Phase 09 - The Children's War

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED DESTINY

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Phase 09 - The Children's War

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October 14th, CE 73 - Office of the PLANT Supreme Council Chairman, PLANT Aprilius 1, Lagrange Point 5

"I understand my assignment, sir," Heine Westenfluss said, his voice broken for a moment by a burst of static. "I am to bring FAITH appointments and assignments for Captain Talia Gladys and Commander Shiho Hahnenfuss. I am also to keep watch over the Minerva and report back to you periodically, particularly concerning Shinn Asuka."

On the screen of his laptop, Gilbert smiled.

"The Integrated Design Bureau reports that it's finished the -X2000 GOUF Ignited. It's being shipped from the Military Affairs Station to Carpentaria熔nce it arrives, take it to Socotra and join the Minerva."

"Yes sir," Heine said, saluting.

"Our intelligence indicates that the South African Union is brewing a big attack on Socotra," Gilbert added. "Perhaps you'll get a chance to prove yourself in combat again."

"Socotra will not fall so long as I am there to defend it, sir," Heine said. Gilbert sat back, still smiling.

"Of course it won't," he said. "Dismissed."

Heine saluted, and the screen went dark.

Gilbert chuckled. 典ime for my wolf to start prowling among the sheep.

He gazed down at his laptop, pressed a few keys, and smiled at the preliminary blueprints for the Destiny Gundam.

"Little Shinn," he said. "Whatever Djibril throws at me...you will have this to stop him."

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Atlantic Federation battleship Girty Lue, Indian Ocean

Ian Lee found himself using every ounce of soldierly professionalism to keep in check his urge to burst out laughing. To his right, Neo Roanoke was sitting in his chair, gripping the armrests with mounting frustration, and glowering at the grizzled Earth Alliance officer on the screen before them both.

"Look, Captain Harrison," Neo said, through clenched teeth. "The ZAFT battleship Minerva遥ou've heard of the Minerva, I'm sure? It ripped Rear Admiral Hutchinson a new one at Orb."

"I know," the grizzled officer snapped back. "Which is precisely why I will not commit my squadron to fighting them. Not without a fleet group behind me to help."

Neo was on the verge of yelling now. Lee watched in amusement as he sighed and tried to compose himself.

"I have orders from the top to bring this ship down," Neo said. "From the President himself."

The officer blinked. "The President specifically ordered you, Colonel Roanoke, to sink one ship."

"It's an important ship," Neo answered, looking somewhat calmer. "It needs to be taken down. At all costs."

The officer looked unconvinced, but heaved a sigh at last. "Fine," he said. "We tracked it coming in from the southeast. We're in position to hit it from the west; you hit it from the east and we'll try to squeeze him."

Neo smiled. "Pleasure doing business with you, Captain."

The screen went dark. Neo sighed again; this time in what Lee could only guess was a mix of relief and annoyance.

"The mechanical corps reports that they have just finished refitting the Gaia's engines for atmospheric flight," one of the bridge crewmen reported. "The Daggers have been fitted with their new Striker packs. We're all set to attack."

"Good," Neo said. He glanced at Lee.

"We'll still probably have to chase them for a couple of days before we can attack with the mobile suits," Lee warned. Neo shrugged dismissively.

"Either way, we'll have the Minerva trapped when we do," he said. "The James Monroe, the Topeka, and the Concord will be in position too. They should be able to soften the Minerva up, at the least." He stood up, smiling. "This time we'll sink that ship for sure."

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October 15th, CE 73 - ZAFT battleship Minerva, Indian Ocean

The Freedom Gundam swung its beam saber down onto the Impulse, slamming against its shield; Shinn grunted as the Impulse rattled. The Freedom batted the Impulse away like a fly; Shinn screamed in anger and charged.

The Freedom痴 eyes flashed, paralyzing the Impulse's pilot. Shinn screamed as the Freedom stormed into the Impulse痴 face; the beam saber went slashing into the Impulse痴 cockpit

Shinn awoke to the sharp feeling of Rey smacking him across the face. He sputtered in shock as he fell out of bed, and looked back up with wide, bloodshot eyes at Rey, staring back impassively.

