Phase 08 - The Crusader Gundam

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED ETERNITY

Phase 08 - The Crusader Gundam

April 19th, CE 77 - Arnhelm Colony, Lagrange Point 1

"Enemy count has hit forty-eight mobile suits and rising!" a voice cried out through the Twilight's cockpit. Emily closed her helmet's visor with a sigh. Arnhelm Colony had a little more than a hundred mobile suits, total. Perhaps that ZAFT warship would launch mobile suits too, or perhaps it would just plain flee.

She glanced to her right in surprise as a bright red and black mobile suit fell into formation next to her, and Lily's beaming face promptly appeared on her auxiliary screen. "I told you it would be cool!"

Emily looked over the red machine, a Strike Gundam unit with the Aile Striker on its back, the Launcher Striker weapons pod on its right shoulder, and the Sword Striker's shoulder pack and anchor on its left arm. This, she had said, was the machine that had given her the nickname "Blood Knight." And, as she'd put it, it was going to "totally rock the house."

"Are you sure you can keep up with that thing?" Emily started, and Lily promptly put on a pout.

"Hey! I'm the ace, remember?"

The Strike Gundam Kai rocketed ahead and Emily merely shook her head.

Just don't make me protect you out there or something...

Sven Cal Bayan scanned the battlefield as the Crusader sped into action. Arnhelm's defense forces were just small change; the real prize

He glanced off to the side, where he saw the wings of light flicker to life, and threw a switch on the Crusader's console. "Shams, Mudie, I've located the Destiny. Back me up but do not interfere."

"Wha how the hell are we supposed to do that?" Shams started, but the Crusader rocketed forward. "Sven! Come back here, dammit!" The Vanguard and Artemis Gundams took off with a flash after the roaring Crusader. "Jesus, what's gotten into him?"

Mudie frowned. "Thinking he's so powerful, huh...?"

Up ahead, inside the Crusader with his hands clenched around the controls, Sven narrowed his eyes at his rapidly-approaching foe.

"Shams, Mudie, continue on without me and attack the Arnhelm mobile suits themselves." His face twisted into a scowl. "Nowhere to run now, Destiny..."

The base Infinite Justice rumbled as its engines carried it out of the colony and into battle. Athrun glanced around the cockpit; the Justice lost much of its weaponry without the Fatum-01 unit, but it still had its rifle, shield, sabers, and beam blades and without the heavy Fatum unit, at least it had more agility.

"Viveka, how is it?" he asked.

To his right, inside a Blaze ZAKU Warrior, Viveka shifted uncomfortably in the cockpit. "It'll do, I guess," she said with an airy sigh, "but it's not the same as my Savior."

"Of course not. So don't push your luck." Athrun glanced next at the Murasame on his left, in its sleek flight mode with Rau Le Creuset in the cockpit. He could just deal with it himself. "Viveka, you hang back and provide fire support. The ZAKU just won't be able to keep "

He fell silent as a familiar white bolt of energy sliced through the air before him. That feeling he knew that feeling but how? That ZAFT ship was nowhere nearby where ?

"Athrun," Rau said quietly, "do you feel that?"

"Y-Yeah," Athrun answered, "but how? Is that "

"Not quite. It feels like Kira, but there's a distortion." Rau pursed his lips. "That thing is a clone of some sort."

"A...clone of Kira?"

"A clone of that guy who kicked our asses?" Viveka groaned. "Are you serious?"

Rau smirked. "The Alliance had a program during the Valentine War where they would capture and brainwash Coordinators to do their fighting for them. They abandoned it after the Coordinators kept coming to their senses, but I suppose not all of them have been eliminated."

Silence reigned between them for a moment, before Viveka spoke up again. "Kinda hypocritical of them."

"Lord Djibril is nothing if not hypocritical."

Athrun ground his teeth. "Incoming scatter!"

The three mobile suits darted apart and Athrun opened fire with his beam rifle as a squad of Slaughter Windams came roaring in, rifles blazing with a dark green and black mobile suit at their lead. It sent out a shining column of beam energy from the long cannon on the left-hand side of its back, forcing the three mobile suits to dodge and plowing straight through a quartet of Arnhelm mobile suits coming up from behind.

"The hell is that thing?!" Viveka exclaimed.

"Raigo," grunted Rau, and the Murasame let loose a missile barrage that drove back the Windams behind a sheet of CIWS fire. "East Asia's prototype mobile suit. A next-generation Strike unit."

Athrun felt anger ripple through his veins. "A clone of Kira piloting a clone of the Strike. How ironic."

"Isn't it, though?" chuckled Rau, and the three mobile suits dove back into battle.

Stella Loussier let out her breath as the Gaia squeezed off another blast from its sniper rifle and drilled it straight through the cockpit of an approaching Windam. From her vantage point inside the port, kneeling behind her shield, she had a commanding view of the battlefield. And with Sting's Slash ZAKU Warrior and Auel's Buster Dagger by her side, she didn't have too much to worry about.

