Phase 17 - Frozen

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED ETERNITY

Phase 17 - Frozen

May 2nd, CE 77 - ZAFT Nazca-class destroyer Caernafon, the Moon

"I'm not doing this because we've lost faith in you, Glasgow," Kira Yamato spoke from the Caernafon's auxiliary screen on the bridge, and Glasgow squirmed uncomfortably in the command chair. "But the fact remains that we have defeated the Minerva before. We can do it again, especially now that their complement is weakened, and you can get the next phase over with."

"I know, sir," Glasgow answered, "I'm just...surprised that someone of your stature is joining an operation like this."

Kira arched the eyebrow over his good eye. "Oh?"

"It's not very...forward-looking, sir," protested Glasgow. "If you should be captured or this war should end in our surrender, then you'll be held responsible "

"I'll be held responsible for everything bad that's ever happened in the Earth Sphere, including bad weather," Kira said with a dismissive wave. "We are not going to lose this war, Glasgow. We are playing for keeps. That's why we're even running this operation."

Glasgow nodded. "I understand, sir. We will await your arrival before we commence with the next phase."

The screen shut off and Leons Graves drifted up from the forward section of the bridge with a smirk. "Called onto the carpet by the boss himself, eh? Happens to the best of us."

"Don't you start," Glasgow grumbled. "Dammit, now I've got the Vice Marshal breathing down my neck too. Graves, there had better not be any mistakes."

Graves crossed his arms triumphantly. "You sell me short, commander."

Earth Alliance battleship Charlemagne, the Moon

On the Charlemagne's bridge, Danilov listened with half an ear as Joaquin raged on the bridge auxiliary screen. He had more important things to worry about than a careerist's fragile ego, like the fast-approaching Sagan City and the faster-approaching Minerva.

"Colonel Joaquin," Danilov spoke up at last, "ZAFT's Minerva-class ship is on the move for Sagan City as well. And intel picked up two more warships approaching the Posidonius region as well, likely Resistance. Between them, my ship, the Minerva, and this ZAFT fleet, it's going to be a hectic battle. I don't expect to destroy the entire ZAFT force so you should put yourself in position to intercept survivors."

Joaquin seemed to purple in rage. "You mean to tell me you want me to clean up your leftovers?"

"Success is its own glory, colonel." He glanced over at the communication console. "We're beginning our approach. We will keep you posted. Charlemagne, out."

Danilov sat back with a grateful sigh as Joaquin's face vanished and instead fixed his eyes far ahead, over the lunar surface. Somewhere over the Moon's craggy horizon lay Posidonius Crater and the forces of the world were converging there.

"Observe the battle?" Yukiko echoed in surprise, as she and Sven drifted together onto the Charlemagne's observation deck. "What, is my baby not running right or something?"

Sven shifted uncomfortably. "I need more combat data for fine-tuning the Crusader's beam wing outputs. It would help to have a pair of eyes examining the combat performance personally, in addition to raw data."

Yukiko frowned. "Won't it be dangerous?"

"The Charlemagne will not be in combat range. You will be safe."

"Alright then." She crossed her arms. "You think you're going to be fighting at Sagan City?"

"Of course we will," Sven answered. "We have been ordered to undertake this mission by Lord Djibril himself."

"And the Minerva?"

Sven's expression darkened. "We will deal with the Minerva as it becomes necessary."

With the day's work done and the Hail Buster returning to sleep in its hangar brace, Merau Seraux heaved a sigh and landed softly on the gantry in front of the mobile suit's cockpit hatch. It had been too long since she had used it in battle; she hoped her skills weren't getting rusty, because there was only so much a simulator could do. It wasn't real combat.

After all, people actually died in real combat.

Merau cast a glance to her right, where the Gale Strike stood by, and Erin stood in front of it, leaning heavily against the rail but Merau knew that look on her face.

"So," she said, sliding over next to Erin and ignoring her startled look, "what's got you in angst mode?"

Erin rolled her eyes. "'Angst mode?'"

