Phase 07 - The Battle of Austral Colony

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED DESTINY - Red Planet

Note: No, Sars didn't get a sex change between the last chapter and this one; I just discovered that Sars is actually female, apparently, and would rather not make more work for myself than I have to, so I'm changing it now. Curse you, anime/manga androgyny!


Phase 07 - The Battle of Austral Colony


November 22nd, CE 76 - Skies of Mars

Kira Yamato winced at the feeling of death, all around him, among those fiery puffs of smoke and debris dotting the Martian sky. The Austral Colony's defenders had sharpened their aim, though it was only the ZMA troops who had incurred any losses so far. But Kira still felt their deaths, and they fueled his determination to end this fight without activating the Thunderclap.

Around his trusted Strike Freedom, the ZAFT drop pods broke open and the Fortuna's three Impulse units fell into formation around him. There were already ZMA troops on the surface, fighting for control of footholds around the colony itself. Kira steeled himself, deploying the beam shields as the colony's beam cannons opened fire on his troops. He glanced back at his three Impulse wingmen.

"We're moving down ahead of the main force," he ordered. "Arnhalt's men are taking a beating. We're going to clear out what we can before they touch down."

"We'll be moving ahead of our fire support, sir," Juarez cautioned.

Kira smiled with what he hoped was reassurance. "You're our fire support, Juarez. Move out!"


The catapult activated, the Delta Astray's engines roared to life, and Agnes Brahe swallowed his anxiety as the red and white mobile suit lunged into the fight. Somewhere the Strike Freedom was up there, he knew, and they would have to settle their battle here. The sky was alive with firepower and the ZMA troops were already incurring frightful losses but, Agnes noted grimly, ZAFT had kept its contribution to this assault behind the ZMA landing force, letting their allies do the bulk of the dying. That was just like them and that was what the ZMA got for siding with these invaders. Traitors commanded no one's respect.

Agnes threw a switch in the Delta Astray's cockpit. "Nahe, get the Acidalium airborne," he said. "Use the positron cannon to pick off concentrations of troops as they come down."

"Right," Nahe said, and paused to give out the order to the bridge crew. "But we're going to be vulnerable."

"It can't be helped. Keep yourself in position." Agnes cut the line and scanned the skies again. He zoomed in on one mobile suit, moving faster than the others, almost too fast for its wingmen to keep up and he narrowed his eyes at the gleaming white armor of the Strike Freedom Gundam. "There you are, Kira Yamato. Don't go too far now we've got a score to settle!"

The Delta Astray vaulted into the sky and ignited its Voiture Lumiere with a flash.


Kara grunted as the impact shook through her machine, all the way into her brain, when her Force Impulse landed with a crash on the Martian soil. She looked up as her Impulse got to its feet, staring down a trio of Civilian Astrays which themselves were blown apart by a volley of beam cannon blasts, and Juarez's Blast Impulse came down next, with Gary's Sword Impulse close behind.

"If our maps are right," Juarez began, "there should be a disused mine near here."

"Like they didn't seal it off," snorted Gary. He glanced to the side sharply. "Daggers, incoming! Three o'clock!"

The three Impulse units darted apart as a quartet of Strike Daggers lunged out of nowhere with beam rifles blazing. Juarez leveled off his beam cannons and opened fire, blowing two of the Daggers away; Kara charged forward with Gary at her side, and the two Impulse units rocketed to the sides as the surviving Daggers squeezed off a volley of their own. Kara whirled around and speared one of the Daggers on a rifle blast; Gary did the same, and the two Impulse units landed amid the wreckage of their foes.

"One click north," Juarez said. "We'll try our luck there "

"No we won't," Kara interrupted. "Black Daggers inbound, one o'clock!"

Juarez snapped a glare towards the sky. "Them again?!"

One of the Daggers leveled off its huge "Agni" cannon and opened fire, forcing the Impulse units apart. "Well then," Juarez grunted, "never mind. Engage and destroy them!"