"Stella, another squad!" Sting shouted. Stella whipped up the rifle and passed the sight over the squad of white and blue Windams on their way in. One of them lined up its Doppelhorn Striker's cannons and fired, pounding shells into the spaceport; a pulsing beam blast from Auel's Buster Dagger burned it away. The remaining three Windams, all toting bazookas, turned their fire on the space where the Gaia had crouched; but a moment later, Sting's ZAKU darted into their path to shower them with beam Gatling fire.

"Stella, now!" Auel shouted, and with a thundering blast Stella picked off a second Windam with her rifle. The remaining two darted down into the port and opened fire with their bazookas just in time for two Dagger Ls and an M1 Astray from Arnhelm's forces to dart out of hiding and tear the two mobile suits apart with a volley of beam rifle fire.

"Those ships are in position!" Sting yelled, and the ZAKU lunged back into the port. "Everyone, take cover!"

Fire raced up around the spaceport and Stella grunted in surprise as a wave of missiles and beam fire from the Alliance warships far ahead slammed into the end of the colony. Auel and Sting backed away behind the Gaia, barely protected by its Phase Shift armor, and the three mobile suits moved farther back into the port.

"At this rate they're gonna breach the colony," hissed Auel. "Sting!"

"Those ones are different," Emily muttered as the Twilight's cockpit zoom focused on three approaching mobile suits all with the faces of Gundams.

"Emily!" another voice cried, and with a burst of exhaust the Gundam Astray Green Frame and Rax's blue Slash ZAKU Phantom dropped in next to the Twilight. Trojan's grinning face appeared on the auxiliary screen. "Don't think you can get yourself into the shit without us!"

Emily swallowed her fear. Up there were four mobile suits, but there were five human lives speeding towards her so two of them must have had Mirage Colloid-equipped mobile suits. "You'd better be able to keep up with " Her eyes went wide. "It's coming!"

The four mobile suits broke ranks and darted apart, and across the battlefield in the hulking Nix Providence Gundam, Kelly Maynard cracked a satisfied smirk.

"Merau, Travis, don't stay cloaked forever," she said. "And as for the rest begin attack!"

The Nix Providence fired out its DRAGOONs and filled the sky with beam blasts, forcing the four mobile suits on the defensive. Emily leveled off her beam rifle to return fire but a moment later a shell slammed into the Twilight's face and sent her hurtling back, and with a crash, the Regen Duel Gundam was there with its beam saber lit to slash the Twilight's rifle in two.

"Don't think you're going to have it easy this time, Angel of Death!" Grey cried.

The Green Frame darted down with two beam sabers extending off the barrel of its customized rifle and swung them both at the Regen Duel, driving it back. "Hands off, jackass!" Trojan screamed. "Emily !"

"Them again!" Emily growled, and with a flash the Twilight activated its beam wings, drew a saber, and charged back into the fray. "Trojan, Rax, Lily, stay back "

She threw her saber up to defend and the Twilight shuddered as two huge, serrated swords slammed down into the saber blade. Emily looked up in surprise, into the glowering face of the Gale Strike Gundam.

"So we meet at last, Angel of Death!" Erin shouted in the cockpit, and with a shove the Strike sent the Twilight reeling back again. The blue and white mobile suit closed in for the kill but a wave of rifle blasts from the Strike Kai stopped it short.

"Don't even think about it!" Lily started

"Lily, move!" Emily screamed, and an instant later the Twilight rammed the Strike Kai aside and rattled as a blazing yellow beam pounded against the black mobile suit's beam shield.

"Where the hell did that come from!?" yelled Rax, but Emily glanced up towards an empty patch of space up above where the Hail Buster Gundam flickered into existence and let loose a salvo of missiles.

"I thought so!" Emily cried. "Mirage " The Twilight rattled again as something clamped onto it and in front of her appeared the crimson armor and burning blue eyes of the Nebula Blitz. "Another one?!"

"Can't say I'm too impressed, bitch!" cackled Travis Alterman. "Now I've got you, and I'll never let you go!"

Emily scowled. "Never, huh?" With a blast of exhaust, the Twilight flipped backwards and swung the Blitz around. "Never can be a pretty long time! Rax!"

A scream broke through the air as Rax's ZAKU Phantom came down with its axe drawn. Travis growled in frustration, released the Twilight, and darted to safety as the ZAKU's axe came down. A moment later the Nix Providence dropped in with a crash to shoulder the Twilight aside and slam its saber down against the ZAKU's left-hand shield.

"Leave the other three to me!" Kelly barked. "Focus on the Twilight!"

The four Alliance mobile suits rushed back in, and Emily steeled herself.

ZAFT Laurasia-class frigate Avicenna, Arnhelm Colony, Lagrange Point 1

Everything was shaking and his own heartbeat echoed through his ears as Amos threw himself into the Avicenna's captain's chair. His ship had one ZAKU Phantom, four ZAKU Warriors, and one GINN Long Range Reconnaissance Type. There was no way he could fight Alliance forces like those outside with a complement like that.

"Captain, the port has been badly damaged," the helmsman said. "There's a warship hulk in our way. Our guns may not be able to break through it and if we did, we'd be going straight into the battle."

Amos shifted uncomfortably. "Are there enemy units advancing on the port at the other end of the colony?"

