Phase 25 - With Good Intentions

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED ETERNITY

Phase 25 - With Good Intentions

May 14th, CE 77 - Belém, Brazil, South America

Panicking soldiers were an ugly sight, and before the imposing eyes of Bradley Kenneth, his men were beginning to panic. They would have to stop that.

He glared up at the tactical map in the Belém base's control room. Resistance units in the east and now the ones that they were going to trap from the south, and ZAFT units from the north. He had thrown his base's entire complement into action to stem the tide. It would have to hold but not forever.

He glanced over at the auxiliary screen. "An hour, you say, Commodore Kaczynski?"

On the screen, the gruff naval officer nodded solemnly. "At flank speed, with the boats submerged. They'll take the first attack. The surface ships of my squadron will sweep in from the east. All we need you to do is hold out long enough for us to get into position."

Kenneth smirked. "Tall order there."

"I can't do anything more than that for you, general."

"I understand," answered Kenneth, "one hour." He smiled tightly. "We'll be expecting you."

Kaczynski smiled back. "Hopefully you'll be the only ones."

The Proto Abyss sliced through the murky waters of the Atlantic Ocean as they met the mighty Amazon, flanked by a squadron of ASH mobile suits, all of them in mobile armor mode. Alec Ladd scanned the surface and the dark depths, searching for underwater defenses. His part of the plan should have been simple but it never was.

Alec yanked back the controls on instinct as the water before him churned and a wave of phonon maser blasts lanced out of the deep. "All units, surface and land!" he barked, and the Proto Abyss pitched upwards. The water burst upwards as the green mobile suit lunged out of the river and went crashing onto land, followed by its ASH escorts and then the Proto Abyss rocked under the explosive power of a bazooka round to one of its shoulder shells.

"An ambush, huh," grunted Alec as he whirled around to face the attacker

Instead, he flung up the Proto Abyss's lance to deflect the three prongs of a trident aimed at his mobile suit's cockpit. He followed the weapon's shaft up to its owner, and into the two eyes of a Gundam.

Alec Ladd smirked. "Well isn't that a treat," he chuckled. "I thought I'd be fighting our good friend the traitor again...not you."

On the other side, inside the Forbidden Blue, Jane Houston tightened her fists around the controls and smirked back. "Nope. You're stuck with me." The Forbidden Blue's eyes flashed to life and the Gundam flung the Proto Abyss back with its trident. "And as you'll see," the Forbidden Blue's Geschmeidig Panzer armor slid into place over the Gundam's head and the ASHes' beams went flying in all directions, "I'm no lightweight either!"

The air filled with machinegun rounds and beam blasts as three mobile suits burst out of hiding in the city and opened fire on the ASHes. Alec staggered back under the Forbidden Blue's relentless attacks, but a moment later he slammed the Proto Abyss's feet down and swung back with a punishing lance blow that stopped its opponent's trident cold.

"I was hoping to close some unfinished business with Shinn Asuka," he laughed, "but the White Whale is a nice consolation prize!"

The Proto Abyss's eyes lit up and the Gundam surged forward with a crash.

Ed the Ripper sat back with an even sigh in the cockpit of the humming Sword Calamity, his mobile suits stomping into the city around him. Perhaps all this chaos would be useful. But his part was done and now he had a different task to accomplish in the streets of Belém.

And, as something came bursting through a nearby wall, Ed the Ripper steeled himself for that very task.

The Buster Windam charged forward with a punishing railgun blast that scattered shrapnel everywhere, driving back the Sword Calamity. Ed grunted as the red Gundam steadied itself on its heels and then sprang forward, swords drawn, and brought them down with a crash. The Buster Windam jerked back, barely missing the blades, and leveled off its beam cannon to fire; Ed ducked below the blast, then lunged forward again, and only a timely swing from a hastily-drawn beam saber saved the Buster Windam from destruction.

Sparks rained down as Ed keyed open the comm and fixed his foe with as chilling a look as he could manage. "Would've been a clever trap if not for ZAFT."

Dana Barrak scowled back, and charged forward to drive the Sword Calamity back on its heels. It unloaded a salvo of missiles from its legs that sent the Sword Calamity reeling and then the Buster Windam blasted through the smoke and forced Ed back into a swordfight.

"But speaking of traps," Ed continued through gritted teeth, and the Sword Calamity fired off a blast from its Scylla cannon, "I was hoping we could have a nice little chat about a certain operation of yours," the Sword Calamity rattled from a missile hit, "the other day!"

The Buster Windam ground to a halt as the Sword Calamity charged, and the blades met with a shower of sparks.

"You can think whatever you want," Dana hissed. "It's not my concern."

"Not your concern, huh?" shot back Ed. The Sword Calamity advanced with a punishing series of sword blows. "A thousand people dead, and it's 'not your concern,' huh?!" The Buster Windam stabbed forward; Ed ducked beneath the blow, but the Buster Windam darted aside to dodge his counterattack. He whipped around and crouched below a beam cannon blast. "'cuz it sure as hell is my concern!"

"Of course it is, Mr. Hero," snarled Dana. Her mobile suit jinked to its right to dodge another Scylla blast and closed in with a beam cannon salvo. "But that's only because you are Mr. Hero." The Buster Windam closed in for another swordfight, and Ed scanned his opponent for an opening as a knot of unease began to grow in the pit of his stomach. "To these people you can do no wrong. You have no fear. Everything goes as planned." She narrowed her eyes as the Buster Windam stormed in. "Isn't that right, Kirisaki?!"