"You and me now, swordfighter!" cackled Vanfeldt as his Slaughter Dagger whirled around, beam rifle in hand, taking on the Sword Impulse Gundam. "Those heavy swords might have more mass, but that doesn't mean shit if you can't hit me!"

The Sword Impulse stashed its rifle and drew both of its Excalibur swords, and then charged forward with a powerful downward swing. Vanfeldt darted to the side, firing at the Impulse's exposed back. The Gundam whipped around to slap the shots aside with its shield, and the Dagger charged forward, switching its beam rifle out for a saber. The blade crashed down against the Impulse's shield; Vanfeldt hopped up over the Impulse's sweeping horizontal counterattack, and swung down again, deflected by the Impulse's right-hand sword.

"Not bad," Vanfeldt chuckled, "but you can't move those heavy swords fast enough!"

The Dagger surged forward, beam saber held aloft. The Impulse deflected another stroke and swung its left-hand sword towards the Dagger's waist; instead, Vanfeldt vaulted his Dagger back into the air and seized the opportunity. With a blast of its thrusters on its back and its chest, the Dagger spun itself around in midair and whipped a butterfly kick across the Impulse's face.

Vanfeldt cackled victoriously as his Dagger landed. "Ha! Didn't think I could do that, did you, bitch?!"

The Impulse seemed to collect itself for a moment, before hefting its swords and plunging back into the fight.


Smoke rose up around the Force Impulse Gundam as Waid pummeled it with shellfire from his IWSP Slaughter Dagger. Next to him, Hoskin's Sword Slaughter Dagger came down with a crash, its Schwert Gewehr sword drawn and ready.

"Shake him up a bit more," Hoskin instructed, "and I'll go in for the kill."

Waid cracked a grin. "You got it." He leveled off the cannons for another salvo

Instead, the Impulse blasted out of the smoke and charged straight forward towards the IWSP Dagger. Waid pulled up the controls, yelping in surprise but a moment later, the Sword Dagger darted in front of him and, with a punishing overhead sword swing, smacked the Impulse back. Hoskin leapt aside again, and Waid opened fire with another shell burst to throw the Impulse back behind its shield.

"Now to get rid of that rifle," muttered Hoskin, and the Sword Dagger somersaulted up over Waid's field of fire. The Impulse instinctively jetted to its left as Hoskin landed, and Waid nailed it head-on with another shell burst just long enough for the Sword Dagger to fire its Panzer Eisen anchor, clamp it onto the Impulse's rifle, and tear the weapon out of the Gundam's hand, hurling it away.

"Oh, nice!" Waid laughed, watching the Impulse leap back and draw a beam saber. "Man, are they slow today or are we just getting more awesome?"

"Don't let down your guard," Hoskin shot back. "Continue fire!"


"We have him cornered!" cried Gard, his Lightning Slaughter Windam rumbling as it fired another shot from the electromagnetic cannon. "Sars, now's your chance!"

Sars' Launcher Slaughter Dagger leveled off its Agni cannon and fired only for the Blast Impulse Gundam to swerve to the side, letting the shimmering red beam pulse by its shoulder, and returned fire in spades with its two long range cannons. Sars threw her Dagger towards the dirt, dodging both blasts. Gard lined up his rifle again and put a shell right between the Impulse's eyes, throwing it back with a satisfying crash.

"You alright in there?" Gard called. Sars nodded quietly as she got her Dagger back to its feet, and Gard glanced back at the Blast Impulse. "I can't damage him with the electromag cannon, I can only knock him around. You'll have to fire the finishing shot."

"I understand," Sars answered.

"Don't worry," Gard added with a reassuring grin. "I've got your back."

The Blast Impulse flashed its eyes and drew its two beam javelins, slamming them together at the ends and igniting the blades. Gard steeled himself and threw his Dagger to the right as the Impulse charged forward with a stab, and then vaulted skyward as his foe whirled around to fire its railguns.

"Get around him!" Gard barked. "I'll draw his attention!"


