Phase 33 - The Enemy of My Enemy

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED DESTINY

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Phase 33 - The Enemy of My Enemy

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December 18th, CE 73 - ZAFT battleship Minerva, Pacific Ocean

鉄hinn Asuka is not a normal opponent, Shiho said authoritatively, arms crossed before the Minerva痴 mobile suit pilots in the Minerva痴 briefing room. 滴e has undeniable skill, and is a good enough pilot to render most combat tactics useless. We have to be creative and diligent in order to defeat him. She glanced coldly at Rey; he looked back just as coldly. 迭ey has come up with a strategy we will use against him in our next encounter.

Rey glanced over the pilots; Luna was staring suspiciously and contemptibly at him, Aoma looked tired and unhappy, and Ruumari looked like an animal ready to strike.

的n order to defeat Shinn we need to attack quickly enough to leave him no time to react to our attacks, he said. 展e will try a new formation for aerial mobile suit combat, wherein all of us will line up single-file and attack Shinn痴 Impulse head-on. He glanced at Lunamaria. 釘ecause we need to stun the Impulse and knock Shinn off balance before the rest of us can attack, Lunamaria will be the leading attacker.

Lunamaria痴 eyes widened in disbelief at Rey, but she said nothing. Shiho glanced at him suspiciously and frowned.

鼎aptain Gladys has not yet ordered the Minerva to attack the Kasselheim, Shiho continued. 滴owever, when she does, we will attempt to use this maneuver against Shinn. In the meantime, we are all to practice getting it right in the simulator. He paused for a moment. 典he Eternal-class cruiser Deliverance will be joining us for our attack when we choose to make it. Rey narrowed his eyes momentarily at Luna. 泥ismissed.

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Battlecruiser Kasselheim, Pacific Ocean

The Megami and the Kasselheim had strung between them a long rope bridge, which allowed for fairly easy, if not somewhat nerve-wracking transport between the two ships. Cagalli Yula Athha had been spending a considerable amount of time on the Kasselheim, going over battle plans with Mev Typhoon.

Shinn Asuka sorely wanted to know why she couldn稚 stay on her own damn ship.

He was standing on the Kasselheim痴 open-air deck, staring disdainfully at the sleek black hull of the Megami. Cagalli was on the Kasselheim, but as far as Shinn knew, she was on the bridge, meaning Shinn was going to steer clear of the bridge until she left. He was not ready to face her yet, and did not want to get into an argument or cause a scene or deal with her in any way. And the easiest way to avoid that, of course, was to avoid her.

He looked back out at the sea, determined not to look at Cagalli and her ship. He turned over Athrun痴 explanation about Kira in his mind a complicated figure to be sure, this Kira Yamato. Coupling Athrun痴 explanation with Rey痴, he began to put together a crude biography of his enemy, and saw his foe as a victim of circumstances, who had not been strong enough to deal with all the agonies life had inflicted upon him. And life had been quite liberal in the infliction of those agonies but Shinn couldn稚 bring himself to feel sorry for Kira. For as much suffering as Kira had gone through himself, he had inflicted it all back on other people.

Shinn heard the sound of one of the doors opening, and for a moment, dreaded that the argument had come to him. Instead, even before he turned around, he felt another presenceand immediately the sinking feeling in his stomach returned.

展hat the hell are you avoiding me for? Kika demanded, storming up to him with all the elegance of a lahar. Shinn turned around, cringing and steeling himself for the conversation he had been dreading. 添ou致e been hiding from me for the past three days, Kika said, stepping in front of him and demanding his attention. 展hat痴 going on with you?

Shinn looked away, wondering what he was supposed to think.

典his is what I was afraid would happen, Shinn, Kika said tiredly, taking him by the shoulders. He looked back at her, blinking. 添ou attached all this emotion and meaning to the simple act of having sex and now look where it痴 gotten you. You can稚 even talk to me.

Shinn turned away angrily, looking back out at the ocean resolutely.

鉄hinn! Kika exclaimed just as angrily. 鉄top being so difficult! I thought I was doing you a favor!

添ou said I attached all that emotion to it, he said quietly, looking down at the water. 的sn稚 that interesting.

Kika fell silent, blinking at what he had to say. He whirled around angrily.

