Phase 31 - A Kindred Spirit

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED DESTINY

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Phase 31 - A Kindred Spirit

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December 14th, CE 73 - Battlecruiser Kasselheim, Aquapolis, Pacific Ocean

The ride back to the Kasselheim was silent. Shinn could have done it in his sleep, but knowing that Kika was right behind him made him focus even more intently and awkwardly on what he was doing. The last thing he wanted was to actually have to talk to her. He could not bring himself to do that now, not with the knowledge that twelve hours ago they had

He couldn't bring himself to think of that, either. It felt wrong, like he had trespassed on something, like he had lied, like he had broken a promise. And he could not simply push it out of his conscience either it was there, omnipresent, enveloping him, becoming a cruel and twisted part of him. It had been an experience beyond his imaginationand yet it was bringing him more pain than anything else.

"What are they doing?" Kika asked. Shinn looked up, and blinked in surprise, magnifying the image.

The Kasselheim was moving. It had broken out of its dock by force, ripping off tubes and hoses and pipes, and smashing through delicate docking machinery. Shinn blinked in disbelief as the Kasselheim freed itself with a jarring screech, and lurched forward violently into the water.

"They must've had to leave in a hurry," Kika said, nodding. "Guess our little tiff with ZAFT got some people pissed off."

There were some tiny flares of gunfire in the berth the Kasselheim had just ripped itself out of; Shinn felt his muscles twitch, instinct telling him to turn his beam rifle on the shooters. Instead he willed the feeling away and leapt into the air, following the Kasselheim from above.

Shinn glanced over his shoulder at Kika; she looked back at him quizzically. He turned resolutely back towards the main screen.

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ZAFT battleship Minerva, Pacific Ocean

The wreckage of a Noctiluca ZAKU Warrior drifted by serenely as the Minerva sailed past Aquapolis. They were understandably wary of anything with the ZAFT insignia on it; after all, twenty one ZAFT mobile suits had just torn through the city in search of the Impulse Gundam.

On the bridge, Talia heaved a sigh as the Minerva glided past the wreck and draped one leg over the other, sitting back.

"Captain," Meyrin began uneasily, looking over her shoulder at Talia, "the Aquapolis news is showing reports of a ship that forced its way out of port."

"Put it on the main screen," Talia ordered. The main screen promptly showed a bold image of a ship ripping its way out of its dock.

"Captain!" Arthur exclaimed. "That's "

"They've been busy," Talia observed, crossing her arms. "Plot a new course due west. We'll find them."

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Atlantic Federation battleship Girty Lue, Pacific Ocean

On one side of the desk, Sting Oakley sat rigidly, his face unreadable. Auel Neider sat awkwardly next to him, trying to look as determined as Sting.

Seated behind his desk, Ian Lee stared in surprise at the two boys.

"You want me," he said, pausing, still unable to believe what he was saying, "you want me to break you of your block words."

Sting nodded wordlessly.

Lee sat back, crossing his arms. He could see in the eyes of the two Extended that they were determined to endure the suffering and pain; that they were determined to break the chains that Neo and the Alliance had fastened so tightly around them. There would be talking them out of it and seeing how violent they could get when in a disagreeable mood, Lee doubted that trying to dissuade them was in his best interests anyway.

"You're putting me in a dangerous position," Lee said carefully. "If Neo or High Command finds out that I've been counteracting your conditioning, I'll probably be court-martialed."

Auel glanced awkwardly at Sting.

"We can't ask anyone else," Auel said uneasily.

"So," Sting added, looking Lee in the eye, "we're going to trust you."

Lee watched Sting carefully. The Extended boy meant every word of it; at last Lee nodded soberly.

"It will be difficult," he said, "and I have little idea where to start."

"We're willing to do it," Auel said quickly. Sting glanced guardedly at him, and Auel sat back again.

"If you use the block word too much," Sting said, looking back at Lee, "then we'll get used to it and that will weaken its effects."

"You're going to have to endure all the effects of your block words," Lee pointed out.

"We can't do anything to Neo if he can just say one word and stop us!" Auel blurted out angrily. Lee cast a surprised eye on him.

"What do you mean?" he asked dourly. Auel blinked in surprise. "Mutiny against a superior is punishable by death. I doubt even valuable Extended like you two would be exempt from that."

Sting was silent for a moment as Auel looked crestfallen. "Captain," he began quietly, "you said you were going to be a father figure to us, didn't you?"

