Phase 05 - Agent of the Devil

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED - Soldiers of Old

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Phase 05 - Agent of the Devil

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June 24th, CE 73 - Orb Raiders dreadnaught Megami, Philippine Sea

擢ive warships closing in from four o団lock! Miriallia痴 voice rang through the bridge, as the Megami sliced forward through the waves.

的s it Orb? Murrue asked, peering ahead over the blurry horizon. Thick black clouds had gathered overhead, spewing rain and lightning, obscuring everything under a sickly gray-green pall. A bolt of lightning ripped through the sky, illuminating the sea in a flash, and for a moment five dots on the horizon appeared in formation.

展e池e still two days out from Orb, Neumann muttered. 鼎aptain

的t must be an open ocean patrol, Murrue concluded. 摘ither that or they knew we were coming.

典here are mobile suits overhead too! Milly added urgently. 鄭t least thirty in the air!

典hey knew we were coming, Murrue said. 溺obile suits, prepare to launch! We値l engage them ship-to-ship!

In the hangar, Athrun Zala snapped his helmet visor shut as he scrambled down the gantry towards the Justice痴 cockpit. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of Cagalli in her distinct pink flight suit, racing towards the waiting Strike Rouge.

鼎agalli! he called out. 添ou池e going out too?!

徹f course I am! Cagalli shot back, lunging into the Strike Rouge痴 cockpit and slamming the hatch shut.

Athrun cursed under his breath. 添ou always do this, he growled, leaping into his own machine and starting it up.

展hat the hell are you doing, Zala?! Move your slow ass! Yzak screamed, as the Duel stomped down in front of the Justice.

The Aegis marched past. 溺urasame teams, follow your commanders, Andy barked. 展e池e up against a squadron of warships and a helluva lot of air support! Move!

The Justice came to life with a green flash from its eyes. Athrun looked out at the stormy sky through the Megami痴 open catapult doors as he moved the Justice onto the catapult.

鄭thrun Zala, Justice, launching!

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Orb National Defense Headquarters, Onogoro Island, United Emirates of Orb

鄭dmiral, the commanding officer said with a sharp salute, 鍍he Akamaiou squadron has made contact with the Megami.

Standing atop the command room of the National Defense Headquarters, Jona smiled thinly over at his disgruntled-looking father. 展hether or not we militarily defeat them is irrelevant, father, he said reassuringly. 鉄o long as we get clear pictures of them fighting and killing Orb soldiers, we will win politically.

展e sent only five ships, Jona, Unato snapped back. 鄭re you sure that this will defeat them?

鏑ike I said, answered Jona testily, 努e win whether or not the Megami is sunk, so long as she fights back. He glanced over at the commander.

典hey致e launched mobile suits, he supplied. 典he Akamaiou squadron is moving to engage.

Jona smiled again at Unato.

添ou will take responsibility for this if it fails, Unato growled, turning and disappearing through the command room痴 door. Jona chuckled to himself as he looked back at the screens, of the video feeds that showed the Megami silhouetted against a stormy sky.

You can run and you can hide, Cagalli, but you can稚 escape.

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鼎ommander, the Murasame pilot began, 努hat are our orders?

Athrun Zala narrowed his eyes at the Strike Rouge, streaming through the air beside him, as Cagalli answered.

展e have to fight our way through and rescue what痴 left of our supporters in Orb, she said. Athrun frowned at the hint of hesitance in her voice. 擢ight to force the Orb fleet to retreat.

添ou heard her, Andy added, as the Aegis rocketed forward. 敵o!

The Murasames banked apart as the Gundams charged. Athrun narrowed his eyes at the approaching mobile suits, as the Orb Murasames swung into battle, releasing a swarm of missiles. Cursing, Athrun fired a CIWS volley into the missile armada, blasting them apart, and lunged over the explosion only to be met with a shower of beam blasts from a squadron of M1 Astrays, pounding against his shield.

溺urasame squadron, cover me! he cried, backing away and returning fire with his beam rifle. One of the M1s lost an arm, but the rest kept coming. Another flurry of missiles came streaking down from a quartet of Murasames behind the Justice, pounding against the M1s shields and knocking one of them out of the sky.

Athrun cast a rapid glance over at the Strike Rouge, as it went streaking towards the fleet below. 的s she insane?! he cried. 溺urasames, follow me! The Justice rocketed after the Strike Rouge, plowing through beam fire from another squad of M1s. An enemy Murasame swept in behind him, spewing beam fire Athrun scowled and released the Justice痴 subflight lifter, slamming the Murasame back as the Justice itself plunged down towards the ocean.

