Phase 42 - To Conquer Death

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED ETERNITY

Phase 42 - To Conquer Death

June 29th, CE 77 - Althea Crater lunar base, the Moon

"I can tell you up front, ladies and gentlemen, that if Philippe Arnault is President of the Eurasian Federation now, then Eurasia is probably going to side with Meyers on this," Joseph Copland explained, to a packed conference room of Resistance leaders and officers. He was a bit disappointed that Meyrin and her team couldn't have been here, but they had other things to deal with, and he certainly couldn't begrudge her that. "Arnault never trusted Djibril or Blue Cosmos to begin with. He was against the whole idea of Alliance in the first place. He didn't even vote for the new Eurasian constitution."

In one of the nearby chairs, Admiral Barton arched a graying eyebrow. "That ornery ol' bastard's on our side now?"

"In a manner of speaking," answered Copland. "I don't know what's going on in South Africa, but if that's the only nation left on Djibril's side, then he's in bad shape. So I think we can safely say that the Earth Alliance is now defunct."

A chill swept over the room. The news of their enemy's collapse was supposed to be cause for celebration. Perhaps it might have been, if anyone had trusted Robert Meyers, if Lord Djibril weren't still alive...and if ZAFT weren't around.

Copland swallowed a knot of anxiety in his throat. "In the meantime," he said, "we will need to be careful about who we trust among the world's new leaders. This is a chaotic time. A time ripe for the settling of old scores. And we will have to be wary, because today's ally could easily become tomorrow's tyrant."

ZAFT Minerva-class battleship Fortuna, en route to Lagrange Point 4

The master office aboard the Fortuna was darkened when Kayla stepped inside. This seemed to be how Vice Marshal Yamato spent his scarce free time of late. To most of ZAFT, he was their tireless champion, but she saw the vulnerable side of the Coordinators' hero, and it never failed to unnerve her. Some terrified part of her was convinced that he would break at any moment.

Kira Yamato glanced up tiredly at her as the door slid shut. "What is it?"

"The Absolution's group just hailed us, sir," she said. "We're about to rendezvous, and we're about twenty-six hours out from Lagrange Point 4." Kira nodded, and Kayla took a tentative step forward. "Sir...are you alright?"

Kira shrugged. "You ever heard of a place called the Mendel colony?"

"No, sir."

"I thought so." He slumped back into his seat. "It' something of a personal connection to me." Kira paused, searching for words, and Kayla was about to say something when he spoke up again. "It's where I was born, you could say."

A shudder went down Kayla's spine. If few people in ZAFT knew of their standard-bearer's moments of weakness, even fewer knew of his past.

"It's not important," he added quickly, as though sensing her unease. "It's just...stirring up some old memories. I'm sure you understand."

"Of course, sir."

"Inform me when we're in range of L4. We'll wait and see what the mobile suit and the Alliance ship are doing before we intervene."

"Yes sir."

She slipped back out of the office with a quick salute and shivered again.

It was hard to be one of a people that had lost three wars in seven years. It weighed on the soul and made one doubt one's own worthiness to exist.

Kara Guinness shook her head as she stared out at the stars on the Fortuna's internal observation deck. They hadn't lost this war yet. They'd only lost two. The Valentine War definitely counted as a loss. And this one...well, blasphemous as it may have been, she knew just enough history to know that a plan that relied exclusively on a superweapon was probably going to fail.

She shook her head again. That was defeatist talk, and in this war, defeat meant death. There was no way the Naturals would let the Coordinators live after what had happened in this war. They would just have to count on disunity and overwhelming force to salvage victory for themselves. It was a bitter thought to consider that for all their technological and genetic superiority, the Coordinators were still standing on the brink of extinction.

Kara leaned against the railing and pondered the idea of life on the lam. Maybe Juarez had been right. Maybe they should have stayed at Mars.

Juarez. She closed her eyes and wondered how he managed to stay as calm as he did, with as many misgivings as he had about all this. He'd calmed down Gary and interceded in their fights, even as the ghastly things they did here gnawed at him. And they were starting to gnaw at her too because for all that killing, the Coordinators were no safer.

And that, really, was the worst thought of all. The thought that for all that had happened, she was still on the wrong side.

Earth Alliance Girty Lue-class battleship Nana Buluku, near Mendel Colony, Lagrange Point 4

"It's quite simple," Gerhardt grumbled as he leaned back in his seat on the Nana Buluku's bridge. "If the world is going to pot, we should get out of the way and see where the chips fall. Djibril's days are likely numbered, but he's had years to prepare for this eventuality, so I'm not counting him out yet."

