Phase 39 - Those Who Live, Those Who Die

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED DESTINY

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Phase 39 - Those Who Live, Those Who Die

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January 1st, CE 74 - The Pentagon, Washington DC, Atlantic Federation

The war room was out of control as officers in the ubiquitous Atlantic Federation uniform scurried around tables and control panels, shouting orders and questions and just plain unintelligible nonsense at each other. From his position at the top of the room, watching a sprawling holographic map, Joseph Copland crossed his arms.

"Mr. President," one of the officers said, greeting him with a grim salute. Copland returned it, just as grimly. "The Fifth Combined Surface Fleet reports that it has begun combat. The Battle of Antarctica has begun, sir."

Copland eyed the map soberly. "I understand, colonel," he said. "Now all we can do is pray that this is the battle that ends this war."

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ZAFT Antarctic Base, Antarctica

典he new models are on the Minerva! Andy痴 voice shouted, as the Aegis Gundam charged across the battlefield, low over the snow. Inside the Impulse, Shinn glanced towards the sea the Alliance fleet was smashing its way onto Berkner Island, Antarctica, and the ZAFT base there. The ZAFT fleet was struggling to hold them off, but the Alliance痴 unstoppable Destroy Gundam was back, stomping past the ZAFT ships and bringing its firepower directly to the base. Mobile suits swarmed in the air, as the Alliance warships unleashed volley after devastating volley on the ZAFT base.

Shinn grunted in annoyance. They hadn稚 even left him time to climb into his flight suit. It was going to be cold as hell out there.

鄭ll units, split up! Mwu ordered, as the Akatsuki flashed by overhead. 展e have to locate the Minerva and fight our way through all this chaos! Go! The Justice Gundam wasted no time in peeling off and disappearing into the fray.

Shinn glanced over at the Gaia she looked back at him wordlessly, and they peeled off to their assigned path. He glanced at the Destroy Gundam again sooner or later someone would have to take it down.

鉄hinn! Stella exclaimed. Shinn turned his attention to the front, and the two Gundams took off.

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The Justice and Freedom slammed together, beam sabers throwing sparks, as the pilots screamed.

KIRA! Athrun shrieked, his dull, lightless eyes flashing, the Justice seizing both its beam boomerangs and hurling them at the Freedom. Kira scowled and cut them out of the air with his beam saber, backing away as they exploded. The Justice roared out of the smoke, lunging after the Freedom with a scream from its pilot. She was going to save you, Kira! Athrun shouted. The Justice and Freedom clashed, the Freedom deflecting the Justice痴 horizontal slash. SHE WAS YOUR SISTER!

鉄he betrayed me! Kira snapped, surging forward and pushing the Justice back. Athrun scowled, drawing his beam rifle Kira came back down with another beam saber slash, slicing the rifle in two. Athrun hissed a curse under his breath, abandoning it and drawing his beam saber. 添ou all betrayed me! Kira charged forwards, firing a full weapons burst. Athrun ducked under the plasma cannon blasts, but the railgun shells slammed into the Justice and sent him staggering backwards. 展e were going to fight together to make a new world! But I was just your tool! You just used me to destroy our enemies! And then YOU KILLED FLLAY! I鱈L NEVER FORGIVE YOU, ATHRUN!

The clash of two beam sabers slamming together sent another ripple of energy up his spine, and Athrun Zala gunned the booster to charge. The Justice curled its fingers menacingly around its beam saber, and ahead of him, the Freedom seemed to tense, awaiting Athrun痴 attack.

The two Gundams burst apart, and Athrun fired back with a beam cannon burst. The twin green bursts of energy tore forward, but the Freedom deftly dodged, flipping upwards in midair and firing its plasma cannons. Athrun ducked aside, growling, and fired back again with his beam cannons before roaring forward at top speed, but the Freedom dodged again, and the two beam sabers met with a crash. Athrun let out a curse.

The Freedom rocketed forward, bringing its saber down towards the Justice. Athrun screamed back, deflecting the Freedom痴 blow horizontally.

擢or all the people you killed! Athrun screamed. 擢or Nicol and Cagalli! I can稚 forgive you, Kira! I won稚 let you kill anymore! His eyes flashed. I鱈L KILL YOU FIRST!

The two Gundams jetted apart, circling each other. Kira charged, brandishing his saber Athrun lunged back towards him, and the two Gundams crashed together again, straining in midair against each other.

