Mobile Suit Gundam SEED DESTINY - Red Planet
Phase 10 - Crosses to Bear
November 24th, CE 76 - ZAFT mobile space fortress Messiah, orbit of Mars
"I must admit," President Schroeder said sardonically, "of all the possibilities within ZAFT's forces, I did not expect this one."
The ZMA President stared down disdainfully from the Messiah control room's main screen, where Raclyffe stood before him with crossed arms. The tall officer glanced over his shoulder, at the two infantrymen who had Valentine Sunogachi at gunpoint. Perhaps they should have gotten her out of range first before contacting Schroeder— but where to, anyway?
"Marshal Sunogachi has not been the best leader for the Coordinators," Raclyffe said carefully. "She has a sickness, you see."
Schroeder arched an eyebrow. "I knew nothing of this."
"Of course you didn't, sir, but I'm sure in retrospect you'll notice." He waved a dismissive hand. "But you're a politician, President Schroeder, and I know that as such, you know the real meaning of power. And looking at Messiah's control room, I know you can tell who has it and who doesn't." He gestured towards Valentine. "But that hasn't been the case for the war's entirety. I've been to those meetings and heard those communiqués, sir. And it is readily apparent who in the ZMA's relationship with ZAFT has the power and who does not." He smiled. "But that can all change today, President Schroeder. Because now the power has changed hands, and we— " he gestured around the room at his accomplices— "want a different relationship."
Schroeder frowned. "You chose a fine time to try and reverse the power structure, Mr. Raclyffe. The war is almost at its end. I'm sure you'll forgive my impatience on that matter."
Raclyffe frowned. "Legitimize us and we'll end this war for you, exactly the way you want it ended."
Martian Liberation Army Headquarters, Deimos
Emmanuel Vargas stared up in surprise at the tactical map. If his eyes did not deceive him, the ZAFT fleet was stationary— while at the same time his own fleet was gathering at flank speed around his great fortress at Deimos. Was this the hand of Providence he so needed?
"Intel intercepted a message to all ZAFT ships," Keller explained. "They were ordered to hold— not by the ZAFT Marshal, but by her adjutant."
"By her adjutant? What are they planning?"
Vargas put a hand to his chin thoughtfully. If the ZAFT fleet was holding at the adjutant's instruction, then perhaps there had been some sort of coup— and that, Vargas knew, was the stroke of luck he needed to delay the battle just long enough to gather his forces and fully charge the Beelzebub Array.
"And ZAFT's units are holding all over? The ZMA forces are too?" Keller nodded, and Vargas broke out into a victorious grin. "Fate is on our side, then. Admiral Keller, send out the orders to our forces to get here at flank speed. Our battle is about to begin."
Deimos was buzzing with activity, and as far as Agnes Brahe could remember this was about as professional and excited as he had ever seen MLA soldiers get. The fleet of Marseille III freighters and a handful of Izumo-class battleships were growing, and the Beelzebub Array was gathering power.
Agnes staggered towards the nearest hangar and pulled himself through the door. He cast his eyes dully about the cavernous room. His eyes caught something in the hangar's center—
"The Delta Astray..."
He had not seen just how much damage his loyal steed had taken, but the twisted, blackened hulk before him was hardly recognizable. The limbs and head were gone, the gleaming white armor was blackened with soot and scorch-marks. The sword had survived— Agnes remembered how he had stabbed the blade into the ground to the hilt, to anchor the dying machine in place as the shockwaves struck— but the Austral Colony's pride and joy...
It had been entrusted to him. Ten years of research on the Voiture Lumiere had culminated in this magnificent mobile suit, designed for speed and maneuverability unparalleled by any machine...until the Strike Freedom and ZAFT came along. And even they had not been able to topple him. It was living, fighting proof of the Austral Colony's skill and prosperity, proof that they were not merely another band of Martian colonists but were, indeed, the future of Martian inhabitation.
And now here it was, so many particles of dust on such a ruined and broken machine. Agnes felt his knees give out from under him, and only the lack of gravity kept him from hitting the floor.
