Phase 47 - Unstoppable

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED ETERNITY

Phase 47 - Unstoppable

July 7th, CE 77 - Battleship Minerva, Debris Belt

The bridge was silent as all eyes were riveted to the auxiliary screen and the terrifying image of the crimson monster at the center of ZAFT's fleet. Surrounded by a translucent blue barrier, flanked by mobile suits and warships, followed by the vast shadow of Messiah, driving towards the Earth...

Meyrin Hawke's mind went back to Copernicus. They had underestimated the depths of ZAFT's revenge and its accompanying capacity for cruelty once before, and ten million people's lives had been the price of that mistake. But not this time.

Copland's image appeared on the auxiliary screen. "Did you just see "

"I did," she answered. "Are we abandoning our battle with Djibril?"

"Of course," spluttered Copland. "I'm redirecting the fleet or, well, what's left of it. There's been no order from the Atlantic Fed, but "

"We don't have time for them," she said. "I'm going ahead with whatever we can spare."

Copland smiled grimly. "Then we'll be right behind you."

Meyrin nodded and the screen went dark. "Roxy," she said quietly, "prepare for a full-spectrum broadcast. Everyone who's listening."

"Wha even to the enemy ships?" Roxy sputtered.

"Ships, mobile suits, everything. Just do it."

Roxy reluctantly set to work at her console, and a few moments later Meyrin lifted the intercom to her lips.

"This is Captain Hawke of the battleship Minerva," she said, and prayed that every ounce of authority Talia had ever possessed might somehow be hers, for just a moment. "We've just heard the Marshal of ZAFT threaten the Earth with annihilation. I was at Copernicus. I know that she is not bluffing. So I request that every unit that can hear me, whichever side you're on, come with me. Our target is ZAFT."

She clicked off the intercom and then Burt gasped in surprise. "Captain, a heat signature is rising in the cannon that thing is carrying!"

"Malik, prepare for evasive action," Meyrin said, and clenched her fists over the armrests. Here she was, staring another atrocity in the face but this time it would have to go through the Minerva first.

Earth Alliance Girty Lue-class battleship Ahura Mazda

An opportunity. It was an opportunity. And it was already slipping away.

Lord Djibril leapt to his feet and seized the intercom from the captain's hand. "All units, this is Lord Djibril, President of the Earth Alliance!" he barked. "I am ordering you to target and destroy the ZAFT fleet immediately!"

He looked back up towards the approaching fleet. They had moved so quickly, and where had they gotten all those ships? He had spent months chipping away their forces, but here, it looked as though he hadn't made a dent.

And there was the Minerva, with that ship's captain a teenage girl, a teenage girl that had spent years vexing him so rallying everyone to the position that was rightly his own. Everything was coming down at once, but as long as he could assume leadership here, take over the effort to stop ZAFT, finally scrape together a victory, then

"Sir, the heat signature is building up!" one of the bridge crew cried.

"What the hell are they doing?!" snapped Admiral Stone.

Djibril looked up and then, far ahead, the ZAKU Goliath raised the massive cannon in its right hand...and everything went white.

The Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Atlantic Federation

No one spoke as the smoke cleared on the main screens. That giant red ZAFT weapon had fired a huge beam straight through the Alliance, Resistance, and Phantom Pain fleets; straight through the battlefield; and into the Earth. They had hit only the ocean this time.

Robert Meyers stared in disbelief at the screen. MacIntyre painfully got to his feet as the Atlantic Federation President stumbled over to the railing.

"They...they're shooting at us," he said. "What happened to my emissary?"

"I think that's obvious," MacIntyre said. "Meyers. The fleet is awaiting its orders. We have to give up on Djibril and deal with ZAFT. This gamble has failed."

Meyers was silent. "How...did this happen?" He blew out his breath through his nose. "Well. What's the condition of our fleet?"

"Twenty percent losses, sir," one of the soldiers reported.

"And the other fleets?"

"The Resistance has lost fifteen percent; the other nations have lost up to fifty percent. The South African fleet "

"Whatever," Meyers said with a wave of his hand. "Inform Admiral Dougherty to retreat immediately."

MacIntyre's eyes went wide in horror. "Retreat?! Are you mad?!"

"We'll let the other fleets wear down the ZAFT forces," Meyers said, a twitch developing in his right eye, "and pounce on them at their moment of weakness."

"But then our line will collapse!" MacIntyre protested. "They'll break through before our maneuvers will be complete, and then they'll reach Earth!"

"They will not be so unreasonable!" Meyers shot back. "They are bluffing!"

"They weren't bluffing at Copernicus! You'll leave the whole Earth open "

Meyers turned away with a sneer. "Then so be it. Give Admiral Dougherty his orders. The ones who survive will understand "

A gunshot rang out, the room went silent and Meyers staggered forward and slumped to the floor with a bloody hole in his back. Behind him, a smoking pistol in her hands, Seri Minamoto fell to her knees. The bodyguards around the room reached for their weapons but then the chatter of automatic weapons filled the control room, the bodyguards fell dead, and the Alliance Army soldiers shouldered their weapons and looked meaningfully towards the admiral.

