Mobile Suit Gundam SEED DESTINY - Red Planet
Phase 06 - The Turn Delta
November 21st, CE 76 - Orbit of Mars
With a flash and a blinding cloud of afterimages rippling from the beam wings blazing out of the massive yellow emitter on its back, the Turn Delta charged. Before Kira knew it, a beam saber had sprouted off the mobile suit's left arm, and it sliced both of the Strike Freedom's beam rifles in two with a single graceful swing. Kira backed away and let loose the Strike Freedom's railguns— and bit back a curse as the Turn Delta ducked aside and charged in close again, slamming its saber down onto the Strike Freedom's beam shield. Kira drew a saber of his own and hacked at the Turn Delta's waist; the red and white machine blocked his swing with an effortless saber thrust.
"This one is different..." Kira grunted. The Turn Delta surged forward, pounding the Strike Freedom with a kick to the chest. Kira leveled off the Callidus cannon and opened fire; the Turn Delta darted to the side, whirling around the Strike Freedom and bringing its beam rifle to bear. Kira whipped around to deflect the blast with his beam shield; his instinct rippled up his spine, and he sent the Strike Freedom rocketing upward to dodge another blast.
"Forgetting someone?!" cackled Omega Suzuki. The Astray Mars Jacket leveled off its beam rifle for another salvo. "These are no ordinary Astrays, Yamato!"
Kira ground his teeth and threw his machine through the two mobile suits' web of firepower. "I can see that!" The Strike Freedom whipped around, beam saber held high, and charged at the Mars Jacket— only for the target to dart aside, leaving the Turn Delta in its place to slam the Strike Freedom's saber with its own. Kira lunged to the right as the Turn Delta charged forward with a killing stab.
"That's it!" Kira backed away from his two foes and concentrated, reaching out mentally towards the eight nodes behind him. Exhaust blazing, the Strike Freedom's eight DRAGOON units lifted off. "Don't mock me!"
"Like those toys are going to stop us!" Omega laughed— and, true to form, the Mars Jacket and Turn Delta effortlessly weaved a path through Kira's DRAGOON fire. The Mars Jacket closed in, and Kira shuddered as its foe brought down one of those huge swords onto the Strike Freedom's beam saber. "Don't think that will save you! You're only the shadow of a Newtype!"
The Mars Jacket burst forward and pushed the Strike Freedom back with a thundering blast of its engines. Kira snapped a glance over his shoulder, finding the Turn Delta behind him and lining up for a deathblow. He swarmed his DRAGOONs around the shimmering machine, but it merely dove out of harm's way and held forward its beam saber, straight at the Strike Freedom's back—
"Not today!" roared Kira, and with a shriek of protest from the Strike Freedom's straining frame, he seized the Mars Jacket by the neck and hurled it down towards the Turn Delta. The second machine darted aside, just as Kira opened fire with his DRAGOONs. Once again, he failed to land a hit, but rocketed away and put some distance between himself and his foes.
The Turn Delta was upon him a second later, beam saber blazing, and Kira steeled himself for another swordfight.
"Kara Guinness, Impulse, launching!"
The catapult fired and Kara anxiously scanned the inky sky for signs of the battle between the Vice Marshal and the two unidentified mobile suits. One of them displayed the telltale radiation distortions of a beam wing system, but it was not the Delta Astray— so did that mean the MLA had succeeded in replicating that technology? The thought made her stomach turn. This war had been easy to fight, with the exception of that machine.
Kara eased her Force Impulse into formation next to Gary and Juarez's own units. Juarez's face appeared on the auxiliary screen.
"We're being redirected," he said. "Our new target is the Elysium. We will attack the enemy mothership and force a retreat."
"What?!" exclaimed Gary. "But Marshal Yamato is fighting those two units!"
"Gary, don't you even start. Form up; we're attacking the Elysium."
The Strike Freedom shuddered as the Turn Delta took another swing and sent the white Gundam reeling. Kira shook his head and snapped his saber up to block his foe's follow-up attack. A moment later, the Mars Jacket dropped in with a punishing overhead sword hack that nearly took off the Strike Freedom's right arm.
"Dammit!" Kira cried. "How can they react so quickly?!"
