Phase 19 - Justice and Vengeance

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED DESTINY

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Phase 19 - Justice and Vengeance

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

Shinn Asuka sat on his bed aboard the Kasselheim, head in his hands, trying to figure out what to do. He and Stella would be under the pirates' auspices longer; well, that wasn't necessarily okay, but there wasn't too much distance to go until they reached L1, and until then, it couldn't be helped. The Minerva was coming after him, with all the anger of the PLANTs behind it; well, as Kika had said, there were plenty of corners in the Earth Sphere that Stella and Shinn could hide in. He was the master of his own destiny now. He had the power to run now. He didn't have to face ZAFT; he didn't have to face his friends again; he didn't have to face Rey and the Chairman and their Newtypes. He could control his own life.

So why did he feel so helpless?

He stood up and glanced at Stella; she stared back at him.

"We'll have to hide, I guess," he said sullenly. "But we'll do whatever it takes. I won't let them hurt you."

"...Shinn looks scared," Stella said quietly; Shinn blinked in surprise, and Stella looked up earnestly at him. "Is there a scary thing coming to get Shinn?"

"Wha預 scary thing?" he echoed. "Nothing scary is coming after us, Stella."

"But what about Shinn?" Stella asked insistently. "Shinn will protect Stella...but who will protect Shinn?"

Shinn stared at her for a moment; who would protect him?

"Don't worry about it," he said, taking her hand and pulling her to her feet. "We'll be alright."

"...okay," she said, unconvinced.

Shinn led her out into the hallway, intent on helping her calibrate her mobile suit for their trip through Lagrange Point 1. He glanced nervously at her; she stared back, blankly, but almost as if she were studying Shinn.

"We're not a taxi service," an indignant female voice growled from around the corner; Shinn stopped short in surprise. "We're pirates."

"Well," a man's voice祐hinn recognized it as George's預nswered, "if it weren't for Shinn, we'd be stardust."

"Yeah," spoke up the voice of a girl that sounded unnervingly young. "Even though he trashed my GINN, that jerk."

The speakers rounded a corner, and Shinn stared cautiously at an imposing woman in a ZAFT Black Shirt uniform, with long black hair and two grim red eyes, one of which bore a long scar over it. At her side was George, looking impassively at them both; at the woman's other side, however, was a short young girl with a big brown ponytail and wide blue eyes, staring back in surprise at Shinn.

"Zora," George spoke up, looking at the woman in the ZAFT uniform. "Don't. Let's go."

Zora snorted indifferently. "Whatever," she said airily. "They're just two fugitives, and I'm in no mood to die "

Shinn's eyes widened in disbelief; Stella's widened in horror, and she backed away, tears springing from her eyes as she stared ahead in terror. Zora stopped short in confusion.

"What?" she began.

Stella cut them all off with a wordless shriek of terror. Shinn swept her up in his arms.

"It's okay!" he shouted. "You won't die! I'll protect you!"

"Stella's scared!" Stella insisted. Shinn held her tighter.

"Don't worry!" he yelled back, struggling to hold her close as she thrashed in terror. "You won't die! I'll protect you! Remember?!"

"But it's scary!" she exclaimed.

"It's okay!" the girl exclaimed, stepping in front of Zora. "We'll protect you!"

Shinn blinked in surprise at looked at her; she was pointedly ignoring Shinn, though, and staring right at Stella.

"What the hell is going on? Why is she acting this way?" Zora demanded. "All I did was say"

"Stop," George cut in. "That word upsets her. We shouldn't say it again."

"That's ridiculous!" Zora spat. "What the hell is she?!"

"She's complicated!" Shinn snapped. "She's different from you and me! Now don't say that word, or you'll scare her again!"

Stella sniffled against Shinn's shoulder and glanced in fright at Zora, tears brimming in her eyes.

Zora sneered and stalked away; George let out an exasperated sigh.

"My apologies, Shinn," he said, glancing at Shinn as he stared suspiciously back. He glanced down at the girl, who stared back stubbornly at him.

"How come she freaks out if you say that word?" she asked. Shinn blinked in surprise at her; the girl stared at him expectantly.

"She's different," he said cautiously.

"I know," the girl shot back, "but why?"

"Why do you want to know?" Shinn asked, still cautious.

The girl scowled at him. "Because I wanna help her."

Stella looked down at the girl; Shinn blinked in surprise again.

"Miki, that's enough," George said, taking her by the shoulders. "They've had enough stress for one day. Let's leave them alone."

Miki glared up at George before she headed off down the hall; George gave Shinn a curt nod as he left.

