Phase 16 - To Walk a New Path

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED DESTINY

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Phase 16 - To Walk a New Path

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November 7th, CE 73 - Arzachel Crater Lunar Base, the Moon

A chain of explosions tore across space; thousands of projectiles and beam shots filled the sky. On the bridge of the Minerva, Talia watched carefully as an Alliance battleship, spewing smoke, listed towards the Minerva.

"Tristans," Arthur shouted, "fire!"

Four thick bolts of beam fire lanced out from the Minerva and speared the dying Alliance battleship; a burst of fire rose up on the other side of the listing ship, and a moment later, the enemy vessel was broken in two by a thunderous explosion.

敵amma Squadron reports that it has breached the enemy痴 first line, Meyrin said uneasily, 殿nd it is attacking the base defenses.

展e池e making progress already! Arthur said excitedly. 鼎aptain濫

鼎harge the Tannhäuser, Talia cut him off. 典he battle is far from over!

She sat back, watching the battlefield tensely, and wondering what Shinn was thinking right now.

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Shinn screamed as the Impulse charged; he ducked beneath a flurry of beam shots and opened fire as the Alliance痴 Dagger Ls came charging towards him. One of the Daggers passed over his head; Shinn wheeled around to shoot it down, and then turned to spear another as it came in to attack with its beam saber.

展hatever happens doesn稚 matter now, Shinn growled. 的値l just throw the dice and let fate take over!

The Impulse drew a beam saber and charged; a Doppelhorn Dagger opened fire with its cannons, but Shinn plowed effortlessly through the blasts and sliced the Doppelhorn Striker in two. The Dagger drew its beam carbine and jetted backwards.

哲o you don稚! Shinn shouted, wheeling around and perforating the Dagger痴 carbine with a burst of CIWS fire. The Dagger switched to its own beam saber, abandoning its carbine, and charged towards Shinn.

The two mobile suits met with a crash; Shinn thrust his shield upward, sending the Dagger痴 arm skyward, and sawed the Dagger痴 arm off at the elbow; a moment later he finished the Dagger with a killing stab to the torso, and took off, redrawing his beam rifle.

Another Dagger turned to open fire at him; Shinn shot it down effortlessly as he dodged beam shots from two more Daggers. He ducked beneath their shots as well and shot them both down as they tried to dodge.

鉄top putting up a fight! Shinn shouted. 笛ust go!

Yet another Dagger swept in with a bazooka; Shinn swiveled around and shot the bazooka out of its hands, and speared it on a second shot as it tried to draw its beam carbine. The Impulse turned to face the Arzachel base; nearby, a Gunner ZAKU Warrior put a fatal shot through the hull of a modified Drake-class cruiser. Shinn dipped below the explosion and headed for the Moon, as beam shots and missiles flashed around him.

Up ahead, he saw the familiar blue hull of Bogey 1; it was firing wildly at anything bearing the ZAFT insignia, and was forcing back a squadron of GuAIZ Rs. Down below, more ZAFT mobile suits were advancing steadily towards the base itself. Shinn narrowed his eyes and boosted into the fray.

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The Pentagon, Washington DC, Atlantic Federation

The Primary Situation Room was a cavernous room filled with computer terminals and screens, overlooked by one large platform at the back of the room, with a conference table and another set of computer terminals.

Lord Djibril stood near the edge of the platform, watching the main screens as they displayed live video feeds from the battle at Arzachel. To the side, President Copland was speaking in hushed voices with an Earth Alliance officer. He gave the officer a curt order and came up to Djibril痴 side.

典he outcome of the battle is in doubt already, Djibril, he said grimly.

Djibril cast Copland a sidelong glance and smirked. 鏑et痴 not be too quick to doubt, Mr. President, he said. 展e have yet to deploy the Windams. I guarantee you will enjoy that.

Copland glared at Djibril. 的 didn稚 start this war for fun, Djibril, he said pointedly. 的 started it to prevent the Coordinators from ever threatening us again."

展e have 167 Windams produced and manned in the Arzachel base as of this morning, Djibril responded coolly. 纏AFT has no idea that we have that many. They are attacking a foe whose true strength they are ignorant of.