Setona had been right. They should have stayed out of this war.
Omega Suzuki furiously wiped the blood from his chin. His private room on Deimos was outfitted to deal with these spasms, and only Howard stood by with a nervous look on his face. With a snarl, Omega reared back and spat a mouthful of blood into the cup at his side.
"A very macabre scene, I'm sure," he grunted, and glanced up at Howard with pulsing eyes. "Apologies."
Howard waved him off. "Are you sure you can handle the Mars Jacket, sir?"
"It'll only be one battle," Omega snorted. "And I don't have much time left...but I do have a little successor." A wicked, bloody grin spread over his lips. "Oh yes. I can feel it. Someone else hates Kira Yamato as much as I do now, and someone else will go as far as I have to destroy him."
"Exactly." The shaking blond man replaced his mask and sat up painfully.
"But the Delta Astray was destroyed at Austral," Howard protested. "And the only machines we have that can really stand up to ZAFT's Gundam are already assigned."
"Oh, that problem will take care of itself," Omega said with a smirk. "Just wait for him to find the Turn Delta."
"And what about Lieutenant Janelin?"
Omega grinned back.
ZAFT Minerva-class battleship Fortuna
Silence reigned in the Fortuna's crew lounge. Gary sat slumped on one of the benches, Kara not far away, while Juarez leaned against a wall with his arms crossed.
"I hate this," snarled Kara.
Juarez glanced up at her. "It's not like there's anything we could do."
"But why did he have to go alone?" Kara groaned. "He's walking right into their turf. They're going to kill him, or take him hostage or something, aren't they? Dammit, how could they even think of doing this...what the hell could Raclyffe want?"
Shifting uncomfortably, Gary sat up. "Marshal Sunogachi didn't exactly come to her position democratically, did she?"
"No," Juarez agreed. "She took command by virtue of being the only one in FAITH who asked for it. It pissed off a lot of officers, but she made peace with them later." He paused. "Or, well, most of them."
"Is that what this is? Just a power trip?" Kara sighed. "Goddammit, we don't need this. And we were on the verge of beating Vargas too."
Juarez looked warily between his two subordinates. "Vargas won't be able to do much while this is going on," he said, "and neither will we."
Kara clenched and unclenched her fist, and Gary heaved a sigh. Juarez shook his head and glanced towards the wall.
But I do wonder what it is you're planning, Marshal Yamato...
ZAFT mobile space fortress Messiah, orbit of Mars
The control room doors opened with a hiss, all eyes turned towards the opening, and a man stepped through. The doors slid shut again, a crash of finality vibrating through the walls, and Kira Yamato stood alone against Raclyffe and his men.
"Marshal Yamato," Raclyffe said with only the most servile of smiles. "Welcome to Messiah."
Kira fixed the adjutant with a glare. "A lot of nerve you've got, welcoming me to my own home."
"On the contrary," Raclyffe went on, "this isn't just your home, Marshal. Nor is it Marshal Sunogachi's home. It's the Coordinators' home. It has been for three years." He put his hands behind his back with a smile.
Kira seized the moment to take in his surroundings. Valentine was off to the side, bound and held at gunpoint by two well-armed infantrymen. The room was not crowded, but there were about a dozen officers and several more infantry in here. Most of Raclyffe's men were in other key locations throughout Messiah— and if the plan was going to work, it would have to stay that way.
He, however, was the linchpin of the plan— and he tried not to let it show.
"Now that you're here, Marshal Yamato," Raclyffe continued, "I think we have a few things to discuss. So perhaps I should lay out for you just why we are doing this."
Kira did not move. "Perhaps you should."
Raclyffe stepped forward. "We are here, Marshal Yamato, because Marshal Sunogachi is mad." Kira noted with a suppressed smile the annoyed look that flashed across Valentine's face. "As the Vice Marshal of ZAFT, you are of course well aware of your superior's plans for this military force upon our return to the Earth Sphere." He arched an eyebrow. "It is little more than terrorism and slaughter."
