Phase 07 - The New Human

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED DESTINY

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Phase 07 - The New Human

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October 7th, CE 73 - ZAFT battleship Minerva, Pacific Ocean, en route to Carpentaria

"Me?" Shinn asked in disbelief. "A Newtype? Chairman, I can't"

"Oh, but you are," Gilbert cut him off. "Your Newtype abilities are undeveloped so far, but in time they will grow and you will be truly powerful. Surely you can't deny that something special happened to you when you destroyed that mobile armor at Orb and protected the ship."

"Well, no," Shinn sputtered helplessly, "but that doesn't make me special or anything. I just wanted to protect the ship."

Gilbert smiled. "You're modest, Shinn," he chuckled. He turned to leave. "Nonetheless, you are one of the Newtypes George Glenn foresaw. Perhaps in time you'll believe me."

Gilbert walked away, and Shinn watched him go, feeling helpless.

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Pacific Ocean

The cockpit of the Windam was quiet for a moment. Neo Roanoke looked down quizzically at his screen. It was odd of Rau Le Creuset to let an awkward silence reign.

"Dullindal is aboard the Minerva," Rau said at last. "Don't sink the ship. Dullindal can't go down; he's crucial to our plans."

"Talk about a conflict of interest," Neo said with a smirk. "I've been ordered to take this mobile suit on a test run and try to sink the Minerva and everything."

Rau sat back in the chair he was sitting in. "That is a problem," he said. "Well, don't sink the ship. I'm sure you can find an excuse as to why you couldn't do it."

"Yeah," Neo agreed, "but ZAFT is getting pretty powerful. Those ZAKUs of theirs are tough mobile suits; I'd say these Windams would be good enough to level the playing field a bit."

"We'll see," Rau said skeptically. "Nonetheless, as much of a wild card as he may be, Dullindal is what's keeping me above the law in ZAFT. Don't kill him."

Neo smirked. "Okay, fine, consider your ass covered." His smirk disappeared. "But, you do know that Djibril and Dullindal aren't onboard this whole venture anymore, right? I'm certain Djibril doesn't care much about our plans anymore."

"Of course I know that," Rau said quietly. Neo frowned; Rau seemed annoyed that Neo had brought it up. "Dullindal has his own plans concerning Newtypes, and Djibril wants to wipe out the Coordinators like any good Blue Cosmos leader does. They're only going on with us because that makes guessing at each other's next moves easier."

"So what are you going to do about them?" Neo asked. Rau smiled back.

"Our purpose is to bring humanity to the fork in the road where it must choose between life and death," he said. "People like Djibril and Dullindal will fight each other ceaselessly until we all reach that point預nd then we will see just what humanity wants to do."

"Sounds like their rivalry plays directly into our hands," Neo observed, sitting back and smiling himself.

"Just make sure Dullindal survives this," Rau said. "He's key to our plans."

"Okay, fine, let Dullindal live," Neo chuckled.

Rau's face disappeared, and Neo sat back, smirking at the horizon.

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ZAFT battleship Minerva, Pacific Ocean, en route to Carpentaria

The Minerva was still abuzz with the excited talk of Shinn's performance at Orb. The man of the hour himself, however, had slipped away out of sight, but that wasn't stopping anyone from throwing laurels at his feet. But no one, it seemed, had thought to seek him out.

Now that she was finally off duty, Meyrin intended to do just that.

Shinn Asuka, in retrospect, was remarkably easy to find. All Meyrin had to do was follow the Chairman預 move she found particularly unwise, but if he knew she was following him, he didn't say anything. Sure enough, he led her right to Shinn...but she hung back, hiding out of sight, while the Chairman talked with Shinn about something called "Newtypes." Throughout their conversation, Meyrin found herself profoundly disturbed葉he Chairman said Shinn was some kind of precognitive superman, and Meyrin wasn't sure what to make of that.