One of the Army officers nearest to MacIntyre looked around carefully at the carnage, and then back at the unruffled Grand Admiral. "Is this a coup d'etat?" he asked.

"Call it what you like," the admiral said.

"Then I'll call it treason."

MacIntyre fixed the man with a hard look. "Feel free to punish me, major."

The major stood still for a moment, eyes darting back and forth between MacIntyre and Meyers' bloody corpse and then turned towards the rest of the room. "For the duration of this battle, we are under Grand Admiral MacIntyre's command," he announced, and then turned back to the admiral, the picture of military precision. "Admiral, your orders...?"

MacIntyre smiled imperceptibly beneath his beard and stepped forward. "All units are to disengage from their present attacks and direct all attention towards ZAFT. They are the threat to our world that we all cherish, no matter which side we're on. They are our enemy. And they must be stopped."

"That thing has to be way bigger than a Destroy," Emily murmured as the Gundam Eclipse roared into battle towards the vast ZAFT fleet. "And it has that shield..."

Her mind raced for tactics to deal with that thing. Maybe what worked against a Destroy would work on that monster, but how could she know? What if it had an entirely different defensive system? It was so much bigger; it had to have more weapons. With one blast it had blown a gaping hole in the until recently warring fleets. And it had the entire ZAFT force escorting it to Earth.

Emily's blood went cold at that thought. Escorting it to Earth...that meant they wanted to land and turn all that destructive power on the Earth itself. So many people

Her instinct raced up her spine and she jammed the Eclipse's controls back just in time to avoid two blazing red beam blasts from above. She swung up the Dragon's Fire and squeezed off a shot, but more beams rained down on her and forced her on the defensive behind her beam shield. She snapped her attention up towards the source, already honing in on those two familiar presences.

"I shouldn't be surprised that you two would be here to stop me."

Up above, beam wings shimmering against the blaze of battle, floated two Destiny Impulse Gundams. One was in red and white, the other in blue and white and the red one had two towering anti-ship swords drawn, and it pointed them both combatively at the Eclipse.

"You've finally run out of places to hide, Angel of Death!" cackled Varder Ehrmacht. Emily frowned at his crazed appearance: the bulging eyes, the twitching grin, the cloud of madness surrounding his presence... "I am not letting you get away this time, bitch!"

She scowled back. "Still acting like I'm your rival or something, huh?"

"Shut your goddamn mouth!" Varder roared, his eye twitching. "You have no idea what you've cost me, you sanctimonious little whore! And today I'm going to make you pay for all of it!"

The red Destiny Impulse's eyes lit up with a furious flash and the Gundam rocketed forward. Emily yanked back the controls and exchanged the Dragon's Fire for her shining green beam sword, and brought down the blade just as the red Destiny Impulse's swords came crashing down.

The blue Destiny Impulse lunged up above the red one and fired off a blast from the cannons on its back that sent the Eclipse diving out of harm's way. "And you've cost me quite a bit too," snarled Lilith Ramsi as the two Impulses whirled around on their prey.

"I cost you nothing you hadn't already lost," Emily shot back with a scowl.

"Oh no, we had quite the career before us, before you came along," snarled Varder. "And now," the red Destiny Impulse hefted its swords, "it's time to take that all back!"

"Alright, so this is some pretty bad shit," Grey said with a groan, "but if we could take down Markav, we can handle that thing."

Merau and Erin both gave him an incredulous look. "That thing is, like, ten times the size of Markav's mobile armor," Merau said.

"Well, we're just gonna have to be optimistic," Grey offered. "You heard all those orders going out. It doesn't even matter who's on whose side anymore. All we have to do is stop ZAFT," he glowered ahead at the attacking ZAFT fleet and the crimson colossus at their center, "and that's a nice simple order."

"And how are we getting past that beam shield thing?" Merau asked.

"We'll think of something. If Erin could pierce the positron reflector with the Gale Strike's swords "

Erin's eyes went wide. "Watch out!"

The three Gundams rocketed apart just as a furious storm of beam fire lanced through the space between them. Grey frantically scanned the black skies for a sign of their attacker. Merau pointed up.

"Wha-what the hell is that?!"

Above them floated a white and black Gundam with elegant blue wings and eyes shining bright and gold. It lowered itself down before them and Grey cringed at the sight of shimmering sapphire wings of light stretching off its back. It regarded them impassively as Grey searched his memory for where he'd seen this mobile suit before.

"I-It's that white Gundam," Erin breathed, "from Sagan City..."

The Vega Freedom Gundam launched its DRAGOONs.

