Phase 11 - Twilight Again

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED ETERNITY

Phase 11 - Twilight Again

April 25th, CE 77 - Earth Alliance Arzachel Crater lunar base, the Moon

Vice Admiral Kevin Mathis felt a shiver run up his spine as the information ticked by on Arzachel Crater's control room main screen. There was no mistake. Terminal had been found.

Mathis straightened out his service coat. The dense wreckage of the Debris Belt and the clever camouflage by the Resistance had hid it from conventional scans, but not from the invisible eye of a Phantom Pain N Dagger sidling through the debris. And with Colonel Joaquin's Lucifer closing in and the Charlemagne not far behind, it was the ideal time to attack. Lord Djibril had recognized that as well which was why he had personally ordered the strike. Destroy the space stronghold of the Resistance and deprive ZAFT of a potential ally.

But for that, Colonel Joaquin had requested to put it charitably the help of the Earth Alliance Space Force. And Mathis was the only flag officer available to lead an expedition against Terminal. He had sent out the order to pull back a detachment of warships but their assignments to hunt down ZAFT units would have to wait.

At that, Mathis's blood boiled. It was a waste of resources, time, men, and effort to attack the Resistance. Not while ZAFT was around, and not considering what ZAFT was doing to the already-suffering people of the Earth Sphere. What did it matter if ZAFT struck a deal with this ragtag band of guerrillas? Hadn't Carpentaria and Operation Typhoon taken care of them already? ZAFT could not stand against the full weight of the Earth Alliance, once assembled but sideshows like Terminal delayed that final strike, and delays were costly.

Mathis glanced back up at the screen, where the N Dagger's image of Terminal floating serenely amid the junk bored itself through his skull. Perhaps Lord Djibril had a point. Terminal, after all, seemed to have a propulsion system. It could be moved. And intelligence suggested that it had been a ZAFT development base before Solomon's Sword.

Either way, it would be a problem and it would have to be dealt with.

Earth Alliance Archangel-class battleship Lucifer, Debris Belt, orbit of Earth

The air nearly rang with exultation as Joaquin ran over the messages from Arzachel Crater. Vice Admiral Mathis would assemble a task force over the next few days, send them into the Debris Belt, and bring down the hammer on Terminal. One of the white whales that had evaded the Alliance for three years would finally meet its end, and ZAFT would have reason to think twice about an alliance with the Resistance.

Standing on the bridge, Joaquin grinned wolfishly at Ortega. "We've got a great opportunity before us, captain. We'll have the chance to lead the assault on Terminal. If we get there before Mathis, we're going to be at the head of the battle."

Ortega shifted uncomfortably in the captain's chair. "It's not a good idea to go ahead of the rest of the fleet, colonel."

"Are you saying this ship can't hold up against some Resistance mooks for a little while?"

"No sir, I'm saying this one ship can't fight an entire fleet by itself and that's probably what's waiting for us at Terminal."

Joaquin waved it off. "All we need to do is be seen leading the attack. And all we really need is for ND HE to perform at his best. He and the Raigo will be unstoppable. The Minerva has lost its Gundams and the Resistance can't make up for that. You'll see."

The colonel took his leave and Ortega sat back with a discouraged sigh. Of course the Minerva had lost its Gundams. But it had presumably spent the past few days at Terminal...and who knew what was going on in there.

That man.

That man, his presence, his feeling shot through the mind of ND HE like a pinball. That man, with that presence that felt so familiar, even though he could never recall feeling it before...

The feeling that emanated from the pilot of the Infinite Justice gnawed at ND HE's mind. He could not remember ever meeting someone with that aura before but his recollections only included training and treatments at Althea Crater.

But the memories were there anyway. He saw a little green bird fluttering in the wind before him. He felt a cool breeze, a cloud of pink flower petals, a strange mixture of gratitude and sadness, happiness and regret. The blurry image of a blue-haired boy fixed itself in his mind. But he had never known anyone of the sort at Althea Crater.