的 trusted you, Athrun! Kira snarled. 的 fought with you! I believed in you! You were my friend, Athrun! We were going to make the world better! The Freedom kicked the Justice in the stomach, knocking it back Kira took off after Athrun as he staggered back. WHY DID YOU BETRAY ME?!

I didn奏 kill Fllay! Athrun screamed back.

LIAR! Kira shrieked, the Freedom charging again. I値l send you to hell myself, Athrun! I promise you! I鱈L KILL YOU!

He stabbed forward with the Justice痴 saber Kira ducked under Athrun痴 saber, and with a scream, sliced off the Justice痴 arm at the elbow with his own saber. Athrun cursed under his breath, backing away to abandon his own shield and draw his remaining saber.

Kira brought his saber down Athrun deflected it horizontally with a shower of sparks. Screaming, Kira smacked the Justice痴 arm upward, and with lightning swiftness, severed the Justice痴 left arm at the shoulder. Athrun痴 eyes widened in disbelief before he could react, Kira fired a point-blank plasma cannon burst into the Justice痴 subflight lifter, blowing it apart. With a final devastating kick to the Justice痴 stomach, he sent Athrun careening out of the air, and with a shriek, went charging after him.

的 couldn稚 even scratch him! Athrun exclaimed, easing up the Justice痴 dying engines and slamming into the ground at an angle, skidding to a halt in the snow. He popped the hatch and vaulted out of the Justice痴 cockpit, just as the Freedom landed and drove its saber into the Justice痴 back. Athrun broke into a sprint as soon as his feet hit the ground the Justice exploded, and Athrun screamed as he went flying across the snow.

As he skidded to a halt, lying prone on the snow, he watched the flaming wreckage that was once the Justice Gundam burn. The Freedom straightened up, put away its saber, switched to its beam rifle, and took off. Athrun watched it go, tears in his eyes.

I couldn稚I couldn稚 beat him He hung his head, squeezing his eyes shut. I知sorry, Cagalli

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Orb Raiders dreadnaught Megami

The entire vessel shook violently, and with a crash, the door came off its tracks. Lunamaria looked on in shock as Fate gave her a second chance she poked her head out into the hallway, finding no one paying attention.

Athrun was on this ship. He was fighting the Freedom Gundam. He was going to get himself destroyed. She had to stop him. She sprinted out into the hallway.

This was Athrun痴 ship; Athrun痴 home. She had to defend it.

Nobody stopped her as she rushed from the brig to the hangar. Her ZAKU, she hoped, was still there, but if not, there was bound to be something out there she could use to protect this ship. She could not return to ZAFT Rey would be there waiting for her. She was dead to ZAFT. She had to make for herself a new home. And this would be where that home would be.

The hangar was alive with mechanics rushing around a handful of damaged mobile suits. Luna made for her ZAKU, succeeding in climbing into the cockpit and shutting the hatch. She activated the familiar systems this was how she would help.

The hangar doors were opened. A screen opened up, showing an angry-looking girl with brown hair glaring at her.

展hat are you She cut herself off, blinking. 添ou池e the prisoner? she murmured.

徹pen the hangar doors! Luna demanded. 的知 going out!

典he prisoner got into her ZAKU?! another woman, one with long darker hair, exclaimed, from what seemed to be the captain痴 seat. "Stop her!"

Luna steeled herself. 的知 joining the Orb Raiders!

The two women on the other end blinked in surprise. 添ou池e joining us? the girl asked incredulously.

鏑et me go out! Luna insisted. 的値l protect the ship from below! Even if it痴 just one more gun, I can help!

The captain glanced at someone off-camera for a moment. 展e will discuss this later, then, she said curtly. 徹pen the door for her.

釘ut captain the girl protested.

笛ust do it! the captain ordered, turning her attention to something else. The girl sighed quietly.

徹pening the hangar doors, she said dourly. 的f you try anything cute, we値l blow you to smithereens. Got it?

Luna smiled. 敵ot it.

The center hangar door ponderously swung open Luna narrowed her eyes and charged out, leaping off the edge of the catapult deck with a jet-assisted roar.