The Zulfiqar Gundam rattled as the Crusader's sword came down with a crash and the afterimages flickered around the two combatants. Inside the Zulfiqar, Shinn cringed at the sight of his glowering opponent.

"You have got to be kidding me."

Undaunted, the Crusader surged forward and flung the Zulfiqar back with its sword. "I am not letting you go," Sven snarled, and the Crusader charged after its opponent with another furious slash.

"So you'd rather fight me than try to stop that thing ZAFT is sending?" Shinn sputtered. "How could this possibly be more important?!"

The Crusader slammed the Zulfiqar back with another hard sword hit. "You know far too much about me to ever be let go," Sven said. The sparks flashed between the two Gundams as the Crusader pressed its blade down onto the Zulfiqar's sword. "And those things you know about me are weaknesses that can be exploited."

Shinn scowled back. "What, that you're not really a complete monster, you just pretend you're one?"

"No!" Sven flung the Zulfiqar back with a wordless shout. "You know that I hate what I am, and there's nothing I can do about it! And as long as you live, you'll keep reminding me of that and I'll never be free of it!" The Crusader surged forward with another swing.

"The hell is your problem?!" Shinn shot back. "I think there's more important things going on than your fucking issues, y'know!"

The Crusader's eyes flashed as it pointed its sword combatively at the Zulfiqar. "Then in that case, feel free to kill me," Sven said. "Because that's the only way you'll get away from me."

Shinn ground his teeth in frustration; the Zulfiqar hefted its sword and charged.

"How many of these fucking things are there?!" wailed Viveka von Oldendorf as the Aurora Gundam shook. Up ahead, a wall of ZAFT mobile suits poured a storm of firepower into the two charging Gundams. Athrun finally backed away with a snarl behind the beam shields, and together the two mobile suits ducked behind a piece of wreckage and made their escape.

"There aren't enough humans in there," Athrun said quietly.

Viveka blinked. "What do you mean?"

"There's more mobile suits back there than there are humans," he explained. "They must have found some way to remotely control machines or something."

Viveka looked back at the approaching army and then something in the back of her mind clicked and she blanched. "The Stargazer..."


"It's something Emily mentioned once. The Stargazer was a deep space exploration machine. It had a self-learning AI system to control it while it was beyond human contact."

"Then..." Athrun looked back at the ZAFT mobile suits. "Well, then that's good news and band."

"It is?"

"Good news is you can outsmart an AI." He frowned. "Bad news is it might not matter."

Viveka tightened her fists around the Aurora's controls. "I can outsmart some goddamn robot."

"I didn't say you couldn't," Athrun said, "but that's a lot of robots." He shook his head solemnly. "And we're going to need a lot more reinforcements of our own if we're going to stop them." The Celestial Justice edged forward. "So, let's go find some friends."

With a resounding crash, the Fujin Gundam's gunbarrels returned to their racks. Sting Oakley glanced nervously around the battlefield, where Aoma's fleet was falling back before the vast onslaught of the ZAFT forces. There were hundreds of them, and Athrun had just called in with his theory that some of them were controlled by artificial intelligences culled from the DSSD's old Stargazer unit.

Well, fine, let the robot revolution begin, he could take them. But Aoma's fleet was still being driven inexorably back as ZAFT battered its way through her lines.

The Force Impulse moved forward and Aoma leaned forward, frustration rippling across her face. "Move the Aldebaran back, they can't do any good anymore," she snapped. "Dammit, where did they all come from...?"

"Heads up!" Auel shouted, and flung the Marduk Gundam into the path of a storm of beam fire and railgun shells. The beams went flying wide of their intended target as the Geschmeidig Panzer system came to life, but the railgun shells slammed home and drove the Marduk back behind a cloud of smoke. Sting leapt forward and fired back with the missile tubes; up ahead, the projectiles found their mark on three of the attackers, blowing them to pieces, but the rest pressed forward and drove the Gundams back regardless of their comrades' fates.

"Jesus, these guys are intense," Sting grunted as the Fujin rattled. "We're gonna need some help here!"

"Ali, get the ships in position and open fire!" Aoma cried. On the screen, Ali stared back grimly.

"We'd be risking "

"I don't care," Aoma cut him off, "we have to stop them from reaching Earth." She glowered back up at the titanic ZAKU Goliath, still in the distance. "They weren't bluffing at Copernicus. They aren't bluffing here."

Ali frowned. "Then I'd advise you to get out of the way."

The Gundams darted upwards as Aoma's warships edged forward and opened fire. Up ahead, some of the ZAFT mobile suits were blown away in the first barrage but the rest scattered their formation to escape the blasts and returned the fire in spades. One of the Drake-class destroyers lurched as a handful of missiles struck its prow.

