Phase 07 - Wings of Light

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED TWILIGHT

Phase 07 - Wings of Light

February 27th, CE 77 - Battleship Minerva, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

The Destiny Zero-Two had already found its way back to its brace in the Minerva's hangar when Shinn backed the Destiny Zero-One into its usual place and shut down his battle-worn Gundam. Shinn glanced over towards the Zero-Two, where the Gundam's thick Phase Shift hide could do nothing to stop the torrent of emotions coming from its pilot. He thought back bitterly to the battle in the Indian Ocean a lifetime ago, where he had tried to shoot down the Alliance's Dagger Ls and found himself stopped in his tracks by the inexplicably terrifying feeling of death.

Four years later, he had gotten used to it, but he steeled himself nonetheless. Through Emily, he would be experiencing it all over again.

The Destiny Zero-One's hatch slid open, and Shinn Asuka emerged with a sigh. He turned towards the Zero-Two as its own hatch opened, only to watch in surprise as Emily jumped out and took off down the gantry, tears in her eyes.

Abes blinked in surprise as he came up next to Shinn, watching the Minerva's youngest pilot disappear into the ship. "What's wrong with her?"

Shinn's eyes darkened. "You remember a battle we fought in the Indian Ocean in '73? I ramped up the Impulse's thruster outputs far enough to knock myself out from the G-forces?"

"Yeah," Abes said, throwing Shinn a sidelong glance. "You almost totaled a Force Silhouette pack in the process."

"During that battle is when my powers began to manifest themselves," Shinn explained. "I could sense the deaths of enemy pilots as they were killed. It kinda drove me crazy." He glanced up towards the face of the Zero-Two. "That's what happened to Emily. Newtypes have their own growing pains."

Shinn glanced over at Athrun as he emerged from the Infinite Justice, next to the Destiny. Athrun looked up at the Zero-Two and sighed.

"Shinn," he said, "is she really meant to be a pilot?" He looked back at Shinn. "I know the feeling was hard for you at first. It was hard for me too, and my powers aren't as sensitive as yours. But you and I were trained by ZAFT to deal with the concept of death on the battlefield. She wasn't. Is she really fit to be a soldier?"

"ZAFT assumed when they trained us that killing people wouldn't be as personal for us as it is," Shinn replied. "So I guess you could ask the same question of either of us."

Athrun glanced at the door Emily had gone running out of. "I guess."

Earth Alliance Siegfried-class carrier plane Danube, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

So much for the glory, Shoyou thought bitterly as he landed the straining Raider Gundam. It had managed to keep up with the dreaded Destiny, but only after its pilot had pushed it to its maximum and he doubted that Shinn Asuka would underestimate him next time.

"We've pulled back out of the Minerva's visual range," Reinhardt reported on the Raider's screen as Shoyou guided his machine back into its brace. "We can still follow them by radar, though."

"That will do," Shoyou grunted. "To think we were defeated by another Gundam...why didn't Intel let us know about that one?"

"They're working on it now from some high-def photos we managed to get during the battle," Reinhardt answered. "Preliminary analysis is that it's built from spare parts. But the pilot didn't exhibit the skills that the Destiny usually does."

"Surely you don't meant to suggest that they built a unit like the Destiny, out of spare parts for Asuka's Destiny, and gave it to an amateur?" Shoyou sputtered. "That thing took down two of my Windams and you're telling me it's an amateur?"

"Captain Sven Cal Bayan had a theory on that as well, sir," Reinhardt added, his face flashing nervousness for a moment not brief enough to keep Shoyou from detecting it. "A few days ago a Resistance fighter infiltrated Heaven's Base, hacked into the base mainframe, and packed the stolen data onto a sixteen-year-old girl from the domestic servants' quarters. She fled in a Windam, managed to evade even the Devil's Sword Team, and was saved more than once by the Destiny. Intel suggests that they were traveling together, the Destiny seemed pretty intent on protecting her, and the skills exhibited aren't consistent with the other two pilots they know the Minerva picked up. Captain Bayan's hunch is that they're having her pilot that thing."

"What?!" Shoyou shouted. "You mean my victory was stolen from me by a sixteen-year-old girl!?"

"Uh, that's Captain Bayan's hypothesis, sir," Reinhardt pointed out. "Maybe you should talk to him about it "

"Get our mobile suits repaired at once!" Shoyou roared. "This is unbelievable! I was thrown back by a child!"

Earth Alliance battleship Charlemagne, North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany

"This little servant girl with the guardian angel is getting more and more interesting," Danilov intoned, arms crossed as Sven finished his explanation on the bridge of the Charlemagne. "But the Black Wolf and the pilot of that white GuAIZ that helped destroy the 21st Patrol Group would probably have done better." He glanced at Sven. "Were you captain of this ship, what would you do?"

"My estimation is that we should attack at once," Sven said. "Colonel Shoyou was unable to stop the Minerva, but we have yet to face them in a true engagement of our choosing, with this vessel's full power and complement."

