Phase 40 - For Our Freedom and Yours

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED ETERNITY

Phase 40 - For Our Freedom and Yours

June 25th, CE 77 - Althea Crater lunar base, the Moon

"The generals of old were at their most respectable when they led from the front," sniffed Hans von Schadt. He closed the seals of his Alliance flight suit and sat back in his cockpit seat, fixing the adjutant on the auxiliary screen with a meaningful look. "And I do mean to establish myself as respectable."

The adjutant looked unconvinced. "With all due respect, sir, the generals of old who led from the front had a bad habit of dying on the front," he said. "And a dead commander really isn't what we need right now."

"Come now, major," Schadt scoffed, and he tapped his knuckle against the cockpit console. "The generals of old who led from the front had a remarkable vulnerability to bullets and such. I do not." His confident grin vanished. "Now. Keep the defensive line tight and make sure the enemy remains in range of our mounted defenses. And keep pestering Arzachel and Daedalus for reinforcements. They haven't acquiesced yet, but once we have these Resistance scum on the run, they'll think twice. Is that clear?" The officer nodded. "Very well. Then I will launch."

The screen went dark, and then the eyes of the Liberty Gundam lit up with a bright green flash and the mobile suit stepped forward from its hangar brace. Schadt smiled, confidence surging again.

Something strange was up ahead.

Shinn Asuka frowned at the feeling of human presences in a spot where the sensors showed nothing. He knew what that meant: someone was using Mirage Colloid. But they couldn't hide that easily.

"Courtney, Riika, enemies up ahead," he said. On the Zulfiqar Gundam's flanks, the Proto Chaos and Riika's dark blue Blaze ZAKU Phantom turned their monoeyes towards him.

"I don't see anything," Riika protested.

"Just trust me," Shinn said. "Everyone, break formation now!"

The Zulfiqar, the Kali, and the rest of the mobile suits all promptly scattered as a pulsing wave of beam fire emanated out of nowhere and coursed through the space they had just occupied. Shinn darted up over the blast and fired back with his long-range cannon and with a flicker of light, the veil vanished and the vast blue and gold hull of an Archangel-class battleship materialized out of nothingness.

"What the where were they hiding?!" Riika sputtered.

"Mirage Colloid," grumbled Courtney. "All units, fall back "

"Not yet," Shinn said. "Get around them and keep going." He flung himself back and activated the beam shield as another set of beams came flashing out of the darkness.

Up ahead, the Nero Blitz and four green Windams with thruster vanes stretching off their backs in an X-shaped configuration charged forward, with another squad of N Dagger Ns on their tails. The Archangel-class fired again and parted the waves of Resistance mobile suits before it.

"Well aren't they in a hurry!" Riika grumbled; the ZAKU dove to the side as the battleship's railguns opened fire. "Where are they going...?"

"Oh no, I recognize these guys," Shinn grunted. The Zulfiqar landed with a crash on the lunar surface and brandished its sword. "These are the Night Tigers. Lord Djibril's personal assassins. And it looks like they don't wanna stick around and play."

True to form, the Nero Blitz opened up the launchers on its right arm and unleashed a withering beam gun salvo that forced the Zulfiqar and its allies back. Shinn vaulted over the Nero Blitz's head; one of the Windams swept in with a long beam saber in hand and slammed it down against the Zulfiqar's sword. Shinn flung the green mobile suit back, but the Nero Blitz lunged into his path and swept at him with the two massive grappling arms on its back.

The Kali Gundam came barreling in out of nowhere and rammed the Nero Blitz aside with its shoulder, then darted backward with a burst of fire from its beam rifle. Shinn took the opportunity to back away.

"Riika, Courtney," he said, "you guys keep going and leave this ship to "

Yet another wave of beam fire interrupted him and put the Zulfiqar on the defensive and this time there were three familiar presences.

"Oh for Christ's sake," he grumbled, "one at a time, you assholes!"

The Zulfiqar wheeled around, anti-ship sword in hand, to face the oncoming Crusader, Vanguard, and Artemis Gundams. Shinn ground his teeth.

"And, uh, who are these guys?" Riika asked.

"Change of plans," Shinn grunted. "Stella, you stick with Riika and Courtney, and you guys deal with the Night Tigers. Me," he narrowed his eyes, "I have some unfinished business with those three."

With a flash, the Zulfiqar hefted its sword and charged.

"First defense node coming up in sixty seconds," the wingman's voice said. Aoma Vedlow glanced around the cockpit screens of the Blast Impulse Gundam. Her poor old Impulse was starting to show its age, but she would simply have to make up the deficit herself, with skill. Her pilots were counting on her, after all. Even the most grizzled and experienced of her veterans hadn't done something this foolhardy.

She glanced up ahead at the first defense node. Althea had clustered its defenses around particular strategic points and the first one, nestled in the side of a cliff and topped by a tower with a single Gottfried cannon on top, was rapidly approaching. Aoma steeled herself and threw open the throttle; the Blast Impulse rocketed ahead, the guns up ahead began to fire, and Aoma let instinct take over as she guided her machine through the forest of beams and bullets.

A squad of Windams sprang out of hiding near the tower and showered the attackers with beam fire, driving the other mobile suits back. The Impulse itself plunged ahead and flung itself down to the lunar surface, then skirted to the side as the Windams advanced. Aoma launched a volley of missiles forward; the defense point's four CIWS emplacements sliced them out of the air. The smoke billowed up and behind its cover, Aoma leveled off the two Kerberos beam cannons and opened fire. Two red beams sliced through the smoke and smashed into the base of the tower, and with a thundering explosion, it disappeared in a column of fire just long enough for the other mobile suits to sweep in and destroy the four thunderstruck Windams.

