Phase 11 - Sword to Sword

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED DESTINY - Red Planet


Phase 11 - Sword to Sword


November 25th, CE 76 - ZAFT mobile space fortress Messiah, near Deimos

"So," Valentine said with a scowl, "that's Vargas's little superweapon."

Arrayed before the combined fleet of ZAFT and ZMA stood the full power of the Martian Liberation Army's remaining forces, all in formation around the pockmarked moon of Deimos and with that sprawling weapon he had used to shoot down the ZMA's colonies, the Beelzebub Array.

Valentine stepped forward in the control room with arms crossed. "President Schroeder and Admiral Harkill, move your fleets out of NEO-GENESIS's firing range. We'll handle this in one blow." She glanced at one of the deckhands as the fleets began to ponderously clear a path for Messiah's main weapon. "Are we ready to fire?"

"Yes ma'am."

"Good." She turned back towards the screen. "NEO-GENESIS, fire!"

The sweeping dish on Messiah's surface flickered for a moment as energy built up, and the entire fortress shuddered as it launched a vast beam of gamma radiation forward, the space around it lighting up with radiation. The blazing column of light sliced forward through space, towards the MLA fleet and the Beelzebub Array

...and instead of destroying them, it slammed uselessly against the distinctive shimmering barrier of a positron reflector.

"A reflector?!" one of the officers cried. "Where the hell did he get that?!"

Valentine scowled in frustration. So this battle would have to be won the old-fashioned way. "Raise the beam shield!" she ordered, and seized the intercom from her chair. "Kira, Vargas's forces have a positron reflector up over that thing. You're going to have to fight through on your own and disable it first."

"Understood," Kira answered. "All forces, advance and attack the enemy lines! Target the MLA's positron reflector!"


"Break formation!"

Engines blazing, the three Impulse units from the Fortuna darted apart and let a wave of beam fire tear through the space they had just vacated. Juarez's Blast Impulse lined up to return fire with a withering barrage of beam cannon fire; Gary's Sword Impulse and Kara's Force Impulse rushed forward around Juarez's blasts, both of them racing towards a squad of Strike Daggers and Civilian Astrays belonging to the MLA. The enemy mobile suits broke their own formation to dodge the Sword Impulse's opening sword strokes, but an instant later one of the Civilian Astrays went up in flames as the Force Impulse opened fire.

The Sword Impulse lunged up and sliced two of the Daggers in half, and then darted aside to let the Force Impulse shoot down a third. The remaining mobile suits darted to the sides to flank the two Gundams and a moment later, two of the MLA units were blown to pieces by a volley from the Blast Impulse.

"Kara, Gary, move!" Juarez shouted; an instant later the Blast Impulse let loose a salvo of missiles that pounded another two Civilian Astrays out of the fight. The remaining two Daggers and one Astray clawed for distance and showered the three Gundams with beam fire; Gary charged straight at them and tore the Astray in two with his swords, and Kara shot down one of the Daggers with a beam rifle shot through the cockpit.

The last Dagger backed away behind its shield, but too late the Sword Impulse rushed forward and chopped in two.

"Another squad inbound," Gary said, before anyone else could speak. "Two o'clock! Move!"


Up ahead, the sprawling Beelzebub Array was glowing with excess energy which, Kira noted grimly inside the Strike Freedom, it seemed to be turning on Schroeder's fleet. If the ZMA forces were knocked out of the battle, then ZAFT would have to throw its own fleet into the battle and incur casualties and it could not afford casualties.

Kira ground his teeth. He would just have to get to that reflector first.

A squad of Civilian Astrays rose up before him, but he cut them down effortlessly with a full burst from his DRAGOONs and kept moving. There was a reinforced team of ZAFT ZAKUs behind him, armed to take out the reflector, while his FAITH wingmen made a distraction at the enemy's center. Another squad of enemy mobile suits attacked; Kira darted aside as the ZAFT machines behind him took cover, and with a punishing salvo from his DRAGOONs two of the four enemies vanished in puffs of fire. He stormed forward and whipped up both his beam rifles to blow away the remaining two.

"Commander, a warship! Eleven o'clock!" one of the ZAFT soldiers exclaimed. Kira snapped his eye up and threw the Strike Freedom aside; sure enough, one of the MLA's orange Marseille III-class freighters was driving forward, missile launchers and machineguns blazing. Kira narrowed his eye.

