Phase 03 - What the Heart Wants

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED - Pain

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Phase 03 - What the Heart Wants

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February 16th, CE 72 - Atlantic Federation Agamemnon-class carrier John Adams

敵oddammit!

The three nurses on hand watched uneasily as Orga cursed and sputtered in the ship壮 modest gym, trying to lift his arm with a weight strapped to it. He pulled the arm up towards his chest, muscles rippling, and scowled as he struggled to move it back to his side.

典ake your time, McCormick urged. 添ou値l hurt yourself if you do it too quickly.

展hy is this so hard?! Orga growled, finally putting his arm back at his side.

添ou致e been lying in a bed for about six months, McCormick said. 添our muscles were starting to weaken. You need to strengthen them.

Orga frowned as he began to lift the other arm. 釘ut I wasalways good at this he muttered, teeth clenched.

鏑ike I said, take your time, McCormick answered. 鉄trength won稚 come to you overnight.

Orga grunted as he pulled his right arm back down to his side. 敵et these damn things off me, he growled. 泥on稚 you have anything better for me to do?

One of the nurses pulled the weights off his arms, as McCormick took a step back. 典here痴 always the treadmill, he said. 釘ut I still suggest that you take a break for now. We can work more tomorrow.

哲o! Orga exclaimed. 的 want to be strong again!

的f you go too fast, you値l hurt yourself again, McCormick replied. 鄭nd that will mean more lying around in bed, and that will mean you値l get weaker.

Grumbling curses under his breath, Orga glanced around the room. 的 could do this all so easily before, when I had the drugs

釘ut when you had the drugs, you felt pain, McCormick pointed out. Orga blinked and looked back at him. 添ou may not be as strong now, but at least you池e without the pain.

Orga nodded dourly. 的 guess, he agreed.

McCormick smiled and put a hand on his shoulder. 添ou値l be stronger in time, he said. 笛ust don稚 overdo it, or you値l hurt yourself, and then you won奏 get anywhere.

Orga sighed heavily, wiping the sweat off his brow. 徹kay, okay, he said, 澱ut I wanna come back tomorrow.

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典he Atlantic Federation isn稚 getting involved in this one, Richards said to his executive officer, sitting back in his chair on the bridge and looking up at the screens, pulsing with images of war. The Israeli Separatists, backed by Eurasian air power, were rolling through Muslim League troops to seize Tel Aviv.

的 don稚 understand where they got all this strength, the XO said, shaking his head. 展eren稚 they just a bunch of guerillas?

典hey know their territory and they believe God is on their side, Richards answered with a shrug. 撤lus they inherited a strong military apparatus from the AD era. Being surrounded by enemies does that to you.

The XO sniffed dismissively and crossed his arms. 添ou could say the same for the PLANTs, he said.

Richards chuckled, draping one leg over the other. 的t is rather strange that we致e gone so far into the world and we still can稚 put down our weapons long enough to go any further. We had to start up the DSSD and make them totally neutral in regards to the Alliance and the PLANTs. And they still take funding from both sides, so if one goes down, it takes half the DSSD痴 funding with it.

The XO shook his head. 的 wonder how this will end, he said, gesturing towards the screen and the pictures of war. 添ou think they値l win?

Richards shook his head. 纏AFT痴 intervening, and Eurasia wouldn稚 want to pick a fight with them again. I think they値l be rolled back. Might take a while, but they won稚 last. He sighed. 展hat I知 more worried about is how the PLANTs and the Muslim League will take this. Eurasia is participating too, so this is an act of war on their part.

The XO shook his head again. 的 guess another war痴 starting up, he sighed.

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February 17th, CE 72 - Atlantic Federation Agamemnon-class carrier John Adams

Grunting in frustration as he pedaled furiously on the exercise bike, Shani ignored the ache building up in his legs. He had felt worse pain than this, and if he was strong and fought through it, he wouldn稚 be useless anymore. He would be able to move again.

鉄hani, Shani, Lily interrupted, taking him by the shoulders. The bike痴 pedals kept going as she pulled him off the seat. 鼎alm down, you値l hurt yourself.

Shani blinked at her. 的 want to be strong, he protested quietly.