展e did the same, Copland shot back. 哲one of us saw their Neutron Stampeder coming.

Djibril glared at the screen, his face twisting in disgust. 典his battle will be different, he said. 笛ust watch. This time we will be the victors.

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Arzachel Crater Lunar Base, the Moon

The Savior Gundam flashed through the sky in mobile armor mode; inside the cockpit, Shiho cast a quick glance across the battlefield, watching the ZAFT forces advance. A Dagger L came diving towards her, beam rifle blazing; she slammed on the brakes and wiped it out with a plasma cannon volley, and took off towards the lunar surface.

Up ahead, Rey痴 white ZAKU Phantom dove through a trio of beam shots, deflecting them all with its shield, and shot down the offending two Dagger Ls with its beam rifle. The ZAKU fell into formation next to the Savior.

鼎ommander, Rey痴 impassive-as-always voice said stoically, as his emotionless face appeared on Shiho痴 screen. 的 will attack Bogey 1. Do I have permission to take Lunamaria with me?

Shiho blinked in surprise; what did he need Luna for? 撤ermission granted, she said nevertheless. Rey saluted quickly; the screen went dark, and the ZAKU Phantom peeled off into the fray. Far up ahead, Shiho could see Luna痴 ZAKU blow away a pair of Dagger Ls with its beam cannon. Her ZAKU drifted towards Rey痴 and a moment later, both ZAKUs took off towards the distant blue form of Bogey 1.

Shiho dodged a wave of beam fire and glanced to her right; the closest ship was an upgraded Agamemnon-class carrier. Steeling her nerves, she took off towards it.

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Inside the cockpit of his ZAKU Phantom, Rey scowled angrily, scanning the battlefield for the Gaia Gundam.

You must be hiding somewhere, he said. I will take you down.

迭ey, Luna began uneasily, 釘ogey 1痴 that way, why are we濫

添ou and I will destroy the Gaia, Rey said shortly. 擢or Shinn痴 sake.

典he Gaia?! Luna echoed. 釘ut isn稚 the pilot of that thing濫

鉄tella, Rey finished hatefully. 展e will rid Shinn of this troublesome burden on his conscience.

迭id him of Stella?! Luna exclaimed. 釘ut that痴 just going to make him angrier!

的t is for the best, Rey said. 添ou distract it; I will move in and finish it off at close range. He ended the transmission before Luna could protest, and to the right, he caught sight of a thin black shape.

The Gaia...!

The ZAKU banked towards the Gaia, on the dusty surface of the moon. Around them, the ZAFT mobile suits were landing, trading fire with the Alliance Daggers and the base defenses. Rey scowled at the Gaia as it shot down a GINN.

添ou will lead Shinn astray, he snarled. 添ou will twist him and turn him against us...you cannot be allowed to exist!

Rey opened fire; the Gaia jumped aside and fired back. Luna痴 ZAKU Warrior returned fire with its beam cannon; the Gaia dove out of harm痴 way as the beam blast seared across the lunar ground.

添ou will not turn Shinn against us, Rey growled, firing a storm of missiles at the Gaia. The Gaia shot them down with a CIWS burst; Rey fired his beam rifle through the smoke, slamming his shots against the Gaia痴 shield. He drew a beam tomahawk in his left hand and charged. 的 will rid the world of you today!

Rey slammed his tomahawk against the Gaia痴 shield, forcing it back. Luna leveled off her beam cannon and fired; the Gaia threw itself backwards to dodge the shot, but Rey followed up Luna痴 blast with a beam rifle shot of his own, and the Gaia barely ducked beneath it. Inside the Gaia痴 cockpit, Stella stared in disbelief at the two ZAKUs as they teamed up against her.

Luna fired her beam cannon a second time; Stella skirted to the side, but Rey was there to shower her with missiles and beam shots again. The Gaia pulled back behind its shield, but Luna forced it back on the defensive with another beam cannon blast. The Gaia leapt into the air, but Rey slammed into it with his ZAKU痴 left-hand shield, forcing it backwards. He followed it up with a roundhouse kick to the face, sending the Gaia sprawling into the dust. Landing triumphantly in front of the Gaia, Rey raised his beam rifle for a killing shot. Stella痴 eyes went wide in horror; Rey scowled and pulled the trigger

His shot slammed against a shield; Rey痴 eyes widened in disbelief as another mobile suit shoulder-rammed him in the chest, sending the ZAKU staggering back. Luna landed nearby, staring in shock.

