Phase 10 - Murmansk

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED TWILIGHT

Note: This time the language skills I lack are Russian in nature, and since I'm not sure how fond various web browsers are of Cyrillic, I have no idea if the characters will even show up properly. But if you do know Russian and can a) see it and b) Romanize it, please let me know. is wonderful and all, but it's famously not a live human, so it's just not the same. And once again, I'll go get some real translations once I hit the editing phase, so for now it's just a placeholder so in the meantime, you Russian-speakers can just laugh at the weird translations.

Phase 10 - Murmansk

March 1st, CE 77 - Earth Alliance battleship Charlemagne, Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia

The Charlemagne staggered through the air, leaving behind it a thick trail of smoke and flame. The mechanics had left the mobile suits aside in the hangar for the time being while they struggled to get the ship to the nearby Vilnius base in Lithuania, but that would be difficult at best. The Minerva's last-minute suicide run had rammed four high-powered Storm Eagle cruise missiles into the Charlemagne's hull, and the fact that the Charlemagne could still fly at all was a testament to the ship's design because not many things could still function after being hit with a Storm Eagle.

Vera sighed heavily on the bridge as she glanced over the latest damage report. "The levitator has been holding on auxiliary power," she said, "and we've got Dual-Gottfried Two and Three reconnected on emergency conduits, in case we need to fight. But there have been no reports of Resistance units between here and Vilnius." She shook her head. "To think we were defeated so quickly..."

Danilov sat back tiredly. "Well, we inflicted plenty of damage on them in the meantime," he replied. "And at any rate, the captain of the Minerva is either very brave or very crazy. But either way, whoever is in charge of that ship has some skills." He stood up. "I'll leave the bridge to you there's not much more I can do here, and I'm going to have to explain to Lord Djibril and Marshal Markav why we were defeated in our first match with the Minerva."

"Understood, sir," Vera said. "And good luck Command is not going to be happy."

"Are they ever," Danilov chuckled.

Battleship Minerva, Baltic Sea

The mechanics were happy enough to leave the mobile suits alone, so Emily could only gaze anxiously at the ruined end of the Twilight Gundam's long-range beam cannon. The battle had been taxing, to say the least the instinct had returned, to save her life, to give her the strength to fight, to destroy that Raider Gundam. But she could not explain how that instinct had come to pass not when she had only the training Shinn had managed to give her in the days before that engagement. She was an amateur, yet she had bested a pilot who seemed to be an ace. But how?

"Brooding about it isn't gonna fix it," a familiar voice pointed out. Emily glanced over her shoulder, where Shinn Asuka stood, arms crossed. "The mechanics will get to it when we arrive at Poljarny."

Emily looked back up at the Twilight. "Poljarny...why are we going there?"

Shinn stepped up next to her, stuffing his hands in his pockets. "It's a Resistance base," he explained. Emily glanced over at him in surprise. "It used to be a shipyard belonging to the Russian Federation and the Eurasian Federation. The Resistance took it over and managed to defend against countless Alliance attacks, and now it's a stronghold." He shrugged. "We were at the battle where the Alliance made its biggest push to dislodge us from Poljarny, back in the spring of '76. It was pretty nasty. But the good news is we can take a breather there. We've got strongholds like this all over the world."

"...will we be safe there?" Emily asked.

"About as safe as anyone in the Resistance can be," Shinn answered. "But we won't get there 'til tomorrow morning, so you might want to find some way of occupying yourself." He turned and headed off, towards the Destiny. Emily watched him go numbly for a moment, before she looked back up at the Twilight.

"At best speed, we won't be at Murmansk until about 0700 tomorrow morning," Malik reported. He glanced at the helm's digital clock. "And it's 2200 now."

In the captain's chair, Meyrin sat back tiredly. "At least we've managed to stay airborne," she said. "And nobody has attacked us, so as long as our luck there holds, we should be able to get to Poljarny without event."

"The repairs will take several days, however," Abbey pointed out, consulting her own station. "We can't afford to be holed up in dry dock for too long."

"We'll deal with that when we get to Poljarny," Meyrin said. "I'll leave the bridge to you, Abbey," she added, standing up and rubbing her eyes. "Inform me if anything bad happens."

Roxy heaved a sigh. "Somethin' bad always happens."

March 2nd, CE 77 - The Capitol Building, Washington DC, Atlantic Federation

The United States of America still existed as a political entity, and ruled a panorama of fifty states sprawled across the North American continent. Although the Atlantic Federation was officially a cooperative among its member nations, it was in actuality ruled by the United States President. Some countries surrendered that sovereignty willingly, others not so willingly, but the power in the Atlantic Federation lay in Washington DC. If one was to speak to the power in the world's most powerful nation, then Washington DC was the venue of choice.

