Phase 04 - The Stargazer

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED ETERNITY

Phase 04 - The Stargazer

April 13th, CE 77 - DSSD Troya Research Station, Lagrange Point 4

Panic spread throughout the station as the news came in that the approaching ship was displaying an IFF from ZAFT and not the Earth Alliance.

Sweeping up her possessions from her workstation, Selene McGriff tried to still her pounding heart. The Alliance was one thing. She was a Coordinator, and that made her their target, but the DSSD could deal with the Alliance. They always had, through a mixture of bribery, legal chicanery, and lying. That strategy had worn thin with the Alliance's patience, especially since the DSSD relied on the Alliance for the lion's share of its funding now but it could be averted. The gears of government had rotten parts in them that could be exploited. There were cracks, where herself and the other Coordinator staff members at Troya could hide.

But not from ZAFT.

She glanced up at the feeling of a gentle hand on her shoulder, and the young man standing over her smiled reassuringly.

"They are still Coordinators," he said. "We're their people. This may not be so bad."

Selene smiled back as he left, decidedly not reassured. Poor Sol was only a test pilot and kept his head buried in the Stargazer's AI. He didn't know that ZAFT agents had arrived at Troya a week ago demanding the Stargazer, or at least its blueprints and research data, and Selene didn't have the heart to spoil that illusion for him. Reality could do that.

She slung the duffel bag over her shoulder and headed for the locker where her space suit waited. So far the plan was to sequester the station's Coordinators in an escape pod, that would then hide itself amid the space junk that drifted by the station and slip away. But that depended on the other station staff stalling that ZAFT warship long enough to

The station lurched back and the decks shuddered, and as Selene slammed into the floor she realized with a burst of horror that ZAFT wasn't going to wait.

"So that's how it's going to be," she grunted. "In that case..."

Selene got back up and headed for the locker room again. That space suit was still waiting, but she sure wasn't going for the escape pod afterwards.

ZAFT Eternal-class cruiser Seraphim, Lagrange Point 4

"Keep your fire away from anything that looks like a warehouse or a hangar," Varder instructed, the DOM Trooper humming and eager for battle. "We've blown it on two shots at capturing an intact Voiture Lumiere system. Let's not screw up the third."

"Yes sir!" his pilots answered, and the twelve red ZAKUs rocketed towards the station. Varder smirked as the opposition kindly arrayed itself before him. To a man, they were more of those obnoxious Civilian Astrays, apparently modified to suit the DSSD's needs.

"How disappointing," Lilith said with a sigh, and her crimson GOUF fell into formation at the DOM's side. "More of those stupid Civilian Astrays. I had my fill of those back at Mars."

"Yeah," Varder agreed, "but not all is lost. The Minerva should be following us, if my hunch is right."

"What, you want a rematch that badly?"

"Sort of. In the meantime, however..." He threw a switch on the DOM's console. "All units, no quarter! Commence attack!"

The ZAKUs opened fire, and Varder sped into battle with a laugh.

Battleship Minerva, orbit of Earth

"So I guess you were right," Roxy spoke up on the Minerva's bridge. Meyrin glanced up from the captain's chair, to find Roxy pointing at her console's screen. "Distress signal from DSSD Troya. They're saying a ZAFT warship is attacking the station and won't respond to hails."

Meyrin bit back a curse. Surely ZAFT was trying to capture something there, because the DSSD was involved in all sorts of projects that would have military applications. The auxiliary screen came to life with Aoma's face on it, looking frustrated.

"I assume you got Troya's signal?" she started. Meyrin nodded. "The Star One is heading at top speed for Troya. You're coming with?"

"Of course."

"It's the Seraphim again, judging by the description Troya gave. Are you ready?"

Meyrin cracked a smile. "Do you have to ask?"

"I guess not. Star One, out."

The screen went dark and Meyrin glanced up at Roxy. "Take us to Condition Red and get our mobile suits ready for launch. We hit Troya's airspace in approximately thirty minutes."

Earth Alliance battleship Charlemagne, Pacific Ocean

Kaohsiung had a mass driver that had just been repaired last year, after damage during the Junius War and by terrorists in the current war. Only a mass driver could get the mighty Charlemagne to space, after all. Ivan Danilov sat back on the bridge of his great warship and watched as the calm blue waters of the Pacific Ocean rolled beneath the vast dark bulk of his vessel's hull.

