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 Post Posted: Thu Aug 26, 2010 8:15 am 
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Newtype Emo Guy

Joined: Wed May 02, 2007 7:43 pm
Posts: 258
Location: Illinois, USA
I think I'm done with updating for the next couple of days. I've really been flying for a while, probably because I've been dying to write these chapters for, well, forever.

___________________________________________________________________________

Chapter Thirty-Three: Seeker

The corpse that you planted last year in your garden,
Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?

T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

They weren't being launched from the hangar bay. It would be their ultimate destination, but the Mobile Suits would be taking off from inside the hangar, besides the Minerva and a large convoy of ships and aircraft. The evacuation of Madagascar was about to commence, with news that the Earth Alliance had finally achieved a breakthrough on the southwestern portion of the island, and was moving to attack the capital and cut off the western approach. This meant the only escape route was north, towards the Suez.

Towards uncertainty with limited supplies and power. This was likely not going to end well.

They had an obligation to try to give the rearguard troops a chance to escape. That meant the Mobile Suits couldn't just protect the gigantic convoy, but also hold the harbor in order to protect the ships trying to catch up.

But first, the Minerva was going to lead a breakout through the Earth Alliance lines. And the three GUNDAMs, Justice, Saviour, and Impulse, were going to lead the way.

A lot of people were going to die today.

Shinn Asuka hoped he wasn't going to be one of them.

One minute to go before liftoff. He was going to be by himself. Shiho's new Zaku was supposed to be here any minute now but who knew when she was going to catch up. How could he fight Stellar by himself? Dearka had said that Shinn should hold out until Shiho arrived, but Shinn did not have the same confidence in himself.

It was early morning, clear, with the sun only starting to rise. He couldn't see the enemy vessels in the distance, and the Mobile Suits he was going to have to annihilate. But he knew they were out there. And they'd be gunning for him because everybody wanted to kill a GUNDAM.

And Shinn's would be the easiest to kill.

Damn it, don't make me do this by myself, Dearka.

The ZAFT stationary guns fell silent. Thirty seconds to go.

I'm gonna die.

Suddenly, he saw a Zaku being unloaded beside him, to the left. "Shiho?" he asked.

"I'm right here. This time don't let me get shot down, all right? I don't want to waste time repainting all of my kills."

Shinn smiled slightly at Shiho's attempt at gallows humor. "Right. I wouldn't want to repaint anything-"

"Twenty seconds, Shinn."

"Oh, right."

Dearka's voice came on. "All right, our mission is simple. Smash the hell out of the Earth Alliance until there isn't anyone left in the way. We not only have soldiers to get out of here, but civilians too, those who couldn't make it to the Mass Driver or to South America in time. We need to plow the road for them. As the old saying goes, stay frosty."

There was a pause. Then Dearka shouted "Now! Everyone go! Move it!"

Shinn powered up the engines and launched into the air.

It wasn't even twenty seconds before he saw his first Mobile Suit, and the faint dark shapes of the opposing Earth Alliance fleet.

"There's a lot of them," Shinn said.

"Doesn't matter, Shinn," Dearka said. "We need to smash them before daylight. Pick your targets and fire."

Shinn aimed, as he waited for his chosen Windam to come within range. He was flying the Blast Impulse, which meant he had a rail cannon and a quadruple missile launcher. He needed to have more finesse in this fight, he couldn't afford for the enemy to get close.

He didn't feel right in the Blast Impulse. He had used the Sword Impulse for so long he didn't feel natural in either the Force or Blast variations. But it was an important part of the strategy for Shinn to have long-range capability. He needed to wipe out a sizable portion of the enemy Mobile Suit contingent to give everyone a chance. After all, the ZAFT was badly outnumbered.

He was locked on.

I have to fire the first shot.

Shinn did so, and a gigantic ray erupted from his rail cannon. To his shock, the ray didn't just hit the Windam he targeted, but multiple Windams behind his target. The cannon's power had been much more than he anticipated, and he got four kills with just one shot.

Damn it, how powerful is this thing?

Then rays started blazing past him, and Shinn immediately went into evasive maneuvers. The war had returned in earnest now, and he had a hard battle ahead if he wanted to survive.

And he had planned on surviving. He hadn't come this far on this planet just to die.

No one ever did . . .
***
The angel was most pleased.

"So this is what they call the Ultimate Coordinator," the angel said softly as he examined the unconscious, underweight boy. Kira Yamato, the person who had led the ruin of Muruta Azrael's plans, among other things. To think that a child, a child, was responsible for all that, seemed impossible. But here he was.

The angel wanted to be so sure that Kira Yamato was real that he had flown to Kira, instead of the other way around.

The scientist watching over the boy gave the angel a quick salute. "Lord Djibril, his identity checks out, and his genetics do show an advancement over the average Coordinator. This boy is indeed the Ultimate Coordinator."

"And that means he is the ultimate abomination."

"Uh, yes, of course, Lord Djibril." Not the most convincing response.

Damn scientists. They don't see things for what they are, they just see potential experiments and research.

But that was fine. He had no need for biological scientists anymore.

What he needed were soldiers, and military scientists. They would be the ones working with the Ultimate Coordinator now.

And, as if on cue, they arrived.

"I can't believe it," said one.

"This is him? This is the Ultimate Coordinator?"

"Doesn't he ever eat?"

"He's just a kid!"

"I've heard of appearances being deceiving but this takes it to a ridiculous level!"

The angel clapped his hands. "Enough. There will be plenty of time to gawk at him later, as he does what we want him to do?"

One of the generals looked at the angel oddly. "What do we want him to do?"

"Simple," the angel said. "We're going to have him exterminate his own kind. The Coordinators' own foolish attempt to improve themselves will be their final undoing."

"How are you going to make him do this?" asked the only woman in the room, also a military officer, and a rather high-ranking member of Blue Cosmos at that.

"It seems that our Ultimate Coordinator has emotional damages," the angel said. "We can exploit them. We will drive him mad, but not before he is done with the extermination. He will fall prey to his worst impulses, and become a monster . . . but once he is finished we will simply shoot him, and that will be the end to all Coordinators."

"So how are we going to do this? We have a living weapon, but how can we use him?" asked a general.

"That's right," added a scientist. "I doubt he'll be inclined to destroy his own kind, unless . . . unless you were to tamper with his mind."

"That's exactly what I want," the angel said. "Both using science, and emotion."

The angel turned to a general. "You have a daughter, don't you?"

The general became nervous. "Yes?"

"I will need her services."

"Lord Djibril, please-"

"She will simply reinforce what we're going to shove into this boy's head . . . and keep him sane enough to accomplish his task. She's twenty-five, she's old and mature enough to know what she's doing."

The general looked away. "I understand. I'll let her know. She will be pleased to finally serve Blue Cosmos."

The angel smiled. "As should you."

The general did not respond.

The woman spoke up. "But what will we be deploying this child in? What kind of power can we obtain that will grant this boy the ability to destroy the Coordinators."

"Ah, destroy," the angel said. "Wonderful choice of words."

The woman cocked an eyebrow. "Huh?"

"Orb has given us the means to do so. They have sold us a GUNDAM called, fittingly, if a bit obtusely, the 'Destroy'. The reason why I had this boy nabbed is because the 'Destroy', to be frank, needs a pilot. And the 'Destroy' has the power to cripple a PLANT in one shot, and wipe out entire fleets by itself."

Everyone in the room fell silent. No one dared to speak, as they ran that through their heads. It was everyone's wildest dreams, a single machine, and a single pilot, could systematically exterminate the biggest threat to the human race. Could annihilate the hated PLANTs, slaughter the Coordinators, butcher all resistance.

The Ultimate Coordinator, flying a machine called the 'Destroy'.

It was perfect.

The general who happened to be a father was the first one to speak. "Why would the Orb be so naive as to sell us that?"

"They're so eager to stay out of the fighting they will sell us genocide in order to not have any blood on their hands," the angel said. "They call themselves pacifists, but they are merely cowardly hypocrites. They will sell the means to war, but won't have anything to do with the final product."

The angel laughed. "But Orb will eventually discover their foolishness soon enough. Their Representative Athha in particular lacks the idiocy of the rest of her family. But she is also predictable . . . "

He let himself trail off. He didn't need to let everyone know the full plan.

"I want everything set up. I want the Destroy ready for a test run as soon as possible," the angel said.

"A test run?" asked the woman. "On what?"

"There's a bunch of ZAFT soldiers fleeing for their lives from Madagascar," the angel said. "The first mission for the Destroy will be to slaughter them to a man. We should be able to have the Destroy, and pilot, ready to launch as this convoy retreats into the Suez. That is when they will meet their end."

All of their eyes were upon him, in awe of his genius plan. It made perfect sense. Why risk the Destroy on the PLANTs, and instead test its capabilities on an easier target? Not to mention that the Destroy will get the rare opportunity to destroy the three GUNDAM machines in ZAFT's possession.

It was win-win.

How the angel wished his apprentice, Muruta Azrael, had a lick of strategic sense. If he had, the angel wouldn't be resorting to these tactics. The war could have been won years ago and Azrael had been too blind and angered to see how.

But the angel was not blind, and he was not stupid.

Here, he was going to create the pure, blue world he had always wanted.

And soon, Coordinators would be nothing but an unpleasant memory.

Genocide was a good way of reducing entities to memory.
***
It was pouring rain as Athrun ran outside with Cagalli to see Lacus. After finding out what happened, Athrun had scrambled whole squadrons of Mobile Suits to comb everywhere looking for Kira. So far, there had been no sign.

The kids were being ushered towards a private building Cagalli had arranged to them and Reverend Malchio to stay in. For her part, Lacus just stood outside, letting the rain wash all over her. She didn't even bother to open her umbrella and hold it above her. She just stared at the ground, completely, utterly defeated.

"Lacus," Athrun managed as he reached her. He held the umbrella over her head. "Lacus, I'm so sorry. I'm going to try to-"

"Athrun, please put the umbrella away."

"Huh?"

"I want the rain to hit me, Athrun. Please."

Cagalli scoffed. "Lacus, don't be stupid. You'll make yourself sick."

"Please, Athrun."

After looking at her, Athrun reluctantly obliged. Even Cagalli didn't argue the point. They both knew why Lacus was acting this way.

Athrun sighed. "We have the Freedom being transported here, too, so-"

"Athrun, I can't sing."

Athrun paused. "What, Lacus?"

"I can't sing."

Athrun moved closer. "Lacus, what do you mean?"

Lacus stared at her hands. "I tried to sing to the kids, to make them feel better. I couldn't do it. My voice is gone, Athrun. I can't sing anymore."

Cagalli stepped in. "Wait, you mean you literally can't sing?"

"I can't." Lacus fell to her knees. "I can't. I killed all those people. And I kept count, too. I killed sixteen people for Kira, and it still didn't matter. I killed people for nothing . . . and I can't sing anymore. What have I become? Can't someone tell me?"

Athrun and Cagalli looked at each other. They both knew what they had talked about just yesterday. They both knew that it was nothing to say in front of Lacus now either."

"Look," Athrun said. "Let's go inside. You get dry, and try to calm down. We'll find Kira, okay? We won't stop until we find Kira."

"O-Okay . . ." Lacus slowly walked away, as if in a daze.

Cagalli just shook her head. "Why did the Earth Alliance take my brother?"

"It probably wasn't the EA. It had to be Blue Cosmos."

"Blue Cosmos." Cagalli practically spat those words. "How dare they. If they force my brother to fight I will kill them so fast they won't even have the chance to regret it."

Athrun sighed. "Cagalli, right now, we need to figure out something. Kira's long gone from Orb waters. There has to be a way to find him."

"Like what? He could be anywhere in the world."

"I said I don't know. But if I were Blue Cosmos, I'd put him where there's fighting. And right now there's supposed to be fighting happening at Madagascar."

"You think that's where he is?" Cagalli asked.

"Probably pretty close."

Cagalli didn't speak for a second. Then she said "Athrun, I need you to do a favor for me. Remember those bugs you planted inside Yuna and Uncle Unato's offices? I need you to retrieve them for me."

"You can't really think it's them," Athrun said.

"I have to make sure. If I can't trust my family, who can I trust?" Cagalli asked.

"You can trust me," Athrun said.

"I know I can. That's why I'm not a raving lunatic right now." Cagalli chuckled sadly. "Kira . . . they'll break him, Athrun. They'll break him. I know it."

"They won't get the chance. We'll find him."

"We won't, Athrun. Not in time."

The pain in Cagalli's voice was so obvious that Athrun's reaction was by pure instinct. He embraced her with one arm, and Cagalli let her umbrella fall to the ground in order to wrap her arms around him.

"We have to try," Athrun said.

"I wish I had been nicer to Kira," Cagalli said. "I wish I had been there more often. He's my brother, Athrun, and I treated him like dirt."

"You didn't, Cagalli."

"I wasn't there for him, Athrun. He needed me and I wasn't there."

There was a long silence in the pouring rain before Athrun spoke. "Cagalli, go to Lacus. I'm going to retrieve those bugs. I'll make sure this wasn't Unato's or Yuna's doing."

"Right . . ." Cagalli said. "Go."

"Stay strong, Cagalli. We'll get through this. We'll find him."

"We better, Athrun. I'm not losing my brother."

"And I'm not losing my best friend."

And that's final.
***
Damn it, just sink! Shinn fired another barrage, and sighed with relief as he saw the aircraft carrier finally split into two. It wouldn't be long before it, along with much of its personnel, would be at the bottom of the ocean.

We're almost through. Just a few more of these ships and we'll be out of here, Shinn thought.

Suddenly, his sensor alarm beeped. Shinn checked. Oh no, not again.

Actually, it was worse this time. It was all three Earth GUNDAMs. Sting and Auel were coming in for the kill, too.

"Meyrin, I need the Sword Silhouette. Now!" Shinn shouted.

"It's on the way, Shinn."

In seconds, the Sword Silhouette was there, and Shinn transformed his GUNDAM. He immediately grabbed the Flashedge Beam Boomerang and flung it towards the three approaching GUNDAMs. It missed, but Shinn had expected it too. It had done the job of scattering the incoming machines.

All right, let's see if I can take Sting or Auel down. They're not as a good as Stellar.

He found one of the non-Gaia GUNDAMs, and struck. He didn't want to kill Sting or Auel, either, but he didn't care for them the way he did for Stellar. Killing Sting and Auel was something he would actually consider.

The GUNDAM machine in question seemed to be the Chaos. It had no melee weaponry. He could take out the Chaos incredibly easily. Although he didn't know for sure, Shinn could sense Sting was the pilot. Sting had to know how vulnerable he was.

And Sting Oakley indeed seemed to realize it, because he immediately put the Chaos into retreat as Shinn swung and missed.

But Shinn had expected to miss.

He readjusted his swing in time to remove one of the Chaos' legs.

All right, Sting's scared and wounded. That should get him out of the battle. That leaves Stellar and Auel. Where we they?

Picking on Shiho, actually.

Damn it, won't they ever leave her alone?

"Shiho, I'm coming! Just hang on!"

"About time! Stop partying around over there and help!"

Shinn intervened, attacking the Abyss GUNDAM. The GUNDAM immediately brought up its lance and blocked Shinn's lunge. This left Stellar with Shiho. Still not great odds, but with Chaos out of the way-

Shinn felt himself get hit. He was thrown around his cockpit, and spun around. A random Windam had gotten involved. And although the Windam was standard-issue equipment, the pilot was smart. He had picked an amazing ambush point, right above. Nobody ever looked up.

I gotta get out of this, or Shiho or I are in trouble.

But it turned out he didn't have to. Right then and there, he saw dozens upon dozens of machine-gun bursts flash at the enemy machine, and the Windam was forced to back off. Much to Shinn's surprise, the machine was a GOUF Ignited.

Who's flying that thing? Shinn thought.

He got his answer. "Hey, I was wondering where my new wingmates went off too! You guys decided to go piss off some GUNDAMs, eh?"

Shiho was not amused. "It wasn't my idea. The Gaia GUNDAM's pilot is a psycho ex-girlfriend."

"Of you, by chance?"

"Not funny. Now shoot, or get shot."

The GOUF pilot laughed. "Now you're my kind of pilot . . . Shiho Hassenfuss."

The GOUF charged then, and then knocked the Gaia out of the way, so quickly Shinn was stunned. He hadn't seen a mass-production Mobile Suit ever do that to a GUNDAM.

The GOUF pilot laughed again. "All right, we're all together now? Good!"

"Who are you?" Shinn asked.

"Me? I am Heine Westenfluss, at your service. I'm here to take command of Dearka Elsman's special Mobile Suit wing. I'm your new commander, Shinn Asuka."

Shinn was surprised enough that he lost track of the Abyss. But he didn't need to take any action. The GOUF's machine-guns fired at the Abyss before it could counter-attack and the Abyss had to pull back before it got shot. It went into submarine mode and dove under the surface. Whether it was out of the battle or not was anyone's guess.

Heine Westenfluss spoke again. "I apologize for running late, but I got held up back in the harbor. Fighting's getting really bad back there."

"How bad?" Shinn asked.

"Bad enough that if we don't break through soon we're going to be surrounded in the open sea." Heine sighed. "But that's what I'm here for. Shinn, get your GUNDAM on my right. Shiho, you're on the left. I believe that Dearka Elsman said we're here to plow the road, right?"

"Yeah?" Shinn asked.

"Then let's do some road-plowing. Follow me!"

And Heine charged back into the fray, brazenly attacking two Windams head-on.

Damn it, he's crazy. And brave.

Both Windams exploded then, and Shinn knew why Heine was so crazy and brave. The man knew how to fly.

Maybe we'll break out after all. It did seem that the GUNDAMs had been forced to pull back, so maybe this battle would be easier at last.

Shinn readied his anti-ship swords. "Well, Shiho, what are we waiting for? Let's go give our commander a hand, shall we?"

"Just as long as he doesn't get us killed. I'm not ready to see Yzak yet."

Shinn had no idea what Shiho was talking about, but she charged forward anyway, joining Heine in the melee battle.

I wonder what she's talking about.

It was something to ponder later. He had to live through this first.

Shinn charged, and soon joined his commander in the thick, clustered fighting over the open sea.

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

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


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 Post Posted: Sat Aug 28, 2010 6:07 pm 
Offline
Newtype Emo Guy

Joined: Wed May 02, 2007 7:43 pm
Posts: 258
Location: Illinois, USA
The next chapter title (not this one) will be using Glenn Beck's rally name in a satirical/sarcastic fashion. Just a heads-up for those who disagree with my political views.
_____________________________________________________________________________
Chapter Thirty-Four: Out of Shadow

The farther one goes the less one knows.
-Tao Te Ching

"I'm sorry," Sting Oakley muttered. "I blew it."

Neo Roanoke found himself standing in front of three teenagers, all of whom had their minds and memories messed with unknowingly, and he wondered what he had done to deserve this duty.

He needed to win this war, and these three children were part of the key to win it. Slants were valuable, he had been told relentlessly. He had to make sure they could keep fighting and win those fights. That was part of his responsibility.

"We were all taken by surprise there," Neo said. "The GOUF Ignited's appearance was not anticipated."

"I was out of the battle before the GOUF showed up," Sting said.

"Shinn Asuka's seriously skilled," Auel Neider said. "Auel doesn't know if he can take him."

Auel's third-person nonsense was driving Neo mad. Why hadn't that been removed from that kid's mind too? But he had to deal with it. The effort it would take to make Auel stop the third-person talk would risk turning him into a toddler-like individual, a perpetual child. Neo would rather deal with insipid third-person speech over asinine babble.

"We'll have to defeat him," Neo said. "He's the key to the whole battle. There are no other Mobile Suit in existence as versatile as the Impulse. We need to find a weakness, and exploit it."

Everyone fell silent. It was pretty clear no one had any instant ideas.
Sting spoke. "Maybe there's some weakness in that sword form he likes using? Maybe we can blast him."
"That only works if we can get his wingmates separated," Neo said. "It was difficult enough when he had one. Now he has two."

Everyone fell silent again. Finally, Sting said "Maybe it would be easier to shoot down the Saviour."

"No," Stellar said firmly. "The Impulse."

Auel groaned. "Auel's tired of fighting Shinn."

"You only fought him once!"

"And Auel's tired of it already. Auel wants to do something else."

Stellar made a scoffing sound. "You're just scared."

Auel leaned back against the sofa cushions. "Maybe."

The door opened behind them, and Neo instinctively turned. He was shocked to see who it was. "Feizhi, I told you to stay in bed! You're not fully healed yet!"

"I couldn't help but overhear the conversation," Feizhi said, as she fiddled with her crutch. "And I know how to take the Impulse out."

"How?" Sting asked.

Feizhi smiled. "You need to take that bastard out when he's transforming."

"How do we do that?" Stellar asked.