And that is why Lord Djibril stood up in the House of Representatives Chamber, with OMNI Enforcer's dramatic flag draped behind him, behind the rostrum with a joint session of Congress arrayed before him. He glanced at the faces around the sprawling chamber, particularly the one seated up behind him the wizened, mummy-like new President, Evander Vasserot, had been the Vice President of Joseph Copland, and taken the reins of power after Copland's mysterious disappearance at the end of the Junius War. It helped to have an actual friend in charge of the Atlantic Federation normally he would have had to pull all sorts of other strings to make this address.

The roaring applause slowly died down, as Djibril adjusted the lapels of his crisp black suit. His adoring public awaited.

"Congress of the United States of America," he began, loudly and grandly, "I begin by thanking you for your continued support for the Earth Alliance. The Atlantic Federation has provided much and sacrificed much to make this global union of nations work. I spoke these words of thanks before the assemblies of the Eurasian Federation, the Republic of East Asia, and the South African Union as well, but this great alliance is impossible without the cooperation of all members and for that, I thank you."

The chamber erupted into applause. Djibril stood back, waiting for it to die down again.

"The forces of the Resistance continue to fight us," he continued, "and so there is still need for this worldwide alliance of nations to combat those who would wring from us the world we worked and bled to build. The Resistance is still strong and it must be crushed. And that is why I come before you to urge you to continue your support for the Earth Alliance, with gold and guns, with words and warriors. The dark hand of the Resistance has reached even to America, where the tragedies and attacks are painfully common. Only united can we bring these cowards and criminals to justice."

More applause. Djibril suppressed a smile an audience of politicians who all had to look supportive was always the best audience.

"The Earth Alliance has a strong policy agenda that it would like to see implemented for the year of Cosmic Era 77," Djibril continued. "If you'll permit me," knowing full well that they would, "I would like to outline it for you..."

Battleship Minerva, Poljarny Inlet Naval Installation, Russia

There were many duties of the captain that irked Meyrin Hawke to no end, but one of the most odious in her mind was greeting the Minerva's many visitors. Although not always, they were usually surprised to find not a grizzled, aged, scarred, and extremely male captain with the white cap, but a nineteen-year-old girl who, four years ago, had been nursing a crush for the man who was now the hero of the Resistance. It managed to annoy her, because even with the low confidence she had in her own abilities, she felt that there was no need for them to be so open about their disbelief. Talia had not been so old when she took command of the Minerva, after all.

Meyrin suspected that the same thoughts were going through Abbey's head, as the bridge doors opened and an aging man in the blue uniform of a Russian Navy admiral emerged onto the bridge of the Minerva. He offered Meyrin and Abbey a salute; they both returned it, and Meyrin reached out to shake his hand. Just because she was a girl, she told herself, did not mean she could not act like a commander.

"Captain Hawke, welcome to Poljarny!" the man said. "I am Admiral Aleksandr Pegodin, commandant of the Poljarny Inlet base. I must say, it is a surprise to see someone as young as you in command of such a legendary vessel."

"There are people younger than us fighting this war, admiral," Meyrin assured him, crushing the annoyance in her voice, as he reached over to shake Abbey's hand. "That we are simply the ones in charge of a unit in this war is to be expected."

"Well, clearly you must have either skills or the grace of God," Pegodin said. "Either way, it is our honor to host you here. Feel free to make repairs and take on supplies in peace we will support you so long as your ship is berthed in our dock."

"It will be a few days, at least," Abbey warned. "The Charlemagne and the Shoyou unit did quite a number on us."

"So I heard," Pegodin chuckled. "They say a new pilot of yours was the one who brought down the Sky Samurai." His eyes dimmed with sadness. "My son was in the Neo-Bolsheviks...I am sure he would be happy, were he here."

"Kenta Shoyou can't harm anyone ever again," Abbey said. "So may your son's soul rest easy."

"Yes, yes," Pegodin agreed. "But enough of that. We have work to do. You say you will need to be here for a few days? You are welcome here, then please, allow Poljarny's mechanics to assist your men repairing your ship."

"That really won't be necessary " Meyrin started. Pegodin interrupted with a throaty laugh.

"Captain Hawke, it would be our pleasure!" he exclaimed. "I don't think you understand the high esteem you are held in here. Don't forget that among your many exploits was helping us establish this base!"

Meyrin glanced back at Abbey that had been one hell of a battle.

"It was more Shinn who did that than us," Abbey protested.

"And there are people who worship young Asuka as though he were a god," Pegodin answered, "but you must not cheat yourselves of your reputation! You are the heroes of the Resistance and so you are more than welcome here." He took a step back. "I am afraid that I have business of my own, both as pertains to your stay here and the usual trials and tribulations of running a military base. But I urge you to please make yourselves at home."

"Before you go," Abbey said, glancing again at Meyrin and receiving a tacit nod, "I do have a question. This base is not far from both the Vilnius base and the Svalbard Islands. Has the Alliance attacked recently?"