"The node is down," Aoma said, "all units converge "

Another wave of fire cut her off and she threw the Impulse back to avoid it. The smoke burst apart as another squad of Windams charged with beam rifles blazing. Aoma backed away behind her shield, searching for an opening

But instead of attacking, the Windams darted apart and then disappeared in a blinding blaze of beam fire and the world shook as two Gundams landed hard on the dusty ground and glanced back at the Impulse.

"Well," said Sting Oakley with a smirk, "not leaving much for us to do, are you?"

"Yeah, leave some for us," added Auel Neider.

Aoma tried not to frown. Two of the Minerva's fancy new Gundams showing up to help her was supposed to be a good thing, after all. "If you two are here to assist, then I'm putting you both on point," she said.

Auel grinned back. "Y'know, being on point is usually a bitch up the ass, but this time? I think I can hang with it."

"Good. Then let's go."

Claws glowing and eyes flickering furiously, the Zamzazar mobile armor barreled into battle with a withering barrage from its beam cannons. On the other end of the battlefield, Rau Le Creuset smirked at the sight. So far the Judgment had acquitted itself well against the small change but now it was time to fight a real opponent.

The Zamzazar flung itself forward; Rau sent the Judgment into a steep dive, then yanked back on the controls and went skimming along the ground. The mobile armor followed with a hail of beam fire, sending the Judgment spinning away for safety. Rau eyed the oncoming machine carefully, then launched the King DRAGOONs and deployed the smaller Pawn DRAGOONs and with a blinding flash of light, he spun a web of beam fire around the mobile armor that sent it skittering backward despite its positron reflector.

Not completely intimidated, the mobile armor pitched back and let loose the full fury of all four of its Gamzatov cannons. Rau ducked aside and his DRAGOONs darted apart; the Zamzazar charged again, one of its claws raised

An instant later, a beam saber appeared in the Judgment's left hand, and it swung the blade up to deflect the Zamzazar's crushing blow. The DRAGOONs swarmed again and pelted the Zamzazar with blasts, and the Judgment backed away to pound the mobile armor with a full blast from the Gundam's mounted beam guns. The Zamzazar seemed to falter under the relentless bombardment, and Rau grinned at the twinge of fear he felt from the mobile armor's cockpit as he pressed the attack.

A quartet of missiles hit home as the Aurora Gundam shot over one of Althea's defense nodes in its mobile armor mode. Several of the CIWS, missile launchers, and anti-air beam guns vanished in the blast and the Gottfried cannon swung around to track the Gundam and then the Celestial Justice seized its opening to leap out from behind the cover of a nearby ridge and blow the whole thing apart with a beam rifle barrage.

Viveka paused a moment to scan the battlefield. The way was more or less clear from here to the base itself, but for the Alliance defenders and up ahead, a Nelson-class battleship was relentlessly spewing firepower at the harried Resistance attackers. Their own ships were still hanging back and bombarding the base from afar, but this battle wasn't going to be won in a shooting match.

"The Winchester's mobile suits are moving up to support us," Athrun said, "but we've still gotta get from here to the space dock."

"Well, that should be fun," Viveka said. Her sensors squealed; the two Gundams rocketed apart just as a storm of beam fire came pounding down into the lunar surface between them, and the world shook from the thrusters of two charging Euclid mobile armors.

The Celestial Justice lunged towards them and forced them both to split up with a barrage of fire. "I'll take these two," Athrun said, "you deal with their friend."

"What their friend?"

Yet another barrage came down and Viveka snapped her attention back towards the black sky and the blue and white Gundam roaring out of it.

"Yeah," Athrun said, "that thing."

Viveka frowned at the sight of the oncoming mobile suit and transformed her own machine accordingly, and charged forward as the Gundam opened fire again.

The Gundam Eclipse flung itself towards the dusty lunar surface as a storm of beam fire flashed by overhead. Emily ground her teeth as the Gundam came crashing down and then ducked back to the side just as two Windams shot by. She swung up the Dragon's Fire launcher and pulled the trigger, and a pulsing, crackling column of sky-blue energy lanced out of the barrel and wiped out both mobile suits in a single blast.

Emily blinked down at the gun. "That was easy..."

As if on cue, the fire started up again and the Eclipse ducked down beneath a convenient ridge. Emily scanned the sky up ahead and cringed at the sight of five familiar mobile suits streaking toward her.

"Not those guys again..."

The ground shook and Emily glanced to her side as the Green Frame Kai and Twilight Cortana landed next to her. Lily put on a cheeky grin as the red Gundam hefted its beam rifle.

"Well, if you don't wanna kill 'em, I will! I have four DRAGOONs, y'know, that basically means I'm like five mobile suits in one."

Emily frowned. "No it doesn't "

Once again the ground trembled but this time it was from the base. Emily grimaced at the sight of a huge and all too familiar shadow lumbering out of the smoke from a hidden hangar in the cliff wall.

"Well, how about this," Trojan grunted. "We'll deal with your old friends here, and you go kill that Destroy."

"Yeah, you're the super ace here," Lily added. "Go play hero!"

Emily rolled her eyes. "Thanks, guys. Be careful against those ones, they work together really well."

The Eclipse vaulted into the air and rocketed past the Charlemagne's five Luna Project mobile suits with a blast from its Voiture Lumiere. The five mobile suits turned towards her, only to be put on the defensive by a sudden rush from the Green Frame and Cortana. Emily fixed her gaze on the Destroy and reached back into the vaults of her memory for how to fight one of these things. All she had to do was get close

The Destroy opened fire with the Aufprall Dreizhen cannons on its back; Emily yelped in surprise and jammed the controls aside, and the Eclipse barely dodged the blast. She hefted the Dragon's Fire again.