"I noticed that during my battle against him. He cannot change forms instantly. He needs to completely change his equipment, and when he does so he's a vulnerable little fighter jet. All you guys need to do is force a change in the battle environment to make him transform, and when he does so, you strike. Separate him from his equipment, and destroy the fighter jet. You've won."

That was why Neo liked Feizhi so much, even though she had inadequacy issues. The woman was smart, and she knew how to fight a war. She also knew her enemy.

Stellar stood up. "Then let's take care of him. I'm sure our Mobile Suits have recharged by now."

Feizhi shook her head. "The Minerva broke out a few minutes ago. They're in open sea, heading north. The main reason I'm here is to relay you some orders from the top. They want you guys to break the convoy following the Minerva. That way those still on the island or trying to escape will be rolled up."

"Then that is what we'll do then," Neo said. "Destroying the Impulse can wait for another day."

Stellar glared at Neo. "We need to take it out."

"Correction, you want to take it out. We are not at war with the Impulse, we are at war with the ZAFT. And you will follow orders, understood? I humored you this one time, and that won't happen again unless you show you can follow orders."

Stellar looked away. "Understood."

Feizhi gave Stellar a smirk. "Oh, had a falling out with your boyfriend, huh?"

Stellar was about to speak but Neo managed to get a word in first. "This is none of your business. Now please, head back into the hospital. I will see about you getting a new Mobile Suit soon, once you fully recover."

Feizhi sighed. "Understood, sir." And she was gone.

Neo rubbed his forehead. This is really becoming a pain in the neck. I need to get out of this mess, and soon.

But there was no escape from these children, who he himself had supervised the addling of.

Their altered memories, and in Stellar's case, personality, was all from his doing.

He just hoped that he'd get his private report on Stellar sooner rather than later. He needed to find out what had gone wrong as soon as possible. The longer she was a loose cannon like this, the more likely she'd lose her sanity, and insanity and GUNDAMs equalled a complete, utter disaster.

One Neo was not ready to deal with, and never would be.
***
Heine Westenfluss did not look like a special forces soldier. He looked too flamboyant, too devil-may-care, for such a distinction. But here he was, wearing the FAITH emblem with pride, as he inspected his new pilots. Despite being technically outranked by Dearka, the FAITH designation shot him two ranks above his official rank. This meant he was to be treated like he had a colonel's rank, despite being a captain.

Heine paced back and forth in front of them once, which made Shinn uncomfortable. What the heck was this guy doing?

Finally, Heine stopped at the other end of the line, where Dearka Elsman was. Heine nodded. "Dearka Elsman, I remember you from the training academy. Glad to see you're still here. You've been leading this group well, I've put in a recommendation for you to receive FAITH designation."

Dearka's eyes widened. "Really, sir?"

"Really. You've protected the Minerva against all odds, with no casualties to your unit besides one Mobile Suit, and even then the pilot was not killed. In this day and age, that deserves commendation. Also, I like your policy of referring to everyone by their first names. Keeps everyone loose."

"Uh, thank you, si-Heine."

Heine nodded. "You still keep command of your group too, I like how it's set up."

"No problem."

Heine moved to Rey Za Burrel. "And you must be Rey."

"Yes?" Rey asked, his eyes looking suspicious.

Heine sighed. "You try too hard. Loosen up, you're acting like you're hiding something."

Rey just gave Heine a look. Heine shrugged. "Just saying."

He moved to Lunamaria Hawke. Much to the surprise of everyone, Heine took Lunamaria's hand and kissed it. "And you're Lunamaria Hawke. Every bit as lovely as I've heard."

Lunamaria was flustered enough she didn't even react to his outdated chivalry with puzzlement. She just blushed and looked away. "T-Thank you."

"No need. I speak the truth." Heine moved to Shiho then. "And you must be the equally lovely-"

Shiho slapped his wrist the moment he reached for her hand. "No."

Shinn waited for Heine to show annoyance, if not outright anger, but Heine just chuckled lightly as he held his wrist. "Your point's been made, Shiho Hassenfuss. Just don't be so rough next time."

"Don't touch me, and you won't have that problem, Heine," Shiho said, putting an extra amount of tension at the end.

"I see," Heine said. He then finally moved in front of Shinn.

Well, at least he isn't going to try and kiss my hand, Shinn thought.

"Shinn Asuka. Now you are an interesting person. A Slant who somehow managed to impress somebody enough to get one of the prized GUNDAM machines. You are a talent to be reckoned with. I hope you continue your impressive run."

"Thank you," Shinn said. He didn't want to be standing here in the hangar like an idiot much longer. He wanted to head back inside. He knew Meyrin was waiting for him and even though she showed plenty of patience, they both knew that they had just left a battle. Who knew when the next one would arise?

Heine nodded and paced back and forth one more time. "All right. Now that I know who everyone is, I'll introduce myself. FAITH Captain Heine Westenfluss. I was told to take command of this Mobile Suit squad, and I'm glad to see that all of you, minus one member's disciplinary problems, are well-trained and commanded. I like the way Dearka ran things so I'm going to keep it that way. I'll be commanding Shinn and Shiho myself, and Dearka, you can stick with Rey and Lunamaria. Does that sound right to everyone?"

There wasn't a strong response, but Shinn nodded to Heine, and it seemed everyone else accepted it.

"Good. Now stay on alert. We might-might-head back into the battle to try to help more of the convoy through. But chances are we're done with that battle, the brass wants to keep us fresh in case we're attacked from the coast of Africa. A good portion of Africa is ZAFT-sympathetic, but the Earth Alliance has been running roughshod over them since the war restarted, so we can't count on any help while we break for the Suez. Everyone understand?"

Everyone nodded or spoke their assent.

"That's also good. Now I'll leave you guys alone, I need to speak with Captain Gladys. We're of the same equilvalent rank, but as I'm FAITH, I'm actually in command of this ship unless I decree her to be in command, so . . . it would be prudent if I let the captain have her responsibility back. I hope we work well together, all of you."

And he was gone.

"He's . . . something else," Rey said.

"He's hot," Lunamaria added.

"He's an idiot," Shiho said.

"I don't care who or what he is as long as he doesn't get us killed," Dearka said. "He's in FAITH, that means he's damn good at what he does. Don't let your first impressions decide what you think of him. That FAITH emblem speaks for itself."

Shiho scoffed. "He probably got credit for something he didn't deserve."

"Shiho . . ."

"Sorry, Dearka." Shinn sighed. "I'm going to go on to the cafeteria. See you guys around."

"Yeah, see you, Shinn," Dearka said.

Shinn walked away then, wondering about his new commander.

FAITH. He's a member of FAITH. That has to be a good thing, right? He won't get us all killed?

He had shown good skill fighting the Gaia, but he had the advantage of surprise. He wasn't going to have that anymore.

But for now, he wasn't going to worry about it. He had a date with Meyrin, after all.

Now all he got to worry about was Stellar, and whether he's finally get over her . . .
***
"I'm sorry, Cagalli. I just feel so helpless. I killed all those soldiers for nothing. Nothing."

"You've been telling me a lot, Lacus. We now know that both the ZAFT and the Earth Alliance knew you were there. That means we have a massive intelligence failure, the higher echelons of Orb have been compromised by both sides."

Lacus shook her head sadly. "They're going to hurt Kira. They're going to make him kill."

"I know that. We'll find him, Lacus."

Cagalli had been speaking to Lacus for the last hour. There, she had heard the whole regaling story of how Kira had been kidnapped in the middle of the night, then Lacus went SEED-berserk and counter-attacked, only to find that the Earth Alliance had also made their move and had taken the orphanage's children hostage.

Cagalli knew that Kira must have felt like he had no choice. Most adults would make that same choice.

"I should've taken up Athrun's offer for bodyguards. I should have. They could have at least given us some warning."

"You had no way of knowing, Lacus."

"But I should have considered . . . Cagalli, I'm so stupid."

"You're not stupid, Lacus. Like I said, you had no way of knowing and your reasoning made sense."

When's Athrun going to get here? I need to get Unato and Yuna crossed off the list so I can look elsewhere.

She was going to find who leaked that information. And that person was going to pay dearly for what they had done. Cagalli had no idea what she'd do to the person, but she knew she would not stop until that person's life was completely ruined.

So ruined that killing the person would be merciful.

That was her brother. Her twin brother. Cagalli had her own feelings of guilt, but it was becoming replaced by anger. What kind of monsters would kidnap Kira in his condition and presumably make him fight again?

Naomi Mitsuda had claimed she had no idea of the operation and blamed it on Blue Cosmos. It was a convenient excuse, she probably did know about it. Blue Cosmos had a lot of influence up top and she had to know of their activities. After listening to Naomi drone, Cagalli had hung up the phone. She didn't want to listen to that woman's hollow excuses anymore.

Cagalli had made a serious mistake in politics: she had wholeheartedly trusted a politician. This proved she could not trust anybody, other than those who she had too many experiences with to ever betray. Athrun, Murrue, Lacus, Ledonir Kisaka, and maybe a few other people in the Three Ships Alliance. They were the people she could trust.

They, for all practical purposes, were more her family than the Sierans could ever be.

Lacus finally sighed and looked up at Cagalli for the first time in this entire conversation. "Cagalli, the Earth Alliance . . ."

"They betrayed us. I know."

"That was not what I was going to say. I was saying that please be careful trying to get Kira back. The Earth Alliance pretty much has Orb surrounded. I don't want anyone in this country suffering because I couldn't save Kira."

"Lacus, again, this isn't your fault."

Lacus shook her head. "Cagalli, don't turn yourself into a shield to protect everyone else deserving of blame."

"I'm the Orb Representative. I will be ruling this country soon. To quote a politician from before the Cosmic Era, 'the buck stops here'. The fault, ultimately lies with me because I could have forced you to have guards. I could have seen this whole thing coming if I had been more careful."

Lacus was about to reply, but Cagalli knew what she was going to say. "Lacus, you did everything you possibly could. The only other thing that could've been done was slaughter the soldiers . . . and the children, by using the Freedom. I know you could not make that choice."

Lacus looked down. "I killed people, Cagalli. I could not bear Kira being taken away and I snapped. I see them, Cagalli. I see everyone I killed, it keeps flashing in front of me. Am I going crazy?"

Cagalli looked away. She knew full well what Lacus was feeling, though she had forced herself to get strong enough to deal with it. She had made peace over the people she had killed in the last war, she had done so in order to save the world, and her country.

"You're not going crazy. It's normal to feel that way for the first time."

First time?"

"It gets easier, Lacus. That's the scary part about taking someone else's life. At first, you're horrified and disgusted, but the more times you kill . . . you just become relieved it's the other guy and not you."

Lacus began to cry as she wailed the next words. "How can you say that?"

"Because that's what happened to me!" Cagalli rubbed her forehead, and forced herself to calm down. Yelling at Lacus wasn't going to make anything better, and might make Lacus feel even worse.

"I . . . I frankly am a soldier, Lacus. I fought in a desperate guerrilla war, and I had no qualms about triggering mines to kill ZAFT soldiers and destroy their BuCUE machines. Whether it's as a pilot or as an infantry soldier . . . I felt it was my duty to fight for what I believed in. It wasn't until later when I realized there were other ways to do things, that fighting didn't have to be an option."

Lacus looked down again, tears still streaming from her eyes. "You still remember them, don't you?"

"If I let myself. I've trained myself to block it all out, and make peace with my actions. You should too. If you don't, you'll go crazy over it."

Lacus nodded slightly. "I'll . . . I'll try."

It was then when Athrun finally opened the door. "Cagalli."

"Yes?"

"You need to come into the hall with me. You're not going to like this."

Cagalli's heart slammed against her chest. She had a feeling her worst fears were about to be confirmed.

That means that Uncle and Yuna, they . . .

Her trembling hands became fists. They . . . they took my brother. They sold my brother to those bastards.

Cagalli's breathing became louder and louder as they walked into the hallway, and Athrun closed the door. Cagalli felt so much hatred beginning to flow in her. She knew that the Sierans were dirty politicians, but going this far was completely unforgivable. Who would be next?

What kind of scum are they to do this to my brother? They know what shape he's in.

Athrun spoke. "I didn't have to remove the bugs. I just needed to copy a recording of their recent phone calls. This one is . . ."

"Athrun, you don't need to play it. I believe you."

"Cagalli?"

"I need some time to think. I need to figure out what to do next. Give the recording to Murrue, ask her for her advice."

Athrun wasn't so easily dissuaded. "Cagalli, you sure you don't want me-"

"Athrun, I need some time alone! Please!"

"All . . . all right."
Cagalli stormed off then, walking down the corridor.

Kira, I'm so sorry. I should've gotten over myself and tried to help you. i should have been there this whole time. Encouraging you, helping you, and try to find out what's wrong and why.

She knew that the Earth Alliance would break Kira like a twig and put him in some machine. Likely a GUNDAM. Possibly the . . .

Then it hit her.

No way. They wouldn't.

Orb had just sold the Destroy design and prototype. It had shipped out this morning, nothing could stop it now.

They wouldn't put Kira in that thing.

But she was lying to herself. Now everything made sense.

What have I done? This is my fault. I . . . Kira . . .

Tears poured from her eyes as she saw the seed for the first time in years. I have to save you, Kira, my brother. And I'm going to put an end to the Sieran's corruption once and for all.

The brown seed shattered.

I've had enough..

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

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


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 Post Posted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 2:34 pm 
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Newtype Emo Guy

Joined: Wed May 02, 2007 7:43 pm
Posts: 258
Location: Illinois, USA
I usually don't even hint at my political leanings in my writing. I think the last thing people want to read in their fiction is obvious political diatribes. But, for my own sanity, I had to make the ironic/sarcastic shot that I did. I won't do it again.

It will likely be a few days before Chapter 36. If you guys are feeling that you can't comment due to the frequent updates, feel free to. Chapter 36 will be a longer chapter and as a result will be a while before it shows up.

I would appreciate feedback for the last five chapters which has gotten the story rolling full stop at last. If the current direction is not working I will try to change it. The fanfic isn't just for me, you know.

11 chapters in the month of August. Wow.
_____________________________________________________________________________
Chapter Thirty-Five: Restoring Honor

Since a politician never believes what he says, he is quite surprised to be taken at his word.
-Charles De Gaulle

Murrue Ramius shook her head sadly. "I should have seen this coming, Athrun. The Sierans have always been more ruthless than the Athhas, personal feelings have never meant that much to them."

"I can't believe that Unato Sieran was the one to do this, though. Yuna I can handle, hell, in a strange way I wanted him to be responsible. But I thought Unato was a better man than this," Athrun replied.

Murrue folded her arms. It made her stomach, starting to bulge with her baby, more noticeable. "He was manipulated by this 'Lord Djibril' person. Djibril used Orb's pacifist philosophy against itself and used it to manipulate Unato Sieran into giving up his nephew. Well, his adoptive nephew."

"I doubt he's shedding tears over it," Athrun replied.

"I don't think he's sleeping well over it either, conversely," Murrue said. "He sounded reluctant to turn Kira over."

"But he did it anyway."

Murrue nodded. "True."

She sighed and sat down. "I know we don't have many options with sending a rescue force to track Kira down. If you need me to do it, I can make arrangements to transfer my baby to an artificial womb."

"You said you wanted to conceive the baby naturally," Athrun said. "So does Andrew."

Murrue smiled. "I'd gladly sacrifice the joys of childbirth in order to save Kira. Plus, it's not like my clock's ticking yet. Andrew and I can try again."

Murrue's dual attempt at humor and reassurance lifted Athrun's spirits slightly. Something still seemed off to him, though. It was a thought away, in the back of his mind, but he couldn't quite recall his concerns.

Athrun looked at the recording drive in his hand, and then looked at Murrue. "Do you think this is enough to arrest Unato Sieran?"

"It will cause him a serious headache. But if you do that, Yuna Sieran will be left in charge," Murrue said.

Athrun slapped his forehead. "Forgot about that. Yuna will go on a power trip within hours."

"Be kind to him. He'd make it at least a day."

This time, Murrue's attempt at humor failed. Athrun just shook his head. "Yuna is not cut out for this. He'll make foolish decisions. Hell, I almost think he'd be stupid enough to run out into the open in a Mobile Suit fight and get crushed by one."

Murrue smiled. "I said be kind."

"I'm serious. Now we're in a box. Unato Sieran's done a serious wrong, but the alternative is actually even worse. Why can't Cagalli be old enough to take power yet?"

Murrue's amusement faded. "If Unato and Yuna were to die or otherwise be predisposed, Cagalli would inherit power, regardless of her age."

Athrun sighed. "I'd imagine Cagalli would be tempted to . . ."

He stopped.

Now he realized what he was worried about.

Murrue hadn't caught on yet. "Athrun, what's wrong?"

Athrun's eyes widened as he realized what Cagalli was going to do.

Oh no.

Athrun turned to Murrue. "I think Cagalli is about to kill Unato and Yuna."

Murrue gaped. "I can't believe she'd do that."

"She was on the verge of tears when I last saw her. She said she wanted to be left alone, but I know Cagalli. She isn't crying in her room. She's angry. Furious."

Murrue looked convinced now. "Athrun, you have to stop her. Cagalli is not ready for power and she can't have the murder of her only remaining family on her conscience. Who knows what this will do to her."

Athrun nodded. "Send a warning to Unato's office, now."

Murrue looked shocked. "If I do that-"

"Don't say it's Cagalli, say we have a highly trusted source saying there is an assassin inside the Orb government. We need to put the Sierans in full lockdown," Athrun said.

He was about to run out the door when Murrue turned on the vidcom and speed-dialed it. Athrun looked back, to see if there would be a successful connection, but there was only static.

Murrue's face was slack-jawed, fatalistic. "Somebody's jamming the communications. It's serious, it'll take hours to fix."

Cagalli's already executing her plan.

He couldn't believe he was trying to stop Cagalli, the girl he loved. But he had to. Cagalli was making a serious mistake and it would tarnish her and her ideals forever. There was a time for justice, but not like this. Not by killing the rest of her family. Even Yuna did not deserve to die like this.

"I'm going to try to stop Cagalli myself. You try to reach somebody. Anybody. Get the message to the Unato Sieran any way you can," Athrun said, and he shut the door behind him. He took off at a dead run, charging through the hallways of Morgenroete and heading outside to get in his car for the short ride to the government palace.

Cagalli, you can't do this. I can't let you do this. This isn't you. You can't kill people like this. Please stop before it's too late. Please stop.

I don't want to stop you myself.

***
Andrew Waltfield smiled at Dearka Elsman's news. "That's great. FAITH membership will get you a lot of clout in ZAFT."

"I know," Dearka said. "That's exactly what we need, right?"

Andrew nodded. "Right. The Chairman himself has to appoint you personally. That's how specialized FAITH is. You can use the opportunity to try to get information from him, try to figure out what he's thinking."

Dearka gave him a lopsided smile. "Right, try to outsmart a doctor."

"You have a point."

They had to make this really fast, before anyone they didn't want listening, which was everyone else, started to eavesdrop. The captain had loosened the chain around Waltfield's neck somewhat, but she was still keeping tabs on him, and that meant that eventually she'd realize he'd been missing for a while.

When she found Waltfield again, it better not be when he was speaking to Dearka.

Dearka had worked hard to re-intergrate himself back into ZAFT following the end of his relationship with Miriallia, which had been his one tie with Orb. His betrayal, unlike Waltfield's, was for some reason considered not as serious, perhaps because Dearka was just a pilot and Waltfield was a senior officer. Though Dearka's reasons for disillusionment and subsequent actions were more easily explainable, too.

After all, unlike Waltfield, Dearka's commanding officer happened to be an insane, manipulative psychopath out to kill everyone.

Deciding to fight against Rau Le Creuset was more forgivable than fighting ZAFT itself.

Somehow, he had made that argument work, and here he was.

And that's why he couldn't be caught speaking with Waltfield.

He needed a go-between. Someone who wouldn't be suspected just by talking to Waltfield. That way Waltfield and Dearka could communicate more readily.

He needed to look at his candidates and whittle them down when he could. When the possibility of enemy attack wasn't so severe.

Waltfield scratched against the back of his head. "Anyway, try to find out what you can from Durandal. Even an educated guess is better than nothing."

"I don't know what would make him rush to war, and manipulate events so war would be guaranteed," Dearka said. "I don't even know the questions to ask him, or even if I can ask questions."

"I think being a member of FAITH entitles you to open questioning," Waltfield said, without a hint of humor in his voice.

Dearka nodded. "I guess."

Waltfield checked his watch and sighed. "All right, I need to leave. Try to find that go-between you were talking about."

"I think I might have someone, sir. He or she will let you know."

Waltfield nodded. "Understood. Just give him or her the 'all-clear' password we talked about so I know your go-between can be trusted."

"I will, sir."

Waltfield grinned. "You're going to be a member of FAITH. I'm going to be calling you 'sir' soon."

Dearka never really thought about Waltfield saluting him instead of the other way around. It was dizzying to consider.

Waltfield nodded. "Good luck, Elsman."

He just casually walked away like he hadn't been speaking with a conspirator at all.