Pegodin shook his head. "There is an Alliance fleet massing at Svalbard, I hear," he said, "but I've nothing to substantiate it with, and there's no indication at any rate that their target is Poljarny. Still, we remain vigilant." He offered them another hesitantly-returned salute. "My head of mechanics will be up shortly to deal with the details of repairing your ship. Until then, good day."

As Pegodin disappeared out the door, Meyrin heaved a sigh, scratching her head. "I feel weird being a hero," she mumbled.

"Mom always said I'd be famous," Abbey grumbled. "Let's go see if the head mechanic is so sycophantic."

The biting cold was no stranger to Emily von Oldendorf as she wrapped her faded blue coat tightly around herself. The Minerva was safely in dock, and so some of the crew was heading into the city. Emily had decided to go with Shinn, hoping to see the sights and be a little safer...and because if only for a little while, she wanted to be far away from the sterile walls and crushing confinement of the Minerva.

Shinn Asuka emerged from the Minerva's gangway, hands in his pockets. He nodded to her as she fell into step next to him. "They're holding a car for us," he said. "We'll be here for a few days, so we might as well go into the city and enjoy the open space while we "

Shinn and Emily both blinked in surprise at the sound of shouting. Emily looked around urgently, hoping there wouldn't be a problem and a moment later, something came flying out of nowhere, straight into Shinn. He yelped in surprise, staggered back, and blinked helplessly

Emily paused and looked on in confusion as a girl in a parka pressed a passionate kiss against Shinn's lips. He sputtered helplessly as she finally pulled away far enough for him to breathe.

"Shinn Asuka!" the dark-haired girl cried, her face aglow with a smile. "Вы наконец возвратились! Я знал, что Вы будете!"

"Wh-what?" Shinn sputtered. "Do I know you?"

"Es ist die Flügel des Lichts! Aussehen!" another voice shouted, as bodies began to converge around the two, and the girl pressed another kiss against Shinn's scarred cheek.

"Sorry about that, my friend!" someone laughed, in a language that Shinn could finally understand. A gloved hand seized Shinn by the arm and yanked him free of the girl's grip, as she reached after him. Shinn blinked up at the huge bearded man who was his apparent savior. "Tatyana has had her heart set on you ever since she was in a tank crew at the Battle of Minsk."

"Oh, right, that," Shinn said uncomfortably, glancing back at her. She threw her arms around Shinn again, with a third kiss.

"Вы спасли мою жизнь! Вас посылал Бог!" she exclaimed.

"I really should've taken those extra language classes in school," Shinn said, awkwardly trying to pat her on the shoulder, and pulling away as she tried to reach into his coat. "Whoa, not so fast there!"

"Shinn, what is all this?" Emily protested, looking around in confusion. "Are you this famous?"

"You don't know?" the bearded man laughed, his voice somehow ringing about above the voices in a thousand languages and the eager faces converging around Shinn Asuka. "This man is the hero of the Resistance!"

Shinn blinked in surprise as his gloved hands were taken by those of a young, thin blond man, who stared at him with shimmering blue eyes.

"Thanks be to you," he said in a broken, stammering voice, one hand clutching a wooden crucifix, "the man who has saved us from death! Christ be with you!"

Another pair of arms threw themselves around Shinn's shoulders, and Shinn found himself locking lips with another girl. He blinked helplessly as hands and arms all centered on him, and dozens of battle-weary soldiers greeted him as their messiah.
Emily stood to the side, watching in disbelief as Shinn struggled to extricate himself from the mass of bodies. He glanced back at her the hero of the Resistance indeed, the man whose exploits sent Lord Djibril into fits, the man that some people compared to Che Guevara, being exalted by his comrades. She watched as the soldiers had hope, the glow of happiness as they celebrated their hero.

"Hey, guys, can y'all loosen up a bit?" Shinn coughed. "I kinda can't breathe here." His eyes went wide, his face red. "And get your hands out of there!"

Slowly and with no shortage of embarrassed grumbling, he untangled himself with the help of the bearded man. "I suspect you're on your way out," he chuckled, "so I suppose we should let you be on your way." He turned towards some of the soldiers. "Возвратитесь, чтобы работать!"

The first girl seized Shinn by the shoulders, gazing solemnly into his blinking crimson eyes. "Я буду ждать Вас, Shinn Asuka! Я ваш!" She managed to steal one more kiss before the bearded man pulled her away.

"Татьяна, он вероятно уже получен подруга," the bearded man said.

"Тогда я могу быть другим!" the girl shot back, as the bearded man shoved her away.

"My apologies, comrade," the bearded man said. "You'd best leave now while you've still got the chance. There are a few girls here who declared they're saving their virginity for you."