A furious flash from the eyes of the Impulse Gundam illuminated the sky.

Inside, Shinn saw a seed explode before his eyes; he drew his beam saber and charged, and as Rey痴 ZAKU struggled back to its feet, he kicked the beam rifle out of the ZAKU壮 hands. Rey reflexively fired the ZAKU痴 Blaze Wizard boosters to skim along the lunar surface and put himself back on his feet, staring incredulously at the Impulse.

鉄hinn! Luna exclaimed. 展hat are you doing?!

Shinn glared at Luna. 的 told you, he said, 的 would protect Stella no matter what.

Rey痴 face contorted in fury; he raised the ZAKU痴 beam tomahawk and charged. The ZAKU and the Impulse slammed together in a shower of sparks.

鉄hinn! Rey shouted. 展hy are you doing this?! Will you betray us?! The new world?! The Chairman?! Me?!

鉄hut up, Rey! Shinn shouted back; the Impulse fired its thrusters and slammed the ZAKU in the stomach with its knee, sending its tomahawk clattering away. 的知 not going to take punches for the Chairman or you anymore! I won稚 let you do it at Stella痴 expense!

鉄hinn! Rey began.

He never got to finish; the Impulse slashed the ZAKU痴 right arm off at the shoulder and its right leg at the knee. The crippled ZAKU staggered back, spewing smoke; Shinn screamed in rage and, in a second beam saber stroke, wiped out the Blaze Wizard and lopped off its left-hand shield. The ZAKU collapsed backwards into the dust; Shinn pointed his beam saber defiantly down at it.

Rey stared in disbelief at the Impulse, through the smoke pouring from his own mobile suit. 鉄hinn! he shouted. 添ou were supposed to build the Chairman痴 new world! Why are you letting that Extended lead you astray?!

的 don稚 want to be in a world where I have to keep suffering! Shinn shouted back. 典ell the Chairman that! Tell the Chairman that I don稚 want to be a Newtype! Tell him that he and his new world and his Newtypes can all go to hell!

鉄hinn, don稚 be a fool! Rey screamed. 鉄top this濫

Shinn痴 eyes flashed; he slashed open the ZAKU痴 cockpit hatch and glowered at Rey as he stared in shock at the Impulse.

泥on稚 make me kill you, Rey! Shinn yelled. 的 will if you make me!

Rey snarled in rage and seized his fallen beam rifle with his ZAKU痴 remaining left hand and tried to swing it around to fire at the Gaia, as it struggled to its feet. The Impulse痴 beam saber swept down to slice the ZAKU痴 left arm off at the elbow and stabbed through the ZAKU痴 head. What was left of the ZAKU fell backwards into the dust and remained motionless.

Shinn glared up at Luna痴 ZAKU as she stared in disbelief at the scene. 鉄tay out of my way, he growled, 登r I値l do the same to you.

The Impulse deactivated its beam saber and stomped away. Luna watched it go helplessly. Rey wearily climbed out of his ZAKU痴 cockpit and looked up at the battlefield; high above, the Minerva was fighting another Alliance warship.

鏑unamaria, he said into his helmet radio, looking over at her ZAKU, 妬nform the Minerva what has happened. He scowled at the Impulse as it stalked away.

Shinn...

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The hangar doors buckled inwards and came down with a crash, and a Blaze ZAKU Phantom kicked its way into one of the hangars of the Arzachel base. Inside, the pilot smirked and glanced back at his ZAKU squad, as the rest of the mobile suits picked their way into the hangar.

"Inform the Gondwana that we've entered the base," the commander said. "All units, follow me!"

The ZAKU Phantom raised its beam rifle and fired as a Dagger L activated; the Dagger exploded, and the commander smiled as the mechanics and pilots fled and the ZAKUs destroyed the unmanned, silent Daggers in the hangar.