Irene looked skeptical, and Montgomery looked even less impressed. "He has the Phantom Pain fleet and whatever loyalists in the regular forces that can make it to him," Montgomery sputtered. "He's lost Daedalus, he's lost the Requiem, he's lost Heaven's Base...what else does he have left?"

"I don't know," Gerhardt said with a shrug, "and that's just it. So I say we wait and see what happens."

"And if the winner here is someone who's not interested in extending a welcoming committee to us?" Irene asked.

"Then we'll deal with it when we get there," Gerhardt answered. "But since we don't know what we'll be dealing with "

"Captain," the sensor officer interrupted, "I'm picking up a heat signature on the infrared sensor, five o'clock, approaching fast."

"Put it on screen," Montgomery ordered and the bridge went silent in palpable horror as the image flickered to life on the auxiliary screen. Glowering back, eyes glowing and sapphire blue wings of light shimmering in the darkness of space, was the Gundam Eclipse.

"She...she followed us?" Irene sputtered. "But how the hell did she know "

"Launch all mobile suits! All hands, prepare for anti-mobile suit combat!" Montgomery barked. "It's only one mobile suit!"

Gerhardt remained motionless in his seat, glowering at the screen.

Well, well, well, so you've decided to come have a little chat...

Sixteen Dark Windams up ahead. Four with Doppelhorn Striker packs, two with IWSP packs, two with Lightning Striker packs, the rest on their own. Emily clenched her fists around the Eclipse's controls. She had almost expected her father to have some horrible secret waiting in that warship's hangar, just on the off chance she followed him. Maybe he still did. Or maybe he just wasn't omniscient after all.

She gunned the booster and rocketed forward. The Windams darted apart; the Doppelhorns and the two Lightning Windams backed away with their electromagnetic cannons extended, while the rest charged forward. The two IWSP Windams charged in close with a fusillade of machinegun bullets; they bounced harmlessly off the Phase Shift armor. Emily darted down and let the two Windams attack nothing but afterimages, then rocketed back up behind them and whipped around.

The two Windams turned towards her only to be slashed in half by a sweeping blow from the Eclipse's Dragon's Tail heat rod. And as they exploded, the black Gundam whirled around to use its beam shield to swat aside a salvo of shells from the Doppelhorns. The Lightning Windams opened fire next. The Eclipse danced between their shells and charged in close at the remaining Phantom Pain machines.

Again the Alliance mobile suits broke formation this time as the sweeping blasts of the Nana Buluku's Gottfried cannons coursed through the battlefield. Emily spared a quick glare towards the warship on which her father was hiding and then turned back towards the Windams. The Doppelhorns fired again, but caught only afterimages, and the Eclipse squeezed off a pulsing blast from its Dragon's Fire launcher that swept through one of the Doppelhorn Windams and blew it apart.

"If this is all you've sent to fight me, I'm disappointed," Emily snarled, and whirled around again to face the remaining mobile suits. One of the Windams lunged up from behind her, beam saber raised; the Eclipse turned with a flash of light and curled its heat rod around the Windam's waist, then wheeled around again and slammed the first Windam into a second. The two mobile suits struggled to free themselves and before they could, another blast from the Dragon's Fire evaporated them both.

Another Windam slid in from the side, beam rifle at the ready; the Eclipse ducked beneath its fire and backed away as the Windams intensified their blasts. Emily searched the black skies for an opening and found it as the Nana Buluku drove forward with a wave of Gottfried fire.

"Are you finally afraid of me, father?" she asked. The Eclipse swatted a Gottfried blast aside with its beam shield and wove its way through the fire. The Windams opened fire; their blasts caught more afterimages, and the Eclipse spiraled its way through the blanket of beam shots and stormed back down towards its foes. With a crash, the Eclipse stowed its launcher in favor of its gleaming beam sword; with another screech, it swept the blade through one of the Doppelhorn Windams and sliced it in half.

A Lightning Windam lined up its electromagnetic cannon behind the Eclipse, pointed squarely at its back; Emily jerked the controls to the side and ripped the mobile suit in two with her heat rod. Another Windam swept in from behind, beam saber in hand, only to be stabbed through the chest by the Eclipse's beam sword.

"You should have known that something like this wouldn't stop me," she growled, and turned towards the surviving seven Windams as they backed away towards their mothership. She barreled through the Nana Buluku's desperate fire, lanced her way past the Windams' fire, and ripped a third Doppelhorn Windam out of the sky with her heat rod. The final one sidled in behind her, pointing its cannons at her back for a point-blank blast and then the Eclipse backflipped over it and sawed it in half lengthwise with its beam sword.

