Phase 02 - The Goddess of Victory

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED DESTINY - Golden Goddess

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Phase 02 - The Goddess of Victory

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November 7th, CE 73 - Aube, United Emirates of Orb

The missiles came down with a blaze of fire, and with a shout, Athrun Zala rocketed over the smashed lines of Orb's M1 Astrays. They were still getting back to their feet; none of them could open fire as the Justice Gundam blasted over their heads towards the imposing girth of the Orb National Defense Headquarters.

On the Justice's subflight lifter, the Aile Striker-equipped Strike Rouge picked off another Astray with its bazooka. Inside, Cagalli glanced down anxiously at the Justice.

"We have a fifteen minute window," she said urgently.

"I'm going as fast as I can," Athrun answered. Another Astray popped up from behind a building; Athrun blew its head off with his beam rifle and sent the rest of the mobile suit tumbling backwards. "Captain Ramius says everything is going according to plan so far," he added.

鉄o far, Cagalli said dourly. 鏑et痴 hurry up so things don稚 have a chance to go bad.

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Yzak grunted as the Duel landed with a crash, and he took cover behind the Duel痴 shield. An Astray came charging in, beam saber raised Yzak deflected its saber stroke with his shield and took it down with a point-blank railgun shot. He dove aside to dodge another beam shot, and up above, the Buster Gundam shot down a second Astray with its beam cannon.

Yzak glanced over his shoulder, taking cover behind a building. He looked down the street it was a long, wide thoroughfare that passed the Orb assembly building, and it was teeming with Astrays. A blue-painted Loyalist Astray ducked out from behind cover and managed to squeeze off a beam shot, beheading an Orb Astray down the street, but a wave of beam fire tore it apart a moment later. Yzak snarled a curse and deflected a volley of beams with his shield.

展e池e not going to get anywhere like this! he shouted angrily, pausing to fire a missile volley back at the Orb mobile suits. He looked up over his shoulder, finding the Buster dropping down behind him.

展e値l have to shoot our way through all that, Dearka said breathlessly, as the Buster hunkered down behind another building. Yzak squeezed off a beam rifle shot and ducked back behind cover, as the Astray he had hit exploded. 擢lying over it won稚 be an option; the Seirans have too many Murasames overhead. We租 just get sucked into a dogfight.

展here the hell are our Murasames?! Yzak snapped. 的 thought Fllaga and Bartfeldt would take care of them!

典hey池e pinned down at the docks, Dearka answered dourly, 都o we池e pretty much on our own. He paused. 鼎over me, I値l clear us a path.

The Buster and Duel dove out into the street, and Yzak opened fire with a furious beam rifle volley. The Orb mobile suits down the street took cover behind their shields; the Buster combined its guns and leapt out from behind the Duel, firing its hyper impulse rifle down the street and tearing through six Astrays as they tried to block the blast with their shields.

的t痴 a start, Dearka grunted, detaching his guns and diving back behind cover with the Duel. 敵ive it thirty seconds and I値l try it again.

典his is a disaster, Yzak growled. An Astray vaulted up over the building tops, beam saber raised Yzak cut it down with a railgun shot and sent the broken mobile suit痴 corpse slamming into the street. 展e don稚 even have half of what we need to attack this place.

展ell, we値l have to make do with what we do have, Dearka said. 纏AFT had control of half the Earth within one year, and they were outnumbered ten to one.

添eah, and look where ZAFT was a year later, Yzak shot back. 敵o!

The Duel leapt back out from behind the building, opening fire again. Dearka combined his guns and fired another blast down the street, taking down eight more unlucky Astrays.

敵ood enough! Dearka shouted. 鏑et痴 go!

The Duel and Buster took off, the Loyalist Astrays right behind them.

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展e池e not getting anywhere! Mwu shouted, as the Aile Strike Gundam pitched dizzyingly out of the sky to avoid a squadron of furious Murasames. 鄭nd I知 all out of genius plans! What about you, Andy?!

