll be going out again as well, so have my CGUE ready!â€ With that command, he turned off the intercom. He let out a shuddering gasp and turned to Flay. â€œAnd Iâ€™ll need your help too, my dear.â€
Flay took a step away, obviously frightened.
Rau didnâ€™t seem to notice, but if he did, he didnâ€™t care. He took out a familiar disk and held it out to Flay. â€œPlease deliver this for me. If this key is brought to the Earth Forces, then this terrible war can come to an end.â€
Flay looked up, surprised. Slowly, she accepted the disk. She could only guess what sort of information it contained. â€œIf I do this,â€ she thought to herself, â€œthe war will be over.â€
Rau then smiled. â€œGood, now letâ€™s get you ready.â€ Taking her by the hand, he guided her down towards the hanger.
Minutes later, Flay was fitted with a spare spacesuit and led to an escape pod. The two ZAFT soldiers motioned for her to go inside and she did, strapping herself into the seat.
After the hatch was sealed, one of the soldiers looked to the other. â€œAny idea what the Commander has in mind?â€
The second only shrugged. â€œWho knows, but he must have some plan for her.â€
The pair then left to resume their regular duties. As she sat alone, Flay clutched the disk in her hands. She kept telling herself that she just had to take it and pass it along to the Earth Forces. And then, the war would finally be over.
On the Dominonâ€™s bridge, a controller saw new objects come on the sensors. â€œThe three Nazca-class ships are moving towards us!â€
Natarle froze. Had the ZAFT forces waited for her group to engage the Archangel and its allies so that they could attack from the other side?
â€Theyâ€™re hailing us!â€
â€What?â€ Natarle asked. This indeed was a move she never expected.
â€œAttention, Earth Forces.â€ Rauâ€™s voice spoke, â€œBefore we engage, Iâ€™d like to take this time to return a prisoner to you.â€
Both Natarle and Azrael exchanged confused looks. What was the enemy doing? What prisoner were they talking about?
Tue Dec 30, 2008 7:14 am
|Retconned MSV Ace|
Joined: Tue Oct 03, 2006 3:44 am
Hey guys. I've been keeping up with your fanfic too. Good job. I liked the twist about parallax, showed something new in the greater scheme of things.
-We will not be caught by surprise!
*Almost everyone I've killed uttered similar last words.
-Then I am glad once again that you are on my side.
*They've often said that too.
Mon Feb 02, 2009 5:52 pm
|Mysterious Masked Dude|
Joined: Sat Sep 16, 2006 7:45 pm
New Phase 46
The Archangel and Dominion kept at their closely matched battle. Almost every move was countered and then any counter was met with yet another maneuver. Even the mobile suits of the respective ships had no clear advantage against one another.
Murrue gritted her teeth as she tried to think of something to try and deal a critical blow to Natarle and her ship. Of course, she did notice the other ship seemed to be lagging at the moment.
â€œCaptain, the three Nazca-class ships are moving in!â€ Chandra called out.
Murrue and the other gasped. If the ZAFT forces were making their move now, there was the chance that the Archangel and the other ships would be boxed into a type of pincer attack with no way of escape.
On the Vesalius, Yzak waited for his turn to launch again. Shiho was in front of him, now piloting a spare GINN. As he sat, Yzak thought about what had happened with him and Dearka. What had Dearka meant when he said, â€œI wonder which one of us is really being deceivedâ€? Was there something happening within the ranks of ZAFT that he just wasnâ€™t seeing? He had never worried about politics before; he had only focused on fighting and winning battles.
Yzak was brought back to reality when he heard Shiho.
Her face appeared on the screen. â€œYzak, is there something wrong?â€
He hesitated. â€œNo.â€ he lied, â€œNothingâ€™s wrong.â€
As she watched the Duel depart, Shiho thought that there in fact something bothering Yzak. But if there was, it had to wait until after the battle. But even then, could she get him to open up?
â€œRemember, we are to concentrate on only the Eternal, never mind the other ships.â€ A controller reminded her.
Shiho took her place and launched into the battlefield.