添ou were having a nightmare, Rey said curtly, getting up and heading back to his own bed.

的 know, Shinn grunted, picking himself up off the floor. 添ou didn稚 have to hit me.

Rey said nothing, returning to his own bed and turning his back to Shinn.

添ou can稚 beat Kira Yamato like this, Rey said after a moment痴 pause. Shinn blinked in surprise, looking back over at Rey. 撤ull yourself together and you値l defeat him.

Shinn opened his mouth to speak, but could not force the words out. He sighed and slumped back onto the bed, staring at the ceiling.

I couldn稚 do it here anyways, he told himself. He痴 in FAITH. A scowl twisted its way onto his face. He痴 special now.

The Chairman痴 words came drifting back to answer him. Shinn was special too, or so said the Chairman. Shinn did not feel special, and he certainly did not want to be special. He was a soldier. He did his job. He protected the PLANTs, because...

Shinn stared at the ceiling, grasping for an answer; none emerged. He knew he bore no real allegiance to the PLANTs; they were not his home, and the Coordinators really were not his people.

Shinn sighed and closed his eyes, trying to shut out the memories and hoping for some sleep.

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October 16th, CE 73 - Indian Ocean

釘ut...Stella doesn稚 understand...

Neo held back a sigh of frustration. Stella never understood.

The Girty Lue痴 mobile suits flew in formation over the ocean, with Neo痴 purple Windam at the lead. At his side were the Chaos and Gaia Gundams; below the Windam, under the water壮 surface, was the Abyss Gundam in its mobile armor mode; behind them all were the Girty Lue痴 six Dark Dagger Ls, sporting Jet Striker packs.

笛ust attack the combining one, Neo said slowly. 鏑eave everything else to us.

Auel rolled his eyes. 笛ust let us do the fighting, Stella, he added in irritation.

釘ut will Neo be okay? Stella asked quietly, staring back at Neo with wide eyes. 哲eo got beaten last time...

Sting and Auel snickered, and Neo rolled his own eyes behind his mask. Everyone had to bring that up.

的値l be fine, Stella, he said. 添ou just worry about the combiner.

鼎olonel, one of the Dagger pilots broke in. Minerva sighted at 10 o団lock, distance 6500.

填nderstood, Neo said. Girty Lue squadron, follow me! Today that ship goes down!

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ZAFT battleship Minerva

Ten mobile suits, the bridge said, were on their way; Shinn found himself unable to take the report seriously. Ten mobile suits? Against the whole Minerva squadron? Even the outdated DINNs would be able to handle that. Then Shinn heard the name 釘ogey 1.

Well, that sure changed everything.

The Core Splendor was starting up as Shinn closed the visor of his helmet, cursing the entire time. How had Bogey 1 managed to get back to Earth? Why were they attacking the Minerva now, of all times?

鉄hinn, Shiho痴 voice interrupted his thoughts, her face appearing on the screen, 電on稚 worry about the submarines. Just focus on protecting the Minerva.

迭oger, Shinn said quickly, as the lift stopped and the catapult activated.

鼎ore Splendor, ready for launch, Meyrin痴 voice announced; Shinn blinked in surprise, and wondered if he had really heard her voice quaver for a moment.

鉄hinn Asuka, Core Splendor, going out! he shouted.

The Core Splendor took off with a roar.

Docking the Impulse parts together was like walking down the hallways by now. Shinn squinted ahead, hoping to catch a glimpse of his foes. If this was Bogey 1 attacking, then that meant the Gaia would probably be back. And if the Gaia was back, that meant the pressure would be back too.

Shinn narrowed his eyes at the sunny horizon as he assembled the Force Impulse. Whoever was out there, they were going to have to come up against him first.

The Savior fell into formation ahead of the Impulse; at his back, Shinn could see Lunamaria and Rey痴 ZAKUs on Guul subflight systems. And behind the Minerva, Shinn could see the three Vosgulovs launching their DINN squadrons. He looked back out at the horizon.