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ZAFT Antarctic Base, Antarctica

Yzak blinked in surprise as the new machine registered on his sensors. It was certainly a Gundam, but like nothing he had ever seen the thing was a black, blue-highlighted amalgam of the Strike and Blitz, with a pair of red and black wings and two green cannons slung underneath. It was charging straight at him Yzak grunted and glanced over at Andy and Dearka痴 machines. Two more Gundams were coming towards them one that looked like an overloaded Buster, the other a red machine with two anti-ship swords and a head crest similar to the GINN痴. Yzak grunted in surprise as the new Gundam opened fire he darted to the side, but the Gundam swept down after him with surprising speed.

典he Alliance has new models too? Dearka exclaimed, as the Buster look-alike poured an entire squadron痴 worth of firepower in his direction.

徹ur machines are getting too old, Andy grunted, dodging the red Gundam痴 beam rifle attacks and firing back. 撤ull back!

Dearka combined his guns and opened fire, hoping to provide a covering blast the Buster look-alike deployed a translucent field from its left forearm, and deflected Dearka痴 shot harmlessly.

展hat the hell was that?! he cried. The Buster look-alike opened fire, smashing an array of beam shots through the Buster Gundam痴 armor. Dearka grunted in disbelief as the Buster痴 limbs were blown away and the engines were destroyed, and his maimed mobile suit plunged towards the ground.

Dearka! Yzak screamed, rushing to rescue him. A beam blast came at him from behind, blowing off the Duel痴 left leg Yzak turned around, brandishing his beam rifle, only to see the black Gundam slash the Duel痴 right arm off with a beam saber, and deliver a punishing roundhouse kick to the Duel痴 stomach. It followed up with a pair of blazing red beam cannon shots from the green cannons on its back, blowing off the Duel痴 remaining arm and its head. Yzak ejected what was left of the Assault Shroud and braced himself, glowering at the image of the black Gundam as he fell.

鉄hit, Andy grunted, as the red Gundam cut down the Aegis痴 beam rifle with its two anti-ship swords. 典hese things are just too new! He dove backwards, avoiding a flurry of beam shots from the red Gundam it charged forward with blinding speed, and Andy grunted as it severed both of his mobile suit痴 arms. He tried to transform in midair and fire a shot from his Scylla cannon the red Gundam hacked off both his limbs and smashed the Scylla before he could fire, and with a final slash, the Aegis痴 engines gave out and the lifeless mobile suit went slamming down into the ground.

Andy grunted as he pulled himself out of the wreckage. 泥earka, Yzak, he said into his helmet痴 headset. He scanned the battlefield, and found them both trudging through the snow towards him. 哲ot one of our better showings, was it?

典hat was ugly, Dearka grunted. 哲ow what?

Andy looked up at the Gundams, as they launched themselves at a squadron of ZAFT BABIs. 展ell, I don稚 know about you two, he said, with a thin smile, 澱ut I think I have a late addition to my Christmas list.

Yzak and Dearka glanced up at the Gundams, and smirked to each other.

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Shinn grunted angrily as a tornado of beam shots slammed against the Impulse痴 shield. He looked up at the incoming squad of BABIs and rocketed aside as they fired again as they wheeled around for another pass, Shinn took the opportunity to shoot down two of them, and backed away as Stella hit the third from below.

展e池e not getting anywhere like this, Shinn growled. A familiar sensation struck his senses he turned around at the feeling, and glared at the approaching Freedom Gundam. 添ou again! He clenched his fists around the controls. 鉄tella, leave this to me!

The Impulse charged, firing its beam rifle. Inside the Freedom痴 cockpit, Kira narrowed his feral eyes this thing would not beat him again. He skirted aside from the beam shots and drew his saber Shinn drew his own as well, and the two mobile suits came together with a crash.

泥amn you! Shinn snarled. The Impulse surged forward, raising its beam saber. Kira swung back, deflecting the blow and leaving both mobile suits pushing against each other helplessly.

添ou won稚 beat me again, Kira snarled. 哲ot this time!

The Freedom fired its booster, sending Shinn careening back. He ducked down to avoid another slash and then skirted aside to dodge a full burst. The Freedom was back in the Impulse痴 face a moment later, sabers clashed.

滴e痴 gotten better! Shinn grunted. 泥id he underestimate me?!!

The Freedom roared forward, kicking the Impulse in the stomach. Shinn growled as the Impulse rattled, and glanced to his left the Kasselheim and her mobile suits were approaching.