The Chairman disappeared, and Meyrin watched Shinn carefully. He seemed perturbed by the Chairman's words, staring at the sea uncomfortably. Meyrin finally worked up the courage to step out of the shadows and talk to him.

Shinn glanced in surprise at her as she emerged. "You were listening to us?"

"N-No," she answered quickly, shaking her head, "I just"

"Well, whatever," Shinn grunted. "Everyone says I'm special now anyways."

"Do you not want to be?" Meyrin asked meekly. Shinn closed his eyes, looking annoyed.

"I just wanted to protect the ship," he grumbled. "And I didn't want to die. And now everyone's throwing around the Order of the Nebula and FAITH and all that crap, and all I wanted was to protect the ship." He sighed. "It's just so overblown."

Meyrin looked away. "Well..." she began," ...you...did protect the ship."

Shinn opened his eyes and arched an eyebrow at her.

"But," she continued, pausing as she searched for words. "You...were so frightening."

"Frightening?" he echoed.

"You threw yourself at that mobile armor!" Meyrin exclaimed. "It's like you didn't care if you died! And..." She caught herself, blushing, and Shinn blinked.

"I had to take it out at close range," Shinn said, his brow furrowing. "It was deflecting all my shots."

"That's not what I mean," Meyrin murmured. "But I was just afraid that..." She trailed off again.

Shinn looked out at the sea awkwardly. "I wasn't going to let that thing beat me," he said. "Otherwise it would have destroyed the Minerva."

"Just...don't...overdo it," Meyrin whispered, looking down at the floor. He looked back at her. "I mean...you're a great pilot and all, but...sometimes..."

"Sometimes what?" Shinn asked, turning around to face her.

Meyrin sighed in defeat; there was no going back now. "Sometimes I get the feeling you don't care if you die," she murmured. "And...I wouldn't want you to do that."

Shinn watched her carefully, trying to figure out what she was trying to say.

"I don't want to die," he said at last. "I just wanted to protect the ship."

"Just the ship?" she asked, and then blinked in surprise at what she had said.

Shinn arched an eyebrow at her. "And all the people on it...?" He failed to notice Meyrin's look of disappointment.

"Just be careful," she whispered, turning and disappearing inside.

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"He's stronger than expected," Gilbert said with a smile. "He may be even stronger than you, Rey."

Standing at attention in Gilbert's quarters, Rey received Gilbert's remark without any response.

"Of course," Gilbert went on, "that makes you even more important. Once we reach Carpentaria, I'll return to the PLANTs, and you will have to be the one to guide him along and nurture his powers. Commander Hahnenfuss won't be able to do that."

"Something must be done about her, though," Rey put in. "I believe she is stifling Shinn and preventing him from realizing his true Newtype prowess."

Gilbert arched an eyebrow. "How so?"

"They are extremely antagonistic," Rey explained. "Commander Hahnenfuss regards Shinn as an undisciplined loose cannon, and Shinn regards Commander Hahnenfuss as an overbearing superior. The Commander has an obsession with former ZAFT pilot Yzak Jule, which may be useful in the future should it prove necessary to remove her from the Minerva's operations."

Gilbert frowned in thought. "The press back on PLANT is already churning out images of the Minerva's crew," he said. "Breaking up the media darling crew of the media darling battleship is probably unwise. The news of Shinn's accomplishments at Orb is already all over the PLANTs. Once we reach Carpentaria, they'll probably demand a press conference out of him, and he'll turn into a media celebrity. They're already thinking of nicknames for him." He looked back at Rey, eyebrow arched again. "How does 'Orb Marauder' sound to you?"

"Shinn would hate it," Rey put in bluntly.

"Well, since Athrun Zala's disappearance, the people of PLANT have been looking for a new boy hero. We may have found ourselves a replacement for Athrun, Gilbert said. He looked quizzically at Rey.

鉄hinn is not Athrun, Rey said back, just as bluntly as before. 鉄hinn cannot be the patriotic poster boy that Athrun was.