Minerva squadron, a voice spoke up, interrupting Shinn痴 thoughts again. Shinn glanced at the face, seeing a Green Shirt痴 flight suit, and realized that he was looking at one of the DINN squadron commanders. 典his is the Stuart Team. We池e authorizing your MS commander to take charge.

填nderstood, Shiho answered. 典he Stuart, Bagley, and Anderson teams will follow us and engage the enemy at will. Objective is merely to hold them off, until we have a better picture of what the enemy is trying to accomplish.

迭oger, Stuart answered. 的 hear you guys got that Impulse kid with you.

添es sir, Shinn said reluctantly. A chuckle filled his ears.

展e鼠l be watching. Show us what you can do, kid!

The DINNs fell into formation behind the Impulse. Shinn scowled back at them; they were all going to die, but they were still blindly charging forward to fight a foe Shinn knew completely outclassed them.

He looked back at the horizon once again.

展hat do you mean the Abyss isn稚 there? Luna exclaimed suddenly.

的t痴 not being picked up on the radar! Meyrin protested.

典oo late! Shiho interrupted. 典hey池e here!

The beams came flashing in; Shinn grunted and deflected two of them with his shield. Immediately, a shot smashed into a DINN's torso; the mobile suit exploded.

Shinn glanced at the fireball. Just as he had predicted.

CIWS fire pelted the Impulse, and Shinn turned, to find the Gaia storming into his face. Inside the Gaia, Stella痴 face twisted into a scowl.

典he combiner, she murmured to herself. 的'll take you down this time!

Shinn clenched his teeth, diving away from the Gaia and firing back with his beam rifle. 的t can fly too?! he growled. 鉄hit, they must have modified it!

Another DINN exploded, and a Dark Dagger went diving away from the blast, smoke trailing from the muzzle of its bazooka. Shinn swung his beam rifle around to aim at it, but the Gaia spoiled his shot an instant later.

泥ammit, Shinn grunted. He clipped the rifle to the Impulse痴 rear skirt armor and drew a beam saber instead. 的f that痴 how you want to fight, then that痴 how we値l fight!

The Gaia switched to its own saber; Stella swung forward with a scream; the Impulse charged back.

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A storm of missiles flashed by in front of the Windam; Neo smirked as he saw the white ZAKU Phantom charging at him on a Guul.

摘asy, he muttered to himself. 笛ust get rid of that thing and he痴 toast.

The white ZAKU opened fire with its beam rifle; Neo laughed as the Windam twisted out of the way.

鏑ittle shadow of Rau! he shouted at the ZAKU as he fired back with his own beam rifle, forcing the ZAKU back. 添ou have no place on the battlefield anyways!

The ZAKU burst up over the Windam痴 head, brandishing a beam tomahawk. It came hurtling down; Neo deflected the ZAKU痴 tomahawk strike with his shield.

泥ullindal痴 no longer on the Minerva, Neo said, 都o now I can send this ship to hell and back if I want!

The Windam surged forward, pushing the white ZAKU back, and swung its beam rifle up for a killing shot.

鉄ay goodbye, kid in white!

The ZAKU hurled its tomahawk at the Windam before Neo could fire; Neo took cover behind the Windam痴 shield, but the force behind the tomahawk sent him reeling. 泥amn you...! The Windam staggered back in midair, while the ZAKU caught its tomahawk and fired back with its beam rifle.

Inside the ZAKU, Rey scowled and engaged the booster, firing a storm of missiles at the Windam. Neo would not defeat him here; that much was certain.

The Windam charged with a beam saber; Rey fired a storm of missiles from his Guul, forcing the Windam back.

The Windam retreated into the cloud cover; Rey boosted to the side and followed.

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The pressure was back again, like a knife digging into the back of Shinn's head; he struggled to ignore it as the Gaia Gundam wheeled around for another beam saber blow. Inside the Gaia, Stella screamed as the Gaia and Impulse's sabers clashed.

"Dammit," Shinn grunted. "If this is what it's like to be a Newtype then I'll never be able to fight anyone!"

