Phase 09 - A Bloodstained Sky

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED TWILIGHT

Phase 09 - A Bloodstained Sky

February 28th, CE 77 - Gulf of Gdansk, Baltic Sea

A volley of beams streaked down towards the Raider Gundam as the Twilight charged, beam rifle blazing. Inside the cockpit, the seed burst in Emily's mind's eye she had power, and her friend was in danger, so there was only one thing to do. The Twilight's beam wings flashed to life as the jet-black Gundam stormed forward.

"What the hell is this?!" Shoyou snapped. "You dare challenge me, little girl?!"

The Raider returned fire with its beam cannons, forcing the Twilight back behind its beam shield. Shoyou tore out his beam saber, sweeping it back and roaring forward. The Twilight ducked aside, leveling off its beam rifle and opening fire again Shoyou spiraled around the blasts and fired back.

"Keiko, Riley, hold off the Destiny!" Shoyou roared, glancing back at the two Raider Full Specs. "I will take out this one!"

Inside the Destiny, Shinn Asuka looked on in disbelief as Emily fought against Shoyou. A wave of beam blasts returned him to reality, and he whirled around to face the Raider Full Specs.

Earth Alliance Siegfried-class carrier plane Danube

"Target the Minerva's prow!" Reinhardt cried as the Danube sailed into battle. "Take out that positron cannon!"

The Danube creaked in protest as it banked to avoid a beam cannon salvo from the Minerva. Reinhardt grunted, gripping his chair's armrests and glaring at his legendary foe. The Minerva followed up its attack with a volley of missiles the Danube's CIWS emplacements answered to cut them out of the sky, and the Danube nosed up above the smoke.

"Gottfrieds, lock on and fire!" Reinhardt roared.

The Gottfrieds blazed, but the Minerva dove down beneath the blasts, and only one of them grazed the Minerva's bow, leaving not even a scratch.

"Sir, only one of our shots scored a glancing blow," the weapons officer began.

"Damn that armor!" Reinhardt snarled. "We'll never get through it with beam weapons alone! Load the Sledgehammers!"

Another Storm Eagle cruise missile lanced by the Chaos Gundam. Sting glanced over his shoulder, watching with satisfaction as the Abyss picked it out of the sky with a Callidus blast. The Chaos lunged up into the path of another missile, opening fire with its shield-mounted machineguns, and the missile went down with a flash of fire.

"The second wave is coming in," Sting said, glancing again at the Abyss. "You ready back there?"

Auel snorted contemptuously. "They're gonna have to do more than that to get by us!" he cackled. "Bring 'em on!"

Sting looked back towards the horizon. "I always regret it when people say that. Here they come!"

The second wave closed in, deploying their stabilizer blades and splitting up. Sting narrowed his eyes, concentrating and lifting the Chaos's gunbarrels off with a flash. The Chaos pointed forward with its shield the gunbarrels took off with a roar, spewing beam fire. As the missiles' computers automatically activated, and the missiles ducked to avoid the gunbarrels' fire, Sting snapped his beam rifle into position and opened fire, cutting down two of the missiles in midair. Three more shot by the Chaos an instant later, the Abyss let loose a blaze of beam cannon shots to tear them all of out of the sky.

"This is too easy," Auel scoffed.

"Yeah," Sting agreed. "There's gotta be more than this..."

"Dammit, these things are supposed to be obsolete!" Shinn growled, as the Destiny Gundam spiraled through the combined firepower of two Raider Full Specs. It whirled around and fired back with its beam rifle, but the two Raiders parted. Inside one of the Raiders, the pilot, Riley, glanced over towards his comrade.
"These damned afterimages! I can't get a lock!" The Raider lurched back to avoid a beam rifle shot. "Keiko, draw his attention and I'll sneak around behind him!"

Keiko's Raider went screaming in towards the Destiny, releasing its sub-wing unit and sending it shrieking towards the shimmering Gundam. Inside the cockpit, Shinn scowled, drawing his anti-ship sword and slashing the sub-wing in two. He charged towards the Raider as it pulled up, firing with its Ahura Mazda cannons Shinn smacked the shots aside with his sword's anti-beam-coated surface and charged, bringing the sword down with a crash. Keiko's Raider barely dodged the blow, but at the cost of one of its beam rifles.

"He's so fast!" Keiko cried.

Inside the Destiny, as Keiko's Raider scrambled to put distance between itself and the legendary Gundam, Shinn glanced anxiously over at the Twilight and the Raider Gundam.

"She's fighting him herself," he grunted. "I have to get over to her..."

The Infinite Justice quaked as the Windam team's missiles came pounding against its beam shield. Inside the cockpit, Athrun's eyes flashed as he glanced through the smoke at the Gaia Gundam over his shoulder.

"Stella, go!" he shouted.