ND HE turned over in his maintenance pod. That man, and that feeling, continued to claw at him. He struggled to push them down. There was no reason to hesitate about him because no matter what, he was an enemy. It was a trick. That's all it was a trick, the Resistance had somehow managed to do something to trick him. That was what they'd told him would happen at Althea Crater. They'd try to make him think he was someone he was not. That was why they made him wear the mask so nobody could know his identity, and thus, nobody could tell him who he was and was not.

Least of all, he reflected, that man.

Earth Alliance battleship Charlemagne, Debris Belt, orbit of Earth

Mudie Holcroft watched silently from the Charlemagne's observation deck as the Debris Belt drifted by around the vast black battleship. Maintenance to the Artemis was complete; reports were filed; hell, even her bunk was cleaned. And since Shams was off doing other things and pool was excruciatingly difficult to play in microgravity, that left her nothing to do.

Mudie Holcroft hated having nothing to do. That was when she wound up thinking, and that never ended well.

She wished she could be back down with the Artemis, which made people respect her, even more than the Blu Duel ever had. Or even with Shams, since he had long ago lost his colleagues' fascination with her cleavage and treated her with some shred of respect and dignity. With the Artemis, people were forced to respect her, because the Artemis made her powerful. It had speed and mobility, enough to slalom its way through the worst the Debris Belt had to offer on a test run. Conscious thought had given way to reflex and the invigorating feeling of power, of being respected for what she could do.

And Shams had been impressed as well. There was no way the Vanguard could have pulled off the acrobatics Mudie had coaxed out of the Artemis.

Shams. He didn't need her to be in the Artemis to treat her like a human. Mudie hated to think what that meant to her.

"The key is to just stay moving every time you're not firing the cannon," Shams explained with crossed arms. Grey, Merau, and Erin all drifted around him, all of them watched by the dark eyes of the Hail Buster. Shams relished the idea of being the heroic veteran ace to whom wide-eyed younger pilots looked up, but only Erin seemed to actually be playing that role. Grey and Merau had the air of well-worn colleagues, and that was nowhere near as gratifying to Shams' ego. "It helps that you've got the Mirage Colloid up there too."

Merau grinned up at the Hail Buster. "Yeah, that makes everything easier. You can fire, cloak, move wherever you want, uncloak, fire's great."

"Yeah, well, just make sure you stay out your allies' way," Shams replied. "Mirage Colloid means everyone can't see you, us included."

As they began chattering about tactics and the last battle, Shams glanced back up towards the Hail Buster's silent face. It called to mind his old Verde Buster, the remains of which were probably rotting in a hangar somewhere in Yokosuka. And the Verde Buster called to mind simpler times, when the Alliance was pitted against ZAFT, when good and evil were nice and clear, when the missions were way more fun...and when he didn't give much of a shit about his teammates.

With the Crusader Gundam towering above him, Sven Cal Bayan sat back on the gantry railing and stared into the dark eyes of his mobile suit. Yukiko's words from the other day still rang in his head. An Extended.

Absolutely not. An Extended was what happened when a human was controlled in every way. The Extended relied for their very survival on a benefactor, the absence of which would signal their very bodies to begin slowly dying as a failsafe to keep their secrets from falling into enemy hands. Sven's flesh crawled at the idea of being so dependent on someone that he would literally begin to die without them.

What the Extended got in exchange for that hideous transformation was a bevy of new skills. The reflexes, cognition, healing factors, stamina, immunity, strength, and speed of Coordinators, geared specifically for military application rather than just making some couple's child the best in the neighborhood. That was what separated the Extended from the Coordinators. The Coordinators existed because of human greed, for prestige and status and money; the Extended were there because Coordinators were militarily useful.

But those skills were nothing Sven could not learn on his own. He could stand up to Shinn Asuka, one of the best mobile suit pilots in the Earth Sphere. He defeated the Destiny at Arnhelm. There was no need to turn him into an Extended.

