Phase 20 - Bodies and Souls

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED TWILIGHT

Phase 20 - Bodies and Souls

March 8th, CE 77 - Battleship Minerva, Ryazan Oblast, Russia

It was one of those rare instances where knowing the truth didn't really matter. Meyrin Hawke turned the thought over in her head as she lay awake in bed, staring at the dark ceiling of her room aboard the Minerva. Shinn knew the truth of her sister's fate, but her sister's fate had been death so what did it really matter that Lunamaria Hawke had merely been captured by the Orb Raiders, and joined them because only Rey Za Burrel waited for her in ZAFT if she returned?

She knew if she closed her eyes again, all she would find were nightmares. They returned every so often to remind her of the Junius War as if she needed more reminding. They mocked her for being helpless to ever express her affections to Shinn Asuka; they mocked her for being helpless to watch Rey shoot down Luna's ZAKU; they mocked her for being helpless to do anything to save Talia Gladys or the Minerva's beleaguered XO, Arthur Trine. And now they mocked her for being as helpless as she ever was but dressed up in the trappings of captain.

She could not help but wonder what Luna would think of her right now wrapped in the blue overcoat of a ZAFT high officer, with Talia's old cap atop her head, sitting in Talia's chair and struggling to lead the Minerva through the exploits that made some people think it had been sent by God. It was rather ironic that the pilot of the Destiny Gundam, the winged seraph that tore through the Alliance's best with impunity, was a symbol of resistance and rebellion against oppression but the captain of the ship he spread his wings to protect was unknown. All in all, though, she had to wonder if that was a blessing disguised as a curse since most of her comrades were shocked to find a nineteen-year-old girl in charge of the Blessed Minerva.

Sleep was a long ways off, clearly and so Meyrin rose and donned her uniform, tucking her hat under her arm and making for the bridge. Abbey glanced up tiredly from the captain's chair as she entered.

"I'll take over," Meyrin said. "I can't sleep anyway."

"Are you sure?" Abbey asked, rising from the chair anyway. Meyrin nodded, and Abbey left with a salute. Meyrin slumped into the chair with a sigh, and glanced up at Burt at the sensor console in surprise.

"You're still here, Burt?"

"Manny got sick," Burt answered. "I'm covering his shift." He sat back and sipped at a Styrofoam cup of instant ramen. "Are you alright, though, captain?"

Meyrin leaned her chin wearily on her hand, letting it fall against the armrest. "The war's taking its toll on me," she said. "How do you get through it?"

Burt paused for a moment, choosing his words. "I think the people of the PLANTs deserve it," he said. "You know, all the ones who were killed by the Requiem? I'd like to think that their deaths meant something more than just enormous meaningless slaughter."

Meyrin sat back herself. "There's a lot of people being meaninglessly slaughtered these days," she said. "I wonder what Luna would think..."

"The output of the beam blade on the Flash-Edge 2 is adjustable," said Matt Abes as he pointed towards the screen of the Twilight Gundam, with Emily in the cockpit seat. "You can program in preset blade lengths if you draw the boomerang as a saber, like you've been doing, so you can dial down the length to a knife blade." He shrugged. "You seem to be less 'smash stuff with the sword' and more of the fencer, anyway. So at least we won't have to fix two Arondight units all the time."

"Shinn's a lot better than me anyway," Emily said quietly. Abes glanced across the hangar at the deactivated Destiny.

"Eh, he's more experienced," he answered. "Though he had the advantage of having been trained already. So for an amateur, you haven't been too bad."

"Thanks," Emily murmured quietly. She looked down at the Twilight's controls all this power and it had still been helpless to save Kyali.

"We're on our way to Novorossiysk, on the Black Sea coast," Abes added, standing up as though to leave. "So you'd better brush up on the urban combat simulations."

"...but if we're fighting in the city, won't that just kill more people...?" Emily started. Abes shrugged again.

"It can't be helped," he said. "As long as the Alliance turns cities into battlefields, we're going to have to fight them. But we'll try not to do too much damage, for our part." He gestured to the Twilight's control panel. "That's part of what the simulation is for."