Up ahead, the Destroy transformed into its mobile suit mode and faster than Emily thought possible for something so gigantic, it rushed forward, ignited a beam saber from its right wrist, and brought the blade crashing down against the Eclipse's beam shield.

"Oh, so they sent the Angel of Death to fight me!" cackled someone's voice; Emily blinked at the image on her auxiliary screen of a masked man in an elaborate red and white flight suit. "Isn't that ironic! All this time I thought you were on my side!"

Emily frowned. Another lunatic with a giant robot? Haven't I fought enough of these? "And just who are you?"

The Destroy's eyes flashed and it flung the Eclipse back, slamming it into the dirt with a victorious laugh from its pilot.

"I suppose the latest addition to my collection deserves to know my name!" he cackled. "Remember it well, little girl! Remember, when they ask you in hell who sent you there! My name is Ash Gray!"

The beam cannons fired; the Eclipse sprang back to its feet and lunged out of the way as they blasted into the ground. Emily backed away and lined up another Dragon's Fire blast, but the Destroy's positron reflector shrugged it off like nothing and the colossus burst forward with another hard downward saber hack to the Eclipse's shield.

"I don't see why they keep giving you people these things," Emily growled.

"Oh, you will!" cried Ash; the Destroy surged forward again and pounded the Eclipse with a wall of beam fire. The Eclipse darted away; the Destroy followed with surprising speed and furious swings from the two sabers on its wrists. "My Destroy has magnetic coating and wonderful, all-new joints! It can move like a normal-sized mobile suit! And as you'll see " the titanic Gundam abruptly changed form again and sent a coursing blast from its Aufprall Dreizhen cannons streaking across the battlefield "it's quite full of surprises!"

Emily ground her teeth as the Destroy changed again and came at her. "You're certainly full of talk."

"And I hear you're full of blood and guts!" Ash laughed. The Destroy pulled back its arm. "So let's open you up and take a look!"

Battleship Minerva

"Isolde, fire!"

Vibrations rattled through the Minerva as it plowed forward through a wall of defensive CIWS fire. The Isolde's shells slammed head-on into the Drake-class destroyer up ahead and snapped off two of its arms; another volley from the Tristans blew the ship away.

On the bridge, Meyrin narrowed her eyes. "Malik, descend, thirty degrees!" The Minerva obligingly swung its prow down and ducked below a salvo of return fire from one of Althea's defensive towers. A squadron of Resistance mobile suits moved in around the Drake's wreckage; a Dagger L wielding a bazooka sprang out of hiding and blasted the Gottfried cannon apart with a pair of shells.

"Captain, heat signature ahead!" Burt exclaimed. "It's "

He was cut off as the Minerva lurched and Malik yanked the helm hard to starboard just as a punishing wave of beam fire coursed through the battlefield and annihilated the Resistance mobile suits where they stood. Meyrin fixed her eyes up ahead at the fearsome shape of the Charlemagne.

"Should've expected to see them," Roxy sighed.

Meyrin steeled herself. Lacus Clyne and her followers wouldn't have backed down before that thing. "All ahead, target the Charlemagne. Chen, charge the Tannhäuser. Roxy, inform Buckley that we're going to tie them up; get his men here to exploit the gap."

The Minerva shook again from an exploding salvo of missiles, but Meyrin kept her eyes glued to the Charlemagne.

And as for you, Captain Danilov, let's see what you're really made of...

"So you're the asshole in charge of this little house of horrors, huh?" Viveka sneered; the Aurora Gundam spiraled elegantly through the Liberty's furious fusillade and rapidly transformed back to its mobile suit mode. "Painting the Moon with your hide is gonna be fun!" The two mobile suits met with a crash; the Liberty flung the Aurora aside with its shield and let fly another beam cannon barrage, but the Aurora wove its way through the shots and stormed in close with a beam rifle volley. The Liberty backed up behind its shield, and then the two mobile suits crashed together again with the Aurora bringing down a beam saber onto the Liberty's shield.

"And just who the hell are you, Resistance scum?!" Hans von Schadt shot back. "You think these little toys can stand up to the power of human evolution?!"

The Aurora shoved the Liberty back and showered it with beam fire. "Evolution, huh? That what you guys are calling it these days?"

With a crash, the Liberty blasted through the Aurora's fire and crashed head-on into the red Gundam. Viveka ground her teeth as she jammed the controls back and barely dodged another full burst from the Liberty. "As if a small-minded grunt like you would understand," Schadt snarled. "So ungrateful! I see that mechanical arm under your suit and you have the gall to question what we're doing here?!"

Viveka narrowed her eye. "You're lucky I like this thing, pretty-boy." The Aurora dove beneath another barrage, then launched itself up behind the Liberty. The white and black Gundam whipped around, beam rifle at the ready, only for it to be sawed in half by the Aurora's saber. The Liberty backed away from another swipe and drew a saber of its own, and the two Gundams clashed again in a shower of sparks. "But either way, you guys aren't doing too well already."

Schadt grinned back maniacally. "Oh, but that's where you're wrong, woman. We have a surprise of our own here, and if you push us too far, your victory will taste as bitter as defeat!"

"What the hell are you talking "

"Don't underestimate the Cyclops System!"

Viveka's eye went wide as a spark of recognition shot up her spine. "You son of a bitch!"

"That's right," Schadt laughed, "in addition to your futile battle against the greatest triumphs of military human enhancement, now you're up against the clock too! I'll incinerate this whole base if I have to! And you have no idea where the array matrix is so don't even think of trying to test me!"

Silence reigned for a moment as the two mobile suits struggled against each other and then Viveka cracked a smirk and threw a switch on the Aurora's console.

Schadt frowned. "What's so funny "

"Hey Athrun," she said, "wanna go play hero?"

