Gundam SEED: Entropy Rising Rating: PG-13
Shadow Chaser


Gundam SEED is the latest installment of the Gundam Saga that has spawned a legacy in Japan for over 20 years.† It has been likened as the ďStar TrekĒ of Japan.† However, for those long 20 years, it was only available to Japanese fans.† Only recently, in 1998, was the 3-movie version of the first Gundam, called ďGundamĒ was released to the American public Ė but that was only quietly.† While fans in America grabbed bootlegs to try to satisfy their appetite, Gundam really got its explosion when Cartoon Network, Bandai, and the Ocean Group dubbed, released, and aired on March 6, 2000, ďGundam WĒ under the title, ďGundam WingĒ.

An American craze had started and seeing its success with the viewing audience, more Gundam-related materials started to be brought over to America.† However, none could really top ďGundam WingĒ.† However, that didnít stop many fans from enjoying or grabbing their hands on any Gundam merchandise they could find.

Currently, this year, Cartoon Network has premiered three different Gundam series, ďGundam F-91Ē, ďZ GundamĒ (slated to be late Fall early Winter), and ďGundam SEEDĒ.

This story focuses on the characters of ďGundam SEEDĒ, which had its own recent direct sequel (the first of any Gundam series), ďGundam SEED: DestinyĒ Ė that premiered on October 9th, 2004 on Japanese television sets.

ďSEEDĒ is set in an Alternate Universe, the year C.E. 71.† War has broken out between Coordinators and Naturals.† Coordinators are human beings who have had their genes enhanced to make them better at almost everything and virtually immune to most diseases. † Naturals have only had their genes altered so they are immune to diseases.† The war started out in C.E. 70 on February 7th when the former U.N. representatives were meeting on the Lunar Base of Copernicus.† A terrorist attack killed all the representatives and the Naturals blamed Coordinators for the attack.† The Naturals formed the Earth Alliance, with OMNI as their main military group.† The Coordinators, living in PLANTs (space colonies), formed their own militia, ZAFT.† Seven days later, on February 14th, three days after the Earth Alliance declared war on PLANT, they launched a nuclear attack on one of the PLANTs, Junius Seven, killing all inhabitants.

This became the rallying point for ZAFT and for the PLANTs as both sides attacked each other.

Our story starts roughly one year later, C.E. 71.† Kira Yamato lives on the colony of Heliopolis which is a part of the neutral Earth nation of Aube (or Orb).† His life is peaceful with his friends until one day ZAFT attacks to steal five mobile suits called GUNDAM (they have an acronym for these things instead of the regular Gundam).† Caught amidst the firefight, he discovers that his childhood best friend Athrun Zala is a part of the war, fighting for ZAFT.† However, by an ironic fate, Kira ends up fighting against Athrun for OMNI.

Gundam SEED is the story of two best friends, pitted against each other with a good dose of love, action, and drama thrown in Ė can Athrun and Kira reconcile before itís too late? Or will they end up killing each other?

Entropy Rising is an Alternate Universe of Gundam SEED.


Kira Yamato — pilot of Freedom Gundam
Athrun Zala — pilot of Justice Gundam
Cagalli Yula Attha — pilot of Strike Gundam Rouge, ruler of Orb
Lacus Clyne — delegate to the Earth Senate, representative of PLANT
Murrue Ramius — captain of the Archangel
Andy Bartfield — captain of the Eternal
Quinn Misali — captain of the Kusanagi, known as the Kingfisher
Ledonil Kisaka — captain of the Babylon
Yzak Joule — pilot of Duel Gundam
Dearka Elsman — pilot of Buster Gundam
Sai Argyle — CIC control officer aboard Archangel
Miriallia Haw — communications officer aboard Archangel
Kanoko Yamato — Kiraís mother
Keiji Yamato — Kiraís father, known as the Akuma
Sven Anderson — leader of the Talon
Lya Matato — captain of the Brimstone
Amai Asterli — pilot of Gundam Claw
Nikolai Mercus — pilot of Liberty Gundam, codenamed Griever
Haruka Satou — university student, codenamed Lynx
Taylor Ren — university student, pilot of Corsair Gundam, codenamed Hyperion
Eileen Canaver — chairwoman of PLANTís Supreme Council
Aaron Amalfi — delegate to the Earth Senate, representative of PLANT


It is now C.E. 73Ö

After the events of C.E. 71 in which both the Earth Alliance and PLANT declared a cease-fire, peace has reigned and disarmament has begun. †The nation of Orb has been rebuilt and are now mediate the peace between Earth and PLANT.† Though both Naturals and Coordinators are still distrustful of each other, many have now welcomed the peacetime, though prejudices and persecution are still running high after two years.

But there are still those who resent everything thatís been happening; people like Blue Cosmos and the more radical factions of Coordinators who still support Patrick Zalaís ideal of ultimate Coordinator rule.† Under the flag of neutrality, Orb has created a patrolling unit (like Preventers in G-Wing) to smother the flames of possible war before it starts up again.† Among the group, known as Liberation Forces, or LF, are a mix of Coordinators and Naturals who are willing to put aside differences and work together.

However, not all fires can be stopped in time, and sometimes, there are those who still sneak around with inside support.† Their first target, to eliminate OrbÖ


PHASE ONE — An End to the Peace

"Miss Cagalli, you must wear at least a ceremonial outfit, if not a dress, when you address the Senate," the exasperated voice of the maid echoed loudly in a spacious room with sunlight streaming in.

Cagalli Yula Attha, only 18 in recent months, glared at the maid, her hazel eyes flashing in anger.† She hated dresses.† She hated dress uniforms.† She hated talking in front of those damn bastards in the Senate.† She hated her job.† Since her father perished in the attack two years ago, by the Earth Forcesí hand, she had barely wanted to step in front of those ignorant Senators who only thought of themselves and made empty platitudes and condolences for Orbís lost.† But now, as the ruler of Orb and its chief negotiator in maintaining neutrality throughout the Earth and space, she had to step up to the plate.

It wasnít entirely by her choice.† She was quite happy living on the small island with Markio and his group of orphans, along with her brother Kira Yamato, her love Athrun Zala, and her newest and closest friend Lacus Clyne.† But when a few of the surviving members of the ruling council of Orb declared that they were to be the main neutral force in the construction of peace between Earth and PLANT, she had returned to find that her homeland was rebuilding itself from its remains.† She had been overjoyed then, but that was when the other hammer dropped.† The remaining members of the ruling council wanted Princess Cagalli Attha to lead them ...

Initially she had refused and offered the position to Lacus, but she had told her that she had been named by PLANT to be one of their representatives to the Earth Senate and so had to decline.† She had looked to Kira and Athrun, but both shook their heads, saying that they were only soldiers, nothing more.

Now she found herself wishing that she had dumped this onto Kira, though it would be cruel to her own brother as he had gone through hell and back through the war two years ago, and was only now on the mend, psyche-wise.† At least Lacus was in the Senate hall and was one of her greatest supporters.

Looking outside into the sunny cloudless sky, she wondered how her brother and Athrun were doing.† No one outside of the four of them knew of Kiraís relationship to her and even then, Kira was still a bit distant about the brother-sister thing — something had affected him badly in Colony Mendel, she suspected that, and she intended to keep the secret that way.† No one also knew about her being a Coordinator, and she also intended to keep that secret far away from the prying ears of the Senate and from the press, especially the press.

Kira had opted to continue his university education and was now almost graduating soon, while Athrun had decided to work with the technicians on Orbís defensive system.† While they were all living in Orb, with the exception of Lacus who shuttled back and forth from Orb to Aprilius City to give her reports, Cagalli barely had time to see any of them.

Though Athrun graced her with many gifts and kisses each time he visited, she wished that he would come more often.† The kinds of gifts he gave made her smile — even though some were Haros like Lacusí, some were also beautiful artworks of origami and little mechanical devices that helped make her life easier.† She still remembered when Kira had taken one of the Haros given to her from Athrun and reprogrammed it to follow Athrun everywhere.

Athrun had taken his revenge, by taking one of Lacusí Haros that he built and making it follow Kira around.† Cagalli grinned as she remembered when she stopped the two by asking Lacus if she could borrow Pinkie, the pink little Haro with a colorful mouth to boot, and making it say some more obscene words, but directed at both Kira and Athrun.

Both conceded and reprogrammed the Haros back to their normal state, though Cagalli occasionally saw one following Athrun whenever he came here.† She wanted to leave Pinkieís programming in, but returned the little obnoxious ball to its regular state since it usually followed Lacus around during her diplomatic tours and meetings.† She didnít want to embarrass her friend in front of important delegates if the Haro suddenly started swearing.

"Princess, you must at least wear something nice," the maidís voice startled her out of her thoughts and she turned and glared at her.

"Why?" she decided to give her a hard time.† Damnit, she didnít want to wear a dress or dress uniform!

The maid sighed tiredly, "Princess, do you remember todayís proposal?† The Senate has been arguing about energy control and want at least the PLANTs to give what is left of Genesis to the Earth Alliance so they may ease the energy crisis around their nations."

Cagalli nodded, annoyed, "I know.† Who wouldnít since this thingís been debated for the past six months."† Though Orbís energy levels were pretty reasonable, making them one of the most prosperous nations, they were also held in jealousy in the eyes of the other Earth nations because of their wealth and prosperity.† Cagalli wanted to say to them, ĎWell, donít fight wars then,í and snub them off, but she couldnít now — she was now ... more ... respectable, refined ... † "Like a damn china," she muttered underneath her breath before she heaved a heavy sigh.

"Fine, dress uniform," she decided.† She figured as soon as the meeting was over, she split and head to the defensive forces control room to surprise Athrun.

* * * * *

If there was one thing about university courses he hated, was the fact that the general education courses were always a pain in the neck.† Apparently, when he applied to Heliopolisí sister campus in Orb, his transcript had transferred through, but in his last year, they had found that he lacked four credits in poli-sci so besides finishing up his last semester of college, he also had to take one social sciences course.

For Kira Yamato, he had been enjoying his peaceful life for the last two years.† Though his military file was classified and not many higher-ups in the Earth Forces Military did not know about his existence as both a Coordinator and as the mobile suit pilot of both the Strike and Freedom Gundam, he had been forbidden to reveal anything about what happened after Heliopolis through the cease-fire between ZAFT and Earth.† He was glad in a way, as he didnít have to face the media like his best friend Athrun did.

Though the courses he was taking made him one of the youngest students in Orbís university, many of his classmates in that class didnít really mind if he was young and though some questioned if he was a Coordinator, he didnít really answer to those questions.† Let them make their own conclusions, he had decided, he just wanted to live his life peacefully, back to the days before Heliopolis was destroyed.† He was kind of glad that a majority of people in his political science course were of his age, and none of them knew that he was graduating at the end of the semester.

But there was still one problem, what would he do after he graduated.† He didnít want to do anything that involved the military, so Orbís defensive forces were out of the question.† He had considered going to PLANT to help Lacus, but that would place him in the public eye and he didnít want that.† Orb had been considering rebuilding Heliopolis and so far that was the most viable option for him.† It was far away from the military, with L3 all the way on the opposite side of the Moonís rotation, far away from ZAFT, PLANT, and Earth Forces.

It wasnít the fact that he wanted to be away from his friends; it was the fact that he needed some time away from them.† Ever since Rau Le Creuset told him of his birth origins on Colony Mendel, he had been distancing himself from his friends ... he just didnít know how they would react, or even how the world would react, if they found out the true origins of Dr. Hibikiís research and massive genetic manipulation — and especially him as the result of so many failures before him.

If anything about Hibikiís experiments leaked out, he figured the Earth and ZAFT would immediately take him and use him as a lab experiment and that was one of the chief reasons he wanted to be far away from them as possible.

"Kira!† Hey Kira!" a sharp poke to his shoulder startled him out of his thoughts and he blinked his eyes as a slightly annoyed face filled his vision.† Narrowed blue eyes and dirty blonde hair greeted him and he pulled back, startled by the closeness of those eyes.

"Haruka," he blinked as Haruka Satou pursed her lips at him.

"Kira, you idiot, stop spacing out!" she said, her hands on her hips.† The same age as him, Haruka had become one of Kiraís friends in the poli-sci class he had signed up in.† Though he didnít really want any close friends, he had felt sorry for her as she had claimed she was a Coordinator, but didnít really have too much of the intuitive know-how of Coordinators.† That led to teasing by the others in the class and Kira had defended her.† It also led to her having a schoolgirl crush on him — to which he did not like it at all.† He valued her as a friend, as she was funny on occasion, but she followed him around constantly, like a little lost puppy dog.† Luckily though, one of her friends, Taylor Ren, had noticed his discomfort and was always on hand to drag her away.† That was how Taylor became another friend to Kira.

"Ru, stop harassing Kira," Taylor yawned next to Kira.† It was already 10 in the morning and their poli-sci class had scheduled a trip to the Senate hall today to hear deliberations on the Genesis Bill, something their teacher had them research about for the past couple of months in preparation of a report due in two weeks.† The class had divided into groups, each focusing on a certain aspect of the Genesis Bill, and their teacher thought it would be a great opportunity for them to go hear what it was like to debate among top notch politicians, especially since this was related to their history, as their teacher had said.

Initially when their teacher had declared this to be their major project of the semester, he had almost dropped the course, but there were no other openings in any of the other poli-sci courses so he had to stay in this one.† He didnít want to do it and so convinced Haruka and Taylor that their focus should just be how a bill should be passed in the Senate considering all political aspects.† Let some other group do the history of how Genesis became so hotly debated he explained and his two friends reluctantly agreed.

"But he shouldnít be spacing so much," Haruka turned to Taylor and stuck her tongue out at him to which he returned by blowing a raspberry at her.† "My mom said it wasnít healthy, as it leads to too much thinking, and too much thinking will eventually blow your head up."

Kira stared at Haruka, jaw dropped slightly open.† Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Taylor wearing the same expression while Haruka continued on, oblivious.† She finally noticed them and frowned.† "What?"

"You still quote from your mom?!" Taylor started laughing and Kira grinned too.† "Come on, Ru, youíre IN COLLEGE!"

"Shh!" their teacher hissed at them and Taylor immediately shut up while Haruka turned a bit pink.

"So, shouldnít freshman feel homesick?" she glanced at Kira, hoping he would support her and Kira shrugged.

"I guess," he replied.† He didnít really know how to answer, as while he did feel homesick sometimes, he didnít really have a home, per se.

"See!† Kira agrees with me, so nyah!" Haruka smiled proudly.

"Shh, quiet you three!† Itís going to start," their teacher glared at the three of them and they shut up.

Though the public seats were in the back of the Senate room, it gave them a good view of what was happening.† Kira didnít see Lacus though, and wondered if she was going to attend todayís hearing.† Though he couldnít exactly wave a hello to her or even talk with her, he wished that he could see her at least.† The last time they talked was about a week ago and it was through the private channels he had on his comlink.† He didnít know if he loved Lacus or not, but he knew that she was someone he could share his thoughts with — a soul mate of sorts.

Suddenly the Senate Hall hushed into quiet murmurings as to Kiraís surprise, Cagalli walked from one of the doors to the podium in the middle of the hall.† A part of his mind reprimanded him for being surprise and he realized that as Orbís leader, Cagalli was bound to appear in the Senate talks.† He remembered reading and watching media reports that Orb was the chief mediator between PLANT and Earth and so why not have its leader be the one to stop tensions from rising.

He saw Cagalli look around and spot him before tilting her head slightly; a silent question of why the heck was he here.† He made a subtle gesture to those around him, indicating for her, his classmates, and she nodded once to say that she understood before focusing his gaze back onto the senators in the room.†† He hoped that after this hearing, their teacher would let them roam a bit, maybe ask some of the senators questions, and so heíd have a chance to slip out and catch his twin sister and talk with her.

No one with the exception of Athrun and Lacus knew that they were brother and sister, and he intended to keep that secret that way.† It would be hard with the press a few rows below them, covering the hearing, but he could just be a student asking the leader of Orb her views on the whole Genesis thing.

"To continue on last weekís hearings, Senator Ivensten, you were talking about the plans for Genesis.† Would you like to expand on your views or yield your position to a member of PLANT or its allies?" Cagalli started without preamble.† Her voice was strong and carried power, Kira noted, she was perfectly groomed to be a soldier and the leader of Orb, though a little rough around the edges.

A senator stood up in the middle of the second row.† "No thank you, Princess Cagalli.† I give the floor to PLANT and its allies."

Cagalli nodded, "Senator Amalfi, do you wish to speak?"

A dirty blond haired man stood up and nodded before walking over to the podium as Cagalli backed off and sat down in one of the seats next to the podium.† Next to her were the rest of the Orbís council members, all four of them.

Senator Aaron Amalfi was the husband of Yuri Amalfi, a representative of PLANTís own governing body, the Supreme Council, and as Kira had found out from talking with Athrun on occasion, the father of Nicol, the pilot of Blitz Gundam.† Even now, two years after the war, he still could not look at Amalfi and when he saw him on television, he always switched the channel.† Now, to see him in person, it was hard for him to control himself from breaking down.

Too many innocent lives lost in that war, too many memories ... he had to get away from everything, to escape and live his own life; far away from those that causes his memories.

"Hey Kira, you all right?" Taylor shook his shoulder and Kira snapped out of his musings, and realized he had been white-knuckled, his grip on the side of his chair tight.† He forcibly unclenched his fingers from the chair and nodded.

"Yeah, just kind of surprised," he mumbled an excuse and got a skeptical look from Taylor but left it alone as Amalfi started talking.

"While those in PLANT realize that the important lack of energy that our home planet is suffering from, we want to completely destroy any trace of Genesis, including its plans.† We donít want anything like what happened to Ptolemaeus Lunar Base to happen anywhere else.† I understand that the Cyclops System used two years ago to destroy JOSH-A in Alaska was based off of Genesis or vice-versa.† I ask, what happened to those plans?"

"They are none of your concern!" a senator suddenly shouted out from the right side of the hall, and all heads turned towards the outspoken senator.† Kira noticed that Amalfi had narrowed his eyes as he stepped to the side to let Cagalli speak again.

"Senator Ingriss, the hall has not recognized you at the moment.† Please refrain from this outburst," Cagalli said and Kira noticed that his sisterís glare was potent and the female senator that had spoken out sat back down, fuming.† With irony, he noted that the press had scrambled for cameras and recorders while reporters were furiously making notes.

Amalfi took back the stand, "I understand the need for the orbital mirrors to perhaps reflect the sunís rays down upon Earth to capture energy, but using Genesisí mirrors is not the way.† It would take time to dismantle pieces of what Genesis is capable of in order to return the mirrors to their normal state.† By that time, we have estimated that the energy crisis will be greater if we do that.† My colleague, Senator Clyne has proposed what you have said to the Supreme Council back in L5 and they are in the midst of discussing it, but I do not think such plan will be beneficial to Earth.

"What I propose instead of having Genesis or Cyclops is to use the debris field around Earth to set up orbital mirrors that will benefit everyone.† These mirrors can be used to help heat up distant colonies at perhaps L1 or even repopulate L4."

The senate hall suddenly burst into fairly loud murmurings and Kira noticed that some of his classmates perked up at the idea.† It was feasible, he supposed, and perhaps using the wreckage of Junius 7 as orbital mirrors along with debris of ships and whatnot would be beneficial.† He was kind of shocked really, to hear something like that suggested from a representative of PLANT.

"It would be a fitting memorial of life to those who perished on Junius 7," Amalfi continued, "it would also symbolize that life continues and those who have gone before us, still continue to help us live."

"What of the time it takes to construct and fix these mirrors in the debris field?† What are the dangers involved?" a senator suddenly stood up.† A few loud agreements followed the senator.

"Salvage operations could be established quickly from neutral nations like Orb, to prevent anyone blaming each other for foul play.† In the recent years, as some of ZAFTís ships passed through the debris field, theyíve been counting the mirrors that can be recycled and reused for this purpose.† Though the estimated time of construction hasnít been calculated, we think that it would be faster than reprogramming Genesisí mirrors," Amalfi said before a hand rose up in the air and a nod from Cagalli okayed the senator to stand up.

Kira noted that it was Ingriss, the outspoken woman, who stood up.† "Senator Amalfi, if I may take the podium?"

Amalfi looked a bit discomforted, but reluctantly nodded and left the podium.† He sat down in his seat as Ingriss, looking smug stepped up.† Kira immediately didnít like her gaze at all.† It was predatory, like she wanted to claw something to death — the gaze made shivers run up and down his back.

"A salvage operation to the debris belt would be beneficial, but I question the judgment of my colleague.† Since the war and before, the belt has been a dangerous place for ships to roam through.† Countless of ships have been lost due to some accident in the debris belt.† What would happen if the orbital mirrors were to be placed there?† Wouldnít they suffer the same fate, and in a wave effect, force us to rebuild mirrors once more — perhaps even spending more money?

"Of course, this is all speculation ..."

While Senator Ingriss kept talking Kira noticed that an aide had come up to Amalfi and was whispering in his ear.† Amalfi looked concerned for a moment before nodding and stood up quietly and left the hall, the aide following behind him.† Though it was usual for aides to tell various Senators of calls and whatnot, this one seemed a bit odd ... at least in Kiraís opinion.

Shrugging, he turned back to what Ingriss was saying, noting that while she seemed manipulative, she was also making a valid case against Amalfiís statements.

"Hey, Kira, you wanna get a snack after this is over?" Taylor whispered.

"Sure.† Where do-"

Kira didnít get to finish, as his whole world became a multitude of yellow, orange, and black smoke then blackness.† A loud roaring sound filled his ears, but then, silence.

* * * * *

"Whatís the output of the verniers?"

"120% capacity.† Great job, Athrun!"

Athrun Zala smiled as he saw from the distant observation window Dr. Erica Simmons giving him a thumbs-up.† He shifted in the seat of the redesigned mass produced Gundam Astray Mark II.† Typing a few more commands to the Astray II, he finally shut it off and opened the cockpit and stepped out.† Grabbing the extension cord, he lowered himself to the grassy ground of the training ground.† No one outside of Orb knew that the country had rebuilt is mobile suit force, with the exception of probably the spies within Orb from both the Earth Military and ZAFT.† But even then, they wouldnít do anything as LF was keeping a close eye on the two military powers.

When Lacus accepted the position of representative to the Senate from PLANT and Cagalli as leader of Orb, he had considered joining up with the Liberation Forces, a group created by Orb that mixed both Earth and ZAFT forces together to help keep the neutrality.† Except these were ships, crews, and mobile suit pilots who were willing to work together.† LFís capital ship was the Archangel and its two second-in-command ships, the Eternal and Kusanagi.† Though there were a lot more ships in the mini fleet, they were directly independent, though loyal towards the neutrality of Orb.

He considered it, but then decided that he needed a break from the military life and applied to work at the technological research department of Orbís government.† It gave him the opportunity to work on the mobile suits and stay close to the military, but he wasnít in the military and so didnít have to follow orders like he usually would.† Plus it put him closer to Cagalli to whom he had taken a serious interest in, in the past two years.

Right now, the new Astray II models were to be tested then put onto the LF ships to help better patrol and quiet down possible insurrections.† The Archangel was currently in dock with the other ships all over the Earth and space.† Athrun had yet to see Captain Ramius or any of her crew and was hoping that after this test, he would be allowed to leave.† He briefly wondered if Dearka was wandering around the city, with his girlfriend Miriallia.† Though he didnít know Miriallia that well, not as well as Kira did, he could see that she brought out a gentler side of Dearka.

As he got into the lift to take him up to the observation room, he wondered how Yzak was doing.† He had not talked with him since the war and while Dearka kept him posted of Yzakís situation, he had found out through Lacus and through his own military connections that the Joule family was still in hot waters.† Ezalia, Yzakís mother, had been arrested for conspiring to wipe out both Coordinators and Naturals at the end of the war and Yzak had disappeared.† Though the military still kept his file, Athrun figured Yzak would never quit the military — he had too much pride and skill as a mobile suit pilot to let something like that happen to him.

"Hey great job today.† Iíll give the results to the others so we can finish the upgrades on the other Astray IIís," Erica Simmons greeted him from her seat in the front of a massive amount of buttons, knobs, and computer screens in three rows.

"So Iím good for the day?" he asked, running a hand through his dark blue hair.

"Yeah," Erica waved him off, "Dearka came in looking for you about an hour ago.† I think he said heíll be wandering the stores in Market Square with Miri."

Athrun grinned, so Dearka did come.† "All right.† Iíll see you tomorrow, Erica," he waved a goodbye before heading up the stairs in the back of the room.

Walking down another hall before turning left, he entered into the bright sunlight of the day and closed his eyes against it.† A warm breeze lifted up his hair and his short sleeve shirt, the summer in full, and finally he opened his eyes before walking to his car and got in.† He started the car and pulled out of the parking lot, stopping only at the security gate to show his I.D. badge before the guard let him out.† It was only a quick drive to Market Square, but the question was, where was Dearka.† Market Square was fairly large and had a lot of shopping and eatery places.

He pulled into a parking space and got out.† Locking his car, he looked around, a bit apprehensive as to where he would find Dearka.† Miri was a girl and girls usually liked clothes and shopping, but it was past lunchtime so perhaps they were eating lunch.† He looked around ...

"Athrun!" Dearkaís voice made him turn to his left and he saw the two of them sitting underneath an umbrella-table, eating lunch.† Dearka was grinning and waving while Miri smiled.† Both were dressed in the blue, white trimmed uniforms of the LF.

"Hey Dearka, Miriallia," he greeted them as he walked over and sat down at the third unoccupied seat, "glad that I didnít have to search all over Market Square for you two."

"Well, Miri decided to eat lunch next to the lots so we would be able to find you a lot easier," Dearka explained and Athrun nodded.† His friend hadnít changed much in the past two years, but Miriallia did.† Her hair was longer now and she had lost much of her youthful features.† Instead they were replaced with a more sophisticated look that made her like a good-looking model.

Though he still wasnít totally at ease talking with Miri Haw, after all he did kill her fiancť in the war, it was the soldier discipline inside of him that internalized these feelings.† He knew that Kira had a harder time internalizing Nicolís death; after all, he was just a civilian, turned Gundam pilot with barely any military training.

"So how long are you guys in port?" he asked.

"We just came in about a day ago and the Captain gave us shore leave for the next two days.† She also said something about picking up some Astray II models," Miri explained and Athrun nodded.† That was why Erica wanted him to improve the models quickly.† Archangel was to have the first batch.

"Thereís the possibility of something happening in one of the PLANTs, either Februarius 3 or Martius 5.† Dadís been giving us good information so right now Eternalís checking out the lead in Martius while weíre going to Februarius," Dearka said, downing the rest of his drink.

Athrun nodded; he knew that Dearkaís father was the representative to the Supreme Council from Februarius City and so would be able to provide excellent knowledge to help the LF.† "Howís everyone else?"

"The Captain is doing fine as are the rest of the crew.† I think Saiís found himself a new girlfriend, though I donít really know," Miri looked a bit skeptical as she pushed around a tomato from the remains of her salad.

"Iíll tell Kira to call Sai," Athrun knew that Kira liked to keep in touch with his friends, but wasnít always able to due to his school work.

"Speaking of which, how is he?" Miri tilted her head.

"Heís fine, though heís complaining about his political science class," Athrun started before Dearka started cracking up.

"What, he canít stand the politics?"

"Theyíre doing a research study about the Genesis Bill," Athrun said in a quiet voice and that shut Dearka up immediately.

The silence was a bit awkward until Miri coughed politely.† "One of the television screens is showing the debate, and Cagalliís there."

Athrun nodded, "Yeah.† Sheís been working hard on trying to keep the Senate from becoming a bloodbath.† Itís not easy for the Coordinators from PLANT and I think the only one anyone respects is Lacus."

Dearka nodded in agreement, "Yeah.† But sheís not there today, so things are bound to get sticky."

Athrun shrugged, "Cagalliís going to be fine."† He trusted her to simmer things down, even though she was probably more inclined to swear or even start shooting the Senators if she had a gun and they started to get rowdy.

"So howís-"

There was a distant sound of a Ďboomí and Dearka stopped in mid sentence and looked up and around, concerned.† Athrun also looked around, wondering what the boom was.† It had sounded muffled ...

"Oh my God!† Someone just bombed the Senate Hall!" a woman nearby shouted and Athrun froze.† He turned in his seat and stared at where the woman was pointing to a live television feed of the Senate Hall and saw that the news program was putting on repeat what was their former live feed on slow motion.

It was the Senate Hall.

Turning back to both Dearka and Miriís shocked faces he saw his friendís eyes narrow before they both came to the same decision.

"Letís go."

* * * * *

PHASE TWO — Returning to Pain

Kira awoke to pain radiating through his whole body and an odd ringing sensation in his ears.† The pain radiated, but none more acute than on his left side.† He blearily opened his eyes and immediately, they watered as dust hung heavily in the air.† He coughed then hissed in pain as his left side ached in protest from his movements.† He tried to roll over to his side and finally noticed a heavy weight that was on him, pressing against his right shoulder.† Turning his head slowly, he saw that a slab of what was the wall to a side of the Senate hall had fallen upon him.† Luckily though, it was only a corner of it ...

Turning his gaze back down, he noticed a pool of dark red seeping past him and realized it was blood.† He looked behind him, amiss the screaming pain of his left side and saw that one of his classmates had taken the brunt of the slab and was half flattened by it ... already dead.

Kira closed his eyes against the sight and instead focused on moving out from underneath the slab.† He wiggled his toes inside of his shoes and was relieved to find that all his nerve endings still responded.† Breathing deeply, he wriggled his way out and finally sat up against a chair that had not been blown away.

He breathed deeply, and pressed a hand to his left side.† Sharp pain tore through him when he touched his side and he removed his hand to find that it was covered in a thick coating of blood.† Wiping his hand on another part of his shirt, which had been slightly torn, he pressed again and bit on his tongue to keep himself from crying out.† Glass ... and there was the piece ... † His hands grabbed onto the large piece that had wedged itself in his side and pulled it out slowly.† Finally, the pain was too much and he whimpered as the piece came out with a sickly sucking sound.

He threw the glass away before taking a part of his ragged sleeve and ripping it.† Folding it into a thick square, he reached inside of his shirt and pressed the makeshift gauze while his other hand quickly tightened a long strip of his former sleeve into a makeshift tourniquet.

Task done, he leaned back against the back of the seat he had been resting on, willing himself not to pass out.† It was an explosion ... no ... more than one explosion as he remembered what had happened.† There was an explosion up at the podium ... then a few of the pressí cameras exploded too ... then the speaker systems that took out the walls ...


She was right next to the podium when it exploded!† A sudden urgency filled Kira as he scrambled up and stood unsteadily and looked around.† There were barely any lights, but from whatever dimness there was, he saw that many of the Senators, press, and his classmates were dead.

Out of the corner of his eyes he saw a shift in the rubble and looked left.† He saw someoneís bloodied hand moving from underneath the rubble.† He scrambled as best as he could to where the hand was and gripped it tightly before he started moving the rubble off of the buried person.† Taylorís face greeted him and Kira sighed in relief as he saw his friend blink open his eyes and his face scrunch up in pain.

"Taylor?" Kira asked in a loud voice.

"K-Kira ..." Taylor mouthed as his eyes found his and recognition lit up in them.† Kira knew that Taylor was saying his name, but for some odd reason, he couldnít hear him — and realized then that at that range of blast, his eardrums had been damaged.† "Ru ..."† Taylorís hand gestured feebly to his side and Kira moved the rubble over on his right and found Haruka with her eyes closed, face pale, and not moving.

"Haruka," he prodded her gently before he checked her pulse and found one that was thready, but not weak.† She was injured badly, he realized as he removed the rest of the rubble off of his other friend with gentle ease, ignoring the fiery pain in his left side, or the fact that he felt his own blood soak through his make-shift gauze.

As soon as the rubble was off of her, Kira pressed gently with his fingers on her abdomen and found that it was solid.† Internal bleeding, he realized.† He couldnít move her ... † During the war, he had learned a few quick first aid techniques that Mu LaFlaga taught him in case he needed it, and now he was grateful that Mu taught him how to check for internal bleeding.

He looked back at Taylor and saw that the boy was mouthing another question to him.† "How ... is she?" Taylor was attempting to sit up, cradling a wrist that Kira noticed was bent at a horrible angle.† Blood ran down a fairly deep cut on his head, but he didnít seem to notice it.

"Bad," Kira replied loudly, trying to hear himself speak, "Internal bleeding ... we canít move her."

"Go see if there are any other survivors ... Iíll keep an eye on her.† Get help," Taylor mouthed to him as he shifted over to his side.

Kira looked at Taylor with skeptical eyes before he nodded.† "All right."† He made a motion to Taylor to tell him to check her pulse every minute before he moved away and his friend nodded in understanding.

Standing up, he hunched slightly from his wound, and made his way through the rubble.† He wanted to check on Cagalli badly, seeing that she was very close to the blast, but the moans of other survivors stopped him and he moved rubble off of them or helped them lean against walls to catch their breaths and assess their injuries.

He helped uncover rubble from a reporterís body and she had thanked him before bursting into tears at seeing her colleaguesí bodies all over the press area.† Finally, Kira approached the podium, or what was left of it.

A crater the size of the podium itself replaced the podium and Kira knew that Senator Ingriss was already dead, vaporized by the bomb placed there.† He didnít see any sign of Cagalli, and so approached the area where she was sitting with the other committee members, moving rubble away with his right hand while his left was pressed tightly to his side to staunch the blood flow from his own wounds.

He found Cagalli at least fifteen feet away from where she was sitting, lying face down, small wooden splinters from the podium sticking up from parts of her back. †Kira scrambled over and kneeled by her side.† Taking her into his arms, he turned her over gently and found that her eyes were closed.† A quick pulse check told him that she was still alive, but another glance at her body told him that she might not be for long.† A huge splinter of wood was embedded on her side, bigger than the glass he had stuck to his side and he hesitated on pulling it out.

Right now, the splinter was the only thing keeping her from bleeding to death ...

"Cagalli," he said her name, shaking her slightly.

Her eyes opened slowly and she blinked before pain contorted her face and she cried out.

"Shh ... Cagalli, itís me, Kira," he said as tears of pain started to flow from her eyes and she stared at him for a moment before recognition appeared in them.

She shook her head as one of her hand reached up and touched her ear, indicating she couldnít hear anything.† "K-Kira ..." she said, biting her lip, "it hurts ..."† She tried to lift her head up, but Kira stopped her.

"Donít ..." he said shaking his head, putting her gently back on the ground to which she hissed as the splinters on her back dug deeper.† "Youíve got a bad wound ... donít move, okay?"† She blinked once to tell him that she understood and he looked to his left and right, the doors to the hall were completely covered in rubble from the walls collapsing on top of them, so effectively, the survivors were buried alive.

He looked up as the ceiling gave a loud groan and rumble and realized that if any of the survivors didnít get out soon, the whole place might collapse on top of them.† That startling realization had also occurred to the survivors and some of them started panicking.

"SHUT UP!" one of the surviving senators suddenly shouted and Kira looked up to see Senator Ivensten supporting one of the other senators from PLANT.† A part of him realized that his hearing was returning, if faintly at first, but it was returning.† The panicking subsided into whimpers as everyone who wasnít passed out stared at Ivensten who didnít look too good.† His face was ashen, but his eyes were blazing with fury.

"We need to work together to find an exit out of here.† If you lot keep like this, weíll all be buried alive!" Ivensten said in a hard voice before his gaze turned on Kira.† "You, kid, thereís a secret exit near you.† Find it!† The rest of you, for those who can actually stand up, stand up and start helping others."

Ivensten then turned and started talking quietly with the PLANT senator who was dazed and confused.† Kira saw that the senatorís words seem to have an effect as people who werenít badly affected by the blast, who he had helped before, start to stand up and wander over to those who were still leaning against walls or lying on the ground, unable to move.

"Kira," Cagalliís hand reached up and brushed his fingers, making him look down at her.† One of his hands gripped hers tightly and she squeezed his in return.† "Itís where two panels meet in the wall beside the left speakers."

He realized that she was telling him where the secret exit was and nodded before squeezing her hand again and got up.† A sudden wave of dizziness engulfed his senses and he splayed out his hands to keep himself from falling to the ground.† He couldnít pass out now ... he still had too much to do.† As soon as the dizziness passed, he walked slowly towards where the main left speaker box was and saw that the speaker had exploded and took a chunk of the wall along with it.† Great, where the hell is the wall? He wondered as he ran his fingers along the edges of the blast.

His question was answer as suddenly, a part of the crater suddenly flew open on hinges and three people stepped through.

"Kira?" Athrunís voice was a blessing to his ears.

* * * * *

To anyone driving the streets towards the Senate hall, one would have thought that a silver-gray car was very impatient, and so it was as it kept jumping the lines and zipping ahead of other cars and trucks in front of it, even on the occasion completely driving in the opposite side of the road.† It was dangerous driving by any standard, but for the driver, there was no care in the world.

Athrun didnít even bother to do anything as cars honked their horns at him for his reckless driving, but he had to get to the Senate building.† Luckily, it wasnít too far away and he got there in record time.† No one was at the security gate, and it didnít matter as fire trucks, police cars, and ambulances swept in.† Athrun stopped the car just inside of the security gate and stared in horror at the scene before him.† The building itself was already engulfed in massive flames, and rescue crews were scrambling everywhere.

There was a strangled noise that sounded like a cross between a whimper and a choked cry from Miriallia, but Athrun ignored it and instead stepped on the gas pedal.† He drove past firefighter crews and other rescue workers who all but ignored him as they scrambled to remove the rubble that had barricaded the various entrances to the building and stop the fires from spreading.† From a glance, Athrun knew that the structure couldnít really hold up for long if the fire continued.

"Athrun, what-"

"Thereís a secret back entrance," he replied in a rough voice, "letís just hope it isnít covered in rubble."

Screeching to a halt among the back of the a few fire trucks, he hopped out and ran towards a section of the building that fire crews were trying to put out a fire that had spread to three floors already.

"Hey!† You canít go in there!" a policeman suddenly stepped in front of him and Athrun narrowed his eyes before pushing the officer to the side and barreling past.† "Hey kid!† Hey!† I need back-up, thereís a kid trying to get in!"

Athrun ignored the police officer yelling orders and instead ducked underneath a hose pumping out water, before stopping in front of two windows that had been broken and flames were pouring out of it.† It wasnít a particular spot, but Athrun remembered Cagalli telling him about this secret passage that led from the Senate hall to out here.

Shielding his mouth and nose with his left hand as he approached the wall in between the windows, his right hand explored a part of the wall and found a crack.† Prying it open, he was about to punch in the code when he felt something cold resting on the nape of his neck.† A gun ...

"Hold it right there kid.† Donít move, donít do anything.† Let me see you I.D.!" a police officer said behind him and Athrun snorted silently.† The officer was a newbie, he was sure of it and turned around and glared up at the officer.† Out of the corner of his eyes he noticed that a fair amount of police and rescue crew had gathered around, all of them glaring at him, Dearka, and Miri.

"There is a secret passage to the main Senate Hall.† Will you let me key the code or not?" he asked in a level voice, all the while staring down the officer, even though he was crouched on the ground.

"Who are you?!" the officer still didnít seem convinced.

"Athrun Zala, Morganroete," he replied.† Even though Morganroete had been shut down after the cease-fire, Orbís technological research department was in all effectiveness, still Morganroete in all but name.

"Let him go, Reysin, heís cleared," a gruff voice said from behind the officer and Athrun looked beyond him to see Ledonil Kisaka, the former bodyguard to Cagalli, towering over them, dressed in a police captainís uniform.† He had thought Kisaka would still be in security detail to Cagalli and realized that perhaps as the police captain, Kisaka was still security detail.

"But chief," Reysin started and Kisaka glared at him.

Athrun turned back around and input the code that Cagalli told him.† A part of the wall suddenly hissed open and everyone around them gasped in surprise.† Wasting no time, Athrun jumped into the dark hole and landed on earthy ground.† Kisaka followed behind him and cracked open a glowlight before giving it to Athrun.† He heard other people follow behind them as he made his way forward, ducking his head through the narrow short passage that dipped down.

After a few feet, it started to incline upward and Athrun knew that they were close.† "Miri, get the others down here and tell them to set up glowlights through the passage," he called back.

"Roger that," Miriís voice echoed back to him and he heard a shuffle of feet before he continued forward.

"How did you know about this?" Dearka suddenly asked as Athrun pushed a long root away from his face.

"Kisaka told me when Cagalli became leader of Orb.† Then Cagalli told me about the passcode and where to find it," Athrun replied.

"I see you still remember, thatís good," Kisaka replied behind him and Athrun smiled faintly, but then wiped the smile off of his face as he came upon a wooden door that looked decayed.

"Is this it?" he asked, turning slightly so that he could see Kisakaís face in the darkness of the passage.

The dark-skinned man nodded, "Yes.† We will need to knock it down from here.† It was designed to be opened on the other side.† Considering we do not know the damage inflicted in the Senate Hall, the door might be barricaded by debris on the other side."

"All right," Athrun waved his glowlight and Dearka appeared in the radius of the lightís shine.† He moved slightly back as Kisaka prepared to bash the door open.† The taller man charged the door and he noticed that a brief flash of surprise flitted across his face before he went through.† Athrun was puzzled at his expression but put it in the back of his mind as he stepped forward and poked his head through the opened door.† Dust, smoke, and debris assaulted his eyes, but none of that was as shocking as when he saw Kira, only less than a feet away from him, relief on his face.

"Kira?" he asked stepping in.

"Athrun," Kira said in a slightly louder voice and as Athrun looked his friend, over, he noticed that blood was running down his ears.† He had to have been close to the blast then, and that was why he couldnít really hear.† He also noticed that Kira was hunched slightly and his left arm was pressed against his side.† Holding up his glowlight as he stepped over the rubble he noticed blood was seeping out from underneath his arm and knew that Kira was seriously injured and loosing a lot of blood at that rate if the pressure on his wound did not stop the blood flow.

"Kira, your-"

"Itís nothing," Kira suddenly waved him off with a hand, his voice still loud, but it was gradually returning to normal levels.† "Cagalli ..."

Athrun turned in the direction his best friend was indicating and saw Cagalliís lying on the ground, unmoving.† He scrambled to her side and knelt down next to her.† Touching her cheek with his hand, he was relieved when she immediately opened her eyes and stared at him.† Tears began to form in her hazel eyes, and Athrun noticed an intense pain in them.† He looked down her, and when he saw the huge splinter of wood embedded in her, he frowned in anger.† What the hell happened in here?† It had looked like multiple bombs went off in the room, and judging from the rubble, many of them were located in the speakers that lined the walls, and when they exploded, took chunks out from the walls and buried a lot of the people in their seats.

"Athrun ... Athrun," for one who had been so close to a blast, Cagalliís voice wasnít loud, but it was a pained whisper.† Athrun looked down at his love and found that she was crying freely.

"Shhh," he comforted her as he laced his fingers around her left hand.† "Itís okay ... weíll get you out of here ..."† He looked up just as medics and rescue workers emerged from the secret entrance.† "I need a stretcher here!† Princess Cagalliís still alive!" he called to them and one of the medics shined a flashlight in his face before four of them scrambled to where he was.

"All right, weíll handle it from here," one of the medics shoved him away and Athrun stumbled over a pile of rubble and glared at the medic, but he ignored him and started to prep Cagalli for transport on the stretcher.

"Iíll watch over her," Kisakaís deep voice startled him and he turned around to see him nodding and indicating that he should check on Kira who was now sitting on the ground, away from everyone.