Afterimages flashed around the Strike Freedom as the Delta Astray rushed in close, katana raised. Kira ground his teeth and jammed his beam saber into the blade's path, stopping it cold. The Delta Astray surged forward, kneeing the Strike Freedom in the stomach; in the cockpit, Agnes narrowed his eyes and charged forward to stab at the Freedom's chest. Kira slapped the blade aside and charged up the Callidus cannon the Delta Astray darted to the side, letting the Strike Freedom's beam pass through only an afterimage.

"You may think you've got us cornered, Yamato, but we're going to drag you to hell with us first!" Agnes screamed. Kira scowled back, watching the Delta Astray close in again with another sword stroke. "Don't think the Austral Colony will go down without a fight!"

"You've got a lot of nerve to defend that system of yours!" Kira snapped back. The Strike Freedom vaulted up over the Delta Astray's killing stab and somersaulted down behind the red and white machine. Agnes snarled a curse and whipped around, smacking aside the Strike Freedom's saber stroke with its katana.

"Don't question things you don't understand, Yamato," Agnes shot back. "Mars is no place for useless people!" The Delta Astray charged again, katana held high, and flung the Strike Freedom back with a powerful overhead swing.

"And you made them useless!" Kira cried. The Strike Freedom jetted aside to dodge another stab and whirled around towards the Delta Astray's exposed back. The Delta Astray turned and the blades crashed together. "They can only do one thing now! You took away their freedom!"

The Delta Astray swung its knee up into the Strike Freedom's chest. "There is no freedom on Mars!" Agnes roared. "Freedom is a privilege for people who live in security, and we do not! Mars takes no prisoners! And today, neither do I!"


ZAFT Minerva-class battleship Fortuna, orbit of Mars

Lyle hated being up here, separate from the battle, separate from Vice Marshal Yamato, separate from everything important. It was inappropriate for the leader to go rushing headlong into battle; courting disaster, really.

"Move Dyson's team up by three hundred meters," Harkill ordered from over Lyle's shoulder. The captain glanced up at the aging admiral. He had thrown himself into the most minute details of the battle plan, and now he was shuffling units forward and back as breaches and strongholds developed in the Austral Colony's defenses. So far there had been no breakthrough, and Lyle was growing anxious. Perhaps they had been mistaken to rely so heavily on ZMA regulars and so little on ZAFT troops.

At that, Lyle glanced up at the tactical map on the Fortuna's auxiliary screen. Wherever the enemy's defense had been penetrated, it had been done by ZAFT units leading ZMA troops behind them. It was disgraceful beyond disgraceful. And they called themselves soldiers.

But there was, nevertheless, something missing. Wherever Marshal Yamato and his three wingmen went, they usually left a gaping hole in enemy lines but not this time. This time the units were scattered, and the Strike Freedom seemed to be fighting a foe that could only be that damned Delta Astray.

Lyle thought about that, and brooded as Harkill barked his orders.


The Impulse quaked under another shell salvo, and Kara cast a nervous glance towards her shield. It could stand up to dozens of beam impacts, but solid shells were a different matter, and she was hoping it wasn't starting to break.

She snapped out of her thoughts as the Sword Slaughter Dagger charged towards her, sword drawn back, and lunged into the red sky over its horizontal sweep. The IWSP Dagger opened fire again this time Kara threw her mobile suit to the side, cursing inwardly that carelessness that had allowed the Sword Dagger to deprive her of her rifle.

"I think it's time I take something of yours, pal!" she growled. The Sword Dagger came around for another attack, and Kara seized her opportunity.

Throwing the throttle wide open, Kara rammed the Dagger bodily with the Impulse's shoulder, stunning her foe just long enough to sweep her beam saber in an upward arc, slicing the Dagger's sword blade off just below the hilt. She brought her saber down for the kill, but too late the Dagger's pilot recovered and jammed its left arm into the saber's path, deflecting its killing stroke, and then leapt backwards for the safety of distance. Kara vaulted back into the air with a curse as the IWSP Dagger opened fire again.


