Phase 03 - Mistakes

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED - Soldiers of Old

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Phase 03 - Mistakes

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June 19th, CE 73 - Atlantic Federation Archangel-class battleship Mephistopheles, Pacific Ocean

The screen flashed as a Jet Dagger L darted across it, spiraling through waves of machinegun fire and missiles, a swarm of ZAFT痴 flying DINN mobile suits around it, firing relentlessly. The Dagger L soared through their ranks, releasing a cloud of its own missiles and knocking two DINNs out of the sky. The Dagger L whirled around, machinegun rounds barely missing, and shot another DINN down with its beam carbine.

Standing in the side room of the Mephistopheles simulator chamber with Alison and Peterson, Ian Lee nodded approvingly. Jack O辿ara was an Extended, inherently unreliablebut when an Extended went out in a mobile suit, it was still a remarkable sight.

滴is reaction time is down to point-four, Peterson observed. 鄭nd his efficiency is up by three percent.

哲ow that he knows what being beaten is like, Alison pointed out, 塗is capacity will increase. He knows what to expect.

Another DINN exploded on the screen the Dagger L ripped forward, CIWS guns blazing and cutting down more missiles.

迭eal combat is entirely different from simulators, Lee said dubiously, arms crossed over his chest. 鄭nd the Orb Raiders pilots are no slouches either. They池e all veterans of the Valentine War.

典heir machines are old, Peterson said with a shrug, 殿nd they can only compensate for that so much. With more training and discipline, Jack can be precise enough to finish them off. Even Athrun Zala. He glanced back at Lee. 釘esides, Captain, Jack here is the Caucasus Wolf. He shot down sixty mobile suits during the Black Sea War, did he not?

鉄ixty aged mobile suits piloted by ill-trained kids are not the same as five advanced prototypes piloted by hardened, skilled veterans, Lee answered. 摘specially the Justice. Athrun Zala is no novice.

笛ack can handle him next time, Alison said, casting a dark glance towards Peterson. 展hat we have to do is train him and give him the tools he needs to do so, she narrowed her eyes at the doctor, 殿nd then get out of his way.

On the screen, another DINN went down in flames.

Peterson stared ruefully at the boy in the simulator. 展e値l make sure he痴 up to the challenge.

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Onogoro Island, United Emirates of Orb

The dry-dock was alive with the sounds of work as an army of mechanics and technicians swarmed over the half-complete hull of a warship. From the secluded vantage point of a high balcony, Jona Roma Seiran watched it all with a thin smile, arms crossed over his chest. Down below was the incomplete husk that would, in time, become the finest warship to fly the Orb flag.

He glanced at the officer over his shoulder. 鼎aptain Todaka, he began, 努hen is the Takemikazuchi scheduled for completion?

The ramrod-straight Todaka consulted his clipboard. 展e池e hoping to get it done by late July or early August, came his answer, 澱ut unforeseen supply delays and problems make it impossible for us to give a fixed date.

Jona looked back at the ship, satisfied. 典hat will do, he said. 釘y the end of the summer, I want to have this ship deployed, he paused to smile wryly, 殿nd looking for our lost princess.

He almost smiled, imagining that he could feel Todaka痴 discomfort. Todaka was loyal to the wayward Cagalli Yula Athha, just as he was loyal to her father. However, he was also loyal to Orb, and was willing to serve Orb痴 new masters, even if he did not approve of the direction in which these new masters were taking the country. But that was alright. Todaka was a competent officer, whose loyalty could be counted on to a point.

Besides, Jona reminded himself, it was for the best that Cagalli not be in power. She was passionate, but she understood nothing of politics. She saw justice in Uzumi痴 standing up to the Atlantic Federation, regardless of the grim toll the Atlantic Federation had exacted for Orb痴 intransigence. That was a fate Orb should not have to suffer again. Jona thought back venomously to the Atlantic Federation痴 short-lived occupation. His father had welcomed them with open arms, a veritable Vidkun Quisling, bowing to the whims of invaders.

But Jona Roma Seiran would not have Orb bend its knee again. Unato was an obstacle, to be sure, but if everything went Jona痴 way, Unato would not even have to be killed. The Sahakus would be another matter Rondo Mina was a crafty one indeed but she seemed content to watch events from Ame-no-Mihashira, and so long as the Seirans controlled the budget process, Ame-no-Mihashira could never be completed.