Gilbert smirked. 徹f course not, he chuckled. 哲onetheless, it always helps to have a hero for the people to look up to in war.

鉄hinn is not it, Rey stated unswervingly. 滴e would hate the role and it would drive him away.

Gilbert eyed Rey carefully. 展ould he, he said quietly to himself. 哲onetheless, he continued, loud enough for Rey to hear, 的 believe I have found good reason to start the Destiny Mobile Weapon project.

Rey痴 inquisitive silence prompted Gilbert to continue.

擢our new mobile suits in the Gundam style, he explained with a smile. 典he previous three of which would culminate into the ultimate weapon, the Destiny...and we値l give it to Shinn. He arched an eyebrow. 哲ot that you池e going to lose out or anything. Commander Le Creuset is slated for the Legend; you値l get his Providence.

Rey said nothing.

迭esponsibility for bringing along Shinn痴 Newtype powers lies with you, Gilbert said conclusively. 添ou will have whatever means necessary available to you to accomplish this goal. He narrowed his eyes at Rey. 泥on稚 fail me.

Rey saluted. 添es sir.

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Pacific Ocean

Neo smiled at the Minerva as it sailed along in the night. It was a fine vessel with a strong crew; and it was such a shame he wouldn稚 get to sink that fine vessel and strong crew. However, Rau had only said not to sink the Minerva揺e didn稚 say Neo couldn稚 rough it up a bit more.

Arming the Jet Striker痴 missile pods, Neo resolved to do just that.

Up ahead, he could see a red Gundam and a blue and white Gundam coming towards him. A red ZAKU Warrior and a white ZAKU Phantom landed on the Minerva痴 deck, behind the two beam cannons湧eo aimed for the red Gundam first. The reports indicated that the blue and white Gundam was the one that had taken out the Zamzazar at Orb. He would have to pay particular attention to it, and the easiest way to do that was to get the red Gundam out of the picture.

Inside the Force Impulse, Shinn squinted at the approaching mobile suit; it hadn't even left the pilots time to climb into their flight suits. The mobile suit looked like an Earth Alliance model, but he had never seen it before.

典his isn稚 an ordinary Dagger, Shiho muttered in frustration. 釘e careful, Shinn.

Shinn glanced over his shoulder at the Minerva. He felt a strange pressure from the approaching enemy; he remembered Gilbert痴 remarks about Newtypes.

Shaking his head, he returned his attention to his enemy. He could worry about Gilbert and what he had said later.

In the Windam, Neo watched the Impulse with interest. There was pressure coming from its pilot; this fight had just become a bit more interesting.

Without warning, the Windam charged, firing its beam rifle. The Savior transformed and rocketed into the air, firing its weapons from above at the Windam. Shiho and Shinn watched in surprise as the Windam dodged the Savior痴 salvo with practiced ease; this was definitely no ordinary Dagger.

敵et behind it! Shiho yelled. 的値l keep him occupied!

The Savior transformed again and fired its beam rifle down at the Windam; smirking, Neo almost casually turned aside, letting the shot sail by and firing one of his own. Shinn tried to flank the Windam, but Neo fired another beam shot to force the Impulse back in front of the Windam. Shinn grunted in annoyance, deflecting the shots with the Impulse痴 shield. Overhead, the Savior transformed back into mobile armor mode and fired again.

哲ot bad, combiner, Neo remarked, as the Windam pulled back under fire from the Savior. 鄭s for you, Big Red...

The Windam fired a stream of missiles from its micromissile pods, and Shiho fired the Savior痴 CIWS, cutting the missiles down; the Windam darted up over the smoke and fired its beam rifle, blazing past the Savior痴 engines, and with a burst of smoke, the Savior痴 engines gave out.

展hat the?! The Savior rocked as the engines died, and Shiho snarled a curse under her breath. 鉄hinn, you池e on your own! He just totaled my engine! The Savior staggered back through the air, towards the Minerva, and Shinn glared at the Windam.

泥ammit, he growled, positioning himself between the Minerva and the Windam. 笛ust what I need.

