Phase 01 - A Gentle Hand

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED - Pain

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Disclaimer: Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED DESTINY, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED ASTRAY, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED MSV and SEED DESTINY MSV are the property of Bandai and Sunrise, not me. I make no money off this little venture. This is purely for entertainment purposes, and no copyright infringement is intended.

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I think Gundam SEED and, more specifically, Gundam SEED DESTINY suck. I have made this known to people. Some of DESTINY痴 most ardent fans have, in their own way, challenged me to do better.

So I will.

The famed druggies three from Gundam SEED got pretty well shafted in terms of character development. As they were written, they came across as being there solely to provide Kira and Athrun with something other than Strike Daggers to fight in their run-ins with the Dominion. For whatever reason, they remain popular. Okay.

Well, as part of my 鍍his is why you don稚 have a girlfriend-sized SEED / SEED DESTINY fanfic, here I come to rectify that oversight. This fanfic is all about the druggies, covering their adventures in the Cosmic Era. This story is contingent upon my revised ending to SEED, 鉄eeds of Shadows. An even earlier fanfic, 典he Power to Protect, might clear up a couple of things too, though it痴 not necessary to understand the fundamental basis of what痴 going on here.

I will post a new chapter every Friday, or the soonest day thereafter should something arise on Friday to keep me from posting.

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Phase 01 - A Gentle Hand

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February 9th, CE 72 - Atlantic Federation Agamemnon-class carrier John Adams

He was being lifted; he was being moved; he was being set down again. He felt something cover him up to his neck; he felt a brief pinch of pain in his arm, and then, a moment later, his entire body felt like it was cooling; like he had been dying of thirst and finally had a drink of icy water.

Shani Andras groaned quietly. He still could not open his eyes.

展e致e done everything we can to reverse the changes, a man痴 voice said, 澱ut anymore operations will kill them.

的 see, another voice, distinctly deeper and gruffer, answered. 展ell, what all did you manage to do?

展e helped speed along their breaking the dependency on the Gamma Glipheptin, the first man explained. 展e also managed to reverse some of the chemical changes the Director痴 men had made to their brains and nervous systems. The implants and the other chemical changes were too deeply rooted for us to remove without jeopardizing their lives. We did our best, but we can奏 remove everything the Director did to them.

的 understand, the second man said somberly. 泥amned Azrael...what have you done to these kids? They've been in a coma for months, and we just now managed to get them through surgery. All to fix what you did. How could one human do this to another?

典hey will have to remain here for a couple more weeks to ensure that the operation was successful and no adverse long-term effects will take hold, the first man continued. The second man let out a quiet sigh.

滴igh Command will probably want them to go back to whatever it was they were doing before we picked them up, he said resignedly. 展hich probably means more Gamma Glipheptin. There was a pause. 典hey won稚 be happy to find out what we did here. But my conscience is at ease. I will be on the bridge. Inform me if their condition changes, for the better or the worse.

添es sir, the first man answered. There was a hiss of pressurized air, probably a door; it hissed again, and there was a soft thud as it closed.

Shani tried to open his eyes, but all he saw was a blaze of light; he groaned loudly and squeezed his eyes shut again, as his head swam.

泥on稚 move, Shani, the first man said, and immediately Shani felt another pinch of pain and another sensation of his entire body being cooled. 添ou致e just gone through surgery. You should try to get as much sleep as possible for the next 24 hours.

Shani only groaned.

"We'll get you some sedatives," the man's voice added. "Just stay calm and relaxed."

Yet another pinch of pain flared up in Shani's arm, but a few moments later, everything was dark.

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It was still dark when he awoke. This made it easier to see, and for that, Shani was grateful. It took more effort than he ever thought anything could take, but he managed to crack one eye open, and indeed, the infirmary was dark.