哲o! Stay back! Shinn screamed. He fired the booster to attack the Freedom

Kira narrowed his eyes at the approaching mobile suits. 的 won稚 let you stop me!

The Freedom wheeled around and fired a full burst at the Kasselheim痴 mobile suits, slamming into them. Shinn watched in horror as Gan痴 GINN Assault was hit in the cockpit and went down in flames.

"You BASTARD!" Shinn shrieked, throwing the Impulse forward. The Freedom backpedaled and sent Shinn reeling back with a point-blank railgun burst. "I'LL KILL YOU FOR THAT!"

The Impulse charged again, bringing its saber down with a crash onto Kira's shield. The Freedom surged forward, throwing the Impulse back again.

A moment later, the Impulse shook violently, and Shinn stared in disbelief, as the Freedom slashed the Impulse痴 right arm off. With a disorienting kick, the Impulse went staggering down towards the ground a screaming Kira followed at a breakneck speed, and a moment later, came driving down towards the Impulse for a killing stab. Shinn痴 instincts took over and he ejected the Core Splendor just as Kira slammed his saber into the Impulse痴 chest. As the Impulse Gundam exploded in midair, Shinn yanked back on the Core Splendor痴 joystick, pulling up and skidding to a halt in the snow.

He stared down in disbelief at the Core Splendor痴 controls. Kira Yamato had beat him so easily

There was another explosion above him. Shinn looked up in disbelief as Chris痴 105 Dagger was blown apart by a beam rifle shot from the Freedom. Zora痴 GuAIZ swept in behind the Freedom it somersaulted over her head and took her down with a rifle shot to the back.

The Gaia landed next to the Core Splendor, but Shinn couldn稚 hear it he stared in disbelief as it all came crashing down. Miki痴 GINN High Maneuver II drew its sword, charging towards the Freedom it ran her through with its beam saber and kept going like nothing had happened.

哲o Shinn murmured. 鉄topstop it!

The Freedom charged at George痴 CGUE, shooting it down with a railgun volley as it tried to dive aside. The flaming remains of the CGUE went spiraling down to the Earth.

鉄top it! Shinn screamed. He fell to his knees in front of the Core Splendor. 哲onot again!

The Freedom deposited a full burst into the Kasselheim痴 prow, blowing it apart. The ship shook violently, thrown back by the blast. The Freedom lunged up towards the engines, drawing its beam rifle. Shinn reached out with a scream, his eyes wide with horror, straining to feel Kika痴 presence before it was too late

The Freedom fired, and the Kasselheim exploded.

Shinn stared at the fireball. He saw himself again on Onogoro in CE 71, standing before his dead family, standing before Mayu痴 burning corpse, the smell of death invading his nostrils, the sounds of battle muted, as everything came crashing down around him, as his world vanished in a blast of fire. He saw the wreckage of the Kasselheim come falling down to the ground. He felt the familiar presences vanish he felt Kika disappear.

And he saw the Freedom Gundam, watching the fireball impassively.

His blood boiled. The Freedom had taken everything from him again. It had killed his family, it had killed Mayuand now it had killed the Mad Typhoons, now it had killed George, now it had killed Kika. It had taken away his life. Again.

His eyes flashed red the seed burst before him.

鉄tella, he said, clenching his trembling fists around the Core Splendor痴 controls.

鉄h-Shinn Stella murmured, her eyes filled with tears.

Shinn looked up Stella痴 eyes widened, as the tears streamed down from his smoldering eyes.

的 need you to cover me, he said, his voice shaking in rage, 殿s I break onto the Minerva and steal one of those new models.

展ha why? Stella asked quietly, trying to wipe the tears from her eyes.

Shinn scowled. 的 am going to destroy the Freedom Gundam. His eyes flashed. 鄭nd this time, no one will stop me.

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ZAFT battleship Minerva, ZAFT Antarctic Base, Antarctica

滴eadquarters reports that sector four has been lost! Meyrin exclaimed, as the Minerva quaked. Talia nodded grimly things were falling apart faster than she had thought.

釘egin pulling back, she ordered. 溺eyrin, recall the

溺obile suit approaching! Burt shouted. 的t痴 the Gaia, andthe Core Splendor!

典he Core Splendor?! Arthur echoed. The main screen zoomed in the Gaia was flying through them next to the diminutive Core Splendor.

典he Impulse was destroyed? Talia murmured.