"No sir," answered the sensor officer. "But we would have to blast open the bay doors to gain access. Jeremiah's men refuse to open it for anything." Amos stroked his beard thoughtfully.

"Our survival is more important," he said at last. "Helm, detach us from the docking arm and turn us around. All guns, prepare to fire on the docking bay doors. We will proceed through the colony interior, blast our way through the port at the other end, and escape through the colony's other spaceport."

Battleship Minerva, Arnhelm Colony, Lagrange Point 1

"You led them here!" Jeremiah roared from the auxiliary screen, and his outraged voice echoed through the Minerva's bridge. "If you hadn't come here "

"Admiral Jeremiah," Meyrin shot back as icily as she could, "we did not lead anybody here. There were obviously Alliance units waiting near enough to the colony to launch this attack as soon as the Avicenna arrived." She narrowed her eyes in disgust. "Which you did decline to disclose to us."

Jeremiah scowled. "I don't need to tell you my business," he snapped. "We would have secured safety for the refugees inhabiting this colony if it weren't for you showing up and attracting Alliance attention."

"We will discuss this later," Meyrin growled, and immediately cut the line.

"Captain, what about those refugees?" Abbey started. "Jeremiah does have a point. An agreement with ZAFT would have spared Arnhelm from what ZAFT is doing to other colonies."

"Like ZAFT would've honored an agreement like that," Roxy snorted from the comm console.

"And besides," Meyrin added, "it's not as though we had any other choice. Arnhelm was the nearest possible stop." She glanced up at Burt. "Enemy action?"

"They're targeting the sunward port, but the Avicenna just blasted its way out of its berth, and it looks like it's going to enter the colony interior."

"Which means they'll see us as they pass through the outer port," Abbey finished. Meyrin pushed down the feeling of fear.

"And the enemy's movements?"

"The Nelson-class is heading around the colony towards the outer port. Looks like they're going to set up there and intercept anyone who tries to go out through the inside."

Meyrin glanced over at Chen. "What about our weapons?"

"Portside Tristan and is operational."

"Then get it and our missile launchers and CIWS ready. When the Nelson-class arrives we'll ambush them from port. Aim for the bridge tower. Roxy, recall Stella, Sting, and Auel and tell them to run interference against the enemy's mobile suits on the outer side."

She glowered back up at the darkened auxiliary screen. We put seven million refugees in danger just by coming here...

"It pilots like Kira!" Athrun snarled, as beam rifle blasts pummeled his beam shield. The Blaze ZAKU let loose a salvo of missiles that rained down around the port, but the Sumbullet Raigo effortlessly ducked between them and let its remaining three Slaughter Windams pick them off with CIWS rounds.

Inside the Raigo, ND HE watched behind his cold black mask as the Infinite Justice, Blaze ZAKU Warrior, and Murasame inexorably inched back, deeper into the port and towards the colony exterior. He threw a switch on the console. "Sandra, go back and inform the Lucifer to send out the Caliburn Striker. David, Gabby, support me as I change equipment." He turned towards the three enemy mobile suits. "And as for you..."

The ZAKU drew a beam tomahawk and charged in close, but one of the Slaughter Windams leapt into its path and battered it aside with its shield. ND darted to the side, dodging a beam salvo from the Murasame and the Justice, and leveled off his Agni Kai cannon to squeeze off a shimmering blast and with a thundering explosion, one of the spaceport doors finally gave way and exploded, and a gush of air came bursting out.

Athrun ground his teeth in frustration. "They're trying to enter the spaceport?!" He turned and showered beam fire on the Raigo and its two Windam wing mates but the Raigo let loose a storm of missiles. The Justice opened fire with its CIWS, tearing them down, but a pall of smoke rose up in front of him.

"The hell are they doing?!" Viveka screamed. "Athrun what the ?!"

With a blinding flash, the Raigo burst through the smoke and fired its Agni Kai again, and the crimson blast slammed straight into the Blaze ZAKU's shield. Viveka yelped in shock and the ZAKU's left arm and Blaze Wizard vanished in a pall of fire.

"Viveka!" Athrun screamed the seed burst and the Justice lunged up into the Raigo's face to rip the Agni Kai in two with a beam blade kick. The dark green Gundam backed away, eyes flashing, and pounded an artillery shell into the Justice's face. Rau's Murasame leapt in to catch the maimed ZAKU as it staggered back. "Viveka, are you alright?!"

"Y-yeah," she answered, her voice broken by static from her dying machine, "but I can't say the same for my ZAKU."

"Then get out of here and head for the Minerva," Rau instructed. "You can do no more good here."

The ZAKU jetted away, and the remaining Murasame and Justice pulled back behind it with a barrage of beam shots. Inside the Raigo, ND glanced over at his wing mates.

"David, Gabby, pursue them into the colony. I'm changing Strikers."