"Do you agree with these steps as necessary and justified?"
At that, Raclyffe blinked in surprise— and Valentine barely hid her smirk. "W-Would you care to explain?"
"It's very simple, Raclyffe," Kira said, his voice level. "The Earth Alliance has never feared us, and in our previous two wars with them we had the handicap of sticking with laws and standards of warfare where the enemy did not. Only at the end did we target civilians, the base from which the Alliance government wages war, and by then it was too late. The only way to protect ourselves is to turn ourselves into a force that the Alliance fears and respects too much to challenge." He narrowed his eyes at Raclyffe and hoped he would get the point— because he really didn't want to go any further.
"When in history has that ever worked, Marshal Yamato?" Raclyffe shot back, dashing Kira's hopes. "The safest countries are always the ones that build relationships of mutual toleration. If anything, we are safer here at Mars than at Earth."
Kira arched a skeptical eyebrow. "ZAFT is not going to agree to stay here, and even if we did, the Alliance would hunt us down anyway."
"You forget, Marshal Yamato, that we are a rational and logical people."
"No," Kira said, and crossed his arms, "we are not."
Raclyffe blinked for a moment and put back on his characteristic smirk. "I know you're young, Marshal Yamato, and you didn't live on the PLANTs for most of your life," he said, "but perhaps you don't understand the evil you say you're— "
"If we have to become evil," Kira interrupted, "then we will."
"We don't have to— "
"Yes we do," Kira shot back. He glanced at Valentine for an instant and caught her almost-imperceptible nod. "The Alliance will learn to fear us, when we attack their civilian populations and put the fear of us into their hearts. When the Alliance tries to defeat us on the battlefield, we'll stop them, with new weapons and forces and tactics. When the Alliance faces the worst of our arsenal, they'll find themselves powerless to stop us. And they'll have no choice but to give in to whatever demands we make." He frowned. "Do you have a better plan?"
"Marshal," Raclyffe said, his smirk vanishing, "surely you see that this is madness." He swung his arm towards Valentine. "Surely you can see the hypocrisy here. The Alliance drove us to exile here through nothing less than attempted genocide. They targeted our civilian populations not just as a means of attaining military victory, but as the end itself. Their goal was to destroy us." He pointed vindictively at Valentine. "How, Marshal Yamato, is her plan any different? Any better?"
"It is necessary— "
"How, marshal, is it necessary to do to the Earth Alliance what Blue Cosmos did to us?"
Frustration flickered across Kira's eye. "Raclyffe, do you really think that just attacking the Alliance military is going to convince them to leave us to our space in peace? We did that in two wars and look where it got us. The problem with the Alliance runs much deeper than Blue Cosmos. It's a sickness that infects the entire human race— even us. And we are going to change it, with shocking brutality."
Raclyffe sneered. "Ridiculous. The Alliance outnumbers us ten to one. We may have new weapons and more troops, and they may have distractions and drains on their resources, but it is still madness to think that the Alliance won't throw everything it has at ZAFT's brazen acts of terrorism. To say nothing of the damage you'll do to our public support. I cannot believe you support this insane scheme."
Kira straightened up, ice washing over his countenance. "You seem to forget, Raclyffe, that I just ordered a nuclear strike against a colony full of civilians."
At that, Raclyffe paled. "I see through that, Marshal Yamato. That order came," he waved his hand contemptuously, "from Marshal Sunogachi."
"No," Kira answered. "I gave that order."
Raclyffe fell silent.
"That's right, Raclyffe. I ordered the Deliverance to fire a nuclear missile at the Austral Colony, knowing full well that it was going to kill about a million civilians. And that, Raclyffe, is what we're going to do in the Earth Sphere. Horrible, evil things. And we're going to do them because we have to. If I have to become evil to create a new world for our children, then fine, I'll become evil. At least our people will have a future."
"A future built on corpses and hypocrisy," Raclyffe shot back. "A future you built out of doing nothing but unjustified, pointless evil."