Shuddering under a relentless hurricane of beam fire, the faltering Zamzazar struggled to line up its cannons for a return blast and with a screech of twisting metal, the Judgment Gundam plunged a beam saber through the positron reflector and ripped off the mobile armor's front left-hand claw. The Zamzazar quaked as though in pain and the Judgment lanced forward and rammed its saber down into the cockpit. The eyes went dark; the Judgment backed away and riddled the mobile armor with DRAGOON blasts; and then the Zamzazar vanished in a ball of fire.

Rau glanced around the battlefield. Of course the Earth Alliance would use this base as bait for a Cyclops System. He had suspected as much even before Viveka had sent word to the Minerva's Gundams. And of course Athrun would find and destroy it before they could detonate it. Funny thing about Cyclops Systems, they only worked when nobody knew they were there.

The Judgment reclaimed its DRAGOONs and took off low along the lunar surface. Up ahead was one of Althea's many defense nodes; a storm of fire from the mounted beam guns tore it apart, and with a final swipe from the beam saber, the tower vanished in a plume of flames. Rau continued on over a ridge and towards the base itself. Althea was built partly into a series of abandoned mining quarries, and the Cyclops System would be an easy target for any microwave radiation sensors. But it never hurt to be sure...

Up ahead, the Celestial Justice Gundam spiraled its way through the beam fire of a pair of Euclids and rocketed down towards one of the towers. It zigzagged its way through the tower's defensive fire and blasted a pulsing red beam through the base of the emplacement, blowing it apart, and then it slid effortlessly down into the darkened cavern below.

Rau chuckled as his DRAGOONs darted into the path before the Euclids could follow. "Far be it from me to help him out," he chuckled, "but your fight is with me now."

The Euclids arced around and rocketed towards the Judgment; Rau grinned and steeled himself for battle.

Sword met sword as the Crusader and Zulfiqar Gundams battled across the black sky, amid the insistent beam fire of the Vanguard and the darting Artemis. Shinn's eyes darted back and forth between his nimble foes as he pressed his sword against the Crusader's own blade.

The Artemis lunged up from behind; the Zulfiqar whipped around to slam it aside with the blunt end of its sword, then dart to the right to dodge a beam volley from the Vanguard. The Crusader followed up with a long-range cannon volley, but the Zulfiqar whirled gracefully around the blast and pounded the Gundam back with a hard overhead sword swing.

"Odds are a bit more even now, aren't they!" Shinn shouted; the Zulfiqar effortlessly danced through the Vanguard's barrage of beam fire, then slapped the Artemis aside with another heavy sword blow. The Crusader charged with a sword swing of its own; the Zulfiqar whipped around and jammed its blade into the way to stop the blow cold.

"There are still three of us and one of you," Sven growled; Shinn arched an eyebrow at the uneven feeling of his presence.

"Well," he answered, "we'll have to do something about that, won't we?"

Abruptly, the Zulfiqar rocketed up over the Crusader's head and then blasted down towards the Vanguard. The blue Gundam lurched back with a beam cannon volley, but it caught only afterimages and the Zulfiqar smashed its sword into the mobile suit's right shoulder, tearing off its entire arm. Shams screamed as his mobile suit skidded backward into the dirt.

"Shams!" screamed Mudie, and the Artemis rushed in from behind. "I'm going to gut you for that!"

The Zulfiqar whirled around, ducked below the Artemis's horizontal beam saber blow, and ripped off the Artemis's right arm with a hard blow. The Artemis tumbled away; the Zulfiqar turned again and pointed its sword at the Crusader.

"There," Shinn said. "You and me now."

Sven's face darkened with rage; the Crusader hefted its sword and charged.

DRAGOONs flashed and beams flew through the sky as the Twilight Cortana effortlessly wove its way through the Nix Providence's own desperate DRAGOON fire. Lily jammed the controls back to avoid a blast from the Hail Buster but an instant later, the black Gundam backed away under a beam rifle barrage from the Green Frame Kai's beam rifle.

"Finally!" Lily laughed, and the Cortana whirled down on its enemy. "It has been way too long!"

The Gale Strike and Regen Duel sprang up into her path; the Cortana's DRAGOONs rushed in to drive the two Gundams back. Lily pounded the Nix Providence's positron reflector with beam rifle as she closed in, beam saber in hand

Suddenly, another mobile suit materialized in front of her and smacked her aside. Lily glowered up at the Nebula Blitz as she wheeled around and brought her DRAGOONs to bear.

"Oh, leave him to me," Trojan interrupted and abruptly, the Green Frame dropped down from above with a devastating overhead hack from the beam sabers on its rifle. "My poor old DOM Trooper needs some revenge, and it's coming out of his ass."

"Since when were you so sentimental?"

"I could ask you the same thing, Miss Blood Knight."

The Cortana rocketed up towards the remaining mobile suits and drove them back with a flurry of DRAGOON fire. The Gale Strike ducked beneath the blasts and charged in close, only to be driven back by a beam rifle volley, and Lily gave chase with a giggle.

"Stella, are you sure this will work?" sputtered Riika Sheder as her Blaze ZAKU Phantom was driven back by a barrage of beam fire to its shields. "You'll be on your own "

"Don't worry about Stella," she answered. "Just get back. Look like you're running away."

The Kali Gundam landed hard on the lunar dirt and glowered up at its foes the Nero Blitz, four N Windams, four N Daggers, and the gargantuan Witch's Hammer, all waiting for her next move. Riika and her mobile suits backed away; the Kali lunged forward, and the beams rushed in, focused on the charging Gundam.

The Nero Blitz closed in with a salvo from its beam guns; Stella dove back down towards the ground and skirted along an outcropping, then somersaulted up over the blasts from two of the N Windams. One of the N Daggers closed in from above, sword upraised; Stella jetted to the side and whipped around suddenly, sawing the mobile suit in half at the waist as it passed.

