Phase 41 - Abominations

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED ETERNITY

Phase 41 - Abominations

June 26th, CE 77 - ZAFT mobile space fortress Messiah, Lagrange Point 5

The crowd surged over the barricades and stormed down the street, towards a waiting line of riot police. They backed away before the onslaught, but it made little difference; a human wave crashed over them and the carefully constructed police line vanished in a seething mass of swung batons and fists.

The screen changed. Cities in flames, pulsing with riots, an old man being forced from his office as a political avalanche swept over him...

Valentine and Kira watched in Messiah's control room as the world changed below them. For Robert Meyers, things were going spectacularly. Ever since the end of combat at Althea Crater, the day had been filled with ever-more-horrifying images from the base. Children in cage matches, gruesome human experimentation, families torn apart by the whims of a faraway bureaucracy and the zealots that controlled its machinery. The anger had spilled out faster than anyone had thought possible. Premier Musashihara had quickly sided with the Atlantic Federation and withdrawn the Republic of East Asia from the Earth Alliance. President Schtorzmann of the Eurasian Federation was now an ex-president, forced from office as the people rose up against his complicity with such evil. Prime Minister Manuel of the South African Union looked likely to follow. Whole regions were in open revolt. The Earth Alliance was disintegrating and ZAFT hadn't had to do a thing.

Valentine felt a twinge of annoyance at the thought that her great foe was collapsing and it wasn't her doing, but events were giving her an opportunity either way. Torn apart and pitted against each other, the nations of the Earth Alliance would be helpless to assemble the kind of military might it would take to stop her resuscitated fleet and the ZAKU Goliath.

"We'll have to move quickly to exploit this conflict," she said. Kira glanced over at her. "How long would it take to marshal the fleet and complete the final outfitting?"

"About two weeks."

"Then let's get the ball rolling." She grinned down through the main window at the Earth, seething with discord. "Fortune is kind to us, Kira. It won't be long now."

Daedalus Crater lunar base, the Moon

A disaster. That was the only way to describe this. An utter, unmitigated disaster.

Lord Djibril clenched and unclenched his fist around his cane as he followed a knot of Phantom Pain soldiers and officers to the dock. Everything was falling apart around him. Althea Crater was lost. General Schadt, the Destroys, the Extended, the Charlemagne, even Misa, all gone. The Atlantic Federation and the Republic of East Asia had declared him an enemy of their respective states. The Eurasian Federation was already seething with unrest. The South African Union was on the edge of abyss. Only the Phantom Pain and those Alliance regulars who remained loyal to himself and Blue Cosmos could still be counted on and they still had to escape the reach of those who couldn't.

And now, here he was fleeing Daedalus Crater Daedalus Crater, the lunar stronghold of his loyal army as the Atlantic Federation smashed its way into the fortress. The Requiem was disabled; the relay points were destroyed; everything had happened so fast...

"This way, sir," one of the officers said

"Get down!" another screamed, and shouldered Djibril to the floor. The hallway filled with smoke and up ahead, Djibril could see soldiers in flight suits with flak jackets and assault rifles pouring into the corridor after him. A squad of Phantom Pain infantry leapt into action and the chatter of automatic weapons filled the air.

"President Djibril, quickly!" one of the officers cried, and another group of infantry rushed in around Djibril to guide him towards a nearby hatch. Djibril glanced over his shoulder hatefully as the Atlantic Federation soldiers died amid a grenade blast.

As long as I live, I can salvage this...

The soldiers guided him down another corridor and he quickly made his way through an airlock hatch. Djibril let out his breath as his feet touched down on the deck, the hatch swung shut behind him, and the rattling started up as vast engines came to life.

Lord Djibril arrived on the bridge of the Girty Lue-class battleship Ahura Mazda with a furious look on his face and swept into the seat by the captain's chair. Nearby, Admiral Bartholomew Stone, looking worse for wear after what Djibril could only guess was an ordeal getting off Earth, turned towards him.

"Good to see you're alright, sir," Stone said. "We'll activate the Mirage Colloid as soon as we're clear."