"Wow, that's more than I wanted to know," Shinn sputtered. "I'm outta here. Thanks." He seized Emily by the arm and dragged her away, as the bearded man returned to shouting in Russian at the soldiers.

"Is it like this all the time?" Emily asked, as Shinn yanked her towards the beat-up jeep waiting at the edge of the tarmac. "I don't wanna go with you if there are crowds like this all over the place."

"Remind me to tell you about my week in the Caribbean last year," Shinn said crossly. "Get in, before anyone else sees me."

Svalbard Arctic Regional Base, Svalbard Islands, Arctic Sea

"The Minerva?"

Admiral Bartholomew Stone of the Phantom Pain turned in surprise at the words of the nervous Earth Alliance Navy petty officer standing in the doorway of the war room.

"Yes sir," the petty officer stammered. "They docked early this morning. Intel expects them to stay for a few days to repair the damage incurred by the Charlemagne and the Shoyou unit."

"The Charlemagne sets out to prove its worth and this is what happens," Stone said with a sigh. "Very well then. You are dismissed."

The petty officer disappeared with a curt salute, and closed the door behind himself. Stone turned back towards the captains of the vessels of his fleet, all in the blue uniforms of the Earth Alliance Navy, arrayed before him.

"If the Minerva is there," a commander spoke up, "then shouldn't we rethink this plan? The Minerva is no ordinary "

"Of course not," Stone interrupted, waving the protests off. "The attack on Poljarny and Murmansk will proceed as planned."

"Even so, with the Minerva present, sir, I believe we should adjust our plans to compensate," a commodore said. "They are a powerful unit, and even if the ship itself is in dry-dock, we all know that it is the Minerva's mobile suits that cause the most damage in battle."

"I know that," Stone answered. "But the Alliance has spent so much time focusing on mopping up guerrillas that it has lost sight of the greater picture. Now the Resistance has been able to establish strongholds like Poljarny all over the world. Once they consolidate these holdings, they will be able to begin challenging us more directly and we cannot allow that to happen."

"Admiral, we have attacked the Poljarny base before," a lieutenant commander protested. "In CE 76, I was part of the fleet that tried to drive them out. The Destiny Gundam sank my flagship, sir. Are we really going ahead with this?"

Stone's eyes flashed disgustedly. "The city of Murmansk has been harboring these traitors and terrorists," he continued, heedless of the lieutenant commander's concerns. He glanced down at the table in front of him, pausing to tap a few keys on the intercom. "Heaven's Base, this is Admiral Bartholomew Stone at Svalbard."

"This is Heaven's Base. We copy, admiral," the operator answered.

"I am requesting the release of a Destroy Gundam unit to the Svalbard base, headquartered aboard my flagship, the Actium," Stone said, ignoring the gasps of his officers.

"Um, yes sir," the operator stammered. "Request is transmitted. You'll hear back within the hour, sir."

"Excellent. Stone out." He shut the intercom off. "The Destroy will be crucial. These civilians knowingly harbor such scoundrels as the Resistance because they do not fear us. The Destroy will remind them that we are to be feared."

"Sir," an officer began, the disbelief evident in his voice, "isn't that too harsh?"

"Of course it's not," Stone scoffed. "Resistance troops are cowards. I fully expect them to retreat into Murmansk proper, where they will likely cause considerable damage. The Destroy will not only wipe them all out, it will send our message to the traitorous people of Murmansk that we will not tolerate the harboring of Resistance scum."

"But sir, we would undoubtedly kill thousands of civilians!" another officer protested. "Is this really ?"

"Commander," Stone cut him off, eyes flashing, "war is a series of sacrifices. Now it is Murmansk's turn to sacrifice." He suppressed a scowl damned regular forces never knew what it took to win. "I expect the Destroy to arrive within the next six hours. Once we have it loaded aboard the Actium, we will depart. Make sure your vessels are ready to do so by then." He straightened up and saluted. "Dismissed."

The Capitol Building, Washington DC, Atlantic Federation

"Obviously," the man surrounded by journalists and reporters said, "I think we need to take Lord Djibril's proposal seriously, and certainly consider the merits of his plan to escalate the war with the Resistance and bring this conflict to an end. But just because I think it should be taken seriously does not mean I agree with it."

"Senator Meyers! Does this mean you'll be voting against the next spending bill?" someone asked.

Senator Robert Meyers suppressed a grin he was a politician, the Majority Leader of the United States Senate, and this was his element. "Obviously," he repeated, "I cannot say how I will vote until I have seen the whole measure for myself. Lord Djibril's summary undoubtedly left out some important little details, and we all know that that is where the devil resides. So we shall see."

"Senator," someone else said, shoving his way towards the senator, "lately there have been rumors that your son, serving in the Phantom Pain, is using an Extended! Is there any truth to that?"

Meyers expertly checked his reactions the Extended were supposed to be classified, but a certain traitorous ZAFT Gundam pilot from three years ago had put an end to that.