"This may fall to our advantage," Rau explained as the CGUE Assault pulled itself to its feet, silver and white armor nearly gleaming in the sun. "Between ZAFT and the Resistance forces, the Alliance base will be too distracted to stop us from getting through."

The Gundam Eclipse came to life with a blaze of light from its eyes, dark body towering into the bright blue sky. In the cockpit, Emily cracked her knuckles and readied herself for a fight. "We did promise to help them."

Rau grinned back. "I didn't say we wouldn't "

Emily's eyes snapped up towards the sky, and the CGUE and Eclipse both lunged to the sides as a salvo of beams went sizzling by over the barge and into the water. Emily scanned the sky for a sign of their attacker, only for another beam barrage to send her scrambling for distance behind her beam shield.

"That presence," Rau breathed, just before the CGUE took a storm of beam blasts to its shoulder shields. "No doubt about it. That's her."

"That's who?"

The sky split open with the teeth-rattling roar of engines and yet another storm of beams came down around the two mobile suits. Emily drew her beam sword with a flash and tensed as a slash of red lit up in the sky, and up ahead the form of a mobile suit came shrieking out of the heavens.

"Her. The Sakura Burst. Rena Imelia."

Emily cringed. "Is this someone I should know?"

"An Alliance ace pilot with the genetic composition of a Natural but the reflexes and cognition of a Coordinator," Rau explained. "She trained some of the Alliance's best pilots, including Harrelson and Houston." He glanced down towards the river. "I will cover the barges as they escape. You will need to hold off Imelia."

The CGUE plunged down towards the riverbank, and Emily turned her eyes back towards the charging red mobile suit with a Gundam's face. It sprouted a long pointed sword blade from the oversized weapon on its right arm, and the blades met with a crash that went rattling up into Emily's brain and a woman with black hair and a stoic look appeared on the auxiliary screen.

"I was expecting to encounter Ed the Ripper here," said Rena Imelia with a scowl, "but I suppose you'll have to do in his stead, Angel of Death."

Emily frowned. "Hello to you too."

The Divine Testament Gundam surged forward with a blast of exhaust from its thrusters. "But I wonder," Rena continued, as the Testament went back on the attack, "how it could be that so many heroes were gathered here." The Eclipse rocked as the Testament brought down its sword again. "Isn't that strange?" The Testament charged forward and then a claw opened up on the end of its Trikeros Kai shield, Rena brought it down with a crash on the Eclipse's left arm, and she flung the black Gundam down towards the river. Emily yelped in surprise as she struggled to regain control just as the Testament charged in again. The Eclipse fired its thrusters to barely escape and skim over the water's surface, pursued by a wave of beam fire from the Testament.

"Natural with a Coordinator's reflexes, huh," grunted Emily; she slammed on the brakes and lunged into the Testament's face with a sword blow that was barely deflected by the red Gundam's own blade.

"So many heroes running around," Rena growled. The Testament's eyes lit up, it hurled the Eclipse back, and charged forward on the attack with a ruthless series of sword swings. "But every hero has a story!" The Testament lunged forward, blade flashing in the sun, and slammed it down against the Eclipse's blade to drive it back. "So let's hear yours!"

Emily ground her teeth in frustration as her Gundam went reeling. "You sure are talkative!" She slammed on the brakes, somersaulted over the charging Testament, and whipped around to face her crimson foe. "I never did like that in my enemies!"

The Eclipse's beam wings came to life with a brilliant flash across the cloudless blue sky, and Rena licked her lips in anticipation.

"That's right, Angel of Death," she hissed, "let's get serious."

Two pulsing red beams came streaking out of the heavens, and inside the Destiny Gundam, Shinn Asuka jammed the controls to the side. The Gaia at his side jerked away as well and the blasts went flashing between them and Shinn narrowed his eyes at the glint of metal in the sky, roaring down for battle.

"A Destiny unit?" he started. "No, that's Stella, I'll handle this one. Go ahead and find Emily."

Stella frowned. "But it looks like the Destiny," she protested.

"Yeah, but it isn't the Destiny."

Stella looked decidedly unconvinced, but the Gaia spiraled down towards the water and accelerated towards the coast. Shinn looked back up with a grimace and then dodged another wave of beam fire and with a crash, two whirling beam boomerangs pounded against his beam shield. The weapons arced their way back towards their owner

"Run out of places to hide, have you?!"

The voice shot through the Destiny's cockpit and Shinn instinctively drew the Arondight and swung upward to deflect the downward blows of two long Excalibur anti-ship swords.

"Finally I've found you!" the voice roared. "Now we can settle this score for good!" The swords came crashing down again. "And you can face justice for your crimes!" A face appeared on the auxiliary screen a face that sent a bolt of recollection up Shinn's spine.

"Hi Mare," Shinn grunted. "I see you're still an asshole."

The purple and white Destiny Impulse flung its foe away with its two blazing Excalibur swords, and in the cockpit, Mare Stroud fixed his famous foe with a hateful glare. "And I see you're still the same mouthy little shit you were on Armory 1, eh?" The Impulse charged and went back on the attack with another relentless series of sword blows. "I'll teach you some respect!"

