Phase 24 - Through Different Eyes

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED DESTINY

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Phase 24 - Through Different Eyes

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November 20th, CE 73 - Copernicus, the Moon

Unlike the New Haven port, the Copernicus port was clean. It was also free of dirty, curled-up objects that looked suspiciously humanoid. Shinn appreciated that much of the aesthetics葉here was no aura of uncleanness here to weigh down on his shoulders

On the other hand, there was a new aura of fakeness and depressing sterility. Shinn didn't like that anymore than he liked the uncleanness and dirt of New Haven, but at least this was easier to ignore. It was like Orb here. It was sheltered and protected, and he was used to that.

"Jesus Christ," Kika said in annoyance, looking around the cavernous terminal. "It's so freaking shiny in here." She glanced at a strange construct of metal balls and rings in the center of the terminal. "And what the hell is that?"

"Copernicus is all about shininess over substance," George said tonelessly. "Shinn should be used to this. Orb's just like it."

Shinn looked to the side in annoyance. He glanced over at Stella, as she blankly looked around at everything. She seemed dazzled and disoriented; Shinn didn't blame her.

"A friend of the captain's is helping us upgrade the engines," George said, as he led his motley crew out of the terminal and the blinding shininess. "For a substantial fee, of course. As for us, we've got things to do."

"Like what?" Shinn asked suspiciously.

"It's a surprise," Kika said with a knowing grin.

Shinn glanced away, frustrated.

The four space pirates made their way towards the closest exit. Across the terminal, behind the subtle protection of a tall marble pillar, Sting Oakley glanced suspiciously over them. Sitting on a nearby bench, Auel Neider sat back, crossing his arms.

"That's definitely Stella," Sting said, looking at Auel. "Shinn was with her, too."

"What're they doing in Copernicus?" Auel asked cautiously, peering around the pillar. Sting looked back at the departing pirates.

"It's a chance to get her back," Sting said. "We'd have to get the Gaia back too, somehow, but once we get Stella, it may be easier."

Auel stood up. "Can't we do it here?" he asked. Sting shook his head.

"Too many people around, and she's got Shinn and those other two with her," he said. "We'll have to separate them first."

Auel cracked his knuckles resolutely. "Then let's go."

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ZAFT battleship Minerva, near Copernicus, the Moon

"The war is still in a cold phase," Rau's voice said. In his room on the Minerva, Rey sat rigidly in his seat, staring attentively at the screen as Rau spoke. "The Earth Alliance attacked the United States of South America the other day, and finished off the African Community and the Kingdom of Scandinavia not too long ago as well."

"I know, sir," Rey said robotically. "What will our orders be?"

Rau sat back in his chair on the screen, putting a hand to his chin in thought. "Now that the Earth Alliance is proficient with mobile suits, ZAFT is faring poorly," he said. "The Chairman is organizing an Earth invasion force, but it probably won't get far. The Earth Alliance is not to be trifled with this time." He paused again. "They're killing off the neutral countries and ZAFT's terrestrial allies first. It won't be long before they can focus all their firepower on the PLANTs."

Rey was silent a moment. "Does that mean we've won?"

Rau smiled. "Not yet," he said, '"but we're on our way."

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Copernicus, the Moon

Shinn had to admit that Copernicus was a lot like Orb. As he wandered down the street, absently following George and Kika, he found himself looking around skeptically. Orb had failed him葉hey had provided a shiny facade for him to hide behind, but in the end, the Earth Alliance had swept it away and thrown him out into the harsh, cold reality. Now he was back among the shining skyscrapers and the sleek, modern metropolis, but the Earth Alliance's mobile suits had taken away their luster. The bright lights had blinded him, but he had spent time out of them, and now he could see.

And now that he could see, Shinn noticed the ubiquitous presence of armed soldiers in olive-green uniforms on the streets of Copernicus. He remembered his history classes in Orb; he saw again the grainy videos in darkened classrooms, with blurry images of soldiers, servants of the parochial rulers, clashing in the streets with the youthful, the naive, the idealists who wanted change. Those who wanted the same thing beat down the people who stood out and wanted something different. The people learned not to demand change, because the side that didn't want change had all the guns. They stopped rioting in the streets. They went back to their fields and factories, and returned to their impoverished lives, the lives they knew they couldn't continue to tolerate. But they tolerated it anyways. And once again, there was order.