It had to be the infirmary, as he looked around slowly. He was bathed in darkness, but it wasn't complete darkness揺e could see soft lights all over the room, in a rainbow of colors. There was a screen where a green line seemed to be tracing his heartbeat. He was in a cool, soft bed, but it was obvious that there was no gravity, because he was held down onto the bed by a soft cloth strap tied loosely over his stomach. The room was quiet, save for the soft beeps of the machine that was monitoring his heartbeat. It all smelled sterile and metallic, even the air seemed to taste like Lysol. It was still dark, even as his eyes slowly grew accustomed to it.

It was then that Shani Andras realized that he was still alive.

He dared not sit up just yet葉he memories of his head swimming from the light were still fresh. He looked around as far as he could, and saw a dark form in the bed across the room from him. It was slowly stirring, and a familiar voice moaned unhappily.

"...I'm...not..."

"No," Orga Sabnak finished for him softly, still sounding rather testy. "You're not dead."

Clotho Buer was silent for a moment. "I'm...not...?"

"No, you're not," Orga repeated, still sounding testy, but also sounding subdued, Shani noticed, like he was just trying to keep up an appearance.

"...what about Shani...?" Clotho asked quietly.

Shani moaned just loud enough for them both to hear that way they would leave him alone.

"That answers that," Orga said. Shani managed to turn his head far enough to see Orga sitting up in the darkness, his eyes catching what little light was in the room, glittering. There was a soft sheen of sweat on his face, as if he'd been struggling. "I don't know where we are, though."

"...we're in an infirmary," Clotho said quietly. Shani looked slowly across the room and saw Clotho still lying back in his own bed.

"I know that," Orga said, sounding about as snappish as he could while still sounding subdued. "But I don't know where the infirmary is."

"On a ship," Shani mumbled suddenly. Orga glanced slowly at him. "We're on a ship."

"How do you know?" Orga asked.

"...someone...said something about the bridge," Shani added quietly, lying back and staring at the dark blur that looked like the ceiling.

"...and we're in space," Clotho added uncertainly. "...'cuz of the straps."

"...but what's going on," Orga muttered. "Where's our machines...where's Azrael..."

Shani closed his eyes. He didn't care. He was alive. That was good enough.

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Lieutenant Commander Samuel Richards was a tall, lean, professional man in his mid-fifties, with a thin, mustachioed face hardened by years of military service. He had seen just about everything there had been to see during the war. His ship had been part of the fleet that first attacked the PLANTs, and he saw for himself the infamous Bloody Valentine. He fought at Yggdrasil, and watched a single GINN wipe out nearly half of his ship痴 vanguard. He fought throughout the vicious battles of the Grimaldi Front, and saw the Alliance wipe out Endiymon Crater with a Cyclops System. He had watched a handful of ZAFT mobile suits and stolen Gundams tear the 8th Fleet to shreds, even as the entire fleet valiantly defended the new battleship, the Archangel, during its descent to Earth. He fought in countless strategically meaningless skirmishes against ZAFT forces throughout the war. And his ship had carried mobile suits to Jachin Due. All of the Alliance痴 brutal excesses, all of its shocking tactics, all of its lowest moments...and he had been there.

And yet none of it had prepared him for what he saw now.

笛esus Christ, he muttered. In his hand was a long and macabre report from the ship痴 head doctor, Michael McCormick, about the three boys葉hey were, literally, mere boys葉hat had barely made it through surgery and were now resting. They were the pet project of Azrael Conglomerate, which had not long ago been bought out by Aducarf Mechano Industries. Richards silently hoped that that would put an end to the experimentation of these 澱iological CPUs, but the skeptic within swiftly arose to crush those hopes. In the defense industry, it seemed, anything was fair game.

Richards was not a ruthless Blue Cosmos loyalist who happily left his men to die defending an empty base with a hideous microwave array underneath. He deplored such men葉hey were what ZAFT was fighting, they were what ZAFT built GENESIS to fight, they were the ones who would get them all killed one day. Richards expected the best of his men, to be sure容very commander did傭ut he did not expect them to give more than they had to give. Such an expectation was foolish. His men, after all, were mere men, and all the discipline and training in the world could not change the fact that his men were still men.