The metallic cargo corridors of the Arnhelm Colony spaceport rattled as a GINN emptied its machinegun clip into the oncoming trio of Windams, painted in the white and blue colors of the Space Force. Two of the Windams stopped short and opened fire with their beam rifles, while the third lunged in low over the floor and chopped the GINN in two with a beam saber hack

An instant later, the Gaia Gundam was there to slash the Windam in two with a downward hack from its own saber. The surviving Windams backed away, beam rifles blazing; the Gaia took cover behind its shield as Stella switched back to her beam saber. Behind her, a Strike Dagger and a GuAIZ R emerged with rifles and railguns firing, forcing the Windams down the hall back behind their shields. One of them squeezed off a shot that slammed through the Strike Dagger's cockpit, setting off a thundering explosion.

Stella threw the Gaia back through the flames and put it down on one knee, and yanked the sniper scope into position. In a heartbeat she had the sights over the cockpit of one of the Windams; in another she blew it apart with a single blast. But through the flashing flames she caught sight of another three Windams arriving, one of them with a hulking Doppelhorn Striker, and before she knew it the corridor was filled with artillery fire and the GuAIZ R on her right was blown to pieces.

"Stella, hold on!" Sting's voice shouted, and a moment later his ZAKU whirled into the fight from a side corridor and let loose a torrent of beam Gatling blasts, forcing the four Windams up ahead into defensive positions. Auel emerged from another side corridor, high energy cannon drawn.

"And take this!" The Buster Dagger fired off a pulsing yellow beam that slammed head-on into the Doppelhorn Windam down the corridor, and as it exploded, Sting and Auel drew back behind the Phase Shift-armored Gaia.

Beam shots followed them down the corridor as the three mobile suits made a hard right and headed for the main colony entrance. "Dammit," Sting grunted, "at this rate we won't make it into the cylinder without enemies following us."

"Meyrin picked a great fucking time to call us back, didn't she!?" Auel snapped.

Stella whirled around with a shout and pounded two beam shots through a Windam emerging around the corner, and took off as it exploded.

Shinn Asuka fixed his eyes on the glimmering beam wings of his dark and sleek opponent. The Destiny Gundam tightened its grip on its sword. Up ahead, inside the Crusader, Sven took the instant to catch his breath and look over his enemy once more.

He had destroyed the solid shield, the beam rifle, and the long-range cannon, and the Destiny was pitted and scarred and scorched from probably more than a dozen near-misses with the beam rifle. Every move the Destiny made, he had matched perfectly. The Crusader was everything he had asked for and more.

The Crusader's Schwert Gewehr Mk III anti-ship sword glinted under the light of the beam wings. "You are no longer unstoppable, Destiny Gundam," Sven intoned. "Now you must fight me on equal grounds."

Shinn only smirked. "Not likely, Devil's Saber. You're still not a Newtype."

The Crusader charged in a flurry of afterimages; Shinn rocketed upward and brought up his sword to defend as the Crusader brought its own blade around in a ferocious horizontal swipe.

"Newtypes are only a fiction!" Sven roared. "And you are only a man!"

With a crash, the Crusader brought down its sword and slashed a deep, sparking scar along the Destiny's chest. Shinn swung back with a growl, knocking the Crusader aside, but it danced around with a disorienting tornado of afterimages and rocketed in again, and Shinn clenched his teeth as he battled to keep up with the rapid sword strokes.

"Hate to burst your bubble," Shinn grunted, "but what I've gone through for the past four years is as real as it gets!"

The Crusader slammed its sword down against the Destiny's Arondight, leaving the two mobile suits to glower at each other through the sparks, beam wings glittering in the darkness of space.

"Fast...!" Emily grunted, as the Regen Duel pounded the Twilight with railgun and bazooka shells. Through the smoke burst the Gale Strike, blades drawn, and knocked the Twilight back further with a crash. The Hail Buster followed it up with a gunlauncher blast, and then the Nebula Blitz followed up with a flurry of beam shots. "Such teamwork !"

"Emily!" Trojan shouted, and with a crash the Green Frame dropped into the fray, beam blades shining to life. The four Alliance Gundams darted apart and showered the green mobile suit with CIWS fire, and Trojan ducked back behind his shield. "Dammit, they're good! Emily, pull back towards the colony!"

The Twilight shouldered the Green Frame aside as the Hail Buster fired off a pulsing impulse cannon blast. "They'll punch it open and kill everyone inside!" Emily yelled. "Just let me handle them!"

Blades flashing, the Gale Strike stormed forward with a scream from its pilot. "Don't underestimate me, Twilight!"

Emily hurled her Gundam aside and rocketed upward but the Regen Duel was there to slam her back with another bazooka volley. She darted to the side, letting the Strike Kai dive into battle with its beam saber drawn and force the Duel back.

"These things aren't gonna stop me!" Lily screamed; the Strike Kai roared forward after the Regen Duel. Rax's ZAKU dropped in next with a ferocious axe slash but a storm of beam fire forced them all back on the defensive and the Nix Providence leapt up into the fight.

"Keep on them," Kelly ordered, "and we'll finish the Twilight off in one blow!"

Earth Alliance Nelson-class battleship Tripoli

"Approaching Arnhelm's outer port in twenty minutes," the helmsman reported, and on the bridge of the Tripoli, Whittington sat back thoughtfully while Jackson handed out orders.