"Rajiv, keep your team back," he ordered, and the Strike Freedom blasted forward.

Kira guided the Strike Freedom up into the missile cloud and blew the first few apart with a CIWS burst, setting off a chain reaction that threw up a thick pall of smoke over the battlefield. With a scream he roared out of the cloud and deployed his DRAGOONs to swarm around the ship and tear deep smoking gashes in its hull. The stricken freighter shuddered and turned its machineguns on the gleaming white Gundam, but Kira plowed through its fire effortlessly and tightened the DRAGOONs' fire. The Marseille III quaked under the blows, and Kira finally let loose with a full burst from the Strike Freedom's weapons to pound through the ship's engines and blow the vessel apart.

The DRAGOONs returned to their racks with a crash, and Kira scanned the skies for his target.


Martian Liberation Army Headquarters, Deimos

"Firing spread has been increased by forty percent," the deckhand reported. "We're ready to begin."

In his chair in the bustling Deimos control room, Vargas cast a smirk towards Keller. "They'll get quite a surprise from this," the admiral offered.

Vargas nodded in agreement. "Beelzebub Array, target the ZMA fleet's center and open fire!"

A shining golden blast lanced out from the Beelzebub Array, wider around than the shots with which it had already brought down two space colonies and three surface colonies. It rushed forward and swept through the center of the ZMA's massive fleet, nearly half of its forces by Vargas's visual estimation, and landed forcefully against Messiah's glimmering beam shield. A wave of fiery explosions tore apart the stricken ships, and Vargas laughed victoriously.

"That's right, ZAFT, we can fire through the reflector!" he cackled. "Keller, move our units forward to lure the rest into range, and we'll seize victory in another shot!"


Kara ground her teeth as the report filtered by on her auxiliary fleet. "Juarez, that thing just took out half of the ZMA fleet! And Vargas's troops are on the move!"

"I know," Juarez answered. "All units, advance towards the Beelzebub Array! We have to find that reflector!"

The three Impulse units charged and blasted down towards an oncoming squad of MLA mobile suits. The Blast Impulse opened fire and cut down a Civilian Astray; the Sword and Force Impulse rushed in, beam rifles blazing, to take down a pair of M1 Astrays. The surviving two Civilian Astrays darted apart just in time for a trio of Murasames to scream into the fight, beam cannons blazing and throwing the Impulse units apart.

"Dammit! We don't have time for you!" Gary snapped, and whirled around to fling both his beam boomerangs at the two machines. The Force Impulse lunged up with its beam rifle blazing, picking off one of the Murasames as they arced around but the rest pummeled her machine with machinegun and missile fire.

"Kara! Get out of the way!" Juarez screamed; the Blast Impulse let loose another salvo that ripped a second Murasame out of the sky. Gary threw himself into the third unit's path, swords alight, and brought one of them down with a scream to cleave the entire mobile suit in half.

"There's more coming," Kara grunted, as the three Gundams turned back towards Deimos. "We've got to get to the surface."

Juarez's Blast Impulse moved forward. "Come on. I'll cover you. Vargas's fleet is moving forward, but we can probably slip through."

The three Impulse units' eyes flashed and they took off with a shining trail of exhaust.


"We're going to have to commit the ZAFT fleet to combat," Kira said, even as his DRAGOONs pummeled a squad of MLA mobile suits. "There's no way around it. Keep Schroeder's fleet in the center and move our units around the sides, and we'll try to flank Vargas."

"That's not going to be an option, marshal," Harkill's voice protested. "That array just took out half of Schroeder's fleet."

"I know!" Kira shot back. "Just keep his attention occupied! Use Messiah's beam shield!" He clenched his teeth and threw the Strike Freedom away from a volley of beam rifle shots. "Get our fleet in there as close as you can and engage the MLA ships at point-blank range! Vargas won't be able to use that weapon if his own fleet is in the way!"

"Marshal, we're going to take too many casualties " Harkill began.

Kira's eye flashed furiously. "Do you want this war or not!?" Harkill blinked in surprise. "Now do as I say and give the damn order!"

He switched off the line with a disgusted snarl and returned his attention to the fight. The rapidly diminishing MLA squad was beginning to pull back just as the ZAFT units over Kira's shoulder opened fire and ripped the remaining three machines to pieces.

Kira looked up sharply at the feeling of a familiar pressure. "Rajiv, get out of here," he said. "Go for the array without me. Now."