的 know, Lily said, 澱ut if you go too fast you値l hurt yourself, and then you値l have to spend more time in that bed. She pulled him to his feet. 鄭nyway, there痴 another checkup that Doctor McCormick asked me to perform. She pulled a pen flashlight from her pocket. 鉄it over here, she said, guiding him towards a bench. 的 want to check your eyes.

Shani went white in horror. 溺ymy eyes?

添es, your eyes, she said, kneeling in front of him and clicking the light on. 典he doctor said

Shani backed away, his eyes wide in terror, clutching his face. Lily blinked in surprise, standing up.

展hat痴 wrong?

Shani shook his head, burying his face in his arms. 溺y eyes! he exclaimed. 典hey池e okay! You don稚 need to see them!

Lily took a cautious step towards him. 泥octor McCormick said that he noticed something about them

添ou don稚 need to see them! Shani cried, his one visible eye flashing angrily. 的 don稚 want you to see them!

鏑ook, Lily said, extending a hand towards him and putting on a smile. 典he doctor told me that your eyes are different colors, and he wants to know if your vision has been affected by it. It値l be a really quick test

I don稚 want you to see them! Shani shouted.

Lily paused for a moment, before putting the flashlight back in her pocket. 鄭lright, she said, 努hy don稚 you want me to see them?

Shani stared at her desolately for a moment. 添ou値l think I知 a monster! he growled. 的知 a monster! Normal people don稚 have eyes like mine!

典hat doesn稚 make you a monster, said Lily. 鄭nd I致e seen a lot worse things wrong with a man than having eyes that aren稚 the same color.

Shani gave her a suspicious glare. 鏑ike what?

展ell, some of them are really pompous jerks, she replied with a shrug. 哲ever date a mobile armor pilot. She smiled down at him. 鄭nd some of them are really cruel. I think the guys who made you like this are really cruel.

Shani glanced down at the floor.

的致e been taking care of you for months now, Shani, she continued. 鄭 little mismatched eye color isn稚 going to make me think any less of you. But we do want to know if it has affected your ability to see, so that maybe we can help.

Shani looked back up at her guardedly. 套you meanyou can fix it?

Lily blinked back at him. 展ell, I don稚 know about that, she said, 澱ut you have to let us get a good look at your eyes before we can talk about that.

Shani was silent a moment, looking around anxiously, before he muttered assent. Lily smiled and knelt in front of him again, taking up her pen light and clicking it back on. She brushed his hair back.

Two mismatched pools of color greeted her on the mutilated young man痴 face. His right eye was the familiar blue she had always seen, but the left one was an odd, discolored fuchsia, mottled with green. It was clear which eye was the natural color, and which one had been somehow altered.

典hat痴 not so bad, Lily said encouragingly. Shani blinked painfully at her. 的知 guessing the left eye is the one that got changed?

Shani nodded brokenly.

徹kay, Lily said, 鍍his値l only take a couple of minutes. She shined the light into his eye, peering into the discolored orb, and moved her hand over his right eye. 擢ollow the light with your left eye only.

Shani blinked again, staring fearfully at the tiny flashlight, watching it with a quivering gaze as she slowly moved it around in front of him.

的t looks okay to me, she said, 澱ut the doctor will probably want to do his own test. But he just wants to make sure you池e okay, so don稚 worry about him either, okay? Shani nodded again. Lily took a step back, letting Shani pull his hair back over his face. He stared down at the floor silently Lily pulled him up to his feet, but he said nothing as she led him out of the gym.

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Orga glanced tiredly across the infirmary at Clotho, sitting almost petulantly on his bed, staring at the wall.

添ou池e not playing the game anymore? he asked. He looked around for the familiar Wonderswan, and found it in the corner near his bed. 滴ey, what痴 it over here for? He reached down and picked it up.

的 don稚 wanna play it anymore, Clotho said. 的t hurts people.

Orga arched an eyebrow. 的t hurts people? he asked. 滴ow does it hurt people?

的t makes them sad, Clotho added quietly, 殿nd then they cry and hold the bodies. Like on the TV the other day.