The Gaia ducked underneath Shinn's next saber swipe and rocketed up into his face; Shinn kicked it in the side of the head, sending it staggering back; he swung up his beam saber and dropped in for the kill

A moment later, the Chaos shoved the Gaia aside, blocking Shinn's saber swing with its shield.

"Shit!" Shinn shouted. "You again!" He pulled back, dodging beam rifle fire from the Chaos and shooting down its missiles. Inside the Chaos, Sting glanced over at the Gaia.

"Stella!" he shouted. "If you can't handle him, I will!"

The Chaos aimed its rifle again, but a flurry of beam blasts shots slammed against its shield, and the Savior came rocketing in, beam rifle blazing; the Chaos took off into the sky, the Savior pursuing. The Gaia fired its booster and took off again after the Impulse.

Shinn grunted in annoyance as voices began shouting at him from all sides, as the Gaia and Impulse met with a crash.

"Captain!" he heard Burt exclaim through the noise on the Minerva's bridge. "Three enemy ships, coming in from 9'o'clock!"

"What?!" Talia exclaimed.

"Mobile suits approaching!"

Shinn risked a glance towards the horizon, and found an armada of Jet Dagger Ls on their way. The Gaia surged into his face; Shinn responded with a knee to the Gaia's stomach and a kick to the face, forcing the mobile suit back. He dropped down for a killing slash, but the Gaia deflected it with its shield and fired back with its CIWS, pulling back. The bullets ricocheted harmlessly off the Impulse's Phase Shift armor, but Shinn grunted and squinted through the flashing lights.

"Damn you!" he screamed. "Die already!"

The Impulse charged, its beam saber raised

A blaze of beam shots flashed into his path from the ocean; Shinn slammed on the brakes, and the Impulse shuddered as the Abyss Gundam brought its lance down onto the Impulse's shield.

"Where the hell did you come from?!" Shinn screamed at his new opponent.

"Auel!" Stella shouted. "Stella was fighting"

"And you were doing a shitty job!" Auel snapped back. "Let me show you"

The Abyss rocked as the Impulse kicked it in the face and sent it staggering back into the ocean; Shinn screamed again as the Gaia and the Impulse clashed.

The pressure was back; Shinn could sense another turmoil of emotions before him.

泥amn you! Shinn screamed again. 摘very time I fight you I feel this pressure! Who the hell are you?!

The pressure intensified; before him, Shinn sensed a whirlwind of emotions, like he always did when he fought the Gaia傭ut this time, something was different. It felt warped, distorted somehow, like something had altered it. He felt pain, fear, anger, and insanity; but it all felt distorted.

展hat the hell is this?! Shinn screamed again.

A flurry of beam shots flashed by him; Shinn pulled back, drawing his beam rifle, and swung upwards, pointing his rifle skyward and firing; the shot drilled through a pair of Dagger Ls vertically, slamming through their cockpits.

Shinn痴 eyes widened in disbelief as a new feeling washed over him. He felt as if two flames had just been snuffed out; deep in his stomach, he felt sick, and his entire body shivered as a cold feeling overtook him. The Daggers exploded; Shinn stared in horror at the blasts.

I致e never felt this before! What is this?!

The Impulse rocked; Shinn blinked in surprise as the Gaia slashed his beam rifle in two and kicked the Impulse in the face, sending it tumbling out of the sky.

展hat the hell is this feeling?! Shinn shouted, drawing the Impulse痴 beam saber and charging again.

Another chill swept over him; all around him, he could feel anger, panic, fear, frustration, and death. All around him he could feel what seemed like tiny flames; nearby, a DINN was shot down and exploded before it reached the water; Shinn fell another flame go out. The Impulse shuddered as the Gaia slammed its saber down onto Shinn痴祐hinn clenched his fists around the Impulse痴 controls.

What the hell is going on?! he shrieked. Why am I feeling this way?!

He swung his saber at the Gaia; a wall of fear was there to meet him.