Right, now to find my go-between, Dearka thought.

Shiho Hassenfuss was probably the most trustworthy, though Shinn Asuka, rumors had it, wasn't happy with the ZAFT either. He'd probably work on both of them and see what he got. Shiho might join up in Yzak's memory, and Shinn, well, if it weren't for him being lucky under many circumstances, would just be a Slant in a cannon fodder Zaku. Slants never got the opportunities that Shinn was getting right now.

Either one would be a good choice.

He wouldn't know unless he tried, though.

And try he would. That way, if something went wrong . . .

There would be somebody to finish the job he started.
***
Athrun didn't stop for anything as he tore through the palace at top speed, hoping he wasn't too late. There would come a point where he could not stop Cagalli, and that was if she was confronting Unato and Yuna already. In the end, even he admitted, he would not be able to raise a hand to stop her from killing Unato and Yuna. That would mean losing Cagalli, and her love, forever.

But at the same time, what Cagalli was doing was wrong. But how could Athrun put a stop to it?

Without hurting Cagalli? Without leaving Orb in worse shape than ever?

How could he pull it off?

But first, he needed to make sure the worst had not come to pass. He charged through the hallways, looking everywhere for a sign of Unato, Yuna, or Cagalli. But he could find no one, and the people he did find were of little help.

Damn it, don't tell me I'm already too late.

Suddenly, he came up upon Unato Sieran's private office, and saw the door was closed. And he could hear voices in the room beyond the door. One of them sounded female and familiar.

Athrun braced himself for the worst.

He slowly, cautiously, opened the door, and immediately found a Taser pointed in his directin. "Cagalli! It's me!"

Cagalli wasn't even facing him. "Athrun, take one step closer and I will hit you with this. You won't stop me."

"Cagalli-"

"And shut up."

Athrun noticed Cagalli's hands were gloved. That meant she not only was ready to kill, but she had strategized enough to remove fingerprint evidence of what she was going to do. And she had brought a Taser with her so she could disable someone she did not want to kill, like Athrun.

Yuna began pleading then. "Athrun! I take back all of the things I've said! Just stop-"

Cagalli's gun changed positions from Unato to Yuna, and Yuna held up his hands. "P-Please don't kill me!"

"Don't beg for your life," Cagalli said coldly.

"Y-Yes, Cagalli."

Cagalli, again without looking at Athrun, motioned him to the left with her Taser in her left hand. "Close the door behind you. Slowly. I know where you are, Athrun. The moment you do something I don't like it's over."

She turned her attention to the Sierans. "And if either of you as much as a centimeter I will shoot. You don't think I know where the silent alarm buttons are?"

The Sierans didn't say anything, and Athrun reluctantly obeyed Cagalli's instructions. He watched Cagalli's left hand. She did know where he was, like she had developed extraordinarily storng awareness of her surroundings. Awareness that only Coordinators were capable of . . .

But Cagalli was no Coordinator. That meant . . .

Oh great. Cagalli saw the SEED too.

Cagalli was the only Natural known to ever enter SEED mode. No one knew why she had been able to do it, not even her. But she had been pushed to her breaking point in that battle, and Athrun guessed the same had happened here. And now, she was grimly focused on her task, like anyone who entered SEED mode.

Athrun shut the door and inched across the wall to the left, until Cagalli said "Stop."

He was still well within Taser range, and Athrun, now that he knew what Cagalli was currently capable of, likely would not be able to interfere. His only hope now were reinforcements. But with the communications to the Sierans jammed, it could be a long time before that happened.

Cagalli spoke again. "All right, Uncle. You just admitted your guilt to me. Now, try to explain why again."

Unato swallowed. He was a bit farther away from Cagalli than Yuna was, right in front of his desk. His hands were raised, just like Yuna's. And he was sweating bullets despite the concentration on his face.

"Cagalli, I'm only trying to help my country. Our country. We sold the Destroy to the Earth Alliance for precisely that reason. Nobody in Orb wants to fight this war. But the Earth Alliance we're dealing with is more ruthless, and more under the thumb of Blue Cosmos, than the Earth Alliance of the last war. That was a miscalculation on all of our parts."

"Who did you speak to?" Cagalli asked.

"It was a man named Lord Djibril. He's a higher-up, if not the higher-up of Blue Cosmos. I don't know why he's so interested in a Coordinator, but . . . he wanted your brother, even though your brother isn't exactly combat-capable right now."

"Don't play dumb with me, Uncle. You know as well as I do that this 'Djibril' will just break Kira until Kira's nothing but a mindless puppet flying that monster we built."

Unato swallowed again. "Yes."

"And you handed Kira to him anyway."

Unato's mouth quivered. "Yes."

"You handed my brother, and your nephew, over to a man who will be manipulating Kira's abilities, and taking advantage of his mental state, to make him a genocidal monster."

Now Unato's palms were starting to shake. "Yes."

There was just silence for a second. Even Yuna, who was shaking violently, like a boiling egg about to split open, didn't dare to speak.

Unato began talking again. "I did not want to become known as the man who took Orb into an all-out war. Our conscripts would be demoralized before they'd ever see a battlefield, and no amount of motivation will make them remotely willing to fight. The anti-war culture of our society is so ingrained in everyone that if I did introduce conscription there would be riots, assassination attempts, and possibly even governmental paralysis. Most everyone will never consider fighting unless it was in the explicit defense of our country."

Unato sighed, and he looked towards the ground. "I just want to keep the government running the way it should. I thought that your brother was a small price to pay. But that's not just it."

"What?" Cagalli asked.

"The Destroy is a weapon conceptualized to be something so terrible that it will end war, once and for all. If Kira, this 'Ultimate Coordinator', were to fly it . . . the war could be over in a matter of weeks. The ZAFT would be defeated, and then there would be no more rivalry, and no more war. Giving up your brother may have shortened this war by months, even years. Certainly, the ZAFT will be taking heavy casualities, but Orb will be safe, and so will the Earth. I think, again, your brother is a small price to pay by this logic."

For the first time, Cagalli's right hand, holding the silenced pistol, trembled slightly. And then Cagalli spoke.

"Realpolitik, huh?" she finally said.

"Yes. Now you see," Unato said.

"I can compromise my ideals. But I will never descend into realpolitik. Realpolitik is merely the desire to stay in power and nothing more. All calculation, no emotion, no personal feelings, no remorse."

She took a deep breath. "There is no honor, no love, no nothing inside you."

Unato's eyes widened softly. "Cagalli, wait-"

There as a loud pop. Bloodspray erupted from Unato Sieran's head for a brief instant, and his body slumped forward on his stomach, dead before he hit the floor.

No one moved. It was like everyone, and everything, had frozen in time except for Unato Sieran's collapsing body. It was only when Unato laid motionless that everyone else sprung to life.

Yuna turned towards his dead father, screaming, almost like a child, "Daddy, no!"

Before he could make as much of a step, Cagalli was already there, and she put her pistol underneath Yuna's chin. Athrun tried to move, but the Taser was aimed at him again in just a couple of steps, and he had to freeze.

Yuna was wailing in pain. "Ow, Cagalli! It burns! Stop it!"

It took Athrun a second to realize Cagalli wasn't doing anything but pressing a really hot suppressor to Yuna's chin. It had just fired a shot. It would be painful to touch.

"Shut up," Cagalli said. Her voice had a dark, hollow sound to it now.

Yuna was frightened enough to silence himself other than a few whimpers.

Cagalli spoke. "Tell me everything you know. I know Uncle would never do anything without letting you know. He always had high hopes for you, as misplaced as they are."

Yuna whimpered a couple more times, and then his words came out in a torrent of fear and panic. "L-Look, all Daddy was able to figure out about Djibril is that he's not just . . . not just a-a d-d-demo . . . a demo . . ."

"A demagogue?" Cagalli finished.

"Y-Yeah, that's it. He's this freaky powerful businessman t-too. He h-has tentacles in everything from w-w-wine and pizza to military contractors and automobiles. H-He makes zillions of profits from war. Fourteen of the top t-twenty c-c-companies in the Alliance has him holding a majority stake personally or by proxy."

"Which fourteen?"

"I-I-I-I don't know! P-Put your gun away so I can think!"

"You really think I'm stupid enough to do that?"

Yuna whimpered. "I-I-I think all of the defense and machinery companies are under him. There's a power company he has control of too. I-I-I can't remember anything else!"

Cagalli sighed. "I guess you really can't."

Yuna was close to blubbering now. "L-L-Look, please don't kill me! I'm sorry! I'll do whatever you say! Just don't kill me!"

"I told you not to beg for your life."

Yuna's eyes widened to the point where they nearly ejected from their sockets. "Oh ZOINKS-"

Another loud pop, and Yuna collapsed to the ground, falling backwards. Blood sprayed into the air, much of it landing on Cagalli and her clothes.

Athrun just stared at the sight, as Cagalli put the Taser down, and calmly switched on the safety of her pistol. She bent down and put the pistol in Yuna's right hand, and making sure her dead cousin got fingerprints all over the gun, including the trigger.

He finally spoke. "Cagalli, do you know what you've done?"

Cagalli's voice was still hollow, but the dark tone was gone, replaced by some distant, subtle sadness. "I killed my uncle and my cousin, Athrun."

"Why? They didn't need to die."

"They didn't deserve to live, Athrun. My brother's in the hands of immoral monsters thanks to them, and thanks to me, my brother's going to be forced to fly . . . something that should never have been built."

She stood up. "The way the story will go is that Yuna went crazy and shot Unato before shooting himself when I tried to stop him. It's not the most realistic story but the Orb elite will want to believe it because they didn't want Yuna anywhere near power. They will want to believe Yuna went crazy and so they won't push the story."

Her hands were trembling, and a shaken, cracking sound in her voice told Athrun everything he needed to know about how Cagalli truly felt.

Cagalli took a quivering, deep breath, and exhaled. "T-Take my radio, and call Murrue. Tell her the presidental office needs to be cleaned. Y-You will find that . . . that the communications are no longer jammed. I . . . I just switched it . . . off."

She sniffed. "Do it . . . do it now, A-Athrun."

Athrun walked over. "Cagalli, it's okay."

"N-No, it's not. It'll never be okay. It'll never be okay."

She fell to her knees and began sobbing violently into her hands. Athrun bent down and put his hands on her shoulders, and she wrapped her arms around him and buried her head in her chest as she wailed.

"Kira!" Cagalli cried. "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry!"

I didn't make it in time. Now Cagalli has to live with this, Athrun thought. He wished he could have stopped this. There could have been a better way. Should have been a better way.

"Athrun!" Cagalli sobbed, and she looked into his eyes, tears pouring from her own. "Don't let me fall. Don't let me become like them. I'm all Orb has left. Don't let me fall."

"I won't," Athrun said softly.

Cagalli just began crying again, and Athrun let her rest on her shoulder.

The call could wait for a few more minutes.
___________________________________________________________________________
And yes, I wanted Yuna's last word to be "ZOINKS" on this forum, hence the intentional usage of a serious curse word to activate the censor. Seems fitting for the character.

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

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


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 Post Posted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 12:21 am 
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Cardboard Leo Ace
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I don't know what is more suprising, Cagalli murdering her unlce and cousin in such a cold, ruthless and unforgiving method, or Yuna's last words being ZOINKS, of all things. Cagalli crying in GSD always served to annoy me, especially becuase of the insignificant reasoning that caused it, but now that she has been dealt the kinslayer card, it is alot standable and somewhat expected.

The last five chapters have been amazing to say the least, the story is intense and it is becoming excitably unpredictable. Although if there was one element that rubbed me the wrong way, it would have to be the Lacus massacre. Clyne to me, does not seem like someone that can do that, not only mentally, but physically. It seemed however, that her insane increase in combat skills, was only matched by the rate of which the special ops team lost all theirs.

In the anime, the HiMAT auto-targetting beam spam of Freedom was generally a large headache, transitioning it to written works however, does no one any favours. It makes the opponents come off as cheap run-of-the-mill plot devices that are just there to be shot at when it comes to combat. But, other than that one chapter, Kismet has been brilliant in the recent five.

I am half-scared about a Red Wedding type scene though (If you get the reference, you may be awesome).

_________________
Kallor said: 'I walked this land when the T'lan Imass were but children. I have commanded armies a hundred thousand strong. I have spread the fire of my wrath across entire continents, and sat alone upon tall thrones. Do you grasp the meaning of this?'

'Yes,' said Caladan Brood, 'you never learn.'


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 Post Posted: Wed Sep 01, 2010 5:17 pm 
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Retconned MSV Ace

Joined: Tue Oct 03, 2006 3:44 am
Posts: 1681
Location: Finland
Oh my. Cags took the long walk off the short pier, then. I found her teary collapse at the end sympathetic, but I feel Athrun might've braved the taser after Unato got popped, simply because he of all people should understand what devastation taking lives can do to a person. Sure, Cags has been taking lessons, but never this bad. The Cags he knew is now pretty much gone forever, and I fear the only way she can turn it around for her actually is realpolitik, despite how she claimed she wouldn't adopt it. She stands now as the (likely) leader of Orb, and I think she will shortly find out leaders have to deal with realpolitik most of the time when faced with crises, whether they wanted to or not. Add to that her realizing that she killed off Unato and Yuna to gain power might not free her to act as he likes. It isn't as if those two were the only politicians left in Orb.

I think you're probably right on conscription (i.e. draft, in the way you describe it) not being very popular at all in Orb, especially since the EA demands it to be implemented to fuel an offensive war that doesn't affect Orb directly. In real terms, countries with conscription have found the conscription on ample supply of motivated fighters when defending ones country, though. Interesting point, during WWII, the Finns got roughed pretty bad by the Soviets in the Winter War (1939-1940) but lost considerable chunks of territories to thwart occupation with a nearly all-conscript army. When Hitler advanced to the USSR, the Finns saw they had a chance for a rematch and joined the Germans. However, in 1942 when the old border was reached, many soldiers (conscripts) who fought in the Winter War said that this would be as far as they went; they had signed on to retake land that was taken from them, not to wage a war of expansion. There are (disputed) records of soldiers being shot for their disobedience to march on, and in the end they did (and later on retreated back to the post-Winter War borders when pressed by the Soviet war machine). What was the point of this long-winded story? Conscripts: motivated defenders, lackluster attackers.

Quote:
Hell, I almost think he'd be stupid enough to run out into the open in a Mobile Suit fight and get crushed by one."

Well played, that reference. :mrgreen:

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-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.


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 Post Posted: Thu Sep 02, 2010 7:28 pm 
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Newtype Emo Guy

Joined: Wed May 02, 2007 7:43 pm
Posts: 258
Location: Illinois, USA
Blightstrider wrote:
I don't know what is more suprising, Cagalli murdering her unlce and cousin in such a cold, ruthless and unforgiving method, or Yuna's last words being ZOINKS, of all things. Cagalli crying in GSD always served to annoy me, especially becuase of the insignificant reasoning that caused it, but now that she has been dealt the kinslayer card, it is alot standable and somewhat expected.


One thing I have stated is that my goal was to make Cagalli the exact opposite of her GSD self. But one of the messages I wanted to send is "is that a good thing"? What will happen to her now, when she's committed such an act?

Blightstrider wrote:
The last five chapters have been amazing to say the least, the story is intense and it is becoming excitably unpredictable. Although if there was one element that rubbed me the wrong way, it would have to be the Lacus massacre. Clyne to me, does not seem like someone that can do that, not only mentally, but physically. It seemed however, that her insane increase in combat skills, was only matched by the rate of which the special ops team lost all theirs.


I'm kinda retconning SEED mode into a bit of a "forced combat psychosis" if that makes any sense at all. And Lacus should not have been capable of it, which is why going into SEED mode was an absolutely agonizing experience for her and effected her so deeply afterwards. Much like Kira, Lacus' personality is so thoroughly incompatable with killing that if Lacus enters SEED mode again things could become much worse for her mentally.

I do look back at the scene and wonder about the necessity of it, though. Maybe I should not have done it, but I really wanted to see what would happen to Lacus if she had to put literal blood on her hands.

Blightstrider wrote:
In the anime, the HiMAT auto-targetting beam spam of Freedom was generally a large headache, transitioning it to written works however, does no one any favours. It makes the opponents come off as cheap run-of-the-mill plot devices that are just there to be shot at when it comes to combat. But, other than that one chapter, Kismet has been brilliant in the recent five.

I am half-scared about a Red Wedding type scene though (If you get the reference, you may be awesome).


There's a reason why Freedom hadn't shown up before. It pwns everything. XD I tried to offset that with making the Freedom absolute useless later in the chapter, but again, I probably did not have to write that scene.

Are you talking about that scene from A Song Of Ice And Fire? George R.R. Martin used to be a pretty big influence on me but has kinda faded with time.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Antares wrote:
Oh my. Cags took the long walk off the short pier, then. I found her teary collapse at the end sympathetic, but I feel Athrun might've braved the taser after Unato got popped, simply because he of all people should understand what devastation taking lives can do to a person. Sure, Cags has been taking lessons, but never this bad. The Cags he knew is now pretty much gone forever, and I fear the only way she can turn it around for her actually is realpolitik, despite how she claimed she wouldn't adopt it. She stands now as the (likely) leader of Orb, and I think she will shortly find out leaders have to deal with realpolitik most of the time when faced with crises, whether they wanted to or not. Add to that her realizing that she killed off Unato and Yuna to gain power might not free her to act as he likes. It isn't as if those two were the only politicians left in Orb.


Cagalli's been changing into a different person since this fic began, and what she just did will only accelerate it. The big question is whether Cagalli can cling to her ideals and her friends enough to keep from becoming someone else entirely. You have an astute look at the new political situation, and the Athrun/Cagalli scene coming up actually discusses some of the points you made. You really know how to read deeply in fiction.

I actually initially did have Athrun braving the Taser (and getting hit) but I could not come up with a way to convincingly portray the pain of getting zapped, so I ultimately had Athrun hesitate again.

Antares wrote:
I think you're probably right on conscription (i.e. draft, in the way you describe it) not being very popular at all in Orb, especially since the EA demands it to be implemented to fuel an offensive war that doesn't affect Orb directly. In real terms, countries with conscription have found the conscription on ample supply of motivated fighters when defending ones country, though. Interesting point, during WWII, the Finns got roughed pretty bad by the Soviets in the Winter War (1939-1940) but lost considerable chunks of territories to thwart occupation with a nearly all-conscript army. When Hitler advanced to the USSR, the Finns saw they had a chance for a rematch and joined the Germans. However, in 1942 when the old border was reached, many soldiers (conscripts) who fought in the Winter War said that this would be as far as they went; they had signed on to retake land that was taken from them, not to wage a war of expansion. There are (disputed) records of soldiers being shot for their disobedience to march on, and in the end they did (and later on retreated back to the post-Winter War borders when pressed by the Soviet war machine). What was the point of this long-winded story? Conscripts: motivated defenders, lackluster attackers.


That was a fascinating subject you've brought up. The Winter War has long fascinated me, though me being a brief history major probably helps with that. XD And you're right on that point. Conscripts are good for defending but they're not much of an attacking force unless they are motivated to do so. The United States, Britain, and Russia were certainly motivated to invade Germany, and the United States went on the offensive and occupied Japanese islands in WWII as well. But I do agree that your history lesson there holds a lot of water.

Quote:
Well played, that reference.


I could not resist. XD

Thanks for reading!

Chapter 36 is in progress right now.

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


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 Post Posted: Sun Sep 05, 2010 10:39 pm 
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Newtype Emo Guy

Joined: Wed May 02, 2007 7:43 pm
Posts: 258
Location: Illinois, USA
Chapter Thirty-Six: To Converge

I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
-Isaac Newton

"I've never seen the Earth's surface before."

"Really, Heine?" Lunamaria Hawke asked.

Heine grinned. "Yeah. I only served in space up until now. Never set foot on this planet until I got assigned here."

"Wow," Luna replied breathlessly.

She is so obviously crushing on him, Shinn thought in mild annoyance.

They were on the observation deck. It was meant to be used more as an access point for crews to work on the ship while in zero gravity, but in a pinch, despite the limited space, it could be used for relaxation. The captain had decreed it time for the entire crew to take a break after nearly three weeks of constant fear and flight.

It had been about a week now since the escape from Madagascar. About three-quarters of the forces meant to escape actually got out. They could already almost be at the Suez, but many of the ships were damaged and could not go full speed. The Earth Alliance was in hot pursuit, after wasting multiple days finishing the remaining resistance on Madagascar. It was common knowledge that the Earth Alliance would be upon the rearguard in roughly two days, long before the ZAFT could reach the Suez.

The coast of Somalia was barely visible in the distant. Somalia was still held by the ZAFT, but what troops that were there were inconsequential and ill-prepared to service the ships. It had been decided it would be better to pretend that the tiny camps and bases did not exist, so the Earth Alliance would bypass them while chasing their desired target, the convoy.

