Mobile Suit GUNDAM SEED
Ashes to Ashes - Echoes of Warfare
Written by: djb21212

Disclaimer: GUNDAM SEED belongs to Sunrise and Bandai, not yours truly.

Introduction: I decided to make a director's cut version of my story with a slightly-updated plot. Those of you who enjoyed "Memories of Sorrow" will definitely enjoy this story. Spread the word and please review.

Note: This takes place two years after the series' ending and tries to explain some things along the way. Also, there will be a full explanation about how Kira and Kagari are (or are NOT) related to one another. Finally, this is an AU since "GUNDAM SEED: Destiny" has been confirmed.

This is dedicated to EvangelionUnit3 and Heero de Fanel, for sticking with my stories from the start. You both have been my inspiration to continue when others told me to give up on this idea. This is also dedicated to Justice Gundam, who is also a fan of both Gundam and Digimon much like myself. Finally, the biggest dedication is to the unknown person who reviewed this early and encouraged me to stick with it. Whomever you are, I owe you big for that.

> > > > > > > >

The year is 0073 of the Cosmic Era calendar. Following the near-devastating battles over the course of 0071, the Earth Alliance has reached a temporary peace agreement with the remainder of the ZAFT military forces. However, some felt that this peace would not last. In doing so, a new faction was formed out of the ashes of ZAFT's defeat. The sparks of war would be re-ignited as a new series of attacks heralded the new year. Now, both sides would find themselves thrust into a new threshold where peace would come close to becoming a memory...

"Adjusting angle by .024 degrees. Entering trajectory coordinates. All navigation systems now on automatic."

On the bridge of the Archangel-class cruiser Resolution, Captain Hayes felt relaxed as the ship prepared to enter the PLANT, ready to be decommissioned after two years of service. For the last few months, they had been on patrol in search of any ZAFT remnants in the area, making sure that none of them escape and restarted the war that so many gave their lives to stop. It was to be the ship's final task before being shut down and refitted by the Earth Alliance, a reclamation act from the military's fear of a new war erupting.

Suddenly, several alarms go off all over the bridge, disturbing the quiet setting. Louise Simmons, who was working the navigational station, quickly checked over the readouts.

"Captain, there's two incoming ships, all with ZAFT signatures." she reported.

"Hail them." Hayes said, leaning forward in his command chair. Finally, something to break the boredom.

"They're blocking our transmissions, sir. N-Jammer interference from multiple sources."

"Go to Battle Alert status." Hayes ordered, seeing the crew rush about their stations as they prepared for a possible battle. "Prepare the weapons. This is what I was afraid of."

> > > > > > > >

In space, several GINN and GuAIZ mobile suits moved towards the Resolution and the PLANT, all ready for battle as their weapons were drawn and charged. Leading the battalion was a mobile suit shrouded in black, nearly invisible against the blackness of space. The only thing that could be seen was the dark blue glow of its "eyes", the sound of its thrusters pushing it closer and closer to it's targets.

The GINNs shifted into their fighter modes and charged towards the Resolution with the GuAIZ mobile suits, their beam weapons firing rapidly at the Alliance battleship. The Resolution fired back with it's own weapons, destroying a few mobile suits but it was simply no use. The entire time, the mysterious black mobile suit stood away from the battlefield, it's pilot contemplating his next move. He activated one of his beam sabers, its long blade a sharp contrast against its black Phase Shift armor. The mobile suit moved in rapidly as the others moved away, it's beam saber slicing through the engines of the Resolution. Smoke and debris flew from the shattered engines as it listed, the ship struggling to right itself. Satisfied, the unknown mobile suit pushed it's engines to full and moved away, the GINNs and GuAIZ mobile suits following it back to the ZAFT ships in the distance.

> > > > > > > >

"Damage report!" Hayes shouted across the ruined remains of his bridge. Nearly the entire area was darkened; the consoles destroyed beyond repair or shut down to save power. Some of the crew were still conscious, the remainder rushed to the medical bays for burns or worse. A young man named Alexander, who replaced Louise after she was wounded by an exploding console, lifted himself to the half-functioning navigation console. He brushed the brown hair out of his eyes as he went over the damage, trying not to let the fear show in his voice. He had already stressed his nerves after destroying one of the GINNs at weapons control. This was not helping at all.

"Massive damage to engine numbers one and two." Alexander called out. "Lifter output is at zero. Phase-transition drivers are below twelve percent. We're listing towards the PLANT, captain."

"Stabilize us as much as possible." Hayes replied. "In the meantime, send a laser signal transmission to the PLANT. Tell them we were under attack by a ZAFT squadron and need assistance."

"Captain, I've located the black mobile suit in the ZAFT database." Mariah Cortez, the young lady at the COM station, reported. "It's registered as model number ZGMF-X10A-R. Codename: Reverse Freedom."

"I thought that thing was just a rumor." Alexander commented.

"Meaning what, Mr. Alexander?" Hayes asked the young officer.

"Well, sir, from what I heard it was supposed to be a prototype for feild-testing new technology co-developed between ZAFT and a few of the neutral nations. But who would be using a weapon like that, anyway?"

"That, Mr. Alexander, is what we intend to find out." Hayes leaned back into his command chair as his wounded ship waited for help outside the PLANT. Something was definitely going on and he wasnted to find out for himself what it was.

> > > > > > > >

Aboard the ZAFT battlecruiser, the black mobile suit known as the Reverse Freedom GUNDAM entered the hangar, it's black armor reflecting the lighting. Visually, it was the identical twin of the original Freedom except for being completely black. It was also equipped with a power supply called a "V1-PT Phase-Transition engine", powering the Phase-Shift armor and beam weapons with better energy than a nuclear reactor or battery. Equipped on its back was a customized weapons backpack, also black, with "wing-style" flush panels to cool the internal nuclear reactor as well as to hide the two "Baleena" beam cannons. Gone were the rail guns on its hip armor, instead replaced by recharge racks for the two "Lacerta" beam sabers on its forearms. The mobile suit's blue optical sensors went dark as it knelt down in the hangar, the hiss of the cooling engines echoing inside the room as the doors closed. The pilot exited as many different technicians approached the dangerous-looking mecha, his face hidden by the dark visor of his flight helmet. He took it off and ran his fingers through his brown hair, his dark blue eyes as cold and dead as the vacuum of space beyond the hangar.

"Mission complete." the boy said coldly as he put on a pair of black sunglasses and left the hangar to make his report, the nametag on his flight suit reading "Heero Shinigami".

(Chapter 1)

Cagalli Yula Attha stared at the photograph on her desk, lost in the memories it contained. Since the war's end, she retreated to what was left of the Orb Kingdom only to find it in ruins. With help from the other neutral nations and the country's own people, it was slowly being rebuilt again. It seemed so lonely here now, so empty. With her father gone, she was now full ruler of the kingdom. Still, it was a position she never wanted. All she wanted was a normal life, now denied to her because of her birthright.

The picture was of herself, Athrun Zala, and Kira some twelve days after the war's end. They seemed so happy then, reunited in their bonds of friendship. She and Athrun developed a relationship soon after, yet Kira was a changed young man. He seemed so sad for a while, so wrapped in his guilt over the deaths of so many during the war with ZAFT. Not even Lacus Clyne, with her kind sympathy, or his own parents could resolve his inner conflict.

Then one day, he vanished.

A search was held for months by everyone that he had come to regard as loved ones, looking for any hint as to where he might have gone. Eventually, one by one they began to lose hope. He was just gone too long or didn't want to be found. Even Athrun almost accepted that Kira was either dead or didn't want to be found, hoping that his friend would come to his senses and return on his own. Cagalli, on the other hand, refused to believe it. Her friend was out there somewhere. She HAD to find him.

The door to her chambers opened, revealing the familiar face of Athrun Zala. He had matured somewhat in both mind and body since the war's end. He worked closely with both Lacus and Cagalli, trying to rebuild what his own father sought so hard to destroy. He approached the desk and gently laid a hand on her own, startling Cagalli from her memories.

"Are you okay?" Athrun asked, seeing the worried and tired look on Cagalli's face. "You look exhausted."

"Yeah, I'm all right." Cagalli replied as she leaned over and kissed him. It was not passionate, like it had been shortly before their battle with Raww Le Cruset two years before, but was similar to the kisses Athrun had shared with Lacus. Something done more out of courtesy instead of pure romance. Despite this, Athrun pressed onward with what he was there for.

"We've just gotten word from the PLANT." Athrun explained. "Lately, a fleet of ZAFT defectors have been attacking Earth Alliance ships in the area. They say that the fleet was using a black mobile suit, according to the reports from the Alliance battleship Resolution. It fits the description of the Reverse Freedom."

"The prototype stolen a few months ago from Morgenrate?"

"Yeah. There are plans to send the Archangel out there within a week or so to investigate. Hopefully, we'll start to hear something by then." Athrun then noticed the picture on Cagalli's desk, which held her attention so much these past few weeks. Kira was his best friend, like a little brother to him at times. It hurt him to see him gone with no explanation, without a trace or even to say goodbye. It also made him angry after seeing what it was putting Cagalli and Lacus through.

"You still miss him, don't you?"

"I know he's still out there, Athrun." Cagalli told him, her golden eyes not removed from the photo. "I can't give up on him. Kira's all I have left of my family. If I lose him like I lost Father... I can't give up on him. I owe him too much."

"I know it's hard to accept, Cagalli," Athrun said as he clasped her hand in his own, "but the truth is that Kira may not want to be found. We've looked for almost two years now and still nothing. We just have to let him come back in his own time."

"How can you say that, Athrun?" Cagalli said as she yanked her hand away, sounding disturbed that Kira's friend would give up so fast. "He's your best friend and my own brother. I owe him my life a hundred times over and so do you. How could you just write him off?"

"I'm not writing him off." Athrun told her, seeing how upset she was becoming. "Look, I didn't mean to make you upset. I care about Kira too but..." He then checked the clock on the desk and saw that it was time for him to leave. "Listen, I need to head back to the PLANTs to help oversee some peace agreements. Are you sure you're all right?"

"I don't need a babysitter, Athrun. I'll be fine." Cagalli heard the door open and close as she laid her head onto her desk, tears starting to form in her eyes as she realized that her lover could be right. Kira may not want to be found, not by anyone. This firmly in her mind, she finally released some of the tears as she silently sobbed, her heart in bitter sorrow over her brother's loss.

> > > > > > > >

He stared at her from just outside the window, his own heart hurting from seeing her in so much pain and anguish. The last thing he wanted to do was hurt her or anyone else, yet something kept drawing him here to this one place. He didn't visit his parents or Lacus. He didn't want his presence known to the reminders of his former life. Yet he kept coming here, to another reminder. She wasn't like the others. That alone he was confident about. But why? Why was this young woman so important to him? Could it be that he...? As if the thought was a disease in his mind, he jumped out of the tree that served as his perch and raced away, confusion and mixed feelings overriding his duty to the mission.

> > > > > > > >

Yzak Joule growled to himself as he exited the Assault Shroud-equipped Duel GUNDAM mobile suit, fuming over the results from his latest simulation tests. For the last several months, he had been in heavy training to increase his skills in battle at the Alliance base in California. After the war, he had considered joining the new ZAFT military but declined. Part of him felt that it wasn't where he could be any longer. He claimed there "wasn't much of a challenge" in their ranks. As part of the Earth Alliance, he thought it would be best to be at his absolute best in the battlefield. His defeat of both the Raider and Forbidden mobile suits in the war proved to him that he could do it. Accomplishing it was another matter.

Exiting the refurbished Buster GUNDAM mobile suit was Dearka Elsman, his teammate in both ZAFT and the Earth Alliance. Unlike Yzak, he was already confident in his abilities. Despite that, he wanted to go through the simulations as well with his partner and friend. Since the war, Dearka thought his own skills needed improvement since he was nearly killed by Raww's Providence GUNDAM. Still, he handled his situation much better than Yzak did his own.

"Well, it wasn't that bad this time." Dearka said, trying to look on the bright side. "We did managed to disable all the mobile suits with only light casualties."

"Light or not, they were still casualties." Yzak retorted. "That's not acceptable, Dearka. You know that. I won't accept anything less than victory on the battlefield."

"You both did great." The conversation was interrupted by the voice of Miriallia, from the control room above the hangar. "You should be proud that you accomplished so much in the simulations." She had matured over the last year as well, becoming more and more aware of the harsh tragedies of warfare than most young women her age. With most of the Archangel's crew reassigned or discharged, she offered to help Yzak and Dearka at the base as COM/relay officer.

"Well, I'm not treating this like a battle sim." Yzak said with a smirk. "War is about skill and tactics, not numbers on a computer screen." With that, he climbed back up to the cockpit of the Duel GUNDAM and prepared to restart the simulation. Suddenly, several alarms went off outside the hangar, the klaxons turning the area dark with eerie red light.

"Attention! Attention!" the alert sounded throughout the base. "The base is under attack! Repeat, the base is under attack! All fighters, prepare to scramble immediately!"

"Looks like we'll have to call it quits on the sim." Dearka said as he climbed back up to the Buster GUNDAM's cockpit. Yzak smirked to himself as he called up the start-up sequence.

'Finally, an end to this video game.' he thought to himself as he moved the Duel GUNDAM to the launch catapult, the Buster GUNDAM moving behind him. 'I can really put my skills to the test now.'

"Be careful, both of you." Miriallia said over the intercom.

"We'll be fine." Dearka replied. Hopefully it's nothing and we'll be back soon. I want to keep my promise, Miri, that I'd make up for Tolle's death somehow.

"X-102 Duel, launching!" Yzak called out as the catapult thrust him out of the base, his engines igniting as he moved away. The Buster GUNDAM was behind him a few seconds later, serving as wingman like in the simulations. Both mobile suits have been refitted with new Velio-type thrusters, letting them fly on their own without mobile sleds to help them. Other than that, the mechas were the same as they always have been.

"Where is it?" Dearka muttered to himself. "We couldn't have been called out here for nothing."

"Pay attention." Yzak warned. "We can't let our guard down, even if it looks safe. People get killed on the battlefield that way." Suddenly, his sensors flashed. "I'm getting something up ahead. Stay alert." He double-checked his weapons, just in case they were forced into a fight. The two mobile suits came across a flaming pile of wreckage, at one time a listening outpost for the base. With most of the other pilots away on assignment, Dearka and Yzak were the only ones left to defend it.

"What on Earth did this to one of our listening outposts?" Dearka exclaimed. Suddenly, both Duel and Buster's alarms flashed red, signaling an incoming attack.

"Look out!" Yzak shouted as he shoved Dearka out of the way, barely missing being destroyed by a blast of energy. It belonged to the Reverse Freedom GUNDAM; it's beam rifle poised and ready to fire as it approached them.

"It looks a lot like the Strike mobile suit." Dearka said, getting his gattling guns charged and ready.

"This must be the one that almost destroyed the Resolution a few days ago." Yzak mused as he also drew his beam saber. "Split up!" The two mechas dodged the incoming fire from the beam rifle as they went into two directions. Yzak yelled as he charged for the enemy mobile suit, his beam saber ready to slice into the black armor. The Reverse Freedom saw it and raised it's shield to block it. Dearka saw that as his opening and armed his launcher.

"You're not going anywhere!" Dearka declared as he opened fire, hitting the thrusters on its back. The Reverse Freedom turned and fired its beam rifle again, this time hitting the Buster's shoulder. Increasing the thrusters, it sliced into Dearka's damaged arm, sending the mobile suit heading towards the ground.

"You coward!" Yzak declared as he launched a volley of missiles, managing to hit the Reverse Freedom as it slowly listed toward the ground. It landed on its feet and waited, seeing Duel charge towards it. It held the beam saber like a baseball bat, lowering its wing binders for the moment, and swiped at the mobile suit, damaging it's V-shaped antenna and nearly decapitating it.

"Dammit!" Yzak cursed as he managed to land onto the sandy ground, his guidance system damaged. "This guy fight almost as well as Kira Yamato did."

"Listen carefully, you two." a voice, sounding eerily familiar to both him and Dearka, said over the COM radio. "I'm only going to say this once. Stay out of my way... or I'll have to kill you." With that, the Reverse Freedom ignited its thrusters and flew off, leaving the two damaged mobile suits in its wake.

"That voice... it can't be..." Yzak said to himself as he slowly moved Duel to his feet.

"Yzak, did you hear what I just heard?" Dearka's voice said over the COM. "It sounded like Kira just now."

"If that was Yamato, then he has some explaining to do." Yzak fingered his scar as he gritted his teeth in anger, furious that he was beaten again by the same person who gave him his scar. 'I will pay him back for this. I swear...'