Sven clenched his fists around the railing. If he became an Extended, he would sacrifice all his control...and then there would be nothing to stop that damned little child.

"What do you mean we're not taking part?"

Yukiko stood with clenched fists and a furious look on her face on the Charlemagne's bridge, eyes fixed on Danilov and Vera. The former merely shrugged.

"The debris is too dense near Terminal for the Charlemagne to navigate. We'll have to wait in clearer pastures for survivors from the attack."

"That's cowardice!" Yukiko exclaimed. "There's nothing in the Debris Belt that can stop this ship, and it's not like you don't have, I don't know, guns or something. I can't believe you're passing up an opportunity to gather more combat data on the Crusader."
"Miss Nakajima, we cannot move the ship into a debris zone that dense without risking damage," Vera shot back. "It would be grossly irresponsible."

"The only important thing is getting the Crusader into action! If you can do that, then nothing else matters!"

Danilov stepped in between the two women. "I will not risk this ship simply for an experiment," he said, "and we will have ample opportunities to test the Crusader elsewhere."

"Not against the Minerva you won't!" Yukiko snapped. "What if they get destroyed?"

At that, Danilov glanced at Vera with a wry smile. "If I know the Minerva, Miss Nakajima, that won't be an issue. They'll pop out, and we'll be waiting for them."

Resistance Nazca-class destroyer Star One, Debris Belt

The Star One came to a halt in the cloud of debris, and on the bridge, Aoma Vedlow sat back and watched as the lights among the junk began to flicker. It was always a risk to gather her fleet in one place, but the ships were due for some leave, and Aoma hated to think of what the crews might do if they had to spend too long bunched up in there. Iron-fisted discipline, trust, training, and rewards had forged the Vedlow Fleet into a feared and professional fighting force, but its crew were still human beings many of them with criminal histories unsavory enough to make their commander think twice about her demands of them.

There had been commotion at Arzachel. The Procyon, one of the Drake-class destroyers "liberated" from the Space Force by a crew with a conscience, had been quietly hovering near enough the base for its high-powered telescopes to pick up ships coming and going from Arzachel's spaceport with increased frequency. There were numerous explanations, like gearing up for an assault on Messiah that for some reason had still not yet taken place.

But the Minerva had gone to Terminal, and the Resistance could afford to take no chances with its final remaining stronghold. Terminal held their best engineers, and it was more or less the Vedlow Fleet's home base. The DSSD personnel crowding into the Altair, the Vedlow Fleet's rickety Marseille III-class freighter, were seething with anger at ZAFT for the Troya attack. Perhaps they could help the Resistance.

Aoma watched as the operation wound its way to its conclusion. With the fleet reassembled, they would proceed back to Terminal. If the rumors were to be believed, Chiao Xu was in talks with ZAFT but the Resistance was likely brewing a large-scale attack on some Alliance target to prove to Sunogachi that they were a credible force, after that defeat at Carpentaria.

And of course, the Vedlow Fleet would have to lead the charge.

April 26th, CE 77 - Resistance space fortress Terminal, orbit of Earth

"I'll admit I am no expert on the medical aspects of an Extended," said Mikhail Coast with a shrug, "but judging from the existing research and your descriptions, surgery and treatment to reverse what changes are possible would take roughly six years, and you would never be rid of some of the effects."

In Coast's office, Sting and Auel glanced at each other. "Six years?" Sting echoed.

"Six years. Of course, the only Extended that I've fully examined is Ms. Loussier, and there may be differences between male and female subjects, and with the modifications."

Auel cracked a smirk. "Did you find any of those loose marbles of hers?"

"If I may say so," Coast continued, "from a medical standpoint you don't need to reverse these changes. You've taken care of much of the psychological work yourselves, and you don't seem to be as heavily modified as Ms. Loussier."