Inside the Core Splendor, Shinn screamed and opened fire with his machineguns.

鉄tella! he shouted. 鼎ut open the portside catapult for me!

The Gaia took off, dodging a blast from the Minerva痴 Tristans. Shinn痴 eyes flashed, as he swept down, spitting machinegun rounds at the Minerva痴 missile launchers. He burst past the Minerva痴 bridge, scowling. They had a new model in there he would find it, he would take it, and he would destroy the Freedom with it. The Freedom had taken everything from him twice now it would not live to do so again.

The Core Splendor came arcing around, firing again and taking out several of the Minerva痴 portside CIWS emplacements. The Gaia swept in, drawing its beam saber, and impaled the Minerva痴 portside Tristan. It slid down and plunged its saber into the hangar door, carving the armor open and blowing apart the internal mechanisms with a beam cannon blast. The Minerva shuddered, and the Gaia leapt off with a rocket-assisted leap, as the portside armor slid off and tumbled down towards the ground.

Shinn arced around to slide into the Minerva痴 hangar. The Core Splendor rocked violently as a CIWS round slammed into its engine Shinn growled as the Core Splendor went spiraling and smoking down into the Minerva痴 hangar. The CIWS guns took aim Shinn let out a scream

The Core Splendor went sailing into the Minerva痴 hangar, skidding along the hangar floor in a shower of sparks. As it curved into the hangar bay, Shinn popped open the canopy, seizing his pistol and leaping out. He started sprinting towards the first Gundam he saw as soon as his feet hit the ground before anyone could react, he had already reached the boarding platform.

鉄hinn! he heard voices shout. He whipped around, firing off a single shot down below, Vino shrieked in pain and clutched his bleeding shoulder. Yolant rushed to his side, helping him Shinn glared at them both through his ubiquitous tears, and leapt into the empty cockpit of the Destiny Gundam.

There was another crash as the Gaia forced its way into the hangar. The mechanics began to flee, as Stella pointed her rifle at the tiny figures.

釘ack away! she ordered over the Gaia痴 loudspeaker. 釘ack away or I値l shoot! She glanced at the Destiny, as Shinn slammed the hatch shut. 的s Shinn okay?

笛ust keep them occupied, Shinn snarled. His fingers flew over the Destiny痴 controls, bringing the Destiny online. He activated the machine in a flash its eyes illuminated the hangar, and its Phase Shift flickered to life. He activated the Destiny with a growl, and it took a menacing step forward.

Down below, Shinn glanced at Vino and Yolant as they staggered away from the Destiny Gundam. He turned away there could be no weakness now. Now he only had one thing to do. He turned, and the Destiny stomped towards the blown-out port catapult.

The Gaia stepped forward to take off first. On the screen, Stella glanced forlornly at Shinn, and with a burst of exhaust, the Gaia took off into the battlefield. Shinn gazed up into the sky as the Gaia launched. His family lay dead before him again on Onogoro Island; the Kasselheim exploded again before his eyes; a surge of strength rushed through him; the Destiny Gundam took off with a flash.

A squad of BABIs rose to challenge the Destiny as it took off. Shinn narrowed his eyes at them and charged; the first fired its chest cannon at him, but Shinn batted the shot aside with his beam shield and shot it down with a beam rifle shot. The remaining three swept in behind him in mobile armor mode, but he took one down with a rifle shot and the other with the Destiny痴 left-hand palm cannon. At last he slashed the fourth in half with his beam shield. Bursting out of the smoke, Shinn stared down in amazement at the Destiny痴 controls.

Such power...

The sensors flared, and Shinn looked up. The Force Impulse was charging towards him, beam rifle blazing. In the cockpit, Aoma screamed as the mobile suit rushed forward.

Shinn scowled and took off towards the Impulse. The Impulse raised its beam rifle, but Shinn tore the Impulse痴 arm off at the right elbow with the Destiny痴 palm cannon, flinging it aside, and then ripped off the Impulse痴 head in one strike. With a final kick to the chest, the Impulse was sent spiraling back down to the ground.

Two columns of green energy flashed behind the Destiny, and Shinn turned to find the Minerva firing its remaining Tristan and its Isolde at him. He stormed towards the wounded ship, shooting out the Tristan with his beam rifle and taking out the Isolde with a CIWS burst.