After the last of the ZAFT mobile suits launched, Rau waited in his CGUE. He had taken the first step in his plan, now all he needed was to ensure that everything went the way he wanted. â€œAdes, once I depart, send out the pod.â€
â€œCaptain, we have multiple mobile suit contacts.â€ Miriallia reported, â€œVerifying heat patterns.â€ A wave of data flashed in front of her eyes. â€œThere are twelve GINNs, one CGUE, and the Duel. Course Blue 22, Mark 18 Delta.â€
â€œThe Nazca-class ships are rapidly closing! Distance 30, Orange 14, Mark 33 to 87 Charlie.â€
â€œTheyâ€™re focusing on the Eternal.â€ Murrue whispered. She opened a channel to the other ship. â€œCommander Waltfeld!â€
â€œYes, we see them.â€ Waltfeld answered, already recognizing the maneuver, â€œThe Eternal and Kusanagi will head them off. Archangel, you continue dealing with the Dominion.â€
â€œRoger, what about the Panzer and M1S?â€ Murrue asked, â€œShould we redirect them?â€
â€Negative.â€ Kisaka replied, â€œTheyâ€™re giving support to the Freedom and Justice against the Agamemnon-class and its forces.â€
â€œWeâ€™ll make do with what we have.â€ Waltfeld said. â€œChange our course to Yellow 17, Mark 25 Alpha, forward thrust at seventy percent.â€
Simultaneously, the Kusanagi readied its armaments.
â€œReady Gottfrieds One and Two!â€ Kisaka ordered, â€œSet targeting to the oncoming ZAFT vessels! Meanwhile, have all M1s move to intercept approaching enemy mobile suits.â€ He turned to see Cagalli heading straight out of the bridge. â€œCagalli!â€
â€œIâ€™m taking the Strike Rouge out.â€ She said, â€œWe need everything weâ€™ve got if we hope to survive this.â€ The door slid closed and she rushed towards the hanger.
The cannons on the Kusanagi emerged and were primed. The Eternalâ€™s weaponry fired, shots went streaking out into space, and three puffs of fire rose up around the enemy battleship. However, none of them hit. As the barrages were unleashed, a tiny object was jettisoned from the underside of the Vesalius. The lifepod tumbled and drifted roughly until it was stabilized. Flay whimpered and held the restraints tightly. This wasnâ€™t the first she had been adrift in outer space, but she still was overcome with fear.
The ZAFT forces closed in on the Eternal and Kusanagi. Mobile suits from the two sides prepared to engage one another. Technologically speaking, the M1 Astrays outclassed the GINNs, however what the machines lacked in being state of the art, their pilots made up with experience.
The Duel tried to swoop in, but a shot cut in front of it, forcing Yzak to stop. He instantly saw where the shot had come from. There was the Buster close by. A second shot came, forcing him to move back more. Yzak knew Dearka was missing on purpose, but it still angered him. He jetted off in another direction, away from the Buster.
Streaking away from the Kusanagiâ€™s hanger, Cagalli hurried to choose where her assistance was needed the most. The M1s were on equal ground with the GINNs, and the Justice and Freedom were too far away for her to reach them. The closest were the Panzer and Silver Astray. While they had some protection from the surrounding debris, she made up her mind to go and provide them support. Firing the Strike Rougeâ€™s thrusters, she rushed to reach them.
Back on the bridge of the Dominion, one of the controllers picked up a new object, different from anything else currently detected. It wasnâ€™t a mobile suit or odd piece of debris. But whatever it was, it had come from one of the ZAFT ships. Suddenly, the scanner finally deduced what the unknown object was.
â€œCaptain, the Nazca-class has released a lifepod. Itâ€™s broadcasting a distress signal.â€
Natarle was bewildered by the move. â€œWhat are they thinking, launching a pod like this without waiting for any sort of reply?â€
Azrael smirked with enjoyment. â€œThatâ€™s a vexing question. Do they want us to recover it, or perhaps destroy it?â€ he said, â€œIf this is some kind of trap, itâ€™s an odd one. So what should we do?â€
Natarle didnâ€™t answer, as her ship rocked from the impact of enemy fire from the Archangel. The lifepod had to wait for now.