"It's not a medical thing," Sting answered. "It's a...I dunno, emotional thing, or something." He glanced awkwardly at Auel. "We don't really want to be Extended. We'll hold off on that treatment until the war is over and we don't need to be anymore, but when that day comes..." He shrugged. "We don't want to be the Alliance's toy soldiers forever."

Coast regarded them impassively for a moment. "It will be exhausting and relentless, and you'll be miserable for six years of your lives," he warned.

Auel snorted. "Can't be worse than what we've already done."

Shinn Asuka watched with something similar to satisfaction as the Destiny was pieced back together by a skeleton crew of Minerva mechanics. Terminal had the last cache of spare parts for the Destiny and Twilight, and with the new Gabriel nearing its rollout, the Destiny was the one to benefit this time. At least he could return to the fight, even if his machine was now outclassed.

The Destiny was near the end of its life, and that thought brought him some sadness. After all they had been through together the end of the Junius War and the battles of this war it was a little upsetting to think that his mighty Gundam was soon to meet its end.

On the other hand, it had only been around for some of his his failure to save Lunamaria Hawke, whose ghostly specter his failing brain seemed to believe was hovering behind him this time.

Ignoring me isn't going to make me go away, Luna put in.

"Why not? I'm going crazy anyway."

If you were just going crazy it wouldn't be me who's here, it'd be Rey, since you got way more guilt tied up with him than you do with me.

Shinn blinked and glanced over at what he was fairly certain was the ghostly image to his right. "How the hell do you know that?"

You tell me, Mr. Hallucinating Guy. She shrugged and Shinn noticed for the first time that she was wearing her old ZAFT Red uniform...the one she had worn when she had played the role of his friend for so long. I don't know what's got you all bummed out, though. They're putting the Destiny back together and you're all safe and sound and your little protégé is even getting a sweet new ride. And the people here don't really hate you that much!

"It's not that. It's that every time I wind up meeting ZAFT vets, it reminds me of the time I spent there and all those failures."

Well, stop it.

Shinn frowned. "Thanks, Luna. What would I do without you?"

Go nuts, probably. She paused and seemed to study his face for a moment. You know, brooding about all the dead people in your life is only going to help make sure you have more dead people in your life.

Shinn glanced back at her and felt the pain of losing her come flooding back. "Am I supposed to forget?"

No. You're supposed to move on.

"Glittering Star J" was what they called him, for those white mobile suits he piloted that supposedly glittered in the sunlight and scared the wits out of enemy pilots. The serene air around him unnerved Emily, as she watched the soldier in an older style Orb uniform hand out orders to a team of mechanics on the gantry overlooking a white Murasame. He was a former Alliance ace, they said, and as he turned towards her she couldn't help but wonder how such a man had made his way in the Earth Alliance.

"So you're the 'Angel of Death' I've heard so much about," he said with a smile, and extended his hand, which Emily hesitantly shook. "I'm Captain Jean Carrey. It's a pleasure to finally meet you, Miss Oldendorf."

Emily glanced nervously at his serene, unreadable face. "Y-you too."

"We've been all abuzz waiting for you," Carrey continued, and gestured across the hangar towards the brooding Gabriel. "Rumor has had it that the Resistance's rising new star was actually a young girl. Normally I wouldn't believe such talk, but stranger things have happened, and you're not the only one so young to fight like this."

Instead of responding, Emily turned her eyes towards the Gabriel. She would have to think of a better name for it than that. No sense running around in a Gundam named after Lord Djibril. "I didn't realize I was so special."

"You're one of a select few," Carrey said with a shrug. "Not many pilots have skills like yours." He smiled knowingly at her. "Though I do wonder how you got that nickname."

Emily thought back to Lily, and only one answer seemed appropriate. "By killing people."

Carrey did not seem amused, and Emily opened her mouth to apologize, but he cut her off. "There is another way to fight this war, and you're skilled enough to do it. You could just disable mobile suits."