Which, of course, was why he had immediately granted time off to the shocked nurses as they came out of the surgery suite, horrified at what they had just seen.

Dr. McCormick had been unable to find anything about the pasts of these three boys. Richards figured as much; to the Alliance, Clotho Buer, Orga Sabnak, and Shani Andras were not human beings. They were machines, parts of the mobile suits that were now resting silently in the John Adams hangar bay. The Atlantic Federation High Command had insisted on sending mechanics to upgrade them; Richards had not tried to stop the mechanics, seeing as how mobile suits were mere machines and getting possessive about them would raise quite a few eyebrows at High Command. But when the Alliance inquired about the pilots, Richards unleashed his complex array of excuses to keep the three abused children under his care. So far High Command seemed content to leave them on the John Adams, but Richards had no idea how long this would persist.

All he knew was that for their sake, Clotho, Orga, and Shani could never be returned to the Alliance. No human being deserved to be reduced to a mere piece of equipment for a mobile suit.

The bridge doors opened; Dr. McCormick entered with a tired salute.

Michael McCormick had the look of a typical military surgeon who had treated so many patients with horrifying wounds that nothing could horrify him any longer. Rimless, squared glasses perched on a nose that sat in the center of a lean face, framed by matted brown hair that was in dire need of a wash. A long, collarless, light-blue lab coat marked with rank tabs and insignias on the shoulders and an identification badge on the left side of the chest billowed around him, revealing the standard Earth Alliance uniform underneath, the collar unbuttoned. He didn稚 bother to button it up; Richards didn稚 care anyways. He had worked hard enough to earn that privilege.

添ou池e back early, Richards said, putting the report aside to return McCormick痴 salute. 鉄omething happened?

典hey池e awake, McCormick answered, his voice weary. 哲ot very cognizant, but it痴 a start.

鄭s long as they don稚 try to kill anyone, Richards said just as wearily, sitting back. 的知 having a hell of a time trying to keep them here. High Command is getting uppity.

的致e done all I can, sir, McCormick said grimly. 鄭s I said earlier, I don稚 want to push it too far.

的 understand, Richards said with a nod. 添ou致e done enough already. We値l let them rest and recover before trying anything more.

的f that痴 the case, sir, McCormick said, 鍍hen I壇 like to request leave to go and sleep.

Richards smiled back. 的 think you致e earned it, he said. 鉄weet dreams, Doctor.

McCormick wearily saluted and took his leave. Richards sat back and returned to the report.

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February 10th, CE 72 - Atlantic Federation Agamemnon-class carrier John Adams

The first thing Orga Sabnak felt when he awoke was a gentle hand on his forehead. He opened his eyes; a light blinded him, and he squeezed them shut again with a groan.

鼎areful, a woman痴 voice said, as he felt his eyes being covered by a cool, damp cloth. 添ou can稚 do anything too quickly just yet. Just relax.

Orga groaned and lifted the cloth up just far enough to look through his right eye.

Hovering over him, reading a thermometer that Orga guessed had been shoved in his mouth at one point, was a young, charming-looking girl in a ubiquitous Earth Alliance uniform, with a white nurse痴 apron tied over it. She glanced at him in what looked like mild surprise; her ponytail涌rga guessed that the color had been described as 都trawberry blonde迫was draped over her shoulder, and Orga found himself staring into a pair of wide hazel eyes.

Orga groaned again and pulled the cloth back over his eyes. She was cute, of course...but it was too bright to spend too much time looking at her.

鄭re you feeling alright? she asked. 泥o you need anything?

Orga thought back to his books. They had been on the Dominion...but the Dominion was gone now.

...something...to read, he mumbled.