添ou wanna know why I attached emotion to it? he asked, glaring at her. 添ou池e the one who keeps calling me some kind of Newtype super-soldier. Well, you know what? That痴 the problem! I attach emotion to it because I feel emotion about it! And it痴 not even how I feel! It痴 how someone else feels! He shook his head and seized her by the shoulders. 的 want to protect you, he said, 殿s much as I want to protect Stella. I know how you feel about me. You want to know how I feel about that? It scares me. Because I don稚 know how I feel about anything, and nothing feels worse than that! I don稚 want to have to choose between you! I知 not going to choose between you! I care about you both and I知 going to protect you both! So don't make me choose!

Kika stared into Shinn痴 wide, angry, quivering eyes for a moment, before she threw her arms around him. Shinn blinked in surprise, backing up against the railing.

的知 sorry, she whispered. Shinn blinked again.

展hat? he asked blankly.

的t was selfish of me, she said, hugging him tightly. 的 only dragged you into bed because I wanted to have a set of happy memories to look back on in case one day you did something insane and didn稚 come back. She pulled away far enough to look into his eyes, but kept her arms wrapped tightly around him. 添ou keep going out there and attacking battle fleets on your own, and I get scared that that痴 the last time I値l ever see you. She looked down sullenly. 的 know you池e trying to protect me and that seems like the best way of doing it, but I致e seen people die doing stuff like that, and I don稚 want the same thing to happen to you.

的知 not going to die that easily, Shinn began.

的 know, but when I see you throwing yourself at battleships armed with a beam saber, it痴 not very easy to remember that, Kika replied, looked back up at him.

添ou want me to be more careful? Shinn asked. Kika looked away awkwardly.

的just want you to come back, she said.

Shinn hesitated a moment. 的 promised you I would, he said. 的 can稚 protect you if I don稚.

的s that all it痴 about? Kika asked. 笛ust protecting people?

Shinn looked back at the ocean. 的t痴 all I can do, he said.

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December 19th, CE 73 - Orb Navy supercarrier Takemikazuchi, Pacific Ocean

典his is intolerable! Jona shrieked, hurling a ream of navigational charts across the bridge of the Takemikazuchi. 展e are the navy of the United Emirates of Orb! We possess technology that rivals even the PLANTs! And yet we were defeated by a handful of cobbled-together machines and junkyard rabble? Impossible! Another chart went sailing across the bridge, narrowly missing a less than fortunate sonar officer. 典odaka! What is our ETA for Orb waters?

From his hiding place near the captain痴 chair, Todaka stepped forward warily. 展e have another three days sailing ahead of us, sir, he said. 鄭nd the reactors are too overworked to be pushed beyond 100 percent. If we go any faster, we値l blow the reactors out and then we won稚 get anywhere.

的 know that! Jona snapped. 釘ut as long as we池e drifting along like this, we池e easy prey for Cagalli and her little children! He turned angrily towards the bridge displays. 展e will

鄭dmiral! a voice spoke up. Jona and Todaka turned to face a breathless crewman, holding a sheet of paper. Jona seized the page from him and stared down at it contemptibly. His anger vanished, replaced with ashen horror.

展hat is it, Admiral? Todaka asked uneasily.

迭ead this, Jona said, shoving the page into Todaka痴 hands, 殿nd tell me again that we can稚 push the reactors. Todaka looked down at the page, and a moment later his own eyes widened in disbelief.

纏AFT is planning an attack on our homeland? he breathed.

展e are still 72 hours out from Orb, Jona growled, 殿nd the intelligence says ZAFT intends on attacking in eight days. He swung around angrily to face Todaka. 添ou get these ships operational and back to Orb by the 20th, or so help me God I値l have you shot!

添es sir, Todaka said dourly. Jona stormed off the bridge Todaka glanced warily over his uneasy crew. 添ou heard the Admiral, he said. 哲otify all ships that we池e heading back home at flank speed. He narrowed his eyes at the page. 展e have a greater enemy to fight now.

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Atlantic Federation battleship Girty Lue, Pacific Ocean

Neo Roanoke sat back, arms crossed, studying the screen with interest.

鉄o the Orb Raiders and the Mad Typhoon Gang have joined forces, he said with a chuckle. 的 guess it痴 worth it to have that kid in the Impulse on your side.