Lee nodded, eyeing him carefully. "I did."

Sting looked up at him; Lee blinked in surprise at the determination in his eyes. "Would you let your children be the way we are?" he asked. "Would you let some asshole with a bucket on his head control them the way Neo controls us? Wouldn't you try to stop him? Wouldn't you try to help them?"

Lee stared at him in surprise. His inner skeptic raised its voice; there was no way the technicians would allow the Extended to simply shut down their block words. There was no way Neo wouldn't notice.

He looked back at Sting. The fire in his eyes was still there.

At last, Lee nodded. "Very well, Mr. Oakley, Mr. Neider," he said soberly. "Return here tomorrow night, and we will begin."

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December 15th, CE 73 - Battlecruiser Kasselheim, Pacific Ocean

"I presume," Mev Typhoon said rhetorically, sitting back comfortably in the Kasselheim's captain's chair, "that for our services you will pay us lucratively."

The blustery-looking Junk Guild official on the screen mopped his brow nervously and nodded. "Of course, of course," he added. "We would never fail to pay you for your services. But please understand, captain, Gigafloat "

"' is a very important Junk Guild resource and must not be damaged too badly in combat,'" Mev finished. "You have made your point, director. Will that be all?"

"N-No," the official stammered. "But we do request that you come "

"' as soon as possible,'" Mev finished again. "Then we will see you as soon as possible."

The screen went dark. Mev glanced up at Viima and stood.

"We'll be at Gigafloat in about 52 hours," Mike said as he locked the course into the computer. "That is, if it's where they said it will be."

"Why would they move it?" Yun asked, confused. "They want us to come defend it, right?"

"We'll worry about that if it actually becomes a problem," Viima interrupted.

"I'll leave the bridge to you," Mev said stonily, turning to leave. "Inform me if anything happens."

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Stella loved the sea; Shinn was never sure why, but he didn't see a reason to ask, and so left Stella to stare at the endless blue and giggle. That was exactly what she was doing when he found his way up to the deck, casting an apprehensive glance around. He didn't want to run into Kika here, not where they might be alone

Stella glanced towards Shinn as he emerged from the ship. She smiled and began to move towards him, but stopped quickly as Shinn stopped awkwardly, dead in his tracks.

Shinn shook his head. Why was he afraid of Stella? Why did he not want to face her again? What he had done with Kika had no bearing on Stella even if she knew, she wouldn't know what it meant. It didn't matter.

And yet Shinn still felt terrible about it. He looked back at her; why would he feel so terrible? Why would he feel as if he had lied?

"Is Shinn okay?" Stella asked. Shinn looked away, awkwardly coming up next to her on the railing. He tried not to look at her, unsure of what to say, unsure of what could be said.

"I'm okay," he said at last, looking down at the water.

Stella looked at him uncertainly for a moment before she looked back at the sea, but she was no longer smiling. Shinn looked back up at her. He had promised to protect her and he was her friendbut why so awkward? Why did he felt like he had lied?

"Shinn fought a battle again," she said quietly. She paused and looked back at him. "Shinn's always fighting battles."

Shinn tried not to look at her. "It's my job," he answered. "And if I didn't fight, I couldn't protect you."

Stella slowly looked back out at the sea. Shinn stared down at the water and said nothing more.

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ZAFT battleship Minerva, Pacific Ocean

Ruumari Star had the look of a wild animal ready to pounce when they finally let him out of the brig. He was gaunter, somehow hollow-looking, and had a terrifying dullness to his eyes. He walked tensely and rigidly, as if waiting for an attack any moment, ready to spring into action. Even Shiho kept her distance.

Upon his release, the first thing he did was return to his room for a shower and a change of clothes. That accomplished, he set out to search the ship. There was only one person that could help him now; not after Aoma and Luna had both had him thrown in the brig, and not after Shiho had given him a sound beating beforehand. No, only one person would do now.

The door to Rey Za Burrel's room opened with a hiss. Rey was diligently at work on his computer, and paused to give only the briefest of glances towards Ruumari as he entered.

"What do you want?" Rey asked brusquely, as the door slid shut. Ruumari didn't flinch, and Rey looked over in mild surprise at him.

"I want you to help me kill the traitor," Ruumari said coldly. Rey turned slowly around to face him fully. "You're the only one who can help me now," Ruumari added. "Aoma won't help me because she's too concerned with 'doing her duty' and all that crap. Lunamaria won't help me, she's not good enough. Shiho won't help me at all. So, you."