"Dammit, there's too many," Aoma hissed. "Fall back! Fighting retreat!" The ZAFT mobile suits moved forward, guns leveled

And then another wall of fire slammed into them from up above. Sting snapped his attention up overhead and gasped in disbelief as a squadron of Resistance mobile suits lanced down onto the advancing ZAFT units, guns blazing. And at their head was a blue ZAKU Phantom, the Proto Chaos, and

"Is that Stella?" sputtered Auel.

"Move, Auel!" Sting shouted, and the Fujin quickly shoved the Marduk back with a hard kick to the chest. The two Gundams rocketed apart as yet another wave of beam fire sliced through the space between them and Sting cringed at the sight of three more approaching enemies, these ones with the elegant armor styling and silver colors of the VaROZ units that had trashed his poor Chaos.

Auel licked his lips. "They want a rematch, huh?"

The Gundams blasted apart again as the VaROZ units went on the attack.

Rau Le Creuset could not decide what pleased him most: Valentine's lack of subtlety, Emily's growing impatience, or Athrun's quick deduction of just what was going on here. They just made everything easy for him.

The Judgment Gundam stood atop the scorched hulk of a Drake-class destroyer and turned its eyes towards the approaching army of ZAFT mobile suits. There were more mobile suits than there were humans in that crowd, as Athrun had discovered, but they were just small change. The real prize was at the center of that formation. The ZAKU Goliath had the power to lay low entire nations. It was worth dozens of Destroy Gundams. It was the closest thing humankind had yet come to creating a god and not the loving and forgiving modern gods. This was an old god, a god who demanded sacrifice and a god who had the means to take it.

Ahead, the ZAFT mobile suits honed in on his position and began to fire. The Judgment vaulted off its perch and rocketed into the fray, and its DRAGOONs lifted off with a flash of exhaust. The Gundam danced amid the blasts and the DRAGOONs spewed back blazing beam bolts; Rau smiled as a few of the enemy mobile suits exploded under the onslaught.

All that mattered was to get himself and Emily near enough to the ZAKU Goliath to make a difference. Human presences would be easy enough to find inside that thing. And he could feel the familiar pressure of Unit Zero-Two somewhere in that fleet as well. After she fought Emily, it would be child's play to convince the Angel of Death to take up a scythe that truly fitted her dreadful mission.

The ZAFT mobile suits broke formation and scattered from the Judgment's vicious DRAGOONs. Rau smirked and recalled the weapons with a crash as he rocketed through the gap in the enemy lines. The stage was almost set, and once again, the world already had one foot through the door.

Up ahead, yet another Windam exploded as a ZAFT ZAKU Warrior speared it on a beam rifle blast. It rushed forward until the Green Frame Kai lunged out of hiding behind a wrecked warship and slashed it in half with its custom rifle. Trojan whipped around and fired back at the dying ZAKU's comrades, but the vast cluster of mobile suits turned their guns towards him and forced him to flee behind his beam shield.

"Everything was going so well until these guys showed up," he grunted.

The Twilight Cortana burst out of hiding behind another warship wreck and charged headlong towards the first squadron of ZAFT mobile suits. The DRAGOONs lifted off with a flash and pelted the incoming machines with beam fire; a GINN and a GuAIZ R exploded, but the rest moved forward, and the squad of ZAKUs at their head backed away and tightened their formation.

"You aren't going anywhere!" Lily screamed, and turned the DRAGOONs on them but then one of the surviving GINNs peppered the Cortana with machinegun rounds. Lily ground her teeth in frustration and backed away then darted forward, afterimages flickering around the Cortana, and slammed her left-hand palm cannon into the GINN's chest and blasted clear through. She flung the sparking mobile suit away, but the rest had already moved into position, and a wall of beam fire drove back the Cortana and its DRAGOONs.

"These guys figured us out pretty quickly," Trojan muttered, and the Green Frame dropped in to cover the Cortana with its beam shield as the red Gundam recalled its DRAGOONs. "We're gonna need a new strategy here."

"Like what?!"

A squad of Gunner ZAKUs leveled off their cannons and fired. The two Gundams rocketed apart and began to back away. "They've got the upper hand now," Trojan said. "We need to find some allies, tie them up so we can break through."

"And do what?" Lily asked.

Trojan spared a quick glance towards the crimson colossus at the fleet's center. "Wing it, I guess."

Lily frowned. "That's the worst plan I've ever heard."

The Green Frame and Cortana pulled back behind their beam shields as the ZAFT mobile suits fired again.

It was almost comforting, really. There had been so many ways this plan could have gone wrong that Valentine Sunogachi had begun to worry that the universe would cut her short just on the cusp of her goal.

But it was too late now. Her enemies were in chaos and her own troops were on the march. And even from this range, the ZAKU Goliath could bring hell down onto the Earth.

"Marshal," one of the soldiers spoke up, "the Armageddon cannon is fully charged."