"Thanks," Athrun replied before walking over to Kira.† Behind him, he heard the sounds of survivors moaning and screaming in pain as medics and rescue workers worked quickly to move them.† Already, there were a few medics that had secured some of the injured and were now moving back out of the hall through the passageway.† He heard Dearka waiting in the passageway to help the medics carry the injured through before directing them.

Crouching next to his best friend, he watched as Kira lifted his head up and gave him a small smile.† "Class project," Kira said and Athrun understood why his best friend was in the Senate hall today.

"Let me see that," he indicated to where Kira was still holding his arm across his left side.

"Itís nothing," Kira replied and Athrun ignored him before he gently pried his arm off.† His eyes widened as he saw that at least the majority of Kiraís shirt was soaked through with blood — not bright red, but dark red, meaning there was a lot of it that the shirt was absorbing.

"What happened?" he asked as his fingers prodded the wounded area and he pressed gently on the wound just as Kira flinched away from his touch.

"Explosions.† The first one went off ... ah!" Athrun frowned as he touched another tender spot.† The wound was very large ... how the heck did Kira not faint was a miracle in his opinion.

"Why didnít you tell me about this before?" he looked up at his friend, frowning, "how do you feel?"† He glanced behind him as the rescue works finally got Cagalli on a stretcher and were preparing to move her.

"Sheís safe ... good," Kira was also looking in that direction.

Athrun noticed that his eyes looked a bit glazed and unfocused ... † "Kira!† Hey Kira!" he shook his best friendís shoulder and Kira blinked before shaking his head slightly, snapping out of his funk.† "Donít pass out on me right now, okay?"

"Yeah ... sure ..." Kira sounded a bit confused and his words were slightly slurred to the point that Athrun knew that if he didnít get help right away, he might die from all the blood loss.

"Come on, Kira, stay with me, okay?" he tapped his shoulder hard to jab him awake again.

Kira nodded slowly before he tried to shift his position.† Athrun looked around, trying to hail a medic and waved one over to where he was.† "Hey Athrun ..." Kira started and Athrun turned to see Kira blinking ... much to fast than a reactive blink.† "I ... feel cold ..."

"Shit," Athrun swore as he realized that Kira was going into shock; just then the medic he had hailed down knelt next to him and with a single glance already assessed the situation.

"I need a stretcher here stat!" the medic yelled as Athrun shook Kiraís shoulder, trying to keep him awake.

"Stay with me, come on Kira, youíve been worst than this!† Come on ..."

"Hold him!" the medic suddenly said as he took out a fairly large needle that he recognized as an adrenaline stimulant and jabbed it deep into Kiraís leg.† The reaction was immediate as Kira suddenly gasped and his eyes darted around wildly.† It wasnít the safest of all to do especially with a person going into shock, but it was the only way to keep Kira from passing out and possibly dying.

"Itís okay, Kira, just-"

Another medic suddenly shoved him away and Athrun glared at the medic before a group surrounded Kira and moments later, he was lifted up on a stretcher and headed towards the passageway.† Following them, Athrun gave a measured look to Dearka who nodded and continued to direct medics in and out of the passageway while helping others.† As they emerged outside, he noticed a change — the fires that were once blazing between the entrance to the passageway were now contained and there were a lot more ambulances than ever before.

Quickly following the medics carrying Kira, he attempted to get on to the back of the ambulance that Kira was put in, but was stopped by one of the medics.

"Who are you?"

"Family to him," he replied and the medic stared at him for a second before letting him go on.† As the double doors shut behind him, Athrun looked down at Kiraís prone form, his eyes now closed as the adrenaline was doing its work to keep him from passing out.

God help whoever did this to him and Cagalli ... he would kill them if he found them.

* * * * *

Elsewhere in the vast expanse of space, at the abandoned LaGrange Point 4, in the ruins of Colony Mendel, a man with fair brown hair and striking features sat in a swivel chair.† The makeshift office he was in wasnít too fancy, but in fact the remains of technician stations and whatnot.† But this was home for him and he enjoyed watching old papers and reports float around the room.† It gave him a sense of what was to come and what had been the past ...

There was a polite knock from the door to the room and he turned as the door hissed opened.

"Sir, Raven reports that the mission was a partial success.† He says that the majority of the Senate has been killed, but Princess Cagalli and a few of her supporters escaped injured.† Shall I tell him to complete his task?" an officer dressed in the uniform of ZAFT asked, standing at attention.

The man pursed his lips and tilted his head, thinking.† After a few seconds, he waved his black-gloved hand.† "Yes.† Tell Raven that the implications have already fallen on PLANT and so this should just be a clean up job.† Forward the money into Amalfiís account and have him receive the message."

"Yes sir.† What of the Fleet?" the officer asked.

"Start the attack on Februarius 3.† Tell the Fleet they may leave survivors at their own discretion."

"Yes sir.† For a pure world," the officer saluted him.

"For a superior world," he replied.

* * * * *

PHASE THREE — Forced Protection

Athrun waited outside of the room, his chin dropping to his chest as he fell asleep, but almost awoke instantly, his eyes trying to blink sleep out of them.† It had been 12 hours since he had arrived at the hospital with Kira and now, the doctors were both operating on Cagalli and Kira and had told him to wait out in the waiting area.† There was no news and he was beginning to worry.

A few family members of Kiraís class had also been waiting just as long as he was, but they were sleeping on each otherís shoulders or either just staring at nothing, lost in their own thoughts.† He hated the silence, as silence always made him think and right now he didnít want to think.

It was the thoughts of what happened to him and Kira all those years before, during and after the war that always scared him.† He had nearly killed Kira out of revenge and spite for his best friend killing Nicol, and now ... he was in that lost state again — but this time there was no Lacus or Cagalli there for him.

As soon as he had heard that Cagalli and Kira were in surgery, he had immediately called Lacus and informed her of the situation.† She had been following the news reports and had told him that she wished she was there for him and Kira, but she couldnít as the chairwoman of the Supreme Council, Eileen Canaver, was keeping her.† But she said that there was hope that she would be able to return to Earth within a day.

"Tori!" a flutter of mechanical wings startled him out of his thoughts and looked up to see Kiraís robotic green-yellow bird flying towards him before settling on his shoulder.

It inquired its head at him and seemed to say ĎItís okay ... donít worry,í as it raised and lowered its left wing.† Athrun had forgotten how smart he had built the bird and smiled faintly at its attempted communication with him.† Turning his head, as he had remembered leaving Tori in their apartment he and Kira shared in the downtown area of Orbís capital city, he saw Kiraís parents walking towards him.

"Mr. and Mrs. Yamato," he greeted as they approached him.† He noticed that Kiraís mother was gripping her husbandís shirt tightly in worry.

"Athrun, its good to see you again, though I wish it was better circumstances," Mr. Yamato greeted.† After the war, Kira had confronted his parents and then suggested to Athrun that since they were on their own, they should get an apartment since he was working for the technological department and he finishing up his university education.† Athrun had remembered that Kiraís parents werenít happy, but they respected their sonís decision.† He himself had figured it was probably because Kira didnít really want to face his parents and ask them the question, why did they make him a Coordinator?

"How is he?" Mr. Yamato continued as he lead his wife to sit down on one of the chairs before she completely broke down.

"Theyíve been in there for the past twelve hours, I donít know ..." Athrun shook his head.

"And Cagalli?"

He shook his head again.† "Same news.† Iím sorry Mr. Yamato."

Mr. Yamato nodded before sitting down next to his wife, comforting her.† Athrun watched the two with sad eyes before looking up as a doctor walked towards them.† Perhaps this doctor would have news about Kira or Cagalli.† A few of the parents waiting there also looked up in anticipation.

"Is there a Mr. or Mrs. Ren?" the doctor asked as he approached the group and two people stood up and walked towards the doctor, worry on their faces.

The doctor took them aside and started to talk to them in hushed voices and as Athrun watched them, he saw their worried expressions turn into elated joy and Mrs. Ren started to break down in tears while clinging onto Mr. Ren.† Mr. Ren also had tears silently pouring down his face as he thanked the doctor and both of them followed the doctor, probably to see their child.

Athrun felt annoyance flare up inside of him as he watched the three walk down the hall and disappear into a set of double doors.† What was taking them so long?† Why wouldnít ...

"Tori?" Tori chirped from his shoulder, sensing its temporary masterís discomfort.† "Tori!" suddenly flew from Athrunís shoulder and he looked up to see another doctor headed directly towards him and blinked sleep from his eyes.

"Athrun Zala?" the doctor asked him and he nodded.† "And you must be Mr. and Mrs. Yamato, I presume."

"Yes sir," Mr. Yamato said and Athrun turned slightly to see a pensive expression on Kiraís fatherís face.

"Where is Kira?† Is he all right?" Mrs. Yamato suddenly spoke up, startling the small group.

The doctor held up his hands and nodded, "Kira is fine.† Heís lost a lot of blood, but luckily he has amazing healing skills for someone so young.† Weíve patched him up, though the operation took for the better part of 10 hours because of his deep wound and other injuries that werenít visible at the time.† Heís now resting under anesthetics.† Youíre allowed to see him, but only for a few minutes.† Visiting hours will be available to him later this morning, all right?"

"Yes, yes ... that will be fine," Mrs. Yamato choked out and Athrun smiled in relief as he heard the news.† Kira was going to be okay ...

"Mr. and Mrs. Yamato, youíre Naturals, am I correct?" the doctor suddenly asked and Athrun stared at the doctor, unconsciously tensing.

"Tori!" Tori flew back to his shoulder, but it didnít calm him down.

"Yes ... we are," Mr. Yamato replied in a neutral voice.

"Well, be lucky that you made your son a Coordinator.† With his wounds, as a Natural he couldnít have survived.† But do not worry, we Coordinators take care of our own and Naturals too here in Orb," the doctor smiled gently at them and Athrun relaxed, "come, follow me."

They followed the doctor down a long hallway before he turned and walked through a set of double doors that hissed open and closed as they also passed through.† In this hall, there were rooms, most of the doors closed with folders and data readers on the side.† The doctor approached one of the doors on the left and opened it.

"Please do not disturb him, he needs his rest," the doctor said as Mr. and Mrs. Yamato stepped through.

Athrun peeked in quickly and saw that Kira was covered in bandages and a breather was inserted into his nose and mouth to help him breathe.† He saw the doctor shift, about to leave when a sudden thought occurred to him and tugged on the sleeve of the doctorís white jacket.† "Doctor, can you tell how is Princess Cagalli?"

The doctor shook his head, "I afraid I donít know.† Her condition is not released to the public and I do not have jurisdiction over that matter.† I am sorry."

Athrun frowned, "But-"

"Iím sorry young man, but the Princessí condition is based on need-to-know information.† When her camp has sent out a press release, then you will know.† Until then, I apologize ..."† The doctor walked quickly away, leaving Athrun wholly confused.

* * * * *

L5 — PLANT — Martius 5 ...

Captain Andrew Bartfield considered himself a lucky man.† He always had a knack of getting to places at the right time or to get out of sticky situations with little to no injury to himself or those around him.† But his luck was tested during the war two years ago when he met an enigmatic young man named Kira Yamato and his friend Cagalli Attha.

His luck near ran out and he barely survived his BaCUEís explosion with only his right arm and right eye intact.† His love, Aisha, did not survive and though one would expect the next time he met Kira on the battlefield, swift vengeance would follow, but Andy prided himself to be beyond such a trivial matter.† He, Aisha, and Kira were all just following orders, doing what soldiers did in war.† He believed that personal issues should never come between soldiers and things like vengeance were just something that kept wars going forever.

As he sipped his coffee, a mixture of Jamaican beans and old-fashioned American Navy brewed coffee with a hint of salt; he leaned back against the patio-like chair he was sitting on.† He was waiting for a report by his crewmembers that had been scattered out for the past three days searching for any clues about possible insurgents.

A large TV screen over looking the strip mall he was sitting in was blaring out 24-hour broadcasts of what happened around twelve hours ago.† Though it was nighttime in Martius 5ís situation, nonetheless people awoke to find that terrorists of an unknown origin and group had bombed the neutral nation of Orb and that the leader of Orb was in critical condition.

Twelve hours later, there was still no word and just a repeat of reports by the news crews who were scrambling to find material.† However, one thing changed — the graphic clips first shown were now replaced with edited footage to censor how devastating the blast was and to minimized blood to any viewers who were squeamish.

Andy had laughed at such a pathetic attempt.† During the war, the embedded correspondents showed almost everything, though some things were edited, they showed how Cyclops devastated the Alaskan base and how Coordinator prisoners were treated in the hands of the Earth military — now everyone took a defensive stance a more passive way of censoring the media.† Oh he knew that during the war both ZAFT and the Earth censored some of the things that wouldnít be great for their propaganda, but many of the bloody aspects were shown on both sides.

Right now, the media were trying to find out who was to be blamed for such an atrocious act and fingers were flying everything.† Some analysts said that it was PLANT and ZAFT others were claiming Blue Cosmos and other right-winged anti-Coordinator group.† But one thing for sure, was that both PLANT representatives and Earth representatives were caught in the blast.

Andy personally figured it was someone who wasnít happy with the outcome of the cease-fire and wanted war to start up again, after all, there wasnít an official peace treaty nor no one was disarming.† In fact, it seemed like people were re-arming themselves with even more devastating weapons.† At least there was the creation of the Liberation Front to stop the civilian population from taking arms and war into their own hands.† He just hoped that the LF was a successful enterprise — after all, it was only created just mere months ago on the approval of both the Earth and PLANT, one of the few things both powers actually agreed on.

"Sir!" one of his crewmembers suddenly skidded to a stop in front of him and he raised an eyebrow, staring at the crewmember dressed in civilian clothing.† To go undercover, he always had his crew dress civilian so not to attract any attention or to panic anyone.

"What is it Lieutenant?" he set his coffee mug down.

"Februarius 3!† Theyíre being attacked by a rogue group of mobile suits!† ZAFT forces require our aide!" the Lieutenant tried to steady his own breathing.

"What about our search so far?" Andy held up a hand to try to calm down the Lieutenant.

"I donít know ... Mark and Irene havenít reported back yet.† The rest of the crew is on standby.† Should I tell them to prep for launch?"

"No.† Not yet.† I want to be sure that this isnít a diversion.† Can you hail the Kusanagi?"

"Yes sir.† What shall I tell Captain Misali?"

"First contact Headquarters.† Ask them if the Archangel is supposed to be launching to Februarius 3 as scheduled.† If not, contact Quinn Misali and tell him that the Kusanagi needs to go help them suppress the forces.† That should give the Kingfisher something to do."

"Yes sir," the Lieutenant saluted him quickly before running off towards the hanger bay.

Andy picked up his coffee mug again and took another sip.† War was happening again, he could feel it ... it was only time until things went straight to shit and he had a feeling that the peace he had enjoyed for the past two years were going to be gone in a matter of days.† He just hoped his premonitions were wrong ...

* * * * *

Ledonil Kisaka stared around the office that Cagalli worked in.† With all the members of Orbís ruling council out of commission and in the hospital, he was effectively in charge and he never thought he would actually find himself in this position.† He didnít want it and never wanted it, and for once in his life, he felt unease gripping him tightly.† He didnít have the charismatic know-how of some of the council members or Princess Cagalliís fiery determination.† He was just a soldier who lived his life on the battlefield.

He had received reports from his staff guarding Cagalli in her hospital room that she was doing fine and that was one worry that was off of his mind.† He decided against telling Athrun Zala, the boy Cagalli was fancying, not because he didnít trust Athrun or his intentions, but because he felt that with both Kira and Cagalli injured, the boy would be torn between moving back and forth between the two.

Though now he was regretting his initial assessment as he knew Athrun would probably end up figuring out where Cagalli was and when he attempted to see her, he would in all seriousness be locked up.† He just hoped that Athrun had enough sense to realize that she needed to be in protection as assassins might still be after her.

Now there were reports of Februarius 3 being attacked by terrorists and ZAFT needed help.† He had placed the Archangel on standby, canceling their initial orders to go to Februarius 3 and when he received a call from Andy Bartfieldís second in command asking if they should contact the Kusanagi to go to aid ZAFT to contain the Februarius 3 incident.† He had okayed it and then turned to up the security guard around Cagalli and the other council members.

If Februarius 3 was being attacked, there was a possibility of Orb being attacked again.† If that was to happen, then Kisaka wanted to be prepared.† They werenít going to be caught off guard again.

He suddenly pressed the intercom button, "Get me Detective Owani."† He wanted to intensify the investigation.† It had to be someone who worked maintenance in the building who was able to plant so many bombs and be near to detonate it.† He was sure of it.† So far there was no culprit caught, but he had closed off all the ports and highways, only allowing those with I.D. to leave Oronoge Island. Some of Orbís civilians complained, but many of them were still in shock.† It was this shock that he could investigate to his heartís content.

It was effectively martial law, but yet it wasnít.† Orb would unite in and effort to keep the peace — after all Orb was neutral.

* * * * *

When Kira opened his eyes, he didnít feel any pain, or anything at all.† He blinked as he found himself standing in an open field in the flightsuit he used to wear while piloting both the Freedom and Strike.† The last thing he remembered was sitting along the wall of the rubble covered Senate Hall, Athrunís face looking down on him.† The next thing he remembered was a darkness that had engulfed him ...

"Am I dead?" he whispered to no one in particular.

A breeze suddenly picked up, ruffling his hair and clothes.† He looked around as the breeze swirled around him, seemingly laughing lightly at his question.† It seemed to say, ĎNo, you are not dead ... only sleeping.í


The breeze suddenly condensed in front of him and the least likely person that Kira would have ever thought to see appeared in front of him.

"Flay?!" her smiling face sparkled and he felt tears spring to his eyes as he saw that she was holding the cute child from Heliopolis who had gave him the origami flower.† The little girl was also smiling and waved to him.† Flay mouthed something to him, but Kira couldnít hear it.

"What?† Flay, I canít hear you!" he cried out, walking towards her, but she seemed to back up with each of his steps.† "Flay, donít go.† I want to ... to talk ..."

She suddenly disappeared in a bright flash of light and Kira held up an arm to keep himself from being blinded.† As soon as the light died down, he lowered his arm and found himself floating in a vat of reddish fluid.

Holding his breath, he looked around, seeing nothing but red bubbles and a murky picture of what was happening outside of the vat he was in.† He moved closer to the murky window and tried to peer outside.† There were blurred images of people moving around ... doing something ... † Where was he?

He blinked again and again found himself in the arms of someone.† He was being carried ... another baby was directly in front of him, except the baby had blonde hair and was tearing up from crying.† He reached out with his pudgy hands to try to comfort the baby in front of him.† "Donít cry ... mommy will take care of us," he tried to say, but nothing came out of his mouth except for a few gurgles and he looked up to see the face of the person carrying the two of them.

Blood ran down a part of her face, matting her wavy purple hair.† She looked scared and he tried to reach up to comfort her.† He didnít want her to be worried ... after all, he was here so why should adults be scared?

"Whereís Katherine?!" a loud booming male voice suddenly made him wince, as a baby his ears were very sensitive.

"Sheís dead!† They got her!† We have to go now, Uzumi!"

Kira blinked again and this time found himself back in the laboratory on Colony Mendel, except he was like a ghost hovering over the scene, watching as he and Mu LaFlaga dodge bullets from an insane Rau Le Creuset.

"Shouldnít you be familiar with this place, Kira Yamato?" Rau asked.

"Why should I?" his other corporeal self shouted back.

"Why Kira, this is your birthplace ..."

Kira suddenly opened his eyes with a gasp and saw the white hospital ceiling.† He didnít know why he was having so many nightmares, but he knew that he wanted them to stop.† "No ..." he whispered as tears began to fall from his eyes as he closed his eyes once more.

* * * * *

Mrs. Kanoko Yamato deeply prided herself on keeping her cool in tough situations, but to see her only son like this ... it was heart wrenching.† Ever since Kira joined the Earth Alliance in the war against ZAFT and even after the war, she had felt that Kira was distancing himself away from them.† She constantly wondered if he knew about his own heritage ... the circumstances surrounding his birth and if he knew that he had a twin.

Of course with Uzumi Nara Attha dead, Kira would have found out about Cagalli being his twin sister, but the rest of his heritage ... she didnít even know where to begin if she was to tell him.† She had seen tears form in her sonís eyes as he lay unconscious in his bed and wondered what he was dreaming about.

A sudden gasp from Kiraís bed made her jump up from the chair she was occupying next to his bed and she looked up to see his eyes wide open before tears started to flow out.† "No ..." he whispered and she watched as he closed his eyes once more.

"Kira ..." she wiped the tears off of his face with her thumb before settling back down onto the chair.† Her husband had already gone home to get them a fresh change of clothes and some food, leaving her here.

Kiraís best friend Athrun, whom she had known on a couple of acquaintances during their stay on the moon a long time ago, had gone down to the hospitalís cafeteria to grab himself something to eat and was due back sometime soon.† She had seen Athrun giving her curious looks every time their gazes met and she knew that Athrun had questions for her ... probably the main question was why was Kira a Coordinator if they were Naturals.

She wanted to answer that it was for a better life, but that was pathetic ... and she didnít know what to ultimately say.† She didnít want to tell Athrun the secret behind the reason why Kira was a Coordinator, nor reveal that Kira wasnít actually her son, but the son of Dr. Ulen and Katherine Hibiki.† Revealing that would also reveal Cagalliís secret, and from the news she got from Ledonil Kisaka who had also been in on the plot to secrete Hibikiís children away from his madness, was that Cagalli and Athrun had taken a liking to each other and were lovers.

She didnít want to break Athrunís faith in his friends, after all, they were his only family now since his mother died in the Bloody Valentine incident and his father killed by his own madness when he tried to use Genesis to destroy everything.† She just didnít know ...

She had wanted to tell Kira as soon as he turned the legal age for an adult, but now ... he had so much to deal with, especially in light of what happened yesterday ... † Telling him about his own past just wasnít the right thing to do at the moment ... † It can wait ...

"Yes, it can wait," Kanoko replied softly to her own conviction as she stared at her son.† "Kira ..."

* * * * *

In the early morning hours during the change in guards a man crept in quietly, unnoticed by anyone or the security cameras.† He wore the uniform of a hospital worker, a perfect cover for his own assignment.† He had gotten the message from his superiors to finish the job and finish the job he would.

His inside contact had told him where remaining councilors of Orbís ruling council were located in the hospital and ultimately where Cagalli Yula Attha was being sequestered.† He had to do this swiftly before any alarm was raised.† Stuffing his brown hair underneath a cap, his purple eyes glinted like hard amethyst crystals.

"Letís do it!" he whispered.

* * * * *

PHASE FOUR — Scouting

"Itís most definitely the PLANT trying to attack us!† Why would they go after the Senate in Orb?† Theyíre trying to bomb Orb!† Orb should join us in renewing the war!† We cannot let something like this go unheeded!"

"No!† It is the Earth OMNI forces who are attacking PLANT and ZAFT!† They killed our representatives!"

"Did you even see the footage and analysis?!† Senator Ingriss was FROM EARTH!† She was the one in front of that bomb!† She-"

"Ingriss was formerly working for the East African government!† They are loyal to ZAFT and so she was ZAFTís representative!"

"It was Amalfi who bombed the place!† He left just moments before the bombs went off!"

"Amalfi is innocent!"

"Many Earth senators DIED in that explosion, are you telling me that it is still the Earthís fault?!"

"Yes!† Many of the PLANTís representatives are dead!† Only one survived!"

"Senator Amalfi is a PLANT representative isnít he?† So two!"

Dearka shut the television off in disgust as he sat in the mess hall aboard the Archangel.† Officially their leave was over and now the Archangel was on standby, their original mission to Februarius 3 cancelled by Acting-Leader Ledonil Kisaka.† The Kusanagi was to be sent to Februarius 3 to help ZAFT forces in containing the rebels.† All the media outlets including the ones that were part of PLANT were reporting the same thing — blaming each other and everyone in between for what had happened in the Senate Hall.

He was sickened to hear that Senator Amalfi was the main culprit in the eyes of the Earth Alliance and felt angry at those ignorant Earth bastards that dare throw mud at Amalfiís name.† Nicolís father shouldnít have be subjected to such a disgusting inquiry, but Miri had pointed out before she went to take her shift minutes ago, that Amalfiís leaving minutes before the bombs went off was a bit suspicious.

But that was really unreasonable.† He knew Nicolís father, and based on his former teammateís personality, he knew where Nicol got half of his temperament.† The Amalfiís were generally pacifists but willing to fight for whatever they believed in.† There was no reason for Senator Amalfi to bomb the whole place up ... no justifiable cause.

Throwing the remote onto one of the tables, he stalked out and wandered down the corridors.† He wanted to go check on Athrun, seeing that his friend was in such a distraught state, but military regulations and the fact that they were all on standby prevented him from doing so.† Captain Ramius was a harsh captain, but she commanded her troops well and had their loyalty.† She had changed, he could give her that much, and knew that it was from her loveís death during the war two years ago.

He was still reeling from the events two years ago ... surrendering to OMNI, then finding out that the Archangel went rogue ... joining up in their crusade to stop both sides from wiping each other out ... finally finding something he wanted to protect ... the cease-fire and subsequent reassignment to Orbís Liberation Forces ... † It happened so fast that he didnít even get a chance to really do anything.† He had visited his family after the cease-fire was called and when the call went up for recruitment for the LF, he had joined.† He didnít expect Miri to join the LF considering she was still distraught over her boyfriendís death and when she had showed up the same day to sign up, he was very surprised.

He had also tried to convince Yzak to sign up, but his friend deterred, saying that he had a lot to think about and subsequently disappeared.† He had tried asking Yzakís parents where their son went off to, but even they didnít know or were either tight-lipped about it.† Every time the Archangel was sent out on a mission Dearka always conducted his side mission to find out where his friend went off to, but each time was a failure and he always come back empty handed.†

"Ah!† Watch your head kid!" Kojiro Murdochís voice made him look up just in time to duck from one of the workers carrying a heavy long box and was tipping over from its uneven weight.

He wasnít surprised to find that his wanderings took him to the hanger bay as it always had, and nodded a thanks to the head of maintenance.† He stopped in front of his Buster Gundam and stared up at its face.† It was a hardy machine ... almost destroyed so many times, yet repaired in such great quality by Murdochís efforts.

"Whatís with the down-in-the-dumps look kid?" Murdoch suddenly spoke by his side, but Dearka wasnít startled.† He knew the Chief Petty Officer was just concerned about all the pilots aboard the Archangel and about those who were former pilots like Athrun and Kira.

"The news," Dearka replied, "itís trashy."

"Kid," Murdoch laughed lightly, "the news is always trashy.† Journalists always go through the materials they have and the higher-ups beyond them choose what news and analysts to put forth.† Donít blame the journalists themselves, blame those corporate executives."

"But the journalists should have some objection at least," Dearka groused.

"When youíre paid that much money, you donít complain.† You just do your job," the mechanic clapped his shoulder, "come on.† Captainís going to be calling a meeting in a few minutes.† Letís go crash it early."

Dearka sighed then nodded before he let Murdoch steer him away from staring at his Gundam and towards the briefing room.

* * * * *

Lacus Clyne bit her lip as she watched Eileen Canaver, the newest chairwoman of the Supreme Council, fend off allegations that Aaron Amalfi was part of the scheme to bomb the Senate Hall in the neutral nation of Orb and to kill at least a majority of the Earth senators, especially those that opposed his plans.† She knew Amalfi, and in fact when she had been named chief delegate of PLANT to the Senate, she had appointed Amalfi herself to be her voice when she wasnít able to make it to the Senate meetings.

Amalfi had a kind soul, she could see that, even though he had originally conceived and installed the N-Jammers in both Freedom and Justice Gundam himself.† He wasnít a bad person, just a grieving person for his son lost in the war.† She had wanted to give him a new start, away from war, in which he could propose and see the peace that lies beyond the war that had clouded a lot of ZAFT and the Supreme Council membersí minds.

Eileen Canaver had seen that too and now they both worked together to keep the peace and stop war from escalating once again.† It wasnít an easy task and even now, it was getting harder.† This new wave of terror and fear with the Senate Hall bombings scared a lot of people and made people regress back to their old habits of pointing fingers at each other.

Lacus had wanted to address the media, but Eileen said that it wasnít wise at the moment because then she would be targeted by the press and perhaps analyzed to include her with the current allegations thrown at Amalfi.† But she knew that eventually she would be thrown into the turmoil — her actions analyzed and blamed.† Eileen just wanted to protect her for a little longer ... just a little more.

But she didnít want to be protected anymore.† She wanted to do things her own way, even though she knew it would be a hard road.† She was due to leave for Orb in less than two hours, her political reason would be to help calm tensions in the wake of the attacks, but in reality, she wanted to see Kira.† Eileen knew of her relationship with Kira Yamato and had told her to leave as soon as she could.† Athrun had even contacted her and she had promised him that she would try to be in Orb as soon as possible.

She loved Kira, but she knew that she could never be with him ... but she would be his Ďsheathí so to speak, him the unguarded blade that swung wildly even in times of peace, and she would be there for him.† He needed her and she needed him — soul mates was the term for it, but only then, it was just soul mates, not lovers, but just two kindred spirits relying on each other.

" ... I will take no further questions," Eileenís voice suddenly cut through her thoughts and she looked up to see her friend and ally, though the woman was at least twice her age, walk from the press podium towards her, ignoring flashes of cameras and microphones trying to be shoved into her face.

"Ravenous wolves," she heard the leader of the Supreme Council mutter and she smiled faintly as she followed by her side.

"What will happen now?"

"Amalfiís going to have to make his own public statement.† I just donít understand why he left to take a message.† Fortunately, when you get to Orb, contact him and have him make a statement.† Heís been reclusive since the bombings and none of my messages are getting through to him.† I think he knows that heís the main culprit ..."

"He knows whatís at stake, Eileen," Lacus replied as they both got into an unmarked black car that was to drive them to the spaceport.† "I chose him after all."

"I know," Eileen suddenly rubbed her forehead and tossed back a part of her long blonde hair.† "No one told me this job was stressful ... † Too bad we canít send you to Februarius 3 ..."

"Hmm," Lacus tilted her head.

"Are you sure the new captain of the Kusanagi is all right?† I mean, he seems a bit ... pirate-like," Eileen looked a bit doubtful.

"Princess Cagalli chose him.† After all, they are a part of Orb.† I have no say whatsoever."

"But what about the Eternal?"

"Theyíre now part of Orb so Captain Bartfield and the Eternal are no longer under my command, Eileen," Lacus smiled at her friend, "donít worry about it.† Princess Cagalli told me that Quinn Misali is a good captain for the Kusanagi, even though heís named the Kingfisher."

Eileen nodded, still a bit unsure, but as the car pulled up next to the shuttle that was take Lacus to Earth and to Orb, she touched her shoulder.† "Be careful down there, Lacus.† There may be Blue Cosmos activity at work in Orb that we donít know about."

"I will ..." Lacus smiled in reply before stepping out of the car and walking up the stairs to the shuttle.

* * * * *

Kira awoke to distant sounds of a bustling hospital and as he opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling he blinked.† He remembered his previous dream ... fuzzy images about labs and scientists, Colony Mendel, and then him in the arms of a woman with purple hair running for her life ... his sister next to him in her other arm ... † But then everything else was fuzzy and he couldnít remember anything beyond that point.

He turned his head to his left and saw an opened window in which bright sunlight was streaming in, birds chirping outside.† He turned his head the other way and found Athrun quietly passed out in a chair next to him, his arms making a makeshift pillow on the extendable table beside his bed.† Tori was on his shoulder, in sleeping mode.† Letting a brief smile touch his lips, Kira tried to prop himself up slowly as he felt stiff, but there was no pain.

He half succeeded as he managed to shift himself higher up on his bed, but that was about it.† Frowning, he tried to lift himself up, but suddenly his left arm started to shake from the sudden efforts he was putting into his muscles and he fell back onto the bed with a thump.

That thump startled Athrun and woke him up and he blinked around wildly before he focused on Kira.† With Athrun shifting, Tori also snapped out of its sleep mode with a chirp.† "What are you doing?"

Kira gave a smirk at Athrun, noting that his best friendís hair was thoroughly mused and that Tori was picking at the spiky ends.† "What does it look like, trying to get up."† He finally sat up and breathed a sigh of relief.

"How do you feel, Kira?" Athrun waved Tori away who flew away from his shoulder and instead perched itself on one of the monitors hooked up to Kira.


Kira hunched forward, still not used to his muscles being all weak and watery on him.† "I feel fine ... stiff ... how long was I out?"† He raked his hair back, but his bangs still sprung forward.† Giving a sideways look at Athrun he saw that his best friend had a concerned and worried look on his face.

"About a day and half.† Iím glad youíre okay," Athrun smiled sadly, "you had me worried really badly."

Kira narrowed his eyes in concentration as he tried to remember what had happened but all he got was blurred images of an explosion in the Senate Hall ... something about finding Cagalli ... helping Taylor ... and then blackness.† "I ... donít remember ..."

"Itís nothing," Athrun placed a hand on his shoulder and gave it a squeeze, "the good thing now is that youíre safe."

"Is Cagalli okay?" Kira remembered that finding Cagalli after the explosion was his utmost priority.† He noticed that Athrun had stiffened when he mentioned her name.† "What ..."

"They wonít let me near Cagalli and I havenít heard anything since sheís been transferred to the hospital," Athrun curled his left hand into a fist, "even Kisaka wouldnít tell me whatís going on.† I would have gone looking for her, but there are guards everywhere liable to shoot anyone."

"Oh," Kira stared at Athrun for a second before he closed his eyes and concentrated.† He had heard that twins had a link to each other, even if they were fraternal like he and Cagalli were.† Perhaps, even if he was born in an artificial womb while his sister in their motherís womb, they would still have the link.† He searched his own mind, consciousness, and soul ... and suddenly found a spark that he innately knew was his link with his twin.

Touching it with his mind, he felt it respond and opened his eyes to see Athrun staring at him worriedly, wondering if he had suddenly passed out.† "Itís all right ... Cagalliís fine ..."

"How do you-"

"Itís a twin thing," Kira laughed lightly before a sudden burst of pain on his left side made him stop and his eyes bug slightly.† He pulled up his shirt to see that the left side of his abdomen had a curved line of black stitching string in it.† So that was what happened to his wound and why it hurt when he laughed ...

"You okay?" Athrun asked and Kira lowered his shirt.

"Yeah.† Just canít laugh too much ... thatís all," he smiled faintly.

Just then a knock came from his door and it opened slightly to reveal Lacusí face before a pink Haro bounded in and nearly smacked both him and Athrun in the face before Kira held up one of his hands to catch the pink robot.

"Myta!† Myta!† Haro!" the Haro whom Lacus called Pink-chan or Pinkie, said into his hand before he placed it at the foot of his bed where it promptly began to roll around, Tori flying from its perch to chase it.† Pinkie, noticing that another fellow robotic companion was to chase it promptly rolled to the ground and began to roll around, leading Tori on a chase.

"Kira, Athrun," Lacus greeted as she entered and closed the door behind her.

"Lacus," Kira was surprised that she was here.† He had heard that she was still at PLANT.

"Iíll tell the doctor youíre awake now," Athrun got up, sensing that the two wanted to be alone and Kira nodded before he opened the door and left, closing it behind him quietly.

Lacus took the seat Athrun vacated and gently touched his face with her fingers.† "I got here as fast as I could, Kira.† Iím so sorry for whatís happened."

Kira blinked, "Why are you apologizing ... if you were there at the Senate meeting ... you could have been killed ..."

Lacus shook her head firmly, "I should have been there.† Then nothing like this would have happened."

"But Lacus ..."

"Shhh ... its okay Kira," she grasped his hand with hers and their fingers laced together.† Kira felt at peace whenever she was near him and he knew that she would always be there to support him.† He leaned against her shoulder and felt her arms engulf him.

"Lacus," he asked in a hushed voice.

"Hmm?" she was humming a song.

"Why did this have to happen?† We all fought so hard for peace ... why now?"

Lacus stopped her humming and he looked up to see a sad expression on her face.† Granted they were the same age, but to him, she looked a lot older and wiser — more mature like Athrun.† He had been taken aback by her apparent naivetť when he had first met her, but appearances were always deceiving and she had been very mature since the first day — it was just the fact that she chose not to show her maturity.

"Sometimes there are those who felt theyíve been cheated of something they think they deserve.† Thatís why they always want others to be hurt so their goal can be achieved.† Weíre still in the age of learning how to trust one another ..."

Kira nodded before closing his eyes.† "Lacus ... can you sing for me?"† He could feel her smile looking down on him and she started to sing softly.† Within moments, Kira was fast asleep, this time, dreaming of peaceful dreams.

* * * * *

Athrun kept fingering the badge that he wore on the outside pocket of his jacket.† One of Lacusí aides had given it to him and said that he had been cleared by her to visit Cagalli who was located a few floors above Kiraís room in an isolated place.† He was surprised that Lacus knew, but he suspected she figured Cagalli would be kept in tight isolation and since only a few select people knew of their relationship, he wouldnít be allowed to visit her.† Though he was grateful that now he was able to visit her, he wondered how did Kisaka react to this ... or maybe he didnít even know ...

As the elevator stopped and opened, Athrun stepped out and immediately the crescendo of safeties taken off of sub-machine guns, and pistols was heard.† He blinked at so many men in black suits pointing guns at him.

"Who are you?† State your purpose here," a man came forward, his hold of the gun on him not wavering.

"Athrun Zala.† Lacus Clyne told me that I was cleared to see Princess Cagalli," Athrun frowned as he handed the man his badge slowly, as not to startle any of the other men in black from being trigger-happy.† First the police, now this ... † There were times in which he wished he was back with ZAFT — at least the security process was a lot less hostile than here.

"Heís cleared," the man called out to the others before handing him his badge back and as one they all lowered their pieces, safeties clicking back on in a messy staccato.† The man led him along, not bothering to apologize (not that Athrun expected people in their line of work to do so), and knocked once.† "Princess, a visitor by the name of Athrun Zala here to see you."

Athrun heard the distant outburst before a slight yelp and then Cagalliís muffled voice, "Let him in!"

The man in black opened the door and Athrun stepped in.† He smiled slightly as he saw Cagalli rubbing her elbow looking a bit mournful before she gave her side table an offending glare.† "Itís not the tableís fault," he helped, making her turn her gaze on him and he saw her face light up with delight.

"Athrun!" she made a move to get out of the bed, but Athrun rushed forward and stopped her from doing so by giving her a tight hug.

"Donít," he whispered as he released her before pulling up a chair and sitting next to her bed.† "Cagalli, you shouldnít move."

"But ..." Cagalli protested before a frown appeared on her face, "what took you so long?!"† She hit him none-to-gently on his arm.

Athrun winced in pain; she definitely could hit hard, "Ow.† Before you keep pummeling me, Kisaka didnít tell me where you were initially.† Only Lacus who just came a few minutes ago handed me a badge and told me that I was cleared to see you."

"Idiot," Cagalli hit him the arm again, but this time it was gentler. †She smiled at him and Athrun blinked in surprise as he saw tears in her eyes.† He lifted up a finger and wiped away her tears.

"Why are you crying?" he asked gently.

"Iím so happy, thatís all ..." she sniffed then hiccuped slightly as she tried to get her tears under control.

"How are you feeling?" he asked after a moment of silence passed between the two of them.

"Better.† The doctors said that it wasnít as bad as it looked.† The splinter missed most of my organs and they said that I needed less stitches than Kira.† How is he doing?" Cagalli replied.

"Kiraís fine.† Heís been having nightmares, of what, I donít know, but Lacus is with him at the moment so he should be resting fine," Athrun didnít mention to Cagalli that he was really worried when he had overheard a conversation between Kiraís parents — something about Cagalliís father and a lab of sorts that somehow involved Kira.

"Thatís good ..." she pursed her lips briefly before she looked outside of her window.† "The doctors said I should be able to leave within a couple of days ... they want me here for further observation just in case I get an infection or something like that."

Athrun didnít say anything, as he knew that Cagalli wanted to say more, but didnít press her.† She looked so sad ... † He wished that he had brought her a present of sorts, but it the impulse of finally being able to see her and to know that she was all right that made him take the pass and go straight up to her room.† She finally gave a soft sigh and turned to stare at him.

"Why Athrun?† What happened to all our efforts?!† Orb was supposed to be a neutral nation!† What did we do to deserve all of this?!† Why, Athrun?† Why?!" she asked, her voice fierce, her eyes blazing at anger, but not directed at him.† Her hands curled up into fists, nails digging half crescent moons into her palms as she squeezed her eyes shut.

Athrun caught her fists with his before she could slam them onto her bed and held them tightly.† "Cagalli, listen, it isnít your fault-"

"Yes it is!† I should have known something like this was going to happen!"

"No, you couldnít!† Youíre not a predictor of the future!"

"Then I should have been prepared!"

"Cagalli!" Athrun let go of her hands and grabbed her shoulders, forcing her to look at him, "Cagalli, look - Look at me!"† He stared deep into her hazel-brown eyes, forcing her to look at him.† "Listen, you couldnít have known.† None of us could have.† All right?† Youíre alive while others are dead.† Donít blame yourself for it, okay?"


Athrun shook his head, "Youíre alive.† After you get out of the hospital, its for the people that are still living to pick up the pieces and help those who are dead to find out who did this to them, okay?"

Cagalli stared at him for a minute before she suddenly burst into tears and buried herself in his arms.† Athrun was startled for a second, but knew that she was crying out all of her pent up emotions for the last two years since the warís end.† "Shh ... its okay ..." he stroked her hair and back gently as she continued to cry.

* * * * *

To his employers, his codename was Griever, a skilled jack-of-all-trades.† He crawled quietly away from the vent he was looking from, retracing his steps back to the janitorís room on the heavily guarded seventh floor of the main hospital on the island.† So the Princess had someone special to her, and he happened to be the son of the late Patrick Zala.† Getting past him would be hard as he could immediately assess from what he saw and heard, Athrun Zala would protect Cagalli Attha with his life — he knew that.

Luckily, there had to be some time where Zala would be visiting his friend Kira Yamato down on the fifth floor.† Griever wasnít able to decipher the level of the relationship between Zala and the Yamato boy, but it was no matter.† As soon as Zala was gone, he would make the first of his many moves.† Princess Cagalli was priority on his employerís lists, but the security guarding her made it almost impossible to penetrate from the outside, even if one was dressed in the garb of hospital workers.

Her guards personally delivered the meals, taken from the workers outside of her room to prevent any assassins.† He knew that he only had a couple of days before she was discharged and after that, it would be almost impossible to track her movements.

He felt his left foot drop slightly and knew that he was out of the vent.† Hanging by his fingertips, he dropped down to the floor, barely giving a look at the dead janitor that rested by a rack of cleaning supplies.† Carefully putting the grate back up, Griever raked a hand through his brown hair and smoothed out the wrinkles in his janitorís uniform.

The room in which the Princess had been put into was a well-suited one and a wise choice by her guardians.† There were no tall buildings from where she could see, and the tallest was only two stories.† Everything looked out to the harbor ... no sniping position for him.† However, sniping the other council members of Orb would be no problem as a few of them had rooms ill chosen.

So the question was, how to get in ... † The night shift was just about the same as the day shift, but there was one advantage — little to no power was used during the night and at least majority of the hospital was asleep except for the security guards.† Night was one of the best times to strike, but it would also be risky.

He would have to come back later and scout out the area at night before made his move.† With the Princess gone, it would start the domino effect for his employers.† No, Blue Cosmos could rot in their little world for all he cared; it was the world of Coordinators that ruled now ...

