Phase 01 - A Hero Betrayed

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED - The Power to Protect

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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.

Mitsuo Fukuda forgot about all the hardship he put Kira through at the end of SEED, sweeping it all aside and turning Kira into an unsympathetic idealist who went through all the hatred and suffering that any other Gundam protagonist has gone through, but unlike other Gundam protagonists, never lost his naiveté and learned from any of what he went through. I, however, have not forgotten everything that Kira went through. Therefore, this fic, starting right at the end of the revised end of SEED in "Seeds of Shadows," will explore Kira's psyche after all these traumatic events. The changes here will tie into later fics. This fic will cover Kira between SEED and DESTINY, and would be pertinent for some of the changes seen later on.

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 Hero Betrayed

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September 27th, CE 71 - ZAFT Nazca-class destroyer Pythagoras, ZAFT space fortress Jachin Due, Lagrange Point 5

He was finally asleep.

It had taken some powerful tranquilizers and a lot of soothing, calming words, but Kira Yamato was finally asleep, and Rau Le Creuset could not be any happier. That kid sure knew how to cry.

Now, Rau found himself in a hallway near an empty crewman's room擁ts previous inhabitant was probably dead預board the Pythagoras. He found himself missing his old ship, the Vesalius葉hough the hallway looked exactly the same, and was in exactly the same place, the Vesalius had an air of familiarity that the Pythagoras was lacking. Rau, of course, knew that such familiarity was not something that could be manufactured, and brushed it off as meaningless. Soon, the Pythagoras would be as familiar as the Vesalius had been, and that annoying feeling of displacement would not be a factor anymore.

He paused, and noted which room he had left Kira in, before he heaved a sigh and headed off towards the bridge.

Everything was in chaos. The PLANT Supreme Council had formally taken over everything in ZAFT, down to the last soldier, and silenced the guns on ZAFT's side, requesting that what was left of the Earth Alliance fleet do the same. They were in the middle of hastily negotiating a ceasefire, which many hoped would be the precursor to a more permanent treaty. However, Rau knew better; the Coordinators of the PLANTs and the Naturals of the Earth Alliance hated each other too much, and now that both sides had expanded their levels of technology this far, neither side was going to commit themselves to peace. After all, peace meant disarmament, and the man with the biggest gun was never willing to put it down without a fight. The only thing stopping them right now was mutual exhaustion.

The battle itself, however, had been draining. Rau could see it in the tired, drooping, half-closed eyes of the crew of the Pythagoras. So much had transpired, so many had died...

He glanced over his shoulder, at the room where Kira was finally sleeping. Kira had been fighting hard to protect people, but when it came down to it, all the firepower of his mighty Freedom Gundam could do nothing to stop the dying. The dead died regardless of the Three Ships Alliance's sanctimonious interference有acus Clyne had tried to stop the end of the circle of life, and like all those before her who tried to defy nature, failed. Not even Coordinators could stop death. And now, her self-righteous crusader would pay the ultimate price for her foolish ideals.

Idealists had a long fall beneath them, after all.

It had all gone so splendidly, Rau thought with almost ghoulish delight. The Dominion's escape shuttle, which so luckily happened to be carrying one Fllay Allster, strayed close enough to the battlefield. And Athrun Zala's Justice Gundam just happened to look as if it had blown the shuttle away. And, with Kira's nerves already weakened by the dizzying revelations Rau had dumped on him earlier at the Mendel colony, and with the accumulated hardship he had endured throughout the war, Fllay's death was the final trigger needed to turn Kira Yamato into the ultimate weapon.

Unfortunately, GENESIS's nuclear explosion had stopped Kira from getting rid of that annoying Athrun immediately, but that was no matter. Athrun found it difficult to fight Kira before, when both were held back by their mutual reluctance to fight. He would find it even harder now, when Kira was irrevocably out for blood.

However, at the moment, Kira was a broken soul, his grief over Fllay's death compounded by an overwhelming sense of guilt that he had not been there to protect her, and an even stronger feeling of failure.

Rau smiled darkly. She would fix that.

At last he arrived on the bridge, and the crew saluted him tiredly, obviously too drained to even move from their seats without their battle-numbed bodies protesting.