Order. Shinn remembered Orb. There was order in Orb. There was a well-equipped, efficient, well-funded police force. And yet there was plenty of disagreement. Uzumi Nala Athha's policies polarized the country. Shinn remembered the debates and the arguments and the fights. There were even protests...but then there were Orb's police, to sweep in and clear everyone out. They had everything under control, they said. The people who protested Uzumi's isolationist policy were swept away熔rder returned. In the end, there was always order.

Shinn wasn't sure why, but he suddenly began to feel nervous.

"Rocco?" Kika said, as Shinn tuned back into her conversation with George. 展ho the hell names their kid that?

摘h, doesn稚 really matter, George answered with a shrug. 鄭nyways, he hangs out with the drug dealer crowd out on James Street.

Shinn felt his stomach turn at the mention of drug dealers. George glanced over his shoulder at Shinn suspiciously.

泥on稚 worry about him, he said reassuringly. 滴e sells the rankest weed I宋e ever smelled, but he痴 not a bad guy.

Shinn looked away, unconvinced. George sighed.

鏑et me put it this way, he said, slowing his stride to walk next to Shinn. 滴e doesn稚 rape women. He doesn稚 murder people unless they do something to provoke him. He doesn稚 steal unless he has to. If you want pot, you go to him and buy it. Sure, he'll pinch a little now and then, but hey, no big deal. That痴 how he makes his living. He shrugged again. 釘esides, he痴 not an asshole. He just does what he has to do to survive. It痴 what we all do.

展e致e dealt with worse people, Kika added, glancing at him and shrugging herself. 的f you think a pot dealer is bad, never go into that room on the third deck of the Kasselheim with the yellow stripes on the door.

Shinn blinked. 展hy, what痴 in濫

泥on稚 ask, George said quickly, glancing questioningly at Kika. 泥on稚 tell him that. He値l flip out.

滴e痴 probably never seen anything like it before anyways, Kika said with a giggle. George sighed in frustration.

鄭t any rate, he said, 迭occo痴 not such a bad guy. You値l see.

Shinn looked away again, still unconvinced, and glanced over at Stella, as she silently took in the fake shininess of Copernicus.

鄭re you okay? he asked quietly. Stella looked at him in confusion for a moment. She nodded slowly.

...it痴 bright, she murmured, looking around again. Shinn nodded himself.

的t値l be okay, he said. 展e won稚 be in the lights for too long.

Stella stared blankly at him, and paused for a moment before she nodded uncertainly.

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ZAFT battleship Minerva, near Copernicus, the Moon

Rey Za Burrel was already on the Minerva痴 observation deck when Aoma entered. She paused in surprise, and opened her mouth to speak, but something about his appearance strangled the words in her throat.

Rey was hunched over the railing, staring intently at Copernicus. The traitor Asuka was in there, somewhere, but Captain Gladys had elected not to try to dock at the city. Instead, the Minerva was hovering insistently at the edge of the Copernicus痴 territory, patiently waiting for the Kasselheim to leave. And Rey was waiting here, on the observation deck, watching the city, waiting as patiently as the Minerva for another chance to confront the traitor. Aoma couldn稚 see his face, but the look of his body, coiled and ready to strike, made Aoma wonder if she wanted to.

Rey glanced at her regardless; Aoma felt a chill wash over her as she was caught in the unforgiving gaze of a single steely blue eye.

He looked back at the city. 展hat is it? he asked, his voice calm and quiet. Aoma fumbled for words.

哲-Nothing, she said awkwardly. 的...I just came here for a break.

Rey was silent. Aoma looked around helplessly, but she and Rey were the only ones here.

She turned to speak to Rey again, but now that he had acknowledged Aoma痴 presence once, he was not going to continue to acknowledge it. He had returned to his vigil輸oma couldn稚 bring herself to interrupt it.