展hat the hell are you doing, Zala?! Yzak痴 voice screamed through the speakers. 添ou池e going to crash!

Athrun brushed it off, squeezing off a shot as he splashed down and picking off an M1 as it moved in behind the Strike Rouge for a killing shot. The subflight lifter came down next, slamming back into place, and Athrun took off along the water痴 surface, streaking underneath the return fire of the ships and their mobile suit defenders.

Aboard the Megami, shells exploded around the ship, rattling it to the core. Murrue narrowed her eyes up ahead at the fleet.

展e can稚 just sit here and wait to get shot down, she muttered. 鼎handra, start targeting the ships! Neumann, I値l leave evasive maneuvers to you!

The Megami slowly banked aside as another volley of shells whistled by, one of them clipping the tip of the ship痴 portside wing. The portside Valiant opened fire, but its shell splashed harmlessly in the water next to an Aegis battleship, as it returned fire again.

Down below, a flurry of beam shots drove back the Strike Rouge and the four Murasames on its flanks. The Justice darted up into their path, taking the brunt of the attack with its shield and firing back with its beam cannons, wiping out another M1 Astray on the deck of an Aegis battleship.

鏑et the Megami handle the ships! Athrun shouted. 展e need to take care of the mobile suits first!

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A cloud of missiles came slamming into the Duel Gundam痴 armor, scorching its Assault Shroud and rattling its shield. Yzak clenched his teeth as his machine went reeling back, and fired a railgun shell through the smoke, blowing an enemy Murasame out of the air. The scarred Duel lunged out of the smoke, squeezing off another shot from its beam rifle and forcing another Murasame to desperately veer aside easy prey for a Murasame at his side to cut it down with its beam saber.

A shell from one of the Orb ships slammed into the allied Murasame, sending it spiraling down to the ocean in flames.

泥ammit! Yzak growled. 的 already lost one!

泥on稚 feel bad, Dearka痴 voice answered, scratchy and coarse. 的 lost one too.

The Duel whirled around, firing a beam rifle shot again to pick off an incoming M1 Astray. 的t痴 like they want us to fight them! Another M1 came streaking in from behind, beam saber upraised Yzak turned and jetted backwards, dodging its killing slash and piercing its cockpit with another beam rifle shot. 典hey池e not sending any mobile suits after the ship!

Up above, a thundering explosion signaled the death of another M1, and the Aile Strike dove out of the blast. 典hey池e not!? Mwu exclaimed. Megami, confirm! Are they sending any mobile suits after you?!

哲egative, Milly痴 voice answered. 徹nly the ships are attacking.

典hen what the hell are they fighting us for?! Mwu snapped. The Aile Strike dodged one beam shot and deflected another with its shield. 的s this the trap?!

的知 not picking up anything else! Sai put in. 徹nly those five ships and their mobile suits!

典hen what is this? Murrue wondered.

Down below, the Strike Rouge and Justice went streaking towards the fleet, their squadrons of Murasames right behind them.

的f this is a trap, Athrun said dourly, 鍍hen we need to get through this fleet quickly, before they close the trap on us.

The ships opened fire again the mobile suits darted apart, but one of the Murasames was blown out of the sky. Cagalli ground her teeth furiously.

展e致e already lost four mobile suits! she exclaimed. 典hey池e She was cut off by another shell, slamming the Strike Rouge head-on.

鼎agalli! Athrun shouted, darting in front of the staggering Rouge and shooting down the next shell. Megami, we can稚 handle this ourselves! Give us some support!

On the Megami, Murrue glanced over at Neumann. 溺ove us forward, and engage those ships at point-blank range! Fire the Gottfrieds on my command!

釘ut at point-blank range we値l take too much enemy fire! Sai protested.

笛ust do it! Murrue shot back. The Megami plunged forward, CIWS blazing and cutting down missiles. Shells came slamming into the Megami痴 hull, tearing apart the jet-black armor, but the ship plowed forward.

敵ottfrieds, FIRE!

Eight thick green columns of energy lanced out from the battleship痴 smoking hull a moment later, four of the five warships snapped in two, exploding into four titanic clouds of smoke and fire and shrapnel. The Megami swept through the wreckage, spewing smoke, and slowly banked around for another pass but an instant later, the remaining ship, itself damaged, fired flares up into the air.