Juarez bit back a curse as the shells slammed against his battered Impulse unit's Phase Shift armor. It could stop that Lightning Dagger's electromag shells, yes, but not without knocking him around inside and Juarez was getting quite tired of that. The Launcher Dagger lined up for another Agni cannon blast, forcing the Impulse back on the defensive.

"You may think you have me cornered," he scowled, "but I've got more tricks up my sleeve than just that!"

The Launcher Dagger opened fire again, forcing the Blast Impulse to vault into the air, where the Lightning Dagger pounded it head-on with another electromag shell. Juarez threw his machine back towards the ground, dodging the Launcher Dagger's finishing blast, and landed with a crash on the Martian surface, seeing his chance

Faster than his foe could react, Juarez fired the Blast Silhouette's railguns not at the two Daggers but at the ground in front of them, throwing up a massive pall of dust. He sprang forward, beam javelin in hand and blade shining to life, and with a scream put the blade directly through the Dagger's cockpit.

Fatally wounded, the Dagger threw sparks and smoke, and Juarez reclaimed his javelin and backed away as it finally exploded. He turned his eyes towards the Lightning Dagger.

"And you're next."


Gary Talon hated persistent enemies, and whoever was piloting this goddamn Slaughter Dagger had persistence in spades.

He watched in frustration as it somersaulted over his sweeping sword swing, lining up for another butterfly kick. This time Gary would not be caught off guard and his Sword Impulse crouched low, letting the Dagger's leg sweep by over his head. With the Slaughter Dagger wide open in front of him, he charged forward with a scream and brought down his left-hand sword

And, naturally, the Dagger whirled around with a second saber in its off-hand, blade shining to life and blocking the Impulse's downward hack.

"Oh, for fuck's sake," he grunted, "throw me a bone here!"

The Sword Impulse jumped back to dodge as the Slaughter Dagger swiped at the Gundam's waist with its right-hand saber. For a moment he considered calling the Fortuna for a Force Silhouette, since clearly the heavy Excalibur swords were not getting the job done but the Slaughter Dagger charged again, forcing him to awkwardly parry its two sabers with both of his massive blades. No, that plan wouldn't work no cover to change the Silhouette packs.

With a dual downward hack, the Slaughter Dagger brought both its sabers down onto the Impulse's two sword blades, almost driving Gary back with the sheer force from its Aile Striker pack. Gary sneered up at his dark-armored foe. "Well," he muttered, "guess I have no choice."

Gary hurled the Dagger back with a forceful swing from his swords, and it skidded to a halt in the red Martian dust, beam sabers blazing a brilliant gold.

"I had been hoping to save this little technique for a more worthy opponent than you," he snarled, "but if that's how you wanna play..."

Echoing across the Martian plains, the Sword Impulse brought both of its Excalibur swords together at the pommels, then swung them back and twirled the massive double blade over its head. With a final crash, it brought the sword back down and pointed one of its ends straight at the almost surprised-looking Slaughter Dagger.

Gary narrowed his eyes. "Come and get me."


"As worthy a fight as always, Yamato," growled Agnes in the Delta Astray's cockpit, fixing a hateful stare into the Strike Freedom's golden eyes, "but you're still not leaving here alive!"

Kira cast a disdainful glance at the young Coordinator. "I've heard that before."

Agnes yelped in surprise as the Strike Freedom suddenly kneed the Delta Astray hard in the chest, and then followed up with a left hook to the Gundam's face that rattled the entire machine. Agnes snarled a curse and fired the thrusters, lunging up just as the Strike Freedom fired a railgun and Callidus blast at its stricken foe.

Screaming all the while, Agnes came back down with a crash, slamming his sword down onto the Strike Freedom's saber blade and hurling the white mobile suit back. He followed with another sword stroke, and another, both parried by the Strike Freedom, and darted aside as it fired its Callidus cannon again.