Kira was silent a moment, regarding Raclyffe with growing contempt. Was this a test too? He knew how to pass it. He glanced over Raclyffe's shoulder, finding the Nazca-class destroyer that had sided with the tall staff officer drifting by— finally, right into position.
"We won't do what's right, Raclyffe," he said at last. "We'll do what's necessary."
He closed his eye and hoped that this would work.
ZAFT Minerva-class battleship Fortuna
In a way, Lyle was surprised that this hadn't happened already. Marshal Sunogachi had rather undemocratically assumed command, largely on the grounds that she was one of only two FAITH members who had made it to Mars after Solomon's Sword— and the other FAITH member at the time was happy to let her take command. But he should have known that not everyone would agree with her vision for the Coordinators' future, and some of them would resort to methods like this.
The plan, however, would require his utmost concentration and for that he had the bridge silent and his eyes screwed shut. He still wasn't sure exactly how it was supposed to work, but Vice Marshal Yamato had told him to wait for a signal— and he would know that signal when he got it.
Lyle cracked one eye open to glance out the Fortuna's bridge windows. He could see the cerulean hull of the Thales drifting into view—
The voice flooded his mind and Lyle jerked forward. "Tannhäuser, fire!"
ZAFT mobile space fortress Messiah
The pulsing red beam pounded its way through the Thales' hull and blew the ship apart in a dazzling fireball. Kira steeled himself as his cue presented itself.
In a flash, he vaulted across the room and took down Raclyffe with a right hook across the face. An instant later, Valentine had swept out the legs from both of her captors, even as the light from the Thales' explosive death flooded the control room and the shockwave rattled everything. Kira turned his mechanical eye towards the soldiers as they struggled to gather their wits. He seized one of their assault rifles, killed them both, then tackled Valentine to the floor as Raclyffe's other men opened fire.
The door burst open and Kira kept Valentine flat on the floor as a squad of his own soldiers burst in, guns blazing. It was over in seconds, and Raclyffe's troops and officers lay dead or dying in growing clouds of blood.
Kira shot off Valentine's handcuffs and helped her back to her feet, and with a furious flourish he whirled around on Raclyffe, held on his knees by a pair of loyal infantry.
"Very clever," Raclyffe snarled, "but you're making a mistake, Yamato. She's no better than Lord Djibril and you know it. She's going to lead you to hell."
Kira's eye flashed with fury and he shoved the rifle's muzzle under Raclyffe's chin, freezing the man in terror. Raclyffe desperately looked up towards Kira's mismatched eyes, and found nothing but contempt.
"So be it."
He pulled the trigger and the deed was done.
The Vice Marshal turned around, and Kira's eye went wide as Valentine threw her arms around him and kissed him— to the shock of the troops in the room. He staggered back and looked around helplessly, anger melting away to embarrassment. "V-Valentine— "
"I got tired of hiding it," she said, and turned towards the gaping men throughout the room. "And in case any of you were wondering, this is why I don't prohibit fraternization." She pulled away from Kira, letting him compose himself as a man in a flak jacket and Black Shirt uniform stepped forward awkwardly.
"Sir, um, reporting in," the officer started. "We've got the control room and reactor controls secured. We can keep the rest of Raclyffe's men isolated until they're killed or captured."
Kira straightened his shirt and nodded towards the officer. "Alright. Good. Capture them if you can." He dismissed the officer with a salute, and turned again towards Raclyffe's bleeding corpse.
It was no longer hatred that filled him at the sight of the traitor, but pity.
There's so much more than the Coordinators...and I'll travel through hell for it all.
Martian Liberation Army Headquarters, Deimos
Agnes Brahe rounded a corner inside the great Deimos fortress. A sandwich and a shower had done little to improve his mood— as if anything could really make him feel better about being the last of his people— and he still felt lost and morose...
...until he laid eyes on it.