"I agree," Danilov said, returning his gaze out the bridge windows. "Vera, order the MS squadrons to prepare for aerial combat. Helm, engage the afterburners we'll catch up with the Minerva and destroy that ship once and for all!"

"Captain," Sven added, "in the interest of guaranteeing victory, I also suggest that we contact the Danube and coordinate this assault with Colonel Shoyou, to the extent that he cooperates."

"To the extent that he cooperates," Danilov replied. "He doesn't appear inclined to do so, but it doesn't hurt to try. Comm, get me a line to the Danube. I'm sure the Sky Samurai is itching for a rematch with the Wings of Light."

Battleship Minerva, Lower Saxony, Germany

They disappeared.

That was the only conclusion Emily could come to as she tried to grasp the feeling that had ripped into her mind like a wolf and scattered all her other thoughts and fears about piloting a mobile suit. She had thought that all she would have to contend with was the fear of her own death but now she had to fear the deaths of her enemies as well. And how could she fight like that? The logical center of her brain was still functioning enough to point out to the rest of the frightened girl that merely disabling a mobile suit while preserving the pilot's life was much more difficult than outright destroying it and it wasn't as though she was very good at piloting a mobile suit to begin with. Unfortunately, that little fact was simply making her shiver harder in fear.

Emily started up in fear at the sound of a knock on the door, but a moment later, it slid open and the suddenly intimidating face of Shinn Asuka was there.

"Did you sense me?" he asked. Emily stared at him in confusion for a moment before she dumbly shook her head. "That power will develop soon. It's kind of convenient." He closed the door behind him. "I just came to see how you were doing. When I first went through this, I woke up in sickbay and got a speech about higher purposes and new world orders."

Emily vaguely wondered if Shinn was going to give her such a speech. "What...what was that feeling?"

Shinn closed his eyes pensively. "That feeling was death," he said. "The best way I can describe it is that human life exerts pressure on our minds. Newtypes exhibit more pressure than regular humans. But since we're always around regular humans, we don't really notice their pressure not until they're gone. And when someone dies, they take all of their emotions and consciousness with them." He shook his head. "And that's something we don't like."

"Then how can I fight like this?" Emily asked. "I thought all I had to worry about was my own death, not everyone else's."

"You'll get used to it," Shinn said. "Sounds coldhearted, but that's the way it is." He shrugged. "These powers mean suffering. Gilbert Dullindal conveniently forgot to mention that in his speech to the world, but when you can feel the emotions of other people, it's a perpetual roller coaster especially when the powers first show themselves and you aren't used to it."

Emily looked at him sullenly for a moment. "Is that why you can fight?"

Shinn shrugged again. "There's a lot of reasons why I can fight," he answered. "But those are a story of their own, and wouldn't help you much. And that's what I came here to do. Nobody offered me that helping hand when I started developing this weird sensitivity to everything, and I don't want anyone else to go through that again."

Emily stared down at the floor in defeat. "Is there a way to get rid of these powers?"

Shinn smiled sadly. "If Newtypes could get rid of their powers," he said, "then there would be no Newtypes."

"The Chaos just has nicks and scratches," Vino Dupre said, glancing over a clipboard as he leaned against the railing of the Chaos's gantry with Sting, Auel, and Athrun. "There's nothing major, so we're not going to buff out the dents if we don't have to. They need a bunch of us to work on the Zero-One's new rifle, and whoever's not repairing the units we have now is working on the Legend and Savior." He glanced pointedly at the two half-complete husks in the corner nearest the spare part containers. "I tell you guys, it's a pain going through every component and upgrading the internals."

"Eh, the extra firepower should be worth it," Sting pointed out with a shrug. "That Black Wolf chick must be a reasonably formidable pilot to have the reputation she does, and Mr. Facemask over there was a ZAFT ace, so that would lead one to conclude that he has at least some idea of what he's doing."

"That's what you'd think," Vino said. "'cept the golden girl over there kind of screws that logic up."

All four of them turned their eyes towards the Destiny Zero-Two, next to Shinn's battle-scarred Destiny Zero-One.

"Still," Vino continued, "I won't hold it against her. I get the impression this all sort of happened against her will. I'll hold it against Shinn. This was his idea."

"Must be one of those Newtype things," Auel added. He blinked and glanced over at Athrun. "Uh, no offense."

"Emily is a Newtype," Athrun put in. "I can feel pressure from her. But I don't know if she can do this." He cast a burning glare towards the incomplete Legend. "And there are worse people to worry about anyway." He looked back at Vino. "But I'm going to trust Shinn's judgment on Emily. His powers are far more sensitive than mine, and he was the one who guided me through the awakening of my powers as well."

"You can trust him," Vino spat, getting up to leave, "but I don't have to."

Vino marched off down the gantry, leaving Sting, Auel, and Athrun behind to share an awkward silence.