The Gaia somersaulted off the Infinite Justice's subflight lifter, roaring up into the Windams' faces and delivering a punishing kick to the lead Windam's face. As the Alliance machine staggered back, Stella whipped up her beam rifle and fired, drilling a blast through the Windam's cockpit and blowing it apart. The remaining Windams opened fire, too late to save their comrade Stella pulled back behind her shield, buffeted by beam blasts.

"So many...!" she grunted, pushing back against the shots and returning fire.

"Not for long!" Athrun snapped the Justice lunged up next into the second Windam's face, and with a sickening crash, sawed through the Windam's waist with a beam blade-assisted kick. "There's only four left! Let's do this!"

Earth Alliance battleship Charlemagne, Pomeranian Voivodeship, Poland

"A battle?" Danilov leaned forward, intrigued, as the report came in from the sensor officer, with Vera close by.

"Gdansk Police called it in," the sensor officer answered. "The Shoyou unit, the Minerva, and a large number of Storm Eagle cruise missiles were spotted over the Gulf of Gdansk. The Sevastopol is in Pomeranian Bay, and it's reported to have launched the missiles."

"He's circumventing us," Vera observed, "substituting the Storm Eagles for us." She looked over at Danilov. "Captain, are we going to help him?"

Danilov furrowed his brow. "There's no point in offering a helping hand if he's not going to take it," he answered. "Nevertheless, he has the Minerva distracted and splitting its forces. Such a position is too advantageous for us to ignore."

"Then we would have to attack simultaneously," Vera replied, "and effectively support the Shoyou unit's operation."

Danilov sat back. "Kenta Shoyou can do what he likes," he said, "but the Charlemagne has a mission to fulfill, and if Shoyou cannot do it, then we will." He glanced over at the helm. "Take us in at flank speed. Order the mobile suit teams to prepare for combat we will launch an attack of our own on the Minerva, regardless of what the Shoyou unit is doing."

Riley's Raider Full Spec jolted violently as the Destiny Gundam blew off its sub-wing unit with a long-range beam cannon blast. He cursed as the Destiny escaped his return fire with a blinding array of afterimages.

"Even with that damned anti-ship sword, he can still move faster!" Riley snapped. "Keiko, the missiles! Let's lure him into their range!"

Keiko's Raider poured firepower after the Destiny, and spiraled aside as it returned the blasts in spades. "But that's too risky!" she exclaimed.

"It's better than fighting this guy in open sky!" Riley shouted. "Come on!"

The two Raiders edged away from the battlefield, guns blazing at the Destiny. Shinn narrowed his eyes, watching the Raiders retreat towards the cruise missiles' line of fire. Suicidal, maybe, but if that was how they wanted to die...

The Destiny brandished its sword and charged after the two Raiders, even as a volley of missiles approached. Riley's Raider whirled around, transforming to mobile suit mode and letting loose a barrage of beam rifle blasts. Shinn ducked around the blasts, leveling off his long cannon and firing back to blow away Riley's right-hand rifle. Keiko lined up for a volley of her own, but the Destiny dodged again, and her shots caught only afterimages.

"Damn you!" Riley shouted it drew a beam saber with its free right hand and charged. Shinn's eyes flashed

"You can try!" he screamed with expert precision, the Destiny somersaulted back, avoiding the Raider's beam saber swipe. With a crash, it followed with a devastating kick to the Raider's stomach, throwing it back

...and with a scream and a hideous shriek of metal, it staggered into the path of an incoming missile, impaled on the side of the warhead. A thunderous explosion ripped the two machines apart.

"Riley!" Keiko cried. "Dammit, that Destiny !"

Shinn narrowed his eyes and charged.

The beam sabers threw sparks as they clashed, and inside the cockpit of the Twilight, Emily blinked away the last vestiges of her fear. She had seen the seed she had tapped into the power of a Newtype now all that remained was to fight. She looked frantically for an opening, but a moment later, the Raider Gundam delivered a punishing kick to the Twilight's chest, sending it reeling back.

"That's twice you've deprived me of the Mjolnir!" Shoyou snarled. "I think it's time I deprive you of something!"

The Raider swept in, beam saber raised high Emily blinked in surprise as the instinct and the bolt of energy appeared again, and she swung her own saber into the Raider's path, blocking its blow. The Raider brought its leg up again

This time, Emily yanked back on the controls, and the Twilight hurled itself back, dodging the Raider's kick and letting it catch only a blurry cloud of afterimages. Shoyou snarled in frustration and fired his Zorn cannon. Emily felt the energy again as she activated her beam shield, deflecting it harmlessly.

"What kind of child are you?!" Shoyou yelled, closing in. He stabbed forward with his saber, screaming Emily saw the blow as time slowed, and with a scream of her own, swung her own saber up to parry the blow.

"I-I'm fighting him...!" she breathed, as the two Gundams glowered helplessly at each other. "I can do this! Come on! Beat this guy, Twilight!"