"Feeling the pressure yet, Yamato?" Omega laughed, as the Turn Delta brought its saber down again. "Finally we have the machine that will seal your fate! Sam, show him what the Turn Delta can do!"
The Turn Delta's eyes flashed obligingly, and a moment later the black sky filled with flickering afterimages. Kira turned to his Newtype sense, desperately searching for the presence of life, but he could only focus on Omega's overwhelming pressure— and then the Strike Freedom shuddered as the Turn Delta slashed out its Callidus cannon with a horizontal swipe. Kira backed away, deploying his railguns— only for the Turn Delta to chop off both barrels. The Strike Freedom rocketed upward, swarming its DRAGOONs around itself; instead, the Mars Jacket let loose a barrage of beam rifle fire, forcing the DRAGOONs to break formation and putting Kira back on the defensive.
"It's like that Destiny," Kira snarled. "So fast I can't get a lock..."
The Turn Delta charged again, and Kira steeled himself. It brought its saber around for a blow towards the Strike Freedom's head; Kira swung his saber downward, knocking his enemy's blade wide, and with a shriek of metal he sliced the Turn Delta's beam rifle in two. The rifle exploded, but the undeterred Turn Delta dove through the smoke with a second beam saber active, and Kira brought his saber back around to desperately parry both blades.
At that, the Mars Jacket swept in from behind, sword upraised. "You're mine!"
Kira snarled a curse and brought his DRAGOONs to bear, forcing the Mars Jacket off course. With a burst from its engines, the Turn Delta surged forward, drawing back one of its beam sabers for the kill.
"That's it!" Kira snapped. "Enough!"
The seed fell, and the Strike Freedom roared forward and slugged the Turn Delta across the face with its left hand. The red and white mobile suit reeled backward; a moment later it rocked as the Strike Freedom rammed its knee into the Turn Delta's chest, and brought its saber up for the kill—
Instead of the Turn Delta, the saber blade slammed down onto the Mars Jacket's sword, and Omega hurled the Strike Freedom back. "Not today, Yamato," he snarled. "You'll have to do better than that."
The Strike Freedom's eyes lit up with a flash, and the Gundam charged.
Martian Liberation Army Izumo-class battleship Elysium
He was overexerting himself again.
Howard bit back a scowl as he watched the battle on the Elysium's bridge. The Astray Mars Jacket was a fine mobile suit, no doubt, but Omega Suzuki was a dying man and a dying man could not push himself too hard.
The Turn Delta, meanwhile, was truly extraordinary. It was similar to the Delta Astray— in kind, but not in degree, because the Turn Delta far outmatched the Delta Astray in performance. It twisted and turned like a shark on the hunt, and it was one of the few machines in the entire MLA roster that could claim to have drawn blood from the mighty Strike Freedom.
Howard jumped in surprise as a volley of beams sizzled past the Elysium's bridge tower, far too close to have come from the battle before him. He glanced to the side just as the sensor officer identified the source— those three damned combining units.
"Murasame team, scramble!" he cried. Within seconds, the first squad of Murasames rocketed out of the Elysium's hangar, arcing around towards the three charging combiners and forcing them off course. Howard snapped his gaze back towards the battle, where the Turn Delta and Mars Jacket were being held at bay by the Strike Freedom's swarming DRAGOON units.
"Sir, the Fortuna is launching more mobile suits!" the sensor officer exclaimed.
Howard steeled himself and seized the intercom. "Colonel Suzuki," he said, "we're being attacked by the Fortuna's combiners, and enemy reinforcements are approaching."
A derisive snort came back on the line. "Are you trying to spoil our fun here, Howard?"
"We could be killed."
"Don't tell me you're afraid of that, Howard."
"We would not be able to escort the Turn Delta to Deimos."
At last, Omega heaved a sigh. "Fine, fine. Sam, change of plans. We're retreating for now." There was a pause, and Omega assumed that baleful air he always used against the Hero of ZAFT. "You're in luck, Mr. Yamato. Consider this a taste of the Turn Delta's power."
The combat flares blazed into existence in the starry sky, and Howard watched with suppressed gratitude as the two MLA mobile suits came streaking back home.
ZAFT Minerva-class battleship Fortuna
They had never seen the Strike Freedom Gundam in such pitiable condition before.