鼎aptain, Jona said, glancing at Todaka again, 的 have a special assignment for you.

Todaka looked up in both surprise and dread. 鉄ir?

Jona turned around to face the sunken man. 展e detected a strange ship coming down from space in the Pacific, he explained. 典he Atlantic Federation already attacked them near the Caroline Islands, but the battle was inconclusive. And we don稚 want some little skirmish on our borders without us knowing exactly what痴 going on out there.

的 understand, sir, Todaka said reluctantly. Jona smiled all the rumors had said that the Justice Gundam had been with this new ship, and where Athrun Zala was, Cagalli Yula Athha was probably nearby.

的 trust you値l act appropriately in defense of our country痴 territorial integrity, Jona said with a thin smile.

Todaka saluted.

徹f course, sir.

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Orb Raiders dreadnaught Megami, Pacific Ocean

Athrun Zala sat up with a sigh on the hatch of the Justice Gundam, looking around as he paused in his work. The Justice's OS calibration was almost finished anyways, and that cockpit was stifling.

Across the hangar stood the inert Aegis Gundam. Memories trickled back, as they did every time Athrun laid eyes on his old machine. Now Andy was piloting it, lending to it a distinctive new crimson and black Phase Shift color scheme that Athrun liked better than Aegis's old pink熔r coral, as he had unsuccessfully tried to insist to his teammates in the Le Creuset team. Not even Nicol had bought that one.

Glancing over to the Aegis's left, Athrun decided that that was the good thing about Yzak's Duel. It might have been a lackluster machine, but at least it wasn't pink.

The smile left Athrun's face as other memories associated with the Aegis came back. He saw Kira again, inside the Strike, in the Marshall Islands. Their friends lay dead, and they were at each other's throats. The screams still rang in his ears揺e had not even realized it as he had transformed the Aegis and clamped it onto the Strike. It was all a blur; his anger had consumed him, Kira's anger had consumed him, and in the end all it amounted to was two dead friends, two trashed mobile suits, Dearka and the Buster being captured, and Kira and Athrun both being injured. Revenge had gotten neither of them anywhere.

Unless one counted their new mobile suits, but Athrun certainly was not. The Justice was a nice machine, but no mobile suit was worth self-destructing a friendship for.

Athrun's thoughts were interrupted as Mwu La Fllaga sauntered up by the Justice's cockpit.

"Any particular reason why you're staring at Andy's mobile suit?" he asked, taking a healthy swig of whatever was in that bottle he had輸thrun had a sneaking suspicion that Mwu had made a policy of keeping himself sloshed around Yzak.

"It's just got a lot of memories," Athrun said quietly, looking away. "It's nothing. I'm fine."

"You could have your head torn off and you'd say you're fine, kid," Mwu chuckled. He glanced at the Aegis himself. "You still thinking of the war?"

Athrun didn't answer, and Mwu took that as a yes.

"So," Mwu went on, looking around the hangar for himself, "you hear anything new about that Alliance ship?" Athrun shook his head, staring mutely at the Justice's deactive armor. Mwu glanced back at Athrun and immediately felt irritated as he said nothing. "Okay, what's your problem?"

Athrun blinked in surprise as Mwu spun around to face him, moving directly into his line of sight.

"All you've done is sit here and angst," Mwu went on, glaring. "Is this about Kira?" The mention of Kira struck a painful chord, and for a moment Athrun saw again the Freedom charging towards him, Kira shrieking in rage as Athrun tried to figure out what he had done to make Kira so angry. Mwu scowled and grabbed Athrun by the shoulders, shaking him harshly. "Snap out of it! I miss Kira too; he was a good kid, but he's gone now! Get over it!"

Athrun closed his eyes. "I know," he said quietly. "But the Aegis was my mobile suit...and I fought Kira in it." He looked back up at Mwu. "We were best friends, but we fought like animals and we almost killed each other. And in Orb, I thought we'd gotten past that...but I guess we didn't."

Mwu's scowl faded away. "Yeah," he mumbled. "Even so, though, Kira's gone now. What we have to do is focus on retaking Orb, so we can have a place where you kids don't have to be on the battlefield and wind up like Kira." He let go of Athrun. "At the very least, lighten up a bit. The last thing we need is you being anymore depressing than Yzak."

Athrun smiled in spite of himself. "He's not so bad once you get to know him."

