Phase 08 - The Twilight Gundam

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED TWILIGHT

Phase 08 - The Twilight Gundam

February 27th, CE 77 - Earth Alliance Siegfried-class carrier plane Danube, Brandenburg, Germany

The Raider Gundam landed with a sickening crunch, staggering to a halt in the yawning hangar of the Danube as the plane clawed for distance from the victorious Minerva. Inside, Shoyou threw his helmet off with disgust, guiding the Raider once more into its hangar brace. Defeated again, and this time that girl had personally bested him in battle. How could she have mastered mobile suit combat that quickly? To beat him, the Sky Samurai? It was unthinkable.

Reinhardt's dour face appeared on the Raider's main screen as the Windams began to land. "Colonel, the Windam force reports no casualties," he said. "What will we do next?"

Shoyou glanced furiously out the hangar doors as the Minerva rocketed away. "They've humiliated me twice," he snarled, "but the third time...not again." He looked back at Reinhardt. "Get the mobile suits repaired as quickly as possible. We will not give up the chase."

Battleship Minerva, Brandenburg, Germany

The last time she had done this, Emily remembered as she guided the Destiny Zero-Two back into its hangar brace, she had been a basket case over the terrifying feeling of death on the battlefield. This time it was not so bad, but instead she was simply left to contemplate what she had become. That had been her first battle but it had taken the appearance of that mysterious seed to damage an enemy pilot that appeared to be underestimating her to begin with. And Emily was simply surprised that there was anything in her to underestimate.

"Alright, people, move!" Abes roared from the gantry, as the Chaos Gundam shut down across the hangar. "The Zero-Two needs a new Arondight! Get the spare out of storage!"

Emily emerged onto the gantry with a sigh, blinking at the cooler air outside the cramped confines of the Destiny Zero-Two's cockpit. She glanced back inside, at the Phase Shift-protected cocoon that controlled the Gundam and yet she could not feel safe in there.

The Destiny Zero-One's cockpit opened with a burst of steam. In that machine's cockpit, she could feel safe...but that was because the Zero-One had Shinn Asuka at the controls. Shinn himself emerged with a sigh, mopping his hair out of his face as he did.

"The Devil's Saber lives up once more to his reputation," he sighed. "But that could've been worse, I guess." He glanced over at Emily. "You managed to damage that enemy unit, though. So good work on that."

Emily stepped up to the rail, staring blankly at the Infinite Justice across the way, as its cockpit hatch opened and Athrun climbed out. "I saw a seed," she said. "It burst in front of me. Everything became clear, like I was a different person..." She squeezed her eyes shut as Gilbert Dullindal's silk-smooth voice rang in her ears again. "And...I could see the future."

Shinn nodded grimly. "The spark of a Newtype exists in everyone," he said. "When people are under extreme stress, the natural reaction of the body is to call on every reserve of strength and speed and stamina you have, in order to see you through. A mobile suit pilot needs reflexes and lightning-fast cognitive abilities, so that's what you get when you see the seed." He glanced at the other Gundams. "I can't tell you why it's a seed that we see, but I've seen it more times than I can count. So have the other pilots." He shook his head, as Emily fearfully tried to imagine Stella Loussier after she had seen the seed. "Auel calls it 'ass-kicking mode,' but Auel Neider is not a exactly a paragon of scientific inquiry. That seed is the sign of your mind tapping into its potential and bringing out your capabilities. I guess if you apply enough stress, everyone can do it but it explains why it only happens in combat."

Emily cast her eyes towards the hangar floor. She had felt as though she was about to die but everything had become clear, and true to the silken words of the Chairman and the Destiny's pilot, she could see the future. That was power that everyone wanted power that she had.

"Even though it seems that everyone can do it," Shinn went on, "not so many of us can use those powers without the seed. That's why we're Newtypes. Whether they were consciously trying to or not, that's what the Earth Alliance was trying to achieve with its Extended. And that's what they would do with your powers. So that's why I brought you here, and gave you this machine. Your power is vast, and I don't want Lord Djibril abusing it or you."

Emily glanced over at Shinn. "How is the Resistance any different if I still have to fight...?" she asked.

Shinn smiled bitterly. "That's the problem," he said. "Either way, you have to fight." He turned to leave. "But as long as you're with us, if we can't do anything else, we'll treat you like a human being."