The Minerva swung around, the Tannhäuser opening up to fire. Shinn unfolded the Destiny痴 long beam cannon and narrowed his eyes as the crosshairs passed over the Tannhäuser; he fired, drilling the shot through the positron cannon. The Tannhäuser exploded, forcing the Minerva backwards, and Shinn watched impassively as the ship listed towards the ground.

Four more BABIs rose to battle to Shinn痴 right, with the Freedom itself at the lead.

典he Destiny has been stolen from the Minerva, Kira said. 鼎apture it at all costs!

添es sir! the pilots shouted. The BABIs stormed forward, firing their weapons at the Destiny.

Shinn swung around and fired the long beam cannon. The BABIs disappeared in a flash. Kira scowled in frustration and drew the Freedom痴 beam saber, rocketing towards the Destiny. Shinn drew the Destiny痴 anti-ship sword, retracting the beam cannon, and charged up towards the Freedom. The two mobile suits met with a crash; both pilots screamed; the Freedom and Destiny痴 wings snapped open. The Freedom surged forward, pushing the Destiny back, and Kira raised his saber for a finishing blow, but Shinn smacked the saber aside and slashed the Freedom across the face.

The Destiny attacked again, and Kira dove backwards, drawing the Freedom痴 beam rifle. Shinn snorted in disgust, and the Destiny tore the beam rifle out of the Freedom痴 grasp with a palm cannon blow. Drawing his saber again, Kira tried to dive over the Destiny痴 head and cut it in half, but the Destiny swung around to smack the saber stroke aside.

The Freedom charged again, but the Destiny rammed it with its shoulder, knocking it back. Kira tried to slash the Destiny in half horizontally, but Shinn knocked the saber aside with his beam shield and swung the sword again, slamming it against the Freedom's shield. Growling, Kira dove backwards, dodging two sword strokes, and fired his plasma cannons and railguns. The Destiny deployed its beam shield.

The shots exploded against the beam shield. Kira watched tensely as the Destiny was consumed in a pall of smoke. The Destiny burst out of the smoke, sword upraised, and Shinn glowered back down at his enemy. Charging again, Shinn let out a yell as the Destiny slammed its sword against the Freedom痴 shield, knocking it backwards. He followed with a horizontal slash that Kira barely dodged. The Freedom swung its saber again in a downward hack; Shinn caught the blow with his sword and smacked the Freedom痴 saber arm and shield aside. Kira痴 eyes widened

With a shriek of torn metal, the Destiny slashed off the Freedom痴 left arm at the shoulder, its left railgun, and its left leg at the knee. An instant later, Shinn smashed its face with a roundhouse kick, and as the wounded Freedom tried to deploy its remaining guns, Shinn hurled a beam boomerang to slice them all in half. He caught it on the rebound, reattached it to his shoulder, and charged, sword upraised. Kira barely stopped it with his beam saber. Shinn snarled in rage and tore off a chunk of the Freedom痴 right-hand shoulder armor with his palm cannon, and with a final kick, pushed the Freedom away again.

Down below, Valentine痴 ZAKU Phantom landed with a crash, and Valentine looked up at the Destiny thrashing the Freedom.

適ira! she shouted, revving the engine to take off again. A wave of beam blasts came streaking out of the heavens to cripple her ZAKU and send it staggering back into the snow, and with a frightful crash, the Gaia landed before her maimed machine. It landed before her and pointed its beam saber combatively at her.
Standing on a snow bank, Athrun Zala watched the Destiny and Freedom impassively.

The damaged Freedom, throwing sparks and smoke, dove away from the Destiny as it swung its sword furiously.

典his can't be...! Kira gasped as the Freedom was rocked by another kick. The Destiny charged again, slamming its sword against Kira痴 saber.

鉄top running! Shinn screamed. 添ou killed them, now you have to deal with ME! The Destiny punched the Freedom across the face, and charged with its sword upraised; Kira barely deflected the blow, and twisted to the side when the Destiny swung again. "It's all your fault!" Shinn screamed. Shards of the Freedom痴 left wing went flying as the Destiny kept up its furious attack. "You killed them all!" Kira dodged three more slashes and blocked one more sword stroke. "YOU KILLED THEM ALL!" The Destiny and Freedom remained motionless in midair, glowering at each other. "IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT!" Shinn shrieked.

