Phase 18 - The Mad Typhoon

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED DESTINY

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Phase 18 - The Mad Typhoon

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November 8th, CE 73 - Airspace near Boomtown III, Lagrange Point 2

A flurry of missiles came storming into the face of the Gundam Astray Red Frame, and Lowe Gear let out a yelp of surprise, quickly setting off the Igelstellungs to cut down the missiles.

敵oddammit! he yelled. 典hey just keep shooting missiles from the ships!

The Red Frame burst forward, the Gerbera Straight flashing as Lowe brought it to bear on an incoming Dagger L. The Dagger swung backwards, but the Gerbera Straight cleaved through the Dagger痴 torso, slicing off its head and right arm. 的t slices, it dices! Lowe shouted with a victorious grin. A solid kick to the torso sent the mobile suit spiraling away, and Lowe snapped his attention to the right. Another pair of Daggers was coming down upon him, beam carbines firing madly. Lowe ground his teeth, taking the shots to the Gerbera Straight痴 anti-beam coated surface.

Another beam shot blazed through one of the Daggers, destroying it in a blaze, and as the Dagger痴 partner scanned the black skies for the attacker, a CGUE with a heavy laser sword slashed through it. Lowe grunted in surprise as the Red Frame was thrown backwards from the resulting explosion. 滴ey! he shouted at the CGUE. 展atch it there, will ya?!

摘nemy above! Eight shouted out. Lowe snapped his attention up above, and yelped in surprise as a Gundam came storming down, twirling a laser lance over its head. The Gundam brought the weapon down with a slash that the Red Frame痴 Gerbera Straight barely blocked, and with a flash, the eyes of the Abyss Gundam lit up.

展hat the! Lowe exclaimed, eyes wide. 展here did he come from?!

摘xtreme caution is advised! Eight bleated. 撤ull back!

的知 trying! Lowe shouted back, as the Abyss forced the Red Frame away. The Abyss痴 shoulder shells opened up, and a flurry of beam shots stormed out towards Lowe. 鉄hit! The Red Frame smacked the shots away with the Gerbera Straight and took off above. But an instant later there were more beam shots and missiles surrounding the Red Frame, and with another beam shot, the Chaos Gundam dropped in, spewing CIWS fire at the Red Frame. 泥ammit! Lowe growled. 哲ot another one! The gunbarrels swarmed around the Red Frame, and Lowe dove backwards to avoid their shots. A Dagger came storming in, its beam saber fired up for a killing slash; Lowe let out a scream

And suddenly there was another mobile suit in the fray. It used its shield to swing the Dagger痴 saber up above its head, and followed up with a lethal beam shot.

Silhouetted against the light of the explosion was the Force Impulse Gundam.

添ou池e that ZAFT deserter! Lowe shouted in realization. 添ou! Shinn Asuka!

The Impulse glanced back at the Red Frame. A moment later, it dove up into the sky above the Red Frame, and angled towards the three Alliance ships. Lowe stared after the Impulse in shock.

滴e痴 going after the ships in that?! Is he insane?! The Red Frame dodged a beam shot from a Dagger, just in time for a GuAIZ to swoop in and impale it on a shot of its own. 泥ammit... The Red Frame took off after the Impulse. 摘ight, open communications with him! Lowe ordered.

The grim face of Shinn Asuka appeared on one of the Red Frame痴 side monitors.

添ou crazy bastard! Lowe shouted. 展hat the hell do you think you池eWHOA!"

The Red Frame lurched abruptly as Lowe barely managed to avoid a machinegun burst from one of the Drake-class. The Drake痴 blazing anti-air Vulcan traced the Red Frame痴 movements for an instant傭ut an instant later, the Impulse had stormed through the face of the machinegun痴 line of fire to smash the turret with the end of its shield.

More beam shots flashed through the space around the attacking mobile suits, and both pilots snapped their attention towards the source耀everal of the Daggers were storming towards them, the Abyss in front of them. The Impulse swung around to face them and charged, and Lowe let out a yelp of surprise as the Red Frame was rattled by more Vulcan fire.

泥ammit! he grumbled. 展hat did that crazy bastard get me into...? He shuddered as the Red Frame shook again, and took after the Impulse.

