Gundam SEED: Bloodlines (COMPLETE 10/26/16)

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rebel_cheese
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Re: Gundam SEED: Bloodlines (Chapter 57 12/26/13)

Post by rebel_cheese » Tue Jun 03, 2014 12:25 pm

Well, it's not officially back until I get chapters posted. This is more of a notice of "yes, I am still alive", lol. Honestly, this fic should have been finished by now, I started it in 2010 and it's 2014.
MURRUE: Infallible accuracy?? I thought you just usually shot all your weapons at random and they just happened to hit stuff.

KIRA: What do you think this is; a cartoon?

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Re: Gundam SEED: Bloodlines (Chapter 57 12/26/13)

Post by rebel_cheese » Fri Jul 18, 2014 3:29 am

Guess what's back?
______________________________________________________________________________________

Chapter Fifty-Eight: Coming Down

It was a couple of days later when I saw the burgeoning fleet outside the hallway windows.

“Quite a sight, isn’t it?” Athrun asked.

I looked over at Athrun, who was floating towards me, though his eyes were peeled outside as well, looking at the same fleet I was.

“This is the fleet for ‘Operation Spitbreak’, isn’t it?” I asked.

“It is,” Athrun said. “A lot of Mobile Suits will be descending from orbit in order in order to surprise the Earth forces. The objective would be for us to disrupt the defenses and reinforcements for the beachhead defenders at Panama, at least, that’s my understanding.”

It was odd how calm Athrun’s voice was considering that the battle had to be rapidly approaching, maybe even in hours. It wasn’t comforting to me, surprisingly. I wanted to shake, I wanted to float away somewhere and wrap my head around the idea of participating in such a massive operation. But Athrun was a veteran. He had seen a lot of war, a lot more than I did. Maybe he was grimly accepting his duty, and maybe that was why he was the leader of our unit, more than him being Patrick Zala’s son.

“This looks like an all-out assault,” I finally said.

“It is. Panama is heavily fortified, but it’s a necessary move,” Athrun replied. “If we cut off the Earth Alliance forces in space from being supplied on the ground, the war is pretty much over. We’re going right into the teeth because it’s the quickest way to end the war in our favor.”

He looked at me then, which suddenly made my chest tighten, just a little. This was getting embarrassing, the little things that were happening whenever Athrun looked at me in private. I shouldn’t have been feeling like a lovesick schoolgirl, but that seemed to be what was happening to me whenever I gazed into his eyes, without the distraction of something important going on.

I was afraid of the implications, but I wasn’t going to hide from them either. Now was not the time to worry about it, though. Not until after Spitbreak.

“A-Athrun,” I managed as I consciously forced my feelings down, “What’s the plan when we land?”

“We’ll be landing right in the middle of their defenses, I would think,” Athrun replied. “Basically, our GUNDAM machines will be able to take a lot of damage that the ordinary GINNs and DINNs cannot. So I think our team will be able to weather at least the initial punishment. Afterwards, we may need to recharge before we press on with the offensive.”

“Sounds that simple,” I replied. I couldn’t help but think that a lot of people onboard all of these vessels were about to lose their lives, however. But that was war. It is not the private fight for survival I had on the Archangel. It’s something far greater than that.

I saw Nicol Amalfi approach the both of us then. “Athrun! Cagalli! Captain Ades is telling us to head for the bridge! It’s about Spitbreak!”

The shocked tone in his voice and his wide eyes made it clear something was wrong. But Athrun spoke first. “What’s wrong, Nicol?”

“It . . . it’s hard to explain but . . . let’s just go to the bridge!” Nicol replied.

I immediately felt a pit form in my stomach. This was not going to be good.
***
“The objective is no longer Panama, sir?” Athrun asked, clearly as taken aback as everyone else in the room. Even Asta Joule had dropped her customary sour, cynical expression in exchange for a look of honest bewilderment.

“Correct,” Captain Ades replied. “I just got word not a half-hour ago. The target is now Alaska, specifically the JOSH-A base that is Atlantic Federation military headquarters. Moreover, the attack is going to begin as soon as possible.”

“You’re kidding, sir!” Asta exclaimed. Even she was fazed by this, her normally sullen exterior had vanished. “How’re we going to pull this off?”

“The theory is that the Earth Alliance has moved so many forces to Panama from JOSH-A that it’s ripe for the taking,” Ades replied. “Apparently, JOSH-A has been the intended target of ‘Operation Spitbreak’ from the very start, but they kept that info away from the vast majority of ZAFT forces in order for Earth Alliance agents to not discover the truth.”

“If JOSH-A were to fall,” Athrun said, “Atlantic Federation forces will be put into disarray and their leadership will be gone.”

“That is correct. This would greatly weaken the Earth Alliance in a way that goes beyond seizing the Panama Mass Driver,” Ades replied. “In any case, the five of you will be put back under the command of Commander Le Creuset upon entering the Alaska theater, so your team will not be lacking for orders or direction, Athrun.”

Being put back under Le Creuset’s command made me feel uneasy. Something was clearly not right with the man, though I wasn’t going to discount my rampant paranoia after joining ZAFT. But he made me nervous, and that included the mask he wore.

“Apparently Le Creuset’s one of the masterminds behind “Spitbreak”, so you should be in good hands, I think,” Ades added.

“I understand,” Athrun said. He approached Ades and stuck out his hand. “It was a pleasure to serve under you again, Captain.”

“My pleasure too,” Ades said, shaking Athrun’s hand briefly before letting him go. He eyed the rest of us then. “Good luck to all of you. Hopefully the rest of the orders will be wired to you by the time you have to deploy.”

“Yes, sir!” At this point, I was good at mimicking the ZAFT salute on command. It was frightening to me, really. I really was becoming one of them, even though I kept telling myself I didn’t believe in ZAFT’s ideals or with the views of its current leader.

This had happened to nearly all of the Orb citizens onboard the Archangel. We eventually became part of that ship. We had gotten used to working on that ship for so long it had become home to us. It was a part of our existence, and the Earth Alliance personnel had become our comrades. Even the Artemis personnel, with the language barrier and everything, had eventually assimilated into being part of the ship.

That was ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, right? Was I beginning to develop that for ZAFT?

I wouldn’t. I refused to. I could not let myself become one of ‘them’.

At the same time though, if it meant being at Athrun’s side . . .

In the back of my head, I was wondering if that would be such a bad thing.
***
We were loaded into the GUNDAMs first, and then the GUNDAMs launched and were inserted into special capsules made for re-entry, just like all of the other Mobile Suits in ZAFT’s arsenal. The capsules worked on auto-pilot, so I was left with a sense of feeling enclosed and helpless the entire time. My fate rested in the hands of a computer until the capsule would break open after atmospheric entry.

I have received our specific orders,” Athrun says.

Oh yeah?” Dearka asked.

Our mission is simple. We’re going to help establish a beachhead for the main forces to move in on JOSH-A. Following that, we are to head out into sea on the GUULs to assault the seafaring forces from behind so the marine landing force can break through and land. JOSH-A is well defended and Mobile Suits and the navy alone won’t be enough.

So we’re not plowing straight ahead into JOSH-A?” Asta asked. “Honestly, it seems their only strategy for us is ‘go straight ahead and smash things’.”

Honestly, I kind of agreed with Asta on that one. That seemed to be the only strategy ZAFT had for the GUNDAMs, especially since I was on the receiving end of such assaults.

”We are going to be used for the final assault on JOSH-A once the seafaring forces are eliminated,” Athrun replied. “It is believed most of the naval forces are Eurasian. They won’t be as motivated to protect JOSH-A as Atlantic Federation forces would. We need to finish them off quickly and move in-land and capture JOSH-A as intact as possible.[/i}”

That made me realize something. “We’re thinking JOSH-A has Earth Alliance secrets, don’t they?”

Yes, and that’s why they don’t want us to completely annihilate the place. The secrets of JOSH-A could allow us to systematically destroy the Earth Alliance forces. We’ll know their codes, their encryptions, their battle plans, anything you can think of,” Athrun replied.

All of that would put the Earth Alliance on their heels. If the Earth Alliance was never given a chance to recover, it would end the war.

And then . . . I could head home. My service in ZAFT would be brief, mercifully brief. But at what cost? The obliteration of JOSH-A and the total defeat of the Earth Alliance would leave the Naturals at the mercies of Patrick Zala, and he did not seem like a particularly forgiving man when I had spoken with him.

Patrick Zala would likely not give the Earth Alliance generous peace terms at all. His peace terms would likely be so cruel that they would spark another war decades down the line, with the Naturals feeling oppressed, manipulated, and perhaps even enslaved. How would a victory today help either cause, down the line? And what did it mean for Orb? Would ZAFT respect Orb’s neutrality and independence, or would they militarily force Orb to fall into line with the rest of Earth?

This battle would not be the end of the conflict even if ZAFT achieved all of their goals. It just would be the setup for centuries of war and death to follow. Even before we launched, I was becoming convinced of that. Perhaps ZAFT wasn’t assimilating me as much as I had thought.

Maybe the only reason I felt anything for ZAFT at all was Athrun.

The desire to protect him had grown, just a little, since the last battle. I wasn’t so worried about me getting blown up by flak after re-entry, but the same happening to Athrun. It was weird, and I knew why I was beginning to feel that way. I wanted to ignore those feelings, but at the same time, they were there and were getting stronger.

It was stronger than friendship but it wasn’t romantic love. It was something else, based on desiring Athrun to live through this war and then find happiness afterward. Was it love, in some way, shape, or form, that I was feeling? Or was it something else, something that is unclassifiable? I didn’t know then and I don’t know now what those feelings were, but they were causing my heart to slam against my chest and a warm feeling was behind my eyes and in my lungs.

I guess when you get down to it, what I was feeling was pretty much love.

I took deep breaths, tried to ignore my feeling of claustrophobia, caused by being locked in a dark pod with only video screens giving me glimpses of the outside. That’s when I felt a sensation of being jarred loose, and I realized my pod had been launched into space, and I was in-bound for Earth.

All right,” Athrun said, as if he had done this plenty of times, “The autopilot will take us through the Earth’s atmosphere. After a certain point the pods will open and when that happens the autopilot will be disengaged. The GUNDAM you pilot will be under your personal control.

Thanks, Athrun. Nothing like knowing I could wind up flying myself into my own death.

This better not be like when I fell into the atmosphere,” Dearka said. “That was hell.

It took me a moment to remember that when I had fallen through the atmosphere all those months ago, Dearka had joined us in that. But while I needed Athrun to save me, Dearka had been left on his own. In retrospect, I wonder why Dearka never seemed bitter that Athrun had chosen to help me rather than help Dearka.

It won’t be like that at all. And before you forget, both Cagalli and I took the same trip into that atmosphere. I don’t think any of us want to experience that again.

Point taken,” Dearka sighed.

The capsule was beginning to rattle. I figured we were beginning to fall through the atmosphere.

All right, when the capsules open up, use your thrusters to slow your descent. Not even the GUNDAMs can tolerate a freefall. Control your descent until you hit the ground, understand? And choose your targets wisely, there’s ZAFT Mobile Suits ahead of us and we want minimal friendly fire casualties.

The rattling became fiercer, and I gripped my controls, just praying I wouldn’t get hit while still in the capsule. That would be horrific, and I’m sure, a definitive possibility. It was the thing everyone thought about but never said a word over, so there would be zero perceived cowardice. The kind of chances you took was something that came with the profession. This was war for you.

The radios were buzzing, I was losing coms. This was typical. How can radio waves be expected to hold together while in re-entry? But this made re-entry even worse, because while auto-pilot was supposed to take care of everything, who says that somebody’s auto-pilot won’t screw up and ram into me? Or vice versa? Were ZAFT operating systems that reliable, that superlative, that they could guarantee the survival of every single person dropped onto Earth in one of these pods?

The rattling quickly ended, and coms returned. I heard Athrun. “We’ll be opening up in five, four, three, two, one . . .

That’s when the pods opened up and began falling to earth, and suddenly I was in freefall.

I immediately poured on the Justice’s thrusters, and I tried to position the GUNDAM so I could aim towards the ground. There was fire coming at us from all over the ground. Some surprise attack this was, from the level of flak we were getting it felt more like they were expecting us!

“They’re all over the damn place!” I shouted as five GINNs in front of me vanished in fireballs. I fell past them, blinded temporarily by smoke, before getting a mostly clear viewpoint of the ground below.

Use auto-target!” Athrun shouted. “I don’t want to take the risk of friendly fire! Just let the computer do the work and fire!”

I turned on the auto-target system, and suddenly I was given more targets than I could possibly shoot at. JOSH-A had the aerial defenses of nothing I had ever seen before. Definitely worthy of guarding a headquarters!

I pulled the trigger again and again, firing missile salvos at the enemies below. Some of them were intercepted mid-air or were lured off-course by decoys, but roughly half of my shots wound up hitting their targets, causing distant explosions, looking like fiery dustballs from my perspective, to perforate the mountainous landscape.

“This is supposed to be light resistance?” I shouted.

Well, this is still the Atlantic Federation headquarters! We couldn’t expect them to leave it completely unguarded, I don’t think!” Nicol replied. Even he, normally calm and unflappable, sounded stressed and strained.

Asta had fallen ahead of us, and she was lighting up the defenses below left and right. It seemed she wanted to make sure she landed first. “I’m going to land first and secure a zone for the GUULs to be delivered! You guys just keep shooting these bastards!”

Then I saw that Asta’s targets suddenly switched from the defenses to the Skygrasper Mobile Armors that were being deployed. We were starting to fall into their sphere of influence and they began shooting at us furiously. I immediately changed my primary targets as well and began shooting at the waves of Skygraspers approach us, and more than one of their missiles hit me, but they failed to do much damage to the Phase Shift.

Cagalli,” Athrun said. “You’re the one who won’t run out of power. We’re counting on you to keep the pressure on these people while we wait for the GUULs and to be recharged. Keep them off of us!

“Y-Yes, Athrun!” I blew another two Skygraspers out of the sky, and then I was hit from flak below.

“God damn it!” I tried to do two things at once then, firing at the Skygraspers with one weapon and shooting at the ground defenses with the other. It was a near impossible task, especially with the thrusters needing to be periodically fired to keep from going into complete freefall.

Alarm sensors went off. I realized what that meant immediately. I was about to hit the ground.

The Justice slammed into the ground then, shaking the cockpit and throwing me off balance. I managed to regain my senses in time to aim my rifle high into the air and lock onto a pair of Skygraspers coming in for a dive-bombing. Desperately I opened fire and my shot hit one Skygrasper dead-on, and grazed the other. The 2nd Skygrasper spiraled out of control, flying through the fireball of its wingmate and shooting past me before plowing into the ground by several of the remaining anti-air vehicles being deployed against us.

I found cover behind a rocky hill and shot at several of the anti-air guns as they were trying to pull back. More and more GINNS were landing on the ground too, which were making the Earth Alliance ground forces’ position untenable. Now they were dealing with both airborne and ground-level operations.

It was becoming clear how unprepared the Earth Alliance was, and how close they already were to being overwhelmed.

My sensors indicated the rest of Athrun’s team landing nearby, with Asta Joule being the farthest-flung. She was a berserker on the battlefield, caught in the open while the rest of us were behind cover. She was blasting everyone in her way, considering how many red dots were vanishing from existence when her green dot got close to them.

Finally, she made it over to our position. “Where’s the damn GUULs, Athrun?

They’re trying to get them here! Part of the problem is that the Eurasian navy is putting up enough resistance to delay them!” Athrun replied.

Tell them to just fly on through without bothering to fight them then! We’re gonna head back there to blow up the Naturals’ damn navy to begin with!” Asta shouted.

A couple of DINNs flew over our heads. Asta’s mood did not improve. “See? If those cheap-ass DINNs can get through, why can’t the GUULs?

Dearka, for his part, leaned out and fired a shot before taking cover again. “Can we complain at a time when we’re not gonna get killed? We’re bunched up here! All it’d take is some superbomb or something dropped on our heads and we’re all dead!

Not like Dearka to make sense, but he is in this case,” Nicol said. “I’m going to go on ahead with the Mirage Colloid activated. Let’s see if I can’t make the defenses lighter so we can have a breather.

That’s not a good idea, Nicol,” Athrun says. “There’s too much fire everywhere. You can’t use Phase Shift with Mirage Colloid on, it’s not worth it.

Then what do we do to get out of this mess?” Asta asked.

Another fight of GINNs flew over our heads then, and I turned around to see five GUULs showing up behind us, gliding along the water then making it to the shoreline to where we were pinned down.

We found it,” Dearka said.

I heard a new voice on our coms then, and it seemed to be the commander of the DINN unit. “Zala Team, they need you back on the naval front! The Eurasians are fighting hard. We’ll go and plow the road to JOSH-A wit the BuCUES!

Got it,” Athrun said. “I guess this means the first part of this mission is being cut short for us, then.