She slammed down on the booster, roaring forward and pushing the Raider in front of her. Shoyou grunted in surprise as his mobile suit was thrown back he keyed in a frequency and furrowed his brow.

"Vilnius Base, this is Lieutenant Colonel Kenta Shoyou!" he exclaimed, as he dodged a beam cannon blast from the Twilight. "Requesting reinforcements!"

There was a burst of static, and then a disbelieving cough. "Colonel, none are available," the operator on the other end answered.

"What?!" Shoyou screamed.

"The majority of our forces are engaged in anti-guerrilla activities " the operator started.

Shoyou's Raider rattled as its beam saber blow was blocked again by the Twilight's saber. "To hell with your anti-guerilla activities! I'm fighting the Minerva!" Shoyou bellowed. The Raider surged forward, pushing the Twilight back with a crash, and he went charging towards his reeling foe with a scream. "This little girl cannot defeat a warrior like me!"

Battleship Minerva

The Minerva rumbled as another cruise missile went up in flames uncomfortably close to the ship's hull. Roxy adjusted her earpiece in annoyance as she sat back up in the quaking bridge seat.

"Chaos and Abyss, could you two possibly try not to blow those things up right fucking next to us?!" she shouted.

"Hey, fuck you, I'd like to see you do better!" Auel's tinny voice shot back.
"Minerva, we're not going to get anywhere like this!" Sting interrupted. "We can't just sit here and snipe missiles, or else they'll just shoot off more and this'll never end!"

On the bridge, in his usual chair, Rau sat back. "Captain," he said, "may I suggest that you go on the offensive against the enemy Siegfried. So far we have only fought defensively against them."

"Our laminated armor can't take that many hits!" Chen protested from the weapons station.

"Those missiles..." Meyrin murmured, struggling to think like Talia. Would she be bold enough to try this? "Malik, see if you can lure that Siegfried-class into the path of the missiles."

"That would mean we'd be putting ourselves at risk for getting hit," Malik warned.

"Well, Sting and Auel will just have to keep us safe, then," Meyrin answered.

"Yeah, no pressure or anything!" Auel snorted.

"That's suicide!" Abbey exclaimed. "We don't have the armor to stand up to a Storm Eagle impact! If they hit the engines, it would knock us out of the sky!"

Meyrin pushed down the sickening ghosts of doubt it was what Talia would have done. "There's no other way," she said. "You have your orders!"

Stella let out a scream as the Gaia shouldered a Jet Windam, sending it reeling back. She snapped her rifle up to fire, but the Windam managed to block the blow with its shield, staggering for distance.

"I won't let you!" Stella shouted the Gaia lunged forward, twirling around and transforming into its quadruped mode in a flash. With a shriek of broken armor, the Gaia sliced one of its beam blades through the Windam's waist, and reverted back to mobile suit mode as the ruined Windam exploded.

Nearby, the Infinite Justice dodged the beam volleys of three Windams, deflecting shots with his shield. Athrun cast an uneasy glance at the Windams and the Gaia, gauging their positions in his mind's eye.

"Stella, cover me!" he cried. The Gaia let loose a torrent of beam blasts, forcing the Windams back Athrun charged forward, jamming his Grapple Stinger anchor into one of the Windams. It flailed for its beam saber Athrun yanked the Grapple Stinger back on its line, igniting his boomerang blade, and impaled the Windam through the cockpit, tossing it aside as it erupted into fire.

"Only two more!" Stella yelled the Gaia charged forward, spewing beam fire, as one of the Windams took cover behind its shield. Its beam rifle went spiraling away it drew a beam saber and stabbed forward ferociously, but Stella threw her shield up to block the blow.

Athrun took aim with his beam rifle at the Windam's exposed back, but the second Windam was there to spoil the shot with its shield, returning fire with its own rifle. Athrun skirted around the blasts and tore the rifle in two with a beam boomerang slash the Windam tossed away its ruined rifle and instead hurled a Stiletto into the Justice's exposed torso.

"Dammit!" Athrun snapped, as the blast sent him staggering back. "Am I getting slow?!" He switched to his beam sabers, slamming them together into a double-bladed saber, and charged through the smoke at his opponent. The Windam drew its own saber, and the two mobile suits came together in a shower of sparks.

The Twilight's beam rifle blazed as Emily opened fire on the Raider Gundam, struggling to hit the winged black machine as it darted across the night sky. Emily struggled to push down the panic as her shots sailed wide of the lightning-fast Raider.

"He's too fast!" she wailed the Raider whirled around and fired back with its beam cannons. Emily shrieked in fear and activated the beam shield. She shook her head violently she had to fight here, through the feelings and through the fear.

The Raider reverted to its mobile armor mode and took off, beam cannons blazing, snapping at the Twilight with its Ahura Mazda claws. Emily desperately took cover behind her beam shield, as the blasts drove her back.

"I can't be like this...!" she cried. "Come on, Twilight! Fight him!"