Exhaust flying, the Impulse roared forward again, swords raised. Shinn tensed and ducked beneath the blows, rocketing backward; then he slammed on the brakes and rushed forward with an overhead hack towards the Impulse's torso. The purple mobile suit hurled its foe back and put it on the defensive with another salvo of red beam blasts. Mare came back down with a scream and a whirlwind of sword strokes, and Shinn ground his teeth as the blows rattled the Destiny.

"Just as I predicted," Mare cried, "once I get my hands on the Impulse, I'm unstoppable!" The Impulse roared in close again. "But nobody else ever understood that, so they gave you the Impulse!" Shinn jammed back the controls to avoid a sweeping attack. "And look what you did with it! You turned it into a symbol of treachery!" The Impulse pummeled the Destiny with beam blasts. "Tell me why, Asuka! Tell me why!"

"That would be a waste of breath," Shinn shot back. The Impulse charged with a winnowing horizontal sword slice; Shinn ducked beneath the blow, then whirled around with his long-range cannon extended, but the Impulse ducked around his shot with a flurry of afterimages and returned the fire twofold. "Someone like you would never understand, Mare."

"No, I guess I wouldn't!" screamed Mare, and the Impulse went back on the assault. "There's nothing you can say to excuse treason against your own people, Shinn!" The Destiny lunged below the Impulse's finishing stab and darted up from behind with a lethal blow of its own, but the Impulse whipped around, sword in hand, to deflect the attack and followed up with a horizontal slash from its other sword that nearly caught the Destiny's head. "So I will end this right here!"

Earth Alliance Siegfried-class carrier plane Volturno

The Volturno lurched into the air amid a storm of weapons fire and slowly began to ascend. On the bridge, James Liberman sat back with a sigh in the command chair and cast a tired glance down towards the battlefield. Kenneth had reinforcements from the regular forces on the way but in the meantime, the Phantom Pain had work to do and a battlefield to cleanse.

"Jet Windam squadron falling into formation," the Volturno's captain reported. "We'll begin the first run once they're ready to escort us. Target is Resistance lines within the city."

Liberman smiled thinly as he draped one leg over the other. "They are skilled at using the buildings for cover and ambushes. So let's level the playing field." The Volturno rumbled as it banked towards the city, the black Jet Windams falling into position on its flanks.

The captain nodded grimly and turned towards his crew. "Bomb crews, stand by. Prepare incendiaries for a full spread. We won't leave a thing standing."

The Volturno turned inexorably towards the city, and Liberman smirked down at it. Time to smoke out the rats.

Belém, Brazil, South America

A thundering explosion tore through the streets of Belém and sent the two combatants flying to the side. Inside the Sword Calamity, Ed slammed down the mobile suit's feet and ground to a halt in an intersection. He turned his eyes towards the source of the blast and the thick column of smoke rising up from a sheet of flame and wrecked buildings, beneath the wings of a Siegfried carrier plane.

"What the hell is this?!" he shouted, and then flung the Sword Calamity back again as another bomb came tumbling down.

On the other end of the street, Dana glowered up at the Volturno. "Liberman, what the hell do you think you're doing?!" she snapped. "We have things under control!"

"I very much doubt that," Liberman sneered, "and at any rate, I will not pass up this opportunity to destroy such a pesky nest for these Resistance rats. General Kenneth could not get the job done, but only the Phantom Pain has the will to take those steps that are necessary. Now get out of the way."

Ed stored forward with a shout and brought down his swords onto the Buster Windam's beam saber, driving the green mobile suit back. "Why am I not surprised?!" he roared, and slammed the Buster Windam away with another sword blow. "To see you doing this again!"

"That's the Phantom Pain doing this!" Dana shot back. The Buster Windam darted away from another sword stroke and fired back with a railgun burst that sent the Sword Calamity reeling.

"Well, easy mistake to make!" snarled Ed. The Buster Windam leveled off its beam cannon for a lethal blow; the Sword Calamity whirled aside and fired one of its anchors forward, lodging it in the crumbling superstructure of a damaged building. The red mobile suit gave the ruins a hard yank and brought them tumbling down; the Buster Windam jetted to the side, around the falling debris, only to throw up its saber and deflect another overhead sword attack.

"There's a difference between me and the Phantom Pain," Dana shouted, as the sparks and wreckage rained down around the two mobile suits. "I did what I did out of fear; they do it out of cruelty."

Ed arched an eyebrow. "Am I supposed to believe that?"

"Whether or not you believe it doesn't matter. The truth is the truth." The Buster Windam surged forward, throwing back its crimson adversary, and unleashed a round of missiles that forced the Sword Calamity to backflip over the projectiles and come crashing back down only to back into another swordfight with the Buster Windam. "That's right, I'll admit it! You trapped me and threw that Midnight at me, and what was I supposed to do? Just accept being slaughtered like cattle?!" The Sword Calamity shook under another railgun blast. "But that's not what's going on here, is it?!"

"Then what the hell are you getting in my way for?!" Ed screamed back.

"Because," answered Dana, "you're still my enemy!"

The Buster Windam leveled off its saber and charged.

Jane Houston groaned in frustration as the Proto Abyss's shoulder cannon shells slammed into her humming Forbidden Blue. The Geschmeidig Panzer could deflect beams perfectly fine, but solid projectiles...