That’s what it sounded like to me. Clearly things had to be going badly back at sea for them to already call us back to do something about it.

But no one said anything. It was likely we had all grimly accepted our duties. Even I didn’t feel like I could say anything at all. What could I possibly say to add to the situation?

All right, time for the phase two of the operation. We’re heading out to attack the Eurasian Navy from behind. Dearka, give us covering fire from the anti-air. Everyone else, get to a GUUL and let’s get to work!” Athrun ordered.

We obeyed his orders quickly. The four of us immediately charged towards our GUULs, leaving Dearka and the Buster behind.

The Buster leaned out and fired a trio of shots before taking cover as more fire came its way. I joined in then, firing a salvo before making a break for my own GUUL, which proved more difficult than I expected. After a klutzy maneuver that made the Justice look like it was flailing in the air from a bad tap-dancing attempt, I managed to lock the Justice into place on the top of the GUUL and I shot off into the air, heading back out towards sea.

Dearka soon joined us, and we shot out across the water.

Okay, that could have gone better but I think I’m still in one piece,” Dearka said.

As we charged across the sea, I could already see the Eurasian fleet, surrounded by flak and explosions. It brought to mind a sense of siege.

In fact, it looked like the Eurasians were being overwhelmed. It didn’t look like much of a fight at all. Did the navy really need our help that badly, when it looked like they were manhandling the Eurasians on their own?

Man, insert French military defeat joke here,” Dearka said.

Something’s wrong. The navy doesn’t look like they need our help for this at all, they’re winning easily,” Asta said.

The thought occurred to me that we should separate. We were winning dramatically enough that I felt confident about the suggestion. “Maybe I and someone else should split off and head towards JOSH-A to help with that assault while the others stay and follow the plan to help the Navy.”

Athrun’s voice came back swiftly. “No. We’re following orders. Anyway, once we finish off the Eurasians, if it really is this easy, then we’ll be able to bring in the full force of the ZAFT forces in theater towards the JOSH-A rather than a partial amount.

There was a certain logic in Athrun’s orders, supporting the idea of overwhelming force. With the Eurasian navy obliterated, the forces currently on the ground attacking JOSH-A would be able to get all of the reinforcements and supplies they’d need to smash through the base rapidly. So what if we were not absolutely needed to defeat the navy? Our presence would be enough to make a noticeable difference and probably move up the timetable a good deal.

He was a good leader, a smart captain, and he accomplished this while obeying his orders.

“All right, makes sense to me,” I said. I aimed towards a random Earth Alliance ship and fired. It blew apart almost in half and began to sink.

At that point, it barely mattered to me how many Naturals I had killed in this battle. I had an almost fatalistic attitude. I had killed so many, what were a few more at this point? I was fighting for ZAFT and I was fighting for Athrun, and I had to do my part, especially if this battle meant the war would soon end. Regardless of what came afterward, if the war ended, I could go home.

If Athrun’s orders would take me to the end of the war, while staying as moral as such orders could be in battle, I could accept that. I wanted to trust Athrun.

All right, spread out and go after the naval forces systematically. Let’s make as quick work of them as possible and then we’re going to get resupplied before we go back to JOSH-A,” Athrun said. “Everyone, begin your attack runs!

We accelerated as one, and then charged right into the battle at sea.
____________________________________________________________________________________

The next chapter is named "The Inferno". Guess why.

About damn time the updates restarted. Let's see how long I can keep the updates stringing along.
MURRUE: Infallible accuracy?? I thought you just usually shot all your weapons at random and they just happened to hit stuff.

KIRA: What do you think this is; a cartoon?

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The Green Flame
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Re: Gundam SEED: Bloodlines (Chapter 58 7/18/13)

Post by The Green Flame » Fri Jul 18, 2014 3:30 pm

Now to count down until Cagalli returns to Orb :v

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Re: Gundam SEED: Bloodlines (Chapter 58 7/18/13)

Post by rebel_cheese » Fri Jul 18, 2014 7:20 pm

The Green Flame wrote:Now to count down until Cagalli returns to Orb :v
Hehe. You say that like that will even happen, much less that it will be easy. =p
MURRUE: Infallible accuracy?? I thought you just usually shot all your weapons at random and they just happened to hit stuff.

KIRA: What do you think this is; a cartoon?

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Re: Gundam SEED: Bloodlines (Chapter 58 7/18/13)

Post by The Green Flame » Sat Jul 19, 2014 1:51 am

The last time I made a guess, I was totally right >.>

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Re: Gundam SEED: Bloodlines (Chapter 58 7/18/13)

Post by rebel_cheese » Sun Jul 20, 2014 4:18 am

Quiet, you. XD
MURRUE: Infallible accuracy?? I thought you just usually shot all your weapons at random and they just happened to hit stuff.

KIRA: What do you think this is; a cartoon?

rebel_cheese
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Re: Gundam SEED: Bloodlines (Chapter 58 7/18/13)

Post by rebel_cheese » Thu Jul 31, 2014 3:43 am

I am not going to even play the slightest bit coy on what song I named this chapter after. Listen to this at a certain point in the chapter. It fits really well.
______________________________________________________________________________________

Chapter Fifty-Nine: The Inferno

The Eurasians didn’t stand much of a chance against us.

They were already outmatched against the combined power of ZAFT’s navy, and with all five of us joining in, they didn’t stand a chance at all. It felt more like a massacre than a battle, and it was by no fault of the Eurasians. They just couldn’t fight so much power at once, and who could?

In hindsight, it should have occurred to me that there was a reason they were so outgunned.

But caught up in the heat of battle, you don’t think of such things. You’re directly involved, all you’re worried about is the slaying of the next enemy. And there were plenty of targets for us to go after.

“This is what they call a ‘turkey shoot’,” I said, invoking an archaic term that had remained in the military lexicon since the Anno Domini era.

May be a turkey shoot but I’m not complaining,” Dearka replied. “I’ve had enough hard fights in this war. I could go for more battles like this where it’s more of a shooting gallery.”

Cut the chatter and keep your focus,,” Athrun said. “These are professional sailors and letting your guard down they will shoot you down.

Considering how wildly they’re firing I doubt they could hit the side of a-OW!

It was pretty clear that Dearka had just inadvertently confirmed Athrun’s point, especially after Dearka’s rapid-fire cursing and the Buster’s squirrely movements on my radar.

Damn it,” Dearka growled after his cursing session. “Why do you have to keep being proven right, Athrun?

Because it’s my job. Now keep your focus. The GUNDAMs can only take so many shots..”

Not like Athrun to be so sarcastic. Then again, I didn’t blame him. I would have been just as sarcastic in his position, if not more so.

I sunk another cruiser then. At this point, doing the deed was second nature, and I wasn’t quite thinking of the casualties I was causing. “Do we have orders to move out? We’ve got things pretty well in hand on here, we can let the fleet finish them off, can’t we?”

I don’t have orders to move yet,” Athrun replied. “Trust me, we have orders to move I will let everyone know.”

This is pathetic. We’re picking on panicking scraps instead of trying to get into the interior of JOSH-A,” Asta replied then. “I just did a radio scan. They’re already through the outer gates! It won’t be long until the entire interior is taken!”

Well then, it wraps up before we join in the attack on the interior,” Athrun replied. “Sometimes that’s just how it works in war. You don’t always participate in the main assault, sometimes your duty is to make sure the main assault goes off as planned.

More ZAFT DINNs flew by us then, heading for the front line. I knew that wasn’t going to make Asta happy at all.

We’re nearly ten kilometers away from the damn base, Athrun. We’re so far away from the main assault we might as well not be participating in the same operation.”

Athrun sighed. I knew he was getting pretty frustrated, and the temptation to want to move in had to be growing. It did look like things were pretty well taken care of here in the sea. There wasn’t enough of the Eurasians left to give the ZAFT fleet that much trouble. We could leave and the fleet could probably mop things up just fine.

All right, you win,” Athrun said. “Nicol, Dearka, you two disengage when you’re finished with your current assaults. We will change batteries and then right back out. If we do this quickly enough we will make in time to participate in the final assault.”

You sure about this, Athrun?” Nicol asked, clearly surprised.

Yeah. I’m sure.

For the first time in a while, Athrun didn’t seem completely sure about one of his orders. It was probably because he was disobeying his orders to stay here at sea, helping to destroy the Eurasian fleet and watch for the Panama reinforcements to turn around and come right back at us. But at the same time . . .

There was no sign of the Panama reinforcements we were fearing. The Atlantic Federation should have already peeled off at least a few rapid-response detachments to try to attack us from behind. That’s how typical military strategy worked. Was the Earth Alliance simply that taken off guard by us, that they hadn’t managed to turn anyone around in time yet?

That was the only answer I could come up with. That somehow our surprise attack had gone off better than we imagined.

Cagalli, since you’re the only one who has unlimited power, you find a few targets of opportunity and make the fleet’s lives easier while you wait for us. This won’t take long,” Athrun said.

“Right, I understand,” I replied. I wasn’t feeling really good about flying around and blasting away more sailors who were outclassed by my machine. But at the same time, this would help end the war quicker, wouldn’t it?

Then I got a bleeping noise, and I checked my sensors. “Hang on. I’ve got some strange readings from JOSH-A.”

Athrun. “Yeah, I’ve got it too. Something’s wrong.

I turned the Justice over to look over at the distant assault on JOSH-A . . . and saw what seemed to be an enlarging dome of electricity surge out rapidly, encompassing everything in its path.

What the hell is that?” Dearka asked.

That’s when the bleeping noise turned into an outright alarm. I immediately plugged in the calculations, and saw the most horrifying result I had ever seen in my life.

“I’m . . . I’m detecting a huge maount of radiation!” I shouted.

It’s some kind of bomb!” Athrun shouted. “Everyone, emergency fall back, right now! Move it!”

I wasn’t about to argue. In that moment of time, the expanding dome had gotten twice as close to us. In about fifteen seconds it would be right upon us.

I turned the Justice around and turned on the accelerator to blast the GUUL across the sea.

It didn’t take me long to find out that the GUNDAMs had all turned around and began flying off as well.

What is that thing?” Dearka yelled.

It’s death! Just step on it, Dearka!” Nicol shouted.

What do you think I’m doing, dammit?

As we blasted away, I began hearing cries of alarm and panic before screams and static began overwhelming them.

They were dying. All of those people who flew by us, heading into the front line, all of those people who dropped with us and continued with the assaults on the gates, they were dying.

Being microwaved alive.

It’s gaining on us!” Asta shouted.

By that point, the dome had fried the ships we had been attacking, and the dome was right on our tail.

A nearby GINN suddenly exploded into flame near me, and I pivoted and grabbed the GINN before continuing on. “Hang on! I gotcha!”

But then the dome slowed down. Then stopped completely.

It stopped!” Nicol shouted.

I spun the Justice around just in time to see a massive explosion erupt from where JOSH-A us, and the dome faded from existence shortly there after, leaving nothing but the smoke of JOSH-A in the distance.

And no signs of life from anything that had been caught in the radius.

I felt numb, looking at that explosion. I knew what had happened, there was no ambiguity whatsoever, but I didn’t want to believe it. That what happened was even possible, much less had just occurred.

It was horrifying.

Oh my God,” Dearka said, speaking for us all.

Athrun, what do we do? Do we head back in there??” Asta asked.

No!” Athrun shouted. “N-No . . . we can’t . . . we don’t have enough power. Let’s just . . . let’s just find a place to land . . . there’s a few nearby islands . . . there’s nothing left anyway.

Those words, ‘nothing left’, finally made it clear to me what had happened at JOSH-A.

They were dead. Everyone. Everyone was dead. On both sides.

There’s nothing left.” Athrun said, his voice trembling. “Nothing at all . . . the battle’s over.

He took a shaky breath audible over the radio. “The battle’s over.”
***
We landed at a rocky island that was deserted of civilization or most life in general, it was small but our GUNDAMs would be easy to spot, at least according to Athrun. We pulled out the pilot from the wounded GINN but there wasn’t enough time to give him medical treatment before he died on us too. All he managed to ask was why we wasted our time saving him, that we should’ve known that the explosions had to have injured him, and that we could’ve been killed too.

I didn’t have a chance to reply to him. He died before I could say anything at all.

We stood outside our GUNDAMs. Nicol was the only one actually in a GUNDAM, he was trying to raise someone. The rest of us had grouped together, trying to figure out what had happened.

“That had to have been some sort of bomb. A nuclear one,” Dearka said.

“No ZOINKS,” Asta said. “But a nuclear bomb should be impossible! And that didn’t go off like any nuclear bomb I’ve ever seen!”

Asta was right. That was not an ordinary nuclear bomb. I’ve seen enough pictures and videos of nukes going off to know what those looked like. The sort of dome I had seen was not a result of a nuclear bomb. It was something else entirely.

Athrun was staring into space, looking out at the wreckage, completely stunned, almost like he was in his own little world.

“Athrun,” I said, hoping to jar him out of his stupor. “Athrun, we need to figure out what to do.”

“At least . . . at least ninety percent of the entire assault force was in that blast radius,” Athrun said suddenly.

“Huh?” I asked. I thought I had heard him wrong. “How many again?”

“I . . . I had access to the operations communications. I’ve been . . . been listening through the log. At least ninety percent of our forces were directly involved in the JOSH-A assault, including the majority of the fleet,” Athrun said. “We’ve taken so many losses . . . we could have just lost the war.”

“Lost the war?” Asta stormed past me and spun Athrun around, grabbing him by the collar. “What do you mean we’ve lost the war?”

“You don’t understand. We’ve lost so many people, people we can’t replace,” Athrun said. His voice was soft, distant, disconnected. He was barely functioning at all, he was so lost in shock.

“Shut up! I don’t want to hear this from you! Get your head together, ZOINKS!” Asta shouted.

Asta looked like she was going to punch Athrun, and the thought of her doing that really pissed me off.

“Let him go!” I grabbed Asta and pulled her away from Athrun. “Stay in control of – “

“You shut up!” Asta shook me off. “You’re lucky I don’t kill you right now! You fought with those bastards who just blew all of us up!”

Asta wanted to have it out with me? Fine, this seemed like a perfect opportunity for us to fight. Not like anyone was going to do anything about it anymore at this point!

“What the hell are you talking about? Whose uniform am I wearing, Asta? Does this look like an Earth Alliance uniform to you?”

“You’ve always had sympathies for the Naturals! Look at what they did!” Asta pointed at the smoke on the horizon. “Look at what they did! They’re monsters, all of them! They slaughtered us in the worst way possible!”

“They slaughtered themselves too!” I shouted. “Or didn’t you notice the Eurasian forces getting fried along with anyone else!”

“I’m sorry, I was too busy fleeing for my life to notice!” Asta screamed back. “Not like I ZOINKS care what happened to those Eurasians anyways! They’re animals! All of those Naturals! Animals!”

I think Asta and I would have come to blows if Athrun hadn’t finally snapped out of it. “Enough! Both of you!”

“Oh, you’re finally coming to your senses, huh?” Asta snarled. She looked ready to punch Athrun in the face, and I instinctively felt my left arm tense up to grab her again. But I didn’t need to bother, I saw Athrun’s eyes and he wasn’t going to let Asta grab him again.

“Will you stop yelling at everyone! Belligerence isn’t going to help anyone in this situation! A lot of us just died out there and we need to keep from falling apart until we know who’s left!” Athrun shouted.

“Isn’t it damn obvious it’s down to just us?” Asta yelled back.

“There’s no way!” Athrun replied, getting right in Asta’s face. “ZAFT always holds back a force in case of emergencies or if reinforcements have to be utilized. That force should have been outside the blast radius of that bomb! We are not alone out here, Asta!”

“How do you know that?” Asta shouted. “That was an all-out assault on JOSH-A!”

“Nicol,” Athrun said, taking his attention off of Asta, “Please tell me you found someone on the coms.”

“I did,” Nicol said from the cockpit he was sitting in. “I got in touch with operational HQ. They were outside the blast radius, and Commander Le Creuset is among those who survived. Somehow our entire unit made it out of this.”

Athrun breathed a loud sigh of relief. “That’s good.”

He turned to Asta, and made a motion in his arms that clearly meant ‘See?’ Asta, for her part, just looked like she was going to collapse. She didn’t look much different than Athrun had just a moment ago.

“How long until they pick us up?” Athrun asked.

“Not much longer,” Nicol said. “We should be extracted in less than twenty minutes. They have us on radar and just need to gather the equipment necessary to get us out of here.”

“Won’t be soon enough,” Athrun sighed, and I agreed with him.

I took one last look out at the distant smoke rising into the air, like an unending inferno that had sucked all that had gotten close into hell.

What a cruel weapon. What a horrible way to die. And what a immoral strategy, sacrificing their own forces like this just to kill their enemies. I was no military strategist, but I had doubts that the Eurasians would just willingly throw their lives away. They were the least fanatical out of the Earth Alliance factions and they had the most to lose out of a sacrifice like this.