The second Lightning Windam backed away and fired back desperately with its electromagnetic cannon; the remaining Doppelhorn Windam and the four regular Dark Windams tightened their formation and intensified their fire. Emily scowled back as she drew the Dragon's Fire again and fired, breaking their formation apart and with another blast, the Doppelhorn Windam vanished.

"And as for you," she added, glowering back at the surviving Windams, "I don't have time for you!"

Earth Alliance Girty Lue-class battleship Nana Buluku

The Nana Buluku shuddered as one of the Windams, stabbed through the chest by the Gundam Eclipse's beam sword, exploded close to the ship's hull. Gerhardt von Oldendorf scowled as he steadied himself against a bulkhead. So she'd gotten better. Wonderful.

The ship's hangar was in chaos as he arrived on one of the gantries. The mechanics were scattered throughout the ship trying to repair what damage had already been done, and the rest were trying to prepare the escape launches, but with so few left to the task, one of the launches was completely unattended. And that was the convenient part, as he quietly touched down next to it and approached the open hatch.

Gerhardt slipped inside, shut the hatch, settled himself into the operator's seat, and checked his suit pockets. A lone handgun and eight clips would have to serve him well for the confrontation he knew was coming, but like this, stuck on a warship that was rapidly losing its fighting strength, there was no way it would work in his favor. He would have to shift the battlefield.

The Nana Buluku rocked again. He quietly jetted the launch over towards one of the catapults. The mobile suits would distract her well enough. The catapult door swung open and the launch wormed its way out towards the colony.

The fifth Dark Windam died in a fiery explosion that left only the two regulars and the lone Doppelhorn Windam left in front of the faltering Nana Buluku. Emily circled around them and seized her chance, rushing in to run the Doppelhorn through with a quick stroke from the Dragon's Tail. The other two broke ranks and showered her with beam fire from both sides.

Down below, the Nana Buluku promptly flickered and vanished from view but the terrified humans inside did not, and Emily fixed their presences in her mind as she darted through the Windams' fire. With a shriek of twisting metal, she plunged the beam sword down into the ship's hull and struck the missile stores, then rocketed away as a thundering explosion ripped the top off the vessel and brought it back to the visible world. The two Windams took cover behind their shields just as the Eclipse leveled off the Dragon's Fire and drilled a blast through the ship's bridge tower and down through its engine block.

Vast arms of fire ripped apart the Nana Buluku. Emily turned towards the colony, where one more human presence could be felt. That one she knew well. Of course he had gotten away during the fighting. That was only his nature.

She fired the booster and rocketed down towards Mendel.

Mendel Colony, Lagrange Point 4

Gerhardt von Oldendorf did not fail to notice the way Mendel colony shook as something made a hard landing inside it. So the Nana Buluku was gone. So were Irene and Montgomery. Well, too bad for them. He had a rendezvous with destiny.

Trapped in here by his rebellious and angry daughter, but perhaps there was still hope. He checked the clip in his pistol. Perhaps he could talk her down. The poor girl always had longed for normal parents. But too much had passed between them for any pretense at familial love.

So perhaps he could guide her towards her destructive destiny. She was essentially already there anyway, and it seemed as though all she needed was one more push in the right direction. ZAFT had deployed that captured clone of Lorelei, so clearly they knew about her family past. Surely it was driving her insane to fight the Newtype specter of her beloved mother. A mind like that didn't need much persuasion to start thinking the entire world was out to get it.

He clicked off the pistol safety. And if she couldn't be persuaded...well, there were alternatives.

Shuddering with fear at the shadows before her, Emily tightened the belt on her leg that held her extra clips and ran a thumb over the safety of her smooth ZAFT-issue handgun. Hopefully those sporadic target practice sessions with Viveka would pay off today. Hopefully they wouldn't be needed and Gerhardt would just step on a conveniently live power line or something.

Emily left her helmet behind in the stale air of Mendel as she proceeded forward through a loading bay. The whole colony was seething with the unnerving feeling of abandonment. It felt like a graveyard.

But this was where that one man had been born. Kira Yamato. The creation of what Rau believed was a truly evil scientific experiment...not that the thought of artificial wombs made Emily feel any better.

Emily instinctively threw herself to the ground as the bolt of warning went up her spine, just as a gunshot rang out and a bullet slammed into the wall over her head.