The man in the GOUF Ignited blinked in surprise. "But marshal "

A blazing beam shot ripped out of the inky heavens to blow apart Rajiv's GOUF, and Kira threw the Strike Freedom to the side


Armored in gleaming red and white with a shining green monoeye, the Astray Mars Jacket dropped into the fray with its beam rifle raised, and in the cockpit Omega Suzuki cackled with glee.

"Welcome to Deimos, Kira Yamato! It's a fine day for a battle!"


ZAFT Minerva-class battleship Fortuna

Lyle fixed his eyes on the warship in the lead of the waiting MLA fleet. Marshal Yamato's orders had been clear the ZAFT fleet was to move in and attack, tangling up Vargas's ships in a naval brawl that would make use of that Beelzebub Array impossible without Vargas destroying his own ships. And the Fortuna's first foe, it appeared, would be the Elysium.

"Charge the Tannhäuser," Lyle ordered. "In the meantime, we'll see about getting them roughed up first."

The Elysium opened fire with a burst from its Gottfrieds, forcing the Fortuna to swerve to starboard. The blue winged warship returned fire with its Tristans and Isolde, but the Tristan shots merely grazed the Elysium's laminated armor. Lyle cursed under his breath.

"Neidhardt, fire!"

With a burst of smoke, the Fortuna let loose a wave of Neidhardt space missiles that went arcing towards the Elysium where a vicious CIWS salvo tore them out of the sky with a flash of fire.

"Helm, Z minus twenty!" The Fortuna obligingly dipped down and sank beneath a Gottfried blast from the Elysium. "Tristans, target enemy's ventral side and fire!"

The Tristans opened fire, but the Elysium banked to the side and dodged the blasts. Lyle narrowed his eyes at the gray battleship as it curved around for another pass.


ZAFT mobile space fortress Messiah

"What do you mean move forward?!" Schroeder sputtered, his panicked voice echoing through the Messiah control room. "Marshal, half of my fleet just got blown away by a single shot from that weapon!"

"I know," Valentine shot back, "and that's part of our plan. Move your ships forward and get them tangled up in ship-to-ship combat with Vargas's fleet. If he wants to use that weapon again, he'll have to destroy his own fleet."

Schroeder paled. "And we're the sacrificial lamb?"

"Not if you get your fleet in position, right now," Valentine snapped. "Don't test me, Schroeder. You're still in NEO-GENESIS's firing range, don't forget."

"You wouldn't "

"Are you willing to bet your life on that?"

Schroeder stared in helpless fury at Valentine for a moment, but finally turned towards someone on his end. "Move the fleet forward," he said.

Valentine returned her attention towards Deimos and the Beelzebub Array. If all went as she hoped, she would have all her problems solved today.


Martian Liberation Army Headquarters, Deimos

The Turn Delta stood silent and waiting in the hangar, even as all Deimos quaked from the battle outside. Agnes Brahe alit on the gantry next to it, already in his flight suit with his helmet in the crook of his arm, and he could see Sam Janelin arguing with two mechanics next to the Turn Delta's open cockpit hatch.

"What the hell took so long?!" Janelin snapped. "I should've been out there an hour ago!"

"Take it up with the officer in charge," one of the mechanics started

Agnes shoved him aside and fixed Janelin with a furious glare. "Let me take the Turn Delta."

Janelin turned up his nose. "What you again? Haven't we been over this already? You weren't assigned "

"I need it more than you."

"Like hell you do." Janelin turned towards the open hatch. "Don't worry, I'll bring back the Freedom's head. Call it a present or something."

With hardly a second, Agnes whipped his sidearm from the holster on his back and shot Janelin through the side of the head. The mechanics recoiled in shock just long enough for Agnes to whirl around and kill them both with a bullet to the throat each. And with that, he shoved the gun back into its holster and ducked into the Turn Delta's cockpit.

"Lieutenant Brahe, what the hell do you think you're doing!?" a screaming voice filled the cockpit, as Agnes closet his helmet seals. "Get out of that thing and put your hands up! You're under arrest for murder!"

Agnes flicked his eyes towards the hangar control deck, where the yelling officer stood, and raised his beam rifle. The room's occupants shrank back in horror as Agnes blasted the room into oblivion and stomped forward.

"They moved it here," he muttered. "Where..."

His eyes fell upon his target, and the Turn Delta shifted its rifle over to its left hand and reached down to seize the Delta Astray's katana off the hangar floor. It was all too fitting that, in this glorious new machine, the Delta Astray would lend its blade to this last battle.