(Chapter 2)

Heero was emotionless as he moved the Reverse Freedom through the sky, musing to himself over the mission. He had been instructed to destroy the listening posts in California, to also disable anyone who stepped in his way. He knew that it would be Yzak and Dearka yet he also dreaded it. He had gotten to know the two a few months before their transfer from the Archangel with Miriallia. Yzak was a strong pilot with a stubborn battle spirit while Dearka was more relaxed but still excellent. Yet now he felt nothing towards them, only an emptiness that was common now with his missions.

It began after the New Year arrived, when he was still a Coordinator named Kira Yamato. He had thought deeply over what Raww had shown Mwu La Fraga and himself that fateful day, the day that his entire concept of who he was changed forever. His parents were not his own. Cagalli believed that he was her brother. His entire existence was due to a genetic experiment done by Dr. Hibiki, a man he would never dare to call his father. The stress only added to his depression from the deaths he caused, the lives he stole as a mobile suit pilot that haunted his memories. No one, not Lacus or his so-called parents, could give him reason not to end his life, to terminate the experiment that was his existence.

Instead, he ran away.

He traveled from PLANT to PLANT, hoping to leave the remains of his lie-filled life behind and start again. Yet he couldn't escape, no matter how hard he tried. Kira's dreams were always haunted by the ghosts of his past, of the memories of his friends that knew nothing about the truth. Even the memory of Frey Alster, in her death, plagued his overtaxed soul to the breaking point of sanity.

He found his way to the ranks of GHOST, a secret organization created in ZAFT's defeat. They refused to accept the newly established peace and declared those that had to be traitors. Kira had met their leader, an older man named Alexander Murdock, and began training with them under the name of Heero Shinigami over the recent year. He believed them when he was told that they only wanted to secure the newfound peace shared by all, to ensure that the PLANTs would be protected from the hardships of war. Gone were his ties to the Earth Alliance, to the life and people he abandoned as Kira Yamato.

Or so he thought.

He eventually was selected to pilot the ZGMF-X10A-R Reverse Freedom GUNDAM, the newest prototype co-developed by ZAFT and several neutral nations several months ago. It was based heavily on the original Freedom but had several differences, such as the operating system's perimeters and weapons' strength. It was equipped with something called a "PSYCHO system", allowing the pilot's mind and the mobile suit's CPU to interact. It was supposed to help him act faster in battle by focusing the mind on what drove it most to succeed. No one saw what the side effects would be for Kira, one of the strongest Coordinators in existence. After all, they believed that the successes would far outweigh the consequences.

Kira began using the new system in test simulations and would be plagued with vivid dreams afterwards, memories of the life he once held. Though some of them had revolved around his friends and family, the majority began to revolve around Cagalli Yula Attha, his so-called "sister". She was the last person he wanted to think about, even before his self-imposed exile away from Earth. She was one of the few other than Athrun and Lacus that he held close to his heart. Kira stayed out of her way in the last days of the war, giving them both some space to sort out their lives and what they were to each other. Now, he began to have dreams about her that only confused him more.

He would fight the thoughts, to tell himself that this was meaningless to his new life, that it would be better to forget about her and everyone else. Yet his mind and heart refused to listen, the longing to see her again growing stronger over time. Eventually, when Kira looked over the old records from the genetics lab that Raww showed himself and Mwu, he finally learned the truth.

He was not Cagalli's brother at all.

In truth, the other infant in the picture Uzumi gave to Cagalli was her brother but was not Kira himself. Dr. Hibiki had used the infant's DNA in his artificial womb, fusing it with the DNA of several other potential Coordinators in his experiment. The infant that was to become Cagalli's brother disappeared when the lab was destroyed, instead replaced with Kira as a subsitute to hide the truth. He was nothing more than a surrogate, a false replacement to prevent the truth about the experiments from being known.

As Kira mused over this, he felt as if a weight was lifted from his shoulders. The truth was hidden from him and Cagalli both for so long, in vain hopes that they would not meet. Had they met each other sooner, both of them would have reached the very same conclusion Raww had reached that day in the genetics lab. He had tried harder than ever to stay away in the past few months, hoping that his blond-haired friend would forget him and move on with her life. Kira would find himself watching her secretly, seeing the pain she was in because he was gone. He wanted so badly to end it, to reveal himself to her and his other friends...

...but his mission came first.

He had learned that GHOST had planned to finish what ZAFT had tried, to eventually destroy all Naturals so that only Coordinators would exist through several systematic attacks on Earth and the PLANT space colonies. Their twisted version of peace in fact meant the deaths of more innocent people and soldiers, deaths that Kira no longer wanted on his already bloodstained hands. Yet the Reverse Freedom's "PSYCHO system" forced him to comply with their wishes, to carry out their missions through him in a new persona, that of Heero Shinigami. For now, he had control over himself and set coordinates for the Orb Kingdom. To see, at least for one last time, the only shred of his humanity left before the PSYCHO system reassumed dominance.

> > > > > > > >

Athrun stopped his car in front of the mansion's gates, musing over the last time he was here nearly a year ago. It felt like an eternity, after all that had passed since that time. Now he was here for another reason, to help establish the peace that his father, Patrick Zala, tried so hard to corrupt. He was such a different person then, fighting on a side that he didn't truly belong with. Fighting against his friend, Kira.

The memories were painful to Athrun, of the times when he and Kira would clash on the battlefield with their mobile suits. Both so determined in their resolves yet unwilling to destroy each other. They were once closer than brothers would be. Now he was gone, leaving him and their other friends alone without any hint.

As he stepped out of the vehicle, he was assaulted by the familiar sight of several multi-colored Haro robots, all chattering their greetings to him. There was no doubt that he was at the right place. He smiled slightly as he walked up the pathway, where Lacus was sitting with her infamous pink Haro in her hands and Torii, a cybernetic bird created many years ago by Athrun for Kira, perched on a ledge as it chirped a pleasant-sounding song.

Lacus had changed after the war, becoming more dedicated to establishing peace and ending the fighting. She worked hard, with Athrun's help, to quell any insecurity from both the remaining ZAFT forces and the Earth Alliance. Yet the stress refused to show itself on her gentle face, not even the stress of Kira's abandonment marred her.

She had grown to love him, the two reaching an understanding with each other of all that had gone on. They had started living together in the PLANT, getting to know each other much more than they had the last time Kira was there. Yet in the war's aftermath, he started to drift away from her. He would become so withdrawn, reluctant to speak to anyone for several days. The guilt from the blood on his hands tortured him, tormenting his already-overtaxed mind to the breaking point with the ghosts of the innocent. That much Lacus could see. She wanted him to finally let go of the pain, to put aside the devastation he saw in those months. But nothing helped his wounded spirit. Then came the day he disappeared from them.

Lacus noticed Athrun arriving and arose from the porch, her pink Haro still in her hands as always. Though their arranged marriage was over for some time, they maintained a friendship and worked closely together often, an effort to strengthen the ties of the various PLANT organizations that Athrun's father tried in vain to raise against Earth. She could see a worried look in his eyes and she automatically knew why.

"How is she, Athrun?" Lacus asked, her voice as sweet as ever.

"Better, but I'm still worried about her." Athrun replied as they moved back to the porch. The two of them sat down and looked toward the horizon, where the sun was "setting" in the distance. "It's been nearly two years now and I don't know what else to do. Cagalli is refusing to give up, though. I mean, what would possess Kira to leave us the way he did? In all the years we've known each other, he would never have done something this cowardly."

"I've asked myself that same question the day he left." Lacus told him, setting the pink Haro down so it would rejoin the others. "I would look into his eyes and see so much pain and sadness, all the people he had to kill or couldn't save slowly driving him mad. He always had such a kind spirit. To see it twisted and darkened like that..." Lacus felt tears beginning to well in her eyes, the sadness she felt for Kira finally beginning to reveal itself. Athrun was filled with a multitude of emotions, one of them being anger towards Kira and another sorrow for Cagalli and Lacus. After all they had gone through, none of them deserved this torment. He held Lacus by her bare shoulders, a stoic determination in his green eyes as he rubbed them gently.

"...I made a promise to find him two years ago, Lacus. I'll... I'll do what I can to keep it." Seeing her smile somewhat, the anger began to cool in Athrun's heart. "We should get going. The peace negotiations will start soon."

"All right."

> > > > > > > >

Cagalli lay awake for the tenth sleepless night in a row, unable to find that peace of mind that would let one sleep at night. This was more common in the last few weeks since her dreams started. She would always be drifting in space, alone and without her MBF-02 Strike Rouge. She would hear Kira's voice somewhere in the distance, crying for help. She would see his body as she tried to float to him, reaching for him with tears in her golden eyes. But she would never reach him. He would always be beyond her reach.

She was startled by the sound of the wind outside her window, rustling the leaves on the nearby tree. Cagalli rose from the bed to close the window when she heard something in the room, like something hitting the floor heavily. Immediately she opened her dresser and pulled out a gun, checking to make sure the cartridge was inside. Fortunately, she has had few attempts on her life since becoming ruler of the Orb Kingdom. Still, it was a familiar presence to her ever since she was once part of the guerilla fighters.

Cagalli turned around and gasped in shock from the last thing she expected to see. Standing in front of her was none other than Heero Shinigami, once know to her and others as Kira Yamato. His eyes were hidden by black sunglasses, an emotionless and blank look shadowing his once kind face.

"I wouldn't shoot if I were you." Heero told her, his voice remaining strangely calm as he spoke. "Too much noise would draw unneccesary attention." He was greeted with a hard slap across his face.

"Where the hell have you been, Kira?" Cagalli said angrily to the young man, feeling both relief and confusion at the moment. "Everyone's been searching everywhere for you for almost two years. We all thought you were dead or something by now. Do you know what you put all of us through? What you put me through?"

"I know... and... I'm sorry." He remained motionless as tears of relief came to Cagalli's eyes, satisfied that he was alive and safe. She wrapped her arms around him but was surprised at what she felt. Gone was the warmth and friendship that Kira usually radiated, the kindness that she respected as his source of strength. It was replaced with a colder, darker feeling of loss and loneliness. She released him and looked into his expressionless face in shock.

"Kira... what's happened to you?" She saw his eyes as he removed his sunglasses, his once kind blue eyes filled with a cold depth that should never have existed, chilling her somewhat.

"The Kira Yamato you once knew is now dead." Heero said as he blankly stared into her golden eyes, his voice a hauntingly-dead calm as he spoke. "I am Heero Shinigami now."

Cagalli looked into his cold blue eyes, seeing none of the empathy that once existed. Instead, there was nothing but a cold and empty gaze. "You're not serious... are you? What... how did this happen?"

"During the war with ZAFT, I witnessed the countless deaths of innocent people. Human beings, some of them with families, all of their blood was on my hands as a pilot. For a time, I thought I could put that behind me once the war ended. Then the dreams started. I could still hear the screams echoing in my mind, asking me why I couldn't save them." Heero paused, as if the grief he felt began coming to the surface. He fought it down, struggling to bind that feeling from him, the weak part of him that could still feel. "I was almost driven insane from those dreams. At that time... I just wanted the pain to stop, to escape that nightmare. But they keep haunting me, forcing me to remember their suffering and gory deaths..." For the first time in the last two years, he felt the floodgates beginning to crack open, threatening to overwhelm him. Cagalli moved closer and wrapped her arms around him, trying her best to ease his torture.

"Shhh..." she reassured him as she felt him struggling against the mixed feelings, fighting to keep it buried in his tortured soul. "Don't hold this inside anymore, Kira. You have to talk to someone. That's what we're here for." She released him and looked into his eyes, still blank but beginning to show faint signs of life again. "I'm your sister, remember? You're supposed to talk to me about these things."

"That's another reason I need to leave." Heero eased himself away from her, preparing to tell her the one thing that will shatter everything between them for the rest of their lives. "I won't complicate matters with you and everyone else by pretending I'm something I'm not."

"What do you mean?"

"...I'm not your brother, Cagalli. I never was to begin with." As the words were spoken, Heero could see that Cagalli thought he wasn't serious, that maybe she had misheard him. The look on his face, however, said otherwise.

"...No ...no, it's not true." Cagalli said, shaking her head in denial at the statement. "You have to be."

"I'm sorry. But as far as we're concerned, I'm just another guy. That's all."

"No! I won't accept that!" She went to her dresser, pulling out the picture Uzumi gave to her that showed Kira and herself as infants. "Look at this picture! This is us and our mother, Kira! How can you say that this isn't real when I'm holding the evidence right here?"

"Stop it!" Heero told her as he took her by the shoulders, holding her until she calmed down. He knew that this would be hard to understand for both of them but it needed to be said. "I know that you're upset right now. But I checked and traced all of the information to some experiments from 17 years ago. Dr. Hibiki, the one who began the experiments, took one of the infants and used it's DNA with several others as a template, an attempt to create the ultimate Coordinator. The end result became me, the end product of his work... a lab experiment. A mutant clone of someone else who no longer exists."

Cagalli remained silent as she and Heero sat down at a nearby table, digesting everything that was just said. "I-I don't understand this. Why would my father and your parents lie to us? Why would they make us think we were siblings when we weren't? It doesn't make sense."

"They didn't know. The experiments were done without their knowledge. Not even Uzumi would've been able to find out. They couldn't have known until it was too late."

"Kira... I... I don't know how you expect me to feel right now." Hot tears of anger and bitter remorse began to cloud Cagalli's vision. "You show up after two years and suddenly say you're not my brother? That everything my father told me about us, everything I believed until now, was a lie? Just how the hell do you expect me to handle this?" She let the tears fall from her eyes as she cried, feeling betrayed and heartbroken for what she thought for so long. "Do you think I'm supposed to be happy about this? That I'm just supposed to forget everything that's happened to us? I don't even know what we even are to each other anymore..."

"Shhh... It's going to be okay." Heero slowly moved his arms around her, letting the blond-haired girl sob into his shoulders as he rubbed her back. He wanted to help her, knowing how confused he was at one time after finding this out. He wanted peace of mind for both of them, to forget the lies and start over. For now, this was all he could give the girl he would have once called his sister.

Cagalli suddenly felt Heero pull away, his face contorted in pain as he backed away from her. His breathing was labored, his eyes shut as he fought for control over himself against the PSYCHO system. Against his own mind.

"Kira, what's wrong?" she asked.

"It's calling me... I can't stay. I've got to go!" He suddenly turned and jumped out of the window, as if he was frightened by a recurring demon on his heels. Cagalli raced to the window with tears still in her eyes, scared she would lose him again.

"Kira, wait!" Cagalli called. "You can't leave me again! Kira!" But it was too late. He was gone, faded into the shadows. She dropped to her knees in frustration, filled with sorrow over losing Kira again, her world shattered once more since the death of her father. The hot tears streamed down her face as she heard the sound of an engine in the distance, like the type used for mobile suits. She rose and looked out the window, seeing the faint outline of a mobile suit rising into the midnight sky.

(Chapter 3)

Miriallia Haww was quiet as she walked down the corridors of the base, thinking about what Dearka and Yzak had told her after their return. They had been attacked by the Reverse Freedom, the mobile suit that had nearly destroyed the Resolution several days earlier, only to learn that the pilot was none other than Kira Yamato. Why would he turn against them, the people who cared about him the most? It made no sense to her at all.

Miriallia had been Kira's classmate on Heliopolis, one of the few friends he had at the time. She and Tolle visited him whenever possible, often seeing him work on complex computer programs with his bird Torii at his side. They had only known each other a short while before the ZAFT attack, the same attacks that later destroyed the peaceful PLANT and sent them all onto the Archangel. Still, she missed him as much as she would any of the other children from Heliopolis.

She entered the hangar bay to see the all-too familiar sight of the Archangel, moored outside the large area as various technicians prepared to load the Duel and Buster GUNDAMs onboard. The Alliance battleship had been called to pick up the two mobile suits and head to the PLANTs, to investigate the attacks being held on various ships like the Resolution in the last few weeks. Since the war, it had nearly been decommissioned due to the damage it suffered in the war's final days. Yet instead it was completely overhauled and made a frontline ship due to its success record. It was a comforting sight of familiarity to Miriallia, especially now.

"Miri!" She noticed a friendly and familiar face among the people moving about and smiled. Ssigh Argyle had changed little from the young man he was two years before, both mentally and physically. He was one of the few friends that she could count on, even after the battle that took Tolle away from her. He had been a shoulder to cry on, a source of comfort for her since then.

"Hello, Ssigh." Miriallia said as the blond young man approached her. "You said that Captain Ramias wanted to see me?"

"Yeah. She's on the ship getting it ready for launch in a few hours." The two walked towards the Archangel, passing the technicians and engineers. "So, how have you been?"

"I've been all right, but... have you heard about Kira?"

"We all have. That's why were heading out." Ssigh stopped and turned to the young woman next to him, seeing the concern reflected in her eyes. "How can you be sure that it's him, though? None of us have seen him for the last few years."

"Maybe, but Yzak and Dearka heard his voice over the COM radio in a battle. They said that the Reverse Freedom's pilot fought like him, also. It HAS to be him, Ssigh."