The captain of the Pythagoras was a stout, muscular man called Cummings, packed into an ill-fitting ZAFT Black Shirt uniform. He had survived this long by avoiding all the important battles, particularly the ones involving overemotional teenagers and powerful prototype mobile suits. He seemed much like Ades on the Vesalius, but with an even greater air of caution around him which was probably what kept him away from the teenagers and Gundams. His face was lined with pain and stress and lack of sleep, characteristic of an officer who had just seen the men under his command die. But the captain could not falter, and so he was trying to present the calm, paternal anchor for his battle-weary crew as best he could. The war had made him look old...but the war had made everyone look old.

Cummings saluted robotically as Rau entered the bridge, and he returned the salute casually.

"I suppose everything is still a mess?" Rau asked, taking a seat above the captain's chair. Cummings nodded, and Rau sensed from his darkening expression that the man had been involved far too much in this mess for his mental health.

"I can appreciate a ceasefire as much as the next person," he grumbled in a baritone that had all the warmth and compassion of a diesel engine idling, "but I wish they'd start telling us what to do here."

Rau allowed himself a smile. "It can't be helped," he said. "Ceasefires always tend to throw both sides into chaos."

Cummings looked out the bridge windows sadly. "Well, the war may be over now," he said with a sigh, "but we'll still have plenty to do."

Rau's smile grew just a bit. "Oh yes," he agreed, "we certainly will."

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September 28th, CE 71 - Nazca-class destroyer Pythagoras, Lagrange Point 5

Kira watched the Justice fire, but the shot missed the Providence. He opened his mouth to scream, but no sound came out. The shot drilled through the Dominion's escape shuttle

"FLLAY!"

Kira turned over, clenching his fists, trying to block the images out.

滴e couldn稚, he whispered, his voice broken and wavering.

Athrun's beam rifle fell, the DRAGOON units were silent, and the Providence backed away.

"K-Kira," Athrun stuttered, "I"

滴e killed her, he whispered again, writhing in the sheets, tears staining his face. 滴e did it...he killed her...

He turned over again, sobbing again, and clutched his stomach as he began to feel sick.

Kira cut him off with a sob, staring in horror, tears clouding his eyes, at the field of debris that remained of the Dominion's escape shuttle.

"Fllay!" he screamed, the Freedom diving down towards the debris. "Fllay! You can't友llay! FLLAY!"

滴e took her away from me, Kira growled, his fists clenching around the sheets, his fingers whitening. 滴e...he killed her...

The Freedom stopped amidst the debris.

"Kira!" Athrun exclaimed. "I was aiming at Rau, but"

You killed her, he snarled, his bloodshot eyes widening with hatred as stared at the images, as he stared at Athrun痴 unrepentant face. You...I...I値l never forgive you...

"YOU KILLED HER!" Kira shrieked. The Freedom turned and roared up towards the Justice to slam its saber against Athrun's shield. "YOU KILLED HER, ATHRUN!"

添ou took her from me, he hissed, twisting around and wrapping himself in the covers. 添ou took her away from me...

"Kira!" Athrun exclaimed. "You don't understand, Kira! I didn't"

"YOU KILLED HER!"

展hy... he whispered, sobbing again as more tears drifted around him. 展hy did she have to die...

The Freedom pressed its attack, firing its railguns and plasma cannons as it tore down towards the Justice. Athrun dove out of the way of the attack and deflected the follow-up saber strike, diving away from the Freedom.

展hy couldn稚 I protect her... he murmured. 展hy...why couldn稚 I protect her?!

"YOU KILLED HER!" Kira screamed as the Freedom charged. "ATHRUN! YOU KILLED HER! YOU"

Then the world went white.

Kira twisted over again and drifted out of bed, his snarled sheets floating around him, surrounded in a cloud of teardrops. He clutched himself tightly, quivering.

展hy...why, why, WHY?!

He threw back his head and shrieked.

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The door opened with a hiss, and a moment later it closed again. Darkness filled everything, as two figures were veiled in shadow.

的 see you致e brought him aboard, a woman's voice observed with something almost like amusement lacing her voice.

Rau Le Creuset sat back, his face unreadable in the darkness. "You know what part you have to play," he said rhetorically.