The girl seemed taken aback for a moment, but she spoke up before Orga could say anything more. 展ell, there痴 a news article someone printed out a couple days ago, she said. 的値l give it to you when I leave. We値l dim the lights so you won稚 get blinded again.

...okay... Orga grunted.

There was an unidentifiable jumble of noises at the foot of the bed and underneath it. Orga didn稚 bother trying to figure out what was going on. He felt another pinch of pain in his left arm, as something was poked into it. He glanced out from under the cloth, and found the girl replacing his IV bag.

...your name... he murmured.

The girl looked up at him, blinking. 溺y name? she echoed.

He nodded wordlessly. She smiled at him and replaced the cloth on his forehead.

溺y name痴 Lily, she said. 哲ow then, Orga, I値l get you your article, and then you値l have to sleep. You still have surgery to recover from.

Orga nodded again, feeling everything fading away. He wondered what they had injected him with, but his brain was drifting away, and he decided not to worry about it.

Lily smiled at him as he drifted off to sleep, and left the sheaf of papers at the side of the bed.

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They池e gonna get you!
Keep running!

Don稚 stop!

If you stop it means you failed!

You can稚 fail!

He鼠l be mad if you fail!

He値l be mad!

He値l make you suffer!

He値l hurt you!

He痴 gonna get you!

Clotho Buer awoke with a scream.

They were upon him instantly; he screamed again and thrashed. He had to get away. They were going to get him; he was going to get him. He couldn稚 let that happen. He had to get away. He had

鼎lotho! a man痴 voice shouted.

Clotho痴 eyes widened. No one had ever called him by his name. He had never called him by his name.

The face came into focus; it was the doctor. Only the doctor. The nurses and the other doctors were holding him down, but the doctor was there. He was on the ship. He was safe.

鼎alm down, Clotho, the doctor said soothingly. 添ou had a nightmare. It痴 over. You池e back on the John Adams. You池e okay.

Clotho stared fearfully around the room. Orga and Shani were up, looking tiredly at him. He looked at the nurses as they worked, wiping off the cold sweat on his body, reinserting the IV tubes and sensors, tying him back down.

添ou池e safe here, the doctor said, taking his hand. Clotho looked at him sharply, his eyes wide and bloodshot. 展e値l protect you. He can稚 get you here.

...he...he値l get me, Clotho murmured.

滴e痴 dead, the doctor answered.

Clotho fell silent. He was dead? He was gone? He would never come back?

展e池e giving you sedatives now, the doctor said gently. 典hey値l help you sleep. But you値l still be here when you wake up, safe and sound. I promise.

...you...promise, Clotho whispered back, as his eyelids grew heavy.

敵o back to sleep, Clotho, the doctor said. 展e値l still be here when you wake up.

Clotho opened his mouth to say something more, but the sedatives worked their magic, and he drifted back to sleep.

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February 11th, CE 71 - Atlantic Federation Agamemnon-class carrier John Adams

"They're a handful, aren't they?" Richards chuckled.

He stood on the side of the infirmary with McCormick, arms crossed, watching over Clotho, Orga, and Shani as they slept. Clotho still looked fairly ashen as McCormick had reported, he had suffered a nightmare, seemingly about being chased by something. It didn't take much effort to deduce that that "something" was more than likely Murata Azrael. It certainly wasn't difficult to believe, nor was it unexpected. But he was sleeping now, and hopefully that would calm him down.

"How's it going with High Command?" McCormick asked dourly. Richards shook his head.

"They're getting angry, I think," he answered. "I don't think they're going to buy my stories any longer. We'll probably have to go to you for some more excuses."

"I'm full of those," McCormick said with a grin. He looked back at into the room; Orga was beginning to stir. "So, Captain, shall we go introduce ourselves?"

Orga opened his eyes as McCormick and Richards slipped into the infirmary, and regarded them both suspiciously. Richards took a step forward, extending his hand momentarily, but then remembering Orga壮 bedridden state and retracting it.