"You could have always surrendered!" Kira snapped; the Delta Astray's reply came only in the form of a punishing horizontal hack from its sword, stopped cold by the Strike Freedom's beam saber. "None of this would have happened if you hadn't started this war!"

"Don't give me that!" Agnes shot back. "I know what you've done with the ZMA, and the colonies you conquered from us! You're making them your slaves, for your little holy war back in the Earth Sphere!"

Kira's face twitched with anger for an instant. "Wasn't it you who said this," he growled. "'Don't question things you don't understand!'" The Strike Freedom reared back and pounded the Delta Astray across the face with another left hook. "You don't know what it's like to watch Blue Cosmos murder your people!" He sent the Delta Astray reeling with a powerful saber swipe. "You don't know what it's like to watch your hopes and dreams disintegrate before your very eyes!" Another saber swipe pounded against the Delta Astray's sword, forcing it back further. "You don't know what it's like for your whole world to burn away in an instant!" With a final crash, the Strike Freedom brought down its saber onto the Delta Astray's sword, locking both mobile suits into a struggle. "Nothing in this pathetic farce of a war could ever compare to that! You've never felt that!"

As his words rang in his ears, Kira stared furiously into Agnes's eyes on the auxiliary screen, and painfully remembered the word.

But at this rate, you will...


Martian Liberation Army destroyer Acidalium

"Positron cannon, fire!"

Sitting on the Acidalium's bridge, Nahe watched with a small measure of gratitude as his ship's positron cannon flashed to life, putting a pulsing red beam in the center of a cluster of ZMA mobile suits on the ground. They vanished in a thundering fireball, and Nahe gripped his chair's armrests as the shockwave hit the Acidalium an instant later.

The battle was going well. Unnervingly well, in fact. The Austral Colony's line had largely held so far, and with his ship's help, every breach had been filled and salient sliced off the enemy's forces. The defenders had the incalculable advantages of terrain and fighting from static, protected positions, but Nahe was surprised that the ZMA and ZAFT were struggling so much.

So much, in fact, that there must have been something else afoot.

But the intel had nothing of any hint that ZAFT had a different plan than what was unfolding here at Charitum Montes. There were three ZAFT dropships, several ZMA freighters, and a small fleet of warships and support ships orbiting the planet overhead. If they still had something up their sleeves, they had hidden it well.

Nahe forced down the doubt. "Move us to sector N1," he said. "Another gap is developing. We're going to plug it."


The Lightning Dagger pounded another salvo of shells into the battered Blast Impulse. Gard clenched his fists around the controls in fury, not waiting for the smoke to clear before firing again.

"You think I'm just going to let you get away?!" he snarled. "After what you just did?!"

The smoke burst apart and the Blast Impulse dove to the side as the Lightning Dagger fired again.

"You killed Sars!"

Gard snapped his gaze to the sky as his alarms blared, and gasped in surprise as a volley of missiles came down around him. The Lightning Striker shuddered and Gard realized with a curse that it was taking damage too much damage to the power system for the electromag cannon to be useful. Staggering to the side in the smoke to dodge the Impulse's killing shot, he dropped the cannon and drew a beam saber, turning towards his black and white enemy.

"I let her down," he growled, "but I can still kill you!"

The Blast Impulse raised its cannons again; Gard threw his mobile suit forward with a massive blast of exhaust, then whirled around and ejected the Lightning Striker, sending it hurtling straight towards the Gundam. With a crash, he whipped around again, igniting his saber and slashing the Striker pack in two. The sparking pieces crashed into the Blast Impulse and exploded directly in its face, throwing it backward and Gard's Dagger came barreling through the smoke, slamming its saber down onto the Impulse's shield.

"You're not getting away from me, you son of a bitch!" Gard screamed. "Now die!"


Beam sabers clashed as the Force Impulse and Sword Dagger fought a vicious swordfight across the Martian surface. The IWSP Dagger interrupted it with a ruthless shell salvo but a moment later, the Impulse charged out of the smoke and sliced the Dagger's beam rifle in two.

