Mobile Suit Gundam SEED DESTINY - Red Planet
Phase 09 - For ZAFT
November 22nd, CE 76 - Martian Liberation Army Headquarters, Deimos
Agnes Brahe awoke with a start, and the first thing he heard was an EKG monitor speeding up.
He knew this smell, these lights, this feeling. He was in an infirmary, strapped down onto a bed. He looked around, confirming his feeling, and squeezed his eyes shut as the horrible memories came gushing back.
Deep in his heart, pulsing through his veins, writhing and seething in the marrow of his bones, he knew that his homeland was no more. The rage ate at him, the sorrow churned, the pain swelled. He recalled the warhead, realizing a split second too late what it was, and the blinding flash of light, and the Delta Astray burning away around him.
Agnes clutched his head painfully and tried to make sense of it. He suspected that the Acidalium had been destroyed. It had been only a few hundred meters from the detonation zone; there was no way, even in the rarified Martian air, that it could have survived the shockwave. Nahe was dead. Probably Lord Djibril's pilots from the Earth Sphere were dead. The Delta Astray was gone. He was here— at Deimos, he suspected— rotting in an infirmary bed, without a mobile suit, without a means of revenge.
Revenge. Yes, that was the one thing he needed now, more than anything the doctors told him. The Austral Colony was gone, but he, Agnes Brahe, still lived. It was his duty to exact revenge for his fallen people upon the Hero of ZAFT and his evil minions.
He thought back in agony to the colony and his childhood there. He had been engineered as the active, protecting, paternal sort of leader, the man who would protect the colony from its enemies. But he had not been the only leader to arise from the Austral Colony's genetic engineering labs. The other was his sister, so to speak: Setona Winters, the Martian answer to Lacus Clyne, to provide the unifying, maternal side of leadership that Agnes Brahe could not. Agnes had never been close to her— not when his life involved military training and political intrigue, and hers involved charity and nurturing.
But she had ended up starting this war, in a way. She had called for Austral to remain perfectly neutral. Someone— Agnes suspected the ZMA, and by proxy, ZAFT— assassinated her soon thereafter. Austral threw its support reluctantly behind the MLA, which the ZMA and ZAFT interpreted as a declaration of war, and hostilities commenced.
Austral's citizens had, in a vague sort of way, vowed to ensure that her sacrifice was not in vain. And, as Agnes hung his head and tried not to cry, it turned out that it had.
"Well, that's interesting."
Vanfeldt Ria Lindsay stared in surprise at the infirmary ceiling for a moment. The last thing he remembered was his Slaughter Dagger being blown apart, its ruined torso coming to a halt under a heavy piece of debris. He had expected to die in that apocalyptic blast, but the wreckage must have shielded him from the worst of the shockwave— and now, here he was, in an infirmary somewhere, Deimos he guessed.
He sat up and took in his surroundings. There were several other men here, sleeping off surgeries and treatments. Vanfeldt guessed that they had come from the Austral Colony too.
A nuclear attack. Damned if he hadn't seen that coming. But from a purely strategic sense, he was rather surprised that ZAFT hadn't done this already. If the Austral Colony was too formidable to capture in battle, then it might as well be destroyed, from their point of view.
He propped his chin up with his hand and heaved a sigh. Of course, this would all be a lot better if they hadn't destroyed his Slaughter Dagger. But he was pretty sure the black mobile suit he'd brought from the Earth Sphere was beyond salvaging at this point. The head, the Striker pack, and every limb on its body had been blown away, and the internal components had been mostly fried. His rescuers had probably just left the useless hulk in the crater where it was.
Vanfeldt flopped back down and stared at the ceiling again. Maybe they would have something for him here…because he had hardly finished fighting.
"He's still alive," Howard explained on the observation deck overlooking the Elysium, "but the Delta Astray could not be salvaged."
Omega Suzuki stared down skeptically at the dossier. "Did the rescue crew even try?"
"In their admittedly unprofessional opinion, they considered the wreckage unsalvageable."
At that, Omega glanced down towards the Elysium. The Deimos ground crews were removing the inactive Turn Delta from the ship's hangar. Omega glanced over the formidable new Martian machine. In every way it was superior to the Delta Astray, and even its less efficient Voiture Lumiere array still offered greater power. Between that and its nuclear engine, it could stand toe-to-toe with the Strike Freedom with only Sam Janelin at the controls. And Agnes Brahe had taken on the mighty Freedom in his inferior Delta Astray many times.
Vargas, however, had been annoyed that MLA troops had even bothered to rescue him from his radioactive tomb on the Martian surface. There was no way he would consent to handing over the MLA's finest mobile suit to the Agnes Brahe's born and bred leader.
