Phase 20 - The Traitor Asuka

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED DESTINY

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Phase 20 - The Traitor Asuka

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November 11th, CE 73 - Battlecruiser Kasselheim, near Lagrange Point 1

典hey致e found us!

All eyes on the bridge of the Kasselheim turned towards Mike Martinez as he stared in apprehension at his displays.

典wo Nazca-class and the Minerva! he exclaimed. 鼎aptain! They池e closing in!

Mev Typhoon narrowed his eyes at the panorama of stars before him. 典urn the ship around and prepare for combat, he ordered; the bridge crew gasped in disbelief.

鼎aptain! Yun protested from the weapons console. 展e can稚 fight three enemy ships on our own! We濫

展e will, Mev interrupted, 登r we will die trying. All mobile suits, prepare to launch!

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ZAFT battleship Minerva

的 see a GINN Assault, a GINN High-Maneuver II, a GuAIZ, a CGUE...and a 105 Dagger, Arthur said, studying the magnified screen. He looked up at Talia. 典he Impulse and Gaia did not launch.

Talia nodded grimly. 鉄hield the bridge, she ordered. 鄭ll hands, Condition Red! Prepare for anti-mobile suit and anti-ship combat!

In the hangar, the two fully assembled Sword and Blast Impulses stood at either end of the hangar, next to the catapults. Inside the Blast Impulse, Ruumari signaled a thumbs-up.

鄭oma, he said excitedly, 斗et痴 show them what we池e made of.

笛ust don稚 push it, Aoma warned. The Blast Impulse stepped onto the catapult; the lights flashed on.

Ruumari grinned. 的 won稚 disappoint! he said. 迭uumari Star, Blast Impulse, launching!

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Near Battlecruiser Kasselheim

Inside his CGUE, George Morrison cracked his knuckles and prepared for battle. Up ahead, he could see GuAIZ Rs and ZAKUs launching; from the Minerva, he saw three Gundam-type mobile suits and two more ZAKUs. Against ZAFT痴 latest mobile suits, he prayed his skills and his tried-and-true CGUE would be up to the task.

滴ey Chris, Miki said with evident worry in her voice, 殿re you sure we can do this?

典here痴 only one way to find out, Chris said with finality from his 105 Dagger. 鄭ll mobile suits, follow me!

On the Kasselheim, Shinn stood on the ship痴 observation deck, watching the impending battle with wide, horrified eyes. Stella was at his side, clenching her hands worriedly, but she said nothing.

典hey池e going to fight, Shinn murmured, 澱ecause of us.

鉄hinn, Stella began worriedly.

典hey can稚, Shinn whispered.

On the battlefield, inside the Savior, Shiho scanned the enemy痴 thin ranks and found no sign of the Impulse or Gaia. She sighed to herself; either they weren稚 here or they weren稚 launching, and either way, their job would be made more difficult.

鄭ll mobile suits, she said, 殿ttack and destroy the pirate mobile suits, and then focus your firepower on the pirate ship! Find the two Gundams!

The ZAFT mobile suits charged and opened fire; the pirate mobile suits scattered and took cover behind their shields.

Inside the ZAKU, Rey scowled ferociously. He could feel Shinn痴 presence aboard the enemy ship; he was determined to draw it out, and finish Shinn off once and for all. He took aim at the CGUE and opened fire; it darted out of harm痴 way with surprising speed and fired back with a beam rifle. Rey ducked beneath its shots and launched a flurry of missiles, but the CGUE used its Vulcan shield to cut them down.

添ou are standing in my way, Rey growled, firing back with his beam rifle and clenching his teeth in frustration as the CGUE pulled back behind its shield. 添ou will not deny me my revenge!

The ZAKU drew its beam tomahawk; down below, the CGUE drew a heavy laser sword, and the two mobile suits came together with a crash.

添ou will not deny me my revenge! Rey shouted again; he kicked the CGUE in the chest, knocking it back, and fired another storm of missiles, but once again the CGUE cut them down and pulled back with a hail of beam rifle fire.