She grunted in pain as the Kali shook, and up ahead the Witch's Hammer pressed forward, railguns blazing.

"See, this is why I said this was a bad idea!" Riika cried.

"It's okay!" Stella yelled back. "Just wait!"

The Kali flung itself to the ground and skimmed low along the surface. One of the N Windams charged in close with its long beam saber ready; Stella abruptly rocketed backward to avoid its killing slice, then stabbed forward and punched clear through its cockpit.

With a crash, the Nero Blitz burst back into the battle and swiped at the Kali with its massive grappling claws. Stella threw herself back, then launched herself off the ground and over the horizontal slash from one of the N Daggers; another came rushing down from above, but she blasted away and landed with a crash on the hub at the center of the Witch's Hammer's hull. The Gottfried cannons began to turn towards her

"Riika, now!"

A wave of beam fire lanced out of the darkness and slammed head on into the Witch's Hammer, and two of the surviving N Windams and one of the N Daggers vanished in the blaze. The Kali whipped around, beam rifle ready, and squeezed off a single shot that drilled through the bridge; the black Gundam vaulted off the dying warship as it began to sink towards the lunar surface.

Spewing beams, the Nero Blitz charged forward, and Stella steeled herself for another fight.

The Gundam Eclipse shook as the Destroy Gundam pounded it with a ceaseless chain of punishing beam saber strikes. Emily squinted through the flashing lights and sparks for an opportunity, but this Destroy moved faster than she'd ever thought one of these things could.

"I don't have too many Gundam pilots in my collection!" Ash Gray cackled. "This is gonna be a good day!"

Emily scowled back and jetted over the Destroy's next saber swing but the colossal mobile suit simply unleashed a storm of firepower that drove the Eclipse back. "Really now."

"I collect dolls for every person I kill," Ash went on, "but with my precious little Destroy, they've gotten to be so many I just don't have room anymore!"

The Eclipse shuddered as it skidded to a halt in the dust, and Emily shuddered at the thought of what she was hearing. "You collect dolls?"

"Indeed I do! I wonder what I'll use for you "

"Wait a minute," Emily said, a plan forming in the back of her mind, "you're a grown man and you collect dolls?"

The Destroy surged forward and drove the Eclipse further back with a torrent of firepower. "Are you judging me?!" Ash snapped. "Awfully bold of someone who's about to die!"

Emily threw the Eclipse over the wave of blasts and ignited the Dragon's Tail whip. "You know, I stopped collecting dolls when I was ten. And I'm a girl. What's your excuse?"

Ash's face began to twitch with anger. "You just don't know who you're talking to "

"You're a grown man who collects dolls. You don't scare me."

The Destroy charged, beam sabers blazing. "Then we'll just have to fix that, won't we?!"

The dark, disused mine shafts underneath the Althea Crater base were the ideal place to hide all sorts of things, like escape craft, reinforcements, and a gigantic microwave radiation emitter designed to completely fry an installation and everyone near it.

Athrun Zala scanned the darkness ahead. Too bad for the Alliance, he knew how they worked. Still up to their old tricks after all this time.

He wove his way through the tunnels and took a hard left at the next junction. The Cyclops System's enormous power requirements made pinpointing the array's location easy in all these tunnels, as long as he didn't reach

The Celestial Justice came to an abrupt stop and Athrun frowned. A dead end. Lovely.

He set to work with the Gundam's beam cannons to blast an opening into the next tunnel, then rocketed ahead before the one behind him collapsed. The Cyclops System brought back the bitter memory of having sat up on the PLANTs while Operation Spit Break went on, leaving Yzak on his own among the doomed ZAFT forces. And that was where Kira had brought the Freedom Gundam to the Archangel...

Athrun ground his teeth. All the more reason to blow up the damned thing.

Skimming along the lunar surface, the Fujin and Marduk Gundams hefted their weapons as one of the enemy Drake-class destroyers crested a ridge at the lip of the crater. Auel grinned and gunned the booster; Sting launched the gunbarrels and sent them to swarm around the ship's hull and pummel it with beam blasts. The ship faltered and began to fall back under the sudden onslaught just in time for the Marduk to lunge up in front of it and spear it on a wave of pulsing red beam fire.

The two Gundams landed with a crash as the ship exploded. Sting glanced over his shoulder.

"The dock's up ahead, we can get in through there,' he said.

Aoma's Blast Impulse and over a dozen other mobile suits set down behind a ridge, overlooking the yawning mouth of the space dock. A Nelson-class ship and two more Drakes were still in dock, along with a squadron of waiting Windams.

"That doesn't look too bad," Aoma said. "You two take point, we'll "

"Watch out!" Sting shouted, and the Fujin rammed the Impulse aside just as a wave of beam fire came searing down from the black sky and the world shook under the engines of a Euclid mobile armor shooting by overhead.

"We'll deal with that!" Auel shouted. "Get to the dock and open it up!"

The Fujin and Marduk vaulted into the sky and charged after the Euclid. Aoma waved to her soldiers, and they rocketed towards the dock.

Earth Alliance battleship Charlemagne

Missiles detonating around the Charlemagne rattled the ship, and the vibrations wormed their way into Ivan Danilov's brain. He shook his head; there was no reason that this battle of all should be testing him so.

Up ahead, the Minerva swung down beneath the Charlemagne's wall of beam fire and fired back with its Tristan cannons. The blasts landed hard against the black ship's laminated armor and rocked the vessel again. Danilov eyed the Minerva carefully as it swung around

"Captain, priority message from General Schadt," the comm officer spoke up. "He's saying..." She trailed off in disbelief.