"And he'll be the one to succeed where GENESIS failed?" the woman asked skeptically. "He's curled up in a sobbing ball of flesh, and he's going to become the ultimate weapon?"

Rau chuckled. "Well, that's where you come in."

The woman sniffed at the air in annoyance. "Playing the helpless maiden is not my forte, Commander," she shot back. "I'm not some dainty little princess looking for a knight in shining armor."

"Of course you're not," Rau answered smoothly. "All you have to do is make him think you are. He's fixated on the idea of protecting people. Make him think you're the damsel in distress and he値l be all ours."

The woman sighed in defeat. "He's not my type," she protested. "I'm not even looking for someone, but if I was, it sure wouldn't be some bucket of angst like him."

Rau was still amused. "You act as if you're supposed to be attracted to him. Just get him attracted to you." He paused. "It shouldn't be hard. He's only sixteen. Flash some skin and he's all yours."

The woman huffed indignantly. "I'm not a dumb little bimbo, Commander," she snapped. "I'll only go that far if there's no other choice."

Rau chuckled again. "I bet," he answered chidingly. "But I am serious when I say that you must have him eating out of the palm of your hand. He is powerful, but only with purpose."

"And there's that pesky problem of his with killing," the woman added. Rau nodded with an irritated sigh.

"Well, once we've got him far enough under our control, I think we can work around that. We've been dealt some valuable cards. I intend on using them."

The woman paused. "I suppose I should go pay our little friend a visit, then." With a sigh, she stood up and moved for the door.

"Valentine," Rau said. She stopped and looked back at him. "Remember."

The door opened, and Valentine's partially shadowed face twisted into a sweetly sadistic smile.

"Of course," she replied. "Eating out of the palm of my hand."

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There was a noise that sounded like a door opening, and Kira's bloodshot eyes turned towards it and immediately squinted as light washed over everything. A voice was speaking, but he could hardly hear it, and it was coming from someone he could hardly see. The door shut, and a moment later, Kira felt hands on his shoulders, gently guiding him back onto the bed. At last, his eyes adjusted, and he looked up at the person who had entered his room.

The first thing he noticed was a red ZAFT uniform. He looked up at this mysterious soldier's face, and found a gentle, calm, attractive woman's face. Crimson eyes gazed at him from between three conspicuously red-dyed locks of hair, and her smiling face was framed in attractive chestnut tresses.

She was beautiful. She was as beautiful as Fllay.

More tears sprang to his eyes, as sickness ripped through him from the pit of his stomach.

"Are you alright?" she asked softly, her smile fading, replaced by concern. "Commander Le Creuset is busy at the moment, but he sent me to make sure you're fit for your introductions."

Kira opened his mouth to speak, but all that came out was another choking sob. The woman pulled him closer, stroking his shoulders soothingly, before another fit of hysteria overtook him.

"Don't worry," she whispered in his ear, "I'm here. I'll protect you."

Kira's eyes widened.

"I'll protect you," Fllay told him, "with my true feelings..."

"Y-You..." he began helplessly. The woman pulled away and smiled at him, with her hands still on his shoulders.

"I'm Valentine," she answered. "Valentine Sunogachi."

Kira heard the words, but they did not register. He saw Fllay instead, her hands on his shoulders affectionately, smiling lovingly at him, promising him that everything would be alright.

"F-Fllay," he stammered, his entire body going numb as horror and joy clashed within him. "Y-You're..."

She rubbed his shoulders and pulled him closer. "Don't cry," she said, "I'm here to help you."

At last, Kira fell backwards, out of her arms, and looked at her. She was not Fllay. Not quite.

"Is Fllay someone important?" Valentine asked gently, taking his hands to catch his attention again. Kira looked down sadly.

"I...couldn't...I couldn't protect her," he murmured.

展hat happened? Valentine asked. Kira flinched under her gaze, and she smiled at him and rubbed his hands affectionately. 展ell, if you don稚 want to濫

鄭thrun killed her! Kira exclaimed suddenly. Valentine blinked in surprise as Kira shook his head violently, tears springing from his eyes again as he squeezed his eyes shut. 鄭thrun took her away from me!

鼎alm down, Kira, she said, still trying to be gentle but tempering her voice with an edge of firmness lying underneath.