"Usually you always tried to avoid me, Emily," the dark voice of Gerhardt von Oldendorf echoed out from the shadows. "It's not like you to go looking for me."

Emily snapped her own gun up and fired at the spot where the presence lurked, but it moved away, further into the darkness.

"I've changed," she said.

"So you have," Gerhardt agreed with a chuckle.

She moved forward through another loading bay and up above, standing on a gantry, Gerhardt opened fire again. Emily threw herself behind an old shipping container as the bullets rattled across the metal surfaces. She looked again as the gunshots ceased, and felt his presence retreating further into the colony; she hopped back to her feet and made her way up to an old cargo elevator, and it sputtered to life as she started it up. The familiar tug of gravity began to set in as it descended into the colony, and Emily felt her stomach turn as the presence came to a stop somewhere underneath those dusty, orange skies.

The doors slid open and the gunshots began again. Emily dove back down again and grunted as gravity did the rest. She picked her way to another convenient crate and fired back; the presence slipped away again.

"But I don't quite blame you for all that's happened," Gerhardt's echoing voice added. "Not even destroying my ship. I know you were only following the lead of your puppet masters in the Resistance. As you always did."

Emily moved forward, crouched low to the ground, towards the rusty façade of an old building. The lights were off as she stepped inside, and ducked again just before the shots rang out. She popped back up from behind a couch in a reception room and fired back towards the desk; a dark shape ducked below her fire and escaped through a side door, and Emily sprinted after it. More shots sounded; she threw herself against the wall as the bullets whistled by her.

"Even now, with this pretense of independence, you're just doing what someone told you, aren't you?" Gerhardt chuckled.

"If you're trying to scare me " Emily started, only to be interrupted by another round of gunshots.

"I hardly need to try to scare you, Emily," Gerhardt sneered. "It's always been that way."

Emily got back to her feet and started into the hallway, after the retreating presence and through the shadows. "If I'm here, then I must not be that scared of you."

"That sounds like a challenge."

She rounded a corner and flung herself to the floor as the bullets flew again. Emily ground her teeth and inched forward far enough to fire back but the black shape ahead of her slipped away down a staircase. She vaulted over the railing and landed hard on a thin metal walkway down below and blinked in surprise at the new room before her. Rows upon rows of clear glass tanks...with human fetuses floating inside.

"What...?" she started, and then ducked again as the firing resumed.

"A lovely place destiny chose for our little showdown, isn't it?" came Gerhardt's voice. "Rather fitting for our circumstances, I think."

Emily pulled herself back to her feet and focused on the presence's location. "Are you going to tell me I've got something to do with Kira Yamato?"

"Oh, heavens no," Gerhardt laughed, "Ulen Hibiki was far before your time. And besides, why would I taint my angel of death with that man's research?" More gunshots; Emily dove back behind cover and groaned at the impact on her shoulder. "Our presence here is ironic for an entirely different reason."

Emily's eyes followed as the presence stalked around a walkway, inching closer to her.

"You're looking at a family, of sorts," Gerhardt went on. "Hibiki and his wife combined their own DNA to create these test subjects, to produce a Coordinator that perfectly exhibited the traits it was supposed to have. And there were quite a few failures along the way."

With a start, Emily sprang back to her feet and opened fire, but the bullets bounced uselessly off metal surfaces as Gerhardt took cover. He shot back and forced Emily behind the protective bulk of one of the tanks.

"It's the symbol of what my family was," Gerhardt said. "A science project. A set of tools for a plan. Your mother understood that, but it's such a pity she never imparted that to you."

"That's because she loved us!" Emily snapped.

"You poor girl," Gerhardt chuckled. "You always wanted us to just be a family. All you really wanted was for me to be your father."

"Well, why weren't you?" Emily shot back.

"Would you have preferred me to lie?"

Emily clenched her teeth and fought to keep the tears out of her eyes. That had hurt a lot more than she thought it would have, even after all that had passed between them.

"You never did let go of that hope," he continued. "That I would be the smiling father, bursting with pride at his two baby girls, brimming with love for his beautiful wife. That mommy would get better and everything would fall into place. But it never did, did it? It was a shame she died so soon. I imagine I could have found other ways to use her "

Emily leapt out of hiding with a shout and emptied her gun in Gerhardt's direction but the presence moved around to the other side of the tank behind which he hid and fired back, forcing her back behind cover and scrambling to replace the empty clip.

Gerhardt's chuckling voice filled the room. "Touched a nerve, did I?"

"Don't you dare say that about her!" Emily snarled.