Why can't I fight you?! Shinn screamed, deflecting the Gaia痴 saber slash with his shield and feeling frustration rise up before him. I won't let you beat me like this! He swung again; again, he felt panic from the Gaia. I can't die like this!

鉄hinn! he heard Shiho痴 voice shout. 展hat the hell are you screaming about?! Control yourself!

I'm not going to die like this! Shinn screamed, charging at the Gaia again. I can beat you!

The Impulse charged; in the Gaia痴 cockpit, Stella clenched her fists around the controls, and the mobile suits clashed in a shower of sparks.

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Lunamaria cursed under her breath as yet another beam cannon shot went sailing wide of its intended target. The Abyss was simply too fast as it skimmed over the water痴 surface, returning her fire in spades. She maneuvered her unwieldy Guul through the air as best she could, but it was only a matter of time before it would be shot down, depositing her into the ocean, where her ZAKU would be helpless.

The Abyss fired a blaze of beam cannon shots at Luna痴 ZAKU; she slammed on the brakes, letting the shots flash by, but immediately the Abyss was upon her, beam lance raised high. The lance blade slammed down against the ZAKU's shield; Luna fired a storm of missiles from her Guul into the Abyss's face and pulled back, taking aim with her beam cannon.

"I'm not going to die like this!" Shinn's voice shrieked through her helmet; she turned in disbelief, as the Force Impulse charged at the Gaia.

Another storm of beam fire flashed by Luna's ZAKU; she pulled back again, taking cover behind her shield, as the Abyss jumped into the air and poured firepower onto her machine. The Abyss rocketed up into her face, twirling its lance over its head; Luna swung her beam cannon around, but a moment later, the Abyss cut it in half, and an explosion nearly threw her into the ocean. The Abyss swung its lance back for a killing blow; Luna screamed

The Abyss shuddered and a moment later, it went sailing out of the air and into the water again, as the Impulse slammed into it with its shield.

"You won't kill her!" Shinn screamed, pulling his saber back. The Abyss barely blocked Shinn's saber strike with the beam tip of its lance, as it floundered to get its bearings; Shinn tried to swing again, but the Abyss dove into the water.

A storm of missiles came down around Shinn, and he turned, finding the Chaos raging towards him. Two Daggers were at its side, firing at him with bazookas.

"I can beat you!" Shinn shrieked, wheeling around and charging right back at them, deflecting their shots with his shield, even as more beam shots tore deep, dark scars into the Impulse's armor. "You're just a bunch of machines!"

The Daggers moved in, drawing beam sabers; Shinn screamed as he charged at them, ducking between their sabers and slashing them both in half; once again he felt pressure and sickness as the Daggers exploded. The Impulse reeled as the Chaos slammed into its back with its shield and raised its rifle.

"Shinn!" Luna shouted; she drew her beam rifle and fired up at the Chaos, forcing it back before it could pick off the Impulse. "Shinn, what's wrong?!"

"You're just machines!" Shinn yelled as the Impulse swung around and looked up at the Chaos. "I can fight you!"

A DINN fired into the sky with its machinegun, but a beam shot blasted off its right arm, and an instant later, a Dark Dagger swept in with beam saber upraised to slice the DINN in half.

"Stop it!" Shinn screamed, charging after the Dark Dagger with his beam saber. It drew its beam carbine and fired back, taking off into the sky before Shinn could reach it.

Neo's Windam came storming in out of the sky to fire its rifle down at Shinn; the Impulse deflected the shots with its shield and pulled back.

Inside the Windam's cockpit, Neo smiled to himself. Shinn was an utter mess of emotion; obviously, he was starting to realize the downside of Newtype powers. Neo switched to the Windam's beam saber and moved in for the kill.

Shinn looked up; he saw the Windam charged in, but he felt himself being crushed by an invisible pressure, and this time it was coming from the Windam. It felt familiar; it was the Windam he had encountered before, before the Minerva had reached Carpentaria.

Shinn shrank into his seat, his head swimming, as he felt pressure on all sides, weighing him down. He had never felt this before; he clenched his trembling fists around the Impulse's controls, trying to move, but his body refused to respond. The Windam raised its saber

"I won't let you!"