"Seems like everyone's doing it these days. So what's going on? Grey is off in the galley, by the way."

"W-What makes you think I care?"

Merau grinned back. "'cuz you've got that stupid look on your face that girls get when they think about boys they like."

"I'm not!" Erin sputtered. "Anyways, what business is it of yours?"

"Well, when people get like that, they tend to do stupid things like try to prove their power or whatever," Merau explained with a shrug. "And none of us who have been here since the ship's first launch are still here because we did something stupid. Not against the Minerva. So whatever problems you're having, it's best to get them all cleared up." She crossed her arms with finality. "Never know what's gonna happen tomorrow, after all."

Erin frowned back. "Tell that to Grey. Freaking has the hots for the enemy "

Merau's grin disappeared. "No he doesn't."


"It's not that Angel of Death girl that bothers him so much," Merau answered. "It's where it all happened. At Volgograd and Novorossiysk. He saw stuff he has never seen before. Never expected. Did things he can't forgive himself for."

"If you're talking about those 'massacres,'" Erin shot back, "I don't see why he believes them "

"Of course he believes them," Merau interrupted. "We were there. We carried it out."

Erin blanched, and Merau moved to leave. "Y-You're joking," Erin stammered. "We wouldn't "

"Oh, we would," replied Merau. "And you'd better get used to it, because they're gonna tell you to do it soon too."

"It's ugly."

Working on a laptop by the Nix Providence's open cockpit hatch, Kelly Maynard looked up in surprise and found Mudie Holcroft there, drifting up, staring neutrally at the bulky Gundam's face.

"I'm sorry?"

"This mobile suit. It's ugly."

Kelly glanced at the Nix Providence and shrugged no argument there. The original Providence, judging by the intelligence videos, had been a hulking but somehow still elegant beast on the battlefield. The Luna Project technicians had found a way to take the ethereal elegance of the original unit and screw it all up.

On the other hand, the Nix Providence carried an advanced form of the DRAGOON system that allowed use of remote weapons without those weird spatial awareness powers, so Kelly was willing to accept ugliness.

"It gets the job done," she defended with a shrug.

"They're all ugly," Mudie grumbled. Kelly glanced up inquisitively. "Even mine."

With that, Mudie pushed off from the Nix Providence's armor and headed off towards the hangar doors, leaving Kelly behind to shake her head. Mudie Holcroft was one of the original members of the Phantom Pain, there for the worst of its operations and the hardest of its existence. Of course she was crazy.

Everyone, she thought, was crazy.

Another day, another report secretly typed up in the Nebula Blitz's cockpit, and Travis Alterman was beginning to feel that damnable itch for combat. It had been too long. Only once had he gone out so far with this red beast and that was far too little.

He sat back and pondered. The Charlemagne, heading to Sagan City as was the Minerva, both of them presumably with the intent of destroying the ZAFT fleet that had just gassed Copernicus. It was true to type for the Minerva and the Charlemagne had its orders, but Ivan Danilov was not the sort of man to turn so easily from one foe to another. He was a gifted commander, but that conscience of his was going to get him into trouble.

And of course, there were politics to consider. Travis hated those they were always so damned confusing but he would hardly be much of an informant if he didn't. A strong cooperative showing between the Charlemagne and the Minerva would surely convince his superiors that the civil war was worth abandoning in favor of the war with ZAFT. Surely the Coordinators were the more pressing foe now.

He breathed out a sigh through his nose and scanned over his report. Of course, his superiors would need no convincing after Copernicus. Ten million filthy, contorted corpses spoke quite clearly.

All that remained, then, was to see what Danilov would do at Sagan City and on that hinged more than the good captain knew.

Battleship Minerva, the Moon

The door of the Minerva's computer room slid open and Rau Le Creuset steeled himself for the coming barrage as Shinn Asuka made his way inside. The door slammed shut behind him and Rau spared the angry Newtype a glance.

"You make the most dramatic of entrances," Rau sniffed.