的f 素ight like hell is a genius plan, then we池e doing it! Andy answered; up above, the Aegis slithered out of a storm of beam fire and transformed to its mobile armor mode, wiping out two Murasames in one blast from its Scylla cannon. The Aegis returned to its mobile suit mode to bat away another beam shot and return fire with its beam rifle.

泥ammit, Mwu grunted he whipped around and shot down a charging Shrike Astray with his beam rifle, dodging more beam shots from a trio of Murasames. 擢llaga team! Focus your fire on the enemy Murasames! The Shrikes aren稚 that threatening!

展e have to cover Yzak and Dearka! Andy shouted. 的t won稚 be long before they get pinned down from above!

展hat about Athrun and Cagalli? Mwu yelled back, as he dove out of the way of a Murasame squadron and shot down the left-hand machine.

Andy scowled in frustration. 典hey池e on their own!

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Orb Navy supercarrier Takemikazuchi, Pacific Ocean

Jona Roma Seiran smiled as the reports filtered by. The Orb Raiders had attacked, along with the meager forces of the Athha family loyalists hiding out in and around the United Emirates of Orb. The Athha loyalists were putting up a tough fight for now, but Jona knew better it would only be a matter of time before they collapsed.

滴ow long until we reach Orb territory? Jona asked loudly.

典hree hours sir, the helmsman asked. Jona nodded.

的ncrease to flank, he said, 殿nd order the same of the fleet.

At Jona痴 side, Todaka blinked in surprise. 鄭dmiral, he said, 努e池e already running at 115 percent on the reactors.

典hen give me 120, Jona said with a shrug. 徹ur homeland is under attack, Captain. Should that not spur you on?

Todaka hesitated a moment; Jona smirked back. At last, Todaka turned around. 鄭ll ships, increase to flank! he ordered.

Jona sat back, crossing his arms. Today was the day where all would see just what the goddess of victory was truly capable of.

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Aube, United Emirates of Orb

The Justice Gundam landed with a crash behind the safety of a skyscraper, lunging out of the path of a storm of beam fire. Nearby, the Strike Rouge landed behind the Justice and ejected an empty clip from its bazooka.

展here is our air cover?! Cagalli growled, as a Seiran Murasame deposited a volley of missiles into the Justice痴 shield. 泥ammit, where the hell are Mwu and Andy?!

典hey池e pinned down at the docks, Athrun answered, pausing to shoot down the Murasame as it came around for another attack. 展e underestimated the Seirans positions here!
An explosion split the air overhead, and a blue-painted Shrike Astray staggered out of the air in flames. Cagalli cursed under her breath. 典hey must have known we were coming!

A Seiran Astray leapt up from behind another building nearby Cagalli squeezed off a shot from her bazooka and sent the Astray reeling, and a moment later, Athrun finished it off with a beam rifle shot.

展e shouldn稚 hang around here, Athrun said gravely. 展e can稚 hold out here by ourselves, and we still have to get to the National Defense Headquarters!

的 know! Cagalli shot back. Another volley of missiles came down nearby, but Athrun cut them out of the air with a CIWS burst before they could hit and scanned the skies urgently. 鏑ook, Cagalli said, 土ou cover me while I make a run for the front entrance.

典he front entrance?! Athrun echoed in disbelief. 鄭re you mad? That痴 the place they値l be guarding the most heavily!

展e have to get in somehow! Cagalli shouted back.

典here痴 better ways than that! Athrun snapped. 的f you池e going to do something, do it right! Cagalli blinked in surprise, falling silent. 添ou make a run for the front door and they値l kill you! I知 not about to let that happen! If you want to get in there, we値l get in there, but we池e not doing it the suicidal way! Got it?!

Cagalli was silent a moment. 套yeah, she said quietly. Athrun returned his attention to the skies, as a squadron of Murasames came storming towards them.

展e can get in through an underwater passage, he continued. 展e池e only attacking by land and air, so I doubt they池e prepared for an underwater battle. We just have to get across to the harbor.

溺wu and Andy are supposed to be covering us from the air, Cagalli growled.