Shinn watched them go suspiciously; Stella stared after them blankly.

"...that girl wants...to help...?" she asked, slowly looking at Shinn. Shinn looked back at her.

"I don't know, Stella," he said softly, looking back down the hallway. "I just don't know."

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ZAFT battleship Minerva, near Lagrange Point 2

"Reports indicate that two Gundam-type mobile suits were seen near the colony of Boomtown III in Lagrange Point 2," Meyrin read from her display. She looked over her shoulder uneasily at Talia. "However," she continued, "the next day the colony was attacked by an unknown vessel, and the two Gundams were seen fighting inside the colony."

Talia sat back, crossing her arms and staring ahead neutrally.

"An unknown vessel," she said. "Lagrange Point 2 is supposedly home to pirate gangs. And both ZAFT and the Alliance posted bounties for Shinn and Stella." She put a hand to her chin in thought. "The unknown vessel was probably a mercenary or pirate ship."

"Pirates?" Arthur echoed. "Then this should be easy!"

"But," Meyrin went on awkwardly, "the Gundams are rumored to have been captured by the pirates."

Talia glanced at Arthur. "Any pirate that could overcome a mobile suit pilot like Shinn must be far from 'easy,'" she said pointedly; Arthur looked at the floor in defeat. Talia looked up to her right. "Burt, can you tell which way they went after they left the colony?"

"I can't tell, captain," he said discouragingly. "There's a great deal of debris left over around the colony. There are still heat signatures, so it looks like there was some kind of battle not too long ago."

"Debris...?" Talia echoed in surprise. "Bring up a visual of the colony's surroundings."

The main screen flickered to life; Talia's gaze came to rest on the desiccated corpse of a Dagger L.

"Those are Alliance mobile suits," Arthur observed. Talia nodded grimly.

"The Alliance must be after them too," she said. "They must want to recapture Stella."

"But I don't understand," Arthur protested. "If Stella was dependent on someone in the Alliance, and that's why Shinn gave her back, then why did they desert together?"

Talia sat back. "Who knows?" she answered. "That's not our concern right now."

"But what if he joins the Alliance?" Arthur went on.

"He won't," Talia said confidently. "He only gave Stella back to them to save her; he didn't do it for the Alliance's sake."

Arthur looked confused; Talia glanced back up at Burt.

"Look for some exhaust trails or some kind of indication as to which way the pirates went," she ordered. "We have a lead; we're going to follow it."

"Yes ma'am," Burt answered, diving into his work. Talia returned her gaze out the bridge windows.

Shinn, you're out there somewhere...for your sake, make sure we'll never find you.

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From the cockpit hatch of his freshly repaired ZAKU Phantom, Rey watched impassively as the Minerva's two new mobile suit pilots conversed with Vino and Yolant.

They were new; they were young; they were out to defeat Shinn, but had no idea what they were up against. Rey knew what Shinn was capable of; he knew now that Shinn was an enemy, and had to be defeated, but there remained one tiny ray of hope left that Shinn could be made to return to ZAFT. His return would have to be kept secret from the public, of course, but there was still a chance.

The red-haired rookie輸oma, as Rey recalled幼ame drifting up towards him. He stared impassively at her; she looked as if she was going to say something, but decided not to, and pushed off in another direction, towards the Impulse catapult.

Rey stared over her shoulder, and glowered at the empty Impulse catapult. Shinn had betrayed them all; Shinn had betrayed him, Rey Za Burrel, his best friend, the one who relied on him to make a future Rey himself was too weak and frail to make. Rey had given to Shinn his dream of creating Gil's new world, and Shinn had taken that dream and destroyed it.

Rey scowled. There could be no forgiveness.

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November 10th, CE 73 - Battlecruiser Kasselheim, en route to Lagrange Point 1

"...Stella doesn't wanna leave."

Shinn looked up in surprise at Stella as they both sat in their room, Shinn with a ream of data sheets from the Impulse's computer in hand, Stella with a big bottle of water.

"You don't?" Shinn asked. "Why?"

"Stella feels happy here," she said quietly. "...it's like home."

Shinn looked down at the floor sullenly. "Like home?"

"Doesn't Shinn wanna stay here...?" Stella asked, looking up at him with wide eyes. Shinn blinked and looked back up at her.

"...I don't know," he said. "I mean, they're pirates."

Stella stared blankly at him for a second. "What池e pirates?" she asked.

Shinn opened his mouth to tell her, but something in the back of his mind stopped him. Stella didn't know what these people, the Mad Typhoon Gang, were. She didn't know what they did. All she knew about them was that on their ship, she felt like she was at home.