* * * * *

PHASE FIVE — Assassination

Murrue Ramius considered herself to be a fair captain, but an unfortunate woman.† She since was a little girl; tragedy had always found her through her loved ones.† Her father and mother died in a car accident when she was just a young girl, sending her off to live with her grandparents.

During her military service, she had fallen in love with a fighter jet pilot, but lost him in the beginning of the war with ZAFT.† She had vowed then that she would never fall in love again, but when she met the gentle and caring Mu LaFlaga, she had found herself drawn to him.

Sadly though, he sacrificed himself to save her and the crew of the Archangel from the Dominionís Lohengrinís firepower.† She was beginning to think that she had a black widowís curse, which was why, even two years after the cease-fire; she had never allowed herself to fall for any man.

Before she resigned her commission in OMNI there had been no fraternization between various commanders of the other warships, but now, as one of the highest ranking members of Orbís LF, some of the OMNI captains thought she was available since she was part of a different military force and sent her greetings day in and day out that she barely even responded to any of public comm. calls.

She had her own personal link to her ship, the Archangel, which Orb had claimed immediately after the cease-fire as their own since it belonged to Morganroete, and her own personal comm. channel in case any of the crew members needed to contact her.† Her public channel, she just let it stew and rot in her quarters aboard the ship.

She sat in one of the briefing rooms aboard the Archangel, lost in thought.† Their mission had been scrapped due to events in Orb, and now, were receiving reports from the Kusanagi that had been sent to Februarius 3 to quell the situation there and provide support to ZAFT that things were getting under control.† Not bad for the LFís newest commanding officer of the Kusanagi.† Granted there were more ships within the LF, the Kusanagi was only recently reactivated to provide support.

It had taken some time to choose the shipís new captain, but Murrue had recommended Quinn Misali, not because he was known as the Kingfisher in OMNI, but because he was a good man and she knew that from experience.† Quinn had been one of her fellow classmates in the Academy where she had attended on the Ptolomaeus base on the Moon, and though he had a bit of a pirate-like air that got him demoted and written up so many times, he was charismatic and a damn good tactician and negotiator.

She didnít know if he had fought ZAFT during the war, but bet that he probably did, but didnít ask when he was announced to be the new captain of the Kusanagi.† They both respected each other, and Murrue knew that Quinn always respected her wishes, not because she was a woman, but because she was a captain and his senior officer.

In a way, she wished the Archangel had been assigned to Februarius 3 so she was able to watch the Kingfisher in action, but she knew that her duties to Orb and to the LF was far greater here than in space at the moment.† There were stirrings of a potential for another attack, this time a possible sabotage within the technological research department, the new name for Morganroete, either that LFís sources were hinting at a Heliopolis-like attack by some unnamed group.

Murrue seriously hoped that it wasnít Blue Cosmos, but she didnít really know if the anti-Coordinator group had gotten back on its feet since their leader, Azrael was dead and his conglomerate in pieces.† This was also the reason why the Atlantic Federation was so jumpy lately — as the Azrael Conglomerate was one of its major military contractors and now with the lack of a new leader funds were dwindling rapidly — which meant no new mobile suit production and henceforth a twitchy Atlantic Federation.

That was also probably why the news, at the moment, was so harsh as a majority of the Earth senators had ties with the Atlantic Federation or the Azrael Conglomerate. †She had sent out some of her crew to check with their own contacts about possible retaliation against PLANT, Orb, or even the Earth and had contacted a few of the higher-ups in OMNI herself that she had kept in contact with after she resigned her commission.

She knew that many in OMNI found her to be a rogue captain after her actions in Alaska, and branded her a traitor to the Earth Forces, but there was some support in the high chain of command from those who were more moderate and levelheaded.† That was why she and her crew never got court-martialed even though they should have.

"Captain," her comlink beeped and she picked up it.

"Ramius here, what is it?"

"Kingfisher for you on channel 34.† Shall I patch it through?" Miri Haw, her communications officer, said.

"Iíll take it here, video and audio," she replied and moments later, brought up a screen that was static before Quinnís face appeared.† He sported a mustache that gave him a roguish look — a mustache that would have never been allowed in OMNI, but LFís regulations were a bit more lax.

"Greetings Captain from the nice little zone of Februarius 3," Quinn mock bowed his head to her and Murrue rolled her eyes.

"Whatís your status," she asked.

"Everythingís in the clean-up stage.† Apparently, itís not Blue Cosmos causing the problems here, but some radical Coordinator group who claimed theyíve been wronged in the war and wanted to get revenge by destroying those Coordinators who sympathized with the cease-fire.† A bit messy, but we got the job done.† Iím having some of the crew check the background of those involved to see if Blue Cosmos did fund them."

"Arenít Blue Cosmos supposed to be anti-Coordinator?"

"Apparently you werenít too up to date during the war.† Remember Azrael?"

"Yes," Murrue frowned.

"During my time in OMNIís special ops, I overheard a conversation between him and one of his Cosmos flunkies.† Theyíve been trading information with some Coordinators — kind of ironic for a group proclaiming the end of Coordinators, donít you think?"

Murrue blinked, "I suppose stuff like that happens all the time."

"Yeah, but just want to make sure none of these Februarius peeps actually are tied.† But if they are — we know who to go after next," Quinn replied.

Murrue nodded.† "So what else?"

"What do you mean, what else?"

"Quinn, cut the bullshit.† I know you didnít make this call just for that bit of information," she said and Quinn grinned slightly before his expression sobered into seriousness.

"Thereís something funny about all of this.† First Orb, now Februarius 3.† I think the next target is somewhere on Earth.† I mean, it doesnít seem right, but get this ... one of the people we took down started screaming about how Coordinators and Naturals were all messed up and everyone should die."

"Thatís twisted, what about it?" Murrue asked.

"Well, the odd thing was that the rest of his group didnít say the same thing.† They were all gung-ho about taking down their fellow Coordinators and this guy comes along proclaiming that everyone should die.† He even popped a few of his own people which didnít make any of his teammates happy."

"So they have a rogue person, and ... ?" Murrue wondered what Quinn was getting at.

"Itís just a hunch, but I think the guy whoís been demanding the deaths of everyone is part of something bigger that we should be keeping tabs on.† Some of PLANTís scientists are going over the guyís autopsy right now so we should have the information within a couple of days."

Murrue raised an eyebrow at her fellow officerís deductive work.† "Nice theory.† Once you get the results, you might want to come back and brief the Princess on it."

"Oh, sheís up and about?" Quinn looked cheered at the prospect.† "Thatís good news."

"She should be out of the hospital by tomorrow," Murrue replied, "hope to see you in a couple of days."

"Roger that Captain.† Kingfisher out," the link was terminated and Murrue sat back in her seat.† What Quinn said about the rogue terrorist was disturbing ... and it reminded her of her talks with Mu after they left Colony Mendel when he was resting up from his wounds.

During one of their conversations, Mu had said something that disturbed her to the core.† ĎThat place is a place of hell.† Where people begin to hate the whole world and destroy everyone around them because of it.í† Was Colonel Mendel a part of everything?

* * * * *

Kira awoke feeling a lot better and found himself lying back on his pillow.† He remembered falling asleep to Lacusí singing ... and turned his head to see if she was there, but there was no one.† Tori was perched on one of the monitors, robotic eyes closed and cooing softly to itself — asleep.† He sighed, a bit content, and scrunched up his shoulders to stretch before relaxing his muscles.† He felt a lot better; maybe the doctor would let him go today?

Lifting up his own blankets and his shirt, he pressed gently down on the stitches he had received and felt a slight twinge of pain, but that was about it.† He had always healed fast and wondered if it was partly in his genes that his parents made him a Coordinator ... † There was a sudden knock on his door and Kira settled down his blankets before looking up to see the door crack open and a female doctor poke her head in.

"Ah, I see youíre awake, Mr. Yamato," the doctor said in a pleasant voice, before coming in and checking the monitors that were hooked up to him.† She made a few humming noises, waking Tori who stared inquisitively at her.† Kira saw the doctor pet his robotic bird and Tori mimicked affectionate enjoyment before the doctor returned to looking at the monitors, making notes on a clipboard and folder she was holding.

She finally turned and stared at him.† "Well you seem quite healthy, Kira Yamato.† Iíd like to keep you here for one more night, but youíre free to walk around if you feel that you have the strength to.† Iím Doctor Rowland by the way."

Kira nodded, "Um ... why do I need to stay one more night?"

"Well, we just want to make sure that youíre completely healed before we send you out.† Your stitches will be taken out within a couple of weeks, so no seriously strenuous activities like lifting heavy cartons or running.† You can jog, but take it easy," the doctor tapped her clipboard, "you were lucky to survive a puncture wound like that Kira.† Others wouldnít have been so fortunate.† Your surgeon told me that you were a Coordinator, right?"

Kira started slightly, surprised but Dr. Rowland smiled at him, "Itís okay," she continued.† "If you were a Natural, you wouldnít have survived your wound — youíre lucky that your parents gave you the normal requisite of fast healing ability."

He didnít say anything as she gestured for him to lift his shirt up and pressed a stethoscope to his chest, checking his breathing before she pressed gently down on his stitches.† After she was done she made a few more notes in her notebook and then handed him a pass of sorts.

"Ambassador Clyne told me to give you this when you awakened.† Apparently, sheís cleared you to go see Princess Cagalli.† Fancy that," the doctor winked at him, "Iím actually quite jealous.† You must have saved her from the explosion or something like that young man."

Kira nodded absently as he took the pass and set it on his end table.† "Um, Dr. Rowland," he started, "are my parents here?"

"The police chief Kisaka convinced them to go home to get some rest.† Theyíve been here since you had your operation a few days ago.† They should be back soon," the doctor replied.† "Well, Iíve got a lot more patients to check up on, so please do take care of yourself Kira."† She gave him a wave before leaving his room, closing the door behind her.

Kira glanced at the pass that the doctor handed to him before swinging his legs over to one side of his bed.† He felt the cold bare floor before something fuzzy brushed against his foot.† He started slightly, fearing that it was an animal of sorts, but looked down and saw hospital slippers were the only fuzzy thing on the ground.† Stepping on the ground once more, this time putting his slippers on, he stood up shakily ... his legs unused for the past few days.

He stood there for a few minutes, letting his legs get used to his full body weight again and moved his arms.† He hissed suddenly in pain as he glanced at his left arm and saw that an IV needle was stuck in it.† Pulling it out, he wrinkled his brow at it — and put it on the bed.† He stretched and looked towards the end of the bed and found a long robe to cover his shorts and tee shirt.

Putting the robe on, being careful not to make any sudden jarring moves that might affect his stitches, he cinched it tightly and grabbed the pass Dr. Rowland gave to him before heading out of his room with Tori perched on his shoulder.† Reading it, he noted that Cagalli was only two floors above ... and headed towards the elevator at a slow walk.

Getting into the elevator, he pressed the seventh floor button and seconds later, the doors opened — followed by a crescendo of safeties being taken off of guns pointed at him.† He stepped out and blinked, surprised at the number of men and women dressed in black suits, all of them staring at him.

"State your purpose here," a man came up to him and Kira held up his pass.

"Iím Kira Yamato ... um, Ambassador Clyne had one of the doctors give this to me."

The man stared at his pass for a second before he gestured for him to follow, "So youíre the one who saved the Princess.† Youíre pretty lucky that the Princess is allowing you to see her."

Kira frowned at the manís words.† If they only knew ... he thought as the man led him to a door and knocked on it.† "Princess, a visitor."

"Come in," he heard Cagalliís muffled voice and the man opened the door and Kira peered in.

He blinked in surprise as he saw that Athrun was also there before a grin crept up his face.† Apparently both Cagalli and Athrun were shocked to see him, but Cagalli recovered first and leapt out of her bed.

"Kira!" she collided into him full force, knocking him to the ground as she hugged him and Kira winced slightly as pain rippled from his wound through his nervous system.† He managed not to bump his head, as he lay sprawled on the ground.

"Princess!" a few of the men and women in black exclaimed, reaching down to her, but just as quickly Cagalli pulled him up and dragged him into the room before closing the door on their faces.

Tori flew to perch itself on Athrunís shoulder while Cagalli plunked him into a seat before sitting on her bed, staring at him.† "Well, what do you have to say for yourself?"

"Ow ..." was all that he could manage as he rubbed his side, trying to alleviate the pain.† Out of the corner of his eye he saw Athrun trying to hide a grin and glowered at him.

"Aw, donít tell me youíre all bruised up just because I knocked you down.† Come on, youíre supposed to be more hardy than that," Cagalli tapped him lightly on the arm and Kira sighed before a smile appeared on his face.

He was about to reply when he felt something odd in his mind ... like a dťjŗ vu sense or something of that nature.† Looking up and around, he wondered what was it that was he feeling ... it felt like a presence of sorts ... but then ...

"Kiiiirrraaaa," Cagalli waved her hand in his face, snapping him out of his funk and he turned back to see her sit back on her bed, staring at him.† "You okay?"

"Oh ... yeah," Kira decided to ignore whatever that dťjŗ vu thing was and scratched his head, "just slightly distracted by ... um ... the dťcor."

"Yes, itís the same as yours," Athrun spoke up next to him, a bit dryly.

"Kira, stop spacing out and tell me when youíre leaving.† The doctors said I can leave tomorrow ..."

* * * * *

Griever cursed silently to himself as he hastily backed away from the vent he had been peering from.† His father had warned him of this and he hadnít heeded his fatherís advice until he had seen Kira Yamato stare around, trying to pinpoint him.† Father had warned him that he and the one who called himself Kira Yamato were almost one in the same, if not exact and so would be able to sense each other.

Well, it seemed that Yamato hadnít mastered his own powers, which gave Griever an advantage for tonightís mission.† He had scouted out the hospital at night and found it to be the best of his choices since the clock was ticking and he didnít have that much time.

Dropping down into the janitorís closet again, he straightened his uniform and grabbed a few cleaning supplies before putting his cap on, adjusting the brim to cover a majority of his features.† It wouldnít be good if the stupid doctors and nurses thinking him to be one of their patients blew his cover.† He would report to his employers before making the hit tonight then go after the other council members.

Stepping out of the closet, he pushed a wheeled yellow bucket down the corridor, occasionally stopping to mop up a puddle he saw on the floor.† Security was still heightened in the Princessí floor, but when at night, guards were usually less alert, even the ones who slept during the day and patrolled the night.† It was the only slight advantage he knew he was going to get and he dare not waste it.

He turned slightly to mop up the floor, putting his back to everyone, but his ears were as sharp and paid attention to every thing around him.† He listened as some children ran about, while emergency crews rushed other patients into the emergency room ...

"Mommy ... why canít I go home now?"

"Mr. Chan, I apologize, but your father has passed away now ..."

"Canít I ..."

"-I need an air tank plus some IV connections now!"

"Doctor itís a hot one!† The kidís been shot twice!"

"Emergency room now!"

All the voices faded into his mind, but he kept strict tabs.† After all, he had a perfect memory ... until a voice suddenly pierced through his mind and he jerked bit before turning his head slightly to his left.

" ... so he would be allowed to go home tomorrow?"

"Thatís right, maíam."

"Iím so glad ... thank you Doctor, thank you so much."

Griever watched as three adults walked by, one of which he didnít really care for, the female doctor.† The man he registered in his mind as just another civilian, but the woman ... the manís wife a part of him surmised, how dare she be here?!

He watched her walk by out of the corner of his eye and narrowed them ever so slightly as she turned and for a second both of their gazes met.† Griever broke contact first, turning back to continue his work.† Father never told him that she would be here ...

Perhaps before he executed his mission, he would contact his father to tell him of the new development he discovered.† Of course, it wouldnít affect his original mission; it was just a side story, so to speak.

* * * * *

Kanoko Yamato stared at the janitor they had passed by for a long moment before her husband tapped her gently on the shoulder and she turned back to him.† He looked so familiar ... almost like Kira in a way ... but that couldnít be, could it?† Katherine had made sure that all of them were dead before she herself perished by her husbandís hand.

But Colony Mendel was abandoned, correct?† She had heard from Kira that they took refuge in there, but he hadnít mentioned anything about discovering Dr. Hibikiís work so Kanoko had assumed that it had been completely buried and abandoned.

But just now ... it couldnít be could it?

"Dear?" her husband asked again and she blinked before turning to look at him.

"Iím sorry ... what did you say?"

"I asked if you were okay ... you seemed a bit disturbed about something ..."

"No, no," Kanoko shook her head, "Iím fine.† Just worrying over nothing ..."

"Okay," her husband looked a bit skeptical, but Kanoko gave him a smile.

"Itís okay.† Iím just a bit overwhelmed by the news that Kiraís going to be released tomorrow."

"Yeah ..." her husband smiled back at her.

* * * * *

Night had fallen and visiting hours were already long over.† As the night crew stretched into the middle of their shift, some, even though they had been sleeping during the day, were already feeling the effects night had on the human body.† It was common for the janitorial crew to finally be able to go to work without having to deal with people and patients spilling or damaging things in the hospital — unless of course there was some emergency, so they went to work.

Griever also went to work, telling the others in the janitorial staff that he would be on his way after he gathered a few supplies and as they all exited out, he hung back, waiting until they were far away before he took out a handgun with a silencer on the muzzle out of the mop bucket he had been using.† All the murky water had concealed his gun perfectly and now, he wiped it dry before sticking it inside of his uniform.

There was more weaponry in his bucket and around it, but he wouldnít need it until he reached the Princessí floor.† As he stepped out once more, he headed towards the elevator, the other janitors ignoring him as the all went up and down the elevator during the night to clean the floors.

Pressing the 7th floor button with a gloved hand, he waited patiently and brought out a lighter.† Just as the elevator pinged to signal his floor, he lit up the lighter and dropped it into the murky water ... † To which the water suddenly burst into flames — not water at all, but gasoline of sorts — and as the doors fully opened, he kicked the bucket of flame out and it rebounded against the wall across from the elevator sliding to the side.

He heard the shouts of a few guards and ducked into the inner confines of the elevator as the flaming yellow bucket suddenly unloaded its deadly payload and exploded.

Screams filled the air and Griever took out his gun, flicking the safety off before he dove into the flames that burned along the walls.† He was cool and calculated as he took down those guards that were still alive, a shot to the head for each guard.† He could hear beyond the distant roaring of the fire alarms being sounded and knew that he would have to be fast to accomplish his mission.

As he approached the door where the Princess was sequestered, Griever didnít hesitate and kicked the door down.† The cool breeze of the room plastered his face, but his eyes scanned the room through the dimness of the moonlight that was filtering in.† Stepping in, Griever pointed his gun at the bed ... and was puzzled that there was no one on it ...

Suddenly he sensed something behind him and raised his gun to point at the face of Athrun Zala who had tried to ambush him.

* * * * *

Athrun ducked as the assassin fired a bullet at him and immediately brought his left arm up and knocked the gun away from his hand.† He couldnít really get a good look at the assassin as he wore a cap, but he didnít care.† Blocking a blow, he retaliated with a jab towards the stomach and twisted slightly, pushing the assassin back into the room.

Cagalli had asked if he could stay with her and had even told the doctors that he was staying past visiting hours and he reluctantly agreed.† He wasnít too sure if he was breaking any rules, but figured if the Princess of Orb spoke, then it was the Princessí words.† Now, he was glad that he stayed ...

The assassin suddenly leapt at him and Athrun twisted out of the way, defending himself before he retaliated with a few strikes of his own.† He grunted in pain as the assassin clipped him across his side with a punch.† Lashing out, he struck back, but the person avoided his leg.† Athrun knew that as a Coordinator, he had enhanced strength and speed, but the assassin was avoiding most of his blows ... which meant that he too was a Coordinator ...

Which meant that someone at PLANT or ZAFT must be out for blood against Orb.† "Who are you!" he demanded as he stepped back a few steps, assessing his opponent, the two of them circling slowly.

The assassin didnít answer ... a professional he summarized, which meant that this was very serious.† Of course, Athrun took everything seriously, but this was the first time he had to deal with an assassin.† Back when he was in ZAFT they had taught basic self-defensive techniques just in case they had to deal with Natural assassins and pitted against each other to train.

He suddenly noticed a shift in stance from his opponent and took the opportunity and charged at him.† They both crashed into one of the chairs on the far side of the room and Athrun rolled away, crouching on the balls of his feet as he watched the assassin slowly rise ... his hat falling away ... revealing his features.

What the ... † Athrun felt his jaw drop as he stared at the assassin.† He looks exactly like Kira ... no ... wait ... thereís a scar ... † Indeed there was a long vertical scar running from the middle of the assassinís right eyebrow straight down to corner of his lip.† "Kira ..." he whispered and saw the corner of the assassinís mouth turn up in a feral smile before he leapt at him.

Athrun barely had time to bring his hands up in order to catch a knife from being stabbed in his head as he was pinned to the ground by the assassin.† He found it hard to breathe as the person who looked like Kira dug his knee into his stomach, trying to force the knife down on him.† He gritted his teeth in an effort to keep the knife from going any further and pushed up against the assassinís hand with all of his strength.

"Athrun!" he glanced quickly to see Cagalli, who had been hiding by the side of her bed suddenly charge at the assassin.

"No!† Cagalli, donít!" he called to stop her.

"Iíll deal with you later," the assassin spoke, and Athrun was startled to hear Kiraís voice come out of the mouth.† He paid for his inattentiveness as the knife slipped a few inches closer towards his face.† He saw the assassin lash out with one of his legs and suddenly kick Cagalli who was in mid-charge, crumpling her to the ground.

"You bastard," Athrun managed to get out as he pushed against the hand that was holding the knife.

He struggled to draw breath, but with the assassinís knee digging painfully into his stomach and putting pressure on his abdomen, his legs pinned beneath him ... he was beginning to see white splotches and knew that he couldnít keep this up for long.

Suddenly the assassin was bowled over to the side by a charging white blur and Athrun felt that he could breathe again.† He sat up and his eyes widened as he saw that it was Kira who had saved him.

* * * * *

Kira clutched his side as a twinge of pain ran through it.† He knelt down on one knee as he watched his opponent carefully.† There was something familiar about the person that had been holding a knife to stab Athrun ... something ... † His eyes snapped to stare at the assassin who laid sprawled on his side as he started to laugh.

"I should have known ... Kira Yamato ..." the assassin suddenly sat up and turned to stare at him.

Kira recoiled ... shocked ... that face ... his ... face ...?† That couldnít be ... unless ... † Rau Le Creuset lied!† He said that he was the only one who was a success ... there couldnít be another one of him ... that was why he felt so familiar because the person sitting across from him, his purple eyes lit up in an insane manner, was ... him ...

No!† It wasnít him, it was just ... a ...

Those eyes bore into him and said forbidden words that Kira didnít want to hear.† I am you ... you are me ...

His mind was numb with shock, so paralyzed with images of what Rau had told him during that fateful meeting, and with his dreams flitting through his mind, that he didnít even notice Athrun shouting as the assassin suddenly broke through the window and jumped out, dropping seven stories to the ground.

He didnít even acknowledge Athrun shaking his shoulder or his twin sister calling his name.† All he could think about was the fact that there was another like him ... another twisted experiment ...

* * * * *

Griever dropped to the ground and rolled a few somersaults to absorb the impact of his fall.† Seven stories wasnít that far of a fall, as he knew that he could survive it, whereas no one else could.† Damnit ... the mission was a failure due to Kira Yamatoís intervention.† He hadnít even sensed the boyís presence until it was too late ...

As he ran, avoiding the strobe lights of the hospital coming awake, he hid under bushes and ducked past police who were rushing to the hospital, too busy on getting to their destination to notice him.† He ran to the seaport where he finally stopped at a fairly empty and quiet beach and pulled out a long distance communicator.

Tapping a few buttons, he waited as his call was processed and a face appeared.

"Report, Griever," the face was hidden in the shadows, but he knew who it was.

"Mission failed.† The Princess was not eliminated due to intervention by Patrick Zalaís son, but there is one good news.† Yamato knows that heís not alone."

"Good," the person on the other side of the line replied, "make your exit and come back here.† I will have things taken care of to force their hand."

"Roger that," Griever terminated the link and pocketed the communicator before staring out into the ocean, illuminated by the moonlight.† It was a wonderful night indeed.

* * * * *

PHASE SIX — Revealing the Past, Present, and Possible Future

Kanoko Yamato wrung her hands together for what seemed like the hundredth time since she had sat down in the fairly stark room in the mansion that Cagalli lived in — an inheritance from her father.† She glanced up briefly at the five other occupants of the room before staring down at her hands that were on her lap, folded together.† She couldnít stand to look at any of them ... especially in light of what she was about to tell them.† Even with Ledonil Kisaka and her husband there, she felt no support, not even to tell the other three children ... no not children anymore, all adults, in the room.

But they were still children in her opinion.† Especially little Cagalli ... even though she was the second oldest of the three that were in the room right now.† She didnít know where her son was, but suspected that after what had happened, he was probably in shock.† She too had been in shock when Ledonil and the children told her what happened just hours ago.

Oh Katherine ... why ... she looked up ruefully again and this time, sighed before forcing her hands to be flat on her lap.

"I ... suspect that you have a lot of questions and wonder why am I here," she started, catching Lacus, Cagalli, and Athrunís gazes with her own, "to tell you the truth, what you encountered mere hours ago is, in a twisted way, Kira."

She winced at the gasped outburst from both Cagalli and Lacus while she noticed that Athrun had turned completely white.† "When Ledonil told me that you had taken shelter in LaGrange Point 4 where Colony Mendel was, I hoped that nothing transpired there, but now, I see that I was probably wrong in my assumption.† Please ... can you tell me what happened to Kira in Colony Mendel?"

"During ... the lull in battle Kira said that he was going to help Mu LaFlaga in the Colony who happened to be battling Rau Le Creuset," Athrun started slowly, "He was in there for quite a while, but when he returned back out, he said that Mu had been injured ... † I didnít notice it then, but he seemed to be weighed down by something.† After he had discovered that Flay Alster was still alive — a girl he had hurt badly — were his words, he passed out."

"I found an exact copy of the photograph of him and Cagalli as babies inside of his flightsuit," Lacus took over as Athrun looked very hesitant to continue, "the same one Cagalli holds ... † Somehow, this triggered something within Kira, causing him to breakdown."

Kanoko nodded before she extended her hand out to Cagalli.† "Cagalli ... may I see that photograph?"

"S-Sure ..." Cagalli reached inside of her vest and pulled out a fairly worn photograph and handed it to her.† "Mrs. Yamato, I donít understand-"

She held up a hand to quiet her down and turned the photograph around, faintly smiling at the hastily scrawled names of Katherineís children, her own handwriting mere moments before everything went straight to hell.† She turned it back around and stared at Katherineís smiling face as she looked lovingly down at her twins.† Feeling tears begin to prick at the corner of her eyes, she cleared her throat roughly before looking up at the three children who sat in front of her.

Facing the photograph at Cagalli she smiled sadly, "This is your mother, isnít it?"

"Yes ..." Cagalli frowned, wondering what she was getting at.

"Your motherís name was Katherine Hibiki and she was a scientist on Colony Mendel, long before it was abandoned," she said, "her husband was Dr. Ulen Hibiki."

"He sounds familiar," Lacus suddenly interjected and Kanoko nodded in agreement.

"He would, considering that your late father opposed him," she turned to Athrun, "however, I am surprised that you have not heard anything of the man, Athrun."

"Should I?" Athrun looked confused.

"Your father, Patrick Zala, supported and funded half of his research.† Though I suspected it was your mother who prevented any knowledge of this to be passed on to you," Kanoko tilted her head before turning to Cagalli and nodded to the Princessí unspoken confirmation, "Yes.† Ulen Hibiki is your father ... and also Kiraís."

"But ... what did my father- Uzumi I mean ..."

"Dr. Hibiki was a genius, but like some geniuses, he fell into his own madness and believed that Coordinators could be more superior than what they were now.† Patrick Zala supported his idea, and siphoned some of his funds into Hibikiís private account and stationed him in Mendel to conduct his research.

"Hibiki believed that there was something that prevented a Coordinator from reaching their full potential.† He wanted to surpass George Glenn, the first of Coordinators and realized that the only factor in his way was not the gene manipulation, but the motherís womb.† After all, the mother was still human and humans do always make mistakes.

"However, when he tried to present his research to the scientific community, he was pushed aside by Chairman Zala and kept in the quiet confines of the curtains he was in.† The Chairman wanted the findings for himself to use as a possible propaganda to overthrown Natural rule in the near future.

"Not easily deflected, Dr. Hibiki continued his research since the funds from Zala and his other supporter had been generous.† He decided to build artificial wombs to test out his experiments and took his own sperm and his wifeís eggs to try to create successful tests.† He thought that if he successfully created the ultimate Coordinator, he wouldnít have to stay in Zalaís shadows."

"So ... that means-"

Kanoko shook her head to Cagalliís question.† "No ... there was only one successful try."

"Kira," Athrunís voice didnít hint at any emotion, but Kanoko could tell that the young man was battling with his internal demons, especially that of what his father did.

"But ..."

"During that time, your mother, Katherine, got pregnant with you.† She had decided that if her mad husband kept up his experiments, all life would change radically and the balance of nature versus creation would be upset.† She decided to escape with her child, you, as soon as you were born.† However, when the first successful ... experiment ... had been completed, she changed her plan to save this child too, to have him grow up as a normal Coordinator child would.† She didnít want to see anymore of this mad science."

"That was when she received the support of your father Uzumi, myself, and Mrs. Yamato here.† We were all assistants to Dr. Hibiki, yet we were completely loyal to Katherine," Ledonil suddenly spoke up and Kanoko was glad for the respite.

"However, the plan didnít exactly work out.† Katherine, in the middle of her flight, decided that she would destroy all evidence of what had been happening on Colony Mendel and went back.† She died by her husbandís hands, but before she did, she had sent us a message that all of the experiments, both failed and those that were in progress had been completely eliminated and all evidence destroyed."

"Uzumi decided to take you, Cagalli, as his daughter and Ledonil as your bodyguard.† I took Kira with me and we decided to part ways, never to meet again," Kanoko said.

"But Patrick Zala had heard what happened to Colony Mendel and heard about Kira.† He sent an agent to bring Kira to him," she gave a sideways look at her husband and noted the shocked looks on everyoneís face except her and her husband.† "Keiji was one of the top Naturals infiltrators, so good that he had been suspected of being a Coordinator by Patrick."

"But once I learned the truth, I vowed to help keep the conspiracy alive," Keiji Yamato held up his hands in his defense.

"Athrun," Kanoko turned to the young man, snapping him out of his stupor, "do you know why your father sent you to the Lunar Base for schooling instead of one of the PLANTís premiere schools?"

"He said it would be good to learn some of the ways Naturals work and to help improve relationships — you donít mean?!"

She nodded, "You were sent to keep an eye on Kira.† Your father couldnít do anything more because of the rising in political tensions between the Earth and PLANT.† But when I met your mother, I knew that she was nothing like your father and had a good heart.† She knew nothing of the covert activities your father was embedded in, but she was very bright in picking out that Kira was a special Coordinator."

"That was why my messages to my father always came back with questions about Kira that I thought I had answered. †My mother intercepted them, didnít she?" Athrun asked, the clarity of the situation dawning in his eyes.

"Yes she did, but she never knew how special Kira was; all she knew was that if word got out of Kiraís unique abilities, she knew that your father would know something was up," Kanoko closed her eyes briefly before opening them again, "but when tensions arose and you were sent back to PLANT, we knew that we couldnít stay on Earth or on PLANT anymore so we moved to Heliopolis, knowing that it was far from the conflict that we brewing between Earth and PLANT ... however, we were wrong ..."

"Father and the other Council members had contracted Morganroete to build the Gundams," Cagalli whispered, staring down at her own hands, fisted tightly.

"But Mrs. Yamato ... what of the look-alike?† I thought you had said Katherine Hibiki destroyed all evidence," Lacus asked, her eyes serious.

Kanoko sighed heavily, "That was what I had been afraid of.† We suspected that Chairman Zala and Anton* LaFlaga, a prominent Natural corporate head, might have smuggled samples of Dr. Hibikiís research to test for themselves.† Perhaps when Anton LaFlaga died in the fire a few years into Dr. Hibikiís research, his things were discovered and sold to the highest bidder to try to replicate what Hibiki was doing."

"So ... what now?" Cagalli asked, her face pale with the news.

"If word of this gets out, tensions will arise once more," Kanoko stared at Lacus, Athrun, and Cagalli in the eye, "and this time, stopping the war between Coordinators and Naturals will be impossible."

* * * * *

Kira backed slowly away from the doors to the room that everyone but him had been occupying.† He had heard enough ... and didnít want to hear anymore.† Already, the pain had spread to clutch his mind, filling it will visions of what Rau had said those years ago ... † It was true ... he was created ... an unnatural phenomenon that shouldnít have existed.

Why did they want him alive?† He should be dead for all purposes ... † Inwardly, he wished he had died; he had been one of the failures ... why did he have to be alive right now?† Why now?† What was his purpose?

He stumbled out to the courtyard, and staggered towards a tree, slumping unceremoniously down in front of it, his back leaning against the coolness of the treeís trunk.† He felt the blunt edges of the trunk scraping his back through his thin tee shirt, the summery night still giving off heat, but he felt no respite.

He could feel tears pricking at the corner of his eyes, but he didnít care as they started falling.† Hollowness seemed to consume him as he cried out his sorrow, pain, and anguish at all that had happened to him.

Why ... why was I created, he thought.† Was I just a figment of someoneís psychosis, their own experiment?† Even my adopted mother said I was an experiment ... I was a danger to everyone around me.† Was I to be destined for the battlefield if I had been a successful experiment?

Was I to become like ... my ... clone-brother?

Kira sniffled and rubbed his eyes before he looked up past the darkened branches and up at the moonlit sky, still night time and only hours away from daybreak.† He felt so lost from everything.† Ever since his encounter with the person who looked like him, he felt so lonely, so out of place.

Ever since he was young, he knew that he was a Coordinator and his parents never denied it.† When he asked why they made him one; their only reply was wait until he was older.† He never thought about it, because at the school on the Lunar Base, he had met many other children, both Naturals and Coordinators who were like him and it was also why he became best friends with Athrun.

But was his friendship with Athrun a false friendship?† Was what he heard just a faÁade for Athrun to become his best and dearest friend just to spy on him?† Was everything a lie with him and Athrun?

And what about Cagalli?† She had said that they were twins ... and even showed the picture of the two of them together, but that was impossible.† There couldnít be any truth in that ... it ... just ... wasnít feasible.† Could the misconception of him and Cagalli being related, much less twins, be a possibility?† If he was created from an artificial womb, and she from their real motherís womb, then there was no way in the laws of humanity that they could be twins ... it just wasnít possible.

Was Cagalli just keeping his hopes up?† Was her father, Uzumi Attha, lying because he knew the truth to his existence and didnít want him to find out?† Well, he found out from Rau and most certainly was confirmed by Mu when Rau revealed his identity.† And now with his adopted mother ...

Who was he anyway?† Was he actually Kira Yamato, a senior college student at Orbís technical college, former pilot of the Freedom and Strike Gundam ... Coordinator ... † Was he destined to be the ultimate weapon for Patrick Zala in his war against the Naturals?† Like a time bomb of sorts?† Was that what he was to become?

Or was there something else to his existence ... or perhaps he wasnít supposed to exist at all, after all, he was the result of a massive tampering with the laws of creation and evolution.† By all rights, should he even be alive?

"Kira ..."

Kira nearly started at Cagalliís soft voice, but he didnít look up or even acknowledge her as he heard her steps coming closer to him.† He just stared at a certain point in the dewy grass that was by the base of the tree, running his eyes over the roots that were above ground.

"Kira ..." he felt Cagalli sit next to him, but he ignored her.

"Kira ... I ... know you were listening on us ... I could feel it ..." Cagalli started softly, "its ... a twin thing."

"We were never twins nor siblings," Kira finally replied in a rough voice, and out of the corner of her eye, he saw her draw back, hurt from his comment.

"Yes we are," she suddenly narrowed her eyes, "you know it as well as I do.† It doesnít matter if you were created nor was I born from a real womb-"

"Yes it does," Kira snapped, interrupting her, "it does.† You ... real.† I am just a freak of nature.† Created in some sick and twisted experiment."

"You are not a freak of nature!" Cagalli grabbed his shoulder roughly, but he shrugged her off violently, moving away from her.

He heard her scramble after him, and suddenly turned and stared at her, his eyes completely blank and devoid of anything.† Seed-mode.† "Donít you dare come any closer, Cagalli Yula Attha."

She recoiled, stumbling back on her hands.† "Kira ... your eyes ..."

"Iím not human.† I was created, thatís all there is to it," he said in a harsh voice.

Cagalli hesitated for a second before she narrowed her eyes and raised a hand to hit him.† He caught her easily and twisted it downward, seeing pain spring to her eyes.† "Kira ... stop ..."

"You see?† Strength comes easily to me.† Itís not human, nor is it Coordinator ..." he didnít ease his grip on her hand, emphasizing his point.

"Kira ... stop it!" Cagalli cried out slightly in pain as she tried to wrench her wrist from his strong grip.† "Youíre hurting me ..."

"You still donít get it, do you?† Iím not your brother.† I never was and never will be!" he dropped his voice to a quiet but deadly whisper.

"Kira ..." Cagalli tried pulling harder, but his grip tightened, "you ... are my brother.† I donít give a damn if you were created!† None of us do!† You are one of us.† Youíre not some freak of nature.† Who gives a shit if your mother says that you were created from an artificial womb.

"I donít care if you are different from me.† You are my brother, my twin, my own flesh and blood.† You are you ..."

She slumped against the tree trunk, and Kira blinked, his eyes still devoid of anything, as he saw tears start to fall out of her eyes.† His grip on her hand lessened, and her hand slipped out of his, falling limply to the ground.† His eyes started to lose their severity and returned to their normal state, wide and with realization that he had hurt her ...

"C-Cagalli ..." he whispered before he started to back up from her.† He froze as she reached up and touched his shoulder gently.

"Donít, Kira.† Donít leave us ... okay?† Donít fall away from those who still care for you and will always care for you no matter what the truth is," Cagalli whispered, her voice halting and sad.

Kira sighed before he turned slightly and gave his sister a half-hearted smile that was forlorn and fully if misery.† "All right," he agreed quietly as he reached over his shoulder and gently clasped her hand with his own.

"Weíre your family.† Athrun, me, Lacus ... everyone, including your mother and father," Cagalli said in a quiet voice.

Kira sighed, "But ... you-"

"Kira," she shook her head forcibly, "sheís your mother.† Katherine Hibiki might have been our birth mother, but Kanoko Yamato was the one who raised you to who you are.† You are her son ..."

"Youíre also my brother and my twin," she whispered the last part as she drew her legs up to her chest and rested her chin on them.† "I can somehow feel you inside my mind ..."

Kira placed a hand on her shoulder, "Same here ..."

"Thatís good," she murmured before she gave a small laugh, "I was beginning to wonder if we had that twin-thing or not."† She gave a little smile and was glad that he returned it, even if it was a ghost of it.

"So ... what now?" he asked.

"Stop pouting and being all Ďlet-me-beat-up-myselfí and go see your mother?" she suggested.

Kira froze at the suggestion.† He couldnít see her now ... not ...

"Kira," Cagalli snapped him out of his daze, "stop it.† Sheís your mother ..."

"Yeah ... but ..."

"But nothing.† Tell her how you feel about all of this.† She understands it as much as you do.† Believe me, when she told us about you, even though you were listening outside, you didnít see her face.† She was crying ... she never wanted you to be like you are.† Like our birth mother, she wanted you to live a normal life.† Thatís what she tried to do all her life, to make you feel normal."

"Yeah ..." Kira reluctantly agreed.† He began to realize that even though his mother and father knew that he was not a normal Coordinator, they had tried to keep his life as normal as possible and he was starting to appreciate their efforts.

"Be strong, okay?" Cagalli shook his shoulder, squeezing it once to reassure him.

Before she could remove her hand, he placed his over her and gave it a gentle squeeze.† Looking at his sister he smiled sadly, but his voice was renewed with confidence.† "Thank you, Cagalli."

* * * * *

Athrun watched the whole scene unfold quietly in the shadows.† He knew that at the time, intruding upon what was a time of healing between siblings was probably not the best idea.† He had followed Cagalli out after they had decided to retire for the rest of the night to at least get some sleep before daybreak peaked in a few hours.† He had thought Cagalli would go straight to bed, but she had went outside and he followed quietly behind her, as not to startle her.

Turning away to let his friends have some privacy, he headed back to the spacious mansion, looking up at the clear moonlit sky as his feet meandered their path back up the steps and past the front doors.† A lot of the questions he had when he was a child were finally answered, especially regarding his father and motherís behaviors during his schooling on the Lunar Base.† He now understood why his father was so persistent since he mentioned Kiraís name after first meeting him all those years ago.

But even now, with the revelations that had been told to him, he still couldnít exactly take it all in as the whole truth.† There just canít be the possibility that Kira was created, or even that any of Dr. Ulen Hibikiís experiments were actually experiments.† What Kanoko Yamato said seemed so far out of the reaches of the norm that he had a hard time believing it.

But for one thing certain, it did explain why his father was so interested in the genetics of Coordinators, and why his obsession, even though he was in charge of the history of the structures of PLANT — that was December City, eventually destroyed his friendship with Siegel Clyne.

But still ... the idea of an ultimate Coordinator ... Kira?!† No ... the Kira he knew couldnít be such a thing.† Kira was kind, gentle, sweet, and always caring for others before himself; easily hurt, burdened by so many things that he shouldnít have been burdened by.† There was no way his best friend would ever be something like that twisted sick clone-whatever could be.† No way that Kira would be able to commit such acts.† Kira was a gentle soul.

He on the other hand, had hardened his own soul when the war between ZAFT and Earth had heated up four years ago.† The events of Junius 7 told him that he couldnít afford to be innocent anymore, but the case was different with his best friend.† Kira could afford to be innocent because his parents had no ties to PLANT, no ties to anything, and wanted to live the life of peace.

He hardened his soul so that he would be able to see Kiraís go free ... but now ... he knew that Kiraís soul was more fragile than ever.† He had been blaming himself for the deaths of so many other people and while Athrun knew that he could just spout words of comfort, he knew that they were platitudes of nothing in Kiraís own mind.

"What Mrs. Yamato said, is true, Athrun," Lacusí gentle voice making him turn around to see her walking down one side of the two-ballroom staircase that led to the second floor of the mansion.

"Lacus ... I thought that you had turned in for the night," he noticed that she was dressed in a nightgown with a blue robe wrapped over her that really contrasted her long pink hair.

"I was about to, but your expression when you left the room told me that you had a lot on your mind.† Do you want to talk about it?" she asked.

"No ..." Athrun shook his head, "donít worry about it ... I ... I can sort this out ..."† He was about to turn around and walk away when a sudden impulse made him turn back around and stare up at her.† "Why didnít I know about this earlier?!† I could have found out from my father what happened and why he fell to his own madness.† With this information, I could have prevented him from ever building Genesis!"

Lacus shook her head firmly, "No Athrun, you couldnít have known," she suddenly held up a hand to stop him from interrupting her, "with information like this, if you had known, then eventually the Supreme Council would have known and then the research would have continued.† Many more like Kira would have been born and then there would be the genetic race of ultimate Coordinators to dominate everyone.† You were a soldier, Athrun.† The less you knew, the less the public knew."