Earth Alliance battleship Charlemagne, Brandenburg, Germany

"Colonel Shoyou," Danilov said, sitting back in the captain's chair of the Charlemagne and eyeing the irritated-looking Japanese man on the screen carefully. "I understand that our intended cooperative assault didn't come out very cooperatively, so I suggest we give this another go. Agreed?"

"The more forces, the better," Shoyou said through clenched teeth.

"Precisely," Danilov said. "We're working together this time, colonel. Our enemy is the Minerva, not each other." He paused, letting that sink in although Shoyou did not look amused. "At any rate, we're going to launch our mobile suit force and send it ahead of us to hit the Minerva from behind. You will have to swing around from the front and hit them there. If this all works as planned and we all get along, we'll be able to trap the Minerva and snap them in two."

"Then I look forward to our victory, captain," Shoyou said coldly. "Shoyou out."

The screen went dark, and Danilov heaved a sigh. "I thought our enemy was the Resistance," he grumbled. "Helm, flank speed we're going to catch the Minerva or burn out trying! The MS teams will launch in twenty minutes!"

Earth Alliance Siegfried-class carrier plane Danube, Brandenburg, Germany

"Colonel," Reinhardt said, looking simultaneously nervous and annoyed, "is this really wise?"

Shoyou closed the collar seal of his standard-issue Alliance flight suit, holding the helmet loosely in one hand as he turned. "I'm not going to let the Phantom Pain bag the most illustrious prey I've ever had in my talons," he said pointedly. "If I can use them to pin down the Minerva and its other machines while I destroy the Destiny and its little doppelganger, then so much the better. But we of the regular forces have been asked and made to lay down our lives for those black-coated bastards, and now we finally have a chance to make them respect us."

"I understand, sir," Reinhardt said, "but this infighting might cost us our chance to take down the Minerva. If we aren't able to coordinate our assault with the Charlemagne, the Minerva could take advantage of that gap."

"There will be no need," Shoyou said. "This attack is coming right on the heels of our first strike. They will be off balance." He pulled on the helmet and turned to face Reinhardt again, leaving only his eyes visible behind the half-masked helmet's front. "Coordinate with the Phantom Pain if you so desire, captain, but not at the cost of our kill. I leave command of the Danube to you."

Shoyou stocked out of the locker room, leaving Reinhardt to shake his head in disbelief.

Battleship Minerva, Brandenburg, Germany

"All I'm saying is that Carlos Mencia was only funny if you were Mexican," Roxy said. "I mean, at least everyone could laugh at Chris Rock."

At the sensor console, Burt Heim did his best to suppress a sigh. Roxy and Chen had been arguing for what seemed like hours about everything under the sun, from whether AD 2013 or AD 2045 vintage wine was better, to the exact religious purpose of the Kama Sutra, to early twenty-first century stand-up comics. It was starting to drive him insane largely because he was more of a George Carlin man. But at this point, even an attack by the Alliance would be a welcome diversion because at least Chen would have to shut up and fire all the guns, and Roxy would have all the mobile suit pilots to bitch at instead.

"Well, of course he's not funny to you," Chen shot back. "You didn't grow up in the context "

"Oh, fuck your context," Roxy cut him off. "If all you're telling is inside jokes, then you must suck."

Burt blinked as his console began to beep, and somewhere in the back of his mind, he sent a quick thank-you up to God. "What...the Charlemagne is launching mobile suits!"

"They are?" Chen exclaimed. "Shit! Roxy, call the captain damn Phantom Pain must be working hard!"

Moments later, the bridge doors opened, and Meyrin and Abbey stormed through. Meyrin leapt into the captain's chair, pulling on her cap and glancing over her shoulder. Behind her, Rau Le Creuset calmly stepped onto the bridge and took his seat.

"Shield the bridge!" Meyrin ordered. "All hands, Condition Red! Mobile suit pilots, stand by to launch!"

"I know tuning this thing is a bitch," Shinn said, leaning into the Destiny Zero-Two's cockpit, "but we don't have time for this right now." He looked up at Emily as she fastened the cockpit seat's restraints. "This will be your first real battle. Nervous?"

"It doesn't really matter," Emily murmured.

Shinn glanced over his shoulder as one of the mechanics shouted something towards the activating Gaia Gundam. "What are you going to call this unit?"

Emily looked down at the cockpit controls. "I'll think about it," she said.

Shinn studied her face for a moment before he nodded. "Then let's go." He took off down and leapt into the Zero-One's cockpit as the mechanics began to retract the gantry. Emily glanced at Shinn's Destiny Zero-One, as it stepped into the starboard catapult.

"A soldier who's afraid of the deaths of can I fight like this...?" she mumbled.

"Shinn Asuka, Destiny Zero-One, launching!"

In front of her, the Destiny Zero-One took off with a roar. Emily stepped forward as the catapult retracted to receive her, feeling slightly more confident about guiding the thing into position now that she had done it before. The Zero-Two rattled as the catapult locked onto the mobile suit, lowering it into position and leaving Emily to stare into the twilight sky before her.