"Why?" Rey asked calmly, crossing his arms over his chest.

"He shamed me!" Ruumari exclaimed. "Those bastards back there, that bitch Gladys, they're holding me back! I can kill that guy! I can take that bastard down, but they won't give me the chance! They humiliated me!"

"You did that to yourself," Rey answered harshly, turning back to the computer. "The same happened to Shinn when he took an unauthorized flight."

"But I can take him down!" Ruumari shouted with a wild sweep of his hands. "Just help me! Give me the advice, tell me where to shoot, and I'll bring his head back to you if that's what it takes!" He scowled. "Don't you want him to die? Didn't he betray you too?"

Rey paused, and slowly looked back at Ruumari, coldly regarding him for a moment. At last he sat back and crossed his arms again.

"If you want to take down Shinn," Rey said calmly, "then we all have to work together."

Ruumari seemed unhappy with the idea, but nodded anyway. "Alright," he said.

"Which means you cannot take off of your own accord," Rey added coldly. Ruumari nodded again. "And you have to follow Commander Hahnenfuss's orders."

Ruumari paused for a moment, before swallowing his pride and nodding once more.

"Very well," Rey said. "You will have your chance soon enough, Ruumari. In the meantime," he paused and brought up something on his computer, "we have work to do."

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Atlantic Federation battleship Girty Lue, Pacific Ocean

"Failure."

It was no easy feat for Ian Lee to watch the struggles of Sting Oakley, strapped to a chair in Lee's office, writhing and grinding his teeth against the effect of the block word. He was trying to suppress the fear, trying to control the reactionbut beads of sweat were already rolling off his brow, his eyes were growing bloodshot, his teeth were grinding, his fists were white as they clenched the armrests.

Lee cast a glance at Auel, who was slumped tiredly in his chair. He had gone first, and it had not been pretty. Lee was only thankful that they had found a way to route the technicians' computers to Lee's, allowing him to feed the technicians cooked-up data of mental normality, while Lee slowly broke the chains that bonded them to the Earth Alliance and to Neo.

Sting was trembling. "I didn't fail," he murmured to himself. "I didn'tor elseor else"

Lee paused for a moment and steeled himself. "Failure," he repeated.

Sting lurched as if he had been punched, his body quaking as he tried to resist the block word's affects. His hands twisted around the armrest, his arms shaking. Lee contemplated stopping now, unsure of what would happen to Sting if he was not allowed to recover. He was still murmuring to himself, and Lee could hear his heartbeat even across from the desk.

Sting slowly looked up at Lee, determination burning like the sun in his eyes. Lee sighed; Sting would not stop.

"Failure," he said one more time. Sting grunted in pain, his eyes squeezing shut, and he trembled against the chair. There was nothing Lee could do; Sting was determined to see this through.

At last, Sting slumped backwards into the chair, unconscious, and his entire body seemed to relax instantly. Lee stood and undid his and Auel's restraints. They had earned their respite.

"You two," he said softly, "are the only hope the Alliance has left."

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The Destroy Gundam, Neo Roanoke noted, was unstoppable. It was currently on the main screen in his office, plowing through three massive armies of the Muslim League. Nothing could stop it; the Muslim League threw the firepower of whole fleets of land battleships at it, but it was all useless against the Destroy's impregnable positron reflector. It effortlessly deflected concentrated beam cannon volleys as it stomped forward inexorably, with batteries of beam cannons blazing through mobile suits and warships and cities.

"Now you see," Lord Djibril said testily, from the screen of Neo's computer, "why your letting that Extended girl go was a costly mistake."

Neo glanced in irritation at Djibril, but held his tongue. "What are our orders, sir?"

Lord Djibril sat back in his chair, his cat draped in his lap and a glass of red wine in hand. He took a long sip before speaking. "Rumor has it that Dullindal plans to attack Orb," he said. "Of course we cannot let so terrible a fate befall our good friends the Seirans, so we will have forces ready to help defend the country from ZAFT." He looked pointedly at Neo; Neo nodded and smirked. "And so you will be charged with the task of protecting the commander of Orb's main fleet, Jona Roma Seiran. He still has use to us."

Neo glanced inquisitively at Djibril. "What kind of use?" he asked.

