Phase 09 - A Time to Heal

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED - Soldiers of Old


Phase 09 - A Time to Heal


June 29th, CE 73 - Atlantic Federation Archangel-class battleship Mephistopheles, Leyte Gulf, the Philippines

He was sleeping. That was a good sign it meant his condition had stabilized, and stability was what Jack needed the most right now.

Alison stood in the maintenance pod room, watching Jack sleep in his pod, arms crossed. They had tried to use the Psyco System, but had been unable to send a clear signal thanks to the Megami痴 interference. It was just as well, though even without the Psyco System, Jack had found a way to go into a frenzy that ended with unconsciousness.

The room痴 door opened Alison cast a sidelong glance towards it, half-expecting Peterson or Barbosa to enter, but instead it was Lee. He greeted her with a grim nod and looked down at Jack, still slumbering, a pained look still on his face.

展hat happened? Lee asked.

Alison looked back down at Jack. 滴e got too worked up during the battle and overloaded his own nervous system, she explained. 的t happens from time to time.

鄭nd Headquarters thinks it痴 still worth it to send him out? Lee asked. Alison glared over at him.

滴e can still fight, she said sharply.

釘ut at a rather high cost, Lee answered. Alison blinked. 的 would not send out a pilot if he were too sick to fly, even if he痴 my best pilot. Better to keep him here, so that he can recover, than to send him out and get less than his best in return. He peered down at the sleeping boy. 展here did he come from?

擢rom Lodonia, Alison replied guardedly.

釘efore that, Lee added. 釘efore he became an Extended.

Alison looked back down at Jack herself, trying to remember. 典he Marshall Colony, I think, she said at last. Lee blinked at her.

典he Marshall Colony? he echoed. 展hat was he doing there?

Alison shrugged helplessly. 的 wouldn稚 know, she said. 典hey erase the personal histories of all their Extended. They become new people. I don稚 even know if his name is really Jack O辿ara.

Lee glanced back at Alison. 鄭dmiral Tapang wants to regroup before going back into battle, he said. 鉄o he値l have a few days, at least.

Alison said nothing. Lee looked back at Jack, shook his head, and left.


Orb Raiders dreadnaught Megami, Palo, Leyte Gulf, the Philippines

The smoke was still in the air as Athrun watched the sun set lazily over the island of Leyte, casting an orange glow over the ocean as it dipped beneath the horizon. From his vantage point on the Megami痴 deck, he could still see the wrecked mobile suits choking the beach. Hopefully, the Mephistopheles and its accompanying fleet would stay back and keep themselves busy licking their wounds because Athrun was in no mood to fight them again anytime soon.

He cast a glance back at the Megami, noting that it had taken relatively little damage in the battle. That was something of a miracle, really and it meant that Captain Ramius had somehow managed to save the Megami from almost certain doom yet again. Athrun now saw why he could never destroy the Archangel while he was in ZAFT.

The deck door opened Athrun glanced over his shoulder, and felt his muscles twitch towards their instinctive position at attention as Cagalli came through. They stared awkwardly at each other for a moment, before Cagalli shook her head and leaned against the railing next to Athrun.

鄭t least we池e all still in one piece, Athrun said quietly. Cagalli sighed Athrun sensed that she agreed, but wasn稚 feeling any better because of it.

典hat痴 three battles in about two weeks that we致e fought, she muttered, 殿nd only one of those was against the Orb Navy. She looked wearily over her shoulder, at the wreckage strewn across the beach. 展hat the hell does the Atlantic Fed want with us?

展e represent Lord Uzumi, Athrun said. 滴is ideals got in the way of their getting their hands on Kaguya. We want to topple their friends, the Seirans. We池e a threat.

Cagalli rubbed her temples, trying in vain to stave off a headache, Athrun guessed. 笛eez, the Seiranswe still have to do something to help our allies in Orb, too.