Shinn headed back towards the Zero-One. Emily watched him go bitterly, and as the sounds of the hangar rang in her ears, she wondered if she still was a human being.

Earth Alliance battleship Charlemagne, Brandenburg, Germany

Sven greeted Captain Danilov with a crisp salute on the screen of the Strike Noir, as his machine cruised in towards the Charlemagne's yawning mobile suit hangar. "Another less than successful attempt, I see," Danilov said, returning Sven's salute, "but on the bright side, we are gaining valuable combat data on the Minerva's units."

"Colonel Shoyou is probably preparing for a third attack," Sven answered. "And I do not think he will be attempting to cooperate with us."

"I thought not," Danilov said grimly.

"What should we do, captain?" Vera asked from the side of the captain's chair.

"I've had enough of Shoyou's uncooperative attitude," Danilov said. "We will not support the Shoyou unit's next attack. We will make our own moves instead."

"Understood," Sven answered. "Noir out." The screen went dark, and Sven sat back, glancing at the auxiliary screens, where Mudie looked bored and Shams looked annoyed.

"Man, why are we working with Shoyou anyway?" Shams sighed. "The guy's a dick."

"It can't be helped," Mudie said airily. "Since men like him think they're so powerful..."

"We will not be supporting their next attack," Sven pointed out. "So we will plan our own."

Earth Alliance Siegfried-class carrier plane Danube, West Pomeranian Voivodeship, Poland

"If we force them out over the sea," Reinhardt said as he stood next to Shoyou on the Danube's bridge, with a map of the Baltic Sea spread out before them, "then the Minerva has effectively unrestricted room to maneuver."

"As do we," Shoyou said.

"But they have vastly more firepower than we do," Reinhardt continued. "That positron cannon alone could do us in. And at this altitude, the gamma radiation would not do a great deal of damage to the surrounding environment."

Shoyou sniffed contemptuously, tapping a few keys on the arm of the captain's chair. A list sprung up on the main screen of Alliance units in the area; Shoyou scanned it for a moment. "The Sevastopol is patrolling the waters of the Pomeranian Bay," he noted.

"But the Sevastopol is a Poseidon-class," Reinhardt protested. "The Poseidon-class only carries a squadron of Deep Forbiddens, and those are only for point defense."

"The Poseidon-class is a ballistic missile submarine," Shoyou answered. "It has a vast complement of cruise missiles. We can have those missiles deployed into the Minerva's path, forcing them to evade or engage. Once they are suitably distracted, we can move in for the kill."

"During the missile strike?" Reinhardt sputtered. "But colonel "

"We can handle that," Shoyou said dismissively.

"Colonel, we need to resupply first," Reinhardt wet on. "We lost several mobile suits in the first engagement, and aside from aerial refueling, we have not restocked our supplies."

A scowl twisted its way onto Shoyou's face. "We're on the scent, captain," he said. "To surrender that scent now would be to surrender the opportunity of a lifetime. I will not do that." He turned to leave. "Call the Sevastopol and request them to launch a contingent of cruise missiles, targeting the Minerva. We will bring that ship down, and we don't need the Phantom Pain to do it."

Battleship Minerva, Pomeranian Voivodeship, Poland

An airy sigh came drifting out of the cockpit of the Destiny Zero-Two as Emily pushed the control panel back up into the cockpit ceiling and sat back, stretching her legs out. Whenever she wasn't sleeping or eating, Shinn had her in the cockpit of this machine, training. On one hand, that training was probably why she had not been reduced to a cloud of dust over Brandenburg but on the other hand, she was beginning to miss the sensation of walking around and moving like a normal human being.

Of course, that was all predicated on the notion that she was, in fact, a normal human being.

This time, Shinn had given her a respite, after only three hours of simulated matches against an army of computer-controlled opponents. She supposed that Shinn was considering this positive reinforcement for her performance against Shinn's virtual host of Dagger L mobile suits. Emily instead had Viveka leaning against the cockpit hatch jamb, her mismatched arms crossed, glancing over the inside of the machine.

"Fancy cockpit," she observed. "No cup holder, though, I see." She glanced over Emily's shoulder. "And I don't get what's with the pink seat belts either."

"I'm getting used to it," Emily murmured. She glanced tiredly around the Zero-Two's cockpit. "I'm cooped up all the time in here anyway."