On the Kasselheim痴 bridge, Mev eyed the Nazca on the Minerva痴 starboard wing. 添un, aim for that Nazca on the left, he instructed. 溺ike, I値l leave evasive maneuvers to you. He watched as the Kasselheim slowly pulled out of the way of a storm of beam fire, and a spray of CIWS fire cut down a wave of incoming missiles. 添un, fire the Gottfrieds!

The Gottfrieds blazed, but the Nazca banked to the side, and the blasts only grazed its port hull. Yun gasped in disbelief.

典hey池e so fast! Mike exclaimed. 鼎aptain!

鉄tay focused! Mev shouted. 天aliants, Gottfrieds, missiles, prepare for another round! Mike, bring us higher!

Inside the Blast Impulse, Ruumari narrowed his eyes at the pirates. They were just small change; what he wanted was the Impulse, and Shinn. Up above was a 105 Dagger; Ruumari opened fire with his beam rifle, but the Dagger twisted out of harm壮 way and fired back. The Blast Impulse took the shots to its shield and fired back with its CIWS, but once again the Dagger evaded his attack and fired back with its beam rifle.

撤irate bastards! Ruumari shouted. 敵et out of my way so I can fight the real villain!

The Dagger began to pull back; Ruumari took off after it with a scream.

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Office of the Supreme Chairman of the PLANTs, Aprilius 1, PLANT, Lagrange Point 5

Gilbert Dullindal looked up from his chessboard to find a tall, imposing figure entering his office.

泥efense Chairman Vandemant, he began cordially. 的 was wondering where you were.

Filling the doorway was the massive Horatio Vandemant, the newly elected Chairman of the National Defense Council. He filled out an enormous purple ZAFT uniform, well ornamented with golden marking. His grizzled, scarred face bore a gray plate over the left eye; he stared steadily ahead with his remaining black, tiny eye. He saluted with a white-gloved hand.

敵ood morning, Chairman, he said. 溺y apologies; my business kept me longer than I had anticipated.

Gilbert smirked. 徹f course it did, he said with a chuckle. 展hat brings you here, then?

Horatio stepped forward. 典he Minerva has engaged a pirate group it suspects is harboring Shinn Asuka and the -X56S Impulse, Horatio explained. Gilbert quirked an inquisitive eyebrow. 典hey will report back to you when they have progress to report.

展ill they, Gilbert said, sliding into thought. 摘xcellent, Horatio. You are dismissed, but don稚 go too far away; I yet have more orders for you.

添es sir, Horatio answered, duly saluting and excusing himself.

Gilbert smiled as the door shut.

展ell, Shinn, he said, 土ou池e back in my grasp already...and all I have to do is close my fingers.

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Battlecruiser Kasselheim, near Lagrange Point 1

Shinn wanted to scream as he watched the battle. The Kasselheim痴 guns boomed; a flurry of railgun shots slammed head-on into the Nazca on the Minerva痴 starboard side, punching through the ship痴 hull and blowing out chunks of the ship痴 innards. The stricken Nazca began to list; the Kasselheim fired a volley of Gottfried blasts, finishing the Nazca off, but even as it exploded, the Minerva and the remaining Nazca intensified their fire. The Kasselheim banked away from the blasts desperately, shooting down the ZAFT ships missiles with a storm of CIWS fire, but the ZAFT ships kept up their beam cannon barrages. Up ahead, Shinn could see the tiny forms of mobile suits approaching the ship.

典hey値l lose at this rate, Shinn said grimly. He looked at Stella; she was staring at him, tears brimming in her eyes. 展hat do you want to do, Stella?

Stella stared at him for a moment. ...we should go... She trailed off; Shinn looked into her wide, frightened eyes for a moment, and then looked up at the battlefield.

He had to; he had to take the opportunity now, while it was still fresh.

鼎ome on, he said, taking her hand.

They ran off towards the hangar.