The DSSD's Troya Research Station at Lagrange Point 4 had sent out a distress signal on all channels not long ago. Danilov had heard about it, but there was no way his vessel would be in space in time to do anything about it and there were probably no nearby Alliance units willing to help either. The Alliance's relationship with the DSSD was testy at best. Lord Djibril and his minions suspected them of harboring Coordinators, who were supposed to be turned over to the Phantom Pain. For their protection, of course. The DSSD had always managed to rebuff the Alliance, however, and Djibril and his cronies had always had greater priorities than a research outfit whose primary concern was finding ways to explore the depths of space. Lord Djibril had no cares about the depths of space not when there were wars to win here.

Danilov sighed thoughtfully. What could ZAFT want with the DSSD and their research? The DSSD was researching propulsion systems what would ZAFT need that for?

Soon enough the Charlemagne would be in space. They would meet up with a Cornelius-class supply ship, the George C. Marshall, and receive three new machines for the Charlemagne's three best pilots. And then...well, then the war would begin again for Ivan Danilov and his warship.

"There really isn't much to tell," Grey said awkwardly as he, Erin, and Merau strode down the Charlemagne's corridors and made for the crew lounge. "I mean, honestly, our fights with the Twilight don't last too long."

"That was in those standard Dark Windams," Erin answered, with far too confident a grin for either pilot's taste. "The Luna Project machines are far better. And with your skill "

"We'll see," Merau interrupted. "There's only one way to find out just how good a machine is."

Erin shifted uncomfortably. "Well, once we get into combat with them, I know you'll be impressed." She smiled at Grey. "I'll see you later."

She disappeared around a corner and headed for the hangar, leaving Grey and Merau to stand at the crew lounge's doorway awkwardly. Finally, Merau crossed her arms and chuckled.

"You know how you said you joined the Phantom Pain to get chicks?"

Grey buried his face in his hands. "Yeah, but I kinda thought they weren't going to be in the Phantom Pain too." He shook his head. "You know she totally thinks you're my girlfriend or something."

"You should be so lucky," Merau laughed, and slapped him on the shoulder. "So what are you going to do about it?"

"I don't know. I was hoping this sort of thing wouldn't happen." He shook his head again. "Like we don't have enough drama going around here."

Silence filled the air inside Sven Cal Bayan's bunk as he locked gazes with Lieutenant Junior Grade Kelly Maynard, the young commander of the Charlemagne's new combat team. They had brought the Luna Project's machines with them as the foundation of this new unit. And Lieutenant Maynard had a sterling performance history as a mobile suit squad leader on the vicious battlefront of the Arabian peninsula, where she had acquitted herself well in ferocious mobile suit combat in the blistering desert. Surely she deserved to be here.

But many people deserved to be on the Charlemagne, and they were, and they had been blown away soon enough. It was not enough to deserve to be here.

Sven Cal Bayan abruptly stood up. "We will see how effective you are in combat," he said. "Your target will be the Twilight. We will assess your performance against the Resistance's 'Angel of Death.' Is that understood?"

Kelly saluted sharply. "Yes sir."

Sven sent her on her way and put a hand to his chin in thought. Shams would of course probably complain that he was using human lives as his measuring stick for an enemy pilot's skill again...but, really, what choice did he have?

Battleship Minerva, Lagrange Point 4

Emily never understood why these stupid space suits had to be so tight. There were all kinds of space suit models, civilian and military, that had more room for the wearer but no, not for pilots. Instead she had a green and black ZAFT flight suit that hugged her every curve in ways she didn't appreciate, and made it a pain to cram her body into it and then peel it off when she was done. It was like somebody had designed this thing that way intentionally.

With a shove, she finally squirmed into the boots, yanked on her gloves, seized her helmet, and staggered out of the locker room. And of course this stupid flight suit made her blush the whole way from the lockers to the Twilight's cockpit. Someone had definitely done this intentionally.

All she knew about this coming mission was that it would pit her against the ZAFT unit that they had fought the other day. What had his name been Vader or something?

Emily drifted down the corridor towards the hangar, this time remembering to grab one of the pull-bars before she hit a bulkhead or something. Bad enough that she had to wear this embarrassing flight suit.

She rounded a corner and headed into the hangar, aiming straight for the Twilight. Back to war.

"The Star One is going to focus on evacuating the staff from Troya Station," Athrun explained, as he, Shinn, and Rau drifted around the mapping console on the Minerva's bridge, all in their flight suits. He pointed toward the green shape in the screen's center. "The Minerva will keep the Seraphim occupied."