釘ut they池e not, Athrun countered, 都o we値l have to get creative. He glanced to the side there was a dilapidated, beam-riddled skyscraper threatening to topple over near the Seiran lines. Athrun looked up and opened fire on the incoming Murasame squadron, forcing their numbers apart and sending two of the Murasames plummeting helplessly to the ground. 鉄hoot at that skyscraper, Athrun instructed. 的値l cover you!

釘ut Athrun Cagalli began.

的f you致e got a better idea, feel free to share it! Athrun cut her off. 徹therwise, get going!

The Strike Rouge leapt out from behind cover, while Athrun let loose a vicious burst of beam fire towards the Seiran mobile suits. Cagalli aimed carefully at the building痴 crumbling foundation and fired off three shells before ducking back behind cover. The skyscraper toppled over with a deep rumble, and a pall of dust rose up over the battlefield.

鼎ome on! Athrun shouted. The Justice seized the Strike Rouge痴 hand and pulled it out into the dust. The Seiran mobile suits were fleeing desperately as the skyscraper toppled down onto their lines, and Athrun and Cagalli slipped past easily in the confusion. Athrun wheeled around in front of the harbor, firing a volley of machinegun and beam fire towards the Seiran forces to keep them further off balance, and glanced at Cagalli over his shoulder. 敵et into the water! I値l be there in a second!

The Strike Rouge leapt into the ocean, and Athrun turned back around, finding the survivors in the Seiran mobile suit force shambling towards him, weapons raised. He glanced to his left and caught sight of a massive fuel tank Athrun leapt backwards, over the water, and cut the tank apart with a volley of machinegun fire. He dove into the water just as a massive fireball consumed the Seiran mobile suits.

展e could sink the entire fleet from here, Cagalli said, as the Strike Rouge touched down at the bottom of the harbor.

典hat痴 not our job, Athrun said. 擢ollow me. We鼠l go up inside, clear out a hangar, and set down there. The Justice set down on the harbor floor and began to tramp across the ground towards a massive circular airlock door.

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The Duel Gundam staggered back from the blow of an artillery shell and ducked behind the relative safety of a skyscraper. Inside, Yzak hissed a curse the Seirans had reinforced their positions in front of the Assembly building, and called in enough artillery to stop the Duel and Buster in their tracks. The Loyalist Astrays had taken cover behind buildings and wreckage long ago, while the two Gundams tried to press valiantly on. But Phase Shift armor, it seemed, could only take so much damage, and Yzak was in no mood to see how much more it could take before giving out.

展e池e going to need to stop all that artillery somehow, Dearka grunted, as the Buster slid to safety behind a skyscraper. 溺aybe someone can distract the batteries?

典hat someone won稚 last long, Yzak countered, as the ground shook from a nearby impact. 鄭nd we still have a ways to go.

A Loyalist Astray up ahead of the two Gundams leapt out of cover, trying to hurl a grenade towards the artillery line; a barrage of shells and beam fire slashed the mobile suit to pieces, and the arm collapsed at the foot of the wreckage, grenade still clasped in its hand. Yzak and Dearka tried to shout out a warning, but it was no use a massive blast ripped its way across the street, and a skyscraper next to the blast tilted dangerously over the street.

展e池e going to do more damage than good to this country at this rate, Dearka growled. He blinked in surprise. 展atch out!

The two Gundams and the remaining Loyalist Astrays backed away as the skyscraper finally came down with a crash, throwing up a veil of dust and smoke over the battlefield.

泥o you think we can make it? Dearka asked, glancing urgently at Yzak.

展e値l have to, Yzak muttered. 鄭ll units, follow us!

The Duel and Buster vaulted up over the fallen tower, landing with a crash and activating their infrared sensors. Yzak scowled at the lines of artillery and opened fire with a full blast from every ranged weapon on his machine, while Dearka unleashed a volley of missiles on the artillery lines. A chain of explosions blew the cannons apart, and the missiles sent the Seiran Astrays reeling back.

敵o! Dearka shouted, the Buster waving frantically to the Loyalist Astrays. 釘efore they recover!

The Loyalists opened fire, cutting through the Seirans lines. Yzak glanced back at Dearka.

展hat are Zala and Cagalli doing? he asked angrily, firing a beam rifle shot through the haze and taking down a Seiran Astray down the street.