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Miki screamed as the Sword Impulse slammed both its anti-ship swords down onto her GINN High-Maneuver II痴 shield. The GINN went staggering back; Miki desperately fired back with her beam carbine, but the Sword Impulse deflected her shots with its shield and took off towards her, hurling a beam boomerang at her. The GINN dove over the boomerang and took off backwards; the Sword Impulse fired after her with its CIWS.

典he Kasselheim! Zora cried. 的t痴 under attack!

Miki cast a quick glance over her shoulder; the Kasselheim was struggling to dodge attacks from the two ZAFT ships, while its CIWS guns blazed to fend off the ZAFT mobile suits, but some of them had already managed to score some hits on the ship.

泥ammit! We can稚 hold out here forever! Chris grunted; the 105 Dagger ducked beneath a weapons burst from the Blast Impulse and fired back. Miki dodged a sword stroke from the Sword Impulse and fired back, retreating towards the Kasselheim.

A blaze of beam fire rose up behind Miki痴 GINN HM II; she squeaked in fright and slammed on the brakes as a GuAIZ R and a Blaze ZAKU Warrior stopped her retreat with their beam rifles. She swung around to face them, but the Sword Impulse rose up behind her instead, beam rifle drawn. Miki screamed for help

A beam blast sliced through the Sword Impulse痴 rifle, wiping it out. The GuAIZ R and ZAKU turned in disbelief; a moment later, beam shots wiped them out as well. The Sword Impulse drew its anti-ship swords, but a moment later it found itself dodging more beam fire.

Miki gasped for breath, and stared in disbelief as two more mobile suits swept down out of the black sky.

The eyes of Shinn Asuka flashed inside the cockpit of the Force Impulse Gundam.

添ou won稚 take them down without going through me! Shinn shouted. 鼎ome on, Minerva! I知 waiting for you! The Impulse and the Gaia charged up towards the battle. 鉄tella! Shinn exclaimed. 撤rotect the Kasselheim! I have a score to settle!

徹kay! Stella exclaimed, veering off to attack the ZAFT mobile suits around the Kasselheim. Shinn turned his eyes on the two ZAFT ships and ignited the booster.

A GuAIZ R charged at Shinn, beam rifle blazing; Shinn dove beneath its shots and speared it on a beam rifle shot. A moment later a green Gunner ZAKU Warrior leveled off for a finishing beam cannon shot, only to be taken down by another rifle shot from the Force Impulse. Shinn charged towards the Minerva with a scream.

Across the battlefield, Rey turned at Shinn's familiar pressure; he scowled and took off towards the Impulse.

Shinn turned in surprise as Rey's ZAKU descended on him with a beam rifle blast; he jetted to the side, deflecting Rey's shots with his shield. He glared at the ZAKU as it stormed towards him.

"You too, Rey," he snarled. "You won't stop chasing me until you can take me down, will you?!"

The ZAKU drew its beam tomahawk; Shinn switched to his beam saber, and the two mobile suits came together with a crash. Rey snarled a curse under his breath as the mobile suits strained against each other.

"You betrayed me, Shinn!" he snapped. "I gave you my dream for the future and you destroyed it!"

Shinn blinked disbelievingly. "I what?!"

Rey痴 face was twisted in fury. 的 won稚 forgive you, Shinn! he shouted. 的値l punish you for what you致e done!

The ZAKU surged forward with its engines; Shinn grunted as he was thrust backward into his seat.

"You betrayed us all!" Rey screamed. "I won't let you get away!"

Shinn's eyes flashed. "I did what was right!" he cried. "I don't regret it! Now get OUT OF MY WAY!"

The Impulse knocked the ZAKU back with a punishing roundhouse kick to the face, and Shinn took off over the reeling ZAKU's head, glancing up towards the Minerva. A wave of beam blasts streaked through his path; Shinn slammed on the brakes and pulled back, switching to his beam rifle and scanning the skies for the next attacker.

Up above, Shinn could see the Blast Impulse storming towards him. Inside the Blast Impulse, Ruumari narrowed his eyes at the Force Impulse.