"I try," Shinn shot back, and came to a stop in front of Rau with his hand in his pocket, thumb running over the safety of a handgun. "So I've been talking with Emily."

"Have you now."

"Yeah. She's been acting strange lately but," he narrowed his eyes, "I guess I don't need to tell you that."

Rau smirked back. "Really."

"So I guess I'll cut to the chase," Shinn said and faster than Rau could see, he reached forward, seized a handful of Rau's coat, and yanked the masked man close. "What the hell are you doing to her?"

"What are you talking "

"Don't play dumb with me, asshole," Shinn snarled. "It's one thing for her to shut out Trojan and Lily. They're new. They haven't earned her trust. But it's another thing entirely for her to shut me out and after you've been spending all that time with her. So let's have it. What the hell are you doing to her?"

Rau frowned back, mentally calling up his list of excuses. "For someone who purports to be her friend and mentor, and a Newtype to boot, you're being awfully insensitive to the poor girl's suffering. Captured by her abusive father and forced to watch as an entire city's worth of people chokes to death? Were you in her position, you would seek any comfort you could get."

"As though you have comfort to offer," snapped Shinn. "I know you weren't there for charity's sake. You don't do anything out of charity. Not helping me in Bretagne, not staying here with us, not defending the ship." He narrowed his smoldering eyes at the mask that hid Rau's face. "Athrun told me what you did to Kira Yamato. Don't think I don't believe you won't do it again to Emily."

Rau paused for a moment, weighing his options. "I'll tell you what I told her," he said. "Neither side in this war is any better than the other. The world will be no better off if ZAFT wins than if the Alliance wins. And the Resistance is no better. You know that." He inclined his head. "Novorossiysk? Argus? Carpentaria? Arnhelm? And now, Chiao Xu running off to 'negotiate' with the same people who gassed Copernicus? Victory for the Resistance would mean nothing to the masses for which you fight. Do you disagree with that?"

"You're working another angle," Shinn snarled. "I know it."

"Only an angle that others have shown her already," fired back Rau. "Ms. McGriff of the DSSD told her to use her power to end the war. Even you brought her aboard for the purpose of arming her to face her destiny. Are you telling me that I am not to shepherd her towards the goal you selected?" With that, he wrenched himself from Shinn's grip and straightened out his jacket. "I'll thank you to kindly take the paranoia and stow it, Shinn."

Shinn's blood boiled. "You know that's not what any of us meant," he growled.

"Is it," Rau replied, and smirked, setting Shinn's veins on fire again. "I am not the one who plucked her out of Lord Djibril's castle to be a soldier. I did not choose this destiny for her. You did."

With that, he gathered up his belongings and swept out, leaving Shinn behind to fume in defeat.

Lily and Trojan exchanged a nervous glance as they watched on the main screen as Stella's Gaia Gundam took on a quartet of Kerberos BuCUE Hounds in the combat simulator. The Gaia ducked around the charging mobile suits, leapt off its feet, whirled elegantly through the air, and brought down its saber with a sudden swing to lop one of the mobile suits in two. The three survivors backed away, moving to open fire with their beam cannons but the undeterred Gaia somersaulted over their heads and stabbed its saber down through a second BuCUE.

"So that's what they train Extended to do," Trojan said uneasily.

He glanced down at Lily. At Arnhelm she had been known by most to be an Extended who had been freed by a sympathetic Alliance soldier who, in turn, was killed for his troubles. In the Cosmic Era nice guys were lucky to finish at all, let alone first. But watching her stare anxiously at the screen, where Stella Loussier among the most modified of Extended was savaging simulated enemies...

Unbidden, and yet unsurprisingly, he thought of the other girl on this ship known for savaging enemies in a black mobile suit. Shinn had gone off to talk to Emily in his stead, and that had evidently not gone well. And there was that mysterious masked man, Rau Le Creuset, the ZAFT ace who hid his face.

What did Emily have to hide? Something had gone down with her father. Maybe Viveka would know but then that would be violating Emily's trust, which meant Viveka probably wouldn't say anything.