"Well, it's quite refreshing to see that you've finally developed a spine, Emily," Gerhardt replied. "I was afraid that might always be holding you back."

Emily choked back another tear. "How can you do this to me...?"

"Quite easily!" boomed Gerhardt's voice. "I have a more important concern than being the nice little father you were hoping for, after all."

Emily sprang back up with another blast of fire; Gerhardt slipped away amid the tanks and fired back. Emily yelped in surprise as the glass overhead shattered and a wave of sterile-smelling chemicals gushed past her. She returned fire, but Gerhardt ducked into the shadows.

"It's dreadfully ironic the Alliance decided to start calling you the Angel of Death," Gerhardt continued. "And it was when you joined the war that the sands began to shift beneath Lord Djibril. It was after you came onto the scene that the Resistance on Earth met its end, and ZAFT returned, and the world went careening towards Armageddon again. But always, you found a way to survive. Never managed to change the world for the better, oh no, never really had a true victory, even now. Not with ZAFT still around. But all the same..." Gerhardt moved again; Emily fired at the shadows but once again came up empty, and her father shot back to force her back behind cover. "I must say, Emily, you've made me a believer in destiny."

"Then how come I'm not fighting for you?" Emily snapped.

"Emily, you wound me!" Gerhardt laughed. "You think I was so small-minded in creating you?" She darted out from hiding again and scrambled behind another tank as the firing started up again. "I had much grander plans for you than that. After all, we live in a world that demands nothing less." Footsteps; another gunshot rang out and Emily flung herself behind another tank, while keeping her eyes fixed on the presence's location. "Do you really think I intended you to simply be the Eurasian Federation's pet super-soldier? Do you think I spent so many years grooming and training you for something as petty and temporary as national glory? There's a reason I called you the Angel of Death, you know."

"So I'd be your little killer?"

Gerhardt answered with a bullet that rang against the tank and splintered the glass overhead. Emily sprinted over to the next tank as the bullets streaked past. "Anyone can kill a human being. But institutions, empires, races, nations...those require something special. Someone with that kind of destructive force doesn't just happen, and even a human with talents like yours isn't much use without a weapon. So my compliments, really, to whoever decided to give you that Twilight Gundam, and whoever built you the Midnight. It's almost as if I were directing them myself."

Emily ground her teeth. "They gave me my Gundam to end the war."

"And I'm sure you will," chuckled Gerhardt, "and the next one, and the one after that, and so on. Doesn't mean a thing, really." More footsteps. "Look at this place, if you want an example. A place where humans were manufactured like mobile suits, built to order, discarded when a part was faulty. Or think back to Copernicus. Remember Copernicus? Ten million innocent people, murdered to satisfy an angry people's vendetta?" Emily leapt back out of hiding and opened fire, driving Gerhardt to safety behind yet another tank; he shot back and forced Emily back to the floor, and father and daughter both scrambled for cover under the hail of bullets. "Or you could fill in the blanks yourself. I heard all about your adventures in Karelia too, you know. And something sure got under your skin in the Pacific Ocean, when you slaughtered that ZAFT remnant force."

"What's your point?" Emily growled.

Gerhardt replied with a laugh. "You still don't understand...well, I suppose that never really was your forte anyway." Emily frowned at the sound of an empty clip being replaced. "Then again, not understanding what you're doing hasn't stopped you from doing it so far."

"What are you talking about?"

"Why, I'm talking about the past few months of your life, little Emily. You've been smashing your way across the Earth Sphere, you and your little Resistance friends. Tearing down everything. You disintegrated the Earth Alliance, the vastest and most powerful dictatorship in history. You got the Resistance wiped out. I'm sure you'll do the same to ZAFT. None can oppose your power, after all. Soon there won't be anything left. It'll be total anarchy. Relentless civil war. And the grand experiment of the Cosmic Era will end."

Emily fell to her knees. Total anarchy. Everything would burn. Her mind sent her back to that flaming crater at Anori, and Rau Le Creuset standing before it. Everything would have to burn, he'd said

"You know as well as I do that this world has gone wrong," he continued. "It needs to be corrected. We had Murata Azrael and his height of resentment, and Patrick Zala and his height of arrogance. We had Gilbert Dullindal and his height of tyranny, we had Lord Djibril and his height of hatred, and we had Chiao Xu and his height of delusion. Now we have Valentine Sunogachi and her height of bloodlust. Do you think the other leaders will do any better? Do you think Robert Meyers is going to correct the world?"

Everything would have to burn, he'd said, but...