"Hey, at least with all this training, the chances of getting your ass shot off continue to decrease," Viveka pointed out. "Shinn's a pretty relentless taskmaster, but it's for your own good."

Emily leaned forward, her head in her hands. "He wants me to know the specs for the Buster Dagger by tomorrow."

Viveka shrugged. "Well, look at it this way," she said. "Once you're all done with this, every boy you ever meet will be creaming his pants over how much you know about MS."

Emily looked down at the cockpit floor, blushing. "Is that supposed to make me feel better?"

"It'd make me feel better," Viveka replied. She looked around again. "So have you decided on a name for this thing yet?"

Emily glanced up at the main control panel, retracted into the ceiling of the cockpit. All this time in here and she hadn't really tried to think up a name for what had apparently become her new war horse. But there was one word that seemed suitable

"Twilight," she said. "Twilight Gundam."

Viveka arched the eyebrow over her remaining eye. "Twilight, eh? What for?"

"I remember seeing the sky when I was launching to fight yesterday," Emily explained, "and the sun was setting." She looked down sullenly at the floor again. "And...I kinda feel like I'm at the twilight of my life."

"You're sixteen," Viveka pointed out. "You've got another sixty years to go before you can start worrying about that."

Emily sat back tiredly. "I guess I hope that this Gundam is the last one that people feel the need to build," she went on. "I don't really like these machines, but if they're necessary to protect others, then I'll learn to use them."

Viveka shrugged again. "That and the hot Resistance ace is making you do it," she added.

Emily blushed again. "Well, that too I mean, that Shinn is making me do it."

"Oh, admit it, you like him," Viveka shot back. "But hey, that's okay, lots of girls do. He's a Cosmic Era Robin Hood y'know, if Robin Hood killed lots of people." Another shrug, as Emily tried to hide the blush. "Well, whenever they finish the Savior, I'll be going into battle on your wing." She flashed a grin. "So you'd better be able to keep up with me."

"I'll try," Emily mumbled.

"Bullshit, I'm telling you," Auel snarled in the crew lounge of the Minerva, kicked back on one of the seats with his feet up on the nearby table with a steaming mug of something or other in his hand. "Newtype or whatever, there ain't no reason to keep her around."

"Eh, cut her some slack," answered Sting from the other side of the table, propping his head up with his hand and staring down in boredom at the half-eaten sandwich in front of him. "She kinda got sucked into this against her will. And she's managed to hold up this far." He looked back up at Auel. "Besides, I thought we were going to trust Shinn."

"To protect Stella, maybe," Auel said. "But first of all, now we're here on the same ship, so we can take care of that. And second, Stella can probably take care of herself anyway. And thirdly, bringing an amateur onto the ship is a totally stupid idea."

"She managed to land a hit or two on that Raider unit," Sting offered with a shrug. "It was good enough to shake even Shinn."

"She just got lucky," Auel insisted.

"Well, does that mean you're not gonna watch her back?" Sting asked. Auel blinked, caught off guard. "I mean, whether we want her here or not, she's here. Would you let something happen to her?"

Auel sighed and flopped back onto the couch, abandoning his mug on the table. "No," he said, " many people to protect."

"We're all supposed to be a team," Sting added. "So, really, it makes no difference to me. We all watch over each other." He sat back. "And that's the way it should be."

The computer room of the Minerva was empty. That was just as well it would not do to have people listening in on this conversation.

And, Athrun Zala thought bitterly as he felt the handgun tucked away inside his jacket, some questions were better left unanswered.

Rau Le Creuset was, of course, in the computer room chair, walls of text spread before him. Athrun stepped into the room, fighting against every instinct to draw his pistol and spray the masked man's ever-working, ever-sharp brain all over the room. Rau did not even bother turning to greet Athrun as he approached.

"And our parting was such sweet sorrow," he chuckled. "Now what can I do for you, Athrun?"

Athrun's eyes flashed, as restraint gave way and he yanked his pistol out of his jacket, putting it to Rau's head. "You stole my friend from me," he snarled.

"I did?" Rau chuckled, not even stopping his typing as he scanned the screen. "You, dear young Zala, were the one who shot down that shuttle."

"You set me up," Athrun snapped. "You corrupted his brain, you killed all his humanity, you turned him into your little tool!"