The memories came to mind immediately. That was the MLA's latest mobile suit, the Turn Delta, the great red-and-white hope that carried a Voiture Lumiere array and could fight even the mighty Strike Freedom. It was glorious, the perfect upgrade from the Delta Astray whose scorched hulk lay in the adjacent hangar. With that he could exact his revenge— just as Omega Suzuki had suggested. It was perfect, unstoppable, and...not his.
Indeed, the real pilot was Sam Janelin, and he was speaking with a mechanic nearby. Agnes kept his eyes on the Turn Delta as Sam glanced over, surprised.
"You're still alive," Sam said with a smirk. "Fancy that." He followed Agnes' gaze. "Ah, finally meeting the Turn Delta, I see. Pretty cool, huh?"
Agnes felt his cheek twitch. "Are you going to fight in the next battle?"
"Then...let me use it."
Sam narrowed his eyes at the ruined Coordinator. "Um, excuse me? I don't think so. I've already been assigned to this machine and I've already used it. I'm way better suited."
"Kira Yamato destroyed my colony," Agnes growled, his hands beginning to tremble. "I must destroy him."
"Yeah, so I heard. Bummer." Sam slapped Agnes on the back in an ostensibly friendly way. "Well, good luck with that, man." With that, he hopped off the hangar floor and drifted up towards the Turn Delta's cockpit hatch.
Agnes remained below, hands twitching, blood boiling with rage.
"I must have that machine to fight Kira Yamato," he hissed, "and I will have it."
"It's going to be a good battle," Omega Suzuki chuckled, with Howard at his side on the hangar gantry.
Together they looked down at the hulking Astray Mars Jacket as its head fittings were connected to the mobile suit underneath. All this armor would make it nearly impervious to beam fire, but it had enough verniers and thrusters to compensate for the added mass and maintain respectable maneuverability. Its oversized katanas could cut through Phase Shift. It had beam shields. The Strike Freedom's DRAGOON units would be of no help against it; Kira Yamato would finally have to face up to what he had done.
Howard cracked a smile. "He's going to be in for quite a surprise."
"And even if he gets past me," Omega said wistfully, "there will always be Agnes Brahe."
"Yes, about him," Howard said, "I don't think anybody's going to consent to keeping the Turn Delta from launching long enough for Brahe to get to it."
"They don't have to. Stir up a little confusion in all the bureaucracy and they won't have a choice."
Howard said nothing, and Omega merely crossed his arms and smiled.
"Anyways," he said, "soon none of it will matter. And I'm looking forward to this."
"So what the fuck happened to you?"
Agnes felt something inside him come close to snapping. He slowly turned around in the corridor and found two familiar men standing behind him.
Cocking an eyebrow, Vanfeldt Ria Lindsay shot the broken Coordinator a devilish grin. At his side, Waid Rabby Nadaga offered a shrug.
"You're looking like shit, y'know," he added.
Agnes blinked at both of them, incomprehensibly. "You survived?"
"Of course we did," Vanfeldt answered with a smirk. "You didn't really think a little nuclear weapon was going to kill me, did you?"
"We've even got new mobile suits," Waid put in, jerking his thumb in the direction of the hangars. "Got out of this pretty good, I'd say."
"Not that the same can be said for you," laughed Vanfeldt. "I saw the Delta Astray in there. Looks like you're fucked, pal." He gave a sarcastic thumbs up.
Agnes felt the furious twitching coming on again. "Neither of you care that the Austral Colony was obliterated?"
Vanfeldt shrugged. "Why should I? Not like it was my home or anything."
"Yeah, uh, no offense but I'm pretty sure I don't really care either," Waid said.
Fury bubbled up Agnes' veins. He pushed it down and reminded himself resolutely of the Turn Delta. It had to be his. Without it he could not take revenge on Kira Yamato— and without that, his existence was well and truly pointless.
He turned on his heel, leaving his two former pilots behind as he stalked back down the corridor.
A flurry of beeps and chimes rose up from the consoles in Deimos' control room, and from his place on the command Dais, Emmanuel Vargas lit up a smile. It was almost musical, really.
"The Beelzebub Array is completely charged, sir," one of the deckhands reported. "Output is at optimal levels."
