Phase 08 - Suffering

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED DESTINY

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Phase 08 - Suffering

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October 10th, CE 73 - Atlantic Federation battleship Girty Lue, Pacific Ocean

They had finally finished repairing the Windam, but nothing the mechanics could do would repair Neo Roanoke's mood...although Sting Oakley was thinking of a few things, mostly involving violence and bloodshed.

Standing on the deck of the Girty Lue, he let out a sigh. Neo had used Auel's block word to silence his teasing, and left it in Sting's hands to get Auel calmed back down, lest Neo use Sting's block word too. Auel had spent most of the night in his maintenance bed, as the technicians desperately tried to soothe him and keep him calm. Sting had only slept a few hours there; once dawn broke, he had headed out to the ship's deck, and watched as Neo's damaged Windam returned. He spent the rest of the day tinkering with the Chaos's internal systems, and when Auel shambled into the hangar, he and Sting silently agreed not to talk about the incident the previous night.

Today, however, Auel was the one tinkering with the Abyss, and Sting was back on the ship's deck, relaxing in the breeze.

Stella was there as well, staring blankly at the sea, as usual. It was probably just as well, though. Stella was hardly capable of having a conversation more than five minutes long; she would be a liability in mobile suit repairs, and would be an utter danger in the arduous task of upgrading the Gaia's engines for atmospheric flight. They had trained her, like they had trained all their subjects, to be highly proficient in the field of mobile suit mechanics, but this skill was counteracted by all the other...

Sting's thoughts trailed off. He knew what word he wanted, but if he allowed himself to think it, he would remember that he was really more similar to Stella than he would have liked.

Stella opened her mouth as if to say something, but Sting comfortably ignored her; she usually opened her mouth as if to say something, and nothing of interest would ever come out.

Sting instead found himself wondering what Neo thought of Stella; whether or not Stella was just another teenaged superweapon, like himself and Auel.

He heaved a sigh and headed back inside.

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ZAFT Eternal-class cruiser Deliverance, ZAFT Carpentaria Base, Australia, Oceania Union

Standing above the hangar, Rau Le Creuset watched impassively as Kira Yamato worked on the Freedom.

"I don't like him, Commander," protested the ship's captain, Davis. Rau glanced back at Davis with a smile.

"You can't forgive his existence either?" Rau asked with a chuckle. "Don't worry. Nobody can."

"I don't like him being exempt from everything the rest of us are subject to," Davis said flatly, staring at Rau. "Just because he's in FAITH. He was the one who stole the Freedom in the first place, after all."

"Kira's led a colorful life," Rau said, returning his attention to the brown-haired boy on the Gundam. "Circumstance landed him here. Surely you can't deny that he's a valuable asset."

"Of course he is," Davis agreed awkwardly.

Rau smiled back. "That's all he is, Davis. An asset. Nothing more."

Davis was silent as Rau crossed his arms.

"We will probably be sent to go deal with that mess in Cyprus," Rau continued. "Make sure the Deliverance's submerging system is up to speed. This is the first ship of the class that can fly and sail, so something is bound to go wrong."

Davis saluted. "Yes sir."

As Davis excused himself, Rau stared back at Kira.

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Shinn wasn't sure why, but somehow the whole thing seemed so stupid to him.

He stood on a high walkway, overlooking the port; three Vosgulov submarines were currently docked, and were being loaded with squads of ZAFT mobile suits. Most of them were aging DINN models; Shinn knew from experience that the DINNs would be helpless if they ran into any of the Alliance's newer mobile suits. A squad of ugly GOOhNs stomped by towards the ships as the DINNs were lowered aboard.

Shinn thought back to the battle with the Windam. These aging ZAFT machines would be transformed into several different kinds of toast if that mysterious Bogey 1 returned. The Minerva痴 assignment would take it to the Suez Canal; beyond Indonesia, they had between them all of Indochina, controlled by the Alliance-member Equatorial Union, and then the Indian Ocean, until they finally reached the Muslim League naval base of Socotra, Yemen. Then they had to pass through the Red Sea until at last they reached the Suez Canal, where the Eurasian Federation and the Separatists holding the canal were sure to put up a vicious fight.

Against that, ZAFT was sending essentially the same thing it had always sent. Shinn couldn稚 see all three of those submarines making it to Socotra; he couldn稚 see any of them surviving at the Suez Canal. And Shinn knew he could only protect the Minerva; those three submarines were beyond his abilities.

They were all going to their deaths. It was so pointless.