Inside the Raider, Shoyou scowled in disgust as he poured fire from his Ahura Mazda guns into the Twilight's beam shield. "I should have liked my first Gundam kill to be an illustrious ace," he scoffed, "and not a scared little girl!"

The Raider lined up for a killing shot with its Zorn cannon Emily screamed in fear and threw the Twilight to the side, just dodging the Raider's finishing blast.

"I can't do this, Shinn," Emily murmured, as another wave of beam blasts landed against her beam shield. "I can't do this!"

The Raider closed in, beam guns blazing Emily's widened as something went tearing through her mind. A flash of memory; soldiers, a screen, the stench of sweat and blood and gunpowder

The Twilight charged, ramming the Raider with its shoulder and sending Shoyou staggering back. He struggled for control, backing away with a blast from his thrusters.

"What the hell was that?!" he snapped. "Who is this child?!"

The Destiny danced effortlessly around another volley of beam blasts as Keiko struggled to keep up with the afterimage-spewing machine. Her Raider Full Spec whined in protest as she sent it into another dizzying maneuver, spiraling out of the way of the Destiny's return fire.

"I can't keep up with this guy...!" she grunted. "Where are my reinforcements!?"

The Destiny charged again, bringing its sword down with a crash that sent the Raider's left arm flying. Keiko screamed in surprise and sent the Raider jetting back just in time for the Destiny to saw off its right arm with the sword.

Inside the Destiny, Shinn glanced over his shoulder as the Raider clawed for distance. "The missiles...!" A trio of cruise missiles were streaking into the fray from behind the Destiny Shinn narrowed his eyes at them.

"I can still fight in mobile armor mode!" Keiko cried, as the Raider came screaming towards the Destiny in mobile armor mode, guns blazing. Shinn glanced over at it and scowled.

"The same mistake!" he shouted

The Destiny pointed up at the Raider with its free left hand, and with a flash, the three incoming missiles arced away from the Destiny and towards the Raider. Keiko yelped in surprise, opening fire, and two of the missiles vanished in plumes of fire but the third plunged through the smoke, and before she could scream again, the Raider disappeared in a burst of flame.

Shinn returned his sword to the rack on the Destiny's backpack, took up his beam rifle, and took off. Emily was still out there, and he was not going to break another promise.

Battleship Minerva

"CIWS, intercept!" Meyrin ordered the Minerva's CIWS emplacements opened fire with a wave of bullets, cutting another missile salvo from the Danube out of the sky. "We can't just sit here all night and circle each other! Isolde, target their nose! Set the shells' fuses to go off in front of their bridge!"

"Captain, I'm picking something up," Burt cut in. "That heat's the Charlemagne, distance 950!"

"The Charlemagne," Meyrin murmured. "We can't take them on head to head..."

"It looks like we'll have to," Rau pointed out. "At least we will be able to gauge their strength."

"Minerva!" came the tinny, static-broken voice of Shinn Asuka from Roxy's console. "I'll get rid of that Siegfried! You guys worry about the Charlemagne!"

"We're going to have to end this fight fast!" Abbey answered. "Are you sure "

"Activate the Tannhäuser," Meyrin interrupted. "Shinn, draw their fire! Malik, close us in and we'll take that thing out at point-blank range!"

Earth Alliance battleship Charlemagne

"Shoyou's unit is being torn apart," Danilov said grimly on the bridge of the Charlemagne, with Sven's flight-suited image on the main screen before him. "If he retreats, cover his escape there is no sense in letting his men die for their commander's intransigence. But our attack is our own, and the Charlemagne itself will be closing to fight the Minerva ship to ship."

"Understood," Sven said with a salute. "Bayan team, moving out."

The screen went dark. Danilov sat back at long last, the Charlemagne itself would enter battle. It had been built to answer the Minerva's speed and durability with overwhelming firepower now it was time to put it to the test.

"Release all the weapons, and load all missile tubes," he ordered. "Charge up the Lohengrins and Requiem X2. The Minerva's positron cannon cannot possibly match our firepower." He narrowed his eyes. "Charlemagne, flank speed!"

"Wha what is this?!" Emily cried, as the Twilight Gundam's beam rifle blazed. "This memory where did this memory come from!?"

The Raider darted around the Twilight's beam blasts with expert precision, closing in with its Ahura Mazda claws splayed. The Twilight threw itself back, deflecting the shots with its beam shield, and returning fire as the Raider banked to the side. Shoyou whirled around for another beam cannon volley with a scream, Emily smacked it aside with her beam shield and answered with a beam rifle shot that tore a long, smoldering gash along the Raider's torso.

"She hit me!?" Shoyou snarled, pulling up as the Twilight traced his path with more rifle blasts. "Is she just a little girl or not!?"

The Twilight took off with a roar, chasing down the Raider with a barrage of beam shots. Shoyou snarled and reverted the Raider back to its mobile suit mode, drawing his beam saber with a flash

The Raider brought its saber down through the Twilight's beam rifle, tearing it in two. Emily screamed in panic as it exploded in the Twilight's hand the Raider burst through the smoke, with Shoyou cackling.