"So we'll just have to burn it all down," Gerhardt said. "Wipe it all out. The Coordinators, the Naturals, the Alliance, ZAFT, all of it. And especially you Newtypes."

Emily looked up at the word. "What...?"

"Yes, you Newtypes, the greatest failure of all," snarled Gerhardt. He lunged out from behind his cover and opened fire, driving Emily back. She answered with a volley of bullets and the two combatants returned to a tense standoff. "I've been watching you Newtypes all my life. I thought you were going to be different from these mere Coordinators. Something special. Something truly able to turn humanity towards its better angels.

"But you're no better than us," he sneered. "Just look at the ones we've got. Kira Yamato. Crayt Markav. Shinn Asuka. None of them ever transcended the failures of their inferiors. Otherwise this war wouldn't be going on.

"And yet you Newtypes have power. You yourself are proof of that, Emily."

Emily picked herself up and darted towards the stairs, bullets banging against the walls all the way. She dove to the floor and crawled behind the staircase; up ahead, she could see Gerhardt climbing a different set of stairs, gun trained on her direction.

"So that was your master plan for me?" Emily snapped. "Killing Newtypes?"

"Isn't it ironic?" Gerhardt laughed. "Trying to wipe out the Newtypes, and yet I went to all that trouble to breed the finest one I could!"

Emily flung herself up onto the overhead gantry and fired at the figure across the way. Gerhardt ducked towards one of the side corridors; Emily gave chase and threw herself against the wall as he fired back. "Were you just jealous or something?"

"Jealous? Of you?" Gerhardt scoffed. "A super-soldier named after the Angel of Death who suffers whenever she kills an enemy, and you think I'd be jealous? Emily, please, I didn't raise you to be that stupid."

"You never raised me at all!" Emily shouted.

"And perhaps I should have!" Gerhardt fired back. "Because if I must sound one note of disappointment, it's over your failure to realize that part of your destiny!" Emily ducked back out into the corridor and flung herself into a recessed doorway as the shooting started again. "But I guess it's not all lost. After all, ZAFT has that clone of Lorelei's yes, don't think I don't know about that too." Emily felt her blood run cold. How...? "Now that is a Newtype who has gone decidedly off her rails. But I'm sure you can correct that. You've proven quite adept at exterminating troublesome people, after all."

"No!" Emily yelled back. "I won't! I'm going to save her!"

"Save her?" Gerhardt sputtered with laughter. "Save her? Good God, Emily! They told me you'd be kind of crazy if you were brought of incubation early, but I wasn't expecting you to be this bad."

Emily lunged back out into the corridor and opened fire again. Gerhardt retreated under a hail of bullets into a loading bay, piled high with rusty, disused shipping containers.

"No, Emily, I can guarantee that you won't be saving her," he chuckled, "even if those Newtype signals have your confused little brain thinking it's dear old mommy on the other side of the battlefield."

"Shut up," Emily hissed.

"Because it's not, you know," Gerhardt went on. "Mommy dearest was just too weak to keep up with the demands of my little project. Remember?"

"Shut up," Emily shot back, louder.

"And to think, technically, it was all your fault," Gerhardt added. "She never did recover from giving birth to you "

"Shut up!" Emily screamed

She abruptly vaulted over her cover and unloaded her gun into the space over Gerhardt's head. A loud snap sounded through the room and one of the crates gave way and slammed down onto Gerhardt's position. He let out a cry and his gun clattered across the floor. Emily sprinted over as she hurriedly snapped a fresh clip into place and rounded a corner.

There was her father, pinned beneath a fallen box, his gun lying several feet of out of reach. He glowered up at his daughter and cracked a smirk.

"There's...the weapon I built..."

Emily scowled back and put the gun to his head. "You don't have any right to say that to me."

"Why not?" Gerhardt asked, his voice low and labored. "I built you...after all..." He chuckled and then winced at the effort. "Go on your master. A-and tell them..."

"I don't have a master," she snarled. "I'm my own person."

Gerhardt grinned back, blood leaking from the side of his mouth. "No you're not," he breathed. "I...d-designed you...that way..."

Emily pressed the barrel of her gun into his forehead. "You said I was only meant to destroy things," she snapped. "But you're wrong. The most important thing isn't what you destroy. It's what you build in its place."

She pressed the trigger, but Gerhardt von Oldendorf died with a smirk on his face.

Battleship Minerva, near Mendel Colony, Lagrange Point 4

The hangar was silent as the Gundam Eclipse's hatch swung open and Emily stepped out. There to greet her were two of the Minerva's infantry, who promptly put her hands behind her back and led her away.