Rau sighed quietly, his fingers finally stopping as he sat back. "There seems to be something you still don't understand, Athrun," he said. "Of all the people on this ship, you should be the one to share my goal." He nudged the gun away from his head and glanced up at Athrun, a devilish smirk on his face. "It was human excesses that gave rise to the last two wars, as well as this one. Excess of greed, excess of power, excess of pride, excess of zeal. For all those excesses, there is waste. And when that waste is human life, then something is dreadfully wrong." He looked back at the screen. "I expected you and Shinn to understand this, of all people. You know what it is to have lost everything, to have it taken from you by the vagaries of a world that wants more than it needs or deserves. Instead of directing your hatred at the sources of that human greed, and at its symbol, you directed it at me. That is indeed strange."

"You took everything that made Kira Yamato who he was and you killed it!" Athrun snapped, pointing his gun back at Rau. "And you expect me to believe some abstract point about war and privilege?! What in the name of hell could justify what you've done?!"

Rau smiled. "Hell itself," he answered.

Athrun scowled. "I should shoot you," he said. "You stole my friend, you turned him into a madman who would kill his own sister, his own friends, because you told him to."

"You presume, Athrun, that it was I who pulled the strings of our puppet named Kira," Rau chuckled. "I did not. Kira's leash is clenched in a far more feminine hand than mine. There is a certain sort of irony that the death of his angel led him into the arms of a succubus. But if you really would like to see who remade Kira Yamato, you should try looking up the name Valentine."

"You bastard," Athrun growled, cocking the pistol.

"Do you really want to do that?" Rau asked. "Do you really think blowing my brain out will unlock all of its evil little secrets?" He gestured towards the screen. "The world is changing. Do you really think the mind of someone who has stood above it and watched it and molded it is not valuable enough to be preserved?"

Athrun ground his teeth, glowering down at the masked phantasm.

With a snarl, he shoved his gun back into his jacket and stalked away, and Rau only laughed.

"Emily is still scared," Stella observed. On the Minerva's external deck, Shinn glanced over at her, as she stared emptily in the direction of the sea. Stella looked over at Shinn. "Is something scary going to get her?"

Shinn did his best to smile back reassuringly. "Not if I can help it," he answered, shaking his head. "She has powers that she doesn't understand, so it scares her." He looked up back towards the horizon. "We're all afraid of what we don't understand. And that's why I want to protect her. So she can use those powers."

Stella was quiet for a moment. "...will Shinn still protect Stella...?" she asked.

Shinn looked over at her in surprise. "Of course I will," he said, offering another smile. "Even if it's just the two of us, I'll always protect you." He looked away again. "But I know what Emily is going through. I went through it myself. But nobody else understood it when I went through it. Now I can help someone else go through it."

Stella cast her shimmering eyes back towards the horizon. "...Shinn is a good friend..."

Shinn smiled bitterly. "We'll see about that."

February 28th, CE 77 - Earth Alliance Poseidon-class ballistic missile submarine Sevastopol, Pomeranian Bay, Baltic Sea

"Christ," the XO muttered as he read the paper in his hand over again. "The Minerva. Of all the ships..."

The captain of the Sevastopol sat back in his chair on the Sevastopol's conn. The message had come through from the Danube during the night that Colonel Shoyou, the Sky Samurai, was requesting the Sevastopol launch a complement of cruise missiles, targeting them at the Minerva itself, to distract the mighty warship so Shoyou could attack it. The captain doubted that the plan would work, but he was technically outranked by the Lieutenant Colonel and at any rate, it was a chance to add his name to history if it did indeed work.

"Captain," the XO said, "are we going to comply?"

The captain sniffed in annoyance. "Of course we are," he said. "What kind of soldiers are we if we back away from a fight just because of who the enemy is?" He sat up. "Order all hands to prepare to surface. Get me missile command. We'll give them Pattern Delta of the Storm Eagles."

Earth Alliance battleship Charlemagne, Pomeranian Voivodeship, Poland

The sounds of mechanics yelling at each other and metal on metal had blended into a muffled roar by the time they reached the ears of Grey Saiba, leaning tiredly against the loading gantry rail and staring at his Windam as it was once again repaired, with Merau by his side.

"The Resistance isn't taking me very seriously," he sighed. "I should be better than this."

Merau glanced him, squinting for a moment as someone used a blowtorch. "You're only one pilot," she said, "and not too many people can say they survived a battle against the Minerva." She shrugged. "Just don't underestimate them. They're all veterans of the Junius War, and if you survived that, you were either very lucky or very good."