No, judging by how hard they had been fighting, in spite of being completely outmatched, they had no clue they were bait. Usually bait will fold quicker, or make it more obvious that they were mere bait.

No, something told me that the Atlantic Federation had just stabbed the Eurasians in the back here.

And that told me that the war was about to get worse.
***
“Commander Le Creuset, sir!” Athrun said, standing to attention as we once again met the mysterious ZAFT commander. We had been taken onboard a ZAFT submarine after being extracted, and we, along with the remnants of the ZAFT force, were in full retreat back to Carpentaria. Sadly, that was where my whole journey with ZAFT had begun. It was like I was going full circle already.

“At ease,” Le Creuset said, and we all followed Athrun in relaxing our postures.

“It is good that you are still able to follow military protocol,” Le Creuset said. “It is important to keep discipline right now.”

He clearly had no idea how close Asta had come to blows with me and then Athrun. I decided it was best that Le Creuset had no idea. Not unless the situation became so unbearable that Le Creuset’s assistance was absolutely necessary. The man was eerie and mysterious behind that mask of his and that continued to make me nervous.

“What happened at JOSH-A, sir?” Athrun asked. “I’ve never seen such a wave of energy before!”

“We’re still analyzing it,” Le Creuset said. He was somehow staying calmer than every other person in the submarine. I wasn’t sure how he was pulling it off but that made him even creepier than before. “But we believe it was a form of concentrated radiation. It microwaved everything within a ten-kilometer radius.”

“How many of our forces were caught in it?” Athrun asked.

“An estimated ninety percent of our attack force was caught inside the radius,” Le Creuset said. “The lethality rate is likely ninety-nine percent, if anyone survived it at all. The Earth Alliance had a trap for us, and we walked right into it.”

How could he just say that? He sounded even calmer than before! Was there any emotion in this man at all?

Surprisingly, Asta echoed my very thoughts and then some. She marched right up to Le Creuset. “How can you be so calm? How can you just talk like it’s just a mechanical problem or something? That’s a lot of Coordinators that just died out there!”

“If I panic, the situation will worsen,” Le Creuset replied. “Right now, I need to compartmentalize everything and try to gather up what we have left. Our casualties are such that I doubt we will hold onto our gains on Earth for very long. I am drawing up contingency plans as we speak.”

Asta made a growling noise, but finally she looked away. “Fine!”

I was amazed that Le Creuset was not punishing her for insubordination. Maybe Le Creuset just felt there would be no point.

“Does . . . does Chairman Zala know?” Athrun asked.

“He is being notified as we speak,” Le Creuset said. “He will not be pleased. A ninety-percent casualty rate was not anticipated.”

“Neither was the Naturals blowing us to Kingdom Come,” Asta snarled. “They’re going to pay for what they did with their lives. All of them.”

“Asta, now’s not the time for this,” Athrun growled.

“We can’t sit here and do nothing!” Asta replied.

“It’s unlikely that Chairman Zala will allow us to sit still for long,” Le Creuset said. “Right now, the five of you should get some rest until we know what the orders are. What’s happened at Alaska was unforeseen. The only consolation is that with the sacrifice of the Eurasian forces the victory is Pyrrhic in nature and it will likely not make the Eurasians enthused about assisting the Atlantic Federation or the Republic of East Asia any further.”

“The Eurasians were the weaklings in the alliance, that barely helps us,” Asta growled.

“Nevertheless, it prevents this from being a total defeat,” Le Creuset replied.

Honestly, I think losing ninety percent of our forces and not achieving the target objective constitutes ‘total defeat’. I could not see where Le Creuset was coming from at all.

Perhaps realizing we all felt the same thing, Athrun said “All the same . . . a lot of people have just died, sir.”

“And you should feel free to mourn. Right now, I can’t afford to. I need to have multiple contingencies ready to submit upon Chairman Zala’s desired orders,” Le Creuset replied.

It seemed like a reasonable answer. Le Creuset was possibly the last strategist ZAFT had left on Earth. Unless he was removed from duty or the theater because of his failure to foresee the Earth Alliance trap, if he was all that was left, he had to do all of the work on his own. But the calm, controlled nature of his words and the deliberate way he spoke just did not seem right. He was being unsettling rather than commanding, and it made me feel uncomfortable, like there was something else going on that I was not aware of.

“Again, you are dismissed. Get some rest, that is an order. Mourn while you can, because I doubt the Chairman will let everyone mourn for long. He will want vengeance, and you, Asta Joule, will undoubtedly have the opportunity to kill as many of the Naturals as you desire,” Le Creuset said then.

“Good,” Asta said softly.

“All right, thank you sir,” Athrun said, though he was eyeing Asta with an uncomfortable look in his eye. And I didn’t blame him; I was looking at Asta the same way.

I could not blame her for being angry. I was angry too. We had barely escaped death by massacre. But Asta looked like she was ready to give the Earth Alliance the same treatment we had been given, or worse. And that wouldn’t solve anything. That would just make things even worse.

But, judging by the looks of other ZAFT personnel surrounding Rau Le Creuset, she was not the only one who felt this way.

This war was definitely going to get worse. And I had a sinking feeling in my heart that I was going to come to regret serving my time in ZAFT.

And, perhaps, ever being a part of this war to begin with.
MURRUE: Infallible accuracy?? I thought you just usually shot all your weapons at random and they just happened to hit stuff.

KIRA: What do you think this is; a cartoon?

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The Green Flame
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Re: Gundam SEED: Bloodlines (Chapter 59 7/31/13)

Post by The Green Flame » Fri Aug 01, 2014 10:33 am

Great stuff. Looks like ZAFT goofed harder than in canon and Cagalli gets a first row seat to war crimes in Panama. Will we get a not cartoonishly evil Alliance fellow to run into? And have them not die within two chapters?

rebel_cheese
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Re: Gundam SEED: Bloodlines (Chapter 59 7/31/13)

Post by rebel_cheese » Wed Aug 06, 2014 1:57 am

I make no guarantees. ;)
MURRUE: Infallible accuracy?? I thought you just usually shot all your weapons at random and they just happened to hit stuff.

KIRA: What do you think this is; a cartoon?

rebel_cheese
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Re: Gundam SEED: Bloodlines (Chapter 59 7/31/13)

Post by rebel_cheese » Sat Aug 09, 2014 10:57 am

Chapter Sixty: Panama

“You can’t be serious!” I yelled at Rau Le Creuset the next day. “We’re going to make another coordinated attack, sir? We’ve been decimated!”

“We have no choice in the matter,” Le Creuset replied. “We have to scrape up what’s left and send it to Panama to destroy the Mass Driver there. If we don’t strand the Earth Alliance on the planet, we will have no chance at winning the war. PLANT is rushing us as many reinforcements as they can so we can hold our gains on the planet, but it will be some time before they can arrive. We have to destroy the Panama Mass Driver while holding onto our own Mass Drivers in that timeframe.”

I understood the military strategy behind it all. It made sense. Le Creuset had a gift of making the unreasonable make sense. But still? How much blood had to be spilled to make ZAFT and PLANT satisfied? We lost ninety percent of our fighting strength in a single blow! We were lucky to fight at all!

“We are lucky, then, that we did not lose any of you to JOSH-A exploding,” Le Creuset replied. “The five of you will have to plow the road for the rest of our forces to get within striking distance of the Panama Mass Driver. We have an experimental weapon that should be able to do the job if we can get close enough.”

“I understand, sir,” Athrun replied softly.

None of us looked happy about going right back into war at all. Only Asta looked like she had fight in her, she was ready to take vengeance. The rest of us just looked tired. I’m sure I did too. I didn’t sleep soundly at all the previous night, all I could think about was all of the people that had gotten massacred at both sides, and how I somehow managed to survive. In fact, it was ZAFT orders that had allowed us to witness the explosion and have time to react and get out of the blast radius in time.

Did Rau Le Creuset know somehow that there was a trap? Or did he merely suspect it? If he suspected a trap, why did he merely hold us back and not a significant enough force so we’d be able to do more against the Earth Alliance?

I knew, however, that I could not ask those questions. I didn’t want a target on my back. Chairman Zala knew that I was not an ideologue like he was, and that I wasn’t as motivated to fight at a lot of other Coordinators. My reasons for fighting with ZAFT were different. If I started getting suspicion that I had Natural sympathies, what would happen to me? Or to Athrun?

So I asked a different question instead. “What is this ‘experimental weapon’, if you don’t mind me asking sir?”

Rau Le Creuset nodded. “Of course. It is called the ‘Gungnir’. They emit strong electromagnetic pulses that fry everything within a certain radius. In a sense it is not that dissimilar from that bomb the Earth Alliance hit us with in Alaska. Instead of microwaving the target, though, all the Gungnirs do is prevent electronic devices from working. It is considered strong enough to nullify virtually all EMP shielding within the striking distance, so when it is ready to deploy the five of you will have to get out of there.”

It was a detailed and reasonable answer, just like all of Rau Le Creuset’s other answers to all of our questions. It was almost like he rehearsed these conversations before we had them. It was eerie.

“So basically what we’re doing is clearing landing zones for these ‘Gungnir’ devices,” Athrun replied.

“Yes, that’s precisely it. Right now, however, I plan on using you five as a single cohesive force. The Earth Alliance did cluster their forces in Panama, after all, and using your unit in a piecemeal fashion isn’t going to work, even though our equipment is superior to theirs.”

More questions entered my mind. If this was true, why didn’t we just go after Panama to begin with? Why go to JOSH-A? Why attack Alaska? It just seemed like so many people had died over an unnecessary gamble. Then again, at the time, it didn’t seem so unreasonable, until it had become clear that the Earth Alliance had prepared some sort of trap for us.

Something just seemed wrong and I didn’t know who to go to about it.

“Right now, I want you to deploy with Team Foster, on the edge of our western flank,” Le Creuset said. “Once their zone is clear, sweep across the battlefield and clear the other zones one by one in a blitzkrieg fashion, and our DINNs and GINNs will clean up whatever you leave behind. Once your sweep is over, withdraw so you are not affected by the Gungnirs. Even the Justice doesn’t have the EMP shielding to withstand the Gungnir when it deploys. Almost nothing does.”

“I understand, sir. When are we deploying?” Athrun asked.

“Within the hour,” Le Creuset replies. “Freshen up and get in your pilot suits. We’re attacking at dawn.”

Athrun saluted, and I fell in line and saluted with him. “Yes, sir!”

“You are dismissed. Good luck to you,” Le Creuset said.

We walked out of the command center then, but I took one subtle glance behind me while trying to make it look like I was merely turning towards Athrun.

Rau Le Creuset had the slightest smile on his face.

“By the way, Lieutenant Yamato,” he suddenly said. “We finally got the FATUM-00 system delivered, it’s been modified for atmospheric capability, Lieutenant Yamato. You won’t need a GUUL anymore.”

I knew there was no way of completely avoiding eye contact. “Oh. Thank you, sir.”

“I apologize for the inconvenience. A consequence of rushing the Justice into battle so early, I’m afraid. If the brass had waited a couple more weeks the Justice would’ve been at full atmospheric capability the entire time.”

“I understand. Thank you again, sir,” I said, and quickly turned back around. There was something wrong with his voice, an edge subtly hidden under the surface.

I could not shake that smile of his from my mind, nor the thought that Le Creuset had seen me do it.

Something was definitely wrong.

I was becoming scared.

And I didn’t know what to do about it.
***
“I understand what you’re saying, Cagalli. But everything the commander says makes sense,” Athrun says. “He is right that if we don’t take out the Panama Mass Driver the Earth forces will have us on our heels. Then we’re going to have to withdraw back into space and destroy the Mass Drivers we have possession of. We have no choice but to try to set things in a stalemate.”

“What’s going to happen to our Natural allies, then, in Africa and The Oceania Union?” I ask.

“I don’t know. I haven’t liked what I’ve heard, though,” Athrun said softly, not meeting my gaze.

He knew something. He knew something, and it was horrible.

“What happened, Athrun?” I ask. “Tell me the truth?”

“I’ve . . . I’ve heard that there’s been a lot of skirmishing between ZAFT forces and our African and Oceanic allies,” Athrun said. “They are rumors, but . . .”

Rumors or not, the thought made me blanch. We had fired on our own allies? “Why the hell would we do that?”

“I don’t know. Probably anti-Natural hardliners wanting revenge for Alaska and they’re taking it out on the only Naturals they can find,” Athrun said. “But both the African and Oceanic militaries have taken heavy casualties if what I’ve heard is correct. I am sure the military reason for this will be that Africa and Oceania were plotting to switch sides and betray us, but I have no idea whether that was true or not.”

Even if it was true, massacres were still unacceptable. There was no reason for that! Surely there had to be a better way to disarm Africa and Oceania without slaughtering everyone!

“How are we any better than the Naturals if we’re lining people up and killing them to a man? Especially our own allies?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Athrun replied.

“Is your father doing anything about this? Even excluding all of the humane and ethical perspectives, this is a serious breach in military discipline and if-“

“I said I don’t know!” Athrun yelled.

He meant it. I could tell by the look in his eyes.

“I don’t know, Cagalli. I just know that right now my father’s position is becoming untenable. There’s rumors of civil unrest back in the PLANTs. I don’t know what he’s planning or how he’s viewing what’s happening. I haven’t been in contact with him and right now I don’t think I’ll be able to until after Panama is over.”

“Well, what your father has done is turned the majority of the military that’s left into rabid ideologues who are killing everyone in their paths!” I yelled. “And if we really did attack the Africa and Oceania militaries, how are any Naturals ever going to trust us again?”

“They’re not,” Athrun said softly.

“So what’s going to happen? Are we just going to kill each other until there’s nobody left, Athrun?”

“I don’t know.”

“Athrun-“

“I keep telling you, I don’t know.”

“Athrun, I’m not going to-“

“Cagalli, stop!”

I grabbed him and pulled him in front of my face. “Don’t be an ZOINKS and just tell me to shut up! I came to ZAFT and PLANT to help you, Athrun! It wasn’t just my damn family I was trying to save when I came here! I chose to come with you because I want this war to be over with! I chose to came here because it was the only way I could think of to stop Blue Cosmos!”

I pulled him right in front me. “Tell me what I’m fighting for, Athrun! What did I sign up for? Did I sign up to fight a war, or did I sign up just to be some kind of executioner?”

He didn’t say a word. He just stared at me, in silence, his face contorted into something depressed yet angry. He looked just as lost and confused as I felt.

“You are my friend, Athrun. But if this is true, and we’re just killing all of the Naturals, I’m not staying here. The Naturals are not my enemy.”

“Cagalli . . .” he whispered softly.

“Responding to genocide with more genocide will not help anyone,” I said. “Don’t you see that?”

I was beginning to cry at that point. All I wanted was for Athrun just to respond to me. To at least show that what I was saying meant something to him. I didn’t even care if he disagreed with me at that point. I just wanted to be acknowledged. If he kept saying nothing at all, I was going to kick his ass and walk away from ZAFT, and take my chances back at home. At least there I’d be back with my family.

At least I’d have a chance of seeing Kira again. Maybe I’d be able to tell him that I was his sister finally.

Here, in ZAFT, it was becoming quite clear that I didn’t fit in. I was not comfortable in the culture, and I did not have the sense of feeling I had comrades like I did on the Archangel. I just felt increasingly alone and isolated. I might as well have been surrounded by space aliens or something.

“Why don’t you answer me?” I yelled at him.

"I . . . I . . ."

I couldn’t take it anymore and tried to punch him in the face. He caught the punch and then his remaining arm wrapped around my own and he brought me in and held me tightly.

“W-What?” was the only thing I could sputter.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered to me. “I’m sorry. I . . . I just don’t have the answers.”

“Then get the answers, you jerk,” I muttered into his ear.

We stayed like that for a while, embracing each other in silence.

I wanted to both hit him and kiss him. I couldn’t do either one.

In the end, all I did was stay with him in silence.

Maybe there just wasn’t anything left to say at all.
***
I had recovered in time to get changed in the locker room like nothing had happened. It was uncomfortable, though, with Asta glaring at me the whole time. She knew how I felt about all of this. I wondered if she knew about the rumors that Athrun had heard about.

“What?” I finally asked her as I zipped up my uniform and grabbed my helmet.

“Why are you still coming out here? I know you sympathize with the Naturals. They’re your best friends, aren’t they?”

“I’m a ZAFT soldier and I’m going to do my duty,” I replied to her. “That’s all I’m going to do.”

Asta chuckled. “Don’t give me that crap. I know how you really fell.”

“My country is Orb, not the Atlantic Federation,” I replied. “I have no problems with fighting the Atlantic Federation, Asta. So do me a favor and stop pissing me off.”

I tried to walk out of the locker room then, and Asta spoke up. “You stick out like a sore thumb, Cagalli. You don’t believe in PLANT. People are starting to notice that. You’re not what you’ve been advertised to be.”