鄭ctually, you were the one to follow him, Eight put in. Lowe clenched his teeth.

徹h shut up! he shot back. 鄭nd reroute some power to the booster! That moron壮 gonna need help, and I僧 just the kinda guy to give it!

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Bridge of battlecruiser Kasselheim

溺issiles incoming! shouted Mike. Mev scowled at the sight out the window.

的gelstellungs, fire, he ordered. The Igelstellungs shrieked as they fired, and a cloud of fire erupted in front of the Kasselheim. 鉄mokescreen missiles. Mike, switch to infrared scanning and give us ranging data on one of those Drakes. Yun, I want all four Gottfrieds ready to fire on whatever data Mike gives us. Make it quick, that cloud won稚 last for long.

The crew dove into their new tasks, and Mev sat back. 溺iss Loussier, he said quietly, glancing at Stella as she wrung her hands worriedly, 田alm down. We池e not so easy to defeat.

展e致e got the data! Yun shouted from the weapons console. Mev glanced over at her.

鄭im it along any vector. Fire as soon as you致e got one.

There was a short pause, and then the rumble of the Gottfrieds firing. The green pulsing beams lanced through the clouds of smoke, and there was a smaller rumble of an explosion. The force of the shots and the blow they struck dispersed the clouds, to reveal the port side of one of the Drakes smoldering傭ut the majority of the ship remained intact. Mev scowled and opened his mouth to speak again.

Before he could, however, something blasted out of the smoke and came storming towards the Kasselheim's bridge. Mev furrowed his brow at the approaching Chaos Gundam.

"Shoot that thing down," he ordered. The Igelstellungs fired and a swarm of missiles rushed towards the Chaos, but the Chaos charged in, and snapped up its beam rifle, aiming at the bridge. It opened fire, and a green bolt came flashing towards the bridge windows

And then there was another bolt, slamming into the Chaos's shot and spoiling it. The Chaos slammed on the brakes and glowered in the direction of the attacker, just in time to throw up its shield as the Force Impulse slammed down with its beam saber.

"Shinn..." Stella murmured, staring blankly at the Impulse and Chaos as they launched into a vicious beam saber duel. Mev watched pensively.

"He only saved us so he could keep her safe," Viima snarled. Mev arched an eyebrow inquisitively.

"Kika, send George to cover him," he ordered. 的 suppose we値l be seeing just what Mr. Asuka is all about.

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Bridge of Atlantic Federation battleship Girty Lue

Neo Roanoke watched with a smirk as the Chaos took on the Impulse.

典he plot thickens, he said at last. Lee turned inquisitively towards him, and Neo at last glanced back at him. 鼎ome on, Lee, surely you weren稚 expecting that Shinn fellow to start defending those pirates?

徹f course not, Lee answered gruffly. 的 just think we should launch the Windams too.

典he Windams only chewed up and spit out those ZAFT units at Arzachel because ZAFT didn稚 see them coming, Neo admonished him. 鄭nd because those ZAFT pilots aren稚 the battlefield gods they think they are. But that kid is a cut above the rank-and-file ZAFT grunt. He smirked again. 的 may have to pay a little visit myself.

滴e could dish out some serious damage to you, too, Lee warned. "He beat you on Earth, after all." Neo chuckled.

展ell, I知 not a ZAFT pilot, he answered, smirking again. 的 know when to stop before I get killed. They don稚. He got out of his chair and drifted towards the door. 的値l leave the ship in your hands. I値l launch in the Exus, then you send out the Windams and start attacking that pirate ship.

添ou池e not launching in your Windam? Lee asked, arching an eyebrow. Neo shook his head.

典he Exus's gunbarrels will make life more miserable for him. Besides, I want to test something. You attack the pirate ship.

添es sir, Lee answered. 鄭nd the Junk Guild ship?

滴ell if I care, Neo snorted dismissively. 笛ust focus on those pirates.

The door slid shut with a hiss.

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Outside Boomtown III

"This bastard just won't die!" Auel's voice growled through the speaker. Sting glanced at it in annoyance and returned his attention to the twisting and dodging Impulse. He fired his beam rifle; the Impulse swept below his shot and smashed into the Chaos with its shield.