Grey sniffed contemptuously. "They're still a bunch of terrorists," he scoffed.

"Terrorists they may be," Merau replied, "but they're excellent pilots, and if you underestimate them again, you'll get killed." Grey glanced at her in surprise as she paused, looking up at the hangar ceiling sadly. "And...I wouldn't want that."

"Hey," Grey started, "this isn't Sofia. You've been trained by the Phantom Pain. You don't have to worry about that anymore."

"I don't have to worry about myself," Merau corrected. "But on the streets of a war-torn city, with your best friend dying in your arms with his face shot off..." She sighed heavily. "It kinda makes you look at human life differently."

"Well, now you're in the Phantom Pain," Grey said awkwardly. "They can't do that to you again. And you know this is what Stefan would have wanted you to do."

"I guess," Merau mumbled. "But just don't go doing something stupid, okay? I don't like losing friends."

Grey flashed a cheeky grin. "Do I look stupid to you?"

Merau smiled back knowingly. "I won't even touch that one."

Information was certainly not sparse, Sven noted as he scanned the records before him on the screen of his computer terminal. As a Phantom Pain officer, he had access to the databanks of Heaven's Base itself, although he lacked the security clearance to see some of the Phantom Pain's most fearsome secrets. But it was not the Phantom Pain's secrets that were interesting him.

The Phantom Pain had vetted every domestic servant in the household staff of Lord Djibril, ensuring that each and every one would only pay attention to household duties, ensuring that there were no spies and assassins in their midst. As a result, the domestic servants all had fairly lengthy dossiers detailing what appeared to Sven to be uneventful or uninteresting lives. Another girl taken from the war-shattered streets of Novgorod that mattered nothing to Sven.

But as he reached the file for Emily von Oldendorf, there was nothing.

Sven frowned. A gap in information was unusual for the Phantom Pain. He glanced over what little information there was mostly physical description, with a few pieces of background. He noted that her father was Gerhardt von Oldendorf Sven recalled him to be a Eurasian Federation Ministry of Defense official, now part of the Earth Alliance as the Director of Military Research. And he had familial ties that stretched back into Germany's medieval history, which, Sven supposed, was where he and his daughter had gotten the aristocratic preposition von into their names. It was certainly odd to see a household slave with the mark of nobility.

But odder still was the lack of information on this little girl. And Sven did have to wonder why Emily was slaving away in the palace of Lord Djibril, while Gerhardt reaped the rewards of a high position. Did father and daughter not stay together?

Every question led to two more. Sven pushed it out of his mind as Shams and Mudie entered his room.

"Shit, Sven," Shams grunted, "what are you doing in here, looking at porn?"

Sven ignored the remark with expert experience as Mudie giggled. "The next time we fight the Destiny Gundam, we will need a plan to take it down," he said. "By studying the Destiny's combat data, I believe we can find patterns in its moves that we can exploit."

"Sounds great," Shams said with a thumbs-up. "Can I opt out and get the Cliff's Notes later?"

"Let's get to work," Sven said instead. "The Destiny has humiliated the Phantom Pain enough."

Battleship Minerva, Gulf of Gdansk, Baltic Sea

Another day, another shift on the bridge of the Minerva for Burt Heim. Abbey and Meyrin had disappeared for dinner Burt had opted to take his to the bridge with him, and had a well-secured cup of soup and starchy imitation ramen by his side as he waited for something to happen on the scanners. So far the Siegfried-class and the Charlemagne did not appear to be doing much more than following them, but who knew how long that would last.

He leaned back, sucking down another mouthful of soup and noodles that the Minerva's galley only had on hand because it came cheap in bulk and only required the addition of hot water to be edible to use the term very loosely. He dug out the crucifix underneath his shirt, strung onto a chain around his neck, and gazed down at it. A religious Coordinator wasn't something one saw every day, and he supposed that he owed his immortal soul another prayer for the strength of God to see the Minerva through its next fight. There were already many people across the Earth Sphere who thought that the Minerva and its crew and its star pilot were sent by God, if not divine themselves, but all Burt asked was for the Almighty to lend him strength to do his job. He was the eyes of the Minerva, and that meant asking God to keep his own eyes sharp.