I flipped her off. “Do me a favor and shut up.”

I slammed the door behind me and walked out into the hangar bay. If Asta wanted to continue the conversation, she was going to have to make a scene. I was willing to have it out here in public if Asta really wanted to keep egging me on. Unlike with Athrun, I wasn’t going to let Asta disarm me so easily. If she pissed me off enough to fight her, she’d be lucky to walk afterwards.

But she didn’t do a thing at all. I was able to get to the Justice’s cockpit unmolested.

I had a feeling Asta and I were going to come to blows soon, though. It was clear our differences were turning into something else, hostility. The two of us were going to be at each other’s throats and one of us was going to come out the clear loser in the aftermath, and it would probably be me. Not because I’d necessarily lose any fight we’d had, but because all Asta would have to say was that I was some sort of Earth Alliance sympathizer.

At the time though, I didn’t really care. I was angry and frustrated and the last thing I wanted to do was throw myself into the Panama meat grinder at dawn.

But that’s what I would up doing. I took off in the Justice and hooked up with the FATUM-00. I immediately recognized a difference between this new FATUM-00 and the one I had used in space. This one felt significantly stronger and I quickly realized it was strong enough for me to maneuver fairly well in the atmosphere. I was just as capable as any GUNDAM on a GUUL, if not more so.

Asta scoffed. “You get all the toys, don’t cha?”

Cut the chatter, Asta,,” Athrun said with a sigh.
We charged off with Team Foster towards the western flank of the attack operation then. It was not long before we started getting shot at.

Everyone, follow the attack pattern. Bombard their defenses and charge through. They don’t have anything that’s much of a threat to us,” Athrun said.

I quickly found stationary targets all over the ground, mainly in the form of artillery. The artillery was already beginning to thin out Team Foster along with a group of amphibious Mobile Suits marching up from under the ocean. We couldn’t take casualties for very long, if we did, it would wind up being down to just me and the rest of Athrun’s team in short order.

I aimed at as many of the artillery positions as I could and fired using the Fortis cannon.

Multiple explosions greeted me when I got out of the lock-on system, and I realized I had scored direct hits.

The Justice had suddenly become far more lethal, all because of a single piece of equipment.

I landed the Justice just beyond the beachhead, landing in the middle of the jungle. I leaned out and used my beam rifle to take several shots at a gun placement, causing more explosions to erupt in my wake. Athrun landed beside me, crushing a fleeing jeep upon landing beside me, and he finished off the enemy position.

Good work. We’ll be making headway pretty quick I think, Cagalli.

“I hope so,” I said.

I marched through the fallen enemy position. Lots of dead on the ground. I looked away. These poor soldiers really didn’t stand a chance. There we so many of them but they couldn’t fight a GUNDAM at all. They were lambs to the slaughter, even though I wasn’t even trying to kill them all I just couldn’t help it. The Justice was just so overpowered.

Several Mobile Armors tried to take off in front of Athrun and I, but we both reacted quickly and opened fire. The Mobile Armors went down one by one until they were all destroyed, not a single one able to effectively return fire.

The Duel joined up with us then. “You’d think Panama’s defenses would be a lot heavier than this. Is the Earth’s main defense force really here, or was it another lie?

Asta was right, as much as I hated to admit it. The defenses were light. What were they holding back? Did the Earth Alliance know we were coming for JOSH-A the whole time? But how could that be, if JOSH-A was a target picked out at the very last minute? How would they be able to spread a false report that their main force was in Panama?

Missiles shot over our heads, heading somewhere unseen. “Where are [i[those[/i] going?” I asked.

It’s a naval bombardment of the Panama HQ,” Athrun replied. “I am sure it won’t be that effective. Panama has strong anti-missile defenses.

Then it’s wasting ammunition,” Asta said.

It’s not if it forces Panama HQ to defend itself instead of bombarding us or coordinating a counter-offensive,” Athrun replied.

He changed the subject then. “[i[Dearka, Nicol, what’s your status?[/i]”

We’re at the target location,” Nicol replied. “We’re facing heavy resistance.

All right! Everyone, follow me. Cagalli, don’t go airborne until we know what we’re up against here.

“Got it,” I said. Not like I had any plans to use the FATUM-00 to take off into the air, but I couldn’t really blame Athrun for reminding me. A lot of pilots would be tempted to use the FATUM-00 due to the airborne maneuverability it granted.

It wasn’t long before we made it to the target site, and I fired several shots with the Lupus beam rifle I had on hand, blowing up several missiles trucks. It turned out that the course Athrun had guided us on allowed us to flank the defensive position that was pinning down Dearka and Nicol. We were effectively bursting from the trees on the Earth forces’ right, and they couldn’t react in time until they were in total disarray.

Asta took a few potshots at some of the vehicles that had chosen to flee instead of defending the position. “Damn it! Some of them got away!”

“Doesn’t matter. The goal isn’t to advance that far inland,[/i]” Athrun replied.

The Buster and Blitz walked up to our position. “All right, that’s one position clear. We need to begin our attack run on the other positions. Raid them and then the rest of the force can mop up.

All of a sudden, my radar suddenly erupted. Targets, lots of them, coming from the north.

“I have bogeys!” I shouted. “Heading right for us!”

Suddenly, we were hit by a lot of laser fire, tearing up the ground around us. “Take cover!” Athrun shouted.

I ducked inside the trees but heard Nicol cry out.

“Nicol!” I shouted. I think the rest of us shouted that too.

I spun the Justice around and saw that the Blitz had lost a leg and Nicol was falling over onto his back.

I didn’t know who or what was shooting at us, but if I didn’t do something Nicol was going to get finished off.

I charged back into the open and blind-fired with the Lupus as I reached the Justice’s free hand towards Blitz’s free hand and grabbed it.

That’s when I saw them.

My heart skipped a beat. I had seen those machines before.

No, I had piloted one of them!

“The Strike?” I asked softly.

No, not just the Strike. Several of them. Four of them were turning their guns on me!

I frantically opened fire with the beam rifle, blasting two of the Strike-like Mobile Suits in the chests as I dragged Nicol into the jungle. The surviving pair returned fire, and I felt several impacts shake the Justice as I made it behind cover.

The Phase Shift had managed to hold, but I seemed to have suffered structural damage. Nothing that would inhibit the Justice but I wasn’t going to be able to take that much abuse again.

Who the hell are these guys?!” Dearka shouted. “Did they somehow clone the Strike?

Explosions erupted by me, and I saw the Duel re-appear by me. Asta had taken out the surviving two Mobile Suits. “[i[No. They are [/i]not the Strike. They’re going down too easily.”

Nicol, are you all right?” Athrun yelled.

I-I think I’m out of action, the Blitz is down a leg,” Nicol said.

That’s good,” Athrun said, relief audible in his tone. It took me a moment to remember that Athrun and Nicol were best friends. Of course Athrun would be worried over Nicol. “Dearka, get Nicol out of here. We’ll pick up the Blitz’s leg if it’s still intact later.

You got it, just keep these guys off my back long enough to make it happen,” Dearka replied.

My radar beeped again. “There’s more of them, incoming!”

Damn it,” Athrun growled. “Looks like the Earth Alliance finally got Mobile Suits of their own. This isn’t going to be as easy as we thought.

Another detachment landed right by where we were hiding in the jungle. Dearka still hadn’t picked Nicol up yet and these fake Strikes were clearly looking for us.

It was either they were going to hunt us down or the remaining four of us were going to have to achieve a lucky ambush and somehow destroy them all before we got hit.

I aimed my beam rifle and waited.

And then wound up looking at one of the fake Strikes right in the face.

I pulled the trigger.
MURRUE: Infallible accuracy?? I thought you just usually shot all your weapons at random and they just happened to hit stuff.

KIRA: What do you think this is; a cartoon?

rebel_cheese
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Re: Gundam SEED: Bloodlines (Chapter 60 8/9/13)

Post by rebel_cheese » Sat Aug 16, 2014 2:11 am

It was a real challenge to write the final sequence of this chapter without doing R-rated violence, let me tell y ou.
____________________________________________________________________________________
Chapter Sixty-One: War Pigs

The false Strike was driven backwards by my shot and it fell onto the ground before exploding, sending fire and smoke all over the immediate area.

“They found us!” I had time to yell before all hell broke loose around me.

Trees shattered around me as beam lasers blasted through them, causing small fires and trunks crashing to the ground in their wake. I forced the Justice to maneuver throughout the forest to get a better shooting angle, and the Justice broke and knocked over trees on its own accord. The Justice was just too strong to be stopped by trees. All of the Mobile Suits were.

The next thirty seconds were a blur of chaos and terror smothered in smoke. I was firing blind, using the lasers fired by the false Strikes to guide my own shots. I felt more than one shot hit me, but the Phase Shift continued to hold. But I couldn’t help thinking that if I had been piloting an ordinary GINN how I would’ve gotten killed many times over by the enemy Mobile Suits.

When the firing finally stopped, I was gasping for air, my body shaking and trembling. The smoke was dissipating, and it was apparent my side won, but that didn’t matter right now. The false Strikes were far tougher than artillery trucks or Mobile Armors.

I heard a voice then. “You like what we’re dishing out, space monsters? We have our own Mobile Suits now, the Strike Daggers! You won’t be beating us so-

I switched it off. Propaganda on the main channel, go figure.

’Space monsters’, huh?” Asta asked, clearly bemused . “These guys aren’t exactly self-aware, are they?

What we need to do is clear as many Strike Daggers out of here as possible,” Athrun replied. “We won’t have any chance of clearing the other sectors if we don’t take out as many as we can.

“We’ll be sitting ducks in the air, though,” I said. “We’ll have to walk.”

I know. That’s what bothers me,” Athrun replied. “We don’t have time to keep walking."

My radar beeped again. “There’s more of them coming, Athrun!”

Must’ve attracted the whole damn Earth Alliance army,” Asta said grimly.

I heard a voice on my radio then. This time the voice was ZAFT. “Captain Zala! The enemy Mobile Suits are converging on you and Team Foster’s location! You’re drawing them away from the other sectors! We’ll be able to drop the Gungnirs momentarily!

What are you telling us to do?” Athrun shouted.

You and Team Foster dig into a defensive position and continue drawing their fire! Take out as many of them as you can until the EMPs deploy!”!

But sir!” Athrun cried. I knew why Athrun was against this order. I didn’t like it either.

We were being used as bait, and the moment those EMPs went off the GUNDAMs were going to get fried.

This had to have been the worst order I had ever been given.

No time for arguing! This is the only way the plan is going to work! Just hold on for five minutes!” the commanding officer said.

Athrun,” Nicol said. “I swapped primary weapons with Dearka. Just set me up in a sniping position and I’ll take out what I can. The rest of you guys just help Foster hold the line.

Dammit, Nicol! I’m not going to-

There’s no choice, Athrun,” Nicol replied.

I heard Athrun audibly bite back a curse, and finally Athrun said “Fine! Dearka, get Nicol to a sniping position! Everyone else, form a perimeter around the Gungnir landing site, and whatever you do, don’t stay out in the open!”

By the time I made it to the perimeter, the Strike Daggers were already on top of us.

Weapons free!” Athrun shouted.

I immediately opened fire, but I was swarmed by five of them at once. I took out two but immediately had to thrust backwards to avoid getting speared by one of the other Daggers.

There’s too many of them! GAAAAH!” screamed a GINN pilot. A second later, his GINN vanished from my radar screen.

I drew my saber and clashed with one of the Daggers, but another one was trying to get on my left flank so he could have a clear shot at me. I aimed my beam rifle with one arm and fired before he could get into position. The shot disintegrated the Dagger’s midsection and it crashed to the ground on its back before exploding.

I pivoted then, using the Justice’s brute strength to force the Dagger’s sword arm to lower, and then I forced the Justice’s gun hand to aim right at the chest of the Dagger I had pinned.

I fired and the Dagger, just like the last one, was left with a gaping hole before it fell to the ground. Unlike the previous Dagger, however, it did not explode. It just fell, lying at my feet like some sort of broken, discarded doll.

Four kills in maybe thirty seconds of fighting. Who knew how many I would have to kill for the remainder of the five estimated minutes.

For the first time in my life, I was wishing that I would see the seed. I should’ve seen it a long time ago. The fighting was so intense, like desperate battles to defend the Archangel. I had seen the seed multiple times in those fights. Why wasn’t I seeing it now?

Why was it not activating, when I sorely needed it? How was I going to hold on, just as myself, against this overwhelming force?

I saw more enemy reinforcements advancing on my position and I knew that somehow I had to survive. There was no choice. I had to hold on, using my own skill and the Justice’s power, if I was to have any hope at all. Clearly the seed in my eyes was not going to activate no matter how dire this situation became.

I backed myself behind a destroyed bunker and let loose with my beam rifle. Several shots went past me and one even winged me on the right shoulder, which made the Justice briefly stagger before I regained control of it.

“There’s too many of them!” I shouted.

The Gungnirs have landed, Cagalli!” Athrun shouted. “We have to hold on just a little longer!”

I barely bit back an insult that we were holding on just to get EMPed. Including me. Rau Le Creuset himself had said he didn’t expect the Justice to be able to handle an EMP blast either.

I heard Dearka scream on the radio. “Dearka?”

They got me pretty good,” Dearka said. “I’m done.”

You’re both useless, you-AAGH!” That was Asta.

Unlike Dearka, I could actually see Asta from my position. The Duel was smoking pretty badly.

“You’re out of action too!” I said.

You don’t think I know that?” Asta screamed before she started a violent coughing fit.

I had never heard her cough so violently before. I had heard of her issues, of her ill health, and I had seen brief glimpses of her pain and struggle, but this was the first time hearing it for real. She sounded sick, her cough clearly full of blood, almost like she was dying.

Asta!” Athrun shouted.

Focus . . . on the damn battle . . . you idiots!” Asta growled between coughs and gasps for air.

For a girl who I intensely disliked and who I wanted to be wrong all the time, Asta had a tendency to be right in certain situations. It drove me insane.

I turned my attention back towards the battle and resumed shooting at the enemy, but it was already clear they were going to swarm us by using sheer numbers. Clearly the Strike Daggers’ goal was to eliminate the GUNDAM machines. And I wasn’t sure who was playing into who’s hands anymore. No GUNDAM could fight off such an enormous force on its own.

In desperation I aimed the FATUM-00 at the enemy forces. The only thing I could think to do was to try to carve a swath out of them and scatter the survivors, which might buy us enough time to hold on until the Gungnirs activated. I fired blind into the charging airborne force, and immediately ducked back as several lasers rushed past me.

They were landing all around us. This was a rush, intent on using numbers to overwhelm our position. Even my attack, which had to have eliminated several of them, wasn’t even close to being enough.

I prepared to move out when suddenly my controls sparked all around me, and everything went dark inside the cockpit.

I realized, to my horror, that the Justice was falling forward. I grabbed the control stick with both hands and tried to prevent it, but it hit me, right before impact, that the EMPs had gone off, and there was nothing I could do.

At the last second, I braced myself. I folded my arms in front of me, almost like I was going to grab my shoulders, in order to keep my arms from being broken.

Wham.
***
The Justice, thankfully, had a manual opening mechanism. I forced it open despite my sore arms begging for mercy, and I struggled outside, making sure I wasn’t going anywhere without my pistol.

It was quiet out here. Extremely quiet. My radio coms were no longer working, unsurprisingly.

All I could hear were distant smoke and fires, and random people chattering away about who knows what.

I saw three Strike Daggers on the ground in front of me, bent in unnatural positions, undoubtedly due to running out of power like my own.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to face when I approached them, but I did.

The cockpit in the Strike Dagger directly in front of me opened up. A female pilot with her hands in the air gingerly stood up. “P-Please don’t shoot.”

I removed my helmet and dropped it to the ground. All right, these were reasonable types. They had to have known they had lost.

“I’m not going to shoot you,” I said. “Get down here with your hands behind your head. You’re now my prisoner.”

Her two companions soon did the same thing.

I had no communication with ZAFT HQ or even with Athrun. I had no clue where he was. But with all of these Strike Daggers and random Earth vehicles lying around everywhere, surely there were more survivors. The only thing I thought I could do was gather them all up. There were ZAFT DINNs and GINNs flying overhead, clearly communicating to the Earth Alliance forces that they had lost.

Soon I had gathered about thirty survivors from the immediate area. I had no idea how to talk to these people. How exactly do you take prisoners, again?

“All right,” I finally said, looking at them, but particularly the girl I had captured first, “I’m going to walk you guys back to ZAFT lines. I guess you are staying in POW camps by Carpentaria until the end of the war.”

“J-Just don’t hurt us,” the girl said. “W-We’ve been hearing you’re killing your own Natural allies.”

It hit me then, that the driving emotion behind all of these people was fear. They were terrified of me. Was this the primary reason why so many of them had biases against Coordinators? Fear?

