Phase 04 - Kingdom of Blood

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED - Soldiers of Old

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Phase 04 - Kingdom of Blood

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

添ou!

Cagalli leapt up out her seat, pointing vindictively at the grinning politico.

溺y my, Jona chuckled, 努hen you don稚 want to be found, you certainly don稚 want to be found. He draped one leg over the other, casual and smiling, leaning back. 擢ortunately, I am not without a heart. Surely you must be seething over my father痴 announcement, and I certainly wouldn稚 want to interrupt such a towering rage. But I do have a proposition. He paused dramatically, relishing the scowling faces on the bridge of the Megami. 添ou don稚 know how much political prestige you have in Orb, Cagalli. Even with this little disappearance of yours, if you should return, you値l be the closest thing Orb has to a messiah. Imagine what you could do with all that prestige. Imagine the laws you could pass, the changes you could enact, the new way forward you could takeif only you returned.

鼎ome back to Orb, Cagalli, he said. 典here is much waiting here for you. For example, some time before his death, your father arranged for you a marriage. His grin widened a little as he noticed the color leave her face. 典o me.

展hat makes you think it will be honored? Murrue snapped. 鼎agalli will marry who she pleases. Lord Uzumi would not have had it any other way.

徹h, au contraire, le Capitaine! laughed Jona. 鏑ord Uzumi was as much an aristocrat as the rest of us. An exceedinglyidealistic one, perhaps, but he was not so unsullied as to not partake in our games of marrying our young off to one another for political purposes. I have it in writing. Come see for yourself, if you like. He flashed a Cheshire grin at the Megami痴 bridge crew, and the simmering blonde at the center. 釘ut let痴 be realistic, shall we? The grin vanished. 的f you should return to Orb as you are now as the knight of Uzumi Nara Athha and his failed policies, as the leader of the terrorist Orb Raiders you would be greeted as the bearer of Lord Uzumi痴 standard, upon which is written his legacy. And his legacy is the first military invasion our nation has ever endured since our nation痴 formation. Our census bureau reports that some 14,000 people were killed by the Atlantic Federation痴 invasion. Orb citizens, Cagalli. Civilians. Our economy has still not yet fully recovered from our tenure as the Atlantic Federation痴 protectorate. All because Lord Uzumi had to stand by his policy in the face of the Atlantic Federation痴 firepower. Do you think the people of Orb, who had to rebuild their homes and carry on without their children or parents or friends, see that policy as you do?

滴ow dare you talk to me about that policy when you池e the ones who invited them in after the war?! Cagalli shot back. 添ou invited Atlantic Federation businessmen, personally, to your own home! You met with them face to face! The ones who invaded our country and burned it down!

鼎ome now, Cagalli, Jona chuckled, 登ur economy was in ruins. Foreign investment was the key to getting it working again. And they brought with them big money to get our people working and our cities bustling again. There is far more to governing than coming up with a policy and sticking to it regardless of what happens. The smile returned. 的magine the alliance of the Seirans and the Athhas if you were to return and fulfill your father痴 promise. Imagine the solidarity with which an Athha-Seiran government could move forward. Imagine the steps we could take to truly repair our country and become the envy of the world again. You only need to come back and join me.

Cagalli glared over at Milly. 鼎ut the transmission, she growled.

添ou値l regret that, Jona warned.

哲ot as much as I壇 regret bowing to you, spat the blonde girl. She glared at Milly again. 鼎ut the transmission.

The screen went dark, and Cagalli seethed.

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Atlantic Federation Archangel-class battleship Mephistopheles, Pacific Ocean

鄭dmiral Tapang, Lee said in a measured voice, trying to stay respectful, 的 understand your concern, but we can handle this ship ourselves. It won稚 be necessary to send ships to assist us.

的 am dispatching my fleet anyway, the lined admiral in the pristine white uniform said. 展e will not allow any compromise of the territorial integrity of the Equatorial Union. The fleet will depart from Singapore in three days. That is all. The screen went dark.

典hank you, sir, Lee muttered, glaring back.

Murphy emerged from the CIC, glancing over at the screen himself, and then back at Lee. 鉄ir, he began, 妬sn稚 this a good thing? They喪e reinforcements, after all.

的f these were reinforcements from the Atlantic Federation, all under my command or willing to cooperate, then yes, it would be, Lee explained, sitting up in agitation. 釘ut these guys won稚 be under my command, and they値l be from the Equatorial Union. That means a big mess of procedures and protocols, and a political storm, and a diplomatic mess, and all of that paperwork that I don稚 need to be dealing with. He shook his head. 典hey stuck us with this Extended, then they send a Special Forces unit, now they池e sending foreign troops too. Do they want us to do our job or not?