典hey池e still trying to get into the National Defense Headquarters, Dearka answered, pausing to duck under a beam blast from another enemy Astray. 鼎ommander Bartfeldt says they went underwater.

展hat do they think they can do there? Yzak snarled, deflecting a volley of beams with his shield and firing back. 鄭ll units, let痴 go!

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鄭re they insane?! Mwu snapped, as the Aile Strike Gundam dove backwards dizzyingly. 滴alf of our force is getting shredded on the ground, and the other half is getting shredded in the air! We can稚 hold out much longer like this!

展ell, talking sense into Cagalli has never been one of Athrun痴 strong points, Andy grunted back, as the Aegis Gundam took four beam shots to its shield and fired back with its rifle, picking a Murasame off as it swung around to flank him. 添zak and Dearka are going for the assembly building!

展e致e got to get over there one way or another! Mwu shouted, as the Aile Strike wheeled around and shot down a charging Shrike Astray. 溺urasames, form up in Delta Zero formation! Andy, we値l have to try that maneuver!

That maneuver?! Andy asked, his face lighting up in delight. 鄭bout damn time! He glanced over his shoulder. 鄭lright boys, all those hours in the simulator will have to pay off today! The Orb Raider Murasames swung around, lining up in a staggered formation behind the Strike and Aegis.

鉄hrike Astrays, ascend over the battlefield! We値l distract the enemy Murasames, and you can move in and support the Duel and Buster! Mwu added. 鄭ll Murasame units, we池e doing this one by the book!

The Murasames swept in behind the Strike and the Aegis the combined formation took off with a flash, shrieking forward at top speed. The Murasames opened fire with their beam rifles and cannons, as the formation streaked in low over the dock, tearing down Seiran Astrays as they tried to take cover behind their shields. The Murasames shrieked over the battlefield up ahead, their enemy counterparts tried to open fire, unleashing a wave of missiles, but the Orb Raiders machines returned fire with a storm of CIWS fire, blasting through the smoke and slicing through the attackers.

展e池e almost there! Mwu shouted. Up ahead, a tower of smoke rose into the sky from the street in front of the assembly building he watched Yzak痴 Duel somersault into the air, pounding the Seiran troops below with a beam rifle volley before gravity dragged him back down.

釘reak formation! Andy ordered the Murasames rocketed apart as a wave of beam fire from the Seiran troops flashed through the air. The Aegis roared down toward the ground, igniting the beam saber on its right leg and ripping a charging Shrike Astray in half with a scything kick.

The Aegis landed with a crash on the top of an office tower and picked off two Astrays down below before it took off again. Mwu darted own into the street, firing down at the Seiran forces with his beam rifle before lunging back up into the air.

的t痴 about damn time you showed up, Yzak grunted the Duel staggered back as a volley of beam shots landed against its shield. 典hey池e pinning us down here!

溺urasames! Air support, now! Mwu snapped, as the Strike picked off a Seiran Murasame of its own. The Murasames swept in over the Seiran Astrays heads, pounding them with missiles.

典here痴 only so much we can do down here, Dearka added, pausing to fire his hyper impulse cannon down the street, smashing through three more Astrays. 展here are Athrun and Cagalli?!

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The ground shook as Athrun痴 grenade blasted the doors open, sending two twisted sheets of steel clattering down the halls. A squad of Orb soldiers backed away as Athrun himself burst through the smoke, assault rifle spewing rounds that went ricocheting down the metal walls.

展here are we?! Cagalli shouted through the din, as Athrun somersaulted up over the Orb troops heads, emptying his rifle into their ranks from above as he sailed through the air. He landed deftly, seizing another assault rifle and tossing his empty one to the side.

的t looks like some kind of access tunnel, Athrun said. 的 guess they use this in the event of emergencies.

釘ut we have to get to the command center! Cagalli protested. Athrun checked the clip and liberated another four cartridges of ammunition from the bodies. 的f there痴 any place where we could take control, it値l be there!