"Lieutenant Brahe, shut down the Turn Delta immediately!" another voice cried, echoing from the hangar loudspeakers. A crash rang through and Agnes turned to find an M1 Astray stomping towards him, beam rifle drawn and pointed directly at him. "Shut down the Turn Delta and come out with your hands "

Agnes whipped up the Turn Delta's beam rifle and blew the M1 Astray apart. He stomped through the smoke and flames towards the hangar door, blown open by the M1's fiery death, and locked himself onto the catapult.

'I no longer obey you, Vargas," he snarled. "I don't need to anymore."

The catapult fired and the Turn Delta rocketed into the fray.


"Is that thing one of ours?" one of the ZAFT pilots began only to die in a burst of fire when the Mars Jacket shot his Blaze ZAKU Warrior through the cockpit. The remaining mobile suits threw their own weapons up and opened fire, but the Mars Jacket darted out of harm's way with a blinding flash of exhaust.

"What the hell?!" another pilot exclaimed. "It's so fast " His voice vanished in a burst of static as the Mars Jacket shot it down with a single rifle blast.

"How can it move so fast with all that armor?!" a third pilot cried. The ZAFT mobile suits split up as the Strike Freedom swept in and deployed its DRAGOONs.

"Stay away from it!" Kira barked. "Gain distance! I'll deal with " He snarled in frustration as the Mars Jacket claimed another ZAFT machine. "Dammit, move back !"

Omega Suzuki cackled hysterically. "We can't have these little grunts spoiling our fight, Kira!" The Mars Jacket jinked to the right, drew a towering sword from its back with its left hand, and ripped in half a Slash ZAKU Warrior. The remaining machines lined up again and opened fire

Kira stared in disbelief as the beams impacted harmlessly against the Mars Jacket's heavy armor, and with a blast of exhaust the hulking red mobile suit stormed forward and chopped a Gunner ZAKU Warrior in half. Omega grinned victoriously and whipped around to shoot down yet another ZAFT mobile suit.

"All of you, get out of here, now!" Kira snapped, and with that the surviving ZAFT machines took off. Kira stashed his beam rifles in favor of a beam saber and fixed the Mars Jacket with a furious glare.

"Well, now that they're out of the way," Omega chuckled, and switched out his rifle for the Mars Jacket's second sword, "let's dance!"


A punishing salvo of shells streaked through space just next to the Force Impulse's head, and Kara yelped in surprise as she slammed on the brakes. The three Impulse units came to a stop, and Juarez scanned the sky anxiously

"Well," Gary muttered, "that's new."

Up ahead loomed two white and blue mobile suits, one with a hulking IWSP pack and the other with huge blades on its wrists and ankles; and behind them floated a disk-shaped mobile armor with what looked like three folded legs. The two mobile suits darted to the side, while the mobile armor lunged forward, splitting up the three Impulse units.

"I think you guys are owed an explanation," a voice cackled, and the bladed mobile suit's pilot appeared on the auxiliary screen with a maniacal grin. "Meet the Sigma Astray, the Zero Astray, and the Mars Tank!"

Inside the Force Impulse, Kara steeled herself as the hulking Zero Astray charged.


ZAFT mobile space fortress Messiah

"Commander Svante is reporting no breakthrough yet," one of the deckhands said. "We've lost about twenty mobile suits."

Valentine's visage darkened as she watched the battle before her. Schroeder's fleet was moving forward, but he was keeping it clumped together in a tight formation and, as the Beelzebub Array flickered, she needed no Newtype powers to see what would happen next. Schroeder's scream filled the Messiah control room as his flagship was speared from prow to stern by the gleaming golden blast, and half of his remaining forces vanished in a pulsing inferno with him.

Useless bastards... "Order what's left of the ZMA fleet to break formation and move towards the flanks. Messiah's beam shield can withstand the Beelzebub Array's recorded outputs."

"Marshal, we can't risk Messiah too," Harkill protested. "We don't even need to be here, in that thing's range. NEO-GENESIS can reach "

"Admiral, shut up and go make yourself useful," Valentine snapped. She searched the battlefield for Kira's familiar pressure, found it, and cracked a smirk. Her white knight would not be defeated by something like that.


