Phase 30 - Worlds Apart

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED DESTINY

Note: With apologies to Bruce Springsteen. But dammit, I knew I would figure out how to work a Springsteen song into Gundam.

Phase 30 - Worlds Apart

December 13th, CE 73 - Battlecruiser Kasselheim, Pacific Ocean, Earth

"...this...this is the sea?"

Miki could not believe it. She stood on the deck of the Kasselheim, hands loosely on the rails, staring in wonder at her surroundings. It was all water an endless field of calm and inviting blue, with a gentle breeze washing over everything, waves lapping lazily at the Kasselheim's hull as it cruised just as lazily across the ocean. The sun was rising, casting an elegant glow over everything, and a striking ripple of light across the ocean's surface. It was like a scene out of a painting.

Stella stood next to her, captivated all the same. It was the sea, and she loved the sea.

"It's...beautiful," Miki murmured, looking around, finding only the same calm blue water. "There's nothing like this on the PLANTs," she added, slowly looking back at Stella.

"That's 'cuz the PLANTs are scary," Stella answered just as slowly. She giggled as a wave washed up over the Kasselheim's side, sending an errant fish flopping up against the hull and splashing back into the water. "The sea is pretty."

"I'll say," Miki agreed, looking back over the ocean. "This is amazing..."

Stella paused, her smile vanishing. Miki followed her line of sight and saw, in the distance, a shape rising up out of the horizon.

"What's that?" she asked, looking over at Stella.

"...ship...?" Stella wondered.

Miki looked back at the object. It was on the horizon, rising up, growing larger and larger, but it was too large to be a ship.

"It's a city," Chris's voice said suddenly. Miki and Stella turned in surprise, finding the severe young man striding towards them, his ZAFT ground uniform shirt thrown over his shoulder.

"A city?" Miki echoed. "On the sea?"

"Aquapolis," Chris answered, coming up to the rail and staring stoically out at the distant object. "A city governed by the Atlantic Federation. It floats on the water. We're going to dock there."

Stella looked back nervously at the city, at Aquapolis. "" she murmured.

"Will they let us?" Miki asked. Chris nodded.

"As long as we pay the docking fees and don't cause trouble, they don't care what we do," he answered.

"Cities are bad," Stella said suddenly. Miki and Chris glanced in surprise at her. "...because scary things are in them," she added.

"Well, you don't have to worry about it," Chris said tonelessly, looking back at Aquapolis. "You're not going into the city. Shinn is."

"Shinn is?" Miki echoed.

"With Kika," Chris added.

"With Kika?" Miki exclaimed.

Stella looked out at Aquapolis and said nothing.

Battlecruiser Kasselheim, Aquapolis, Pacific Ocean

Shinn Asuka decided that Aquapolis was nothing more than a free-floating version of Orb as the Kasselheim docked. Everything, even in the port, had the same ritzy, gaudy, holier-than-thou, "come look at how rich we are" look and atmosphere as Orb and Copernicus.

The Kasselheim rattled as it slid into port. From his place on the observation deck, Shinn crossed his arms and glanced uneasily over everything. He paused at the feeling of a familiar presence approaching; before the door opened, he knew it was Kika.

"Guess who gets to go out with me!" Kika said brightly as the door opened. Shinn turned around awkwardly, memories of her parting kiss still about as fresh on his mind as it felt on his lips. He already felt a measure of unease at how enthusiastic Kika seemed to be.

"We're going into the city?" he asked dumbly, hoping that she would not pick on him for it.

"Of course we are, you dope!" she laughed, closing the distance between them and seizing his hand. "Come on, we've got work to do." She paused, and Shinn could have sworn something different flashed into her eyes. "Business before pleasure, after all."

Shinn never managed to sputter a protest before she had hauled him out the door and into the hallway.

They arrived on the bridge just as the port officials left, with suspicious glances all around, and Kika immediately thrust herself into Mev's view as he turned to look out the bridge windows.

"Captain! We're ready to go," she said cheerily. Mev was unmoved.

"You remember your assignment, of course?" he asked rhetorically.

"Track down a mercenary unit called..." She paused and fished a piece of paper out of a pocket in her skirt. "'Serpent Tail,'" she read haltingly. "Ask 'em about the Marshall Colony job, get some coordinates and a meeting point, and come back."

"Good," Mev said. "Be back by sundown tomorrow. We leave port at dawn on the 15th." He paused. "And he's going with you?"