Emily glanced down at the controls again. "I just don't want to kill anymore people than I have to," she said. "I don't want to wind up like the Phantom Pain."

"You've got a long ways to go before you wind up acting like them, Emily," Abes said. "I'm going to work on the Gaia, before Stella breaks something."

Heaven's Base, Iceland

The premier of the Republic of East Asia was a towering man by the name of Shinzo Musashihara, huge and bald with a thin, neatly-cropped mustache. To other men, he might have been intimidating, but as he stood by one of the couches of his cavernous office at Heaven's Base, Lord Djibril refused to be intimidated. No one, after all, could intimidate the President of the Earth Alliance.

"I understand that these terrorists must be stopped," Shinzo said, calm and collected. "Believe me when I say so, sir. The Manchurian Death Cult blew up another subway station only yesterday." He paused to choose his words. "But what I am arguing for is that perhaps we should be more pragmatic about it. We have tried to fight the Resistance on military terms, and although they have not had many major successes against the Alliance, we have not had many major successes against the Resistance. This war has been a long and endless slaughter, and it does not appear to be going anywhere."

Lord Djibril looked away, out the yawning windows of his office. "Premier Musashihara, let me make an analogy for you," he said. "Think of the world as a body. When that body is afflicted by an infection, a doctor will prescribe antibiotics. And the victim will take those antibiotics until he feels better and then stop, because he feels better. But the victim did not destroy all of the bacteria that caused his illness, and that last resistant strain returns to once again sicken him. And he takes the rest of his antibiotics, but finds that the medicine has no effect because he failed to completely crush the disease in the beginning, and the last remnants of it were the ones that will be the hardest to kill now." He looked back at Shinzo. "That is the nature of our war against the Resistance, Premier. For three years, we have answered the Resistance's threats and attacks with the overwhelming force of the entire world's military apparatus. If we stop answering them with force, then we will leave those last resistant strains alive and when they leave us no choice but to retaliate with force of our own, we will find that our conventional methods cannot stop them. We will beset by a fleet of Minervas, an army of Destiny Gundams, when we could have destroyed them all earlier."

"Djibril " Shinzo started.

"That is why we cannot stop fighting the Resistance," Djibril said. "We must take our medicine until every last cell of the bacteria that afflicts us is destroyed."

"Djibril, East Asia simply can't sustain such industrial output," Shinzo protested. "The mobile armor factory lines in Sichuan shut down last December "

"And I'm still disappointed that you haven't resolved that," Djibril interrupted. "This war is no time for a strike. I thought East Asia had little patience for strikers."

"It was a campaign promise of mine to wield a softer hand against strikers," Shinzo explained. "I was elected "

"Irrelevant," Djibril snapped. "Everything will be irrelevant if we do not destroy the Resistance," he scowled, "and preserve our blue and clean world."

Battleship Minerva, Tambov Oblast, Russia

"I understand how it works, Kisato," Athrun said tiredly into his headset as he worked on the Infinite Justice. "What I want to know is why Lowe wants to install a giant drill on the Justice."

"I don't know!" Kisato protested, from her chair on the bridge of the ReHOME. "He must have seen it on a TV show or something."

"Well, he wanted to install a complete sound system too, so I could play Lacus Clyne music in the middle of combat," Athrun added. "But if you keep saying he's a genius..."

"I know, sometimes I wonder too," Kisato admitted on the other end. "But he's kept the Red Frame running since '71."

"He could just be lucky," Athrun said with a shrug. "I knew people who were that unfairly lucky."

"And he's still off on mounting one of the Destiny's Palma Fiocina guns into the Red Frame," she complained. "What is a 'shining finger' anyway? And why just the finger?"

"You're asking me to decipher the workings of the mind of Lowe Gear," Athrun deadpanned.

"He's not driving you guys crazy over there, is he?" Kisato asked. Athrun smiled thinly.