That new MLA mobile suit with the beam wings and huge yellow emitters had feasted upon the gleaming armor, and the mobile suit's surface was crisscrossed with scars from saber swipes and rifle blasts. It had been little more than a blur during the battle, but now...well, Lyle could not help but shiver in fear. If he was less than invincible...
Lyle shook the thought from his mind. It was a new machine, but it was not unstoppable, and Marshal Yamato's mobile suit had taken damage before. There was not yet reason to despair, and he resolutely turned his mind towards the impending battle at the Austral Colony. There were more important things to worry about.
"The Elysium's course leads directly to Deimos," the sensor officer reported. "The Marseille III freighter is following close behind."
"Let them go," said Lyle. "We have a schedule to keep."
Kira saw the wings of light before him as he guided his battered but faithful machine back to the Fortuna. They made for a worthy foe, as they had on the Destiny Gundam three years ago— and they brought back the memories and feelings of that war and all the horrors that it contained.
It was during those moments that Kira became most keenly aware of his mechanical prosthetics. Three years on, he had gotten used to the lack of sensation in his right arm and left leg, and the mechanical eye had its uses. But the scars— the scars were there every time he looked in the mirror, every time he wrapped his fingers around his Gundam's controls, every time he touched his lovely Valentine. It was maddening.
Maddening, perhaps, but he could deal with it. He would have to if the world were to change. But, as he guided the Strike Freedom into its berth, it was always there, and someday he would have to be delivered from this endless nightmare.
That new mobile suit was still there, though, and Kira's emotional problems aside, it represented an entirely different problem. The MLA had clearly figured out how to build beam wing technology. That meant this war needed to end, before the MLA became a real threat to ZAFT's carefully guarded power. That, perhaps, was why they had retreated so quickly as well. It certainly wasn't because Kira had defeated them.
Kira closed his eyes as the Strike Freedom settled into its brace in the Fortuna's hangar. The wings of light were his enemy once again, but they were not his true nemesis. Athrun Zala and Shinn Asuka and the Destiny Gundam were still waiting for him in the Earth Sphere. He flexed his mechanical right hand before him. Before he died, he would return the favor.
"That was kind of anticlimactic," sighed Gary Talon as the Fortuna's three FAITH pilots drifted towards the locker rooms. He glanced contemptuously over his shoulder. The battle had ended almost as quickly as it had begun— as though the MLA had merely wanted to announce the existence of an indigenously designed mobile suit carrying beam wings. Then the Impulse units had launched their attack on the Elysium and the whole battle came to a screeching halt, with the MLA forces promptly running away. It made no sense.
Juarez, for his part, shook his head and resolved to put it behind them. "We'll let Command figure out what that was all about," he said. "We have more important things to worry about." He glanced at his two wingmen. "I want you both to take another simulator run on the Blast Silhouette. We should have time for one more before Jack of Diamonds, and we need to squeeze in all the training and preparation we can."
Gary arched an eyebrow. "I thought I was going to be on the Sword Silhouette."
"It doesn't hurt to be prepared." Juarez motioned towards the lockers. "We'll meet at the simulator room at 1300 hours."
Juarez watched them both go and fought back the sinking feeling in his stomach that something would happen at Austral for which he could not prepare them. He thought back to the vicious Battle of Solomon's Sword, and knew that no training could have prepared him for what he had seen there. And Kara and Gary, experienced as they were in combat, had little experience in that special sort of ferocity that marked an all-out battle. Perhaps if Austral surrendered, the carnage could be avoided...but nobody really believed that the Austral Colony would wave the white flag.
At that, Juarez merely shook his head and pushed off after them, towards the locker rooms. They would have to learn sometime.
Martian Liberation Army Izumo-class battleship Elysium, en route to Deimos
Brooding in his chair on the bridge and staring out the windows into the emptiness of space, Omega Suzuki ran over the previous battle in his mind, abortive as it was. He and the Turn Delta had put Yamato on the ropes, but ultimately Howard's judgment was correct. A retreat was the wiser choice, carrying the Turn Delta and Ceti XIII's other toys to Deimos, where Omega suspected his real showdown with Yamato would take place. There the Mars Jacket could be completed and then he would have the true sword he needed to exact his revenge.
