Phase 35 - The Ultimate Coordinator

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED DESTINY

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Phase 35 - The Ultimate Coordinator

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December 22nd, CE 73 - ZAFT Eternal-class cruiser Deliverance, Pacific Ocean

鄭ll checks are complete, the mechanic said. 典he catapults are being warmed up now. The hatch closed, and the cockpit went dark for a moment, before the cameras started up and lit the cockpit up with a panoramic view of the Deliverance痴 hangar.

Kira Yamato, sitting in the cockpit of the Freedom Gundam, glanced to his right and opened a line to Valentine痴 Slash ZAKU Phantom, as it was loaded onto a Guul subflight system.

適ira, she said, offering him a sweet smile, 的 was afraid you壇 forgotten about me.

Kira blinked. 的 wouldn稚 do that, he answered. Valentine shook her head.

泥o you remember Shinn? she asked, glancing at him. Kira nodded grimly. He remembered Shinn how could he not? The famous ZAFT ace, the angry boy at Carpentaria, the great traitor to all Coordinators. The one dangerous loose piece in Rau痴 final plan for humanity. 敵ood, Valentine said, 澱ecause I知 sure he remembers you.

滴e can稚 possibly be ready for me, Kira said flatly. 的致e trained for weeks to bring him down. I won奏 fail.

徹f course you won稚, Valentine said with a smile. The transmission ended; Kira sat back and let out a sigh.

In the ZAKU痴 cockpit, Valentine cast a devilish glance towards the Providence and opened up a line to Rau.

鄭re you bothering me again? he asked, faking weariness with an amused grin. 泥on稚 you have better things to do?

展ell excuse me for letting you know that our little boy is all set to go play with the other kids, Valentine shot back. Rau chuckled.

適ira痴 never been ready to play with the other kids, he said.

展hat, exactly, is our purpose in doing this? Valentine asked testily. 展e already have the Minerva tailing Asuka.

的 want to gauge Shinn痴 strength, Rau said, sitting back and leaning his head against his fist. 的f he痴 really the Newtype superman that Gilbert is afraid of, then he値l be able to beat Kira relatively easily, and then we鼠l know if he壮 worth worrying about.

Valentine arched an inquisitive eyebrow at him. 展e池e going to sacrifice Kira that easily?

徹f course not, Rau chuckled. 適ira痴 not done with his penance yet. We won稚 let he die, nor will we let the Freedom be destroyed. But, he smiled, 鍍hey can afford to take a beating.

Valentine sat back, eyeing Rau carefully. 的f you say so, she said at last, shutting the line off.

Rau chuckled again to himself as the Freedom moved onto the Deliverance痴 catapult

添ou致e been the most powerful soldier alive for quite a while, Kira, he said. 釘ut now it is time for you to finally fight a true Newtype. He leaned his head back as the Deliverance痴 hangar doors opened, tilting his head back into the shadows as sunlight flooded the hangar. 鄭nd you値l finally see how inferior you are to us.

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Battlecruiser Kasselheim, Pacific Ocean

Somehow, before the enemy even entered visual range, Shinn knew who it was already. The pressure was different, unfamiliarbut unmistakable.

的t痴 him, he growled.

He sat back in the Impulse Gundam痴 cockpit, as the mobile suit streaked out of the Kasselheim痴 hangar. He glanced to the side, at the Megami, as it opened its hangar doors. Athrun would surely be there to fight as well Shinn clenched his fists around the Impulse痴 controls and fired the booster. He could not let Athrun steal his prey he had to fight this enemy alone.

鉄hinn! a voice exclaimed. Shinn glanced back in annoyance at George, as his CGUE faded into the distance behind him. 展hat are you doing?!

鉄tay out of this, Shinn snapped. 的値l take care of this one.

釘ut Shinn George began.

Shinn scowled. 的t痴 the Freedom, he said.

George fell silent, blinking in surprise. 典he Freedom? he asked. 擢rom Jachin Due?

Shinn cut the line and scowled up at the tiny shape on the horizon. That was his enemy. That was who he had to defeat. That was Kira Yamato. Shinn thought back to what Rey had said about Kira. He was the one who had killed his family he was the one that Rey had begged Shinn to destroy.

He magnified the image the Freedom Gundam was charging forward towards him resolutely.