鄭uel, get around it! Sting shouted, pulling back and drawing his beam saber. The Abyss lined up behind the Impulse, but a moment later, it was attacked by the Red Frame and pulled back to dodge an overhead sword slash.

敵oddammit! Auel shouted. 展hat the hell is this guy?! I thought they were just junk techs!

The Impulse brought its beam saber down on the Chaos; Sting caught the blow with the Chaos痴 shield. 擢ine, you take care of the Impulse! he shouted. 的値l worry about that Junk Guild suit!

Inside the Impulse, Shinn screamed as he jetted up into the Chaos痴 path, slamming his beam saber against its shield. 添ou won稚 touch Stella! he shouted. 的 got her this far, I知 not letting you kill her!

鉄hinn! Lowe shouted; the Red Frame ducked under a lance swipe from the Abyss and slammed his Gerbera Straight against the Abyss痴 shoulder shell. 添ou go worry about those ships! I値l handle these two!

釘ut濫 Shinn began.

典he sooner we get rid of their motherships, the sooner they leave! Lowe yelled back. 哲ow go!

Shinn turned and took off towards the three battleships; the Daggers rose to meet him. Resolutely, he activated the Impulse's beam saber and charged. Storming forward, he dove down at one Dagger and slashed it in half before it could react. The others dropped from their charge and swept down after him. Beam shots rained around him, and he whipped around to face the next attacker.

The Daggers split up, showering him with beam fire; Shinn backed away behind his shield. A pair of beam shots sliced through two of the Daggers, and Shinn glanced over at the CGUE and the GuAIZ as they attacked the Daggers from the side.

Shinn diverted his attention to the left, as a shower of missiles flashed around him. The two Drakes were firing volleys of missiles, while the Nelson was firing with its beam cannons. Shinn burst upward to avoid a beam burst and fired his CIWS, cutting down a trio of approaching missiles.

Another burst of fire diverted Shinn痴 attention again, and he swung his beam saber in the direction of the attacker. A Dagger charged in with a drawn beam saber, and Shinn parried the first two attacks before slamming back hard on the third. The Dagger, momentarily stunned by the force of Shinn痴 counterattack, fell easily when Shinn stabbed his saber into its stomach. Turning again, he found a red explosive shell slamming into him, pushing him backwards.

Another Dagger, toting a bazooka, came streaking towards him, and Shinn immediately cut the shells down with a CIWS burst. He jetted backwards, just in time to avoid another bazooka shell. Shinn fired his CIWS, but the Dagger痴 shield swung up to defend, firing back with its bazooka. Shinn dodged the blast and stormed in at close range, impaling the Dagger on his beam saber.

Missiles and beam shots caught Shinn痴 attention next as the Daggers began to draw back towards their ships. One of the Drakes was already aflame from the Kasselheim壮 previous hit; the Kasselheim fired its Gottfrieds again, smashing head-on into the damaged cruiser and wiping it out in a violent explosion.

Shinn glanced to his right and dodged another beam cannon burst, jetting upwards and switching to his beam rifle. The Exus passed by underneath his feet; inside the cockpit, Neo glanced over his shoulder at the Impulse.

添ou致e come a long way, kid, he said. 適udos for screwing over ZAFT at Arzachel, but now your luck痴 run out! He wheeled around for another pass and launched his gunbarrels; the gunbarrel sabers ignited and all four charged straight at the Impulse.

Inside the Impulse, Shinn narrowed his eyes at the oncoming weapons. He could see them charging at him; a white bolt of energy flashed through the air

The first gunbarrel charged at him; Shinn batted it aside with his shield and shot down the second before it could come any closer. He jetted up over the third and shot it down, and ducked beneath the fourth.

Neo watched in disbelief, pulling his remaining gunbarrels back. "What the hell was that?!" he exclaimed. He surrounded the Impulse with as much beam fire as he could manage with his remaining gunbarrels; Shinn fired up and sliced a shot across the Exus's side, tearing an ugly scar into its fuselage. Neo grunted and swung a gunbarrel behind the Impulse; Shinn whipped around and speared it on a beam shot. The last gunbarrel ignited its sabers and charged; Shinn turned with a scream, drawing his beam saber and slicing the gunbarrel in half in one fluid motion.