Rau crossed his arms pensively as he studied the map. "That will be difficult," he said. "Look at the radar spread. The station has taken damage. And a research station like Troya is not built to withstand warship fire." He shrugged. "We will not have long before the station splits apart, and trying to fish survivors out of colony wreckage is a task that would consume time we do not have."

Shinn and Athrun both shot Rau a distasteful look, and Shinn put a hand to his chin. "What would ZAFT even want with a place like that...?"

"Research and technology, most likely," Rau answered.

Athrun sighed. "Yeah, DSSD's been working on a new propulsion system, among other things. The Alliance has expressed all kinds of interest in it, but so far it's been low priority. But I don't know why ZAFT would care." He glanced dubiously at Rau.

"I don't know of anything either," the masked man answered. "Either way, it would behoove us to get to Troya and secure their treasures ourselves."

The part right before a battle was always the worst for Stella Loussier, as she strapped herself into her trusty Gaia Gundam. The battle itself wasn't scary because Shinn was out there, and so were her friends, and she had the Gaia and she could fight. The scary part was before it all began, because she was just sitting here, waiting to launch.

She sat back as the catapult doors opened and the Legend stomped into the starboard catapult. Rau was sort of weird, and Stella really didn't know what was up with the mask, but she didn't see why Shinn was so mad at him. Maybe he was mean and Stella just didn't see it. But he was nice enough to her.

The catapult fired and the Minerva shuddered. Stella eased the Gaia into the mechanism next. This part was always fun, being pressed back into her seat by the g-forces. And the fighting after that...well, it definitely wasn't scary.

"Okay Stella, you've got the all-clear," Roxy said with a smirk. "Go kick some ass."

Stella nodded enthusiastically. "Stella and Gaia, going out!"

DSSD Troya Research Station, Lagrange Point 4

"Commander, there's some rising heat signatures coming from that satellite, Apollon A," one of the ZAKU pilots. Inside the DOM Trooper, Varder glanced over at the machine and switched to his infrared sensors and blinked in surprise at the white-hot shapes pulsating around the satellite's center.

"The hell's that thing?"

"Intel suggests it's part of the Stargazer," the ZAKU pilot explained. "It fires a laser to simulate solar wind, which the Stargazer catches and uses for acceleration. But that laser is also usable as a weapon. Could possibly take out a battleship."

"I see," Varder said with a chuckle. "And they're pointing it at the Seraphim. How clever." He threw a switch. "Two Gunner ZAKUs to target satellite Apollon A, on the double!"

Within moments, a pair of crimson Gunner ZAKU Warriors came streaking towards the glowing Apollon A and leveled off their Orthros cannons towards the structure. Varder glanced up at a quartet of Civilian Astrays charging towards them.

"Not so fast!" he cried, and leveled off his Gigalauncher. A beam blast took down one of them, and the remaining three split their formation just as the ZAKUs opened fire and ripped apart Apollon A with a barrage of red beams.

"And as for the rest !" Lilith shouted, and a moment later her GOUF came barreling out of nowhere to rip two of the Astrays in half with its sword. The lone survivor slid around her and raised its beam gun for the kill only for Varder to pick it off with a beam shot of his own.

"Hayes, report in," Varder said, and sat back in the DOM's cockpit.

"My troops have access to the station interior," a gruff male voice answered. "Station personnel are armed better than expected, but we've only had two wounded so far. We're nearing our objective."

"Good." Varder blinked in surprise and cut the signal as he caught sight of something emerging from the battered station something gleaming white, with golden highlights and a huge metal ring on its back.

"Is that seriously..." Lilith trailed off in disbelief.

Across the battlefield, inside the Stargazer, Selene glanced down inside the cockpit towards Sol. "Are you scared?"

Sol smiled back apologetically. "I guess."

Selene turned her eyes towards the crimson mobile suits ahead. "It's alright," she said. "I'm sorry for dragging you into this. Making you kill people..."

"I'll do it," Sol interrupted. "To protect the Stargazer. Even if those guys are Coordinators, I can't let the Stargazer get turned into a weapon."

The Stargazer's eyes lit up and the gleaming mobile suit charged into battle.

ZAFT Eternal-class cruiser Seraphim

Evers held back a scowl as the reports came in. He should have known this would happen.

He seized the intercom. "Commander Ehrmacht," he growled, "sensor reporting in. The Minerva's mobile suits are on their way. The ship itself will be here soon. They brought that Nazca with them too. We're not going to hold out for long against them both."