"It's a shame," he said quietly. Howard followed Omega's gaze, landing on the Turn Delta. "Janelin is a good pilot, but Brahe is even better. If there is anyone other than me who can destroy Kira Yamato and his little whore, it will be him." He shrugged. "Well, at least there will be no one to get in my way. How is the Mars Jacket coming along?"
"Forty-five percent complete, sir," Howard answered. "The outer armor still needs to be fit."
Omega looked back down at the Elysium and smiled.
Agnes Brahe blinked at the presence of four heavily-armed guards, heralding the arrival of Emmanuel Vargas in the infirmary room. Agnes fixed him with a disdainful stare, trying to summon the mental presence not to leap out of bed and throttle the man right here.
"I see you survived the debacle at Austral," Vargas said with a start. He offered only the least sincere of bows. "My condolences."
Agnes said nothing, his visage twisting in hate.
"I want to know exactly what happened at Austral," Vargas went on. "If ZAFT is willing to use nuclear weapons now, then we will need to strike first before they turn those weapons on us. Why did they attack Austral with a nuclear warhead?"
Silence was his answer, Agnes merely staring at him furiously.
Vargas held back a scowl. "The doctors told me this would happen," he said, settling for icy formality. "If that is the case, then we will not be needing your services anymore, Lieutenant Brahe. You will not be able to leave until the battle is complete, however." He turned on his heel. "Goodbye, Mr. Brahe."
Agnes stared after Vargas and his soldiers as they filed out of the infirmary, fists trembling with rage.
You left us to die...
He shook his head, remembering that he now lacked even the Delta Astray.
Kira Yamato...you've even taken my power...
ZAFT mobile space fortress Messiah, orbit of Mars
"We will contact President Schroeder after we have Sunogachi secure," Raclyffe explained, "and convince Schroeder to side with our faction in ZAFT. He has every reason to do so. We are offering him a far more favorable alliance than he currently has with Sunogachi."
The captain of the Thales nodded gravely. "I will keep the ship on standby outside the main control room."
The infantry commander nodded as well. "We have the element of surprise. There's no indication that Sunogachi or her followers suspect us."
Raclyffe sat back at his desk, lost in concentration. The Fortuna was still just over twenty-four hours out from Messiah, and his men would have to control Messiah by the time Vice Marshal Yamato arrived. After that, the new reality could presented to ZAFT's hero and a settlement could be negotiated.
But, he brooded, there could be no alternative. The fate of the Coordinator people was at stake.
November 23rd, CE 76 - ZAFT Minerva-class battleship Fortuna, en route to Messiah
Kira Yamato stared grimly at the tactical map before him in his office on the Fortuna. The projected enemy fleet dispositions at Deimos were a thing of mystery to him, because they centered around some giant solar panel array in the middle. It had to be more than just a solar power generator, of course, but Kira was at a loss to explain just what it did. And that left a hole through which his troops might get killed.
He glanced up at Kayla, finding in dismay that she continued to look at him with total confidence in her eyes.
Idly, he pondered what manner of evil he would have to commit at Deimos. That giant solar array continued to perplex him, but if it was a weapon of some kind, he knew not how it operated. Perhaps it was a giant shield instead.
Kira sat back and rubbed his temples. Hopefully the intelligence would come in on just what the hell that thing was, because until ZAFT knew, it could not launch an attack.
"The attack on Austral has ended almost all of the fighting," Kayla spoke up. "The last two MLA colonies surrendered outright in the past six hours."
"Did they now," Kira muttered. "That just leaves Deimos and their main fleet."
"Commander Svante reports picking off three MLA ships from a convoy," Kayla added. "And several other commanders are on the trail."
"They shouldn't bother," Kira said with a sigh. "If it comes down to it, we can activate Messiah's NEO-GENESIS array in battle and take out a bunch of them. In the meantime, there's no sense risking our troops unnecessarily."
Kira cast a wary glance in the direction of Mars, behind the Fortuna as it sped for home. There should be no unnecessary deaths here, of course…because there would be killing aplenty soon.
There was irony at work here.
Juarez Recardo floated on the gantry overlooking the Fortuna's busy hangar, staring grimly at his disassembled Impulse unit. Yes, there was irony at work here, and he knew it the moment he looked back at the Austral Colony and saw the flattened beginnings of a mushroom cloud looming over the colony.
