Phase 15 - Operation Hell's Wind

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED ETERNITY

Phase 15 - Operation Hell's Wind

April 30th, CE 77 - Battleship Minerva, Copernicus, the Moon

"About time you guys got back!" snapped Vino Dupre as Athrun's car squealed to a halt in the Minerva's hangar. "That ZAFT fleet just opened fire on Copernicus. It looks like they're targeting the industrial block."

"Can't give us a moment's fucking peace, can they," Shinn growled. "Twelve ships, how many mobile suits?"

Vino consulted his tablet for a moment. "If they're all running at full capacity, it looks like they only launched half." He jabbed his thumb towards the Destiny. "One of those shots brought down a ton of debris in the bay here, so we're going to have to clear that before we launch the ship. The mobile suits will fit through, so you'll have to go deal with it."

Shinn nodded and glanced over at Athrun and Emily, where they were helping Viveka out of the car. "I'm taking her to the infirmary," Emily spoke up. "I'll be out there with you as soon as I can."

"Right," Athrun said, and with that, he, Shinn, Trojan, and Lily took off for their mobile suits.

Meanwhile, Vino turned towards the Eclipse and tried to push down that bad feeling he had growing in the pit of his stomach.

ZAFT Nazca-class destroyer Caernafon, the Moon

Glasgow watched with satisfaction as the beams and missiles ravaged Copernicus's industrial sector. The Naturals would know by the end of all this that ZAFT was serious.

"Mobile suits are beginning to emerge from Copernicus, captain," one of the deckhands spoke up. At Glasgow's side, Leons laughed quietly.

"Not as fast as I expected. That battle or whatever inside the dome must have really distracted them." He paused, his smile disappearing. "Wait...those look like mobile suits from the Minerva."

"The Minerva?" Glasgow flipped a switch on his armrest. "Rudolf, Glasgow here. Copernicus's defense force is finally on the move, but the Minerva is launching mobile suits too."

On the auxiliary screen, Rudolf scoffed. "They're under-strength and can't possibly know about the landing party."

"Be that as it may," Glasgow said, "don't take any chances."

"Of course. Rudolf, out."

Glasgow sat back with a frustrated sigh. "Idiot's going to do something stupid, like challenge one of them to a duel for the fate of Copernicus or some shit like that."

"If he does that, blast the fucker," Graves said with a shrug. "We've got more important work to do. First team should be making landfall in fifteen minutes."

ZAFT Eternal-class cruiser Seraphim

In the Seraphim's hangar bay, Varder Ehrmacht looked on in approval at the monstrous weapon before him. At his side, Lilith crossed her arms in something resembling annoyance as the mechanic in front of them explained.

"The Ratha parts have more firepower, but since the main purpose is to make the Proto Savior sort of a support platform for the Proto Gaia "

"I get it," Varder interrupted, and smirked over at Lilith. "Looks like I'm on top this time."

"Shut up, pervert."

Varder laughed and vaulted up off the floor towards the slim mobile suit standing next to Lilith's hulking Proto Savior, in mobile armor mode with its backbreaking Ratha parts attached. The whole thing looked like a gigantic backpack with two large, flat, shield-like arms on the sides but the engineers said it would double the Proto Savior's speed and mobility, and allow it to serve as a subflight system for his Proto Gaia which had just agility going for it.

He settled into the cockpit, attached his helmet, and glanced up at Evers' dour face on the auxiliary screen. "Enemy mobile suits?"

"Three dozen Strike Daggers from the Copernicus defense force, and a few mobile suits from the Minerva," he answered. "They don't seem to realize that the landing parties are there."

"Then let's hope it stays that way. I'm going out there with Lilith. We'll handle whatever the Minerva has in store."

Two Blaze ZAKU Warriors pulled up desperately to avoid a vicious burst of beam rifle fire from the Infinite Justice Gundam, and Athrun seized his chance with a scream to bury the Grapple Stinger anchor into the chest of one of them, then pull it close and impale it on the beam boomerang's blade. The second ZAKU backed away to shower the Justice with missiles but Athrun darted forwards regardless and speared the second ZAKU on a beam rifle blast.

"What are you doing here," he grunted

A moment later, he vaulted back into the sky as a storm of beam bolts ripped up the lunar surface beneath him. He snapped his attention up towards the black sky just in time to see a golden, gleaming GOUF Ignited slam its beam sword down onto the Justice's beam shield, and a man's cackling laughter filled his cockpit.

"To think I'd get to fight Athrun Zala, of all the times and all the people!" the voice cried and Athrun narrowed his eyes at the blond man on his auxiliary screen, in a blue ZAFT flight suit. "As though today wouldn't be a good enough day as it is!"

Athrun frowned. "And just who the hell are you?"

The GOUF surged forward, flinging the Justice back; Athrun jerked the controls backwards as the GOUF brought its left arm around, heat rod glowing and whipping by. "Rudolf Wittgenstein, the one and only!" he yelled. The golden GOUF went back on the attack with both its beam guns, and the green bolts slammed against the Justice's beam shield. "First I get to join Hell's Wind, then I get to chance to kill one of the greatest race-traitors ever to our people! Fortune smiles on me after all!"

The Justice rattled and Athrun ground his teeth as the GOUF brought down its sword again to punch him backwards. He darted up over the heat rod and raised his rifle only for the GOUF's second heat rod to lance out, curl its way around the rifle's barrel, and destroy his beam rifle with a surge of electricity. Athrun backflipped away from the GOUF's fire and abandoned his rifle, and as he came back down with a crash, he drew a beam saber and clenched his fists around the Justice's controls.