After all, if the convoy went down, the only ZAFT resistance left would be in South America. Not good for the war effort.
Shinn felt a tug on his shoulder. He turned and saw Meyrin, grinning brightly. "Enjoying the view, Shinn?"

"Yeah," Shinn said.

"I've never been on Earth before. Hadn't really had a chance to enjoy this place until now. Everything is just so random here. I heard a hurricane made a mess out of a battle near Cuba," Meyrin said.

Shinn shook his head. "The last thing I want is a hurricane, or typhoon, or whatever they're called."

"They don't usually come out this way," Meyrin said. "I think."

'I think' doesn't exactly bring reassurance, Shinn thought.

Meyrin sighed wistfully as she looked down at the water. "Everything in the PLANTs are so regulated, even the weather. You're told when there's going to be rain, and it rains exactly when it is supposed to. That doesn't happen here. It's completely out of control. I think it's cool."

"Doesn't really rain out here," Shinn said. "We're right next to a desert."

Meyrin frowned. "Come on, stop making fun of me."

"I'm not!"

"You know what I mean."

Shinn sighed. He knew what Meyrin meant. To someone like her, even the weather was fascinating simply because it was different from the PLANTs. But Shinn had lived on Earth for most of his life. Earth just wasn't as interesting to him.

Earth was just filled with people who wanted to kill him. That wasn't interesting, it was frightening.

"Shinn!" yelled a male voice behind him. Shinn turned around, and was surprised to see Dearka Elsman approaching.

"Dearka? What's going on?" Shinn asked.

"I need to talk to you for a second," Dearka said.

"Can I come with?" Meyrin asked.

Dearka shook his head. "No, it's private."

Okay, what the hell is going on? Shinn thought.

Meyrin frowned. "Look, whatever it is you want to say to Shinn you can say in front of me."

"This is private business, Meyrin," Dearka said with finality. "Please."

Meyrin scoffed and stared down at the water again. "Fine, go on."

"I'll be back soon," Shinn said.

Meyrin sighed. "Yeah."

Shinn followed Dearka off the deck and into the ship itself, and Dearka opened a nearby door to a small room. Shiho was there too, but nobody else was. Not Heine, not Rey, not Lunamaria, or any of the other Mobile Suit pilots on board.

"Uh, Dearka?" Shinn asked. "What's going on?"

Shiho grinned in a sarcastic manner. "Dearka's going to ask you to betray the ZAFT."

"Say what?"

"Shiho!" Dearka yelled.

"What?" Shiho asked as she shrugged her shoulders. She scoffed after a moment of silence. "Just trying to have some fun."

Dearka rubbed his forehead. "Right, right."

What the heck are these two trying to drag me into?

Dearka paced back and forth, and finally sighed. "Shinn, have you noticed anything suspicious about the way the war restarted?"

Shinn immediately thought of Stellar, and the way they had been separated. It had seemed the whole world had conspired to split them apart. But it wasn't just that. The way everything just fell apart so quickly . . .

He wasn't sure whether to say his suspicions. Maybe this was some type of a loyalty test. Maybe he was going to be reported in for what he had said. He was still surprised nobody hadn't turned him in for his plans on defecting to the Earth Alliance.

"Everything seemed to collapse fast, yeah," Shinn finally, reluctantly, admitted.

"And don't you think that this war didn't have to happen?" Dearka asked.

"Of course it didn't. Why are you asking me this?"

"I'm asking you, Shinn, about how you feel about fighting this war. Don't you want to find out why we're at war? Why we suddenly have to fight the Earth Alliance when a deal could've easily been made to avoid war? I think you want to know."

Shinn did not answer for a second. He knew what Dearka was doing. And Dearka's comments sounded pretty close to the mark. The way the war was being run was suspicious. But Dearka was also hinting at treason. Granted, it was something that Shinn had been considering not too long ago, so who was he to question Dearka?

"When you put it that way, who wouldn't want to know?" Shinn replied.

Shiho was the one who spoke next, not Dearka. "Shinn, you're not being investigated and this isn't trying to bait you. Both Dearka and I have legitimate concerns about the way this war is being conducted, and we want to stop it."

"It's one thing to fight a war for the safety of your country. It's another to fight a war for a private, personal agenda, and that's what Shiho and I believe Chairman Durandal is doing. We, and Andrew Waltfield, for that matter, believe that Durandal has his own agenda, and it is not to defend ZAFT. What that agenda is, though, we don't know," Dearka said.

"Dearka has my help, particularly when it comes to trying to communicate with Waltfield. He needs go-betweens because he can't talk with Waltfield too much without raising suspicion," Shiho said. "I can do some of it, but we need someone else to act as a go-between. Dearka thinks that you would be a good choice."

Shinn sighed. He wasn't so sure that joining up for this was such a good idea, but his curiosity was killing him now. He turned them down, the questions would be bugging him for weeks, months, years. Now he wanted to know.

"Fine, I'll do it," Shinn said.

Dearka nodded. "You agreed quicker than I thought."

"You made me curious," Shinn said, grinning. "I want to find out what's going on."

"And so do I," said a new voice.

Everyone spun to look at the entrance to the door, and there was Meyrin Hawke, clearly visible. She calmly shut the door behind her. "Next time, leave a lookout."

Shiho sputtered for a few seconds before she could form coherent words. "H-How much have you listened to?"

Meyrin folded her arms. "All of it. Basically I followed Shinn and Dearka here from the moment they left the observation deck. Neither of them noticed they were being followed."

Shinn felt his face turning red. Dearka, for his part, just nervously fidgeted with his collar.

Shiho buried her face in her hands. "I'm surrounded by idiots."

Nobody argued the comment. Meyrin spoke up. "If Shinn wants to go and help you guys investigate the Chairman, I want to help. I trust Shinn's judgment."

Now Shinn's face was red from the flattery instead of embarrassment. It was nice for Meyrin to trust him, but Shinn knew he wasn't the best decision-maker in the ZAFT either.

Dearka recovered his voice. "Fine, you're in too. Actually, people would find you the least suspicious of all."

Meyrin smiled. "Plus, I'm always the person who has to hand out coffee to the bridge, where Waltfield likes to be when there's no battle. You know how Waltfield loves his coffee."

Dearka nodded thoughtfully. "That actually works out quite nicely. Let's see if there's a way to use that."

Meyrin nodded. "I'm sure there is."

Dearka smiled. "Speaking of communication, I need to give the both of you the password to let our demoted colonel know you're both in."

"What is it?" Shinn asked.

Dearka told them. The password's identity just left Meyrin and Shinn shaking their heads.
***
The office had been cleaned immediately. Eight days after Cagalli had killed both her uncle and cousin, they both had been given their state funerals and buried in the ground. Cagalli had seemed to have turned off all of her emotions. It was like she couldn't bear to feel anything, lest she feel more pain.

Seeing Cagalli like this was honestly depressing. Athrun knew that should have been a better way to stop Unato and Yuna Sieran. But now they were both dead, and Cagalli had to live the rest of her life knowing she was their killer.

Athrun had a vision of an old, dying Cagalli confessing on her deathbed that she had killed them both, long after anyone had stopped caring. He shook it off and approached Cagalli, who was looking at some kind of report on a vidscreen. Noticing him, Cagalli shut it down and folded the screen. "Athrun."

Athrun tried to smile, he wasn't sure how convincing it was. "Ready for your coronation tomorrow, Queen Cagalli?"

Cagalli's nod was so slight Athrun barely noticed it. "I'm not looking forward to wearing a dress."

"What were you looking at?" Athrun asked.

Cagalli closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and spoke. "I think I found out where the Destroy will be used."

And by the Destroy she meant Kira.

"Where?" Athrun asked.

"There's a ZAFT convoy on the run on the eastern coast of Africa. They're heading up the Suez, probably trying to break through the canal. I'm sure Chairman Durandal is working on the Israelis to give the ZAFT safe port."

Athrun tried to remember where the Suez was, and finally did. It made a good ambush point. The countries surrounding the Suez were all allied with the Earth Alliance, and by deploying a powerful unit at the exit of the Suez, the ZAFT could be stopped, surrounded, and thoroughly destroyed.

"How are we going to do this?"

Cagalli re-opened her eyes finally. Despite her attempt to remain emotionless, the pain in her eyes was obvious. "I told Kisaka to head for home. I really pissed off the EA by doing that but I'm using the excuse of preparing an expeditionary force to finish off the ZAFT on Earth, which is what everybody wants anyway." "So Kisaka is leading the Orb expeditionary force," Athrun said.

"Yes, and the force will consist of our volunteer soldiers, not conscripts," Cagalli said. "Hopefully that will buy us more time. But Kisaka's objective isn't solely to assist the EA. His job is also to recover Kira."

Athrun bit his lip. "So the 'expeditionary force' thing is just a front."

Cagalli folded her hands. "Yes. The Earth Alliance betrayed me on a personal level, as well as a professional one. Orb is no longer on their side, though we will pretend to be such for a while longer."

"How does the council feel about this?" Athrun asked.

"The council doesn't know my true plan. They only know the surface of it, involving Kisaka coming down to lead the ground forces. You're the first person who I've told my real plan to."

Athrun shook his head. "Duping the council will bite you in the end."

"I honestly don't care as long as I can get my brother back," Cagalli said. "That's all that matters to me right now, saving my brother and stopping this war. What happens to me after that I'll face when I get there."

Cagalli stared at her hands then. "Athrun, I've been having a dream the last few days."

Oh no. What?

"I'm this . . . person. Fair, but terrible. Moral, but cruel. There is peace, but there is also blood all over me. I'm this benevolent dictator, in control of everything. There is no war, no hatred. But there is nothing inside of me. I look at everything in this detached, soulless way, making my decisions sqiftly and logically. Even when I should feel pain, or sadness, or joy, or hatred, nothing shows. I'm just . . . eternally calm towards everyone, and perpetually ruthless towards my enemies."

Cagalli's hands shook, and she brought them close to myself. "I've become nothing but a shell, a robot, a monster. I am beloved but I do not love them in return. They have peaceful, joyful lives merely because it is the logical thing to give people so there is no strife. I only eat because I must stay alive to ensure their happy lives, I only keep myself presentable because that's what the people expect their rulers to do. I do not care about myself at all, or of anyone, for that matter. It's not like I would want to kill myself, but I don't care if I live or die. All I do is exist."

"Cagalli," Athrun said. "Stop doing this to yourself. You keep obsessing over it you will become the person you see in your dream. Let it go."

"It's not that easy. I see all of these happy people. Isn't it worth it to everyone in the world if I was a perfect benevolent dictator? Even if it results in there being nothing inside me?" Cagalli asked.

"No!" Athrun yelled. He caught himself before he went on an angry tirade. "Cagalli, don't you dare see yourself this way. A benevolent dictator is an oxymoron. It's not possible. It's been a ideal that has never been realized."

"Athrun, I-"

"You love your brother, don't you?"

"Of course I do. I want him back."

"If you were this 'perfect benevolent dictator', wouldn't it be the logical thing to force Kira to fight in that machine, so he can kill the other side and end the war?"

Cagalli hesitated. "Yes . . ."

"This is proof that you can't be a benevolent dictator. You are too human for that. All of us are. Every single person on this planet is just too human to make a benevolent dictator exist." Athrun rubbed his eyes. "Also, I can't love an empty shell, Cagalli."

Cagalli stood up. "Athrun . . . you're right."

She embraced him, and she began crying again. But this time, instead of loud, frantic sobbing, she was quiet, her tears gently robbing down her cheeks.

"Athrun," she whispered, "I'm sorry."

"It's all right," Athrun said. "I won't leave you. Remember, we're engaged."

Cagalli chuckled sadly. "I wonder when it'll be right to announce you being my groom."

"Probably never," Athrun said.

Cagalli just laughed sadly again as she trembled in Athrun's arms. "That sounds about right."
***
The world had been a daze for an amount of time he could not tell. He felt like a zombie, or, more accurately, a ghost, fading in and out of the world.

Am I dead? Did they kill me?

He had no idea of what had happened to him. His last coherent memory was the doors of the shuttle craft closing, and one last glimpse of Lacus Clyne, tear-stricken and helpless, just staring at him. He had focused on that image this entire time, to keep himself from going insane.

Lacus . . . I wonder how you're doing?

He had been in this loop for this entire time. He had no idea of being alive or dead, he had no coherent images. And whenever he tried to have a coherent thought, he could only think of Lacus.

Lacus in total despair and hopelessness, sobbing over the lives she had taken, and the worthlessness her efforts had been.

It would always break his heart, and then he'd be lost to the endless mist again, unable to think or comprehend.

Sometimes he'd see a light. Sometimes he'd hear voices. Whenever he tried to focus, he saw Lacus crying as he was taken away.

It was like this, in a endless loop. It could not stop.

But then, as if by magic, it did.

He heard a lone voice, speaking to him unintelligibly. He tried to open his eyes, but the brightness was too much, it was bringing tears to his eyes. He could barely even squint. He wondered if he was dead.

No, he was breathing. He could feel himself breathe. He was alive.

He also remembered his name.

Kira Yamato.

As his thoughts began to become more coherent, he wondered how he had been able to remember Lacus' face and name, but not his own. He wondered if it was his love for Lacus, or something more. Something else entirely.

The voice spoke again. "Kira."

It sounded feminine, and familiar. Was it Lacus? Or perhaps Cagalli or Murrue? Had he been rescued? He tried to sit up, only to feel someone's arms holding him.

"Kira, it's all right. Take it slow."

The voice was familiar. But it was not Lacus. It was not Cagalli. It wasn't anyone he knew.

He tried to open his eyes again, and he saw a brief glimpse of red hair. He wondered who it was. He knew that the person had been around him in the past. But it wasn't anyone he knew now.

"Take it slow. I'm here now. They won't do this to you again," the voice said.

He knew the voice. He had heard it so many times. Yelling at him, seducing him, screaming at him, for him, crying and laughing and wailing . . .

It can't be . . .

He opened his eyes again, and he blinked away the foggy blurs. He saw a young woman's arms, in the white uniform of an Earth Alliance officer, wrapped around him. He got a good view of her right hand, it looked to have a slash mark on the back.

He saw the teasing strands of red hair again, from his right. He turned ever so slowly, unable to believe who the person was. But he did.

And he saw.

He saw the long strands of red hair he had touched so much, when undoing her ponytail that night in the desert. He saw her girlish, moist lips, and then her elegant nose, and lastly, her sensitive, ruthless, soulful blue eyes. Her face bore a scar across her nose, but other than that it was the same face of a girl he knew.

He could not speak.

She could not be alive.

He had seen her die.

But she was here. Holding him.

It was impossible.

Beyond impossible.

No one could bring the dead back to life.

Unless . . .

Was he willing to believe that she had somehow survived? This girl?

"It's . . . it's you," he managed to whisper. His voice sounded so hoarse and dehydrated he could barely recognize it.

She smiled ever so kindly. "Have I got a story for you, Kira. I've been looking for you for so long . . . those Blue Cosmos monsters had you locked up in cyro this whole time. But I pulled some strings. I got them to let you out. There was no way I was letting them keep you away from me."

"How?" he asked.

She put a finger to her lips. "Ssh, Kira. Save your strength. I can tell you the story after you have some rest. Just know that I'm nearby . . . and I still love you."

She let go of him then, and he tried to get up but found he didn't have the strength. In fact, he had a massive headache and had to lie back down.

But his mind continued to work even as his body relaxed.

She could not be alive. And yet she was.

His lips moved, and his haggard voice managed a soft word.

"Flay."
___________________________________________________________________________

Chapter 37 is already finished (I decided to split 36 into two pieces), but I want to revel in my evilness for a couple of days.

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 Post Posted: Mon Sep 06, 2010 5:47 pm 
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Flay is a Borg, it's the only answer for her survival.


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 Post Posted: Mon Sep 06, 2010 9:20 pm 
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Newtype Emo Guy

Joined: Wed May 02, 2007 7:43 pm
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If the real answer were only so simple. :twisted:

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 Post Posted: Thu Sep 09, 2010 10:04 am 
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Newtype Emo Guy

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Location: Illinois, USA
Chapter Thirty-Seven: Flay

If wishes would carry me over this land, I would ride with free bridle today, I would greet every tree with a grasp of my hand, I would drink of each river, and swim in each bay.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

He woke up to smell strawberries.

Kira turned to his right, and saw the familiar strands of red hair elegantly framing Flay Allster's face as she sat next to his bed. She was real. She was right there, alive, breathing.

How?

Flay bent down a little to look at him. "Kira."

"F-Flay. How . . .?"

"In a second. Here." Flay took something off of a tray and handed it to him. It was a small glass bowl with strawberries and a plastic spoon. "They're fresh. My name still has some pull around here, I have to use it for something. Might as well get you something better than hospital food."

"Y-Yeah. Thanks," Kira said. He was surprised how hungry he felt. He could remember having such an appetite over the last three years, ever. He reached in with the spoon and devoured all of the strawberries in a couple of minutes.

He couldn't remember food tasting so wonderful.

He looked for a good place to set the empty bowl down, but Flay simply took it and set it back down on the tray. "You feel better now?"

"I . . . I uh, guess," Kira said. He looked at Flay, and she looked like she had all those years ago. A bit older, maybe, and she had the scar across her nose, and another, less noticeable, one down her right cheek. But it was unmistakably Flay.

"I'm glad," Flay said. She reached for his right hand and held it in both of her own. "I've been looking for you ever since the final battle. But I could never find you."

"I've . . . been keeping a low profile," Kira said.

Flay nodded. Her hands shook, and her lips quivered. As she spoke, her voice cracked with emotion. "I don't blame you for what happened. You tried so hard to protect me. That meant so much, after what I did to you, Kira."

"Are you talking about the shuttle?"

"Yeah." Flay closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and exhaled. "When the shuttle exploded, a hole opened up next to me and I was pulled out into space. Thankfully, I had a space suit on, but I'm sure you had no way of knowing that."

As he listened, Kira found himself on the verge of tears. "If . . . if I had known you were still out there, I would have tried to find you."

"You had no way of knowing. That was a massive explosion. Everybody else died but me," Flay said.

He knew Flay had used him. But like back then, he didn't care. He had heard Flay screaming for him multiple times during the final days of the war. Those were not the screams of someone merely using him. Those were the screams of someone who loved him and was begging for rescue.

Flay was not faking those pleas.

But, as he was thinking about fakes . . .

There was a fake Lacus. What if . . .

He wanted to believe. But could he? Who said that they couldn't make a fake Flay, like they had made a fake Lacus?

He had to make sure. He had to ask something Flay knew. Anyone could hijack into communications. What was something that only Flay knew?

His face heated as he realized what he could ask.

"Flay . . . do you remember that night?"

"Which night?" Flay asked.

"In the desert?"

"You mean when we had sex, Kira? Why?"

She knows about it. While Flay and Kira's relationship hadn't exactly been private, nobody knew how explicit it had been. Other than Sai Argyle, but he had kept it to himself other than breaking down and trying to hijack the Strike. He had been so embarrassed over his supposed girlfriend having sex with Kira that he never really discussed it with anyone.

"I have to make sure it's really you," Kira said. "There is a fake Lacus Clyne making broadcasts. I know this because I have lived with the real Lacus all this time."

Flay's eyes shimmered slightly. "I see. There's been rumors that the Lacus who's been speaking has been a fake. I guess that confirms them."

"Where did you get the scars?" Kira asked. "There's no way you could have gotten them from the shuttle . . ."

"No. They came afterwards." Flay looked away. "I don't know if it's a good idea to tell you this, but you led the conversation in this direction. Kira, I have something to show you."

"What?"

Flay reached into her pocket and pulled out a picture. She sighed as she looked at it. "Kira . . . do you have any children, whether with Lacus Clyne or any other girl?"

Kira was floored. "No, of course not! I'm not ready to have a child!"

"Oh," Flay said. "Never mind, then."

Kira reached out and grabbed Flay's arm. "Flay, what is it? Please, no games with me."

Tears brimmed in Flay's eyes. "Kira . . . look at this."

She handed him the picture, and Kira stared.

It was a little girl, with violet eyes and red hair. She couldn't be any older than two, maybe three. She was holding a teddy bear in her hands and smiling brightly, though not at the camera.

It took him a moment to realize that the girl's eyes looked familiar.

He dropped the picture.

"Impossible."

"Her name's Fiona," Flay said. "I wanted her to have the same first letter as my name, but the same last letter as yours."

He just stared at the picture, at the girl's bright violet eyes and her long, wavy red hair, who looked so small and fragile and adorable that Kira could not help but cry the moment he saw her.

"I have a daughter?" he asked.

"Yes," Flay said. "And I can finally tell her that she has a father."

He picked the picture up, and continued to stare at it even though his vision blurred. "When . . . when can I see her?"

"She's being flown over from London right now. You'll be able to see her tomorrow, Kira. She's very talented, though it's to be expected because she's a Coordinator."