ZAFT had been galvanized into war by a nuclear attack. The Bloody Valentine had claimed almost a quarter of a million people, and Marshal Sunogachi still invoked it in her fiery speeches. The Junius War had opened with a mass nuclear attack by the Atlantic Federation, beaten back at the last moment by the Neutron Stampeder. And at Solomon's Sword, the ZAFT supercarrier Gondwana had been destroyed by a nuclear weapon. ZAFT and the Coordinators knew the bitter taste of its nuclear fire well.
He shook his head. ZAFT's use of a nuclear weapon to destroy the Austral Colony made no difference. They were the enemy; they were abominable; they were an obstacle. And the war would only get more ruthless. Juarez knew too well the hatred festering in ZAFT's surviving soldiers, hatred that Marshal Sunogachi intended to set loose in the Earth Sphere and use to carve out a place for the Coordinators once and for all. Apply enough force and everyone would fear, and the only way the Coordinators would be left in peace was if they were too scary to fight.
They would have to do worse things than wiping out a colony with a nuclear weapon. Juarez knew that; he was going to be part of it.
So why did he feel so bad about it?
"There's no sense worrying about it," Kara said quietly as she and Gary rounded a corner on the Fortuna's pull-bars. "They deserved it, in a way."
Gary frowned at those words. "They really weren't that bad, Kara," he said. "I should know. I've lived on Mars."
"Yeah, in the Olympus Mons colony."
"It's not like that," Gary said, coming to a stop in front of her. "Yeah, we worked a lot with and against Austral. But it's a myth to say that they were all miserable in their vocational placement." He shrugged. "Maybe they were just conditioned to be happy with wherever they were put, but it's not like they were all totally miserable."
Kara narrowed her eyes at Gary. "Oppression is oppression, whether the oppressed realize it or not."'
"That's not my point," Gary answered. "I'm saying they really weren't that bad." He shrugged. "You guys haven't grown up here. It's harsh. We're on the frontier of human civilization. There's no room for mistakes. Yeah, Austral took things way too far, but..."
Kara whirled around and fixed Gary with an angry glare. "Let me put it like this, then," she said. "What the Alliance did to us is so much worse than what we did to the Austral Colony that you'll forget all about this. We destroyed an enemy facility in a time of war. They committed genocide. You tell me which is worse, Gary." She scowled. "After all, at least you still have a home."
With that, Kara stormed away, and Gary stared after her disdainfully.
Do I now...?
Martian Liberation Army Headquarters, Deimos
"It's a magnificent mobile suit," Sam Janelin said with a grin. Sitting behind his desk at Deimos, Emmanuel Vargas sized up the famous ace. At least he was a good enough pilot to use the Turn Delta, and even stand up in it to ZAFT's otherwise unstoppable Strike Freedom. "I've never piloted a machine so responsive and fast. It's incredible."
Incredible, perhaps, but Vargas knew he had to give up one of his plans. The war would end long before he could even dream of mass-producing the Turn Delta...but at least he had one to work with, and a pilot competent enough to make it effective.
"ZAFT's fleet will be upon us soon," he said airily, "and although the ZMA is no longer of any concern to us, ZAFT's forces remain dangerous. Particularly so is their leader. You've fought him before; I'm assigning you to fight him again. I'm sure you'll be able to prevail as long as you're not cut short," he smiled thinly, "right?"
"Of course, sir."
Vargas sat back, thinking. He had the forces to make a creditable last stand against ZAFT and their ZMA lackeys, but the nuclear attack on Austral had scrambled his calculations. ZAFT was willing to go far further than he had first thought in ending this war, and that left him little time to prepare.
But, as he glanced back down at the tactical map on his desk, a plan began to take shape— and targets began springing to mind.
The man the Austral Colony had bred to be their leader was reduced to this pitiful, nearly catatonic mess. Omega Suzuki found that endlessly amusing. But he was here for more reasons than to gloat.
"I agree," he said gravely, looking into Agnes' dull eyes. "It's outrageous. Vargas should have sent at least a couple of ships to help."
Agnes cocked an eyebrow at the masked man. "And why didn't you come?"
"Damage to my ship, and I had important cargo that could not be risked on the battlefield." He shrugged. "But I would have come to Austral's defense if I had been able."
Agnes seemed skeptical but chose not to pursue it. "What does it matter now anyway," he snorted. "He even destroyed the Delta Astray. Vargas has all but released me from the MLA. I have no weapon and no authority." His eyes glazed over. "And now, no homeland."
"Yes," Omega agreed, "ironic, isn't it?" Agnes glanced up at him with the first swirling wisps of hatred in his eyes. "That ZAFT should have destroyed the colony, that is." He shrugged again. "They only even came to Mars because the Earth Alliance destroyed the PLANTs and wiped out most of the Coordinator people. And then they come here and destroy the Austral Colony— fellow Coordinators, even. You're right to hate them. They fought with monsters and so became monsters."