Varder cursed under his breath. "Figures. They have the Stargazer armed and fighting back, and it's actually not doing too bad. We might need to disable it."

"That would defeat the purpose of our coming here."

"Not if Hayes can capture the computer core. He says he's close."

Evers scowled. Of course, they would have to get back out as well, and he couldn't rightly call this mission a success if all they got away with was a set of blueprints and research documents. They had been sent to capture the Stargazer and provide ZAFT at long last with a working Voiture Lumiere system. The ZAKU Goliath needed nothing less as propulsion, and the Coordinators needed nothing less than the ZAKU Goliath.

He clenched his fists. "Seraphim, turn and engage the Minerva!"

Settled into the Legend Gundam's cockpit, Rau Le Creuset broke into a grin as the Legend went spiraling towards the jet black Seraphim. That had been a fine ship, the sister vessel to his own Deliverance, but now it was his enemy. Funny how these things worked.

The Seraphim let loose a vicious salvo of missiles, cut down a moment later by the Legend's CIWS guns. Rau blinked in surprise as two mobile suits came streaking at him a Blaze ZAKU Warrior and a Slash ZAKU Warrior, all in red, beam rifle at the ready.

"Only two?" he chuckled. "Let's see if your luck lasts through today!"

The Legend backflipped as the two ZAKUs opened fire, and then darted beneath the Slash ZAKU's barrage of beam Gatling shots. Rau held back a laugh and activated his DRAGOONs.

Beams sizzled by the Destiny and Gaia Gundams as they made their approach to the battered Troya Station. Shinn scanned the black sky for a sign of his enemies, and abruptly they appeared a Slash ZAKU Warrior and a Blaze ZAKU Phantom, beam rifles ready.

"Stella, split up," Shinn instructed, and a moment later the Slash ZAKU filled the sky with beam Gatling shots. The Destiny rocketed up over the two ZAKUs to draw their fire, and the Gaia lunged at them both with its beam saber shining to life.

Instead, the Slash ZAKU charged down towards her and swung back with its beam axe, stopping the Gaia's blade cold. Stella scowled in frustration.

"It'll take more than that...!"

Up above, the Destiny whirled around the ZAKU Phantom's furious beam rifle shots and pounded a salvo of his own against the ZAKU's shoulder shields. The ZAKU darted aside as Shinn rushed in for a finishing palm cannon blow but instead, Shinn whirled around with a beam boomerang in hand and hurled it through the ZAKU's beam rifle.

Monoeye flashing, the ZAKU drew both its beam tomahawks and lunged to slam them both against the Destiny's beam shield. As the boomerang came whirling back in, the ZAKU jinked to the right, and Shinn caught it with a grunt of frustration.

"Well, if it's going to be like that!" cried Shinn, and with a crash he stashed his beam rifle and drew the massive anti-ship sword instead. The ZAKU raised both its tomahawks and waited as the Destiny charged.

"Split up!" cried Athrun, and with a crash the Infinite Justice fired its thrusters and darted apart, along with the Savior, as a blazing red beam tore through the space between them. Athrun scanned the space ahead of them and found a crimson Gunner ZAKU Warrior on the warpath, a Blaze ZAKU Warrior just behind it, beam rifle leveled off.

"Well well, so they're back for more," Viveka growled. "I'll take care of the guy with the cannon."

The Savior rocketed forward and lunged to the right just as the Gunner ZAKU let loose another blast. The Justice roared after it and pounded the Blaze ZAKU with beam fire; it fired back a salvo of missiles, but Athrun effortlessly tore them down with a CIWS burst and charged in close. The ZAKU drew a beam tomahawk and brought it down with a crash onto the Justice's beam shield.

Nearby, the Savior whirled around the Gunner ZAKU's blazing beam shots and lined up for a plasma cannon volley. The ZAKU jetted upward as Viveka opened fire; she ground her teeth in frustration as the red ZAKU forced her back on the defensive. She dove to the left as the ZAKU fired again and closed in with a shout

An instant later, she slammed back the controls and yanked the Savior back as the ZAKU whipped around and hurled a grenade towards her. As the red cylinder showered her with flames and shrapnel, she threw the Savior to the side again just as a blast from the ZAKU's cannon pounded its way through the smoke.

"Very clever," Viveka snarled, "but you'll have to do better than that!"