Simultaneously, the Schwarzkopf and its mobile suits fought to bring down their selected targets. Cade let out something of a battle cry as he swung the gatling around. He let loose on the enemy mobile suits, tearing them apart with his main weapon blazing. He then switched to missiles and fired a volley. The projectiles blasted away chucks of debris and space rock, scattering fragments in a wide radius. A Strike Dagger charged in from the left, firing shot after shot at the Panzer. Cade backed away and flew off and into the debris field. The Strike Dagger pursued, narrowly avoiding collision with large debris. The pilot looked back and forth, but the Panzer wasnâ€™t anywhere in sight.
â€œW-where is he?â€ the pilot grumbled, unaware of the danger that was now behind him.
Cade lined up his targeting scope and locked on. He squeezed the trigger and one mortar one was launched. It corkscrewed and impacted the Earth Forces mobile suit right in the middle of its back. Upon detonation, the machine disappeared in an orange colored blast.
The Panzer turned, its pilot spotting a familiar pink mobile suit. â€œCagalli, what are you doing?â€
â€What does it look like?â€ she said, â€œIâ€™m giving you guys a hand!â€
Cade was worried for a moment. It was true Cagalli had fought to rescue the Eternal, but this present battle was different. The enemy mobile suits were in closer quarters and a battleship was closing in. If she were to make one error, she could be killed.
â€œItâ€™s dangerous here!â€
â€Itâ€™s dangerous everything!â€ she retorted, firing her beam rife. The green shots sent three Strike Daggers scattering. â€œIâ€™m already here, so Iâ€™m staying!â€
Cade knew nothing could persuade her otherwise. He might as well just let her fight as she saw fit.
Cade looked back and forth before spying the Silver Astray a distance away, locked in dangerous melee combat with the Scorpio.
Almost on the other side of the battlefield, the Freedom and Justice were still caught in the firefight with the other three enemy Gundams. Despite the three-on-two handicap, Kira and Athrun pressed the attack.
Athrun took one second to check in on the others. He immeadatily saw several M1s taking on incoming GINNs. As the ZAFT mobile suits strafed the Orb units, machines on both sides were being destroyed. â€œThis is bad, Kira! The M1s are holding their own, but for how much longer?â€
Kira wasnâ€™t listening. All around him he saw intense fighting and Rauâ€™s words ran through his head. Was he right? Was Rau right when he said that mankind was doomed to travel down the road to total annihilation?
On the Eternal, Lacus watched as the area before her was engulfed with beam cannon fire and missiles. With the Eternal and Kusanagi inching closer to the enemy ZAFT ships, the battle was becoming more brutal.
â€œCommander Waltfeld, coordinate with the Kusanagi and concentrate all fire on the Vesalius.â€ She ordered, â€œIf we can blast our way through, weâ€™ll have a clear opening for escaping into open space.â€
â€œThatâ€™s near suicidal.â€ DaCosta said, â€œIf we make a direct run towards them, then all three ships will attack us in full force at almost point blank range.â€
â€œThatâ€™s true, but should we manage to break past them, our odds of being pursued will be drastically decreased.â€
Waltfeld smiled at Lacusâ€™ tactical reasoning. â€œItâ€™s risky, but it does make sense. Get me Captain Ramius.â€
Wasting no time in contacting the Archangel, Waltfeld quickly explained the drastic plan.
Upon hearing it, Murrue was obviously dumbfounded by the reckless abandon that went with the makeshift plan. â€œBlast past the Vesalius?â€
On the screen, Waltfeld nodded. â€œIf we stay as is, then we could find ourselves in something of a pincer attack between the ZAFT and Earth Forces. Itâ€™s a gamble, but what else can we do?â€
Kisaka agreed with the idea. â€œCan the Archangel get past the Dominion on its own?â€
â€œThatâ€™s also a gamble,â€ Murrue answered, â€œbut Iâ€™m used to taking chances.â€ She turned to Sai and Miriallia. â€œInform Kira and the others! Have them follow behind us once we make our move.â€
Back outside, the Panzer and Strike Rouge blasted away at the enemy ranks, slowly cutting down the number of Strike Daggers. Cade kept in eye out at the Schwarzkopf, which had moved into the debris field and used it for cover as it closed in.