"We'd rather have him on our side than theirs." He paused to adjust a setting in the Justice's OS. "Besides, we've dealt with worse like that time that Stella got into Roxy's liquor cabinet and downed half a bottle of vodka before realizing that it wasn't water."

"Um, wow," Kisato said with a start. "I feel kinda sorry for her."

"Everyone did," Athrun said, smiling in spite of himself, "especially when she discovered what a hangover is the next morning." He paused, his smile fading. "Uh, about these Canus missile launchers you gave us..."

"What about them?"

"Did the missiles already come with smiley faces painted on the fuselage?"

The sigh on the other end was the only answer Athrun needed.

It was good to be out of the Twilight's cockpit for once Shinn had finally relented a bit on her otherwise relentless training regimen, since she had some experience and enough skill to not die against the Aegis's formidable pilot. And since that left Emily with nothing else to do, she was taking the opportunity to wander around the ship and look for something to do.

She blinked in surprise as she rounded a corner and found Lowe Gear there, looking lost and slightly confused but also a bit more excited than most people would be. He put on a glowing smile as he caught sight of Emily.

"Oh, didn't see ya there!" he said, sticking his hand out amiably for a handshake that Emily hesitantly returned. "The name's Lowe Gear! You must be the new girl."

"I-I guess," Emily started.

"Hey, are you getting along with Shinn?" Lowe asked suddenly. "He can be kind of a dick if he's in a bad mood. Just thought I should warn ya."

Emily blinked again. "Um...I've, uh, yet to catch him in a bad mood," she said. "But I don't really know anything about him anyway..."

"Yeah, I'd imagine that's by design," Lowe said with a shrug. "I've heard some stories, though. I know he was in ZAFT, but then he left."

"That's why they call him the traitor Asuka," Emily said quietly.

"Well," Lowe put in, "I don't know about that. To some people he might be a traitor, yeah, but loyalty and treachery are all matters of perspective, y'know? Some people are angry at him for leaving ZAFT, but some people couldn't care less. So I guess it doesn't really matter either way." He shrugged again. "He doesn't come across to me as a bad guy or anything. He fights to protect the people he cares about, and I don't see anything wrong with that."

"...he's better at it than me," Emily added, looking down sadly at the floor.

Lowe paused for a moment. "No," he said, "no he's not." Emily looked back up in surprise. "He's...lost friends too. I hear you had a rough past few days, and I'm sorry 'bout it all, but believe me when I say that Shinn Asuka knows how you feel." He sighed. "Shinn used to roll with a bunch of space pirates. They were all slaughtered to a man in battle after Shinn had been defeated." Emily gasped in disbelief, at both the thought of Shinn losing everything he fought for at once, and the thought of Shinn Asuka, defeated. "But Shinn's led a pretty eventful life..." His eyes lit up. "Hey, they gave you a Gundam, didn't they?"

"Um, they did," Emily started.

"Then you have to show it to me!" Lowe insisted, with more exuberance than his previous behavior might have suggested he had.

"But they just put it together out of spare parts for the Destiny," Emily protested.

"That doesn't matter!" Lowe said, grabbing Emily by the shoulders excitedly. "They might have used a different technique! Or the operating system would be different! Yeah, it would have to be! And maybe they used different components! As a junker, I can't just pass up an opportunity like this! I must see it! I must know!" He grabbed Emily's wrist. "Don't just stand there, time's a-wastin'!"

Emily yelped in surprise as Lowe dragged her off towards the hangar.

"Would you be proud of me?"

The question went unanswered, of course, as it always did. Shinn, lying awake in bed and staring at the ceiling, knew better than to expect an answer. And he was not even sure who he was expecting an answer from.

He could ask that question of his parents, of course, but he could already hear the answers his father, berating him for abandoning Uzumi Nara Athha's policies and Orb itself, fighting in a war, continuing the cycle of killing that Uzumi spent his time in the pulpit of Orb politics denouncing; his mother, berating him for recklessly throwing himself through the face of enemy fire to smash warships and tear mobile suits in two, absolutely heedless of his own safety. They would not be proud of him. They would not understand. Everyone who did something difficult would console themselves with the thought that their parents would understand, but Shinn could not fool himself into believing that. They did not have the minds to understand why he had led his life to this point.