"Ah, want to die like a knight, do you?" Rudolf chuckled, and the GOUF pointed its sword at the Justice with a flourish. "Yes, you must be trembling by now! Are you remembering who I am yet, Zala? Rudolf Wittgenstein, the Golden Swordsman?"

"I have no idea who the hell you are," Athrun shot back.

Fury flashed across Rudolf's features. "Well," he snarled, "you will," and the GOUF charged.

A pulsing red beam sizzled by the Destiny Gundam and through one of its afterimages as Shinn Asuka roared into battle. He fired back with his beam rifle and up ahead, the Gunner ZAKU Warrior that had shot at him ducked aside just in time for two Slash ZAKUs to let loose a torrent of beam fire. Shinn threw the Destiny towards the lunar ground and then darted aside as a third ZAKU rushed in with a powerful overhead hack with a beam axe. He whipped around and fired his beam rifle, pounding a shot through the ZAKU's chest and blowing it apart, and then took off before the other three could catch him.

"And then there's you !" Shinn shouted the Destiny exchanged its rifle for its anti-ship sword, the beam flashing to life, and he whirled around to bring the sword to bear on a Blaze ZAKU Warrior behind him, sawing it in two. The ZAKUs below fired again as their comrade's machine exploded and Shinn threw his mobile suit back on the defensive.

He blinked in surprise as something touched his senses and shot a glance to his right where he saw two more Blaze ZAKUs line up with "Canus" missile launchers in both hands. They fired the heavy missiles down towards Copernicus, slamming into the metal surface and ripping it open. They abandoned the launchers and darted aside just as a volley of beams from the ZAFT fleet slammed through and blasted the entire area apart in a shower of flames.

Shinn dug the Destiny's feet into the lunar dirt and readied his sword as the ZAKUs moved in but a moment later another green beam lanced out of the smoke and blew the Gunner ZAKU apart, and the Gaia Gundam corkscrewed into the fray with a volley of rifle fire.

"Stella!" Shinn exclaimed. "What about those mercenary MS?"

"They're taken care of," Stella answered, and the Gaia lunged into the fight.

"I won't pretend to know what this is about," Rau muttered, "but I know you've inherited my flair for theatrics, Valentine." He smirked. "So I'm sure you won't disappoint."

His GOUF Ignited came to life with a flash from its monoeye and he roared into battle. Up ahead, a trio of ZAKU Warriors led by a Blaze ZAKU Phantom toting a "Barrus" particle cannon noticed him and opened fire. He dodged their shots expertly, saw his chance, and sent his heat rod snaking out to wrap around the ZAKU Phantom's left arm. He yanked the captured mobile suit closer, drew his sword, and chopped the mobile suit in two at the waist.

The three remaining ZAKUs broke formation and showered him with firepower; he seized the ZAKU Phantom's fallen Barrus cannon, leveled it off, and fired back to force the ZAKUs on the defensive. One of them activated its Gunner Wizard pack and sent him diving for safety with a pulsing blast of crimson energy just in time for the next one, twirling the Slash Wizard's beam axe over its head, to slam the blade down onto the GOUF's shield.

"Too close!" Rau cried and with a crash, he forced the ZAKU up, leveled off the Barrus cannon, and blew the ZAKU away.

The two surviving ZAKUs darted around on both sides of the GOUF and fired again, forcing Rau back. He glanced up at the dark sky at the feeling of two more approaching presences

And then the world flashed bright and a torrent of firepower came slamming down around the GOUF. Rau threw the blue mobile suit back and returned the fire with the Barrus, but something caught his eye a red mobile suit charging towards him, standing atop some huge black machine that almost looked like

"I see," he grumbled, as the ZAKUs intensified their attack. "The Proto Savior and Proto Gaia." He cast a sidelong glance towards the shattered docking bay where the Minerva where Emily still waited. "This little incident just gets more and more interesting."

Trojan's green DOM Trooper vaulted out of the shattered docking bay with its custom beam rifle in one hand and the Gigalauncher in the other; the Vent Savior came out next in mobile armor mode and fell into formation next to the DOM. Trojan scanned the battlefield for enemies and a moment later a wave of beam fire forced the two mobile suits apart.

"Trying to shoot me down, huh?!" Lily snapped; the Vent Savior responded with a volley of plasma cannon blasts. Up ahead, Trojan took stock of his foes: two Slash ZAKU Warriors, a Gunner ZAKU Warrior, a Blaze ZAKU Phantom, and a GOUF Ignited with its beam sword drawn. The GOUF roared forward and brought its sword down; Trojan activated the beam sabers on the end of his rifle to parry the blow. The GOUF kept coming, raising its left arm and activating the heat rod

"No you don't!" Trojan shouted; he slammed the DOM forward with sheer thruster power, sent the GOUF sprawling into the dust, and then brought the Gigalauncher to bear and only a quick roll to the side saved the GOUF from the Gigalauncher's beam gun. The GOUF sprang back to its feet and kept up the attack. "Not gonna quit, are you?!"

A moment later, the GOUF ticked its monoeye to the side and then leapt up just as the Vent Savior's plasma cannons sent a pulsing volley of beams underneath its feet. The silver Gundam landed with a crash amid a cloud of dust, and the four ZAKUs came down behind the GOUF, guns leveled.

"Yeesh, you guys are persistent!" Lily grumbled; the ZAKUs opened fire, forcing the Savior and DOM back on the defensive, as the GOUF charged again.

Battleship Minerva

The Minerva rocked from another near-miss, rattling the ship's corridors. Emily braced herself and Viveka against the wall until the shaking stopped.