展ell, hopefully the commander will be more reasonable than the politicians, Murphy said with a thin smile.

滴opefully, Lee agreed, sighing heavily. 的nform High Command that the Equatorial Union has contacted us. I doubt they鼠l be happy.

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Orb Raiders dreadnaught Megami, Pacific Ocean

Yzak Jule had watched mechanics repair his trusty Duel Gundam so many times that he could do it himself by now. And he was thus doing exactly that, sitting back in the cockpit with a cup of coffee Andy refused to allow the crew to drink subpar coffee, though the only thing Yzak really cared about was whether or not it would keep him awake running diagnostics on the Duel壮 operating system. Usually, he recalled, the mechanics had swarmed over his machine to repair damage incurred by that scourge of the Le Creuset Team and the Zala Team, the unstoppable Strike.

He glanced at his dimmed reflection in the cockpit screen, focusing on the scar still torn into his face. As Andy had said, he had sworn something to that scarbut what did it mean now? Revenge on the Strike? It was Athrun who took revenge for Yzak痴 scar, for Nicol痴 death. And by the end of the war, he had problems all his own why worry about the Strike when his own friend, Dearka, was suddenly in the other side痴 trench?

And now, he mused, he was here, in the other side痴 trench.

He thought back to his old foe, the Strike, the emotionless machine that fought like a Coordinator and held off four ZAFT Reds. But now he was surrounded by people who knew its pilot a Coordinator, just like him, but on the side of the Earth Alliance, the enemy of the Coordinators. Why was he fighting? To protect his friends, they said. Wasn稚 he aware that he was fighting against his own kind, and for an army that, it seemed, was hell-bent on wiping out his own kind? He was aware, they said. What was he loyal to, to make him so noble?

Well, Yzak reminded himself, loyalty was only as noble as what one was loyal to. The image of his mother痴 body in the Duel痴 hand, bleeding and broken by vicious assault rifle rounds, was an abject lesson in that.

But that was what he wanted to put an end to, right? That was what Cagalli was trying to retake Orb and topple the Seirans for to build a little niche in the world where you wouldn稚 have to watch your mother die in the hand of a mobile suit. Wasn稚 that worth fighting for, worth dying for?

Then again, what was the point of fighting for a better world if you won稚 live to see it? You壇 lay your life down for the sake of others, but you壇 never know if what you fought for really was worth it.

He remembered his mother again, and not much else after that. They had told him that he壇 gone on the warpath, putting ZAFT to shame and tearing apart their mobile suits, his rampage ending only when Dearka and Athrun arrived to literally drag him out of the fight to, as they put it, 堵et you out of here before you get yourself killed.

He looked back at the scar. He could get it removed, he supposedbut it always reminded him of the war. It reminded him of the battle where he壇 received it the burning pain searing across his face, the blood, the agony, the horror and anger that washed through him when he saw his new face. It reminded him of the shuttle only later had he learned that it was full of refugees, not soldiers. It reminded him of Nicol the pain of the realization that for all his insults and pretenses, Nicol痴 death could still reduce him to a screaming wreck. It reminded him of his private war with Dearka pointing a gun at his best friend, not understanding why he said what he said, not understanding why they were enemies, but deep down, thinking that maybe he was right. And most of all, it reminded him of the pain.

That was the world Cagalli wanted to build. A world where you didn稚 have to feel that kind of pain.

So he decided that he would keep the scar.

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The Megami痴 open-air deck was a good place to ruminate, Athrun decided, staring out over the great vista of the Pacific Ocean. The great black ship sailed lazily over the waves. Somewhere out there, the Alliance was following, but they had not attacked for several days. That, of course, was troubling if they weren稚 attacking again, then they must be planning something. And with such formidable pilots in their roster, that something was undoubtedly going to be deadly.

But with no clues to go off of, the most Athrun Zala could do was wait and hope that next time would go better. Practice in a mobile suit battle only got one so far every battle was different, and getting locked into one routine would spell doom against a foe quick enough on the draw to discern the pattern.

He thought back instead to the overarching threat of Jona Roma Seiran. The grinning politician痴 ultimatum still rang in his ears, and he immediately felt an odd twinge of jealousy, finding himself competing with a scheming prince over Cagalli.