Mayu, he supposed, might have understood although Shinn was unsure if the genes that had turned him into a Newtype had ever found their way into her DNA. Not that it mattered she was but a child, and her greatest concern would be Shinn's safety, the one thing he seemed to have no concern for as he fought. She did not have the mind to understand.

The thought that Rey might be proud of him was laughable. Rey hated him, and died with that hatred in his heart and Shinn had watched him die, with hatred in his heart, looming over the remains of his friend, Lunamaria. Fate had driven them apart, and even though Rey had been a Newtype, he did not have the mind to understand.

Of course, he knew Kika was proud.

Shinn never understood what Kika saw to be proud of in the man that the Earth Alliance called "the Wings of Light." He had never set out to be a symbol, a by-word for resistance against oppression and evil and yet his memories took him back to the tarmac at Poljarny, surrounded by those who looked to him for hope.

But his entire life was built on his failures, not his successes. He had failed to protect his family, because he had had no power and so he had joined ZAFT and become a famous ace, protecting Gilbert Dullindal. He had failed to tolerate the Newtype dogma of his comrades, and abandoned ZAFT to become a famous ace in the underworld. He had failed to protect his friends on the Kasselheim, and joined the Orb Raiders, where his exploits on the battlefield taught the world to fear the wings of light. He had failed to stop the war from finding a way to end in disaster, and had joined the Resistance to set right that last and most terrible mistake. His most recent failure had been to protect Emily from the torture chambers of the Phantom Pain and he could only guess how fate would spin that into a basis for fame.

"It's interesting," Shinn said quietly, "that everyone talks about my successes, when it's my failures that made me famous."

Earth Alliance Novaya Perspektiva Maximum Security Prison, Vorkuta, Russia

The screams were almost deafening.

It was the ninth taser burst of the session for Esteban Chavez, former leader of the Free Peru Front in South America. He had had the misfortune of being captured by the Phantom Pain in battle, and brought here to let the prison work its magic on his perspective on global politics. Sadly, the sleep deprivation and beatings and tasers and water buckets had not drawn much information out of him because, his interrogators suspected, he had little information to surrender.

But to the observer who could only smile as the ninth taser burst subsided and Esteban Chavez slumped to the floor, dead that did not in any way diminish the fun of what could be done here.

Field Marshal Crayt Markav was the terrifying dark-haired woman whose sinister eyes watched behind thick, dark sunglasses as the soldiers ascertained the fact that Mr. Chavez was dead. But Crayt could already tell the flickering light of his life had gone out, pricking her Newtype senses and delighting her to watch another sin-ridden soul torn from its mortal coil, to descend to hell, where it would truly understand the price of challenging God.

"It doesn't appear that he knew much to begin with," said the major at Markav's side, crossing his arms as the soldiers in the cell dragged Chavez's body out. "Fortunately, the Free Peru Front isn't nearly as big a problem in South America as, say, Ed the Ripper."

"Ed the Ripper..." Crayt repeated. "Certainly a man I would love to have in this facility." She glanced over at the major. "That will be all, major. You are dismissed."

The officer saluted and disappeared around a corner only to make way for a younger soldier to appear next with a sharp salute of his own.

"Major, you requested to be updated speed on the Minerva's whereabouts?" the soldier began.

"I did indeed," Crayt said. "Are you here to provide such an update?"

"The Minerva is in Tambov Oblast, heading south towards Volgograd. The Charlemagne is shadowing them. We believe their intention may be to turn southwest and assist the Resistance units around Novorossiysk."

"Tambov..." Crayt murmured. "I could reach them from here..." She looked up at the soldier. "Prepare my Euclid. I would like to see just how powerful the Blessed Minerva is."

"Yes ma'am," the soldier said, saluting and scurrying away. Crayt did not bother to hide the thin smile on her lips as she bowed her head.