No wonder why so many Naturals bought into anti-Coordinator propaganda. It’s easy to make people do what you want if you scare the hell out of them. It’s Propaganda 101. And if there’s any element of truth to what was being spoken, it makes it easier to believe in it.

“I don’t know what’s going on with that, but I sure as hell am not going to kill you,” I said.

Of course, when that happened, I heard gunfire in the distance. Sounded like ZAFT armaments. It was kind of sad that I knew that.

“My name is Lieutenant Cagalli Yamato,” I said. “You guys are my prisoners of war. I still believe in that concept. I’m gonna-“

I was interrupted then, by a cascade of loud, whistling noises. I looked up and saw what seemed to be an endless rain of missiles fly overhead, like an enormous enraged swarm of hornets, and I followed them towards the horizon. Enormous golden fireballs erupted, swallowing everything in sight, and even from this distance I could feel a rush of heat.

“My God!” one of the male pilots half-screamed, half-whispered. “They just killed everybody in the city!”

My prisoners immediately began panicking, shouting over each other. I was going to lose control over them if I didn’t do something.

“Stop it!” I shouted. “We don’t know what happened with that, not for sure!”

But I knew in the back of my head what had happened. What the pilot had said was true. That was the main Panama base, and it doubled as a city, it was full of civilians.

ZAFT had just blown it to hell. So thoroughly that there was no way anyone could have survived.

Panic began to grip me. I was still hearing gunfire all around me. It was beginning to hit me that it was not Earth Alliance resistance that was drawing the gunfire. It was ZAFT murdering Naturals. This whole area was becoming a massacre, and it was only a matter of time before-

“Cagalli!” Athrun’s voice.

I spun towards him. “Athrun. What’s going on?”

“I don’t know, but I . . .” Athrun turned and saw my prisoners. “Oh God.”

They were looking terrified, like they wanted to run away. I didn’t blame them.

Suddenly, a ZAFT GINN landed right beside us, and pivoted right towards Athrun and I and the prisoners, who screamed in fright.

I could hear the GINN pilot. It was a man, and his voice was slightly garbled due to the microphone. “Look at this. Thanks for saving me the trouble of hunting them down!

The GINN aimed its gun right for the prisoners.

What I was hearing, what I was thinking, it was all true. ZAFT was exterminating every Natural they could find. Killing defenseless, surrendering people. They were so caught up in hatred and rage that killing people no longer had any meaning to them.

I just knew I wasn’t going to let these people die. I had to stop this.

I sprinted in front of them. “Stop! What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

A man’s voice, slightly garbled by the microphone. “Stand aside, Lieutenant!”

“No!” I shouted back. “These are my prisoners of war, I decide what to do with them! They’re coming back to base with me!”

Bitch!” The GINN fired over our heads, destroying much of the forest behind us. The shockwave actually knocked several of the soldiers in the rear.

That’s your only warning, Lieutenant! Stand aside before you join them!

“Stop it!” That was Athrun now, he was running towards my side. “You are out of line! You don’t shoot at an allied pilot!”

You’re the one that’s out of line, Captain Zala!” snarled the GINN pilot. “These animals deserve to be put down like the dogs they are! They slaughtered us at JOSH-A, they deserve the same fate!”

“Please . . .” the girl behind me begged. “Please, Lieutenant Yamato . . .”

Hearing her beg for her life put a pain in my chest. There was no way I was going to win this. I was a girl with a pistol staring down a giant robot with a gun as big as a car aimed right for me. I was going to die if I kept this up. The hateful venom spewing from the pilot’s words made it pretty clear that he was going to kill these people, no matter what I did.

“I’m not standing aside!” I shouted. I felt something fatalistic come over me then. I was going to die.

There was no way I was going to get out of this. What did it matter what I did?

There was no way I would be able to live with myself if I let this GINN slaughter these people. I was dead no matter what I did. This was the only thing I could possibly do. Stay true to myself, and pray. Pray that somehow, someway, reason would win.

“These are people just like we are!” I shouted at the GINN. “They’re scared of us, soldier! And acts like this are just going to make the Naturals more frightened! They’re just like us!”

The GINN pilot snarled something unintelligible, anguished, enraged noises that didn’t sound like any language I had ever heard. It was like he had crossed so far into rage that he was an animal himself.

“They deserve to go into a prisoner of war camp! That’s what civilized people do! You take prisoners and you let them go when the war is over! It’s called ‘mercy’!”

There aren’t any prisoner of war camps anymore, bitch!” the GINN pilot screamed.

It didn’t quite hit me. “What?”

After what we did why should we bother wasting the space on them? ZOINKS ‘em all!

He was going to shoot. The GINN’s finger was closing on the trigger. He was going to shoot, and I was going to die.

A force hit me from the right and I found myself on the ground.

Immediately afterwards, I heard the gun fire into the crowd of prisoners.

A person was on top of me. I shoved him aside and sat up just in time to see all of the prisoners get torn apart by the gunfire.

What I saw is something I can’t forget, and still can’t bring myself to fully describe.

Perhaps the image that stays in my head the most is the look of the girl. She had clearly tried to run in my direction, and so was facing me when she got killed. The look of fright in her tearful eyes, before her head was torn apart by yet another bullet, is something that’s burned in me to this day.

The prisoners no longer looked like people after the GINN finally stopped firing. Just red goo on the ground. The GINN walked forward then, and stomped on the ground repeatedly, driving the blood and severed limbs deeper into the ground, crushing and obliterating all that was left.

I had no voice. I had no ability to move. I was petrified by what I was seeing, my eyes unable to even blink, and I had only the thinnest sense that tears were forming in my eyes.

Athrun told me later that I was making the softest choked noises, like I had even lost the ability to breathe. I believe him. I wasn’t sure if I was even doing that, staring at what had happened to those people.

The GINN moved on then, leaving the dirty, squashed mess in its wake, and a putrid, overwhelming smell of blood.

It was the smell that finally got my body to work again.

I crawled a few feet away and finally threw up all over the ground.

I clutched at my stomach, and begged myself to stop, but I couldn’t. I kept heaving until there was nothing left, and even then, the urge to throw up was overwhelming me. I was a sobbing, vomiting mess, and I couldn’t even function beyond that at all. I barely even knew what I was crying over, I couldn’t believe what had happened was real.

It was the most horrific, barbaric act I had ever seen in my life, and it was happening all around me, repeatedly, over and over. All of these pilots, soldiers, becoming the executioners for these surrendering people who had nothing to do with JOSH-A, whose motivation to fight us was fear. Fear we were more than justifying. We were becoming the animals now.

Pigs. We were all just pigs.

Maybe even worse.

What I had seen was something so barbaric it crossed the line into evil. It was evil, what that pilot had done, and I didn’t know what to do or even how to live anymore after seeing the massacre right in front of my lines.

I barely sensed Athrun’s arms around me. I had no more strength. I had the faintest thought to punch him but I could not bring myself too. A damning thought, What’s the point?, had seeped into my mind, and it was dominating me. It was worse than my despair after discovering what I was at my parents’ house. This was something different, something that had grabbed me around my heart and my head, smothering me.

His words, despite being spoken right into my ears, sounded so far away. And yet, I could still hear him. No matter how gone I was, I could still hear Athrun, like his voice was calling out to me from a distant horizon, yet somehow distorted by a thick haze. Like he was calling me back.

“I’m sorry,” I heard him say. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

Was he crying? I don’t know. Maybe he was. Maybe, in his Athrun way, he still was managing to control his emotions, because it was something he was so good at doing. Maybe even this wasn’t enough to break him, because he was that strong. Or maybe my presence, and my falling apart, was what was motivating him to hold himself together. I can’t really say. I barely remember him in this moment.

But I remember his words, his simple apology, over what had happened, over the battle, maybe over even bringing me to ZAFT, resonated with me somehow. He prevented me from fading away completely.

Eventually he brought my head into his chest, and he let me cry. I was grabbing him, grabbing his pilot’s suit, but my grip was so weak that I could not hold on. Eventually I think I just went limp.

But I didn’t go away. Not completely.

Even in my numbness and despair, I still felt something inside me. Something inside me to not give in. That I couldn’t. That there had to be something I could do. That I absolutely had to, after what I had witnessed.

Someone needed to live for them, to speak for them, so this wouldn’t happen again.

Would I have to be that person? I didn’t know. But I knew there was no way I was going to live with myself unless I ended this war, and I knew that a ZAFT victory would not be the right way for this war to end.

I just did not know.

All I knew was that I had seen evil, unquestionable, unjustifiable evil, and I was fighting on the side committing that evil.

I couldn’t help but wonder if that made me evil, too . . .
____________________________________________________________________________________

The precision F-bomb strike is in this chapter, albeit censored.
MURRUE: Infallible accuracy?? I thought you just usually shot all your weapons at random and they just happened to hit stuff.

KIRA: What do you think this is; a cartoon?

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Re: Gundam SEED: Bloodlines (Chapter 60 8/9/13)

Post by The Green Flame » Sun Aug 17, 2014 12:27 am

*New EA pilots*Oh boy, I hope the-*dead*Well...maybe the next bunch will do better.

rebel_cheese
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Re: Gundam SEED: Bloodlines (Chapter 61 8/16/13)

Post by rebel_cheese » Sun Aug 24, 2014 2:54 am

The next bunch will do better. I can promise you that. =p
MURRUE: Infallible accuracy?? I thought you just usually shot all your weapons at random and they just happened to hit stuff.

KIRA: What do you think this is; a cartoon?

rebel_cheese
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Re: Gundam SEED: Bloodlines (Chapter 61 8/16/13)

Post by rebel_cheese » Thu Aug 28, 2014 12:00 pm

Chapter Sixty-Two: Numb

They were cheering.

From the way they were celebrating, it was if they had won the war, not just a battle, and had not just committed atrocities in the process. Booze was being passed around like there was an infinite supply of it, and what few Naturals had been taken prisoner were having stuff thrown at them, kneecaps broken by crude tools, faces swollen from taking so many punches and kicks.

None of the Naturals were going to survive today. Eventually their wounds would kill them, or somebody was just going to pull out a gun and put a few bullets in their brains.

There was nothing I could do. And it was killing me.

I let Athrun lead me away from the sickening spectacle and I found myself inside what seemed to be a small office.

We were back at Carpentaria now, back where this whole ordeal with ZAFT had begun. I had sat through the whole trip here in silence. I barely remember a thing, I don’t know if I was functioning at all besides simply breathing. The images of that GINN obliterating that group of Earth Alliance soldiers wouldn’t leave my head. They continued to flash vividly in front of my mind, and it was taking deliberate concentration to avoid thinking about them at all.

And the more I tried to ignore it, the harder the images tried to burn into my head.

Not just the images. The sounds. The movements of a GINN had taken on a stygian meaning now, something evil and monstrous. And the screams and cries of the soldiers, replaced by noises so warped I can’t describe them, made it seem like I had experienced a scene of hell itself.

It occurred to me that Athrun had his arm around me. He had been doing that, since we had left Panama and went on our way back to Carpentaria.

He was still trying to be strong, trying to pretend that the display hadn’t affected him in its own right.

“They’re celebrating,” I finally said.

“I know.”

“They’re celebrating murder. Genocide. Do they have any idea of what they’re doing?”

Athrun didn’t reply to that. It obviously meant ‘I don’t know’.

“What happened back in Panama, what they did . . . what I let them do . . . it’s evil. I let them do something so evil, and . . .”

I had been on the verge of crying the couple of days after Panama. But the tears weren’t coming. Maybe it hadn’t fully hit me yet. Maybe I couldn’t accept what happened yet. Maybe I was just trying to lie to myself and pretend that such a display couldn’t happen at all.

“It wasn’t your fault. Neither of us could’ve done anything,” Athrun said.

I wanted to slap him for that. I knew there was something else we could’ve done. But I couldn’t figure out what that was. It just seemed out of my reach, like my mind couldn’t get through my mental haze to figure out what it could be. Maybe it was an illusion and it wasn’t there at all.

Regardless, Athrun had thrown himself into me so I wouldn’t get shot up with the prisoners. So far, no one had reported that. Either the pilot had completely forgotten about that, or I was far from the only objector to the carnage and there were just too many people who had gotten in the way to be worth prosecuting for . . . whatever. Maybe in their heads what I had done was obstruct justice.

How ironic was that? The pilot of Justice couldn’t insure any kind of justice at all. What I had seen wasn’t justice at all. Only vengeance, and a bestial, cruel kind at that.

What right did ZAFT have to give a GUNDAM the lofty name of ‘Justice’ when their soldiers committed acts like that?

“There was still something,” I said. “There must have been.”

“We are two snakes eating each other’s tails,” said a new voice.

I turned and I saw Rau Le Creuset standing there over the two of us. With him standing us and we sitting down, Le Creuset seemed to tower over us, like he could squish us like ants. The feelings I had the moment I saw him were chilling more than ever.

“The Earth Alliance sacrificed much of the military strength still left in the Eurasian Federation to destroy the bulk of our forces. Enraged, we go and ratchet up the tension, demanding blood for blood, and slaughter Atlantic Federation civilians and prisoners of war who ultimately had nothing to do with the JOSH-A explosion. All that will happen is that the two sides will want to kill each other even more.”

It was a succinct way to describe the current situation. The way he was talking, however, seemed like he was almost expecting this to occur, and I didn’t like it.

“What can we do to try to stop this before it gets worse?” I asked.

“I don’t know if it can be stopped at this point,” Le Creuset replied. “Regardless, we no longer have the military strength to conquer the Earth. We will be lucky to hold onto the territory we have gained. It is likely that the Republic of East Asia and the Atlantic Federation will chase us off the planet within a few months, ensuring a bloody stalemate.”

“That means this war won’t have a victor,” Athrun said.

“Oh, it could have a victor, it just won’t be us. Barring drastic action, the victor will be the Earth Alliance, though I wonder how interested they will be in peace once they discover the wanton destruction and massacres committed in Panama,” Le Creuset replied.

“You can’t say that, sir!” Athrun was standing up then, clearly still intending to argue the point. “One thing we have that they don’t are the GUNDAMs.”

“Who are all being transferred into outer space to be repaired,” Le Creuset replied. “Now, it is possible we will manage to win a war of attrition in space as well, so perhaps not all hope is lost for us yet. It will take months for the Earth Alliance to build a new Mass Driver, and in that amount of time they will not have any forces left in space.”

He put his hand on Athrun’s shoulder, as if to mollify Athrun. “All five of you fought bravely. You knew that the EMP would activate and fry all of your systems. You drew away the enemy Mobile Suit force so they wouldn’t be able to prevent the activation of the Gungnirs. This will at least trap the Earth Alliance on Earth for a few crucial months, barring we don’t give them intact Mass Drivers when we withdraw.”

“Yeah, but from the sounds of it, this war isn’t ending anytime soon because of what we did,” Athrun replied.

“Our chance to end the war on our own terms came and went when JOSH-A exploded. The Earth Alliance had a brilliant trap set and we walked right into it,” Le Creuset replied. “Now, the only thing we can do is to ensure the Earth Alliance remains trapped on Earth, unable to supply their fleet. If we can destroy their fleets while we give the Earth Alliance no intact Mass Drivers, we will still have a chance. But of course that depends on a lot of factors.”

He turned around, as if to depart. “In the meantime, the five of you are withdrawing to space, as am I. The GUNDAMs are irreparable except in zero gravity, and it’d be a waste to deploy all of you in GINNs or DINNs. We need to rapidly repair the machines in case the five of you are needed in a hurry.”

“I understand, sir,” Athrun said.

Le Creuset vanished then, leaving Athrun and I by ourselves.

“He sounds like ZAFT is going to lose the war,” I finally said.

“No. It came off to me like he’s expecting both sides to kill each other,” Athrun replied.

Neither possibility sounded appealing.
***
It took a few days to return to PLANT. It was hard to believe, but I had been a member of ZAFT for nearly two months. Much of it was simply spent in transit from location to location, and hadn’t allowed me to truly know my teammates all that well, besides Athrun of course. Nicol seemed nice, Dearka seemed to bounce between being nice, sarcastic, and rude, and Asta . . . the less said about her, the better. We still weren’t on speaking terms during that whole flight back to PLANT.

But it hadn’t helped me assimilate into the culture at all. I still felt like a foreigner. I didn’t feel like I belonged in a PLANT or in ZAFT. And after what had happened in front of my eyes, I didn’t want to assimilate. I didn’t want to become one of these people. I didn’t belong and I didn’t want to and I was damn sure I never would. What I wanted was to return home, but I wasn’t sure how or even if I could. How could I escape? Should I even try, considering what it would likely do to Athrun psychologically and professionally?

I wasn’t going to fight for a side that would ruthlessly exterminate its enemies. There was no way. I wasn’t going to witness such evil again, or just stand by and let it occur. But trying to stop the atrocities on my own would surely be suicidal. I had promised myself that I would live, so my family could see me again, so I could apologize to everyone. What I had done in Panama had nearly gotten me killed and then where would I be?