Out of nowhere, Rey's white ZAKU Phantom slammed into the Windam, its right-hand shield extended to smash the Windam aside. The Windam went staggering out of the air; Rey's ZAKU pulled back and fired with its beam rifle, blowing off the Windam's left leg at the knee. As the Windam pulled away, trailing smoke, Rey's ZAKU moved in to put a hand on the Impulse's shoulder.

"Rey!" Shinn exclaimed, as the ZAKU turned its monoeye on him.

"Shinn," Rey said, "return to the Minerva. You are no longer able to fight."

"But Rey" Shinn began.

Rey narrowed his eyes at Shinn. "That is an order, Shinn."

The ZAKU took off, and Shinn watched in disbelief as Rey left, the words still ringing in his ears.

Up above, Lunamaria moved in towards Shinn, but an alarm went off at her side; a moment later, a Dagger L had swept in with its beam saber to sever her ZAKU's right arm at the elbow and kick her off her Guul. The Dagger raised its beam carbine for a killing shot

A moment later, the Dagger's arm went sailing into the ocean, and the Impulse swung its saber through the Dagger's waist, cutting it in half. Shinn ground his teeth as the Dagger exploded and the feeling returned. The Impulse grabbed Luna's ZAKU by its remaining arm and directed it towards the Minerva's deck.

Shinn turned towards the battlefield; up above, the Savior Gundam transformed and shot down a Dagger with its beam rifle; Shinn grunted at the sensation. The Impulse took off into the air; another DINN nearby was blown apart by a Dagger's bazooka.

Shinn ignited his beam saber and charged at the Gaia, as it swung around to shoot down another DINN. With a scream, Shinn brought his beam saber down on the Gaia; it swung around and deflected the strike with its shield, switching to its own beam saber.

Shinn felt panic and anger again, through the same distorted lens as before. He stared into the Gaia痴 glowering face; he wracked his brain for a reason why.

He never found one; a tower of water rose up from the ocean痴 surface, and in his ears, Shinn heard panic voices.

典he Saint Augustine! someone yelled. 的t痴 been hit!

展hat?! Talia shouted. 釘y what?!

典he Abyss! a terrified voice screamed. 的t痴 the Abyss! It痴濫

There was a burst of static; Shinn looked down, and saw a dark shape streaking through the water. Inside the Abyss Gundam, in its mobile armor mode, Auel Neider laughed as he showered the Saint Augustine with torpedoes.

的知 sorry for being so powerful! he cackled. 的t痴 over now! Die! The Abyss transformed and thrust its lance into the Saint Augustine痴 engines; arms of fire began to rip the submarine apart, and the Abyss darted away.

Shinn痴 eyes went wide as dozens of flames went out; the Impulse pulled away slowly from the Gaia, as Shinn stared ahead, trembling.

The Gaia charged in, saber raised for a kill; the Savior darted into the Gaia痴 path, deflecting its saber stroke with its shield and kicking it back.

鉄hinn! Shiho shouted. 展hat the hell are you doing?! Wake up!

They...they池e all dead...

Shinn squeezed his eyes shut as he heard screams of terror and pain; the pressure surrounded him, crushing him on all sides.

He saw his family again, on the blasted slope on Onogoro in CE 71; he saw the Freedom overhead. He saw Junius 7 fall again; he saw the Zamzazar again; Rau痴 words returned.

哲ewtypes suffer. Keep that in mind, Shinn.

Shinn lifted his head back and screamed; a seed burst.

The Impulse charged up, over the Savior痴 head; Shinn screamed, his dull eyes wide, and slammed his beam saber down onto the Gaia痴, forcing it back with sheer momentum.

STOP IT! he shrieked, swiveling around. He faced the three Earth Alliance ships attacking the Minerva. A squadron of Dagger Ls was rising to meet him; Shinn charged at them with wide eyes, screaming. STOP FIGHTING US!

The Impulse moved in a blur; the Daggers fired, but their shots passed by the blazing Impulse harmlessly. Across the battlefield, Rey stared in disbelief.