"Just disable them?"

"Exactly. It requires an adjustment to your fighting style, but if you aim for the limbs and head, you can remove mobile suits from combat."

Emily looked at him skeptically. "Does it work?"


"Wh what? What do you mean ?"

Jean Carrey looked down with a smile that turned sad from the anguish radiating from within him. "Disabling mobile suits removes combat units from the battlefield, but it does not remove whatever motivates a soldier to go fight in one in the first place." He shrugged again. "Some soldiers are intimidated enough by the sheer display of skill it takes to effectively and quickly disable a mobile suit in combat that they stay out of future fights. Most are not."

"Then why do you do it?"

"Because I must." He pointed again at the sleeping Gabriel. "How many soldiers do you think you've killed, Miss Oldendorf? Hundreds, perhaps, or thousands? And nobody would really fault you for doing so, because you were a soldier except for the friends and family and comrades of the soldiers that you killed. And they won't forget the pain that you caused them, and for some of them, that pain will become strong enough to drive them to pick up weapons and fight. And then someone else will die, and the cycle will never stop."

Emily squirmed. "But if it doesn't work, then why are you doing it?"

"Because I must not cause that pain to others, even if my practice of disabling mobile suits does not end the war any faster." He chuckled to himself. "And creates some problems for my allies, I suppose. We filled the brig to overflowing with captured Alliance pilots."

Annoyance crept up Emily's throat, and she saw why Shinn and Athrun, skilled as they were, disregarded this idea entirely. "But if you're just putting your allies in danger, then why go to all this effort?"

Carrey gestured again at the Gabriel. "War will not end due to the actions of a single pilot, whether that pilot kills or merely disarms his enemies in battle," he answered. "But disarming my enemies while sparing their lives may work some changes in some of them, perhaps, and that chance is enough to satisfy me. And those changed hearts may go on to change still more hearts, until perhaps there are enough people who reject this violence to truly make a difference. It will achieve more than just killing them." He smiled back. "Don't you agree?"

Emily glanced over at the Gabriel, at the machine fit for the Angel of Death. "I guess," she said, and turned away.

April 27th, CE 77 - Resistance space fortress Terminal, Debris Belt, orbit of Earth

"Quite the monster you've built here," Meyrin said with a tone halfway between approval and apprehension. Selene drifted by her side, both of them at the feet of the Gabriel Gundam. The binders on its back were complete, meaning that technically the Gabriel was ready for combat, and Emily was experiencing the great fun of reading through a gigantic tech manual.

Selene smiled sadly. "Sol would be proud."

Meyrin awkwardly glanced at her watch and tried to change the subject. "The Vedlow Fleet called in yesterday. They said they would arrive at Terminal tomorrow. They're carrying the other survivors from Troya Station, so you'll be reunited with your colleagues."

For a moment, Selene gazed up into the Gabriel's eyes, before she sighed wistfully. "That's good," she said, "but what would we do? Our research was saved, but the Stargazer was captured and our facility was destroyed." She shrugged. "I can't rebuild the Stargazer without proper manufacturing and testing facilities."

"Terminal is not a good place for that," Meyrin warned. "Especially not out here in the Debris Belt, and not with ZAFT still running around. Maybe you should get back in touch with DSSD?"

Selene shook her head. "I haven't heard from them since the attack on Troya. Either they've been taken over by the Alliance or they've shut down and gone into hiding, to save whatever research they have. The central office would be the first target."

Meyrin shifted uncomfortably. "You guys have that many nifty little secrets?"

There was no reply from Selene, her eyes still fixed on the Gabriel.

"Yes," Shinn sighed as he and Riika made their way down a corridor on pull-bars, "it's true. I totally had a crush on you at Armory 1."

Riika's face lit up in triumph. "I knew it!" she laughed. "So what about me caught your eye, huh? My natural wit and charm? My overwhelming beauty? My incredible skills with the Gaia?"