He put his crucifix back and set his soup aside as the scanners began to beep. On the other side of the bridge, Roxy turned, eyebrow arched. "What the hell is that?"

Burt studied the heat signature for a moment. "They're missiles," he said. "The Mk15/A Storm Eagle cruise missile." He glanced over at Roxy. "They're a ways out, but it looks like they're heading for us. Better call the captain."

"Okay," Roxy said, reaching for the intercom, "but just missiles?" She raised the receiver to her lips. "Captain Hawke, requesting your presence on the bridge." She glanced back at Burt. "How many?"

Burt blinked in surprise. "...thirty," he said.

"Thirty?!" Roxy echoed. She brought the intercom up again. "Captain Hawke, we've get a problem, so if you wouldn't mind hurrying on up here..."

Rau Le Creuset was the first to stride onto the bridge this time, followed a few moments later by Meyrin and Abbey. Meyrin leapt down into the captain's chair, adjusting her cap. "What's going on?" she asked.

"Thirty Storm Eagle cruise missiles approaching to port," Burt reported.

"Just missiles?" Abbey asked, glancing at Meyrin. "Our CIWS could take those down easily."

"Any modern CIWS emplacement could," Rau pointed out, settling into his typical chair. "I doubt the Alliance would launch an attack as simple as a volley of cruise missiles. Captain, may I suggest preparing the mobile suits for combat."

"Roxy, get on that," Meyrin said, silently steeling herself. It was time to be the captain again. "Shield the bridge and go to Condition Red."

The cockpit hatch slammed shut, and Emily pushed down her fear as she pulled down the Twilight Gundam's console. All she knew was that something was going on, and the ship was going to Condition Red which meant she had to stand by in her machine, and be ready to launch if needed.

She glanced over the controls and activated the mobile suit squadron's transmission frequency all those hours in the cockpit training were starting to pay off, she guessed. "Shinn, what's going on...?"

Emily watched for a moment as Shinn fastened the Destiny's restraints. To think that this man who had protected her was simultaneously a hero and villain across the Earth Sphere...

"What is it?" Shinn asked. Emily blinked in surprise, noticing in the cockpit display that she was blushing, and tried to hide her face.

"W-What's going on? Why are we on Condition Red?"

"The Alliance targeted the ship with a volley of cruise missiles," Shinn explained, arching an eyebrow at her. "We've been told to stand by in case they're attacking with anything more than missiles."

"CIWS firing!" Roxy cut in. "Plug your ears, kids!"

There was silence for a moment, and then a thundering explosion roaring through the air as the Minerva's CIWS emplacements gunned down the first missile.

"What the hell?!" Auel screamed from the Abyss's cockpit. "Can't you guys shoot them down further away than that?!"

"Quit your bitching!" Roxy shot back. "At least it didn't hit us at all!"

"The Siegfried-class is approaching as well," Burt's voice cut in, "and it's launching its mobile suits!"

"As I thought," Rau said. "The missiles are a cover to distract us while the Siegfried carrier moves in."

"We've beaten this plane twice," Meyrin said, "so we can do it again. Mobile suits, launch!"

As the Gundams stomped towards the catapults, the Destiny cast a glance towards the Twilight.

"Emily," Shinn said, "this time you have to fight through your fear."

Emily shrank down into the Twilight's cockpit seat. "I know," she said, and headed towards the catapult.

"Beware of the Sevastopol's missiles," Shoyou warned as the Raider Gundam cruised into battle in mobile armor mode, with four Raider Full Spec units and six Windams in formation behind it. "The Danube will cover us directly. Engage the Minerva's mobile suits at will, but leave the two Destiny units to me!"

"Aye sir!" the pilots chorused.

"Today the Minerva will go down!" Shoyou roared. "Attack!"

The mobile suits took off with a roar. Shoyou grinned viciously as he caught sight of the two Destiny units, flying into battle side by side. One of those, he knew, had that little slave girl inside...but this time she would not surprise him. He opened fire with the Raider's beam cannons, splitting the two Gundams apart. The Destiny opened fire with its beam rifle immediately, but the black Destiny hesitated and Shoyou grinned. That little girl was no soldier.

"Don't do this again, Emily!" Shinn snapped, firing down on the Raider before it could attack. "Fight him!"