Orga blinked in surprise, thinking back to the other day, and remembered the broadcast about the battle on Earth. There was some bunch of rebels attacking a handful of cities on Earth, and hundreds of people had died. He remembered the images of people running away from the crushing feet of mobile suits and clutching bloody corpses. Was that what had Clotho all upset?

典he game isn稚 doing that, though, Orga said. 的t痴 just stuff happening on a screen.

展ell, so was that, Clotho complained. 釘ut that guy was holding that boy, and the boy was dead

Orga paused, nodding in agreement. They weren稚 the same.

展ell, still, the game is just a game, Orga said. 添ou池e not really killing anyone.

釘ut how can you make a game out of it?! Clotho exclaimed. 滴ow can you make something fun out of it?! Is killing people fun?!

哲o, Orga answered, 澱ut sometimes you have to, y談now? Kill or be killed.

典hat痴 bullshit! Clotho shouted. Orga blinked at him in surprise. 的 don稚 wanna make people feel like that! I just don稚 wanna die! He shook his head. 的f we go hurting people, then we池e just like Azrael!

Orga looked back up at the ceiling. 添談now, I read a lot of stories, he began.

鉄o? Clotho shot back.

鄭nd some of the stories are about these great heroes, Orga went on, ignoring Clotho痴 remark. 鄭nd they went and protected people. And they had to hurt the bad guys to do it, but they only did it to protect the people and the stuff they cared about. He glanced down at the Wonderswan in his hand. 溺aybe that痴 why we have to fight. I mean, we don稚 wanna see people get hurt, do we?

Clotho said nothing, staring resolutely down at his hands. Orga sighed and tossed the Wonderswan back towards him.

的t痴 just a game, man, he said. 的f it makes you happy, then play it. You aren稚 hurting anyone with it.

Clotho caught it numbly and stared down at it.

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February 18th, CE 72 - Atlantic Federation Nelson-class battleship Wyoming

鉄tatus report! the thundering voice of Nanto Fredrik boomed across the Wyoming痴 bridge. The bridge crew scrambled to attention.

典he ship is running at optimum levels, and the engines are running at full capacity, the captain reported nervously.

撤ush the engines to their limits! Fredrik roared. 擢lank speed!

釘ut sir, we池e already running at one hundred percent capacity! the helmsman protested. Fredrik glanced disdainfully at him.

典hen give me one hundred and ten! he scoffed.

鉄ir, please, what is the hurry? the captain asked. 的知 not authorized to exceed maximum reactor capacity except in times of crisis or war!

鄭uthorization be damned, this is a crisis! Fredrik shot back. 典here is a rogue ship in our ranks that is tampering with important military hardware, and we have to find them at once! Sensors! Begin scanning for the Agamemnon-class carrier John Adams!

He crossed his arms as the Wyoming sailed into the darkness. The John Adams was somewhere out there, sabotaging their Extended, but they would be stopped.

He smiled. The thirty heavily armed infantrymen he had brought with him would see to that.

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February 19th, CE 72 - Atlantic Federation Agamemnon-class carrier John Adams

McCormick clicked his pen light off and patted Shani on the shoulder. 的t looks like your eye is alright, he said. 填nfortunately, I don稚 think I can do anything to change the color.

Shani blinked once. 套why?

McCormick put his light back in his lab coat pocket and sighed. 展e had to do a number of surgeries to try to undo some of the things Director Azrael had changed in you, he explained. 展e couldn稚 get rid of everything. It looks like the discolored eye is one of those changes we couldn稚 fix. He shrugged. 的t doesn稚 look like it値l be a problem, though. Lots of people have naturally discolored eyes. There are even some Coordinators who intentionally have it done so they can look different.

Shani blinked again. 套you meanit痴 not bad?

McCormick laughed. 哲ot at all, he said. 的t痴 just a quirk. You can still see perfectly well and it shouldn稚 bother anyone.

Shani looked down blankly at the floor. 滴e said it was bad, he murmured.

展ho said it was bad?

鄭zrael.

McCormick nodded dourly. 展ell, he said, 鄭zrael told you a lot of lies to scare you and make you fight. But trust me when I say that having two different color eyes is nothing to be ashamed of. Like I said, some Coordinators purposely get different color eyes to look unique.