"Getting your MS combat cherry popped for real, I see," Roxy said with something resembling an amiable grin. Emily struggled to return it. "Destiny Zero-Two, you're clear. Launch when ready."

Emily swallowed now or never.

"Emily von Oldendorf, Destiny Zero-Two...launching!"

"Colonel, the two Destiny units have been launched," one of the Danube's bridge crew reported. Shoyou scanned the skies for a sign of the wings of light. "But, sir, one of them has changed..."

Shoyou caught sight of the two Destiny units and frowned. One was the same color as usual, but the other had turned black, with spots of yellow and red, and blazing sky-blue eyes.

"At least now we can tell them apart," he said. "All units, attack the Minerva's mobile suits! Leave the two Destiny units to me!" The Raider thrust forward, its comrades not far behind.

Inside the Destiny Zero-One, Shinn glanced over at the Zero-Two. This would be Emily's first real battle, yes but it looked as though their foe would be that formidable pilot in the Raider Gundam, a pilot skilled enough to keep up even with Shinn.

And, Shinn mused bitterly, he was the one who could see the future.

"Emily," he said, "hang back and let me get in this guy's face. Attack from afar he's good."

"I'm not totally useless," Emily protested.

"Yeah, well, get close to this guy and you will be," Shinn warned. "If someone else asks for help, go give them a hand. I'll be fine on my own if need be." The Orb Marauder flashed a grin. "Besides, I do need to justify my many nicknames."

Up ahead, the Raider opened fire on the two Destiny units in mobile armor mode. They both rocketed apart Shoyou grinned at the black Destiny as it faltered.

"You must be the weakest link, black Destiny!" he laughed. "So you will be the first to die!" The Raider swept down after the Zero-Two, beam cannons blazing. Emily screamed in surprise, deflecting the shots with her beam shield and whirling around as the Raider roared past.

"He's going after me!" she cried. "Shinn "

"They're more perceptive than I thought," Shinn grunted. "If he's focused on you, it means he's not focused on me! Keep him distracted!"

The Raider wheeled around for another pass, only for the Zero-One to open fire with its beam rifle, forcing the Raider to peel off. Shoyou snarled a curse.

"Of course, something will have to be done about you as well," he snapped. "So let this be the end of the Wings of Light!"

Emily looked on in disbelief as the Raider transformed into its mobile suit mode. "It changed into a Gundam!" she exclaimed. "Shinn !"

"Don't be distracted!" Shinn cut her off. "Fire!" The two Destiny units fired again with their beam rifles, forcing the Raider back on the defensive Shoyou brought his hammer around with a scream, forcing the Zero-One to duck underneath it. He leveled off his beam cannon at the Zero-Two Emily jerked the controls to the side, and the Zero-Two lurched out of the path of Shoyou's killing blast.

"Dammit!" Shoyou snapped, diving backwards as the Zero-One opened fire again. "Harker, Lee, get over here and keep Asuka busy! I'll take out the black one!"

The Raider fell back, showering the Zero-One in beam shots. Shinn grunted as the bolts pounded against his beam shield. "Emily, what the hell are you doing?! Shoot him!"

Emily swung up the Zero-Two's beam rifle to open fire, but a moment later the Raider preempted her with a beam cannon blast of its own, forcing her to take cover behind her beam shield. Shinn glanced to the side in surprise as the familiar feeling of danger popped up and a wave of beam blasts and machinegun rounds forced him back as two Raider Full Specs roared in, guns blazing.

"What the ?!" The Raider Full Specs circled around him, deploying missiles. Shinn scowled and cut them down with a CIWS burst, lunging over the Raider Full Specs' heads. "They're focusing on me..." He glanced back. "And Emily...that one's going after her!"

"One of those Destiny units has had a makeover," Shams pointed out, as the Verde Buster and Blu Duel rode into battle on sub-wing units on the flanks of the Strike Noir, at the head of a squadron of Dark Windams. "It's all black now. Kinda fetching."

"And the Shoyou unit has already attacked," Mudie added. "Shoyou doesn't appear to be very good at this whole 'getting along' thing."

"Captain Danilov needs to be more forceful in using his authority in the Phantom Pain," Sven said. "We will attack the Minerva's mobile suits. I will handle the first Destiny unit, and leave the second to Shoyou."

"Oh, out for revenge, are we?" Shams chuckled. "I haven't forgotten that he shamed you after the raid on Heaven's Base, mon ami."

"That is irrelevant," Sven said shortly. "Move out."

The mobile suits roared apart, and Sven narrowed his eyes on the Destiny Gundam as it fought off a pair of Raider Full Spec units. One of the Raiders came charging in, beam cannons blazing the Destiny whirled down underneath it, thrusting its ignited anti-ship sword up into the Raider's path and sawing it in two. Even as the bisected Raider exploded, the Destiny rocketed up into the air, squeezing off a shot from its long range beam cannon that speared the second Raider through the cockpit, wiping it out in a blaze.