Trojan shook his head and returned his eyes to the screen, where it was all much simpler. She would tell him when she was ready and until then, all he had to do was wait.

Silence hung like a curtain in the Infinite Justice's cockpit, and in the seat, Athrun Zala glanced awkwardly around at the consoles. Usually he was in here working, but not this time. This time he simply sat back as far as he could in the cockpit seat, relishing the quiet that his deactivated Gundam allowed him from everything else. There weren't many nice quiet places on this ship where he could just sit and think.

He closed his eyes and reached out, through the ship, with his senses. Emily, Shinn, Rau their pressures were always clear, and they were always easy to find, even for his own dimmer perception. The Extended too, with their telltale distortion though Sting and Auel, still sedated in the sickbay, were a bit more challenging. Picking everyone else out was even harder.

But she wasn't hard to find.

Athrun wondered what Cagalli's pressure would have felt like. She had died before his own senses had ever awakened. But what the hot-tempered princess had in energy and motivation and passion, she didn't have in cheer however forced.

He frowned, and pondered Viveka's presence again, turning it over in his mind, finding the scars on her mind as surely as he did on her flesh. The scars were there and she would not forget them, but she was not exactly broken. And while there was certainly fire in her will to resist injustice, it did not seem to be fire directed at herself. It was as if she looked at herself, saw what she was, and simply accepted it and the pain and isolation that came with it.

But that, he reminded himself, was simply his reading into the jumble of emotions he felt from her. And she was on painkillers.

And she was no Cagalli. With Cagalli he had always needed to be her anchor, the calm and collected counterweight to her unrestrained anger and drive. It had taken two of them to make one whole person and yet here, with Viveka, someone who physically was less than whole, she had her own anchor in herself.

Maybe that was the problem. He wasn't needed.

He thought back to what Roxy had said. He could not read minds, but he could read her heart which was just as good.

Staring at the stars and the dusty rock beneath them on the Minerva's observation deck had grown tiring, so Emily had retreated back to her bunk, drifting somewhere between the beds and opting instead to stare at the ceiling.

She would have to talk to Trojan again at some point. The Minerva was not so big a ship that she could hide from him forever, and some part of her missed him anyway. But she knew she couldn't escape eventually having to tell him about her past or at least, the parts of it she knew.

That was the real problem. When she reached back into her memory, there were so many blank spots, and her father's words began to echo truer and truer in all those empty spaces. He had said she had always been meant to fight the Alliance, as she did now; without her memories, how was she going to argue against it? For all she knew, Gerhardt von Oldendorf had always intended to use her as his own weapon against the world's powers. Or maybe he was just lying. He had done plenty of that too, when she had been a child.

She would have to face Shinn again too. She felt some sort of confrontation between Shinn and Rau and as she thought of it, she remembered that she still didn't know why there was such bad blood between them. That, she supposed, was something to find out.

Emily stared up bleakly towards the ceiling and turned the thoughts over in her mind. So many issues bubbling up together, and sooner or later they were going to be unavoidable.

"Shinn," Meyrin said with an air that Shinn Asuka needed no Newtype senses to tell was disbelieving, "I don't know what went on between you two during the war, but what you're saying is kind of ridiculous. Rau has been here for about three months and all he's ever done is defend the ship. He gives us good advice and plots out working, innovative tactics for our mobile suit team." She sat back in her office chair and shrugged. "I'll admit I find the mask weird, but it's his schtick, and he does good work for us. And now you're saying he's manipulating Emily? Into doing what?"

Shinn frowned. "I'm just saying he shouldn't be trusted so much."

"Then what went on between you two?" Meyrin asked.

For a moment, Shinn considered finding Athrun and bringing him here because while it was personal in one way for Shinn, it was personal in an entirely different and perhaps more convincing way for Athrun. "Well," he started, "you ever wonder why the Junius War started in the first place?"

Meyrin furrowed her brows. "The colony drop. What else?"