的 see you池e awake, he said cordially. 的知 Samuel Richards, captain of this ship.

套captain Orga murmured. McCormick stepped aside to check the plethora of instruments by Orga痴 bed. 滴owdid I get here? Orga asked quietly.

添ou were taken in after the battle at Jachin Due and the destruction of your ship, Richards explained. 鄭nd you have been in the infirmary recovering ever since.

Orga stared blankly at the wall. 典henAzrael痴 dead?

鄭zrael is dead, Richards said comfortingly.

Orga laid back, staring up at the ceiling, but he seemed far more relaxed, far happier. Richards turned to leave, deciding that he had said enough.

套you池e not gonna Orga began Richards turned back to face him. 添ou池e not gonna send us back, are you?

Richards looked into the wide, almost fearful eyes, and shook his head. 的 won稚 send you back, he said. 的 promise.

Orga laid back again, sinking into a sigh of relief. Richards smiled and left the infirmary.

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Shani wanted to sleep, but that was impossible he had already been sleeping for nearly a day, and he was hungry. And so he watched one of the nurses she had told Orga her name was Lily change his IV bag. She was their friend, he told himself. She would protect them. She would help them.

泥o you need anything, Shani? Lily asked, glancing at him. Shani stared back at her, surprised that she had spoken to him, but he said nothing. 鉄hani?

Shani closed his eyes. 套food, he whispered.

添ou池e hungry? Lily asked. Shani nodded slowly and cracked his eye open to look at Lily; she smiled back. 展ell, we can fix that. I値l ask them to send you some food. It won稚 be very delicious, but it値l have to do.

Shani blinked at her, unable to remember food that tasted good. He tried to call the memory to mind, but all he remembered was a blur of tasteless military rationsand the bitter taste of Gamma Glipheptin. He slowly realized that he had not had any Gamma Glipheptin for some time. And yet there was not as much pain now as there had been before, when it had worn off, in the middle of battleand he had to return to Azrael.

He could see Azrael standing over him again, a sadistic smile on his face, watching a cadre of soulless scientists taking notes and nodding to each other as he writhed in pain. They turned his pain into their science project. They made him suffer.

套Azrael he whispered.

Lily looked at him in surprise as she finished hooking up his IV bag. 鄭zrael? she repeated. Shani looked at her slowly; she smiled. 添ou don稚 have to worry about him anymore. He痴 dead.

套dead? Shani murmured, disbelievingly. Dead? Azrael was dead? Gone forever? Shani blinked once. 套did hefeel pain?

Lily blinked herself, looking at Shani in surprise. 泥id he feel pain? she echoed. 展hy would you want to She paused, as a thought occurred to her. Shani looked insistently at her, and she smiled at him. 的 see, she said. 鼎an稚 blame you, I guess. She paused, thinking. 的f I remember correctly, the ship he was on got hit with a positron cannon, she said, 都o I知 sure it was painful.

Shani laid back and said no more. Azrael had felt pain; Azrael could feel pain. It was a two-edged sword. It wasn稚 just something he could inflict on them when they didn稚 perform to his satisfaction. In some strange way, it was revenge.

的値l get you something to eat, Lily said quietly, slipping away as Shani sank back into his pillow and, for the first time he could remember, smiled.

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Atlantic Federation Agamemnon-class carrier John Adams, Marshall Colony, Lagrange Point 3

Captain Richards watched dubiously as the John Adams slid into port. They were at the Marshall Colony at Lagrange Point 3, the Atlantic Federation痴 massive prison colony, heavily manned by Atlantic Federation troops. It was effectively an Atlantic Federation base, and the John Adams needed to replenish its supplies.

However, he fervently hoped that nobody would venture into the infirmary.