Shinn looked away unhappily. The Minerva had never felt like home. The only home he had ever had was in Orb...and that had gone up in smoke.

The door slid open; Shinn glanced up at it, and blinked in surprise as Kika stepped through, her arms crossed.

"The captain wants to talk to you," she said plainly. "Come with me."

Shinn stood up, standing guardedly between Kika and Stella.

"Hey, calm down," she said with a smirk, "we're not gonna hurt you."

Shinn glared. "What do you mean?"

Kika looked aside in exasperation. "The captain wants to talk to you about your little ZAFT buddies," she said. "We've already had the Alliance all over us about you two. We don't want to deal with ZAFT too."

"I thought you were just going to take us to L1 and let us be," Shinn said, glaring suspiciously at her. Kika looked back at him, shrugging.

"Well, hey, we have our own asses to look out for too," she said defensively. "We're still heading towards L1, you can get off whenever you like. We would've been wiped out had you not protected the ship against that Alliance group." She offered a weak grin. "At least you proved why you were a mobile suit ace."

"Then why does the captain want to talk to me?" Shinn asked. "I know all this already."

Kika shook her head. "Look, just shut up and come with me," she said, still smiling. "You're being difficult."

Shinn glanced back at Stella; she stared at him with an edge of apprehension.

"Alright," he said. "Stella, will you be alright here?" She nodded slowly; Shinn heaved a sigh and walked out the door with Kika.

Kika glanced over her shoulder at Shinn. "So what're you gonna do when you get to L1?"

Shinn looked warily at her. "What do you mean?" he asked.

"What do you think I mean?" Kika shot back, quirking an eyebrow. "What do you want to do with this new life you've got in front of you?"

Shinn looked away in annoyance at the wall. "I haven't thought about it," he said. "Right now I just want to protect Stella."

Kika giggled; Shinn glared at her. "Sorry," she said, waving her hands apologetically in front of her, "it's just kinda cute. Not many people are devoted enough to someone else to sacrifice so much for their sake."

Shinn looked at the floor silently.

"So do I get to hear the rest of the story?" she asked, leaning over and arching an eyebrow again. "Or are you gonna be all withholding?"

Shinn looked at her in surprise. "What more do you want to know?"

"Well, it's not everyday we get to meet someone as interesting as you," Kika said, putting her hands on her hips with, jokingly indignant.

Shinn glared at the wall. "I'm not that interesting," he grumbled under his breath. "I'm not some special Newtype."

Kika blinked and looked at Shinn. "Newtype?" she asked disbelievingly. "You don't really believe that stuff, do you?"

"Yes, I do!" Shinn snapped, stopping and wheeling around, glowering at Kika. She pulled back in surprise. "Yes, I do believe this stuff! It's real! There's no other reason why I'm suffering like this! There's no other reason why I'm feeling the fear my enemies feel as I kill them! There's no other reason why I can see the future, why I keep having to fight, why I have to!"

"Calm down, Shinn!" Kika exclaimed, grabbing him by the shoulders and breaking him out of his angry tirade. "Maybe I can't understand, but at least I can try! That's worth something, isn't it?"

Shinn fell silent, staring at her, not understanding.

"Newtypes are supposed to be people who understand everyone, right?" she said. "Well, I don't understand everyone. I don't quite understand you, either. But at least I can try. Most people don't even try to do that."

Shinn looked away angrily. "But you can't," he protested. "You never will. The only people who would understand would just tell me that I'm special, so I have to keep fighting and suffering."

"They what?" Kika exclaimed. She pulled Shinn closer, staring intensely into his eyes. "Who?"

"Wha" Shinn sputtered.

"Who would be so cruel as to tell you that you have to suffer?" she asked insistently.

Shinn blinked in surprise. "My friend," he answered resignedly, "my friend and the Chairman."

Kika let Shinn pull away, but still did not let go of him. "Why would they tell you that?" she asked. "The Chairman of the PLANTs, of all people?"

Shinn looked away angrily. "They said I was a Newtype," he snarled. "They wanted me to fight. They wanted me to build some new world or something for them."

"And that's why you don't like people calling you special?" Kika asked. "That's why you don't like people praising you for what you do?"

Shinn looked back at her. "Would you?"

Kika smiled. "Not if it meant going and being miserable for it," she said. "Nobody should be told that they have to suffer." She let go of him with a sigh. "You're too freaking emo. Stella's gonna have to fix that."

Shinn glanced at her, quirking an eyebrow, but she only laughed.

"Come on," she said, grabbing him by the arm and dragging him forward. "Let's not keep the Captain waiting too long."

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"Stella?"