The battle had moved inside the colony. Alliance units that had already entered the spaceport had found no sign of the ZAFT ship; it must have fled to the colony's interior. Alliance units were already pursuing Resistance forces through the spaceport, and soon they would be inside the cylinder. After that happened, it was only a matter of time before someone damaged the axial shaft badly enough to destroy the entire colony.

Of course, the Minerva was there as well, in the outer port, and if they tried to escape the Tripoli and her twelve mobile suits would be there to stop them.

"The Minerva should still have some heavy damage," Whittington said with a glance towards Jackson, "but don't let your guard down either way."

With a burst of fire and a screech of snapping metal, the inner hatch gave way and the Gaia Gundam rushed out of the access passage, with Auel's Buster Dagger and Sting's Blaze ZAKU right behind it. Stella put herself back between the hatch and the two mobile suits as they roared through the colony sky.

"Shit, if we get too close to the shaft we'll blow the whole colony apart," Sting grunted. "But too close to the walls we'll put the civilians in danger "

"Incoming!" Stella cried, and the three mobile suits darted apart to make way for a salvo of artillery shells. She turned her eyes towards the source where an IWSP Dark Windam was streaking towards them, with four white and blue Windams of the Space Force in formation around it.

"Why you!" Auel screamed, and leveled off his cannon.

"No, not in here!" Sting yelled. "Close range!"

The four white Windams opened fire again, pounding a salvo of beams against the ZAKU and Gaia's shields. The Buster Dagger popped up behind them to let loose its missiles

An instant later, the Dark Windam seized its chance to fling an anti-armor penetrator straight into the Buster Dagger's left shoulder. The pointed bomb went up in a thunderous explosion, and Auel screamed as his mobile suit lost its cannon, its head, and its entire right arm and the maimed mobile suit went reeling away, spewing sparks and smoke. "F-Fuckers!"

"Auel!" Sting shouted. "You bastards!" The ZAKU let fly a torrent of beam Gatling blasts.

"Sting! Take care of Auel!" Stella shouted, and with a roar from its thrusters the Gaia lunged down towards the Dark Windam. The black Windam darted backward, letting the four white ones open fire but Stella expertly weaved her way through their blasts and fired back to blow one of them out of the sky. "How dare you...!"

"Exciting," muttered Shams Coza, "isn't it?"

The Vanguard Gundam lined up its overhanging beam cannons and opened fire. Up ahead, from a squad of four mobile suits, a Dagger L and a GuAIZ went up in flames but the 105 Dagger between them darted through and leveled off its beam carbine

Instead of firing, the Artemis Gundam dropped down in front of it with a beam saber slash and tore it in two.

"Acting like he doesn't need us anymore, huh...?" Mudie said with a smirk.

An M1 Astray came down from behind the Vanguard; Shams cracked a grin as he whipped around and shot it down with the ram cannons embedded in the Vanguard's shield.

"Well, at least the Vanguard's running well," he said with a chuckle. "And I guess we'll see how well Sven gets along all on his lonesome."

"There's another squad up there," Mudie murmured. "Shall we?"

The two Gundams' eyes flashed as they took off towards the colony.

Athrun Zala ground his teeth in frustration as he backed into the colony cylinder, with Rau in front him, beam rifle blazing. Up ahead, one of the Dark Windams seized its chance and hurled an anti-armor penetrator down at Rau's Murasame. He ducked to the side and returned fire with his rifle but the Windams darted apart

And with a crash, one of the hatches burst open and the Caliburn Raigo Gundam rocketed into the fray.

"Him again!' Athrun snarled.

ND HE threw a switch on the console. "David, Gabby, Sandra, deal with the Murasame. I'll handle the Gundam." The Raigo drew its Caladbolg saber with a flash, lighting up the long and pulsing beam saber blade, and charged.

Athrun drew both his sabers, slammed them together, and swung up to parry the Raigo's blow. The blue and white Gundam surged forward anyway to knock the Justice back. Athrun backpedaled but the Raigo clamped down its anchor onto the Justice's right arm and yanked it closer, and lined up its saber for a killing stab

"You think that'll stop me?!" Athrun roared, and brought up the Justice's leg to sever the anchor's cord with his beam blade. The Raigo darted back and deflected the Justice's saber blow with practiced ease.

Up above, Rau Le Creuset grunted as the three Slaughter Windams pummeled his Murasame's shield, and he squinted through the flashing lights as they closed in for the kill.

The swords crashed together and Shinn Asuka ground his teeth as the Crusader Gundam matched him blow for blow. It whirled around him in a flurry of afterimages; Shinn darted up to leave behind his own and let the Crusader cut through the usefully, but the Alliance Gundam rocketed up after him and let loose a blazing red blast from its Agni Kai cannon.

"Not bad," Shinn muttered, as the Crusader came back down again with a thundering overhead sword blow.

The Crusader slammed its blade against the Destiny's Arondight and sent the Gundam staggering back. It came down with a crash and forced the blade down just far enough for the Crusader to rear back for the kill

"Not yet!" Shinn screamed, and the Destiny rocketed forward to shoulder the Crusader off course. Sven scowled and rammed his mobile suit's knee up into the Destiny's torso and with another thundering crash, brought down the Crusader's other leg to knock the Destiny back, and followed it up with an Agni Kai blast that nearly took off the Destiny's right arm.