"Even if it is, why would Kira suddenly switch sides like that? It doesn't make sense."

"I know." They resumed their walk and arrived at the conference room, where Captain Murrue Ramias was waiting for them. Externally, she was still the same kind woman and excellent commander she always was. Yet inside her heart, she had changed the most out of everyone else. Since Mwu La Fraga's death at the hands of Raww's Lowegrien cannon, she had retreated into a private shell, refusing to give her heart to anyone else. She couldn't risk it again, not ever. Instead, she had personally overseen to Archangel's refit over the last few months. This was a different woman who had taken command of the ship two years before. This was someone who was weathering a private storm inside.

"I'm glad you both are here." Murrue said as Miriallia and Ssigh took a seat. "I trust you both understand what this ship has been assigned to do."

"Yes ma'am." Ssigh and Miriallia replied.

"Now the reason I called you here, Miri, is because we're going to need you on this mission. Two years ago, you were one of the best unofficial COM officers I've ever had. You coordinated communication traffic for us very efficiently and had become an excellent officer here in California, from what I've heard." Murrue then leaned forward, her voice taking on a more personal tone. "I want you to be at the COM console when we head out again."

"Captain..." Miriallia thought for a second before giving her answer. "...I would be happy to serve onboard the Archangel again."

"I'm glad to hear that." Murrue smiled before getting up from the conference table. "You have two hours to report back so you should handle any personal business before then." She saluted as the two children left, leaving the brown-haired woman to her own thoughts. She picked up a framed photograph from the desk, a picture of Mwu from nearly two years ago. He was standing in front of his old mobile armor, the TS-MA02mod.00 Mobius Zero, and smiling warmly. Murrue had to fight the now-familiar tears that clouded her vision, the sorrow she felt still fresh in her memory.

"Mwu..." Murrue said softly to the picture. "I miss you so much..." She wiped the tears away as she replaced the picture, forcing her feelings aside once more. When you're the captain of a battleship, there wasn't time for personal feelings. She understood that as she straightened her uniform and prepared to head to the bridge.

> > > > > > > >

The hangar of the former-ZAFT battleship Avenger was quiet as the Reverse Freedom landed perfectly, it's engines slowly falling silent as the large mobile suit powered down. Heero mentally cursed himself as the cockpit door opened and he climbed out. He let himself become unfocused and distracted, possibly endangering the mission. Visiting Cagalli was a terrible mistake. He saw that now as a dangerous deterrent. She was a part of his past, a factor that no longer should have concerned him.

So why couldn't he stop thinking about her?

He shouldn't have told her what he had learned. Now their lives would be much more complex that necessary. Also, she would be compelled to find him, to seek him out much as he did her. He couldn't allow her nor anyone else to put themselves in danger. It would compromise matters much more than before. The mission had to continue.

He walked out of the hangar and down the corridor, his mind reviewing the other information he had discovered during his research. Apparently, according to ZAFT records, mobile suits were developed long before the Cosmic Era began. They made vague allusions to other periods in Earth's history, of something called a "Dark History" and a mecha called the "Turn-A-GUNDAM" somehow destroying all technology on the planet. Heero had mentioned what he had learned to Murdock, who told him about a series of ancient ruins discovered on the moon that confirmed all of this. However, the Earth Alliance had destroyed most of the information out of fear, fear that history would repeat itself again and they would eventually fall out of power.

Murdock was a mysterious man, at best. He seldom showed himself to anyone, remaining instead in his office on the ship and commanding efforts from there. When he did show himself, which was rare, everything except for his eyes was hidden behind a silver facemask. Kira had to be careful around him, so that his mission wouldn't fail in the future.

Heero entered the room at the end of the corridor, giving his eyes time to adjust to the darkness. The only light came from a open laptop on the table, the screen's glow casting shadows on the various objects behind it, including the face of Murdock as he looked up at the young man.

"I trust the mission was successful, Heero?" Murdock said, his voice an even baritone.

"Yes, however there were... complications."

"Elaborate."

"I was forced to engage the Duel and Buster mobile suits at the California base. They were, however, easily defeated."

"I see." Murdock motioned for Heero to come closer, his face invisible behind his mask. "In light of this, I commend you for completing your assignment." He twisted the computer's screen around, showing the young man the data displayed. "This is your next task. Reports say that the Earth Alliance will send a ship in this area to investigate our recent actions in several hours. We cannot allow them to deter us from our mission. You and the remaining pilots will prepare for combat and be ready once they arrive."

"I understand." As Heero started to leave, Murdock looked into his eyes, sensing that the young man wasn't telling him everything. The young man's eyes, normally lifeless to him, held a glimmer of their forgotten light, as if an internal battle was being raged. He smirked to himself under his mask as he looked over the data on the laptop's screen.

"Soon the game will almost be over." he muttered to himself. "After all these countless centuries, the massive cover-ups and elimination of fact, everything will finally fall into place."

> > > > > > > >

"Can you believe this?" Dearka said as he went over the checklist for the Buster mobile suit, making sure that it was in full battle condition before it was loaded. "We go from one crazy psycho to another."

"It doesn't matter." Yzak replied, going over his own checklist for Duel along with it's optional but much-improved Assault Shroud parts. "I've been waiting for a chance like this to prove how far I've come." After their return from their brief battle with the Reverse Freedom, they along with the rest of the base watched a transmission from one of the PLANTs. It was now part of the organization named GHOST and declared themselves sovereigns of their own fates, independent of the Earth Alliance or the ZAFT military. Now Yzak and Dearka had to move out with the Archangel and make sure another war isn't started.

"Have you heard from Athrun?" Yzak asked. "Iheard he was at the PLANTs helping peace negotiations."

"He said that he'll meet with us later after we launched." Dearka answered as he finished his checklist. "But... I still think he should know about Kira. They were close, almost like brothers."

"True, but distractions like that will cost you in the battlefield."

"You're a real softie, you know that?" Dearka said sarcastically, the two pilots heading to the hangar bay to board the Archangel.

> > > > > > > >

Cagalli was curled up on the floor of her bedroom as her head swirled with confusion, frustrated over what Kira, or Heero as he is known now, had told her last night. He disappears from her life for two years only to return and say he wasn't her brother. At first, she was in complete denial and dismissed his statement as something else, hoping that perhaps she had heard him wrong. Yet curiosity took over as she hacked into ZAFT's old medical records. Shock and dismay flooded her as she confirmed that what she was told was true.

Cagalli's being was shaken to the core as she took several deep breaths, trying desperately to make sense out of it all and maintain her sanity. A storm of emotions swelled in her. Anger... betrayal... frustration... and somewhere among them, perhaps even relief.

'I won't believe it.' Cagalli told herself as she hugged her knees to her chest. 'It just can't be true. Kira has to be my brother. He HAS to be...' But she could deny it no longer, not with the evidence stacking against it. That meant everything, EVERYTHING she had come to accept since her father's death was a lie. There was nothing left she could trust anymore, including her own feelings as they fought for domination within her heart.

"Dammit!" She cursed as she bolted up, fighting the feelings within her with a determination she didn't have since the war's end. "I'm going to get some answers from someone if it's the last thing I do." With that, she opened her closet and proceeded to get dressed.

(Chapter 4)

The sound of the Archangel's engines filled the hangar as the Alliance battleship prepared to launch one more time. The base's personnel immediately cleared out as the battleship slowly lifted from the ground and began its slow journey forward. The bridge was as active as always when Miriallia emerged to take her place at the COM. It was almost like old times, the console itself almost unchanged. She glanced over to see Murrue in the captain's chair, her attitude calm as the great ship finally left the safe confines of the hangar, lifting steadily higher to escape the Earth's atmosphere. The engines and control thrusters had been heavily modified on the ship, allowing it to safely leave the Earth's atmosphere without a launching system such as a mass driver.

"Once we're clear of the atmosphere, send a transmission to California." Murrue ordered, crossing her legs as she relaxed into the chair, something she hadn't done in several weeks. "Let them know that were on course for the PLANTs."

"Yes ma'am." Miriallia replied as she prepared the message to be sent. Soon, the viewscreen was filled with stars as Archangel moved out of the Earth's atmosphere and into the vacuum of space. She silently prayed that, if Kira was indeed out there and was now their enemy, that there would be no needless bloodshed.

> > > > > > > >

"Sir, we have detected an Alliance ship leaving Earth space." a voice spoke on the dark bridge of the GHOST battlecruiser Avenger. The little light on the bridge came from the soft glows of the many consoles and the display of the large viewscreen. Murdock sat in the command chair, at ease with the situation as his obscured face looked out at the viewscreen. Everything was going according to plan.

"Understood." Murdock said smoothly. "Tell the hangar to prepare the GuDOM mobile suits and the Reverse Freedom. The game has begun."

"Yes sir." came the reply as Murdock returned his attention to the viewscreen, now showing a projection of their position relative to the Archangel's, only a few kilometers out from Earth. He smirked to himself, relishing how predictable fate had become over the centuries.

> > > > > > > >

As the alarms signaled the change to battle alert, Heero walked into the hangar already dressed in his flight suit. He had heard about the Archangel's presence and cursed himself. He should never have revealed himself to Dearka and Yzak that day on the battlefield. Now they would try to stop him and complicate the mission even further. Yet the last thing he wanted was to put his friends in danger, despite the fact that it had already occurred twice already. Suddenly, he gripped the side of his head in pain, feeling his consciousness scream in pain as it tried to overcome the PSYCHO system's effects. The part of him that was still Kira Yamato was fighting against it, struggling to reclaim himself before it was too late.

But it was already too late.

"Hey, are you okay?" he heard a voice, a mobile suit pilot named Akito Yahagi, ask him. He slowly opened his eyes as the pain subsided. He was Heero Shinigami once again.

"Yes. There's no need for concern." Heero replied as he moved towards the open cockpit of the Reverse Freedom, his eyes still cold and lifeless as the young man returned to his ZGMF-1017 GINN's cockpit. Yet as he looked at his reflection on the gleaming metal of the door, he could see that tears had begun to develop. He wiped them away mindlessly and strapped himself in, preparing to complete his mission.

> > > > > > > >

Dearka watched as the various technicians refitted both the Buster and Duel GUNDAMs, arming them with additional weapons. Yzak was nearby, making sure that there were no mistakes while Duel GUNDAM was fitted with it's Assault Shroud.

"Hey Yzak." Dearka said as he floated over to his friend and wingman. "I've been thinking lately."

"That must've hurt." Yzak said cynically.

"Could you cut the sarcasm a second? I'm serious. What do you think is going to happen once Athrun meets up with us? He's going to want to go after Kira himself."

"That's exactly what I'm hoping WON'T happen. Letting your personal feelings onto the battlefield makes you a liability. He knows that and, hopefully, won't make that mistake like when we were fighting with ZAFT."

"Don't remind me." Dearka folded his arms over his chest as he watched the technicians finish the fittings on Buster GUNDAM. "You know, I think we've all changed a lot over the last couple of years. I'm almost glad of the person I am now."

"You know, you do have a point." Yzak commented. "I look back on who I was then and I've improved much since, in combat and on a personal level. In a way, I'm almost proud of whom I've become... My mother probably wouldn't even recognize me now." Suddenly, the alarms blared to signal Battle Alert, making both of them snap out of their musings.

"Attention! Attention! Enemy ships approaching!" came Miriallia's voice over the intercom. "All pilots, report to mobile suits immediately!"

"Looks like it's time to head out one more time." Dearka said, heading towards the open cockpit of Buster GUNDAM. "You ready?"

"I'm always ready." Yzak replied as he entered Duel GUNDAM's cockpit and began to strap in. At last, after nearly two years, he'd truly put his skills to the test. The cockpits closed as both mobile suits started their power-up sequences.

> > > > > > > >

The Reverse Freedom leapt forward from the launch bay, it's thrusters burning brightly as they pushed the black mobile suit into the vacuum of space. Behind it were six GINN fighters guarding the rear, preventing any sneak attacks from catching them by surprise, and in front were four of the new ZMSV-1025-B GuDOM mobile suits, prototypes with heavier armor and high-performance thrusters, from the other ships. Heero was silent as he looked through the display screens of the cockpit, part of him still struggling against the effects of the PSYCHO system. He tried to control his breathing, trying to regain control over himself.

"The mission..." Heero muttered to himself. "...must... complete... the mission..." The sensor alarm beeped as he slowly composed himself, letting him see both the Duel and Buster GUNDAMs heading towards him. "Dammit!" he cursed as he turned on his COM.

"Sir, we're picking up two Alliance mobile suits heading this way." He heard Akito's voice over the COM.

"Spread out." Heero ordered to the other mobile suits. "Don't let them get in too close."

"Yes sir." The GINNs spread to the left and right flanks as the Reverse Freedom pushed forward, it's wing binders spreading open fully as it prepared to engage the Alliance mobile suits. He charged his beam saber as he waited for the right moment, the moment to strike. He saw his chance as the GINNs headed for the Archangel, leaving Duel and Buster GUNDAM open to attack.

"Yzak, watch your back!" Dearka's voice said over the COM as the silver-haired pilot saw the charging Reverse Freedom, it's beam saber flaring a bright azure in the darkness of space. Yzak grit his teeth as he armed his own beam saber, more than ready to defend himself. Since Dearka had gone to help defend the Archangel, he was on his own for the moment. Soon, the two mobile suits clashed, their beam sabers throwing off sparks of blue and yellow energy. Neither pilot was willing to surrender in this test of power.

"Stay out of my way, Yzak!" a voice that sounded like Kira's strained over the COM. "You don't understand what's you're getting involved in!"

"So it is you, Yamato!" Yzak said, pushing more power into his beam saber. "Tell me, why did you decide to betray your own convictions?"

"My name is Heero now, and I had my reasons!" The two GUNDAMs were forced apart by the power of their weapons. Yzak fired several of his missiles yet Heero swatted them aside, letting them explode harmlessly away from the Reverse Freedom.

"You're pathetic, Yamato!" Yzak said as he armed his beam rifle, "You dishonor everyone who gave up their lives to end this fighting! I thought you'd have realized that by now!" He fired, managing to hit the Reverse Freedom's left shoulder and wing binder. Heero shifted into HiMAT mode and armed the leathal beam cannons, preparing to fire so he could complete his mission.

'NO!' He stopped after hearing a voice cry out, a voice that sounded like his own. 'You can't do this! I won't let you!'

"Be quiet!" Heero shouted as he fired the beam cannons, damaging the Duel GUNDAM's Assault Armor and destroying the missile launcher.

"Dammit!" Yzak cursed as he jettisoned the scarred armor, leaving his beam saber and head-mounted vulcans as his only defense. "This ends now, Yamato, one way or another!"

"I concur." Heero fired his cannons again, missing Duel GUNDAM as Yzak charged forward. He then charged both beam sabers and sliced into the mobile suit's right arm and thrusters, damaging both heavily. His own thrusters ignited as the brown-haired pilot headed toward the Archangel, leaving Yzak frustrated and angry in his damaged mobile suit.

> > > > > > > >

"Damage report!" Murrue shouted as the bridge of the Archangel shook from the incoming weapons fire. The ship had taken heavy damage since the fighting began but weathered the battle due to the refits.

"Casualties reported from the engine room and adjacent sections!" Miriallia answered, switching from COM channel to COM channel to keep up with in incoming traffic. "Engine room reporting damage to engines #1 and #2. External hull is 42 damaged overall. Lifter output failing."

"Swing us around!" Murrue ordered, gripping her chair as the ship shook once again. "Target the lead fighters!" Sparks flew from several consoles as the bridge lighting began to flicker, making the area look like the bridge of an old-style submarine. Murrue grit her teeth in frustration, angry that the battle had taken such an ugly turn already. Everyone looked at the semi-functional viewscreen, seeing a familiar mobile suit emerge from the Earth's shadow, three mass-produced Astray GUNDAMs following on its flanks. It was light red, the beam sabers drawn as it pushed forward into the battle.

"Ma'am, I'm picking up four mobile suits emerging from the Earth's shadow." Ssigh reported from his console. A look of relief flooded over his face when he recognized their configuration. "Three MBF-M1 Astrays... and the MBF-02 Strike Rouge."

"I'll be damned." Murrue muttered to herself as the ship shook again, relieved that reinforcements had arrived when they needed it most. To see the familiar sight of a Strike GUNDAM mobile suit slice into some of the GINN mobile suits brought back so many memories, memories that she couldn't be forced to relive now. "Hail the Strike Rouge. Relay our gratitude."

"Actually, Captain, they're hailing us." Miriallia said. Immediately, the viewscreen switched to the inside of the Strike Rouge's cockpit, where Cagalli sat in the pilot's seat. Her golden eyes held the look of cold determination, as if this was something she had to do for herself. She was looking for something. That much could be seen.

"It's good to see you again, Miss Attha." Murrue said over the COM.