Sven clenched his teeth, opening fire with his beam pistols, only to see the Destiny whirl around to smack his shots aside with its beam shield. The Destiny charged, sword upraised Sven switched to one of his own beam swords and swung back, and the two mobile suits crashed together with a shower of sparks, swords locked.

The Noir surged forward, throwing the Destiny back, but that only gave the Destiny room to dodge the follow-up blast from the beam pistol in the Noir's left hand. The Destiny took off, leaving a trail of afterimages Sven squinted through them and opened fire again, but the Destiny once more slithered through the attacks and let its afterimages take the brunt of the blows.

Sven hefted his sword and followed.

"The RGX-01 Chaos and -02 Abyss are no pushovers," Merau warned as the IWSP Windam cruised forward, with Grey's Slaughter Windam by its side. "They were responsible for that disaster at Scapa Flow in '75."

"You keep telling me all these terrible things that they did in the past," Grey said eagerly, "but you never point out how we can beat these guys!" He flashed a grin. "And that's what we're gonna do!"

"Well, don't say I didn't warn you," Merau groaned. "I'll take the Abyss go!"

Grey opened fire on the Chaos as he stormed in the green Gundam effortlessly ducked aside from his shots and returned fire. Grey grinned expectantly as he dodged the Chaos's return fire, letting some of its shots slam against his shield. They were Gundams, but they weren't invincible and, as Grey opened fire again, he intended to prove just that.

Inside the Chaos, Sting grunted in annoyance as the Slaughter Windam opened fire. More Dark Windams, most of them with Jet Strikers, were approaching as well three of them split off and joined the Slaughter Windam in attacking the Chaos. Sting took cover behind his shield and fired off a volley of missiles to keep them all back.

"They're ganging up on me," he grunted. "Auel!"

Nearby, the Abyss Gundam quaked as the IWSP Windam, flanked by a trio of Jet Windams, showered the ZAFT amphibious Gundam with shell fire and missiles. Auel glared through the smoke at the four black Windams, charging forward and drawing swords or beam sabers to make the kill.

"I'm not that easy, assholes!" he shouted the Abyss ripped the cloud apart with a burst of exhaust and fired back with its solid shells, smashing them into the four Windams' shields and throwing them all back. The Abyss charged at the first target in front of it, stabbing forward with its beam lance the IWSP Windam parried the blow with its anti-ship sword, and the two mobile suits crashed together.

"Dammit!" Merau hissed, as the Windam rattled from the Abyss's Phase Shift-reinforced blow. "This Gundam...!"

Sparks flew as the Blu Duel slammed its beam saber down onto the Gaia Gundam's saber. Inside the Gaia, Stella's eyes flashed furiously at her sub-wing-wielding foe. "You aren't scary!" she snapped the Gaia surged forward, slamming into the Blu Duel with its shoulder and throwing the Alliance machine back.

Mudie grunted as she regained control of her machine. "An uncooperative Extended," she grunted, "cannot be allowed to exist!"

The Blu Duel snapped up its railgun and opened fire, punching the Gaia back with a cloud of smoke. Stella hacked it apart with her saber and returned fire with her CIWS, pelting the Blu Duel's Phase Shift armor and sniping the next railgun shell out of the air. The Gaia lunged through the smoke, saber upraised, and brought it down with a crash on the Blu Duel's own saber. The Blu Duel seized a trio of Stilettos from the rack on its left shoulder armor, kicking off the Gaia from its shield and hurling the Stilettos at the black ZAFT Gundam.

"You can't trick me!" Stella screamed a CIWS burst blasted the Stilettos apart, and Stella rocketed over the smoke, firing back at the Blu Duel with her beam cannons. Mudie deflected the blows with her shield, deploying the right-hand beam gun and firing back. "You aren't scary at all!"

"So this is Athrun Zala, eh?!" Shams cackled, as he circled the Infinite Justice Gundam and pounded it with blasts from his guns. "Boy hero of the PLANTs?! Took down the Strike in the Valentine War?! I ain't impressed, buddy!"

Inside the Infinite Justice, Athrun grunted as the Verde Buster slammed another wave of beams into the Justice's beam shield. He squinted through the smoke. "This guy's specialty is ranged combat," he growled. "And I'm all close-range..."

The Verde Buster unleashed a torrent of missiles Athrun cut them down with a blazing CIWS burst, ducking backward behind his beam shield as the Verde Buster followed it up with another beam rifle barrage.

"You gonna make me find you?" Shams laughed, taking off over the smoke cloud

He yelped in surprise, activating both his bayonets to block the blow as the Justice lunged up into the Verde Buster's face, bringing its ignited beam boomerang blade down with a crash.

"Let's see you fight me when I'm this close!" Athrun snapped. He ignited the Justice's right leg blade, bringing it up for a devastating kick to the Verde Buster's exposed waist.