Neo smiled victoriously. "Just you and me, combiner," he said, eyeing the Impulse carefully. Shinn glowered back at the Windam, trying to think揺e doubted he could lure it into the range of the Minerva's guns, and even if he did, the Minerva was in no shape to be fighting.

Before he could come up with another solution, the Windam charged again, beam rifle blazing. Shinn grunted as the shots slammed against the Impulse's shield; he looked up, and a flash of recognition blazed through his mind, a white bolt cutting through the air. Shinn saw an opening, abandoned his rifle for the beam saber, and charged. Neo clenched his teeth in surprise as the Impulse stormed into his face.

With a shriek of torn metal, Shinn slashed the Windam's beam rifle in half with a downward hack. Neo growled a curse and flung the sparking remains at the Impulse; Shinn smacked them aside effortlessly with his shield. The Windam backed away, drawing its beam saber, and Neo scowled at his opponent.

"Not bad at all," he remarked, scrutinizing the Impulse. The reports had said that it could replace damaged parts with new ones launched from the ship葉here had to be a weakness he could exploit.

Neo charged at the Impulse. It may have had Phase Shift, but even Phase Shift would have a hard time standing up to a point-blank missile bombardment. The Windam fired the rest of its micromissiles as it stormed forward, slamming head-on against the Impulse.

Inside the Impulse, Shinn grunted as the Impulse shook. His eyes widened as he felt something; he snapped his attention back up, and for a moment, he saw the Windam charge towards him, beam saber pulled back for a killing slash; he raised his own saber

The smoke burst apart, and Neo痴 eyes widened in disbelief as he found the Impulse and Windam痴 beam sabers clashed.

展hat the?! Neo shouted. 滴ow the hell did you see that coming?!

Shinn fired up the Impulse痴 booster, pushing back against the Windam and forcing it back. He charged again, letting out a yell; Neo stared at the Impulse, stunned at the pressure coming from its pilot; he returned to reality as the Impulse approached, and slashed back at the charging mobile suit. The Impulse caught the blow with its shield, thrust its arm upwards, and pushed the Windam痴 arm skyward. Neo痴 eyes widened in disbelief祐hinn screamed

The Windam shuddered as Shinn severed the Windam痴 arm at the elbow. The arm went sailing away, and Shinn pushed the Windam back with a disorienting kick to the chest.

Neo shook his head furiously and released the Windam痴 combat flares, bathing the ocean in light. Shinn squeezed his eyes shut and pulled back, and the Windam quickly turned and took off in the opposite direction.

Inside the Windam痴 cockpit, Neo glowered back at the Impulse. That pilot was powerful; too powerful.

He keyed open the secret frequency to the Deliverance. Rau would want to hear about this.

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ZAFT battleship Minerva, Pacific Ocean, en route to Carpentaria

The Impulse had already set down, and Shinn had filed his report and gone off for some much-needed sleep. However, even past midnight, Talia Gladys could not sleep yet...and that was why she had Gilbert Dullindal sitting before her in her office.

Of course, Gilbert would have never acquiesced to sitting before Talia like a chastised schoolboy, so to satiate the Chairman痴 ego, she had been required to drag two chairs out into the middle of the room. However, she had taken care to position herself between Gilbert and the door揺e would have to answer her that way, or go through her to get out.

Gilbert, as a result, looked supremely annoyed.

展hat are you doing to Shinn? Talia said bluntly, glowering at him. Gilbert smiled in spite of himself.

展hat do you mean? he asked.

添ou池e doing to him what you did to Rey, Talia snapped. 典he only difference this time is that I知 around to stop you.

Gilbert arched an inquisitive eyebrow at her. 鉄ince when were you so concerned with Shinn? he inquired with a chuckle.

鉄ince he became my responsibility, Talia shot back, determined to wipe the smile off Gilbert痴 face. 添ou ruined Rey, but I won稚 let you do the same to Shinn.