"Orb's surface fleet has been chasing the Orb Raiders around the Earth," Djibril said, pausing for a sip of wine. "Obviously, it has been unsuccessful. And of course, when ZAFT attacks Orb, Orb's surface fleet will be there to meet the Coordinators. Orb's fleet will be made to take the hardest blows, and so we will so ingratiate the younger Seiran to us, so that he will have no choice but to follow even our most direct orders. And so we will have at our disposal the Orb Space Fleet, to hunt down and get rid of the Orb Raiders once and for all."

"Why?" Neo asked disinterestedly. "What harm are they doing?"

"It's the harm they will do," Djibril snarled, a scowl twisting its way onto his face. "They are led by Lacus Clyne and Cagalli Yula Athha, two naïve little girls who meddle in world affairs, as if we were all nothing but dolls. They will try to stop us when we make our final move. I am fairly surprised that they have not tried already. But they must not be allowed to have a chance."

"Then I shall rescue Jona," Neo said, "and bring him to you."

Djibril smiled.

"Precisely," he said.

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December 16th, CE 73 - ZAFT battleship Minerva, Pacific Ocean

It was hard, Lunamaria Hawke noted, to look at the images on the screen and not think that they weren't losing the war.

Luna was sitting in the Minerva's crew lounge next to Meyrin, both looking uneasily up at the crew lounge's main screens. On them were pictures of the Earth Alliance, with crushing numerical superiority and that damnable new Windam, launching a massive attack on ZAFT's Carpentaria base. A month ago, ZAFT and the Alliance had been locked in an even stalemate, as ZAFT reeled from its defeat at Arzachel Crater and the Alliance focused on conquering ZAFT's terrestrial allies. Now, however, the Oceania Union was property of the Republic of East Asia, the African Community was no more, the United States of South America was reduced to ashes, and the Muslim League was being brought to its knees by some terrible new mobile suit called Destroy.

It was all going to hell, but nobody wanted to outright admit it. Luna didn't see why it wouldn't have made a difference either way.

"I guess we'll be going back to space soon," Luna said airily, sitting back and tuning out the dire news reports. Meyrin eyed her nervously. "What, you're not scared, are you?" Luna asked, arching an eyebrow.

"N-No," she said meekly, "but" She trailed off. "But I think we're" She trailed off again.

"We're losing," Luna said flatly. Meyrin looked down in defeat. "So yeah, we'll probably be going back to space soon." She heaved a sigh. "I guess this is to be expected, though."

"if Shinn had stayed," Meyrin added sullenly.

Luna looked up at the ceiling awkwardly, wondering what Shinn was up to. He had joined that pirate ship that they had fought so many times, but the Minerva had only a faint trail, and did not seem altogether too interested in the Kasselheim anymore. The war was heating up again the flagship of ZAFT had better things to worry about than a pirate ship.

The door opened; Luna glanced towards it and found a depressed-looking Aoma sliding through and slinking towards the soda machine. Luna cast a glance at Meyrin, who only shrugged back; before Meyrin knew it, Luna had grabbed her by the arm, hauled her up, and dragged her towards Aoma.

"And look who dropped by," Luna said, injecting cheer into her voice by force. Aoma blinked in surprise. "Where have you been?"

Aoma looked away awkwardly. "I've been busy," she said.

"Then what's wrong?" Luna pressed on, putting her hands on her hips. Aoma looked back at Luna and sighed.

"They let Ruumari out yesterday," she said, "but he won't talk to me." Luna blinked and looked over at Meyrin, who tried not to be noticeable. "It's like, I dunno, he's mad at me or something."

"Well, where is he?" Luna asked. Aoma shrugged.

"I thought I saw him going into Rey's room," she said awkwardly. Luna blinked again and shook her head.

"Never mind, then," she said. "We'll never get him out of there that way. He's turning into Shinn all over again."

Meyrin looked at Luna carefully, and as Luna and Aoma launched into a decidedly one-sided conversation about how annoying Ruumari was, Meyrin slipped away and headed towards Rey's room.

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Battlecruiser Kasselheim, en route to Gigafloat, Pacific Ocean

"There is no hiding," George's voice said loudly, "that you are an emotional wreck, Shinn."

Shinn found himself on the Kasselheim's deck again, with George coming towards him from the access hatch. He looked away from George and back towards the ocean.

"There is also no hiding that something is bothering Kika," George added, coming up next to him at the railing. "However, Kika knows better how to escape my interrogations than you."

Shinn said nothing, still staring at the water. He shook his head; why would he tell George of all people? Would he understand? Would he even care? But of course, George had been the one to guide him through the tangle of thorns that was the underworld, through those noxious colonies in space.