Lee cast Neo a wary glance. 展hat are our orders, sir? he asked.

Neo sat back and activated the main screens from the panel on his armrest, and immediately the screens came to life with an image of the Destroy Gundam wiping out another Muslim League army.

典hat thing, he said, 妬s probably going to take another week, tops, to finish off the Muslim League. To punctuate Neo痴 point, the Destroy crushed a Muslim League land battleship underfoot. 纏AFT, meanwhile, is planning an attack on Orb in order to relieve pressure on Carpentaria and the Muslim League. We are setting course for Orb to hang out there and wait for ZAFT痴 attack. He sat back with a smile. 典hings are going well, Lee. The Muslim League痴 on its last legs and Carpentaria won稚 last through the month. All that痴 left is to crush them at Orb and finish them off at Antarctica.

鄭nd then what? Lee asked dubiously. Neo痴 smile grew a little wider.

展hat do you think, Lee? he asked. 展ould the Alliance be content to let ZAFT slink away back to space to lick its wounds?

Lee looked back resolutely at the ocean. 鏑ast time we followed them up there, they stopped us at their doorstep.

典hat was because we didn稚 bring a big enough battering ram, Neo responded. 典his time will be different.

Neo allowed himself a feral smirk. Lee said nothing more.

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ZAFT battleship Minerva, Pacific Ocean

Talia Gladys tossed her clipboard back onto her desk with a sigh. Another day, another farcical order from a far-away commander with at best poor knowledge about the situation on the ground.

泥id you see this, Arthur? she asked, glancing over her shoulder at Arthur, standing uncomfortably behind her, and gesturing disgustedly towards the clipboard. 溺ideast Command is ordering us to the Muslim League to fight that Destroy thing.

釘ut we致e already been ordered by the Chairman to follow the Kasselheim, Arthur said, crestfallen.

摘xactly, Talia said with a sigh. 的t痴 only been two years, have we forgotten how to fight a war? In October things were going awfully well.

展hich order are we going to follow, Captain? Arthur asked. Talia glanced up at him.

的f we go the Middle East, we値l get out of this miserable assignment to hunt down Shinn, she said, sitting back. 徹n the other hand, we値l just be getting in line to get torn apart by that Destroy unit. She paused. 的f we stay with the Chairman痴 orders, we値l probably avoid the Destroybut we値l have to keep chasing Shinn, and we both know how much drama that痴 causing. She shrugged. 展e値l stick with the Chairman痴 orders. It痴 a devil we know.

Arthur looked sullenly down at the clipboard. 展hen will the Deliverance arrive to join us? he asked.

擢ive days, Talia answered, standing up and wandering towards the front of her office.

典hey give me chills, Arthur complained. 鏑e Creuset never takes that mask off.

Talia nodded grimly. 滴e should give you chills, she said. She turned around. 滴e痴 got a storied past.

Arthur blinked, but said nothing more. Talia sighed again and looked back towards her bookcase.

鼎arpentaria won稚 last much longer, she said wearily, 殿nd it won稚 be long before they take out Antarctica too. She glanced back at Arthur. 徹rder some refresher courses for space operations for the crew. We値l probably be needing them soon.

Arthur paused solemnly for a moment. 添es ma誕m, he answered.

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December 20th, CE 73 - Orb Raiders dreadnaught Megami, Pacific Ocean

The Kasselheim, Athrun decided, was just about the ugliest ship he had ever seen. Not that he really minded the Gamow hadn稚 been much of a beauty either but the cobbled-together battlecruiser looked ready to fall apart at any moment. Clearly, it was some genius construction, some excellent captaining, and some outstanding mobile suit pilots that kept this thing in one piece.

Clearly, it was Shinn.

Athrun stood on the deck of the Megami, in the warm Pacific sun and the cool breeze, looking at the creaky Kasselheim. He glanced towards the door as it opened, and turned towards Lacus with a polite smile as she stepped out onto the deck.

鄭thrun, she said, surprised. 添ou spend a lot of time up here.

典he Earth痴 sea is a lot nicer than the PLANTs, he said with a shrug, looking back out at the Kasselheim. Lacus followed his gaze and smiled.

典hat痴 not all of it, though, is it? she asked, coming up next to him.