"От имени отца, и Сына, и Святого Духа," she murmured, casting the sign of the cross over her chest. "I thank you, God, for granting me this opportunity to serve You."

With that, she whirled around and swept out of the room.

Earth Alliance battleship Charlemagne, Tambov Oblast, Russia

"Field Marshal Markav herself," Danilov said ominously, arms crossed as he stood over the comm officer's console and read the message on the screen. "She's launched in her personal mobile armor with a squadron of Slaughter Windams, and she means to join us and attack the Minerva."

"But she's launching all the way out from Vorkuta," Vera protested. "Captain, does she seriously mean to ?"

"Marshal Markav makes no bones about what she plans to do," Danilov cut her off. "Lest I remind you of her promise in CE 75 to burn Hyderabad to the ground if they didn't turn over Rashid Abdulmalik." He scowled. "Seventy-five thousand people paid with their lives for the mistake of not taking her seriously."

Vera shifted uncomfortably for a moment. "But to think that the commander of the Phantom Pain would involve herself with this..." She shook her head. "I don't see why she would. Do they not trust us now?"

"I doubt that is the case," Danilov said, putting a hand to his chin in thought. "Otherwise we would not have been redeployed alone from Vilnius. But making sense of Marshal Markav's decisions is a futile endeavor."

"Captain, the Marshal is requesting that the Charlemagne support her attack," the comm officer interjected.

"Will we?" Vera asked.

Danilov scoffed. "We can't very well turn down a request from the commander of the Phantom Pain," he said. "Signal the quartermaster to prepare rooms and hangar space. We're going to be having guests."

March 9th, CE 77 - Battleship Minerva, Tambov Oblast, Russia

The hero of the Resistance was a strange man to behold in person. He was, honestly, still more of a boy than a man although the lifetime of experiences behind him in his relatively brief existence in the Earth Sphere were all the testament one needed as to his maturity.

Standing on the Minerva's exterior deck, the sun casting its light across the three scars on his face, Shinn appeared to Roxy to be far too young for everything he had seen in his lifetime.

"I notice that whenever we go out and you get mobbed by adoring, horny fangirls," she started quietly, "you never take any of them up on their offers. Why is that?"

Shinn was silent a moment. "It's complicated," he said.

"It's always complicated with you," Roxy answered with a half-smile. "It's not for Stella, is it? I can't imagine you two have a relationship like that."

"We don't," Shinn said flatly. "Kika was right about that. I can't even imagine doing that with Stella. It wouldn't feel right."

"I guess not," Roxy agreed. "But...that can't be very healthy." She glanced over at him again. "Nineteen years old and you're suppressing your sex drive like that, it'd drive most people nuts."

Shinn arched an eyebrow at her. "Are you trying to get me in bed?"

"I dunno, Mr. Wings of Light. Am I?"

For a moment, Shinn was silent, staring pensively at the horizon. "It wouldn't be such a big deal if I wasn't so sensitive to emotion," he said. "But even if I don't see sex as some kind of big emotional investment, that doesn't mean that the other person doesn't. And it doesn't help that the girls who throw themselves at me are all full of intense emotions already."

"So you can kill people, but you can't have sex with 'em," Roxy finished. "That sucks."

"Welcome to my world," Shinn sighed. He paused for a moment. "And no, I'm not going to have to sex with you."

"Well, damn," Roxy laughed. "And here I wanted to know whether you're really so skilled at maneuvering that Arondight of yours."

Shinn blinked for a moment. "Oh, well thanks," he grumbled. "Now when Abes mentions the Destiny's Arondight to me again, I'm going to think of that, and it'll be all awkward. Thanks a lot."

Roxy shot back a grin. "What else are friends for?"

The Chaos Gundam's CIWS panels slammed shut, and from the gantry in front of the silent machine, Sting Oakley heaved a sigh. He glanced over at Auel and Vino, standing next to him at the controls of the crane as it finished reloading the Chaos's CIWS.