"While Kika and I were in the city," he began quietly, "we" He trailed off and looked at George; George raised an eyebrow inquisitively at him. Shinn looked back at the ocean in shame. "We slept together."

George nodded, and looked out at the ocean himself. "Kika works as quickly as ever, I see," he said to himself. "And that is why you're an emotional wreck right now?"

Shinn didn't say anything.

"Why?" George asked.

"What do you mean 'why?'" Shinn asked back. "Most kids my age would be thrilled at finally getting some. I'm freaked out over it. Isn't that enough?"

"It doesn't answer my question," George responded, calm as ever. "Why are you freaked out over it?"

Shinn curled his fists around the railing. "I" He scowled at the ocean and shook his head. "I don't feel right about it, alright? I don't feel like it was just something for fun like she said! I feel like I broke a promise or something!"

"Are your feelings for Stella that strong?" George inquired.

"I don't know!" Shinn snapped, whirling around to face him at last. "I don't know how I feel about Kika! I don't know how I feel about Stella! I don't know how I feel about anything! What am I supposed to feel?"

George stared back calmly at him, unruffled. Shinn looked away angrily. "What you are supposed to feel," George said, "is what you feel is right."

"I don't know what's right!" Shinn cried. He looked back angrily towards the ocean and squeezed his eyes shut. "I don't want to hurt her, but I don't want to hurt Stella either!" George regarded him carefully Shinn looked back at him with wavering eyes. "She told me that Stella wouldn't understand, and she probably wouldn't, but that doesn't make me feel any better! I don't want that out of Stella, and I didn't ask for it out of Kika either! And" He looked back at the sea and pounded his fists against the rails.

"She tempted you," George filled in stoically.

"And I gave in!" Shinn exclaimed. "Why did I "

George seized him by the collar before he could finish and shook him violently, snapping him out of his ranting.

"Of course you gave in," George said bluntly. "Kika knows all the buttons to push when she wants to get a man in bed, and your being only sixteen makes it even easier. So you screwed a girl you don't necessarily have feelings for. Big deal. Lots of people do that. What's the point of wallowing in this cesspool of self-pity over it?"

Shinn pulled himself out of George's grip. "She wants more than that," he shot back. "I can tell that. And it's not something I can give her."

"Of course not," George answered. "She knows that. You know that. So what's the problem?"

Shinn looked away. He didn't know; he didn't know anything, it seemed.

George sighed and shook his head. "You're a mystery, Shinn," he said. "You finally get some and you go into an emotional tailspin over it." He shrugged and turned around. "Well, beat yourself up over it if you must, but do keep in mind that you don't have to."

George headed back inside; Shinn remained on the deck, staring angrily at the sea.

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ZAFT battleship Minerva, Pacific Ocean

Rey knew immediately as the door opened that Ruumari was not on the other side. He didn't bother, therefore, to look and see who it was when Meyrin Hawke stepped into his room.

She let the door close behind her before she haltingly began to speak; Rey cast a withering glare towards her, silencing her.

"What is it?" he asked icily. Meyrin struggled for words for a moment, before plucking up her courage and speaking.

"I want to know why Shinn betrayed us," she said, surprising even herself with the clarity of her voice.

Rey looked back at his computer screen. "What makes you think I know?" he asked tonelessly.

"You were the closest person to Shinn while he was here," she said. "If anyone knows, you should know."

Rey glared back at her; she flinched but remained where she was. He looked back at the screen. "Shinn was weak," he said stoically. "He couldn't take "

"That's not true!" Meyrin cried. Rey looked at her in surprise; Meyrin was glaring at him. "You keep calling him weak, but you don't know what you're talking about!" She shook her head. "You're the one who convinced him he was some kind of Newtype or "

"What?" Rey growled, standing up and glowering at Meyrin. She blinked in surprise, cutting herself short. "How did you " He too cut himself off and scowled at Meyrin.

"That's what you did!" Meyrin exclaimed. "That's what he kept shouting at you! That you were trying to force him to be some kind of Newtype for the Chairman! That's why he left, isn't it?"

Rey's face twisted into a crueler scowl, and he drew a gun from his desk, pointing it at Meyrin. "Get out," he snapped. Meyrin's eyes widened in disbelief and she darted out of the room.

Rey growled to himself as he put the gun back in its drawer, locking the door. Too many people were finding out about this.