Athrun smiled himself and shook his head. 的 feel like I have to watch over him, he said. 鉄hinn, I mean.

Lacus looked at the Kasselheim herself for a moment. 滴e reminds you of yourself, she said, 電oesn稚 he?

展hen I was younger, Athrun added. 泥uring the Valentine War. He allowed himself another smile. 展hen you smacked me over the head and told me to wake up.

Lacus looked back over at Athrun. 的 didn稚 smack you, she said, smiling at him. Athrun let out a chuckle.

展ell, that was the effect it had, he said. 典hat痴 what Shinn reminds me of. He looked back at the Kasselheim. 滴e wants to do his best to protect what he cares about, and he feels like the only way to do that is to run around the battlefield and kill the people who want to destroy what he壮 protecting. It痴 how we all feel. We just have different ways of protecting what痴 important to us. He sighed. 摘xcept that Shinn痴 a lot more determined than I was.

添ou were determined enough to fight, Lacus said, glancing over at Athrun. 迭egardless of what side you were on when you fought. You did what you felt had to be done as well. He shook his head.

的 was determined enough to fight people I didn稚 know, he corrected. 的t痴 easy to kill your enemies when they池e just a bunch of mobile suits, and you can稚 see the people inside. Once you池e fighting a mobile suit with your best friend in the cockpit, it gets more complicated. I had to fight Kira, and I felt that I had to capture him and bring him back to ZAFT, or failing that, to destroy him. I couldn稚 do that. I don奏 think Shinn would hesitate if he値l throw himself at an entire battle fleet, I doubt he壇 hesitate if he felt his best friend had betrayed him, and that friend had to be destroyed.

Lacus looked back at the Kasselheim, pausing for a moment. 泥etermination is a two-edged sword, she said. 的f you are on the wrong path, your determination makes it harder to step off that path and find a better one.

Athrun nodded. 典hat痴 why I feel like I have to watch over him, he said. 鄭nd that痴 what I知 going to do.

Lacus was silent another moment. 典here is something special about him, she said. Athrun looked at her in surprise. 滴e has such power and skill and determination, but all he wants to do with it is protect that which is important to him.

Athrun cast his gaze back towards the Kasselheim. 滴e痴 like Kira, he said quietly.

Lacus nodded. 鄭nd that, she said, just as quietly, looking at Athrun, 妬s why I want to watch over him as well. Athrun looked back at her in surprise. 釘ecause Shinn should not have to go down the path Kira went down.

Athrun nodded slowly. 滴e shouldn稚, he agreed. He glanced at Lacus. 鄭nd we値l make sure he won稚.

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Battlecruiser Kasselheim, Pacific Ocean

Stella Loussier stared confusedly across the deck. On the port side, she had been looking out at the sea, happy as ever, when she had heard the door open. Shinn had stepped out, but he hadn稚 even seemed to notice her, as he angrily made his way over to the starboard side, glowering at the Megami. She watched him uneasily. He was so angry, but he couldn稚 imagine why the people on the Megami didn稚 seem like they were mean.

展hy痴 Shinn so mad? she asked quietly. Shinn turned around in surprise his eyes widened as he caught sight of Stella.

的t痴 nothing, he said quickly, turning away again. Stella stared at him for a moment, before she looked at the Megami.

鉄hinn doesn稚 like them, she said. 滴ow come?

Shinn was silent a moment. He glanced back at Stella unhappily.

的t痴 complicated, he said at last. 泥on稚 worry about it.

釘ut it痴 making Shinn angry, Stella pressed on, coming up next to him and looking at him worriedly. 鉄tella wants to know why.

的t doesn稚 matter, Shinn said. 展e have to work with them no matter what we think.

Stella did not appear satisfied, but said nothing. Shinn glanced at her uneasily. 典hey池e nice, Stella said quietly, looking over at the Megami. 典hey were nice to Stella.

徹f course they were, Shinn grumbled. 典hey池e nice to everyone. He glanced at Stella again and shook his head. 的f you had to fight Neo, Stella, would you?

Stella looked at him blinkingly for a moment. 鉄tella has fought Neo, she murmured.

Shinn blinked in surprise. 添ou did? he asked. 展hen?