Martian Liberation Army Izumo-class battleship Elysium

"If we can lure them into one of the debris fields, they're done for," Howard muttered, as the Elysium quaked under a near-miss from the Fortuna's missiles. The Elysium launched off a missile salvo of its own, and as for the Fortuna tore them from the sky with a CIWS fusillade, the Elysium ducked down

Howard leaned forward and saw his chance. "Gottfrieds, fire!" The Gottfrieds let loose a quartet of pulsing beams that sent the Fortuna swerving to port. Howard narrowed his eyes. "Don't let them straighten back out! Gottfrieds, keep on them!"

The Gottfrieds fired again, and paused only as the Fortuna fired back with its Isolde and starboard Tristan. The beams slammed against the Elysium's laminate armor, building up a dangerous level of heat, but Howard shrugged it off and watched the Gottfrieds fire one more time. The Fortuna banked to port again

"Lohengrins, fire!"

With a flash, the red beams lanced out from the sides of the Elysium's engine block and into the cloud of debris surrounding the Fortuna. The wreckage lit up as the antimatter came into contact with matter, and the Fortuna vanished behind a flickering cloud of fire.

The Elysium's bridge crew cheered, but Howard fixed his eyes on the smoke and waited.


The Strike Freedom rattled as the Mars Jacket brought down both its katanas onto its beam saber. Kira ground his teeth and surged forward with the thrusters to throw the red mobile suit back; but it merely charged again, and Kira found himself forced to throw his saber and shield up to deflect the Mars Jacket's sword strokes, one after another.

"What's wrong, Kira? Feeling powerless? Is that it?" Omega laughed, and with a crash he brought down both swords onto the Strike Freedom's saber. The white mobile suit staggered back; Kira deployed his DRAGOONs to pummel the Mars Jacket, but once again the beams had no effect, and Omega cackled with glee as he brought his swords down again. "Well, imagine feeling that way all of the time, because your own body is collapsing on you! Imagine feeling that way because some hypocrite and his whore decided to turn you into their very own living battery!"

Kira's eye flashed furiously as the Mars Jacket brought down its swords. "You weren't supposed to survive..."

"Yes, well, it turns out things don't always go as planned, do they?!" Omega shot back. The Mars Jacket surged forward. "Remember me, Kira Yamato, when you go try to build your new world!" The Mars Jacket slammed its swords down again and threw the Strike Freedom back. Kira somersaulted over the next blow and stabbed forward with his saber but the Mars Jacket was there to parry the blow with its left-hand sword and drive its right-hand sword down hard onto the Strike Freedom's beam shield. "Remember me whenever you start thinking that what you're going to do is worth the cost!" He swung the swords again. "Remember what you did at Austral! What you've done to Mars! What you've done all your life!" The Mars Jacket reared back and slammed the Strike Freedom with an earth-shattering kick to the chest. "And remember, always remember, that every time you try to justify your actions, it is a lie!"

Eyes flashing, the Strike Freedom lunged forward and rammed the Mars Jacket in the chest with its shoulder. The red mobile suit staggered back; Kira charged and raised his saber to seize the opportunity, but the Mars Jacket darted backward and dodged the Strike Freedom's saber swing.

"Explaining to you would just be a waste," Kira snarled. "You're just a mistake, Omega and I'm going to correct you!"

Omega laughed, even as the Strike Freedom went on the attack. "Correct me if you think you can, Kira, but you'll never be rid of me!"


Blood flashing hot and eyes flicking across the Turn Delta's spacious cockpit screens, Agnes Brahe scanned the battlefield for a sign of his once and future foe. A trio of ZMA GINNs arced down into his path; with a flash from the Voiture Lumiere, he darted down into their ranks to cut two of them in half and spear the third on a beam rifle shot.

"Where are you," he snarled. "I'm going to find you, Yamato."

Another squad of ZMA mobile suits approached; Agnes tore them apart with beam shots and untouchable maneuverability, filling the space around them with afterimages from the blazing Voiture Lumiere. As the last GINN exploded, he turned and rushed back towards into the fray, eyes continuing to seek his only real foe.

He clenched his fists around the Turn Delta's controls as a squad of ZAFT mobile suits emerged next. "Get out of my way!"