"Thank you, Captain, but I wish the circumstances could've had been better." Cagalli replied. "Severalpilots from my kingdom and I thought we could lend a hand."

"We appreciate that, and thank you." The COM line went off as Murrue returned to her chair. There was something else in the blond-haired girl's eyes, a need for resolution that wasn't there before. A cold feeling began to form in her stomach, telling her that something terrible was going to happen. It was the same feeling she felt when the chilling sting of Mwu's death finally settled in. "Bring us about. Give the Orb mobile suits cover fire."

"Yes ma'am."

> > > > > > > >

Cagalli maneuvered through the space debris, waiting for the right moment to attack the two GINNs behind her. After leaving the kingdom, she heard the address given by GHOST over the COM channels, proclaiming their independence. She swore never to let another war take away everything she cared about, hence her calling together some of the former guerilla fighters to take up arms once more as mobile suit pilots.

"Almost..." she muttered to herself, watching the GINNs attempt to close on her. Suddenly, both mobile suits were hit with weapons fire, destroyed beyond recognition by the familiar flash of beam particles. She turned and gasped, seeing the Reverse Freedom with its beam cannons poised.

"I-I... I couldn't let them hurt you..." The voice of Heero Shinigami, formerly known as Kira Yamato, said in ragged breaths. "I needed... to protect you." Fighting the PSYCHO system was beginning to take its toll on him.

"...Kira? You're the Reverse Freedom's pilot?" Now it was beginning to make sense. The brown-haired Coordinator was the one who piloted it against the Resolution as well as Yzak and Dearka in California. But why he destroyed the two GINNs to protect her didn't make sense. Something was wrong. She could hear him strain over the COM channel, fighting desperately for control over his own mind. Her heart ached terribly for him, to help him end whatever torment he was putting himself through.

"I can't... I can't do it to her... Not to her..." Heero muttered to himself, trying to force himself to arm the weapons that would end this interference, this distraction to the mission. Yet he couldn't do it... he wouldn't do it. Something was holding him back.

"Kira, listen to me." he heard Cagalli almost plead over the COM. "This isn't like you to fight against us like this. Let us help you."

"..." The sensor monitor beeped, letting Heero see two GuDOM mobile suits headed in their direction. They were heavily armed with shoulder-mounted beam cannons, ready to destroy anyone in their way. His heart pounded as he fought for decision, to have an answer to the question he asked himself since seeing her again three night ago.

Why did he care so much?

Why was she so important?

Why was he so willing to give up the mission for her?

"Because I... because I..." He watched the GuDOMs fire their weapons, preparing to destroy the Strike Rouge. It took a split second for him to decide, to finally answer the nagging question he was asking yet was afraid to answer. To finally see the scope of what the blond-haired princess meant to him, despite the PSYCHO System's hold.

'Because I love her.'

He heard the sound of glass breaking in his mind, seeing a seed fall before his eyes, and Heero Shinigami was no more.

> > > > > > > >

Cagalli braced herself as the GuDOMs fired their shoulder-mounted beam cannons, preparing for the explosion and the cold expanse of space that would end her life. She suddenly saw something blocking her sensor view, protecting her from the impact of the beam weapons. When it dropped, she could see that it was the Reverse Freedom's shield. The blue eyes of the mobile suit flashed for a moment before it raced off, a feral-sounding scream erupting from COM channel, it's beam sabers drawn and ready to strike. It moved swiftly, slicing through both GuDOM cockpits before maneuvering away. Cagalli had to shut her eyes from the brightness of the explosion that followed.

'He saved me.' She thought to herself in shock. 'He fought whatever was doing this to him and saved me...' She heard the sound of sobbing over the COM channel, opening her eyes to see the Reverse Freedom power down.

"Kira?" she called over the COM, her heart breaking to hear her friend sobbing. "Kira, hang on. I'll be right there." Cagalli unclipped her restraints and put on her flight helmet, trying to maneuver the Strike Rouge close enough to reach him. When she was sure, she vented the cockpit and opened the door, exposing it to space for the first time in two years. Jumping over to the Reverse Freedom's door, she touched the emergency controls and was heartbroken to see inside. Heero was crouched inside, his helmet-covered face buried in his hands as he silently sobbed. Cagalli reached out and embraced him, letting him finally rid himself of the pain of two years' worth of self-torture. Kira had come back to her but was a broken shell now, his innocence stolen forever by events that should never have happened.

"Shhh..." Cagalli soothed as she rubbed Kira's back, letting him feel a sense of comfort among his internal chaos. "It's over, Kira. It's finally over..."

(Chapter 5)

Athrun was bitter as he drove away from the embassy, mentally cursing the ambassadors of both Earth and ZAFT for their cowardice. The negotiations had not gone well, both sides saying that they could go no further until GHOST had been dealt with. Athrun understood their fears of another war breaking out but wanted to press ahead, unwilling to let fear tamper the still-fragile peace everyone had worked so hard to create. Yet it was to no avail.

He stopped when he saw Lacus standing in front of the gate to a former ZAFT base, abandoned when their forces had pulled out after the war two years earlier. She looked almost ethereal in the light of the artificial sun, her pink hair cascading down her back and a gentle look set in her eyes. His anger cooled gradually as he remembered why they both were there, seeing the soft smile on her beautiful face. After hearing the broadcast from GHOST declaring their independence from Earth, he had planned to set out for the Archangel and help them fight. He no longer had either the Aegis or Justice GUNDAMs, both having been destroyed in separate acts of self-sacrifice, yet Lacus mentioned that there was another way.

"There isn't much time, Athrun." Lacus said to him as he stepped out. "If anyone else knew what was in here or found us..."

"I know." Athrun replied. "Lead the way." As they walked past the gates to a nearby hangar, he noticed for the first time that her pink Haro was missing. It was odd since Lacus never travels without it; it being her one-time partner when she wanted to sing. If the Haro wasn't there, things had definitely taken a dangerous turn.

They went through a side door of the hangar onto a catwalk, being careful not to trip or fall in the dimly lit area. As Athrun's eyes adjusted to the lighting, he gasped to himself when he saw it. It stood there like a crimson-red sentinel, a silent knight of metal waiting for its master to reclaim it from the darkened prison. The dark green sensors stared back into his eyes, drawing his attention from his pink-haired companion.

"You've rebuilt it?" Athrun managed to mutter. "You've rebuilt the Aegis?"

"Not quite." Lacus explained. "After the war, the military wanted to build one last mobile suit, a test model for mass-production in case the fighting started again. It's the ZGMF-X09-A2, but it's called the Aegis Mark II." She looked at the black-haired Coordinator, seeing the resolve coming over his features. She knew right away what he was thinking of doing. "You're going to fight again, aren't you?"

"That's why you brought me here, isn't it? Lacus, if GHOST continues their attack on the colonies, another war could break out and millions of lives could suffer. It has to stop somewhere. You know that."

"Yes but... I already lost Kira to what's going on out there. I don't want to lose you, too."

Athrun gently held Lacus by her shoulders, feeling the softness of her skin, his heart hurting from the tears behind her beautiful eyes. She was always such a gentle and kind person, not meant for the harsh reality and tragedy war has brought. They had spent so much time together recently; sharing so much more than either of them ever would have while they were betrothed. Athrun regretted so much what he had to do but knew that there was no other choice.

"You won't lose me. I promise..."

The two drew steadily closer, their eyes speaking volumes of what couldn't be said between them. Their lips soon began to meet in a gentle kiss, an unexpected yet not unwelcome act between them. There was no hangar, no colony, and no threat of a war breaking out any moment. For now, it was just them as the kiss began to deepen. For a split second, Athrun thought about Cagalli, feeling a sudden sense of guilt over his newfound closeness to Lacus. He reluctantly broke the kiss and released his pink-haired companion, beginning his ascension to the mobile suit cockpit, feeling her gentle eyes watching him. As he sat in the pilot's seat, her face was the last thing he saw before closing the hatch.

'Stay safe, Athrun.' Lacus silently thought as she heard the sounds of the Aegis Mk. II's various systems coming to life, it's green optical sensors lighting the darkness of the hangar. One by one, the engines ignited and forced the mobile suit upward, slamming through the roof of the hangar as it ascended toward the sky.

'Please Kira, don't be an enemy again.' Athrun thought to himself. 'If you are, I'll have to kill you myself.' He touched some of the controls, converting the Aegis Mk. II into a new transformation mode. Rather than the mobile armor it once was, it now gave the appearance of a sleek fighter jet. The main thrusters kicked in as it shot towards the colony's exit, heading into the expanse of space.

> > > > > > > >

Murdock mused to himself as he moved down the corridors of his ship, smiling to himself at how well his plans have gone. After hearing that half of their attack fleet was decimated by the Earth Alliance ship and it's mobile suits, as well as the defect of the Reverse Freedom and it's pilot, he knew that everything was on track for his true intentions. Soon, Earth and the colonies would never have to repeat the horrors of centuries past.

Murdock compared himself often to Char Aznable, a powerful military leader during what the Dark History called the Universal Century. During that time, he laid careful plans to rid the colonies of that period from the grip of the Earth's influence. He nearly succeeded until his defeat by his rival, Amuro Ray. From that point, over and over would the past repeat itself up to this point, right down to the creation of GUNDAM-type mobile suits.

He never fully believed in the concept of reincarnation, yet he felt for years that he was Char's true successor, destined to complete what so many failed to do. Yet the only hindrance was Kira Yamato, now known as Heero Shinigami. He knew Kira carried with him the essence of those who piloted GUNDAM-types before him, including the legendary Amuro Ray. If the past was truly destined to repeat itself, then they were meant to fight each other soon. Murdock was careful not to let Kira, then Heero, learn more than he needed to know about the Dark History. Had he, his plans wouldn't have proceeded this far already. Yet fate seemed not to be in his favor.

"Captain Murdock!" He turned to Akito, who had returned from the battlefield with the other pilots. "They're waiting for you, sir."

"Excellent. I'm on my way now." As the young man floated down the corridor to the hangar, Murdock smiled to himself. Soon destiny would finally be their favor.

> > > > > > > >

"How is he?" Cagalli asked as she came into the infirmary. After the mobile suits docked with the Archangel, she went to the infirmary immediately out of concern. Whatever the young Coordinator had gone through, it had taken its toll on his both mentally and physically. She looked over and saw the state he was in. Kira's eyes were back to normal but filled with so much pain, so much darkness and self-hatred.

"He's in a deep state of shock." One of the medics told her. "I've seen a lot of it in post-war victims over the last few years. You can see him but don't be too long."

"Thank you." As she went to Kira's bedside, her heart went out to the young man she once called brother. Now knowing what she knew about them both and seeing him like this made her all the more confused. What was this new feeling she felt for him? Why does it keep haunting her since they saw each other that night? She needed answers but that could wait. Kira needed someone close to him now more than ever.

"...Cagalli?" Kira said as he turned to her, his voice quiet and full of regret.

"Yeah, it's me. How are you feeling?"

"I..." Kira blinked back some tears, tears he hadn't let himself shed for a very long time. "I still remember everything, everything I did while I was Heero Shinigami. Everyone I killed with that damned mobile suit... I can still hear their voices screaming in terror when I killed them..." Hot tears began to flow from his eyes, the pain and anguish of the last two years finally breaking the surface. Kira barely noticed the touch of Cagalli's hands grasping his gently, smelling the scent of her short blond hair as she caressed his hands. He was drowning in his sorrows and needed someone right now, someone to be there for him to pull him away from the darkness of his inner turmoil.

"Kira, it's okay." Cagalli soothed as she held him. "You don't have to go through this alone anymore. I'm... I'm here now." There was something that felt right about the simple gesture, a sense that they were connected on a deeper level. It felt familiar, like something that happened many years ago but was forgotten and buried. After several minutes, Kira reluctantly let go and looked into Cagalli's golden eyes, the tears finally stopping. It was as if he drew a source of strength from hers, letting it strengthen and rebuild his already-fragile state of mind.

"There's something I learned while I was Heero Shinigami." Kira told her, his azure-blue eyes looking into hers. "I have to talk to Murrue right away."

"Why? What is it?"

"Because if GHOST isn't stopped, both Earth and the space colonies will be destroyed."

> > > > > > > >

"Captain, I'm getting an interception signal over all COM channels." Miriallia spoke from her station.

"Let's hear it." Murrue replied, straightening up in her command chair. Around her, the bridge was in a constant state of repair, the evidence of the last battle still obvious. The crew, keeping a constant vigil for more enemy attacks, was getting tired rapidly. Suddenly, static invaded the COM lines as the main viewscreen snapped to life, bringing with it the image of Victor Murdock.

"I address the Earth Alliance forces and the traitors from the forces of ZAFT." Murdock spoke in a commanding voice, booming over every COM line on the ship. "You now face the GHOST armada."

'So, he's the one behind all of this.' Murrue thought to herself.

"Centuries before the Cosmic Era began, mankind was involved in a bloody conflict known as the One Year War of the Universal Century. They used mobile suits, the very archetypes of our own technology, to fight these terrible battles. Even the designs of the GUNDAM-types draw inspiration from this forgotten history. I say this to you in hopes that you would understand the mistakes of our own history, a warning to prevent the mistakes of the past."

> > > > > > > >

"And I thought Raww Le Cruset was demented." Dearka said as he and Yzak headed towards the hangar, about to oversee the repairs to their Duel and Buster mobile suits.

"It's often madmen that become leaders for fanatics." Yzak replied. "Raww was insane. This Murdock sounds no different. Long-winded, yes, but no different."

> > > > > > > >

"With the close of that era, another war for independence of the colonies was fought, decimating the Earth but allowing a temporary peace to rise from those ashes. This era of After War gave birth to the After Colony era, another time when war threatened humanity's future. They vowed never to fight again and forgot their mobile suit technology, buried it under colorful rhetoric and paradoxes of peace. Yet it happened once again in Future Century with the so-called 'Gundam Fights', and again with Correct Century. This era launched the rebirth of war, mobile suits, and a new "Dark History". Now, in the Cosmic Era, we hear the same convoluted words of history from the lying lips of those in power. They hide the history I spoke of, in vain hopes of retaining their staunch control over your lives. Yet GHOST rises with the voices of those lost souls of wars past, echoing the dawn of a new era of true peace, an era without the interference of those from Earth ever again. With this as our rallying cry, we now declare full war upon Earth and it's allies. We shall never ignore the cries of history again. Instead we embrace it with the sounds of our own hearts. Hail Freedom!"

(Chapter 6)

Athrun was silent as the Aegis GUNDAM Mk. II moved through the expanse of space, speeding towards what he hoped was the last position of the Archangel. He had heard Murdock's recent transmission over the COM and was bitter, knowing now what was the source of the ambassadors' hesitation. He knew all too well the consequences of allowing a madman like this to gain power. Raww Le Cruset was such a man and nearly obliterated Earth to accomplish his goals. It couldn't happen again, not if he could help it.

He touched his fingers to his lips, the memory of the all-too-brief kiss he shared with Lacus still fresh in his memory. Never, not even when they were betrothed, had a kiss between them carried so muchpassionate emotion with it. Not even the kisses he had shared with Cagalli moved him in such a way. Athrun had felt something familiar in the gesture, an intangible yet comforting feeling that warmed his spirit, leaving him yearning for more from his pink-haired friend. Yet he loved Cagalli, he reminded himself. What happened between him and Lacus was betraying both her and Kira and couldn't happen again...

So why did he want to do it again?

'That was a mistake.' the black-haired Coordinator thought to himself. 'Lacus is Kira's now. What happened between us would be stabbing him and Cagalli in the back.' The proximity alarm beeped, letting him see the Archangel on the mobile suit's sensors. He quickly shifted the Aegis to mobile suit mode, signaling the ship as he drew closer.

"Archangel to unidentified mobile suit." Athrun recognized the voice as Miriallia, the young woman who served as the Archangel's COM officer. "Identify yourself immediately."

"This is Athrun Zala in the Aegis Mk. II mobile suit. Is everyone all right aboard your ship?"

"Yes, fortunately." He heard the voice of Murrue Ramias say over the COM. "We're in bad shape right now because of an attack by GHOST. We're undergoing repairs but would appreciate any help you can give us."

"Understood, Captain." Athrun switched off the COM and maneuvered his mobile suit forward, forcing his earlier confusion aside for the moment. Personal problems would have to wait.

> > > > > > > >

Kira floated down the corridor leading to the Archangel's conference room, feeling somewhat nervous as he headed to meet Murrue and tell her what he knew. He still felt so much responsibility for his actions as Heero Shinigami, for causing so much conflict when he piloted the Reverse Freedom. The things he did were unforgivable, a tarnish on his soul that he couldn't remove. Still, having Cagalli there with him eased his pain somewhat.