的n space, Stella said, looking up blankly at the sky. 哲eo attacked Stella

鄭nd you fought him? Shinn asked.

哲eo was gonna hurt Stella, she said. 套and Shinn.

Shinn fell silent, staring at her, and then he looked back at the Megami. 展ould you fight Neo again? he asked. Stella looked at him in surprise. 的 mean, I wouldn稚 make you fight himbut if you had to

哲eo lied, Stella said simply.

She looked back at the ocean and said no more. Shinn shook his head. It was so easy for her to fight even her beloved Neo, and yet Shinn could hardly stand to look into Stella痴 eyes. He glanced at her again, turning to leave, but she was happily distracted by the sea.

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展hy, exactly, are we going off to join some little rebellion in Orb?

Mike stared skeptically across the bridge at an indignant Cagalli Yula Athha, while Athrun Zala tried to get her to calm down and listen to reason.

添ou have to help us! Cagalli shouted angrily. 展e need your help! We have to bring Orb back!

鏑ooks to me like it痴 still where you left it, Yun said sarcastically, glancing at Mike痴 navigation console. 鄭nd why are we obligated to help you?

展e only agreed to help you attack the Takemikazuchi Fleet, Miss Athha, Mev added, glancing stoically at Cagalli痴 companions and then back at her. 展e did not sign on to fight a civil war with you.

鼎agalli, Athrun began helplessly, 努e can稚 expect them to join us out of the goodness of their hearts. They have a crew to feed too.

的t痴 not just our concern! Cagalli snapped. 典he world has to have a haven like Orb, so that only the people who want to fight a war have to fight one!

添ou seem to be dragging us into one whether we like it or not, another voice spoke up. Athrun and Cagalli turned around in surprise, and all eyes fell on Shinn Asuka at the bridge doors.

鉄hinn Viima began angrily, rising from her seat. Mev stopped her, looking wordlessly at Shinn with an almost imperceptible nod. Shinn caught it and took a step forward.

添ou池e trying to make a place where we can find refuge from war, Shinn went on, 澱ut you池e dragging us all into a war to do it. You want to make some place where we don奏 have to fight a war if we don奏 want to, but you喪e making us fight a war we don奏 want to fight in order to do it.

典hat痴 not what we池e doing! Cagalli shouted. Shinn scowled back.

典hen what are you doing? he asked.

鉄hinn, Athrun began, stepping between him and Cagalli. 典his isn稚 the time.

鄭nd when will 奏he time be, then? Shinn shot back. 展hy should we have to fight your civil war with you?

Athrun said nothing, looking at Cagalli.

的f this is because of the battle at Onogoro Athrun began cautiously.

哲o, Shinn snapped, 妬t痴 not. He scowled fiercely at Athrun. 的 don稚 want to fight for Orb. I don稚 want to fight for some false pretense of building a sanctuary, when the leaders will be idiots and get us all attacked again.

的diots?! Cagalli shouted, forcing her way out from behind Athrun and storming towards Shinn. 溺y father was not an idiot!

徹nly an idiot would look at an Atlantic Federation invasion fleet and tell it to go screw itself! Shinn responded, glowering at her. 泥id your exalted father ever think of what might happen if he pissed them off and they attacked?! Did he think of the stakes he was playing for? Or was his little ideology so much more important than the citizens?!

Athrun stopped Cagalli before she could get any closer to Shinn; she glared hatefully at Shinn instead. 添ou have no right to speak of my father that way! she cried. 滴e was a noble man, and it was his ideals that gave you a place to live, where you wouldn稚 be persecuted for being a Coordinator!

鄭nd a lot of good that did me, Shinn shot back. 的n the end, it was his stupid policies and his stupid decisions that made the Atlantic Federation invade us! He said he壇 protect us? He did a hell of a job protecting my family! He pointed vindictively at Cagalli. 泥on稚 give me that bullshit about him being a great man! I don稚 care if he was or not it was his fault that the Atlantic Federation destroyed us!

的t doesn稚 matter who the Chief Representative was, Shinn, Athrun put in quickly, interposing himself between Cagalli and Shinn again. 典he Atlantic Federation wanted that mass driver and one way or another they were going to get it.