"I understand now," Sven growled. "You only beat us before because your machine was so much better than ours." The Crusader hefted its sword and charged. "Now the field is level!"

Shinn cracked a smirk even as the Crusader rattled the Destiny with another sweeping sword blow. "Getting a little presumptive there, buddy?"

"Emily, get some distance already!" Trojan cried, as the Twilight exchanged vicious sword blows with the Gale Strike. "They want you at close range!"

Rax's ZAKU Phantom flung itself into the fray with a scream from its pilot and a sweeping axe blow, and the Gale Strike backed away. The Regen Duel dropped down from above with a crash and kicked the ZAKU out of the way, and then darted aside just in time for the Hail Buster to land a crushing gunlauncher blast in the Twilight's face. Emily grunted as she was slammed back into the cockpit seat and an instant later the Nebula Blitz blasted out of the smoke, claws extended.

"What does it mean when the Angel of Death is afraid?!" cackled Travis as he descended on the reeling Twilight

"Don't even try!" Lily screamed, and with a crash the Strike Kai's Panzer Eisen anchor clamped down onto the Nebula Blitz's head and with a yank a shout from its pilot, the crimson Blitz unit went reeling to the side. "Emily!"

Emily snapped her eyes up towards the Nix Providence, bearing down on her with its beam saber lit. The DRAGOONs darted through the space around them, pounding the Twilight with relentless beam blasts, and she grunted in pain, thrown back into the seat again, as the Providence pummeled her beam shield with a merciless downward hack.

"Erin! An opening!" Kelly cried; the Gale Strike rocketed up from behind the Twilight, swords extended for a killing stab

"No you don't!"

Emily shot a stunned glance towards her left as Rax's ZAKU rammed her aside with its shoulder and a wave of horror washed over her as she watched the Gale Strike's sword plunge through the ZAKU's cockpit, and the flickering life inside vanished in a burst of fire.


The world shuddered as the Green Frame came down with a crash, beam sabers blazing off the end of its rifle, and slammed the Gale Strike away from the ZAKU's wreckage. Inside, Trojan fixed his smoldering eyes on the blue and white mobile suit.

"You goddamn bastard! I'll kill you for that!"

Inside the Gale Strike, Erin glanced up in frustration at the Green Frame. "Grey, cover me!"

The Regen Duel rocketed into the fray with a flash of exhaust and pounded a bazooka shell into the Green Frame, blowing off its left arm. Trojan charged forward with a scream and swiped at the two mobile suits regardless.

"Trojan! Stop it!" Emily cried, and cut herself short as she threw up her saber to deflect the Nebula Blitz's saber. "Lily, stop him before he gets killed!"

The Strike Kai roared down into the fight with a storm of beam rifle blasts, and Emily turned her eyes back towards the three mobile suits before her.

Earth Alliance battleship Charlemagne

"What the hell are you doing, Joaquin?!" Danilov roared on the Charlemagne's bridge. "What are you moving forward for?!"

On the auxiliary screen, Joaquin arched an eyebrow in plain disgust. "We're moving in to support the mobile suit squadrons. The Lohengrins are charged and all we need to do is move into position."

"The Lohengrins will breach the colony," Danilov shot back. "You'll kill everyone in there."

"So be it."


The line went dark, and Danilov glanced furiously around the bridge. "What the hell is he thinking? Even if he does break the colony apart, that's only going to help the enemy." He clenched his fists around the armrests of his chair. "Damn him..."

Fire flashed around the Infinite Justice as its bisected beam rifle exploded, and Athrun jammed back the controls to dodge the Caliburn Raigo's furious saber swipe. Athrun saw his chance and rushed forward, and with a crash he swept the beam blade on his carry shield through the Raigo's saber hilt. ND snapped his machine around and drew the Schwert Gewehr Kai; Athrun ducked back as the Caliburn swiped horizontally at the Justice.

"Rau, get back and get ready to launch signal flares," Athrun shouted but he stopped in surprise as instead the two Dark Windams line up and open fire with their beam rifles. The blasts pounded against the Murasame's shield but the third Windam lunged up behind the Murasame with its beam saber active, and with a shriek of broken metal it brought down the saber through the Murasame's body, ripping off its head, its right arm, and half of its backpack. Rau bit back a curse and reached for the smoking Murasame's beam saber but the two Windams ahead opened fire again to blow off its left arm.

"You're on your own here, Athrun," Rau grunted, and hurled the Murasame out of the fight.

Athrun scowled and threw the Justice back, just as the Caliburn came down with another sword swipe but inside the Raigo, ND shot a glance over his shoulder.

"Allen, get your team moving, now!"

From one of the clouds emerged the vast lime-green hull of a Laurasia-class frigate, and from the sides of the axial shaft four more mobile suits burst out into the fight. Athrun turned towards them, but the Caliburn Raigo was there to pummel it again with its anti-ship sword.

"The hell are those things ?!" Athrun started.