I didn’t know what to do. I was frightened and confused and angry and I desperately needed some guidance. But I didn’t know who I could turn to, other than Athrun, and I didn’t want Athrun to get in trouble.

And I couldn’t get the images out of my head either. I couldn’t sleep without seeing the atrocity all over again, or hearing the gunshots, the screaming, the whirring of the Mobile Suit as it stomped on the bloodied, mangled corpses. Every moment of sleep threatened to turn into a cruel nightmare. It was worse than Artemis, worse than when I had killed people in Tassil, worse than even losing Murrue. At least Murrue didn’t come back to haunt my dreams, destroyed as I felt over losing her.

I had gotten into this to destroy Blue Cosmos. I hadn’t gotten one step closer to accomplishing this at all. All I had done was witness two slaughters that I could not prevent.

Was this truly the right way for me?

I was thinking this the whole trip back to the closest PLANT. They were repairing the GUNDAMs the best they could during the travel to the PLANT, but it would at least be another few days before they’d be operational. But I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to pilot the Justice anymore. There was no ‘justice’ in what ZAFT was doing. All they were looking to do was exterminate innocent Naturals who had nothing to do with the people who blew up JOSH-A to kill all of us.

But if I gave up the Justice, someone else would just take my place. ZAFT wouldn’t miss a beat. And I would be on the record as an objector and who knew what would happen to me then.

I was locked in place, like I was in a jail cell with the key thrown away. It just seemed so hopeless.

After landing in PLANT, Athrun and I quickly found ourselves separated from the rest of the team. “Are you okay?” he finally asked.

“Just thinking. I still can’t sleep, though,” I replied.

“I know. You have bags under your eyes,” Athrun said.

“Like I didn’t know that already,” I snapped.

Getting mad at Athrun wasn’t going to solve anything and internally I knew that. But I couldn’t help myself. I was just so frustrated.

“Sorry,” he said.

“No, I shouldn’t be ripping your head off. I’m just . . .”

“What happened there shouldn’t have happened at all. I don’t know what was wrong with him, but . . .”

“Athrun, I don’t want to talk about it.”

“But Cagalli . . .”

“I said I don’t want to talk about it.”

There lied the crux of the problem. I couldn’t talk about it, but I knew I had to. It just couldn’t be Athrun. What I wanted was my parents, but they could be all the way across the galaxy for that it mattered, there was no way I could contact them or reach them. I wondered if they thought I was dead all over again.

How would they ever know?

“Look,” Athrun said. “I know you’re going to need a place to stay. I know you’re probably mad at my father right now, but from what I’ve heard he’s barely been at our estate since he became Chairman.”

I knew why Athrun was offering me the place to stay, but I also knew I had to say no. “Athrun, what if your father knows what I did . . . in Panama?”

Athrun’s eyes widened.

“He despises the Naturals, Athrun. What if he approves of the kind of massacres that happened in Panama?”

“My father . . . he’d never go that far,” Athrun said softly. But there was a halting tone to his voice that suggested that there was a possibility he would.

“What makes you think he wouldn’t?”

That’s when a car pulled up. The tinted window rolled down and I saw Hilda Harken behind the wheel.

“Hey!” she said, giving me a casual wave.

I still remembered what she pulled back on the Archangel. She and I were not friends and I was not going to grant her the same cordiality. “I thought you were being deployed in Spitbreak.”

Hilda scoffed. “Yeah. My deployment got cancelled last minute. Really pissed me off. I think I could’ve found the bomb or whatever it is that was used if I had been sent out there.”

That sent more questions rushing through my mind. A suspicious cancellation that could have prevented the microwave bomb or whatever it was that incinerated JOSH-A and all of the forces defending and attacking it? What the hell was going on here now?

“What’s your business?” Athrun asked.

“Mr. Clyne of the Supreme Council would like to see Lieutenant Yamato,” Hilda replied coolly. She gave Athrun a weird look. “Do you mind?”

Athrun sighed. “No, of course not.”

“Thank you.” The door on the passenger side unlocked. “Get in, Lieutenant. Sorry about giving no notice, but this kind of came together at the last minute.”

I still was distrustful of Hilda, but then again why would the Clynes associate with her if she was simply going to betray them too? Last time I had ridden with her, she had taken me straight to the Clynes, no tricks, no attempts to kill me, or anything like that. Surely she would do the same thing now, right?

“Okay. I get it.” I put one leg into the car before I turned to Athrun. “I’ll . . . see you later, all right? Maybe you should come over and see Lacus too. I’m sure she wants to see you.”

“Yeah.” Athrun gave me a weird, sad smile. “If I can.”

That was a mysterious look on his face. What was going on there?

I decided not to worry about it and I got into the car. I braced myself for being jumped by muscle-bound thugs hiding in the rear seats, but of course there were no one.

Hilda seemed to notice my nervousness as we pulled away. “Dammit, Cagalli. I’m not going to hurt you. We’re not enemies anymore.”

“Considering what I’ve had to deal with for this entire war, you can’t exactly blame me,” I replied. “Especially as I have gotten myself kidnapped.”

Hilda let out a short chuckle. “True.”

“So what’s going on?” I asked. “Why does Siegel Clyne want to see me all of a sudden?”

“Not just you, but Lacus as well,” Hilda said. “I’m not privy on all of the details, but what I’ve heard doesn’t sound very good.”

“Why me and not Athrun?” I asked. “Shouldn’t Lacus want to see Athrun before she sees me?”

“He didn’t tell you?” Hilda asked.

I suddenly felt extremely nervous. “Tell me what?”

“Patrick Zala ordered the engagement called off. Lacus and Athrun are no longer going to be married.”

The implications of why that would be haunted me for the rest of the drive.
***
Much to my horror, what greeted me when Hilda opened the door into the Clyne estate was more of the Haro abominations.

And they recognized me.

It’s the meanie! It’s the meanie!”

The meanie boy-like girl who yells at us! She’s here to kill us all!

Get her! Get her!”

There seemed to be a small army of Haros about to swarm both Hilda and I when Lacus shouted “Stop!”

The Haros stopped as one and turned towards Lacus, though they kept bouncing up and down in the air. “No one is ‘getting’ anybody! Leave my guests alone at once!”

After various versions of “Sorry, Lacus. Sorry, Lacus,” the Haros scattered, leaving us in peace.

“Now I know why those things freak you out,” Hilda said to me. “I was actually debating pulling out my gun.”

Lacus just laughed. “You make the Haros sound like they’re evil, Hilda.”

I had a feeling that Hilda and I were biting back the same snarky response, in that yes, the Haro contraptions are evil! Evil incarnate!

Still, Lacus wasn’t playing up the airhead pop princess persona this time. She was back into her politican’s daughter persona, conducting herself professionally and with the maturity beyond her years. This was a massive relief to me. I didn’t want to deal with the other side of Lacus at all right now. Just this Lacus, who I assumed was the real Lacus.

“Good afternoon, Cagalli,” Lacus said, giving me a short bow. “I apologize for the short notice, but there’s a lot happening at the moment and I want to talk with you about a few things.”

“Okay, sure.” I took a look around. “Your father anywhere?”

“He is in a meeting with Eileen Canaver and some of the other moderates on the Council. He’ll be gone for a while . . .” The way Lacus was trailing off was worrying me.

She turned to Hilda. “Hilda, please stand guard. Tell me if you see suspicious activity outside the gates. Don’t expose yourself, obviously.”

Hilda’s stoic reaction told me she had expected that instruction. That made me even more nervous. “I understand, ma’am.”

Lacus signaled to me to follow her. “Please, Cagalli, this way.”

I followed her through the hallway. “Um . . . why did you bring me here? And what’s going on with Athrun? Hilda told me the engagement got called off.”

Lacus did not turn to face me, but the tone of her voice told me how she felt. “Yes. It was not Athrun’s decision, but his father’s. I believe my father is going to be made the scapegoat over Operation Spitbreak and its failure, along with the rest of the moderate faction. Obviously, his son can’t associate with the daughter of someone he’s going to publicly stab in the back.”

Lacus sounded hurt. It occurred to me that her feelings for Athrun had to be quite strong. “How does Athrun feel about this? Has he said anything?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t been able to make contact with him,” Lacus replied.

“He seemed to know, he had a weird look on his face when Hilda picked me up. I don’t think he particularly likes it himself,” I said.

“It’s all right. I hope to see Athrun personally soon, before things start moving into motion,” Lacus replied.

We were in her dining room now. “What’s moving into motion?” I asked.

Lacus turned towards me. “I wish my father could be the one saying this to you, but as he is not here, and in fact may not be able to make it back home in time, it has to fall to me. The PLANT moderate faction is likely going to be exterminated within the next few days, blamed as spies or traitors over the failure of Operation Spitbreak. Your name is on the list, Cagalli.”

It took me several moments before it finally hit me. It didn’t surprise me as much as it should have. After what happened in Panama, if the extremists really had taken over, they had irrefutable proof of my ‘treachery’, considering how hard I was trying to protect those prisoners.

“Obviously, the list doesn’t contain every moderate in all of PLANT. They can’t possibly arrest or execute them all. They just want the ones with name recognition in order to scare the remainder into falling into line,” Lacus replied.

“So . . . you brought me here to protect me?” I asked.

“For the most part. It’ll be a few days before this publicly begins, but they are already trying to get rid of the easiest marks, and considering you’re homeless here in PLANT, you’d be one of them,” Lacus said.

“Is that what you think? Athrun offered to bring me to his estate. If I was in-“

Lacus interrupted me. “Cagalli, Athrun made you that offer because he wants to protect you himself. He knows the purge is happening soon and he wanted you with him so you’d be taken off the list. Athrun doesn’t know what I know, however. He doesn’t know that his effort was going to be wasted . . . and might have gotten him in trouble too.”

It was too much all at once. I needed to sit down. “Okay . . . let’s start this over. Patrick Zala is blaming the moderate faction for Spitbreak’s failure, and he’s going to purge them from his administration along with anyone who might be of political or military importance. You’re on the list, I’m on the list, and potentially even Athrun could be added if he tried to help you or I.”

Lacus nodded solemnly. “Good summary.”

Why?” I asked.

“Patrick Zala’s position as Supreme Council Chairman became tenuous once it became clear that Spitbreak failed horrifically,” Lacus said. “Many in PLANT want to destroy the Naturals at all costs. Others believe the conflict will head nowhere but a bloody stalemate and wish to end the war before it gets worse. Zala has decided he’s going to destroy the Naturals, no matter what it takes, and he’ll even betray my father, a close friend, to achieve this.”

There was an uncharacteristic bitterness in Lacus’ tone that made what she said hit home. Lacus had never sounded quite so cynical before.

“But that’s not all. The anti-Coordinator organization Blue Cosmos has, via proxy, taken control over the Atlantic Federation and the Republic of East Asia. They are puppet nations at this point . . . and with Eurasia’s military force depleted, and the Earth Alliance’s own moderates gradually being shuffled out as well . . . Blue Cosmos will ensure that the Earth Alliance’s own attitudes will harden too. They are already using our massacre of Earth Alliance personnel at Panama to galvanize the populace.”

This did not surprise me. However, it also showed me how difficult it would be to destroy Blue Cosmos once and for all. At the rate things were going, Blue Cosmos would be the entire world.

“The Earth Alliance is becoming desperate since losing Panama, unsurprisingly,” Lacus said. “They are already beginning to bully the remaining neutral nations on Earth. However, none of them have a Mass Driver, which they need to prevent the destruction of their space forces. The only neutral nation with one left is Orb.”

I couldn’t speak. I literally could not speak, or even breathe. I had come out all this way, and dealt with so much, just for my home to be destroyed while I wasn’t even there to protect it?

“Orb . . . Orb will never ally with the Earth Alliance. The Prime Minister will stay neutral no matter what the cost,” I finally said.

“The Earth Alliance knows this. Carpentaria has sent reports of a naval fleet en route to Orb, specifically Onogoro Island,” Lacus said. “In a matter of days, Cagalli . . .”

She took a deep breath and exhaled. “The Earth Alliance will attack and destroy Orb. I’m sorry.”
MURRUE: Infallible accuracy?? I thought you just usually shot all your weapons at random and they just happened to hit stuff.

KIRA: What do you think this is; a cartoon?

rebel_cheese
Newtype Emo Guy
Posts: 305
Joined: Wed May 02, 2007 7:43 pm
Location: Illinois, USA

Re: Gundam SEED: Bloodlines (Chapter 62 8/28/13)

Post by rebel_cheese » Fri Sep 05, 2014 3:19 pm

Chapter Sixty-Three: Straight Out of Line

“No.” That was the first word I said to Lacus. I don’t know how long it took for me to say it. Could have been right away, could have been seconds, maybe even whole minutes. Could have been all of eternity for how much time was worth to me in that moment. It was like time didn’t affect me at all.

Lacus nodded solemnly. “I know how you have to feel about this. It is your home, and your friends are there.”

“Not just my friends. Everyone who served on the Archangel is there too!” I replied. “They all worked hard to protect me, to help me in all of the battles I had with them. And now the Earth Alliance is just going to finish them off.”

I could tell by the look in Lacus’ eyes that she knew exactly what I was thinking. I was already trying to figure a way back to Orb out. I was going to go back. Somehow. And she didn’t look too pleased about that.

“So are you just going to kill more of the Earth Alliance?” Lacus asked.

The cold tone in her voice pissed me off. “The Earth Alliance is not my enemy! Neither is ZAFT! The regular rank-and-file has never been who I’ve wanted to kill, Lacus! In Panama, I saw what the regular Earth army is, and they’re just scared Naturals who have been brainwashed by propaganda! Propaganda ZAFT just confirmed by slaughtering all of the Panama defenders and torturing the few remaining survivors!”

“Then who is your enemy?” Lacus asked, completely unfazed by my outburst.

“My enemy . . .” Lacus had a way of asking tough questions that I couldn’t answer right away. She was frighteningly good at it. With the right political maneuverings, she was more than capable of following her father into politics.

“My enemy is someone who only cares about victory, no matter what the cost,” I finally said. “Someone who doesn’t care how many people they have to kill to win. Someone who doesn’t care how many people on his own side have to die in order to win. That is my enemy, Lacus, and right now it looks like my enemy is taking over both the Earth Alliance and PLANT.”

“So Patrick Zala would be your enemy?” Lacus asked.

“If he’s stopped caring about the human cost of war, if he is out to exterminate the Naturals or the entire Earth Alliance, then yes, he is my enemy,” I replied.

I secretly prayed then that Lacus wasn’t some deep cover agent. Nothing she had done even hinted she was like that, but my imagination was running wild.

“Then how would you stop them?” Lacus asked. “Do you think you could possibly kill them all?”

“Of course I can’t! The only way to stop them would . . . well, there have to be many soldiers on both sides who are against the war at this point, right? Some are against it for moral reasons, others don’t want to fight because they don’t want to die, period. But . . . the only way to stop the extremists from killing everyone they can is to unite all of the moderates, all of those against this war, and work together to undermine the enemy’s efforts . . . whether the enemy is Patrick Zala or Blue Cosmos.”

“You say that like it is easy,” Lacus replied.

I was wondering what Lacus’ game was. I was giving her these detailed answers, and she would just respond to them briefly, coldly, seemingly to cut me down and ask yet another question. Was she debating me? Was she testing me? What was she up to?

“Of course it’s not easy. And I admit it, I have no idea how to do it. People like you would know how. You . . . you’re something I’m not.”

“And what is that?” Lacus asked.

“Your first impulse when you get pissed off isn’t to punch people in the face,” I replied.

Finally, the façade began cracking. Lacus smiled, and then she grinned, and then she chuckled. Finally, it became full-blown laughter and she was clutching her forehead like she had a headache.

“What?” I asked during the middle of Lacus’ semi-meltdown.

Lacus took a deep breath and looked at me, still with that wide smile on her face. “You’re right! I still remember, back on the Archangel. I never even said a word directly to you and you just walked up and punched me!”

I felt my cheeks get warm. I knew I was blushing from embarrassment. “You have to remind me of that?”

“Some people are warriors, Cagalli, they can’t help it,” Lacus said. “I think that’s what you are. You’ve been put through so much and yet you’re still willing to keep fighting. Not just fighting your enemy, but fighting to keep yourself. You won’t let the worst things about this world change who you are. You are a special kind of person that way, a person affected by war but not broken by it.”

Lacus was giving me way too much credit and I felt uncomfortable, especially as I still couldn’t get Panama out of my head. “Don’t say that. Panama nearly broke me.”

“It’s all right.” Lacus walked up to me and gave me a quick embrace. “The fact that you are still here, that you did not let yourself go, shows what kind of fighter you are, Cagalli. You just don’t give up.”

“How does that make me any better than Patrick Zala?” I asked.

“Because what you fight for, and what you refuse to give up on, is humanity itself,” Lacus replied.