"What? What is it?"

"He's...ordering us to move the enemies into Althea's range, so he can...activate a Cyclops System."

It took only a moment for Ivan Danilov's mind to take him back to that day when he'd heard about the battle at Alaska and the Atlantic Federation's use of that hideous Cyclops System to fry not only the base, not only the attacking ZAFT forces, but the defending forces of the Eurasian Federation as well. He'd had friends there, reduced to a gory paste along walls and on the ground. One of his superiors had lost a son there. One of his subordinates had lost a father.

Danilov looked down towards the base. There were so many children there; his mind went back to the cage where they butchered each other at the Phantom Pain's instruction. Schadt would fry them all, all those children, rob them of any chance at salvation and take not only the Resistance, but the Alliance forces here with them.

No. No more.

"Connie, broadcast to all ships on the battlefield," he said, and got to his feet with the intercom in hand.

"Wh-What are you going to do?" Vera started.

Danilov glared at the Althea Crater base. "What I should have done years ago." He glanced around the bridge. "If any of you object, feel free to try to stop me."

All eyes on the bridge remained on him, and nobody moved.

He clicked on the intercom and stepped forward. "Attention all units, this is Captain Danilov of the Charlemagne. The Phantom Pain has placed a Cyclops System underneath the Althea Crater base."

Outside, the battle seemed to stop for a moment, as all eyes turned towards the Charlemagne. The Minerva swung around again, but didn't fire.

"Six years ago, the Earth Alliance used one of these devices at Alaska, where they killed thousands of Alliance soldiers in addition to the attacking ZAFT troops. They baited a trap with their own headquarters. Now they are doing the same here and the bait is the installation where they create their Extended. Now ask yourselves, Alliance soldiers, if you really want to die to protect this evil place. Evacuate, or find and destroy the Cyclops System. The choice is yours. I have made mine."

He sat back down, just in time for General Schadt's outraged face to appear on the auxiliary screen. "Danilov, what the hell are you doing?!"

"Shut him off." The screen went dark and Danilov leaned forward. "We have a new target. Turn the ship against the Phantom Pain forces. And contact the Minerva."

Danilov swallowed hard as the crew set to work.

Earth Alliance Girty Lue-class battleship Nana Buluku, outside Althea Crater lunar base, the Moon

The engines of the Nana Buluku hummed as the ship slid through the battle under the invisible cloak of Mirage Colloid. The bridge was silent as Ivan Danilov's words echoed through every mind.

In the chair next to the captain's seat, Gerhardt von Oldendorf sniffed in disgust. "I suppose this shouldn't be too surprising," he muttered. "Danilov never did have the stomach for the Phantom Pain."

At his side, the ship's captain ground his teeth in fury. "Director, at least permit us to attack the Charlemagne. It's treason, what he did. We can't let it go."

Gerhardt waved a hand. "They'd tear us apart in seconds, Montgomery. The important thing is that we escape here. As long as nobody catches us on the way out."

Montgomery sat back, obviously unsatisfied but unwilling to argue. Gerhardt glanced out the bridge windows, where up above the vast black hull of the Charlemagne was turning its guns on Althea Crater's remaining defense nodes and blasting them apart, one by one and the Minerva sat in the background, watching as though in shock.

"Besides which," Gerhardt added halfheartedly, "if the Earth Alliance is falling apart, who are we to stick around for it?"

"You know, now that I think of it, I think I owe you one for trashing the original Green Frame too!" shouted Trojan Noiret as the custom rifle's sabers clashed against the Nebula Blitz's shield.

Inside the Nebula Blitz, Travis Alterman sneered. "Well aren't you a cocky little shit." The red mobile suit surged forward and fired a trio of lancer darts straight at the Green Frame Kai's chest; the Green Frame swatted them aside with its beam shield and ducked back from the Nebula Blitz's furious saber swing. "Even if the rest of the battle is going tits up, I'm still gonna rip you apart!"

"I bet," Trojan shot back, and the two mobile suits clashed again. The Nebula Blitz flung the Green Frame back and fired forward its anchor, clamping the claws around the Green Frame's left arm; Travis laughed triumphantly as he dragged the Green Frame close, beam saber blazing for the kill

In a flash, the Green Frame closed the distance and rammed the Nebula Blitz head-on with its left shoulder, sending the red mobile suit staggering back just long enough for Trojan to sweep the sabers up through the Nebula Blitz's left shoulder and tear off its entire arm. Travis snarled in fury and surged forward and with a crash, the Maga-no-Ikutachi claws slammed down onto the Green Frame's shoulders.

"Ha! Just try and do somethin' about it now, you little shit!" Travis roared.

Trojan smirked back. The Green Frame balled its left fist, the beam shield cover slid down over its knuckle, a beam spike flashed out of the emitter and with a sickening crunch, Trojan slammed the fist through the Nebula Blitz's cockpit. The dying machine threw sparks; Trojan reared back and kicked it away, and watched it explode with a satisfied smirk.

The first Euclid backed away with smoking holes peppering its fuselage. The Judgment Gundam spiraled through its desperate beam fire and charged down towards it. The second Euclid rushed in to cover the first as it withdrew but the DRAGOONs flashed in between them, and with a final shudder, the first Euclid slammed into the dirt and exploded.

Rau whipped around and showered the second Euclid with beam fire. It backed away behind its positron reflector and angled its beam cannons to return fire but then another wave of blasts slammed into it. Rau glanced over his shoulder.

"Ah, self-preservation," he chuckled.

The Judgment pulled back and recalled its DRAGOONs as a squadron of white and blue Space Force Windams descended like hawks onto the Windam and pounded it with beam fire. He lined up the two beam spike DRAGOONs and sent them shooting through the distracted mobile armor, and backed away in satisfaction as it exploded.