"Athrun, I knew something about what happened in Mendel, because my father wanted me to know.† My mother was very unkind to him and I suspected that she had manipulated some of the genes that was used to create the experiments, and tried to alter my own genes.† He wanted me to know that there was a chance, a slim possibility that I could be an ultimate Coordinator and wanted me to take extra care of what I did and how I presented myself to the public.

"But for you ... there were no boundaries.† After you and Cagalli had left, Mrs. Yamato told me that there was more to what Dr. Hibiki had created.† There was something in the genes that if combined with another link, so to speak, then it would activate.† The activation process he thought was something breaking, like a consciousness of sorts, but dubbed the reaction, seed-mode," Lacus said in a measured voice.

Athrun stared in shock.† If what Lacus was saying was true ... then ... he had the genes of being an ultimate Coordinator.† He had experienced seed-mode ... in battle.† It was like a breaking of his battle awareness, a seed that cracked inside of his mind and he could suddenly see his targets in a clearer light.† During that time, time seemed to slow down, enabling him to predict patterns and discard them to directly hit his targets with uncanny accuracy.† He had a faster reaction time, a better sense of control over his Gundam ...

For a few minutes, he couldnít speak, but only stare at the ground in shock as he realized the magnitude of what Lacus was telling him.† "My ... father ..." he braced himself against a railing of the staircase, suddenly feeling as if his chest was constricting his movements.† All of the sudden it was painful to breathe ...

"Athrun," Lacus placed a hand on his shoulder and he looked up at her, "even if you do have the genes of an ultimate Coordinator, you are not one.† You are you ... a normal third generation Coordinator like I am."

"Then what ..."

"You have a slightly harder time going into seed-mode, donít you Athrun?" Lacus asked and Athrun wondered how did she know when he realized that during their battles in Justice and Freedom, their comm. channels were always on, and Lacus was always able to see them switch into seed-mode.

"Yes ..."

"Then that only means you are still human," she explained.

"But ... what about Kira?"

Lacus shook her head, "Kira is Kira ... he will always be himself, just as you are."

Athrun felt better with her words and nodded before letting go of the railing.† "Thank you Lacus ..."† He leaned over and kissed her gently on the cheek before walking away.† Even though she belonged with Kira now, he had always held her in his heart as a special person — a confidant of sorts.† Now, it was no different ...

Truly, he realized, of the four of them, Lacus was probably the most adult — the rest of them children to her guidance.

* * * * *

Lacus touched her cheek where Athrun had kissed her.† It was a gentle friendly kiss, nothing more than that.† He still surprised her at times, always a gentleman and very much different from Kira.† Kira was a lost soul, one that needed her guidance and she was willing to give it whereas Athrun already knew his own path and knew what course he had to take.

Her father had always said that she was much wiser than she acted, and she knew that.† It was a faÁade to act like a naive little girl, oblivious to the outside world and its consequences, but she had always been active in politics since she was born.† Her mother had been one of the researchers working at the labs on Februarius City, home of the biochemistry labs and genetics labs that were used to create first generation Coordinators or to tweak second and third generation Coordinatorís genes.

Her father was heavily involved on the Supreme Council, and so she grew up around everything.† She knew that what Kanoko Yamato had told her was very important and of all the people that were in the room, she had to keep the secret well within the confines of the room.

If word of what happened on Colony Mendel spread throughout PLANT, then there was nothing that Eileen Canaver or herself could do to stop a tidal wave of resentment against Naturals.† After all, Dr. Hibiki was a Natural scientist who had gone mad.† The sheer mention of a Natural that tampered with Coordinator genes to actually try to make an ultimate Coordinator would have all the right-wing factions of both sides screaming for blood.

Lacus knew that both the Earth and PLANT could not afford another war.† Not with the creation of N-Jammer technology and both Genesis and Cyclops in each otherís hands.† It would not be a war anymore; it would be mass genocidal murdering of each other — especially if right-wing factions took over the leadership of both OMNI and ZAFT.† Xenophobia of each other would escalate tensions to the point where everyone would be completely wiped out.

Which was why the next step for the LF and for Orb was to track down whoever was trying to disrupt the peace.† Lacus had a feeling that the attacks on Februarius 3 and Martius 5 were only the beginning of something larger.† Orb was the first step ... and the next step was hitting the Earth then somehow blaming PLANT for it — which meant that they had to find out where was the next target before anything could happen.

Even if Mrs. Yamato had said that the secret must not be let out, Lacus knew that the war between Coordinators and Naturals was inevitable — it was the only question now: How long would the peace last?

And ... could they stop the outbreak of war and keep the peace?

* * * * *

PHASE SEVEN — Decisions to Make

Murrue was quite surprised at the turnout in the massive conference room in the main governmental building of Orb.† This was strictly an LF personnel only, but there were a few people like Lacus Clyne and the LFís main sponsor, Orbís Cagalli Attha, along with a few of the technicians that worked at the technological research facility, like Erica Simmons, and three other people she couldnít have expected.

One was the Kingfisher, who had taken the quickest shuttle PLANT had to offer back down, his face still agitated and nervous, a sign that something had gone up during his investigate since they had talked yesterday.† The other two sat in the back, away from everyone, just eyes in the crowd, but Murrue spotted them clearly.† She had never expected to see both Athrun Zala and Kira Yamato, since they resigned their commissions from their respective armies and settled down into civilian life.

Word of an attempt on Cagalliís life had spread like wildfire, which also accounted for the presence of a lot of armed men that lined the walls.† Orb was taking no chances with its leader, even against her own will.† Murrue didnít really mind as she too was worried about the young womanís safety, but the guardsí blank stares and unmoving bodies did unnerve her slightly.† They were like mannequins in a department store or something like that.

Though she knew that it was important for both PLANT and Earth representatives to be there, which was why Lacus and one of the surviving senators who wasnít seriously injured in the blast, were in the room.† She had thought that both Athrun and Kira had not wanted anything to do with military or the LF.† For them to be here ... it was curious indeed.

She knew that Athrun worked with Erica in the technological department, to develop better mobile suits for the LFís forces, but Kira ... Kira was a university student, which made it odder for him to be in a meeting like this.† Something must have happened during the bombing and the subsequent attempt on Cagalliís life for him to be here ...

"All right, settle down," she held up a hand to quiet down the room, bringing everyone to focus on her.† "First off, before we get started, Iíd like to thank both Senator Tzu and Princess Cagalli for joining us today after making complete and healthy recoveries."

Formalities were not needed, but she felt that she had to include it in, just to keep on the Earthís good side as she most definitely knew that Senator Tzu would be reporting to the Earth military after this briefing.† The polite applause for the two she had mentioned died quickly as she dimmed the lights and turned on the holographic projector next to her stand.

"The recent attacks against both Orb and PLANT have made us more aware of a possible conspiracy.† We had dispatched ships to the various PLANT cities to help quell down rebellions that have erupted there.† Most of the findings we have discovered there were disgruntled Coordinators who resented that they were cheated out of the war.† But on one of the cities, Martius 5, thereís been rumors circulating that merits our attention.

"Captain Quinn Misali and his ship, the Kusanagi had been assigned there.† Captain, your report?" she stepped to the side as she gestured for Quinn to take the stand in which he did, his face grim.

"Martius 5 had been originally assigned as an investigation point before the attacks started, which led me to believe that something was going on," Quinn didnít seem to follow the norms of a normal briefing and instead seemed to be talking from one person to another, "when we got there, there was a rogue group taking pot shots except for one guy.† He had been shouting that everyone should die, both Coordinators and Naturals and even shot a few of his own during the raid.

"When we took him down, we sent his body for an analysis.† The results show a tampering with his genes and modification of his memory.† It was as if he was injected with a brand new set of genes that had nano-technology in them to replace his own genes.† He then probably underwent an extensive mind wipe and reconstruction to make him what he was," Quinnís words were grim and harsh and even Murrue felt her jaw drop slightly in shock.

The tampering of genetic material ... it sounded like Coordinator work, but that couldnít be.† Coordinators had their own set of gene exchange and would never do something that barbaric.† She briefly wondered if it was related to Colony Mendel, but dismissed the idea ... it was too far fetched as Mendel had been abandoned for the last few years.

"Look," Quinn seemed a bit uncomfortable with so many people staring at him like fish out of the water, "Iím not really good at this briefing stuff, but if the results are true, I think the next targets we should be protecting is somewhere on the Earth, most likely an Earth base.† Senator, you know the risks ... I mean if these guys attack an Earth base, then some of OMNI will probably blame ZAFT and then ZAFT will blame OMNI and there goes that ping-pong effect."

"The signs of a build up of military presence around our bases would cause ZAFT to wonder if an invasion is imminent.† Also, it might give the advantage away to whoever is committing this terrorist attack that we are on to their plans.† What if they decide to attack elsewhere?" Senator Tzu asked in a calm and controlled voice — Murrue most definitely knew that the man was a rational thinker and always thought of many options and presented holes in any solution.

"If the suggestion of a build-up of both militaries to try to prevent such a thing from happening is given, then I think that the LF needs to rethink its initial agenda.† The civilian population would begin to wonder if we will go to war again, and if that were to happen, then the terrorist would have won — they would come out saying that the build up of military indicates a return of war and conflict," the Senator continued.

Murrue saw Quinn frown.† She knew that he hated being one-upped by anyone and hoped that he restrained his ego enough from turning this briefing into a shouting match.† "Then what do you suggest, Senator?" Quinn asked, his voice calm, but tight.

"I suggest nothing at all, I am merely pointing out the facts to you, Captain," Senator Tzu said.

"Perhaps, Senator, are you implying that the LF should sit back and do nothing at the moment?† Because if the fear of being attack has stopped everything then ultimately the terrorist have won," Cagalli suddenly spoke up and Murrue hid a grin as she saw that her twist on the Senatorís words took most of the pressure away from Quinn and placed it on the Senatorís shoulders.

"Of course not, Princess," Tzu replied mildly, "I was just concerned about the limited ships the LF has in order to patrol both the main bases of OMNI and the PLANT cities along with Orb itself."

"Captain, what other analysis did you receive from the other ships around the region concerning possibility of an attack?" Murrue suddenly spoke up, trying to prevent a mini bloodbath between the Senator, Cagalli, and Quinn.† She really couldnít believe the ridiculousness of everyone trying to bait each other, even if their suggestions were valid.† The only senior ranking person that seemed to be keeping their cool was Lacus Clyne and she hadnít said anything yet.

"Itís all scattering, random attacks, but most definitely aimed at PLANT.† Thatís why I think the best idea right now is to just check the OMNI bases and major cities on Earth that have the highest risk.† We can send in small teams to camp out and watch for any activity before we move the big ships in," Quinn suggested.

"It is a feasible idea, if not that bright, Captain.† Since there is little we can do now, I will talk to OMNI and the President about your suggestion.† However, no authorization will be given to the LFís warships to enter OMNI ports unless in extreme situations," Senator Tzu said before she stood up and brushed imaginary lint from her expensive looking suit, "now if you would all excuse me, I have other pressing matters to attend to.† Good day."

Murrue was surprised at the abruptness of the Senatorís departure, but didnít show it as Quinn left the podium and sat back down in the front row of the briefing room, letting her take the stand.† As soon as the door hissed shut from Tzuís departure, she flipped to another projection, this time of the Earth.

"The most viable targets that are OMNI bases near civilian cities are these ..."

* * * * *

It was much later, after the briefing and into the wee hours of the early evening, when Murrue still found herself in her office aboard the Archangel.† She was looking through reports, of both combat situations and ship maintenance.† As a captain of a ship she knew that she had to regularly check and fill out reports to give to Orb as any type of military force would do, but she hated doing that.† Most of the time she could handle reports on ship maintenance and combat situations, it was only the death reports that she hated dealing with.† But even now, her reports were beginning to look tiring to her eyes and she blinked them a few times to keep her vision from blurring.

A sharp rapping knock startled her and nearly made her spill some of the paper reports onto the ground.† She looked up, rubbing her eyes furiously before saying, "Come."

The door hissed open to reveal Quinn, holding two cups of coffee.† He stepped in and placed one on the edge of her table before sitting himself down on one of the two chairs facing her desk before propping his feet up on the other end of her table.

Murrue blinked a bit before taking the coffee and sipping it, letting the warmth of it run down her throat and reviving her tired eyes.† She then glared pointedly at Quinn who shrugged and removed his feet from her desk.

"Thought you needed it after today," he said in a conversational tone.

"Thanks," she replied, setting the cup down, "anything I can do for you?"

"Ouch," Quinn winced, "youíre in a good mood right now."

She gestured to the reports strewn across her desk, "Try these."

"Hey, I do that too, except not with a perpetual frown.† Jeez, after all these years youíve become bitter," he said.

"War can do that to you," she snapped at him, irritated.

"Weíre not in a war right now ... well, actually, belay that.† Weíre in between wars," Quinn replied and Murrue raised and eyebrow at his attempt to humorous.

She decided to ignore him and continued to look through the reports, but somehow she was distracted after Quinn had come in.† She looked up to see him staring intently at her and frowned.† "What?"

"You.† Just wondering why you look like hell," Quinn asked and Murrue was about to reprimand him when she sighed heavily and shook her head.

"Iím not cut out to be a captain, or to be in command of such a task force like the LF† I donít even know why Iím here.† I mean you saw the briefing ... Senator Tzu basically wrestled control away from my hands.† How can I command ships without even contending with a troublesome Senator?" she set the report she had been reading to the side and took another sip of the coffee.

"Murrue, politics are always like this.† Iíve seen you in action.† Sure you may think youíre not good as a captain, but youíre one of the most humane ones in any fleet, both OMNI and ZAFT.† You tend to think with your heart and not by the book," Quinn said, setting his cup of coffee on a corner of her table where his feet were previously occupying it.

Murrue froze at Quinnís sentiments.† They were close to what she and Mu had discussed during the lull in combat after they had went rogue before the Dominion found them.† Hearing those words in almost the same exact way brought painful memories to the surface of her consciousness.

"Thatís what Mu used to say ..." she whispered as she felt tears spring to the corner of her eyes, but they did not fall.

She looked up at Quinn and saw a stricken expression on his face before he hastily apologized.† "Iím sorry Murrue.† Itís just that ... well ..."

She attempted a smile to calm him down but it was a sorrowful smile.† "Itís okay Quinn ... † Probably everyone knows that ..."

"No, no ... please, let me explain ..." Quinn waved his hands, "I didnít mean to infringe upon the territory that youíve created with Mu and I feel awful about it.† I mean, I used to know him back from my special ops days ... and I told him about you, well, I didnít mention your name, but I mentioned that I knew someone who was bound to become a captain, but one of the most humane captains like Admiral Halberton.† I didnít expect the two of you to meet up ... so ..."

Murrue genuinely smiled, "Thank you ..."

"So ... um ..." Quinn suddenly picked up his mug downed some of its contents before setting it back down again.† "How do you think Mu would react to whatís happening now?"

Murrue knew that Quinn was avoiding saying that Mu was dead or any reference to death for the fear of her breaking down and she appreciated his efforts.† "Honestly ... crack a joke of sorts before hopping into the Strike or Mobieus Zero and shooting down whoeverís responsible."

Quinn laughed lightly, "Yeah ... youíre probably right."

"He would be concerned about the safety of everyone else though ..." she sighed wistfully, imagining that Mu right now would be checking up on the pilots and perhaps Kira and Athrun, even Cagalli to make sure they were really all right.† The bombing had given everyone a scare, and she knew that Mu would have raced to the scene to try to do something.

"What about the teams?"

Murrue shook her head, "The idea is feasible, but weíre spread too thinly.† I might have to pull some of the other ships like the Osiris and Aluwin from their ZAFT ports to help patrol the OMNI ports, but OMNI would go nuts if they found out."

"Well, Iím headed back to the Kusanagi tomorrow so Iíll be able to find out some more things and send it your way," Quinn said and Murrue nodded.

"If weíre hit with a pronged attack, it would be bad for us.† Though the Archangel is getting more supplies of the latest Astray models, it might not be enough," she said, a frown appearing on her face.

"I still get the feeling that this is just a warm up for something bigger, but what ..." Quinn voiced his thoughts.

Murrue silently agreed as she took another sip of her coffee, but this time, it chilled her instead of warming her.† Somehow, she knew that whenever the next attack came, whether it be Earth, PLANT, or Orb it would bring everyone to the brink of a new war ...

They had to prevent it before anything else could happen.

* * * * *

The overhead lights on the highway passed by at regular intervals, the car doing a steady 70 miles per hour.† Athrun would have gone faster, if not for the fact that he was in deep thought and was doing all the basic functions of driving automatically.† Kira and the others were already back at the mansion, eating dinner, but he had opted, after the briefing was over, to just drive around.† He wanted to think alone, without anyone bothering him — and most likely Cagalli worrying over him.

He didnít mind her worrying, it was that he needed some time to think things through alone.† As he drove, he wondered about todayís briefing ... † Though they all got at least some sleep, Athrun had known about todayís briefing from Erica Simmons, and while he never attended any of the LFís briefings, something inside of him told him that todayís was important, and it had been important.

The night before, after he had finished talking with Lacus, he laid in bed, thinking about his life.† He loved the peace and quiet he had as a civilian working with Erica, but there had also been something missing from him.† It was the soldier inside of him, yearning to do something to help protect others.† The bombings told him that even as a civilian he was almost unable to protect any of his friends from being seriously injured.

So should he go back to the military life?† Should he once again, take up arms?

Inwardly, he knew that he had already prepared himself for something like this.† It was sitting in a deep level of the building he worked at, a secret from almost everyone save him, a few technicians, and Erica.† Even Cagalli never knew the secret that lay dormant in the deep levels of the former Morganroete building ... † He wondered if it was the right thing ... to build something so destructive without her knowledge, after all, she was the leader of Orb and the voice moderating the peace talks.

The problem was that if the Earth and PLANT found out about the secret, there were many ways they would interpret their findings.† One most likely case was both would be outraged at the LF and Orb — and subsequently demand that the LF be disbanded because they were going to use their weapons to impose themselves and take over the whole of the Earth and PLANTs.

Both factions would then demand that the weapons be turned over to either side — and it might escalate the situation back into war once more.† Which also wasnít a good step.† But the namesakes of the weapons were to ensure that peace survived and that the LF was doing the right thing.

But actually taking up arms once more ... †

Ever since he had joined the Clyne Faction and deserted ZAFT, he had always felt unsure of his position to moderate peace.† The soldier inside of him wanted to protect PLANT from any harmful interest from the Earth and wanted him to remember his father and mother.† The gentle side, the civilian, wanted him to protect Cagalli from harm, from being manipulated by both the Earth and PLANT.† But did he want to actually shoot a gun, pilot a mobile suit, infiltrate an enemyís territory to gather intelligence again?† Was he happy with his life so far?

The answer was two sided and Athrun gripped the wheel tighter as he thought about it.† He loved the peaceful life he had for the past two years.† First living with Mariko on his little island and with all the war orphans, then living in Orb and finding that peace was enjoyable and almost returning to the life he once had on the moon in prep school.

He couldnít say that he loved fighting, nor did he enjoy it, but it felt like an integral part of his life.† The war times made him see the ugly and good side of both ZAFT and OMNI.† It was a sharper perspective on the situations between a Coordinator and a Natural, unlike peace where civilian life was hardly given any news concerning how tense situations were or how the military was really doing.

"I.D. please," a deep gruff voice startled him out of his musings and he realized that unconsciously, he had driven to his workplace, the former Morganroete building.† He hastily took out his I.D., which he always kept by his side and showed it to the guard who checked it then nodded and handed it back to him.

Athrun drove through the lowered gates and winded his way through the parking lot, finding a space close and parking in it.† He got out and locked his car before jamming his hands into his pants pockets and walked inside the building.

Getting into an elevator, he took his card out again and swiped it through a magnetic reader that allowed him access to the deepest levels where the secret project was being kept.† No one else save a few technicians sworn to secrecy and Erica would be able to do a successful swipe of their I.D. card.† If they tried, then security guards would be all over them in less than ten seconds.

A keypad popped out underneath the reader and he tapped in the sub-level he wanted before the elevator took him down.† It only took a few seconds before the doors pinged open and Athrun stepped out.

He blinked in surprise as he saw Erica Simmons sitting at the main console overlooking the hanger bay that stored the two secret weapons they built.† "Didnít expect to see you here ..." he greeted her as he walked over and peered over her shoulder to see what she was doing.

"I had a sixth sense youíd be coming down here today after what was explained during Captain Ramiusí briefing.† Theyíre in perfect condition, all ready to be deployed," she tilted her head up, indicating the two weaponry.

"Yeah," Athrun stared at one of the two weapons, his mind running over the memories of the weapons that had been thought to be destroyed in the war two years ago and while they had, he had found the plans, inherited by his father, and rebuilt them with Ericaís help.† "Problem is ... are they actually needed?"

"One never knows," Erica replied as he sat down next to her in a swivel chair.† He hunched forward and rested his head on his hands that were folded on an empty part of the console board.

"Erica ... be honest.† If I bring this out to help the LF, would I actually be doing good or just fulfilling my role as a soldier?" he asked, still staring at one of the two weapons.

"Well," Erica pulled her hair back before leaning back in her swivel chair and stretching.† "I think it would be both, to be honest with you.† I mean, you were once a soldier and you still have that instinctive training within you.† Your reaction time has not faded, meaning you still keep active in whatever you like to do.† Maybe thatís why you wanted to find work here.† You never wanted to be far away from technology because you love it so much."

"But that means-"

"No, not really.† It doesnít mean that you love war; it means that you just like to do things that you like to do.† Think about it ... when you were with ZAFT, did they let you close to any mobile suit you can tinker with?† I mean not by rewriting the OS programs or anything, but like really tinkering and building," Erica tilted her head to the side and Athrun looked at her.

"No, not really," he replied.

"So, this is your chance to help and build things.† Itís your chance to help ensure that peace still exist and if need be, weapons such as mobile suits or the G-units that Kiraís so fond of calling Gundams, have to exist.† You donít have to use these weapons, but itís ultimately up to you to decide."

"So ... should I?"

"Should you what?† Pilot it or join the LF?† Well," Erica shrugged, "itís really up to you.† My question to you is ... are you happy right now?"

"Yes," Athrun said but then hesitated, "No ... I donít know.† I mean I like it because itís peaceful and it reminds me of a better time before the war, but ... itís not the same."

"So your real dilemma is, should you leave Cagalli here in Orb and go with the LF or stay and protect her."

Athrun balked at the statement, staring at Erica.† "Cagalli-"

"I may be no psychologist, but during that meeting today, I saw that you were really worried for the Princessí safety.† Now Iím not the one to pry into peopleís lives, but you truly love her and care for her more than anyone save Kira.† Somehow I get the feeling that youíre afraid of losing her, though I donít think itís to Kira oddly, but youíre afraid that if you go off with the LF, and you one day come back, she might not be there.† Youíre afraid of some terrorist trying to assassinate her and you wonít be there to protect her."

Athrun froze.† Aside from a few mistakes that he knew wasnít her fault, especially those on Kira, she had basically hit his biggest fear dead on.† He was afraid of losing Cagalli ... he was afraid that she would be ripped away from him much like almost everyone that was close to him.† During the war, he had been afraid of losing Kira, his best friend, and when he had Ďkilledí him, he tried to deny that fear into a revenge for Kira killing Nicol.† But when Cagalli shouted at him and forced him to realize that he had actually killed one of the dearest persons he held in his heart, he realized that he didnít want to lose anyone close to him anymore.

That was why he chose to pilot Justice.† He wanted to protect all those that were dear to him — even Kira in his Freedom.† He didnít want to lose anyone else.† Inwardly, he realized that he already knew the answer to his own question.

"If itís to stop whoeverís doing this and to protect all that I love," he stared at the gray face of one of two most powerful G-units ever built, "Iíll pilot the Justice Gundam again."

* * * * *

PHASE EIGHT — Returning to the Battlefield

Cagalli awoke to bright sunshine casting vertical beams into her room, little slits in the places where her curtains couldnít hold together.† She squinted slightly at the brightness of the light and glanced to her end table where a digital clock was blinking the time.† It was still fairly early in the morning and she wondered why she had awakened so early.


The mechanical swish of wings made her look up to the end of her bed where Tori was perched, its head tilted and looking at her before giving a slight mechanical flutter of its wings.

"Myta!† Myta!† Haro!" a sudden red colored Haro bounced up from the floor and tried to land on Tori, who flew up into the air to avoid being smashed by the Haro who was trying to chase it.

Cagalli frowned as she saw the two robotic creatures chase each other around.† She gave a soft groan of annoyance before she took one of her two pillows and placed it on her face in an effort to curb the noise the two were making.† There was hell to pay for whoever let the two in.† As she tried to block out the noise by squeezing the pillows over her ears, she belatedly realized that with all her efforts she still couldnít go back to sleep.

"Argh!" she finally took the pillow off of her face and opened her eyes, glaring at the ceiling of her four-poster bed.† She sat up and chucked a pillow at both Haro and Tori and was mildly surprised to see it smack her Haro in the face before falling to the ground.

"Haro!† That wasnít nice!" her Haro said in an indignant electronic voice but got the point as it bounded out of her room, Tori following it.

She flopped back down onto her bed, too awake to go back to sleep and sighed.† Though she was still officially on recovery status, leaving the governing of Orb in the hands of the Councilors that had recovered with less injury than she had, she still felt like she needed to do something.† After the briefing yesterday, she had talked with Erica on transporting a few of the newest Astray Mark II models to the Archangel which was going to be heading out of port and over to Panama where it would coordinate with top OMNI officials to try to prevent surprise attacks like those that caught the PLANT cities of Martius 5 and Februarius 3 off guard.

Though Orb had no real direct control of the workings of the LF, they were a major sponsor of funding and so Cagalli had the last say on certain things happening in the LF — otherwise it was just an independent military force, united by common bonds of peace and cooperation.

She rolled over and got out of bed, pulling some clothing from her wardrobe.† Since there were no real important meetings for her to be in, she decided on casual clothing and went into the bathroom that was adjacent to her room.† She quickly showered and cleaned up before she changed into her clothes and stepped out, feeling more awake, the tiredness gone from her body and eyes.

As she opened the door and headed downstairs, she heard the distant cry of "Tori!" followed by a multitude of "Haro! Myta!" and realized that with her and Lacus in the same house, that meant double the number of Haros rolling around.† Though she loved the Haros Athrun built for her, having twice as many ... she wished she could just shut all of them off.

"Good morning Princess," one of the servants, all loyal to her father and now to her, greeted her and she nodded a morning greeting, trying to suppress a yawn.† She headed downstairs where she saw the butler of the house approaching her.

"Princess, the councilors would like to talk to you after your morning meal.† It concerns the Senate and what proceedings should everyone take in wake of the bombing.† Also there is the departure of the Archangel today and might I suggest that you take some time to visit the students that were wounded in the blast — it would provide an opportunity to tell others that Orb has not faltered."

"I know ..." she said in a tired voice.† "Tell the councilors Iíll talk to them this evening.† I want to spend the morning going over the specs of the new Astrays with Erica before theyíre to be loaded onto the Archangel.† Schedule sometime in the late afternoon a trip to the hospital.† Give me all the names of the students that are still hospitalized.† Schedule sometime tomorrow a visit with the students that had been treated and released.† I want to talk to every student including their parents if theyíve passed away."

Cagalli was sick of giving something to the press to show that Orb was still on its feet, but she also knew that as a leader she was responsible for overseeing the safety of her own people.† She had already tried comforting Kira ... but she felt like she needed another outlet.† Pouring all of her frustrations onto Athrun wasnít a good way, as she didnít want to burden him further — especially in light of the information they had found out from Mrs. Yamato.

If her butler was surprised, he didnít show it, and instead nodded, "Very good, Princess.† I will see that it is done."† He left and Cagalli continued on her way.

She briefly wondered where Athrun was, as she had not seen him since last night ... it was odd ...

* * * * *

Kira didnít even know why he was at the hanger bay where the Archangel was docked; much less even know why he had attended yesterdayís briefing.† He supposed that he missed seeing Sai and Miri and wanted to get a chance to say hi before they were to depart on their next mission, but his mind was in such turmoil.† Even with Cagalli telling him to be strong, he still couldnít as doubt ate at his every action.

He had begun to question everything he did, everything he had done ... but silently as he didnít want to worry his friends further.† He jammed his hands deep into the pockets of the windbreaker he was wearing, the hanger bay a bit more chilled than he would have liked in the summer heat.† He saw technicians scrambling all over the place, working on last minute repairs or moving supplies onto the ship.

After leaving the Archangel for two years, he realized that the ship hadnít changed much.† The paint was as bright as the day it burst from its docking bay on Heliopolis and into the middle of Rau and Muís battle, and there werenít any apparent signs of damage from all the battles the ship had been through.† He felt a twinge of nostalgia for the days that he lived aboard the only thing he called home for the better part of a year, but quashed it immediately.

Even with the briefing, he had felt the pull to return to help defend all those who couldnít defend themselves, but he didnít want to be embroiled by death and destruction all around him anymore.† With Freedom destroyed, it was his salvation to live the life of peace — but he still questioned that why was he still alive while millions of others were dead, either by his hand or by others.

He still questioned his own actions in the war — blinding fighting just to protect his friends, but even failing at that for the most part.† He had let Tolle die because he didnít try hard enough to prevent his Skygrasper from flying close to his and Athrunís vicious battle.† He had let Mu die because he failed to stop the Dominion from firing its Lohengrin cannons.† He had not stopped Rau sooner from destroying the shuttle that Flay was on, or from heavily injuring Mu and the Strike.† He had not stop his own bloodlust from destroying Athrunís friend Nicol and had not stopped himself from giving grief to Nicolís parents.

He had not saved the shuttle with the little girl who gave him a flower.

All those lives ...

"Kira," Miriís voice made him look up from his musings and he saw both Miriallia Haw and Dearka Elsman walking towards him.

Miri hugged him briefly before stepping back and Dearka held out his hand to which Kira shook.† "What are you doing here?" she asked.

He shrugged before gesturing to the Archangel, "I heard that you guys had your next mission so I guess I wanted to see you before you left."† He attempted a small smile, hoping that Miri wouldnít be able to see past it.† He still wasnít too comfortable talking with Dearka, even though they fought together in the Clyne Faction during the war.

"Iíll go get Sai," apparently Dearka also wasnít comfortable talking with him either and went off into one of the Archangelís hatches to grab Sai Argyle.

"So ... how are you feeling Kira?† I heard that your class was also in the ..." Miri trailed off, looking a bit uncertain and Kira placed a hand on her shoulder.

"Iím better.† The doctors said the stitches should come off in a day or so," he reassured her before taking his hand off and letting it hang limply by his side.

"Thatís good," Miri smiled, "You know ... um ..."

There was an awkward moment of silence and in that short period, Kira realized that since he had left the Archangel, his friendship with Miri and even Sai had been growing further and farther apart.† He was a civilian ... they were part of the military — they didnít really have any common ground except for the fact that they were all friends back on Heliopolis.† Talking about Heliopolis was always painful especially witnessing the destruction of their own home colony ... so ...

"Kira!" Sai called from the hatch that Dearka had went in a few minutes ago and ran over.† Moments later, Tori flew from wherever it had been flying around and perched on Saiís shoulder, giving him and inquisitive look before it hopped over to Kiraís.


"I see you still have Tori," Sai shook hands with him, smiling slightly.

"Yeah," he replied, "so ... um ... how long are you going to be out?"

Sai shrugged, "I donít really know.† Captain hasnít given us the full details yet, but weíll probably stay Earth-bound for now."

"Oh," Kira realized that they were probably going to be split up into small teams and suddenly was worried for them.

"Well, um, Captainís gotten me to prep the ship, so I shouldnít really stick out here too long," Sai suddenly broke the silence, looking a bit awkward and hesitant.

"I should also go and help.† Theyíre bringing in the new Astray models so ..." Miri also looked a bit ashamed at leaving so soon but Kira shook his head.

"Itís okay.† You guys be careful, all right?" he clapped Sai on the shoulder.

"Yeah.† You too Kira," Sai gave a small smile before he and Miri turned and walked back to the ship.

Kira watched them go and some part of him, he felt alone once more.

* * * * *

Athrun sat in front of the controls of the Justice, feeling a familiar swell of anticipation that he had never felt since the last time he had first gotten into Justice over two years ago.† As he flicked on the power and did a systems check, his fingers running over the keyboard quickly, his eyes taking in the information, he thought back to what had happened only a few hours ago.

He had told Lacus that he was joining the LF and that the Justice and Freedom Gundams had been rebuilt, but she was the only one who knew.† He didnít know how to tell Cagalli or worst, Kira.† Part of him was afraid of their reactions ... † Though he didnít know if Cagalli or Kira was going to be seeing the ship off, he most likely suspected that Cagalli was going to be there ... and therefore see him load up the Justice onto the Archangel.

He didnít want to leave them without any warning ... but ...

"Status check," the buzz of his comm. system made him look at it for a second before he looked out of the main tri-window cockpit, seeing a technician waving to him from the console Erica had occupied the night before.

He ran his eyes over the results before replying, "All green."

"Roger that, Justice.† Good luck out there," the technician started up the elevator to take him up to ground level where he would be able to load up onto the Archangel.† He had told Murrue this morning that Justice had been rebuilt and he was joining them, but he didnít know if she told the rest of her crew.

"Thanks," he replied as the giant elevator propelled him and Justice upwards.

As the elevator went up, Athrun shifted in his flightsuit, the traditional orange-white of Orb.† He was ZAFT no more so he felt that wearing his uniform and flightsuit, the red colors of ZAFT was a bit awkward and had asked for an Orb LF uniform.† He didnít really know if Dearka was still wearing the red colors, but he did know that majority of the crew of the Archangel still wore the colors of the OMNI forces.

As the lift slowed down and then stopped, he moved Justice forward out of the lift to the hanger bay.† As he rounded a corner, the Archangel came into view and on the upper left hand corner of his middle screen, Miriís face appeared.† "Justice are you ready to board?"

So the crew did know that Justice had been rebuilt and he nodded.† "Have all the Astrays been loaded?"

"Yes.† It will be a tight fit, but when we get to Panama, weíll be meeting up with the Eternal to give them some of the Astrays," Miri replied.

"Didnít expect to see you here," Dearkaís grinning face suddenly appeared underneath Miriís.† "They didnít tell us ... well, the Captainís probably told the main crew, but hey ... this is a surprise."

"Iíve given it some thought," Athrun replied before Dearka waved a hasty goodbye and terminated the link.

"Did you tell Kira about this?" Miri asked, her voice full of concern and Athrun shook his head.

"No ..."

"You might want to ... heís here ..." Miri said and Athrun looked beyond the Archangel to see Kira, standing to the side of the dock near some piles of crates, a shocked expression on his face.

"Oh ..." the flightsuit suddenly felt a bit restraining, "thank you Miri."

Miri didnít say anything, but nodded and terminated the link.† Athrun moved forward and clomped into the Archangelís hanger bay, noticing that Miriís statement about having a tight fit was correct.† The Archangel was holding a lot of the new Astray models, and he barely got Justice to fit in.† As clamps latched on, holding his mobile suit in place, he opened the cockpit hatch and rode down on a cable near the side of his Gundam.

"Hey kid, welcome aboard," Murdoch, the head technician aboard the Archangel greeted him with a friendly slap to his back, "havenít seen you since the cease-fire.† Good to have you and that suit aboard again."

Athrun nodded, somehow feeling that if he said ĎGood to be backí it wouldnít sit well with his own conscience.† "Iíll be back in a few minutes.† How much time do we have before we take off?"

"About half-hour.† Better hurry kid," Murdoch replied before he took off.

He ran outside to the dock and skidded to a stop as he saw Kira who stared at him with confused eyes.† Tori flew from his shoulder and Athrun raised a hand to let the bird perch on his fingers as he walked forward to meet his best friend.

"Hi Kira," he greeted.

"Athrun ..." Kiraís gaze was an open wound, "h-how ... why ..."

It was the same look Athrun saw five years ago when they had parted ways.† "Itís not for war ..." he found himself saying, "I ... want to protect you ... † Protect Cagalli ... protect everyone whoís dear to me ..."

"But ..."

Athrun sighed sadly as Tori flitted from his fingers to his shoulder.† "During that blast ... I felt so helpless.† Cagalli was injured ... you were near death ... I felt so powerless.† After what ... your mother told us," he hesitated slightly and saw a new pain spring to his best friendís eyes, "I wanted to stop whoever was doing this.† I ... didnít want them to hurt you anymore, Kira."

"Do you remember what you told me when we were living with Mariko?" Kira started in a quiet voice.

"Yes ..." Athrun couldnít really catch what his best friend was getting at, "I said that the reason we were alive was to make up for things ..."

"But is rebuilding Justice and taking it out to war the right way to make up for us to be alive while so many others are dead?" Kira asked.

Athrun turned away from his friendís open and vulnerable look, finding a sudden spot on the ground next to his feet very interesting.† "Itís not war ... itís defending those we care about and those we love."

"But ..." Kiraís voice broke, "itís killing others by taking something so deadly as that machine!"

Athrun clenched a fist tightly before he looked up and met Kiraís open gaze, forcing himself not to flinch from it.† "With anything in your possession, you donít necessarily have to kill with it.† You fought in Freedom to only disable because it wasnít in your nature to kill ... but ... Iím different from you ..."† He glanced at the Archangel for a second before turning back, "I was a trained soldier ..."

"But even as a soldier, you donít have to kill ..."

Athrun smiled sadly as he reached out and placed a hand on Kiraís shoulder, "Which is why Iím not ... unless it is absolutely necessary.† Kira ... youíre a gentle soul and you should have never had the burdens you carry on you.† Let me ... let Cagalli ... let Lacus carry your burdens for now.† Please ..."

"Departure in five minutes.† All hands report to your stations!" a general announcement came from the speakers within and outside of the Archangel.

Athrun let go of Kiraís shoulder and held up his right hand to his own shoulder and Tori hopped onto it.† He held out his hand, Tori fluttering its wings.† There were no words exchanged between them, but Athrun smiled as Kira reached his hand out to receive Tori.

It was only a few seconds of silence between them, but it lasted an eternity.† The flashes of memories passing between them of all the times they had, both good and bad ... the battles they fought together and against each other.† The memory of prep school ... of the recent bombings ... finding out the truth of Kiraís origins ... everything.

How did two childhood friends become the worst of enemies?† How did they become the best of friends afterwards?† Simple.† They trusted each other completely.

Athrun was the first to turn away and walked back into the Archangel, not looking back.† He could feel Kiraís eyes on him the whole time and a small wistful smile appeared on his lips.† Kira needed someone else to carry his heavy burden ... and he hoped he was up to the challenge.

"Athrun!" Cagalliís voice brought him to look around to see her running towards him, dressed in what would be the orange jackets of Orb and the LF.† Beyond her he saw Erica and Lacus, watching them.† He stumbled back slightly as Cagalli hugged him tightly, using all of her weight.† She buried her face in his shoulder and he could feel a wet spot begin to form where her eyes were and realized that she was crying.

"Why?!" her voice was muffled, but Athrun wrapped an arm around her waist while his other arm stroked her hair.

He released her after a few seconds and she stared up at him with tear-stained eyes.† "Why Athrun?† I thought you were happy with you life here ..."

"I am," he replied in a gentle voice, his left hand tracing the outlines of her face, "I am happy.† But ... I can do more if Iím out there. †I can protect you from further harm ..."

"You can protect me by staying here ..." Cagalli sniffled, wiping her eyes roughly but the tears didnít stop.

Athrun sighed and stared at the wall on his right before looking back down at her.† "I want to stop them, Cagalli," he started in a hesitant voice, "I want to stop the bastards who did this.† They were aiming to take you out and I should have seen it coming.

"Please," he tilted her chin up so that she was looking into his eyes, "donít stop me ... all right?"† He leaned down and kissed her gently, until he felt her deepening the kiss and he obliged.† Drawing her up into his arms, he closed his eyes.† They both parted a couple of minutes later Cagalliís face tinged red while Athrun smiled at her blushing.† She looked cute blushing, he thought as he held her at arms length.

"A-Athrun," Cagalli stammered.

"I will come back safely ... donít worry," he pushed her gently back and she didnít resist his efforts.

He raised a hand and pushed the door close button on the hatch and watched as it immediately snapped shut between them, startling Cagalli out of her frazzled state.† The door automatically locked as the rumble of the engines coming online for the Archangel buzzed through the walls.

Cagalli pounded against the door, her eyes filled with tears, but Athrun just waved a good-bye to her as the ship began to move out of port.† He saw her hastily step back still calling his name silently as he watched her grow farther and farther away ... † Soon she was blended within the gray and blue of the fading port and emerging sea that surrounded the main island of nation.† Athrun turned his gaze to the blue skies above him.

He had returned to the battlefield once more — but this time, not for war, but to keep the peace and to protect his friends and loved ones.

* * * * *

PHASE NINE — Indecisive Thoughts

Kira walked numbly from the taxi that had brought him back to the front gates of Cagalliís estate back to the mansion, feeling none of the sweltering summer heat that defined mid-afternoon.† All he thought about was that Athrun had left ... to return to the battlefield and the Justice Gundam had been rebuilt.† A part of his numbed mind knew that Athrun must have started the project ever since he inherited the plans from his fatherís passing, but another part couldnít accept the fact that one of the deadliest weapons ever to fly in space and on Earth had been rebuilt — all for the sake of keeping the peace.

What peace was there when weapons existed?† How could the creation of weapons be able to keep the peace without killing others?† Wasnít the purpose of a weapon to kill?† He didnít know the answer, but he still reeling from the sudden shock that Athrun had joined the LF.

As he walked in, Cagalliís butler holding the door open for him, he climbed the stairs to his room.† His feet wandered around his room before he sat down on the bed he was given.† He shared an apartment with Athrun, deciding not to live with his parents because of too many questions he wanted to ask them, even though many of them had been answered — he still had a lot more.† That apartment was now empty ... as it had been for the last few days.

Perhaps he should return to his normal life.† See Haruka and Taylor in the hospital as he found out that his friends survived — especially in light of Harukaís grave condition.† Go back to finish his last year of school ... get his degree ...

And then what?

He had his options, but was he happy with them?† Was he happy with his own life?

The half-length mirror in front of the desk across from his bed reflected his pensive and sullen gaze and he stared at himself.† It was the endless mirror concept, the other side of his bed possessing another exact copy of the mirror — lined up the same way.† It showed the endless reflection of himself, hunched over on his bed, staring at himself in the mirror.

This is what you look like, a part of him seemed to say, you are haunted, tired, and alone.† All alone.

As he turned away from his own reflection, he finally noticed an envelope that was resting on the corner of the desk. †He got up and went over to his desk and picked up the envelope.† A jagged scrawl of his name was all that told Kira that whatever was in the envelope was from Athrun.

He opened it up and pulled out a two-page letter and began to read:


I apologize for not being able to tell you this in person.† If youíve already saw the Justice Gundam, then you know that I plan to join the Liberation Forces.† The question that you might be thinking is why?

Why do this?† Why start the process of killing others again?† Well, I feel that it isnít killing others.† It is for the sake of protecting others.† Those Ďothersí are you, Lacus, and Cagalli.† All of you are dear to me, but I worry the most for you as you are my best friend and like my own brother.

Remember the times we had in the Lunar Prep School?† You used to be picked on so much by the bullies that I had to come rescue you each time you punched one of them and gave them a bloodied nose.† It wasnít because you couldnít defend yourself, no you knew the basics of defense, it was because I worried about how your actions would affect you personally.