He was still confused about his feelings for her, especially after recalling his final memory before destroying the two GuDOM mobile suits. She meant so much to him, despite what they thought they were to each other. When they met the second time on Earth two years ago, she became one of his most trusted friends. Her strength carried his own at times, giving a newfound sense of confidence that changed his outlook on fighting. When he returned with the Freedom GUNDAM and reunited with his friends, she seemed so relieved to see him alive. He could still feel her warmth of her body from the embrace she gave, smell the scent of her short blond hair.

After Cagalli discovered that they were "siblings", she retreated from him into a shell of loneliness, a direct contrast to the strong resistance fighter she was in Orb. She and Athrun had grown closer, falling in love during the last days of the war. Their relationship was never entirely stable, both of them having their duties to perform. Despite that, and despite becoming involved with Lacus, Kira had somehow found himself drawn more to Cagalli. He started finding himself thinking about her more often before he ran away, both out of concern and attraction. It scared him, especially knowing what they were supposed to be to each other.

"...Kira?" He glanced over to his side, seeing Cagalli looking at him.

"Yeah?"

"I need to ask you something but... it could change everything between us if I do."

Kira stopped short, turning towards his blond-haired companion with confusion in his eyes. True, he remembered what he had told her as Heero Shinigami several nights before. He never would have told her that any other time, not wanting to tarnish the trust they had built between them. Yet letting the truth stay hidden for so long was a far worse punishment for them both. He steeled himself, unsure if he was ready to hear what she wanted to say.

"What is it, Cagalli?"

The blond-haired Coordinator looked into his dark blue eyes, suddenly regretting what she would ask him. Doing so would make things complicated between them, even more so than now. Yet whatever happened between then and now, she needed to know for herself. She needed to resolve the conflict of emotions within her.

"Kira... I still don't know if I can accept what you told me that night, about us no longer being related to each other. Part of me knew somehow, especially since our families wanted so much for us not to meet. Still, with the picture Father gave me, I just wanted so much to believe that I would never be alone again. I couldn't let that go, not even for a second." She placed a hand on Kira's shoulder, preparing herself for what she would utter next. Her eyes looked away from him, downcast with both guilt and regret. "I look at you now and see someone different from the boy who saved my life, both on Heliopolis and Orb. You changed so much, Kira, but... but I'm scared of what that means to me. I started to feel something for you now, something I never felt for Athrun or anyone else. I need to know what it is. If I don't, it could mean that I'll just end up alone again..."

Cagalli stopped when she found herself in a gentle embrace from Kira, a return gesture for the many times she had done something similar. She allowed herself to relax into it, feeling a sense of warmth and comfort at being so close to her friend. Kira looked at her with a gentle smile on his face.

"You won't be alone anymore. Ever. I promise."

The two of them floated in the empty corridor, oblivious to anyone or anything else around them for the moment. For a moment, Cagalli and Kira had both found the peace of mind they both sought for so long. Nothing else seemed to matter as they drew closer, their lips starting to meet in an unexpected but welcome kiss.Both of themcould feelan intense need grow from within,desires being revived after being starved for so long. For a moment, the memory of Athrun flashed across both of their minds, making them suddenly move apart. There were hints of regret in their motions as they drifted to separate sides of the corridor.

"...W-we should probably go to the conference room now." Kira said, feeling waves of shame over what had happened between them, his skin flushing a shade of crimson.

"...Y-yeah." Cagalli replied, feeling the same sense of guilt well within her as her own skin flushed. The two silently moved through the corridor until they arrived at the room, one of the few areas that was undamaged on the ship. Sitting at a long table was Murrue, who was waiting for the two to show up.

"I'm glad to see you both here." She stated as she arose from her chair, moving over to greet them with a serious look on her face. "Especially you, Kira. I've heard that you suffered quite an ordeal out there."

"Yes ma'am." Kira replied, his eyes suddenly finding the ground an interesting place. Murrue then placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, making his eyes meet hers as she spoke in a softer tone.

"If it's any consolation, I'm sorry for everything that's happened to you. However, we still need your help if we're going to stop this war from happening."

"...I'll... I'll do what I can, captain."

"All right, then. But first, there's someone who'd like to say hello." She motioned towards a figure to come forward from one of the viewing ports. Kira froze in surprise as he recognized the dark-haired figure.

"Athrun..."

"Kira... it really is you."

The two boys stood there, silent in the tension that filled the air around the conference room, waiting for someone to say something to ease or break it altogether. Yet only silence filled the atmosphere.

> > > > > > > >

"How is construction going?" Murdock asked once he entered the darkened hangar area of his own ship. So far, everything was going according to plan. He was pleased with himself at how well resurrecting the Dark History was going. This was merely the final step in his plans.

"We pulled as much data from the old records as we could but we could only get 98 percent of the original data." A young man named Kyle told him as he handed Murdock a schematic. "The overall armor plating is 90 percent finished. Bio-recognition is 78 percent while almost all the venier thrusters are up. We should be finished with the modifications to the computer by tomorrow."

"Excellent." Murdock replied as he returned the schematic. "Soon, the dreams of a universe without the hindrances of Earth or its allies will be realized." As the young man left, he looked up at the unfinished mobile suit, smiling as he saw the words "CONCEPT X-612-B ReTURN-X" etched on it's chest plating. 'Char, your dream will at last come true with the resurrection of this one final machine. History shall finally be the Earth's downfall.'

(Chapter 7)

"Why did you decide leave us, Kira?" Athrun finally asked, still at a loss for words at seeing his long-time friend. He had once contemplated what he would do once they saw each other again, his bitterness at his leaving and for hurting Lacus and Cagalli overwhelming his judgement. Yet now, with the brown-haired Coordinator in front of him, nothing came to his mind.

"I... I had no choice." Kira muttered as he looked at the ground, feeling reluctant to explain to his friend and fellow mobile suit pilot his reasons behind his actions. "There are some things I can't explain to you or anyone else, Athrun. My reasons for leaving is one of them."

"Bullshit, Kira!" Athrun retorted, feeling the sense of bitterness returning after so long of being pushed aside. "We're your friends! Do you have any idea what you put all of us through? What you put Lacus and Cagalli through? How can you justify something like that?"

"Athrun, stop." Cagalli interrupted, placing her hand on his shoulder and stopping the conversation before something wrong was said. "Kira has gone through more than enough already. He doesn't need this right now."

"It's all right." Kira looked at them both, gathering his still fragile emotions to say what needed to be said. "Athrun, I know you may never forgive me for running away. But to be honest, I couldn't tell you what was wrong because no one would understand. I had to do this on my own and... I'm sorry for hurting everyone."

Athrun was silent as he moved closer to Kira, digesting what his friend had told him. His anger slowly began to melt, understanding well his friend's need to resolve his own problems for once instead of burdening everyone else with them. Then, to Kira's surprise, he placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder and smiled.

"Just don't do that to us again. All right?"

"...All right." Kira returned the gesture, relieved that his black-haired friend had forgiven him, placing one of his fears at ease. He then remembered his reason for coming to the conference room and turned to Murrue. "Captain, I learned about GHOST's plans while I was Heero Shinigami."

"I'm listening." Murrue replied, all of them moving over to the table.

"Well, Murdock is a history fanatic. He's obsessed with making humanity repeat the tragedies of the Dark History. He plans to repeat one of the most destructive incident ever recorded, his "Final Solution" for the problem between Normals and Coordinators."

"...Oh my God." Athrun and Cagalli saw the look of shock that passed over the dark-haired woman's face, unsure of what the two were talking about. Murrue, herself being one of the few who knew about the Dark History after studying them many years before, knew exactly what Kira was saying. "That means that... he wouldn't!"

"Kira, what are you two talking about?" Athrun asked his friend, a sense of dread coming over him for some reason.

"They plan to seize control of one of PLANTs and drop it onto Earth." Kira solemnly told his friend, seeing the same sense of shock flow through him and Cagalli.

"But that's not possible." Cagalli said. "Why would they use something they want to protect so badly as a weapon? It doesn't make any sense."

"It's happened before." Murrue mentioned. "What I'm about to tell you is command-level access only. But since Kira already knows about it, it's the only way to understand what GHOST is trying to do. Many centuries ago, at the close of what used to be called the Universal Century, a dissident group called the Space Revolutionary Army planned to drop several colonies in space onto Earth. Despite the efforts of the Earth forces at the time, the result was a massive nuclear winter and a fifteen-year fallout. By the time it was over, there wasn't much left."

"So you're saying that GHOST is planning to do the same thing?" Athrun asked.

"That's exactly what she's saying." Kira confirmed. "Murdock called it "Operation: Rebirth". If he succeeds, it could wipe out life as we know it on Earth, forcing everyone to live in space and become Coordinators." Suddenly, the emergency klaxon screamed over the COM lines. Murrue went over to a COM channel, signaling a direct line to the bridge.

"Captain, I'm sorry for interrupting but you should get up here." the familiar voice of Miriallia said over the COM system.

"I'm on my way now." Murrue switched the lines off and turned toward the three young pilots. "Kira, if what you said is true, you and your friends may be our best chance at stopping the Dark History from repeating itself."

"I understand." the brown-haired Coordinator replied. All of them then exited the conference room, heading in the direction of the bridge. As they moved down the corridors, Athrun noticed that Cagalli's look were different, a distant gaze reflecting in her golden eyes.

She seems so confused now, as if a Pandora's Box was opened all of a sudden. Athrun thought to himself, feeling a twinge of concern for his girlfriend. Kira's eyes were the same way back there, when he told me how much he was sorry for leaving us. Whatever happened out there changed them both. I just hope it wasn't for the worst.

They arrived on the bridge of the Archangel, still under repair after the last battle with the GHOST armada. Several consoles were open, their inner workings exposed by the work crews. However, most of the bridge crew were still with shock as they looked out at the viewscreen. As Murrue and the three pilots entered, a similar look of shock came over them.

"My God..." Kira overheard Murrue mutter, feeling both Athrun and Cagalli stiffen at what they saw, his own body frozen in recognition at what he saw on the viewscreen. It was an object he could only remember from the records he saw as Heero Shinigami. It was a massive satellite inlaid with several giant rings, seeming to shimmer with an azure-blue light as it came into view. The object bristled with an ungodly power, the power of pure thought.

A weapon that could only be used by the most powerful minds of the old Universal Century...

"Angel Halo..." Kira whispered to himself, horrified that Murdock would have gone that far. The war that was to reaffirm a fragile peace just became a war for their survival...

> > > > > > > >

Murdock floated down the corridors of the now empty PLANT's control facility, pleased with himself how well his final preparations were going. Angel Halo, at one time the most dangerous weapon ever to exist, was now under his command. Using the mental potential of a certain candidate, it could broadcast it's waves across the entire Earth, if necessary, reducing the populace to nothing more than the level of babbling infants. Now, he would use the once-dangerous power to complete his mission.

'It's almost tragic, in a way.' Murdock thought to himself as he came to the control panels for the PLANT's thrusters. 'This act will mean the final close of the old era and the birth of a new future for humanity. And yet... yet I know this is the correct path. I can't stop now, not when things have gone this far.' Once known as Kesniopolis, the PLANT was used as a recreational habitat for the Earth elite until being abandoned at the start of the war. Now, it would find a new use as a weapon of mass destruction. Loaded with 45.82 gigatons of explosive material, it would either provide an excellent distraction to the Earth Alliance and ZAFT military or succeed should Angel Halo fail.

Setting an automatic countdown timer on a nearby panel to one hour, Murdock floated back to the empty exit port, where his newly completed ReTurn-X lay in wait. Another relic of the pre-Cosmic Era, the mobile suit was reconstructed from the remains of the original Turn-X, ruined after centuries of rotting in a cocoon on the far side of Earth's moon. Although it was missing a few details, some of which were lost in the original Dark History records, it was still a terrible instrument of destruction in the correct hands. It seemed to beckon to Murdock, echoing a need to complete it's own objectives lost centuries before. He felt a strange kinship to the ancient mecha, as if it were always meant for him to wield it's destructive power alone, to force humanity to remember it's past.

'Char, this shall be your finest moment.' Murdock thought to himself as he reached the prone mobile suit. 'Together, we shall echo the voice of a past long since forgotten.' He touched the COM system inside the cockpit, signaling his battleship nearby.

"Yes, Commander Murdock?" The voice of his first officer, Kraum Hardiat, spoke over the COM receiver. A capable officer, Murdock knew that he could trust the GHOST officer with his ship.

"Kraum, prepare to launch all our forces immediately." Murdock spoke as he closed the ReTurn-X's cockpit, strapping himself in. "It's time for "Operation: Rebirth" to begin."

"Yes sir."

> > > > > > > >

"I can't believe he would go this far..." Kira muttered to himself, bitter over how Murdock had manipulated him as Heero Shinigami from the first day. He used the brown-haired pilot as a decoy, making sure the Earth Alliance wouldn't interfere with this, his ultimate plan. Cagalli, sensing his growing bitterness, placed a hand on his shoulder.

"Kira, what's wrong?" the blond-haired Strike Rouge pilot asked her friend. He turned toward her and Athrun, who also looked concerned over his friend.

"Murdock must have used me, when I was Heero Shinigami, as a decoy." Kira explained to them. "He wanted me as a distraction for the Earth Alliance forces, to prevent those who knew about the Dark History from stopping this from happening."

"What are you talking about, Kira?" Athrun asked.

"Angel Halo, that giant satellite out there, was one of the most terrible weapons ever built. In the old Universal Century, it was designed to broadcast certain brainwaves out toward Earth and degenerate the human mind. A force from the colonies tried to use it and it almost worked. Instead another force from Earth stopped them and sent it away. Now GHOST has their hands on it."

"If I understand you correctly, Kira, you're saying that Murdock's plan all along was to use that weapon along with the colony drop?" Murrue asked the Reverse Freedom pilot.

"Yes ma'am... and he used me to distract you all so you won't interfere." Kira said, a look of guilt beginning to grow on his face. Cagalli looked into his eyes, forcing him to look up.

"Don't even think about feeling sorry for yourself, Kira." Cagalli told him. "Just because that lunatic used you for his plans doesn't mean you can't make a difference now. You're NOT Heero Shinigami anymore. You're Kira Yamato, and you can stop him. Understand?"

"..." Suddenly the shipwide alert klaxon rang out, the emergency lighting darkening the bridge to a dull red.

"I'm picking up three Drowen-class battleships on an intercept course." Ssigh reported. Drowen-class ships, prototypes used by ZAFT shortly after the war, were massive assault carriers designed to be the equal or superior of the Archangel-class cruisers. Able to carry as many as eight mobile suits and each armed with a miniaturized mass-production variations of the destructive GENESIS cannon, it would have provided easy victory during the war.

Murrue gritted her teeth in anger at GHOST's overkill. One ship was hard enough to fight, but three... "Dammit!" she cursed to herself as she slammed her fists onto her chair's armrests, angry that the odds were so stacked against them. She turned towards Miriallia, a determination beginning to burn in her eyes. "Miri, order all stations at full combat status. We're going in." She then turned to Kira and the others, praying to whomever was listening that this wouldn't their final time together as a group. "...Get going... and come back alive." With that, she turned back towards the viewscreen as the three GUNDAM-type pilots left for the hangar, the prospect of a now-hopeless battle looming in front of them.

(Chapter 8)

Yzak cursed to himself as he went over the checklist for Duel GUNDAM's weapons output. He and Dearka had both finished repairs on their mobile suits, as well as Cagalli's people from Orb, when they saw the massive satellite weapon called Angel Halo from a viewing port. It seemed to reflect its power everywhere at once, chilling the silver-haired pilot for the first time in his career. Still, he was more determined than ever. If that was GHOST's newest weapon, then they can launch it. He'll be ready in his Duel GUNDAM to destroy it.

"You haven't changed a bit, Yzak." He heard the familiar voice of Athrun speak as he entered the hangar, dressed in his flight suit. "You're still eager to prove yourself in battle."

Yzak jumped down from the Duel GUNDAM's cockpit with a smirk on his face. "You haven't changed either, Athrun Zala." the silver-haired pilot said, placing a hand on the other young man's shoulder. "Where's your girlfriend and Yamato?"

"Cagalli went to talk with her people from Orb." Athrun told him. "Kira's still changing up. So, you know already about what's out there?"

"Not entirely. The rumor is that the giant satellite out there is GHOST's newest weapon."

"It's true." Athrun said with a note of solemn in his voice. "They plan to use it to drop one of the PLANTs onto Earth."

"That's insane." Yzak said, not surprised that their enemy would go that far to achieve their goals. Raww Le Cruset was willing to obliterate everything with his GENESIS weapon, so a colony drop wasn't that surprising to the Duel GUNDAM pilot.

"Exactly, which is why we have to head out there to stop him." Athrun glanced upward at the still form of the Aegis Mk. II mobile suit, amazed at how much it resembled his old Aegis GUNDAM so much. "It's almost ironic that I piloted to prevent people like Kira and Lacus from having to. All of us will have to fight now."