Kira's eyes widened. "She's . . . a Coordinator?"

"Yes," Flay said. "You would expect her to be a Slant, but she's not. Somehow, Kira . . . our daughter is a Coordinator."

Suddenly, Flay's scars, and loathing for Blue Cosmos, made sense at last.

"You've been attacked," Kira said.

"I have," Flay said. "I'm high profile because of my name. Blue Cosmos knows that Fiona's abilities are beyond Slant capabilities. It doesn't take much to put two and two together. They've tried to kill her, and they've tried to kill me. It's all been covert, behind the scenes, but it's happened."

She was starting to cry at the end. "I can't let them kill her. She's my child."

"No," Kira said. "She's our child."

Flay looked at him. "Thank you, Kira."

She embraced him, and Kira was so lost in a whirlwind of emotions he forgot all about Blue Cosmos and Lacus and Cagalli and everyone and everything else.

I have a little girl.

That's all that mattered.
***
It was supposed to be a happy occasion. Cagalli was now the queen. She had made a triumphant speech, and Orb universally loved Cagalli, though partially that had to do with her being the daughter of Lord Izumi. It seemed a little weird to see Cagalli in royal garb, but she seemed to have taken it well. She was calm, in control, and persuasive.

Until she had broken down the moment they returned to the palace.

The Sierans' office, where she had killed Unato and Yuna, was now her own office. It was standard procedure, the ruler of Orb always occupied this office, and there was no way around it. Cagalli, upon realizing that all of her business would be conducted in the room where she had committed murder, broke down on the spot. Now Athrun was left sitting here with Murrue Ramus, and waiting for Cagalli to come back after she recovered.

It was silent for just a few moments. Then finally Murrue tried to break the ice. "She was good out there. For someone who's not a natural politician she did quite well."

"She's the leader now," Athrun said. "She has to present a strong front. If she were to die, the council's in charge of Orb. I can't imagine what it's like to have a legislative branch solely in charge of the country."

"There's still the judicial system," Murrue said.

"You know what I mean."

Murrue nodded. "We need to keep a close eye on Cagalli. It's going to hit some crooked member of the council, if it hasn't already, that Cagalli is the one person preventing the council from taking total control."

"You're saying Cagalli could be assassinated?" Athrun asked.

"I wouldn't discount it."

There was a long silence. Finally, Athrun spoke. "Cagalli's been breaking down consistently since she killed both Unato and Yuna. She won't admit it but what she did is destroying her from the inside, and I don't know what to say."

Murrue sighed. "Murder does that. Cagalli isn't just sad, or angry. She has a lot of guilt on her right now because she's gotten away with it. A small, but significant, part of her wants to be caught."

Athrun folded his hands. "I should've realized it earlier. That Cagalli was going to do it."

"We realized it too late, Athrun. The only ones to blame are ourselves." Murrue said.

"What can I say to her, though?" Athrun begged. "I'm tired of seein gher cry. It's not like her."

"You kill your family and tell me how you'd feel," Murrue said.

Athrun thought about first his mother, killedon Junius Seven, and then his father, killed inside Jachin Doe by one of his own men. He hadn't taken either death that well. Never mind he had no idea what he would've done if he actually encountered Patrick Zala alive inside the base. Would he really have shot his own father to prevent Genesis from firing again?

More likely, Cagalli would have done it so he wouldn't have to.

That was Cagalli, always refusing to give in.

You sold her brother out to the Earth Alliance, she would kill you just to get the authority to order a rescue.

But this time . . . Athrun knew a significant part of Cagalli was dying, and he couldn't figure out how to save it.

Athrun just shook his head. "I want to help her, Murrue."

"So do I. Believe it or not, I can't come up iwth a way to comfort her either. She told me this morning about these dreams she's been having and I had no idea what to say."

"She told you about them too?"

"So she told you first," Murrue said. "What did you say to her?"

"I told her she was being ridiculous."

"I asked her if that's what she really wanted for herself. I asked if any of us were in that dream. We aren't. She pushed us all away."

I never asked her about that.

Cagalli entered the office then. Both Athrun and Murrue turned to stare at her. Cagalli looked at the both of them, and sharply asked "What?"

She was out of her royal garb, and back in her business clothing. The crown and the clothing, neither of which were worn except in the coronation anyway, had to be back in storage.

"Are you okay?" Athrun asked.

"I'm done crying, Athrun."

That's not answering my question.

Cagalli walked past both of them and placed her hands on the wooden desk, used by her father and uncle. "The ends have to justify the means, Athrun, Murrue. As impossible as it is to justify what I've done, I have to try. There can be no failure. This war must stop, and I want my brother back."

Cagalli turned to Athrun. "You did remove the bugs from the room?"

"Yes, of course." The last thing Athrun wanted was someone listening in on Cagalli.

"Good." Cagalli turned and walked around the desk, and placed her hand on the leather chair that Lord Izumi had always sat in. "We are going to be discussing highly sensitive matters a lot. I don't need to be incirminated by my own methods."

Athrun nearly did a double take. "Are you serious, Cagalli?"

"I am a criminal, Athrun. There's no arguing that point. Now, are we going to discuss how we're going to rescue Kira and stop this war or not?"

Athrun sighed. "Sure, go ahead."

"I'm accelerating production of the two prototypes in development, they don't have code-names yet but they are both considered potential successors to the Murasame model at some point. Athrun, I'm going to need you to fly one of them, you're going to be commanding any Kira rescue force."

So it's up to me. Athrun knew it was a fitting operation. Who better than him to rescue his best friend?

"Admiral Kisaka is coming down to Erath tomorrow. His orders are to begin an expedition to head to the Suez. Athrun, you, however, will be part of a more rapid-response force. I've made arrangements with Crete to allow Orb soldiers to be based there. That's where you are going. My best estimate says that Kira is somewhere in the area, and the moment you have actionable intelligence, well . . ."

"I act upon it."

"That's right. And, if possible, eliminate the Destroy. It was a mistake of Orb to build that thing, and I want it erased."

"What should I do?" Murrue asked.

"You stay here with me," Cagalli said. 'I need help from someone wiser than me, to keep this country stable over the next couple of weeks."

Murrue nodded. "All right, I can do that."

"Thank you." Cagalli looked at the both of them. "We're the last true hope of this world. We have this count. No giving up, got it?"

Both Murrue and Athrun nodded.

"Good. Now let's start putting our plans into action."
***
She looked at herself in the mirroe. Is this me? Am I really still myself?

She didn't know. But she knew the face she saw was just a peeling mask for the person she was now. She had given up her old identity by murdering others. As horrified as she was to see that she wasn't her old self, she had a feeling she hadn't been her old self for a long time.

Not for the last couple of years. She had changed dramatically, and now, she supposed, it was time to physically solidify her changes.

She took the scissors, and briefly fumbled with them. She couldn't believe she was doing this, and her heart pounded as the scissors got closer and closer.

Snip.

A small, yet long, strand of her locks fell to earth.

She placed both hands on the sink, trembling. That's one. I just need to cut a lot more.

It was as if she couldn't bear to part wit her old identity. But she knew that she had to. She wasn't her old self anymore. It was all gone, except for her hair. She had to complete her change.

You can do this. Come on. Like long hair is going to help you with what you have to do. Long hair will just get in the way. You have to do this. You need to fight!

Her trembling hands put the scissors into her hair again.

Come on. This isn't hard. You're making it hard. You've watched people cut hair for years.

She took a deep breath.

Snip.

This time, she didn't put the scissors down.

One fluid motion. Shorten all of it. Now.

She exhaled, and took another deep breath.

I have to save the one I love. This is a very small price to pay for that.

Finally, she got the resolve she needed. It was pathetic, to need to psyche herself up for cutting her hair. How was she going to fare in truly serious situations if she could barely muster the courage to cut her hair?

She was going to need to work on that.

But for now, she needed to finish this, and prepare herself. There was no way she wasn't going to be involved in the rescue. She had to be there. There was no way she wasn't going to be there when it was time to save him.

Him.

She grabbed as much of her hair as possible, and curled it so it could all be taken out in one shot.

I will save you.

She put the scissors against the curl.

Snip.

She let the disconnected strands fall in one massive clump, and she looked at herself. She did look like a new person. Her hair wasn't so much different from . . . wait a minute.

Great. I've just turned myself into Cagalli. Not what I was intending, but it'll do until I can refine it.

She took the pin in her hair, and removed it, letting the front of her hair be free. After some careful trimming of her bangs, she realized she did look like Cagalli. It was so strange and random that she began to laugh.

How hilarious is this? Cagalli's turned into me and I've turned into her.

What a crazy world.

She sighed as she put all of her discarded hair into a small plastic bag. It was done, now. She had thrown away the last vestiges of what she had been. Was it really a good thing?

Probably not. But it was the necessary thing.

The one she loved had been fighting and sacrificing for so long.

Now it was her turn.

We'll be even soon enough, Kira. Just wait for me. I'm coming. No one will stop me.

Lacus Clyne put the bag into the trash, and walked out of her room. It was time she prepared herself for what she had to do.

I will always fight for you, Kira.

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

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


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 Post Posted: Thu Sep 09, 2010 7:33 pm 
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Newtype Emo Guy

Joined: Wed May 02, 2007 7:43 pm
Posts: 258
Location: Illinois, USA
As a side note, I hope I don't have to state what should be obvious.

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

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


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 Post Posted: Mon Sep 13, 2010 3:10 pm 
Offline
Newtype Emo Guy

Joined: Wed May 02, 2007 7:43 pm
Posts: 258
Location: Illinois, USA
In this chapter, someone else joins the dead list. Named dead guys so far:

Omar
Khalid
Stellar's commander dude whose name I don't remember
Saburo
Maria
Indira/Ilia
Frederick
Ezalia
Yzak
Unato
Yuna
And the character killed off this chapter is added to the list.
___________________________________________________________________________
Chapter Thirty-Eight

Footsteps like water hollow
the broad curses of stone
ascending, descending
century by century.
Who can say if the last
to climb these stairs
will be journeying
upward or downward?

-Denise Levertov, Ancient Stairway

The time had come for another confrontation between the Earth Alliance and the ZAFT. The ZAFT convoy was entering the Red Sea through a thin strait. The Earth Alliance could strike from both sea and land to encircle the ZAFT, and likely cause massive damage, if not outright destruction, of the convoy.

Stellar Loussier's goal wasn't that, though.

Sure, she would show she could follow orders. She'd attack every available target. But her main goal remained elusive, and he continued to hide in the shadows of the strongest ship in the convoy.

She had enough of that traitor staying alive. The moment he came out, she was going to kill him.

I loved you.

Stellar knew that Sting and Auel, the opportunists that they were, were trying to get into her good graces. But she wasn't going to date them. They were too much like siblings to her. And she couldn't think about boys, not until she made peace with the one who had betrayed her.

And the only way there would be peace was if he were to die.

She only had a half-hour of operational time once she entered the battle before she had to pull back. She had to find him fast. She could already see the desperate gunners on every ship taking potshots at the approaching Mobile Suits, and soon Zakus would be joining the battle to try to fight the Windams off.

There would be Daggers, too, and Skygraspers, but they were outdated models flown by poorly trained forces on land. They were going to get massacred, even with the numerical advantage. But they'd provide a distraction. That was better than nothing.

Neo spoke his orders calmly. "Our mission is to break the convoy into two pieces. Once that is successful, we are to coordinate with the land forces on finishing the two 'pockets' off. If a GUNDAM appears, whether it is the 'Savior' or 'Impulse', our mission changes to destroying or capturing that machine. The GUNDAMs are the game-breakers in this battle, and that means we need to eliminate them if the Earth Alliance wants a permanent advantage."

Feizhi Aloquin, who had finally been cleared to fly again, was piloting a Windam. She interjected. "Remember the strategy should we encounter the Impulse. We need to force it to transform. If it is using long-range weaponry, force it to switch to short-range. And vice versa."

I'll remember that, all right. I just want the kill of the Core Splendor to be mine, Stellar thought. You can destroy the rest of the pieces.

Flak exploded nearby, and Stellar ignored it. Flak was basically harassment and nothing more to the GUNDAMs. Windams had to take more care, but as long as they didn't take a direct hit they could weather random cannon fire.

"Auel wants to know our strategy if we fight the Savior," Auel said.

Feizhi spoke again. "The Savior's movements are amateuristic. The pilot is not using that machine's capabilities to its fullest extent. The Savior's being bailed out by its escort Zakus, who seem to be elite. If we can get the Savior by itself and overwhelm it, we should win. It's just a matter of taking down the escorting Zakus."

It made enough sense for Stellar. And taking the Savior out would be a good military victory. But what she wanted was the sweet personal victory.

Shinn, I'm taking you out before the Suez. There's no way I'm letting you reach any kind of safe haven. I'll die first.

Suddenly, enemy Zakus launched in great waves in front of the approaching Windams. Stellar grinned to herself. You're just in the way.

"Everyone, attack!" Neo shouted.

Stellar obeyed the order.
***
Feizhi Aloquin knew her orders. She was to hang back and keep everyone appraised of where the GUNDAM machines were. Wherever GUNDAMs went into battle, it wouldn't be long before the other side's machines would show up. It only made sense to pit the powerful against the powerful.

It was a shame to be on the outskirts of the battle, but Feizhi knew she wasn't completely ready. To be honest, she had fudged her rehabilitation score a bit. She was very good at showing no pain. Her determination to get back out here had been so much she had convinced the doctors she was already back at one-hundred percent.

She was at eighty percent, if she was lucky. Eighty percent, or even seventy percent, though, was more than a match for the hodgepodge forces the ZAFT had left. They had taken significant casualties while evacuating Madagascar, and every skirmish since then had whittled down their numbers. They were getting no reinforcements, while the Earth force chasing them grew each day.

A squadron of outdated Skygraspers sped past Feizhi. She shook her head. Those machines had been good in a world without Mobile Suits, but here, they were just cannon fodder.

And they were cannon fodder. Suddenly, the Impulse GUNDAM, with its large railguns, fired a brightly colored torrent that took out four machines just by itself. Adding to the carnage was a massive missile blitz that massacred the surviving machines.

Feizhi reacted immediately. She had wished it would've been Savior to show up first, Savior was the easiest target, but the Impulse would do. "Impulse has been sighted. Location-"

The Impulse began shooting at her. Feizhi immediately dove away. "Location is right on my tail!"

She shot at the escorting Zaku. It dodged her barrage, moving to the left.

Maybe I should've stayed on the ship after all.

Too late for that now. The Impulse was still shooting at her. C'mon, where's one of you damn Slants? Attack this guy and make him transform!

"Shinn Asuka!" With the yell, the predictable charge of Stellar Loussier began and she swung at the Impulse, and the Impulse barely got out of the way.

There. The Impulse can't stay the way it is for long. Now I just need to wait for a clear shot.

The battle raged on around her, and Feizhi saw a Zaku coming her way. Realizing she couldn't ignore it, Feizhi quickly aimed and fired, and her barrage struck the Zaku in the cockpit area many times over. The Zaku fell towards the ocean smoking, the pilot dead but the machine undamaged enough to not explode.

Okay, with that distraction out of the way . . .

It seemed the rest of the team was preoccupied. The Savior had entered the battle right now, and Sting and Auel's GUNDAMs were trying to deal with that machine. Neo, for his part, was taking on both of the Savior's escorts by himself, and holding his own.

All right, where's the Impulse's escorts?

She couldn't find them. They might've been held up by the battle around them. That was to Feizhi's advantage. As long as she hung around the edge of the battle, where the only forces coming from behind would be from the Earth Alliance, she was unlikely to be ambushed. And that meant she wouldn't be interfered with as she lined up her shot.

The Gaia continued to flail away at the Impulse, and Feizhi just waited. The Impulse couldn't transform right now, he would be too vulnerable. The pilot needed to get away long enough to do a mid-air transformation, and that was when Feizhi would take her shot.

The Impulse did as Feizhi had predicted. It desperately flew off after dodging a Gaia strike, though the Vajra did make contact with the rail cannon and shear a piece of it off.

Now the Impulse had no choice. It had to transform or die.

The Impulse backed away, and Feizhi saw it prepare to splinter apart. Now's my chance.

Feizhi aimed, and waited as the Impulse dismantled itself, and the Core Splendor fighter jet revealed itself.

Gotcha.

Feizhi fired.

The shot was stopped. One of the pieces flying away from the Impulse took the blast and exploded. The Core Splendor was knocked away, but it was still flying, and now the pilot knew he had been suckered.

Damn it! I have to take him out now while he's still panicking!

Feizhi accelerated her Windam and charged into the battle. She was not at one-hundred percent, and her reflexes were slightly off, she could tell. She needed to finish the job and get out of there before she was put in a bad position.

She fired at the Core Splendor. The fighter jet proved surprisingly maneuverable. It flew at top speed, banking to the left, obviously aiming to try to get around Feizhi. Unsurprisingly, the Core Splendor was shooting back, though missiles and machine-guns were just nuisances to the Windam.

Keep buzzing around. I'll kill you soon enough.

"Feizhi! He's mine!" Stellar roared, but before her Gaia showed up a Zaku showed up and blocked her. The pilot of the Zaku seemed to be skilled more than usual, which made Feizhi think it had to be the Impulse's escort.

"You deal with that Zaku, and then we can discuss it," Feizhi said curtly, and she pursued the Core Splendor, shooting away.

One shot grazed the wing, and knocked the Core Splendor for a whirl. The pilot seemed to know how to fly it, though, as the pilot did keep control of the fighter, and flew it low to the ocean, accelerating at high speed. The pilot had given up on fighting back, now he simply wanted to leave.

But it wouldn't be good enough. Feizhi had already lined up her shot at the Core Splendor, and this time she was going to hit it. She could feel it.

Feizhi aimed and fired. Another hit, but it wasn't a kill shot. But the Core Splendor was smoking. She almost had it. One more shot . . .

Suddenly, Feizhi felt a massive pain in her chest, and blood filled her throat.

What?

Feizhi looked down, and instead of seeing her petite, wiry body, she saw a beam weapon sticking through her.

She knew what had hit her.

I forgot . . . there's a GOUF Ignited now . . . I'm so stupid . . .

The beam left her body, and Feizhi felt the strength in her body give as she lost control of the Windam. Smoke filled the cockpit, and Feizhi heard the faint sounds of explosions as the Windam prepared to blow, it had taken a direct hit in the power cells.

She couldn't breathe. She had been impaled in her lungs, in her heart. She had maybe seconds left before she saw whatever lay beyond this life.

She could only think of her commander, who had believed in her so much. Who had implemented her plan. The one man who had not treated her like a little girl.

"Neo," she choked out with the last of her air. "I'm sorry . . . I blew it again . . ."

Feizhi Aloquin was dead before her Windam exploded in a gigantic fireball.
***
Neo Roanoke saw Feizhi's Windam explode, and he just blinked away his emotions. She had been an amazing pilot, and the Earth Alliance would be far worse off without this underrated soldier, who could fly just about anything. Perhaps one of the few Naturals in the world who had a chance of flying a GUNDAM machine.

The Core Splendor was making a run for it, the smoking glorified cockpit fleeing to the Minerva. The flagship of the ZAFT convoy barely had a scratch on it so far. Neo was on the verge of declaring this battle a loss and simply trying to retreat and regroup before trying again.

It wasn't like the raid was completely unsuccessful. Many ZAFT ships were smoking or sinking. But this wasn't the crippling blow the brass wanted. The majority of the convoy was going to escape at this rate.

But this was not a success. The outdated forces based on the ground were massacred, and not enough Mobile Suits had broken through to cause crippling damage. There just wasn't enough reward to make up for all of the cost.

Another Windam exploded nearby, and Neo got the unpleasant surprise of seeing the GUNDAM Justice.

Damn it.

The Justice angled straight for him and Neo blocked the first strike. There were rumors that the Justice's pilot was a legendary veteran of the last war, much like Neo. He wasn't sure how much stock to put in that, but Neo did know that the enemy pilot was skilled.

And that he outgunned Neo's machine.

I need a GUNDAM.

Finally, Neo had enough of fighting the Justice and being on the defensive. He was running low on power anyway, and if there was one thing the Justice was good at, it was fighting forever. The thing was powered by a nuclear reactor.

"Everyone, fall back. Everyone's power is running low. We'll try again another time."

There wasn't a lot of grumbling over the coms. Everyone was too exhausted and stressed to keep up the fighting, they had to leave. As Neo made a defiant attacking thrust that made the Justice back off for a second, Neo used the opportunity to fly off. As he escaped, he noticed he had lost nearly a third of his forces, in exchange for a fifth of the convoy destroyed and maybe a quarter of the enemy Mobile Suit forces. And that wasn't counting the absolutely annihilated Skygraspers and Daggers from the ground-based forces. Skygraspers had a casualty rate in the eighty percent range, and Daggers were almost sixty.

Very high price to pay for middling results.