Neo pulled back, scowling. "What the hell is with this kid?!" he yelled. The Impulse charged, brandishing its beam saber; the Exus tried to dodge, but Shinn tore another scar into its side, and its right-hand beam cannon went spiraling away. The Exus fired its thrusters, and Neo grunted in disbelief as he pulled back and angled for the Girty Lue.

Shinn watched the smoldering Exus retreat, and turned his attention to the remaining Drake-class as a plan began to take shape in his mind. He charged, pulling his beam saber back and plowing through the Drake's Vulcan fire effortlessly; he slammed his saber into the Drake's upper starboard missile launcher. The missile launcher exploded; Shinn took cover behind his shield and swept over to the side to slash the Drake's bridge out. As the ship began to list towards the Nelson, Shinn impaled the remaining starboard missile launcher through the Drake's ruined catapult; the explosion sent the Drake drifting faster towards the Nelson.

"Kasselheim, shoot the Drake!" Shinn shouted, pulling back.

On the bridge of the Kasselheim, Kika blinked in surprise and looked over her shoulder at Mev.

"Captain, Shinn wants us to attack that Drake-class!" she exclaimed. Mev's face remained impassive.

"Then attack we will," he said. "Yun, fire the Gottfrieds and Valiants at that listing Drake-class, and send some missiles towards the mobile suits."

The Daggers charged; Shinn took cover behind his shield, grunting as the beams slammed against his shield. The Red Frame spiraled into the fray with a sword slash, but the Daggers turned their firepower on Lowe, and he pulled back with Shinn.

The Kasselheim's guns blazed; the missiles plowed into the Daggers, as the Gottfrieds' and Valiants' shots smashed into the Drake's engines. The ship was torn apart by a thunderous explosion that engulfed the Nelson; a second explosion signaled the remaining ship's demise as well. The Girty Lue began to launch signal flares; the Chaos and Abyss took off.

Shinn shut down his beam saber with a sigh, glancing over the wreckage, and then looked over at the Red Frame.

"I underestimated you," Lowe said with a smile. "You kicked ass, buddy." He offered an amiable thumbs-up.

Shinn blinked in surprise. "...who are you?"

Lowe gasped in mock disbelief. "You don't know who I am?" he asked melodramatically. "Why, I am the one, the only, the almighty"

"Stop being cool, Lowe!" a tinny, digitalized voice put in. Lowe glared at something off-screen.

"Shut up, Eight," he snapped. "I'm Lowe Gear," he added resignedly.

Shinn nodded. "Lowe Gear," he said to himself.

"Well," Lowe went on, "since your new friends still want their parts and stuff, I suppose I'd better be going. Kisato will probably screw something up without me."

"I WILL NOT!" an angry girl's voice screamed through the Red Frame's cockpit. The Red Frame offered the Impulse a mock salute. "I'll be seeing ya, eh?" Lowe added.

"...yeah," Shinn said hesitantly. The Red Frame took off towards the ReHOME; Shinn watched it go for a moment and then took off towards the Kasselheim.

On the bridge of the Kasselheim, Mev sat back and watched as the GuAIZ and the CGUE returned to the hangar and the Impulse approached.

"Miss Loussier," he said, "it seems you got lucky."

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ZAFT battleship Minerva, ZAFT Military Affairs Station, PLANT, Lagrange Point 5

The Minerva was swarming with workers and construction braces, like ants over a corpse. Even as the Minerva was repaired, however, what was left of the ZAFT Combined 1st Fleet was undergoing even more fervent repairs, as the workers tried to salvage what could still be salvaged. A cloud of worker machines buzzed around the massacred fleet.

The Minerva's catapult decks were open; two thin, gray mobile suits were landing, carrying between them a massive crate. Inside the hangar, from the vantage point of her recuperating ZAKU's cockpit hatch, Lunamaria watched dejectedly as two more mobile suits stomped into the Minerva's hangar.

She blinked in surprise at two Phase Shift-down Impulse Gundams, carrying a crate marked with the ZAFT logo and tiny print that Luna was too far away to read. The Impulses set their cargo down; a crane began to pull out a Sword Silhouette flyer. Luna stood up, watching curiously as the two Impulses were ushered off to the corner of the hangar where Shinn's Impulse had been kept, to be disassembled and returned to the Impulse catapult. Their pilots, both in red flight suits, disembarked as the mechanics set to work; Luna hopped off of her ZAKU to follow them.