滴e痴 increasing the thruster output, he murmured to himself.

典hat idiot! He値l kill himself! Shiho exclaimed. 迭ey, come on, we致e got to stop him! The Savior and the ZAKU Phantom took off after the Impulse.

The Impulse flashed past one of the Daggers, beheading it as it passed, and stormed up into the Chaos痴 face, slashing its beam rifle in half as well. The Chaos tried to pull back and draw a beam saber; Shinn slashed off its arm as it did and kicked it into the ocean. Sting stared in disbelief as a blur of a mobile suit stormed up into the Gaia痴 face; Shinn screamed as he decapitated the Gaia and kicked it into the sea. He charged towards the ships, aiming first for one of the destroyers. It fired its weapons up at him; Shinn charged straight through their fire, letting the Impulse痴 Phase Shift deflect it harmlessly, and shrieked as he plunged the beam saber into the destroyer痴 bridge. He fired the booster, slicing the ship in two, and burst out of its desiccated remains with a shriek of rage, leaping up over the carrier and into the second destroyer, slashing through to its keel and piercing the underside. As the ship began to list, Shinn tore his way out of its hull and charged at the carrier.

A trio of Daggers rose to stop him; Shinn plowed through them and slammed his beam saber into the side of the carrier痴 bridge, then fired his CIWS through the carrier痴 hull and into its power plant. The carrier began to explode; Shinn slashed his way through the tower and took off into the air.

Across the battlefield, in his ailing Windam, Neo watched in disbelief as the James Monroe was split in two by a thunderous explosion.

的 can稚 believe it, Neo murmured. 鄭ll mobile suits, retreat at once! Repeat, all mobile suits, retreat at once!

The Daggers turned tail and fled, as the Abyss retrieved the damaged Chaos and Gaia; Shinn watched them go, his fists trembling.

Darkness began to take over; Shinn closed his eyes, and the Impulse collapsed towards the ocean.

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October 18th, CE 73 - ZAFT battleship Minerva, Indian Ocean

的s he awake yet? Lunamaria asked. The doctor at the door of the infirmary shook his head.

鉄hinn endured extreme mental trauma and severe physical stress, the doctor answered. 的t痴 a wonder he didn稚 break any bones.

徹r the Impulse, Shiho snorted disgustedly at Lunamaria痴 side. 典he Impulse can稚 move that fast under gravity. It痴 too dangerous, even for a Coordinator. What the hell was he thinking?

釘ut he sank three ships, Commander, Lunamaria tried to remind Shiho sheepishly. Shiho sniffed dismissively.

鄭nd he practically killed himself to do it, she shot back. 的 bet his throat痴 sore too, from all that screaming he did.

Luna did not bother trying to respond to that; she still couldn't figure out what could have gotten Shinn so upset.

的 guess we値l try back later, doctor, she said quietly. Shiho sighed in frustration as they walked away.

鏑unamaria, she said, 土ou are Shinn痴 friend. Can you explain to me why he would do something so stupidly self-destructive?

鉄hinn just wanted to protect the ship, Luna answered quietly. 徹r, so I guess. I don稚 know what had him so upset.

Shiho rubbed her temples. 滴e痴 a loose cannon, she said plainly. 滴e痴 always pulling stunts like this. It has to stop, for everyone痴 sake. As much as I am loathe to admit it, we need every pilot we can get, and he痴 no exception. If we get attacked again濫

展e will not be attacked again, Rey Za Burrel痴 voice interrupted as he stepped into Shiho痴 line of sight. Shiho and Luna stopped in surprise at the imposing figure before them. 鉄hinn destroyed three warships with a beam saber. The enemy will not want to fight him again.

Shiho eyed him suspiciously; Luna opened her mouth to speak, but no sound came out.

鄭re you sure? Shiho asked coldly. 的f they do, that idiot has put himself out of commission, and we値l be one weaker if they do come back.

典hey won稚, Rey said. He narrowed his eyes at Shiho.