的知 not ruining Shinn, Gilbert huffed. 的知 bringing out his potential.

典hat壮 a lie, Talia spat. 添ou 礎rought out Rey痴 potential and now look at him. He痴 a soulless attack dog. You robbed him of a childhood and turned him into a Newtype soldier.

滴e痴 not a soulless attack dog, Gilbert shot back. 撤lease, Talia, look at the poor boy before you slander me. Rey is simply doing what he thinks is right.

Talia glared at Gilbert. 泥o you really expect me to believe that?! You致e brainwashed him! He follows you like a puppy, salutes when you want him to, agrees with everything that comes out of your mouth, obeys your every command without even a hint of hesitation or thought! You took him away from me when he was eight years old, you disappeared with him, and now look at him! I don稚 care how much Newtype potential you think Shinn has! Shinn has enough problems, he doesn奏 need you to give him more!

鄭nd bringing out his potential as a Newtype is what will cure those problems, Gilbert replied.

的f making him even more perceptive to other people痴 emotions is what being a Newtype means, Talia said through clenched teeth, 鍍hen that痴 just going to make him even more miserable. Surely even you can come to that conclusion.

撤erception to emotions is not what is important, Talia, Gilbert said, glaring back. 鉄hinn wants power. Newtype abilities are the power he seeks. With them, he will be an unrivaled mobile suit pilot, and ZAFT will develop for him weapons that will make full use of his abilities.

Talia scowled at Gilbert. There was no talking to him.

添ou have no right to do to Shinn what you did to Rey, Talia snapped.

Gilbert smiled back.

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October 8th, CE 73 - ZAFT Carpentaria Base, Australia, Oceania Union

鉄o that痴 the Minerva.

On a walkway overlooking the harbor, Kira Yamato stared down at the Minerva as it slowly backed into the dock. At his side, Rau Le Creuset stood with crossed arms.

的t seems they致e been through a bit of a scuffle since we last saw them, Rau observed, looking over the pitted and scorched hull.

典hat痴 the ship with the Impulse, Kira said slowly, staring at the Minerva, lost in thought. 的t showed up at Junius 7...it stopped me from taking out Athrun.

Rau regarded Kira carefully as he stared at the Minerva, his hands gripping the railing.

添ou値l have many more chances to fight Athrun, Rau said calmly. 迭ight now our priorities lie elsewhere.

The dock vibrated as the Minerva finally slid into place.

的 know, Kira said quietly, not taking his eyes off the ship, 澱ut I don稚 want to have to keep trying to do it. I just want to get it over with.

Rau returned his attention to the Minerva. 鄭thrun won稚 let us go about our mission in peace, he reminded Kira. 滴e will try to stop us. You must be there when he does.

Kira stiffened. 添es sir.

Rau smiled. "You've trained hard to defeat him, Kira," he said. "Be patient. Victory will be yours."

Kira glowered down at the Minerva. "Yes sir."

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Shinn hated waking up.

Granted, waking up was never an easy thing for him, but after fighting with a strange Alliance mobile suit, his adrenaline was still pumping and he hadn稚 been able to fall asleep. His tossing and turning had annoyed Rey so much that the taller blond-haired boy had jumped up, rummaged around in the medicine cabinet for a moment, and thrown Shinn back, forced open his mouth, and dumped a sleeping pill and a glassful of water down his throat.

Of course, after ten minutes of sputtering and coughing and swearing at Rey, Shinn did get to sleep.

Not that it mattered; three hours later, Rey had doused Shinn with another glass of considerably colder water and pulled him out of bed, and when Shinn熔nce again sputtering and coughing and swearing妖emanded an explanation for why Rey was dragging him up before the sun, Rey痴 quick explanation left Shinn more confused than ever.

A few minutes later, under the unforgiving icy spray of the showerhead, Shinn realized that Rey had dragged him up for a press conference at Carpentaria. Shinn decided that he thoroughly hated that idea, but an hour later he had been all dressed up in a clean, pressed, fresh-from-the-dryer uniform and was ushered in front of the dazzling flashbulbs of the media.