"You can sure as hell try!" Shams roared the Verde Buster fired its railgun directly into the Justice's face, throwing it back and pushing it too far away for its beam blade-assisted kick to catch anything but air. "Now die!"

The Verde Buster leveled off its beam rifles and fired the Justice backflipped over the shots and fired back with its subflight lifter's beam cannons, forcing Shams back on the defensive.

"You can't trick me like that again!" Athrun snapped, igniting the boomerang blade and charging again. "Go down!"

The Destiny Gundam and the Strike Noir crashed together again, swords blazing. Sven squinted through the Destiny's cloud of afterimages many other pilots feared the wings of light, but Sven only saw an obstacle. The Noir surged forward, throwing the Destiny backwards again, and dodged the Destiny's follow-up beam cannon blast, lunging into its face and bringing its sword down with a crash onto the Destiny's blade.

Inside the dreaded Gundam, Shinn grunted in frustration the Devil's Saber was certainly living up to his fearsome reputation. The Destiny put all its strength behind its sword, swinging the Strike Noir forward and sending it reeling backward. Before he could attack again, however, the Strike Noir holstered its beam pistol and fired a rocket anchor out of its left hand, snaring it around the Destiny's left arm.

"Dammit!" Shinn yelled; the Noir yanked its anchor line back up, jerking the Destiny up into the air, and raised its sword high over its head for a killing blow. A white bolt of energy split the air

With a crash, the Destiny slammed its sword into the path of the Noir's blade, blocking the blow as the Noir yanked the two Destiny up into range. Sven ground his teeth in frustration as the two Gundams locked together, beam blades pressed against each other, eyes burning at each other.

"Now you've got me where I work best," Shinn grunted, "and that was a mistake!"

The Destiny curled its fingers around the Noir's anchor line and burned through it with a palm cannon blast. With a crash, Shinn sent the Noir spiraling back with a kick to the stomach. Sven blinked in surprise as he found his left-hand anchor severed. The Destiny followed, sword upraised, and only a timely counter-slash from the Noir saved Sven from a grisly fate.

Shinn growled in annoyance, glaring at the Noir as it held him off.

"I don't have time for this..."

Battleship Minerva

"Missiles approaching, captain!" Burt exclaimed.

Meyrin narrowed her eyes at the approaching missiles. "CIWS, fire!" A flurry of bullets tore the missiles out of the sky with a flash of fire. Meyrin glanced through the smoke the Siegfried-class was doing little more than firing missiles, when it was capable of far more.

"The Charlemagne and that Siegfried are tying up our mobile suits with their own," Rau said, detecting Meyrin's confusion, "but they seem to be waiting for the Charlemagne itself to arrive."

"We can't face them one on one," Meyrin murmured. And deep down, she wasn't even sure she could fight the Siegfried one on one three years in the captain's chair and she owed the Minerva's survival more to its legendary complement of Gundams than to her own skills as a commander.

"The only way to break our machines free is to create a diversion," Rau continued. "Therefore, I suggest we attack the Siegfried plane directly."

Abbey whirled around in disbelief in her chair. "You must be crazy!" she exclaimed. "They'll break off mobile suits or launch a second squadron if we do that! And without mobile suits of our own, we can't hold off enemy MS!"

"If we lose our own mobile suits, we're even worse off," Meyrin pointed out. "None of them are going to last forever, especially Emily." She glanced over at Chen. "Prepare the Tristans and Isolde! Target the Siegfried-class!"

"Tristans and Isolde ready, targeting enemy plane!" Chen replied. "Target locked!"

Meyrin narrowed her eyes at the Siegfried plane. Once the Minerva fired, if their first salvo failed to hit home, it would be the agonizing dance of two ships in midair, shooting at each other and aiming for a critical hit to knock the other out of the sky. And that was not something she was good at. But there was no hesitating now all eyes were on her.


The Siegfried-class banked aside slowly as the Minerva's Isolde cannons boomed, and the shells streaked by the plane's hull by a hair's breadth. The Tristans followed up the Isolde's salvo, but once again the enemy plane dodged the barrage and returned fire with its forward Gottfried cannon. It struck a glancing blow on the Minerva's prow, but the laminated armor shrugged off the blast and the Minerva kept going.

"Enemy plane closing in!" Burt reported. "Heat signatures indicate rise in energy to the enemy's Gottfried cannons!"

"It's closing for ship-to-ship combat," Rau added. "The plane is more maneuverable, but we have the advantage of durability and firepower."

Meyrin bit back the impulse to respond with a "yes sir" as the Minerva plunged into battle.

"I can't beat this guy!"

Emily was almost in tears as she watched her beam shield take the brunt of the Raider Gundam's beam cannon barrage. The Raider slammed its hammer into the Destiny Zero-Two's solid shield, shattering it and sending the pieces scattering down towards the Earth. Emily winced as the Raider brought its hammer around again, and jerked the controls back, dodging with milliseconds to spare as the hammer swung through the space previously occupied by the Zero-Two's head.