"Hey!" Waid shouted, backing away and punching the Impulse back with another shell volley. "What the hell, man?!"

"I told you not to let him get so close," Hoskin grunted, and the Sword Dagger paused long enough to hurl its beam boomerang into the smoke. It went clattering out to the right as the Impulse smacked it aside with its shield, and leapt up over another salvo from the IWSP Dagger. "He's lost his rifle; he can't last forever in a saber match." The Impulse crashed down onto the Martian ground, beam saber in hand and glowering at its two opponents. Hoskin cast a glance towards his comrade. "I'll distract him with another saber round; you flank him and we'll finish him off."

"Right!" Waid said with a grin.

The Dagger charged towards the Impulse and slashed at it vigorously, driving the white Gundam back. The saber blades met with a crash, and Waid leveled off his guns to fire

...just as the Impulse surged forward, seizing the Sword Dagger by the shoulder with its left hand and dragging its enemy into Waid's line of fire. The shell burst struck the Dagger's back squarely, blowing off its head and left arm, and before Waid could even fully realize what had happened, the Impulse victoriously drove its saber through the mutilated Dagger's cockpit.

The Impulse turned with flashing green eyes as the dead Dagger collapsed in a heap and exploded, and Waid felt his blood boil.

"Hoskin," he growled, "oh, you son of a bitch! No mercy!"

The IWSP Dagger drew both of its swords and charged.


Vanfeldt cursed as the Sword Impulse came at him again, twirling those two damned swords expertly on its fingertips and smacking him around like a child. He stabbed forward with his left-hand saber, hoping to catch it unprepared but instead the whirling blades sent his saber clattering out of his mobile suit's hand, and it was all he could do to throw the Dagger backward and avoid the spinning blades.

"Cute trick, buddy, but it's wearing thin already," he growled. "And I've got a few of my own!"

The Impulse slammed the Dagger's remaining beam saber and sent the whole mobile suit reeling. Vanfeldt put it back on its feet and quietly thanked whichever engineer had decided to equip the Slaughter Dagger with four beam sabers instead of two.

As the Impulse charged again, Vanfeldt drew another saber with his Dagger's left hand, ignited it, and hurled it straight at the charging red Gundam. It pulled its sword up to parry, but too late the blade swept through the hand-guard and grip on the lower sword, slicing the whole blade off cleanly and sending it sailing off the battlefield.

Vanfeldt cracked a grin at the Impulse, which looked almost frustrated as it ejected what was left of the second sword and hefted the remaining one.



ZAFT Minerva-class battleship Fortuna, orbit of Mars

"No, I said move Lopez's team to sector seven!" Harkill barked, amid the growing confusion and fury on the Fortuna's bridge. This was not going nearly as well as he'd planned. The ZMA force had sustained almost thirty-three percent casualties; the ZAFT forces had already lost almost a dozen mobile suits; and still the Austral Colony's defenses held. At this point in the plan they were supposed to have begun corridor-by-corridor fighting inside the colony proper but at this rate they wouldn't have any troops left when or if they forced open the defending lines.

"Sir," one of his aides spoke up, "Lopez's team is reporting that they're pinned by enemy fire and can't advance."

Harkill thought for a moment. "Then send Eller's team to cover them."

"Impossible, sir. Eller's team is pinned down too."

At that, Harkill stared down in disbelief at the tactical map. How was this even possible? Were Arnhalt's troops just that bad?

"Captain, we've got heat signatures at seven o'clock!" the sensor officer cried, and all eyes snapped towards him

Outside the Fortuna's bridge windows, Harkill watched in utter disbelief as two pulsing red beams slammed head-on into one of the ZMA Marseille III ships, blasting it to pieces in one thunderous blow. A wave of beam fire came directly on its heels, taking down another two ZMA ships, and Lyle in the captain's chair turned towards the sensor officer in alarm.

"Identify it, now! What the hell was that?!"

"Heat signatures matching five Marseille III freighters and one Izumo battleship, sir! It looks like the Austral Colony's space fleet!"