徹f course it will, Athrun said, casting a weary glance down the hall. 釘ut that doesn稚 mean they池e going to listen. He blinked in surprise, as his accelerated hearing picked something up. 展ait

A sliding door at the end of the hall came crashing down, and Athrun and Cagalli stared in disbelief as a linear tank crunched its way into the hallway.

tank?! Cagalli exclaimed.

鏑ook out! cried Athrun, tackling her to the ground as the tank opened fire. A shell smashed into the wall behind them, and the blast sent them tumbling forward. 泥ammit! Athrun grunted, skidding to a halt and putting himself between the armored monster and Cagalli. 鄭re they insane?! They値l cave the whole tunnel in if they do that again!

The tank痴 hatches opened, and soldiers wielding machineguns popped out, leveling off their weapons at Athrun. He narrowed his eyes, seizing Cagalli by the arm and diving aside as the soldiers opened fire.

展hat is wrong with them?! Cagalli screamed. 典hey池e going to bring the whole building down!

The linear tank痴 cannon boomed again, smashing into the wall. Athrun and Cagalli dove aside, shielding their heads as flaming debris rained down around them. Athrun looked up in frustration at the sound of creaking support beams. The tank slowly began to back away into the side passage it had burst out of. He looked back towards the shattered wall, noting an exposed room on the other side.

鼎ome on! Athrun barked, seizing Cagalli by the hand and darting forward, towards the ruined wall and diving through the opening. The tunnel came down behind them with a blinding plume of dust together they stumbled forward, onto a large open platform. Athrun痴 eyes darted around furiously, scanning for cover and enemies something caught his eye, and he looked up in surprise

展hat the hell is that? he grunted, squeezing his eyes shut as a blinding light flashed into his eyes. He squinted up at it painfully.

的t痴 Cagalli began, 套a mobile suit?

A blazing golden machine, with a modified frame of the Strike and the face of a Gundam, sporting a winged backpack, stood before them surrounded in wires and pipes and a thin metal gantry holding it in place.

的t痴 not like an Astray or a Murasame, said Athrun, blinking and shielding his eyes from the glare off the machine痴 brilliant armor. 的t痴 likea gold-plated Strike, or something.

釘utwhat is it doing here? Cagalli growled. 的s this supposed to be some new model?!

Athrun痴 headset beeped; he tapped the receive button in annoyance, turning away from the blinding machine. 典his is Zala, what is it?

添ou bastard, where the hell have you been?! Athrun winced in pain as Yzak痴 furious voice exploded from the speaker. 展e池e getting torn apart out here! Hurry the fuck up!

展e can稚 get up to the command center, Athrun answered testily. 鄭 tank attacked us in the access tunnels underground. We池e in a mobile suit hangar.

展hat?! Mwu痴 voice cut in. 鄭 mobile suit hangar?! And there痴 no one there?!

的t looks like nobody is supposed to be in here, Athrun replied, looking around. There was a large hatch in the ceiling of the cavernous hangar, but other than that, no conceivable way that this could be a facility intended for frequent use. 摘verything痴 too nicely polished anyway. He blinked. 摘specially the mobile suit.

典here痴 a mobile suit in there? Mwu asked anxiously. 鄭 new model?

的致e never seen one like it before. Athrun glanced over at Cagalli. 展hat are we going to do?

典hat doesn稚 matter! Get out of there! Mwu snapped. Athrun and Cagalli both blinked in surprise, turning to listen to Mwu痴 insistent voice. 展e致e sustained too many casualties! The Seiran troops are getting resurgent, the Athha loyalists are almost all dead, and the Megami won稚 be able to hide offshore under Mirage Colloid forever! We池e pulling back, you guys have to as well!

What?! Cagalli screamed. Pull back?! But we haven稚

展e致e lost! Mwu shot back. There was a pause. 典hat痴 an order, dammit! Just pull back!

The line cut out Cagalli痴 eyes widened in horror.

典hey were intercepting our transmission, Athrun explained. 展e have to do as he says. We致e spent too much time here as is.

No! Cagalli screamed. 展e can稚! We have to stay and finish this attack! If we let the Seirans win

典hey池e already won! Athrun snapped. 展e had one chance to take them down in a big military operation and show the people of Orb how dangerous they are! We blew it! We didn稚 have enough strength to attack this position and the fighting has spilled into the city! Staying any longer will just cause us more damage! He glanced towards the door in alarm as crashes rang behind it soldiers were trying to break it open.