"There you are, you traitor!" he snarled. "You finally stopped hiding!"

Shinn turned his beam rifle towards the Blast Impulse, but another storm of beam shots flashed by him again, and he dove out of harm痴 way a second time. The Savior Gundam dropped in on him with a beam rifle blast.

泥ammit! Shinn grunted. 添ou池e all going to come after me, aren稚 you?!

Rey痴 ZAKU stormed in from behind Shinn; he whipped around to block its tomahawk stroke with his shield.

添ou were going to be the one to build the future! Rey yelled. 添ou were going to save us all!

Shinn痴 alarms blared insistently; he saw Luna痴 ZAKU level off its beam cannon at the Force Impulse痴 head, while the Blast Impulse and the Savior lined up for more finishing shots. And up above, the Sword Impulse was careening down towards him, swords upraised.

Shinn痴 eyes flashed揺e wouldn稚 be beaten here. He saw the seed explode before his eyes

Inside his ZAKU, Rey blinked in surprise as Shinn痴 pressure changed. An instant later, the ZAKU was sent spiraling back as the Force Impulse kicked off of the ZAKU痴 chest, dodging the Sword Impulse痴 slashes. Shinn twisted out of the way of the beam cannon blasts as Luna痴 ZAKU, the Savior, and the Blast Impulse opened fire.

滴old still! Ruumari screamed, boosting forward and firing another blaze of beam fire at the Force Impulse. 添ou goddamned traitor!

Kasselheim! Shinn shouted. 鉄end me a heavy weapon! He ducked aside as Luna痴 ZAKU fired another beam cannon burst.

鉄top resisting, Shinn! Luna screamed, as her ZAKU pursued. 鉄urrender!

泥on稚 give him any chances! Ruumari shrieked, charging in front of Luna痴 ZAKU and firing another weapons burst. 展e will kill him today, and rectify all his crimes!

迭uumari! Aoma shouted; the Sword Impulse hurled both its beam boomerangs at the Force Impulse, as it dodged the weapons fire from the other mobile suits. 泥on稚 be stupid!

BASTARDS! Shinn screamed; the Force Impulse jetted up above the Blast Impulse, kicking it in the face and forcing it back. He dove backwards, cutting down a missile burst from Rey痴 ZAKU with his CIWS, and glanced to his right. He clipped the Force Impulse痴 beam rifle to its rear armor and extended the Impulse痴 right hand; a heavy particle cannon from the Kasselheim landed in his open hand and he fired at the Blast Impulse as it wheeled around. 敵o to hell!

The thick beam blast smashed off the Blast Impulse痴 right arm and leg, wiping out the Blast Silhouette; Ruumari screamed as the Impulse shook violently under the blow.

迭uumari! Aoma shouted; the Sword Impulse charged at the Force Impulse, and Shinn glowered at the incoming red mobile suit. He somersaulted over its head and used the particle cannon to blow off the Sword Silhouette, and then turned his attention to the maimed Blast Impulse. 迭uumari, pull back! Aoma shouted. 添ou can稚 fight him anymore!

添es I can! Ruumari shrieked; the dismembered Blast Impulse charged with an anti-armor knife in its left hand.

泥on稚 make me laugh! Shinn cried, raising the particle cannon to finish the Blast Impulse off. The Sword Impulse dove into the way of his shot; the blast seared off the Sword Impulse痴 left arm, wiping out both its anti-ship swords, and blew off the Blast Impulse痴 remaining arm. The Sword Impulse seized the Blast Impulse with its right hand and took off towards the Minerva祐hinn took aim to finish them both off in one shot, but a storm of beam shots from the Savior and Luna痴 ZAKU stopped him.

Why did you betray us?! Luna screamed, as the ZAKU fired at Shinn with its beam cannon. Shinn ducked beneath its shots and fired back with his particle cannon, scowling. 滴ow could you betray us for that Extended girl?! ANSWER ME, SHINN!