Things were looking bad for Michael as the tables were starting to turn in his battle with the Scorpio. As the drugs surged throughout his body, Gren felt an immense jolt of energy to fuel his rage against the silver machine he was rushing toward. Raising his axe, he swung down hard and watched as Michael quickly side-stepped to avoid it. But no respite was allowed as the Scorpio quickly began firing its tail beam guns in rapid-fire mode, Gren panting heavily as he attempted to hit the Silver Astray. The extra dosage had done its work; Gren had never felt like anything he was experiencing now. He felt like he was completely invincible.
Michael knew that with maneuver to dodge each shot from the enemyâ€™s tail cannon, the harder the strain on the joints was. Even with the magnetic coating, the risk of them burning out was probable if the enemy kept firing as he was. He was having severe trouble in keeping up with the Scorpio. Suddenly an alarm sounded and Michael felt as though his mind felt like it was being stabbed. The A.X.I.S. OS was beginning to compensate for the enemyâ€™s erratic attack pattern in the only way considered possible, using the pilot as proxy. Letting out a scream of immense pain for a second, Michael then suddenly became focused with cold intensity and lethal calculation.
The backpack thrusters propelled the Silver Astray at full speed towards the Scorpio, its shield raised as it too the full brunt of the beam blasts. Gren was confused by the abrupt change in tactics, but didnâ€™t have to wait long to discover what was happening.
As soon as the tail cannons stopped firing, the Silver Astray heaved its shield hard the Scorpioâ€™s head, cleaving it partly off and damaging the hydraulics as a bonus as the decapitated appendage snapped back. The loosened cables became tangled with the tail cannon and several power transfer inner workings were fried. Shaken by the sudden and crippling attack, Gren couldnâ€™t retaliate when Michaelâ€™s attack continued. The silver Astray snatched away the Scorpioâ€™s axe and then plunged the blade into the Gundamâ€™s right shoulder. Then the Silver Astrayâ€™s knee rammed into the torso block, knocking Gren around and smashing his helmet visor. Small shards of glass floated about the cockpit as the Scorpioâ€™s operator sat unconscious, knocked out by the sheer force of the attack.
Meanwhile, inside the Silver Astrayâ€™s cockpit, Michael breathed hoarsely as dark regions of his psyche was tapped into by the A.X.I.S. Now in an animalistic state, survival was top priority. The only way to survive was to obliterate all enemies. Turning to the Schwarzkopf and the remaining Strike Daggers, The A.X.I.S. and his deadly logic plotted the swiftest and most brutal means to destroy them all.
Both Cade and Cagalli had witnessed the savage onslaught the Silver Astray had given the Scorpio and were horrified by the sight. Now the Silver Astray was motionless.
â€œMichael!â€ Cagalli called over the comlink, â€œWhatâ€™s happened?â€ She didnâ€™t receive an answer.
â€œOh, crap!â€ Cade abruptly shouted, â€œLook!â€
Cagalli looked to where the Panzer was pointing and saw the Schwarzkopf and six remaining Strike Daggers were in close proximity. It was then the Silver Astray flew off to meet them head-on. â€œMichael!â€
But Michael didnâ€™t hear her. Instead he in a state of mind where the A.X.I.S. had control and his impulse was leading him to carry out his drive to destroy every last enemy in his sight. Lining them in with his scope, he squeezed off first two rounds from his rifleâ€™s grenade launcher, each projectile hitting their mark. The leading Strike Daggers were blown away. Michael then locked onto the next one closest to him and fired his rifle with sniper precision. The green beam pierced through the chest of the Earth Forces mobile suit and unit exploded.
On the Schwarzkopfâ€™s bridge, the crew was stun by the radical losses they had taken in a matter of moments.
â€œOur mobile suit forces have been reduced to two!â€
â€œImpossible, that simply cannot be!â€
â€Apparently, that has you proven wrong.â€ The XO pointed out the window, and at the Silver Astray, which now was heading towards the Schwarzkopf at high speed. Taking out a beam saber, it was defiantly targeting the shipâ€™s bridge.