"The Earth Alliance's White Whale is as formidable a foe as I've heard!" cackled Alec Ladd as his Proto Abyss lunged in with an upturned lance and brought the blade down hard against the Forbidden Blue's trident. Jane slammed back one heel into the ground, then launched herself forward and sent the Proto Abyss staggering back. She followed with a trident stab towards the enemy mobile suit's cockpit, but the Proto Abyss jammed its lance into the way and parried the blow, then brought its lance back down again only for the Forbidden Blue to deploy one of its claws to catch the blade in midair.

"I'm no Alliance pilot," Jane shot back.

Alec broke into a grin. "Even better. I'd hate to think I'm only fighting some genocidal asshole." He threw a switch on his cockpit console. "Jorgen, continue with the mission. Leave me to fight the White Whale." He licked his lips with anticipation. "I haven't had a nice clean fight for a long time."

Jane clenched her fists around the Forbidden Blue's controls, listening as her own troops moved off to chase the ZAFT units. The Proto Abyss lunged forward with a powerful overhead swing and knocked the Forbidden Blue back. The green Gundam planted its feet and fired off a pulsing Callidus blast; Jane threw her mobile suit to the right, letting the blast sizzle by, and then whipped around and swung out the trident horizontally, towards the Proto Abyss's waist. Ladd countered the blow with a swing from his trident and then took a step back, leveling off the Proto Abyss's beam cannons, and opened fire

Instead of doing damage, the blasts landed against the Forbidden Blue's Geschmeidig Panzer armor and went flying in all directions and Jane took the opportunity to storm forward, claws extended, and slam head-on into the Proto Abyss.

"Well done!" Ladd shouted, and fired the thrusters to fling the Forbidden Blue off. He skidded to a halt in the dust and hefted his lance. "Not disappointing, White Whale! Not disappointing in the least!" The Proto Abyss's eyes flashed and the mobile suit reared back. "But you'll have to do better than that!"

With a roar of its engines, the Proto Abyss vaulted into the air and showered the area with beam blasts. Jane hissed a curse and flung her Gundam to the ground, armor active and deflecting beams back into the sky. The Proto Abyss fired forward with a punishing barrage of cannon fire that sent the Forbidden Blue stumbling back just in time for the green Gundam to plow through the smoke with its lance held high. Jane stabbed forward with the trident to catch the Proto Abyss's lance and leave the two mobile suits locked together, sparks raining down on them.

"Whatever you're doing here, I won't let you hurt the people of Belém," Jane snarled.

Alec grinned back. "That's the way. Be the honorable one." The Proto Abyss hurled the Forbidden Blue back with its lance and charged again.

Sparks rained down on the Gundam Eclipse's jet-black armor as the Eclipse and Testament met in a duel of blades. The Testament whirled around under the Eclipse's horizontal beam sword slice, and then rushed up again, its backpack shifting shape into a giant claw. Emily yanked back on the controls, but too late; the Testament's Divine Striker pack slammed down onto the Eclipse's left arm, and with a shout, Rena sent the black mobile suit tumbling out of the sky.

"And now the story ends!" she screamed, and the red Gundam leveled off its guns

The Eclipse rocketed up into the sky amid a blaze of afterimages. Rena snapped her eyes up, only to shrink back as the Angel of Death put the sun to her back and then the Testament rocked as the Eclipse came down again with a devastating overhead blow against the red mobile suit's Trikeros Kai shield. Rena pulled away with a furious sword swipe, but the Eclipse kept coming with a chain of sword swings.

"I don't have time for you!" Emily snapped, and the Testament rattled from a punishing attack. "Get out of my way!"

"There's only one way you'll get me out of your hair," Rena shot back; the Testament backflipped over another slice, then came back down with its own bone-jarring strike and charged forward on the assault. The Eclipse wove its way through a curtain of beam fire, but the Testament was there to slam the claw on its Trikeros Kai onto the Eclipse's arm, then fling the black mobile suit aside. "And so far, you're a long way from it!"

Sword met sword as the Destiny Impulse and Destiny Gundam dueled across the sky, wings of light sending afterimages dancing among the clouds. The Destiny whipped around, sword blazing, and fired off a blast from its long-range cannon, only to catch the Impulse's afterimages. The purple and white mobile suit darted amid the clouds and then rushed in, swords held high but the Destiny jammed its sword upward to spoil the blows.

"Just as I thought," sneered Shinn, "you're still not on my level."

Mare snarled in fury and the Impulse flung the Destiny back with sheer strength. The purple mobile suit went back on the attack with a wave of long-range cannon blasts that forced Shinn back on the defensive. "Never did put that ego of yours in check, did you!?" he roared, and the Impulse roared after its foe. "I'll never understand why they gave you the Impulse, you self-important little shit!"

The Destiny whirled around and slammed its sword up into the Impulse's two blades, stopping them cold. "Of course you won't," answered Shinn. "They didn't give me the Impulse because I'm nicer than you or something. They gave it to me because I'm better than you."

"How dare you !" Mare shrieked, and the Impulse surged forward again. "You cocky little !"

"Now now, watch your temper." The Destiny ducked beneath the Impulse's vicious swipes and rocketed up behind its foe. Mare wheeled around to face Shinn only for the Destiny to bring its sword down through the Impulse's left-hand Excalibur and send the blade spiraling away uselessly. Mare tossed aside the remains with a curse and ducked away from the Destiny's follow-up swing.