滴e痴 toast, Lunamaria had commented dismally from well out of the media痴 earshot.

The press conference had gone about as well as could have been expected; Shinn droned out some nervous-sounding answers to the insistent and probing questions of the reporters, and the only difference Luna noticed was that Shinn was desperately trying to downplay the battle at Orb, insisting that his bout of mobile suit combat prowess had really not been as spectacular as people claimed it was. The morass of questions gave way to the pomp and ceremony of several important ZAFT officials, whose names Shinn couldn't remember and didn't care enough to try, awarding him the Order of the Nebula, as everyone had predicted; and, also as predicted, another wave of flashbulbs nearly blinded him.

As Shinn finally escaped the voracity of the press, he undid his collar with a sigh and rubbed his blurry eyes, and vanished before anyone else could talk to him. Luna didn稚 blame him; after being asked fairly personal questions about his relationship with his crewmates, Shinn probably had no inclination to talk to anyone for a while.

As a result, Shinn Asuka was happily lost among all the mobile suit hangars and warehouses. He wandered around a corner, still looking up at a GINN that had been halfway dismantled, when he heard voices around the next corner. He stopped, his curiosity piqued.

展e will probably be sent to Cyprus, a female voice said, "to assist the Muslim League forces there."

鄭thrun wouldn稚 be there, another voice, that of an older man, added. 典he Orb Raiders are primarily concerned with what happens to Orb, and the events in Cyprus do not have any bearing on Orb. Shinn痴 eyes narrowed at the next voice he heard.

的f he is, I値l finish him off, the third voice said. The speakers rounded a corner, and Shinn痴 eyes widened.

Kira Yamato was still looking back at his companions. 典he Freedom is superior to the Justice, he added. 的値l win for sure濫

Anything else Kira was going to say was cut off when Shinn lunged at him and punched him across the face, sending Kira stumbling back with a trail of blood trickling out of his mouth. The woman was at his side in a heartbeat, helping back to his feet as he wiped the blood from his jaw.

展ho the hell do you think you are?! she shouted at Shinn. 添ou just attacked a member of FAITH!

滴e痴 the Freedom痴 pilot! Shinn snarled, clenching his fists and crouching combatively. 滴e killed my family at Orb!

Kira blinked in surprise. 的...I killed your family?

添ou bastard! Shinn screamed, lunging again. Rau Le Creuset stepped in to stop him, as Kira backed away, his eyes widening.

...at Orb? he murmured. 釘ut...but I was wrong...back then...

天alentine, take Kira away, Rau instructed quietly. Valentine quickly took Kira by his shoulders and led him off, and Rau looked back at Shinn. 鉄o...he killed your family at Orb, during the fighting?

Shinn glowered at Rau, saying nothing. Rau smiled back.

添ou need not worry about him doing anything like that anymore, Rau said. 鏑ike he said, he was wrong back then.

的 won稚 forgive him, Shinn snapped, as Rau turned to leave.

敵o ahead, Rau said back over his shoulder. 泥on稚 forgive him. It痴 none of my concern.

Rau disappeared around the corner Valentine had taken Kira around, and Shinn glared after him.

Memories of his family lying dead in the dirt on Onogoro flashed through his mind. Tears filled Shinn痴 eyes as he turned and ran away.

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Heaving a sigh, Arthur looked over the orders one last time. The PLANTs most powerful terrestrial ally, the Muslim League, had long been at odds with the neighboring Eurasian Federation, but now that the Earth Alliance had declared war on the PLANTs, PLANT痴 allies on Earth were jeopardized. Separatists within the Muslim League had assisted the Earth Alliance in seizing the all-important Suez Canal, freezing reinforcements to the embattled island of Cyprus and forcing the Muslim League to move reinforcements and supplies through the volatile region of Palestine, where the Israeli Separatists had declared open season on the convoys. The Minerva, as Arthur had feared and Talia had predicted, was being sent with a squadron of Vosgulov submarines to assist the Muslim League.