Rey痴 ZAKU dropped in, tomahawk raised; Shinn hurled the particle cannon at him as he brought the tomahawk down, and Rey grunted as the weapon exploded in his ZAKU痴 face, throwing him back again. Shinn drew his beam rifle and fired up at the Savior as it stormed towards him.

The Savior drew its saber; Shinn deflected its blow with his shield and drew his own saber, swinging back, and the two Gundams were stuck pushing against each other.

添ou betrayed your people, Shinn! Shiho yelled. 展e will finish you off today!

Shinn grunted as the Savior pushed towards him; he jetted backwards and rocketed up above the Savior痴 beam cannon blasts, but Rey痴 ZAKU was instantly upon him, and the two mobile suits slammed together in a shower of sparks.

添ou have made yourself an obstacle to Gil痴 new world! Rey snarled. 添ou cannot be allowed to exist any longer, Shinn!

Rey痴 ZAKU kicked the Impulse in the stomach and hurled a beam tomahawk at him; Shinn痴 eyes flashed and it he cut it in half. As the weapon exploded, he pulled back and stormed towards the Nazca destroyer on the Minerva痴 port wing.

添ou left us behind for a bunch of pirates! Shiho screamed; the Savior rocketed up over the smoke and fired its beam cannons at the Impulse. 的s this what you think we池e worth, Shinn?! IS IT?!

Shinn ducked beneath the Savior痴 shots and fired back; Rey痴 ZAKU stormed up towards him, showering him with missiles.

哲o Newtype who betrayed his own kind has been allowed to live! he shouted as the missiles swarmed towards the Impulse. 添ou will be no different!

Shinn cut the missiles down with a CIWS burst and took off towards the Nazca under the cover of the smoke.

典hey池e all out to kill me, Shinn snarled, 澱ut I won稚 let them!

The Nazca and the Minerva opened fire; Shinn dove beneath their shots and continued on towards the Nazca. If he could cause enough damage to the ships, perhaps that would force them to withdraw.

Luna痴 ZAKU lined up for a beam cannon blast as he approached; Shinn dove out of the blast痴 path and fired at the ZAKU before it could attack again. As Luna pulled back behind her shield, Rey痴 ZAKU came storming in again; Shinn deflected its tomahawk strike with his shield and pulled back with a hail of CIWS fire.

添ou can稚 run forever, Shinn! Shiho screamed; the Savior came down with a beam saber swipe, and Shinn switched to his own saber as he dodged. The Savior and the Impulse met with a crash, slamming their sabers against each other. 添ou can稚 hide! We値l find you wherever you go!
A beam cannon blast from Luna痴 ZAKU parted the two Gundams; Luna痴 ZAKU charged forward, wielding its beam cannon.

鉄top fighting us, Shinn! she screamed. 鉄top doing this to us!

Luna痴 ZAKU drew a beam tomahawk and hurled it at the Impulse; Shinn痴 eyes flashed, and a white bolt of energy cracked the air in front of him. The Impulse痴 left hand lunged out, seizing the tomahawk by the handle as it spun towards him; he twisted it around in his hand and hurled it at the Savior, slicing its beam rifle in two before it could fire.

展hat the?! Shiho began; she was cut short as the Impulse charged at her, and she barely managed to block its saber stroke with her shield. The Impulse kicked the Savior in the face, sending it staggering back; Shinn rocketed up over the Savior痴 head, drawing his beam rifle, and dodged another beam cannon blast from Luna痴 ZAKU. He swung his rifle up and fired; his shot drilled through the ZAKU痴 left arm at the shoulder, blowing it off with a violent explosion. Luna grunted in pain as she was thrown into the cockpit panels, and stared up in disbelief as the Impulse approached. She raised the beam cannon to fire one more time, but the Impulse lopped it off with a beam saber stroke; Luna stared disbelievingly as the Impulse kicked her maimed ZAKU away.

Shinn spun around and his beam saber blocked a tomahawk slice from Rey痴 ZAKU.