The Destiny surged forward, pushing the Freedom back; with a yell, Shinn charged again and Kira once again barely managed to block the slash.

"IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT I'M LIKE THIS!" The Destiny responded with a kick to the Freedom痴 chin. "IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT I HAVE TO SUFFER!"

Another sword stroke landed against the Freedom痴 beam saber.

"DIE ALREADY!" Shinn screamed, and gunned the booster, pushing the Freedom forward, and kicked it in the face again.

The Freedom swung its saber back at the Destiny, but a third kick knocked it back once more. Kira痴 eyes widened in disbelief as the Destiny backed away, gearing up for a finishing attack.

I鱈L KILL YOU!" Shinn screamed, his teary eyes flashing.

The Destiny, brandishing its sword, activated its beam wings with a flash, filling Kira痴 field of vision with the glimmering translucent wings. Kira struggled to keep up, but the Destiny moved in a blur of afterimages, flashing around him, diving and twisting and circling.

Shinn saw his opening and screamed in fury; Kira痴 eyes bulged in shock葉he Destiny sliced the Freedom in half at the waist

The Freedom Gundam exploded.

Amidst the smoke and debris, Shinn Asuka sat inside the cockpit of the Destiny Gundam, panting for breath, staring with dull, empty, angry, teary eyes as the smoldering remains of the Freedom plummeted to the earth.

At last he broke down and cried.

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The Gaia Gundam set down near the wreckage of the Kasselheim; the Destiny knelt near it, and Shinn was out in the snow, staring at the debris. Stella lowered herself to the ground and started after Shinn, but she stopped as he fell to his knees in front of the wreckage of the Kasselheim.

"I couldn't..." Shinn murmured to himself. "I couldn't protect..."

Stella started again towards Shinn uneasily, as he stared with wide, bloodshot, clouded eyes at the ground in front of him.
"I couldn't protect...any of you..." Shinn murmured. "I...couldn't protect...any...anyone..." He trembled painfully, balling his fists and squeezing his burning eyes shut.

Shinn threw his head back and screamed at the sky. Stella watched him with tears in her eyes.

At last, Shinn collapsed forward, onto his hands and knees, his tears falling to the snow, as he pounded the ground in despair. Stella raised her hands to take hold of his shoulders; Shinn screamed again; his fists slammed into the ground.

"Shinn," Stella said at last, kneeling next to him and touching his shoulders. "Shinn's being scary..."

Shinn looked up with bleary, bloodshot eyes at Stella; she blinked in surprise and recoiled in fear. "I'm sorry, Stella," he whispered; she hugged his shoulders again and tried to pull him back to his feet. "I'm sorry...I...couldn't..."

Shinn sobbed in Stella's arms, grabbing her by the arms and burying his face in her shoulder. "I'm sorry!" he screamed. "I couldn't protect them! I couldn't protect anyone!"

Stella held him close, looking down as he wailed and screamed into her shoulder. "But...Shinn will protect Stella..."

"I was too weak," Shinn moaned. "I couldn't beat the Freedom until it was too late! And now...and now they're all gone!"

Stella pulled him away far enough to look into his cloudy, teary eyes. "But Shinn will protect Stella," she repeated, tears in her own eyes. "...Stella doesn't wanna be alone."

Shinn blinked in surprise as Stella hugged him tightly. "St-Stella..."
"Stella wants to be with Shinn," she said quietly. "If Shinn will protect Stella...then Stella will protect Shinn."

"Stella!" Shinn sobbed, hugging her again. "I couldn't protect them, Stella! I'm sorry!"

"Shinn's sad," Stella said softly. "Shinn is always sad." Shinn blinked and looked up at her. Stella touched his cheek, and smiled through her tears. "Shinn shouldn't always be sad."

Shinn hugged Stella and squeezed his eyes shut; Stella rubbed his back and pulled him back to his feet.

They both began to walk back to the Destiny Gundam, as it knelt over them, watching everything silently.

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The red ZAKU Warrior landed before Athrun with a crash, and knelt down, extending its hand. Athrun blinked in surprise, finding Yzak in the extended hand, and Dearka and Andy in the other.

鼎ome on! Yzak shouted, extending his own hand to Athrun. 鉄he痴 taking us back to the ship!

套she? Athrun asked blankly.

典hat ZAFT prisoner, Yzak filled in testily, 鏑unamaria. We池e leaving. Now get on here or we池e going without you!