"The dance of war, peace, and revolution is an endless waltz for humanity." Yzak mentioned. "A philosopher said that many centuries ago but it's still true today. Maybe that's why all of us are here now, to continue or interrupt that waltz."

"Maybe..." Athrun glanced back toward the changing area, where Kira still was. 'Still, some of us weren't meant to dance that waltz through time. Kira, I hope you understand that finally...'

> > > > > > > >

As Cagalli drifted into the changing area of the hangar, her mind was still digesting what happened to herself and Kira several hours before. She had just gone over a brief report from Kiyama Ajan, one of the veteran fighters from the Orb kingdom who became a Astray pilot. All of them knew about Angel Halo's presence and, after Cagalli explained, were still willing to fight despite the risk. She couldn't head out herself, much to her disappointment, since the Strike Rouge was being retrofitted.

She leaned against a locker, the memory of the kiss she shared with Kira still burned into her mind. Her skin flushed at the thought of his warm lips against hers, the maelstrom of feelings she tried to bury invading her senses once again. She mentally cursed herself, ashamed at what a simple act was doing to her already-confused heart. She was in love with Athrun, Cagalli reminded herself, and what happened with her and Kira was never supposed to happen...

...so why she desire so much more?

'Dammit, Kira.' Cagalli cursed to herself, growing more frustrated by the emotions unlocked within her. 'Why did you have to make me feel this way? This shouldn't be happening between us... so why don't I want it to stop?'

"Cagalli?" She heard Kira's voice call to her from the other side. She quickly rose up as he came over, hoping that the young man wouldn't see the flush on her face in the dimly lit lighting.

"I'm over here, Kira." She replied as the brown-haired young man arrived, already dressed in his flight suit. Cagalli looked at him, seeing the look of dedication written in his azure-blue eyes. This was definitely not the same young man she had known for over two years. His eyes showed a soul scarred by time and experience, not the innocence they once held. In a way, she was proud of him. And still...

"What's wrong?" Kira asked, placing a concerned hand on her shoulder. Cagalli nearly flinched at his touch, guilt beginning to well within her at what she was feeling now. She fought it down, determined to hide the wave of emotions he caused her to feel.

"Nothing. I was just thinking about... about how so much has changed. For all of us."

"I know..." Kira started looking at the ground, remembering the experience he had as Heero Shinigami. That side of him, dominated by the PSYCHO system, was a part of himself he never wanted unleashed again. "I look back and regret so much all the things I did when I was Heero Shinigami. Then I remember how close we all were before the last war ended, you and Athrun both giving me so much encouragement to keep going. Somehow, those memories make me feel better knowing that my friends still give me a reason to fight."

"You should hold on to that." Cagalli advised, laying a hand on his shoulder as she smiled at him. "Letting past memories possess you constantly is not an option anymore. You're not the same person you were when you first climbed into the Strike mobile suit."

"Well, you're not the same rough-styled guerilla fighter who hated being called a 'girl'." Kira admitted. Seeing the scornful look in Cagalli's eyes when he mentioned the 'g-word', he continued. "I mean, I feel so much closer to you and everyone else now."

"I feel the same way, Kira." She let the brown-haired Coordinator move his hand over her arm, feeling her skin become warm as her own hand traveled over his arm. They moved gently closer, the two feeling a genuine bond between them from the supposedly innocent gestures. Cagalli could feel some of her confusion finally start to slip away, replaced by a warm sense of kinship with the young man.

"We should hurry." Kira told the blond-haired ruler of Orb. "Knowing Yzak, he'd be all-too eager to get on the battlefield."

"Yeah..." Both of them rose up and headed toward the door leading to the hangar, a sense of closeness beginning to cement between them. This was their time, no one else's.

"Kira?"

"Yeah?"

"...If you ever call me a 'girl' again, I'll break your neck. Got it?"

> > > > > > > >

Athrun turned around from his check on the Aegis Mk. II, seeing both Cagalli and Kira exit the changing area with a different composure on their faces. Part of him was relieved to see the two of them back to what appeared to be normal. Still, another part of him said that there was more to this newfound friendship between them. He had overheard part of their conversation, putting some of the pieces together in his mind. Still, some of the answers were missing. That he would have to get from them.

"Are you ready?" The black-haired Coordinator asked as his two friends approached him.

"Yeah." Kira replied, a small smile on his face for the first time in many months. He could finally face his demons, as long as his friends were there. He noticed the serious look on Athrun's face and his smile fell. "What's wrong?"

"We need to talk, Kira." He pulled his friend to the side, where no one could hear them, and prepared to confront the brown-haired Coordinator. "It's about you and Cagalli."

"What do you mean?"

"I overheard some of what you two were talking about." Athrun saw the newfound confidence fade from his friend's face, somehow regretting having to tell him what he knew. "Somehow, you two became much closer over the past 56 hours. I want to know what's going on."

"Athrun..." Kira braced himself, knowing his friend wouldn't be able to take what he was about to say. "When I was Heero Shinigami, I visited Cagalli in the Orb Kingdom. I told her that I found out from ZAFT records that... that we weren't related after all."

"...I see." Seeing Athrun's calm composure, Kira continued.

"I learned that I was an experiment created by a man named Dr. Hibiki, based on the DNA of several Coordinators as well as the baby who should've been Cagalli's real brother. I told her this and she didn't take it well."

"Was there any reason she should have?" Athrun gripped a sidebar on the hangar deck, trying to keep his composure from slipping. "Kira, you show up out of nowhere two years later to tell her you weren't her brother at all? What the hell were you thinking?"

"I know I should have went to you and Lacus also but..." Kira looked down to the hangar floor, feeling the tears beginning to return. "...but I just couldn't then. I'm sorry."

"..." Athrun looked at the sorrow-filled boy in his azure-blue eyes, his anger beginning to become replaced with regret. He didn't consider what Kira might've been going through in all that time, how he and Cagalli would have to cope with being lied to for so long. "Kira... I wish I could say that I always knew but I didn't. There was always something between you two, long before she told us her father said she was your sister. Even after that, you were always bigger in her eyes than anyone else... including me. She cared a lot about you." He glanced over at Cagalli, who was chewing out a technician working on her Strike Rouge. "She still obviously cares about you, since she was willing to keep looking for you after you ran away."

"I just..." Kira started to say. "I wish I knew what to say to Lacus after all of this is over."

"I'll explain it to her with you, if it helps." Athrun unzipped his flight jacket, pulling out a necklace. "By the way, you should probably have this now."

"Cagalli's necklace? But Athrun, she gave that to you. I can't accept that."

"I wouldn't feel right holding on to it anymore." Athrun placed it into Kira's hand, a forgiving smile on his face. "If anything were to happen to me, she would want you to have it."

"...Athrun..." Kira was stricken speechless, his hand closing around the gift. Why was he doing this? Why would Athrun suddenly give him something this personal?

"We'd should get ready to launch." Athrun said as he went back to his Aegis Mk. II, leaving Kira to contemplate the meaning behind his gesture. In truth, he wasn't upset at either of his friends. Part of him felt happy that they should be so close. Yet a sense of regret that something more could've happened permeated his thoughts. He shook it off as he slipped into the Aegis Mk. II's cockpit, bringing the systems online.

> > > > > > > >

"All mobile suits report ready, Captain." Miriallia reported from her station. Murrue gripped the armrests of her chair, praying to whomever was listening that those pilots, in many ways her children, would return to her.

'Mwu, please watch over them.' Murrue thought to herself as she rose from her chair, a determination burning in her eyes that hadn't existed since the end of the last war. "All mobile suits, prepare to launch!" She turned to the helm and the viewscreen, seeing the glowing mass of rings known as Angel Halo ahead of them. "Helm, adjust course to full speed ahead! Also, tell the gunnery to man all weapons! It's time to end this once and for all!"

(Chapter 9)

"The Alliance battleship is launching it's mobile suits, sir." One of the helmsmen said on the bridge of the Crossbone, one of the Drowen-class ships protecting Angel Halo and the PLANT/weapon once called Kesniopolis. Kraum Hardiat, the ship's commander who was trusted by Murdock, smiled to himself at the news. The Earth Alliance ship was going to go down with a fight. It was going to be a perfect battle.

"Alert Commander Murdock immediately!" Kraum ordered. "Prepare to scramble all of our mobile suits and charge all weapons. 'Operation: Rebirth' has begun!" With that, the darkened bridge of the GHOST battleship became a blur of activity as various orders were given to the personnel.

As the Aegis Mk. II was catapulted into space along with the other GUNDAM-types as well as the M1 Astrays, Athrun reflected on what happened in the hangar between himself and Kira. There was another reason he gave Kira the necklace, one that he wasn't ready to tell his friend yet. It was a gift from Cagalli during the war, something she gave him in hopes that he would survive. Yet somehow, with the present battle looming before them, he felt that he didn't need it anymore.

'I wish it could've been Torii.' Athrun thought, remembering that Kira had left the robotic bird with Lacus before he disappeared. Giving it to his friend would've been more symbolic, yet somehow inappropriate at the time. Suddenly, the COM channel clicked open, snapping the black-haired Coordinator from his thoughts.

"We're getting a lot of mobile suit signals up ahead." Kira told his friend from the cockpit of the Reverse Freedom. "It could be the GHOST fleet." Earlier, he asked the Archangel mechanics to disable the PSYCHO system in its computers. The last thing Kira wanted to do was become Heero Shinigami again. In doing so, the mobile suit's Phase Shift armor resembled his original Strike GUNDAM but returned to black once turned off. Athrun smiled to himself, glad to see the brown-haired Coordinator's confidence in his eyes.

"Understood, Kira." Athrun replied, readying the Aegis Mk. II's weapons. "Remeber Captain Ramias's words: come back alive."

"Roger." The COM line snapped closed, severing the signal between the two pilots. Athrun armed the Aegis Mk. II's beam katana, a prototype weapon for close combat, and pushed ahead towards the oncoming enemies. Nine mobile suits, including five GINNs, three GuAIZs, and one new prototype known simply as a ZGMF-1000 ZAKU Warrior, were in his line of fire. Silently hoping all of them would return from this alive, Athrun prepared to give his all. He charged through the enemy mobile suits, using the beam katana to cut through them while evading as much weapons fire as he could. Then he saw it: the prototype ZAKU Warrior with it's beam tomahawk deployed. This was definitely the critical moment.

Lacus... I'll keep my promise to you. Athrun thought to himself as he charged ahead, his thoughts suddenly filled with memories of the time he shared with the beautiful pink-haired songstress.

> > > > > > > >

Akito tried not to enjoy the feeling of the Zaku Warrior's cockpit, moving ahead with the other mobile suits into battle against the Earth Alliance force. The new, green-colored prototype was designed as a next-generation replacement for the now-aging GINNs, a true combat mecha that could hopefully outmatch the GUNDAM-types with ease. At first, he only accepted the mobile suit after remembering a promise he made two years ago to the woman he loved. He fought now in hopes of going back to the PLANTs for her once this conflict was over.

"I will keep my promise to you, Yuri..." he thought to himself. "I will find you..." Akito opened a COM channel to all of the other mobile suits, seeing the Aegis Mk. II move away from the other GUNDAM-types and head for them, already cutting into the troops with it's beam weapon.

"All units, prepare to attack." he said over the channel, engaging his Zaku Warrior's beam tomahawk and pushing ahead. He prayed to whomever was listening that he would indeed keep his promise to his beloved. It was all he could do.

> > > > > > > >

Dearka stood strong in front of the Archangel's path, firing the Buster GUNDAM's Mk. 21 prototype rail bazooka at every enemy mobile suit he saw. The weapon was developed for heavy land mobile suits such as the Buster GUNDAM and Buster Daggers. Now he had a chance to test it in battle while defending the Archangel.

"Dammit!" Dearka cursed to himself. "There's just too many!"

'Gato, can you hear me? After losing Unit 2, we now live in disgrace because of you!'

What the hell... Dearka thought, shaking the eerie feeling from his mind, dismissing it as a sign that he's been in battle too long. Suddenly, a shot of beam energy ripped through Buster's arm, destroying it and the prototype rail bazooka. Dearka fought to keep control of his mobile suit, checking his scan readouts to see what could have done it. With the mobile suit's Phase-Shift armor on, there was no way something like that would've happened. Suddenly, it came at him like a shadow out of nowhere. A lone GuDOM, equipped with a high-impact beam weapons system. This was their real power, no doubt.

"Oh no, you don't!" Dearka shouted, using his other good arm to draw his standard launcher. Before he could use it, the GuDOM fired it's beam cannons rapidly, each blast ripping into Buster's armor and driving Dearka farther back.

"Shit! I don't even have time to react!" Dearka looked at his readouts, seeing that the Buster's armor and energy supplies were both down to 27 percent, already forced into Phase Shift Down mode. He wouldn't survive any more hits from this mobile suit. The proximity sensors beeped wildly, giving him a glimpse of the armored mobiled suit aiming it's beam cannons at the cockpit.

'Miri... I'm sorry...' Dearka thought to himself, letting his mind be filled with thoughts of the Archangel's COM officer. Suddenly, the GuDOM was hit with multiple missle barrages, forcing it to turn and see the Assault Shroud-equipped Duel GUNDAM. It launched it's missiles at the heavily-armored GuDOM before drawing it's beam sabers, slicing through the cockpit and destroying it.

"Dearka!" Yzak's voice shouted over the COM circuit. "Can you hear me? Is everything all right?"

"...Yzak... Thanks for helping me."

"Save it. We've got to head back to the ship." The Duel mobile suit turned toward the Archangel, all of it's weapons alive as it forced back more of the enemy mobile suits and weapons from the Stardust, another of the Drowen-class cruisers.

'I'm fighting on behalf of people who are used as weapons. I'm fighting on behalf of all soldiers, including yourself!'

'Where the hell did...?' Yzak thought to himself, ignoring the familiar sensation of deja vu as he pushed Duel forward back into battle, Dearka behind him in his heavily-damaged Buster.

> > > > > > > >

Sparks flew everywhere as the Archangel's bridge shook violently, throwing the crew around as they struggled to keep their ship intact. The ship was giving everything it had in this battle, despite that the odds were against them from the beginning. The damage was taking an extremely heavy toll on both the wounded battleship and it's crew.

Murrue gripped her command chair tightly, frustrated at the battle's outcome. Already, most of their weapons systems had been destroyed in the battle, despite the fact that the Archangel was more than living up to it's name of 'angel of warfare', as the crew fondly called it sometimes.

"Hard to starboard!" she shouted, almost thrown from her chair as the ship shook again. "Tell the GUNDAMs to keep the enemy mobile suits back!"

"Roger!" Miriallia replied, desperately stuggling to keep the COM chanels from going down across the ship. Suddenly, another of the many alert signals sounded across the bridge.

"Incoming fire from one of the enemy battleships!" Ssigh reported.

"All hands, brace for impact!" Murrue ordered. The bridge then exploded in a shower of white light, sparks, and smoke as everyone was thrown around. The emergency light flickered as they struggled to draw power from sources that didn't exist any longer. Murrue soon found herself slammed against a nearby console, a pounding sensation in her head and a sharp pain told her that she had several injuries. As her eyes slowly adjusted to the dim lighting, she saw that her crew was in the same shape. Most of them had been killed, others were busy both attending to the wounded or fiercly trying to keep the ship going.

'So this is the power of GENESIS.' Murrue thought as she returned to her command chair. "Damage report." she ordered, hoping at least there was someone able to give it.

"...Main power is gone, captain." Miriallia replied, grateful that her station was partially intact. "Auxiliary reserves are 87 percent destroyed. 56 percent of the ship is exposed to space now. There are 96 casualties on all decks."

"Understood." Murrue looked at the bloody battle in space, knowing that there was no way the Archangel would survive if they were hit again. She prepared to do something that no captain should have had to do. She clutched the armrests of her chair as she stood to address her remaining crew.

"There is very little chance that this ship will survive further conflict. As such, I am giving the order to abandon the Archangel." Seeing the startled but understanding looks of her crew, Murrue continued. "If any of us survive this, I want it known that this ship and crew performed above and beyond the call of duty. Good luck... to all of you." With that, she returned to her command chair as the bridge crew began leaving, helping the wounded to get to escape shuttles. As Ssigh and Miriallia started to leave, they noticed that Murrue was still in her command chair.

"Captain, aren't you coming?" Ssigh asked her.

"No, Mr. Argyle, I'm not." Murrue turned to them with a sad smile on her face. "There are some actions a commanding officer must take on her own. Therefore, I'm remaining here to verify the escape shuttles' safety."

"But ma'am, you can't stay here!" Miriallia protested. "You'll be killed!"