A moment later, the four Hyperion G mobile suits darted up around the Avicenna and let loose a wave of beam fire. The Avicenna lurched back as a torrent of firepower ripped open its prow, and then with a thunderous explosion the Avicenna vanished in the flames.

"Where the hell were those things hiding?!" Athrun shouted, and the Raigo came down with another sword stroke.

"Stella, we're not going to make it!" Sting shouted as the beams came down around the ZAKU. Nearby, the Gaia whipped around to deflect a beam blast from the IWSP Dark Windam; instead, the remaining two white Windams lined up to open fire and pound blasts against the ZAKU's shield. Sting whirled around to fire back with his beam Gatlings, only for the Windams to force him back further. The IWSP Windam charged with both of its swords drawn and knocked the Gaia back, down into a crumbling street.

"Sting! Get back!" Stella yelled

Too late the IWSP Windam swept down to slash the ZAKU's left arm off and then dart aside, to let the two white Windams blow off the ZAKU's Wizard pack and right leg. Sting yelped in surprise and jerked back as the two Windams charged forward, and with a shout he seized a grenade off the ZAKU's hip armor and hurled it forward. The two Windams lurched back, but the grenade exploded and hurled them both to the ground.

"Stella, I'm done here! You're on your own!" Sting shouted, and the ZAKU staggered into the air. Stella threw the Gaia in between the remaining Windam and the retreating ZAKU and slammed it back with a kick to its shield.

"You're not going anywhere!" she screamed, as the Windam closed in with its swords raised.

The Destiny slammed against an asteroid and Shinn let out a painful yell. Up ahead, the Crusader charged with its sword ready for a killing stab

"Not fast enough!" Shinn shouted, and with a crash he backflipped over the asteroid, letting the Crusader plow straight through it and with a scream, Shinn came streaking back down with his sword upraised

Sven scowled, whipped his left arm up with a beam saber in its hand, and sliced off the Destiny's left arm at the elbow and left leg at the knee. As the Destiny dropped past, he yanked his sword free from the rock and sliced off its head and its right arm at the shoulder.

"What the ?!" Shinn started, and he jerked the controls to the side just as the Crusader brought its sword around for a killing blow. Sven followed with a shout and poured fire from his Agni Kai cannon after the maimed, retreating Destiny. "I've still got the beam wings!"

"And nothing else," Sven added, and rocketed after the Destiny.

"He killed Rax!" Trojan screamed, and brought his rifle down with a crash onto the Gale Strike's blades. "He killed Rax!"

"Trojan, control yourself!" Emily screamed, even as the Nix Providence pummeled her Gundam with beam fire and the Nebula Blitz swept after her with its saber. "Lily, get him out of here!"

"He I can't!" Lily sputtered. Emily risked a glance towards the Green Frame, just as the Gale Strike ducked underneath a saber blow and scored a vicious upward cut over the mobile suit's chest.

"Forgetting someone?!" another voice screamed, and with a flash the Hail Buster's hyper impulse cannon let loose a pulsing yellow blast that burned away the Twilight's right leg. Emily threw her Gundam back only for the Regen Duel to lance up from behind her and chop off the Twilight's left arm at the shoulder.

"Over there too ?!" Emily started, and hurled the sparking Twilight away as the Nix Providence came down with a saber flash and a flurry of DRAGOON fire and just in time for the Nebula Blitz to rip a smoldering gash across the Twilight's chest. "How ?!"

"Underestimating us, are you?!" Kelly cried. "Finish her off!"

The Gale Strike kicked away the unresponsive Green Frame and lunged up with its swords raised, and Erin came down with a victorious grin

Instead, her blades landed against the saber of the Strike Kai, and Lily charged forward with a scream.

Earth Alliance Archangel-class battleship Lucifer

Joaquin narrowed his eyes on the Lucifer's bridge as the crosshairs passed into position. Arnhelm Colony was an Island Three open type, and those mirrors made for easy targeting of the axial shaft. Break it apart and the whole colony would come undone and that would be one less Resistance base in the Earth Sphere for the Alliance to worry about.

"Target is acquired," one of the bridge crew reported. "Launch window begins in twenty seconds."

Ortega glanced over nervously at Joaquin. "Colonel, are you sure about this? The refugees will probably be killed even if they've made it to shelters and lifeboats by now."

A derisive snort was his answer as Joaquin leaned forward. "A few million refugees are a small price to pay to secure victory. And ZAFT would do far worse than what we are about to do."

Ortega glanced back at the bridge windows as the countdown reached zero. "Lohengrins, fire!"

The twin red beams lanced out at the colony, and Joaquin smiled.

Battleship Minerva, Arnhelm Colony

"The entire colony is breaking apart!" Abbey exclaimed, as the rumbling of Arnhelm's destruction rattled the Minerva. "Captain, we've got to get going!"

Meyrin ground her teeth and pushed her horror to the back of her mind. That could be dealt with later. "Malik, engines to full! Chen, target and destroy the Nelson-class the instant we've got a clear shot!"

The Minerva lurched forward, out of the collapsing port, and Meyrin watched tensely as the portside Tristan turned and with a flash of green light, it fired forward its first salvo and slammed it into the unsuspecting Nelson ship's bridge tower, blowing it apart.