"This is easier than infanticide," the commander laughed. "Stupid Naturals can never put up a fight! All units"

A pair of heavy doors in the back of the hangar slid open; a flash of light came out from the depths of the darkened inner hangar. The commander paused inquisitively; a beam rifle blast blew off his ZAKU's right arm. Staring in disbelief, the commander watched as a squad of sleek white mobile suits marched out of the darkness, opening fire on the ZAKUs and wiping them out.

"W-What the hell are these?!" the commander exclaimed in disbelief. The leading mobile suit's eyes flashed underneath a thin visor; it raised its beam rifle and drilled a killing shot through the ZAKU Phantom's cockpit.

As the smoke parted, the squad of Windams marched out of the ruined hangar and towards the battlefield.

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Stella stared in confusion as the Impulse helped the Gaia back to its feet.

鉄hinn... she murmured. On her screen, Shinn smiled gently at her.

的 promised you I壇 protect you, he said. Stella blinked at him.

"But...they were on Shinn's side," she said confusedly. "...weren't they?"

"They were going to hurt you," Shinn said. "I wouldn't let them. If they come back, I'll stop them again. I'll fight them as many times as I have to until they stop trying to hurt you."

Nearby, a hangar exploded outward; Shinn moved in front of the Gaia and protected it with the Impulse's shield, and watched carefully as a team of damaged ZAFT ZAKUs was torn apart by beam fire. A squad of sleek white Windams marched out, finished off the ZAKUs with another volley of beam fire, and took off into the battle.

"We should get going," Shinn said, glancing back at the Gaia. "Well, I should, anyways. ZAFT will send more mobile suits after me. I don't want to put you in danger."

The Impulse turned away.

"Stella wants to go with Shinn," Stella said suddenly. Shinn blinked in surprise and turned to look back at her.

"But what about Neo?" he asked. Stella looked at Shinn with determination in her eyes.

"Stella wants to go with Shinn," she repeated firmly. Shinn looked at her helplessly.

"Are you sure?" he asked. "Neo"

"Stella wants go to with Shinn," she said a third time, looking annoyed. Shinn sighed in defeat.

"I just don't want you to get hurt," he said. "Are you sure you'll be okay with me?" Stella nodded, and Shinn looked wearily at the battlefield. "Well, the first thing we should do is get out of here," he went on. "The battle is starting to spread."

Stella watched Shinn blankly as he looked around the battlefield. A Dagger came streaking towards them, beam carbine raised; Shinn turned to face it, but Stella shot it down before he could open fire. Shinn looked back at her in surprise; she looked back blankly.

"Stella" he began.

"Stella doesn't wanna be alone," she said quietly. Shinn smiled at her.

"Don't worry," he said. "Just stay close to me. I'll get you out of here."

The Impulse looked up into the battle; Shinn narrowed his eyes at the tiny glints of light far in the distance; they were the colonies of Lagrange Point 2.

He glanced back at the Gaia and clenched his fists around the controls.

"We'll go to L2," he said. "The mobile suits can make it." He smiled at Stella in spite of himself. "Come on."

The Impulse and the Gaia took off together.

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ZAFT battleship Minerva

"He what?!"

Arthur's words echoed throughout the Minerva's bridge; all eyes were fixed on the Minerva's screens, as Rey's dour face stared them all down.

"That is correct," Rey answered grimly. "Shinn protected the Gaia, crippled my ZAKU, and threatened Lunamaria before he retreated. Lunamaria is bringing me back to the Minerva as we speak."

"B-But, Shinn turned against us?" Meyrin murmured helplessly. "He betrayed us?"

"Are you sure, Rey?" Talia asked.

"Yes, captain," Rey answered without hesitation. "The Impulse left the battlefield with the Gaia."

The bridge was silent; a dull rumbling shook the bridge as something exploded nearby.

"I suppose we shouldn't be surprised," Talia said quietly. "The Chairman pushed him too hard. Sooner or later he was going to snap."

"Captain," Luna spoke up hesitantly. Talia glanced back up at the screen, as Luna's face appeared in place of Rey's. "I...um...I'm requesting permission to go after Shinn once Rey is back on the Minerva."