"You have your orders. Now get going, you two!" Murrue activated the emergency bulkhead control on a neighboring console, shutting the two teenagers out from the ruined bridge. She arose, taking off her uniform jacket and laying it on her chair. The ship shook as it took more fire from the enemy mobile suits, sparks erupting from several still-working consoles.

'If Amuro hadn't called out to us, all of the crew onboard the White Base would've been finished.'

Ignoring the unknown voice and sensation of deja vu, Murrue touched the navigational station, checking first to see if the escape shuttles had indeed launched. When she saw that they were, she set a course for the main GHOST ship, the Crossbone.

> > > > > > > >

"Commander Kraum, escape capsules have launched from the Earth Alliance ship." one of the crewman said to the Crossbone's captain.

"Ignore them." Kraum ordered, pleased that the mission was going so well for Murdock's fleet. "Prepare the main cannon for it's second shot."

> > > > > > > >

"Mwu... please forgive me..." Murrue said softly as she clutched her necklace to her chest. She then sat at the navigation console, a steel look in her eyes. She was going to end this now. No more death was going to be on her hands.

"WARNING! ENGINE CAPACITY REACHING 90 PERCENT ABOVE TOLERANCE!" the voice of the recently-installed computer systems, alerted over the COM. "CORE DESTRUCTION IN ONE MINUTE!"

Ignoring the voice, Murrue pushed the overworked engines of her dying ship ahead as it trembled from the enemy weapons. One blast ripped through the hangar section, almost forcing her out of the navigation station. More determined than ever, Murrue cursed as she grit her teeth and maintained the kamikaze course.

"DANGER! CORE DESTRUCTION IN 36 SECONDS!"

> > > > > > > >

"Commander, the Alliance ship is heading for us!"

"That's impossible!" Kraum looked at the Crossbone's viewscreen, not believing that the ship's capain would be so foolish or desperate. Nevertheless, the looming form of the devestated Archangel was on a direct collision course for them. "Hard to port! Avoid it!"

> > > > > > > >

"DANGER! CORE DESTRUCTION IN TEN SECONDS... NINE... EIGHT... SEVEN... SIX... FIVE..."

Murrue had long since stopped listening to the computer drone it's countdown, instead feeling a sense of redemption wash over her. This was her penance for failing her ship and crew, for failing the man she loved those years ago. Now, she was more than ready to join him and end this war. She prayed silently that whatever deity was watching would forgive her for this. At least, with this act of vindication, she would take some of the emeny battleships with her.

"This ends now!" Murrue muttered, feeling the deck give way under her feet as the dying Archangel forced itself ahead and rammed into the Crossbone. The last thing she saw as the bridge exploded around her was a familiar face smiling at her, welcoming her to a place of pure light where the living seldomed traveled. She embraced him, giving herself to this fate as her soul found it's peace within the light of her love's forgiveness.

> > > > > > > >

Kira moved the Reverse Freedom through the rapidly growing battlefield around him, dodging and twisting through scattered pieces of debris. His first impulse was to head to the colony and stop it from being deployed. Fortunately, the Alliance battleship Resolution was in the area, it's own mobile suits having stopped it before it could've been a serious threat. The ship had been fully repaired and resupplied a few days before and had also heard about the threat Angel Halo represented. If it weren't for Captain Hayes's foresight, that colony would still be another problem to deal with later.

Kira never imagined that it would come to this again, placing his life and the lives of those he cared about on the frontlines of warfare. Still, it was worth the risk if it meant forever ending the vicious cycles of death, to end the continuous chains of history's mistakes. He would not let a madman like Murdock rip away the sacrifice people had made to stop battles like this from happening.

As Kira moved his mobile suit closer to Angel Halo, he could already feel the waves of psychic energies growing, pulsing inside his mind like a maddening itch. He could barely think straight as his mind throbbed from the inhuman energy. This was familiar to him somehow, like a half-buried memory long since forgotten.

'It isn't over yet, Char! You only destroyed the main camera, that's it!'

'Where did that come from?' Kira thought to himself.' Must be hearing things or something.' Ignoring the sensation, he pushed ahead towards the giant satellite weapon. He then heard a low-sounding voice come over the COM channel, taunting him with it's condescending undertone.

"SHINING FINGER!" Suddenly, a stray flash of energy shot from out of nowhere, barely missing Kira's mobile suit. He checked the sensors, trying to focus on whatever shot at him. Suddenly, all of his proximity alarms blared at once. Appearing in front of him was a large white mobile suit, almost twice as big as the Reverse Freedom, seeming to cast an ominous shadow in the light of Angel Halo. It's right arm was glowing a pulsating green as the mobile suit's sensors seemed to "glare" at Kira, the rest of it almost floating separate from it's core.

"So, Kira Yamato, you have finally come." Murdock's voice smugly echoed over the COM. "I wanted you to bear witness to mankind's ultimate destiny."

"Stop this, Murdock!" Kira told the leader of GHOST over the COM channel. "There's no need to force mankind to repeat these terrible mistakes!"

"On the contrary. There couldn't be a more perfect time than now." Murdock smiled calmly from the giant mobile suit's cockpit, amused at how cliche his former protogee sounded. "Ever since the dawn of human history, mankind had always been driven to fight amongst themselves foolishly. They even went as far as to bomb whole factions of their own kind out of existence. I intend to end all of that with the ReTurn-X and Angel Halo."

"By killing billions of innocent people?" Kira retorted, drawing his beam saber from it's recharge rack as it's azure flare glowed angrily. "Didn't we have enough suffering after the first war? Why escalate it further?"

"Because humanity refused to change!" Murdock charged at the Reverse Freedom, it's right arm glowing a bright green. Kira barely had any time to move as another "Shining Finger" hit his mobile suit. He screamed as he charged at Murdock, his beam saber colliding with the ReTurn-X's arm over and over. He had had enough of the bloodshed, of the echoes of warfare that haunted him and the people he loved. It was going to end now.

"Do you truly believe, Kira Yamato, I would have let you get this close without it being part of a grander design?"

"What did you say?" The Reverse Freedom's saber met the ReTurn-X's charged arm again, the blue energy building against the green.

"For years I had planned, calculated every possible variable imaginable to unlease this ultimate goal. I told myself that Char's ambition would be realized, even if it cost me my death." The Return-X's backpack separated from the main core, splitting into several separate pieces as it hovered over the combatants. "The the war erupted between Naturals and Coordinators, echoing the same pathetic outcry that had been spawned centuries before. It made me sick."

Kira glanced at his cameras, spotting the backpack's many pieces hovering over them, a green glow eminating from each bit. "He has a DRAGOON system?" Before he could counter, the "bits" fired ramdomly at the Reverse Freedom, driving him back from Murdock as he continued.

"I decided to fulfill the goal George Glenn had intended for his 'children': to create a new future for humanity by 'coordinating' the past with the present. You, however, were the only variable unforseen. Still, through the PSYCHO system in your mobile suit, you became more than the perfect pawn."

"How dare you?" The Reverse Freedom's shield took most of the damage, since the Phase Shift armor was running out of power due to the backpack's constant barrage. Kira then shifted into HiMAT mode, arming his beam cannons and firing at the ReTurn-X. He was then startled to see that the backpack "bits" had formed a makeshift beam shield around the mobile suit, deflecting his attacks.

"You, out of all of the other GUNDAM-type contemporaries, demonstrated that no matter how advanced humanity would become, it would be doomed to repeat the same ridiculous cycle over and over. Coordinators, Newtypes, it doesn't matter. All of them would never achieve their potential with Earth looming before them." The "bits" fired again, this time ripping through the Reverse Freedom's shield and destroying one of the cannons. Murdock them slammed into Kira's mobile suit, pounding it with it's super-charged arm.

"You're wrong, Murdock!" Kira said as he sliced through the ReTurn-X's leg with his beam saber, firing his vulcans at the core of the giant mobile suit. The "bits" barraged him with more beam energy, destroying what was left of his shield and right arm. Kira shifted the thrusters, trying to stay ahead of the "bits" while Murdock laughed. "What the hell are you laughing about, you lunatic?"

"It amazes me how much history has been on my side thus far, Kira Yamato." Murdock grabbed the Reverse Freedom's head with his other arm, slowly squeezing until the main cameras shattered. "Many such battles were escalated in the Dark History yet the outcome was always the same. Because of that, we were destined to face over two millennia of repeating the same desperate cycle of hopelessness. Why can't you see that?"

"So that gives you the right to play God and judge mankind based on what we used to be?" Kira retorted defiantly, unwilling to give the advantage to a madman like Murdock. Raww Le Cruset was the same way and was defeated two years before by him. He won't let history repeat itself this time.

"I'm not playing God, as you think. I'm merely correcting a mistake that should never have been made." Before Murdock could fire another "Shining Finger", the sensors detected more incoming fire from elsewhere. The ReTurn-X was hit by a multitude of barrages from the IWSP-equipped Strike GUNDAM Rouge, piloted by Cagalli. The new backpack gave it the power of all four of the original Strike GUNDAM's modes into a compact design with twice the firepower. With the additional firepower of the gatling-equipped shield, it was now a very powerful mobile suit.

"Kira, are you all right?" Cagalli asked him, manuvering closer to the heavily-damaged Reverse Freedom. The mobile suit had gone into Phase Shift Down, it's head half ruined and parts of it's armor plating cracked. The cockpit, fortunately, was undamaged but the COM system was half-destroyed.

"...Cagalli?" Kira muttered as he glimpsed the red mobile suit and it's improvements. He had never been more glad to see his friend in his life. Suddenly, the proximity sensors flared up, signaling a fast approaching mobile suit or weapon. The ReTurn-X, it's legs and backpack jettisoned from damage, slammed into the Strike Rouge and forced it back.

"The infamous ruler of the Orb Kingdom coming to aid an ally." Murdock said smugly, again seeing this as a sign of the Dark History being duplicated. "In an ironic way, I do feel sorry for you pathetic lot." He formed a massive beam sword out of his energized arm, charging forward at the red mobile suit. Cagalli ejected a sword form the IWSP backpack, bringing it up just in time to stall Murdock's assault.

"Take this, you psycho!" Cagalli shouted as she brought the gatling-equipped shield up and barraged the ReTurn-X's core. The green energy sword sliced through her own as Murdock grinned sadisically. He refocused his thoughts through the ancient psycommu interface, forcing it to slam through the shield and slice into the Strike Rouge. He brought it up again, destroying the mobile suit's antennaes and it's right arm, almost decapitating it. Cagalli knew she was obviously being outmatched but didn't care, not when Kira's life was on the line. She had to help him this time. She had to be the one protecting him now.

'You've made a mistake, and the GUNDAM pilots are going to rectify your mistakes!'

'I can't give up now, not on Kira!' The blond girl thought to herself, her body being thrown around in the damaged cockpit. 'I can't, not before...' Her thoughts were cut off when one of the panels exploded, a feelings of vertigo amid the blinding pain in her scalp.

> > > > > > > >

Kira could only watch in horror as the ReTurn-X continued it's merciless assault, hearing Cagalli's screams of pain and frustration over the open COM. He couldn't stand back and let Murdock continue his assault. The Reverse Freedom could barely move but he still had to fight. Doing nothing meant Cagalli would be killed. He glanced at a side panel, seeing the readout display mentioning the V1-PT engine at full output and a "WING Mode" being on standby. Kira, knowing that most of his weapons were gone, had very few options left if he wanted to save someone still precious to him.

> > > > > > > >

"I expected so much more from someone like you." Murdock mused as he channeled his arm's green energy into a long blade, rearing back as he prepared to slice into the cockpit and end this nusiance to his ideals. "SHINING FINGER SWORD!" he shouted as he brought the sword down on the heavily-damaged Strike Rouge. Before he could finish, he was stopped by a white blade of energy. It was the Reverse Freedom GUNDAM, it's frame glowing a brilliant white. It's backpack was completely gone, replaced by "beam wings" that stretched out from the mobile suit's back. The shield was made of the same beam energy and the optic sensors glowed with the same energy.

"Leave her alone." Kira said in a threatening tone over the COM, his eyes also a brilliant white. The reprogrammed PSYCHO system had unlocked his full SEED potential, shifting the mobile suit into a "WING Mode" using the same psycommu technology as the ReTurn-X now employed.

"You aren't letting the system dominate you this time, Kira Yamato." Murdock muttered in a amused tone. "Finally, you've accepted the truth about your destiny. Very good."

"Shut up!" Kira told the leader of GHOST over the COM. "No more people are going to suffer because of people like you." He forced the ReTurn-X's beam sword away from the damaged Strike Rouge, his own beam saber now made with the same energy. "We're ending it now!"

"As you wish!" The two mobile suits collided over and over again, each trying to overpower the other in a raw display of power and prowess. As Kira brought the beam saber to Murdock's sword, in his mind he could see all of the people he allowed to die in the past...

Tolle, killed because he was blinded by war's ugly shadows...

Mwu, who gave his life to save the Archangel from death...

...and Flay, the girl he once loved and nearly died for...

'Their deaths will have been in vain if Murdock gets his way.' Kira thought to himself. Suddenly, the PSYCHO system kicked in, flooding his mind with images of the people now counting on him to succeed...

Athrun, his best friend...

Lacus, the girl he left behind...

Ssigh and Miriallia, two people he respected as a part of his past before the war...

...and Cagalli... the young woman he now loved with his very soul.

With those thoughts firmly etched in his mind's eye, Kira ducked under the ReTurn-X's "Shining Finger Sword", screaming fiercely as he brought his beam saber through the core of the giant mobile suit. The ancient mecha began to explode, ejecting the damaged head cockpit as it detonated.

> > > > > > > >

"...How... how could he beat me?" Murdock muttered to himself, his face covered in blood from the destroyed consoles and interfaces. "I was... supposed to usher in a new age... Char... was this your vision after all...?"

'...In the end, this kind of tragedy would only repeat itself...'

"Char... at last, I... under...stand..." Murdock coughed his last, blood spitting from his mouth as his vision faded to a never-ending darkness. Though he would be defeated here, his ambition would continue in the form of Angel Halo.

> > > > > > > >

Kira watched on one of the Reverse Freedom's working monitors as the ReTurn-X's head exploded, taking Alexander Murdock with it. He sighed with relief as his conflict was finally over.

"Kira!" he heard Cagalli call over the half-working COM system, the ruined Strike Rouge coming over to him. "Kira, can you hear me?"

"Cagalli!" Kira said, placing his helmet on before opening the cockpit doors. Cagalli leapt from the open Strike Rouge, embracing the boy with relief and joy. In that one defining moment, all of the confusion and hurt of the last few days had been washed away with this one act. She, at last, could face the growing feelings within her as their eyes met.

"I-I thought I was going to lose you..." Cagalli said quietly, unwilling to break the moment between them now.

"You'd never lose me, not when I have a promise to keep." Kira replied, letting the blond girl relax in the embrace. Suddenly, the moment was shattered with a bright glow in the distance. Kira reluctantly released Cagalli as they both looked ahead to the giant satellite called Angel Halo, whose rings had started to glow even brighter than before.

"Dammit. Angel Halo's starting up anyway." Kira started to head back inside the cockpit when Cagalli touched his shoulder, a look of concern on her face.

"You're going to stop it, aren't you?"

"There's no other option." Kira told her. He hated himself for leaving her now, knowing that he was the only one capable of stopping the massive satellite. But there was no other way. "If Angel Halo's ten rings align themselves, it'll start broadcasting the psychic wavefront. No one in the solar system will survive after that."

"Kira, I can't let you go alone! You'll be killed by that thing!"

"I have no choice!" Kira then grabbed her shoulders, forcing her to look into his azure-colored eyes. "Listen... I have got to do this, Cagalli, and it has to be me alone. The Reverse Freedom is the only mobile suit capable of making it to it's core undamaged and destroying it. If I don't, millions of innocent people are going to suffer. I won't go through that again, not when this is something I can prevent." He then hugged her tightly, struggling to keep himself from crying again. He may never get another chance like this, to make amends for the innocents killed in the last war by his own hands or because of him.

"I have to go..."

"But you'll come back... right?" Cagalli found herself pushed back as the Reverse Freedom GUNDAM's cockpit closed, it's "beam wings" arcing up to move the mobile suit towards Angel Halo. She allowed the tears to fall from her eyes, feeling as if Kira was trying to tell her goodbye.

(Chapter 10)

Athrun dodged another slash from the ZAKU Warrior's beam tomahawk, bringing his beam katana up to meet it. The battle had gone longer than he thought it would, even in a warzone like this. Whomever the pilot was, he was almost on the level of a Coordinator. He was almost impressed but, nevertheless, was unwilling to lose.

'Who is this guy?' Athrun thought to himself, the brilliant clash of the two beam weapons casting a pinkish glow between them. 'Whomever he is, he's obviously on a Coordinator's level. This isn't good.'

'This isn't good.' Akito thought to himself, the power between the two beam wepons building upon itself. 'This pilot's about as good as I am. He must be a Coordinator too. But why would...' Suddenly, the two combatants were thrown apart as their weapons overloaded.