"My son writes to me from time to time," he answered, "but is not at liberty to discuss much more than how he personally is doing. Just because he is the son of a senator does not allow him to include classified information in his correspondence. But I do not expect him to be using an Extended in his unit we have made it clear to Lord Djibril that such practices are unacceptable." He waved away the next reporter. "That is all the time I have today I have work to do, after all."

The reporters rushed around Meyers anyway, and he cast an annoyed glance over his shoulder. A moment later, a gunshot rang out through the sky on the steps of the Capitol the reporters scrambled back in fear, and Meyers suppressed the urge to smile.

"What the senator meant," a girl's voice said irately, "was back the fuck off."

Meyers glanced to the side as a girl in the old variant of the Earth Alliance's uniform, with the shirt tied by the sleeves around her waist, emerged from behind him, wielding a smoking handgun. She flipped her long black braid over her shoulder.

"Sergeant," Meyers said, easing into the role, "was that really necessary?"

"Well, it got the point across," the girl protested.

Meyers sighed and gestured to the girl at his side. "Ladies and gentlemen, meet Sergeant Seri Minamoto," he said. "President Vasserot dispatched her to my staff to serve as a bodyguard. As you know, there has been more than one attempt on my life, but none of those attempts have come on her watch. She is a rambunctious one, but I believe her point has been made clear." He offered a servile little bow. "Good afternoon."

Meyers descended the steps with Seri unmolested and ducked inside his waiting limousine. Seri slammed the door shut behind them and sighed heavily as the limo started up.

"Sheesh, they're like vultures today," she grumbled.

Meyers sat back with a thin smile. "Lord Djibril does not come to town and give a speech every day," he answered. "Although I did find the Extended question a bit ironic," he added, with a dark chuckle. He cast his coal-black eyes towards Seri. "Didn't you?"

Seri squirmed uncomfortably. "Yes sir."

Battleship Minerva, Poljarny Inlet Naval Installation, Russia

"I told you," Roxy said tiredly as Auel hacked and coughed and sputtered in the Minerva's crew lounge, "150-proof vodka is not a shooter."

Auel coughed loudly and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "That's not vodka, that's hydrochloric acid!" he shot back. "How the fuck do you drink that stuff?!"

Roxy tipped back her glass. "Have you forgotten where we are? How could I possibly live with myself knowing that we stopped in Russia and I didn't raise a glass of the local poison of choice?"

On her other side, Sting heaved a sigh. "Besides, Auel, Roxy has been drinking this stuff since she was, like, four years old. Her liver must have Phase Shift armor by now."

"Oh, fuck you, Sting," she shot back. "I'm a recreational drinker."

"And a recreational smoker, a recreational cocaine user, a recreational heroin junky, a recreational connoisseur of simultaneous sex with multiple partners " Sting added.

"Hey!" she snapped. "I only did heroin once!"

"Yeah, on that fateful night in Amsterdam "

"God, shut up."
"Yeah, well, you can finish that," Auel said crossly, putting the glass back on the table next to Roxy. "And God knows you will. That stuff is evil."

"I see they didn't enhance all of your capabilities," she said with a smug little smirk, taking another sip.

"Consumption of extremely alcoholic drinks isn't considered a military necessity by the Earth Alliance," Sting pointed out. "If anything, they tried to discourage it."

"They have a habit of discouraging things," Roxy said. "Like 'human life.' They don't seem to be too fond of that."

"Yeah, well, that's what we're here for, I guess," Sting answered, with a shrug and an airy sigh.

"And we want to kick ass," Auel added.

Sting smirked. "That too."

"Five days, huh?" Vino Dupre asked, leaning tiredly against an empty crate of mobile suit parts and staring wearily up at the two latest mobile suits in the Minerva's complement.

"All things considered, that's not bad," Yolant said next to him. They both looked up at the Savior and Legend Gundams, towering above them inside the hangar. "The Savior needed the most work. The Second Stage Gundams weren't built with the same internal components as the Destiny Mobile Weapon Project ones. We had to do that much more work."

"Did you," Vino sighed. "Well, least they've got pilots we know will do pretty good." He sneered. "Better than a certain someone else whose Gundam I spent all night assembling."

Yolant sighed, rubbing his temples in irritation. "I dunno, man," he said. "It's been three years. I don't really like Shinn that much either, and I used to hang out with him a lot more than you did, but still, isn't it time to let that crap go?"

"He got our friends killed," Vino answered with a scowl. "And let's not forget that he did earn the nickname 'traitor Asuka.'"

"Yeah," Yolant agreed, "but I'm getting tired of hating him. And it seems entirely counterintuitive to me that we hate him and yet we always help him tune his Gundam to squeeze every drop of perfection possible out of it."