She glanced towards the city herself. She had been sent here on the High Command Council痴 orders, to pilot an Impulse unit and replace the mobile suit slot previously used by the ex-hero, the traitor Asuka. She had been sent here to help the Minerva track down the traitor and bring him to justice. She followed her orders, because that was what she joined ZAFT to do. She knew how to fight, and she fought, but she was no planner or leader. She could only carry out orders; she could not give them. This was why she was content with her position as a pilot揺ere she could fight, and make a palpable difference. Here she could actually roll up her sleeves and defend her homeland. Here she could do something.

And so she was on this ship, fighting the traitor Asuka, and trying to keep Ruumari in one piece in spite of himself. He was still sleeping off his concussion預lbeit after the Minerva痴 medical crew had pumped him full of tranquilizers to make him sleep it off. She kept him from getting himself killed, and tried to bring down the traitor. She did it because those were her orders.

Aoma looked at Rey. He was a ZAFT soldier too, bound by rule and regulation to follow the orders of the High Command Council. He was like Ruumari in his conviction to confront and defeat Shinn. But why? Had they been friends? Had Rey taken Shinn痴 treachery as something personal?

She opened her mouth to speak again, but Rey did not move葉he words died again, and Aoma turned and sullenly left the room.

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Copernicus, the Moon

Rocco, as it turned out, seemed to have recently pinched a lot more than "a little" of his narcotic supply. Shinn, however, didn't immediately notice, because James Street wasn't nearly as shiny and bright as the rest of Copernicus. This was a back street that few people went down. As he drew Stella closer to him, Shinn could see why.

Rocco met them in a narrow, grimy alley leading out of the street. At the end of the streets and alleys, Shinn could see the light from the shiny fronts of the buildings...but now they were in the dark shadows behind the buildings, the parts that Copernicus's authorities and officials didn't want people to see.

"George! How the fuck ya doin' man?" Rocco exclaimed, leaping to his feet, his raggedy clothes swirling around him like a tornado as he seized George in a bear hug. "What the fuck you doin' on Copernicus, huh?"

"Looking for work," George said as Rocco released him. "I heard there's a fellow with the Junk Guild in Copernicus. Where is he?"

"Who, Robby?" Rocco asked blankly. "Oh yeah, Robby! Yeah, he was over at Main and Madison the other day!"

George arched an eyebrow. "Main and Madison?" he echoed. "What was Robby doing there?"

"You should've seen it man!" Rocco exclaimed. "He comes in there and starts fuckin' namin off bitches names like he痴 at fuckin McDonald痴! It was nuts man!

的s 閃ain and Madison what I think it is? Kika asked suspiciously. George nodded.

摘ven on Copernicus, he said. 展here is Robby staying? I致e heard about a job offer from the Junk Guild that I壇 like to look into.

鄭h shit, man, I dunno, Rocco said disappointedly. 典hought he was stayin at the Four Towers.

典he Four Towers, George repeated with a nod. 典hanks Rocco. I値l get you a drink next time I致e got some downtime.

鄭w, sweet, man, Rocco said, giving George a powerful pat on the back. 添ou take care of yourself, ya hear me?

As George went through the typical human process of saying goodbye, Shinn glanced at Kika. She had her weight resting on one leg, standing off to the side, looking bored. She glanced back at him inquisitively.

展hat is it? she asked. Shinn blinked and shook his head.

的t stinks, Stella said quietly, looking around herself. Shinn took her hand possessively.

展e値l be out of it soon, he said gently. 釘ut it does stink.

Kika sniffed the air indifferently. 的t痴 just weed, she said with a shrug. 添ou get used to it after a while.

Shinn looked away from Kika awkwardly. Of course she would be used to it. She was used to all of this mess.

徹kay, George said as he approached the three, 努e have an address. Let痴 go.

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鉄o, Neo痴 voice said, tinny and soft through Sting痴 cell phone, 鍍he pirates are here to resupply.

典hey池e replacing the engine on their ship, Sting said. 典hey値l be here for a few more days at least.

敵ood, Neo said. 展e have a longer opportunity to capture Stella, then. Continue as planned.