Shinn clenched his teeth, glowering at the Freedom. He remembered that Onogoro slope in CE 71, standing before Mayu痴 severed arm, surrounded by the flames and smoke and what was left of his mother, his father, and Mayu.

添ou he snarled.

The Freedom fired its beam rifle Shinn narrowed his eyes at the approaching blast.

You

The Impulse痴 eyes flashed; Shinn slammed on the brakes, and the Impulse stopped, the blast still approaching.

I finally found you!

The Impulse smacked the Freedom痴 shot aside and charged, returning fire with its beam rifle. Shinn screamed the seed burst before his eyes, and he watched the Freedom skirt aside, leveling its beam rifle for another shot.

Before it could fire, Shinn darted up into the air and fired down on the Freedom from above. It dove aside again, deflecting a near miss with its shield, and fired back with a full burst from its rifle, plasma cannons, and railguns. Shinn scowled, ducking under the blasts and firing at the Freedom痴 exposed torso as he rocketed towards the water痴 surface.

The Freedom skirted aside again, firing another full burst and opening its wings, as Shinn pulled up and streaked along the water痴 surface.

添ou killed them all, Shinn snarled.

Inside the Freedom痴 cockpit, Kira scowled. 展ho is this guy?

I値l make you pay! Shinn screamed.

The Impulse burst up over the Freedom痴 next volley of shots, switching to its beam saber and charging. Kira grunted angrily and drew his own saber, and the two machines slammed together in a shower of sparks.

添ou took them away from me! Shinn shrieked. 的 won稚 let you get away again!

The two machines roared apart again Kira lined up for another full burst, but before he could, the Impulse was back upon him, rocketing up in between the extended cannons to slam its saber against the Freedom痴.

展hat is he? Kira growled. 的t痴 like he knows what I知 going to do!

Shinn screamed as the Impulse delivered a jarring kick to the Freedom痴 stomach Kira grunted and fired off his plasma cannons and railguns into the air, forcing the Impulse back. Shinn growled angrily as he dove down towards the ocean the Freedom had the advantage at long range. But at close range

鉄hinn! a familiar voice shouted. Shinn ignored it, roaring back up into the Freedom痴 face and swinging down towards its exposed shoulder. The Freedom deflected the saber with its shield and swung back Shinn痴 eyes flashed as he caught the Freedom痴 blow with his own saber, and the two Gundams were stuck pushing against each other.

鉄hinn! the voice shouted again. Shinn scowled and risked a glance at its source, seeing the Justice Gundam rushing towards him. 的値l handle

哲o you won稚! Shinn snapped, cutting Athrun off. 滴e痴 MINE! The Impulse surged forward, pulling its saber back for a killing blow.

鼎ommander! Kira shouted, pulling back and dodging the Impulse痴 wild swings. 典he Justice !

的gnore it, Rau ordered. The Providence Gundam roared over the battlefield, firing a beam cannon volley in the Justice Gundam痴 direction and forcing it back. 展e will handle the other mobile suits. Your priority is the Impulse.

Kira ground his teeth angrily. 添es sir, he growled.

展e値l only keep them busy, Kira, Valentine added, as the Guul carrying her ZAKU shot by overhead. 添ou鼠l still get to take him down.

The Impulse dove up into the Freedom痴 field of vision, saber pulled back to strike again. Kira charged back, scowling.

添ou can稚 be that powerful, he growled. 添ou can稚!

The Freedom came down with a slash Shinn screamed and slashed back, and the two mobile suits slammed together again.

添ou致e taken everything else from me, Shinn snarled, fists trembling around the Impulse痴 controls. I won稚 let you take anything more!

The Impulse surged again; Kira grunted in surprise as the Freedom went reeling back. Shinn brought his saber down with a scream; the Freedom swung back, catching the blow.

泥amn you! Shinn shrieked. DIE ALREADY!

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ZAFT battleship Minerva, Pacific Ocean

典hey致e what?

Talia turned her angry gaze from Meyrin to the Minerva痴 bridge windows, and the tiny flashes of explosions on the horizon.

典he Deliverance reports combat, Meyrin repeated meekly, 殿nd they say they don稚 need assistance.

Talia glared at the horizon, at the Deliverance far beyond it. 泥amn you, Rau, she growled. 展hat are you up to?

典hey致e sent the Freedom after the Impulse, Meyrin added.