Shinn shrugged. "You looked hot in that flight suit."

Deflated, Riika reached over and smacked Shinn in the shoulder. "Jerk."

"What? I was fifteen." He paused for a devilish smirk. "Don't tell me you never appreciated how clingy those things could be."

"Oh, shut up."

Victorious for now, Shinn decided to change the subject. "So where did Courtney go?"

"Maintenance on the Proto Chaos." Riika glanced awkwardly towards the wall. "But, uh, we should probably leave him alone."

"Is he holding a grudge?"

"...sort of. He's...kinda the reason I'm still alive." They came to a stop by one of the observation decks and Riika halted herself against the railing. "My mobile suit was destroyed during the Alliance's attack and we were cut off from the escape ships, so we got left behind. He packed me into the last Proto Chaos unit left and we slipped away in the confusion." She shrugged sadly. "It was rough. We lost friends. He thinks if you and the Minerva hadn't done what you did, that never would have happened."

Shinn glanced towards the stars uncomfortably. "Guess I shouldn't be too surprised."

"Look Shinn," Riika went on, grabbing his wrist and reclaiming his attention, "I don't pretend to know why you deserted, and I don't think you would have singlehandedly turned the tide of the war or something. But tell me, did you hate us? The Coordinators? ZAFT?"

Shinn closed his eyes, the memories of Luna and Rey bubbling within him. "I thought I hated you at the time," he said. "Now I realize that I was just scared." He shrugged. "If it's any consolation, I lost just about everything too in that war."

Riika shook her head. "That's no consolation at all."

Sting Oakley sat back quietly in the crew lounge overlooking Terminal's docking bay and peered at the girl Emily had said was an Extended as she entered the room. She had the look of an Extended about her, anyway; those wide eyes, with the quiet fear of a creature that depended entirely on something else for its existence, told all that needed to be said.

Auel struck first as he glanced up from his sandwich. "And who are you?"

Lily pouted. "Doesn't anyone know who I am? I'm Lily Thevalley, the Blood Knight of Outer Space!"

"Never heard of ya."

"Oh come on! I'm an ace! I shot down, like, two battleships!"

Auel grinned back and held up five fingers, and Lily's jaw dropped in disbelief. "That's right, baby, five battleships, all in one battle last year at L5. I think they that's when they started calling me the Blue Comet or something like that."

"No they didn't, Auel," Sting spoke up in annoyance, "and you didn't shoot down five battleships, you jackass. We both did, and Stella helped too."

"Sting over there is just jealous 'cuz nobody gave him a cooler nickname than 'Cocksucking Motherfucker,'" Auel said with a dismissive wave, and quickly changed the subject before Sting could retaliate. "What are you doing in here anyway?"

Lily glanced dubiously between the two of them for a moment. "Um, I was looking for Emily."

"Working on the Gabriel." Auel waved again, in the general direction of the hangar. "What's got you so interested in her anyway?" He looked up when he got no answer and found Lily heading out the door, and he glanced over at Sting. "The hell's that about?"

His mood darkening, Sting watched Lily disappear around the door frame. Definitely an Extended.

Cagalli's pendant drifted between them on the observation deck overlooking the Minerva, where the winged warship was coming back together after its worst beating yet. Athrun glanced at the polished little stone for a moment, and then over at Viveka, leaning against the wall.

"So what would you two have done together?" she started, and Athrun picked the pendant out of the air and looped it back around his neck.

"She would have become the leader of Orb, and I would've been her bodyguard or something like that."

Viveka smiled. "How romantic."

"I guess." He looked back down towards the Minerva. "We would have had to defend Orb constantly. It had Morgenroete and Kaguya and abundant geothermal energy, and if the Sahakus had been dealt with it would have eventually had an orbital elevator and more resource colonies too. Orb would have been a prosperous and advanced nation." He shook his head. "Not with Jona Roma Seiran in charge, though."