The Chaos and Abyss Gundams rocketed down through a drifting field of wreckage on approach to the Troya Station. The debris of nothing but DSSD Civilian Astrays and parts of the station littered the surrounding space. Sting furrowed his brow as the two mobile suits approached the colony and began to reach bloody, bullet-riddled corpses. Perhaps ZAFT had sent infantry as well as mobile suits which, he supposed, would make sense if their purpose here was to capture Troya's research materials as well as its prototype mobile suit.

The sensors wailed. "Auel, one o'clock!" he shouted, and the two Gundams jetted apart just as a pulsing red beam ripped through the space between them. A Gunner ZAKU Warrior burst out of the wreckage, cannon leveled off for another blast, and a Slash ZAKU Warrior came after it, and then a Blaze ZAKU Phantom, and a Blaze ZAKU Warrior.

Sting clenched his fists around the Chaos's controls. "Okay, there's only four of them," he snarled. "Auel "

"Motherfuckers!" Auel screamed, and the Abyss let loose a devastating barrage of beams. The four ZAKUs split up, with the Slash and Blaze ZAKU Warriors ducking back into the colony while the Gunner ZAKU and ZAKU Phantom remained outside. The Gunner ZAKU fired again to force the two Gundams back on the defensive; Sting ground his teeth and the Chaos's gunbarrels lifted off with a flash of exhaust.

"We'll have to take care of these two before we go after the ones inside," he grunted. "Auel! Cover me!"

"Aoma, we should at least send a couple of our mobile suits to help you," Ali protested from the Impulse's auxiliary screen. "We have seven left around the ship. We could spare two."

Aoma scowled as she dodged fire from a very determined Slash ZAKU Phantom and its Blaze ZAKU Warrior partner. "I told you, keep them all around the Star One," she answered, "and start docking with Troya as soon as possible. Nostravich said that there were ZAFT infantry entering the station. Whatever they're there for, they're probably not going to leave witnesses."

She threw the Impulse to the side as the Slash ZAKU came charging at her with a furious axe swipe. The Impulse leveled off its rifle for a killing blow but an instant later she went rocketing upwards as the Blaze ZAKU opened fire with its beam rifle.

"There's only two of you this time," she snarled. "And I'm not letting you get away with this one." The two ZAKUs' monoeyes burned bright against the blackness of space. "Ali! Don't waste time! They're getting killed in there!"

Licking his lips as the beams flashed around his rumbling DOM Trooper, Varder Ehrmacht watched eagerly as the Stargazer leveled off its beam gun and fired. This thing was definitely something else judging by the way it had caught seven or eight of his and Lilith's beam blasts and now had them spinning around it in an elegant display of the Voiture Lumiere's capabilities.

"It would be a shame to scuff up all that pretty armor," snarled Lilith as the beams blazed around her GOUF, "but I'm starting to get sick of this!"

The GOUF rocketed forward and sprayed the Stargazer with beam bolts but a moment later, the white mobile suit flung its left hand forward and sent a column of green blazing energy straight at the red mobile suit. Varder cursed and shouldered the GOUF to the side, just in time to activate his beam shield and take the brunt of the attack.

"Lil, stop using the beam guns!" he shouted. "We have to get that thing to exhaust what it's already captured."

The Stargazer darted to the side and attacked with another wave of beams; Varder roared over the blasts and leveled off his Gigalauncher to fire a bazooka shell. The projectile slammed into the Stargazer's beam shield with a thundering burst of smoke and the white mobile suit staggered back.

"Gotcha!" screamed Lilith, and her GOUF burst through the smoke with sword upraised

The alarms let out a terrified shriek and Lilith jammed the controls back, as a shimmering red beam ripped through the space between herself and her prey. She turned her eyes in disbelief towards their source. "Is that ?!"

Varder grinned. "The Twilight!"

Across the way, the Twilight Gundam folded up its long-range cannon, drew a beam saber, and charged with a blast of exhaust.

Battleship Minerva, Lagrange Point 4

A wave of pulsing beams ripped by the Minerva's bridge tower, and Meyrin gripped her chair's armrests as the ship quaked. She snapped her eyes back up towards the screen, finding the Seraphim ponderously swinging in her direction

"Isolde, fire!"

The Minerva shuddered as the Isolde let loose a salvo of shells that slammed hard into the Seraphim's prow. Meyrin ground her teeth.

"Malik, dive!"