典he Freedom? Arthur echoed in disbelief. 鼎aptain, they

典hey池e a FAITH unit too, Talia explained, 都o they can attack whenever and wherever they wish. She scowled. 鉄till, I wish Rau had consulted me before doing this. She glanced at Meyrin. 敵o to Condition Red. We池e going forward at flank speed to reach the combat zone. Tell the pilots to stand by.

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Battlecruiser Kasselheim, Pacific Ocean

鼎aptain, there痴 a heat source approaching from the southeast! Mike exclaimed. 的t痴 the Minerva!

Mev sat back in his seat, looking up at the main screen as it displayed the battle in front of him.

展e致e got fifteen minutes until the Minerva is in range to fire on us, Murrue Ramius痴 voice warned from a smaller screen to the side. 鄭nd these FAITH units we池e fighting aren稚 ordinary ZAFT grunts.

典hey致e never sent ordinary grunts after Shinn, Mev said dismissively. 展hat痴 the Impulse痴 status?

鉄till fighting a single unit, Kika reported. 釘ut I can稚 figure out what unit it is.

的t痴 the Freedom.

All eyes turned up to the screen next to Murrue痴, displaying George痴 dour face.

典he Freedom? Kika echoed. 展hat is he fighting that thing for?

滴e痴 still lasting against it, Mike said. 的致e got two mobile suits to port in a pretty heated duel.

The main screen abruptly changed, to show the Impulse charging down onto the Freedom, saber upraised. The Freedom swung its own saber up to block the Impulse痴 killing blow at the last second.

鉄hinn Kika murmured.

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The Freedom and Impulse crashed together, beam sabers locked, as sparks flew around the two straining machines.

典his guy痴 just a Coordinator, Kira grunted. 滴e can稚 be that powerful!

Shinn let out a scream; the Impulse lunged back, dodging a horizontal saber swipe from the Freedom, cursing as the flailing beam managed to tear a wicked scar across the Impulse's chest. Kira narrowed his eyes and fired a full burst at the Impulse; Shinn rocketed up over the Freedom痴 shots and charged back down into its face with another beam saber slash.

添ou bastard! Shinn screamed. Hold still!

The Freedom rocketed backward, firing another full burst. Shinn snarled angrily as he dove aside, letting the shots streak past.

添ou can稚 beat me in that thing! Kira growled.

The Freedom swept in, saber raised; Shinn narrowed his eyes, swinging back and catching the Freedom痴 blow overhead. The two mobile suits rocketed apart again, circling each other. The Impulse charged; the Freedom charged back.

Shinn痴 eyes flashed; a white bolt of energy pierced the air in front of him. Kira blinked in surprise as the Impulse screeched to a halt, and with a crash, the Impulse delivered a devastating roundhouse kick to the Freedom痴 face. Kira screamed as the Freedom reeled back, and swung forward blindly with his saber. Shinn let out a shriek of rage, ducking aside from the Freedom痴 desperate saber swing

Kira痴 eyes widened in disbelief as the Impulse severed the Freedom痴 right arm at the elbow. A second kick to the stomach sent the Freedom reeling back again; Shinn narrowed his eyes, charging after the falling Freedom.

Kira grunted angrily and moved to abandon his shield and draw the Freedom痴 remaining saber. A noise from one of the cockpit panels stopped him.

適ira! he heard Valentine痴 voice shout. 迭eturn to the Deliverance!

展hat? Kira exclaimed. 釘ut

的t痴 an order! Valentine snapped.

Kira looked back up angrily at the charging Impulse and raised the Freedom痴 left hand. The armor over the knuckle opened up; inside the Impulse, Shinn blinked in surprise. A moment later, he squeezed his eyes shut and slammed on the brakes, just as the Freedom launched an array of attack flares into the Impulse痴 face.

Kira scowled as he wheeled the Freedom around and took off towards the Deliverance.

Inside the Impulse, Shinn took cover behind his shield, backing away from the flares and glowering at the dim shape of the Freedom as it escaped.

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Orb Raiders dreadnaught Megami, Pacific Ocean

The bridge was silent as all eyes watched the ZAFT mobile suits retreat. Murrue sat back, watching the dim shape of the Freedom Gundam retreat into the distance, behind the blazing inferno of a half-dozen ZAFT attack flares.

典heir target was Shinn, she said. 典hey could致e cared less about us. They were just keeping us out of their duel.

At the helm, Neumann sank into his seat. 釘ut they already had the Minerva chasing him, he said, 都o why would they send Kira?