He rushed to quash those feelings. They were unseemly for a man of his breeding, he reminded himself; this was not grade school, where he could afford to get into glaring contests with other boys over the pretty girl in the middle. Now he was in the real world, and there were things that mattered far more than his emotions. He was there to protect Cagalli and help her however he could in achieving her goal, of a rebuilt Orb once again centered around Uzumi痴 neutrality policies. Her affections were not what he was fighting for. She was not an object.

As always, the doubting, mocking voice piped up. But wasn稚 treating her like an immaculate goddess that will bring peace and prosperity for all the same thing as treating her like an object?

Athrun shook his head. There was always doubt he could never be sure. He had fought Kira while filled with doubt; he had gone back to the PLANTs to find his fiancée an enemy of the state, and that filled him with doubt; he had finally decided that he couldn稚 fight for the medals his father gave him, but even then, he had to go back to his father to make sure that he was truly on the right path, and that filled him with doubt; he destroyed GENESIS, but Kira turned against him, and filled him with doubt; now he was on Earth, protecting Cagalli and fighting to create the world she wanted, but he was filled with doubt.

A man of his breeding could not allow doubt to overtake him, he reminded himself. Not with his responsibilities he had confidence in the abilities of his comrades, but also knew that he was forever Cagalli痴 last line of defense.

Absently, as always was the case, he wondered if he could ever have a normal relationship with the tempestuous princess. He was acutely aware that they were both only eighteen years old. He was acutely aware that the burdens they had taken on would be difficult for adults as old as Commander Bartfeldt would. It was what he had overheard Andy say was the saddest legacy of the Valentine War 徒ids trying to be gods. And he was acutely aware that most eighteen year olds like himself didn稚 have to set aside their relationship to foment a revolution or shake an Atlantic Federation battleship in pursuit.

And he was acutely aware that most eighteen-year-old boys didn稚 have to work for every touch their girlfriends allowed them.

He shook his head again. He was not most eighteen-year-old boys. He was a soldier, a man of high breeding, a bodyguard, Cagalli痴 emotional anchor. And as long as the world had greater needs, his own would have to wait.

He leaned forward against the railing, wondering how long that would be.

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Onogoro Island, United Emirates of Orb

The man fell to his knees, his face bloody, at the feet of two flak-jacketed, assault rifle-toting Orb soldiers. Broken and bleeding, the prisoner looked up at his captors, and came face to face with the grinning Jona Roma Seiran.

鏑ieutenant Kamakura, he said, tapping his foot in front of the prisoner痴 ruined face. 鄭re you aware of the particulars of the statute concerning treason?

The prisoner said nothing.

湯Should the defendant be proven to have aided and abetted an enemy of the United Emirates of Orb,樗 Jona quoted, 湯the required penalty is death.樗

Again, the prisoner was silent.

添ou see, the law ties my hands, Jona continued, 都o I can稚 actually commute your sentence or anything. So sorry. But we might be able to make this easier if you cooperate. He leaned down, smiling still. 哲ow, we致e already established that the ones who launch attacks on Orb in the name of the Athha family are terrorists. That痴 a fair assessment, is it not? And like any legitimate government, we must protect our people, should we not?

The prisoner痴 face twisted into a glare.

鉄o, you see, we can稚 allow these terrorists to continue this war against Orb. It痴 not safe. Why, just imagine if one of their car bombs found its way into a restaurant instead of a munitions depot. Think of all those dead civilians. We wouldn稚 want that, would we? He straightened up. 哲ow then, Lieutenant, let痴 make this simple. Tell us what you know about these terrorists we know you know much. And we壇 like to know too. And if you cooperate, you won稚 be executed. Oh no, no embarrassing record in your family痴 history, nothing like that. You壇 simply have a tragic accident. And you'd be buried with military honors, in the National Cemetery. Nobody would have to know what a traitor you were to your country and your people. It痴 the most I can do for you, you see. Do we have a deal?

The prisoner only glared back.

Jona shrugged. 的f you insist, he said. He glanced up at the soldiers. They nodded; Jona turned and headed out the door of the cell.

The gunshot rang out as Jona sauntered down the corridor.

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Orb Raiders dreadnaught Megami, Pacific Ocean

The door opened with a hiss, and Lacus Clyne again greeted Sai Argyle with a polite smile.

的 apologize for dragging you down here again, she said with a subtle bow of her head, 澱ut I知 afraid I need some help. She gestured towards her computer. 典here is another file that I need decrypted. I suppose I should have paid more attention in those computer classes in school.