Kika seized Shinn by the arm, dragging him closer. "He's the bodyguard," she explained. She cast a playful smirk at him. "If anyone's gonna be guarding my body, it's gonna be Shinn."

"What?" Shinn yelped, blushing.

"See ya tomorrow, captain!" Kika exclaimed, grinning and yanking Shinn off the bridge before he could protest further.

Mev shook his head and returned his gaze to the viewports.

"Are you sure they're the wisest pair to be going out like this?" Viima asked dubiously from the side of the bridge, arms crossed.

"No," Mev said, "but they'll get the job done."

ZAFT Vosgulov-class submarine Alighieri, near Aquapolis, Pacific Ocean

"Big motherfucker, isn't it?"

Commander Samson Fleming was an easily amused man, it seemed to Captain Carlson of the Alighieri. The commander of the Red Claw Team was a thin, gaunt man who could have probably passed as a rock star somewhere, with long, messy black hair nearly obscuring his narrow, aquiline face, and his ZAFT ground uniform shirt opened to expose a bare chest underneath that was in dire need of muscular development although evidently no one had seen fit to tell him this. He crossed his arms and gazed interestedly at the screens.

"I'm not sure I'd call a wonder of Earth-side engineering a 'motherfucker,' commander," Carlson said awkwardly.

"Whatever," Samson said with an indifferent shrug. He glanced over at the mobile suit deck operator. "You there, Grunty, you got our MS ready?"

The indicated soldier looked none too happy at being called "Grunty," but duly acquiesced to Samson's inquiry. "Five BABIs are loaded into the vertical launch tubes, followed by your GOUF Ignited. We also have ten Noctiluca ZAKU Warriors and five ASHes prepared for launch in the horizontal launch tubes."

"Kickass," Samson said with a big sadistic grin. "Well, ladies and gentlemen, it's almost showtime." He glanced at Carlson. "Get us as close as you can to the city without letting them spot us. We'll launch and take up positions during the night, and get ready to kick some ass."

Carlson sighed. He would probably get killed doing it. "Yes sir," he answered with a dutiful salute.

"This'll be fun, boys," Samson said with mock reassurance. "Time to see if the traitor Asuka's really so tough."

Aquapolis, Pacific Ocean

The Impulse, Shinn hoped, would be safe in the hangar he had left it in. The Aquapolis port lay some distance from the city itself, and the port authority had not really cared when he stomped into the hangar and parked the imposing, battle-scarred Gundam there, as long as he paid the considerable docking fee. And it had been a very considerable fee already Shinn bitterly regretted how light his wallet felt.

And now they were in the city. Shinn hated it.

"Don't look too depressed, Shinn," Kika said cheerfully as she nearly dragged Shinn through the streets of Aquapolis. She cast another smirk at him. "It'll be worth your while."

Shinn looked away nervously. He had a faint feeling he knew what Kika was really after by dragging him out into the city with her, but he was not entirely sure what it was. He was, however, definitely sure that he did not like it.

"What's with you, Shinn?" Kika said, stopping and standing in front of him, annoyed. Shinn blinked as he suddenly found himself stopped. "Christ, you're not making this any easier."

"Making what easier?" Shinn asked blankly. Kika groaned and buried her face in her hands.

"You're hopeless, Shinn," she sighed. "Come on." She seized him by the hand, pulling him aside, towards a bizarre-looking ergonomic bench along the side of the sidewalk. "Looking for these 'Serpent Tail' guys, remember?" She dug around in her purse for a moment and produced a photograph. "Primarily for a guy who looks like this."

Shinn peered at the photo. "'Gai Murakumo,'" he read tonelessly. The dour face of Gai Murakumo stared impassively at him through orange sunglasses. The photo was from the shoulders up, but Shinn could tell that he was wearing what looked like a modified Earth Alliance uniform. He probably would not be so conspicuous on the streets, but at least he had a face to search for now.

"Just keep an eye out for him," Kika said, squirreling the photo back in her purse. "And other than that..." She flashed a grin. "I don't think it would hurt for us to have some fun."

"And by 'fun,' you mean...?" Shinn began helplessly. Kika's grin got a little wider.

"You'll see," she said excitedly, dragging him back down the sidewalk.

"If this has anything to do with shopping, I'll never forgive you," Shinn grunted as he freed his arm from Kika's death-grip resignedly.

"Shopping?" Kika laughed. "Do I look like a pretentious white girl to you?"

Shinn decided not to say anything.

"Besides," she went on, "I don't know what I'd do with a $400 purse anyways." She glanced back at him with a smile. "Surely you like to have fun, right?"