"Wonderful," Valentine said, and leaned forward to study the strategic map before her. "Well, gentlemen, I suppose it's only fair that we show our friends the Naturals the same lack of discrimination that they showed us. Pick a city at random, and let's light it up."

The crosshairs fell over the city of Dakar. Valentine smirked. Dakar, the capital of Africa, to the extent that a place like Africa could be said to have a capital city. But they wouldn't for long

"Marshal, heat signature ahead," the sensor officer piped up. Valentine frowned at the sight of nothing short of an entire Destroy Gundam and a squadron of Windams closing in from the front. The Destroy opened fire with its full arsenal, but nothing could pierce the Goliath's translucent beam shield.

Valentine sat back with a smirk. "Fire."

The Goliath raised its massive "Armageddon" cannon and shuddered as a vast golden column of light erupted from the barrel. The Windams promptly disappeared in the blast; the Destroy twisted and writhed as its positron reflector struggled to hold out against the overwhelming energy, but sparks danced around the massive mobile suit's joints and an instant later, the positron reflector gave way and it too vanished in the light. The enormous beam lanced across the battlefield, swept through a handful of Alliance-built warships, and plunged straight into the Earth. And even from far away, Valentine could feel the Goliath's power burn away thousands of people and bore a massive crater into what had once been a teeming city.

Just as we predicted.

"Armageddon discharge complete," the weapons officer announced. "Recharge cycle commencing now."

"Mark our next set of targets," Valentine ordered. "Pilot, keep us on course, maximum speed. We stop for nothing."

Earth Alliance battleship Charlemagne

"The Phantom Pain fleet is definitely collapsing," Danilov said, pausing only as something exploded entirely too close to the Charlemagne and shook the entire ship. "My hunch is that the command staff was killed during one of the blasts from that giant red thing. I can't confirm it, but hunches are all I've got to work with."

On the auxiliary screen, Joseph Copland nodded solemnly. His image was momentarily broken by static as something rattled the Alexandria. "We intercepted some transmissions, said something about the flagship going down. But we'll have to confirm that later."

"In that case," Danilov said, "I make no guarantees that this will work, but I'm going to try to rally the Phantom Pain survivors to our side." He gestured out the bridge windows, where the ZAKU Goliath was plowing through a squadron of Alliance warships on its inexorable way to Earth. "We need all the help we can get."

"And we can't let up, not even for a moment," Copland agreed. "So we'll do this. I want you to gather up whatever forces you can and attack the ZAFT fleet, including Messiah and that giant carrier they seem to be using as a flagship. Everyone else will go with the Minerva and attack that red machine. With any luck we'll split up the red machine and the troops guarding it."

Danilov blinked. "The Minerva? On their own?"

Copland smiled grimly. "This is what they do, captain."

"Be big damn heroes?"


The Charlemagne's captain sank back into his seat. "We're going to need some assistance breaking through the beam shield on that fortress. Lord Djibril built all kinds of weapons to do that, but they're not much good to us now..."

"Then do whatever you can and take whatever you need," Copland said. "We don't have time for the petty stuff. The entire world is in the balance." His expression darkened. "We are all imperfect, and none more so than I. But our battle is against an absolute evil."

Danilov looked back out the bridge windows, towards the armies of ZAFT.

But at least this time I'm on the right side...

Emily cringed as the Gundam Eclipse quaked under an unrelenting series of sword blows from the red Destiny Impulse. The blue unit swept in from behind with its own swords drawn; Emily darted away from Varder, backflipped over Lilith, then stormed down towards the two Gundams. Varder's Impulse shouldered aside Lilith's unit and swung back at full force with its swords, and Emily winced as the impact rattled her bones.

"I had a glorious career ahead of me in ZAFT, you know!" Varder roared. "I was appointed to FAITH, given control of an entire special forces unit, had a nickname for myself and the Order of the Nebula for my actions at Solomon's Sword!" The Impulse flung the Eclipse back and opened fire with its long-range cannons; Emily lunged away from the blasts amid a cloud of afterimages and fixed her attention on the smoldering human presence before her. "Kira Yamato himself entrusted me with important weapons and missions!" The Impulse rocketed in close again for another string of sword strikes. "And look what you did to all that!"

Emily scowled and seized her chance; she rushed forward as the Impulse brought its sword up, and forced it to jam its left-hand sword into the way to stop her beam sword blow. The blue Destiny Impulse lunged up from behind its red counterpart and opened fire; the blasts slammed against the Eclipse's beam shield and drove it back.

"You keep bouncing around like you think you matter to me," Emily shot back.

"Oh, and I don't?!" Varder snarled, and the red Destiny Impulse closed in again. "Because that's just the problem, isn't it?!" The red Gundam slammed its swords down again and again. "I'm humiliated time and time again by a fucking little girl!"

The Eclipse staggered back under a hard blow from the red Impulse's swords. "Oh, so that's what the problem's been all this time," she grumbled.