Unfortunately, that meant he had to miss the battle at Austral. Not that it would have made a difference militarily, of course— the Austral Colony was isolated from its allies and the full weight of ZAFT and the ZMA's power was swinging down upon it. But lost opportunities were vexing to a man who had not the time to wait for another.
He reached out with his senses and found the flickering presence of Sam Janelin, his ersatz wingman in the battle against the Strike Freedom. He had done what few other pilots could claim and drawn figurative blood from ZAFT's gleaming warrior-angel, but all in all Omega felt a tinge of disappointment about the great Shooting Star Janelin. He was a good pilot, but deep down Omega could not help but feel that the Turn Delta's true potential and true prowess were meant for another man— for, perhaps, Agnes Brahe.
Omega smirked. Not that Agnes Brahe would be getting his hands on the Turn Delta, of course. He was effectively trapped at the Austral Colony, and would likely be annihilated with the rest of them. That was a pity, really, for so talented a pilot to be eradicated, but there was nothing Omega could do about it. The Elysium and her forces would not change the tide of this war, and Austral was really just a sacrifice to complete Vargas's master weapon.
Yes, it all worked out well. Agnes and his colony would be destroyed, and that was unfortunate. But then ZAFT would turn its attention towards Deimos, towards the Beelzebub Array, towards Vargas— and then Omega would have his perfect battle.
Martian Liberation Army Headquarters, Deimos
The target was Ceti II, an abandoned asteroid mine hollowed out and stripped of its useful ores years ago. It occupied a curious position among the scientific art of asteroid installations too small for use as a military installation, too big to break up. None of Mars's warring armies had any real use for it, which meant it was just a big, empty rock, drifting in space, waiting to meet its fate.
Standing in the Deimos control room with a wicked grin on his face, Vargas glanced across the screen at Ceti II's fate. The Beelzebub Array was complete. Now to test it.
"Charge is complete," one of the deckhands reported. "Internal temperature is stabilized. We're ready to fire."
At Vargas's side, the skeletal old Admiral Keller cast an inquisitive glance towards the MLA's leader. Vargas uncrossed his arms.
"The Technical Division says that the Array should blow that rock to smithereens," he said. "So let's find out." He raised his hand with a flourish, and relished the moment. "Beelzebub Array, fire!"
The huge mass of the Beelzebub Array flickered for a moment, drawing in its solar energy cells, and a sphere of light flashed into existence at the center of the machine. Blinding light flooded the control room, the flickering sphere at the center expanded, and with a blaze, it lanced out towards Ceti II.
Vargas broke into a grin as Ceti II exploded in a shining ball of fire.
"Perfect!" he cackled. Only a cloud of dust and bits of rock and scrap metal remained. "It's perfect! Yes, surely it can destroy colonies if it can do that!" He whirled around towards Keller. "Get the positron reflectors online and recall our fleets to home space. We are going to end this war."
Austral Colony, Charitum Montes, Mars
"We're going to die here, aren't we?" asked Sars.
Gard turned around sharply, hearing Sars despite the din of the hangar as the mechanics feverishly worked on their Daggers. "Wha— what makes you think that?"
"Vanfeldt said so."
"Vanfeldt's an idiot. Don't listen to him." He shook his head. "Assuming that you're going to die in the next battle just makes it certain that you will. Fight to survive instead." He offered a smile. "I'll be out there with you, so you won't have to worry too much. I'll have your back."
Sars smiled back weakly. "I know. Thanks." He glanced towards his trusty Dagger. "Hoskin says we'll be outnumbered three to one."
"But we'll be the defenders in this battle," Gard pointed out, "and ZAFT never commits many forces to these battles. Austral Colony's garrison can take them."
Sars looked unconvinced, and Gard held back a sigh, wishing he could make even himself believe what he was saying.
The loyal and reliable Slaughter Dagger locked back into place with a crash, and at the controls of the crane loading the ammo, Vanfeldt cracked a grin. The coming battle was going to be fun. Skirmishes were okay, but an all-out epic battle like the one brewing at the Austral Colony was just the sort of slugfest that Vanfeldt loved.