Shinn looked away awkwardly, trying to think back to the last time he had actually had fun doing something.

"My God, Shinn," Kika sighed, grabbing his arm again. "No wonder Miki calls you the Emo Marauder." She pulled him towards a corner and shoved him down the sidewalk. "Well, we still have to look for a broody mercenary guy, but that doesn't mean you have to keep the stick up your ass. Come on."

"I'm just here to do my job," Shinn protested, trying to free his arm. Kika glanced back at him disdainfully.

"That's the problem," Kika shot back. "Learn to have some fun once in a while and maybe you won't be so depressed. Now come on. We still have to find Gai Murakumo, so we might as well have fun doing it."

Shinn sighed and resigned himself to fate as Kika dragged him down the sidewalk.

Aquapolis, Pacific Ocean

"So why do you look so pissed?"

They were on a fast linear monorail, inside a clean, white, sterile-smelling car, surrounded by snobby-looking people who were probably all rich. The setting sun was casting an eerie orange glow over everything.

Shinn looked around contemptuously at his surroundings. It would have been easy to explain. He glanced back at Kika, and sighed quietly.

"It's just like Orb," he said. "Hell, it might as well be Orb."

"What's your beef with Orb anyways?" Kika asked wearily. "It's not that bad."

"It's a giant false sense of security," Shinn growled. "Everything there is false. Everything there is shiny, gaudy, all in the name of being 'modern.'"

"Well aren't you a critic," she sighed. She looked around duly. "Though I suppose you've got a point. It all does seem kinda fake."

The train came to a halt, and the two pirates disembarked amongst the flow of bodies. Shinn looked around warily. Whoever this Gai Murakumo guy was, he was making himself difficult to find.

"Where would he be?" Kika murmured. "They never gave us much more than 'inside Aquapolis,' so "

"There!" Shinn said quickly, pointing as discreetly as he could towards a man in a blue denim jacket and black pants. He glanced over his shoulder at something, and Shinn saw a brief flash of a pair of orange sunglasses.

"That's him," Kika exclaimed. They melted into the crowd to follow him.

The man rounded a corner; Shinn and Kika held back for a moment before following.

"Where's he going?" Kika wondered quietly. Shinn shook his head. The sooner they made contact, the sooner he could go back

His senses flared up, and he looked sharply to his right, just in time for a brawny man who reeked of whiskey to seize them by the arms from a dark alley and drag them into the darkness. The next thing Shinn knew, he and Kika were in the middle of a secluded, dark alley, and Shinn felt five distinct pulses of human lives around him.

A man emerged from the shadows, and Shinn found himself face to face with Gai Murakumo.

"You took long enough," he said coldly. "I presume you are from the Mad Typhoon Gang?"

"What the hell's with throwing us in an alley?" Kika demanded, getting back to her feet. Gai glanced back at the brawny man who had dragged them here, and he smiled back sheepishly and took a considerable slug of whiskey.

"Your employer has instructed me not to reveal their identity just yet," Gai said, producing an envelope from his jacket. "The coordinates at which your employer would like to make contact with you are enclosed, as is information as to your accommodations for the night."

"Our what?" Shinn exclaimed.

"Aquapolis has a curfew," Gai explained. "You won't get back to your ship in time, so you'll have to find a place to stay. Your employer has taken care of that."

"Wha how did they " Shinn sputtered.

"You will understand when you meet them," Gai said carefully. "They are...singular individuals."

ZAFT Vosgulov-class submarine Alighieri, near Aquapolis

"What the hell do you mean you won't support us?!" Samson roared, glowering furiously at the unimpressed face of Talia Gladys on the Alighieri's main screen. "Who the fuck do you think you are?! We requested support, we're on the same mission you are, you're fucking obligated "

"Commander Samson," Talia said wearily, "please take note of the shiny thing on my uniform before you say anything more."

Samson looked down at the FAITH insignia and blanched.

"You, commander, cannot tell me what to do, because you are not the Supreme Chairman," Talia went on. "Nor am I obligated to do anything like a normal ZAFT officer. If I say I'm not going to support you, it means I'm not going to support you. Get over it."

"But " Samson began helplessly.

"Besides," Talia interrupted, "even if I weren't a member of FAITH, my mobile suits are currently being repaired and the ship is in need of resupply. We would not be able to support you anyways."

"Goddammit!" Samson roared. "We're after the traitor, Gladys!"

"So am I," Talia answered coolly.