典hey池e retreating?! Cagalli exclaimed. The Orb mobile suits, many of them damaged and smoking, pulled back, returning to the remaining ship. Megami, what痴 our condition?

哲ot good, Murrue answered, her voice broken by the static. 展e致e taken some pretty bad damage and we宋e lost five Murasames. We need to set down somewhere and repair before we can start provoking Orb some more.

Cagalli bit back a curse under her breath. 徹ur supporters in Orb aren稚 going to last that long!

哲either will we if we pick a fight with Orb like this, Mwu pointed out. 鼎aptain, how about Leyte Gulf? No one痴 lived there since at least the Reconstruction Wars.

A flash of lightning lit up the sky. Athrun glanced over at the Orb battleship, as the mobile suits clustered around it and slowly began to move back towards the horizon.

鼎agalli, he said, 斗et痴 go to Leyte Gulf. We値l figure things out from there.

Cagalli bowed her head, silent, as the mobile suits returned to the stricken Megami.

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The Aegis shuddered to a halt in the hangar as the Megami raced towards Leyte Gulf. Even as he opened the cockpit, Andy could see some of the damage inside. An armor-piercing shell had, true to its name, managed to bore its way at least a meter through the Megami痴 armor, blowing open a gaping hull in the port side of the hangar.

Andy pulled his helmet off with a sigh, running a hand through his hair. 典hat didn稚 go well, he said.

Down below, Murdoch screamed something not quite intelligible at the other mechanics, as the Strike Rouge staggered into the hangar. Andy shook his head Cagalli was bound to throw a fit over this, of course.

And, he had to admit, he couldn稚 blame her. Things were starting to fall apart already instead of being greeted as the leaders of a glorious revolution, they were greeted by the guns of the Atlantic Federation.

The Strike Rouge came to a stop across the hangar, the cockpit hatch sliding open with a hiss, and Andy steeled himself for another tirade.

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June 25th, CE 73 - Equatorial Union Spengler-class aircraft carrier Sukarno, South China Sea

鉄ir, the deck officer said, a piece of paper in hand, 努e致e tracked the rogue ship to the Philippines.

Admiral Tapang, the grizzled, bronze-skinned man in a medal-laden white uniform, crossed his arms, staring stonily out at the blurry horizon. 展here is its destination? he asked, his voice rumbling across the bridge.

的t seems to be angling for Leyte Gulf, the officer answered, gesturing to a map of the Philippines and the surrounding areas. According to the Orb videos, the ship is moderately damaged.

典hen they probably intend to repair in Leyte Gulf, Tapang said. 典he Philippines in general have been largely uninhabited since the Reconstruction War, so it壮 an ideal place to hide. He glanced back at the officer. 溺ake way for Leyte Gulf and inform the Prime Minister of this change of events.

The officer shuffled off with a smart salute. Tapang returned his gaze to the horizon somewhere out there was the Philippines, where the enemy was seeking refuge. But it was a wise choice, he supposed the Philippines had seen vicious fighting in the Reconstruction War, leading several cities to be outright abandoned. And because of the space colony boom after the war, there was little reason to move back. The rogues were choosing a graveyard to hide in so of course, his men would have to be respectful.

But that led him to wonder about the Atlantic Federation痴 ship. The captain had seemed reasonable enough but would that translate to respect for the dead? The Atlantic Federation did not have a good track record for respecting anything, from the lives of its chief ally痴 troops to the neutrality of an island nation with a mass driver and an idealistic leader. So obviously, the Sukarno had to get there first, and set the rules of engagement for the Atlantic Federation.

And, of course, there were the rogues themselves. Were they aware of the graveyard they were walking into? Tapang hoped so. But it was also worth noting that there were few people alive who remembered the Reconstruction War, or what had happened to the Philippines during it the air raids and gas attacks that killed thousands and drove millions to the north, towards China and Japan, to escape the raiders who waved guns and holy books. Once-proud cities lay empty would either side respect that?

Tapang glanced over at the communications officer. 摘nsign, he said, 堵et me a line to the Atlantic Federation ship, the Mephistopheles.

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Atlantic Federation Archangel-class battleship Mephistopheles, Philippine Sea

Jack O辿ara was sound asleep in his maintenance pod. Alison was grateful he had been unusually energetic earlier today, and Alison had feared that the technicians would need to use less gentle methods of calming him down. It was always difficult to watch them calm him down by force his life壮 purpose was violence, so the less of it he saw, the better.