â€œStrike Daggers, defend the ship!â€
The two remaining Strike Daggers sped towards the Silver Astray, beam sabers drawn. Their pilots didnâ€™t realize it was all but a suicide run. Michael boosted downward, and fired his CIWS at the undercarriages of the Earth Alliance mobile suits. The rounds tore into them, dealing damage and slowing them down. The Silver Astray then boosted back upward, and sliced the first of the Strike Daggers in half lengthwise. It then turned to the other, stabbing it in the cockpit, instantly vaporizing the pilot.
Rojas could only watch in horror. To think that a single machine was dealing such damage was unbelievable. â€œThis is like a nightmare. This cannot be happening.â€
As he made that statement, the Silver Astray again turned its attention to the Schwarzkopf. The flurry of input from the A.X.I.S. guided Michaelâ€™s to the final maneuver. Bringing the beam saber up once more, he then sped towards the ship.
â€œFire the Gottfrieds! Shoot it down!â€
The Schwarzkopfâ€™s Gottfrieds immeadatily opened fire, shooting off large, green energy bolts at the nimble and swift Silver Astray. The mobile suit quickly avoided the blasts, dodging and weaving, until it was right in front of the bridge.
The crew froze at the sight.
â€œDominion, help us! Do something, anything!â€
Before he got a response, the Silver Astray raised its beam saber, pointing it in a downward stabbing position, and plunged it into the bridge from the top. The bridge was instantly melted. Screams could be heard over the communications line as the extreme heat destroyed the bridge. Then the Silver Astray removed the weapon and slashed down across the hullâ€™s plating, hitting several critical sections of the ship. As the Schwarzkopf began to explode apart, the Silver Astray streaked away from the blast. The ship was engulfed in a brilliant flash of light and was reduced to burnt wreckage.
As the afterglow of the explosions started to fade, the A.X.I.S. powered down and Michael felt as though heâ€™d been awakened from a deep sleep. He gasped at the destruction before him and looked down to his hands, which were now quivering.
â€œDid I do all this?â€ he whispered, â€œDid I do all this?â€ His body trembled and he instantly felt sick to his stomach. To think that one device to could be capable of such things. Looking to where the ill gotten equipment was installed, a rush of sorrowful anger rushed through him. Screaming, he forcibly opened the console paneling and started to tear out the A.X.I.S. components with his bare hands. Wires and circuitry were ripped apart and broke as anger fueled dismantlement went on.
He froze upon hearing the voice and turned to find both the Strike Rouge and Panzer beside him.
â€œMichael, are you okay?â€ Cagalli asked.
He didnâ€™t answer, instead letting out small choked weeps.
Cagalli didnâ€™t know what was happening, and she felt like there wasnâ€™t anything she could do at the moment.
â€œCome on; letâ€™s get back to the ship.â€ Cade then said, â€œWeâ€™ll get him checked out there.â€
The Strike Rouge grabbed onto the Silver Astray and with the Panzer as escort, they made their way back towards the other end of the battlefield.
On the Dominion, all hands froze in shock when the realization of what had happened sunk in.
â€œCaptain Badgiruel, the Schwarzkopf has been destroyed, and the Scorpio is heavily damaged.â€
Natarle couldnâ€™t believe it. Captain Rojas and his crew were now all dead. That and one of the mobile suits considered top of the line had been battered close to total demolition. Just then, a scream of static and white noise turned her attention over to communications. â€œWhat is that?â€
â€Itâ€™s the signal from the lifepod, maâ€™am, being broadcasted over an international rescue channel.â€ The operator answered, â€œItâ€™s becoming clearer now.â€
Static continued but faded as the voice started to come through. â€œArchangel, help me.â€
Natarle gasped. She knew that voice.
Back on the Archangel, the same message was heard over the communication lines. It was hard to believe, but the voice sounded very familiar.
Miriallia twisted her head. â€œSai, isnâ€™t thatâ€¦?â€
â€Yes,â€ he said, â€œitâ€™s Flay.â€
Everyone was shocked by this, to say the least. They wondered where she had been for all this time and what she now was doing inside a ZAFT lifepod.
â€œWho is that?â€ Azrael demanded, â€œWhatâ€™s this all about?â€
â€œItâ€™s Flay Allster.â€ Natarle explained, â€œThe daughter of the late Vice Foreign Minister George Allster.â€
â€Are you serious?â€
Before she could say more, Flayâ€™s called continued.