Athrun pulled himself up into the ZAKU痴 hand and watched the cloud of smoke that had once been the Freedom impassively. He had no doubt that it had been Shinn, in that Gundam with the wings of light, that had destroyed the Freedom. It had been Shinn that had exacted revenge on Kira. He, Athrun, had failed.

He felt the tears stinging his eyes for the first time, and at last, he sat down, trying not to cry.

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The battle was coming to its deranged conclusion, whatever that conclusion was. ZAFT was crumbling, again. The Earth Alliance was resurgent, again. Shinn didn稚 care. With Stella behind him, he rocketed forward in the Destiny, scanning furiously for a way out of the madness. He had to escape, they had to escape, before anything more could happen to them.

Up ahead, Shinn saw the Destroy Gundam smash a Compton-class land battleship with a beam cannon volley. He narrowed his eyes at it beyond it lay the Alliance flagship, and after that, relatively open ocean. He clenched his trembling fists around the Destiny痴 controls.

展ait here, Stella, he said. 的値l take care of that thing.

Before Stella could protest, he took off towards the Destroy.

The Destroy Gundam, in attack mode, leveled off its back cannons to fire at another land battleship. Shinn shot by, extending his beam wings and drawing his anti-ship sword, and cut the cannons barrels off. The base of the cannon exploded, and he whipped around, as the Destroy staggered. It launched a bevy of missiles Shinn felt a strange new sensation, as energy surged through him. A white bolt cut the air before him the missiles veered up, away from the Destiny, and went plowing back into the Destroy, striking the missile launchers and blowing them apart.

Shinn sat speechless, staring at the destruction the Destroy痴 own missiles had caused it.

Is thisthe power of the Destiny?

The Destroy transformed to its mobile suit mode Shinn scowled and charged, brandishing his anti-ship sword. The Destroy ignited a beam saber on the end of its forearm, bringing it down with a crash Shinn screamed and deflected the saber with his sword. He ducked under a barrage of beam cannon shots and took off, leaving a blur of afterimages behind him.

The Destroy fired its chest cannons Shinn snarled angrily and smacked the shots away with his beam shield. The Destroy stomped after him, firing another wave of beam cannon shots. Shinn took off again, letting the afterimages fill the air, as the Destroy fired madly into the sky. He dove down, as the Destroy continued to try and shoot down afterimages, and charged up into the Destroy痴 face, slashing the chest cannon out with his anti-ship sword. The Destroy went reeling backwards as the cannon exploded, and Shinn rocketed away, another trail of afterimages swarming around the Destroy.

Even while wounded, the Destroy opened fire again with its finger cannons. Shinn scowled, dodging as the Destroy poured its firepower after him. He charged towards the Destroy痴 left knee and then skirted aside the Destroy fired its finger cannons through the afterimages left there and blew off its own leg, sending it toppling backwards. Shinn scowled, charging at the Destroy痴 cockpit. It raised its left arm to stop him screaming, Shinn cut it off and slashed the cockpit open, depositing a long range beam cannon shot into the wound.

The Destroy vanished in a thunderous explosion. Shinn backed away, taking off overhead.

鉄tella, come with me! he shouted, taking off over the cloud of smoke that was once the Destroy, taking off overhead with the Gaia in tow. A squad of Jet Windams came roaring at him, beam rifles blazing Shinn skirted aside, sending their shots plunging through a trail of afterimages, and slashed them apart with one sweeping swing from his anti-ship sword.

The Destiny and Gaia took off into the sky together.

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Valentine watched angrily as the ZAFT soldiers swarmed over the wrecked cockpit of the Freedom Gundam. Shinn had defeated their warrior she only prayed that there was something left to salvage.

展e need a medical unit over here! one of the soldiers shouted. A team of soldiers with a stretcher came running up. The soldiers at the Freedom痴 ravaged cockpit struggled with something, depositing it on the stretcher, and as the medical team returned, Valentine looked on in horror at Kira Yamato.

His left leg below the knee was gone; his arm had been blown off at the shoulder; the left side of his face was a charred mess of blood and burnt flesh; the rest of him was covered in scars and blood.

The medical unit raced away. Valentine watched them go in disbelief, and looked back at the ruins of the Freedom Gundam.

She remembered the Destiny Gundam, and her eyes flashed with anger.

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To be continued