"You have a lot of gall, Shinn Asuka, acting like you're better than me!" Mare cried, and the Impulse rained sword blows down onto the Destiny's blade. "As though I'm the one who betrayed my people to Blue Cosmos! As though I'm the one who abandoned them in their hour of need, for some Natural whore and a bunch of traitors!"

The Destiny flung itself back to avoid the Impulse's sword, then roared forward again and slammed it aside with its shoulder. "I already told you, you wouldn't understand," Shinn answered, "so I'll have to speak in the only language you do understand!"

Rau Le Creuset let out a laugh as the Windams up ahead scattered under a ruthless hail of machinegun bullets. The CGUE Assault stormed forward; one of the Windams lunged out from behind its cover and opened fire with its beam rifle, only for the blasts to land harmlessly against the CGUE's massive white shoulder shields. Rau plunged ahead, ducked under the next salvo, and charged up again to plant a beam saber through the Windam's cockpit. And as the white and blue mobile suit sparked ominously, he flung its corpse aside and charged down the street, braving more fire from the Windams.

"And Emily is still fighting Imelia," he breathed, and paused to throw the CGUE behind a building as the Windams opened fire again. "Perfect. I've accomplished all that I can here anyway."

The CGUE flung itself out from behind cover and let loose a wave of machinegun fire at the Windam team's flanks. One of them toppled backwards as a bullet-riddled heap of metal; the remaining two backed away behind their shields as the CGUE strafed to the right, further down the street.

"Commander Harrelson," he said into the comm, "we're nearing our limit. How are things on your end?"

The face of Edward Harrelson vanished momentarily behind a wall of static. "Could be better. The Phantom Pain is bombing Belém. Emily's dealing with Imelia, and I don't really have the troops to spare."

Rau glanced around the battlefield, just in time to notice his foes in the Windams being reinforced, and decided that honesty was the best policy. "I do not have a clear shot either. Someone else will have to deal with the bombers."

"Well, shit," sighed Ed, and something crashed on his end and static flashed across the image again. "Then we're going to plan B. Hope for a miracle."

"I don't believe in miracles," Rau said. "I will do what I can. CGUE, out."

The silver ZAFT mobile suit rocked under a hail of beam rifle fire, but Rau only smirked at the nervous pilots before him. It was all such a delicate game but no one played it like he did.

The ground shook as the Gaia Gundam landed hard on its feet amid the trees and there, emerging from the jungle, came the four Wild Daggers that had pursued Stella ever since landfall. At this rate, she wouldn't find Emily and Rau and that was no good.

The Wild Daggers charged forward. Stella backflipped away and transformed the Gaia into its quadruped mode in midair. She landed with a crash, then darted aside as one of the Daggers shredded the ground around her with a Gatling burst. The second Dagger galloped in with its beam sabers ignited; Stella jinked to the side and lit up her own beam blades, and with a crash, the beams slammed together and showered the two mobile suits in sparks. Stella whirled around and then vaulted into the air over a cannon blast from a third Wild Dagger.

"Just a bunch of copies," she snarled, and wheeled around the Gaia for another attack. The first Wild Dagger rushed in close; Stella reared back on the Gaia's hind legs, over the Dagger's blade, and then jumped backward to avoid a Gatling burst from the second Dagger. The third opened fire again with its railgun; and then the fourth was there, and with a flash, it transformed to its mobile suit mode with a pair of towering anti-ship swords in hand. The first rushed in from behind, beam sabers blazing

With a start, the Gaia darted into the air off one foot, transformed, and speared the first Dagger on a beam rifle shot. It landed with a crash, Stella tore the Gaia's saber out from its rack with her left hand, and with a blinding cloud of sparks, the Gaia's beam saber stopped the fourth Dagger's swords cold.

"I'm better at this than you," growled Stella and as the Wild Dagger pressed forward, she flung it back with a beam saber swipe, jumped back into the air, transformed, and let fly a withering burst of beam cannon blasts. "Just watch!"

Battleship Minerva

Meyrin Hawke narrowed her eyes at the tactical map on the Minerva's bridge, where the Alliance line held fast against the ZAFT onslaught and the Resistance's persistent hammering. There was a reason for that, at least the Siegfried looming over the city, blasting strategic points into oblivion.

"Got the IFF signal for the Eclipse," Roxy spoke up at the comm console. "Looks like she's busy, though. Want me to give her a ring?"

Meyrin leaned forward. "Not yet. Malik, take us in, flank speed. Chen, prepare the weapons, Tannhäuser included. We're going to break open a hole in those lines ourselves and get our pilots out."

Abbey frowned. "Enrique and Ed will want to know."

"They're big boys. They can tell an opportunity when they see one. Roxy, keep Lily and Trojan on standby. We'll end this thing ourselves."

ZAFT Lesseps-class land battleship Eckhart

The reports streaming in onto the Eckhart's bridge were completely infuriating. Willard twitched angrily as the latest one scrolled by on his screen. Another squad destroyed like cattle, run to a slaughter in a crossfire in the streets.

"Move the Bushnell closer to the city," he ordered, "and prepare for a missile bombardment. I am losing my patience with this."

The Eckhart's captain blinked in surprise. "Sir "

"Don't question me," Willard snapped. "Our mission is to render this city economically useless and clear the way down the Amazon. Nothing would be better for that than wiping out the entire city."

The captain glanced out the bridge windows, towards the towers of smoke rising from Belém. "Commander, is it necessary to kill that many civilians? They aren't really doing anything to threaten us. All we need to do is destroy the port."