的f we leave now we値l never get a chance like this again! Cagalli shot back. 展e have to defeat them here! We can稚 let them control Orb! They池e already dragging the country to its doom; we can稚 let them get any farther! She grabbed Athrun by the collar, glowering at him. 展e致e come this far in order to take back Orb and have a place where we don稚 have to fight anymore! Now you want to turn back?! We just have to

Cagalli! Athrun roared, pushing her back a step. She trailed off in shock, watching him with wide eyes. Listen to yourself! he continued angrily. 添ou just heard that we have to retreat or we値l die! Does that not mean anything to you!? What good will we have done anyone if all we do here is get ourselves killed?! He gestured angrily at the golden mobile suit. 展e池e human beings, Cagalli, not gods! You can稚 keep pushing us like this! The Seirans knew we were coming, they knew where we would attack, and they were prepared! We didn稚 have enough troops to attack this position, and now all our allies are dead and we have one window of escape left! Do you want to die here and know you couldn稚 accomplish anything?!

典hat痴 not important! Cagalli insisted. 溺y life makes no difference! I知 not just doing this for myself!

鄭nd I知 not standing here trying to make you see reason for myself either! Athrun shot back. 的致e stood by your side ever since the day Orb was first invaded, protecting you like I said I would! Human life isn奏 all about politics and ideals! I知 not going to let you die in a place like this! The door wrenched painfully under the pressure of the soldiers behind it, trying to force it open with crowbars. Athrun seized Cagalli by the arm and dragged her towards the shining machine. 展e池e leaving, and that is that!

The door slammed open with a blood-curdling shriek Athrun whirled around, tearing his two handguns out of their holsters under his arms and opening fire as a squad of Orb soldiers stormed into the room, rifles drawn.

Go! Athrun screamed, backing away as the soldiers ducked behind cover. Cagalli raced towards the ladder, leading up to the boarding gantry. Athrun focused his fire on the soldiers not shooting at him they would be the ones to shoot at her. Up above, Cagalli leapt up onto the gantry and turned to glance down at Athrun he howled in pain as a bullet struck him in the shoulder, and dropped the gun in his right hand. Another bullet sliced through his left leg, and he fell forward, grinding his teeth in pain.

Athrun! she screamed. The soldiers turned up towards her she dove into the cockpit of the golden mobile suit, slamming the hatch shut. 鉄hitI have to do something She glanced around the cockpit its setup was nearly identical to the Strike Rouge, and she quickly brought the mobile suit online, glancing down at the startup screen. 鄭katsuki?

The Akatsuki痴 eyes flashed bright blue as the mobile suit tore itself out of its restraints. Cagalli scowled down at the soldiers and tore them apart with a blaze of CIWS fire; the Akatsuki kneeled down next to Athrun, extending its left hand, and he hobbled painfully into its palm. Cagalli keyed open the frequency for the Megami.

鼎agalli! Murrue exclaimed. 展here have you been?!

展e致e secured the new model, Cagalli said, as she pulled a bleeding Athrun into the cockpit. 鉄end someone to pick up the Justice and Rouge. Athrun is hurt; I知 coming back to the ship.

的t痴 about damn time! Yzak痴 voice cut in angrily. 泥earka, come on! We値l get their suits and then we can go!

Cagalli cut the line and slammed the hatch shut, glancing at Athrun as he tried to staunch the bleeding in the crash seat. 鄭thrun

笛ust get back to the ship! Athrun grunted, slapping a square of patching material over the hole in his leg.

The Akatsuki stomped forward, tearing its way out of its berth and slamming its feet down onto the floor with a crash. Cagalli looked around anxiously for a way out she glanced up at the ceiling and took aim at the ceiling hatch with her beam rifle. Two shots and a thundering explosion later, the hatch slammed down on top of the mechanisms the Akatsuki had been ensnared by. Cagalli glanced again at Athrun; he grunted in pain as he squeezed patching material over his shoulder.