Technically, that had gotten him in trouble. He'd been one of many Mafia hitmen back in the Earth Sphere, and had the misfortune of getting caught— before Lord Djibril came along and offered him his life in exchange for his service on Mars. Vanfeldt didn't mind too much. The three-month trip out here had been maddening, but now he had a Slaughter Dagger to play with, and made sure it lived up to the prefix of its name. It was nothing personal— he couldn't give a shit how this war ended either way— but the MLA fixed up his Dagger for him and let him tear stuff up, and that was pretty fun.
Of course, it wasn't all fun and games. They persisted in giving him "objectives," "orders," and "discipline," which was why they had put Gard in charge of the crew. Gard had an annoying habit of spoiling Vanfeldt's fun, but other than that, he couldn't say he really minded the taciturn young ex-Orb officer. Besides, being in charge meant you had to be responsible, and Vanfeldt would have none of that. He just wanted to fight and kill and destroy and have fun.
Vanfeldt glanced over his trusty Dagger. It was a fine machine, but its age was beginning to show. Djibril had claimed it was fresh off the assembly lines, but it had the sort of quirks and curiosities that only appeared in a machine that had already seen decent frontline use. He idly turned his thoughts towards the machines that the Technical Division was supposedly building. Rumor had it that they were beyond even ZAFT's mighty Strike Freedom.
Vanfeldt licked his lips eagerly. Now there was some fun.
A scattering of the men of Austral Colony's defense force stood at attention before him, as Agnes Brahe stood on the hangar gantry with his arms behind his back. Technically, he was not the officer in charge of this force, but he was the Austral Colony's ace pilot and its brightest star— so it fell to him to carry out the daunting task of trying to inspire these men.
"Mars is no place for useless people," he began, and the hangar went still. "That is our mantra. Our creed. The sustaining principle that has kept us alive and prosperous in the unforgiving world of the Martian colonies. Even where the Coordinators of the Earth Sphere were wiped out in a foolish war, we have survived and persevered against death itself. Our society is perfectly adapted to this harsh environment. Our way is the only way for Martians to survive and thrive."
He paused to choose his words. "Now we have to defend our way of life," he said, "because make no mistake, that is precisely what ZAFT intends to destroy. They are coming with their dogs in the ZMA ahead of them. They want to destroy us because we represent the prosperity and progress that they denied themselves. They were foolish and got themselves destroyed in foolish wars with the Naturals in the Earth Sphere. Now they're here, and they see our prosperity and it angers them, because they could have had it too— and they still could, if only they weren't wrapped up in their greed and vengeance.
"But that's not why they're coming here," he went on. "They're coming to destroy us. We, who have worked so hard to build a thriving and successful Martian colony, know the secret lies in engineering the perfect society at the genetic level. In this world of conflict and strife, our colony is our sanctuary— and now ZAFT is trying to take it away from us! They brought us war and suffering and strife, and if we don't stop them know, that is all we'll ever know!"
He thrust his fist into the air.
"Fight for our people, for our home, for our sanctuary, for our way, and throw ZAFT into the dust!"
The men screamed their approval, and Agnes forced down his doubt. Whether or not the Austral Colony itself would survive was irrelevant, because it would not die.
November 22nd, CE 76 - ZAFT Minerva-class battleship Fortuna, orbit of Mars
It was the largest force ZAFT had yet mustered in this miserable Martian War, and Admiral Harkill was moderately proud to see it in action. Two Nazca-class destroyers, four Laurasia-class frigates, and three Maya-class dropships came to a halt, with the Fortuna at the center. Standing tall on the Fortuna's bridge with his officers surrounding him, Harkill turned his eyes towards the fleet, such as it was. The six Marseille III freighters of the ZMA opened their doors and the ZMA's mobile suit force began to drop towards Mars, each unit equipped with an atmospheric reentry shield.
Harkill stepped forward. "Operation Jack of Diamonds will now commence. All units assume your positions and begin mobile suit drop procedures at once."
The Fortuna rattled as the catapult doors swung open. Harkill glanced back towards the dropships, their reentry pods disconnecting themselves and heading towards Mars. He held back a smile. The endgame had begun.
Kara settled back in the Force Impulse Gundam's cockpit seat and eased the machine into formation with the rest of the ZAFT units descending on Mars. Even though it was easy enough, she never enjoyed atmospheric reentry— and recalled that it was even worse in the thicker atmosphere of Earth. The Impulse set its shield in front of its body and began its descent.