"So you were modifying the Chaos's beam rifle," Sting said. "What'd you do with it?"

"There were partial blueprints in the Chaos's computer," Vino explained, glancing down at his clipboard, "and those Junk Guild guys helped fill them out. The Chaos's rifle can switch into a phonon maser weapon." He looked up at the Chaos. "Of course, that's not very helpful when the Chaos can't work underwater, but we'll wait until we get to Carpentaria to modify it for that."

"You're going to make the Chaos amphibious?" Sting asked. "Don't we have the Abyss to do that?"

"Yeah, 'cuz we all know I just love sitting underwater all by myself getting shot at," Auel snorted.

"It wouldn't hurt to have our units be more versatile," Vino said. He glanced distastefully over his shoulder, across the hangar, at the Destiny. "Since even Mr. Fantastic over there is capable of failing."

Sting and Auel glanced at each other awkwardly. "What's up with you and Shinn anyway?" Auel ventured. "I mean, he's not that bad "

"You weren't in ZAFT," Vino said with a scowl. "I guess you wouldn't understand what it is to have the hero of your army betray you and get your friends killed."

"Well, yeah," Sting agreed, "but still, sooner or later you're going to have to deal with it."

Vino glared up at the two Extended. "Will forgiving him bring Lunamaria Hawke back from the dead?"

Sting and Auel glanced at each other. "Uh, no," Sting started.

"Then I'm not going to bother," Vino finished. He turned and stalked away, leaving Sting and Auel behind to stare after him awkwardly.

"So was any of this really necessary," Viveka asked, standing with Athrun on the gantry before the Savior Gundam, "or do those Junk Guild guys just get off on building mobile suit upgrades?"

"Sometimes I think it's a little of both," Athrun said with a shrug. "But they've modified the Savior with hardpoints for large missiles and bombs, and all sorts of munitions to take advantage of the Savior's mobile armor mode. They unloaded ordnance for us as well, so the Savior's role has been shifted more towards an assault orientation."

Viveka glanced awkwardly over her shoulder. "Guess I have to learn how to bomb stuff now?" she asked.

Athrun crossed his arms. "You seem to be a skilled enough pilot to learn on the fly," he answered. "But it wouldn't hurt."

"Well, thank you," Viveka laughed, throwing her mechanical arm around Athrun's shoulders, ignoring his surprised flinch. "Always nice to hear some praise!" She glanced over at the dour Coordinator. "Besides, there's something appealing about being able to drop hundreds of pounds of explosives on people."

Athrun's eyes dimmed, and Viveka's smile faded in confusion. "It's not like that," he said. "With these Gundams...we have the power to destroy people's lives. And...I don't find it very fun." He shook his head. "Anyone who's ever felt powerless and shed tears of loss has wanted the kind of power we have. But now that we have that power, we're the ones who can make people feel so powerless."

Viveka studied him for a moment. "Sounds like someone's been powerless before," she said. "It's not fun, is it?"

Athrun looked over at her. "No," he said, "it's not."

"Well, I'm not going to go all crazy and slaughter people," Viveka said. "That's what the Phantom Pain does, and if I was out doing that, I might as well put on the jackboots and join them. I'm not going to turn out like them."

"I know," Athrun said, looking back up at the Savior. "I just don't want our power to wind up making people feel the way I felt." He narrowed his eyes. "That's not what I'm fighting for."

Earth Alliance battleship Charlemagne, Tambov Oblast, Russia

Sven Cal Bayan was a man of discipline. He could boast of control over the urges that other men his age were slaves to, and had the discipline not to boast of it either. As such, even considering how Mudie dressed specifically to stimulate those urges in her less disciplined and cynical comrades, he was unfazed by the numerous attempts of female comrades to hit on him.

Nonetheless, it tended to get annoying. And even with Lieutenant Junior Grade Irene Ramos of the Phantom Pain only on a screen in front of him, with her physical person safely far away at Japan's Yokosuka Naval Station, he could tell that she was doing her damnedest to push his buttons.