"You should get out there," Viveka said quietly. "I can handle the rest."

Emily forced her father's words out of her mind. "You're the last family member I have left that actually loves me. I'm not going until I know you're safe."

Viveka blinked in surprise as they went back on the move. "Emily, what happened...?"

"I spent some quality time with dad."

"Oh no...what did he say "

"I'll tell you later," Emily said, and guided her sister around the corner towards the infirmary. "Just get yourself patched up and stay put. I'll go take care of this."

Viveka frowned as she drifted towards the infirmary door. "Em, don't put this all on your shoulders. I don't know what dad said to you, but you know better than to listen to him. Remember? You said you were going to make your power your own?"

"Yeah," Emily agreed, and turned away, "that's what I said."

Sparks flying and metal straining, Rau Le Creuset's GOUF Ignited traded sword blows with the red and gold Proto Gaia's beam saber over the dusty lunar surface. The Gaia slammed the GOUF back with an overhead sword hack, sending the GOUF grinding back through the dust. Rau glanced to his left and then threw the GOUF down onto its knee just in time for a plasma volley from the Proto Savior to sizzle by overhead. And an instant later, the Gaia was upon him again, forcing him back with a swift barrage of saber swings.

"Your capabilities are as expected," he grunted, and turned his attention towards the Proto Savior and its massive backpack, "but yours..."

He vaulted off one foot over the Gaia's saber strokes and showered the red mobile suit in beam bolts only for the Savior to come streaking in with another volley of plasma and a blast from a Callidus cannon on its backpack. Rau threw his GOUF to the right and let the Savior streak by and then jammed its sword up to deflect the Gaia's sweeping saber swing.

The Savior roared up into the black sky and transformed back to its mobile suit mode, and pounded the GOUF with beam rifle fire. Rau jerked back the controls and sent the GOUF into a steep dive as the Gaia and Savior pounded fire after him. He reached out with his senses even as the GOUF spiraled through their shots, where he could feel Emily still on the Minerva still churning with emotions, still in fear, in pain.

He smirked and returned his gaze to the two Gundams below.


"What a disaster," Gerhardt snarled as the truck came to a stop outside the dock. Before them sat the gray hull of the Nana Buluku, second of the Girty Lue-class, already fitted out with its stealth propulsion arms. Irene Ramos was there on the deck in her black Phantom Pain uniform, looking in equal parts amused and annoyed as Gerhardt stepped out of the truck with Schroeder. "She was right there in our grasp and we still couldn't get away."

Schroeder adjusted his uniform. "I hope this won't affect the payment for our services."

"Of course not," Gerhardt said and then he drew his pistol and shot Schroeder in the throat. As the uniformed man pitched over, dead, Gerhardt turned the gun on the truck's shocked driver and the two soldiers in the back as they stepped out, and then headed for the Nana Buluku. "Irene, what's going on out there?"

"That ZAFT squadron we picked up in lunar orbit is making its move," she said, and guided him towards the open hatch. "Looks like they're targeting the industrial blocks."

"I see. Does Montgomery have the ship ready to go?"

"Once we're aboard." She glanced over her shoulder, at the dead mercenaries and the growing cloud of blood behind them. "Though killing those guys will probably present some problems."

"Not as many as leaving them alive would," Gerhardt grumbled. "As soon as we're aboard, tell Montgomery to activate the Mirage Colloid and get us out of here. We can't afford to let ZAFT catch us here."

Battleship Minerva

Meyrin blanched at the news. "What do you mean evacuees?"

On the auxiliary screen, Meriol shrugged from the captain's chair on the Ortygia. "They're not letting us launch. They want us to take on evacuees, since our hangar hasn't been damaged yet. I'm trying to refuse, but they won't open the doors otherwise, and I don't really want to space all these civilians."

"Then broadcast a warning that you're going to do just that," Abbey suggested. "Anyone dumb enough to stand in front of a warship trying to enter battle deserves what they get."

"Something's not right," Meyrin murmured, putting a hand on her chin. "If those ships are running at full capacity, then they've only launched half of their mobile suits. Where are the other half?"

"Emily, Eclipse, launching!"

The Gundam Eclipse wove its way through the wreckage in front of the Minerva and took off with a flash into the battle, a spare beam rifle from the Destiny in hand. Emily scanned the battlefield

A squad of red ZAKUs descended from the sky, beam rifles blazing. Emily fired back with her own rifle to break up their formation then switched the rifle to her left hand, drew the Eclipse's beam sword with her right, and charged with a blast of afterimages. The ZAKUs struggled for distance, but the Slash ZAKU Phantom at their head threw itself down towards the Eclipse with a blaze of beam Gatling fire.

"You're with that guy," Emily growled and in a blinding flurry of afterimages, she lunged over the ZAKU, dropped back down behind it, and slashed it in half at the waist. As it exploded, she rocketed up towards the next enemy, a Gunner ZAKU Warrior leveling off its cannon and as it fired, she jetted to the right to let its blast slice through an afterimage. The ZAKU desperately brought its cannon around, as the other two opened fire with their beam rifles but the Eclipse plowed through the blasts and ripped the Gunner ZAKU in two, and then charged at the remaining two ZAKUs. Both of their Blaze packs let out a swarm of missiles; Emily slammed through them all with her beam shield, blasted through the smoke, and sliced both mobile suits in two.