Shinn turned at the sound of footsteps, and saw Yolant approaching, a clipboard tucked under his arm.

徹h, hi Shinn, Yolant said, waving amiably. He came up next to Shinn and looked down at the dock. 展hat are you doing up here?

哲othing, Shinn said quietly, leaning against the railing.

"So," Yolant continued, "those are the ships we're supposed to be going with?"

Shinn shrugged. "I guess so."

Yolant laughed. "Man, and they're loading them up with DINNs? They're gonna get trashed."

Shinn glanced over at Yolant, and then turned around, leaning against the railing again. "Why are they sending us with a bunch of troops that'll just get killed when we get there, if they even make it that far?" he muttered under his breath. Yolant heard him and blinked.

"Wow, not a whole lotta confidence in you either, I see," he said with a grin. "You have a point, though." He looked back down at the ships. "It's not like the Naturals have been sitting around with their thumbs up their asses all this time. Throwing the same shit at them now that we did two years ago probably won't get us any victories." He snorted derisively. "We're the Coordinators. We should know better than that. We're better than them and everything."

Shinn cast a sidelong glance at Yolant. "What are you saying?" he asked suspiciously. Yolant looked back, and for a moment, Shinn saw something positively terrifying in Yolant's eyes.

的知 saying we shouldn稚 be the ones with the outdated equipment, Yolant said. 展e池e the Coordinators. We池e stronger, faster, smarter, better. We should always be in the lead. We should never be left behind.

Shinn remembered that Yolant had been raised on the PLANTs; cocooned in a shell of Coordinator superiority, he had never had to live with Naturals; he had never seen for himself that Coordinators and Naturals were more alike than different.

He looked away uncomfortably as Yolant returned his attention to the dock.

展ell, Yolant continued, 土ou値l take care of them. Won稚 you, Shinn?

Yolant looked up, but Shinn was already gone.

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ZAFT battleship Minerva, ZAFT Carpentaria Base, Australia, Oceania Union

展hat do you mean 層hat痴 wrong with Shinn?樗 Lunamaria asked of her sister as they walked down the corridors of the Minerva, back towards their shared room. 滴e痴 as moody and pissy as he always is. Why?

Meyrin looked away, holding her hands together awkwardly. 滴e just seems different, she said, 斗ike...I dunno, I thought he壇 be really happy that he won the Order of the Nebula and all.

鉄hinn would still be moody and pissy if God Himself came to Earth and gave him His powers, Luna said with a laugh. 的 wouldn稚 worry about. Moody and pissy are just parts of who Shinn is.

釘ut he痴 not crazy! Meyrin protested. 的 mean in battle he was scary! He was yelling at me, 閃eyrin, launch this! and 閃eyrin, prepare that! and he just threw himself at that mobile armor, like he didn稚 care if he died!

鄭nd that痴 why he痴 got that shiny medal, Luna countered. 典hat痴 my job and Rey痴 and Shiho痴 job as much as it is Shinn痴, anyways.

釘ut you wouldn稚 just throw yourself into the face of some giant mobile armor like that, Meyrin said, 殿nd Rey痴 too calm and professional to do that, and Shiho痴 a veteran so she knows better.

添eah, I guess so, Luna conceded. 鉄hinn is pretty nuts in that regard. She smirked back at Meyrin. 哲ot that I wouldn稚 blow up an ugly mobile armor if I had to.

Meyrin sighed in exasperation.

展hat痴 with the sudden bout of worry over Shinn anyways? Luna inquired, to which Meyrin blinked in surprise and blushed. 滴e痴 been a lunatic like this all the time. Did you just now notice or what?

哲-No, Meyrin stammered, 的 just... She looked away. 的t was just weird...at Orb, he was...insane. She looked back at Luna. 的 mean, I have to take care of you guys out there, especially him. I send him new Impulse parts, I send him data, I send him orders, I have to always be at his back, but I don稚 know where he値l go. And I know I still have to follow him.

展hat, like riding a horse with no reins? Luna asked, arching an eyebrow. Meyrin痴 face reddened even further, and a confused look crossed Luna痴 face.

的 guess you could put it that way, Meyrin mumbled to herself, staring resolutely at the floor.

Luna sighed, stretching her arms over her head. 展ell, Shinn might be crazy but he痴 not stupid, she said conclusively. 的 guess I see your point, though. I値l see if I can keep him from doing anything really insane. She laughed again. "Man, all this talk about 'following him wherever he goes' makes you sound like you've got the hots for him or something!"

Meyrin cast an annoyed glance at Luna.