"Then why won't you fucking help us?!" Samson shrieked.

"Did I not just explain that to you, commander?" Talia shot back. "Calm down and think the matter through, or else 'the traitor' will be your undoing."

The screen went dark; Samson howled a curse and slammed a fist into the console in front of him.

"That fucking bitch!" he snarled. "Who the fuck does she think she is anyway?!" He wheeled around furiously to face Captain Carlson. "Move us in! We'll begin the operation at once!"

Aquapolis, Pacific Ocean

The Neo Riviera was the top of the line in the hotel industry. The hotel's nightly rate ran into the thousands, and as he entered his room, Shinn Asuka had to admit he could see why; it was certainly a good thing that their client had picked up the tab.

The room, small and modest by request, was still far heavier on the décor than he would have liked. If he did not know better and he was not sure he did he would have thought he had been stuck in the honeymoon suite. His room was walled in rich, dark redwood, furnished with a positively gargantuan bed covered with an elegant, distinctly romantic drapery around it, easily obscuring whoever slept in it or whatever they did in it. It all had an unbearably intimate atmosphere that brought a faint blush to Shinn's face.

"Cozy, isn't it?" Kika observed. "Shit, this place is swanky." Shinn spun around in surprise, and Kika smiled at him. "What, never seen the abode of the rich snobby upper class before?"

Shinn looked away uneasily. "No."

Kika smiled again and locked the door. Shinn looked back at her in alarm, and she cast a reassuring smile at him.

"Not going anywhere else tonight, are you?" she asked rhetorically. Shinn stared suspiciously at her, as she slowly approached. "Calm down, Shinn. There's nothing more we can do tonight. These days Aquapolis is imposing a curfew. At least we found Serpent Tail and got the coordinates. The Aquapolis police can be a real bitch sometimes, but we can go back tomorrow." She brushed past Shinn, and he almost shivered as her hand brushed his. "All that's left to do now," she paused, glancing at Shinn, and in her eyes Shinn could swear there was something sultry there, " rest."

Shinn watched her carefully as she set her duffel down near the bed. Every action, every motion, every word had some kind of second meaning, meant for him and him alone. And with a sinking feeling, he realized what that meaning was. Kika glanced at him again with that look in her eyes, and Shinn began to feel very uncomfortable.

"What's wrong, Shinn?" she asked, turning to approach. Shinn took a step back, and Kika stopped, blinking. "Shinn...?"

Shinn fumbled for an explanation. "It's nothing," he mumbled at last. Kika looked unconvinced.
"Is this about Stella?" she asked, approaching again. Shinn's eyes widened as Kika moved towards him slowly, even seductively.

She wouldn't...

"Stella will be fine," she assured him, her voice growing low and inviting. "Miki will take care of her." She pulled closer to Shinn and took him by the shoulders. "Besides," she went on, "you need to rest." She slowly maneuvered him towards the bed.

Shinn pulled himself out of her grip. "Kika," he began, quickly and uneasily, but she cut him off, closing the distance between them.

"Shinn, don't kid yourself," she said soothingly. "You want this."

"No!" he protested. "Kika !"

"Stella can't give you everything you want," Kika interrupted. "You know that."

"I don't want that from Stella!" Shinn exclaimed. Kika put a finger to his lips, silencing him.

"But you want it anyways," she pointed out. "Maybe not from Stella, but you want it from someone." She grinned seductively, almost animally, at him. "It's okay," she said soothingly. "It's not cheating on her or anything. Stella doesn't have to know. And even if she did, she wouldn't understand."

Shinn tried to take a step back and found himself against the bed.

"Stella can't be angry with you like another girl would be," she continued. "She can get frightened and she can fight, but she wouldn't be angry. Not at you. She wouldn't even know what it means. All that matters to her is that you'll protect her."

"I can't do that, Kika!" Shinn protested, trying to back up. He toppled over backwards, and Kika straddled his waist, grinning.

"Yes you can," she answered, "I know you want this, and Stella can't give it to you." Shinn felt his mouth go dry. It wouldn't hurt, he heard himself try to argue. Stella wouldn't know, and even if she did, she wouldn't care, because he would still protect her. "Imagine how good it will feel," Kika murmured, her hands working lower. "You won't regret a thing, Shinn. I'll be yours; I'll do whatever you ask. Just let me."

It wouldn't be a problem. Just this once, right? And it would be good, right? Kika was gorgeous; how could it not?