Talia arched an eyebrow. "What do you intend to do once you find him?" she asked. Luna blinked.

"I want to talk him down," she said. "Or...I want to try."

Talia glanced at Rey pointedly.

"Permission granted," she said authoritatively. She glanced at Rey again; he was impassive. "Do your best to talk Shinn down and convince him to return. If that isn't an option, disable his mobile suit."

"...yes ma'am," Luna said with a reluctant salute.

Talia sat back, glowering at the battlefield.

This was inevitable, Gilbert, she thought grimly. You will reap what you sowed.

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Neo pounded a fist angrily on the armrest of his chair, glowering furiously at the screen, and the blank words, "Signal Denied."

"What the hell do you mean she's cutting off our signal?!" Neo shouted. "Find out what's wrong! Now!"

The bridge crew fearfully set to work, and Neo clenched his trembling fists in rage.

"What the hell happened to break the conditioning?!" he snarled. "Stella was a Class III! This shit shouldn't have happened!"

In the left-hand chair, Lee remained silent, keeping in check a feeling of delight at seeing something fall apart in front of Neo's eyes. Shinn had actually protected Stella; Neo had just said he would. Stella would be safe with Shinn; of that Lee was certain. At least one of Neo's Extended would have a chance to be as safe and happy as Neo had promised them all they would be.

"If Stella can break her dependency and run off on us," Neo snarled, "then God knows what Sting and Auel might be capable of."

"Perhaps you should treat them like soldiers, and not batteries," Lee said gruffly. "Praise Sting once in a while, be the father figure to make up for Auel's lost mother. Since you never protected Stella like you said you would."

Neo swiveled around furiously on Lee. "Don't you dare question me, Lee!" he roared. "You don't have half the burden on your shoulders as I do!"

Neo spun around indignantly, glaring at the screen. Lee watched Neo with a smug feeling of satisfaction.

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Beams lanced out towards the Impulse and the Gaia as they charged towards the edge of the battlefield. Up ahead, a Nazca-class was turning its guns on the two mobile suits; Shinn scowled at it, deflecting a barrage of machinegun fire with his shield and pulling in front of the Gaia. A squad of ZAFT mobile suits, rising to meet the two renegade Gundams, supported the Nazca痴 guns.

"Stella," Shinn said quickly, glancing back at the Gaia, "you'll have to help me fight our way out!"

"Okay!" Stella answered enthusiastically. The Gaia took off towards the mobile suits; Shinn forced himself to trust her, and dove down towards the Nazca痴 hull.

The Nazca痴 guns blazed; Shinn ducked beneath their shots and charged up to the Nazca's bow, slicing off one of the beam cannons with his beam saber. A GuAIZ R stormed towards him, firing its railguns; Shinn deflected the shots effortlessly with his shield and slashed the GuAIZ R in half as it dropped down with its beam saber. The Gaia swept in behind him to shoot down a GINN as it charged towards Shinn's back, sword raised.

"We're not going to make much progress this way," Shinn grunted, turning his eyes on the Nazca. Drawing his beam rifle, he shoved the Gaia aside and dodged a beam blast from one of the Nazca's turrets. The Gaia fired back with its beam rifle and beam cannons, wiping out the turret, and Shinn charged with his beam saber. The Nazca's remaining guns blazed, but Shinn blocked their shots with his shield, and plunged his saber into the Nazca's bridge. The Gaia speared its engines on three beam shots, and both mobile suits pulled away as the Nazca's engines exploded, taking the ship with it.

Shinn watched a fireball consume the ship. "I can't go back now," he murmured. "Come on, Stella. Let's go."

The Impulse and Gaia took off again, towards the edge of the battlefield. A Dagger L rose to stop them; Shinn shot it down with a beam rifle shot to the torso. The Gaia moved up next to the Impulse, and Stella gazed blankly at Shinn.

"Is something wrong, Stella?" Shinn asked awkwardly, glancing at her as the two mobile suits streaked across the battlefield.

"...will Shinn be happy?" she asked quietly. Shinn blinked in surprise.