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October 11th, CE 73 - Office of the PLANT Supreme Council Chairman, PLANT Aprilius 1, Lagrange Point 4

The office of Gilbert Dullindal was typically an ill-lit place, but in the darkness, the light from a sole screen cast an eerie shadow over the Chairman's face.

No shadow, however, could match the eeriness of Rau Le Creuset.

Rau's masked face was on the screen, staring dourly at Gilbert in confusion and almost disapproval.

"What's so special about that kid in the Impulse?" Rau asked at last.

Gilbert blinked in clearly feigned confusion. "I don't know what you're talking about," he answered.

"Of course you do," Rau shot back; behind his mask, Gilbert imagined him glaring. "You merrily foisted yourself upon the crew of the Minerva without good reason, and despite numerous opportunities otherwise, you never got off until you got to Carpentaria. In the meantime, and with you as a passenger, the Minerva has become a public sensation and the Impulse's pilot has become a media darling. Surely you were there for a reason. I'd like to hear it."

Gilbert narrowed his eyes at Rau; there was no backing out now.

"Shinn is a Newtype," Gilbert said authoritatively, trying to stare Rau down. "He shows a great deal of potential Newtype power that we can potentially harness for our plans. It never hurts to have another mobile suit ace attack dog." He paused. "Surely you agree?"

"We already have a mobile suit ace attack dog," Rau said in annoyance. "And the one we have now is easy to maintain because I have a lovely lady over here who takes inordinate delight in messing with his mind. Kira was easy to manipulate; Shinn is not."

Gilbert sneered; what did Rau know about Shinn? He hadn't been on the same ship as the boy.

"You can't say that for certain," Gilbert said, choosing his words carefully.

Rau allowed a hint of a scowl onto his face. "I've met that boy. He's different from Kira; he fights for something without hesitation; he holds a grudge. If you've been implanting all these ideas in his head about how special he is, he'll run with them, and sooner or later he'll see himself as even more powerful than you, and then we'll have a formidable wild card running around."

Gilbert snorted dismissively. "I'm not worried about that," he said. "Shinn fights without hesitation, but he has nowhere else to go. His family is dead, he hates Orb, and he's a Coordinator; he'd never get into the Earth Alliance, especially now. We are his only option."

Rau was more than likely glaring now, if he hadn't been before. "Those words had better not come back to haunt us," he said. "Kira was easy, but now you're playing with fire."

The screen went dark as Rau ended the transmission, and in the darkness, Gilbert sat back, smirking.

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Djibril Manor, Vermont, Atlantic Federation

"What do you mean you're not ready yet?!"

The question rang throughout the metallic room beneath the Djibril mansion. Standing in front of his chair, Lord Djibril glared furiously at the screen, and its depiction of the masked and helmeted face of Neo Roanoke.

"The mechanics on the Girty Lue have just finished modifying the Gaia's thrusters for atmospheric flight," Neo said flatly, "and we're still running tests on the Windam."

"Why?!" Djibril roared. "Enough tests! I want that damned ship sunk as soon as it leaves Carpentaria!"

"The Minerva is not like other ZAFT ships," Neo responded. "You can't just 'sink it.' Don't forget that that one mobile suit, the Impulse, took down the Zamzazar singlehandedly at Orb."

"Shooting down one mobile armor does not make that damned Gundam invincible," Djibril snapped. "The Minerva is becoming a rallying point for the PLANTs. We cannot allow that ship to sail any longer. I want it sunk."

"Like I told you, that's easier said than done," Neo said, his voice beginning to sound aggravated. "Whoever that guy in the Impulse is, he's good, and he's hell-bent on protecting the ship. We have to go through him to sink it."

"Then go through him!" Djibril growled. "You are uncharacteristically cautious, Phantom Pain."

"I don't want to get killed," Neo shot back. "My captain already suspects something is afoot, and two of my Extended are growing rebellious. I have to take care of these problems before I can go sinking big shiny ZAFT ships for you."

Djibril scowled, pounding his fist on the armrest of his chair. "If you don't sink the Minerva soon, ZAFT will start rallying around it and their forces will pick up momentum, and God knows what they'll do then." He looked back at Neo, hatred flashing in his eyes. "Sink the Minerva when it leaves port. Or else."

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ZAFT battleship Minerva, ZAFT Carpentaria Base, Australia, Oceania Union

The lounge of the Minerva was abuzz with rumors, but Shiho expertly tuned it out. The commander always stays above the rumors and stays informed雄zak had taught her that.