And, he added mentally with a knowing smile, you stare into the abyss, Agnes.
The ruined Coordinator scoffed. "Yes, they're hypocrites," he said, "but what does that matter now? I can't do anything about it."
Omega's grin widened. "Can't you?"
"With what?" Agnes gestured bitterly around him. "I'm stuck in a hospital bed without a mobile suit or a commission. What am I going to fight Yamato with? My fists?"
At that, Omega shrugged and turned to leave. "Your commission hasn't been officially voided. Until it is, you're free to wander the fortress," he smiled, "until something catches your fancy."
Omega swept out the door with a wild grin, leaving Agnes behind to contemplate.
"They're not exactly the Delta Astray," said Thomas as he strode down the gantry, "but they're among the best we've ever made."
The bald scientist glanced over his shoulder at the two pilots behind him. Vanfeldt and Waid, as he recalled their names to be, were two of the three surviving mobile suit pilots from the Austral Colony. Whether they were lucky or skilled Thomas knew not, but Agnes Brahe's pilots had amassed a reputation for skill— if not overwhelming skill.
Thomas gestured towards his first creation, a blue Astray unit with a huge IWSP pack on its back. "Meet the Zero Astray," he told the two pilots with a small smirk. "More weapons and verniers to compensate for the added mass. It's like an IWSP unit, but with twice the firepower and half the slowdown." He gestured towards the next, another blue Astray unit with huge blades on its wrists and ankles. "And there's the Sigma Astray, born and bred for melee combat."
He turned towards the two pilots, finding Waid staring at the Zero and Vanfeldt at the Sigma. At last, Vanfeldt shot a glance towards Thomas.
"You don't have pilots for these things, do you?"
Vanfeldt was at Thomas's side in an instant with a wild grin. "So, I don't think we've been introduced," he said, seizing Thomas's hand in a frantic handshake. "Vanfeldt Ria Lindsay, how ya doin'?"
Thomas flinched. "Um, fine, take it," he said. "Just don't break it."
An instant later, Vanfeldt was sailing towards the Sigma Astray like a child in a zero-gravity candy shop. Thomas rolled his eyes and glanced at Waid— who was already taking off towards the Zero.
"As long as they give us data," he snorted, and headed back down the gantry.
ZAFT Minerva-class battleship Fortuna, en route to Messiah
Drifting through the inky sky of space, the planet Mars shone bright and filled the Fortuna's observation deck with red light. Juarez Recardo stared down somberly at the red planet, lost in thought— so lost that he didn't notice as Kara stepped onto the observation deck.
"You know, I lost a friend at Junius 7," he said quietly, taking Kara by surprise as the door slid shut. "Old primary school friend. He moved to Junius 7 when we were both eight." He waved a hand dismissively towards the planet below. "And, wouldn't you know it, he was gone."
"Of all the people to have an ethical problem with our actions, I wasn't expecting it to be you," Kara said, coming to rest next to Juarez on the railing. "I just had to chew out Gary for that."
"Don't be too hard on him. He grew up here. Watching the Austral Colony get destroyed is to him what watching Junius 7 get destroyed was to us." He glanced at Kara sadly. "And we both lost our families and friends to the Requiem."
Kara clenched her fists around the railing. "Why else do you think I want to get on with the plan?"
"You know I don't like it."
"Well I haven't heard you think of a better one."
Juarez closed his eyes. "That doesn't mean I have to like it."
An awkward silence reigned between them for a moment, before Kara let out a long sigh. "It's just..." She looked down at her hands. "People our age shouldn't be doing this kinda stuff. And..." She trailed off, fixing her gaze on the planet below.
"I know," Juarez finished. "We all lost everything." He shrugged. "But...well, there must be some survivors at Austral. And now they've lost everything too. What gives us the right to do to them what was done to us?"
Kara's eyes flashed cold. "They were obstacles," she said. "The MLA are obstacles too. And if we don't go through them..." She shook her head. "Then we'll be in exile here forever."
Staring up at the auxiliary screen on the Fortuna's bridge, Lyle Markus felt only disgust as he watched the images tick by of the enemy fleet disposition at Deimos. They were just Natural vermin.
But they were not truly the worst of the Naturals. That was a distinction reserved for the Naturals of the Earth Sphere, so resentful and pitiful that they had resorted to destroying the Coordinators outright. No, Martian Naturals were of a more pathetic and helpless sort, acquiescing to their shameful existences. But still they struggled against the real heirs to human progress.