Kika removed Shinn's shirt with a flick of her wrist. "Shinn, at least do it for me," she said, this time pleadingly. "I've waited for you to come around, and now I can't wait any longer." She ran a finger seductively down Shinn's chest and smiled at him. "You're strong enough not to let the world keep screwing you over. You protect people better than anyone could ask for; you believe in what you do. You're strong enough for me to not have to worry about you, even though I do; you care enough about me to put your own life on the line for my sake." Her finger found its way to his chin, and she held his chin up, bending in closer for a kiss. "Come on, aren't I good enough for you? Wouldn't you want me too? I'll do anything you want, Shinn." Her lips pressed against his.

Shinn gasped against her touch. Her free hand took his as she moaned against him, stretching her body out on top of his.

"Shinn," she murmured at him, running her hands seductively over his thin, rigid body.

Shinn looked back at her, and at last put his hand against the back of her head.

"Don't stop," he whispered.

Kika smiled at him.

"I won't," she whispered back.

They were all positioned in such a way as to hide until morning. It was obviously an ambush. Gai Murakumo crossed his arms, standing inside his nondescript motel room, staring intently at the maps of the city spread out on the table.

"They're all over the place," Elijah murmured, an edge of apprehension in his voice. "What are we going to do?"

"We could get away if we leave now " Loretta began from an overstuffed chair nearby.

"We will not leave," Gai interrupted. Loretta and Elijah blinked in surprise and looked over at him. "Our client has made it clear that we are to ensure Shinn Asuka and the Mad Typhoon Gang make it to their rendezvous."

Elijah glanced over the map worriedly. "Gai, they've got a Vosgulov off the city," he said. "Are you sure we can "

"There is no question over whether or not we can," Gai cut him off sharply. "We simply will."

The cockpit of the GOUF Ignited was dark as the mobile suit took up its position inside the city's keel. Inside, Samson Fleming scowled and clutched the controls furiously.

"I'll prove that bitch wrong," he snarled. "I'll prove her wrong alright." He activated the GOUF's communication lines. "Red Claw Team, we're attacking at 1000 tomorrow morning."

"What?" Captain Carlson cut in. "By then he'll "

"He'll be awake," Samson finished. "He'll be up and he'll be able to fight." He scowled. "And then I'll take his head back to the Chairman myself. Now shut up and wait until 1000 to attack."

"Commander " Carlson began. Samson cut the light in irritation and sat back, crossing his arms.

Blow me off, will you, bitch...?

December 14th, CE 73 - Aquapolis, Pacific Ocean

The first thing Shinn realized as he slowly rose from the haze of sleep in the morning was the feeling of a material that was definitely not that of his covers on his familiar bed on the Kasselheim. But a hazy memory of staying the night in a hotel trickled back into his consciousness, explaining this issue.

The next issue was the fact that he was not wearing anything, and that there was something touching his chest, and it felt conspicuously like a human hand.

The memories of the night before made their return, and Shinn squeezed his eyes shut tighter. He could not look at Kika now, not after what they had done last night, not after all those strange new sensations.

"Shinn," he heard Kika's voice say. "Get up, you dope."

Shinn resignedly cracked an eye open. Kika was not there; he glanced to his right and found her lying next to him, her arm protectively over his chest, her head affectionately leaning against his shoulder.

Before he had a chance to speak, she kissed him. "Are you still tired?" she asked with a grin. "Was I that good?"

Shinn sat up slowly. He felt drained and unenergetic, but that was nothing compared to the feeling of disconnectedness he felt rising through him from the pit of his stomach. He could not even look at Kika now, distracted by the jumble of emotions and thoughts mixed up inside him. Had they really

"Why?" he asked quietly. He forced himself to look at Kika, but that only made it worse; she was sitting up next to him, regarding him with wide, surprised eyes, the covers drawn over her bare shoulders. Shinn tried not to think of the rest.

"Why?" she repeated. She paused for a moment, before she put on a smile and shook her head. "Of all the questions you could've asked me," she sighed. "But you want to know why."

Shinn said nothing, looking insistently at her. Before he could try to put his thoughts and feelings in order, he had to know why Kika had done this.

"It wouldn't help anyone to lie to you," she said, taking his hand, "so I'll give you the truth. I seduced you."