"Very well," Djibril said darkly, and glanced towards the other side of the bridge. And then there was her.

"We'll triumph in the end," Crayt Markav said with a manic grin. "Nobody can stop us. We have the righteousness of the Lord on our side."

"Of course we do," Djibril sneered, and fixed his eyes out the bridge windows. Righteousness of the Lord or not, he was rapidly running out of people that were on his side.

"How the fuck did this happen?!" screamed Shams Coza as the Vanguard Gundam backpedaled out of its hangar, under a wave of beam fire. Up ahead, a squad of Windams in the white and blue standard colors of the Earth Alliance Space Force gave chase. One of them charged forward; Shams backed away with a beam cannon barrage, but the Artemis Gundam slid in with a raised beam saber to chop it in two.

"So many traitors," Mudie grunted, "we can't beat them like this..."

"Jesus, no fucking warning at all," added Shams. "Mudie, we have to get out of here. The Ahura Mazda is leaving."

The two Gundams turned upward, where the afterimages and explosions betrayed the Crusader Gundam at work, chopping its way through a squadron of Windams. Sven angled towards a Drake-class destroyer and plowed clear through its furious Vulcan fire, to plunge the anti-ship sword into the ship's hull and rip it open. The Crusader backed away and pumped a long-range cannon blast into the opening, and then watched as the ship exploded.

"Sven, come on! We're gonna get left behind!" Shams yelled.

In the Crusader, Sven cast one last baneful look at Daedalus Crater, in flames as the Atlantic Federation brought down the hammer, before he turned the Gundam towards the fleeing Ahura Mazda to make his escape.

Althea Crater lunar base, the Moon

Meyrin Hawke couldn't help but think back to her birthday as the last time she'd been surrounded by so much cheer. But this time they had something even better than her birthday to celebrate.

An exultant crowd of cheering pilots and fighters had gathered in one of the hangars, waving the trophies they'd seized from the base. A handful of men in black Phantom Pain uniforms and handcuffs were shuffled past, under heavily armed guard. Some people were fawning over the mobile suits left in the hangar, and whatever other supplies left in the base had been raided long ago even as the infantry teams continued to sweep the base for holdouts and stragglers.

But as much as she would've liked to join the drunken revelry, Meyrin had a more important job before her. Besides which, once the infantry got down into the Extended labs, they would probably want to get drunk for an entirely different reason.

She landed with Abbey on one of the decks near Althea's vast dock with four well-armed men from the Minerva's marine complement at her side. Up ahead stood a man and a woman in the familiar black uniform, surrounded by armed Resistance fighters. It was just as well, Meyrin supposed. No chance was worth taking in a situation like this. She came closer and ran a hand over the handgun inside her coat. So there was her nemesis of the past four months. Ivan Danilov.

Naturally, he was taller than her.

Nonetheless, Meyrin was the one with over a dozen armed men on her side, so she pushed down the emotions and stepped forward.

"So we finally meet face to face," Danilov said, not flinching in the slightest. Meyrin came to a stop in front of him and did her best to stay unreadable. "Before we get into any discussions about what you're going to do with me or my ship, I do have requests."

Meyrin glanced at Abbey. "Alright."

"I want my men allowed to leave unharmed if they so choose. And I want the rest adequately cared for."

"We can do that."

"Then," he broke into a slow smile and put his hand forward, "it's good to be on your side for once."

The tension melted away as Meyrin shook his hand with a smile of her own. "I was wondering what a man like you was doing in the Phantom Pain."

"We'll have plenty of time to ask ourselves that later," Danilov answered. "In the meantime, I believe I need to meet your superiors."

Meyrin shared another look with Abbey. "That can be arranged," she said. "And while we're doing that, welcome aboard, Captain Danilov."

"They've been quiet so far, but they haven't been willing to take the plunge yet and offer their services to us," the hulking mountain of a man explained as he stalked through Althea Crater's halls with an assault rifle hanging from his shoulder. A cadre of armed men surrounded him and by his side were Emily and Trojan, both glancing nervously between each other. "To be honest, I'm not sure what your meeting them is gonna do, but who knows."