"Yeah, but how did that colony ever get dropped in the first place? It's not like you can just find flare motors at the hardware store."

"We all know it was Patrick Zala loyalists who dropped Junius 7. What's that got to do with Rau?"

Shinn leaned forward. "How do you think those loyalists had access to such heavy-duty machinery as flare motors and modified, next-generation GINNs? How do you think they had access to Junius 7 itself if not for someone within ZAFT, passing them supplies and information?"

"Are you saying Rau Le Creuset arranged the Junius 7 colony drop?"


Meyrin sat back and regarded Shinn thoughtfully for a moment. "Assuming I believe that and I don't then what does that have to do with Emily?"

Shinn swallowed and searched for another avenue in his mind. "Think about it, Meyrin," he said. "Why would you start a sequel to the Valentine War if you didn't want to bring down the Alliance and ZAFT and everyone in between? But that didn't work out, and in the process it cost Rau his devoted minions."

"And you're saying he's replacing them with Emily."


Silence hung in the air between them for a moment before Meyrin sat back and ran her hands through her hair. "I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt," she said, "because I know you wouldn't just up and lie about something like this. But you're going to have to find me some proof of what you're saying. Because ever since he joined us, all he's done is help us."

"That's just what he wants you to think," Shinn protested.

"Like I said," Meyrin continued, "find me some proof."

May 3rd, CE 77 - ZAFT Minerva-class battleship Fortuna, the Moon

Kira Yamato's stomach twisted at the image on the screen. There was Glasgow's fleet, approaching Sagan City, and the Marseille III-class transport that had just delivered its replacement mobile suits and pilots cruising back to Messiah. All well and good. There was the Minerva, arcing its way around Glasgow's forces at top speed and closing in on Sagan City first clearly, to defend the colony. They could be dealt with. And there was the Alliance's titanic Charlemagne, closing in from the Debris Belt. Whether or not they were approaching at top speed, Kira could not say.

But then there was that ship.

Kira knew that ship. It was the Alexandria, tenth of the Eternal-class ships. It had been isolated at the Junius War's end, its crew decimated, abandoned to the Debris Belt and now it lay in the Resistance's hands. It was their flagship in space. And it was headed his way.

In the captain's chair, Lyle glanced up anxiously towards Kira. "Marshal, they're transmitting a white flag signal using the diplomatic code."

Kira swallowed distastefully. "I know. Chiao Xu is on that ship. I know it." He rubbed his eye and steeled himself for what was about to come. "He warned us that he was on his way to personally negotiate an end to Hell's Wind. We thought it was just a bluff, but..."

The XO glanced meaningfully at Lyle, and the captain nodded. "Shall we fire?"

"No," Kira answered, and ignored the surprised glances of all on the bridge. "Comm officer, contact Messiah and inform them of the situation. Then contact the Alexandria and tell them we will accept Chiao Xu aboard our ship for negotiations."

The shock rippled through the bridge crew's hearts, and Kira forced himself to remain calm as Lyle turned again with disbelief etched onto his face. "Marshal, sir, you're going to negotiate an end ?"

Deep within his heart, Kira felt the need to say yes to turn the ship around, to order Glasgow back home, to put an end to all of this. But she would never forgive him for turning his back on the Coordinators. "I will hear his case," he said at last. "I didn't say I would do as he asks." He waved at the comm officer. "Send the transmissions. I'll be in my office."

"That ship belongs with us," snarled Kara Guinness, floating on the Fortuna's observation deck. At her side, Gary and Juarez exchanged a glance. "I mean, what's the Resistance going to do with it? Hide in the space trash from the Alliance?"

"I wonder what they're doing here," Gary added quietly. "I mean, they don't look like they're attacking."

"Who cares?" Kara asked.

"Maybe they're here to negotiate," Juarez suggested. "Wouldn't be a bad idea. The less killing we have to do, the better."

Kara looked over suspiciously. "What do you mean?"