Kira began to breathe heavily, his eyes still clamped shut, and while he was shaking in her arms, Valentine noticed a glint of metal around his neck. Kira痴 eyes opened wide as she took the ring around his neck in her fingers, brushing her skin delicately against his and making him shiver.

的s this Fllay痴? she asked kindly. Kira looked down at the object between her fingers.

哲-No, he stammered, feeling sick again as something else clicked in the back of his mind. 的t痴濫

Images of Lacus Clyne flashed back into Kira痴 memory, but before he could do anything, Valentine unhooked the chain that held Lacus痴 ring.

的値l hang onto this for you, she said with a hint of authority in her voice. Kira reached towards her hand, sputtering in protest, but Valentine cut him off, putting a slender finger against his lips before he could speak. 添ou池e going to have your belongings confiscated anyways, she added. 的f I keep it, then you値l get it back sooner.

Kira looked back at her hand in defeat.

泥id you promise Fllay you would protect her? she went on. Kira looked away in shame.

典hat痴...what I wanted to do, he answered, even more tears coming to his eyes. 鄭s long as I have the power to do it...but... He closed his eyes, stifling another sob. 的 failed.

的t痴 not your fault, Valentine said sweetly, tilting his chin up to look into his eyes. 的t was Athrun痴 fault.

Kira blinked. 鄭thrun...

添es, Athrun. He fired the shot, didn稚 he? Her hand moved onto his cheek. 添ou even said so yourself. It was Athrun.

的-It was, Kira stuttered, 澱ut濫

典hen that痴 all you need to know. She put her other hand on his other cheek, gazing into his eyes and making Kira痴 mouth go dry. 鄭thrun killed her. Athrun betrayed you.

Kira struggled for words. 天alentine... he started, his voice cracking.

鄭thrun betrayed us all, she went on. 典he Clyne Faction might have ranted and raved about how the great ZAFT hero Athrun Zala had 壮een the light, but when it comes down to it, he and Lacus betrayed us. There痴 nothing noble about that.

Kira blinked in surprise, looking back into her eyes. 展e had good intentions, he began.

徹f course you did, Valentine interrupted, smiling sweetly. 鄭ll I知 saying is that Athrun betrayed us too. We know how you feel. She let go of Kira and got back to her feet. 的n any case, she continued, 努e have other things to talk about.

Kira looked up at her, blinking again. 展hat?

添ou came here looking for the power to protect the people you care about, right? she asked. Kira nodded. 鼎ommander Le Creuset and I can give you that power. We will remake the world, a world where you no longer have to protect anyone.

Kira suddenly began to feel invigorated as she went on.

展e値l make a world where wars will disappear, she said, 殿 world where weapons are unnecessary. You won稚 have to suffer or fight anymore傭ut we have to fight to make that world. We have to wear the uniforms of ZAFT soldiers, but we will use ZAFT as we need to, and create a new era. Valentine put her hands on Kira痴 shoulders. 鄭nd you won稚 have to protect anyone any longer.

天alentine, Kira murmured, his eyes wide.

的 promise, Valentine said, her face coming close to Kira痴, 的 won稚 let you suffer anymore.

Kira squirmed uncomfortably, and Valentine took a step back, letting go of his shoulders.

添ou need to get yourself cleaned up, she said. She gave him another smile, turning to leave. 的値l be by later to get you ready.

The door opened, Valentine glanced back at him with a smile, and she disappeared into the lights of the hallway.

With a hiss, the door shut again, and Kira was left sitting alone in the darkness.

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Hotel near PLANT Supreme Council building, PLANT Aprilius 1, Lagrange Point 5

...take two tablets every four hours, do not exceed more than eight tablets in twenty-four hours.

Councilor Gilbert Dullindal stared disdainfully at the aspirin bottle痴 label for a moment, then unscrewed the cap and dumped out ten white tablets into his hand.

鉄crew the directions, he grunted, swallowing all ten at once with a mouthful of water. Coordinators possessed nigh-invincible immune systems, but heavy workloads and ungodly stress had just as rueful an effect on Coordinators as they did on Naturals, as Gilbert's throbbing head reminded him. Heaving a sigh, he flopped down on the bed and tried to put his shattered brain back in order.