The screens displayed a PLANT anchorman droning on, as they always seemed to, but what caught everyone's attention were the images. The Equatorial Union, as part of their contribution to the Earth Alliance's war with ZAFT, were launching a massive attack dubbed Operation Judgment into the Australian continent, and their battalions were already overtaking the city of Darwin, around five hundred kilometers west of Carpentaria, their ultimate goal. Their plan seemed to be to storm across the undefended Australian countryside and attack Carpentaria from within the continent, and the forces of the Oceania Union were already struggling to fight back.

Shiho wondered if this would change the Minerva's mission. The Minerva was only one ship, but it wasn't any one ship擁f the talk was to be believed, the Minerva was already gaining infamy among the Earth Alliance forces.

Rey stepped past her; Shiho felt herself tense. He cast a slow, deliberate glance at her and continued on his way. Shiho shivered once he had passed; she held a sneaking suspicion about him, that there was some kind of secret he had耀omething important and powerful, right under her nose.

On the screen, a missile plowed into a GuAIZ R's chest and blew it apart. It served him right; that's why they had shields.

She glanced around the room again. Lunamaria was talking excitedly with Shinn across the room祐hinn had his arms crossed, looking somewhat bored as Luna chattered on. Yzak had been like that with Shiho耀he remembered now, in biting retrospect, how she would adoringly follow her commander's footsteps.

And then she remembered Junius 7.

Shiho stood up, her eyes beginning to cloud over with tears, and left the room.

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October 12th, CE 73 - Orb Navy supercarrier Takemikazuchi, Onogoro Island, United Emirates of Orb

The gleaming new supercarrier Takemikazuchi was the first of its class in what represented a giant step forward for the Orb Navy. The ship held within its cavernous hull over two hundred mobile suits; in the dozens of Aegis-class battleships and Kuraokami-class cruisers surrounding the Takemikazuchi were even more.

Sitting on the bridge, in his fresh, decorated Orb uniform, Jona Roma Seiran watched it all with a feeling of immense fulfillment.

"Attention Takemikazuchi Fleet, this is Admiral Jona Roma Seiran," he said into the intercom at his side. "Our preparations are complete; in accordance with our treaty of alliance with the Atlantic Federation, we will depart from Onogoro Island as the Orb Navy Takemikazuchi Fleet."

Jona glanced around the bridge; the crew stood at attention, facing him. At his side, also at attention, stood Captain Todaka, the captain of the Takemikazuchi.

They would surely all hate what he had to say next.

"The Atlantic Federation has requested of us a particular mission," he went on. "Our mission is to neutralize the Orb Raiders."

Around the bridge, faces and figures twitched with disapproval at Jona's words. He suppressed a smile.

"We will pursue these terrorists wherever they go, and we will be ruthless when we find them. I expect you all to do your duty to Orb."

The crew hesitated for a moment, and then saluted.

"Takemikazuchi, launch!" Todaka ordered; his voice quavered almost imperceptibly, but Jona heard it and allowed himself a tiny smile.

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ZAFT Carpentaria Base, Australia, Oceania Union

The sound of a fist pounding against skin went unnoticed in by the passerby as Shinn Asuka stalked through the officer's club. He still didn't know why they had let him in here; he supposed it had to do with his shiny medal, but he had also seen several other ZAFT Reds in here, so there was obviously some precedent to his presence. They still hadn't given him anything to do; the Minerva wasn't scheduled to depart until tomorrow, leaving Shinn with an entire day to fill.

There was a small cafe for off-duty soldiers around a corner; Shinn slipped in silently, resolving for some kind of powerful drink to calm his nerves.

The bartender's surly scowl was enough to deter Shinn from pushing his luck and asking for something alcoholic, so he settled into a secluded booth with a mug of piping, pitch-black coffee.

A shadow fell over Shinn a moment later; he looked up, and blinked at surprise as Rau Le Creuset towered over him.

"So, this is where you hide out," Rau said with a smile, before Shinn could stand up and salute. "I've been looking for you." He glanced at the empty seat in front of Shinn. "Do you mind?"

Shinn shook his head. Rau slid into the empty seat, still smiling.

"I apologize on behalf of Kira for the incident the other day," Rau continued. "I understand you must still harbor ill will towards him."

Shinn looked across the table at Rau. He felt cold; he felt like something was prying into him.

There seems to be no fooling you, Shinn, a voice said. Shinn blinked in surprise, sitting up with wide eyes; Rau grinned.

"Perhaps I should explain," he said. "Have you heard of Newtypes?"

Shinn looked down into his coffee. "Yes," he said quietly.