"Let's see how much of a swordsman you really are, child!" he roared.

The Twilight drew its boomerang, the beam saber blade flashing to life, and swung back to block the Raider's blow. Shoyou surged forward, throwing the Twilight back, and lined up for a killing stab

"No!" Emily screamed the Twilight snapped its long beam cannon into position she shrieked in surprise as the Raider slashed it in two before she could fire, and the resulting explosion sent the Twilight hurtling back. "This guy...this guy is gonna kill me!"

"If I didn't know better," Shoyou laughed, "I'd swear this Gundam looks afraid of me!" He raised his beam saber for a killing blow. "Is that it, little girl?! Do you fear me?!"

The Raider closed in, beam saber raised high. Emily looked up in terror as it came crashing down

Instinct was there to send the Twilight's left arm punching forward, beam saber deployed, knocking the Raider back as it brought its saber down. Shoyou's eyes bulged in disbelief as the Twilight parried his blow and sent his Raider reeling with a jarring kick to the chest.
"You're only supposed to be some little slave," he growled. "Who are you?!"

The shells from the Minerva's Isolde cannon exploded early as they were cut down by a wave of CIWS bullets. The Danube quaked from the blow inside the approaching Destiny Gundam, Shinn narrowed his eyes. It was only a plane, and had no levitator punch enough holes in it and it would go down in flames.

"Minerva, cover me!" he shouted.

The Destiny charged, brandishing its sword. The Danube's Gottfrieds turned towards him and fired, as the ship's starboard CIWS emplacements let loose a murderous hurricane of bullets. The Destiny expertly spiraled around the blasts, letting the CIWS bullets bounce harmlessly off the Destiny's Phase Shift armor. The Danube fired a wave of missiles Shinn pushed them back with a scream, as the X-DRAGOON amplifier flashed to life and stopped the missiles in midair, letting the CIWS guns shred them before they could adjust their fire. The Destiny plowed through the smoke, but the Gottfrieds and CIWS put up a buffeting wall of firepower that forced Shinn back behind his beam shield.

"This won't work," he growled. "But those "

The Destiny's eyes lit up the sky with a flash, as the Gundam pointed up into the air. An instant later, a cluster of the Storm Eagle cruise missiles appeared there Shinn let his mobile suit's arm fall, pointing towards the Danube, and the missiles took off with a roar. The CIWS guns claimed three of the Storm Eagles, but the fourth and fifth struck home, blowing off the starboard wing and punching a gaping hole in the rear of the plane.

"Minerva!" Shinn shouted. "Now!"

The Minerva responded with a pulsing blast from its Tannhäuser cannon, ramming the shot through the middle of the Danube and snapping it in two with a blaze of fire. Shinn swept in, screaming, and smashed his sword into the Danube's bridge. He winced as a cluster of human lives disappeared but that was what had to be.

The Destiny took off as the Danube collapsed down towards the ocean and exploded.

"Go away!" Stella screamed, as the Gaia Gundam charged, beam saber held high. The Windam tensed, waiting for its chance to strike at the Gaia's outstretched arm. Stella never provided it instead she thrust her shield forward, ramming into the Windam and throwing it back. Twirling the saber in her hand, she brought it down with a forceful stab into the Windam's torso, tearing it in two with a jarring shriek of metal.

Even as the Windam exploded, she backed away behind her shield and scanned the skies for Athrun. Nearby, he somersaulted over the last Windam's head, whirling around with his beam boomerang blade ignited. The Windam turned to face him Athrun sawed through it with a crash, ducking aside as it died its fiery death.

"The Charlemagne is on its way," Athrun said, glancing over towards Stella and switching back his beam rifle. "And that means it'll probably be sending a bunch of Dark Windams."

"They're not scary!" Stella said confidently.

Athrun smiled back grimly. "No, they're not," he agreed. "Let's go show them how scary we can be!"

Shinn's eyes widened in surprise as the familiar feeling of danger shot up his spine. He slammed on the Destiny's brakes, just in time for a shimmering volley of beam blasts to streak through the air in front of him. Off to the side, three mobile suits were charging in, beam guns deployed and Shinn narrowed his eyes at the Blu Duel and the Verde Buster, flanking their lord and master, the Strike Noir.

"I should have known you guys would show up!" Shinn snarled, whirling around and opening fire with his beam rifle. The Strike Noir and Blu Duel charged, the latter deflecting his shots with its shield, as the Verde Buster peeled off and leveled off its beam cannons. Shinn backed away from the Verde Buster's blasts, drawing his sword the Blu Duel lunged in close with its saber, while the Strike Noir struck with its swords.

"Just as we planned!" Sven shouted, as the Gundams came together with a crash. "Shams, now!"