"Now then," he said, and scanned the battlefield. He could only imagine the fit Lord Djibril was throwing right now.

The Zulfiqar Gundam rang under the Crusader's relentless sword blows, but Shinn ignored the noise as he expertly parried every blow. The Crusader charged forward with a hard overhead hack; Shinn smacked the sword aside, then pounded the Crusader with a heavy kick to the chest.

"If your great big battleship's captain there can see the light, why can't you?" he asked.

The Crusader answered with a blinding blaze of long-range cannon fire that sent the Zulfiqar back on the defensive. It gave chase with another flurry of sword blows.

"I know somewhere in there, you know this is all wrong!" Shinn yelled. "So come out! Quit hiding from me!"

With a crash, the Crusader slammed its sword against the Zulfiqar's blade.

"I said quit hiding!"

Engines blazing, the Zulfiqar charged forward and threw the Crusader back. Shinn went on the offensive with a shout and drove the Crusader back with a storm of quick sword blows.

Sven ground his teeth as the Crusader fell back under the onslaught. His allies in chaos, his wingmen left behind, his mothership switching sides, and now this man in front of him, ripping down the walls that protected was simply all lost.

The Zulfiqar charged again but this time the Crusader flung itself towards the lunar dirt and fired a combat flare over its head, into the Zulfiqar's face. And with that, Sven took off over the surface, angling back towards Shams and Mudie's location.

Shinn grunted in pain as the Zulfiqar touched down. "Fine then," he said, "run away again."

A wave of DRAGOON fire flashed around the Nix Providence and pummeled its positron reflector. Kelly Maynard fought down the panic rising in her chest; as long as she could force open a path

The Twilight Cortana lunged out of nowhere and plunged its beam saber into the Nix Providence's right shoulder, and with a thundering explosion the entire positron reflector assembly disappeared. Kelly grunted as her mobile suit crashed backward into the lunar surface, and the Cortana up above leveled off its cannons for a finishing blast.

Instead, the Hail Buster opened fire with its own cannon and drove the Cortana back, despite missing its left leg at the knee and left arm at the elbow. The red mobile suit swarmed its DRAGOONs around the Hail Buster; Merau yelped with surprise as she fell back, and the similarly damaged Gale Strike and Regen Duel rose to take her place. But the DRAGOONs arced after them instead.

"Just open a path!" Kelly shouted. "Get around her!"

"I'm trying!" Grey sputtered. "These things "

Another wall of beam fire lanced through the battlefield and sent the Gale Strike and Regen Duel sprawling. Kelly whipped around, beam saber ignited, and charged upwards at the oncoming sight of an entire squadron of Resistance mobile suits.

"Then I'll do it!" she shouted

The Cortana was there, beam saber in hand, and everything went dark as it swept the saber through the Nix Providence's waist.

Down below, Grey's jaw dropped in horror as the Nix Providence vanished in a thunderous explosion. The Cortana landed with a crash and the other Resistance mobile suits followed suit, all of them with weapons leveled. He searched through the crowd for an opening, but with three damaged mobile suits, surrounded and outclassed by that red Gundam...

He let out a breath. So that was it. "Do either of you feel like dying?" he asked.

No one responded and so he checked the seals on his helmet, opened the cockpit, and slowly got out with his hands up.

The tunnels opened up into a yawning cavern, and the Celestial Justice came to a stop at the cave mouth as Athrun took in the sight before him.

Dozens of dish-shaped microwave emitters stretched before him. On the far side of the tunnel, he could see a control platform; one beam rifle blast across the expanse wiped it out. But that still left these dozens of emitters that altogether could still annihilate every living thing in the area.

Athrun snapped his beam rifle up towards the ceiling and opened fire. The Celestial Justice poured beam fire into the cavern ceiling, and the world began to rumble. Rocks began to fall and emitters shattered like glass; he turned the beams towards the floor, tearing up the Cyclops System's devices. And with a final shudder, the walls gave way and rock began to slide through the cavern.

He backed away, back into the tunnels, and thought back to his friends from ZAFT. If nobody could ever excavate this thing from the wreckage again, then so much the better.

"Damn it all!" screamed Hans von Schadt as his Liberty Gundam desperately wove its way through a storm of fire from the pursuing Aurora Gundam. Danilov's treachery had completely undone the battle; the Resistance was running rampant through the base, the regular forces had turned against him, the Phantom Pain troops were falling back in all sectors...

And that Gundam was still there.

He whipped around with a blazing full burst of firepower; the Aurora darted aside and transformed, and with a heavy crash it slammed its foot into the Liberty's chest and threw it back.

"Looks like you're having a bad day, pretty-boy!" laughed Viveka. The Liberty charged with a furious scream from its pilot; Viveka ducked beneath the saber blows and drew her own blade to parry the rest. "Well, don't you worry, it'll be over real soon!"

"You haven't killed me yet, Resistance bitch!" Schadt snarled.

"Oh, you're right, I haven't," Viveka shot back; the Aurora danced through the Liberty's frenzied fire. "Well, let me just fix that right up..."

Schadt threw the Liberty forward with a shriek; the Aurora backed away behind its beam shield

And then, faster than Schadt could see, the Aurora somersaulted over the charging Liberty, whipped around, and shot it clear through the chest with a single beam rifle blast.

Schadt stared in shock at the screen and the Liberty's dying controls and then he vanished as the Liberty Gundam exploded.

Viveka let out her breath and took the opportunity to glance around the battlefield. "I wonder if Athrun found that Cyclops System yet," she muttered. "Well, we're not all dead, so I guess so." The Aurora transformed and rocketed off towards the base.