展hy are you still fighting us?! Rey shouted. 鄭ccept your fate!

泥ammit Rey! Shinn shouted back. 徹f all the people to not understand me!

的 will not forgive you, Shinn! Rey screamed; the ZAKU surged forward with a blast of exhaust from the Blaze Wizard pack. I WILL NOT FORGIVE YOU!

Shinn clenched his teeth as the ZAKU forced him backward. 添ou wanted me to be some little Newtype super-soldier! he shouted back. 添ou wanted me to fight and fight and fight until you had your world full of Newtypes, or whatever the hell Dullindal wants! And you were going to use me to get it!

The Impulse kicked the ZAKU in the face, sending it stumbling back. Before Rey could react, he cut the ZAKU痴 right arm off at the elbow, and then decapitated it in one swift blow.

鉄hinn! Rey cried. 鉄top this!

The Impulse kicked Rey痴 ZAKU in the chest, forcing it away.

"SHINN!" Shiho screamed; the Savior rocketed up towards him with a beam cannon burst, and Shinn twisted out of the way and took off towards the Nazca. "Stop running, Shinn!" The Savior switched to its mobile armor mode and gave chase; Shinn cursed under his breath and whipped around, beam saber drawn, but the Savior reverted back to its mobile suit mode and deflected his saber stroke with its own saber.

"Dammit," Shinn grunted, as the Savior pushed the Impulse backwards.

"I'll kill you myself if I have to!" Shiho shouted. The Savior kicked the Impulse in the stomach, sending it staggering back; Shiho charged forward, beam saber drawn back

Stella's scream cut through the Impulse's cockpit as the Gaia Gundam slammed headlong into the Savior, knocking it wide. Shiho blinked in disbelief, turning her eyes on the Gaia, just in time for it to kick the Savior in the face and force it back.

"Stella!" Shinn exclaimed. "What about the"

"Stop worrying about us!" George's voice shouted; his CGUE shot up out of nowhere to shower the Savior with Vulcan fire. Shiho snarled a curse under her breath and fired back at the CGUE with her beam cannons, but it darted to the side with surprising speed and fired back with a beam rifle.

"What the hell is this?!" Shiho snapped. "It's just a CGUE!"

The Savior's instruments beeped as Shiho pulled back; she glared over her shoulder and found the Minerva and the Nazca firing signal flares.

"That's the retreat signal!" Shinn exclaimed. He turned his gaze towards the Savior; it paused a moment before it deactivated its beam saber and took off towards the Minerva.

Shinn let out a sigh of relief and sank back into his seat; George's CGUE drifted down next to him.

"You have our thanks for assisting us," George said; the CGUE clipped its beam rifle to its rear skirt armor and extended its hand cordially. Shinn blinked at it; a moment later, the Impulse shook the CGUE's hand awkwardly. "I suppose this will deter the Minerva for the time being. At least until we reach L1."

Shinn glanced awkwardly at the Gaia. "Um, about that..." he began. George cocked an eyebrow inquisitively. "...ah, well, never mind," he said quickly. "I'll...talk about it alter."

Chris's 105 Dagger approached slowly. "We'd best not linger around here," he warned. "They're pulling back for now, but we haven't seen the last of them."

"Agreed," George said. "Come with us, Shinn. We've got a joyride to complete."

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ZAFT battleship Minerva

"GODDAMMIT!"

The volume of Ruumari's enraged voice was matched only by the sound of his fist slamming against the door of his locker.

"Ruumari, calm down!" Aoma exclaimed, grabbing him by the shoulders and trying to pull him away from the locker before he did anymore damage. "It was just one battle! Let it go!"

"No!" Ruumari shouted, spinning around to face Aoma, fire dancing in his eyes. "It's not just one battle! That traitor got away! That goddamned traitor got away!"

"It's not worth killing yourself over!" Aoma protested. "You're being too reckless!"

"Oh, go to hell!" Ruumari snapped. "I don't know what you came here for, but I came here to send that fucking traitor to hell myself!"