"Well, stuff like this," Juarez said, casting a sweeping gesture over the lunar surface before them, "is going to cost us support. We might have had some sympathizers among the Naturals before Copernicus, but now?"

"Who cares about Naturals supporting us?" Kara answered. "They don't. Don't tell me you're forgetting what they did to us."

"Kara, hating the Naturals isn't going to bring back your family," Gary spoke up, silencing them both. Kara stared over at him with wide, hurt eyes. "Seriously. Killing anybody doesn't bring back the dead."

"How can you say that?" Kara hissed, and wheeled around on Gary. "How can a Martian who lived nice and comfy at Mount Olympus even think of telling me that?"

Juarez stepped between them. "Gary, we should go," he said quickly. "Let her cool off."

"You son of a bitch," Kara continued, "this is all I've got left. All I can do anymore is strike back at the people who took everything from me. And you're telling me that's wrong?"

"I'm telling you not to be a monster," Gary shot back

Juarez quickly shoved Gary out the door and into the hallway, then turned towards Kara. "You know, I lost everything too," he said, "but he has a point. Think about it."

Before she could protest, he too was gone and the door slammed shut.

Resistance Eternal-class cruiser Alexandria, the Moon

He was such a strange man. Joseph Copland watched and reflected on the Alexandria's hangar floor, where the utility launch's hatch was wide open and waiting and Chiao Xu was approaching.

"You don't have to do this," Copland spoke up.

Chiao Xu cast him a sidelong glance. "Of course I do, Joseph," he said. "If I don't, then ZAFT will just force its way through and destroy another city."

"The Minerva will protect Sagan City."

"We cannot rely on the Minerva."

"But we always have."

Chiao Xu shook his head. "No. I have let them fight this war for too long. It has cost us everything and now it is fought between two armies with leaders that are both out of control. I must move while I still can, and give our species a chance to survive this war."

Copland frowned. "What are you talking about, sir?"

The wizened old man glanced around anxiously, and Copland felt a chill wash over him. "You know in my negotiations I have spoken with ZAFT's Vice Marshal. I suspect there's a glimmer of hope, with him. Perhaps I can get through to him, to stop this all."

"This operation?"

"This war."

"Chiao Xu, they're not going to let you. They'll kill you."

Chiao Xu closed his eyes and nodded. "Joseph," he said, and withdrew something from his pocket, "this monitor is connected to my heart. It will alert you the moment my heart stops beating and when it does, you must order the Alexandria to escape."

Copland stared down at the device for a moment in disbelief. "Sir, if you're trying to martyr yourself "

"Hardly. People like martyrs." He pressed the device into Copland's hand. "Promise me, Joseph. You know what to do."

With that, Chiao Xu turned towards the launch and stepped inside, and Copland looked back down at the monitor in his hand and felt it weighed like lead.

Earth Alliance Archangel-class battleship Lucifer, the Moon

Morgan Chevalier felt a chill wash over him as he laid eyes on the man striding down the hall before him, flanked by two armed guards. At least, Morgan assumed from the body type that it was a man because his face was hidden by a round black helmet. He watched them go uneasily as they rounded a corner.

Morgan Chevalier, of course, was well aware of the Extended. No man with a rank like his in the Earth Alliance military could not have known that the Alliance had enhanced, weaponized humans within its ranks. Most never encountered one for themselves. But some did and those that did would be faced with a choice. Most chose the easy option the one that closed their eyes and turned their faces away.

Most people, after all, weren't made for martyrdom.

He glanced over his shoulder at the sound of the pull-bar and found Colonel Joaquin approaching, with anger gleaming in his beady little eyes. "I see you've met ND HE," Joaquin said coolly as he came to a stop in front of Morgan.

"I've never seen a man in an outfit like that," he answered. "Is he an Extended?"

Joaquin arched an eyebrow suspiciously. "What concern is it of yours?"

"I'd rather know who's on my side," Morgan answered, "and who's not."

"Captain Chevalier," Joaquin said, putting his hands behind his back imperiously, "it will be better if you let your superiors make that decision."