Willard rose from his seat and fixed the captain with a blood-chilling glare. "We will do our duty," he shot back. "Transmit my orders to the Bushnell. I want this city leveled."

The captain reluctantly turned towards the comm officer, and Willard returned his gaze to Belém and the arms of smoke and flame reaching up towards the heavens, ruing the weakness and pity that gnawed at his men's hearts. The marshal had told them they would need to be cold to carry out this plan, to secure their homeland, to secure their existences and yet the fools still did not listen.

Earth Alliance Siegfried-class carrier plane Volturno

Shuddering from the shockwave of another detonation down below, the Volturno slowly banked around towards the flaming city. The line was holding so far, but any moment now the ZAFT forces could send a surge of reinforcements and overwhelm the beleaguered Alliance troops and that would look awfully bad on James Liberman's service record.

He glanced over towards the port, where ZAFT and Resistance mobile suits were still in battle. The Volturno's captain followed his gaze and shrugged. "It's not what we were expecting, to see them fighting against ZAFT too."

"Of course not," sneered Liberman. "Intel suggests that the Resistance's leadership has yet to decide on a policy towards ZAFT, so individual units are making their own decisions."

The captain frowned. "It seems to be benefiting us, so far."

"They're still Resistance," Liberman snarled. "Target them and destroy them, before the rats can multiply."

He sat back and watched as the Volturno swept in for another attack.

Belém, Brazil, South America

Emily held her breath as she ducked beneath one sweeping sword blow from the Testament and then threw up her beam shield to deflect a wave of beam cannon blasts. The Testament charged in close and opened the claw on its Trikeros Kai

"There!" she shouted, and the Eclipse rocketed forward with a crash and brought its beam sword up through the Trikeros Kai. Rena jammed back the controls as the Eclipse followed up with a backhand slash and abandoned the ruined weapon in favor of a beam saber.

"Very clever," she snarled, "but that's only the Trikeros!" The Testament charged forward for a frenetic swordfight with the Eclipse. "And I did not earn my reputation for nothing!"

Emily ground her teeth as the Eclipse frantically deflected and parried the Testament's saber blows. "I don't care about your reputation," she snarled; the Eclipse batted aside one of the Testament's blows and then slammed it hard in the chest with a knee. "I just want you out of my way!" The Testament reeled and Emily lined up for a finishing attack.

Rena flung the Testament back to dodge the Eclipse's final blow and showered the black Gundam with beam fire. "A worthy foe, you've been, Angel of Death," she cried, "but it's time to finish this!" The Testament charged, beam saber held high

And then the sky filled with light as the Eclipse activated its Voiture Lumiere system, somersaulted over the charging Testament's head, whipped around, and fired a line from inside its left forearm directly into the Testament's Divine Striker. An instant later, a jolt of electricity shot into the device and blew it apart with a thunderous explosion. Rena screamed as her red mobile suit plummeted towards the earth and then the Eclipse was there, sword held forward for a lethal stab

Rena yanked the controls to the left just before the Eclipse made contact, sacrificing the Testament's entire left shoulder. A blaze of fire rushed up as Testament's left side exploded, showering Rena with shrapnel, and the wrecked mobile suit belched smoke and fire as it plunged into the jungle.

"W-Well done," she croaked through the pain, at the black mobile suit hovering above with its shining beam sword.

The Eclipse stared down impassively at its defeated foe, and then rocketed off into the battle.

"You're being more of a pain in the ass than I expected, Mare," grunted Shinn Asuka as the Destiny Gundam rattled under the relentless sword blows of the Destiny Impulse. Mare Stroud glowered back and sent the Destiny reeling with as hard a blow as he could muster.

"Did you expect me to just roll over and let you run around without facing justice?!" he sneered, and the Impulse closed in again. Shinn rocketed to the side to avoid the Impulse's downward hack; Mare whipped around to pursue him with a blazing barrage of long-range cannon shots, and the Destiny danced through the blasts amid a cloud of afterimages. "Did you think none of your old comrades in arms would remember your treachery?!"

"Of course not," Shinn snapped, "but some of them got over it!"

The Impulse pounded a wave of blasts against the Destiny's beam shield. "Get over it, huh?!" The purple mobile suit closed in with a flurry of sword strokes. "Get over it?!" The two Gundams met in a shower of sparks. "Who the hell do you think you are?! Don't you realize what you cost us?!" Mare's face burned with hatred; Shinn winced under the psychic pressure of his raw, churning fury. "The Requiem took everything from me! My friends, my home, my family! How dare you tell me to just get over that! Don't you know what that's like?!"

Shinn gritted his teeth as the Impulse drove him back. "You're asking me what it's like to lose your family," he snarled and with a sudden surge of afterimages, the Destiny rammed its sword forward and stopped the Impulse's attack cold. "Of course I know that, you idiot. But look at what you've done with it. You're just an animal, acting purely on hatred and instinct. You got shit on by the world and you turned into a monster."

"And I suppose you didn't?" growled Mare.

"Well, I'm not the one committing genocide."

The Impulse surged forward with a roar from its thrusters. "Don't question us!" Mare roared, and the sword came down again with a crash. "If it weren't for you, we would have never had to go this far!"