釘ecause, someone said, 鼎ommander Le Creuset is up to something.

Lacus Clyne stepped onto the bridge, taking the seat behind Murrue痴 captain痴 chair.

展hat makes you say that? Murrue asked, glancing skeptically at Lacus.

適ira is serving Commander Le Creuset, Lacus said. Murrue frowned as she watched Lacus eyes glimmer almost imperceptibly with well-masked sadness. 滴e wanted to see how strong Shinn is, so he used his own troops to hold ours back and let Shinn and Kira battle alone. Now he has an idea of how powerful Shinn is, using Kira as his yardstick.

Murrue looked back at the battlefield, as the ZAFT units vanished into the distance. The Orb Raiders and Mad Typhoon mobile suits were beginning to return as well. It made sense, but it also put them in a most dangerous position. So far, the Deliverance had fought far from Orb and far from the Orb Raiders, but now there was no avoiding that Kira was their enemy.

Murrue risked a glance at Lacus again. If she was upset, she was doing a good job of hiding it.

But, she reflected grimly, she always did.

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Battlecruiser Kasselheim, Pacific Ocean

Right away, Shinn was reluctant to meet Kika痴 gaze as he stepped out of the Impulse Gundam痴 cockpit. But he had no choice; the mess of emotion swirling around her was too great to ignore. He looked up at her, his helmet in hand, as he opened the collar of his flight suit.

鉄o that was him, huh? she asked, leaning against the railing, staring sadly at him. 典he one who killed your family?

Shinn looked away, nodding grimly. Kika was silent a moment.

的知 going to take him down, Shinn added. He glanced back at Kika; she was staring at him in surprise. 的 have to.

展hy? Kika asked, arching an eyebrow.

滴e痴 the one who killed my family, Shinn said, clenching his fists. 滴e took everything away from me. He looked back at her. 鄭nd now I finally have something to fight for again. I won稚 let him take that away too.

Kika paused for a moment. 展hat makes you think he痴 going to take everything away from you?

Shinn shook his head. 的t doesn稚 matter, he said. 的致e beat him once. I can do it again.

Kika watched Shinn skeptically as he turned and stalked down the gantry.

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December 23rd, CE 73 - ZAFT Eternal-class cruiser Deliverance, Pacific Ocean

滴e is indeed powerful, Rau said, sitting back in his office, staring at the lone ice cube floating in his glass of bourbon. 敵iven a hard enough push, he could tear Kira apart.

添ou don稚 think you can take him over like we did to Kira? Valentine asked, sitting across from Rau, pausing to finish off the rest of her own drink. 滴e already ran away from Dullindal. He痴 not going to be in the mood to accept another all-knowing father figure.

泥o I look like Dullindal to you? Rau asked amusedly, glancing up at her. 鄭nyway, no, I知 not going to try to get Shinn on our side. Dullindal has ensured that that won稚 be an option. He sat back. 釘esides, Kira is still too valuable to sacrifice so easily. Rau smiled. 滴e can always protect something.

典hen what are we going to do about Shinn? Valentine asked, staring squarely at Rau. 滴e痴 better than Kira. He痴 a threat.

滴e痴 not that much better, Rau answered. 鄭s he is now, armed with only the Impulse, Shinn isn稚 a threat that can稚 be dealt with. If he gets his hands on the Destiny, that痴 when we have cause for concern.

展hy is that? Valentine ventured, narrowing her eyes. Rau chuckled, pausing for a sip of bourbon.

典he Destiny is built around him and his combat data from while he was still with ZAFT, Rau said, sitting back and smiling wistfully. 的t痴 a Newtype machine. It痴 built to use his powers to create a blindingly-fast machine that can take on hundreds of enemies at once, and use its speed to deliver just enough firepower to overcome all odds. He chuckled. 的t痴 like if Shinn himself was a Gundam.

的t doesn稚 mean anything if he can稚 get it, Valentine said.

摘ven if Shinn does get a hold of the Destiny, Rau went on, 妬t痴 not like he痴 the greatest threat there is to our little Kira. He tapped the side of his glass, sending ripples over the surface of its contents and shaking the shrinking ice cube about. 滴is old friends always have the potential of convincing him to return under their wings.

典hen we値l have to do something about them, Valentine said flatly. 展e can稚 afford to have enemies in Shinn and Kira.