He turned to look at his crew. They were decent, hardworking soldiers, out of the loop on Richards private mutiny in keeping custody of the three biological CPU. He had no doubt that most of them would approve of what he was doing this was the same crew that gone with to him to the Bloody Valentine, to Endiymon, to Jachin Due, and they had been horrified by the Alliance痴 cruelest moments. He had no doubt that they would be just as horrified by what Azrael and his men had done to Clotho, Shani, and Orgabut it was hard to trust several hundred people, many of whose names he didn稚 even know. He glanced around the bridge and returned his attention to the dock the John Adams shuddered into port.

泥ocking complete, captain, the helmsman announced.

釘egin transferring the supplies, Richards ordered, crossing his arms. There was not a moment to lose. He was safer out alone in the depths of space, away from the talons of his pitiless superiors. They were safer.

He thought back to Orga痴 wide eyes and hesitant face, asking if he would send them back. He suppressed a scowl. He would not send them back.

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Orga had sorely missed the opportunity to read, and sat happily in his bed, a sheaf of papers in hand. It was an article by a journalist in the PLANTs, criticizing the current PLANT leader for policies towards the Earth Alliance. The terms were foreign to Orga all he had ever known was that one bunch of mobile suits was the enemy and the other bunch was on his side. But the PLANTs he remembered them as the hourglasses that Azrael had wanted to shatter were trying to make peace with the Earth Alliance he guessed that that was the side he had been fighting for.

Or had he? It wasn稚 as if he had been fighting for an ideal, for a cause, for the reasons that the heroes and villains in his scores and scores of novels fought for. He had fought because he had not wanted to die. He had fought because he was afraid of the pain that Azrael had to inflict on him.

Or was that what everyone fought for? That, after all, was what happened in war. If you don稚 win, you lose, and if you don稚 survive, you die. Was the war, then, just a bunch of people trying to kill each other before they themselves were killed?

There was a man called Gilbert Dullindal running for the office of Chairman of the PLANT Supreme Council, the leader of the PLANTs. He wanted the PLANTs to be independent and powerful, and was pledging to keep the forces of ZAFT strong and ready to fight.

Another war. Gilbert Dullindal wanted to be ready to fight another war. Would Orga get pulled into that war too? Would Azrael come back and make him fight again?

On the other hand, there was the current leader of the PLANTs, Eileen Canaver. She wanted peace, permanent peace, and it looked like she was willing to do whatever it took to get it. Orga sat back, wondering what the world would be like if the PLANTs and the Earth Alliance finally made peace. There would certainly be no more need for the Calamity, or for himself, he decided. But what would happen to them?

He looked back at the article. The captain had said that he would not send them back. Orga leaned back and closed his eyes. He would have to take his word for it.

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Clotho Buer was bored. Supremely bored. He sat cross-armed in his bed, a scowl on his face, as Lily tiredly checked the instruments surrounding him.

添ou know, she said, wearily consulting a clipboard tucked under her arm, 土ou wouldn稚 be so bored if you went to sleep.

的知 not sleepy, Clotho shot back.

典hat can be arranged, Lily countered, arching an eyebrow at him. Clotho blinked, processing that for a moment, and then turned away huffily.

的 want my Wonderswan, he said flatly. Lily arched an eyebrow at him as she checked his IV bag.

添our Wonderswan? she echoed. 添ou have a Wonderswan?

的t痴 in the Raider痴 cockpit, he added.

泥on稚 those things have loud, annoying sounds? Lily asked. 的f you池e going to keep everyone up with that thing, it痴 out of the question.

Clotho paused for a moment. 的値l turn the sound off, he said, sinking back slightly into his bed. Lily sighed and shook her head.

鄭lright, she said. 添our stuff probably got cleaned out of there long ago, so it痴 bound to be floating around somewhere on the ship. She looked back at him pointedly. 笛ust be a good boy, go to sleep, and don稚 cause anyone any trouble, and I値l get you your Wonderswan. Does that sound fair?

Clotho nodded slowly, and Lily shook her head again and left. Clotho stared at the wall after she had gone, wondering if she was lying.

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To be continued