The war had essentially ended yesterday, that much was obvious. The Earth Alliance and ZAFT had fought each other to a standstill at Jachin Due, and then Patrick Zala was killed, GENESIS was destroyed, and scarcely before Gilbert was aware of either such events, Eileen Canaver was in charge and was shrieking orders at him and any other Councilor she could find. As part of the Diplomatic Committee, Gilbert had a front-row seat for the negotiations with the Earth Alliance that were already starting up, and the only reason he was here in this hotel room now was because the Earth Alliance representatives had mercifully decided that maybe everyone would be in a more negotiable mood if they had had a chance to eat and sleep. Gilbert was most certainly not complaining佑anaver had worked the Diplomatic Committee as if the war would restart at any second.

Just as Gilbert was starting to drift off to sleep, of course, Fate kicked in and the phone rang. All of his politesse and restraint were required to keep him from screaming obscene words at the phone, and he heavily stood up, seized the receiver, and snarled what usually sounded like a greeting into it.

展ell, someone痴 cranky this evening, the voice on the other end chuckled. Gilbert blinked in surprise.

迭au? he asked. 展hat do you want?

徹h, just wanted to see how my favorite Councilor is doing, Rau answered with some kind of sadistic playfulness. Gilbert glared at the receiver.

的 have a migraine from hell, he snapped. 典ell me what you want or so help me God, I値l have you shot.
Rau just chuckled again. 添ou値l be pleased to know, Councilor, he said, 鍍hat our plan is right on schedule.

Gilbert frowned. 添ou have him?

添es we do. Valentine is sinking her teeth into him as we speak.

Gilbert sat back, his bad mood dissipating slightly although he had no doubt that the process of Valentine 都inking her teeth into him was probably about as gruesome as it sounded. 展hat about the rest of the Three Ships Alliance?

典hey got away, Rau answered. 釘ut a little battlefield chicanery of mine seems to have worked well. He should be firmly on our side in time for, he paused, and Gilbert imagined him smiling deviously, 登ur little accident.

展hat about the Freedom? Gilbert asked. 滴e痴 of no use to us without it.

的 have that taken care of too, Rau replied airily. 的t痴 fine. He paused for a moment. 鄭h, looks like Valentine痴 back from her little introduction. I値l call back again.

The click of the receiver cut Gilbert short, and with a sigh, he hung up. Kira Yamato was now on their turf, in a dangerously weakened state, and all too easy to manipulate...but he was still under Rau痴 control, and Rau was a wildcard.

Now that the interest was gone, though, Gilbert痴 head resumed its hurting, and with a groan, he dropped back onto the bed and resolved to get some sleep.

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Nazca-class destroyer Pythagoras, ZAFT space fortress Jachin Due, Lagrange Point 5

Kira looked down at his hands. Valentine had given him a pair of black leather gloves that she said would complete his look as a boy who looked like a ZAFT soldier but still stood out, but it seemed too strange and besides, he reflected, gloves were ideal for someone who wanted to remain a mystery. He looked up at himself in the mirror.

A sandwich and a shower had helped return some life to his appearance, but he still felt hollow and defeated. He looked at his red ZAFT uniform輸thrun had said that these went only to the top graduates of the ZAFT Military Academy. Lacus had given him one to sneak him into the Freedom痴 hangar. Now he was considered one of the elite ZAFT Reds, but he didn稚 feel any different. The flashy red uniform did not take away the pain or make anything easier to bear. All it did was make him look like a soldier.

And Kira knew all too well that wearing a uniform did not make him a soldier.

The door of what was apparently becoming his room opened, and Valentine appeared with a smile.

鉄o this is what you look like in a ZAFT uniform, she said, looking him over. 添ou look good.

Kira blushed and looked back at his reflection. 的 feel weird, he said quietly. Valentine took him by the shoulders, turning him around to face her.

鄭ll you have to do is look like a ZAFT soldier, she instructed. 鼎ommander Le Creuset and I will look after you. Just be convincing enough for the rest of the ship痴 crew.

Kira looked at his hands again. 鄭m I really a ZAFT soldier now? he asked. 鄭m I supposed to protect the PLANTs now?