"I know this is an inconvenience," Emily said. "I appreciate it."

The doors slid open and they stepped through into the cellblock where the Resistance had decided to stash its Alliance prisoners. The parties were screeching to a halt as word came back of just what the infantry teams were finding in the lowest levels of the base, and the base detention center was already full to overflowing with Alliance personnel as much for their own safety as anyone else's, as the gunmen worked their way through the base and found horrors at every turn.

Emily came to a stop in front of one cell, with only three people inside, all in the standard black and gray flight suit of the Phantom Pain. But one of them she knew by sight, and when he caught sight of her, his eyes went wide in disbelief.


"You remember me, huh?"

The boy sprang to his feet, anger flashing through his blue eyes. "What do you want? Here to gloat?"

"No, I just wanted to meet you." She paused as he seemed taken aback. "Since the last time we met was...different."

Trojan frowned. "You two have a history?"

"Sort of," she answered. "We...fought each other at Volgograd."

The boy balled his fists. A blonde-haired girl got to her feet and put a hand on his shoulder, "Grey, don't," she said. "It's not going to change anything. And besides..." She trailed off as she gestured to the third companion on the floor the one that Emily noted was seething with all kinds of emotions.

Grey looked back at Emily for a moment and finally sighed. "So what did you want from me, huh?"

"I just wanted to meet you under...better circumstances."

"Well, consider me met." He slumped back down next to the black-haired girl.

Emily was silent for a moment and glanced awkwardly at Trojan. "So what are you going to do?"

"Rot in this cell, it looks like," he snapped.

"You don't have to." Grey blinked in surprise and looked up. "Your captain joined us. You could too." She took a step closer to the bars. "We...don't have to be enemies." Trojan squirmed, but she ignored it. He could play jealous boyfriend later.

Grey turned away with a scowl. "We'll see."

Whatever cheerfulness Viveka von Oldendorf had felt at winning a major battle and personally wiping out the evil bastard in charge of this place was gone when she got to see just what that evil bastard had been in charge of down here.

The stench was the first thing that hit her. The stenches of blood and death were familiar ones to her nose, but here they were almost overpowering. It wasn't all from the fighting, as the gunmen had reported and judging by the way so many of them had emerged from Althea's lower levels with ashen looks on their faces, she believed them. But curiosity drove her on as she wandered through the bloodstained hallways and passed by the occasional corpse of a Phantom Pain foot soldier. She found door with a pair of horrified Resistance fighters huddled by it, steeled herself, and walked through

"Oh my God."

It was an impromptu triage where Mikhail Coast was in a blood-spattered lab coat giving orders to a small army of medics, but the bodies on the cots were almost all children. Children with horrible injuries. And the room was scattered with the remains of what Viveka could only assume were the ones who didn't make it. Human remains everywhere, and as she looked at the walls, she felt her stomach turn at the sight of row upon row of human brains.

"What...what the hell is this place?"

She found Athrun kneeling near one of the cots, over a little girl swathed in bloody bandages. He glanced up at her.

"This is where the Alliance makes its Extended," he said. "You...probably shouldn't have come down here."

"What are you doing here?"

He waved a hand. "I'm needed."

Viveka looked down at the girl in front of her. She couldn't have been older than nine years old, and already a long and intricate pattern of surgical scars were etched into her chest. And not all of them were surgical, either; some of them had the haphazard course of battle wounds.

Her stomach turned again. Battle wounds on a nine year old child.

"Who is she...?"

"One of the subjects," Athrun explained. "She got off with light injuries in the battle, but they sedated her all the same so they could work on the others." A scream of agony pierced the din and all eyes turned towards one corner of the room, where a doctor was extracting a bullet from a thrashing boy. " can see."

Viveka fought to keep the tears from her eye. "What...what did they do to these kids?"

Athrun got to his feet with a grim look. "Lots of things. Surgical implants, brainwashing, mental rewiring, conditioning...I wouldn't ask Sting and Auel about it, though. It's pretty traumatic."

"And...they do this to children?"

Athrun shrugged. "If you ever doubted the Phantom Pain was evil..."