的知 justunique? Shani mumbled.

展ell, McCormick said, taking a step back, as if he was about to leave, 土ou致e lived a very unique life. He smiled. 典hanks for being so cooperative, though. I hear it痴 a touchy subject for you.

Shani nodded slowly.

McCormick patted him on the shoulder again, turning to leave. 滴ang in there, Shani, he said. 添ou池e almost free.

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February 20th, CE 72 - Atlantic Federation Agamemnon-class carrier John Adams

The gym was a different place, Orga noted, with Clotho in it. There was a lot more cursing. He tuned it out and focused on the treadmill, evening out his breathing and feeling his pace fall into a rhythm. He was getting stronger by the day, and someday, he promised himself, he壇 be able to use this strength, for something, anything, as long as it was something good.

擢ive more minutes, Orga, Lily reminded him. 鼎lotho wants to use that thing too.

滴urry up, you jackass, Clotho snapped.

鼎lotho, don稚, McCormick cut in. 的 told you two not to fight again.

Orga swallowed his profanity-laced retort and glanced around the gym, where Shani was frenziedly pedaling on the exercise bike. Clotho stood behind him, arms crossed, waiting impatiently.

添ou seem to be at the level of an ordinary healthy human, McCormick observed, arms crossed and watching with a thin smile. 的知 impressed.

Orga switched the treadmill off and hopped onto the floor, wiping the sweat from his brow. Clotho immediately leapt on, and Orga paused to lean against the wall, out of breath.

添ou want to take a break? Lily asked. 添ou致e been at this for a couple hours already.

Orga nodded tiredly, glancing over at Shani, as his legs pumped furiously at the pedals, staring ahead with steely determination.

鄭re you okay? McCormick asked, glancing towards Orga and away from Clotho for a moment. Orga nodded again, slumping down on a bench and watching them both wearily. He was strong again he could feel his muscles surging with as much strength as they had when he was Azrael痴 servant on the Dominion. He had strength again he had use again.

展hat do they wanna do with us? Orga asked quietly. Lily blinked and looked over at him.

展ho?

典hemthe guys who were working for Azrael. He paused, trying to think of the name. 典he Alliance.

Lily and McCormick shared a dour glance at each other. 泥on稚 worry about that, McCormick said. 笛ust focus on getting better.

展hy? Orga asked. 展hat痴 wrong?

McCormick glanced meaningfully at Lily and took Orga aside. 鏑isten, he said, 努hen you池e better, we値l talk to you about this again. But for now, just don稚 worry about it.

Orga studied McCormick痴 grim face carefully for a moment, before he nodded tiredly.

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February 21st, CE 72 - Atlantic Federation Nelson-class battleship Wyoming

Nanto Fredrik couldn稚 help but smile as the image of a tiny flicker of light appeared on the main screen. It was nothing to the untrained eye, but Nanto knew that finally he had caught up with his prey.

鼎ommander, the captain said, 努e池e still about 36 hours out from the John Adams. He paused meaningfully. 鉄hall we hail them?

Fredrik sat back in the captain痴 commandeered chair. 典hey池e committing crimes against our forces on that ship, he said, 鍍ampering with important weapons. High Command fears that they may attempt to sell these weapons to ZAFT.

The captain blanched. 典hatthat痴 treason!

Fredrik nodded grimly. 的t痴 treason, he repeated. 的f necessary, you are ordered to deploy the Strike Dagger complement and destroy the ship.

The captain, horrified as he was, looked on in even more horror. Sink our own ship?! he exclaimed. 鼎ommander, shouldn稚 they be brought before trial?!

典rials be damned, Fredrik scoffed. 展e have time for the sentence, not the hearing. I fully expect you to fulfill your duties as an officer of the Atlantic Federation. He cast a sidelong glance at the captain. 典hat is reasonable, isn稚 it?

The captain reluctantly saluted.

Fredrik sat back again. 的 am no barbarian, captain, he said, smiling. 溺y orders are clear.

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February 22nd, CE 72 - Atlantic Federation Agamemnon-class carrier John Adams

Orga glanced worriedly at Clotho and Shani as they stood in the captain痴 office. Seated silently behind his desk, Samuel Richards studied them for a moment.