Rau eyed Valentine amusedly for a moment. 徹f course, he agreed.

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Onogoro Island, United Emirates of Orb

Jona Roma Seiran stood at the head of the command center of Onogoro Island痴 sprawling military facilities, arms crossed, watching dourly as the mechanics scrambled to repair the Takemikazuchi, the fleet痴 surviving ships, and their mobile suits, all while frantically setting up defenses for the country. ZAFT was making no bones about its invasion they had committed the bulk of their remaining Earthbound military forces to this assault, clearly designed to attract attention away from its allies. The Muslim League had at last collapsed under the combined force of the Destroy Gundam and the Earth Alliance痴 invading armies, but that wasn稚 stopping ZAFT. Carpentaria couldn稚 possibly survive the Alliance痴 siege much longer, but if they pulled this off, ZAFT could ease the pain of losing Carpentaria and set the Alliance back.

Jona, however, was not about to let Orb become the springboard for ZAFT痴 resurgence on Earth.

He turned in annoyance at the sound of footsteps, and found Unato approaching angrily.

展hat are you doing here? Unato demanded. 展e池e in the middle of war preparations and all you池e doing is

迭elax, Jona interrupted testily. 展e will not be burned down so easily again.

纏AFT is coming with most of their military force, Jona, Unato snapped. 典hey are bringing down the hammer and we cannot allow ourselves to rely on the Earth Alliance for help in defending ourselves. He scowled at the Takemikazuchi as the mechanics hurried to repair it. 鄭nd to think our grand Takemikazuchi Fleet was so ravaged by a single machine

典hat 壮ingle machine,樗 Joan growled, 努as the Impulse Gundam, father.

Unato scowled. 的 don稚 care what it was, he shot back. 的t痴 only one mobile suit and it cost us dearly. We have an invasion to fend off, and we cannot rely on technological superiority against ZAFT.

的 am fully aware of the situation, father, Jona said through gritted teeth. 的 will not allow Orb to be destroyed again, nor shall I allow the Atlantic Federation to sweep in and control us again. Rest assured that you shall never again see Orb bowing to the control of another nation.

Unato snorted in disgust and stormed away. Jona glowered down at the fleet.

During an invasion, he thought, many things happenso much chaos, no one can keep track of anything, and so many people die.

He glanced at the retreating back of his father and smirked.

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December 24th, CE 73 - Orb Raiders dreadnaught Megami, Pacific Ocean

的 guess this is another Christmas we won稚 be able to enjoy, Cagalli said quietly, leaning against the railing of the Megami痴 deck. She glanced at Athrun Zala, standing next to her. 釘ut we値l have a chance to take back Orb during the invasion.

的 hope so, he agreed. 展e can稚 keep fighting forever.

Cagalli looked out across the ocean, towards Orb.

鄭re they coming? she asked, nodding towards the Kasselheim. Athrun glanced at the ship and shrugged.

典hey said they would, he said. 鄭nd I知 sure Kira will be thereso Shinn will probably be there too, to finish their fight.

的 hope he at least leaves Kira alive, Cagalli said. 鉄o that we don稚 have to bury him.

Athrun looked down at the water. 的 think the Kira we knew has been dead for a long time, he said quietly.

Cagalli looked at him, and then back at Orb. 的 guess, she agreed. She was silent a moment, glancing at Athrun out of the corner of her eye. 鄭thrun, she spoke up, catching his attention. 填mwhen this is all overI mean, when we retake Orb and all She looked away, back towards her country. 展ould youstay with me?

Athrun blinked in surprise. 展hat do you mean?

套to help me, Cagalli said. She paused. 的 can稚 do it alone.

Athrun smiled. 徹f course I will, he said, looking out at Orb. 的 figured that went without saying.

的 just wanted to make sure, Cagalli said awkwardly, looking back at Athrun out of the corner of her eye.

展e致e come this far together, Athrun said. 鄭nd I値l be by your side the whole way through.

Cagalli looked back at the ocean, blushing. 典hank you, she whispered.

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Yokosuka Naval Station, Japan, Republic of East Asia

Three gleaming new mobile suits stood in the Japanese sun at the Yokosuka Naval Station. Standing on the deck of the Girty Lue, watching Neo admire them from afar, Lee had to admit that they were fine machines.