Mwu snorted dismissively. "Well, I'm not gonna wait that long," he shot back. He got up and headed back down the gantry.

Athrun heaved a sigh and looked back down into the cockpit of the Justice.

A place where we don't have to be on the battlefield...

He ducked inside and returned to work.

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Research, Lacus Clyne had found, was a difficult task to carry out alone, particularly when the field of data to be culled into something useful was about a million articles strong. But she was a Coordinator taking on punishing workloads was supposed to be well within her 堵enetic operational parameters, as the scientists had put it. Her fatigue, she surmised, was purely psychological.

The search engines were starting to strain under the weight of her demands, so she sat back to stretch her coiling muscles and return some semblance of life to the rest of her body. Her hours of research had availed her a clear picture of some invisible hand in the PLANTs that swept Gilbert Dullindal to power. But her reason for this conclusion was only intuitive, uncorroborated by actual evidence. Blue Cosmos had claimed responsibility; the man who was named as the assassin was a known Blue Cosmos associate; there was nothing to indicate that Dullindal had bought any of the votes that swept him into office. It all looked so clean.

Of course it all looks clean, she reminded herself. Rau Le Creuset would expect nothing less.

Lacus shook her head. Of course Rau Le Creuset had a hand in this. He had a hand in everything, because, it seemed, he knew everything. And anyone who came too close to figuring out just how much he really knew would never be in a position to reveal it.

She thought back bitterly to Kira Yamato, sobbing in her arms after a misadventure on the Mendel colony. His pain was no stranger to her where Kira had had his conception of life torn down by Rau Le Creuset and his cackling history, she had had hers torn down by Patrick Zala and his ruthless gunmen. But her father could not have died for a political struggle she had been determined to make his death mean more. Too many people had died just so that one man could have power over another, or to decide which men would have power over which. But her father would not be one of them. And to that end, she became the political outlaw and the rebel leader she never thought she would be, taking on the tactics of people she had only known in history books. And when she had finally met up with Kira Yamato once again, only then did she feel safe enough to cry.

Now, as Lacus surveyed the world that Kira痴 sacrifice had brought about, she wanted to cry again.

But this time she did not feel safe.

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Atlantic Federation Archangel-class battleship Mephistopheles, Pacific Ocean

The simulator rocked as the boy inside feverishly did battle with imaginary enemies.

典ake it easy, Jack, Alison warned him from by the simulator seat痴 side. 泥on稚 get too worked up.

Jack calmed down a little, but the simulator still shook. Alison sighed, shaking her head and smiling. She glanced over at the side monitors, checking over his vitals. He was eager to take on the great Justice Gundam again.

The simulator痴 preprogrammed mission ended with another resounding victory for the energetic Extended, and he leapt out of the chair eagerly, looking to Alison.

泥one in five minutes and thirty-two seconds, she said. 添ou shaved off three seconds from the last time.

The light in Jack痴 eyes vanished as Peterson strode in, clipboard in hand. Alison stopped herself from taking a step to put herself between Jack and Peterson he was still a colleague, who still had to be treated with respect, even if treating Jack with respect remained a foreign concept.

溺ajor, the doctor said with a perfunctory salute. 滴is simulator assignment is finished already?

的n five-thirty-two, she answered with just as perfunctory a salute of her own. Peterson consulted his clipboard.

的n that case, he said, 努e値l have to prepare the Psyco System痴 test module.

Jack went white with horror Alison narrowed her eyes. 展hy? she asked. 展e haven稚 run any of the medical tests.

鼎olonel Rico Barbosa of the Special Forces is coming here, Peterson said, casting a hawkish glance towards Jack. 滴e痴 very interested in the Psyco System, and would like to see a demonstration.

展e can稚 do that, Alison snapped. 添ou know what effect it has on him. It痴 too dangerous to run tests on it whenever some officer wants.

典hen why are we bothering testing it? Peterson shot back. 典his is an order, Major, and we can稚 very well ignore it. Colonel Barbosa will be expecting us to show him the extent of Jack痴 performance under the system. He looked at Jack again. 鄭nd he can稚 disappoint.

Jack took a horrified, wordless step back, his eyes wide with fear.

添-You池e not gonna let them do it, are you? he asked quietly, looking at Alison.

She glared back at Peterson.