With a protesting scream from the Minerva, the winged battleship plunged down beneath the Seraphim just as the black warship plowed through the smoke and fired back with the two Tristan cannons on its bow. Meyrin fixed her eyes on the pitch-black shape passing by overhead.

"Tristans, target the Seraphim and "

She never finished, as instead the Seraphim let loose a storm of missiles that came shrieking down onto the Minerva from above. The CIWS guns flared to life and cut the projectiles from the sky, but a cloud of smoke rippled up around the Minerva.

"A smokescreen...?" Abbey started. "What are they "

"Malik, flank speed! Ascend!" Meyrin cried, and the Minerva rumbled obligingly as the engines rocketed it out of the smoke cloud just before the Seraphim's Tristans flashed through the haze. "Bring us around! Isolde, Tristans, target the Seraphim's engine blocks! Make sure they hit!"

As the Minerva wheeled around for another pass, Meyrin cast an anxious glance at the Troya Station. The Star One had docked at the other end of the station and the evacuees were streaming in but they were running out of time.

Athrun Zala ground his teeth as the missiles pounded against his Infinite Justice Gundam. Up ahead, the triumphant Blaze ZAKU Warrior lined up its beam rifle for a killing blast

"Not like that!" Athrun snarled, and with a roar of engines the Justice hurled itself out of the smoke and stormed forward. The ZAKU reared back and fired its rifle, but the Justice plowed through the blast with its beam shield active and slashed the rifle in two with the blade on its carry shield. The ZAKU lurched back, drew a tomahawk, and swung furiously towards the Justice's exposed shoulder

Instead, Athrun sent a sweeping kick upwards with the Justice's right leg, the beam blade shining to life, and tore off the ZAKU's arm at the elbow. With a crash, he brought the leg back down across the ZAKU's face and knocked it to the side and before it could recover, he speared it through the cockpit with a beam rifle blast and let it die in a thundering inferno.

He glanced up. "Viveka, where are you?"

His answer came from a piece of debris exploding, and from the flames burst the Savior Gundam, with the Gunner ZAKU right behind it. The ZAKU leveled off its beam cannon to open fire; instead, the Justice showered it with beam rifle blasts and forced it back on the defensive.

"Cornered!" Viveka screamed, and pounded the ZAKU's shield with plasma cannon blasts. The ZAKU's shield snapped in two and the arm disappeared in a blaze of red plasma and a moment later, Viveka stormed forward to put a beam saber through the ZAKU's cockpit.

"Well," Athrun started as the impaled ZAKU exploded, "now that that's done, let's go. ZAFT sent in infantry, and they're on their way back out with Troya's computer core."

Viveka blinked. "Bad?"

"Bad. Come on."

"Forget resisting, Ali!" Aoma snapped as her Impulse Gundam shuddered under the Slash ZAKU Phantom's beam Gatling barrage. "Tell them to just get to the Star One! Fighting a bunch of ZAFT marines isn't going to do anything but get them all killed!"

She snapped her eyes back up and vaulted above the Slash ZAKU's horizontal axe swing right into the jaws of the Blaze ZAKU Warrior as it descended upon her with a beam rifle barrage. The ZAKU came screaming in with its tomahawk raised; Aoma whirled to the right, leveled off her beam rifle, and shot the passing ZAKU through the chest as it tore by.

The ZAKU threw sparks and exploded, and its flaming smoke burst apart as the Slash ZAKU came charging at her. She backed away and took its furious axe swing to her shield, but the reverberation rattled through the Impulse's body and she bit back a curse.

Troya Station's wall burst open with a pillar of fire, and from the flames emerged the two ZAKUs that had slipped into the colony. Sting and Auel turned their fire on the opening only for the Gunner ZAKU Warrior and Blaze ZAKU Phantom to lunge into the way and deflect the fire with their shields. The Slash ZAKU Warrior and Blaze ZAKU Warrior emerged with a large white block in the latter's hands. The Slash ZAKU darted up in front of the Blaze ZAKU and let loose a beam Gatling barrage that pounded the two Gundams and forced them back.

"I'm guessing that thing's important!?" Auel grunted.

"He's trying to get away " Sting started. "Like hell you will!"

The gunbarrels lifted off and showered the four ZAKUs with missiles, but the three ZAKUs stood up to defend their cargo-laden comrade. The Gunner ZAKU leveled off its cannon to fire back, but one of the missiles snaked its way past the red mobile suit's defenses and plowed into the cockpit and as the stricken machine staggered back and exploded, the other two mobile suits closed ranks around their burdened companion and poured fire after the two Gundams.