添ou池e looking better, he said at last. 敵lad to see we could help you.

The three pilots glanced at each other. 展hy did you call us in here? Orga asked at last. Richards closed his eyes grimly.

添ou池e healthy enough, he said, 都o an explanation is due. He looked at the three of them, steadily and earnestly. 添ou aren稚 supposed to be here. We aren稚 supposed to be doing this. The Alliance High Command has been trying to take custody of you, and for the past six months, I致e walked a procedural tightrope in getting them to let me keep you here, while they had access to the machines what they truly cared about. But now I知 out of excuses, and they池e out of patience. They池e probably sending someone to seize you. But this has timed out well, because you池e finally healthy enough to do something about it.

Orga痴 eyes flashed angrily. 添ou said they池e not gonna take us back, he said.

鄭nd they will not, Richards answered. 釘ut now you are strong enough to take that matter into your own hands. So long as I am able, I will protect you. But you are no longer invalids, and as long as the Alliance does not realize that you can fight, there is still a chance that you can escape.

展hat about you? Clotho asked.

Richards sat back somberly. 展e値l have to see what God wants to do with us, he said. 釘ut that should not be your concern. You have an excellent opportunity for freedom. And we have not taken you in, healed you, and tried to undo Azrael痴 changes, only to see you sent back to go through it all again. So go, and get out of here, somehow, someway, while you still can.

釘ut they値l kill you! Orga protested. Richards shrugged somberly.

溺aybe my reason for helping you is selfish, he said, 澱ut I have seen the Alliance do terrible things, and I never lifted a finger to stop it. Perhaps by helping you three, I can atone for all those sins. But I guess that just makes me too kind a man for the Alliance.

Clotho looked down at the floor. 展e could take you with us, he said softly.

Richards smiled. 添ou three are far kinder than me, he said. 釘ut no, you couldn稚 take me with you. I知 an old man. I would slow you down, the Alliance would capture you, and then what? You would go back to the drugs and the pain. We didn稚 save you so that that would be your fate. He paused. 的f there痴 one thing you take with you, though, then I hope it is this. Not all adults in the world are like Azrael. Not all of us will take advantage of you and turn you into pawns. There are some of us who still see human life as sacred. I know you will leave here as men in boys bodies, but please, remember that not all of us will tell you that life is nothing more than 遡ill or be killed.樗

There was silence for a moment.

添ou shouldn稚 have to die, Shani said. All eyes turned in surprise to him. 釘ecauseyou helped us.

Richards smiled back. 的f the universe was truly just, then we wouldn稚 have had to help you in the first place, he said. 釘ut if you can escape, and have freedomthen that is justice enough for me. He glanced over the three of them. 滴owever you do it, though, I ask you to escape.

Orga looked away in frustration.

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They were silent as they shuffled down the corridors, back to the infirmary.

Clotho slammed his fist angrily into the wall. 泥ammit! Why does it have to be like this?! He looked over sharply at Orga. 典here痴 gotta be something we can do!

釘ut he doesn稚 wanna go with us! Orga shot back. 的t痴 like he wants to die!

Clotho shook his head angrily. 泥ammit, this doesn稚 make any sense! They saved us, why do they have to die?!

套we should go, Shani said quietly. Clotho and Orga looked back at him. 套because he said if we leavethen there will be justice.

釘ut how?! Clotho yelled. 典hey helped us, and then they池e gonna die! They値l be like that guy on the TV! That痴 not fucking fair!

Orga closed his eyes sadly. 典here痴 nothing we can do about it, he said.

添es there is! Clotho exclaimed, running out in front of him. 滴e said that somebody was coming to get us, right?

Orga glanced inquisitively at Shani, who offered no answer, and nodded dubiously. 添eah, why?

展ell, we could protect them when that guy comes! Clotho said. 展e don稚 have to let them die! We can protect them!

釘ut that痴 not what he wanted, Orga responded.

I don稚 want to let them die! Clotho cried.

Orga glanced over at Shani, and then nodded slowly.

展e could try that, I guess, he said. 釘ut he asked us to escapeor else they値l send us back.

Shani clenched his fists behind them.

展e池e not going back.

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To be continued