Athrun looked down sullenly at the blackened beach. 迭ight now we just have to fix things here, he said. He glanced over at her, remembering the face of the Strike Rouge as it thrust its saber between the Justice and Diablo. 展e can稚 go rushing into things.

Cagalli glanced back at him. 展ell, we can稚 sit around and wait either, she said. 的f someone痴 going to destroy something that痴 important to you, you don稚 let them do it. You fight for it and try to save it.

Athrun looked over at her awkwardly, and then returned his gaze to the ocean. 典hanks for saving me, by the way, he added quietly. Cagalli looked back over at him, a hint of a blush on her cheeks.

填m, well, someone had to do it, she said uncomfortably. 的 mean, no one else was in position

的 know, Athrun answered, 澱ut still. He looked back at her, recounting all the times he had carried her to battle on his Justice Gundam痴 subflight lifter; all the times he had saved her from certain death, both in battle and by talking her out of some stupid move. 的f someone痴 going to destroy something that痴 important to you, you don稚 let them do it. Right?

Cagalli offered a thin smile. 迭ight, she agreed.


June 30th, CE 73 - Orb Navy Aegis-class battleship Yatenkou, Pacific Ocean

The reports were, to say the least, intriguing. Somehow, the Orb Raiders had managed to hold off a fifteen-ship fleet from the Equatorial Union, as well as an Archangel-class battleship that Intel believed was attached to the Atlantic Federation Special Forces. Somehow, they had managed to accomplish this while stuck in the sand off Leyte Gulf, being shot at by well over a hundred mobile suits. And now, they were probably busily repairing the damage and preparing to head out and escape.

Todaka rubbed his chin thoughtfully, staring down at the screen before him. His own fleet, such as it was, was still almost a week out from the Philippinesand looming before him still was the specter of international forces. Tapang commanded the Equatorial Union fleet, he heard, and that caused Todaka no concern the Equatorial Union had no history of being uncooperative with Orb on military matters. But the Atlantic Federation? Todaka had not forgotten who had smashed through Orb痴 defenses two years and fifteen days earlier, bringing his proud country to its knees as a 菟rotectorate.

Protectorate. How arrogant, to think that the Atlantic Federation could puff itself up as the guardian of the very country it had just demolished.

Speaking of the Atlantic Federation, though, Todaka remembered the Atlantic Fed Archangel-class, acting in concert with Tapang痴 fleet. He idly wondered how they had managed to get along that way it certainly could not have been the brainchild of a politician in the Atlantic Federation. They hated cooperation with other countries. But perhaps the ranks of their officer corps were a bit more realistic.

鼎aptain, he said, glancing over at the Yatenkou痴 captain, 堵et me a line to that Atlantic Federation warship.


Orb Raiders dreadnaught Megami, Palo, Leyte Gulf

The Megami痴 entire mechanical crew was hard at work repairing the ship, reasoning that the sooner the Megami could get off the ground, the sooner the mechanics could get back to work on the mobile suits in relative security. To that end, the pilots were essentially left to their own devices, particularly in regards to the dwindling complement of Murasames, which had incurred more damage during the battle than the Phase Shift-armored Gundams. So Dearka did not really mind putting his Coordinator skills to work in helping the pilots repair their machines.

That did not, however, stop Dearka from getting tired.

Night was beginning to fall, and Dearka glanced back up at the Murasame he had been working on from his place at the gantry. It was good enough, he figured the pilot could go about screwing around with the operating system however he saw fit, and computer programming was not really Dearka痴 forte anyway. Down below, Murdoch was swearing at something, and Dearka decided that it probably wasn稚 worth incurring his wrath at any rate. With that, he yawned and slipped away down the gantry.

The Megami痴 halls were relatively empty the entire crew, minus the pilots and a skeleton crew to staff the bridge and other vital areas, had been organized into shifts in order to expedite the repairs. This meant that at any given time, half of the crew was feverishly working on the hull, while the other half was sound asleep. As for the pilots, they helped out where they could, but they were kept on standby in case of another attack. And that was exactly how Dearka wanted it.