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Technically, the bridge crew wasn稚 supposed to be chattering at all, ever, so long as they were operating on the bridge. But Ian Lee was not a man for protocol demanding his men to not act like men always led to lots of repressed feelings, which would inevitably come out with some sort of scandalous crime, followed by an ugly and dramatic court-martial and an accompanying media storm about whether or not active-duty personnel in the Atlantic Federation armed forces should actually be allowed to have sex during deployments and that meant giving a few very awkward interviews.

He shook his head at the disturbing memories. The old policy of 電on稚 ask, don稚 tell really would have come in handy back then. He had not asked, and he certainly did not want to be told.

Besides, Lee reasoned, the crew under his command was disciplined and professional enough to know where the line was and what would happen if they crossed it. And that was about all Lee asked of them. Other officers demanded loyalty to the tenets of Blue Cosmos, or immaculate physical appearance, but so long as Lee痴 men followed the rules and did their jobs, he really didn稚 care if they liked to listen to Lacus Clyne in their bunks.

Sitting back in the captain痴 chair with a steaming mug of coffee in hand, he idly listened to the quiet chatter of the bridge crew. They were nervous, he surmised, about going into action again. After all, this same crew, under the hawkish gaze of Vice Admiral Bartholomew Stone, had nearly been killed in February of CE 72 by an Earth Alliance science project gone wrong. Now they had another one of those science projects aboard, and they were justifiably antsy.

The towering Lieutenant Murphy emerged from the darkened CIC. Lee glanced over his shoulder, returning the XO痴 salute.

鼎aptain, message from headquarters, he said, handing over a piece of paper. Lee took it and glanced over it, but he immediately blinked in surprise and read it more closely.

典hey池e sending a Special Forces unit here? he asked, looking up at Murphy. 典he Barbosa unit?

典hey said it was because of the Extended, Murphy answered, shrugging his titanic shoulders. 湯Maintaining operational integrity or something.

釘ut we池e still in pursuit, Lee muttered, looking back at the paper. 的f we stop to pull into port, we might lose the trail.

Murphy adjusted his shirt痴 cuffs uneasily. 鄭ctually sir, we池e, uh, not supposed to pull into port.

Lee blinked. 展e池e not? He looked back over the bridge, out the windows and towards the sea. 典hey池e going to dock?

典hey didn稚 specify, said Murphy. 釘ut we were told to prepare for their arrival, which should be in about a week. They池e taking off from Heaven痴 Base right now.

Lee shook his head in irritation. 泥on稚 we already have enough passengers?

典he Barbosa unit is bringing mobile suits as well, Murphy added, 澱ut I don稚 know if Colonel Barbosa will make it a point of superseding your authority, sir.

徹f course he will, snorted Lee, 鍍hat man痴 ego is bigger than a space colony. He shook his head again. 的t痴 an order. Prepare for the Barbosa unit痴 arrival. Open up bunk space and hangar space, and inform me when their transport comes closer.

Murphy saluted dutifully and dove back into the CIC. Lee heaved a sigh and took a healthy swig of coffee. Nobody, it seemed, would ever get out of his way and let him just do his job.

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June 20th, CE 73 - Orb Raiders dreadnaught Megami, Pacific Ocean

Miriallia wasn稚 sure where she had found the picture, or, anymore, who had found it. She suspected it had been Sai he was the one she knew could rely on the most. They were partners on the bridge, both secure and driven by the knowledge that they were the eyes, ears, and voice of the Megami. And everyone with the eyes and ears to see and hear had seen and heard her pain during the war.

That, she supposed, was why whoever had given her the picture of herself and Tolle on the wall next to her bunk had done so.

War had certainly changed her, and not, she guessed, for the better. She was certainly more mature watching one痴 boyfriend get blown up in battle by someone who, a few months later, would be a comrade tended to have that effect but that maturity had come at the cost of lives. And what had it been for? She had asked Kira to be frank, some time after that fateful battle in the Marshall Islands. And frank he had been he painted a picture of a heated battle with Athrun, and Tolle rushing in to help, as he always did. Athrun turned, acting, Kira suspected, more out of reflex than anything else, slamming the Aegis痴 shield into the Skygrasper痴 cockpit. After that, Kira said he remembered nothing his own rage had clouded his memory, and the only thing he could remember was the burning need to kill his friend, and the thundering blast that ended it all.