Lee had mentioned that headquarters was sending Special Forces troops to the Mephistopheles to 登versee things. Alison wondered grimly what that was supposed to mean. The Extended project was normally the purview of the Special Forces, among other more shadowy units. It was unusual for a regular Atlantic Federation Navy unit like the Mephistopheles to be assigned an Extended particularly a unit under the command of an officer like Lieutenant Commander Ian Lee. He was competent, to be sure, but he was by no means a star so Alison couldn稚 explain why her important charge was being placed under the command of an average officer.

Jack stirred for a moment, and then drifted back to sleep. Alison settled back into her position against the wall, watching him silently. He was still a boy and, if Alison had been a decade younger and Jack had been the average boy that he looked like, she might have found him attractive. But he could not be attractive now not now, with all that had been done to him. He was the legacy of the Valentine War, of Lodonia Island, of Murata Azrael, of the Marshall Colony, of Althea Crater. Although Extended like Jack predated the biological CPU program by at least a decade, he was nonetheless the successor to those three CPUs that had managed to break their bonds, fend off the Federation at the neutral colony of Avalon, and escape the Earth Sphere aboard a transport to Jupiter. And she sometimes wished that Jack could do the same.

Of course, without her, Jack would waste away and die. That was the way they were made once separated from their caretakers, the all-important figure fixated in their minds, their bodily functions would slowly begin to shut down, leaving a window of time open for their retrieval, but at any rate acting as a sort of self-destruct sequence to ensure that the secret would be safe. So if Jack were to survive away from the Atlantic Federation, she would have to go with him. And she was not yet ready to abandon her country.

Although sometimes she wondered whether her country had abandoned her.

The Special Forces troops were not due to arrive for another two or three days. Alison hoped that they would leave Jack alone when they arrived.

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Admiral Tapang rang at the worst times, Lee mused cutting short his conversation with Lieutenant Murphy about the Mephistopheles latest additions to its crew. But the admiral had seniority in rank, and Lee was even less enthused by the thought of his apparent new allies being fitful and uncooperative so it was a professional courtesy to answer him.

Settling into the captain痴 chair, Lee offered Tapang a salute. 鄭dmiral, he said, 鍍he Orb Raiders ship is heading south, towards Leyte Gulf in the Philippines.

的 know, the admiral intoned, 殿nd that is the purpose of this transmission. My fleet will arrive there soon, and we will be able to join forces and destroy the rogues. He paused meaningfully. 展hich brings me to the point of this message, captain.

Lee watched the admiral carefully, as he paused to choose his words.

的 come from the Philippines, Tapang said, 殿s do a number of my officers and sailors. We are all proud men who serve the military of the Equatorial Union, but we have not forgotten our heritage. The Philippines are our home.

的 understand, Admiral, Lee said, 澱ut the Philippine islands are largely uninhabited especially Leyte Island so risk to civilians should be minimal.

典hat is not my concern, captain, Tapang said gravely. 添ou may be too young to remember, but I am not. During the Reconstruction War, religious fanatics from Indonesia attacked the Philippines. They used chemical weapons and napalm. Thousands died; millions fled; our finest cities were transformed into ghost towns. My people lay buried in the rubble of those islands, captain it is a graveyard. When we engage the enemy there, I ask that you respect that.

Lee studied the grizzled old warrior痴 face, nodding somberly. 的 understand, Admiral, he said. 的f the enemy tries to use the cities as a shield, we will have no choice but to pursue. But we will do our best to keep that from happening.

Tapang gave Lee a grim nod of his own. 典hank you, captain.

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June 26th, CE 73 - Orb Raiders dreadnaught Megami, Leyte Gulf, the Philippines

The massive black ship, cratered and scarred, shuddered to a halt in the surf. The ship lurched forward once, and then, as if letting out a great, airy sigh, sank into the wet, compacted sand.