鄭nd we could have just let them use it! Shinn raged. 哲obody would have had to die that way! We wouldn稚 have been conquered that way! But your father, he cast his glare back to Cagalli, 塗e just had to try and tell them off! Are you saying that痴 how we should live? We should forget what痴 going on around us and do something stupid, because that痴 our ideal? We should assume that everyone痴 going to just go away because we池e standing so firmly in our position? This is a war, you idiot! You stand firmly and refuse to retreat on the battlefield and you値l die!

Cagalli said nothing, trembling in rage. Shinn whirled around furiously to storm out of the bridge. Athrun glanced at Mev; he nodded wordlessly, and Athrun released Cagalli to follow Shinn.

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Shinn didn稚 need to turn around to know who was following him. That vaguely confused, generally surprised and angry presence was obviously Athrun Zala.

Nonetheless, Shinn whirled around angrily, startling Athrun. 展hat do you want? he snapped. 鄭re you here to tell me how wrong I am and Cagalli痴 really a wonderful person with a wonderful goal that will of course not fail?

典hat was unnecessary, Athrun said flatly. 泥isagree with Cagalli if you must, but there is no reason to go picking fights with her, or anyone else.

Shinn snorted in disgust. 鉄omeone has to tell her when she痴 doing something stupid, he said. 徹bviously, none of you have, or else you wouldn稚 be cavorting after the Seirans like this. He crossed his arms. 泥on稚 tell me you don稚 see the hypocrisy here. You can稚 be that stupid. She wants to create some place where we won稚 have to fight in wars, and to do that, she痴 trying to drag us into fighting a war.

的t痴 better than our alternative, Athrun answered. 的t痴 better than running around the world killing people, getting dragged into wars where we have nothing to protect and no reason to fight, killing people for no greater reason than some politician told us to. He took a measured step closer. 展ould you rather be fighting to protect your friends, to protect Stella Loussier, or would you rather be fighting for Dullindal and his failed ambitions on Earth?

泥oes it matter? Shinn shot back. 摘ither way, I still have to fight. He uncrossed his arms. 添our little paradise is supposed to mean that I don稚 have to fight at all. Well, guess what, not everyone is as lovey-dovey and peaceful and idealistic as you. They値l do what they did Orb in CE 71 again, and they値l keep doing it. Whenever you insist on doing your own thing, there痴 always going to be somebody trying to get you to do things their way. Orb is not going to change that. In the end you値l have to fight again, like you had to fight at Orb two years ago.

Athrun watched Shinn carefully for a moment. 展hy do you have such a problem with what we池e trying to do? he asked. 展hy won稚 you join us? It would be in your best interest a place where you no longer have to fight to protect Stella.

Shinn narrowed his eyes at Athrun. 釘ecause I know that you池e going to fail, he said.

With that, he whirled back around and stalked down the corridor, turning around a corner and disappearing from sight.

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ZAFT battleship Minerva, Pacific Ocean

Shiho stared ruefully at the Savior痴 controls, her work on the operating system grinding to a halt as she was filled with a sudden distaste and depression. She thought back to why she could possibly be feeling this way.

典his is a terrible assignment, isn稚 it? she asked at last. She glanced up at the open cockpit hatch, where Lunamaria was kneeling with a laptop, running diagnostics on the hardware. She looked up in surprise. 展e池e chasing a traitor, Shiho elaborated, 努ho痴 skilled enough to evade us and beat us back when we do catch up to him. He was one of our own, a comrade in arms, we all knew him for better or for worse, and now we have to track him down and kill him. And to do that, we致e got five mobile suit pilots who can hardly get along. She sat back in frustration. 典he drama is thick enough to cut with a knife.

的f we weren稚 chasing Shinn, Luna said quietly, 努e壇 be fighting that Destroy. And, she paused, 努e壇 probably be dead.

Shiho shrugged. 的 suppose, she conceded. 的 just wish we were all reassigned. We can稚 fight Shinn. We all know him, and that acquaintance is affecting us. She shook her head. 的f it were anyone else, we would致e captured him long ago.

Luna looked down at her laptop for a moment. 鉄hinn wouldn稚 let himself get caught, she said. Shiho sighed, conceding again. She looked up at the top of the Savior痴 cockpit. She was supposed to be the leaderbut she felt far from it. She knew it was her duty to lead her team in hunting down and capturing Shinn, but she couldn稚 bring herself to do it. Either he was always too skilled and always slipped away, or she just couldn稚 pull the trigger. She hesitated. She second-guessed. They all did.