"They're disabled!" Meyrin shouted. "Neidhardt, fire!"

With a burst of exhaust, the Minerva's missile tubes opened fire and slammed a volley of missiles into the Nelson-class, tearing apart its hull and finally destroying the ship in a hail of fire.

Meyrin glanced up at Roxy. "Where are our mobile suits?"

"On their way back...well, sort of. Some of them got destroyed, but the pilots are all returning."

"Tell them to hurry up. We have to escape while the colony breakup is still distracting the Phantom Pain."

Emily screamed in pain as seven million lives vanished all around her, and the wreckage began to sift by her Gundam. She threw the Twilight back as the Regen Duel came down with a saber slash, and then ducked to the side as the Gale Strike followed up with a sword blow.

"So many people are dying...!" she groaned, and hurled the Twilight down beneath a flying piece of colony hull.

The Strike Kai lunged up instead and charged, beam saber raised. "Don't touch her!" Lily screamed, and slammed down into the Gale Strike.

"Grey, now!" Erin shouted

With a flash, the Regen Duel swept in from behind and slashed the Strike Kai's Aile Striker in two. The Strike Kai shuddered under a thundering explosion just long enough for the Gale Strike to reduce its crimson foe to a torso with two sweeping downward sword swings that took off both its arms at the shoulders and both its legs at the knees. Grey lined up from the rear for a killing saber blow as Lily shrieked in terror

"I'm still here!"

The Regen Duel rattled and Grey let out a yelp of shock as the Twilight rammed the Regen Duel aside, then fired a combat flare into the Gale Strike's face. An instant later, it seized the maimed Strike Kai and rocketed away through the drifting colony wreckage.

Emily forced down a wave of horror and nausea as she saw bodies in the colony debris and turned her attention forcefully towards the defeated mobile suit behind her. "Lily, we're going to find a safe place for you to ditch that mobile suit."

Lily's eyes went wide. "What ditch my Strike Kai? Emily!"

"Don't argue with me," Emily said, fixing Lily with a look that brooked no disagreement. "We're going to find Trojan and get out of here. Alright?"


Emily glanced around the wreckage and stretched out her senses.

Don't you be dead, too...

With his Infinite Justice pitted and scarred and the colony coming apart around him, Athrun Zala raced through the scattering wreckage away from that Raigo Gundam and its pilot and all the horrors that came with it. Rau and Viveka had made it back to the Minerva now it was his turn.

He glanced up towards one of the many widening openings in the colony, where he found the maimed Destiny Gundam jetting to safety with the Gaia by its side. "Shinn, what the hell happened to you?"

Shinn's static-broken face appeared on the Justice's auxiliary screen. "That new Alliance unit with beam wings happened to me. Where are the others?"

"Back on the Minerva, but their mobile suits were trashed." Athrun glanced warily around the ruined colony. "How could this have happened...?"

"So many people..." Stella murmured.

Inside the sparking Destiny, Shinn forced aside all other thoughts and emotions. There would be time for that later.

Trojan Noiret cracked an eye open painfully as the sensors in his dying Green Frame came to life, and through the shattered cockpit he saw the Twilight take hold of his loyal mobile suit's customized rifle and, he noticed with a grimace, it was lacking quite a few appendages.

"Trojan," he heard Emily's voice say, "are you alright? We're picking you up."

Trojan blinked. "'We?'"

"Lily's in here. Come on. You're going to have to ditch the Green Frame; I can't carry it back with me." The Twilight's cockpit hatch swung open.

"I...I can't do that," Trojan started. "I have to take the Green back, and get it fixed, for Rax." He felt the hatred bubble up inside him again. "Those bastards killed him. I can't..."

"I'm not leaving you out here," Emily said. "Now come on. We don't have time to argue."

"But Rax "

"You're going to die out here if I just leave now," Emily snapped. "I think that's happened to enough people. Get out of that mobile suit and come with me."

Trojan looked up miserably from his Green Frame's broken cockpit and saw Emily drifting above him, hand outstretched. The battered Twilight hovered behind her. He thought for a moment of Rax, how he had told him to stay away from Emily, that it would just end in tragedy.

So much, he thought bitterly, for that. He took Emily's hand, and she pulled him up into the Twilight's cockpit.

"Hey," Trojan said quietly as the hatch swung shut, with himself on one side of the cockpit and Lily on the other side, "I know this is silly, but...well, if my Green Frame's gonna be ditched..." He shrugged. "Would you mind finishing him off for me?"

Emily blinked. "Why?"

"It was a gift to me, from my old master. And...well, I'd hate to think Green would just become part of the Debris Belt or get captured by the Alliance or something."

After a moment's pause, Emily turned towards the dead Green Frame drifting in front of her. She leveled off the Green Frame's custom rifle, fired a blast into the cockpit, and backed away as the Green Frame vanished in a cloud of fire.

Trojan smiled sadly. "So long, Green." He turned towards Emily. "Thanks. I know that's kind of silly, but "

Emily cut him off with a smile of her own. "I understand."

The Twilight's eyes flashed and the scorched Gundam took off with a roar.

To be continued...