The brass was not going to be happy about this. There were still plenty of reinforcements to be thrown Neo's way, and the ZAFT wasn't going to get any, but the brass wanted the convoy much more weakened than this. They were almost desperate, judging by their attitudes, to have the convoy destroyed now.

Neo wondered what the brass wasn't telling him.

He hadn't signed up for this when he had agreed to take command of the Mobile Suit forces in this theater. He hadn't agreed to mess with pilots' minds, or relentlessly throw people into a meat-grinder.

The first defeat he could chalk up to it being a mere skirmish, he had plenty of reinforcements on the way and had more confidence. But then there was Madagascar, too many casualties had been taken seizing that island. And here, again, casualties were quite high. The Coordinators' superior genetics were proving to give themselves an advantage in battle that made up for the lack of numbers.

And, eventually, the reinfoircements were going to start decreasing. There was an ugly war going on in South America, where the ZAFT was giving the Earth Alliance whatfor. The brass had to give that theater priority because other than this convoy that was the only place on the planet with a significant ZAFT presence.

Neo had to win the next battle. There was no choice. No choice at all.

If he failed . . .

He wasn't sure what the consequences would be.

He was just sure he wasn't going to like them.
***
He had been waiting all day for this. Flay had left hours ago to get her. She was behind schedule, and Kira was wondering why.

Maybe there were some channels she had to clear. Or maybe there was no child and this was an elaborate hoax that Kira was meant to fall for. He still had to consider that possibility that this Flay was not real, and the child he had seen in that picture was a particularly well-done computer graphic.

But why? Why would the Earth Alliance attempt such a hoax if it was only going to fail? What were they trying to do?

Flay knew a lot. She knew things that only she and Kira would know. But without the child, now that Kira had some time to get over his emotions, he couldn't quite believe her still. He had been sure that Flay had died in that shuttle explosion. He couldn't remember anyone being sucked out of the shuttle. He was sure he would have seen it.

Dead certain.

But then, if Flay was really alive again, and Kira had missed her floating around, of course he wouldn't have seen anyone being sucked out into space. Not to mention he had been locked in a life-or-death battle with Rau Le Creuset.

There had been no way he had been able to look for anybody.

And Kira had been in seclusion. Of course fFay hadn't been able to find him. He had fallen off the face of the Earth. And the moment he fell into the Earth's hands, Flay found him.

That had to account for i]something[/i], right?

But he still could not let himself be totally convinced. This was too convenient. Of course Flay would be alive after all this time. And she had a child. It was just too perfect.

The door to his room opened suddenly, and Kira braced himself. Was this Flay? Or would it be so-called "scientists" with chloroform to knock him out again before they could gas him? Maybe they knew he was suspicious and they were going to eliminate him or imprison him or mess with his mind or-

It was Flay.

"Kira?" she asked.

"Yes?" he replied.

"Fiona's here. Do you want to see her, or do you want to wait until tomorrow? It is getting pretty late."

Kira bit his lip. He decided to call Flay's bluff right here and now. "Please, let me see Fiona."

Flay smiled. "Okay. I thought you would say that."

She walked outside the door, and Kira heard her say "Daddy wants to see you."

The next time Flay appeared, she was holding a child. the same child in the picture.

The child was real.

Kira's throat choked up. Was he really a father? Was this really his kid?

His daughter?

The child's violet eyes, so much like his own, opened up, and she wiped them. She looked sleepy, but the moment she saw him she perked up. "Daddy?"

That one word brought tears to his eyes.

"Y-Yeah," Kira managed.

"You can't stay with Daddy for very long. He's very tired, and so are you," Flay said gently.

Flay set Fiona on the bed, and she crawled over. "Mommy sez you are the most hansumest person in the wrrld," Fiona said.

"Really?" Kira asked. He looked at Flay, and she promptly blushed.

"Really," Fiona said, and she hugged him. "You're skinny."

"I'll see what I can do about that," Kira replied.

Flay spoke then. "The doctors are amazed with Fiona. She has the mental maturity of a five or six year old and she's only going to turn three in a couple of months. Even Coordinators don't mature mentally so fast."

She laughed. "Of course, when she's actually five or six that means she'll be as mature as a teenager. I'm sure we'll be both looking forward to that."

"How?" Kira asked.

Flay shrugged. "Something in her genetics. The same reason she came out a Coordinator instead of a Slant."

"Daddy, you're hurting," Fiona said softly. "Why? Why are you hurting?"

Kira froze.

Flay immediately walked over and picked Fiona up. "It's all right, Fiona," she said. "Daddy's just really happy to see you."

"But he's hurting. Why is he hurting?" Fiona asked.

Flay sighed as she held the girl, and patted her back. "Daddy will be all right, Fiona."

"You promise, Mommy?"

"I promise."

"She can sense people?" Kira asked as Flay handed the girl over to what appeared to be a maid or servant, who promptly took the child outside.

"She knows . . . when something's wrong with people. It makes her cry. I had to take her away before she cries, it would just make you feel really bad."

"I see," Kira said, as he gripped his blanket. As usual, I'm not able to be near anybody.

"Kira," Flay asked, "How hurt are you? What's happened to you?"

Kira bit his lip. He wasn't sure he wanted Flay to know. But he also knew that he had no choice. That child was proof that that had to be the real Flay. Who would go through the effort to force a child to think she was Kira's daughter? It was so immoral that no one could possibly do it.

Kira took a deep breath. "I . . . have really bad nightmares. Visions. I see people dying."

"Oh, Kira." Flay hugged him. "It's all right. Tell me everything. It'll help."

Kira looked at Flay. "I don't know, I . . . "

"It's okay," Flay said. "If you don't want to say anything I'm not going to push you. I just think it'll help."

Kira tried to think about what would be the right choice, before before he could stop himself, he not only began to cry, he said everything.

He could not stop himself.

For the next couple of hours, Kira Yamato was nothing more than a flood of words

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

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


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 Post Posted: Mon Sep 13, 2010 4:31 pm 
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Creepy Bishonen
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I miss Feizhi already :/


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 Post Posted: Tue Sep 14, 2010 7:29 pm 
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Newtype Emo Guy

Joined: Wed May 02, 2007 7:43 pm
Posts: 258
Location: Illinois, USA
I'm sorry. I could sense Feizhi threatening to become a Mary Sue, I had to kill her before that happened. There will be a replacement who has more flaws than Feizhi who hopefully won't threaten to become a Mary Sue.

On another note, I'm up to chapter 31 on FF.net.

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

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


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 Post Posted: Fri Sep 17, 2010 7:52 am 
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Newtype Emo Guy

Joined: Wed May 02, 2007 7:43 pm
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Location: Illinois, USA
Chapter Thirty-Nine: Body of Glass

Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings,
From the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly enemies, who compass me about.

-Psalms 17:8-9 Holy Bible

The moment Meyrin Hawke could leave the bridge, she did. The convoy had escaped to fight another day, but the Earth Alliance could attempt another strike at any time. Whether it was an hour, a day, or a week, it didn't matter. Meyrin knew where she had to be right this second.

She could still remember Shinn Asuka's desperate screams for help as he was ambushed mid-transformation, leaving him with just the Core Splendor. The Core Splendor had no chance against the Mobile Suits on the battlefield, and it was Heine Westenfluss' intervention, destroying the attacking Windam, that had allowed Shinn to survive the battle.

The screams had terrified her. She had wondered if she had gotten him killed. If she had sent the Sword Silhouette too early, or too late. If she had made the crucial error that had doomed Shinn. She probably didn't take in a single breath, existing on pure adrenaline, until Shinn managed to limp inside the Minerva, the automated pieces from both the Blast and Sword Silhouettes following.

"Somebody help me! Please! I'm gonna die!"

Both Shiho and Heine had answered, but Shiho had been stopped by the Gaia GUNDAM. Only Heine, by virtue of having easier opposition, had gotten to Shinn and saved him.

Heine Westenfluss. Last week, he hadn't even been part of the team. Now, he was the only reason why Shinn Asuka was still alive.

Meyrin was moving at a dead run. She rushed past random crew members, and even bowled one over in order to keep moving. She wasn't just running in order to reassure Shinn. She needed to reassure herself, too. She needed to know that he was unhurt, that he was okay.

And running helped her shake off her own frightened feelings over nearly seeing him die in battle.

She finally stopped outside his room, and she realized that before she had begun crushing on Shinn, she hadn't been able to cover half the distance from the bridge to his room. She could probably run all the back to the bridge before she'd be absolutely exhausted now.

She tried to regain her composure. It wouldn't do for him to see her haggard and breathless. It would make him worry too much for her. Meyrin knew she was okay. She had been rattled, but her fright had to have been nothing compared to Shinn's. He had actually been out there, fighting for his life, desperately trying to fly the Core Splendor fighter in a battlefield dominated by the superior Mobile Suits.

Whatever her terror had been, it paled in comparison to Shinn's.

The scanner that controlled the door wasn't locked. Meyrin sighed with relief. She wouldn't have to hack the scanner again. Scanners were easy to hack, anyone with instructions could do it, but military scanners could be a bit more difficult.

She walked in front of the door, and it slid open automatically. And there was Shinn, sitting on his bed, shaking.

"Shinn."

Shinn turned, and his face tried to relax, but there was no disguising the trembling in his hands. "Meyrin, you're here."

"Why wouldn't I be?" Meyrin looked over. She looked at his hands, and, on a whim, lightly grabbed both of them. "It's over now. It's okay. The battle's over."

"Right, right . . . " Shinn said softly.

"The battle's over. You're still alive. That's what matters. Heine saved you."

"I saw. I need to thank him."

Meyrin felt the trembling go down in his hands a bit, and she took a deep breath. "You can thank him when you're calmed down, Shinn. You look like you've seen a ghost."

"I thought I was gonna become a ghost," Shinn said.

Meyrin shook her head. "No. You're going to be okay. You're not going to die out there."

She had no idea where she got this reassurance from. This strength. Once, she needed to think carefully about what to say. But now it was automatic. She knew what to say. She had gotten to know Shinn so well she knew what he needed to hear. And that wasn't always what he wanted to hear.

Shinn struggled to smile. "Right. I need to protect you."

"You're not going to die because you're just too good of a pilot to die," Meyrin said. "That simple."

Shinn looked down. "I wish I could believe that."

Meyrin hugged him. "You need to believe it. I believe it. Everyone believes it. You survived a battle in just the Core Splendor. That had to count for something."

Shinn peered at her. "Really?"

Meyrin smiled. "Really."

The look in his eyes made it all worth it. Shinn, sometimes, gave her looks of this yearning affection that she was certain had been reserved for Stellar. That look had been there the first time, when Meyrin had found Shinn in tears in his room. And now, that look in his eyes filled Meyrin with love.

And all that came with love. Including, but not limited to, desire.

She leaned in and kissed him softly. "That won't happen again. We'll both be ready next time. They won't get the drop on you again."

Shinn's eyes seemed to shimmer. "I hope so."

"I know so."

Meyrin was not going to lose him. It was such an amazing feeling, being in love for the first time. She was not going to let him down. He needed her. Soon, the pain he was feeling would lessen, and things would become happier.

The sooner the Gaia was finally shot down, the better, so Shinn would no longer be tormented every battle by his psychotic ex-girlfriend.

Who would want that to happen to anybody? For the one they loved to lose his or her mind and start attacking them with horrific vengeance? It was a fate that Meyrin could scarcely imagine wishing on anyone.

Much less Shinn.

What had he done to deserve this? Was it a past life, or some alternate reality where he had done something unspeakable to warrant this abuse now?

Who could really know?

"Meyrin," Shinn asked suddenly.

"Yes?"

"How can we stop this? This is just going to keep going on until we're dead. How can we stop this before that happens?" Shinn asked.

"Don't say that," Meyrin replied.

"I'm serious. The Blast Silhouette is useless, I've lost a crucial component to it, and I'm not getting a replacement. We're going to be running low on food again. Clean water. Energy. Every battle shrinks our forces more and more and nobody's coming to rescue us. Why the hell are we heading towards the Suez anyway? If we wanted to be saved we'd be heading to South America."

He held Meyrin tighter. "How can I keep us from dying, Meyrin?"

At least he isn't saying "we're all gonna die", Meyrin thought.

But she realized she didn't have a good answer.

Finally, Meyrin said "It's not just up to you. This is a team effort, Shinn. I know this sounds stupid, but all of us have to be there for each other. Heine's why you're still alive. When are you gonna thank him?

A pause. "I don't know."

Meyrin sighed. "Go and thank him."

"Now?"

"Yes, now! Before you forget!"

"All right, all right," Shinn said, and he got up. He rubbed his forehead, and then sighed. "I'm sorry. I'm all nerves right now."

"We're all like that, it's all right," Meyrin said.

Shinn nodded, and finally, he smiled. "Thank you. I'm glad you're here, Meyrin. If you weren't here I can't imagine what I'd be like right now."

He left then, leaving Meyrin completely speechless, and her heart thrashing in her chest.

Blushing, she looked down as Shinn vanished. She was amazed at how quickly she was forgetting how to breathe.

He trusts me. He really trusts me and cares about me. The realization of that brought tears to Meyrin's eyes.

I hope we live. I'd love to spend my entire life with him. That isn't such an unreasonable request, isn't it?

Isn't it?

***
Neo Roanoke shook his head as he looked at the map with Captain Ian Lee. "We're going to need more than just Mobile Suits and Mobile Armors to take the convoy down. How long before we can get our battleships in range of the convoy?"

Ian Lee shook his head. "It'll be at least a couple more days. Possibly more. I'm surprised H.Q. isn't kicking us in the ass to pick up the pace."

That was strange. H.Q. had been livid over the convoy escaping from Madagascar in the first place, and had been haranguing Neo and the fleet to catch up quicker. Especially that man that they called Lord Djibril, he hadn't been happy with Neo's progress at all, according to what H.Q. said. Naomi Mitsuda, for her part, remained curiously silent.

But now they were silent. Like it no longer mattered. Neo knew H.Q. was up to something, but what?

There had been the incident at the Alaskan base in the last war, where Earth forces had been immolated to destroy a ZAFT army. That caused one of the greatest scandals of the war, and a lot of the brass who had planned that move were subsequently court-martialed and imprisoned after the war . . . that is, if they weren't already killed in later battles.

Was that happening again? Was H.Q. truly that foolish to try the same tactic?

Neo shook the conspiracy theories out of his head. There was no way H.Q. would be that stupid ever again.

"It doesn't matter. Maybe H.Q. is trying the silent tactic to see if that gets resulted. Trying to make us nervous so we pick up the pace," Neo said.

Ian Lee chuckled awkwardly. "That wouldn't surprise me. The brass really strikes me as being more ruthless than they were last war."

Neo nodded. "All right. Can we get the battleships in range in three days?"

Ian nodded in return. "Yes. Or the majority of them, anyway."

"We'll start a bombardment, and destroy all of the stragglers and wounded ships, as well as any targets of opportunity. That will eliminate any interference between us and the healthy ships of the convoy. Also, their Mobile Suit contingent did shrink significantly. We have reserves in the land forces to make up for the heavy Dagger and Skygrasper casualties, and they can join us in the Mobile Suit strike."

"Any Windam reinforcements?" Ian asked.

Neo paused. "H.Q.'s silence extends to that as well. They're saying the situation in South America is bad, but I know there's reserves they could be sending in our direction but they're not."

"More and more curious," Ian said.

"Yes, I know."

"How's the sanity of your GUNDAM pilots?" Ian asked.

"Stellar Louissier remains touch-and-go. The doctors can't figure out what is causing her . . . I wouldn't call it insanity, but . . ."

"Let's just call her 'not fully sane'," Ian said.

"That's the best way to describe her mental state. She's not going to run wild again, but she's mentally unbalanced. The doctors are saying there's something else that they did not expect in Stellar Louissier's mind, and they can't figure it out."

"Wonderful. I'm really sick and tired of that girl assaulting the Impulse like she's married to it," Ian said. "We have other objectives besides destroying the Impulse. It would be nice if she tried to accomplish them."

"At least Sting and Auel are still willing to follow orders," Neo said. "Their sanity has not been effected in the least."

"Yes, but Louissier is the truly gifted pilot among the three," Ian said. "She can make her Gaia do things that Oakley and Neider can only dream of."

And that leaves us with our current problem, Neo thought.

Suddenly, an ensign at one of the computer stations stood up. "Colonel Roanoke, Captain Lee, we're being hailed. There's some kind of strange ship that's entered our fleet from the rear."

Strange ship? Neo thought. "What did they identify themselves as?"

"Uh, the Sergei Smirnov, sir."

Neo's eyes widened. A stealth carrier? I didn't know any of those had launched yet!

"Open up a vid line, I want to see the commander," Neo Roanoke said.

"Understood, sir."

A video screen emanated in front of Neo and Ian, and there stood a dark-skinned woman with red hair tied neatly into a ponytail.

She grinned cheerfully. "Colonel Meryl Wingate at your service, Colonel Roanoke!"

Never heard of a 'Meryl Wingate' . . . Neo thought. "Yes, Colonel Wingate, what brings you here? I thought the Smirnov was not ready to be launched."

"Please, call me 'Meryl'," the woman said. Her smile became sly. "The Smirnov has been operating in a combat capacity since this war restarted, actually. We've been operating in South America until a few days ago. Our operations have been top secret, so I can't discuss them over an open line, but let me just say that the 80th Strike Team is the only reason why there's still a South America theater right now."

"By you destroying the ZAFT or by being so incompetent the ZAFT can't be destroyed?" Ian asked.

Meryl laughed. "Good one, Captain. Trust me, I have evidence that more than proves our competence, let me assure you."

She gave the men a shrewd look. "The 80th Strike Team operates under the direct orders of Naomi Mitsuda herself. We were ordered by her to rush into this theater, and so here we are. Also, here's one piece of evidence I can show you. Lily, please bring up the hanger feed."

All of a sudden, Neo found himself staring at a video of a GUNDAM. It was white with dark blue and violet colors, and it looked like an enhanced version of the Strike model, with the long-range capability of Buster.

What? Since when did we build a new GUNDAM?

The video switched back to Meryl, whose sly grin got even broader. "That is the GUNDAM Odyssey, Colonel Roanoke. My Mobile Suit. I'm sure both of you men are smart enough to realize that ZAFT wasn't the only nation that was developing new ones. We were merely smart enough to keep them secret."

Neo looked at Meryl. He had underestimated her. That GUNDAM was proof of her ability . . . and genetic lineage.

But she was full of herself. Almost to the point where she could become grating in short order. Neo wasn't sure whether he wanted to be in a conversation with this woman for very long.

Meryl's voice turned serious. "The president's orders are as follows: Colonel Roanoke, your group is being folded into mine. Henceforth, we are now the 80th Strike Squadron. You're still in command nominally, but I am battlefield commander and strategist. Our mission is to destroy the Minerva, along with the Justice, Impulse, and Savior GUNDAMs as secondary objectives."

Now the woman was more than just an annoyance. She had effectively just demoted him on the spot. Now, she was an obstacle.

Or worse, a rival.

Neo knew he was too old to have a rival. A rival was something to have in school, not in the military.

"Understood, but I will want to see verification," Neo said.

"It is coming, it should arrive within a half hour," Meryl said. She folded her hands. "Also, I have a final request."

"Yes?" Neo asked, bracing himself for the worst.

It turned out to be something different than he had expected. "I want to see Stellar Loussier."

Neo froze. "What?"

"You have a pilot named Stellar Loussier. I would like to speak with her, please. Privately."

The look in her eyes suggested that Meryl was dead serious about what she wanted, and damn determined to do it too. Now Neo was nervous.

What was going on? And would he ever know for sure?
***
Kira was strong enough to stand, now. It was a beautiful autumn day, and Kira just stood in the cool breeze, letting it relax him. It had been so long since Kira had been in such an idyllic environment, and he was going to savor it.

He had fallen behind Flay and Fiona a bit, but he didn't mind at all. He liked just observing them. There was no doubt on his mind that they were real, and they were alive. They were interacting too much like a mother and daughter for them to be fake.

That's my girl . . . and Flay's the mother. Kira had never dreamed of being a father. He had always thought of himself as being childless, especially after PTSD's horrible symptoms showed up. But now, he didn't feel like a PTSD sufferer. Or the monster he had dreamt of being. He felt human now.

Maybe all he needed was that child. His child.

Wouldn't that be amazing, and convenient, if that was all he needed?

No, love wasn't good enough. Kira knew he'd relapse yet again. He remembered Lacus. She had been there above and beyond for him, and that still didn't help him. There was no guarantee Flay would do the same . . . or want her child anywhere near Kira. Once she knew how thoroughly screwed up he was . . .

As much as he loved Flay, he knew she could not be completely trusted.

Lacus he could trust one-hundred percent. No, one-hundred-ten.

Thinking about Lacus tore at him. He could only wonder what was happening to Lacus now. Whether she was okay . . .

Or whether she was suffering.

Kira had a bad feeling he knew the true answer.