Valentine took one of his hands and guided him towards the door. 泥on稚 trouble yourself over that, she said. 笛ust look like a ZAFT soldier.

As Valentine led him towards Rau壮 office, Kira looked around, at the tired faces of the green-uniformed crew. Nobody seemed to notice him, and even though they stopped to salute as Valentine passed, their movements were robotic, as if they were not even aware of what they were doing. Kira wondered if this was how real soldiers were supposed to look.

Valentine glanced back at him. 典his ship was on the front lines during the fighting, she explained, as if reading his thoughts. 典he soldiers here fought for the entire length of the battle against the Alliance fleet.

They reached an elevator and a pair of soldiers moved aside automatically. Once inside, the door closed, and Kira heaved a sigh.

展hat痴 wrong? Valentine asked. Kira looked at her sadly.

的 can稚 go back, he said. She arched an eyebrow inquisitively as he continued. 典o the Three Ships Alliance, I mean. He looked down at his hands once more. 典o Lacus.

Valentine pressed the elevator痴 stop button, and the elevator promptly came to a halt. Kira blinked in surprise, and blushed as Valentine took his hands and pulled him towards her.

典hey betrayed you, she said softly. 鄭thrun killed Fllay. You thought you had moved past the point where you killed each other and the people you cared about, but you didn稚. He killed Fllay. You watched him do it.

Kira痴 eyes widened. 滴ow do you know濫

鏑acus lied to you, she went on. 鉄he sent you out to fight, as if your interference in the war would change anything or save anyone. She made you think she knew what she was doing, or that she could keep you from suffering. But she didn稚容veryone who died in the battle still died, and the war ended on its own, without her help.

天-Valentine! Kira exclaimed. Valentine silenced him with a finger against his lips.

的 won稚 lie to you, she said. 的 won稚 betray you. I won稚 make you think you can change things that just can稚 be changed. I won稚 make you suffer.

One of her hands found its way to the back of his head, and Kira tensed at her touch.

添ou can稚 dwell on what they did to you, she said soothingly. 展hat they did was wrong, and you have every right to be upset, but you can稚 let it consume you. You have to be whole, for us, for the sake of your future.

Their lips came tantalizingly close, and Kira shivered.

的 don稚 want you to think I知 trying to replace anyone, she whispered, 澱ut I want you to be here with me.

天-Valentine濫

Anything else Kira might have said was lost when Valentine kissed him. Kira痴 eyes widened at the feeling耀he was like Fllay. The way her lips molded against his, the way she melted into his arms, the way she tilted her head to the side...

She pulled away, her eyes glittering, with a smile on her face.

的値l protect you, she breathed.

She drifted back to the elevator control and restarted the elevator, and all Kira could do was stare.

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Before the office doors opened, Rau knew who was behind them. That distinct pressure was most certainly Valentine...and that swirling whirlpool of emotion could be none other than Kira Yamato.

Sure enough, the doors opened, and there they were. Rau smirked and noted that Valentine held Kira痴 hand as they entered his office. His previous assessment had been on the mark; she was sinking her teeth into him as far as they would go.

鼎ommander Le Creuset, she greeted, letting go of Kira痴 hand and saluting. Rau saluted back, smiling knowingly at her. 鄭s you can see, Mr. Yamato is in somewhat better spirits now.

Rau looked over at Kira, who promptly blinked in surprise, went to attention, and saluted. Rau smiled back, saluting. 鄭t ease, Kira. No need to be so tense.

Kira dropped out of his rigid stance.

鄭re you feeling better now, Kira? Rau asked. Kira nodded after a moment痴 pause, and Rau rose and approached him. 溺y apologies, but things will be rather tedious for a while. The war has ended, so matters are out of the hands of us soldiers. He held his hand out, and Kira reluctantly shook it. 哲onetheless, I promised you the power to protect those you care for. He smiled reassuringly at Kira. 展e won稚 let you down.

典-Thank you, Kira stuttered. Rau returned to his chair.

哲ow then, he went on, 鍍o business. He flicked a switch, and on one of the office screens, the familiar scene of a news report appeared. A newscaster droned lifelessly about the negotiations between the Earth Alliance and the PLANTs. On the screen, there were video clips of PLANT Councilors shaking hands with Earth Alliance representatives, illuminated by the dazzling lights of flashbulbs. 典his, Kira, is the process of making peace. But this is no peace we are watching.