Neo hung up; Sting snapped his phone shut and squirreled it away in his coat. At his side, as they both strolled down the Copernicus streets, Auel sighed airily.

展hat is Neo doing, anyways? he asked. 鉄ince we were the ones sent here to play hide-and-seek with Stella.

哲eo痴 probably doing whatever he usually does, Sting answered noncommittally.

展hich is...? Auel trailed off.

的 don稚 know, piss off the captain and masturbate to pictures of Lord Djibril? Sting shot back. Auel made a disgusted face. 添ou壇 think for as freaking weird as she is, Stella would be easy to find.

典hey dressed her up to look pretty inconspicuous, Auel added. 擢inding her is gonna be a bitch.

鉄he痴 around here somewhere, Sting said conclusively, 殿nd she can稚 leave for a few more days, so we値l just have to find her before then.

Auel was silent for a moment. 釘ut we値l have to deal with him, he said.

展ith who? Sting asked, quirking an eyebrow at Auel.

展ith that guy, Auel went on haltingly. 典he Impulse guy. Shinn.

Sting snorted dismissively. 展e値l see if he痴 as scary outside a mobile suit as he is in one.

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

Gilbert Dullindal stared indifferently at the footage on his office痴 main screen. He saw the Atlantic Federation blasting apart the Svalbard Islands, the last bastion of the defenders of the Kingdom of Scandinavia. The Atlantic Federation had reduced the islands to ashes; the Kingdom of Scandinavia was now utterly and completely nonexistent.

At Gilbert痴 side, Horatio Vandemant looked down at his clipboard. 典he South Americans have also launched an operation to alleviate the Earth Alliance痴 attacks on the United States of South America, he said. The screen changed to a mobile suit battle in the South American jungles. Gilbert watched just as impassively as a red Gundam-looking mobile suit with two anti-ship swords attacked the Earth Alliance痴 Dagger Ls.

典his was all inevitable anyways, Gilbert said dismissively, turning away from the screen. It went dark; Horatio looked down at Gilbert inquisitively, and watched as he stood. 泥id you get the Endgame project underway?

添es sir, Horatio answered. 鉄olomon痴 Sword should be completed in about a month.

Gilbert looked away, clasping his hands behind his back. 典hen you, Horatio, only have to hold the Earth Alliance back for that long, he said. 徹nce Solomon痴 Sword is complete, we can evacuate our forces on Earth and let the Sword do its work. He paused. 典hank you, Horatio. You are dismissed.

Horatio saluted and excused himself. Gilbert waited until the door closed; he strode over to his computer terminal and brought up a set of schematics. The blueprints flashed across the office痴 main screen.

Gilbert turned and looked up at the schematics of the Destiny Gundam.

添ou値l come back to me eventually, Shinn, he said quietly. 的 have power, and without power, you don稚 mean anything.

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Copernicus, the Moon

"For centuries human beings have made do with the talents they were given!" the man screamed. "Now we have disrupted that time-honored ethic! And yet we wonder why we are embroiled in a world of war and suffering!"

The man was tall, young, thin, gaunt, and scarred. He stood on a bench, in a park in the depths of Copernicus. He was dressed in the ragged brown remains of an Earth Alliance uniform, but his eyes were alight with anger. He pointed vindictively into the crowd, into the air, at anything, as he spoke.

Standing towards the edge of the growing crowd, Shinn glanced to his side uneasily. George and Kika looked unimpressed, and Stella looked confused...but that was no surprise.

"Must be with Blue Cosmos," George said quietly. "I guess they even reach up this far."

"Well, he better say what he has to say quick," Kika said, crossing her arms and glancing over the crowd anxiously. "Looks like the guards aren't amused."

Shinn followed her line of sight, and found a group of the ubiquitous olive-green-coated soldiers shoving through the crowd with drawn rifles.