Somehow, Sai had a hard time imagining Lacus Clyne as an inattentive student. 展ell, they don稚 teach you how to hack through encrypted files in school, he said with a shrug, taking a seat in front of her computer and setting to work. Once again, the file痴 meager protections proved no match for a seasoned computer expert, and before long, Sai and Lacus found themselves confronted with a detailed background about a haunted, disheveled-looking man called 迭amirez.

典hat痴 him, Lacus said, leaning forward intently. 典hat痴 the person who assassinated Chairwoman Canaver.

典he Blue Cosmos guy? Sai asked, arching an eyebrow. Lacus shook her head.

釘lue Cosmos claimed responsibility for it, she explained, 殿nd all the evidence pointed to them. But at the same time, a number of sources about this man痴 past disappeared. But this she paused to tap a few keys, scanning the document for the name of Blue Cosmos, 電oes not say anything about Blue Cosmos.

Sai blinked. 釘lue Cosmos didn稚 do it, then?

Lacus straightened up, shaking her head. 哲o, she said, 鍍his was the work of Rau Le Creuset.

Sai looked between the screen and Lacus, not connecting the dots. What did Rau Le Creuset have to do with any of this? He thought back to the hulking machine that Kira had fought at Jachin Due a ZAFT Gundam that Athrun had said had Rau Le Creuset in its cockpit. But what did he have to do with assassinations and politics?

鏑e Creuset must have hired this man to kill Chairwoman Canaver, Lacus explained, sensing Sai痴 confusion, 殿nd planted the evidence to make it look as if Blue Cosmos did the killing. And Blue Cosmos is the first group that most people will blame for this sort of incident.

Sai blinked again. 滴e has that much power?

滴e痴 one of the most powerful men in the world, Lacus said grimly.

Sai looked back at the screen, regarding the haunted face of Ramirez. 泥idn稚 Kira kill him?

He glanced up at Lacus, and for a moment, he caught a glimmer of pain in her eyes. It vanished an instant later, and she shook her head.

鏑e Creuset is an excellent pilot, she said sadly. 摘ven Kira would be hard-pressed to keep up with him.

Sai kicked himself for mentioning Kira. 的知 sorry, he began, 的 didn稚 mean He cut himself off, looking back up at her. 展ellI miss him too, I guess.

Lacus glanced at him quizzically.

展e went to school together on Heliopolis, Sai explained with a shrug, 澱ut he was always better than me, because he was a Coordinator.

釘eing a Coordinator doesn稚 make anyone better than anyone else, Lacus pointed out. 添ou are good at some things, and Kira was good at others.

典hat痴 what he said, Sai said with a sad smile. 的 guess he痴 rightbut watching him fight in the Strike and then the Freedom, it was always hard to remember that. He stood up and took a step back.

添ou play an important role as well, Lacus said. 適ira痴 role may have been flashier and more dramatic, but that does not make yours any less important.

的 know, Sai said with another shrug. 的t痴 a thankless job.

Lacus took his hand gently; he blinked again in surprise.

的t doesn稚 have to be, she said. 典hank you, Sai, for helping to keep us safe.

Sai smiled back.

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June 21st, CE 73 - Atlantic Federation Archangel-class battleship Mephistopheles, Pacific Ocean

NO!

A chair went sailing across the simulator room as Jack O辿ara struggled against the overpowering strength of a handful of white-coated technicians.

鉄top fighting us, Peterson said from across the room, arms crossed, glowering furiously at the screaming boy. 展e are on a tight schedule, and we have to run more tests.

I DON探 WANNA DO IT AGAIN! Jack shrieked. It痴 gonna kill me! IT担 GONNA KILL ME!

添ou exist for no other purpose than to make this system work! Peterson snapped. 哲ow stop fighting us!

The door slid open with a hiss, and Peterson cast his burning eyes towards Alison MacIntyre as she stormed into the room, her face livid.

展hat the hell is going on in here?! she demanded, jabbing a vindictive finger at him. 撤eterson! Explain yourself!

的 told you, we池e running another test on the Psyco System, he shot back. 典his Extended has no worth to us if we don稚 continue testing this system.

鏑ook at him! Alison exclaimed, pointing at Jack as the technicians forced him to his knees. 滴e can稚 handle it! We can稚 overwork him, or else he値l die, and then what good will your damn Psyco System be?!

Peterson glared at her for a moment, before glancing at the technicians. They dutifully released Jack, letting him topple to the floor. Alison helped him back up.

滴e痴 going back to the maintenance pod, she said resolutely. 迭un the test later.

The door opened again, and this time Ian Lee strode in, flanked by two armed guards.