的t痴 not? Kira asked, staring hopefully at the screen.

撤eace is nothing permanent, Kira, Rau explained. He looked into Kira痴 eyes, and in an instant, Kira痴 blood ran cold. 滴umans fight. That natural instinct has survived since our days as apes. We will not stop fighting just because both sides have exhausted each other now.

Kira opened his mouth to protest, but Rau cut him off.

典he Three Ships Alliance will remain an obstacle to our plan, he continued. 典hey seek to end wars and end killing. They want to stop the end of the cycle of life. They believe storming onto the battlefield, preaching high ideals as they disable military weapons, will stop the soldiers from fighting. It doesn奏 work that way. If you take away the weapons of two men who are fighting each other out of hatred, then they can no longer fight, but they still hate each other so when they go and get new weapons, you will just have to take their weapons away again.

釘ut we濫 Kira began.

典he Three Ships Alliance accomplished nothing, Rau said authoritatively. He looked at Kira, and Kira felt his body weaken and his mind go numb. 的知 sorry, Kira. Lacus lied to you. Lacus told you that running around the battlefield with high ideals and high technology would remove the hatred that fuels wars. It did not. Lacus took away the weapons, but the people who wielded the weapons still hate each other. The war ended of its own accord. He looked away, out the window, into space. 典he world is not as gentle as her song.

Kira looked away in shame. Rau was right葉he Three Ships Alliance痴 interference in the final battle did not stop the fighting. The fighting stopped when GENESIS was destroyed and the radical leadership of both warring sides was eradicated. Both sides were just too tired to fight...but that didn稚, after all, necessarily mean that they wouldn稚 go back to fighting again once they had gotten new weapons and rested and regained their strength.

的t痴 impossible to change human nature, Rau went on. He looked back at Kira, and once again Kira痴 blood froze. 撤eople desire power. Their reasons vary, but it always boils down to desire for power. And they will do whatever it takes to have power. He stood up and began to slowly pace towards Kira. 典o them, you, Kira, represent power. And they know that you will not willingly give them that power. So, in order to make you do so, they want to hurt you. But you have power, and are not so easy to hurt. So to hurt you, they must hurt those you care about.

Kira痴 eyes widened, as Rau痴 words struck a sickeningly familiar chord deep in his heart.

Rau stopped in front of Kira, gazing steadily at him. 典o protect those you care about, to protect your world, you must fight those who seek to harm them. That is what you have been doing all along. But all along, you have been fighting the wrong people, and fighting them the wrong way. Rau returned to his desk and flicked another switch, and the screen changed, now displaying mobs on Earth protesting the Earth Alliance痴 negotiations. 典hese people have been whipped by Blue Cosmos into a frenzy. They want to see the PLANTs annihilated in nuclear fire. Another switch, and the screen changed again, showing protestors on the PLANTs demanding the extermination of the Naturals. 鄭nd these people still staunchly support Patrick Zala, and want to see the Naturals destroyed before they can ever fire nuclear weapons at the PLANTs again. He threw one final switch, the screen went dark, and Kira looked back at Rau. 典he Naturals rightly feel threatened by the advances of the Coordinators, who clearly consider themselves superior. And the Coordinators want the extermination of the Naturals that have caused them so much sorrow and been the root of their troubles. He paused. 泥o you see? People still hate each other. And hatred makes the will to fight. And with the will to fight comes the desire for power. Rau set his transfixing gaze back on Kira. 添ou must fight the people who seek to harm you. And you must kill them.

的-I can稚 do that! Kira protested. Rau looked away.

典hen you cannot protect those you care about, he answered. 典he people who wish to harm them will keep coming back unless you kill them. Lives must be taken to make them understand.

Kira looked down in defeat at the floor.

"At any rate," Rau went on, looking down at the computer terminal on his desk, as his hands flew across the keys, "I want to show you something, Kira."

The screen lit up again, and Kira stared up at it. His eyes widened in horror.

"This is" he began.

Rau smiled darkly. "This is the future."

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To be continued...