Stella looked up in surprise at the sound of her name, and blinked confusedly at Miki as she stood in the doorway, looking meek.

"That's your name, isn't it?" Miki asked. Stella nodded slowly, and Miki awkwardly stepped into the room. "Um, hi...I'm Miki." She stuck her hand forward for a handshake; Stella stared blankly at it, and Miki scratched her head just as awkwardly with her other hand. "Um...it's a handshake...y'know, you shake my hand."

Stella stared at Miki hand for a moment, and then slowly raised her own, and Miki uneasily shook it.

"Um," Miki began again, letting Stella's hand fall. "So...uh...where'd you meet Shinn?"

Stella paused for a moment. "...Shinn..." she murmured. Miki nodded slowly. "...Stella met Shinn...at the sea," she added.

"At the sea?" Miki asked. Stella nodded. "I've never been to the sea, what's it like?"

"...Miki should go to the sea," Stella said slowly. "It's big and blue and pretty...Stella likes the sea."

"I only saw the sea on the PLANTs," Miki said, looking away awkwardly. "I've never been to Earth."

"...the PLANTs are scary," Stella said. Miki glanced back at Stella in surprise.

"Huh? Why?" she asked. Stella blinked for a moment.

"They're big and scary," Stella said, "and they have lots of scary things inside them."

Miki smiled and laughed. "I guess so," she agreed. "At least on Earth there's the sea and all those nice places."

"Stella didn't see the sea in the PLANTs," Stella said forlornly. "How come the sea wasn't in the PLANTs?"

Miki shrugged. "The PLANTs are like a fake Earth," she said. "They try to copy all the real things on Earth, but they don't quite make it."

Stella stared at Miki for a moment. "...why is Miki here?" she asked. Miki blinked again.

"Uh, well," she began, "the captain rescued me on a colony, after my family had" She stopped herself, clapping a hand over her mouth, and looked quickly at Stella. Stella stared at her as blankly as ever, and Miki let out a long sigh of relief. She paused and looked back at Stella. "Why are you so scared of that word?" she asked.

Stella was silent a moment. "...because it's scary," she said.

Miki smiled. "Yeah, it is."

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Now that he wasn't here at gunpoint, Shinn could get a better grip on his surroundings as he walked onto the Kasselheim's bridge. The room was in the shape of a quarter of a sphere, with half the room dominated by a raised dais; the captain's chair was on a column in the middle of the room, and there were three stations on the floor in front of the captain's chair, with a fourth to the captain's chair's left, at the back of the room, next to the door. The enormous windows granted the bridge crew a panoramic view of space.

Mev Typhoon had his back turned to the bridge doors as they opened and Shinn stepped in with Kika.

"Here he is, captain," Kika said, stepping aside as Mev's chair swiveled around.

Shinn stared guardedly at the mountain of a man, with short brown hair, a thick jaw, grizzled face hidden behind sunglasses, and a thick brown overcoat. He crossed his arms, staring at Shinn emotionlessly for a moment.

"Your old ZAFT comrades are looking for you," he said in a rumbling voice.

"I know," Shinn said quickly. Mev regarded him impassively for a moment.

"You're bringing us a lot of trouble," Mev said. He turned and looked out the bridge windows, into space. "I am a man of my word, Mr. Asuka, and will safely deliver you to L1 as promised. However, I am not so embroiled in honor as to destroy myself to keep my promise. Surely you understand."

"What do you mean?" Shinn said suspiciously, tensing for a fight.

Mev turned around to face Shinn again. "The Minerva is after you," he said. "It is accompanied by two Nazca-class destroyers. Both such ships are faster than the Kasselheim耀hould they discover that you are aboard this ship, it is likely that they will be upon us before we reach L1."

"Then can't you go in a straight path or something?" Shinn asked. "Get there as fast as possible?"

"It's not that simple," Mev responded. "We do not want ZAFT to attack us after you leave, either. We fear that they may as part of some investigation into your actions."

Shinn looked away angrily; yet more people had been swept up in his own affairs.

鉄hould you decline the offer I am about to make, Mev continued, 努e will take you to L1 and let you go, no questions asked, in return, of course, for your word not to implicate us should ZAFT catch up to you. We may only have your word, but it will be better than nothing.

鄭lright, Shinn said guardedly; he had no reason to rat them out anyways.

溺y offer, Mev said, 妬s that you join us.

The occupants of the bridge gasped, Shinn included; after a moment, Shinn glared, clenching his fists.

展hy? he demanded.

典hat is a question you are better off asking yourself, Mev said cryptically.