"Listen, whomever you are." Athrun spoke over the COM, hoping that the pilot of the ZAKU Warrior would listen to reason. "If you're a Coordinator, then there's no reason for us to continue to fight like this."

"I have to, but you wouldn't understand that." Akito retorted, throwing the Aegis Mk. II back with the beam tomahawk. "I know all about you, Athrun Zala. You betrayed ZAFT just to save your friend's life."

Athrun grit his teeth as he dodged another slash, angry that he had gotten so complacent. This pilot obviously did his homework. That wasn't going to stop him from defeating this new mobile suit, or keeping his promise to Lacus not to leave her alone. Acting quickly, he shifted into mobile fighter jet mode and shot past the ZAKU Warrior.

"So what if I did?" Athrun shouted over the COM. "At least I had the strength of my convictions instead of dogma to follow."

"How do you know I don't?" Akito responded, firing his beam machine gun at the Aegis Mk. II, clipping one of it's wings and forcing Athrun to transform. "Do you think I wanted to be a part of what Murdock is planning? I'm only doing this to save the woman I love."

"What?" The Aegis Mk. II and ZAKU Warrior stood deadlocked, their weapons trained at each other's cockpits. Athrun stood frozen as Akito continued over the COM.

"My friend, Yurina Mizrahi, was a GINN test pilot during the last war. I should know, since I helped to train her as a pilot myself. After the attack on JOSH-A, the Earth Alliance headquarters, I was due to meet with her and the rest of our squadron in space. We were suppposed to back up Commander Le Cruset's forces at Yacin-Due but... but I found out later that most of them, including Yuri, were MIA after Orb was destroyed. She's a POW, still out there somewhere, and I'm going to find her and the others." Akito was near tears as he pointed his beam machine gun at Athrun's cockpit. "You won't stand in my way, Athrun Zala. I don't care who the hell you are. When this is all over, I'm heading to Earth to find Yuri and the rest of my squadron."

'He sounds almost like Kira and I did back then.' Athrun thougt to himself. 'I guess I was kidding myself by thinking we were alone in our battles.' He sighed to himself, hoping he didn't regret this decision later, and lowered his beam rifle.

"Listen to me." Athrun said calmly. "Believe it or not, I do understand. When I was fighting for ZAFT, I lost several friends also. I saw them killed right in front of me. But I learned that there's nothing worse than revenge in the face of war. You have to make that judgement also if you want to survive this." He extended his GUNDAM's hand, something he wouldn't have been able to do before. "If we work together, we can help you find what you're looking for."

'Just who is this guy anyway?' Akito thought suspiciously, unable to decide whether or not to trust him. 'What he's saying... it sounds like he knows what he's taking about. Maybe trusting him... wouldn't be so bad.' He glanced over to a picture of an attractive young girl with a gentle smile and pale-blue hair in long pigtails, her light brown eyes staring kindly back to him. 'Yuri... is this the right thing to do?' He sighed, extending his ZAKU's hand and taking the GUNDAM's in friendship.

"Akito." he stated over the Aegis Mk. II's COM system. "My name's Akito Yahagi." Before Athrun could reply, a massive wave of light began spreading out from the distance. He didn't have to look to know what it was. If Kira was right, then Angel Halo was starting up.

"Dammit!" Athrun cursed as he shifted to mobile fighter jet mode. "We're too late!"

> > > > > > > >

Lacus's head shot up from where she was sitting on her porch, a deep feeling of horror growing within her as she looked up into the "sky" of the PLANT. She clutched her head in pain, fighting the overwhelming sense of dread that loomed over her like a spectre. There was a light, not a warm light, but one that symbolized nothing but darkness and terror, that seemed to overshadow the PLANT's entire horizon. As it began to spread, the pink-haired songstress could do nothing but scream in pain as she knelt to the ground.

'People are changing. They're becoming more like us...'

"I... can see... time... itself..." Lacus muttered softly, nearly echoing the unfamiliar voice as she passed out onto the ground, oblivious to the mysterious figure that was approaching her. He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a cellular phone, a grim look on his face.

"This is Precursor 1. The target has been secured."

"Confirmed, Precursor 1." a smooth-sounding voice replied over the cellphone. "Proceed with caution and deliver the target."

With that, the mysterious figure gleamed upward at the omnious light coming from Angel Halo, a small smirk appearing on his face. He moved over to Lacus's unconscious body and smoothly picked her up, preparing to take her away to her own destined fate.

> > > > > > > >

Cagalli could only watch in muted silence as Kira moved away from her, the beam wings of the Reverse Freedom GUNDAM carrying him closer and closer to Angel Halo. She balled her fists in anger and fear, unable to bring to words how much turmoil her heart was in at the moment. She could finally face the feelings within her soul, begging for release towards the only boy able to invoke them fully from her. Her golden eyes closed as she fought the tears welling in them. Now wasn't the time to cry over something like that. But she couldn't... she WOULDN'T deny them anymore.

She loved him.

She loved Kira.

'You'd better get back here, Kira,' Cagalli thought to herself silently as she brought the Strike Rouge's systems back online, 'because if you don't, I can never fully face how I feel about you.' The emergency sensors blared loudly as she saw in horror what was happening. Three of the ten rings on Angel Halo had already lined up, casting an almost ominous glow of white light.

> > > > > > > >

Ssigh and Miriallia sat in silence in the confines of the escape pod, unable to believe that Murrue had been so determined to stop GHOST's armada by herself. The Archangel, their home of the last two years and past week, had been obliterated in it's worst battle ever. The fact that Murrue was more than resolved to go down with her ship, a practice that had stopped centuries before, made both of them even more solemn.

Ssigh stopped checking the course corrections to glace at Miriallia, who had been quiet the entire time they had been in the escape shuttle. He genuinely felt sorry for her, both of them having gone through hell in the last few years. She lost Tolle, one of the few guys she loved, and now she had seen the ship they called home destroyed with their captain's last orders. He had lost Flay also, both by being dumped and her death in an enemy crossfire. In an ironic way, they had been there for each other at the worst possible moments. Now they were here together again. Fate definitely had a thing for situations like this.

Miriallia noticed Ssigh staring at her, a contemplating look on his face. She almost blushed from embarassment, wondering why he was looking at her in the first place.

"What's wrong, Ssigh?"

"Nothing." Ssigh returned his attention to the console in front of him, a faint blush appearing across his face. "I was just thinking, that's all." He returned his attention to the now growing debris field ahead. "Miri, I'm sorry..."

"For what? You didn't do anything, Ssigh."

"For not being strong enough, like Kira, or for at least trying to protect you all like Tolle or Lieutenant La Flagga had... Maybe... maybe that's why I lost Flay, because I wasn't good enough for her..."

"Ssigh, don't say that. All of us tried to do our best during the war and so did you. You didn't have to be a pilot as long as you made a difference in your own way. I felt the same way for a while, that maybe I could've done more. But it doesn't do any good feeling sorry for yourself." She touched his shoulder gently, a smile gracing her face. "Besides, if Flay couldn't understand how much you really cared about her, then maybe she didn't deserve you anyway."

"...maybe." Before Ssigh could comment further, all of the sensors flared on in the cramped cockpit. The two teenagers looked on as a wave of light began to erupt in front of them...

(October, Cosmic Era 0073)

Shinn Asuka looked into the sky suddenly, a horrible feeling of dread overtaking his senses. Earlier, he had been embarrased by his friend Yolan after stopping an attractive but strange blond woman from falling onto the ground.

'Grabbing a person's breasts by accident doesn't make me a pervert.' Shinn thought to himself. 'Still, she was pretty, whomever she was.' He remembered her friends, the two guys she was with, calling her Stellar. He wondered if they would meet again. The thought was interrupted as the feeling of dread grew even stronger, flashing through his senses. Shinn dropped to the ground, clutching his head in pain.

(Correct Century 2345)

Loran Cehack gently tucked Dianna in, stroking her soft blond hair as he did so. The horrible ordeal of the Dark History, the mysterious White Doll called "Turn-A-Gundam" and it's archetype "Turn-X", were finally put behind them. For a while, at least, he and his friends could rest and continue living their lives. Suddenly, he felt a sharp pain in his head, making look out of the bedroom window. At first, he thought it was just the snow reflecting the moon's light but dismissed it. It was definitely light from somewhere above.

"What is..." Loran muttered to himself, a distant feeling of familiarity making him glance upward to the sky. A pinpoint of light, beginning to glow brighter than the rest of the stars, made him grasp his head in pain as he knelt to the ground.

(Future Century 0060)

"Are you all right, Domon?" Rain Mikamura asked her partner. "You've been just standing there for the last half hour and I need to do systems checks on God Gundam."

"I'm fine." Domon Kasshu, fighter for Neo Japan and pilot of God Gundam, replied to his partner and now girlfriend. "I just needed time to think, that's all." Since the end of the 13th Gundam Fight and the defeat of the Devil Gundam, the other members of the Shuffle Alliance had gone their separate ways for the moments, promising to keep in touch and meet again in time for the next tournament. Yet Domon had done nothing but stare in silence at the night sky from the top of his God Gundam.

Suddenly Rain gasped as she fell to the ground, clasping her head in pain. Domon caught her before she hit the ground, a look of fierce concern written under his features. He then noticed that his King of Hearts crest began to glow brightly, a sharp pain burning in his hands.

'What is this feeling?' Domon thought as he glanced upward once more, seeing that one of the stars began to glow much brighter than before. 'Could this have to do with the Devil Gundam... or something worse?' He didn't want to think about that just yet. Right now, Rain needed his attention.

(After Colony 197)

"..." Heero Yuy, the former pilot of Wing Gundam Zero Custom, caught himself glancing upward to the night sky. It was almost as if he felt something calling to him, a sense of familiarity he hadn't felt since the end of the Marineia incident several weeks earlier. SInce then, he had faded into the background with the rest of the former Gundam pilots, having put such weapons of war out of the public's memory. Relena Peacecraft's dreams were finally being fulfilled. Peace was returning to Earth. So what place did a 'perfect soldier' hold in the brave new world?

Relena...

The blond-haired ruler of the Earth Sphere continued to remain in his mind, making him somewhat detached from the forced reality he had been satisfied with. He had "disarmed" himself from her life, fading from everyone's scope like the former weapons of war called "mobile suits". After all, a world such as this no longer heald a place for him anymore.

Relena wasn't afraid to die for her beliefs, for the strength of her own convictions to end OZ's dictatorship of the Earth Sphere. That alone had impressed Heero, feeling an attachment to her that would have compromised his mission. He had to leave her behind, another detachment from a past that no longer had a meaning... or did it?

He suddenly doubled over, clutching his head in pain as he gripped a brick wall for support. He wasn't supposed to feel pain. That much Dr. J had "instilled" within him. For Heero to be in this much torment was... next to impossible. He glanced upward at the sky once more as he saw one of the stars growing brighter. He could only utter one statement then:

"Mission... denied."

> > > > > > > >

Kira had to fight to remain conscious as he guided the Reverse Freedom GUNDAM closer and closer to Angel Halo, the psychic waves pounding inside his skull harder and harder. He could barely see against the awesome light but seven of the ten rings had begun to align themselves.

'It's a race against the clock now.' Kira thought to himself, trying to keep his battered mobile suit on course. The GUNDAM-type mecha, even in it's WING mode, was still not giving enough to overcome Angel Halo's power. Parts of it's Phase Shift armor had begun to come off in several places, as if it was dying in this one final heroic act. There was no time for second chances.

Kira struggled to draw his Lupus-type beam rifle, aiming a a vunerable spot at the core of the massive satellite that would cause an implosion. Suddenly, the world around him exploded in light, making him black out against the controls as he was swept into a wave of vertigo...

> > > > > > > >

'Where... where am I?'

You are within the boundaries, beyond the world you exist in.

'Who are you?'

I am the you reflected within yourself.

'What?'

It is true that you are Kira Yamato, but I am the Kira Yamato reflected within you. I exist as the you that is percieved by you. There are other Kira Yamatos as well. The Kira Yamato within Athrun Zala, the Kira Yamato within Lacus Clyne, the Kira Yamato within Cagalli Yula Attha, and so forth. Each person you've encountered percieves a different Kira Yamato, yet each is the same person.

'I don't have time for this! Angel Halo is going to go off any second! I have to stop it!'

...Why?

'What do you mean why?'

Why do you fight? For yourself?
For self-redemption?
For self-definition?
For love?
For the dreams of peace?

'I fight to protect my friends.'

They fight to protect you.

'It's not the same thing.'

As I said, the Kira Yamato that is reflected within each person you've encountered is different yet the same. Because of that, they choose to protect you based on how they see you.

'But what makes me so special? People have died because they met me! Tolle was killed trying to help me, Mwu was killed taking over the Strike from me, and Flay was... Flay was killed because I loved her once...'

They all understood the risks of warfare.

'That doesn't make it right! No one else has to die because of me!'

Through the different eras of human history, anyone who had piloted a GUNDAM has made a sacrifice of some sort. Amuro Ray lost his life, Shiro Armada lost his limbs, Kou Uraki lost his career, Camille Bidan literally lost his mind, Seabook Arno lost his father, and so forth. It is part of being a pilot that they can accept these sacrifices. Why should yours be any different?

'...'

When George Glenn allowed Coordinators to be created after his death, his purpose was for them to be a beacon of hope in a hopeless world, a guide towards humanity's brighter tommorrow. Yet the conflict existing between Naturals and Coordinators is no different than the one between Newtypes and normal humans. Humanity had always been prejudiced against something that they saw was a threat when it was not. It is an inherit part of humans.

'You're saying that just because I'm a Coordinator, I'm supposed to be this "guide" to a brighter tommorrow. But look at the devestation that had been caused!'

It has to be you, Kira Yamato. Although there are others elsewhere who could do this, you are the only one that can fulfill George Glenn's wish for humankind.

'But why me? Out of everyone else... why did it have to be me?'

...Because it could be no one else...

> > > > > > > >

Cagalli stood in muted silence with the other mobile suit pilots and survivors of the Archangel, watching as Angel Halo's final rings began to align themselves. There was no escape for any of them this time. Suddenly, the massive satellite began to darken, as if it was collapsing in upon itself. The superweapon grew darker and darker until it suddenly exploded, shockwaves of light thrown in every possible direction.

'Kira...' the blond-haired ruler of Orb thought to herself, feelings of dread washing over her as she watched the death throes of Angel Halo. She noticed that the Aegis Mk. II had arrived close to her, transforming into mobile suit mode before stopping.

"Cagalli?" Athrun's voice spoke over the COM channel. "...Where's Kira?" The continued explosions of light answered for her as the massive satellite finally began to cease, space around them returning to normal. She gripped the controls as hot tears began to silently slide down her face, a solemn testament to a promise that couldn't be kept.

"He was... Kira's still..." Cagalli got out before pangs of grief began to tug at her, nearly forcing her to abandon her tough facade and sob inside of her mobile suit. Suddenly, the half-working sensors began picking up a large object heading in their direction. Her heart almost stopped when she noticed the I.D. code of the signal.

"It's... it's impossible!" Yzak's voice spoke over the COM of the Duel GUNDAM. "He must be immortal or something!"

"He's... he's alive!" Athrun added, equally surprised but obviously relieved. "Kira's alive!"

Drifting towards the group of survivors on emergency thrusters was the ruined form of the Reverse Freedom GUNDAM, it's WING mode offline so the damage was obvious. More than half of it's Phase Shift armor was destroyed, a large gash ripped into the cockpit area. It's right leg and part of it's left was missing as well, the main cameras on it's head crushed. The beam cannons and half of it's backpack were missing along with it's shield. It had seen the face of death and barely came back.

But it had returned, bringing it's pilot with it.

> > > > > > > >

Kira forced open his cockpit hatch, relieved to survive that ordeal and keep his promise to his friends. His entire body ached from the physical and psychological stress, a form of punishment he never knew he could tolerate unless he was a Coordinator. He smiled to himself as he lifted himself out, seeing the forms and mobile suits of his friends and allies welcoming him back.

"Well guys, it looks like I'm starting to understand what you meant before." He looked at the forms of Athrun and Cagalli, both of them smiling with relief as they noticed him coming. Kira felt, for the first time in many years, that he could finally lay the ghosts of both his pasts and other pasts to rest in peace. He glanced back into the ruined cockpit, seeing a half-burned picture of his friends and comrades when they were briefly on Earth two years earlier.

"Tolle, Mwu, I'll never forget you. Flay... I guess this is my goodbye."

> > > > > > > >

The year remains 0073 of the Cosmic Era calender. After this conflict, the cease-fire between the Earth Alliance forces and ZAFT begins to falter, neither side fully trusting the other after this incident. It would be three months later that a new conflict would force a role-reversal between the two factions... but that is another story.

The End