On one side, the Separatists were screaming for the infidels to be cleared out of Jerusalem. On the other side, the Muslim League was screaming for the infidels to be cleared out of Jerusalem. The only difference between the two was that they didn稚 agree on who the infidels were.

There was far too much religion involved in it all for Arthur痴 liking.

The bridge doors opened, and Arthur jumped to attention, promptly saluting as Talia stepped through.

Talia saluted back, looking tired. "How are the repairs to the ship coming?" she asked.

"They're about 20% complete, ma'am," Arthur answered quickly. "Repairs to the Impulse and Savior are almost complete as well, and there are two Guul support systems scheduled to be loaded tomorrow morning.

Talia dropped into the captain痴 chair with a sigh. 敵ood, she said, 妬t痴 about time we got some atmospheric equipment for the ZAKUs. Is the Chairman heading back to the PLANTs?

添es ma誕m, Arthur answered. 釘ut...

Talia arched an eyebrow at him. 釘ut what?

哲-Nothing, he said, waving his hands apologetically in front of him. Talia regarded him quizzically for a moment and then shook her head.

典he Chairman痴 been a liability ever since he got on at Armory 1, she said with a sigh, rubbing her temples irritably. 的 don稚 like having to run a ship with him in the back of my mind.

Arthur nodded in understanding. 鉄hinn was awarded the Order of the Nebula, he said cheerily. 的t痴 a good thing, too. He deserves it.

鉄o I saw, Talia said, sitting back, with a hint of a smile on her face. 滴e痴 not very photogenic.

釘ut he痴 an excellent pilot! Arthur protested. 鄭nd he deserves to be awarded ZAFT痴 highest honor for what he痴 done!

釘y all means, he deserves it, Talia said, eyeing Arthur carefully. 的 just think the Chairman is... She trailed off, searching for words. 撤ushing Shinn into roles he isn稚 meant for.

迭ight, Arthur said uneasily. Talia sighed and stood up.

徹ur orders are to move out as soon as possible, so get the repairs done as quickly as you can. Arthur saluted, and Talia left the bridge.

Arthur sighed and looked back down at the dock.

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In retrospect, Rey fervently wished he knew what he had been thinking when he had agreed to accompany Lunamaria, Meyrin, Yolant, and Vino off the ship and into the area of the base reserved for officers and off-duty personnel. But whatever it was he壇 been thinking, he was kicking himself now for it.

Unable to escape for the moment, Rey contented himself with scrutinizing his companions every move. Luna, Yolant, and Vino were their usual energetic, friendly selves, but Meyrin was unusually withdrawn, and Rey could not figure out why. She seemed to have something else on her mind, but whenever her sister prodded her about it, she would always answer with an uninformative 渡othing.

As they passed a balcony, something caught Meyrin痴 interest, and she silently stepped away, noticed only by Rey. He eyed her carefully and ducked behind a nearby pillar, stealthily escaping the notice of Luna, Yolant, and Vino as they chattered on about something Rey hadn稚 deemed worth listening to.

Shinn was sitting on the balcony, leaning over the railing, his shoulders quivering. He seemed to be the only one there; Meyrin was watching him uneasily, as if trying to decide if she should go talk to him. At last she turned and hurried off in the opposite direction; Rey watched her disappear around a corner and returned his attention to Shinn.

An ordinary ZAFT soldier would be so ecstatic he wouldn稚 know what to do with himself upon winning the Order of the Nebula...but Shinn was no ordinary ZAFT soldier. Unfortunately, even with that knowledge, it still didn稚 make sense to Rey why Shinn would be out on the balcony crying.

Opening the sliding glass door separating them, Rey resolved to find out.

Shinn spun around, staring at Rey with wide, bloodshot eyes and a tear-streaked face. Rey was taken aback for a moment at Shinn痴 appearance, but shook it off a moment later.