He wondered what Milly was up to at the moment. She was probably on the bridge, monitoring communications and looking for any signs of a threat over the airwaves. And, Dearka supposed, she was probably pretending to be intrigued and focused on her job, while in actuality bored out of her mind. Listening to Filipino radio stations all afternoon was really not very exciting when one did not understand Filipino.

He glanced out the portholes as he wandered down the halls, looking out on the beach and the darkened wrecks of mobile suits there. The battle had been a miracle, frankly either the Megami痴 pilots were better than they thought, or their foes were worse than they thought. Either way, with over three dozen mobile suits shot down and three ships settling into their new home at the bottom of Leyte Gulf, the enemy fleet would have to think twice about attacking again. And that was how Dearka liked it.

Pausing in an intersection, he briefly contemplated passing by the bridge to see if Milly was there. He figured that she still was and if she wasn稚, she was probably too exhausted to do anything. He shrugged and headed for his room.


July 1st, CE 73 - Atlantic Federation Archangel-class battleship Mephistopheles, Philippine Sea

Lee was immediately put off by the mask. He knew that the famous ZAFT ace, Rau Le Creuset, wore one but Lee also imagined that those who served under him were equally put off by the mask. And now, the man on the screen in front of him had not just a mask but a full-on helmet, a giant chunk of black, redlined plastic obscuring his entire head and revealing only a long mane of blond hair, framing the lower half of a grinning, devious face. Lee hated it.

On the other hand, the man was wearing the black uniform of the Atlantic Federation Special Forces, and had the shoulder boards and collar tabs of a colonelas well as the unit pin of the elusive and ominous secret army of the uppermost echelons of the Earth Alliance, the Phantom Pain.

In fact, Lee supposed, he may have been looking at the man whose combat nickname had been donated to that unit.

鼎aptain Lee, the man said, finally speaking and breaking Lee痴 reverie. 的 understand you池e pursuing that Orb Raiders ship, the Megami?

Lee nodded. 添es sir. I知 also cooperating with Admiral Tapang of the Equatorial Union.

鄭nd, the Phantom Pain said, 土ou had them pinned on Leyte, but they managed to throw you back.

Lee nodded again. When it was put that way, it sounded even worse.

展ell, no worries, the man said again, a Cheshire grin on his face. 典hey池e an extraordinary opponentso to defeat them, you値l need some extraordinary allies. He sat back in his chair. 鉄o allow me to introduce myself. I知 Colonel Neo Roanoke of the 81st Autonomous Mobile Corps. I知 aboard the John Paul Jones right now, and I知 a day or two out from Yokosuka. And I知 bringing with me some reinforcements from home.

典hank you, sir, Lee said humbly.

徹nce we reach Yokosuka, we値l stock up and head south to join you, Neo said. 的 trust the Orb Raiders will be up and running by then, but with any luck, you and your Equatorial buddy can trap them and drive them into Manila.

溺anila? Lee echoed. Terrible stories rose up from that city, an empty husk of civilization, abandoned after a gas attack in some bygone war, and not resettled since. It had once been the capital of the Philippines, but now it was a shell and Tapang would probably have some reservations about fighting in it.

典hat city痴 been abandoned since the Reconstruction War, Neo said with a shrug. 哲erve gas tends to drive people out. But at any rate, captain, I look forward to seeing you in action.

The screen went dark. Lee sat back, unable to shake the feeling of foreboding that this eerie masked man gave him.


July 2nd, CE 73 - Atlantic Federation Spengler-class aircraft carrier John Paul Jones, Yokosuka Naval Station, Japan

徹h for Christ痴 sake! a voice shouted. A pool stick came down with a crack on the side of the table, nearly splintering in the hand of the glowering figure staring down at the table, as the cue ball went cruising right into the corner pocket.

Shams Coza barely held back another string of obscenities mostly because he was running out of original material. But this was the third time in a row that his shot at the number ten ball had gone horribly wrong where was his luck today?