Vino sniffed indifferently. "You need to rationalize it," he said. "I don't see it as helping Shinn out. I see it as perfecting a machine that Shinn Asuka happens to pilot into battle. That he is he one who does it does not stop me from doing my job."

"Whatever, man," Yolant sighed. "But you know that he tried to protect Luna at Solomon's Sword, right?"

Vino's eyes darkened. "He tried," he spat. "But Luna's not here, is she?"

Yolant looked down at the floor. "No," he said, "she's not."

Rau Le Creuset was not a man given to coarse language, but the only way he could describe the man on the screen in front of him was that he was an asshole.

Gerhardt von Oldendorf certainly looked important enough. A tall man with a lined face, a hawkish nose, a clipped beard, neat gray hair, in a trim black business suit with a tasteful, understated red tie. He appeared to be relatively fit certainly not the stereotypical fat bureaucrat. But Rau was no fool he could put two and two together, and well understood that a man who sells his then-13-year-old daughter into the household staff of an industrialist with then-rumored ties to Blue Cosmos and then-Atlantic Federation President Joseph Copland was not the sort of man with a bright political future ahead of him. By all normal accounts, indeed, he would be considered an asshole.

And yet Earth Alliance Director of Military Research Gerhardt von Oldendorf appeared to be doing pretty well for himself. Funny how that worked.

There was a gap in the information. Gaps in the information annoyed Rau to no end he was a man whose plans and schemes and very purpose of continued existence in this Sodom and Gomorrah of the Cosmic Era relied on information. Rau knew Lord Djibril, and he knew as well that Lord Djibril, even with his new dizzying power, was not a man given to carnal desires. Hatred of Coordinators, and destruction of Coordinators, was why his heart still beat and his lungs still drew breath. Rau occasionally wondered what Djibril would do once there were no more Coordinators left to kill.

He felt the spike of two Newtypes out in Murmansk. Yes, like that was going to happen.

But if Gerhardt had not sold little Emily into Lord Djibril's bed, then surely there was a reason why he sent his youngest daughter to serve the master of Blue Cosmos. Financial gain, perhaps but Lord Djibril was well off enough that he could have simply bought the services of people who would serve him far better than would Emily. Rau did not even need Newtype senses to guess that she had not been much of a servant. But Lord Djibril considered himself a modern-day Renaissance man although his virulent racism tended to put a hole in that characterization and surely such a man would not condescend to slavery.

Rau smiled ironically at that thought.

He turned the idea over in his mind. Strands of thought and knowledge floated around, but had yet to find one all-important fulcrum around which to connect themselves. But surely it would come the word "evolution" was highlighting itself in his mind, and surely that was important.

He turned his thoughts and eyes towards the massive tech manual on his desk, as he leaned back in the chair in his room. The ZGMF-X666S Legend Gundam had originally been meant for him, although Rey Za Burrel had thrown something of a monkey wrench into that plan. It was time to get acquainted with his new ride.

"So this is the Savior, huh?" asked Viveka as she craned her neck to stare up at the silent face of her new machine. "Whatcha got on it?"

At her side, Athrun Zala crossed his arms, looking up impassively at the freshly-assembled Gundam. "It's a transformable aerial combat unit," he began.

"Transformable?" Viveka echoed. "What, like real transforming, and not that 'hunch down on the ground and call it transforming' shit that the BuCUE did?"

"...yes," Athrun said. "It "

"Awesome!" Viveka exclaimed. "Please tell me it plays the Transformers theme when you change modes!"

Athrun blinked. "Transformers...?"

"Yeah! You know, that ancient cartoon with all the robots that turned into cars and planes and shit? You freaking fly a giant robot, you have to have heard about it!"

Athrun blinked again. "...anyway," he continued, as Viveka heaved a sigh, "ZAFT designed it in order to keep up with the Earth Alliance's aerial superiority. Yolant and his men upgraded the avionics to match modern standards and the standards in our own machines, so you should be able to keep ahead of the Alliance's standard forces. Against more specialized foes, that may be another story, but the only way we'll know for sure is to test it out in real combat."

Viveka scoffed. "I worked hard for my reputation, Zala-boy," she said. "I ain't gonna need a babysitter."

Athrun glanced awkwardly at her. She seemed so alive, even to his rudimentary Newtype senses, and that was strange. But even to Athrun's senses, he could detect something else probably, he guessed, the desire to protect her sister.

Athrun's eyes darkened. Protecting people...that had gone well for him.

"You don't have to fly with us," he said quietly. Viveka glanced over at him in surprise, her smile fading. "You shouldn't feel obligated "

"Of course I do," Viveka cut him off. "I don't want to sit around on the ship being useless." She flashed a grin over at the dour Justice pilot. "Besides, I told Emily that she'd better keep up with me, and I wouldn't want to bail on that, would I?"

Athrun glanced back doubtfully at the Savior. "If you say so."