"I know," Shinn said ashamedly. "And I "

"You were supposed to give in, Shinn," Kika cut him off. "That was the point of us getting in here and doing it in the first place." She pulled him closer, wrapping him in her arms, pulling him close; Shinn's eyes went wide as he felt the same electric sensation of their bare skin against each other. "You might be some big famous mobile suit ace, you might be a world-famous person, you might be some kind of Coordinator Newtype whatever super-soldier, but Shinn, you're only sixteen and you can't do everything." She stroked his hair gently. "You can't ignore the stuff every other sixteen-year-old boy goes through."

"That's all?" Shinn asked incredulously. "Just to make me normal or something?"

Kika's smile faded. "Well," she began awkwardly. Shinn looked at her again, ignoring the tornado of emotion he felt in doing so. "No," she answered at last, "it wasn't."

"Then why?" Shinn pressed on. Kika hugged him tighter and said nothing.

Shinn glanced fearfully at her. She was worried; Shinn could sense that from her clearly. Everything else, though, was a morass of emotions that he had no hope of untangling. As she tightened her embrace, Shinn thought back to what she had said when he returned from the Marshall Colony. She had feared that he had died; that she had lost him.

"I told you that I was afraid I'd lose you," Kika said quietly. "And I still am." She rubbed his back affectionately, holding him closer. "Last time you went out and did something crazy, you came back. But I don't know if you'll come back the next time you do something crazy." She pulled him away far enough to look into his eyes; Shinn blinked in surprise as he saw tears in hers. "And if that's the case, then I don't want to have any regrets."

"Y-You mean " Shinn began uneasily.

"Love, lust, infatuation, I don't care what you call it," Kika interrupted. "I needed to spend a night like this with you, Shinn, so that I would have some moment to look back on where I could pretend we really were lovers and not just a couple of horny awkward kids." She touched his cheek, gently running her fingers over Stella's three scars. "And I wanted to show you the side of a relationship that you'll never get from Stella."

Shinn stared back at her, emotions running wild. Nothing made sense; he could not organize a single scrap of thought or emotion into anything he could understand. She loved him? She wanted to show him something? She wanted a set of happy memories?

"Just don't get all depressed and withdrawn," Kika said. "I'm your friend, Shinn, no matter what we did last night. I don't want you to be afraid of me because of that." She kissed his unscarred cheek and let go of him. "We should get going," she added. "I guess we've had enough fun for one stay."

As she dressed, Shinn held his head in his hands and tried not to think.

Two hours later, Shinn sat awkwardly in the Impulse's cockpit, watching as Kika positioned herself behind the cockpit seat, for the trip back to the Kasselheim. He closed the hatch and eased the Impulse out of its bay and across the hangar. Kika watched him carefully, but said nothing, and for that, Shinn was grateful he was not ready to talk just yet.

The hangar doors opened, and the Impulse stepped out into the morning light. Shinn glanced across the harbor, at the Kasselheim, silent in its berth. He eased the Impulse towards the edge of the landing pad his senses flared up, and he whipped around to the right, throwing his shield up to defend, just in time for a bazooka shell to slam into the shield and force the Impulse back. Kika gasped in surprise as Shinn ground his teeth, bracing the Impulse against another hit. The smoke parted with a burst of steam

A GOUF Ignited touting a Cattus recoilless rifle stood before him, smoke curling off the barrel of its weapon.

"What's this?!" Kika exclaimed.

"That's ZAFT," Shinn grunted. "How the hell did they get here?"

Inside the GOUF, a twisted smile worked its way onto the face of Samson Fleming.

"Red Claw Team!" he shouted. "Tear this fucking city apart for harboring a ZAFT criminal!" He licked his lips. "The traitor's mine!"

The GOUF Ignited charged.

Up ahead, Gai Murakumo could see through the scopes of the Gundam Astray Blue Frame Second L a formation of ten ZAKU Warriors, all armed with Noctiluca Wizard packs, speeding towards the city of Aquapolis from their surfaced mothership.

The Tactical Arms was deployed in its Gatling mode, pointed as surreptitiously as possible between a pair of buildings, with the Blue Frame lying in wait behind it. The Noctiluca ZAKUs were all armed with bazookas, and had beam rifles clipped to their backs. They were clearly loaded out to cause as much damage to the city as possible.

"Gai," Elijah said nervously; Gai glanced across the street and found Elijah's gray ZAKU glancing back at him with its monoeye. "I counted five BABIs in the air above the city."

Gai looked back at his instruments. "Heat sensor picked up five ASHes," he said grimly. "And the GOUF's already attacked the Impulse."

"What should we do?" Elijah asked.