Inside the locker room, Luna blinked in surprise as she met two ZAFT Reds, no older than herself. The first of them turned around; Luna found herself staring into a gentle, unassuming female face with red eyes and hair, and a thin golden earring on her left ear.

"Oh, so you must be Lunamaria," she said, turning to look at Luna. "They told us what happened."

Luna sputtered in confusion. "Wha謡ho are you?"

Her companion stepped out from behind her; a thin young man, looking somewhat overwhelmed, with awe shimmering in his green eyes. He ran a hand through his dark green hair.

"We're the Minerva's new pilots," he said. "We're here to help you hunt down the traitor Asuka."

"'The traitor Asuka?'" Luna echoed in disbelief.

"That's Shinn Asuka's new nickname among the rest of us ZAFTies," the girl said with a smile. "Word got out pretty quickly that he'd betrayed us. We're here to take him out." She paused. "Oh, wait, we never introduced ourselves." She extended her right hand. "I'm Aoma Vedlow."

Luna took her hand hesitantly and numbly shook, looking over Aoma's shoulder at her companion.

"Ruumari Star," he supplied with a smile, shaking Luna's hand as well. "We'll be piloting Impulse units."

"Guess you're not the rookie around here anymore, huh?" Aoma asked amiably. Luna looked at them both numbly.

"I-I guess not," she said uneasily.

"It must've been hard to fight alongside Shinn for so long and all of the sudden he up and turns on you," Ruumari said with a sympathetic smile. "Don't worry. We'll help you have your revenge."

Luna looked awkwardly at him. "I need to be going," she said suddenly. "It was good meeting you. I'm sure the captain will want to speak to you." She brushed past them hurriedly, strapping her helmet back on and sweeping back into the hangar.

Aoma and Ruumari looked after her, glanced at each other, and shrugged.

"Well," Aoma began, "I guess we should go find the captain first before we make ourselves at home."

"It'll be good to actually do some fighting," Ruumari said, as he opened the door and he and Aoma both walked out into the corridor. "That garrison assignment on Maius 5 was boring as sin."

"It wasn't that bad," Aoma said with a shrug. "Could've been worse."

"Of course it could've been worse," Ruumari snorted. "For you, anyways, Miss 99th Percentile."

Aoma rolled her eyes. "Oh come on, Ruumari, you got into the 97th, it's not like you flunked out of the Academy."

"Well, it doesn't matter now," Ruumari said with a sweep of his hand. "Now we're finally getting a piece of the action, and I'll show you what I can really do."

Aoma laughed knowingly. "Of course you will," she said. "Now help me find the captain, before we got lost."

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Battlecruiser Kasselheim, en route to Lagrange Point 1

Shinn felt distinctly cold. His light gray civilian clothes, stowed in the Impulse's limited cargo space, was intended to be worn during the spring and summer, not on a pirate ship with a broken heater. Or, at least, that was Shinn's hypothesis; he didn't see why else it was so cold.

Mev had assigned Shinn and Stella a sparse room that had evidently once belonged to one of the ship's crew, whose fate Shinn saw fit not to inquire into. The Kasselheim was en route to Lagrange Point 1 and its numerous colonies; Shinn and Stella were along for the ride as part of their deal with Mev.

Stella was still curled up in bed, under multiple layers of covers, more or less sound asleep. Shinn had ventured outside to find something to eat, though he felt uncomfortable around anyone else on the ship and could hardly wait for them to reach Lagrange Point 1, so they could disembark.

Shinn stopped short as he heard voices around a corner. He looked around for someplace to hide, but it was no use; he would be resigned to socialization.

哲ew Haven? a male voice said in disbelief. 展hy are we going to a dump like that?

泥ropping off our new friends, a female voice answered. Shinn tensed as the speakers rounded the corner

A moment later, Shinn was face-to-face with, all things considered, a beautiful woman. Big blue eyes stared at him thoughtfully from underneath a mop of brown hair tied into a ponytail. Shinn employed every ounce of willpower he could muster not to look at the rest of her.

She glanced back at her companion. 展ell, speak of the devil, she said, looking back at Shinn with a crooked grin. 滴iya Shinn. I知 Kika. She gestured over her shoulder at her companion, a blond-haired man with blue eyes, wearing a black shirt and fading blue jeans. 鄭nd that痴 Mike.