"If I have the chance to protect you, then yes, I will," he said. Stella was silent a moment.

"...but...aren't they Shinn's friends...?" she went on. Shinn smiled back at her.

"That doesn't matter," he said. "I won't go after them and hurt them, but I won't let them hurt you either."

Stella looked at Shinn for a moment. "...okay."

Shinn looked ahead; another mobile suit was approaching them. He magnified the image, and scowled as the orange face of Heine's GOUF Ignited appeared.

"Don't worry about this guy, Stella," he said, clenching his teeth, his eyes flashing. "I'll take care of him." The Impulse charged ahead, and Shinn scowled at Heine's oncoming GOUF. "I have one more loose end to tie up before I leave," he growled. He raised his beam rifle, taking aim at the GOUF. "Now go to hell!"

The Impulse opened fire with its beam rifle; inside the GOUF's cockpit, Heine scowled in disgust, dodging the Impulse's shots.

"I figured you'd betray us once and for all, Shinn," he snarled back; inside the Impulse, Shinn sneered in disgust at his words. "It's just as well; you betrayed us once, and now I will make you face justice!"

The GOUF swung its right-hand heat rod out towards the Impulse; Shinn jetted to the side and switched to his beam saber. The glowing heat rod swung up again towards him; he rocketed up into the air and dove down towards the GOUF itself. Heine scowled and tried to bring his heat rod back up towards the Impulse.

"Die, you traitor!" he screamed. Shinn screamed back and slashed the heat rod in two with his beam saber. "Dammit!" Heine grunted, retracting what was left of the heat rod and drawing his beam sword. "You damned traitor! Hold still!"

The GOUF and the Impulse crashed together in a shower of sparks; Shinn grunted as the Impulse shook. Heine snarled in frustration as the two mobile suits pushed helplessly against each other.

"Traitor!" Heine shouted again. "You betrayed us, now stop fighting! Your death is just!"

"Don't give me that shit!" Shinn shouted back, surging forward and sending the GOUF reeling back. He charged again, and Heine barely blocked the Impulse's beam saber slash with the GOUF's shield. "I did what was right and I have no regrets!"

"You betrayed us!" Heine roared. "You betrayed us for some convalescent Natural science project!"

The GOUF pulled back and lashed out with its left-hand heat rod; Shinn sneered in disgust and slashed it in half. The two mobile suits paused, glowering at each other.

"I don't care what you think!" Shinn snapped. "I don't need your approval! You were just going to let Stella die! You're no better than the Alliance!"

The GOUF charged; Heine's eyes flashed in fury. "Don't compare me to those Natural swine!" he screamed; the GOUF slammed its beam sword down on the Impulse's saber. The Impulse pushed back, forcing the GOUF away; Heine snarled in fury and fired his beam guns at the Impulse. Shinn deflected the shots with his shield and jetted up with a burst of exhaust over the GOUF's head, to drop down with a beam saber slash that Heine deflected with the blade of his beam sword.

"If you keep fighting here you'll be a traitor forever!" Heine screamed. "Accept your fate and die! The world won't even have to know what a traitor Shinn Asuka was to his country and his people!" The GOUF pushed back against the Impulse and showered it with beam bolts again. "If you get away now, you'll be a traitor everywhere you go! Your face will be on every screen, your name will be cursed, you'll have the mark of a traitor for the rest of your godforsaken life! Drop your weapon and die like a man who knows he was wrong!"

The Impulse's eyes flashed, and Shinn rammed the GOUF in the stomach with the Impulse's knee, sending it staggering back.

"I'm not going to lie down and let you kill me!" Shinn screamed. "I may not have much to live for, but I've still got Stella, and I'll rot in hell before I let you hurt her!" The Impulse swung its saber again; the GOUF deflected it with its beam sword again. The two mobile suits jetted apart, and Heine opened fire again with his beam guns.

"How dare you put a stunted little girl over your people!" Heine shrieked. "I'll send you to rot in hell myself, you insolent bastard!"