Up ahead, she caught sight of a blue mobile suit the pressure, Rau doing battle with two mobile suits, one sleek and red, the other a hulking black machine. The red one slammed its saber down against the GOUF's sword and pressed the blue mobile suit back, just in time for the black one to come up from behind, beam rifle ready

Emily threw herself into the fight, stabbing forward with her saber to slash the Proto Savior's beam rifle in half. The two Gundams backed away and Rau's GOUF landed hard behind the Eclipse and Emily ground her teeth as that pilot appeared again on her auxiliary monitor.

"Well well! I was wondering when you'd show up," Varder Ehrmacht cackled. "And you even brought us a new toy!"

The Proto Gaia charged with a beam saber slice that slammed against the Eclipse's sword. The GOUF swept in from behind, sword blazing only for the Proto Savior to shower it with firepower and drive it back. Emily surged forward and sent the Gaia reeling with a hard knee to the chest as she closed in for the kill, the Savior thrust its shield into the path of the Eclipse's beam sword, spoiling the blow. The Gaia whirled around and charged in from behind, beam saber held high

Emily clenched her teeth and fired the Eclipse's thrusters to throw her mobile suit to the side, dodging the Gaia's finishing strike and with a crash, she slammed her sword down against the Gaia's shield and sent it stumbling away.

"Well," Lilith said with an approving smirk, "that's not too bad."

Emily glared back. "You have no idea."

Rattling under a volley of missiles, the Destiny Gundam whirled through the smoke and came down with a crash onto a Blaze ZAKU Warrior struggling to hold the Gundam at bay, and sliced it in half with the Arondight. Shinn charged through the ZAKU's flaming wreckage and brought his sword down again; the Slash ZAKU Phantom in front of him desperately blocked the blow with its beam axe, leaving the two mobile suits struggling together amid flying sparks.

Shinn glanced over his shoulder. "Stella!"

Beams came slicing down from above and the Gaia Gundam roared into the fight with a scream from Stella. The ZAKU backed away and tried to return fire with its beam Gatlings but too late, as the Destiny slashed it in half instead.

"Stella, fall back and use the sniper rifle," Shinn instructed. "I'll "

Another flurry of beams sliced through the battlefield but this time a squad of Strike Daggers from Copernicus's defense force moved in, beam rifles blazing.

"Are they allies?" asked Stella.

"Something like that," replied Shinn. "Jesus, took them long enough "

The Strike Daggers moved in but one of them immediately exploded, speared through the chest on a beam shot from nowhere. Shinn blinked in surprise and scanned the skies, just in time to catch a DOM Trooper come streaking out of the sky with a quartet of ZAKUs at its flanks. The DOM leveled off the Barrus cannon in its right hand and the Gigalauncher in its left and opened fire, forcing Shinn back on the defensive and the ZAKUs swept down like hawks to shower the Daggers with beam fire and blow away two more of their number.

"Well, maybe you guys won't be any help," Shinn growled. The DOM rushed in with a beam barrage that forced the Destiny back behind its beam shield and as it passed by, he whipped around and cut the Barrus cannon in two with his sword. Undeterred, the DOM wheeled around with its beam saber drawn and the two mobile suits came together with a crash. "Stella, take care of the ZAKUs while I deal with this guy!"

"I'm surprised that a great Coordinator war hero like you would side with these vermin," screamed Rudolf as the GOUF Ignited's sword slammed down against the Infinite Justice's beam saber. "After who your father was and the things you did in the war, I would think you'd be on our side!"

Athrun ground his teeth as the two mobile suits struggled against each other. "Let me guess, you think wiping out the Naturals is a good idea too?"

The GOUF surged forward and threw the Infinite Justice back. "That is the fate of all inferior species!" Rudolf roared, and the GOUF charged with a furious sword hack. Athrun darted aside, beam saber ready, and whirled around to aim at the GOUF's waist but it turned to jam its shield into the saber's path and deflect the blow.

"'Inferior species,' huh?" muttered Athrun. "Is that why our birthrates dropped to unsustainable levels among the third-generation Coordinators? Is that why we got wiped out by that 'inferior species?'" The two mobile suits darted apart and the GOUF deployed its left-hand heat rod, only for the Justice to slice it in two. "Spend enough time here, on Earth, among people who suffer the same as the Coordinators did, and you'll understand just how wrong you are!"

"No!" shrieked Rudolf, and the GOUF came back down with a punishing two-handed sword blow and sent the Justice skidding back through the dust. "I am faster, smarter, stronger, healthier, more resilient, better in every way than one of those Natural scum!" He brought the sword back down against the Justice's saber. "We Coordinators possess in us the very best qualities of all humankind qualities only a handful of the un-evolved ever managed to obtain, qualities that now inhabit an entire people! You will not tell me that we are no better than those subhumans!"

Athrun scowled as the GOUF's monoeye flashed furiously at him. "Yes, you do possess all those qualities," he said, "especially the hatred!"

Rudolf gnashed his teeth and attacked again, the Justice parried the blow, and the two mobile suits returned to their swordfight.

A wave of beam shots lanced out of the sky and forced Trojan's DOM Trooper to dive to the right. From above, a pair of Slash ZAKU Warriors lined up behind the charging GOUF Ignited to deflect Trojan's return fire with their shields, and the GOUF rammed head-on into the DOM with its shoulder. Trojan yanked the controls back and sent the DOM staggering away from the GOUF's sweeping sword blow.

He glanced up at the two ZAKUs even as the GOUF's sword came down against the DOM's rifle-mounted sabers. The ZAKUs were moving towards something else, built into the lunar surface

"The hell are they doing?" Trojan muttered, but turned his attention back towards the GOUF as the blue mobile suit surged towards him again. "Lily, the ZAKUs!"