Shinn yanked back the controls to dodge the Impulse's next attack and rocketed up over its head, afterimages flying. "I'm glad you think I'm so special that I can singlehandedly lose an entire war for you all by myself," he shot back, "but we're not talking about a moral gray zone here, Mare! Evil is evil! If you won't understand that, then I'll just have to kill you and keep the world safe from you!" The Impulse showered the Destiny with beam blasts; Shinn wove his way through them and the two Gundams rattled as their swords met again. "I just hope Riika forgives me."

Mare blinked in surprise. "Riika? She's alive? Here?"

"That's right, Riika, and Courtney too," Shinn went on with a glare. "And they're with the Resistance. Not ZAFT. They won't join ZAFT, especially not now, with what you've done. Not every Coordinator is blinded by hatred."

But Mare was silent, eyes unfocused, as the sparks flew. Shinn flung the Impulse back and hefted his sword, testing his opponent's tumbling emotions. If there was a spark to be dragged out...

"It's not too late for you either, Mare," he added, even past the distaste he felt at the idea. "You know what ZAFT is doing is wrong, deep down. You know that loyalty is only as noble as what you're loyal to.

"Who would have thought," Mare muttered, and Shinn sighed quietly as he felt the anger gush back to the surface, "that we Coordinators had so many traitors running around!" The Impulse charged, sword held high. "I guess I'll have my work cut out for me, hunting you bastards down!"

Shinn only sighed as he dodged Mare's attacks and went back on the defensive, waiting for his opportunity.

The second Wild Dagger let fly with a vicious burst from its Gatling gun, but the bullets bounced harmlessly off the Gaia Gundam's jet-black armor. Stella scanned over her three remaining enemies, one with a Gatling gun, one with a railgun, and one with two anti-ship swords. The fourth Dagger hefted its two swords and charged; the Gaia darted aside, landed with a crash, and whipped around to shower the three mobile suits with beam fire.

The third Dagger lunged in from behind and leveled off its railgun; the fourth rushed forward from the front, swords held high; Stella saw her chance and bucked backward, knocking the third Dagger off its feet. The fourth one closed in

With a crash of twisting metal, the Gaia lunged into the air and sawed the mobile suit in half with one of its beam blades. The bisected Wild Dagger crashed into the dirt and exploded, Stella landed with a crash, and the remaining two Daggers intensified their fire and pounded the Gundam's black Phase Shift armor.

"Only two of you," Stella grumbled, "and you can't hurt me with those things."

The second Dagger lurched forward, Gatling gun still blazing; Stella hopped to the side, planted the Gaia's four feet in the dirt, and leveled off the beam cannons

Instead, a wave of bullets lanced out from the jungle and ripped the second Dagger to shreds. The third turned its railgun towards the trees. Stella seized the opportunity to blow it apart with a beam cannon barrage, and then she backed away and turned her eyes towards the jungle herself just in time to see a silver CGUE with hulking white armor stomp out of the wilderness.

"Ah, Stella Loussier," said Rau Le Creuset with a smirk. "Good to see a familiar face again."

"Rau!" Stella exclaimed. "Where's Emily?"

"She's off making her own fun," answered Rau, and the CGUE nodded towards the sky. "But I suggest we go find her and get going, before this battle gets anymore chaotic."

Stella nodded and transformed the Gaia back to its mobile suit mode, and with a blast of exhaust, the two mobile suits vaulted into the air and took off.

Dust and smoke filled the streets of Belém as the Buster Windam and Sword Calamity locked blades. The green Alliance mobile suit whipped around its crimson foe and unloaded a salvo of missiles into its back but the red Gundam tore through the smoke with a sweeping horizontal sword slash and brought its blades down hard onto the Buster Windam's beam saber, driving it back.

"You know," snarled Ed, "this would all go better if you'd sit back for a while and let me go take care of your friends up there. I'd even come back and we can keep trying to kill each other. Promise."

Dana sneered back and fired off a railgun shot that sent the Sword Calamity diving for cover. "Don't play cute with me, Kirisaki. You're not going anywhere. You're going to witness this."

The Sword Calamity rushed in close for another swordfight. "So you'll just sit here and make me watch the Phantom Pain bomb this city into rubble?!" He rushed forward and fired off a Scylla blast that nearly took off the Buster Windam's head. "Is fighting me that important to you?!"

Thundering back with another railgun blast, the Buster Windam jetted to the side and poured a beam cannon shot into the ground at the Sword Calamity's feet. A wall of smoke and fire rose up in front of the red mobile suit and Dana darted around the flames, beam saber held high for the kill.

"As long as I've got you here " she started only for the red Gundam to burst out of the smoke and slam its swords up to stop the Buster Windam's beam saber cold.

"Is that all you are these days, Dana?!" Ed screamed. "Just a killer?!"

The Buster Windam jetted backward and unleashed its last salvo of missiles at the Sword Calamity. Ed vaulted into the air, preparing a Scylla blast only for the Buster Windam to combine its cannons, take aim, and squeeze off a pulsing blast of its own. The Sword Calamity lunged back towards the ground

...and instead, Dana's blast plowed through the Volturno, far up above, and the stricken carrier plane shuddered and died in a cloud of fire.

Ed turned disbelievingly towards Dana and watched the Buster Windam disconnect its cannons.

"Consider us even, Ed," she snarled and the green mobile suit charged back on the attack.