"People call us terrorists!" the man shrieked, pointing angrily into the air. "They do not understand us! They do not understand that we are fighting to protect them!" Shinn blinked in disbelief at himself, finding him listening intently to the man's words. "The Coordinators are faster, stronger, smarter, better in every way than the Naturals! But who turned their children into Coordinators?! It was the wealthy, the privileged, the ones who already had power! And who remained Naturals?! The poor, the unprivileged, those without power!" The soldiers in the crowd drew closer. "A Natural who seeks to make the most of his talent must work for his entire life, practicing, learning, working, a ceaseless struggle! But what do the Coordinators do?! They alter a few genes and have in a few years the skill and practice of a lifetime! They can have in moments what it takes us years to have! How can we not be angry?!" His eyes flashed vindictively. "That is why we fight! That is why we fight for our blue and clean world!"

The soldiers reached him and dragged him down揺e shrieked furiously, thrashing against them. There was a gunshot

Shinn's eyes widened in disbelief as the crowd surged around one of the soldiers. All he could hear was a shriek of agony. George seized him by the elbow and pulled him away.

A siren went off; in the streets, Shinn could see angry people shouting and throwing rocks, but there were more and more soldiers appearing almost out of nowhere. George dragged Shinn into a darkened alley, with Kika and Stella right behind him. They hid against the wall as the Blue Cosmos sympathizer's angry audience began to spread.

"What the hell is going on?!" Shinn gasped, staring frantically into the seething streets.

George glanced grimly at him. "When I said that Copernicus is like Orb," he said carefully, "I meant it."

Shinn looked back into the street羊ocks were flying, and something was being lit on fire. It was a scene from hell, but Shinn couldn't fathom why.

"What's with them, though?" Kika asked. "It was just some Blue Cosmos guy!"

"That's probably not the only reason," George said, peering out around the corner into the street, and ducking back behind cover as a rock smashed through a window with a sickening crash. "Incidents like that are usually the spark for something bigger. This must be about the Junius 7 drop."

"The Junius 7 drop?" Shinn echoed.

George pushed him further into the alley, as Kika and Stella followed. "We'd best get out of here," he said. "Whenever riots like this break out, people start shooting at whoever they want."

A burning car blocked one of the paths back to the ship; Shinn looked around anxiously, but the only recourse in this alley was to backtrack and risk the streets.

"You! Halt!" a voice shouted.

Shinn turned slowly in disbelief, and found two soldiers advancing towards him, toting machineguns. George interposed himself between the soldiers and Shinn.

"We're just trying to get off the streets," George began.

"We'll get you off the streets," one of the soldiers said. "Identification, now!"

"Look, sir, we really don't have time for that," George said as glibly as possible. "We don't"

"You're coming with us, then," the other soldier said, seizing Stella by the elbow. The first soldier raised his machinegun threateningly

A chunk of concrete slammed into the barrel of the gun, and it went spinning out of the soldier's hands and skidded along the ground. The soldier looked over in disbelief預 moment later his comrade collapsed backwards with a shriek and a burst of blood out of his chest. The first soldier backed away, but went down with another gunshot to the chest.

Shinn looked over at their saviors揺is eyes widened in disbelief.

"Sting! Auel!" Stella exclaimed.

"You know them?" Kika asked in surprise, as she picked up the first soldier's fallen gun. Sting and Auel trained their pistols on the four pirates; Stella's eyes widened in surprise.

As they advanced on the four pirates, Sting glanced urgently at Auel.

"We can't get her back here," he hissed under his breath. "We're in the middle of a riot."

"Well, what else are we supposed to do?" Auel hissed back.

"Halt!" another voice shouted. All eyes turned towards a corner down the street耀everal more soldiers were approaching, rifles drawn.

"Shit," Auel snarled, turning towards them. Sting grabbed him by the elbow and pulled him into the alley with the pirates.

"Stop that!" Sting shouted. "Don't make it"

Before he could finish, Shinn seized the second soldier's fallen gun and leapt out of the alley, planting himself and firing a vicious spray of machinegun fire at the advancing soldiers. Three of them were killed instantly, but the remaining four ducked behind cover to return fire. Shinn darted back into the alley as shards of concrete went flying.

"Now you've done it!" Kika exclaimed angrily, grabbing him by the collar and shaking him. "You went and pissed them off more!"