I don't know if I'll ever see her again. I don't know if I'll ever be able to hold her and tell her she's okay.

He looked along the coast, and stared as far as he could across the horizon. Where did he belong, with Lacus, or with Flay?

With the girl who loved him unconditionally, or with the girl who bore his child?

Why did everything have to be so complicated?

"Daddy! Daddy! Why're you fallin' behind, Daddy?" Fiona yelled. Kira turned and saw Fiona trying to run over to him. She fell multiple times, only to get right back up and keep running.

"I'm sorry," Kira finally said as he went to one knee.

"Are you tired, Daddy?"

Kira smiled. "No. I'm just enjoying the breeze."

"Oh. Okay."

Flay caught up then. "I think it's time we went back, Fiona."

"Already?"

"Yes, Fiona. I need to discuss some things with Daddy."

"About why Daddy's so sad?"

There was a long silence, and Kira sensed that Fiona had a much better memory than most two-year-olds.

Flay sighed. "Yes, Fiona."

"Okay, Mommy." Fiona seemed so understanding. Despite being so young, her grasp of things were far above average for such a young child. It just seemed so perfect.

Flay turned to Kira. "Kira, there's something I have to tell you. It's very important, all right? I . . . I wasn't able to get you out of military duties."

"What?" Kira asked.

"There's something you have to do. I'll show you after we head back, okay?"

Kira felt fear coarse throughout his systme. He knew what Flay meant. He'd have to be completely dense not to see it.

They're going to make me fight. Flay got me out of a frozen prison but she couldn't keep the Earth Alliance from using me.

He couldn't bear to think about fighting. He had fought enough. He was done with fighting.

But the Earth Alliance had decided he wasn't.

And now, the time when Kira stopped fighting was going to be decided by them.

Which, obviously, could mean he'd be forced to fight forever . . .

No. Would.

He would be fighting forever . . . and break. Break like glass.

That's all he was.

Glass.

Fragile, inflexible, broken glass.

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

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


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 Post Posted: Sat Sep 18, 2010 12:49 am 
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Newtype Emo Guy

Joined: Wed May 02, 2007 7:43 pm
Posts: 258
Location: Illinois, USA
After deliberation, I decided to post this chapter as well, so Kismet has an even 40. I expect it will be four-five days before the next one.

For the first time, a chapter contains only a single POV.

_____________________________________________________________________________
Chapter Forty: Liberate

The moment the slave resolves that he will no longer be a slave, his fetters fall . . .
-Mohandas Karamchano Gandhi, Nonviolence in Peace and War

"Oh man, they're partnering us with a team of hot women! This is Auel's dream come true!"

"Actually, I think one of them is just a girly-lookin' guy."

"Auel doesn't care! The guy's as hot as the women!"

"You have any idea how wrong that just sounded?"

"Auel still doesn't care!"

Stellar Loussier decided right then and there that her friends' conversation wasn't worth listening to.

They looked like well-trained cannon fodder to her. They'd last longer than a standard Windam pilot but would still be outclassed by virtue of equipment alone. Unless they managed to catch one of the GUNDAMs by surprise, anyway.

Their leader was a dark-skinned women with red hair, which suggested mixed heritage. She was tall, and looked quite strong, and had the eyes of a veteran. Stellar could tell that the leader was someone she had to respect. This was a soldier who hadn't just fought in this war, but the previous one, too.

The leader cleared her throat. "Auel Neider, Sting Oakley, Stellar Louissier, and Neo Roanoke. As of today, we are now the 80th Strike Squadron, the most elite squadron in the entire Earth Alliance."

"Auel likes what he is hearing," Auel said to Stellar's right.

The woman continued on as if Auel hadn't said a word. "My name is Meryl Wingate. Colonel Roanoke is still in senior command, but I am taking charge in the battlefield. The brass feels Colonel Roanoke is too valuable to risk in the battlefield with a Windam, so until an improved Windam model arrives, Roanoke will be sitting out. But that's fine. We have four teams now, made out of three Mobile Suits apiece, and a GUNDAM will be in each team."

She sighed. "I will not tolerate insubordination. This includes needless interruption, as I will remind the blue-haired one."

Auel made an "eep" noise, and froze in place.

Stellar looked out of her peripheral vision to see Neo. He was impassive, silent, no emotion. Stellar could tell that Neo was unhappy despite his expressionless face, and Stellar knew there had to be more than just his job being stolen.

Meryl stopped pacing back and forth, and stood still. "I will be having a brief private chat with all three of you pilots. Just so I can make myself clear on ground rules. Right now, I don't believe a combat operation will be launched shortly, so after the meetings I'd like the squadron to become acquainted. I have not drawn up teams yet, that will be done after our face to face meetings. Loussier, you will be first. Oakley, you're next. Neider, you're last. The rest of you are dismissed and can do what you wish until 1200 hours. Move."

Stellar saw Meryl walk directly towards her. Nervous, she turned towards Neo, but he had already turned his back and walked away. He looked almost ashamed of something, but Stellar couldn't figure out what he was so ashamed of.

"Eyes on me, Louissier," Meryl said.

"Uh, yes ma'am!" Stellar said, snapping to attention.

Meryl turned to her friends. "You two follow us, but wait outside in the hallway. I want you both standing up the entire time. I'll leave it to your imaginations what your punishments will be if I catch you both sitting down."

Both Sting and Auel looked like they were breaking out into sweats. Especially Auel. For a young man who didn't seem to mind combat at all, he seemed to get nervous just by being in perfectly pedestrian situations.

Meryl then turned to Stellar. "Walk beside me."

"Yes, ma'am."

Stellar then marched with Meryl out of the hangar bay and into the hallway. She tried to make sense out of this tall woman. Why was she going first? Meryl seemed to be most interested in her, and Stellar was unnerved as to why.

She wasn't going to take the Gaia away. She wasn't going to relieve Stellar of duty. In fact, judging by her speech, she wasn't going to do anything to Stellar.

Then what was she going to do?

They stopped at a door, and Meryl opened it. Meryl motioned to go inside. Stellar paused, and after looking at her friends, reluctantly stepped through, expecting a blow to the back of her head any second. It never happened.

What is she planning? I doubt this is going to be an ordinary discussion.

There was a table with two chairs. Clearly Meryl had planned this well in advance, despite there only being an hour or two since she showed up. She clearly held some sway in the Earth Alliance.

Then again, it was just a table and chairs. How meaningful was she? She was just a colonel.

"Please sit, Ensign Louissier," Meryl said.

Stellar did so, and she folded her hands under the table to disguise their shaking.

Meryl did not sit. She just smiled knowingly. "So you can be subordinate after all."

"What was that?" Stellar asked.

Meryl just chuckled. "Ah, the surefire sign of a soldier who's had her mind messed with too many times. What a short temper."

"What do you mean? Uh, ma'am?"

"The truth is, Ensign, I already know all I need to know. In fact, I know you."

Stellar stared. "Well, I don't."

"You do. You just forgot about it. But that's what happened to all sleeper Extended, after the incident."

"Incident? And what's an Extended?"

"You think you're just an ordinary Slant like your friends out there, Ensign. But you're not. You're better than they are. Better than even the Coordinators. You may have seen glimpses of this in battle. Have you had any . . . rages, Ensign, where you can't recall exactly what you did or what triggered it but it happened anyway?"

Stellar realized this woman was not ordinary. She knew far too much. And was obviously an Extended, whatever those were. It was indeed like she knew Stellar. She even knew that Stellar had gone into rages, triggered by something hazy she couldn't remember.

"The guilty look in your eyes tells me everything, Ensign."

"What are you going to do to me?" Stellar asked, standing up. Meryl was clearly going to do something. Stellar planned on fighting back. If she could escape, she could find Neo. Maybe he could help in some way. Stop this crazy woman who knew way too much.

Meryl sighed, and her condescending smile faded. "Stellar, you have no idea how much you mean to me, do you? And Colonel Roanoke foolishly tried to mess with your mind, and that's messed you up."

"What?" Stellar asked. She really wished she had a gun on her. Or some kind of weapon. Meryl Wingate was getting creepier by the second, especially by her now calling Stellar by her first name, dropping all pretenses.

Meryl stared at Stellar. "It's a well-known fact that if you're going to have your memories suppressed, it can only happen once. Trying to cram two sets of manufactured memories on top of a person's real memories only leads to instability, mood swings, multiple personalities, and all sorts of other lovely mental problems, depending on the size of the memory sets."

She pulled out a syringe. "Thankfully, manufactured memories can be erased, unlike organic memories. This contains a nanite set, Stellar Louissier. This will annihiliate all of your manufactured memories, both sets of them, and leave your organic memories intact. You may be confused, after all, you've had a false life with many organic memories from that life. But you'll be able to sort them out after a short while."

"Stay away from me," Stellar said. She looked towards the door. She had to shout for Sting. Auel. Keep this crazy woman away.

"I know you're afraid, Stellar. But once you remember, you'll realize I'm only helping you. I can't have a mentally unstable soldier in my squadron. Especially an Extended."

"What's an Extended?" Stellar yelled. C'mon, Sting, Auel, hear me!

"I could go through a needlessly long explanation, but I'm going to have to give one to Colonel Roanoke and Captain Lee anyway. I'm just going to have you sort it out for yourself."

"Sting, Auel-" Before Stellar could say anything more, Meryl flung the syringe, and it landed in Stellar's abdomen.

It's cold! Stellar moved to yank it out, but it had already injected its contents before she could remove it. Her entire abdomen felt cold. And it was moving up, through her blood, through her heart and lungs, towards her neck. This sense of dry, freezing cold.

"The room is soundproofed. It's meant to be an interrogation room, after all. No sense in disturbing soldiers outside the room with loud noises, after all." Meryl bent down as Stellar fell to her knees, as the freezing sensation crawled up her neck and made her gag.

She placed a hand on Stellar's shoulder, and smiled kindly. "I never thought I would see another of my kind again, Stellar. Especially you. I always thought you'd do well, and piloting a GUNDAM shows you have so much unrealized potential."

"How do you know me?" Stellar asked, as the freezing sensation crawled through her head, and she felt the pulsing pain of a migraine come on her. She moaned as she grabbed her head. Something . . . something felt horribly wrong.

Horribly wrong.

The orphanage . . . the nuns, they were vanishing.

Her childhood was vanishing in front of her eyes.

Fading to black.

Wait, what was there? Was something there in the darkness? Or was it just a figment of her imagination? What had been there?

She didn't know. It was just gone.

Everything was going away. Everything. She'd see it, and it would be gone in an instant. Fading into black. Turning everything into a blank slate. Leaving her without an identity, without a past.

It was all lies, dreams, machinations. She was a lie, a dream, a machination.

She wanted it back. She wanted the lies back. She wanted . . . whatever she had thought was real. She couldn't remember what the lies were anymore. They were gone. Erased. Destroyed.

"What did you do to me?" Stellar wailed.

"There's two tough parts. This is the first tough part. You're losing everything that is not real. It's frightening, but you will be relieved at what will turn out to be real."

Suddenly, Stellar saw Shinn aiming a gun at her. No, I don't want to forget this! I have to destroy Impulse! It's my-

It too, was lost in the black.

My what?

Suddenly, the complete and utter loathing towards Shinn Asuka felt pointless, even nonsensical. What had he ever done to her? Her action towards him made zero sense whatsoever.

Wait . . . what if Shinn isn't real?

She suddenly pictured him, and Stellar knew what that meant.

No! Don't take him away too! Please! I love him! Don't take him away!

She remembered all of it. The dates in the PLANTs, the first kiss, her comforting him inside the Minerva, their vows to each other, her nearly-successful attempt to make him defect.

None of it vanished.

He's real.

Tears appeared in her eyes. He's real. Shinn's real. He's not going away.

Auel and Sting flashed in front of her eyes then, but they stayed too. They were such goofballs, but part of it was intentional, they were trying so hard to make her laugh and be such good friends. She remembered their antics, the tricks she had played on her previous boyfriends, all in an attempt to protect her because they were her friends, dammit.

They're staying too. They're real. My friends are real. None of them are made up.

A smile crossed her face despite the cold pain rushing through her head and tears pouring from her eyes.

I have friends. I have someone I love. They're real. They're not fake. Not one part of them is going away.

She hugged herself. It's all real. What matters is real.

But her reverie ended. Suddenly, new images, new voices, flashed all around her.

What is this?

A hallway covered in blood and bodies. A young man standing in the middle of the room, holding a machine-gun. He turned towards her, a maniacal grin crossing his face, aiming to kill her but something hit her and knocked her over.

What happened?

A ghostly male voice. "You will be the best of the human race."

What is that supposed to mean?

"Blue Cosmos is attacking! Get the kids out!"

I know that voice.

Blood, blood everywhere.

Make it stop.

Limbs being severed as high-caliber machine-guns bullets tore through everyone and everything. Heads exploding, or being severed through the neck.

Make it stop!

The young man laughing as he sprayed his Uzi-like machine-gun at her and the woman trying to protect her. "Everyone! Everyone has to die! We'll all be killed anyway! We all must die!"

Why is he trying to kill me?

Neo Roanoke, aiming a gun at her, shooting her with a tranquilizer dart.

Her voice. "You're really going to shoot me?"

His head so subtly shaking in disagreement. "As far as you're concerned, no. As for the future you's concerned, it was Shinn Asuka who shot you."

Neo shot me.

Now it made sense, why her nonsensical anger towards Shinn had existed.

They turned me against Shinn. They made me try to kill him.

Before she could reflect on that, more memories rushed through her.

It was all so fast. Too fast. Everything spinning around and flowing through her and tearing her apart and stitching her back together endlessly, perpetually, on and on it never ended until she didn't know what was supposed to go where and-

She gasped herself back into reality.

Her headache was gone, but there was still a slight pressure in her head. She moved her right hand to rub her head and eyes, and her palm came away covered in tears.

Suddenly, she realized she was laying on something. Or someone.

She suddenly saw Meryl Wingate's face appear over her. "You all right, Stellar?"

I remember her. She had seen that face, when that crazy young man with the white hair started blasting everyone in the facility. She had pulled Stellar away, carrying her down the hallway, barely ahead of the rampaging young man.

"It was you . . . who saved me from . . . from Michael."

The name of the crazy young man suddenly resonated with her, and she realized that Michael had been a top student. The top student. He had no reason to go crazy. But he had. And Stellar couldn't remember if anyone had been able to kill him.

Meryl nodded. "I did. Everything's okay, Stellar. You're the youngest Extended that survived."

"My friends . . . he killed them all."

"He did. The only reason why you weren't killed too was because you were sick, so you weren't in class with everyone else. Remember that? You had a stomach flu."

"Oh yeah. I did."

Stellar suddenly realized her head was resting on Meryl's legs and she quickly sat up, and she felt her face heat up in embarrassment. "I fainted, didn't I?"

"It happens," Meryl said with a shrug.

Stellar tried to make sense out of everything inside her head. She hadn't originally been an Extended. Extended weren't born like Coordinators. They were made. That meant she was a glorified science experiment. A guinea pig. She remembered injection after injection, and not understanding what all of those painful injections meant.

She didn't know how she knew this . . . she just did. She couldn't even tell what was making her recall all of this.

I was a Natural. They turned me into this . . . whatever I am.

She still didn't know who "they" were, but she had a feeling it would occur to her in time.

She suddenly remembered Shinn. She had ruthlessly attacked Shinn. The boy she loved. Why had she done that again?

Neo.

She felt a searing hatred flow throughout her.

He turned me against him. He messed with me. Made me think Shinn tried to kill me.

Her hands turned into fists.

I'm going to kill that bastard.

Before she could take a single step, Meryl had gotten up and grabbed Stellar by the shoulder. Stellar nearly attempted to flip Meryl, then realized she shouldn't know how to do such a thing and hesitated. Her hesitation allowed Meryl to talk instead of fight.

"Where do you think you're going?"

"Neo . . . he messed with my mind. Made me crazy. Made me want to kill Shinn."

"Who's Shinn? A boyfriend?"

"Yes. He's with the ZAFT. I was trying to make him defect. Who knows if I can do it now, after what I've done to him over the last couple of weeks."

Meryl's grip became tighter. "Don't take it out on Neo. He was likely acting under orders, and even more likely doesn't have any idea what an Extended is. He's just a colonel, he doesn't have the clearance. Not by a long shot."

Stellar was about to say she didn't care, but then remembered something she had learned.

"That's right . . . you have to go up the chain of command. You have to kill the person giving the orders. When there's no orders to give, the people who execute the orders have to operate by themselves. It makes them feel abandoned, alone. They panic."

Meryl chuckled awkwardly. "I don't think most of the brass knows who you are either, so that analogy doesn't count. The Extended are thought to be dead even by those who know of their existence. My rough guess is that there's maybe ten of us left now, plus Michael, wherever he is."

"Where is everyone?"

"You know the answer to that question. The director explained that to everyone who became a 'sleeper', in case they had to be "reactivated" again."

"I don't remember."

"You will."

Meryl's words there sounded particularly resonant, and it made Stellar relax. "You're right, it's not worth it."

"That's good."

"But I need to talk to Shinn. I need to tell him . . . I wasn't okay." She turned towards Meryl. "I know you must think it's stupid, me being in love with a Slant . . . but I love him. I truly do."

Meryl nodded. "If your feelings aren't going away or you're not finding them asinine then they are true."

Stellar found herself smiling again, just like she had when she had found out Shinn had been real and not a figment of some mind game. Just like her friends.

"Why?" Stellar finally asked. "Why did you . . . wake me up?"

"I plan on giving the ZAFT a surprise . . . and you will play a key role in that." Meryl yawned then. "All right, get going. I need to talk with your friends. Unlike you, they're getting just a normal lecture. Go out through the other door, not the one we came in."

"Yes ma'am."

"Please, call me Meryl, Stellar. We're comrades, I think we should at least sound like it," Meryl said with a grin.
"Yes, Meryl."
"Now go on. You've earned some rest . . . as well as your freedom. I'm glad you have grown up to become a decent young woman . . . when you're not psychotic, anyway."

"Gee, thanks."

"You're welcome. Now go."

"Yes, Meryl."

Stellar exited through the alternate door and found herself in another hallway. She sighed with relief, and realized how quickly she had re-established her rapport with Meryl Wingate just minutes into becoming her old self again, with her strange patchwork of memories formed under three lives she had lived.

I'm supposed to be better than a Coordinator. Is that really true? I just can't picture myself as some kind of ultimate human, an ultimate soldier.

She thought about the myraid images she saw, and she looked down. So, her kind had been slaughtered. But Michael couldn't have done it by himself. So who? Who could have done it?

Stellar knew the answer was out there somewhere. And she was going to find it.

She was owed that answer.

And she was going to get it, no matter what stood in her way,

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

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


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 Post Posted: Sat Sep 18, 2010 3:04 am 
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And then Phantom Pain became the Shrike Brigade. I hope Meryl and the other Shrikes last longer than Feizhi >.>


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 Post Posted: Sat Sep 18, 2010 5:39 am 
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The smell of the wind has been changing over the last few chapters, like the calm before the storm. I have a overwhelming sense of dread that something very tragic is going to happen, and soon.

_________________
Kallor said: 'I walked this land when the T'lan Imass were but children. I have commanded armies a hundred thousand strong. I have spread the fire of my wrath across entire continents, and sat alone upon tall thrones. Do you grasp the meaning of this?'

'Yes,' said Caladan Brood, 'you never learn.'


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 Post Posted: Mon Sep 20, 2010 6:01 pm 
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Quote:
And then Phantom Pain became the Shrike Brigade. I hope Meryl and the other Shrikes last longer than Feizhi >.>


That will be known soon, I assure you. :twisted: Though it's occurred to me that I never referred to the group as "Phantom Pain". Huh.

I am surprised no one picked up on what I thought was an obvious 08th MS Team reference.

Quote:
The smell of the wind has been changing over the last few chapters, like the calm before the storm. I have a overwhelming sense of dread that something very tragic is going to happen, and soon.


It really isn't the "calm before the storm". Those were the chapters before 31. We're in the eye of the storm now. We're in a brief period of respite before things starting exploding again, and let me tell you: stuff WILL explode. :twisted:

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

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


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 Post Posted: Tue Sep 21, 2010 10:49 pm 
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Newtype Emo Guy

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This is a bit of a longer chapter than usual. Also, there is a really good reason why somebody's acting out of character in the final scene of the chapter. Just be patient, it'll come out.

I'll try to get 42 out in time for my birthday on Friday. Yeah, this birthday I'm giving you guys the gift. XD
_____________________________________________________________________________
Chapter Forty-One: Engulfing Conspiracy

Living in the modern age,
death for virtue is the wage.
So it seems in darker hours.
Evil wins, kindness cowers.

Ruled by violence and vice
We all stand upon thin ice.
Are we brave or are we mice,
here upon such thin, thin ice?

Dare we linger, dare we skate?
Dare we laugh or celebrate,
knowing we may strain the ice?
Preserve the ice at any price?