You have more than a gentle soul, Kira.† You donít have to fight this battle anymore.† Let the others carry the burden for you.† Itís not your nature to fight as you grew up with parents who loved you dearly.† Trust in them, as they trust in you.

To you, right now, it may seem that they are not your parents at all, but they are.† You are very lucky to have them stand by your side through everything.† Even though your secret was shrouded and revealed by the worst possible person and moment, donít isolate yourself to us and to the world.

I donít care if you were Ďcreatedí or born in an artificial womb.† You are still the Kira I met all those years ago — the guy with the fun personality and great character.† You are my best friend and brother; the only family I have left.

And as your guardian brother and best friend, this was why I rebuilt Justice and joined the LF.† A brother should always protect his family members and so now, I am protecting you like I am protecting Cagalli and Lacus.

Please, return to the gentle nature youíve had before the war.† Donít forget about what youíve been fighting for, but donít dwell on it.† You are you — nothing more, nothing less.† You are a Coordinator, a Natural, and everything in between.

I know youíve been giving thought to help rebuild Heliopolis in L3, so if you want to give Erica Simmons a hand in jump starting the program, enclosed is a little something I thought you should have to help you on your way.

I donít know when Iíll be back, but in the meantime, watch over Cagalli, all right?† She keeps saying that sheís the older one of you two, but she also needs protection.† Keep an eye on yourself too.

- Athrun

Kira placed the letter back on the desk and opened up the envelope.† He dumped out the contents inside and an I.D. card clattered out.† Picking it up, he turned it around and saw that it was exactly like Athrunís I.D. card that he used to get in and out of the technical research building he worked in, except his own picture was on it.

He stared at it for a few minutes; all the while he felt a deep anger simmering inside of him.† That anger started to boil second by second as he kept staring at the I.D. badge.† Finally, he let out a yell of frustration and threw the I.D. card hard against the wall to his left where it bounced and clattered to the ground.† He held up the letter that Athrun wrote and crumpled it up, grunting as he threw the balled up letter against the same wall where it rebounded and rolled to a stop.

How dare Athrun do this to him!† How dare he give a sympathetic letter and expect him to understand everything!† How dare he, Cagalli, and even Lacus think the way they thought he would!† No one understood him!† No one!† No one knew what he was going through!

"AHHHHHHHH!" he screamed out his frustration before he collapsed to his knees, out of breath, his hands curled into fists.† He suddenly lashed out against the deskís drawers and punched it rapidly with his right fist.† With each hit, he felt the wood creak from the constant pressure but he didnít care.

Kira finally stopped as an acute pain flashed from his knuckles and he heaved a heavy sigh, slumping over before he stared at his bloodied fist, noticing the trails of little cuts that bled, lacing his knuckles.

"Kira?" Cagalli poked her head in and Kira looked up, surprised that he hadnít even heard her come in.† "Kira!† What did you do?!" she noticed the bashed in desk drawers and him on the ground staring at his knuckles.† Kneeling down next to him, she reached out to hold his injured hand, but Kira raised his arm up from her reach and glared at her.

"Donít touch me," he growled at her, the anger inside of him still boiling.

"Kira?† Whatís wrong?" Cagalli looked at him confused but Kira just shook his head, a mirthless, bitter laugh forced out of his lips.

"Donít think you didnít know.† You knew that Athrun was going to leave, didnít you?!† You told him what happened when we talked after my parents told you about my secret, didnít you?!" he glared at her.

"Kira, I didnít know Athrun-"

"Save it, Cagalli.† You and Athrun, even Lacus," he snarled, scooting back from the desk and leaning against the foot of his bed, "donít know what Iím going through."†† He stared at his bloodied knuckle, his left hand unconsciously rubbing the back of his hand.

When there was no answer from Cagalli, Kira looked up to see that she was staring at him with a simple gaze ... except it made him feel uncomfortable.† Finally, she sighed and stood up her hands on her hips.† "Youíre right, we donít know what youíre going through, but you can accept the fact that weíre trying to help you-"

"I donít need your help," he muttered.† "Iíve always been alone and never needed anyoneís help ..."

"Fine," Cagalli narrowed her eyes and Kira looked at her, "if you donít need our help then thatís fine by me.† You can go on blaming the whole world for your problems.† I donít give a shit anymore.† I try to help you, try to make you feel better, but no, you just throw everything back into my face.

"You know," Cagalli laughed mirthlessly, "Athrun might have a point in leaving.† He had told me in a letter," she held out a folded letter, "that I should keep an eye on you.† To help you through what youíre going through right now, even if I donít understand it.† But maybe I shouldnít listen to him because right now, all youíve been doing is pouting, being an ass, and not even showing backbone."

"I should just tell him that I was sorry I couldnít take care of his best friend, my own brother, because he was too consumed into the fact that the world revolved around him," Cagalli pierced him with a tear filled glare, "because you know what Kira Yamato?† You are alone."

She spun on her heel and walked out, slamming the door behind her, leaving Kira alone in the room.

Kira stared at the shut door before he pulled his knees up to his chest and buried his head between them, squeezing both of his hands together, not caring if the pain in his right hand screamed at him.

He was alone ...

* * * * *

Lacus entered the fairly darkened room, waving to her bodyguards to stand down.† There was no harm in the room, only a terrified person who had been waiting to see her.† "Do you mind if I turn up the lights?" she asked the person, only seeing his silhouette.

"Go ahead," the voice was hushed, ragged, but that was understandable as he had been through so much in the last few days.

Lacus turned up the lights and smiled gently at the weary face of Senator Aaron Amalfi who sat hunched over slightly, his hands and arms resting on a table.† "Hello, Senator.† How have you been?"

"Not too good," Amalfi looked up at her, exhaustion lining his face, but his eyes still sparkled with the passion that made him such a persuasive speaker in the Supreme Council and now in the Earth Senate.

She took a seat across from him, folding her hands on her lap.† "Eileen Canaver sends her best wishes."

"Hmm," Amalfi smiled briefly before a frown appeared on his face, "sheís probably got her hands full trying to calm the media down and sway attention from me.† Lacus, it wasnít me!† I didnít set those charges off!"

"I know, I know," Lacus held up a hand to stop him mid word, "No one is saying it is your fault.† It is all speculation right now.† The evidence Orbís been going through has no conclusion yet."

Amalfi nodded before slumping back in his chair, "Itís kind of Orb to do this ... I ... didnít know what happened until it was too late."† He stared up at her before his gaze slid sideways and his eyes took on a distant kind of look.† "Robert had called me out, saying that I had a phone call.† When he picked up the phone ... there was this voice that only said ĎYouíve betrayed us.í† Then I felt the rumble of the explosion ..."

Lacus nodded, "What happened?"

"I donít really know.† I mean, one minute this voice talks and then I feel the explosion.† I turned back to go to the Senate room and then I think someone knocked me out.† When I awoke, no one was there in the room where I had taken the call, but rescue crews were pouring in," Amalfi shook his head before laughing bitterly, "I guess I do have to be blamed.† I mean, my alibi isnít even that great.† How can I present to the Earth Senate and even Orb and PLANT that Iím innocent?† I tried contacting Roger, but the hospital worker I talked with told me he died in the explosion ..."

"What was the name of the hospital worker?" Lacus asked, concerned.

"It was a young intern.† I think his name was Nikolai Mercus," he rubbed his hands together in a nervous gesture, "Lacus ... how did we come to this?† Two years ago, war had ended and I found a new career path — and now this."† He shook his head sadly, bowing it down, "I should have just stayed on PLANT, perhaps even retire ..."

"Donít say that, Mr. Amalfi," she frowned, "you are an integral part to bridge and solidify the peace between PLANT and the Earth.† I chose you to be my voice when I am not here.† I chose you because you understood the horrors of war and how peace had to be achieved and fighting should be stopped.† Even with the deaths of so many of our colleagues and the blame fallen on you, stand strong.† We will get through this, all right?"

Amalfi stared at her, a sad smile on his face, "You sound just like your father, Lacus.† Siegel Clyne would have been proud of who youíve become today ... giving up a majority of your idol career to be a peacemaker."

"I wish for peace so I sing the song of peace and speak its words too," she replied, "do not worry, Senator.† I will be returning to PLANT in a few days and would like you to come with me."

"I-I donít know," the fear was back in Amalfiís voice.† "I ... mean, what if ..."

"Stand strong," she reached out and clasped one of his hands with her own, giving it a reassuring squeeze, "if the media hounds, then let them.† You do not have to answer to them.† If assassins come, let them.† You are well protected, Senator.† Orbís Princess Cagalli does not believe you are culprit to the bombings and the Liberation Forces are investigating similar bombings all over the PLANT cities and possible ones on Earth."

"All ... right ... † I will go with you," Amalfi finally agreed after a few minutes of silent contemplation.

* * * * *

Everything was going according to his plans.† He was happy with the results Griever and his other agents brought to him.† Even though there were slight discretions in their missions, everything overall, was still good.

"Commander Anderson, a report from Lynx says that the Archangel has been sent out to Panama.† Also, Justice Gundam has been rebuilt," a fresh-faced officer stopped in front of him and bowed slightly.

Sven Anderson waved the officer away before returning to stare out at the endless blanket of stars that surrounded the remnants of Colony Mendel.† Though the viewport reflected some of his mangled face, he ignored it as had for the last eighteen years of his life.† But he hadnít ignored the deep hatred that had been boiling inside of him for those eighteen years.† He was finally getting his revenge, on everyone that wronged him — and if innocents were part of that casualty, then so be it.

He believed that the sins of a parent should be passed onto their children, retribution lasting and sweet and so those children, now perhaps teenagers or older, would pay for their motherís and fatherís sins.† The Earth wronged him, Orb wronged him, and PLANT wronged him ... and why should he not have his revenge?

Let them retaliate with Justice or whatever mobile suit they had, it would not stop the inevitability.† Let them come with the weapons blazing ... he had his own vendetta.† "Griever!" he suddenly snapped, turning around briefly to stare at his personal assassin.

"Sir," Griever was the epitome of perfection, and the only successful creation of the batch that he had tried to develop using Dr. Hibikiís notes.† Using nano-technology and growth acceleration at the right speed, he had created his own tool to use.† The only problem ... was that he had known about the other successful test and he had been afraid when the two met, but that had been resolved easily.

"Did you activate our new little puppet during your stay on earth?" he asked.

"Yes sir.† She is ready and operational.† I also contacted Hyperion and he says he is ready to rendezvous with us if we so decide to attack Panama," Griever said in matter-of-fact voice and Sven glared at him.

"Since when did you give the orders around here Nikolai?" he asked in a quiet voice.† Inwardly he was proud of his little creation, having enough guts to stand up to him ... but he would have to put him in his place.† After all, he created him, and would be able to destroy him if necessary.† A little pain now and then didnít hurt ... A little psychological words wouldnít hurt ...

"I will give the order to attack," he pressed a button embedded in his wrist and watched as the teen sudden fell to the ground and started to writhe in pain, unable to scream because of the nano-probes that controlled him.† He increased the pain signals given to the probes inside of the boy a little more ...

"If you think this is pain, what do you think will happen to you when you actually meet your predecessor, Kira Yamato?† You met him only for a brief moment, but that moment caused you some pain, didnít it?" he pressed the button again and Nikolai stopped twitching, lying down on the floor, heaving gasps of air.

He watched as the teen moved slightly before a rueful smile appeared on his face.† A burst of an unseen wind blew up in his face, but Sven just smiled against it.† He pressed the button again and immediately the wind stopped as Griever thrashed around again, pain consuming his body.† After a few minutes, he shut off the pain and turned around, walking back to the window to stare out into the blackness of space.

"Have you learned your lesson yet, Nikolai?" he asked in a friendly voice.

"Yes, sir," the hoarse reply came from the teen behind him and he barely heard him get up, but knew that he was standing again, fighting against the pain that was probably threatening to overwhelm him.

"If you do not want to pain to consume you again, kill Kira Yamato when you get the chance.† Or else he will kill you," he said, before he turned around and clapped his hands together.

"Now, prepare a task force and send it to Earth.† I want Panama to burn."

* * * * *

PHASE TEN — Crossing Paths, the Babylon

Cagalli stared at the readout she had received from Erica Simmons.† "So is it ready for launch?" she asked Kisaka who was sitting across from her in a conference room table down in the technological research departmentís main building.

"Yes, but I seriously ask you to reconsider what you think youíre doing," Kisaka replied, frowning.† "Even though the Council has approved of you leaving, donít you think the media will pick up on the fact that you have gone missing?"

"Orb provides the funds to build the LFís mobile suits and some of its ships and youíre telling me that I shouldnít go out as its leader to oversee the investigation?" Cagalli asked, skeptical of Kisakaís words.

"No, Princess, thatís not what Iím saying; Iím saying that there is the high possibility of a battle to occur if Miss Lacusí sources are correct, and if you do go to Panama, you might stand the chance of-"

"Being killed?† Is that what youíre worried about?"

She watched as Kisaka clamped his mouth shut and knew that she had scored on her protectorís deepest fears.† Though the recent revelation about Kisaka being one of the original assistants to Dr. Hibiki shed new light on her perspective of her guardian, she still believed that he was too overprotective at times.

"I am a competent pilot of Strike Rouge.† If a battle were to occur, I can handle myself out there," she folded her arms across her chest, "and even so, since the Archangel received clearance to rendezvous with the Eternal at Panama, there still wonít be enough ships to patrol the Earth Militaryís three main bases.† The Babylon can handle that."

"The Babylon still needs a captain," Kisaka said and Cagalli was about to reply that she was in the process of finding one when she caught a gleam in his eyes.

She sighed, "Why not ... will that appease your fears?"

"No," Kisaka replied truthfully, "but it will ease them a little.† Princess, your father never wanted you to live the life of war and endless battles."

"But to defend Orb, one has to live battles for now.† There will be time to study later, when warís over," she said in a quiet voice, "tell the crew of the Babylon that weíre departing in a day.† Weíll load up the rest of the Astray Mark II models and head to Panama."† She turned to head out the main room of her the governmental building of Orb, when Kisakaís next question stopped her.

"Cagalli, what about your brother?"

Cagalli hesitated, feeling a pang of regret before she shrugged it off, trying not to be bothered by it. "Donít tell him.† He shouldnít be fighting any battles anymore ... just like Athrun told me.† Let him have the peace he deserves ..."

* * * * *

Athrun absently scratched a flake of paint from the outside railing of the Archangel, one of the few decks the ship had, and stared out into the endless blue ocean, the Pacific Ocean.† Though they were only half a day away from Panama, the Pacific the quickest route as traveling over sea was faster than traveling over land, Captain Ramius had kept them on a level 3 battle alert status since they left Orb waters.

Only right now had she called off the alert and Athrun had decided to spend some time outside.† He brushed a few strands of his wayward dark blue hair away from his face; the sea spray whipping them up at the speed the Archangel was traveling at.† Wandering around the hanger bay had done him no good, as he was finished with completely upgrading the Justice and didnít want to get in Murdochís way of him tweaking the Astrays and the Buster Gundam.

He didnít feel like socializing with the Astray pilots that had joined up, and spending time in his quarters wasnít appealing ... so he had come out here.† He wondered briefly if Cagalli and Kira received his letters to them ... and what their reactions were.† Glancing down he reached inside of his orange jacket, the standard uniform representing the LF/Orb, and briefly touched the pendant-stone necklace that Cagalli had given to him two and half years ago.

She was the most important person to him, aside from Kira and Lacus, and he was determined not to let anything happen to her.† He was her personal bodyguard, her guardian, her-

"Kind of expected you to be out here, Athrun," Dearkaís voice startled him out of his thoughts and he turned slightly to see his friend walking over to him, hands stuck in the pockets of the orange jacket of the LF.† So Dearka had put away the ZAFT uniform and donned the colors of the LF.

"Dearka," he greeted as the blond haired man stood next to him, leaning against the railing, a curious expression his face.

"So what made you join the LF?† Last I heard was that you were happy in Orb, away from ZAFT and the politics in the aftermath of the Genesis and the war," Athrun noticed that his former teammate avoided mentioning his fatherís death.

It was true that he had been devastated to find that his father died in his own hands, saying to him to continue his work after the mass genocide he committed by activating Genesis, but he had gotten over that hurdle with help from his closest friends at his side.

"I thought about it," he replied and Dearka raised and eyebrow, telling him to elaborate, "and I decided that itís a better way to protect my friends ..."

"Ah," Dearka smirked, an expression that Athrun realized he had missed seeing for a while, "so you mean that you would like to get those sons of bitches who blew up the Senate Hall."

Athrun frowned, "Itís not like that.† I just ..." He trailed off as he thought about it.† Why did he suddenly decide to join?† Was he that angry at the people who had caused so much harm and pain to Cagalli, Kira, and their lives?† Did he want vengeance that badly?† He realized that the answer was yes ... he was furious, he was angry, he was ... † He had said to Cagalli before they parted that he wanted to get back at the bastards who did this to her ... and it was true ... he wanted to make them pay.

"You were the same almost three years ago ... you know ... after Nicolís death," Dearka started quietly, "and then when I fought Yzak in Colony Mendel, Kira told me that I shouldnít repeat the mistakes you and he did in your fight."

Athrun stared at his friend, wondering what he was getting at.† He had never known Dearka to be insightful, but then again, he never really got the chance to get to know his former teammate, even though they fought together in the Clyne Faction.

"Athrun, donít turn this into a quest for vengeance.† Itís not like you," Dearka said before turning around and headed back into the ship, leaving Athrun alone on the deck, still staring out at the endless blue sea.

* * * * *

Kira knocked on the door and opened it when a voice said, "Come in."† He peeked in and smiled slightly as he saw his friend Haruka sitting up in the bed, a far cry from how deathly pale she looked just a days ago in the bombings.† There was an unusual odor in the room, but he ignored it.† "Hey Ru, you feeling better?" he asked as he took a chair and pulled it up next to her bed before sitting down in it.

He had gotten his stitches out a few hours ago and had decided to visit his friends while he was in the hospital.

"Yes, much better.† Taylor stopped by a few hours ago, heís already home and recovering," Haruka smiled at him, clapping her hands together, "he even brought me some flowers."† She gestured to the huge bouquet that was sitting on a side table and Kira blinked at its sheer size.

So that was what the odor was ... all those flowers, mixture of different smells the they gave off was enough to make him slightly lightheaded.† He wondered how his friend could stand it, but she seemed to be acclimated to it.† It was going to take him a while to get used to the smell ...

"I brought you something," he reached into his windbreakerís pockets and pulled out a small package that he had hastily wrapped.† Yes, this was the peaceful life he should have ... he should be visiting his friends in the hospital, getting them get well gifts and then when they were all better, return to finish their studies at the university.

"Ohhh," Haruka squealed and opened the gift before taking out the silver charm bracelet.† "You and Taylor always think alike!"† She reached over to her side table and pulled out a similar charm bracelet, except it was gold and put both on.† "See?" she showed off her wrist and Kira nodded absently.† He was a bit distracted by the smell and his head felt a bit light from it.

"Guess what?" Haruka poked him startling him out of his thoughts, "Iím gonna be able to go home tomorrow!"

Kira blinked, "You are?† Thatís great."† He was quite surprised, especially since he had found her barely alive in the rubble and with internal bleeding.† Internal bleeding took a long time to heal ... but Haruka was up and about this fast ... † Did she have Coordinator genes like he did but was too afraid to tell him and Taylor?

"Hey," she mocked glared at him, "you donít sound too excited ... You want me to stay in the hospital?!"

"Oh, no, no ... just wondering ... never mind ..." Kira shook his head, trying to change the subject.

"No ... go on.† You look like you wanted to ask me a question," Haruka pressed, "come on ... tell me?"

Kira violently shook his head, "No.† Iím fine ..."

He watched as she sat back, a thoughtful look crossing her face before she clasped her hands in front of her.† "Do you think Iím a Coordinator?" she asked quietly and he started to shake his head no, but then decided to be honest and nodded.

Haruka quirked up a small smile before she began to pick at her blankets.† "Ha ... you know ... † Thatís what my parents actually wanted me to be, but I guess you can say that Iím a failed genetic defect.† The process went all wrong because of my motherís habits ... † I do possess a few of the genes that people associate with Coordinators like fast healing and that sort, but overall ... I guess Iím a cross between a Natural and a Coordinator."

Kira didnít know what to say ... instead he grasped one of her hands and squeezed it gently in comfort, knowing that it was probably hard for his friend to spill one of her deepest secrets.† He had his own secrets, but he dare not reveal it to anyone, including his friends Taylor and Haruka.† If they were to find out ... if the world was to find out ...

"Thanks Kira," Haruka replied softly, "you and Taylor have always been there for me ..."† She leaned back against her pillows and moments later, was fast asleep.† He felt her hand slack in his grip and retracted his hand, staring at her for a few minutes, watching her peaceful features.

Shouldnít the life he have be like hers?† Peaceful ... able to be at so much rest and not to have so many worries like he did?† He didnít know ...

* * * * *

Keiji Yamato approached the door with his wife by his side and knocked gently.† There was a muffled affirmation for them to go in and he opened the door, stepping into Ledonil Kisakaís office.† Even though Kisaka was the head of the police department, he had a few different offices, and Keiji had called in to find out which one his friend was in.† This one so happened to be in the technological research department, to which they had received visitor passes in the front security gate.

He prided himself for his own control, but recently things had been spiraling out of control and he didnít like that one bit.† He was a military man, long retired from the field since he decided to marry, but a military man nonetheless.† He had enjoyed his life of peace but now, he wanted to do more — to end the ghosts that were haunting his family once and for all.

He was reluctant in returning to this kind of life ... but had decided that once this was over, he would immediately retire back to his normal life.† No more dealing with science, military, or politics of sorts.† He would just become a normal high school teacher, teaching children the values of right and wrong and of peace.

"Keiji, Kanoko, what can I do for you?" Ledonil had always addressed them by their first names as they were really close to the conspiracy concerning the children of Katherine Hibiki.

"We know that youíre planning to head to Panama to join the Archangel," Keiji said in a firm voice.† It was a total bluff, but he had always been lucky with his bluffs ... and this time was no exception.† He saw Ledonil freeze slightly in his movements before trying to be nonchalant again.

"Thatís ridiculous.† Why would-"

Keiji decided to try his other gamble, "We also know that after Panama, youíll be heading to Mendel to destroy the rest of Hibikiís work."

That was the clincher and he saw Ledonilís jaw drop to the floor and knew that he had guessed correctly.† "H-How ... I was going to leave the Princess in the care of Captain Ramius ... and with a small crew take the Babylon to Mendel to destroy the Colony once and for all ..."

"Youíre going to need some help.† Remember, I used to be black ops in OMNI," Keiji thumped himself in the chest before gesturing to Kanoko, "Plus, Kanokoís got the knowledge of where everything was stored.† You were only a guard, but she knows the inside of the labs and knows where the backups are so you can destroy those too."

"Youíre civilians you canít-"

"No one has to know.† We can just stay confined to certain areas," Keiji pressed, "Ledonil, you know it as well as I do.† Mendel has too much information stored in it.† If Kira found out during the war what he was, what do you think some fool floating around that area would do with that information."

"I wonít allow it," Ledonil started but Keiji slammed his hand on the table hard, startling himself, his wife and even his friend.

"Damnit," he shook his head, "I just want peace thatís all.† If someone was able to create another successful test of what Kira is, how the hell do you think they wonít stop at that rate?† If someone has that knowledge we have to stop them.† The first step is to eliminate anymore information at Mendel and you need our help!"

He looked up and saw that Ledonil had hung his head, sighing before he lifted it back up and nodded.† "All right ... just ... if Cagalli sees you, Iím not going to be responsible."

"Thank you, Ledonil."

"Donít thank me yet, Keiji, Kanoko.† Things arenít going to get any easier right now."

* * * * *

Captain Lya Matato hated Naturals.† Worst of all, she hated her fellow Coordinators who she thought were so spineless as to actually form a peace-treaty with the Naturals.† How disgusting and despicable!† It was all the stupid Clyne Factionís fault.† She knew that if she ever got her hands onto the siren Lacus Clyne she would kill her without any hesitation.

"Captain, message from the Retribution," one of her officers suddenly spoke up and she raised an icy eyebrow at him.

"Patch it through," she said in a cold voice.

"Retribution calling Brimstone, Captain Matato do you copy?" the captain of the Retribution suddenly filled her communications screen in front of her.

"What is it?" she asked, a bit annoyed.

"Weíve intercepted transmissions from a traitor on our ship who had been trying to contact both PLANT and OMNI.† Weíve tracked down the source of the transmissions and placed the person in the brig but itís a sure thing that OMNI knows weíre attacking Panama."

"Let them gather their defenses, Captain," a new voice interrupted her and she turned slightly to see a handsome young man with a wicked looking scar down the left side of his face, walking towards them.

"Griever," she greeted the young man.

"Captain Matato," he nodded back a greeting before facing the captain of the Retribution who was still on the comm., "Captain Ishikawa, make sure you have your men watch your prisoner carefully.† It wouldnít be too good if he escapes or is killed right now.† We can still bargain with the prisonerís mother whoís a prominent member of the Supreme Council in PLANT.† Otherwise, the attack is still on schedule."

"Yes sir," Captain Ishikawa saluted once before terminating the link.

"We begin the attack in 30 minutes," Griever said in a curt voice and Lya nodded.

"Roger that.† All hands to battle stations," she sounded the general alarm before bringing up her tactical data onto her screens.† With their fleet, anything should fall in their way.† After all, those that betrayed them deserved to die along with the infidels.

* * * * *

They werenít even in Panamaís port for at least two hours when the general battle alarm sounded aboard the Archangel and similarly in the Eternal, both of which were resting next to each other to make the transition of newer mobile suits a little easier.

Athrun ran to the Justice, and climbed up and powering up his suit.† Bringing up the three main view screens, he saw that Dearka was climbing into the Buster and a few of the other pilots of the Astrays were getting their mobile suits ready.

"Justice, are you ready?" Miriís face popped up in a small display on the top left hand corner of his main screen.

"Ready for launch," he moved his mobile suit forward to the Archangelís launch pad.† A three light countdown signaled him and when the tone of an all clear sounded, he pushed his thrusters forward to the maximum, hurling him out of the Archangelís bays and into the blue skies over OMNIís Panama base.† He was joined in the air moments later by a bunch of Astrays and Buster along with a hundred Strike Daggers of OMNIís mobile suit force.† Behind him, he saw the Archangel and Eternal pull out of their ports, guns ready to fire at the enemy.

In the far distance, his targeting system pinpointed multiple enemies and little blips that told him missiles and mobile suits were on approach.† The battle to protect Panama had begun.

* * * * *

PHASE ELEVEN — Joined Forces

Cagalli stared at the open waters of the Pacific Ocean.† She mentally willed the Babylon to move faster.† Already they had received advanced warning that certain forces calling themselves the Talon were going to launch a massive attack on Panama.† That was just a few hours ago in the midst of their crossing to join the Archangel and Eternal.† The transmission had cut off abruptly, telling her that whoever had been sending the message had probably been captured by enemy forces.

She didnít know how long before the battle had started or was it even starting, but she knew that by the time the Babylon got to Panama, it might be over — and either the attackers had left no survivors or Panama was barely recovering.† Judging by the way their forces had devastated Orb and wrecked havoc all over the PLANTs, she guessed their attack force was going to be big.

The real question was, how did they get so many armaments without alerting any of the three major governments?† The only real conclusion Cagalli came up was that they had been preparing for their attacks before and during the war, recruiting dissents and AWOL soldiers and special ops personnel during the war to help better organize the Talon.

"Waiting is always the hard part, isnít it Cagalli?" a high pitched voice startled her out of her thoughts and she turned around, her eyes wide with surprise.

"Lacus?!† What ..." Cagalli felt her jaw drop a few centimeters as she stared at the pink-haired girl who was holding Pinky, her favorite Haro in her hands.

"Myta!† Haro!"

"I sneaked aboard," Lacus smiled as if it was a simple answer, "the locks aboard the Babylon arenít that secure."

Cagalli balked slightly, remembering what Athrun and Kira had told her, Lacus had a penchant to have her Haro undo the toughest of security locks, enabling her to roam about.† "If Athrun finds out youíre here ... if Kisaka ..."

"No more different than if Athrun found out youíve gone to join the battle in Strike Rouge.† Piloting a mobile suit is far more dangerous than commanding tactical in a warship," Lacus said in a quiet voice and Cagalli stared at her, struck at how she came to that conclusion.

"Iím competent enough," she defended herself.

"Yes," Lacus nodded, "Iíve seen you in battle, but your presence might upset Athrun.† Yes, he is a soldier and would not allow himself to be distracted in his battles, but heís also a gentle soul like Kira.† The two of them have so many similar attributes that if they see you or me in the middle of the battlefield ... † They will fight to protect us, but they will also act rashly if they perceive us in harmís way.† Athrun will fight to protect you, he loves you dearly, but he will also hesitate if you are threatened."

"Then I wonít let myself be threatened.† Iím going there to help Athrun, to help the Liberation Forces.† I donít need a lecture," Cagalli snapped at Lacus.

Lacus held up a hand, trying to calm her down, "Iím not lecturing you, Cagalli.† Iím only telling you to be careful out there.† Things have been going downhill since the attack on your country that I only see your safety as a priority.† You are an integral part of the peace process.† If you were to fall in battle, then the ramifications would destroy this peace that weíve tried so hard to create.† OMNI and ZAFT would be all over each other at a momentís notice and war would resume with a deadly vengeance.† Entropy would rule the Earth and the colonies."

"Even though entropy is rising, we still canít let the Talon get away with this," Cagalli understood what she was saying, "thank you Lacus for telling me the truth."

"Itís what friends do for each other," Lacus replied.

* * * * *

He sat hunched in the cell that he had been thrown in, beaten and bruised, but not too injured.† He had realized that his captors wanted him in semi-good condition, perhaps to bargain with PLANT for his release.† Well they would be sorely out of touch as he had barely kept in touch with his mother for the last two years — not after what he had seen during the war, the destructive power of Genesis, the ugly face of war with both sides trying to just kill each other because of some petty hatred.

It was also why he had secretly joined the underground faction of the Liberation Forces, a secret group of soldiers, spies, and civilians located in PLANT.† They were under the direct command of Lacus Clyne, and acted like an extension of the Clyne Faction.† During the last phases of the war, he had heard the propaganda spewed from his mother and the late Patrick Zala, declaring Lacus a traitor — but he didnít believe it.

He believed that she was too much of a pacifist to consider that she sold the secrets of ZAFT to OMNI — and his beliefs were confirmed when he found out that Dearka and Athrun, his remaining teammates had joined her to try to bring about peace and stop the endless slaughter of innocents, whether Natural or Coordinator.

For Yzak Joule, he had become a spy to prevent something like what the Talon was doing.† He did it to help redeem his own conscience that had been in turmoil, to help others, and to finally see some peace.† He had joined without his mother or fatherís consent, the only thing that he had kept in mind was what Dearka had told him — that even though enemies Coordinators and Naturals were, they were all still human and had their own vulnerabilities.

He joined the Clyne Faction of the Liberation Forces to help ferret out any dissent from those who wanted war again — and it kept him out of the media spotlight that had been shed on his motherís activities under Patrick Zalaís rule.† But now, he had been captured and taken prisoner aboard the ship he had infiltrated — his position compromised by his haste to warn those in Panama, PLANT, and Orb to try to get all of them to concentrate their three-way allied forces to destroy the Talon once and for all.

He knew that it was reckless and knew that he probably deserved to be captured, but the Talon never knew who they were dealing with.† This also gave him a good opportunity to return to the front lines and perhaps take out a few of the Talonís mobile suits before any serious damage occurred and if he survived, warn Panama of the second wave that was probably going to follow if they succeeded in defeating the first wave.

Sven Anderson was one who never liked to leave things alone, and Yzak knew that as he had been undercover for nearly seven months prior to their attack on Orb.† He had tried to warn Senator Amalfi that his aide Roger was a traitor, but apparently his messages didnít get through in time.† He had hoped it was a small repayment of him not being able to protect Amalfiís son, Nicol, from his death in the war — but it wasnít enough.

He would have done more to sabotage the Talon and reveal more of their plans to his contacts and to Lacus, except for Andersonís right hand man, the boy with a wicked looking scar down his left side named Nikolai Mercus.† The boyís voice and mannerism reminded him a lot of the pilot of the Freedom and Strike and he had inquired about it — and found out that Nikolai, or his codename, Griever, was the clone-brother of the pilot of the Gundams, Kira Yamato.

That had been a shock ...

He wasnít able to do anything about Griever because of the boyís uncanny abilities that almost rivaled ESPer status, something Yzak thought only existed in legends and myths of the old days.† And those abilities prevented him from sending out more messages to PLANT and Orb about the Talon — for the fear of compromising his position early.

But now ... now he had to escape — and it had been easy lifting the keys from the guard that had escorted him to his cell.† It was an electronic panel cell, but Yzak had tinkered with its inner system, using the keys he had pilfered from the guardís belt, making it so that a bit of the door slid open, enough for him to put his hands through and pull it open, slowly and inch by inch.

He pulled on the door slightly, quirking a small smile as a loud scrape of metal against metal got the door further open.† This time a fairly large shaft of light poured in from the hall and he knew he had alerted the guards surrounding the cells.† He moved behind the darkened section of the door, crouched and waited.

"What the ..." the voice of a guard sudden said and Yzak sprang from his hiding place, tackling the guard in the waist.† His right arm grabbed the guardís rifle before his left hand knocked out the guard with a vicious left hook.† Swinging the weapon he had acquired to bear upon the second guard, Yzak didnít hesitate as he pressed the trigger, unleashing a hail of bullets that struck the second guard — killing her instantly.

He paused for a moment, his eyes and ears alert for any signs of additional guards.† He knew that he didnít have too much time as his captors always checked in regularly.† He gathered a few clips from the knocked out guardís belt before he stood up and walked out of his now opened cell.

Moving quickly through the corridors he ducked into unoccupied passage ways on board the Retribution as soldiers or technicians ran through, the general alarm klaxon sounding for all hands to battle stations.† Based on when he was captured, he estimated that the battle had been going for at least almost an hour ... which meant that Panama was putting up a really strong fight.

As he slipped into the Retributionís hangar bay he crouched behind a stack of crates, his blue eyes narrowed as he watched the Strike Daggers, GINNs, and many of the other motley assortments of mobile suits the Talon had collected over the years in secret, launch away.

He spotted his own mobile suit, the Duel, still sitting in its place in the hangar bay ... except it had been surrounded by quite a few armed guards — to prevent him from reaching his suit if he escaped from his cell.

This was going to take some tricky stealth work, he realized as he pursed his lips and counted the guards, noting what kind of weapons they were carrying.† He wasnít that great at hand-to-hand combat, no that was Dearkaís forte, but he was an excellent sniper ...

Glancing down at the rifle he carried, he switched its settings to a single shot sniper and looked through the scope.† Sighting with the farthest guard from the pack of guards, he waited until the loud rumbling of the other MS launching to muffle the sound of his rifle.† He squeezed off a single shot, a wry grin forming as the guard fell, oblivious to the others and immediately sighted again.† Pulling the trigger again and again, he felled each one of the guards, until three guards in the front remained — their eyes staring straight ahead, unaware of the othersí demise.

"Hey!† What the hell are you doing here!" a voice suddenly boomed behind him and Yzak spun without thinking, jabbing the butt of his rifle into the stomach of the soldier that had spotted him, before he brought up the rifle again and knocked the guard down to the floor, blood running from a fairly deep cut on the manís temple.

He was about to turn back to figure out a way to distract the guards when he spotted the soldier he had knocked out was carrying a few grenades for the land invasion after they had beaten down Panamaís forces.† A small grin lit up his face as he reached down and pulled one of the grenades from the soldierís belt.

He took the pin out and threw the grenade to the far side of the wall, where after a few seconds it exploded, throwing shrapnel into the air and alerting the three guards that had been guarding the Duel, along with other soldiers who were in the hangar bay.† Like moths to the light, they converged on the area where the grenade exploded and Yzak made his break for the Duel.

He quickly climbed aboard the Duel and closed the cockpit before any of the soldiers realized what had happened.† Fingers flying over the keyboard, he brought up the specs and data for his Duel and activated the thrusters.

Stepping forward, he heard the metallic ping of soldiers firing rifles at him, and activated his phase-shift armor.† The bullets started to ricochet off of his Gundam and he walked forward before jamming the thrusters forward and flying out of the hangar bay of the Retribution.

What greeted him was the golden sun, dripping its halo on a bloodied battlefield ...

* * * * *

Athrun activated his double-bladed beam saber once more and brought it down on a Strike Dagger, cutting it in half.† He spun around and decapitated a Dagger and a GINN.† He knew that he had promised Cagalli not to kill any soldiers, but at the rate he was fighting, his promise to her wasnít going to last that long.

There seemed to be no end to the wave of Talon forces.† For them to accumulate so many mobile suits ... were that many people displeased with the peace, so much to even go up against their own forces?

His targeting computer bleeped at him and showed him another wave of mobile suits coming towards him.† Behind him, the various cannons and missiles from the Panama OMNI warships, the Archangel, and Eternal spoke to defend themselves.† He was tired, frustrated, and generally pissed at the Talon ...

A seed forming in his mind suddenly broke and Athrun narrowed his eyes, everything suddenly becoming clearer by the second.† As he lined up a targeting solution, a part of him realized that this was what Lacus had told him, the seed-mode he usually fell into during combat.

He didnít know what ramifications it had on him, but right now, he used all of the skills he had. †Firing, he watched as a multitude of green and red as his beam weaponry found their targets and destroyed some of them.† Letting the trigger go before it depleted anymore of the energy expended from his phase shift armor, he flew forward and slashed down at the remaining mobile suits that were still left, destroying all of them.

An explosion behind him made him turn around to see the Eternal hit by a few missiles from a nearby Talon ship and he dived down towards it.† Holding his double beamed saber in one hand, he took out his single saber and activated it before throwing it like a boomerang at the ship.† The saber tore through the ship before spinning back to him.† As he caught the hilt of his saber and deactivated it, the ship exploded.

Shielding his eyes against the explosion, Athrun was suddenly thrown forward against his controls and he grunted against the force. †He turned slightly to see a mobile suit that looked like a cross between his Justice and Kiraís Freedom.† It bristled with heavy weaponry ...

"Weíve have some unfinished business Athrun Zala," Kiraís voice spoke over the comm., but Athrun realized it wasnít Kira, but his look-alike.

"Just tell me this, who are you and why does the Talon want to destroy the peace?" Athrun replied, flying a bit away before holding out his double beam saber in a defensive position.

"I am Griever and as for why the Talon want to take peace away?† You of all people should know why," the Kira look-alike replied, "take a look at what your father did and tell me then why should we not have our revenge against ZAFT and OMNI."

The comm suddenly clicked off and Athrun ducked as Griever charged at him with two beam sabers in his hands.† His specs read that Grieverís Gundam was called the Liberty, an ironic name, he thought and it was armed to the toe.† The Gundam was a walking death machine ...

He parried with his double saber before lashing out with his feet, kicking Griever away.

Athrun fired one of his cannons, but it missed the Liberty and he defended himself in a flurry of movements as the Liberty attacked with relentless force.† Suddenly a niggling sense told him to get out of the way and he pushed upward, just as a crimson beam of a Lohengrin cannon passed through where he had been, narrowly missing Griever.

He didnít get a chance to get a breather as the Liberty tackled him from below.† Athrun batted him away and turned slightly to see who had fired the beam and noticed that a mobile suit was shimmering out of what looked like a mirage colloid like the one on Nicolís Blitz.† Except the mobile suit that deactivated its mirage colloid was not jet black, but a dark blue-green.† He didnít have anymore time as he parried another attack from the Liberty.

"You will fall today Justice," the pilot of the other mobile suit suddenly blared from his comm system and he blinked, surprised to hear an angry female voice.

He paid for his momentary surprise as the Liberty slammed into him and he fell towards the water.† Athrun quickly activated his thrusters at the last moment to prevent himself from smashing into the water at the wrong angle and hovered above the water.† He suddenly moved to his right as missiles exploded out of the water, headed towards the Liberty and the unknown mobile suit.

Cursing silently at the ineptitude of OMNIís military forces for nearly killing him, he followed the path of the missiles and as they exploded, activated his heat seeking screens.† He burst through the cloud the missiles created and yelled a war cry as he brought his beam saber down upon the Liberty.

He met resistance as Griever brought his two sabers up in an Ďxí above his head, but Athrun wasnít finished with him yet and kicked the mobile suit hard in the middle, sending the Liberty spiraling away.

"Look behind you!" the female voice suddenly blared and Athrun narrowed his eyes as he was tossed around his cockpit, the mirage colloid mobile suit slamming into him.† He twisted slightly to avoid being skewered by the suitís beam saber and tried to stab his own into the suit, but without success.

Suddenly the pressure on him was released and he looked up to see a rouge colored suit crashing against the mirage colloid suit, sending it hard down into the water.

"Watch your own back bitch," Cagalliís voice broadcasted over the battle comm System and Athrun stared at the Strike Rouge, shocked.

"Cagalli ..." he whispered.

* * * * *

PHASE TWELVE — Return to the Battlefield II

Kira looked around the empty house that Cagalli lived in.† He hadnít seen his sister for at least a couple of days since their fight.† He knew that usually by now, she would have already talked to him, but she hadnít even responded to his calls on her cell or to her governmental office.† Even Kisaka wasnít available.† More so, when he tried to reach Lacus, she was oddly not available ... † Haruka had gone home the day before, Taylor wasnít responding to his calls ...

"Good day, Mr. Yamato.† Do you need anything?" Cagalliís butler approached him.

"Uh ... no, but whereís Cagalli?"

"She has gone out of the country for some business.† She left this for you," the butler handed him a folded note with her loopy handwriting.

"Out of the country?" Kira asked.† That was odd ... in Cagalliís condition; he knew that she wouldnít leave the country ...

"Yes sir," the butler said before walking away to attend to whatever other business he had.

Kira stared at the note, a sense of dťjŗ vu overcoming him as it was the same thing as what Athrun did.† With a slight start, he realized what Cagalli did ... Ďout of the countryí.† "She did not," he whispered to himself as he opened the note and read it contents.† It was short and to the point.† Cagalli had left for the battlefield like Athrun did.† He didnít know where Lacus was ...

For the first time in his whole life, Kira had never felt so abandoned and alone.† As he curled up and sank to the floor, tears starting to fall out of his eyes, he realized that he had driven everyone that he loved and loved him away.† He pushed away his parents, no matter the fact that they adopted him as their son; he pushed away Cagalli, he pushed away his best friend Athrun, and most of all, he pushed away Lacus by not even going to her for consolation.

Everyone left him because he was too consumed in the fact that he thought the world revolved around him.† He didnít realize that his friends were trying to help him out of the shell he had built around him.† Haruka and Taylor had cracked the shell further after the war, but it had been built again with the appearance of his look-alike ...

Athrun, Cagalli, his parents, and Lacus had tried to break the shell again, but with each of their attempts he hid further from them, until he had retreated too much to drive them away.† Fear was what had gripped him — fear of what would happen if he let himself be open and vulnerable to them ... he feared for them, for himself, for the unknown future.

But the future was what Athrun and Cagalli had in mind.† What Lacus, his soul mate had.† They understood that peace had to be fought for, with words and with weaponry like the Justice and the Strike Rouge.

A sudden thought occurred to him as he folded up his sisterís letter, pocketing it.† There was only one place where Athrun was able to hide the Justice in complete secrecy, even from Cagalli.† Morganroete.