"We have some time now," George said, grabbing her wrist and pulling her away. "Let's go!"

"Stella!" Sting exclaimed, as she ran off behind Shinn. Sting glanced in frustration at Auel, and the two Extended took off after her.

Deeper within the alley was a rotting wooden fence. Shinn slammed through it with sheer momentum and continued going. There was another soldier up ahead, but a rock slammed into the side of his head, and he collapsed in a pool of blood. Shinn ducked to the side, pushing Stella to the ground, as George and Kika took cover and another soldier leveled off his machinegun at them. Before he could fire, though, another bullet pierced his head, and he collapsed backwards with a nauseating splatter. Shinn looked over his shoulder in surprise, and found Sting advancing slowly, smoke curling off the barrel of his gun.

"You're just lucky we're both up shit creek right now," Sting said pointedly.

"How come Sting and Auel are here?" Stella asked, glancing worriedly at Shinn as they both got to their feet. Shinn put himself between Sting and Stella possessively.

"They must be here to capture you," he said quietly.

"Well it's not like we can do that now," Auel snorted, glancing in annoyance at the streets. Another soldier appeared at the other end of the alley祐ting took him down with a gunshot to the head.

"I don't know who you guys are," George said cautiously, glancing over his shoulder at the seething streets, "but we'd better split up. The more there are of us, the easier it'll be for them to find us."

Auel glanced furtively at Sting. "What should we do?"

Sting hissed a curse under his breath. "We can't get her back now," he growled, "and they know about us, so the element of surprise is lost...goddammit." He took a step back. "We'll have to give up the chance."

Auel looked at Stella. Sting stepped past him and walked up to Shinn, staring cautiously at him.

"Take care of Stella for us," Sting said quietly. Shinn blinked in surprise; Sting ran off, with Auel close behind.

"Neo's gonna be pissed," Auel grunted as they rounded the corner.

"Neo can get over it," Sting hissed back.

As the two Extended disappeared, Shinn glanced awkwardly at Stella.

"They came back for Stella," she said quietly. "...to go back to Neo..."

"You don't have to, Shinn told her earnestly.

鏑ook, that痴 real sweet, you two, Kika interrupted, grabbing Shinn by the shoulder, 澱ut can稚 you save this for another time?

Something exploded in the street宥eorge picked up a fallen soldier痴 machinegun and cast a wary glance over the scene.

展e壇 better get back to the Kasselheim, he said grimly. 典hey値l be shutting the port down soon, if they haven稚 already.

Shinn glanced at Stella, uneasily, and they both took off running after Kika and George.

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ZAFT battleship Minerva, near Copernicus, the Moon

It was dark. That was okay. When there was too much light, the pain became intolerable.

Ruumari Star stared hatefully at the dark blur that looked like the ceiling. His head still hurt. That didn稚 matter. He could still practice. He could still fight. He could still beat that guy.

Aoma had begged the medical staff to keep him drugged and groggy, in order to force him to rest and not continue his practice. He couldn稚 afford that. He had to fight the traitor, he had to keep fighting him, he had to prove that he had the courage and the skill to deserve his red uniform. But the drugs Aoma had insisted the medical staff pump him full of were doing their job, and so Ruumari remained in the infirmary. It was okay, he tried to tell himself. As a warrior, he had to rest at some point. He didn稚 want to face the traitor again without sufficient energy to fight him.

Instead, lying in the dark, he saw names and faces and places again.

A year. He had spent a year, no, over a year in the ZAFT Military Academy on December 1. He had left his cozy little suburban home on Januarius 3. He had left his father, a manager at a medical research firm, and his mother, a researcher at an agricultural company, to join ZAFT after the Valentine War. He went with Aoma because he didn稚 want to go alone. Aoma wanted to join ZAFT as well, so it all worked out. They went together to December 1. They enlisted together, and luck or fate or something had placed them together in many of the same classes. They went through the Academy together.