溺aybe you just suck at this game, offered Mudie Holcroft from across the table, digging the cue ball out of the corner pocket and putting it back on the table. With deft precision, she knocked it forward into the three ball, sending it spiraling down into the corner pocket on Shams right.

徹h, what the hell? Shams grumbled. 的 kicked your ass at this just yesterday!

滴urry up, Mudie said with a sigh, leaning against the side of the table. Shams sighed and stared back down at the grim green tableau before him.

He looked up at the door as it opened, hoping it wasn稚 an officer that would make him get up and salute. Instead, he noticed a familiar shock of silver hair that could only belong to one man.

Sven Cal Bayan cast a dour glance across the room. Shams looked back at him and waved him over.

鉄ven, get over here, he said. 典ell me if Mudie痴 cheating.

鼎heating? Mudie sputtered. 添ou池e just being a sore loser.

的 haven稚 lost yet! Shams shot back.

展ell, you池e about to.

Sven took the opportunity to slip across the room to the vending machine, retrieving a soda and slipping out just as stealthily. He had spent the day working on the Strike Noir, standing in silent slumber down in the hangar, and all he wanted was a drink to soothe his scratchy, drying throatand silence the mechanics who were insisting that he go take a break. Some people cared too much about other people痴 business and not enough about their own.

He glanced out over the ocean as he headed down the halls, towards the hangar. Somewhere out there, the Orb Raiders were waiting. He had heard all about them and their powerful Gundams.

He looked back towards the hangar. Well, he had one of his own.


July 3rd, CE 73 - Orb Raiders dreadnaught Megami, Palo, Leyte Gulf, the Philippines

There was an odd, cold, empty feeling in the air that chilled Lacus Clyne to the core as she wandered down the halls of the Megami, tools under her arms to lend her hands to the ongoing effort to repair the ship. She would not let her hands be idle when they did not have to be she would not be useless.

But the feeling of death still clung to the air, weighing down her steps and making her acutely aware of the fact that she was alone in the hallway. That made sense, really everyone was still working tirelessly to get the Megami back into fighting shape. But it left her alone with the feeling of death surrounding her, and she certainly did not like it.

She thought back to better times as she headed towards the hangar. It was only now, with no emotional anchor, that she realized that she too was only a child and could not bear the weight of the world on her shoulders. The brave leaders whose exploits and achievements were recorded for all to see in the history books felt its weight more often than not; even Christ had had his moment of doubt. Could she not have her own weakness within?

But what kind of leader had weakness? She was the moral compass of the Orb Raiders; what Cagalli gave in determination and moral direction for Orb, Lacus gave in political savvy and moral direction for the PLANTs. Of course, determination and political savvy didn稚 help anyone when the Orb Navy or the Atlantic Federation was shooting at them, but she had a crucial job. How could she falter under it? As the leader, she had to make the hard decisions and then look as if she had made the right choice, even if she wasn稚 sure she had. It had been hard to do when she was the leader of the Clyne Faction, in the place of her father after Patrick Zala痴 gunmen had taken him from her; it had been hard to do when she was effectively the leader of the Three Ships Alliance, trying to end a war that she ironically found herself to be part of. And she was only a child, at that was she destined to be Churchill and Gandhi, rolled into one, at age eighteen? Had she been given the personality to lead adults, when she was only a child? Gandhi had dedicated his life to create India what was Lacus to dedicate her life to create? Peace? She thought he had achieved it once before, but now it was falling apart.

Now, she looked forward grimly to the day when the Orb Raiders would stand on the world stage, and she would again have to assume the mantle of leadership with Cagalli. But Cagalli had Athrun to rely on, in her times of doubt even if neither could bring themselves to make anything more of their relationship, they still knew that they could turn to each other. Cagalli would not have to pick up the pieces herself. But Lacus had relied on Kiraand now he was gone. He had given her strength, because she knew that when the shadows of doubt crept around her, she could turn to him and find the strength to believe in her own choices. Now Kira was dead was that strength dead too?