"Don't bother hiding things from me, Shinn," Rau said, his face darkening for a moment. Shinn blinked again. "The Chairman told you, didn't he?"

Shinn nodded after a moment's thought. Rau looked away in what seemed like annoyance, his smile vanishing.

"So I thought," he said. "I suppose I have some damage control to do, then. Tell me what he told you."

Shinn hesitated; Rau frowned.

"Rest assured that I am far more knowledgeable about Newtypes than the Chairman," he added. "I am a Newtype. The Chairman just wishes he was one."

Shinn continued to hesitate for a moment, before he finally spoke, still staring at his coffee. "The Chairman said I'm a Newtype...he told me that they're supposed to be like psychics, or something."

"I figured as much," Rau said. "Then allow me to fill you in on the rest."

"What?" Shinn asked, looking up. Rau settled back into his seat.

"The Chairman told you that you have new powers that allow you to understand people and their emotions; people who can see the future. And that is a power that people have desperately craved to see the future, to know how it will all turn out, to know what happens next, to know what your life will mean before you致e lived it out. And that is a power that people will kill for.

釘ut that alone raises its own interesting problems, he continued. 展hat if people are evil? What if they are angry, scared, lost, confused? You will know those feelings as well. What if they hate each other? You will feel that hate. What if they fear each other? You will feel that fear. Are you prepared to handle the emotions of others, in addition to your own? Humans all suffer but now you will share in that suffering.

Shinn was silent for a moment. "Why would the Chairman hide the other side of this Newtype thing from me, then?" he asked. "He told me he gave me the Impulse because of that."

"Unfortunately, I cannot give you all the answers," Rau said, his smile still on his face. "Some things remain for you to figure out yourself. You're a Newtype, after all; it shouldn't be too hard. You're special, after all."

典hen why are they the special ones? Shinn asked carefully. 展hat makes them so special that they get to transcend everything?

典hat痴 the point of a Newtype, isn稚 it? Rau countered with a smile. 典he whole point of having advanced emotional perception is to transcend all the problems that arise among us humans because we don稚 understand each other. It doesn稚 matter what has happened to the world. Shadows fell across his mask as he continued; Shinn felt a cold feeling rising up through his blood. 典here have always been Newtypes. There will always be Newtypes. There will always be a suffering few who understand the world and suffer because of the wars everyone else fights. That壮 just the way it is.

Shinn stared suspiciously at Rau. Rau smiled back.

"Newtypes suffer," Rau said. "Keep that in mind, Shinn."

He stood up and walked away.

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October 13th, CE 73 - ZAFT Carpentaria Base, Australia, Oceania Union

"Minerva, launching!"

The ship began to creep out of the port. On the balcony overhead, Rau stood with crossed arms, smiling as the ship departed.

Valentine came up next to him. "So they're finally leaving," she said, leaning on the rail and staring down at the Minerva as it departed.

"Off to the Suez Canal," Rau answered. "They have no idea what they're getting into."

Valentine paused a moment, still staring at the Minerva. "Kira is still shaken up from his encounter with Shinn."

"As well he should be," Rau said with a chuckle. "Shinn Asuka is no ordinary human being."

"He can't be that special," Valentine grumbled. "Even if he is such a powerful Newtype, there's no one around to make him aware of his powers. He'll just think it's all stress or something."

"On the contrary," Rau said, casting a sidelong glance and a wicked smile at Valentine. "Our dear Chairman has already been stuffing Shinn's little head full of Newtype dogma."

Valentine blinked in surprise, looking back at Rau. "What? You mean"

"Don't worry," Rau said, still smiling, as he looked back at the Minerva. "Shinn fits quite well into our plans.

Valentine glowered back at the Minerva.

"Speaking of our dear Chairman," Rau went on, "he's approved the Destiny Mobile Weapon Development Project."

Valentine glanced back at Rau. "New mobile suits for us to play with?"

"For me to play with," Rau corrected. "Kira's Freedom will be replaced with something so disgustingly overpowered it will turn your stomach."

Valentine sniffed dismissively. "That means you're going to stick me with the Freedom, aren't you? I hate you."

"I'm sure you do," Rau said with a chuckle. "The war will be changing gears soon. We'll all want to stay ahead of everyone. I know it turns your stomach, but I鼠l have to ask you to pilot Kira壮...oh, what did you call it? His 善hallic Compensation Gundam?"

Heaving a melodramatic sigh, Valentine looked back down at the Minerva.

"Our plans are moving along nicely," Rau said. "Just be patient."

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To be continued...