"I'm trying!" Lily wailed, and up above the Vent Savior slalomed through a storm of beam fire from two more ZAKU Warriors. "What's gotten into these guys anyways?!"

Trojan opened his mouth to answer, but the GOUF slammed him back with an overhead sword blow. He staggered backwards and brought up his Gigalauncher to fire back, showering the GOUF with beam blasts. It darted to the right and Trojan followed after it

A moment later, a burst of fire flared up in a space next to a metal structure on the lunar surface and with a flicker, two more Blaze ZAKU Warriors suddenly materialized, standing around a tall metal cylinder attached to the structure the structure that Trojan suddenly recognized as a vent that was part of Copernicus's environmental systems, with access to the air circulation network.

"Mirage Colloid?" he muttered. "What are they trying to hide?"

"What's that thing?!" Lily exclaimed; the Vent Savior ducked down closer to the shots, even as one of the new ZAKUs broke off from the cylinder to shower the incoming silver mobile suit with missiles and the other furiously set to work on the cylinder's base. Trojan ducked around from the GOUF and whirled around to face the cylinder but the GOUF snaked its heat rod around the DOM's Gigalauncher and yanked it free from Trojan's hand, forcing him to spin around again and defend himself. Lily darted by the cylinder with the zoom activated. "Trojan, what does 'GB' stand for?"

"Hell if I know," Trojan grunted, and fell into a stance to take the GOUF on again before a shock of realization ran through him. "Wait...GB, on a cylinder, attached to a vent for the circulation system...?" He jetted to the side and stole another magnified glance at the cylinder and the skull and crossbones symbol on its side. "Oh no..." He slammed a hand onto the transmit button and hoped it wasn't too late.

Battleship Minerva

"Nerve gas?!" Meyrin Hawke yelped, and the words roared through the Minerva's bridge and hung like a cloud of the poison itself. "Trojan, are you sure?"

Trojan's face was replaced on the auxiliary screen by an image of the uncovered cylinder, skull and crossbones and all. "That's what it looks like, and I don't think we can afford to take chances."

"Captain, more heat signatures!" Burt interrupted, and the tactical map flickered to life with dots representing mobile suits rising out of nothingness all of them, all over the crater around Copernicus, standing by those towering cylinders on the lunar surface.

"Oh my God," Roxy started, "are those all gas containers?"

"They must have used Mirage Colloid to sneak their troops onto the surface," Abbey continued.

"And the other half to distract us," Meyrin finished. "Oh, God..." She straightened up in her chair and willed herself calm. "Order the mechanics outside back into the ship. Chen, charge the Tannhäuser. We'll blast our way through the rubble and attack the ZAFT forces ourselves."

"But we would risk damage to the ship " Chen began.

"I don't care," Meyrin shot back. "Roxy, tell our pilots to ignore the enemy mobile suits and destroy those cylinders instead, before they can start "

The auxiliary screen flashed to life with Meriol's pale, shaken face on it. "Captain Hawke, do you see what they're doing out there?"

Meyrin pinched the bridge of her nose and pushed the horror and anger back down. She would have to stay calm that was what her crew needed, what Meriol needed, what everyone needed. "I know. I had no idea they would go this far." She looked back up. "We're going to blast our way out with the Tannhäuser. What can you do?"

"I'm still stuck in the hangar," Meriol answered, "but if we can get these civilians somewhere safe, we can launch the mobile suits."

"The safest place is probably aboard the Ortygia," Abbey spoke up.

"Probably," Meyrin agreed. "Just focus on getting people evacuated. We'll do what we can to stop the gas."

She glanced at the bridge display, and the dozen cylinders standing tall and terrifying over the gray dust of the Moon.

Whatever it is we can do...

All at once, the agony and fear and suffering of ten million people in the vast subterranean cityscape of Copernicus slammed into Emily's consciousness and sent her back on her heels just in time for the Proto Savior to slam her back with a knee to the Eclipse's chest.

Emily's head swam. All those people, seized in fear as they suddenly died as they breathed in poison gas and began to suffocate clawing at themselves, gasping for breath, dying in scores her blood ran cold and her muscles froze

"So I guess the cat's out of the bag," Varder said with a laugh, and the Proto Gaia charged in with its saber held high. "Pretty impressive, eh, Miss Angel of Death?"

The words ripped up through the cloud of horror and Emily jammed the controls back and jetted away from Varder's victorious saber swing. He surged after her and followed it up with another swing a blow easily blocked by the Eclipse's beam sword.

"You you're killing them all!" Emily shouted. The death swirled around her again, clouding her concentration and choking her mind. Her stomach churned and she struggled to focus on the enemy, through the flickering sparks. "Why ?!"

"Why?" Varder cackled, and he sent the Eclipse reeling with a swing. "It's a simple fact of warfare, honey. The Alliance's advantage has always been with its industrial capacity and its massive population relative to ours." He grinned back, and Emily's world began to sway. "We're just reducing them. And if it means ridding the world of some vermin, well, that's just a nice little bonus."

The Proto Savior roared in from behind and slammed into the Eclipse with a bone-jarring crash. Emily fought against the horror rising above her consciousness and drowning her thoughts and the voice

"I've had enough of this," Lilith growled, and the Proto Savior backed away and rose up into the black sky. "Varder, finish her off. We have work to do."

"Always business with you," Varder sighed, and the Proto Gaia leveled off its beam rifle. "Well, it's been fun."