The Gunner ZAKU leveled off its cannon and opened fire, supported on its flanks by two Slash ZAKUs, with the Blaze ZAKU Phantom at their lead charging in close. Agnes ground his teeth and hurled the Turn Delta aside; he squeezed off a rifle blast that blew the ZAKU apart as it passed. The remaining ZAKUs pulled back and intensified their fire; Agnes charged forward with a scream, before lunging up at the last second and then dropping back down. The ZAKUs turned towards him in surprise but not before he had already sliced the Gunner ZAKU in two. The Slash ZAKUs darted apart, beam rifles and Gatlings ready to fire

Instead, the Turn Delta rushed toward one of them and ripped it in two with its sword. As the second opened fire, Agnes whipped around and speared it on a beam rifle shot, and took off as its stricken prey exploded.

"None of you matter," he snarled. "Not until I've found Yamato..."


The Sword Impulse rattled as the Sigma Astray battered with it a relentless stream of blade strokes. Vanfeldt's psychotic cackling filled the cockpit and throbbed through Gary's head as he struggled to focus on the enemy's sword strokes.

"Now this is more like it!" Vanfeldt cried, and slammed the Impulse back with a punishing sword blow. "It's so much faster than the Dagger, and more precise too!" The Sigma Astray charged and Gary felt the Impulse lurch back; the Sigma Astray deployed the blade on its right ankle and kicked upward to send the Impulse's shield spiraling away from its arm; and then, with another tooth-rattling crash, it slammed its right-hand blade down onto the Impulse's swords and sent the red mobile suit reeling. "And these blades have so much more heft than the beam saber! It's wonderful! It makes fighting worthwhile!"

The Sigma Astray charged; Gary scowled up at it and swung back furiously with his left-hand sword, stopping its opening blade swipe cold. He brought down the right-hand sword diagonally, but the Sigma Astray slammed its own left-hand blade into the way and then ripped a scything kick up the Impulse's chest with its right-hand ankle blade and tore a long gash diagonally up the red mobile suit's torso from which sparks flowed like blood.

"No way!" Gary cried; the Sigma Astray hurled him away and charged after him. "He cut through the Phase Shift?!"

"Gotta say I'm not too impressed, swordfighter," Vanfeldt scoffed.

"You haven't seen a thing yet!" Gary shot back; with a flash, he hurled both his beam boomerangs forward and switched back to his rifle to shower the Sigma Astray with beam shots. Vanfeldt sneered and jetted back, putting himself in position to cut both boomerangs apart with his ankle blades. A moment later, he drew the Sigma Astray's two beam rifles and returned fire, forcing the Impulse back on the defensive.

"Well, as the saying goes," Vanfeldt said with a grin; the Sigma Astray rocketed after the Impulse, harrying it with beam rifle fire, "anything you can do," the Sigma Astray charged, "I can do better!"

Gary hissed a curse as the Sigma Astray closed in and slashed his beam rifle in two with its left-hand ankle blade. He threw the rifles sparking remains aside and took off; Vanfeldt pursued with a sadistic laugh and a storm of beam blasts.


"What the hell is this thing?!" Juarez cried, as his Blast Impulse jinked and weaved around a relentless wave of beam fire. The towering Mars Tank whirled towards him, with four long prehensile rods stretching off its upper surface, each spewing beam fire. The Impulse darted down towards Deimos, and Juarez glanced anxiously over his shoulder as he did; the ZAFT forces and ZMA survivors appeared to be closing in on the fortress, and the MLA fleet was faltering. But

He returned his attention to the Mars Tank just in time to see the thing sprout three beam saber blades from the red armor covering what looked like its legs. The mobile armor came whirling at him, beam sabers blazing, and before he knew it the Impulse's beam rifle was in pieces and scattered to the battlefield. The Impulse darted backward and deployed its long-range cannons to let loose a full salvo but the blasts struck uselessly against a shimmering positron reflector.

"Oh, come on," Juarez groaned, "of all three of us I get the one with the reflector?"

The Mars Tank charged again, and Juarez went on the defensive with a blast from the railguns that impacted harmlessly against the swirling machine's thick armor. Juarez backed away towards Deimos, beam cannons blazing, and the Mars Tank came roaring after him.

"You might move fast," Juarez snapped, "but let's see if you're as agile!"

With a roar of exhaust, the Impulse jetted to the side, whirled around, and squeezed off a cannon salvo that smashed into the Mars Tank's underside and against the reflector. It whipped down with its beam sabers and went spinning after the Impulse.

"Well, I know you have one weakness," continued Juarez, "so come on and get close, if you dare!"


Kara ground her teeth in frustration as the Zero Astray's artillery barrage slammed head-on into her Force Impulse unit. Inside the Zero Astray's cockpit, Waid flashed a satisfied grin.