The GAT-X107 Calypso Gundam was the first to move, raised by a crane into the cavernous hangar bay of the Spengler-class carrier William McKinley. The Calypso had torso and shoulder armor reminiscent of the Blitz Gundam, legs and arms like the Strike壮, and a pair of green hyper impulse cannons slung underneath a pair of folding red and black wings.

的t痴 a shame we won稚 see them in action at Orb, Neo commented.

Lee looked with dutiful puzzlement at him. 展e池e not? he asked.

滴igh Command is holding them in reserve, Neo said. 的nstead we get treated to front-row seats for the Destroy Gundam.

To punctuate the moment, there was a deep and ominous rumbling. Lee looked to the side, towards the Girty Lue痴 prow, finding the hulking monster of the Destroy Gundam setting down on a massive helipad.

徹ur fleet is well-equipped, Lee commented, trying to hide his disbelief at finally laying on eyes on the monster that had destroyed a nation. He looked back towards the William McKinley, finding them loading the GAT-X135 Judicator Gundam, an evolution of the Buster Gundam that looked overloaded with rotating beam cannons, railguns, and a chest beam cannon taken from the Abyss Gundam.

的ndeed it is, Neo agreed, smirking. 笛ona is going to owe us big for this.

的 would bet that痴 what he痴 trying to avoid, Lee said, looking back towards the Destroy. It towered over everything, glowering down with shimmering green eyes. He looked back at the new Gundams. 的f those things aren稚 going to be deployed at Orb, where will they be sent? he asked.

鄭ntarctica, Neo answered. 徹ur battle plan is to put the ZAFT invasion force on the run and chase them to Antarctica. Other fleets will join us along the way and we値l all come crashing down on them at Antarctica.

Lee nodded; a sound plan, he supposed, if they could indeed crush ZAFT at Orb like they were hoping. He looked back at the William McKinley, at the last new model the GAT-X201 Mustang Gundam, a machine that sported a commander痴 crest reminiscent of ZAFT痴 GINN, sporting a pair of Schwert Gewehr anti-ship swords on its back, beam boomerangs on its shoulders, and a Scylla cannon on its head. He glanced at Neo, remembering that this new Gundam project had involved four machines but there were only three here.

展e値l go into action at Orb in an auxiliary role, Neo said. 展e値l just join the defense. You stay put the Windams will defend the ship. I知 taking the Chaos and the Abyss on a little errand.

Lee looked suspiciously at Neo. 添es sir, he answered.

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December 25th, CE 73 - ZAFT battleship Minerva, Pacific Ocean

徹ur ETA at the rendezvous point for the Fourth Combined Assault Force is one hours, Meyrin announced, as the Minerva glided over the water. Far ahead in the distance, tiny specks could be seen on the horizon the bulk of ZAFT痴 Vosgulov-class submarine fleet was here, along with the land battleships that had survived ZAFT痴 failed invasion attempts all over the world. There was a Petrie-class cutting across the ocean痴 surface up ahead. The face of a grizzled ZAFT Black Shirt appeared on the Minerva痴 main monitor.

鼎aptain Gladys, the Petrie captain said. 的知 Captain Carter, commander of the Maslow. Good to see a familiar face.

添ou look well, Captain Carter, Talia answered with a smile. 的 suppose you have some bureaucratic duties to fulfill first?

鄭fraid so, Carter answered. He gestured to someone off-screen. 鉄hip name, captain, clearance code, and we値l give you the rundown of our plan.

鏑HM-BB01 Minerva, Captain Talia Gladys, clearance code Delta seven ten, Talia answered. Carter consulted a screen to his right and blinked in surprise.

添ou池e in FAITH now? he asked. Talia shrugged. 展ell, I guess giving you orders is kind of pointless, then.

展e池e here to bolster the Fourth Combined Assault Force, Talia answered. 典he brass know better than to play political games when the stakes are this high. We値l join a unit with an opening if need be.

Carter nodded and gestured to a subordinate. 典he commanding officer will figure out what to do with you. We値l escort you in.

Talia sat back, crossing one leg over the other. 滴ow have things been going here? The Fourth痴 been gathering here for the better part of a week, if I recall.

的t痴 a mess, Carter sighed, sinking into his chair, looking thoroughly beleaguered. 展e got assigned to run perimeter patrols, and this is after getting back with our lives from that fiasco at the Cape of Good Hope. They just patched us up at Antarctica and shipped us back out in three days.