The GOUF charged; Shinn narrowed his eyes as it did. Time slowed to a crawl; a white bolt of energy sliced the air in front of him; he saw the GOUF bring its sword down towards him in a powerful downward hack; he screamed in rage as he moved. The Impulse caught the GOUF's sword blow on its shield; with a shout, Shinn thrust the GOUF's sword aside; Heine's eyes widened in disbelief

The Impulse's beam saber went plunging into the GOUF Ignited's torso.

Heine stared at the sparks and flashing lights in his mobile suit's cockpit; horror swept over him. "I'll see you in hell, Shinn!" he shrieked.

Shinn scowled. "Save a place for me!" he shouted back; with a flick of the wrist, he removed his beam saber and took cover behind his shield as the GOUF exploded.

The explosion sent the Impulse reeling back; Shinn fired the brakes to slow himself down as the fireball faded. He glanced over his shoulder; the Gaia was floating nearby, watching everything impassively. He smiled as Stella's face appeared on his screen.

"Sorry about that, Stella," he said gently. "We can go now."

The Impulse and the Gaia took off again.

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"He took out the Galileo," Luna read in disbelief, staring at her ZAKU's displays as the information ticked by. "Shinn...he's really turned against us..."

The sounds of battle faded to a dim hum in the back of Luna痴 mind as she stared at the screen. The reports were coming in that together, the Impulse and Gaia had destroyed the Nazca-class destroyer Galileo and over a dozen ZAFT mobile suits. The blood of hundreds of ZAFT soldiers was on Shinn痴 hands now.

Up ahead, Luna could see the Impulse and Gaia charging out of the battle. Luna narrowed her eyes at the Gaia; Rey had been right. Stella was turning Shinn against them, but Luna had one last chance to stop him.

She leveled off her beam cannon at the Gaia. 的値l take you out, she growled, 殿nd set everything right!

The ZAKU fired; down below, the alarms inside the Gaia went off, and Stella rolled out of harm痴 way, looking up at the red ZAKU as it took aim again.

鏑una! Shinn shouted, wheeling around. 的 told you not to get in my way! He fired his beam rifle up at the ZAKU. 哲ow go away! Let us go!

的 can稚 do that, Shinn! Luna shouted back; she turned to fire her cannon at the Impulse, aiming for the head. The Impulse jetted downwards, letting the shot sear by over its head, and Shinn glared up at the ZAKU. 的 can稚 let you betray us again! I won稚 let you!

The ZAKU drew its tomahawk and hurled it down at the Impulse; a moment later, the Gaia was there to slash the tomahawk in half with its beam saber. Luna glared down at the Gaia and fired her beam cannon again, but again the Impulse and Gaia dodged.

鉄tella! Shinn exclaimed. 的値l handle her濫

The Gaia rocketed up towards Luna痴 ZAKU despite Shinn痴 warning.

的'll protect Shinn! Stella shouted, glaring up at the ZAKU as it pulled back. She drew the Gaia痴 beam saber back and swung wildly after the fleeing ZAKU. 添ou won't take Shinn away!

The ZAKU swung around; Luna clenched her teeth and fired the beam cannon, but again the Gaia jetted to the side.

泥amn you! Luna shouted. 擢irst you steal our Gundams, now you steal my friend! What more do you want?!

The Gaia ducked beneath another blast and slashed the ZAKU痴 cannon in two; Luna abandoned what was left of the Gunner Wizard as the cannon exploded violently, and pulled back, drawing her beam rifle.

Stella screamed; the Gaia surged up into the ZAKU痴 face, slashing its right arm off and kicking it in the chest. Luna grunted in pain as she was thrown back into the ZAKU痴 seat. Stella pulled her saber back for a killing stab, but a moment later, Shinn was there to catch her arm.

鉄tella! he exclaimed. 鏑et her go! Let痴 get out of here!

He glanced towards the battle; the Alliance痴 new Windam mobile suits were tearing the ZAFT forces to shreds. It would not be long before the Windams turned their wrath upon the two Gundams.

Stella glanced ruefully at the ZAKU, and then looked back at Shinn.

鉄hinn will protect Stella? she asked one last time.

Shinn nodded. 的値l protect you.

Luna watched in disbelief from her crippled ZAKU as the Impulse and the Gaia Gundams took off together into space.

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To be continued...