"I came here because I was ordered to!" Aoma said defensively, taking a step back. "I'm doing my duty, exactly as a ZAFT soldier should, exactly what they told us at the Academy! I'm not on some crusade to bring down Shinn Asuka! I'm following the orders I get from Commander Hahnenfuss"

"Bullshit!" Ruumari snarled. "I don't care what you're here for! I'm here to bring down the traitor Asuka! And I'll do it! I've spent too long sitting on Maius 5 on fucking guard duty to fail now!" He grabbed Aoma by the shoulders furiously. "We're ZAFT Reds! Guard duty, Aoma! They put us on GUARD DUTY!"

"Those were our orders!" Aoma protested. "Do you think you know better than our superiors? When we joined ZAFT we agreed to follow our orders, no matter what we thought of the superiors issuing them!"

"I don't care what my superiors think!" Ruumari exclaimed. "I finally have a chance to do something! For this entire war we've been sitting on Maius 5, wishing that we could be fighting out there and defending our homeland, instead of sitting deep inside it guarding a fucking warehouse!"

"It wasn't just a warehouse!" Aoma began. "They were keeping the -X2000 parts"

"Yeah, and look where the -X2000 parts are now!" Ruumari yelled. "You were there too! They gave us a couple of busted-up GINNs that should've been decommissioned and stuck us out in the middle of the PLANT to guard a warehouse that NO ONE was ever going to get into, whether we were there to stop them or not! We were grunts, Aoma! We worked hard, you remember it, we worked hard and put up with all those jackass instructors and all those assholes in our classes, and we survived and graduated in the top of our class! We're ZAFT fucking Reds! And they turned us into GRUNTS!"

"Ruumari" Aoma began haltingly.

"TO HELL WITH THIS!" Ruumari screamed, letting Aoma go and storming towards the door. "I'll tear that bastard apart with my TEETH if I have to!"

As Ruumari raged out of the room, Aoma sighed and rubbed her temples irritably.

"Screaming and hitting things," Shiho's voice sighed from somewhere off to the side. "It's like Shinn never left."

Aoma straightened up in surprise and saluted awkwardly. "C-Commander!" she exclaimed. "I, uh, I apologize"

"It's nothing we're not used to," Lunamaria's voice added tiredly, as she drifted into the room and rubbed her neck wearily.

"You're going to have to be the one responsible for keeping him under control," Shiho put in. "I could never keep Shinn under control. I'm not going to try to do the same to Ruumari."

"I understand, commander," Aoma said, looking at the floor.

"Did they really have you on grunt work at Maius 5?" Luna asked as she stuffed her flight suit back in her locker. "What a lousy way to treat a Red. They put me on a brand new battleship fresh out of the Academy."

"Just try to keep him under control," Shiho said wearily, opening her own locker and shoving her helmet back inside.

Aoma looked awkwardly at the ground. "Yes ma'am."

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Battlecruiser Kasselheim, approaching Lagrange Point 1

Mev Typhoon stared impassively at Shinn and Stella, standing on the bridge in front of him, for a moment.

"You want to join us," he said. He paused for a moment. "What led you to this conclusion, then?"

Shinn stared back at Mev uncomfortably.

"We want a home," Shinn said quietly.

Kika blinked in surprise at her station on the bridge, but before she could speak, he looked to the floor awkwardly.

"Ever since I lost my family, I haven't had anywhere to call home," he said uneasily. "And Stella's always been at the whims of the Alliance."

"We're not an orphanage," Viima spoke up harshly. "We do hard work, and you would be expected to earn your keep."

Mev held up a hand to silence her. "That, of course, goes without saying," he said. "As you know, we are space pirates. We make our living off the backs of others. We do mercenary work for others when they pay us well enough. Are you willing to lead such a life, in return for a roof above your head and floor beneath your feet?"

Shinn nodded gravely. Mev stared at him a moment, and then extended his hand.

"Well then," he said, "welcome aboard."

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To be continued...