Viveka shifted uneasily. "Are you going to go back there after the war is over?"

"And do what?" Athrun shrugged. "Cagalli was the one who was meant to rule Orb. Her father had been trying to groom her for the position, before the Valentine War broke out." He smiled sadly at the memory. "It hadn't gone too well."

"So what are you going to do?"

They were silent for a moment, before Athrun quietly sighed. "We'll see how this war ends."

April 28th, CE 77 - Earth Alliance Agamemnon-class carrier Henry Clay

Only the sounds of a bridge crew at work on a warship underway filled the bridge of the Henry Clay and reached the ears of Admiral Mathis, brooding in the command chair and fixing his eyes on the desolate sweep of the Debris Belt.

It was a fairly impressive feat to have accomplished, dragging together a fleet of three Agamemnon-class ships, six Nelson battleships, and eighteen Drake-class destroyers. With the Lucifer approaching from the other side, that gave him twenty-eight ships and almost two hundred and fifty mobile suits to work with. It was a respectable battle force, suitable, he hoped, for crushing the Resistance's hideout. But the Phantom Pain scouts had only discovered Terminal's location and verified the presence of seven ships; who knew what else was lying in wait in the Debris Belt?

Mathis rubbed his chin thoughtfully. The Space Force was well-trained for battles in the Debris Belt, and the Minerva was said to be heavily damaged, its host of Gundams out of commission. But they were still there, and Mathis would not underestimate them.

The Charlemagne, he knew, would be sorely missed. One blast from their main guns would silence this miserable place forever. But that was not to be, and so in the meantime he would visit upon them a wrath that would end their war. The sooner he did that, the sooner he and the rest of the Alliance could turn their full attention towards their real enemy.

"Navigator," he called out, "time to arrival?"

"Five hours, nineteen minutes, sir," came the answer.

Mathis sat back. Five hours and nineteen minutes until he could get this over with and go back to the real war.

"Don't mess with the settings file! I'll do the adjustments manually!"

Standing on a gantry in the Clay's cavernous hangar, Captain Morgan Chevalier stared up tiredly towards the face of his personal mobile suit. The Windam, painted in the colors of his old 105 Dagger, had served him well through this war, but its age was beginning to show.

The Gunbarrel Striker locked into place, and Morgan glanced over towards the ship's grizzled head mechanic. "I suppose we ran the last overhaul this machine can take, have we?"

The mechanic merely shrugged. "You want something better, captain, you should transfer to the Phantom Pain. You know they get all the cool new toys first."

Morgan frowned. "That isn't done without a price." He looked back up at his Windam. "You replaced the gunbarrels' railguns with beam cannons like I asked?"

"Beam cannons, and we modified the gunbarrels themselves to work wirelessly." The mechanic called up a diagram on his tablet. "It'll take input the same way the wired gunbarrels did, but you'll be able to manipulate them faster since they're not wired. Sorta like those DRAGOON things the ZAFT-built machines use. We nixed the wireless control scheme from the RGX-01 Chaos back when the Phantom Pain operated it."

"Nice," Morgan said with a smirk, and turned his eyes back towards the Windam's dark visor. I hear they've got a new ace pilot, too. I'm looking forward to meeting you, Miss Angel of Death.

Resistance space fortress Terminal, Debris Belt, orbit of Earth

Vice Admiral Oshida forced down the beginnings of panic in his chest with practiced ease. He had been through this before.

Before him on the main screen of Terminal's control room was a rough camera feed of the approaching Alliance fleet. He held up a hand and snapped his fingers, drawing the attention of the panicking operators. "There's that fleet approaching from ten o'clock," he said, "and that Archangel-class coming from three o'clock. Give me the ETA."

One of the operators below composed herself. "Fleet's ETA is about four and a half hours, Archangel-class is doing a full burn and should be here at about the same time."