Emily squeezed her eyes shut. Her father was there, stark and clear among the darkening cloud of death still her overlord, still holding her reins, and after all this she was still the perfect little weapon he had wanted. She fought the Alliance and she was still the very killing machine he had wanted. The very killing machine whose first victim had been her own mother. And now, surrounded by all this agony and horror

She will be our angel of death.

Emily screamed in pain and the seed burst.

The Eclipse charged forward with a blaze of afterimages and a brilliant flash of light from the Voiture Lumiere and Varder had barely enough time to blink before the Eclipse had torn his beam rifle from his hand and sent the Proto Gaia crashing into the dust with a tooth-rattling kick to the face and another to the torso. The Proto Savior fired a cloud of missiles from its Ratha pack's arms but the Eclipse merely waved at them, white energy dancing around the cockpit, and sent them veering off course and into the ground. Lilith gaped in disbelief just before the Eclipse was there to slam its beam sword down onto the Proto Savior's shield.

Emily ground her teeth as she pushed away the pain and horror with nothing but pulsing, burning fury.

She will be our angel of death.

"Shinn," Stella's voice whispered fearfully through the Destiny's cockpit, "are they...are they all gonna die...?"

Shinn barely heard Stella as his mind swayed, swamped by the vortex of death spiraling up from Copernicus. He looked up at the feeling of danger and jammed his sword into the path of the DOM's upturned beam saber, then flung the purple mobile suit back with all of his Gundam's might.

"You bastards," Shinn snarled, and charged forward as the ZAFT mobile suits began to pull back behind a curtain of beam fire. "You bastards!" The Destiny darted around their fire, afterimages filling the sky. "You goddamned bastards!"

The Gaia leveled off its rifle and opened fire to pick off one of the ZAKUs; the survivors backed away and the DOM charged forward with its saber raised towards the Destiny.

Shinn sent his Gundam roaring forward with a scream. "I'LL NEVER FORGIVE YOU FOR THIS!"

The DOM opened fire with its scattering beam cannon but the Destiny lurched to the side in a flurry of afterimages and sawed the DOM in two at the waist with its beam sword. The Gundam crashed down into the dust as the DOM exploded, and Shinn turned his furious, tear-clouded eyes towards the remaining ZAKUs backing away as they were under Stella's murderous beam fire.

"All you've done here since coming back is slaughter people," Shinn snarled, "and I won't let you anymore!"

Athrun forced the pain out of his consciousness as he traded sword blows with Rudolf's gleaming GOUF Ignited, and struggled to ignore the pilot's victorious cackling.

"So, are you impressed with Hell's Wind?" Rudolf laughed, and the GOUF brought its sword down with a crash onto the Infinite Justice's beam saber, as though punctuating its point. "Doesn't it just take your breath away?!"

Athrun scowled and slammed the Justice's knee up into the GOUF's chest; Rudolf grunted under the blow and darted back, before he leveled off his mobile suit's left arm and showered the Justice with beam bolts.

"I can't really see the Coordinators as some kind of superior being when they do shit like this," Athrun snarled back; the Justice somersaulted over the GOUF's shots and came back down with an overhead saber swing that was quickly blocked by the GOUF's beam sword, and the two mobile suits exchanged blows again.

"And I can't abide a race that destroys a superior people in the name of 'progress' and 'cleansing,'" Rudolf shot back, "so I guess that just makes us even!" The GOUF jammed its sword upward to stop the Justice's saber swing towards the golden mobile suit's head. "Like you have any right to decry us for this! As grisly as it may be, the Naturals have proven time and time again that they only want to destroy us. This the only way us Coordinators will ever have peace and security." His lips twisted into a wicked smile. "You should know that better than all of us. You've been here for the height of Blue Cosmos's open season on our people."

The GOUF planted its feet into the dust, and Athrun's eyes darted back and forth, seeking an opening. "I have been here for all that," he said, "and I've seen Naturals do terrible things to Coordinators." The Justice brought its knee up again, into the GOUF's chest; and then, with a crash, the Justice surged forward and drove the GOUF back with a punishing series of saber blows. "And I've also seen Naturals sacrifice their lives to protect the same Coordinators that you abandoned to Blue Cosmos!" The Justice ducked beneath one of the GOUF's frantic sword swings and slammed its shoulder into the golden machine's chest to throw it back and then sent it reeling with another devastating sword blow. "So don't tell me what I should know about Naturals and Coordinators!"

Rudolf snarled in fury and lashed out with his right-hand heat rod; Athrun slashed it in two with his beam saber and went back on the attack.

"You just don't understand!" Varder Ehrmacht roared as the beam sabers clashed and he struggled to keep up with the blindingly-fast Gundam Eclipse. "No Natural could ever understand what we've been through!" The Proto Gaia fell to one knee and jammed its saber up to stop a devastating sword blow from the Eclipse. "The Naturals have been trying to destroy us for decades! With the Requiem, they came closer than ever before to actually succeeding! What are we supposed to do?!"

Emily drove the Proto Gaia forward with a wordless scream and then rammed the Gundam hard in the chest with her machine's right knee. Varder backpedaled desperately as the Eclipse closed in only for the Proto Savior to let loose a storm of firepower between the two combatants and shoot by in mobile armor mode.

"Varder, pull back!" Lilith shouted. "Back on top!"

The Proto Gaia vaulted off the ground and over a sweeping sword strike from the Eclipse, and Emily rocketed after it. The red mobile suit slammed down onto the Proto Savior's back and the two mobile suits rocketed around with a punishing barrage of firepower. Emily ground her teeth and hurled the Eclipse through it, afterimages flying and the two Gundams' beam blades crashed together again in a shower of sparks.