â€œI have the key!â€ she yelled, â€œThe key to end the war!â€
Everyone was baffled by her words. Certainly it was enigmatic, but the Dominionâ€™s captain wasnâ€™t about to stand back and wait for any more developments.
â€œGet me the Calamity!â€ Natarle ordered, â€œHave Ensign Sabnak retrieve that pod immeadatily!â€
The Calamity broke off its attack, turning around and heading straight for the pod. Kira saw this and gave chase. Gritting his teeth, he had to do whatever it took to get to Flay first. However, he had ignored the others dangers and now had the Forbidden right on his tail.
â€œKira, behind you!â€ Athrun yelled. But it was already too late.
Firing its Hresyelgr cannon, the Forbidden scored a direct hit, burning away half of the Freedomâ€™s head. Without missing a beat, the Raider swooped in and swung its Mjolnir, crushed the remaining part. Kira was now blinded. With no further distraction, Orga grabbed the pod and secured it.
Natarle and Azrael watched as the Calamity returned to the Dominion. Azrael was very curious by Flayâ€™s comments. He wondered what sort of key she had in her possession.
Murrue grimaced as she watched the pod be taken away. She knew there wasnâ€™t anything they could do for Flay now.
Murrue looked up to the screen and Waltfeld again.
â€œWeâ€™re about to make our move!â€
She nodded. â€œUnderstood.â€ Turning to her crew, she delivered new orders. â€œFire the signal flare. Recall all mobile suits.â€
Upon her command, pink, green, and blue colored flares shot out and exploded in brilliant lights. Athrun and Dearka saw them and knew that it was time to return to the Archangel, and fast.
But Kira ignored the signal. Even with the damage he had taken, he was determined to save Flay and bring her back with him. Firing his thrusters, he charged at the Calamity.
He tried to establish contact with the pod, working to find the right frequency. â€œFlay, hold on! Iâ€™m coming!â€
Inside the pod, Flay gasped when she heard the voice calling her. â€œKira?â€ But there wasnâ€™t anyway it was possible. Kira had been killed. But yet, here he was to save her again.
Kira hadnâ€™t noticed that the Raider was still on his tail and wasnâ€™t about to let up. Unleashing its dual hyper velocity guns, it peppered the Freedom, causing more damage. Athrun moved in between Kira and the Raider, protecting the Freedom. Pulling out a beam boomerang, Athrun hurled it at the enemy Gundam. The weapon missed on the initial pass, but when it circled back, it cut into the Raiderâ€™s right leg, severing it.
With the enemy temporarily indisposed for the moment, Athrun turned to Kira. â€œWhat are you thinking? Youâ€™ll get yourself killed if you just fly at the enemy ship with the Freedom in its current condition.â€
â€I have to.â€ Kira huffed, â€œI have to save her. I hurt her once, and I promised to protected her no matter what.â€
At that moment, the Forbidden attacked again and came within feet of slicing into the Freedom. Before another attack could be attempted, a different shot came in close to the Forbidden. The Buster now moved in and was giving Athrun and Kira cover. Taking this opportunity, Athrun grabbed the Freedom and withdrew back to safety.
Flay could only watch helplessly as Kira was dragged away. She kept calling out his name in desperation, but it was no use. The Calamity slowed and returned inside the Dominion.
Seeing that their main priority was accomplished, Natarle issued new orders. â€œRecall our mobile suits! Have Ensign Andras locate Ensign Pishacha and recover the Scorpio! Once all units have returned, weâ€™ll pull back from this sector!â€
The Vesalius shook as it was hit again and again by the combined attacks by the Eternal and Kusanagi. Fires erupted within the ship and the damage was spreading.
â€œWeâ€™ve lost control of the plasma surge!â€
Ades gritted his teeth. If this was going to be his final battle, he would at least die with some honor.
By now all units from the Freedom, Justice, and Buster and Panzer, Strike Rouge, and Silver Astray had reached the rear of the Archangel. Everyone watched as the Eternal and Kusanagi fired one final barrage that was the death knell for the Vesalius. Parts of the ZAFT ship exploded in flames and it started to list to the side. Both the Eternal and Kusanagi blazed past and escaped. When the Archangel drove through the breach, Athrun, Dearka, and Cade gave a departing salute out of respect to what at one time had been their ship.