This war was maddening. It forced ZAFT to side with an army of incompetents. The ZMA had forced ZAFT's hand at the Austral Colony; if it weren't for the bumbling and weakness of Arnhalt's men, there would have been no need to fire a nuclear warhead at the enemy. But no, those Naturals had failed, and the ZMA's handful of Coordinators among their ranks would simply have to be absorbed by ZAFT before setting out for the Earth Sphere.
And then there was the MLA, split between more contemptible Naturals and the race-traitors from various colonies, most particularly the Austral Colony. It suited them perfectly to be destroyed by a nuclear weapon. They took up arms against their fellow Coordinators, when in reality their true foe was about seventy-eight million kilometers away.
At least, however, this war was almost over. One last battle— a real battle, if that fleet disposition was any indication— and they could get back to the hard work of preparing for what would truly be the war they were meant to fight.
"Tell Commander Ehrmacht to break off his operations and join the main fleet," Kira said, hands folded over his desk resolutely. "As heavy a price as they paid, the ZMA forces' performance at Austral was inadequate. We are not relying on them alone as our main force when we begin the final push for Deimos."
Kayla nodded approval. "President Schroeder will be displeased, sir. What will I tell him?"
"If President Schroeder wants his troops to win the battle, he should send us troops that can." Kira shrugged his shoulders. "Send out orders to Commander Cummings and Commander Glasgow as well. We will have to gather a fleet capable of fighting the MLA without any help from the ZMA whatsoever, if need be."
Kayla blinked in surprise. "Should I pass this along to President Schroeder? He has insisted that his forces take part in any attack on Deimos."
"I know," said Kira, "but if his men can't get the job done, they'll be merely wasting their lives on the battlefield." He shook his head. "There's no point to that. And I don't want this war going on a second longer than it has to. We'll end it in one stroke at Deimos."
He sat back as Kayla eagerly transcribed his orders. Of course, Valentine had a plan for Schroeder and his men regardless of ZAFT's forces at the Deimos assault. Schroeder himself would be present to watch his fleet advance— where they would probably be torn to pieces by the MLA defenders. But Vargas's troops would wear themselves out savaging the sacrificial lamb of Schroeder's fleet, leaving the MLA forces exposed to ZAFT's crushing counterattack. It was a plan that, on military and political grounds, made perfect sense.
On ethical grounds it was an outrage, but Kira passed them over. He would have to learn to ignore his conscience again. Once he had done so out of rage, but the rage had faded into a dull sort of smolder— and that was something his conscience could overpower. Now he had to be cold.
He glanced over at Kayla again. For her sake, at least, he had to be cold— because if he wasn't, then he could not do what was needed to carve out a new world for her and the other Coordinators.
And that was the greatest outrage of all.
November 24th, CE 76 - ZAFT Minerva-class battleship Fortuna, en route to Messiah
Stepping onto the Fortuna's bridge as the ZAFT flagship approached Messiah, Kira knew instantly that something was not right from the panic and anxiety throbbing from the crew. He glanced around and tried to keep the nervousness off his own face, drifting to a half next to Lyle's chair.
"What's going on, captain?"
Lyle looked up at Kira, his face ash-white. "Sir, Messiah is refusing to allow us to dock. They're saying...well, listen for yourself."
The comm officer took his cue, and Kira felt his heart drop as the ramrod-straight figure of Orville Raclyffe, Valentine's military adjutant, appeared on the screen. He was in Messiah's main control room, swarming with troops and prisoners— and with Valentine held at gunpoint, her arms bound, by two heavily-armed infantrymen.
"Ah, Vice Marshal Yamato," Raclyffe greeted smoothly, "I was wondering when you'd show up."
Kira narrowed his eye at the elegant man. "I hope you know that's treason you're committing, Raclyffe."
"Treason is to aid the enemies of one's people, marshal," Raclyffe replied airily. "To fight those enemies is not treason but honor and duty." He gestured at Valentine. "And you know as well as I do that Marshal Sunogachi is at least as dangerous for our people as Lord Djibril."
"That's ridiculous!" Lyle snapped. Kira glanced down at him sharply to silence him, and returned his gaze to the auxiliary screen.
"What's the meaning of this, Raclyffe? What do you want?"
Raclyffe stepped forward with a small smile. "Two things, marshal. First, I want your ship to dock at Messiah so that you can come to the control room for some negotiations. And second..."
He glanced at something off-camera, and Kira noted on the side of the screen that he was broadcasting to all of Messiah and its surrounding ships.
"I would like to announce that as of this moment, the commander of all ZAFT forces throughout the solar system is myself."
To be continued...