Unbidden, her thoughts turned towards Sai. The strength began to return not as great, not as strong, but it was enough. Lacus sighed, knowing that she did not have to face her burden alone and as long as she had someone by her side, that was all that really mattered.


July 4th, CE 73 - Atlantic Federation Archangel-class battleship Mephistopheles, Philippine Sea

迭eaction time is still around .156, Alison said, glancing at the readings on the console. She shook her head. The Psyco System could shave time off his reflexes, but it could also kill him, and Alison wasn稚 willing to do that.

Jack looked up at Alison. 釘ut that痴 still good, isn稚 it? he asked. Alison sighed it was good enough for her, but nothing would be good enough for Colonel Rico Barbosa. She glanced up at the screen again and shut down the clocks.

典hat痴 enough for today, she said. 敵o on back to the maintenance pod and get some rest. Jack eagerly undid the restraints and hopped out of the simulator.

展here are we gonna go after this mission is done? he asked. 鄭re we gonna go to space? 祖uz I wanna go to space!

Alison opened the door for him as he bounded out of the room, and proceeded after him. 的 don稚 know, she answered. She dared not mention Lodonia again that was as good as a block word to him. But that was his likeliest next port of call the Extended remained firmly in their cages either at Althea Crater on the Moon or at Lodonia Island when they weren稚 being deployed. The Atlantic Federation was not about to risk its prized soldiers being wrenched from their grip.

溺aybe we値l go to space, she said with a shrug. It was a half-truth, at least since Althea Crater was in space. 的 don稚 know. We値l see once this mission is complete.

的 hope we do! Jack exclaimed. 湯cuz I知 sick of all this water!

Alison watched him carefully for a moment, and then suppressed a sigh of relief that them mention of water had not set off nightmarish memories of Lodonia. His trainers there had been brutal, even more brutal than those at Althea, holding his head underwater every time he made a mistake, and giving him that terrible block word. And now he was surrounded by the same sharks that had kept him running and swimming and fighting for his life at Lodonia.

Odd, then, she reflected, that he seemed like an excitable little boy.


July 5th, CE 73 - Orb Raiders dreadnaught Megami, Palo, Leyte Gulf, the Philippines

Athrun had to admit that yellow was really not an appealing color, but the hexagonal logo of the Junk Guild was a godsend. There were some things that money couldn稚 buy, and at least seven high-output power adapters for the Megami痴 laminated armor heat management systems were evidently among them. But the Junk Guild always came through, and even though the huge yellow ship resting on the sandbar next to the Megami was giving Athrun a headache, that was infinitely better than spending days on end trying to find the last few parts the ship needed to get airborne without blowing up in the process.

The junker in question was quite a character, though. With brown hair pushed high into the air by a wide blue headband, and what looked like a perpetual overexcited grin on his face, Lowe Gear cut a very distinctive figure in the fading sun. He seemed less excited to be making money off the deal and he was making a lot but more excited to get to poke around the insides of a warship that was an amalgam of Earth Alliance, Orb, and ZAFT technology. The brown-haired girl who was traveling with him had remarked that the Orb Raiders were better at getting patently incompatible parts to be compatible than Lowe was and Lowe responded by yelling about what a great mechanic he was and how he could build a ship like the Megami in two weeks, tops, if given the parts.

Athrun, meanwhile, was tasked with overseeing the delivery and signing for it, and had a suitcase filled with the necessary funds to complete the transaction in hand. Lowe emerged from the ship in a jeep and leapt out when it neared Athrun, without bothering to shut it off, leaving the girl to shriek angrily at him and throw the emergency brake.

添ou sure you don稚 want me to help put Humpty-Dumpty back together? he asked. 的 could get you guys back in the air in, like, three days.

Athrun shook his head with a cordial smile. 展e were attacked a few days ago, he said. 釘y the Atlantic Federation and the Equatorial Union.