And that in itself invoked another bitter image, of her friend Kira, suffering as always, but shelving the agony of fighting his best friend in order to protect the Archangel. And then he returned at Alaska to protect the Archangel again, this time in his powerful new Freedom Gundam, and this time he had voluntarily accepted the burden of using that unstoppable machine to end the war. But Milly couldn稚 forget the more candid moments, where she could look into Kira痴 eyes and see the scars etched there. He had taken on a superhuman task, but in those moments where he壇 merely pick at his food, or his feverish work on the Freedom would pause, or when Torii alighted on his shoulder, he was merely human after all.

And, like Tolle, he was gone too.

Whenever her thoughts drifted to Tolle, Milly mused bitterly, they would inevitably find their way to Athrun Zala, the one who had killed him. Immediately, her trained reflex kicked in he didn稚 know Tolle, she reminded herself; he was angry and not thinking straight; he was doing his duty, just as she did her duty by serving on a battleship that killed hundreds of young ZAFT soldiers and undoubtedly left as many girls in the PLANTs as heartbroken as she was. It was what happened in war.

But even though that reflex kept her from lashing out at the somber blue-haired soldier, it never made her feel any better.

A sharp knock at her door interrupted her thoughts, and a moment later, Dearka burst in, looking anxious.

典urn the TV on, he said brusquely, switching the monitor on as he did so. 展e致e got a problem.

The screen flashed to life with an image of the misery Unato Ema Seiran, standing amid a dazzling blaze of flashbulbs, behind a podium emblazoned with Orb痴 national symbol, with Orb壮 sprawling National Assembly arrayed before him. Unato raised a hand to silence the bulbs and voices.

展hat痴 he doing? Milly asked, glancing at Dearka. The dark-skinned man clenched his fists angrily.

滴e痴 making our life harder, Dearka said.

摘arlier today, the gravelly but firm voice of the Seiran patriarch began, 努e witnessed an audacious attack by the desperate holdouts of the Athha family痴 supporters on our naval facilities on Onogoro Island. One of our battleships, the Akamaiou, was stolen by the terrorists in the fighting, and over four hundred Orb soldiers were killed or wounded. We have now seen the lengths to which these Athha holdouts will go in preserving the late Representative Uzumi痴 policies against our own.

典his use of force against our legitimate rule is unacceptable, and will not be tolerated, Unato said. 典he cult of personality that surrounds the late Representative is a threat to our nation, and those who would defy our democratic institution and challenge us through acts of violence rather than debate shall be treated as the criminals they are. Tonight I am announcing a new policy aimed at cracking down on these terrorists before they can strike again. We will give them no quarter, and Orb police and military will be given the tools they need in a legislative package to secure the peace for our country.

Milly glanced over at Dearka, as he glowered at the screen.

展e池e going to Orb soon? Milly asked.

Dearka nodded. 展e壇 better get to the bridge.

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The speech had not been long, but it had been long enough to send Cagalli into a frightful brood. She sat and simmered on the bridge of the Megami, ignoring the pundits as they descended like vultures upon Unato痴 speech. The bridge crew was mostly assembled, and the pilots all had found somewhere to sit or stand as well, watching their leader uneasily.

展ell, Andy spoke up, leaning back and somehow still looking casual in a nearby chair, a steaming mug of coffee in hand, 努e can稚 let that go unanswered.

Cagalli said nothing, grinding her teeth. How could Unato dare say that the Athha loyalists were destroying Orb, when the Seirans were steadily pushing the country towards destruction? She glanced at the bridge doors as Milly and Dearka arrived, Dearka looking annoyed and Milly trying to be unnoticed as she slid into her usual spot at the communications console.

展e have to go to Orb, Cagalli snapped. All eyes turned to her in surprise.

的f we do that, Athrun spoke up, 鍍hen he値l just hunt us down and kill us when we get there.

釘esides, we can稚 take the Seirans on alone, Mwu added, crossing his arms. 展e don稚 have an army.

展e have to do something! Cagalli exclaimed.

Milly blinked in surprise as her console beeped; all eyes turned towards her. 展e池egetting a message, she said. 擢rom Orb.

擢rom Orb? Mwu asked, sitting up and frowning. 展ho?

The screen flickered to life, and Cagalli痴 eyes flashed furiously.

鼎agalli, the voice of Jona Roma Seiran said. 的t痴 been a long time.

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To be continued