Oshida frowned and picked up the intercom. "All personnel, this is Vice Admiral Oshida. The enemy has discovered our location, ETA four hours or less. Escape is not a practical solution in our present condition. We will stand and fight. All combat personnel, to your stations. All engine room crew, prepare the thrust assembly. Everyone else, gather whatever we can carry from the external wings and destroy the rest. We will purge whatever we can't take with us in two hours." He paused and turned the intercom aside. "Give me the ETA for Vedlow's fleet."

The operator down below nervously consulted her console. "Five hours minimum, sir."

"We will be joined by the Vedlow Fleet in five hours," Oshida continued. "All hands, prepare for battle."

The mechanic on the gantry in front of a motley squadron of mobile suits jumped in surprise as Meyrin Hawke landed next to him.

"You," she said, "my pilots need five mobile suits from Terminal's garrison. Can you supply them?"

"Y-Yes," the mechanic started, "but captain, we've got more pilots than machines, and "

"Good enough," Meyrin said, and turned around, where Abbey was waiting. "We're going back to the ship to get the repairs finished. Ask Oshida to cut us loose now, so we can try to hide and finish the repairs, then jump back into the fight unexpectedly."

Abbey arched an inquisitive eyebrow. "You already have a plan?"

Meyrin smirked back and tapped her temple. "Two steps ahead. Let's go."

Back into the battle. The vacation was fun while it lasted.

Shinn Asuka landed as gracefully as he could in front of his reborn Destiny Gundam, fresh out of the hangars with its repairs complete. At least he wouldn't be helpless out here, and at least nobody had said anything about the Charlemagne...although it was not something he had ruled out yet.

"Shinn," Sting's voice called, and he turned around to find Sting, Auel, and Stella touching down next to him. "We're gonna head out in a Gunner ZAKU and a Duel Dagger, but you'll have to do the heavy lifting for us out there."

"Right." Shinn glanced over reassuringly at Stella. "You'll have the Gaia, Justice, and Destiny out there to count on."

He turned his eyes back towards his aging machine and hoped it would stay that way.

"What do you mean it's not done?!" Emily wailed. She stood with Trojan on the gantry in front of the silent Gabriel Gundam, as Selene shouted orders to the mechanics below. Selene spared her a frustrated glance.

"We have final adjustments to make on the Voiture Lumiere so it will be stable," she explained. "Otherwise it might cut out or explode on you in the middle of battle. It won't take long, but you'll have to sortie in some other mobile suit first, or wait for us to finish."

"You can't do that," Trojan sputtered. "We need every available hand out there."

Emily ran a hand through her hair. "Trojan, go find me a mobile suit, with a Natural-use OS. I'll go out and fight while you finish the Gundam. Let me know when you're done and I'll switch machines."

"Alright," Trojan said, "but where's Lily?"

"Camped out in that modified Savior. Hurry."

Trojan took off down the gantry, and Selene looked again at Emily. "Are you sure you want to risk fighting in an inferior machine? The Gabriel's adjustments aren't going to take that long; you could wait here until they're done."

Emily shook her head. "No way am I just sitting in here while everyone else risks their lives." She paused and shot a look over at her new Gundam's glowering face. "And can I change that thing's name?"

Selene blinked. "Wha Emily, why?"

"I don't wanna fly a Gundam named after Lord Djibril."

"But it's not named after "

"Yes it is. Djibril is the Arabic name for Gabriel."

Selene frowned and gave up. "Well, alright, then what are you calling it?"

Emily fell silent for a moment as her mind searched for a better name for her Gundam than one that reminded her of the Earth Alliance President, and an instant later, inspiration struck. "Eclipse. Call it the Gundam Eclipse."

"Why Eclipse?"

"Because," Emily said, and turned towards the direction Trojan had taken, "that's what it's gonna do."

She glanced one more time at the Gundam as Selene and her crew set back to work.

That's what it's already doing.

To be continued...