"I don't care!" the boy shrieked, fists clenched, barely restrained by three burly Resistance gunmen. "I want my mother back!"

Auel Neider winced at the word and silently thanked Ian Lee that he was at least beyond that. "Look, kid, there's nothing we can do," he said, and awkwardly put his hands on the boy's shoulders. "We can't even look for her if you don't know her name."

"She's my mother! She can't be gone! She wouldn't leave me here!" the boy screamed, and struggled against his captors. The fighters glanced between each other.

"I don't think we're gonna get anywhere, Neider," one of them grunted.

"Yeah," Auel sighed, "go get him his shots."

"Damn you, bring her back!" cried the boy, as a fourth fighter swept in to help back him off. Auel sighed and decided not to tell him that she was probably dead. Otherwise they'd never get him settled down.

It dredged up an awful lot of miserable memories that Auel had to take special care to crush. The Extended program's trainees had always had two people groomed in their minds as their parents: an officer in the military, who would be their supervisor upon completion, and an instructor in the program. That was where they'd gotten his block word from, after all. 2nd Lieutenant Rachel Parker, combat instructor for the Extended program, had been the one for him. And every second in this damned place brought back his warming memories of her.

It also reminded him that she had been killed in the purging at Lodonia. He shook his head.

He saw way too much of himself in all these shrieking, terrified, mutilated children. And this was only on the upper levels where the uninjured subjects had been brought. He dared not venture down into the lower levels, where the testing labs were, and where the injured children were being kept. He'd heard all kinds of rumors about weapons testing and Frankenstein abominations down there, and he'd have nightmares enough just seeing his brethren like this.

But this was why he was here. This was why Ian Lee had gone to such trouble and risk to break his conditioning. To free him. The Alliance had given him power and Lee had given him the freedom to use it as he chose.

He slumped against a wall and let out a sigh, and then blinked in surprise as he felt an arm around his shoulder. Roxy smiled encouragingly at him.

"Hangin' in there?"

Auel squeezed his eyes shut. "This is so incredibly fucked up I can't find words to describe it."

She frowned. "Memories?"

"So many goddamn memories."

"But you're doing it anyway," she said, giving his shoulder a reassuring squeeze, "and that's what makes you a good person."

Auel smiled. "At least I got that."

Althea Crater's computers were simply rich with information, and Rau Le Creuset did enjoy information. Unfortunately, this was in such vast quantities that analyzing it would have to wait until he was less busy.

Instead, the base's logs had divulged to him a particularly juicy secret. During the battle, a warship had departed carrying one Gerhardt von Oldendorf. From there, it was child's play to extrapolate headings based on the last reports of its IFF code location, and they led straight to...well, that was simply the hand of destiny at work.

He turned in the small computer room as the door slid open and Emily slipped inside. Of course she would find him when he called.

"I found something here that I thought you might want to know," he said, and gestured to the screen. Emily came to a stop and a tornado of emotions whipped up within her.


"He was here during the battle, and he escaped," Rau explained. "The logs suggest that he was heading for Lagrange Point 4, and in particular..." He trailed off. "Are you familiar with a place called the Mendel colony?"


"I thought so." He stepped forward and assumed a professorial pose. Destiny at work indeed. "It was a space colony where genetic research was conducted. You remember Kira Yamato, I'm sure? He was the result of one of its shadier projects, a program designed to create a Coordinator that perfectly manifested the traits it was intended to have by removing the variable of the mother's womb. Quite a few failures were made along the way, and over the course of the research they learned quite a bit about altering the human body in enhancing ways."

Emily frowned. "Why are you telling me about this?"

"Because, Emily, he's your father and he's escaping out of your grip." He put a hand on her shoulder. "I know how you feel about him, but I think we can both agree that he does not have long to live. Someone will track him down and kill him. All this chaos is the perfect opportunity to pick off a meddlesome bureaucrat. So if you wanted to get answers from him, your window of opportunity is rapidly closing."

The emotions whipped up again. "Answers...?"

"After all that's transpired between you, you don't want to know the truth about what he had done to you? About your purpose to him? About your mother?"