滴i, Mike said neutrally.

展hat are you doing out here? Kika asked, putting her hands on her hips expectantly. 的 thought you were too shy to talk to any of us. She paused and glanced knowingly at Mike. 徹r maybe you致e just been too busy. Mike snickered in spite of himself; Shinn realized what she meant and sputtered in shock, blushing.

展ha溶o! he protested. 的 was just looking for something to eat濫

鉄ure you are, Mike put in with a smirk, glancing at Kika.

Kika shook her head with a smile. 笛eez, you look like such a lost puppy, she giggled. 滴ard to believe you池e Mr. Orb Marauder.

Shinn blinked; Orb Marauder?

展hat, you didn稚 even hear about your own nickname? Mike asked, arching an eyebrow. 典alk about a hamster ball! Were you that cut off from the outside world on that ship?

鄭h, don稚 worry 礎out it, Shinn, Kika said, patting him on the shoulder and making him blink in surprise again. 鉄o what were you out here for? You wanted some food, right?

滴ow does instant ramen sound? Mike asked, crossing his arms. 的f that doesn奏 tickle your fancy, we致e also got instant ramen, and if you池e lucky, we might be able to find you some instant ramen too.

展ell that痴 only because Miki tried to cook that turkey and you know how that turned out, Kika said, rolling her eyes. 鼎ute kid, but she needs to learn that the microwave really isn稚 that bad.

Shinn looked back and forth helplessly between Kika and Mike; Kika glanced at him and laughed.

徹h, okay, fine. Mike, go away, she said, grabbing Mike by the arm and shoving him down the hall. 添ou池e confusing Shinn.

展ha濫 Mike sputtered, turning as he drifted down the corridor. 展hat the hell, you池e sinking your teeth into the new guy already?

鉄hut up, you, Kika shot back, sticking her tongue out at him defiantly and grabbing Shinn by the shoulders before he could begin to sputter again in protest.

Shinn tried to get his bearings, but he felt utterly lost as Kika deftly landed next to him and swiveled him around to face her.

展ell, now that there痴 only one person for you to talk to, Kika said, 努e can start all over. Hi, I知 Kika.

Shinn blinked at her, utterly failing to understand. Kika giggled at him.

的f you want to get your little girlfriend anything to eat, you have to talk to me, she warned. 的知 not that scary. Did your mommy tell you not to talk to scary pirates or something?

Shinn blinked at her and looked away indignantly. Kika paused in surprise.

溺y family痴 dead, Shinn said tersely. Kika blinked.

...oh...wow, I知 sorry, she said softly. 的 mean, I had no idea濫

展ho ever does? Shinn asked, looking back at her. She looked back into his eyes in surprise; Shinn paused as he noticed a strange feeling welling up in the back of his mind. He couldn稚 tell why, but somehow he knew Kika was actually sorry. He looked away awkwardly.

...well anyways, Kika said, just as awkwardly, 的 guess you still want to get some food, huh. She paused. 鼎ome on, I値l take you to the galley. Before he could say anything, Kika grabbed him by the arm and pulled him down the corridor.

添-you don稚 have to濫 Shinn began helplessly.

徹h fine, you pussy, Kika said, letting go of him. 笛eez, you池e touchy.

Shinn looked awkwardly towards the floor.

鉄o, Kika went on, 努hy壇 ya ditch ZAFT? Shinn blinked, looking back at her. 的 mean, you were a big famous mobile suit ace, you had an overly macho nickname, you must致e been racking up combat bonuses...so why壇 you throw it all away?

Shinn stared hatefully at the wall. 的 didn稚 throw anything away, he grumbled under his breath.

展hat? Kika asked, leaning closer towards him. Shinn cast a sidelong glance at her.

的t痴 a long story, he said, hoping to disinterest her.

的t痴 a long trip to the galley and back, too, Kika countered. 展hy bother? I won稚 hurt you. After we drop you off on L1 then it値l be the last you see of us.

Shinn looked away resolutely.

的f you don稚 tell me, I won稚 get you anything to eat, Kika added. Shinn muttered a curse under his breath.