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Office of the PLANT Supreme Chairman, PLANT Aprilius 1, Lagrange Point 4

The Destiny Gundam was truly a fine machine, Gilbert mused as he perused the blueprints. It combined the Impulse's three Silhouette packs into one machine, improving every armament; it was protected by beam shields and Phase Shift armor; it was powered by a nuclear engine protected by an N-Jammer Canceller. It was designed specifically to surpass the Freedom Gundam after all, it wouldn't do to have Rau's little servant Kira piloting ZAFT's most powerful weapon.

Gilbert glanced over the specs and smiled. It was the embodiment of a Newtype. It could dominate the battlefield on its own, possessing enough speed and firepower to wipe out virtually anything thrown at it.

The only problem, Gilbert mused, his visage turning sour, was the pilot.

"Well," he murmured to himself, "you'll find your way back to me one way or another, Shinn."

He sat back, looking forward. ZAFT was losing the war its allies were helpless and Carpentaria was under siege. There was no way to stop the Earth Alliance from once again seizing undisputed control of the Earth. But ZAFT was at home in space, and was far more powerful now than it had been in the Valentine War. The Earth Alliance's Windams and Destroy Gundams could not hope to match the firepower ZAFT had waiting in space.

Gilbert called up another set of blueprints and smiled. Solomon's Sword was coming along nicely. It would be done in a matter of weeks, and then he would be able to build his ZAKU Goliath, and finally cleanse the Earth Sphere of those parochial Oldtypes. They had no place in a world of Newtypes and order and progress. Not even the Alliance's Destroy units could stand up to the ZAKU Goliath, and nothing on Earth at all could stand up to the power of the Sword.

He sat back again, and crossed his arms, eyeing the blueprints. The war on Earth was lostbut that was alright. Soon, none of it would matter.

All that was left to do now was tend to Shinn.

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December 17th, CE 73 - Gigafloat, Pacific Ocean

Gigafloat was more impressive a sight to behold once one was on it rather than viewing it from a distance. The mass driver was an enormous platform on the waves, capable of all the normal functions of a standard mass driver that typically needed to be anchored to solid ground. At the moment, however, it was crowded with mobile suits of all make and model, many stamped with the distinctive Junk Guild logo. The Junk Guild members had pulled out all the stops for the defense of this platform.

As the Kasselheim entered dock, Shinn noticed a familiar pair of mobile suits. He eyed the Gundam Astray Blue Frame Second L and gray ZAKU Warrior in surprise it seemed Serpent Tail had come here as well. The familiar Gundam Astray Red Frame was not far away either, and Shinn thought back to his abortive combat meeting with the Red Frame's energetic pilot, Lowe Gear.

However, as he headed down a catwalk suspended over the platform, Shinn came upon something new a familiar voice was around a corner, obscured by a tangle of pipes and support beams. He stopped dead in his tracks, and a moment later, a familiar figure rounded the corner.

Shinn stared ruefully at the face of Athrun Zala. There was another man nearby, taller and older, with blonde hair. Athrun glanced at him wordlessly; he nodded and headed down the opposite way, and Athrun turned his gaze back to Shinn.

"I didn't think I'd see you here," Athrun said, putting on a polite smile and extending his hand. Shinn hesitantly shook it. "I heard about your misadventures at the Marshall Colony and Aquapolis."

Shinn said nothing, looking away. Athrun arched an eyebrow inquisitively at him. "What are you doing here?" Shinn asked awkwardly.

"We were contacted by the Junk Guild," Athrun replied. "I suppose you were as well. The Junk Guild has requested help from anyone who will listen." Shinn leaned against the rail and stared scornfully at the horizon. "But you've become something of a celebrity in the underworld," Athrun added. Shinn looked back at him in surprise. "We may not even have to fight if our opponent knows that you're here."

"I'm a celebrity?" Shinn asked, dismayed. Athrun shrugged.

"Not many people can say that they infiltrated the Marshall Colony and escaped alive," Athrun said. "Your power is making you famous."

Shinn looked contemptuously back at the horizon. "Who is our opponent anyways?" he asked with a scowl.

Athrun looked away awkwardly; the silence prompted Shinn to glance back at Athrun, who looked back up uneasily.

"It's an enemy you should know well," Athrun said dourly.

Shinn blinked in surprise, his heart sinking. Athrun looked him grimly in the eye.

"Our enemy," he said, "is the United Emirates of Orb."

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To be continued