Gai narrowed his eyes. The Noctiluca ZAKUs moved into range; Gai opened up with a vicious burst from the Tactical Arms Gatling, mowing down one of the ZAKUs instantly. The remaining nine split up, and Gai immediately ceased fire before they could trace his shots.

"Elijah, hold off the BABIs," he said quickly. "I'll worry about these ZAKUs, and Shinn will have to deal with the others."

Before Elijah could say anything, the Blue Frame snapped the Tactical Arms back onto its back, drew its beam rifle, and took off.

"Now this is a fight!" Samson screamed.

The GOUF dove out from behind the cover of a skyscraper, firing its bazooka; behind the dubious protection of a monorail track, Shinn growled a curse and took cover behind his shield, as the shell wiped the track out. He dove back behind the smoke and hid behind another building, but the GOUF appeared in the air above him, firing another shell down at him.

"Dammit!" Shinn snarled, boosting backwards along the street as the GOUF landed with a crash. "He's going to wreck the whole city!"

"Well, kill him before he does!" Kika shouted back. The Impulse darted away from another bazooka shell.

"I'm trying!" Shinn snapped. He popped out from behind a low-lying building and squeezed off a single beam rifle shot; the GOUF smacked it aside with its shield and fired yet another bazooka shell.

"You can't run forever!" Samson cackled. "I'll tear down the whole fucking city if I have to!" He fired another shell at the building closest to the dodging Impulse; Shinn dove away behind his shield.

"That's six," Shinn growled as the Impulse landed. "You're out of shells!" The GOUF reared back and hurled its bazooka at the Impulse; Shinn scowled. "Don't make me laugh!" he shouted; the Impulse leapt up, kicking the bazooka at the muzzle and sending it spiraling back onto the GOUF. Samson's eyes widened in disbelief, and he batted the bazooka aside with his shield.

"You little bastard!" Samson screamed. "Don't get too cocky!"

The GOUF drew its beam sword with a flash and stormed forward; Shinn switched to his saber and swung back, deflecting the blow. The GOUF charged again, swinging horizontally; Shinn pulled back, avoiding the GOUF's wild swipes.

"Shinn! He's going to " Kika began.

"I know, dammit!" Shinn snapped. "He'll make a mistake "

Shinn's senses flashed to life; he looked in disbelief over his shoulder, just in time for the Impulse to shudder violently. An ASH had managed to sneak up behind him and had seized both his arms with its claws, holding them apart, holding the Impulse up for the GOUF to score the final blow. Samson cackled triumphantly and charged, sword extended for a killing stab.

"Shinn!" Kika screamed.

Shinn saw the seed; his eyes flashed. He slammed down on the rear thrusters, throwing the ASH back, and leapt in the air. Samson's eyes widened in disbelief, but it was too late; the Impulse sent the GOUF reeling with a devastating roundhouse kick to the face.

The ASH came charging back in from behind; Shinn swung around with a scream and lopped off the ASH's right arm with his beam saber. The ASH shuddered violently and tried to hit the Impulse in the side with its left arm; Shinn sliced off the left arm at the elbow and plunged his saber into the ASH's torso.

As the ASH exploded, Shinn swung around again to deflect the GOUF's beam sword stroke.

"You bastard!" Samson shrieked. "A lucky shot, that's all! I'll tear your fucking heart out!"

"You can sure as hell try!" Shinn screamed back.

The GOUF leapt away, showering the Impulse with beam gun blasts. Shinn vaulted into the air, engaging the booster, and charged after the GOUF.

There were four Noctiluca ZAKUs left, and they had all spent their bazookas trying in vain to shoot down the maneuverable and swift Blue Frame Second L. Gai scowled at the charging mobile suits as they darted over the water, firing back at him desperately with their beam rifles. He dodged their shots effortlessly and drew a beam saber off the Blue Frame's retracted backpack. A charging Noctiluca ZAKU came darting towards him, heat tomahawk drawn. It raised the weapon for a killing blow; Gai narrowed his eyes and darted forward. Before the ZAKU could bring its tomahawk down, Gai sawed it in half through the waist, and even as it exploded, he picked off another ZAKU with a wave of Gatling fire as it tried to sneak up behind him. The remaining two ZAKUs began to pull back; Gai rocketed up into the air, putting the sun to his back. The ZAKUs followed him, but the sun blinded their pilots and silenced their guns; Gai drew the Tactical Arms, put it into Sword mode, and dropped down between the two ZAKUs, firing the thrusters to halt his descent. As the ZAKUs finally managed to see him, Gai spun in a graceful 360 degrees to slash them both in half.