泥on稚 worry about me, he grunted. 笛ust get us back to the ship.

Cagalli looked up at the sky, dotted and crisscrossed by thick black smoke. She set her hands around the Akatsuki痴 controls, and took off with a roar.

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Shoving the inert Strike Rouge into the hangar for the mechanics to deal with, Yzak landed the Duel with a crash on the Megami痴 top deck, standing next to the starboard Gottfried. He glanced up ahead, watching the Orb Raiders Murasames pull back around the ship, fighting desperately as the Seiran troops moved in.

展here the hell are they?! Dearka barked, as the Buster landed next to the portside Gottfried and fired up at the charging Seiran Murasames with his hyper impulse cannon. 的t痴 not like we致e got all day here!

鼎agalli said she痴 coming back, Andy insisted as the Aegis backed up towards the Megami痴 dark hull. 鄭nd we can稚 well leave without her.

展ell she better get her ass in gear! Yzak snapped. 徹therwise

A thunderous explosion cut him off all eyes turned back towards the city, as a tower of smoke rose up from the ground.

展hat the hell was that?! Dearka demanded. 的 thought we were retreating!

There was a roar of thrusters, a beam went slicing up from the smoke to skewer an unsuspecting Astray, and a blazing golden mobile suit lunged into the air.

笛esus Christ! What is that?! Yzak growled, squinting at the thing as it reflected the sunlight.

Up ahead, watching impassively as the Seiran Murasames wheeled around to face it, the Akatsuki raised its beam rifle.

的値l break through them, Cagalli said resolutely. Athrun eyed the oncoming mobile suits carefully the Akatsuki roared forward, opening fire with its beam rifle and a pair of high energy cannons mounted on its backpack. Three Murasames went down in flames the rest returned fire, and Cagalli skirted their fire, shooting back and rocketing up into the air. Another Murasame whirled around her, firing at her with its beam rifle Cagalli turned to face it, but the beam came streaking towards her

and landed harmlessly against an invisible barrier inches before the armor.

展hat?! Athrun exclaimed. Cagalli looked down in surprise at the main screen.

湯Yata no Kagami?樗 she read. 的t can deflect beams?

The Murasames swept in again Cagalli scowled and took off over the water towards the Megami. A wave of beam blasts from her allies tore over her head, smashing into the Seiran Murasames and forcing the survivors to retreat. The Akatsuki whirled around again, opening fire with its beam cannons and cutting down another three. A fourth Murasame swept in from the side, firing at the Akatsuki痴 undefended torso again the shot bounced off, and Cagalli turned to pick the attacker off with her beam rifle. More beams came streaking towards her, but bounced harmlessly off the Akatsuki痴 golden armor, as she cut down the helpless attackers.

鼎agalli! Athrun grunted. 展e have to leave, now!

Cagalli glanced back at him over her shoulder. She wanted to stay and continue to fight; it was her last chance to build something in the world at last, to carve a niche out for the two of them, for their friends, for everyone who wanted no part in the war-torn world, to prove that she could do something. But Athrun was hunched in the crash seat behind her, squeezing space suit patching material over bleeding wounds in his shoulder and leg. Her friends were already pulling back, urging her to do the same, retreating from this fortress that the Seirans had turned her beloved country into.

She looked forlornly at Orb one last time, and took off towards the Megami.

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Orb Navy supercarrier Takemikazuchi, Pacific Ocean

214 M1 Astrays destroyed87 Murasames destroyed1937 casualties reported thus far, the deckhand read from his display on the bridge of the Takemikazuchi. Jona sat back, hand to his chin in thought. 典he Athha family terrorists were completely destroyed. Of their 189 mobile suits, 165 were destroyed, thirteen were captured, and the remaining eleven escaped. A total of 43 Athha loyalists were captured. The deckhand trailed off in confusion. 釘utumthe ORB-01 Akatsuki mobile suit was stolen

鉄o she got her hands on it after all, Jona interrupted testily. 的 suppose it痴 no matter. It痴 not as if one mobile suit can make that much of a difference to Orb.