Another N Dagger fell before the unstoppable beam barrage from Riika's troops, and the blue ZAKU Phantom ducked around the shots and planted itself on the lunar surface. The lone surviving N Windam charged towards her, beam saber blazing

Before it ever reached her, a flurry of beam blasts ripped it apart, and Courtney's Proto Chaos dropped back into the fight.

"Hey! You're back!" Riika said with a grin.

"The base is ours. Now we're mopping up." He glanced off to the side. "What about them?"

Near the Witch's Hammer's wreckage, the Nero Blitz bombarded the Kali Gundam with beam blasts. The sleeker mobile suit fell to one knee as the blasts pummeled its beam shield, and the Nero Blitz closed in with its grappling arms springing to life.

And then, quicker than quick, the Kali lunged forward and slammed its fists into the grappling claws' open hands. The Nero Blitz stopped short, just as the Kali activated its beam shields and blew the two claws apart and then slammed the Nero Blitz back with a ringing kick to the chest. The Nero Blitz staggered back and unleashed a storm of lancer darts, but the Kali wove its way through them, a beam saber in hand.

At last, the Nero Blitz charged forward with a beam saber of its own in hand. It swung upwards towards the Kali's chest but it caught nothing as the nimble black Gundam ducked down beneath the slash, then stabbed upward with its own saber and plunged it through the Nero Blitz's cockpit.

Watching from afar as the Kali backed away from its dying quarry, Riika grinned. "She's okay."

Emily grunted and the Eclipse seemed to agree as Ash Gray's Destroy buffeted her with beam blasts. It swatted the Eclipse to the side with one hard saber swipe, then to the other side with another swing.

"Not so cocky now, are you?!" Ash shrieked.

"Your side is losing, you know," Emily answered.

"What do I care!" The Destroy surged forward with a wave of firepower that drove the Eclipse back. "As long as I get to kill, that doesn't matter at all!" The Destroy brought down both its sabers onto the Eclipse's shield and smashed it into the dirt. "And today's the day!"

Emily's eyes went wide in surprise as the Destroy brought its right foot down hard onto the Eclipse's chest and began to press. Ash's cackling filled the cockpit.
"I can stand here all day, y'know!" he laughed. "Savoring every single scream as I squeeze the life out of you!"

The Eclipse rattled and groaned as the Destroy put more force onto its foot. Emily glanced around for an opening and saw her mobile suit's left arm still free.

"So are you afraid of me now?!" Ash screamed.

Emily scowled back. "No."

And then the Eclipse swung up the Dragon's Tail, glowing red with heat, and wrapped it around the Destroy's knee joint. With a hard tug, the entire leg gave way. Ash gasped in shock just as the Eclipse leapt back up and tore off the Destroy's right arm with its heat rod. The maimed giant staggered back with a torrent of firepower to cover itself, but the Eclipse darted through the blasts and ripped off its left arm at the shoulder with its beam sword, then rushed in even closer and delivered a point-blank palm cannon blast to the Destroy's head.

"H-How dare you!" Ash shrieked. "You little "

The Destroy rocked as the Eclipse slashed out the three cannons on its chest. Ash let out a wordless scream of fury and surged forward with a wall of fire from the circumference cannons.

Instead of making contact, the Eclipse dove through the blasts amid a cloud of afterimages, and plunged its beam sword into the Destroy's cockpit. Emily grimaced as she felt the twisted presence within evaporate; she ripped open the mobile suit's chest, switched back to the Dragon's Fire, and fired a single blast into the mobile suit's open wound.

And with that, the defeated Destroy staggered back and exploded.

The Eclipse landed with a shudder and Emily let out her breath. She shook her head to clear away the last tinges of his crazed presence from her memory and sat back up. Judging by the reports she'd heard during her fight with that lunatic, the battle had gone well for the Resistance, so perhaps there wouldn't be much left for her to do

"This is a message from the President of the Atlantic Federation."

Emily snapped her eyes towards the auxiliary screen in disbelief, where a man in a suit sat in an elaborate office, hands folded on a desk, staring intently into the camera.

"Citizens of the Earth Sphere," he said, "I am the Atlantic Federation's new President, Robert Meyers. As you are undoubtedly aware, I took office under the most tragic and unusual of circumstances. I did not seek the Presidency, but I find myself here now, and as your new President, it is my duty to report on a matter of grave importance, to my people and to those around the world."

Emily's brow furrowed at the words. What was this about...?

"Since taking office, a great many things have come to my attention. Secrets and lies kept by my predecessors. One of them concerns the events you may have heard about up on the Moon, at the Althea Crater lunar base. I speak of the oft-rumored Extended program, believed to have been terminated in CE 73. But upon taking this office, I have discovered that it still continues, under the auspices of the Phantom Pain and the Earth Alliance.

"Therefore, in keeping with our country's highest and most honored principles, I have just signed an executive order that calls for the Atlantic Federation's withdrawal from the Earth Alliance."

Emily winced at the palpable feeling of shock rippling throughout Althea Crater.

"Furthermore," Robert Meyers continued, "due to the manifold violations of international law and Atlantic Federation law that my administration has uncovered by my predecessor, the Phantom Pain, and the Earth Alliance at large, I have given further orders that henceforth, the Phantom Pain shall be considered an illegal terrorist group, and President Djibril shall be a wanted criminal." More shock flooded out across the area. Emily felt her jaw drop as the war changed before her eyes. "The full power of the Atlantic Federation armed forces and law enforcement will be employed to bring these criminals to justice."

Meyers continued, but Emily sat back in disbelief. The Atlantic Federation, withdrawing from the Alliance? Now? But what about ZAFT? Were they allies now?

She looked back towards Althea Crater.

"This decade has been trying on our people," Meyers said, "but the arc of history bends towards justice and we will bend it."

To be continued...