I didn’t quite understand, but it clearly made sense to Lacus considering she was still smiling. “I’m sorry about treating you so coldly. I needed to test you. There’s something my father wants you to have.”

“Like what?” I asked as my head swam with the possibilities of what a man like Siegel Clyne could possibly want for a girl like me.

Lacus continued to smile. “You’ll see.”
***
Another one of those GUNDAM things?” I asked as we entered the ZAFT airbase.

“This one is called the ZGMF-10A Freedom,” Lacus replied. “It was supposed to be ready well over a month ago, but its production was delayed in order to quickly manufacture a replacement Duel for Asta Joule. As Ezalia Joule, Asta’s mother, is a key member of the Supreme Council, she has the authority to have her wishes granted in some cases.”

The politics and nepotism of ZAFT and PLANT was something I never really agreed with and I was looking forward to leaving it behind.

“Speaking of Supreme Council children,” I asked, “Why do you have to be here? Isn’t this dangerous?”

“I am the only person who can unlock the Freedom,” Lacus said. “That’s how my father arranged it. Right now, this airbase is under the control of one of my father’s supporters. We should be okay as long as we get you in and out of here briskly.”

I had a feeling in the back of my mind that Lacus had just jinxed us.

It was easy enough, to wander through the base. It helped that Lacus was wearing a ZAFT uniform and a cap. It was a paper-thin disguise but considering that the last thing people would expect is a pop princess wandering around a military base, the audacity of Lacus’ approach actually paid off. Though I suspect some people recognized her because it’s the only way to explain what happened next.

I’ll get to that in a minute.

We made it to what looked like a seriously spruced up security gate, and Lacus put her hand by a console. “The Freedom, like the Justice, has a built-in N-Jammer Canceller. In other words, it can use nuclear power. My father is suspicious that the Freedom and Justice were manufactured in order to use nuclear weapons on the Earth Alliance.”

I had seen enough video of nuclear explosion to know how devastating that would be. “So you’re thinking Zala is planning on using nuclear weapons on the Alliance then?”

“It’s certainly a strong possibility. Right now, the only nation with this type of technology is PLANT. But if the Earth Alliance gets ahold of it . . .”

Patrick Zala had told me about the N-Jammer Cancellers when I had received the Justice. However, he did not make the consequences of losing said technology clear to me. Probably on purpose. Now, it was beginning to hit me what a massive responsibility the Justice and the Freedom were.

“Blue Cosmos would undoubtedly remanufacture it in order to use nuclear weapons against PLANT,” I replied.

“That would be the most likely scenario. Many on Earth, including in the Atlantic Federation and the Republic of East Asia, would rather use it to solve the world’s energy crisis, but I doubt Blue Cosmos would allow that. They’d rather destroy all Coordinators first. Regardless, if this technology fell into the Earth Alliance’s hands, there will be genocide on either the Naturals or Coordinators.”

The door finally opened and I followed Lacus into the hangar. We were at a surprisingly high elevation, but it didn’t hit me full force until I saw we were right at the Freedom’s chest in height.

“Damn,” I said, staring at the Freedom at all. It looked even more impressive than the Justice.

“My father wants you to have this suit so you can do what you need to do, Cagalli,” Lacus said. “But you need to remember this: sometimes power along isn’t enough, but intelligence isn’t enough either. You need both in order to accomplish something. So just recklessly charging into a battle situation, which Athrun told me is your most common battle tactic, isn’t going to help Orb, you, or the world.”

I felt embarrassed at that comment. Clearly Athrun and Lacus had been chatting more often than I had figured. I had no idea they had talked about me, at least not in significant detail.

“Right now . . . I just want to protect my friends,” I said.

“I know.” Lacus gave me a reassuring smile. “And I know you will succeed in that task.”

She turned then. “Follow me. We need to get you suited up and out of here before Zala’s loyalists catch on.”

“Okay.” I left the Freedom behind then, following Lacus to the other side of the hangar.
***
Completely suited up, I was staring at the Freedom again. The Justice had been awe-inspiring enough on its own, but the Freedom just felt different. I felt a connection to it in a way that the Justice never felt. Maybe it was because the Justice was effectively a rental, an assignment. It wasn’t mine. But here, Lacus was giving the Freedom to me. She was allowing me to make the Freedom my own.

Lacus handed me a thumb drive. “This contains what you need to force-hack through the OS safeguards and make the Freedom accessible to you. Of course, you will need to set your own passcode to ensure that it doesn’t happen to you in turn.”

“Thanks,” I said. “How . . . how can I repay you for this?”

Lacus smiled. “Walk the path that you find is the right one. That’s all my father and I will ever ask of you, Cagalli. What happens after you protect Orb is up to you.”

I opened the Freedom’s cockpit. It was spacious, just like the Justice’s, and I could already see the survival kit and handheld guns that would support me if I were ever shot down.

“I . . . I think I might need your guidance after Orb,” I said.

Lacus chuckled. “Cagalli, I’m just improvising as I go along myself. Don’t give me too much credit.”

“Yeah, but . . .”

That’s when the doors by where we originally entered suddenly opened. “Freeze! Don’t move”

Lacus spun towards the intruders. I knew what had happened. Obviously we had been found out.

“We’ve identified Lacus Clyne and Lieutenant Yamato!” shouted one of the soldiers. “Awaiting further instructions!”

“They must be beginning the purge,” Lacus said softly.

“Lacus,” I said.

“Don’t worry about me,” Lacus said. “Get out of here.”

The reply to the troopers, stunningly, came through the loudspeakers. “Fire at will.”

I knew that voice. It was Patrick Zala’s.

I did the only thing I could. I grabbed the pistol out of the cockpit, grabbed Lacus, and put the gun at her head.

“Drop your weapons!” I screamed.

The soldiers hesitated.

“Drop your weapons or I’ll kill her! I swear I will!”

Patrick Zala’s voice on the loudspeaker. “She’s trying to trick you! Don’t fall for it!

“You think Lacus Clyne, pop princess, wanted anything to do with this rebellion? Forget it! She’s my hostage, ZOINKS!” I screamed. “She’s against her father and what he’s doing! You pull that trigger you’ll be killing a PLANT loyalist and icon!”

Come on, Lacus, play along, I thought desperately.

Lacus reacted then, with gusto. “Please help me! She’s going to kill me! Help me! Help me!”

I held her tighter. “You idiots want to be known as the guy who put a bullet in Lacus Clyne? Huh? Any of you?”

The troopers were hesitating; their hands were shaking so clearly that they were losing control of their aim. I had put doubt in their minds. They were wondering if it was true, that Lacus was on their side and I was the megalomaniac who took her hostage.

I slowly backed towards the cockpit. I was going to have to fall in backwards with Lacus in my grasp and slam it shut. That was the only plan I had. I wasn’t sure how I was going to find oxygen for Lacus to breathe, but I figured I could figure something out while I was flying to Earth.

But first I needed to get me and Lacus out of this situation before we were both shot.

Patrick Zala again through the loudspeaker. The only reason why was that I was sure he had intended to use the loudspeaker as psychological warfare against me and Lacus. It had backfired, but he was continuing to use the tactic. “Are you ZAFT soldiers or are you easily cowed children? She’s trying to confuse you! Kill them both, they are traitors!

Lacus continued to play the part of terrified hostage, to the point her voice was breaking. “Please, you have it wrong! Don’t kill me! Please don’t kill me! She’s the bad guy here! Please!”

“Damn it all!” screamed one of the troopers, and I realized he was going to shoot.

Quickly I fell in backwards with Lacus as he opened fire, and I reached over Lacus and slammed the door shut.

“Hang on, Lacus!” I shouted as I slammed the drive into the system to activate the override.

“Don’t worry about me,” Lacus gasped. “Just get out of here.”

“I will!” The systems were gradually booting up one by one. The hijacking program was working beautifully. The Freedom was going to be completely operational within a minute or less.

Unfortunately, one of them was the video screen with Patrick Zala looking right at me. If looks could kill, I had a feeling I’d be ripped apart until nothing was left other than flakes of skin and droplets of blood.

You traitor! How dare you do this, Yamato! You think there’s any escape for you?

“As a matter of fact, yes there is!” I shouted. “I just imputed a program to hijack the Freedom! It’ll be mine in a matter of moments!”

Zala’s eyes widened. “No! That’s impossible!

“Clearly whoever made this program didn’t get the memo,” I said as I sat down in the cockpit as the Freedom’s systems continued to boot up one by one.

The propulsion systems were the next to unlock, which meant at least I’d be able to take off. I took the key, turned it, and the Freedom roared to life. I saw the PHASE SHIFT indicator light up as well, and it was at full strength. So even if I was shot at, I’d be able to take a beating at least.

You filthy Natural-loving bitch!” Zala screamed.

Seeing Zala reduced to a man in front of a camera, screaming meaningless insults and vulgarities, made me realize how pathetic the man really was. All he was living for was the death of ordinary human beings. Now I knew who I was fighting against. I knew what I had to do. And I knew that just because this man was in charge, the Coordinators didn’t deserve to die either.

“This is Cagalli Yamato, launching Gundam Freedom!” A vulgar thought occurred to me, and a devilish smile crossed my face as I decided to do it.

I flipped Zala off. “And there ain’t nothing you can do about it, ZOINKS!”

I grabbed the control stick and launched the Freedom straight upwards, shooting towards space. I felt the artificial gravity leave me, but due to the treatment forced on me, I didn’t feel the least bit spacesick.

In fact, I felt pretty damn good. It’s not every day you get to call out a genocidal madman to his face, after all.

Shortly before I broke into space, the connection with Zala broke. Clearly I was out of range. The Freedom’s weapon systems came online next, and I prepared the Lupus beam rifle, which I was familiar with due to using it with the Justice.

There were a lot of other modes and options, which I was completely unfamiliar with. “What is all of this?” I asked Lacus.

“The Freedom has an auto-targeting capability,” Lacus replied softly. It amazed me how calm she was. “It’s called ‘High Mobility Aerial Tactics’, or ‘HiMAT’. You can auto-target several enemies at once, and fire using all of the Freedom’s auto-equipped weaponry. You will also be able to manually pinpoint the specific area you want to hit the targets in.”

This GUNDAM seemed even more overpowered than the Justice. And they picked the Justice to not be delayed? Unless the Freedom was more expensive to produce than the Justice, which would make sense.

My sensors beeped, and I saw we were being chased. “Looks like I’ll have to try it out! Sorry about this!”

I spun the Freedom around and engaged the HiMAT. Immediately, all six pursuing GINNs were targeted in an instant. The Freedom wasn’t just powerful. It was capable of all-out overkill.

“Please be careful,” Lacus said.

Lacus’ presence made me re-focus. She wouldn’t want me to kill these pilots. For all I knew, these were moderates, chasing me under orders from Zala. I engaged the manual targeting and made sure that what’d I do was nonlethal but nevertheless crippling shots. I then pulled the trigger.

What happened was amazing. Weapons of all kinds fired from the Freedom, weapons I didn’t even know I had. The only thing that didn’t seem to fire was the Lupus, and that was probably because it wasn’t connected to the HiMAT.

All six GINNs were blown apart, but I had left the chest areas intact so the pilots would survive, though they’d be out of action. Not much you can do when you’re reduced to the chest area and legs.

“Thank you,” Lacus said.

My sensors beeped again. Two more GINNs, accelerating quickly and in close range, shooting at me wildly.

I put the Lupus away and drew the twin sabers the Freedom was equipped with instead. I charged towards and beheaded the first GINN, and then swooped down on the other GINN and cut apart the GINN’s legs. I spun around and sliced off the arms for good measure, which gave the GINN no way to fight back.

I then turned the Freedom back towards Earth and hit the accelerator. We shot off towards the planet, leaving PLANT behind.

It occurred to me that Lacus had no space suit. I could throw on my helmet and that’d give me access to my suit’s airtank, but even if the Freedom had an enlarged oxygen tank for emergencies there was no way there’d be enough for Lacus to make it to Earth before running out of air. I’d need to find somewhere to stop so I could get air for Lacus, or, better yet, find a spacesuit for her to put on.

I looked at the L4 colonies. They were abandoned years ago due to a viral outbreak, and were falling into ruin, but they were my best option. The life support systems should still be working in some areas and there was undoubtedly a spacesuit that would fit Lacus. The trick would be to dodge any remnants of the virus, though if the base had been abandoned it’d be unlikely either of us would wind up infected, if there was no one to catch it from. The only way either of us would end up in trouble is if we wound up becoming Patient Zero.

I began to set up the autopilot for L4. Lacus spoke then. “What are you doing?”

“There’s not enough air for you to make it to Earth,” I said. “We’re going to L4 so we can get some air and a spacesuit for you.”

Lacus’ voice was oddly soft, and I realized that there was pain behind her tone for the first time. “Thank you for your concern, Cagalli, but . . . it’s okay.”

She coughed then, a sickly, blood-filled cough reminiscent of Asta Joule. I knew what that meant.

Immediately, my heart felt like it had exploded, and I could not breathe.

I turned to Lacus to find both her hands clutching her stomach, but floating bubbles of blood were escaping her sound. And from her mouth was more blood, like little gels, floating from her mouth.

Despite her clear pain, she was still smiling, although tears were beginning to come from her eyes.

I still could not breathe as I stared at her.

The smile was unwavering in spite of the agonized pain she had to be feeling.

“Please . . . don’t worry about me anymore, Cagalli.”
MURRUE: Infallible accuracy?? I thought you just usually shot all your weapons at random and they just happened to hit stuff.

KIRA: What do you think this is; a cartoon?

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The Green Flame
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Re: Gundam SEED: Bloodlines (Chapter 63 9/5/14)

Post by The Green Flame » Fri Sep 05, 2014 5:05 pm

Oh boy oh boy, Lacus is croaking already. Now who will form the three ship alliance?

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Re: Gundam SEED: Bloodlines (Chapter 63 9/5/14)

Post by rebel_cheese » Fri Sep 05, 2014 9:17 pm

You say this like you're excited Lacus is gonna die. =p

Already getting flamed on FF.net over it. People are not going to like chapter 64.
MURRUE: Infallible accuracy?? I thought you just usually shot all your weapons at random and they just happened to hit stuff.

KIRA: What do you think this is; a cartoon?

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Re: Gundam SEED: Bloodlines (Chapter 63 9/5/14)

Post by The Green Flame » Sat Sep 06, 2014 11:07 am

It is a pleasant surprise. This makes the fourth canon character death I believe. What with Yzak, Andy, Murrue, and now Lacus getting the axe, I can only wonder who else is on the chopping block haha.

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Re: Gundam SEED: Bloodlines (Chapter 63 9/5/14)

Post by rebel_cheese » Tue Sep 09, 2014 1:11 pm

The Green Flame wrote:It is a pleasant surprise. This makes the fourth canon character death I believe. What with Yzak, Andy, Murrue, and now Lacus getting the axe, I can only wonder who else is on the chopping block haha.
There are many people on the chopping block, but there are people on the sparing block. Note that Nicol and Aisha are still alive, for example.

Tolle also bit the dust, but he was a canon death so I guess he doesn't count with the above. But there have been five canon deaths so far.

I'm going to post Chapter 64 a bit early.
MURRUE: Infallible accuracy?? I thought you just usually shot all your weapons at random and they just happened to hit stuff.

KIRA: What do you think this is; a cartoon?

rebel_cheese
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Re: Gundam SEED: Bloodlines (Chapter 63 9/5/14)

Post by rebel_cheese » Tue Sep 09, 2014 1:22 pm

Chapter Sixty-Four: Anthem of the Angels

I forced air through my aching lungs, my screaming heart, but there was no stopping my blurring vision as tears effortlessly appeared from my eyes.

“L-Lacus . . . you were . . .”

“I-It’s all . . .” Lacus coughed again, and more blood floated from her mouth.

No. It was not ‘okay’, or ‘all right’, or whatever she was trying to tell me. Being shot in the stomach, clearly bleeding out, already coughing up blood . . . none of that was okay! None of it! No amount of reassurance would ever make me accept something like that!

“Lacus!” I reached out and grabbed her, bringing her on my grasp, holding her on my lap so she could look up at my eyes.

“Lacus, I-I have a m-medical kit! M-Maybe there’s something that can . . .”

“Don’t . . . don’t worry about me . . .” Lacus said softly. One of her hands left her stomach and reached out towards me, and I found myself reaching out and taking her hand in mine.

“Don’t be stupid!” I cried. “I can’t just let you die! Oh God, Lacus . . . I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!”

She was still smiling. How could she just lay here in my arms, knowing she was dying, and somehow still keep smiling? I just didn’t understand how a person could face death so bravely, so peacefully! How could Lacus just act like nothing was wrong as she was gradually fading away, little by little, as she bled out?

“Cagalli . . . it’s not your fault. No one’s to blame . . . for this . . .”