The tornado surged and Rau suppressed a smile. "But we're staying here. We can't just get up and leave."

"Well, the Minerva can't," Rau said with a shrug. "But nobody said anything about you."


"Of course. With the Eclipse's Voiture Lumiere system, you could easily make it on your own to L4."

Emily looked unconvinced. "But...I can't just get up and leave everyone here. What if they need me?"

"I will deal with that," Rau said. "As for you, I think you have a more pressing concern."

The emotions began to stabilize.


"So then..." Emily trailed off. "What should I do?"

Rau smiled. "We'll wait a couple of days and keep our eyes on L4, to see if he materializes there. And if he can do what you must."

June 27th, CE 77 - ZAFT mobile space fortress Messiah, Lagrange Point 5

"It's still running sluggishly," sighed Gary Talon as he slumped down in the crew lounge. "I think the OS needs a tweak or two."

On the other side of the table, Juarez Recardo shrugged. "You can have Mason take care of that pretty easily."

"Yeah, but it's still a pain the ass."

They both fell silent as Kara Guinness drifted through the room. They watched her round a corner and head for the galley, looking like hell. Gary arched an eyebrow.

"What's up with her?"

"Only what's up with the rest of us," Juarez sighed. "Nightmares. Guilt. Fear. That kinda thing."

"I thought Miss Kill 'em All was beyond that."

Juarez gave Gary a stern look. "Everyone has a breaking point."

"Yeah, but she's the one who's always ranting at us about how the Naturals all have to die or else the whole universe will explode or something."

Juarez shook his head. "Gary, there's a difference between saying stuff like that and meaning it."

Kira Yamato was a man with burdens. Everyone in ZAFT knew that. He could not be their champion without feeling the weight of a people's expectations on his shoulders. But what always struck Kayla Segar was the way he took on so much without complaint.

That was at least how his history had worked. Everyone knew he had fought for the Earth Alliance in the Valentine War, but everyone equally knew that his spell in the Alliance had been less than voluntary in nature. And it had not taken him too long to see the Alliance for what it was and escape its clutches. And while he had done it with stolen ZAFT equipment and stymied their progress in the war, no one could forget that it was Kira Yamato and the Freedom Gundam that had stepped in to save the PLANTs from nuclear annihilation at the end of the Valentine War.

But what burdens he'd taken on. From fighting against his own people for the sake of his friends while press-ganged by the Alliance to leading the Coordinators back from exile, he bore on his shoulders the weights and expectations of so many. Kayla had no idea how he did it.

And however he did it was starting to fail. She could see in his eyes the toll this war was taking on him. Lost sleep, lower appetite, the telltale dimming of a man with far too much to worry about. The war was going poorly, and this reprieve with the Alliance's disintegration was a godsend to ZAFT. Their fleet was being chipped away, they were losing valuable resources to the invincible Minerva, and the Earth Alliance had proven to be a more formidable foe than anyone had expected before its fracture.

But now there was a chance. Kayla knew it, ZAFT knew it...and by the struggling flicker in his eyes, Kira Yamato seemed to know it too.

The White House, Washington, D.C., Atlantic Federation

"The problem regarding ZAFT is that for all his other faults, Lord Djibril was right," Admiral MacIntyre explained in the comfortable confines of the Oval Office. President Meyers sat behind his desk and Premier Musashihara of the Republic of East Asia sat in the other chair. MacIntyre truly hated dealing with these politicians, but at least Musashihara was a pragmatist at heart. "ZAFT's space fortress has a powerful beam shield that can easily shrug off the Requiem's blasts. It would have to be pierced with mobile suit armaments. They have the debris in the L5 shoal zone and a sizable fleet to prevent that from happening, so his decision to wear down the ZAFT fleet over time was essentially a right one." He frowned behind his beard. "But now we've upset that balance, so we have to act quickly to end this internecine conflict, before ZAFT can capitalize on it."

Musashihara sat back. "If I know Djibril, he's making the same calculations, so he'll be looking to resolve this conflict just as quickly and turn his attention back to ZAFT."