"And the fleet has been completely gathered," Keller added at Vargas's side. "Everything is ready."
Vargas grinned with anticipation and stepped forward. "With this blow begins our victory. Beelzebub Array, affix target on the Nergal space colony— and open fire!"
The Beelzebub Array flickered and sparked as a building sphere of golden light appeared at the vertices of its arms and panels. The light became blinding, the sparks filled the black sky around the massive machine, and suddenly the entire array seemed to shudder. When Vargas could see again, the great golden beam lanced out from the Beelzebub Array and into the darkness.
Now come to the battle here, and I'll finish you off.
ZAFT mobile space fortress Messiah, orbit of Mars
The screen flickered to life in Messiah's control room and Valentine looked up sharply from the conferring circle of officers around her desk. President Schroeder was on the screen, and Valentine needed no Newtype senses to see the panic in his eyes. Kira was at her side in a heartbeat.
"Marshal Sunogachi," Schroeder said, the falter audible in his voice, "we have a new problem. There was a huge spike of energy just now originating from Deimos. It hit the Nergal colony and...destroyed it. Outright."
Valentine blinked in surprise. "You must be joking." She glanced over at one of the soldiers manning the consoles. "Status report on the Nergal colony."
The indicated man blinked in surprise and looked up. "It's...not there, ma'am. No signal."
"That satellite array," Kira murmured as the realization broke across his mind. "It wasn't a power satellite at all. It was a weapon."
"Oh, whatever," Valentine snarled. "We have the NEO-GENESIS, we'll just go out there and— "
The screen flickered again, and Schroeder's image disappeared— replaced by the hawk-nosed, grinning visage of Emmanuel Vargas.
Valentine scowled. "This day just keeps getting better and better."
"People of the Martian Sphere!" Vargas boomed triumphantly. "I am Emmanuel Vargas, commander of the Martian Liberation Army, speaking to you from my headquarters at Deimos. By now you may be noticing that the Nergal Colony, a longtime ally of the Zodiac Martian Alliance, has disappeared. It was destroyed, by my forces— and by my new weapon, the Beelzebub Array." He clenched his fist. "I address this message to the ZMA and to their puppet-masters in ZAFT. I will destroy one colony of yours, be it in space or on the planet's surface, for every hour you do not surrender unconditionally to the MLA. If you think I'm bluffing, just travel to the Nergal Colony." He flashed a wicked grin. "It is time for the invaders to return to the rock from whence they came, and time for the traitors to meet their fate."
As Vargas's words rang through Messiah's control room, the screen went dark and Valentine rubbed her temples painfully.
"Alright," she muttered, "we'll do it his way." She looked up at Kira. "Fortunately, Raclyffe pulled his little stunt while our units were on their way back here— so we can hack together a fleet and go put down Vargas once and for all." She scowled up at the dark screen. "It's sooner than I'd like and he'll have the position of strength..."
"That won't save him," Kira said. "I will take the Fortuna and lead the attack."
Valentine grinned back. "I'd expect nothing less, Kira."
Everyone was in a frenzy throughout Messiah's busy corridors as Kira headed back for the Fortuna. At the very least, Vargas was true to his word— because the instant the clock struck 2100 hours, another golden beam from the Beelzebub Array lanced out and claimed a colony, this one the Event Horizon colony. Kira scowled at that memory— and at the unprofessional behavior and the slaughter and his own sick heart at it. He would have to bury that.
Kira sailed through the door and stopped himself on the railing at the opposite end of the corridor. He glanced up, finding himself on an observation deck overlooking Messiah's vast internal dockyard— and the Fortuna, resting in its berth like a coiled tiger waiting to pounce. Anxiousness and bloodlust were emanating from within its laminated armor. Outside of Lyle's use of the Tannhäuser, they hadn't had much to do in his breaking of Raclyffe's takeover— and they were itching to let out some of that pent-up aggression.
He turned his mismatched eyes in the direction of Deimos and let a scowl pass over his lips.
Then into hell I'll go...
To be continued...