"Varder, get a hold of yourself!" Lilith cried, but the red Destiny Impulse blasted forward and pummeled the Eclipse's beam shield with long-range cannon blasts. Emily fixed her charging opponent with a glare as the red Gundam closed in.

With a thundering explosion, a Nelson-class cruiser from the Republic of East Asia buckled under the relentless fire from a swarm of ZAFT mobile suits and warships. Athrun grimaced at the sight of the explosion, and the feeling of all those lives disappearing. The Resistance and the Earth Alliance were finally getting along, and they were all getting wiped out anyway.

"Okay, hero boy, what do we do?" Viveka asked, as the Aurora backed away behind its beam shield. Up ahead, the ZAFT mobile suits began to cautiously press their advance. The Aurora lunged up over a salvo of beam fire and returned it with the plasma cannons, and down below, two of the ZAFT mobile suits exploded but the rest intensified their fire and sent the red Gundam scrambling for cover.

"The whole fleet is in chaos," Athrun said. "We have to mount a sustained attack."

"Great, General Rommel, so how are we going to do it?"

The Celestial Justice lunged forward into the ranks of a charging squad of ZAFT ZAKUs and the older mobile suits trailing after it. Machinegun bullets ricocheted off the Phase Shift armor as the Justice's claws snapped to life and ripped two of the ZAKUs apart. The two survivors backed away, covered by the automated mobile suits behind them; Athrun plowed through their fire, but two GuAIZ Rs lined up above to slam him back with a volley of railgun shells. One of the ZAKUs, sporting a Slash Wizard, charged forward with its beam axe raised

And then a beam lanced down and speared it through the chest. With an angry shout, Viveka poured fire from the Aurora's plasma cannons into the attackers and destroyed the remaining ZAKU but the automated mobile suits concentrated their fire on the Aurora and sent Viveka staggering back. Athrun lunged forward and ripped two of the mobile suits apart with the claws, but the rest backed away behind a protective screen of fire.

"Goddammit," he grunted, "this is getting us nowhere!" He spared a quick glance towards the vast ZAKU Goliath, still on course for Earth. "And all while that thing is still on the loose..."

Stella Loussier cringed as the Kali Gundam reeled under a hard kick to the chest from one of the VaROZ units. The pilot let out a triumphant laugh.

"You see just how useless you are?!" screamed the brown-haired girl with a curved scar over one eye.

The VaROZ pulled back its beam saber and Stella tensed, waiting to deflect it but then a flurry of beam shots from above drove the silver mobile suit back. The girl snapped her eyes upward, just in time for Riika's blue ZAKU Phantom to barrel into the battle with a hard crash from one of its spiked shields.

"How can you do this?!" Riika shouted; the VaROZ backed away as the ZAKU showered it with beam fire. "You're going to kill everyone on Earth with that thing!"

"It's only fair!" the girl shrieked back, and the VaROZ lined up its rifle to open fire again and this time, a wall of fire joined it from behind as the swarms of ZAFT mobile suits moved in. Stella charged forward after the VaROZ, only to be halted by a hurricane of machinegun bullets and railgun shells that sent the Kali reeling back.

Up above, the Fujin and its gunbarrels backed away behind the Marduk's Geschmeidig Panzer system and the Proto Chaos rocketed after them, both pursued by the other two VaROZs. Sting lunged out of hiding and fired back with his beam rifle; a rain of beams from the other ZAFT troops forced him back.

"There's no opening!" Auel yelled. "I can't "

"Too late!" screamed a man's voice, and one of the VaROZ units plunged down towards the Marduk with a beam saber held high

And then it staggered off course as the Proto Chaos slammed straight into it. The gunbarrels flashed as they warded off the three VaROZ units with relentless blasts.

"Go!" roared Courtney. "Pull back, now! I'll cover you!"

"Pull back?!" Sting sputtered. "But "

"The Resistance is gearing up for a counterattack," Courtney said, his image broken for a moment as the Proto Chaos took a glancing hit to the side from a beam rifle shot. "You're needed elsewhere. Now get the hell out of here."

"But you'll die!" Stella wailed.

Courtney turned his eyes towards the three VaROZ units as they fell into formation. "Then I'll do so on my terms!"

The Proto Chaos swung up with its gunbarrels streaking in ahead of it. The ZAFT mobile suits intensified their fire on the gunbarrels as they darted around the white mobile armor; Courtney charged forward, lit up the beam claws, and blasted into the three VaROZ units. They darted apart just before the mobile armor could hit them, and one of them speared the Proto Chaos on a beam rifle shot as it passed.

"COURTNEY!" Riika screamed and the Proto Chaos exploded.

Sting seized Riika's ZAKU by the arm and rocketed away, the Marduk and Kali right behind him and tried to squeeze the tears out of his eyes.

"He...he did it," Auel said quietly.