Down below, Viveka crossed her arms and watched her disappear into a corridor. "I know we can't have her running off like that," she said, "but the brig? Really?"

"It's standard procedure," answered Athrun. "In an actual military it'd be even worse."

Viveka shook her head. "I don't know what she was going after..."

"I do," Athrun said. "She was going after your father."

Silence descended over them both as Viveka was thunderstruck. "Our...father? She went after him?"

Athrun waved a hand. "That wreckage we found looks like it came from a Girty Lue-class ship, and Althea's logs showed that he did escape on one of those. So it sounds like she hunted him down. I can only assume she killed him or something." He looked over at her uncomfortably. "...I...guess."

Viveka frowned and looked up at the doorway she'd just gone through. "I'm not sure how to feel about that."

"I understand." He put a hand over her shoulder. "I had an asshole for a father too. I got over it pretty quickly when he died."

She leaned against him with a sigh. "If she went after him, though, and if she came out of the colony...does that mean she confronted him, like, in person or something?"

Athrun looked grimly up at the Eclipse. "I suspect she'll have a lot to think about."

June 30th, CE 77 - The White House, Washington, D.C., Atlantic Federation

"...of course, Michael," Meyers said as he leaned back in his desk chair in the Oval Office, phone in hand. "Of course...I understand, these things take time...yes...alright, goodbye, Michael." He hung up with a satisfied sigh.

In the other chair, Admiral MacIntyre raised an eyebrow. "Who was that?"

"President Okubo of the South African Union. The no-confidence vote passed and a short while later, they found Manuel in his office, dead. A new government is in the process of forming. It might take a while, but the opposition is quite happy to reverse Manuel's policies, including foreign affairs." He smiled. "South Africa is in the bag too."

MacIntyre looked down awkwardly at the world map on Meyers' desk. He could pretend otherwise, but it was clear that they had destroyed the Earth Alliance. The Middle East was clamoring for independence, the African Community was already restarting, the Republic of East Asia was in talks to reestablish the Equatorial Union and the Oceania Union, the royal family of the Kingdom of Scandinavia was agitating for was a wonder the Atlantic Federation itself wasn't coming apart at the seams.

"Djibril still has his Phantom Pain fleet in the Debris Belt, plus the loyalists he's scrounged up," MacIntyre warned. "And you know as well as I do what's lurking at Daedalus. If he managed to make off with even half of it, he'll be a serious threat. Even if the world's nations aren't on his side, he's still dangerous."

"Well, it's not like we'd be doing this alone," Meyers answered, staring skeptically at the admiral. "ZAFT might run across him first, and if not, there's always your...friends."

"They cannot destroy Lord Djibril for us," MacIntyre answered.

Meyers looked unconvinced, and MacIntyre sat back anxiously as he began talking about something else. Of course, with the world as it was now, perhaps it would have to be Copland who took out Djibril.

Earth Alliance Girty Lue-class battleship Ahura Mazda, Debris Belt

"Our fleet is exactly seventy-one ships strong, not counting the thirty cargo ships," reported Admiral Stone, "but we expect to add up to another twenty ships in the next few days. Most significantly, we also have reason to believe that Admiral Masorin might bring us another twenty ships from the Eurasian fleet, if he can get away from Eurasian intelligence."

The conference room of the Ahura Mazda fell silent as Stone finished his report and sat back down. Lord Djibril leaned forward.

"In that case, we'll need to break out the cargo," he said. "What did we manage to evacuate from Daedalus?"

Stone consulted his tablet. "Six Destroys, six Zamzazars, two Gelzuges, and thirty-two Euclids," he answered, "plus the whole of Colonel Hardin's Immortals regiment."

Djibril blew out a sigh through his nose. "I was hoping to save them for use against ZAFT..." He glanced at the other officer in the room. "What about the Vishnu?"

At the other side of the table, Crayt Markav twitched at the name. Djibril almost suspected someone had deliberately named it that way just to annoy her. "The mobile armor is prepared."

Lord Djibril leaned forward, mind working frantically. On Earth, his opponents had moved with astonishing speed to purge the toadies and minions he had stashed throughout the world's governments. Why had he overlooked Meyers? One bullet was all it would have taken.

He shook his head as Stone launched into a discourse on the ways they could array their fleet. ZAFT was still out there and he had no idea what they were planning, but surely Sunogachi was giddy with joy at the spectacle of the Earth Alliance crumbling before her. Whatever plans she had were almost certainly being accelerated. That fool Meyers was putting everything at risk to satisfy his own ambition. As though he knew how to deal with these barbarians.