"Of course," Meyers said airily, "so he'll seek out a single decisive battle, throw the worst the Phantom Pain has at us, and hope it works out for the best."

"Something like that," agreed MacIntyre.

"Then this problem looks simple to me," Meyers said with a shrug. "We let Djibril set up his decisive showdown and crush him."

MacIntyre shifted uncomfortably. "He has the Phantom Pain fleet "

"Forty ships at the most," Meyers sneered.

"And he has loyalists throughout the Alliance military," MacIntyre added testily. "And we have no idea how many those might be, especially if he can retain the Eurasian or South African fleets."

"The Eurasian fleet has by and large remained loyal to the Eurasian Federation, and they are still up in the air," Meyers replied. "As for South Africa, between the Atlantic Federation's fleet and East Asia's forces, we can easily destroy them if need be. South Africa's space fleet has always been inferior."

"But that will take months of campaigning," MacIntyre protested, "and we can't afford to give ZAFT months off "

"Gentlemen," Musashihara interrupted, "our first target ought to be Djibril, as the admiral has said. If other nations intervene on his behalf, we will deal with them accordingly. As for ZAFT, it appears the Alliance's campaign against them has worked to knock them back on their heels, but they will not be on the defensive for long. As long as they are," he fixed Meyers with a steely look, "we should take this opportunity."

June 28th, CE 77 - Althea Crater lunar base, the Moon

Meyrin Hawke cringed at the sight of what still looked to her like a little girl in the chair opposite the desk in the captain's office on the Minerva. Sure, she had become an ace mobile suit pilot that struck fear in the hearts of soldiers in the Earth Alliance and ZAFT alike, but that didn't make Emily von Oldendorf look like any less of a teenager.

"So," she said with a sigh, "we've been searching through the files in Althea's computers and, well, I thought you'd want to know before anyone else." She pushed a sheaf of papers forward. "There's quite a bit in there about you."

Emily swallowed hard as she read. "I...figured there would be."

Meyrin sighed as she sat back and glanced at her own copy on the computer screen. It wasn't quite as gruesome as what she'd seen of the Extended labs and the abominations they'd been creating down there, but for the sheer magnitude of ruthlessness it would take for a man to submit his own daughter, it was at least a strong contender. Emily had been pushed to the very limits of human endurance in a child's body and had the very limits of medical technology to rescue her from the brink of death or permanent disability. The ship's doctor had been confounded at how she could possibly have survived this training, let alone in a healthy body; Dr. Coast had been even more amazed to learn that she was, technically, a Natural.

But she hadn't completely escaped damage. Her body was perfectly healthy, but her mind...

"It...makes sense," Emily said quietly. "The gaps in my memories...I guess they brought me up here a few times"

"There's a file in there about your mother," Meyrin said, and Emily shuffled through the pages in search of it. She grimaced as she watched the younger girl start to read. They already knew the story of Lorelei von Oldendorf, and that just made Emily's reactions to ZAFT's Unit Zero-Two all the more tragic.

"I know," she said quietly.

Meyrin shifted uncomfortably. "You can do what you want with this information now. It's your past, after all."

Emily stared down at the page and said nothing.

"I should have known MacIntyre had set this up," sighed Ivan Danilov, slumped in a conference room chair. "But what I didn't know was that you, sir, were in on this too."

At the other side of the table sat Joseph Copland with a sheepish smile on his face. "We all have our secrets, captain."

"Some more than others, it seems."

"In any event, we have business," Copland said, and folded his hands on the table. "We are willing to offer you a place in our fleet. You'll be watched, of course, and we will replace any of your personnel who do not share your new political persuasion with people of our choosing. James would probably be howling if he were here, but we have losses to replace and if we're going to go intruding on the Alliance's civil war, we're going to need all the help we can get. We will be stricter on you than on anyone else in observance of our rules and pursuit of our objectives. I'm sure you'll understand."

"Of course," Danilov said as he shifted awkwardly in his seat.

"As for your pilots..."

"I understand they haven't all come around."

"No, they haven't."