的t wouldn稚 interest you, Shinn said resignedly, trying still to weasel his way out of trying to retell the past few weeks.

徹h, but it does, Kika said with a smile. 鄭re you going to be stubborn? I can be stubborn too.

Shinn wondered why she was so interested in him and resigned himself to fate.

鉄tella was in the Earth Alliance, Shinn began quietly. 的 met her on shore leave, and later on I captured her. The Minerva's crew was just going to let her die, and the Chairman was just going to use her for propaganda, so I gave her back to the Alliance so they could save her. He looked up at Kika, finding her listening attentively. 的 was supposed to be executed, but the Chairman intervened to clear my charges, and we were sent to Arzachel. My friends tried to kill Stella...so I protected her.

Kika blinked in surprise. 添ou turned on your own friends to protect her?

的t痴 complicated! Shinn exclaimed, glaring up at Kika. 添ou wouldn稚 understand! No one would understand! He pounded the wall angrily. 哲obody would understand what it痴 like to feel the fear your enemies are feeling! How can you fight when you池e as afraid as your enemy?! How can you protect anyone when you池e as scared to die as the enemy?!

鼎alm down, Shinn! Kika said, stopping them both in the middle of the corridor and grabbing Shinn by the shoulders. His eyes widened in surprise as he looked up sharply at her. 笛eez, you致e had it rougher than I thought, she went on. 的 don稚 know what you were talking about with that 素eeling your enemies fear stuff, but hey, it痴 okay now. You致e left ZAFT, Stella痴 left the Alliance. You can get away from the war now. There are plenty of corners in the world where ZAFT and the Alliance won稚 look for you.

Shinn glared spitefully at the floor. 典hat痴 what I thought when I lived in Orb, he muttered. 湯Nobody will come here, the government will keep the Alliance away, we値l stay out of foreign wars and not forgive an invasion...yeah, that sure went well.

展ell, Orb was stupid anyways, Kika said. 典hey thought that they could be a world power and stay out of world affairs, and it wound up costing people like you.

Shinn looked away angrily. 添ou wouldn稚 understand why I left ZAFT, he said resolutely. 典he only people who would understand are the people I was getting away from when I left.

Kika looked at Shinn awkwardly and shook her head. 鉄uch a bag of issues, she said, laughing uneasily. 展ell, now you致e left, you池e on your own, you池e in charge of your own destiny. She turned Shinn痴 head to look back at her. 鉄ound good?

Shinn said nothing, staring at her in surprise.

哲ow come on, she said, pulling him along down the corridor. 展ouldn稚 wanna keep your girlfriend waiting.

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ZAFT battleship Minerva, ZAFT Military Affairs Station, PLANT, Lagrange Point 5

展hy did he break?

Gilbert Dullindal stood in the room once occupied by Shinn Asuka; Rey Za Burrel was slumped in a corner, nursing a swollen cheek and a split lip, staring up fearfully at the Chairman. Gilbert glared down at Rey, towering over him.

的 entrusted him to you, Rey, Gilbert said venomously. 的 left him in your hands, to mold and develop. I left his Newtype powers in your hands; I left it to you to guide him and make him one of us. Now he痴 broken and left. Why? What did you do wrong?

的-It wasn稚 me, Gil! Rey protested. 的t was that Extended!

徹f course it was, Gilbert snarled. 展hy did you let her get to him? Why did you let her twist him against us? He is a powerful Newtype, Rey. He was a formidable asset when he was on our side; now he is a dangerous foe. He could throw our entire plan into jeopardy. Why did you let this happen?

的 didn稚! Rey exclaimed, tears coming to his eyes. 滴e didn稚 understand his powers, he was upset, I told him that he had to keep fighting and be strong to make your new world, Gil, just like you told me to! But he couldn稚 take it!

展hy? Gilbert asked furiously.

釘ecause he didn稚 want to suffer, another voice interrupted.

Gilbert wheeled around furiously, finding himself face to face with Talia Gladys, her arms crossed, an angry expression on her face. Before he knew what hit him, Talia smacked him across the face.

滴ow dare you blame Rey for your own mistakes! Talia shouted. 添ou lied to Shinn! You told him being a Newtype would make him 'special'! You never told him about the suffering he壇 go through! He痴 gone through enough suffering as it is! Not everyone breaks down and bends the knee to you like Rey did!