The Verde Buster attacked again, pounding a railgun shell into the Destiny's solid shield and blasting it apart. Shinn hacked through the smoke, finding nothing in front of him the white bolt split the air in front of him, and he whirled around to block the Blu Duel's saber with his sword. The Strike Noir rose up behind him, swords drawn Shinn punched upward with his beam shield to block the Noir's blow. The Verde Buster fired again Shinn narrowed his eyes, throwing both Gundams back as he somersaulted around the shots and backed away.

"They're covering each other's weaknesses," he growled. The Verde Buster fired again Shinn ducked aside, only to find the Noir upon him with both swords. He swung back, stopping the Noir cold the Blu Duel charged up behind him, hurling a trio of Stiletto's into the Destiny's exposed back. Shinn grunted as his Gundam rattled, and ducked aside to dodge another twin sword stroke from the Noir.

The Blu Duel charged, beam saber extended for a killing stab. Shinn smacked its saber aside with his sword, but before he could exploit the opening, the Verde Buster fired its beam cannons to force him back. The Noir lunged over the Verde Buster's shots, bringing its swords down onto the Destiny's blade and forcing it back.

"He can't attack if we give him no opening!" Sven said. "Mudie!"

The Blu Duel skirted in behind the Destiny, beam saber pulled back Shinn's eyes flashed

"You think that'll work!?" he screamed the Destiny swung its sword around, throwing the Noir back, and jammed it into the path of the Blu Duel's saber, blocking the blow. The Noir charged in again, swords extended Shinn batted its swords aside with his beam shield, and leapt up again to dodge another blast from the Verde Buster. "Dammit...they aren't going to beat me like this!"

Battleship Minerva

"If we attack first, we won't have to find out just how powerful the Charlemagne is," Meyrin said, praying that this would work. "All guns, target the Charlemagne's bridge tower and fire!"

The Minerva rumbled obediently as the Tristans and Isolde boomed, but the Charlemagne ponderously ducked down beneath the blow, letting every shot pass by overhead harmlessly. Meyrin's eyes widened in fear as the Charlemagne's guns angled to match

"Malik, pull up!"

The Minerva moaned in protest as Malik jammed the ship back, yanking it up into the air just as the Charlemagne fired with three salvos of a hurricane of beam blasts, followed by a storm of railgun shells. The Minerva pulled away, as Meyrin looked back in shock at the Charlemagne.

"That ship's firepower is considerable," Rau commented. "But this ship has the advantage in maneuverability."

"If they hit us with one of those salvos, we're screwed," Abbey said. "Captain "

"I know!" Meyrin cried. She shook her head the captain could show no fear. "Malik, I'll leave the evasive maneuvers to you! Try to get us somewhere where all those guns can't target us!"

The Charlemagne fired again with another repeating wave of Gottfried blasts Malik plunged the Minerva down beneath the blasts.

"Tristans, Isolde, return fire!" Meyrin shouted.

She watched in frustration as the Charlemagne once again ducked beneath the blasts to think they had made this ship just to fight the Minerva...

Grey cackled in glee as he locked sabers with the Infinite Justice Gundam, glowering into its two green eyes. "This is more like it!"

The Slaughter Windam surged forward, putting the thrust of its Aile Striker pack behind it, throwing the Justice back. It ignited its beam boomerang, swiping at the Windam with the shimmering blade an instant later, it pulled back behind its beam shield as Grey's three Jet Dark Windam wingmen came streaking in, beam rifles blazing.

"Box him in!" Grey shouted. "I'll take him on close!" The Slaughter Windam charged, saber pulled back the Infinite Justice lunged forward, drawing its own saber and stabbing forward ferociously. Grey batted the blow aside with his saber, but the Justice rammed him with his shoulder and sent him staggering back.

"You're only a Phantom Pain pilot!" Athrun snapped, eyes flashing as his beam blade kick was stopped by the Windam's shield. "I've faced better pilots than you before!" The Justice brought its saber down on the Windam's. The other three Jet Windams lined up for killing blasts Athrun darted backward, deflecting their shots with his beam shield. The Slaughter Windam swept in again with another saber stroke

The Infinite Justice somersaulted over the Slaughter Windam's head, and Grey yelped in surprise as his foe passed over him. Athrun whirled around to face the Windam again, but the white bolt was there to stop him instead he threw the Justice downward, dodging the other three Windams' beam rifle blasts.

"Dammit," Athrun growled, dropping into a dizzying dive behind his beam shield. "This Phantom Pain..."

Screaming furiously, Stella cut the IWSP Windam's beam boomerang out of the sky with a beam rifle blast. The Windam lined up for a blazing cannon volley Stella deflected the blasts with her shield, only to go reeling back behind a cloud of smoke. The Windam burst through, showering the Gaia with Gatling gun fire.

"You can't hurt me!" Stella screamed, lunging back towards the Windam and ramming it with her shoulder. The Windam staggered back, drawing one of its swords, and charged again Stella switched to her beam saber, stopping the Windam's sword stroke cold.