Inside the Raider Gundam, Shoyou's face purpled in rage. "You're just a little girl!" he screamed. "You're no worthy adversary for me! Hurry up and die, so I can take the head of the Destiny Gundam!"

The Raider lined up for a killing beam shot, only to see it spoiled by the Zero-Two's beam shield. Emily desperately scanned the Zero-Two's weapons for something to turn the tide, and switched from the beam rifle to the massive black anti-ship sword, drawing it with a flash and looking up apprehensively at the Raider.

"Will this work?!"

Shoyou laughed. "That heavy sword won't stop me!" He charged, beam cannons blazing Emily yanked the controls aside and dodged the blasts, and then closed in, raising the sword high with a scream

"Not good enough!" Shoyou cried, whirling around and smashing the Raider's hammer into the Zero-Two's sword, wrenching it from the Zero-Two's grip and sending it spiraling to earth. Emily shrieked in surprise, instinctively throwing her machine back behind its beam shield as the Raider followed up with a blast from its Zorn cannon.

"Emily!" Shinn's voice came through the cockpit speakers, broken by the sound of something crashing into something else on his end. "Take out that hammer!"

The Raider charged, hammer drawn back for a killing blow Emily screamed in terror as instinct took over, and she fired the long rang beam cannon into the incoming hammer, blasting it apart.

"The Mjolnir!" Shoyou cried, backing up with a beam cannon blast and abandoning the useless handle. "You little whore!"

The Raider drew a beam saber from inside the dual beam cannon on its left arm, the golden blade shining forth as the black Gundam charged. Emily shrieked again as the saber blade slammed against her beam shield, rattling the Zero-Two.

"Emily, the beam wings!" Shinn's voice insisted again. "Use the beam wings to create afterimages and throw him off!"

"I can't!" Emily cried, backing away. She drew her beam rifle, whipping it up into position and squeezing off a shot. Her eyes widened in surprise as it streaked forward towards the cockpit

...and her jaw dropped in disbelief as the Raider swatted the blast aside with its beam saber. "What?! How could he ?!" The Zero-Two rattled again as the Raider showered it in machinegun fire, charging down into its face. Emily blocked its saber blow with her beam shield, sending her staggering back. "He's...he's gonna kill me!"

"A rebellious Extended..." Mudie snarled, as the Gaia Gundam charged at her, beam saber raised. "You have no place in the world!"

The Blu Duel thrust its own saber forward, as the two Gundams slammed together. Mudie snapped her railgun up to fire a point-blank shell into the Gaia's torso, throwing it back the Gaia fired back through the smoke, pelting the Blu Duel with CIWS fire and distracting Mudie before she could follow up her attack. The Gaia lunged up into the Blu Duel's face, the two Gundams' sabers crashing together.

"Gundams," Stella hissed, "you think you're so scary! I can be scary too!"

The Gaia surged forward, smashing its knee into the Blu Duel's stomach. Mudie grunted as the Blu Duel went staggering back, and blinked in surprise as the Gaia delivered a punishing kick to the face that nearly knocked her off her subflight lifter. Stella lined up for a killing beam cannon blast, but a wave of missiles came streaking towards her instead

An instant later, the Infinite Justice Gundam was there to cut them down with a CIWS blast. Athrun Zala glanced over at the Gaia.

"Are you alright, Stella?"

"Athrun!" Stella cried. "Is Athrun okay?"

The Justice rattled as the Verde Buster slammed one of its bayonets down onto the beam shield. "Never better," Athrun grunted. "If we can take out the sub-wings, they'll be helpless!"

The Blu Duel swept in again, beam saber raised Stella batted it aside with her shield, bringing her own saber down, but the Blu Duel was there with its own shield to stop the Gaia's deathblow. "But they're so fast...!"

"Fast, maybe," Athrun said, "but not invincible!"

Merau scowled in frustration as the Abyss Gundam scattered her three Jet Dark Windams with a barrage of beam cannons. The amount of weapons this Gundam could deploy at once was absurd it had to have a weakness.

The Abyss fired back with another volley of shells, forcing the Jet Windams back. Merau hacked through the smoke and hurled her beam boomerang at the Abyss. Inside the blue Gundam, Auel glanced furiously at it.

"You think that'll stop me?!"

With a crash, the Abyss knocked the boomerang aside and an instant later, the IWSP Windam pounded the Abyss with a blaze of cannon fire, knocking it back behind its shoulder shells.

"That Phase Shift...!" Merau growled. "Not a scratch!" She glanced over at the Slaughter Windam, where Grey was fighting the Chaos Gundam.

"You Resistance bastard!" Grey screamed, closing in with his beam saber and slamming it against the Chaos's shield. "I'll destroy you all!"

Inside the Chaos, Sting's eyes flashed. "You can try!"