He dashed upstairs and burst into his room, running to the corner where he had tossed Athrunís letter and I.D. card to the side days ago in his fit of uncontrollable anger and uncrumpled the letter.† Scanning it quickly his eyes focused on Erica Simmonsí name.† She would have known about Justice and helped Athrun built it ...

Holding the I.D. card up, Kira gripped it tightly before making a decision ...

He refolded Athrunís letter and pocketed it with Cagalliís before he dashed down the stairs and out the door, Tori following him.† Running to where Athrunís car was parked underneath the shade of a few trees, he opened the door and pulled down the visor, a wry grin forming on his face as the keys fell to his lap.

Turning on the ignition, he quickly shifted to first gear and sped off, leaving a cloud of dust and pebbles in his wake.† He knew the way to the former Morganroete building and hopefully would be able to find Erica to ask her what he had a hunch on.

As Kira sped away, Cagalliís butler watched, a wistful smile on his face.† He picked up the phone and dialed a number.† After a few seconds, the line on the other end was picked up and he spoke into it in a calm voice.

"Heís on his way.† You can meet him down in the sublevels."

* * * * *

"Watch your own back bitch," Cagalli said in a dark voice as she kicked the mirage-colloid suit in the back, sending it down into the water.† She hovered next to the Justice and opened up a private comm channel to Athrun, smiling as she saw that he wasnít injured or anything.

"Cagalli ..." Athrun looked shocked and she grinned.


"What ... are you doing here?" Athrun asked, a frown forming on his face, "you shouldnít be here-"

"Save it," she replied, cutting him off as she wiped the grin off of her face, "you looked like you could use some help so I gave it."

"Thanks, but-"

"Athrun, I took your letter to heart, but I canít just sit around doing nothing.† You know me.† Iíd rather fight than sit in front of so many council members, trying to decide a political way out of this whole stupid thing," she explained.

Suddenly she swerved to the left as two beams of green shot between them and she switched her comm. to audio only before she fired back down in the water.† Moments later, the mirage-colloid suit exploded out of the water and she finally got a good read on the suit.† It labeled itself on her tactical screen as the Claw ...

Inwardly she wrinkled her nose at such a name — it was the stupidest name anyone could name Gundam ... † Whoever built it was an idiot.

"How dare you?!" the pilot of the Claw suddenly exploded on her comm and Cagalli pulled out one of her two beam sabers.† The Strike Rouge was essentially Strike Gundam in Aile mode — with all of its weaponry on hand.

Activating it she parried a blow towards her midsection before she countered, swiping at the Claw.† Both Gundams danced in the air as they charged at each other, neither one giving ground to another.† Cagalli narrowed her eyes as she tried to predict the other pilotís movements.† She was extremely fast ...

Suddenly she dove to the ground as Athrun came up behind her, his beam rifle blazing.† She twisted and headed back up, underneath the Clawís feet, and also shot at the mobile suit.† The Claw panicked and swerved to avoid both attacks.† Cagalli grimly smiled as she chased after the mobile suit.† A sudden proximity warning made her swerve to her left and she hovered in the air, facing the mobile suit that read Liberty on her sensors.

"Greetings, Princess Cagalli.† I did not expect to see you in battle.† This would be a boon if you were to die," the chilling voice of Kira made her freeze, but she shook her head, trying to convince her numbed brain that it wasnít Kira, it was his look-alike — the one who tried to kill her.

"Iím not dying today," she said just as the Justice flew up next to her, hovering protectively.† The Claw joined the Liberty on the other side, two against two ...

* * * * *

Kanoko Yamato braced herself against the bulkhead of the room she and her husband had stowed away in as another rocking explosion hit the Babylon.† She stared at her husband who grimly held onto a railing on another bulkhead.† "We canít sit here and do nothing!" she half-yelled at him through the alarms that started blaring throughout the ship.

"I know!" he replied loudly, "but what the hell do you want me to do?"

"Sooner or later theyíre going to find out weíre here.† We canít just sit here."

"Yeah," her husband pushed himself off of the bulkhead and Kanoko noticed that there was a look in his eyes that she had only seen twice.† Once was when he discovered the true purpose of her running away with Kira, the other, was when he swore that he would protect her and Kira with his own life after betraying his employers so many years ago.† That look was now back — and while it reminded Kanoko of the past, it also made her very afraid.

"You remember what I taught you?" he asked.

"Point, shoot, and donít let go," Kanoko half-joked, remembering that when Keiji became her husband, he had taught her the rudimentary basics of firing a gun, in case anything happened to them that had to have her protect Kira on her own.

"Thatís a good girl," he grinned at her as they left the room they had hidden themselves in and headed into the alarm-blaring hallways. †She followed Keiji as he headed up to the control deck, to help Kisaka and the Babylon.† They occasionally held to the walls as explosions shuddered throughout the warship, making their steps uneven.† Finally, they reached the bridge.

Keiji opened the door and Kanokoís eyes widened as she saw what was going on.† What surprised her was finding the long distinctive pink hair of Lacus sitting in a command chair behind Kisaka, who was yelling to his crewmen to get missiles online.† She glanced to her left and saw that the communications chair in the command center of the bridge was empty, along with some blood that indicated that the console probably electrocuted its previous occupant when a nasty hit made it overload.

She bit her lip and headed towards the console, while she noticed that Keiji headed towards a firing control station in the front.† Putting on the headset, she tapped into the battle network comm. system.† She wasnít really experienced with any of the controls, but she had spent a lot of time going over computer systems, and based on what she saw at first glance, they were similar.

"Keiji ... what the-" she heard Kisaka say before she turned up the volume on the headset, and switched frequencies.

She touched a few more buttons and a battle data overlay appeared on her side screen, showing her yellow for allies, red for enemies.† There was a lot more red than what she had expected.† The triangles of yellow indicated the Gundams Justice, Strike Rouge, and Buster and they were surrounded by red triangles that said Claw and Liberty.

Kanoko didnít know too much about tactics, but she did know that the Babylon was suffering a lot of damage.† Suddenly she noticed a new red triangle headed towards their way.† "Strike Rouge, fall back to defensive position.† Weíve got a new mobile suit on approach," she keyed the comm. to Cagalliís mobile suit.

"Whoís this?" was the confused reply, but Kanoko noticed that she was moving towards them.

"Itís Kanoko Yamato, Cagalli," she replied.

"Mrs. Yamato?!" Cagalliís face appeared on the corner of another screen and she barely kept a smile off of her face to see such a shocked expression on her face.

"Yes dear.† We can talk about it later though.† The new suitís called the Corsair and its specs are unknown."

"Oh great," Cagalli groused.

"Doesnít look that tough," this time a boy with blond hair and sharp purple eyes that contrasted his tanned face appeared beneath Cagalliís.† Kanoko realized that this was Dearka Elsman, the boy Athrun had told her about.

"Weíve also got missiles on approach.† Weíll draw them off, but watch for friendly fire," Kanoko interrupted them.

"Aye maíam," Dearka replied before clicking the comm. off.

She hoped that the battle ended soon.† At the rate, both sides were in practical stalemate ... and they were losing a lot of good men and women.

* * * * *

Athrun knew that he could handle two mobile suits at once; it was just the matter of what the hell each was going to do.† He watched the Claw and Liberty carefully.† Let them make the first move ... then he would be able to move defensively.† He knew he had to finish them quickly, the Babylon, Eternal, and Archangel were suffering heavy damage with each second he was wasting time with these guys.

Suddenly the Claw charged at him, twirling its beam saber in its hand.† Athrun braced himself as he hovered defensively.† His eyes darted to the right as the Liberty flew to his left, to outflank him from behind.† Moving to his right, he blocked a blow from the Liberty before reach out and firing a few shots at the Claw.

The beam rifleís ammo did nothing to even stop the Claw.† Athrun was about to activate his other beam saber to throw at the Claw when a blur of blue-gray knocked the Claw far away where it started to tumble to the ground, only activating its thrusters at the last minute from slamming into the ocean again.

"Sorry I took so long.† Bit of a mess in the Retribution," Yzakís voice came over the comm., audio only and just as he finished a huge explosion over took one of the Talonís warships that was in the ocean, and Athrun shielded his eyes from the glare.

The Duel Gundam hovered in front of him and Athrun could almost imagine a smirk on the Gundamís face if it had the ability to do so.† A few seconds later, flares of retreat flew up from another ship of the Talon forces, and Athrun turned slightly to see both the Claw and Liberty hesitating before they reluctantly turned tail and headed away, back out to sea.

Athrun realized that the battle was over ... they had won to keep Panama safe ... but there was also numerous casualties and wounded.† They had won, but he knew that the Talon wasnít going to stop until many more were dead.† This was only the first round ...

* * * * *

The late afternoon sunset brought relief as a cool breeze blew over the remaining warships in Panama, some trying to salvage heavily damaged ships and crew, while others were making quick repairs to the other ships that were still able to function.† The OMNI forces had even offered the repair the ships of the Liberation Forces and with Princess Cagalli there, no one could refuse.† Though Captain Andy Bartfield didnít like OMNI crews running all over what was technically a ZAFT ship, he still didnít refuse help in repairs were it was needed.

Both OMNI and LF knew that another attack was inevitable, but they also knew that the Talon had been hit hard and were regrouping, as the one of the main ships that blew up was one of their two flagships, the Retribution.† That had been a morale boost for OMNI and some LF personnel.

That was also why the three LF ships and its command crews were having a meeting, their seconds overseeing the repairs.† Athrun folded his arms across his chest as he stood next to Cagalli, watching Yzak as he brought up a tactical screen from all the information he had gathered in the two years he had been in the Talon.† Yzak never struck Athrun as the type to join anything except for ZAFT, which made him realize that he had never really known the fiery white-haired teen.† What he did know was that Yzak had changed a lot since the beginning of the war when they both graduated along with Nicol and Dearka at the top of their class for ZAFT.

Apparently, based on what Yzak said, he had joined the LFís Clyne Faction, a secret force of just a few people who were completely loyal to Lacus, and provided her with valuable information that she passed along to Cagalli and Eileen Canaver.† Unfortunately, his assignment in the Talon prevented information from being passed and he had been captured after sending a hasty message to them warning them that Panama was next on the Talonís list.

"Their leaderís a Coordinator by the name of Sven Anderson," Yzak started, bringing up a striking manís picture on the projection.† Athrun faintly recognized the man from somewhere, but he couldnít really place it.

"He looks familiar," Dearka suddenly voiced and Yzak nodded.

"He should.† A prominent political figure back when we were all children, he fell out of favor as the radical group when Eileen Canaver and Siegel Clyne brought up their moderate faction to rise in the Supreme Council.† He was head of military operations until Patrick Zala, Herman Gould, and my mother Ezalia took over the National Defense Committee.

"As far as I gathered, he only has a few warships under his command, but theyíre the latest in models, because of his charisma in spreading to those that werenít happy with the outcome of the war to join his side.† Ironically, he united a few of the Naturals and Coordinators that joined him, with at least two of his warship commanders being Naturals."

"Thatís why there were both ZAFT suits and OMNI Strike Daggers there," Captain Ramius murmured from her side of the room.

"Right now, the bulk of their fleet in here, trying to take Panama over.† The rest are located at their base, the L4 region, Colony Mendel," Yzak said and Athrun froze slightly at Yzakís words, his hand finding Cagalliís giving it a brief squeeze to keep her fears at bay.

That was where what everything happened in Kiraís past ... where Rau had revealed to his best friend his origins ... where the experimentation went on.† It was where Griever had to have been created ... and most likely by Sven Anderson.† But the question was how?† Were the samples at Mendel not totally erased as Kiraís mother had said?† If not, then they had to go to Mendel and destroy the Talon and the samples once and for all.

"Mendel, but it was abandoned," Andy Bartfield started, confused.

Yzak nodded, "It was, but Anderson found use for it.† He found some of the leftover experiments and tried to recreate those experiments again."

"Experiments?!" Murrue looked horrified as did some of the people around her, like Miri and Sai.

"Genetic experiments that occurred long ago and was abandoned by some explosion.† Anderson was trying to create some kind of controlling agent program that he could use to infiltrate the highest levels of any of the governments, in all of PLANT, Earth, and Orb.† That was why he was successful when he launched his first campaigns," Yzak suddenly looked at Cagalli in a solemn stare, "I apologize, Princess, that I wasnít able to warn you of the traitor in your governmentís midst."† He also turned to Lacus, "I also apologize Miss Lacus that I wasnít able to inform Senator Amalfi or you of Amalfiís aide being the spy in the midst."

"None needed, Yzak," Lacus replied and Athrun turned slightly to see Cagalli nod, but she didnít say anything.

"So what about those Gundams?" Andy turned the conversation back to finding out more information.

"They are the Claw, Liberty, and Corsair.† Their plans were actually created just before the war was over.† Like the five original Gundams the Earth had built in the second year of the war, these were to be completed along with Justice and Freedom to improve on the five that were supposed to be captured."

The realization that his late father had completed three more plans to build more Gundams after Justice and Freedom made Athrun appreciate the fact that Yzak did not mention his name.† He also realized that the plans probably had fallen into his fatherís supporters hands as soon as his father took command of the Genesis Project.† But there was still another question he had to ask.

"Are they equipped with N-Jammer Cancellers?" he asked Yzak.

"No.† Those plans were created by Senator Amalfi.† The man stored his plans in a safe place," Yzak replied and Athrun nodded in relief.† That was good news.† At least no PLANT or place on Earth was going to blow up soon and have nuclear fallout for the next hundred years.

"So what the hell do we do now?" someone, a senior officer aboard one of the three warships asked.

"Captain Lya Matato is Fleet Commander of the Talon.† She wonít give up until Panama falls or everyoneís dead.† Itís a good thing to say that there will be another attack soon."

* * * * *

Kira rushed out of the elevator door as soon as it opened.† Though he had not been in the lower levels of the former Morganroete building in a long time, he still retained the memory of it and he looked around the darkened observation room where he had worked with Erica Simmons to improve the Astray Mark I models.† It was dark ... quiet ... as if everyone had abandoned the place to go somewhere else.

He skidded to a stop, catching his breath as he looked around.† He had gotten past the security checkpoint and parked the car, no one stopping him as he ran in and into the elevators.† Where the heck was Erica?

He wanted to ask her if since Athrun rebuilt the Justice, had Freedom also been rebuilt?† He didnít know if he wanted to fight, but he wanted to know that much for now.† "Erica?" he called out.

There was no answer.

He walked forward a bit. "Erica?" he tried again.

"Sheís gone, Kira," a new voice that he didnít recognize spoke from the relative darkness and Kira jumped slightly, cursing silently that he didnít have a weapon on him.† He turned around warily until someone flicked on the lights to the observation room, making him wince slightly and shield his eyes against the sudden glare.† As his eyes adjusted to the sudden brightness, he saw near the observation windows that looked out into a darkened training field, a man with graying hair dressed in an immaculate suit.

"I was supposed to meet you in the sub-levels, but I decided that here is a good place," the man said without turning around, still staring out into the darkened field.† There was something in the field, an indistinct shape that Kira couldnít make out.

He took a step forward, his body tense as he sensed that the man couldnít really harm him, but he didnít want to take the chance.† Too many coincidences happened too fast, and he didnít want to risk anything else.

"Who are you?" he asked.

The man turned and Kira stopped dead in his tracks, his eyes wide with surprise and shock.† A sad, tired smile was on the manís face, but there was no mistaking who he was ...

"S-Senator Amalfi," Kira whispered.

"Hello Kira Yamato," Amalfi greeted gently, "weíve never met, but I do want to ease a fear that I know that has been gnawing your mind for a long time.† I know you killed my son Nicol, during the war-"

Kira flinched; unbidden memories of what he did in the Strike back in the war coming up.

"-but I do not blame you one bit for what has happened," Amalfi continued before walking forward, his hands clasped in front.

"S-Sir ..." Kira started, but he couldnít finish whatever he was going to say as he saw the pain in the Senatorís eyes.† He looked down, tears starting to burn his eyes as he clenched a fist, unable to do anything.

Amalfiís hand on his shoulder made him jerk up to see the middle-aged Senator smiling down at him.† "Please, Kira, donít worry.† It was war ... and my son knew the risks just as well as you did.† He was doing what you were doing, protecting his friends just like you did."

"Yes but ..."

"Athrun told me what happened and I donít blame you.† I never did.† My wife never did.† All we knew was that the war had to end ... that was why I created the N-Jammer Cancellers on your Freedom and Athrunís Justice," Kira looked up to see Amalfiís eyes take on a faraway look, "I was foolish back then.† I thought I could end the war with nuclear weapons.† A revenge of sorts for those that sent nuclear weapons into Junius 7.† I wanted to stop the senseless deaths of so many younger men and women like you who were fighting at such a young age.† I didnít want anymore parents to go through what I and my wife did."

"Iím ... sorry," Kira looked down, finding a spot on the ground that seemed friendly enough to warrant his attention.

Amalfi squeezed his shoulder once, making him look back up at him, "Sorry for what?† You tried to keep the peace.† You realized during your battle that war was horrific and ugly and that was why you took Freedom.† You wanted peace like I did.† Except you used Freedom in the way I couldnít have seen back then.† You were the one to do the right thing ... not me ..."

"But now ... with Lacus ... the attacks ... Cagalli ..."

"I was a fool once more.† I let myself be goaded into thinking that I was able to keep the peace," Amalfi had a saddened look on his face, "I blamed myself, but Lacus ... she told me that I had to stand strong.† You, are also able to do that."

The lights to the darkened training ground suddenly came on and Kira stared in shock, Freedomís face staring at a point on the opposite side of the training room.† So Athrun did rebuild the Freedom too ...

"You help bring peace, but now, the peace has been threatened.† Lacus has gone off to fight.† Athrunís gone off to fight.† Cagalliís gone off to fight ... will you do the same?"

Kira hesitated, thinking back to what he had been doing since the war.† He didnít want to fight, didnít want to kill again, but then again ... had he killed at all when he was in the Freedom?† Not at all.† He had only disabled the mobile suits he had fought with.† Rau Le Creuset was ultimately destroyed by Genesisí firing mechanism ... † He had never killed anyone in the Freedom ...

"But even as a soldier, you donít have to kill ..."

"Which is why Iím not ... unless it is absolutely necessary."

Kira remembered what Athrun had said when he had left in Justice and realized that he had been moping around for the last few days, his family and friends had been trying to do something to stop this new threat.† He had to be strong to help them.† He couldnít let the peace that he had worked so hard for be wiped away by this new threat.† If it meant that he had to pilot the Freedom Gundam again, then he would do so.

"Thank you Senator Amalfi," he looked up in Amalfiís eyes, a new determination in them.

* * * * *

Minutes later, Kira was suited up in his customary blue-white flight suit, helmet secured in place.† His fingers flew over the Freedomís pads, noting with a smile that Athrun had calibrated most of its systems, leaving very little for him to improve on.† As he activated the three main screens, he saw in the distance, Senator Amalfi, staring at him, a salute to his head.

Smiling in response, even though he knew Amalfi wouldnít be able to see it, he stepped onto the flyer with enough fuel to get him to Panama and locked his Gundam in place.† Activating the comm. system, he took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

"Kira Yamato, Freedom, launching!"

The Freedom Gundam launched straight up with help from its vernier packs and flyer booster packs and soared out into the clear blue Orb skies, headed towards Panama where the current battleground was.

* * * * *

PHASE THIRTEEN — Brothers and Sisters in Arms

Cagalli hung her arms over the railing, feeling a prickly sensation as the nerves and blood vessels in her arms were pressed the wrong way — her arms falling asleep on her.† She didnít really care, as for some morbid curiosity; she sometimes liked the prickly sensation that came after she let blood flow normally.† It gave her something to think about besides watching repair crews work on the ships, rescue crews lift twisted metal and bodies out of the water before depositing them unceremoniously onto a dock.

"You really shouldnít do that.† You can get pinched nerves a lot easier," Athrunís voice behind her made her turn her head a little to see him walk up to her, a smile on his face.

"Never proven," she shot back before she lifted her arms up and suddenly the prickly feeling was back in full force.† She winced slightly as she felt the "pins and needles" effect race up and down her arms.† It felt weird ...

"I know that if I tap your arm, youíre probably going to hit me afterwards," Athrun teased gently, his fingers barely touching her right arm and she mocked glared at him.

"Try it ..." she egged him on before he pulled his hand back and laughed lightly.

Cagalli smiled in return; glad to hear that he was laughing again, after so many days of sadness and pensive worry.† She grabbed his hand with her own, lacing her fingers through his.† Staring up at him, she saw the love and adoration he had for her in his deep green eyes and decided to surprise him by kissing him deeply and fully on the lips.

They both parted after a few minutes, neither one daring to draw further apart, their noses centimeters away from each other.

"What ... was that for," Athrun asked, his voice a bit husky and out of breath.

"For not dying on me, thatís why," she replied a bit mischievously, a smile tugging the corners of her mouth.

"I promised Iíd protect you, and donít intend on dying," Athrun replied.

"I know," Cagalli nodded, "but that still doesnít mean that Iím not china.† I wanted to be with you.† I didnít like staying in Orb by myself, knowing that you were fighting the Talon."† She suddenly felt Athrunís hand around her before she was pulled closer to him.

"I was angry at first," she leaned her head against his chest to hear the rumble of his voice, "but now ... Iím glad that youíre here."

Cagalli hmmed an agreement into his jacket, her arms encircling his waist, the pins and needles feeling long gone.† She loved how peaceful it was ... almost like a calm before the inevitable storm and for more than once since she had started fighting for what she believed in, she wished this moment would last.



"I donít want this to end ..."

"Me neither, Cagalli, me neither."

"I wish somehow, this could last forever ..."

* * * * *

Yzak walked the halls of the Babylon, feeling a bit lost.† It wasnít that he didnít know his way around the ship; it was the fact that there was nothing he could do now.† He had wanted to talk with Dearka, but also wanted to avoid the inevitable questions his good friend would ask him.† He still skittered a bit away to avoid the Naturals that were aboard the ship, the prejudices drilled into him at such a young age by his mother and father still sharp and strong.

He knew that such prejudices were to be frowned upon by the others, but he couldnít help it.† He had learned a lot more to tolerate the Naturals, but he felt lost without the overwhelming presence of Coordinators he knew that he could trust as brethren.

He gave all of the ships commanders, including those in OMNI, the tactical information he had on the Talon, and now, with no other mission given to him by Lacus, he felt lost.† Athrun was somewhere, and even now, he couldnít really talk to the man he had once sworn loyalty to only to break that loyalty.† Dearka was probably with his girlfriend and Yzak wanted to avoid her at all costs.† It wasnít that he didnít like Miriallia Haw, it was that he still did not feel comfortable in the presence of a Natural or in the concept of a Coordinator-Natural relationship.

He didnít want to bother Lacus as she was probably coordinating efforts in trying to deter the Talon from striking so hard in their next wave ... so basically there was nothing to do.

"So how come you didnít tell me that you joined the LF?" Dearkaís voice suddenly startled him and he stopped before turning back around to see his friend a few steps down the hall, arms folded across his chest.

Yzak shrugged, "Word would have gotten out.† My mother is still embroiled by her own fiasco of the Genesis Program, and I wanted a break from the media."

"That still doesnít explain why you disappeared without a word.† I was worried, so was Athrun," Dearka frowned, walking forward before stopping a few steps from him, "we were, no, we are still friends, and friends watch out for each other."

"Are we still friends, Dearka?" Yzak asked, knowing that his comment had to have stung really hard — and Dearkaís face showed it.

"What the hell do you mean by that?† Of course weíre still friends," Dearka shot back, his face showing no emotion, but his voice showing his anger.

"You joined their side, and fight by Naturals and other Coordinators alike.† I only joined the LF because I respected Lacus Clyne and what she was trying to do.† Though I donít believe in all of her ideas, I still think that peace is a viable opportunity," Yzak replied.

"You think weíre different just because you canít accept Naturals as beings with pain like we do.† Is that it?" Dearka replied and Yzak raised an eyebrow, "donít you remember what I told you on Mendel?† Naturals share the same pain we do.† We can co-exist with them-"

"You can," Yzak replied, "I still have a hard time doing it."

"And thatís why you disappeared, isnít it?† You couldnít see the two evolutions of human beings existing, couldnít you?"

"I see it, but it doesnít mean I can accept it so easily as you do," Yzak replied, startled to find that he was trying to defend himself from the accusations.† It was usually he who tried to place blame on someone, not him defending his own actions — a total reversal ...

"Then, why didnít you join the Talon?"

"What makes you think I didnít?"

"Yzak ..." Dearka drew back sharply, his eyes wide with surprise and shock.

"I considered it ... but then when I found out the real plans of what Sven Anderson was going to do to PLANT and the Earth, I had to stop him.† I started sending messages out to Lacus Clyne, trying to warn her of this new threat.† I had thought Anderson was going to bring about something new and peace for Coordinators, but all he wants is genocidal wars to happen to each other because of his petty sense of revenge."† He shook his head, "It was then I realized how fragile the peace was between Earth and PLANT.† I realized that peace had to be maintained no matter what.† Genesis started that belief, my motherís actions convinced me even further, but Andersonís mass genocidal plan told me I had to act."

"What did he plan to do?"

"He was going to destroy Orb after he killed Princess Cagalli, then pit both ZAFT and OMNI against each other.† But since the Princess evaded his assassin, he now is just baiting everyone by sending his fleet against Panama."

"What can he accomplish with just invading Panama?"

"He doesnít have to accomplish anything, Dearka.† All he has to do is wear down OMNI and the LFís ships that are here, before he goes after others.† Heís got spies on the inside and especially in Orb, though they might have been gone by now," Yzak replied.

"Which is why the Babylon is going to Mendel after Panama," a new voice startled the two of them and Yzak turned slightly to see the least likely person he would ever see since he was just a child.

"Ledonil Kisaka, itís been a long time," he greeted in a neutral voice.

"Your ancestor once said that a ghost of the dead cannot sleep if their enemiesí spirits are still roaming about.† It looks like youíve done the same," Kisaka said in a sage voice and Yzak smirked.

"Still the historian as ever, Ledonil," he replied.

"How-" Dearka started before Yzak cut him off.

"My mother, back when I was young, wanted an ancestry search done on our family.† She believed that one of my ancestors was the uncrowned prince of a nation that was like Orb in ways, except it was devoted to the ideas of total pacifism and was the basis for the beginnings of Coordinator research.† Ledonil had been assigned by Dr. Ulen Hibiki to oversee and gather intelligence to which he did and used, but he had also warned my mother and father that what they were looking up would be dangerous in the future ..."

"What does this have to do ..."

"Sven Anderson is my motherís cousin and that is where part of his delusions stem from.† He believes he can rectify everything by destroying everything that opposed him, including PLANT.† He was also privy to the research my parents conducted with Ledonil and it led him on this current path."

"If we survive the next wave of Talon attacks, the Babylon, Archangel, and Eternal will go to high orbit around Earth and meet up with the Kusanagi and decide our attack plan on Colony Mendel," Kisaka explained.

"Weíll survive.† Thereís no way Iím dying right now," Dearka said in a confident manner and Yzak nodded.† He knew that the next wave would be a lot faster and more decisive than the first one.† Captain Matato wouldnít make the same mistake twice.

* * * * *

Each person aboard their respective ships had their own personal moments, whether it was with loved ones or alone every thought was still the same.† Survive.† Defeat the enemies who want to kill you or have your loved one killed.† It was the calm before the storm, and a violent storm was brewing.

For Captain Murrue Ramius, she spent the moments before the storm lying in bed, a rare moment of peace for her, clutching two objects she would cherish for the rest of her life.† One was a necklace watch, reminiscent of one she had seen in the old photographs of her ancestors, but this was had been given to her by her first love who died shortly after.† The other was the dog tags of Mu LaFlaga.† Before the start of the battle to destroy Genesis, he had taken them off and given it to her, telling her that it was probably one of the few things he had cherished for a long time, the rest of his things destroyed aboard the ship he had been assigned to in the 7th Fleet.

She clutched both items, her eyes staring at the ceiling, memories coming up to her unseen eyes, unbidden as tears started to flow down her cheeks.† Mu ... I wish you were here ...

For Captain Andy Bartfield of the Eternal, he was sitting in his own office, sipping a smoothly blended cup of Jamaican coffee, staring at the picture of Aisha.† He wished she was still alive ... but she had died in his arms ... † Her guidance was what steadied him, and he knew that if he didnít stop whoever was trying to break this peace, then her sacrifice would be in vain.

For Miriallia Haw, she sat alone in her bed compartment, the curtains drawn around her to give her some peace.† Staring at the picture of Tolle, she felt a tear roll down her cheek and wiped it away.† She knew by the end of this conflict, she and Dearka would have to have a serious talk ...

Sai Argyle, in the bed compartment next to Miriís, was jotting down some notes in a journal he had decided to keep.† In the first page of the journal, he kept a few pictures of people, one of Flay, another of all of his friends in a group shot, but most of all, one of Kira, smiling in the days before the war turned his life and their lives upside down.† He always kept the Kira picture next to Flayís as he knew that somehow, Flayís spirit was looking down upon Kira with a gentle smile, and perhaps upon him.

Yzak Joule was sitting in the cockpit of the Duel, fiddling with the controls.† His family was traditional and if one stepped out of the bounds, then they were considered a traitor and had to be eliminated.† He wasnít entirely truthful to Dearka ... he had contacted his mother and received her blessings to kill Sven Anderson if he could ... † Once a traitor, always a traitor ...

Dearka Elsman sat in the mess hall aboard the Babylon, lost in deep thought.† Yzakís words had disturbed him, and the seriousness of what it meant for Coordinators and Naturals had firmed up his resolve.† The LF couldnít falter here ... and if people like Sven Anderson existed, then the LF was needed for a long time.

Ledonil Kisaka was overseeing the preparations for battle, checking up on the Strike Rouge personally.† He stared up at Strike Rouge, the memories of what happened all those years ago flitting across his mind.† If he ever got his hands on Sven Anderson, he would kill him personally ... the man was a loose cannon, someone that would be able to leak to the media and destroy whatever peace Cagalli and her twin brother Kira knew.† He had a mission that he was assigned with Kanoko Yamato.† Preserve the children, save them from being used as pawns.

Meanwhile, in a quiet section of the Babylon, Keiji and Kanoko Yamato were sitting across a table, their hands clasped together in worry.† No words were spoken by the two adults who had long seen so many horrors come their way.† None were needed as they knew what they had to do.† Keiji would always support her, Kanoko knew that, and she would finish what her dearest friend Katherine Hibiki had told her the day they had escaped from Mendel.

No words were also spoken as two people huddled together in silent comfort in one of the compartment quarters aboard the Babylon.† Athrunís eyes were open, but they were as hard as ice as he stared into the darkness of the room.† His arms were wrapped around Cagalli who had fallen asleep, using his jacket and shoulder as a pillow of sorts.† He unconsciously tightened his arms around her as he thought about the previous battle.† Griever was the one who had tried to kill Cagalli ... he was still there and he knew that during the next battle, he would have to have no hesitation and just kill Griever before anymore harm could come to him or Cagalli.

Throughout all of this, Lacus Clyne stood on the outside deck of the Eternal, singing the song of peace.† Though no one could hear her, she sang it to help ease her own fears.

Some fifty miles away, the task force lead by the Brimstone readied its weapons for its second foray into Panama.† Captain Lya Matato had a grim smile on her face.† "Status report?"

"All ships report combat-readiness maíam," one of her officers replied.

"Good.† Tell the ships to launch their mobile suits.† All ships ahead full," she ordered.

The battle for Panama had begun again.

* * * * *

PHASE FOURTEEN — Anna ni Issho Datta no ni

Kira could pick up the distant communication signals given by ships all over the place and found out that while the first battle against Panama had been won by the OMNI and LF forces, it was still heavy with casualties.† Panama had asked for reinforcements and it seemed that many of the OMNI forces, judging by the transmissions he intercepted on his way to Panama, were slow to respond.† It was absurd in Kiraís opinion, but then again, a part of him chided the fact that OMNI had always never been too trustful.† If they wanted Panama to fall, then so be it ... † Even ZAFT was slow to respond, but that was ZAFT, so Kira didnít care.

The only ships that seemed to care for Panama were the LFís ships, which made Kira want to hurry all the more.† He had been skirting the upper atmosphere of the Earth in order to shorten his time from Orb to Panama, and while it was considerably shorter, it had also given him time to think.

He had been such a fool these past few days.† Even though he knew that the assassin after him was somehow related to Mendel, he still couldnít believe the way he had acted towards his parents, his friends, his sister, Lacus, and most of all to Athrun.† He had pushed everyone away from him and wallowed in his own grief.

Well now, he was ready to make amends and to help his friends.† If the Talon were serious, as he had heard their transmission too, then he would stop them from hurting his family all together.† His friends were fighting for him, and he realized, that though they were fighting for him, he would also have to carry some of their burdens too.† Athrun had too long been a soldier and not known peace for a long time.† Cagalli grew up in a peaceful world of Orb, but her life was shattered with so many losses.† Lacus lost her father to the war because she tried to speak of peace.

He was the lucky one.† He had his parents that cared and supported him.† He had never known so many personal losses in the war.† Yes, Flay had died because he was unable to stop Rau Le Creuset, but she was not family in terms of what he was comparing to.† Flay Alster was a girl he had hurt badly during the war.† She was someone he had badly hurt and had been badly hurt by her.† While Lacus was his soul mate, Flay was his first love.

Kira touched a few buttons to adjust the fuel settings on his transporter before leaning back as comfortably as he could, given the tight space in the Freedomís cockpit.† He had gone outside on occasion, but the winds were always too high, and sometimes the altitude was too much for him to handle.

Flay was just an innocent girl with little to no knowledge of the outside world.† She only knew of her own prejudices and of what she learned from her father and from her friends.† She was the innocent girl who died such a horrible death.† That was what made Kira want to protect her and his own friends.† They were like her, they knew of the knowledge they had been given, not the whole truth.† Even if they learned about his origins, they still did not experience the horrors he had.

He had to protect them from all of that and right now it seemed that the Talon was the one who had sent the assassin to kill Cagalli.† He didnít really know, but it seemed logical.† Cagalli was an innocent in this new war.† She was only trying to speak the words of peace and try to rebuild her country.† She and Lacus were the new innocents in this war and Kira was determined to protect them.† He knew that Athrun had sworn to protect them all, but even he knew that his best friend couldnít handle everything.

That was now his duty.† His return to duty — to protect the ones he loved.

* * * * *

Murrue Ramius gripped the sides of her seat tightly as another explosion rocked the Archangel.† "Target 20 degrees, port, Variant missiles, fire!" she ordered in a hard voice and was rewarded when the missiles detonated, taking out a Talon ship.

"Status!" she turned her head slightly to see Miri.

"Decks 45 through 47 are on fire, but containment crews are on the way-"

"Captain!† Missiles incoming from starboard, 50 degrees!"

"Dispersing net, fire!"

The flares of the dispersing missiles intercepting the ones fired by the Talon ships was a bright flare and Murrue shielded her eyes slightly from the glare.

"Weíve reported damage by some of the Astrays, but Murdoch is handling repairs," Miri continued her report in a calm controlled voice.

"Good, what about communications with the Gundams?"

"Buster is hanging back to help deal with strays," Miri reported.

"Sai, what about the OMNI ships?"

"Looks like a few of them were hit, but the commanders are not retreating yet," Sai said from his seat next to Miriís.

"Send them a battle plan.† Weíre going to try to pincher them.† Send the same plan to Eternal and Babylon."

"Roger Captain."

"Targeting solution on the three nearest Talon ships.† Preparing the Lohengrins," she ordered.

"Solution found," Romero Pal, sitting at his firing station reported.

"Jam the signals, Petty Officer Chandra," she said to her electronic warfare officer who nodded and tweaked a few buttons and knobs on his control station.

"Lohengrins, fire!" she yelled.

The burst of red and white from the Archangelís main cannons tore through the first Talon ships before the Archangelís pilot, Master Chief Petty Officer Arnold Neumann turned the ship to let the Lohengrin cannons fire rake through the other two ships.

"Captain, weíre clear.† The OMNI ships have sent us a request for an arrowhead maneuver," Miri suddenly reported.

"Good, send them the confirmation," she replied.

"Next missile or beam weaponry contact?" she asked Jackie Tonomura, her specialist in enemy search and detection.

"None at the moment.† The three ships that were destroyed were formerly that," he grinned at her before turning back to his station, one of his hands clasped against his headset that he was intently listening to.

"Spearhead formation," she keyed the comm. over to the various OMNI ships that were on her approach and their faces lit up her own personal communication screens.† "The Archangel will be point.† Atlanta, Icarusí Flight, and Igerian will follow our slipstream to catch them off guard.† Use your Lohengrins," she ordered and a babble of protests replied to her order.

"You canít order-"

"This is preposterous ... Youíre an LF not OMNI anymore Captain Ramius!"

Murrue narrowed her eyes and cut the captains off with a glare, "Do you or do you not want to survive?† The Talonís got us boxed in and we need to break through their formations!† I may not be a ranking officer in OMNI anymore, but if youíll notice, the point will be the hardest hit, so Archangel will be taking majority of the fire power!"

The grumbles of grudging agreement came over before one of the captains gave a quirky smile.† "All right Captain Ramius.† Weíll follow you on this," the captain of the Icarusí Flight replied and Murrue recognized her as one of Halbertonís former 8th Fleet who had transferred to Lunar duty with the 7th Fleet before the Archangel had joined Halbertonís fleet.

She smiled slightly before turning to Jackie, "Give me a targeting solution on the Talon ships.† Send it to the others."

"Aye maíam," Jackie replied.

"Helm, bring us about," she ordered Arnold before he turned the stick, so that the Archangel was facing the incoming Talon ships.

The OMNI ships flanked them, and Murrue glanced at her FOF (Friend-or-Foe) board to see both the Babylon and Eternal had slid up next to her to form a tight triangle of ships.

"Captain," Andy Bartfieldís face appeared, "so whatís the plan?"

"Hit them with your main weapons then peel off.† The Atlanta, Icarusí Flight, and Igerian will be shooting them with their Lohengrins."† Technically, while the ships were not Archangel-class, they did carry their own Lohengrins like the Archangel, except they were smaller and had less power.† But combined together, they were very deadly to any ship in its path.

"Roger that," Bartfield grinned slightly before turning away to bark a few more orders at his crew.† Murrue noticed that Lacus was also sitting in the Eternalís other command chair, relaying information while providing other instructions to help Bartfield.

"Captain Kisaka, did you get all of that?" she asked the commander of the Babylon.

"Got it, the Babylon is ready," Kisaka replied.

"Roger," Murrue took a deep breath before she turned behind her, "Sai, all ships in formation?"

"Yes Captain," Sai replied.

"Broadband communication, Miri."

"Youíre on."

"Fire!" she ordered and as one, all ships, both LF and OMNI, fired their most powerful weapons at the incoming Talon ships before breaking away to let the three ships hiding behind their slipstreams to fire their own weapons.

"Hard to port!† Fire Gottfrieds!"

The Archangel rocked hard to port, turning away from the still remaining Talon ships that were caught off guard by such an immense fire power, but explosions still rocked the ship violently as those ships that managed to evade the combined power of the OMNI and LF fire back in retaliation.† Murrue was nearly thrown from her seat, only her restraining belt stopped her from being thrown everywhere.

"Incoming beam weaponry and missiles!"

"Fire Variants and dispersing charges!"

The battle continued on.

* * * * *

Athrun twisted in the air, avoiding missiles aimed at him.† He turned around and fired his beam rifle, each shot destroying a missile.† He dived down and targeted a group of Strike Daggers before firing his gattling cannons, their yellow beams destroying the weapons and heads of the mobile suits, effectively disarming them.

A sudden beep on his front screen alerted him to the Liberty, Claw, and Corsair Gundam headed his way.† Tossing his rifle aside, letting it fall into a thicket of palm trees, he drew out his double beamed saber and activated it.

"Athrun," Yzakís voice came over the comm. and Athrun turned slightly to see the Duel flying next to him, its beam saber also activated.

"Roger," he replied, their unspoken plan well rehearsed as both were formerly of the same squad in ZAFT, even though they didnít get along back then.

He wove in and out of the air current Yzak had made, the Duel flying in front of him as they charged at the three incoming mobile suits.† "Scatter fire," he called over the comm. as Yzak peppered the mobile suits with bullets.† Clouds of smoke and dust rose as the three raised their shields to defend themselves and Athrun dove underneath the cloud before pulling back up on the stick and climbed.

As the cloud cleared, he slashed through their formation, breaking them apart and taking out the Claw and Corsairís rifles.† Only the Liberty evaded his attack at the last minute and Athrun spun around, detaching his glider and homed it in on the Liberty.

He then dove and slashed his beam saber at the Corsair.† This pilot he didnít know, but he could tell that he or she was good.† His glider flew back at him and he paused for a moment to let the sensors attach it back onto his back before peppering the Corsair once more with a hail of bullets from his gattling guns.

"Thatís not going to work a second time," a deep growling voice filtered from his comm. system and he realized that it was the pilot of the Corsair.

Athrun was violently thrown forward as the Corsair knocked him from behind and he spun slightly, just in time to bring up his beam saber in a parry.† He gritted his teeth and pressed against the Corsairís beam saber when he suddenly was sandwiched from behind.† He turned slightly to see the Claw pinning him from behind.

"Athrun!" Cagalliís voice came over the comm., echoed moments later by both Dearka and Yzak.

"Shit," Athrun cursed softly to himself as he saw a seed snap in his mind — seed mode.† He tried to throw both the Claw and Corsair off of him, but found himself pinned tightly.† A low growl emanated from his throat and he tried to reach his other beam saber that was on his right side, but he couldnít move his hands from the beam saber without having to lose his grip and therefore be skewered by the Corsairís beam saber.

He tried to see if Cagalli, Yzak, or Dearka could help him, but a wave of Strike Daggers and Liberty were fending them off from him; leaving him the only one to get himself out.† The LF ships were pinned down by new waves of mobile suits and the advancing, almost suicidal Talon warships.

"Itís a pity that youíve never joined us, Athrun Zala.† Your father had his ambitions and we were ready to see it through," the voice of the Corsairís pilot replied and Athrun found that his voice sounded vaguely familiar.

"May I clip his wings now," the annoyed voice of the female pilot of the Claw came through and Athrun narrowed his eyes.

"Get off of me!" he shouted as he tried to wrench his controls to respond to his movements, but the Claw suddenly tsked.

"Uh-uh," the pilot taunted, "sorry, Zala.† No offense, but your little girlís going next after you ..."

Athrun turned slightly to see the Claw activate a beam saber before driving it down to skewer him from behind.† His eyes widened in shock as he saw the beam saber coming down towards him and there was nothing he could do about ...

A shadow in the air abruptly obscured the sun, and suddenly, the Claw was flying head over heels, pin-wheeling wildly in the air before crashing into a heavily damaged Talon ship, exploding it.† In place of where the Claw was, stood the last thing Athrun had expected to see.

"Itís not killing, but protecting those we love and consider family," the voice broke over his comm. system and Athrun could only stare in shock.

The Freedom Gundam had arrived.

* * * * *

Kira fired his beam rifle at the Corsair, making it duck and fly back from its stalemate with the Justice.

"Kira?!" Athrunís voice came over the comm. and Kira felt the corner of his lips quirk up in a smile.

"Iím sorry Athrun," he apologized, "for being such an idiot these past few days.† I didnít get to listen to what you or Cagalli had to say.† But thank you, for telling me what I had to do."