-Dean Koontz; The Book of Counted Sorrows

None of them are looking me in the eye anymore.

Neo Roanoke could already tell he had lost the Slants he technically still commanded. Their shifty, hostile gazes and their refusal to acknowledge him told him all he needed to know. He didn't even bother to speak to them, it wouldn't help at all and likely would make things worse.

He sat down by the woman who had wrecked it all, Meryl Wingate. The woman eyed him, and then looked away, a satisfied, subtle grin crossing her face. "So, what brings you here?"

"Didn't take you long to turn them against me."

Meryl's rather high-and-mighty chuckle aggravated Neo. "People don't take it well when they find out someone messed with their heads." "I was following orders."

"Tell them that. An order to you is a severe personal violation for them."

Neo stared at Stellar Loussier, who seemed to be lost in her own world, even as her friends joked around and tried to drag Stellar into their routine. Stellar humored them, but she showed no interest in actually taking part. The raw aggression that had defined her character the last couple of weeks had vanished, and now she looked distant, sad.

Meryl seemed to sense what Neo was doing. "Stellar's still relearning herself. Her mind was rewritten once before you tried to do that again. You can't try to suppress manufactured memories on top of actual memories. All that does is cause instability. You're lucky she held together as much as she did."

Neo looked at Meryl. "How do you know so much about this?"

Meryl gave him yet another knowing look. "I just do."

Neo saw members of Meryl's squadron hang around the Slants then, and they seemed to be assimilating nicely. Of course, it would take a battle, or a highly advanced simulation, to figure it out for sure, but bonding outside the battlefield had to help.

"Your squadron's all women," Neo said. "Why?"

"Actually, there's one man, but he's just a pretty boy," Meryl said. "See that person with the brown hair with the bangs that go to his eyebrows? That's Taylor Flannigan, our lone male. He's a sniper, very good at what he does. As for why the rest are women . . . that's just how it happened, that's all. Did some intense Mobile Suit tryouts, and I wound up choosing a lot of women to join me."

"I doubt it was just coincedence," Neo said.

Meryl nodded. 'Well, there have been studies conducted. Just like with submarines, women have been found to function better and more consistently in the cramped cockpit of a Mobile Suit than men."

"And you'll place your faith in a psychology study?"

Meryl smiled again. "No, I'm placing my faith in what I believe to be the best soldiers I could ask for. Ramona Card, Lily DuBois, Laura Rodriguez, Acelin Reilly, Setsuko Kanno, Svetlana Jagr, Lyndis Weaver."

She pointed at each one of them, and Neo sighed in annoyance. They all must have interesting backgrounds and personalities, but Neo didn't want to get to know them. They were just going to get killed the next time they faced the ZAFT with their GUNDAM machines. Windams were simply outclassed in every way, and the enemy GUNDAM pilots were only getting better each time they had to use their machines.

Meryl seemed to look upon her soldiers proudly. "We served in the South American campaign without taking a single casualty. Granted, we only served for two weeks before being transferred over here, but we're all veterans of the previous war."

"Do you consider yourself invincible?" Neo asked.

Meryl's smile faded. "You can't. Even in a GUNDAM you will die the moment you assume that."

Meryl stood up, holding her empty tray. "I believe it's time I let you and Captain Lee in on a few things. The Girty Lue is our home base now, the Sergei Smirnov is going back to South America where it can be of better use in interdiction missions. You both need to know why I am here, and why I have such an interest in Stellar Loussier."

"What, you're not going to leave us in mystery?" Neo asked, skeptical.

"There's no point in doing that. That just makes more tension," Meryl said. "Now come."

I'm supposed to be the superior officer and she orders me around, Neo thought. Just another sign of how he had no respect among anybody anymore.

The three Slant pilots were still talking and chatting with the 80th Strike veterans. Stellar broke from the conversation enough to briefly look at Neo. She stared for a second, then looked away, a hurt, angry expression upon her face.

He was never going to be forgiven for what he did. Not like he expected to.

He followed Meryl out of the cafeteria. The woman was an enigma, and it was about time he found out some information about her.

Before he could face his enemies, he needed to know what his allies were.

He had the feeling he wasn't going to like what he was about to hear.
***
Athrun Zala looked up at the GUNDAM Freedom, and wondered what twists of fate had brought him to fly what belonged to Kira. The rebuilt Justice was elsewhere, leaving him with an unfamiliar machine that he could not guarantee to use well.

Cagalli was standing by him. Despite being the new head of state, she was content to just be by Athrun right now, without a throng of bodyguards. At least in places like this hangar. Cagalli more than understood having bodyguards when in public, she was going to need them if someone tried to kill her.

But here, in the Morgenroete hangar? She found the idea laughable.

Then again, the Sierans must have found the idea of someone killing them in their own office laughable, too.

And without him here, Cagalli would mostly be without true friends, other than Murrue and Lacus.

Not good.

Cagalli sighed as she reached to touch the Freedom's shiny armor. "Athrun, please take care of this. It's the most powerful machine Orb has."

"I know," Athrun said.

Cagalli turned towards him. "Remember that it runs on nuclear power, Athrun. If you're going to go down you must shut down the nuclear reactor. If you don't . . ."

"Yeah. I know." It wasn't something Athrun was going to be looking forward to.

Cagalli walked towards him and held his hand. She smiled sadly. "The moment you finally look like your old self is when you're leaving me. How ironic is that?"

"I'll come back, Cagalli."

Cagalli nodded. "Please . . . before you depart, I need you with me tonight. Just for tonight."

"Cagalli?"

Cagalli put her hands on his chest. Athrun's eyes widened as he realized what Cagalli meant. Holy crap.

"Y-Yeah, sure," Athrun stammered softly as he hugged Cagalli.

"Bring him back to me," Cagalli said. "Bring my little brother back."

"I will," Athrun said.

"And when he comes back, I'll be a better sister to him. He isn't going to hide in the middle of nowhere again. He's staying here. He's going to talk with people, converse with people, learn how to be normal. I'm going to make sure he never suffers again."

There was a strong determination in Cagalli's voice, even though she was speaking so softly. Athrun knew this was the Cagalli he loved so much. Someone so strong and yet she cared so much, and she wasn't going to take any crap from anyone.

A new voice entered the conversation. "I'm sorry, am I interrupting something?"

Athrun and Cagalli turned, and they saw the person.

Athrun recognized the voice, but he could barely recognize the person. Other than her hair was still undoubtedly pink, she looked different. This was not the pop idol she had once been. No, this was a different Lacus Clyne.

Athrun and Cagalli awkwardly separated from each other and stared at Lacus. Cagalli was the first to speak. "Your hair looks like mine."

Lacus chuckled softly, distantly. "I noticed."

Then Athrun realized Lacus had somehow found a pilot's uniform. "Lacus, what are you doing?"

"What do you think I'm doing? I'm going with you! Just give me an alias and I'll be ready."

Athrun shook his head. "Lacus, no. You don't belong out there on the battlefield. It isn't like you."

Cagalli nodded. "Athrun's right. You shouldn't go out there. You're not a trained pilot."

Lacus stood firm. "I destroyed an entire special ops team."

Cagalli spoke next. "The fact you can't even bring yourself to say you killed them shows how unready you are to face real war."

"That doesn't change the fact that I did it."

"You went into SEED mode. That's different!"

"Who says I can't go into SEED mode again?"

"Why do you want to? People murder without hesitation in SEED mode! I . . ." Cagalli bit her lip and looked away. "You know what I did."

"I'm not going just to fight, Cagalli," Lacus said.

"Oh really? Why?"

Lacus closed her eyes and sighed, and then seemed to be lost in thought for a second. She re-opened her eyes and spoke clearly and carefully. "There's no doubt in any of our minds that Kira is going to be inside the Destroy, wherever it is deployed. Fighting him may only lead to killing him in order to stop the Destroy. But he should listen to me. I can make him stop."

Athrun realized what Lacus meant. "You mean stop him using words, instead of shooting him down."

"That's right, Athrun," Lacus said.

Cagalli put her palm to her eyes. "Lacus, don't be an idiot. Who knows what state Kira will be in? You might never get the chance."

"I still have to try," Lacus said.

Cagalli sighed, and then stared at the ceiling for a few seconds. Athrun didn't like the plan much either but if anyone could get through to Kira, it would be Lacus, the one person who had been around him every hour, every day for the last three years. Lacus wasn't just a friend, she was Kira's confidant, a girlfriend, his likely wife when he improved enough to be acceptable for marriage.

So even though Lacus was putting her life at risk, was it really a bad thing to try?

Cagalli just shook her head. "Fine, you can go with Athrun. The base we've leased in in Crete. We will be transporting a rapid-response force by air to the island, which Athrun will command. I will come up with an alias for you, Lacus, so there isn't any confusion. I might also suggest hair dye to-"

"No hair dye," Lacus said. "Maybe a wig that I can remove, but hair dye strikes me as something that will only confuse Kira if he's in a deranged state."

"Fine," Cagalli said, holding up her hands. "A wig. And I'll pass on the Strike Rouge to you as well, you might as well have something that can give enemy forces a fight."

"Thank you," Lacus said.

Athrun knew there was a better Mobile Suit than the Strike Rouge, the Akatsuki. But Cagalli considered that Mobile Suit not only a top secret, but her personal property. Not even Lacus was worthy of that confidence, which not only surprised Athrun, but made him feel somewhat odd.

So why would Cagalli lie to Lacus? What shame was there in saying that only the Strike Rouge was available?

Maybe Cagalli just doesn't trust anyone anymore.

That frightening thought persisted for several minutes, but like many frightening thoughts, was slowly forgotten at the day went on.

That night, Athrun found himself caught up in such a wave of adoration for Cagalli that the thought was completely forgotten.

After all, Cagalli loved him and trusted him.

And as long as she did that, Cagalli herself could still be trusted.

That's what mattered most of all.
***
Neo found, much to his surprise, that the meeting room was the interrogation cell. Meryl smiled awkwardly. "I'm sorry, but this is the only room that is completely soundproofed. The information I'm about to give both you and Captain Lee is not just highly sensitive, but also rather revealing."

Ian Lee did not look convinced. "Just get on with it."

Neo was inclined to agree with the man. Meryl had been dancing around since she arrived and acting pretty much like the commander of everyone. It wouldn't be such a problem if she actually did outrank everyone, but the lack of respect she gave some people, including Neo, was telling.

Meryl smiled sadly. "There is a good reason why your mental treatments on Stellar Loussier failed, gentlemen. She already had her memories modified to begin with. Trying to suppress manufactured memories on top of her suppressed organic memories is a recipe for disaster. You are lucky things didn't get too bad with her."

"The girl had her memories suppressed once before?" Ian asked.

Meryl folded her hands. "There was a disaster in Cyprus six years ago, four years before the beginning of the last ZAFT-EA war. A task force was asked to create an ultimate soldier . . . one less unstable than the so-called 'druggies' you two may or may not have met, one superior to the Coordinators. They are, or were called the Extended."

Ian Lee rubbed his brow. "We all know where this is going."

Meryl shook her head. "The program actually was becoming successful, believe it or not. I am among the elder generation, which was small, but the younger generations were progressing wonderfully as trial-and-error gave way to guaranteed formulas."

"Wait," Neo said. "You are one of these Extended?"

"Yes. Though I have been pretending to be a Slant, I am an Extended," Meryl said. She placed documents on the table. "This is proof of my story, documents collected from the Cyprus facility. You will want to look at them, it goes into far more in-depth detail than I am."

She cleared her throat. "But you are right, Captain Lee. Disaster did strike. Have either of you heard of Blue Cosmos?"

Neo searched his mind. Suddenly, he realized he had heard of it, though he didn't have much idea of what they were. "I have heard the name tossed around a couple of times in passing, especially near the end of the previous war."

"They are a group formed out of the desire to exterminate all forms of genetically altered humanity," Meryl said, her voice turning dark. "They were once just a protest group, but one day, someone with the name of Djibril took over, and he transformed them into an underground political force, quickly but steadily infiltrating the highest rungs of the Earth Alliance. Six years ago, one of Blue Cosmos' infiltrators finally had enough clearance to learn about the project. Not surprisingly, it was leaked to the rest of Blue Cosmos, who decided to obliterate the facility. They got inside the head of a child named Michael to work with them to destroy the facility from within, as commandoes struck the exterior. Only about ten Extended, and one doctor, got away with their lives. Since then, those who advocated further enhancement of people have been increasingly silenced or exiled, and Blue Cosmos now almost completely dominates politics inside the Earth Alliance."

There was a long silence. Nobody said a word. Finally, all Ian Lee could say was "That's some story."

"But you have seen it, haven't you?" Meryl asked pointedly.

Ian Lee looked down just enough for his eyes to be obscured by his cap. "Somewhat."

As intrigued as Neo was by the story, he still wanted to know the answer for his own failure. "Stellar Loussier was one of those survivors. So why is she here, instead of in hiding?"

Meryl looked at Neo. "Stellar Loussier, as well as all of the other minors, had their memories suppressed, replaced with manufactured ones as they were placed quietly in society. I was one of two adult-age Extended, along with the missing Michael, who did not have their memories altered. Unfortunately, the other adult Extended was killed in the last war . . . friendly fire, if I remember correctly."

She let that hang for a moment before she spoke again. "All of Stellar's choices have been by her own free will. I do not know what motivated her to join the military. But it seems everyone considers her a Slant, so she's safe. One of the things we hid or destroyed was the roster of names, so Stellar could keep her name and still be safe."

"And why did you decide to let Stellar know of her real past?" Neo asked.

Meryl smiled slyly. "I do not tolerate insanity within the ranks."

"Be serious."

Meryl's grin faded. "In the upcoming battle, we might need Stellar at full combat capability. With her realization of her true self, her Extended abilities will be at her disposal, and she might be able to annihilate the ZAFT forces. Extended are supposed to be perfect berserkers in combat, disciplined and ruthless. Stellar, without the mental instability, could join me, and the other two Extended in my squadron, and cause heavy damage."

"You have two other Extended?" Ian Lee asked.

"Ramona Card and Taylor Flannigan. The rest are Naturals or Slants."

Meryl's story made sense, as Neo briefly skimmed a couple of the documents. But not everything was tying together, and he knew it was time to ask another question. "What is a 'perfect berserker'?"

Something seemed to changed in Meryl's eyes. "There is . . . a power, of sorts. A 'sixth sense', that creates a kind of combat psychosis. When fully activated, the individual sees a seed the color of his or her eyes crumble apart, setting off the psychosis. Naturals rarely, if ever, get to access it at full capability. It's something mostly Coordinators and Slants can do . . . at the potential cost of mental and emotional stability. The Extended are meant to access this combat psychosis at will, without any side effects. It's meant to give Extended an instant combat advantage over Coordinators."

"So you Extended were basically created to be able to defeat Coordinators using this 'combat psychosis', if I have this straight," Ian Lee said.

"That's right. The Extended are the perfect soldiers, Colonel, Captain. And we will prove this in the next battle."

That final sentence left the two men in silence.
***
Kira stared up at the massive GUNDAM above him. Just the mere sight of it made his knees tremble. What a horrible machine. It looked ready to live up to its namesake.

That being destroy everything in sight.

He bit his lip and looked at Flay. "You can't seriously expect me to fly this thing, Flay! I can't do it!"

Flay looked stunned. "Like I'm going to let them force you to fly! No, from what I was told anyway, you're going to reprogram the OS. Make it possible for a Natural to fly it."

Kira breathed a sigh of relief, and held his forehead. "You scared me."

Flay put his hands on her shoulders. "Kira, I know you've been hurting. But please, do this one thing."

Kira looked back at the Destroy. "I still don't want to do even that. It's a monster. A true monster."

Flay looked back at the Destroy. "It's a weapon so powerful that I think no one will want to face it. That's why I think the Earth Alliance is going to use it, Kira. It's to end this war for good."

Kira shook his head. "No, all this will do is anger the ZAFT and then we'll have an arms race that'll never end. The ZAFT will try to make something even worse than the Destroy, and the Earth Alliance will try to outdo whatever the ZAFT create. And so many people will be killed, not just by the Destroy, but by whatever follows it. It's a nightmare, Flay."

"You're not going to fly it, Kira."

"I told you, that doesn't matter! This thing can level entire cities! Maybe even the PLANTs! Flay, I can't do this!"

"They won't let you go until you do, Kira!" Flay pleaded. Her eyes shimmered, and then she hugged him. "Kira, please . . . I just want to live my life with you. With our child. I know you're hurting. But I can try. I'm planning on going into politics like my father. I can change everything."

That was Flay. She wanted what she wanted, regardless of the consequences. Unlike her usual selfishness, though, Kira didn't feel disgusted about it at all. Who could argue with her sentiment to live with her child and the child's father in peace?

But what could he do? He couldn't in good conscience try to make the Destroy operable for any stooge who wanted to kill everything and everyone.

He had enough regrets in his life. He didn't want one more. He had failed to save so many people, and had killed so many more. If he was responsible for unleashing the Destroy . . .

Trickery.

The idea came to Kira, then. A result he could live with.

He'd make the Destroy deceptively simple to use, but make its advanced combat functions impossible to deploy. It would just be an imposing behemoth that would look impressive but practically unable to defend itself. It would be shot down, and the most damage it would cause would be whatever it landed on.

That's what he could do, and still have a chance to live with himself.

He would still be able to look his daughter in the eye and say he was a good person just like her mother always said.

Maybe.

"All right," Kira said. "I'll get to work on it."

Flay smiled emotionally. "I'm sorry, I . . . I just want to be with you."

"I know. I'll be back soon." Kira turned and walked away.

Truth was, he didn't know who he wanted to be with. The only reason why he was going with Flay was because of his daughter.

He had to choose to be with his daughter. Especially now she had seen him for the first time in her young life.

As much as he loved Lacus, he just could not abandon his child.

Not a little girl.

He was reminded of the little girl he had failed to save in that shuttle three years ago. It still haunted him to this very day, like Flay's shuttle exploding in front of him, killing Athrun's friend Nicol, Tolle's death . . .

He had failed so many people.

He could not fail his daughter.

So he walked up the stairway towards the top walkway, where he could access the oversize Destroy's cockpit. He'd make the modifications to the OS. When they tested it, they'd be able to move it, transform it, and fire very basic weaponry. That would be enough to satisfy them until they tried to use it for real.

And when they did, the Destroy would be lost forever.

He unlocked the cockpit, and prepared to go to work. He got his keyboard open. He turned on the open communications so he could speak to Flay.

The first thing he heard from Flay was a scream.

Kira turned on the video, and suddenly saw a face from the past he had never expected to see.

"Sai? What do you think you're doing?"

Sai Argyle had a gun to Flay's head. Flay had nowhere to run, and no way to defend herself.

Sai had a headset on, his voice came through loud and clear to Kira. "I know what you're planning to do, Kira. But whatever Flay told you to do, it's not happening. The Destroy is to be sortied now, and you are the pilot."

"Leave Flay out of this!" Kira shouted. "You love her too, Sai! Don't do this!"

Sai just laughed. "You stole her away from me, Kira. And I decided that if I can't have her, no one can . . . not without meeting certain conditions, anyway."

"You really think I'm going to fly this?" Kira shouted.

"You will, unless you want Flay and your daughter to die. I can give them both instant heart failure with a press of a button . . . unless you do as I say."

"You wouldn't do it," Kira said.

"Try me. Now, you're deploying right now, Kira. You're needed at the Suez. Your mission is to obliterate the ZAFT convoy trying to break through there. Complete your mission . . . and Flay and Fiona will survive until the next mission. Rinse and repeat until you are no longer needed. Now give me your answer."

"You bastard! I trusted you!" Flay shouted loud enough that the mic picked it up.

What did Sai do? Kira thought, but then he realized the real issue. This was a setup planned by the Earth Alliance all along . . . whether it was on Flay as well as him, or if Flay was just acting, or even if it wasn't the real flay . . .

They just wanted him to kill because he was the Ultimate Coordinator.

Kill until there was nothing left of his kind.

That was the price he was going to have to pay in order to protect Flay and Fiona, neither of whom he could even guarantee were real.

Two lives compared to thousands of people he did not know. Potentially millions . . . potentially even the entire ZAFT population.

Was it worth it?

Kira's hands trembled at the controls. The OS was actually operable for him right now, he could use it. Whoever designed this was remarkably good at this, this was Morgenroete-quality.

And now he was the pilot of a monster.

He was going to become a monster.

The monster in his nightmares . . .

Wasn't the GUNDAM he had always flown appeared so imposing, so demonic, so evil, like this behemoth?

Tears streamed down Kira's face.

It seemed he had two choices, but the truth was he didn't have any choice at all.

He made the only decision he could make.
___________________________________________________________________________
Yeah, Athrun and Cagalli did "it" (offscreen), in case it wasn't clear.

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

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


Last edited by rebel_cheese on Thu Sep 23, 2010 12:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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