ZAFT Lesseps-class land battleship Eckhart

The Eckhart shook as a near miss from a salvo of missiles detonated on the water's surface. Commander Willard gripped the armrests of his chair and glowered out over the water, where those miserable Resistance rats and Alliance Naturals were holding their own against the weight of his forces. It was inconceivable, intolerable; at this rate, they wouldn't have the forces to attack Macapá.

Willard balled his fists up scornfully as the Eckhart rocked again. "Where are the Tonegawa and Morgan? I want covering fire laid down at once."

He was answered by a flash of light to the ship's starboard and then the Morgan shuddered beneath a rising cloud of fire and slipped beneath the waves. Willard's eyes bulged in disbelief.

"What the what the hell was that?!"

"New heat signature detected!" one of the bridge crew cried. "Energy reading it's the !"

The world went white and Willard vanished with a scream as the Minerva's Tannhäuser cannon tore its way through the Eckhart.

ZAFT submarine supercarrier Aristotle

Nathaniel Hatias watched somberly as the great Minerva spread its wings over the battlefield and blasted its way through the battlefield and through Willard's task force. So they had run out of time and this would be difficult to explain to Command.

"Captain, new contacts," the sonar officer spoke up urgently. "Five Alliance ships on the surface, three underwater. It looks like that squadron from Natal.'

Nathaniel frowned at the tactical map. "So they found their way back after all," he grunted. "Guess I shouldn't take that to be a surprise." He glanced over at Camwell. "I think we'd best retreat."

Camwell sneered up at the tactical map. "We were supposed to have the upper hand here."

"But now we don't."

The Aristotle rumbled. "Torpedoes in the water; the Bushnell is sinking, sir!" the sonar officer cried.

"And that tears it," Nathaniel finished. "Camwell, contact the survivors and tell them we're retreating fifty klicks north. We'll take aboard whoever's left and move out to sea. On the double."

As Camwell reluctantly got to work, Nathaniel turned back towards the tactical map and focused on the blinking icon that represented his elusive winged foe.

Perhaps it's just as well, he thought bitterly, that you're the one acting as my conscience.

Belém, Brazil, South America

The Proto Abyss landed with a crash on its heels and staggered back, before the gleaming blade of the Forbidden Blue. Alec Ladd grinned at his hulking foe and its outstretched trident, even as the order came in for him to retreat.

"I gotta say, White Whale, this was a pretty good substitute for my bout with the Traitor Asuka," he chuckled.

"Glad you're having fun," shot back Jane. The Forbidden Blue's eyes flashed and the Gundam lunged forward with a stab from its trident. The Proto Abyss parried the blow; Alec surged forward with a shout, knocked the Forbidden Blue back, and fired a round of cannon shells into the blue mobile suit's armor. Jane hacked apart the smoke with a curse

...only to find the Proto Abyss transforming into its mobile armor mode and plunging into the river with a splash.

Jane glanced around the port, finding a handful of shot-up ZAFT mobile suits diving into the water themselves, and other ZAFT machines vaulting over the river towards the north away from the Resistance, and the victorious Alliance.


Shinn Asuka grunted in frustration as the Destiny Impulse parried another blow from the Destiny Gundam's sword. ZAFT was on the retreat, the Alliance and the Resistance were still duking it out in Belém but Rau and the Eclipse had been located. There was no more reason to stay here no more reason but the writhing storm of anger and hatred in front of him.

"So many traitors!" Mare snarled with shaking hands as the Impulse pounded the Destiny's sword with a series of furious hacks. "You and Riika and Courtney...I never realized you'd all turn your backs on me!" The Impulse reared back and slammed its sword down onto the Destiny's blade. "You've left me all alone here, so now " the Impulse surged forward, " I'll finish you!"

Shinn glowered back as the Impulse charged. I'm sorry, Riika, but you can't save everyone.

The Impulse blasted forward and swung its sword horizontally only to catch a flurry of afterimages. Mare blinked in surprise and looked up

...just in time to see the Destiny Gundam charge out of the heavens and ram its sword through the Destiny Impulse's cockpit. Shinn frowned as the burning ember of hatred vanished; he yanked his sword free from the dying mobile suit and kicked it away, and watched sadly as it disappeared within a cloud of smoke and fire.

"Well," he sighed, "that's what he wanted."

The Destiny turned and rocketed away.

The Gundam Eclipse skidded to a halt on the riverbank north of Belém, where Rau's CGUE and the Gaia were waiting. The Destiny was not far behind. Emily cast a reluctant look back towards the burning city and keyed on the frequency for Ed and Jane's mobile suits.

"Are you sure you don't want us to stay?" she asked.

Jane emphatically shook her head. "We fought this hard to get you here, don't screw it up by trying to be a hero. Get out of here while you still can."

"But what about you?"

Ed grinned back. "Just leave the hero business to us. We can get out of here no problem."

The CGUE stepped up next to the Eclipse, Rau with a serious look on his face. "They are right, Emily," he said. "It is best not to linger. The Alliance is reinforcing its positions. We'll be trapped soon if we don't leave."

Emily looked one more time towards Belém and heaved a heavy sigh. "Good luck, you guys," she said quietly.

"Same to you," said Ed, and his screen went dark. Jane smiled back reassuringly.

"We'll cover you until you've escaped. Don't look back."

Her screen went dark as well, and Emily turned her eyes towards the sea towards the Minerva, waiting near the horizon. The mobile suits leapt up into the air, the engines came to life, and they took off, back home.

To be continued...