The Vesalius then was enveloped in a massive fireball, reduced to nothing. Yzak was horrified by what he had witnessed.
â€œAll remaining troops, weâ€™re retreating!â€ Le Creusetâ€™s voice sounded over the comlinks, â€œRegroup at coordinates Delta Zero.â€
Heeding the Commanderâ€™s orders, Yzak hurried along with Shiho and the rest of the forces towards the two remaining ships, the Heusinger and Helderton. Rau took a moment to watch the Dominion leave, relishing his personal success. The loss of the Vesalius and Adesâ€™ death were of no concern of his. Once Flay handed over the disk she carried, the last stage of his ultimate plan would be set in motion.
Onboard the Dominion, the partly damaged Raider had returned, along with the Forbidden and Scorpio. Work crews immeadatily went to work to do whatever repairs were capable.
Flay, meanwhile, had been escorted to the bridge. Seeing all the unknown faces made her nervous, even more so than during her time with the ZAFT forces.
â€œSo youâ€™re Flay Allster.â€
She turned to see Azrael approaching her.
â€œSo what is this key youâ€™ve mentioned?â€
Flay reached into her pocket and pulled out the disk, heading it to Azrael.
â€œInteresting.â€ He mused, â€œWhere did you get this?â€
â€A ZAFT officer named Le Creuset.â€ She answered, â€œHe wears a mask.â€
Azrael was intrigued upon hearing this. He thought that she mustâ€™ve stolen it. Without saying another word, he left to examine it.
Natarle then stood. Flay saw her then and gasped in surprise.
â€œItâ€™s good to see that youâ€™re alive, Miss Flay.â€ She smiled, â€œAre you well?â€
Flay finally broke down and began to sob. Seeing this, Natarle wrapped a comforting arm around her shoulders and led her out. They soon found seclusion inside a narrow corridor.
â€œThis is just a relief.â€ Flay sniffed, â€œSeeing you here now and seeing Kira againâ€¦â€
â€œWhat?â€ Natarle asked, â€œWhat are you talking about?â€
â€Kira, heâ€™s alive.â€ Flay told her, â€œHe was piloting that blue and white mobile suit.â€
Natarle couldnâ€™t believe it. Kira had somehow managed to survive, and that was a surprise to say the very least. But then she realized that he now was part of the group now considered renegades. Chances were great that sheâ€™d be called on again to fight them once more if so order. This war was storming up an inner conflict within her.
The Archangel, Eternal, and Kusanagi had reached safety at last, with no sign of enemy pursuit. All hands had returned and rest and to lick their wounds. On the Kusanagi, Michael had been taken to the infirmary for observation. The remains of the A.X.I.S. were collected, not that there was much left. Cagalli and Cade hoped that Michael hadnâ€™t suffered any permanent damage. A call came from the Archangel for Cagalli. She had heard that Kira had collapsed. When she heard this, she had Juri take her to the other ship via shuttle.
Onboard the Archangel, Murrue went to visit Mu, who had been treated for his injuries. She glanced at a curious looking book and picked it up.
â€œWe found that inside the colony.â€ Mu explained, â€œNo, actually Le Creuset pretty much gave us that.â€
Murrue was shocked and started to flip through the pages. She spotted the photo of Mu and his father, and smiled. They both looked so happy.
â€œThe thing I remember most about my father,â€ he said, â€œwas that he was arrogant and unreasonable. Heâ€™d always belittled other people. He died when I was just a kid, but he still haunts.â€
â€œWhat do you mean?â€
â€Rau is clone of my father, a failure copy if you will.â€ Mu continued, â€œHe ages too quickly, all because of short telomeres. At this rate, he may not even last another few years. Heâ€™s a man with no past and no future, and maybe no true identity.â€
â€œSo he wants to take the entire world down with him somehow?â€
Mu slowly nodded. â€œBut I wonâ€™t let him do that. Even if it costs me my life, I promise I will stop him.â€
Murrue gently ran her fingers through his hair. â€œPlease donâ€™t say things like that.â€
Mu twisted his head and saw the look in her eyes. All his anger and frustrations melted away. â€œIâ€™m sorry.â€
On the Eternal, Cagalli hurried to where Kira had been placed. She returned the room to find both Athrun and Lacus watching over him. At the moment, he seemed to be sleeping. But her eyes gazed on another object, a framed picture. She gasped and grabbed it. Her hands shook as she took out the photo her father had given her. There were two copies of the same picture. Where had this come from?