"But Kira-"

"While you carry my burdens, let me carry yours," he said before a slight twinge of pain made him wince.† It felt like a knife being slowly stabbed into him and it grew stronger and stronger.† Kira wondered where the pain came from and a sudden swoop of dťjŗ vu engulfed him and he realized that it was the same feeling he had during his time in the hospital.† It was the same exact feeling when he had thought he had felt someoneís eyes on him and when he had tried to stop Cagalliís assassin.

"Kira Yamato!" the pained, but angry voice of his clone-brother suddenly exploded in the comm. system and Kira flew up while shooting down at the Liberty who had abandoned its fight with Cagalliís Strike Rouge and the Duel.

"Kira!" Athrun called over, concerned.

"Deal with the others!† Heís mine!" Kira knew that Griever was out for blood.

His beam rifle clicked empty and Kira glanced at his power levels, and saw that they werenít too drained.† He threw away his beam rifle and pulled out both of his beam sabers and activated them.† Diving down, he dive-bombed at the Liberty and both met with a clash of beam sabers.

Kira swiped at the Liberty, flipping underneath him while stabbing him with his other hand, but Griever avoided it and retaliated with his own attack.† He defended the blows before lashing out with his leg and smiled grimly as the Liberty was turned head over heels.

"I wonít give up!† Youíre dead Kira Yamato!" Griever exploded over the comm.

Kira didnít say anything as he knew from his own experiences that jabbering over the comm. was useless during a battle.† He concentrated and easily fell into seed-mode.† The data from his scanners told him possible attacks that Griever was going to make and he calculated them before storing them in the back of his mind.† The pain that had been gnawing at him receded into the deep crevasses of his mind as he concentrated on the battle at hand.

He threw one of his beam sabers in an arc at the Liberty who ducked before firing its gattling cannons at him.† Kira raised his shield up, before charging forward and brought the arm with his shield up in a swipe.† The blow from his shield towards the Liberty threw it wide open and he grabbed his beam saber that had been arcing towards him and stabbed at the Liberty.

His beam saber missed the cockpit by the barest of inches and instead was diverted to the side where it gouged a deep cut into the side of the Liberty.† Kira drew back and fired his head vulcans, peppering the Liberty with a hail of bullets.

A sudden proximity warning made him spin around and he gasped in surprise as the Liberty appeared behind him.† There was no way that a mobile suit could travel that fast, he realized, but just then he was kicked hard in the back and Griever didnít stop there.† Kira was thrown painfully forward, his restraints digging into his shoulders and abdominal area as the Liberty rode the kick all the way down.† Kira crashed into the water and his screens were filled with the blue-green sea.

The force of the impact made him it his head on some of his controls and he blacked out.

* * * * *

Cagalli fired her beam rifle at the Claw before she deactivated the thrusters that were keeping her afloat in the air and the sudden drop made her stomach a bit queasy, but it caught the Claw off guard and bright yellow beam from the Buster hit the Claw head on.

Activating her thrusters again, she flew towards the Claw and dropped her beam rifle, simultaneously taking out her saber and activated it.† Slicing the Clawís arm off, she grinned as the Claw retreated slightly away from her, assessing her in a new light.

"Surrender," Yzakís voice blared on the battle frequency they were all using towards the Claw.

"You traitorous bastard Yzak Joule!" the female pilot of the Claw hissed back, "how dare you tell me to surrender."

Cagalli narrowed her eyes and snorted softly in disgust.† The pilot of the Claw sure talked a lot.† She could talk the talk, but it looked like she couldnít walk the walk.

"Shut up and drop dead then," Yzak snarled over the comm.

The Claw suddenly seemed to think twice about Yzakís last statement and suddenly turned tail and headed back to where the main ships of the Talon fleet were.† It was also then that a giant splash of water made her turn just in time to see both the Liberty and Freedom crash into the ocean.

"Kira!"† Cagalli called in anguish over the comm.

* * * * *

Kira blinked open his eyes as he shook his head slightly to alleviate the fogginess that was in his mind.† He glanced over at his controls and realized that he had only passed out for a few minutes.† Shifting in his seat and grabbed the keyboard and typed in a few commands.† Freedom hadnít sustained too much damage, but for underwater combat, it was going to be hard.

His sensors showed no immediate mobile suits or armors around him, and a few of the warships passed by overhead.† Grabbing the controls, he pulled the Freedom upright and looked up.† His eyes narrowed as he concentrated, trying to use the sense of dťjŗ vu he got with Griever to pin point him.† He still didnít know how Griever was able to catch him off guard ... it was as if he teleported, but that defied every known quantity of physics and of time and space.

He looked up; the Liberty was off fighting elsewhere, probably in a battle with his friends, so that left him room to set up a plan to take down Griever.† He treaded along the bottom of the ocean, knowing that he had a limited amount of oxygen in the water.† The carbon dioxide scrubbers fared well in space and in the Earthís atmosphere, but they did not do so well in water.† Freedom and most other mobile suits except for ZAFTís ZnO and GUUN amphibious suits were just not built for water combat.

A ship passed overhead and Freedomís sensors identified it as a Talon ship.† Kira suddenly got an idea and pushed forward on the throttle, lifting the Freedom towards the ship.† He latched onto the bottom as quietly as he could and connected his sensors to that of the shipís.† Quickly pulling out his keyboard, he hacked in commands to override whoever was controlling the ship and the shipís sensors appeared on his left side screen.

Looking around with the commandeered Talon ship, he finally saw the Liberty who had joined forces with the Corsair and were both fighting Justice and the Duel.† Strike Rouge and Buster were providing cover to the Archangel, Eternal and a ship that his own sensors identified as the Babylon, an Orb manufactured ship like its cousin the Kusanagi.

He directed the Talon ship towards the air battle and fired its cannons at the Corsair and Liberty before turning its cannons around and firing directly at the incoming warship.† Kira could only imagine the panic going on with the Talon warships.† Well there was always a first for everything and this was his first time trying out something like this.† He returned the shipís sensors to the battle and fired another volley at the two mobile suits, scattering them before suddenly his eyes narrowed as he saw the Liberty diving straight down at the ship.

The pain had started to return and the sense of dťjŗ vu he had was growing stronger and stronger.† He realized that Griever had caught on to his plan and as the Liberty swiped down at the ship with its beam saber, Kira detached himself from the ships before activating his thrusters and powered his way into the ship and through it.

He burst out into the air just as the Liberty sliced through the ship and the huge explosion buffeted him higher into the air.

"Kira!" Athrunís relieved voice came over.


As one the two best friends attacked the Liberty with all of their weapons, their minds not used to combat with each other, but with the skill that said otherwise.† It was as if they both knew what the other was going to do and in tandem, attacked the Liberty.

The Liberty crashed back into the sinking debris of the warship that Kira had commandeered moments ago before flares of retreat lit up the sky from the Talon ships.

Kira knew that he only had moments before Griever was going to escape again and dove down to strike the finishing blow.† He was suddenly slammed aside by the Claw and he gritted his teeth as he fought the g-forces and hovered in the air.† He turned to see the Claw picking the Liberty up and flying back towards the retreating Talon ships — their numbers dwindled to only a few ships now.

That was when he felt his breath coming raggedly and to his surprise, his grip on the controls of the Freedom were tight.† He forced himself to relax and opened a full comm. channel to Athrun, noticing that he was as tired as he was.

"Athrun," he greeted smiling tiredly.

"Glad to have you here with us, Kira," Athrun replied laughing lightly.

"Tori?" Tori chirped from behind Kiraís seat and he turned slightly to see his mechanical bird, silent throughout the whole battle, poke its head out before giving a mechanical flutter of its wings as if to say hi to Athrun.

Kira started laughing at his mechanical birdís antics and noticed that Athrun too was laughing.† A sense of peace and relief overcame him as both Freedom and Justice headed back to the LF ships.

* * * * *

PHASE FIFTEEN — Space, Where Dreams Fly

Kira glanced out in the vast emptiness of space, marveling at how small the PLANTs and even the moon looked compared to the wide black expanse, dotted with little stars twinkling in the distance.

"Itís been a long time since Iíve seen the stars like this," the gentle voice of his mother made him turn around to see her and his father floating towards him.† They grabbed the rails on the viewport of the Eternal, a bit awkwardly because of the disorientation of space.

All three LF ships had launched to space with the intention to head to Colony Mendel and stop the Talon leader, Sven Anderson once and for all.† They had joined up with the Kusanagi in space.† The Talon fleet left behind in Panama was so insignificant that OMNI had pushed them to stop the Talon in space and told them to leave the remnant Talon fleet on Earth to them.

Though the initial shock of seeing his parents man the Babylonís battle stations had worn off, Kira still couldnít believe that they were here.† He had tried to ask them why, but they had given him vague answers along the lines of stopping the people at Colony Mendel and what not.† He had his own suspicions, but he didnít voice it.† He had never expected his parents to even know how to operate a control station, and much less, see his father giving firing solution orders and shooting missiles.

He had heard the bit about his father being one of OMNIís top assassins, but surely it wasnít true.† He had a feeling that his adoptive father was more than he seemed and perhaps what his mother had been saying was true.† No, adoptive was not the right word ... now it should just be father.† Keiji Yamato was his father.† It didnít matter anymore if Ulen Hibiki was his real father; Keiji was the one who raised him along with his wife Kanoko.† They were his parents.† Not Katherine or Ulen Hibiki.

"How are you faring, Kira?" she placed her hands on his shoulders and he welcomed her presence.† It made him feel protected ...

"Better," he replied quietly as his father stood next to him, hands clasped behind him, staring out at the stars.† "I still canít believe you joined up ..."

"Itís temporary," his father replied, still staring at the stars before his gaze drifted to the larger specks that was the PLANTs.† "Your mother and I just want finish up business in Mendel before I go back to teaching obnoxious teenagers in high school."

Kira noticed that his father had hardened his gaze when he mentioned Mendel and that his mother had flinched slightly.† He placed a hand on hers to comfort her.† Out of the corner of his eyes he saw her looking down at him, surprised.† "Weíll finish whatever business we have at Mendel," he emphasized the Ďweí part.

His father laughed lightly before clapping him on the shoulder, "Youíve matured a lot Kira.† Your mother and I were worried, but now ... you-"

"Iím myself," Kira replied, "I was worried, but Athrun, Lacus, and Cagalli told me otherwise.† I realized that I had to do something.† I couldnít let Griever control my life."

"Thatís my boy," Keiji sounded pleased.

There was a soft hissing sound as the door to the viewport opened and all three turned slightly to see Lacus poking her head in before her eyes widened in surprise at interrupting a family moment.† "Oh, please excuse me," she was about to duck back out when Kanoko held up a hand.

"Wait, Lacus, please donít go.† We were just leaving.† Iím sure Kira would like you to stay," she beckoned her forward and Kira was glad that his mother knew what he was thinking.

"Weíll see you in the meeting, Kira," his father squeezed his shoulder before taking his mother in his arms and the two of them floated out, leaving Lacus by the door.† As the door hissed closed behind them, Kira stared at Lacus and saw her staring back at him.

Since he had last seen her, days ago in Cagalliís mansion, he had missed her terribly.† During the launch into space, he had not even gotten a chance to talk with her, but now ... † He knew that she was part of the fleet, but seeing her in the flesh and not over comm. systems ...

"Kira," she launched herself into his arms and he caught her, holding her tightly as he buried his face into her shoulder.† Tears of joy leaked out of his eyes as he held her and breathed in her presence.† His soul mate, his one true love ... his other half that he knew he could never live without.

"Lacus," he whispered her name before he kissed her gently on the cheek and pulled away so that their noses were barely touching each others.† "I missed you," he said in a quiet voice.

"I missed you too ... but you came, and helped us," she smiled before they drifted a bit apart, still close, but enough so that they were both gripping the railing and occasionally staring out at the stars.

"I came because I had to.† Senator Amalfi met me down in Morganroete and told me that while my friends had been fighting to protect me, he made me realize that I was not fighting to kill, but fighting to keep the peace that weíve worked so hard to attain," Kira explained and suddenly trailed off as he saw a smile form on Lacusí face.† "Whatís so funny?" he asked.

"I was the one to ask Senator Amalfi to meet you down there," Lacus replied, "I knew that it would shock you, but he was also very reluctant to meet you.† I felt that the two of you have something in common.† You both wanted peace, yet you both felt so alone.† I wanted you and him to realize that you were not alone, you had family, friends, and those nameless faces that want peace."

She suddenly looked abashed and looked down, "Please forgive me Kira ... Iím sorry if you were angry ..."

Kira opened his mouth, but then closed it.† He mulled over what Lacus had said for a few seconds before he tilted her chin up from the floor with his hand, making her stare into his eyes while he stared into hers.† "Lacus, none of this was your fault ..." he whispered before leaning in and gently kissing her on the lips.

It only lasted for a few seconds, but in those seconds, Kira could feel his soul bond with hers.† They were soul mates, one in the same ... and both could feel the love and adoration for each other.† He reluctantly parted with her after a few seconds, but the lingering effect of the kiss was still there.

"We should get to the meeting," Lacus said after a few minutes of silence and of staring at each other.

"Then letís go," Kira replied before placing an arm around her waist and leading her to the door.† The two exited the viewport room, and headed towards the meeting.

* * * * *

Athrun squeezed Cagalliís hand in reassurance as Kisaka brought up a full holographic map of the Earth Sphere.† He glanced over to see Kira and Lacus slip in, just as Kisaka started speaking.† He wondered where they had been, but decided to ignore it as Kira probably spent some time alone with Lacus — which was much needed, he knew.

"As Yzak had told us, a majority of the Talonís fleet was sent to Panama, leaving only a handful of skeletal ships to defend Mendel.† Though there are no indications of super weapons like Genesis or Cyclops system in Mendel, we still need to be wary of traps.† All other LF ships have been occupied in their own assignments to watch and guard for possible resurgence or retaliation of Talon sect forces in PLANT and various bases of the Earth due to the Talon fleetís defeat in Panama.

"The four ships, Eternal, Babylon, Kusanagi, and Archangel will be the only ships, in LF, OMNI, and ZAFT to be headed towards Mendel.† If we do not stop Sven Andersonís plans, then there will be no others to pick up after us," Kisaka pitted them with a hard stare.

"There will be two infiltration teams of four.† I will be leading one, and Ledonil here will be leading the other one," Quinn Misali casually stepped up, touching a few buttons on the holographic projection to show a map of Mendel, which was by far a very small installation.† "The first team will be in charge of subduing any resistance we encounter while the second team is to neutralize Anderson and any data that seems too dangerous to fall into the wrong hands.

"The infiltration is the hardest part and there might be a chance that those that go will not return.† Mendel, as you know, was known for its experimentation.† We donít know what kinds of humans or even creatures we might be encountering in there," Misali said in a flat voice and Athrun glanced over to see Kira freeze up slightly at the mention of Ďexperimentationí and Ďcreaturesí, but Lacus placed a hand on his forearm to calm him down and he relaxed.

Athrun figured Misali didnít know any better as he only had the barest of information, but he wondered what was the general publicís opinion on the events of Mendel.† He would have to ask someone later ...

"Theyíre not creatures," Cagalli hissed beside him and he looked at her, rubbing his fingers over hers to try to calm her down.

"He doesnít know ... only a few know," he whispered back before paying more attention to what Misali and Kisaka were saying.

"Iíll need four more volunteers for both teams.† Kanoko Yamato and Brian DaCosta have volunteered their services for each team," Misali said and Athrun looked over to Mrs. Yamato, shocked to see that she had volunteered.† He would have never expected someone with her gentle disposition to even be holding a gun, much less volunteering for what looked like a suicide mission.

"Iíll volunteer," her husband next to her suddenly spoke up and Athrun blinked, but he didnít get a chance to voice his surprise as Misali did it for him.

"Keiji?!† What in the blazes are you doing here?!" Misali looked truly shocked.

"Nice to see you too Kingfisher," Keiji Yamato replied in a slightly sarcastic voice.

The room suddenly burst into murmurs before a few more calls of volunteering echoed, trying to be heard over each other.† Athrun knew that he should but just as he was raising his hand up, Kiraís voice spoke loudly over the crowded room.

"Iíll volunteer," he said and Athrun stared in shock as Cagalli grabbed his sleeve to keep herself from falling over in shock.† Did he hear what Kira just said?

Apparently the whole room also heard and went silent, all eyes on Kira who seemed unperturbed by so many eyes on him at once.

"Iíll join Captain Misaliís infiltration team.† During the war two years ago, Mu and I were able to enter into Mendel and see its wreckage.† I know the way to its buried secrets and can show you it," Kira said and Athrun frowned, hoping that his best friend knew what he was doing ...

"I donít think-"

"No," Keiji suddenly stepped in front of his son, "heís not volunteering."


"No.† You and I will talk about this later," Keiji glanced back at his son, his face impassive.

"Heís right," Murrue suddenly spoke up, "youíre too valuable as the pilot of the Freedom.† If there are more mobile suits there, you and the others will have to defend the ships."

Athrun saw that Kira looked a bit disappointed and angry, but kept his emotions in check as Ledonil continued the briefing.† He knew that he would talk with his friend later.

"Sunne and Ivanov will join my team while Nemati and Chan will be joining Captain Misaliís," Kisaka said before switching the projection to a broader scope, "there will be a separate meeting for the teams later on, but for the moment, the data given to us shows that the possible entry points will be here, here, and here.† The Kusanagi, since it has the lowest of firepower capabilities, will run interference for the infiltration teams while the Archangel, Babylon, and Eternal will be keeping any Talon ships there at bay."

"Everyone all set?"

There were murmurs of agreement and Misali clapped his hands together, "All right then.† Weíll be at Mendel in about twelve hours.† Until then, weíll do three four-hour shifts.† May the Fates smile down on us."

* * * * *

It was a few hours later that Athrun found himself on board the Eternalís mess hall.† It was once again the only ship capable of carrying both the Justice and Freedom without cramping any space.† But he wasnít the only one in the mess hall.† Sai, Dearka, Miri, and Yzak had also joined him, Cagalli, Lacus, and Kira.† Athrun noticed that there seemed to be a distanced feeling between Miri and Dearka and wondered why, but shoved the thought away as Yzak thunked his mug angrily down on to the table.

"I should have been on that team," he said in a quiet but angry voice, "it was my familyís duty to eliminate Anderson."

"Youíre better needed piloting Duel.† I mean who knows what we might encounter out there.† Youíve seen what the pilots of Claw, Corsair, and Liberty could do," Athrun explained calmly, rolling his mug in his hands before taking a sip of the coffee inside.

"So?" Yzak glared at him, "it should have been me!"


"Shut up Athrun.† Itís different from your familyís views.† My mother expects me to kill Anderson!"

"So when have you stopped listening to your mother and think for yourself?" Athrun narrowed his eyes, peeved at his friend.

"I think for myself-"

"At this rate, no," Athrun interrupted him glaring at the stubborn white-haired pilot.

"What the hell do you know?"

"You are just as stubborn as you were all those years ago!"

"Iíve changed!"

"Yeah right-"

"SHUT UP!" Kiraís roar made both of them stare at him, their words hanging as they slowly sat down.

"Iím sick of hearing everyone fight," Kira was still staring at his mug, but Athrun noticed that his best friendís hands were holding his mug tightly, a slight tremor in its contents.† He heard a slight creak from the mug and realized that Kira was to the point where he would crack the mug with his bare hands if he had to.

"What the hell would a Natural know," Yzak said in a derisive tone, still angry and Athrunís anger flared once more.

"Leave Kira alone-"

"Please, Athrun, let it go," Kiraís voice, now cold, made him stop and he stared at his best friend, barely noticing the shocked and tense expression on everyone elseís face.† Even Lacus was hesitating to say something to Kira to try to soothe his anger.

"For starters, I am a Coordinator like you," Kira said, pitting Yzak with a frosty look, "second, whatever prejudices you hold against Coordinators or Naturals, leave them.† The people youíll be fighting are Coordinators and Naturals with Coordinator-like abilities."

"I know that," Yzak snapped, "I was the spy within."

"Then you should also know that a fair amount arenít human," Kira replied in the same frosty tone.

"Nikolai Mercus sure as hell isnít," Yzak muttered.

"Who?" Dearka asked, confused.

"Griever," Kira replied and Athrun wondered how he knew, but left it at that as he realized what Yzak had said.

"Not human?"

Yzak nodded, "Genetically enhanced, he looks almost like you," he pointed a thumb at Kira, "except for a wicked scar down his left side."

Dearka, Miri, and Sai gasped at the revelation, but Athrun already knew about it and just nodded.† "He was the assassin sent to kill Cagalli, but he was very fast," Athrun said before putting an arm around Cagalliís waist and hugging her closer to give her some reassurance.

"The Claw was piloted by Amai Asterli.† Sheís one psycho bitch," Yzak downed the contents of his mug, "Asterli joined before I came aboard, but she was altered by some implants to bring out her more aggressive emotions."

"Thatís why she was yelling all over the place," Dearka murmured.

"Who was in the Corsair then?" Sai asked, ignoring Yzakís flinch of being asked by a Natural.

"He was a recent candidate from Orb," Athrun stared, surprised and noticed that Cagalli and Kira also had shocked expressions on their faces.† "They took him aside days prior to the bombing, and altered him.† I think his name was Taylor Ren."

The sound of a mug shattering made everyone stare at Kira who was shaking, his eyes wide with fright, the remnants of his mug and contents forming liquid bubbles that started to float everywhere.† Athrun reached out a hand to try to calm him down, but to no avail.


"Know him?" Yzak asked.

"He was in the Senate Hall ... he was there when the bombs exploded ... he was injured ... he ... couldnít have been the pilot of Corsair," Kira looked scared and betrayed before Lacus took him into her arms and let his head rest on her shoulder.† She rubbed his arms to soothe him.

"Wait, that means he was the one who bombed the Hall," Cagalli put two and two together.

"No, it was Nikolai," Lacus suddenly spoke up, making Athrun turn to see her staring at everyone, "I had talked with Senator Amalfi and he said that his aide was named Nikolai Mercus.† Nikolai hit him on the back of his head to knock him out before setting off the bombs to frame him."

"Then we should capture him and set him in front of a tribunal to clear Senator Amalfiís name," Miri suggested.

"No," Kira interrupted in a quiet voice, "we should kill him."

"Kira?" Sai and Miri looked shocked and Athrun stared at his best friend.

"Kira are you sure-"

"Griever is one of them, Athrun," his best friend replied, "you know as well as I do that they shouldnít live."

Kira suddenly got up and headed towards the door to the halls.† Lacus hurried after him and just as the two got to the door Yzak impulsively spoke up.

"Wait, youíre telling me that we should kill the only chance to let Senator Amalfiís name be cleared?!† Youíve killed Nicol and now youíre going to keep tarnishing the Amalfi name?!"

Athrun glared at Yzak for bringing up the subject of Nicolís death but the white-haired pilot ignored him.† He turned his head and stared at Kira, noticing how stiff his friend was.

"Yes I killed Nicol," Kira started so softly that he barely heard him, "but I will not let Senator Amalfiís name be tarnished further.† Griever is more of menace than the deaths of a person or of their name would ever be."† With that he stepped out, the door hissing close behind him.

* * * * *

PHASE SIXTEEN — Colony Mendel

The remnants of Colony Mendel could be seen with the naked eye.† So far there were no warnings of approaching ships or of weaponry being fired at them, but Kira knew that it was only a matter of time before those alarms went off.† He finished stepping inside of his skin-tight flight suit; its familiar blue-white colors a welcoming sight.† Zipping it up tightly left the top open to buckle up later and checked his helmet.

"You okay?" Athrun asked, stepping away from his own locker aboard the Eternal and zipping up his orange-white flight suit.

"Iím fine," Kira replied smiling gratefully as he knew that Athrun was asking about what had happened a few hours ago in the mess hall.† "It took a while, but Yzakís right in a way.† If we do capture Griever, he can clear Senator Amalfiís name."

"Yeah, but you said so yourself.† Heís one of the twisted experiments and I donít think weíd be able to capture him.† Itís kill him or he kills us," Athrun said, checking his helmet before fiddling with a few pads inside.

"I know," Kira sighed, "itís just that ..."† He trailed off, slipping his helmet on before adjusting it to encircle his flightsuitís neckline.† It wouldnít be too good if there was a leak in the suit and the Freedom Gundam suddenly depressurized.

"Did you talk to your parents?" Athrun changed the subject and Kira was glad that his best friend could always pick up on his moods so easily.

"Yeah," he zipped up the rest of his flightsuit and secured the neckline to his helmet, "I donít like it, but they know what theyíre doing."

"I never would have expected to see your mother or father holding a gun.† They were so nice back on the Lunar base," Athrun joked lightly and Kira grinned, knowing that he was trying to get his mind off of the upcoming battle.

"Never would have expected to see it too.† Guess parents arenít what they seem at times," he replied before giving a final once-over to himself making sure he didnít miss anything before looking up at Athrun, "you ready?"

"As Iíll ever be," Athrun replied before the two of them headed out of the locker rooms and towards their Gundams.

* * * * *

"Are you sure you want to do this?" Kanoko asked her husband while he polished the pieces of an assault rifle with delicate care.† She had not seen him touch a gun since he had married her, and now, the sight of him getting ready to go back to his old life, even if it was just for one mission, was unnerving her.† She herself only carried a handgun as she didnít want anything to do with weaponry.† It was forced upon her by Ledonil who had told her that they were the only two people who knew what files had to be eliminated and if they were killed, and then no one would know what to do.

"Iím sure, Kanoko," Keiji replied evenly, blowing the alcohol to dry before assembling his rifle with uncanny precision and speed.† He sighted along the barrel to make sure everything was straight before slapping a full clip into it.† "Ghosts like Anderson shouldnít even be allowed to wander.† Our son should be left alone, not brought back so violently to his past."

"But Keiji ... I ... donít like the idea of you-"

"Kano," it was his nickname for her, "I saw your pain when you heard about our son joining the Earth Alliance forces in their fight against the PLANTs, I saw it again when you found out that he nearly died in his battles, only coming back out scarred.† That pain was shown once more when you found out about Sven Anderson and the Talon.† I donít want to see that pain again."

"Still, I donít want you to die," Kanoko whispered, suddenly afraid.

Keiji placed the rifle down on the bench he had been sitting on to clean it before clasping his wifeís hands in his own, making her look at him, "I wonít die out there, nor will you.† Weíll both come back safe and sound and with Kira too.† Heís our child, my son, your son.† Katherine Hibiki was his birth mother, but he is our son.† Nothing can take that away from us.† Weíll put the past behind us and make sure nothing like this ever happens again.

"All those years ago, I swore to protect you and protect Kira.† Nothingís changed.† I didnít die then when they sent the second team over and I wonít now," he continued and Kanoko by then was in tears.† Keiji stopped for a moment before he hugged her tightly before whispering into her ears, "I love you Kano."

"I love you too, Kei," he heard her muffled reply as the two shared a brief moment of peace before the second phase of the storm was about to strike.

* * * * *

Preparations were almost completed when the first warning alarms burst through each of the four LF shipsí corridors.† The alarms were then replaced by their respective captains signaling all hands to battle stations.† Already the Gundam pilots were in their mobile suits and the Astray pilots were ready to head out and meet the opposing force.† Both infiltration teams had already shuttled over to the Kusanagi who, under the command of Quinn Misaliís second, was ready to execute its mission.

The first round of beam weaponry was fired and the mobile suits were sent out.

Kira looked over the targeting data his Freedom picked up and fell into seed-mode.† He lined up the targets with deadly precision and fired his beam weapons, washing the area in a light of red, yellow, and green.

There werenít too many ships, but he knew that he had to get rid of them before the Kusanagi could approach.† Speeding forward, he throttled the controls and fired his beam rifle.† Three short bursts caught three JINNs, exploding them on sight.† He knew that he usually didnít kill, but he also knew that while Anderson may have known about Mendel, it was the probable fact that his underlings knew what Mendel was capable of.

He had to kill them, there was no other choice, a part of him said, as he dropped his beam rifle and activated one of his sabers.† Diving towards a cluster of mobile suits, he slashed at two of them, decapitating them in the waist.† They promptly exploded and he turned around raising his shield to block a few bullets coming his way.

A few of the mobile suits started towards him to challenge him and he dispatched them with ease.† He noticed that Athrun and the others werenít having too hard of a time dealing with the other suits and signaled to the Kusanagi.† "Passage clear, start your mission," he said before clicking off the comlink.

Turning slightly he stared at the floating remnants of Mendel.† It still looked the same ... and he wondered if Anderson changed the inside of the colony to suit his purposes.† Suddenly a squad of Strike Daggers firing their rifles at him alerted him back to the battle at hand and he thrusted forward to meet them.

He slashed at a Dagger, cutting it in half before turning around and brought his other beam saber out, cutting two daggers across the head before he turned slightly and stabbed them each in their cockpits.† They floated a bit away before exploding in spectacular fashion.

"Kira," Athrunís voice came over, "the Babylonís reporting that there seems to be a cluster of warships on the far side of the Colony.† Dearka and Yzak have gone to check it out."

"Roger that," Kira replied, "is the Babylon-"† He froze mid-sentence as he felt a sudden swoop in his stomach followed by a forming pain in his head.† The swooping feeling dissipated as he started to feel the sense of dťjŗ vu.† But that wasnít possible ... he was back in Panama, on Earth.† There was no way ... the LF fleet would have detected him ...

"Kira?" Athrunís voice came over, concerned.

"Heís here," Kira could not deny the sense that told him who it was.

"Who?" Cagalli asked, confused.

"Griever," Kira replied, the word tasted like sawdust in his mouth as the pain increased.

"Thatís not possible-"

He suddenly shot upwards as a huge burst of yellow beam weaponry tore through where he was, before the outline of a ship appeared on his sensors — indicating that it was the Brimstone, the capital ship of the Talon.† He narrowed his eyes as he saw three mobile suits fly from the hanger bays of the Brimstone.† They were identified as the Claw, Corsair, and Liberty.

"Werenít expecting us?" Grieverís voice came over the battle comm. system and Kira dropped his shield, giving his left arm free range of motion with his two beam sabers.

"You not supposed to exist," he growled as he charged the Liberty, beam sabers raised

The two clashed head on.

* * * * *

The soldier inside of him knew that it wasnít possible for the Brimstone or its mobile suits to show up.† But the human side of Athrun speculated that whatever had gone on in Mendel, it had something to do with the sudden and abrupt appearance of the warship.† Nonetheless, the appearance of a new ally for the Talon forces had revitalized their fighting spirit and now were on attack patterns that were almost suicidal.

Athrun drew out his double beam saber and activated it, discarding his almost depleted beam rifle for it.† He noticed that Kira had taken on the Liberty for a one-on-one and knew that somehow, Kira and Griever were connected, if not by appearance, but by something higher.† That left the Claw and Corsair.

"Cagalli," he keyed the comm. to warn her.

"You take Claw, Iíll handle Corsair," she replied and charged off, firing at the Corsair who dodged and ducked.

It was times like this that almost made Athrun wish he had rebuilt the Meteor systems for both the Justice and Freedom, but he quashed the idea as he knew that both were too powerful to ever exist again.

"Iíll take you down and raise your head as my trophy!" the pilot of the Claw yelled over the comm. and Athrun grimly didnít say anything as he clashed with the mobile suit.

He swung upwards before slashing across, but the Claw evaded all of his blows and he gritted his teeth, frustrated.† He parried her furious blows but suddenly she lashed out with her foot and Athrun fell back.† He recovered just in time to block a blow aimed at his head.† His beam saber was forced back to his head and Athrun pressed hard, trying not to let the Claw overpower him.

Activating his flyer, he let it out and it zoomed away from him before arcing back and racing towards the unprotected back of the Claw.† To his surprise, the Claw suddenly stuck a hand out and caught his flyer before tossing it away.

"Youíre dead," the pilot of the Claw growled over the comm. and he noticed something akin to tension in her voice.† He remembered what Yzak had said about the pilots of the Claw and Corsair, they were manipulated to fight, they werenít doing this on their own ... which meant that if he killed her, then it would be on his guilty conscience for killing someone who was technically innocent.

"You canít kill me, you have to fight it!" he activated the comm. and spoke with her.

"What?" the female pilot replied, confused, "I will kill you!"

"Fight it!" he urged her.

"Fight you, of course Justice Gundam pilot Athrun Zala!† I am fighting you to kill you!" she replied but her words were jumbled a bit and Athrun knew that he was getting to her.

"You arenít what you are.† You donít want to kill anyone."

"Youíre bullshitting me, Zala," the pilot sneered, "why donít you just dig your grave and die."† She pressed harder with her beam saber, forcing his closer to his cockpit.

"You were just a young girl who got caught up in this whole mess-"

"Because of you!† You and your fatherís stupid ideals!† Your father betrayed my family!"

Athrun started ... this was new ... † He pushed more power into his thrusters to try to heave the Claw off of him, but to no avail.† "How?" he asked, forcing the words out of his mouth as used all of his strength to keep the powerful Claw at bay.

"Your father used Genesis to wipe out my brother and father with no care in the world.† You left my mother and I abandoned!† Out of her grief, she killed herself, leaving me alone to fend!"

"Itís not my fault!" he replied, trying to convince her.

"It is so yours!† You left them!† You could have saved them by stopping your father!† You abandoned them to die like the dogs they were!"

"Your family was lost like mine!"

"My family was my home!† Thatís something you wouldnít understand!" she screamed.

Athrun flinched at her words, costing him a few precious centimeters and his beam and hers slipped closer to his cockpit.† He could feel the heat in his cockpit rise a few degrees as a result but ignored it.† "I understand, Amai," he said in a quiet but firm voice, "my mother was killed on Junius 7.† My father died of his own madness ..."

"Then you should know that you should die!"

"I probably should," Athrun agreed, "but that doesnít mean you should kill your own soul to do so.† Youíre a gentle person, Amai Asterli.† You shouldnít carry such burdens as you do.† Let others take them and help you along."

To his surprise, the Claw suddenly stopped its attack and backed away.† Athrun breathed a quick sigh of relief before lowering his saber to a defensive position.† He knew that even though his words might have gotten to Amai Asterli, she was still an enemy at the moment and people who liked to live didnít let their guard down so easily.

"W-What ... a-am I doing ..." gone was the screaming voice, and in place was a high-pitched one, very confused and very fearful.


"W-Who are you?" she sounded terrified.

"Iím a friend, here to help you," Athrun dared not reach out a hand in case it was a ploy.

"W-Where a-am I?" she stuttered.

"Youíve been asleep for a long time, Amai.† Youíve only recently awakened, but everyone here is your friend here to help you ..."

"Help me?" she asked.

"Yes.† Iím Athrun Zala-"

A strangled cry that sounded half like a keening of an animal and half like a humanís scream reverberated through the comm. system.† It sounded so painful and so terrified that it made Athrun wince.† "Amai!† Amai!"

"YOU WILL DIE!!!" the screaming voice was back and the Claw charged him, swinging her beam saber wildly.

It happened too fast, but Athrun regretted every moment of it.† The Claw had charged him and the soldier part of him found its weakness when she raised her arms high to strike an overhead blow.† His beam saber tore through her middle, where the cockpit was and cut the Claw in half.† The Justice floated away a bit as the two separate halves of the Claw sparkled a bit before exploding.

Amai Asterli, the pilot of the Claw was dead.

* * * * *

"Wolf will take point while Desert and Tempest covers him," Kingfisher ordered directing his five-man team.† He had opted to take on another member because of the advantages of five people.† "Akuma, youíre with me."

"Roger that," came the four replies of his teammates and Quinn Misali, known to a majority of the Earth Alliance and ZAFT as Kingfisher grinned.† He glanced at his former partner back when they were both in the Black Ops of OMNI, Keiji Yamato — still codenamed Akuma — who was wearing the regular attire of infiltration.† Age didnít seem to dim his good friendís ability to blend in with the shadows, but he still didnít know how good was his accuracy.

Yu-Ling Chan, or Wolf, was the only female on the team, but she was one of the best that Kingfisher knew.† She excelled in sniping and was a good grenadier.† Tarrant Nemati, Tempest, whose file he had come across had said that he was a Coordinator and like most Coordinators was an excellent marksman and all around skilled at infiltration. †He was hesitant at first to put him on the team, but got past his own prejudices to include him.† Michael DaCosta, Desert, was Andy Bartfieldís second, but Andy had recommended him as a good reconnaissance person to go for the mission.

"Clear," was the reply from Wolf and Kingfisher exited out of the shuttle, Akuma tailing after him.† He moved away and gave an all clear sign to the pilot who nodded and began to back out of the hanger bay.† Turning his gaze to the dusty bowls of Mendel, he shielded his eyes from the wind that was blowing up a lot of brown dust and raised his hand, signaling for Desert and Tempest to move forward.

"Find a spot, Wolf," he ordered her and she nodded before scurrying to find a viable sniping spot in case they encountered any resistance.

"Clear," came the comm. check over his ear peace, and Kingfisher signaled Akuma to move ahead.

The first team slowly made their way into the depths of Colony Mendel.† But as they did so, they did not see a person following them.† The shuttle pilot had not gone back as ordered, but instead landed in a different area and followed them from a distance.† On one of the pilotís wrist dangled a gold charm bracelet, on the other, a silver charm bracelet.

* * * * *

PHASE SEVENTEEN — Infiltration

Kanoko slid up against the wall, her handgun out and her finger barely pressing the trigger.† She never liked guns, but she knew that she would have to use one in here.† They were all wearing Kevlar armor in case anyone did get shot, so there was some protection.† She didnít know how her husband was doing, but she hoped that he was fine.

She saw Ledonil peek around a corner before signaling to her and the two other people of their team.† They moved ahead of her and she followed them, she did not know anything about infiltration, but she knew that she wouldnít be a hindrance to Ledonil and the rest of her team.

Kingfisherís team had entered through the most viable way that was heavily covered in security to draw off the guards while Ledonilís team took the back route that was only known to few of the personnel that was originally part of Dr. Hibikiís team.† She and Ledonil had banked on the fact that their former colleague, Sven Anderson, had not known about this hall, and their hunch was correct.

There werenít any guards here and it seemed that no security cameras were in place.† As soon as Sven came out as the leader of the Talon, she had felt her heart skip a few beats.† She had thought that Anderson had died along with the rest of the Mendel crew when the explosions went off, but it seemed that he survived.† If Anderson survived, she wondered if any of her former colleagues had also survived.† She dared hope not, as tracking them down and possibly eliminating them would be a horrendous task.† Perhaps a few of them retired into their peaceful lives, having nothing to do with the current political arena, but she knew that there were a few of her colleagues who would take advantage of what they knew if they found out that Kira, the only sole survivor of Hibikiís experiments was alive and well.

She had considered changing her sonís name once or twice, but always kept it as a tribute to his birth motherís last wishes.† Only the last name of Yamato was added as "Kira Hibiki" would sound too conspicuous to anyone, especially those in ZAFT.

Ledonil and Kingfisher had assured her that the men and women they had chosen were the best in keeping secrets, especially pertaining to Black Ops missions, such as this one.† She wasnít too sure, especially since finding out that Kingfisher had once been with her husbandís unit when he had been in OMNIís Black/Special Ops, but Keiji had personally reassured her of Quinn Misaliís loyalty to whatever task was at hand.† The less people knew about what happened in Mendel, the better off Kira would be.† She never wanted her son to be a pawn between Naturals and Coordinators.

Ledonilís touch, though light, startled her from her thoughts and she colored red slightly, dipping her head in an apology to her friend for not paying more attention to their surroundings, but he shook his head and motioned to her a room they had come upon.

She pointed at the closed door and he nodded.† Wordlessly going over, Andrea Sunne and Olivier Ivanov flanking her like bodyguards, she noticed that the control pad to enter the room was still working and narrowed her eyes, trying to remember her passcodes.† It had been so long since she used them ... and she had never thought sheíd used them again.† After a few seconds, she turned to Ledonil and mouthed to him, "I donít know!"

"Scientist?† Opportunity?† Childhood?† Doctorate?† College?† Medical school?† Research?† Peace?" He started whispering and Kanoko picked up on the fact that he was trying to help her remember by naming not-so random phrases that might trigger her to remember her passcode.

"Birth year?"

"Shh!" she hissed at him, as she suddenly remembered part of the passcode.† Though the pad allowed alphanumeric coding, it was close to it.† She concentrated for a second before she suddenly typed in the code and the door hissed open.† Both Sunne and Ivanov suddenly pointed their assault rifles in at the darkened room, their faces impassive at the sudden opening of the door.† Their flashlights on top of the rifles strobed the room before Ivanov nodded an all-clear.

"Here, take this," Ledonil handed her a glowlight and she cracked it open before she held it up in front of her, stepping into the room.

Dusty old panels and squeaky swivel chairs, bolted to the ground as Mendel was floating in a near zero-g, the generators all but lost, utterly destroyed as that was the first thing she, Ledonil, Uzumi, and Katherine had thought to get rid of, greeted them.† She pushed aside a few clipboards that had been floating around for the past eighteen years, heavy dust already coating them, and caught herself before she was about to sneeze.

"Here you go maíam," Andrea Sunne handed her a surgical mask to which she tied on.† She didnít like wearing the space helmet that they were all wearing and instead it had been hanging on her spacesuitís belt.

"Thanks," she said before putting on the mask and going over to a dusty control panel.† It was the only one in the fairly small room and she touched a few buttons, the panel instantly springing to life.† Immediately a battery check signaled and she was relieved to find that it had still half of its power left.

The room had been designed separate from the Colonyís main control room, with separate power sources and its own connections to the rest of the Colony.† Not even the main control room would be able to detect the small auxiliary control room, but this room was able to monitor everything.† It had been designed in case an experiment had gone wrong that forced the evacuation of the main control room.

"No contacts, Commander Kisaka," Ivanov reported from his position in the hall across from the door.

"Good," Kisaka replied before sitting in the chair next to hers and looked at her, "what now, Doctor?"

"The systems should be online," she murmured mostly to herself as her fingers flew over the controls, activating most of the monitors, bathing the room in a bluish glow.† It wasnít Coordinator ability, it was her own natural ability as a scientist who knew what she was doing to bring everything back online.†† "Security cameras are over there," she pointed at a fairly large monitor to her right and Kisaka went over there, sitting himself down again before tapping a few buttons.

"Maíam?" Sunne asked from behind, and out of the corner of her eye she noticed that she had taken an interest to what she was doing.

"Iím checking the files and manually erasing the back-ups.† We donít need to alert Anderson before I delete the main files," Kanoko replied, the feeling of talking while working coming back to her.

"You sound disappointed," Sunne observed and Kanoko nodded curtly.

"Yes.† The main files have to be erased from the main control room.† Most likely Anderson has monopolized himself in there.† Hopefully the other team will be successful and subdue him before we get there."

"Oh," Sunne replied before backing away to let her work.† Kanoko smiled slightly; in ways Andrea Sunne reminded her of herself — dedication to work, ability to keep secrets, and a curiosity that couldnít be left alone, except Sunne knew when to back-off; she didnít.

Kanoko continued with her work.

* * * * *

The weight of an assault rifle in his hands was both a comfort and a dread to Keiji.† He relished the idea of protecting his wife and son once more, but abhorred the fact that he had to take up arms again.† He had resigned his commission in OMNI a long time ago, so taking up arms now was just ... † He shook his head, knowing that such distracting thoughts were not good during a mission.

He had hoped not to see his son bearing any kind of arms, but during the war with ZAFT two years ago, that hope had been dashed as Uzumi had contacted him and Kanoko with news that his son had joined OMNI and was the pilot of the Strike Gundam.† When word reached him that Kira had been listed as MIA during a part of the war, before the Archangel got to Alaskaís JOSH-A base, he had been both devastated and relieved at the same time.