Earth Alliance aircraft carrier Actium, Svalbard Arctic Regional Base, Svalbard Islands, Arctic Sea

"A fine day for a fight, it looks like," Stone said as he glanced over the weather forecasts for Poljarny and Murmansk on March 3rd. "A marine layer, perhaps, but that may be something we can use to our advantage, if we can scramble a squadron of Darkwings."

He glanced up from his screen and surveyed the bridge of the Actium as it made the final preparations to launch. The Actium's captain glanced over at him with a curt nod.

"We can launch at your command, admiral," he said.

"Excellent," Stone said, standing with a thin smile and seizing the intercom. "Attention 5th Arctic Fleet of the Earth Alliance. This is your commander, Admiral Bartholomew Stone of the Phantom Pain. Momentarily, we will be setting out, but before then, it is imperative that you be aware of where we are going and what we are doing." He allowed himself a dramatic pause this was the fun part of being an admiral. "Our target is the Resistance's Poljarny base. Some ships and sailors of this fleet survived our last attack there in CE 76. We will return and avenge those who did not. The warship Minerva is docked there. Some ships and sailors of this fleet have survived countless skirmishes with that vessel. We will avenge those who did not. We bring with us a Destroy Gundam unit, and a suitable pilot. Men, today we sail forth to avenge those that have sacrificed everything for our new world." Another pause. "Actium, all ships, launch!"

Stone sat back, replacing the intercom on his seat as the Actium and its followers lurched forward in the water and set sail. He glanced over at the ship's comm officer

"Comm," he said, "get me the nearest Phantom Pain unit to Poljarny. I'd like to apply all the force I can get to that base."

"The nearest unit is a Hannibal-class, sir," the officer answered. "The Bonaparte, under the command of Harris Meyers."

"Excellent," Stone said. "Send him a message, that I'm requesting him to launch a diversionary attack on Poljarny while we launch our main attack. We'll cut that base in two."

"Yes sir," the comm officer said. Stone sat back with a smile.

Murmansk, Russia

"That's the part I always hate about stopping at a base," Shinn sighed quietly as he strode down the empty, snow-caked street with Emily at his side. "There's always some girl who leaps out of nowhere and asks me in a language I don't know to make love to her. I tell you, it's weird being a celebrity."

Emily glanced aside awkwardly, blushing and trying not to imagine making love with Shinn Asuka. "I'm not going to be that famous, am I?"

"Depends on how good a pilot you are," Shinn answered with a shrug. "Though I will tell you this, and don't take offense, but since you're a girl, you might be more at risk for, uh, guys who won't take no for an answer." He sighed heavily, his warm breath swirling in the air before him. "Not everybody in the Resistance is a moral, upstanding human being. I don't want you to get the wrong impression just because nobody on the Minerva has tried anything. Some Resistance soldiers are downright horrible."

"Horrible...?" Emily asked meekly.

"Give you an example," Shinn sighed, glancing around, reaching out with his senses for anyone nearby. Emily watched him carefully he had been doing this almost constantly as they ambled throughout the city. "In '75, Athrun and I were on assignment in Los Angeles." He visibly shuddered. "If you've never gone there, don't. Our job was to collect some funds from the city's biggest street gangs. God only knows where they got it from, and we weren't exactly thrilled with it, but war makes some very strange bedfellows. We showed up at the drop location, and something went wrong, because we found ourselves in the middle of a turf war. We took refuge, and stumbled into somebody's safe house. They had us outnumbered, so we hid before they found us..." Emily blinked as even her rudimentary senses picked up the pain from Shinn. "They had a bunch of people there. Tied up. I don't know why. They went through them, killing the men and raping the women." He squeezed his eyes shut, as Emily felt her blood run as cold as the snow she stood in. "Next thing I remembered, Athrun and I were soaked in blood and surrounded by dead gangsters and terrified survivors." Shinn looked back at Emily. "Needless to say, we did not secure any funds. But I want you to know that not all Resistance soldiers are like us. So don’t assume that you're safe with anyone but us. I...don't want to see you wind up like any of those women."

Emily nodded brokenly, flashing back to the rumors she had heard at Heaven's Base of the hideous things Resistance members were said to do to both civilians and soldiers. The horrific images of bearded men in flak jackets and robes, screaming about their god as they beheaded a captured Alliance soldier for the cameras, imprinted itself back in her mind, and she shook her head violently. The Resistance and the Alliance were equally capable of evil so what did that make her?

Shinn blinked in surprise, grabbing Emily by the arm and stopping her. "Someone around the corner," he whispered. "But something is off..."

"What is it?" Emily asked, feeling her heartbeat quicken.

"I don't know," Shinn said, reaching into his pocket, where Emily knew he was carrying a loaded handgun. "Just play it cool."