Kira suddenly began to stir, which turned to slight thrashes. He bolted up and panted. Lacus immeadatily held him and comforted him. He then released where he was and sighed. â€œSorry about that.â€
He looked to see Cagalli and the two pictures she held. He started to shudder and looked away. Seeing this, Athrun took Cagalli and whisked her outside, in spite of her short objection.
â€œWhatâ€™s the big idea?â€
Athrun shook his head. â€œRight now isnâ€™t the best time to ask him anything. Heâ€™s got so weighting him down already.â€ He quickly changed the topic. â€œDo you know whose voice that was?â€
â€Voice?â€ Cagalli asked, but then remembered, â€œYou must mean Flay. She used to be on the Archangel with Kira and the others. She was friends with all of them, but with Kira, they were more than just friends.â€
Thatâ€™s when Athrun understood completely.
Back inside, Lacus sat down next to Kira. So much was now pounding down on him. The revelations of his birth, and his life and its affect on the lives of so many others swirled with him.
â€Iâ€™ll be fine.â€ He told her, â€œI promised myself never to cry again.â€
Lacus put a comforting hand over his. â€œItâ€™s okay to cry.â€ She whispered, â€œWe can cry because weâ€™re able to.â€
Those words had a profound effect with Kira. Suddenly, after months of holding in so many emotions, he couldnâ€™t to it anymore. He let it all out and tears dripped down his face. In a way, it felt good, like a heavy weight had been taken off his shoulders.
â€œYouâ€™re a kind person, Kira.â€ Lacus soothed, â€œWhat matters most is the â€˜youâ€™ that you are here and now.â€
Inside the ZAFT ship, Helderton, Yzak now laid alone. He kept thinking about Dearka and what happened inside the colony. He almost didnâ€™t hear the sound of the door opening and the footsteps that followed.
He turned to see Shiho standing over him. â€œYzak, what happened?â€ she asked, â€œYou act like you just had a fight with your best friend or something.â€
Yzak felt a pang of pain and turned away. Shiho saw this and knew that she very well had hit some kind of nerve.
â€œI-Iâ€™m sorry.â€ She stammered, â€œLook, Iâ€™ll just go and leave you alone.â€ She went to leave, but she felt a hand grab hers.
Yzak pulled her back and sat her down next to him. â€œShiho, I need some company right now. Please stay here with me.â€
She said nothing else and the two of them sat quietly.
Back in outer space, the Dominion made its way back to the moon. In his private quarters, Azrael inserted the disk he took from Flay into his computer and opened the files. He was very eager to see what secrets were inside. First to come up with the complete schematics of the Freedom and Justice, which was a goldmine in of itself. As he had suspected, they were nuclear powered, which explained their amazing capabilities. With the information, the Atlantic Federation could easily build new mobile suits that outclassed even the GAT series. But then he found a prize even better. The words N-JAMMER CANCELLER appeared on the screen and Azraelâ€™s eyes lit up. Every piece of data needed for the device was now in front of him. He laughed maniacally in triumph. Now the Earth Alliance could regain its nuclear weapons capability, and throw it at the Coordinators in full force. The greatest gift of all had been dropped right in his hands.
â€œPerfect!â€ he shouted, â€œThis is all too perfect!â€
Mon Mar 16, 2009 12:38 pm
|Newtype Emo Guy|
Joined: Wed Dec 06, 2006 5:07 pm
Location: Somewhere in Kansas
Hey, just a quick update. Sorry we haven't posted the latest chapter just yet. Nu-Liberty and I are working out some details and will have it ready soon Just wait a little longer, it'll be worth it.
"Aaahh!"-The last words of many a mobile suit pilot.
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