Relieved because he knew the higher-ups of OMNI would have probably recognized his sonís last name and connected both of them together.† His son would have probably been re-assigned to Special Ops to follow in his fatherís footsteps and that was something that Keiji did not want Kira to do.

"Just like old times, eh Akuma?" Kingfisher suddenly whispered over the headset and Keiji glanced behind him to quirk up a smile.

"Old times," he replied before a double click of Desertís comm. signaled them that he had finished scouting out the place and that it was all clear for now.† He and Kingfisher moved forward like silent predators, his training flowing back through his mind and body like liquid ice.

They silently moved, pointing their rifles and flashlights everywhere.† He held up his hand in a fist occasionally to stop the team as he listened for any signs of patrols, but when there was none, he fanned out and continued moving forward.† Wolf had already left them, the Asian woman finding her own way to the control room via sniping anyone that got in her way.† She probably found a good niche to hide and snipe people by now, Keiji realized, and he was glad.† It meant that someone was always watching their backs.

Once or twice he thought someone was watching them, but every time he looked back there was no one.† He thought he had heard a tinkling sound, almost like little metal hitting each other, but it had faded away almost as quickly.† He had a bad feeling that was gnawing him, but decided to ignore it for now.† What was the use of a bad feeling if you couldnít pin point anything.

"Patrol," Tempest suddenly whispered and they all halted eyes wary, watching for shadows in the dimly lit halls.

A sudden loud crack filled the air, the recoil of a sniper shot being fired, made him flinch a bit but the hall in front of them was filled with sudden screams and Keiji could pick out six different distinct voices.† Another crack of the sniper rifle sounded and there were only five left with bullets flying everywhere.† Keiji ran forward, his rifle in one hand while his other was grabbing a grenade on his belt.† He activated it for a three-second timer before throwing it into the hall, barely dodging the wild bullets firing everywhere as the patrol tried to find Wolf.

Crouching behind the corner of the hall he had thrown the grenade in, three seconds later, a loud boom went off and smoke poured throughout the hall.† There were no voices left.

Kingfisher ran up to him and checked the hallway as Tempest flanked him while Desert hung behind them, offering a hand to him to help him up.† Keiji took the hand in appreciation and got up, floating slightly higher than Desert as he pulled a little too hard and his momentum made him rise slightly above.† Desert pulled him back down and together they followed Kingfisher into the hall that had once occupied a patrol.

Globs of blood and body parts along with shattered weaponry and the tattered remains of clothing greeted them and Keiji felt a bitter taste in his mouth.† That was one of the reasons why he had resigned from OMNI.† It was the death that had gotten to him.† Even though he had been trained not to throw-up or flinch at death, after seeing so many during his time in the Black Ops, the deaths really did a psychological number on him and he quit.

"How close are we to the control room?" Kingfisher asked and Desert pulled out a small datapad.

"Two more floors up and we should be there," Desert replied and Keiji frowned.† It was too easy ... there should have been more guards ... † Yzak had said that the place had been near-crawling with guards, unless all of them had been sent outside to deal with the LF; but even so, there should have been at least a bit more resistance.† He glanced at Kingfisher who also wore a frown — thinking along the same exact lines as he was.

"Wolf, any patrols from your vantage point?" Kingfisher asked into the headset.

"No sir," Wolfís deep, but feminine voice replied back, "itís all quiet, too quiet."

"Roger that," Kingfisher said, "keep an eye out."

"Yes sir, Wolf out."

"Letís move," Kingfisher ordered and Keiji followed.† They continued deeper into the heart of the colony.

* * * * *

Cagalli put on a burst of throttle and pulled back just in time as the Corsairís beam scythe ripped through.† She fired her shoulder gattling guns, peppering the Corsair with them, but they did no damage as the Corsair charged at her.† She had thought the mobile suit had a beam saber, but it looked like she had underestimated her opponent.† She fired her beam rifle twice, but the Corsairís shield blocked her shots and she growled in frustration.

Nearby she saw the fast moving forms of both Kira and Athrun, engaged in their own battles.† She couldnít worry too much as such distracting thoughts were almost always fatal to anyone fighting, so she sent a quick prayer of hope to them before she threw away her almost depleted rifle and instead drew out her beam saber.

"Why are you doing this, Taylor?" she asked.† Based on what Yzak, Athrunís former teammate, had said, Taylor was only recently recruited, and was being controlled.† Taylor had also been Kiraís friend and she didnít want him to suffer anymore losses of his friends.† If Taylor could break the programming ... then perhaps she would be able to lessen the loss on Kira.

But it was easier said than done, since Taylor was wielding a dangerous mobile suit and if she let her guard down, he would cut her to pieces.

"My dear Princess, if Asterli had not told me you were the pilot of the Strike Rouge then I would not have believed it to be so," Taylor sneered over the comm. as he swiped at her to which she blocked before lashing out with her shield.

"Youíre a citizen of Orb, one of our own.† Why join up with these people?"

"Because they offer something I couldnít have obtained if I stayed in your measly country."

"What?" Cagalli asked, stabbing downward and she smiled grimly as her saber tore through his shield, cutting it in half.† She didnít stop as she throttled forward and fired her gattling guns, momentarily blinding the Corsair.

"A new life," Taylor sounded angry.

Cagalli knew that her tactic wasnít working and instead switched to another topic, "I know it wasnít you that planted those bombs in the Senate Hall."

"I should have been the one," Taylor bit back, firing two missiles from his shoulders and Cagalli flew a loop to avoid one while she sliced another in half.

"You were injured along with the others.† Didnít that make you angry at your employers?† After all, the Talon, like all other groups, take care of their own."

"What the hell would you know!" he shouted and Cagalli knew that she was on the right track.

"The Desert Dawn were freedom fighters like the Talon and we took care of our own.† We made sure all of us were safe with each of our missions accomplished.† We only wanted to hurt the enemy so we would have more to join to our cause.† Hurting ourselves, well," she feinted skepticism, "that wouldnít be too good for our recruitment, right?"

"I already recruited someone, after the bombing," he shot back, throwing his beam saber at her to which she easily dodged.† He was getting nervous, angry, and his emotions were throwing off his capabilities to pilot, she noticed, and she was glad.† It meant that her words were really digging into him.

"You probably did, but were they injured in the bombing or outside of it?† If it was outside, then they probably were hesitant upon joining because of your injuries.† An injured unconscious person is easier to recruit, arenít they?" she asked.

"They were outside!" he yelled.

"I donít think so ... † If they were, then they were really hesitant-"

"You donít hesitate to join the Talon.† You just join," Taylor interrupted her angrily before firing off more missiles to which she sliced through all of them.† Explosions burst around her, rocking her slightly in her seat, but she refrained from charging at the Corsair.† Through her studies, she knew that the first thing when fighting while talking was to let the opponent use up all of their ammunition or energy, then it would be easier to finish them off.† Right now, she was letting Taylor do all the work while she just hung back.

"I think with that bombing, even if you do Ďjust joiní you are still hesitant, arenít you?"

"SHUT UP!" he screamed before charging at her, swinging his scythe wildly.

Cagalli blocked all of his swings, before she saw an opportunity arise and she struck downward, slicing the Corsairís legs off.† The Corsair stopped its attack and backed away, its legs giving off faint sparks, the circuits cut and exposed.

"You think youíve won?" Taylor asked, a slight bubbling laughter of insanity in his voice, "When I go, I will TAKE YOU WITH ME!"

He suddenly charged at her and Cagalli was too surprised to do anything.† He embraced her tightly and Cagalli tried to squirm out of the Corsairís grasp, but the hold was tight.

"Taylor!† Listen to me!" she suddenly fell into seed-mode and her voice changed slightly, "You will not activate the controls!† You will not self-destruct.† You value your life a lot and will not kill yourself."

"I ... will ... n-not ... self ... destruct," the words seemed like they were forced out of his mouth and Cagalli repeated her words, her eyes narrowed as she tried to concentrate all of her will on stopping Taylor and perhaps breaking the hold the Talon had on him.

"You will let go and desist," she whispered the command.† There was something different about this seed-mode she had fallen into, she could feel it, and though it scared her she wondered if part of it was because she was so close to Mendel that its effects, if any, was bringing a different part of her out.

"Let ... go ... desist," he stuttered slightly before the Corsair loosened its deadly embrace and floated a bit away.† Suddenly there was a screaming wail and her eyes widened as the bloodcurdling scream reverberated through her comm. system.† An explosion followed after and Cagalli saw that it had come from the Claw.† A sudden panic filled her, but it was quelled as she saw the Justice, floating away from the debris that was once the Claw, fairly uninjured.

"Princess ... Cagalli?" the voice of Taylor came over, a bit sad, if confused and Cagalli looked at the Corsair.


"Oh my God ... Princess, Iím so sorry!† I apologize for trying to hurt you and the country!† Please, please forgive my actions, your highness!" Taylor suddenly spilled out, and crying was heard over the comm.

Cagalli approached the Corsair and placed a hand on its shoulder, "Taylor, please put on your visual."

"Iím too ashamed to, Princess," Taylor said in a soft voice.

"I insist."

"As you wish," moments later a small corner of her main screen lit up with his haggard face and she knew that she had broken through the programming.† Gone were the insane eyes, instead a broken man sat in the cockpit before her.

"It wasnít your fault, Taylor Ren.† I forgive you for your actions," she said in a gentle voice as Athrun flew up beside her.† His image popped up on a small screen underneath Taylorís and Cagalli bit back a gasp at how miserable he looked.

"I couldnít save her," he said, shaking his head.

"But she saved me," Taylor whispered, his head still bowed, "her essence and your help, Princess, saved me ..."

Cagalli nodded before bringing up a tactical screen on her left.† She scanned it for any signs of the Freedom and Liberty, but frowned as there were no signs.† "Athrun, where did Kira go?"

"Kira ..." Taylor sighed before he looked up at her, "Grieverís leading him into a trap on Mendel ... † He had said that the three of you would be here and he would kill Kira when he got the chance."

"Shit, we should stop him," Cagalli swore but a shake of Athrunís head made her frown.† "What?"

"Iíll find Kira.† You have to take Taylor back to one of the ships.† Take him to the Eternal, thereís more than enough room for his mobile suit.† He needs medical help."

"All right," Cagalli agreed, "but then Iím coming back to help you."

"No," Athrun said in a firm voice and Cagalli crossed her arms, angry.

"Why not?!† Iím good enough!"

"No," Athrun said in a gentler voice, "Griever wouldnít hesitate to kill you again.† Help Yzak and Dearka clean up the Talon forces out here.† Weíll be fine in Mendel."

Cagalli didnít like what Athrun was saying, but she knew that it made sense.† She also knew that when he came back, they were going to have a little talk about the two of them in battles together.† She sighed, "All right.† But if you donít come back, I will have to kill you."

Athrun smiled faintly at her statement, "I love you Cagalli."

"I love you too," she replied.

"Athrun, I had said that I converted someone to the Talon.† Her nameís Haruka Satou and she was supposed to steal aboard one of your ships.† Sheís going to ambush the two teams you sent in and kill everyone.† Stop her by shooting off her gold charm bracelet."

"Roger that.† Thanks, Taylor."

"Itís the least I can do," the teen tried to smile but failed.

"Watch yourself out there," Cagalli suddenly spoke up, a sudden knot of fear suddenly erupting in her stomach.

"I will," Athrun replied before cutting the comm. off and the Justice flew towards Mendel.

* * * * *

PHASE EIGHTEEN — Weaving Tangled Webs

Kira flipped on a switch to activate his thermal sensors as he focused on fighting the Liberty in the atmosphere of the innards of Colony Mendel.† He spotted the Liberty to his right and fired his beam rifle at it.† The green beam tore through the clouds of dust and whatever leftover moisture the Colony still retained, giving him a glimpse of the Liberty dodging before the clouds obscured his vision again.

His sensors traced the heat signature of the Liberty and he fired again.† The Liberty had descended below the cloud level and easily avoided his shot.† Kira threw away his beam rifle and activated both of his beam sabers.† He folded up the veniers on the Freedom and dropped towards the Liberty at a hurling dive.† Breaking the cloud level, Kira activated his thrusters at the last minute and slammed into the Liberty, both beam sabers crossed in an Ďxí to try to break through the Libertyís defense.

"You think that trick will work again?" Griever asked, laughing slightly as the two of them traded blows.

Kira didnít answer as he tried to ignore the pain pulsating in his head.† He had already fallen into his seed-mode, long ago, even before the battle had started, and now was beyond anger.† He had said that his clone-brother was one of the most dangerous people alive, and needed to be killed.† There was no hope of redemption or reconciliation, considering that Griever was genetically engineered and unnaturally born just to be an assassin.† There was no doubt in Kiraís mind that Nikolai Mercus was even remotely human ...

It wasnít the fury he had against Rau Le Creuset during that battle, but it was more akin to deep seeded anger.† Anger at Dr. Hibiki, anger at his own self, and anger at what he was what someone with the right tools could do to him if he had been in Grieverís position.† It was anger that fueled him to go after Nikolai.

They clashed again and this time Kira lashed out with his leg, kicking Griever in the side and he crashed straight to the ground in a dust heap.† He hovered above slightly, his beam saber pointed downwards in case of any sudden attack, but as the dust cleared, there was no movement from the Liberty.† Frowning, he brought up a few screens and his eyes narrowed as he saw the small form of Griever, running towards an abandoned building, escaping inside.

Kira knew that his mother and father were inside, trying to sabotage Mendel and destroy all of its records, and he knew that he couldnít let Griever get to them first — to stop the two teams from completing their mission.† Landing the Freedom, he undid his restraining belt quickly before grabbing a handgun on the side of his seat and popping open his hatch.† He quickly threw his helmet onto his chair before hopping out, landing onto the dust ground.

Coming up from his crouch he switched the gunís safety off, a sense of dťjŗ vu engulfing him as he realized that he had chased after Mu and Rau in almost the same fashion.† Except this time it was different — this time he knew who his target was and Rauís words could no longer hurt him.

He ran inside the building that Griever had gone and immediately hugged the wall nearest to the door.† It was dimly lit inside, full of narrow halls ...

"You can never catch me," Grieverís voice suddenly echoed to his right and he pointed his gun down a hall and saw a shadow pass by.

Kira fired once, but the bullet just hit the wall before he ducked behind a pillar as a spray of bullets came his way.† He cursed silently as he knew he had given away his position.† The firing stopped and Kira peeked back out ... nothing ...

He quickly made his way down the hall, peeking around the corner and saw that it was all clear.† Turning the corner, he walked slowly down it, keeping close to the wall.† There were no doors ... which meant that if Griever shot at him, he would have to do some fancy ducking or else he would get a bullet in him.

He rounded another corner and suddenly dove across the hall as Griever fired at him.† Kira cried out as a bullet lodged itself in his leg, sending him sprawling onto the ground.† He grabbed his wound and his gloves came away slick with red blood.† Shooting pain filled him and he tried to ignore it as he stared at the wound, before his hands, shaking slightly from both the pain and the shock that he had been shot, pulled out a long strip of gauze that he kept on his flightsuitís small pocket-pouch and he tied it tightly over the wound.

Pulling the knot tight, Kira grunted slightly as he made a makeshift tourniquet.† There was no way to take the bullet out, and he stood up on shaky legs, grateful that Griever had not taken the advantage and shoot some more at him.† Combined with the pulsating pain that he had whenever he was near Griever and the pain radiating from his wound, he leaned against the cool metallic wall for a second before picking up his gun again.

He limped over to the side and stuck his head out just in time to see Griever go through a door.† Anger filled him and he fired two shots at the closing door, but they clanged off.† Pushing off on his good leg, he floated towards the door and keyed the pad, but the door stayed shut.

"Shit," Kira swore as he realized that Griever had locked him out.† He looked around before going down another hall way.† There had to be another way into whatever room the pilot of the Liberty had slipped through.† Setting off, he held his gun ready ...

* * * * *

Griever shook his head, trying to get rid of the pain that had been gnawing at him ever since he had battled with Kira Yamato.† But he knew that it was a pain that wasnít to end until one of them was dead.† He would kill Kira; he would stop the pain that the other boy was giving him.

Anderson had told him off all those that had betrayed him, and he would have his chance to exact his revenge.† He would be able to avenge his father and continue on with his life.† He didnít really believe Anderson, but for now, he knew that he would play along.† After all, Andersonís plan was pretty easy to follow — it was only a matter of time before he would get rid of everyone that had betrayed him and he would be able to live his own free life.

He would be able to control the world and all those that knew of what he was would have to be forced to obey him — lest start another war.† He knew the people of both the Earth and PLANT didnít want another war, but there were still those that wanted one.† He would deal with them when the time came, but right now, getting rid of the factions that was likely to start a war was his priority — getting rid of those that knew who and what he was.

It wasnít madness, it was his wish ...

His powers would be able to make that wish come true.† He was mildly surprised that Kira hadnít accessed his own powers and was also annoyed, but knew that it wasnít a matter of consequence if his "brother" knew how to or not — the simple answer was Kira was going to die and he would be the instrument of his death.

But for now, he had other things to attend to ...

* * * * *

Kanoko stared at the information scrolling across her screens.† It was worse than what she had thought ... all those years ago, she had personally made sure many of the files had been deleted and their back-ups too, but it seemed that she hadnít seen a second layer of encryption that had been keyed to Dr. Hibikiís work ... the ones that Katherine had warned her about.

She wished that she had listened to her good friendís words, but she knew that if wishes were fishes, then Katherine would be alive, and nothing like this would have happened.† She kept deleting the files, barely noticing that both Sunne and Ivanov were prowling behind her.


"Yes?" he said from a control panel behind her in the far back of the small room.

"From your controls, are there third and fourth encryptions?"

"None that I can tell," Ledonil replied and Kanoko breathed a quick sigh of relief.

"Good," she whispered before continuing on her work.

"Andrea can you-"

She never got to finish her sentence before Ivanovís strangled scream made her blood run cold.† She turned just in time to see a spurt of blood erupt from the manís head before a second gunshot tore through Sunneís face, making her stomach lurch.† She screamed before another click of a gun stopped her and she saw in the door frame a person that looked exactly like Kira, holding a gun at her.

"Kira ..." she breathed, but realized that it wasnít her son, but the twisted experiment that had the face of her son ... "No ... Griever ... Nikolai Mercus."

"Very good, Mrs. Yamato ... or should I say formerly Dr. Kamiya, one of Dr. Hibikiís top assistants," Griever said in a cold voice and Kanoko shuddered to hear her sonís voice through his — so foreign and alien ... † "Uh-uh," he suddenly pointed the gun into the shadows, "I wouldnít Ledonil Kisaka.† Drop it."

He suddenly fired and there was a grunt from Ledonil before the sound of a gun clattering to the floor was heard.

"Flesh wound, Dr. Kamiya," Griever smiled thinly at her while he kept his gun trained on the shadows, "we wouldnít want Commander Kisaka here to be dead, now would we.† Iím sure Sven would like to see him too ... along with you, his former colleague."


"Didnít have to kill them?" Griever finished her sentence in a simple voice, "but I had to, Doctor.† They knew their duty and their duty was to die.† Yours will be too, but thatís for later, at Svenís expense."

Ledonil suddenly muttered something that Kanoko couldnít quite catch, but Griever laughed, a horrible cold laugh.

"My, my, language Commander.† Now, get up, you too Doctor, unless you want me to put a hole in you and your good friend?"

Kanoko got up slowly, finding herself shaking and her knees weak as she tried not to look at the remains of Andrea Sunneís body.† Already globs of her blood from her exploded head were forming and drifting around the room, some smacking into her own armor and it made her sick to her stomach.† She tried to force the dry heave down, and barely managed to as she stepped towards Griever who indicated to them to go outside.

As she passed by Griever, she couldnít help but notice that he looked to be in some pain, but then she was shoved outside and she felt her gun being pulled out of her holster.

"I donít think youíll be needing this," Griever tossed the weapon back into the room before closing the door.† "Move," he ordered, poking her in the back with his gun and she stared to walk forward.† Beside her she saw that Ledonilís right hand was stained crimson and that it was hanging limply by his side.

She swallowed past a lump in her throat as she knew that Griever was taking them to Sven Anderson.† She could only hope that her husbandís team was successful and perhaps could rescue them.

* * * * *

Keiji frowned.† It had been too easy ... too little guards, too little security ... there had to be cameras watching them, he was sure of it.† The whole thing reeked of an ambush ... † Even Wolf was starting to worry over the comm., but a quick word from Kingfisher silenced her.

"Kingfisher," he whispered over the comm., switching to a private channel he and his former teammate had back when they were both in OMNI Special Ops.

"What Akuma?" he whispered back, a few feet in front of him, taking point before he waved Tempest forward, with Desert following quickly behind.

"This smells like a trap," he said it outright.† He had never beat around the bush like many of his other colleagues back in the Special Ops.† He had always said his mind and though he sometimes got punished for it, most of the time it was him that saved his teammatesí lives.

"I know," Kingfisher replied, "but we still have a mission objective."

"Yeah, but ... think about it, what if heís not really there?† What if heís somewhere else?"

"And thereís an explosive of sorts waiting for us?" Kingfisher finished his thought.

"Yeah," Keiji replied.

"We still finish the job," Kingfisher replied with conviction, "Bartfield told me that Desert is a good demolitions expert and like you always said, even if weíre duped, we still have a job to do.† We have to confirm if heís there or not and if heís not then we know for sure, but if he is there and we back off, then weíre in for a whole hell lot of trouble in the future."

"Yeah," Keiji agreed before he moved forward and tapped his friend on the shoulder, "thanks."

"Welcome," his friend replied before moving forward by Desert now on point.

They reached the main door to the control room where Yzak had told them that Anderson usually hung out and Kingfisher nodded for Desert to plant a small explosive.

They all stood back a few feet as the explosive went off in a small poof of a cloud and sparks before the door hinge broke and Tempest yank the door open, before they stormed in.

Keiji pointed his gun in multiple directions, his eyes covering everything and absorbing the layout of the room in split seconds while his senses were alert to any forms of attack, but there was none.

The room was bathed in a blood red light that would have made an ordinary man have shivers, but Keiji was used to different lights and treated it as it was part of his usual life.† Circles of control panels were grouped in different areas of the control room and further into the corner, he saw two tanks, glowing green, full of what looked like partially developed fetuses.

Blinking lights from consoles decorated the wall, along with chairs that looked like they were recently occupied, but abandoned at the last second.


Suddenly gunshots rang out from behind them and Keiji reacted without thinking.† He dove behind a control panel before bringing his assault rifle to bear.† He was suddenly slammed to the floor as two people crashed down on him and they rolled over to take cover too in the control panel.† Keiji pushed up his helmet that had gotten skewed and saw that it was both Kingfisher and Desert.

However, the young DaCosta, or Desert, didnít look too well and that was when he noticed that the young red-headed man was bleeding seriously from a wound in his hip that the Kevlar armor hadnít protected him from.

"Shit," he swore as he pulled out an emergency medical pack from his own vest and fumbled a bit before taking out gauze and some supplies.† Desert was sweating and his face was pale.

"Itís a freaking girl!" he barely heard Kingfisher over the loud barrage of the assault rifle followed by gun shots that were aimed almost too precisely at them.† Keiji involuntarily ducked as a few bullets pinged off of their makeshift hiding place.

He concentrated on Desert who was staring at him, eyes full of pain as his fists were clenched.† "Itís all right," he tried to soothe the young man as he stabbed in his thigh an adrenaline stick before sticking another needle in him to numb the pain around the wounded area.† He mopped up the blood that was spilling over, cursing at how much blood the young man was losing to a wound that big.

If he had guessed, he would have thought that the girl, or whatever persons, (he still didnít believe that it was just a single girl), had ambushed them had fired twice in the same spot to penetrate the Kevlar armor.† It was uncanny ... and very, very skilled ...

"Wolf!" he heard Kingfisher shout before the loud boom of the sniper rifle was heard but still there was firing from whoever had ambushed them.

"Kingfisher, whereís Tempest?" he asked, ducking slightly as a few flecks of the control panel shaved off from a bullet and onto his face.

"Dead," Kingfisher said a gruff voice before slapping another fresh clip into his rifle and rose up from his hiding place.† "Jesus," he said as he ducked back down, "just one girl."

"One?!" Keiji put pressure on the wound, wincing as Desert screamed in pain.

"Just one, but sheís like a sniper with her handgun or whatever the hell sheís holding," Kingfisher said before rising up again and firing a few rounds.† He ducked back down and Keiji noticed that blood was dripping from a piece of shrapnel that had cut into his forehead.

"Here let me get that-"

"Oh hell no ..." his friend suddenly said just as the gunfire stopped and Keiji looked to where he was pointing too and his body seized up at the sight.

Beyond them, from another entrance stood his wife and Ledonil ... and behind them, what looked like an exact replica of Kira.

"Shit," he cursed softly as a clapping sound echoed in the silent room before he saw from their vantage point, a man with graying brown hair that was rakishly cut dressed in a immaculate business suit.† He was wearing glasses, but they were perched on the end of his nose.

"Very well done, very well done," the man clapped while an insane grin lit up his face.

Sven Anderson.† The man behind all of this ...

But Keiji couldnít do anything as Griever held his wife at gunpoint.† He had sworn to himself to protect his family, and that was priority to the mission ...

* * * * *

PHASE NINETEEN — Truth of Birth

Sven Anderson looked around at his Ďguestsí.† He smiled as he saw the defiant look upon Kanoko Yamatoís face and at the three people huddled in the corner.† Snorting slightly he gestured for them to come out of their hiding place, but they stayed stubbornly in there.† Sighing, he shrugged ... there was always the stubborn ones.† Walking over to the center of the room he saw his faithful servant, Griever usher both Kanoko and Ledonil Kisaka in.

"Ah, welcome, my dear colleagues.† Itís been so long since weíve met and chatted," he greeted with a toothy smile.

"You were supposed to be dead," Kanoko spat at him and he smiled.

"Yes, yes, I was ... but here I am, alive and well," he spread his hands out, "you would like to know why?† Well, your dear friend Katherine did try to kill me, but I was the one to kill her."

"What?!" he laughed at her outburst and the paleness of her face.

"But the little bitch unfortunately blew up all of my research, all of what I was trying to save.† But luckily, Patrick Zala and Anton Ariga LaFlaga had their notes and so I was able to build on Ulenís research again.† Surprisingly, Zala kept a lot of the samples he had stolen from Ulen and only a few of the fetuses used by Hibiki had survived so I was able to rebuild and create my dear Nikolai.

"But, I didnít want to stop there.† Why leave the genes unexplored for the ultimate Coordinator when you can actually improve upon it.† Come here, Nikolai ... show them ..."

He didnít even blink as he saw his creation teleport from behind both Kanoko and Ledonil next to him, but smiled at the gasps of surprise that came from both groups.† A small nod and Griever teleported again, this time to a vantage point where he was able to see everything.


"Teleportation, ahh ... more than that, Iím afraid, but youíll be able to see much later.† You, my dear Doctor Kamiya, used to wonder at the exploration of the human genome.† You used to see the project as something that you would hope to quell more illnesses and perhaps expand the life of humans beyond what we have now.† Have you lost that fervor?"

"Yes," she said in an icy voice, "because of what freaks like you did.† You created life in such an artificial way that couldnít be contained!† You unleashed horrors into this world ... you try to create life whereas God should be the one to do it!"

Sven shook his head, "That is disappointing my dear Doctor.† We all create life on our own, donít we?† We all try to breathe into the life of our own sons and daughters for us ... so isnít that artificially creating life?† How can you say that and have that first creation as your own son?"

"Kira is none of your concern," this time it was her husband that said and Sven turned his attention to the man who was crouched behind a control panel.

"Ah, Akuma. †You had your mission to capture the experiment you call Kira, didnít you?† But you betrayed your own mission and your own organization.† Zala was going to breathe life into the one you called Kira and you denied him that chance," he smiled maliciously, enjoying every minute of the conversation.

"I didnít deny him.† Kira was going to be used as a weapon of mass destruction.† I couldnít allow something like that on my conscious ... no human in their right mind would," Keiji Yamato said in a dark voice.

"Then you are saying we scientists are insane?"

"Only some of you," Keiji countered and Svenís lips pulled into a wider smile.

"Then we are all scientists.† We are all trying to create life just to see our dreams and our experiments.† There is nothing different between you or me!"

"There is a difference and you are a monster!† He-" he watched as Kanoko stabbed a finger in Grieverís direction, "is an abomination.† A warped creation that shouldnít have to exist in such a miserable fashion!"

"Youíre right of course," Sven shook his head in mock sadness, "it is not my dear Nikolaiís fault he has to exist in pain so many times.† Of course to remedy that one must die.† It is either him or your ĎKiraí.† I personally think that Nikolai is superior to the original ... it is the greatest creation!"

"Youíre insane," Ledonil said and Sven smirked at the former head of security to Dr. Hibiki.

"Quite the contrary, Commander, Iím perfectly sane.† I just have a vision of the future.† Where Coordinators and Naturals can exist under one leader that can help people with his powers," he said in a voice that was like a teacher teaching children.

"Do you expect to be that leader?" Ledonil asked.

"Why of course not.† Iím only the one to usher in the new era.† Once thatís done, I will rest on an island and watch as the world continues its course to peace.† Of course, the first thing that has to happen is for both ZAFT, OMNI, and Orbís destruction."

"Thatís not going to happen," the man crouched next to Keiji said and Sven tilted his head for a second, trying to fit a name with the man, and suddenly remembered him as the infamous Kingfisher.

"Why not Kingfisher?" he asked, "ZAFT betrayed my work here at Mendel by nearly destroying my career.† OMNI shunned my superior abilities and sent me off to work at a penal colony.† Orb ... they could have done something but they let me rot!† YOU ALL LET ME SUFFER AND NO MORE!!"

"Youíre right, no more," a new voice spoke up from one of the doors and Sven stared at the entrance, surprise jolting him as he realized that the person hidden by shadows was Kira Yamato ...

* * * * *

Kira stayed in the shadows, propped up against the door frame.† His leg felt like it was on fire and the pain that radiated from his wound sent spasms each time he put weight on it.† He was glad that Mendel was near-zero-g, but any movement from his leg still gave off fiery pains of protest.† He held his gun steady at Sven Anderson, knowing that Griever was still in the room, but Anderson was the real target for now.

"Kira, so glad you can join us!" Andersonís booming voice made him narrow his eyes, "I trust that youíre feeling well?"

He didnít answer as he knew that Anderson was baiting him, whether to give away his position to Griever, or for something else, he didnít care.† All he cared about was getting rid of Anderson and getting rid of Griever.† The pain in his head had become very acute and it was like stabbing millions of knives into his head all at once and repeating the process over and over again.

"Oh wait ... you canít be feeling well, itís the pain isnít it?† Itís clawing at you ... I know because it is the fate of two almost clones, meeting one another.† They canít exist at the same time ... that was why that Ďaccidentalí death of Anton Ariga LaFlaga was no accident.† Surely you must have heard it from Rau, didnít you?"

Kira didnít answer, but he was listening carefully.

"Ah, I sense your hesitation," Anderson said in an oily voice, "Rau never told you did he?† Iím sure he told you of your circumstantial birth ... after all, he could have never kept such a secret to himself.† No ... Rau knew for a fact that you were the only successful test trial only because the brothers that came after you would have experienced an acute pain that eventually could kill both you and your siblings.

"When he was first Ďborní I guess you can say, he began to experience pangs of pain and he realized that it was because he was a clone of Ariga.† He realized that only one of them could exist and thereby made sure his predecessor was eliminated.† However, sadly he wasnít able to contain the gene that made him have those deadly headaches and eventually succumbed to his own madness.† However, I have perfected that gene so that when you die, my dear Nikolai would not suffer the same fate as Rau Le Creuset.† After all, how could something so perfect be the one to die?

"But what to do about Princess Cagalli?† She too is sibling ... † She too could suffer the same fate.† The objective then is to eliminate the one that has caused all of this too.† She was the one, if that bitch Katherine had not given birth to her, wouldnít have gotten into this whole mess!

"Weapons ... weapons are what we need.† Not some stupid birthing process in comparison. There are no weapons that exist right now.† The improvement of clones is what needs to be done!"

Kira stared as he realized that Anderson had started to babble, and began to pace around.† The man was mad ... making speeches one minute, the next pacing like a mad scientist with plans for world domination.† He narrowed his eyes ... † "You forgot one thing, Anderson."

"What?!" the man snapped, angry at being interrupted in his musings.† Kira noticed that his father and Kingfisher were edging out, ready to shoot both Griever and Anderson while his mother and Ledonil were edging towards cover behind a group of control panels.

"Dr. Ulen Hibiki may have created me, but Iíll always be human.† Iíve come to accept that," he gave a quick look towards his mother and father before staring back at Anderson and took a step forward from the shadows.† His eyes crystallized into seed-mode and he raised his gun up, "my sister is not the cause of all this, but she helped create a weapon.† Me."

" ... Your ... eyes ..." this time Anderson looked completely shocked and Kira fired.

* * * * *

Kanoko dove behind a control panel as Kira fired his handgun, but she heard the other barrage of fire coming from her husband and Kingfisher.† She didnít care as she covered her head with her arms and closed her eyes tightly.† She didnít want to see anymore blood ... no more violence ...

Soon the firing stopped and she unwrapped her arms and looked up.† Her son hadnít been the only one firing ... † She still couldnít believe the words Kira had said ... they were haunting and chilled her to the bones.† It was as if all of the pressures he had faced turned into something else and he had wielded it with dangerous fury.† She wondered what had changed in Kira to make him like this ...

"Kira?" she whispered his name as he saw him standing still as a statue, staring at the fallen form of Anderson.† His gun was lowered, but his eyes were still cold, still in that crystallized state that scared her so much ... what had Dr. Hibiki create?† No ... he didnít create anything, Kira wasnít created; he was her son ...

"I ... I ..." he stared at the gun in his hand and Kanoko watched as his eyes returned to their normal soulful state ... but tears had started to bunch in the corners and she gasped as he suddenly collapsed to the ground.

She started to rush over, but someone she had never expected to see beat her to it.† Athrun was instantly by Kiraís side, prying the gun from his hand and kneeling next to him, a hand on his shoulder to comfort him.

"Itís all right, Kira ... its over.† You donít have to do this anymore," she heard his whisper as Kira started to cry.

It was then that she noticed that Griever was no longer standing, but had collapsed in a heap where he was ... unmoving.† She wondered if he was dead, but ignored it as she didnít want to see the face that looked almost exactly like Kiraís ... dead ...

She got up slowly and walked over to where Athrun and Kira were before kneeling down next to her son.† Catching Athrunís eye he nodded then backed off slightly as she wrapped her arms around Kira and let him cry onto her shoulder.† "There, there ..." she soothed him gently, rubbing circles in his back as tears poured from his eyes.

She looked up and saw her husband walking over to help a young girl up.† She looked lost and confused, but a broken gold charm bracelet was in her hand and blood was seeping down her arm where someone had shot her.† He caught her gaze and nodded before she turned to see Ledonil checking to make sure Sven Anderson was truly dead while Kingfisher was checking to make sure Nikolai Mercus was dead ...

Was it over?† Kanoko hoped so as she held her son in her arms.

* * * * *

Outside the rest of the Talon forces surrendered to the LF after the Brimstone had been heavily damaged.† Both Yzak and Dearka sat back in their cockpits of their Gundams, exhausted after finding a new wave of forces that were hidden.† They had been fighting furiously to contain them and even with Cagalliís help barely kept them off.

On board the Babylon, to which Lacus had taken command, she sat in the captainís chair, her face showing relief at the completion of the battle.† They had received a lot of damage, but the worst was of the Archangel and the Kusanagi who had taken most of the damage.

"Eternal to Babylon, Miss Lacus do you read?" the worried voice of Andrew Bartfield came over and Lacus gave the exhausted looking man a small smile.

"I read you Captain," she said, trying not to let her tiredness show.

"Good news ... both Anderson and Griever have been eliminated," Bartfield said, giving her a wan smile.

"And Kira?" she had seen Kira disappear into Mendel and immediately worry had clung to her.

"Heís fine.† Wounded, but heíll be fine," Bartfield said and Lacus nodded in relief.

"Thank you Captain ..."

Meanwhile, aboard the Archangel, Murrue Ramius slumped into her seat as she rubbed a hand massaging her temples.† She had sent the crew for damage assessment and it was mostly quiet save for the occasional calls of what damages each section had sustained.† The battle had been won ... the Talon had been defeated.† Mu, weíre fine, she thought to his spirit, you can sleep safely now ...

* * * * *

Hours later there was only two people left in the colony area.† All others had retreated to a relatively safe distance.† Both Kanoko Yamato and Ledonil Kisaka, the only survivors of the horrors of Mendel stood in a shuttle, watching as the remnants of Mendel floated in space.† They had spent hours meticulously combing the whole colony and planting explosives and destroying any files that were relevant to the whole project.† All the tanks that had contained fetuses were destroyed and Kanoko had shed no tear for the dead babies ... they were not human, not to be used anymore ... death was a better alternative for them.

"Ready?" Ledonil asked her in a gentle voice.

"I donít know ... Iíll never be ready, but do it anyway," she replied and Kisaka pressed the simultaneous detonation switch.† All at once, the explosives wired to various stuff in the colony went off and Mendel exploded into a giant fireball before the vacuum of space dissipated it quickly — leaving only dust and ashes ...

"The doorís been closed on this era ... it is time for a new one," Kisaka said in a solemn voice and Kanoko nodded.

"Truth of words," she whispered.

* * * * *

PHASE TWENTY — Epilogue — Dawnís Carriage, Peace

In the end of all things, the LF had proven to both PLANT and Earth that it was needed to keep the peace between everyone.† Many had joined up after the Talon Incident, realizing that their bigotry against one another was just another cause for war and war was not what they wanted.† Everyone had come to love the peace, but where there are always human emotions there will always be the spark of rebellion.

Yzak Joule had returned to PLANT and rejoined ZAFT, but still occasionally participated in the LF when rebellion occurred.

Dearka Elsman and Miriallia Haw had sat down and discussed their future and both realized that they needed some time apart to cope with their own ghosts.† Miri eventually decided to move on and returned to Dearka, but Dearka knew that he couldnít replace Tolle; he would help her cope and perhaps find a new love.

Murrue Ramius continued captaining the Archangel, and was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral for her actions against the Talon.† Combined with both Quinn Misali in the Kusanagi and Andrew Bartfield in the Eternal they split into three fleets, each for ZAFT, Earth, and Orb, but united against a common enemy.

Ledonil Kisaka had returned to his duties as both Cagalliís protector and the captain of the police force.† He started training undercover LF officers to stand guard in the Senate Hall whenever they were in session to prevent another bombing from happening again.

Keiji and Kanoko Yamato both returned to their normal lives, Keiji officially retiring from the military and started teaching at Orbís main island high school.† Kanoko had been offered a job in the Scientific Coordinator-Natural Research department, but declined the offer.

Taylor Ren joined up with the LF, after an extensive evaluation and Haruka Satou dropped out of college to pursue her own career.

Lacus Clyne returned to PLANT and became the Foreign Minister to firm up relations between the Earth and PLANT.† She and her Vice Foreign Minister, Senator Amalfi who had been cleared of all charges, worked hard in trying to keep peace and continue good relations between both PLANT and Earth.

Cagalli Yula Attha continued to lead Orb and preside over the Senate Hall, but this time she was always accompanied by Athrun who had become her bodyguard.† Athrun still worked in Morganroete, but it was more part-time than full-time.

And last but not least, Kira Yamato recovered from his wounds, but his psyche was still in a delicate state.† He graduated college with full honors, but decided not to do anything with his degree at the moment ... † He still wondered about his clone-brother Nikolai Mercus and his fate as a creation of Dr. Hibiki ...

* * * * *

Entropy rising, destiny falling ...


* * * * * *

Authorís Last Words: Iíd like to thank everyone who has reviewed this fic.† Thank you for standing with me all of these three months in writing this.† I apologize if Iíve offended anyone, but this is the vision I had for Gundam SEED and was inspired to write it.† Thank you!

Grieverís fate: Griever had to die ... there was no other way to explain this.† He was created in a way that if he was kept alive, then he would have been consumed by the madness that overtook Rau Le Creuset.† Plus itís like a Harry Potter thing — one of them has to die for the other to live.

Haruka & Taylor: This was based off of RahXephon, where Ayatoís two friends, Mamoru and Asahina were both Mu, but changed and wanted to kill him.† If youíve seen RahXephon, itís actually quite true that Mamoru tried to convince Asahina to be her true self while he was prepared to convert/kill Ayato ... ^_^

Yzak: I had planned for him to come into the story late.† I had also planned for him to be there at the last fight between Kira and Griever, but it didnít turn out that way.

Dearka, Miri, Sai, Murrue: All of these became secondary characters to the four main ones simply because I didnít know what to write for them.† ^_^

Kisaka, Kanoko, Keiji, Kingfisher: Heh ... the Kís ... † All of them became sub-major characters because they had important roles; especially I felt that Kanoko and Ledonil Kisaka were very important concerning Mendel.† I got the idea for Kisaka as I watched the Desert Tiger arc and the 1st of the Orb arc.† Heís so protective of Cagalli, why is that?† That got my muses thinking ... † Keiji and Kingfisher because I realized that there was no way that Kanoko was going to walk out of Mendel Incident unscathed.† There had to be someone going after her and Keiji was the logical choice.† After all, in the episode where they both meet with Uzumi Attha, Keiji is quiet, not really knowing the whole story, but Kanoko was vocal with Uzumi — so the two must have planned something together.

Seed-mode: Why was Cagalli born at the same time as Kira?† I explained this theory online at Gundams.netís forums so please, head there!

Anti-climatic ending: Itís human.† Nothingís meant to go out with a boom ... itís also pretty realistic.† ^_^

Teleportation: I left it at that because thereís always room for a sequel ... what, you didnít realize I had one?† Yes, there will be a sequel to Entropy Rising along with a prequel and an Alternate Universe.† ^_^† The prequel is called: Origin — Shadows of the Future.† The Alternate Universe: Arbiter Forces.† The Sequel: Destiny Falling.† Anyway, there were more psychic stuff than teleportation, but thatís what the sequel will be exploring.

Gundam Universe references:† I originally wanted to connect Wing, 0079, 08th MS Team, and many of the other Gundams into this story, but that will have to wait for both the prequel and sequel.† ^_^

All other questions can be directed to my email!† Thank you to all those that reviewed!

My Familiar, RVD, Shells, StarryNightX, farhancharizard, DriftingFluffy, Heavenís Reaper, Phantom Kensai, cleis, Stella, kiralacus, Rien-chan, Midnightdream51, angelyami, ShinigamiBlade, Edgarís Parish, fanfiction-library2, nova10, KiraX05, Zeron999, Licht Sieger, Deathzealot, Vegetaís Princess590, Raven, Prayer Revierie, Kaze, Death the Destroyer, teno-hikari, ShinobiWolf, Feral Claw, SeedFan, Prayer Reverie, Lady Light, Reallydizzy, nifer-inc, Craze, NaMeLesSsOuL, and windchaser90.

To all those who just reviewed!† Thank you!

Disclaimer: All content is made up, and no profit or lucre is expected, solicited, advocated or paid. This is all just for fun. Any comments, please e-mail the author or WOOKIEEhut directly. Flames will be ignored. Characters and situations are based on those which are the property of publishing houses, and their respective original owners and developers. The rest is this story's author's own doing. This story may not be posted anywhere without the author's knowledge, consent, and permission.