"Then I'll hold you responsible for whatever happens," Morgan answered, and brushed by Joaquin to leave.

Yes, few soldiers in the Alliance ever encountered Extended but when they did, they faced a choice.

Battleship Minerva, outside Sagan City, the Moon

Unlike the glitzy Copernicus, the tableau of Sagan City was one of blocky industrial installations strewn across a piece of Posidonius Crater, except for the construction in one of the crater walls where the concentration of people felt the densest to Emily's Newtype senses. If the point of this coming battle was to destroy the city's industrial capacity, the layout would make that easy.

Which meant she would have her work cut out for her.

Standing on the observation deck and staring out at the grim landscape of Sagan City, she felt her way through the ship and found Trojan, a moment before he opened the door and awkwardly stepped inside. Emily cast her eyes one more time over the city and turned around to face him as the door slid shut.

"I wanted to apologize for, uh, being the way I've been lately," she said quietly. "I've...had a lot on my mind."

Trojan smiled reassuringly. "That's what I thought."

Emily crossed her arms. "I guess you want to know why."

"If you want to tell me."

She was silent as he moved next to her, and she chose her words for a moment. "Well, I guess now that you're hanging out with Extended and stuff, it wouldn't be too hard to believe." She gestured to herself. "My father put me through a bunch of military training when I was a child, then buried it using Extended technology."

Trojan blinked. "He what?"

"Yeah," Emily sighed, "that's what that was all about in Copernicus."

"Wait," Trojan sputtered, "your father did that to you?"

Emily shrugged.

"So, uh, does that make you an Extended or something?"

"No," Emily said, "I'm...something else." She studied Trojan's stunned face for a moment. "He did all that because I'm a Newtype."

"Those things the PLANT chairman was talking about a few years ago?"

Emily frowned. "It's real. I'm one. It's why I'm still alive. I had no right to survive all those battles when I first joined the Minerva. I was awful. Now," she waved a hand towards the ship's hangar, "now I'm being entrusted with power and stuff."

Trojan stayed silent a moment and Emily took the opportunity to scan over his feelings, and decided to be glad that at least he wasn't running away. "So your father wanted to, what, use you like an Extended or something?"

"Pretty much."

"And that's why he tried to kidnap you in Copernicus."

Emily nodded.

"Well," Trojan said, and scratched his head awkwardly, "ain't that some shit."

"I don't remember it all," she added, "and he told me how pleased he is with what I've become, so..." She shrugged again. "He chased off my sister, he turned me into his weapon, and he...killed my mother."

Trojan glanced around. "Your mother?"

"He...well, she was sick," Emily said, and felt the tears coming back. "And she had me because my sister didn't have the Newtype traits, and she never really recovered from it...from having me." She stopped herself as the rest of her words caught in her throat.

"," Trojan started, "do you want me to do something? Or do you want me to be a shoulder to cry on?"

Emily felt the tears stinging her eyes, and decided to quit caring, and threw herself into his arms. Trojan blinked in surprise and pulled her close, to let her sob into his chest.

"Okay," he said, "shoulder to cry on."

May 4th, CE 77 - ZAFT Minerva-class battleship Fortuna, outside Sagan City, the Moon

The door slid open and Kira Yamato met the cold brown eyes of Chiao Xu, leader of the Resistance. The old man scanned his surroundings, in the hallway just outside the hangar, and under his steely gaze Kira tried not to shiver. Chiao Xu stood before him ramrod straight, his face hard, surrounded by armed ZAFT soldiers. Wordlessly, he conducted the group to the conference room, and wordlessly he sat and watched Chiao Xu take his seat.

"Marshal Yamato," the old man said at last. "I trust you understand why I'm here."

Kira pressed down his emotions and sat back. He had his orders...but he would keep his word. "Of course. I will hear your case."

"My case is rather obvious. Gassing Copernicus was completely unjustified. Gassing Sagan City is equally unjustified. I ask you not to do so."