"The Coordinators have always had to fight for their right to exist," Varder snarled, as the Proto Savior wheeled around again. "They tried to kill us all with nuclear weapons during the Valentine War and the beginning of the Junius War! They actually did with the Requiem! Why should we not take what's rightfully ours and make sure they can never threaten us again?!" The blades clashed again. "Tell me!"

The Proto Savior fired its plasma cannons and forced the Eclipse on the defensive; Emily scowled up at the two mobile suits and darted through the blasts to pound the Proto Gaia's saber and shield with her beam sword.

"You bunch of murderers," she growled, "killing people like they're all the same..."

"That's a laugh, coming from the likes of you!" Lilith shot back. The Proto Gaia flung the Eclipse away, just in time for the Proto Savior to pummel Emily's beam shields with beam fire.

"If you think we should have just stayed at Mars, you're sorely mistaken!" Varder added, and rushed in atop the Proto Savior to slam the Eclipse back with its saber. "You damned Naturals can't keep us from humanity's only home!"

ZAFT Nazca-class destroyer Caernafon

"Vulture Two reports that the gas has reached the lower residential sectors," Glasgow reported from his chair by the captain's seat, glancing across the mapping console towards Graves. "And Banshee One says that nobody has yet tried to retake the controls for the circulation system."

Leaning back in his chair, Graves flashed a victorious smile. "Then it all went pretty much flawlessly," he said with a shrug. "Tell Banshee One to destroy the circulation controls and lock the system open. Vultures will abandon the cylinders they're pretty much empty by now anyway and return to the fleet. I think our work here is done." He idly stared down at his fingernails. "Nasty stuff, that Sarin. Kills in about a minute if you get enough of it in there and we injected enough to kill ten million people. They must be almost all dead by now."

Glasgow looked back towards Copernicus, bearing some small scars of the battle on its outer surface and studded with empty gas canisters. He hated to think of what was going on inside. Nerve gas did awful things to people, and Copernicus had always been fairly neutral. He couldn't really say they deserved this.

He shook his head. There was no such thing as neutrality. Not in this war.

"Order all units to retreat at once. Fire the flares and activate the blinders. Once we get our troops back aboard, set course at top speed for our next target." He glanced back at Graves. "The operation seems to have gone flawlessly. Congratulations, Mr. Graves."

Graves grinned back. "It's what I do."

Earth Alliance Girty Lue-class battleship Nana Buluku, orbit of the Moon

The engines of the Nana Buluku hummed through the ship's hull, into the bridge, into Gerhardt von Oldendorf's brain as he sat back in the right-hand chair and waited. The noises of the bridge of a warship on the move faded away as his mind churned. So that little plan had not been an unmitigated disaster it had only been a mitigated disaster. How comforting.

He cracked open his eyes and glanced at the other seat, where Montgomery, the Phantom Pain officer with the curly mustache, was handing out orders. He spared a sheepish look towards Gerhardt. "We're almost out of range from Copernicus now, sir," he said. "Soon we'll be able to drop the Colloid."

Gerhardt waved it off. "Just as well. The ZAFT forces seem to be heading in the opposite direction, towards Sagan City." He peered out the bridge windows, over the lifeless surface of Earth's faithful celestial companion. The Alliance had sent troops from Arzachel and the newly-rebuilt base at Ptolemaeus, but the ZAFT fleet would be long gone towards Posidonius crater, the home of the major manufacturing centers of Sagan City. Their loss would seriously cripple Actaeon Industries, as the loss of Copernicus's industrial sector would put a dent in the bottom lines of the Fujiyama Company and Azrael Conglomerate in fact, every major supplier for the Alliance military had factories at Copernicus. The Alliance would not begin to feel the pain not yet but its manufacturers would.

But the real damage of this attack...that was yet to be calculated. Lord Djibril would have to explain to the Earth Sphere why ZAFT had just been able to slaughter the ten million residents of the supposedly neutral Copernicus with so little resistance.

To think all that had happened, and he had still let Emily get away.

Well, he reminded himself, there will be other chances.

Battleship Minerva

Silence reigned in the Minerva's bridge as the auxiliary screens showed camera pans of Copernicus's interior and the bleeding, filthy corpses strewn throughout the streets. Cars smashed, bodies twisted into hideous poses, fires burning, all victims of an invisible cloud of death. The Minerva's bridge crew watched in silent horror.

"Um, captain," Burt started quietly with a wavering voice, "that ZAFT fleet is retreating behind blinders and combat flares."

Meyrin swallowed hard and turned away from the image of a dead woman with a foaming mouth and a face that looked too much line Luna's for her to bear. "Follow their course," she ordered softly. "Chen, is the Tannhäuser ready?"

"Y-Yes ma'am."

"Then fire it and clear out that debris in front of us."

The Minerva rocked as the Tannhäuser sliced through the wreckage blocking the port's opening, and with a thundering blast, the way was clear and the debris rained down on the Minerva's hull. Meyrin peered through the smoke, at the dozen empty gas cylinders standing sentinel over the dead lunar landscape, and the dead cityscape underneath.

"Burt, do you have a course projection yet?" she asked.

"A very rough guesstimate," Burt answered. "Based on the heading they're taking right now, they could be heading towards another major lunar city. But that might change."

Meyrin cringed and flipped a switch on her armrest, and the pictures of horror on the auxiliary screen were immediately replaced by a pale-faced Meriol on the Ortygia. "Meriol, is everyone on your end alright?"