Danilov sighed. That would be awkward too. "They'll have to do that on their own. But in any case, I do have a request."


"In some engagement, if it's at all possible, I want to go into battle with the Minerva."

Copland arched an eyebrow. "Wasn't it your assignment to destroy them in the first place?"

"Yes," Danilov said, "and I'd like to...clear the air, as it were."

Copland smirked back. "We'll see."

It had taken Erin quite a while to stop crying, and Grey couldn't entirely blame her. There was a lot to cry over. He hadn't felt that much at Kelly's demise, but it didn't exactly lift his heart. Merau had handled it better by simply resigning herself to fate, and at the news of the Atlantic Federation and East Asia's withdrawal from the Earth Alliance, most of the captives had simply lost the will to resist what the Resistance had in store for them. Why should they care, after all, if the Alliance for which they had fought was crumbling away anyways?

But there was still that offer on the table, and it had gnawed on Grey ever since he'd finally met his haunting foe. He had expected sanctimony and gloating from the Angel of Death, but what he'd gotten was an offer to finally do something about that wriggling feeling of doubt that had tormented him ever since Volgograd. The evil in this place made it clear. It was an offer he couldn't pass up.

But nor could he pass up them. Merau didn't appear to care one way or another anymore, but Erin...

He sat down next to her and nudged her with his elbow. "Hey."

She stared up at him through teary eyes for a moment. Grey frowned. So maybe the crying wasn't totally over. "What...?"

"Just wondering how you're doing."

"Not any better," she sighed.

Grey swallowed hard. Now or never. "You know that offer the Angel made to us?"

Erin blanched. "'re not seriously thinking of taking her up on it, are you?"

"Well, why not?" He waved a hand at their surroundings. "You saw what they do in this place. How can I sit here and say that the Resistance is worse than that? That's not something I should be defending. Volgograd isn't something I should have been doing. I've been on the wrong side all this time. And now I've got a chance to change that." He looked over at her. "So...what about you?"

Merau glanced at them both with her hands behind her head, leaning back comfortably against the wall. "Are you serious about that, Grey?"

"Dead serious."

She arched an eyebrow. "Aren't you the same guy who was all gung-ho patriotic about kicking these guys' asses?"

"That was before I knew about all of this," he said, with another wave of his hand. "But, look, both of you. I'm willing to take her up on that offer, but I don't want to just bail out on the two of you. You're my friends and I don't want to just let you two rot in a cell while I go free. So I want you two to come with me."

"C-Come with you?" Erin squeaked.

"Okay," said Merau with a shrug.

Grey blinked. "Okay? That's it?"

"Yeah. Why?"

"Well, uh," he scratched the side of his head, "I just thought it would take more convincing, is all..."

"I don't wanna rot in this cell either," Merau answered with another shrug.

"Then...what about all those speeches you gave me about not thinking about the stuff I had to do in the Phantom Pain?"

"Eh. Who cares?"

Grey decided that he would just take that for what it was worth and turned back towards Erin. "What about you?"

She stared back in disbelief. "Y-You want me to defect?" She shook her head. "I, I can't do that, Grey, what about my father "

"They're not gonna do anything about that," Merau scoffed. "Not with all the chaos going down on Earth."

"No," Erin protested, "it's...he sent me here so that I could learn discipline, and if I jump ship "

"Then you'll have proven you learned something else," Grey said. "Doing the right thing." He knelt down next to her and put his hands on her shoulders. "You saw what they were doing in those labs. You saw those kids. I know you didn't believe me about Volgograd before, but maybe now you do. If you jump ship now, you're not a traitor or a coward, you're just doing the right thing. Your father will have to understand that. And if he's as good a man as you say he is, he'll be proud of you for that."

"And if he's not," Merau added, "then you never needed his approval anyway."

"Just...think about it," Grey said, and sat back with a sigh as she buried her face in her arms again.

"They're probably awaiting reinforcements," explained Rau Le Creuset on the gantry over the hangar where the Gundam Eclipse was waiting. "Gerhardt von Oldendorf is a person of relative importance in the Alliance's bureaucracy. If nothing else, he has knowledge that makes him dangerous and connections that make him valuable. Djibril probably wants him close at hand."