"Come on!" Sting barked. "We've got a fucking war to win!"

The Green Frame Kai ducked beneath a ZAKU's furious beam rifle blast and expertly chopped it in two with the custom rifle's beam sabers. Trojan backed away as his defeated foe exploded but the destroyed machine was simply replaced by a wall of beams, missiles, and machinegun rounds, driving him back behind his beam shield.

"Richelieu is going down!" someone's voice shouted and off to the right, an Agamemnon-class carrier finally snapped in two and exploded, and a squadron of ZAFT mobile suits darted away victoriously.

"Well, that's not good," Trojan grunted

An instant later, a fusillade of beams erupted out of the darkness and ripped four of the mobile suits out of the sky, and the Twilight Cortana rocketed into the fray with a beam rifle blast that drove the rest back. Lily launched herself back and fired down at them with the two long-range cannons; two of the machines vanished in the blasts, but the rest split up and showered her with return fire.

The Green Frame swung down into their ranks with a salvo of beam rifle blasts, and a GINN staggered back and exploded, pierced by one of the bolts. The rest shifted their fire effortlessly to the Green Frame and Trojan darted back with a surprised yelp.

"Those robot ones are so fast!" he cried. "Hey Lily, a little help here?"

With two blazing red blasts, the Twilight Cortana flung itself into battle but the fire merely shifted to it instead, and the two Gundams fell back behind their beam shields.

"This is hopeless!" Lily wailed.

"No!" Trojan shouted back. "Nothing's hopeless! Not yet!" The Green Frame and Cortana turned and rushed away as the ZAFT mobile suits opened fire again. "We just need to regroup...!"

The thin line of the Resistance and the faltering soldiers of the Alliance were already disintegrating, and it was all Rau Le Creuset could do not to sneer in contempt at all of them. So ZAFT had more forces than they'd expected and that Goliath was proving to be unexpectedly invincible. But he supposed this was par for course.

Flashing across the battlefield, the Judgment Gundam's DRAGOONs made short work of an attacking squad of automated units, and Rau took the opportunity to glance across the fray towards the ZAKU Goliath itself. It raised its left hand; a swarm of red, shining beams lanced out; a Nelson-class cruiser in front of the Goliath vanished in a plume of flame. Beams stretched off seemingly every point of its body to slice attacking mobile suits out of the sky. Rau smirked as a Zamzazar mobile armor rushed in with claws wide open; it plunged through the beam shield with its positron reflector, forced its way through, and charged towards the Goliath

...and the Goliath simply seized the Zamzazar in its left hand and crushed it, then tossed the sparking remains away to explode behind it.

"Yes, that will do nicely, my little angel of death," he chuckled. "Now we just have to get you there."

"You are out of your fucking mind!" screamed Shinn Asuka as the Zulfiqar and Crusader Gundams clashed, sword to sword, sparks flying. Sven snarled back wordlessly and slammed his sword down in a hard overhead blow, sending the Zulfiqar staggering back; he followed it up with a brutal horizontal swing that sent the blue and off-white Gundam reeling even further.

"The Phantom Pain forced me to give up on all my dreams," Sven said, "so if nothing else, I'll claim the satisfaction of destroying you!" The Crusader charged with a blast from its Agni Kai cannon; the Zulfiqar danced around it and the two Gundams clashed again. "The man who has eluded and defeated me for years! I'll end it here!"

Shinn scowled back. "And you're really willing to let the entire world burn?"

"The world is of no concern to me."

Anger flashed up Shinn's spine and he flung the Crusader back with his sword. "You bastard!" he screamed, and launched the Zulfiqar forward. Sven swung up his sword to defend, but the Zulfiqar sent him reeling with a series of devastating slashes. "What the hell do you have to fight for?! Are you just a tool for your commanders?! I thought there was something in there something afraid, something sad, something that didn't want to be this way!"

Sven ground his teeth as the Crusader quaked.

"But if you really don't care," Shinn snapped, "then I'll treat you just the way you are! A monster!"

Sven felt his blood freeze at the world. The Zulfiqar drew back its sword and charged. Sven raised his own blade to parry, but the Zulfiqar suddenly darted to the side with a flurry of afterimages. Sven whirled around, eyes wide

...and then the Zulfiqar was there, and with a screech of torn metal, Shinn brought his sword down through the Crusader, slicing off its head, its left arm, and its left leg at the knee. The Crusader threw sparks and smoke as it brought its sword up again but Shinn charged forward with a scream and slammed the mobile suit across the chest with the sword, tearing a smoldering gash in the black armor.

Sven went silent, his image vanished from the auxiliary screen, and Shinn let out a breath as he calmed himself. There were, after all, more important enemies out here. Other monsters to slay.

He turned the Zulfiqar back towards the battle and took off.