溺y crew reports a disturbance down here, he intoned, casting a commanding gaze across the room. 溺ajor. Would you care to explain, or shall I have to take more punitive measures to ensure that my ship isn稚 torn apart by infighting?

Alison glanced warily at a fuming Peterson. 的 apologize, captain, she said. 的t was unprofessional to get into a shouting match. It won稚 happen again.

Lee cast a dour glance at Jack, slumped over next to Alison, supported only by her arms. 鄭nd what痴 happened to him?

She looked down pointedly at him and hoisted him up further. 泥octor Peterson was attempting to run more tests on the Psyco System, she explained, 澱ut Jack is obviously in no condition to continue.

的t痴 a system that will revolutionize mobile suit combat, captain, Peterson added, stepping forward. 的magine how effective our pilots would be if they could directly interface with the complex programming of a mobile suit.

的t痴 a sensory overload, Alison shot back. 哲ot even a Coordinator can handle that much information all at once.

Lee held up a hand to silence them both.

的 will not have you two fighting aboard my ship, he said. 溺ajor, return Jack to his maintenance pod. Doctor, while I respect your determination to get this system working, Jack O辿ara remains a pilot under my command, and I will not allow you to take him or his machine out of action. Is that understood?

Peterson痴 glare was almost imperceptible. 添es sir, he said, with a dutiful salute.

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Orb Raiders dreadnaught Megami, Pacific Ocean

擢ifty more suspected Athha loyalists were rounded up today in a military raid in the northern wilderness, as reported by the Orb Ministry of Defense, the anchor intoned. On the bridge of the Megami, Cagalli stewed, glowering furiously at the screen as she watched her followers being led into a waiting truck by flak-jacketed Orb troops.

典hat was Akai痴 unit, Andy said dourly from his haunt towards the back of the bridge. 的 hope they didn稚 find his M1 units.

展e have to do something! Cagalli growled, standing up and turning towards the rest of the bridge. 的 can稚 take this! We池e sitting here and waiting and abandoning them!

的t痴 not that simple Murrue began from the captain痴 seat.

展hat are we going to have left to fight with if we don稚 go help them?! Cagalli shot back.

鉄he痴 got a point, Andy admitted with a shrug. 展e池e watching our army get disintegrated here. He looked back at Cagalli. 釘ut we can稚 just waltz into Orb and yell at the Seirans until they stop. They池e going to be ready for us.

Cagalli slumped back into her chair, seething.

鼎ould we ask the Sahakus for help? Andy added.

迭ondo Mina Sahaku won稚 help us, Cagalli answered, clenching her teeth. 鉄he was my father痴 enemy. She wouldn稚 help me.

釘esides, she痴 lying low on Ame-no-Mihashira for a reason, Murrue put in. 鄭nd the Sahakus are the last family you want to owe anything to.

Cagalli put her head in her hands, grumbling in frustration. 鄭re we supposed to sit here and watch everything fall apart?

Murrue paused, before leaning forward. 鄭rnold, she said, 堵ive us a map of the South Pacific, centered on Orb.

Neumann glanced over his shoulder. 添es ma誕m, he answered, duly bringing the map up on the main screen. Cagalli looked up inquisitively as Murrue stood, pointing to it.

笛ona knew how to get in touch with us, she said, 澱ut it痴 been over a day and it doesn稚 look like he痴 sent any forces after us. She turned around to face Cagalli. 鉄o this crackdown on our allies in Orb must be the bait for a trap.

典hat痴 why we have to go and help them! Cagalli insisted.

釘ut it痴 a trap, Andy pointed out. 典hey値l expect us to come in, guns blazing.

鉄o, on that assumption, Murrue continued, 鍍hey値l probably throw substantial force at us if we fall for the trap. She pointed back at the map, and the outline of Orb痴 array of islands. 的f we get close enough to Orb, we can draw all those forces into a chase after us, which means our allies will have a chance to get underground and safe.

釘ut then we値l have Orb forces chasing us, Cagalli protested. 展e can稚 do anything if they have us on the run.

的 steered this ship through the mother of all space battles, ma疎m, Neumann spoke up from the helm. 鄭 few surface ships won稚 be a problem.

展e can lose them in the Indonesian islands, Murrue added. 展e池e faster and better-armed. And they値l be butting up against that Alliance Archangel-class that attacked us a while ago.

Cagalli looked to Andy; he nodded almost imperceptibly.

鄭re you sure we can pull this off? she asked. Murrue nodded. Cagalli looked back up at the screen. 徹kay, she said, 都et course for Orb.

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To be continued