Everyone except Rey, of course.

Shiho wondered what she could have done differently. She wondered what Yzak would have done he ran a tight ship, to be sure. He would not have tolerated Shinn痴 first stunt in returning Stella to the Earth Alliance. Not that Shiho had either, but she had made the mistake of not paying enough attention to Shinn at Arzachel Crater. And before she could do anything about it, he had crippled Rey and Luna痴 ZAKUs and made his escape with the Gaia.

Yzak would never have let that happen.

展as I not hard enough on Shinn? she asked, staring up at the top of the Savior痴 cockpit.

的t wouldn稚 have mattered, Luna said quietly. Shiho looked at her, surprised. 哲obody will stop Shinn when he has his heart set on something.

Shiho looked back up absently and said nothing else.

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Battleship Kasselheim, Pacific Ocean

Emerging like a tornado onto the observation deck, Shinn stormed up to the railing, glowering out at the ocean. Immediately, he felt another presence behind him, but this one was not familiar. It was peaceful; tinged at the edges with sadness, but overwhelmingly calming and soothing. He immediately felt his anger begin to fade away, and, baffled at who could have a presence like this, he turned around.

Immediately, he found himself face to face with Lacus Clyne.

滴ello, Shinn Asuka, she said, smiling politely, extending her hand. Shinn looked down at it hesitantly and then back up at her. 的s something wrong?

添ou池e Lacus Clyne, Shinn said guardedly. Lacus nodded, still smiling. 滴ave you come up here to yell at me too?

的知 not here to yell at you, Shinn, she said, her hand dropping, but her face still smiling. 的 just wanted to meet you. Athrun has told me a great deal about you.

Shinn blinked at her. 鄭thrun?

滴e holds you in high regard as a mobile suit pilot, she continued, walking up to the railing next to him. 滴e says he壮 glad he doesn奏 have to fight against you.

滴e likes me for my skills? Shinn asked morosely, arching an eyebrow at her. Lacus shook her head.

哲o, he likes you because you aren稚 using those skills to destroy and oppress, she answered. She paused. 的s something wrong, Shinn?

Shinn looked away, glowering at the sea. 哲o, he said quickly.

Lacus looked back at the sea herself. Shinn glanced at her out of the corner of his eye; her calming aura quelled his anger further. He vaguely wondered if she was a Newtype.
But then there was that hint of sadness. Where had it come from?

展hy are you sad? Shinn asked suddenly. Lacus looked over at him blinkingly.

展hat do you mean? she asked; Shinn sensed a tiny flicker of nervousness, but he was determined to know. Her sadness would become his own; he couldn稚 afford for that to happen.

的 can feel it, he said. 添our sadnessit痴 like it痴 around the edges ofyour heart.

Lacus stared at him in disbelief, masked well but not well enough. 添ou can feel it? she echoed. Shinn nodded dourly; she searched his face for a moment. 添ou are a Newtype, she concluded.

Shinn felt his blood run hot at just the mention of the word. Lacus looked down at the floor sullenly.

的知 sorry, she said.

Shinn痴 anger vanished; he blinked in surprise at her.

添ou池e sorry? he asked.

的t is a terrible burden, she continued. 典o feel your pain with the pain of others, to feel the deaths of everyone around you and to be trapped in a war. She looked back up at him. 釘ut you have been strong to endure it all so far.

展hat does it matter? Shinn asked. 哲o one else can possibly understand what this is like.

哲o, Lacus agreed, 澱ut they can try.

A metallic beep sounded through the air, and Lacus produced a small cell phone from inside her long coat. She put it back and looked back up at Shinn.

的 apologize, she said, 澱ut the Megami will be disconnecting from the Kasselheim for battle preparations soon, so I will have to return. She extended her hand again. 釘ut I am glad to have had the chance to talk to you, Shinn.

Shinn looked at her hand hesitantly again. She knew what he was, she knew his pain, she knew why he was suffering, but she didn稚 understand what it was like. She couldn稚.

But she could try.

Shinn shook her hand. 添ou too, he said, with a weak smile.

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To be continued