Meriol paused, and Meyrin could tell by her red eyes and wavering voice that it was even worse. "The Ortygia's crew is fine. They were all wearing space suits. But the civilians trying to evacuate..." She shook her head. "I should have let them on. I shouldn't have made them wait. I could have "

"Don't start that," Meyrin interrupted, willing her voice to be firm. "Don't feel guilty. Neither of us anticipated that ZAFT would go this far." She shook her head and crushed the voice of doubt in her own mind. "They attacked convoys and Gagarin City was a Eurasian colony full of refugees and factories, but this..."

Meriol rubbed her eyes and straightened up. "I know," she said quietly, and seemed to be pushing down the emotion herself. "I know. It's just...we had to watch them die, Meyrin. And...I don't think I can forget that."

"And you shouldn't. None of us should." She glanced back up at Burt. "Are they still on course for Sagan City?"

"So far."

"Alright." Meyrin turned back towards the auxiliary screen. "Listen to me, Meriol. That ZAFT fleet is pulling back, and they may well be heading for another lunar city to do the same. The Minerva is faster. We can beat them to Sagan City or wherever else they're going, but we need to get going now. And we need your help. Stay in touch and join us from behind them, so we can tear them apart before they can do this to another city."

There was silence for a moment before Meriol nodded. "Right. Of course. We'll launch as soon as we can, and follow your lead."

Meyrin smiled back grimly. "Then we'll get going. Minerva, prepare to depart."

The unmistakable signal of the emotional hurricane churning inside Emily von Oldendorf led Rau to that comforting metal womb of self-pity and angst, the Minerva's interior observation deck. It seemed to be the favored place for the Minerva's less emotionally stable youngsters to go suffer or something, and right now Emily was there, watching the lunar mountains and mares slide by as the Minerva glided over the dust towards what Captain Hawke believed was ZAFT's next target on the Moon.

Obviously, things had worked out perfectly.

Emily jumped at the sound of his boots hitting the deck, and he smiled reassuringly at her. "I hear you had quite an ordeal in Copernicus."

"S-Something like that."

"Something like that, eh?" he asked. "I'm told you were captured by your father. Are you alright?"

Emily glanced up at the stars awkwardly. "I guess."

"You're unhappy. Is it all from the battle?"

"No, it's..." She leaned her head against the window and closed her eyes. "The things he said to me."


"He said...that I'm exactly what he wanted me to be. That..." She rubbed a tear from her eyes. "That it's my fault my mother died." She looked back up at Rau. "He made my mother have me even though she couldn't take it, and she only lasted a few years before she died. From the strain of having us and raising us. And..." She looked down at her hands. "And look at me now."

Rau nodded solemnly. "You wanted to make the power he gave you your own," he said, "but in doing so, you had to become exactly what he wanted you to be." He thoughtfully stroked his chin. "Although it's curious that he's pleased to see you've become a hero of the Resistance against the Alliance. He must be a very ambitious man."

"He is," sighed Emily.

"Well," Rau said, and put a comforting hand on her shoulder, "there's still a way forward, you know." She looked up at him again, and by the pleading look in her eyes, Rau knew he was on the right track. "If he wants you to destroy the Alliance for him, then fine. You can do that. You know well how evil they can be. And you've just seen how evil ZAFT and the Coordinators can be." He shrugged. "What solution is there left but to destroy them both?"

They both looked at the screen mounted over the observation deck's door as it flickered to life and Rau barely contained his grin.

Ah, Valentine, you never let me down.

On the screen, he instantly recognized Messiah's control room, with the stately Valentine Sunogachi behind a raised podium emblazoned with the ZAFT logo and soldiers packed onto the command dais, the desk and chair retracted for more floor space.

"Speak of the devil," Rau said with a smirk, and gestured up towards the screen. "If you need anymore convincing, Emily, then watch this."

"People of the Earth Sphere," boomed Valentine Sunogachi, "you have no doubt heard by now the news from the Moon. But if you have not, then allow me to inform you that at this hour there is nothing left alive within the city of Copernicus. Earlier today, forces under my command attacked Copernicus with poison gas, destroying the population and the industrial sector that provides your evil little leaders with their weapons. My forces were thorough; there is nothing left.

"This now is the fate that awaits all those who side against us with the Alliance. We demand security at Lagrange Point 5 for our people; reparations for what was done to them on the sixteenth of January, CE 74; unilateral disbandment and disarmament of the Earth Alliance and OMNI Enforcer; wholesale reduction of the militaries of every nation on Earth; and the immediate surrender of all strategic weapons. Until every one of these conditions is met, we will draw from the Earth Sphere blood and pain and treasure to match what we have lost. Don't think I am bluffing; ask the people of Copernicus about that."

Emily blanched. "She's just going to kill everyone until we make her dictator?"

"Not very subtle," agreed Rau with a grin.

"Look into yourselves and you will see that what we demand is just," Valentine continued. "For sixty years we have suffered your cruelty. You blamed us for disease, persecuted us across the Earth, and drove us into space. You tried to starve us to death in our own colonies. You tried to destroy us with nuclear weapons, on three separate occasions in two different wars. And then, the Requiem. Look into yourselves and you will see why at last we have struck back in kind.

"For we fear you have forgotten what you have done to us. You drove us off to Mars and thought that was the last of us but we have returned, and we are here to share with you the horror you brought upon us, until the scales of justice are balanced and our people are secure." She spread out her arms. "Look upon us, people of the Earth Sphere, and tremble in fear! We have returned from hell to deliver divine judgment upon you! We bear on our bodies and souls the scars of sixty years of oppression and cruelty! We have not forgotten you have! But we will make you "

She thrust her fist into the air, as did the soldiers before her.


To be continued...