Shinn glowered at Mev. 添ou池e the one making the offer, he said. 添ou tell me why.

Mev turned. 典hat would be cheating you of your character, he answered. 展e have another day until we reach L1. Think on it.

Shinn scowled and stalked out of the bridge.

At Mev痴 side, Viima watched Shinn go in confusion, and then turned to face Mev.

鼎aptain, she said, 努hy did you offer to have him join us?

Mev returned to his seat. 鉄hinn Asuka is one of those unlucky, extraordinary few who are destined to have the sorrows of the world on their shoulders, he said. 摘very one of his ancestors had friends behind them, to support them and join them in battle and give them a roof above their heads and floor beneath their feet. He must be no different. He paused. 哲o such child should be made to bear this burden alone.

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添ou池e Shinn Asuka, aren稚 you?

Shinn turned in exasperation at the sound of a woman speaking his name; he spun around, and was greeted with the image of a blonde woman with green eyes, decked out in a red overcoat and black pants. She crossed her arms and arched a thin eyebrow at him.

添ou looked taller on TV, she said after a moment. Shinn blinked in surprise, wondering what he was supposed to say that. 鄭t any rate, she said, 的知 Gan. Gan Zuul. She stuck her hand out; Shinn hesitantly shook it. 哲ormally I壇 slap you for trashing my GINN, but if I had to get my ass kicked, at least it was by a good pilot.

展ha濫 Shinn sputtered. 的 what?

Gan arched an eyebrow again, this time in annoyance. 展hat, you don稚 remember tearing up a GINN Assault on Boomtown III?

Shinn suddenly felt very sheepish. 徹h, um, yeah, he said awkwardly. "Uhsorry." Gan shook her head and smirked.

展ell at least they were able to fix it, she said. Suddenly she thrust her face into Shinn痴, pointing vindictively at him. But don稚 do it again, you fucker! Shinn leapt backward in surprise.

敵an, a male voice said tonelessly, 努hat are you doing to Shinn?

Shinn turned towards his potential savior and found a man in a green ZAFT ground uniform, with long red hair and an earring on his left ear. He put one hand on his hip and looked at Gan.

滴ey, he trashed my GINN, Gan complained.

鄭nd he trashed my Dagger, the man said. 典hat sort of thing happens on the battlefield. He looked over at Shinn. 鄭pologies, Mr. Asuka. Gan prides her mobile suit too much.

的 do not! Gan exclaimed.

溺y name is Chris Machonheiler, the man said, extending his hand; once again, Shinn found himself in an awkward handshake. 撤ilot of the 105 Dagger you dismembered.

填m, sorry? Shinn sputtered.

敵an, let痴 go, Chris said, looking at Gan and nodding off in another direction. Gan sighed and cast one final glare at Shinn.

笛ust you remember, she said warningly. 鏑eave my GINN alone!

They disappeared around a corner; Shinn blinked in disbelief and shook his head.

He leaned against the wall, feeling desolate and lost. These were pirates? Bloodthirsty, greedy, vicious pirates? Outlaws and castoffs from society? Overall, they had been more friendly to him than anyone on the Minerva had ever been, at least after he had helped wipe out that Alliance patrol group. And they were pirates?

His thoughts turned towards L1, and the new life he would live there. He would be on his own with Stella...but there was the catch. He would be on his own. Granted, he would be with Stella, but still...he would be on his own.

He glanced at the bridge doors, heaved a sigh, and trudged back towards his room.

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November 11th, CE 73 - ZAFT battleship Minerva, approaching Lagrange Point 1

擢inally, Ruumari said excitedly as he climbed into his flight suit in the Minerva痴 locker room. 展e finally get to take on that damned traitor Asuka!

摘h, let痴 not overdo it, Aoma advised aloofly as she strapped on her helmet. 鄭fter all, they say濫

釘oth of you, don稚 be overconfident, Shiho cut in brusquely. Ruumari and Aoma both looked at her in surprise as she closed the neck seals of her helmet. 鉄hinn is a powerful opponent. Neither of you realize what you池e up against.

展e値l take him down! Ruumari vowed, clenching his free fist. 展e値l show you what we can do!

Lunamaria watched them, closing her locker with a sigh, and looked over at Rey. 展hat should we do about Shinn when we meet him? she asked awkwardly.

Rey slammed his locker shut, glowering, and pulled his helmet on abruptly. He closed the neck seals and looked at Luna; she felt a chill run down her spine at the sight of his blazing blue eyes.

展e will do our duty.

Rey stalked off into the hangar, his thoughts as smoldering as his eyes.

Shinn...your crime will be punished!

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To be continued...