Emily shook her head she had trained, hadn't she? And she had fought twice before she could do this again, she told herself. She brought the beam rifle up and opened fire the Raider ducked around the shots, transforming back to mobile suit mode and bringing down its hammer. Emily threw the Twilight back, as she had been trained to do, and struggled to still her trembling hands. The Raider brought its hammer around again Emily yanked the controls back again, and the Twilight dodged the Raider's second hammer blow.

Shoyou scowled as the Destiny intervened with a wave of beam rifle blasts. "Raider Full Specs, get over here and hold off the Destiny!"

A volley of beam blasts sliced out of the heavens, cutting the Destiny off as the two Raider Full Specs arced towards the Destiny. Shoyou turned his eyes towards the Twilight. "And as for you, your little adventure is at an end!"

"They always get to have all the fun," Auel grunted as the Abyss took up its position on the Minerva's port flank. "We have to shoot down the missiles? Bah."

"It's what we have to do," Sting said. "Here they come!" The two Gundams spread out, weapons at the ready. Sting glanced over his shoulder. "The Storm Eagle has an onboard computer to dodge attacks. I'll go forward and shoot down as many as I can you get the rest."

"Thrilling," Auel sighed.

The Chaos took off, arming its beam rifle. Sting passed the crosshairs over the first missile and firing only to watch the missile duck down underneath the beam blast, deploying a quartet of stabilizers as it returned to its flight path towards the Minerva. Sting whirled around, firing again, picking the missile out of the sky only to watch in surprise as another one shot over his head, arcing down towards the Minerva's portside catapult.

"Auel!" Sting shouted.

"I see it!" Auel shot back. "You're mine!"

The Abyss somersaulted into the missile's path and opened fire with its beam cannons, slicing the missile out of the air with a thunderous fireball.

Sting turned his eyes back towards the horizon, where the rest of the missiles were waiting. "This will be more interesting than I thought..."

Athrun Zala let out a grunt as the Windam above him hurled a Stiletto penetrator down into his deployed beam shield, pushing him back with a cloud of smoke and fire. He squinted up through the flames, finding the Windam leveling off its beam rifle an instant later, the Infinite Justice Gundam rocketed out of the smoke, igniting its right-leg beam blade and tearing the Windam's rifle in two with a devastating kick. The Windam reeled back Athrun backed away behind his beam shield as his foe's comrades opened fire to cover their stricken ally.

"These guys can't be too good," he grunted. The Windam charged again, beam saber in hand, as its two comrades supported it with a volley of beam fire. Athrun's eyes flashed as he saw his opportunity

The Infinite Justice charged forward, igniting its beam boomerang blade, and with a shriek of torn metal, Athrun sawed through the Windam's waist before it could react. It went down with a thunderous explosion, and the Justice snapped its beam rifle up towards remaining two Windams, opening fire.

"Stella!" Athrun shouted. "Keep the Windams away from the ship!"

The Destiny Gundam danced around the blasts from the two Raider Full Spec units, afterimages shimmering in the air around it. Shinn squinted through the night sky as the two machines closed in, beam cannons blazing. He ducked aside as they shrieked by, and one of the Raiders seized both of its beam rifles from its sub-wing unit, detaching the sub-wing and sending it streaking towards the Destiny. Shinn's eyes flashed as the seed burst before him

With a crash, the Destiny somersaulted up and thrust its left arm out. The Destiny's solid shield went hurtling forward Shinn snapped up his beam rifle and fired down at the shield, bounding a beam shot off the anti-beam-coated surface and drilling it through the Raider's cockpit.

As the Raider died in a thunderous explosion, Shinn jetted up above another wave of beam blasts, letting the second Raider shoot by underneath him. It wheeled around for another pass, guns blazing a white bolt of energy sliced the air, and Shinn charged forward with a scream, smashing his palm cannon into the Raider's backpack and blasting his foe apart.

Even as the second Raider exploded, Shinn turned in surprise as two more Raider Full Specs came streaking in, beam guns blazing. He took the shots to his beam shield, whirling around as the Raiders passed by over his head only to gasp in disbelief as he saw the jet-black Raider Gundam looming over him, bringing down its hammer victoriously

A beam shot sliced out of the sky, drilling its way through the hammer and blasting it apart. Shoyou's eyes widened in fury.

"The hammer!" He threw the useless handle away. "You!"

Above them both, beam rifle extended, the Twilight Gundam's eyes flashed.

To be continued...