She was beautiful, of course but this mission called for that. A luscious blonde with her flaxen hair cast seductively over one shimmering blue eye, shapely and voluptuous, she would be perfect for worming her way into the confidence of Gerhardt von Oldendorf. And that would surely lead only to more information about this mysterious Emily. Pulling rank in the Phantom Pain could be a wonderful thing.

"Do you understand your mission, Lieutenant Ramos?" Sven asked, expertly ignoring the way she had unbuttoned her shirt enough to display more of her ample cleavage than Sven had really wanted to see. That was, after all, why he was sending her on this mission. "Gerhardt may be initially suspicious of a Phantom Pain attaché, but his sexuality is his weakness, and I'm sure you will be able to exploit it."

"It's everyone's weakness, Captain Bayan," Irene purred, shifting in her chair for what seemed like the sole purpose of jiggling her breasts. Even Sven had to resist the urge to roll his eyes.

"Maintain the encrypted channel to funnel information to me," he instructed. "Military necessity for information about his daughter outweighs the Director's desire for privacy around his family life." He sat back, indicating that he was finished. "Any questions?"

"Well, I was wondering when you would find your way back to Yokosuka," Irene said, leaning forward much to Sven's annoyance. "Was our parting that bitter?"

"My answer remains the same now as it was then," Sven said tersely. "A sexual relationship between officers of the Phantom Pain is inappropriate."

"You're no fun," Irene sighed. "But my door is always open "

"And I'm sure many men will be through to experience your hospitality," Sven cut her off, "but I have more important matters to attend to. Keep your mission in mind. Bayan, out."

The screen went dark, and Sven finally allowed himself an irritated sigh.

It was all irrelevant noise to the ears of Mudie Holcroft as she stood on the gantry overlooking her silent Blu Duel, in the Charlemagne's hangar, arms crossed. It was definitely cold in here the hangar was purposely kept cold to keep delicate machinery cool. And it didn't help that she wasn't even wearing the full Phantom Pain uniform instead she had opted for the shirt, buttoned up just over her midriff, with the sleeves cut off and the slacks replaced by a pair of blue jeans.

She looked down at herself a doll for the amusement of the men. That was what she had been in training used for the amusement of the men. The suffering and pain and work she had put in to earn her spot in the Phantom Pain had been irrelevant in the face of pure lust and lack of discipline.

But now she was what they wanted her to be a doll for their amusement. They could have their fill and she would not have to deal with them it was the best of both worlds. And instead, they called her a whore and made lewd jokes.

Well, sticks and stones, she figured.

She looked down at the Blu Duel. Humans did not understand her, or did not care to understand her, but with the Blu Duel, she had power people were forced to respect and fear her. Such was the life of a mobile suit pilot once behind the armor of the machine, she was powerful.

And so she rubbed her shoulders and wished she could be back inside the Blu Duel.

The machine in question was a Euclid mobile armor, painted white where the standard model was painted gray. It bore a strange cross on the left side of its fuselage with three bars, the bottom of which was slanted. But the woman in its cockpit was the most imposing part of all.

Crayt Markav sat back and closed her eyes as the Euclid cruised in towards the Charlemagne. Somewhere to the south, she could feel pressure from Newtypes. There were four points. One of them she could identify that was the mighty Wings of Light, Shinn Asuka, bane of the Earth Alliance and ZAFT and whoever else raised arms against him. And the second, somewhat weaker, was Athrun Zala boy hero of the PLANTs, the soldier who had fought for and against everyone.

The third was Rau Le Creuset. Crayt scowled at the feeling no one but God had the right to decide the course of the world. Rau Le Creuset was not God.

The fourth point, however...Crayt frowned, reaching back into the repository of her memory.

Project Evolution, she thought bitterly. So this is where you went. She scowled. To think such a powerful weapon has fallen into the hands of Rau Le Creuset...

She clenched her fists around the Euclid's controls as the mobile armor eased into the Charlemagne's sprawling hangar.

Well, you will know the wrath of God soon enough.

To be continued...