泥ude! Lowe exclaimed, eyes wide. 展hat, do you owe them money or something?

的 don稚 know, Athrun said with a shrug, 努e池e drawing on the Athha family痴 assets. At least, the ones we could cash in before they were frozen. He glanced over at Lowe痴 ship, and winced at the bright yellow hull. 鄭t any rate, we池e always at risk for another attack. We wouldn稚 want to endanger you as well.

徹h, endanger, hell! laughed Lowe. 的知 always in danger one way or another! Come on, please? That ship痴 awesome!

的t痴 really not necessary, Athrun added, waving him off. 釘esides, wouldn稚 you charge us more?

展ell, I wasn稚 going to, Lowe answered with a shrug, 澱ut now that you mention it

典hen never mind, Athrun interrupted. Lowe laughed again.

展ell, that痴 cool, but make sure you keep this under your hat. To emphasize, he pointed inside the forest of hair sprouting skyward from his head. 哲eutrality and all that.

的 know, Athrun said, signing the invoice with his tried and true pseudonym, 鄭lex Dino, in the name of a mechanic in Belgrade. 釘esides, if we池e attacked again, it値l threaten your neutrality.

添eah, I guess, Lowe agreed. 釘ut still, we can hide the ship!

泥o you have a mobile suit? Athrun asked skeptically, handing the invoice back.

泥o I have a mobile suit?! Lowe echoed, eyes alight. 添ou bet your ass I do! And the Red Frame could wipe the floor with your silly Gundam-types!

的f you say so, Athrun deadpanned. 釘ut you致e done enough already, and we don稚 want to endanger you anymore than we already have.

的 guess you池e right, Lowe conceded with a sigh. 展ell, you guys take care, so I can come fix your ship again.

Lowe headed back towards the jeep, and Athrun turned back towards the sea.


The repairs were in the mechanics hands by now, and securing the necessary parts was being left to Athrun, so there was little more for Murrue to do than stand on the deck and enjoy what constituted a break. Neumann was a big boy, at any rate, and could handle the bridge while she was gone.

She cast a sweeping glance across the battlefield, at the blackened wrecks of former mobile suits, and the empty hulks of warships half-sunken in the gulf. There had already been a great deal of death here, and they had only added to it, but she was still eager to get going. The longer they stayed, the more risk they were at for a second attack.

The door opened behind her; she glanced over her shoulder and smiled at Mwu as he made his way up next to her, putting a warm arm around her shoulders.

典hat junker is something else, he said, shaking his head. 的 never met anyone who actually took interest in the way we致e put this thing together.

的致e never met anyone who could figure out how we put this thing together, Murrue added, looking back at the sea. 摘ven the mechanics say they don稚 really remember very clearly.

They both looked down below as Lowe sped off in his jeep, back towards his ship across the beach. The parts were still being loaded into the ship壮 hangar, where they would then be fit back into the giant flying jigsaw puzzle that was the Megami, with the surplus stashed away for the next time they needed to put the flying jigsaw puzzle back together again.

鼎agalli痴 taking it a little better than expected, Murrue added.

Mwu laughed. 鼎omparatively speaking, he said. 鉄he doesn稚 actually take things well; she just takes them well for Cagalli. He shook his head. 的 dunno how Athrun puts up with that all the time. I couldn稚.

鄭nd that痴 why you池e with me, Murrue finished with a laugh of her own.

的f you ever get like that, it痴 over, Mwu warned. They both laughed again.

徹h, she痴 not that bad, Murrue said, still smiling. 鉄he痴 just stubborn, and we池e the ones who have to get through her stubbornness and make her see reason. It痴 like having kids.

添eah, Mwu agreed.

They both looked back down at the beach, where Athrun was heading back towards the ship, casting a long shadow over the beach from the sinking sun.

典hey are kids, Mwu added.

展ell, Murrue said, 鍍hey池e our kids.

Mwu smiled. 鉄o, he finished, 努e値l take care of them.


To be continued