Gilbert痴 eyes flashed as he slowly turned to look back at Talia.

鄭nd what right do you have to question me? Gilbert asked, scowling. 展hat do you know about Newtypes, or Shinn, or bringing about a better world?

的 know enough to know why Shinn left, Talia shot back. 添ou were going to let that Extended girl die; Shinn cared too much about her to let you. This is what happens when you try to push your little Newtypes along, Gilbert! They break! But not all of them wind up like Rey! Shinn still had another way out, and he took it!

Gilbert snarled in rage. 的値l destroy you, Talia, if you so much as dare to stand in my way. He narrowed his eyes at her. 鄭nd don稚 doubt that I would; you aren稚 so important as to be completely irreplaceable.

He shoved past her violently and stalked out of the room; Talia glared after him as he left and turned to help Rey up. He stared back at her, guardedly and suspiciously; she shook her head and left the room.

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November 9th, CE 73 - Battlecruiser Kasselheim, en route to Lagrange Point 1

...cold...

Shinn glanced up at Stella from his haunt near the door of their room. Stella was sitting on the bed, staring blankly at the wall. She looked over at Shinn.

Shinn offered her his jacket; she stared blankly at it, and Shinn draped it over her shoulders. 典hey told me it痴 always cold here, he said. 的 guess we値l just have to get used to it.

...okay, Stella said. Shinn glanced over his shoulder as their door opened.

Shinn narrowed his eyes suspicious at the man dressed in black, thin and sinewy, with long blond hair tied into a harsh ponytail and green eyes that stared at him easily and indifferently.

展ho are you? Shinn asked uneasily.

溺y name is George Morrison, he said smoothly. 的 am here to inform you that our arrival at New Haven in Lagrange Point 1 is going to be delayed.

Shinn痴 eyes widened angrily. 展hat? Why?

展e have an enemy on our tail, George said dourly. 展e will have to shake him before we can dock. If he attacks us in port, there is no escape for us. Surely you can agree that this is only fair.

展ho痴 following us? Shinn demanded.

George swept past Shinn towards the room痴 television set; he quickly turned it on and rifled through the channels, before he stopped and stepped back. Shinn stared in disbelief as he saw the Chairman of the PLANTs, Gilbert Dullindal, sitting at his desk, about to give an address.

He will tell you who is following us, George said, crossing his arms.

鼎itizens of the PLANTs, Gilbert began grimly, 鍍o all who lost a loved one to the treacherous setback at Arzachel Crater, I offer my deepest condolences. I speak to you, citizens of the PLANTs, as you mourn the deaths of your own loved ones, ZAFT痴 defeat, and the loss of a hero.

鄭 hero? Shinn murmured.

的 mourn as well, Gilbert continued. 釘ut the war has not ended, and it will not pause to let us grieve. The Alliance shall be made to end this foolish war soon, but for now, we have another foe to fight as well. A far different foe. He paused meaningfully. 鄭s you no doubt know, during the battle at Arzachel Crater, we were betrayed and many brave soldiers of ZAFT killed by one of our own. His eyes narrowed. 典he Impulse Gundam痴 pilot, Shinn Asuka.

展hat痴 he trying to do?! Shinn cried.

鉄hinn! Stella exclaimed, grabbing his arm in worry. George cast a wary glance at them both.

典he people have clamored for justice, Gilbert went on. 鄭nd so, with heavy heart, justice shall be served. I have sent two battleships after him; to command them, I have dispatched our flagship, the Minerva.

典he Minerva? Shinn echoed in shock. 添ou mean濫

典hat痴 who痴 tailing us, George finished grimly.

釘ut that...that痴...impossible, Shinn murmured helplessly. 的...I left them behind...

的t seems they don稚 want to be forgotten, George said. 展e will alter our route to L1. We may have to fight. He uncrossed his arms and strode out of the room.

鉄hinn... Stella began uneasily.

Shinn痴 eyes flashed furiously. 典hey池e coming back for me, he murmured. 典hey won稚 let me go.

鉄hinn, Stella repeated, 鉄hinn is being scary...

典hey won稚 take me back, Shinn snarled. 的値l protect you, Stella...no matter what!

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To be continued...