“B-But I . . .” I kept thinking back to my decision to grab Lacus and pretend she was a hostage. She wound up being used as a human shield instead when that soldier opened fire. That’s what happened. She got hit when we were falling backwards inside the Freedom. That was the only way. It could have been right before I closed the door too, but I think I would’ve been the one hit if a bullet had hit its mark there.

No, Lacus took a bullet while we were falling backwards, and somehow it didn’t pass through her and hit me too.

“Don’t blame yourself.” Tears were floating from Lacus eyes, floating towards mine as they fell from my eyes and floated through the zero-G. “If . . . if you hadn’t done that . . . we’d both have been dead.”

She was right. I knew, in the back of my mind, that she was right. If she and I had just tried to rush into the cockpit all of those soldiers would’ve opened fire and there would’ve been no way for us to not get hit. Lacus, being caught more in the open than I was, would’ve been guaranteed to die.

But I didn’t want to accept that was right, or accept her forgiveness. How could I, when she was dying in front of me?

“Lacus . . .” I couldn’t come up with any words to say. There was so much I wanted to say and yet none of it was coming out. I couldn’t talk. I literally could not talk to this girl, this brave girl who I had so grossly miscalculated, who was so much more than she initially seemed.

Her hand gripped mine tighter. “Please . . . please listen to me, Cagalli . . .”

I knew I had to listen. No matter how I felt, or what thoughts were rushing through my head, I had to block them out, ignore them. I had to concentrate. “I’m listening, Lacus. I’m listening. I’m right here.”

Lacus’ eyes turned from me, looking outside at the screen, at the planet Earth. “It’s so beautiful . . . the Earth. I . . . I always wanted to visit there . . . visit that amazing world . . .”

Her eyes turned back to mine. “Don’t . . . don’t let them destroy it. Zala . . . or Blue Cosmos. Don’t let them destroy this beautiful world and its people, Cagalli.”

“I won’t,” I replied. “I won’t. I swear I won’t.”

“Please, tell Athrun . . . tell Athrun that . . . I want him to be happy,” Lacus said. “And tell . . . tell my father that . . . I loved him . . . he gave me . . .”

Lacus coughed violently and my remaining hand, wrapped around her back, held onto her shirt even tighter. She was threating to float from my grasp and I forced her to stay.

Lacus moaned and cried from the pain as she straightened, she had been forced to sit up or whatever passes for that in zero gravity. The adrenaline was leaving her, and now her body was recognizing the great pain she was in.

She looked back at me, her eyes still alert in spite of the tears continuing to float from them and the blood continuing to float from her mouth. “Cagalli . . . I’m scared. I’m so scared . . .”

“I’m right here.” Such a stupid, cheesy thing to say, but I could find no other words. “I’m here, Lacus. You’re not alone.”

“There . . . there was so . . . so much more I wanted to do . . .” Lacus managed through her pain and tears. “So much I wanted to see. You . . . you live on such a beautiful world . . . why we keep trying to destroy it . . . it never made sense to me . . .”

“It doesn’t make sense to me either,” I said. I knew from her struggling breaths, the sweat all over her forehead and hair, that it was coming. She didn’t have much longer. She was a fighter, her body was strong, and her body was going to keep fighting the inevitable as long as it could, before there simply was not enough left to fight with.

I had only inconsistent contact with Lacus Clyne. I shouldn’t have felt this close to her. But right now, in the cockpit of the Freedom, watching her slowly fade away, I felt like I was losing my best friend. Somehow, in spite of our inconsistent meetings, and my belligerence the very first time I had seen her, she had turned herself into a close friend. Someone I could trust without any reservations, an ally I knew would always be there for me.

And she was dying in front of me and there was nothing I could do.

I wanted to reach for that medical kit. I wanted to do whatever I could, no matter how much I wasted of it or how inadequate it was, to save this girl. But nothing would stop a wound like this. I could make the tightest tourniquet in the world and it wouldn’t be enough. Her skin was turning pale, and her eyes were beginning to look sunken. The end was coming.

“Don’t . . . don’t lose your way . . . yourself . . . or what you believe in,” Lacus said softly. Her other arm reached up and grabbed my shoulder. “Don’t lose it. The moment you lose that . . . what makes you, you . . . you will just become like Blue Cosmos . . . and Patrick Zala . . . and all that will happen is more hatred . . . more anger . . . more innocent people dying . . .”

“I won’t,” I promised. “I won’t become a monster, Lacus. I promise you I won’t.”

“Power alone is not enough, Cagalli . . .” Lacus whispered. “Neither is . . . intelligence. You . . . you need both . . . and your soul.”

She had said that before I had gotten into the Freedom, before she had gotten shot, and she reminded me of that. She was telling me I needed to be whole to be the difference I wanted to make in this world. To be what would stop the hatred, the anger, the pain.

“I know,” I said. “I know, Lacus . . .”

That smile still would not fade. Even though she admitted she was scared of her death, even though her words were filled with worry, she was still managing to smile so gently. What was in this girl that she could just fade without that smile even wavering?

“I’ll . . . I’ll take care of everything . . . Athrun will be happy . . . your father will be okay . . . the world will make it through this . . . I promise, Lacus. I promise . . .” I forced through my tears and choked voice.

She did not answer. The smile remained, but her head was beginning to go slack, as were her hands.

“Lacus?” I asked.

Still no answer.

Then her hands fell limp.

A soft choked gasp; and then no further breaths escaped her mouth.

Her eyes stared lifelessly at my right shoulder, and that was when I knew there was nothing left.

“Lacus!” I was about to scream and plead for her, plead for her to take one last breath, beg her to find some hidden wherewithal that she would wake up to speak to me.

That’s when I heard Aisha’s voice, her words from the cockpit of the LaGOWE, next to her fallen love Andrew Waltfeld.

T-The last thing that goes away . . . is people’s hearing.

The last thing Lacus would want to hear from me was begging for her to wake up, when she had no strength left.

So instead of screaming at her to wake up, I screamed my promise.

“I’ll save everyone, Lacus! I’ll save PLANT! I’ll save the Earth! I’ll save my friends, your friends, it doesn’t matter! I’ll save everybody! No matter what it takes! I’ll save them all!”

I nearly choked on my own tears and throat. I couldn’t form words anymore. What else could I possibly say?

I looked at Lacus’ eyes, which registered nothing. I knew there was nothing left of her. She was gone, but the smile still remained. It was if she had somehow found peace in her death, she believed in me that much, that even though she was dying, dying so young, she knew everything would be okay because I was still here.

What had I done to deserve such confidence? What had I done to deserve her trust? All I had done was allow her to die in my arms, die in my cockpit, die and let her blood to float all around me.

I took my trembling hand and put my fingers on Lacus’ eyelids. My voice was a strangled whisper as I closed her eyes. “Goodbye . . . Lacus.”

That was it. I could no longer form words. I could no longer function. I could not even muster the ability to set the Freedom to go anywhere than somewhere on the planet Earth.

All I could do was bury my face in my hands and cry.

Cry over my lost friend.
***
Somehow, in the hours after her death, I regained my ability to function. I felt numbed, deadened, like I was a ghost inhabiting the cockpit. But I remembered Lacus’ words. What made me function, and keep going, was what Lacus said to me, and my promises to her. The more time I wasted crying, the more likely Orb would be destroyed before I got there. Lacus would not want me to cry for her if it meant that people would suffer and die because of that.

She had passed on a responsibility to me, a responsibility that put the weight of the world on my shoulders, and the only way the responsibility would not crush me was if I found people to bear the weight with me.

But I could not take Lacus to Earth. Especially if I had to go to battle right away. Fighting with a dead body beside me thrashing and falling around would be insulting to her memory. No matter what Lacus herself would think, I could not disrespect the dead.

I flew through the debris belt, wondering what to do. I had put my helmet on, drawing on the oxygen in my space suit, saving the reserves inside the Freedom for when I escaped the belt. Then I would switch back to the suit’s oxygen for descending back to Earth, and then turn on the oxygen filters to refill the tanks. That would mean wearing no helmet if I had to fight right away at Orb, but I didn’t know how else to conserve my air. I was not thinking entirely straight.

That’s when I saw it to my right. Junius Seven, still lingering, somehow.

I remembered my attitude when the Archangel had been forced to dock with it. We needed the supplies, we needed the water, but we had stolen from the dead, which I didn’t want to do.

A thought occurred to me. The dead in Junius Seven were all killed off suddenly, violently, without rhyme or reason, and if their spirits still lingered, they were without peace.

I docked with a random destroyed port in Junius Seven, and opened my cockpit. Lacus’ blood froze right away, and I took all of the frozen blood and brushed it out of the cockpit. I then took Lacus’ body, like she was a glass statue so I would not break her, and floated her through the facility until I found a room.

It looked like a kindergarten classroom, with the bodies of a female teacher and dozens of young children. Probably were killed instantly or nearly so, perhaps if the oxygen was sucked out of the room due to the life support taking a critical hit.

I decided this was the best place to put Lacus’ body, and I marked the location so I would come back and get her body at another time. I would have to come back to space eventually, I realized, if I were to end this war. I’d have to fight ZAFT too, not just the Earth Alliance.

But until then . . . until then . . .

If there is such a thing like spirits and ghosts, or purgatory and souls, Lacus would be a calm presence. The crying children, not understanding their circumstances or their pain, would need someone to comfort them, to sing for them, to make them accept what had happened so they could find peace and move on.

Lacus would be the angel that would help the spirits and souls of Junius Seven and its senseless tragedy finally find some solace after their cruel, horrific deaths.

Maybe she was already doing that already. Maybe I didn’t have to leave her body here for it to be accomplished. But that was how I had met Lacus in the first place; she had intended to leave a memorial for Junius Seven, only for it to be interrupted and for her to be the only survivor.

It just seemed . . . symbolic, for her to be laid to rest with the people she so deeply cared for and had wished to find peace in their own rights.

I was not a religious person and still am not. But I did pray to whatever God could exist as I left Lacus in the room. I prayed for her to be comforted, to be embraced, to be loved. I prayed that if she was indeed helping the dead who could not accept their demises, that they would appreciate her, and that she would find happiness from the deed.

With that, I manually closed the door, and marked the location in my tablet. I was not going to leave Lacus’ body here, not permanently. Her permanent burial would be on Earth, or in the PLANTs, so her father, Athrun, or whoever would want to appreciate her could easily access it. As Earthly as things like flowers, wreaths, crosses, or whatever else would be left at her grave, it was closer to what she deserved.

I left Junius Seven then, and shot off towards Earth, marking the target location as Onogoro Island in Orb.

I wiped the tears from my eyes, and forced myself to focus.

I could not save Lacus, but I would save my friends, and my country.

I would make Lacus’ death worth it somehow, in the end.

I would do it in a way that would make Lacus happy in whatever afterlife she was in.

I was not going to fail her.

Not again, I promised.

Not again.
***
The Freedom was a much more comfortable cockpit for re-entry than the Strike was. ‘Comfortable’ was a relative term, as it was still unbearably hot and I felt like I was going to melt, but it didn’t feel like I was going to die from the experience like what had happened in the Strike.

I had a couple of days to think over what I needed to do, and how I had to respect Lacus’ memory and wishes. I could not let myself get driven by vengeance and hatred, no matter how much an Earth Alliance attack on Orb would piss me off. If I despised the Earth Alliance, if I fell so far as to hate the average soldier, who was just following orders and was caught up in the hateful propaganda and vile environment, I would just become like Patrick Zala. And if I allowed myself to be enraged at ZAFT, at Patrick Zala, at the Coordinators who were so clearly viewing this war as some sort of game or turkey shoot, I would be no better than Blue Cosmos.

I had to accept that the ordinary soldiers on both sides were the victims in this escalating war. There would be times where I would not be able to avoid killing them. There would be times where I would not be able to save everyone. But I had to try, try to be a better person, try to keep my moral compass. I needed to show that there was a better way than the ways of the extremists hijacking both sides.

And I needed to see my family. I needed to apologize to them. All of them. I had betrayed them all; I had run away in pursuit of something that I never was going to have, to a place where I didn’t belong, a cause I didn’t believe in. What I wanted was to see them again, to be in my parents arms, to have Elle and Stellar accept me again, and just accept who I was and that was no excuse to stab everyone in the back. Blue Cosmos or no Blue Cosmos, I couldn’t keep running away, and running to ZAFT wasn’t going to solve those issues.

Plus there was Kira. The Prime Minister himself had basically admitted that Kira was my brother. My twin. He was the one who stayed in my birth mother’s womb, while I was left to become . . . whoever I was. I needed to see him. I didn’t care about security or protocol or any of that. I needed to see him, I needed to tell him the truth, I needed to tell him that the entire time he was on the Archangel he was helping his big sister.

And yes, I’m sticking to that assumption. There’s no way in hell Kira came first. I had to have beaten him by a few minutes.

Basically, I had a lot of business that I needed to take care of, and I had a very short time to get it done in. I knew that I wasn’t going to beat the Earth Alliance fleet by much, and there was a good chance that the attack would have already begun by the time I made it to Orb.

The moment the turbulence of re-entry ended I set a course for Onogoro and blasted through the sky at top speed. The Freedom felt surprisingly maneuverable and powerful for a GUNDAM machine in the atmosphere. Even more than the Justice did. I was really impressed with the machine now.

It truly did feel like my machine.

I turned on the radio. The moment I entered Orb airspace I was probably going to get contacted. I was flying a ZAFT Gundam, after all, and an explanation would likely be demanded from me. I needed to get on the line the moment they began talking to me. That way they wouldn’t try to blow me out of the sky. There was no way I’d shoot back so it was important I prevented a confrontation from happening at all.

But as I entered Orb waters, I was surprised by what I was hearing. There was no one acknowledging my presence at all. What I heard was talk of evacuation, of emergency situations, of panic, of people screaming for help or shelter.

The attack was likely coming any moment then.

Then I managed to pick out a voice.

Assault coming from the left flank. All forces-

The voice faded out into the cacophony of people panicking and calling for help. But I knew what I had heard, and I knew what that meant.

Orb was already under assault. I hadn’t even made it in time to make it to the front line before the attack.

The Earth Alliance wasn’t going to give Orb any quarter then. They were just going to come and take everything away to get that Mass Driver, to hell with the consequences.

They had no right to come in here and attack my country and kill my friends, my people.

I immediately realized what Lacus was trying to tell me. This was the trap. Hatred. Rage. Loathing.

If I indiscriminately killed everyone in my way, what would make me better than my attackers? How would I help anyone if I did that? How would that make anyone in the Earth Alliance see my point of view?

It wouldn’t.

What I needed to do was to clear the beachhead and make it very clear that no one was allowed to pass. I wasn’t going to chase the Earth Alliance back into the ocean and blow up the entire fleet, even though the Freedom felt powerful enough to do just that. Terrorizing the Earth Alliance would just accomplish the same thing ZAFT did at Panama. All I’d do is make the rest of the Alliance more hateful, and they’d fight even harder.

No. I was going to show the lines that could not be crossed. They’d learn their lines, and I would show them mine. And I was going to protect my country and my friends and my family in the process.

As I neared Onogoro, the brown seed appeared across my vision once more, the first time I had seen it since my battles on the Archangel.

I hadn’t even a glimpse of it during my time with ZAFT.

I had an epiphany as I saw the seed. I did not believe in ZAFT or PLANT or what they were fighting for. I had no passion for their cause. But here, fighting for my country, my friends, my family, for what I truly believed in, the seed was appearing in front of my eyes.

It was triggering because of what I truly believed in.

For the first time, I decided I wasn’t going to fight the seed as it cracked and shattered.

No, I was going to embrace it.

I was going to accept what was happening to me and let it guide me to doing what I needed to do.

So I did. I opened myself up as the seed shattered, and I saw the path through the battlefield with a clarity I did not previously have.

I knew the weakest spot in their attacking line on sheer instinct.

I aimed my auto-targeting systems and opened fire with my weaponry as I swooped across their battlefield.

The HiMAT’s weapon systems were so powerful they would blast right through the Strike Daggers in my path and continue onwards, colliding with more of the Daggers that happened to get in the way.

I landed on the beach and drew my twin sabers, and slashed through the remnants of the opposing force. I didn’t scream, yell, or do any of the things I did when I previously saw the seed, when I resisted it.

I just knew what I had to do and how to do it.

With the beachhead cleared and the Earth Alliance scattered, I put the twin sabers away and re-engaged the HiMAT, and I turned on the public channel, making sure both the Orb Union and the Earth Alliance would hear me.

“This is Cagalli Yamato on the behalf of the Orb Union. I am piloting the GUNDAM Freedom, the most advanced Mobile Suit known. Any Earth Alliance Mobile Suit or Mobile Armor that dares to tread through my airspace will not pass. I repeat; none will pass.”

And then I waited.
MURRUE: Infallible accuracy?? I thought you just usually shot all your weapons at random and they just happened to hit stuff.

KIRA: What do you think this is; a cartoon?

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