"Windam team, take the Gaia down!" Merau cried the three Jet Dark Windams behind her opened fire. The Gaia somersaulted back, leaping over the blasts, beam saber in hand, and showered the four Windams in CIWS fire. "Dammit, what does it take to stop these things?!"

The Gaia charged with a scream from its pilot, stabbing forward with its saber. Merau parried the blow with her sword the Gaia kicked back into the Windam's stomach, knocking it off balance, but before Stella could follow up the blow, Merau drew her second sword and sent it hurtling towards the Gaia. Stella took cover behind her shield as the sword slammed into her, sending the Gaia reeling backward.

"You'll take me back to Neo..." Stella grunted, as the Gaia shook and took more beam blasts to its shield. "I won't let you!"

Battleship Minerva

"Missiles approaching!" Burt cried Meyrin scanned the skies, finding a typhoon of missiles bearing down on the Minerva from the Charlemagne.

"CIWS, take them down!" she cried the Minerva's CIWS lanced up into the air, and the dying warheads threw up a titanic cloud of smoke in their wake. "Malik, increase speed! Our visibility !"

"Increasing speed!" Malik answered, as the Minerva rumbled.

"Captain, Auel and Sting report that they've cleared out the missiles!" Roxy added from the comm console. "They want to be released to help Athrun and Stella!"

"But we need them to attack the Charlemagne!" Abbey protested.

"They'll never get through all those guns," Meyrin cut her off. "Let them go! Burt, give me the Charlemagne's position "

"Brace for impact!" Rau roared, cutting her off. Meyrin looked up in surprise at him

A moment later, the Minerva shuddered violently, and Meyrin nearly went flying from her chair, as the Charlemagne pounded a full salvo of blasts into the Minerva's front half. The Tannhäuser vanished in a plume of fire, and the portside Tristan buckled and exploded nearby, rattling the bridge and the floor and everything, into Meyrin's brain. She watched helplessly as the Isolde was blown off by a Gottfried blast, and the entire port side of her ship began to furiously smolder and smoke.

"Oh bloody hell, how did this happen?!" Abbey screamed. "Captain !"

"Minerva!" Sting's broken voice came through on the comm console. "What the hell just happened?! Are you all alright?!"

Meyrin glared up at the Charlemagne, grinding her teeth. It'll take more than that to sink us!

"Give me a damage report!" she shouted, sitting back up and feeling her blood run hot. "Is the levitator still working?!"

"We can still fly and maneuver, captain," Malik said. "They focused their fire on the prow and the Tannhäuser!"

"But we lost the Tannhäuser, the Isolde, the portside Tristan, and every portside CIWS emplacement and missile tube!" Chen protested. "The starboard Tristan's power conduits have been damaged! What are we going to attack them with?!"

"Captain, four more Storm Eagles approaching from the rear!" Burt cried. "The Chaos and Abyss "

"I know!" Meyrin cut them all off, sitting up, silencing them all with the force in her voice. The Minerva had survived impossible odds before, under Talia Gladys but Meyrin Hawke would not let this ship go down with her in the captain's chair. "Malik, get those missiles on our tail, now! Then set us on a ramming course for the Charlemagne!"

"What?!" Abbey screamed, as the bridge's occupants turned their eyes on Meyrin. "We're going to ram them?!"

"Just do it!" Meyrin shot back.

In his chair, Rau sat back and smiled as the wounded Minerva turned back towards the battle.

"Shit! The Minerva!" Shinn screamed, as the Destiny whirled its way through the Verde Buster's relentless fire. He had felt no lives go out on the ship, but there was panic and fear especially on the bridge. Could Meyrin save the ship?

Shinn glanced bitterly at the Devil's Swords as they kept up their attack. If Meyrin could not, then Shinn would but first he had to get rid of these three first.

"He can't hold us off forever!" Sven shouted. "Mudie, Shams, go!"

The Noir charged in, swords raised. Shinn darted aside, letting the Noir pass through only afterimages an instant later, the Verde Buster opened fire, pounding a volley of shots into Shinn's beam shield. The Blu Duel rose up behind the Destiny, saber raised Shinn screamed as the seed burst before him

With a crash, Shinn sent his left arm shooting up, seizing the Blu Duel by the wrist. He whirled around, using the Blu Duel's body to smash the Noir aside. The Verde Buster leveled its rifles off again Shinn swung the Blu Duel into the Verde Buster's line of fire.

"Let go of me, you bastard!" Mudie shrieked, wrenching the Blu Duel from the Destiny's grip. The Destiny's eyes flashed as it brought its sword down through the Blu Duel's right shoulder, sawing down through its right leg and slicing its sub-wing unit in two. "What?!"

"Mudie!" Shams shouted. The Destiny kicked the Blu Duel down out of the sky, and darted aside as the Noir charged in, swords drawn.