"And what assurance do you give that if we do, the Naturals will let us survive?" He narrowed his eye. "You should have come to make this case before we attacked Copernicus. There's no turning back now."

"Marshal," Chiao Xu said, and Kira felt a chill wash over him, "you know full well that doing the right thing requires no reward outside of itself. Do you think I don't see the tremble in your hands? Do you think I don't know your history? Do you think I don't know you stopped a slaughter like this at the height of the Valentine War? I know you are a man who would not kill millions of people for no reason. And yet you have. You have buried a good man somewhere within you and I am here to appeal to you to dig him up."

Kira swallowed and felt his heart race. Somewhere in himself, the somewhere that Chiao Xu had so effortlessly found, he knew he agreed knew that he had to throw off this charade and go and atone. But then she... "I was naïve then. I am not now."

"No. Now you are a murderer." Chiao Xu leaned forward. "I do not care what you do with me. I do not expect you to stop. In fact, if you do, I suspect your Marshal will send someone else who cannot be swayed to do it in your stead. I appeal to you instead, Kira Yamato. The man who saved the PLANTs from Murata Azrael, and Earth from Patrick Zala. Somewhere within you beats the heart of a man who fights against injustice instead of causing it. I am here to bring him back."

Kira's mind spun but then he saw her, he saw Fllay dying in a burst of fire, he saw the PLANTs annihilated by the Requiem and he seized his heart, clenched his fist, and pushed the emotion back down.

"I'm afraid you're wrong, Chiao Xu," he said quietly. "But there is one part of me that remains the same. I am a man of my word. I have let you plead your case. And," he stood up and drew a pistol from his uniform, "I am also under orders to kill you."

Chiao Xu frowned. "So be it. My work here is done."

For a moment, Kira's finger twitched over the trigger, as visions of this man leading his new world danced before his eyes but he saw Fllay and the Requiem and Valentine again, he clenched his teeth, and he pulled the trigger.

"Captain," he said into the intercom as he waved the smoke away and replaced his weapon, "send word to Glasgow. Begin the attack."

Resistance Eternal-class cruiser Alexandria, outside Sagan City, the Moon

The monitor went dead, and Joseph Copland felt his own heart sink into his stomach. Just as Chiao Xu had predicted. The rest of the bridge crew listened wordlessly to the long, heartless tone from the little device, before Copland bowed his head and threw the power switch. Their disbelief hung in the air.

In the captain's chair down in front, the young officer named Malreux in the old off-white Alliance uniform glanced up anxiously at the older man. "Orders, sir?"

Copland glanced painfully over at the Fortuna, just long enough to watch its guns angle towards the Alexandria. "Evasive action, now!"

The Alexandria obligingly swung down as the Fortuna's cannons fired, and the blue warship rocketed away before the enemy could retaliate. Copland settled back into his chair and swallowed his emotions as Malreux barked out orders and the crew set to work. He had made his promise to Chiao Xu to escape, not just for his own life and the lives of this ship's crew, but for the Resistance so that it could carry on, so that it could have a leader.

He looked back down sadly at the monitor and closed his hand around it. "Comm officer," he said, "contact the Minerva. Tell them that Chiao Xu has been killed," he glanced back at the Fortuna one more time, "and the enemy's attack is commencing."

The Vega Freedom Gundam hummed as Kira Yamato guided it into battle and steeled his nerves for a fight. Chiao Xu's words still ricocheted through his mind and sent a wash of coldness down his spine. Deep in his soul, he knew that the man Chiao Xu had sought was still there. That man would have flown into this battle on the other side, the side standing against him, protecting this city.

But that man was gone, and this one, the one whose mismatched hands rested on the Vega Freedom's shuddering controls, was the one that was left.

He looked up in surprise at a feeling of pressure up ahead and keyed on his camera's zoom feature and then he frowned in surprise, as there, floating before Sagan City, waited the black Gundam with a shimmering green beam sword.


With a flash from its eyes, the Gundam Eclipse charged.

To be continued...