A moment later, Luna was aware of a distinct and terrifying feeling coming from Rey. She was not sure what it was, but some latent intuition made her shrink back fearfully from the imposing blonde boy. Shiho tried to stand up to that invisible terrifying power, but at last she broke.

Rey brushed past her wordlessly; Shiho and Luna watched him as he slipped silently into the infirmary.

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When he finally awoke, Shinn Asuka felt blurriness all around him. Somewhere to his right, there was a strange point of pressure; but it was not painful and crushing. This pressure was cold, but familiar, calm, and soothing, like ice water on a hot day, jolting him with its sharpness but calming him and cooling him nonetheless.

Shinn struggled to open his eyes; Rey Za Burrel痴 ever-impassive face was there to greet him.

迭-Rey, Shinn murmured stumblingly, trying to sit up. Rey pressed him back into his bed.

泥on稚 move, he said. 添ou are still weakened.

展hat happened? Shinn moaned softly.

Rey stood up; Shinn at last realized that Rey had been kneeling by his side.

添esterday, you increased the Impulse痴 thruster output to a dangerously high level, Rey explained. 添ou then destroyed the Earth Alliance warships attacking Minerva with the Impulse痴 beam saber, and blacked out. You have been lying here unconscious ever since.

...that痴 not what I meant, Shinn mumbled. Rey was silent a moment, before he glanced at the nurse.

的値l have to ask you to leave us, Rey said. 的 will send for you if a problem arises.

釘ut濫 the nurse began to sputter.

Rey痴 eyes flashed into a formidable glare. 的値l have to ask you to leave us, he repeated.

The nurse said no more and shuffled away. Once she had left, Rey returned his gaze to Shinn.

添ou were screaming in rage, Rey continued. 添ou were upset by something. Do you want to know what it was?

Shinn nodded weakly.

添ou are a Newtype, Rey said with an edge of authority. 添our hypersensitivity to emotions has begun to manifest itself. As a result, you sensed the emotions of your enemies. You did not understand why you felt your enemy痴 emotions, and with the stresses of your enemies compounded upon your own, you snapped.

典hen...why did I feel so strange...when I killed people? Shinn asked weakly.

Rey was silent another moment. 摘motions disappear when people are killed, Rey said. 典hat is why you sense the disappearance; that is why you feel strange; that is why you suffer. He knelt at Shinn痴 side. 鄭nd that is why you must fight, even though it makes you suffer. You must create a world where Newtypes like you no longer have to kill people.

迭ey... Shinn murmured.

典he Chairman understands your pain, Rey said, 殿nd he wishes to end it. He wants to create a world where Newtypes do not need to suffer the way you do. That is why you have to fight; you must suffer now and sacrifice now, in order to create a better future.

Shinn looked over at Rey with a dismal smile on his pale face. 鉄top talking like a dying old man in a lousy drama, he said quietly. 滴ow come I知 the only one who has to suffer? Aren稚 you fighting too?

Rey stared into Shinn痴 eyes; Shinn痴 smile vanished.

的 have no future, Rey said. 溺y telomeres are short. My biological age is advancing faster than my chronological age. He blinked; Shinn caught a flicker of emotion in his hard blue eyes. 鄭fter all...I知 a clone.

Shinn blinked. 展hat?

Rey stood up.

添ou are the future, Rey said quietly. 添ou must make the Chairman痴 new world, for the sake of all of us. I cannot.

迭ey, Shinn said haltingly, struggling to sit up. 泥on稚 talk like that. You can have a future too.

Rey turned away. 哲o, Shinn, I cannot, he said. He started towards the door. 迭est and recuperate, he added. 展e have a few more days before we reach Socotra.

The door opened; Rey vanished through it; it slid shut again, and Shinn slumped back down against the bed, staring ruefully at the ceiling.

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Rey walked rigidly towards his room, his face never betraying for an instant his feelings. But as soon as the door to his and Shinn痴 room shut, he fell to his knees as tears sprang from his eyes.

擢orgive me, Shinn, he said tremblingly. 添ou have to carry the burden for me...for Gil...

He pounded the floor angrily as his tears fell.

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To be continued...