Harkill blanched the Austral space fleet was supposed to be at Deimos as part of the MLA's combined fleet. What the hell were they doing back here?

"Enemy mobile suits are launching!"

Lyle pounded a fist on his armrest. "Launch our own forces! Contact the Vice Marshal!" He turned towards Harkill. "Admiral, we're going to need the rest of the fleet to get moving. And we're going to have to pull troops off the surface. If those freighters are full, then we're going to need everything we can get just to defend the dropships."

For a moment, Harkill looked back down at the tactical map. Well, damn that all, it wasn't working out anyway.

"Get the fleet moving and launching its mobile suits," he ordered. "And I'll contact the Vice Marshal."


"Marshal, sir," Harkill's gravelly voice broke through the heat of battle, "we've got a problem."

Kira spared the briefest of glances towards his auxiliary screen, where Harkill's grim face could be seen in what looked like the Fortuna's darkening, descending bridge. That was not a good sign. He turned his eyes back towards the Delta Astray. "On top of all the other ones?"

"The Austral Colony's space fleet has arrived. Five Marseille III freighters are launching mobile suits. We can't hold out against numbers like that. We're going to have to abort the attack."

The Delta Astray brought its sword down again; Kira smacked it aside with his beam saber. He desperately wracked his brain for a solution. ZAFT could not afford to lose this battle; it could not afford to leave the Austral Colony standing, a symbol of successful resistance against ZAFT and a stronghold no matter what happened to Vargas and the MLA's main force at Deimos. His fight with the Delta Astray had been distracting, but he knew that the battle had gone poorly. There had been no breakthroughs. The ZMA troops were too ill-disciplined, ill-trained, and ill-equipped, he supposed, to have led this assault; and the ZAFT troops had been too few to pick up the slack.

Thunderclap, he thought.

But they would all die. But he thought of what he, he himself, had said to Kayla before this battle that even if they lived, even if ZAFT somehow turned this battle around and captured the colony, its citizens would still carry the indelible stamp of Austral's genetic caste system. He knew that. He had told Kayla that.

And then there was this man, the one before him, Agnes Brahe, the one whose sword blows he was doing his best to parry and block. He was bred to be their leader, to be their example to the world and look at him now, prolonging this war, bringing this suffering down upon the heads of his fellow citizens, his own followers.

But before him all, through Agnes Brahe and his own words to Kayla and his position at the head of ZAFT's broken and angry army, he saw his own past flashing before his eyes. He saw Athrun shoot down Fllay's shuttle and take her away from him, that cruelty, that pain; he saw the Requiem blow the PLANTs out of the sky; he saw ZAFT's last gamble for revenge fail in a massive storm of fire.

He would have to be strong, cold, hard, ruthless. That was what his life had demanded, and when he needed it, he had failed and so Tolle had died, Fllay had died, the Coordinators had died, ZAFT's hopes for revenge had died. Even Rau, the man in whom he had placed his faith when all else had gone astray, had failed him and even when he had killed his own sister and Lacus, at the apex of his own ruthlessness, it had not been enough. Now he would have to go further, he would have to do more. He had not shed enough blood and cast his heart into hot enough flames to change the world then.

The seed burst. He would have to be different this time.

Kira glanced at Harkill again. "Take the fleet and get rid of the Austral forces. Use whatever weapons are necessary. I'll win this battle for us in one blow."

Harkill sputtered in surprise, but Kira switched the connection before he could respond.

"Marshal Yamato, we've received word " started Davis, captain of the Deliverance.

Kira's eye narrowed. No tears were left; this time he would have to be ruthless. "I'm authorizing Contingency Plan Gamma," he said, the voice beginning to sound like that of another man in his ears. "Authorization code..."

Davis blinked in surprise. "Sir "

The image of Fllay flashed before his eyes, vanishing in smoke and fire. He would make that mean something more than wanton violence or cruel carelessness, and if he had to throw his heart and soul into those very flames...then so be it.



To be continued...