But it wasn't over. As long as he could retake Daedalus, rebuild the relay points, repair the Requiem, then all was not lost. Not yet.

Battleship Minerva, near Mendel Colony, Lagrange Point 4

Yolant Kent watched with a heavy sigh as another set of missiles were loaded into the Fujin Gundam's hip armor. The downside of these new Gundams bristling with weapons was that it made for a whole lot more reloading in between battles.

Nearby, Sting Oakley appeared to agree with a loud yawn. "At least it's running well," he sighed. "Man, I can't tell you how good it's been to be back in action again."

Yolant peered down at the Fujin's joints. "And we never had time to run any tests on these things," he said. "Guess the guys at Gigafloat were more thorough than I thought."

"Or we got lucky," Sting added. He glanced across the hangar. "So what was up with the Gabriel?"

"You mean the Eclipse?"


Yolant shrugged. "Had the kind of damage you'd expect from a mobile suit and anti-ship battle. We looked over that wreckage too, it was definitely from a Girty Lue, but if you're asking what she was doing out there, I have no idea. She was pretty thorough, though. No survivors."

Sting frowned. "Well, whatever. I just can't wait to leave. That colony gives me the creeps."

"Yeah, I hear ya."

Silence and tension reigned in the Minerva's brig as Shinn Asuka stared down at Emily, arms crossed, as she sat in her cell.

"No matter what your feelings about it were, you can't do that," Shinn said. "Not without telling anyone."

"I know," Emily said.
"Then why did you do it?"

Emily glanced up at him. "Because I had to."

"No you didn't. He had one ship and sixteen mobile suits. There was nothing he was ever gonna do "

"I had to go face him," Emily said, and fixed Shinn with a glare. "It's my business."

"Not when we need you around here," Shinn said, pointing towards the floor, ire rising. "What if the whole thing had been a trap? You would have been isolated, way out here, on your own. You might have been captured or killed." He narrowed his eyes. "You remember what happened the last time you were captured?"

Emily glowered back. "I still had to go."

Shinn frowned. "What for?"

"You wouldn't understand."

"Try me."

"No," Emily turned away, and Shinn did not fail to notice the anger bubbling up within her, "you really wouldn't."

Shinn opened his mouth to speak, but the feeling of another presence in the room stopped him, and he whirled around to find Rau Le Creuset standing in the doorway, looking grim.

"Perhaps we should leave her alone," he said. "After all, that's why they call it solitary confinement."

He swept out of the doorway, leaving Shinn behind to fume. He looked back one more time at Emily and then stalked away, after Rau.

Left behind, Emily leaned back against the wall and let the mask of defiance fade away. Solitary confinement was just what she needed right now because she had a lot to think about.

"I know," Meyrin said on the bridge, slumped back in the captain's chair. "She's never done this before. I'm inclined to think it's a one-off thing."

"Well, one-off or not, we need to make it clear we won't tolerate this kind of thing," Abbey answered. "So, keep her in the brig for a couple of weeks and only let her out when she's needed."

Meyrin sighed. Crew discipline was a part of the captaincy she had never really had to learn. The Minerva's crew were veterans of ZAFT, already disciplined and trained, and they had all just given up on trying to get Roxy to act like a soldier.

"What was she even out here for anyway?" Roxy spoke up, as though cued. "What's to see? It's just an old colony."

"Mendel was the site of shady genetics research twenty years ago," Abbey explained. "Ten years ago a biohazard broke out and it was evacuated and sterilized."

Roxy frowned. "Then what was Emily doing at this old shithole?"

"You'll have to ask her," Meyrin said with a grimace.

The conversation stopped as something from Burt's console began beeping. He checked the instruments and blinked in surprise.

"Captain, heat signatures at two o'clock. They look familiar..." He blinked again. "It's that ZAFT Minerva, and three Eternal-class cruisers."

Meyrin looked back towards the bridge windows. "Kira Yamato, huh...?"

"They're launching mobile suits," Burt added.

Of course ZAFT would take another swing at them, with the most fearsome units they had. Meyrin forced down the fear. This time her ship had ten state-of-the-art new mobile suits to fight that Freedom Gundam. And just in case...

"Alright," she said. "Issue Condition Red. All hands, prepare for anti-ship and anti-mobile suit combat. Roxy, send a message to Althea requesting reinforcements." She paused. "And someone let Emily out."

The bridge began to sink down to its combat level, and Meyrin settled back into the seat. It was time for a rematch.

To be continued...