"Shams, open fire!" Sven shouted.

"But Mudie " Shams began.

"That's an order!"

The Verde Buster leveled off its rifles and opened fire. The Destiny danced between the blasts, its pilot screaming, and lunged up into the Verde Buster's face with a crash, the Destiny sliced off both of Shams' arms, sending his weapons clattering out of the sky, and followed it up with a devastating kick to knock the Verde Buster off its sub-wing.

"Both of them...?!" Sven growled, switching to his beam pistols. He glared up at the Destiny as it whirled around, kicking the Verde Buster's sub-wing down at the Noir Sven opened fire with his beam pistols, blowing them apart, and ducked down as the Destiny followed the attack up with a long cannon blast.

"He can't be stopped in a one-on-one fight," Sven growled.

The Strike Noir holstered its pistols and plunged down after its comrades. Inside the Destiny, Shinn switched back to his beam rifle and turned towards the battlefield.

Earth Alliance battleship Charlemagne

"Captain, the Minerva has four missiles on its tail," the sensor officer reported. "It looks as if they only have one battleship-grade weapon left."

"Have we won?" Vera asked breathlessly. Danilov narrowed his eyes at the Minerva as it staggered through the air, belching smoke and sparks.

"As long as that thing can still move, no we haven’t," he said. "Prepare all guns on Pattern Delta! There's no way they'll survive this one!"

"Wait, sir " the sensor officer cried. "The Minerva is launching missiles!"

"CIWS," Danilov began, "open "

Before he could finish, the Minerva's own CIWS emplacements opened fire, and it cut its own missiles out of the sky. Danilov blinked in disbelief, as a massive cloud of smoke rose up into the Charlemagne's line of fire.

"Captain, the visibility !" the weapons officer cried.

"A smokescreen!" Vera shouted.

"All guns, fire!" Danilov roared. The Charlemagne's guns boomed, their pulsing blasts ripping the cloud apart but Danilov's eyes bulged in horror as the guns caught nothing but air.

"Where ?!" Vera cried.

The Minerva smashed through the smoke with its ruined prow, charging forward, straight towards the Charlemagne.

"Are they going to ram us?!" Vera screamed.

"All guns, turn and target the Minerva!" Danilov shouted.

"Too late!"

The Charlemagne quaked as the Minerva pulled up, soaring over the Charlemagne's dorsal side and blasting by the bridge tower. Danilov grunted as his vessel shook

"Captain! The Storm Eagles have locked onto us!" the sensor officer screamed. Danilov's eyes went wide in disbelief

"All hands, BRACE FOR IMPACT!"

Danilov gripped the armrests of his chair until his hands were white as the Charlemagne rocked. Outside, the four missiles that had been tailing the Minerva came slamming into the hull of the Charlemagne. The mammoth battleship lurched, and Danilov hissed in fury as red lights began to flash and alarms began to sound.

"Captain, the levitator has been damaged!" the helmsman cried. "We're losing altitude!"

"Minerva is 675 to our rear! It appears to be retreating!" the sensor officer added.

"They're getting away!" Vera exclaimed. "How many guns are still "

"We can't fight with a damaged levitator," Danilov growled. "Recall our mobile suits." Vera looked over at him in disbelief. "Helm, set course at best possible speed for the Vilnius base." He glanced back at his winged foe as it sailed into the early morning sky. "Well done, Minerva..."

The Raider rocked as the Twilight brought its saber down on Shoyou's blade. In the cockpit, Shoyou blinked in surprise as the information came by on his screen.

"The Charlemagne ?!" he exclaimed. "But how?!"
The Twilight surged forward, throwing him back. He leveled off his beam cannons and fired, forcing the Twilight back behind its beam shield.

"Even a ship like that," Shoyou snarled. "Danube, come in! Reinhardt!" He scanned the skies angrily. "Where the hell is it!?" The sensors beeped urgently Shoyou looked up, and threw his beam saber up to block the Twilight's downward hack. "Not today, little girl! I will not be denied my victory!" The Raider roared forward, sending the Twilight reeling. "NOW DIE!"

Inside the Twilight, Emily's eyes flashed as the bolt appeared before her she saw the Raider sweep back its saber for a killing blow with a scream, she charged forward, jabbing her beam shield forward to knock the Raider's saber arm aside. With a crash, she brought her saber down through the Raider's waist, ripping the Raider in two

Shoyou died with a scream as a plume of fire filled the cockpit.

Emily squeezed her eyes shut as the Raider exploded and the feeling of death stabbed into her mind. She looked over in surprise as the Twilight rattled, finding the Destiny over her shoulder, stopping her from reeling backward.

"Emily, the Minerva is retreating," Shinn's voice said, garbled and distant to Emily's battle-numbed ears. "Let's get out of here!"

The two Gundams with the wings of light took off, as the Raider's wreckage fell to the earth.

To be continued...