"Not so fast, motherfuckers!" roared Auel, and the Abyss fired off a punishing beam cannon barrage. The blasts slammed against the two ZAKUs' shields and drove them both back but an instant later they both somersaulted up and charged straight at the two Gundams. "What the fuck?!"

"Auel, go after that third one!" Sting cried. "I'll "

He was cut off as the two ZAKUs opened fire and the Blaze ZAKU Phantom let loose a wave of missiles. Sting bit back a curse and opened fire with his CIWS guns, but the ZAKUs kept coming and he braced himself for battle again.

Beam sabers clashed and Varder Ehrmacht's ecstatic cackling filled the cockpit as the DOM Trooper and Twilight Gundam locked beam sabers, sparks flying amid the ruins of Troya Station. Emily ground her teeth as the DOM surged forward, and with a crash it slammed its foot down into the Twilight's stomach and sent her Gundam reeling back.

"At your limit already?!" Varder cackled, and the DOM swept in again with saber raised. "I guess it's true what they say!" The Twilight jetted backwards to avoid the DOM's killing saber swipe. "There's only so much a superior machine can do against a superior pilot!"

Emily glanced over her shoulder anxiously at the white mobile suit surrounded by swirling green energy. The Stargazer was assiduously avoiding every move the GOUF made after it but if she was going to help, she'd have to beat this DOM first.

"I don't have time for you," she growled, "so in that case !"

The DOM charged forward with a finishing saber stab but instead, the Twilight darted to the right and pounded a kick into the DOM's exposed side. Varder yelped in surprise and brought his Gigalauncher to bear, only for the Twilight to tear it from his grip with its left hand. He brought down his saber, only to catch the Twilight's blade instead, and with a crash the black Gundam sent him reeling from a knee to the chest.

"Goddammit!" he shouted. "What the hell !?"

Instead, the Twilight backflipped away and rocketed towards the GOUF.

Inside the Stargazer, Selene shot a look over her shoulder as she saw the Twilight storming towards her, and let out a cry of alarm. Sol jerked the Stargazer to the right just as the Twilight rocketed through and slammed the GOUF back with an overhead saber hack to its shield.

"Varder!" Lilith screamed. "Distract her!"

In the Stargazer's cockpit, Selene's eyes went wide. "Sol, get that one! Now!"

Sol leveled off the Stargazer's beam gun and opened fire, and with a crash he blew the GOUF's beam rifle out of its hand but when he ticked the gun to the right and pulled the trigger again, nothing happened, and instead the lights in the Stargazer's cockpit began to go dark and the swirling energy dissipated.

Selene felt her blood run cold. "The energy...we didn't have time to install the nuclear reactor, so we were running on batteries..."

Inside the GOUF, Lilith flashed a victorious smile and deflected the Twilight's saber stroke with her shield. An instant later, the DOM rocketed back into the fight and forced the Twilight on the defensive with a vicious saber slice of its own. The GOUF whirled down towards the Stargazer and shot forward its right arm

Sol tensed himself in the Stargazer's cockpit seat. "I'm sorry, Selene," he whispered

A moment later, Selene let out a cry as her cockpit seat burst out of the Stargazer's cockpit, just as the GOUF wrapped its heat rod around the silent Stargazer's chest. Selene snapped a hand up to her radio, eyes wide with disbelief as the GOUF rocketed away, towing her darkened masterpiece behind it.

"Sol! What are you doing?!" she screamed. "What why did you "

"You're the only one who could rebuild the Stargazer from scratch," Sol's voice replied, broken by static as the GOUF roared away with its prize. "I know we were going to finish it together, but at least the Stargazer will survive this way. Just get out of here, and survive, and "

The line went dead, and the DOM burst up into Selene's view with its monoeye burning bright as it stared down at her. The DOM reared back with its saber and Selene clamped her eyes shut

Instead, a mobile suit hand seized her drifting cockpit chair, yanked her back, and slammed a beam saber up into the DOM's path to deflect its blow, and inside the Twilight Gundam, Emily ground her teeth in fury at the crimson enemy machine.

Varder licked his lips in the DOM Trooper's cockpit. "You're just getting better and better, angel girl," he chuckled, and the DOM surged forward with a shout.

ZAFT Eternal-class cruiser Seraphim

"Capture of the Stargazer unit is confirmed," Lilith's voice filled the Seraphim's bridge. "Looks like it was running off a battery or something, because it just stopped and shut down in the middle of combat."