She glanced around the cockpit. She had but a single task— to support Marshal Yamato in combat and serve as one of his wingmen. Easily said, not so easily done. Once he got into a groove, the Marshal was a force of nature on the battlefield, and it was all Kara could do to just keep up with him, let alone protect him. As if he even needed it.
"Kara, Gary," Juarez's voice interrupted. "ZMA scouts reporting tracer fire. We're gonna be in the shit about as soon as we hit the thermosphere. Brace yourselves."
Gary answered with only a derisive snort. "What the hell can they hit two hundred kilometers up?"
"They're launching missiles. Stay on guard."
The screen went dark, and Kara took in a deep breath. There were already a few flashes of fire down below— where she suspected the ZMA vanguard troops were already running into the Austral Colony's defense screen. Of course Austral would not go down without a fight.
But they had created that damned Delta Astray, and they had birthed Agnes Brahe, and they had that evil genetic caste system. Even if ZAFT turned its guns on Vargas and finished the MLA off for good, the Austral Colony would keep fighting, for the sake of their abominable little "way of life."
Kara narrowed her eyes at the flashes of fire below. They would get in the way of ZAFT's exacting of justice...so they would have to die.
"Beginning reentry process. Radio blackout begins now."
In the rattling cockpit of the Strike Freedom Gundam, Kira sat back and switched off his radio. Atmospheric reentry on Mars was less stressful and difficult than on Earth, but it still required precise calculation and course correction to ensure he landed at Charitum Montes and not somewhere halfway across the planet. But now it was out of his hands. He was on direct course for the Austral Colony, along with his troops...and now it was just a matter of waiting until he joined the battle.
He shook his head to dispel the demons. "Thunderclap" rang still in his mind. He could have no doubt or hesitation; his troops depended on him. The Austral Colony was despised; no one would miss it, as evidenced by the fact that no one had come to its aid; nuclear annihilation was, sadly, not even the worst fate possible for Austral's citizens; at least it would be quick.
Before him floated the specter of the Delta Astray, his persevering nemesis in this miserable little war. His troops derisively called him the Hero of Mars, and he was the Austral Colony's ace, said to have been bred to lead in their horrible little system. He was the finest they had produced— and yet Kira himself knew better. He too, after all, was supposed to be the most perfect Coordinator ever produced— and yet look at him now, charging into battle and finding mercy in the use of nuclear weapons on civilians.
Perfection. What a joke. Nobody was perfect. That was why he had these metal limbs. That was why he led this army of exiles. That was why Agnes Brahe and his men were left alone against the might of ZAFT and the ZMA. And that, Kira knew, was why he would have to be strong— for the others.
ZAFT Eternal-class cruiser Deliverance, orbit of Mars
The air was thick with the tension of a battle about to begin. Already there were some men fighting and dying, but the combined army of ZAFT and the ZMA had not yet collided on the battlefield with the defenders of the Austral Colony, that sickening expectation would hover still in the air like a foul, invisible cloud.
On the bridge of the Deliverance, Captain Davis turned that thought over in his mind, absently brushing dust from his immaculate White-Shirt uniform. He had the dirty jobs in this war and under Marshal Sunogachi's stewardship— but why be dirty?
He considered his latest dirty job, the nuclear warhead "liberated" from the Earth Alliance almost three years ago and now resting in the Deliverance's cargo hold, waiting for the word to come through. He was under strict orders to fire the thing only at Marshal Yamato's command. He was allowed no latitude to decide, except to retreat and preserve the warhead if his ship came under attack. And among this army and this fleet and these hundreds of thousands of pairs of eyes, he would bear witness to the last great test of Marshal Yamato's willingness to bow to necessity.
That was how Marshal Sunogachi had put it. "Thunderclap" was his test, to see if he had the mettle to carry out the horrors that ZAFT would inflict upon the Earth Sphere. Every action in the plan had its purpose, of course— violence without purpose was simply waste, of blood and of resources, after all— but to carry them out would require the same firm hand and cold mind that would utter the word and destroy Austral Colony in nuclear fire. ZAFT's return in the Earth Sphere would be as Armageddon, and Kira Yamato as the Four Horsemen themselves, together in one man.
The flashes of fire down on the Martian surface lit up, and Davis sat back as the battle began.
To be continued...