Ruumari closed his eyes, trying to block out the memories as they quickly went sour. He remembered his pompous, overbearing instructors, and what seemed like their concerted campaign to bring down Aoma and himself. He remembered the other students, the ones who were obviously near the bottom and jealous of the two stars of the class. He suffered their slings and arrows and their thousand shocks, hardening his mortal coil and striving to be the one to wear a red uniform when he graduated. His skills and achievements as a soldier of ZAFT would vindicate him. One day he would be in command of the same pompous bastards who tormented him in the Academy.

And then he remembered graduation. He had made it. He wore the coveted red uniform. He was special; at last, he had risen above his mediocre life and become something unique. He accepted his orders with pride.

And then he read them.

Guard duty. They had put him and Aoma on guard duty. They were ZAFT Reds, the elite, the best of the graduating class, and yet they were given a pair of old, run-down GINNs that had been decommissioned after the Grimaldi Front and told to guard a warehouse on Maius 5, in the depths of the PLANTs, deep within ZAFT痴 defense ring. If there was one place that no one would ever be able to infiltrate, it was Maius 5. They were given their crumbling GINNs and told to guard the military warehouse that housed the parts for prototype mobile suits. They had watched a menagerie of bizarre mobile suits and mobile armors roll in and out of that warehouse. They had watched the ZGMF-X2000 GOUF Ignited take shape in that warehouse, and then watched it get blown up at Arzachel Crater. They had watched the war begin. They had watched the traitor murder ZAFT soldiers in his treachery. They had watched everything.

But they hadn稚 done anything.

Aoma had been the one to try to keep him stable during their tour of duty on Maius 5. She insisted that someday ZAFT would send them to the front, someday ZAFT would need them, someday they would find someone else to do this, and until then, they had to endure. Their orders were to guard this warehouse. That was what they had to do.

At last they were reassigned. They trained in the Impulse; they perfected the midair linkup of its parts. Of course they did. They were ZAFT Reds, after all. They were the elite.

And now, finally, Ruumari was on the front lines, fighting the enemy. He was important. He was special.

And yet here he was, lying in the infirmary, wallowing once again in the mud of a defeat handed to him by the traitor Asuka.

He scowled at the ceiling.

Next time would be different.

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Battlecruiser Kasselheim, Copernicus, the Moon

展hat the hell did you guys do?! Gan screamed as George, Kika, Shinn, and Stella returned to the Kasselheim, ragged, sweating, and out of breath. 鼎opernicus is going up in smoke! Did you run over the mayor痴 dog or what?!

鏑ong story, George panted. 鉄hut up and let us in.

They filed into the ship; Chris slammed the door shut behind them.

展e値l have to keep the ship on lockdown until this storm has blown over, he said, turning and rushing off down the corridor with Gan.

Shinn slumped tiredly against the wall next to Stella, gasping for breath. He still saw the angry people, the flying rocks, the fire...

...is Shinn...okay? Stella asked breathlessly, plopping down next to him. Shinn nodded wordlessly.

展ell, Kika said tiredly, leaning against the wall, 的 guess that means we get the rest of the day off.

典he captain is locking the ship down, Gan called from down the corridor. George nodded tiredly and glanced at Shinn.

Shinn looked back at him. 典hey池e monsters, he said quietly.

哲o, George said, shaking his head. 典hey池e people.

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November 24th, CE 73 - Battlecruiser Kasselheim, Copernicus, the Moon

Kasselheim, leaving port, Mike announced. 鄭ll engines green.

Mev Typhoon sat back in the captain痴 chair and crossed his arms.

徹nce we clear the port, set course for Lagrange Point 2, he said. 展e値l look for work there. He glanced out the bridge windows, casting his gaze over the Copernicus port.

的 wonder if the Minerva will attack us, Kika wondered from her station next to Mike.

纏AFT launched Spear of Twilight yesterday, Yun said confidently. 典he Minerva is probably caught up in that.

滴ow do you know? Mike asked suspiciously.

展ell, while you were sitting there blasting Metallica all day, I was watching the news! Yun shot back. 的t pays to be informed!

釘oth of you, pay attention, Viima put in harshly, glaring at them both.

Mev sat back.

Spear of Twilight, huh...?

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To be continued...