Emily and Shinn rounded the corner, and Emily looked over in surprise at an empty lot. There was a girl there, who looked to be about her own age long, unruly magenta hair spilled down her back, shimmering green eyes sparkled on her face, as she threw herself back in the snow and swept her arms and legs back and forth, making a snow angel and giggling happily.

"Oh!" the girl exclaimed, looking up at Shinn and Emily. "Hi! Didn't see ya there!" She leapt up to her feet and bounded up to the two Gundam pilots. "Wow! I haven't seen anyone else out here today! Wonder where they all went?"

Shinn eyed the girl carefully for an instant. "It's very cold today," he began. "Most people are inside."

"Well, sucks to be them!" the girl giggled. "I like the snow! So more for me!" She looked over at Emily. "Hey, you must be as old as me! Awesome!" She grabbed Emily by the arm; Emily blinked in surprise and sputtered in protest as the girl yanked her forwards.

Shinn reached after her, but paused as the feeling of human life pricked his consciousness. He glanced to the side, and felt his blood run cold as a man in the dark service overcoat of the Earth Alliance, with the black uniform of the Phantom Pain, emerged from around a corner.

"My apologies," the man chuckled; Shinn carefully eyed the man who seemed so young and yet wore the collar tabs of a colonel. "That girl is quite good at causing trouble." He cast a smile after her Shinn nearly shuddered as he detected something sinister behind it. "I'm responsible for her, so I have to clean up a lot of her messes."

That girl, Shinn thought, disbelief rising through him, as he looked back at Emily and the magenta-haired girl, watching the girl pelt Emily with snowballs. The strange, distorted was clear as day now. No...Emily can't handle that!

"It's cold out here," the Phantom Pain officer said with a sigh. "I don't know why she insists on going out in weather like this."

"She said she enjoys it," Shinn said carefully, glancing back at the officer.

"I suppose," the officer said with a shrug.

Shinn glanced back at Emily and the Extended girl, trying to fight down the sickening feeling in his stomach.

"So what's your name?" the girl asked excitedly, as Emily wearily brushed a mountain of snow off her coat. She was no stranger to snowball fights, but she was also not very good at them.

"I-I'm Emily," she said carefully better to leave her last name unknown. The world was full of girls named Emily, but not so full of girls named Emily von Oldendorf.

"Awesome!" the girl exclaimed. "I'm Kyali!"

Emily blinked at Kyali. "That's an unusual name," she said.

"Isn't it!" Kyali agreed, with a glowing grin. "Harry over there says it's special or somethin'! I dunno though." She glanced over at the two older men, slowly approaching. "Is that guy with the sunglasses your boyfriend?"

Emily's face flashed red as her eyes went wide. "Wha no! He', he's not my boyfriend!" she sputtered.

"Sure he's not," Kyali laughed. "I saw how you were looking at him! If this were a cartoon, there would be little hearts popping all around your head!"

Emily glanced aside in embarrassment. "Well, he's not like that," she muttered.

Kyali simply laughed and yanked Emily into the snow.

They both looked up as the footsteps came closer, and found Shinn and the Phantom Pain officer approaching. The officer stepped forward.

"Kyali," he said, "it's time to go."

Kyali glanced back sadly at Emily. "I don't wanna," she mumbled. "Come on! We never get a chance to go out! You said we weren't gonna have anything to do today "

"Things have changed," the officer said. Emily blinked in surprise as the man's visage suddenly turned colder than the environment in which it stood. On the street nearby, a black-painted van pulled up, and a handful of soldiers in the black uniforms and overcoats of the Phantom Pain emerged, and Emily scuttled back to Shinn's side as fear coursed through her.

Kyali cast her wide eyes towards the approaching soldiers. "What are they doing here?! Harry, come on, this is unfair "

"If you don't," the man said, "then you might disappear."

Kyali's eyes flashed wide in horror Emily winced as the fear struck through the air and stabbed like a knife into her brain.

"No!" Kyali screamed, struggling to scramble back to her feet. "I don't want to disappear!"

The soldiers rushed in to seize her by the arms and hurl her into the back of the van, her screams echoing out from the van's interior as they slammed the doors shut.

"Wha what's going on?!" Emily exclaimed. She turned her disbelieving eyes towards the Phantom Pain officer as he strode towards the van. "What's wrong with her?"

The officer glanced back at her, and Emily felt her heart stop. "It's none of your concern," he said.

The officer climbed into the van, and with a screech of tires, it rounded a corner and vanished into the city. Emily stared after it in disbelief, her eyes falling to the snow, and the marks of Kyali's short-lived struggle there.

Shinn put his hand on her shoulder she jumped in surprise and looked up at him. "What...what was that...?"

Shinn looked sadly at her. She wasn't ready for this, he knew...but fate didn't seem to care.

"Emily," he said, "that girl, Kyali...she's an Extended."

To be continued...