The Chaos surged forward with a blast from its engines, throwing the Slaughter Windam back. Grey yelped in surprise, struggling to maintain control just in time for the Chaos to lop off the Windam's arms with his beam saber.

The maimed Slaughter Windam crashed into the arms of the IWSP Windam.

"We're retreating!" Merau snapped. The Windam took off before Grey could protest, angling back towards the Charlemagne.

Inside the Chaos, Sting turned his attention towards the remaining Jet Windams. "Two down..."

Earth Alliance Siegfried-class carrier plane Danube

"Captain, Minerva is firing another wave of missiles!" the sensor officer cried.

Reinhardt narrowed his eyes at the approaching weapons. "Igelstellungs, intercept!" The Danube replied with a wave of firepower from its Igelstellung emplacements, cutting the missiles out of the sky. "Raise pitch by fifteen degrees!"

The Danube edged up towards the sky an instant later, the Minerva fired through the smoke, its Tristan cannons blazing by underneath the ascending Danube.

"Minerva is turning to pursue!" the sensor officer reported.

"Gottfried Two and Three, target the Minerva's prow!" Reinhardt roared. "If they deploy their positron cannon, we'll be destroyed!"

The Danube's guns roared, but their shots missed the Minerva's prow as the mighty warship ducked beneath them. It answered with another booming blast from its Isolde cannon Reinhardt winced as one of the shells streaked by too close for comfort to the Danube's bridge tower.

"The Minerva is targeting our underside!" the sensor officer cried.

"All missile tubes ready, captain! Shall we fire?!" the weapons officer added.

"They'll just cut them down," Reinhardt growled. "Fire the Sledgehammers anyway! We won't be defeated here!"

The Raider effortlessly ducked aside Emily's desperate beam rifle shots, charging in with its blazing yellow beam saber. Emily shrieked in terror as the black Gundam closed in, raising its saber high she jammed the controls back, and the Destiny Zero-Two went hurtling back, dodging the Raider's killing slash.

"Damn you," Shoyou snarled, "you're only a child! How can you last this long?!"

"I can't do this!" Emily wailed. "I'm not a soldier! I'm not a Newtype!" The Raider came charging in. "I'm not you, Shinn!"

Instinct flashed within her the Zero-Two deployed its beam shield, stopping the Raider's saber slash cold.

"You have the power to win," Shinn insisted, his voice broken by static, "but you have to get over your fear!" Something rattled on his end, and he bit back a curse. "You're more powerful than this! Trust your instinct and do what feels natural!"

"I'm not like you, Shinn!" Emily cried, as the Raider surged forward and threw her back. "I can't !"

"This is the end for you, little girl!" Shoyou screamed. "Die!"

The Raider brought down its saber with a crash Emily shrieked in terror as it sliced through her beam rifle, blowing it in two and sending her reeling back. The Raider charged through the smoke, saber pulled back for a killing blow, as Emily froze in fear

"Don't let it stop you!" Shinn roared. "Emily !"

Emily's eyes flashed wide there was a tiny green seed, bursting before her in a dazzling array of colors

And a moment later, everything was clear.

Emily watched in stunned silence as she saw the Raider swing its saber forward, towards the Zero-Two's waist. Effortlessly, she activated the Zero-Two's beam wings, filling the sky with a flash of pink translucent light. Shoyou blinked in surprise as his prey backflipped out of his range, as he swung his saber around. He turned to follow through and attack again

With a shudder and a hideous shriek of twisted metal, the Destiny Zero-Two drew its right-hand beam boomerang, extending the blade into that of a beam saber, and sliced off the Raider's right arm at the elbow.

"My arm!" Shoyou cried. "This !"

The Zero-Two charged, afterimages filling the sky around it. Emily screamed and slammed into the Raider with her left shoulder, throwing it back. An instant later, she slashed a long diagonal scar across the Raider's torso.

"This girl...!" Shoyou snarled. "How!?"

The Raider whirled around and took off with a blast of exhaust, dropping combat flares behind it. Emily squeezed her eyes shut as the lights flashed around her.

Across the battlefield, Sven watched the Raider flee, trailing smoke, impassive and unimpressed. "Shoyou has underestimated that new Destiny unit," he said. He glanced towards his own black Phantom Pain mobile suits. "All Phantom Pain mobile suits, return to the Charlemagne!"

From inside the Destiny Zero-One, Shinn watched in surprise as the Alliance mobile suits broke off their battles with the Minerva's Gundams and took off. He glanced over at Emily, feeling once more emotion radiating from inside the cockpit...but this time it was smooth, even, focused, controlled. He could tell that she had seen the seed.

"Emily," he said, as the Zero-One drifted closer to the Zero-Two, "are you alright?"

Emily looked back at Shinn, and Shinn shuddered as he saw himself in her dull, lightless green eyes.

"This power," she murmured, as the light returned. "I don't want this power."

Shinn smiled bitterly. "No one does."

The two Gundams turned and took off towards the Minerva.

To be continued...