展e池e all having to make do with less, Talia said. 的s there a Kaskirov-class around here to give us a resupply?

典he commander is sending the Faraday to take care of that, Carter answered. He let out a quiet sigh. 典ake care of yourself, captain. It痴 going to be ugly out there tomorrow.

The line went out. Talia looked up ahead, at the gathering ZAFT fleet, and sighed.

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Ruumari stood on the Minerva痴 deck, staring out at Orb, wondering if he would be there.

Of course, there was no reason why he would be. But the Kasselheim had been tracked with the Orb Raiders, heading straight for Orb. He would have to be there. Finally he would get another chance to fight.

The door behind him opened; he glanced in surprise at Aoma as she stepped out onto the deck.

典here you are, she said. 展hat are you doing out here?

Ruumari said nothing, looking back at Orb.

Aoma came up next to him, glancing at him. 的f you池e going to go after the Impulse

泥on稚 try to talk me out of it, Ruumari snapped. 的致e trained for weeks to kill that guy. I知 finally going to do it.

滴e痴 beaten us all before, Aoma insisted. 鄭t least stick to the plan. There痴 no reason for you to go and do something stupid.

Ruumari clenched his fists angrily around the railing. 的 finally have a chance to prove myself, he growled. 的 wear this uniform for a reason. I pilot my Impulse unit for a reason. I am a ZAFT Red for a reason. And during Operation Fury, you will all see that reason.

Aoma looked back at Orb sadly. 的t doesn稚 mean anything if you get yourself killed, she said. 笛ust let me fight alongside you, alright? She looked back at him. 典hat痴 how we致e always done it. We値l fight the Impulse together.

Ruumari glanced at her; she stared in surprise at the coldness in his eyes.

典hat痴 how we used to do it, Ruumari said. 的値l ask for your help if I need it. He looked back at Orb, his eyes darkening. 釘ut one way or another, I will destroy him.

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

典he plan is to focus our firepower on Onogoro Island, Horatio Vandemant said, standing before Gilbert Dullindal痴 desk and gesturing to the main screen behind him. Gilbert sat back in his seat, staring dourly at the screen. 徹nogoro is Orb痴 primary military installation and the center of their command structure. If we destroy it, the Orb military will be headless and easily divided and destroyed. The screen shifted. 徹ur three primary targets are the Kaguya mass driver facility, the Orb National Defense Headquarters, and the Morgenroete facilities.

的致e heard far too much for my liking about Earth Alliance moves around the area, Gilbert said, casting a narrow glance at Horatio. 展hat about that?

徹ur reports indicate that the only Alliance forces nearby are the forces laying siege to Carpentaria, Horatio answered, looking confident. 典he Alliance forces involved in conquering the Oceania Union are too busy quelling regional resistance to respond, and it is unlikely that the Alliance would abandon its siege of Carpentaria to rescue Orb.

Gilbert glanced to the side thoughtfully. Would the Alliance so easily sacrifice Orb? They had proven that they were capable of making technological leaps and bounds without Orb痴 help they still couldn稚 match that damned Windam, although hopefully the cutting-edge new DOM Trooper would be able to make a difference. It was too late to deploy them to the Orb invasion, but Carpentaria had rolled out a squad, and they were gearing up to break through the Alliance blockade.

Which, of course, was imperative the Infinite Justice, Strike Freedom, Destiny, and Legend were being kept at Carpentaria, and had to be removed and shipped to Antarctica, for transport back to the PLANTs. The Alliance could not be allowed to get its hands on those four machines. Hopefully the DOM Troopers would be able to break open the Alliance lines long enough to get a transport with those four machines aboard through to Antarctica.

The Muslim League had finally imploded three days ago. The Oceania Union had fallen almost two weeks ago. The United States of South America, the Kingdom of Scandinavia, and the African Community had collapsed long ago. Everywhere, ZAFT had been thrown back, and now they were in danger of losing Carpentaria. After that, only Antarctica remained.

ZAFT had to win at Orb, or else it would have all been for naught.

溺r. Chairman? Horatio asked. Gilbert looked up at him testily.

滴ow is Solomon痴 Sword coming? he asked. Horatio checked his clipboard for a moment.

的t is still fifteen days away from completion, he reported. 鄭ll reports indicate that construction is proceeding smoothly.

滴ave them hurry up, Gilbert said. 展e do not have the luxury of waiting any longer.

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To be continued