Wordlessly, Gai returned the Tactical Arms to the Blue Frame's backpack and looked up into the air. Elijah's ZAKU was desperately trying to fend off five marauding BABIs.

"Gai!" Elijah screamed. "Gai! Help me!"

Gai ground his teeth and engaged the booster, drawing the Blue Frame's beam rifle.

"Shinn! Over there " Kika began anxiously.

"He's not going anywhere!" Shinn screamed.

The ASH came streaking in with a wave of beam cannon fire; Shinn screamed and charged through it, deflecting the blasts with its shield and saber, until the ASH desperately threw up its left arm, igniting the beam claw to ward off Shinn's impending saber attack.

"No you don't!" Samson screamed, diving in with a violent lash from his heat rod. Shinn glowered up at him and slashed the heat rod in two; Samson's eyes widened in disbelief. He charged, beam sword upraised, but Shinn forced him back with a lightning kick to the face. The ASH came streaking in from behind again.

"Shinn!" Kika exclaimed.

"I won't let you!" Shinn roared, whipping around and slicing the ASH in two at the waist.

As the ASH exploded, Samson glowered ferociously at the Impulse.

"What kind of monster ARE YOU?!" he demanded, charging again. Shinn raged back towards him, and the two mobile suits met with a crash. "Who the hell ARE YOU?! WHAT ARE YOU?!"

A stream of missiles slammed into the ground around the Impulse; Shinn's senses flashed to life as the GOUF pulled back, and with a roar of engines, the Impulse lunged into the air, turned around, and slashed up into the body of a transformed BABI as it streaked by.

The GOUF followed with a stream of beam gun blasts; the Impulse took off with a roar. The GOUF lashed out with its remaining heat rod; Shinn cut it in half and dove back towards the city, avoiding the GOUF's furious beam gun blasts.

"Get back here!" Samson screamed. "I'm not done with you yet!"

The GOUF followed; the last two ASHes came streaking on from both sides, as the GOUF charged in from above. Shinn tensed, waiting for the one behind him to come close enough to attack

A beam rifle shot from above picked it off, and Shinn's eyes widened as a blue and white mobile suit slammed down in front of him and shot down the remaining ASH.

"That's " Kika began. Shinn stared in shock at the insignia on the mobile suit's shoulder.

"Serpent Tail!" he finished incredulously. The dour face of Gai Murakumo appeared on the Impulse's screen, as the GOUF landed across the street.

"I will leave the GOUF to you, Shinn," Gai intoned calmly. "Elijah and I will handle the BABIs." Shinn looked up and found a gray ZAKU mobile suit with a red and white backpack struggling to hold its own against four angry BABIs. Shinn nodded wordlessly; the Gundam Astray Blue Frame Second L leapt into the air and took off towards the BABIs. Shinn narrowed his eyes at Samson's GOUF.

"You're not getting past me, you little shit," Samson snarled. "You're not going anywhere."

The GOUF's monoeye flashed; it raised its sword and charged. Shinn curled his fists around the Impulse's controls tightly. Up above, one of the BABIs exploded.

"I won't let you," he growled, as the GOUF approached. "I won't let you..." Kika's presence weighed on his mind; the GOUF came closer, and Shinn's eyes flashed. "I WON'T LET YOU HURT HER!"

The Impulse swung back with enough force to stop the GOUF's finishing sword blow, and sent it staggering back with another stroke that the GOUF barely parried. In the sky, another BABI went down in flames.

"You're not so scary!" Samson shrieked, his bloodshot eyes bulging. "I can beat you! Just you watch!"

The GOUF rained beam gun shots on the Impulse; Shinn screamed and charged right through them to slam its saber against the GOUF's sword. Up above, Shinn saw the Blue Frame and ZAKU combine to open fire on two BABIs. One of them exploded in midair; the other, trailing smoke and flames, pitched down towards the city and came streaking in with an ugly trail of smoke. Shinn's eyes flashed as a plan formed in his mind.

With a scream, Shinn kicked the GOUF's sword arm skyward, and in midair, slammed the GOUF in the chest with another kick. The GOUF staggered backwards; the dying BABI slammed into its back, sending it reeling forward again; Shinn charged, screaming, and impaled the GOUF on his beam saber.

Both mobile suits exploded, and Samson died with a wordless scream of terror.

Shinn deactivated his beam saber and looked up with dull, feral eyes. The Blue Frame and ZAKU glanced down coldly at him and took off with a roar.

To be continued...