展hat are you doing out here, Shinn? he asked quietly, scrutinizing Shinn痴 desolate face. Shinn stared back.

Rey winced; Shinn was a ball of emotional turmoil, throwing Rey's own senses into a frenzy.

的 met the Freedom痴 pilot, he said at last, his voice quavering. Rey nodded soberly. 滴e...he...

Shinn collapsed to his knees, staring at the floor, his eyes wide and angry. Rey knelt in front of him, watching him carefully.

泥ammit! Shinn growled. 滴e痴 in FAITH and everything! He pounded the ground angrily with his fists. 的t痴 like I知 the only one who remembers all the bad things he痴 done!

鉄hinn, Rey spoke, calmly and firmly. He put his hands on Shinn痴 shoulders, and Shinn looked back up at him. 泥o you know anything about the background of Kira Yamato?

Shinn shook his head.

適ira Yamato was born in secret as the culmination of Dr. Ulen Hibiki's work to create a perfect, ultimate Coordinator who was born with exactly the same traits that had been planned, Rey explained. His eyes narrowed. 鄭long the way there were dozens of failures. He is the culmination; the Ultimate Coordinator. Shinn blinked in surprise as Rey gripped his shoulders harder. 滴e is the symbol of everything us humans do wrong...I cannot forgive his existence...

迭ey... Shinn murmured, staring into his emotion-filled blue eyes.

鉄omeday ZAFT will no longer need him, Rey said, his voice beginning to falter, 殿nd when that day comes, you, Shinn, will be the one to eliminate him. His existence cannot be forgiven.

迭ey, calm down, Shinn said uneasily.

典hat痴 why... Rey trailed off, blinking in surprise. He let go of Shinn, standing up, and Shinn got back to his feet, watching Rey carefully. His face had turned unusually pale; he was sweating and looked sick. 摘xcuse me, Rey said, disappearing back inside before Shinn could say anything.

Shinn stared after him for a moment, and then looked back out over the balcony.

Inside, Rey stumbled behind a pillar and pulled a small box of pills out of his uniform. He swallowed a handful of the pills and leaned painfully against the pillar, panting for breath.

適ira...Yamato... he breathed, his eyes flashing in fury. 的...I cannot forgive you...

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October 9th, CE 73 - ZAFT Carpentaria Base, Australia, Oceania Union

Gilbert Dullindal stood on the walkway leading to his shuttle. He felt a tinge of regret at not being able to stay on the Minerva and nurture Shinn痴 Newtype powers, but Rey was capable of handling that. Talia, however, was another matter; she was determined to stand in his way, and he certainly couldn稚 allow that.

Standing before him was a young man with long orange hair and the shiny emblem of FAITH on his red-uniformed chest. Heine Westenfluss saluted promptly.

添ou wanted to speak with me, Chairman? Heine asked. Gilbert smiled; just because he couldn稚 be there personally didn稚 mean he couldn稚 be there some other way.

的 understand you led troops at the first battle of the war, Gilbert said. 的n light of such an accomplishment, I have a new assignment for you. The -X2000 GOUF Ignited is almost finished; once it is, it will be shipped to Carpentaria and you will set out to join the Minerva. He looked across the base grounds, at the top of the Minerva痴 bridge tower in the dock. 添ou are to bring with you promotions to FAITH for Talia Gladys and Shiho Hahnenfuss. The Minerva痴 mission remains the same, as does Shiho痴揺owever, your job aboard the Minerva is to keep an eye on everyone, and keep me informed of what happens aboard the ship.

添es sir, Heine said, saluting again.

典he GOUF will be complete in a few days, Gilbert said, turning to leave. 徹nce it arrives you have the authority to do whatever you feel is necessary.

的 understand, sir, Heine answered. Gilbert smiled謡ith his loyal FAITH watchdog aboard the ship, it would be as if he had never left in the first place.

He turned and headed off towards his shuttle. Things would be getting interesting indeed.

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To be continued...