"So how do you like the Zero Astray?" he chuckled. "'cuz I like it." He fixed the guns on the Impulse and opened fire again, pummeling it with more shells. "I mean, this is what a real IWSP should be like."

Kara's eyes flashed furiously and she rocketed the Impulse up over the smoke, and then rained beam rifle fire on the Zero Astray. Waid smirked back and darted aside; Kara stared in disbelief as her hulking white and blue foe showed speed to match its firepower.

"And did I forget to mention, it's fast."

The Zero Astray slammed the Impulse with a third barrage of artillery and ducked aside from Kara's return fire. She charged forward and lunged up at the last second, before whirling down to open fire at the Zero's exposed back but the white mobile suit merely turned to the side and deflected the shot with one of the shields mounted over its shoulders.

"That's it," Kara snarled, "I've had it! You still can't match the Force Impulse for mobility!"

Waid grinned back. "Then come on and bring it, girlie."

Kara charged with a scream.


ZAFT Minerva-class battleship Fortuna

Lyle let out an even breath on the Fortuna's bridge. The anti-beam depth charges would be dissipating soon. The smoke was beginning to thin. Sooner or later the Elysium would catch on that their foe hadn't been destroyed in that admittedly clever antimatter reaction trick.

"The Tannhäuser is still damaged, captain," Carlos warned. "If we fire it, it might not work or it might backfire, or who knows what else."

"We still have the engines online," Lyle said, "so if all else fails we can just ram them." He fixed his eyes onto the Elysium and caught his breath as he noticed its Gottfrieds angling to fire again.

"Captain " the sensor officer started.

Lyle's eyes flashed with determination. "Engines to full!"

The Fortuna shuddered to life and roared out of the smoke, revealing its pitted and scarred hull and the shortened, smoldering wings. The Tristans were gone, the Isolde was smashed, but the ship barreled forward.

Lyle gripped the armrests of his chair until his hands were white. "Tannhäuser, fire!"

With a roar, the Fortuna's sparking Tannhäuser fired and threw out a pulsing beam of antimatter just before it exploded. The column of light slammed head-on into the Elysium and ripped it in two with a rush of fire. The bisected warship staggered back and disappeared in a plume of fire, just as the Fortuna's Tannhäuser finally gave way and exploded, blowing open the ship's prow.

"Engines, reduce to half!" Lyle ordered. "Helm, turn us around and get us back to Messiah. We're no longer capable of combat."

As the creaking, wounded Fortuna slowly wheeled around, the captain glanced back towards Deimos. Marshal Yamato was out there, and he would have to win the battle without his flagship.


"There's a funny problem with becoming evil to defeat a greater evil, Kira," Omega snarled, as the Astray Mars Jacket pummeled the Strike Freedom with relentless sword blows. "Either way, you're still evil!" The Mars Jacket stormed forward and resumed the attack. "And not only that, but you're as evil as the enemy you defeated, and then it's you who needs to be destroyed to bring peace!"

Kira grunted and threw the Strike Freedom back from the Mars Jacket's scissoring horizontal strike. He fired his railguns directly into the charging machine's face, but the thick armor shrugged off the shells without a scratch and brought down its swords onto the Strike Freedom's beam shield. Kira swarmed his DRAGOONs around the Mars Jacket, but once again it had no effect.

"All I have to do is outlast you, Omega," Kira growled. "You know that."

The Mars Jacket slammed back the Strike Freedom. "Don't talk to me like that! You wanted your Newtype battery for the ZAKU Goliath, so you made me! And I wasn't all that you wanted, so you threw me away!" The red mobile suit charged, swords held high. "And now you're going to "

Omega vanished from the Strike Freedom's screen. Kira blinked in surprise and looked up to find a pair of shimmering beam wings, and the Turn Delta, with the Delta Astray's distinctive sword stuck through the Mars Jacket's chest. The Turn Delta yanked its sword out, cut the Mars Jacket in two, and turned towards the Strike Freedom as the bisected mobile suit exploded.

Kira let out his breath in a quiet hiss as the familiar face appeared on the screen.

"There you are, Kira Yamato," snarled Agnes Brahe, and the Turn Delta pointed its blood-stained sword down at the Strike Freedom in a furious challenge. "No distractions, Hero of ZAFT. You owe me a battle."

Kira steeled himself, and the Turn Delta drew back its sword and charged.


To be concluded...