"Fine," Evers snarled. "Great. Inform Commander Ehrmacht and recall our mobile suits. Helm, break off from the Minerva. Hit them with one more missile salvo and turn our prow towards Troya."

The Seraphim rattled as the Minerva's Tristans came too close for comfort to his ship, but instead the Seraphim poured missiles at them and forced them to veer to starboard. And through the bridge windows, the smoldering but still whole hulk of Troya came into view.

"Sensors, what's that other ship up to?"

"Enemy Nazca-class has disengaged and is heading in the direction of L1 at top speed," the sensor officer reported. "Heat signatures indicate that there are still hundreds of people inside." Evers sat back and studied the battered station before him for a moment. One more salvo would be sufficient.

"No witnesses. Tristans and main gun, target and destroy Troya Station!"

The Seraphim obligingly shuddered as the Seraphim's main guns let loose a devastating beam salvo that plowed straight into the station's center, and with a blinding flash of light and a thundering shockwave, Troya Station vanished in the center of an earsplitting fireball.

Evers held back a smirk. Such was the fate of traitors.

Emily winced at the scream filling her cockpit from the passenger sitting in her Gundam's left hand. Troya Station had just been destroyed and next was Varder's victorious cackling.

"Looks like I win this one, angel girl!" he laughed, and with a crash the DOM brought its knee up into the Twilight's chest. He brought down his saber towards the Twilight's exposed torso only for Emily to yank back the controls and hurl her Gundam clear of the DOM's finishing blow. Varder charged forward, saber pulled back

Instead, the Twilight shot forward and sliced off the DOM's right arm at the shoulder. Varder hissed a curse and rushed off into the darkness, leaving Emily behind with a combat flare in his wake.

She turned her eyes towards the Twilight's left hand, where sat a weeping woman strapped into an unbolted cockpit seat. Pure, raw anguish was emanating from her and shaking Emily's nerves. Obviously she had just lost friends, in that white mobile suit and on that station...and Emily knew how that felt.

"Excuse me, ma'am," she started, and the woman looked up at her sharply. "I'm sorry about all this, but I need to get you back to the Minerva now." The Twilight turned its blue eyes towards the Resistance's winged warship. "I think you've been separated from the rest of the station's evacuees, but we can look after you until things get settled." She paused for a moment, wondered if it would matter if she smiled, and turned the Gundam's eyes towards her passenger, hoping they would look reassuring in her stead. "What's your name?"

The woman stared apprehensively at the Gundam's cold blue eyes for a moment. "I'm Selene," she said, her voice shaking. "And you are...?"

Emily smiled. "I'm Emily. The Angel of Death." The Twilight turned back towards the Minerva. "Let's get out of here, before the Alliance or anyone else shows up."

The Twilight took off with a burst of exhaust, and Emily forced down the memories of herself as that broken person grieving for lost friends. This time it was different; this time she had to be strong.

Battleship Minerva, Lagrange Point 4

Meyrin Hawke rubbed her temples and sat back in the Minerva's captain's chair. They had a new passenger now; passengers always gave her headaches. This time it was a beautiful Coordinator from the Troya Station's research staff. Her name was Selene McGriff, she had been a principal researcher on the Stargazer as that strange white mobile suit had been called and she had tried to use it in combat against the attacking ZAFT forces. Instead, she had been ejected by her copilot and recovered by Emily and now she was in one of the spare bunks, still in shock over what had just happened here.

And, judging by the reactions of her Newtype pilots, a whole lot of people had died here regardless of the Star One's efforts.

She glanced up at the sound of an alarm from Burt's console. "That's weird," Burt started. "Captain, there's a heat signature approaching consistent with a mobile suit. But there's just one, and I've never seen anything like it before."

Meyrin turned towards the auxiliary screen. "Put it up on the monitor."

The screen flickered to life and she felt her blood run cold. She had seen that style, those colors before black, blue, red, white, with resplendent blue wings and gleaming white armor, two beam rifles in its hands, and golden eyes shining in the darkness.

The bridge door opened and Athrun burst onto the deck with a cry. "Captain, we've got to get moving!" he cried, and Meyrin turned towards him in shock. "That thing...that Gundam! It's..."

Meyrin looked back in disbelief.

"It's Kira!"

Across the battlefield, Kira Yamato opened his eye and scowled, and with a flash of gold from its eyes, the Vega Freedom Gundam charged.

To be continued...