鉄hall we return to port to bolster the defense forces? Todaka inquired from his place beside Jona痴 chair. Jona sat back, examining the Takemikazuchi痴 massive digital map, watching the Megami race away from Orb, clawing its way east.

鼎ontinue to follow the Megami, he said. 典hey are defeated. Soon they will be crushed.

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Orb Raiders dreadnaught Megami, Pacific Ocean

The main screen was emblazoned with news reports, depicting the ZAFT forces in space being torn apart by the Earth Alliance in battle at Arzachel Crater. Murrue sat back with a sigh, watching them lifelessly as Mwu entered the bridge tiredly.

套the ZAFT forces retreated with 65% losses, the anchor intoned somberly. 典he battle was also marked by treachery, in the form of famous Impulse pilot Shinn Asuka, who attacked his comrades during the battle and deserted along with an unidentified Earth Alliance unit

展ell, at least we aren稚 the only ones who have everything blowing up in our faces, Mwu muttered, coming up next to Murrue痴 chair and crossing his arms. Murrue glanced up at him and sighed again.

展e池e heading east as fast as we can, she said. 鄭t 1900 we値l activate the Mirage Colloid and turn north. We値l have to lie low after this.

典ry telling that to Cagalli, Mwu snorted. 鉄he still thinks we should turn around and give it another shot.

展ell, the rest of us are here to sift through all her ideas and pick out the good ones, Murrue said, rubbing her eyes wearily. 展e can稚 afford anything more than defensive combat right now. Not after losing all our allies in this attack.

鉄hould we talk to her about it? Mwu asked, arching an eyebrow. Murrue shook her head.

鉄he値l learn from her mistakes, she answered. 的t won稚 deter her, but it値l give her pause. She glanced up at Mwu. 展e値l have to fight harder than ever now.

Mwu shrugged tiredly. 典hat痴 how it痴 always been.

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A bandaged Athrun glanced dourly at Cagalli as she stared blankly at the sea from the Megami痴 observation deck. Orb was just a dark puff of smoke on the horizon now but either way, it was not worth looking back. That was the site of their failure, their failure to make a place for themselves, their failure to make things right. How could they return?

的知 sorry, Athrun said quietly. Cagalli glanced at him solemnly. 的 know I was snappish today. The battle just got to my head and I got caught up in it all.

Cagalli continued to gaze at him blankly for a moment, and then looked back at the sea. 的t痴 alright, she said. 的t got us out alive.

鄭nd with a new model, Athrun added. 摘very little bit helps.

Cagalli looked over at Athrun. She opened her mouth to say something, but stopped herself. Athrun glanced at her in surprise. 套thank you, she said at last; Athrun blinked at her. 擢or protecting me, she went on, looking away awkwardly, a faint blush forming on her cheeks. 擢or staying with me. She turned her eyes back out towards the sea forlornly. 的 led us all to failure and got all our allies killed, but you haven稚 abandoned me yet.

添ou didn稚 lead us to failure, Athrun said, taking her by the shoulders. 鄭s long as we池e still alive, as long as you池e still alive, we haven稚 failed. The Seirans want to crush the Athhas forever. As long as we can protect you, and as long as you continue to lead us to try and find a place where we can have peace, we値l have something to fight for.

Cagalli blinked tearfully. 展ecan still fight again

Athrun nodded painfully. 展e can still fight again.

Cagalli was silent a moment, before stepping towards him, throwing her arms around him. 笛ustpromise me you値l still be with me for it, she whispered. Athrun blinked in surprise, watching her pull away far enough to look imploringly into his eyes. They had failed, and were tasting the bitterness of defeat even the mighty Cagalli and her seemingly Phase Shift-armored heart had to falter sometime.

And, Athrun reflected, it was better that she faltered here, in his arms, where only he would see it.

Athrun pulled her close; she tensed up for a moment, before she relaxed into his embrace, and their lips met in a tearful kiss.

的 won稚 leave you to fight alone, he promised as their lips parted. 徹therwise there痴 nothing to fight for.

Cagalli smiled through her tears. 展e値l have something together, she said. 鉄omeday. I swear it.

They both pulled each other close and turned their eyes towards the sea.

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End