Emily shifted the weight of her helmet in the crook of her arm and looked down anxiously at the waiting Eclipse. "So I'll have to work quickly."

"Yes. But one battleship and sixteen mobile suits should pose little challenge to you."

Emily frowned. "How do I know he'll even be willing to talk...?"

"You'll just have to make that happen yourself." He gestured to the hangar. "They'll be opening the door soon. It's time to go."

With a resigned sigh, Emily hopped over the guardrail and pushed off towards the Eclipse's open cockpit. Rau watched her go with a smile. It was always good to see loose ends get tied up.

"What do you mean the Eclipse just took off?" sputtered Shinn. Athrun stood in front of him in the corridor, breathless, and gestured over his shoulder.

"In one of the Althea's loading bays. They saw Emily head out."

"The hell's she doing, going off on her own?" Shinn grumbled as he turned around. "Come on, let's go find Meyrin. We'll have to go after her."

"I heard them say she was on course for L4," Athrun added. "And the base logs showed that a warship carrying some kind of VIP had gone off towards L4 at the end of the battle here. So..."

They put two and two together, and Shinn cringed.

"Well, now we really have to find Meyrin."

ZAFT mobile space fortress Messiah, Lagrange Point 5

"And they're alone?" asked Valentine, standing imperiously over the sensor officer hunched over his console in Messiah's control room.

"Yes ma'am," he answered, "no other signals. Just the Minerva."

Valentine frowned and glanced at Kira, who crossed his arms. "Trajectory?"

"Towards Lagrange Point 4, sir." He paused. "We picked up an Alliance IFF there too, and a smaller launch from Althea about an hour ago, headed in the same direction."

"The Minerva on its own..." She glanced at Kira. "It's an opportunity."

Kira felt his stomach turn at the idea. With those new Gundams, fighting them would not be easy, and the Minerva itself made for a formidable foe as well. And then there were the pilots. Athrun, Shinn, Rau, that damned Angel of Death...

He nodded all the same. With the Seraphim gone, ZAFT had four Eternal-class cruisers left. Valentine would never part with the Deliverance, and the soldiers of FAITH had let him down in the past, but perhaps this time they could make it work. Whatever damage he could do now was damage he didn't have to do later on.
"In that case," Kira said, "I'm taking the Absolution, the Athens, and the Saint Josephine. And I want Zero-Two in on this as well."

He stalked out of the control room. The Vega Freedom would have to taste blood again.

En route to Lagrange Point 4

She will be our angel of death.

Emily ground her teeth as the voice swelled in her mind. Yes, she was his angel of death, she was his pet soldier that slaughtered people for his sick ambition. That was her power, forged at the cost of her sanity.

It was all there in the files Meyrin had given her, but she hadn't really learned anything new. She understood already what had happened to her, and the rest was just detail. She'd had punishing training throughout her childhood, pushing her to the limits of human endurance and dragging her back from the brink with medical technology before the consequences could set in. They'd sunken it all into her subconscious, left her with fear and anxiety towards the world around her, cut her off from her own sister, isolated her from her fellow humans. They'd broken her in every way they could and filled in the cracks with steel and fire, until she was nothing but a tool.

Maybe Rau was right. Maybe a world that would do that to her deserved to be destroyed. Maybe a world that would do that to her had to be destroyed if a better one was to take its place. Or maybe it wouldn't. Who knew. Who cared.

She still had one way to find out. She wasn't the only one who had suffered like this. Lily was an Extended, and she'd just seen the horrors they had endured at Althea Crater. Rau was a product of one man's greed, and the legacy of that was a body that slowly betrayed him.

And then there was Zero-Two. Her mirror image. Created to be everything Emily was supposed to be. Of all the souls she'd encountered, surely she would understand. Surely her mother, reaching back from the grave through the vessel of this clone, would be able to comfort her. Surely she wouldn't have to be isolated.

But until then...there was her father.

She will be our angel of death.

"Yes, father," she whispered, "I will."

To be continued...