On the open-air deck of the Megami, Mwu watched it all impassively, taking in the sweeping vista of a place that had seen more than its fair share of violence. The legacy of that violence had made itself known as the Megami made its way into the gulf, slowly turned around, and backed into the beach. Neumann had had to dodge a number of rusting wrecks in the gulf some of them looked much older than others. He thought back to his history classes which, as he had predicted during his schooling, had turned out to be as useless as he thought they would and tried to remember what had happened here. A war, long ago, that had redrawn the maps of the world and changed the course of history back then, the world had been split up into a handful of superpowers competing for control over the dozens of impoverished countries and colonies and unclaimed scraps of territory, in some mad quest to rule the world. One such empire had picked a fight with another, slumbering colossus and that colossus was none too pleased to be awakened, roaring out of its territory with fleets and armies and a fighting spirit that brought the war one day to this place, to Leyte Gulf. Mwu remembered being told about a battle here then the largest naval battle in history where the fleet of one such empire found itself on the bottom of the sea.

That was probably where the older wrecks had come from. AD 1944 was a long time ago, after all.

But the other wrecks, that looked newer or, at least, as new as half-sunken warships could look had come from some other battle. There were still flags flying from a few of the ships, but time had worn their colors away. They seemed to coincide with the wreckage littering the beach although Mwu was too far away to make out anything, the small dark spots strewn across the sand were undoubtedly relics of wars long past. It had been the Reconstruction War, he supposed, that had brought this wreckage to the shores of Leyte Gulf. The history books had talked of wars on terror and jihadbut it was all so distant, and the only things testifying to it now were the wrecked warships lying in the ocean.

The knowledge of the history books was starting to fill itself back in some kind of religious turmoil, gripping the world and pitting the world痴 most powerful nations against billions of impoverished people who had little more than their readiness to die for their cause. The world痴 economy shattered like glass as the human race plunged into another self-made inferno and at some point, the hatreds had led to a battle on the sea, here at Leyte Gulf, and once again the waters had found themselves choked with demolished warships and bodies.

Mwu scratched his head uncomfortably, looking out at the wrecks. All the reminders of war were slowly surrounding him.

But the Megami would be spending quite a bit of time here, he reminded himself, so he would have to get used to it.

That痴 irony for ya, he thought. Fighting to be free of war, doing it from a place where you can稚 think of anything but war.

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June 27th, CE 73 - Atlantic Federation Archangel-class battleship Mephistopheles, Philippine Sea

典his is the worst fucking weather they could have chosen for this kind of operation! Murphy shouted, his massive arms holding his thick blue service overcoat around him as the Mephistopheles catapult doors opened. Up ahead, an Atlantic Federation cargo plane痴 rear hatch yawned open, revealing a small contingent of black mobile suits.

At Murphy痴 side, clutching his own coat around his shoulders, Lee blinked through the howling wind and rain. 典hat must be them, he said. 的 see they池e bringing the Dark Daggers.

展e池e in the middle of a typhoon! Murphy exclaimed. 泥id they not notice?!

The five Dark Dagger Ls dropped out the back of the plane, taking off with a flash and gliding into the Mephistopheles hangar. The catapult doors came swinging shut behind them as the mobile suits stomped into five hastily opened racks along the port side of the hangar. The cockpit hatch on the lead Dagger opened with a hiss.

典hat痴 him, Lee said dourly, as he and Murphy approached. 鼎olonel Rico Barbosa.

The dashing figure of the colonel lowered himself on a winch to the hangar floor, throwing back a twisted ponytail of blond hair and brushing a stray lock out of his eyes. The scar over his left eye contorted as he narrowed his eyes inquisitively down at the captain, the boots of his black Alliance Special Forces uniform hitting the floor softly.

鼎olonel, Lee greeted with a sharp salute. 展elcome aboard the Mephistopheles.

Rico Barbosa turned a calculating eye on Lee. 典he pleasure痴 mine, captain, he said, returning the salute and stiffly shaking Lee痴 hand. 滴eadquarters has sent me to oversee the destruction of that mysterious black ship. He smiled thinly. 鄭s well as a certain passenger of yours.

Lee nodded grimly, falling into step at Barbosa痴 side as they both headed out of the hangar. 徹ur intelligence reports that it took damage in an engagement with the Orb Navy, and they喪e heading towards the Philippines to make repairs.

的 know, Barbosa said airily, 都o now is the time to strike and finish them off.

Lee shifted uncomfortably. 典he Equatorial Union is sending ships

的 know, Barbosa repeated, this time testily, 澱ut they won稚 get in our way. Now that I知 here they値l listen to us. He glanced over at Lee. 的 hear you have an Extended aboard to test an experimental cockpit system.

Lee and Murphy shared an uneasy glance. 展e do, sir, he said.

Barbosa痴 grin grew a little wider. 的壇 like to see it.

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To be continued