Beams and the flashing shapes of blue DRAGOON pods darted across the battlefield, and it was all Grey Saiba could do to keep up. At the center of the storm waited the Vega Freedom Gundam, impassively watching as the DRAGOONs battered the three Alliance Gundams into submission.

Up above, the Hail Buster flickered back into existence, already missing a leg, beam cannon extended only to fall under fire of the DRAGOONs. The black Gundam struggled to line up its beam cannon anyway; the DRAGOONs streaked in and blew off the Gundam's left arm and its entire cannon assembly. Merau yelped in surprise and opened the missile bays but two beams from the DRAGOONs pierced them and blew them apart, ravaging the Hail Buster's torso.

"Dammit...!" Merau groaned. "How did he do that?!"

The Gale Strike Gundam, missing its right leg and its entire left arm lunged up behind the Vega Freedom with its remaining sword held high only for the white Gundam to whip around, beam saber in hand, and sever the Gale Strike's head and right arm at the elbow with a swift chop.

"Erin, get out of there!" Merau cried.

"My weapons!" Erin exclaimed. "How did he ?!"

The Vega Freedom brought its saber around for a killing stroke

"No you don't!" Grey screamed, and burst forward; the DRAGOONs swept in with a fusillade of beams that claimed the Regen Duel's backpack and right arm. Grey closed in anyway with a shout and leveled off the beam rifle.

Undaunted, the Vega Freedom closed the rest of the distance in a flash of afterimages and sliced off the Regen Duel's left arm at the shoulder and left leg at the knee. Grey fired the thruster with one more angry roar and slammed into the Vega Freedom, driving the white Gundam back but it slammed its knee up into the Regen Duel's chest, then kicked it further back and opened up its cannons for a final full burst. Grey looked on in disbelief as the Vega Freedom glowered down at him and the guns fired

...and then the Hail Buster was there.

Grey Saiba watched in horror as the blasts slammed head-on into the Hail Buster and tore it apart. The explosion flung his ruined Regen Duel back, but the force never reached his brain; the only thing before his eyes was his friend.

The Vega Freedom glanced up at something else on the battlefield and promptly took off, DRAGOONs racing to follow. Grey remained behind in the Regen Duel's cockpit and could only stare at the cloud of debris before him.


The tears immediately began to flow, and he brought his fists down against the console.


Battleship Minerva

"I'll send my pilots wherever they're needed," Meyrin promised, "but if we're going to do this, they're going to need to come back and reload."

On the auxiliary screen, Joseph Copland seemed to sense the tension on the Minerva's bridge as he nodded. "We're too disorganized to carry out proper maneuvers," he said, "but we can surely manage a massed counterattack on the enemy. We'll need some time to get the word out. That will be your opportunity. And when we're done..."

"Then we'll be there for it," Meyrin said. "Minerva, out."

The screen went dark; she sat back and dredged up her memories of Lacus Clyne. A teenage girl had once led a band of soldiers with powerful weapons and powerful ideals to save the world not once, but twice. Surely she could keep that legacy alive one more time.

"Roxy, order our pilots to temporarily return to the ship," she said quietly. "Have Abes and his crew on standby to quickly reload and fix. Break out the extra weapons." She turned her eyes towards the hulking ZAKU Goliath still heading for the Earth. "And make it quick."

The red and blue Destiny Impulse units circled the Gundam Eclipse like sharks and showered it with red beams. Emily's eyes darted between the two of them; the Minerva was ordering her to return for some special assignment. Once again, she just didn't have time for these two.

Varder charged with a scream. "Quit mocking me!"

The Gundam Eclipse rocketed back to avoid the Impulse's furious sword swings. The blue unit slid in behind the Eclipse, its own swords ready; Emily whipped around and curled the Dragon's Tail around one of them, then yanked it free. Lilith hissed a curse and charged forward with her remaining sword; Emily batted her away, then turned again to deflect the red Impulse's bone-rattling downward swings.

"I have had just about enough of your arrogant little ass!" Varder screamed. "I am a soldier! You are not! You are going to die, like the child you are!"

Emily pursed her lips as the red Destiny Impulse closed in from the front and the blue one from behind. "I'm a child, am I?" she asked.

"Shut your fucking mouth!" roared Varder, and the Impulse pulled back both its swords.

And then, quicker than the eye could see, Emily lunged forward and swept the blue Impulse's stolen sword through the red Impulse's arms, severing them both at the elbows. Varder's eyes went wide in disbelief and then, an instant later, everything went white.

Emily winced as she slammed the Eclipse's beam sword into the Impulse's cockpit, and that churning ball of hatred inside vanished. And as that happened, a tornado of anguish and rage whipped up behind her. The Eclipse whirled around and ran the Dragon's Tail through the blue Destiny Impulse's left shoulder and head. The maimed mobile suit staggered back, smoke billowing and sparks flashing, and the Eclipse rocketed away as Lilith Ramsi's screams echoed in Emily's ears.

To be continued...